Monday, September 26, 2011

The Week In Movies 19/9/11 - 25/9/11

The weeks really rack up when you keep track of them this way. The year is flying past. I saw all the Christmas stock at the company warehouse today. That was sort of depressing. But at least a Southern Hemisphere Christmas means generally a nice warm sunny time filled with beer, mojitos, picnics and the beach.

I managed to completely miss the Russian Resurrection Film Festival too. I can't believe it. If this was my job I'd expect to get fired for flagrant disregard of my responsibilities. I know I'm gonna be cursing myself for missing some of those films at the cinema too. I managed to miss How I Ended This Summer at the International Arts Festival in January and it's only just come out on DVD now, that kind of delay is no fun at all.

This week marked my grand reveal as an official contributor to Front Room Cinema which I marked with a look at some of the films that shaped my viewing tastes from my the last 20 years of watching movies.

On the home front I saw some films and I saw some movies, I squeezed them in to every spare second and took several attempts to get some finished in between sleeping whilst forcing myself to stay awake for others.

Starting with the two Japanese films screened this week, Seijun Suzuki's Tokyo Drifter was part of my Top 5 Yakuza movies post a while back and it sat in my mind demanding to be seen ever since. A brilliant piece of cinema whose influence over Quentin Tarantino is so totally and completely obvious. It's a wonderful mixture of violence, ridiculous yakuza movie plotting and French New Wave sensibilities. For a look at some of the incredible imagery on offer go see Leah at What Indie Nights? and her post on this movie. I'm gonna try to see some more of Suzuki's work this week, here's hoping I find some time.

Saturday night saw me sitting alone on the sofa whilst Leah worked and I took the chance to see Pulse after the glowing recommendation received from Jason at Genkinahito. Leah doesn't watch horror movies. I wish she had because this one was excellent. The director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, seems to have a real talent for creating incredibly disturbing scenes through some quite wonderful cinematography and creepy sound design. I hardly paid attention to the dialogue at times and just soaked up the atmosphere. I certainly agree with the 'existential horror' tag placed on it and if you have any interest in Asian horror films this one should be an essential watch alongside Ringu.

This week's Noir-a-Thon is bringing us to Otto Preminger's 1944 melodrama Laura. So tune in on Tuesday for that review. We saw another classic crime melodrama this week too. Billy Wilder's adaptation of the Agatha Christie play Witness For The Prosecution. Starring Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton and film noir icon Marlene Dietrich this movie is pure entertainment. It is both witty and clever with a fantastic ending, so shocking for it;s time that the film ends with a disclaimer that the audience refrain from telling their friends the outcome so that they can enjoy it for themselves. Do you remember when that idiot told you that Bruce Willis was already dead in The Sixth Sense? I imagine spoiling Witness For The Prosecution for people in 1957 would have been a million times worse. This movie is on the imdb Top 250 and deservedly so in my opinion.

Watching Paul Schrader's American Gigolo I was amazed at the concept of Richard Gere actually being a decent actor and quite an attractive man, because let's be honest he now looks quite a lot like a rat and is reliably awful in everything he does. Paul Schrader is known for looking at the underside of American society and in this movie he paints a believable and disturbing portrait of a man, a satyromaniac in fact, whose carefully constructed life falls apart around him only to find true love. I enjoyed it by the time the denouement rolled round but I had some difficulty with the murder storyline seeming superfluous until then.

Following up one movie about a sex industry with another we saw Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights next. I'd seen it before, but when I was much younger, and I never really appreciated it for what it actually was, finding it a little long among other negative things. Watching it again from a much more mature point of view I realised just why everyone who loves it does so. An often fun and occasionally poignant but always honest look at a group of disparate people linked by their choice of occupation. Julianne Moore is incredible, as always, but this is another fine example of PTA's work with a great ensemble cast.

And then there was Green Lantern. Ordinarily a movie this dull, this un-entertaining and unimaginative would be found under the blahblahblahgay turnoffs heading but as I was alone with some rum and it starred my guilty pleasure Ryan Reynolds I sat in vain hope that at some point I might start to enjoy it. Sadly I couldn't even bring myself to laugh at it's lack of redeeming features I was just so bored.

Another week of a single blablahblahgay turnoff on the list, and for the second week in a row it was a really poor adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel that got turned off. The Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone starring Sphere is over 2 hours long and incredibly boring throughout. A really bad performance from Stone dragged the acting quality of everyone else down but where this movie failed was in it's direction and its script. A really poor adaptation of a book I've read several times.

There were some great films here, of the less obvious/recent films I highly recommend Tokyo Drifter, Witness For The Prosecution and Pulse. If you've seen them already what were your thoughts? Am I too gushing with praise? I'm always open to recommendations so feel free to suggest something you think I might like in the blahs. On the subject of recommendations if you haven't been over to see Tyler at Southern Vision recently he has a great post to recommend movies based on your own personal taste, check it out here.


