Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sorry, Wrong Number

Originally a thirty minute radio play, Sorry, Wrong Number was expanded to 90 minutes when it was adapted to film. At times, the movie kind of dragged and clearly felt like the filmmakers weren't necessarily sure of the best way to flesh out the story. But when the premise is as strong as the one in this movie, you can't go too wrong.

Barbara Stanwyck plays a bedridden woman who accidentally overhears two men planning a murder when the operator mistakenly connects her to a wrong number. Of course, the murder being planned is hers! It takes her until near the end of the movie to connect the dots. The last 15 minutes or so were incredibly suspenseful. The last line of the film was perfect.

And Burt Lancaster in any movie is welcome in my book.

Directed by Anatole Litvak
1948
Film Forum

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What's Happening! The Beatles in the USA

While not quite as good as Gimme Shelter or Don't Look Back, this documentary is absolutely indispensable as far as getting a look at the young Beatles on their first trip to the U.S.

The Maysles shot this during the first week the Beatles were in the U.S. to play the Ed Sullivan show in NY and their first U.S. concert in D.C. It is remarkable how much of this resembles the later Hard Day's Night. It is fascinating to watch the band interact with each other or merely talk over each other. Ringo is the ham. Paul is kind of grumpy. John and George are pretty quiet. But they rarely directly spoke to each other. Jim arrived 15 or so minutes late and said that he had no idea what was going on at first because there were so many people talking in the film but not to each other.

Murray the K, the DJ of 1010 WINS who shadowed the band in NY is funny to watch as he tries so hard to be hip. Other highlights - the footage of a random family watching the Ed Sullivan show performance, the screaming girls during the Washington show, George singing an impromptu talking blues, Ringo tapping along to the radio, the band listening to the Impressions in the studio, George singing along to Surfin' Bird, Ringo dancing with the ladies at the Peppermint Club to the song Money, the list goes on and on.

This was shown as part of the great outdoor movie festival at Jamie's workplace. Albert Maysles was there for a Q and A which was interesting but as Erik said, "I didn't want to hear about all of the films he's currently working on. I wanted to know things like whether or not Ringo hooked up with that girl he was dancing with or not."

Directed by Albert and David Maysles
1964
Solar One

Monday, August 27, 2007

Superbad

I loved this movie. I can't stop thinking about it. I can't believe that this might even be my favorite of the three Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen comedies of the past few years. I mean, it is so damn silly. Rogen and Evan Goldberg supposedly wrote this script when they were 13-years-old. After seeing the film, I can believe that. But who cares when the 13-year-olds in question are fucking geniuses?

The characters are all hilarious. I rarely go to a movie that makes me laugh as loudly as I did during this movie. Michael Cera is a comic genius. A genius!

Like all of the Apatow movies, there's a whole lot of vulgarity tempered with tons of sweetness. I've got to wonder how many more times he can keep going back to the same well before it dries up? But those questions can wait for another day when he keeps churning out such brilliance.

Granted, Apatow is merely a producer of this film but his imprint is all over it. The sleep over scene reminded me of the geeks sleepover from Freaks and Geeks. The party scene with the adults in this film reminded me of the episode from Freaks and Geeks when Daniel invites the drunk adults and they cause problems at the Weir party. I think the highest compliment I can say about this movie is that I think that Bill, Sam, and Neal would rank this movie right alongside Stripes and The Jerk. I want to see this movie again right now. I will gladly choose to see McLovin shirts on today's youth for the next 18 months over that dumb Vote For Pedro fad. Bring it on.

This was Greg Mottola's first film since 1996's The Daytrippers, another movie that I loved.

My only complaint about my movie going experience is that the dumbasses in Rockville had the brightness setting way too low for the film. It was really dark the entire time. I should have said something but then I would miss some of the brilliance. Oh well, it just gives me yet another excuse to see this movie again soon.

Directed by Greg Mottola
2007
Rockville 13

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Scanner Darkly

The animation on this and Waking Life look so damn cool that I wouldn't mind seeing every movie like this. In fact, the whole process almost made both Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder seem like they could actually act.

This movie was pretty damn intriguing. Reeves plays a drug addict (something called Substance D) undercover cop who is ordered to spy on his housemates. There's a whole lot of paranoia going on and a whole lot of government spying as well - a movie perfect for our times. I was a little confused at times but I figure if I read the book, things might become a little clearer for me.

Directed by Richard Linklater
2006
Cinemax

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Deadline at Dawn

An honest sailor, a blind ex-husband, a dancing girl with a heart of gold, a harlot, a cheating husband, a jealous wife, a wisecracking cabbie, a protective brother. There was a lot going on in this movie. None of it all that engaging unfortunately.

Directed by Harold Clurman
1946
Film Forum

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

I could watch one of these Bourne movies once a month and not get sick of them. They are so much damn fun. My one complaint about this one and the last one is that sometimes Greengrass and his herky-jerky camera in your face filming style makes it incredibly difficult to tell what the hell is going on.

