Friday, November 28, 2003

Review – The Cat's Meow

Finally Eddie Izzard gets a role he can sink his teeth into. If nothing else, he should get some kind of prize for being the first actor in history to portray Charlie Chaplin without doing the Little Fellow even once. Of course the story didn’t exactly call for it. Instead, here we have the infamous Hollywood tale of how producer Tom Ince managed to meet his end on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht. The most widely-accepted version of Ince’s demise is that Hearst was pissed off at Chaplin for trying to seduce Marion Davies (capably played here by Kirsten Dunst) and ended up shooting Ince after mistaking him for Chaplin. Director Peter Bogdanovich deserves a big scoop of respect for making excellent use of his cast and portraying Tinseltown decadence and violent homicide with almost no on-screen sex or violence. I suppose you need to bring at least some affection for the Roaring Twenties into this experience, but if you like this sort of thing you’re in for a real treat here. Worth seeing

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Review – All the Queen's Men

Okay, here’s the plot. The Allies are trying to steal an Enigma decoder. They can get male agents into the factory that makes the things, but the workers there are all women. So guess what? Our intrepid heroes must learn to dress convincingly in drag. Eddie Izzard obviously has no trouble pulling it off as a transvestite forced into service to train the other three guys in a squad headed by ultra-macho Matt LeBlanc. The result ranges from genuine entertainment along the lines of the classic British black comedies to amusing farce to just plain silly. Even so, it’s one of the better movies of 2003 and might have been better still if they’d given Izzard a larger role. Worth seeing

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Review – Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary

Here’s a documentary made compelling solely by the identity of its subject. The movie is two or three videotaped interviews with Traudl Junge – one of Hitler’s personal secretaries from 1942 until his death – spliced together into an awkward production that nonetheless remains fairly fascinating throughout. I know I’ve probably complained about the excessive use of this sort of thing elsewhere, but here it actually would have been nice for the talking heads to have been intercut with historical footage or at least some old stills showing some of the people and places being discussed. But even the minimalist approach chosen by the director does a solid job conveying the chilling normalcy of life inside the Third Reich’s high command, particularly in its final days buried in a bunker in Berlin. Mildly amusing

Friday, November 14, 2003

Review – Blood Simple

This early effort by the Coen brothers does an astonishingly good job of playing out the theme suggested by its title. What starts out with a sleazy bar owner mad at his wife for running off with a bartender ends up as an impressive parade of scummy characters doing the dumbest things imaginable thanks to a simple inability to cope with their own culpability in a domino line of crimes. If nothing else, it’s fun just to watch the number of obvious finger print specimens everyone keeps leaving everywhere. The humor here isn’t as broad as it is in some of the Coens’ later work, and there’s pluses and minuses to that. Overall this is a delightful little white trash thriller of murder so stupid you’d almost swear it had to be a true story. Worth seeing

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Review – Black Widow

Wealthy single men beware! There’s a beautiful serial killer (Teresa Russell) out there looking to worm her way into your life, marry you, bump you off and walk away with all your money. Unfortunately for her, crypto-lesbian tendencies leave her vulnerable to a sassy little stalker (Debra Winger) who figures out her game. If only the stalker wasn’t a federal agent, things might have gone more smoothly for our sultry anti-heroine. As it turned out … well, as with all mystery thrillers you should probably watch the movie if you want to know how it turns out. Aside from the empty-headed Hollywood take on lesbians, this is a reasonably good example of the mystery genre. Mildly amusing

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Review – The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer

Here’s the back-story from Stephen King’s Rose Red expanded and recut as its own little production. As isolated incidents intercut into the King miniseries it kinda worked, but here it plays like a silly soap opera with supernatural hocus-pocus thrown in. Without the tie-in to the bigger show, I doubt if this would ever have been made. Even if it existed, I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to rent it. And perhaps that would have been for the best, because to be blunt this is one of the most boring horror movies I’ve ever seen. Even an undercurrent of kinky sex isn’t enough to stir any interest. See if desperate

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Review – Coven

If you’ve seen American Movie then you already know that the title of this unique little picture is pronounced with a long “o” because otherwise it would sound too much like “oven.” Normally I don’t review movies this short (only 40 minutes or so, thank God), but it makes such a natural combination with the documentary about its creation. To be completely fair to Mark Borchardt, this production isn’t anywhere near as bad as I expected. It’s plenty bad, coming in around midway between Begotten and an especially uninteresting episode of The Twilight Zone about an AA meeting that turns out to be run by a coven of evildoers. But aside from the technical quality (and the script and the acting) I guess I’ve seen worse. See if desperate