Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Color of Night" - Yeah Bruce Willis made a skinemax flick

This 1994 theater release was missed by many, panned by the rest. To my great fortune, cable showed me what I'd likely pass up. This is silly and insane and so much fun! The trailer is here, but no embed, so please enjoy this scene:

Cinema's best one-cam two-shot ever. But Bruce is a dull date.

Bruce Willis plays Bill Capa, a New York City shrink ("Hi, Bill!"). His last patient, severely messed-up, jumps out his office window mid-session. He'd just confronted her problems directly, if a little too strongly; as Bill stares down at her body, the blood pooling on the street around her becomes grey.

So in a poetically cruel turn, the psychologist now has a distinct mental problem - he no longer sees the color red. Under such obvious strain, what's a faithless therapist do? He can run off to LA.

Doc Capa bails, flies out to see his best friend, Bob Moore (Scott Bakula). This isn't running away, tho: Bob's also a shrink, and he knows Bill well enough to get through to him. Moore's also gotten quite successful, so hopefully his positivity will rub off, right?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ingmar Bergman's "The Hour of the Wolf" (about damn time)

[8/12/14 Update: I used to use quotation marks around film titles, and it'll take a long while for me to correct them all. I just fixed the horrible spacing problems in this review and the now-dead video links, but that's all for now...]

Ingmar Bergman's "The Hour of the Wolf" is an uncontested classic. Writing a simple review is impossible. Since I have no desire to be repetitious (or a bore), I give you a brief review, then something like a stripped-down essay.

This movie is about a woman whose husband disappeared. She doesn't claim to know what's become of him. She only recounts the story of what happened to them. You have to be in the right frame of mind for this slow, talky-yet-quiet, and rather absurdist piece. These points aside, I was impressed as almost every minute of the flick is terribly eerie. It looks gorgeous, and has a lot to say (figuratively).

A frighteningly-young Max Von Sydow is the great painter Johan, an artist of some reknown. He takes his pregnant wife out to a small house on a remote island for some solitude and a chance to refresh themselves. He will paint, she will care for him, and they will love each other.

But their stay is not very relaxing. Before the story even begins, some of the locals have been a problem - Johan punched one of them. And his observations of them sound odd, as if Johan were insane or surrounded by unnatural creatures. The movie follows the couple as they grow acquainted with their neighbors, as the artist's personality collapses, and as the couple becomes fractured. As I said, you'll need patience and the right frame of mind to enjoy this, yet its creepiness is quite effective. It's also very human, but in a disturbing way.

Just watch that trailer - this is an absurdist freak-fest. To be honest, it's a bad trailer; between the voiceover's bad monotone and the painful tuneless sound playing throughout, I wouldn't watch this movie. Maybe this was the effect Bergman was going for...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

“Haute Tension” (aka “High Tension”) – France gives us something close to Torture-Porn

“High Tension” (2003) was on my radar for a long time. This French horror flick was so universally praised that I was destined to watch it. I can understand fully why it received so much acclaim. Sadly, it brought me no joy.

The plot: a French girl drives with her best friend, bound for her parent's idyllic country home; then everything goes to hell (figuratively).

What does this movie promise? Heavy bouts of ultra-violence, atmosphere, great direction, and a fairly decent premise. It delivers on all these things – particularly the ultra-violence, if that’s what you’re looking for. Parts of this film are very well done; many other important aspects, however, stink.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Legal Video Guide, aka Hulu versus Cable's Free On Demand versus Everything Else

Trying to keep from pirating tv shows and movies can seem daunting. Worst of all, it's time-consuming - most of us want what we want right now, don't we?

In fact, the many options out there these days make it all relatively simple and do-able. Living with an internet connection and the basic tier of cable service is actually pretty easy. I will go through at least 6 legal ways to "watch your stories" through digital providers, so this will be a segregated entry. My review of an Ingmar Bergman flick will have to wait til next week.

Hulu is a great way to watch tv. It's easy to use, and has a huge selection of shows and movies. It also has a great array of features, like continuous play and embed. You can even email a link that points to a clip whose timing you select yourself.

For movies, Hulu is much better when your computer connects to a larger screen. Their site will force you to watch 3-5 commercials per tv episode and more or less for certain films. Not as much fun, but it's still free, right?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Piratical Behavior, and Movies That Don't Speak Good Ol' American English

I made sure to view "Ponyo" before it reached the US. A July '08 film in Japan, it reached the States in Aug '09. I even watched it on a 15" monitor, and that bites. Why did U see it like that? In two words: Japanese language.

Every Hayao Miyazaki pic to see an American theatrical release was altered by Disney to bear an English-speaking cast. Discussing "Ponyo" yet again feels unsatisfying, and I'm sorry if it's repetitive. But it highlights my points perfectly...

I love watching foreign films and enjoy reading subtitles. I find it natural, seldom distracting. And, especially for movies that are "less than great," I think the original language and audio make a big difference. If it's not a great work, that extra bit of nuance may help it receive a fair judgment from the viewer.

A decent film can stand as a decent film when you get the added context of subtitles, language differences, and the like. They don't need any changes, nor do great foreign films. Odd Russian, Indian, or Italian sayings are much easier to take when you hear someone say it and then read it on the screen; you know it's something foreign, so you accept it.