August 2009 - Posts
Like most people, I watch movies to escape, put the real world behind me and relax. With
The Hurt Locker
, I just couldn't do that. Right from the start I was tense and on the edge of my seat. I couldn't even enjoy my snacks because my stomach was in knots and stayed that way for the next 2 hours. I know it sounds bad, but it was anything but.
The Hurt Locker is about a three man bomb squad in Iraq with a little less than a month left on their rotation. Guess what they do the whole movie? Diffuse bombs while trying not to get killed in the process. The tension in these situations is palpable. As soon as you think you can breathe again, you're thrown back into it. In the few moments when we're not trying to figure out which color wire to cut, we get to see how psychologically messed up these guys are. Not to be cliche, but it really is an adrenaline roller coaster.
This film is one of my favorites of the year. It's also the best movie about the Iraq war to date. It never gets preachy or pushy with a political agenda, but simply puts you in the shoes of three guys who lay it on the line. If it's showing in your area, I can't suggest this movie enough.
Inglourious Basterds is a thrill ride, but not in a traditional way. Although the action is good, I
was more delighted by the wonderful "talky" parts
(which includes a fair amount of subtitle-reading). Masterfully written and directed, these scenes build
tension slowly and beautifully. You know the fireworks are coming, but the unhurried journey makes it much more memorable.
Is the movie a bag of great individual scenes, or a satisfying whole? It's a tough call, but in the end, who cares? Presently, it is difficult to
find movies that truly resonate with you after watching them. I walked away
from Quinten Tarantino's irreverent WWII tale having enjoyed the whole 2.5
The music in the film is a typically eccentric grouping. My favorite tunes were The Green Leaves of Summer (from The Alamo) playing during the opening credits and Cat People by David Bowie (from the 1982 Paul Schrader film by the same name). You can listen to both here. If you are interested, Elvis Mitchell sat down with Mr. Tarantino to talk about the movie's music over at SPIN.
So if you are so inclined, check this one out in the theater (with Klipsch speakers preferably). It was worth it. You'll laugh, you'll wince, and you'll learn nothing about actual history.
Check out The Auteurs for a vast array of resources on the film and Mr. Tarantino.
Note: this film is not recommended for everyone. When violence is used, it is brutal.
This summer Tony Scott’s remake of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was released to theaters. I haven’t seen it, but since we are currently passing through 1974 it seems only fitting to take a look back at the original directed by Joseph Sargent. Mr. Sargent is less well known because he's mainly worked in television (Lassie, Gunsmoke, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Something the Lord Made). Two recognizable features of his are MacArthur with Gregory Peck and Jaws: The Revenge (or Jaws IV). But his most famous film is what we’ll revisit today.
Sometimes you'll notice (and we'll find more as we keep moving back) that an older movie can be great overall but have one distracting element. It could be the camera movement or the acting style, or many times it is the use of music. In The Taking of Pelham 123 we have the opposite. From the opening we are treated to one of the greatest scores of the 70s (by David Shire who also worked on The Conversation). It is a funky, jazzy piece of music that fits the movie from start to finish.
A veteran employee of the NY subway discusses the job’s responsibilities with a new worker. Little do they know that one by one, three mustached men with glasses and overcoats have boarded the train carrying packages or briefcases. When the train stops a fourth approaches the driver and pulls out a pistol. The men hijack the train and take a group of hostages into one of the cars. Their plan is to walk away with one million dollars. But they have to deal with Lieutenant Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau), a veteran police officer with the NYC Transit Authority. He and the rest of the men at the command facility work with the spineless mayor to figure out how to keep the passengers alive. The back-and-forth between the lead hijacker (Robert Shaw) and Garber for the safety of the passengers keeps the pace lively.
The film is gritty but not overly so. It was shot on location in New York. The filmmakers achieve a nice balance between style and realism.The acting is great. I am young enough that my first impressions of Walter Matthau are from Grumpy Old Men. Although that sarcasm is always there, it is great to see him in his earlier days (Charley Varrick also recommended). The supporting cast really shines in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Doris Roberts and Jerry Stiller add texture to this well done suspenseful thriller. The new version definitely has a high standard to live up to.
Released in 2000, the visuals are in widescreen while the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0. The film is mainly dialog driven so I don't think it suffers too much by not being in 5.1. The score still sounds incredible.
Besides the obvious, there are other movie connections. The crew in Reservoir Dogs identify themselves by colors to protect their identity, as they did in this film. A more recent movie that involves hostages and New York City is Spike Lee's Inside Man.
Why do we let this happen? Why do we let amazing shows die and the mediocre thrive? I don't know. But it makes me sad.
Before I begin my review of Funny People
, I should preface by saying I am an unapologetic Judd Apatow
fan. I think the man has an amazing comedic insight. He had me at hello (or more specifically, at Freaks & Geeks
). That said, I can tell you honestly I was a little disappointed with this movie. The laughs are there. The drama is there. The acting is there. But the timing just doesn't feel right. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I won't go through the whole story; the trailer
can do that for me. This movie is about comedy (well, half of it anyway) - going up on stage and absolutely bombing, learning from it and trying again. In many ways it reminds me of documentary from a few years back by Jerry Seinfeld called Comedian
. I wish we spent more time in this world getting a deeper understanding of where comedians find their voice.
Interspersed with this comedy, George Simmons ( Adam Sandler
) is dealing with cancer. It's in these moments we get to see Sandler and Seth Rogen
show their acting chops, and they both really made an impression. Watching Sandler laying in bed, scared, talking to Rogen and questioning every serious life decision he's ever made pulled at my heart strings. I believe this also marks the first Seth Rogen performance where he isn't playing Seth Rogen.
But it all goes downhill fast when we hit the third act and lose all traces of the stand-up/cancer story line. It's almost like Apatow didn't know where he wanted to go. Everything slows down to a crawl and never really gets back on track. So I'm torn. Two-thirds of this movie is absolutely great. It's amazing. But the end is not there. If you're an Apatow fan, I suggest you see it... but others might prefer to wait for DVD.
The use of split screen did not originate in the 1970s - an example of the technique can be found in Napoleon,1927 by Abel Gance - and actually was not uncommon in the 1960s (see Grand Prix and The Thomas Crown Affair), but today is a convention thought of in regard to movies and TV of the 70s.
No one used it more than Brian De Palma, who also layered sound effects and music in unusual and often unsettling ways to enrich his strange films:
Phantom of the Paradise 1974
Dressed to Kill 1980
I felt this amazing illustration was appropriate given
that the upcoming season of Curb Your Enthusiasm
will center around the fictitious creation of Seinfeld
reunion show. Sounds kind of meta, but I'm sure Larry David can deliver the funny.