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Film Roundup X

21 Grams – 88%

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu of Amores Perros and written by Guillermo Arriaga, screenwriter of the same plus The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 21 Grams is a chaotic, hard-hitting character study. Sean Penn plays a dying mathematician in desperate need of a heart transplant. Naomi Watts is a housewife with the perfect family. Benicio Del Toro is a newly-born again ex-con trying to raise his family right and give back to the community he has taken so much from. A horrible accident will throw these three characters violently together with wildly unexpected results. An interesting effort, but this pair went on to do much better with Babel in 2006.

Bowfinger – 51%

Steve Martin is Bobby Bowfinger, a no-talent hack trying to make movies in Hollywood. He is sure that his latest script, a sci-fi schlockfest called Chubby Rain, will be a surefire hit, all he needs is a major star. Enter Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy), a major star. The only problem is, Kit doesn’t want to be in Bowfinger’s movie. No problem at all, the director will simply assemble an amateur crew and shoot the movie around his recalcitrant leading man on a shoestring budget. With Kit’s dorky brother Jiff (also Murphy) standing in, what could wrong? It’s a premise rife with comic and satiric possibilities, but it largely fails to deliver in the execution. Intermittently entertaining, but far from consistently funny.

The Love God? – 49%

Abner Peacock (Don Knotts) is a devoted bird-watcher who happily publishes a small magazine based on this lifelong passion. Along comes notorious pornographer Osborn Tremaine, who cons him into changing the subject of his publication, transforming the malleable Peacock into a Hugh Hefner-esque figure. Don Knotts was a funny, funny guy: The Andy Griffith Show, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Shakiest Gun in the West . . . he played variations on the same character in all of these, and that is what he is here. There’s just one tiny problem: The Love God? is essentially a family comedy about the adult entertainment industry. Even coming at the end of the free-love ’60s, this ought to have been an obviously bad idea. The incongruity of elements is far more painful than funny.

The Elephant Man – 95%

Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) rescues a horribly disfigured man (John Hurt) from a circus sideshow. His real name is John Merrick, but due to the nature of his deformities, he was billed as the Elephant Man. With infinite compassion, Dr. Treves works to help Merrick regain his dignity and make a new life for himself as a human being.

Perhaps I’m a philistine, but this is the only David Lynch film that I have discovered to date which I found to be even remotely watchable. It is better than watchable. It is a deeply-moving story told with sensitivity and skill, and a significant technical achievement besides. Hurt’s transformation into the title character single-handedly inspired the Oscar now given each year for Best Achievement in Makeup.

Poltergeist – 57%

The Freelings are an average family living in an average home in the midst of an average suburb . . . until the angry spirits that haunt their house wake up and suck youngest daughter Carol Ann into her bedroom closet, perhaps never to be seen again. Now the family is terrified of staying and unable to leave, and they must do battle with forces far beyond their understanding if they are to rescue Carol Ann and escape alive.

Steven Spielberg produced two movies in 1982. The other one was E.T., and I would definitely recommend that over this often-cheesy, way over-the-top ghost story. It has some interesting ideas and some cool special effects, to be sure. But by the end it’s all just a bit . . . much.

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~ by Jared on March 30, 2008.

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