Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

Crank – Minute Movie Review

Montag, September 27th, 2010


Most action movies are, almost by definition, silly and over the top. Compared to this one, however, they are downright sensible. Ejected with a drug that will kill him as soon as his heart slows down, Jason Statham goes on a rampage throughout L.A. in order to keep the adrenaline flowing, his heart pumping and kill all the bad guys – or at least those that pissed him off. The film is designed to be a ninety-minute-thrill-ride, but is actually fairly boring at times, which, combined with the fact that it is not silly enough to be seen as a farce, makes it an almost utter failure. But then again, at least there are some decent action set pieces.

Random Observations:

Crank at the IMDb

The German theatrical release was heavily cut in order to secure a FSK 16 rating. There is nothing unusual about that, but the way it was done here exaggerates the violence more than eliminating it.

I’m pretty sure the film was supposed to be somewhat stylized, but it was done so inconsistently that it was more annoying than anything else. Especially the odd video game references throughout the film.

This is the 650th post published on this site. Somehow, I feel like celebrations are in order. Especially since everything here is about to change.

Harold and Maude – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, September 24th, 2010


Harold is a young man obsessed with death – he attends funerals for fun and likes to stage fake suicides. His rich single mother naturally despairs. Maude is about to turn 80 and embraces life to the fullest, doing whatever she wants with vigour, fascinating Harold. Hal Ashby’s 1971 film is the first quirky American romantic comedy, pairing two people who couldn’t be more different and yet fit together perfectly, despite or especially because of the huge age difference. The film is funny, touching and bitter-sweet, accompanied by a Cat Stevens soundtrack that fits the tone of the film perfectly. Really, there is no excuse for not having seen this film yet, but if you haven’t and enjoy grotesque humour paired with horribly true life lessons, you’ll love this film.

Random Observations:

Harold and Maude at the IMDb

Bud Cort is perfect in the lead role – I wonder whatever happened to him or rather his career. I don’t think he made a single good film since then.

The faked suicides are highly unrealistic, but very entertaining. How’s that for a sentence I never thought I’d write?

It’s a real shame that the Jaguar hearse did not survive the filming. Now there’s a car I’d love to drive!

Surveillance – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, September 22nd, 2010


Jennifer Lynch’s main accomplishment in life is being born as the daughter of visionary film-maker David Lynch. This film, her second feature, which she also co-wrote, did nothing to change that fact. She tried very hard to borrow from her father and his style is immediately recognizable in this abnormal thriller, even if she tries to give it some of her own flourishes. Two FBI agents come to a small town to investigate a series of gruesome highway killings. The local police is in way over their head and the tales of the witnesses are not entirely trustworthy. So the question is: what happened? And even more importantly: what is going to happen? But despite every attempt, there is nothing truly new, creative or unique here. The story is patently predictable, the violence is superfluous but not entirely unreasonable and the depth of human nature that are pumped have all been seen before. Without anything really standing out, including the performances from some name actors, the film has very little to recommend it. Still, if you are bored and have 90 minutes to spare, you can give it a try.

Random Observations:

Surveillance at the IMDb

Speaking of actorly performances: the film features the severely underused Pell James. Sure, she might not be the most talented American actress under 30, but she is certainly one of the prettier ones…

The film was co-written by Lynch and Kent Harper, who also plays a crucial role.

Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – Minute Movie Review

Montag, September 20th, 2010


Life is all about second chances. You give them to people. People give them to you. And sometimes – not very often, mind you – you offer them to a film. I first saw Were-Rabbit back in its theatrical run in 2005 and I was less than impressed. But after watching the recent Wallace & Gromit short A Matter of Loaf and Death and enjoying it immensely, I thought it was time to revise my judgement. Sadly, I was mistaken and my judgement still stands. Sure, the film has some outrageously funny scenes, some inspired ideas and is beautifully animated. (Claymated? That doesn’t sound right.) But ultimately, there are just not enough jokes or plot to sustain a feature film. The shorts are hilarious, but the film is somehow less. It’s by no means bad, but it’s just not great, with the story becoming increasingly silly (and not in a good way) and many of the jokes falling flat. And seriously, Gromit’s eyes are impressively expressive, but there is only so much one can take of them. In summary: it’s a good thing that Aardman went back to making short films – it’s where claymation belongs.

