March 31, 2005

"LA Noir" Series at the Brattle

I have already seen series entries The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and Chinatown, so my first screening was Criss Cross (March 29), about 'the sucker of all time' Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster). Steve has never gotten over his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo). He allows himself to be drawn into an armored-car heist scheme by Anna and her shady husband Slim (Dan Duryea). Is Anna playing Steve for Slim, is Anna playing Slim for Steve, or is fate playing a hand? Either way, Steve is a real dope and the voice-over narration is laughably bad.l-a-noir

Point Blank (March 30): I was expecting a gritty, hard-boiled revenge thriller. What I got instead was an extremely low-key revenge thriller, filtered through the then-trendy French psychedelic surrealism of the Summer of Love. Lee Marvin doesn't embarrass himself, but he sure looks out of place in his dark suits and cold fish demeanor amongst all the druggies of L.A. circa 1967.

Collateral (March 31): guest review by EKD • Nat and I rounded out his week o' noir at the Brattle with Collateral, Michael Mann's shiny, satisfying thriller of a hapless cabbie and sociopathic hitman rolling through a misty Los Angeles night. Mann's films are always delicious to look at, and here he makes digital video an art form instead of the usual pixellated lo-fi cop-out. Jamie Foxx is well-cast as the dreamy, timid Max; can't say the same for Mark Ruffalo, who looks like a kid in a Donnie Brasco Halloween costume, ugh. Tom Cruise is a bit of a cipher here: his usual clipped, focused, tightly-wound thing comes across more dangerous and menacing because his character is such a heartless psycho, who seductively charms and ruthlessly manipulates everyone around him by turns. On paper, this seems like a clone of his Vampire Lestat, but that character had an interior vulnerability, a needy streak -- here, Vincent is a soulless shark, unrepentant to the end. Of course, he does get a few chances to do the Patented Tom Cruise Run. The last 20 minutes start to drag like a bad TV movie, and there are a few moments of stale 80's machismo, but overall it's a thoughtfully gripping example of the genre. (A-)

March 12, 2005

Raging Bull

ragingRaging Bull was just released on DVD for its 25th anniversary, and the Brattle screened a new restored 35mm print, billed as a tribute to Martin Scorsese, the most-respected director alive to never win an Academy Award. The Academy much prefers to give awards to beloved directors. In addition, Academy voters refuse to take movies out of the context of history. For example, the Academy was biased towards Ordinary People in 1980 and Dances With Wolves in 1990 because they are directorial debuts by beloved actors. The Academy was biased towards Million Dollar Baby in 2004 because they love Clint Eastwood, and besides, The Aviator isn't Scorsese's best movie. To sum up, in order for Scorsese to win a Best Director Oscar, he will have to direct a movie better than Raging Bull and Goodfellas, which is impossible.

March 9, 2005

Be Cool: Guys Movie Night

becoolIt's hard to believe almost ten years have passed since I saw the original adventures of Chili Palmer. After 30 minutes in this theater, I wanted to run home and watch Get Shorty instead of Be Cool. The plot is basically the same, but F. Gary Gray, the more-than competent director of The Italian Job remake, is in over his head with this top-heavy star-overburdened cast. It seemed like the primadonna needs of all the star power squeezed all the comedic life out of the film. Plus, at 118 minutes, you could have cut 20 minutes out of the movie and made it much better. Cedric the Entertainer and Andre Benjamin try hard to inject some life into their scenes, but John Travolta and Uma Thurman are lost in this one. As much as I looooooove Uma Thurman, at age 34 she is 10 years too young for the part of Edie Athens. Edie reminisces about touring with Aerosmith as their laundry girl, but Uma wasn't even 17 until Aerosmith's comeback album Permanent Vacation came out in 1987. And have you noticed Travolta's track record in the last 10 years? Travolta seems to make one worthwhile film for every three 'paycheck' films. (AMC Fenway)

March 6, 2005

Being Julia

beingjuliaI was easily the youngest person in the theater on this Sunday afternoon. The film was long and boring, until the inventive and entertaining third act. Annette Bening was wonderful, if not Academy Award-worthy. (West Newton Cinema)