Posts Tagged ‘based on previously published material’

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Oktober 15th, 2010


Throughout this partly autobiographical film, writer-director-lead character Dito Montiel tries very hard to push the boundaries of cinema – with often disastrous results. Through the story of how he abandoned everyone at his Brooklyn home when going to Los Angeles and how he returned when his father was very sick, he tries to present a message that is completely lost in the over-ambitious, often pretentious drivel the film largely resorts to. There is a good story somewhere and a few scenes hint at what could have been possibly in that story about growing up in hard times, but the film is much too clever for its own good to ever reach the heights it aspires too.

Random Observations:

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints at the IMDb

The film is based on the book Montiel wrote about his life, where apparently the title makes some kind of sense. Here, it is just more pretentious drivel.

The cast is headlined by the solid Robert Downey Jr. and includes a for once middling Shia LaBeouf. Considering that he is normally the worst actor of his generation, that is quite an accomplishment.

Considering that Montiel first made his name (and a lot of money) through music, it probably would have been a good idea to explore that theme somewhat more than in a few throwaway lines.

My Own Private Idaho – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, Oktober 13th, 2010


Young male gay prostitutes River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves go on a road trip in this meandering early film by acclaimed director Gus van Sant spanning from Seattle to Portland, Idaho and Rome. Along the way, they learn a lot about themselves and about life, as well as that in the end, you can’t change who you are and that your path is preordained. Or something along those lines. But the plot is not really the focus here, as van Sant experiments with the art form film, often with little success, but with a few truly memorable ideas. Phoenix delivers the best performance in his short career, anchoring a film that otherwise would have been quickly forgotten.

Random Observations:

My Own Private Idaho at the IMDb

Part of the story was inspired by William Shakespeare’s plays Henry IV and Henry V. When the characters go so far as to quote the original dialogue, it becomes a tad annoying.

Also from the experimental department: having the characters appear as cover pictures for gay sex magazines and then let them talk about that for a while. Or telling stories directly to the camera. Or sex scenes consisting of poses for still photograph. Most of these disrupt the flow of the movie even more than the Shakespearean dialogue.

In a world of gay prostitutes and their clients, of course the only truly perverted person is German. Or maybe he isn’t all that perverted and just very, very odd. Also another German trademark.

Josie and the Pussycats – Minute Movie Review

Montag, Juni 14th, 2010


Reviled by critics and ignored by audiences, this adaptation of characters from the Archie comics is actually a clever satire of pop music and teenage culture. It’s hilariously over-the-top in almost every way, features surprisingly good (and delightfully silly) music and the most unpaid product placement in film history, all in order to parody the world we used to live in back in the good old days 0f 2001 – not that much has changed. After boy group Du Jour catch onto the fact that their music features subliminal messages to get teenage fans to part with their allowance, the “Chevy is taken to the levy” and svengali Alan Cumming quickly has to find a new band, finding aspiring rock musicians Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid (in the best performance of her lifetime, even if she wasn’t in on the joke) who jump at the chance to become superstars. The film deteriorates a bit in the second half when the satire has to make way for some silly plot, but overall it’s a vastly underrated and clever film.

Random Observations:

Josie and the Pussycats at the IMDb

The first scenes with Du Jour, starring Breckin Meyer and Seth Green, are amongst the funniest in the film, perfectly setting the tone for what is to come. Their hit song “Backdoor Lover” is also quite hilarious. And yes, it’s about exactly what you think it is about.

I don’t really know, but I’m fairly certain that apart from character names, the film has nothing to do with it’s comic book origins.

I think the problem many critics had with the film was that they could not spot that in order to satire certain things, the film actually had to do them. On the other hand, I would like to believe that professional film critics are smart enough to realize that having the logos of 73 companies featured prominently throughout the film (including the McDonalds logo on a shower wall) is not product placement, but satire thereof.

