Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Change of Seasons (1980, Richard Lang)

Karen Evans (Shirley MacLaine) has just discovered that her arrogant husband, university professor Adam (Anthony Hopkins) is having an affair with one of his students Linsey (Bo Derek).
After a moment or two of contemplation, Karen decides not to leave her husband but to instead to find a lover of her own. As it happens, a happy go lucky carpenter turns up at the house one morning and she invites him in.

Much to Adam's chagrin, Karen decides they all should spend the holidays in Karen and Adam's Vermont chalet to do some skiing and open relationship exploring. To add another dimension to the unusual mix is the arrival of the Evans' daughter Kasey with her very new and ultra conventional fiance.

You know when movie isn't overly successful when you google it and can only find a handful of images to choose from.
It apparently nearly destroyed Shirley MacLaine's career and from what I have read Anthony Hopkins couldn't stand Bo Derek as she refused to rehearse and abhorred MacLaine even more for being one of the most obnoxious actresses he had ever worked with. I don't know if I can give any credence to those claims as I only read it off other reviews of people like myself....but they pleased me as they made me chuckle.

I also don't know if I am just one for a B grade film, or that I now own this particular film (I bought it for $3)...but I didn't mind it. True, I was unsure if it was meant to be a comedy or a drama or a combination of the both or neither....but it was easy to watch.
It defintely drove home the idea that men shouldn't leave their wives for someone more than half their age- because although younger women have bouncy boobs (opening scene) they just end up squirting water in your face (opening scene and another scene); and if the man messes with the domestic balance they will be alone and sad while the wife will have a new lease on life with lots of new love interests.

But all said and done I liked the skiing scenes.

2 1/2 or 3 stars

The Conversation (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)

Written, directed and produced by Francis Ford Copolla, The Conversation tells the story of Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a highly successful surveillance expert from San Francisco. As successful and revered as he is in his line of work, he is incredibly secretive and obsessed with his own privacy, to the detriment of his personal relationships.

The opening scene shows Caul and his team recording what appears to be a rather inocuous conversation between a man and a woman in San Francisco's Union Square.
Caul successfully combines the tapes to make a clear recording of the conversation however, its meaning is ambiguous. Harry becomes more intrigued by the conversation he taped and decides to investigate it further. The more he learns, the more the meaning of the conversation changes. His investigations also threatens his anonymity.
This film is one that stays with you well after you have seen it.
Gene Hackman's performance is perfectly pitched to show the restraint and lonely world of Harry Caul.
I felt such empathy towards his character during the brief moment when opens himself up.

The music score by David Shire is definitely a part of why the The Conversation is successful - the main theme played on a solo piano is one of the most enchanting that I have heard and am suprised that I haven't heard it before.

I give it 4 1/2 stars

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Monpti (1957, Helmut Kautner)

It gives me great pleasure to introduce a film by my favourite German director, Helmut Kautner.  Helmut Kautner was a true storyteller and humanist. 

I grew up in a German household and Kautner films were a regular feature and thus I feel a little nostalgic when I watch these films.  His films are engaging and centre on the every-man/woman and the comedies and tragedies that weave through all our lives.

The film I watched last night was Monpti.  A story about a young, poor, Hungarian art student (Horst Buchholz), living in Paris, who meets a beautiful girl, Anne Claire (Romy Schneider), in a park on a lovely summers day.

The young art student falls madly in love with her and spends his few coins in an effort to woo and win her heart.  But Anne Claire, though clearly interested, does not give in so easily.  Anne Claire tells him she is the daughter of a wealthy family, which makes the young arts student’s pursuit of her even more challenging.

Eventually they are in are tender relationship.  Anne Claire refers to the young man as ‘Monpti’ short for Mon Petite.   But this relationship soon becomes tumultuous when Monpti discovers that everything Anne Claire has ever told him about her, is nothing but fantasy and lies.

There is also a second story intertwined through this tale, which is about a rich couple that are in complete contrast to Anne Claire and Monpti.

Whenever I finish watching a Kautner film, I always want to share it with my close friends, but I can never seem to find a copy with English subtitles! I hope, one day, more old German films are restored and available with English subtitles. Some of these films are such gems they should be shared to a wider audience.

