Posts Tagged ‘reviewz’

Reviews: The War Zone, The Letter, The Last Metro, The Towering Inferno. Seen on: I’d be damned if I remember when

April 13, 2009

Sorry for not writing in… what, a month? Damn. =/ I’m sure you understand (you don’t, and that’s okay), all three of you people who read my blog, and I promise I shan’t abandon it for no reason any more. =)

The War Zone (Tim Roth, 1999) directed by Tim Roth, I’ll admit that the only reason I got this was because I was intrigued about Lara Belmont’s performance. It’s quite raved, 1999 is always bitched for being a weak year for actresses, and even though I’ve never agreed with that statement, I wanted to see what the fuss was about. And that’s probably the only thing I would recommend from this film. No, this isn’t a bad film by any means, just an incredibly unpleasant one. I had no idea what it was about when I started watching, or what touchy subjects would be approached, so even if I don’t know how well known the matter is to people who haven’t seen it, I’m not sure if I should bring it up. Anyway, it’s uniformly well acted: Ray Winstone impossibly unaffected, (as in the good way), Tilda Swinton at her least Tilda-esque (again, it’s a good thing), and the boy playing the brother very natural, and Lara Belmont pulling difficult, strong material like a pro. The film as I’ve already implied is very hard to watch, but it’s mostly due to the fact that I don’t have a stomach for that sort of thing, it’s nothing I would watch again, but it’s undeniably well made and the acting is definitely the highlight. Rating: B.

The Letter, (William Wyler, 1940) BETTE DAVIS! Isn’t she always great? Well, as far as I’m aware she IS, so shut up! :@ This William Wyler collaboration of hers isn’t very good, but if you’re looking for another great Bette Davis performance, you’re looking on the right place: here she plays yet another treacherous spoiled little cunt who thinks can get away with anything cause she’s so “good” inside, but actually she isn’t. Sam old tired formula, I love Wyler’s films but he doesn’t do anything here to try to spice things up or make it seem worthwhile: same melodrama, same dated unintentionally funny racial gaps, same dumb male characters, same not so dumb male characters, same “mysterious” supporting lady, same predictable twists, and so on. Anyway, I lost track my main point, which is Bette: here she is wonderful, the first second we see her walking into the film pointing a gun, shooting the living shit out of some man, we already know everything about the character with just the look on her face and the way she keeps following him. The way she keeps defending herself, delivering her melodramatic lines and subsequently defending her actions and trying to cover everything up is all too familiar, yet at the same time, all so very fresh: it’s the same inflictions, it’s the same type of character she’s used to playing yet it’s so different the way she delivers it: vivid, honest, aware, transparent, never trying for the audience to fall for the character with cheap tricks. Thank you, Bette. Rating: C


The Last Metro (François Truffaut, 1980) Truffaut! He’s great, isn’t he? This movie always sounded like Frenchiness personified. Denueve + Depardieu AND Truffaut? = I’m in! The story is about Catherine Denueve, a stage actress in charge not only of running the theatre his Jewish husband (to my disappointment, NOT Depardieu, but some other actor) used to run, but also of keeping him well hidden in the same theatre’s basement from the Nazis and other nosy unpatriotic Frenchies. Very well acted (Denueve playing this character as if she was born to play it, Depardieu delivering his usual charms), as with most Truffaut pictures the story just flows by, even when it’s kind of intended to drag, the tension is always there, gorgeously produced, every turn the story takes seems effortless thanks to Truffaut’s direction (well, that whole love triangle thing seemed forced at first, but that’s probably what I get for not seeing it coming) and it gets its message across beautifully. Essential Truffaut right here. Rating: A-

