31 December 2008

OLR: Death Proof (2007)

The theme music, Stuntman Mike, the car stunts and the girls kicking ass at the end were properly grindhousey, but the endless yapping in the in-between parts dragged the whole movie away from that intended theme. (7/10)

d. Quentin Tarantino

[Also watched the trailers for Werewolf Women of the SS, Don't and Thanksgiving, plus the ad for the Acuña Boys restaurant. For reasons no one can fathom, these are missing from the American DVD and BD releases. I had to rip them from the expensive, 6-disc Japanese DVD set so that I could have a proper Grindhouse double-feature tonight. While Nicolas Cage is inspired casting for Fu Manchu in WWotSS, the spot-on slasher trailer Thanksgiving is the winner in this batch.]

[That makes an even 222 movies for the year 2008.]

OLR: Planet Terror (2007)

Excepting the mysterious lack of gratuitous nudity, this explosion of zombies, guns, motorcycles, blood, cheezy one-liners and, well, explosions was exactly what I was hoping for from a grindhouse tribute film. (8/10)

d. Robert Rodriguez

[Also watched Rodriguez's fantastic Machete trailer, which was thankfully still attached to the movie on the BD release.]

29 December 2008

OLR: Aladdin (1992)

I had to watch this after re-reading The Sandman #50 and, though not as good as that work of art, I was not disappointed. (8/10)

d. Ron Clements & John Musker

28 December 2008

OLR: Burn After Reading (2008)

Apology accepted for Intolerable Cruelty. (7/10)

d. Ethan Coen & Joel Coen

26 December 2008

Guest OLR: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Like getting hit in the face with a really pretty hammer for almost three hours. (7/10)

d. David Fincher

25 December 2008

OLR: Cars (2006)

There's something about the colors and the car designs… I can see why children are insane about this movie. (7/10)

d. John Lasseter & Joe Ranft

OLR: Ratatouille (2007)

Perfectly edible, but a few spices short of a gourmet meal. (7/10)

d. Brad Bird & Jan Pinkava

23 December 2008

OLR: Cinematic Titanic: "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (2008)

The riffing doesn't really pick up until after Joel's shadow Christmas gifts, which is now my favorite shadow gag (from both shows). (7/10)

d. Nicholas Webster & Sharp-Ford

[watched the other one a little over two years ago, now]

21 December 2008

Hitchcock | The 39 Steps (1935)

The 39 Steps (1935)
written by Charles Bennett and Ian Hay, based on a novel by John Buchan

Many consider this film to be Hitchcock's best of his British era, but I found it to be a lesser version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. It features essentially the same plot: the murder of a secret agent sends a regular person(s) into a world of spies, chases, escapes and assassination in order to save the Empire. Hitchcock certainly displays the same attitude here: both are fun, funny, suspenseful and filled with some real human moments.

For me, the key difference between the two films can be found in the main character. I don't think I like Hannay much at all. Everything's so effortless to him. This secret agent business literally falls into his lap and he assumes the mantle of super-spy with ease. Shove him in front of a crowd and he'll make up a political speech out of thin air to rouse the masses. Reveal yourself as the villain by displaying your nine-fingered hand and he'll react with bravado. Shoot him and he'll pretend to fall over dead, allow you to carry him to a dumping spot, escape and then make jokes about the hymnal that stopped the bullet. While this may be fun to watch in a proto-James Bond manner, he's not someone I can identify with. Personally, I'd be throwing chairs at people.

The little moments Hitchcock captures along the way make up for this improbably talented non-spy. There's this eye crinkle Professor Jordan does when he's discussing spy stuff with Hannay through euphemisms. There's the way Hannay tries desperately to read the newspaper story about him after the pair across the aisle from him stop discussing it. And, of course, the scene between Hannay, Margaret and her grumpy husband on the Scottish moors is full of great stuff: subtle manipulation by Hannay, the wistfulness of Margaret, the suspicious of the husband. That's the stuff you look forward to seeing in a good Hitchcock movie to fill in the gaps between the suspense and excitement. (7/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Criterion in 1999. It's a pretty old Criterion disc (spine #56) and could probably use a good re-release. Not a bad print/transfer, still.

