Monday, March 31, 2008

March Movie Watching

I saw seven films theatrically this month. March has become one of my favorite months of the year for movies. No longer just the dumping ground for not-good-enough-for-Oscar and not-good-enough-for-summer movies, the last several years have seen March releases of: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004), V FOR VENDETTA (2006), and 300 (2007).

The first movie I saw this month was THE BANK JOB-- highly touted on EBERT (i.e. PHILLIPS) & ROEPER. Although it delivered a certain level of excitement, it was a disappointment and I could feel the audience was let down when the lights went up. Not bad by any means, it just didn't hit the bulls eye. I went to THE BANK JOB because 10,000 B.C. was sold out (!) [although I was planning on seeing THE BANK JOB at some point].

So I caught 10,000 BC the second weekend of its release with everyone screaming about how historically inaccurate it was and it's 7% Rotten Tomatoes reading seemingly a statistic everyone knew. But I just wanted to see it: call it the NATIONAL TREASURE theory of movie-going. And I'm being honest: it wasn't bad. And, in fact, there was scattered applause when it ended. It was just a fun popcorn movie with some good effects and an easy-on-the-brain (cliche-ridden) narrative. If you want to hate it, it's an easy target. Trailers shown for DARK KNIGHT and GET SMART show promise.

I caught up on the February release JUMPER (free screening) and although it started off OK, it just went every which direction: major screenplay trouble. Diane Lane's casting in this movie is a textbook example of "wasting" an actor.

HORTON HEARS A WHO! was everything I'd read: padded, padded, padded. It's one of those films, however, that parents are probably thrilled with, because it's at least palatable and has a foot in their own childhood. It's set to become one of the top 100 grossing domestic films: having reached $117 million this weekend-- it'll be there in a few weeks. The showing I went to was at 10 PM on a Sunday, hoping to avoid the kiddies. However this was the beginning of spring break I guess. Although I was literally the only one in the theater when the trailers began, before the first trailer had finished, all hell had broken loose and a stream of parents with children from infants to toddlers streamed in. Kids were running up and down the aisles. And naturally I got one of the little buggers sitting directly behind me kicking my chair the whole movie long.

Every once in a while I'd check imdb to see when Kimberly Peirce would follow-up her brilliant BOYS DON'T CRY-- which made my top ten in the distinctly competitive year of 1999 (easily one of the greatest movie years of all time). Well it took nine years. And I think she lost her touch. STOP-LOSS seems like it should have been made before BOYS DON'T CRY: it's a total step back creatively. It was, to be blunt, amateurish. A total derailment. And it's not that it was terrible, but nine years is plenty of time to create a first-rate movie (even if the "stop-loss" concept is a recent one: put a movie in-between while you figure this one out). When Quentin Tarantino finally gets around to filming INGLORIOUS BASTARDS I intend to hold him up to the same high standard, i.e. the longer I have to wait the better I expect it to be.

I saw an advance screening of FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. Absolutely incredulous plot, but a very funny film. I really enjoyed it. Not quite SUPERBAD in my book, but close. I don't think it's one for the ages but for 2008 it's worth a look. And again, happy to see a comedy that isn't made for 12-year-olds get produced.

Finally, I caught up with THE COUNTERFEITERS, the Austrian film that won the Oscar for best foreign language film. Saw it with the old folks at my local art house cinema. The trailers were endless: and none looked at all interesting. THE COUNTERFEITERS was very good and interesting but not nearly a knock-out. If you're interested you'll see it but if it didn't sound all that worthwhile to you by the trailer, you could skip it.

Saw a couple of films on TCM. I don't actually think I'd ever seen Laurel & Hardy's celebrated short THE MUSIC BOX (1932), so I caught that. It was amusing and I laughed out loud at least once. But not quite the brilliant masterpiece it's considered (nice that the boys got an Oscar though). It's also funny to see hottie hot hot hot Rose McGowan talking L&H with Robert Osbourne before the movie (almost as amusing as the movie!). Also saw the Nazi-era German TITANIC (1943). This was fascinating. Highly recommended. And James Cameron must have seen this before making his film: it has a shipboard romance (with a very Arian blonde chick!), stolen jewels, and a more accurate sinking than the other pre-Cameron versions. The propaganda is waist deep: those arrogant British! That rich conniving John Jacob Astor! Look at the one German officer: he saves the little girl. Despite all of this or because of it: keep an eye out for this movie when it comes back around. Also saw the silent documentary GRASS (1925). This was a well-structured film about the trek to green pastures by a nomadic tribe in Iran. The first third you get to know the people, the centerpiece is a battle across the rapids of the Karun river (a highlight), and the climax the climbing of the Zardeh Kuh mountains in Turkey/Persia and descent on the other side. Might only warrant one viewing but worthwhile. Great score was put to the film too.

I also rented the 1965 version of TEN LITTLE INDIANS, as I'd never seen it. It was pretty decent. Rather than a remote island, it's set on a remote snowy mountaintop. The acting is good and the story holds up. Shirley Eaton, a year after GOLDFINGER is on display in various states of undress. A ** 1/2 star outing. I wonder when we'll get another version: it's been almost 20 years since the last one.


Jeremy said...

Wow, can't wait to catch up with you. Too bad about "Stop Loss" I was looking forward to it, but you're giving me second thoughts. Can't wait to get back into movie gear again.

Oneliner said...

I'd like to think that I'm wrong on Stop-Loss but even the positive reviews generally say "good intentioned but..."