November 26, 2005

Lost at sea - Hitchocock's Lifeboat

I haven't been feeling well the last few days and thus haven't had an inclination to do much of anything, but ... I did manage to watch a film or two, including Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944).

It was pretty good. As with most Hitchcock, he sets himself a challenge - in this case, shooting an entire movie within the confines of a lifeboat. From the opening shot of Tallulah Bankhead in her fur coat, with her camera sitting in the boat, right to the end, everything goes on in the boat.

You would think the film would get claustrophopic, but it doesn't. In fact, the scenes move quite quickly, and compellingly.

The film works partly because of the script (a story by John Steinbeck, screenplay by Jo Swerling). Relationships form, shift and develop through the movie. And it's set on the Atlantic during World War II (when it was also shot), so part of the drama comes from the fact that one of the passengers on the lifeboat is the captain of the German boat that sank the liner the rest of the passengers had been on.

In a way, it's a standard dramatic situation - take a disparate group of people and throw them together, here in a tightly enclosed space none of them can flee.

In a way, Hitchcock has made an entire film using a single set, much as he did with Rope though his approach is very different.

Regardless of what he does, the end result is a very entertaining movie.

Tag: , , , , ,

November 22, 2005

King Kong on deck

I can't say I'm overly excited about Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong - but that may change once it's out. As a general rule, I don't like remakes.

I am excited, however, about the Amazon package that arrived today with my King Kong Collection. This includes the special edition two disc set of the original King Kong (1933), the sequel Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young (1949). Also arriving in the Amazon box was a completely unrelated movie, Operation Petticoat (1959), which starred Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.

Jackson's King Kong may be the exception - a good remake. But until I see it and can judge, I'm more than happy to have the original. There's a certain charm to those black and white movies.

And really, there is no remaking Fay Wray, the girl from Cardston, Alberta.

Tag: , , , , ,

November 20, 2005

Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder quite slow

I see most movies by myself - perhaps because I watch so many, and so many during the week. But seeing movies with others, especially with people who like movies but are not aficionados, definitely is insightful.

After dinner last night, three of us sat down to watch Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954).

Well, Liz fell asleep. Mind you, she was pretty whipped. Still, tired or not, someone falling asleep, especially early in a film, is not a good sign.

As we watched, I felt it dragged quite a bit, at least in the first half, due to all the tedious exposition - especially the scene where Ray Milland goes on with no apparent end essentially establishing the set up for the second half of the film. That's the scene where he explains to Anthony Dawson, who is being blackmailed into killing Grace Kelly, the scheme.

Gord, during all of this, commented on how bad the script was. I think he was responding to how extremely long the scene is, and how it was all dialogue. Sure, people moved around, there was some camera movement and a few cuts, but you can see how it is based on a play and that means people just talking, explaining. Hitchcock does try to make it visual but still, it is all dialogue. For an audience of today, the scene is quite deadly.

It's a weakness of the murder mystery - they inevitably have to establish story elements - characters and plot points - which usually means exposition. I find this in most of the old Columbo mysteries from TV. The first 20 or 30 minutes are boring because that is where they establish the crime and the characters. It isn't till Columbo shows up that things get interesting.

So it is in Dial M for Murder. It isn't engaging until the murder attempt is made, almost halfway through the film.

In the end, Dial M is worth seeing - there are some good elements. But it's also dated somewhat and, partly due to genre and partly due to its being based on a play, it is tedious for a large part of the film.

Still, watching Grace Kelly is, as always, delightful.

Tag: , , , , ,

November 17, 2005

Another of my recurring Cary Grant phases

I seem to be going through one of my recurring Cary Grant phases. I finished reading Cary Grant by Marc Eliot, and it was certainly interesting. (I made a brief post about on my other blog, Crazy Ass Planet.)

Of course, since I was reading about Grant, I had to watch (or rewatch) some of his movies. That meant The Philadelphia Story, The Awful Truth, North by Northwest and Brining Up Baby. But it also meant picking up a few of his other movies, ones I either hadn't seen or didn't remember.

So I also watched People Will Talk (1951) with Jeanne Crain and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Not a bad movie, but not great either. It's a little too earnest and Cary Grant is just a little too ... posed? There's very little range in his character. He's just a handsome good guy.

The other film I watched was The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer with Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple, directed by Irving Reis. I liked this one much more, though once again it's far from great. But, despite a pretty silly storyline, it's quite funny - largely because Grant plays comedy so well. And it is well-directed in a functional way. Grant seems much more comfortable and assured in this film than in People Willl Talk and I think it's because he was much more comfortable playing comedy, poking fun at himself, than in drama (unless he was being directed by Hitchcock).

Speaking of whom, the next on my list is Suspicion. I haven't seen that one for a while.

Tag: , , ,

November 13, 2005

For your viewing pleasure, Gina Lollobrigida

I don't know why, but I'm getting a lot people dropping off here looking for Gina Lollobrigida. I, too, am very fond of Gina.

I just don't know why people are looking for her here.

Actually, I do. Some time back I discovered, while searching for something else, a Gina Lollobrigida link came up - very high in the listing of results. I thought that was odd, posted about it, and used a Gina image in the post.

Now I'm one of the top, if not the top result when you search for Gina Lollobrigida images on Google.

Searchers must be very disappointed. This is not the place to be looking for Gina Lollobrigida information or images. It's just a blog about movies by a guy who likes Gina Lollobrigida, amongst many other actors. Ah well!

Tag: , ,

October 30, 2005

The Dude abides

I watched the Collector's Edition version of the The Big Lebowski and while I still feel the same way about the film, I have to say the intro they add to this DVD edition is incredibly funny. Especially if you waste a lot of time in the world of films and DVDs. As for the movie itself, the review I wrote quite a while ago still holds. It goes like this:

It's taken me quite a while to get around to seeing The Big Lebowski, but I finally have. (I seem to be on a Coen brothers thing this week.) My gut response? It's kind of boring largely, I think, because it's more a pastiche of scenes than a coherent whole.

This is deliberate, part of the movie's style. But for me, it works against it. It's one of those ideas that is better in thought than in practice.

In talking about it on the DVD's featurette, the Coens refer to this aspect when they discuss it in terms of a Raymond Chandler story, like The Big Sleep. I can see what they mean when they say this, but I just don't think it works.

Part of the problem seems to be that they've used this "confusing plot" idea as an excuse to try interesting visuals. While those visuals certainly are cool, you can't help wondering what the hell they have to do with anything. Just as songs disrupt the narrative flow in some musicals, so these visuals disrupt the flow in The Big Lebowski.

As usual with the Coen brothers, the story idea is very engaging and quirky. Jeff Bridges is The Dude, Jeff Lebowski, an unemployed doper who spends most of his time in his bathrobe doing dope, drinking White Russians and bowling.

