Tuesday, April 05, 2011

What I Watched In March

March was a hectic month for me here in the Pit. I worked 30 out of 31 days taking only the day after St. Patrick’s off for rest and sanity. Because of that I didn’t get the usual number of movies watched but luckily there were a higher percentage of good ones to bad than usual as well.

I am apparently one of a handful of people that saw AND liked SUCKER PUNCH. I really enjoyed it with its very basic plot but pleasingly peculiar structure and stunning visual style. It’s fast, emotional and kept me wondering what mad surprise was going to slide across the screen next. Director Snyder continues to impress me but it looks like his cred with the geeks-boys has been shattered. I've enjoyed each of his movies so far and the more he stretches to be audacious/inventive visually the more I like them but I fear his days of commercial success may be gone. I think he’ll have to do a work-for-hire project next just to try to get the money people to trust him again. In 20 years we may just be glad we got the ones we have and wonder why everyone was bitching at the time. Shame.

I gave a 10 to two films in March and they couldn’t be more different (on the surface) if I tried. THIRST is a brazenly shocking and touching vampire tale that only mad Korean Chan-wook Park could have created. I thought he would never be able to top OLDBOY but holy hell! THIRST might not be better but it is equally as good. Its unexpected humorous elements worked brilliantly and constantly made the darker points more compelling. The film is as much about romantic relationships as it is about bloodsucking as a curse/blessing and I doubt I’ll see a better genre film this year.

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP was just as fantastic as I’d heard. By this time I should expect a Powell/Pressburger film to be brilliant but each time I’m caught unawares as they work their magic. I was expecting a serious film and that is what it is most of the time but the funny segments are integral to the dramatic scenes and reflect perfectly how life deals equal parts sugar and salt to everyone. I loved the structure of learning the background and history of one British soldier's path through two wars so that we understand how he sees the world in his old age. Roger Livesey was an amazing actor and his performance as Clive Candy is screen perfection while any chance to see Deborah Kerr play three different roles is always going to be OK with me. It’s an incredibly entertaining film that I know I’ll learn more from as I revisit it from time to time as I get older.

My mini-festival of Walter Hill films continued this month as I showed friends TRESPASS and LAST MAN STANDING. Crowd pleasing is exactly what both of those action movies are and the big smiles they prompted from a roomful of guys is all the proof you need of their high quality. I also caught up with Gary Sherman’s last theatrical film LISA and while it is one of the least of his directorial run it was still well worth seeing. He was such a strong filmmaker with a great directorial style and eye for staging that it’s a sad loss that he never seemed to be able to craft hits enough to stay in the game. Seriously- any man who could make RAW MEAT, DEAD & BURIED and VICE SQUAD back to back knows how to make fine exploitation cinema and should have been granted at least one film project a year forever! ROAR OF THE DRAGON was an unexpected slice of pre-code nastiness that plays like a Yellow Peril pulp story brought to life. Sexy, violent and often surprising especially when certain characters open up with a tripod mounted machine gun! Recommended!

And NetFilx continues to offer up some things I’d never heard of before right there for the streaming. VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES is incredibly poorly named as there are no zombies, there is no valley and I suspect ‘of the’ might be misleading too. Still, the film is a fast B-movie horror effort that plays a lot smoother than similar, better known cult items from the period. It sports some clever dialog, fun characters and a cast that seems to really get into the material. You could certainly do a lot worse for a feature that runs less than an hour.

Here’s hoping I have some more time off in April and can get back to melting my brain with far too many movies crammed into the month.

SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011)- 4 (knight tale that is just not very good)
THIRST (2009)- 10 (Chan-wook Park is brilliant)
THE GODSEND (1980)- 5 (OK British evil child film)
THE MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET (1942)- 5 (OK mad scientist/island tale)
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943)- 10 (brilliant)
DRIVE ANGRY (2011)- 7 (an over the top exploitation blast)
THE STRANGE LOVES OF THE VAMPIRE (1975)- 7 (beautiful)
TRESPASS (1992)- 7 (Walter Hill’s modern Treasure of the Sierra Madre adventure) (rewatch)
MANNAJA: A MAN CALLED BLADE (1977)- 8 (fantastic spaghetti western) (rewatch)
LISA (1990)- 6 (well directed but unremarkable thriller)
THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN (1960)- 7 (Japanese sci-fi/revenge story)
ROAR OF THE DRAGON (1932)- 8 (excellent pre-code pulp tale)
LAST MAN STANDING (1996)- 8 (rewatch)
BATTLE LOS ANGELES (2011) – 5 (silly and thin but Aaron Eckhart sells every second of it)
EL CAMINANTE (1979)- 8 (Naschy’s cruel philosophical masterpiece)
THE GATHERING (2002)- 7 (interesting British supernatural mystery)
LORDS OF THE DEEP (1988)- 2 (boring Corman produced ALIEN rip-off)
JOURNEY BENEATH THE DESERT (1961)- 5 (Edgar Ulmer’s slow Atlantis adventure)
THE DEADLY AFFAIR (1966)- 9 (rewatch) (even better the second time)
VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES (1946)- 7 (fast, fun B-horror picture)
SUCKER PUNCH (2011)- 8 (amazing but not for everyone)
NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND (1972)- 6 (odd, sedate ghost tale)


Angel said...

So you gave El Caminante an 8! Looking forward to listening to the podcast!


Randy Fox said...

Thanks again for the Walter Hill-fest, and I was glad to see you enjoyed Roar of the Dragon as much as I did!

shloggs said...

Great blog! Nice to see someone else enjoyed Sucker Punch. I've been meaning to check out Thirst for a while now, this is further incentive.

Rod Barnett said...

Angel- We both loved EL CAMINANTE. It is one of Naschy's best films period!

Randy- The Hill-fest will continue as soon as I nail down copies of JOHNNY HANDSOME and EXTREME PREJUDICE.

Shloggs- Wow! A compliment from you is amazing! I love your writing and don't really feel even in the same ballpark. And yeah- SUCKER PUNCH is getting slammed for a lot of stupid reasons - Mark Kermode's recent review was a fine example of missing the point- but what are ya gonna do?