Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May revivals: second half

Mike here with revivals to catch for the second half of May. But first, I should comment that the Film Forum has done a nice job with the Bond films. All the prints, except for For Your Eyes Only, have been in very good condition. And even Eyes Only, with its slight red tint in the black and dark areas, plus a slight overall fading, was still pretty decent. As much as the Moore haters may not like The Spy Who Loved Me, this is better then a lot of the summer blockbusters that have come out over the past couple of years.

The showing of classic trailers was a a fun touch, though I don't need to feel old by being told by the Forum that Octopussy is considered vintage. I agree with Ed, the Diamonds Are Forever trailer looks like it sat in someone's closet for over 35 years.

The karaoke sing-a-long of Goldfinger and From Russia With Love were such nice touches, I missed them for Spy and Live and Let Die. I never realized what horrible lyrics Goldfinger had. The Chinese karaoke version of Russia was funny. The video storyline was bizarre, and I'll make a stab at describing it. A man sits on a chair, in the world's brightest yellow sweater, looking at pictures of the girl he used to love. At one point, he turns into a seagull and . . . HUH?!?! HE TURNS INTO A SEAGULL? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THE CHINESE?!?!?!?

Anyway, enough digressing. On with the list:

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN- Wed May 16 at 4:30 and 7- Film Forum- This is still doable, Moore versus Christopher Lee. I already wrote about this in the previous list. If you have nothing better to do then to twiddle your thumbs, go for it.

NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN- Thurs May 17 at 4:30 (tentative), 7 and 9:40(but for the love of God let's avoid it)- Film Forum- The end of the spy film series at Film Forum. A reminder to catch Connery's last Bond. I wrote about it in the previous blog, so I won't do so now. As of this writing, 7 is preferable. I would like to avoid 9:40 if humanely possible. Another screening might be easier, but that would require getting a hold of me.

THE LONG GOODBYE- Fri May 18, Sat May 19 and Tues May 22 at 5:30, 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- Due to popular demand, the Forum is bringing back the Robert Altman adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel, starring Elliot Gould as Phillip Marlowe. The same new 35mm scope print that was being screened earlier. Those of you who haven't seen it, this is a great chance to. I've written about this before, so the only thing I'll add this quote I received from the Forum's email system. This is from Terrence Rafferty of the New York Times: “Watching The Long Goodbye in 1973, you could feel Philip Marlowe dancing on his own grave. Watching it now, you can see Robert Altman dancing with him.”

JULES AND JIM- IFC Film Center- Sat May 19 at Noon- IFC Film Center- I brought up the Truffaut classic back in December. It plays again this month. Don't think I have to go much further. Though I would like to bring up, if you're ambitious, we could do Jules and Jim at noon, followed by Long Goodbye at 5:30, with a long lunch in-between. For those who can do it and haven't seen either film. Just a suggestion.

THE DIRTY DOZEN- Wed May 23 at 1:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Lee Marvin retrospective. A new 35mm print of one of the best action/war films ever made. Was probably the biggest commercial hit of that year, though I have no stats to bear this out. Was a definite crossover hit in its time, among males of different ages. The older men saw it, and tended to enjoy it, remembering how the military, or war was. The younger audiences liked the idea of these anti-heroes sticking it to the man, yet still killing Nazis in the end.

A bunch of solider/convicts with death or life sentences agree to what is essentially a suicide mission to wipe out a castle full of high ranking Nazi officers. The members of this tough platoon include Charles Bronsan, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Oscar nominated John Cassavetes, and Jim Brown, running the most famous yards he never ran on a football field. And Marvin is the world's toughest Major; taking no crap and taking no prisoners as he leads his group to hell. Sorry if it sounds cheesy, but wow, do I enjoy this thoroughly macho movie.

DAY OF THE LOCUST- Sat May 26 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the John Schlesinger retrospective. The only one I know I can make as of this writing, since Midnight Cowboy at 3:45, as much as I would want to catch it, is too tentative to confirm right now. But this one I'm pretty sure I can catch. From 1975, a more acidic look at Hollywood then Sunset Blvd. and The Player combined. A man tries to start a movie career, but is soon surrounded by shallow empty people more interested in sex, drugs and trying to kill boredom. Gee, guess Paris and her ilk would have felt right at home in the 30s according to this film. The film co-stars Donald Sutherland, Karen Black and Burgess Meredith, with a small role from Jackie Earle Haley. Oscar nominations for Meredith and cinematographer Conrad Hall (American Beauty, In Cold Blood). The end is considered a stunner.

