Formerly "A Movie A Day" :/

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Kid Stays in the Picture - 2002 - Dir. Burstein

I didn't care for this documentary. To some degree, I felt like I was just listening to Robert Evans tell me about himself... something I'm sure he enjoys and has had a lot of practice doing. Considering the doc is based on his autobiography, and features his voice, I think it's safe to say we are very much on Robert Evan's turf in this movie. And I'm not sure I really enjoyed feeling that way. There's a kind of manufacturedness about the story to begin with. Like he so badly wants it to fit into the normal story-telling arc, a nobody to somebody story with him exploding and learning his lesson and then an eventual redemption. No matter how hard he tries though, he can't hide the obvious. His life is not a movie and he never is as sympathetic as much as he would like to be. For example, he talks about his true love: Ali McGraw and how he loses her to Steve McQueen. We're told this was important emotional event for him. The film neglects, however, his six other wives that came before and after. So it just feels like it is there because they needed to have a Girl in the story. Stir up some sympathy for the dope. He's also pictured as extremely passive. Like his discovery is indicative of the rest of his life, he just hangs out near famous people and great shit happens. I dunno, I feel like I could go on and nitpick how the thing continues to fail on several levels... but I think you get the point. It's just very cold and empty.
Robert Evans will make you pay.

Arsenic and Old Lace - 1944 - Dir. Capra

I think it makes sense that this is the first Capra movie I've seen. Probably in no way appropriate... OR I'm sure I could've found a MORE Capra-esqe movie. I ended up watching it basically due to an interest in a early american dark comedy. And you know, this fits the bill. I always think it's a little interesting to see Dark comedy from a different time. Just to see where the lines are drawn and what is done to make the Dark part of it palatable. In this case, we're given a mad-cap hectic theatrical vibe. Grant is makin' faces and noises, running all around like a Stooge- The ladies are overly innocent and silly. For perhaps the first chunk of the movie, I wasn't really engaged. The movie gets a little bit more interesting when we meet Jonathan and Dr. Einstein. I'm always a sucker for Peter Lorre and always enjoy his performances. But they are really the only thing that raises the stakes. Otherwise, it felt a little too silly... and we spend the majority of the time just watching Grant spaz out, which he is very good at. The real charmers are the old ladies though. Perhaps they make the movie. It's certainly the most memorable and unique aspects. It's a very adorable naivete that they carry around. So, I dunno, it's an all right movie. I can't say I got very much into it. There were a few satisfying laughs. I suppose I'm a little biased against that Wacky Theater Tone it had so much of. I suppose it is pretty impressive that Capra managed to carry that Tone out of the theater and into the film. You don't see it done that well very often. I still don't care for it though!
Such a dashing fellow...

Conan the Barbarian - 1982 - Dir. Milius

I watched the first fifteen minutes of this a while ago... and then I got bored as hell and turned it off. Second time around, I turned off around the same point. Even Mako's voice over couldn't keep me going! But eventually, I persevered. And yeah... It picks up. I'm not sure how much though. It's the kind of movie I felt I was trudging through. It's long. It takes its time to get going. The movie kind of insists that there is a lot of depth to this world which doesn't surprise me with Milius. I always get the impression that the guy takes masculinity very seriously. I dunno, I guess this was a treat or something for fantasy fans back in the day. That this in some way raised the bar. So maybe I'm from the spoiled Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings generation where fantasy didn't just have to be muscle-y guys with silly hats. We do get to see early Arnold and you can see why the man got more work. He looks the part but he's sympathetic enough looking too. He's a little silly naturally, unintentionally, but it makes his barbarian a little more likable. I dunno, I guess the movie never feels particularly fun but always feels too silly to take seriously. It's a long son of a bitch too. I mean, I like all the basic ideas on paper but the whole thing felt too vast and yet, not at all epic.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Silverado - 1985 - Dir. Kasdan

It's a Big Classic type Hollywood western with big ole actors and charm and shootouts. And I dunno... I felt EH about it. I haven't yet seen a Kasdan picture that really got me up and going but I'm not really sure that's something that's bound to happen. I mean, I'm not going to lie... it IS a charming movie. It's pretty referential to classic westerns without being indebted or winking at the audience. Maybe to some degree, it stands out perhaps most because of the cast. There's a lot of Big Faces showing up in the movie, and it's fun to see 'em. And they seem to have a good time. Brian Dennehy is an absolute delight to watch. I wouldn't say the performances are OUTSTANDING or anything. But you know, they're fun or you know... they're just good performances. Glover and Glenn probably are responsible for that department. The enjoyable performances help because Plot-wise, the movie doesn't exactly feel too assembled. There's a lot of story lines and I can't really say any of them are very interesting to follow or plotted out in a particularly enthralling way. They basically crash into one another as the movie goes on... and not in the satisfying way. I felt the movie could have profited from some trimming. It just feels like a long ass time. There are plenty of filler sequences considering the amount of directions the movie attempts to move in at once. It's got the nice feel of a classic western except with big shot 1980's actors.
Aaaahahahaha... AAAAHAHAHAHAHHA!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Shame - 2011 - Dir. McQueen

I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to get when going into Shame. And I was pleased that I got what I wanted. Just a mostly quiet, character driven piece. Not a lot of fire works. Not even a lot of out right conflict when you get right down to it. It ends up being quieter plot-wise than I even expected. There's no nasty reveals. There's suggestions that nasty reveals are to be had though. Even, to be honest, there's not a lot that's shocking about the film. We're just quietly sinking with our hero. The movie is absolutely beautiful. There are some just... incredible shots. But I suppose that's the thing with McQueen. It saves us from sneaking into melodrama at times (If I see one more movie in theaters with a man shedding a single tear, I will shed THREE tears). If I had to throw a weakness out there was the Dude Dialogue. It sounded... part insulting, part tongue-in-cheek, and then just part white noise. Like we were just supposed to ignore it, but... there's not A LOT of dialogue in the script. And I think a good chunk of it was supposed to be white noise. But some of it is done so well, like the flirtatious dialogue. His sister and his boss. Granted, I'm not someone who should judge what men like that sound like when they are together, but it rang false to my ears. All that bitchin' is for a pretty minor part of the story. We spend most of the time with Fassbender, alone. Which is awesome for a script about sex addiction. Also, lemme just say that as a man who no longer lives in the NYC area, this movie made me homesick. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT ME!? Oh wait... I thought Carey Mulligan was excellent in this. Fassbender was good. Hell, he's carrying the whole movie on his back. But I do feel like Mulligan had a trickier role in this and she just does a great job.
Shame: A Great time to Have in the Big Apple!

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Neighbor Totoro - 1988 - Dir. Miyazaki

I'm not gonna sit here and act like I don't think Totoro isn't charming as shit. I'm not going to do that to you people. I mean, seriously. We're talking Totoros. It's charm goes a long way because it has a pretty simple bare bones story. With almost no conflict whatsoever. I think it we were watching your usual children's fare... or really just a normal movie. You know, you would put up roadblocks for our characters. "Adults don't believe them" or "Some Lumber magnate is threatening the forest" you know, crap like that. But we're in exploratory mode with this movie. Just watching kids discover mystical creatures of the forest. Then a kid is lost for a short period of time, but it's certainly nothing we're hinging the movie on. It's merely the highest point. I suppose the closest thing to the conflict throughout is the sick mother... at least, it's the source of drama for the script and what eventually leads the little sister to get lost. But that is about the long and the short of it as far as drama is concerned. Miyazaki can get away with this of course because of the aforementioned charm and the damn visuals that we've all mostly familiar with. You know like a giant cat bus and whathaveyou. Just so we're clear: if you have a giant cat bus, your movie can be whatever it wants to be.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Constant Gardener - 2005 - Dir. Meirelles

I had always kept this film in mind. Knowing it made a big splash when it came out but I never really knew anything about it and never pursued viewing it in anyway. After seeing Tinker Tailor, I figured "Hell! Might as well see some other adaptations!" Obviously, they are pretty different. In fact, Constant Gardener is not your usual spy flick. It's a lot more of a... romance? Or Drama? Set in a world of espionage and Big Pharma with a Kenyan backdrop. The mystery and conflict arises more through the relationship between Fiennes and Weisz. Confusing? Well, it's got a few different faces. Thankfully, they are work together pretty well. In fact, pretty damn seamlessly now that I think about. You'd think it'd be wwwwaaaaayyyy more confusing and fractured than it is. Perhaps because Fiennes and Weisz provide such a sturdy emotional backbone for the film and the tone maintains itself throughout. Even as Fiennes is fleeing Raiders, we don't feel like we've suddenly been jerked into action movie territory. So yeah, it's an engaging enough and well made picture. It didn't exactly blow my socks off, but I got involved and liked it enough that I didn't feel cynical about the dream-y close-ups and occasional overly-ponderous moments.
Hey now, Pete! Button up!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Season of the Witch - 2011 - Dir. Sena

