Friday, June 26, 2009

Screening Log: June 2009

A bit early because I'm on vacation next week.

Whatever Works (Woody Allen, 2009) ** - Best when it's at it's stagiest: like all of Allen's recent films - with the exception of Vicky Cristina Barcelona - the filmmaking is sloppy. There are weird, seemingly mis-matched cuts to reaction shots that are jarring enough that I was reminded of the spatial dislocations in Alain Resnais' Couers, but with the sense that Allen wasn't doing it for any aesthetic purpose. All that said, as a peice of filmed quasi-theater, I liked it quite a bit.

Hitman (Xavier Gens, 2007) (v) - Standard contemporary action movie bullshit: layered-on style and solemnity instead of interesting action sequences and wit.

Highway 61 (Bruce McDonald, 1991) (v) ***

L'ami de mon amie (Eric Rohmer, 1987) (v) ** - The English title, Boyfriends & Girlfriends is dumb. I'll want to see it again after making my way through Rohmer, but my take now is: interesting from a formal perspective, but shallow.

A Canterbury Tale (Powell & Pressburger, tktk) (v) (r) **** - I love this mainly for how weird it is. Also - one of my favorite kinds of movies: "war movies without any battle scenes".

Transporter 3 (Oliver Megaton, 2008) (v) - I don't expect that every romantic comedy is going to have as good a screenplay as It Happened One Night, every thriller as good a screenplay as The Third Man, and every action movie as good a screenplay as Die Hard. But just compared to what Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen came up with for the other two Transporter movies, this is some dumb shit. A note to the people making Transporter movies: your fans were not waiting for you to give Frank Martin a cutesy romantic interest.

He's Just Not That Into You (Ken Kwapis, 2009) (v) *

Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009) - Tired and sloppy. Raimi, unlike, say, Martin Scorsese, has always been a director more suited to "small films", so I was looking forward to this. Maybe my expectations were too high, but even though this is better than a lot of current horror movies and Raimi doesn't make any stupid mistakes it pales in comparison to genuinely good horror movies, like, say, The Evil Dead or Dead Alive (both of which I kept wishing I were watching instead of this).

Transporter 2 (Louis Leterrier, 2005) (v) * - Not as good as the first one: Leterrier has about half the skill set necessary to be a great action movie director. He's good on invention and directing his actors to express their character through how they fight, but he still puts his sequences together rather haphazardly. Like most contemporary action filmmakers, he goes for impact over clarity almost every time. The bit with the firehose, though, is an instant classic.

Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2008) (v) *** - Lots of good things about this movie, but mainly: Stephen McHattie's performance. Also - with this and The Tracey Fragments, Bruce McDonald is becoming one of my favorite directors. I'm very happy that I have many more of his movies left to see.

Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939) (v) (r) ***** - I think it's natural, normal, and overall a good thing that we movie buffs tend to champion a director's lesser-known works. There's a bit of the snob factor there, sure, but, really, if I'm not going to make the case for Wagon Master as one of John Ford's greatest movies, who will? All that said, watching Stagecoach again reminded me that "championing lesser-known works" doesn't have to be done at the expense of their most popular and best-loved movies. Stagecoach really is up there with the best American movies ever made.

Pauline at the Beach (Eric Rohmer, 1983) (v) ****


(v) = Seen on home video (dvd, dvr, etc.).
(r) = Not my first viewing.
(s) = Short film.

Star system ("borrowed" from the Chicago Reader)

No stars = Not recommended
* = Redeeming feature(s)
** = Recommended
*** = Highly recommended
**** = "Masterpiece"
***** = A place in my personal pantheon

No comments: