Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What I've Been Watching Lately, Part 1: Movies

I think it's time for another exciting "what I've been watching lately" post. Or at least half of one. I'll do movies now, and TV shows sometime later.

So, thumbnail reviews of couple of movies I've seen recently on DVD:

Madagascar: Cute, entertaining, and in places very funny. It may not exactly be the Shakespeare of talking-animal movies, but it's a pleasant way to kill an hour and a half, whatever your age. And I like the fact that it's a talking-animal movie that doesn't ignore the fact that some of these happy, best-buddy animals are, in the natural course of things, going to instinctively regard others as lunch. It probably sounds stupid to say that acknowledging that helps me suspend my disbelief, but, hey, it does.

The Brothers Grimm: This movie has a lot of things going for it: an interesting premise (hey, I love stories that play around with fairy tale motifs), very well-done visuals, some funny, clever dialog... And yet, it really just completely fails to work for me. It's hard to put my finger on exactly why, but I think the problem is that it's simply trying to be too many things at once. It doesn't know whether it's a subtle comedy, a broad over-the-top comedy, a moving drama about brotherly love or a lush, sense-of-wonder-inducing fantasy. As a result, I felt weirdly off-balance through the whole movie, never reacting to any individual moment quite the way it wanted me to. When it wanted me to be moved, my head was still in a comedy space, and when it wanted me to laugh, I was taking it too seriously. I almost wonder if this might have been a lot more successful if it had had much lower production values... There's dialog and story elements here that -- unsurprisingly, given that it comes from Terry Gilliam -- would have worked beautifully in a Monty Python movie, but there's something about the whole visual language of the film that leads you to approach it very, very differently from the way you'd approach a Python flick. Or at least, that's how it was for me. The result was like some kind of massive exercise in psychic dissonance. And not in a cool way.


  1. I really need to see Grimm. A lot of that "too many things at once" could come from the very real behind-the-scenes problems Gilliam had with the Weinsteins (recasting, budget restrictions, etc.).

    Gilliam hasn't quite washed his hands of the movie, but it's pretty clear it's not quite the film he intended to make.

  2. I'd have loved to have seen the film he intended to make, then. There are very clearly the seeds of something quite good in there, they just never really germinate.