Saturday, November 27, 2010

My 2010 Movie Odyssey - Part VII

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
There were some interesting visuals, but this Roger Corman pseudo-classic used way too many narrative cliches to catch my interest.

First Blood (1982)
Sylvester Stallone creates an interesting character in John Rambo. The movie was a lot smaller than I was expecting but still quite entertaining. When I watched the film I had just had my car towed and so it was easy for me to identify with this man who was being picked on by the police for no good reason.

Rififi (1955)
It starts kind of slow and ends rather grimly, but the real reason to watch this film is the heist sequence that takes up most of the second act, is mostly silent, and is very thrilling.

The Road (2009)
While this interesting, moody, post-apocalyptic film creates a wonderful atmosphere and gives us a couple interesting characters, it gets bogged down by its slow pace as I kept waiting for SOMETHING to happen.

The Merry Widow (1934)
Most of the musical numbers are unremarkable in this Ernst Lubitsch musical. The real reason to watch it is the wonderful repartee and hijinks the characters get themselves into. Of special note is Maurice Chevalier as the biggest playboy in the kingdom who is very funny and an obvious influence on Pepe Le Pew.

Coming up next: a couple musicals that are worlds apart.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My 2010 Movie Odyssey - Part VI

Hmm, it's Thanksgiving and I'm talking about two horror movies and one pseudo-horror film. And a revisionist western. I guess I really should have released these yesterday. Oh well, happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm thankful for hulu, Netflix, the Los Angeles County Public Library, and the dollar theater who have combined to make these entries possible.

Phantom of the Opera (1998)
Horror director Dario Argento takes the classic story and gives it the full-on horror treatment. While there were some interesting visuals, the whole thing comes across as silly and grotesque and not very scary, and the opening sequence is a complete ripoff of Batman Returns (1992).

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
This is a pretty good revisionist western, and while Clint Eastwood is not quite in top form, it is still quite entertaining.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
The visuals are stunning (what else would you expect from Terry Gilliam?) and Christopher Plummer puts in a heart-tugging performance as Doctor Parnassus, the world-weary leader of a four-person traveling sideshow. While the rules of the world don't always make sense, it is a feast for the eyes that is well worth it. (Insert obligatory comment about this being Heath Ledger's final performance here.)

The Wicker Man (1973)
This is a bizarre little horror film that almost masquerades as a musical in the first half. Things start out unsettling and get progressively creepier as a policeman tries to track down the disappearance of a little girl on a remote island populated solely by unnerving cult members. This film is recommended for people who enjoy quirky horror films.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Having seen all seven seasons of the television show, I was interested to see "the one that started it all" (sort of). I went in knowing that it would be a far cry from the television show, but even knowing that I was still let down. The comedy fell flat, the drama was unengaging, the villain was yawn-inducing, and to top it all off, Kristy Swanson was completely unconvincing as any kind of superhero and gave me absolutely no reason to care about her as a person.

Coming up next: some more dour fare. I wasn't intentionally watching all these types of movies at the same time but the do seem to want to clump together.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My 2010 Movie Odyssey - Part V

The Jacket (2005)
I was hoping for an interesting, mess-with-your-mind movie that kept me guessing through the very end. Instead I got a mediocre movie with some uninspired time travel.

A Christmas Carol (2009)
This may be the most cinematic version of A Christmas Carol ever made and the most visually stunning. On the other hand, Jim Carrey as an old man was weird (he should have waited 20 years to play Scrooge), Bob Cratchit just looked off, and the whole thing came off as rather emotionally shallow.

Catwoman (2004)
This movie is a series of dumb ideas. First of all, they completely threw out all of the Batman mythology surrounding the character of Catwoman and made up a completely new world around the character. So what was the point of calling it Catwoman? Then they cast the severely overrated Halle Berry as Catwoman. Then they dressed her in some bizarre, partially completed dominatrix outfit. The story is dumb and there are no interesting characters. There are, however, too many shots of cats for me to truly hate this movie, and Halle Berry acting all cat-like was actually a well-executed idea.

Cloverfield (2008)
I am glad I waited until DVD to see this movie. The concept is interesting and the camera-work is believable as found footage shot by an amateur. On the other hand, the single point of view got a little monotonous, and I would have liked to have a little more explanation for everything that happened.

Eight Men Out (1988)
This dramatization of the 1919 Black Sox scandal examines what it would take for prominent members of the best team in baseball to intentionally lose the world series. It is an interesting character study, and of course features lots of baseball. (Though I did find the movie a little frustrating in that I recognized almost all the actors but couldn’t figure out where I recognized them from, even after a trip to imdb.)

Coming up next: some classic and not-so-classic horror.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My 2010 Movie Odyssey - Part IV

These are long overdue. I should be getting more punctual in the future since I'm joining Procrastinators Anonymous tomorrow.

Pillow Talk (1959)
This is an amusing romantic comedy with a romance that could only exist in Hollywood. There is no way a relationship between these people would ever last in real life.

Up in the Air (2009)
I’m not sure what it is about Jason Reitman’s films, but I find myself really enjoying them, even when the subject matter is not something that would normally interest me. I think what it is is that they are just askew enough from the mainstream Hollywood fare to be fresh and different without falling into the “quirky for the sake of being quirky” trap that plagues far too many independent films. Case in point is Up in the Air, which features George Clooney as a man whose job it is to fly all over the country and fire people. Not only does he consider his services an art form, but he has worked hard to turn traveling into an art form as well, honing his lifestyle and possessions to the point where he can get into and out of the airport with the greatest ease. While the premise of the film is certainly topical, it never swells up with Importance, letting its audience draw its own conclusions.

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
The look of this movie is fantastic, beautifully translating Maurice Sendak’s artwork to the big screen. Too bad nothing worthwhile happens in this beautiful world. The first time we see our young hero Max, he is wrestling with a dog (while growling like an inarticulate idiot), and doing it so violently that I was waiting for the dog to bite him out of self defense. I am not a dog person, but at that point I was more emotionally involved with the dog than with Max. And Max never did win me over, acting like a punk kid through the whole movie. And when he runs off and enters the world of the monsters, I was expecting them to be older and wiser than Max and teach him valuable life lessons, but instead they were all just as emotionally immature as he was. This left me with no character to latch on to and twenty minutes into the movie I was ready for it to be over.

Where Eagles Dare (1968)
A crack team of Allied officers is sent on a mission to rescue a captured general from the Nazis in the days leading up to D-Day. The hitch: the general is being held captive inside a nearly impregnable castle deep inside German territory. While the number of plot twists in the third act gets a little ridiculous, this is a rip-roaring adventure yarn that features a thrilling cable-car sequence as its centerpiece.

Zodiac (2007)
San Francisco is rocked by a series of murders committed by the mysterious Zodiac killer. He taunts the authorities and creates a city-wide panic by sending cryptic messages to the major San Francisco newspapers. The scenes featuring Zodiac’s murders are full of tension and dread. But this is not so much about a serial killer and his reign of terror as it is a character study of three men who are faced with a mystery that is never solved. Their quest to discover the identity of the Zodiac goes from a desire to bring him to justice to just simply being obsessed with finding out who did it.

Coming up next: more overdue mini reviews.