Friday, November 29, 2013
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 53
Serpico (1973, dir. Sidney Lumet) These days it's hard to believe that Al Pacino was ever more than a cartoon character, but in the 1970s Pacino actually offered different performances in his movies. I recently decided that Serpico was my favorite Pacino performance. I know! I'm just as surprised as you! After all, that's high praise, and means that I'm putting this particular movie over the likes The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and EVEN The Godfather Saga: A Novel For Television! Is it because Al Pacino shows a lot of vulnerability and humanity in this movie? Well, he also does in another Lumet film, Dog Day Afternoon, but yet I still prefer this one, so that might not be the only reason. Is it because Serpico is a movie about one good cop fighting the tide of corruption? Because during the 1980s I grew up on movies about just that very thing (though usually with a lot more karate kicks and splits). It must be a combination of those two reasons that make me love it so much. It's the perfect storm of an approachable, nuanced Al Pacino performance AND the good cop vs. everyone else plot that would get worn out a few years later. Between 1972 and 1975, Al Pacino was the king. This is one of the reasons why.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956, dir. Inoshiro Honda) I had no idea this was on Netflix until fairly recently. This is the American version, which I actually prefer to the tedious, overlong, and preachy Japanese original. I will admit that this version may contain a tad too much newly shot material featuring Raymond Burr (as journalist Steve Martin!) looking out the window at footage from the original version and narrating.
I have warm memories of watching this movie on television as a child. When I was younger, this film taught me that history shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men.
The Plot in Brief: With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound [giant lizard Godzilla] pulls the spitting high-tension wires down. Helpless people on subway trains, scream, bug-eyed, as he looks in on them. [Godzilla] picks up a bus, and he throws it back down as he wades through the buildings toward the center of town. "Oh no!" they say, "He's got to go!"
Go go Godzilla.
Europa Report (2013, dir. Sebastian Cordero) Coming into the year, this movie and Gravity looked like doppelgangers (maybe in the broad way that White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen). That has turned out to not be the case; Gravity is focused on the story of one character, and Europa Report is more heavy on the science fiction, and surprised me with its atmospheric creepiness. Sharlto Copley is probably the most well-known name in the cast, but the narrative is split pretty evenly among all of the characters, who are on a mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. The story is told in flashback, so the movie plays out as the official "report" being given after the end of the mission.
Duck Soup (1933, dir. Leo McCarey) Duck Soup was my introduction to The Marx Brothers, and what an introduction it was. This remains one of my favorite movies of all time, and arguably my favorite comedy. Barely over an hour, Duck Soup is wall-to-wall laughs with the genius of Groucho, Harpo and Chico on full display. Oh, and Zeppo is in it too.
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987, dir. J. Lee Thompson) The fourth in Charles Bronson's Death Wish series is a big comedown from the truly insane Death Wish 3, but has a couple of things going for it. It's the first in the series to be directed by regular Bronson collaborator J. Lee Thompson, who took over for Michael Winner (the other director responsible for most of Bronson's sleaze). The two filmmakers are almost impossible to tell apart. It's fascinating. It features Dana Barron in a supporting role, so that's good. Mostly, though, The Crackdown MUST be watched just for its final five minutes. Even if you aren't digging on the '80s action sleaze for the first 90 minutes, the ending will not disappoint.