LAKEVIEW TERRACE (on DVD)
WATCHMEN (on DVD)
SURVEILLANCE (Jennifer Lynch, 2009)
* (Has redeeming facet)
A quick accounting of the how I arrived at the star rating for this film, starting at the baseline of zero stars:
- +1 star for featuring Bill Pullman in a lead role
- +1 star for fine supporting turns, most surprisingly from French Stewart
- +1 star for the thrown-away bits of dark humor and the refreshing brevity of the script
- -2 stars for being a fucking pointless movie about serial killers
LAKEVIEW TERRACE (Neil LaBute, 2008)
0 stars (No redeeming facet)
I'll defend LaBute, the writer, as an important moral dramatist but in the films he directs based on others' material he tends to embody many of the criticisms (misanthropy, misogyny, humorlessness) which are unfairly leveled against his masterpieces of stage (bash, the shape of things) and screen (IN THE COMPANY OF MEN, YOUR FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS).
There's a good film somewhere in the raw material of LAKEVIEW TERRACE: a nightmarish satire about class, generational, racial, and neighborly conflict. That film, though, lurks beneath what exists: a tedious drama about a young couple who move in next door to an unreflective asshole. As the asshole, Samuel L. Jackson suggests he's lost or given up the qualities of charm and humility that make his performance the only worthy element of PULP FICTION.
WATCHMEN (Zack Snyder, 2009)
* (Has redeeming facet)
Adapting Watchmen was likely a fool's errand for anyone (Though I wouldn't mind seeing what Wong Kar-Wai or Joe Dante would do with it.) so it should stand as something of a credit to the modestly talented Zack Snyder that he succeeds through the end of the credit sequence. Unfortunately, at that point 150 minutes of ponderous faithfulness to the parts of the book which were not excised remain.
The most successful sequence in the body of the film, largely taken from the book's fourth chapter, "Watchmaker," demonstrates, in sharp counter-point to the film's action sequences which, cumulatively and individually, fail to produce any plot momentum, that it is the characters' contemplative moments and the meta-narrative story-telling rather than the central plot involving masked avengers that propels the book and creates its lasting impact*. Stripped of the meta-narratives, the adaptation leaves only the thin line onto which Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons hung the interesting bits.
*Personally preferring crime to fantasy, I rate From Hell higher but Watchmen was the first comic book to unlock the possibilities of the form for me.
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