Thursday, June 17, 2010

Penny Thoughts: June 4-17

Quantum of Solace (2008) ****
Director: Marc Forester
Writers: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright

QoS never got the love that the James Bond reboot “Casino Royale” did, except from me. Upon my second viewing of it, I still feel justified in calling it the second best James Bond movie. It did not best CR. It seems it was mostly criticized for going the Jason Bourne trilogy route, but it has a much more intricate plot than Bourne to go along with its high-octane action. When viewing CR recently, I was surprised by how much slower it was than I remembered, not so with QoS. But QoS still touches upon all the James Bond franchise signatures, and director Marc Forester really flexes some superior direction muscles in many sequences.

Read my original review here.

Spartacus (1960) ***
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Dalton Trumbo, Howard Fast (novel)
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Gene Simmons, Peter Ustinov, Charles Laughton, John Gavin

The historical epic has changed a great deal since their heyday. “Spartacus” is thought to be one of Hollywood’s pinnacles of its time, but time has not been kind to this too pretty look at the slave uprising against the Roman Empire lead by the slave-born Spartacus. The casual modern mannerisms and speech used throughout this epic are almost laughable by today’s standards. The battle is good for the time period, but doesn’t stand up to the more realistically choreographed fight sequences of today, and you’ve go to wonder whether property masters had ever actually seen real blood back then, way back in the 60s. Usually, I have a leniency toward older filmmaking, and overall this is an enjoyable movie, but there’s a reason modern audiences don’t catch on to the classics all that easily. The most interesting aspects of the movie are the political maneuverings between the Olivier and Laughton characters, which still have reflections in today’s politics.

Crazy Heart (2009) ***
Director: Scott Cooper
Writers: Scott Cooper, Thomas Cobb (novel), Stephen Bruton (songs), T Bone Burnett (songs)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jack Nation, Collin Farrell, Robert Duvall

“Crazy Heart” is a deserving performance for Jeff Bridges to win his overdue Oscar. It’s a good movie. It’s filled with wonderful music. It isn’t the most original exploration of a character I’ve seen, but it’s very well done my writer/director Scott Cooper. However, the movie didn’t thrill me half as much as the music. I could listen to Bridges and Collin Farrell put the country back into country music all night. I would’ve loved to see the entire concert where Bad opened for Tommy, and I sure hope Bad did join him on stage for those two songs instead of selling his CDs. It’d be a shame if he didn’t since their duet during Bad’s set was so good. And one other thing, Maggie Gyllenhaal just makes me smile.

Heavy Metal (1981) **½
Director: Gerald Potterton
Writers: Daniel Goldberg, Len Blum, Dan O’Bannon, Richard Corbin, Bernie Wrightson, Angus McKie, Jean Giraud
Starring: Rodger Bumpass, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Alice Playten, Harold Ramis, Richard Romanus, John Vernon, Jackie Burroughs

I’ve been listening to a lot of Cheap Trick lately, and it occurred to me that they had contributed two original songs to the “Heavy Metal” soundtrack. Well, obviously I needed to watch “Heavy Metal”. Now, I had purchased the DVD back when it was originally released in that format about ten years ago. As I recall I watched it then, and a couple times in the following years with affection for that nerdy, gamer fantasy universe of bucksome babes and barbarians and spaceships, just as I had when I was much younger. This time through, it all seemed very dated. One reason might be the terrible image and sound transfer that I had never really noticed in the early days of digital home entertainment, but is glaringly obvious today. Another reason might be the crude and often sloppy animation (even for the time in which it was released). They do a good job in alternating the visual style with each individual story segment, and some do look very good, but for the most part the visual quality is a muddy mess. I still like those bucksome babes, though.

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