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Sunday, October 9, 2005

Into the Blue (**)


Into the Blue is the Aquaman movie that will never be made. The season-long running gag in Entourage involves James Cameron directing Adrian Grenier as Aquaman, but if there’s one thing Into the Blue made clear, it’s that Paul Walker is the best man for the role. Not only does the blonde-haired, blue eyed, and chiseled Walker look the part, he practically portrayed Aquaman; he could hold his breath underwater practically indefinitely and found himself fighting drug dealers and salvage pirates 60 feet below sea level. Walker even had finny friends; the sharks in the movie don’t attack Paul Walker, but they will attack Walker’s enemies when he needs them to. Jessica Alba also makes a much better Aquagirl than Mandy Moore would. Director John Stockwell has made two of the better pop movies in the last five years dealing with young female characters, crazy/beautiful and Blue Crush, the latter being a well-crafted and underrated pop movie about female surfers. Into the Blue is comparatively a disappointment, with a bad script that dived headlong into the waters of absurdity without an oxygen tank. Acting-wise, Scott Caan and Ashley Scott were smarmy and terrible, mostly terrible. Walker was exactly what he always is. The best performance of the leads came from Jessica Alba, with a big assist coming from her bikinis. No, seriously, this is probably the smoothest and most balanced performance Alba has given in any of the movies she’s done to date. When the question of whether Jessica Alba can act is raised, I'll defend that I watched her grow into the role of Max Guevara and she did some layered and subtle work on her two seasons on Dark Angel. I'm not saying Alba turned into Meryl Streep by any means, but she was better here than she has been in her last few movies. Compared to her performances in Honey, Sin City, and Fantastic Four, Into the Blue is her cinematic coming out party.

MirrorMask (****)

 October 9, 2005
One of the best movies of the year. A lovingly-crafted, sumptuously-designed work of staggering imagination, centered around the tale of a 15 year old girl entering her own dream world, learning about the darkness within herself, and choosing which path her life will lead. MirrorMask is adapted by Neil Gaiman, writer, and Dave McKean, director and artist, from their graphic novel, which I haven’t read. I was rather surprised after I saw it and loved it that the reviews were more than a little unkind. My feeling on the matter is if you enjoyed Gaiman’s The Sandman, which McKean did all the covers for, then you have a leg up on everyone else for seeing MirrorMask for the joy that it is. MirrorMask shares much of The Sandman’s sensibilities when it comes to visuals and storytelling. Furthermore, when compared to similar movies involving all-CGI environments like Sin City and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, MirrorMask is superior. Sin City may be “cooler” with its gigantic cast and its hip director, but the main difference is I cared a hell of a lot more about MirrorMask’s main character Helena (Stephanie Leonidas in a dreamy performance) than I did about anyone in Sin City. MirrorMask is a touching and haunting jaunt into the magical dream world of a whip-smart, conflicted, but bright and charming girl. It reaffirms the importance of family, the thrill of imagination, and redemptive qualities of the goodness in a person’s heart. MirrorMask has its slow sections and its flaws, quirks, and eccentricities but it’s honest and true. A great dream movie.