The Shape of Things
I love going to my local theater that shows indie films; usually they're so much more interesting than mainstream movies. This one was such a disappointment. It was poorly written, poorly directed, extremely poorly edited and two of the four characters were poorly acted. The characters were poorly developed, merely slaves to the movie's central idea, and the imagery that the director must have thought was edgy and meaningful was, in fact, clumsy, obvious and pretentious. I left the film thinking, "The director clearly had no respect for me, so why should I have any respect for him?" Perhaps I'm too hopelessly bourgeois to appreciate a film like this, but I didn't miss the point, I dismiss it.
Viewed: 5/24/2003 | Released: 1/17/2003 | Score: F
This movie was what you'd expect from a Jim Carrey movie: hilarious. Morgan Freeman was especially good, although that was no surprise. Two things hurt this film: Carrey was not completely successful at reining in his tendencies toward ham, which ruined some of the more serious scenes, and the main character was totally unlovable for the majority of the movie. If I hadn't seen this formula a million times already, I would have had no reason to think he would have any reason to be saved.
Viewed: 5/23/2003 | Released: 5/22/2003 | Score: C
The Matrix Reloaded
One of the most hyped films of the year, it definitely lived up to my expectations. Others may have varying mileage, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The action sequences were visually stunning and, unlike some, I found the plot and main philosophical conundrum engaging. I can't wait for number three.
Viewed: 5/22/2003 | Released: 5/6/2003 | Score: B
Down With Love
I went to this one expecting a half-homage, half-parody of a 1960's sex comedy. I was right. I also expected it to be rather stupid. I was wrong. I found this movie to be smart and funny, enough that I expect it to have very good replay value. Great for dates.
Viewed: 5/21/2003 | Released: 5/8/2003 | Score: A
Lawrence of Arabia
It is so easy to see why this film is a classic. From breathtaking visuals to captivating performances, this movie has it all. Peter O'Toole was absolutely amazing in his role as T.E. Lawrence. If you haven't seen this one yet, you owe it to yourself to do so.
Viewed: 5/17/2003 | Released: 1/1/1970 | Score: A
I had very high hopes for this movie, and when it had me riveted from the beginning. The ending, however, ruined it for me. I would say more here, but I can't without ruining it. I will say more here, though. Anyway, despite the fact that I felt cheated by the ending, the beginning was good enough, and the idea was good enough that I will still give it two stars.
Viewed: 5/8/2003 | Released: 5/24/2003 | Score: C
I went and saw the movie Identity today. I had been looking forward to seeing it since I saw the first preview for it a few months ago. You may know that I am a big fan of the movies; I go to one or two a week. The preview for Identity made it look suspenseful and smart. I was very excited to see it today, especially since I had to wait through the first two weekends it was out. So you can understand when I left the theater feeling like I had been totally jerked around, I was a little disappointed.
As the remainder of this editorial will reveal things about the movie that will ruin it for you, I would recommend skipping the rest if you plan on seeing it.
*** SPOILERS ***
Identity began well. At the beginning of the film we were shown several intriguing instances of coincidence and it was very suspenseful. My fiancee and I were making guesses about the identity of the killer and the nature of the connections between the victims. We were getting very into it. There were several grisly murders and there was plenty of mystery to go around. All in all, it appeared to be a normal suspense thriller, written in the tradition of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. It seemed like it would definitely live up to that masterpiece.
So I was quite surprised when, about two-thirds through the film, it was revealed that the entire movie was nothing more than a psychotic episode happening in the mind of a character. The killings in the movie were actually nothing more than a mental patient's way of working through his Multiple Personality Disorder. I felt like I had been betrayed!
When developing a story, writers can fool the audience in many acceptable ways. People can be lead by the nose through a thousand pages of plot twists and come away with a sense of intellectual satisfaction. One example of a film that does this extraordinarily well is The Game. By the end of that film all of our previous assumptions have been totally blown away; it is the proverbial "head trip." Yet we feel quite rewarded by the conclusion, especially if we have figured it out ahead of time. (I didn't.) The reason that The Game works is because, while it does constantly cause us to re-evaluate everything we know, it never violates the basic framework of the story. We always know that we are being messed with.
Identity felt like a cop-out because we entered the theater expecting a thriller. At certain points of the movie we become confused by some supernatural-seeming events that don't seem to fit the overall tone. Are we seeing the handiwork of some incredibly brilliant evil mastermind, or is there magic happening? Finally, after being dragged through the victim's terror and the intellectual challenge of trying to stay one step ahead of the killer, we discover that we have been lied to, that none of it was real in the first place. After having become emotionally invested in these characters, we suddenly find that none of them matter.
Despite the fact that I felt cheated by the ending of the movie, I still don't feel like I wasted my money. For one thing, it was a matinee. Seriously, though, the acting was great and it really was an interesting idea. In fact, had I merely heard about the film and not seen it, I probably would have thought it was brilliant. I just wish the writers had found a more honest way to present it to us.