Friday, January 31, 2014

Tetro (2009) **

Nicely shot in beautiful black and white widescreen, great visual appeal. The story fails to resonate however. Nice to see Coppola back making personal films again.

One from the Heart (1982) **

Interesting visuals and mostly appealing actors marred by a terrible story.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Cop (1972) *

French take on the heist genre focuses on the small details of an elaborate, and I mean elaborate, plan for the bad guys to swipe a drug shipment from the really bad guys. We're supposed to get character development and emotion from watching the details but it didn't work for me.

The Smart Set: A Brush with Evil

"The Coen Brothers twist in Inside Llewyn Davis is to make their folksinger an asshole. He is an asshole because he has nowhere to be. Much of the plot of Inside Llewyn Davis revolves around Davis trying to find someone who will let him crash at his or her house for the night.

"The problem of having nowhere to be is actually the problem of evil."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Lovelace (2013) **

Tough to watch biopic about the exploitation of Linda Lovelace, first porno superstar, by just about everybody she came into contact with. Good cast.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

All Night Long (1962) ***

Nifty riff on Othello set amidst early '60's jazz scene with some heavyweights playing themselves. Patrick McGoohan is a great Iago and if he's not playing those drums himself (and quite well) then there's some pretty amazing in camera tricks going on.

The Intruder (1999) *

Proves how good an actress Charlotte Gainsbourg is and how much the camera loves Nastassja Kinski. How these two managed to be in such an amateurish and nonsensical film is another matter.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Married Life (2007) **

Like an extended version of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents only with top drawer acting talent in the leads. The tone is uneven, confusing and ultimately unsatisfying.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Truths Behind 'Dr. Strangelove' : The New Yorker

"In December, 1960, fifteen members of Congress serving on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy had toured NATO bases to investigate how American nuclear weapons were being deployed. They found that the weapons—some of them about a hundred times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima—were routinely guarded, transported, and handled by foreign military personnel. American control of the weapons was practically nonexistent. Harold Agnew, a Los Alamos physicist who accompanied the group, was especially concerned to see German pilots sitting in German planes that were decorated with Iron Crosses—and carrying American atomic bombs. Agnew, in his own words, 'nearly wet his pants' when he realized that a lone American sentry with a rifle was all that prevented someone from taking off in one of those planes and bombing the Soviet Union."

American Hustle (2013) **

Entertaining mess of a picture, thanks largely to a good cast and a great, though anachronistic, soundtrack. The director is not really interested in the '70's or the plot, just lots of closeups and a moving camera. Wardrobe tape should get a best supporting actor award.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Captain Phillips (2013) ***

Nearly flawless actioner about the first American cargo ship in 200 years to be hijacked. Direction is tight, acting is no nonsense, production values top notch.

Nebraska (2013) **

I'm admittedly spoiled by Alexander Payne's previous film work so much that this sharply observed family comedy-drama focusing on the minutiae of Midwestern existence, well made though it is, fails to impress. The "In the Ghetto" karaoke scene is a show stopper though.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) **

A number of intriguing elements plus some excellent black and white cinematography undermined by dated Hollywood psychology tropes. Sir Laurence is very good.

Young Adult (2011) **

Character study about a woman who just can't let high school go. Charlize Theron is a bit too fit for all the fast food she consumes in this picture.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) ***

The 1961 New York folk music scene from the perspective of an artist dealing with crippling grief and guilt and his own self defeating behavior. Meticulously constructed, as usual by the Coens, but the protagonist has so few redeeming qualities it leaves a sour taste.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) **

Borderline camp pastiche of 30's-40's pulp fiction heroes re-imagined for 80's sensibilities doesn't quite work, but parts are fun. John Lithgow is a hoot.

Movie 43 (2013) **

Hit and miss collection of short segments played for laughs, with big stars and lots of foul language/humorously shocking situations. Similar to films like this and this from years past. Not as horrible as reviewed by most critics, but not entirely successful either.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Never So Few (1959) *

The Japanese and Chinese armies in WWII Burma try to put a damper in Frank Sinatra's love life and he goes ballistic. At least it seems that way. Appalling, self-righteous propaganda. Having said that, it's nice to see Dean Jones in a pre-Disney role as well as an early star making turn by Steve McQueen. Of course, it is always nice to see La Lollo.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Drinking Buddies (2013) **

Perceptive look at relationships with a chance to see Olivia Wilde do well in a lead role, but the copious amounts of beer and bad food consumed nearly non-stop by people who stay razor thin for no apparent reason is a bit distracting. The characters are not all that appealing either so they overall effect is a downer. Kudos for avoiding the typical rom-com tropes.

An Anxious Sally Hawkins, Onstage and in Auditions -

"Mostly, though, Ms. Hawkins was focused on her performance. Usually having a writer-director means the freedom to ask about backstory, but given his filmmaking pace, Mr. Allen can’t really work that way.

“'He just doesn’t have any time for conversations like that, and he’s not interested in your process or what you’re thinking or how you work as an actor,' she said. 'He’s interested in you turning up and being it. But I love him for that, I think it’s so cool.'”

Fascinating how different directors work with actors. Woody's way seems to be extremely successful since many of his actors have been nominated and won many awards through the years. And he gets top notch performances in nearly all his films.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

3 Women (1977) ****

Enigmatic lucid dream of a movie more about emotion and mood rather than plot. At times hilarious, creepy, poignant. Shelley Duvall shines as well as Robert Fortier in a key supporting role. Another great film that failed horribly at the box office thanks to being released at the same time as Star Wars.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street: The Little Controversy That Could (and Should) - Grantland

"It’s a powerful fairy tale by which we as a country continually let ourselves be snake-charmed, which each new generation of pin-striped huckster-clowns quickly learns is their greatest tool. If you remember that cataclysmic crisis that nearly wiped our financial system from the map (and why would you with the Dow over 16,000?), Jordan Belfort was a small-time crook. Compared to those who ran our economy into the ground, Belfort’s literally a sideshow. How many of them did as much time as Belfort? Which of them are making restitution to their countless victims? Who gave them social license to act like sociopaths and lionized them deliriously as the markets soared ever higher? And, by the way, what’s going on with all those Dodd-Frank financial reforms?"

Monday, January 06, 2014

World War Z (2013) **

Manages to avoid a lot of (but not all) cliches of the genre and keeps things moving well, but it's still basically a zombie flick. As is typical with these things, lots of quick cutting during the action sequences and very dark lighting, which makes things easier for the 3D effect.

Play It Again, Sam (1972) ***

Some of the bits are dated, but there's still lots of Allen one-liners and a solid spine to this picture. Nice shots of early 70's San Francisco too.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Not Fade Away (2012) ***

A personal reflection on starting an artist's life in 1960's New Jersey by David Chase. Some anachronistic details, but gets a lot about the family dynamics of the time, or lack of them, right. Shifts in narrative drive and tone, with an enigmatic and thoughtful ending.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Lair of the White Worm (1988) ***

Ken Russell's version of a Hammer film, it's crazy, campy and highly enjoyable. Where have you gone, Amanda Donohoe?

The Sting (1973) ****

A couple of potholes in the plot, but a strong cast and even stronger direction make this popcorn movie always enjoyable. Its massive box office and critical success paved the way for future B movies to become A's.