Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Brewster McCloud builds wings and wants to fly around the Houston Astrodome in Robert Altman's weird allegory about who knows what exactly. This film has so many shifts in tone, you better be a very talented guy to pull this off. Altman almost succeeds but in the end the story is beyond his grasp.
There are plenty of funny bits throughout the film with spoofs of Steve McQueen's Bullitt detective, to Margaret Hamilton from The Wizard of Oz in some sort of oddball part singing the "Star Spangled Banner" Altman also has lots of throwaway jokes scattered all over the film which were probably improvised during the shooting
What does it add up to? I don't think even Altman ever knew. After throwing in lots of little jokes about birds, high speed car chases and oddball character touches, he starts killing off his actors with some sort of "Angel of Death" played by Sally Kellerman.
In the end I suspect Brewster McCloud was Altman's way of seeing how much he could get away with in a studio financed film. Robert Altman made so much money with MASH for 20th Century Fox, MGM probably thought he could work a similar money making miracle for them with his hipster sensibility. They were in for a big surprise.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
A decent director, John Irvin films an adaptation of a typically clever Frederick Forsyth novel and someone gets the inspired idea to cast Christopher Walken as the mercenary Shannon.
The Dogs of War is very well made but the reason to watch this film is Walken's hyper creepy performance. This is not a guy you would want to be left alone in a room with. Walken's character seems completely devoid of any genuine feelings towards anyone. He only seems comfortable when he is killing someone his love scenes with his ex wife are shall we say spooky. Even when he cracks a joke he gives off his creepy vibe.
Walken had a small memorable part in Woody Allen's Annie Hall as Diane Keaton's very crazy brother. The Dogs of War gave him the opportunity to expand this character into an entire film.
The film making skill in this film is very high. The legendary cameraman Jack Cardiff did the photography and John Irvin was very adept at staging the action stuff. But again, the real reason to watch this film is Christopher Walken in his ultra weirdo actor phase of his career.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
The bottom of the barrel for the Dino/Matt Helm series. Everything about this movie is terrible for a light entertainment. Dino seems completely disengaged, his comedy timing is way off. The special effects are almost non existent with action scenes filmed against process screens, and a phony flying saucer that wouldn't cut the mustard in a Flash Gordon serial.
The usual cast of bimbos seems mighty second rate in The Ambushers. Senta Burger is made up and coiffed in such a way that she is practically emitting light like a neon sign. She wears a weird almost day glow lipstick that is hard to take your eyes off of even though you try. Janice Rule is Dino's female lead and she seems to be taking this film seriously or more like she has wandered in from another movie and didn't realize this was a big unfunny joke. At least Rule is a lot more age appropriate for the middle aged Dino than some of the other women Martin hits on in these movies.
If The Ambushers has any redeeming features, I suppose it's the tacky sets and late 1960's fashions particularly the women's fashions that female cast has to wear. The clothes certainly make some kind of statement about what middle aged male filmmakers though looked hot and sexy on women when this movie was made.
Finally, this film has shall we say a rather sexist attitude towards women. Nobody expects a Matt Helm movie to be an enlightened character building experience for women that appear in it, but The Ambushers is even worse than usual when it comes to this leering slobbering attitude towards all of it's female cast.
Bottom line, nobody tried very hard on this one.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
An almost 25 year old film, technically this film still looks very impressive. Who Framed Roger Rabbit has very good period detail and is a very well made film.
The integration of the cartoon characters with the live actors reached a new level of technical achievement with the camera actually moving around instead of the usual locked down single angle setup which had been the standard practice. The actors were carefully cast, this was not a star vehicle the cartoon characters were the stars.
If the story isn't exactly falling down funny it is clever and stays very true to 40's cartoon conventions and cliches, (pianos being dropped on people, characters running into walls etc).
Although this was a Walt Disney production, animator Richard Williams was hired by the producer Steven Spielberg. Williams despised the Disney corporation and refused to work at the studio so the animation was done in England.
One of Steve McQueen's most personal projects. For some reason McQueen got it in his head he wanted to make a film out of Henrik Ibsen's play. McQueen barely looks like McQueen with his shaggy hair and beard which is probably the biggest shock while watching this film. The other unbelievable thing about this film is that it's actually pretty good.
