LYT's Film Pick of the Weekend 7-13-07

You probably thought I was going to say Harry Potter, and I thought so too, until about 2 a.m. last night.

The new Harry Potter's fine -- better than fine, if you catch it in IMAX and see the 20 climactic minutes in 3-D. But it's also wildly inconsistent, with some scenes being really nicely directed, while others are slapdash, and one of the worst scene transitions I've ever seen happens about midway through. It's the first in the series not to be scripted by Steve Kloves, and thus it's probably no coincidence that it's the one which feels most like a Cliffs Notes. New writer Michael Goldenberg previously did a handsome adaptation of Peter Pan, but here it's like he wrote a full-on adaptation of everything in the book and then just cut huge chunks out without smoothing over the gaps.

Also, Voldemort -- are we really supposed to find Ralph Fiennes' nasal whine frightening? Because I certainly don't.

I don't mean to be overly negative on the thing -- as I said, it's fun, and I enjoyed the fact that there's actually a real villain throughout, in the form of Imelda Staunton's Ms. Umbridge. J.K. Rowling's usual M.O. is to give us an antagonist who's a total red herring, but Umbridge is nothing more than a total bee-otch, and wonderfully so.

Yates is returning to direct movie 6 -- I hope he considers re-hiring Kloves.

No, the movie I'm recommending, believe it or not, is CAPTIVITY. I didn't expect it to be meritorious in the least, as all advance word of mouth was bad, and executive producer Courtney Solomon (director of Dungeons & Dragons and An American Haunting, which show how much he knows about film-making) seemed determined to use trumped-up controversy to sell the thing, all the while hiding it from critics and fans.

Due to the lack of press screenings, we weren't able to get a review into the paper this week. But click on the "More" link below for my timely quick take...

Captivity’s credits bill it as “a Russian-American coproduction,” and it damn near warms the cockles of one’s heart to see that the two countries that nearly brought us nuclear war can come together to make a movie about torturing a supermodel (Elisha Cuthbert). Ah, capitalism. Surprising it took Lionsgate this long to do a decent rip-off of their Saw cash cow, but at least they took the time to do it right. Grungy warehouse rigged with ridiculously elaborate electronics, cameras, and traps? Check. Grotesque torture devices and “challenges” right out of a special snuff edition of Fear Factor? Definitely. Talented character actor (Pruitt Taylor Vince, in this case) cloaked in a black robe and a hidden agenda? You know it. Sure, there’s no character development to speak of, and one or two plot points make no sense at all, but director Roland Joffe makes things visually interesting and aurally unsettling, and the story from B-movie maestro Larry Cohen keeps it simple: Girl needs to escape, but bad shit keeps happening. Screw the culture cops who freaked out over Captivity’s graphic poster and always cry “torture porn”—this is a gleefully nasty piece of red meat for horror hounds that delivers as promised.


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