3/24/2011

Gomorrah (2008) ***1/2 [CC Night #4]

Recommended if you enjoy watching teenage boys in their underwear firing machine guns in marshlands, various actors that slightly resemble Stanley Tucci and/or toxic waste.

3/20/2011

Gangs Of New York (2002) ***

I saw this film 3 times during its original theatrical run.
3 times.
I can't say that about many films.
I can think of a few films that I've seen twice in the theater (Eyes Wide Shut, There Will Be Blood, Sin City, Batman Begins all spring to mind), but not 3.

This man's performance is still the best part of this film.
I used to think the weakest part of this film was the casting of Cameron Diaz.
Upon this, I believe my 6th (!) viewing of this film, she doesn't bother me so much.
But the film as a whole just doesn't grab me like it used to.

9 years ago I probably would have given GONY four stars.
It still earns its three, but doesn't quite deserve another 1/2 star.
There's much to appreciate here, but Marty has made many masterpieces and this isn't one of them.

3/17/2011

Ocean's Thirteen (2007) ***1/2

Least favorite of the three.
Still a fun "romp".
Pacino & Barkin were inspired additions.
A typical snazzy score from Holmes.

"The Brody plays."

3/16/2011

Ocean's Twelve (2004) ****

I'm in the minority here, but this is my favorite of the trilogy.
I don't know why most people hate this one.
I think it's more fun than the first film.
Couple of good cameos.
Best score/soundtrack of the three films.
Plus, how can you beat the inclusion of the dashingly charming Vincent Cassel and the absurdly beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones?

3/12/2011

Phenomena (1985) ***

Argento was still consistently good at this point, but this film is nowhere near as good as Deep Red, Suspiria or Inferno. I'd say that even Tenebre has more replay value for me. But Phenomena has some great moments.

Starring a virtually unknown, already impossibly gorgeous 13-year-old Jennifer Connelly, a somewhat typecast but appropriate Donald Pleasence and lots of insects, Phenomena has a fantastic score/soundtrack (2/3 ethereal & 1/3 heavy metal), a few superb kills, and overall is enjoyable. Some of the dialogue is pretty bad, but that's standard fare for an Argento film.

The Blu-ray from UK company Arrow is typical - a beautiful package featuring exclusive special features, 4-panel reversible cover art, a slip cover, booklet and 2-sided poster, but a less than stellar transfer. I make the exception of double dipping the repeat BD titles between Arrow & Blue Underground because BU doesn't do much in the packaging department, but their transfers beat out Arrow every time.

3/09/2011

Ocean's Eleven (2001) ****

Fun.
Entertaining.
Great cast.
Great dialogue.
Great director.
Great score/soundtrack.

What more can you ask for in this type of film?

P.S. - I've yet to see the original.

3/08/2011

'Nina Simone Sings The Blues'

This is a blues album.
And I love that most of the songs don't necessarily rely on a stereotypical blues riff.

"Do I Move You?" has more swagger than most musicians would know what to do with.

"My Man's Gone Now" (from the Gershwin opera Porgy & Bess), somewhat of a jazz/blues hybrid, has so much effortless heart and soul that it puts so many saccharine, forced, wannabe "blues" songs to shame.

"I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl" (based on a Bessie Smith song) is the perfect song for sitting in the shade on a hot lazy summer day.

"Since I Fell For You" is sexy, languid and sublime.

The sped-up version of the folk standard "The House Of The Rising Sun" peps up the album a bit.

I can never get enough Nina.

*Thanks to Iris for encouraging me to buy 'After Hours', thus beginning my love for Simone.

3/07/2011

Let Me In (2010) ***

It really is a competent and well made remake/revision/whatever.
Necessary? Not entirely.
This is hard to beat.
But I'd rather see Matt Reeves make films like this than Cloverfield.

The bad CGI cat attack scene from the 2008 film was wisely ditched.
The leads aren't as weird and creepy, which gives this film a different feel.

Underused.
Well probably not, but I can never get enough Elias.

Car crash scene was really cool.

3/06/2011

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) ****

I know this film is widely regarded as the best of "The Dollars Trilogy" and "should" be my favorite, but it's not.
That honor goes to For A Few Dollars More.
Don't get me wrong, I think TGTB&TU is an excellent film, features some of the best moments of the series (particularly the final standoff) and deserves all the praise it gets, but it just doesn't hit me the same way the 2nd film does.

One of my favorites things about this series are Eastwood's mannerisms, which he maintains throughout all three films, all centering around his signature cigars - the chomp, slight roll and spitting out little bits (not that I endorse smoking).

