Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More from the Criterion sale

The other day I had to get back to Barnes & Noble. This is the worst month out of the year for me because so many great releases are coming out with great prices because of the sale. Either way I picked up the Eclipse box set "Up All Night with Robert Downey Sr.", "David Lean Directs Noel Coward", "Berlin Alexanderplatz", "Sanjuro", and "Walkabout". All of these films I had not seen previous to buying them besides "Sanjuro" and "Brief Encounter" which is a part of the David Lean box set. Looking forward to finish watching all of these great films and spew my pointless thoughts around.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Berlin Alexanderplatz

Yesterday I went back to Barnes & Noble and picked up some more gems from the Criterion Collection sale. One of those gems happened to be something I have put off purchasing for a long time. I am talking about Rainer Werner Fassbinders Berlin Alexanderplatz. I was putting this off for so long because I love Fassbinder and whenever I start watching something of his I cannot stop. You may ask why is that a problem? Berlin Alexanderplatz is essentially thirteen films at fifteen and a half hours (making it the longest running time for a film in history).

For those of you who do not know who Fassbinder is, he was arguably one of the greatest if not the greatest filmmaker of the past century. He completed forty four projects in eighteen years and died at the age of thirty seven. With films like The Marriage of Maria Braun (one of my all time favorite films), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, and massive television films (such as World on a Wire and Berlin Alexanderplatz) Fassbinder showed legitimate depth and understanding of the social, political, and personal aspects of his people. He grew up with German guilt that he was born with along with an entire generation that never deserved it, because they were not even alive during the war.

I am currently two episodes in to the film, which puts me at two and a half hours and a basic understanding of what is going on. The main character is Franz Biberkopf, a man who is just released from jail after serving four years for beating his girlfriend to death. He is no hero nor an anti-hero. This is a character that is extremely complex with no real rhyme or reason, and is supposed to be studied and perhaps admired for his complexity? At the same time he seems like an absolute moron. He has his moments of genius and his moments of stupidity and might just be a caricature of what the average German man was like in Weimar era Germany before the rule of the Nazis.

So far it is as enjoyable as any Fassbinder film I have seen. It has the same eccentric characters that I am used to seeing, more than an average inventiveness behind the camera,  and a pace that is slower but more than bearable considering the subject matter and everything that goes on. Hopefully I will have this film finished by next week to give a full review about how I feel about the film as a whole.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Criterion sale and impending reviews

Today Barnes & Noble has begun their semi-annual Criterion Collection sale. This is pretty much the highlight of my year, (which is pretty pathetic) but at least I get what I am normally buying for 27.99-30.00 for 16.99 or less. Today I purchased five blu rays. Alfred Hitchcocks The 39 Steps, Charles Chaplins The Gold Rush, Hal Ashbys Harold and Maude, Otto Premingers Anatomy of a Murder, and Yasujiro Ozus Late Spring. Slowly but surely I will be reviewing each and every one of these films and the purchases that are sure to follow later such as the Eclipse 33: Up All Night with Robert Downey Sr.The Samurai Trilogy, and David Lean Directs Noel Coward box sets.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom as most of you well know is the new Wes Anderson film. It has been a huge limited release hit bringing in a record for most limited release ticket sales of all time. Pretty much every person who has seen it that I have talked to absolutely loved it (many of which are calling it there favorite Wes Anderson film). I say lets not get carried away here. Wes Anderson for a man his age has already made so many great films. Look back on Rushmore or The Royal Tennenbaums which are probably my two favorite films of his. You could even take a look at Bottle Rocket (his first film) and see plenty of glimpses of genius there.

Moonrise Kingdom is a very touching story. It may be the closest Wes has ever come to making an "absolutely human" movie. With this film Wes Anderson has done something that he has done time and time again. That would be the "coming of age" story. But the reason why this film is so effective is that for the first time besides Rushmore he is actually dealing with children that are "coming of age". This is unlike his other films. A good example of what I am getting at would be The Royal Tennenbaums. In The Royal Tennenbaums the better part of the characters are adults who are extremely childish, and by the conclusion of the film they "come of age" and learn their life lessons.
But in this film the two main characters are probably the most effective and touching characters Wes has ever written (with Roman Coppola) and the performances by the lead and supporting kids were all really great.

