Movie Diary 3/28/2017

He Ran All the Way (John Berry, 1951). Re-visiting this taut little noir, which features John Garfield’s last performance – a very uncompromising turn as a cop-killer. Three-fourths of the picture takes place inside an apartment, but cinematographer James Wong Howe is up to the challenge of making that space interesting. Shelley Winters co-stars. Berry got blacklisted almost immediately after making the film.

The Party (Blake Edwards, 1968). Peter Sellers doing his Indian voice in Edwards’ zany tribute to a silent-movie style of gag-making. I had forgotten many of the set-ups here – but one could never forget Sellers’ deployment of “birdie num-num,” of course.

Berlin Express (Jacques Tourneur, 1948). Odd little postwar item, seemingly conceived as a gesture toward multinational cooperation, stylishly directed. There are a few suspense sequences that suggest somebody had been studying their Hitchcock. Lots of shots of the ruins of Frankfurt and Berlin. It has an official “good neighbor policy” air that limits it; see Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair for a more biting survey of Berlin in the rubble.

Movie Diary 3/27/2017

Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2016). A French coming-of-age horror picture, very self-conscious about what it’s up to but none the less effective. Who knew veterinary school could be so intense? (full review 3/31)

The Train (John Frankenheimer, 1964). Taut suspense movie about Resistance fighters trying to keep France’s great paintings from being stolen by Nazis in the last days of the occupation. Frankenheimer really knows how to direct machinery, and that’s not a knock (related theory: Did Mike Nichols study this movie before mounting Catch-22?). Possibly a little confused about where its sympathies are on the importance of art vs. life, but exciting to look at. Some of Burt Lancaster’s stunt work is astounding.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960). Kitchen-sink drama, with a commanding performance by Albert Finney. As gritty as the movie is, the basic thing of it is sentimental. I hadn’t seen this in many years and remembered little about it, except a sense of morning-after bleariness (maybe because of the great title?), but there’s actually a lot of vitality on display.

2 Life (This Week’s Movies)

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Ryan Reynolds: Life (courtesy Alex Bailey, Columbia Pictures)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.

T2 Trainspotting. “In one scene Mark revisits his celebrated “Choose Life” monologue and revs up a new one—but he comes across like a scold now, taking jabs at cellphones and social media. Suddenly T2 sounds like somebody’s parent.”

Wilson. “No matter how outrageous the movie pretends to be, or how often it means to shock us, there’s always something conventional about Wilson’s arc.”

Life. “Let’s not overpraise Life — it’s straight schlock — but if you have any taste at all for a certain kind of sci-fi horror, this is a breathless example of the form.”

Movie Diary 3/22/2017

Life (Daniel Espinosa, 2017). Unadorned sci-fi/horror taken straight from the Thing/Alien playbook. Hardware and mayhem and very few distinguishing features, but Espinosa (with a big boost from regular contributor and fellow Swede Jon Ekstrand’s music) does keep it moving. Lulu of an ending, too. (full review 3/24)

The Boss Baby (Tom McGrath, 2017). Animated. Alec Baldwin as the voice of the baby, who dresses like a pint-sized businessman. (full review 3/31).

Nevada Smith (Henry Hathaway, 1966). Just because I wanted to watch a Western. Steve McQueen (supposedly playing a teenager) in a revenge scenario, surrounded by an awfully good character-actor cast: Brian Keith, Karl Malden, Martin Landau, Arthur Kennedy, Pat Hingle, and it goes on. (Plus, there’s a scene with Strother Martin being called “Strother.”) The locations are expansive and superbly orchestrated.

Movie Diary 3/21/2017

T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 2017). Another go with the four Edinburgh lads, now 20 years older and not much wiser. Boyle’s hyper approach is once again the source of interest and annoyance here, but give the movie credit for having a half-dozen or so riotous scenes. (full review 3/24)

Wilson (Craig Johnson, 2017). Woody Harrelson as a middle-aged loser whose problem is telling the truth too much. Which sounds a lot like a Daniel Clowes sort of hero, for better or worse. (full review 3/24)

Personal Beauty (This Week’s Movies)

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Kristen Stewart: Personal Shopper (Carole Bethuel/IFC Films)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.

Beauty and the Beast. “There’s digital fatigue, too. It’s too easy to point out that this movie is almost as much a work of animation as the ’91 picture, but all those CGI backdrops do blur together after a while.”

Personal Shopper. “While I was watching Personal Shopper, I wasn’t always sure about its apparent randomness. Then, in a final sequence set in a completely different location, the entire thing snaps into focus.”

Movie Diary 3/16/2017

The Zookeeper’s Wife (Niki Caro, 2017). World War II in Warsaw, with Jessica Chastain in the title role, Johan Heldenbergh as the zookeeper, and Daniel Brühl as a German zoologist.  Hard to screw up this kind of thing, and Chastain hits some interesting notes. (full review 3/24)

Buck and the Preacher (Sidney Poitier, 1972). Poitier and Harry Belafonte (and Ruby Dee) in a Western with plenty of racial context. It’s aged pretty well, maybe because the times haven’t changed all that much. Poitier is almost too modest about his own presence in his first film as director; Belafonte gets the flamboyant stuff. Also stars Clarence Muse and Cameron Mitchell.