Author Topic: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind  (Read 6001 times)

MartinTeller

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 16213
  • martinteller.wordpress.com
    • my movie blog
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2012, 07:54:08 PM »

The Merry Widow - In the tiny kindgom of Marshovia, the playboy Captain Danilo (Maurice Chevalier) of the Royal Guard tries to seduce the wealthy widow Sonia (Jeanette MacDonald).  She can't stop thinking about him, and in an effort to get over him, flees for Paris.  The king, fearing that her departure will cause the local economy to collapse, sends Danilo to woo her into staying.  Another delightful romantic comedy from Lubitsch, based on the operetta by Lehar.  Chevalier is charming as always, it's not hard to imagine him as the extraordinary ladykiller he portrays here.  The gags are witty, smart, naughty and come at a satisfactory rate.  The story is clever, without relying too much on tedious mistaken identity or misunderstanding twists.  The songs are enjoyable, and there are glorious dance scenes in lovely costumes and opulent sets.

The weak link, as usual, is MacDonald.  Her acting chops are fine and the chemistry with Chevalier works well enough.  It's her voice that's a total wet blanket.  All that ridiculous, show-offy vibrato is like nails on a chalkboard... and makes her lyrics unintelligible.  But at least we're treated to an array of terrific supporting performances, including Una Merkel, George Barbier, Sterling Holloway and great Edward Everett Horton (who doesn't get nearly enough screen time for my tastes, but I'll take him where I can get him).  Besides MacDonald's dreadful singing, it's a fine slice of entertainment with that Lubitsch touch.  Rating: Very Good


Now for the next selection.  I was excited to see a Kinugasa film at the top of the list, I'm curious to see how his other work compares to A Page of Madness.  However, the lack of English subtitles rules that one out (at least for now).  So it's going to be... Rapado.  The description on Karagarga compares it to Kaurismaki, so this might be a winner.
Switchboard
Watched 2019

Top 250  |  Great  |  Good  |  Fair  |  Poor  |  Crap

MartinTeller

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 16213
  • martinteller.wordpress.com
    • my movie blog
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2012, 11:29:13 PM »

Rapado - Lucio (Ezequiel Cavia) gives a stranger a ride on his motorcycle, who then mugs him for his money, his sneakers... and the motorcycle.  The following day he gets his head shaved and starts preparing to steal a bike himself.  This was the debut feature by Argentine filmmaker Martín Rejtman.  The film has a laid-back, easy-going style with moments of muted humor, somewhat reminiscent of Kaurismaki.  And there's also a touch of Bresson (or perhaps more closely, the Dardennes, except it predates them) in its detached exploration of moral issues.  Rejtman never tells us what kind of people Lucio or his buddy Damian (Damián Dreyzik) are before the theft, which is the very start of the film.  But the head-shaving (the English translation of the title is "Shaved") seems to suggest a transformation, shedding off an old, softer persona for a hardened new one.  Lucio and Damian aren't particularly good at crime, but they're willing to try it on for size.

Throughout the film, everyone's trying to get over on everyone else.  A recurring theme is a rash of counterfeit bills being circulated.  People are trying to beg, borrow or hustle others.  There's no discussion of possible work for Lucio or Damian, both young men in their early 20's still living with their parents.  Are we to assume they're satisfied sponging off their folks, or is the employment situation in their area untenable?  We don't know, we're not given many options for judgment.  But we can see they live in a world where corruption is fairly commonplace and shrugged off.

The movie is entertaining and, going into it with no expectations at all, has a nice sense of unpredictability to it.  It was amusing to follow the deadpan misadventures of Lucio and Damian (two fine, if rather low-key performances), and intriguing to see where Lucio's decisions would take him.  It doesn't feel entirely fleshed out, however.  I didn't get the feeling that Retjman was aiming for anything more than a loose character sketch, and banality of some of the scenes didn't seem to hint at anything larger.  But I enjoy watching it and I especially liked the ending.  I would be curious to see more by this director.  Rating: Good


Next up: When Pigs Fly.  4.9 IMDb score!  I thought about cheating on my own rules, but what the heck.  At least it's got Ruth Sheen in it.
Switchboard
Watched 2019

Top 250  |  Great  |  Good  |  Fair  |  Poor  |  Crap

michael x

  • Elite Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1207
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2012, 02:43:00 PM »
Sleepwalk!

