Sunday, January 24, 2010

Every once in a while, a quickie is just what you need

I could have titled this, "Movie Review Quickies #1," and will from now on. These movies don't really need the longer reviews I've done before. Also, this is a good way to give more bang for the buck... Hopefully, quality will win out over quantity with no sacrifice of depth. I hope you will be drawn to or away from the eight movies here: "The Nest, "Hopscotch," "The Seven-Ups," "Runaway," "Dreamscape," "Shiver," and "Body Snatchers." I saved Michael Caine's "Get Carter" for last. Some of these are new for me, while some I've seen once or more.

I can only bear to see Mickey Rourke this way
The NestWell-made French action film with the low-key feel of an independent picture. It engaged me immediately and held me for a spell. Ultimately, I didn't like it, though I admit it's well-made. Many will love this, because it executes a lot of violent action nicely and is fairly unique. The dialogue is mediocre, but the characters are carried well by most of the cast. Especially impressive is the horrible crime kingpin who's being transported by the cops - there's a cool and strong undercurrent throughout that suggests that he may be the devil himself. The carnage he incites is certainly one clue, but there's more... It's worth noting that the film takes a creatively-healthy approach to action, even as Hollywood cranks out half-hearted, half-done projects that bring no joy. It also (a) tries to confuse/surprise the audience and (b) expresses many things (character & plot points, etc.) indirectly. I can't really say why it didn't quite work for me.
No trailer, so...
Hopscotch Fairly good 1980 spy comedy, starring Walter Matthau. A newly-retired CIA employee decides to humiliate the world's intelligence agencies - especially his superior, Ned Beatty - with his tell-all memoir. The humor is mostly dry, and works well - they were smart to pair Matthau with Britain's Glenda Jackson. It's weird to see a caper movie where the stakes are so low - like "Ocean's Eleven," the hero is seldom in real peril. There's a weird political sensibility to the film, one that's largely shared by many 70s action pictures. I suppose it's influenced by the Nixon era, which explains why it reminded me of "Three Days of the Condor" and "All the President's Men," but without the tension.
Help me, it sounds like a BDSM ad!
The Seven-Ups I was looking up info on James Caan's "Thief" and found a reference to "The Seven-Ups." It didn't sound like a waste of time. "Underrated," "70s," and "crime film" were used to describe this pic; "of" and "the" were also spotted. I also liked the synopsis... In brief: Thugs pose as cops and ransom crooks back to their mob families, while a new police unit unknowingly circles around both groups. The plot is definitely different - in a good way - but it didn't do much for me.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Trailers - Mostly no, but yes at the movies.

Everyone loves film trailers - when they're not 30 minutes long or riddled with product promotion. I'm no exception. I love the roller-coaster of wincing and smiling that precedes the main show. They come in every flavor: boring, hysterical, exciting, traumatic...

You have choices when the lights dim; you can step into the lobby or sit along for the ride. Yet even bad trailers can make a crowd laugh (the worse, the better). And you only need one great or funny short to save the stint - 15+ minutes of marketing, no less. As such, the whole experience - a big part of the ritual of seeing a movie - usually feels worthwhile.

Maybe the trailer experience only works in the moment, though. On the net, I only search out arthouse/smaller-market pix and foreign film trailers (both the crazy and the non-crazy ones). In the rare moment of channel surfing, tv trailers are to be avoided (save for revered artists like Cronenberg, Blanchett...).

Actually, I can rattle off many reasons to avoid film ads. I just have to think about things that bother me most when I'm safely nestled in stadium seating... A must see is a must see, so no spoilers please. There was no way I'd miss Bale as Nolan's Batman, or Attack of the Clones (if only I'd known). Studios needn't unveil a single "big" moment or surprise for anything I anticipate that much.

In fact, I'd rather they didn't. They should let a really cool scene save a picture that may have deeply-flawed writing, acting, or direction. These moments, if unexpected, may really help people walk away with better feelings about the film.