Friday, February 08, 2013

What I Watched in January

January brought three trips to the theater and all were fantastic experiences.

I had been a bit surprised- indeed, shocked isn't too strong a word - when my beloved girlfriend announced after seeing the trailer for DJANGO UNCHAINED that she wanted to see the film. I thought there was no way she would want to see a Western but,  as I've noted elsewhere she loved the film even more than I did. Tarantino's last two films have been among his best and show him moving into a truly fun area of crafted Alternative Histories with his stories. Everything is brutally nasty and slightly heightened above the norm of conventional reality which only serves to improve each movie's effectiveness. With this film he bores deeply into uncomfortable territory for any American aware of our country's past evils and forces the viewer to confront some stark facts- all while entertaining said viewer with a revenge/love story of epic feel and cinematic beauty. Its not a perfect film but as a major fan of the spaghetti westerns he is riffing on I felt thrilled that so much could still be done with the classic ideas from those great old movies. DJANGO UNCHAINED always seems fresh and, although long, it is never boring.

I had not originally intended to see LINCOLN theatrically but Yvette became interested in the film and I was glad to check it out. The story covers only the last few months of the Civil War and focuses on the battle to pass the Constitutional Amendment to do away with slavery in the United States. The knowledge that if the war ends before such a change is made this important thing might never happen hangs over the period and informs every political move made. What is more important? Is ending the hideous bloodshed as soon as possible first priority or is correcting the rotten moral compromise that twisted our nation from its inception a more vital need? Watching good and not-so-good men wrestle with this dilemma was fascinating and entertaining in ways I did not expect. Plus, I love listening to the way people spoke in the 19th century! So much more interesting and colorful than today's argot.

After purchasing a particular Blu-Ray I received a free ticket to see JACK REACHER so checking it out was a no-brainier - luckily the film was pretty smart. What attracted me to the film in the first place was the writer/director Christopher McQuarrie's involvement. I've been a fan of his style of storytelling since he scripted THE USUAL SUSPECTS and I loved his directorial debut with the stark modern day neo-noir/spaghetti western THE WAY OF THE GUN. Having heard good things about the novels being adapted for this film I had hopes for a mean little action tale and that is what I got. The film feels like a throwback to the more interesting action films of the 1970s in which character and tension were more important than explosions. I was impressed with the story, the pacing, the direction and the acting from pretty much everyone concerned. The violence was well staged and believable which is something I can always appreciate in these days of hyper-spastic silliness. I'd love to see a sequels from the same creative team but I doubt that will happen. 

THE LADY AND THE MONSTER (1944)- 6 (wild adaptation of Donovan's Brain)
RED RIDING HOOD (2011)- 3 (beautiful but dumb- terrible dialog)
TARANTULA (1955)- 8  (rewatch)
THE SNIPER (1978)- 7
THE BLACK HAND (1950) - 7 (Gene Kelly & J. Carroll Naish battle New York Mafia in 1910)
GOD BLESS AMERICA (2011)- 7 (cynical, dark comedy)
FRANKENWEENIE (20120- 8 (rewatch)
CHRONICLE (2012)- 8 (very well done 'birth of a superhero tale)
LINCOLN (2012)- 9 (touching and fascinating portrait of democracy in extremis)
JACK REACHER (2012)- 7 (refreshing 70s style action film)
KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE (1953)- 6 (cartoonish but fun)
DANGEROUS BLONDES (1943)- 5 (OK mystery with too much comedy)
BROTHER ORCHID (1940)- 8 (comedic gangster tale with heart)
THE DEVIL'S BROTHER (1933)- 6 (pre-code operetta with Laurel & Hardy wedged in)
THE NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1981)- 8 (rewatch)
CITY IN DARKNESS (1939)- 6 (rewatch) (Charlie Chan) 

1 comment:

Kal said...

Django Unchained was the best movie I saw last year - or better said, the one I had the most fun with.