Sunday, April 02, 2006

Movie catch-up

Dirty Pretty Things

This stars the incomparable Audrey Tautou, in her first English-speaking role (albeit with a Turkish accent). Her co-star Chiwetel Eijiofor is equally brilliant, as is everyone in the movie.

The film has a great plot, slightly let down by the last few minutes. Overall though, a very very good piece of film-making.

American Splendor

This is the story of a really interesting, yet really ordinary guy (just like the rest of us). What makes it particuarly good is the way it's told. For a start, it's a true story about real people, who are all still alive. These real people are incorporated into the film, along with the actors who play them, and cartoon and animated sections. This could have ended up as a mess, but works very well indeed, giving the film a real documentary feel, and it's very appropriate to the subject.

It's not the same, but it reminds me a bit of Adaptation, in that it has approached story-telling in a new, innovative and interesting way, that is now going to be very difficult to emulate.

Pingu: A Very Special Wedding

I am a long-time Pingu fan, having discovered it when I was a student. Our whole flat would make sure they were home at 3 or 5 p.m. or whenever it was on.

I am now slightly older, but I thought my daughter (2.5) might like Pingu too. Turns out she loves it, as I still do.

If you've never seen any Pingu, make the effort, especially if you have kids of any age. Kicks the arse of any other kids' TV.

Bubba Ho-Tep

I'd wanted to see this for a while, as the premise is so bizarre - an elderly Elvis and JFK (a black man), residents of a nursing home, battle an evil centuries-old Egyptian mummy.

It didn't quite live up to my expectations, though. The whole thing seemed a bit low-budget (which it was), although the acting was pretty damn good. Bruce Campbell deserves his cult following - I must make an effort to see some of the Evil Dead films.

The Dinner Game (Le Diner de Cons)

This is just great. Not sure if it should be included amongst the great French films, but it is undeniably hilarious.

It is quite static, being set largely within one room, but the quality of acting and script makes this irrelevant. Beautiful French women, too.

Buena Vista Social Club

This was raved about all over the place when it first came out, and I (like many people) am in love with Cuba at the moment, so I was anticipating it quite highly.

Unfortunately, it didn't go over that well with me. The music was great, but Ry Cooder came across as a bit of a tosser - like he thought he was a bit of a hero for rediscovering these old guys. Well, it was a great discovery, but he just really seems like a bit of a wanker.

The way the film was shot was also odd - either stark handheld video, or beautiful, sweeping, smooth Steadicam shots. I found it hard to see what exactly Wim Wenders had to do with things, aside from bunging his name against it.

A bit of a disappointment, with a few bright spots.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Can't remember why I picked this one out, but I sure am glad I did. No, it's not the Ashton Kutcher version, but the 1967 original with Sidney Poitier. I'm sure the modern one's great(!), but this one is fantastic.

The subject matter (rich white girl brings older black fiancee home to surprise the parents) is far less controversial now than I imagine it was back then, but it still seems pretty relevant today. I think I expected some kind of farce where the white folks' stereotypes were challenged, but it really wasn't like that at all.

The white folks in question (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) have brought their daughter up to be open-minded, yet her choice of fiancee is still a great shock to them.

The way they deal with it seems very real, and like I said before, probably not that much different these days, in spite of supposedly better attitudes.

The Big Chill

Another one that's supposed to be so representative of a particular bunch of people at a particular time - I've heard it described as "an '80s American Graffiti" - not sure how true that is.

I loved this movie, though. It's a true ensemble cast - no one character is more important than any of the others. Watching the documentary on the DVD was fascinating, too - the actors spent so much time rehearsing, far more than actual filming - and who knew Kevin Costner was in the film? IMDb doesn't say anything about it, but Wikipedia knows.

Man on the Moon

I'm no fan of Taxi (before my time, guv), and godamnit I hate REM, but the raving about this movie was so high at the time, I just had to see it.

Glad I did. I wish Mr. Carrey did more stuff like this - he really is a good actor. Maybe he needs to do the crap to make his good stuff even better by comparison?

Anyway, the story is brilliant, and some of the little tricks used to tell it are brilliant. Need to recreate a sitcom as it was 20 or so years ago? Easy - just use the original actors, aged and everything. What's that you say? One of those actors already has a major role in the movie? Never mind, just pretend that he didn't exist in the sitcom.

Brilliant and warped stuff. It's probably been said before, but I think Andy Kaufman didn't die, he just became Charlie Kaufman.

Shaun of the Dead

I went to see this at the movies on the recommendation of a few people. I thought it was OK, but not brilliant.

After a second viewing, I like it a hell of a lot more. I've never been a fan of gore/splatter/zombie movies, so there are probably a whole raft of references I just don't get, but even so, this is both incredibly funny and very well crafted.

The DVD extras are pretty hilarious too, especially the Michael Caine/Sean Connery pisstake.


Helen Back said...

Yep agree that 'Adaptation' is a really good movie and so is 'Man in the Moon'.

My personal favourite out of this group has to be 'American Splendour'. I heard an interview with Harvey's wife who was essentially a big fan of his work and set out to meet him, spent their first date vomiting and knew he would make a great husband because he bought her chamomile tea. She was so deadpan I had to see the movie. This movie is innovative in the way it shifts between carton and so-called real life and we even get to see R L Crumb.

Back to Mr Cage - do go to see 'Lord of War' - I went on a cheap night but I would have paid full price! You don't get more of a recommendation than that. If you like, you could go here to pick up some other perspectives.

afraid said...

I remember going to see American Splendor at the film fest with you in Hamiltron. I rate Adaptation. much higher, because it aims a lot higher, but this too is a fantastic film.

Le diner de cons is bloody great! Thierry Lermitte rules. What made you seek it out? I recommend another of Veber's films, Le Placard, which is funny and wise and features a cat.

The Shaun of the Dead DVD is uncommonly good - the Beatles piss-take is almost as good as the Caine/Connery one.

Hey helen back, I went to Lord of War and I thought it was okay. Great opening credits sequence, some good use of music, and the ever-watchable Cage. The romantic subplot needed fleshing out more, though, and basically I didn't really feel like I'd learnt anything new - sort of nodding in agreement, rather than sitting up in shock. I expect that for some it would be revelatory, and that would make it much more fascinating.