Thursday, March 6, 2014
Well this film looks great. That computer stuff is getting better every year. All they will have to do is get the price down on these computer special effects and movie studios should be rid of these pesky actors with their million dollar salaries.
Apparently almost all of this film was computer generated which might account for the weird sort of soulless look astronaut Sandra Bullock has through a lot of this film. The film is also shot in 3D so a viewer viewing it in 3D has to watch a bunch of junk float around while trying to concentrate on the story. Gravity also has some long shots with no editing as the computer camera whips around astronauts and spaceships. It's impressive but to me seems kind of pointless coming off more like a "look what we can do with this technology" stunt.
Probably the chief issue I have with this film is the story. As if it isn't dramatic enough that Russian space junk is going to destroy our heroine, you have to sit through some personal Sandra Bullock drama about a dead kid and her decision to give up fighting to survive. The resolution to this is really lame since it involves ghostly hallucinations or something. The survival of Sandra Bullock in space is actually cribbed for George Pal's Destination Moon which also used a fire extinguisher as a rescue device. There are just no original ideas anymore.
It seems that one of the goals of Gravity is to take a shot at being on the king of the science fiction film mountain that 2001: A Space Odyssey occupies. But for all of the advanced technology that this film used it can't touch that film's greatness.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Relive the 1994 Winter Olympics with this jump back to the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan skating spectacle.
I had almost forgotten about all the media craziness that went on while this epic drama played out on television. The working class girl with no money vs the coiffed and anointed ice queen who was attacked about six weeks before the Olympics by a bunch of pretty dumb thugs trying to advance the skating career of Tonya Harding.
This is essentially a talking heads movie with the usual cast of "you are there" characters chirping in with their eyewitness accounts. The documentary is also loaded up with lots of footage of the events that surrounded this epic drama. This film is quite the nostalgia wallow when all is said and done.
The ultimate irony of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan scandal was that Kerrigan went on to win only a silver metal at the Olympics that year but all the publicity that she got from the kneecapping made her famous and a millionaire.
Claude Chabrol filmed this thriller about murder in a family running a champagne vineyard. This film was shot simultaneously in French and English. The English version which I saw is a little shall we say stilted.
The story is also very slow moving with things finally picking up during the second half of the film. Chabrol was usually compared to Hitchcock when he moved into the suspense genre but Chabrol himself felt that Fritz Lang was more of an influence on his films.
The cast of The Champagne Murders included Stephanie Audran, Chabrol's wife at the time and Anthony Perkins which probably had a lot to do with comparing this film to a Hitchcock thriller.
Not the best Chabrol film that I have seen but it has it's moments particularly the stunning overhead shot towards the end of the film.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
The Orson Welles of lame stogy Hollywood films made his directorial debut with this redneck car chase comedy that is fun to watch because they wreck a lot of cars.
The film was produced by Roger Corman, the great exploiter of young talent. Howard and his father Rance Howard wrote the story which pretty much consists of cars chasing each other. Ron Howard found a part for his brother Clint Howard and loaded up some of the smaller parts with some of his Happy Days co-workers.
This film is not really anything special. Howard directs everything in a two shot which is kind of understandable since he is stuck in a car for almost the entire film. But considering that Howard had been a working actor his entire life he sure doesn't seem to know how to direct the rest of the cast. Everyone is completely over the top except for Howard and his costar Nancy Morgan who are very bland.
Probably the best thing in the film are the car chase scenes which I doubt Howard directed since that is usually 2nd unit stuff. However Grand Theft Auto made a lot of money for Roger Corman and helped Howard get better films since in Hollywood making money rules all.
A documentary on the life and career of Sven Nykvist made about seven years before his death. Sven Nykvist was the cinematographer who was as responsible for the look of an Ingmar Bergman as Bergman himself was. As the film opens, Nykvist is retired and suffering from a rare form of dementia that has made it difficult for him to speak.
The documentary is short and zips through his life and career with the primary focus on his work with Bergman and even that part of the film only looks at a few of their films. Nykvist was apparently a very private person so the usual collection of "talking heads" and film clips are featured.
Nykvist apparently had a rather messy personal life. He had an affair with Mia Farrow on the set of The Hurricane. The writer Nora Ephron mad a witty comment that she was "the only woman in Hollywood who hadn't slept with Sven Nykvist" is unfortunately not interviewed. She probably had a story or two.
The film ends on a kind of moving note showing Nykvist spending time with his family and childhood friends, not a movie star in sight. The final shot of the old and ill photographer still able to load a camera magazine is touching. This is a film that will probably interest film buffs for the most part.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
It's all about the franchise in the movie business. Paramount was hoping to get a female Indiana Jones type of series going with the Lara Croft character so they tried again after Lara Croft Tomb Raider.
What they got was essentially the same film as the first one with Angelina Jolie again playing Lara Croft. Jolie is supposed to be tough and sexy but still comes off as more scary than sexy. This time they gave her a boyfriend who's a real hardass. When we are introduced to him, he's doing push ups upside down on the ceiling of his prison cell.
Instead of chasing after some silly time control gadget in the first film. Lara Croft is now after Pandora's Box. Yet another blatant steal from the Indiana Jones films. Along with cribbing from Spielberg films, the film was edited by Spielberg's long time editor Michael Kahn but he can't spin much gold out of this mess of a movie.
At almost two hours long this film was even a chore to get through on the treadmill since it took a week to watch.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
The three book series is turned into a three film series. The films focus on the character of Lizabeth Salander, the rather strange goth/bisexual/computer hacker. The Millennium Series is essentially the three theatrical films based on the books with additional scenes added to each film to pad out the running time.
The first film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduces the character of Lisbeth Salander probably one of the most put upon characters in the history of Swedish drama. Raped and molested by her guardian, neglected by the state Salander is really damaged goods. However Salander is also a brilliant computer hacker who in one of those lazy plot devices can break into anyone's computer. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Salander teams up with a Bob Woodward like investigative reporter called Mikael Blomvkist to investigate the death of a woman over 40 years ago. The contrived plot features fascists and serial killers.
The second film, The Girl Who Played with Fire focuses on the background of Lizabeth Salander who is starting to come off as some sort of super hero who would probably fit in with the gang in The Avengers. In addition to her computer hacking skills, Salander now has fighting skills and can survive being shot several times. The story in this film has something to do with women being sold into some sort of sexual slavery while Blomvkist unravels Salander's previous life which leads into some sort of vast government conspiracy.
The final film The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest has a plot that would rival a John Le Carre novel with spies spying on other spies who are spying on other spies. The film features an evil genius and a deadly and unstoppable henchman. These guys would easily fit into a James Bond film.
Was watching this series worth the time? Well the acting is pretty good, the films are well made. The biggest liability seems to be that the story gets more convoluted and unbelievable as the series progresses. I will admit that the films kept me watching but at times all the physical and sexual abuse heaped on the Lizabeth Salander character got to be a little too much.