Saturday, July 17, 2010
In The Electric Mist is the kind of film you pray for when you write about DVDs: a smart, well-made picture that somehow slipped through the cracks, hopefully seen by a few more pairs of eyeballs thanks to a passionate recommendation. That a film this rich and entertaining ended up going straight to DVD is a fairly depressing commentary on today's Hollywood; any industry that will splash My Best Friend's Girl across 2600 screens while burying a film like this at Blockbuster has nothing but contempt for its consumers.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Welcome to “Back-Filling,” a (semi) regular feature in which I see movies that, by any reasonable measure, I totally should have seen by now.
In one of those strange cases of precipitous timing and wild coincidence, James Bridges’s The China Syndrome was released a mere 12 days before the partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania—an accident not far removed from the dangers hinted at in the film. That particular historical context gives the film a specific feel; not documentary, necessarily, but certainly a time capsule—and I’m not just talking about the late 70s duds and the loathsome soft rock opening credit song by Stephen Bishop. When we’re in the control room of the Los Angeles TV station where Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) works, or back in the station’s film development lab (can you imagine?) with cameraman Richard (Michael Douglas), it feels like we’re getting an inside look at the way things used to be; when she mentions, in her on-camera stand-up, the country’s growing need for “energy self-sufficiency,” well, that part’s a little sad.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XVIII: Mike, Joel, and the 'bots return with another winner of a box set from the good folks at Shout Factory, featuring four solid entries from as early as season two and as late as season eight--including what may very well be my favorite episode of the entire run, the jaw-droppingly incompetant Beast of Yucca Flats.
Chloe: Brainy provocateur Atom Egoyan appears, at first, to be in top form, crafting a thrillingly adult (and tantilizingly sexy) tale of marital jealousy, fidelity, and deception. And then he fumbles the ball big-time in the third act, letting the whole thing crumble into a lost entry in the Poison Ivy series.
The Greatest: Performances are aces in this would-be weepie about a family grieving the loss of their son and embracing the pregnant girlfriend he left behind, but most of this has been done before-- most significantly, in co-star Susan Sarandon's superior 2003 effort Moonlight Mile.
Terribly Happy: I'm not sure what I was expecting from this Danish import, which came to our shores courtesy of the ever-reliable Oscilloscope Laboratories, but I certainly wasn't expecting a dark, twisty small-town noir in the Blood Simple mold. It's dark, unforgiving stuff, but a crackling good little thriller all the same.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
About all I knew about Elevator to the Gallows going in was that Miles Davis did the music, and good Lord is that an understatement—he does this fucking music. Find me a musician who can set a mood faster and more exquisitely than the Prince of Darkness; his music is moody, punchy, and marvelously morose. Same goes for the picture, which is directed with fearless confidence by Louis Malle (all of 26 years old at the time, noted the 34-year-old film writer).
Malle’s film moves from scene to scene with effortless snap; the screenplay (which he adapted with Roger Nimier from Noel Calef’s novel) utilizes an unconventional—and altogether unpredictable—structure to keep the viewer tense and on edge. Thanks primarily to Davis’s score and Henri Decae’s moody, shadowy photography, many film historians see it as one of the last true film noir; I see it as a key transition film from noir to the French New Wave. Its influence on those early New Wave pictures (particularly Breathless and Shoot the Piano Player) is undeniable; Malle may have been more formal in his filmmaking, but Elevator to the Gallows shares a loose, fast sense of improvised morality. It’s a tough, nasty, sensational picture.