MartinTeller

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 16213
  • martinteller.wordpress.com
    • my movie blog
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2012, 11:57:26 PM »

When Pigs Fly - Sheila (Maggie O'Neill) finds an old rocking chair in the shed behind the bar where she works.  She gives it to her landlord Marty (Alfred Molina), a down-and-out jazz musician she's sweet on.  What neither of them knows is that the chair is haunted by the ghosts of Lily (Marianne Faithfull), who was beaten to death by her husband Frank (Seymour Cassel), the bar owner.  Tagging along is the ghost of Ruthie (a very young Rachael Bella, all gothed up like a miniature Helena Bonham Carter), a precocious little girl.  Together they all explore the haunted past, and hatch a scheme for revenge on Frank.

One thing I value in movies in originality, and I don't think I've ever seen a ghost horror/comedy with an indie sensibility.  But I don't know if it adds up to anything.  It's all so dreary and lifeless.  There are moments of whimsy, but with few exceptions (I enjoyed the dog dreaming) it's charmless whimsy, flimsy whimsy.  There's no heart and soul behind it, just ideas that go nowhere.  Marty's a nice guy, Sheila's a nice gal, Lily's got a sad story, but so what?  I was interested to see what would happen next because the film was so unusual, not because I had any investment in the characters.  The special effects are generally well-done and the performances are fine (if occasionally stilted, and it's a bit hard to buy Cassel as an asshole) but something's missing here.  I don't think director Sara Driver -- longtime companion of Jim Jarmusch -- quite knew what to do with this odd material, so it all hangs limply on the screen, waiting for a spark.  I'm left wondering what the point is, because entertainment-wise, it only delivers sporadically.

Still, I hate to come down too hard on something so different.  Let's call it a misfire, a combination of intriguing elements that unfortunately doesn't ever gel into the magic it seems to be aiming for.  Rating: Fair


Next up: Mademoiselle.  Sandrine Bonnaire!  I've seen Philippe Lioret's Welcome which was pretty decent.  Since this is available on Netflix, I'll get it that way rather than using up KG credit.  May take longer than a week to get it, though.
Switchboard
Watched 2019

Top 250  |  Great  |  Good  |  Fair  |  Poor  |  Crap

MartinTeller

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 16213
  • martinteller.wordpress.com
    • my movie blog
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2012, 08:32:05 PM »

Mademoiselle - Claire (Sandrine Bonnaire) is a sales rep at a growing pharmaceutical company.  At a corporate retreat, she is amused by the antics of the waitstaff, who turn out to be hired improv actors.  After missing her ride home, she tags along with them and starts to fall for one of the actors, Pierre (Jacques Gamblin).  That about sums it up.  There's very little to this film, to the point where I wondered why anyone bothered to make it.  There are a few charming little moments, but this is hardly one of cinema's great romances.  Bonnaire and Gamblin are both fine but don't have amazing chemistry together or anything.  The most interesting thing about the movie is the incredibly phallic lighthouse that repeatedly serves as a plot device for bringing the two together.  Not much is made of it, however... sometimes a lighthouse is just a lighthouse.

Again I'm baffled by the extremely casual attitude the French seem to have about infidelity.  There is nothing to suggest that Claire is unsatisfied in her marriage, but she doesn't hesitate much to leap into bed with Pierre.  There's also the driver who boasts of his affairs.  Is this really a cultural thing in France, or is it simply a fantasy that gets idealized in their films?  I often wonder if other cultures, based on our movies, think everyone in America has a gun.  At any rate, I'm personally bothered by such nonchalant attitudes concerning extramarital affairs.  Perhaps that's more my problem than the movie's problem... the movie's problem is that it's so slight and has little to offer, although it is mildly pleasant, and doesn't overextend its welcome.  Rating: Fair



Next up: Prison on Fire.  This should be a nice change of pace.  I've heard Ringo Lam's name come up a lot, but I've never seen one of his films (there's a chance I saw Twin Dragons when I went on a Jackie Chan binge about 12 years ago, they're all kind of a blur).  Looking forward to this.
Switchboard
Watched 2019

Top 250  |  Great  |  Good  |  Fair  |  Poor  |  Crap

smirnoff

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 24949
    • smirnoff's Top 100
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #15 on: June 16, 2012, 10:31:21 PM »
Oh, that looks okay. :)

