Sunday, January 28, 2007

The rest of 2006

These are 2006 films that failed for me in some way. Many of them were interesting in parts but ended up disappointing overall. I'm not sure it is fair to put a movie like "Silent Hill" in the same league with the poetic, but overly self-derivative "Three Times" and the artistically/formally challenging "4," but sometimes that is just how things come out.

********** The Rest (in alpha order **********

Country: Russia
Genre: Art-film
One of the year’s most challenging films. Brilliant opening feature 60 seconds of dogs sleeping in the street followed by enormous power-drills appearing from off-screen and blasting holes into the asphalt. The rest is a downhill mess involving dull, arty meanderings about Russian citizens who dream of alternative lives and old women who chew bread to make doll material.

Country: France
Genre: Domestic Drama, Literary Adaptation, Art-House
Reviewed previously during St Louis Film Festival. A pretentious disaster that met with surprising critical success.

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes:
Country: Germany
Genre: Gothic, Art-House
Reviewed previously during St Louis Film Festival. Too slow and too miserly on the technical prowess that made the brothers Quay famous. Heading in the right direction of more interesting, more evolved fare from the famous stop-motion team but still easily outshined by Svankmajer.

The Protector:
Country: Thai
Genre: Martial Arts
Martial arts showcase of Tony Jaa’s Muay Thai fighting style. Lots of impressive choreography but a laughable plot about a stolen elephant and terrible acting. Steroid-pumped WWF cameos are just embarrassing. The highlight is a 4-minute, 4-story single-shot fight scene.

Silent Hill:
Country: USA
Genre: Action, Horror, Video Game Adaptation
Woefully bad videogame adaptation which shames everyone involved. A few good sets and monsters can’t save this hulking shambles of a train-wreck production. Not as bad as an Uwe Boll film, but so disappointing given the strength of the source material. Sean Bean utterly wasted in a sideline performance that could have been removed wholesale (some 20 minutes) without effecting the movie whatsoever.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada:
Country: USA
Genre: Western, Art-film
Meandering western about border-town justice. First-time outing by actor Tommy Lee Jones is several years to late to catch the most recent revisionist western boat. Ultimately disappointing and a little bit over-eager to seem profound, although some great scenes do catch one’s attention. Second half needed a complete rewrite.

Three Times:
Country: Taiwan
Genre: Art-film, Romance
Divided into three stories (set in 1966, 1911 and 2005) each with the cast, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s latest film finds the highly regarded director gutting his previous efforts for material. No originality and scant depth seriously injures the film, especially considering that most audiences can’t tolerate extended minimalist exercises anyway. Although highly critically acclaimed, I have to argue against the grain and say that the directing is the main problem: the leads were on their A game, and the premise was a surefire bet for the art-house circuit.

X-men: The Last Stand:
Country: USA
Genre: Action, Comic-book Adaptation
Disappointing conclusion to the X-men trilogy. Almost all the actors mail-in their performances having apparently realized that the second feature could not be surpassed. Bloated budget gets smeared in the audience’s faces until they get sick. Overwrought.

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