BARRY LYNDON- Mon May 28 and Tues May 29 at 7- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- I've taken grief from other Kubrick fans I know, by not saying this is my favorite of his films. It's not even in my top 5. Compared to some others, I've barely given this film a thumbs up. But people forget I did give it a thumbs up. What I can't say I was thrilled with, was the print I saw at Cinema Village back in 2000 or 01 (I forget which). Not top quality I'm afraid. Supposedly, this is a restored, unscreened, 35mm print. The work was supervised by Kubrick's former assistant, Leon Vitali, who plays Lord Bullingdon. Hopefully, this is as good as the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center is trying to make it out to be.

Supposedly, Vitali will introduce at least 1 screening, which happen twice a day from May 27-May 29. But they haven't mentioned which screenings on the website. Supposedly Marisa Berenson, who plays Lady Lyndon, will introduce one screening, though the website doesn't confirm this either. As for me, I haven't said I will definitely do this. After all, I caught this twice earlier this decade. And the film is 3 hrs, 4 min long, plus an intermission and not counting any intros. I just mention when I could do it. The rest is up to you.

GATES OF HEAVEN- Tues May 29 at 7:50- Film Forum- The documentary that put Errol Morris on the film map. Siskel and Ebert were his biggest supporters when this quirky documentary came out. It covers a California pet cemetery, the people who who bury their pets there and the people who run it. Might be tough to take for pet owners. That's why it was a hard for me to watch it on TV. I didn't finish it there, but I'm willing to take a chance now.

THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT- Thurs May 31 at 7 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- W. 23rd and 8th- A cheap screening of the sleeper hit of 1994. Years before Hugo Weaving appeared in blockbusters like The Matrix and Lord of the Rings, as well as voice overs in V For Vendetta, Happy Feet and as Megatron in the upcoming Transformers film, he starred as a drag queen in this Australian dramatic comedy. He must pay off a favor by traveling to an out of the way resort, to perform a cabaret. He brings 2 other friends/performers, another drag queen (Guy Pearce, years before L.A. Confidential and Memento) and a transsexual (Terence Stamp, in one of his 2 comeback performances in the 90s.), and travel in their lavender bus, Priscilla. Glorious costumes that won the Oscar that year, even if one of the dresses were done for as little as 7 dollars. Yes, you can spend only 50 cents less to see this, then for what one of the dresses cost.

Works as a road picture. Works as a buddy film. Works as a drama. Works as a comedy. After the mid 90s, this film has been gathering some dust on the video shelves. So some of you might not know or remember Priscilla. Time to rectify this.

Different list, let me know. And for those of you doing Magical Musical Moments 6: Mostly Broadway! at Trinity Lutheran Church for the next 3 weekends starting with this one coming up, break a leg. Later all.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Film reviews: cleaning house part 1

I'm so backed up with potential reviews of films I've seen, it's not even funny. The only way I can spit anything out at this point is to write in a manner similar to my revival lists. So let's try that. Here we go:

300- Here's a film that satisfies one half of me. The emotional side that's getting a nice amount of blood-letting, and over the top fun. They don't make sword and sandal flicks anymore, not without an air of pretension like in Gladiator anyway. Don't hold your breath for historical accuracy either. Especially with the 8 foot, androgynous, drag queen, also known as Xerxes. Just expect a different looking world. More enjoyable then the previous Frank Miller adaptation, Sin City. Loved the look of that film, and it was decent, but I didn't become one of the fanatics who overpraised it. This is campy fun, helped by the best CGI environment seen in a long time, and some good to very good bloody battle sequences. It's hard not to leave this film without quoting a few lines. On opening night, it was hard not to transpose the lines. WE SHALL DRINK . . . IN HELL. WE SHALL PLAY THE JUKEBOX, IN HELL! THIS . . . IS . . . SPAR_TAAAAHHHH!

We get a new A-list type action film lead in Gerard Butler. You believe in him, his ability to disembowel 12 men in a minute, and you buy Butler's ability to make the worst-written line credible. Much like Errol Flynn in Captain Blood, Butler succeeds in making chicken salad out of chicken shit with his dialogue. In weaker years, Lena Headey's performance would get deserved dark horse consideration for an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. We'll see.

If one wishes to look into subtext with this, knock yourself out. If you want to say, view this as Gay decadent society, trying to impose their will against a bunch of macho, gay bashers who are trying to hold the principles of gods and self-discipline by any means necessary, go ahead. If you want to place a certain current president into the role of Xerxes, as he leads his vast superior numbers, in a losing war against a small army having home field advantage, go ahead. If you want to have said president represent Leonidas, as he sticks to his principles and deals with an Arab force intent on wiping out his people's way of life, go for it. You see this film, you realize all of that it is a little much. Just have bloody fun. I'd go to see it again on the IMAX screen, even though as of this writing there might be only one or two more days to catch this before Spider Man 3 comes in. As it was, seeing it from the third row, having the picture almost permanently imprinted on my left eyeball seems as good as it will get.

