video/dvd
August '05

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All Reviews by Jason Aaron

Constantine

When plans were first announced for a film based on the mature readers comic series Hellblazer, comic fans were incensed that their favorite blond, British magician John Constantine was to be played by brunette, American Keanu Reeves. However, after seeing the finished film, those fans realized that the star’s accent and hair color should have been the least of their worries.

The Constantine of the comics is a dark, complex conman and arrogant, chain-smoking, street-wise troublemaker whose feats of magic are usually pretty down to earth, even when he’s tangling with demons, angels and talking swamp creatures. The film version of Constantine is a cross between The Exorcist and James Bond, fighting demons with a wealth of occult gadgets, like holy brass knuckles and a gun that shoots dragon’s breath and sanctified bullets. The plot involves the discovery of the powerful Spear of Destiny, the spear that pierced the side of Christ, which turns up in Mexico, wrapped in a Nazi flag (?), launching plans for demons to start invading the earth.

This is the first film for director Francis Lawrence, who previously directed videos for Britney Spears and Will Smith, and he imbues Constantine with all the slick visuals and vacuous content of the standard music video. This is a comic book movie that’s actually more “comic bookie” than the comic book it’s based on. (R) Rating: 2

Alexander

Unless you count 1981’s The Hand, about a comic book artist’s severed hand that goes on a murder streak, then Alexander is Oliver Stone’s worst film as a director. Has the once venerable director, the genius who previously brought us JFK, Platoon and Nixon, finally jumped the shark? His upcoming 9-11 project will tell us for sure, but for now we’re left to ponder the sloppy, bloated mess that is his biopic of Alexander the Great.

Angelina Jolie still looks sexy, even with snakes crawling all over her. That’s about the only positive thing I can think to say about this train wreck, which Stone labored on for years. The narrative is disjointed and severely lacking in tension, the battle scenes are bland and uninspired, despite being massive in scale, and in the title role, Colin Farrell displays less charisma and emotion than a Muppet. The once maverick Stone is obviously floundering as a storyteller. How else do you explain a Director’s Cut of the film that’s actually eight minutes SHORTER than the theatrical version? (R) Rating: 1

Sin City

Films based on comic books are an awfully hot property these days, and while Sin City can’t lay claim to being the best of the bunch, it’s without a doubt the most faithful adaptation.

Co-directors Robert Rodriquez and Frank Miller (writer/artist of the Sin City comics) used the actual comic books as the film’s shooting script and even went so far as to set up their shots to mirror the comic panels. The stark, film noir look of Miller’s art is brought to screen using computer generated backgrounds and digitally manipulated color tones. Sin City teems with vibrant blacks and only occasional splashes of color: blue eyes, a red dress and the sickly yellow skin of a deformed psychopath. The violent stories and hard-boiled characters of Sin City will seem over-the-top and clichéd to some, but if you’re the type that’s at peace with the twisted side of your sense of humor, then you’ll love it.

Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen and Bruce Willis all play tough-as-nails brawlers with soft spots for bad girls in trouble. The rest of Sin City’s residents include deranged killers, crooked cops, strippers in distress and prostitutes armed to the teeth, among other lovable lowlifes. (R) Rating: 4

A Face in the Crowd

Director Elia Kazan is known as much for his capitulation with the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s as he is for his classic films such as On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. Even if you hate the man, you can’t deny the power of his work, in particular his lesser-known masterpiece, A Face in the Crowd.

A remarkably prescient drama about the foreboding power of television, A Face in the Crowd seems just as fresh today as it did in 1957. The film stars Andy Griffith, in his first acting role, as a simple-minded Arkansas jailbird who’s propelled to TV super stardom almost overnight and quickly becomes drunk with power. Griffith’s performance is raw and shocking, especially since most viewers today know him only as good-natured Sheriff Andy from the town of Mayberry.

His performance, like the film itself, is unforgettable. A Face in the Crowd is a landmark work of art whose relevancy and power have only grown over the years. (NR) Rating: 5

 


              
              
                 

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