Friday, April 13, 2018

Andre The Giant (2018)

Documentary on 7 foot 4 inch actor and wrestler Andre the giant. I didn't know much about him, it was really neat to learn. The film also gives you an interesting over view of pro-wresting's evolution from regional fiefdoms in the 1970's, to a McMahon family run national enterprise and cultural phenomena in the 1980's. ***

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Good Morning, Vietnam is loosely adapted from events in the life of Adrian Cronauer, an armed forces radio DJ in Vietnam in 1965. This is a perfect serio-comic vehicle for (a youngish) Robin Williams as the lead, he improvised all of his comic radio segments, but the actual story here was more substantive then I had expected. Ably directed by Barry Levinson and with good supporting parts for Forest Whitaker, J.T. Walsh and others. I think this movie would serve as a good introduction to the conflict for teenage viewers, yet it is still very enjoyable, and even a little enlightening, for people who may already feel well versed in the conflict. ****

The Beguilded (1971)

The Beguiled, the original film version of Thomas P. Cullinan's 1966 novel A Painted Devil was released in 1971, directed by Don Siegel and starred Clint Eastwood as a wounded Union solder taken in at a private girls finishing school in 1864 Virginia. The film was remade by Sofia Coppola and released last year and comparing the two versions of the story is really quite interesting. Coppola seemed primarily interested in the idea of the handsome young solder (in her version played by Colin Farrell) and the disruption he unleashes on this small world of isolated women, cut off from male contact by the war. Now that is the central theme of both films and no doubt the source material, but Coppola cleaves off a lot of the secondary elements of the story to focus, in some vaguely feminist way, on that central theme. She in effect makes the story cleaner in a lot of ways as well.

In Coppola's version all the slaves have run off, in Siegel's there is still one loyal female slave left, a figure that would complicate the theme of female solidarity that the latter director seeks to emphasize. The headmistress (Geraldine Page in the original and Nicole Kidman in the remake) has a disturbing backstory in the original that sheds her character in an entirely different light from the largely benign version in the remake. You also find out quicker in the original film that the solder is not that good of a guy, though about all you find out of his background is he is from New York, in the remake he is made a recent Irish immigrant and is on the whole a more (but not much more) sympathetic figure then his cinematic predecessor. This is not to speak ill of Coppola's version, I thought both versions were quite good as individual takes on the story, they compliment each other more then they detract from one another, much like the two versions of True Grit. *** for both versions.

Bests of the Southern Wild

Directed and co-written b Benh Zeitlin and adapted from Lucy Alibar's one act play Juicy and Delicious, Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the story of a (roughly) seven year old girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhan√© Wallis) who lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry) on a bayou island known as 'The Bathtub' on the wrong side of the Louisiana levee's. I've not seen a place quite like this on film before, though Conrack comes closest. It's a poor, wet, slowly rotting world but a home whose residents have deep attachment to it. Most of the story takes place in the aftermath of a sever storm that devastates the island, residents forcefully evacuated later stage a break out to get back to the island, even though there seems to be nothing worth going back to. Hushpuppy's father is an alcoholic prone to mysterious disappearances and the questionable state of his health, vague at first, gets increasingly clear as the movie goes on. Hushpuppy is a little hard to pin down, her sense of the world limited and skewed, her teacher on the islands one room school house is also a local witchdoctor so that does not help her sense of reality much. There is a scene where Hushpuppy and some friends run away and through course of events end up staying for a short while at a floating restaurant/ brothel where she becomes very attached to one of the cooks, the poor girl has never had a mother before (her's running off just after she was born) and the ache and need she has for a mother figure is just devastating. Kind of a hard watch at times. ***1/2

Sunday, April 8, 2018

WarGames (1983)

I decided to watch this as kind of a companion piece to Ready Player One. I had seen parts of this film before, some multiple times, but had never watched the whole movie through. WarGames is of course the movie where a young Matthew Broderick almost causes World War III when he hacks into what he at first thinks is a video game but is actually a government computer and starts playing a thermonuclear war simulation. A likable flick, it hold up pretty well despite being very dated technologically, Broderick's bedroom computer set up is both quaint and pretty sweet. Also featuring Ally Sheedy at the start of the Ally Sheedy cycle. ***

Ready Player One (2018)

Ready Player One is better then it has any right to be. Based on Ernest Cline's popular 2011 novel of the same name about a virtual reality video game, a little light dystopianism and plenty of fan boy servicing, the film version is directed by Steven Spielberg and pays arguably obsessive tribute to the pop culture of the 70s, 80s and 90s, pop culture that the director himself was a major contributor to. Yes even Steven Spielberg has been sucked into our current self referential nostalgic pop culture matrix, which is also a good description of the VR 'Oasis' most of this movie is set in. The plot concerns a group of young people, anchored by the likable Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke who compete/ work together to find a hidden 'Easter egg' left by 'The OASIS' late eccentric creator (Mark Rylance). They must find said 'egg' to save the digital public square from excessive commercialization by stuffed shirt Ben Mendelsohn, which is a little ironic in that 'The OASIS' is made up pretty much entirely of commercial pop culture, the property licensing involved in this movie must have required a heck of a lot of lawyers and paper work, there is even a Silent Running reference so it casts a very large net. Still the movie works as an appropriately 80's style youthful adventure film, something Spielberg runs at the top of the scoreboard in his ability to play out.  ***1/2

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Kennel Murder Case (1933)

William Powell stars as Philo Vance, his first appearance in the role for Warner Brothers after playing the part three times for Paramount. This is a well put together mystery of its type and time, where everything is strangely complicated, there are too many likely culprits, and a clever hobbyist is given a remarkable degree of latitude by the legal authorities to bring the suspects together and ferret out the murderer. The case gets its name because events are set in motion by the murder of a show dog. ***