Monday, November 01, 2010

Seen in October 


Terence Stamp in Stephen Frears' The Hit. Image via The Criterion Collection

Mad Men, Season 4 cont'd
Will SCDP survive the season? I have a feeling Don Draper will rise again. No double entendre intended.

Boardwalk Empire, season 1
Somewhere deep down in my brain is something forcing me to call this show all the wrong names - Empire Boulevard, Boulevard Empire, Empire Boardwalk etc. I'm not sure I buy Steve Buscemi as the powerful & conniving Nucky Thompson - he seems more weary than fierce. Still, the series has incredible production values, rich characters and plenty of potential.

Bored to Death, season 2
Light and witty as a well stirred Manhattan. Throughly enjoying this bijoux amuse-bouche or whatever you call those fancy schmancy little appetizers you get at highfalutin restaurants.

The Runaways
The story of one of the first all-girl rock bands focuses on the relationship between the principles Joan Jett, Cherie Currie and the group's manager Kim Fowely. Despite following the rock 'n roll myth of rise, fall and redemption, the film felt genuine yet still pretty impressionistic so it doesn't feel like a typical bio-pic. Assuredly directed and scripted by Canadian Floria Sigismondi based on Cherie Currie's book; it's hard to believe it was her first feature but the subject seems perfect for someone who's an experienced music video director.

Rachel Getting Married
We followed The Runaways with this film - sort of like a "bad girls" series. Ann Hathaway plays Kym, an unlikable, self-absorbed, self-centered addict. We discover that Kym's addiction has been the cause of major disruption in her family but she's slipped out of rehab to attend her sister's wedding. Despite it being Rachel's day, everything is still all about Kym. A challenging, thoughtful film with a surprising twist; the score/soundtrack was recorded in situ during filming. A notable moment is hearing the lead singer of TV on the Radio perform Neil Young.

The Social Network
What do nerds do for fun? They create software that impresses the ladies, which becomes so popular that it becomes its own platform like e-mail or chat, that investors flock to, and that makes you very, very rich. Then you screw your old friends by following advice from your new friends. And that's what Facebook is all about; friendship. The reason Facebook is so highly valued is obvious - the sheer volume of active users. How it will ever make money is anyone's guess. But this movie isn't about Facebook, so the fact or the fiction of it are not as important as the story of friendship (or lack of it), trust, betrayal, and what people do to get the respect of total strangers or to get back at people they barely know. The Social Network is all of that set in the peculiar world of Internet start-ups which reveals the unusual new business archetype; the techno-nerd mogul.

Play It Again Sam
It's odd to see a Woody Allen film set in San Francisco. It's interesting to see this movie as a transition between Allen's screwball comedies like Banana's and his more accomplished movies like Annie Hall and Manhattan.

Runaway Train
I've heard this film described as an "over looked gem" so often I decided to finally see for myself. I did not find any gems in this oddly paced thriller based on, of all things, a script by Akira Kurosawa. Over the top acting from Jon Voigt and Eric Roberts, who are both doing almost comedically bad accents combined with an eighties soundtrack full of poppin' bass is a bad combination. Seeing a rail engine charging through the Alaskan landscape is striking but not enough for me to recommend this one. This hidden gem can stay hidden for all I care.

Once in a Lifetime: the Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
A documentary that captures a fun and freewheeling time when Steve Ross put his considerable resources into bringing soccer to the US. What's incredible was just what an all-star line-up they put together starting with the great Pelé. It's also incredible to think of the popularity they achieved. The Cosmos set attendance records with numbers like 60-76,000 fans in Giants stadium. To think of the current success of the MLS where the Toronto FC regularly sell out with 20,000 it seems hard to believe that soccer was the next big thing 30 years ago. It's taken this long to create a stable pro soccer league in North America and so much of that has to do with the New York Cosmos.

The Good The Bad The Weird
Just your run of the mill Korean action, martial arts, WWII, steam punk Spaghetti-Western Comedy with a little Indiana Jones thrown in & occasional James Bond themes in the soundtrack. From the director of The Host.

Shutter Island
Long and slow psychological thriller that has more than a few twists up its sleeve. The acting is a little hammy but I guess that was part of the "genre" Scorsese was hoping to recreate. There are moments that feel exploitative but again I suppose that's Scorsese's take on the genre. For me though it was too long (over 2 hours?) and took too many unnecessary turns. Who really are the crazies? The patients or the doctors? Or maybe... Yadda Yadda Yadda - I get it already.

The Girl Who Played With Fire
Lisbeth Salander is back and she's as sweet and charming and ass-kicking as ever. These films can be gut-wrenching and graphic but it doesn't feel exploitative or like a Hollywood gore-fest. There are some liberties with technology but fewer transgressions than most films or TV shows. It's hard to see a reason to remake an American version except to cut out all the sex and intrigue and amp up the violence - but that's how they roll.

Greenberg
Entertaining if exasperating Noah Baumbach film. Ben Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, a 40-something who's life is unmoored and adrift. Also, he's an incredible arse who pens letters of complaint to companies large and small and insults or alienates anyone in his sphere. This movie has a sort of 70s feel and seems like an uncomfortable portrait of self-loathing. Well... self-loathing and sort of loathing everything else. It's no way to live. Greenberg knows it but can't find a way to change.

The Hit
Great, thoughtful gangster film - almost strange to call it a "gangster" flick because it's a lot more than that, John Hurt, Terence Stamp and Tim Roth are all excellent. Stamp in particular is amazing.

Splice
If Dr. Frankenstein were a childless couple who wanted their very own form of life to raise in a weirdly Oedipal way then you would have Splice. You can see it as a Frankenstein meets Lady Macbeth meets Jurassic Park - oh wait, Jurassic Park is Frankenstein. Nothing new under the sun, I guess. Lots of mommy issues in this unconventional thriller.

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