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5 stars

Intolerable Cruelty

dir: Joel Coen
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From a creative team as potent and as previously successful as it generally has been over the last fifteen or so years, it has to be said that this film ends up being something of a disappointment. Especially for fans of the Brothers Coen, who have been gifted with so many good to great films thus far that the opening of their every film is greeted with an almost sexual level of anticipation.

Trying to replicate the kinds of screwball comedies from the 30s and 40s that we never knew we missed that much, the Brothers again make a film about, amongst other things, Hollywood films. They’ve covered most of the cinematic genres, from Capraesque lunacy in The Hudsucker Proxy, Prohibition era gangster morality in Millers Crossing, Busby Berkeley musicals in The Big Lebowski (amongst plenty of other nutty ingredients), so now it’s time to lift some style and elements from the films of Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story). These comedies, some of which are classics, are pretty cheesy to modern eyes, not helped by the regular presence of Eddie Bracken, who was a poor man’s Mickey Rooney if I ever saw one, and Joel McCrae, who was a destitute man’s Gary Cooper. And lucky us, we now have the rich man’s Cary Grant headlining here.

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AI: Artificial Intelligence

dir: Steven Spielberg's Mexican non-union equivalent
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Oh beautiful people, what with the planes falling out of the skies and the burning of empires, and thousands of souls going to meet their makers, is it even appropriate to talk about something as unimportant as a film? A movie, in fact? Yes it is...

Let me create a hypothetical situation for you: You work as a job placement demon, as they all are at those particular agencies. You have two positions to fill. Job 1 requires a qualified person to take the reins at a child care centre. Job 2 requires a highly qualified and experienced person to take control of a whorehouse. Yes, a whorehouse. There's no other adequate PC term that can be used in its place. Brothel always sounds kinda dirty to me. Which is appropriate, me guesses.

You have only two people on your books in terms of wanting jobs. They are both hungry, hungry for the acclaim that comes only from working in a prestigious position. Unfortunately for your Key Performance Indicators, those two people are Steven Spielberg and a very dead and overrated / underappreciated Stanley Kubrick. Let's say that you're in the added unfortunate position whereby they get to decide which jobs they get to go for. Hilarity ensues.

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Tokyo Drifter (Tokyo nagaremono)

dir: Seijun Suzuki
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1966

What the fuck was all that about?

Tokyo Drifter is cool. It’s cool in the sense that the hero is the hero because he’s cool. He looks cool, he dresses cool, and he has his own theme song, which is played a bunch of times and which he even sings through the course of the film. So what if the flick makes no sense? It’s cool, you squaresville-daddy-o.

The film looks pretty. There’s a very interesting use of colour and sets. The clothing is nice. Other than that, this flick is fucking insane. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone I hated.

Maybe it’s too quintessentially Japanese, but I doubt it. The movie, at the very least, is somewhat more comprehensible than the last one of Suzuki’s that I saw, but that’s not saying much. Made in an obviously cheap and nasty fashion, the flick eschews continuity and logic to construct a story that does not make sense on our planet.

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Solaris (1972)

dir: Andrei Tarkovsky
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Solaris is supposedly a towering achievement in Soviet filmmaking, right up there as the Russian answer to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, from the Russian director most considered an auteur and visionary, er, just like Kubrick. Fans of Solaris say it’s an insult to compare the two. Detractors say it’s being too kind.

And by all the gods did they get that right. Both films, judiciously used, are a viable substitute for anaesthetic narcotics in modern surgery, and have, hopefully less side-effects when they knock viewers the fuck out. There are stretches of 2001 that knock me out every time, every single goddamn time I see them. Solaris is like that except it has this effect for most of its interminable length.

The stories are very different. People who saw Stephen Soderbergh’s recent remake with George Clooney in the lead role will know generally what it’s about, but others will be stunned, stunned I tell you with how out there the premise is.

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A Clockwork Orange

dir: The Great Almighty Stanley Kubrick
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1971

Kubrick routinely is praised as probably the greatest director who ever deigned to pick up a camera and yell at people in order to get them to do what he wanted. Who am I to shit on the great man’s legacy?

Nobody, that’s who. Sure he’s made a stack of good films, and a few bad ones. I will say though, without fear or favour, that A Clockwork Orange is probably the crappiest of his holy, vaunted oeuvre.

That’s right, I’m saying it’s worse than Eyes Wide Shut.

A bad Kubrick flick is better than most other director’s best flicks, but it’s still a chore to sit through. And I say this as a fan of the man and his directorial vision. I love many of his films. Hell, I’ve even voluntarily sat through Barry Lyndon a few times and roundly enjoyed it. And I’ve probably seen 2001 more times than the average footy player / actor goes through rehab unsuccessfully.

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