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Film Roundup XIII

High Noon – 93%

On the day of his wedding and retirement, Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is on his way out of the small western town of Hadleyville when he receives word that Frank Miller, a notorious outlaw he sent to prison years before, is on his way back to town on the noon train and looking for revenge. Kane decides that he must stay and face Miller, but finds no one who will help or support him anywhere he turns, despite his years of service protecting and serving the people. One by one, the citizens of the town abandon him, and when Miller finally rides into town with his gang, Kane must face them all alone.

High Noon is fascinating because it is an iconic American Western which is ostensibly not about the Old West at all. In fact, the film, released in 1952, is an allegory about the blight of HUAC and the blacklisting going on in Hollywood at the time. The movie unfolds with the illusion of real time (actually, it is about 15 minutes shorter than the 100 minutes that pass in Hadleyville), increasing the tension all the more by prominently featuring various clocks as the time grows closer for Miller’s arrival. The soundtrack, which essentially consists of a single song played almost ad nauseum in the background, will drive some people bananas, but in every other respect this is a must-see of the genre.

The Gods Must Be Crazy – 85%

When a Coca-Cola bottle mysteriously falls from the sky (out of a passing airplane) and into the laps of a primitive African tribe, it is first hailed as a gift from the gods and put to good use for a variety of tasks. However, the tribe, formerly a totally harmonious family, soon dissolves into quarreling and contention over the new technology. Disgusted, Xi resolves to take the accursed “gift” of the gods to the end of the world and throw it off. His journey brings him into contact with a variety of characters and zany situations, including a new schoolteacher in a rural village, an incredibly clumsy biologist, and a violent revolutionary leader.

This is a bizarre South African comedy which frequently dissolves into pure silliness, but is just original and funny enough to be quite enjoyable. The role of Xi was played by an actual African bushman named N!xau (sic) who had had almost no contact with modern civilization before he was cast in the lead role. N!xau went on to reprise the role in no less than four increasingly shoddy sequels during the next 15 years, but only the first sequel received the sort of global attention the first had.

Wall Street – 79%

Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a stockbroker, a young hotshot driven by ambition to seek out a relationship with the ruthless and successful Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) who becomes his mentor. Gekko shows Fox the ropes of unethical insider training, and the two men are soon colluding on a variety of shady business deals sure to bring them the sort of wealth that Fox has always dreamed about. However, a connection to Fox’s blue collar family in one of the deals lands him in the middle of a crisis of conscience and he is forced to face the consequences of his uninhibited greed.

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works,” Gekko preaches to a stockholder meeting, and we almost believe him. Douglas is particularly good in this film, which really captures a large part of the spirit of the 1980s (it came out in ’87). The result can be more than a little dry at times, particularly to those who, like me, have little understanding of the intricacies of high-powered economics. However, if you can hang on through the dense technical discussions of corporate finance without getting lost, the experience will be far more rewarding.

Intolerable Cruelty – 72%

Skilled gold-digger Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones) seeks revenge on Miles Massey (George Clooney), the divorce lawyer whose ironclad pre-nup screwed her out of a fortune. Their game of one-upmanship soon devolves into a war of attrition as the two scramble to beat each other to the next new low. Speaking of lows, this tired and largely-unfunny comedy is certainly not the brightest spot in the Coen Brothers’ impressive filmography. Fans could hardly go wrong by randomly selecting almost any one of their other movies to satisfy any need for a Coen fix.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – 92%

The eccentric British inventor and his sensible dog (and partner) return almost a decade after their massively-popular claymation shorts for a feature-length outing. This time, the intrepid pair are running a humane pest control service to protect the area’s gardens from the scourge of rabbits in the lead-up to the celebrated annual Giant Vegetable Competition hosted by local aristocrat Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham-Carter). All is not well, however, when a giant rabbit mysteriously appears and begins ravaging the competitors. While competing with snooty big-game hunter Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) for Lady Tottington’s affections, Wallace (with the help of Gromit . . . or is it the other way around?) must solve the mystery of the were-rabbit in time for the competition to go on as planned.

The Wallace and Gromit stories continue to be endlessly fun and inventive, small masterpieces of plotting that also boggle the eyes with their sophisticated claymation techniques. Fans of the original shorts will not be disappointed by this outing, and anyone new to the phenomenon will enjoy a lively introduction to two of the most endearing characters in the history of animation.

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~ by Jared on September 26, 2008.

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