Lots of DVDs were purchased and watched this week, but only got myself to the theater once for Woody Allen's new movie which definitely belongs at the top of the year's best list (and I'm as shocked as anybody that I'm babbling that way). I've been trying to get myself over to see The Tree of Life but I just haven't had the real drive to make it happen. Sigh. It will be seen this week. I need to join the Malick lovefest conversation (although I've had a few coworkers warn me away from the beast).
The only new non-DVD acquisition this week was the It's Okay To Be Takei Coffee Mug and T Shirt. Absolutely love it and it definitely makes the coffee all the more sweeter. Oh, and I did score the standard print of the new Mondo Devil's Backbone. One of the best films of the last ten years and my all time favorite ghost story, I still feel that the design could have a little more ooompf but I'm excited to get that tube in the mail.
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Broadcast News: After listening to a few Criterion Cast episodes I had to run out for the Barnes and Noble Buy 2 Get 1 Free DVD sale for both Broadcast News and Charade (which I reviewed last week). I absolutely loved Charade, and even though I really enjoyed Broadcast News I still find it a puzzling entry in the Criterion cannon. Basically, four years after the success of Terms of Endearment, James L Brooks directs his "ultimate" film in Broadcast News. The Behind-The-News plot is often painful to watch (especially in our current Talking Head world), but it's the trilogy of Hurt, Brooks, and Hunter that sells this movie. William Hurt is horribly pathetic as the dim bulb but handsome anchor. Albert Brooks is horribly insecure as the lonely heart but credible anchor. And Holly Hunter is horribly back-and-forth as the uncontrollably teary producer. Watching them bounce off each other is humorous & awkward and its that combination that makes the film work. It's not Simpsons, but definitely James Brooks' best film.
Midnight in Paris: I've never been much of a Woody Allen fan, and if you count his output from the last decade or so I'm really, really not a fan. However, I was completely taken with this magical tale involving Owen Wilson's nostalgia hound and his Geek Love for 20s Paris is definitely infectious. True, Rachel McAdams is a little too simple as the shrewish fiance and her fawning after the intellectually skeevy Michael Sheen is properly frustrating. But the broad strokes of Corey Stoll's Hemingway and Adrian Brody's Dali are gutbustingly hilarious and had this Lit Dork in stitches.
Superman II: The problems from the first film are still present in the sequel (a little too long, Lex is a little too goofy, the clumsy Clark Kent disguise is too too awkward) and the Lois Lane discovery/power-loss plot is ridiculous. However, I love love love Terrance Stamp's General Zod and his obsession with kneeling and the Metropolis Super Showdown is plenty fun. The Christopher Reeve years may not be my ideal Superman experience but it still manages to be quite entertaining.
Sherlock Holmes in Pursuit to Algiers: The film has a great setting confined on the transatlantic ocean liner set sail for Algiers, but the proceedings are some of the dullest in the series. It is kinda cute to hear Nigel Bruce belt out a tune and his recietal of The Giant Rat of Sumatra is geeky cool even if we don't get all the details, but for the most part this one fails to entertain. Meh.
Grand Theft Auto: Ron Howard's directorial debut is still my favorite flick from Mr. Ball Cap. Grand Theft Auto is a classic chase picture with plenty of gratuitous wrecks and explosions, a kinda straight-faced Cannonball Run Romeo & Juliet. Howard and Nancy Morgan race to a Las Vegas wedding as a mad collection of characters try to crash & burn their nuptials for jerkwad Daddy's $50,000 reward. The film definitely delivers on the genre's promises.
Sherlock Holmes in Terror By Night: From the oceanliner confines of Pursuit to Algiers to the steam engine confines here, Terror By Night is thankfully less dull than the previous entry but nowhere near as exciting as some of the better Rathbone/Bruce episodes. Holmes is charged with guarding the Star of Rhodesia diamond, but as bodies start piling up he must put his wits toward discovering the murderer as well. Enjoyable speeding locomotive models, outdoor tumblings, and an excellent fish-lipped henchman in creepy Skelton Knaggs keep this penultimate Holmes outing from being a snooze, but again, it's no Scarlet Claw or even Hound of the Baskervilles.
