zeyr: (Default)
And still it continues...gotta love lunch breaks...

still more movie comments )

Almost caught up on the movies...time to take a swipe at the books next time I have a chance to write a bit...
zeyr: (Default)
In an attempt to get one category out of the way...on to more movies!

I got the number wrong last time, so I'll just say: more movies! )

More later...
zeyr: (Default)
Well, there is really no way in heck I'm going to be able to keep up with my reading in writing critiques. Critical writing and reviews don't flow trippingly off my tongue (or my keyboard, for that matter). What I'll do, in a vain attempt to catch up, is to write brief comments on the things I've read or seen and just move on. Maybe with that monkey off my back, I'll actually start using this journal again. :)

4 Movie comments hidden behind here )

More later... :)


Apr. 10th, 2006 05:54 pm
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4. M (Link is to archive.org for free download of the film) - re-watch

M is the very simple name for a very complex movie. Filmed in Germany in 1931 by the great director Fritz Lang, it is a brilliant study of a serial killer. There are a number of mildly interesting firsts in the techniques used in the film. One of these is the use of dialogue (in this case a mother calling out her daughter's name) with the speaker offscreen. Obviously, this is a common technique today, but it was fairly innovative back then.

However, unique cinematic techniques aside, this is a stunning and powerful film. Lang uses parallel development in some key scenes, where a meeting of the police leading the investigation to find the murderer is intercut with a meeting of the local underworld leaders who are deciding to perform the same task. This is not for altruistic reasons, but a pragmatic attempt to reduce the pressure that the police are placing on them in the manhunt. While it is clear that they are disgusted by the killings of children, they would not have taken an active part in the pursuit without the pressure.

The newly aggressively intrusive investigation of the police bears fruit at the same time that a blind beggar identifies the killer by his distinctive habit of whistling. The crooks pursue, pinning him down in an office building as it closes, while the police wait patiently in his rented room for him to return home. In a large operation, the criminals capture the killer and place him in a mock trial (featuring an impassioned plea by Lorre's character of his inability to control his urges), which is interrupted by the police at the last moment before he too is slain.

There are some strong and fascinating images in this movie. The above mentioned conferences are nearly drowned in the smoke of the participants. A mob attacks a kindly old man who simply spoke to a child, thinking him the killer. Peter Lorre, who plays the killer, seducing children with toys and candy. Roger Ebert sees a subtext in the treatment of German society that points to the growth of Nazi society...I definitely agree. Save the killer and the two groups of 'leaders', people move in mobs and grim attitudes and shadows dominate the screen. These are clear shadows, not so much the murk of the fading film, but an intentional composition dominated by darkness. Lang's shadows echo the shadows in the heart of the killer, as well as the shadow of the Nazi party.

This is a movie I have seen a few times before...and will definitely invest in a high quality DVD of eventually. The archive.org file 256kb MP4's quality is fairly decent, although it is sometimes hard to read the subtitles against the few lighter backgrounds. If you enjoy police procedurals, character studies or serial killer movies, you'll probably enjoy this one. It holds up very well against the movies of today.
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3. The Warriors - rewatch

Before he directed Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours, this little movie of gang adventure was probably Walter Hill's best known tale. I don't believe it was a huge hit, but it definitely served as the inspiration for innumerable side scrolling combat videogames in the 1980s.

The Warriors is the story of a gang from coney Island, New York who attend a meeting of all the city's gangs called by a man known as Cyrus. Cyrus is the leader of the city's largest gang, the Riffs. His bold proposal is that the gangs take over the city, since they outnumber the police force. Complications rapidly ensue, however, and soon all of the gangs are pursuing the Warriors on behalf of the Riffs...believing them to be the killers of Cyrus.

A series of narrow escapes ensue as the Warriors travel in fits and starts (due to various subway issues and confusion) across the city to return home. They face various gangs on their home turf, each gang identified with a dramatic theme. This ranges from the warriors and their chic leather vests and frills to the grubby green t-shirts of the Orphans and the baseball bat weilding mimes in Yankee jerseys known as the Baseball Furies. Each gang is confronted, fled from or avoided as appropriate. Attrition takes place, but the bulk of the gang succeeds in making it back to the island in time for a grand finale against the gang that really IS guilty of Cyrus' killing. Deus Ex Machina...err...the Riffs arrive, having finally discovered the truth on their own. They make clear that they intend to follow Cyrus' plan of domination...well, except for coney Island. That is Warriors turf and will remain so, in respect for their running the gauntlet of the city and the mistake that caused them to have to do so.

The members of the Warriors are all bluster and bravado, conflicted only in their quiet moments. While they struggle for position even amongst their small group of representatives to Cyrus' conclave, to those outside they stand firmly together. Swan, the warleader, is particularly clearly played on both levels by Michael Beck. James Remar, eventually fated to play Raiden in the second Mortal Kombat movie, is a compelling jerk.

None of these characters, nor the girl who they gather along the way, have any life outside of the story. They don't need one, either. This isn't a character study of the social pressures that formed the gangs. This is a visceral story of confrontation and pride. The Warriors need to survive the night...and the night is all we care about. There are small moments when the Warriors (Swan especially) consider that there might be something beyond where they are...but they are there in order to lend more depth to the night. The Warriors, whatever they say, whatever their vague urgings, are going nowhere. The night may end in victory, but it is clear that they know no upward mobility. They are who they are...and this lends a sad gravity to the entire pursuit.

