Another month, another collection of mini-reviews to read! I've also been watching a few horror movies over the summer, going to save those reviews for Halloween in October.
Considering putting a top 50 short films list together, maybe I'll post that gradually. As always, my ratings below are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb.
Atmospheric mystery, which held my interest throughout. The first 40 minutes for me is the strongest part. The second half of the movie is intent to reveal most of the mysteries.
I agree with Eric from The Warning Sign, that the director’s use of color and flawless transition shots are a thing of beauty, even if at times they do distract from the film itself.
As Sati at Cinematic Corner wrote “the characters may seem cold but you still want to understand them and get to the bottom of all of this. (…) I don't believe that the child of someone who is evil will be evil too, but the way the movie presents the idea of "hunter gene" or whatever else to call it is fascinating. India's father knew she may want to kill in the future, so he tried to control her instincts by taking her hunting.”
Favorite quote from the intro:
India Stoker: “My ears hear what others cannot hear; small faraway things people cannot normally see are visible to me. These senses are the fruits of a lifetime of longing, longing to be rescued, to be completed. Just as the skirt needs the wind to billow, I'm not formed by things that are of myself alone. I wear my father's belt tied around my mother's blouse, and shoes which are from my uncle. This is me. Just as a flower does not choose its color, we are not responsible for what we have come to be. Only once you realize this do you become free, and to become adult is to become free.”
Before Midnight (2013)
I couldn’t resist revisiting the characters. It took a while for me to reach a verdict on the film. The long takes in the car and walking outside are impressive in terms of acting. It’s one of the best films of 2013, but it breaks my heart to see my favorite screen couple so cynical. I like to remember the characters in love. I would prefer to have met them when they are young, than now.
Dialogue about technology and gender, and other issues, is interesting enough, and as said on LAMBcast, they are thoughts most of us have all had, and can relate to personally. I agree with LAMBcast, that the naked scenes are uncomfortable, because the couple are almost like our friends.
The arguing turned me off, yet the cute philosophical discussions they have I love.
It’s a brave move to make the characters unlikeable one moment, and likeable the next.
It might improve on rewatch, but my initial reaction is I prefer the first two installments in the trilogy.
I also listened to Across The Universe podcast, interesting how the hotel room could be perceived as a prison. And that Celine & Jessie accuse each other of things they did offscreen, so we can never know who is right.
A Hijacking (2012)
A gripping film from start to finish. Could have done without the goat slaughter scene.
Side Effects (2013)
It held my attention, and was never dull. But to me, the Catherine Zeta-Jones twist near the end wasn’t realistic. A pity, because I loved the film up to that point.
Silent film in black and white. The characters are stereotypes, but it has a lot of atmosphere, and worth watching just for the stunning visuals.
The story basically is beware of technology becoming too powerful, which has been done countless times in fiction. There was never any doubt in my mind how it would end, but the special effects were groundbreaking for the time.
A fantasy of setting foot inside a video game is what it’s all about.
TRON: Legacy (2010)
Enjoyed it more than the original. Vast improvement in special effects and also soundtrack, and overall a bigger scale. Also a bit more tongue-in-cheek than the 1982 film.
Goes a bit Star wars-ish towards the end, but the sequel is better.
My favorite piece of the soundtrack was Derezzed during the club scene. The electronic and orchestral Daft Punk score fits perfectly with a futuristic movie. Usually, composers come in at the end when everything is done. Apparently, Tron: Legacy was cut to the music.
Favorite quote: “Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see”
Safety Last (1923)
Many great scenes: Hiding from the rent lady, late for work, going on the overfilled tramp and ambulance, the cloth sample, the prank with the cop, the sale at the store, kick me written with chalk, and of course the ending. In fact the whole movie is funny from start to finish.
The coupe fall in love a little too quickly, yet it is a masterpiece, the sets and visual effects are groundbreaking and way ahead of its time. The world that has been created looks massive, even though some of them are miniatures.
You could question why the mad inventor is given so much power by the leader, but then the guy in charge had no way of predicting what would transpire. A truly unmissable classic.
