Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.


50/50 (2011)
Surprising. I wasn't sure I wanted to see it after the bro-heavy trailer, and after you lose someone to cancer you tend to be wary of movies (like, say, The Bucket List) that act like cancer is totally tolerable as long as you act crazy and selfish. I like that this movie was just about a guy with a good friend and a shitty girlfriend, trying to keep his cool and repair his relationship with his mother while pondering what could be the end of his existence. It's a very human, very emotional movie, one which doesn't make light of cancer or dying, but which takes those things very seriously without making its characters ciphers for some idiot message about life. It's about people, and it's excellent. **** stars.

CONTAGION (2011)
I think I'm done with Steven Soderbergh. He makes competent movies, well-directed and professional-looking with big casts, but so what? His movies are almost never about anything. It's more like a director just waving at the audience and saying "Hey, look what I can do." Every so often there's something really enjoyable, but not too often, and I'm not going to chase them down anymore. This movie: looks good, well-made, utterly pointless and not interested in depth or emotion. Just things happening. Meh. Soderbergh's like the Michael Bay of Oscar bait. ** stars.

THE IDES OF MARCH (2011)
I'm a sucker for two things: movies about the inside of political decision-making and things directed by George Clooney. The real star here, of course, is Ryan Gosling. As of this movie, I've officially turned a corner on the lad and can call myself a fan. I never thought, watching the execrable Young Hercules, that I would ever say that. Potentially irritating cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti in the same movie can go so wrong) used very well. Could've used more Jeffrey Wright, but that's true of everything. **** stars.

MY FAVORITE SPY (1951)
It can't be said enough how beautiful Hedy Lamarr was. Good Bob Hope comedy, though by this point I think the "mistaken for a spy" formula was wearing thin. *** stars.

THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940)
So it turns out that Bob Hope can make an unfunny movie without pretending he's 25 years younger than he is, which is what makes so many of his movies from the 60s so ridiculous... I'm sure you knew that, but I didn't even know I was a fan of him until, like, three years ago or summat. *1/2 stars.

PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948)
Creepy, soppy, and predictable movie about a frustrated artist falling in love with a child. Actually, it's mostly predictable (with some outrageously silly dialog); there are some surprises at the end, where some of the cheese that would've at least made the silliness understandable isn't even gone for. Come on, if you're going for cheese, go the full wheel, at least. Overwrought, but nice New York location shooting. ** stars.

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945)
Starts off quite promising, then starts to dull, and finally turns into the movie that just won't end. Lots of good points, though, such as the mere existence of George Sanders. Most of the actors are quite good, but especially Angela Lansbury and Hurd Hatfield as Dorian; I think this is the only thing I've ever seen him in. A very good-looking film, too. I like the painting when it gets weird and horrid; it's by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, but it reminds me a bit of Jack Davis. I wish this movie had been better. All the elements are there, but the pacing is so poor. **1/2 stars.

DREW PETERSON: UNTOUCHABLE (2012)
Hilarious, ridiculous, so-bad-it's-kind-of-awesome Lifetime docudrama (or their sensationalist version of what a docudrama is). Rob Lowe as jokester/wife murder (allegedly, etc) Drew Peterson is automatically hilarious, but I just had to see it in person. And Kaley Cuoco's in there, so bonus for me. Right after high school, I dated a girl who lived in the exact same neighborhood as Drew Peterson, so I was curious to see if the movie got the look of Bolingbrook right. I don't know where they filmed it, but it's a decent job; I figured it would look like Vancouver, with mountains or something. A train wreck, but a fun one to make fun of. ** stars. "I'm untouchable, bitch" will be quoted in my home for at least a year.

HARLEM NIGHTS (1989)
A very nice-looking failure. This is a very good-looking movie, but the story is just average and kind of cliched, and this is Eddie Murphy at the height of his ego directing and producing his own performance. He just goes on and on and on and on in some scenes, and Richard Pryor--who proves himself the superior comic by saying less and having more of an impact--even sometimes looks at Murphy like, "Aren't you done yet?" Pryor's very good in this, and so is Redd Foxx (as always), but Eddie Murphy's ambition here exceeds his grasp. Too bad. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. **1/2 stars.

TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL (2010)
Fantastic horror comedy about two hillbillies (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) who are mistaken for backwoods psychos by a bunch of college kids when one of them falls for the prettiest girl in the college group (Katrina Bowden, skinny but pretty). So the central premise is that Tucker and Dale are in a slasher flick, but don't know they're in one. One of the best horror films of the decade. **** stars.

PULP (1972)
I tried. * star.

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (2011)
Pure insanity. If you're the right kind of person, in a good way. I mean, yeah, it's super-stupid and intentionally-poorly-made, and tries a bit too hard, but it's Rutger Hauer, with a shotgun, in an incredibly over-the-top movie. I have to give it **** stars just for going all the way with the joke.

