Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in April.
- Movies watched – 43
- Movies that were new to me – 35
- Remakes reviewed/Franchises Finished – 5/7
- Monthly Masterpieces – The White Ribbon, Red River, The Old Dark House
- The Godfather Part III (1990) – A fine film, though everything except for the cinematography seems to be a slight step down from the first two. Really, I guess the biggest problem is that it all seems familiar to the point that it just feels kind of redundant.
- The Song of the Thin Man (1947)– There is only so much you can say about the later Thin Man movies in two sentences; like the previous entry in the series, this is “not as good as the first, but a lot better than you’ve been told”. Honestly, it is a perfectly fine entry for a consistently entertaining series to go out out.
- Clash of the Titans (2010) – This new version actually has a nice look to the visual design and cinematography (and I’m not referring to the “make the Gods look shiny!” thing), but the story is just a weak excuse to go fight a bunch of monsters and shit (I didn’t find the “I don’t want to be a god” whining that convincing). Also, Sam Worthington is even more bland as a leading man than Paul Walker and I’m getting tired of seeing him in so many movies.
- Death at a Funeral (2010) – Maybe it is an interesting thought experiment to exactly remake a movie changing only the cast, but it really takes a lot of the oomph out of the film for it to be such a carbon copy affair. However, even though things are a bit stupider and some of the key performances don’t bring much to the table (Rock and Martin especially), this version actually feels a bit more alive than the polished but workmanlike original.
- Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) – Traditional wisdom says that after the first two, the Thin Man series rapidly goes downhill. However, while this doesn’t have quite the charm and polish of the first, it is still quite a lot of fun–I think I even like it a bit better than the last one!
- The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)– Nick quits drinking in this 5th Thin Man outing and it is still pretty good which says a lot for the resiliency of the series. You’ve seen it all before, but that shouldn’t matter.
- Rambo (2008) – The appeal of any of the Rambo films is watching what happens when someone who is not to be fucked with…gets fucked with. And while that is definitely present for this movie, you also get the idea that viewer is supposed to derive an equal amount of pleasure from watching bodies being exploded with a .50 cal machine gun (since about a third of the film involves just that)…which is really pretty twisted.
- The Losers (2010) – Finally, an action movie that takes itself seriously enough, but not too seriously–with strong leads and reasonably tight direction to boot. You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to make a “good” big dumb action movie, but apparently it is because it’s been a while since I’ve seen one this entertaining.
- Kick-Ass (2010) – Most of the leads do a good job, and the direction has some energy, but this film is still a mildly boring and unpleasant story that turns majorly stupid and unpleasant when Hit Girl shows up. Less racist, but just as dumb as the comic.
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) – Though this is undoubtedly a stupid, crass film with a very dislikeable lead–it also happens to be pretty endlessly amusing. If nothing else, this film should get props for adding the phrase “Tokyo Drifting” (as in: “I had to bust out some major TOKYO DRIFTING to get that parking spot”) to the American lexicon.
- Fast & Furious (2009) – Vin Diesel is getting older, but he’s still hitting the weights and delivering ridiculous lines in a deep voice with aplomb. The story is the same old shit, Paul Walker is still as wooden as ever, but there are still some decent car stunts, and, you know, Vin Diesel.
- The Descent: Part 2 (2009) – I’m still not sold on the original’s complete brilliance, but my issues with the first seem much more pronounced in this retread. While it still has a few decent suspense scenes and the same cool sets, the caves are too suspiciously lit, the monster’s “hearing” that much more stupid, and the gore and deaths are that much more contrived.
- Death at a Funeral (2007) – Not exactly bursting with energy, but in its own safe (if a movie where an old man shits on a dude’s hand can be called safe) way, this is still quite entertaining. Competently made all around, and highly recommended if your expectations don’t go too far beyond a few droll British poop jokes.
- Jubilee (1978) – I can definitely see the charm of this strange movie about Elizabeth I visiting an Anarchist English matriarchy of the near future. However, while it captures the punk vibe with flying colors, it also kind of feels like an amaturish mess that is a bit of a chore to get through.
- The Descent (2005) – I don’t think it is quite as intelligent as some have said since I feel like the parts that aren’t in the cave are fairly weak. Still, most of the movie is in the cave, and it is pretty edge of your seat terrifying (if only for the trapped in the dark feeling…I appreciate them not making the monsters invincible…but it does take some tension away) with compelling, un-cliched leads.
- Leap Year (2010) – Since this isn’t even as good as New in Town, I won’t even begin to compare it to I Know Where I’m Going, the film it is loosely remaking. The formula isn’t the problem (I wanted to bail on the beginning and end, but the main road trip works well enough) and the leads are fine, so I guess the real problem is that the whole thing is just so bland and patronizing.
- Outland (1981) – Pretty cool “space western” (with good special effects), though it is a bit overly dank and depressing. Also, since it is basically a remake, it has the same thematic issues that trouble me in High Noon–and yet it is only half the movie quality-wise.
- Fool’s Gold (2008) – There is no denying that this movie is pretty much just a big dumb cartoon that has all the grace of stillborn water buffalo. However, it also has a strange good-natured charm and I have to admit it is really rather delightful.
- Lord of the Flies (1963) – I can’t imagine any other adaptation of the book being able to equal this harrowingly realistic version. The director apparently just let his kids act on instinct and it shows in the performances (which are actually quite good despite what you might have heard).
- The Old Dark House (1932) – Probably the finest “travelers stranded at an old dark house” movie ever made, and also one of the first. The inhabitants of the house are deliciously twisted, and director Whale fills his images with flickering, grotesque terror to create a truly unique (and creative) horror film.