For example, the fight in the flat that ends in the bathtub was almost impossible to follow. However, I did love the lack of music in that scene, very immediate and brutal in a good way. The chase scenes were breathtakingly good. That car chase blew me away and makes the latest Die Hard look even more stupid in comparison.

And the ending was pitch perfect as well.

If anyone can let me know what happened in the first 5-10 minutes in the comments section, I'd appreciate it. For some reason, Court St. decided to pull a BAM and start the movie early! We showed up right at 2:30 for a 2:30 showing and the movie had already started five or so minutes earlier. Usually, a 2:30 showing at this theater wouldn't start until 2:40 at the absolute earliest.

Directed by Paul Greengrass
2007
Court St.

Friday, August 10, 2007

No End In Sight

This movie is a nice companion piece to the Frank Rich book about the lies and incompetence of the Bush administration in the buildup and execution of the war. The film mostly focuses on the botched first few months of the occupation. It lays out a pretty damning case about how incredibly stupid and arrogant our leaders are.

The film felt like an episode of Frontline meaning that seeing this on the small screen would be more than adequate. But see it. Of all the documentaries made thus far about the war, this will definitely be one studied and watched years from now.

Directed by Charles Ferguson
2007
Film Forum

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I Wake Up Screaming

I'm not sure but this might be the first Betty Grable movie that I've ever seen. And she's only one of many ingredients that make this movie so much fun. There's Victor Mature. There's one of my all time favorite actors, Elisha Cook, Jr. There's crazy references to Tootsie Rolls (or did I dream that, now I'm not sure), and a perfect ending of shadows and intrigue. There's doublecrossing, there's an obsessed police detective, there's murder, there's some snappy dialogue. What else could you possibly want from a movie like this? Maybe more snappy dialogue? Yeah, maybe a little more would have made me happy.

Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone
1941
Film Forum

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Last King of Scotland

When Forest Whitaker was on the screen (which wasn't nearly enough), I was mesmerized by this film. When he wasn't, I wasn't.

The soundtrack was pretty damn amazing though.

Not that I wanted to see a standard biopic of Amin by any stretch, but a fictional Scottish doctor being the main character wasn't what I wanted to see either.

Directed by Kevin MacDonald
2006
DVD

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Host

Like a cross between Godzilla, Alien, and Silence of the Lambs with a whole lot of silly times thrown in and you can begin to picture this movie. It wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it was going to be but I still enjoyed it. I'm kind of sick of the predictable American blockbuster movies so it's fun to see another culture's take on the big budget spectacle.

Jim mentioned how this was a metaphor for American military involvement in South Korea. I knew that the Americans were ridiculed at every turn in this movie (except for one brave soul who dies trying to help out near the beginning) but I was too caught up in the monster story to really think about it in those terms. I did think it was funny though that American arrogance is what led to the creation of the monster in the first place. And oh yeah, I guess South Korea is the host as the U.S. sucks the life out of them. And the fact that mass hysteria is created by a non-existent virus propagated by the Americans when the real enemy is the monster but no one seems to be terribly bothered by that fact for most of the movie. Hmmmm ... I guess I did catch on to the main point after all.

The DVD features a great extra of the director apologizing to various groups of people including people who had their leisure time disrupted because the crew was in their way during filming. I think that his apologies are completely sincere. I love Koreans.

Directed by Bong Joon-ho
2006, Year of U.S. Release: 2007
DVD

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ordinary People

This is one of those movies that I had always meant to see but had never actually sat down to watch. Last week, I finally sat down and watched it. I think I would have been okay if I had continued to overlook it.

Not that this was bad by any stretch but I just couldn't get into it. As a time capsule though, it was pretty fantastic. And I loved Judd Hirsch! I'd heard for years about how great Timothy Hutton was but, eh, whatever. Mary Tyler Moore is better when she's funny. Donald Sutherland was good though and I did like the very end quite a bit after Moore had left.

It felt dated in a "Look how emotionally raw this whole entire movie is" but I've seen better movies in the past few years (The Son's Room immediately comes to mind) on similar subject matter. Designed to win Oscars - and it did. Many of them. Bleh.

Directed by Robert Redford
1980
Cinemax

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

This is England

The first half of this movie made me wish that I had grown up as a working class Brit in the early 80's. The second half made me glad that I didn't.

The film is about Shaun, a 12-year-old boy, whose father was killed in the Falklands War. He's picked on at school and hates life. But then he is befriended by the local skinhead gang and everything changes for the better. He buys some Doc Martens, gets a buzzcut, and begins to listen to ska.

But things change drastically once a former member of the crew comes back to the fold upon being released from prison. He has been recruited by the right-wing National Front and his ideas quickly break up the group. One group wants to continue along having fun. The other wants to terrorize immigrant groups.

The film is an interesting character study and it also gives insight into what was actually going on in 1983 England. It is based on director Shane Meadows' childhood and it feels pretty damn real. This is a very good movie.

Directed by Shane Meadows
2007
IFC Center