I am still, still catching up with the films of 2004, and I saw a new 2005 movie, all in the last few days.
Saw – Excellent first 2/3, absolutely irritating final 1/3. This suffers from the “Face/Off Conundrum” – the director (or whoever), having a handful of cool final-scene ideas, is unable to pick one and ends up piling climax on top of climax, until the heroes have blown six attempts to take out the villains and we just don’t CARE anymore.
Outside of that, this was better than I expected. Director James Wan borrows a lot of tricks from “Seven” but applies them to a more slasher-iffic horror movie, lingering over murder scenes, devising creepy atmospheres for characters to get lost in. Acting is awful, but the movie passes the horror-film acid test – the grisliest scenes really burrow into your medulla.
Kinsey – It’s weird remembering how much buzz this got. That was probably a combination of entertainment writers’ (and wacko conservative groups’) interest in a “moral values” hook after the election, as well as the fact we had very few Oscar-bait movies in 2004. In a better year this would have flown under the radar. It’s a very attractive biopic, gripping for parts, but mostly rote.
The performances are uniformly stellar. Liam Neeson starts awkwardly (his accent doesn’t fit), but as Kinsey becomes more popular and more stressed, he shrinks to fit the role. Laura Linney communicates at least four times as much as her dialogue allows. My single favorite role was probably William Sadler’s cameo as Kenneth Braun, the sexual predator who gives Kinsey reams of research after demonstrating how he can ejaculate within ten seconds of whipping out his penis.
But the plot gets less and less interesting as Kinsey gets famous – the part where he’s travelling the country to research his first book is just as dry as such a scene can be. Odd, because “Gods and Monsters” was so lively.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – For all the lousy reviews, this is actually as good an adaptation of a comic novel as I’ve seen in years. It strikes just the right tone, alternating between funny scenes and cartoon “pages” from the Hitchhiker’s guide, to move the plot along without missing any gags. There are whole scenes (like the sperm whale) lifted from the book, which would be utterly jarring in a normal movie, but gel nicely here.