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The Towering Inferno (John Guilermin & Irwin Allen, 1974) I don’t know what it is that I have about disaster movies, but I think it’s that I’m always expecting too much even though I just KNOW I shouldn’t. For no apparent reason, I often used to forget Faye Dunaway and Paul Newman (two of my favorites) starred in a big movie together. That and the fame of the film were enough for me to give it a try. Problem is, it’s not that entertaining. Naturally, with such a huge cast, it’s obvious that there will be underwritten characters, endless useless subplots, and great actors all around stuck with nothing to do, but, because I’m a bitch, I find it to be a huge stumble. The dynamics between the characters are not that believable, and once we have some action going on it’s very hard to care for anyone, and the film just goes on for too long for its own good. The use of miniatures for the visual effects is admirable, and must’ve been quite impressive for the time but predictably, they’re quite dated for nowadays, and frankly, once you don’t have much tension going on inside the building thanks to a sloppy script, and nothing that striking going on outside, it’s just very hard to care at all for what goes on. Overall: flawed, overlong and quite messy, even if admirable from a technical, dated point of view. Rating: C

Review: The Damed, seen on March 6th

March 15, 2009

The Damned (Luchino Visconti, 1969) –  Luchino Visconti directs this film about the downfall and decadence of an aristocratic German family (the original Italian title translates directly to “The Fall of the Gods”) during the first years of the Nazi Germany. We begin with shots of the steelwork factory that is said to be the source of their wealth and power, here and the ending shots being the only ones showing the industrialist background of the family. Most of the occurrences that happen throughout this first hour of the film are better left unsaid, the film is obviously attempting shock everywhere, and they mostly succeed, so I won’t go into much details – but what I can say is that these events show a glimpse of the nature of the main characters (Ingrid Thulin – always unbelievably scary in Bergman films, plays a character that fits her looks like a glove, the power hungry matron of the family; Dirk Bogarde – the result of Visconti casting English language actors into his films has often been boring, and this isn’t the exception; and Helmut Berger – a complete unknown for me at the time, but easily the one who steals the film. Playing one of the most disgusting corrupted characters in film history, whiny, annoying and flamboyant; he nails the evilness, yet the helplessness lying beneath this spoiled, sick young man. Not to mention he features one of the most awesome character introductions of all time – a grotesquely iconic drag performance of Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel), actions that in the end will mark the subsequent “fall” of these Gods and Goddesses.

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Some of the ideas Visconti is trying to pursue don’t seem to fully work:  the infamous gay orgy, while it works as an historical reference to locate the moment in time in which the characters are in (just wiki “The Night of the Long Knives”), holds very little importance to the actual arc of the story or the characters, and seems to exist barely for the purpose of shock and shock alone. Also, I think that tagline is pretentious, and never does the film remotely suggest that he was bound to become “the second most powerful man in Germany”. The ambition was there, sure, and in retrospective it COULD make sense, but I still think it gives the wrong idea. However, and as I’ve previously mentioned, I find the main idea of showing the downfall of a powerful family to be truly exciting and interesting. And Visconti’s decision of showing every single disgusting little detail about the relationships of each character, not being afraid of certain subjects, contrasting them in beautiful, rich scenarios and thus making the melodramatic situations impossible to look away for me truly shows a gutsy, polished vision that while it may be hard to swallow, it’s very easy to admire fully. So if a little too self-conscious and hard to watch at times, nevertheless an accomplished, fascinating vision of decadence thanks to a ballsy direction and to at least one of the lead performances. Rating: B+

Review: Swing Time, seen on March 1st

March 12, 2009

Swing Time (George Stevens, 1936) – Being in the mood for something lighter (not to say better), and having never seen a Ginger Rogers / Fred Astaire dance flick, being a huge musicals fan you can say the least I expected was simply a mildly amusing feel good movie. Well, there’s way more than that. Fred Astaire plays a dancer who in the day of his wedding is tricked by his dancing partners into missing his own wedding. After disappointing the poor little bride, he agrees with his fiancé’s father to find 25000$ in order to be allowed to marry her again. In search for success, he arrives to New York penniless with his partner, Pop (Victor Moore). There he follows Ginger Roger’s character to a dancing academy and this is what really sets this wonderful story into motion.

