Does anyone else feel like the internet's gotten really boring over the last few months? Not that this blog has done anything to make that any less true, but it feels like all of the pages I've bookmarked and tab through in the morning (and then intermittantly all day long) have very little information I'm interested in these days. Most of the ones I check daily are linked to on the right-hand side of this blog, so it may be old news to you that my browsing choices are sub-par. I probably just need to take a break from it.
Anyway. I saw Monster House and Lady in the Water over the weekend (yes, I know, I'm a studio executive's wet dream), and I'm just briefly going to talk about what I liked and disliked about each one. All right, let's get into it.
1) the voice acting was excellent across the board.
2) Where the motion capture they did for Polar Express made me feel like I was seeing dead people, the motion capture in this one was very good and the lifelike human movements were really startling and fun to watch.
3) one of those rare movies that's as fun for kids as it is for adults.
4) voice cameos by Jason Lee (as Bones) and Jon Heder (as Skullington) are worth some serious laughs. Jason Lee's Bones pointing at the 12-year old hero and saying, "You lie," is a lot funnier than it has any right to be. That's the genius of Lee for you.
1) There isn't much here to dislike. If there was anything, it was a minor quibble. This movie was some very fun stuff and made me remember how fun Halloween used to be back in the day. They got a lot right with this one. Definitely reccomended.
Lady in the Water:
1) Paul Giamatti.
2) The cinematography. I know it's just a guy who gets out of his chair, hits a button on the Panavision, and then sits back down, but the team Christopher Doyle surrounded himself with did some interesting work. Nothing groundbreaking, but just solid, good-looking stuff.
3) One thing you can count on with a Shammy movie are some good scares, and he does some up right here. And though there are a couple that are just straight-up crank-up-the-volume scares, most of them are honorably obtained.
1) There's really too much here to list, but I'll try and detail the worst of it. The big one is SHYAMALAN'S TREMENDOUS HUBRIS. Was Spielberg this bad in the day? Hitchcock? I seriously doubt it. Spielberg was smart enough to know that putting his own mug in his movies wasn't going to help anyone, least of all him. But Shammy wants desperately to be one of those film directors who makes it into the collective unconscious as a spinner of tales, and a maker of dreams -- a la Spielberg and Hitchock -- and though the talent might be in Shammy somewhere, latent, to help him become that kind of filmmaker, his outsized ego is such that creating out and out classic movies, the kind that Spielberg and Hitch used to churn out every year, does not seem like a realistic goal for him.
You know how annoying Shammy is in his other movies. You know how with each successive movie it got a little worse until he gave himself a pivotal role in Signs? And though he backed off of this habit a little in The Village, he did himself one better for this one. Shammy plays a writer in Lady in the Water. A writer whose ideas are supposed to change the world. The whole reason the Bryce Dallas Howard character comes into our world from her world, the Blue World, is to see him. Because he's that important. His ideas are that good. His writing is that fantastic. If this character had been played by another actor, it would still be a blatant example of Shammy's titanic self-regard, but that he himself played this character, whom he wrote for himself, is such indescribable vanity, that it completely sinks this already bad movie. Just sinks the fuck out of it. The worst thing about Shammy being in this movie in such a large and pivotal role is something every reader of this blog (all 10 of you) already knows, and it is this: M. Night Shyamalan is a terrible actor.
He sucks at acting. He surrounds himself in this movie with real and talented actors and they make him look even worse than he is because they create light and he merely absorbs it. He's like Orlando Bloom in that respect, except Orlando Bloom can at least project Elf-like intensity. Shammy can project nothing. Shammy working at a dinner theater in the north Georgia mountains would be bad enough, but blowing his face up to a 20'X40' screen does his acting ability no favors. When a great actor delivers a line or a look on the big screen, it's fantastic -- it's one of the joys going to the movies affords. But when a bad actor delivers a line or a look blown up so big, like Shayamlan, all you see is his wooden presence, his infuriatingly and eternally placid expression, but most of all, you see his dead black eyes. Whether you're telling him to fuck off or telling him you love him, his dead eyes gaze upon all he surveys with the same implacable deadness. God damn him.
2) The story. Shammy calls Lady in the Water "A Bedtime Story". This is a cop out. Because he wrote a script that features scene after scene of exposition, pulls new plot points out of his ass, he calls it a bedtime story, because that's how you tell a bedtime story. You make stuff up as you go along for seemingly no reason at all. This whole script was a massive failure of imagination -- in that he was just as imaginative as he could be, but he couldn't think of a good way to fit all of this imaginative stuff into a 2-hour "M. Night Shyamalan Film". And that's half the work. Anyone can think of purple castles floating through a green sky where winged pygmies patrol the air and blah blah blah, but making us care about all of that crap is the real trick. You got to writer some actual characters to make us do that. And where the plot should seem like it couldn't have happened any other way, this one feels like it could have happened any thousand different ways, and probably should have. In a word: arbitrary.
3) The film critic character. A book and film critic moves into the apartment complex at the beginning of the movie. He's a sour and unlikable guy, of course. The hero, Giamatti's character, approaches the film critic for advice about midway through the movie. The advice turns out to be wrong, with unhappy results, and during the postmortem, what-went-wrong scene, the dialogue takes a turn for the stupid when the complex's group of helpers start to jump on the film critic in absentia for being "too certain". I know. Frickin; stupid. In the very next scene, the film critic gets his comeuppance, and it is so clearly Shammy taking out some of his anger at the critics who don't "understand" his films, that it comes off as petty and juvenile. This little film critic subplot makes Shammy look like a bratty child getting back at daddy for telling him to go to his room.
Like Aintitcool's Moriarty said in his review of the movie, this entire film is the result of Shammy going too long in his career post-Sixth Sense without anyone ever telling him "No." Now that Lady is on its way to tanking, methinks that if Shammy wants to make another big-budget "M. Night Shyamalan Film", he's going to have to give up final cut and script approval and some of those perks he's gotten, at least for a few films, because with Lady in the Water, he's proven that he can't handle them. I still think a great Shyamalan movie is in our future, and that he's capable of making it, but for a filmmaker with real talent, this movie is a real embarrassment.
Anyway. As the month draws to a close, I'd like to draw your attention once more to the Literary Smackdown. Only seven days left in this month's competition, and so far only one entrant. Me. I know. Weak. What I don't know is where everyone went. Was the smacking too harsh? Did Troglodytis render the whole notion of winning and losing irrelevant with his agressively retarded voting? Do the monthly prompts suck? Is everyone busy? If anyone has any advice on how to make the Smackdown enticing to would-be writers, or whether Hinesy ought to close up shop on the thing for awhile, go ahead and let me know. All right. Enough for tonight.