Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2009 Movie Diary--Late May to Late August

I have to clear my MOVIE DIARY sidebar, so I'm committing it to posterity as an entry into the body of my blog. I review each film in fifteen words or less (which is harder than one might think). The best movies are marked with 2 stars. Anyway, from mid-May 2009 to late August 2009 (from bottom to top), I watched:

**Village of the Damned (creepy kids abound in staid but entertaining 60s British horror/sci-fi classic)
Planet of the Apes (season one) (TV adaptation of famed series is kid-friendly fun)
**The Office (season 4) (Remains the best sitcom on TV, for my money; brilliantly filmed and acted)
**Easy Living (Opulent screwball, written by Sturges, with blustery Edward Arnold and always-charming Jean Arthur)
Gommorah (What's all the hoopla about? Feels real, but never engages)
Trans Siberian (Brad Anderson thriller seems stupid initially, but damn if it doesn't pull the rug out!)
Nothing But The Truth (torn-from-headlines story makes it feel a bit TV-movie, but Kate Beckinsale's performance is beyond reproach)
**Adventureland (not riotous like Mottola's "Superbad," but better; sweet, real, impeccable period detail, perfect soundtrack; terrific)
**Alice in Wonderland (1933) (Paramount-produced all-star vehicle is surrealistic wonder, thanks to idiosyncratic performances and trippy costume/makeup/production design)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (season 4) ("Producers" subplot captivates, but irritainment quotient almost makes David's series jump the shark)
**Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Directorially inventive documentary about secretive American singer/songwriter/producer whose genius has defined decades of British music)
**For All Mankind (Moon-landings doc sports pristine footage, narrated by astronauts; mesmerizing, but "It's amazing" comments get tiresome)
Play It As It Lays (Hollywood hate, 60s-style; it ain't The Bad and the Beautiful)
**The 7th Victim (Val Lewton's Greenwich Village-set Satan-fest is typically brilliant; I love Kim Hunter's bottom lip)
Public Enemies (Aside from mesmerizing Stephen Lang--who also has best lines--absolutely zero to recommend here)
Whatever Works (musty Woody Allen effort's another downfall notch; Larry David's unimpressive, but Evan Rachel Wood's luminous)
Romance and Cigarettes (Ambitious film inspired by "Pennies From Heaven" fails via substandard story; Walken excels in wasted cast)
**The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis De Sade (AKA "Marat/Sade") (Cinema's truest depiction of insanity, with amazing songs and direction by Peter Brook)
**Swamp Thing (Comic-booky as all get out, directed with heart by Wes Craven)
**Blue Velvet (Remains a masterpiece)
Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust (TV doc-flavored, but still enlightens to genoside's long-taboo cinematic status)
**Mad Men (Season 2) (Just keeps getting better and better; one of the greatest TV series of all time)
**The Hurt Locker (Best film made about Iraq War features Bigelow's exacting direction and Jeremy Renner's star-making lead)
I've Loved You For So Long (Sometimes dull, extremely mopey French film enlivened by radiant Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein)
I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (Terrible title mars Jeff Garlin's funny, sweet movie about fat man looking for love)
Live Free or Die Hard (Fun but absolutely ridiculous actioner takes John McClane's invulnerability as far as can go)
Next Stop, Greenwich Village (Good to see early Walken, but Mazursky's 50's-era tale is too twee for my tastes)
Invaders From Mars (Menzies' visually resplendant interpretation of a now ho-hum sci-fi script)
**The Staircase (Brilliant 8-part true-crime miniseries shows what kind of defense money buys, even with obvious guilt)
The Carol Burnett Show (9 disc set) (Smart vaudvillian comedy is superb, but gaudy musical numbers deserve unceremonious dropkicking)
Eye of the Tiger (The very definition of 80s action cheesiness, with Busey, Kotto, and Cassell)
Frozen River (Leo is believable in lead but writer Courtney Hunt fails to direct to material's potential)
**Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (Tells well a story you only think you know; excellent period footage, too)
**Pulling (season 1) (Saucy femme-driven Britcom is sharp comeback to stupidity of "Sex and the City")
Ghosts of Mars (Carpenter's final big-screen outing too dumb to even be taken lightly; dates his talents terribly)
**Citizen's Band (Demme's layered, beautifully cast tale of CB-obsessed outcasts is completely captivating)
Last Embrace (Jonathan Demme's attempt to run with Hitchcock comes closer to really bad De Palma)

**[rec] (Spanish horror film, remade as Quarrentine, is riveting genre entry--the best in many years)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (John C. Reilly excels in not hysterical spoof of rock bio films, with excellent songs)
**White Lightning (Terrific hooch-slinging southern noir with charismatic Burt Reynolds and greasy Ned Beatty)
**Crime of Passion (Excellent domestic noir with harried Barbara Stanwyck getting cop husband Sterling Hayden in hot water)
The Dying Gaul (Ho-hum melodrama enlivened by always reliable Peter Saarsgard and Patricia Clarkson)
**One-Trick Pony (Energetic Robert M. Young music biz drama requires that you REALLY like writer/star/composer Paul Simon)
**The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (Crushing comic leads from Holly Hunter, Beau Bridges in Michael Richie's tale of trailer-trashy ladder-climbing)
**Blast of Silence (Allan Barron's low-budgeter deserves credit for its masterful shot set-ups and 60s NYC locations)
The Three Musketeers (The Ritz Brothers are the highlight of this routine Allan Dwan entry)
**Synecdoche, NY (Definitely not for everyone, this look at life as entertainment is absolutely amazing, and pretentious)
Razorback (Aussie horror with gigantic wild boar is extremely well-shot; suffers from weak lead, pedestrian finale)
The Ruins (Dunce-capped rehash of The Blob with Aztec plants as Blob replacements; waste of time)
**Alien (Completely contemporary-looking, even after 30 years; however, opt for original over unnecessary director's cut)
**W. (Underrated Oliver Stone dissection of Bushie Jr.s rise, with magnificent lead perf from Josh Brolin)
**Love Eternal (Glowing Cocteau adaptation of Tristan and Isolde saga; romantic and sometimes hilarious)
Revolutionary Road (stiff-necked argue-fest with DiCaprio and Winslet coming off as squabbling siblings playing dress-up; disappointing)
Entourage (Season 5) (More of the same; I respect the show, but it's ADD and depressing simultaneously)
**Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Great seeing Jason Siegel commanding; smart, hilarious--like all rom-coms should be--but often lowbrow)
September 30, 1955 (Worshipful 50s kids mourn James Dean's death; good cast, sometimes thoughful, often embarassingly silly)
Patti Smith: Dream of Life (Just because we like your stuff doesn't mean we're really interested in your life)
**Tess (Polanski's adaptation of Hardy's epic of heartbreak remains unspeakably beautiful in every way)
Shoot (The nutsiness of warmongers gets another once-over, this time with ultimately ridiculous results; begins strongly, though)
**The Big Combo (John Alton's stylized B&W images are magnificent in this perfect noir from Joseph H. Lewis)
**Attack! (Bitter Aldrich WWII slamfest with sniveling Eddie Albert, hammy Jack Palance, sly Lee Marvin)
Nobel Son (Stupidest movie EVVV-ARRRRRR)
Pickpocket (Celebrated Bresson film may be cold by design, but its distancing effects left me unmoved)
**Prime Cut (Lee Marvin kicks hick ass in sloppily entertaining potboiler co-starring slimy Hackman and cute Spacek)
**The King of Comedy (Creepy Scorsese character study, with Lewis and Bernhard invaluably supporting unusually nerdy De Niro)
**When Willie Comes Marching Home (Charming one-joke Ford romp, with Dan Dailey as frustrated WWII soldier; features gorgeous Corinne Calvet)
Up The River (Early John Ford comedic curio with Tracy and Bogart as prisonyard buddies)
**Gentleman Jim (Raoul Walsh's quaint, cartoony biopic of boxer Jim Corbett, with dashing Errol Flynn out front)
The Law (Jules Dassin's saucy Italian-set sex comedy starring an electrifying Gina Lollabrigida)
**Rear Window (watched Hitchcock's classic with my mother, and we noticed many sublime details)
**Wendy and Lucy (studied, beautiful Kelly Reichardt movie with shattering lead performance from Michelle Williams)
**Happy-Go-Lucky (another Mike Leigh masterpiece, about the pluses and perils of happiness, with terrific Sally Hawkins)
Shooting Henry Hill (laughably awful documentary about famed "Goodfellas" mobster's present-day trevails; know-nothing filmmakers emerge with crap)