I highly recommend this movie as a great ride with more depth than it is obvious about. This is a cut above the mindless beat 'em ups that have flooded the years, something of a hidden gem. If at all possible, get the older version, not the latest director's cut. This cut removes some key character and story development from the beginning of the movie, I'm told. While I can see the arguments for removing it, I think that knowing this information up front...as well as seeing more of a character killed early on in the night...is valuable.
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2. Hardware Wars -rewatch

Yup, you'll laugh...you'll cry...you'll kiss three bucks goodbye.

This is another guilty pleasure from my youth. I clearly remember watching this projected at the town library when I was younger. The jokes have gotten better and better in my memory since that time. While I very much wanted to share this with my son, I was worried that the humor wouldn't hold up (for him or for me...)

I worried needlessly. While this short will never be some kind of worldbeating piece of high art, it is still damned funny. My son and I were laughing out loud through much of it, as much for the sheer exuberance of the ride as for individual jokes. At a grand length of 13 minutes, I'm not sure it is worth buying at anything other than a rock bottom price, but it comes closer than any other short subject for this SF fan. The special features definitely downgraded the DVD for me, though. The director's commentary is stultifyingly dull, as Ernie Fosselius trys to be amusing and fails. The out-take footage is vaguely amusing. The best bits have to do with Artie Deco's inability to follow directions (really, how much CAN you expect from a vacuum cleaner?). The rest of the material is so forgettable that, two days later, I've forgotten what it was.

We did, of course, watch the actual short 2 or 3 times, increasing the value of the rental tremendously. :)
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1. When Worlds Collide is now available at Deep Discount DVD for $21.77 so "Why pay $19.95!?". Why indeed?

This movie remains high quality 1950s cheese. I had not seen this movie since my own youth, but had enough fond memories to rent it via Blockbuster Online to watch with my son. I'll have to say that the memories are fonder than the actuality, although this was not a bad movie at all. It was definitely worth seeing once or twice in my life, but not worth owning.

To be honest, I had a higher opinion of the entire thing until the godawful matte painting at the end of things. For the era, the FX were quite good, although the globe of Bellus hanging in the sky is a bit much. The acting, while mostly wooden (typical in early era SF), does loosen up at some points. The male lead, in particular, has some occasional spurts of humanity. The script is decent, probably reflecting strong source material, although some complexity has clearly been cut in order to fit filmic pacing. I did find the sequence of the last handful of days building the escape rocket, with its frenzied narration by some anonymous announcer as to how far behind schedule they were, to be more humorous than tense. My 10 year old, on the other hand, was more intently focused on that sequence than he was on much of the rest of the movie.

One thing I'm curious about is the timing of the original story. Certain of the conventions of the 'end of the world' scenario I first encountered in SF while reading some of E.E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark series, written just before (or possibly simultaneous with) the source novel. Was this a case of great minds thinking alike? A common theme of fiction in the era? Or did one writer read and incorporate the details from the other? These are small details...in no wise impugning the originality or creativity of any of the authors involved, but I get curious about little things like that. Strangely enough, that's what I'll take away from seeing the movie...

The DVD, by the way, is absolutely devoid of special features. I felt lucky that there was a somewhat scratchy copy of the trailer included...
zeyr: (Default)
Must post: Into the Forge, Into the Fire.

Must write: Storm Warning, Storm Rising, Storm Breaking, Serenity, Wizard's Dilemma, The Shadow Laughs, Death Merchant: Operation Overkill, A Wizard Alone, The Drawing of the Three, Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter, El Mariachi, Street Fighter Alpha, The Golden Compass, The Amber Spyglass, The Subtle Knife, Cold Streets, The Stainless Steel Rat, The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge, The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World, The Timekeeper Conspiracy, The Pimpernel Plot, The Zenda Vendetta, Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Death Masks, Blood Rites, Dead Beat, Sword-Sworn, Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, Assassin's Quest, Fool's Errand, Golden Fool, Fool's Fate, Executioner: The Trial, Deathstalker Coda, In Conquest Born, War of the Flowers, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Spirited Away.

Must Get: off my butt and write some of these things before I forget the book/movie involved and have to re-read for a review. ;)
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Spurred by a few recent references to the 50 book/100 movie challenges, I've decided that putting some form of mini-reviews in this space to track my viewing/reading pleasure over the next year might be almost entertaining.

At the very least, it'll entertain me. With luck, posting regularly about this type of thing will actually prompt me to post about other things as well. I have no illusions that I will be nearly as captivating at this as [livejournal.com profile] yendi. No mere human can stand up to his reviews of Van Helsing and the Friday the 13th movies, just to mention a few. However, my sheer eclecticism of interest might actually amuse a few of you. The rest of you will probably barely tolerate it. :) LJ is just an exercise in narcissism for most of us in any case(well, not [livejournal.com profile] shadesong and [livejournal.com profile] theferrett but the rest of us less-attended folks).

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