Sunday, June 19, 2005

Millions (2005), Episode 3 (2005), Layer Cake (2005)

Three quickie reviews:

Millions (2005): This is a British film about two children who happen to come across a gym bag full of money. The story has strong religious overtones, but they fit in very well with the overall theme. The two boys, Anthony and Damian each have well written parts and are not susceptible to the standard Hollywood dumbification of children's dialogue. Both are distinct rational actors and have their own views on about the money (one literally thinks its a gift from God). "Millions" is a children's film as well, and I'm surprised how much content they manage to cover and yet keep the subject matter appropriate. This is one of the best written and well-paced films I've seen in a year at least.

Star Wars: Episode 3 (2005): Quite possibly on my list of 5 worst acted films of all time. Simply put, George Lucas has forgotten how to tell a story. Episode 3 is the last of a trio of prequels whose only explanation for existence is the continuation of Star War's merchandising. The dialogue is stilted and contrived. The action scenes are filled to the brim with CGI and computer generated images that instead of making things look realistic unfortunately succeed only in making people fly into walls without getting hurt.

The only scene I was looking forward to was watching Darth Vader put on his mask, which was a mediocre three seconds at that. Everyone who entered the theatre was simply looking to have the same story re-told to them, which I think is fine by itself. What makes Episode 3 problematic, however, is that Lucas apparently made no effort to create decent dialogue. What made the idea of a prequel exciting was the opportunity to develop existing characters and make them deeper. But Lucas insists on telling us what we already know.

Layer Cake (2005): "Layer Cake" is the story of a British businessman who deals in cocaine. He's unnamed and also serves as our narrator. He stresses to the audience the importance of professionalism in his business, but we all know that he'll inevitably be sucked into something deeper and darker no matter how hard he tries.

Roger Ebert mentioned in his review how much "Layer Cake" reminded him of "Goodfellas" and "Casino," which is an analogy I can see. In its structure, "Layer Cake" does look a lot like "Goodfellas," (insofar as both movies describe an inevitable decline), but the smooth, quiet feel of the film reminds me more of "Heat" than "Casino." "Casino" has more of a chaotic, almost comic, over-the-top feel to it whereas "Layer Cake" is a lot more subdued.

This film has all of the plot twists and turns of a who-dunnit and has the smart dialogue and great casting to match. Don't miss this film.


Anonymous said...

I'm not with you on Star Wars. I understand your argument, and I agree with it completely, but I don't think his failure to illuminate existing characters is as damning as you're suggesting.

I mean, if George Lucas has forgotten how to tell a story, I don't think he's forgotten how to pick the good ones, and make movies about them. I'm not a Star Wars junkie. I only finished movies IV, V, and VI two nights before I saw Episode III. But each and every movie was entertaining. And, well, there's something to be said for that. I could easily list five movies I've seen that I could barely sit through. I could probably list five movies I've seen with Jimmy Fallon that I couldn't sit through. Episode III doesn't make either list.

Go Team Stormtroopers,

Anonymous said...

I'd like to recognize the difference between "worst movies" and "worst acted movies."

Natalie Portman is hot.

OK? OK. My initial point stands.