Welcome back to my Mini Movie Review feature, where I write a short review of every movie I’ve seen for the first time (or have yet to review!)
You can see the full list of mini movie reviews HERE
And you can see my constantly updated “in progress” list of the most recent reviews HERE
With the links out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the new stuff I’ve watched last month:
- The Deer Hunter (1978) – Thoughtful and elegiac film in three parts–a wedding, the horrors of war, and the return home. Filmed with unquestionable talent, but, goddamn, this movie is basically 90% watching the psychic trauma of people being forced to play Russian roulette over and over again, and as such, is pretty skippable if you ask me.
- Ulzana’s Raid (1972) – Well-written Western about the cavalry chasing down a ridiculously violent group of Indian raiders. Lancaster is great, the Indians are given their fair shake, but the over the top violence and imagery doesn’t go down easy–and doesn’t mix at all with the incongruously quaint soundtrack.
- I am Thor (2015) – Rather bleak portrait of an affably misguided metal has-been who seems to vastly overestimate his own importance and talent (despite putting out one legitimately brilliant album 30 years ago). Great care is taken to not appear to make fun of their subject, but, that proves to be a fruitless endeavor as the indebtedness to This is Spinal Tap is all too clear throughout.
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – Classic political fairy-tale with Stewart in top form as a guileless paragon of American values. Capra lays it on thicker than a Chicago pizzamaker, but it hardly matters as the film is such a rip-roaring crowd-pleaser from start to finish.
- Cinderella (1950) – Average Disney film from that time when a woman was judged by her shoe size, and extended families were always evil. The fact that about half of this seems to be mouse-related hi-jinx gives you a hint as to the shallowness of the source material.
- Young Frankenstein (1974) – Brooks’ Frankenstein parody works as well as it does thanks largely to the way it plays it straight when it comes to the atmosphere and visuals. Not as uproariously funny as some might claim, but you’ll find yourself giggling more often then not (and, more often than not, in spite of yourself).
- It (2017) – A demon with an annoyingly vague power-set terrorizes a town full of children with a penchant for making horrible decisions. The child actors are excellent, the atmosphere is good, but the first half’s long string of fake-out scares provides rapidly diminishing returns to the point at which I was too annoyed to give the usual suspension of disbelief for all the poor choices on display in the second half.
- There’s Something About Mary (1998) – Structurally it’s actually fairly well done in the way the story progresses, but ultimately, these Ben Stiller loser comedies are all just too mean-spirited to be funny. Some scattered laughs anyway, and Diaz is delightful even if her character is woefully underwritten.
- The Big Sick (2017) – Very funny Apatow comedy built around the premise of a guy hanging out with his ex-girlfriend’s parents for a week while she’s in a coma. Great performances, and engrossing throughout, though, Apatow still doesn’t know how to write a third act.
- Silverado (1985) – Over-written, over-scored (seriously, my eyes rolled a little more every time that music swelled), and over-cast Western that is nonetheless fairly entertaining. The sense of fun, however, definitely diminishes with each convoluted turn of the script.
- Bad Santa 2 (2016) – Women get buggered, pants get pissed, and all the rest of the hits from the first film skitter across the screen in this competent but utterly redundant sequel. Even the “heart” of the first film feels a little hollow this second time around.
- Truly Madly Deeply (1990) – Assured ghost film that actually uses the central premise to good (if not exactly earth shattering) effect, largely thanks to an excellent performance from the female lead. It’s just too bad the love interest is such a twee prat that I almost found myself rooting for the ghost anyway.
- Dirty Harry (1971) – Well done cop/vigilante film with Eastwood in top racist-asshole form as he sets out to take down a city full of perverts, gays, minorities, and psychos. Maybe the legacy of the film is tainting my reading of it, but I fail to see how this is remotely ambiguous (as some have claimed) as to how it feels about the fascism of the titular character.
- The Great Silence (1968) – Fantastic spaghetti western with Kinski’s effete bounty killer and Trintignant’s mute gunfighter facing off in a frozen west. The snowy setting works wonders, and the borderline surreal direction remains excellent, however, the ending is less successful–almost making the whole plot feel rather pointless.
- The Great Mouse Detective (1986) – Darker Disney fare than most, with a mouse Sherlock Holmes foiling a silly plot to replace the mouse Queen of England with a (mouse) robot. There is some cool stuff here, but it is a little disappointing that Sherlock’s power-set seems to be rather poorly defined as he veers between super genius and amateur bumbler.
- La Belle Noiseuse (1991) – For a movie about an old dude scratching out a bunch of shitty sketches for 4 hours straight, it is amazing how compelling this is. As films about the artistic process go, I can’t think of an example that even approaches this…for that matter, as films about humanity’s search for meaning go, I can’t think of an example that approaches this either–an unqualified masterpiece.