Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Screening Log: December - January

Le Corbeau (d. Henri-Georges Clouzot) - A series of poison pen letters nearly destroy a rural French village. I think this is basically the film Michel Haneke has wanted to make his entire life. Clouzot has a keen eye for small-town hypocrisy and the cruelty of children, both in his villains and his heroes. At the end, you realize the most hateful character is the most victimized person of all, while a friendly, charming man is actually a black-hearted, twisted human being. A-

Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (d. Terry Gilliam) - Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) makes a deal with the Devil (Tom Waits) to win more souls to imagination than to earthly delights and... ? Visually stimulating and beautiful, with great moments of acid wit about wish-fulfillment. Too bad the plot is a jumble and Gilliam can't make up his mind who the main character. That said, Gilliam displays a fascinating amount of cynicism towards self-proclaimed prophets of imagination, which I never would have expected. C-

Jack Goes Boating (d. Phillip Seymour Hoffman) - A character piece about Jack (Hoffman), a man whose life seems stuck in neutral, finally getting his shit together, as his best friend (John Ortiz)'s life falls apart. Hoffman's got a great eye for color and visuals (rare in actors turned director), and his relationship with Amy Ryan is realistic yet incredibly sweet. The movie falters most when pushing the melodrama of Ortiz and Daphne Rubin Vega's relationship. C+

The Errand Boy (d. Jerry Lewis) - Jerry Lewis is an errand boy who is supposed to spy on movie productions, but mostly just messes them up. The promise of the high concept is mostly ignored, but for every stock piece of Lewis shtick, there's a sequence of absurdist wit, like Lewis continually sitting down to eat lunch in the action sequences of other films, or when a long shot out of an Minelli musical caps his ruining a musical sequence. B-

Hot Rod (d. Akiva Schaffer) - A dirt-bike riding stuntman wannabe (Andy Samberg) tries to raise money for his dad's heart operation. Story is secondary, and like Lewis's film, it's more about the comedic heights than a sustained comic genius, often defaulting to the view that the 80s are funny. With the Lonely Island crew, Will Arnett, Ian McShane, Danny McBride, Sissy Spacek  and Isla Fisher, this has to be the most overqualified cast I've seen in a small comedy, and everyone outside of the Lonely Island crew is underutilized. That said, if you like SNL Digital Shorts, there are at least 4 or 5 sequences that could have made good ones. B-

UHF (d. Jay Levey , 2nd viewing) "Starring Weird Al Yankovic" is rarely a good sign, especially in the '80s, when the shrillness of his shtick often overrode whatever humor there was in his music. Moments like "Gandhi 2" or that involve Michael Richards and/or Kevin McCarthy work well. Would have been better if Frank Tashlin or Joe Dante could have directed it. Maybe. C-

Creepshow (d. George Romero) Hit-or-miss anthology mimicking old horror comics, but Romero probably gets the best overall cast he'd ever have (Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, Ed Harris, Ted Danson). "They're Creeping Up On You" and "Something to Tide You Over" hit that sweet spot of misanthropy, camp & dark humor that EC Comics stood for. A-

The Big Sleep (d. Howard Hawks) - It's the 40's Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen! In the sense that the whole story fails to hang together, & is more about individual cool scenes at the expense of the whole. However, what makes these scenes "cool" are dialogue, performance and mise-en-scene, not shakycam and incomprehensible action. Bogart and Bacall make it all go down smooth... B+

No comments: