Monday, March 31, 2014

Desolation of Smaug review

Glib Reviews Of DVDs that are Coming Soon!

No, really.

Directed by Peter Jackson

Working in a video store, the movies show up a few days before you put them on the shelves, so that you can have time to enter them into your inventory, and more importantly, for staff to view a few flicks to give people recommendations, which is a big chunk of your day. Some folks know exactly what they are looking for at the video store. But, a lot of people come to the store, because they don’t know what to watch, they check out the staff picks, and they ask for recommendations. So you have to keep up at least a little bit with the new releases.

Due to some inventory days at the distro warehouse, The Hobbit, Desolation of Smaug showed up well early, and I got to end my weekend of watching movies about D&D nerds with the 2nd movie adaptation of the really short book that got many of us into D&D in the first place. I’m in the camp, that Tolkien’s The Hobbit doesn’t need three movies to tell it’s story.

But movies are adaptations, they are not the experience of reading the book, they may come close occasionally but, well not really. 

I found the first movie The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey to be just okay in terms of how it told a story, that I am pretty familiar with. It had some good moments here and there, but it was oddly paced, and overlong, with not much of an ending, other than to be continued.

Desolation of Smaug is again, overlong, and the extra padding does little other than dazzle your eyes briefly. This second part of the story, for me at least was a bit more satisfying than the first, in that we did get to see the Elves being the giant dicks we all know them to be, and of course, as noble as we know a few of them to be. I liked Tauriel, she’s the Legolas of this movie, despite the actual Legolas being in the film, and kind of stalking her. Speaking of Mr. Bloom, I think I liked him in this particular bit of Legolassing better than anything he’s done, other than his turn on Ricky Gervais’ Extras.

I still have a hard time with the whole handsome in a human looking way Dwarves thing. Why are some of them very ‘Gimli-like’ and others are like short Humans? Contracts, of the actors, likely; it’s a bit jarring to me. 

That said, I liked the interplay of Hot Dwarf (The Hot Dwarf King’s Hot Nephew, I think)and Hot Elf (Tauriel) thinking they might cross the forbidden inter being love that dare not speak its name. Just like Gimli and Legolas in the LOTR movies. (just kidding, nerd homophobes, don’t worry they were just ‘bros,’ I’m sure) 

I found the city of Dale kind of annoying, the barge guy looked too much like the tall older brother of the Hot Dwarf King and his Hot nephew. It was weirdly disconcerting, are all the hot people related?

The Gandalf storyline was fun, but lacked much of the gravitas it needed, feeling kind of extraneous to me, and like the end of the story with the dragon, makes me impatient to watch the third one. 

The Dragon named Smaug, though was pretty much worth the wait. For me, the best part of the movie was the last part where Bilbo and his Band of Dwarves try to avoid being BBQ’d by Smaug, intercut with the steampunk albino Orcs attacking Dale and getting their asses handed to them by two very dextrous Elves. Two set pieces handles very well. Tough and lucky bunch of adventurers, getting nary a scratch from all that Dragon fire. Sherlock Holmes makes a fine Dragon voice, he really does.

Again, the ending makes me realize that this whole everything is a trilogy thing is just Hollywood echoing the current TV model. The Hobbit is just an HBO show done in the theatres. And like those shows, you feel affronted that it takes them a whole year or more to put out the next part of the story. 

To my mind though, those HBO shows are written with a bit more jump for the most part. I liked the Desolation of Smaug more than it’s predecessor, but it still left me wanting, wanting to wait ’til the third one comes out to watch all three again, together over a weekend, or a very long nerdy day.

So in a nutshell, the Desolation of Smaug was more enjoyable, and less plodding than An Unexpected Journey, but still it ineffably falls just short of being a great film, though I think all three together, or at least I hope, that all three together will make for one giant 9-12 hour roller coaster ride. The Hobbit isn’t as deep a story as you think it is, is something to keep in mind when watching. Tolkien Canon has nothing to do with the movies, they are adaptations, interpretations. 

