Monday, May 26, 2008

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

This is a surprisingly fun movie, and I don't even mean that in a "Haw haw haw! Lookit the crappy special effects! Hee-yuk!" way.

I'm convinced it's a comedy, or at least the parts with Bill Moseley are. The whole setup that Leatherface and his family have is way too complicated to be taken seriously even for a minute. And the movie even had Joe Bob Briggs in it, at least until his scene got cut out.

Don't get me wrong. It's not a "good" movie, and you have to be in the right kind of mood for it. But I had a lot of fun watching it. Most enjoyable.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I enjoyed the new Indiana Jones movie a lot. I enjoyed it enough that calling it an Indiana Jones movie doesn't feel like a lie. It had action, quips, and ridiculously complex booby traps in ancient temples (which I've always enjoyed). I didn't mind She-Ra LaBeef, and I actively approved of Cate Blanchett and her silly accent.

Were there things that made me roll my eyes? Of course there were. But I did not mind them because I was enjoying myself. Steven Spielberg still knows how to put together an entertaining movie, you know?

I didn't find the Big Thing At The End as jarring as some people apparently did. It's a little like the rain of frogs in Magnolia -- there were things that foreshadowed it and made it not come out of left field, but you have to have done the right reading to pick up on it.

I am a little annoyed by the Internet's new tendency to blame everything they don't like on George Lucas. Listen, I think Spielberg's a big enough boy that he can get his own way from time to time. Lucas didn't even write the screenplay; David Koepp did. I feel kind of bad for George Lucas at this point. You're telling me the man who created Star Wars and co-created Indiana Jones is the Internet's least favorite movie-maker? Really? That's rough.

But back to the movie: I liked the older Indiana Jones character. He was a bit more professorial and a little slower to action. He's suspiciously indestructible, which might be due to drinking from the Holy Grail in the last movie, but he's still Indy and that's good enough for me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

St. Trinian's

This was a great deal of fun! I've been reading a lot of old British school stories lately, so it's nice to see a plot where there's absolutely no moral lesson. And these girls are, in fact, outright malicious. The model appears to have been the Addams Family movies, where there are a lot of visual gags in the backgrounds taken from the original cartoons, while the main characters cheerfully get on with doing horrifying things in the foreground. Whee! Explosives and crimes and shockingly-altered outfits!

There are also a great many winking jokes about Colin Firth and Rupert Everett. Who doesn't want to see Colin Firth's leg get humped by a small dog named "Mr. Darcy"? Nobody, that's who.

The acting is great, by the way. I was impressed by five or six separate girls. And although Colin Firth's IMDB page claims that "Although he usually gets along quite well with other actors, he had a well-publicized verbal feud with Rupert Everett, although the source of this tension is not known," they seemed to get along fine in this. They were, in fact, quite funny. The whole movie's funny. I loved it.

El Orfanato

I can never decide how I should refer to foreign films. I mean, when I talk about this, I just call it "The Orphanage". But it's called "El Orfanato" in the actual movie. So I tend to just choose randomly and it turns out it's more fun to say "Orfanato".

I'm not wildly into the moody impressionistic ghost story genre, but I did like it. I enjoy horror movies where there's always a fairly plausible nonsupernatural explanation, because the implication there is that someone has gone completely bonko mad, which can be just as worrying. And there are a lot of pretty creepy shots, which is important in a movie like this.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's in the Bag!

The fun of being in an actual video store (especially an excellent one) is that you can roam around, looking at boxes and grabbing things at random. NetFlix is convenient for getting the movies you want, but it makes it hard to get the serendipitous discoveries.

In this case, I was poking aimlessly through the "Classic Comedy" section, and I ran across It's in the Bag!, a 1945 movie starring Fred Allen and featuring Jack Benny, Robert Benchley, William Bendix, Rudy Vallee, Don Ameche, Jerry Colonna, John Carradine, and several more people who were popular on radio. I'd never heard of it, but I took it home and watched it. And I loved it!

