Wednesday, May 4, 2011

First-Time Viewings (April, 2011)

I'm a little late with April's list of films that I caught up with for the first time, due to the fact that I was out of town for the weekend with my wife on a trip to Wisconsin (btw Milwaukee is a really beautiful city). I am still a bit exhausted from the trip but I wanted to get this posted so here it is:

11 Harrowhouse **1/2
11 Harrowhouse is a Stylish, but ultimately bland, British crime thriller from the mid-seventies with two miscast leads (Charles Grodin and Candice Bergen) and a marvelous supporting cast (including James Mason, Trevor Howard and John Gielgud) that steals the film at every turn.

127 Hours *
God what has happened to Danny Boyle? While I will always count Trainspotting among my favorite films I can barely watch Boyle's works since and find him to be among the most insufferable filmmakers on the planet. With 127 Hours, Boyle sacrifices truly great source material to his own overblown sense of self-importance, and his own increasingly irritating visual style sacrifices the thematic material of the film in every scene.

Alex in Wonderland ****1/2
My thoughts on this amazing film can be read here.

All Good Things ****1/2
Among the great overlooked films of 2010, All Good Things also features one of the years best performances via the superlative turn from comeback kid Kirsten Dunst. This docudrama is a really disturbing and powerful work that will hopefully find a larger audience now that it is on Blu-ray and DVD.

Calendar Girl Murders ***1/2
A splendid shot-for-television slasher from the early eighties that recalls both John Peyser’s excellent 1974 film The Centerfold Girls as well as Irvin Kershner’s masterful 1978 thriller The Eyes of Laura Mars. With the terrific William A. Graham behind the camera and a truly great cast, including Tom Skerritt, Barbara Parkins, Robert Culp and a mesmerizing Sharon Stone, Calendar Girl Murders is a real jewel of a television film from 1984.

Experiment in Terror ***
Blake Edwards directed this frequently good but overlong thriller starring a beautiful Lee Remick, Glenn Ford and Stephanie Powers. Remick is terrific and the Henry Mancini score is sublime but ultimately the film falls short.

Foxtrot ***
One of the great Cecil Howard’s lesser productions but still well worth watching due to Howard’s always great visual style and his terrific cast, which includes my favorite Veronica Hart.

Joy ***1/2
My thoughts on this Sharon Mitchell vehicle from the seventies can be found over at Harry Moseby Confidential for those interested.

Lottery Ticket ***
Erik White’s film is only sporadically funny but it proves ultimately a sweet a breezy good time and the lead performances from both Bow Bow and Brandon T. Jackson are quite engaging.

Midnight Desires ***
My thoughts on this interesting Shaun Costello film starring Jamie Gillis, C.J. Laing, Eric Edwards and Jenny Baxter will be posted soon over at Harry Moseby Confidential for those interested.

Moving Violation **1/2
Kay Lenz is really awesome in this 1976 Roger Corman produced, and Charles Dubin directed, film but it's finally just a blur of not so compelling car chases and doesn't equal other like-minded exploitation films from the period.

Playing With Fire *****
My thoughts on this extraordinary film from much missed Alain Robbe-Grillet can be read here.

Terror ***
A bloody and almost great film from Norman J. Warren, 1978’s Terror is an interesting take on Argento’s Suspiria, even if it ultimately falls a bit short. Despite some sluggish pacing and stylistic inconsistencies I quite enjoyed this film and recommend it for fellow horror buffs.

The Incident **1/2
A well-acted but cliché ridden thriller that is mostly notable for introducing audiences to the considerable talents of Martin Sheen and Tony Musante.

Three on a Meathook ***1/2
I am catching up on the films from my favorite Kentucky filmmaker William Girdler for a future project and the shot in Louisville 3 on a Meathook is one of his strangest and most provocative films. A truly bizarre work, with its stirring if not so subtle anti-war message, that is prime Girdler. I only wish a better print would appear.

Without a Trace ****1/2
My thought son this beautifully directed and wonderfully acted account of a woman whose six-year old son goes missing can be found here.

2011 FILMS

Arthur ***
I am such a big fan of the original Dudley Moore version that I was hesitant to see this updating of Authur but I found it quite charming in its own way and very funny in parts. I especially enjoyed the sweet chemistry found in the scenes between Russell Brand and Greta Gerwig. This is nothing earth shattering, and it finally pales next to the original, but Arthur circa 2011 is not bad at all.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night *
Way to spoil truly inspired source material. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is a gutless and an absolute mess and wastes the considerable talents of Brandon Routh.

Hanna ****1/2
I will be writing on Joe Wright’s brutal and brilliant work in the future here at Moon in the Gutter so I will save my thoughts until then.

Scream 4 ****
A splendid return to form for Wes Craven, Scream 4 is the bloodiest film he has made since A Nightmare on Elm Street and one of the best. A compelling companion piece to the great first two films of the series, again led by the extremely gifted Neve Campbell, Scream 4 is a terrific modern slasher and I suspect will become a justified fan favorite in the upcoming years.

Water for Elephants:
I really loved Water for Elephants; a stirring old-fashioned depression based drama starring an extremely impressive Robert Pattinson. This is also the best work Reese Witherspoon has done since her Oscar winning turn in Walk the Line.

Win Win ***
I was never completely won over by this minor duel character study from writer and director Thomas McCarthy but the extraordinary cast (featuring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryn, Burt Young and Melanie Lynskey) kept it watchable for me.

Your Highness **1/2
While Your Highness is an extremely silly and often lame film, as well as being David Gordon Green’s first misfire, there is still enough goofy charm in it to make it worth a viewing. Still, it’s hard to not be disappointed by a film this minor from a group of such talented artists behind and in front of the camera.


Amanda By Night said...

Good lord man! That's a lot of films!

Not sure which Calendar Girl Murders issue you have, but the cheapie DVD I own has a typo on the menu page. It says CALENDER... Hilarious. Kind of gave me a heads up of what I was in for! :)

Neil Fulwood said...

I am very very tempted by 'Water for Elephants'. I've heard great things about the novel, I have a soft spot for Reese Witherspoon, and anything with Christoph Waltz has to be worth watching.

It's just Robert Pattison's involvement that's making me hold back.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Amanda,
My copy of Calendar Girl Murders came from a television broadcast...Encore I believe. I really enjoyed it!

Thanks Neil,
I haven't read the book so I don't know how the movie compares but I thought Pattinson was terrific in it. Give it a look...

Thanks to you both!