7.99999 Hot Elves (like there is some other kind) doing backflips and shooting Orcs in the ass with arrows outta 10

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nerd-Sploitation Weekend continues

Glib Reviews of New Releases

NerdFest Day 2

Continuing my Nerd-Sploitation festival with the almost traditional tale of of the out of control Game Master. Earlier examples of this sort of the tiny Nerdsploitation genre includes Gamers, (and it’s sequel) or any of those movies that I don't watch, that involve video games.

Is a surprising solid portrayal of the aging Nerd, or Fan. The main character is in many ways a painful reminder of what its like to be so obsessed with a game (or any fantasy) that it ruins the rest of your life. 

Scott The GM in question ( Sam Eidson), may in fact be a triggering presence for many gamers, or ex gamers. Be warned, the interplay of the players and GM struggling through a ridiculously overlong campaign is more realistic than the things the players do ‘in game.’ People being talked over, outside noise causing havoc with the flow of the game, the omnipresence of snacks. All that stuff was bang on in portraying what it can be like in a game session. If there was a flaw in the gameplay stuff, it was there wasn’t an extended scene of great game play, team work, and communal story telling, which to pull off that long a campaign, you would need to have some of.

The main character doesn’t really learn much throughout his travails trying to navigate the world ‘out of game.’ He is very difficult to empathize with at first, but eventually you find out he’s a mess like everyone else, in the same ways, he just has only his imagination and the ability to always say the wrong thing as his armour. That’s a thin suit to wear every day, trust me. 

Zero Charisma is not a lighthearted affair at all, like ‘Knights Of Badassdom,’ it revels instead of in realized fantasy, and horror; but in the horrors of Reality, and the hollowness of Fantasy. It’s a solid little Indie drama that has some sharp wit, decent satire, and stellar performances from very human looking folk. 

The end is bittersweet at best, kind of sad, but very human, maybe even humane.

8.00043 Hipster Faux Nerds who infest your TableTop RPG with their stories of Skiing with Joss Whedon that one time, outta 10

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Knights Of Badassdom, my review.

Glib Reviews of Vaguely New DVD Releases

Before I do my next Mini-film fest, (Swashbucklers) starting Monday, I am having a new release Nerd fest. Movies about gamers have a tiny niche in the quick to video world of modern indie cinema. My favourite is the film “The Wild Hunt” an indie film from Quebec a few years ago. It was funny, serious, and a bit of a kitchen sink drama. Hidden Gem, it is. 

On Saturday I plan to watch Zero Charisma, and will have a review of that, Sunday morning, or I may watch The Desolation of Smaug, and watch Zero Charisma, on Sunday. Either way, those two movies, and a third - The Knights Of Badassdom, make a little mini-D&D-esque movie weekend, punctuated by my afternoon Sunday actually playing in a tabletop RPG.

My game logs for that game can be found on my RPG/FIC blog. My character’s name is Rosie Ramses.

But on to the movie which was much more likeable than I thought it would be. A decent Nerd Comedy.

Knights Of Badassdom.

Unlike a lot of the reviewers on IMDB, my expectations for this film starring Summer Glau, Nerd goddess of the last 10 years, other actors in roles of various sizes from True Blood (Ryan Kwantlen Game Of Thrones Peter Dinklage,  Treme (Steve Zahn), Community (Danny Pudi), and cameos from Brian Posehn, and others. It’s a dorky stupid movie, that likely doesn’t echo LARPing perfectly, especially since the LARPers in question have a real Spellbook, and summon a real succubus to their weekend of Live Action Role Playing.

What’s the worst that could happen? well not to spoil it but of course people die. I laughed out loud fairly often watching this cheeky little movie, that has a naive romance at it’s centre, but more importantly friendship and real camaraderie is found by the surviving LARPers. No great shakes as a piece of cinema, but kind of the movie you and your friends who LARP keep saying you are going to make. For me, also standout performances from Dinklage as a shroom eating two sworded Knight, and Jimmi Simpson, who’s been in lots of stuff like It’s always Sunny in Philadelphia, really shines as the nerdier than the starring nerds, Game Master, Ronnie Kwok.

He really nails the whole nerdy upbringing that has you still out in the woods fighting with foam swords on the weekends, at 30 something.

Light, entertaining fun, but not exactly Shakespeare. Which is kind of the point.

