12 Months of Movies 2006: May

May was a lacklustre month.

Mission: Impossible 3

May 5, 5:30, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 7)
I was enjoying this as I watched it. Then, as I got onto the train to go home, I realised that it didn’t make an ounce of sense.
“Check me out,” says J.J. Abrams, throwing an end movie scene at you before the opening credits. “I created Lost and Alias. I have cornered the TV nerd market. Watch as I bring magic to your screen in ways never seen before!”
Then the smoke and mirrors descend and a fantastic light show begins.
So Tom Cruise is a good actor. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor. In fact, every key performance in this film is great, even if Michelle Monaghan seems wasted in this role after her star turn in last year’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. There’s something deeply dissatisfying about this film, and it’s hard for me to pinpoint it: could it be that Tom Cruise’s character infiltrates a high security building in Shanghai to obtain the film’s McGuffin, yet all the viewer sees is his escape (an escape that consists solely of running out of the building)? Could it be Cruise’s character performing life saving heart starting defibrillation on himself using a wooden spoon and exposed cables? Could it have been the horror of Keri Russell’s brain exploding inside her head as I watched on?
It could be any or all of those things.

I’ve got little idea why I saw M:I:III. The first was incoherent, and I didn’t even go to the second one. Yet here I was, seeing the third the day after its release. Next time, and there won’t be a next time, make some sense, Tom.

American Dreamz

May 12, 5:00, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 2)

Seriously, what was this movie? I know that Paul Weitz can make good movies. It just seems like with this one he decided to assemble a pretty and talented cast and then waste them.
So it’s a parody of the Bush administration and of American Idol? We get to see an Arabian man in a terrorist training camp dancing to A Chorus Line, but then we get too much of everything. For a parody of the American Idol format, you need to provide some sort of idea of the journey. The album of Australian Idol‘s winner this year is called “The Winner’s Journey”. Giving him time to record a real album, this CD is just a collection of all of the songs that he performed on the show.
The point is that we don’t get any real character arcs in this movie. They get accepted onto American Dreamz (“Dreamz with a ‘zee'”), we get a montage that shows the entire journey without really saying anything, and then we’re at the finals. The characters played by Mandy Moore and Hugh Grant are deliberately detached so that we can’t feel anything from them, and the Omer storyline is nothing more than cashing in on novelty rather than giving someone some respect. On top of that, the US needs to be run on down-home wisdom? Fair enough!
Don’t even get me started on the ending … American Dreamz broke my heart in seventeen places.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

May 16, 5:45, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 6)
Part of the reason that Dave Chappelle resigned from his show and broke his contract was because he was tired of making racially charged comedy. While I have no intention of making this site a constant discussion of political correctness, I am always uncomfortable around comedy based on persecuting the White Man for his frankly spotty record.
Fortunately, Block Party is not like that! There are some jokes made at the expense of Whitey, but this is generally a celebration of music, Dave Chappelle’s hometown, and people that he likes.
What we get is some generically funny stuff (generic here meaning good, and not targeted at anyone) and a sense of camaraderie and love in the air. If only all millionaires could spend their money on reuniting the Fugees for one special party!

… if I was a super millionaire, I’d reanimate Freddie Mercury and bring back Queen … for one night only! (Look out for “Alexander Doenau’s Zombie Party” in 2009!)

The Da Vinci Code

May 20, ?, Hoyts Broadway (ticket missing)

I saw The Da Vinci Code with my friend Ajay’s church group. I never really understood the fuss about the ideas featured in The Da Vinci Code because I don’t believe in a particularly hard line. This group of church goers, too, seemed not to mind terribly.
What I did mind was that this movie was a dull iteration of a book that amounted to little more than people standing around in rooms talking about Jesus. There are many things that make this a bad movie: the character back stories, by necessity of this being a film, are reduced to three second montages with spare lines of dialogue; Tom Hanks looks disinterested and has the worst fashion sense ever; Sir Ian McKellen, while delicious, plays his hand too soon; and Silas, everyone’s favourite albino who just wants to be loved, is not so much a character, or even an imposing presence, as he is simply there. Hell, they even took Dan Brown’s one truly effective card – the ambiguous ending that allowed the reader to make up their own mind – and turned it into something that leaves no room for discussion.

On top of that, the film continued for a good half hour after the story ended! Beyond Sir Ian McKellen, the only thing going for it is that Audrey Tatou is radiant.

X-Men III: The Last Stand

May 26, 6:10, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 9)
Before I begin, let me say that I hate cinema nine of Greater Union George Street. Perhaps even more than I do cinema six. Let me then say that I “loved” X-Men III. This is because I didn’t much like the previous two efforts, and so I watched this movie getting some perverse pleasure from imagining how all of the fans would receive it. I watched with glee as Brett Ratner went through the absolute playbook of how these things work.
“Right, so she’s got to kill him here …”
“… now he’s got to kill her …”
“… why not just let him stay out of jail despite the multiple murders he’s committed? I’m such a genius!”

Halle Berry had too much of a role (“you know what happens to actresses who complain about the size of their roles? They get an unnecessarily inflated part in the ultimate chapter”).
Maybe it’s not fair for me to write about a franchise I scarcely care about, but this was an excellent exercise in cynical, by the numbers filmmaking. It may even have been passable if the dichotomy of Jean Grey/Phoenix hadn’t been expressed in insultingly simple “Man, I’m so high right now …” terms.

Take the Lead

May 31, 6:30, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 18)
Bangarang Rufio! Everyone’s favourite Lost Boy returns to the screen so that he may play second fiddle to Antonio Banderas! You know that movie where a person goes downmarket to teach the streetwise kids upmarket things so that they may become better people? This is that movie … with dance! Also it’s a true story.
I won’t claim that Take the Lead is anything special, but I have a soft spot in my soul for dancing. The fact that the credits consisted of the cast dancing cemented for me. If only they had left out the Jigga and not ignored the fact that the actions of one of the characters would have spelled a vendetta death. Can’t win ‘em all.

Pick of May 2006: Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

Let’s be honest: no real competition this month. It’s fortunate, then, that Block Party was superlative.

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