Thursday, March 13, 2008

Random Viewings

The Bank Job

I'm a sucker for heist movies. Good, doesn't really matter. I'm the type that will watch all those obscure Alain Delon 70's flicks that were directed by Italians or D level French directors. So when I actually do see a good heist movie, it makes the experience all the more enjoyable. And when I see a heist movie done in 2008 that's somewhat smart and doesn't pander to the movie-going audience, keeping the dialogue firing on all cylinders and relying on good old fashioned suspense and character evolution, then that's cause to truly celebrate. Roger Donaldson's "The Bank Job" is just that. Jason Statham is relegated to only one very short fight sequence and head butt, while the rest of the film relies on whip-smart plot mechanics, double-crossings and some taut editing to heighten suspense. At the very least, this will make you want to run out and buy every copy of "The Asphalt Jungle" and "Riffifi" that one can find.

Excellent Cadavers

Marco Turco's documentary is the perfect antidote for anyone who gets too enamored with the sexy lifestyle of the Corleone family. Intellectually pulling back the veneer of the Mafia's entrenchment in Palermo, Italy, "Excellent Cadavers" is a harrowing documentary based on the research of writer and historian Alexander Stille (who produced a book on the subject as well). The film's main characters are two magistrates who dared to tackle the corrupt Italian political system in the 80's, but the real power of the film lies in it's uncensored and grotesquely vivid black and white photos of the Mafia's handiwork of violence and human casualty. Highly informative, moving, and one of the best documentaries of the last 5 years.

Hannah Takes the Stairs

I've yet to be impressed by the works of Joe Swanberg (or for that matter, the Duplass brothers) so his latest 'mumblecore' film is another grueling experience in slacker self-loathing, stammering, ugly photography and irritating score that sounds like two high schoolers practicing the trumpet and trombone, seemingly included just because it'd be cool to feature such self-deprecating music performed by the characters themselves. I admired the two works of filmmaker Andrew Bujalski (who has a starring role in "Hannah Takes the Stairs"), but my appreciation for this movement of independent creativity is wearing thin.


If you're not a fan of the increasingly polarizing work of Takashi Miike, then avoid "Zebraman", a comedy/action/satire/cartoon of a film that follows a nebbish schoolteacher who dresses up at night as an ex-television series hero called Zebraman and finds himself fighting real aliens who body snatch Japanese citizens. It's all done with tongue firmly in cheek, but the film starts and stops awkwardly. Whenever it's time for dialogue, Miike can't seem to find the right tempo. When Zebraman is in full fighting force, though, the film springs to life. A mixed effort.


TALKING MOVIEzzz said...
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Joe Baker said...

Mioviezzz, I did see LOL and hated it. It felt like a short film stretched to an excrutiating 70 minutes or so. All those impromptu music breaks with people making noises.. again I just feel like this whole mumblecore movement is pretentious beyond belief.

weepingsam said...

Salon had a rave for the latest Swanberg and Gerwig film, Nights and Weekends. Andrew O'Hehir anyway sems to think it's a big step forward.

Joe Baker said...

I've read a couple of good reviews for his latest at SXSW. I definitely leave an open mind to everything, and I'll give "Nights and Weekends" a shot when I can.

I did see Aaron Katz's "Quiet City"- didn't hate it but just lukewarm over it. The cinematographer, Andrew Reed, certainly has a future in the biz tho, if he can learn to eliminate the handycam zooms on non-DIY efforts.

weepingsam said...

in re Nights and Weekends, I wonder how much it matters that Gerwig co-wrote and directed it?