Formerly "A Movie A Day" :/

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beginners - 2010 - Dir. Mills

I swear I've seen Mills' previous film Thumbsucker, wrote it off as being like every other indie film at the time and moved on. I can't remember anything about it. It left absolutely no impression on me whatsoever, to the degree that I am no longer even sure that I've seen it. So I was skeptical about Beginners. The trailer hinting at more of the same, but Plummer seemed charming and I wanted some light fare. BACKSTORY COMPLETE. Christopher Plummer is so fucking charming. In fact, the cast all around is great. I rarely have anything bad to say about Ewan and my admiration for Laurent's performance grows as I think about it. The film so dangerously dances near the edge of forgettable indie-quirky romcom tripe that I WAS ON THE EDGE OF MY SEAT (okay, not really). But between a subtitled dog and the playful editing, there's a lot to be suspicious about. What saves the film is that despite the goofy storytelling, it seems to come from an honest and genuine place. And the cast knew this and keeps an honest face throughout. It actually makes the playful/quirky aspects of it more welcome as the film progresses. What could have destroyed it, actually succeeds and keeps it playful. What emerges is a emotional comedy, that has enough depth that I was still chewing it over after leaving the theater. LOOKING SO COOL, PLUMMER! >:|

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bridesmaids - 2011 - Dir. Feig

Bridesmaids made a big splash because of the amount of ladies in it, being hailed as a kind of rising of female R-rated comedies. To some degree, I'm pretty shocked that it got that level of praise. I think perhaps what initially bothered me about Bridesmaids is that it seems mildly condescending that the new female comedy hit is about Weddings. It is smarter than it might appear, emotionally more mature, although I'm divided as to whether this is because that was the goal or if they were being somewhat restrained from letting women look too goofy (ugly/stupid) in the film. I suppose it's an accomplishment that they were able to look as silly as they do. The film is cast really well. Wiig, who I'm not generally a huge fan of, is AWESOME. The movie ends up being more about Wiig's relationship with Rudolph and her new friend Byrne. Leaving Kemper and McLendon-Covey SUPER underused and McCarthy is thrown in anytime a raunchy joke needs to be made. So to some degree, I like to think that Bridesmaids is a somewhat misleading title. BUT I DIGRESS. Wiig plays the mid-thirties loser (read: Liz Lemon) with skill and with more earnestness than we may be used to seeing. Her relationship with the doofy policeman is perhaps the high point of the film. They're scenes are light, charming and they play off of each other really nicely. The film deserves the praise for being a good female driven comedy, but apart from that, it's a pretty basic comedy. Female roles plugged into a somewhat cookie cutter script. It's done well and perhaps the casting gives it a bit a fresh air, but not exactly as groundbreaking as we may lead to believe.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tree of Life - 2011 - Dir. Malick

Not my favorite Malick, but perhaps the one that most gets me excited about him. Partially because what he fails to do and partially what he does with flying colors. Firstly, it's undeniably beautiful. To the degree where you don't even mind that it is achingly slow. Small moments of a childhood in the 1950's have never been so gripping. The film's scope is practically boundless, with a chunk of it following the creation of the universe/world. To have that in contrast with the smaller (perhaps SMALLEST story) layers the film beautifully and gives me more than plenty to chew on. However, it should not be a surprise that the film at times dips into pretensions, the existential pleadings heard in the voice over are perhaps too on-the-nose. Often times removing me from the film. It's perhaps the first time where Malick didn't completely blow me out of the water with his voice over. Often times, I felt handed several pieces of a puzzle with no real idea of how to put them together. Or what I was expected to do with them. The film may be beautiful, but I can't say I'm driven to rewatch it in an attempt to put it all together. In some sense, just having them was enough. Rather, it leads to me want to watch something else of his. Still, there is something exciting about the scope of the film, that it has been tackled by a filmmaker during a summer of what seems to be pretty ordinary fare.
Stop playin' with all them Baby Feet, Brad!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Battle of Algiers - 1966 - Dir. Pontecorvo

I actually thought this movie was a documentary before I saw it. It was just so highly lauded as a political film that it never occurred to me that it was a dramatization praised for even handedness. And when you get right down to it, it certainly seems to make both sides out into violent brutes. There's no justification or silver lining to any of the violence in the film. These elements make it stand out in many ways, but at the same time, I'm not sure it really leaps out why this film is so well respected. It's kind of a cold re-telling and to some degree, maybe the film can be a little slow. Being critical for criticism's sake. We have no one who we really like and the film feels like a watching a series of terrorist incidents followed by the Occupation's reaction. The film still reflects our current political situations to a pretty surprising and horrifying degree. The story is told in a gritty black and white which feels absolutely perfect for the film. And as usual, Ennio Morricone still makes the hell out of those musical notes. When the Army is flooding the streets to the main theme, it sticks with you. It's a fine film, perhaps not as apparent off the bat why it is so highly lauded, but certainly deserves it's place in Cinema History and perhaps it is an important film to watch based on our own foreign policy.
That guy back there just LOVES checkpoint duty.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Fair Lady - 1964 - Dir. Cukor

