50/50 vs. Evil (Weekly Links)

Riseborough and Riley, Brighton Rock

Links to reviews I wrote this week for the Herald, and etc.

50/50. “Seth Rogen delivers his customary low-throated potty-talk, which is becoming less liberating with each repetition.”

Brighton Rock. “It all seems rather arty.”

Machine Gun Preacher. “Oddly inert.”

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. “We are reminded here that black comedy is a tricky business.”

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about character actors. You’ll hear the excuse for this could-go-for-hours topic at the archived talk; the movie bit kicks in at 13:20 (which means you can move the little cursor thing over to that spot if you like, or just listen to the Canadian news with Vaughn Palmer first).

At What a Feeling!, a 1986 review of a quintessential Eighties movie, John Badham’s Short Circuit, the success of which was a truly dispiriting thing back then. And still is.

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Movie Diary 9/29/2011

Trespass (Joel Schumacher, 2011). Strange indeed it is to find myself sort of sticking up a little for a Joel Schumacher picture, especially one as nonsensical as this, but dammit, the thing has a certain nervy B-movie energy. Nic Cage is not acting in the right register – the “I think I’ll do a funny voice” approach does not work in this kind of movie – whereas Nicole Kidman is incapable of that kind of shenanigan, to her credit. Also, Schumacher, or Andrzej Bartkowiak, actually knows how to photograph Kidman, which not everybody does. (full review 10/14)

Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (Robert Hall, 2011). Sweet skull of chrome, this movie really goes for the gore, as the director is a make-up artist with a great enthusiasm for opening up heads. It’s clear that I watch a movie like this for work, right?

51 (Jason Connery, 2011). Aliens loose at Area 51, in a movie that has SYFY schlock written all over it but is actually, amazingly, not terrible. The cast has people you’d expect at this level (Bruce Boxleitner, Jason London, John Shea), but a reasonable ear for dialogue.

At What a Feeling!, one’s day is definitively made with a review of Clint Eastwood’s Sudden Impact.

Movie Diary 9/28/2011

Restless (Gus Van Sant, 2011). You watch it and think, Well, it is good that Van Sant feels the urge to noodle around on something that barely qualifies as a movie. And yet…. (full review 10/7)

Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011). No halfway measures for our boy Lars; man, the guy really commits. First part takes place on the night of unstable Kirsten Dunst’s wedding; second part tracks a most curious solar-system phenomenon. But it’s an interesting experience to see the movie unfold with even less information than that, as I did. (full review 11/?)

And at What a Feeling!, Don Johnson rides the Vice wave into a John Frankenheimer movie, 1989’s Dead Bang.

Movie Diary 9/27/2011

A Boy and His Dog (L.Q. Jones, 1975). There are certain kinds of counterculture-era cult films that haven’t aged especially well, although the longer this post-apocalyptic black comedy goes on, the more it justifies its existence. Seeing it again for the first time in over 30 years, I think you had to be there. Don Johnson was still in his unformed stage at that point.

At What a Feeling!, I reprint my 1989 review of Licence to Kill, which was the end of the 007 run for Timothy Dalton, and a film notable for including Wayne Newton, David Hedison, and Benicio Del Toro in its cast.

Movie Diary 9/26/2011

Brighton Rock (Rowan Joffe, 2011). The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, auteur-wise (Joffe is the son of the director of The Killing Fields), and this is a pretty arty enterprise. It does look good, however, like a Hitchcock silent movie shot in 1964, and leads Sam Riley and Andrea Riseborough have a certain vibratory quality. (full review 9/30)

Patriot Guard Riders (Ellen Frick, 2011). Hard not to be stirred by giant biker dudes rolling up to military funerals frequented by the vile lunatics of the Westboro Baptist Church (that’s the group who protest in order to forward the notion that God is punishing America for its alleged acceptance of homosexuality), the better to drown out said loonies with their un-mufflered engines.

In Times of War: Ray Parker’s Story (Mark and Christine Bonn, 2007). Half-hour short consisting of Parker’s monologue about flying in a WWII bombing unit, an amazing story that includes commander James Stewart and the narrator’s close calls behind enemy lines and in a POW camp (the latter experiences allowing for some well-placed cautionary comments about the U.S. shaving the edges off the Geneva Convention in recent years). The latter two films seen at the Port Townsend Film Festival.

And the 1980s just keep happening at What a Feeling!, where Elaine May’s Ishtar is absolutely not considered a bad movie at all.

Moneyball Elite (Weekly Links)

Pitt, Hill, Money

Reviews I wrote for the Herald, and etc.

Moneyball. “It feels like a stretch.”

Killer Elite. “It’s not just the bad dialogue and forced macho posturing that make you cringe.”

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about the treatment of religion in current films – such as Higher Ground and the upcoming Machine Gun Preacher – and a few older titles. It’s archived here; the movie bit kicks in at 15:40, immediately after the monthly test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

At What a Feeling!, the Eighties continue to unfold, with reviews of the modest 84 Charing Cross Road and the zeitgeist-grabbing Fatal Attraction.

Tuesday night, I’ll be at the Issaquah Public Library giving a talk, “Alien Encounters: Sci-Fi Movies and the Cold War Culture,” at 7 p.m., in Issaquah, WA. The Issaquah Press previews the event here. During the weekend I’ll be at the Port Townsend Film Festival for its annual three-day event.

Movie Diary 9/21/2011

A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971). The ironist in Kubrick revels in scene after scene. Malcolm McDowell is remarkable, and what a change it makes going from the pallid lifeform actors of 2001 to his nervy presence. Some scenes are so deliberate and almost painfully drawn-out that it gives the lie to the speculation that maybe Eyes Wide Shut hadn’t quite been tightened up by Stanley before he died. Same Stanley. The movie certainly stands on its own, even the things that seem like missteps. And it’s still my least favorite Kubrick picture.

Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (Michael Jai White, 2011). The formidable Mr. White (Mr. Jai White?) also stars in this film, which is better than the first Never Back Down. Let the firestorm of controversy begin.

At What a Feeling!, a couple of tuneful treats from the 1980s: Dirty Dancing, and A Chorus Line.