Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bad Dog, No Biscuit

Film: Bulldog Drummond
Format: Internet video on rockin’ flatscreen.

I find that I can only watch the really old films on the Oscars list rarely. There’s a real necessity to, as much as possible, put oneself in the mindset of the time. This is particularly true in the case of early talkies. When the talkies started, silent films were already an established form and had grown and matured. The early talkies are in a real sense the very early childhood of the films we watch today. Because of this, the acting can be a real issue. Any drama in this early days is, more or less, melodrama even if that’s not intended. The over-the-top acting style makes that true. In the case of Bulldog Drummond, this is very true of everyone except the star.

Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond (Ronald Colman) is a retired British military officer, which has a whole series of connotations for the late 1920s. He tells his equally stereotypical friend Algy (Claud Allister) that he is bored. Wanting some excitement in his life, Bulldog takes out an ad in the newspaper asking anyone to send him something exciting and fun to do. Basically, he’s becoming a public, one-man version of the A-Team.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nick's Pick: Frailty

Film: Frailty
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the tenth of a series of monthly reviews suggested by Nick Jobe at Your Face.

When we went through the list of films that Nick had given me, Frailty came up as the choice for October since it is a film with dark themes and strong horror elements. I’ve labelled this a horror movie, but I’m not sure it actually is one. It’s far closer to a thriller, but there’s enough horror here that I’m not really going to quibble over it. This also happens to be the first feature-length film directed by Bill Paxton, which makes it interesting in its own right.

Somewhere in East Texas, there is a suspected serial killer known as God’s Hand. There have been a number of disappearances but only a single body found. Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) is the FBI agent in charge of the investigation. He gets a break one rainy evening when a man named Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) walks into his office and claims that not only is the God’s Hand killer dead, but that he knows who it was: it was his brother (Levi Kreis).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tupelo Honey

Film: Ulee’s Gold
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

When Ulee’s Gold showed up in the mail, I can’t really say with any honesty that I was excited about it. This is, after all, a film about a widowed beekeeper in Florida. How interesting could it be, right? And, if it really were about beekeeping, it would be a very long two hours. Fortunately for all of us, Ulee’s Gold is about more than bees and about a hell of a lot more than a widowed beekeeper.

Ulysses “Ulee” Jackson (Peter Fonda) is that widowed beekeeper mentioned above. As the film opens, we learn almost organically that he is raising his two granddaughters, Casey (Jessica Biel) and Penny (Vanessa Zima). In the same way, we learn the reason that he has custody of his granddaughters. His son Jimmy (Tom Wood) is in prison for some sort of larceny or robbery. Jimmy’s wife Helen (Christine Dunford) is a junkie hanging around Orlando. The plot starts moving just as Ulee is getting ready to bring in his tupelo honey, the week or two of the year where he makes most of his money.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hello, Headache

Film: Hello, Dolly!
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I knew this one was going to be rough. I was braced for it to be one of those musicals where all of the men are drips and the women are all “sassy,” and indeed that’s exactly what Hello, Dolly! is. Hello, Dolly! encapsulates everything I dislike about musicals in general and wraps them up in a package that runs for close to 150 minutes. I suspected this going in. You can fault me for all sorts of things, but you can’t accuse me of avoiding films like this one. I dive head first into shit like this all the time and do it consciously most of the time when I do it, although I am blindsided at times.

Ah, but wait. There’s a pedigree with this one that needs to be mentioned. The director of Hello, Dolly! is Gene Kelly. Even in a case where I’m fairly sure I’m going to dislike the plot and most of the characters and where I’m going to rapidly be overcome by Barbra Streisand’s sassiness, Gene Kelly’s not going to disappoint with the musical numbers. It’s at least going to be a spectacle, right?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Three's Not Always a Charm

Film: The Godfather Part III
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

I can’t say it was with a great deal of relish that I decided on The Godfather Part III today. I’ve seen this one before. I’ve mentioned in the past that while I think the first two Godfather films deserve their reputation, I almost never feel like watching them. With the third installment, I’ve never really felt much desire to revisit it at all. But it is on the Oscars list, and like it or not, I had to get to it eventually. Going in, I remember thinking of this as the least of the three Godfather films, but also as being better than its reputation.

It is, of course, the continuing story of the Corleone family, and more specifically the continuing saga of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who took over the family business at the end of the first movie. The main thrust of the film, at least at the beginning, is Michael’s attempt to recover his reputation from years as the head of a large and powerful Mafia family. As much as he can, Michael has gone straight, but he still has deep ties to the family, having turned over his criminal interests to a man named Joey Zasa (Joe Mantenga).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Wizard of Odd

Film: Howl’s Moving Castle
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

I don’t typically love the look of anime. It frequently delves into the oppressively cute, and there’s a part of me that objects to this almost as a gut-level reaction. This tends not to be the case with the work of Hayao Miyazaki, whose work tends to be of surpassing beauty and evidently limitless imagination. Howl’s Moving Castle is evidently not based on an original story by Miyazaki, but the artwork is purely from his fervent and fertile imagination. As with all of the others of his films that I’ve seen, Howl’s Movie Castle is a film of surpassing beauty.

I went into Howl’s Moving Castle completely cold, knowing only that it’s a Miyazaki film and that my kids like it. I had hopes, though, because I’ve at least liked every other Miyazaki film that I’ve seen to this point. That implies pretty heavily that I didn’t like Howl’s Moving Castle, I know. I did like quite a bit of it, but of the four Miyazaki films I’ve seen now, I think it’s my least favorite.