One day he comes home and encounters two dimwitted gangster types, someone's "muscle," who demand money they say is owed to their boss. They rough up The Dude, threaten him and urinate on his carpet. Unfortunately, they have have confused him with another Jeff Lebowski, The Big Lebowski.

Thus do The Dude's adventures begin as he tries to get his carpet replaced by the other Lebowski.

Explaining the plot is pointless. Let's simply say The Dude encounters a rich, handicapped old man who wants him as a bag man because his young, promiscuous wife (who appears in porn films) has been kidnapped. The Dude meets pornographers, German nihilists and assorted other characters along the way.

He's aided by some friends, most notably by Walter (John Goodman) a Vietnam veteran with issues.

There are a host of funny, clever scenes in the film. But as mentioned, nothing hangs together very well. The movie looks great but often loses its pacing for the sake of cleverness, either in terms of getting an interesting looking visual or, in some cases, a characterization that works against it.

For example, Bridges' character is generally stoned or otherwise unable to articulate what he is wants to say. While it's appropriate for the character, the characterization slows the movie, clogs it. It's an idea (this kind of man in this kind of situation) that likely looks great on paper but, on film, doesn't quite click.

I suppose this all points to a larger problem, the lack of a narrative arc. The characters, by and large, are the same people at the end as they were at the beginning. So it doesn't ever go anywhere.

In the end, while there is no denying there have been funny moments, The Big Lebowski isn't satisfying. It has the feel of a young person showing off how clever he can be. There is a lot of style but not a great deal of substance.

I found it more frustrating than anything else though while watching it I also had the sense it was probably a film the Coens had get out of their system in order to move on. In movies that followed The Big Lebowski the same cleverness still appears but, in those films, it serves the movies they make rather than itself.

Tag: , ,

October 27, 2005

Yes, I watched Titanic again

Well, Titanic is out now in a 3-disc DVD "Special Collector's Edition," so I felt obligated. But I'm not objecting.

All the things the film's detractors list about why they don't like it are, I think, why it is such a good movie. Maybe not great, but very, very good. Yes, it's sentimental, romantic and very much a film of cinematic artifice, but that's what makes it so good. (Remember, those same things can be said, and should be said, of Casablanca.)

The film's popularity speaks to its merit. The real question is, what is it about movies like this that resonates with audiences?

Tag: , ,

October 22, 2005

Recent viewings: Garbo, John Wayne, Batman

I've seen a lot of different movies in the last few weeks but I haven't had time to scribble much about them. For instance, I picked up Garbo - The Signature Collection a while ago. That's the one with something like twelve movies (this includes three silent films from the late 1920's.)

Most of them are pretty good. I especially like Ninotchka (directed by Ernst Lubitsch, 1939). Very funny and I like the way the movie kind of uses the Garbo image (silent, aloof) as a part of the primary comedy. Garbo is great in it by the way.

Anna Christie (1931) ... well, I didn't like that one so much. In fact, I stopped watching after about 40 minutes because it was painful. This was her first "talkie." In fact, I think that's how they promoted it: "Garbo Talks!" Good grief, does she ever. That's all anyone does in this thing - long, long scenes of people sitting around talking. Anyway ... not the best film in the collection.

Camille (1936), on the other hand ... I really liked that one. Sentimental, yes. Romantic, yes. But a really good movie, none the less. And Garbo is extremely fetching in this one.

Other than Garbo, I watched John Wayne's Hondo (1953) a few days ago. It was released as a Special Collector's Edition at the same time as McLintock! - see the earlier post. Both of these films, by the way, were at a great price - $12.00 each when I picked them up. Of the two, I think my sentimental favourite has to be McLintock! but, honestly, Hondo is a much better film. As someone else mentioned, it has some similarities to Shane, another 1953 film.

Wayne is quintessentially John Wayne here with his North American machismo and all, and this film is one of the few movies I've actually seen that had the old Hollywood western cowboys and Indians thing going on (though, for the period, the First Nations people are portrayed with more sympathy than you might expect). Overall, it's a good western. (Of course, if you don't like westerns this is probably not your cup of tea.)

And let me mention one other movie ... Batman Begins (2005). Yes, it's very good. Of all the Batman movies I've seen, it's easily the best and definitely one of the best of the very popular glut of comic book movies that have been released. As usual with these kinds of movies, it works so well because they concentrate on character and story. But this movie reminds me a lot of the first Spiderman movie (though it's much better than that film).

The first half of the film is great. The second half, good but not great. The reason? Once he becomes Batman and the bad guys enter into things and the heroics start, it loses me (as did the first Spiderman). In other words, the man becoming the hero is far more interesting than the hero as the hero.

However, in this case, while Batman Begins loses some steam in the second half it doesn't lose a lot of it (unlike the first Spiderman).

Tag: , , , , , ,

October 16, 2005

McLintock! - Wayne and O'Hara at odds

I watched McLintock! (1963) last night. It’s not the greatest movie in the John Wayne canon, but you know, I’ve always liked it.

From what I’ve seen online, it doesn’t rate that high with many people, but then it’s not the most western of westerns. It’s essentially a comedy – one that is sort of a John Wayne version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

The movie sort of works off and on. There are about three big set pieces (like the mud fight and the inevitable confrontation between John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara). They work pretty well, but some of what goes on in between drags.

Still, I remember seeing this when I was young and loving it. I always like Wayne and O’Hara and while this is a far cry from The Quiet Man, it’s a fun film to watch. At least for me.

It’s a bit like Hatari! (another movie whose title ends in an exclamation mark). The story isn’t terribly important. Like a favourite TV show, you like it because of the characters – in this case, the usual Wayne and O-Hara characters. They’re fun to watch. You can’t help but like them.

Interesting how much brawling goes on in Wayne films. (By the way, while not a great movie, I'd definitely watch McLintock! before watching that other recent DVD release, The High and the Mighty.)

Tag: , , ,

October 15, 2005

The western - Costner's Open Range

I saw a reference to Open Range over on Purgatorian and it reminded me of how much I like the movie. Back when I reviewed it, I gave it four stars out of five. I may watch it again tonight - seems to me in retrospect I was a bit stingy with that assessment. Here's what I wrote back then:

Everytime someone makes a western numerous people comment that the western is dead. We're to take this as a film given. Personally, I'm sick to death of hearing this. If the form is dead, why do so many people still like them?

With Kevin Costner's Open Range, the comments I see over and over are something to the effect, "The western is dead but this is a really good movie." Huh?

I think there is a belief the western is kaput partly because there is a superficial understanding of what the western is. Some commentators confuse the presence of cowboy hats, horses and guns with what constitutes a western. A western, however, is a mythic morality tale where, quite often, there are cowboy hats, horses and guns.

