Friday, May 14, 2010

Penny Thoughts: May 7-13

The Killing (1956) ***
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Jim Thompson, Lionel White (novel “Clean Break”)
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr., Joe Sawyer, Timothy Carey

This early film by venerated film master Stanley Kubrick is a good noir and heist flick but does not suggest the stylized greatness Kubrick would eventually work up to with his later films. I’m not sure what the conscious intention of the narration here is, but it seems to be a distraction from the events on screen, usually providing information that could more interestingly be provided cinematically. Still, in the tradition of film noir and considering this is a post code picture, “The Killing” is brutal in its treatment of its protagonists. The broken time line used during the heist here was probably an influence on the heist sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film “Jackie Brown”.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) ***½
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, Roald Dahl (book)
Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wally Wolodarsky, Eric Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe

When I originally reviewed this after seeing it in the theater, I thought I might have favored it due to my love of the director’s other work. Although its source material is a children’s book, it’s not a kid’s movie. Yet for the cineaste there is so much to cherish here. The cinematography by Tristan Oliver and art direction by Francesca Maxwell are absolutely beautiful. Certainly someone should’ve given them an award for their work here. At least the National Society of Film Critics was willing to hand out a production design award to an animated feature. But the movie itself is really very good as well. It plays better at home than in the theater, I think, because of Anderson’s soft touch and Clooney’s quiet, calm demeanor as Mr. Fox.

Read my original review here.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) ****
Director: Nicholas Ray
Writers: Stewart Stern, Irving Shulman, Nicholas Ray
Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Ann Doran, Dennis Hopper, Edward Platt

Teenagers desperately seeking adult guidance and supervision. I think there’s some sort of text shorthand for that now.

North Face (2009) ***
Director: Philipp Stölzl
Writers: Christoph Silber, Philipp Stölzl, Rupert Henning, Johannes Naber, Benedikt Roeskau
Starring: Benno Fürmann, Florian Lukas, Johanna Wokalek, Georg Friedrich, Simon Schwarz, Ulrich Tukur

“North Face” is the harrowing retelling of the early German attempt to climb the north face of the Eiger mountain located in the Swiss Alps. Led by climbers Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoisser, the doomed men’s route was eventually used in the first successful ascent of the dangerous mountain in 1938. But this story of the second failed attempt is used in this German film to illustrate some of the German politics leading into the second world war by depicting much of the national pressure put on German climbers and other athletes to exhibit their superiority over the rest of the world leading up to the 1936 Olympics, hosted in Berlin. While this is not the best climbing adventure I’d seen—it would take an amazing film to top the documentary “Touching the Void”—it overcomes some of its melodramatic elements to show just how challenging and driven the lives of mountaineers are.

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