Capote – Minute Movie Review

Donnerstag, Mai 20th, 2010


Despite the title, this is not your regular biopic, instead just telling the story of how Truman Capote become involved in the murder story in Kansas that served as the basis for his extraordinary true crime fiction book In Cold Blood. The film is a bleak retelling of history, somewhat elevated by the interesting subject and a superb performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role, who has no qualms about depicting the vile nastiness and arrogant narcissism of Capote – a portrayal that garnered him a (arguably long overdue) Best Actor Oscar. This awesome performance also is the film’s biggest weakness, for together with the brutal killers it takes centre stage, meaning that no character the viewer could identify with is left. More sympathetic figures like Harper Lee (the always reliable Catherine Keener), Capote’s boyfriend Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood) or police investigator Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper) are reduced to little more than cameo appearances.

Random Observations:

Capote at the IMDb

You know how all famous people know each other? Watching this film, you could almost believe that is true.

I always knew Capote was a nasty piece of work, but if his depiction in this film is correct, he hardly qualified as a human being. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a great writer, but still.

I like the story Capote tells about shooting a film with Humphrey Bogart and John Huston. Those two men are as close to being my idols as anyone.

The Awful Truth – Minute Movie Review

Dienstag, Mai 18th, 2010


After suspecting each other of infidelity, married couple Cary Grant and Irene Dunne decide to get a divorce. But during the 90-day waiting period for it to be finalized, they both do everything in their power to undermine the other’s attempt to find someone new. Based on a play (and adapted on film even before this 1937 classic), the film is a charming romantic comedy that works because both partners, despite their many flaws, are exceedingly sympathetic characters. Fine performances all around – also from the supporting cast – make this an enjoyable, if shallow film.

Random Observations:

The Awful Truth at the IMDb

Director Leo McCarey won an Oscar for this, one of very few directors ever to win for a comedy film.

Did you know that American every-man Cary Grant was actually British?

The story is a bit uneven, with her new partner definitely being wrong (and as such it being easier for the viewer to cheer for the husband to break them up), while no such indication is ever made about his new girl – meaning that her sabotage comes off decidedly more mean-spirited.

High Noon – Minute Movie Review

Donnerstag, April 29th, 2010


On the day of his wedding to Quaker Grace Kelly, city marshal Gary Cooper learns that a murderer he once sent up has been pardoned and is returning on the noon train. The town fathers urge him to leave the place immediately, but he knows that he has to stick around. Over the next 80 minutes, he desperately tries to raise help in defeating the man who has come to kill him. John Wayne once called this “a western for people who don’t like westerns” and that’s somewhat true. It’s depiction of the old West is much closer to Sergio Leone’s work than Wayne’s and Cooper’s useless search for help readily deconstructs the hero myth. The tension builds over the (almost) real time development before it unleashes itself in the final confrontation.

Random Observations:

High Noon at the IMDb

Writer Carl Foreman wrote the script as an allegory for the McCarthy witch-hunts of the HUAC – probably one of the reasons Wayne disliked it so much. The producers later purchased the rights to the story The Tin Star by John Cunningham because Foreman was unsure whether he had read it and subconsciously based the story on it.

This was Foreman’s last Hollywood project before he became blacklisted. Lloyd Bridges (father of Jeff Bridges), who played a dissatisfied deputy, befell a similar fate, but the actor was “only” greylisted.

Despite the modern day Los Angeles skyline clearly visible in the background, the shots of the deserted town have become rightfully iconic.

Interestingly, John Wayne accepted the Best Actor Oscar on Gary Cooper’s behalf, who was absent at the ceremony.

The film’s theme song “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’)” was the first non-musical song to win the best original song Oscar. The score of the entire film is also a variation on the theme, which is very unusual, was a first at the time, and is actually annoying, despite the song being completely awesome.