I'm not a big musical guy, which is something I say before I ever give my opinion about musicals. But I like My Fair Lady. It's silly, got a bit of sass in it, and it's charming . BUT WHO WOULDN'T BE CHARMED BY HEPBURN AND HARRISON!! I mean, both of them are a ton of fun to watch, and I do enjoy a musical based around the way people speak. Harrison plays a uppity dick ever so well but never so well that I want to smack him in the mouth. Hepburn plays a big-mouthed upstart but again, never so well that I want to smack HER in the mouth either. I guess, when you have a musical where the two main characters are jerks, I'm more likely to be a fan. But I suppose what works is that the tone is never really all that cynical. It's silly. Fun, in the spirit of a light-hearted bet. The emotion that gets injected into it is subtle. When everyone congratulated Harrison on a job well done, Hepburn's face is all you need to see. And the movie knows well enough to give us only that. It's can wander around sometimes. The scenes with the father are nice tough if a little tangent-y. It's one of those movies that kind of runs on charm rather than tight or compelling story-telling. It's not a bad story, but perhaps it's strongest trait is that it takes a backseat to the characters and music.
Audrey Hepburn, Filthy As Usual

Les Diaboliques - 1955 - Dir. Clouzot

I can say I easily enjoyed this more than Wages of Fear, which Clouzot made directly before this. The films are two completely different beasts of course. A classic thriller regularly compared to Hitchcock, Les Diaboliques follows the story of a woman and her husband's mistress plotting to murder the abusive husband/lover. Even if it wasn't for the famous twist, the movie is still very strong. Paced well. Keeps us wondering what could be going on. When our two main protagonists become overwhelmed with the situation, we could shift focus too the more light-hearted teachers and students of the boarding school they work at. Through them, a simmering tone is maintained without becoming two heavy. We try to continue to piece together what clues we can find. The problems that arise are both baffling and ordinary and our imaginations can go in any direction. We are given just enough information to keep us hooked and not frustrated but never so much that it has become obvious. OR I'm just an idiot that didn't see the ending coming miles away. Sure, it's not friggin' M. Night Shyamalan or what have you. But it's a nice classic thriller! So get off my back! It's a nice movie! For nice people!
Ted Raimi or Moe Howard?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Parallax View - 1974 - Dir. Pakula

Certainly no All the President's Men, Pakula's middle entry of his paranoia trilogy is a straight-forward thriller. It seems to struggle to get started and then when it does so fails to really pick up much steam. It just feels uneven as hell and Beatty plays the unorthodox reporter on a big scoop about as well as anyone else might. Although, it bothered me as hell with how capable he was at basically everything. The man could even throw a punch! It was one of those characters whose flaw is that he loves the Truth TOO MUCH. Perhaps it is a little impressive in that it is about as entertaining as a generic paranoid thriller made these days (Compliment?). Except you get to look at Warren Beatty's ridiculous hair (Compliment!). I was caught off guard (shocked even) with how badly executed the Dam sequence is. That being said, the final assassination sequence is top notch! It is strange to think that it is the same movie. I don't suppose the ending will really catch anyone by surprise, but I'm not going to hold it against them. The third act is probably the strongest portion where Beatty struggles to tip the odds in his favor. So, a pretty ordinary paranoid thriller from the 70's. I imagine it's on a shelf a bit higher than it's peers at the time but that is something I should look into. OH! The opening sequence is pretty sweet too.
Wilson from Home Improvement is starting shit!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams - 2010 - Dir. Herzog

