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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

my week at the movies: ‘Beowulf,’ ‘Battlestar Galactica: Razor,’ ‘Persepolis,’ ‘Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,’ ‘Enchanted,’ ‘The Savages,’ ‘August Rush’

I’ve got a somewhat less crazy week this week, so I should be able to catch up with my Doctor Who and Torchwood blogging…

It’s the movie I’m officially Dreading at the moment: Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf [opens November 16]. I used to really like Zemeckis’s stuff, back in the day of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump — even as recently as 2000, he gave us Cast Away, a brilliant and daring movie. I suppose you could call The Polar Express and now Beowulf “daring,” for being brave enough to totally creep us the fuck out with all those plastic CGI people, but all I came away from Polar Express with was the creeped-the-fuck-out stuff. I expect much the same from Beowulf. Oh, and also, this: There’s a GIANT billboard for Beowulf in Times Square with The Animated Hero hisself up there 100 feet tall, and all I can think when I see that is, “Poor Ray Winstone,” who’s starring as Beowulf. He’s a wildly compelling actor, and here’s his biggest role yet, and no one will recognize him because he’s not as pretty as Angelina Jolie. Her CGI avatar looks just like her, and his looks like it stepped out of a comic ripping off Lord of the Rings.

Tonight, the Sci Fi Channel is hosting a slew of special theatrical screenings of Battlestar Galactica: Razor [premieres on Sci Fi November 14; out on DVD December 4]. I’ll be at one of them in Times Square tonight: I wonder if it’ll be a huge geek scene or just a bunch of folks lined up for a movie. I’ll bring my camera, and if anything interesting happens, I’ll let you know.

Persepolis [opens limited December 25] is animated too, but it looks like it looks just like the Marjane Satrapi graphic novel upon which it is based. Which is cool. Satrapi, who also cowrites and codirects the movie, tells her own tale about growing up — and growing up female — in Iran before and during the Islamic Revolution. She lives in France now, and this is France’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category for the upcoming 80th annual Academy Awards.

Why does the title of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium [opens November 16] make me think of Mystery Science Theater 3000? I think Joel Robinson made some snarky reference once to an imaginary kids’ movie with a goofy name like that. I dunno… writer-director Zach Helm also wrote last year’s wonderful Stranger Than Fiction, so maybe this will be okay. (What’s the word when someone’s name matches their job? A director named Helm? Funny…)

I really want to like Enchanted [opens November 21]. A Disney fairy-tale princess goes renegade in real-life New York? It’s about time. The movie features a few Alan Menken songs, and I never stop hankering for those early days of the revival of the Disney animated musical: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin

I’ve never seen Slums of Beverly Hills, but people love that movie, right? Its creator, Tamara Jenkins, is back with The Savages [opens limited November 28], which is pretty much Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a dysfunctional sibling relationship. It’s all done up indie style, so I’m not expecting sentiment.

Sentiment seems to be in the offing with August Rush [sneak preview November 17, opens November 21], about a musical prodigy who’s trying to find his parents. Could be okay: I adore this Freddie Highmore kid, who more than held his own against the ferocity of Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland. Oh, and also, my new Moonlight cutie-pie Alex O’Loughlin is in this too, so it should manage to at least divert me for an hour and a half. I hope…

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  • Here’s the thing: everyone’s been slagging on Beowulf for its admittedly lousy-looking visuals, and yes, I wish that they’d gone a more stylized route for the figures. But…the script is by Roger Avery and Neil Gaiman, who individually have both written some very, very good stuff. And the early reviews from those who’ve seen it seem to be making it clear that this is a lot more than “300 redux”. So it’s looking more and more like this is really going to divide the “visual people” from the “script people” when it comes to liking the film.

  • misterb

    (What’s the word when someone’s name matches their job? A director named Helm? Funny…)
    –> an aptonym

  • Becky

    Moonlight is an awesome show! It is no wonder it is consistently winning the coveted demographic group of 18-49. I love this show and classify it as one of the best shows on primetime in a long time. I definitely do not want to miss an episode! Handsome Alex O’Loughlin is terrific in the role of Mick St John!!! Alex really makes the show.

    Moonlight has already created quite a great deal of buzz. We have a steadily growing group of dedicated fans as well as numerous fan-created websites dedicated to Moonlight. I truly hope CBS commits to giving us a full season of episodes and renews it for a 2nd season. As others have mentioned, the writers’ strike does concern me and how it will affect our show but I keep praying for the best.

    LONG LIVE MOONLIGHT!!!

  • Psinorhc

    I happen to be a Neil Gaiman fan so I will not say anything about how good the story is or is not supposed to be, but I do have to ask if you will be lucky enough to see Beowulf in a 3-d presentation? I hear that really is the way to see it.

    Some of the things in the trailers have made me somewhat skeptical as to just how bearable it will be to watch, but I am still planning to drive three hours and pay near double my usual ticket price for the hopefully-worth-it experience.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    “What’s the word when someone’s name matches their job?”

    New Scientist magazine used to call it nominative determinism…

  • Johnny

    hey not to burst your bubble ladys but that moonlight guy looks just like the guy from creed. Thats all i think need to say. How about that numbers guy? hes hot, cause he looks like me =P

  • MaryAnn

    he script is by Roger Avery and Neil Gaiman, who individually have both written some very, very good stuff.

    True, but Gaiman, at least, has distanced himself from the production, which isn’t a good sign. He’s not happy Zemeckis is at the helm of his script.

    And yes, I’m seeing the 3-D version tonight.

    Moonlight is an awesome show! It is no wonder it is consistently winning the coveted demographic group of 18-49.

    Way to sound *just* like a network troll, Becky…

  • Danielle

    MST3K ripped on a film called Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders. That’s sort of similar to a Wonder Emporium I suppose.

  • MaryAnn

    No, it was in one of Joel’s snark comments. It’s not the name of a film they ripped that I’m thinking of…

  • “True, but Gaiman, at least, has distanced himself from the production, which isn’t a good sign. He’s not happy Zemeckis is at the helm of his script.”

    Huh, really? Well, I can’t help but remembering he emdorsed “Stardust”, which I thought made a complete botch of his novel, so who knows.

  • I just went to Gaiman’s site (http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/), and if he’s distancing himself from the movie, he’s got a funny way of showing it.

  • MaryAnn

    I had read somewhere (can’t find it now) that Gaiman was not happy to have Zemeckis take over the film, that he and Roger Avery (his coscreenwriter) were hoping for a small film, not this CGI extravaganza.

    I can see, reading what Gaiman has posted at his blog, that I’m going to be in a minority on this one.

  • Joanna

    Eh, well, I’m a big Gaiman fan and all, but as someone who teaches Beowulf for a living, this new version looks completely wretched. So you might be in a minority, MaryAnn, but you aren’t alone. I even had my students mock… er, analyze the trailer in class, to try to predict what (horrible, misbegotten) changes TPTB will be ringing. They can even get extra credit for seeing it, provided they write me a paper breaking it down into its constituent atoms and analyzing madly. So far, no one has seemed very impatient for it to open.

    And why, if she’s swanning around dressed only in gold… I assume those are scales?… does Grendel’s mother have four-inch heels growing out of her feet? It’s not ridiculous enough that they turn a hideous fen-troll into, well, naked Angelina, but she now has do-me-heels on, too? Argh.

    There’s nothing about this movie that doesn’t look awful, and that’s not even touching the ugly CGI. Such a waste of a good cast. And such a waste of a great story, because after this (and the earlier micro-epic Beowulf and Grendel), I’m not holding my breath for some would-be Peter Jackson with a big budget to tackle it.

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