Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Speed Lovers

Looks like we've got ourselves another theme week! Unlike the first time, this one is the result of a double feature. For some reason, I have two car racing based B-movies here, and the first one up on the plate is The Speed Lovers.

Once upon a time, writer/director/actor - and I use those terms quite loosely - William F. McGaha stumbled on some stock footage of a stock car race along with a stock car race driver named Frank Lorenzen. So, he decided that he'd use that opportunity to make a name for himself and a film he could star in. The auteur thus strung together a story about himself, as Scott, a car racing hopeful who has never actually raced before. While real car racers generally work at it from childhood, steadily improving their skills and getting into bigger and more powerful vehicles, he somehow believes that he can suddenly be the best racing driver in the world, instantly. He's looped into a highly ridiculous scheme run by Victoria and a fat guy - Peggy O'Hara an David Marcus - to make money and screw over real life racing driver Lorenzen.

The race footage is pretty solid, if disjointed. Lots of action, crashes, all of that fun stuff. Sure, the races aren't really easy to follow, but is pretty interesting. Surprisingly enough, Lorenzen is a better actor than one might expect for a racing driver. No, wait, that's not quite right, he really isn't a very good actor at all, where did I get that idea? Oh right, it's because everyone else is very bad at acting. It's like listening to the conversations of a forest, everything's wooden. The shining star of bad acting is McGaha, who doesn't seem to quite know his lines - which he wrote. The best part is that he gives himself the opportunity to be drunk, and dance, even though the concepts of drunkenness and dancing seem to be completely alien to him, like explaining the idea of swimming to a man in the desert.

His script is similarly well executed. The dialog manages to be both overly expository yet astonishingly vague. We're never given more than the roughest idea of what anyone or anything is, but that rough explanation is repeated constantly. Combined with the poor delivery and awkward phrasing, and it's like being bludgeoned with a particularly dull tree. Plus, the hero is amazingly unsympathetic. He's got an ego, he's annoying, he's a drunk, he screws everyone over, and he's an asshole. Yet, we're supposed to pull for him. Contributing to the joyous crap parade is some hilariously inept sexism. Characters are constantly saying things about how useless women are, dropping the lines with as much verve as everyone else in the film.

Oh, but crappy dialogue isn't the only wonder on display. We have a film about speed that never really leaves hotel rooms. But maybe that would be okay if the hotel rooms were filmed well, right? Well, after bringing together his racing relics McGaha seemingly had no money on such basic implements like a tripod. The camera simultaneously moves constantly and not at all. The framing is static, but the camera never stops shaking. Truth be told, the racing stock footage is good, but one can instantly tell where the stock ends and the footage shot for the film begins.

The theme song is remarkably annoying as well, though I like the band they got to perform it. Why? The same reason I love Cheap Trick, the drummer looks like an insurance salesman.

McGaha was a man with a dream, he wanted to be a star. He wanted to be a triple threat, a writer, director and actor. Unfortunately, his direction is inept, his writing is comically awful and the less said about his acting the better. It's a bad movie, poorly done in every conceivable manner. Let's all just forget about it yet again. Until next time, where we have the other half of this double feature.

Yet I'm intrigued to see that he went on to play Jesus (!) as the leader of a biker gang (!!) doing LSD (!!!). I wonder how bad that is.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Bright Young Things

Merry Christmas to all. Now, were this a project with which I had more than a passing influence in the films discussed, this would be a time to bring out some Christmas film. Alas, that is not the case, and true to the random word in the title, the film today really has nothing at all to do with Christmas. What it does have, however, is a quite interesting chap named Stephen Fry, and his directorial debut Bright Young Things.

This begins as a joyously absurd and lightly dark comedy, focusing on Stephen Campbell Moore as Adam, a young writer who wants nothing more than to be married to Nina (Emily Mortimer). Unfortunately, in the process he loses the book he's writing, and each time he runs into a bit of good fortune it's cruelly snatched away by circumstance. He hangs around high society folk like Agatha (Fenella Woodgar) and Miles (Michael Sheen). In the beginning, it is all gaudy spectacle, which gradually gets stripped away as the film progresses and gets steadily more serious.