Secretary – Minute Movie Review

Donnerstag, April 29th, 2010


After being released from a mental institution, Maggie Gyllenhaal still has trouble dealing with life. She gets her first job working as a secretary for James Spader. Before long, their relationship turns to more than the usual employer-employee one, when he begins dominating her – and she enjoys it. An unflinching and unprejudiced look at the peculiarities of sadomasochistic relationships, the film is quite likely the most offbeat romantic comedy of all time. Sadly, despite the strong themes, the film never really finds its footing, swaying between a whimsical outlook and a harsh reality that threatens to destroy the story. Strong performances by the lead characters, however, salvage the wreck somewhat, creating an interesting and unusual film.

Random Observations:

Secretary at the IMDb

Since the film is based on a short story, the role was obviously not written with Maggie Gyllenhaal in mind, but it might just as well have been.

Both Gyllenhaal and James Spader have a knack for picking films in slightly outlandish films – Crash anyone?

The Hustler – Minute Movie Review

Dienstag, April 13th, 2010


An insanely talented pool player goes up against the best player in the country, losing in a gruelling 40 hour match due more to arrogance and idiocy than skill. Now all he dreams about is going back for a rematch, along the way encountering a helpful alcoholic and a gambler doing everything to make a profit. The first half hour of the film is incredibly boring, but after that it gets slightly better. Ultimately, this is an examination of the human condition and what matters in life, well presented in a fairly interesting tale. The ending is pretty devastating and redeems a lot of the earlier flaws.

Random Observations:

The Hustler at the IMDb

The film is an early starring role for Paul Newman, who later revisited the character in Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money.

George C. Scott as the gambler who takes an interest in Newman is simply amazing, exhibiting a screen presence and subtle menace that is amongst the best ever seen.

Cabaret – Minute Movie Review

Sonntag, April 11th, 2010


In early 1930s Berlin, an American night club singer and a British philosopher/English teacher, fall in love while surrounded by the onset of national socialism. Naturally, there are not only political but also romantic problems, all set to the performances in the Cabaret. Loosely based on the stage musical which in turn is based on short stories by Christopher Isherwood (or something in that order), the film keeps the musical numbers to a minimum, thereby eradicating most iconic songs, instead focusing on the faux realism, even going so far as to shoot (in 1971) exclusively in Germany and even West Berlin. Nevertheless, the film hardly manages to deliver the atmosphere of the time, the love story is stereotypical and the well-choreographed stage numbers are simply not enough to redeem the film.

Random Observations:

Cabaret at the IMDb

Anybody in Germany curious to see the film should beware of the Eurovideo DVD. Not only is the film cropped to 1.33:1 (from 1.85:1), a cardinal sin in my and any film lover’s book, the sound mixing is also so terrible that large part of the dialogue are barely audible. To top it all off, there are not subtitles whatsoever. Despite the fact that the DVD was re-issued in 2009, this is worse than most early DVDs from over a decade ago.

This technical problems might also be the main reason for disliking the film. I feel kind of bad about judging the film without ever having seen it properly.

The film won an astonishing eight Oscars, including Best Actress for lead Liza Minnelli (who is decidedly too talented a singer to portray someone stuck in such a third-rate establishement) and Best Supporting Actor for Joel Grey, whose Master of Ceremonies is easily the best thing about the film.

Silk – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, April 2nd, 2010


In 1862, a young French man returns to his village, falls in love and gets a job as a trader, buying silk worm eggs, that help to sustain the village’s economy. He travels repeatedly to Japan and is torn between the love for his wife and a Japanese woman. The story does sound kind of promising, but it does not deliver on that promise at all. The best parts are the few travelling scenes, with truly beautiful pictures, but otherwise the film is boring, pointless and plodding. The revelation at the end is not bad, but since the film never developed any of the characters, ultimately pointless as well.

Random Observations:

Silk at the IMDb

I wanted to see the film because I wondered what Michael Pitt would do with a straight-up leading men role. Let’s just say he should better stick to genre fare and bit parts.

The story takes place (mostly) in France and Japan. The film is based on the novel by an Italian author (Alessandro Baricco). The non-Japanese lead actors are British and American. Since the director is Canadian, this makes the film a Canadian-French-Italian-British-Japanese Production. How’s that for international movie making?