Friday, July 28, 2006

The Son Of The Sheik (1926)

"But why not?! My dad kidnapped HIS wife, and they're GREAT together!"

Genre: Silent Adventure Drama Romance

Starring: Rudolph Valentino (The Sheik, The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse), Vilma Banky

Directed By: George Fitzmaurice

Overview: In the sequel to The Sheik, his son falls for a dancing girl. Their romance begins but her jealous suitor kidnaps him and holds him for ransom, while the son believes that the woman he loves betrayed him all along.

Acting: Just like the director of the original The Sheik, we have a man whose made a ton of films (84 to be precise), and none of them seemed to be anything all that popular or even good, except for this one of course. Like the original, this suffers from overzealous acting, and though more refined, I don't believe it's due to the director's guidance. Culturally, by 1926, actors knew how to act differently on screen than on stage, and audiences probably expected more realistic portrayals than the slapstick hamminess of 1918.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: As one watched an old Arabian-style classic, one might chuckle at the dated and outmoded tents, the harem girls, the gaudy decor and animated displays of scimitar flaunting. Here too. Everything is far too cliche to stand the test of time. Having a desert storm pick up during the climax is not only trite, but was done in THE ORIGINAL FILM. One good stunt: jumping from the balcony, grabbing the chandelier and swinging down to the ground. I will also praise the dancing girl, Yasmin. She can surely cut a rug. Hubba, hubba.
Rating: 5

Script: "Women - Bah! Heed them not, for today's peach is tomorrow's prune!"

Unfortunately there is nothing else nearly as witty as the above line. The story unfolds with people discussing exactly what needs be said without any nuance or art whatsoever. 'I want this', 'I was the one who did this', 'This is how we get even'. God, force-feeding the audience was clearly not a problem back in 1926 either. No zing, my friends, no zing...
Rating: 5

Plot: There was a character that provided comic relief, a dwarfish little rabble-rousing brigand. He pinched prisoners, got stabbed in the butt and was hung up on a hook, left to squirm. It was strange to see this in a romantic drama, but I will say that those moments helped me through the common and obvious standard three acts of Love, Strife, Rescue. The story is better than it's predecessor, but it's still not remotely a work of imagination.
Rating: 5

Mood: The biggest mood killer here is the fight scene, where the sheik and his son face a whole gang of brigands and cut-throats, managing to keep them at bay with vicious sweeps of their swords, defeated by their 'angrily buttering bread' swooping sword techniques. What a crock. Heroism and high adventure is one thing, but if you're going to fight with a sword, at least pretend it's a fight. The whole film is just like you'd expect, a romantic frivolity with the knowledge that everything will turn out blah.
Rating: 5

No, no it's not kink, he's really actually about the girl...

Overall Rating: 52% (Son Of A SHEIK!)

Aftertaste: This is one of those films that will drift by peacefully in my mind. One of those 'I've heard about it' films that I knew did not need to be seen, but that, once viewed, would add to the overall consensus of an era, forgivable for the greater perspective of 'Anthropology', This is the reason for this silent study. Here's a little Valentino trivia for you: He was the first Hollywood sex symbol, and while promoting this film the Chicago Tribune accused him of 'effeminizing the American Male'. He challenged the author to a boxing match to defend his masculinity. How history repeats itself, considering Uwe Boll and his recent declaration to his own critics...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Proposition (2005) * Hidden Gem *


Genre: Action Crime Western Drama

Starring: Guy Pearce (Memento; L.A. Confidential), Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast; Ripley's Game)

Directed By: John Hillcoat

Overview: A man is offered a proposition by the law: "Hunt down your evil older brother and kill him before we hang your younger sibling. He'd let you find where he's hiding. Make things easy for us and your younger brother will get a pardon. You have nine days."

Acting: This director will certainly be making a name for himself. This Australian's career has been pretty much rock videos up till now, and with such big names as John Hurt, Danny Huston and Emily Watson, I'm sure he was just a little intimidated, telling these proven actors to do it again. The stars all play their roles perfectly, Watson delivers a tremendous monologue and even Hurt's small role manages to be one of the strongest.

