Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (10/19/14 - 10/25/14)

Oops. Forgot about this.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Miguel Arteta) *** - This is surprisingly NOT a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movie. It's actually quite entertaining, contains quite a few good laughs and for a PG-rated Disney family comedy actually pushes the PG-button. However, it's not a GREAT movie either. I can definitely see the potential for a wacky, kids' version of After Hours (which is what i heard this was described) but I think the screenplay needed to be wackier and more absurdist than it ended up being. As it is, it's still pleasant and quite enjoyable thanks to the excellent cast who actually sell the material. This could have been far, far worse than it ended up being but it's not.

The Most Dangerous Game (Irving Pichel/Ernest B. Schoedsack) *** - Before they gave the world King Kong, the same team gave us a warm up with this solid adventure/horror flick. It's about a big game hunter who gets shipwrecked on an island and stumbles upon a castle where a Russian count whose hobby is hunting down "the most dangerous game", i.e. humans. It's no masterpiece but it's still an entertaining B-movie. With stuff like The Hunger Games being popular, I can't help but wonder why there hasn't been a jacked-up glossy updated remake of this yet (apparently one is in development hell).

Sans Soleil (Chris Marker) **** - An extraordinarily beautiful film. This is probably what Terrence Malick film would look like without any form of narrative. Technically, it's a documentary but it's so much more than that. Footage taken from all over the world are assembled (primarily Japanese) and this beautiful narration read over it which is said to be a letter from the cameraman which makes it deeper, thought-provoking, personal and frankly, poetic. There's some really jaw-dropping imagery here that is simply mesmerizing (as well as some shocking, grotesque ones). I expected nothing less from the same man who managed to create a science-fiction film almost completely from still photographs. I'm gonna be thinking about this film a lot.

Fury (David Ayer) *** - This film contains five characters who are basically walking character tropes from war movies: The Leader Who Has Seen It All, The Religious Guy, The Token Minority, The Crazy Guy and The New Green Kid. The film basically plays out like a solid, World War II movie. No more, no less. It is superbly acted and well-crafted but doesn't really add anything new. Even the characters, though well-played by its cast, only follow the arc that you would expect from a film like this. There are intense moments and really good moments but not quite enough to make this any more than a very good, solid war picture.

Blonde Venus (Josef von Sternberg) ***1/2 - When a former stage performer goes back to her old line of work to help pay cure her mortally ill scientist husband, she gets seduced by a rich man. This feels sort of like a companion piece to The Blue Angel but with Marlene Dietrich playing a far more sympathetic character (and she remains sympathetic despite the fact she makes a lot of bad decisions along the way). It is not my favorite among the Dietrich-von Sternberg collaborations but it is still a terrific little melodrama that manages to be emotionally resonant, largely thanks to Dietrich who is terrific as always.

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