OLR: Cinematic Titanic: "Legacy of Blood" (2008)

Not as funny as previous releases, maybe because the movie's pretty dull. (6/10)

d. Carl Monson & Sharp-Ford

20 December 2008

OLR: Sex and the City (2008)

This is pornography of some sort, but I am not the target audience. (4/10)

d. Michael Patrick King

OLR: The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

The fast-paced romance is a wee disturbing, but I think Tim Allen makes a great Santa. (6/10)

d. Michael Lembeck

14 December 2008

OLR: Home Alone (1990)

It takes a lot these days to think up a new Christmas classic… who knew it could involve beating the holy hell out of burglars? (7/10)

d. Chris Columbus

13 December 2008

OLR: Modern Times (1936)

Marvel as Chaplin demostrates his mastery of all forms of comedy. (8/10)

d. Charles Chaplin

OLR: The Godfather: Part III (1990)

I thought I wanted to see more of the adventures of the Corleone family, but this feels unnecessary. (7/10)

d. Francis Ford Coppola

11 December 2008

Hitchcock | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
written by Charles Bennett, D.B. Wyndham-Lewis, Edwin Greenwood, A.R. Rawlinson and Emlyn Williams

After sixteen movies and nine years of trying, Hitchcock finally knocks one out of the park. Superbly edited and paced, well acted and written, and filled with suspense, humor and drama; this film is miles ahead of anything Hitchcock has done so far.

Man, that Albert Hall sequence is stellar. Watch it and you'll witness the birth of the "Master of Suspense." A jaded veteran of thousands of horror movies, it's rare for a movie to get much of an emotional response out of me. This sequence from a seventy-four-year-old movie got my pulse going. Hitchcock cuts from the terrified Jill to shots of Albert Hall so that both Jill and the audience can scan for the assassin. As the tempo of the cuts increases , we can see the anguish on Jill's face growing as she struggles to decide what to do. Should she stop the assassination and risk her daughter's murder in retailiation, or keep quiet and risk another world war as a result? What a heavy moral quandry! As the scene speeds up, she breaks under the pressure and screams at exactly the right moment to disturb the assassin's aim. Beautiful.

Albert Hall wasn't the only bright spot. Peter Lorre's great as a soft-spoken, gentleman anarchist. To paraphrase an IMDb user, the film contains the best chair fight in movie history. Half a dozen guys in a room full of easy-to-break wooden chairs = pure awesomeness. The husband and his friend singing messages to each other during the church service's hymn is hilarious. The long gunfight at the end is suprisingly tense. Unlike modern movies where they sound like cannons, the gunshots are given realistic popping sound effects. When a bullet strikes someone on screen, it make no noise at all. This has the affect of making anyone a potential corpse at any second of the movie without any warning at all.

The movie so nice, he made it twice. The only improvement I can possibly see the remake bringing to the table is Jimmy Stewart. I fear the rest will be a disappointment. I can hardly remember the remake at all, so I suppose I shall find out after twenty-five more movies which is the better film. (8/10)

Watched the region 2 DVD released by Network in 2008. I'm not sure why this movie doesn't have a good region 1 release. I'd guess because it's overshadowed by its color remake. This edition uses a scratched-up print, but it's better than any other I've seen.

10 December 2008

OLR: Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

Michael Caine rules, Beyoncé looked like she was having a ball and this one is funnier than part two. (7/10)

d. Jay Roach

Hitchcock | Waltzes from Vienna (1934)

Waltzes from Vienna (1934)
written by Alma Reville and Guy Bolton, based on a play by H. Reichert, A.M. Willner and Ernst Marischka

Until last year, this had only been available as a bootleg recording from a French TV broadcast. Not a great sign for the quality of the film. As it turns out, it's not horrible; it's just completely unremarkable. It tells the fictionalized story of how Strauss composed and performed "The Blue Danube" for the first time. It unfolds in a straight-forward manner. The story is the standard "I have big dreams, but maybe I should take the crappy job from father-in-law and forget them" thing with some strong-willed royalty added to push the musician into his destiny. There are no camera tricks or fancy shots. No one is murdered or blackmailed. There aren't even any repeat actors from previous movies (that I could tell). There's no way anyone would ever guess this was a Hitchcock film if his name was absent from the credits.

If I ever again have the hankering to see this song set to music... I'll watch 2001. (5/10)

Watched the region 2 DVD released by Universal in 2007 . Nice print and an OK transfer.