Rating: 10

Cinematography: A mix of professional normalcy and high-art photography, we have the familiarity of the American West and the uniforms of the Union, but get this: it's Australia. The outback is a perfect environment, gorgeous and harsh, unbidden and original. Add the cinematographic flair of scenes tremendously well-storyboarded, even those of you who can only appreciate Sergio Leone for his Western mastery will begrudgingly accept these visual displays as peer.
Rating: 8

Script: "What is an Irishman but a nigger turned inside out?"

Thanks to this story's author, this will draw audiences to the theaters. When I saw 'written by Nick Cave' (of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds fame, probably my favorite songwriter, given his lyrical genius), I instantly made this the sole reason for seeing this film. I had high expectations, and will admit that the poetry was not all there, and the accents were often hard to follow. I didn't get any of the 'sparks of consciousness' that come from reading a great book, but the words do delve wonderfully and subtly into the characters and their development. Without that aspect this would just have been a hide-and-seek story, so I give credit where it's due.
Rating: 8

Plot: No, it's not just some Wild West story, it's honest and graphic, gory and rich with personal strife. Think how you would react to being offered freedom for one brother in exchange for going out and killing another. The ideas of rescue, forfeiture, cold-blooded-in-the-back fratricide and guilt all get their fair share in the mind of our anti-hero, as expected. Australia also adds an interesting flair, as does the angle of the treatment of Aboriginals. This is original in that we see and empathize with the both sides of the coin, the law-makers and the law-breakers. One of the most cerebral Westerns I've ever seen.
Rating: 9

Mood: The characters and their morality, their uniqueness, that is what sets this apart from the typical Western. There are nuances; there is the lesson of experience and justice in the Captain's eyes, and the naivete of civilization and the hard 'rule of law' from those in their white towers. Among the more immoral family clan, there is always doubt and the predictability of actions is never there. If you like Westerns, and you like to keep guessing where a story is going to take you, this is it, but be warned, the gasps of the audience on three occasions prove that there are some split-second short yet severely graphic scene that are to me, only instil deeper the harsh reality of this rugged tale.
Rating: 9

"Oh Bollucks, I seem to have gotten floggin all over me, yeees?"

Overall Rating: 88% (Allow Me To Insist)

This production epitomises teamwork. We have these perfect roles, tremendous cinematography, some nice mood music and a good script, and everything comes together with a heightened realism. I'd bet even the director wondered why it was going so easily. What did I learn from this one? The marketing and word of mouth taught me 'Stick to your guns, never believe what anyone tells you, even if it's right before your eyes, like a trailer.' If you love the works of the people involved (Nick Cave in my case) the worst that will happen is that it'll turn out to be 'fine'. When I heard it was terrible from a friend that you'd never expect to see at a Western, I trod on. People are too malleable, too easily influenced. See something, if you have any doubts that it might just be your cup of tea.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Free And Easy (1930)

If you're in MGM, you have to be an Adonis to get the girl. What arse-heards.

Genre: Comedy Musical

Starring: Buster Keaton (Go West; The Navigator), Anita Page (The Broadway Melody; Our Modern Maidens)

Directed By: Edward Sedgwick (The Cameraman; Speak Easily)

Overview: The beauty queen of Gopher City, Kansas, her mother and her manager go to Hollywood to make her famous. When she meets a star, she seems to have found herself a big break, but his intentions may be less than noble.

Acting: Before we get into the whole 'why did this movie suck' thing, I thought I'd take a moment and point the evil finger of blame all over Edward Sedgwick, who directed this brilliant man into the ground. Small consolation comes from knowing that he's dead now and can't make any more career-killing films. His record is full of films you've never heard of and overall I don't think he'll be long remembered. Good for that. The worst of the talkies, with musical numbers and morons stumbling about with their exaggerated methods. It's not a Silent, stop over-emphasizing.
Rating: 4

Cinematography: The occasional yet rare quirky moments have Keaton's flair in them. Perhaps he was able to add some of his input. I don't think I care enough to find out. Just like Speak Easily, this is a film about a guy who ends up in a show, and though the choreography is good for one part in one scene, the sets are just plain... plain. Nothing HERE for fans either.
Rating: 6

Script: Stinks. And on top of that some of the lines were so poorly timed that I wondered if the actors forgot their lines. More likely they were just saving film, thinking that that last scene's delivery was, "uh, good enough". Those are my favorite kinds of movies, where they could do it again and fix it, but choose to finish their day early. Yipee. Oh God, what a rediculous unfolding of this tale.

