January 28, 2006

I'm still watching older movies

It appears from my last few posts that all I'm watching is new movies. But actually, that's not quite the case. It's true I go in phases where I go for a period focused on older films then a new phase of newer ones, but the last few posts are a bit misleading. They appear to be all recent releases. But ...

One of the best of the discs I've watched recently was High Sierra (1940) ... that's the one that kind of got Humphrey Bogart going and it's absolutely wonderful. I don't know if I'll get around to writing about it, but just so you know (if you don't already), it's a bit of a noir piece.

I'm also in the process of working my way through Sam Peckinpah's the Legendary Westerns, a collection of four of his films of which I've so far watched Ride the High Country and The Ballad of Cable Hogue.

Anyway ... the point is, I am watching a good variety of new and old, I just haven't had the time to post about them.

But I'll try! I'll try!

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January 22, 2006

My top DVDs of last year revised slightly

A while back I posted My Top Ten DVDs of 2005 … but I was rushed when I did it and hadn’t really given it the thought I should have. And there was one glaring omission. And that, of course, was Serenity.

How could I have missed that?

It’s easily my favourite film of last year. In fact, I spent Christmas watching Serenity and, afterwards, watching the Firefly series.

(Yes, I was compelled to pick up that DVD after seing the movie.)

What is it about Serenity that makes it so good? Well, like a really good TV series it yanks you into its characters and makes you want to know what’s happening to them. Also, despite being science fiction of sorts, it’s really a western – with all the clich├ęs and romanticism and mythology that that implies.

It has action but, unlike some of the more idiotic action films, it knows that it’s most riveting element is its characters and so, even during action sequences, the film pauses for a line or two of dialogue that reinforces who the characters are and what their motivations are. It’s not just guys banging each other over the head and some razzle dazzle cinematic tricks.

More than anything else, though, it is just fun to watch. I’ve seen it three times now and I’m surprised that I’m not yet tired of it. I will likely watch it again soon.

I think it wins hands down as my favourite film of last year. I think it's the science fiction film I was always hoping the various Star Trek films might be.

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January 19, 2006

Lord of War - the lecture

Quickly ... watched Lord of War last night and I'm still trying to determine what I thought of it. Actually, I do know ... but I want to watch it again as my mood may have influenced my perception.

But here are a few thoughts ... the first thing that struck me was how dark the DVD is. I think they went overboard in the transfer with the contrast or whatever the tech way to describe it is called. Scenes are supposed to be dark but this seemed excessive to me. Some shots were silhouettes, but so were some shots that weren't supposed to be. At least, that's how it struck me.

I wished they had packaged the two disc set in something other than lame-ass cardboard.

The movie ... I was a bit put off because, as I've mentioned in other places, I'm not a big fan of films that use voice over narration. And this film is almost all voice over narration. So to a large degree my sense was of a story being told as opposed to being shown.

The film is very earnest about it's subject matter (the sale of guns). And while I am sympathetic to the point of view, it felt like listening to an impassioned speech. It felt like being lectured to.

As someone on another site describe it (can't remember which one), it's a bit like an extended public service announcement.

I'll give the film another chance, as I said. But I think generally I was disappointed. I believe some of the good reviews the film received were based on being told what we want to hear, rather than seeing a good story on film.

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January 11, 2006

The Constant Gardener - good but some reservations

I orginally posted this as a comment on DVD Town (to their review of The Constant Gardener). But I thought I'd put it up here ... for what it's worth:

I just watched the film and I'm a little ... uncertain what I think. I liked the it, i'm just not sure how much I liked it.

I've read the novel and wish I hadn't - I'd prefer to see a film without preconceptions. Still, I suspect having read the novel doesn't affect the viewing all that much. The visual style, however, does.

While I had no problem in the second half of the film, once it had decided to settle on Ralph Fiennes' character, in the first half I found the documentary style (for lack of a better word) simply compounded what was already a confusing exposition.

So I'm not so sure I give this a big stylistic thumbs up. I think it might have played better with a more conventional style. I think in the first half there is simply too much information to convey for this kind of approach. I think the style, as a style, is fine but requires a more simple story to work effectively.

As you've mentioned, both in the movie and the book, the relationship is easily the most compelling element of the story. The drug company thing ... well, that's the usual movie stuff. But the relationship - now that was compelling.

But I'll have to watch it again before I decide.

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January 8, 2006

My Top Ten DVDs of 2005

Yes, I'm a little slow getting this up but better late than never.

As mentioned in previous years, more than anything else this reflects what I watched - it's as much gut based as it is critical. Maybe more so. I've watched all of these several times since getting them simply because I liked them. In some cases it's based primarily on the quality of the film though the quality of the DVD and it's overall packaging is often a factor too.

Which is why I think to To Kill A Mockingbird may have been the best DVD release of 2005. Quite apart from the merits of the film, the DVD and its packaging were superb as well. (On the other hand, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek is based strictly on the film - the DVD is a pretty good transfer but nothing to write home about in terms of the features or packaging, which are all but non-existent.) And in some cases, I put collections in as opposed to single movies because - well, they were great collections.

Again, in no particular order, my top ten DVDs of 2005:

- Bringing Up Baby (1938)
- Finding Neverland (2004)
- Errol Flynn: The Signature Collection (1935 - 1941)
- A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004)
- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
- Million Dollar Baby (2004)
- The Complete Thin Man Collection (1934 - 1947)
- Crash (2004)
- To Kill A Mockingbird - Special Edition (Legacy Series) (1962)
- The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)

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January 6, 2006

Still here and watching movies

Yes, I've been M.I.A. for quite some time, though I've been watching movies. A LOT of movies.

For instance, tonight I watched The Skeleton Key, a movie that was okay - not great - until it got to the end where it sucked in a very major way. Predictable ending - the kind where some idiot decides he or she will be clever and do a Twilight Zone kind of end. That means (bit of a spoiler here) that the good guys come out badly and the bad guys win.

It's the kind of ending you dream up when you're 16 and think you're brilliant. I found it a very disappointing end to a movie that, up to that point, had been a parade of cliches fairly well handled.

By the way ... who was the genius who hired a great actor like John Hurt to play a part where he does nothing but groan and look pathetic? A freaking monkey could have played that. If you're going to hire good actors, give them something to do for heaven's sake.

The movie isn't as bad as I make it sound. But the more I think about it the more annoyed I get at its wasted potential.

On the other hand ... should you want to see a good movie, one of the many films I've seen recently is This Gun For Hire (1942) with Veronica Lake (looking fabulous), Robert Preston and Alan Ladd as the somewhat tortured Raven, a somewhat troubled killer. A great noir piece.

I've seen many other films recently, and hope to get to them eventually. For example, Two for the Road (1967) was pretty good (Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney), as was Leave Her To Heaven (1950), in a bit of a soap opera-ish way (Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde and Jeanne Crain).

And my favourite over the holiday period, the TV series Firefly and the subsequent movie Serenity. They were fabulous!

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