Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Night Movie Review 5!

It's that time again, and this week the Fruitless Pursuits staff have been recklessly watching films like they've got something to prove! I'm astounded they got anything else done! Behold this dripping cornucopia of celluloid as they review some of the hottest new releases like:

Oh. Okay... So maybe not so new. (1936?!). But still! You would be mad not to join us after the jump and read thoughtful mini-reviews of some forgotten treasures that you may have missed!


ShakespeaRe-Told: Macbeth (2005)
So, TECHNICALLY this was one part of a BBC tv mini-series which adapted Shakespeare plays to modern settings, but it IS movie length so I'm going to take some liberties. I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan of 'the Scottish play', and I haven't read it in 10+ years, but I was curious to see how the BBC was planning to reinvent it. Oh, and James McAvoy was in it. And the adaption was written by Peter Moffat, which was very exciting for about five minutes, at which point I realised Peter Moffat and Doctor Who's Stephen Moffat are completely different people. Doh.

Instead of the battlefields of 15th century Scotland, the story takes place in the kitchen of a 3 Michelin Star restaurant in Glasgow. Joe Macbeth (McAvoy) is the star Head Chef who has built the restaurant to its lofty heights, despite much of the credit going to the owner, TV celebrity chef Duncan Docherty. Macbeth's 2IC is Billy Banquo, Duncan's son Malcolm is a lowly-ranked chef in the team, Peter Macduff is the Head Waiter, and while there's no need for titles in this adaption, the role of the batshit crazy Lady Macbeth is assumed by Joe's wife Ella. Most of the story runs faithful to the original, with a few obvious modern spins. The adaption is written in modern english, so instead of 'Out, damned spot!' we get a montage of feverish hand-scrubbing at a basin. The three witches have been replaced by a trio of fortune-telling bin men, and the Birnam Wood twist at the end was reworked in a very simple yet clever way.

As I said, I'm not really into Macbeth, but I did enjoy this adaption. As you'd expect, all the action really gets rolling after the murders occur and Macbeth starts going crazy. There are some wonderfully disgusting scenes once he really loses his marbles and starts hallucinating that had me swinging between cringing and wanting there to be many more scenes just like them. Top shelf bloodshed.

Stryder Wolfe:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
This weekend I happened to see the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". If you've never seen this movie, it's a great mix of love story and sci-fi.  Jim Carrey (who I normally sort of hate but in this movie really love) and Kate Winslet (ALWAYS love her) play a couple who end up breaking up. Shocking. I'd break up with Jim Carrey too, were I Kate. The twist is, Kate Winslet's character, named Clementine (Oh my darlin'....) has a doctor erase all of her memories of Jim Carrey's character, Joel. Joel learns of this and decided he wants to do the same, but once the procedure has begun he realizes that it was a huge mistake and spends the rest of the time running around his dreams trying to "hide" Clementine from the machine erasing his memories. It really shows him how much he loves Clementine despite the trouble they'd been having.  Something we could all use a little reminding of in our relationships from time to time.

There's also a "B" plot going around with the doctor, his two assistants and his secretary all trying to justify their lives and sleep with each other, more or less. It leads to Kirsten Dunst learning a valuable lesson about life and spouting out some quotes that she maybe only half-understands. You have to see it to know what I mean but it's a great scene.

Anyway, I recommend this movie! I know I sound a little snarky about it but it was really, really worth watching. The people in it aren't particularly likeable and the premise is hard to believe, but it's just those things that make the movie seem very human and in the end, both touching and smart. Check it out sometime!


Key Largo (1948), Dial 1119 (1950), The Petrified Forest (1936)
I have been home sick all week, and it's been pretty miserable. But one thing that makes me happy is old movies. Right now we're on a noir kick.

So this week we watched Key Largo, a 1948 noir film directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Edward G Robinson. Bogart is a former Major who goes to visit the father and widow of his army buddy who died in World War II. The father and his daughter in law run a hotel, and when Bogart arrives, the guests there are awful and uninviting. It later turns out they are gangsters who had been exiled in Cuba and they take the hotel hostage until they can conduct some business, when a hurricane hits.

