Tuesday, August 15, 2006




Terrance Malick is no doubt a hit or miss director. When he hits, as he did with BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN, he hits big. His deft handling of natural elements is unequalled, in my opinion. The photography rivals the actors with its own breathtaking performance. The lighting is exquisite. In BADLANDS, Sissy Spacek was phenomenal and the dialogue between she and Sheen, though sparse, was electric. DAYS OF HEAVEN was not as well received as BADLANDS, but it still succeeded largely in moving the audience with both the innovative camera-work and the actors' performances. Then, there was the war epic THE THIN RED LINE which received an oscar nod but mixed reviews. It was dodgy but still stunning.

THE NEW WORLD is a disappointment for many reasons. The main reason is the unfathomable casting of Colin Farrell as John Smith. He is brusque, rude, vulgar, sullen, and mostly unattractive. The majority of his performance consists of brooding in the shade voiceing complaints in an infuriating monotone. He never truly seems to believe the role and therefore neither do we. His brief love scenes with Pocahontas are extremely dull, only lightening slightly during their final scene together.

An additional problem with the film lies in its lack of dialogue. Being a lover of this particular story, I was really in need of some great interaction between the characters. I wanted to hear wonderful expressions of love and intelligent humor. There should have been deep dialogue (subtitled of course) between the tribe members as they pondered the arrival of the Englishmen. Instead, Malick replaces most of the dialogue with quiet, minimalistic narration that truly confuses the viewer. We find ourselves watching the glorious portrayal of nature, listening to the pretty score, and completely forgetting the whispered words we've just heard. 'wait...what was that? was that important what he said? not'.) I'm not sure what his intention was with this approach, but it certainly didnt reach me. A few great actors (Wes Studi, Christopher Plummer) were completely wasted on such an austere project.
On a positive note, Q'Orianka Kilcher was a luminous Pocahontas. She conveyed more feeling with her eyes than most of her castmates and her lines seemed to flow naturally. Her skin glowed in the ethereal lighting (that is a Malick signature) and when she smiled, it was full of warmth. Add to her solid performance the presence of the GREAT Christian Bale ( and may I just say 'humina humina' ) and there were definitely high points to the film. Bale was the perfect John Rolfe. The fact that he would have played second fiddle to Farrell's John Smith is laughable in the extreme. When he is on the screen, I melt...I just do. His eyes, as they rested on his new wife, were full of love and believeable attraction. And therefore Bale has yet another film to his credit about which he can claim to be the saving grace (at least in my biased eyes).

For a christian, I didnt spot anything that would be especially offensive. There is some documentary style violence (realistic but not glorified) and some allusions to sexual activity but not much is shown. Even the indians are surprisingly modest, with only a few children taking advantage of the PG13 rating.

Even with all the aforementioned problems, I didnt hate this movie. I doubt I will ever watch it again (unless I happen to catch it after Bale makes his belated appearance) but it does have some very beautiful moments. The photography itself is undoubtedly on par with others of the genre. But when a historical epic lacks heart, it will not be universally loved.

My rating: 5/10



Recently, I made a little alone trip to the movies and saw this recent effort of a much loved director. Some of Shayamalan's work is just brilliant, in my book-namely SIGNS and UNBREAKABLE. Though THE VILLAGE received lukewarm reviews and critics and audiences are both beginning to doubt his abilities, I still find him comparable with Hitchcock in many respects.
If you make an effort to view some of Hitchcock's earliest work (especially the silent film THE LODGER), you can see alot of similarities between he and Shayamalan. Both directors have a great grasp on the visual while sometimes seeming a bit too ambitious with their respective stories. Character developement is often very defined while in the same film, sadly lacking. Both directors enjoyed adding a signature 'twist' to their film climaxes. Some critics think this makes for very one-dimensional filmmaking and therefore both Hitchcock (in his early days) and M (I am NOT spelling out that name every time! ) have had their nay-sayers.

The Lady in the Water is, however, much better than the critics would have you believe. The story is silly and sometimes a little over-ambitious. The movie is a bit self indulgent also-as Shayamalan has cast himself in quite a meaty role. But it succeeds in two very important areas-entertainment and acting.
The story is actually a tale within a tale. An eastern bedtime story is quickly related in which water nymphs must come in contact with a human and attempt to make much needed changes in society through their human 'vessel'. These water nymphs live underneath swimming pools, placed there as infants before the pools are constructed and surfacing only momentarily until it is time for them to contact their vessel. Once the narf (as she is called) is out of the water, she is pursued by ravenous beasts called 'scrunts' whose sole purpose is to defeat the nymph. Once her mission is safely accomplished however, the scrunt must relent and allow the narf to be safely taken back to her own world by a large eagle sent for this purpose. If the scrunt oversteps his bounds, he is punished by Tartuic-peacekeepers living in the trees*. It's all very involved and ponderous...but still a little exciting.

Paul Giamatti plays Cleveland Heep, caretaker of an apartment complex with, of course, a pool. Heep has a stutter and is completely wrapped up in the lives of his tenants. Giamatti plays him excellently and lovingly. He is funny and endearing-intelligent and vulnerable. The tenants are a collection of hilarious oddball characters that remain at all times intriguing in their eccentricities. Bob Balaban (Close Encounters, Mighty Wind) plays his signature 'straight man' with panache. As the movie progresses, Heep discovers the narf (played by lovely but ho hum Bryce Dallas Howard) in the pool and makes it a mission to help her find her vessel and protect her from the scrunts he is quite shocked to discover living in his lawn. A series of miniscule plot twists result as Heep discovers things about the tenants that relate in various ways to the narf and her goals. There are a few dramatic moments and brief scares but for the most part the film remains very upbeat. The special effects are pretty good as well, though they are not the main draw for me.

In closing, may I just say that I am especially thrilled by how clean this movie was. I did not detect any major language (though Kids-in-mind may refresh my memory) and sexuality is not an issue at all. The scenes between the narf and scrunts are a bit intense but not overly violent or at all gory. I am very pleased to see a director step away from the typical manner that most directors of this genre will approach such a story. Of course, since Shayamalan wrote the whole thing, he had no one to disappoint.

My rating: 7.5/10

*If you are interested in this little 'bedtime story', it's also noteable that Shayamalan has released it in book form for children. You can find it at your local bookstore.

Monday, August 14, 2006

And we're OFF...

I've decided to open up a blog with the sole purpose of reviewing movies. That way, all of you who truly care will be able to determine beforehand whether a flick is worth your time or Of course my opinion is of zero importance, especially if we don't share movie tastes , and that is what the comment window is for!

This blog is also open to submitted reviews so ya'll can just email those to me if you'd like to see your opinion shouted into cyberspace.