Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

March Movies

Time for some more personal thoughts. This time, all the films I saw in March!

A Visitor From the Living (A) and The Karski Report (A): Two documentaries from Claude Lanzmann that are offshoots from his Holocaust documentary Shoah. Living concerns Maurice Rossel's visit to the Theresienstadt camp while Karski deals with Jan Karski's story of reporting the atrocities to the U.S. Government. Both stories are absolutely riveting.

3 Backyards (B-): Three separate slice of life dramas set in Long Island one summer afternoon. Only Edie Falco's story really works, and since the stories never intersect, that means you have a nice 30 minute story in a 90 minute film.

Potiche (C+): Francois Ozon's new film never finds the story it wants to tell. It's a comedy, it's a drama, it's a feminist parable, the left, the right. There's a good film to be found in the story of a trophy wife taking over the family business, but the tone veers so wildly throughout, the film never settles down.

White Irish Drinkers (B+): A perfectly acceptable coming-of-age film set in NY in the 1970's. Every character and situation comes straight from cliche central, but new to me Nick Thurston and the other actors bring their A game, so the film passes by pleasantly.

Limitless (B): A little pill opens up the sections of your mind that you don't normally use. Too bad the screenwriter didn't take one; the ending would have been better. Bradly Cooper has charm and Robert DeNiro is having a good time, which makes the film go down easily; but as stated, the ending just doesn't feel right to me after what came before.

Rango (B+): It looks like other companies are finally catching up to Pixar. A fun and enjoyable romp, with quirky characters and enough humor for adults to keep the proceedings enjoyable. Johnny Depp has great line readings, and while the plot may be a little stale, you'll still walk out smiling.

Source Code (B): A soldier has the last 8 minutes of someone else's like to find the bomber of a train. How does it work? No clue, even the movie admits it's preposterous. The type of film you watch, enjoy, then forget about the next day.

Illegal (B): A social justice film about the plight of illegal immigrants in Belgium. The lead actress does a good job, which helps, but there are still a lot of questions left at the end. Still, I believe the film is looking more to expose injustice then tell a coherent story.

The Panels of São Vicente de Fora: A Poetic Vision (C-): Manoel De Oliveira's short about a character from a painting explaining the painting. Exactly. Still, it has Ricardo Trepa in it.

Sergeant Slaughter, My Big Brother (D): I have absolutely no idea what this short was about. Two brothers fight, then one goes somewhere and the other gets chased for some reason. I'm glad it was only 10 minutes.


Barry Lyndon (B): Great first half, middling second half. I'm not sure the film is the masterpiece others say it is, but it didn't deserve to be the failure it was. The trouble is the two halves of the film are so distinct from each other, they don't quite mesh into one.

Spartacus (B+): A grand, old-fashioned Roman epic. Loads of fun to watch, especially Peter Ustinov. I was a little surprised that Spartacus himself barely figures into the final hour of the film, that took me away from it a bit.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (B): Best for the numerous pictures of Kubrick at work and some interesting facts. Otherwise, it's a basic "He was so fantastic and everyone loved him" type of documentary.

Color Me Kubrick (D): God, this was bad. Apparently Kubrick had someone who pretended to be him and swindled some people in 1990's Britain. This is not a good version of the story. The film is just boring, more concerned with fitting in as many callbacks to Kubrick films as possible than in telling a story.

New Directors/New Films

One (D): Continuing the theme of crappy shorts, this one is about a young Afghan girl who walks around and collects items in a metal box she carries on her back. If there was anything more to the film, I missed it.

Winter Vacation (C+): A Chinese film about some youths and adults in a rural Chinese town whiling the time away before winter vacation ends. The humor is meant to be deadpan, and some of it does work; but 90 minutes of the same style over and over just did not work for me here.

Tyrannosaur (B-): A horrible, violent man meets a woman abused by her husband. There is hope in the story, but the consistent downbeat tone before that comes leaves the film feeling like a slog to get through.

Catherine Breillat

Sleeping Beauty (B): Breillat's take on the classic fairy tale starts off intriguingly then flies off the rails at the end. A young girl is put to sleep for 100 years, but does she spend this time living with a family in the woods? What is real, what isn't? All good questions to ponder, until she wakes up? and the film morphs into a feminist parable for the last 15 minutes that makes no sense.

Anatomy of Hell (F): This might be the most horrifying film I've ever sat through. If I had any last shreds of heterosexuality in me, this film grabbed them by the roots and tore them out of me. The nominal plot involves a woman who pays a gay man to watch her for 4 days doing "stuff". The "stuff" is forever seared into my brain and makes me cry on occasion.

A Real Young Girl (C): Not learning my lesson, I watched Breillat's first film, which essentially involves a 14 year girl inserting various objects into her ahem..."lady parts" in extreme closeup for 90 minutes. Fingers, utensils, even a bottle of suntan lotion gets to join the party. Of course, this all takes place when the film is not showing closeups of her expelling liquid waste or having pieces of an earthworm placed down there. There might have been some mild semblence of a plot, but I was too busy contemplating what SPF she was using.