The basic story is set in a future where everyone lives in giant domed cities because the rest of the world is supposed to be a toxic wasteland. It is an era of hedonism where everyone is cloned and no one is allowed to live past 30. Basil Exposition plays Logan, a "Sandman" who executes anyone who tries to avoid their expiration date. You can guess what happens based on the title, but it actually comes about in a unique fashion. Logan's Sandman partner is the guy who played the southern senator in The Hunt For Red October. The girl who helps Logan is played by someone very familiar looking, and I was trying to place her all night, but it turns out I've only ever seen her in The Eagle Has Landed. I guess she has a distinct face. Peter Ustinov steals the movie when he shows up towards the end. His goofy old man shtick was incredibly charming, although there was a point where I almost got sick of it because we saw so much of it.
It seems there were two creative forces driving the movie: a visionary with great ideas for the visual style and interesting ideas about the future, and a guy who likes boobs. Some of the sets, shots, and ideas about the world in the future are great, but they are tempered constantly by girls running around bra-less in ridiculous sheer dresses. Every cool moment has a cheesy moment immediately following. You have an intense scene involving cosmetic surgery lasers going nuts and cutting up a doctor followed by a slow-mo sex club. You have an intriguing scene where the protagonists explore the foundation of their city for the first time followed by a ridiculous "ice room" where they fight the world's least intimidating crazy robot.
Which is preceded by them getting naked! We all laughed out loud when Logan said, "We'd better take our clothes off before we freeze!" and the camera stayed and watched. It was like the boob-happy producer came on set every few days and looked at the dailies: "Good, good, I like what I'm seeing. Tell me, though: how long has it been since the last nipple?"
Oh yeah, I can't believe I forgot to comment on the guns! The Sandmen have these black pistols for dispatching Runners. They have a cool green muzzle flash, but the lamest result. Each time they are fired, it looks like the actor is squeezing a lemon at his target (who directed them like that?), and the resulting bullet effect on the walls always occur several seconds late and a few feet off-target. They needed to hire someone who knew what they were doing there. Watch for a hilarious scene where a Runner gets shot in the butt, too.
I'm glad I've finally seen this one.
Charlie Wilson's War (2007) - Continuing the odd "proper name + possession" title scheme trend I've got going, Amy and I watched this one over lunch breaks. It's about the largest covert military operation in American history, which was funded and pushed largely by the efforts of a Texas Congressman named Charlie Wilson. Tom Hanks plays Charlie, and is supported by Philip S. Hoffman as a gruff CIA dude and Julia Roberts as a right-wing rich gal.
The movie is very entertaining, and the fact that it's based on a true story makes it that much more compelling. Great performances and direction all around.
The 400 Blows (1959) - Francois Truffaut directed this one at the age of 27. Wow. I'm 27.
This was my first Truffaut film, so I suppose it's appropriate that it was his first as well. (First major one, anyway. Is that right? IMDB lists two before this one, but I could have sworn the DVD said 400 Blows was his first.) The title means something like, "to sow one's wild oats," or "to get into mischief." The story concerns a boy named Antoine, who is a bit of a punk, but has no reason to be good, either. His mom is very open about the fact that she didn't want him, and his dad is lazy gambler (as near as I could figure -- the movie focuses on Antoine and doesn't reveal much outside of what Antoine knows, which is appropriate. How many kids know exactly what their parents do until later in life? I didn't, at any rate). Neither parent knows how to be a parent, and his teacher is a tool, so he has no authority figure to look up to at all in his life. With no direction provided, he sort of rambles through life. He doesn't care much for school except for seeing his friends, and he doesn't seem to have a passion for anything. He turns to mischief because it's fun, but he never comes across as malicious.
The movie doesn't really have traditional structure. It's more of a snapshot of Antoine's life, though it does capture important transitional moments. Antoine is played by a boy named Jean-Pierre Leaud who gives a great performance. He is very good at acting as a boy his age would. My favorite bit for him was his reaction to a psychologist question about sex. His expression and surprise are the perfect blend of embarrassment and excitement.
The movie is also beautifully and creatively shot. From the opening scene that tracks the pin-up to the final loooooooong tracking shots, Truffaut picks interesting ways to tell his story.