Ibsen's drama looks at the role of the majority in a democratic society and it ain't pretty. Ibsen's conclusion that majority rule isn't necessarily the best, right or honest rule is depressingly still relevant.
This is a good not great film, a little stagy but very well acted.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Let me first say that John Carter is based on A Princess of Mars, an Edgar Rice Burroughs book that I have tried reading at least three times. This book is so bad with it's clunky plotting and terrible dialog it is virtually unreadable so why not spend 250 million dollars to make a film out of it.
The amazing thing about this film is that nobody bothered to look at the script that the director Andrew Standon wrote with Michael Chabon. Had someone actually read this garbage they would have realized this story made absolutely no sense. The more troubling aspect to this film is that everyone read the script and still let Andrew Stanton make this film. John Carter is a film that does not make one lick of sense and for an action film is overloaded with boring talk and exposition.
The director Andrew Stanton is a highly regarded member of the Pixar team who had been a part of almost every successful Pixar film in one capacity or another. It's hard to believe he made this film, it's like his ability to put together a good film completely abandoned him with John Carter.
This is the film that caused the head of Walt Disney studios to be fired which seems like justice well deserved for inflicting this junk on the public.
The only good thing about John Carter is the woman playing the martian princess who is very easy on the eyes.
Friday, May 18, 2012
David O Selznick's attempt at another large scale technicolor film centered around his obsession with Jennifer Jones. This film has been described as a "stupid sex western" by the godfather of film capsule reviewers, Leonard Maltin and that about sums it up.
Selznick called all the shots during filming irritating the director King Vidor who finally walked off the set. Selznick hired the best talent in Hollywood and it shows, the film is gorgeous to look at in 1940's technicolor. The chief problem was the mess of a script which Selznick also took credit for. Duel in the Sun effectively ends around the one hour mark, however Selznick sticks in a series of disconnected subplots in the second half which brings this sucker in at over two hours.
Selnick seemed to think that Jennifer Jones was the hottest woman in Hollywood but her supposedly sexy emoting and withering is pretty ludicrous. Jennifer Jones was capable of giving decent understated performances, but the va va va boom stuff was really beyond her range.
Martin Scorcesem counts Duel in the Sun as a seminal film for him for what that's worth
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Mix Blade Runner with some comic book called Judge Dredd and you get another attempt at a summer action film circa 1995. Throw in some comic relief and a bunch of loud action scenes with a past his time action star the result another mediocre summer film for the teenage boy crowd.
Sylvester Stallone is the humorless star, of an eccentric cast that features Diane Lane, Armand Assante, Joan Chen, Jurgen Prochnow and the hopefully one time screen appearances in the same film of Rob Schneider and Max Von Sydow who actually have a scene together, god help us.
Obviously this crummy film wasn't supposed to be taken very seriously but like Stallone's other terrible science fiction action film Demolition Man the stupid story( Judge Dredd is framed for a crime he didn't commit etc) ruins any fun that was to be had in this film. Stallone's also pretty hopeless in the film.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Falling Down is a Paddy Chayefsky, Network or The Hospital wanna be mixed with a slick southern California style of film making
On the flip side is veteran cop Robert Duvall, his last day on the job before retirement who has to stop Douglas. Obviously this is supposed to be a compare and contrast deal, about 2 white guys who have to deal with the stress of modern society.
Falling Down is directed by Joel Schumacher a Hollywood director with a polished style. This is a good looking but empty film with excellent acting but the bottom line is that this is still an empty film.
You're probably best sticking with Network or The Hospital if you are looking for angry white guy rants.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
As Barton Fink comes to it's cryptic conclusion, I am left wondering, "what is the point" of this film.
Everything about this film is first class, the direction, the sets the acting, the Coens make make very good films. However I still wonder what this all adds up to? The film is clearly some sort of satire or ridicule of a certain type of left leaning 1930's playwright like Maxwell Anderson or Clifford Odets. These guys were intellectuals writing about the "common man." Plays like Winterset or Golden Boy look kind of corny and pretentious with their concern for the "little people." But these plays are a product of a time and the Coens ridicule of these authors seems a little mean spirited.
The shots at old fashioned Hollywood studio executives also seem like pretty easy targets as well. Does anyone doubt that a Harry Cohn or a Louis B Mayer hard nosed studio executives were kind of monsters when it came to producing films? Is this really a big insight?
Still, Barton Fink is a well made film, if a pointless one.