Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in March.
- Step Up (2006) – Though it goes through all the usual plot machinations, the strong leads (especially, of course, Tatum) and competent script go a long way to making this quite a lot of fun. Out of the great dance movies, only Save the Last Dance improves on this one.
- Dazed and Confused (1993) – No matter how many times I watch this, it never wears out its welcome. Great soundtrack, superb acting from a cast of largely non-actors, and a script that manages to paint high school in tones that are both nostalgic and horrifying.
(Original April’s Fools Day review: Honestly, I am sad to report, that this one has finally worn out its welcome with me. An overbearing way too “on the nose” soundtrack (guess when they play “School’s Out for Summer”?), woefully inept acting (unless pinching your nose a whole bunch counts as acting), and a script that tries to say high school was both the best and worst of times and fails on both accounts–pretty weak all around.)
- The Long Voyage Home (1940) – That opening scene is so gloriously, and artfully shot that I thought I was about to watch a masterpiece that had slipped under my radar all these years. Unfortunately, Greg Toland’s cinematography is the only thing that I can really recommend about this inconsequential and episodic film, not even the spectacle of John Wayne playing a retarded Swede is enough to elevate this beyond ho-hum status.
- Veronica Mars (2014) – The production values are a bit improved, but there really isn’t much else that distinguishes this as anything other than a double episode of the television show. Still, fan service, depending on a few seasons of narrative, and follow the dotted line case solving aside, this works surprisingly well, and as two hours of tv goes, is really quite hard to beat for sheer entertainment.
- Brave (2012) – I actually liked this one quite a bit better than Frozen. Sure, it is still aimed at a younger audience than I would have liked, but the story is novel enough and the lead is a better character.
- Move Over, Darling (1963) – The set up and premise seem a little forced…or at the very least in poor taste for a wacky comedy. However, when the second half’s full on screwball war starts, things definitely pick up.
- The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1978) – I prefer this version of Cassavetes’ classic understated crime film as it feels much tighter (and has fewer scenes of Mr Sophistication droning on and on). And, painting Gazzara’s character as more of a victim of fate than his own hubris also tracks with my taste in these kinds of films.
- The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) – This first version of Cassavetes’ classic understated crime film fleshes out the conversations a lot more, mostly in a way that underlines the fallibility of Gazzara’s character. It’s a subtle yet quite different tone from the 78 version, and while I don’t like it as much, it’s definitely worth the time to check it out separately.
- Frozen (2013) – I know I don’t like these films anyway, but I didn’t really get all the fuss about this one. The big problem (aside from a few too many songs), is that the story and the stakes really seemed pretty slight.
- The Adventures of Dollie (1908) – I’ve heard this dismissed as barely watchable Griffith, but the dismissers are wrong. This is a pretty entertaining little story of Gypsy kidnapping and a child in a barrel that is well worth checking out.
- The Patsy (1928) – I’de never seen a Marion Davies movie, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that she was so funny, hot, and all around captivating. Based on this, I’d say Citizen Kane is massively unfair to her.
- Modeling (1921) – Entertaining short film about a clown that comes to life in an artist’s drawing. Nice animation, and the interactions with a lump of clay are fun too.
- Crazy to Act (1927) – The usual Sennett nonsense, this time revolving around a production team trying to shoot a movie. Scattered amusing moments, but overall nothing too special.
- The Devil Horse (1926) – This unusual horse-centric Western (the eponymous horse hates indians so much that he runs around wild trampling them) is a great, fast-paced film that really brings the entertainment. Yakima Canutt is the real star, showing a surprising amount of screen presence in “front” of the camera.
- Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914) – This is basically just Chaplin trolling some people who are trying to shoot some races by wandering in front of the camera over and over again. That said, it’s still pretty damn funny.
- The Masquerader (1914) – Great Keystone Chaplin (the most dickish version of Chaplin) film about shenanigans at a film studio with Chaplin wreaking havoc every chance he gets. He even finds a chance to wear lady clothes (the hottest version of Chaplin).
- Modern Times (1936) – It might be full of that pathos that always annoys me about Chaplin, but at least it is tempered with a bit of bleak realism this time. Really a brilliant, inventive film, and a fitting swan song for silent comedy.