But there are westerns set in outer space (like many Star Trek episodes) and westerns set on African safaris (like Hatari!). Some are set against backdrops of war (like Tears of the Sun).

If westerns seem "dead" it is only that we appear to be in a period of cultural fog where many of us have become so cynical we've abandoned any attempt to think morally. But thematically, despite Pulp Fiction and its knockoffs, western morality tales remain popular because they continue to address something we struggle with.

Open Range articulates this struggle well. While it may not be the greatest western ever made, it's a very good one and captures the essence of the western theme, often by reiterations of standard western scenes.

A pair of free grazers (Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner) are driving their cattle over the open range. But the open range of the American west is increasingly less open as land is fenced off by ranchers who are claiming it. The west is filling up; the last frontier is fading.

They come across a rancher who is particularly intent on getting rid of free grazers. He runs a town, keeping everyone under his dictatorial and greedy thumb. In the end, there is a showdown (in the best western tradition).

It sounds conventional because it is, but this is what the best westerns do. They don't stand out because of their innovation but because of how well they articulate the core western myths.

Films like these get at the essential paradox of America, "the land of the free." The more people seek the wide open spaces of America, the more people move into them to be free, the less free America becomes. In westerns, the most free people are also the most lonely. Their loneliness can only be alleviated by joining a community but this also means they are less free. Freedom is conditioned by the presence of others.

We also see, as in Open Range, a desire for law and order. The more people there are, the more constrained our freedom is. The question becomes, who will impose those constraints? The community, with shared values, or an individual who is more powerful than we are as individuals?

As Open Range plays out, the free grazers played by Duvall and Costner recognize the freedom they had is disappearing. Now, they have to make a choice. Knuckle under to the demands of the wealthy rancher, or become the instruments of the community's law and order?

Westerns also seem to be about maturing - growing up, to be blunt. Both as a country and as individuals. The freedom enjoyed in youth fades over time because it becomes increasingly isolated and lonely. At some point, it has to be put aside for some agreed upon constraints in order to become part of the group.

Open Range captures all this in a film that beautifully evokes the best aspects of the genre. Unlike other recent movies (like The Quick and the Dead), it doesn't appear to be interested in commenting on westerns in a modern, deconstructionist kind of way. It aspires to be a western and only a western. It keeps things simple, and this is also a key to the best films of this kind. They aren't about movies; they are about myths.

Tag: , , , ,

October 10, 2005

The Frank Oz comedies

I've always liked the comedies of Frank Oz. In fact, I would say that of the films I watch repeatedly, Frank Oz comedies are among the ones I most watch over and over. In a sense, they are a kind of cinematic comfort food. I always enjoy them and I always feel good after having watched them.

His comedies are a bit deceptive. They seem too nice (whatever that means). They seem perhaps too slick, or too something, because they have a pleasant Hollywood gloss to them, which gives them a feeling of unreality.

But that's really why they work the way they do. They aren't realistic and they aren't intended to be. They're movies about interesting, and funny, characters in absurd situations.

What I like most about his comedies, however, is that they are funny without being mean-spirited, as many comedies tend to be. It isn't the humour of a misanthrope but rather the humour of someone who finds life and people to be wonderful, but also wonderfully ridiculous.

Still, there is a certain (if minimal) element of darkness, even anger in them, but it is kept in abeyance. It’s never allowed to overwhelm the films; it simply serves as a root element from which to spring and inform the comedy. (An example would be In & Out, with intolerance at its core, or the satire of The Stepford Wives – not the best Oz film but certainly better than some gave it credit for.)

Ultimately, Frank Oz comedies are delightful confections that seem to laugh at us while loving us, and loving us especially for those things that make Oz laugh.

Comedies directed by Frank Oz:

- The Stepford Wives (2004)
- Bowfinger (1999)
- In & Out (1997)
- What About Bob? (1991)
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

(Of the above, I think my favourite would have to be Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which I've watched so many times I've lost count.)

Tag: , ,

October 2, 2005

The Hours - I watch it yet again

The Hours - Nicole Kidman as Virginia WoolfI loved The Hours. I gave it five stars out of five. And I watched it again on Thursday so I thought I'd post the review I did of it a while ago (with one minor correction):

I don't know if it's necessary to have studied English literature, or to be familiar with Virginia Woolf and her works, but it certainly helps when watching the movie The Hours. I think someone unfamiliar would still enjoy the film but whether it's as accessible, I don't know.

It's especially helpful (I think) to have read Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway since the film is, in some ways, an improvisation from the story.

The movie is wonderfully, and complexly, structured and this is one of the great appeals of the film. As it progresses, you begin to see how the various elements relate. In a sense, it is something of a mystery (though not in terms of genre). You get hints and clues as the film unfolds.

The movie is three stories, related and interwoven. There is the Virginia Woolf story (Nicole Kidman) which focuses on her life in suburban Richmond where she has been taken because of her mental difficulties (probably bipolar depression). Here, she begins writing her novel, Mrs. Dalloway.

Then there is the story of Mrs. Dalloway (Meryl Streep), not the one from the novel but a present day Mrs. Dalloway who reflects the character from the book.

I'm not sure this is actually her name, it may simply be the name she has been given by her friend and former lover, the poet played by Ed Harris (who has AIDS and is dying). This is a woman whose busy social activities (giving parties, beaming smiles) hide the emptiness and pain in her life.

Finally, there is the early 1950's suburban housewife played by Julienne Moore. She is a woman who seems always on the verge of screaming as she covers her unhappiness and tries to meet the expectations of a wife of that period. While not stated overtly, there is the implication that her real problem is that she is lesbian at a time when that was simply not an option. It is why she doesn't fit in this world however much she tries.

It's difficult to describe much more of the film without giving away its secrets. The movie has a bit of a reputation as being depressing but, while it is thematically dark (with meditations on suicide and mental anguish), it is really the very opposite of this.

This is articulated late in the film when Virginia Woolf is asked by her husband why a character in her novel must die.

Her answer states the theme of the film.

For me, one of the great pleasures of the film is seeing how the pieces connect as it plays out. The stories all interrelate and watching the film is like a voyage of discovery.

It's also an ensemble piece flush with great performances throughout. The three lead performances, Kidman, Streep and Moore are all exceptional and each in a distinct way.

I wish I had seen this film earlier than I did. It came out on DVD back in the summer of 2003. Had I seen it, it would have been on my list of Top DVDs of 2003. (I may yet add it, despite being after the fact.)

Speaking of the disc, the image is pristine and the sound is great, especially with the score by Phillip Glass.

As for the features, this is one of the better discs for those. These aren't fluff features; there is some meat to them, including director Stephen Daldry discussing the film and a fairly good background documentary on Virginia Woolf.

