WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 2

Welcome to another installment of Weekend Wrental Wreviews, in which I look back on my Netflix queue from the past week and share some brief thoughts on the films I've seen. Here are the latest movies for the second WWW:

1) Hellraiser: Hellworld:
I'm glad I'm done with this series. While the eighth and final film isn't as bad as most of its predecessors, it's still not as good as the first two in the franchise. It does work as the conventional modern horror movie with the ”Scooby-Doo” formula of a diverse quintet of young folks going out for a good time and running into trouble as soon as they split up. If Pinhead deviates even further from his role as an enforcer of Hell's laws and moves more toward a mundane horror antagonist, it's actually explained by a fairly decent twist. It's not a franchise-salvaging twist along the lines of Wes Craven's New Nightmare, but it was still nice to have some of the more questionable aspects of the plot and characters explained, and Lance Henriksen turns in a great performance as well.

2) Push:
If you (still) like Heroes or you've ever been a fan of the X-Men, you'll enjoy this as a rental, but probably be glad you skipped it in theaters. The film definitely has a great premise, playing off real world stories of government experiments on people with psychic abilities and introducing us to a variety of characters. “Movers” are telekinetics, able to move things with their minds. “Watchers” can see the future. “Pushers” can push their thoughts into your mind and influence your actions and sense of reality. “Sniffers” are trackers, who can pick up their prey’s scent from objects they've handled and sense any actions surrounding those objects. “Bleeders” have devastating sonic screams. The list goes on. Chris Evans is a Mover approached by a young Watcher played by Dakota Fanning, who hopes that together they can change the future, which she draws in a small sketchpad. One cool concept of the future is that it remains fluid, so though she keeps seeing their deaths, there may be actions they can take to change that. How they figure this out while outwitting another Watcher who can predict their every move results in a great strategy. Unfortunately, the ending is a little sudden and slightly open ended, and reminds me of movies like Jumper and Eragon, setting things up for sequels when there was no guarantee the ratings and box office numbers would be good enough to greenlight future installments.

3) Uncle Buck:
Here's a heartwarming John Hughes classic that I somehow missed growing up. I have to say the trailers were a little deceptive in their portrayal of John Candy's titular role, focusing on the slapstick elements like getting hit in the head with a bowling ball, when he actually turns out to be a great influence on the lives of his brother's children while he watches them. Macaulay Culkin is also at his precocious best in this one, and the scene of his interrogation of his newly discovered uncle is a classic. The final still frame of Candy waving made me sad all over again that he's no longer with us.

4) Volunteers:
Occasionally, I'll open that red Netflix envelope and be absolutely baffled by a film that I've never heard of, and don't remember adding. One aspect of the site is an “if you like...” feature that recommends films based on previous rentals. So I probably saw this ‘80s Tom Hanks flick as a recommendation based on adding Uncle Buck to my queue, since this one also stars Candy. When you maintain an ongoing list of around 500 movies, you tend to forget a few until they filter to the top. It's not a bad film, with shades of being a spoof of The Bridge on the River Kwai, and once you get used to Tom Hanks' fake Bostonian/Ugly American accent and affectations he becomes a little more bearable, though not yet the solid actor he would become later in his career. Gedde Watanabe turns in another great performance and proves he was the definitive Asian comedic actor of the ‘80s. Also notable about the film is that it is the one where Tom met his wife, leading lady Rita Wilson(She actually had a guest appearance on Bosom Buddies prior to this, but would not forge a romance until they worked together in Volunteers). The film shares some common elements with Tropic Thunder thematically, placing Americans well over their heads in Southeast Asian military conflicts. That film dealt with actors in Vietnam, while this one focuses on peace corps workers in Thailand. Hanks' character is initially only there to avoid a gambling debt back home, but soon finds love and adventure as only an ‘80s movie could provide.

5) Hearts in Atlantis:
Outstanding. Tearjerking. Stephen King must have had a rough childhood, because his stories of bullies, parents, girls, and other challenges are almost always too vivid to be entirely made up. Anthony Hopkins is superb and classy as usual as an old man who moves into the apartment in a young boy's(Anton Yelchin) house and becomes an advisor/grandfather figure to him. I've not read the short story on which the film was based, although I am familiar with Hopkin's character from his appearance's in King's epic Dark Tower series, which manages to touch on everything King ever wrote and create a shared universe. The film has to downplay some of these connections, to stand on its own, but retains some of the more supernatural elements, if in a quieter fashion. As with Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, or The Green Mile, the real focus here is on characters, which for me is King's greatest strength. Psychics, demons, and other supernatural elements are just the seasoning on his stories. Also notable in the film is the underrated David Morse, playing the adult version of Yelchin's character in the film's bookend sequences. That guy could definitely stand to get more roles. Hearts in Atlantis definitely captures childhood in the ‘60s, from the music to the clothes to the vehicles, and I hope someday authors and filmmakers craft stories about the decade I grew up in with such vividness as to feel like time travel. When I watch these movies, I feel like I'm then and there.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Blogger Lorna said...

I was delighted with what I read about Hearts in Atlantis. It had been a great read---one of SK's best, I thought, and like you, I think David Morse is underrated.

I'm glad I wasn't committed to any of the others on your list, although Uncle Buck was surprisingly heart-warming.

8/02/2009 7:07 PM  

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