Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Film Week

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

THE PIANIST (2002)
I always meant to see this, and somehow 12 years went by. I'm glad I finally caught it, the day before they pulled it off Netflix. One of the most effective Holocaust dramas I've ever seen, in large part because the film doesn't purposely court your tears. The Holocaust is terrible, and the suffering in this movie is hard to watch, but there's also a sort of impassive quality; the Holocaust happened, people got caught up in it, and how can we explain it? In this film, we can only watch as someone tries to survive within something he's powerless to affect and finds difficult to understand, and it's only through luck and help that he does. It's not fate, it's not even the machinations of the story. It's a really impressive film because it doesn't demand sympathy and considers the Holocaust as an immovable historical background. Pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman's survival is not seen as heroic, as a fight against monstrous evil, but rather as a simple, powerful story of survival. ****

SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE (2014)
Oh, boy. Well... the last time, I said: "My problem with this kind of cheap piece of garbage is this: it's not meant to be funny. People put these things on and everyone gets excited by the stupidity and says the whole thing is supposed to be a goof, a movie that's so bad it's funny, but here's the thing: it's hard to make a bad movie on purpose." Well, it's much harder to make a bad movie on purpose twice. At least with this one you can see it's intentionally silly, but it's still a movie that just sort of happens while Ian Ziering Shatners all over the place and "stars" pop up around every corner and we're all supposed to be caught up in how fun it is, when really I think we just can't believe that we're all watching and talking about something which isn't even good or especially witty trash. The first movie was barely a movie; this is barely a movie but with confidence that people are going to watch it no matter what and assume that everything ridic that happens is just meant to be part of the fun. Still, it's hard to hate a movie that gives me Tara Reid with a buzzsaw hand and Judd Hirsch as a cabbie, I admit. I'm still not giving it the dignity of a rating because it's not really a movie, and I think it's weird that this is what keeps capturing our attention, but it's not like I'm offended by its existence. But as a cultural phenomenon, you have to admit it's bizarre that this is what we're all into for a couple of days. Look at what I'm writing, I'm clearly confused.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
Exceptional. I said some of this the other day, but this is exactly the movie I wanted it to be. I mean, I think it's a safe bet now that the Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks are going to be good (or at least that I'm going to like them), but I was surprised just how much I loved this. I didn't expect the characters to resonate the way they did, even Rocket and Groot, who are as three-dimensional as the others and excellently realized. This really turned on every switch in my creature-loving, comic-digging, space-faring, 70s music-rocking, adventure movie-craving soul. It's interesting how it was based on the more current comics version of Guardians of the Galaxy, but had a 70s cosmic Marvel vibe to it (particularly in some of the great details in the Collector's collection, including Adam Warlock's cocoon, Beta Ray Bill--I swear he's there--and THAT cameo). All of the actors are great here, totally in character and wearing some of the best makeup I've seen. I especially want to praise Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Lee Pace, and Michael Rooker, whose take on Yondu is surprising, but yes, this movie absolutely needed a bounty hunting cowboy character. And in all the talk about the chemistry between Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, and all of the talk about how great Rocket and Groot are, I don't want Dave Bautista as Drax to get lost in the shuffle; I found him moving as well as funny. I love this whole thing to death. ****

COTTON COMES TO HARLEM (1970)
I have to admit, when I saw the box at the video store years ago, I assumed Cotton was a guy's name, not actual cotton. Which is a nice commentary in itself. This just showed up on MGMHD the other night and I got caught up in it. It's about two police detectives who are on to a deacon who is fleecing the people of Harlem with a "Back to Africa" scam. Fun movie, and I always get caught up in the detail of the time period (cars, clothes, signs, etc.). I particularly liked Judy Pace, because of course I did, and Redd Foxx had a nice little role with a happy ending I sort of needed. Co-written and directed by Ossie Davis. ***

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Someone, somewhere made a Sharknado 2 reference and I CLEARLY missed it. My, I was SO not with it! And, not even defensively, I SO didn't care.