All Quiet on the Western Front (Lewis Milestone) *** - This Best Picture from 1930 is an adaptation of a novel that chronicles the experiences of a group of German soldiers during the first World War. This film has a lot of great moments and sequences but it is another case of the parts being better than the whole film. Some scenes falter and drag and other scenes are undeniably spectacular and emotionally powerful. With the exception of two or three, the characters tend to be fairly forgettable. I agree 100 percent with the film's anti-war message (how appropriate that this would be released just before the start of World War II) but it tends to be a bit too on-the-nose and subsequent films on the same subject matter would build upon and improve on it. It's a very good film. Best Picture of 1930? It's a very good picture but I don't know.
The Spectacular Now (James
Ponsoldt) ***1/2 - Someone recommended that I see this teen romantic
dramedy that I was unable to see during its initial release just a year
ago. I'm glad I did. Miles Teller and Shaleine Woodley actually make a
cute, perfectly nice on-screen couple in this film that's actually
darker and more serious than its reputation suggests. The film handles
its humorous, sweet and romantic content and its dark and serious
content quite well. It falters a bit on the third act but manages to
stick its landing so to speak. The film mostly avoids the pitfalls that
often come with this sort of material.
Locke (Steven Knight) ***1/2 - A
construction manager on a 2-hour drive to London takes care of personal
and professional problems on his car cellphone. The film is set
entirely inside the car and it focuses only on this one character the
entire running time while we only hear the voices of the other
characters. When I first heard of this film, three questions came to
mind: Will this kind of thing be compelling and interesting for most if
not all of a feature-length running time? Will it be cinematic? Will it
stand as a nice piece of drama instead of just a gimmick? The answer is
surprisingly yes to all of that. Tom Hardy who's pretty much the entire
movie, makes it work. There's a temptation to over-direct this type of
one-man minimalist film to compensate but Steven Knight does just enough
to make it cinematically dynamic but not intrusive. It's not the best
but it's a very good piece of work.
Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno
(Keishi Otomo) *** - Here's a crazy idea: Why don't I watch a sequel to a
film I never saw based on an anime TV series I haven't watched which is
in turn based on a manga I've never read? What could possibly happen?
Well, as it turns out, it wasn't such a bad idea. I mean, it's about
samurai and I love samurai flicks. So why not? Despite only barely
knowing about the existence of this franchise, I was able to follow the
story with little problems. I thought the fight scenes were fun to
watch. Although a lot of it was a bit cartoony and cheesy than what I'm
used to seeing in this particular genre (which I'll attribute to its
anime origins), I was entertained and I do wanna see how all this ends.
It's no Yojimbo or even 13 Assassins but it's good entertainment.
Hell's Angels (Howard Hughes)
*** - Seeing as this was released the same year and tackles pretty much
the same subject matter (the first World War), I can't help but compare
this and All Quiet in the Western Front
which I also saw recently. This one doesn't quite have the dramatic
impact of that film and it's not really an anti-war but just a straight
up war film (it's more of a story between two brothers than that of a
war, really). It does have a sort of episodic structure that follows the
two brothers in their experience within the war as well as their
relationship with a woman of questionable morals. What this film outdoes
All Quiet is the presence of
Jean Harlow who's, let's face it, was fucking hot and somehow injects
some life into what could have just a macho war drama. It also features
some really amazing flying sequences which outdoes Wings
and special effects that actually kind of hold up to today's CGI
behemoths. It's far from a perfect film but it's still pretty good.
Le Million (Rene Clair) **** - A
penniless artist discovers he just won the lottery but left his ticket
in his jacket which was in turn unknowingly given away by his fiancee to
a...well, that's just giving away the movie. Among all of Rene Clair's
1930's musical comedies, this one is by far my favorite. It's got the
best music (still not memorable but better than the other two), it's got
the most laughs and it's the most well-directed. It's somewhat
comparable to Preston Sturges, if I'm being all film geeky about it.
You'll be surprised at how much fun you will have watching this black
and white 1930's French film. I couldn't recommend it enough.