Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review: The Bicycle Thief (1948)

* * * *

Director: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola

Despite having been a movie blogger for going on 8 years, and a movie buff for considerably longer, I've somehow never gotten around to seeing The Bicycle Thief (also known as Bicycle Thieves) until just recently. Even though it's one of the major works of the Italian neorealism movement, not to mention a work that is hailed as one of the greatest of all time, I just never found the time to sit down and watch it until now. My mistake, I have no excuse, but I can now confirm for myself that it truly is one of the greatest movies ever made. A beautiful, heartbreaking piece of post-WWII work, The Bicycle Thief is a movie that every film fan should see - and probably sooner than I did.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

21st Century Essentials: The Ghost Writer (2010)

All eras have works of art that are fundamental to our understanding of not only the craft itself, but the culture from which it was created. The 21st century is still nascent, but it isn't too early to start creating a canon that demonstrates the heights to which film as an artform has reached since the year 2000. These are the essential films:

Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams
Country: United Kingdom/France/Germany

Any number of perfectly competent directors probably could have taken the story of The Ghost Writer, based on the novel “The Ghost” by Robert Harris, and made a pretty nifty thriller out of it - it has so many elements in place for success just on a basic story level that I think it would be difficult to screw this up. That said, if it only had a “competent” director, then it would merely be an entertaining little potboiler. In the hands of a masterful director like Roman Polanski, it becomes something far greater, something which is still greatly entertaining, but also terrifically artful. Though it could never be given points for subtlety in terms of the real life figures on which some of its characters are based, it’s nevertheless an expertly crafted film where the sinister lurks at every edge.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday's Top 5... Movies About Immortality

#5: Highlander

There can only be one - and the fact that most people don't have to have seen Highlander to know that just goes to show how deeply it has become rooted in pop culture despite being considered a "cult" film. This tale of immortals who must engage in a battle royale until only one remains is inherently a little bit silly, but it's also pretty damn entertaining.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Series Review: The Fast and the Furious

It's sort of funny, when you think about it, that a film series which is built on a premise made for mindless testosterone has become a series as defined by its sincerity as by its sublime ridiculousness. It started from a place of, "I live my life a quarter mile at a time," and over a decade and a half, has come to a place of "I don't have friends; I have family," and has managed to do so in a way that feels totally earned and without sacrificing the series' original reason for being. If the markings of a successful film series are consistency, developing a rich history and personal mythology, and managing to continue getting not just bigger, but better, then The Fast and the Furious may very well be the best action franchise ever. This isn't to say that the movies aren't kind of dumb; it's just that they're the kind of dumb that's fun as hell.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Netflix Recommends... The Last Stand (2013)

* *

Director: Kim Jee-woon
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Have I been watching movies lately that bear any resemblance to The Last Stand? Not really. Did Netflix think I would think The Last Stand is good? It did not. Am I an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan? Outside of The Terminator movies, not particularly (though I do love it when he shows up in movies with names like "Gordy Brewer" or, as in this one, "Ray Owens"). So naturally Netflix recommended this 2013 Schwarzenegger return to acting vehicle. Was it worth the time? Eh, it had its moments, though it never really gets a handle on the tone and its split storyline (only one half of which it's really invested in) is a lot busier than it needs to be.