Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 298: The Three Musketeers (2011) and eXistenZ (1999)

So work got away with me again, although those who checked this site this afternoon noticed that I had prepared to watch two movies at the theaters tonight.  I only got to one, and I'd forgotten that I'd pre-planned my post so that I could just fill in the text when I got home.  That explains the fun empty post that I've had online for the last five hours or so.

PG-13, 1 hr. 42 min.  Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson.  Release Date: October 21, 2011.

At some point, I have to blame The Matrix for stuff like this.  Because really, what we have is one of (in my humble opinion) the best and most realistic adventure novels ever written, and I mean frigging EVER.  Any time period, any country, and language, and suddenly you have everyone acting like they're ninjas.  

Where do I give this movie positive credit?  I liked how they portrayed the Countess de Winter, sort of, although I think Milla Jovovich wasn't even CLOSE to being right for the role.  I guess it could have been worse, and they could have cast Sarah Michelle Gellar or Eliza Dushku.  That would have been much, much worse.  I even liked the addition of Da Vinci's war machine, although the thought that we seem to be expected to believe that no one would come up with an obvious countermeasure... and that they'd have been able to come up with THAT much lighter than air gas is laughable.  The action sequences, while out of place in this quiet, but well-loved piece of French literature, were very decent and obviously inspired by Neo. 

Where did they go wrong?  Well, with a Paul W.S. Anderson movie, you generally have a lot of room to make that decision.  Let's see, the whole bit about Louis XIII and Lord Buckingham having this sort of metrosexual tension between (which bordered more than once on the homosexual) was funny for about the first thirty seconds, and then when it looked like Versailles had been turned in to Versace's latest lineups, I lost interest pretty quick.  Technology appeared in this movie that wouldn't truly see the light of day for CENTURIES, and again, it was cute, but not that cute.  The dialogue was terrible, the delivery was even worse, and I think Milla was stroking out because of all hairspray used to put her weave together.  The ending and subsequent sequel foretelling was so bad I don't even want to think about it.  Just wait for The Four Musketeers, coming out in the 7 weeks it'll take ole Anderson to crank it out.

But, this wasn't a terrible way to spend a couple hours, although I was admittedly distracted by my first viewing in a "Fork & Screen" theater, which offers a full menu, bar, and seats so wide even my shoulders fit in the confines.  The constant waitstaff could have made me think this wasn't so terrible.  But I liked the pretty explosions, Orlando Bloom getting his hair messed up, and the swordplay.

If I was a betting man, there'd probably be a picture of Bender on this poster, but alas, there's no time for that this evening.

R, 1 hr. 37 min.  Directed by: David Cronenberg.  Release Date: April 23, 1999.  Release Date: October 19, 1999.

I watched this in preparation for my first participation in the LAMBcast:  Episode 85 – David Cronenberg’s films.  Like most of Cronenberg’s works, I found myself loving the concept:  in this movie, in a near-future alternate Earth, a video game maker and a PR assistant get sucked in to a world not entirely under their control by playing a video game that communicates directly with their central nervous system.  

Now that I’ve seen a few of Cronenberg’s movies, I’ve started to pick up on certain things.  Many of his works involve a blurring of the line that separates reality and fantasy.  Dialogue continually discusses the “realistic” nature to the fantasy world, and reality is occasionally intruded upon by things that should belong to the fantasy world.  Much of his work also plays with the disgust response in the average person, and all of it seems to deal with one or more issues surrounding human sexuality.  There are a LOT of references to “bodily penetration,” particularly how Jude Law doesn’t like being penetrated (/snicker), and when discussing accessing Jennifer Jason Leigh’s port, Law says with a smirk, “should I do you?”  It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, although it took the scene where you get a close up on Leigh’s port, and you have just enough time to think, “hey, that looks a bit like—“ when Jude Law sticks his tongue in to it.  The technology all seems to look like Japanese-made sex toys, and there are no occasions when the act of “porting” isn’t at least vaguely sexual.  There’s very little in the game world that isn’t tinged with disgust, although it wasn’t as harsh as the disgust factor in Naked Lunch.

Another thing I’ve come to think of as a pre-2000 Cronenberg thing is stiff and strangely awkward performances.  Both Leigh and Law move through their parts as if they’re trying to cover up an erection with a binder.   The characters are odd by my standards, and most of the gender rules I walked in to their partnership expecting never happened.  Leigh’s character is sexually aggressive, the obvious leader and mentor, brave, opinionated, and independent.  Her “office attire” leans toward the vampish:  sheer blouses, half shirts, lots of skin, and tight slacks or skirts.  Law is dependent on Leigh’s character, is emotional and cowardly, and dresses like someone bought him cybermonk wear at the local Fuzzy and Warm Emporium.  Even when he’s engaged in something sexual, he’s completely desexualized.

My reaction is the normal one for a pre-2000 Cronenberg.  Interest.  Conceptually, this is a great movie, and I think the story runs very well, but I would have liked a bit more grounding in the reality of their world before we go leaping in to eXistenZ.  Inception fans will probably like the various worlds and how they intertwine.  I didn’t love Inception, but I did like this, probably because it wasn’t broadcasting the flipping end result to us throughout the movie.  Certainly, if you’re looking for something that’s both fun and thought-provoking, this is an excellent way to go.

I do have two complaints.  The first is that the battle sequences in the final scenes are the absolute suck; even by late 90s standards, those were some pretty pathetic pyrotechnics.  The second is the obvious dialogue regarding the crossing from reality into the fantasy of the game.  “Are we still in the game?” is a common line in various guises, and I think this script was better than that.