16-22 June 2008

June 26 2008 at 9:59 pm (The list)

Last week, I made up for the previous week’s laziness by ticking three films off the list:

Manhunter (1986)
I’d already seen Brett Ratner’s 2002 remake and really enjoyed it so I was somewhat confused back in 2002 as to why everyone dismissed it. The truth is, though, that it is so similar to Michael Mann’s early entry to the Hannibal Lecter canon that remaking it was, indeed, unnecessary. William Petersen is a better, more haunted Will Graham than Ed Norton, and while Brain Cox’s Hannibal Lecktor (an actor always worth watching) is not as chilling as Anthony Hopkins’, the presence of the character is so minimal that it makes more room for Tom Noonan’s deeply troubled Francis Dollarhyde. Personally I prefer Red Dragon if only for the ending, but Manhunter is still a great thriller.
Rating: 4/5

Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
I must be the last human being in the Western world to watch Breakfast At Tiffany’s but I’m glad I finally got around to it. Blake Edwards’ charming film about the growing relationship between a New York ‘it’ girl and the struggling writer who moves into the apartment above hers may be a little slapdash but its influence cannot be denied. Audrey Hepburn is a delight as Holly Golightly (here a more acceptable socialite than the obvious call girl in the novel) and George Peppard is a wonder as Paul Varjak. Despite her many flaws, the film carefully manages to paint Holly in a sympathetic light, but the changes in tone (now slapstick, now melodrama, now screwball) jar with the rain sodden seriousness of the happy ending.
Rating: 4/5

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
Howard Hawks showed off his passion for aviation in this hugely enjoyable film about an airmail service high in the Andes. While Cary Grant looks odd out of a suit, he is just great as the boss with a heart of stone. Having said that, there is a great cast of supporting players especially Richard Barthelmess and Thomas Mitchell. You know exactly where the soap opera story is going but it’s fun watching it getting there especially with the gripping flight scenes.
Rating: 4/5

Shame list total: 772

The other, more recent, films watched last week were as follows:

Interview (2007)
Filmed in real time, this mercifully short film is about a political journalist (Steve Buscemi, who also directs) who was told by his editor to interview a famous soap star (Sienna Miller) despite knowing or caring nothing about her. The trouble is that ten minutes in the interesting central concept has already run out of steam and the film is reduced to two people being intermittently nasty and nice to each other for no good reason such are the shortcomings of the script. Buscemi and Miller do their best but the characters are so poorly written that they come across as being schizophrenic rather than scarred and haunted. It comes across as a filmed drama school exercise. Sadly this means that the neat little twist ending fails because you don’t really care about either of the characters.
Rating: 2/5

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
This film has no business being so good. It’s predictable, formulaic and unconvincing, and its ‘power corrupts’ message is hammered home somewhat. However, what raises it above the zillions of ‘rags to riches’ rom-coms is some great performances (especially from a brilliantly softly-spoken Meryl Streep playing one of the most terrifying bosses in recent screen history), and a sleek script. It’s not exactly groundbreaking but you just can’t help smiling while watching it.
Rating: 4/5

The Hoax (2006)
The truth is often stranger than fiction and in this case the truth is less believable. Richard Gere gives an impressive performance as Clifford Irving, the journalist who convinces his publishers that he has exclusive access to reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. The publishers foolishly hand over a hefty advance cheque and leave him to it unaware that Irving has never even met Hughes. Together with friend Dick Suskind (a wonderful Alfred Molina) he pulls off all manner of confidence tricks to stay one step ahead of his publishers who become increasingly suspicious. It’s an incredible story and well told as a thriller. However, due to the sheer audaciousness of Irving’s scams and quick thinking, the film occasionally dips into knockabout comedy. Still, it’s worth watching to be reminded that Richard Gere is actually a good actor, and also to illustrate how powerful the written word can be.
Rating: 4/5

Juno (2007)
I bloody hate hype. Having ‘missed’ this film first time round (missed is in inverted commas not because of my laxness when the film was released in cinemas but because it never made it to Guernsey), I now have the uneasy task of watching a film that everyone who has seen it has gone on and on about for months. I did enjoy this film but I do have some serious reservations about it, perhaps because I feel almost forced to adore it by all the talk that has surrounded it. I’ll start with the good stuff.

The quality of the cast really holds this film together from the frighteningly talented Ellen Page to the would-be perfect mum Jennifer Garner and everyone in between. Despite all the nonsense dialogue, it’s a very efficient screenplay that goes places you don’t expect in this kind of film.

Now for the not so good stuff. I just cannot get past the dialogue. Sure it’s snappy and amusing but it belongs in Road Trip or Old School. I don’t want to come across as a square but people, not even teenagers, simply don’t talk like this. What’s more, Juno herself seems ‘shockingly cavalier’ about her predicament – a phrase she uses to describe her best friend’s reaction but is just as applicable to her own behaviour. Maybe this calm and capable manner is the way all teenage girls deal with pregnancy these days.

Presumably because of the subject matter and the great cast, Juno is a so-called ‘indie comedy’ that has crossed over into the mainstream giving it a much wider audience than it would otherwise enjoy. Other critics have lauded it for being full of heart but that doesn’t make it unique. I do love this kind of film but I fail to see what marks this particular one out from the rest. Maybe I’m just turning into a grumpy old sod.
Rating: 3/5


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