Monday, May 30, 2005

Review – Cabaret

I know I’m supposed to be impressed by the Berlin-between-the-wars decadence and/or blown away by the famous musical numbers. But honestly my favorite part of this production was the backdrops. I loved the look and feel of the locations much more than the sad, silly antics of the characters. It didn’t help that the cast was headed up by wooden Michael York and spastic Liza Minelli. I feel bad saying this about the role she’s probably best known for, but she’s at best inconsistent as Sally. Sometimes you can almost feel for the character, but then Minelli slips and out comes her own less-than-endearing personality rather than the part she’s supposed to be playing. To complete the Three Faces of Liza: whenever she starts to sing a solo, out comes Mama. Joel Grey does a solid job in the role that will be forever associated with him, and his performance works at least in part because he blends in so well with the time and the place rather than trying to Hollywood all over everything. A projectionist in Asia once screened The Sound of Music with all the musical numbers cut out. I’d like to see something similar tried here (annoying things just get stuck in my head anyway). And as long as the scissors are out, cut down the leads’ screen time and see what kind of movie can be made out of the subplots that emphasize key elements of this fascinating period in history. Mildly amusing

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Review – Atlantic City

Imagine Willy Loman as a superannuated numbers runner and you’ve got the gist of this critically-acclaimed Louis Malle movie. Burt Lancaster does a yeoman’s job as an old, low-level mobster who gets the chance to pretend to be someone important when he comes by a load of cocaine and the ready cash he makes from selling it. This is one of those twisty little stories in which everyone ends up tied to everyone else. In particular, our “hero” latches on to a oyster-shucking ingĂ©nue (Susan Sarandon) who dreams of dealing cards in Monte Carlo. Though Lancaster comes across as a little too old for the mid-life crisis he appears to be having, this is nonetheless an interesting portrait of middle-aged American masculinity. Beyond that, though, there’s an interesting parallel between the man and the city he lives in, both faded, both apparently anxious to relive days that never were. Mildly amusing

Friday, May 6, 2005

Review – The Amityville Horror (2005)

This isn’t Detroit, it’s … well, Detroit might have been a scarier movie. This isn’t horror as much as it’s the Amityville Annoyance. The Lutzes and the sad tale of their possessed house might have made a much better production than this. The book at least had a little potential. Not much, but a little. Even the first movie was scarier. The script is terrible (great priest quote: “Mrs. Lutz, your house frightens me”). The acting is sub-par. But worst of all, the production relies almost entirely on the booga-booga shot for entertainment value. A couple of them sort of work, but for the most part they’re the cinematic equivalent of a handshake with a joy buzzer: as witless as they are unwelcome. Further, the end fell even flatter than the rest of the picture. See if desperate