Sunday, January 10, 2010

Movie Rundown - January 3 to January 10

This was really supposed to be a bigger list, but snowpocalypse and workpocalypse and all sorts of other pocalypses kept me worn out and in the house when I would otherwise have headed to the theater. That said, what little I do have I'll offer up here. You guys are probably lucky you get a week off.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - ***

Anchorman, but for Nascar instead of the 70s. I don't really have much to say about this one, honestly. It was okay. I thought it'd be much worse than it is. But you already know if you're interested in what's being offered here.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man - ****

A super low budget Japanese cyberpunk thriller from the late 80s, Tetsuo concerns a man who runs over a metal fetishist, a man who inserts pieces of metal into his body in an effort to achieve some sort of organic-industrial hybrid. After killing the fetishist, the man begins a transformation into a metal monstrosity, absorbing and growing scrap metal. This movie actually reminded me a lot of Lynch's classic Eraserhead, except instead of the horror being directed at infants and parenthood, it's instead horror about modern life and its encroachment into our daily lives and selves. It's a great movie, frenetic and strange and surprisingly effective.

The Ten - ****

A series of short stories about the ten commandments. This was something I went into with some trepidation, as I recently saw one of the director's previous movies (Wet Hot American Summer) and left it feeling pretty unimpressed. That said, the short story format here works really well. The storytelling can be very brief due to how much is being told, and that suits the filmmaking far better than the lack of cohesion Wet Hot American Summer had. That said, the Ten Commandments stuff is really just a frame. Don't expect much in the way of religious farce here.

Night of the Living Dead - ***

Tom Savini's remake of George Romero's masterpiece is best summed up as 'more.' More action, more make up, more production values, more gore. That said, one of the things about Romero's movie that made it what it still is today is the understated nature of it, the commentary on people. Something that Savini includes with all the grace of a brick to the face. That said, there's an interesting twist on the ending of the film that is actually surprisingly satisfying, and enough to earn this a third star.

Full Metal Jacket - *****

Full Metal Jacket is amazing. But you probably knew that. I feel like I'm really late to the party on this one, Kubrick's take on Vietnam and the military and warfare in general. I had watched the first half once upon a time and lost interest once they got to Vietnam, but upon revisiting I'm kind of sad I didn't stick with it the first time. The story of what happens to a man when he's turned into a soldier, and what it means to see 'the shit' is depressing and frightening and feels real in a way that meant something to me. Could not recommend this enough. For now, my favorite Kubrick movie.

Bye Bye Birdie - **

I hate Bye Bye Birdie. I don't even know where to begin with this movie. From the lack of characters I could give a damn about to the over-reliance upon dated 50s stereotypes to the musical sequences that feel perfunctory more than fun. There's probably a great stage production behind this movie, but the movie itself feels old and worn and not particularly interesting. Some of the dance stuff towards the middle is pretty good, which is the only thing keeping this from rock bottom, but ... no thanks.

3:10 to Yuma - ****

I watched this finally after being a pretty big fan of the remake from a while back, and I was pretty impressed. One of the problems with American westerns from that era is that nothing feels particularly dangerous or emotional in any way. That has a lot to do with acting styles and presentation, I understand, but it's always been a negative for me. That said, Glenn Ford's performance as a captured outlaw just waiting to be broken out by his gang has a surprising amount of jovial menace to it. That said, I think the two films are pretty similar in quality, separated only by the eras they were made in.

Broken Arrow - **

It's telling that five days after I watched Broken Arrow I can't remember quite how it ended. I think John Travolta gets impaled on a missile. But I could be wrong. Look, if you want a dumb action movie with smarmy Travolta, go get Face/Off. It's just as dumb, but Nic Cage gets to play both hero and villain and it's one of my favorite Cage performances. Instead, for this movie you get Christian Slater. Not a fair trade, IMO.

48 Hrs. - ***

Perhaps the first buddy movie, Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte are both sad reminders that they used to be actors and now one of them is crazy and couldn't become coherent enough to perform in a good movie if his life depended on it and the other is Nick Nolte. That said, this movie's pretty good, with a lot of menace from both of the leads. This movie makes Lethal Weapon look like a Disney production.

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