Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Quickie Reviews

Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, A-)
I can't believe it took me this long to finally see this movie, since A.)I'm a pretty big fan of Errol Flynn, Olivia De Havilland, and Claude Rains and B.)I'm a pretty big fan of the Robin Hood legend. Needless to say, it's great, but what really caught my eye was the brilliant Technicolor. Yowza! That's one good-looking film. I don't think I've enjoyed Technicolor more (except, of course, in Gone With the Wind). Really stunning.

Sergeant York (Howard Hawks, A)
I mostly love this film for Gary Cooper (I watch Sergeant York and Pride of the Yankees nearly every time their on t.v.) and the hilarious scene where York shows-up his superior officers at the firing range. And of course the rah-rah America stuff, which I can never get enough of (hello Yankee Doodle Dandy and Cagney's Cohan). But the scene I really picked up on this time was the conversion scene, where York gets struck by lightning and enters the church to be "saved" and get religion. Now, I'm an anonymous, back-pew-sitting Catholic, so my religious experiences are the furthest thing from York's evangelical, old time religion stuff, and so that scene has kind of a weird/strange vibe for me. But the cool thing is that Hawks doesn't try to soften it, or make it a more mainstream, unobtrusive Christianity -- he lets the whole wild, ecstatic scene play out, and even though it's kind of strange from my religious perspective, it's also strangely beautiful.

Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, A-)
Now, I'm not saying this movie isn't a masterpiece, but I only gave it an "A-" because I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be after watching it. I've heard often that it's Renoir's best, but I LOVE Grand Illusion, so I think I was expecting Rules to be way better than Grand Illusion, and it wasn't, at least for me. I think I need to watch the film again, since I had a headache the night I saw it, and also because Renoir's style isn't always as "obviously" great as some of the more flashy directors (i.e. - Eisenstein or Griffith). So, "A-" for now, may be revised.

Mirrormask (Dave McKean, B, previously B+, but I don't know why I rated it that way earlier, it should have been B from the start)
This movie is so totally strange, imaginative, and inventive in its visuals that it's hard not to like it just on that aspect alone. But I also liked Helena and her story: her fantastic drawings; her purity and goodness; her guilt about her mother; her determination to try and put things right. I went in expecting the movie to look great (Dave McKean, the Henson Co., come on), but I actually ended up liking the story and characters too, and that was something I did not expect. And it's got a little creepiness to some of it as well. Plus, always good to see a movie with a circus in it. The circus is that place where happiness and terror seem to exist in equal amounts -- contradictions and paradoxes (and freaky clowns) abound at the circus.

Cars (John Lasseter, B+)
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie, since I'm not much of a car person (a veritable sin here in the Motor City). But the visuals were gorgeous, the jokes were really funny and/or clever, and the ending had a nice twist to the usual sports movie formula. Cars also tapped into my natural affinity for nostalgia -- I'm a total "back in the good ol' days" kinda gal, and this movie really lays that on pretty thick.

Key Largo (John Huston, B+)
Bogey kinda bored me in this one, but whoa man! do Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor make up for it! I feel like this is Robinson's film more than Bogart's, really. I much prefered Johnny Rocco's descent into paranoia over the raging hurricane than I did the world-weary-hero-regains-his-ideals that Bogart seemed to be recycling from Casablanca (it was much better in the earlier film). And Claire Trevor. Wow. That is one very well-deserved Oscar. The scene where she sings in front of everybody in order to get Rocco to give her a drink? Painfully awkward, utterly humiliating -- fantastic. And when Rocco shakes his head to one of his goons and smiles sadistically, and you know he's not going to give her the drink, but she keeps on singing so desperately -- I actually felt kinda sick to my stomach at that point, I was so embarrassed for her, and so disgusted with Rocco. And then Bogey gets up and gives her the drink, and he gets slapped across the face by Edward G. Robinson. Yeah. That's one helluva scene.


LeaJo said...

Wow...I've...never even heard of most of those movies (sorry).
I agree with your review of Mirrormask however. What a cool looking movie! Definitely gets a B if only for the monkey birds and the floating giants. I'd recommend it to any lover of fantasy.

Nate said...

Gosh, now I want to go see Sergeant York. I remember the turkey shoot scene being awfully good, too.