Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (8/17/14 - 8/23/14)

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.

1 comment:

Michael Peterson said...

I've heard nothing but good things about Locke and want to see it.