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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Movies I watched in September, and brief comments:

Idiocracy, Mike Judge

This would be a hilarious short story or idea to discuss at a party. The first 15 minutes were done well, but the rest of it seemed like what an angry college freshman would do if they were given a $80 million budget.

No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese

Dylan must be one of the greatest interview subjects of all time.

Plan 9 From Outer Space, Ed Wood

Great in its awfulness. Watch Tim Burton's Ed Wood for the full effect.

The Yakuza, Sidney Pollack

It seemed like I couldn't go wrong: Directed by Pollack, written by Robert Towne and Paul Schrader, stars Robert Mitchum. I guess I'd just rather watch Japanese movies about the Japanese.

Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville

Holy crap this was amazing. I felt Melville's Le Samouraï was lacking something, but this was incredible.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton

Some good, weird stuff here, but Tim Burton's version can't really stand up to the original. Ultimately I didn't really see the point of the remake.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, John Huston

Pauline Kael calls it "One of the strongest of all American movies," and she's probably not wrong. It's got it all, including Humphrey Bogart with a ratty beard. Awesome.

Funky Forest: First Contact, Katsuhito Ishii

I haven't seen a movie this weird or vivid since watching all 11 hours of The Cremaster Cycle. Extremely well-crafted and original. Only for the patient and adventurous.

Inland Empire, David Lynch

It's Lynch reminiscent of Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive--that is, long, difficult, and rewarding. I think it's one of his best.

The Killing, Stanley Kubrick

Early early Kubrick. He was only 27, and seemingly influenced by the great noir films of the 40s. Whatever it was, he pulled it off. This is one of the best noirs I've seen lately, although it's also kind of a heist movie. Up there with Laura and Spellbound.

The Passenger, Michaelangelo Antonioni

I should probably be looking to the classic Antonioni films sometime soon, because he hasn't impressed me much so far. To be fair, I've only seen Blow-Up and this one, and there were incredible parts of each one, but they didn't strike me as brilliant. With Jack Nicholson as a journalist who takes the identity of a gun runner.

Teen Witch, Dorian Walker

Hilarious and awful. The whole thing is available on YouTube, but you should defininitely watch the "Top That" scene first.

Full Contact, Ringo Lam

Hyper-violent Hong Kong action from the '90s. Chow Yun-Fat is a consumate badass.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, Roy Rowland

I don't really know what I was expecting. Steven Soderbergh said this was one of his favorite films of all time, and I can see the value in it, but I can't muster the same enthusiasm. Amazing sets by Dr. Seuss and no skimping on the whimsy and wonder. But it's about a kid who doesn't want to take piano lessons. Shrug.

Skidoo, Otto Preminger

In a dead heat for worst movie this month. Yes, the same Otto Preminger who directed Laura did this, but I think he was on drugs at the time. It's one of those late-'60s movies like Casino Royale or What's New Pussycat? where they throw a bunch of big-name Hollywood people together and hope for the best. This one had Groucho Marx (his last movie and the best part of this one), Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Cesar Romero, and Mickey Rooney, and music by Harry Nilsson, but it's a trainwreck. With a scene in which convicts put thousands of acid tabs in the food, and the entire prison goes on one huge trip. Hee hee.

I Shot Jesse James, Samuel Fuller

So great! Samuel Fuller directs with enjoyable bluntness. Loads of close-ups, raw dialogue, and a really good ending. Lan got me a Samuel Fuller starter pack with six of his movies for my birthday, and I can't wait to get started.

Across the Universe, Julie Taymor

The other competitor for worst movie of the month. When I see a movie this bad that costs as much as this must have, I become aware that multiple people had to say yes to this idea for it to materialize. What were they thinking? All you need to know about this movie:

(1) All the characters are named after Beatles songs--Jude, Max, Lucy, Prudence, Sadie, Dr. Robert.
(2) The plot is entirely guided by the lyrics of Beatles songs. At one point Prudence (who is introduced to the rest of the gang by coming in through the bathroom window of an apartment) locks herself in the closet for seemingly no reason. The group sings "Dear Prudence" to her to coax her out.
(3) This is a movie made for a preview. [Watch it here.] The fact that the preview makes me (and others) as squeamish as it does should tell you something.
(4) Every song in the movie is far worse than the original recording and put into a context that makes the songs less enjoyable than they would be on their own. The I am Sam soundtrack is better, and it sucks.
(5) Speaking of the context (that is, the story the movie tells), the attempts at pathos are misguided and empty. The movie's emotional peak is bereft of feeling.
(6) The best thing about this movie are the visuals. They obviously spent a lot of money on special effects, but with the bad covers (Julie Taymor could learn something about music from Scorsese) and the lack of emotion or story, they're just fluff, and they're never original or particularly interesting.

P.S. It sucked.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jeff McMahon said...

I'm always glad to find another person who disliked Across the Universe as much as I did.

Idiocracy, though, I think you underrate. I mean, it's a future where people say 'Go away, 'batin!' to each other. Come on.

4:02 AM  
Blogger jpb said...

I'm curious about "Funky Forest" based on your write-up, but no sign of it at Netflix. Is it floating around in theatres, or something you dug out of a specialty video store?

12:26 PM  
Blogger Christopher Zane said...

JPB: My friend found it on superhappyfun.com, a Japanese site that caters to cinemaphiles looking for out-of-print and unreleased movies. I looked for it on the site again, but it appears to be gone. It's pretty much unfindable as far as I can see.

Start with Google and get your research on. Maybe eBay if you're really interested?

12:15 PM  
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