BREACH- This film satisfied the intellectual side more. Not only is it not the bloody spectacle that is 300, watching this film was almost like watching Leonard Nimoy play Spock through all 3 seasons of the original Star Trek. Emotions stifled to the point that if you prefer Star Wars action all the time, you will be bored. But when some emotion comes out, you really take notice.

It says that it's based on a true story, but consider this as a Cliff Notes version of the capturing of Robert Hanssen, a veteran FBI agent convicted of selling secrets to Russia, both when it was the Soviet Union and after. Perhaps a little too much story is placed on the young undercover agent ordered to gain Hanssen's trust, but it's not a fatal flaw by any means. It moves fairly quickly and is never boring. But it feels familiar and while I would recommend paying to see it, I guess I can see why it's not a big hit. It feels like other non-Bond, Non-Clancy spy films and you can look at it and say, "do I really need to go pay 10 dollars for this? NAH! Wait for the DVD."

It's interesting to see Ryan Phillippe continue to stay under the radar and give good performances. Crash, Flags of our Fathers, and now this. He's in the young pup learning/ rookie who must take down the master role, and under these 2 dimensional confines, he handles himself well. Especially when compared Laura Linney, who's adequate but can't rise above the limits of playing Phillippe's handler, or Dennis Haysbert, who can only come in and out, doing the authority voice thing that could be a trap later on.

But Chris Cooper is working on a different level, playing Hanssen. Bitter about his level in life, a god fearing man who records and distribute sex tapes of him and his wife. A talented man whose arrogance and paranoia have bent him all out of whack. A man who, in getting his revenge and in an unspoken manner, seems to equate stealing office supplies, objects in other people's offices, and state secrets as one in the same. He could take the time to explain his motives directly, but what's the point, I did it, deal with it. Cooper makes each conflicting move believable, and except for the last scene (you'll know what I mean when you see it), raises the level of the film above the typical.

Note: Hopefully when this comes on DVD, they'll have digitally removed the boom mikes that crop up on screen from time to time. They can't change the fact that The FBI is using Windows XP Office here, even though the film takes place in Jan-Feb 2001, and this particular form of Windows would not exist for several more years, but anyway . . .

RENO 911:MIAMI- The Comedy Central show is good in spurts, and this film is much the same. Imagine a platoon-like group of officers of varying sizes, genders, and ethnicities with one thing in common, they all learned police work from Inspector Clouseau. Not a bad performance from any of the main actors, and Paul Rudd is hilarious as a Jewish Tony Montana. Seems to follow a partial script, with Cops-like camera work done to the point that you might think they're doing a Borat-type film from beginning to end (I think that's where most of the deleted scenes on the DVD will be).This would be a fun rental, but worth the price of a 10 dollar admission? I don't think so. Apparently, most of America agreed, but this looks like a mega-hit and a comedy classic when compared to . . .

I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE- A romantic comedy that's not funny. Not one laugh out of me. Not. One. Laugh. A few smiles here and there, but that's it. One reason I went was because I liked the trailer, though all the moments I laughed at then, I couldn't repeat now. The other reason I went, was because the friend I was with REALLY wanted to see a movie after work, and it was either this or The Reaping. A few weeks later, he asked if I wanted to see the Hillary Swank film, and I said hell no. You had your chance back then, but now, no way.

Once again Chris Rock remakes a superior film into a comedy of his own creation that barely resembles the original. Unlike the Heaven Can Wait/Here Comes Mr. Jordan remake Here on Earth, which has some scattered laughs throughout, this remake of Chole In The Afternoon tries and fails badly. Minus the nudity in order to get a PG-13 rating(that attempt failed), and with adult sensibilities that don't work on Chris Rock. The only laughs from the sparse crowd at Fresh Meadows came from those under 25, and they were all dick jokes. Minus Kerry Washington, there is little reason to stay interested. No sympathy for Rock, who is tempted to cheat, nor for the shrill wife with no sex drive, nor the other woman with a bod for sin, and the emotional depth of a 15 year old on a good day. If Sean Penn had the capacity to laugh, he would laugh at this schmuck and not the film. And when I say laugh at the schmuck, I mean Chris Rock the amatuer actor and director, not his character. We could laugh at Rock's film career going bye-bye, no matter what Madagascar 2 does. Avoid this film if you know what's good for you. Don't make my mistake. I didn't pay to see this and I'm still annoyed at the thought of it.