Rating: 4

Plot: Woman goes to the Big city to become a Star. A once super-cool crazy film legend (Keaton) tags along as her manager (more like 'third wheel') while big handsome Hollywood hunk drools all over her. She really doesn't seem all that interested in the career, but the manager and the mother get thrust into roles. Clearly this was before the days of Actor's Unions, when people who managed to sneak onto sets were given jobs lickety-split. The twist is lame, the pervert star realizing that he's a letch after Mother smashes a vase over his head. Then we wait for Buster to finish his retarded musical numbers, seeing where the steady decline of his career began.
Rating: 4

Mood: Remember watching Public Television during their marathon when you were a kid, at the point where they showed stupid musicals from the 50s and said things like "only through your contributions can we continue to show you wonderful programming like the film you are watching." Holy Christ, there was nothing else on, and at least that was colourized. This is that bad. Why are early talkies all effin' musicals!? Wait I shouldn't say things like that. I'm sorry about what I said about Public Television films. Colorization is a sin.
Rating: 4

If he had any idea what this would do to his career...

Overall Rating: 44% (At Least It Was Free... But It Sure Weren't Easy)

Aftertaste: Turns out that Buster Keaton's move to MGM studios cost him his entire reputation. In fact I think the quote was "utterly unemployable within five years". The reason why is very simple. They hired him as an actor, nothing more. I suppose they thought they knew best, but they forced him into roles that turned people off of him. No production, managing, direction or concept design, just acting. I guess it ended up being more like amputation than freedom.

Chaplin built a film studio that still prospers today. Keaton fizzled out. This is the reason young famous artists commit suicide. Christ.

Squish's Buster Keaton Silent Shorts Review Part II (1921-1923)

Well hello, hello again! The dramatic conclusion to the much-awaited Buster Keaton Shorts Review Part I.

Thanks to the wonderful generosity of a certain Monsieur Charbonneau, I've seen EVERY silent short Buster Keaton has EVER directed, so let me say a big "Thank You!" to him for that, and without further ado...

Genre: Silent Comedy, sometimes a touch of Romance, and even Romantic Comedy from time to time.

Starring: Buster Keaton (Go West; Our Hospitality)

Directed By: Buster Keaton and sometimes Edward F. Cline (The Bank Dick)

The Paleface (1921) is one of the cuter shorts he's done. When an oil company steals land rights from the nearby native Indian tribe, they vow to kill the first white man who comes through their gate? Take a wild guess who comes roaming by? This film is chock full of funny moments, as long as you take a moment to forgive the stereotypes... 82%

In The Electric House (1922), we find a man who ant his house electrified with gadgets and gizmos to facilitate easy living. Buster installs an escalator, and sets up an automatic pool ball racker, as well as a dinner service delivered by miniature train. If you like Buster's little inventions as much as I do, this is ripe with em. When an angry competitor gets into the master control room to sabotage the place though, that's good times too. 82%

Daydreams (1922) has a love-stuck Keaton vowing to the father of his beloved that he will go to the city and make it big or come back and kill himself. Soon the letters come, describing his progress, like 'cleaning up on wall street' where he's merely a street sweeper, and that sort of thing. This is classic slapstick tomfoolery and a really great short. 78%

Cops (1922) starts off with Buster being a good Samaritan by returning a man's wallet. When the man he helps turns out to be rude, he steals the wallet, and out of the kindness of his heart, buys furniture from a man pretending to have been thrown out. Unwittingly, he steals the furniture of the actual owners and somehow ends up getting chased by every cop in the city, during a policeman's parade. Funny stuff, and one heck of a quirky ending. 76%

My Wife's Relations (1922) has our hero caught up accidentally married to a woman, who promptly takes him home to her big and tall family. Here he learns to get bounced around and miss out on meals and sleep until he gets wise and devises his own plans to survive in this household. 74%

The Blacksmith (1922) has Keaton as just that, but he's quite the bungler. He manages to trash cars and equipment as well as horses in this one, but he also has a couple neat inventions, like a saddle with shocks to prevent saddle-sores. 78%

