Hmm, in all my concerns and fretting over Netflix credit card and their weird available-now stuff, I forgot to actually review the movies I got, and as a result I have twelve movies to get through. So I'll do half of them now.
- Blade: -2
- Yojimbo: 2
- Zelig: 1 (re-view)
- Blue (Trois Coleurs, Bleu): 1
- The King of Comedy: 2
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being: -1
Ratings from -4 to 4.
Half-vampire Wesley Snipes hunts vampires because they killed his mom. The oh-so-stylish beginning bodes ill, and the movie doesn't take long to degenerate into silliness--like the cops shooting at him as he runs off with the wounded doctor in his arms. (Hello? Innocent civilian in his arms? Maybe you don't shoot at him?) The CGI seems to lack motion blur or something and so looks very fake. The doctor has an amazingly rapid character turnaround from not wanting to hurt anyone to cruelly torturing a handicapped vampire. The plot build-up that goes nowhere. The couple of other things I forget. Rating: (-4 to 4): -2
A down-on-his-luck Samurai comes upon a small village that two crime lords are warring to control. Another classic Akira Kurosawa flick, ripped off wholesale for the first of the Sergei Leone / Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, Fistful of Dollars. Once again Kurosawa mocks the heroic tradition (was there one there? I assume so) with a dark comic tale of incompetent fighters, cruel deceptions, and whatnot. Nicely structured plot; gun vs. sword is way more interesting than rifle vs. pistol (which is I think how it was in FoD), although it doesn't actually play out that interestingly. Rating (-4 to 4): 2
Woody Allen is Leonard Zelig, a chameleon of a man who takes on the characteristics of those around him. (Confused: they make a point about how he doesn't take on the attributes of women, but then he does take on the acting-like-a-doctor around his female doctor. Maybe they said 'physical attributes'? I didn't think to double-check.) I first saw this on videotape soon after it came out, but had forgotten all the details at this point. Anyway, the integration with old film look was pretty nice, there was only one time when I could see the blue screening was particularly fake, and one time I was fooled into thinking Woody was inserted in some old footage when actually the whole thing was staged.
Technical stuff aside, I laughed some, but not as much as I could have. I don't really remember the details now. (And the scene of him turning into a rabbi is straight out of his own Take the Money and Run!) Rating (-4 to 4): 1
Juliette Binoche struggles to do something with her life after losing her family. I'd seen Red already numerous years ago, but not the first two. Anyway, strange opening sequence, because it focuses on the daughter. Some of the plotting is very subtle, although hard to explain without spoiling the main sort-of-surprise: when she throws out the music, it seems so, so wrong. But while I felt like some of this was pretentious--especially the fading to black with the music, in part because the music in those parts just seemed cheesily dramatic over-the-top--even if it "is" the music that the story is about--the story stays mostly interesting, and Binoche is apropriately moody and expressive and needs no dialogue to propel the story forward. Rating (-4 to 4): 1 shading higher
But doesn't France have exterminators?
The King of Comedy
Comedian wanna-be Robert De Niro hits up Johnny-Carson-alike Jerry Lewis for a spot on his show. Scorsese directs this black comedy with a great performance as a loser from De Niro. I remember seeing Siskel and Ebert review this movie way, way back, don't remember what they said, didn't recognize any scenes in it as the scene I'd seen them excerpt, but it had left me with the impression it was a movie I should see (I just needed to be reminded of its existence). There's really not much going on here--the plot is pretty straightforward, no real twists and turns until the third act--but what's there is done so well; the standoff in Jerry's house, the angry expression on his face, the cluelessness of De Niro's actions. The third act seems kind of simple and not that compelling, and the ending all too simple, but it's not a letdown or a copout either. Rating (-4 to 4): 2
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
A doctor in Prague juggles a carefree mistress and a wife and a Russian invasion. Eventually I felt like I was watching Trois Coleurs: Zelig, what with Juliette Binoche and the protagonists being inserted in old documentary footage. While there are some nice character moments, we never, for example, really understand Daniel Day-Lewis' struggle from the inside--we just observe him going through the same problem repeatedly. And the plot, man, the plot is far too often a stream of disconnected or loosely connected events. The ending is dumb; there is no drama to the resolution for two of the characters, and Lena Olin's character's final occupation seems way out of character and nonsensical. I think it was a mistake to even show her POV; the first time we see it, it's something like over an hour into the movie, which is just confusing. But as to the plot, here's a good example: right near the end, Tomas pulls open a drawer looking for something, and discovers some pictures his wife took that, apparently, he never knew existed before. He looks at them momentarily, but puts them back because he's in the middle of dealing with something else. He'll get back to them later, or talk to her about them later. Except he never does. (In hindsight, you might conclude 'ok, the scene was showing him saying, the past is the past, and he's finally beyond that, not going back to it', but you'd think he (a) still cares about his former mistress and (b) the past is the past doesn't mean he couldn't ask his wife about the photos and (c) it made perfect sense in the context of the scene that he'd finish what he was doing and come back to the pictures later so there was no way to conclude he was rejecting the past at the time and (d) a few scenes later we see him giving someone a bit of an eye in the pub, and you get the impression he's the same as he ever was, just mostly there are no temptations around.) So the plot is just kind of random, but it goes ON AND ON (kind of like this paragraph) because this is a 172 minute movie. Rating (-4 to 4): -1