I mean, it's not a technically "good" movie. It tends to stop dead so Jerry Colonna can be a wacky psychiatrist for awhile, or so Robert Benchley can explain a convoluted mousetrap. But those interruptions are fun, especially the extended scene with Fred Allen and Jack Benny playing off the "feud" their radio shows had. The plot involves a fortune that Fred Allen has to find and which he knows is hidden in one of five chairs. It's based on a satirical Russian novel that Mel Brooks also made into a movie (The Twelve Chairs), but the plot is pretty much incidental to the movie. If you're lounging around on a hot Sunday afternoon and want a movie that will entertain you without requiring much effort, this is a fine choice. Especially if you enjoy old-timey radio comedy from the forties.

Oh! And the title appears to have absolutely nothing to do with the movie whatsoever. There was a period in which comedies tended to just get titled with punchy phrases, ideally with exclamation point.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Speed Racer

I loved the commercials for Speed Racer, and I didn't care what anyone said about it. Nothing was going to stop me from seeing this movie! So it's kind of a shame that I didn't like it.

To be fair, the crazy multicolor CGI racing sequences were exactly as enjoyable as I expected. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Speed is walking to his car before the final race, because apparently in this world racers just pose on top of their cars growling like panthers. Sure, why not? If I had hair like that, I'd probably do that too.

Unfortunately, the movie isn't composed entirely of crazy CGI racing with every color onscreen at one time. There are also a number of extremely boring dialogue scenes that bored me stiff. Less of the talky-talky, more of the WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING, please. Also, I hated the kid and the monkey.

Now, our theater was full of people who loved the kid and the monkey. So I'd have to say that if the movie had been solely marketed to the four-to-seven-year-old market, it would be doing great right now. Because these kids loved those scenes. Every time Spridle would yell something that made me roll my eyes, it would be followed by gales of laughter and tiny little voices repeating the line. I may think the character was awful, but it worked on them.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Stunt Man

I'm going to the San Diego Comic Con this year, but I decided kind of late. So all the nearby hotels were full, which meant that I had to find some other place to stay. And because I have no self-control, I'm going to be staying at the magnificent Hotel del Coronado, an enormous historic hotel on the beach. It'll be great!

Now, this hotel has been in a number of classic movies, because it looks so great. For example, Some Like It Hot. And this one, The Stunt Man, starring Peter O'Toole as a crazy movie director and Steve Railsback as some kind of Vietnam Vet who's on the run from the law and hiding out as a stunt man. It's not really clear what it's about, to be honest. Mostly it's about Peter O'Toole being enigmatic and fascinating. This is one of the eight (eight!) movies he got an Oscar nomination for, and I can see why. He spends entire scenes sitting in a chair hung from an overhead crane, and it mysteriously carries him around (because the director loves to move the camera) and up stairs and next to the other actors. It lets him move while sitting regally the whole time, and it's an interesting effect. Although I did wonder if we were supposed to think O'Toole was moving it himself with the power of his mind or something.

The movie they're making is all over the Hotel del Coronado, which makes me even more excited for San Diego. And I've wanted to stay there since I was but a small child.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

You know, I don't really think about this movie all that much. I guess that could be said about most movies, technically, but I feel like this is just a less memorable movie than "the third Indiana Jones movie" ought to be. It's fun to watch, and Sean Connery seems to be enjoying himself. But even the presence of a Zeppelin Scene doesn't make this into a movie I come back to over and over again.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

I have long felt that this movie is unfairly maligned. I freely admit that Kate Capshaw's performance as Willie Scott, the Screechy Chanteuse, is pretty annoying. In fact, she's really annoying. It's not that she's screaming in terror the whole time. It's that she's screaming in terror about stupid things. She never seems to quite grasp the fact that her life is in danger, so she's shrieking about a broken nail or a few bugs (okay, a lot of bugs) instead of the impending doom. She's completely useless.