The Frozen North (1922) seems very out of character for Buster. In it, he robs a casino and actually murders two people, then realizing his mistake says "Oh, this isn't my wife OR my house!". There is ice fishing, snow shoeing and jealous fits of rage and though a little different from his standard, still quite enjoyable. 76%

The Baloonatic (1923) is not one of my favorites, but it does have a few laughs. Buster ends up taking a hot air balloon trip and crashes in the wilderness, when he must survive, but finds himself instead competing with the woman camping across the way, including catching food and canoeing. 66%

The Love Nest (1923) is another aquatic tale where our poor lady-rejected man goes out to sea, only to be 'recruited' onto a whaling ship run by a ruthless captain. Many scenes involve people getting thrown off the ship, followed by the overboard tossing of a funeral wreath. This one's great. 80%

So there you have it, pretty much ever short Buster Keaton ever did in the days of the Silent Era. There's another one down... Now I know what Grissom meant when he said that his favorite genre was Silent... As my study draws to a close, I miss it more and more.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Un Chien Andalou (1929)

The sharper the razor, the less the eyeball slashings hurt, it's true. She can hardly feel it, I SWEAR.

Silent Experimental Fantasy Short (Fance)

Starring: Simone Mareuil, Pierre Batcheff (Napoleon; Baroud)

Directed By: Louis Bunuel (Belle Du Jour; The Exterminating Angel) Salvador Dali too, Surrealist Painter Extraordinaire.

Overview: This 16 minute Surrealist short is a collection of graphic nightmarish images interposed with those of sexuality. This short film is considered one of the great surrealist film classics.

Acting: The woman getting her eye sliced open at the very beginning seems to take it rather well... the man who gropes her and drools blood also seems quite ghoulish as he does so. I never thought it would be so hard to gauge acting, even with Experimental. I guess I'll cram this between Maya Deren and The Life and Death of 9413, A Hollywood Extra.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: Yes, Salvador Dali had a major part in creating this surreal vision that is this haunting film. The very last still shot, is classic Dali, it looks like it should have been (or perhaps even WAS) painted onto a canvas. Some of these images were graphic and intricate, but most of this, unfortunately did not seem to be filmed with enough effort. Sadly, I've seen much better Experimental nonsensical film than this.
Rating: 6

Script: Eesh, not only is it Experimental, and Surrealist, AND Silent, but the only script was "Eight years later", "Three A.M." and "Sixteen years earlier". Actually, you know what? The people I was with were more confused with the words than with anything else they tried to make sense of. For non-sequitors that put us out of time on purpose, this gets top marks. Nice touch, making the left brain fight with the right. I'll remember that...
Rating: 8

Plot: This short attempts no explanation, excuses no image, and the only thing I figured out along the way is there's an undercurrent of love sex, rot and death. Surrealist film tends not to have a story, and when it does, it might even be comical or a study of madness. This is neither of those things. It is simple nothingness, which is the point. Making sense of something generally goes against surrealism. For going there without a safety net, this gets points.
Rating: 8

Mood: Surrealism isn't for everyone. Graphic and lewd, the moments that suck you in are the first scene, the last scene and a few dramatic moments in between. When a film begins on such a high note and takes its time to bring you to that apex again, you might find the middle parts as boring filler. Honestly, watching a couple walk down the beach for a minute out of sixteen, just kinda kills the mood.

People love Dali's art, I suppose it's because it makes sense. "Yeah that's a melting clock, it's really hot outside", or "yeah that's a room and it's also a woman's face", I get it. This was made in his earliest days, before those classic images were painted (he was 24). This is not like those.
Rating: 6

Believe it or not I can explain this one: in French 'Ants in the Palms' means you're itching to murder.

Overall Rating: 70% (*Confused Look That Dogs Give You*)

Aftertaste: Godhood telephone attack distinguish vagina tremble masking detour violence coffee-stain rube procedure message wife time. Recycle invasion Cletus. Fusion pins clip unearth Gina. Meridian edge outcrop equator return ellipse globe.

Storm Over Asia (1928)

He's ready for it!

