Film Roundup XV

I swear there is a conspiracy to keep me out of the multiplex on Fridays. I am not pleased. This week it’s a conference out of town which may or may not keep from a new release. We’ll see. I know that a certain someone will want me to take her to City of Ember at some point, and I’m vaguely interested in Body of Lies and The Duchess. I’m also feeling a strange urge to go see Quarantine, but it will probably pass once the reviews start hitting. Besides, going to a horror movie alone is such a waste. And, amidst everything else, I’m not entirely certain that I don’t just want to go hit up WALL-E again, now that it’s playing in the dollar theater. Someday very soon (perhaps late next week) I’m determined to set aside a day or two to play catch-up on whatever seems worth catching up to. Meanwhile, you know the drill:

The Majestic – 91%

Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is a screenwriter on the verge of his big break when he gets blacklisted in McCarthy-Era Hollywood. Drunk and nearly suicidal, he takes off into the night with no particular destination in mind, when a freak accident leads to him washing up on the beach near a small town with no memory of who he is or where he came from. Soon, the townspeople recognize him as Luke Trimble, the son of the local movie theater owner, who went missing in action during World War II years earlier. Peter soon slips comfortably into Luke’s old life, connecting with Luke’s father, falling in love with Luke’s fiancee, and breathing new life back into The Majestic theater. But, as a suspected communist who has mysteriously disappeared, a lot of people from his past are looking for him, and his idyllic new life can’t last forever.

The Majestic is a movie that I come back to again and again when I want a feel-good experience with a lot of humor and heart and character and very little in the way of schmaltz or sentimentality (at least not the painfully corny kind). Perhaps its greatest failing is that it is ultimately pure fantasy, a piece of escapism for an industry that wishes it had been able to stand up to HUAC and the 1950s red scare with little more than a rousing speech and the overwhelming support of media and common people alike. Alas, that was not the case, but it is still a fascinating time, lovingly-evoked, and one of my favorite “movies about the movies.”

Onegin – 83%

Based on the classic Pushkin poem, starring Ralph Fiennes in the title role and directed by his sister Martha, Onegin is the story of a manic-depressive city aristocrat who woos an innocent country girl, Tatyana (Liv Tyler). Ultimately, the relationship takes a tragic turn and ends badly, in a violent duel. It’s a rather sparse story stretched over what will be, for many, an unbearably long 106 minutes. The production is gorgeous, and Fiennes is excellent as always, but probably very little beyond a few particularly striking images and the fantastic duel scene will stay with the viewer for very long.

Fellini Satyricon – 74%

The always-challenging and enigmatic Fellini presents a faithful adaptation of the early Roman work Satyricon by Petronius. Make no mistake, though, as the title indicates, this is very much a Fellini production. The film is choppy and episodic, beginning and ending at random, just like the surviving portion of the original. In the story, two gay lovers, Encolpio and Ascilto, quarrel over their young servant Gitone and then split up. Gitone follows Ascilto and we follow Encolpio across a grim and disturbing landscape of disconnected adventures. Most of these involve varying degrees of Roman debauchery, including Bacchanalian revelry, orgies, gladiatorial combat, cannibalism, etc.

Obviously this relic of late-60s Italian arthouse will not be to all (or even most) tastes. It should be fairly clear from my description whether or not you might have any interest in taking this in. This was my first Fellini film, and to be perfectly honest, I watched it (in college, of course) purely to pad my resume of cinematic literacy. I don’t regret the experience by any means, but I’d definitely have to have an actual reason before I’d see it again.

The Great Mouse Detective – 72%

Basil of Baker Street, the greatest rodent detective the world has ever known, shares lodgings in Victorian London with his more famous human counterpart. In this, his greatest adventure, he gains a stalwart companion (Dr. David Q. Dawson), and investigates the mysterious disappearance of a brilliant toymaker. The kidnapping ultimately draws him into the midst of a fiendish plot by Professor Ratigan (voiced by the inimitable Vincent Price) that threatens the very highest levels of mouse government.

This Disney animated classic, the last to be released before the renaissance of the late-80s/early-90s, is nowhere near as good as it was when I first saw it at the age of 5 or 6. The animation is often second-rate and the dialogue is frequently cheesy (ouch. no pun intended . . . really). But Price is a fantastic villain, as always, and I’ve got a particular soft-spot for Sherlock Holmes (and homages to him). Great light entertainment for the kiddies, but Disney could have done far better.

Be Cool – 79%

In this sequel to Get Shorty, mobster-turned-movie producer Chili Palmer decides to take a swing at the music industry, latching onto a talented singer and guiding her in his own unique way through a series of madcap encounters with a host of bizarre characters on the road to pop stardom. Various members of the Pulp Fiction cast (John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel) reunite for a manic, character-heavy comedy that, frankly, had me laughing far more often than it probably deserved. There are some wonderful moments in this PG-13 movie, including a scene near the beginning which uses up the film’s one f-word in an explanation of how any more than that will provoke an R-rating from the MPAA. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is hilarious as a gay bodyguard who wants to be an actor, and Vince Vaughn also has some extremely funny moments. This is definitely worth a look if you’re in search of some ultra-light, late-night entertainment. Twinkle twinkle, baby, twinkle twinkle.

~ by Jared on October 9, 2008.

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