Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Call for 2009

The year is winding down. Here are the last stragglers for the Christmas week. I don't know what I'll get to this week. Something, I hope.

I was really irritated with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009, directed by David Yates) the first time through. I don't know if it's the fault of the filmmakers or the DVD transfer, but the damned thing was so dark that there were long stretches where I couldn't actually tell what was going on on the screen. Annoying. The second time through, I adjusted the brightness and contrast on my tv to compensate. I don't know that it was much of an improvement, but it did save on the eyestrain. The Potter movies continue to get metaphorically darker, too, which they take from the books. This is adapted from the darkest at heart of the books, but like the last film in the sequence, it seems like it rushes from set-piece to set-piece in order to get everything in. It's all plot at the expense of character. Still, it's not all bad. Daniel Radcliffe has grown into a pretty good actor, and Emma Watson finally gives a performance that's not all twitches with eyebrows and her mouth. I'll be interested to see how they do in the final story, now that they've been stripped of mentors and allies.

I think I was sitting too close to the screen for Guy Ritchie's version of Sherlock Holmes (2009), because the visual image was really soft. Checking the technical specs of the film, I find that it was filmed with both a 35mm camera and a HDTV camera, which explains, perhaps, why the image is softer at some points than others. In any event, the film is visual mud. I liked Downey and Law as Holmes and Watson, but I think turning Holmes into a kind of super action hero was a bad idea (I should note, however, that there is some justification for it in Doyle). I liked the presence of Professor Moriarty. I hated the way the movie uses him as a franchise builder. For the most part, this is a film for which I should have waited until it came out on home video.

Don't ask me what I was doing watching Punisher: War Zone (Lexi Alexander, 2008). I mean, this is a character who hasn't exactly had the best cinematic track record. I will say that I was curious to see Ray Stevenson in the part, having really enjoyed watching him in Rome. I was also curious to see another action film directed by a woman (and to see if Lexi Alexander is a patch on Kathryn Bigelow--she's not). Actually, the action sequences aren't bad. The glue that holds them all together, on the other hand, is awful. Every time a character opens his or her mouth to speak, you have to cover your ears. Stevenson comes off the best, mainly by virtue of having so few lines. I will also admit to laughing out loud at one scene where a petty crook is handcuffed to a chair as the FBI agent on the case negotiates with him, only to have the Punisher walk in and blow his head off. I guess you had to be there. Otherwise, this pretty much sucked.

I also watched District 9 (2009, directed by Neil Blomkamp) again because my partner hadn't seen it. It doesn't hold up well to multiple viewings, in part because I really hate everyone in the movie and I hate that it uses the "white savior" archetype. Odious.

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