Monday, December 1, 2008

Some Recent Films

This post contains spoilers... not really serious ones in my opinion, but... you heff been varned!

THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998)

This is a film I'd been meaning to see for so long and I'm glad I finally did, on some wise advice! This is one of the few Coen brothers films I hadn't seen. It reminds me in some ways of Raising Arizona (1987). A big lug of a man finds himself up against big money and some tough guys, albeit, some pretty surreal ones. Jeff Bridges makes a great lug, "the laziest man in L.A. County", in his lounging pyjamas and unwashed hair. John Goodman is brilliant and virtuosic as his pal, a Vietnam vet, and Steve Buscemi is unsettlingly normal in his role as their soft-spoken friend. It's a great cast, including Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is one I have to see again.

"That rug really tied the room together." (Jeff Bridges as the Dude)

*****

AUSTRALIA (2008)

I saw this opening night. In all my years I have only walked out of three movies. This was number three. I'd save your money and the two and a half hours you'll never get back. I won't go on about it.

"I don't have enough time left on this planet to watch the rest of this movie." (Blog Princess G)

*****

QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)

Wow. Considering Marc Foster's CV, and based on how magnificent I thought Casino Royale (2006) was, I was really expecting something special. I was disapppointed. It may not be fair to compare everything in both movies, but on all counts this film suffers. The opening song is a bore. The opening credits are technically clever but the theme is a throw-back to the old 70s Bonds, with naked women illustrated in silhouette. Not my bag, baby. We also have that particular theme that I had hoped was gone from Bond films: sadistic treatment of women by powerful men. Oh boy. The settings are gritty and realistic, but I longed for a bit of Lake Como or Montenegro. Here we have the baking desert of Bolivia and the slums of Haiti. The world is not in trouble (although I'm not downplaying the seriousness of water monopolies), but this film seems to be acting as a set up for future movies, introducing Quantum as the new evil empire. The female lead (apart from the wonderful Judi Dench as M) is Olga Kurylenko and she was lovely and strong, but with none of the irony of Vesper. Sigh. The secondary female character is an odd creature, apparently a by-the-book underling from the local MI-6 office, but dressed in boots and a short trench-coat, looking more like a low-rent stripper. There is no sexual tension, but minutes after meeting, we gather that she and Bond have gone at it. Blimey. I really like Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter and Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis, but... well, I guess that's it really. Oh please, as this was a step back, let the next Bond be another step forward, as Casino Royale was... please!

"Take a deep breath, you only got one shot, make it count." (Daniel Craig as James Bond)

*****

CHANGELING (2008)

An interesting experience. Based on a true story, it tells its grim and almost unbelievable story very well, but little stayed with me. Angelina Jolie is gunning for another Oscar. She certainly manages to keep her white gloves clean from the vat of red lipstick she wore in this film. Her hand was constantly flying to her amazing lips in a gesture of despair. But somehow... no marks! Well, I'm glad I saw it. I like her and I'm a fan of Clint Eastwood and my loyalties run deep.

"Fuck you and the horse you rode on." (Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins)

*****

TWILIGHT (2008)

Ah, now this was fun. As a vampire lover I was drawn to see this. And if I'd been 14 years old I would have fallen in love with it completely. As it was, it was a fun couple of hours, giggling at the deep self-importance of disenfranchised teen vampires, their battle with pancake makeup and lipstick (that's just the blokes), who to invite to the prom, and figuring out how to matriculate... yet again! Watching Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix (2007) last night, I recognized Robert Pattinson as Cedric Diggory, because he plays Edward Cullen in Twilight, the super-dreamy teen vampire who develops the serious hots (in his cold-skinned way) for lip-biting lovely Kristen Stewart. The film is visually stunning. The camera loves that Pacific northwest coastline. The 16-year-olds in the audience were sniggering a bit, but guess what? I'll be back for the sequel, if only to satisfy my inner 14-year-old. :)

"I know what you are. You're impossibly fast. And strong. Your skin is pale white, and ice cold. Your eyes change colour and you never eat or come out into the sun." (Kristen Stewart as Isabella Swan)

*****

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD (2007)

Werner Herzog, international saucepot, states at the start of his documentary of Antarctica that he is not here to make a cute penguin film. Part way through the film he caves as he interviews a long-term resident penguin expert. "Are zere gay pengvins?" "Have you ever seen a pengvin go inzane?" There is much to learn here and much to ponder. One young resident puts it well when he explains that it is as if all the people in the world who cannot settle where they are - if you give the world a shaking - they all fall down to the bottom. And that's Antartica. It's a fascinating place. I had no idea of the sort of underwater life forms that existed there. I highly recommend! And Herzog's narration is worth the price of admission alone.