Random Observations:

Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit at the IMDb

The film took half a decade to make, with only 3 seconds of footage being produced on most days. Stop motion animation is a lot of work, doing the whole thing with clay even more so.

It’s nice that the studio and director/creator Nick Park managed to retain Peter Sallis as the voice of Wallace. Some better known actor would have been a horrible choice.

The first third of the film, before the plot gets really under way, is easily my favourite part of the movie.

Sneakers – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, September 17th, 2010


Combining genres is tough. Combining thriller and comedy is nigh-impossible. Sneakers still attempts it – with middling success. It’s an absurd story of professional thieves that test out security systems so that real thieves don’t break in who stumble over what may be the biggest invention in human history. The thrilling moments are rare and so are the funny ones, mostly due to a charismatic Robert Redford in the lead role, while the impressive supporting cast (Ben Kingsley, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, David Strathairn) is mostly reduced to being annoying. Nevertheless, the film manages to be solid entertainment – and often, that is quite enough to be remembered two decades later.

Random Observations:

Sneakers at the IMDb

The film features a pre-elder-statesman-aged David Strathairn, which just goes to prove that some actors are born to play one part, even if they have to wait fifty years to fit the role.

Nice bit of Fabricated Truth trivia: this is the first “proper” entry I write since my return. And even though I’ve been back for more than a week, this is the first new film I’ve seen. (I watched Casablanca again a couple of days ago, because it’s just that awesome.)

A Streetcar Named Desire – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, September 15th, 2010


Faded Southern Belle Vivien Leigh comes to New Orleans to stay with her sister Kim Hunter and brother-in-law Marlon Brando. She labours under a good many delusions and can’t deal with the fact that her sister married (and loves) a working class man. He, meanwhile, can’t stand her and just wants her out of the apartment. Naturally, things come to a dramatic end. Tennessee Williams’ famous play was adapted for the screen by much of the same people who first made it a hit, including director Elia Kazan and large parts of the cast. Personally, I couldn’t care less for any of the people involved, but it’s a gripping story that is well told, so I guess that makes it a good film.

Random Observations:

A Streetcar Named Desire at the IMDb

Three people won acting Oscars for this film, including the two female leads and the always glorious Karl Malden. But it was really Brando who made the film, bursting onto the scene with his method acting and raw naturalism that changed cinema forever.

Seriously, Brando is so good, you almost forgive him for being the villain.

The film is also really interesting as a case study about the Breen Office, the League of Decency, and Censorship in Hollywood. The DVD Special Edition features a nice little extra about that, especially explaining about the last minute changes the League demanded.

Midnight (Call It Murder) – Minute Movie Review

Montag, September 13th, 2010


When watching older films, say from the 1930s, it’s easy to think that the overall quality of cinema was much higher. After all, pretty much all those films are pretty great. Of course, one often forgets that only the good films are remembered many decades later, while all the middling or downright bad fare is all but forgotten. Which would have been the rightful fate of this film, originally called Midnight, later re-released as Call It Murder, if not for the fact that Humphrey Bogart had one of his earliest (and smallest) parts in it. And while he is good, very little else is. The story is okay – the foreman of the jury who convicted a woman of murder and sentenced her to death is in trouble with his “laws are laws” approach when his own daughter kills Bogart – but the acting, the direction, the lightning, the sets – pretty much everything else is pretty bad. Add to that that the film is in the public domain and so naturally the DVD release is of terrible quality and it means that even if you love Bogart (And who doesn’t?), you would do well to just ignore the film and further labour under the delusion, that everything used to be better, especially in Hollywood.

Random Observations:

Midnight at the IMDb

Apart from Bogart, there are some second tier actors and actresses that film buffs may know, but even Margaret Wycherly or Henry O’Neill are not really noticeable. And yes, both their names are misspelled in the credits.