Tag: ,

September 26, 2005

Separate Tables - great actors, good story

Separate TablesYou know, I've always liked this move, this Separate Tables, directed by Delbert Mann. I think this is the kind of story I always like because of the kinds of characters it highlights.

Here, they are all lonely. But more than that, in one of the primary story lines, they are frightened people (Sibyl Railton-Bell and Major Pollock). They are not the usual heroic figures you normally get, which isn't to say there aren't aspects of them that are interesting.

In fact, it's sort of the same reason I always liked Joyce's novel Ulysses - it's the characters of Leopold and Molly Bloom I like in that.

But getting back to Separate Tables ... I wouldn't say it's a great movie but it is worth seeing because it's awfully darn good. And what a great cast: Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, David Niven and Burt Lancaster. And also, one of my favourites in the movie, Wendy Hiller who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her performance. (This was back in 1958.)

By the way, it's worth listening to Delbert Mann's commentary, if only at the beginning of the film, to hear how he felt about them using the appalling theme song by Vic Damone over the opening credits. It was not supposed to be in the final cut - well, not until the boneheads said screw the director, let's make a board room decision.

It's also interesting for his comments about some other changes that occurred in the film after it was taken out of his hands.

Yes, a movie definitely worth seeing. But a bit low-key by today's standards. Be warned: this ain't no Matrix. (Thank heavens.)

(By the way ... on the subject of Rita Hayworth ... I watched 1957's Fire Down Below, which stars Rita along with Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon. Some nice scenery, the odd good moment, but not an award winner by a long shot. A kind of over-the-top, silly disaster movie - though that's really all in the third act.)

Poor Rita!

Tag: , , ,

September 21, 2005

Morgan's Creek - Sturges & Co. are brilliant

The Miracle of Morgan's CreekI watched The Miracle of Morgan's Creek tonight and all I can say is if you haven't seen it yet, you must.

It is so funny. Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton, not to mention Willam Demarest and Diana Lynn, are so perfect, and so killingly comedic in their roles. It's beyond words.

How this ever got past the censors of the time, I dunno. But thank God it did.

I think they may be right. Preston Sturges was some kind of comic genius.

Tag: , , ,

September 17, 2005

Some recommendations - movies, music

Gods and MonstersI've got the four disc Ben-Hur - Collector's Edition but that's on hold. I didn't want to devote the time to it tonight - maybe tomorrow. A movie this good, this long, and with special features that include a silent 1925 version, well that requires a bit more available time. Something like a Saturday. (And would you look at the clock - it's Saturday now! But a little too early on a Saturday for movies ...)

Blah blah blah ... In lieu of that, I watched God and Monsters tonight. Is it really a movie from 1998? So says IMDb, so I guess it must be so. Doesn't matter ... it's a great film. Recommended. (This one actually has a story! Not to mention a brilliant performance by Sir Ian McKellen.)

Also recommended ... Highly recommended ... don't know how it happened but I picked up two Duke Ellington discs recently. Piano in the Background was first and, today, I picked up Piano in the Foreground.

I think one reason they are so good is the time period - both are roughly early 1960's recordings (like, 1961 or thereabouts). Time period is irrelevant though - these are two kick ass discs if you like this kind of music.

I wish I were more articulate when it comes to explaining why some music is so damn good, but I'm not. So you just have to take my word for it. These are very good. If my Dad were alive, he would be beating you with a stick to make you get up off your bum and get them.

Anyway ... you've been told. Gods and Monsters. Piano in the Background. Piano in the Foreground. All attractively priced, by the way. So there.

Tag: , , , , ,

September 15, 2005

To Kill a Mockingbird SE – A great DVD package

To Kill A Mockingbird - Special Edition DVDI wish I could come up with a clever headline but I can’t. So ... All I want to do, since I don’t have time to write anything worthy of it, is simply say the DVD of To Kill A Mockingbird - Special Editionis easily one of the best DVDs of the year.

To begin with, it’s a great, classic film. No time to rhyme off the reasons why, but take a gander at AFI's top films (note #34). I’m not alone in thinking this.

Secondly, the package. This has some great special features, including two great documentaries – and Gregory Peck’s wonderful acceptance at the AFI tribute to him.

Special features are so often a tedious recounting of building special effects. These features are about the story, the performers and the performances.

Big, BIG thumbs up. Five stars out of five. Maybe the best DVD of the year.

Tag: , , ,

September 12, 2005

Mr. 3000 - a stand up double

I just watched Mr. 3000 and while it's not Shakespeare it's a pretty entertaining movie of a certain kind. "Of a certain kind" is important.

There are certain movies that keep getting made, over and over. The reason, I think, is because there is something in the story we like to hear. Some stories, whether they be in film or books or oral, are worth repeating. It's not a question of the story's originality, it's how well it is told.

In this case, it's a sports movie - specifically baseball. Sports movies, while peppered with sports images, are never about sports - not if they are good. They are about who we, as people, are and what kind of spirit we have.

In Mr. 3000, this comes across well. Certainly not stellar, not the best ever, but pretty well. And Bernie Mac is so engaging, and so amusing, the movie connects. I don't think this movie is a comedy, though it has its humorous moments. It's simply a nice story.

Some people don't like that kind of thing. But I do. The movie doesn't attempt to be Citizen Kane. It simply tries to be a well made feel-good film and, by and large, it achieves this. I'd give it maybe three stars out of five.

Tag: ,

September 11, 2005

Chinatown begins with a great script

As embarassing as this is, I decided I'd post this since it's a review I did some years ago of Chinatown. Frankly, I sound like a twit who doesn't know what I'm talking about. For example, I'm a bit misleading when i talk about the sepia tone carrying on through the film. (And what's with the dancing business? What was I thinking?)

But I was on the money about the script, even if I am a little over the top and, well, twitish. So for what it's worth, by take on Chinatown:

Chinatown, a wonderful movie, is an example of what a script can do for a film.

It's like finding the right music at a party. Someone feels compelled to dance, then another and another.

Soon, everyone's up dancing. And dancing well.

In Chinatown, just about every artist is dancing their damnedest because the script has pulled them onto the floor. Director, actors, lighting people, costume designers … they're all performing at their highest level.

It's Robert Towne's script that has done this.

One of Roman Polanski's great talents is creating mood and few films do it so well and so quickly as the opening of Chinatown. I can't think of many movies I would watch simply to see the opening credits but the look and the marvellous music of the introductory credit sequence is just so good with its period lettering and sepia tone (which carries through the movie), that you're hooked even before the movie has presented its opening shot.