It's an interesting twist in tone that the film has. The beginning is all splendid superficiality, going through rather beautifully shot parties and keeping the story grounded in money concerns and increasingly farcical ways of losing that money. The characters are silly, for the most part, but an endearing silly, and if they do excessive amounts of drugs and party too much, that's really quite fine. They're not really deep people, but they are endearing, which is vital for the film to maintain its interest as the tone gradually becomes more serious. As the tone changes the characters steadily shows the layers of their personality it feels like looking in on new friends as they reveal their personality.

It's a sublimely chaotic film, which nicely captures the feel of non-stop partying and copious drug use. It is a little absurd, but a good party always is, and it's fun to follow the characters and events as they drift around and with each other. It can be read as a critique on our current obsession with fame and glory, but in the process it humanizes the famous. It does have some odd tonal shifts - especially since the primary storyline rests on some odd absurdities - but it seems completely natural in context, and is frequently very funny.

Another odd thing is that it manages to have every single British actor in a minor role. Perhaps this is a symptom of everyone in the world liking Stephen Fry, but it is quite bizarre that a nation of performers have showed up for a line or two. Surrounded by the immense talent, Fenella Woodgar and Stephen Campbell Moore manage to hold their own in their first feature. Moore in particular carries the put upon Adam with an air of confidence, even as things go badly for him. One never gets the sense of him giving up, no matter how badly things are going.

It's an interesting case where it one gets absorbed through fun and begins to care more as the film becomes more serious. It's really like friendship overall in the end, people hanging out at first in good times and beginning to care as things get more serious and less lighthearted. Fry manages to make a film that's breezy and compelling, and in the end quite fun to watch for the most part. Yes, things get quite deadly serious, and having the spectacle stripped away leads to a rather interesting moral in the final scene, but as a whole, it's a nice place to spend time, and a decidedly enjoyable thing to watch. I'm not sure why Fry hasn't made more films, but I'd like to see him do it again, he knows what he's doing, and how to make something splitting between comedy and sadness seem completely natural. Perhaps a Christmas gift for next year?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Henry V

One of the strange things about this project is that I seem to introducing important people in their worst moment. I've mentioned previously how Pixar was introduced with their worst moment, but now we've got Henry V, which features two names seen previously, and not in a great light. The film was made by and stars Laurence Olivier, whose first appearance here was in the 49th Parallel, where he was the most annoying character in the world. It's also an adaptation of Shakespeare, who previously showed up in a really ridiculous adaptation of MacBeth. Here's a much better showcase for both men.

Henry V is about Henry V, if the title wasn't obvious already. He is the king who was in charge in the Battle of Agincourt, wherein the British came from a disadvantage in numbers to kick some serious ass. It's like 300, if it was real and, you know, not shit. Anyway, given that this was war time, and the British could use a morale boost, it seemed like a good idea to remind everyone of a massive victory they once had.

Being Shakespeare, as one might expect, the story is quite good. The strongest moments, however, have little to do with Henry's bravado but instead his quiet contemplation and uncertainty. The best scene overall is one where Henry goes among his men the night before battle. The uncertainty among the men and the mixture of anticipation and dread is deftly handled. As the king confronts what his subject thinks of him, it shows a certain vulnerability and uncertainties in his own character, and keeps him likable and more than just a man with big speeches and a bigger sword. Another great scene is at the end, where Henry tries to woo Princess Katherine (Renee Asherson). Olivier plays on his uncertainty and unfamiliarity with the situation almost as much as Shakespeare does in the play, giving a character played as a hero for two hours some degree of humility, reducing him to a scared teenager in front of a pretty girl. It's a genius moment, and ensures the character never gets too big.

