I've been without internet and mostly distracted from my usual film watching schedule the past two weeks due to a big move, but I've managed to squeeze in a few films here and there...
180. Clerks II [B+]
181. The Other Guys [B+]
182. Inception [B+]
183. Working Girl [B ]
184. Grizzly Rage [F]
185. Chaplin [B ]
186. The Men Who Made the Movies: Sam Fuller [B+]
187. Moment of Impact [C-]
Clerks II: Kevin Smithís long-awaited sequel to his debut film doesnít quite have the punch of the original. By the time Smith made this follow-up, circumstances werenít so dire for the writer/director, and you can feel a little sentimentalism seeping in. That said, the filmís major set piece is a donkey show, so itís not like Smith has turned into Frank Capra. Randall still gets all the best lines. Mostly, itís a lot of fun to return to these characters after ten years, and the film acts as a fitting send-off to this group of characters.
The Other Guys: I find Will Ferrell to be hit or miss, so I was surprised that I liked this film so much. Most of the jokes are terrific, and even the action is effective. A couple of Ferrellís riffs go on for a bit long, and I didnít find the way he demeans his wife to be very funny, but overall it was a lot of fun.
Inception: Upon a second viewing, I think I missed some of the nuances the first time, both visual and aural. Iím still not sure about the mechanics of the ending where DiCaprio and Watanabe manage to escape limbo, though.
Working Girl: I like Mike Nichols, but sometimes, especially during pop-song montages, he can lay it on a little thick. Iím also not convinced by the ending, but Hollywood demands upbeat finales, so I can live with it. Harrison Ford appears awfully late to be top-billed, though.
Grizzly Rage: Apparently shown as a Sci-Fi original movie, I acquired this ďmovieĒ for my birthday as a gag. As terrible as you might expect in most respects, and in some, itís even worse. Itís too long and has too few scenes of the advertised rage to be worth watching even for laughs. The ďending,Ē if one is to generously call it that, was hilariously badóas if the filmmakers were completely out of money and just had to call it a day. Apparently the star played Tom Hanksí son in Road to Perdition
a few years ago--his career has taken a nasty dive since.
Chaplin: At times, this suffers the same problem that afflicts most biopics: it feels more like a travelogue than a narrative. Famous people and events are paraded across the screen, most of their appearances are over in short order, and a greater theme or focus is at best only alluded to. At times, the film wants to be about Chaplinís politics, about Chaplinís love life, about his family relations, about his friendship with Douglas Fairbanks, and about his love for the movies. But the film can never pick one thing, so it mostly hangs the proceedings on Robert Downey, Jr.ís performance, which, luckily, is terrific. The actor so wonderfully embodies Charlie Chaplin that you forget, at times, that youíre not watching the genuine article. Kevin Kline, too, is perfectly cast as Fairbanks. He probably gets the most screen time out of any of the supporting players. Heís too old to return to the part now, which is a shame, because a movie that focused on the Chaplin/Fairbanks friendship would be terrific. With the exception of some dodgy old-age make-up (Chaplin at 80 looks like a space alien) itís a superbly executed film, and it is eminently watchable, but without a focus, it isnít the masterpiece it wants to be.
The Men Who Made the Movies: Sam Fuller: One of Richard Schickelís better documentaries, this accomplishes what any good documentary about a filmmaker should doóit made me want to see his films. Like all of Schickelís documentaries, itís entirely workmanlike, composed of an interview with the director (this one more insightful than his piece on Spielberg, for example), clips from the directorís films, and some voice over narration (by Sydney Pollack) to fill in the gaps, but the parts are interesting enough that it works. It also helps, no doubt, that I havenít seen much of Fullerís filmography, so the pieces reliance on long film clips is less annoying than usual.
Moment of Impact: This documentary aired on TNT in 1999, and exhibits some of the forms worst tendencies on television (the DVD, a gift, has been sitting on my shelf for almost six years). First, thereís the overbearing narration by Sam Watterson from a cheap, museum-like set. Itís intended to add weight to the proceedings, but the subject (six Pulitzer Prize winning photographs) needs none, and it ultimately comes off as distracting and extraneous. Second, thereís the constant throbbing of synthesized music. Instead of commenting on the action, it is simply there. I suppose it is intended to keep the audienceís attention, but it is hardly dynamic enough to do so. Finally, there are some cheap dramatic recreations, shot with an unsteady camera. For a special that is ostensibly devoted to photography it has a complete lack of faith in still images, augmenting them with the sound of camera shutters and flashes, which becomes repetitive and annoying. All of those complaints said, the form can only detract so much from the material, which itself is fascinating more often than it is not.