Monday, May 5, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (4/27/14 - 5/3/14)

The Big City (Satyajit Ray) **** - An Indian family in the city experiencing difficulties to make ends meet come up with a radical and outrageous plan - the wife goes out to find work. It may sound a bit mundane and in a way it is. But within these seemingly ordinary situations, writer-director Satyajit Ray finds moments of compelling drama that has the ability to surprise, move and even thrill you. It's exquisitely crafted, of course (visually dynamic considering the subject matter) and excellently acted. This is yet another crowning jewel in Satyajit Ray's already great filmography.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Stanley Kramer) ***1/2 - Spencer Tracy is first-billed ahead of a HUGE ensemble cast of film and TV comedy stars in what can only be described as a truly epic comedy. A group of characters find out there's a stash of money hidden somewhere and they go through hilarious lengths to be able to get to it first. Is it a tad overlong? Yes. Does it go way too over-the-top at times? Sure. But is it so much fun to watch? Yes. It's also fun to spot all the numerous cameos too! Plus even at way over 2 and a half hours, the pacing is quite brisk and you'll feel the time flying. The huge ensemble of comedic actors: Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, etc. all bring their A-game giving their all complemented by extremely well-edited slapstick and stunts. It's all a really good time.

Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby) ***1/2 - I can see why this cult comedy classic is such a highly influential film. It's pretty darn terrific. It's so much more than its daring and outrageous main selling point: That it's about an affair between a 20 year old man and an-almost 80 year old woman. It is. But it cuts so much deeper than that. It's practically about life and death and living one's life to the fullest and the two characters do in often hilarious ways. But for all the laughs, the film manages to fold in moments of sadness and quite a few things to chew on. Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort make an odd pair but their chemistry works really well. You actually buy it!

My Dinner with Andre (Louis Malle) ***1/2 - This is yet another one of those films I'm surprised I haven't seen yet. The concept may sound either boring or gimmicky: The film is largely just a conversation between two old friends over dinner in an upscale restaurant. It is not at all boring or gimmicky. It is quite riveting, thought-provoking and quite entertaining. I found myself quite taken aback by how fascinating it was. Despite the fact that they do talk about big issues: Art, the meaning of life, philosophies, life experiences, the future, etc. it never felt pretentious nor did it feel like it was talking down to me. I wasn't exactly bowled over but I did like it a whole lot and I recommend people watch it and talk about it...over dinner.

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