Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 1987

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blu Blue Blue Blu Summer Water Heaven Ray

Summer - if you can't beat there, watch blu-ray movies that take place on vacation - i.e. with lots of good ocean footage, underwater caverns, surfing, bikinis. Whassup! Blu-ray can make these images so 3-D vivid that if you put some coconut oil under your nose you're there

As der ausgezechneiete Hasselhof's Baywatch proved, people feel relaxed looking at the beach on TV. Give them tanned bodies and lolling surfs, forget about the rest. Why not deal with that, get the surf and swimsuits right, and worry about plot and stuff second? The plot's just to keep you looking at the screen until the surf images trigger inner waves of relaxation, a feeling of bobbing up and down in the current, and urges to buy sponsored products... Pamela Anderson was a great poster child for this sort of no-fault / no-foul guilty pleasure trip. But Jessica Alba has her beat, if only because her acting is moderately better and her face even more android, less yet more synthetic, vaguely 'other' in ethnic mix, and she seems genuinely athletic... to a point.


I saw this at a press screening back when it came out, and so I knew in advance that all the brilliant underwater footage of swimming with sharks was more or less 100% real. I was stoked--that is the word, my friends, "stoked"--to find it lived up to the hype... of it's press release. Criticisms of the overall douche-baggy pants-ishness of the two himbo leads (Paul Walker and Scott Caan) aside, when you can't even sneer more than a a handful of times, even when the righteous Walker is throwing away bags of coke out of principle, then you know a movie's not bad. and you don't really want this movie to be "good" because then it would be awful. You want it to be good enough to be hold your interest, bad enough to not stress you out during the 'tense' cross-cutting.

INTO THE BLUE marks also one of the first times I ever laid eyes on Josh Brolin--hidden under cap, glasses and beard, I thought he was Matt Dillon at the time--and even though he's the bad guy, he's so cool you root for him anyhow. He's one of the few non-douche bags in the film! In fact all the bad guys are cooler than the leads!

In fact I saw this last night with a young woman who didn't even recognize it was Josh Brolin under the hat, shades, and facial hair either and yet she was all, like, "I'm rootin' for that guy - he seems like he could be my uncle." This is some of my original 2005 Muze review:
"It's based on THE DEEP, a 1977 film that tried to capitalize on the JAWS phenomenon of the time but disappointed audiences by forgetting the sharks. This version is a much more exciting film and features shark attacks and real sharks swimming among the actors, thereby righting a 32-year-old wrong. Director John Stockwell also did BLUE CRUSH (2001), so it's a given there's no skimping on the beautiful scenery, both above and below the water line. With the gorgeous bikini-clad Alba undulating through the water like a mermaid, this movie becomes, in its own unique way, a perfect 10." (Muze c.2010)
  BLUE CRUSH (2002)

Underwater movies are cool, but the best in my mind are "water-line" movies, those that plunge in and out of the waves and give you the effect of actually being in them -- like after a day spent in the ocean when you're lying in bed and can feel the ocean current still tugging at your body. Director John Stockwell's first big blue movie, BLUE CRUSH nails this with surfer-eye-level views of the clear blue Hawaiian waves, bobbing up and down like we're out there waiting our turn with the locals. Why isn't this on blu-ray yet? Answer me!

Here's an updated version of what I wrote in Bright Lights back in 2008, and it still goes:

The common critical response to the film at the time was that the awesome photography more than made up for the trite story and bland acting, but critics have always had a hard time with accepting truly free girl characters; if you can look past the surface colloquialisms this is practically a Howard Hawks film for young women: overlapping dialogue; strong camaraderie, good sense of continuity and pace, issues of courage, maturity and nobility. It’s all there, and best of all, the issue of romance getting in the way of your dreams–yeah you heard me, ladies, getting in the way of your dreams-–is handled with care and ballsy skill.

Matthew Davis plays the vacationing quarterback who romances Hawaiian surf rate Ann Marie (Kate Bosworth) causing her to lose focus right before the big pipe competition. Michelle Rodriqguez is the best friend/trainer who sees what’s happening and knows Ann Marie is just scared she’ll hit her head on the coral reef, like she did last time. And real-life surf champ Sanoe Lake is, just, well, awesome; she’s a natural star and makes a perfect third in their posse, letting her surf sisters carry the emotional weight while she brings sandy authenticity and a deeply entrenched-in-the-termite-moment joi de vivre. When she rolls out of bed to answer the phone (The first thing anyone asks isn’t “how are you?” but “how are the waves?”) you feel like you’re right in bed with her, covered in sand, and still drunk from falling asleep three minutes before.

Plus, there’s even a surreal horror element--ala TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE--when you see this one dude surfing wearing Kate Bosworth’s face (above). What? Maybe that's why there's no blu-ray for this title; too much detail on the Bosworth surfing long shots might turn the whole thing Tobe Hooper.


Sooner or later, vice cops make criminals of us all, but hey, maybe they have mutton chops. Crocket and Tubbs justify their cocaine-jetset lifestyle by busting cocaine traffickers, which means they have the morals of a guinea pig and the ethics of a gangster, as Sidney Falco once quoted. Would'st thou shake a lemon tree and arrest it if it drops lemons upon thy head, officer? And I don't even like cocaine; I've seen it turn too many of my friends into corpses or windbags.

So, for all its acidemic incorrectness, MIAMI VICE still made the "decade list" of the inestimable Keith Uhlich over in the House Next Door. The British Time Out Film Guide meanwhile notes Mann’s got “images intricate in their expressionist eloquence and mythic in their noir poetry.” What does the America’s Leonard Maltin say? “Super cool cars, boats and planes keep this watchable on a fantasy level, but the final showdown is awfully conventional.” Whaaaa? "Super cool"? Lenny, the British just made you look stooooopid!

And Lenny, bro, one more thing: applying “conventional” to Mann is like applying “predictable” to the story of Madame Butterfly: “Colorful Clothes and impassioned singing make this passable, but still ends on the same depressing note.” Mann uses cop conventions like Puccini uses romantic tragedy conventions, or John Ford uses western conventions, as a structure on which to hang a universal emotional myth. The final showdown in VICE is actually unconventional in its conventionality, carrying various metaphysical implications and Phil Collins' remixes that all female energy is interconnected and serpentine, and how on certain nights everyone you know either breaks up or hooks up, as if some magic equalizing ripple effect gives and takes away in equal measure amongst your hot hot homies. And sunsets, vice, and expensive boats consumed them utterly, and I alone survived to tell the tale.

Great minimalist dialogue, great use of Moby featuring Patti Labelle ("One of these Mornings"), and Farrell sports great trailer park mutton chops and does what L. DiCap couldn’t do in BODY OF LIES, which is impersonate Russell Crowe successfully.  These guys are super tough and every line of dialogue is emptied of everything but professional balls-to-the-wall plot advancement. In their own way this Crocket and Tubbs talk as mystic-existential as the driver and mechanic in TWO LANE BLACKTOP.

 So there's three summer fun films for you, and also check out A PERFECT GETAWAY (2009), which is also another blue water / blu-ray summer must, starring Milla Jovovich and one of my new favorite B-list beefcakes, an Eastwood-talkin' bro named Timothy Olyphant! (my review here).