Wednesday, June 19, 2013
In regards with Herbert Ross' The Last of Sheila, it wasn't who was in it or what it was about that intrigued me. (Though they did have some part in my interest.) No, what got me curious about The Last of Sheila was who wrote it. The men responsible for the script? Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, the last people you'd expect to write a whodunnit. Yet it works (for the most part).
The actors chosen are an amusing sort. Among the cast are James Coburn, Dyan Cannon, Richard Benjamin, Raquel Welch, James Mason and Joan Hackett. (There's even a young Ian McShane amongst them.) It's the difference in their personalities that makes the film vibrant.
As with other star-studded features from the era, The Last of Sheila follows an adventurous plot. Well, actually, it tries to. It falters periodically but it stays mostly solid throughout. (That's more that can be said about those other films.)
Anyway, The Last of Sheila is an all right film. Not particularly great, but it does keep your attention. So all in all, if you want an amusing romp of a film, then you've got it in the form of The Last of Sheila.
My Rating: ****
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Watching Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy, it certainly comes across that way with Bob Hughes (Matt Dillon). He has his wife Dianne (Kelly Lynch) and associates Rick (James LeGros) and Nadine (Heather Graham) help him steal pharmacies for his (and their) addiction. But it soon dawns on Bob that he should kick this habit and soon.
Some may view Drugstore Cowboy as simply a film about drug addiction. It could be viewed as an outlaw film in a similar vein to Badlands. The four leads are constantly on the run from the police because of their frequent robberies. They didn't want to live a life like this, but their addictions sealed their fates.
Like Van Sant's later film My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy revolves around situated in Portland, Oregon. Thanks to the eye of cinematographer Robert Yeoman, the film depicts the city as a place where hopes and dreams die agonizing deaths. (The way Portland looks throughout drives that point home.)
Drugstore Cowboy isn't my favorite of the Van Sant films I've seen (that honor goes to either To Die For or Milk), but I did like it very much. Thanks to the lead work from Dillon, the film isn't just the typical "drugs are bad" spiel. It's willing to show how damn addictive those drugs are.
My Rating: ****1/2
Monday, June 17, 2013
One such film was Stephen Frears' My Beautiful Laundrette. Set in London during Thatcher's reign, the film revolves around two men: hopeful Pakistani businessman Omar (Gordon Warnecke) and British punk Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis). Both men are on different ends of the social spectrum, but that doesn't stop them from having an intimate relationship.
The way Frears shows Omar and Johnny's relationship is really beautiful. It's not an affair built on lust but rather desire. They never say "I love you" to each other but their body language says it for them. It's the subtlety of their relationship that I adore.
Along with the relationship, the film also handles a multitude of topics such as racism, the differences in social classes and sexual politics. Any other film would have been bogged down in these subjects but Frears knows how to limit himself. Another aspect of this film that I adore.
Anyway, My Beautiful Laundrette is a very lovely film. I'm all for romance films where the lovers speak volumes with body language than with verbal language and as stated above, this film depicts such an occurrence beautifully.
My Rating: *****
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer is such a film that's willing to deconstruct a person's image. (Bear in mind the director is no stranger to controversy himself.) Former Prime Minister Adam Lang (a Tony Blair caricature in the form of a smug Pierce Brosnan) is working on his memoirs and has hired a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) to help finish it. But the ghost writer becomes curious about the fate of the writer hired before him...
Like Polanski's earlier film Chinatown, The Ghost Writer is a film with a slow burn, the kind that builds up to the big reveal. .Unlike Chinatown, however, this film moves at a slower pace and it shows in spots. Still, it pays off in the end.
And the cast is what makes the film radiate. Olivia Williams shows a mix of rage and sorrow in her role. Brosnan displays a cocky attitude while keeping up a serious demeanor. But the star is McGregor, who should really have a nomination or two by now.
The Ghost Writer is a good recent entry from Polanski though I wouldn't rank it amongst, say, The Pianist. (It does get close though.) It's really worthy of a look.
My Rating: ****1/2
Saturday, June 15, 2013
That is what Sidney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes explores. Following his release from prison, a criminal conspires to commit a massive robbery of his girlfriend's apartment building. But unbeknownst to him, there are mysterious agencies recording his every word. For what reason though?
This is one of the lesser entries among the work of Lumet and star Sean Connery though it is an amusing one. (The film was responsible for kickstarting Connery's career post-James Bond.) Another notable feat from this film? It introduced Hollywood to Christopher Walken.
The most notable sequence of The Anderson Tapes is the denouement. Interwoven with the actual crime and the aftermath of it, the sequence shows an agility that the would-be robbers in Lumet's (much) later work Before the Devil Knows You're Dead wish they had. (You thought I was going to say Dog Day Afternoon, weren't you?)
The Anderson Tapes is an all right film with some standout moments. It looks pale in comparison to Lumet's other films from the 1970s but again it has its moments. All in all, it's worth a look at least.
My Rating: ****
Friday, June 14, 2013
One such film from the time period was Robert Z. Leonard's The Divorcee. The premise sounds vaguely similar to any film that tries (and fails) to get the same impact: a woman gets her sexual revenge after her husband admits to cheating on her. Nowadays it sounds like the same old song but back in 1930, this was pretty scandalous stuff.
Especially for Norma Shearer, the film's star. No one, not even MGM executive/Shearer's husband Irving Thalberg, thought she was right for the provocative role. (They were considering Joan Crawford for the part.) No one could see the actress known for playing dignified ladies taking on the role of a bad girl.
But she shocked everyone by proving she could in fact play such a role. Shearer shows her character's hurt nature when her husband admits his infidelity while also keeping up a carefree attitude when she's with one of her numerous lovers. No surprise on how she won the Oscar that year.
Shearer's performance aside, there's not much else about The Divorcee to write home about. It treads into expected territory and the other actors don't have particularly much to do. Still, it's an amusing watch.
My Rating: ****
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Of course, when you see those doe-like eyes of Marie's, you know she simply doesn't belong there. You also have a notion that the guards and the other prisoners are going to make her life behind bars a living hell for Marie. And it certainly looks like that at first.
But then something happens to Marie; she starts to crack. Not just under pressure from the other prisoners but also her innocence begins to crumble. As the films wears on, her good girl demeanor fades as a nastier attitude takes its place. This is something you normally don't see in most prison films from the time.
And Parker makes this transition all the more transfixing. Seeing her soft, innocent features take on a hardened, cynical nature is just hypnotizing. One can only imagine what would have happened with Parker and her career had she won the Oscar for this. (But when you're up against the likes of Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and Gloria Swanson, it's clear that the competition will be tough.)
Caged in itself is a pretty good prison film which seems tame by today's standards. In comparison to other prison films of the time like Brute Force, Caged seems both equal to them and softer than them. All in all, if you want to see a solid underrated performance, then you'll find it in the form of Eleanor Parker in Caged.
My Rating: ****