not a beautiful or unique snowflake (nothings) wrote,
not a beautiful or unique snowflake
nothings

Ratings from -4 to 4:

  • El Mariachi: 1
  • Desperado: 0
  • LA Story: 2
  • Bowfinger: 1
  • Adaptation: 2
  • Meet the Feebles: 1
  • The Replacement Killers: -1

El Mariachi

Itinerant guitar player is mistaken for crazed killer who keeps his weapons in a guitar case. I bought and read Robert Rodriguez' Rebel Without a Crew on the flight to Maryland over Christmas; because I'd always been interested in how he did it, because I'm interested in movie-making, and because Chris mentioned that it was worth a read for doing indie-anything--we're both doing indie games.

However, it makes it hard to judge the movie fairly, because I know so much about what went into it, and because I read the script in advance of seeing it.

So, how to judge it? Judge it independent of the fact it was made for $7,000? It's a cheesy direct-to-Spanish-video exploitation film. Should I judge it as to how good it is by that standard? Or just judge it as a movie?

So my stance is: it's a pretty damn good exploitation movie; it's entertaining, it has some nice touches (like his 'things happen three times' bits), so, yeah, thumbs up, it's a positive experience. But it's still only an exploitation movie, with action sequences that aren't all that impressive. Rating (-4 to 4): 1

Desperado

Itinerant guitar player with weapons in a guitar case seeks vengeance on the men really responsible for the bad stuff from the first movie despite the fact there was no hint anyone else was involved. Robert Rodriguez spent $7,000,000 on this one, and it's not 1000 times as good. He says (I listened immediately to both of the commentary tracks) it's got amazing production value for $7M, though, that Hollywood would have spent $20M or whatever on it. He says he was trying to do John Woo on a budget, but IMDB says Woo's Hard Boiled budget was only $4.5M. So I dunno.

The love scene is entirely gratuitous. The action seems too cheesy--the opening scene is intentionally blown out of proportion since Buscemi is telling the story, but then the first real action sequence, Banderas is far too slick, and things like him whipping the guns as he shoots them is just way too unrealistic.

So this felt to me like an exploitation movie with way bigger production value, but perhaps the same problem as Star Wars--once given the freedom to do all the action right, he sacrificed the believable elements of the story. He may have intended it as parody, but most of the time it crosses the line of just providing exactly the same thing as the thing its supposed to parody. Rating (-4 to 4): 0

L.A .Story

Freeway sign guides weatherman Steve Martin to true love. The bit with the freeway shootings is dated, but other than that, it's an enjoyable little romantic comedy with an incredibly silly premise, but a cutely weird arc and lots of good small bits all throughout. Have Steve Martin and Woody Allen ever been in a movie together? Rating (-4 to 4): 2

Bowfinger

Aspiring movie director Steve Martin shoots a movie starring Eddie Murphy, without the latter knowing. Kind of weird how the plot turns crucially on Murphy's character being nuts in exactly the right way to misunderstand the script--that felt fairly artificial. Without the romantic comedy arc of L.A. Story and Roxanne to hold it together, it's kind of eh; I felt like I got a lot less out of it at around the halfway point, when I guess the plot took over too much. Rating (-4 to 4): 1

Useless commentary track. Frank Oz says "this is a set; now we're on location"; "there's a deleted scene here because it was just too long"; "this bit right here we added after a test screening to make sure it was clearer". (But not worst commentary track ever; that's Big Trouble in Little China, as far as I can remember.)

Adaptation

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nick Cage) fights with the challenge of adapting Meryl Streep's non-fiction book and fights with his brother. Assuming that all the bits that are offered as quotes from the book (voiced-over by Ms. Streep) are really from the book, then this is a really impressive job of grabbing a couple themes from the book and turning it into an insanely self-reflective movie. Kaufman struggles with the notion of passion, and the movie constantly, through the first half, confronts us with cliche Hollywood moments that play out more like they would in real life--painfully. The slow revelation that the movie we're seeing is the movie he ends up writing is great--at one point he gets the obviously dumb idea of starting the movie with the origin of life on the planet--and we've already seen that scene. The ending, though, feels a little too obvious, a little too forced. It has to be the cliche Hollywood ending because, well, that's the point of the story, and isn't that funny and ironic? It doesn't go for the extreme Hollywood ending I more expected--the one brother assuming the other's identity; and Chris pointed out that given the cliche "learn a life lesson" the one Kaufman learns at the end, when he has his final conversation with the woman, he doesn't need her to love him back, because he has his love for her. But we get her final response tacked on. So (the real) Kaufman has sort of picked an annoying middle-ground, where he didn't play out his story as conventionally as he could have, nor did he go for the really extreme crazy Hollywood ending. And did he REALLY have to go for the cliche Hollywood ending at all? Rating (-4 to 4): 2

Meet the Feebles

Sex, drugs, and violence behind the scenes at a Muppet Show-alike. This is really wacky and crazy and I liked it--I'd seen director Peter Jackson's "Bad Taste" previously, so I knew what to expect--and that's not Lord of the Rings, despite being the same director. Sadly, the sound is really a mess--I had a lot of trouble understanding lines, which is lame since it was probably all looped since they're all puppets. Also, the lighting or photography was kind of a mess--lots of dark regions with no detail at all, so it looked kind of ugly. Some of the bits felt a bit obvious, but the whole insanity of the premise and seeing it all the way through was definitely worth something. Rating (-4 to 4): 1

The Replacement Killers

Chow Yun Fat is a killer who refuses to kill an innocent, and must protect himself and Mira Sorvino and his intended target from his own replacements, Sigh. A bunch of set pieces with lots of bullets flying: the arcade, the car wash, the office apartment, the chop shop, and the building. The story hardly mattered. I suspect CYF and the director are responsible, the director's prior experience being with MTV, not storytelling, and the commentary track mentions him and CYF chopping into the screenplay--but I didn't listen the whole way through, so who knows. Anyway, the cut scenes and the bullets flying aren't even that good. They felt mostly generic; they didn't show off CYF all that well. And I didn't observe any chemistry between the leads. Rating (-4 to 4): -1
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