Monday, January 31, 2011

Love Story 2050

Love Story 2050 (Hindi Film / Bollywood Movie / Indian Cinema DVD) The dancing in this movie makes me giggle, but it doesn't at all match the music. I don't understand the language, so I spent a lot of time staring at subtitles, but I think this movie had a lot going for it.

If you can get past the acting, and the badly-balanced plot, the story seems really sweet, and comes to a satisfactory conclusion.

If you can't get past the acting, I can see why. It's a little stale, and all the style of flirting seems to be a cultural  quirk that I simply don't have a taste for. The plot spends much too much time on the initial love story, throwing token interference for the first half at least before any real conflict arises. It's a different rhythm than American films, which like to jump directly into a single, insurmountable obstacle which, in the end, turns out to be nothing. Depending on how it's done, that American plot can be a lot more satisfying, or a lot less.

Still, the film is really cute, if shallow. The cast seem to be having a lot of fun, and the characters make me smile, in their own, caricaturish way.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Time Machine

The Time Machine Rod Taylor fakes a pretty good British accent, although at times it slipped, and at other times it just grated. Apparently this film won some awards for its ground-breaking special effects (which actually were pretty cool, but generally consisted of well-integrated stop-motion animation). I don't think the acting should be more than mentioned, but it served its purpose. The whole thing reminded me strongly of Star Trek TOS.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this film. It ranks quite highly among the classic science fiction flicks, up with Forbidden Planet and Metropolis.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Damn Yankees

Damn YankeesNow, the first twenty minutes started out as slowly as a real baseball game. I was ready to  switch it off (not least for my little sister, who's trying to sleep in the room above mine), but then they started dancing. I LOVE Bob Fosse's choreography! Gwen Verdon seemed unattractive and old at first, but when her personality really comes out, and her dancing just doesn't quit, the whole film warms up into something highly enjoyable.

Apparently, the love story between Joe and Meg takes a stronger role in the Broadway play, but in this film, Lola seems to pull in much more attention. She finally deserves it. That character seems strongly related to the witch from Into the Woods.


Ray Walston did a passable job as the devil, but I think I'm going to watch The Devil and Daniel Webster for comparison.

Gwen and Bob in the mambo number really hit something. The dancing in this movie is just great! I think it must be in spite of the writing, because I really couldn't stand The Pajama Game.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Don't Go Near the Water

Don't Go Near the Water [VHS] A delightful story, if a bit cliched, that smacked of several WWII navy movies emerged in this film. Glenn Ford plays a typically nuanced character with humor, intelligence, and depth. My favorite of his is still The Mating of Millie, but he's always someone for whom to watch out.

Gia Scala and Anne Francis both played wonderful characters, also quite well. The supporting actors did what supporting actors do; they supported. Success!

The camera work and filming held nothing exciting. They were simply typical of the era. But the script worked wonderfully, with few or no hitches. There were no art shots, or great pieces of scenery, but a few scenes shot at night showed a good balance between the realistically dark camera filter, and the murkiness of actual night. One moment that caught my eye was the climactic scene where Mr. Ford's character and Ms. Scala's character part ways, realizing that neither is willing to compromise on where they shall live. The setting is a private and lush marshy spot under a tall tree, and the blocking showed some real tenderness, and a willingness to fit into a character beyond the stylized stereotypes. Perhaps I am not being very clear, but you might just rent the film and see for yourself.

The Baxter

The Baxter You could certainly give this little slice of mediocrity a miss. I'm just saying. Although the female lead is way cute, and you spend the moving pulling for her, the actual main character, the guy who never gets the girl, doesn't ever find that fine line between unattractive and eccentric. I had a difficult time even hoping he'd succeed, which makes for a difficult viewing experience. While his unattractiveness was actually physical, mostly it was his personality that bothered me. I prefer nerds to geeks.

Elliot (Michael Showalter) does have a steady fiancee through most of the film, but her acting truly lacks realism. That lack might make sense if we assume that the film means to turn the "showy" romance into the background and focus on the minor characters of what might otherwise be a typical rom-com. In that sense, it works well. All the really flashy, showy actors play minor parts while the sort-of-off actors play main characters (once again, with the exception of the main girl, the eventual love interest). Unfortunately, turning an already stale rom-com inside-out may have its appeal to the down-with-love crowd, but more interesting would be to turn real life upside-down, which isn't really possible, seeing that every possible combination has probably already been struck somewhere in reality.

Anyway, while this film had some amusing moments and a few strong draws, I'd side with the critics on this one and recommend that you go ahead and skip to the next film on your list.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Where Angels Fear to Tread I have been so afraid of this film. It's been sitting at the top of my instant queue for perhaps six months. I adored A Room With A View by the same author, and also starring Helena Bonham Carter, but I didn't like Howard's End. E. M. Forster has a peculiar view of humanity. He looked at people with such loving and forgiving eyes, and yet his cruel characters met with the same kind of unforgiving cruelty, although usually self-inflicted.

