Movie Reviews: No School in December! edition
A pretty modest comedy from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, which suffers from the comparison, and from being a bit too miserable to really be funny. Still, there are great performances from Amy Adams and Emily Blunt.
So you have Greer Garson and Ronald Colman. She’s a life-affirming singer, and he’s an amnesiac fresh off the boat from World War 1. They fall in love, get married, and have a baby. Maybe you can guess what happens next, or maybe you can’t. But it’s TRAGIC. IT’S 1940s ERA TRAGIC, which is second only to 1950s era tragic. I’ve been seeing a lot of tearjerkers lately, but this one was above-average.
I haven’t read the extremely famous novel of which this movie is an adaptation, so I don’t know how much or how little it stays true to the spirit of the original. I know there’s a lot of irony in the book, though (in which a guy who falls in love with a child paints himself as the hero of his own story) and the movie lived up to that. I would have expected as much from Stanley Kubrick—as a director, he just got it. He knew what he was doing. James Mason was good, but Sue Lyon as the teenage seductress was great. She was sort of devious, she teased him and tormented him, knowing the effect she had on him—but she also always seemed like a teenager, petulant and resentful and spoiled.
I found it kind of disappointing for its pedigree; Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth have both been way better elsewhere (Citizen Kane of course, plus Touch of Evil, and Gilda for Hayworth) and even though Welles’ character didn’t know he was being conned, I did. The most famous scene (the showdown with the funhouse mirrors) was pretty damn cool, though.
A film version of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in Brazil during Carnivale. I thought from the cable guide description that it would be more of a creepy thriller type (“stalked by a mysterious figure dressed as death”!) but it was more of an exotic musical. Which, if that’s what you’re in the market for, go for it!
An awesome movie, a tense thriller, shocking, provocative and mind-bending. See, for example, the “garden club” scene where the soldiers undergo programming; the movie doesn’t let viewers in right away on what is actually going on there. It’s just weird and mystifying and then unexpectedly terrifying. Also, Janet Leigh’s character? They never explain what’s going on with her, but she’s totally mind-controlling Sinatra, right? Strange that this film is somehow more innovative and interesting than the remake they did 40 years later.
Normally we don’t associate Harvey Keitel and period piece, but strangely enough that’s just what’s happening here: Keitel and Keith Carradine (or, in my vernacular “the Carradine from Nashville & Dexter, not the Carradine from Kill Bill”) are officers in Napoleon’s army who just can’t stop trying to kill each other as a matter of pride. It’s like The Fast and the Furious with breeches and swords. Strange movie which played on TCM as part of a series of Notable Directors’ First Films: this one was the debut of Ridley Scott. It looked quite painterly, and it had a good pace (at least for the 1970s).
I watched this entirely based on a ten-second conversation by the characters in Out of Sight, one of my favorite films. I wrote a paper on it recently in which I spun that conversation off into a metanarrative, a moment where the lines bleed between real reality and movie reality. I was more entertained by that idea than by this film, but it was still an adequate conspiracy-themed thriller. Also, Robert Redford has the most improbable movie career ever, a literary interpreter for the FBI who basically reads novels and stories coming out of Cold War countries and analyzes them for coded messages. So that’s kind of awesome. Faye Dunaway is good but kind of underused considering what a huge star she was in the 70s.
This is an ideal adaptation of the book. Everything they did right is illustrated by the casting of Susan Sarandon as the girls’ mother, Marmee. In the book, Marmee is preachy and annoying, but Susan Sarandon manages to be those things while also being charming and witty. All of the feminist and transcendentalist principles that were between the lines of the book are foregrounded in the film. How much do I love that scene where Jo is sitting around with the male intellectuals and deftly defends women’s suffrage? “You should have been a lawyer, Miss March,” says the one guy (who is Donal Logue? who remembered that? not me) and she says, “I should have been a great many things.” Zing! Winona Ryder looks completely wrong for the role—she’s too petite and feminine to be Jo—but she plays the frustration and angst in just the right way. And got an Oscar nomination for it, if I’m not mistaken.
I couldn’t give this movie the endorsement that my nephew gave it—15 minutes of more-or-less undivided attention, strong stuff for a one-year-old. For my part, I think all the Pixar movies are pretty much gold, but this is one of my favorites, maybe because it looks so pretty, maybe because the life-and-death themes pack such an emotional punch. Maybe I just love that part where the Ellen DeGeneres fish says, “I shall call him Squishy and he shall be my Squishy!” I also enjoy Allison Janney as the starfish: “That’s the SHORTEST RED LIGHT I’VE EVER SEEN.” And the little fish who confuse “boat” with “butt”? Forget about it. Too cute, too hilarious.
Kind of your typical chick flick drama, brought to you by the superstore of the heartland, Wal-Mart. Even though it had a theatrical release, this movie is basically Lifetime-quailty, the robotic Natalie Portman included. I do think that Ashley Judd is kind of wonderful in it, though; she's the only actor who seems at home in the movie, probably because she’s the only one of them who has ever actually been to the South. The narrative is particularly choppy, skipping blithely through time and having dialogue alert us to the changes, i.e. “It’s been two years!” and the romantic plot is yawningly formulaic. Still, I knew what I was getting into. (Maybe this one should've been a "why am I watching this?")