TRON: LEGACY (2010)
So, Jeff Bridges is still inside a computer and the computer was never turned off but it's been running for years? Damn, that's a good CPU fan. I had my Dell for, like, 7 or 8 years and the fan burned out once and the computer crashed to the point of needing to be reformatted three times. I wonder if the potential computer issues are why Jeff Bridges' creepy CGI face is so fucking creepy. Seriously, you couldn't just pull his skin back, or something? * star for Daft Punk's excellent score. It's an album I've never gotten tired of listening to, utterly divorced from this shitty movie.

SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO (1991)
On the one hand, my wife made me watch this movie. On the other hand, not everyone I know has a wife who sees a cheesy action thriller from practically the 80s with Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is going to be on cable and asks her husband to record it just in case it is, and I quote, "a trainwreck of awesome badness." So I still win. *1/2 stars for some of the silliness, and a little bit for having a wife that never, EVER wants to see anything with Julia Roberts in it.

X (2011)
Terrible Australian movie about a young hooker and a veteran call girl who team up for something or other and end up on the wrong side of something or other and blah blah predictable blah happens. I'm going to be very honest with you: I just like Viva Bianca on Spartacus and wanted to see her in something else, preferably something naked. So, mission accomplished. * star.

THE HEARTBREAK KID (1972)
Excellent black comedy about a man (Charles Grodin) who marries a girl (Jeannie Berlin) and then, on their honeymoon, discovers she's kind of awful. He falls in love with Cybill Shepard (at the height of her cuteness and desirability, before freaking Daisy Miller) and spends the rest of his honeymoon wooing her and trying to tell his wife he wants a divorce. More satirical edge than I'd expect from a Neil Simon script, honestly (even for this time period). One of the great comedies. **** stars. I've actually wanted to see this movie since I first read about it in high school, but it actually took me this long to finally track it down. Now it freaks me out that this movie is 40 years old, and only about four years older than me...

7 comments:

Tallulah Morehead said...

"Good Bob Hope comedy"

These words make no sense.

I agree that Hope pretending he's 25 to 70 years younger that he was contributed to the unrelieved awfulness of everything he did (onscreen and off) from about 1960 until his too-long-delayed death, but what is really wrong with his 60s and 70s movies are two things: horrible, obvious, unfunny writing, and the presence of Bob Hope. (Can you detect that I hated him?)

I must agree with every word you wrote about Portait of Jennie.

I've seen Picture of Dorian Gray many times, including once in a theater (on a double bill with Bride of Frankenstein), and it never struck me as slow or endless. Beyond that one point, I agree with all you say about it.

I worked with Hurd Hatfield once, in 1975, and I swear he must have kept that portrait, because he still looked great. Take a look at his IMDb resume. I'll bet you have seen him in other stuff. King of Kings? The Boston Strangler? He worked a lot for many years, much of it on television.

Anyway, I love this movie (which I reviewed quite well in my book The Q Guide to Classic Monster Movies), and the novel as well. (Someone gave me a lovely deluxe edition of the novel for my birthday two years ago. What, I wonder, were they trying to say to me?)

Your opening comments on Tron Legacy made me laugh out loud. I didn't see it,as seeing the original Tron when it came out was bad enough. The original was such an ugly-looking movie that it took Bruce Boxleitner and Jeff Bridges, then two of the best-looking men in movies, and made them look awful and unsexy. I will not be seeing the sequel.

The Heartbreak Kid is indeed a trerrific film, but you failed to credit the person responsible, director Elaine May (whose daughter plays the horrible bride). Elaine May has made some missteps here and there (Ishtar anyone?), but she is forever a goddess to those of us in the comedy biz. Now you know why Ken Levine didn't just hate the remake, but was offended by its mere existence.

Kelly Sedinger said...

You're one of those people with whom I agree sufficiently often that when I don't agree, I'm always a bit surprised! (I loved TRON Legacy. Go figure!)

SamuraiFrog said...

Tallulah: Looking on the IMDb, I did see Hurd Hatfield in one other movie, which was the 1948 Joan of Arc, which I've long since forgotten about. (It was, weirdly, one of the first VHS movies my library obtained when I was in high school.)

I actually saw the remake of The Heartbreak Kid a few years ago, so I saw the remake first--I ended up catching it on HBO, and though you don't have to see it to be offended by it, the movie makes sure you don't come out with any other reaction to it. And finally seeing the original, what a pointless idea to remake it. Though it does give you a good idea about what's changed in comedy filmmaking in the last 40 years...

Kelly: It happens. I get bored by a lot of modern action filmmaking. It's more of a surprise to me to hear that anyone agrees with me ever, much less often!

DrGoat said...

Besides, George Saunders is such a pleasure to watch.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Gosling is the real deal. I like how hard he worked to win me over in the past couple of years. I even want to watch 'PS, I Love You' now and that disturbs me more than you can know.

You really can't beat a George Clooney political drama. The way he fit so comfortably into the politician role is strangely comforting to me.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Did you see Fast 5? That was my favorite straight action movie this year.

Dr. Monkey said...

The original Heartbreak Kid, classic. The Ben Stiller remake, a cinematic abortion.