Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Tattooed Stanger

A dead woman is found dead in a parked car in Central Park ("a cold corpse in a hot car") and the only clue is a tattoo on her arm. Luckily, the cops thought to take a picture of the tattoo because a bad guy breaks into the morgue to slice the tattoo off of the dead woman's arm before getting shot and killed by the cops. The cops have absolutely no qualms about shooting fleeing suspects in the back in this movie.

There are a few good lines and a fun shootout at a tombstone maker's. Overall though, this movie was pretty damn slight.

Directed by Edward J. Montagne Jr.
1950
Film Forum

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The War Tapes

I'm glad that I saw this but I was a little disappointed with it. Director Deborah Scranton gave three National Guard soldiers digital video cameras to record their experiences in Iraq and then edited their footage into this film. Some of the footage that they shot was amazing and unlike any other war footage I've ever seen.

But too much of the film has the standard Iraq war doc type feel to it with the inter cutting of the soldiers' experiences and their loved ones back at home. Not that these stories shouldn't be told but I felt like I'd seen many variations of this film before.

Directed by Deborah Scranton
2006
DVD

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Cats of Mirikitani

SHR and I were completely engrossed by this documentary. It tells the story of Jimmy Mirikitani, an eighty-something Japanese-American artist living on the streets of NYC.

The film begins shortly before 9/11. After 9/11, Mirikitani has an even more difficult time of making ends meet so the filmmaker Linda Hattendorf takes him in.

Mirikitani is a fascinating subject. He and his family were interned during World War II and he had been separated from his family since the war. Hattendorf tracks down a relative and Jimmy is able to reunite with surviving family members. But for some reason, PBS edited this part out. In fact, they edited 15 minutes from the 75 minute runtime. I liked this movie so much that I want to make sure to see the whole thing at some point.

Directed by Linda Hattendorf
2006
PBS

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Into the Wild

I saw this yesterday and the more that I think about it, the more I dislike it. It just isn't very good. Too earnest in a self-satisfied humorless kind of way. But I guess that would describe both Sean Penn and Eddie Vedder whose moaning emoting is all over the soundtrack.

I loved this book and was really looking forward to seeing the film. But other than Hal Holbrook, this film is not really worth paying attention to. The book left me conflicted. Was Chris a misguided obnoxious blowhard or was there something special about him? Jon Krakauer did a great job showing both sides of the argument. Sean Penn doesn't even come close to that sort of complexity. Nothing was exciting or complex about this film. The cinematography wasn't even interesting. How does one shoot a film in the locations where this one was shot and yet look so dull?

And did I mention how awful that Eddie Vedder soundtrack was? Blech.

Directed by Sean Penn
2007
Sunshine Cinemas

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Duma

SHR made fun of me for wanting to see this. I guess I can see why but there's nothing wrong with seeing a movie about a boy and his pet cheetah, is there? I suppose this is a movie made for kids but there were some intense moments during the film.

Visually, the movie was really good. A lot of the South African landscape reminded me of something straight out of a John Ford movie. And when the boy leaves his pet out in the wild where he belongs, my heart broke. This kind of movie must bore the hell out of kids though. The pace is so slow. There's no razzle dazzle quick cuts and knees to the groin. I kind of want to see an earlier Ballard film now, The Black Stallion, although if memory serves correctly, I was bored by that movie when I originally saw it as a 6-year-old. I suppose there weren't enough jawas or lightsabers in that one for me.

Oh yeah, another reason to see this movie - Said from Oz is in it.

Directed by Carroll Ballard
2005
HBO

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Sleeping City

A pretty rough film. The filmmakers tried to capture some of the real life grittiness of Naked City by filming at Bellevue Hospital. Within the first few minutes, a young doctor is shot in the head while walking down the street. With no leads, the police send in an undercover cop who pretends to be an intern.

I'm assuming Sam Fuller dug this movie because it definitely seems like it might have been an influence on Shock Corridor. I did like this movie but it is nowhere near as good as either Shock Corridor or Naked City.

Directed by George Sherman
1950
Film Forum

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Killers

This was the second film to use an Ernest Hemingway short story as a springboard for a movie. The original film from 1946 is great. That one featured Burt Lancaster in his first movie and Ava Gardner. I saw it nine years ago but still remember being blown away by the first ten minutes or so. And the rest wasn't bad either.

This one wasn't nearly as good but still had its moments. And what's not to like about a movie with John Cassavetes, Angie Dickinson, Norman Fell, Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager (father of Project Greenlight director John Gulager), and the perfectly cast Ronald Reagan as the bad guy.

Both films start with a man getting killed in the first scene. Both times, the victim seems resigned to his fate and doesn't try to escape. In the first film, an insurance investigator stumbles upon the back story. In this film, the hired killers (Marvin and Gulager) investigate on their own.

After seeing this one, I'm curious to go back and see the original again.