Another point that I am hearing from major fans of this film is this: "It doesn't look like any other film he has ever made". In my opinion that is completely ridiculous statement. Wes uses the same exact color palette and shooting techniques (French New Wave inspired) that he has used in all of his films. If their is one thing that I can appreciate about Wes Anderson it is the world he has created for himself. Saying that it looks different than anything else he has ever done discredits his creativity and his style that he has always worked in. It is the way he views the world around him (which has also been very childish). You know when you are getting in to a Wes Anderson movie as soon as any of these things flash in front of your face or you hear a newly composed song by Mark Mothersbaugh.

Overall, I found Moonrise Kingdom to be a very good film. There has not been one film that Wes Anderson has made that ever really let me down. I will say that this is the best ensemble cast that he has ever put together. But don't let the hype confuse you. This film is more of the same (which really isn't a bad thing ... or is it?). 8/10

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rosemary's Baby

What is there to possibly say about Roman Polanski that hasn't been said already? Popular opinion of him is pretty much broken up into two camps ("He is an utterly brilliant filmmaker" or "He is a child rapist and a pervert so I wont watch his films"). I personally believe in that first opinion primarily because HE IS a brilliant filmmaker and in addition to that I have seen "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" which was a huge eye opener into his criminal case.

Anyway, last night I watched "Rosemary's Baby" for the first time ... and it blew my mind. I cant say that it is any "Chinatown" because it definitely is not. But it is a grade A thriller through and through. I cannot begin to say good things about this film. It is beyond creepy and works well off of the material and Polanskis direction, and it  doesn't use fast cuts or any of the garbage that horror filmmakers use today for cheap screams. This film sets a mood that is creepy as hell from the beginning and only builds from there.

I wont go in to detail for the risk of giving away too much for anyone who has still not seen this classic. The basic gist of the film is that a couple (Farrow and Cassavettes) move into a new apartment which has a history of witches that may or may not involve their neighbors. Once Farrow becomes pregnant the rest of the film is generally ambiguous and up to your own personal interpretation.

The acting in this film is pitch perfect. I cannot believe that Mia Farrow did not win a a single award for her performance. It is completely devastating watching her deteriorate gradually throughout the film. John Cassavettes was an interesting choice for the husband "Guy" but did not really stand out that much. He doesn't seem to have a lot to work with in this film, but for what its worth he was more than adequate. The real standout performance in this film is Ruth Gordon of "Harold and Maude" fame. She starts off really weird and quirky and only becomes more sinister as the film progresses.

Another point of interest is the way the film was shot. Polanski, no matter how great of a DP he has on his films is very controlling of the framing and general layout and look of the film. Scene after scene you witness some very beautiful and interesting camera work (almost in a "Hitchcockian" style). You can see other great examples and perhaps even better ones in "Chinatown".

Overall, I cannot remember the last time a film had genuinely creeped me out so much. This is a gripping film that is worth multiple viewings, and will now be a part of my all time favorite films particularly in the horror genre. 10/10


Last week I saw "Prometheus" in IMAX 3D at midnight opening night. It was a really wild experience in many different aspects. The first being the film itself. The fact that it is in IMAX and in 3D was a first time combination for me and it was pretty mind blowing. I am not a real big 3D person but when its done right it serves its purpose (whatever that may actually be).

Here is the real deal on this movie. It looks fantastic ... sounds fantastic ... has some fantastic scenes ... but is taken down a few pegs due to corny dialogue and undeveloped characters. Some of the dialogue (especially a couple one liners) were absolutely not funny and very painful to hear. I've never seen Charlize Theron try so hard to actually act in a film ever. She is such a great actress but clearly did not have proper material to work with. Although I will give credit to Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace who both really gave it their all and it shows with standout performances.

Another issue that I had with the film was the score. If they were trying to go for an "Alien" type score they failed miserably. It does not fit in to the film whatsoever. Besides those two complaints (which are actually pretty big ones) I enjoyed the film thoroughly. From a visual aspect it was great (cinematography and set design were on point) and there were some really tense scenes which I appreciated greatly. The conclusion of the film is the real payoff though. Be prepared for inevitable sequels. 7/10

Almost two full years

Well, its almost been two full years since I've last used this blog. Mostly because of work, work, and work. But now I have some free time on my hands and wouldn't mind throwing some thoughts around. I think I might just start reviewing blu-rays for the most part, and do some theatrical reviews on the side since I have a ton of blu-rays and no cash to go to the movies.