Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Film Week

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

UNDER THE COUNTER SPY (1954)
Not Woody Woodpecker's most boring outing... probably. I really have no idea, but this was really, really boring. *

CULLODEN (1964)
Peter Watkins' fake documentary about the final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Uprising. It's filmed as a contemporary news documentary, had one been extant and present at the battle. It creates a very interesting cinema verite effect, bringing the battle, its cost to history, and the conduct of the people involved into stark view. It humanizes the people involved in a way that's immediate and urgent. One of the most visceral historical films I've ever seen. ***1/2

REDS (1981)
Excellent, full, personal epic about American socialists John Reed and Louise Bryant, and Reed's involvement in/chronicling of the Russian Revolution. It's pretty daring of Warren Beatty for the time period to make a sympathetic portrait of a Communist, but I think he tempers that by showing how Reed's vision of genuine communism was corrupted by bureaucracy and counterrevolution. At its heart, it's a film about a couple who fell in love during a time of upheaval in America, who witnessed, chronicled and even influenced extraordinary events of change, and who ultimately witnessed the corruption of their ideals by the pragmatism and selfishness of people involved. What Beatty does with this film is offer all viewpoints, imbuing his portrait with arguments for and against, and presenting Reed as a human being who did what he felt was right for him, even if you don't agree. It's an astonishingly good film, with an interesting cast and some excellent performances, particularly Beatty and Diane Keaton in the leads, and Jack Nicholson as Eugene O'Neill. One of the greatest films of the overlooked 1980s. ****

HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT (1980)
James Caan stars in and directed this film, a film I really wanted to like. It's about a man whose ex-wife and children are swept up into the Witness Protection Program. They simply disappear from his life one day and he tries to track them down, petitioning the government for knowledge of their whereabouts. That's a very dramatic, interesting story, but the film generates no emotional connection, and I watched it rather passively. A shame, because it really could have had an impact. **

A DANGEROUS METHOD (2011)
The only thing worse than unwatchable garbage is unwatchable garbage with Keira Knightley in it. Zero stars.

MALICE IN LALALAND (2010)
Sasha Grey in a rockabilly porno version of Lewis Carroll. Gets to the point faster than Sucker Punch, and shooting it on film gives it a demented grindhouse look that I like, but it's not really enjoyable. **1/2

LEGO STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES OUT (2012)
Just when I'm all set not to like Star Wars humor anymore, this animated special knocks me out. Funnier and more fun than last year's Lego Star Wars: The Little Menace. They have some fun with Darth Maul being back in canon, too. And boy, it just makes me really happy to still hear Anthony Daniels as the voice of See Threepio. ***1/2

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I saw Reds in the theater. There was an intermission, right after the singing of L'Internationale. I thought the 2nd half sagged. But it WAS 30 years ago, and I haven't seen it since.