Monday, March 13, 2006

Moviewatch: "The Notorious Bettie Page" and "Slither"

"The Notorious Bettie Page"
Director: Mary Harron
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 49
In a Nutshell: Plays like a generic HBO biopic, which is kinda is. No idea why there's going to be any attempt to forge a theatrical release for this one one, frankly. Gretchen Mol is surprisingly good as the pinup queen. There's an exuberance to her performance that's both sexy and refreshing. Mol, who had always come across as a generic blonde cutie, is liberated by a black wig. She's constrained, however, by the structure of Harron and Guinevere Turner's script, which is just a string of events that are meant to somehow convince us that Page's transition from near-valedictorian to nudie model to religious zealot is entirely organic. The film has an interesting visual style, going between black-and-white, newsreel exteriors and a neat technicolor effect for Bettie's scenes in Florida. It'll look great on the cinematographer's reel, but it's a bit distracting here. Ultimately, I kept waiting to feel anything for any of the characters for a single second. Nothing.


Director: James Gunn
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 52
In a Nutshell: "Slither" skips nimbly along from one different movie to the next with such speed that many viewers will be so distracted by the homages that they'll ignore how hollow and pointless the whole thing is. "Slither" just aims to be a jokey horror patchwork and I guess that'll make some people happy as the movie zips from "Evil Dead" to Cronenberg to "The Thing" to "Tremors" to "Dawn of the Dead" and to dozens of cheaper more exploitative movies along the way. An alien attacks earth in the form of a seed pod that leads to a monster that leads to killer slugs that lead to zombies. Whee! As the aliens munch flesh, the actors munch scenery. Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry are having particular fun. Nate Fillion plays the hero role with such perfect deadpan that I wish he'd actually had a defined character rather than just being "sarcastic cop guy." The effects are pretty gross and decent, I guess. My problem is that if I want to watch a darkly comic version of "Shivers" or "Rabid," I'll watch the Cronenberg films, which were already smart satires to begin with.

Check on March 31 for my full "Slither" review and on April 14 (?) for my "Bettie Page" write-up.

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