You know... I kinda wanted to like this movie. I mean, Cage and Perlman? In plague times!? And I think the premise of dudes transporting someone suspected of a witch has a bit of clout. At least, it gets my imagination going as to what could happen. But I suppose it should come as no surprise that this movie is horrible. It's awful. I stopped the movie twice, and I have no excuse for why I resumed watching. And you know it's a bad sign when you feel like if Topher Grace would have played the priest, it would really elevate the material. The movie tries too hard to be cheap and fun too early on and then tries to be too ponderous when it's too late. Nicholas Cage seems bored, probably because his character is a bore who goes nowhere and does nothing. Perlman just kind of hangs out. The movie doesn't make much of an attempt to maintain suspense or you know... keep us involved apart from asking us "What will the Witch do next?!" repeatedly. I wouldn't have minded a bit more of a period of time where we are actually wondering if she is ACTUALLY a witch. The movie is good enough to at least provide us with some terrible plague imagery. Christopher Lee probably is the high point of the film and gives the performance of his career by laying in bed wearing make-up. And lemme just throw this out here... SPOILER ALERT EVERYONE. WATCH OUT! I'm gonna spoil this movie. But she's not a witch... She's a demon! And the movie tries to act like this is a twist. Like it's pulled the carpet from underneath our feet. A shitty attempt to get us to give a fuck about what it's doing- WAIT? This movie is for teenage boys and not grown men? Oh... (awkwardly leaves). Oh man... the battle/drinking montage in the first ten minutes is so shitty... This movie is so bad...

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - 2011 - Dir. Alfredson

I didn't know much about the source material going into this one like how friggin expansive it supposedly is. Expansive enough to be a mini series, at least. The film certainly seems to try to cover as much material as possible too. You have to prepared to take in a lot of information and make a lot of inferences. Scenes are short, edited on top of each other, and often include cuts to small moments. It's storytelling at it's least verbal. Paradoxically, there's also a lot of talking, people speaking over scenes. Now that I think about it, the sensation of watching it is a lot like Primer. Reminiscent, at least. Visually, the film is great to look at. Not only costuming but just the entire style. It's sparse but attractive. At times, visually a little surreal. If anything, like any story told in this fast-paced style, it doesn't exactly get you on any emotional level. And since I felt like I was playing catch-up throughout, I don't think I ever really connected with the film. I just really enjoyed watching it and being in that world. Acting helps incredibly, too. Especially Toby Jones, who does a lot with less screen time. There's just some terrific faces made in the movie! Any Cumberbatch fans will be pleased with the film, he's got some fine chunks in the film. And a really nice tie. I have to say though, there are one or two reference to characters being homosexual in the film, which is just starting to feel slightly cliched. At least, I'm at the point where if I'm watching a period piece with Man's men, I feel like it's expected that at least one of them is gay. I dunno. So anyway, definitely scratches the heady spy itch you might have and a delight to watch!
Where's a Handsome Spy when you need one?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cronos - 1993 - Dir. Del Toro

I think I meant to watch the Devil's Backbone because as soon as I saw Ron Perlman, I was all "Oh, I've seen this one." But you know, I'm glad I re-watched it. I remember thinking it was pretty good when I first saw it back in college but clearly not much stuck with me. Except Ron Perlman's awful gray outfit... and his Charming Demeanor. I'm not a huge Hellboy fan but I get pretty excited about Del Toro's other movies. I feel like they're horror movies for adults but there's so much in it that is reminiscent of fairy tales and often times a child's perspective. I dunno, they make for really pleasant viewing experiences as fully grown man suffering from arrested development. First of all, it should be no surprise that Ron Perlman is terrific in this. It's funny because his character often feels like an aside. Or a henchmen with too much screen time. BUT HE'S SO GREAT! I think maybe he sort of overshadows how solid of a horror movie it is. Del Toro is so good at bringing a nice touches like Pearlman's character or the backward suit which balance out Luppi's controlled performance and just a well crafted "classic feel" of a horror story. Luppi is awesome. The whole film has such little dialogue and Luppi knows just how much to express. He holds his cards so tightly and lets just the right amount sneak through at the right points. If anything, sometimes the ending feels a little anticlimactic but for the most part: A fine viewing!
This creep just loves gum.