Monday, February 9, 2009

Movie Rundown - Feb 2 to Feb 8

This week's been kind of a slow week all around. I've been writing and working, and aside from that not much else has gotten accomplished. In terms of movies, when it comes to what I'm getting from Netflix lately I've had a hard time deciding. So I decided in the absence of anything I greatly desired to try to just expand on the 'important' films I've seen. that was a mid-week decision, so there's only one movie that meets that criteria so far, but expect to see a bunch of old films on here if I keep it up.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (****) - This is the story about a girl. She's klutsy, forgetful, and more than a little irresponsible. That is, until she gets the ability one day to jump backwards through time. Then she has to prevent an inevitable fate, and deal with the knoweldge that depending on her actions, eventually one of her two best friends is going to have feelings for her. This is an interesting film, about the small changes and knowledge that can have a major affect on your life even in the short term. It's both evocative and sad, with a truthfully complicated look at close friendships on the cusp of adulthood.

Batman: Gotham Knight (****) - This is the direct to DVD animated tie in between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. It's a six part series of shorts, each by a different anime director. In many ways, this is the Animatrix for Batman, but unlike the Animatrix, it isn't a bunch of disconnected and indulgent garbage, story-wise.

The stories in this movie all create a general arc, and Batman lends himself well to short films that each have their own arc, because the character is so iconic and can be expressed in such an easy shorthand. That said, the animation is stupendous, and the themes dark and complex (as they should be). Also, the voice for Batman is provided by Kevin Conroy, who voiced Batman in Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League and IS the voice of Batman, so far as I'm concerned.

Coraline (****) - You've probably heard of this one. I will only say that it's good. Perhaps one of the best stop motion films ever made. There was plenty of atmosphere, and some great creepy scenes. There were also a few none-too-subtle homages to Alice, one of the unknown classics of the genre. I had some problems with the story itself, some things seemed like they were straight out of a video game. I wonder if they exist in the book itself, or if they were added for the movie. It was just ... odd.

Also, if it's AT ALL possible, see this movie in 3D. 3D has been written off more times than I care to count as a gimmick, but Coraline is one of the first movies that I think is genuinely better for being in 3D. there is an amazing depth of field in the movie. The lack of gags and the subtlety of the 3D makes you feel like you're looking through an old viewmaster, or are stepping onto the models themselves. There's a very immediate, powerful sense of German expressionism to the film, and it's truly made more evocative by the feeling of so many layers and so much space presented on the screen. I saw the trailer in 2D after going to the movie, and it was a much different (sadly lesser, I feel) experience.

The 400 Blows (***) - This is the first of the 'important films I should see' and I honestly wasn't very impressed. This film could have been called "Life Sucks, Gets Worse" and it would have been just as accurate. The story itself is a tale of freefall from bad to worse in the juvenile system of France in the 50s. The acting and all seems pretty strong, but the story itself is only serviceable.

The problem with this is that French New Wave has been so gutted for modern cinema that all the techniques of the film, which in 1959 would probably have been revelatory, come across as only solid today. I did find that the one thing I felt watching the movie was that the way it was shot still felt modern and relevant. I think at the time, my mind would have been blown by a film that seemed to fall out of the future.

I think finding context is really the hardest part of classic cinema, because so much of what made it special has been reused ad nauseum. But, hopefully some of them will appeal to me more than this one did.

Primer (*****) - Probably the most complicated film I've ever seen, Primer is an ultra low budget take on time travel. This film was absolutely amazing, particularly in that it pulled no punches in what is undoubtedly one of the most complicated concepts there is. The film is rich with possibilities, coherent in how it presents such a complicated narrative, and mind-breaking in the levels it takes its concept. I have to rethink how I approach my own time traveler story after this one. A must see, if you can stomach the density of the concept.

One to Another
(***) - A French film based on a true story, about a group of friends who are torn apart after one of them turns up dead and his sister begins an investigation into the circumstances surrounding it. It was a well shot film, I suppose, but there was nothing to see here, really. It was functional, and the acting seemed solid, but ... I find it hard to recommend outside of simply not being a bad movie.

Six-String Samurai (*****) - In the 50s, after the Russians attack America with nuclear weapons, the remnants of the US band together in the Kingdom of Elvis, naming him the King of Lost Vegas. Now, Elvis is dead and the throne of the King is vacant. Enter Buddy, with his big glasses and classy guitar, the one with the katana taped to the back. It's up to him to make his way through the wasteland and the various gangs and crazies (and Death, hunting down rockers in order to bring in a reign of Heavy Metal) to claim the throne of the King and restore the power of Rock.

This is one of those movies whose awesomeness the world isn't quite ready to handle. It's hilarious, vibrant, and steeped in the sentiments of middle-of-last-century culture. The action is solid, and unlike most of the action movies that find their way onto my lists, not gory at all (I think the film is PG-13). It's a ridiculous film, but it wears its ridiculousness on its sleeve. It knows what it wants to be, and goes to any lengths to get it. Standing ovation, for pure rock power.

And that's it. We'll see what drifts across my plate this coming week. I'm not even sure what I'm seeing on Friday, much less what'll come across via netflix this week. We shall see, we shall see. I'm not in the mood for anything, but hunting for something good.