Dear Cinema Diary - Vol 3 E6 - June 2012
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Matchstick Men (2003)
I enjoyed the film and the characters are great. Some of the best performances out of all three actors. I think I might have enjoyed the film a little bit more if I hadn't seen "The Spanish Prisoner" before this film so... the 'unexpected' wasn't all that unexpected.
A film that would have been wonderful to see in 3D. The painters used the natural contours of the cave in their work. Still, it is a remarkable glimpse into the world of primitive man. The documentary doesn't give too much speculation about the lives of those who painted the caves. Which is something you want from a documentary and leaves me with many questions. A wonderful first look at a remarkable discovery.
External Review @
I was rather hesitant to watch this film but after reading the description I was curious.
This isn't the action packed over-hyped thriller that I was expecting. The story needs little embellishments and despite knowing the ending it was still a pretty good film. The only real fault that I can think of is that the movie is far to pretty. Still, it a great bit of history and one that I'm glad was told.
A fun and enjoyable 'bank heist' film from Spike Lee. I found the characters interesting and the acting never felt over the top. Especially enjoyable was Jodie Foster as 'the fixer'. Sadly it looks like there might be an "Inside Man 2"
Columbus Circle (2012)
I have always had a strange fondness for Selma Blair, however I would be hard pressed to think of a 'good film' where I enjoyed her as an actress. Ah and well... Giovanni Ribisi who's trailer park charisma is a personal weakness. So, I figured I would give the film a chance and figured it couldn't be worse then "Princess Daisy" (1983 Judith Krantz made for tv novel).
This is a pretty basic mystery/thriller and most of what you expect is going on is quickly revealed not far into the film. The tension sill manages to stay on track leading the film towards and interesting conclusion.
After the gaping whole of disappointment that was "The Resident" I was pretty happy with this film. Also, nice to see Selma Blair and Giovanni Ribisi matured as actors. So, while the film wasn't great it also wasn't disappointing. I would easily watch the film again.
The thing that impressed me the most about the film was that there are key points where the film starts to become 'too real' and reaches an emotional level that could simply overpower the film are balanced with surrealist moments. These don't take away from the emotion of the film but add to the wonder of the story.
All of the actors clearly bring there best performances to this film. If I was to find any fault in the film it would be that the story of "Worm" was never expanded and from what I read wound up on the cutting room floor.
My only excuse for putting of watching this film for so long was simply because I wanted to reacquaint myself with the play "King Lear". While Kurosawa didn't start writing the script with "King Lear" in mind he would later draw from the play. So, don't try to cheat yourself out of reading the play, the two have notable differences.
It is strange to fall so much in love with a film that manages to put the "Epic" into tragedy. From the political to the battle field there is hardly an element that is seeped in tragedy and blood.
Trivia: The castle destroyed in the middle of the movie was specially constructed on the slopes of Mount Fuji for the film and then burned down. No miniatures were used for that segment, although an optical of another castle being burned at the end was used.
Ah, the beauty of films before CGI :)
So, the second Akira Kurosawa for the month. A great film involving multiple accounts of the murder of one man. It was nice that this was quite as nihilistic as "Runaway Train" (which was based on a screenplay by Kurosawa) but still manages to have a harsh edge to the story.
The Wages of Fear (1953)
1953 - Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Festival
I found the beginning of the film to be rather slow. I think this had more to do with the tedious and trashy romantic aspect which was annoying in a 1950's Mexican soap opera kind of way.
Yet, perhaps this aspect made the second half the film work so well. Once the trucks started to roll I was glued till the end.
And yes... make sure you rent the "Criterion" version of the film.
The Trap (2007)
While the set up for the story might not seem that original "A man must do something horrible to save his son's life". The film takes this idea down a different path. The single act of murder changes Mladen's life and leads him into a whole other world as the story twists and turns as Mladen makes attempts to 'do the right thing'.
The story is dark and sad but it isn't bleak and soulless. It is beautifully directed and I look froward to Srdan Golubovic's next film.
Plot: Should Tom make like his thuggish father or pursue his dream of becoming a pianist?
This is actually a French remake of the Harvey Keitel film "Fingers" (1978). Despite my love for Keitel and for this film I still doubt I'll watch the original.
This film deals more with internal emotional conflict. There is some external conflict but that is secondary to the story of the conflicts of ones nature and past versus what one dreams of becoming.
The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008)
As of 2009 this is the most expensive film ever made in South Korea.
The film is very stylized but it still manages to not be a silly over the top action film. No, this film is an EPIC western that didn't spare any expense.
There are a number of correlations to the "Dollars Trilogy" but this film has a very unique style. There is very few times where the film is slow and while I loved the enormous scale of the final chase scene... it did start to run a little too long for me. Yet, that is where the great soundtrack comes into focus and while solid action films might not be 'my thing' the musical score kept me delighted through out the whole film.
The Hustler (1961)
This is a dark film, filled with spite and sadness. The ugly nature of this film came as a surprise to me, especially considering the era.
Still, life is ugly and winning in life is learning to embrace what is ugly and painful, just as much as what is good and simple.
