Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Movie Reviews...

Miami Vice

Michael Mann was the executive producer on Miami Vice, the series, from 1984 to 1989. This summers’ incarnation of Miami Vice is his big screen re-interpretation of the show, but the only things they have in common are character names and location. The movie couldn’t be more different from the show if it tried. Gone are the bright pastel colours and bad eighties fashion and synth-pop soundtrack.

Sonny Crocket (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) play Miami’s finest, who, after a tragic security breach in the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force, the FBI recruit, having not been part of the compromised group. Going deep undercover, they take on the narcotics trafficking network of Archangel de Jesus Montoya-Londono (the incredibly creepy Luis Tosar) and his Cuban Chinese banker, Isabella (Gong Li).

It takes a while to get into this film. The actors speak a kind of stylised, film noir type of rapid English that comes across as un-natural and heavy-handed at times. They (especially Farrell, as he has the largest speaking role) have great difficulty pulling it off. However, this issue fades as the film progresses, with the audience growing more accustomed to the characters. The film was shot entirely on digital cameras, which gives it an incredibly realistic, almost documentary-style look and feel, which increases the believability factor exponentially.

Occasionally, the film dwells far too long on certain scenes, especially those between Sonny and Isabella, when all we really want to see, is these guys doing what they do best. Farrell and Foxx are an undeniably cool pairing, and are allowed run free with their action and shoot out scenes. These scenes are the films stand out moments, containing bursts of extremely gritty violence, and relentless and dramatic action, reminiscent of Mann’s work on the famous shoot out scene in his never bettered masterpiece ‘Heat’.

3 out of 5

Lady in the Water

Apartment building superintendent Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) rescues a young woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) from the pool he maintains. He discovers that she is actually a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the journey back home. With the help of his tenants, he must figure out how to protect her from the creatures that are determined to keep her in our world, and take her home.

M. Night Shyamalan has so far given us The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village. The first two films in that list are the work of an extremely gifted writer and director, announcing to the world a determination to achieve the mantle that only a select few directors actually manage. Hitchcock did it, as did Kubrick, Spielberg, and Scorcese. They achieved universal recognition; a household name. With the last two films in that list, however, the cracks began to show. Crippled under the weight of expectation, and forced ‘twist’ endings, and leading to Shayamalans reputation being questioned, with rumours of enormous ego, and on set clashes with producers, and his eventual split from Disney, ‘Lady in the Water’ turns out to be his worst film to date, the latest in a steadily declining quality of output.

The movie is a failure, albeit an interesting one. Firstly, forget the television spots being used to sell this film as some sort of horror movie. That’s just the result of an ill-conceived marketing campaign by a studio unsure of what they have on their hands. Shyamalan regards Lady in the Water as ‘a bed time story’. So, what does that mean? In this case, are we to assume it means that leaps in logic are to be expected, and accepted? That conventional story-telling has gone out the window, only to be superceeded by the under developed whims of a director fuelled by belief in his own brilliance? Shyamalan has always given himself minor cameos in his films a la Hitchcock, but this time casts himself, a poor actor at best, in a central role in the story.

Performances are mostly fine, Giamatti and Howard are eminently watchable, but are surrounded by some of the broadest stereotypes you can imagine. Obviously though, there is a lot of imagination on show, presumably conceived in good faith, but executed horrendously. The film does look beautiful, with Christopher Doyle’s cinematography just about the only thing holding attention.

1 out of 5