Lee Van Cleef is great as the badie "Angel Eyes", but I still enjoy his character ("Mortimer") from FAFDM more.

Eli Wallach is an obvious scene stealer as "Tuco" and really helps make the film work.

Which brings me to Eastwood, who I feel is relegated to the background a bit too much. It's also misleading to call him "The Good". While Blondie is not as brutal as Angel Eyes ("The Bad") or as nasty as Tuco ("The Ugly"), he's not that far behind and pretty unsavory overall.

The 3rd "Dollars" film does feature the best overall Morr score. The theme song is one of the most iconic pieces of film music ever written and many of the other songs are extremely memorable and vital to the film.

This is the 2nd time I've watched the extended version, which is 3 hours long. I have to say that I really don't feel like the added scenes contribute anything much to the film, barring one scene with some amusing dialog from Blondie comparing the number of bullets in his gun to rivals. The added scenes are also somewhat jarring due to the fact that Eastwood, Van Cleef & Wallach were brought in for dubbing in 2003. While it's nice that the studio took the time to get the original actors, their voices clearly don't sound the same, particularly Eastwood's (one scene doesn't even sound like him).

In fact, I think the film is already overlong at its theatrical length of 161 mins. A lot of The Civil War stuff just doesn't do it for me. I've never felt it added much to the story, other than to take the characters from point A to point B. Many scenes hinge on events that happen around or directly affect the characters, but others just make the movie drag, in my opinion. The seriousness and poignancy of some of the Civil War scenes always takes away from the amusing and entertaining tone of the rest of the film, for me at least. Maybe it's sacrilege to say so, but I think The Good, The Bad And The Ugly would have worked fine as a 2-hour film.

Sergio Leone would go on to make his best film (imo) two years later - Once Upon A Time In The West, which also features my favorite overall Morricone score (for a Leone film). Incidentally OUATITW's running time is the same as the theatrical version of TGTB&TU, but has never felt overly long. Paramount - can we get a US BD already??

3/04/2011

Mon Oncle (1958) *** [CC Night #3]

My first Tati film.
Entertaining, but nothing mind-blowing.

"Smells like cinema." - Ryan Grudinski (via Pop Corn)

For A Few Dollars More (1965) ****1/2

This has always been my favorite of the "Dollars Trilogy" - I love this film.
Everything about it improved on the original - the score, the shots, the characters, the plot.

Morricone's "pocket watch" theme is sublime and the music is what creates the tension throughout the film.

The addition of Lee Van Cleef's "Mortimer" opposite Eastwood's character ("Manco" in this 2nd outing) was a brilliant move and is pure cinema gold.

Gian Maria Volonté plays the brooding, scheming and at times lazy maniac to perfection.

Fistful was almost completely devoid of the famed "Leone close-up", but that changed with this film - here the close-ups, combined with the score and sound effects create iconic celluloid moments.

Bambi (1942) ***1/2

The titular character is actually my least favorite, but the animation is gorgeous, Thumper is rad and even with all this film's sappiness, it never panders the way all Disney films seem to have since Beauty And The Beast (and it doesn't feature any of the wretched pop songs that have featured in all Disney films since then).

A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) ***1/2

Another western based on a Kurosawa film, itself influenced by westerns (John Ford in particular).
Again, this one is great, but can't top the source.

Leone made a bang with his 2nd film, but would certainly hone and improve his style across his remaining 5 films (not including films for which he did not receive a directing credit).

This is also the film that propelled Morricone into the spotlight as an in demand composer of Italian films (particularly the yet to be dubbed "Spaghetti Western", which this film, for better or worse, helped launch). His score is unique, memorable and perfectly compliments Leone's style.

The first film in the "Dollars Trilogy" (I prefer to refer to the films this way, as opposed to the "Man With No Name Trilogy", as Eastwood's character is called "Joe" here) is my least favorite, but is thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.

3/02/2011

Music

Music (meaning, for the most part - the music that I've already established that I enjoy) is the only thing in my life that (almost) never lets me down.
People (including myself) are unreliable, blinded by emotions and such.
But by channeling those emotions through song (music and lyrics), something is created that can only be tainted by people (including the original artist).
By this I mean - people can overplay a song or change their opinion of it, if they become jaded or their viewpoints change.
But the true intention and expression of the song never changes, the same as a picture or film remains as it was when it was made, ingrained (until directors and musicians decide to go meddling with their previous work).
And a song remains (either in recorded fashion or performed by other artists) even after the original songwriter has died.

I really think I'd lose my mind without music.