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Moby Dick with Sex Appeal
Moby Dick with sex appeal. Another adaptation of The Pardoner's Tale (men turned against each other by greed) to a different historical context, a la The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Here the setting is a South Seas island and a whaling vessel in the 1850s, with a bag of pearls (especially an enormous black one) standing in for gold. Stewart Granger and Robert Taylor play off of each other well in a Cain and Abel dynamic. Ann Blythe makes good eye candy in a wardrobe of interesting period textiles, as the unfortunately named "Pris." Interesting to see a nineteenth-century set movie involving a woman at sea. Betta St. John is smoldering as her dark counterpart "The Native Girl," in politically incorrect grease paint. Other things to recommend it are Oscar-nominated cinematography, Lewis Stone's last film appearance, a rousing action score, and a harrowing whale chase with a rubber model complete with flippable fluke. Lots of great ship shots as well, and really remarkable art direction. A presumably authentic sequence of a whale being butchered and boiled for oil is a highlight, and has more grit and realism than one expects from these florid, high-seas romances. It seems the beach shots were filmed on location in Jamaica, a bit of a let-down because I was hoping I might catch some familiar Hawaii scenery, but they are beautiful and passable as Pacific locales nonetheless. The film looses momentum a bit toward the end, but on the whole it's more interesting and better done than many of the genre.
The Hole (2001)
Great cast, great premise...wasted potential
I had low expectations, but high hopes for this movie, which I randomly stumbled upon in the drama section, but sounded like more of a horror movie. I should have heeded the categorization. I don't know why what could have been a really creepy horror movie with a great setting, had to try to be an edgy suspense thriller. There should have been much less plot, and much more atmosphere. The preoccupation with plot twists, flashbacks, etc. really breaks up the tension and spoils the mood. I really wish that this had been shot entirely inside the bomb shelter, building claustrophobic tension at a languid pace, and then erupting into overwhelming chaos closer to the end, ala the Decent.
At the very least, I wish they'd emphasized the teen movie aspects of it and gone for camp, ala Heathers or the Craft.
As a horror film or a campy teen black comedy it could have worked, but as the suspense thriller it tries to be it wastes it's potential.
The Runaways (2010)
San Fernando Valley of the Dolls
Edie Sedgwick does Tarantino in this grimy tale of androgynous, pixie, she-beasts. It's angry, loud, and rude...but with a Warhol-esque indifference to higher purpose, and laissez faires sense of humor.
As far as quality goes, Dakota Fanning is priceless in a campy, charmingly self-indulgent performance. I do not subscribe to todays trendy loathing of Kristen Stuart, but must admit her Joan Jett is not very dynamic. She looks right in the hair and makeup, but her impersonation seems forced. Fanning steels the show, helped along by an enthusiastic Kim Fowley as portrayed by Michael Shannon. The film also has a great sense of era and atmosphere.
But if you're trying to find a good movie in this, you're missing the point. It's an enjoyably bad movie, about enjoyably bad music: a gloriously heinous tribute to lowbrow glam, and an unabashedly vulgar study of D-list celebrity...a sort of half-a$$ed, suburban parody of Valley of the Dolls. Lovers of the awful, the depraved, and awesomely-bad style will enjoy a noncommittal, good-humored dabbling in this raw gem.
empty, unwatchable biopic
This film may be of interest to music lovers, due to its detailed showcasing of period instruments, sheet music compositions, and unceasing Bach music. Beyond that, it has nothing to offer. It purports to be a copiously researched biopic, but is really just a performance history of Bach's pieces, with occasional voice-overs in between, accompanied by pans across period etchings or bits of sheet music. In one particularly plodding scene, Bach's music is accompanied by an image of treetops against a still sky for something like five minutes. Ultimately, it watches like a number of late-night arts channel, low budget TV performances spliced together with scant historical information, ala a fifth-rate documentary from the VHS section of your local library.
Green Dolphin Street (1947)
This movie turned a lazy summer day into a life changing experience.
I accidentally stumbled on this movie on television while trying to pass a lazy summer day when I was a child. I was instantly intrigued by the two beautiful female stars, and the impressive period setting, as well as by the fact that I had never heard of the film. I was in for a big surprise. I expected a mildly entertaining but ultimately conventional Victorian melodrama, but the film was wrought with twists and turns that I never would have expected based on the first few minutes. In addition, it is filmed with lavish spectacle and breathtaking special effects that are no less than awe inspiring for 1947. I had been raised on classic movies but I had never seen anything like it and I haven't since. I was bewitched by the sheer magnitude of the production, and by the bizarre fantasy element of its setting. It is not so realistic as to be mundane, but has a sort of charming phoniness about it (not sarcastic at all) that makes watching it almost like going to Disneyland. I was inspired to research New Zealand and channel Island history, and read the book. I have not found a movie yet with so profound a sense of exotic mystery as this one. My first viewing of this was a once in a lifetime experience. I hope it will be the same for you.