Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Octopussy (1983)

Octopussy, the 13th James Bond movie is easily the worst so far. The first two thirds were surpassingly dull, the last third however was pretty good. The plot is a little confusing, its actually two plots, one involving the forging of Faberge eggs and the other the smuggling of a nuclear weapon. Exotic locations include wherever that pre-title sequence is supposed to be set (I'm at a loss, maybe Mexico?) both sides of Berlin, Russia, India, and more then the usual amount of time in Britain. Two Swedish born Bond girls here, Kristina Wayborn and Maud Adams, the latter a repeat from The Man with the Golden Gun, but here playing a different character. The very white French star Louis Jourdan plays an exiled Afghani prince. "All Time High" sung by Rita Coolidge may be the best of the lesser known Bond theme songs. **

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Big Sick (2017)

Inspired by events early in the relationship between Pakistani born comic Kumail Nanjiani and his North Carolina born wife Emily, who co-wrote the screenplay together, The Big Sick is an unusually smart, even effecting comedy, and doubtless one of the best films of the year. Directed by the actor Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow, this film has all the heart and wit of the latters best work, but is far below its median in terms of crudity. After having a fight and breaking up over Kumail's unwillingness to tell his very traditional Pakistani parents that he is dating a white girl, Emily (Zoe Kazan, adorable) falls into a coma, leaving Kumail to help guide her parents (perfectly cast Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) through this very trying situation. While there is obviously an air of While You Were Sleeping about the proceedings, The Big Sick is far from shy on its own merits. Nanjiani is a revelation, funny, a really sweet seeming guy, I only hope he can find or create more film properties worthy of him. A real treat of a film. ****

Columbus (2017)

The city of Columbus, Indiana, in addition to being the home town of current vice president Mike Pence, is also home to an unusually large concentration of modernist architecture, to the point that its a bit of a tourist mecca to a niche crowd of architecture nerds. The plot of the new film Columbus,  like the town in which it is set, revolves around architecture, and there is something architectural about the way it is filmed by video artist Kogonada. The framing and composition of the shots is modernist, removed, maybe slightly off center, but the emotional core of the film is quite strong, with subtlety effecting performances throughout, particularly by the young Haley Lu Richardson, who is making a strong early impression with her work here and in The Edge of Seventeen, one of last years better films.

Richardson plays Casey, a smart young woman just a year out of high school who is working at the local library and helping her single mother Maria (Michelle Forbes) for whom she seems nervously concerned. Casey has a love of the architectural treasures in her community, and it is this interest that first breakers the ice with Jin (John Cho) the son of a prominent architectural scholar, who has traveled to the small town from his native Korea after his father feel into coma while in Columbus conducting research. This unlikely couple, both lonely and dealing with complicated parental relationships, comes into each others lives at pivotal moments of self discovery, and help one another navigate their complicated feelings towards their parents.

The small supporting cast, chiefly Rory Culkin and Parker Posey do fine work here as well, but the movie belongs Cho and Richardson, both doing the best work they have ever done. A beautiful, profound little film that caught me by surprise and may be the best new movie I've seen all year. I just loved this. ****

Saturday, October 14, 2017

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Bond number 12 means that I am half way through and finally inside my own lifetime. In a more serious and realistic (to the extent that James Bond movies can be called realistic) vain then the previous couple of outings in the series, the plot here concerns the sinking of a British spy vessel in the Mediterranean, and the cold war motivated race to retrieve sunken military technology there on. Exotic locations include Greece, northern Italy, Albania, and Cypress, or was it Crete? French model Carole Bouquet is the principle Bond girl, Israeli actor Topol (Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof) plays a prominent blackmarketer. For the first (and possibly only?) time M does not appear in this movie, as actor Bernard Lee died early in the filming process. This films pre-credit sequence feature the first appearance of Blofeld, though never seen head on and never identified by name, since we last saw him being slammed against the side of an oil rig in a helicopter attached to a giant magnet in Diamonds are Forever 10 years previously. Blofeld is apparently killed off in this little cameo, and frankly its a disappointing ending for him. Still *** Also good theme song.

Ranking the Bonds so far:

On Her Majesty's Secret Service
From Russia with Love
Dr. No
Diamonds are Forever
You Only Live Twice
The Spy Who Loved Me
Live and Let Die
For Your Eyes Only
The Man with the Golden Gun

Pinaple Express (2008)

Seth Rogen and James Franco's "pot action movie" has a few good scenes (like Rogen's undercover process serving at the beginning, or him and Franco stoned in the woods playing leapfrog) but isn't really my thing. Somewhat notable for early appearances by Danny McBride and Amber Heard. **

Spielberg (2017)

HBO made documentary overview of the life and work of director Steven Spielberg. Even at nearly two and a half hours in length the film is not exhaustive, but all the high points are covered, and I got a pretty good sense of the family divorce drama that so effected Steven as a young man, and is especially felt in his early work. One common criticism of Steven Spielberg, and it is addressed in the film, is that his inauguration of "the summer blockbuster" "ruined" movies. I don't think that is a fair criticism, Spielberg is gifted, a master of smart, big tent entertainment, he can't be blamed for his lesser imitators or the profit driven nature of the film industry. He truly is one of the most remarkable directors in cinema history, and while there have been some misses in his career the overall quality of the bulk of his work is truly impressive. ***

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Coriolanus (2011)

Adaptation of the lesser known Shakespeare play about the rise, fall, and quest for revenge of the 5th century BC Roman leader Gaius Marcius Coriolanus. This movie is done in the style of such other Shakespeare film adaptions as Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet and Julie Taymor's Titus, where the setting is amorphously contemporized (Coriolanus is evocative of 1990's Bosnia) but the original Shakespearian language is kept, with Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave particularly good with the dialogue. The film stars Ralph Fiennes as Coriolanus, this is also his directorial debut and he acquits himself quite well at it. Jessica Chastain and Gerard Butler also appear in this, and the latters presence begs the question of just how much the venn diagrams for Shakespeare fans and Gerard Butler fans overlaps. This is a good movie, I thought the adaption worked well, you can follow events pretty easily which is sometimes a little difficult to do with Shakespeare, especially when they use the original dialogue. I also thought that it helped my viewing that I wasn't familiar with this story, and its a pretty good story, I'd be curious to see another adaption. ***1/2