… or Films Seen Recently roundup:
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (Justin Chadwick, Britain, 2008, 6): Quick test that determines what you will think of this movie: “what do you think of THE LION IN WINTER?” Neither film can even be called historical nonsense, since they deal with periods or stories in the lost recesses of history. But as long as you understand that and resolve not to mistake anything before your eyes for real events, the films are disreputably enjoyable as well-polished camp exercises in Machiavellian scheming and soap-opera bitchiness. Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman as the sisters deserve comparison with Joan Collins and Linda Evans on “Dynasty,” with exchanges over
Lorenzo Lamas Eric Bana like “While in the king’s presence, I did nothing but sing your praises and talk about my husband”/”Really? You must show me how you did that some time.” Also intriguing in showing Catherine of Aragon (too briefly) as the moral hero of the film, eschewing the Papiophobia of ELIZABETH I II.
Correction: LORENZO LAMAS was never on Dynasty. My memory was playing tricks on me — LORENZO LAMAS was on Falcon Crest (with the sounds-like-a-porn-star character name of “Lance Cumson.” I. Swear. To. God.). I was trying to think of “whoever played the dumb hunk of beefcake” role to Alexis and Crystal’s drag-queen bitches, and my mind alighted on LORENZO LAMAS. It should have alighted on John James. My deepest apologies for putting LORENZO LAMAS in your head thar, dalebud. Particularly since it wasn’t necessary for me to put LORENZO LAMAS in your head.
CJ7 (Stephen Chow, Hong Kong, 2008, 5): Intermittently intriguing and sometimes inspired (Skandie plug: The Roach Game), but the ET template makes it hard for the film to develop much surprise, and the sloppy plotting makes it hard to develop much momentum (characters are just kinda whisked in and out, way too neatly and pat at the end). Chow, a supporting character in his own movie as the poor father with the poor son (played with some personality by Xu Jiao) in a rich school, hits hard on the idea of how children learn to be parents via pets, and sometimes outgrow the very faults as children in the process. And the “silly” special effects are very funny in a sequence of all the special powers that alien dog CJ7 gives the misfit son at school, like Buster Keaton turning into Superman in the second half at all the activities he failed at in the first half. The alien dog looks like a Pokemon creature, only with a little more personality, but it’s really not very convincing as the Christ figure the narrative eventually makes him. And there’s fun touches like giving a behemoth the squeaky voice of a little girl, but nothing as consistently awesome as the landlady in KUNG FU HUSTLE (that film, and SHAOLIN SOCCER, are where Chow really shines).
CITY OF MEN (Paulo Morelli, Brazil, 2008, 5): Really pales in comparison with the masterpiece movie that inspired it, first as a TV series, and which I watched again right afterward to reassure myself. But even if I didn’t know it, I would know that CITY OF MEN was a TV series, just from the framing, the frequent montages, the way naughty subject matter was skirted, and the way the film segmented in such a precise and linear way. Still, no TV series has this much hack music, telegraphing the proper emotional reactions like an onscreen cue card. Undeniably gripping in spots, though, and with a strong theme on the cycle of fatherlessness. And the two lead actors have an easy chemistry and naturalistic credibility. But to the people like Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe, who detested CITY OF GOD for being exploitative, supposedly for tarting up a story of misery with stylistic fireworks for cinematic consumption, I say with all heartfelt sarcasm: Is this wan film any better? Actually no, as Morris recognized: “it’s the wall-to-wall electricity of Meirelles’s moviemaking, unclean as it was, that you miss.”