Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kubrick and Nolan

Two posts in two days?  I guess I'm on a roll.  (more accurately, I'm on a short break).


Today I watched Christopher Nolan's Insomnia and now, I can proudly say that I have seen all of his movies.    It's interesting seeing brief glimpses of his future filmmaking style, like the brief flashes of memories in Insomnia, which are later abundantly used in Inception and Batman Begins.  Insomnia is a solid movie, a crime drama that takes place in a small, isolated town in Alaska.  Al Pacino plays Detective Dormer who goes to Alaska during the summer, so it's light outside all the time, to solve the murder of a 17-year old girl.  Supporting cast features Robin Williams and Hillary Swank.  Insomnia is like a long episode of old school Law and Order with  Detective Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach), and  starts getting interesting when you find out what the movie really is about.  Insomnia asks interesting questions about morality; does the end really justify the means?  And while it does twist the question around a bit, in a lot of ways, the ending took the easy way out.  It's certainly a solid movie with some genuinely suspenseful moments such as Dormer's interrogation of the dead girl's best friend and it's fascinating to see common Nolan motifs lightly touched upon in this movie that are more heavily explored in his later films, but I wouldn't say it's particularly memorable.

There've been a lot of comparisons b/n Nolan and Kubrick, mainly b/c Nolan hasn't really made a bad film.  I had trouble getting into Following, but liked its intensity and really loved the first 20 minutes of it.  I love Inception and the Batman films.  I found Memento really fascinating and the jury's still out for The Prestige, but I definitely do want to see it again.  I think that Kubrick is really in a class of his own, but it's nice seeing a director out there who makes good action movies and makes fun, intelligent blockbusters.

Lyndon Barry 

On Kubrick, I have seen most of his films and am just *blown* away by how each of his films are in a different genre and how he nailed each and every one of them.  Eyes Wide Shut loses steam towards the end, but it's still filled with so many absolutely fascinating, memorable, cinematic sequences.  On that note, I also watched Lyndon Barry recently.  While I didn't like it as much as I liked The Shinning, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or A Clockwork Orange, it's a decent film, howbeit quite slow.  The DVD summary wasn't lying when is said that Lyndon Barry was like a slow-moving painting.  Lyndon Barry does have one of my favorite dueling scenes ever.  The incredibly tense scene is here, and it is imho, the best scene in the whole movie:

I am fascinated by how much work went into the filming of the movie.  Some of the candlelight scenes in the movie were really *only* lighted by candles.  I didn't care much for the omniscient narrator, though I did like the necessary humor he added to the earlier half of the movie.  The movie picked up steam and started going somewhere after Barry meets Lady Lyndon, but ultimately, it was hard to really like or root for any of the characters.  Barry, while an interesting antihero, is really not a good person nor a particularly bright one.  Lady Lyndon is silent and placid and her son, who should by all means get loads of sympathy given his situation but is weak and whiney.  Overall, Barry Lyndon is for the hard core Kubrick fans; it has a few really fantastic scenes but is generally a very very slow movie.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

True Grit and Bridesmaids

True Grit 

LaBoeuf: You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements. While I sat there watchin' I gave some thought to stealin' a kiss... though you are very young, and sick... and unattractive to boot. But now I have a mind to give you five or six good licks with my belt. Mattie Ross: One would be just as unpleasant as the other. 

I finally saw True Grit and was pleasantly surprised by how much of an old school adventure story it was.  True Grit follows 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) as she seeks to bring her father's murderer, Chaney, to justice.  She hires US Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track him down, and they are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon with a mustache!), who is also after Chaney.   

From the action-packed, rather-dark trailer, I was expecting True Grit to be more like Unforgiven, but the movie that True Grit reminds me of the most is actually Miyazaki's beautiful Porco Rosso- both feature young girls who experience the adventure of a life time with fascinating characters (Rooster and Porco).  I haven't always liked Westerns, but one thing that made me really start to enjoy Westerns is that they slow things down (long horseback rides) so that characters have to interact with each other.  I like that the characters, despite their faults, are all decent people and that the main trio, Mattie, Rooster, and LaBouef genuinely see each other for who they are and truly respect each other in the end.  From the trailers, I thought Damon looked very silly with his Western get-up, but he's fine in the movie and disappears into LaBouef.  Bridges is decent, though he is oftentimes hard to understand (subtitles definitely needed).  At the heart of the movie, though, is Steinfeld, who rightfully won an Academy Award nomination for her actin.  She anchors the movie and portrays Mattie as one of the strongest, most sensible female characters I've seen in a long time.

True Grit is less tense than I expected it to be.  It's a notch above the usual adventure movie, and I was especially surprised by how moved I was by the ending.  Definitely worth watching as an old school, slower paced Western.    


I'm a bit late on reviewing this one, but Bridesmaids is one of the best "raunchy" comedies I've seen in a while.      It's refreshing to see a female-centric comedy that is not so much focused on romance but rather friendships.  In some ways it is the female version of "The Hangover" movies, but it's so much more.  

Annie (Kristen Wiig)'s life is falling apart: she lost her dream business, has a super douchey f- buddy (Jon Hamm), and the only good thing going on in her life is her relationship with her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph).  Lillian makes Annie her maid of honor, but soon, Lillian's new friend, Helen (Rose Byrne) starts taking over her role as Lillian's best friend.   

The performances are what really make the movie.  I haven't been a big fan of Wiig on SNL; many of her characters are outrageous and obnoxious.  Kristen Wiig is fantastic as Annie, though.  She's down down to earth and believable as a woman who is really hurting herself with her low self-esteem.  The supporting cast is fantastic, as well.  I especially liked Melissa McCarthy's insanely confident Megan, Wendi McLendon-Covey's weary mother of three Rita, and Chris O'Dowd as a cop and Annie's love interest.  Jon Hamm is also hilarious in the few scenes that he's in.  He IS Don Draper, of course, but it's always nice to see him branch out and do comedy.