I love this film for many reasons: It is by my favourite German director; It is a tragedy but it has a lot of funny, touching moments between the characters and its a fun look at human idiosyncrasies; it stars my favourite German actress, Romy Schneider, and… it always makes me want to have a duckling for a pet!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Paul (2011, Greg Mottola)

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) are two comic-book-loving, alien-believing, anything-to-do-with-space obsessed British buddies, who go on a once in a life time trip to the US. After a successful visit to Comic-Con, they start their pilgrimage to all places connected with UFO's and UFO sightings. Along the way they bump in to an alien, Paul (Seth Rogan) and reluctantly agree to help him return to his mothership. They also happen to pick up a religious fanatic and love interest for Graeme, Ruth (Kristen Wiig), and hot on their trail are FBI agents and Ruth's incensed father.
A major fan of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's previous work - tv series Spaced (1998-2001), Sean of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007); I was excited to watch the next insta
I ruddy well enjoyed it. Apart from great
writing and directing in these movies, why I love their work so much is the fact that Pegg and Frost are best mates in real life. Their friendship is evident on screen and adds a special dimension to their films. Paul is funny and well paced, with tender moments. It was fun spotting the sci-fi film references and I loved seeing a stunning Sigourney Weaver. The dvd extras are great - especially watching how how Paul was created out of Seth Rogan.

Four stars from me

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, John Cameron Mitchell

Hansel (John Cameron Mitchell) is a young man from East Berlin who falls in love with an American soldier. In order to marry him and migrate to The States, Hansel has to have a sex change. Hansel becomes Hedwig and moves to America - but with the operation being a bit of a botched job, all she is left with is an a bit of a mess in the downstairs department - hence the angry inch.
Hedwig tours America (her husband has since left her), singing with her Eastern European band in chain restaurants and shopping mall foyers - her songs too big for the location. Hedwig's US tour also follows the tour of her now famous ex boyfriend Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt) who has stolen her songs.

Not a one for musicals, I sta
rted watching Hedwig and the Angry Inch (written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell) expecting I would be frequently pausing it to do the dishes, check Facebook and pat the dogs. But from the first scene I was hooked. Hedwig's band performances are so over the top they are deliciously funny. Yet Mitchell plays Hedwig's character as so brittle, affectionate, sweet and flawed that I fell a bit in love with her. The moments between Hedwig and Gnosis were tender are real that I lamented their break up.

I give it 4 stars.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Withnail and I (1985, Bruce Robinson)

A story about friendship (drugs and booze) and a holiday in the country.

This is a film that underwhelmed me the first time I saw it, two years ago.  However, on this, my second viewing, I think it’s a masterpiece.

This film is hilarious! And with so many quotable lines I wish I had a better memory.

It’s 1969 and struggling London actors, Withnail and Marwood, tired of the filth they live in and their uneventful lives, decide to rejuvenate themselves with a jaunt in the country. But without the modern conveniences with which they are accustomed, their friendship is put to the test.

Richard E Grant is superb as the ever-intoxicated Withnail and Paul McGann is brilliant as Marwood.

Highly recommended!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Friday, 12 August 2011

Lilya 4 Ever (2002, Lukas Moodysson)

Somewhere in post Soviet Russia, Lilya's mother leaves for America with her new husband - promising to send for 16 year old Lilya (Oksana Akinshina) once they are settled. As the days pass it becomes evident that Lilya has been abandoned. Her only confidant is Volodya (Artyom Bogucharsky) , a boy several years younger than Lilya and also an out cast. Lilya struggles to survive until one day she meets and falls for Andrei, who promises to help her start a new life in Sweden.

Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, this is a relentlessly harrowing film. Moodysson's directing is superb, and it's even more impressive knowing that although the film is in Russian, he doesn't speak the language. He gets a brilliant performance out of all the actors particularly those who play Lilya and Volodya. Rarely does a film move me this deeply - I haven't stopped thinking about it since I watched it several days ago. It deserves every award that it won, and more.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Double Bill

It must always be hard to make a sequel to a classic such as In the Heat of the Night (1967, Norman Jewison) . They Call Me Mr Tibbs (1970, Gordon Douglas) is rather lacklustre - although it does have a pretty cool Quincy Jones soundtrack and it's fun to see a young Martin Landau. There were quite a few continuity issues with the sequel - the one I noticed particularly was that Mr. Tibbs in the first film was unmarried (I remember that point because I fancy Sidney quite a bit). In the sequel he has a wife (which he has been with for ages apparently) and two kids. The crime Mr. Tibbs had to solve didn't grab me so much - but his parental skills did. Watching him give a cigar and whiskey to his 8 year old son until he spewed (to teach him a lesson) was interesting.

