Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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"The Cave" is an uneasy, mostly unsuccessful mix of old and new Hollywood, an old-fashioned monster movie with updated but unconvincing computerized effects. There are several different types of creatures in the film, and they are all pretty imaginative but the implausible CGI takes you out of the moment every time.
The film could have greatly benefited from some old school movie magic from an actual effects craftsman, but young filmmakers are rarely willing to take the road less traveled anymore. First-time director Bruce Hunt did the visual effects on the wonderfully ambitious "Dark City," so it's surprising to me that his debut feature would be this lazy.
There are some good moments here, most notably the thrilling death of Piper Perabo, which is easily;y the most exciting scene in the film. Still, this is always destined to be the cave monster movie that is not "The Descent." Beyond that one great scene, the film is very stiff and wooden, and the characters are very one-dimensional and typical of a film like this. For much to it, it's difficult to tell a few of the male actors apart.
Hunt fails to breath much life into this, and the film may have worked better without the creatures at all. It could have been strictly a "man VS nature" experience much like "Sanctum." The sad thing is that I did enjoy the final scene, a surprise twist ending that actually works and sets up for a sequel. It's almost disappointing that the film bombed because with the way this ends, the follow-up would have no doubt been more interesting than this film.
In that respect, "The Cave" does show some promise but its hindered by modern technology. If only someone had actually cared enough to put a little work and effort into it.
Normally, when filmmakers step outside of their comfort zone, I'm excited to see the end result even when it isn't entirely successful. Mel Brooks is one of the most renown and respected comedic filmmakers of the modern age, and "Life Stinks" is his attempt at making a socially responsible comedy, and the finished product is an utter disaster.
There are attempts at humor in the film, make no mistakes about that, with with Brooks you can count on either biting satire or goofy, go-for-broke sight gags. You'll find none of that here. Because of the subject matter. most of the humor is uncomfortable and it doesn't mix well with the paths and social commentary.
I can understand Brooks wanting to shine a light on a serious subject matter through the use of humor, but here the line between the two is blurred and neither is effective. The homeless in the film are fairly impossible to take seriously because they are written as kooky but lovable scamps. The upside of that is that it makes the preposterous relationship that develops between Brooks and bag lady Lesley Anne Warren palatable but still incredibly difficult to stomach.
There are also several basic contrivances with the story that are never fully resolved, but they do make for a happy ending in which everyone learns a lesson and is wiser for the experience. Everyone, that is, except for the audience of "Life Stinks." It's a definite departure for Brooks that still tries to retain the spirit of his earlier films, but the gamble misfires badly. It's a somber experience, and the lack of successful jokes make it even more unbearable.
Although it's one of the esteemed director's lesser-known works, "Empire of the Sun" is ripe with themes acquainted to those who love the works of Steven Spielberg and it feels very familiar. It's a worthy story centered around a conflict during World War II that not much is known about, and the filmmaker tells that story with the same passion and style that has become his trademark.
Unfortunately, I also found the film to be somewhat cold and uninvolving, with a lead character atypical of Spielberg, a precocious young boy played by Christian Bale. He's difficult to like in the beginning, a spoiled brat which I suppose is the point. But after the war is over and the lengthy film comes to an end, you don not get the sense that he's evolved any.
It's a rather unemotional journey, and you wonder what the point of it all was. The film seems to shelter Bale (and the audience) from the true horrors of the war, and a great many details are ignored which would seem to be quite important and relevant to the story. Most notably missing, in my opinion, is the Pearl harbor bombing which is only alluded to in the very beginning of the film.
It's clear that the filmmaker was trying to tell a very personal story against the backdrop of a global conflict, and these minor qualms could have been overlooked had I been better able to connect with the movie. Sadly, "Empire of the Sun" will remain one of the director's good movies among a great deal of great ones. Everything about it feels right but it left me rather indifferent.
You've got to feel sorry for Corey Feldman. After the big studio films dried up in the late '80's, the child star was relegated to making one or two direct-to-video features a year, but clearly no one told him that he wasn't cool anymore.
In the embarrassingly belated follow-up "Rock and Roll High School Forever," the actor seems to be reluctant to admit that the gold old days have come to an end with his ridiculous haircut and Michael Jackson wardrobe. Perhaps even sadder still is the casting of young actor Evan Richards, a blatant Corey Haim lookalike, to further Feldman's denial.
The film itself is a name-only sequel with virtually nothing in common with the original film (except for maybe a Ramones poster on Feldman's wall). The music is awful, the jokes are juvenile and any real story is non-existent, as this is your basic "rebels bucking the system" comedy where any actual laughs are nowhere to be found. The Allen Arkush film has hardly anything earth-shattering, but it did have a certain charm all its own.
In this, somewhat humorous names (like authority figures named after types of cheese) and amateurish pranks pass for comedy, and even though the Ramones were not the makers first choice to play in the original, you'll miss their style of music here once you see Feldman lip sync to "I'm Walkin." "Rock and Roll High School Forever" will disappoint just about every fan of every genre. It's completely humorless and terribly un-hip.