Friday, April 09, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Week of Apr. 2-8

The Box (2009) ***½
Director: Richard Kelly
Writers: Richard Kelly, Richard Matheson (short story “Button, Button”)
Starring: James Marsden, Cameron Diaz, Frank Langella, Sam Oz Stone, James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne

I am surprised this film hasn’t garnered the cult following of Richard Kelly’s first film “Donnie Darko”. Everyone seems to feel it’s kind of mediocre, but I saw a sci-fi film that asked some very hard questions and did not provide any easy answers. To some questions it offered no answers at all. But, it did not compromise on its vision or premise, and the fate of the protagonists is laid out from the beginning without ever tipping its hand ahead of time. It may seem as if there are some sequences missing from the final cut, but I don’t think there really are. In that sense it is a difficult movie, but it’s satisfying in its strength of purpose.

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) ***
Director: Stuart Baird
Writers: John Logan, Rick Berman, Brent Spiner
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Johnathan Frakes, Tom Hardy, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Ron Perlman, Dina Meyer, Jude Ciccolella

As I finish The Next Generation movies of the Star Trek franchise, I find myself somewhat forlorn. It seems that this cast was just finding their stride as a film franchise when the producers gave up on them. “Nemesis” is another solid entry into the series, and just as the Next Generation crew began to create a film mythology beyond their exploits on the TV screen, their run was over. The fact that the federation finally makes strides with the Romulan Empire in this movie and the Enterprise develops a new enemy in the Remans, suggests much potential for this crew’s future. Perhaps when the reboot of the original crew starts to fizzle, it’ll be time to resurrect Captain Picard and his crew.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (2009) ****
Director: Werner Herzog
Writers: William Finkelstein, Victor Argo (original), Paul Calderon (original), Abel Ferrera (original), Zoë Lund (original)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Fairuza Balk, Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner, Shawn Hatosy, Jennifer Coolidge, Tom Bower, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Brad Dourif

Could Nick Cage be Herzog’s new Klaus Kinski? I don’t know if they plan any further projects together, but I could see it. Cage is tailor made to be a muse for Herzog. He’s never looked so quite on the edge as he does in this picture. Cage is naked in a very different way than Harvey Keitel was in the original “Bad Lieutenant”, thankfully. And who better to film a man driven to the edge of self-destruction than Werner Herzog, whose subjects are so often the causes of their own demises? This film is a mesmerizing journey down this man’s dark path; and unlike Keitel’s bad cop, we’re almost rooting for Cage to get away with it all by the end. One problem I had with the original is that I felt like I was supposed to pity this man in some way, and I didn’t care to. I felt no urge to pity Cage’s corrupt officer; but I was thrilled by that line he was skirting, and fascinated to see whether he could survive it.

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