Posts Tagged ‘Drama’

The Good German – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, Oktober 20th, 2010

Review:

In post-war Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference, American journalist George Clooney is sent on his own heroic journey when his driver is killed and old girlfriend Cate Blanchett re-emerges. Steven Sonderbergh made this film as a thriller that was meant to be an homage to film noir, down to black and white photography and the aspect ratio, but ultimately fails on both counts. Sure, the film is twisty enough for a noir classic, but it lacks the subtle charm of those films, and the story is just not all that interesting by modern standards. It’s an extremely ambitious film with many aspects to recommend it, but ultimately it fails to entertain the viewer.

Random Observations:

The Good German at the IMDb

Cate Blanchett plays a German and as such her German should be flawless, which it almost, but not quite, is. George Clooney’s German, on the other hand, is about as good as you would expect from an American living in Germany.

The film might have been a bit better without the war setting and titular good German. Then again, maybe not.

I was really impressed with how alive the film felt, even though it was completely filmed on Hollywood backlots – just like in the olden days.

Så som i himmelen – Minute Movie Review

Montag, Oktober 18th, 2010

Review:

The Swedish Film As in Heaven follows extremely successful conductor/musician Michael Nygvist after he has a near fatal heart attack and returns to the village of his youth to recuperate. Once there, the film uses every cliché of the usual underdog sports team drama, except that it’s about a choir and slightly more realistic than those films. But even the realism doesn’t change the fact that this is essentially the Swedish version of a Disney movie, what with the sappy uplifting and everything. If you go in for church choir movies, this is probably the best you can find. If you don’t, there are many better Swedish films to explore your love for Scandinavian cinema.

Random Observations:

Så som i himmelen at the IMDb

I really have nothing more to say here.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Oktober 15th, 2010

Review:

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

Review:

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.

Say Anything… – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Oktober 8th, 2010

Review:

Lovable loser John Cusack decides to date high school valedictorian Ione Skye. Surprisingly, she actually agrees to this. What follows is a sweet story about first love, combined with some unnecessary dramatic elements and some clever dialogue. Young John Cusack is adorable and his character Lloyd Dobler might be the most sought-after guy in movie history. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, the film showcases his raw talent for emotionally touching stories, without ever achieving greatness, for it is too mired in mediocrities.

Random Observations:

Say Anything… at the IMDb

Well, will you look at that. This really has been “80s teen comedy week”.

John Cusack’s sister is played by Joan Cusack, his real life sister. Sort of like Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko. Only much earlier.

Crowe already displayed his interest in music here. An interest that earlier and later culminated in Almost Famous, the somewhat biographical film about his experiences of working for Rolling Stone as a teenager.

My Bodyguard – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, Oktober 6th, 2010

Review:

At his new school, fifteen-year-old Chris Makepeace is bullied, so he decides to hire the one guy everyone is scared of, Adam Baldwin, as his bodyguard. The business relationship soon develops into a friendship as their limits are severely tested. The film doesn’t quite know what to do with the premise. It crams a few too many plot elements into the erratically told story and waivers between serious drama and light-hearted comedy. There is much promise here, but ultimately very little pay-off. Solid performances, especially from Ruth Gordon as Makepeace’s grandmother, make for an entertaining film, but it’s kind of sad to think what it could have been.

Random Observations:

My Bodyguard at the IMDb

I have to admit that I mostly picked up this film to see the début of Adam Baldwin, of firefly fame, who is decidedly not a Baldwin brother.

This appears to be “80s teen movie week”. No idea how this happened. Check in Friday to see whether it continues.

Another film with a very young Joan Cusack. And also a very young Matt Dillon. While instantly recognizable, they sure have changed a lot in thirty years.

Rain Man – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Oktober 1st, 2010

Review:

Not exactly successful car dealer Tom Cruise isn’t very sad when his father dies. But when he hears that he left all his money to a formerly unknown brother, who is severely autistic, Cruise more or less kidnaps his brother to get at the money. But naturally, things don’t quite work out this way in this classic drama about brothers, life, autism and Dustin Hoffman’s acting abilities. Though not quite as brilliant as I remembered, the film still holds up reasonably well more than twenty years after its release.

Random Observations:

Rain Man at the IMDb

In the farm house scene, where they go to watch “People’s Court”, Beth Grant plays the mother. I honestly did not recognize her. How embarrassing.

Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for his performance, the starting point for the famous “full retard” speech from the solid comedy Tropic Thunder.

I was inspired to watch this film again by the casino/card-counting scene from The Hangover, that was a clear homage to this film.

It’s funny what you remember from films that you haven’t seen in many years. I completely forgot about Cruise’s girlfriend and I could have sworn that the last scene was different – but the scene in my mind was only alluded to throughout the film. “Dad let’s my drive slow in the driveway. I’m an excellent driver.”

Surveillance – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, September 22nd, 2010

Review:

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.

A Streetcar Named Desire – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, September 15th, 2010

Review:

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

Review:

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”.