Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This Week In Tickets: 15 June 2009 to 21 June 2009

This is a crowded page. The obvious joke is that I'm getting myself warmed up for Fantasia - long bus ride, camping out in the same theater for the whole day, getting knocked out during the midnight show. It's not far from true.

This Week In Tickets!

On video: Diary of a Nymphomaniac on 15 June 2009.

There actually could have been a little more - I was planning on seeing another double feature from the Brattle's "Classic Gangsters" series on Sunday, but I was still dragging from the 3:30am bus ride. I checked the shelf and saw that I actually had half of that program (Manhattan Melodrama, as part of the Powell & Loy box set), so I figure I'll catch up with that part later.

The Girlfriend Experience

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 18 June 2009 at Landmark Kendall Square #8 (first-run)

Every once in a while, I'll see a movie that is less than astounding but has some interesting character in a minor role, and I'll think, man, why didn't they just make the movie about her? The Girlfriend Experience sometimes feels like someone did just that, and it's an object lesson in how it really does help to have a strong story. Sasha Grey's Chelsea, a high-end escort, is intriguing, but it could really use a stronger story.

Still, no matter what he decides to do, there's no question that Steven Soderbergh's films are always interesting. It's very cool that he can at get these little movies done between his bigger ones, though.

The Public Enemy

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 June 2009 at the Brattle Theatre (Classic Gangsters)

This is a prototype movie, the start of the gangster genre. I can't say I loved it; too often these prototypes, through no fault of their own, look like the later films that took their lead from them which are cliched messes. The Public Enemy is one of the first, but that doesn't mean it escapes feeling like just another gang movie.

Also... I'm not fond of James Cagney. He's got an iconic image, but even for an early talkie, it's really broad acting and just isn't that appealing in this case.

Little Caesar

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 19 June 2009 at the Brattle Theatre (Classic Gangsters)

To be perfectly honest, Little Caesar suffers from a lot of the same things that bug me about The Public Enemy. It's just got Edward G. Robinson as the titular gangster rather than James Cagney, and what's not to love about Robinson? He's raw here, and in fact, I occasionally thought he hadn't yet differentiated himself from Peter Lorre. Still, he is starting to carve out the screen persona we've come to know and love.

There's also a fun subplot with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Robinson's old friend who would rather be a dancer than a hood, and other amusing side characters. it's still kind of raw, but a fun raw.

Um Fa (The Longest Nite)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 20 June 2009 at the IFC Center #1 (New York Asian Film Festival)

Believe it or not, sometimes studio/production interference can make for a better movie. The Longest Nite was taken out of the hands of its credited director after only five scenes were shot, with Wai Ka-Fai and Johnnie To taking over. The end result is a crazy, over-the top crime movie that gets a little stretched against its reduced budget, but is a whole lot of fun.

K-20: Kaijin niju menso den (K-20: Legend of the Mask)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 20 June 2009 at the IFC Center #1 (New York Asian Film Festival)

It's a shame foreign popcorn films don't make their way into American theaters more often. As nicely as this year's summer season started, it looks kind of blah after Up. Sticking in a giddy Japanese adventure movie, with master thieves, giant Tesla coils, blimps which launch helicopters, parkour, and all sorts of other retro-fun things, would really give it a kick in the pants.

Really, my only complaint is that they make the red herrings so red that it practically begs for an explanation, but I'm guessing that this is intended for a relatively young audience, and they won't question it too much.

Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang (When the Full Moon Rises)

* * (out of four)
Seen 20 June 2009 at the IFC Center #1 (New York Asian Film Festival)

I'll probably elaborate on this a little more when I get around to reviewing the second half of my day in NY in full, but I hate when this sort of movie - jokey self-parody - ends up on a midnight showing at a film festival. It might work as a midnight showing on its own, with people coming out to see it as a special occasion, but subjecting an audience that has already seen three or four or five movies to it? Mean. We're worn out, and this sort of thing isn't funny enough to make it worthwhile.
O' HortenThe Girlfriend ExperienceGangster Double FeatureDreamTactical UnitPlastic CityThe Longest NiteK-20When the Full Moon Rises


mcbain305 said...

The Public Enemy and Little Caesar. Looks like your getting ready for Public Enemies with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.

JcobCrim said...

White Heat is my favorite classic gangster film, should check that one out if you have not already.