"I voz not goingk to make a cute pengvin movie." (Werner Herzog)

*****

THE GIRL IN THE CAFÉ (2005)

Bill Nighy works for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but that is all he seems to have going for him in his rapidly aging existence. He meets a strange and lovely young woman in a cafe, and - as shy and hesitant as he is, manages in a short amount of time to invite her to be his guest at the G-8 summit, which is taking place the following week. Well, for some reason she needs no security or background checks before sharing his hotel room in Iceland, and having access to all his papers. He asks her nothing about herself (I was sure she was going to turn out to be a reporter but I was wrong, dagnabit), but he finds out a few things before the end of the film. Interesting stuff. Richard Curtis is a very successful writer/director (although David Yates directed this and he's doing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!) but why can't he let a good story just play itself out? Love Actually (2003) drove me nuts; any one of those mini stories bore telling itself in a full-length film, but it seems gimmicks always win the day. I would have loved to have seen this hesitant love story between a torturously shy man and a mysterious, damaged woman played out for its own sake, and not just been a wrapping for a (albeit highly worthy) piece of propoganda. I liked this film in parts, yet also found my toes curling.

"Ah, three hours next to the dullest man in Canada... and that's a pretty competitive category." (Penny Downie as Ruth. Hey... heyyyyy, just watch it!!)

12 comments:

Dave Coulter said...

One of my favorite musicians - Jimmie Dale Gilmore - is one of the guys on the bowling team, Dude.

And darn it, I don't want to live in a world where there aren't naked women in my 007 opening credits!

phil said...

What were the other 2 you walked out on? I can't ever remember doing that before, g, although I've sneaked INto some drive-ins in my youth. :)

Edward Hegstrom said...

I must say, I liked QUANTUM OF SOLACE a bit more than you. My main complaint was the hyperkinetic action scenes, but I did find the storyline reasonably involving, and I thought all the actors did a fine job. It obviously exists largely to wrap up loose ends from CASINO ROYALE and set up the next Bond epic, and as such, it does its job with ruthless efficiency.

Also, is AUSTRALIA really that bad? I quite liked MOULIN ROUGE and hoped this would be a decent popcorn movie, at least...

willow said...

I was wondering about Australia and if I could stand Kidman's newly rearranged face. I will cross it off my list.

glamah16 said...

CS loves the Big Lebowski and I always make him a white russina when its on cable.Heard Australia was a stinker too. Will still see Quantum of Solace despite the lukewarm reviews. I rember watching the Girl in the Cafe. I rather liked that . It was on cable a lot a few years back. The romance seemed so unlikely and yet...Great soundtrack to that movie. Thats how I discovered Sigur Ros.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Your review of Australia made me laugh! I had a funny feeling that one was way over the top for me. I believe it was the NY Times that described Nicole running and waving her arms like pump handles, so much so that one half expected well water to spout from her mouth. That made me laugh too!

I am waiting for Benjamin Button. I'm a huge Cate Blanchett fan.

Edi Style said...

Q of S i thought was the worst of all Bond. The redhead's wrinkled trench coat.... did anyone noticed that?

R.A.D. Stainforth said...

The Big Lebowski is my favourite film.

Bill Stankus said...

I too have walked out on very few films...

I doubt I'll be watching any of the ones in your list.

R.A.D. Stainforth said...

Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

John Goodman was never better.

Blog Princess G said...

Dave: I googled him, looks like I'm going to have to give him a listen... THEN watch the movie again. :) As for the naked credit sequences... sigh. I knew someone would like it, somehow, somewhere. Hee hee.

Phil: the other two were "L'Innocente" (directed by Visconti, which I walked out of when I was 15 and bored out of my mind), and "Mr. Bean" (which I walked out of because I'd already seen the gags on tv and they were done better on the tv show than that dreadful film.)

Ed: I didn't want to pay my money to see an inbetween film, I wanted the whole matzoh ball! As for Australia, yes, it was that bad and more. The sort of over the top silliness he could get away with in Moulin Rouge (which I loved) was painfully out of place in this new film. Ugh. I really mean "ugh."

Glamah: TBL got me thinking about White Russians, I'm not sure I've ever had one, but I want to try one now. As for the Girl in the Cafe soundtrack, yes, wasn't it great, and it ended with some Damien Rice!

Pamela Terry and Edward: That's a brilliant description of Nicole's arms! :) I will definitely see Benjamin Button: Cate Blanchett is a goddess!

Edi Style: What was with that trenchcoat? She looked like a strip-o-gram that never quite came off, as it were. :)

Dr. S: Excellent taste, as always.

Bill: I really recommend Encounters at the End of the World. I've not seen anything like it before.

Dr. S: John Goodman yet again showed such great range.

Brave Sir Robin said...

The Dude Abides.