Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in July.
- Movies watched – 15
- Movies that were new to me – 10
- Westerns – 2
- Monthly Masterpieces – Rio Bravo, Duck Soup, Gaslight
- Rio Bravo (1959) – Howard Hawks and company prove that you don’t need anything more than waist level camera set-ups and a song or two to make what is, perhaps, the greatest western of all time. Effortlessly charming, this is what film-making is all about.
- Open Range (2003) – Beautiful cinematography, great acting (Duval especially), and a spectacular final gunfight really sell this modern “classic style” western. Hell, there is even an age appropriate love interest for Costner!
- Only God Forgives (2013) – I really loved Drive, but this one takes the wordless responses and stylized camera-work to such an extreme that I’m starting to wonder if there is really much behind the mask of Refn’s direction. Some good sequences, but I’m calling it now that this will turn out to be pretty hollow on a rewatch.
- Gaslight (1944) – Cruel classic that piles on just the right amount of sadism and suspense in one of those effortlessly economical Hollywood scripts that doesn’t put a false foot forward. Boyer is menacingly effective playing against type, while Cotton is charmingly effective playing with type.
- Vision (2009) – It is set in medieval times but feels like just another biopic, except this time about a zealot that we are supposed to identify with. Also, while the soundtrack is fine, it really could have used more actual chant.
- Pacific Rim (2013) – I’m not sure the solution to 1000 foot tall monsters is to make something to punch them, but whatever, this is pretty wildly entertaining for the first 75% of the movie due to the excellently mounted set pieces. The last quarter slightly overstays its welcome, but it remains entertaining, if also exhausting.
- X-Men: First Class (2011) – The X series gets back on track here with this prequel story. Lots of great mutant action, and the cold war setting is used to good effect.
- Smokin’ Aces (2006) – Hard to mess up a premise of “lots of wacky assassins kill each other trying to get to a target,” and for the most part this is good dumb fun. It’s just too bad they try to go for something more–the convoluted plot and big “twist” are alternately incoherent and preposterous.
- My Left Foot (1989) – DDL knocks it out of the park as usual, but you know my thoughts on biopics: they are almost always too constrained by the story they are trying to tell to really feel alive. And this one, the facial cramp inducing performance aside, is no different.
- Coffee Town (2013) – About half of this is decent jokes, the rest is slightly mean-spirited www.collegehumor.com material. Still, the cast is game, and I’ve seen worse movies that weren’t direct to DVD.
- End of Watch (2012) – I don’t think this is really about cops so much as it is about bro-love. And, as a study of masculinity, it is actually pretty compelling–implausible plot and awkward found-footage framing device aside.
- Duck Soup (1933) – Probably the most anarchic Marx Brothers film, which is really saying something–it also happens to be one of their best. Watching the brothers run around like feral animals really is something special.
- Fantastic Planet (1973) – Crammed full of trippy visuals and science fiction ideas, but the overall message seems a little trite to me. Also, it feels like the last third is pretty rushed, maybe they ran out of money?
- Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) – Pretty preciously O’Irish, but I have to admit the special effects are quite impressive. Still, I guess this is a decent enough way to get your Irish stereotype fix in when you just don’t feel like watching The Quiet Man again.
- Iron Man 3 (2013) – The more of these films I watch, the more I think the main draw is just Downey’s performance–he really does have a way to make an asshole likable. Otherwise, it’s the usual Marvel stuff, entertaining, but I doubt it will be up to a repeat viewing.