Modelling itself on the film noir style (particularly films like Howard Hawks' movie The Big Sleep), the film's mystery is created by presenting the story through the eyes of detective Jake Gittes, the Jack Nicholson character. We know what he knows, we're puzzled by what he's puzzled by, we're misled by what misleads him. In fact, just as Bogart was in just about every scene of The Big Sleep, Nicholson is in just about every scene in Chinatown, either as a participant or as an observer.

But the film isn't dependent on Nicholson. Faye Dunaway is perfectly cast as the enigmatic, and troubled, Evelyn Mulwray. It's hard to imagine anyone else but Dunaway in that role. The movie is also bolstered by brilliant supporting performances, particularly John Huston as Noah Cross.

I also love the leisurely way the movie unfolds. Unlike the quick cuts and thrumming soundtrack of most current movies, Polanski takes his time. And it works so well. This may be the reason why it works. You're seduced by the mood, and become involved with the characters, and thus the story.

Chinatown is a great, fascinating movie that illustrates the importance of beginning with a great script.

With the DVD … it's okay. Not great, could be a lot better, but adequate. It's largely clean and clear, but certainly not on the pristine level. This is partly due to it being an older film (1974). For extras, there is really just one (I don't count trailers as extras).

There is a documentary of sorts. It features interview clips with director Roman Polanski, writer Robert Towne, and producer Robert Evans. There are some interesting comments, but there is really no depth to it ... Par for the course with DVD extras.

Tag: , , ,

September 10, 2005

Chinatown? Mockingbird? Decisions ...

I'm not big on double features. So given the glum weather, and my decision to stay in and watch a movie at home, I have to decide which one. The problem is, I can't decide.

Chinatown or To Kill A Mockingbird?

Ack! ... I just remembered, I was also planning to watch Crash again this weekend.

What to do? What to do?

(Honestly, I'm not as pathetic as this makes me sound. Or am I? ...)

Tag: , , ,

September 7, 2005

One day I hope to have a smiley face

Me not smiling.I don't know why, but whenever I try to fix the lame ass pictures I have of myself I get ones like this ...

Bill as man with serious despondancy problem. Or as ineffective wanker. Not sure which.

But I promise, one day I'll get one with a smile. This looks like a wannabe male model well past his expiry date. Absence of smile = hip, cool look. Sheesh!

This post can be ignored. Just some mumbling grumbling blather. (Also known as burbling.)

September 5, 2005

Suddenly, Last Summer - an oddity

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)This film is odd, which I suppose is to be expected given that it is based on a Tennessee Williams play of the same name. The story is bizarre and horrific and fascinating. But the end result of Suddenly, Last Summer, as a movie, is both compelling and tedious at the same time.

A doctor who specializes in lobotomies is asked to perform one on a rich widow’s niece. The niece appears to have gone mad following the death of the widow’s son in Europe, the Mediterranean area.

The widow wants to preserve the memory of her son (at least, her memory of him) and the niece’s madness seems to undermine this. The truth is the widow wants the lobotomy done in order to calm the niece down and, more significantly, to remove any memory that might not be in agreement with the widow’s remembrance of her son.

The doctor, however (played my Montgomery Clift), is not about to perform the operation before first understanding the case and the reasons for the niece’s madness (the niece is played by Elizabeth Taylor, the widow by Katharine Hepburn).

So he begins to interview the niece. As he questions and probes, her story begins to unfold and with it the truth.

The film, overall, looks and feels like what it is – a play. What this means is the entire story unfolds through language. While there are some interesting images (especially that of Mrs. Venable, the widow, descending/ascending from the floor above in her private elevator), and persuasive performances, the medium of film isn’t really used to tell the story – just to capture the play on film.

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)The story and the language are riveting. However, at times they are tedious.

While there are some nods made to the medium of film – some flashback shots, the sets – it is really all dialogue.

The story is literally told by the characters – initially by Mrs. Venable, then in the second half by Catherine, the niece.

Frankly, I don’t know how else it could have been done while retaining the words and essence of Williams. (The adaptation was done by Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal.) Still, while the film’s gothic look is engaging, as is the story and language, in many ways it doesn’t feel like a film.

Having said that, there are a few scenes that do make a nod to film and they are gripping, such as Catherine wandering in a mental asylum with inmates reaching for her, and a murder scene near the film’s end.

The story at the heart of Suddenly, Last Summer is a harrowing one. In some ways, the movie is a murder mystery, but one told with the linguistic, poetic voice of Tennessee Williams. From this point of view, it is fascinating. At the same time, the lengthy speeches, wonderful as many of them are, just don’t seem to belong on film.

The real problem with the movie is one I don’t know how you get around. How do you translate what Williams does in words (the speeches) into a visual language that reflects them?

Maybe you can’t.

Tag: , , ,

August 28, 2005

'You never had a camera in my head'

It's an absolutely glorious Sunday morning in my part of the world (Alberta, Canada). And I'm sipping coffee, listening to the Gipsy Kings and posting my review of The Truman Show, for whatever that's worth:

The Truman ShowThose words ("You never had a camera in my head"), I think, capture the essence of The Truman Show best. There’s much in the world that can be controlled, but controlling what someone thinks and, maybe more importantly, feels is not so easy.

For me, this is one of the best movies of the 1990’s, and one of my favourite movies, period. Now, with the recent release of it in a special edition, I have the DVD I had been wanting – better image, informative features.

Slightly preceding the current glut of reality TV shows, the film’s concept seems simple enough, though perhaps less clever now than when it first appeared, before our reality TV world.

While the concept may seem simple – a movie about a guy whose entire life is broadcast live on television – imagine how you would execute that and make it interesting. It comes across more like a clever notion on paper, but the kind of thing that could lead you into a cinematic fiasco.

But between Andrew Niccols’ script, Peter Weir’s direction and some great casting, it works brilliantly.

Jim Carrey is Truman Burbank. His life , from birth, has been broadcast live to the world (unbeknownst to him). He lives in a town called Seahaven – always has, he’s never left – but what he doesn’t know is Seahaven is a television set in California, not a town on the Florida coast. He lives in a not-quite-perfectly controlled world.

"We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented," says Christoff (Ed Harris), the show’s creator and mastermind.

But as much as Christoff controls Truman’s world, he can’t control everything – including Truman.

There are small errors in Truman’s world and they might go unnoticed by him except the life scripted for him is not the one he would live. The more the show’s creator, actors and crew try to steer Truman and keep him on script, the more he resists.

And so Truman embarks on discovering his world, though that’s not his initial motivation.

As mentioned in the special features, Peter Weir made one change to the script that was bang on the money. Originally set in New York, and a darker film, Weir understood that for people to watch such a show (not the movie, but in the script’s world, The Truman Show), it would need to be lighter, more comforting.