7.342 Death Metal songs that work just like Enochian Chanting outta 10

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Last Days On Mars Review

Glib Review of vaguely new release DVDs

- Directed by Ruairi Robinson

I’m really glad that there are so many Sci Fi movies getting made these days, speaking as a big fan of all (well maybe not 'all') things Sci Fi (and Fantasy) ... I just wish that more of them lived up to their potential. The thematically similar recent Europa Report does a better job despite using the so hackneyed found footage trope. 

There are no such conceits in this gritty thriller that wants to be an Alien, The Thing kind of movie. Bacterial life is found, and what could possibly go wrong. There are some good characters in this film, and the premise is solid if predictable. There’s not anything wrong with predictable, if it is done with style. 

Last days On Mars has some style, but not enough to keep it from making me almost nod off occasionally. I especially enjoyed Olivia Williams playing the Ice Queen Scientist as well as we all know she can. The ending, not to spoil it, I think that was the thing that could have turned it around for me, but you are left kind of hanging and nonplussed with the non ending. Usually this works for me, but in this picture, it was just, well, okay, I guess so.

The FX and the grittiness, decent acting make up for most of the flaws, but I can’t rate it very highly, middling at best.

5.4786 Kalahari sized dust storms coming out of nowhere as you notice that hole in your spacesuits outta 10

Sunday, March 23, 2014

47 Ronin Review

Glib Reviews Of New DVDs (Blu Ray in this case)

Directed By Carl Rinsch

Not the update of a classic story that I was hoping against hope, for. After being pleasantly surprised recently at Keanu’s solid directorial debut with the cliched in all the best ways, old school Kung Fu movie, Man Of Tai Chi. Where that movie exceeds expectations , this one falls short. Sad Keanu shows up for monosyllabic action, and scenes of being tortured, not the cool and hard as Agent Smith Keanu from Man Of Tai Chi.

Maybe it’s unfair to compare the two. 

But on its own 47 Ronin still is a so-so effort in the Let’s get our honour back genre. Far too long is spent setting everything up, the fantasy elements are okay, and the CGI is really good, but it doesn’t make up for the odd pacing and complete lack of snappy dialogue. The whole point of these movies where you have several anti-heroic types banding together, is to showcase some of those actors. There should be some actual banding together moments... 

The Ronin aside from their Commander, Oishi, have no character beyond fat guy, moustaches guy, etc. There is little chemistry in the love story. The big villain of the piece (there’s a dragon too, which isn’t a spoiler, if you watch the trailer) is perhaps the only character aside from Oishi, who was interesting.

The weird Thunder-dome pirate Island thing was kind out of left field. I don’t know how you go about making such a classic and well copied in the past, idea so, so dull. The action scenes, and the CGI are what makes it worth the watch. Eye Candy, and not a lot else going on in this one... The ending is particularly unrewarding. Really not a first date movie.

5.32665 Magic Warrior Monk Bird People (Tengu) that the movie should have been about outta 10

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Glib Reviews Of Vaguely Recent DVD Releases: Enough Said

Glib Reviews Of Vaguely Recent DVD Releases

- Directed by Nicole Holofcener

‘Enough Said’ is a lovely movie. Gandolfini shines in one of his last roles, but really for me, this was Julia Louis Dreyfus’ movie. I love her on TV, but in this she really gets to act, not just be the funny dorky lady she always is on TV. She gives a nuanced, wonderful performance, and holds the film together as the most fucked up of a wonderfully fucked up cast of characters.

Catherine Keener makes the wealthy poet single mom thing believable (almost) as she rants about her ex-husband, who sounds a bit of a putz. But all the characters in this film have that putz quality show up at some point. They are all jerks to each other at one point or another. Well, Albert(Gandolfini) maybe not as much as the others, but he’s as human as they are.

It’s refreshing to have a script where people are, like in the real world, mostly nice, but sometimes not. Sometimes we are selfish, rude, thoughtless. I loved that everyone is so human in this picture. The whole subplot of everyone being the age where you send your kids out of the house (swanky Universities in movie world), and having that separation anxiety be a part of their character’s development is very well done. 

Not a long review. There’s not much other to say I think you should watch it. I cried several times watching this movie, but they were all happy/melancholy tears.