So it should be noted that this is actually a very odd and fairly experimental approach to filmmaking. In the beginning, it seems like a documentary on theatre production, albeit in the 1600s. It begins in the Globe Theatre, complete with audience, characters changing costume behind the scenes, and even a freaking laugh track. It's a bizarre way to begin a film, and completely unexpected. As the film progresses and the drama heightens, the scene gradually gets more realistic and the rest of the theatre fades away steadily. Eventually, we get to the innovative yet imperfect final battle, which is purely on location, before ending in the theatre yet again.

It's a neat trick to use, since it sums up what good theatre can do. As you get into the characters and the story, one begins to feel their imagination take over, and the show achieves a heightened reality. The film is a representation of how good theatre can take hold of an audience. It becomes the most real as the tension gets highest, and comes down as we prepare to leave it behind.

It isn't entirely perfect - the battle scene is quite chaotic, and it becomes clear something like that had never been filmed so they weren't sure what they were doing - but every imperfection brings with it an interesting and influential move - in that same battle scene, there's a cloud of arrows, something seen in every film with archers seen since. Olivier clearly hasn't directed a film before, and uses that inexperience to experiment and try different approaches to making film. He is unencumbered by experience, which leads to many interesting ideas which more established people might feel were a bit too, well, crazy to work. Here, most of the time, they do, and it's quite fascinating to watch.

I've said it before, but Shakespeare needs to be performed for people to really understand it. This adaptation, of the ones I've seen, is one of the better ones, using gimmicks to get past the slower parts and getting to the core of why the play is still interesting. Plus, it was a morale boost when Britain needed it most, there's nothing wrong with that.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Assault on Precinct 13

I have already named the most annoying director (Zack Snyder) and the most interesting director (Werner Herzog). Who is the most badass director? That would have to be John Carpenter. While I've seen a mere three of his films - Escape from New York, the Thing, and now Assault on Precinct 13 - I have come to the conclusion that nobody can make a more consistently badass movie.

The trouble with neatly summarizing the plot of this film is that anything but the most basic description of the story undermines what makes it great. Since the main event is right there in the title - technically it's Precinct 9, Division 13, but it does get very assaulted - the movie plays on you knowing that, at some point in the next 90 minutes, some serious crap is going down. Since you don't know exactly what's going to happen, it slowly builds and introduces characters, without giving any indication of how they will play into the overall film. There's a gang of hard thugs that stab themselves, the black Andy Griffith (Austin Stoker), a father (Martin West) and daughter (Kim Richards), a bus with death row prisoners - one of whom is treated as more dangerous than the others (Darwin Johnson), one who is more energetic (Tony Burton) and the guy who is watching them (Charles Cyphers) - and the people in the police station itself, including the badass Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) and the annoying Julie (Nancy Kyes). Eventually, they all converge on the mostly abandoned Precinct 9, District 13, which is open for one final night.

Until the actual assault happen, the film is happy to just bide its time. It knows that you know something is going to happen, so it updates the time and keeps track of the characters, sometimes underlining moments with a badass synth score which would feel very at home on the Genesis, if the Genesis wasn't from the future. It toys with the audience, as it knows exactly what you expect. When things start to happen, it's a shock just because you don't expect them to happen that way.

The shootout itself keeps that intensity by restricting the perspective to the protagonists. You feel as though you are standing with them in the mostly abandoned police station. While you have a bit more insight onto the reasons for the attack, the methods and exact approach the villains are going to take remains a mystery. The one thing that you can tell for certain is that bad things are going to happen, just like the characters.

Of course, in all this tension we don't really learn much about the characters. Unlike movies where people decide to share their entire backstory in intense shootouts, here we only learn how characters handle pressure. Some are better than others - Julie is not very good, for example - and we see characters who shouldn't be friends bonding over gunplay and a shared threat. We even grow fond of the characters because we feel as though we're in the same situation. After the smoke clears - quite literally - we move on our way.

