Friday, March 14, 2008

Blah, Meh, and Ehh

Walker (1987, Alex Cox) - **1/2

In one phrase this whole film received a "uhhhhhhh.....that was ok" from me when it finished. Walker is a strange and odd film. Maybe when you read that last sentence you are expecting something really out there but Walker is not too extreme with it's oddness. Part of me wishes that it would go to the limit with it's strangeness rather than just sprinkling it here and there through out the film.

Walker is a "historical/biopic" about an eccentric man who became the dictator of Nicaragua in the 19th century. See, there is nothing strange there. Where it becomes strange is when Alex Cos decides to throw in modern innovations into the story. So, for example,. there are scenes of soldiers reading Time and People Magazine, shots of digital clocks, a car, and even a military helicopter. This is all meant to illustrate how we haven't learned from history and the story being told from the 19th century is the same story that is happening today, or in this case, during the 80s. You see...its very clever.

The problem is not the fact that Cox decides to make the film a satire or that he decides to throw in all of these things. The problem is that the film is not subtle with its clever ideas. They are so in your face that it comes off as being forced. It also doesn't help that he decides to actually make a biopic for 30 minutes and then throw in a shot of people reading Time magazine, and then come back to the biopic. What is meant to be clever and thought provoking becomes nothing more than just a distraction. After about the 3rd time it happens you just feel like saying "I get it already! Shit!"

Walker is far from a bad film. There is some greatness there but its overall ambition is what ultimately crushes whatever aspirations of greatness that it seems to have at times. It's an interesting film that is even more interesting due to Ed Harris delivering a great and fun performance but it never becomes more than just a "interesting film".

30 Days of Night (2007, David Slade) - **1/2

There are a couple of times during the film that I felt that it was at the point of achieving greatness but then it would become bland and predictable. This happened over and over again. It's far from a bad film but it also stays stuck within the blandness of it's genre, which is very disappointing.

The Ballad of Jack & Rose (2005, Rebecca Miller) - **1/2

This is another one that had a lot of potential but also fails to achieve an overall sense of itself. I'm not sure what exactly Rebecca Miller was going for since the film is trying to say something, but I just dont know what it is or if the film even said anything at all. It's really an assorted mess of top notch quality scenes mixed with pretentious and badly acted scenes surrounding these quality scenes.

Of course, there is no surprise that any moment of quality that the film has is due to Daniel Day-Lewis' perfect performance. This is a given but I have come to learn that what is more interesting than Day-Lewis' performances are the supporting performances around him. In this case the supporting performances from the cast, save for Keener, are absolutely destroyed by Day-Lewis. The weaknesses in the supporting performances are sadly noticeable too along with its sloppy writing and uneven direction.

A Wild Mess, The Lubitsch Touch, and Space Travel

I have seen lots of films the past couple of days and it's time to play catch up.

Schizopolis (1996, Steven Soderbergh) - ***

Soderbergh's experimental and very personal film is a mess of a film but that's why it's so much fun to watch. I say this because there are even numerous times where the film doesn't even know what its doing and straight out tells you that there is "a missing idea" instead of an explanation or a scene to advance the story. You really get a feeling of Soderbergh going insane behind the camera and just pouring every single idea on screen, even if the idea doesn't make much sense.

For being such a wild and experimental film, I was surprised to find it amusing and interesting. I also think that it is one of Soderbergh's best films even though I wouldn't rate it any higher. I don't know if that makes much sense or not.

Trouble in Paradise (1932, Ernst Lubitsch) - ****

Ernst Lubitsch is a director that I have long heard and read about but had never checked out until this film. I can now safely say that he lived up to the hype and I was generally impressed by how extremely well the film holds up. A very fun time.

Also, that is easily my least favorite Criterion dvd cover of all time.

In the Shadow of the Moon (2007, David Sington) - ***1/2

I loved this one until the final 15 or so minutes when the film's impact was softened on me due to the film all of a sudden rushing through years of history and then just ending. I just feel that the film should have been titled "The First Men on the Moon" instead of the title that it has now because most of the story is more devoted to the first mission that it is to everything else. I wish I could have learned more of the overall story than just learning about a small fragment of what I think is rich and interesting history to explore.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Slapstick, Panic, and Depression

I haven't written anything in a long time, so I am going to try at least write a little bit about what I have seen the past couple of days and weeks.

Run, Fatboy, Run (2007, David Schwimmer) - *

What a flaming piece of shit. I wasn't expecting anything on the level of Shaun or Hot Fuzz but I was expecting something at least good since the film is directed by Scwhimmer (who I am a fan of), written by Michael Ian Black, and starring Simon Pegg. Instead of getting a great or even a pretty good comedy, I got a film that plays it so safe and by the numbers that it's just embarrassing to watch. I am surprised that this one was a huge over seas. It really is so bad that I saw it about 3 weeks ago I don't remember almost anything about it. Horrible.

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991, Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, and Elenor Coppola) - ***1/2

I was sort of disappointed by this one, but I still found it great. I have spent years trying to watch this now legendary documentary and until a couple of weeks ago I was able to finally get the dvd instead of some shitty vhs. I watched it and I wasnt all that blown away by it as I imagine other people are by it. This isn't the films fault but my own. I have read about the trouble Apocalypse Now faced during productions a number of times and even read what I consider to be the ultimate account of all this, which is the chapter in Peter Biskind's Easy Riders and Raging Bulls that deals with the making of the film. So, while watching this documentary it felt like hearing the same story again but with images to go along with it. It's still one hell of a story but I just wish that I didn't already know it so well.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969, Sidney Pollack) - ****

This, just like Hearts of Darkness, is a film that I have long heard about and was at first hard to get my hands on. Then, it became pretty easy for me to watch it but I didn't jump at it. Now, with all the rumors flying around about Sidney Pollack lying on his death bed, I decided to check it out as a form of odd respect. I was going to write a lot more about this film but I feel like I wont be doing it justice. I was absolutely blown away by this one and it is a true hidden gem and I am a bit baffled as to why it's not even considered a cult film to some. For a film that deals with a non stop dance marathon, it is incredibly fucked up and depressing The film also contains a couple of scenes that immediately shot up on my favorites list.

I don't know what else to say so I am just going to post the music video that Paul Thomas Anderson directed that includes an homage to the film.

I really cant wait to buy this one and savor it some more. I really just loved it and it is one of the best gems I have found while "digging for films".