Friday, January 29, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Week of Jan. 19-28

Detour (1945) ***
Dir. Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Tom Neal, Ann Savage

This B-noir does a surprisingly good job of roping its hero deeper and deeper into the mess he finds himself in. The acting is of the cardboard cliché quality that provides much ridicule of older films, and there are some questionable choices made with sets done in the spirit of holding the budget of the picture down, but in the end it all makes for an enjoyable plot of lies and poor choices.

M (1931) ****
Dir. Fritz Lang
Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Gustaf Grüdgens, Friedrich Gnaß, Ellen Widmann

“M” is a surprisingly in-depth look at the psychological impact and workings of a child murderer, considering how early into the life of the film industry it was made. The first half of the film, when the police can’t find any clues as to the identity of the killer and the public is terrorized by his actions, had me thinking a great deal about David Fincher’s 2007 film “Zodiac”. Peter Lorre’s performance in the second half of the film as the disturbed murderer is stunning for an early film performance. A great deal of thought and research into the nature of the criminal mind went into the making of this early talkie. It’s really an astounding achievement in film.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) ***½
Dir. Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T., Bobb’e J. Thompson, Banjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris

This movie is brilliantly funny. It made me laugh more than any other movie in 2009. Read my full-length review here.

Big Fan (2009) ***½
Dir. Robert D. Siegel
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Jonathan Hamm

I didn’t love this movie because I’m a Giants fan. I loved it because it gets fandom and fanaticism pitch perfect. Beyond that even is how solidly written the characters are in this film. Patton Oswalt’s obsessive football fan never betrays himself or steps away from the basic ideals that make him what he claims to be, the world’s greatest Giants fan. Even when his favorite player beats him to near death over a misunderstanding, he will not do something that might hurt the team. While some may complain this movie is more drama than comedy, its ending is perfectly in line with the classic (as in Greeks) definition of comedy and makes the entire movie.

A Perfect Getaway (2009) ***
Dir. David Twohy
Starring: Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez, Marley Shelton, Chris Hemsworth

Surprisingly deceptive thriller that takes a fairly old premise and turns it on its head. This is one of those movies where you have two innocents in a tropical paradise being hunted by killers, but they’re not sure who are the killers and who can protect them from the killers. Many reviews at the time of its theatrical release praised its original approach up until the killers were revealed, saying it went on autopilot from that point on. But that happens so late in the movie, it doesn’t have much left to resolve.

The Bicycle Thief (1948) ****
Dir. Vittorio de Sica
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell

The Italian neo-realism classic speaks loudly in the times we currently find ourselves. Telling the story of a family man who gets a job hanging movie posters during hard financial times, this movie speaks to a great many issues we are currently dealing with in our own country: economic downfall, unemployment, capitalism vs. socialism. The man’s only requirement for his job is a bicycle. When it is stolen, we feel the weight of the world placed on his shoulders to have such an opportunity so easily taken away from him through no fault of his own.

1 comment:

Alan Bacchus said...

Good to see you commenting on some older flicks. Keep 'em coming.