Monday, December 12, 2011

Films Viewed (November 2011)

Went the Day Well? was that rare propaganda film the transcends its intent enough to become a valid film experience. A British town faces a stealthy Nazi invasion. Essentially, the message is "Report Suspicious Activity," but I still had a good time.

Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest was a fond look back at the golden Age of hip hop coupled with the stresses and realities of being a part of this innovative and influential group. We watch as they implode yet again. One of those things I missed in theaters (it's Baltimore-area run was only a week or so in a County Cineplex) and waited impatiently for on DVD.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) was a prime slice of vintage popcorn thrillride set in a decaying and bankrupt New York. A subway train is highjacked, a ransom is demanded, the clock ticks. Satisfying on many levels. Grimy, gritty and wise-ass till the last freeze frame.

The Seduction of Mimi
was screening in Toronto when I was there a few years ago. I filed the title in my filmic memory bank and finally managed the time to rent and watch. Earnest worker Mimi is a man of honor in this savage lampoon of hypocritical Italian morays. Lina Wertmuller has won me over, and I look forward to seeing more of her films.

Martha Mary May Marlene has divided viewers, some finding it unaffected and not very satisfying. I found it to be a taught psychological thriller worth my time, an evocation of a nightmare anchored by Elizabeth Olsen's performance. A woman returns from a mysterious disappearance into a commune/cult with much damage to attempt to unravel.

Hugo 3D was such a direct hit on me that I feel like an unreliable praise-giver. A young boy lives in the walls of a train station while unraveling mysteries that have to do with his father and the birth of cinema. Charming, beautifully shot... a movie I want to live in.

Lilya 4-Ever tells the brutal story of a Eastern European girl's descent into prostitution. Bleak, bitter, no holds barred film-making that never felt like Exploitation. A little too plodding, (the situation the woman lives in is so godawful that the reasons she would choose this life become clear quickly) but altogether effective once you settle in.

Immortals 3D was other eye-popping Tarsem Singh film, this time viewed in a Dundalk movie theater with mediocre (dark) digital projection and a terribly blown out sound system. A movie-going experience as close to watching a film on bootleg DVD in a theater as I have yet to encounter. The plot was a miss-mash of sword and sandal epic and Greek mythology. Mickey Rourke goes predictable over the top as a the villan. I say "eh".

Melancholia is why I go to the movies, to see and experience something new. Kirsten Dunst's character's wedding party, already a disaster, concludes at the beginning of a much bigger global one. Lars Von Trier captured the mood of my Fall inadvertently in film. Armageddon: now more than ever.

The Leopard was a sumptuous feast of a film, still going strong two hours into the run-time. An Italian man of means and privilege who has lived by the old codes tries to adjust to the new ways. He remains stuck between eras as the modern state of Italy is born around him. Burt Lancaster is used effectively and well. One of those "on the list" films that the Charles theater revival series finally presented an excellent opportunity to see.

Dune capped off the month. As it is a film I have seen many times and know a great deal about, I thought of it this way this time around: the first half is an excellent example of David Lynch on a big budget, all stops pulled. The second half is like a very long preview for the film that could have been appearing on the screen for the next several hours had Lynch had final cut. Always a great film to dive into; many thanks to the Gunky's Basement crew for doing it again.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
Suburban Multiplex/ Video Americain
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all releases are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 11 features (8 in theaters)