Sunday, October 30, 2011

Movie Update 27

Three movie posts in a row? What the hell is this?

Assault on Precinct 13

A pretty early John Carpenter film, which can be seen as a super violent action movie before super violent action movies were really a thing. It has elements of westerns and zombie movies, and tells the story of a few police officers and criminals defending a closed-down police station from a fraternity of gangs on the warpath. There are definitely bits of the movie I liked a lot, as it manages to build suspense and have some solidly exciting scenes despite a low budget. There are definite issues with the script though, which is a bit lean in some places and is filled with tough action dialogue that I could barely tolerate, especially for the lead good guy criminal. Stop being cute and act like a human being for five minutes, man.

Going My Way

A Best Picture winner starring Bing Crosby as a priest who comes to a new church and helps make it a nicer place, mostly by using his musical talent to keep it going and form a choir with its population of young boys. There's not really a lot of depth to the movie, but I found it mostly enjoyable. On occasion the musical numbers (it's not really a musical, but does have a lot of singing) seemed to go on a bit long, but in the end it's a nice tale of spirituality and kindness and whatever. I like Bing. Bing's a pretty cool dude.

Last Year at Marienbad

When people talk about incomprehensible foreign art films, this is basically exactly what they're talking about. Marienbad is a French movie about a man who tries to convince a woman that they had met and had an affair a year earlier at another place, and either he's making it all up or she just forgot somehow or she's deliberately pretending she doesn't know what he's talking about. The movie never really explains itself, and I don't think there really is a straight answer anywhere. It's not that the scenes don't follow or are made up of gibberish, it's just that it's really difficult to tell when things are taking place or where or what's real or if any of it is. I appreciated the great artistry that went into filming it, but I also can't say I really liked it. There's just no way to make heads or tails of it.

The Long Goodbye

My favorite classic film noir might be The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe. Robert Altman and Elliot Gould revived the character in the 70s with The Long Goodbye, moving him into that decade and highlighting the anachronism of a 40s hardboiled detective living in a then-modern LA. Some people don't like the way the movie plays with the genre or the deviations from the original novel, but I thought it was a mostly entertaining movie. It's also funny to see a very early appearance by Arnold Schwarzenegger as a thug who doesn't have any lines. Not a traditional detective story, but I think it's an interesting one.

The Phantom of the Opera

You know, I always got the impression that the Phantom was supposed to be a sympathetic figure, like his horrible visage masked a kindness and he was only secretive because of a life of torment, or something like that. But he really isn't. He kidnaps a woman and basically tells her he'll kill everyone if she goes back to her boyfriend instead of staying with him. Not cool, dude. This version of the story from the 20s is probably the best known film version, and it's pretty watchable, though not terribly exciting now. Lon Chaney's makeup is pretty good, but there's not much about the movie that's really scary. Not much of the good imagery from other silent horror classics. Still, probably worth checking out.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

I guess there's some disappointment that when Billy Wilder makes a Sherlock Holmes movie that begins by teasing that its story will be surprising and possibly controversial, and the ends up just being a pretty normal Sherlock Holmes movie. In fact, the entire opening sequence where he lies about his sexuality to get out of a jam and which is the only thing that's truly original about the story, ends up being kind of a waste of time as it only barely plays into the rest of the film. It's not a big deal though, because it's a well paced, interesting mystery for Holmes and Watson to solve, with plenty of clues that seem odd at first but end up coming together to make a strange sort of sense. No Moriarty here, but we do have Christopher Lee as Mycroft, which is pretty delightful. Not an outstanding movie but a fun one. Not sure about the new Guy Ritchie sequel, though. Is it just me, or are none of the jokes in the previews actually funny?

Rome, Open City

Italian neorealism! Catch the fever! Open City is remarkable for its depiction of the late Nazi occupation in Italy only months after the war actually ended, and for how unflinching it is in depicting the period. They didn't experience some of the worst horrors of the war, but it sure wasn't fun to resist the Third Reich at any point during their reign. The film suffers a bit from Italians Yelling a Lot Syndrome, but it's a well crafted piece of historical fiction, and I'm still impressed by it following so soon after the actual events it tries to reflect. A solid way to help kick off an important film movement.

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