Dressed To Kill (1980)
Directed by Brian De Palma. Really liked it. The scene in the art gallery was the highlight, suspenseful and well-done. The split screen scene on this occasion kind of annoyed me, as there was so much being said all at once. A film that could dissuade you from taking the tube train. You could argue it has too many endings, though the conclusion is still thrilling and unexpected.
Body Double (1984)
Directed by Brian De Palma. It takes a lot to wow me, and this film achieved that. Loved it. Underrated 80s movie. Probably has my favorite sequence I’ve watched this month, when the guy follows the woman to the mall and to the beach. You become hypnotized by the woman he’s following, as if you are in the same shoes as the main character. Pays homage to the Alfred Hitchcock movies Vertigo and Rear Window.
I especially loved the first hour of the movie, and the climax. Maybe the best ending of all the De Palma films.
Casualties of War (1989)
A very powerful war drama, which stayed with me long after the credits rolled. A pity there was so much swearing. Amazing performance by a young Sean Penn.
Brian De Palma said on Scene By Scene with Mark Cousins (1998) that the situation is: “Kind of a metaphor for the whole experience of Vietnam, we throw these kids over there, and it’s very important to show how young they were”
Carlito's Way (1993)
A gangster drama, considered to be Brian De Palma’s last great movie. Good, without quite achieving greatness. An almost unrecognizable Sean Penn steals the movie, while Al Pacino seems stuck in his Scent of a Woman performance. Doesn’t feel as iconic as Scarface (1983), but there is some nice cinematography. The best scenes are towards the end, especially the chase.
Perhaps what prevents me from scoring it higher is that I feel Brian De Palma is repeating himself a bit, the tube station scene (Dressed To Kill), the staircase at the station(The Untouchables), Al Pacino in the lead role in a gangster drama, and his monologue before he walks out in the early shooting scene (Scarface). A good movie, just feels a bit familiar.
Femme Fatale (2002)
Directed by Brian De Palma. The complex storyline is impressive, but it’s tough to care who lives or dies. Pretty good, and worth a watch.
Underappreciated Brian De Palma film. I liked it a lot, though a couple of things annoyed me. The story relied on stupidity from several characters, the guy didn’t check the briefcase at the dock, and the woman in Rome doesn’t seek out the truth, and believes what she is told. I don’t think she would behave in that way in real life. I won’t say any more, as there are twists.
While you are watching, the whole movie feels pretty implausible, but it makes sense in the end. It captivated me, especially the scenes in Italy.
The title is not really understood until the conclusion.
Toy Story (1995)
The animation is still impressive, and the characters are really cute too.
The story is a bit childish, so I’m guessing kids would love it, while I liked it.
Spirited Away (2001)
Imaginative characters and otherworldly, but the story was a bit underwhelming and predictable. For me, cleaning the mud creature was the stand out scene. Not one of my favorite anime films. Maybe if I was younger, I would have liked it more.
Perfect Blue (1997)
Anime directed by Satoshi Kon, which is not really for kids. At first, the internet parts feel a bit dated, but really they are still relevant, as stalking still goes on now.
Does a fine job of blurring the reality, of what is real, and what is imagined.
The scene that you remember is the filmed rape for the tv-show, in the club, which is uncomfortable viewing. But I didn’t see anything that original that hasn’t already been done in other movies.
This anime was probably fresher in 97, when the internet was still fairly new.
Worth watching to the end, as it goes in an unexpected direction. It was decent, but it didn't wow me.
Only Yesterday (1991)
Anime by same director of Grave of the fireflies. The story sounded intriguing, about a 27-year-old remembering childhood. Quite slow-paced, the two hour running time tested my patience, and it didn’t engage me emotionally.
I’m feeling the story perhaps is better suited for a Japanese audience, or a female audience, as the story concerns girl’s having periods and flower-picking holiday. I skimmed over the last hour, because I was bored with it. It reminded me of Ozu.
Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)
My first Agnes Varda film, nominated for the Palme d'Or. Not as memorable as My Life to Live by Jean-Luc Godard, which it has a few things in common with, the female main character, and title cards.
