Friday, July 30, 2010

Penny Thoughts: July 23-29

A Clockwork Orange (1971) ****
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Burgess (novel)
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, Carl Duering, Paul Farrell, James Marcus

Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well, my droogs. Stanley Kubrick’s topsy-turvy adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel criticizing civilization’s system of crime and punny-wunishment looks real horrorshow on Bluray. It works naughty-knots into my gulliver every time I viddy it. I ponder whether viddy houses today could tolerate such scenes of ultraviolence without a good milkbar for a companion of young droogs to rest and relaxate within afterward.

The Book of Eli (2010) ***
Directors: The Hughes Brothers
Writer: Gary Whitta
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Tom Waits, Michael Gambon, Malcolm McDowell

A movie about faith in which a man is driven by his faith to bring the book of faith to a safe place where it can reestablish faith for the people, “The Book of Eli” is a rather novel idea for a post-apocalyptic dystopian future movie. I like how laid back the movie feels. There are the typical dangers of an anarchic society following the fall of civilization, but the pace established by the Hughes Brothers is fitting for its subject matter of faith. Rather than ratcheting up the tension to drive the characters to the actions scenes, of which the are several impressive ones, the filmmakers use the faith of its main character as a tempering device on the plot, often working in counterpoint to the story’s violent action. I very much liked that they resisted ending the film in a trumped up action finale, but instead they give the villain his comeuppance in a much more appropriate manner. There’s nothing amazing going on here in this film, but it’s a good solid story told well.

The White Ribbon (2009) ****
Director/Writer: Michael Haneke
Starring: Christian Friedel, Ernst Jacobi, Leonie Benesch, Ulirch Tukur, Ursina Lardi, Burghart Klaussner, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Leonard Proxauf, Josef Bierbichler, Rainer Bock, Susanne Lothar, Roxane Duran

This Palme D’Or winner reminded me a great deal of M. Night Shyamalan’s film “The Village”. Although it is by far the superior of the two, “The White Ribbon” shares with “The Village” a sense of claustrophobia in the way the community represented seems to have isolated itself from the rest of the world, and through it’s restrictive older generation, it has developed a dark secret that runs through the younger generation. Haneke’s direction is as stark as the material and the beautiful black and white cinematography by Christian Berger. I can see how the Academy of Film Arts and Sciences might have found it difficult to award its lack of resolution over such serious occurrences in the story, but I believe the French had it right by giving it such high praise in Cannes.

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) **½
Director: Steve Pink
Writers: Josh Heald, Sean Anders, John Morris
Starring: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clake Duke, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Chevy Chase

Perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood for stupid, crude comedy. “Hot Tub Time Machine” was a bit of a let down considering what other critics were saying about it at the time of its theatrical release. Yes, it has humorous references to the differences between the 80s and today, but beyond that there really wasn’t much else there to amuse. Even those references were mostly jokes recycled from countless other references to the 80s in other movies and television shows.

I’m not often bothered by foul language, but it seemed as if the screenwriters were trying to evoke a comedy written by David Mamet with their prolific use of the f-bomb. Rob Corddry provides the closest thing to a developed character with his alcoholic, pathetic mess that wishes he could be a teen in the 80s for his entire life. The others come across more like stunned faces throughout the proceedings. I don’t want to be a complete sourpuss on this one. I did laugh, but I’d prefer to watch the actual 80s John Cusack comedy “Better Off Dead”.

V for Vendetta (2006) ***½
Director: James McTeigue
Writers: The Wachowski Brothers, David Lloyd (graphic novel), Alan Moore (uncredited graphic novel)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rae, Stephen Fry, Tim Pigott-Smith, Roger Allam, John Hurt

I may have over praised this movie when it was originally released. Yes, I can change my mind. I think my initial exuberance was because they hadn’t totally messed up this graphic novel to film adaptation. I was a huge fan of the comic book, and the filmmakers did a great job retaining the spirit of the original story and updating it to fit a modern political criticism rather than the criticism of Thatcherism that the 80’s graphic novel encompassed. There are a couple of action sequences that really don’t belong, but I’m still a huge fan of the film, even if my initial enthusiasm has diminished slightly.

Don’t You Forget About Me (2009) **
Director: Matt Austin
Writers: Matt Austin, Michael Facciolo, Kari Hollend, Lenny Panzer
Featuring: Roger Ebert, Kevin Smith, Judd Nelson, Mia Sara, Alan Ruck, Jason Reitman, Andrew McCarthy, Kelly LeBrock, Ally Sheedy, Annie Potts

On the one hand this movie is a wonderful retrospective of the best movies of filmmaker John Hughes, who was the voice of the American teenager throughout the 80s. According to the many modern teenagers interviewed in this film, he’s still the voice of the American teen.

On the other hand, the filmmakers have injected themselves into their own documentary in a lame “search” for the whereabouts of John Hughes. Filmed before the writer/director’s tragic death in 2009, this crew of filmmakers do not present a compelling search for their filmmaking idol so much as they prove their own ridiculousness conducting a search for a man whom is not actually missing. He just doesn’t do interviews, nor does he have anything to do with movies anymore. There isn’t a chance these idiots will ever get an interview with the reclusive director. The interviews of former Hughes film stars, critics and other filmmakers, however, make for some good retrospective documentation.

No comments: