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War of the Worlds (2005)
Falls short of already low expectations
Well you win some you lose some, right? Right. And this, unfortunately, is a clear case of a loss. Namely a loss of money from my pocket after shelling out the 8.50 to see this flick, a loss of excitement halfway through the movie to see how it all plays out, and a loss in faith in both Tom Cruise and Stephen Spielberg. The latter probably hurt the most. But losing 8.50 on a movie that I had bad premonitions about in the first place sucks too.
First you may wonder how a sci-fi film directed by Spielberg with Cruise as his lead could turn out sour. Well, quite easily apparently. Cruise plays a disheveled dock worker that enjoys working on car engines in his spare time. Now, if you can actually imagine Cruise in this role, congratulations because you have just completed the impossible. I think it was Neuton's 8th law that stated: "If a film company knows it's next movie is going to flop in the story department, they will cast a super famous actor as the lead to hopefully distract the masses" but I'll have to check my sources. On top of cruise failing to convince anyone he is the least bit the "grungy dude" his character was originally meant to be, he is also tasked with playing a clueless father to two children who have little respect for him...as their father, not professionally as a miserable actor. His attempts to connect with them are very limp and awkward, but not in the realistic sense of a man who simply does not know how to relate to his kids. It's more along the lines of Cruise not deciding how to present himself as this character. At times he is the goofy Tom Cruise we all know and, uh, love...but then he can suddenly get very serious quite inexplicably. Its all rather confusing.
And then come the aliens! Oh, how there has never been a bigger plot hole in the records of alien invasions that populate movie history. Without giving too much away, what it boils down to is that the Martians have been poised to take over Earth for so long, one can't help but wonder why they waited as long as they did! There are other intricacies to the numerous inconsistencies in this rather flawed scheme but I'd be spoiling the movie to mention them.
Moving on, the bulk of the movie after the invasion begins is viewed a la basement window, as Cruise holes up in this random guy's cellar for a good long time and has no real intention of leaving. Boredom ensues, as well as ham-fisted attempts at character development that is really just tiring to watch. Luckily though he is forced out when the aliens discover him, which then leads up to the denouement when the alien's weakness is finally revealed.
I could go on, believe me I could, but I think that I may as well note the highlights of the film. This movie was not wretched by any standards, but terminally flawed, I think yes. First on the list of good things is Dakota Fanning, who, ever since I saw her in Man on Fire, has always impressed me with her ability to command a role at such a young age (I hope Cruise was taking some notes during her scenes), also the beginning of the invasion is impressive, as is the very end. Once the aliens become vulnerable we are treated to a scene with a squad of soldiers taking positions behind a few junked cars in a parking lot, and totally blasting one of the Martian's machines as it crashes into a factory. That was sweet. Having said that, the CGI and special fx in general were all very well done.
But there just weren't enough scenes like the one just mentioned. I came to see a war, not to see Cruise and his kids running away from a war. And don't take that to mean I was expecting action from start to finish...but if you're going to focus on one man's struggle to save his family during an extermination of the human race, as Spielberg did, I expect to see some meaningful, resonant characters that actually have something to say during the times of low excitement. NOT the drivel that passes as dialogue found here. Bad form. Not recommended.
White Noise (2005)
Coming to a dusty movie rental shelf near you...
The movie White Noise has several things going for it. For one, it introduces the concept of EVP which I find rather interesting. Another thing...is...hmm. That seems to be about it. So I guess it's no real surprise that it wasn't that great of a movie. Michael Keaton does a great job of playing the role of the grieving, lonely husband after his wife mysteriously drowns. That is to say if you think that a grieving husband, when not wallowing in his pools of self-pity, should be staring around with that wild "senility is just around the corner!" look of his. It always seems as though Keaton wears the expression of constant java-revved intensity, and after viewing it for too long one begins feel mentally exhausted for him. The storyline picks up when Keaton begins to realize that there are indeed evil forces at work here, and his wife is instructing him on how to thwart said forces from beyond the grave. A decent premise to potentially meatier story elements. Too bad pivotal moments of the mysteries surrounding Keaton's obsessional passtime are either understated and thus quickly forgotten, or overly exclamated by the now industry standard "jump scene". Oh, how the latter I do loathe. Directors: There is no way to turn me away from your "horror" movie faster than to toss one of those in the works. Moments such as these expose the director's sheer lack of skill to build up any manner of tension, moreover, it serves to underline the fact that cheap scares are more important in their minds than story and character development. Despite the shortcomings experienced along the way I stuck with it to the very end, even going so far as to forgive the obvious holes that the film very nearly pushes itself into. For one thing, the spectres of evil that seem to be the source of the very problems Keaton strives to prevent, or simply "the three" as I refer to them, were rather intriguing... and in some scenes genuinely spine-tingling. However, Mr. Sax (the director) had apparently staggered on to the set while the final scenes were being shot and drunkenly objected to "the LACK OF ghosts fighting Mr. Keaton! I demand to see ghosts get into a fight with Mike there *hic*" I'm speculating here. But I feel that I am not far from the truth. Seeing Keaton get his ass handed to him by three angry (and scary no more!) ghosts was the point of no return for this piece as far as I'm concerned. No great loss.
Reign of Fire (2002)
Very good, but could have been better
I have to start off by saying that on the whole, this movie was not bad, in fact, it was quite enjoyable to watch. But the honest truth is that it could have been so much better. Now I know that it isn't unusual for people to point out flaws here or there about a film like "why didn't they do this instead of that" nitpickey type stuff. But in this case I can't help but feel sorry for the sheer potential this movie was not given a chance to attain.
Imagine Earth in a post-apocalyptic era, but instead of the ravages of a nuclear war we find the skies to be ruled by fearsome dragons who seek to hunt down and kill the few remaining humans. The beasts not only incinerate their targets with their fiery breath as the legends foretold, they feed upon the very ash which their destruction creates. The humans, battered and frightened by the dragons' sudden appearance and ruthless fury, struggle simply to survive as they are constantly under threat. This alone is an excellent premise that could have lead to an amazing film, but just as it seems to be gaining momentum it feels like it runs right into a wall. It's as if the director simply tried to tie up all the loose ends too quickly and in doing so stunted a story that might have been better left with a few mysteries unexplained, or battles yet fought.
Again, the movie does deliver with great visuals, tense fiery battles and believable characters. See it if you haven't, hell maybe I'm expecting too much from this movie. But if you're like me it may just leave you wanting a little more.
Read the book.
For those of you who aren't aware, this movie is the adaptation of Stephen King's novel by the same name. However, one must be careful not to think of the two as one and the same because that is simply not the case. I saw the movie before reading the book, so my opinion at the time was not affected by the original story. I left the theater thinking that it was an all right film, but nothing truly special by any means. The film's story is nothing to write home about; 4 guys find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion / gvt cover-up and are fighting for survival as both sides attempt to kill them. The only thing the film offered to even suggest that King had anything to do with it was that the 4 main characters all have some sort of psychic power, such as mind reading, etc. Oh and every now and then there are flashbacks to their childhood showing them meeting up with their mysterious and mentally challenged friend Duddits, who helps them to discover their powers. These things along with the all-star cast all have a lot of promise, but the movie simply fails to explain just what the hell is going on. It's as though the screenwriter had ADD and only half-included necessary story elements as he causes the story to bounce from tangent to tangent. On the whole, not a great film. But if you have watched it and enjoyed it at all, read the book! It is a truly incredible story, and it's really a shame that more wasn't done to make the film a better adaptation.