Nov. 22nd, 2012

innocent_man: (bishop)
Fallen is a supernatural horror/thriller movie starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, and Embeth Davidtz. It's easily one of my favorite movies, in part because it shows that you can do a demon movie without getting...I dunno. Overly religious, or too geeky.

We open with a man in the woods, flailing around for keys, and then apparently dying. A voiceover informs us that he's going to tell us about the time he almost died. And then we back up a ways...

So Detective John Hobbs (Washington) is a cop who's responsible for the capture of serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas). But on the eve of his execution, Reese, unrepentant and unafraid, shakes Hobbs hand...and then apparently leaves his body upon death, enters the body of a guard, and flips into other bodies by touch. He immediately sets about fucking with Hobbs, who investigates weird killings. Meanwhile, he follows up on clues that "Reese" left him, and that leads him to another cop, who died 30 years ago after stopping a killer similar to Reese. That cop's daughter, Greta (Davidtz), is reluctant to help Hobbs, but seems to know more than she should.

Long and short: It's a demon called Azazel, and it moves by touch to whoever it wants (but for whatever reason, it can't enter Hobbs by touch). It jumps into his co-workers (including a younger James Gandolfini), his nephew, and makes him kill an innocent man. It leaves him messages written on bodies, and frames him to the point that his boss (Sutherland) and partner (Goodman) aren't sure what's really happening. And then Hobbs figures a way to kill it - the demon is vulnerable without a body, and if he can trap it in a dying body, miles from nowhere...

All through the movie there are voiceovers in Hobbs' voice that tell us about the struggle between them, but the end of the movie sees Hobbs, now possessed by Azazel, flailing around in the snow...well, shit.

The writing in Fallen is really tight and clever. The story is seamless, and everyone's performance is nicely understated. Washington, in particular, manages to convey the role of a good, moral man in the midst of a downfall that he doesn't deserve and can do nothing to prevent, trying to control himself and just succeeding. His reaction upon his brother's (Gabriel Casseus, in another amazing performance) death is one of the most moving things I've seen from Washington.

Anyway, among its many merits, Fallen is an exercise for GMs in how to make it look like you meant this all along, which I've used to great effect in my games. If you haven't seen it, I apologize for the spoilers, but really, watch it.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Fantasia 2000
innocent_man: (mouseketeer)
Fantasia 2000 is, of course, a sequel of sorts to the 1942 Disney classic "concert movie" Fantasia. Like its predecessor, it's a series of classical music pieces set to animated shorts, and it includes "Pomp and Circumstance", "Rhapsody in Blue", "Pines of Rome", "Firebird Suite", Beethoven's fifth symphony, Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2, "Carnival of the Animals," and a repeat of the original's "Sorcerer's Apprentice."

It's very pretty, and having celebrities introduce the various pieces was a nice touch. The Firebird Suite, in which the forest is ravaged by an erupting volcano taking the shape of the fearsome firebird, is beautifully animated, and the Carnival of the Animals, where we have a flamingo who just wants to yo-yo, is fun. Pomp and Circumstance set to the myth of Noah's Ark was a nice touch, though it's such a somber piece that having Donald Duck in the background being wacky felt out of place at times.

The Rhapsody in Blue segment, animated in the style of Al Hirschfeld, is the best one, in my opinion. It's not as complex art-wise as some of the others, but it's the most playful and the most fun. My kids liked the movie as a whole a lot more than I thought they would, but that, I think, was their favorite (maybe the flamingos, too).

On the whole, though, I don't think it approaches the heart and innovation of the original. I think part of that is that in 1942, it was hugely original, and my father was there in Philly when it first opened, 10 years old, and said that "Night on Bald Mountain" scared the hell out of him. There's nothing so scary as the demon Czernobog in Fantasia 2000, and the movie kind of reads like chasing the high of the first one. Worth watching, though.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Ferris Beuller's Day Off


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