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Complete Guide to Guys (2005)
Didn't seem to be very cohesive
Last night I watched the world premiere of this movie at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. While it made me chuckle several times, it just didn't seem to be very cohesive. I tended to enjoy the bits set in the modern day versus the silly caveman scenes. Though I am a big fan of John Cleese, his scenes didn't do much for me in this movie. One my favorite bits was Dan Marino explaining proper urinal etiquette. I think that was one of problems, it was more just a collection of bits than a complete movie. Some of the scenes were tied together, but it didn't seem to flow very well. With a $17.50 ticket price for this 72 minute film, I didn't feel I got my money's worth.
** (out of 4)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
A solid sequel ...
A solid sequel to my favorite superhero movie. While I have been unimpressed with most of the recent superhero movies (The Punisher, Hulk), the Spider-Man movies have continued to remain a step or two ahead of the pack. While not staying 100% true to the original comics, they don't stray too far. The production is top-notch and give us a visual treat with out going too far beyond believability. Despite some initial reservations, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst have proved to be quality choices for the roles of Spider-Man and Mary Jane. Along with a solid supporting cast and good direction by Sam Raimi, the Spider-Man movie franchise has set the bar for superhero movies in the 2000s. I'm looking forward to the next installment. Unfortunately Spider-Man 3 isn't coming until 2007. Meanwhile, I remain hopeful for other quality additions to the genre.
*** (out of 4)
Hitch starts to show his style...
My copy of this movie is truly silence with no musical score. Whenever I watch a movie that is completely silent, initially I find it a little hard. But when the film is well made, as this one is, it doesn't take long to adjust and focus on the story as you are drawn into it. I feel Hitchcock was a master of the silent film genre with his ability to tell such a deep story with very few intertitles. Relying instead on the expressions of the actors and written notes and signs in the movie, without having to cut away to an intertitle, which allows the film to flow more fluidly instead of constant cutting between the live action and the title cards. Ivor Novello in the lead role of Roddy and in his prior work with Hitchcock in The Lodger really impressed me with his talent of conveying his feelings strictly through facial expressions and acting without the use of sound. Hitch is also good at using subtle exaggeration and focus on action to help take the place of the sound in his silent films.
The story is that of a young man in school who is falsely accused of theft by a lady that he had danced with and he is willing to take the blame for a friend of his and is expelled from school. This leads to the downhill spiral of his life as leaves home after his father calls him a "LIAR!". Things get worse from there as ends up working as a gigolo in Paris, getting in fights, losing a large sum of money, and eventually hitting bottom.
In this film we really begin seeing a lot of Hitchcock's visual style that he is so famous for. He has some really good use of fades and graphic matches between scenes. Two of my favorite where the fading out on the pocket watch and into a large clock, and the other being the scene where he fades out on a photograph and then back in on the real person. I really enjoyed the symbolic shot of Roddy heading down the escalator, showing us that is in heading downhill in his life. And my favorite "Hitch" shot in this movie was the point-of-view shot when the lady was leaning back in her chair and it cuts to Roddy walking into the room and we see him upside down on the screen. I also thought Hitchcock did a great job of portraying Roddy's seasickness towards the end of the film. I really enjoy seeing Hitchcock's style developing in his early silent films, that will become so prominent in his later, more famous movies. I also really appreciate Hitch's working in comedic scenes into his serious movies. My favorite humorous scene in this movie is the peashooter scene early in the film.
Without giving too much away, I would have liked to see a more typical Hitchcock ending to this film.
*** (out of 4 stars)
His Girl Friday (1940)
This is a very entertaining comedy
This is a very entertaining comedy. The dialogue is lightning paced and flows quickly from one character to the next without a break in between. Cary Grant is excellent in his attempts to keep his ex-wife from re-marrying and on the staff of the newspaper. Rosalind Russell plays the part of his ex-wife well, matching his banter in kind. This movie is worthy of all the praise it gets. One thing I realized while watching this film, a lot of the classic comedies are founded on good witty dialogue. Unlike most of the comedies made today which seem to be founded in silly site gags and bathroom humor. Given a choice, give me the classics any day.
***1/2 (Out of 4)
The best of Hitch's silents...
