Monday, December 12, 2011

My 2011 Movie Odyssey - Part VII

The Italian Job (1969)
It started out kind of slow, and it was difficult keeping straight who all the different characters were and what was really going on. But then the infamous car chase started and the movie instantly skyrocketed from mediocre afterthought to minor classic. It is so much fun watching a trio of Mini Coopers evade the authorities through city streets, across the Italian countryside, and even on top of a building.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
This is an ugly, depressing story about unpleasant, unhappy people who wallow in an unclean world (until the bathhouse/brothel gets up and running, making the uncleanliness more metaphorical). I didn't like anyone in the film, and the background music was both out of place and annoying.

Never Let Me Go (2010)
It's kind of like The Island (or Parts: The Clonus Horror, if you prefer) with all the chases and explosions replaced with character development and musing on the human condition. With no special effects wizardry to worry about, the film is able to explore what life would really be like for people who grow up knowing that they will one day have their organs harvested from them. What results is a melancholy story that I found surprisingly engaging and beautiful as the film asks, "How do you live your life when you know your time is limited?"

Blindsight (2006)
This movie tells the tale of an expedition to take a group of Tibetan teenagers and have them hike the mountain that is right next door to Mount Everest. The kicker: the teenagers are all blind. Throughout the film we get to know the teenagers, their troubles and ambitions, as well as their handlers on the journey and several family members. It is heartwarming as the team conquers each obstacle, tense as the leaders have to make the hard decisions about whether to continue on when half the group is suffering from altitude sickness, and heartbreaking as various parents try to reconcile their child's blindness with their Buddhist beliefs.

Evil Dead II (1987)
It has its moments, but it's mostly 84 minutes of gross violence that is sometimes scary.

In a Lonely Place (1950)
Humphrey Bogart is rather unlikeable as a screenwriter who tries to clear his name when he is the prime suspect in the murder of a young woman. To be honest, I'm not that fond of doomed love stories.

The Way Back (2010)
I really wanted to like this movie. Peter Weir has directed two of my favorite movies (The Truman Show and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) and I've been anxiously waiting for his next movie for several years. Unfortunately, it was a long, arduous movie whose characters never really distinguish themselves from one another. There were a few sequences that really worked, especially a cleverly edited montage at the end, but for a true story about a group of men achieving the impossible, the whole thing was rather flat.

Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar (1967)
This simple little Disney film is kind of charming as it tells the tale of a cougar who is raised by a group of loggers. It’s the type of thing I would have liked as a kid, though I’ve kind of outgrown such stories.

Reds (1981)
This movie can’t decide what kind of a movie it is. It starts with a series of real life people talking about journalist and communist John Reed and his girlfriend/lover/not wife Louise Bryant. Then we get Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton running around as Reed and Bryant, doing the things that the talking heads were just talking about. Then we get more talking heads. Then another dose of Beatty and Keaton. Just pick one: documentary or biopic. And at over three hours, the movie is interminably long. The filmmakers really needed to remove the talking heads (or even better, the Beatty and Keaton melodrama) to give the movie a more taut running time. Of course then I started to wonder what was the purpose of even having this movie at all. I disagreed with almost everything Reed said, and the relationship stuff was an unending cycle of fighting, moping, and making up.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
It is a tragic story, but the screenplay works so hard to paint the protagonist in the best light possible that it quickly loses any semblance of a reasoned argument. The film is still worthwhile as a historical document, but it has not aged well. And Paul Muni is the 1930s version of Sean Penn, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

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