09 December 2008

OLR: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

The desire to give the audience more of what it liked from the first film is so tangible it's distracting. (6/10)

d. Jay Roach

Hitchcock | Rich and Strange (1931)

Rich and Strange (1931)
written by Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville and Val Valentine, based on a novel by Dale Collins

A bit of a long way to go for a "grass is always greener" tale. Hitchcock sent a crew with a silent camera on a duplicate of the journey his characters take, getting real footage from Egypt and Sri Lanka and Singapore to cut into his film. The footage is nice. It adds a great deal of authenticity to the couple's travels and gives the movie a scope larger than anything Hitchcock's done so far.

I hated the two main characters. The husband and wife are naive nearly to the point of mental retardation. Watching them travel the world in complete ignorance of both the cultures they're visiting and of each other (despite eight years of marriage) was akin to reading the comments posted under a Youtube video. I know part of the point of the film is watching how badly the nouveau riche handle their wealth; that class is a sort of trap you can't escape no matter how fancy the dress you buy. Still, maybe at least one of these characters could've been a wee more sympathetic?

Or, the film should've gone the other way. If all we're going to do is watch a pair of idiots stumble through life until they figure out home is where they're most comfortable, make it a full-on black comedy. Let's see some funny tragedy. Have the husband slip while trying on a new tuxedo, fall overboard and lose a leg to a shark. Have the wife blinded by the sun glinting off her lover's war medals. Have some more fun with it beyond a near-sighted lady constantly being ignored and the accidental consumption of a cat.

Hitchcock tries some new tricks in this film. He often cuts to brief shots of places or things to emphasize the mental states of his characters. For example, he cuts to a quick shot of a lifeboat while the wife is talking to her would-be lover, the commander. It's a ham-handed technique, but it's something to watch for. There's the previously mention second unit world tour. He brings back silent movie-style intertitles, though for place names and descriptions and not dialogue. There's a POV shot of the wife's tears blurring her vision that I thought was touching.

Despite their mental handicaps, Hitchcock does capture some strong scenes between the couple. After they've discovered that their affairs have both ended, I liked watching the pair dance around the subject, trying not to mention anything to do with it. The scene in the ship's cabin when they think they're going to die was well done, and not a bad idea for a realistic reason the two cheaters would get back together.

Another strange Hitchcock film. He must have been a weird state of mind in 1931. (6/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Lionsgate in 2007 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock: 3-Disc Collector's Edition. Nice print and an OK transfer.

OLR: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

I think Dr. Evil's my favorite '90s comedy character. (7/10)

d. Jay Roach

07 December 2008

Guest OLR: Mad Max (1979)

A short film padded with empty suspense and car chases. (5/10)

d. George Miller

OLR: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

All I wanted to see was a couple of monsters beating the crap out of each other, but I think I liked it better when it was just one monster versus the army. (7/10)

d. Louis Leterrier

06 December 2008

OLR: White Christmas (1954)

Not really much of a Christmas movie… I think I'll stick with Black Christmas. (6/10)

d. Michael Curtiz

OLR: WALL·E (2008)

Better without the nieces yelling and screaming, but not quite transcendent of the genre. (8/10)

d. Andrew Stanton

03 December 2008

OLR: Iron Man (2008)

All I wanted to see was a couple of guys in robot armor beating the crap out of each other, but it was nice to have a good story to go with that. (8/10)

d. Jon Favreau

02 December 2008

Hitchcock | Number Seventeen (1931)

Number Seventeen (1931)
written by Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville & Rodney Ackland, based on the play by Joseph Jefferson Farjeon

Word is that Hitchcock didn't want to direct this one. Luckily, he decided to have fun with the film and maybe get some directorial practice out of it. Hitchcock plays with shadows and farce and model trains. There are people dangling from railings, jumping over boxcars and failing through skylights.The film is populated with an unemployed wino/sailor, a man pretending to be a detective pretending to be a crook and a detective pretending to be a disinterested party. None of the characters have any depth to them whatsoever, but at least the movie's fun to watch.

What can you say about Number Seventeen? It's a brief sixty minutes of Hitchcock being a goofball. For one of his throwaway films, it's not a bad way to spend an hour. (6/10)

Watched the region 2 DVD released by Optimum in 2007 as a part of the Early Hitchcock Collection. Nice print and bad compression, as with all of their releases.