Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Road (2009)

A father and his 8 year old son starving to death and trying to outrun cannibals after the apocalypse. A nice evening's entertainment. Not nearly as arty or self-important as I feared, but I'm afraid just as bleak. Viggo Mortensen is not an actor who's face invokes far-away vistas, I find him rather constipated, with a voice that sounds remarkably like an American Dr. Strangelove. He does bring a haggard authenticity to his role. The child, Keri-Scott-David-Something-or-other, was quite good, an excellent crier. I find end of the world movies, and there seems to have been a lot lately, thoroughly depressing. How is this entertainment? I'd never want to see this again. A decent adaptation of a great book. Read the book instead.

Two Family House (2006, I think...whatever)

A Staten Island Italian with a cunt of a wife has an affair with an Irish slut in this feel-good indie comedy. It was one of the most sincere movies I've seen in a long time, so I can't really dislike it. The kind of movie that would have Sundance audiences sighing contentedly and furiously filling out their comment cards. It makes "Moonstruck" look like a documentary. It was sweet. See it. Or don't, what do I care?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Hours (2008)

The matriarch of a French family (the luminous Edith Scob, of "Eyes Without a Face" fame) dies and leaves her three grown children to sort out her estate in this fantastic movie from director Olivier Assayas. One wishes to keep the house, along with the beloved longtime housekeeper and the priceless collection of art and furniture. The other two, with busy lives that keep them on the road, have no use for the house and it's contents. He's outvoted and they opt to sell everything. Collectors, lawyers, and tax officials start picking through the home and personal effects. If this sounds like overripe drama, it's not. There is not one moment in this film that feels showy or untrue. From beginning to end, this film is moving without being corny, intelligent without being talky, and never pretentious. One beautifully executed scene follows another. It's about secrets, the past receding away, the fragmentation of families, and finding peace. Easily the best movie I've seen this year.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Silkwood (1983)

Saw this when I was twelve and thought it was the height of movie making. With fresh 40 year old eyes the movie seems a little full of itself and full of shit. Stars Meryl Streep as a nuclear plant whistle blower with Kurt Russell playing her mechanic boyfriend and a pre-veneers Cher as the dyke roommate. Director Mike Nichols lays on the white trash working class hero bullshit a little thick; there is a lot of smoking, beer drinking, and banjo playing. The film really strains to paint Karen Silkwood as a hero, who knows if she ever did anything? She really accomplishes nothing. There was no proof she had ANY evidence against the plant. It seemed the only thing she was good at was taking tranquilizers, showing up late for work, and getting plutonium contamination. When she's killed in a car crash, the movie portrays it as a deliberate act of murder by a mysterious motorist, no doubt working on behalf of the plant. But in the movie's postscript, it states that at the time of her death she had enough alcohol and tranquilizers in her system to sedate a moose. Umm, okay...what a dipshit.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shutter Island (2010)

I wasn't too excited to see this. The ads painted this as a hollow and flashy horror movie, and I haven't been impressed by Scorsese's recent output. I'm also not a big fan of Leo, he was incredible in Gilbert Grape, but nothing he's done since then has lived up to that performance. This, for me, is the best Scorsese picture since Age of Innocence (I know I'm probably in a minority liking that one). For the most part, I like his genre movies best: New York New York, After Hours, Cape Fear, Age of Innocence. And like the classic Hollywood directors he idolizes, he seems to relish the chance to screw around with established genres. It's interesting to see a director in his late sixties having so much fun. He throws every oogey-boogey trick at us, coherence or good taste be damned. As far as DiCaprio, he's very good, and he's matched or surpassed by every cast member, the performances are all excellent, or at least enjoyable in a hammy way. Maybe now that Scorsese has finally won his Oscar, he can stop trying to win one and just make dazzling, entertaining movies that people want to see.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Daybreakers (2010)

Just what I need, another vampire movie. In this one, the whole world is vampiric, with human beings a shrinking minority. Starring the scummy and unappealing Ethan Hawke. Also starring Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe, who earn every penny of their paychecks and sink their fangs into every inch of scenery. The rest of the cast is comprised of Australian actors struggling to sound American. There are some interesting details involving how all these vampires avoid deadly sunlight, but why are all the buildings covered in windows? And if they cannot see their own reflections, how is all their hair and make-up so flawless? The screenplay sounds as if it were written by a twelve-year-old. Full of such gems as "That's about as safe as barebacking a five dollar whore" or "I love a good barbecue" (after a vampire is incinerated). A dumb movie for idiots.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Honeymoon Killers (1969)

Based on the real-life "lonely hearts killers" case, this Z budget film stars the obese Shirley Stoler as Martha Beck, and Tony LoBianco as Ray Fernandez, who travel the country posing as brother and sister, bilking lonely ladies out of their savings. I saw this as a teenager and liked it. I viewed it as the kind of movie John Waters would have made, in the Divine days, if he decided to make a serious movie (Shirley Stoler looks and sounds so much like Divine it's scary). This Criterion Collection dvd, with a pristine print (the audio is still lousy) and lots of nifty extras, made me see it in a different light. Much better than I remembered, and not nearly as funny as I once found it. According to the interview with writer/director Leonard Kastle, Martin Scorsese (!) was the original director, fired after the first week for being too slow. The one Scorsese-directed scene that remains, oddly, is one of my least favorite: a clunky scene where Martha, in a fit of jealousy, attempts to drown herself. Despite the budget (made for $150,00.000) and a campy, comic tone, the movie has moments of great power. One of their murder victims, an elderly lady, is battered in the head with a hammer. When this doesn't work, they strangle her, first with their hands, then with a scarf, using the hammer as a tourniquet. She finally dies in a heap on the floor, with her house dress hiked up, her knickers showing. It's one of the most pathetic deaths I've ever seen on screen. Apparently, this was Francois Truffault's favorite American movie.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Crazies (1973) / The Crazies (2009)

The government accidentally spills a top secret bio-weapon in a small town causing everyone to go berserk. George Romero is responsible for directing the original, and executive producing the remake. Getting through the original Crazies was one of the more trying film experiences I've had. Filled with inane directorial inspirations, bad audio, and really ugly actors. I mean REALLY ugly. My mind was wandering (as it was prone to do during this) and I remembered how boring Dawn of the Dead was the last time I saw it. I had liked it a lot, but on the last viewing noticed some inexcusably stupid shit in that movie followed by twenty minute stretches where NOTHING happens. Is everybody wrong and George Romero is really just a terrible director? If The Crazies had been Romero's first film, instead of Night of the Living Dead, we might not have ever heard of him. (It feels like a first film, it's very clumsy/showy in a film student way) I kept saying to myself "It's almost over, it's almost over..." (Wasn't that the promotional slogan for the movie?) It wasn't almost over.

A B movie in 1973 is different than a B movie in 2009. The remake loses some of that cheap movie rawness, but grows a brain and a heart. A far superior movie to the original. It's like a perfect example of the filmmaker making the right decision every time, whereas Romero, well, you know. You can tell right away, ten minutes in, when Romero had made about thirty dumb mistakes, director Breck Eisner has already rolled out two or three brilliantly paced sequences, all rather creepy. Romero had the government officials as the main characters. Shouting, smoking generals barking orders and gnashing their teeth. Here, the townspeople, the actual victims of the virus, are the heroes. A much more compelling (and correct) choice. Maybe Romero was being old fashioned by making the government the heroes (had Watergate happened yet?) In the remake, you barely see them. Just a jet high up in the sky, a car skidding away, or a distant army cloaked in gas masks. They are just a malevolent force causing all the mayhem and observing from afar. See this. It's not just a B horror movie, it's an excellent one.