MartinTeller

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 16213
  • martinteller.wordpress.com
    • my movie blog
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2012, 11:49:30 PM »

Prison on Fire - Yiu (Tony Leung Ka Fai, not to be confused with Tony Leung Chiu Wai) is a young man entering prison on a manslaughter charge... for accidentally pushing an attacker into the path of a bus (a wholly satisfying splat).  Inside the prison walls, his naiveté and righteousness are a liability.  Fortunately the more seasoned Ching (Chow Yun Fat) takes him under his wing to help work the system and protect him from villainous triads.  Ching's goofball, carefree attitude hides a streetwise savvy... and a sad secret of his own.

One review on IMDb says "Makes Midnight Express look like a pleasent (sic) experience."  Say what?  Besides the part at the end that Ringo Lam blatantly ripped off from Midnight Express, nothing here is as bleak or soul-crushing as the experience related in Parker's film.  In fact, it really doesn't indict the Hong Kong penal system at all, most of the problems arise from conflicts within the prison population.  There's a mildly assholish guard captain nicknamed "Scarface" (Roy Cheung, with no scars on his face) and maybe a couple of guards are vaguely indifferent, but for the most part the inmates are treated fairly... at least, relative to most prison movies.  The superintendent even solicits requests and complaints directly from the inmates.  The real troubles for Yiu and Ching come from the triads, especially one nasty little CINECAST!er named Micky (Ka-Kui Ho), a weasel willing to squeal as long as Scarface makes it look like someone else did it.

Much of the film covers familiar prison scenarios, but Chow's charismatic performance -- just a couple years before he broke really huge on the international scene with The Killer -- makes it worth watching.  There's no highly choreographed martial arts on display... all the action is contained in sudden bursts of flailing violence, culminating in a savage climax where Chow bites off more than he can chew.  There are no heavy themes explored, few truly inspired moments.  But despite being pretty routine and a little bit cheesy (oof, that music) it's perfectly watchable.  Chow may be hammy, but -- along with the brutal fight scenes -- he's the most interesting thing happening here.  Rating: Fair


Next up: Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding.  I have to stop looking at the IMDb ratings before I watch.  I don't think I can help myself, though.
Switchboard
Watched 2019

Top 250  |  Great  |  Good  |  Fair  |  Poor  |  Crap

MartinTeller

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 16213
  • martinteller.wordpress.com
    • my movie blog
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2012, 11:52:49 PM »

Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding! - In the opening moments of the film, we see perky but very pregnant Heather Halloran (Sandra Dee) being rushed to the hospital by her three suitors and her mother.  As the film plays out in flashback, we discover how she got into this predicament and who the real father is.  Is it Pat (Dick Kallman), the boozy musical arranger?  Or the hilariously named Dick Bender (Bill Bixby), the play-boy next door?  Or Hank (Dwayne Hickman), the shoe salesman/aspiring actor?  And then there's her attractive but robotic and uptight boss (George Hamilton).  And what will become of Heather's singing career, a move that's pushed on her for her entire life by her mother (Celeste Holm)?

I had braced myself for a pretty awful experience based on the IMDb rating, but it really isn't that horrible.  It's true that much of the humor feels forced.  Gags are plentiful but many of them land with a thud.  The appearance by Mort Sahl as the cynical nightclub manager doesn't help much (again I find that these "classic" comedians are rarely all they're cracked up to be).  Director Peter Tewksbury tries to spice things up with bits of business like freeze-frames and fantasy sequences but a lot of it feels like throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks.  And yes, there is something dated about the whole thing.  Dee is trying to shake off her wholesome reputation ("Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee/Lousy with virginity") but her character, and the film in general, is pretty chaste for 1967.  Also, Hank takes Heather to what appears to be a beatnik club.