9.222 Massage clients who yak your ear off about their exes, as you knead their scalps outta 10

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Glib Reviews Of Vaguely Recent DVD Releases Man Of Tai Chi

Glib Reviews Of Vaguely Recent DVD Releases

- Directed By Keanu Reeves

Keanu took a break from being an internet meme and directed a very old school martial arts picture, with some nice modern plot points to keep it fresh. It’s no “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” though there is a bit of wire work, and the main character is named Tiger.

Keanu sets us up right away with the knowledge that he is the Big Bad in this movie, as he dons a Dr. Doom mask and kills two people himself in the first few minutes of the picture. Keanu is a Super Villain on a mission for high ratings. Tiger Chen, who is a floppy haired underdog, delivery boy and almost a Tai Chi Master gets Really Really Ultimate Secret Fight Club Billionaire really excited when he uses his almost non violent tai Chi moves to win a competition in Beijing.

The narrative twists nicely between Tiger figuring out how to weave his Tai Chi around a gazillion different styles of Martial arts, the tough Hong Kong Ponytailed Detective who is always one step behind Keanu, and Keanu’s brooding monosyllabic manipulations of everyone. Nice cheeseball soundtrack also helps with the old school kung fu movie vibe.

Nice subplots that don’t dawdle, include saving the monastery, getting that office lady to notice you are flirting with her, and, Keanu staring at things and speaking very Hemingway-esque dialogue about the corruption of innocence. In the end, goodness sort of wins out over evil, which really shouldn’t be a spoiler. Pretty decent Martial Arts Movie and Keanu gets to be Agent Smith, kinda sorta. 

6.999 slap fights with an old man in pyjamas who you call Master outta 10

Friday, March 14, 2014

Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus, My Glib Review

Glib Reviews Of Vaguely Recent DVD Releases. 

- Directed by Sebastian Silva.

Director Silva was previously best known as the director of ‘The Maid,’ which is one of my favourite movies in recent years. I shied away from Crystal Fairy, though as I have/had a bit of ‘Michael Cera fatigue.’ I have heard, though working in a video store, wildly varying reports on what this movie is like. He’s closer to his self parody in ‘This Is The End,’ than he is the dorky cute Juno boyfriend, or George Michael. He’s a dick.

The movie starts with a very lively house party, in Chile, where Jamie (Cera’s character) is that guy who has always had lots of kinds of drugs, or so he just has to tell you, talking about drugs, like foodies talk about food, notes of this or that in the weed, that coke was cut with blah blah, that kind of blather that we all remember from going to house parties in our twenties.

He affects a kind of Millennial Larry David-ness, (I know, ewwww!) that annoys you as it annoys his compadres in looking to have some mescaline straight from the San Pedro cactus. But he’s also likeable enough that his friends, three brothers, with various levels of English, still follow him, and his 'command' of their mission.

What makes the movie, though is the presence of the eponymous Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman), a young earnest hippie chick who is constantly trying to get the boys to be healthy, along their journey, cleanse themselves for the big high. Jamie (who she calls ‘Pollo’ or Chicken) loves and hates her for joining their journey, despite inviting her in the first place.

All his energy is wound up tightly in getting and consuming the cactus juice. She is trying to have ‘an experience.’ Hoffman’s performance is subtle and nuanced and those Frida Kahlo eyebrows! Her character makes the film worth watching far more than the kid who is so obsessed with getting high, that he misses most of the fun in doing so. In the end, it’s her film to walk out of, having actually transformed, while the others, especially Cera learned some things, she is the one transformed. His creepy character is redeemed somewhat, and aptly. He didn’t learn everything, like he was sure he would, but he learned something.

8.1111 Stupid Boys Who Can’t Enjoy Themselves Unless They Are Putting Someone Else Down outta 10

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Glib Reviews of Kind Of New Release DVDs.

-Directed by Sebastiàn Cordero

Europa Report, I approached with some trepidation, as the ‘found footage’ movie ‘genre’ has worn past thin for me. This film, though makes effective use of the technique, and it didn’t seemed as forced as most of the more recent entries in that genre. Instead of crazy jump cut found footage, we have the re-piecing together of footage thought lost, communication from an Earth space ship bound for Europa, the moon on Jupiter, that has a lot of water, and possibly life. Six people spending a couple of years in Deep Space, what could possibly go wrong?

