Friday, August 25, 2006

Catch Up Reviews - Extra Mini

I'm so far behind on the reviews now that the only way I can catch up is either jump ahead to only do my current reviews and therefore skip all the movies from the last couple months, or to do extra-mini reviews. I don't want to skip, so the latter it is! There are too many movies to list them all in the intro here, so let's just get right to those reviews.

Pelle the Conqueror (August, 1987)
Oscar-winning Danish film (in Swedish & Danish) about a Swedish immigrant father and son who have rough lives working a Danish farm.
Good, but looooooooooong. We wanted to yell at the TV. Come on Pelle! Conquer already! Plus, largely this movie is just one big (looooooooooong) downer. And the ending doesn't change that to any great extent.

Out of Africa (Pollack, 1985)
Semi-autobiographical account of Danish author Karen Blixen's life in Africa.
Ok. But I'm unhappy that the ethnographic aspect (as disconcerting as it may have been) of Blixen's (who wrote as Isak Dinesen) story was largely lifted, and the romance between her and Denys was played up (something that was more or less only hinted at in the book). It seems that Pollack didn't want to tell about an experience of Africa as the book was meant, and instead wanted to tell a love story.

Pink Panther (Levy, 2006)
A new pink panther movie, with a new Clouseau.
Pathetic. The accent was distracting and bad, not funny. In fact, humor was lacking almost entirely. The only one more clueless than Clouseau is Steve Martin who penned this disastrous drivel. The only good thing was his car. I loooove his car. I want a Smart Car so bad!!! Not only is it totally cute, but it's enviro-friendly. It gets 60 mpg! (It was also the car that Audrey Tautou used in The Da Vinci Code.)

11:14 (Marcks, 2003)
A multi-perspective story about moments leading up to a car crash, and lives that are changed and lost forever in those moments.
Fun and unusual. But I have seen so many non-linear films in the last decade that at some point they just begin to play as gimmicky. I just couldn't decide if this mode of storytelling added much to this particular movie, or if we are just supposed to find the device clever and artistic in and of itself. The latter doesn't fly for me.

MirrorMask (McKean, 2005)
A teenage daughter of a circus-owning family enters a crazy dreamworld and must save the surrealist day in order to return to her real life.
Hmm.... I was excited, but disappointed. Lots of crazy, surrealist imagry, but some of the images were so screwed up they were hard to understand. Also the plot was just uninteresting. Too bad.

Barefoot in the Park (Saks, 1967)
Newlyweds Jane Fonda & Robert Redford discover the challenges of early marriage.
This is one of my all-time favorites. I throw it on when I feel like a pick-me-up. Great for a rainy day or sick day on the couch. The jokes still work, and the couple is as cute as can be. Can't beat the Neil Simon wit.

Three Days of the Condor (Pollack, 1975)
A sort of post-Hitchcock, pre-Enemy-of-the-State story about an everyman thrust into a spy plot.
Not as exciting as I'd hoped. But pretty good anyway. Lost a little sympathy for Redford's character when he kidnapped and then had sex (rape?) with Faye Dunaway's character.

Funny Face (Donen, 1957)
Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire fall in song-and-dance, um, I mean... love.
Very cheesy, but I just love Hepburn, and this is one of my favorite versions of her. Plus Astaire (as unlikely a love interest as he may be) always entertains with his awesome dance.

Red Eye (Craven, 2005)
A stalker-thriller that begins on a plane ride.
I think there was much better tension on the plane, the movie maybe would have been better if it had stayed on the plane. But it was still good enough to get a passing grade. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Funny. Didn't know till now that Wes Craven directed it. Interesting.

Topaz (Hitchcock, 1969)
Spy plot partly set in Castro-regime Cuba.
One of the worst Hitch movies I've seen. But there is still one "ooh" moment where you see that amazing visual brilliance that Hitch possessed. It was worth it, just to see that one shot. Course, I'm a nerd for stuff like that. Not sure it would be worth it for most people.

In the Mirror of Maya Deren (Kudlacek, 2002)
Documentary about the life of Maya Deren, one of the original experimental filmmakers, and a woman ahead of her time.
Enlightening and wonderful. Took a moment to get into the structure, but I really enjoyed this film. Always awesome to see my fave filmmaker (and former prof) Stan Brakhage, who was interviewed in this film.

The 4400, Season 2
Supernatural TV series featuring an investigative team that work to solve the mystery of the 4400 people that appeared in a ball of light.
This show is genius. Right up there with Lost. I literally can't wait until season 3. Luckily Lost, Season 2 comes out on DVD on September 5th! Wahoo!