Directed by Don Siegel
1964
Cinemax

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cry of the City

I went to a lot of the NY Noir series at Film Forum this summer. And by my definition, most aren't really noir. I tried once before to try to define noir. I'm not sure if I really have a tried and true definition but just because there's gun play, tough talking gangsters and cops, and it was shot in black and white doesn't necessarily make it it film noir to me. So I was glad to finally see a film in the series that fit my definition of film noir.

For starters, the director Robert Siodmak directed many other films that I'd classify as film noir like Criss Cross, The Killers, and Phantom Lady to name three. This one has got all of the elements I want to see in a film noir. Snappy lines, the weight of the world conspiring against the protagonist, a satisfyingly bleak ending. That the film isn't one of my favorites of the genre is neither here nor there. I was just happy that I was able to finally define one of the films in the series as a real film noir and not just film noirish.

Directed by Robert Siodmak
1948
Film Forum

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Crowd

What begins as a feel good romantic comedy (quite reminiscent of Harold Lloyd's Speedy during the Coney Island scenes) turns into a quite upsetting film reminiscent of Italian neo-realism of post World War II cinema.

There were moments of this film that absolutely captivated me. I didn't really know much about this film so when things take a turn for the disturbing, I was caught unawares.

This would be a good double feature with Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times with the images of the working masses being nothing more than sheep. By the end, things become a little happier and the family members enjoy themselves in a night out at the theater which reminded me of the great scene of kids watching a film in The 400 Blows.

I'm looking forward to seeing the sequel to this film, Our Daily Bread.

Directed by King Vidor
1928
Film Forum

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sherrybaby

Give this a shot for the Maggie Gyllenhaal hotness. Stay for the decent movie. Kind of like what John Cassavetes would have created if he had been commissioned by Lifetime to make a movie about a drug addict released from prison who wants to take care of her four-year-old daughter.

Another movie in the gloried tradition of "My mom would love this."

Directed by Laurie Collyer
2006
Showtime

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cop Hater

This movie was seedy! Good stuff as well. Three cops get murdered. Who killed them? Definitely had to be a cop hater, right? Jerry Orbach as a young hood steals the show here. Not nearly as good as some of the Sam Fuller stuff of this era or The Big Heat but it definitely had that same kind of sensibility.

Directed by William A. Berke
1958
Film Forum

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Towering Inferno

I was supposed to love this movie, right? Paul Newman! Steve McQueen! Amazing interior decorating!

I didn't love it though. It was okay I guess. I'm sure I would have liked it back in '74 or if I had seen it when I was 12. But, man, was it slow. It took me many sittings to get through the 2 hours and 45 minutes. And the fact that it won Best Picture proves even more that the Academy isn't just stupid now, it has always been stupid.

Newman and McQueen were great though as were all of the actors - Fred Astaire, Dabney Coleman, Fay Dunaway, Robert Vaughn, Richard Chamberlain. Even O.J. Simpson was fun to see. And some of the scenes of the escape attempts were interesting to watch. But it was just so so so damn long.

Directed by Irwin Allen and John Guillermin
1974
HD Net Movies

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Window

This was definitely one of the most entertaining films that I've seen all year. Bobby Driscoll plays a boy who witnesses a murder committed by his upstairs neighbors as he tried to get some sleep on the fire escape.

Unfortunately, his habit of telling tall tales make it so his parents don't believe him. He goes to the police station bu they don't believe him either and they bring him back home to his parents. His mother marches him upstairs to make him apologize to the neighbors for spreading mean stories about them. Bad idea.

His father works nights and his mother has to leave one night to help her sick sister. This leaves poor Bobby, home alone, ripe for the picking by the murderers.

I loved the abandoned buildings, the street scenes, the Brooklyn accents. This movie didn't waste a moment - it is all suspense and good times. I can't recommend this more highly.

Directed by Ted Tetzlaff
1949
Film Forum

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Right at Your Door

A series of dirty bombs go off in LA. A husband can't get in touch with his wife who was downtown during the blasts. The authorities instruct everyone to seal their homes and not to let any contaminated people in.

The wife comes home but the husband can't let her in. The government (all so very E.T.) lurk everywhere capturing the contaminated. The sense of claustrophobia is high, all the contact with the outside world is through the radio (all so very Night of the Living Dead). The ending is all so very Twilight Zone.

Directed by Chris Gorak
2007
Times Square 25

Monday, September 03, 2007

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Enough of those silly documentaries about Iraq and other such nonsense. The real drama resides at the arcade with the music from Karate Kid on the soundtrack.

This movie kept me smiling the entire time. The hero Steve Wiebe is so likable, the villain Billy Mitchell is so despicable, Mitchell's sycophants are fascinating, the suspense is maddening, the referee is hilarious. This movie has it all. My only complaint is that the 80 minutes go by too quickly. I could have watched at least 20 more minutes. I want to see at least one sequel to the saga. Wiebe vs. Mitchell for the Donkey Kong record will never get old.

Director Seth Gordon is developing a fictionalized film based on the documentary. I have a bad feeling that Ben Stiller might be cast as Billy Mitchell and play him completely over the top a la that dodgeball movie. I could live with Dennis Hopper as the referee though but would prefer not to.

Directed by Seth Gordon
2007
Times Square 25