After watching this film I can officially tell you that I'm never going to watch "The Color of Money" (1986). Much like my feelings about "In the Mood For Love" and the follow up film "2046". It could only distort my feelings for the first film.
So, nope... "The Hustler" is complete and whole on its own. The powerful ending of the film is something I fear could only be watered down by a second film.
However, it would have been interesting to see a follow up film about Minnesota Fats. Jackie Gleason's quiet looks seem to speak volumes about another life and how he became trapped in a world of pool sharks and puppet-masters.
In Cold Blood (1967)
Nice to see that Colombia Pictures is capable of restoring some of their classic films. So, this was a visual delight.
The film still holds up extremely well. However, if your expecting an early version of "Natural Born Killers" your going to be disappointed. Less action and more artistic unfolding of a senseless crime.
Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
A fun and entertaining romantic comedy with a supernatural twist. On the whole the film is rather tame but that is fine. Nothing wrong with watching a sweet film from time to time.
The Onion Field (1979)
So, the tag line for the film is this "What Happened In The Onion Field Is True. But The Real Crime Is What Happened After."
The 'real crime' they are talking about is the number of court cases that happened after the murder. From the tone of the film I can only infer that the director and writer are of the opinion that the legal system has become corrupt and ineffective.
I found this films slanted and rather naive view on the court system a little boring. Yes, people who are tried and sentenced to death have a number of appeals processes that they can go through and even retry their case years later. Even then we still manage to execute innocent people.
This film was also made before the "OJ Simpson Trial" or the media circus around the death of JonBenét Ramsey. In that light the 'court room theatrics' depicted in this film are so tame that you pretty much need Cliff Notes to find anything out of the ordinary.
So, at best this film is dated and boring at worst it is offensive and naive. I can really only give the film points for acting and directing. It was a nice try but alas too many years have passed.
Runaway Train (1986)
No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity, but I know none, therefore am no beast. ~William Shakespeare, Richard III
The dark and ugly nature of humans is explored on a runaway train. This wasn't the film to follow up after watching "The Trap". So, I'm a little unsure of my feelings about the film.
Still, the movie was quite impressive even if the message is rather unsettling.
I thought the tagline for this film was so freaking halrious that it made the film a 'must see'
This is a different kind of cat named Harper... and excitement clings to him like a dame!
ROFL! OK, but seriously the film isn't cheesy or campy. It is pretty much a straight forward detective mystery. I didn't find it nearly as boring or trashy as the classic "The Long Goodbye" (1973). Actually considering the other detective films produced during the 60's and 70's this film is almost progressive.
It did feel a little slow at times but still manages to weave a complex story filled with colorful characters. My only real complaint would be that since this is based on a series of books your sort of tossed right into the middle of things. The untold back story sort of overrides the film in a few places. However, this is an aspect to the film that I'm sure the readers of the novels were thankful for the inclusion.
Butch Cassidy: Listen, I don't mean to be a sore loser, but when it's done, if I'm dead, kill him.
A more sentimental version of the Butch Cassidy and Sundance story with a bit more focus on the relationship between the two men. The film starts at the 'beginning of the end' for the Hole In The Wall Gang. So, this wasn't a constant stream of gun fights and robberies which I was rather thankful for.
Still, I think up next will be the "Wild Bunch". I'm sure Sam Peckinpah has a slightly less romantic vision.
Next to the crimes of Ed Gein, the Leopold or Loeb case is perhaps the second most used source for material. So, this is another film this month that I truely regreat putting off for so long. Granted, this isn't a horror film or a thriller for that matter. Still, it is a very chilling film with some of the best direction and cinematography that you'll find, outside of Hitchcock of course. The "compulsion" of the two killers and their ugly relationship with each-other is creepy and tragic.
Ah, yes and courtroom monologue is one of the longest monologues in the history of film. Still, a compelling argument to this day.
The Great Escape (1963)
It is difficult to find a screen shot for this film that even comes close to doing the film justice. What would be "a few things that I love about cinema" there are two things that always makes my pulse quicken when I see listed on the screen.... Panavision and DeLuxe color. Ah... it is like slipping into an alternate universe where every color is more vibrant.
I really wasn't 'into watching a film' but that quickly changed. This wasn't a simple rehashing of other prison films and Steve McQueen's roll as a star was downplayed. Of course it helped that there were a number of "A list" actors to even the feel.
Based on a true story "The Great Escape" cover more area then a traditional 'prison escape' film. A great deal of time is devoted to not just escaping from prison but the men trying to make their way to a safe country. While some aspects might have been a little soft on a subject. When it came down to it the film didn't avoid showing the tragic side of the story. Still, the death scenes didn't feel over dramatic. Ah, and thankfully no over the top soundtrack to tell me how I should feel about one scene or another.
Torn Curtain (1966)
Paul Newman and Julie Andrews seemed oddly mixed matched but they worked quite well together in this film. This is not one of Hitchcock's more praise worthy titles. Still, it was good timing to catch-up on one of the rare films of his that I haven't seen.
Absence of Malice (1981)
An interesting film regarding 'journalistic integrity'. While the film did manage to hold my full attention, it is hard to think of 'journalistic integrity' without thinking about how far we have fallen from any idea of integrity in the media.