Silent Action War Drama (Soviet Union)

Starring: Valery Inkijinoff (The Indian Tomb; Chinese Adventures in China), I. Dedintsev

Directed By: Vsevolod Pudovkin (Mother; The End Of St. Petersburg)

Overview: In 1918, A young Mongolian sets out to sell a valuable silver fox pelt. When he is cheated by the Western fur trader, a fight ensues, and he flees to the hills. There he finds Russian Revolutionaries and joins up with them.

Acting: PANTOMIME: A.) any of various dramatic or dancing performances in which a story is told by expressive bodily or facial movements of the performers. B.) conveyance of a story by bodily or facial movements especially in drama or dance C.) the art or genre of conveying a story by bodily movements only. D.) The actors in Storm over Asia and their awesome expressions.

Man! Talk about a director who knows how to pick em! Or maybe it's the cinematic genius of being able to capture it effectively every time... Either way...
Rating: 9

Cinematography: This director singlehandedly slowed my conclusion of the Silent Era study. After seeing this, I begrudingly added three more of the films that he's made on my 'Must See' list. The reason why is not because his imagery is comparable to all the great silent cinematographers like Gance, Eisenstein, and von Stroheim... uh, actually it is. This is a director who's cinema is more like photography, with lots of poignant, close, tightly-cropped, almost static images full of symbolism, like that of a general with smoke rising angrilly behind him as he punishes someone. This is what silent film is about. This is what you search for when you look for hidden gems. This is the best of its kind.
Rating: 9

Script: Clearly, it's 'as few intertitles as possible', and this one does a wonderful job of making a complex story explain itself in the visuals. When there is speaking, oftentimes we aren't shown their words, due to the obvious nature of the conversation, like two generals discussing while pointing at a map. Those of you unfamiliar with silent film may find this a touch distracting while you sit there, wondering what they're saying, but Silent Era fans will see this as a wonderful way of staying in the moment without bogging us down with chatter. Use of different font sizes was also quite effective, as impassioned shouting is easilly represented in the fullscreen-filling words.
Rating: 8

Plot: This is a tremendously multi-faceted tale. From one act to another, the story undergoes several changes. For our hero, they are the most dramatic, as he is faced with a treacherous journey, but this also ends with an amazing 'coming full-circle' kind of plot. I was nodding, impressed at the irony and the depth.
Rating: 9

Mood: Some scenes are slow and calculating, drawing you in to a Tibetan ceremony celebrating the birth of the new Lama, or full of suspense, rich with emotion as a soldier is orderd to take a man on a death march to be shot. The story elements were presented here in a bold, blatant manner, and as much as some might say it's 'too obvious' or 'propagandist', I liked the lack of subtlely, just as I enjoyed it in The Last Laugh. It was a nice touch, a powerful way of delivering the tale, therough our ribcage rather than through subtle displays. Oh and the music was just perfectly appropriate.
Rating: 9

If I has a silver fox hide, I'd be so pimpin', but The Man would just come for it anyways, sheeeit.

Overall Rating: 88% (A Tempest!)

Aftertaste: This one surprised me not because it was awesome, as I was expecting this to be great, but because it was so free of racism and ignorance. the Buddhists were portrayed just like you would expect them to be, like a documentary would. This was written by a Russian, about a Mongolian fighting the partisan fight against the westerners. I will admit that a good ol' Republican would say that the Westerners are seen in a bad light, but we DO need an antagonist. This film carries less of a communist message than those that are directly about the revolution, so it's a refreshing and less political study than Battleship Potemkin, for example. All told a pleasant surprise worthy of revival.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

Dude, don't you have enough taboos in this film without sucking off Buddha?

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Starring: Steve Carrell (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy; "The Office"), Catherine Keener (Capote; The Interpreter)

Directed By: Judd Apatow ("Freaks and Geeks")

Overview: When Andy's co-workers discover he's a virgin, they go out of their way to 'hook him up' with their various scoring techniques. All the while, he's just trying to get along with the sweet lady who works across the street.

