East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The definition of idiot [shorts]

Serenity (Joss Whedon): I've also recently read "Gifted", JW's first Astonishing X-Men arc, which is fun but not as much fun as this. The X-Persons are a fine bunch of personalities (except for walking George Jones song Cyclops), but they're not Joss's, and his dialogue is best spoken by characters he's created. Besides, he's a moving image guy -- the two occasions in the comic where metal Mickey reveals his aliveness are cinematic enough, but they don't compare to the early long take in Serenity where we get to meet and like each member of the crew as well understand the physical shape of the ship's inside. This basically takes the kind of grand storyline he used to arch over 22 episodes and condenses it into two screwball Wagnerian hours, which means this is shallower than it could be, but man is it entertaining. With so much going on, the character development is rushed. But when the dialogue is this sharp -- Cap'n Mal (Nathan Fillion) tells a dying man "It should have been me" and gets "The thought had occurred" as a response -- I shouldn't complain, especially when Chiwetel Ejiofor owns.

Capote (Bennett Miller): Hoffman's performance is fine enough but I can't see it as more than an impersonation. When he played that great writer Lester Bangs he was appropriately cantankerous; here he doesn't have the luxury of a sympathetic character and it's all mannerisms. Capote wears a mask; Hoffman plays the mask and leaves it to the material to evoke what's underneath, which would be fine if the material wasn't leaving this up to him. The filmmakers would like you to believe that Capote befriended and betrayed Perry Smith for the sake of "journalism" or "literature" or some similiar muse, and then was drawn back because he liked they guy. What motivation Hoffman gives is more of the "I want to be really famous and go to exclusive parties" kind. Underplayed psych + overplayed (or just played) tics = not much.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (Shane Black): More important is the Ha Ha, which, though here in spades, relies a little too much on the Wink Wink variety, which defuses the Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Or, the smart-assed narration allows a few good jokes (the best is at the end and stars Elvis and Abraham Lincoln) but it came very close to stopping me from giving a shit about the characters. Fortunately the leads prevent this: Bob Downey Jr. is still half-past awesome; Michelle Monaghan makes the most of what seems like the first genuinely witty sex kitten role since Carole Lombard's plane crashed; and even Val Kilmer is as Hot Hot as he's been since Heat. Even the grand moral statement seemed, well, right on.


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