The Man Who Would Be King: Christopher Plummer's Rudyard Kipling takes audience with Michael Caine's mutilated Peachy Carnahan and sits in awe of his epic tale of friendship and madness. Two renegade soldiers walk into the mountains of Afghanistan and become gods among poor men. The Man Who Would Be King is a roaring morality adventure; two actors at the top of their game with sweeping vistas and John Huston's straining talent at their disposal. A gorgeous, sad saga and an absolutely beautiful blu ray release.
LA Confidential: Curtis Hanson's epic adaptation of the third novel in James Ellroy's superb L.A. Quartet, L.A. Confidential is one of the great crime dramas of the modern era. Morally questionable detectives Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, and Russell Crowe navigate the seedy underbelly of 1950s Hollywood as they investigate the Nite Owl Massacre. The film never quite captures the harshness (or villainous basterdness) of James Ellroy's "good guys" and since several plot points from the other Quartet books get squished together the film sortta sputters at places, but the fantastic costumes, cinematography, and a general badass attitude will keep you glued to the screen.
The Silence of the Lambs: G-Man in training, Jodi Foster develops a disturbing relationship with institutionalized serial killer Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (played with enthusiastic gravitas by Sir Anthony Hopkins) in an attempt to understand and capture Ted Levine's disgusting, groaning murderer Buffalo Bill. There were serial killer pictures before this and there certainly were oodles of serial killer flicks after this, but The Silence of the Lambs is the ultimate statement in the genre. Director Jonathan Demme had made a couple of good flicks (Fighting Mad, Something Wild, Married To The Mob) before Lambs, but here he proves himself a master behind the camera with some of the creepiest, most haunting closeups in cinema. Lecter looking at me, Clarice looking at me, Jame Gum looking at me (HOLY CRAP Ted Levine is Terrifying!). Unflinching eyes. Shivers.
Superman III: Fascinating. Not good. Terrible, actually. But fascinating. There are good elements to the film: I dig the Evil Superman stuff, especially the drunk bar fly Supes and the Kent/Supes smackdown. And the return to Smallville flirtation with Annette O'Toole is nice. But everything with plot plopped Richard Pryor is just atrocious and the Beware Computers villainy is just silly. How did this film happen? Just ridiculous.
Sherlock Holmes in Dressed to Kill: The 14th and final installment in the Rathbone/Bruce era of the Sherlock Holmes saga is, sadly, a so-so outing involving the theft of three seemingly inexpensive music boxes. Holmes' procedural, especially when considering the mysterious pieces of music, is quite entertaining but the murderous antagonists are rather dull with a speedy conclusion that leaves you shrugging your shoulders. Dressed to Kill is missing the weird and the strange that make classic Rathobone/Bruce outings like The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Scarlet Claw work so well.
Passion Play: Mickey Rourke. Bill Murray. Bud Cort. Rhys Ifans. Megan Fox. Could be good right? No. Passion Play is painfully boring. Rourke's washed-up trumpet player is terribly uninteresting and the magical fable aspect of Megan Fox's Birdwoman is totally ruined with groan inducing CG work and hair-pulling acting abilities. Just not good. Skip.
Superman IV The Quest for Peace: Still not a good movie, but definitely better than the Richard Pryor outing, The Quest for Peace suffers under some seriously goofy Lex Luthor shenanigans involving golden space boy Nuclear Man and dweeb nephew Duckie--I mean, Lenny i.e. the horrendous Jon Cryer. The budget is obviously not there and Christopher Reeve's anti-nuke hokum is painfully broad; seriously, that last speech is gag inducing. I will say that it's nice to see Supes get a punch-out with an equal and editor-in-chief Jackie Cooper finally has something to do while battling those greedy tabloid owners. Okay, but where's my Annette O'Toole? Definitely missed her, the only really good bit from Part III.
VIDEO GAME OF THE WEEK!
As I've stated in previous posts, I'm not really much of a Video Game Dork these days. I recently completed LA Noire, Mortal Kombat, Red Dead Redemption, and Arkham Asylum. But you know what I've never played? Halo. I've touched an XBOX once or twice over the years but on brief flirtations. Well, I finally let co-dork Matt drag me over to his place for a sit down with the Spartan. We played through the first level and I had a good time. I love the ringworld, of course--I am a dork afterall. But the environments in general were a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can get back together later in the week for another sitdown. It definitely has potential to suck my life away like the blissful days of N64's Goldeneye. I'm way late to the party, but I'm happy to be here now.
Still, I'm just biding time until Arkham City.