The Phantom of the Opera (Rupert Julian) ***1/2 - The quality of the print I saw wasn't the best and the score that accompanied it was repetitive and oftentimes not in sync with the film. Despite that, however, Lon Chaney's creepy, frightening but layered performance as the title character shines through it all. I'm also impressed with the production design. Very lavish and elaborate and I was also surprised at the color sequence. A colored silent film! Now I've seen everything.
Shadows and Fog (Woody Allen) ***1/2 - This is
widely regarded as "minor", at best, Woody Allen and me not being a Woody Allen
completist, this wasn't in my top list of priorities of films to be seen. But a
friend of mine is a huge fan and highly recommended it to me. And he was right.
This is delightful and funny parody/tribute to German expressionist films,
specifically Fritz Lang and G.W. Pabst. It is gorgeously photographed and the
mostly modern sounding dialogue at the backdrop of a period piece actually works
quite well. I will agree that this is one of Woody's more underrated pieces.
Elysium (Neil Blomkamp) **1/2 - Well,
it's not as good as District 9, first
and foremost. The best science fiction are often allegories, a commentary if you
will, on the present day. District 9 was
one. This one tries to be one but it is no longer an allegory but more of a
polemic. Despite the fact that I basically agree with the politics of the film,
which tackle several currently controversial topics like health care,
immigration and the whole 1% vs. 99%, the message is delivered with the subtlety
of a jackhammer. The action is enjoyable enough but the lack of subtlety and
nuance, oddly enough, neuters the important message that the film wishes to
convey. It's overall a decent film but a wasted opportunity.
To Be or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch) **** - A
group of actors try to bamboozle Nazis occupying Warsaw during World War II.
Wow. I can see why this is such an influential comedy. What's even more
remarkable is that it was made DURING World War II (kind of like The Great Dictator and almost as great as that
movie). The film very deftly mixes comedy and actual suspense to create a really
fun, hilarious rollicking film but amazingly without trivializing the
seriousness and gravity of its subject matter. This film is absolutely terrific.