Sunday, November 06, 2011

Movies! Movies!

The "recuperate while watching" marathon continues...

ATTACK THE BLOCK: A fun and smart alien invasion film that starts with a bang, builds nicely AND spends time developing some interesting characters. When an alien creature smash-lands in a poorer section of (London? I think), a group of teenage street thugs take umbrage, chase down the escaping creature and kill it. Then a whole bunch MORE creatures come down in the same block evidently seeking payback, requiring our sorta-gang-kids to fight back. The alien creatures are basically black blobs with glowing blue eyes and fangs... and boy are they pissed. Nice performances and funny/realistic reactions from the kids toward the alien invasion. (One 10 year old fills his super soaker with gasoline to take them on.) This isn't ET, though, some of the kids don't make it and the creatures are taking no prisoners. I liked it!

THE DEVILS: Ken Russell's 1971 masterpiece remains unavailable except for a murky transfer on a DVD available from Amazon. I saw this film with my father (I think I needed a "parent or guardian" to get in because of the X rating) when it was first released and images from it have remained burned in my brain. Oliver Reed plays Father Grandier, a Priest who ran afoul of the French government in the 1630's and wound up being (falsely) accused of witchcraft. His inquisition-style torture remains really, really hard to watch. (Sledge-hammers and legs... say no more!) Russell's flamboyant visual style gives this an almost surreal feel, and the uncomfortable experimental score adds to the overall feeling of depravity and madness. Also included on the disc are some supplemental pieces on how The Devils was censored back in the day, and the great fervor that ignited over Russell's debauched vision. I managed to make it about halfway through the main documentary before I'd seen one too many snotty British critics sniffing about how they suspect Russell would actually approve of the cuts imposed on the film. Yeah, right, about as much as these stuffy gits would appreciate seeing one of their tedious columns hacked apart by editorial fiat. The clips in the documentary are much sharper and clearer than the film presentation, so here's hoping the Criterion guys get their hands on this soon and put out a definitive, uncut version! (If they can reissue Pasolini's Salo on blu-ray, surely this one can see the light of day!)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: Quite a mixture of genres in this set of comments! I missed this in the theater, finally caught up to it on DVD. Don't have a whole lot to say, it was fun and captured the Kirby-esque "feel" of Cap, though I found the eventual stand off with the Red Skull a bit truncated and unsatisfying. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the movie is how they turned husky Chris Evans into skinny dweeb Steve Rogers, pre-"Vitaray" injections. I think the best thing about the film is that they didn't blow it...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't expecting much from "Captain America" (having never read the comic books), but this was pretty terrible. Pretty much no tension at all because he always felt unbeatable. I agree the effects were great, which only upsets me more because they didn't put nearly as much effort into crafting a great story. I've not seen a great comic book film since "The Dark Knight"; I miss Singer's X-Men films, too. I haven't really looked forward to a comic book film since "The Wolverine" since Hugh Jackman was producing and he seems a smart guy who has some sense of artistic integrity, but that was a massive, cheesy disappointment; Gambit and Sabretooth being well acted and the main woman being hot were the only good things about the film; they couldn't even get Wolverine's post-adamantium bonding trauma right.

I do think the best of the BSG staff (yourself, Michael Taylor, Michael Angeli, Toni Graphia, and especially Ron Moore) could craft the absolute best superhero films with lots of realism and texture and real world commentary.

I wanted to see "Attack the Block" but I had a terrible cold when it was in the cinema when I was visiting my brother in the US and it was gone when I came back to Canada. I'll try to rent this; it's weird how, without immediate advertizing, it's so easy to forget about films (especially their titles) I, at one time, really wanted to see. So, thanks for the reminder!

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're still recuperating, may I recommend "The Secret in Their Eyes", if you haven't already seen this Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film a couple of years ago? It's part romance, part comedy, and part thriller. Really enjoyable.

Also, "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" if you aren't already a fan.

I usually recommend folks the new "Battlestar Galactica", but you already know what happens in that one...

12:34 AM  
Blogger Mark Verheiden said...

I have the entire run of Breaking Bad on blu-ray waiting for a long weekend. Have to admit I fell out of Mad Men awhile back... its just not for me. And I agree that BSG is worth recommending!

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting U2 connection is that I went to a screening of Daniel Lanois' film at the Toronto Film Festival in 2007 and, during the Q & A, I criticized U2's musical approach, especially Bono's very mainstream media analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian issue in his lyrics, and advised that Bono watch "Battlestar Galactica" as a muse to have a deeper, more realistic sense of the issues of torture and the causes of terrorism.

Lanois very kindly said he'd pass it along. He then asked me what I thought of the music heard in 30-second snippets of Fez, Morocco sessions from the recording of what would become U2's "No Line on the Horizon". It takes several listens before I know what I think of music, but I wasn't too impressed and the best I could muster was, "Uhhh,... pretty good." Kind of cowardly, but at least I didn't say, "It sounds awesome!"

U2 fans on a forum started mocking me incessantly for suggesting "Battlestar Galactica" to U2 for political insight, but aren't you folks both artists seeking to educate as well as entertain? Why is it that people talk about evil propaganda as setting the stage for cruelty but not smart entertainment as setting the stage for something culturally positive? Clint Eastwood may have deserved French honors for "Letters from Iwo Jima", but BSG's staff deserved it much more! I was simply suggesting that "Battlestar Galactica" does a better, more honest job than Bono (or the mainstream media) has this decade and that he'd benefit. After the Q & A, one guy from the audience told me he fully agreed with me and that he loved the show.

Also, after an Interpol show last year, I recommended it to one of the band members, who said he'd heard good things about it.

After the devastating news of Season 4 being the last, I emailed whomever I could think of to build up support and have it enter the public consciousness. Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite said he'd heard good things and bought a bunch of DVDs after my email.

The only non-music person who wrote back was the very busy and kind Noam Chomsky, who said he didn't have cable so he couldn't check it out.

This year I got A.O. Scott of the New York Times to respond on twitter that he'd add it to his Netflix list, but (and I've never used Netflix) I wonder if this is people's new way of saying "maybe one day."

Oh, and last but not least, when I finished my degree a couple of years ago, I bought Season 1 DVDs (and in one case, Seasons 1 through 2.5) as thank you gifts for a couple of my university professors who saved my butt and even a librarian who kept renewing things for me.

12:20 PM  

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