So the movie is set in Seahaven, a somewhat heightened reality. It’s roots are more in the world of 1950’s television than the real world, though not to such an extent that it lacks credibility.

Another great notion in the film’s making was the casting of Carrey. He is perfect as Truman. Charismatic and affable, he brings the right amount of innocence to the role of Truman. It might not have worked in another movie, but in the world of The Truman Show it hits the mark.

I also like that there are several ways of seeing The Truman Show. There is the obvious satire on television culture and the issue of personal freedom.

(I like the irony of Christoff “a very private man” being the architect of a very public life – Truman’s.)

Another way of seeing the film, however, is as a fable of a child leaving home.

Christoff is an obvious father figure and Truman is clearly a young man trying his damnedest to leave and find his own life – but not the one Christoff dreams for him (rather like a parent trying to impose his vision on his child.)

In fact, however you view the film, it’s essentially a fable. Perhaps this is why I like the movie so much – I’ve a weakness for these types of films when they are well done.

Weakness or not, I consider this one of the best films of the last decade or so. It’s also one I think will continue to be watched over the years as it captures, quite succinctly and in an engaging fashion, something in the nature of freedom that is deeply woven into the human fabric. The film’s ending captures an archetypal, mythic moment and it’s one that resonates. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Five stars out of five.

Tags: , , , ,

August 27, 2005

Well, aren't I hoighty-toighty ... I'm Ulysses

Thanks to Bad Maria I found a book quiz, which revealed to me:

You're Ulysses!

by James Joyce

Most people are convinced that you don't make any sense, but compared to what else you could say, what you're saying now makes tons of sense. What people do understand about you is your vulgarity, which has convinced people that you are at once brilliant and repugnant. Meanwhile you are content to wander around aimlessly, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. What you see is vast, almost limitless, and brings you additional fame. When no one is looking, you dream of being a Greek folk hero.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

A worthy edition of The Truman Show

The Truman ShowA favourite film of mine, and one of the best - if not the best - of the 1990's, is Peter Weir's The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey.

I've lost track of the number of times I've seen it. But I've just seen it again because they've finally brought out a worthy DVD of it - the Special Edition. The transfer is great - an improvement, definitely - and the special features (previously absent), are actually interesting. They provide great background on the film.

I'd also add I loved the film's music by Burkhard Dallwitz. I confess to knowing nothing about the man but years ago I bought the film's soundtrack because I liked the music so much. Not that it'll be everyone's cup of tea, but I liked it.

I'm hoping I can get up off my lazy behind and write a half-decent review of this movie soon. It's one I recommed very highly. (I give it five stars out of five.)

Tags: , , , ,

August 23, 2005

More Preston Sturges - Miracle of Morgan's Creek

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek - DVD coverIf you're a fan of the films of Preston Sturges, you'll be happy to know The Miracle of Morgan's Creekis scheduled for DVD release on September 6th from Paramount.

The only downside to this is the DVD cover, which is awful. What were they thinking? It looks like a bad poster for a lame '60s TV show.

Sturges deserves better.

I don't know anything about The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, but I loved The Lady Eve and Sullivan's Travels. And The Palm Beach Story. So I'm hopeful.

Tag: , , , ,

August 22, 2005

Don Quixote doesn't do so well on film

Sophia Loren, The Man of La Mancha (1972)I just watched 1972's The Man of La Mancha (starring Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren, directed by Arthur Hiller). And yes, as many have said, it's a mess. But you know, it's a mess that has its moments.

The real problem with this movie is not that it's a musical but that what it's based on was a musical. Because of the source material, there are musical numbers thrown in that throw everything askew. If the movie had been done simply as a romantic drama, no musical, the basic conceit of the movie and the casting (particularly the principle roles) would have worked.

But it's got to throw in those songs and every time it does the movie goes all to hell.

Also, as Roger Ebert points out, they don't really get the theme of Cervantes's Don Quixote quite right.

I watched this movie thinking about Terry Gilliam's ill-fated effort at doing a Don Quixote movie and wondering why making a movie of one of the greatest novels ever, and one of the key characters of all literature, is so hard.

It may be Don Quixote is, by its stature, too daunting. But that's kind of odd since the essence of the Knight of the Woeful Countenance is the exact opposite of that.

Anyway ... the movie, The Man of La Mancha, does have it's moments. O'Toole does some great pratfalls as the Don and Sophia Loren is ... well, she's Sophia Loren. I think the only reason I watched this movie was to see her. And you know, it was worth it.

Tag: , , ,

August 20, 2005

Housekeeping and some new old movies

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)I've just re-posted some reviews I did a while back of three older movies, all of which are thoroughly enjoyable - at least in my books. They are:

- The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
- Destry Rides Again (1939)
- Auntie Mame (1958)

They're also three very different movies - a kind of melodramatic noir piece, a comedic western and ... well, IMDB calls describes Auntie Mame as comedy/drama.

Also ... a while back I mentioned that Classic Movies had a tribute to William Powell. Well, there is also a tribute up now to Myrna Loy. Could anyone not love Myrna Loy?

Finally ... I've watched all the movies in The Complete Thin Man Collection and I give it a big thumbs up. Have a look at John Puccio's review on DVD Town.

Tag: , , ,

King Kong set to tear up the place in November

King Kong (1933)Well, I'm excited. Set for release on November 22, 2005 - King Kong (2-Disc Special Edition). This, of course, is the Fay Wray classic.

I'm guessing the release must be tied into the release of Peter Jackson's King Kong. which seems to be scheduled for mid-December - just in time for Christmas!

Be that as it may ... I'm hoping the 2 disc set of the 1933 film is a good transfer. It is, after all, a fairly old film (over 70 years). It's the aspect I'm most excited about.

And geez ... come on, it's King Kong!

(And let's not forget how fetching Jessica Lange was in the 1976 version - not a great movie, but she was ... well, fetching.)

Tag: , , , ,

August 17, 2005

I finally see Sin City (I was bored)

Sin CityOkay ... so I just watched Sin City. My gut response? Visually spectacular. It's everything everyone says it is. As a movie? I was kinda bored after about 20 minutes when the visual thing had worn a bit thin.

My biggest problem? This kind of movie is a fantasy - and I generally love fantasy. But it's a sixteen year old boy's fantasy. Violence, sex, yada yada. I mean, the story is stupid. Everything about it is stupid - which is okay, since it's fantasy and in fantasy everything usually is kinda stupid. I'm fine with that.

But it's a kid's fantasy. I mean, women with their butts hanging out? Guys beaten to a pulp but somehow managing to come back and blow away the bad guys? ... I would have loved this when I was sixteen.

But today? It was just boring.

The biggest problem, I think, is that it's like movies from the fifties ... take The High and the Mighty, for example, or Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Those movies tried to be novels on film. Sin City tries to be a comic on film.