Acting: Turns out this director has spent much of his career producing the more recent Will Farrell films. This should set you up a little for what to expect. The best characters are the ones that go out of their way to be certifiably insane, like the acid-tongued Indian guy and the 'keepin it real' black dude. These characters are what some may find to be the worst, least believable angles of this tale, preferring the quirky but stable champions of normalcy that are played by our leading couple. No it's not all the Lynch I've been watching lately, I just like weird more than mainstream. Overall, the roles were better than decent.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Remember last night, when you watched TV? No it wasn't TV, it was this movie? You thought it was a TV movie? No. No, no, there were no boom mikes in the shots, there was no crappy editing... Right right, that run-of-the-mill, nothing-to-say-about-it look that mainstream movies indulge in because it's easy.
Rating: 7

Script: "Tell me something, when your child is born, is he already on parole?" - Mooj asking the African-American about his unborn baby.

It's funny because it's racist. And you know what? I'm not afraid to say that, because I see that it's also the writers' COMMENT on racism, so it's funny because it's absurd. Just like this movie. It's not funny, it's a comment on funny, because it's absurd. It makes you laugh, not necessarily because the wit is grand (because it's not anywhere near that great), but because you wonder why this made so much money in theaters.
Rating: 7

Plot: Lame-o! "Hi! Get me laid! I hope that nice girl I just met will be 'the one'." Is there any story besides that? Oh right the 'chase the girl when things get misunderstood' scene. I saw that in half the episodes of "Three's Company" didn't I? Why didn't you just have these people drifting in space-suits trying to get this guy to mack his first alien babe? If you're going to have no plot, at least PUT IT IN SPACE.
Rating: 5

Mood: What kills a basic, modern, light, fluffy, unimaginative Romantic Comedy more than not-so-subtle product placement? One that does blatant product placement. Movie titles mentioned or shown: Liar Liar, Dawn of the Dead (the crappy new one), The Bourne Supremacy. Products mentioned: iPod, Mentos... wait wait, oh I get it, you WANT me to spread the word.

Eat this you corporate whores:
Rating: 6

Alright, alright, fine. The shirt is kind of funny.

Overall Rating: 66% (For People Who Haven't Popped Their Film Cherry)

Aftertaste: I'm not saying it's BAD. I laughed (but not as much as I had hoped). I'm just saying when I'm in a room with eight other people and one of them asks, "Who here has seen The 40 Year Old Virgin, and EVERYONE raises their hand and goes on to talk about how great it was, you believe them, because they're your friends. I'm very glad that I saw this with someone like-minded, someone who said, "I haven't seen it yet because it's mainstream, it's comedy and it's romance." Why didn't I listen to him speaking my thoughts out loud? It was on my damn list and I was going to get around to it anyways.

I need an island of critics to wash up on the shore of. I think I'll fit in there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tartuffe (1926)

Emil Jannings. Like Sampson, his power exists only while he dons the beard.

Silent Drama (Germany)

Starring: Emil Jannings (The Blue Angel; Faust), Werner Krauss (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Burning Soil)

Directed By: F.W. Murnau (The Last Laugh; Nosferatu)

Overview: A man acts out this morality play about hypocrites for his grandfather and his grandfather's nurse, to show him that she only seeks to inherit his fortune, just as Molière's Tartuffe did.

Acting: Silent film demands over-emphasis, extra impression, moods to be conveyed to make up for the minimal dialogue, and for the most part it's fine here. Still, I get the feeling the characters went too far into the Expressionist, too far past the realist. For Tartuffe to have his nose literally in a book, and I mean touching the pages with his nose, what was that? Isn't that a symptom of autism? That's ok, everyone else was overzealous too. That must mean it's Murnau's fault, right? Perhaps his vision was just a little too hard to grasp this time.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: Nothing inspired. It was a period piece, I SUPPOSE, but aside from the big dress and the weird hair, it really didn't seem too 'period' to me. There's a big house, an odd interesting angle or two, but nothing I would have imagined to be this poor for such a brilliant cinematographer as Murnau. If I were to grade this on a Murnau scale I'd give him the lowest score possible. Not only was I disappointed, I was shocked.

Rating: 5

Script: Remember the story your friend told you when he was walking down the street about how he was walking down the street one day? You like this friend, you liked his story, but it was just something to fill the empty air while you strolled along. Yeah, exactly like that.

