Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Big Movie Rundown

I haven't posted a review since The Taking of Pelham, but I've seen loads. So I'll rundown all the ones I can remember.

The Watchmen (2009) - I wrote a much longer review back when I first saw it, but never got around to finishing it. To sum up: the movie adds too much ugliness to an already bleak rumination on human nature and morality. There is some good stuff, but I was too distracted by the ridiculous sex and violence. And I liked 300! Gets most of the characters right, although I swear I heard Malin Akerman say, "it's 'ike," (instead of "it's like") exposing some sort of carry-over from her high school years. Impressive for gathering so much of the dense graphic novel into a cohesive movie, but it's not something I'll watch again any time soon.
The Burrowers (2008) - Great premise. Coulda been a great movie, but none of the characters were interesting and the story doesn't do much. Of note is the natural landscape the director chose for shooting, and the creature design. The titular burrowers looked like humanoid potato-bugs, which grossed me the heck out. Of interest: three of the featured actors also appeared in LOST (Clancy Brown [Kelvin Inman], William Mapother [Ethan!], and Doug Hutchison [Goodspeed]).
The Lady from Shanghai (1948) - Jeri picked this for our last Movie Night event, and it was a great one. I actually didn't know it was directed by Welles until we saw the credits, but it made a lot of sense. The movie is full of clever and stylish direction. This was my first Rita Hayworth movie, and now I understand why Andy Dufrane chose her for his poster. Move over, Grace Kelly.
Inherit the Wind (1960) - Superb film-making that unfortunately sets up several straw men for (the excellent) Tracy to knock down. Relies on these straw men and hammy villains to make its point, which hurts its message.
The Wages of Fear (1953) - The opening shot with the bugs reminded me of The Wild Bunch; I wonder if Peckinpah was referencing Wages? The story structure of Wages also reminded me of The Lady Vanishes, which I recently watched again. Each movie begins with an extended introduction to the characters (that drags a little -- get to the lady vanishing/truck driving, it's been 30 minutes!), then the start of the second act reveals the real hook of the movie. The second act also leaves behind completely the introductory setting and several of the characters. Wages succeeds as a tension-filled thriller; I'm not particularly interested in whatever political message it had.

I was fascinated by the number of languages spoken in the first act, as well as the number of characters who spoke them. An interesting collection for this small South American town.

I read one critic who compared Wages to Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which I think is very appropriate. Fred Dobbs would have fit right in with Mario.

The movie begins and ends with nihilism. Life sucks and then you die. So, while the whole driving sequence is captivating, the movie's worldview sucks.

Samurai Rebellion (1967) - Some very captivating imagery and editing. A compelling samurai story as well. Mifune is fun to watch, as ever, as is Nakadai (though less-seen than Mifune). I loved the opening shots that alternated focus between the sword and Mifune's face. Also interesting were the freeze frame edits of Lady Ichi's attacking the mistress.
To Be or Not To Be (1983) - Fun movie. I liked watching Charles Durning and Christopher Lloyd. I'm curious about the earlier version.
The Wrestler (2008) - Very compelling and well-made film. When you think you have the story pegged, it surprises you. Realistic but not nihilistic, in film terms. Rourke and Tomei create sympathetic characters that break your heart. If it wasn't for the strip-club setting in which a lot of the movie takes place, I'd be able to recommend it to more people.
Lifeboat (1944) - Great Hitchcock. What a challenging concept to film! All the actors really step up to the plate to bring this story to life.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - Michael Rennie's performance was my favorite part of the movie. This is good science fiction.
Changeling (2008) - Great story that Eastwood tells well. I couldn't watch during the murder scene, though. Egads, I think we could have done without that.
The Outsiders: The Complete Novel (1983) - I hadn't seen this one since 8th grade when we got to watch it after reading the book. The Outsiders is a bunch of young actors struggling to act. While some of their natural awkwardness might have fit their performances, I found myself distracted by it most of the time. However, it's still a good story, and mostly entertaining. And what a collection of future stars!
Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) - Interesting little film. Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan both deserve to be recognized for their performances. Poppy is a great character. While she was almost absurdly positive, she wasn't ditzy; she was smart, and took serious things (like the kid in her class) seriously.
Role Models (2008) - Funny movie.
Red River (1948) - Very good movie made even better by Montgomery Clift's performance. His style of acting in this movie actually seemed out of place compared with his costars. It was very natural, less stagy than your average 1948 line delivery.
The Tin Star (1957) - A compelling set-up and great performances from Fonda, Perkins, and Brand make this 1957 Western stand out from others of the era. Intriguing shot choices by Mann, too.
Layer Cake (2004) - I rewatched this one on Blu-Ray, and aside from a few seconds of "I wish it wasn't there" sex at the beginning, this is a finely crafted British gangster movie. Suffers from none of the excesses of Snatch or Lock Stock (both of which I like), and remains very entertaining.
Taken (2009) - The plot is paper-thin, but the quick and brutal action will have you exclaiming "HOLY CARP!" aloud and often. Makes Bourne's quick-thinking take-downs look kindly and delicate (and I like Bourne).
Conan the Barbarian (1981) - Boobs, blood, and bad acting. Cleverly cast to make Arnold the most dynamic actor on-screen. I mean, who casts surfer Gerry Lopez as Arnold's sidekick in a fantasy epic? To be fair to Lopez, he came off better than Sandahl Bergman as Valeria.

1 comment:

jeri said...

Word. I don't have anything new to add to what you said about the movies I've seen, but thanks for taking the time to write about them!