Sunday, December 17, 2006

silver screen

Some movie reviews.

off the black

I went to see this because a friend of Prue's directed it - it was the opening weekend and the director was hoping to up his sales figures however he could. Also, it really is exciting and inspiring to see people my age (not that I'm very young anymore - I turn 26 in two weeks) and people who I'm only a couple of degrees of separation away from accomplish something so huge.

The movie is good - not just good for a first movie, or good for his age, or whatever, legitimately good. Good scene setting and atmosphere, good dialogue, well acted. The story is as old as the hills - an unlikely friendship develops between a boy on the cusp of manhood and a man with one foot in the grave. Life lessons are doled out generously. It's the sort of story that bears retelling, if it's done well, and it is here.

I will say, however - it's definitely a guy movie. Not just the whole sacred masculine friendship thing. There's a lot of baseball. Playing baseball, dreaming about baseball, reminiscing about baseball. And if you're going to go see the movie, you've got to be prepared for a soundtrack of Nick Nolte's inarticulate grunts and groans. He grunts when he sits, he grunts when he stands, he grunts when he ruminates, he grunts in order to express primitive, sub-verbal thoughts and feelings. Phlegmy, rumbling, straight-from-the-gut grunting. As Nick Nolte would say: ugh.


I went alone, because I know by now that nobody else is interested...and for once, the naysayers were right. It was deeply, almost miraculously, atrocious. In order to be bad this movie had to squander:

(a) a story about boy hero and his dragon - if you are the target demographic for this plot, you will be inclined to like it no matter how mediocre the execution. I know I certainly was.

(b) Jeremy Irons! He has a huge role and he is, as always, reliably magnificent. It was tragic, really, to see him on screen, so gorgeous, so capable, giving all his horrible lines such grace and dignity. His perfection only highlighted the awfulness around him - he really made the dopey blond lunk playing Eragon look pathetic.

(c) John Malkovich! Who usually makes a fantastic over-the-top villain, and should have been able to phone this one in with flying colors...and yet he's awful! Wooden and awkward and buried under his massive costume and silly throne. What happened, John Malkovich?

(d) Rachel Weisz! Who does the voice of the dragon. She sounds as though she's speaking through a tin can and delivers all of her lines with truly painful sincerity and gusto.

The movie was unsalvageable, even by a trio of fantastic actors whose agents must be really upset about their clients not getting roles in the Harry Potter series. There's a boy, and all this cool stuff just drops right into his lap. A dragon! A dashing mentor! A daring escape! A girlfriend! A big red sword! Magic powers! A fabulous suit of armor! An epic battle! And then respected elders congratulate him as though he'd worked hard to obtain these things. Eragon is more like a sword-and-sorcery wet dream than an epic journey or heroic quest.

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