I can see someone disliking the unresolved ending, and I can see some people wishing for more than crash boom bang against some mostly ill defined - though clearly evil - characters. That's fine, but I like that Precinct 13 ignores all the regular trappings of an action film, and focuses instead on what people really want. Action and tension, everything else pared to the bone. That's how you do it if you're a badass. No wonder it was made by the most badass director.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Last time I spoke of Pixar, I had the misfortune of landing probably their worst feature. It's unfortunate because I really do love Pixar. I like how they don't talk down to their audience, how they make movies that people of all ages can enjoy, and how they take unexpected ideas and make interesting films about them. Yes, I called Cars' premise something akin to Maximum Overdrive, but they've also made the most potentially queasy premise known to man - Rats in a kitchen, cooking your food, getting their little rat paws on all the herbs and spices - and made it into a charming and lovely romp. Yes, today is Ratatouille day.

The story goes that once there was a rat, named Remy. He, being more selective than other rats, wanted to be a chef, which was problematic because he's a rat. On one end, there are his rat brethren, who insist he be like them and eat garbage and do normal rat things. On the other end, there are humans, who are understandably uncomfortable around rats. Eventually, he finds an intermediary in the form of a man named Linguini, who can't cook but is easy to manipulate through his hair. He eventually takes over the restaurant of a disgraced chef who is also the Great Gazoo. This all leads to a climactic review by the renowned and a bit obnoxiously overplayed as evil Anton Ego, who inexplicably has a coffin shaped office and dresses in an angry black.

Actually, the Ego character was an odd one, because it's not what I would expect from either Pixar or Brad Bird. Pixar has been a critical darling since the beginning, mostly because they make movies for families that are always quite good. Bird also has been mostly charmed when it comes to critical standing, at least in recent years. He was on the Simpsons when it was everyone's favorite show, before making the Iron Giant, which everyone loved, and the Incredibles, which everyone loved even more. While there is certainly a bit of redemption late film, it's still somewhat anti-critic, and that seems a bit odd, considering that critics love Bird, want to marry him, and give birth to his children.

Of course, it's understandable everyone loves his films. It's got a positive message - no matter where you come from, it's possible to be great - and it doesn't talk down to his audience. His characters are charming and thoroughly drawn, the visuals are exciting and thrilling, and the attention to detail is amazing. Even better, here's someone who can make an action sequence, and the various chases that Remy is involved with are thrilling, exciting, and should be watched by all directors who are planning on filming a chase sequence in this day and age. He uses animation in ways that live action could never possibly manage.

Another great thing is the divide between rat world and human world is filmed in such a way that it is always clear whose perspective it should be viewed from. When watching from the rat's perspective, the world is larger than life, exciting and full of immense danger. From the perspective of man, it seems familiar, but it actually makes one almost envy the rats, just because they're living from a different world. It's a subtle thing that is vitally important in making the film as interesting as it is.

Like all Pixar films, and like all Bird films, the most important thing is that it trusts kids. The story is a little complicated, but it makes sense, is easy to follow, and it believes that kids can make sense of it. It is a world with danger, and it trusts kids to be okay with that. It tries all sorts of entertaining cinematic tricks and flourishes, and trusts that kids will keep entertained.

That's the success of the entire Pixar empire, and of this film in particular. By trusting kids, it makes the overall film enjoyable to everyone in the family. It, like the titular dish at the end of the film, manages to recall the joy of childhood for people of all ages, and brings back memories of things that might have been forgotten as people grow and change. This is what a family film should be, something that everyone can enjoy and get something out of, no matter how old they might be.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Zed and Two Noughts

A Zed and Two Noughts is a rare case where a film is clearly the product of personal obsessions but still somehow not unique. A picture that seems to be connected, both in style and content, to David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (and, in fact, Peter Greenaway does claim that Dead Ringers was primarily based on his film), Z00 is strange, briefly unique (for a few years, at least) and oddly compelling.