The Lodger is universally considered the best of Hitchcock's silents. It's a story that's loosely based on the Jack the Ripper killings in London. In this movie the serial killer is known as The Avenger and is killing blondes, which has the fair-haired girls of London worried. During this time a mysterious man shows up looking for a room to rent from a family. This lodger has some quirky habits of going out on foggy nights and has them wondering who exactly this lodger that's living in their house really is. This movie definitely showcases Hitchcock's early talent for the thriller genre and he keeps you guessing throughout. I have read that Hitchcock wanted a different ending, but that it was shot down my the movie executives. I won't mention the endings to avoid spoiling the movie, but I would have liked to see it Hitch's way. Unfortunately this was long before the days of shooting alternate versions, so we just have to imagine how he would have done it. It's amazing to me to watch Hitchcock's quality movies from the 1920s-1970s. He truly deserves the title, The Master of Suspense. He dedicated his life to the art of filmmaking and we get to reap the benefits.
*** (Out of 4)
Going My Way (1944)
A heartwarming movie without being over-sappy.
A very enjoyable film starring Bing Crosby as a progressive Irish Catholic priest who comes to St. Dominick's, a church that is struggling. Initially, he's not very welcome by most, including old Father Fitzgibbon...but with his charm and the song in his heart, he manages to slowly grow on the folks as he finds subtle ways to solve everyone's problems. This is a heartwarming movie without being over-sappy.
*** (Out of 4)
What's Cooking? (2000)
The way people react to the holidays is pretty universal
Experience Thanksgiving with four different families (Jewish, Vietnamese, Hispanic, African American) in a Los Angeles neighborhood. It has a lot of the typical holiday family issues and few not so typical. I think basically it's showing that even though the cultures are very different, the way people react to the holidays is pretty universal. It has a nice blend of humor mixed with the stress of holiday and makes for enjoyable feast. As a side note, it has a reference to my alma mater, UCSB...which, to set the record straight, does not have a business school.
*** (out of 4)
Miller's Crossing (1990)
A fine addition to the Gangster genre
The Coen's brought us a fine addition to the gangster genre. Though it's not 100% your prototypical gangster movie, it's a fine fit with the Coen brothers' touch added. The movie had a nice look and feel to it and I really enjoyed watching the characters interact. In particular, I thought Gabriel Byrne's performance was outstanding. His style gave the film a bit of a noir-ish touch. If you're a fan of the genre or the Coen brothers, I think you'll enjoy Miller's Crossing.
***1/2 (Out of 4)
A decent remake for those without the patience for the original
With remakes, there's always going to be a comparison to the original. I think I would have liked this movie a little more if I had not already seen Tarkovsky's 1972 original. The first question with remakes I suppose should be why? I can see the reason for this film being to bring a really good sci-fi story to the younger generation that probably won't be seeing the 165min Russian original. I heard some comments that this movie was too slow or too boring. Well, in that case, I'm sure they wouldn't have had the patience for the original. I've also heard some sci-fi fans who really appreciate Soderbergh's version...in those cases, I'd consider the idea of doing the remake a success. I'm sure some of them would definitely appreciate the original, but I'm sure a certain percentage wouldn't be willing to sit through the same slow-paced story when the running time is nearly twice as long in the original. Soderbergh did a fine job with this movie and did fairly well at capturing the feeling of the original in a quicker time. If that was his vision, then I think he succeeded. He didn't really add anything new to this story. This movies is pretty much an exact, but compacted, copy of the original Tarkovsky film. The actors were adequate, but I didn't get the emotion, albeit subtle, that I got from the Russian original. I personally feel the gratuitous shots of Clooney's butt were unnecessary. In my opinion, Clooney's lead character may have been better with a lesser known actor. He plays the role fairly well and it's one of his more subtle performances to date, but you can't help but see certain Clooneyisms come out from time to time, especially when he gets upset. Though I feel Soderbergh did well to cast lesser knowns in the supporting roles. All in all, it's a decent remake bringing a solid sci-fi story to modern day fans of the genre, but I'd recommend the original to those who can make it through the epic length Russian version of this story.
**1/2 (Out of 4)
If you have the patience, you'll be rewarded...
I'd guess that most won't have the patience for Tarkovsky's epic length Russian Sci-fi film. Besides being 165 minutes long, it's VERY slow paced. I admit that early into this I wasn't sure I'd make it through and 10 years ago I'm sure I wouldn't have. But if you have the patience for such a film, you will be rewarded with a solid sci-fi film. It's main theme has been seen in later films, but I'd venture to say none have covered it better. I haven't seen Soderbergh's 2002 remake yet, so the comparison will have to wait. I'm sure the 99 minute run time will appeal to the more modern audience, but I'm sure it won't have the same feeling. The length and slow pace of this earlier film was deliberate and I don't think that feeling could be duplicated in a shorter movie.
*** (Out of 4)