  1. After seeing Drive this weekend. It gave me an idea for a new script I want to work as it also has me wanting to watch American Gigolo which I haven't seen for a while.

    Green Lantern, oh boy. That was a flop. Ryan Reynolds is not having a good year. I kind of feel sorry for the guy. He's a good actor but man, Hollywood just doesn't learn. You can't build movie stars overnight.

  2. You're definitely right about Sphere. The novel is a fun suspense story with an interesting premise, and the movie is just awful. Stone is a big problem, but even Jackson and Hoffman struggle. It's a textbook case of how not to adapt a book.

  3. @VOID - interesting comparison. I am yet to see DRIVE due to the strange release schedule for Australia. So forgive me for not checking out your review. I'm trying to keep as much of it as a surprise as possible.

    It's like a skill that they've lost, building a movie star, there's a fun feature on my MALTESE FALCON DVD which looks at the way Warner slowly built BOGART in to a star from the point of view of their trailer department.

    @DAN H - I know what you mean about Hoffman and Jackson BUT I assumed it was just Stone dragging the performance level down. The movie had chapters! Great way to visually kill tension.

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  5. A real shame about Sphere, as the novel is one of my favorites. All I remember from the flick is Hoffman screaming like a weirdo when that weird sea snake is in the room with him.
    I need to rewatch Pulse, I kind of zoned out on it the first time. You should check out Marebito, though it is heavily Lovecraftian, as well as being existential at times.
    Boogie Nights type cast Heather Graham and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in my head. Every time I see them in other films, i just think of them as Roller Girl, and creeper, respectively.

  6. Thanks for the link!

    The only movie you watched that I've seen is BOOGIE NIGHTS which I love. Oh, and SPHERE but I didn't watch all of that one. It was on TV once.

  7. @SPOOKY - Yeah i really enjoyed the book too, big disappointment. I just checked out MAREBITO on imdb, sounds very interesting but i'd be amazed if Starland have it. Having never read any Lovecraft i'm not sure whether being Lovecraftian is good or not.

    @TYLER - Of course I knew you loved BOOGIE NIGHTS, it's partly your fault I rewatched it. And my recommendation from twitter stands, see TOKYO DRIFTER, i'm sure you'll love it.

  8. Hey Toby. Glad to hear you liked Pulse. Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a master at building up atmosphere and horror texture and every one of his films I've seen are excellent. His latest projects are far more down to earth but no less impressive.

  9. I love Tokyo Drifter as well. It's amazing stuff and Branded to Kill is another from Suzuki from this time period that is a must see. I can't wait to see your review of Laura in the noir-a-thon.

  10. Looking forward to your Laura review. I just saw it for the first time a few months ago. It wasn't really what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it.

  11. @GENKINAHITO - i really wanted to see tokyo sonata and cure from all of his other work but the chances of that happening are slim.

    @JON - i rented the Suzuki boxset from Starland this week which includes BRANDED TO KILL so fingers crossed i find time to see them. his work with TOKYO DRIFTER was superb.

    @ERIC - thanks man, i too enjoyed it. i hope you share your thoughts in the review comments.

  12. I completely agree on Sphere. Just like I don't give out many 5 star ratings, I also don't give out many 1 star ratings. Sphere got 1 star from me.

    "Do you remember when that idiot told you that Bruce Willis was already dead in The Sixth Sense?" Ummm, for anyone who hasn't seen The Sixth Sense you just did the same thing. (Just saying.)

  13. CHIP - the sixth sense comment was twofold, a joke but also surely the entire world knows about sixth sense 13 years later?

    do you only go as low as 1 Star? You don't believe in .5 or 0? Poor Michael Crichton had to see three of his novels suffer bad adaptations in a very short space of time, SPHERE may well have been the worst of the three.

  14. I really liked Boogie Nights and the cast was great! Paul Thomas Anderson is a great director and I love his movies!

    Haven't seen Green Lantern and I don't plan to! Ryan Reynolds is nice, but I just hate Blake Lively, she gets on my nerves!

  15. AZIZA - i never really felt that way about PTA until i saw THERE WILL BE BLOOD, now i am a convert.

    I must confess i have no idea who BLAKE LIVELY is. Is that a person in GREEN LANTERN? If it is i certainly didn't notice her in the terrible movie.

  16. An eclectic mix of movies you saw this past week, Toby, and I think it's a great blog series to sum up what you saw, keep 'em coming!

    I've only seen American Gigolo from your list, and I thought Gere was breathtakingly gorgeous. You're right though he doesn't age well at all.

  17. @RUTH - thanks, its actually my favourite thing on the blog at the moment as all the other stuff has been put aside due to my laziness/burn out.

    the first 4 movies mentioned are well worth seeing if you ever get a chance.

  18. @Toby - my star ratings are based on the Netflix model of 1-5 stars, although with different meanings attached to them. There are no fractions or numbers outside 1-5.

    You can find more info here:

  19. Boogie Nights is great .... Green Lantern ... eh, not so much.

    Digging your dedication man.