Friday, February 26, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Feb. 19-25

Bronson (2009) ****
Dir. Nicholas Winding Refn
Starring: Tom Hardy, Juliet Oldfield, James Lance, Edward Bennett-Coles, Matt King

What a great quirky little movie about such a quirky big man. I wouldn’t want to be stuck inside with this man, but how strange to find a movie about England’s “most famous prisoner” is also such an uplifting story about a man finding the perfect place in society for himself. It’s almost odd how much I loved this movie that plays like an even more jocular modern version of “A Clockwork Orange”.

Buffalo ’66 (1998) ****
Dir. Vincent Gallo
Starring: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Angelica Huston, Ben Gazzara, Kevin Corrigan, Rosanna Arquette, Mickey Rourke, Jan Michael-Vincent

“Buffalo ‘66” was another film I just adored this week (Friday night was a good night for home entertainment). Like “Bronson”, this is another quirky movie about a quirky man. But again, it ends with hope, possibly more deserved for this film’s hero than “Bronson”. It also would make a good companion film for last year’s “Big Fan”, which interestingly also starred Kevin Corrigan as the hero’s best friend. Like “Big Fan”, it deals with obsession and makes the audience think it is going to tread down a very dark road along that line before turning back on itself and giving the hero a much more appropriate resolution to his problems.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Extended Cut (2003) ****
Dir. Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler

Revisiting LOTR for the first time since 2004, I’m finding it to be just as strong the second time around. “The Two Towers” was my favorite of the three the first time through, and I believe it will remain so. It doesn’t suffer the problems of the other two. It isn’t all the set up of the first one, nor does it have the false endings of the last. Some complained that it began an ended it at different points in the story than the book did, but Jackson finds the most triumphant points for each character of the shattered fellowship to end on, setting up everyone for their conclusions. It takes its time to tell a much more action-oriented story than the first film and at times plays like a classic disaster movie. As before, I can’t wait for the next installment.

The Santa Trap (2002) *
Dir. John Shepphird
Starring: Shelley Long, Robert Hays, Stacy Keach, Sierra Abel, Brandon de Paul, Corben Bernsen, Paul Butcher, Dick Van Patten

Any parent knows how insane kids can be. My children received this awful movie from their grandparents at Christmas. We held off the screening as long as we could. They were ready to riot against us. Of course, they insisted we watch it with them. One day they’ll know how much we sacrificed for them, right?

Fat City (1972) ***½
Dir. John Huston
Starring: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrell, Candy Clark, Nicholas Colasanto

Director John Huston’s “Fat City” is a much better turn for Stacy Keach than “The Santa Trap”. Seeped in that self-realization of the cinema of the early seventies, right down to the Kris Kristofferson title credit song, “Fat City” is a rather fascinating simple story about a former big hitting amateur boxer and the up-and-comer he discovers. A young Jeff Bridges plays the young boxer that the movie follows for a while before settling back in on the Keach character, who just can’t seem to beat the booze long enough to get his fighting back on track. Just a wonderful character study of pugilism and alcholoism.

Whip It (2009) ***½
Dir. Drew Barrymore
Starring: Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Hardin, Kristin Wiig, Juliette Lewis, Andrew Wilson, Jimmy Fallon, Daniel Stern, Drew Barrymore, Eve, Zoë Bell, Landon Pigg

What a charming movie this is. Not “Juno” charming, but good nonetheless. Working off a screenplay by Shauna Cross, who also wrote the book, Drew Barrymore makes a strong directorial debut with this observant look at a relationship between a teen and her parents. It isn’t realistic in its depiction of how they come to understand each other, but it has all the emotions and tensions between them right. It has some standard sports movie clichés, such as the aggrieved parent showing up at the final game at the last minute, but it earns these moments with honest emotions from the characters, rather than ones forced upon them by the plot. I never knew roller derby could be as cute as Ellen Page, but alas it seems fitting that Barrymore should prove me wrong.

And Then There Were None (1945) ***
Dir. René Clair
Starring: Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Heyward, Roland Young, June Duprez, Mischa Auer, Sir C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, Richard Haydn, Queenie Leonard

The classic Agatha Christie “And Then There Were None”, better known under the controversial title “Ten Little Indians”, is just that—classic Agatha Christie. A limited cast is trapped on an island mansion estate when it is revealed that, although they seem to have no connection with each other, they are not there by accident. Then they start dying. Murder. And one of the ten of them is the murderer! It’s the type of mystery filmmakers couldn’t get away with today, yet it still works remarkably well. The talented cast keeps you guessing as to who is good and who is the killer. Director René Clair brings out a good deal of Christie’s humor and has fun with trust issues among the paranoid characters.


SD said...

Glad to see you check out Fat City. It's a personal favorite of mine-- a total unknown gem. Imagine the career Stacy Keach could have had if he'd kept taking roles like that.

Andrew D. Wells said...

Instead he finds himself in "The Santa Trap". Then suffers a minor stroke last year, but the guy's still out there throwing punches, tryin' to get back in the game, just like Tully.