For the re-release, the film not only got a new title, but also changed the top billing to Bogart. Yes, everyone in Hollywood always wanted to make as much money as possible and loved a good scam. That is nothing new.

The film is based on a play that also flopped.

The film features one of my all time favourite slang words that significantly changed meaning, when one character states that another “made a boner”.

Scarface (1932) – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, September 10th, 2010


In the original Scarface (compared to Brian De Palma’s remake), Paul Muni is the scariest of all the old-time movie hoodlums. Through ruthless violence, he rises in the Chicago crime community, killing everybody who stands in his way. The film is, for the time, unflinchingly brutal – which ultimately caused producer Howard Hughes to release it without the Hays Office’s approval – but also a finely layered crime drama and the story of a man who is so caught up in his own situation, he slowly goes (even more) insane. Supported by an excellent cast, especially the always brilliant George Raft, the film is truly memorable for more than it’s violence.

Random Observations:

Scarface at the IMDb

The film is sold as a warning to society, having a title card in the beginning claim that it is all true and that the people should do something about horrible incidents like these. In fact, screen-writer Ben Hecht based much of the story on Al Capone, the original Scarface.

Whether it’s booze in the prohibition original or drugs in the remake, neither film is really about substance abuse.

Small part for Boris Karloff, who looks almost human here.

Directed by Howard Hawks. For once, I was not able to spot any characters, storylines or dialogue he used in other films as well.

Unfaithfully Yours – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, September 8th, 2010


Rex Harrison plays a brilliant, but arrogant and egocentric conductor in this Preston Sturges comedy. When he suspects his wife of infidelity – brought about by his brother-in-law hiring a detective, much to his chagrin – he devises various plans to take care of the situation while brilliantly conducting. But reality, naturally, is not quite as simple as fantasy, and so thankfully we get a happy ending. The film has razor-sharp and witty dialogue and some decent performances from actors otherwise not known for their comedic prowess (like Harrison), but when the main character is so entirely unlikeable, one is hard-pressed to truly enjoy the film. Thankfully, the slapstick ending makes you forget all about that.

Random Observations:

Unfaithfully Yours at the IMDb

“A thousand poets dreamed a thousand years, then you were born, my love.” Quite possibly the sappiest last line in film history.

Much better: “Have you ever heard of Russian Roulette?” “Why, certainly. I used to play it with my father all the time.”

“Nobody handles Händel like you handle Händel.”

The film is set to the music of Rossini, Wagner and Tchaikovsky, which at times is brilliant, but at other moments is more distracting than anything else.

Antichrist – Minute Movie Review

Montag, September 6th, 2010


After the loss of their only child, Charlotte Gainsbourg is overcome by grief while her husband Willem Dafoe, a therapist, decides that he himself should help her. They go to a secluded cottage in the woods where things quickly get out of hand as her delusions begin unhinging their life. Brilliantly acted, perfectly filmed, the film is one of the most abhorrent films I have ever seen. Brutal and unrelenting, the film is anything but a pleasure to watch. But the story, the mythology and the themes make it worthwhile – and give you plenty of opportunity to muse about the film afterwards, even though what you really want to do is purge your mind of the images.

Random Observations:

Antichrist at the IMDb

Lars von Trier said that he tried to make a horror film with this, but ultimately failed. As I see it, however, he made a much more horrifying film than any of those so-called horror films today. Saw XVII or whatever they may be called.

Co-produced by just about every country in Europe (Denmark, Germany, France, Sweden, Polen and Italy, to be precise), set in the US, and filmed in my home state, Nordrhein-Westfalen.

I’ve wanted to delve into Lars von Trier’s work for a long time, but I’m not sure whether this was the right starting point. Especially since the film does not even follow the Dogme 95 rules. At least I sincerely hope it doesn’t.

Personally, I found the opening sequence, set to a beautiful piece by Georg Friedrich Händel (‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from the opera Rinaldo), much worse to bear than any of the psychological and physical torture and mutilation later on.

I briefly considered making this Lars von Trier Week, but I really need an easy comedy now.