Monday, March 9, 2009

Movie Rundown - Feb 23 to March 8

I've been really slack on doing these movie rundowns. I have been writing them as I watch the movies, but this past fortnight I've been just watching and rating and moving on. I know, bad idea, really. But there you go. So this is going to end up being one long damn list of movies, I'm afraid. There are some gems and some terrible films in here, but we'll see how it goes.

The Trouble with Harry [***]
Hitchcock's attempt at a cheerful comedy, I found this to be a middling effort. It's quite a beautiful film, but it seems to just hang around with its characters a little too long and cover not enough ground. I think that it's one of those comedies that time moves past, and you can't easily return to. Especially since the plot could have been condensed down to a typical 22 minute sitcom.

War Inc [****]
I watched this on a whim, not knowing anything about it (see Grosse Pointe Blank further down) and was thoroughly enchanted. The subtle and gross digs at modern American culture, the sharp and smart staging, John Cusack being a badass... this film pushed all my buttons twice. Yes, the story is kind of nonsensical, but I adored it for leaning on cliche while it danced around trainwreck. That might just be me, though.

Three ... Extremes [***]
Three horror shorts by prolific Asian horror directors, this was a conflicted set of movies. The first one, Dumplings by Fruit Chan, ended up being my favorite of the three. Cut, by Chan-wook Park was great, right until falling apart at the ending. I was disheartened, but I found that it segued nicely into the mess that was Takashi Miike's The Box. I'm normally such a strong Miike fan, watching this unintelligable mess of a film was genuinely depressing. I would strongly recommend the first third of this movie, and probably the second film, too. But the third could easily, easily be skipped.

Superfly [**]
A classic of blaxploitation. Typically, I like the genre. I'm a fan of Across 110th Street, Foxy Brown, Coffy, the other classics. The problem, I think, is that those were all later entries in the genre. Compared to them, Superfly comes across as lumbering and confused. It seemed conflicted about what it was, and never quite recovered from major missteps in tone. I couldn't recommend it aside from the history it represents.

Fantastic Flesh: The Art of Make-Up EFX [*****]
This is a Starz documentary on, you guessed it, make up effects. Most of it is about creature films and horror movies, but there's other work shown on there, too. I think that my genre preference is showing, because watching this I had seen almost every movie they talked about and knew every person they interviewed. I was just geeking out. I'm not sure how much you'd get out of it if you don't know anything about KNB Effects, or Tom Savini, or classic horror movie makeup, but my friend Elizabeth enjoyed it and she's not nearly as much of a horror fiend as I am. Me? I was grinning through the whole thing.

Gross Pointe Blank [****]
So, I was looking up War, Inc. on Wikipedia and IMDb like I'm prone to doing to every movie after I finish it, and this movie came up. Apparently, War, Inc. is seen as the spiritual sequel to this movie. So, I figured, why not see the original? And I did. And it was equally awesome. This film is a lot lighter on the satire and a lot heavier on trying a non-normal take on the romantic comedy genre, I think that it's probably the better movie but I enjoyed it a little less. It's just not crazy enough, or something. Also, the movie was supposedly shot in 1997, but I swear it might as well be 1987 from how it looks. Has decade drift happened that hard already?

Angel-A [****]
A film by Luc Besson, who is one of my favorite directors. This one is a modern take on Its A Wonderful Life without such a heavy reliance on the saccharine. I adored this film, from its drop dead gorgeous black and white version of Paris to the irresistable charm of the two main chracters. This is probably my favorite of the movies I saw in the past two weeks, even if I fully recognize it isn't the best one.

Watchmen [?]
Look, the hype machine on this movie is too much for me to actually review it. If I had to, it'd be somewhere between three and five. I loved it. It has problems. But I loved it. I don't know what to say to you, other than this: READ IT. Seriously. I guarantee that the graphic novel is a good expenditure of $20. Even if you hate it, you'll get something out of it. The themes are much more clearly expressed in the book. Then, so long as you didn't hate it, go see the movie. Outside of that, I don't feel that I can sum up what I feel about the movie until I get some distance on it.

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry [***]

How do you think they accomplish that?


Well, nowadays unfortunately you're right more often than not. But back in the all or nothing days, the Vanishing Point days, the Dirty Mary Crazy Larry days, the White Line Fever days, they had real cars crashing into real cars and real dumb people driving em.

Death Proof, by Quentin Tarantino
Sometimes I get my movie choices from strange sources. That said, this movie is a bit of a relic. It's full of 'stick it to the man' sentiment, with burnt out hippies robbing stores and driving fast. The story is a barely there wisp that I imagine wasn't relevant when it came out. That said, the driving is absolutely fantastic. If you're a fan of car movies, or good stunt work, I'd highly suggest this movie. It gets the Stuntman Mike seal of approval.

(La Femme) Nikita [****]
Luc Besson again! This is a film that I grew up watching. It really is quite good, and much better than the soulless shot-for-shot American remake Point of No Return. This one has aged quite a bit, but it's still got an amazing performance by Anne Parillaud. Also look for the third act appearance of Jean Reno being his typical badass self. Random rumination, why is it that in his American comedies he's always such a clown, but in French films he's the ultimate in awesome?

Confessions of a Superhero [****]
This is a documentary (*gasp!*) about the performers in Hollywood who dress up as superheroes for pictures with the public. It's essentially about street performers, who come from all walks of life. From Superman Chris, who takes his role way, way too seriously but is obviously both well meaning and nice, to a Batman with anger issues and a shady past, it's a look at people from all walks of life who all do a unique job. It's about the difficulty of making it in movies, in LA, and in acting. It's about life derailing and dreams going unfulfilled. It's a sad movie, I feel. Interesting, worth your time, but sad.

Man with the Screaming Brain [***]
A Sci Fi Original movie, written, directed by, and starring Bruce Campbell. If you aren't on board already, there's nothing here for you to see. It's basically Bruce Campbell being Bruce Campbell for 90 minutes. There's some bits about a gypsy and a mad scientist and some brain switching, but it's all about HIM. The man, the myth, the Bruce.

Yes, this is not a good film. But it's also awesome.

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter [**]
I don't know what to say about this one. Vampires are abducting lesbians, so Jesus is recruited to stop them. With his sidekicks Mary Magnum and El Santo, the god of Mexican wrestling, they fight atheists and vampires. This one REALLY, REALLY isn't a good film. Like, it's pretty terrible, made on a shoestring budget and with the barest considerations for good filmmaking. This is the definition of cult. I had fun with it, but I wouldn't suggest it to anyone who didn't have a taste for this sort of thing. And if you had a taste for it, you were sold at the title.

Cashback [*****]
This movie probably doesn't deserve five stars. It's the story of a young art student recovering from a bad breakup. He gets insomnia, begins to work nights at a supermarket, and slowly starts to return to the world again even as he drifts further and further into himself. There are ruminations on time and beauty throughout. And the ending is a little much. But it's a beautiful film that I think holds well to its purpose. And, the first fifteen minutes pierced right through all my jaded cynicism and hit me in a place I forgot I had. I don't know if everyone will get what I got out of it, but I know that it's good. Highly recommended.

That's it. I'm working on finishing ITMeat in the next three weeks before Screnzy. I'm sure I'll talk about Screnzy soon. I have my idea all set up and ready to go. Hint: It's an 80s creature feature film. It will also be awesome.

Maybe another post later in the week. Certainly I'm not going to do these every two weeks. Movies stack up too high for that.

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