I won’t go on any further on the story, but I can assure you every musical number is impeccably performed, choreographed, and shot (one of the final musical sequences involves Fred Astaire in a blackface on a number that could be very easily considered distasteful in retrospective, but thanks to the impeccable choreography is very easy to just forget the context and admire it for the flawless technicality of it). Somewhere between the middle of the film our characters start breaking into singing for no reason, which could be very easily considered discrepant to the path the film had been choosing til that point, but the intent is so pure and heartfelt, and the result is so beautiful, I don’t even think I mind that much. Beautiful, sparkling chemistry between the leads carry the whole film like a breath of fresh air, and the supporting performances by Victor Moore and Helen Broderick as Ginger’s co-worker/friend/roommate can very easily make you laugh in the less cheerful moments of the film. All in all, a wonderful deservedly classic musical that most certainly won’t be the last of Fred & Ginger’s films I’ll be seeing. Rating: A-

The Oscar winning song “The Way You Look Tonight”, from the film.

Review: Star 80, seen on March 1st

March 11, 2009

Star 80 (Bob Fosse, 1983) – based on the true story of tragic fated Playboy’s Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten, played by Woody Allen girl (REALLY a girl, anyone who’s seen Allen’s Manhattan would agree =/) Mariel Hemingway. It follows the story of how Stratten came to meet her murderer: her husband Paul Snider, played by Julia’s big brother, Eric Roberts. Directed by Bob Fosse, the film starts by showing us the decay and the progress of Snider’s anger, as he one day meets Dorothy and starts seeing her as an opportunity for success. What Fosse achieved in the fantastics Cabaret and All That Jazz so effortlessly was that the flow of those films seemed invisible: they’re both rather lengthy, they’re both kind of raunchy, yet the energy in which he brings into his actors and into his direction make it all look so breezy. Unfortunately, this is not the case for this film. Often we see the story fractured by interviews of people who knew Dorothy or Paul (or rather, actors who play them), trying to tell us things we’re kind of already seeing in the film by these small character’s reactions. By this Fosse seems willing to capture a documentary feel into the film, but it just seems unrealistic, not to mention some of the dialogues of these faux-interviews just come out so unnatural, and the saddest of all, it breaks the rhythm of the film considerably, which like I’ve already said seems to be Fosse’s forte. Another glaring flaw in the picture seems to be some sort of unintentional sadism in the way the story’s being told: rushedly shot only 3 years after the incident, the decision of filming the tragic climax in the same department where the real Dorothy Stratten was murdered, are often very obvious aspects the film never tries to hide even though it should, and the result just seems exploitative, and for the audience, downright unpleasant.

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But if the film does excel in some departments, it’s in the acting: Mariel Hemingway rises above the script’s lazy decision of never showing why Dorothy cares so much about the schlub, and with limited subtle stares and soft voice makes us understand that perhaps despite the uneasiness Paul provokes on her, there’s an understanding and sympathetic feelings that make her try to handle the situation as long as humanly possible. On the other hand, and with an entirely different style of acting, there’s Eric Roberts, who despite the screenplay’s attempts to show the guy’s situation in a sympathetic manner, never gives in into clichés and just shows Paul Snider’s inner demons with such a pathos and in such a convincing way that he achieves a coldly truthful, honest, yet effortlessly transparent portrayal of this pathetic, sleazy man. All in all, a rushed, lazy and unpleasant project about a story that should have never been told, but that works as an acting showcase for both its stars just perfectly, they’re the reason to at least give the film a try. Rating: C

Resurrecting my m00vies, y’all

March 11, 2009

So my last attempt of carrying it out a blog failed miserably, mostly thanks to my lack of Internet connection at the time. And Blogspot got on my nerves =/.It was a stupid idea then, but now that I do have a steady Internet connection I’ve decided to carry this thing out as a film log diary, in which I will publish reviews of the films I’ll be seeing week after week day after day. Some way shorter than others, depending on how much I’ve got to say for given film(s). Get it? Good. Let’s start!

And to re-open this blog, or morelike, for no particular reason whatsoever, here’s this little gem, featuring Jimmy Dean and Paul Newman being unintentionally homoerotic! Discovered it last night (thanks to Dave, from Oscar Buzz!) and I can’t get enough of it. Enjoy!