Friday, February 16, 2007

The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Action movies of the late 80s and early 90s were awesome - this is something we can all agree upon. I was digging around on netflix and ran across Roger Ebert's review for The Last Boy Scout. Part of me wants to call him a sissy panty waist for crying about violence. Lately I've become more and more annoyed by people who complain about violence and profanity in movies. I don't care if they don't want to watch those kinds of movies that's fine. I don't want to watch movies with Drew Barrymore. However don't watch a movie then piss, bitch, and moan about how it was so violent and so vulgar and crude - a recent example being The Departed. It's a fucking action movie.

Part of my love for The Last Boy Scout is because of the insane violence and over the top profanity. Joe Hallenbeck is one my heroes. Seriously. I love the fact that he's completely beat down by life and just doesn't fucking care. This is what saves his bacon throughout the movie.

I'm pretty sure that this movie is a litmus test for new people I meet. Chances are if you don't like this movie then we're not going to get along. I'm just sayin'.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

We made this our Tuesday night feature and it was well worth it. Most of you have probably seen it or heard something about it or seen a preview or two by now. This was another one of those movies that we had been tracking since started mentioning it. Then it opened in Europe and was delayed in the States for what seemed like ages. I had almost given up on seeing it and just put it on netflix.

I am really happy that I didn't. I haven't felt my insides shifted by a movie in a long time. It sounds nuts but I'm sure you know what I mean. There are some moments in movies where you feel your guts get twisted up or you're so engrossed in the movie that bizarre cinematic empath kicks in. There some truly visceral moments in Pan's Labyrinth - not blood and guts and veins in your teeth - but some moments that are hard to watch. Not because of Argento-esque splatterpunk or gore for the sake of gore. In fact Del Toro and his editiors manage brilliantly to cut to another scene or angle just at the moment of impact. This old fashioned "what you don't see is worse than what you do see" sensibility mixed with a few moments of "oh shit" - i.e. the bitten off leg floating to the bottom of the boat pond in Jaws - makes for some gripping watching.I think that I might be putting the cart in front of the horse by starting off this review by talking about how gory or not gory it is. Then again...

Pan's Labyrinth is a fairy tale. It bothers me that many reviews call this an adult fantasy. Many of us read Grimm's Fairy Tales while growing up. If you didn't then you don't know how fucked up those stories are. Cannibalism, infanticide, beheadings, baking with bonemeal, abandonment, white slavery, wicked stepmothers...and people worry about video games making people go apeshit whacko? Pan's Labyrinth has some bizarre, menacing, and really troubling moments in it. There were times I was worried for the main character Ofelia. I don't worry about protagonists in fairy tale and fantasy movies. Fuck, the term fairy tale these days usually has an element of risk akin to eating a new dish at a restaurant you go to weekly. Fantasy is nothing more than shit shovellers saving the day. Now don't think that you should drag a little kid to see this movie - Del Toro doesn't sugar coat a single god damn thing and that's why I love him. Hell I'm worried about having nightmares from a few moments of this movie.

All right, enough, how was the movie? Pretty fucking awesome. Sergi Lopez is an actor I swear I've seen before but in this movie he is a monster. His El Capitan Vidal is truly evil. Sure there's some redeeming nepotism but all in all this guy is someone who would be perfectly happy running a forced labour camp or a death squad. I'm going to look into finding more movies that this guy is in becaue he makes my blood run cold. Ivana Baquero - Ofelia - has a quality to her that I can't quit put my finger on. Not china doll, not fragile, not innocent, not creepy hot Natalie Portman, I really don't know what it is except that she was completely believeable in her role. If someone has some input on this I'd like to hear it.

The cinematography is amazing though some may think that it's overly dark. I'd be interested in adding the score to my collection though no one theme or piece - save El Capitan's 78rpm really sticks out. I recommend this movie to a friend, family member or neighbour. It's been a long time since I've seen something that I get feeling that the director said, "Fuck it. This is the movie I want to make and fuck you if you don't like it."

Man it's nice seeing movies in the theater again.

Late addition: Turns out that Sergi Lopez was in Un Ami Qui Vous Veut du Bien or With a Friend Like Harry or possibly a more accurate translation With a good friend like this. This is a movie I've ranted about before and Sergi Lopez is the bad guy in this too. Man this is a creepy movie. Slow and excellent Sunday watching.

Children of Men (2006)

Solid dystopian speculative sci-fi movies are very hard to come by. Post-apocalytpic movies usually involve zombies, eating dog food, and driving machines built out of buses and aluminium siding - all well and good for hooting and hollering and spilling cheap beer on yourself. Movies like 1984 and Blade Runner are a rarity. Cyberpunk is kaput. Really doesn't leave fans with much.Children of Men really worked on every level for me. I'm taking it for what it is - dystopian misery in a reality not far removed from our own. Yes I realize that there are different themes and inferences to be drawn from The Nativity to left-wing propaganda. I don't care - it made me feel like I was watching the future. No flying cars, no robots, no hope, everything gone to shit, bombings, pandemics, and all the fun ways people treat each other like shit. The more I think about this movie the more I like it.

Down to brass tacks: the acting was great and completely believable in my book. The cinematography was brilliant. Part of the reason why I want to buy this when it comes out on DVD is because I need to read all the graffiti and assorted set dressing. The script worked for me - I'm going to pick up the novel ASAP. I recommend seeing this in the theater because the sound is top-notch.

Just go see this movie. If you don't like it please let me know why. I'd be interested in hearing other people's views on this one.

The Departed (2006)

I'll be completely honest - I thought this movie was gonna be pretty crappy and at certain points I thought it was going to crap out. The last couple of Scorcese movies just haven't done a single thing for me at all. In fact quite the opposite I thought they sucked or have held no draw for me. DiCaprio & Nicholson aren't actors I go out of my way to see. Most of time that turns me off of the movie. What can I say? I'm not a fan.

The Departed worked for me. I left the movie happy which is on the twisted side considering that it's a pretty grim movie. Whatever plot holes or problems there were didn't bother me at all - I'm not going to nitpick. The acting was solid across the board - though Nicholson grated on me at times. DiCaprio pulled off a good performance. Matt Damon is a great scumbag. Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg, and good old Ray Winstone were the real prizes for me. Personally I would have prefered to have seen them on screen more often.

For a remake of an HK movie I thought that The Departed was pretty damn cool. The script was pulled from Infernal Affairs (2002), a Hong Kong cop drama with Andy Lau and Tony Leung - both fine HK actors. I can't recall seeing this movie in all honesty though I know I've pulled the box off the shelf at Vulcan and gone, "Huh, HK cop drama." Oh yeah, checking I realized that I haven't seen Infernal Affairs because it sounded like any number of HK cop/action/dramas from the early/mid 90s only without Chow Yun Fat in it. Many thanks to Mike for opening my eyes to those.

Hands down it was the dialogue that really shone. Sure it was tough guy dialogue but hey these were tough guys in a tough guy movie. The soundtrack was typical Scorcese - no real surprises or tracks that stick in my mind. The editing was good though I have to admit that I think there might have been something wrong with the print at the theater. Some of scene changes seemed really abrupt and early on the dialogue just cut out - unfortunately it a chunk of the scene where Wahlberg is tearing DiCaprio a new one.

Pros: Dialogue. Wahlberg, Baldwin, & Winstone. Nice seeing a movie when nothing good happens in the end. Matt Damon getting beat to shit.

Cons: Editing. Forgettable soundtrack. Jack Nicholson making shit up - no seriously. There are three scenes which Nicholson just acts all weird. I can just imagine him saying, "Look I wanna do this see. It'll be fucking genius. Add all these layers and shake up the squares." There are people out there who like watching Nicholson blow himself on screen but I'm not one of them.

All in all it's not Scorcese's best movie or my favorite movie of his. Hell I don't think that it's really Oscar material either. It is what it is though: a solid, mean, nasty, vulgar, brutal, depressing, and thoroughly enjoyable cops and robbers movie.