I’ve decided to try and watch a movie every day (or night, as time premits). Being the sharing sort, I’ve decided to let you all know what I think of them.
Night before last I watched “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” The night before, Julie and I tried to watch “Envy,” but turned it off half way through. More on that later. Last night I read my book instead of watching a movie. So there: I’ve already failed you, gentle reader. No more sad anticipation of inevitable dissappointment necessary. First, let’s talk about “Master and Commander.”
Russel Crowe was great as always, and the movie was very, very (did I mention very?) manly. It was, in fact, so very manly that the filmmakers could only be bothered to show a woman once – for about ten seconds – as a Polynesian woman floated by on a canoe. This is not to say that the filmmakers were remiss in any way. I mean, the story is about life aboard “Surprise,” a ship of the British Navy in 1805, searching for a French privateer ship which has been destroying British Whalers for Napoleon. It’s safe to say that there were no women aboard such ships (times being what they where), so the film is doubtless historically accurate. I’m just pointing out that there are no women in the movie. Make what you will of that.
Now for the judgement. I liked the movie. Since having kids, my tolerance for violence is considerably lower than it once was. There are definitely some splashy parts in “Master and Commander,” but nothing quite as extreme as some movies out today (Denzel Washington’s “Man on Fire” being a good example of this.) This is cool for me for two reasons: One, gore makes me feel dizzy these days and, two, it means that I can watch the movie with Julie. See, Julie has no tolerance whatsoever for violence (particularly when directed at women and children) and the relatively tame level of gore in “Master and Commander” means that I can watch it with her tomorrow. I tend to watch movies twice as a general rule unless they suck. Yeah, we’ll get to “Envy” soon.
My favorite character in the movie was that of Dr. Maturin, played by Paul Bettany who also played opposite Russel Crowe as John Nash Jr.’s roomate in “A Beautiful Mind.” He brings the otherwise completely missing element of joy, creativity, and sensitivity to the otherwise rather un-sensitive group of solidier-sailors.
The story is good, characters well developed, and cinematography (once you get past the intensely fetishistic treatment of the ship, all slow panning shots of endless runs of ropes and rigging) is beautiful. Certainly worth a rent.
“Envy,” however is a piece of shit (pun intended). The story involves two carpool buddies/co-workers/neighbors, one played by Jack Black and the other by Ben Stiller. Ben Stiller has always annoyed me, but I rented “Envy” anyway in the hopes that Jack Black could save it. He almost does. Also, I liked “Dodgeball” so was willing to give Stiller another chance to come through.
The carpool scenes in the beginning of the movie are very funny, and the “great ideas” that Black’s character keeps coming up with also feel very real to the situation. I really felt like these two guys know each other. Then Black settles on a single great idea “Va-Poo-Rize,” a magical spray that makes dog shit dissappear. Once his character is no longer longingly brainstorming crazy ideas to get he and his friend out of their grey existence, the story nosedives.
Worse, once the story centers on Stiller’s character it becomes the same old tired-ass-shit (hey, there’s a pun again!) as all his other movies: Stiller making stupid decisions that lead to predictable foibles, pratfalls, and groans. No laughs, however. Boring. Seen it in “Something about Mary,” and “Meet the Parents.” Don’t need to see it again. That’s why I turned of the DVD midway through and opened my book. It’s a good book.
One other bright spot in “Envy” is the Christopher Walken character. When Walken stretches out into comedy (“Mouse Hunt”) it’s always a treat. Even when the movie is falling down around him – and this one fell apart – it’s fun to watch Walken do his thing. Once the movie finished self-destructing, leaving Christopher Walken and Jack Black standing amongst the rubble, you can’t help but feel sad that their talents were so sorely wasted. Yeah, I know, maybe the movie got better after I turned it off. Oh well…life is short. What’cha gonna do?