A lot of things of course go wrong, and the film builds tension successfully despite some weak dialogue here and there. Not all the characters are evenly written. But it’s really all about the tension, in this movie; the ending was effective for me, not to spoil it, is really all about the last image sent from the ship.

There is a lot to like in this low budget-ish, kind of old school despite the found footage conceit, and maybe because all the actors, while familiar, are not movie stars as astronauts. They all look like real people, who just might be astronauts. Probably the best thing about the movie, and the script, are the things that get left out. There is very minimal techie talk, no long winded explanations of how they get so far so fast, thus you don’t even think about it. 

The actual portrait of Europa was clear and very sci-fi-believable, and the ending, inevitable. I like this film much more after a couple of days thinking about it, than I did just after I watched it. Let it sink in.

An interesting thing, my watching these recent New releases has become its own mini festival of minimally populated characters movies. The Wall, was basically one character, DGG’s Prince Avalanche, was basically two maybe three actual characters. Jupiter Report had seven characters, none of whom had much more screen time really, than any other. I seem to have gravitated to films with small casts, where intimate portrayals outweigh the demand for action. I am pleased with these choices. It’s nice to watch some recent thoughtful movies amongst all the old classics, that I watch and re-watch so much.

8.2234 ill advised trips across thin spooky alien ice that glows in the dark outta 10

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Another New release DVD review. Prince Avalanche

Glib Movie Reviews Another “New Release”

- Directed by David Gordon Green

There is a tidy bit of clever credits meets the action in the opening moments of Prince Avalanche, a relatively recent DVD release, I watched last night. I’m a huge DGG (as I call him) fan, his only weak film in my opinion, being the stoner comedy “Your Highness.” That picture ironically left me not laughing. It all seemed so much more forced than any of his earlier work.

But since then, he’s done some good TV work: East Bound & Down, the dark Jonah Hill comedy “The Sitter,” “ Pineapple Express,” (which I gave notes for, on a very early draft of the screenplay by Evan Goldberg, back in my first video store daze in 2001, 02 or so.)  Prince Avalanche, and the upcoming “Joe” which judging by the trailer, looks like a return to the more serious vibes of DGG’s first film, George Washington, or Snow Angels, his fourth. 

Prince Avalanche, to get to the actual review, is for me, sort of wedged between Green’s more comedic stuff and the more dramatic vis a vie: a weird thing, that I commented on as soon as I watched the trailer, and now after watching the film; DGG made his version of a Wes Anderson picture. It talks about deeper character things through the characters’ quirks. This may not have been as purposeful on Green’s part as I make it seem. But it is difficult to watch a film maker dabble in artifice these days without thinking of Anderson, so prevalent is his style in contemporary US cinema.

There was also a bit of odd almost ‘titling’ at least once in the film, that echoed the opening where Rudd (the foreman of the small road crew composed of him and a pudgy Emile Hirsch) holds a post, while Hirsch pounds it in, and the letter echo with each strike, P-R-I-N-C-E__A-V-A-LANCHE. The later bit isn’t as as brash a breakage of the fourth wall, and many will miss it. I would have liked maybe even a bit more of that bit of trickery.

Interestingly, This film that is basically a two-hander (a few cameos) I watched a night after watching a Stunning one character film, the night before (see my review of “The Wall, ” below), it did not delve as deeply into the existential life of their characters, but it was a decent exploration of friendship, in a fairly straight forward Bro-mance kind of way. It definitely had lots of nice moments, and I liked the dorky Bros that these guys are. But it’s still kind of light. Good film, but by no means a great film, it’s worth a rental, certainly.

6.99999 crazy truck drivers supplying you with ginger ale, folksy wisdom, and moonshine outta 10

Monday, March 10, 2014

Another New Release review (not that new)

Vaguely New Release Glib Review of 

- Directed by Julian Pölsler

“Die Wand” is the title in German of this stark existential film. For that reason (it's existential nature) alone, I recommend watching it in German with subtitles, though on the dvd, the default is an English version. The German 'sounds right' when the main character is thinking all her deep thoughts. 

