Monday, May 05, 2008

In Which AMF Once Again Must Contend with the Disillusionment Wrought by Becoming Overly Enthusiastic About Certain Movie Previews

Gak. So, The Forbidden Kingdom was awful, awful, awful. So disappointing. It totally felt like it was made by committee, which is to say it felt utterly bland and almost messianically bent on being as inoffensive as possible. The preview fails to intimate that the whole reason white boy Michael Angarano is in the movie in the first place is because of a ridiculous Wizard of Oz-esque framing device wherein he's transported from his seemingly sad life in present-day Boston (why Boston?) to the vaguely mythical China that finds him teamed up with the Jackie Chan and Jet Li characters so he can return some mystical staff to its rightful owner and, in so doing, restore peace to the kingdom, etc., etc. Ugh. It started out promisingly enough, with a kicky, self-aware, pseudo-70s credit sequence inspired by the vintage Hong Kong action movie posters that decorated the Angarano character's bedroom walls, and I hoped that maybe the movie was going to do some interesting stuff with the way that young white dudes so fetishize HK action movies, dice. You know me, I like to try to come out of a movie with at least one nice moment that I can remember about it, but I'm hard pressed to be able to point at anything here. Jet Li when he's in character as the Monkey King, perhaps? At least there's some life on screen then. Aside from that, not much else. I never felt emotionally involved with any of the characters, and even the fight sequences weren't that interesting. A shame.

The Music Box hit us this weekend with the first of a series of Jimmy Stewart flicks, beginning with Call Northside 777. What a treat--set in Chicago (where the skyline shots were all just, like, the Tribune Tower, the Merchandise Mart, and the river), revolving around a whole bunch of Polish characters and their attendant crazy last names and cozy Polish neighborhoods, featuring a textbook (which is to say charming, engaging, and sharp) performance from Stewart as a hard-nosed newspaper journalist. I loved that, even though the movie has the happy/expected ending, the narrative never explains why the crime went down the way it did or why Wanda Skutnik altered her testimony to indict the wrong guy. I also loved Stewart's few all-too-brief scenes with Helen Walker as his wife; they had great chemistry and she was feisty as all get-out. I'd need a grad student to do the research for me, but I'd love to know where this film falls in the continuum of "cutting edge technology saves the day" movies. I'm bad with remembering plot in much detail, but somehow the climax revolves around Stewart's character needing to prove that Wanda Skutnik saw the fall guy a day before she claims she did, and they do this by enlarging a photograph 200x or more in order to read the date on a newspaper being held by a paper boy hovering somewhere in the background. So, not only are they zooming in on the photo, but then they have to transmit these enlargements over the wire from Chicago to a newspaper office in the state capital. It's tempting to chuckle at how wowed the characters are by this great new technology, but shit--I'm just impressed that they were doing this kind of stuff in the late '40s at all. Indistinguishable from magic, indeed.

John Darnielle at LPTJ on Jamie Lidell's new album: "…one thing pop music is good for is remembering that somewhere inside us is the potential for unvanquishable joy: clearing a space for that remembering, broadening that space. Jamie Lidell’s present project seems to be focused on illuminating that joy-containing space, hanging signs that point toward it." OMG, bring it. After his set at the Pitchfork fest last summer, I've decided that, if I can possibly help it, I just can't miss his live show whenever he tours through Chicago. I'm counting the days until June 4. Abbey Pub. See you there, bitches.

Also, a great big happy birthday to my boy Michael, captain of the Geeks, today. Be sure to celebrate your Cinco de Mikow in style!


Chellebird said...

Guh! I was so excited about this movie. Then I read a review with the premise and the magical world jumping Oz nonsense and was all, Hmmm. And now this! Tragic! I'll still go see it though. I mean, I saw Rush Hour. I can't help my love for Jackie. Sigh.

allison said...

This movie seems to have its own gravitational pull or something, where people just can't resist it, even when they realize watching it's not going to be in their best interests. I guess my expectations might have been tempered had I realized going in that it was directed by the guy who did the live-action Stuart Little movies, but it's not really even defensible on those grounds either. Even contemporary 'family films' are not exempt from needing to have at least a modicum of imagination and--dare I say it--heart.

Nora Rocket said...

"seemingly sad life in present-day Boston"

That, my fren', is "why Boston."