Formerly "A Movie A Day" :/

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Culpepper Cattle Co. - 1972 - Dir. Richards

A 1970's western that seemed to stay under the RADAR and that fact never seemed to have changed. It's got an awesome cast of barely recognizable character actors. Geoffrey Lewis is probably the most well known name. YOU KNOW!? GEOFFREY LEWIS? And he is just fucking awesome in it. But there was a lot of "OH THAT GUY!"'s for me after viewing the movie. I was also pleased to find out Luke Askew who played one of my favorite characters plays the excellently nutty Hollis Greene in Big Love. So... I got a kick out of that at least. It's a simple story, naive boy runs off on a Rough and Tough cattle drive. It only gets rougher and tougher when the Boss hires some wacko outlaws to fill the ranks. I love a movie where a chunk of the time is spent watching "straight" people dealing with violent eccentrics. Especially when you've got such a sweet cast of weirdos. It's also an early Jerry Bruckheimer production which is interesting to watch in that context. It's the Blockbuster machine cutting his teeth, with a Jerry Goldsmith score to boot! Our Naive Cowhand through-line plays out well enough, not too sappy, not too cynical. It could have felt tired and overused but it actually makes for a pretty satisfying viewing experience. The only thorn in my side is a very strangely edited exchange with the Young Guy's Mother. Something wacky must have gone on there. A fun western, it's a shame it's not as well known!
Not a lot of screen captures but: Sweet Poster.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Princess Mononoke - 1997 - Dir. Miyazaki

It'd been a while since I saw this last. It was the first of a new wave of Miyazaki to flood our shores, purchased by Miramax and getting all Billy Bob Thorton-ed up. I was surprised by how mature the movie can be at times. In fact, it's depiction of the pull and pull of mankind between nature is particularly done well, lacking any definitive victor, it leaves us to see that this is an ongoing process. It doesn't exactly feel emotionally uplifting when you want the antagonist to be punished, but I suppose that's where the maturity comes in. We can always beat up the bad guys. The "bad guys" aren't even that. There are clear evil acts but rarely are there outright evil characters (although Jigo is a real prick). Often times, Nature acts just as badly Man. But none of them act as badly as the American dub cast (A HA!). Especially Billy Bob Thornton. Probably, I would say that Billy Crudup and Minnie Driver are the bright spots which is thankful due to the size of their roles but despite the "star-studdedness" of the main cast it sounds mostly like a lot of phoning it in. I especially struggle with Anderson and the Wolf although I can't tell if it's her acting or just her voice clashing with the strange movements of wolf's mouth. But whenever she spoke I was immediately distracted. It's a modern classic of anime, with strong storytelling, and even paced well considering its length. It's accessible enough for anyone who isn't well versed in anime and can still please the well-initiated. And what anime would be complete without a giant blob creature?! NONE.
Ordinary life in Muromachi Japan

Monday, January 17, 2011

Outland - 1981 - Dir. Hyams

Touted as a fine SPACE WESTERN, I was inevitably drawn to this even if it didn't have Connery in it. It's like the guy just couldn't stop making goofy sci-fi movies in the late 70's and 80's! Although that's not fair to Outland. It's not nearly as goofy as it's ilk. I feel like I have to attribute this to it's subdued goals. It's a kind of adapted High Noon and it never loses that focus. Connery standing up to a supremely douchey Peter Boyle. STICKIN' IT TO THE MAN! Perhaps the weakest part is the end, where the build up feels somewhat anti-climactic. It's the most significant point where the limits of special effects at the time really dampen the impact. But Clarke Peters shows up and he's really awesome. Also Hatchet Harry from lock stock who apparently was never not a creepy fuck, even when you throw him in space. I did notice that the movie seems to not exactly utilize or set up characters all that well. There's the Connery v. Boyle business going on but that's more of a Connery v. The System type deal. There's not really a lot of personal relationships going on so Connery's feeling of betrayal when no one gets his back (an important part of High Noon) isn't really there as strongly. The closest we get is him and the Doctor but that feels a little forced... not awful by any means... but kind of obligatory. I have to say I really got behind the sets. It goes to show that you don't have to go crazy to be convincing. The chases through the main sleeping quarters is easily my favorite part and the most memorable. Well, perhaps the most memorable are the amount of puffy hats in the movie. MAN! Apparently you can't run a mining operation on Io without puffy hats.
Sean Connery with his Shotgun of the FUTUUUURRREEE!!!!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Syriana - 2005 - Dir. Gaghan