God bless, Werner Herzog. That's all I have to say. The man knows how to get me going. I have to say, that this wasn't exactly my favorite of his films. The subject matter itself didn't strike me as exciting or as interesting as say The Antarctic or a Man who lives with Grizzlies. Herzog manages to sell the material though. His passion pushes us through it, excites us. Or at least, it excites me! But if anything, there's something very impressive (and telling) in what he managed to assemble considering the limitations put upon him. He had limiting shooting time and limited crew, so a little has to go a long way. He finds a story and thoughts worth pondering in the smallest details of the paintings, in the curves of the walls. Herzog wants us to inspect every minute detail of the painting. 3D only aids his case. It doesn't take over the film by any means. The opening credits are pretty stunning, though, and perhaps the most showy of the 3D. The film is still filled with expected Herzogian rants and tangents. Playful handling of his subjects. He made no qualms about exposing the epilogue with the radioactive albino alligators. Clearly, doing so amused him. Which is what works in this film and in most other Herzog films: he follows the trail he wants, and if we're willing to go along, we'll probably enjoy ourselves.
Which one is the bigger nutcase? You'll be surprised.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Machinist - 2004 - Dir. Anderson

It's funny to have watched this and Shutter Island so close together because each film plays with our protagonist's sanity as the film goes on. My problem with The Machinist is that I feel like we come to the conclusion that our protagonist is nuts long before the film is willing to admit such a thing. I never bought that Reznik was the victim of a conspiracy. He's a nobody, who is obviously unhinged. So the film becomes more about how much damage is this guy going to do, how much has already been done, and how crazy is he going to get? The problem with this is that Trevor spends most of the movie alone. So the movie is watching Christian Bale lose his mind. Bale is a fine actor. He can be pretty muted/distant/cold at times, and this is not an exception. Sometimes it works, but it also makes it a little hard to feel for him. The strongest aspect of the film are the repeating motifs, sequences, images. In fact, they work REALLY well. When everything comes together, it's pretty satisfying. It does have an ending that redeems all the BS you go through from the start and the movie is good with Red Herrings, perhaps because our attention is drawn in several directions at once. And I just wanna throw it out there, John Sharian is awful! So, an engaging enough distraction with some storytelling issues, but satisfying nonetheless.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dreamcatcher - 2004 - Dir. Kasdan

Doesn't Kasdan make real movies? I mean... that's a thing, right? Well, I guess everyone is allowed to fuck around in the snow with a bunch of other dudes. This movie is harmless. Completely empty entertainment. Probably too empty? Yeah. It gives in to certain level of goofiness that just betrays the movie. From the get-go, we're asked to believe in an extraordinary level of fantasy. Hurled from mind-reading to a goofy, sudden suicide. The movie just doesn't take a breather, barreling forward, adding more and more details, more and more ideas. It's like four different movies. If anything, it's impressive that it manages to somewhat explain it all, but the bar is so low that really, any explanation would do. It's kind of sad considering the level of talent involved in the picture. There isn't one person in the movie that I don't enjoy watching... and I don't enjoy watching any of them. AND WHY THE FUCK DOES THE ALIEN HAVE A BRITISH ACCENT!? The movie is full of fine ideas, fine characters, a fine premise. You have a monster that bursts out of asses and the good sense to call it a Shit Weasel (that's just good horse sense [probably also my favorite portion]). It just had to PICK one and stick with it. God knows, the movie is too long as is. It's sort of a good illustration of Stephen King at his worst. You've got packs of childhood friends being brought together to fight a vast evil but then man just goes and doesn't know when to call it quits and then all of a sudden you've got a thousand page book with a villain with giant white eyebrows shooting at an alien dying of leukemia from a helicopter. Evil clown, I can handle. Freeman's eyebrows, NO SIR.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Shutter Island - 2010 - Dir. Scorsese

Shutter Island is everyone doing what they do best. No one does a bad job in this movie. No one does a great job, either. This is just movie being the most moviest that it could possibly be. If I were to criticize anything, it's that Leonardo DiCaprio looks like a nutcase from Shot 1. We know the dish we're being served when we see that sickly looking motherfucker, we're going to spend the rest of the movie challenging his sanity. And you know... we do, but I think that's that major difference between this and The Machinist is that Scorsese never gives too much away. As crazy as DiCaprio is (We know he's a little deranged... a little obsessed. But HOW MUCH?), Scorsese doesn't let us write off the idea that this is all just a conspiracy taking advantage of a man under duress. And Scorsese can sell us that, I certainly bought it. And even though, the ending doesn't exactly come as a surprise, Scorsese makes it HURT. So yeah, it's well-crafted. Nothing really stands out EXCEPT: Ted Levine. WHO IS AWESOME. Like, his scene... man... I get so excited about that scene. It's just a perfect illustration of Ted Levine's ability to be a restrained nutcase. His character is almost completely useless (almost) in the movie, but man am I ever glad that he gets that one scene. Perhaps the movie runs a little long, as I think about it. But hey, I love a nice old fashioned nut house and I'll wander around it with everyone else as much as the next guy.
Oh no! I'm having a traumatic time with deceased wife... again...