**The Outlaw Josey Wales (stands as perhaps Eastwood's best directorial effort--right up there with Unforgiven)
Trouble Along The Way (playing a precocious kid, Sherry Jackson steals football comedy away from likable John Wayne)
Someone Like You (not-bad romantic comedy is lucky to have the always watchable Ashley Judd as its lead)
While She Was Out (stupid feminist revenge fantasy is poorly directed and acted)
The International (globe-hopping financial intrigue "actioner" is a complete waste of time)
Kicking and Screaming (whiny overintellectuals prove occasionally funny in typically drab Noah Baumbach film)
**Changeling (underrated Eastwood film is unrelentingly horrific, but could have been shortened)
Not Only But Always (lifeless biopic of Dudley Moore/Peter Cook proves Brits can be as fatuous as yanks)
**At Last The 1948 Show (B&W precursor to Monty Python is suitably smart and funny)
Syriana (It may be complex, but that don't mean it's smart; blah)
Sansho The Baliff (I know it's a classic, but this exquisitely photographed tale of slavery left me cold)
**Ride the High Country (Peckinpah's first masterwork speeds by at breathtaking pace)
The 2000 Year Old Man (unnecessary but still diverting adaptation of Carl Reiner/Mel Brooks comedy staple)
**Inside Moves (a tearjerking tale surrounding the highest of the low; Richard Donner's masterpiece)
**Anvil!: The Story of Anvil (so far my favorite movie of 2009: a touching tribute to brotherhood forged in metal)
**Drag Me To Hell (funny and scary return to horror genre for director Sam Raimi; Alison Lohman's a trooper)
**The Shining (Kubrick's classic about a disintegrating family is amusing and singularly well-mounted horror)
**THX-1138 (Lucas' director's cut seems like a wholly different movie--and a one-of-a-kind sci-fi gem)
**The End of Summer (Ozu's elegant swansong, with typically slow pacing, well-considered shots, and intense family dynamics)
**The Old Dark House (James Whales' followup to "Frankenstein" is weird, atmospheric, surprisingly funny; as always, Karloff is superb)
**Star Trek (doubtful that 2009 summer movies will get much better than J.J. Abrams' smart, entertaining, well-cast reboot)
Up (Pixar's newest falls into Standard Operation Procedure after brilliant first 20 minutes; disappointing)
**Dragonslayer (unjustly forgotten 1981 fantasy film is technically brilliant, but could use more dragon play)
A History Of Violence (overrated Cronenberg has jolting individual scenes and dynamic Viggo Mortensen, but disintergrates as it progresses)
**Vanishing Point (Seminal 70s action can be enjoyed on two levels: smash-em-up and elegantly photographed existentialism)
Age of Consent (florid Michael Powell finale is too 60s-Movie-like, but James Mason and nude-scuba-diving Helen Mirren shine)
**Chilly Scenes of Winter (masterpiece of malaise and barely requited love, with perfect cast and Joan Micklin Silver writing/direction)
**Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock's favorite of all of his films, and justifyably so; stunning acting from all)
**Hard Times (rib-cracking Walter Hill actioner about Depression-era bare-fisted fighter Charles Bronson, as minimalist as ever)
**A Kiss Before Dying (twisted Robert Wagner vehicle from the 50s, with heartthrob perfectly cast as evil, ambitious boytoy)
**The Quiet Man (John Ford's happiest, most colorful and romantic film, with lilting leads from Wayne and O'Hara)
**The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (kinetically edited 1974 action film with great cast, slyly humorous touches, incredible David Shire score)
**Raggedy Man (40s-era romance with Sissy Spacek and Eric Roberts is a wonder; directed by Jack Fisk)
Vigilante Force (deceptively complex 1976 drive-in movie plays like western; Kris Kristofferson is a likable villain)
**Bigger Than Life (terrifying Nicholas Ray domestic drama with frantic, sweaty headcase James Mason at center)
It, The Terror From Beyond Space (early template for Alien suffers under first-act plotting but gains steam towards end)

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