Monthly Archive for August, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine (8/31/10) Netflix (2010 ***) Directed by Steve Pink, starring John Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Crispin Glover and Chevy Chase. Four middle aged man-boys travel back to the 80’s and screw around with the time-space continuum. There must be something magic about the number four when it comes to male bonding. Honestly, this was just a lot of good fun, and it was generally well made. I loved the premise and only wish it had been a little smarter and a little funnier. But it’s still a great choice for a video rental or download or whatever it is kids are doing these days.

Summertime

Summertime (8/30/10) TV-TCM (1955 ***1/4) Directed by David Lean, starring Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi and Darren McGavin. An aging and lonely American woman vacations in Venice, Italy and finds love in the arms of a married man. David Lean is possibly best known for Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and after watching the beautiful, often bordering on travelogue-esque, shots of Venice in this film, I’m positive Lean wished he could have gone back and reshot the whole thing in a widescreen format. As for the story, it was interesting how American morality and attitudes toward sex and consensual adultery was portrayed in a fairly mature fashion. It all culminated in an ending that was nearly perfect.

John Williams and the Music of the Movies

John Williams and the Music of the Movies (8/28/10) Hollywood Bowl (2010 ***1/2) For the first half of this concert, Williams conducted the L.A. Philharmonic as they played beloved music by other composers. And in the second half, they played his hits. After last year’s journey into esoteric selections and generally questionable choices, I suspect someone sat Mr. Williams down and said something like: “John, I think you overestimated the interest in your score from the 1978 version of Dracula.” All kidding aside, this was a satisfying concert and it was especially fun to see all the light sabers waving in unison during “The Imperial March” from Star Wars.

The Courtship of Eddie’s Father

The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (8/28/10) TV-TCM (1963 ***1/2) Directed by Vincente Minelli, based on the novel by Mark Toby, starring Glenn Ford, Shirley Jones, Stella Stevens, Jerry Van Dyke, Dina Merrill and little Ronny Howard as Eddie. Shortly after the death of his wife, a man and his little boy pick up the pieces, one woman at a time. Even though it was obvious within the first ten minutes of the film who Tom Corbett (Ford) will wind up with at the end of the film, it was still fun watching how the story would get there. I grew up watching the Bill Bixby TV series based on this film, and some of my recollections of that series got mixed up with having previously seen this film long ago. It was particularly fun to see Ron Howard at such a young age. Much of the story’s success rested on him being able to play his role as well as he did.

The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia (8/26/10) Netflix (2006 ***) Directed by Brian De Palma, screenplay by Josh Friedman, based on the novel by James Ellroy, starring Josh Hartnet, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson and Hillary Swank. Set in post-WWII Los Angeles, two pugilistic detectives investigate one of the most sensationalistic (and unsolved) murders in crime history. Though based on “actual events,” the story presented here was, of course, far more fiction than fact. It was a treat seeing Brian De Palma, who directed The Untouchables in 1987, back in the director’s seat. Every frame of film dripped lovingly with noir. De Palma frequently engaged in visual pyrotechnics that called attention to his directing hand. Mostly I enjoyed the self-indulgence, except for one scene shot using a first-person POV camera, which was completely unmotivated as far as I could tell. Maybe there was some explanation for its inclusion, possibly as a reference to the classic noir film Dark Passage with Humphrey Bogart which used the same technique.

Katharine Hepburn: All About Me

Katharine Hepburn: All About Me (8/25/10) TV-TCM (1993 ***) Directed by David Heeley. In this autobiographical documentary, Katharine Hepburn (who was in her late eighties at the time) narrates her way through home movies and archival footage of her film career. At the risk of being booed off the page, I have to say that the choice of Hepburn as narrator combined with the absence of closed-captioning meant that I only understood about every other word she was saying. But still the woman was a fascinating figure in film history, and her strength and style will hopefully continue to serve as an inspiration for future generations of young women.

Brainstorm

Brainstorm (8/23/10) TV-TCM (1983 ***) Directed by Douglas Trumbull, starring Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher and Cliff Robertson. Scientists at an evil corporation invent a sensory VCR but… did I mention it’s an EVIL corporation? This film was Natalie Wood’s last, and she died before principle photography was finished. I saw Brainstorm in the theaters when it was originally released, two years after Wood’s death, and watching it again after all these years I was surprised by how good parts of it were. The first thirty minutes or so seemed like it was going to be a pretty good movie. Unfortunately, the quality became uneven, with some awkward slapstick scenes (hapless security guards slipping on ball bearings) thrown in for no apparent reason. The fundamental problem of this film, however, was its central conflict: Walken’s character was driven by a desire to play back a certain “toxic” brain-tape, but the motivations for (a) him doing so, (b) his wife assisting him in the process, and (c) others trying to prevent it from happening didn’t hold up to any kind of scrutiny.

Batman: R.I.P.

Batman: R.I.P. (8/21/10) Graphic Novel (2009 **1/2) Written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Tony S. Daniel. Batman goes crazy and battles The Black Glove and The Joker. I think at this point I’ve decided to give up on Grant Morrison and steer clear of his comics. I don’t consider myself a stupid person, but as with several of his books in the past, I had a hard time following what the hell was going on for most of this book, and believe it or not, that affected my enjoyment of it. There was one high point, however: A brief cameo by Bat-Mite as a helpful figment of Batman’s imagination.

Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Season 6

Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Season 6 (8/20/10) TV-Bravo (2010 ***1/2) In the latest season, Kathy and “Team Griffin” deal with Tom’s somnambulism, a public pap smear, poorly-conceived house remodelling, the death of a beloved pet and Kathy’s mother Maggie’s excursions into Mu-mu’s and publishing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Kathy Griffin, and her show is the only “reality TV” I’m interested in watching. My wife and I have been watching it for several years now, and every year we say the same thing: “That’s it? The 10-episode season was over way too soon.”

Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso (8/18/10) Netflix (1988 ***) Directed by Giuseppe Tomatore, starring Philippe Noiret as Alfredo and Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi and Jacques Perrin as Salvatore ‘Toto’ di Vita. In post-WWII Italy, a young boy wants nothing more that to be a movie projectionist, but the man who’s held the job for decades thinks he should set his sights higher. I must admit something utterly terrible: I saw Cinema Paradiso on video a few years after it was originally released and I remember absolutely falling in love with it. This time around I still found it adorable, but its 3-hour length tested my patience. I was frequently on the edge of being bored, and I didn’t find the lessons contained in its story to run particularly deep. Perhaps Cinema Paradiso is best suited for a younger audience. Or perhaps the film’s unabashed romanticism of the cinema has a different meaning to me now that I’ve been working on the other side of the silver screen for over a decade.