I had seen this movie in theaters and left feeling confused and... well basically just confused. It's pretty difficult to keep up with. As it ended for me this time around, I felt somewhat less confused. By that I mean I understood basically what had gone down for the past two hours and seven minutes. The movie is just a bitch to keep up with. It's easier to make sense of in reflection than while watching it. The script doesn't give out too many hand outs to keep the audience in the loop. I've read that it may be intentionally confusing, so we match the main characters feelings as they are embroiled in conspiracy. Some might call Pretentious which I suppose is reasonable. I don't have an issue with it though, it's a complex situation and probably shouldn't be dumbed down (although I'm sure it has been regardless). If that's the case, the movie does pull it off well. We are confused but by the end, there is a still a sense of having seen a Blockbuster thriller. I'm not sure it's exactly a standout film, it's certainly well crafted, and the acting is strong all around (GEORGE CLOONEY IN A BEARD!). I suppose it would really hit the spot if you are in the mood for a dense geopolitical type thriller with mostly talking and then some THRILLS where you may or may not understand what the fuck the deal is.
Clooney senses danger nearby...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Superfly - 1972 - Dir. Parks Jr.

I suppose the only reason this movie is still in the cultural memory is because of Curtis Mayfield's awesome soundtrack. And it is an awesome soundtrack. Superfly didn't deserve to have such sweet tunes. That's not to say it's a bad movie. As far as exploitation movies go, it's probably above par. Or maybe just par. It is certainly capably made, doesn't plod along endlessly like a myriad of other low budget 70's flicks, characters behave in a reasonable manner in the world, and a story gets told. So yeah, my bar is pretty low for these kinds of movies. It's kind of a fun movie in the sense that it's ineffective in several ways. First of all, we're supposed to be impressed with the wealth of Youngblood Priest. In fact, I've heard critics of the film say it glorifies drug dealing... but Priest seems to live in my Aunt's house. And he looks like... well, he looks silly as hell. Moreso that most other blaxploitation characters. The acting is closer to over dramatic rather than the usual mumbling, stilted stuff we see so the movie is often just fun to watch. The movie is actually a really good starter Blaxploitation, I suppose. It carries the pros and cons of the genre but is easier to watch than many others and you get the Mayfield bonus.
Look out! It's Ron: The FLYEST DEALER IN NYC!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Across the Universe - 2007 - Dir. Taymor

I really liked Taymor's Titus back when it was released. So I think I approached thinking that I would at least get some crazy memorable visuals out of Across the Universe. Failing that, at least I could enjoy some Beatles songs. And there are certainly a whole lot of Beatles songs. I was thrown by how this movie is assembled, it's basically the 60's paced at a breakneck speed with clips or entire Beatles songs sprinkled throughout (LIKE A MUSICAL! GASP!). I really was thrown by how quickly we move through this though. We're left to just fill in the gaps with 60's stereotypes. And I don't think the film really makes an attempt to dissuade that feeling either. The film feels distinctly hollow. The ending brushes aside any problems that rise throughout the film with "All You Need is Love" which feels super cheap for a movie to pull. "Oh I have a morphine addiction but it's cool, I have Love." I suppose the music and visuals was to be the Heart of the film though. Although, I have to say apart from a handful of sequences, I wasn't exactly blown away with the "music videos." They grab the attention but I rarely felt like I was seeing something I hadn't seen before. In general that's what the movie is. It's watchable, It's like Cotton Candy the movie. If you're in the mood for cotton candy, it's great. PERFECT even. And I would recommend it in that situation. But if you're looking for a meal of any kind, look elsewhere.
Tsh... British Guys on a chilly beach.