Rating: 6

Plot: I'm not sure if the original story took place like this, a play within a play, but Murnau's tale has an actor presenting it to his disapproving grandfather to teach him a lesson. I think they should have taken that completely unnecessary preamble out. For someone to say "Look what's happening in your life! Watch this movie about the same thing happening to this guy!" God. As stories go, this should have been a short, even 63 minutes was too much for the substance it held.
Rating: 4

Mood: Bad Silent! Ever so often, you'd see the lightly comic potential of a scene, or the exaggerative characteristics of the players which could have made them haunting, seductive or terrifying, if only a modicum of effort had been put towards enhancing this piece. The music was terrible, the worst of Silent Era. To think that a lone piano would be enough in this age of digital remastering. Stupid. Murnau what project was your head on? Maybe the one you did right after? In the same year? Why did you bother making this then? It only hurts your reputation.
Rating: 4

If you think the story is a little fruity, here's the guy who wrote it... Get it now?

Overall Rating: 48% (Tar-TUFF To Watch)

Aftertaste: Well I guess I should stop putting Murnau on a pedestal. I will now admit that after seeing this many of his films, though he is a genius from time to time it's not got that Tarantino consistency. Is Murnau my favorite Silent Director? Ooo, I dunno, I'm torn now, but I'll wait to see his other 'masterpieces', Sunrise and Tabu. You'll have my report in after that. We'll see.

The Wiz (1978) * Favorite Review *

Ease on, ease on... Easy on the Disco, Jesus.

Genre: Fantasy Adventure Family Musical

Starring: Diana Ross (Lady Sings The Blues; Mahogany), Michael Jackson (Ghosts; Miss Cast Away)

Directed By: Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men; Serpico)

Overview: A young girl An African-American kindergarten teacher trapped in a tornado tragic special effect wakes up in Oz, a fantastical land of wonder, a banal ghetto, where she finds that getting home is going to take some real effort, given that the Wicked Witch of The West is out to get her. no one can stop singing long enough to help her.

Acting: It was more fun finding out what other things these actors have been in than watching them in this. I don't know if the word 'embrassing' does this film justice. If you compartmentalize everything else and just look at the performances... oh Lord, God no! Is this ever tacky! You might say that there were a couple of good scenes, but all the supporting cast, those dancers, they were tragic. I've seen more talent in glue-huffing junkies. Oh and try doing better in your overdubbing, this isn't amovie about time travelling to catch up with your voice. Oh that ending where everyone's crying for the last 20 minutes? TONE IT DOWN ROSS! You too Richard Pryor (not kidding). Michael? Never mind. Bad director on drugs!
Rating: 4

Cinematography: It would have been nice if the director had tried a couple more takes to make the out of sync overdubbing less obvious. The costumes were decent, and I'm in no was saying 'good'. The sets, however, were poorly thought out, very low-budget, including the occasional rickety staircase or cheap afro-head that was the 'great and powerful wizard'. If you were trying to foreshadow a bleak post-apocalyptic world like the one in 12 Monkeys, you did better than trying to recreate Oz. Yeah, even you Lena Horne, Ms. Glenda the Good Witch!
Rating: 4

Script: The overdubbing might have been a bit of the problem here, or perhaps it's the fact that this is 30 minutes longer than the original. Let me tell you why. Singing, songs and musical numbers. Picture this: Wicked Witch sings a song, then our quatro-retardo sings a song, and they kill her. Then, a victory song, then they sign another song, as though the first victory song wasn't enough. What in God's name is the purpose of that? Move on, it's supposed to be a story, not a ballet show. So weak, so weak.
Rating: 4

Plot: Holy stupid. Remember in The Wizard of Oz how the characters all just so happened to have the very things they were looking for? How they just needed to prove it after being given their quest? This doesn't even pretend to do that. Dorothy says things like "You're so smart" to the scarecrow's ideas, or the lion defeats enemies before even getting to The Wiz. I kind of thought half the story was about how their voices were enslaved to look like they were a second behind their mouths, evil Witch! turns out it was just BAD OVERDUBBING. They molested the hell out of the original ending. The Wiz didn't hand out any presents, and there wasn't even a reunion with the family when she was done her ordeal. How could you mess up what was already done and written for you?!
Rating: 4

Mood: To have a happy moments in the streets, passing piles of garbage and graffiti as they merrily sang. OK, look, this is FANTASY, that mean ESCAPING the reality that you live in New Jersey. I'm sorry you don't live in the Hamptons, but you can PRETEND. Wait, wait, there's also the ultra-original sci-fi fantasy moment where they get attacked in the SUBWAY by the pillars. The terrible overdubbing doesn't help the mood either.
Rating: 4

Uh, yeah, the great and mystical trek to the Emerald city.