The movie is excellently written, directed and acted, as you would expect from such a stellar line up, and all in their prime. It's really exciting and has a fantastic finish.

The following night we watched Dial 1119. Directed by Gerald Mayer and starring Marshall Thompson, this 1950 noir film didn't have the same star power (or at least the folks involved weren't familiar to me).

Anyway, Marshall plays an escaped mental patient who holds a bar full of colourful character hostage until he can confront his former doctor. At 75 minutes, this film moves along really fast and turned out to be surprisingly excellent. The more I watch classic films, the more I am surprised by how 'modern' they seem.

Lastly, we watched The Petrified Forest, a 1936 film that is actually considered a precursor to noir. This movie stars Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart in his first major role.

Howard is a drifter who finds his way to a diner in the Arizona desert run by Bette Davis' family. Howard is British, intellectual and a former writer, which Bette falls in love with almost instantly. She dreams of leaving Arizona and going to France to become an artist. Howard hitches a ride with a rich, miserable couple who are almost immediately carjacked by Bogart who plays a gangster on the run from the police. Bogart proceeds to take the diner hostage. That's right, three hostage films back to back, and all coincidental.

Anyway, this is a fantastic film, though sometimes it is a little obvious it is based on a play (kind of like watching a Mamet film, but then, that never bothers me).

All three films were wonderful, and I'd highly recommend them.

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
I just recently subscribed to Netflix, so I'm re-watching some older movies that I like. Tonight I watched Assault on Precinct 13. No, not the remake but the original! It's fairly well known, but for those that don't know what it's about I'll explain. A rookie cop in gang infested L.A. is assigned to watch over a closing station that's scheduled to be shut down in the morning. Meanwhile, a man guns down a murderous ganglord and flees to the emptied precinct. The gang members follow him and siege war against the rookie cop, secretary, and prisoners whithin.

It's hard to sum up the best points about this film because I don't think it's known for it's excellence. It's stiff acting, repeating line "Gotta smoke?" and cheap dialogue all add to the cheese. But that's the beauty of it. It's a great story about survival against gang violence, set in a very iconic era. And it's cheesiness really just makes the film feel whole. There's a few great lines, some nice action, and a really disturbing/funny (more on the disturbing side) scene thats hard to forget. If you're a fan of the Warriors, you'll undoubtedly enjoy this one as it shares similar music, themes and struggles. Both movies are about survival against ganglords... just one's from the inside prospective.

J. Tagmire:
The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town (2010)
I've had this on DVD for a while now, but it's been tucked away so nicely in my amazing Darkness on the Edge of Town box set that I never got a chance to watch it. Thanks to HBO GO (and my in-laws login info) I was able to watch it without the 20th century hassles of loading a disc into a dvd player and turning on a TV set. But while watching this, I was wishing away all of the modern convenience and high-quality shine of the 2010's, and feeling the rawness of a late 1970's, young, determined musician.

The album, Darkness on the Edge of Town is an odd one. No big hits, no epic anthems, darker themes, and very few love songs. It wasn't what was expected at the time (after the success of Born To Run), but still managed to be a big success. Watching this documentary, you'll see what made the album so great. It was the attention to detail (spending months getting the snare drum sound, getting a mixer who could end the sweet spot between muted and glossy) and it was also Bruce's determination. Many of his choices he made were the complete opposite of everyone around him. He waited out a huge legal battle with a manager so that he could record where he wanted to. He narrowed down the 50+ songs to 10 that nobody else agreed with. For all of those reasons, this album is still making top albums of all time lists.

If you're a fan of the album or the band, the documentary is a must see. If you're not.. it's a really hard sell, but if you can catch it on HBO GO I'd still suggest it. It's really interesting to see a band that recently had the #1 song in the US, rehearsing in Bruce Springsteen's kitchen because they legally were not able to play anywhere else. It's as raw as it gets.

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