“Round up the usual suspects.” — Claude Rains (as Capt. Louis Renault), Casablanca (1942)
|Easy Virtue (2008)
This had promise, being that it’s based on a Noel Coward play, but it didn’t deliver. It comes across as a parody of a typical BBC drawing room comedy, minus the humor. I honestly think the movie is more about the antique cars, tractors, and motorcycles than it is about the characters. If you want to see a great period piece movie, watch Cold Comfort Farm. Don’t bother with this one.
I don’t know why this one was a flop in theaters, other than it’s long. It’s a big technicolor heyday-of-the-movies-style epic — big historical themes, cattle drives, rapacious ranchers, whites mistreating blacks, war, bodice-ripping romance — practically another Gone With the Wind! I think Australia’s going to do well in DVD rentals and sales, because it really is a ripping movie.
Of course, I liked Waterworld too, so your mileage may vary.
An engrossing breakdown-of-civilization movie, a la Lord of the Flies: dark, thoughtful, interesting. I’m halfway through reading J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun, a novel about the horrors of prison camp life during the Japanese occupation of China, so I had inadvertently laid the groundwork for enjoying this grim movie, and indeed I did enjoy it. My wife, however, hated it. If you’re looking for escape, watch another movie!
What did I like about Blindness? The actors, the story, most of all the cinematography — the way the movie was filmed. In retrospect, Blindness was clearly made on a budget, but you’re unaware of that during the movie. Fernando Meirelles does so much with his minimal sets, the scenes and images have real staying power. Oddly, the movie gains moral power from the characters’ lack of names and the anonymous, unidentifiable, vaguely European nature of the city it was filmed in. Why that should be so I can hardly say, but it had an impact on me, and I will be thinking about this film for some time to come.
|Away We Go (2009)
Let me just get this out of the way: I didn’t like the soundtrack.Everything else, I liked. A lot. I liked it that the young couple love each other and that the director didn’t make a joke of it. I liked it that the supporting characters, the relatives and friends Burt and Verona visit as they search for a place to raise their baby, are oddball yet normal people, dealing with issues and problems that affect us all. I liked it that the movie is quirky and hip without being smug. It made me laugh. It made me smile. Did I say I liked it? Maybe you will too.
|Drag Me to Hell (2009)
I had fun watching this, even though I normally avoid devil movies. Zombies, maniacal killers, monsters, mysterious plagues . . . those are my kind of horrors. But, hey, the devil in Drag Me to Hell is first rate . . . and he always gets his girl.
When the DVD starts, be sure to select the “unrated director’s cut”: you get a lot more vomit for your buck!
|Not Quite Hollywood: the Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008)
A documentary about Australian B-movies. The clips are quite fun, and I’ll probably order some of the movies now that I’ve had a brief taste of them. Turkey Shoot, Razorback, Dead-End Drive In . . . don’t they sound great? But apart from the clips, which are quite short, the documentary itself is all talking heads. Who doesn’t love Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Dennis Hopper? But your love is put to the test when they just sit there and talk.
Everything in this film is cut up. I mentioned the shortness of the clips from the movies themselves. The talking head sequences are short too, and all these short scenes . . . most only a few seconds long and some only a second long . . . are roughly spliced together without transitions. The whole film is head-head-clip-head-clip-clip-head-clip, all at a frantic, nerve-jangling pace.
I guess, when you get right down to it, this is an Australian B-documentary about Australian B-movies! Kind of fun, but you have to be in the mood.
When I think of pure depravity, I think of the two young guys who murdered the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959, the infamous killings Truman Capote wrote about in his book, In Cold Blood. Jennifer Lynch must have been thinking of In Cold Blood when she directed this movie, which is set in an anonymous Kansas-style small town, and has at its center a series of brutal, senseless murders and a pair of equally depraved, remorseless killers. But she takes it up several notches.
I normally don’t finish movies about pure depravity, but this one was so gripping I couldn’t not watch. But be warned: this is a sick, nasty, disturbing movie about inhumanly bad people. It’s also a very well-acted, well-staged, well-filmed, well-directed sick, nasty, deeply disturbing movie about inhumanly bad people. If you’re looking for something uplifting, look elsewhere. But if you’re indulging your dark side, this movie will feed it well.
|Wendy and Lucy (2008)
I gave it three stars because it’s well filmed and acted. But Jesus Christ, this has to be the most depressing movie I’ve ever seen and that includes Sophie’s Choice. I don’t know whether to slit my wrists or drown myself in the bathtub. All I want to do right now is hug my wife and dog and thank sweet providence I have them. Don’t see this if you’re even slightly suicidal. It’ll put you right over the edge.
|Assassination of a High School President (2008)
Twenty-something actors pretending to be high school students and not doing a very convincing job of it. A sophomore with a penchant for film noir voice-overs investigates the theft of SAT exams and uncovers a complex conspiracy. The students are unbearably hip, the dialog ditto. Sardonic images and action lurk in the background of most scenes. It’s like . . . well, it’s like a bunch of hip, sardonic 20-somethings made a hip, sardonic, film noir-ish spoof of high school life. And they managed to hire Bruce Willis to play the principle so that people will rent the DVD.
I don’t mean to say it’s bad (I did give it three stars, after all). It’s interesting and in many places funny. But it kind of gives you a sarcasm headache after a while. It’s just not life; it’s just not real.
|U Turn (1997)
It’s a film about bad people fucking each other over, done in film noir style with heavy doses of Pekinpah/Tarantino-style gore. And I’ll use the word style one more time . . . it’s stylishly done, like Natural Born Killers, with great actors, solid acting, brilliant cinematography, spectacular scenery, and an ultra-cool soundtrack. What I liked best was that the movie is staged in Superior, Arizona, an old mining town east of Phoenix, with no effort to disguise or mask the location. Well, that and Sean Penn. And Billy Bob Thornton. It’s a pretty cool flick.
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