The story is about Oswald and Oliver Bruce, played by Brian and Eric Deacon. The two brothers share much in common, both being biologists working for the same zoo. They also both lose their wives in a car accident involving a swan. In the process of grieving, they become obsessed with death and decay (we get to see several time lapsed sequences of decaying animals to underscore this), and fall in love with the amputee who survived the accident, played by Andrea Ferreol. As the events transpire, they get closer together, both literally and figuratively.

It's a fascinating picture, and unrelentingly weird. The contrast between evolution and decay, and people coming together and falling apart is well done, and certainly fascinating. The contrasts and relationships between characters and their physical bodies, along with everyone's continued dissatisfaction with the world and the pieces of it is a fascination.

Another interesting piece of the picture is the way Peter Greenaway commands the framing of scenes. There's an uncomfortable symmetry in scenes - which also mirrors the themes within the film - and his framing is not only beautiful and striking but also reflect on the themes of the film itself. Michael Nyman's score is another essential piece of the puzzle, since it creates a certain feeling of unease to an already singularly creepy film. Never before has the Teddy Bear's Picnic been so ominous.

I'm not sure what it was in the 80s that created a need for stories about the madness and interdependency of twins, but the brief existence of the sub-genre created the two most uncomfortable and odd films I have ever seen, both wildly original and decidedly nontraditional in both content and form. It's a film that makes one think, both about how films are made and the various themes the director is swinging towards. It's unapologetically odd, but I like it that way.

Also, a film from the 80s with decent film stock. Wow!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

After Hours

Going by the poster for After Hours you might expect it to be the 80s-est movie in the world. I'm not going to completely dissuade that notion, since it does suffer from typical 80s problems, that being standard awful 80s film stock.

The movie itself is quite odd. Paul, played by Griffin Dunne, is a data processor who meets a sexy young lady named Marcy, as played by Rosanna Arquette. Things go quite badly in numerous ways which get progressively stranger as the film goes on. As saying basically anything will ruin the surreal surprise.

The thing with After Hours is I can't quite make heads or tails of it. It's good, I can tell it's good, and I enjoyed watching it. I'm simply not sure why I liked it, or what it is about it that makes me so interested in the events as they happen. It's amusing and absurd, a feverish adventure through an insane world, and yet I have no idea why exactly I like it.

I suppose being a Martin Scorsese picture helps. Even in the 80s, Scorsese was a great director. Few people can manage to get such memorable images from awful 80s film stock, and he keeps the film moving at a quick, fun pace. It feels fresh, interesting and unique. The most important thing about a film like this is to keep the energy up, and it never really flags.

I'll also say that even if it uses my pet peeve film stock, it's often a striking looking film. Some of the shots are downright beautiful, giving a real environment a subtly surreal quality. This was managed on the horrible film stock that was in vogue in the 80s! I mean, that's a near impossibility, but here it is, an interesting looking and genuinely cool movie filmed in the 80s, with an awful neon logo.

I liked that it made fun of pretentious artists too, as we go around Soho visiting performing art shows and sculptors making paper mache men in agonizing poses. There's something wrong with the characters in the movie, and it's all possible because they're artists. Artists are generally weird and full of crap - I talk to artists on a regular basis, I know this - it's one of the most realistic aspects of the experience.

Beyond that? I just know I enjoyed watching it, I cared what happened - even after the main character was something of a jerk - and as it got more absurd I got more intrigued. That's great, if I'm just watching it for myself, but since I've got this little project going it seems somewhat inadequate.

It's a big struggle to do an entry on this film because I'm just ever so slightly confused by it. It's good, I know it's good, and I enjoyed it immensely, but I really can't figure out why. Maybe that's for the best, and maybe there's nothing wrong with that little hint of uncertainty. I know I like it, what else do I need to know?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

With the release of 2012 a couple weeks ago, comparisons between Roland Emmerich and Irwin Allen came running fast and furious. Appropriately enough, today we feature a film directed by Irwin Allen, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. There are plenty of similarities between the two. A gigantic threat to the world, an ensemble cast, science charitably described as shaky, and a certain obsession with the latest in special effects. Allen might not have had CGI, but he does have the best scale models 1960s dollars could buy.