So there's a problem, for me, with the cinematic language - the storytelling technique. And this is not the same thing as the visual technique. As mentioned, visually it is stunning. But it is the images that are stunning, not the storytelling. The storytelling is tedious. They marshall a gazillion stereotypes and archetypes and myths, but do nothing with them.

And what's with the obsession with mutilation? Once again, a sixteen year old boy's vision of the world - his fantasty vision. I don't recall when I've seen so many decapitated heads or severed fingers.

Filmmakers like Rodriguez and Tarrantino are great stylists. But I wonder what guys like this could do if they ever grew up. Ultimately, spectacular though the look is, this is a movie for teenage wankers.

Tag: , ,

August 16, 2005

Reluctant about this week's DVD releases

DVD cover My Left Foot - Special EditionSo two movies are out tomorrow on DVD and in both cases I want to see them but I don't want to see them. Very curious.

The one that's really being hyped is Sin City. Yes, I know I'm supposed to love it but I also know that I have a bias against these kinds of movies. That's partly due to the hype. I'd like to be able to judge it on its own merits but that's hard to do when you see something amid a swirl of hype.

And as I've mentioned before, I hated that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow so much that it's kind of turned me against films like this. Well, at least I'm aware of my bias. But I will see Sin City so we should find out soon what I actually think about it.

The other movie I'm curious about is My Left Foot, coming out in a special edition tomorrow. Based on the subject matter, I'm not anxious to see it. Based on the reviews, I'm very keen to see it.

Well, I guess I find out what I think of both these movies tomorrow ... or, if life is not permitting, in the very near future.

Tag: ,

August 11, 2005

Columbo Three - what the hell happened?

DVD cover image of Columbo - Season ThreeHere's the e-mail I sent the clowns at Universal regarding Columbo - The Complete Third Season:
This set, Columbo - The Complete Third Season, is the best argument I've seen for piracy. This chintzy, 2 disc set is one of the worst sets I've come across. I purchased Seasons 1 and 2 and was happy with just the episodes - I can live without special features.

But Season 3 with its two sided discs and flimsy cardboard box ... well, it's the last Universal DVD set I'll be buying until I see Universal demonstrate some concern for the people they are selling to and some level of self-respect. There is only one word for this set's quality - crap. How corporations can complain about piracy when they put out this level of quality is beyond me.

The puzzling thing about it is that Season 2 was such good quality in terms of the packaging. Did you get drunk and lose the house in a poker game? What's the explanation for this current rubbish?
Tag: , , , ,

August 7, 2005

Anticipating Sin City and The Trueman Show

DVD cover image of Sin CityThere's an interesting interview with director Robert Rodriguez over at where he talks about the Sin City DVD (among other things).

It's is due out August 16th. But, from what I understand, this is the single disc edition.

It will come in four different covers or slipcovers. This is similar to what was done with the last disc incarnation of Reservoir Dogs.

Depending on how you feel about these things you may want to wait a bit before buying the Sin City DVD. It sounds like the single edition is coming out now partly due to the problems of piracy. The definitive edition isn't quite ready, or so it seems from what Rodriguez says, "The real DVD should come out fairly quick which will be just obviously the double disc with all the goodies on it."

I also found what he had to say about theatrical releases versus DVD releases quite enlightening:

"When I was doing Sin City, you're just very aware that, OK, there's a theatrical release which is pretty much a one-shot. People go and see it in the theatres for a couple of weeks and then they kind of forget about that, and then whatever comes out later [the DVD] is the more definitive version."

I think that's a good indication of how technology and other factors have changed and are changing how we experience movies - and, clearly, how they are made.

The single disc of the movie will probably be just fine for a lot of people. Some, however,may want to wait (though they may decide to rent it). And still others will be happy to get both. I guess it depends on how you feel about the movie and douple dips.

I'm not sure which way I'll be jumping on this one. I haven't seen the movie and I don't know if I'll love it or hate it. Everything I read tells me it's a great film - at least visually. On the other hand, I'm not overly enthused with these types of movies. Partly, I suppose, because of that turkey I saw, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which I thought was utterly wretched.

DVD cover image of The Trueman Show SEOn the other hand (and on the subject of douple dips), The Trueman Show - Special Edition is due out August 23rd and I'm excited about that.

I've watched this one several times and just loved it. So a special edition with a two-part documentary ("How's it going to end") is welcome. According to the review at DVD Town, it's a worthwhile feature and the package, overall, is pretty good.

Tag: , ,

August 6, 2005

John Wayne's The High and the Mighty

DVD cover image of The High and the MightyI really wanted to like this movie. It's an old John Wayne film, it has come out in a new special edition, restored and remastered and ... well, I was just ready to see an older movie. I was primed.

Sadly, The High and the Mighty is pretty awful.

It's a melodramatic disaster movie. But melodramatic in all the worst ways and none of the good.

To be fair to it, having been made over 50 years ago, it can be seen as a progenitor of the Hollywood disaster movies of today like, for example, Independence Day. So it was made before the formula had been tweaked and tested and nailed down.

In The High and the Mighty, you can see the formula in an embryonic stage. It takes the ensemble idea of an earlier film like a Grand Hotel (1932) - lots of characters, lots of stories interweaving - and adds a disaster scenario to it, in this case a plane in peril.

But what the movie hasn't figured out is how to take an idea like this, which probably works well enough within a novel, where there is more room to work with (a movie has time restrictions, a novel can be pretty much as long as it needs to be), and make it work for the screen.

What we end up with then is a movie that feels like endless exposition - the character introductions and back stories take up something like an hour or hour and a half, about half or two thirds of the movie. You want to yell at the screen, "For God's sake, crash the damn plane!"

Worse, with the exception of John Wayne and Claire Trevor, the characters are as interesting as cardboard, some simply being irritating twits (like the newlyweds - they should have been tossed off the plane in mid-air).

The movie really doesn't get interesting until the plane's engine knocks out and the peril is immediate, and this doesn't happen until the film is into its final lap. But by this time a viewer is pretty numb with ennui.

The bottom line is that the film has an idea - a pretty good one for the period it was made. I'm sure at the time it came out it was probably pretty exciting. But for a modern audience, it feels old - anachronistic. It lacks a sense of cinema as a form of storytelling. Rather, it uses a literary, novelistic approach - except it's done on film, rather than paper (not an uncommon problem with films of this period).

It doesn't handle its characters well. They are shallow stereotypes and their stories are told ploddingly.

The result is a movie that feels as old as it actually is - maybe older. And frankly, it's just plain dull. And that is the exact opposite of what a movie like this should be. 1 1/2 stars out of 5.

(This review is also posted on Piddleville.)

