Monday, March 14, 2016

Movies Since Last Time

Defiance (2008). This story of Polish Jews who live out the German Occupation living in the
woods didn’t look like it would appeal to me but screenwriters Edward Zwick (who also directed) and Clayton Frohman adapted Nechama Tec’s true story without any more Hollywood touches than were absolutely necessary. Daniel Craig took a break from James Bond and is excellent as the stoic brother Tuvia who must hold his disparate group together, even against the more violent impulses of brother Zus. Filmed very close to where the events actually took place, the film lays things out and allows the audience to draw their own conclusions.

Inside Man (2006). Saw it and loved it before, and it held up well on second viewing. Classic heist film with a twist I can’t reveal as it makes everything else clear when the time comes and not a second earlier. Clive Owen in the bank, Denzel Washington as the cop, and Jodie Foster as the fixer nail their roles. (Duh.) Spike Lee does a straightforward job of storytelling that lets the material speak for itself. One of the best heist films.

Zoolander (2001). The Sole Heir™ was
shocked—shocked!—to learn we’d never seen Zoolander as she knew we liked Ben Stiller and thought this would be right up our alleys. The kid’s smart; the movie is stupid funny but with some biting satire. Stiller may be the Mel Brooks of his generation, willing to tread lines no one else will and pulling it off. (Think Robert Downey in Tropic Thunder.) Making the jokes he does with female supermodels might have smelt of misogyny; Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, and David Duchovny have a lot of fun with it and everything comes out all right.

Farewell, My Lovely (1975). The best of the Chandler movie adaptations, edging out Bogart’s The Big Sleep because 35 years’ time allowed Dick Richards to say, show, and even imply things the Hayes Office would never have let Howard Hawks consider. Robert Mitchum plays Marlowe as world-weary and resigned that things aren’t going to go well, but his code keeps him plugging along. Charlotte Rampling as Helen Grayle is…damn, man, think about it. She was a 29-year-old Charlotte Rampling. Lots of men would do lots of stupid stuff for her. Noir giant Jim Thompson has a cameo as Judge Grayle, his only screen appearance.

Galaxy Quest (1999). Another re-viewing and don’t bet against a
third. Great fun spoofing Star Trek and trekkies but always with affection, up to allowing the nerds to save the day. The whole film hinges on an alien race’s interpretation of a cheesy American TV show as “historical documents” and building their spaceship as an exact duplicate. Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver headline with two of the best character actors one can think of in Tony Shalhoub and Sam Rockwell as everyone catches the mood just right.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013). Watched both back to back on TNT while resting up from a long day at Mystic Seaport with The Sole Heir™. I sure am glad I didn’t pay for these. Less movies than episodes in a cable TV limited-run series, neither film has anything like a satisfying ending. They just end, see ya next year. That’s cheating. A friend told me the third movie makes up for it by appending an hour-long coda to make up for it, as if sitting through five-and-a-half hours wasn’t enough already. I’m too old for this shit. The special effects were pretty sporty.

2001: a Space Odyssey (1968). A glorious mess of a movie. Special effects a lot of modern movies would do well to pay attention to, but an excess of self-indulgence on the part of director Stanley Kubrick. Even the DVD is pretentious, showing no menu at first, just a black screen with vague music that makes one wonder if there’s something wrong. (I guess this was how theaters showed it. I saw it in a theater—my parents probably still have the programs—but I was 12 years old and don’t remember.) I hoped it would make more sense to me 48 years later and parts did, but not enough. I did watch some of the bonus features and feel better: a lot of the people who worked on the film don’t have any idea what Kubrick was getting at, and a couple said they don’t think Kubrick did, either.

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