WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 28
1) Fifteen Minutes:
This one had a slow start and it took me a while to get into it. Two men arrive in America from Eastern Europe, one obsessed with American cinema. He picks up a camcorder and ends up filming a brutal murder committed by his friend, to which the camera is not the only witness. They burn the apartment where the killing took place to cover up the crime, and set off to track down the girl who saw what they did. Enter a fire marshal played by Edward Burns and a celebrity detective played by Robert De Niro. At this point, the film finally picks up momentum and gets interesting, as we explore the dark side of fame. The out-of-towners quickly assimilate to our crazy country and figure out how filming their actions might actually be profitable. Kelsey Grammer is great as the host of a tabloid news show who feeds on exclusives from De Niro's character. De Niro is actually a good cop, who has more than a few things to teach his young new fire marshal friend throughout the investigation, but he too has been corrupted by the lure of fame, and his celebrity status is not without consequence. The movie goes to some dark places, especially when you consider the tabloid nature of even mainstream news reporting these days, and the fact that some of the events in the film could actually happen. While not the best or most memorable film in the career of its veteran actors, it is nonetheless a well-performed and thought-provoking piece of cinema.
2) The Omen:
Forgive me, but I'm having trouble getting exactly why The Omen is considered a classic. I don't question the caliber of Gregory Peck as the actor with the most solid career, here playing a father who gradually learns that the boy he secretly adopted when his wife miscarried may in fact be the spawn of the devil. I factor in that it was made in 1976 and I probably should have seen it when I was younger and had seen fewer movies, to get the full effect. And I always enjoy David Warner, who always reminds me either of his voice work as Ra's al Ghul or his role in the Wild Palms miniseries. Here he plays a photographer who manages to capture more with his camera than perceived by the naked eye. The soundtrack is excellent and does a good job of setting the atmosphere of this creepy thriller. I would credit more than half of the tone of this film to the score. So what's my problem? The kid, Damien. I didn't think he was that great an actor, and most of the time just came across as a bratty kid making obnoxious noises like a goat. He inspires some truly evil events around him, but really only commits one direct act of evil during the course of the film. And again, without the music, his performance wouldn't be that scary. Oooh, the giraffes are running away from the little boy! He must be eeeeevil. I don't know, maybe this one was just hyped for me based on its reputation, or I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I saw it. I just wouldn't put it in the same league as The Shining or The Exorcist, for example. Cup of tea? Not mine.
Now at the opposite end up the spectrum, here is a bright and cheerful movie that I absolutely loved, which is to be expected from Pixar. Ed Asner plays a little old man living alone who decides to float his house to a remote tepui in South America to fulfill both a promise and a lifetime dream. I don't want to say too much about his motivation, though it probably wouldn't lessen the impact for first time viewers. I had an inkling of the montage in the beginning of the movie that shows us the protagonist's life story, and I still had a lump in my throat for certain parts. That's the magic of Pixar, because there were some genuinely funny moments, both from the little boy scout that ends up tagging along with Asner on his adventure, and from Dug, the dog they meet when they finally near their destination. Dug is a normal dog, but a collar around his neck puts his thoughts into words. I defy anyone to not at least smile when we get sentiments like “My name is Dug! I just met you and I love you!” or when he'll cut to a “SQUIRREL!” in mid-sentence. There's also a great gag with another more menacing dog and a malfunctioning collar that absolutely killed me, killed me indeed. The animation is, of course, stellar, and the animators really did their research, actually going to South America and scaling these Tepui to do sketches and paintings. As much magic as artists create, it's great to see what occurs in nature, and some of the rock formations and clouds that they animated were based on things that actually exist. It's a movie with the message that, even though life might get in the way, it's never too late to go on an adventure. You just have to be willing to tear up some roots and discard some old junk before you can fly.
More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!
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