The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

If you have not read the excellent Hitchhiker’s books by Douglas Adams I would recommend closing this web page immediately and reading through at least the first book. No, it is not necessary to understand this review, I just think you ought to do it. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy project was announced and I both cringed and felt joy at the thought of a motion picture finally being made from the Hitchhiker’s books. My joy was crushed when I learned Disney was behind the effort, then hope was partially restored when I learned Arthur Dent would be played by Martin Freeman, a decidedly unknown, but very British actor. Well I finally saw the movie and I was neither overjoyed nor aghast at it’s horribleness. Read more for the fish.

First, thank you Disney for at least hiring a few British actors, and filming a lot of it in England. I mean it could have been worse right? Before you Disney Touchstone people get all giddy (because I just KNOW you come to for all your film making validation) let me just say making a vast majority of the significant characters American was both unnecessary and possibly insulting to the British. Zooey Deschanel playing Trillian, Mos Def playing Ford Prefect, and Sam Rockwell playing Zaphod, are all Americans. While I understand Ford Prefect, and Zaphod are not British in the book, they also aren’t human, and my distinct impression is Ford had a quasi British accent in the book, but really I am getting off the point. More British actors should have been in the movie.

So here is my general opinion of Hollywood’s attempt at the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie: Eh.

The book had so many clever and well built jokes along with complexity and dialog that was just as confusing as it was funny and about 98% of that was gone. I understand for time sake some things had to be cut down, but jokes were simply stripped of their brilliance and dumbed down to one-liners and slapstick with the occasional faithful gem here and there. Aside from the humor, the story was mangled as well, resulting in an effort to get a single enemy or bad guy the audience could focus on. Stupid, especially considering the end of the movie where they throw the whole earth building thing at you with little warning. The adventure just seemed less adventurous, and the character’s effort to get to the end of their journey seemed minimal in the movie.

Acting was alright. Some people don’t like Mos Def, but I thought he was a decent Ford. He seemed oddly uncomfortable in many of the scenes and it just seemed to work because Ford was not from earth, and well you know (if you read the book) Ford was just odd. It is hard to describe I guess. Sam Rockwell, playing Zaphod, was decent as well, although not nearly as obnoxiously cavalier as he should have been. Arthur Dent seemed to be in the spirit of the character, but missing his sheer stubbornness and confusion. Trillian? Trillian confuses me. I thought Zooey was decent, but the character did not seem right. Everyone was not quite right. Like they were ground up, preservatives were added, then put back together. Washed out versions of the original I guess is what I am trying to say.

So what did I like? The graphics were decent. Marvin, while having a much smaller role than I expected, was good. The improbable drive space ship was funny and well done, and the actual Hittchiker’s Guide was great almost perfect I would say. The little bits of bizarre and smart humor scattered here and there were all welcome, but all of these good points were not enough to save a movie that ultimately was squished, chopped, and a toned down version of the book. This was likely done to help it target a wider audience, but I think they disappointed everyone who loved the books, and confused anyone who never read the book. I know Hollywood can do better, but perhaps this is the best Disney can produce when it tries to handle stories and characters that don’t fit in the typical movie mold.

Cruel Intentions

There are teen movies, and then there is Cruel Intentions. The movie is a remake of Dangerous Liasons with younger characters, and set in a modern time period while still maintaining the some of the classic visual elements of the original. Costumes, sets, and even some of the dialog all seem to be inspired from the 40’s and earlier, yet it takes place in modern New York City. This new Cruel Intentions attempts to remake the classic, Oscar winning movie, and make it appealing for young adults today without sacrificing too much of the original’s style. Continue reading “Cruel Intentions”

Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction received a lot of flack from critics and viewers when it came out in 1996. The first problem with Chain Reaction had nothing to do with the movie and everything to do with other movies. The director, Andrew Davis, also directed The Fugitive which was a great success. The Fugitive had a good story, great lead actor, and constant action. Chain Reaction had an okay lead actor, an okay story, and does not have constant action, but the movie studio pitched it as another Fugitive movie and people left the theater feeling cheated. Despite some flaws in Chain Reaction, I still liked the movie. Continue reading “Chain Reaction”

Lucky Number Slevin

Lucky Number Slevin is pitched as a wrong-man comedy with a romantic twist. The comedy is there, as are the romantic elements, but like Slevin, the movie is not what it seems. Slevin stars Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, and Sir Ben Kingsley. While I am not a huge fan of Hartnett (or rather the roles Hartnett gets), I find the rest of the cast a fantastic group of actors so I spent my hard earned money on the little hyped Lucky Number Slevin hoping for something good.

“…You can’t have a Kansas City shuffle without a body.”

Indeed you can’t. Like I said, the movie starts off fun – almost slapstick even. Slevin (played by Hartnett) gets punched in the nose a countless number of times while his world falls apart around him. He loses his job, his girlfriend cheats on him, he gets mugged, and the friend he’s in town to visit, Nick Frasier, ends up missing. Slevin, of course is then mistaken for Frasier, and he gets pulled into a strange situation where two rival bosses, “The Boss” (Morgan Freeman), and “The Rabbi” (Kingsley), both separately want something from him, but all of it is all a setup by a hitman, Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis), to use Slevin to bring the two bosses together.

This is all at the beginning of the movie, and from there it gets more complicated. The director, Paul McGuigan, starts to twist the story as it moves along, exposing little pieces of the puzzle before hitting you with the finale, and it hits hard, pulling no punches which may surprise some who expected a silly story of mistaken identity as presented by the trailers.

I did not expect Josh Hartnett to fair well against the acting power in this movie, but he was excellent, even while wearing only a towel for the first fifteen minutes. Everyone else was excellent as well, proving if you have a good story, get the right big names, and pick people who can set their egos aside for a project, you aren’t going to ruin the movie with a bevy of A-list actors.

My biggest complaint with Slevin had to do with the complexity near the end of the movie. In an effort to keep the audience on it’s toes the end gets a bit muddled with back-stories and flashbacks mixed in with story lines that seemed to be unnatural additions, but luckily the movie gets back on pace in the final moments before anything gets too off course.  The loose ends are tied up and we find out what the Kansas City Shuffle truly is.

Crossroads: How to make your movie bad too!

It takes skill to be in the bottom 100 movies on IMDB, I mean even Catwoman is not in the bottom 100 worst movies as rated by IMDB users. Crossroads is in it, currently holding at the 88 spot, apparently worse than Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, but better than The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (which one would think, just based off the title, wouldn’t be that hard to beat). So what does it take to make sure your next movie will be forever glorified as one of the worst movies ever?

I know what you are saying: “I know how to make my movie bad, I’ll just hire Uwe Boll to direct it!” That would work, after-all his last three movies BloodRayne, Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead are all in the IMDB bottom 100, but what if he wasn’t available to ruin your masterpiece? Do you really think you have what it takes? No? Well don’t fret! I will take you step-by-step through Crossroads to help you make a better worse movie!

Step 1: The Name

A name is important because you can either use it to fool people into coming to your movie only to turn on them and give them crap, or you can use it to make very clear your movie is shit. Some examples are Snakes on a Plane, Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch, and Stay Alive. Snakes on a Plane title says “I’m crap, but campy”, Howling Says, “I’m just crap”, and Stay Alive is pretending it’s a good movie, only to bash you on the head with a stupid stick. You have to decide for yourself how you want to inform (or fool) a potential viewer. Crossroads took the “pretending to be a good movie” route, but loses points because Britney Spears is the star, so people already knew it was going to be crap (at least most people). Perhaps they should have went with: “Britney Acts, Get Alcohol!”

Continue reading “Crossroads: How to make your movie bad too!”