It has the barest of plots, a Woman finds herself cut off from the world, inexplicably. This is the script choice that makes the film work, that there is no time spent explaining ‘why’ this has happened. 

It is so beyond the character’s understanding, that she doesn’t spend much time at all thinking about it. She worries more a bout surviving, and helping the animals she comes to care for, a dog named ‘Lynx’ and a cat, and a cow. The entire picture is her recalling and putting down her story on paper. When she runs out of paper, the story is finished. Cut off from civilization, she has no choice but to live within, and commune with nature. 

Much of the movie is as naturalistically pastoral as a later Knut Hamsun novel. It’s a deep novelistic movie in that sense, basically narrated, and the imagery is at once both expositive and metaphorical. She sows wheat, she milks, births a cow. 

The woman herself is unnamed. We don’t know her name. But we know that she is extremely capable, even in the face of her despair and doubts at being able to survive alone. She has a family of sorts with the dog, and other animals, she is able to hunt, despite her aversion to doing so. I would wish to be half as capable as this strong anonymous woman is given her almost untenable situation. 

This film would make a great double bill with Michael Haneke’s “Time of The Wolf,” in neither film do we get a 'why' of what has driven humanity into survival mode, and while Time of the Wolf is about staying alive among others, The Wall is about that same survival, alone in the beauty and terror of nature.

9.0453 white crows that bode as well as they bode ill out of 10

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

Glib Reviews - The Occasional New Release

- Directed by the Coen Bros.

Oscar Isaac has a great time being miserable in this film, very loosely based of folkie legend Dave Von Ronk. Isaac, as Llewyn Davis has just the right amount of charm and neuroses to make you understand why he’s everyone’s ex-boyfriend. Though it takes awhile to get why Carey Mulligan’s character hates him quite as much as she does. The Love/Hateness of this relationship defines the movie, it’s depressing, but somehow charming while doing so, hopeful even in the face of utter despair. Mulligan’s character, Jean, is based on a real folkie, Jean Ray (of ‘Jim& Jean,’ just like the movie) who also happened to be the inspiration for Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” (which is in my top 5 all time songs) 

As with all the Coen Brothers pictures, the ensemble cast brings their A game, John Goodman does his best grandiose smarmy junkie jazz musician yet, Garret Hedlund is the Peter Stomare (think Fargo) of this flick. Everyone has an edgy relationship with Davis, except of course for the Orange Tabby Cat, who we find out in a bit of Coens’ self referencialism (and maybe a touch of Chris Marker homage) is named Ulysses.

Really great small turns from Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver.

Llewyn’s concern for the cat, and for Jean who does nothing but spew invective at him grounds him, and assures the audience that he’s not a complete jerk. He never catches a break and in the end the story takes on a Sisyphus-ean turn that made me cry as Llewyn does a despair filled but glorious rendition of  Fare Thee Well.

Seriously good Coen Bros film, but maybe not one of their best. Any other film makers did this; it would be their Best, but even the ‘worst’ (no bad films I can think of) of the Coens is better than most anything else. 

7.99999 Folk Singer Ex Boyfriends sleeping on your sofa far longer than you are comfortable with outta 10

Friday, March 7, 2014

RandomFest 2014 Film # 2

RandomFest 2014 Film # 2

Directed by Peter Weir.

Richard Chamberlin was a pretty huge star to me and everyone else, in the 70’s. He was Aramis, (in The Three Musketeers) David/Phillipe in “the Man in the Iron Mask” and (Edmond Dantes) “The Count Of Monte Cristo”, for gosh sakes. All the Dumas, all the time! “Centennial”! Anyway, he was one of my favourite actors as a kid for these reasons. 

The Last Wave, I saw on 16mm in my Intro to Film class with Gene Walz at U of M in 1984. The film blew my impressionable 18 year old mind. I knew nothing about Australia, other than what I’d seen in “The Road Warrior," and “Mad Max.” so nothing, other than what we learned in geography or Social studies along the way. The whole Dream Time thing made a lot of sense to me. I grokked. Which was a term I use sparingly now, but in 1984 when I saw this film first, I used perhaps a bit too much. 

