Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Counterfeiters

This was much better than I expected it would be. For some reason, the fact that it won Best Foreign Film in 2007 seemed like a sham to me. I don't know why. Maybe I just was writing it off as yet another holocaust movie makes good on Oscar night type deal.

The film is based on a true story of the Nazi effort near the end of the war to use concentration camp prisoners to make counterfeit money in an attempt to destabilize the Allies' economies and thus their war efforts. The lead counterfeiter/opportunist/scam artist Salomon Sorowitsch is a fascinating character. I want to read the book on which this was based to learn more about him.

I just wish that the harmonica score hadn't reminded me so much of Little Fugitive - it kind of took me out of the mood of the whole thing. One movie is a holocaust drama. And the other is a movie about a cute kid in Coney Island in the '50's. Two very different moods yet very similar scores.

Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
2007
Starz

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Trouble the Water

There's some incredible footage in this documentary. A lot of it is culled from footage shot by a couple of Lower Ninth Ward residents as Katrina descended upon New Orleans, during the hurricane, and the eerie silence of the aftermath. I was struck by the brave nonchalance of some of the residents hours before the storm. What the hell else is one to do when you can't get out of harm's way? Absolutely no public transportation was provided for people to leave the city.

This movie got a lot of buzz last year. It was good but not nearly as good as the Spike Lee documentary on Katrina. Granted, that had a much larger scope and many more hours to tell the grander story. This film was quite good in the way that it zeroed in on a few individuals while putting their stories in the larger context of the entire story.

Directed by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal
2008
HBO

Monday, May 25, 2009

Vanishing Point

This and Two Lane Blacktop would be a perfect double feature. What an odd movie this is.

On a dare, a former cop/race car driver/ curly haired burnout decides to see if he can drive from Denver to San Francisco in 15 hours just for the hell of it. He refuses to get pulled over by a cop early on and then all hell breaks loose.

Narrating the whole thing and egging him on to boot is a blind DJ broadcasting from the middle of nowhere.

There are many trippy flashbacks, jive talking, and all around strange 1971 stylings. I wasn't quite sure what I was watching but I couldn't take my eyes off it. And it easily featured my favorite ending to any movie I've seen since The French Connection II.

Directed by Richard Sarafian
1971
Blu-ray

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Alibi Ike

This movie is incredibly odd. The Great Depression must have really had the country in a strange mindset. The movie was based on a Ring Lardner short story. And it had Olivia De Havilland in it. And some of the screwball antics reminded me of later Bugs Bunny bits. But man, was this 75 minute movie a tough slog to get through.

Joe E. Brown played a country bumpkin who, get this, has an alibi for everything. He is a bit naive and eventually gets into trouble with gamblers because he misunderstands what they want him to do - throw a game. He talks real funny like and does wacky things like show up to big games by driving his car through the outfield fence and onto the field. Crazy!

My favorite part of the movie is when Brown walked the bases loaded on purpose with a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th so he could show off by striking out the side a la Satchel Paige. Unlike Paige though, he gave up a game winning grand slam.

Apparently this is part of a Joe E. Brown baseball trilogy that includes a film called Fireman Save My Child that might or might not be based on Bruce Sutter. Brown started his career in vaudeville which makes a lot of sense. He ended his career playing a small but memorable role in Some Like It Hot. Brown played semipro baseball in his younger days and also played for years with the National Vaudeville Artists ballteam. He also did pregame bits on Yankees TV broadcasts in the '50's. Joe E. Brown!

Directed by Ray Enright
1935
TCM

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Night and the City

I'd love to see a double feature of this and The Wrestler. I love old movies with the seedy underbelly of professional wrestling as a backdrop. And it doesn't get any seedier than this movie. Richard Widmark is great as a snivelly scam artist in post World War II London. In fact, a better double feature would be this and The Third Man, a film set in post war Vienna. Both make excellent use of the war torn landscapes. Both look amazing in their black and white glory of shadows and conniving man.

I love every moment of this movie. The ending scenes near the bridge are some of the most memorable moments in movie history. I had seen this movie a few years ago at Film Forum and was glad to see it again.

Has anyone seen the Robert De Niro remake?

Directed by Jules Dassin
1950
Cinemax

Monday, May 18, 2009

Leatherheads

This is what Clooney decided to follow Good Night and Good Luck with? Why? So he could dress up in nice old hats? Who was the audience for this movie? Did they really think this was going to be a big comedy hit?

This movie is terrible. Absolutely terrible. I can't believe I even watched the whole thing. But SHR loves her some Clooney and we're spending an inordinate amount of time at home these days so why the hell not watch the whole thing?

How bad was this movie? Let me count some of the ways.

1. Renee Zellweger is hideous. Why does this woman keep getting movie roles? Who is a big Renee Zellweger fan? Ugh. She was playing a lightweight version of the Jennifer Jason Leigh character from The Hudsucker Proxy who herself was playing a version of great characters from screwball comedies like His Girl Friday. Needless to say, Zellweger couldn't remotely pull it off. There were absolutely no sparks between her and Clooney.

2. John Krasinski should keep his day job.

3. The entire look of the film is completely cribbed from O Brother, Where Art Thou? This reminded me of the few minutes of The Good German that I actually sat through - an incomprehensible period piece made solely for the purpose of letting the director pretend that it is still 1945.

4. Clooney knew this was bad and thought he could save it by overdoing the famous Clooney headcock of charm. Didn't work.

5. What is an interesting subject (how professional football gained popularity) was made boring and silly - a bad combination. Plus, the script didn't make too much sense.

This is a bad, bad movie.

Directed by George Clooney
2008
HBO

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback

A decent enough documentary on a fascinating band. The footage was great, the interviews were interesting. All in all, this documentary is well worth seeing.

Of course, it follows the script of a lot of these kinds of documentaries where it ends when the middle aged guys get together after years to play a much appreciated reunion show. Good times, good times.

If you don't know much about The Monks, read about them here. Or watch this great clip from German television from 1965.



Directed by Dietmar Post and Lucía Palacios
2008
Sundance Channel

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I wasn't expecting much but, wow, did this movie blow.

Let me count the ways.

1. Boring as all get out.

2. Way too long.

3. Way too stupid.

4. Why was Button born the size of a baby and then died the size of a baby? I see why he couldn't be born the size of an adult man but wouldn't it have made sense for him to die the size of an adult who had baby features?

5. No drama at all except for the scene fighting the Nazis.

6. Brad Pitt didn't look at all old. He just looked like Brad Pitt with some makeup.

7. Strained so hard to be so important. Is Erik Roth the worst screenwriter out there? He's terrible.

8. Yes, it was like Forrest Gump (another Roth script) but that movie is like Citizen Kane compared to this one. At least, things happened in that movie.

Boo!!!!!!!

Directed by David Fincher
2008
Blu-ray

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

The best part of this movie is the title. There were maybe three funny lines in this movie and I think they all came in the scene where Seth Rogen meets the gay porn stars at the high school reunion.

Kevin Smith completely sucks. I liked Clerks as much as the next 20-year-old at Grafton Stovall did but man has he sucked since then. I walked out on Mallrats. Chasing Amy was stupid. I wanted to punch him in the face in the last Die Hard movie.

To be fair, I guess I can't completely rip into the guy considering that this is the first movie of his that I've seen since '97's Chasing Amy. But this movie sure as hell doesn't have me rushing off to fill in the 11 year gap.

Something about the guy makes me hate him. He's not talented. And he really has nothing to say. That being said, there was one magical night that I did indeed love the guy.

Directed by Kevin Smith
2008
Blu-ray