Overall Rating: 40% (Wiz On this and It'll Smell Better)

Aftertaste: Equus, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, even Child's Play for God's sake! This director has made some of American's best and most popular films. Explain to me how he ended up directing this regurgitating toilet?! Besides, he's some middle-class Honky! How can he direct a movie that's an African-American retelling of a classic film? Fine, fine he's from Philly, fine. This was so bad that it corrupted the original, making it stink of a garbage strike in the middle of the summer. This is tragic, and with a 24 million dollar budget, for a film to make 13 million in theaters, hey, the numbers speak for themselves. People didn't like it. I bought this as a joke, and the joke was on me. At least it was a dollar.

And HEY! As if! There's not even ONE white person in this, how sexist!

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Wedding Crashers (2005)

"And a Big cheer for the Senegakunjurathamandhimaburanis!"

Romantic Comedy

Starring: Owen Wilson (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; Starsky & Hutch) Vince Vaughn (Psycho; Made)

Directed By: David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights; Clay Pigeons)

Overview: A couple of Wedding Crashers attend the event of the year, the wedding of one of the Treasury Secretary's daughters. When John falls for Claire, the two crashers end up spending the weekend at the Secretary's Estate.

Acting: Ok, see these people can act, there’s no doubt about it, but are they insanely great actors? The two films mentioned above next to Vince Vaughn's name had him in the best roles I've ever seen him in, and Owen Wilson wasn't there to ruin it for him, see? I'm not saying these guys don't make decent movies when they get together, but it's like they're not really serious in the parts they play. One feeds into the other I suppose. Wait , though, Christopher Walken saves the day! Well, not really...
Rating: 7

Cinematography: Remember that movie that you saw that came after a television show? I don't mean Star Trek, those had real budgets, I mean more like that The X-Files movie, or even Serenity. In a way, this is like that. It's bigger budget, it's less confined, it's well scouted, the sets are well-planned, but deep down, after everything... it just looks like a bigger TV production, and of course, no special effects.
Rating: 7

Script: Yeah, yeah, fine you got me, this was not only hilarious and original, but there were some honest moments of truly believeable dialogue mixed in with the zany stuff. The conversations often had a wise air to them, as though people were actually having real discussions and the characters had genuine honest quirks, not just filler dialogue to get to the jokes. Finally! A Hollywood script that LOOKS like it's gone through several drafts. Impressive.
Rating: 9

Plot: I took a break half way through this film, yelling "these characters have no depth!" My girl reminded me how it's a OWEN WILSON and VINCE VAUGHN film. Look, when you try to break up a three-and-a-half-year relationship, the only saving grace you have is that the guy you're competing against is a womanizing jackass. Oh gee, how convenient, the other guy is a dick. You know the whole Vince Vaughn side of the plot was pretty interesting, to tell you the truth. Ugh, torn.
Rating: 7

Mood: There's some pretty smooth marketing here. Someone convinced ME that this was good. See they don't come right out and say it, they sneak it up on you. They take a long time before even implying this is going to be ROM COM land. Damn them for setting up this elaborate, almost Old School feel film, then they SPRING it on you! Ah, cute little made-for-girls moments kill me!
Rating: 8

No, no. Seriously, whatup with that shnoz?!

Overall Rating: 76% (Nothing to SHOUT About)

Aftertaste: Alright, alright, I'll say it, this was a mild embarassment for me. Yes, yes, I debased myself to the mainstream Romantic Comedy (for as much as it's geared far more than usual for men). The question is why? Why would I even think of seeing such a thing? Is it because a critic worth his salt has to see all the big blockbusters like this, Crash (I'll get around to it) and The 40 Year-Old Virgin (I SAID I'd get around to it!)? yeah, partly. But there is another far more important reason: given than most of the people who read this are probably my friends, I'll blame your banal asses for telling me this was 'awesome', 'rad', 'hil' and 'all that'.

You are the bane of my existence, you, that friend who says 'rad'.