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movie roundup

In which I make comments about
American Hardcore
Ghost of the Shell 2: Innocence
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Cars by Pixar
Dark City
with a special guest appearance by Bram Stoker's Dracula

Last weekend:

American Hardcore. I liked playing the music when I had a punk rock radio show in the early 80s, and I liked going to the occasional show at Toad's Place, but the movie did nothing for me—interminable interviews with middle-aged former members of hardcore punk bands, accompanied by bad home-made video of said bands in concert. In other words, half-true to the "DIY and fuck appearances" style of the original scene, but in ways that just did not age well. They only featured one band I liked—Flipper. Some of the rest I remembered having heard of, barely.

Amelie. I wanted to like this. Several friends whose movie taste I respect love it, and it's full of the kinds of things I often like in movies—ordinary-looking people with quirky personalities, a focus on small details. Unfortunately I didn't like it at all. I even almost turned it off a few times. It was just slightly off. Some of the reasons it might have felt off to me (I think there are other less-articulable reasons): the people seemed exaggerated in subtly wrong ways, the colors were garishly artificial for no reason I could discern, the main character seems to get what she is after in spite of herself instead of by growing into the kind of person who deserves to get what she is after, I cared about very few of the characters (really, only the guy with the brittle bones).

It might be the kind of movie I don't like the first time I watch it and then like later. I'm that way about a fair number of movies, including my favorite, Wings of Desire, which this has a few vague similarities with. I started listening to the director's commentary and was enjoying the movie with that soundtrack, but I didn't finish it. So I'll probably try watching it again some other time.


Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. I'm a big Ghost in the Shell fan. The original Ghost in the Shell is one of my favorite movies, and I have enjoyed the "Stand-Alone Complex" episodes I've seen. I won't say that Innocence is better than the original, because the original did such a great job of establishing the whole world of the series, its look, music, recurring characters, and philosophical themes...and IMO this movie really can't be appreciated without a very thorough understanding of the first movie. This movie does less with the recurring characters than the original—it focuses almost entirely on Batou (and does a really good job of that, mind). But it's a very respectable sequel. The OH thought this movie was a lot more visually interesting than the original. There was certainly a lot going on in the background of most scenes, in ways that kept us hitting the pause button to just sit there and go "Ooooooh." The music was similar to the first movie's and well done. The scenes with the basset hound were almost painfully poignant. (No animated basset hounds were harmed in the making of this movie.)

Murder on the Orient Express. Probably most people have seen this by now. I had seen it once a long time ago and didn't remember the plot at first, but it came back to me fairly early on. What I especially loved this time around was Albert Finney's exuberant Poirot, who is really having fun with the mystery when he begins to figure out what's going on, and Lauren Bacall's completely-against-type role. I also got a giggle out of noticing that Wendy Hiller's portrayal of the indomitable Princess Dragomiroff seems to have been copied note for note by Gary Oldman for his performance of the old Count Dracula at the beginning of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Even the body language is the same.


Cars by Pixar. We got around 15 minutes into this one and decided we didn't care enough about the main car-acter to continue watching and besides we were annoyed by the glorification of car culture and driving. (I was also kind of charmed by that though, as a native Detroiter....and I certainly never expected to see a movie with impressively realistic animation of "driving past corn fields at 65 mph"). But we did watch for long enough to get to a throwaway "Freebird!" line which had me laughing for almost five minutes before I could even begin to explain it to the OH (who is not knowledgeable about classic rock).

Dark City. We've watched this several times—I like the movie quite a bit, but really I keep rewatching it to try to understand why Roger Ebert dotes on it so (he even did a commentary on the DVD). It's certainly not for an airtight and original plot. Or for a realistic portrayal of egalitarian human relationships. But it's really interesting to look at, and carefully stylized in ways that are internally consistent, and the questions it poses about human personality and memory are interesting.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:28 am (UTC)
"They say she always wanted to do comedy parts -- but her husband wouldn't let her."
Jul. 9th, 2007 12:47 pm (UTC)
In terms of the colour in Amelie, you're not "seeing nothing" there -- the colour was specifically manipulated and enhanced by the director. I'm pretty mixed about the result. I like the "slightly off" tone it gives to the film (I like "slightly off" in many things, although not all), but once I watched the commentary track where they talked about the specific things they did with colour, those particular elements jump out at me in every scene and look more artificial than they did before watching the commentary.
Jul. 9th, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC)
I like "off" color in a film if it has a "meaning" I can understand (e.g., green vs. blue tones in The Matrix for matrix-world/real-world, or b&w for what angels see in Wings of Desire), but I didn't understand what it was "for" in Amelie, and that bugged me.
Jul. 9th, 2007 03:00 pm (UTC)
I like the movie, but not the little racing car. He is suppose to start out unsympathetic and be redeemed in the end. He became tolerable.