Tag: , , , ,

August 5, 2005

Happy with the Thin Man

Let's be honest: this is a nothing post. But I have to say I'm extremely happy because I've finally picked up The Complete Thin Man Collection. Tonight, I watched Return of the Thin Man.

Very entertaining. A few more dollars were involved in making this movie, too - at least that's my guess based on the look of the film (that is, a few more dollars compared to the first film, The Thin Man).

The question is, why do I like The Thin Man movies so much? I think, like long running TV series (like M*A*S*H), it's the characters and the situation they're in. Who couldn't love Nick and Nora (William Powell and Myrna Loy)?

Only a barbarian.

Tag: , , ,

August 4, 2005

Get ready for the uniquely distinctive Garbo

Call me exciteable. Easily exciteable. But I became very merry when I learned that Garbo - The Signature Collectionwould be available from Warners on September 6th.

Yes, I already have Grand Hotel, but (annoying as that may be) movies like Anna Christie, Mata Hari, Queen Christina, Anna Karenina, Camille and Ninotchka are included and they are why I want this set.

From what I understand, this set's release coincides with Garbo's hundredth birthday on September 18th.

Well, happy birthday!

Tag: , , , ,

July 31, 2005

A weakness for westerns (and Ann Margaret)

There was really no reason for me to pick up The Train Robbers, a 1973 John Wayne western, other than the fact it was a western, for which I have a weakness.

But ... in the interests of full disclosure I must say - Ann Margaret? 1973? Well!

Who could resist the Ann Margaret of the 1970's?

Not that there's anything salacious in the film. It is a John Wayne movie after all. Still, Margaret plays a pretty good drunk in one of the campfire scenes.

And the movie overall ... well, it's good but forgettable. Except for one aspect - the look. I just loved the way this movie was shot. Director Burt Kennedy appears to have had a very definite look in mind.

Anyway ... Enough blah blah here. I've uploaded my review of The Train Robbers.

Tag: , , , ,

July 30, 2005

Getting reacquainted with William Powell

I’ve fallen behind in quite a few things this week but I thought it worth taking a moment to point out a few William Powell things, such as a William Powell Tribute over at Classic Movies. (I had no idea he started out playing bad guys in silent movies.)

There are a couple of reasons why I find Powell worth looking at now. For one, he’s one of my favourites of the old Hollywood stars. (As I’ve mentioned before, he stars in my favourite movie, My Man Godfrey with Carole Lombard.)

But also, on Tuesday (August 2nd) Warners releases The Complete Thin Man Collection on DVD. I’ve mentioned this several times – but that’s because I’m pretty jazzed about this one. (For those interested, have a look at DVD Town's review by John Puccio.)

In the meantime, and for what it’s worth, here’s what I scribbled about a couple of great William Powell movies:

- My Man Godfrey (1936)
- The Thin Man (1934)

Tag: , , ,

July 24, 2005

For the record, I love Finding Neverland

Just in case I don't ever get around to writing a review of Finding Neverland, I'd like to say I've watched it three times already (or is it four?) and have loved it each time.

Don't let the fact that it is "sweet" throw you ... It's a very good film about creativity, imagination and childhood, but from an adult perspective.

And it somehow manages to be a great film despite all that! How'd they manage to do that?

Tag: ,

July 17, 2005

Million Dollar Baby is great cinema

Although he's one of my favourite directors I can never think of anything to write about Clint Eastwood's movies.

Which is why my take on Million Dollar Baby comes across as less than my best effort.

I think the problem is that I like the movies so much, they work so well as good, engaging stories, I forget I'm watching a movie.

In the case of Million Dollar Baby, I think it's one of the best movies of the last few years. I think it's this good because it is such a well told story. It's remarkably well constructed, well-performed and effortlessly executed. And there is no cinematic flim-flam to oversell it as an "important" movie.

It's just there. And it's great. And here's my review.

Tag: ,

July 11, 2005

Bad Day makes for a good night

I just watched Bad Day at Black Rock (1955, directed by John Sturges). It wasn't good.

It was great.

It isn't just that it's a good story, a kind of western that isn't a western (yes, I know that makes no sense - but it does when you see it). It's such a well-executed film. It's so well-constructed, so well put together, it's a great pleasure to watch.

I know I threaten to write reviews here in The Burble all the time ... but never follow through. But this time, yes, I promise to scratch out something on this movie because it is so good.

At least, I think it is. And, dammit, I'm right. Very highly recommended.

Tag: , , ,

July 10, 2005

The Thin Man collects himself

The Thin Man poster
Good grief ... Can I possibly resist this? Not likely. Set for release August 2nd from Warner Bros., The Thin Man Collection.

Now this really is classic stuff with William Powell and Myrna Loy. The downside, for me, is that it includes The Thin Man, which I already have. This is a very sneaky twist on the DVD double dip.

Still, This is a seven disc collection. At least, it's billed as such. Since I've seen only six movies listed I'm assuming the seventh disc must be a special features one. Based on what Warners included on The Errol Flynn Signature Collection, I'm hopeful it will be good.

Here are the six movies the set includes:

- The Thin Man
- After the Thin Man
- Another Thin Man
- Shadow of the Thin Man
- The Thin Man Goes Home
- Song of the Thin Man

Update: According to one review on the seventh disc containing special features is, "... entitled 'Alias Nick and Nora,' with two documentaries on William Powell and Myrna Loy. Other highlights are two radio adaptations of the series, as well as comedy, musical and mystery shorts, and cartoons ..."

Tag: , , ,

Something is missing from Meet the Fockers

Meet the FockersI just watched Meet the Fockers and I think I've figured out at least one of the problems with the Meet the Parents movies.

First of all, it has to be said that both movies begin with a great comic premise. In fact, the premise alone is enough to draw you into seeing the movies - or at least, it should. Secondly, it's important to say that both movies (Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers) are good, comic movies. They are definitely worth seeing.

But for me, in both cases, they fall short. And I've been scratching my head trying to figure out why.

While I don't think it's the only reason, one of the problems for me is the Ben Stiller character. For the most part, the movies use him as a prop rather than as a character. This is highlighted in Meet the Fockers in the jail scene where we finally see his character, Greg Focker, stop being a prop - someone to whom bad things happen - and step up to assert himself.

It's not simply that he's asserting himself in the scene, it's that we finally see something more than a schmoe to whom bad things happen.

I'm not saying he should be Hamlet. But until this scene occurs, while the movie's various comic scenes are amusing, there's not much to make it a compelling story.

I dunno. While I like both movies, both miss the mark for me because I'm never fully engaged. And I think the reason is because they make Stiller's Greg the focal point of the movie without making him particularly interesting. And I think this essentially a script problem.

Tag: ,