Watching it now 30 years later for the first time, I was struck by Weir’s great use of low budget techniques to make a film with a fairly big story. The title spoils the ending a bit, but that part is a foregone conclusion, it helps you steer through the foggy conspiracy thriller vibe that is built from the opening, that is repeated throughout the film, in dream time and real time. Back in the day I would not have noticed the Douglas Sirk-ness of much of the story: Chamberlin is a Corporate attorney who is also a big social justice advocate, but doesn’t do criminal law, for some reason he gets roped into defending a group of Aborigines who maybe killed their friend, who stole from them, some sacred objects.

There is a lot of cheesy -but-effective John Carpenter-esque organ mood music, that flows into a great foley soundtrack of wind, rain, sounds of the city, which flows into some serious Didgeridoo music, which 30 or more years ago, was a real novelty to hear in North America. Now folks go, oh more Didgeridoo, how cliche. Back then it was the first time I heard it. Watching last night with headphones on, it was just as effective as it was meant to be in helping create the uber creepy dreamscape that the whole movie inhabits.

Chamberlin is perfectly cast as This Lawyer who people keep saying is romanticizing the Natives, but in fact he wanders through the whole piece hypnotized by them (especially that one young guy, who often is shirtless) and the notion of the dream time, connecting himself into a web of vague mysticism that everyone thinks doesn’t exist in the city, because of some dreams he had as a kid, and what with all the the rains of frogs, mud, hail, what not. 

The whole apocalyptic weather just before the apocalypse notion is pretty relevant these days I think. In the end you are unsure in the best possible way whether this whole thing is in Lawyer David Burton’s imagination. He finds that he is lost, and found as he leaves an underground bunker, a real life dream time with weirdly Mayan artwork and sees the Last Wave, and lets it fall over him, through vaseline smeared photography. 

A thriller that is kind of not a thriller. A surprisingly deep film, when you start to think about it, lots of layers, and of course the ever present David Gulpilil.

8.888 cloudless rainstorms in the desert that have deep meaning for short short wearing big city lawyers outta 10

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

RandomFest 2014 - Review Of White Heat

RandomFest 2014

So, it’s taken me awhile to get to watching movies again; I have been reading, writing and oddly: socializing so much that I couldn’t find the time until  last night. I watched the film that gave me the idea to watch a few of the films I recall seeing in Film School (University Of Manitoba 84-90, yes 6 years, I only stopped going when/because they sent me a diploma)  but not since. Maybe a snippet of one or two on late night TV, but never sat down and re-watched any of these choices. 

Raoul Walsh’s “White Heat” was this first movie. Before seeing this picture in a ‘gangster film’ class, I had seen all those great younger Cagney (the first movie anti-hero?) movies like Public Enemy, Dead End Kids, either in the class, or on my own, probably on the CBC late movie. This film plays with Cagney’s image as a Warner Bros. Gangster in a way that we now call ‘meta.’ Cagney was big, huge, and an icon in any role, but an aging crook, pulling train heists? Made for him.

And, as usual Cagney kills it. He is both Cody Jerrett, and James Cagney, both are present, he gets to do the patter he is so well known for as well as a bit of unusual depth with the Oedipal migraines that Cody suffers from. 

Cody Jarrett: [while eating a chicken leg, Jarrett speaks to Parker in the trunk of the sedan] How ya doin', Parker?
Roy Parker: It's stuffy in here, I need some air.
Cody Jarrett: Oh, stuffy, huh? I'll give ya a little air.
[pulls a gun from his pants and shoots four times into the trunk]

Virginia pouts and plots her way through the whole thing with aplomb and the ability to wear perfect makeup 24/7. She has a nice light touch that plays of Cagney’s growly touchy husband. Ma’s offscreen death is one of the best offscreen deaths in Cinema. Edmond O’Brien ‘big lugs’ himself through the movie as the most chill undercover cop of all time. The whole thing holds up extremely well, and makes me want to re-visit my favourite Cagney movie... wait for it... “The Strawberry Blonde.”

9.025467 super earnest criminals who turn out to be coppers outta 10