I like the supporting cast in the dead little town off Route 66.
They made the movie enjoyable for me.

The story was predictable in almost every detail which makes is great for children and tedious for most adults.

I love Pixar's technical skills, so I watch their work with an eye for the artistry and industry of the production. I think their stories will continue to be weak as long as Disney calls the tune.
Jul. 9th, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Cars
Maybe someday I'll rewatch it and get as far as the dead little town.
Jul. 9th, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC)
Cars--I liked it because I live in a small town on Route 66. I really enjoyed the way the movie honored the small town folks that I see every day. And the little homages to scenery that I see each day.
Jul. 9th, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC)
That makes sense. I guess if I had gotten that far in, I would have started to like it better.
Jul. 9th, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
Amelie - There is something about Audrey Tantou that just annoys me. She's supposed to be so cute and charming, but I found her character borderline creepy. There's another, far less well-known movie I saw which also starred her, called "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" (don't remember French title). In that movie she plays what appears to be the same cutesy "free spirit" type, but her character turns out to be much darker. I thought Tantou was far more suited to that character. (And I liked that movie much better, too.)

I liked the premise of this movie, which is why I saw it. But the plot didn't really turn out to be that interesting after all, IMO.

Dark City - Well, I loved the mind-fuck of the ending the best. And the hints that were dropped about that... "Doesn't anyone know how to get to Shell Beach?" Of course we do. You just drive down... um... To me, this was like a weird dream where you know something is really wrong, and you spend what seems like an eternity trying to figure out what it is.

Special effects were cool and creepy, too. Also very much like a nightmare, where buildings loom menacingly - in this case, actually growing from the ground.

But the Keifer Sutherland character kept making me hyperventilate sympathetically. :)
Jul. 9th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
I found her character borderline creepy.

Me, too. I think the director intended that to a certain extent, because almost all the characters seemed borderline (or more than borderline) creepy in a way. But I'm not sure.

I liked the mind-fuck of the ending of Dark City too. Nightmarish is a good description. On this watching, the halting speech of the Sutherland character kinda annoyed me, although on previous watchings it didn't.
Jul. 9th, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
Me, too. I think the director intended that to a certain extent, because almost all the characters seemed borderline (or more than borderline) creepy in a way. But I'm not sure.

You could be right, but that's not how the movie was marketed. The ads made it seem like a sweet tale of fate, serendipity, and a generous serving of good-hearted meddling. Tantou was compared to another Audrey (Hepburn - but I've never been a big fan her either). Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that movies, especially foreign movies, are misrepresented by the advertising...

On this watching, the halting speech of the Sutherland character kinda annoyed me, although on previous watchings it didn't.

His gasping for breath always makes me feel like I'm not getting enough air!
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
I agree with you about GitS - I liked the first one better as well, but the second one has beautiful scenes and imagery.
Jul. 14th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
Dark City
I have loved this movie for years. I think I'll watch it again tonight. I don't like to buy every DVD I watch, (actually, I'm driven to buy very few, unlike my husband) but there are a few that I need to have onhand for when the mood strikes. This is one of them. Another is "Buckaroo Bonzai in the 8th Dimension". When I need a fix, I need it without a trip to the video place. Another one I would like to own is "Brazil", the style is very much reminiscent of "Dark City".
Jul. 15th, 2007 04:35 am (UTC)
Re: Dark City
I hadn't thought of the similarity between Brazil and Dark City. It's true there are a lot of similarities in the look. But Brazil has a frenetic quality that's very different. I should watch it again soon.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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