Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Private Parts

I've always liked Howard Stern. When I was a little kid, I used to listen to him regularly when he was on DC 101. I even met him once. In high school, I used to record 90 minutes of his show everyday on cassette and then listen to it over the course of the day. But for some reason, I didn't see this movie when it was out. 13 years later, I was able to correct my grievous mistake.

The movie feels quite dated in a good way. The nostalgia for a bygone area makes this movie even more entertaining now than it might have been in '97. Stern is a good actor as well! I mean, he's only playing himself but he's pretty damn good. Paul Giamatti is hilarious. Robin is good. Fred is hilarious. And there were some incredibly funny radio bits that I didn't know anything about.

It's hard to say how historically accurate some of this stuff is (for example - I know he still had that silly 'stache when he was in DC but the movie pretends that he didn't - for shame Howard!) but who cares? It is way entertaining and surprisingly timeless.

I'm ready for the sequel - about how his fairy tale marriage collapsed, how he became richer than ever, but then less relevant after his move to satellite radio. On second thought, not sure that one would be as good.

Directed by Betty Thomas
1997
HBO

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Man From Laramie

This is the second movie that I've recently seen that has been described as a "psychological Western." I'm not quite sure what that means. Perhaps it means that there eventually is some complexity as to whether protagonist should go through with his initial revenge plan. So I guess it's a warning that you aren't necessarily going to get a high noon faceoff?

Anyway, this movie was pretty good but not great. I really like Jimmy Stewart in the Anthony Mann westerns but I think I prefer the two others that I've seen (Winchester '73 and The Naked Spur) to this one.

Still this is well worth watching if you like Westerns at all.

Directed by Anthony Mann
1955
TCM

Friday, June 25, 2010

Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country

This is one of the more interesting documentaries I've seen in recent years. No usual talking heads type thing - for the most part it was just hidden cameras and after-the-fact narration from some of the participants.

The underground reporters surreptitiously recorded the uprising in Burma in 2007. The behind-the-scenes footage is astounding to see and, of course, quite sad knowing how it all ended.

But this will just be another chapter in the eventual undoing of the repressive gov't. First 1988, then 2007. The only question about the next uprising is when not if. Fascinating stuff.

Seek this one out.

Directed by Anders Høgsbro Østergaard
2009
HBO

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Love in the Afternoon

Even minor Billy Wilder films are a lot of fun. In fact, this movie could have been better than it was - I just didn't buy Gary Cooper in this - he just seemed so old and a bit dowdy. Maybe Gregory Peck would have been a better call?

Either way - Cooper didn't kill this by any stretch. Audrey Hepburn is as adorable as ever. And Maurice Chevalier as her PI dad is perfect. Basically, the story goes like this: Hepburn overhears what a client of her dad is planning on doing to the man having an affair with his wife - shoot the bastard while caught in the act. Hepburn rushes to the hotel to warn the man. Turns out that the man is Cooper. She helps him get out of the situation by pretending to be his girlfriend and then eventually falls in love with the guy herself.

But this is no An Education. This time - the younger woman is the one in the driver's seat. She makes up a story about her background to Cooper and keeps everything away from her dad. Of course, everything comes out eventually and it's great watching it develop.

Wilder thought of this film as a tribute to Ernst Lubitsch and it definitely feels like one. A minor effort - but a good one.

Directed by Billy Wilder
1957
DVD

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Decision at Sundown

Randolph Scott is an angry dude. He shows up in the town of Sundown to kill his nemesis (a bully and a womanizer) who he blames for the suicide of his wife years earlier in another town. He busts into the church on his wedding day and warns that if his bride-to-be goes through with the wedding that she'll be a widow by sundown! Bam! Sundown!

The town is called Sundown. The hotel is called Sundown. And there will be a duel at Sundown!

I loved the tough guy setup. And then things slow down and doubts creep in on all fronts. Scott, the bad guy, the jilted lover, the trusted friends, the fiance, the townspeople ... This was dubbed as a "psychological western" and who am I to disagree? A crisp, fun 77 minutes.

Directed by Budd Boetticher
1957
TCM

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Road

It's kind of an impossible task to outdo the book but this adaptation was pretty good nonetheless. If I hadn't read the book, I think I would have been devastated by this.

The visuals were striking, the atmosphere scary as hell, and the acting was incredible. SHR tried watching this but was quickly turned off by its bleakness and horror. I'm not quite sure what she was expecting and felt a bit bad for her that she had to see the scene with the people locked in the basement. Scarring.

Directed by John Hillcoat
2009
Blu-ray

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hannah Takes the Stairs

Even though I had sworn off any future mumblecore movies, I got tricked into watching this. Marc and I had recently fallen in love with Greta Gerwig after watching Greenberg. Then this showed up on Sundance on Demand and I felt like I had no choice but to watch it.

Sure, Greta is scrumptious and impossible to take one's eyes off of but that does not make a good movie. I mean, this movie was fine and all. But I just don't care enough about these characters to watch these movies. I do like Mark Duplass quite a bit but I can't stand looking at Andrew Bujalski.

If this is the Breathless of mumblecore, I guess I'll have to do without the rest of the French New Wave. I don't even know what that means.

Directed by Joe Swanberg
2007
Sundance on Demand