Testing, testing, is this thing working?
Welcome to a new feature here at Bill’s Movie Emporium. This is the first in what will be a weekly series of capsule reviews. This time out I’ll be looking at five films, and a very diverse five films at that. A horror icon gives a very odd swan song, Federico Fellini provides a double dose of his special brand of Italian, and Bryan Singer presents a couple of mutant odysseys. Hopefully you all dig what I’m doing here, let me know either way.
Jason X (2001, James Isaac, United States Of America) *
This is a gloriously bad movie. Sure, it’s bad in a few ways where it’s just plain bad, like the omission of the classic Friday The 13th theme. But, on the whole Jason X is a fun ride because it never takes itself seriously and revels in just how bad of a movie it can be. You have super robot Jason, an android who cracks jokes, a crew who crack really bad jokes that are funny for that reason, the worst looking group of marines ever, David Cronenberg with an awesome cameo, and the most indestructible spaceship film has ever seen. The whole premise behind making this movie was a Lisa Ryder/Lexa Doig pairing outside of Andromeda, correct?
La Strada (The Road, 1954, Federico Fellini, Italy) ***1/2
Love and hate are on display equally here, but that’s not telling you anything you don’t already know. The beautifully expressive faces of Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina provide all the firepower the film needs. What happens around them really doesn’t matter, the film can be found in their faces and how they convey what emotions they are feeling at any given time. Masina is especially great here, not that Quinn is any less great, but I was captivated by the way Masina told her story through her face, and those eyes. Federico Fellini has a lot to say here, and others more profound than I have touched on all of what he says. But, outside of a slight ten minute or so lull near the middle of the film I was enthralled by these actors and Mr. Fellini’s message.
La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life, 1960, Federico Fellini, France/Italy) ***
A rumination on life, love and happiness, the inherent sloppiness of it all. I was taken by this at first, but as it moved along I became more and more disinterested. I could see the craft on display, I knew I was watching a finely made film. La Dolce Vita is sloppy in the best of ways, but for some reason I couldn’t fully latch on to it. I’ve struggled with a few of Federico Fellini’s films for this same unknown reason. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to watch this, or maybe it just isn’t that engaging. I liked it enough that a rewatch will be in order at some point, but for right now this is a film I merely liked, I didn’t love it.
X-Men (2000, Bryan Singer, United States Of America) ***
I didn’t like this as much this time around as I did when I first saw it years ago. This time I had issues with how underdeveloped the characters were, especially their relationships. I remember seeing this the first time and my comic book addled brain loved it, but now I realize the biggest flaw in the movie is how much it relies on its audience being fans of the X series of comics. Take the Jean Grey/Logan romance, the movie does nothing with the two of them but then at the end implies there has been a large romantic connection between the pair the entire time. They lift the idea for that from the comics, but they never actually build to that idea in the films.
All that being said, I still got caught up in a lot of key moments in the film. The ideas the film sort of half presents still intrigued me, and when Bryan Singer chose to go the action route I liked how he handled that aspect. But, for as much as I liked X-Men, a lot of bad dialogue and a slew of underdeveloped characters hurt my view of it a bunch this viewing.
X2 (2003, Bryan Singer, Canada/United States Of America) ***1/2
This is much more the big superhero flick than its predecessor. It still suffers from some bad dialogue and too often Bryan Singer’s direction is on the nose when he thinks he’s being subtle. But, the action is very good, there’s more of it as well, and this time I believed the universe the film was set in. There’s an organic feel to X2, I still recognize where the movie is trying to borrow from the comics but in this entry in the franchise the problems and relationships of the characters grow naturally out of the story. All in all X2 gets the big superhero action flick idea, that’s why warts and all it’s a pretty darn good movie.
There you have it, some short reviews of some good and not so good movies. And I’m not quite sure how to end this particular debut feature, so I’ll just say sayonara.