I really wasn't overly keen to watch An Affair to Remember (1957, McCarey); I thought it would be overly saccharine and schmaltzy - A rich play boy falling in love with a quick tongued lovely lady on a cruise ship. But - I found the film completely endearing; the dialogue witty, sharp and sweet. I was also really impressed by Carey Grant's sun tan as he even managed to be coffee brown between the fingers. Worth viewing and it will remind you of Sleepless in Seattle (if you have seen Sleepless in Seattle). I wonder what Meg Ryan doing these days.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Since Otar Left (2003, Julie Bertolucci)

The story of the relationships of three generations of women. Set in contemporary Georgia, the elderly matriarch Eka (Esther Gorintin) lives with her daughter Marina (Nino Khomasuridze) and granddaughter Ada (Dinara Drukarova) in a small apartment.

Eka’s beloved son, Otar, has been living in France for the past two years to get work and start a better life.

Eka adores her son and looks forward to receiving his letters and the occasional telephone call. Her relationship with her daughter Marina, however, is quite strained. Although Marina takes good care of her mother she can’t seem to get the approval and love she so deeply craves and deserves.   Ada is young, intelligent and diligent and the glue that binds the elder women together.

One day as Eka is out to the country; Marina and Ada receive a phone call, which notifies them of Otar’s death. Not wanting to break Eka’s heart Ada and Marina decide to keep Otar’s death a secret and compose Otar’s letters to Eka and things become more and more complicated as they try to conceal the truth from Eka. But Eka is more astute than they think.

This is a beautiful story with rich characters and superb acting by the three female leads. I love this film more and more on every viewing. A film with heart and soul.

Tonight's Movie

I've been meaning to watch it since it came out in 1992.....

Zelary, 2003, Ondrej Trojan

Czechoslovakia 1943: medical student and member of the resistance movement, Eliska can no longer study, as German troops have closed the universities. When the resisitance group is exposed, Eliska is forced to flee to the mountains with Jonz, a kind hearted patient she looked after while working as a nurse.
So begins Zelary, the 2004 Academy Award nominated film for Best Foreign Picture - based on true events.
Zelary has the elements for everything I love about a movie; breathtaking scenery, stellar cinematography, a strong cast and a Bernese Mountain Dog. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for this film, but I felt listless for the first two hours. I didn't particularly feel anything towards the two main characters and the development of their relationship. I did find interesting, however, the culture of the mountain inhabitants and the parts of the film when the dog was running about. For me, Zelary didn't start until the final 40 minutes and then I didn't want the film to end.
I'll be curious to watch it in a few years time to see if I feel differently.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Submarine (2011, Richard Ayoade)

This is a film we are all looking forward to seeing. It comes out in September in Australia and looks like a fun film. Empire Magazine (Australia) also gave it a nice write up in the current (September 2011) edition. It is directed by Richard Ayoade, better known as Moss from the IT Crowd.

Monday Night Movie

I spend my Monday nights alone, in front of the telly, watching something from my collection.
Tonight I think I'll watch Don't Look Now.

It's a "Psychic Thriller" apparently. We now what the means! Bleeding photo frames! AAhhhhhh.

Runaway Train Movie

Set in the east coast of the US in the industrial heartland of Pennsylvania, Unstoppable follows the unlikely story of Academy Award Winner Denzel Washington and a young Captain Kirk saving a small town from a runaway, psychopathic train.

Much like the John Carpenter classic Christine, the train has a mind of its own and is intent on destroying the town by falling off the tracks onto a conveniently located petroleum depot. Why would you put all those big, highly explosive tanks right where a train could fall on them? The plot, of course!

Luckily for the petrol tanks, and less importantly the town, Captain Kirk and the guy from Glory were able to throw their combined weight into the corner and keep the train on the tracks.

Directed by Ridley Scott's younger and less talented brother, this fast paced rollercoaster ride is quite enjoyable mainly due to all the helicopters and the guy with the ponytail driving the big truck.

*** (three stars)

Go and watch Christine first.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Sunday Night Movie

Logan's Run (1976, Michael Anderson)
Not much of a Sci-Fi fan but I'll see how I go.....
....loved it! I found Peter Ustinov's acting in the role of the Old Man as simply superb.

