February 29, 2008

...Big Love, Season 1 (2006)

After the first episode of Big Love, the HBO mini-series on polygamy, I was disgusted that this selfish man (Bill Paxton) would marry three wives and that three women (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin) would allow themselves to get mixed up in this situation. Like a car crash, though, something kept me watching and, ultimately, I found the series to be beautifully written, excellently acted, and extremely well-directed. Come season's end I was mesmerized, falling for the depth of these characters and the idea that who am I, of all people, to condemn another's choices; I can't wait to see what they choose in Season 2.

February 28, 2008

...300 (2006)

Every frame of 300 looks like the panel from a graphic novel - most probably because the movie is based on Frank Miller's graphic novel and it lllllooooovvveessss slow motion. 300 also loves violence, painted indoor scenes made to look like the outdoors and barely-clothed male warriors with computer-enhanced abs. Although Zack Snyder, who did the excellent remake of Dawn of the Dead, directed this very dark movie (and I mean that literally), if you are not looking for quick self-gratification or are not a video game or comic book aficionado, you might just want to pass this one up.

February 27, 2008

...Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is one dumb movie but if you're into old-school, red neckesque movies with a lot of car chases and crashes, this is the one for you. Peter Fonda is fine as the titular Larry but Susan George is horrible as the titular (and I do mean titular) Mary; it's obvious she wasn't hired for her acting. The one good thing about this movie is that the effects are all pre-CGI - what you see is what you get.

February 26, 2008

...Georgy Girl (1966)

Georgy Girl is probably most famous for its swinging title tune (two different versions of which are performed over the beginning and ending credits by the Seekers and a third performed live below) but it is also a fun, well-acted, well-scripted slice of swinging 60s London. Lynn Redgrave earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the plain, working-class Londoner who gets mixed up in the love life of her flat mate (the beautifully, unsympathetic Charlotte Rampling) and the sex life of father's employer (the coldly, sympathetic James Mason). And there ain't nothing wrong with looking at a young, hot and sexy Alan Bates for 90 minutes either.

February 25, 2008

...Dirty Love (2005)

I've always liked Jenny McCarthy's raunchy humor and, even though Dirty Love is way over the top in terms of it (some might fast forward past the scene in which Jenny buys some much needed tampons), I still respect the gal and her cojones. It's not a bad movie but it's not very good either unless, like me, you are a Jenny fan. Carmen Electra's acting as Jenny's friend is surprisingly the best part of this movie.

February 24, 2008

...Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

Peggy Sue Got Married could've been better had the writing of the script been tighter. Peggy Sue Got Married could've been better had director Francis Coppola replaced Nicholas Cage because of his ridiculous decision to imitate Gumby. Peggy Sue Got Married would have been worse had Kathleen Turner not played the titular character; but that doesn't mean this is a good movie - it's just a good performance.

February 23, 2008

...Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Knowing the truth about the 1922 German film, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, is a detriment to watching Shadow of the Vampire. The script uses the filming of the silent classic as a springboard for fiction that strays so far from the facts it makes the ending, and ultimately the story, absurd. And while Willem Dafoe received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his performance as actor Max Schreck, the usually effective john Malkovich was unconvincing as director F.W. Murnau - making this movie just a shadow of a film.

February 22, 2008

The Hills Have Eyes: 6 lines about 2 movies

92% of director/co-writer Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes (2006) remains intact from director Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977); a back story has been added to the former that seeks to put the blame for the cannibalistic clan on you, me and these here United States of America rather than the lone gas station owner of the original. The remake has crackling edits, uber-realistic makeup effects, and plenty of gore while the original still has the power of...um...originality and the type of gore that is realistic without being over-the-top. The acting in the remake is first-rate (which was not always the case in the original) with special kudos to Emilie de Raven for shucking her Lost character and her Australian accent as well as Kathleen Quinlan for just having the balls to get down and dirty in a horror film. (I enjoyed Virginia Vincent as Ethel Carter in the original but haven't seen hide nor hair of her since.) The remake's back story is interesting and allowed for a fascinating look at some historical desert happenings but it added length to the film while the original was tightly edited with nary a wasted frame. All in all, the remake is a worthy update but see the original first - you'll be glad you did.