Here, we've got an exciting new submarine, helpfully completely explained with an elaborate tour immediately at the beginning of the picture. Walter Pidgeon is Admeral Nelson, the man behind the submarine, which is big and exciting. Peter Lorre is his science partner guy. Robert Sterling is Captain Lee Crane, one of the many ruggedly handsome men on the crew. There's also Frankie Avalon, pop singer, doing stuff. Also doing stuff is Barbara Eden as a woman, Crane's girlfriend, who is there with Joan Fontaine to break up the sausage party. Miguel Alvarez is a survivor found on the ice played by Michael Ansara, who is a preacher who believes the end is nigh. Together, they live on the exciting submarine, when they discover that the sky is on fire because the Van Allen Radiation Belts weren't fully understood by the man writing the script. There's also Jimmy Smith, played by Mark Slade, whose fate can be determined immediately after he is introduced.

Voyage leans heavily on spectacle and novelty. The hope is clearly that people will be so amazed by things underwater that they can gloss over the things that aren't very interesting. It's clear that the sheer novelty of a heavily underwater movie was hoped to enthrall everyone, even if it wasn't an entirely great movie. There are lots of look at that moments, including a giant squid which gets on the cover of the DVD.

However, there's a problem, and that's pacing. In short, the pacing is no good. The first 20 minutes are entirely exposition. The next 20 minutes are also exposition, with a couple things happening. The vast majority of the picture entails explaining what is going on, what was going on, and what will be going on. Since the science involved doesn't actually have anything to do with real science, one gets tired of constant sequences of people sitting around talking in submarine sets.

That sitting in sets has the unfortunate effect of getting rid of the tension. While there's a world crisis going on. Cities are burning, humanity is on the brink of destruction, and there's a highly risky plan to save it. However, we are safely seated in a stable, sterile submarine with all of the fire and destruction being kept safely at an arms distance. No matter what's going on in the rest of the world, we aren't ever in danger, because the submarine of hopes and dreams never feels like it's in genuine trouble. Plus, the world loses contact quite early on, making it easy to forget the stakes. While the tension eventually spills over into the submarine - and the film gets much better as a result - it takes so long to happen one is forgiven if they bail before that happens.

It is a pretty interesting premise, and the idea of a small group of people in close quarters forced to execute a plan they don't completely trust under extreme duress is a smart one. The recent Battlestar Galactica series mined a lot of genuine tension and excitement out of this same situation. The moments very late in the film that mine this conflict show plenty of promise. It just takes too long to get there. While the last forty minutes might be exciting, and finally achieve the tension the film had, until that point, failed to, it's still after an hour of awkward exposition and flawed explanations.

There's also something really odd that doesn't help - there's too much space, both in the sets and between the actors on them. This ties in to my earlier complaint about the tension taking far too long to build, but I can't help that the tension would be increased if it was filmed in a way that was a bit more claustrophobic. Huge sets and huge distances between characters - combined with a camera that wants to take in the entire set and isn't especially dynamic - ruins the illusion of close quarters. If you set a movie in a sub and mine tension out of it, you want the characters to be getting in each others' way, or at least feel that they are. They don't really do that here, and it's a subtle but unfortunate issue.

Curiously, while I didn't particularly like the film, there's a lot of promise in the general idea. It takes a long time to get there, but that same last hour has a lot of interesting ideas I'd like to see someone explore more. In spite of the poor science, staid direction and the dreadful pacing, there's a good movie hidden in here.

I've never been able to say that about Roland Emmerich.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Watchmen

I hereby officially nominate Zack Snyder for the coveted position of most annoying film director. There have been challengers to the throne, certainly. Michael Bay and his frantic continuity-be-damned style, J.J. Abrams and his inability to frame shots and obsession with lens flare, both were certainly contenders for the throne, but I think with The Watchmen Snyder has officially proven that as directors go, nobody can top him for sheer, distracting and inept direction.