The acting here surpassed most of what we see on a regular basis. The actors don't force themselves into full expression all the time, but vary their responses by the situation. If the scene calls for calmness, they are calm. If it calls for emotion, they pull out the stops. I found the whole thing fully believable, if a little eccentric (I LOVE the eccentric!).

If you have the stomach for British period pieces, TRULY catch this one.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Beyond the Sea

Beyond the Sea I adored the experience of watching this film. I have always, since I learned his name, admired Kevin Spacey, and this film only reaffirmed my opinion. This is NOT the story of a star train-wreck. Although, like most entertainers, his life was full of mistakes and disappointment, Bobby Darin didn't live long enough to completely mess things up.

As a biography, the film is obviously incomplete. His second wife is never mentioned, and a few other liberties are taken, but mostly for the sort of entertainment of which Bobby himself would likely approve. If you want the real story, go to wikipedia (or read the biography written by his son Dodd). Spacey plays his idol with energy and an amazing capacity for imitation, and doesn't limit himself to Darin (to my delight) but throws out the occasional Jerry Lewis, etc., usually in character.

Spacey shows off his own voice, and I'm beyond grateful he did. He has a great talent! I almost wondered (like Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line) if he weren't even better than Bobby Darin himself, which Spacey would probably slap me for.

I have confused myself now, though. I hated Hilary Swank's Amelia, mostly because it felt like a single actor's homage to a hero, and I didn't feel the same admiration. I didn't feel that way about Beyond the Sea at all, even knowing Spacey had much more apparent admiration for his character. I wonder if perhaps the reason Hilary Swank's tribute fell flat was that it lacked humor, where Spacey's was full of imagination and amusement. You decide.

Knights of Bloodsteel

Knights of Bloodsteel I think I chose this movie because I like Christopher Lloyd. It was a bad decision. Although I can sincerely give this film an "A" for effort, that's only about ten percent of its overall grade, which puts this made-for-tv crap-fest squarely in failure range.

Let's start with the acting. Terrible. Most of these guys need to go back to school. The others were pulled from a pool of extras and no matter how much training they have, could never possibly be more than blips on my screen. The makeup and costuming lacked imagination AND realism, and that's a challenge. The tragically deplorable accents probably stemmed from the bad writing. The characterizations were all based on decades-outdated stereotypes. The theory upon which the story is based felt meaningless. As a McGuffin, bloodsteel fails. The audience (me) simply can't bring itself to give a flying fig.

Somebody somewhere MUST live up to Lord of the Rings and make a decent Sword and Sorcery fantasy film. I'll throw a party when they do. This wasn't even close.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Single-Disc Edition)Everyone just adored this movie when it came out, and now that I finally get around to it, it disappointed me.

As a continuation of the franchise, this film was perfectly adequate. I could not fault it in any specific particular. The script was even pretty good. The effects worked quite well. I found the historicity amusing, and I ADORE Gambit. Always have. He fascinates me.

I think the real problem I had with this movie was the plot, and the way it moved. It held no real depth or meaning. No ideas really bound the thing together. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) basically bounces from one part of his life to the next, and when he arrives back the beginning, audience in tow, we can only remember the great fun that's in store for him.

The Legend of Hell House

The Legend of Hell House This 1973 movie is actually scary. John said so. The acting passed quite adequately. There are quite a few scenes inappropriate for sensitive audiences. The sexual content can be overwhelming, but largely meaningful (it's not just pointless sex, I don't think. It's meant to add a level of sadism to the evil in the house).

Psychologically, this film really captures the messy feeling of haunting, and the directing worked brilliantly in its simplicity. The cast was minimal (although it did include the immortal Roddy McDowall, a personal favorite), the setting and sets  just as much, the special effects very much in the "Vincent Price" range. Speaking of Mr. Price, I felt reminded several times of The Abominable Dr. Phibes. There's scary. Check this one out on a dark, lonely night when the trees scratch up against your windowpanes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Flying Down to Rio

Flying Down to RioThey really do steal the show. Even with fourth and fifth billing respectively, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire quite easily portray a much more enthralling story without any than the relatively insipid love triangle that occupies the more boring portions of this movie.

Strapping girls to the wings of airplanes must have been another show-stealer for this one, especially when one falls and lands on another plane. I almost had a heart attack, even knowing full well that the scene was blue-screened and ridiculously improbable.

The dancing and singing were sadly, nothing to write home about. Ever. But honestly, the good humor more than made up for it. The writing fell back twice too often onto bad puns, but ended on a great line, so I forgive them.

Check it out, if you're a fan.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Persuasion

Persuasion Despite my anti-fan status for Jane Austen, I have always held the Amanda Root Persuasion in my top five films of all time. Some of the camera work just blew my mind. As a work of cinematography, it's one of the most passionately and subtly artistic. This version could not and did not improve on it. I suspect they didn't even try.

