Recently I wrote about re-reading Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver (who also wrote my fave fishing book, Trout Madness). Tonight we watched the film. Do you remember it? It was made in 1959, directed by Otto Preminger and starring Jimmy Stewart and Ben Gazarra and Lee Remick and Eve Arden and Arthur O’Connell and George C. Scott as Claude Dancer. What a cast, what a movie. What a soundtrack too, by Duke Ellington, who also has a cameo. I’ve traveled around the Upper Michigan Peninsula, where the film was made, chasing trout, and I camped at Big Bay where the film was shot. I have to say though, that I’ve never heard any jazz on the UP. Maybe it had a happening jazz scene in 1959, but I bet when I was there, you would have a hard time finding a live jazz band in the nearest small city, Marquette. Parts of the film are very faithful to the novel and other parts were invented for the film. The courtroom drama is brilliant! If you’ve never seen this movie, I highly recommend it.
On the weekend we went to see a film called Olympus has Fallen. It was about a group of nasty terrorist types who took over the White House leaving a disgraced former secret service dude to save the day singlehandedly. Honest. We didn’t make it to the end, but we can imagine what happened plenty well enough. Amazingly, we were among very few people who bailed. Credit goes to those who stuck it out for the entirety of this turkey. For those who like to watch stuff get blown up and people killed, this movie has plenty of that. It features a really dumb and poorly written script which balances the acting, which also stunk. In fact, everything about this one stunk. Even Morgan Freeman stunk.
We watched this Hitchcock classic tonight. I had seen it before, a couple times in fact, but it was so many years ago, my memory had Robert Vaughan rather than Robert Walker playing the scheming Bruno Anthony opposite Farley Granger as tennis ace Guy Haines.
This film is visually fantastic, from the first scene, focusing on the legs and feet of crowds in a train station to the final hyper-dramatic (if implausible) carousel crash scene. This story shouldn’t really hold together, but Hitchcock was a master storyteller (and yes, one of my favourite directors)and even though I knew the story, I put aside my disbelief and went along for the ride.
We ventured out to see Life of Pi tonight. Boy was I surprised when we were handed 3-D glasses. I suggested to Tuffy P that we see this one, but had I known it was in 3-D, I would have chosen a different film. I don’t like wearing 3-D glasses, at least in part because I have to wear them over my normal glasses. As well, I find the 3-D effects to be strange and artificial, at least some of the time.
In the case of Life of Pi, felt it would have been a better film if the filmmaker had made the commitment to make it without 3-D. It would have been a shorter film, and would not have taken the time to languish in filmic effects, and I would have been fine with that. On the whole, my biggest criticism of the film is that it was too long in any case. I think a full half hour could have been edited out and the film would have been stronger.
Still, it is a beautiful work and a fantastic story and it’s well worth seeing.
Yesterday was a very unusual day for us in that we watched two films. We saw Skyfall at the cinema, and late last night, we watched The Train on television. The train is a 1965 film directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield. It’s set in France in 1944 and it’s about the attempt by a Nazi Colonel to steal a trainload of paintings – French national art treasures – and transport them to Germany. Scofield is the Colonel and Burt Lancaster is the train man who also happens to be part of the French underground.
Can paintings be worth dying for? What if they’re really really good paintings or really important paintings? Would it matter if the paintings were antiquities or modern? In The Train, the paintings appear to be mostly modern or at least painted within the last century. What if those paintings are symbolic of a world free of fascism? The German Colonel claims to have some special appreciation for the paintings even though he acknowledges that to the Nazis their value is only in their cash value to Germany. Labiche, the Lancaster character, initially is not interested in saving the paintings. He doesn’t know these paintings and they hold no special meaning for him. He’s much more focused on helping the allies blow up a train yard full of armaments. However, along the way he changes his attitude and resolves to save the paintings.
