Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
With its brain-dead amateur direction, witless script, impossibly sloppy special effects, non-existent videogame-like narrative, empowered female stars traipsing around in seven dozen wigs and skimpy outfits, and a color palette that has enough filter-fueled crackle and zing to top anything Technicolor’s ever done for cinema, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
successfully bombards its audience with enough screaming noise and constantly moving eye-candy to partially satisfy even the most cynical and scoff-happy cineaste. Neglecting any of the qualities that could make such music video cum feature length pop exploitation enduring-namely semi-intelligent camp, or inventive forms of sexuality and/or violence-newest hack director McG manages to sneak one by the intelligentsia and make his film successfully engaging in an utterly inexplicable way. Haphazardly strung together are motocross racing, surfing, the Mongolian army, burlesque strip teases, Demi Moore, a wise cracking Bernie Mac replacing the unfunny Bill Murray from the first film, a hilariously un-Irish Irishman played by Justin Theroux (the young movie director in Mulholland Dr.
), the Return of the Thin Man, and the Angels as (among others) dock workers, nuns, dripping wet, a Mongolian gambler, and a bull riding Swedish tourist. The movie is oddly not nearly as goofy or tongue-in-cheek as it should be (though it amusingly jabs the 2000 original by mocking the rumored 13 screenwriters that churned out that atrocity), but McG’s epilepsy inducing editing races the film by so quickly that it causes one to stumble out of the theater with a dumb, dazed half-smile on their face and little memory of the past 24 hours. Sometimes that’s a good thing.
Writer/director Niki Caro’s adaptation of Witi Ihimaera’s Maori fable Whale Rider
seems to have the deck incredibly stacked to its advantage. Utilizing location shooting on New Zealand’s pristinely beautiful landscapes (the ones that double for Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings
), featuring a story boiled down to classical archetype, and introducing the formidable acting talent of adorable thirteen-year-old actress Keisha Castle-Hughes, the setup seems prime for a humbly epic tale of an ancient tribe’s modern tribulations. Sadly, such a well-meaning film contains little of the crystalline focus required for this kind of pure and beautiful tale. Castle-Hughes plays Pai, a Maori with the blood of leaders in her veins, but who was unfortunately born a girl, negating her from the Maori tribal custom of male leaders, a custom rigorously and blindly held by her grandfather Koro (Rawiri Paratene). Pai’s father has gone abroad to forget his Maori roots and his wife who died in childbirth, entrusting Pai’s rearing to her grandparents. Whether Whale Rider
is about an ostracized young girl coming of age, Pai’s resolute traditionalist grandfather opening his eyes to reality, or a fractured and dispirited tribe trying to find new beginning is never made clear. In keeping the film’s narrative arc to its most pure and its cast to the bare minimum Caro neglects many of the elements that make Whale Rider
have the ability to rise above its classical setup, namely its Maori setting, and Pai’s father’s relationship with the family and the tribe. The Maori community that Pai is supposedly suppose to lead (if she obtains the ability to overcome her gender) is almost nonexistent in the film, and consists of a few brief pictures of young male children, a couple town elders, an a half dozen lazy 20-somethings. Similarly, the oppression in Pai’s household that comes from the nearly sadistic grandfather appears to be something Pai already understands and can live with; where she is at the beginning at the film and where she ends up at the end, in terms of maturity, is a mystery. Solid one-note acting, a charismatic new actress, and glacially clean wide, wide, cinematography is not enough to distract from Whale Rider
's failings, but it certainly helps make the film a passably enjoyable experience.
Murnau’s masterful 1927 silent feature, subtitled A Song of Two Humans
, strives to work as pure allegory when its lead, The Man (George O’Brien, as confused and burly as a countryboy should be), is tempted to kill The Wife (Janet Gaynor, sweet and beautiful, as all milkmaids are) in order to move out of his farm house and go to the magical metropolis across the lake in the arms of The Woman From The City (Margaret Livingston, as the kind of urbanite who forces her peasant innkeepers to wipe the dirt from her boots). The film is rigidly broken into three very different acts; the first features The Man’s hideous decision to drown his wife and his eventual decision to re-embrace her love, he then pursues The Wife, now stricken with fear, into the City to beg his forgiveness; the second act is their urban reconciliation where they dreamily get their picture taken and visit a grand carnival out of a happier version of Metropolis, in an urban dreamland where a peasant’s ability to catch a loose pig and then dance a rural jig earns the admiration of the upper-class; the third act is the couple’s return to their home and results in a final test of love when a storm strikes and threatens to kill The Wife in the same way The Man was originally planning to. Though Murnau has obvious trouble smoothing the tone switch between the acts of the film, which was scripted by Kammerspiel mastermind Carl Meyer (who also did Murnau’s triumphant The Last Laugh
), Sunrise is an overwhelming displays of the director’s awe-inspiring visual capacity, with flawless special effects, subtle expressionism and tremendous application of Fox’s resources in creating a movie filled with detailed miniatures, dramatic camera movement, an immense set used as a working metropolis, and a simple lyrical poetry to back up its marvelous technical triumphs.