- Legally Blonde (2001) – A bit too silly and obvious to really recommend it, but Witherspoon is impressive as she single handedly keeps the whole film together. I can’t really say this is exactly a big win for feminism either since pretty much every intellectual victory for the main character involvs her knowledge of hair or shoes.
- Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde (2003) – Like Miss Congeniality 2, this recycles the plot from the original, brings in Regina King for some color and has the undeniable screen presence of the lead as its only saving grace. Unfortunately, this film is a lot more fucking stupid and preachy than Miss Congeniality 2, so I’m afraid it comes in second in the “shitty sequels to marginally decent movies” contest.
- Jezebel (1938) – Bette Davis shows why she was so amazing in the really quite brilliant story of a woman who is more Lulu than Scarlett O’Hara. Her selfishness is not as fascinating as the fact that the men around her are so threatened by someone who is that much woman.
- Cyclo (1995) – Much more daring than the director’s first film, this is kind of like The Bicycle Thief on crack. Which is to say, it is a bit of a bummer, breathtakingly filmed, and still not really my thing.
- Sleeping With the Enemy (1991) – There was a bit of decent suspense and mystery I suppose, but it’s not easy figuring out what tone they are going for. Based on more than a few scenes, I guess the word I’m looking for is “risible”.
- Terminator Salvation (2009) – Apparently this McG fellow is an overwrought 14 year old boy who likes to draw pictures of guns, robots, skulls and shit. Which is really the film’s main saving grace since everything is so implausible, haphazard and soulless (Bale was a particularly lame leading man) that the ridonkulously over the top action scenes at least provide some juvenile amusement.
- Year One (2009) – There are scattered funny bits, but in retrospect they are mostly just from Black and Cera doing their thing. The rest of the film ranges from barely amusing to just plain stupid and unfunny.
- Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) – For a Hollywood social conscience film this is surprisingly hard-hitting and uncompromising. That it also happens to be so sweet and affecting really helps it pull off the surprising feat of me giving a rave review to a “tearjerker”.
- Red River (1948) – Easily one of the “best ever” Hollywood movies (let alone Westerns), this movie has it all and can stand up to countless viewings. I’ve even finally reconciled myself with Joanne Dru’s character and her necessity to bring the plot full circle–though she still talks too much.
- Cape Fear (1991) – Scorsese pulls out all the stops and crafts a real “face punch” of a thriller here. I don’t know that I like Deniro’s Cady kind of turning into a “Jason” style indestructible force of evil, but otherwise, this is pretty much an all around improvement over the original from a filmmaking standpoint.
- The Boat (1921) – A very impressive short film from Keaton where he shows that all he needs to make a masterpiece of comedy is one (big) prop. There is also a certain degree of existential despair running through this film as everything in Keaton’s life slowly turns into splinters.
- The Love Nest (1923) – Not one of Keaton’s all time best shorts, but gag for gag this one is still quite memorable. The ending especially makes you appreciate Buster’s genius.
- Over the Edge (1979) – I haven’t seen a portrait of the anarchist instinct in youth this brilliant since Zero for Conduct. Neither as simplistic as Lord of the Flies, nor as heavy handed as Rebel Without a Cause, this is a fantastic film that treats its subject(s) respectfully and intelligently–and I’d never even heard of it before!
- The Navigator (1924) – Buster gets ahold of an entire ocean liner and no gag is left unexplored. This is every bit as brilliant as his best work, which is to say, it’s yet another Keaton masterpiece.
- Jamaica Inn (1939) – Undoubtedly a failure if you view it in comparison to the earlier The Lady Vanishes and The Thirty Nine Steps (of course, matching either of those is quite a tall order), but still not as bad as some would have you believe. Offputting and odd, but Laughton’s scenery chewing and eyebrows are a hoot at least.
- Young Man with a Horn (1950) – It’s the old story of a musician who just wants to play his own thing struggling to make it big. The film is a bit heavy on the telling rather than showing, but still pretty good for such a by the numbers movie.
- Clash of the Titans (1981) – The special effects range from fairly laughable to pretty cool, but as a whole I think I like Jason and the Argonauts better. There is still a lot of good mythological fantasy in Clash of the Titans, but it isn’t quite all there as far as the Saturday Morning Matinee fun factor goes.
- A Woman is a Woman (1961) – The usual Godard nonsense, only more so (though at least the political commentary is absent). Sure, it is daring and unique, but it is also a goddamn chore to sit through (and not in a good way).
- Charlotte et Véronique (1959) – Really very good–Rohmer’s influence as writer is clearly felt. The pick up artist is a bit awful, but I suppose that is the point.
- The Lovely Bones (2009) – I suppose this movie never had a chance with me since both “child murder/rape” and “the afterlife” are equally abhorrent subjects in my book. At least a lot of the reviewer’s complaints seemed a bit exaggerated, about the worst I can say about it is that the tone was pretty uneven (not that it isn’t a bit over-indulgent too…but no worse than most big budget movies really).
- Master and Commander (2003) – Sure, I’ve seen it all plenty of times before, but goddamn if this isn’t one of the most badass high seas adventures yet. The strong sense of realism and detail really helps to deliver the big set piece battles.
- Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) – What a strange, dreamlike movie. I’m not convinced that Tarr needs to hold some of the scenes as long as he does (I’m not convinced he doesn’t either), but I can’t deny that he fills this film full of some powerful images.
- The White Ribbon (2009) – The culprit(s) might be a bit more obvious (in the loosest sense of the word) than they are in Cache, but the mystery is a great deal more layered and complex here. Perfectly crafted, this is one of the few films that can legitimately be considered a modern masterpiece.