Actually I approve of that thread title; you're on the right path, young padawan! Jean-Luc Godard LES CARABINIERS (1963) on TCM-HD
for the first time. Apparently Godard didn't get the memo back in '63 that you can't make a war movie that doesn't glamorize war. "Les Carabiniers" has the usual war movie assembly-line parts (the poor peasants that actually do the fighting, their anguished family members that await their return, the cause that gets rallied upon, etc.) and then, along with Godard's now-conventional disregard for conventional filmmaking techniques, distills the war movie down to its very basic, ugly truths: poor greedy idiots and the poor greedy shrews that love them get taken advantage of by cynical lying oportunists. Gotta say though, "Les Carabiniers" has one of the greatest final spoken lines in a movie (that keeps the satirical acid flowing) I've ever heard that is also pure Godard: pretentious, highfalutin and perfectly in synch with the story he's telling. Not a Godard film from this period I'd enjoy revisiting often, but glad I saw it. Kihachi Okamoto's SWORD OF DOOM (1966) on Criterion DVD
for the first time. I saw this just before I went to see RZA's "The Man with the Iron Fists" (see review at bottom... both literally and figuratively) and man, it wasn't even close. Between Tatsuya Nakadai's intense and rather-tricky performance (a psychopath samurai who gradually snaps) to director Okamoto-san's economy of set-ups (no fancy camera work) enhancing the sumptuous-looking anamorphic B&W photography with a few cool scenes (a tense duel with a single deciding blow, a snow fight that clearly had an influence on Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" finale, an unforgettable-even-if-it-wasn't-intended-to-be-that final freeze frame shot, etc.) and great supporting actors for good measure (particularly Toshirô Mifune in an unforgettable very special cameo
), "Sword of Doom" is 'chambara' genre filmmaking at its finest. The ever-present Nakadai vs. Mifune duel tease is just cruel though. Claude Chabrol's STORY OF WOMEN (1988) on TCM-HD
for the first time. A nice companion piece to Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake": same type of lead protagonist/premise, different WWII-era country/decade. It's less about the hypocrisy of the puppet French government executing an abortionist woman to carry the pretension of normalcy because of their inability to do something about being Germany's bitch (this is dealt with in the rather-rushed closing 15 or so minutes) than about the portrayal of an immature woman that stumbles upon a money-making task that she puts ahead of her husband and family (who ironically benefit the most from her arrangements). It's a dysfuctional family portrayal, and Isabelle Huppert is never less than fascinating to watch as the matriarch that can relate better with prostitutes (Marie Trintignant) and French collaborators ("The Intouchables'" François Cluzet) than with her distant husband and too-young-to-know children. The movie's final line, 'Have Pity on the Children of the Condemned,'
puts the film into a low-key but nevertheless powerful context.Peter Jackson's THE FRIGHTENERS (1996) on HD-DVD.
I downright loathed this movie the first time I saw it in the heat of October horror movie binge-viewing. The acting/pace/humor/execution of the premise were pitched sky high, like "Ghostbusters" on crack cocaine. And, except for Michael J. Fox, everybody (particularly Jeffrey Combs) seemed to be overacting up a storm. On repeat viewing with Peter Jackson's informative commentary track on though (and a 4+ hr. making-of documentary still to go through) my opinion has softened and I can appreciate the movie now more for the frenetic and uneven-but-wild movie it is than the mess (per Jackson's own opinion) we end up with. The movie's closing half-hour is actually pretty damn good, but the 90 min. or so set-up leading up to it is laborious and hard to sit through. And Combs' Dammers is still too weird and OTT, but you would too if the Manson clan had done to you what they did to poor Milton. George Clooney's GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK (2005) on HD-DVD.
My appreciation for David Strathairn as an actor has grown in recent years (he alone is the reason SyFy's "Alphas" show is even remotely watchable), and his excellent portrayal of Edward R. Murrow as well as an ace cast (including Robert Downey Jr. in a minor supporting role) make this re-enactment of the CBS News vs. Joseph McCarthy events pleasant enough to watch. And I just love the way B&W photography looks in high-definition, which for this particular movie really helps put the viewer in the mood for a cinematic history lesson.Robert Zemeckis' FLIGHT (2012) in theaters
for the first time. Literally five minutes before "Flight's" credits start rolling Zemeckis can't help himself and gives us an "invisible" SFX shot (like the one in "Contact" when young Ellie reaches for the medicine cabinet) just because he can and wants to put his considerable SFX expertise to work. Before that though (or whenever John Goodman isn't on-screen, which is a clear attempt to inject forced humor into an otherwise sober and dramatic narrative) Zemeckis succeeds at directing an adult and grown-up movie about a flawed human being (Denzel Washington at his best; you root for his Whip Whitaker longer than you would if he were played/portrayed differently by a lesser actor) wrestling with inner demons that threaten to be exposed. "Flight" is being sold on a title and premise that only cover the movie's first half-hour; after that is an entirely different film that what audiences might expect, and we're all the better for it because of the necessary commercial evil of this bait-and-switch. It says something about how good the movie is that the hospital staircase scene is more compelling and intense than the already-intense scene of the airplane accident.THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012) in theaters
for the first time. Awful, just awful fanservice tribute by co-writer/director/star RZA (who predictably gives the weakest performance amongst the principals) to not just samurai and chambara movies from decades past, but primarily to how Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth (the latter co-wrote and co-produced the flick) have re-interpreted these films for mainstream American audiences. It inhabits an awkward place where the devotion to its genre roots are too earnest and sincere to dislike, yet it's so amateurish and goofy in its execution you wanna laugh at it when you're not so bored you're seriously debating whether to doze off. Every actor seems to be in a different movie than the one they're in (good for Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu, really bad for Rick Yune and RZA), although I gotta say I was surprised at how effortlessly Dave Bautista steals the movie with his imposing screen presence. Save you time and money and rent/buy the really cool Japanse movies that inspired RZA to make "The Man with the Iron Fists," a flick whose sum total doesn't add up to the lameness of its individual parts.