The Watchmen was a highly respectable comic book made by the highly insane Alan Moore. While it's a bit too complicated to be summarized neatly into one paragraph, it's essentially about a group of mask vigilantes in a 1980s teetering on the edge of nuclear war. Opening with the death of the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the situation is investigated by Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) who is somewhat sociopathic, and he believes that these vigilantes are being targeted. Then, a bunch of stuff happens, it's quite good. Snyder, naturally, misses the point completely.

Much has been made of the film's visual fidelity to the source novel. Indeed, Snyder does frame his shots almost exactly as the graphic novel does. However, there's one very important difference, and that is that there's a sense of grittiness in the novel. The world is run down, dust seeps into the old superhero materials, and it's weathered, broken, and decayed.

But Zack Snyder doesn't do decay. He is confused by grime, or proper film speed (more on that in a minute), so in spite of the precise framing, it doesn't actually look like the comic. It's all given a CGI sheen, with the faults polished away until everything gives off an unnatural shine. These are real people who suddenly look fake, living somewhere in the uncanny valley.

Speaking of the uncanny valley, the acting is...not good. Much has been made of Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach, but I'm not sure. It seems like a voice, rather than a performance, and while he's not bad, it is a bit distracting. At least he's acting though, unlike the rest of the cast. Casting seems to be dictated by who looks most like the book's characters, not who can actually turn in a decent performance. Special note needs to go to Malin Akerman as the Silk Spectre part 2. It's shocking, in fact. A group of people speaking in their second language in Sukiyaki Western Django had a more convincing grasp of the English language than she does, and she moves like someone who is unfamiliar with what we humans call muscles. The problem is, none of the other actors are exactly convincing as human beings. One wonders if Snyder is even interested anything other than CG and slow motion.

That neatly brings me to the next big issue here, and that's how much of the film is in love with changing film speed. In 300, which I also hated, Snyder seemed to be obsessed with slow motion, so much so that it seemed like the film was being played at the wrong speed. Now, Snyder has discovered the fast forward button, so he has discovered how to make things go fast too. The opening fight scene is a prime example of this, which makes it feel as though a small child is playing with a remote control behind you. Even worse, since regular dialog does not suffer from Snyder's usual slow motion flourishes, it creates a break between the dialog and the silly action scenes. It doesn't matter that going normal speed and without gratuitous CGI blood and injury it would have been a better action scene, Snyder is so obsessed with his tricks and silly speed altering that he ignores what would make a good film. There's no rhyme or reason to it, it just emphasizes how artificial everything is, an how Snyder is committed to ruin otherwise decent sequences with visual tomfoolery.

In fact, it's quite interesting how, for a film marketed as the product of a "visionary director" how his vision makes everything worse. The story here is good, the images are well framed, and some of the juxtapositions of image and dialog are quite brilliant. All of those good things? Lifted directly from the book. It's a good book, and much of the goodness of it does get translated on screen. I will say that the music is mostly good - and, unexpectedly, mostly what I was listening to while reading the book - though I'm not completely sure Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah was particularly well used here - it's behind a sex scene and just seems wrong somehow, perhaps it just doesn't match the rhythm of the scene.

Truth be told, when I was reading it, I thought it was a fantastic book, but would be difficult to effectively translate to film. It's actually not a very action packed book, more focused on the after effects and people uncertain of what to do with themselves, packing in much highly necessary back story and different visual tricks. Excellent, but not exactly effective for a concise picture. Here, it's 3 hours long, and it's hard to imagine it being shorter.

Honestly, script wise, it's mostly faithful - the ending is altered, though only one change was really annoying - and with a different director and different actors, it might actually be a pretty good movie. Three hours or not, someone here actually gets the jist of the book, and the point. The main problem is that the director does not understand what the point is in the least, and every decision he makes hurts the film on some level. That's why I nominate him for the most annoying director. He's obsessed with visuals and making things "cool", but his supposed vision just takes away from all his projects.