This is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984)
Mockumentary about a ridiculous rock group.
One of those that's much funnier to talk about than to actually watch. There was little humor in it for me while watching. Mostly it was just way too silly. Maybe I just don't get it. Still, there are a couple memorable parts. At least I got that it was a mockumentary. I really feel sorry for those who didn't.

Why We Fight (Jarecki, 2005)
An anti-war documentary.
Certainly interesting. But the doc didn't really explore the areas I would have liked it to. For instance, did you know that there is a term ("Blowback") for the unintended consequences of secret CIA actions. I.e. the CIA goes out and messes with some country's this or that, and years later, the messed-with country retaliates against us. Now they have to lie and tell us it's an unprovoked attack and fill us with ridiculous nonsense like they were motivated to attack because of "their jealousy of our freedom" or some such crap. They can't tell us the real reason, right? Then they'd have to talk about some classified (and likely embarassing) operations that left this other country or group PO'd enough to retaliate. Now that's really interesting. But we didn't delve into this at all.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Gibney, 2005)
What went down at Enron.
Don't watch this movie unless you have a degree in economics or some similar expertise. The language was over my head at times and I eventually tuned out and went to sleep. It made me angry that they don't care for people who don't know oodles about this stuff to watch their film. How rude to not explain some of these terms and concepts so we all can follow along!

Rififi (Dassin, 1955)
Jewelry-heist, French film noir.
Pretty good. I'm actually surprised I wasn't forcefed this film in film school. There is a lengthy scene (the heist itself) that takes place in complete silence. That's just the sort of thing that would get some of my profs off. Some people believe that action that takes place without dialog is "pure cinema" and that explaining things verbally is weak story-telling. It was a decent scene. Many consider it the highlight of the movie. But I think these days it plays uncomfortably. You start thinking gosh, how long has it been since someone spoke? Wow it's been a really long time, will they ever speak again? Did I make a mistake and rent a silent movie? Have these guys gone mute? SPEAK GODDAMMIT SPEAK!!!!! I guess it does build some tension as a result which does work for the scene. Interestingly, it looks like Pacino is working on a remake. Hunh. I wonder if there will be a lengthy silent scene in this new one.

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (Miller, 2005)
People find connection through dance.
What a pleasant surprise this movie was. I mean pleasant because it was really fairly unsual and interesting. I however don't mean pleasant in how it made me feel. I was thoroughly depressed after watching this movie. But, I guess, in a good way.

Cool Hand Luke (Rosenburg, 1967)
Well-known classic, Paul Newman vehicle. Basically just a prison movie when you get down to it.
Another classic lets me down. I'd rather watch Shawshank. The story just didn't compell me. Newman is simply a man with mythical defiance. It doesn't matter how much it will hurt him, or how stupid it is, he won't stop fighting. His spirit will never be broken. Whatever. The ending was anticlimactic too. Still, it wasn't miserable to sit through, and there are some stylish shots.

V for Vendetta (McTeigue, 2005)
Anarchy, under the mask of Guy Fawkes, hopes to bring down a totalitarian state.
Very 1984-ish themes. Very dark. I still can't figure out what was missing for me that I didn't love this movie. Maybe it was too comic book, I don't know. I mean, yeah I know it was a big-screen adaptation of a graphic novel, but still. I felt like I was supposed to be profoundly shaken by the movie's message, I mean it's quite bold to make the protagonist a terrorist in this day and age, but I still couldn't take it much more seriously than Spiderman or Batman. Still, I did find myself admiring the writing at times. And I did love that they snuck a Bush sign in at a political rally. Nice. Maybe I should see it again. Don't know.

Scenes From a Marriage (Bergman, 1973)
Intimate episodes of a crumbling marriage by Swedish film-genius, Bergman.
This is a relatively lengthy movie (166 minutes), and the scenes are sometimes quite long and even uncomfortable in their frankness. And yet I never once was bored. This is absolute brilliance. One word of caution though: Just because a movie is labelled "theatrical version" doesn't mean you are getting the original version. In this case, the original version was a television miniseries, so apparently much had been cut out for the version I saw. Dammit! I'm not sure I can sit through it all again (as good as it was) just for the additional material. Dammit!

Well, if you can believe it, after a good 4 plus months of being behind, I am finally caught up in all my reviews. Phew! Now I will do my best to keep up with it regularly again and provide regular posts. Hopefully I haven't lost all of my readers by now, or if I have, maybe I can gain some new ones. I promise I will do my best to keep putting stuff out there again. So keep reading!

Happy watching...

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