Translate This Page!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

El Norte (1983) Drama

El Norte (1983) - This stunning movie is about the decision of two Central American (Guatemalan) Mayan indians to travel north to the United States put a human face on immigration. Beautifully shot I recently viewed the BluRay edition. Although the film was innocent in its approach, it captured the idea that all illegal immigrants are not here for economic reasons, and thus we have to be more nuanced in thinking about our borders. There are a couple of scenes that were over the top in how simplified they were or that had over done music, but in general it is a touching and sad story of a brother and sister struggling for a better life.
Rating (7.9)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hellboy (2004) Action / Sci-Fi

Hellboy (2004) - Another comic adaptation with more personality and likability than the Watchmen but without the depth or intelligence. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) centers around the title character, a demon who was brought to this work while young in WWII. He now works for the FBI in a unit that includes an aquatic being Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and a girl with blue fire Liz Sheman (Selma Blair), who fight mystical beings on earth.
The story is about Hellboy of course and he in the end can choose to be what we have seen in the early movie or a Demon who brings hell onto earth. In the middle is a plot that will get him to that choice. There are nasty monsters and fighting and explosions and running and screaming. It is a fantastic story and the action is grand. I can't say I loved the movie but I have some respect for the skill of the director Guillermo del Toro and actor Ron Perlman. In the end though it is just a comic book action flick enjoyable but not filling.
Rating (7.6)

Watchmen (2009) Action

Watchmen (2009) - Depth of story, action and a world close to real but not entirely makes this adaptation work for the most part. Watchmen is a comic collectors classics for its layered allegory. Written in the eighties it takes the action hero of comics and turns it on its head. Heroes are not the superhuman variety we see in Superman, X-men, or Spiderman, instead they are thrill seeking, sociopath vigilantes dispensing there own justice. One true superhuman exists,created in classic experiment gone bad style, Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) sees the workings of the universe and can manipulate matter to his will. His existence changes the geopolitical America of the movie, instead of losing in Vietnam, we win with his help. Nixon wins reelection and then changes the law so he can stay in office five times. The Russians seeing the limitless power of Dr. Manhattan redouble efforts to build a nuclear deterrent against the US. This is where the story starts, with the USA and Russia moving ever closer to while mutually assured destruction.
The movie begins with the death of a vigilante named The Comedian (Jeffry Dean Morgan), a nihilistic ass wipe who has been working for the government over the years doing black ops. Someone breaks into his apartment and beats him before throwing him out the window. Masked heroes have been on the outs in society with the passing of the Keene Law outlawing then but one who refused to stop was Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), who wears a mask of changing black blobs pattern, thus the name. He is the black and white of our story and the main protagonist in trying to solve the death of the Comedian.
Dr Manhattan become less human as the years go on and thus less interested in the destiny of the race and after breaking up with his girlfriend, and masked adventurer Laurie Jupiter (Silk Spectre)(Malin Akerman) he leaves earth for Mars. The Russians seeing the chance to gain some dominance move into Afghanistan bring them toe to toe in a risky nuclear showdown with the US.
Meanwhile Rorschach, Silk Spectre, and Night Owl (Patrick Wilson)try to solve the death of the comedian. Their paths move closer and closer to billionaire Adrian Veidt known as Ozymandias (Matthew Goode). He is the worlds smartest man and another former hero. Behind his plot is a plan he sees as for the good of human kind. The Comedian found him out and had to be eliminated. His plan is to have a Dr. Manhattan imitating explosion in NY City, with the desired affect of having the entire world unite against him and forgetting there distrust of each other.

It happens just like this, and our three hero protagonists are powerless to stop him even though they get to his Antarctic headquarters in time. Veidt who idolizes Alexander the Great sees his actions as similar to how Alexander approached the Gordian Knot. He is thinking outside the box and although great sacrifice is being made, 7 million people killed, he sees it as a way to end the nuclear threat and unite the world.

In the end only Rorschach can not tolerate this approach and declares he will never compromise and keep his mouth shut about the events. He loses his life for this as Dr. Manhattan eliminates him leaving a blood angel in the snow.

So the movie was well made and although it did not have the depth of the book I though it did a fine job anyway. It was beautiful to look at and the action was crisp and well thought out. They change a couple things, in the book Ozymandias creates an alien creature who he sends to destroy NY City but here we have him setting Dr. Manhattan as the alien. This somewhat works. What was unfortunate was the choice to have the masked avengers be more superhuman than they were in the book.

In the theater I saw the movie in the sound was so loud I had to wear earplugs the entire movie. The movie craft being good I think some of what turned me off was the same as when I read the book. It is outdated, with the big Russian, US conflict not being today's primary theme. Also the characters in the book and movie are just not very likable. I was not cheering for anyone to succeed and in an action movie this is an essential need.

The ending leaves you thinking but you may ask who cares.

Do not fear the blue penis.

Rating (7.7)