Saturday, December 10, 2011

Brad's Week in Dork! (12/4-12/10)

This week I continued my ride along with The Auteur Cast and David Fincher's films.  I could have easily whipped through his entire catalogue, but decided to slow down after Panic Room cuz I don't want to finish before the Cast does.  But I finished last week riding high off of Martin Scorsese's Hugo and I left that theater experience and went right straight to Barnes and Noble for a copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Read it in one sitting making it the...


The Invention of Hugo Cabret:  Written by the grandson of David O. Selznick's (King Kong, Gone With The Wind) cousin, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a massive love letter to the early days of cinema. More graphic novel than straight up narrative, Hugo Cabret is a quick afternoon read despite its page count and even though I find the base story incredibly engaging I found the writing to lack the emotional wallop of Martin Scorsese's film.  It's missing that oomph that screenwriter John Logan managed to pull from the pages.  A decent kid's book I guess, but it definitely feels like a "kid's book."


The Three Amigos:  "Can I Have Your Watch When You Are Dead?" Maybe The Three Amigos doesn't quite reach the level of genius the way Landis' other genre love letters (The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London) do, but it gets pretty close. A singing cowboy adventure film saturated in silly, late 70s SNL hysterics with a healthy appreciation for the silent film era. But if you can't stand the Martin, Chase, Short brand of humor than just don't bother.

The Game:  I remember leaving the theater after The Game with an incredibly frustrating sense of underwhelment. It was not Seven. I wanted another Seven. In fact, it felt a lot like coming out of the theater from Alien 3 where I really just wanted another Aliens. But with hindsight being 20/20, looking back at both Alien 3 and The Game I've discovered that both films are rather entertaining on their own merits. The Game is a ratcheting, mind screw that sticks it sharply to Michael Douglas' apathetic rich guy jerkwad. Enjoy Life Man! Or The Game will force you to.  It's an easy thriller, but fun.

The Muppets Take Manhattan:  As a kid the only brand of Muppets I was familiar with was Muppets Take Manhattan. I'm not sure why that is; how did I miss out on the brilliance of the variety show or even the original film? Dunno. Ask my horribly abusive parents. But rewatching this incarnation I gotta say it's one of the weaker efforts. The humor is lackluster and the tunes are so-so at best. Sure, Kermit and the gang have an irresistible charm no matter what the script but I expected a smarter outing for Broadway.

Fight Club:  "You met me at a very strange time in my life." The first time I saw this film I walked out of the theater in a rage. I hated, hated, hated Fight Club in '99. I've seen it three or four times now. I kinda dig it now, but I'm by no means in the cult of Fight Club. I enjoy the demented humor of the film, and Brad Pitt's performance as anarchist Tyler Durden is definitely a game changer. I had enjoyed Pitt films before this movie, but it wasn't until Fight Club that I realized Brad Pitt was gonna rule the (my) world.  And the film is slick as hell, David Fincher is firing on all cylinders and there would be no going back for the director.

Panic Room:  I love the idea of the home invasion thriller, but more often than not the genre disappoints with mediocrity. David Fincher's Panic Room is one of the highlights, if not the very highlight, of the tiny subgenre and that's thanks mostly to the odd, but understandable pairings of the three villains (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam). These guys have no business being in the same room together let alone pulling a heist together, but David Koepp's script does a smart job of bringing the bozos together. Jodie Foster does her Jodie Foster thing and Kristen Stewart amazingly doesn't suck as a child actress. Panic Room sorta marks a new era in Fincher's style with his fetishized digital shots, his eye has never looked cleaner. The road has been paved for Zodiac, can't wait.

Cowboys & Aliens:  The extended edition of Cowboys & Aliens adds some needed character development, fleshing out the relationships between Daniel Craig & Olivia Wilde as well as Adam Beach's domesticated Apache. Craig and Ford feel right at home on their horses and I'd love to see further adventures with these chracters with or without the battle toads. And I still maintain that Favreau's genre mashup is a damn fine popcorn Western with an excellent breed of actors chewing up the scenery. Don't think the film is going to convert modern audiences to the cowboy picture, but fans of outlaw cinema will find enough to enjoy.  It's all about the archetypes, fleshed out by fun character actors like Walton Goggins, Keith Carradine, and Clancy Brown.

Star Trek:  You can't really trust me when it comes to Trek. Of all my dork obsessions, it's Star Trek that I love the most so keep that in mind when I drool my affection all over this film. JJ Abrams and his Star Wars love is just what Star Trek needed in the dark post-Nemesis days of '09. The opening scene depicting the destruction of the USS Kelvin and the birth of James Tiberius Kirk displays an emotional power that hasn't been present in Trek since the climax of Khan and The Search for Spock. And Michael Giacchino's score is outstanding. You're not going to please everybody, but there is enough Trek love on display to keep TOS fans plenty happy. Sure, Eric Bana's Nero gets the narrative shaft but he's a decent enough baddie when he's on screen and this sequel (not a reboot) succeeds in shocking the nearly dead franchise back into relevance.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil:  There are chuckles to be had watching Alan Tudyk & Tyler Labine's hillbillies cause & effect their way through various fratboy catastrophes in this bloody horror comedy of errors but chuckles are only chuckles and I doubt I'll ever pop this film into my player again. The film takes a little too long to get going and when the kills reach absolute absurdity I had pretty much dismissed this film into background apartment noise.

Hanna:  Genetically enhanced super child Saoirse Ronan leaves her father's roost to hunt down her mother's killer and no punches are pulled in this rather brutal PG-13 chase picture. Director Joe Wright takes the simple script and excels with a style exercise--saturation, thumping Chemical Brothers score, odd character beats, and quick stabbing edits. What's the deal with Cate Blanchet's bloody gum obsession? Or the track suited homosexual assassin? Or that hippie dippie globe hopping family? Don't know, but it keeps the proceedings wildly interesting.

Fast Five:  The ridiculous amounts of machismo on display in Fast Five is more fun than it is hilarious and my recommendation is to just roll with an overly sweaty Rock beating down Vin Diesel rather than pick at the silly--yep, the fifth entry in the Fast & Furious franchise finds new life with even more monstrous crack ups and drug fueled bank heists. And I absolutely love the team building exercises between all the hyper-real characters collected over the series and I'm looking forward to the inclusion of more characters in the sixth film.

The Lady Vanishes:  It took a little while for me to get involved, but once I got to know the quirky cast of Brit eccentrics on board the mystery train, The Lady Vanishes became a cute comedy-mystery that obviously shows off Hitchcock's cinematic brilliance. When Dame May Whitty seemingly vanishes into thin air, Margaret Lockwood & Michael Redgrave turn amateur detective in an attempt to uncover a government conspiracy. It's all quick dialog and budding romance and The Lady Vanishes succeeds in drawing you into their polite foreplay.

Cape Fear:  "There isn't much to do in prison except desecrate your flesh." If you dismiss his supporting turn in Jackie Brown, Cape Fear was the last time that Robert De Niro really knocked a performance outta the park. His Max Cady is a Monster. He's Bram Stoker's Dracula. He's the Creature From The Black Lagoon. A focused, determined walking nightmare who erupts upon Nick Nolte and his family; engulfing the weak husband's world and as his swamp of hate begins to overtake him it forces the lawyer to discover The Hills Have Eyes within.. too little too late maybe. It's a scary, scary movie. Intense entertainment and it's impossible not to notice the sick glee of film sponge Martin Scorsese, relishing in the artificial joys of pulp cinema.  And that Elmer Bernstein/Bernard Hermann score...holy cow is that some powerful stuff.


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