But I dunno, there's something a bit charming about it.  Dee doesn't sing that well and doesn't really act that well either, but she does have a certain quality that suits this kind of goofball comedy.  Maybe it's kinda stupid, but it's a light, breezy, come-along-for-the-ride stupid.  Holm is somewhat fun, and although Hamilton is going through the motion, he actually pulls off one or two really funny moments.  Kallman, Bixby and Hickman are playing simplistic archetypes but none of them are terrible.  I guess what I'm saying it's forced, dated nonsense, but it's easily palatable nonsense.  If a lot of it doesn't work comedically, at least none of it made me groan.  I'm not recommending it or anything, but you could do a lot worse.  Trekkies take note: Nichelle Nichols has a small role.  Rating: Fair


Next up: Violated.  This looks right up my alley.
Switchboard
Watched 2019

Top 250  |  Great  |  Good  |  Fair  |  Poor  |  Crap

MartinTeller

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 16213
  • martinteller.wordpress.com
    • my movie blog
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2012, 12:33:48 AM »

Violated - Beautiful girls are being murdered in New York City.  Murdered... and scalped!  The film follows the investigation including a hard-nosed lieutenant (Mitchell Kowall), a psychiatrist (Jason Niles), and two possible suspects: one of the doctor's former patients, a supposedly rehabilitated sex offender (Fred Lambert) and a successful fashion photographer (Wim Holland).  This is some ultra-low-budget noir, with threadbare sets and a no-name cast.  And a no-name crew!  Almost everyone involved in the picture has this film as their only credit, including the director, Walter Strate.  The cinematographer, Pat Rich, doesn't even have an entry on IMDb.

In some ways, the lack of talent is obvious.  There are a lot of wooden performances, particularly from the male authority figures.  The naive ingenue, Vicki Carlson, has a "golly gee" delivery that's pretty cringe-worthy too.  Some of the edits are choppy and awkward.  But there's some interesting and riveting stuff going on, too.  Lili Dawn, playing "the burlesque queen," was a real-life burlesque gal and has a sneering sassiness that electrifies the screen when she confronts the killer.  Speaking of the killer, and I won't give away who it is, but he does some really out there shit, like his wild eyes when he flees down the fire escape, or his animalistic howls when he's finally caught, recalling the ending to Kurosawa's Stray Dog.  And an inexperienced cinematographer (is this is indeed his only credit) can do surprising things that a pro wouldn't normally think of.  Sometimes the compositions are all too pedestrian, but there's also some baroque movement and pans that catch your attention.

Perhaps most notable is the score by Tony Mottola -- a studio musician who worked with Raymond Scott and Frank Sinatra, played in the "Tonight Show" band, and released a slew of his own records (also cousin of music mogul and Mariah Carey's former spouse, Tommy Mottola... to whom the world is forever indebted for discovering Hall & Oates).  Mottola's sinewy, slinky guitar score, drenched with reverb, punctuates the action and lends the film a jazzy off-kilter vibe.  Every now and then he'll give you a little sting to accent a moment that just makes you go "Ooh, that's the stuff."  It's slick but rough, it's haunting and kinda weird, I loved the music in this picture.

The movie has a terrific sleazy edge to it, with its sexual compulsions, lurid murders, and opportunities to ogle scantily-clad ladies.  But it also has a liberal slant to it, with an ending (sort of a blend of the best of Marnie and the worst of Psycho) that calls for more understanding and progressive treatment of disturbed individuals.  The wonderful little coda suggests that the problem will continue.  Sure, there are some rough edges, stiff dialogue and frankly bad performances... but there are also some amazing, surprising little touches.  And the whole thing is a lean and mean 67 minutes, and features some nice NYC location work when the action strays outside of the crummy sets.  Maybe it's been too long since I sunk my teeth into a juicy noir, but I enjoyed this a lot despite its obvious shortcomings.  Rating: Very Good



Next up: The Black Cauldron.  This should be interesting.  I absolutely loved the Lloyd Alexander books as a child (re-read them about 15 years ago and realized they weren't that great as adult literature).  Some of you have probably seen this one, too, so maybe I won't be posting in a vacuum this time.  Since the public library has this, I'll get it from there.  It may take a little while before I get it, but I've got other stuff I need to catch up on anyway.
Switchboard
Watched 2019

Top 250  |  Great  |  Good  |  Fair  |  Poor  |  Crap

oldkid

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 18377
  • Hi there! Feed me worlds!
Re: Martin Throws Caution to the Wind
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2012, 01:45:21 AM »
Great marathon, Martin!   A lot of titles I've never heard before.  And, as usual, your reviews are succinct and helpful.

(Don't have great hopes for The Black Cauldron, though)
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky