Thursday, August 16, 2007

Netflix Quick Picks - Round 2

Whereby I tell you what's worth adding to your queue and what you can skip. Ahem--here it goes:

1. Seven Samurai - This is classic Kurosawa, however, it's not for the mindless movie watcher. First, it's almost 3 and 1/2 hours LONG!!! That's even longer than David Lynch's Inland Empire which felt like it was NINE HUNDRED HOURS long. This one has an intermission, but in my opinion all DVDs have intermissions. Put it on pause, get up and pee, grab a snack, check your e-mail. Then hit play. Whatever.

Also, it's black and white. I know that for some of you, a movie isn't really a movie unless it's in Technicolor. Third, it's in Japanese with subtitles. And like most Japanese movies, you'll have a character babbling for three minutes in Japanese with a three word subtitle. Uh, really? I think he said more than that...

The last issue is that Seven Samurai is the movie that The Magnificent Seven was based on. Now, I loved The Magnificent Seven, but as soon as I figured out the Seven Samurai was essentially the same story (I had seen The Magnificent Seven first...), I sort of lost interest in watching the old, three and a half hour long, black and white, Japanese with English subtitles version. I made it through most of it. In my opinion, stick with the Americanized version. In addition to being an hour and a half SHORTER than the original version, it features James Coburn--as well as great performances by Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson and Eli Wallach.

The other thing I liked better about The Magnificent Seven over Seven Samurai is that the villagers in the remake are decent, noble, hard-working people who are being terrorized by Eli Wallach and his gang of banditos. In the original Japanese version, the villagers are portrayed as a bunch of whiny crybabies. Seriously--who wants to root for a bunch of whiners?

2. Point Blank - Interesting and edgy editing and chronology and of course Lee Marvin is aces. But ultimately I wasn't really thrilled by this neo-noir thriller.

3. Cat Ballou - Again Lee Marvin is excellent and Jane Fonda looks so pretty it hurts. Part western, part musical comedy--sort of like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly meets Oklahoma. It didn't quite work for me, but it was a mostly enjoyable ride.

4. Rock School - This documentary about Paul Green's Philadelphia music school for kids is a major snore. Unless you're majorly into Frank Zappa (as is Paul Green and by default all his students), you won't quite see the point of a nine year-old yelling Black Sabbath lyrics off-key into a microphone. Rent the Jack Black comedy School of Rock instead. You'll enjoy it much more.

5. Klute - Jane Fonda's career-defining performance also features a young Donald (Kiefer's dad) Sutherland in the title role. Other than being amazed at Fonda's stunning looks, this movie didn't do all that much for me. But it is a classic, so it's worth seeing.

6. The Long Goodbye - Neo-noir featuring Elliot Gould as Phillip Marlowe. Yup, that's right--Elliot Gould. Directed by Robert Altman. I love Altman; The Player, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Gosford Park, M.A.S.H.--all brilliant. Classics. The Long Goodbye is classic and brilliant for many people, but not for me. Noir is supposed to be taut and terse, not loose and loopy. Skip it--see Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon or (if it's not a "movie" unless it's in Technicolor) Joseph Gordon Levitt in Brick instead...

7. Volver - Penelope Cruz stars in this odd tale of mother-daughter love and sacrifice. It meanders a bit, but is ultimately engrossing thanks to the charm and sass of its star.

8. The Machinist - Christian Bale looking like he weighs less than Mary-Kate Olsen in this psychological thriller about a man with an extreme case of insomnia. It may not be that Bale's Trevor Reznik CAN'T sleep as much as he WON'T sleep. Excruciating to watch Bale's amazing performance of a tormented man whose grip on reality is slipping away with the rest of him. If you liked Jacob's Ladder, definitely add this to your queue!

9. Vanilla Sky - Tom Cruise was the perfect choice to cast as the man with everything and to whom everything comes easily. Dreamy, trippy, gorgeous.

Next up--more Christian Bale in American Psycho and Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in the classic Midnight Cowboy. Stay tuned!

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