However, Short Round is great. Yes, he's a spunky kid sidekick. Fine. But he's also useful in a tight spot. When he's captured, he frees himself and then rescues Indiana, then frees the young Maharaja from the mind-controlling zombie juice. Plus he can drive a getaway car. And he gets to say "No time for love, Doctor Jones!" C'mon, how can you not like Short Round? And did you know this was Ke Huy Quan's first movie role? And that he promptly went on to be in The Goonies? Lay off Short Round!

Anyway, for a widely reviled movie, it has a lot of popular bits in it. That heart-ripping-out scene is a classic. I realize that "this movie is not as horrible as everyone says it is" is not a ringing endorsement, but I think it's important to reconsider the Indiana Jones ouevre before the new movie comes out. That way I'll know exactly how disappointed I should be!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Iron Man

I don't just sit around watching documentaries all day, you know. Sometimes I go outside of the house and see a movie in a theater. In this case, I saw it at the Seattle Cinerama, which is a terrific place to see a movie. And it was a pretty good audience, too: they burst into applause at the trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Karen Allen looks terrific, by the way. I'm so glad she's back.

Iron Man is fantastic. It turns out that it's a good idea to use good actors, because Robert Downey Jr. does a great job of playing a boozing womanizer who's still charismatic. And he stays an egomaniacal jerk even after he decides to start doing good. This isn't a particularly original observation, but it's like if Bruce Wayne weren't an act. It seems tough to pull off, but Downey absolutely nails it. The character is pretty clearly defined in the first thirty seconds, which is pretty efficient.

The other actors are also higher-quality than you usually get in a comic book movie. Aside from Downey himself (nominated for an Oscar for Chaplin), you've got Gwyneth Paltrow (who won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love), Terence Howard (nominated for Hustle & Flow and was also responsible for the only watchable scenes in Crash) and Jeff Bridges (four nominations, which somehow doesn't include his fine work in Tron and The Big Lebowski). Even though Jeff Bridges mostly seems to be doing an impression of G. Gordon Liddy, he still provides a great deal of entertainment.

The whole movie is just enormously entertaining, really. And the scene after the end credits may have promised more than they can actually deliver, but I found it pretty exciting.

Grand Disaster: Inside an Underground Circus

My string of niche documentaries continues with Grand Disaster: Inside a Underground Circus, which is so niche that it doesn't even appear to be on IMDB. It's nice to know that's still possible.

It's about a small (twelve-person) circus getting on a bus and going on tour for the first time. And it's Seattle's Circus Contraption, which makes it really cool. See, I love Circus Contraption. I guess I'm a Circus Aficionado at this point, since I've gone to a lot of circuses, from the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth Extravanganza to several Cirque du Soleil shows (I actually saw one this week, in fact. If anyone asks, Corteo is great!) down to the local independent circuses. You know, the ones that are a little bit rougher than Teatro Zinzanni. Seattle has a great independent circus scene. I'm getting off-point, so I'm going to try to regroup and start a new paragraph.

Circus Contraption is a local Seattle circus, and they're great. They've got kind of an archaic sleaziness that makes "underground circus" make sense. And their band is really good, like a less shrill Tiger Lillies. I mean, I like the Tiger Lillies and all, but there's no denying that the falsetto can get kind of annoying when there's not a show to go with it.

So, you've got Circus Contraption. And back in (I think) 2002 or so they bought a bus and a truck and took the show on tour. And I say that's a good idea, because you're not really a circus if you don't travel. The Pickle Family Circus (kind of the spiritual ancestors of this whole indie circus movement, and also responsible for a lot of the actors in the Popeye movie, which I also love) used to travel, right? So everyone should travel. And then the usual things happen. The truck breaks down, people get on each other's nerves, somebody quits, the bus breaks down, somebody else quits, and the circus shuts down and cancels plans for another tour.

So it's kind of a downer of an ending. It seems to be saying that there's no point in running away and joining a scruffy little circus.

Of course, the story didn't end with the movie. In fact, Circus Contraption is doing fine. They've got a new show opening later this month, and I plan to enjoy it. The documentary's a lot of fun, but I don't guarantee you'll be able to find it.