Good weekend to everybody.With work not being as demanding this week, I had more leisure energy. I have gotten to a few films so far. PITFALL (1962, dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara) – Teshigahara’s feature debut is a strange film. While interesting on a visual level, the shifting focus of the narrative became more than a little confounding at times. It could best be described as a tale of coal miners with crime and supernatural aspects mixed in. Like his more famous Woman in the Dunes, there is an appealing earthiness to Teshigahara’s style. STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN (2002) – A work colleague plays Motown recordings frequently. Listening to those songs inspired me to revisit this documentary about the musicians who played on the Motown recordings made in Detroit, the Funk Brothers. It captures the joyful spirit of Motown’s early years. Some of the concert footage could have been cut out to tighten up the narrative.DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (1966, dir. Mario Bava) – I did not care for this the first time I watched it. To be brief, my opinion of the film did not improve with a second viewing. A spy spoof with a bit of Dr. Strangelove thrown in, the film is irritatingly goofy for most of the 82-minute runtime. Vincent Price’s hammy performance and the soundtrack are the best aspects of it. The version on Prime does look good, though.
Vincent Price in a Mario Bava film? :-O Do tell! :-D
Though Bava directed it, there are few traces of his style in The Girl Bombs, J.M. It is another mid-1960s AIP mishmash of bikinis and zany humor; I kept thinking about The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini while watching it. (I actually liked Invisible Bikini, though.) The worst part of The Girl Bombs is Italian comedy team Franco and Ciccio. Their slapstick nonsense and the English dub for them did not do anything for for me at all.
A while back Criterion had Teshigahara's "Pitfall" in a DVD Box Set with his "Woman in the Dunes" (flat-out masterpiece), "The Face of Another" (which NYC's Metrograph is showing tonight in 35mm... can't attend because gotta work tonight! :'( ) and a bonus disc with the director's early shorts. This Box Set is now out of print and super expensive, but I owned it at one time and "Pitfall" seemed like the odd duck of the bunch. It was a fine and decent atmospheric debut film (love Japanese 50's and 60's B&W films), but the two follow-up films are so far superior it's almost an unfair comparison.
Most of the rest of the world got to see it late last year, but Céline Sciamma's PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (2020) has finally been released theatrically in the States. I'm a big fan of 2013's "Blue Is the Warmest Color" (the entirety of the film, not just... you know), and "Portrait's" just as heartbreaking and sensual in its depiction of true love repressed by social mores of its time. Using restraint to underscore how precious and fleeting their intimate moments are meant to last them a lifetime, female painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and meant-for-marriage mistress Heloise (Adèle Haenel, a dead ringer for young Kate Winslet) make a lovely and joyfully sad couple you wish could spend the rest of their (fictitious) lives together. I could have done without an abortion subplot involving a maid (Luàna Bajrami), and it's eye-opening that Valeria Golino (Ramada in the "Hot Shots!" movies) is now old-enough to play matron roles... but just because I didn't care for these supporting characters doesn't mean they don't work for the narrative. Excellent use of music too (no soundtrack/score, just period-acciurate music/songs the characters infrequently hear) that leads to one of the most awe-inspiring final shots I've ever seen. Highly recommended. Rewatched STAR WARS EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019) in 3D before the remaining screenings dropped down to vanilla 2D. Not the best 3D I've seen, but decent (the first Millennium Falcon chase is pretty good). I enjoyed "ROS more this time because I went in with the mindset that this is how a 10-12 year-old kid would make a "Star Wars" flick if one of their leading ladies (Carrie Fisher) wasn't available. You can't undersell how the chemistry between Boyega, Isaac, Ridley and Driver (whose Kylo Ren grew into a more interesting character as the trilogy unfolded) helps viewers overlook what a clusterfuck of rushed filmmaking this final chapter of a nine-movie saga feels like. And if this turns out to be John Williams' final "SW" score, the man went out like he came in: on top of his game.Was the world clamoring for an American remake of a six-year old French/Swedish film? Not really, but at least DOWNHILL (2020) has a great starting point in "Force Majeure" to build upon. Too bad actors-turned-filmmakers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (2013's "The Way Way Back") pare down the story to its surface-deep basics. This would be fine if a good actor played the role of the middle-aged husband that panics and abandons his family, but Will Ferrell is both out of his depth and not given a chance to flex his dramatic muscles. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Miranda Otto do their best to get minor laughs, but "Downhill" is basically a shell of its superior European inspiration. Pass.ENTER THE FAT DRAGON (2020) is what happens when Donnie Yen wants to do Jackie Chan-style action comedy in-between his "Ip Man" films. Seriously, there's even a reel at the end to show outtakes and how an entire city block was built inside a studio to allow better staging of the rooftop-running stunts. Shame the finale set atop Japan's Tokyo Tower uses so much CG/green screen it becomes ridiculous. Donnie and his stuntmen wear the fat suits fine, but co-star Jessica Jann (Maggie) is so shrill and unlikable it's hard to believe Fallon Zhu ("just like Jimmy Fallon," an actual line of dialogue!) could muster his former bad-ass self to try and rescue her. Decent-to-good action sequences at the service of a 'meh' story equals rental... or lazy Sunday afternoon viewing when it hits streaming sites.
I saw the new Fantasy Island. As I wrote on Twitter, let's just say it's... a movie. I put on Big Trouble in Little China the other night to de-stress. Still great, of course. And tonight, it was Mulholland Drive. I had totally forgotten about the dumpster guy, and I was NOT PREPARED.
Didn't watch that many movies this week, but there were a few.The Super Inframan is a 1975 superhero movie from Hong Kong. As you'd expect, the budget is small, but the movie makes up for it with fun monster designs and a short runtime that keeps the plot moving. The occasionally wonky English dub adds to the fun.Time Share is a Mexican mystery/thriller/black comedy about sinister forces working behind a holiday resort's happy exterior. Really liked it, it's exactly the kind of low key weird that I'm into, mundane people acting absurdly with no discernible reason (see also: Dogtooth, The Lobster and Deerskin).Also rewatched The Prestige, which is still my absolute favorite Christopher Nolan film, and Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate, which is one of the best remakes ever. And The Empire Strikes Back with Blank Check Podcast's commentary track. Those are always a good time.
I love rewatching movies I own with fan commentary tracks. Never heard of Blank Check, might check them out if their commentary track pics match my own. :-)
Blank Check is a great podcast and well worth checking out, but their commentaries are behind the Patreon paywall. Last year, they did all of the MCU movies, and now they're doing Star Wars.
Super Inframan is fun, Mikko. A long time has passed since I watched it. I remember there being a lot of actions scenes, especially toward the conclusion. It was shown last year at the Mahoning Drive-In, but I could not attend.
I watched The Little Mermaid (1989) with the family. Glad to see it again. It was interesting to see my kids reactions to the animation at first. "This is garbage! The resolution is terrible! Was this drawn by kids?!". They're so used to computer animation. They quickly settled into it, however, and the movie was a big hit.I loved how fast paced it was between the songs. (The prince meets Ariel, falls in love, then meets Ursula in disguise, and is getting married to her, all in the span of 1.5 minutes it seemed. With a 4 minute song somewhere in the middle). It clocks in at ~82 minutes, which is perfect for a musical fairy tail.