Flu Movies - what I've watched while ill this week

Shock Corridor (1963, Sam Fuller)

A Pulitzer-prize obsessed journalist Johnny (who uncannily resembles Charlie Sheen) gets himself commited to a mental hospital so he can solve a murder. He befriends the 3 mental patient witnesses, who all miraculously have moments of lucidity and he unsubtly asks who the murderer is. During his time there he goes a little nutso himself (as to be expected). His internal dialogue is a treat to hear and the film points out the social fears of society at that time. It's B-Grade, and I really enjoyed it.

Score (1974, Radley Metzger)

Considered saucy in its day, Score is tame by alot of M rated movies of now. It is still racey though and probably not one to watch with your Grandmother. It loosely reminds me of a happy version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf, where an older couple play with a young, innocent pair and entice them in to a swinging good time. Again B-Grade and enjoyable.

(1974, Sandy Harbutt)

I started this film assuming I wouldn't like it as my motorbike interest is rather low, but this film is now up there as one of my Aussie favourites. The reason being the film isn't all about bike races and motorbikes. It's more the story of the relationship between undercover cop Stone and the the Gravedigger motorbike gang, and the freedom that comes with being a biker. Stone assimilates himself with the Gravediggers to learn who's killing their members. The acting is either over the top, weak or rather stilted which adds to the movie's charm. Stone shows a 70's Australian landscape and liberal attitude. Top notch ending I really do love B-Grade.

Interiors (1978, Woody Allen)
Written and directed by Woody Allen, Interiors tells of an overbearing mother of 3 adult daughters, whose world becomes unhinged when her husband decides to leave her. The separation also brings to surface the tension, jealousy, resentment and fears of the sisters. There is next to no music; the set designs are predominantly cool and stark; all signifying the controlled environment that the mother kept. Not a movie to watch if you want a laugh but well written.

Storytelling (2001, Todd Solondz)
Having watched Solondz's Happiness (1998) and Palindromes (2004), I knew I was in for a pretty dark viewing with this film. True to his style, Storytelling comprises of two stories "fiction" and non fiction" and both are rather disturbing. Set in a college and a High School. it pries in to the lives of dysfunctional people. It's funny and twisted - I often laughed out loud and then thought "oops actually that's really horrible...but still funny"
As with Happiness, Storytelling is not a film to make you like people.

A Mighty Heart (2007, Michael Winterbottom)
I did initially pause this movie and take a deep breath when I heard Angelina do a French accent. I knew nothing of the movie ( I don't read the backs of them - I pretty much choose them randomly off the dvd shelf), but I thought I would give it 5 more minutes. I got completely absorbed by this true story of a journalist kidnapped in Pakistan. Angelina's performance as the journalist's wife was convincing she gave great dignity to her character. The documentary style directing heightened the frantic search for clues to the kidnappers whereabouts.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Who's That Knocking At My Door (1967)

After watching Mean Streets (1973), I was a little curious of Martin Scorsese's debut film Who's That Knocking At My Door (also known as I Call First). Thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue, soundtrack and the relationship between a very young Harvey Keitel and Zina Bethune (whoever she is). It was an insight in to late 60’s New York, friendships, class, religion and sexuality. It’s definitely a dvd I would like on my shelf (and I love the fact it’s only 86 minutes long).

The Return (2003)

This evening I watched The Return (2003) by Andrey Zvyagintsev .

Zvyagintsev’s directorial debut is the story of two young brothers Andrey and Ivan who come home one summers day to find their father has returned home after a 12 years absence without a word of explanation.

An authoritarian figure this man, a stranger to the two boys, takes them on a trip the following day. The elder of the two boys, Andrey, is intrigued by his father and wishes to gain his approval. The younger, Ivan, is filled with distrust and resentment towards this mysterious man. Where has this father been so long? And why is he suddenly back in their lives as if nothing ever happened.

The film is shot against a beautiful Russian landscape, in hues of blue and grey, which sets the tone of this heartbreaking story. The film is exquisitely shot and superbly acted by the three leads with an exceptional performance by Ivan Dobronravov, who plays the young Ivan.
Sadly, Vladimir Garin, who played the older brother Andrey died shortly after making this film.
This is a wonderful and very moving film and I’m looking forward to watching Zvyagintsev’s latest film Elena (2011).

An allegorical B Grade Gem

Film Art

Love this picture of Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972) by Evgeny Parfenov

A film I can't wait to see and keep going on and on and on about

First Post

Dan, Jo and I decided we wanted to share our love and thoughts about film with others.  Here is our first blog...