Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Reservation Road

“What if it was your son? What would you want to happen?”

The Lerner family stop at a gas station late one night. At the same time Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) is driving his son home from a Red Sox game. Distracted and trying to get his son back before his ex-wife (Mira Sorvino) goes ballistic, Mark makes a sharp turn and accidentally hits young Josh Learner (Sean Curley) who was releasing fireflies at the side of the road. Knowing his involvement will lose him all rights to see his son Arno drives off without stopping leaving Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix) and Grace (Jennifer Connelly) to mourn the death of their son and begin a search for the man responsible.

The film does a pretty good job in casting Ruffalo as the man responsible for the crime without making him seem evil. Is he a coward? Yes. Is he responsible for the death of a young boy? Yes. Most of his scenes throughout the rest of the film showcase him dealing with his guilt and trying to find the courage to come clean. The screenplay does a good job getting inside Arno’s head as he comes up with rationalizations and excuses for his actions.

On the other side of the film you have Phoenix and Connelly mourning the loss of Josh. The film successfully allows each character to grieve in their own way, although Ethan’s obsession does come off a little over-the-top at times.

My major complaint about the film is it’s over-reliance on coincidence and dismissing the obvious. How small is this town where Ethan happens to need a lawyer to help with the investigation and hires Arno? What are the odds that Arno’s ex-wife would be tutoring young Emma Learner (Elle Fanning) to play the piano? Why do the cops so quickly dismiss Arno, who owns the same model of car which was seen in the accident, when he can’t produce the car or evidence of where it has gone? The film is filled with many such question and coincidences which begin to pile on after awhile (and I won’t even get into the ease and speed with which Ethan is able to procure a gun). Although everything that happens may be possible (though increasingly less likely) altogether the credibility of the story begins to suffer.

Although the film works, for the most part, it seems to get more and more off-track as it goes along. Also a problem is we are forced to wait for the inevitable confrontation between Arno and Ethan we know is coming even as the film milks the tension for every minute it can before giving it to us, and then promptly ending the story and leaves us with a flaccid climax and no real resolution. It’s an okay film with some good moments, but it could have been much more.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Hey I got an idea, let’s take a first person shooter video game and make a movie out of it. Hmmm….I don’t know. Yeah, and we’ll get I don’t know like Jean Claude Van Damme, or wait I know The Rock to shoot up a space station of zombies and aliens. I don’t know, sounds pretty dumb. Hey, people shovel in dumb morning, noon and night and beg for more. Explosions is entetainin’, the movie can completely suck and they’ll still love it. Hell, go do what ever you want I need to sign Hillary Duff and the Olsen Twins to a new reality tv project.

Maybe that’s not how Doom got made, but sure seems likely to me. This is a terrible awful movie folks. I’ll make the same offer I’ve made before with movies this bad. If you were planning to see this just give me your ten bucks and I’ll beat the crap out of you. Trust me; it’s a much more humane solution. I know this is the part where I’m supposed to tell you what the film is about, so here goes…

The plot, so to speak, is a team of soldiers is sent through a magical portal in the Nevada desert built by Martians and travel through space loogies to an underground facility on Mars. This is the point where many, many questions should arise such as, how did they find/figure out to operate the Martian loogey travel machine, how did they build the facility on Mars around the loogey machine? Aren’t they stealing this from Galaxy Quest? Why does the Mars space station have sewers and air vents that open to the outside? But I digress….

The team is lead by Sarge (The Rock) and includes Reaper (Karl Urban) whose sister (Rosamund Pike) is stationed on the Mars facility, and a squadron of marine types who I’d list, but they’re all nameless monster food so what’s the point?

On arriving the team is attacked by monsters that have grown out of the scientists themselves. And boy does it take them a loooong time to figure this out. Now I know soldiers aren’t known for their intelligence but if the six year old in front of me can figure it out an hour before the characters….well, see that’s a problem.

Reaper and his sister decide to try and save people; Sarge decides to kill everything that moves to prevent infection. And the bloodbath ensues.

The film is a bad television movie with too much money thrown at it. Oddly though with all that money the Mars space station looks like it was made for about fifty bucks. Seriously folks I’ve seen old Dr. Who episodes with better sets. It looks like a video game, and at one point actually becomes the first person shooter as the actors completely disappear and the rampant slaughter commences.

The movie steals most of its plot, sets, etc from other sci-fi and horror flicks and television. Among these are Aliens, Star Trek, The Outer Limits, and anything with Arnold and a gun. Nothing original or of any interest here, and for all the blood and carnage and “scary” alien/zombies this is one boring movie.

How bad does it get? I’ll give you an example. The movie points out that the Martians bulit the loogey machine to escape the monsters they created. This idea is thrown away however because they need to kill some more zombie alien things. Forgetting the logistical problem of how they arrived here without building the doorway to the machine on Earth for the moment, what I find interesting is that means they escaped to our planet. So what are you saying that Earth men are descended from Martains? Or Martians have been living among us since the age of the dinosaurs? It’s a constant failing of any sci-fi movie that, by accident or not, raises an important idea that it has no intention of exploring let alone answering. But hey, this is video game movie, don’t expect answers here.

Go see anything else but this, please! Hollywood is going to keep feeding us this crap as long as people pay to see it. On a final note, as bad as I felt after seeing the movie I was more distressed by the scattered applause that came as the credits rolled. The optimist made me want to believe these people were celebrating the end of this near two hour disaster, but the realist in me is saddened that people actual thought this was entertaining. Good sci-fi like Serenity is playing next door to a near empty theater, and braindead regurgitated slop like this is going to make millions. You can complain about Hollywood as much as you want, but you do your voting in the ticket lines folks, and sadly as in other recent elections the dumber choice seems to be the most popular.