Saturday, April 19, 2008


- Cary Grant never made a movie that wasn't worth watching and neither did Howard Hawks. This is the epitome of a four-star film, not quite a five-star classic, but so worthwhile, even 70 years on, that you'll be glad you lent it an evening. I really enjoyed the sense of place it gave me - I felt I knew the people, their way of life, and the relationships and motives of all the principles. I liked Jean Arthur's sense of independence yet her desire to tame the untamed Grant. I love Grant's way of being cavalier yet sincere in that fun way of his. It's a treat whenever I get to see a film like this for the first time.

GONE BABY GONE (2007) - I really liked the story. It's based on a novel from the writer of Mystic River which explored similar territory. Casey Affleck is great as the lead. He's a youthful PI whose specialty is getting information from people who don't talk to the police. He grew up in the toughest neighborhood of Boston and knows from high school all the thugs who run its underbelly. He's living and working with a woman who looks like Daphne Zuniga and we take it on faith that we know her type since their relationship is not properly set up. Writer/director Ben Affleck does a good job with the atmosphere, deliberate pacing and plot point curveballs, making for a fine film experience. One of the better films from last year.

THE TIN STAR (1957) - Hank Fonda as a retired sheriff turned bounty hunter comes to town to collect some cash and finds young Tony Perkins wearing a badge he hasn't earned. Perkins is gung-ho enough but the town seems to take orders from the burly bad guy who is always rustling up a lynching party. Perkins takes back the town, burly guy gets his comeuppance, and Fonda rides off with a lady in the end. All very enjoyable.

THE MACHINIST (2003) - Tom reviewed this film a few years ago and I don't disagree with his assessment that it is a hidden gem. Christian Bale plays a guy who is atrophying away and we're not sure what his issue is as we spend some crazy time with him as he attempts to piece it together. It's a bit of a contrived story, but parts of this film have managed to stay with me over the months since I've seen it. Werner Herzog says on the commentary of Rescue Dawn that he did not like this film though he loved Bale's performance. There are some storytelling tricks at work here but it is intriguing throughout with a clever wrap-up.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (2006) - It's not god-awful but it's just not the type of film I enjoy. Cadence deemed it her all-time favorite film upon seeing it in the theatre a couple of years ago, and I finally got the chance to see it while I was at the in-laws' house on vacation. It's fun and it's not horrible. I thought Ben Stiller was good the way he played the character - he seemed to believe the goings-on without being too silly about it. He's a good everyman, not too much of a loser or a hero. There is some silliness in the script but it doesn't come across as amateurish so I can see how kids can like it.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (2007) - It seems about twice as long as its running time suggests even though it is mostly music I love. The singing voices are great but there are no wondrous re-imaginings of any of the songs. I did very much like what they did with I Wanna Hold Your Hand, turning it from a sing-song artifact to a plaintive call of feminine yearning. The story is just there to hang the songs on - you never really care for any of the participants, although you do get to see Evan Rachel Wood's boobies, which are perfect in the youthful suppleness. Director, Julie Taymor, is the female Tim Burton - all visuals with no sense of pacing.

THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED (2005) - A documentary about the MPAA rating committee which is veiled in secrecy even though it is purported to be comprised of ordinary parents like yourself, it is interesting enough but never rises above your standard televised documentary fare.

TOWN AND COUNTRY (2001) - It's in theory a comedy, starring Warren Beatty, Gary Shandling, and Goldie Hawn, all well past their prime, although all three are still enjoyable. It was written by Buck Henry, who also once did good work. Jenna Elfman shows up to ruin a few scenes and just about nothing works as they attempt to imitate a farcical thirties era comedic vibe. Beatty gets laid repeatedly and that's all that really matters. Dearly departed Chuck Heston shows up as a gun-toting protective daddy.

THE PARADINE CASE (1947) - It's a Hitchcock film I had never seen until recently. It didn't work at all for me and afterwards, I remembered that this is considered one of the clunkers in an otherwise legendary career. I didn't realize that Gregory Peck was supposed to be British until I saw him in the barrister's wig. He's not even attempting an accent. The woman who is supposed to be transfixing him is kind of a blank slate so I didn't buy that relationship for a minute. I liked the wife character, who had some good speeches, even though I never quite believed the notion that their marriage was threatened. The courtroom scenes are boring. When the film ended, I had question marks for pupils - it's just a bad film.

ELEPHANT (2003) - Hailed by some critics, this uber-realistic mood piece is one of the most boring films I have ever endured. In fact, I watched most of the first hour on fast forward since it was comprised mostly of tracking shots of high school kids walking the halls between classes. There was occasional dialogue but it was all ad-libbed and meaningless. The movie is basically a day in the life of normal kids at Columbine High School and how it is interrupted by surprise gunfire. I guess Gus Van Sant was going for the sort of film that was ultimately done much better by Paul Greengrass with United 93. It is difficult to watch and not for the reason intended.


Tom said...

I've seen the first five and feel about the same for each of them except for GONE BABY GONE. I should elaborate why in my next reviews.

I think your Burton critique puts it better than I've read anywhere. Of Taymor's work I have only seen FRIEDA and that certainly files under overrated.

Although I cannot imagine liking it, I have always wanted to see Town & Country. Beatty is really winning on screen even in his weak stuff.

PARADINE CASE sits on a mental shelf with other lessor Hitchcock's that I may or may not get to. Also residing there STAGE FREIGHT (you warned me off), I CONFESS, UNDER CAPRICORN and TOPAZ.

I am about to remove ELEPHANT from the cue.

Dude said...

Dude's rebuttal:

GONE BABY GONE may not age well, but I base my initial review on my response to it while watching and it really sucked me in. Some movies do that for some but not others - CRASH comes to mind. I may never enjoy GBG a second time but I had a good time with it the first go-round.

TOWN & COUNTRY is really weak. When I added it to my to-do list, I couldn't imagine it would not rank tenth on the eventual list. I managed to see two even worse movies lately.

PARADINE was really bad. I went in hoping to like it. I enjoyed I CONFESS and would also like to see those other two. PARADINE was a Selznick production with Hitchcock on site to drive costs up. Hitch did his best work during their association when loaned out to other studios - Selznick made bank without a production to micromanage and Hitch was able to be in charge of his own films.

There is no need to see ELEPHANT. Rewatch UNITED 93 instead.

Tom said...

I thought both Afflecks were good in making GONE. It's the Chris Lehane story that I found to be a little too much, especially at the end.

But I know what you mean about movies speaking to you at the time.
A good recent example is my re-watching REMEMBER THE TITANS, something I liked a lot the first time around.

Even on subsequent viewing I like the OCEANS movies although they are the epitome of style over substance. That's the beauty of movies.

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