Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Movie Diary 3-6-11


The Town(2010) A large part of what made Ben Affleck's directorial debut(Gone Baby Gone) such a pleasant surprise was it's low key tone and local Bostonian flavor. The film was set in a very specific place and community and it benefited from taking the time to explore it's corners. The Town, while still a technically adept and enjoyable film, loses that specificity and suffers for it. The film is well done, with fine performances by all(yes, even Affleck), and Affleck shows a natural talent behind the camera, but it's also incredibly straightforward. Another tale about a criminal with a heart of gold attempting one final job before he can go legit with the girl of his dreams. Pop quiz; how do you think that scenario will unfold? You probably won't be surprised.

The Seven Percent Solution(1976)
The movie starts out a bit rough, with a seemingly miscast Robert Duvall as Watson. Nicol Williamson's performance as a heroin addicted Sherlock Holmes livens up this opening stretch. In the course of a single scene Williamson will run us through one of Sherlock's patented displays of his powers of observation, mounting gradually from a calm demeanor to frenzied, flop-sweat drenched, spittle spewing mania as the effects of heroin withdrawal become more pronounced. The film is essentially split into two halves, with the first devoted to a fairly serious portrayal of Holmes' attempts to kick his addiction with the aid of Watson and Sigmund Freud(Alan Arkin). The latter half morphs into a more swashbuckling detective story complete with sword fights atop speeding trains. Both halves are great, but Duvall tips the films hand too soon with his overacting, and it isn't until the second half that the movie catches up to him.

Road Games(1981)
Stacy Keach plays a truck driver who, in his boredom, speculates on the lives of the random people he sees on the road. Eventually he begins to suspect an ominous van driver is actually a serial killer who's been crisscrossing the country preying on hitchhikers. Soon, the killer notices that he's been noticed, and the cat and mouse game begins. Keach is often hilarious as the truck driver who keeps a running conversation with himself in the tones of a particularly verbose playwright, and Jamie Lee Curtis matches him at every step as a hitchhiker who cheerfully joins in his suspicions. Essentially this film is Rear Window transplanted to the Australian highway system. Jamie Lee Curtis' hitchhiker is even referred to repeatedly as 'Hitch' in a direct nod to the great director.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Movie Diary 2-26-11 to 3-5-11


Area 51(2009)
After Dark horror productions tend to be slick, low budget attempts at blockbuster genre exercises, and as a result their films are often more competent than your average direct to video horror flick. With that competence, though, comes a lack of willingness to do anything truly outrageous and an often overwhelming blandness. SyFy originals tend to be shiny, slapdash affairs that make no effort to appear professional, only to provide with cheesy entertainment. As a result their films are often looser and more energetic and bizarre, but also too knowingly cheesy. Area 51 combines the output of these two companies into a film that refines the best traits of both without overcoming their faults. The plot, about various aliens held at the famed Area 51 staging an escape, holds potential, but it's mainly developed as an excuse to have units of soldiers picked off by faintly Giger-esque aliens. What really shines, however, are the special effects, which are composed of actual alien costumes and props with CGI augmenting some of the action. This rare occurrence(especially for SyFy) made the film no less forgettable, but refreshingly enjoyable.


Catfish(2010) The best way ot see this movie is with little-to-no idea what it's about. I don't think it would be completely unenjoyable if you knew all the details going in, but the film builds to almost unbearable levels of tension at times, and knowing how everything plays out would most likely diminish that. That being said, what Catfish achieves, almost by accident, is something many documentaries are unable to do; the moving revelation of a distinctly human personality, and the realization that it is far more vast and unknowable than we might like to think. A lot of people have accused the filmmakers of staging the events seen on screen. Having read and seen interviews with the filmmakers and read articles about the claims in the film, I believe it to be mostly genuine. I don't discount the idea that the filmmakers may have manipulated the footage, and may not have been as innocent as they appear on screen, but I think the people and emotions on display are true.


One good thing about the possibility of financial collapse is that reality television is about to get real awesome. This is a movie that defies any attempts at actually reviewing it, so let me just say that shit gets blowed up real good. And sometimes that's enough for a lazy weekend afternoon.