February 21, 2008

...My Sister Eileen (1955)

Columbia Pictures made My Sister Eileen when their deal to buy the film rights to Wonderful Town, a Broadway musicalization of the play My Sister Eileen, became too expensive. They hired Jule Styne and Leo Robin and made this second musical from the same (slight) source material that is only effective when not concentrating on silliness and long even when ending too quickly. So the songs are nice but forgettable, Betty Garrett is wonderfully staid as Ruth, Janet Leigh surprisingly adept as Eileen, and Robert (Bob) Fosse sweet as Eileen's suitor and athletic in a marvelous dance off with Tommy Rall.

February 20, 2008

...Trust the Man (2006)

Self-consciously independent and arty, director Bart Freundlich seemingly tells his own story without regard for conflict. Given the green light probably because he knows actors in high places (David Duchovny, Maggie Gyllenhaal and real-life wife Julianne Moore) who wouldn't/couldn't say no, the film is, at times, downright boring. There are some good scenes (Moore choking, the sex scene) but they are overshadowed by the redundant (the old how do i fix the TV gag) and ultimately the whole thing makes me NOT want to trust this man's next movie - if there even is one.

February 19, 2008

...The Entity (1981)

An intense performance by Barbara Hershey is the main reason to see The Entity, a film based on the Frank De Felitta novel which is itself based on a true story. It's an atypical poltergeist story in which an unseen force repeatedly rapes Hershey's character. Although an interesting concept for an ending falls flat and the psychological versus spiritual mumbo jumbo takes over too much of an already long movie, Margaret Blye as Hershey's best friend and the very loud electronic beats that accompany each rape scene add some welcome relief from the clutter.

February 17, 2008

...North Country (2005)

Although it hits all the right buttons, North Country seems a bit too earnest. The acting (Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sean Bean, Sissy Spacek, Richard Jenkins) is good and the Minnesota landscape is beautiful but the script is a bit too pat. Even though I was oblivious to the women and lawsuit on which this movie was based, the sides were too evenly drawn and the ending easily foreshadowed from the beginning. The film ends up feeling like something made by an upscale Lifetime production company; not that there's anything wrong with that as the movie kept my interest and I was glad to see those evil men get their comeuppance.

February 14, 2008

...An American Haunting (2005)

An American Haunting is a short movie based on a tall legend from the 1800s in which a spirit murders a man - the only time in U.S. history, according to the film, that this has happened. Well, that's not what I saw in the movie and the historical portion was bookend-ed by a ridiculous present day mirror because, from my perspective, the producers didn't think the movie-going public would be able to sympathize with someone from the 19th century. The movie was watchable and it wasn't boring but the ending was transparent and ultimately the whole was a lot less than the sum of it's parts.

February 11, 2008

...Go West Young Man (1936)

Go West Young Man is a typical fish-out-of-water story with Mae West as Mavis Arden, a huge movie star who is forced to stay in a boarding house run by, of all people, Elizabeth Patterson (who looks as old -or young- as she did twenty years later when she played Mrs. Trumbull in I Love Lucy). Though not her best film, West does an admirable job teasing Randolph Scott and, ultimately, being tamed by the man you'd least suspect. Most interesting though are the scenes of Arden's film within the film, Drifting Lady, which gives a peak as to the actress West might've been had she not been an icon.

February 4, 2008

...Shampoo (1975)

Many think it a comedy but Shampoo is, in reality, a morose reflection of Hollywood that didn't make me laugh but was completely absorbing nonetheless. The six lead actors are phenomenal especially Oscar-winning Lee Grant and Goldie Hawn. Warren Beatty, Robert Towne and Hal Ashby have fashioned an absorbing time capsule - one that still rings true in a different time.