A pretty decent little thriller from the 70's. Alas I made the mistake of watching the re-make before this film so it held very few surprises.
Still, the film is devoid of a child that *must* be saved no matter what the price. There are aspects of the 2010 I liked a little better and both films have feature terrible interior decorators. Some the acting is just as bad but with a film from the 70's it is slightly more forgivable.
Beneath the Darkness (2012)
I'm surprised that this film got an "R" rating. It is so tepid and uninspired that even classifying this film as a "Thriller" is pretty much of a stretch. So... meh... a "Teen-Scream" that won't give you nightmares.
Piranha 3DD (2012)
Just so you know, this is not a horror film. It is *anything* but a horror film. This is a teen-sex comedy (which are never funny) filled with breasts, fart jokes and the inevitable 'something bad happens to my penis' moment. The only thing that possessed me to watch the film in it it's entirety was a desperate need to find one redeeming quality or moment in the film. That moment never came. So, from the heroic female who knowingly dives into piranha invested water not just once but many... MANY times and the only thing gag worthy in the horror department was watching David Hasselhoff run in slow-motion. I can't think of any logical reason to watch this film when any of the various "American Pie Presents" films fail to be as worthless as this film.
The only thing this film centered on was various large breasted women. Oh, and there were a few moments where large breasted women were screaming.
I'll be mulling over whether or not this film fits into 'the worst films I have ever seen'. I'm pretty sure it is a contender for a spot. As a teen-sex-horror-comedy this was an epic fail.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
So, basically "Piranha 3DD" was one of those films that manages to be so horrible that I'm reluctant to watch any other film.
It was in that light that "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil" came at just the right time. They say comedy is about timing and the timing of this film had me laughing quite loudly from the start. This is a film that I'll be revisiting soon and perhaps should make part of my collection and kept on the self with 'in case of bad movie despair/depression break glass' clearly marked.
Movie Exchange Program
Shaolin Soccer (2001)
Solidly entertaining martial arts comedy film from Hong Kong. The comedy was a bit slap-stick but it worked very well in this film and is vastly better then many of the franchise comedy films the US seems to be churning out.
There are a few 'inside jokes' and one or two subtitle mistranslations but that didn't mar the film in anyway. I am very surprised that I enjoyed the film as much as I did. I guess I should have trusted 'the giraffe' more but what can I say... I have trust issues LOL ;)
OK, so at the end of the month I'll get into this a little bit more but June had a few snags with trying to get through the films I had planned. One of those 'snags' was being surprised that my 'rent-by-mail' service actually sent me "The Degalogue" set, it had been set as 'long-wait' for a very long time. After doing some reading and listening to Roger Ebert talk about the films I decided not to rush the process of viewing these hour long films. This has turned into 'cinematic yoga' as I set time aside each day to watch and reflect on one film from the 'Decalogue' series.
Let the Right One In (2008)
The Changeling (1980)
So, the things I found annoying with this film the first time I watched the film simply weren't there or were easily fixed by changing the plugs on my speakers. Yes, sometimes it really does help to double check your audio set up :P
Oh, it also helped that I paired the film with fried chicken and homemade potato salad.
Half Nelson (2006)
I have to say that considering the set up for the film, I found the ending remarkably disappointing. Some great ideas are brought up and great situations that are filled with promise but... it sort of fell flat. Never quite seeming to stick with one idea or another.
Not a terrible film, alas "The Class (Entre les Murs)" still remains my favorite contemporary class room drama.
In the Cut (2003)
While I enjoyed the film this isn't a film that I could easily recommend to anyone. I liked Mark Ruffalo's character as someone who is sexual desirable but pretty much every word that comes out of his mouth makes you want to punch him in the face. Jane Campion managed to capture this bizarre element very well.
I also liked the element of visual confusion. After a rather sexually graphic scene, the main character draws a lighthouse on the chalkboard and your not thinking about the book "The Lighthouse". There is a lot of focus on words and vision in this film but outside of a pure film theorist element I doubt many would find much in this film to enjoy.
J. Edgar (2017)
Generally I can overlook a film where the main characters make one or two wildly stupid decisions. This film was a constant stream of 'you have got to be kidding me' choices made by... well everyone. Even the fisherman who happen to get involved managed to make baffling choices.
For a film with a 'family values' agenda it certainly had some odd family dynamics... not so much cliche as... wildly stupid and hard to swallow.
The film has a great cast but acting talent and nice cinematography can't save a film this flawed.
Cinema Diary for 2012
The Year of The Dragon
This is a scrapbook of ideas, impressions and information about the movies I watch. It is basic, rough and raw in an effort to expand my personal viewing experiences. This is a creative exercise not a critical one. I hope you enjoy.
Other Diary Entires:
Dear Cinema Diary - May 2012
Dear Cinema Diary - April 2012
Dear Cinema Diary - March 2012
Dear Cinema Diary - February 2012
Dear Cinema Diary - Jan 2012
Diary Entries for 2011
October thru December | September | August | July | January
Diary Entries for 2010
December | November | October | September | August | July
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