Saturday, December 20, 2014
I guess Die Hard has achieved something close to classic status by now. It’s a beloved action movie from the 80s (the heyday of big dumb action) with an up-and-coming movie star that spawned four sequels and a catch phrase. Taking another look at it I’ve found that it holds up well, but it’s certainly not great. It does just about everything right and hardly missteps until the very last scene, I’d say.
Friday, December 19, 2014
One of the great pleasures of revisiting the really old classics is to see how concise Hollywood storytelling used to be. Watching the original King Kong from 1933, directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack and written by James Creelaman and Ruth Rose, I was amazed by how much adventure is packed into such a tight timeframe. It’s a little more than half the running time of Peter Jackson’s bloated remake from 2005, but their stories are virtually identical and most of the set pieces have the same basis.
It might seem strange to recommend a horror movie as something that every parent should see and pay close attention to, but The Babadook, the feature debut from Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent, is a treatise on the aspects of parenting that people tend not to talk about. It is a sort of psychological horror film clearly inspired by and borrowing from Nosferatu as equally as The Exorcist, Halloween, and even A Nightmare on Elm Street.
There are journeys where it’s the destination that matters. Then there are others where it’s the journey itself that defines the story and the character taking it. The latter kind is what makes for better films, in my opinion. In the new film Wild, a young woman hikes the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave desert in southern California to the Oregon-Washington border – a 1,100-mile walk. Along the way she recalls moments from her past that brought her to the decision to make this trek.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
I reviewed Pleasantville in 1998 for The Connecticut College Voice, but upon revisiting the film recently, decided that a new review was in order.
It’s so nice to return to a sixteen year old movie that you thought at that time was very good and find that it remains just as interesting and just as powerful now as it was then. I put Pleasantville in my top ten for 1998 and am happy to discover that it will remain there. I think the salience of the messaging of Pleasantville has only increased with time. Sure, the TV landscape has changed considerably since then. The Prime Time schedule hardly dominates anymore. Every basic cable station and even streaming providers have gotten into original content production. But TV’s roots still stretch back to the 1950s and a schedule full of wholesome plots directing family values toward the American public.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
In 2002, New York City lay beaten and bruised, injured and left for dead but not without some bite left in her. Certainly the city was ready and willing to dole out punishment to anyone who intended harm again. It’s a lot like the dog Doyle at the opening of Spike Lee’s 25th Hour. Someone has abused him, but he lashes out at Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), who only wants to help. Monty takes Doyle in and when the story picks up a year later, the dog is reasonably normal while the city is still reeling from catastrophe.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
I reviewed this film sixteen years ago in the Connecticut College Voice. It is far too embarrassing to republish the original so in revisiting the film, here is my new and updated reviews.
For a brief time in the 90s and early 2000s, director John Dahl was establishing himself (in my estimation, at least) as a maker of dark and fascinating tales of low moral character or the underbelly of places we thought we knew. In 1998 he brought us, via a screenplay by David Levien and Brian Koppelman, to the underground and illegal poker scene of New York City in Rounders. He showed us a seedy version of New York that stands outside the realm of most Hollywood movies. And it’s populated with a cast of characters, most of whom you wouldn’t be too quick to invite into your home.