It reminded me very much of the Keira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice, in that instead of accurately portraying the story (which had already been perfected, for all intents and purposes, in the Colin Firth version (in the case of Persuasion, the Ciaran Hinds version)), it instead tried to capture the emotionality. Unfortunately, where the Keira Knightly P&P succeeded in amusing the more romantically-minded of the audience, this film managed only to turn a near-tragedy into melodrama. Poor Anne Elliot, instead of finding that her calm resignation turned into wisdom, in this film found instead that her barely suppressed and hysterical self-pity blossoms into an absurdly wish-fulfilling reality. Instead of facing her old mistake with good humor and humility, she indulges in self-flagellation, resembling in tears and emotional outburst Emma Thompson's Eleanor Dashwood (Sense & Sensibility), but not quite as well acted (or justified).

From the first moments I saw none of Jane Austen's characteristic irony, and all of the posing I have come to despise in film.

I can't whole-heartedly condemn this work, though. As a product of romance and an audience who genuinely appreciates a good melodrama, rife with white knights and mustache-twirling villains, it works. It passes. Sally Hawkins did a respectable job, and Rupert Penry-Jones was satisfactorily attractive. It simply didn't stand out against an already ground-breaking predecessor.

I did learn, though, that Sally Hawkins is now working on a new version of Jane Eyre. I've yet to see a version that entirely satisfies both my love of accuracy, and my emotional attachment to the novel, but I've also yet to see a version that entirely revolts me, so I think I shall hold out hopes for this one as well.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Box

The Box In a film like this, the ending means everything, and in this case, it didn't say much. Although this piece fairly overflowed with moral indecision, the final ending carried very little moral weight, or enough information to give the audience something else to think about.

The acting performances were absolutely adequate. The camera angles seemed somewhat prosaic, and the lighting cliched. The periodicity worked well enough. Costuming seemed an adequate compromise between then and now.

I just don't think the writer went far enough. It's an expanded Twilight Zone episode. So much is apparent (and has been mentioned to me every time I talk about the movie out loud), but the extension doesn't contain enough information about the science-fiction universe it portrays. We never quite understand, or feel the impending, unknowable beyond. I mean, one or the other.

Still, it's based on an interesting idea, and manages to flesh out the complexities of it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Omega Code

The Omega Code  I've never been a particular fan of melodrama, or of drama at all, really, but what this film does, it does fairly well. The plot moves steadily in a well-controlled arc toward the climax. It contains at least one surprise for people who have actually read Revelations and pretty much knew what to expect. It uses fairly recognizable (amazingly so, for the genre) special effects to imagine "supernatural" or biblical events.

The weaknesses lie in two specific places. The characters don't quite work. The main character is neither lovable nor sympathetic (nor well-acted). The bad guy (Michael York) must necessarily get a little hammy (the script requires it, and only The Emperor from Star Wars could pull it off). The plot, either despite its exegesis or because of it, contains some pretty glaring holes.

As a draw, though, the comparative religion involved becomes quite fascinating. The possibility of a strict "bible code" becomes irrelevant to those who have read the New Testament because the predictions made by the letter-based code in this film are actually stated quite clearly almost word-for-word in scripture. It seems a bit redundant, and possibly ethnocentric.

Monday, January 3, 2011

An Accidental Husband

The Accidental Husband I found another one. Uptight radio pseudo-psychologist Emma (Uma Thurman) is engaged to Richard (Colin Firth) but angry Patrick (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Supernatural) sabotages the engagement by having his hacker friend convince the State of New York that she is married to Patrick already. Commence paper-signing fiasco a la Sweet Home Alabama.

Typically of the genre, she can't relax enough to say anything nice until she gets drunk. Actually, if you follow the scene more closely (and try not to think of all the cliches), Patrick won't let her get a word in edgewise, feeding her shot after shot, while she tries frantically to explain the situation kindly, and in a pathetically vulnerable voice. Although it would still convince any post-apocalyptic alien sociologist that human females aren't attractive until intoxicated, it isn't quite as obvious as some other examples of the same scene.

Unlike the typical bitchy-businesswoman rom com, Emma is actually a pretty nice person, if a little bitter (think Ashley Judd from Someone Like You). As the film continues, the audience learns it's all her father's fault, but he's turning out okay, too. All-in-all, this film is pretty forgiving. No one character comes off as all bad, or two-dimensionally evil, although most of the characters have an unattractive moment or two. Even Colin Firth doesn't go gently into the night, going so far as to threatening legal action against Patrick's hacker friend. The flick skirts the "guy deceives girl" cliche by the skin of its teeth, though, which in some circles is the unforgivable sin.

All of these rom coms stem from one specific place, and I think I know which. Romance novels from specific publishers must meet a specific set of criteria, and many of these criteria cover the main character's occupation and personality. Confident young women whose aspect of confidence (bitchiness, being controlling, perfectionism, bitterness) hides vulnerability, and who work at a middle-income occupation (not too butch, not too aristocratic) find themselves softened by the unswerving, if badly managed, attentions of a manly man whose occupation is competitive, if not actually superior. I'm going to start compiling a list, I think.

These novels are all a complete waste of time (every single last one. No exceptions), but I don't necessarily feel the same way of all of such films. Admittedly, if you've seen one, you've seen most of the others, but there must be wider variations, and some that have some semblance of depth. Some of them must contain interesting characters with psychological pleasantness. I guess I'll see. I like lists.