The Train is beautifully shot in black and white. Without all the technical wizardry we saw in Skyfall earlier in the day, Frankenheimer created a film as visually satisfying as it is riveting. Performances are very solid throughout. It’s really a fantastic film. Last night was the first time I watched The Train. In fact, I knew nothing about it going in. We happened to see the teaser for the film earlier in the evening on TVO and resolved to try to stay up for it. It had a late start (for us at least) and I was tired after a long and difficult week. I’d love to watch this one a second time to take in more of the detail. Great film.
Skyfall is jolly good fun. Great chases. Lots of stuff gets exploded. Plenty of gunshots. A couple swell-looking babes. The bad guy is the same guy who played the bad guy in No Country for Old Men so right away you know he’s a really evil dude. The plot is more interesting than the usual bad guy seeking world dominance (but still, in this kind of movie, the plot is just there to connect the action scenes). For a chunk of the movie, Bond is plugged in, being helped out by phone. That reminded me of guys you see in grocery stores talking on their blue-tooth devices while they shop. “Um, there are four different ones…which one did you say you want?. Oh OK, got it”. Ah, but the message is it is the bad guy who is the master of the plugged in world. We learn that at heart, Bond is old-school, remaining in the shadows.
I think this film does a great job of reinvigorating the Bond franchise. Maybe it’s the best one of the whole bunch. If you’re in need of a stylish, fast-paced, action romp, go see this one. I’ve never been a big James Bond fan, but I had a great time watching this movie.
We watched the 1980 John Cassavetes film Gloria tonight on television (TV Ontario). I knew nothing about this one going in except that it starred Gena Rowlands and was written and directed by Cassavetes, who was her husband. It is quite an engaging film, and Gena Rowlands gave a terrific performance as a former mob moll who protects a child whose parents were gunned down by the same mob. I enjoyed the matter-of-fact style of this movie, not to mention the surprising shooting scenes. If you haven’t seen this film, it’s well worth watching if you get a chance.
They didn’t eat the steak and eggs. There was a scene in Looper in which the two protagonists, who are the same person but not the same actor (it’s a time travel thing), sit down together at an unlikely diner seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They both order steak and eggs. The waitress brings the steak and eggs. There’s a nice overhead shot of the steak and eggs. And then they don’t bother to eat them. That’s just not right.
Looper is a sci-fi time-travel shoot-em-up Bruce Willis actioner with a hint of bad horror flick (yes Mr. Willis even does the tiresome smirk). There are a few problems, such as writing, acting, characterization, and believability. In a generous mood, I might call Looper an “OK timewaster”. And yet, this film gets 93% on the tomatometer. You go figure. Richard Roper wrote: “Writer-director Rian Johnson establishes himself as an original talent who clearly believes storytelling must prevail.” Clint O’Connor from the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote: “Looper’s super. An action-thriller that bothers to have a brain.” John Wirt from the Baton Rouge Advocate wrote: “A just about brilliant sci-fi crime-drama-thriller mostly set in the years 2044 and 2074. Rian Johnson is a rare director who creates entertainment with depth.” There are lots more. You can take their word for it or you can take mine.
Fortunately there are plenty of other good films at your local cinema to enjoy.
By the way, in the future of this film, they have the technology to drive around in vehicles that resemble motor-bikes but have no wheel and instead fly, like something out of the Jetsons. They also have Ford F150s.
We went out to the local cinema to see Seven Psychopaths tonight. Here’s how IMDb describes the film… A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu. Peculiar? You bet. Goofy? Sometimes. Funny? Sometimes, yes. Violent? Yep. Highlights for me? A brief non-speaking role for Harry Dean Stanton, who is now 86. Also, Tom Waits has a role in the film.
I think I liked this movie, but I’m just not sure exactly why. As I mentioned, it’s peculiar. Do I recommend it? Well, um….yeah sure. I think so.
Off to the movies again. This time we watched End of Watch. I guess you’d call it an action thriller with obsessive use of handheld cameras. What can I say about this film?
- It is not the feel-good movie of the year
- Most used word in the film = fuck
- Police work is not for everyone.
- Toronto is a way better place to live than Los Angeles.
It’s well done, very well done, but I left the theatre with my senses dulled by the excessive violence.