I expected more from Cleo from 5 to 7, than what I got. The opening with the tarot cards was promising, but overall feels plotless and directionless-maybe on purpose?
I guess it’s a character study of the young woman, yet her walking around aimlessly in the streets, to me becomes tiresome to watch. I like the way they converse, which flows nicely. The scene when Cleo meets the man in the park was my favorite part, which reminded me of Linklater's Before Trilogy(during the last 20 minutes)
Favorite quote: “Ugliness is a kind of death. As long as I’m beautiful, I’m more alive than the others”
Considered among Agnes Varda’s best films. You could call it a French Wendy & Lucy (2008). It also reminded me of Linklater’s Bernie (2011), in that people interviewed each had an opinion about the main character.
As the film goes forward, you begin wondering why the vagabond puts herself through this harsh life on the road. She meets some interesting characters on her journey, especially the philosophy major guy, and the professor of trees.
Interesting how the film suggests that a person with nothing can experience more in life than a person with wealth, but also that without a home, family or education, she is very vulnerable.
Favorite quote: “Maybe you are freer than I am. Good for you. (...) You chose total freedom, but you got total loneliness. The time comes when if you go on, you destroy yourself.”
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
A road movie of sorts. The rape scene is controversial, because she appears to encourage it.
I didn’t think there was enough story for the running time of 112 minutes.
Bus Stop (1956)
A light-hearted comedy with Marilyn Monroe. It’s hard to believe that she would not run away sooner, and that the cowboy can’t tell the difference between red and green traffic light, but it does make for some very funny and awkward scenes, my favorite is when he reads out loud the Gettysburg address. I didn’t quite buy the ending. The movie is best when it goes for comedy.
Superb performances, and does a good job of capturing the cold, lonely Scottish Highlands, and how the isolated setting seemingly effects the characters. Has a few powerful moments, when patrons stop by for petrol, or there is an accident. There is also a bond going on between father and daughter, which makes for uncomfortable viewing.
The story doesn’t ever venture out of the petrol station setting, which limits what can happen. A pity the ending is almost identical to an old movie(if you see it you will recognize which film I refer to).
Good Vibrations (2012)
I’m not into punk music, if I was, this Irish movie might have had a bigger impact on me. Did introduce me to Teenage Kicks by Undertones, in the famous moment when John Peel played it twice on the radio.
Paradise: Faith (2012)
2nd leg of Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy. The theme has universal appeal, yet to me not as powerful or thought-provoking a film as Paradise: Love (2012).
Paradise: Faith has a few memorable scenes of the religious woman dealing with a drunk, and encountering an orgy in the woods. It’s difficult to know where the director stood with Paradise Love and therefore that film was open-ended. The director is more obvious with his message in Paradise: Faith, a critique of religious fanaticism in Austria. The religious woman means well and you kind of understand where she’s coming from. It is frustrating to watch that she is so unemotional and stubborn with her husband, which takes the joy out of both of their lives. I was siding with the husband. Also frustrating for her that the people she is trying to help are not really listening, yet understandable that they reject a door-to-door person. You can take everything too far, even goodness. The cat that is featured in several scenes perhaps was to show the woman’s inability to show affection, who knows.
Paradise: Hope (2013)
I don’t know why it’s called hope. The performances are good, but probably the weakest of the trilogy. A teenage girl falls in love with the doctor at a diet camp.
Seen anything great this month? Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree?
My Top 5
1.) Metropolis (1927) (8.6)
2.) Safety Last (1923) (8.5)
3.) Body Double (1984) (8.2)
4.) Casualties of War (1989) (8.0)
5.) Before Midnight (2013) (8.0)
6.) Stoker (2013) (8.0)
7.) Blancanieves (2012) (7.9)
8.) Toy Story (1995) (7.8)
9.) Obsession (1976) (7.7)
10.) A Hijacking (2012) (7.7)
11.) Dressed To Kill (1980) (7.7)
12.) Vagabond (1985) (7.5)
13.) TRON: Legacy (2010) (7.5)
14.) Carlito's Way (1993) (7.5)
15.) Femme Fatale (2002) (7.5)