Friday - 1995 - Dir. Gray

You know, I liked this movie way more than I thought I would. It's pretty amusing... also somewhat unassuming which I feel is what helped it. As unassuming as a man having rough poops can be. The tone walks a really fine line between Cartoonish and Natural pretty well. A bit like how Ice Cube is Tucker's straight man. The more excited Tucker gets the blander Cube becomes. It is a necessary bland though. Although, I'm not sure it was the character as much as Ice Cube's acting ability. He seems somewhat uncomfortable in front of the camera, sometimes, usually when he had to be casual. But to be completely honest, I was even pretty involved with his character by the end, which for me is rare. I just wanted Ice Cube to kick some ass like his Daddy taught him too. So he must have been doing something right/not doing that much damage. I also thought the Mother was especially good and somewhat underused. Tucker is amusing enough. He's not as bombastic as his later roles, but you know... he still does plenty of yammering. Bernie Mac pops up for an amusing scene, too. And Michael Clarke Duncan is in two shots! It's an amusing movie, I suppose better than the movies that followed it would have you believe.
Chris Tucker just saw himself in Fifth Element.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Black Swan - 2010 - Dir. Aronofsky

For some reason, I kind of soured on Aronofsky. I was crazy about him in high school. Shaking his camera all about with the loud music and whatnot in Requiem for a Dream. I don't think I really gathered how silly he could be at times... or perhaps he became silly to me. All the shouting and yelling. The Fountain didn't help his case much either. So I suppose I went into Black Swan with a bit of skepticism. I have to say, I left feeling pretty jazzed about the movie. It jerks you around in a really satisfying way. Portman pulls off a layered and exhausting looking performance. The characters apart from her are really broad strokes and easily made silly, but they work in his frenzied world. And we move so quickly through it that we don't really have time to think too much. Aronofsky moves into almost a horror space for a portion of the movie, which works really well, and I felt a nice catharsis when he lets off the steam by the end. I can't say I was too emotionally involved in the plot and I think maybe that's why I might consider this one of my more favorite of his films. To me it felt like a pondering of narcissism and perfection and art and all that crud, rather than watching people detonate which Requiem was for me. I didn't feel bogged down as much at the end. Or maybe I've just grown into a cold bastard. After all, we still do get enough of Natalie Portman detonating to satisfy that urge too. GOOD FLICK.

True Grit - 2010 - Dir. Coens

I was pretty doubtful of this movie after I saw the trailer. I had the sneaking suspicion that the Coen's weren't going to radically part with the original. Which, you know, it's a classic and all... I'm not the biggest fan but I don't really begrudge it much. I feel similarly about this remake. If anything, I can easily say I like the remake more. I dug the performances way more and there's a much stronger streak of humor. It's not exactly Coen Bros humor but they are certainly present in the film. It's a bit like they decided to make a straight genre movie. And they did it with as little irony as possible. They certainly do a good job, but the movie's strongest point has got to be it's cast. Everyone is great! I can think only positive things of each performance. Brolin's whiny murderer is especially memorable for me. And Bridges' accent/mumble in the film is awesome. The Coens' are basically the best WORD MAGICIANS I know. The additions from the original (perhaps from the book) are also strong... perhaps some of the strongest scenes in the film (my particular favorite is the hanged man and the bear sequence). The film mostly looked terrific. I felt a little bugged by the end, I felt similarly about the original which the Coens do stray from a little but it does nothing to improve my opinion. It feels particularly anti-climactic and they stretch it out even longer than before. A fun movie, certainly worth seeing, but not without some bothersome details.
Why is this the only picture of this god damn movie!?

Ivan's Childhood - 1962 - Dir. Tarkovsky

I got a hell of a kick out of this movie! I had gotten it on Netflix back in August and I just never watched it, knowing that even though I really liked his other movies they can be a little long and rough to watch, pacing wise. I regret putting it off for so long! The film feels especially fast-paced and breezes right by, it's intensely It's more straight-forward story-wise following the story about a young Russian boy who seeks vengence against the Nazis during WWII for killing his parents. I suppose it's natural to be a little suspicious of a movie that rests heavily on the shoulders of a child actor but Burlyayev who plays Ivan, does just fantastically. The movie looks and moves beautifully. Even though the story is straightforward enough, it's filled with Tarkovsky's visual touches. It even seems like he moves the camera WAAAAAY more than he does later on. In fact, at the very beginning it almost feels Raimi-esqe in its movement... it does feel weird to compare Tarkovsky to Raimi. He eventually settles down a bit more as we shake off the Dreaminess of the opening minutes. OH MAN! And there are so many great shots of trees. I feel like this is a really good intro to Tarkovsky, it moves faster and is less intellectual than Solaris or Stalker but has that Tarkovsky aroma. :p
The lush Russian landscape.