I rented four movies this past weekend and I've seen three of them. Here are the reviews.
1) Silent Hill. It would be very easy to dismiss this movie out of hand because it's a) based on a video game, and b) makes not a lick of sense throughout, but there are some ideas in this movie, some intense moments and nightmarish bits of imagery, that occasionally make this movie if not terrifying, then at least approaching the level of Kinda Scary, which isn't too bad. But when the scares are effective, which usually happens when one of the film's creepy crawlies come staggering or skittering out of the darkness towards the film's heroine (Radha Mitchell, AKA Poor Man's Charlize Theron), the intensity of the scares isn't at all amplified by story or character; these frightening moments are effective only because the imagery exploits our lizard brain's fear of Other, and this is lazy. To attain scares, the filmmakers relied in nearly every instance on excellent character design (which I suspected they lifted entirely from the Konami game), and an impressive sound design. The usual tools best used to make a moment in a movie frightening, like, you know, deft and suspenseful storytelling, were all left unused here. When the bad man in the black iron pyramid helmet and the 1-ton scythe appears, he is terrifying, but he also comes right the hell out of nowhere. Also: only about 50% of this movie makes sense. Not a reccomend, but there are worse ways to spend a couple hours.
2) Brick. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. A film noir of the hardboiled, Raymond Chandler school, Brick is set in the milieu of a southern California high school. Everyone talks in a slangy Hardboiled-ese shorthand that can be kind of hard to follow at times, but the script's brilliant, the acting's good, the dialogue's fantastic, and the set design and direction and cinematography are all top notch. The characters and the sets and the dialogue are all very stylized -- Brick seems more like a depiction of high school kids as they wish to be rather than anything at all like they really are -- but the whole conceit works like gangbusters.
3) The Sentinel. This was a suck movie. It's obvious that everyone involved in the making of this film, from the studio execs down to the extras running away from the sounds of gunfire in the mall scene, were all deathly afraid of doing anything that seemed that might seem too original, so every frame has a palpable "been there, done that" feel to it. I felt like the director mist have looked through the viewfinder hanging around his neck trying to find his shot, and anytime he found a frame that looked like he'd seen it in another movie, it was okay, but if it looked in any way different or interesting, it wouldn't do. Not for his movie. But, even with all of this going against it, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, I was into this movie. I wanted to see what would happen next. I wasn't completely disappointed until the end came and I realized the whole thing had culminated with a tremendous fizzling sound. The Sentinel very much wanted to be the Michael Douglas version of In the Line of Fire, but fails and fails pretty hard. Actually I think I ought to just watch that movie so I can wash the taste of The Sentinel out of my mouth. Also of note: 1) Michael Douglas looks a lot like a old man trying to show he's still a leading man in a bunch of shots, which made me kind of sad. 2) Disappointingly, Kiefer decided to be lazy during last year's summer break and took a paycheck movie that wouldn't require him to do anything but play Jack Bauer some more. He even gets to do some Bauerian angry shouting. 3) If her dramatic work in The Sentinel is any indication of Eva Longoria's acting talent, (and I suspect it is), then her career is on a fast track to J-Lotown. Except without a U-Turn or Out of Sight to give her any street cred whatsoever. Has anyone watched her on Desperate Housewives? Man, she's terrible.
We still have Akeelah and the Bee to watch, and from what I hear that's supposed to be good.