Sunday, October 22, 2006

Quick Reviews: What I'm Watching

Just catching up on a few movies this weekend, and here are some brief reviews:

Art School Confidential: I'd heard both good and bad about this film from Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World, Crumb) and collaborator Daniel Clowes (the writer of the comic upon which Ghost World was based. In fact, this movie is a pseudo-adaptation of Clowes's long-running comic strip of the same name. I call it a pseudo-adaptation because the strip has no story to speak of; in the strip, Clowes basically rips on art school students and professors, and their general pomposity and lack of talent, etc.

So obviously Art School Confidental contains many of those moments. Unfortunately, they don't sparkle as much as they could or ahould. They were funny but a little predictable. The class and professor embrace the "lousy art" from a guy who turns out not to have been a real artist in the first place? Sounds like something we've seen before. The filmmaker wants to be another Tarantino? Seen it (often in my classes, I suppose). The naive, idealistic kid who wants to be a great artist and has to face the reality of the art world being more about sucking up to people than actual talent?

This is hardly original stuff, and I guess I started getting bored because I could see so many jokes coming, and because the guilty party in the murder-mystery plot was fairly obvious. I also thought that the main character's puppy-love crush on a the artist's model who poses for the classes never seemed realistic to me. The girl is this experienced woman-of-the-world who falls for a freshman who idolizes her. Okay, I'm not saying that couldn't happen. But he's nor charming at all. He's sort of pathetic. So I just couldn't buy her attraction for him. He painted really nice paintings of her? Like no one has done that before?

Ripley's Game: I didn't intentionally double-dip on Malkovich this weekend. This just happened to be sitting on my DVR since I recorded it off IFC several weeks ago. I'd heard it was good and had inexplicably been relegated to a direct-to-video release. And it was a good flick. Excellent performance by Malkovich as Ripley, the man without a conscience. Good but occasionally overwrought performance by Dougray Scott as they innocent man he draws into his web, turning him into a hired assassin just to prove that he can manipulate anyone he wants to manipulate. My theory as to why it didn't get released: if you don't already know something about Ripley from the novels by Patricia Highsmith, you might just not get this film. It really doesn't take any time to establish any backstory for Ripley, and given that he's the key character driving the action, if you don't get him and his motivations, the film just won't work for you.

Jericho: I've had the first five episodes of this sitting on my DVR, just waiting for me to decide if this was going to a show I'd actually watch. So I finally got some time to binge on it this weekend, and I'm hooked. It's a great concept, mostly well-executed, and I'm fascinated as I watch because I'm thinking about what I would do in the same situation. I mean, if a foreign power (or whomever) attacked the U.S. in this manner, it's one thing to have fun watching Jack Bauer saving the world on 24. It really brings it home to watch so-called "average Americans" dealing with the crisis as their power is out and they have little-to-no information. I think the show is struggling with finding the right tone. It obviously doesn't want to be too dark, so every episode seems to end with the town coming together to accomplish something, with uplifting music playing. But this is dark & scary territory, and I think the show shoudl embrace that. The fear is why we keep watching. I'm curious to see where they go with the Hawkins character, who obviously has some sort of agenda and has been planted in the town for some reason with his family.


Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Given my love for Terry Zwigoff, I have to count Art School Confidential among my biggest disappointments in this film year ... I just found it all to be surprisingly mean (and not terribly funny) in tone, and the tacked-on murder plot was simply ridiculous

10/22/2006 5:25 PM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

Yeah, I had read all the lousy reviews, so my expectations were low going in. And it just seemed like they went for every obvious art joke possible. Even Malkovich's character was just such a cliche -- as in, he paints nothing but triangles. He must have no talent. Duh. Really funny (sarcasm intended).

10/22/2006 5:41 PM  

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