Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fool's Views (9/19 – 9/30)

Hey kids,

Well, in preparation for the upcoming 31 days of madness known as the October Horror Movie Challenge (and the accompanying Scare-A-Thon 2011), it was Civilian Central, courtesy of the Lewisburg Public Library. Managed to catch up with a few flicks that had yet to pass my hand, several of which because I wasn’t really inclined to actually shell out money for them. But in this case, it was the equivalent of borrowing them from a friend, and I thank LPL for the loan.

These will be quickies, as the month of darkness is already upon us, and I must needs return to my labors…

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


Naught. But I think we’ll be okay, he smiled knowingly…

Alfie (1966)
(1st viewing) d. Gilbert, Lewis
With last week’s Michael Caine double feature, my interest was piqued to finally check out his breakthrough role as a right perfect bastard whose a charmer in spite of his self-serving ways and overt chauvinism. As expected, the Caine charm makes this odious creature bearable, and a lesson is learned indeed.

Black Dahlia, The (2006) (1st viewing) d. De Palma, Brian
Wow, there are De Palma flicks that are masterpieces, there are exercises in style…and then there are ones that feel like he directed in his sleep. Seriously, this noir should have been much more, and what the hell accent is Hillary Swank trying out anyway? Just a dull bummer.

Contagion (2011) (1st viewing) d. Soderbergh, Steven
A solid, well-executed what-if scenario that sees a hyper-contagious plague sweep over the U.S., and skillfully depicting an all-too-believable outcome on numerous fronts. However, if I had a complaint, it would be that Soderbergh serves our intellect and imagination but never engages our hearts.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The (2005) (1st viewing) d. Jennings, Garth
Funny and manic adaptation of Douglas Adams’ brilliantly absurdist novel with Sam Rockwell headlining as two-headed nutjob President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, but it’s Martin Freeman (aka He Who Would Be Bilbo) as Arthur Dent that holds it all together, the straight man amidst the dolphins, sperm whales and manically depressed robots.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) (1st viewing) d. Zwick, Joel
Okay, really? Someone explain this one to me, because while it’s a serviceable enough comedy, it’s completely clichéd with its laughs “earned” from ethnic stereotypes. Not sure why it became such a superhit, although it does seem that America’s love affair with writer/star Nia Vardolos has ended as quickly as it began.

Transsiberian (2008) (1st viewing) d. Anderson, Brad
Not-bad thriller following an American couple returning from philanthropic mission on the Transsiberian express, only to get involved with drug running tourists on the run from Russian hardass Ben Kingsley. (For the other Anderson fans out there, it’s no Session 9, Next Stop Wonderland or The Machinist, but at least it’s no Vanishing on 7th Street either.) I will say, though, it’s hard to work up sympathy for a protagonist who refuses to admit to committing a crime when the cost seems so very minimal (and the expense for lying so clearly dear).

Tristam Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story (2006) (1st viewing) d. Winterbottom, Michael
Discovered Mr. Steve Coogan earlier this year in Hamlet 2, so I’ve been curious to see more of his particular brand of comedy. This wildly self-referential piece has Coogan playing himself playing the titular character in a troubled production of the titular “unfilmable” novel, and there are some solid laughs earned, as well as a few softballs. Fun to see Naomi Harris (28 Days Later’s Selena) and Kelly MacDonald (No Country for Old Men) getting work.

Without Limits (1998) (1st viewing) d. Towne, Robert
Long distance runner Steve Prefontaine apparently was a huge superstar in his late 60s/early 70s heyday, though I do have to wonder exactly why, based on the story depicted here. Clearly the man was a great natural talent, but he doesn’t seem to have been a very interesting person, inspiring presence, or devastating athlete, which doesn’t make for a great film subject.

Rambo III (1988
) (2nd viewing) d. MacDonald, Kevin
Revisited it to see if it was as silly and unmemorable as it first seemed when I saw it in the cinema. Yep, it is. The cornball dialogue and hambone politics ring even falser nowadays, and Stallone’s sculpted body and huge hairsprayed mullet are more freakish than imposing.

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) (2nd viewing) d. Wise, Robert
Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster are superbly matched in this terrifically engaging yarn about a U.S. sub in enemy waters, testing their crew’s mettle and faith. Marvelous stuff.

Tigerland (2001) (1st viewing) d. Schumacher, Joel
It’s a bit unfortunate that this film has been reduced to “Colin Farrell’s breakout film,” since it’s a pretty worthwhile basic training drama in its own right, one that is much less slick and polished than we’re used to seeing from Schumacher.

Bone Collector, The (2000)
(2nd viewing) d. Noyce, Philip
Manchurian Candidate, The (2004) (1st viewing) d. Demme, Jonathan
Siege, The (1998) (1st viewing) d. Zwick, Edward
What’s nice about the big D is that while he does tend to play fairly close to the middle in terms of his onscreen personality, he also stretches and twitches his stock-in-trade edgy nobility. Cases in point, his acceptance of a role where he spends almost the entirety of Bone Collector lying in a hospital bed as a quadriplegic forensics wiz guiding young patrolwoman Angelina Jolie (back when she was still an actress and less a movie star) along the path of a serial killer. And his turn in the remake of Manchurian Candidate is probably the biggest surprise for fans as his character is almost never on steady ground, as close to a “weak” character as I’ve ever seen him play. The movie itself is not the heresy that it might have first seemed upon announcement, a polished but still serviceable political thriller. Watching Siege in a post-9/11 setting is a very strange experience, as it almost seems to foretell the terrorist attacks, the Anti-Arab sentiments struggled with, the shell-shocked NYC population and anger against a government more intent on sending a message to the attackers than tending to its own. As could be expected, the resolution is far too simple, far too Hollywood, far too falsely satisfying, but for its first act, it dares to ask questions that probably should have been asked when the film first non-opened in 1998.

2011 totals to date: 385 films, 242 1st time views, 170 horror, 32 cinema

No comments:

Post a Comment