4-10 August 2008

August 10 2008 at 9:42 pm (The list)

I did well last week having ticked three films off the list, although they were all very short so it was hardly challenging.

Ride Lonesome (1959)
One of the best things about the shame list is that occasionally I come across a film I’d never heard of before that impresses me. So it is with this Western, a genre I’m starting to like more and more. Randolph Scott plays bounty hunter Ben Brigade travelling to Santa Cruz with his new find killer Billy John (James Best). On the way Brigade is joined by a couple of outlaws (Pernell Roberts and James Coburn in his first screen role) and a widow (Karen Steele) to help him on his journey. But the outlaws might be more of a hindrance than a help when they plan to double cross Brigade. At a brisk 70 minutes it seems like a throwaway horse opera but is actually a well written drama with a nice satisfying ending.

Rating: 4/5

Dumbo (1941)
I thought I should tick some Disney classics off the list sooner rather than later because I’ve seen so few of the studio’s classic animations and this seemed like a good place to start. Dumbo is so cute and the music so compelling that it’s hard not to love it. The pink elephants scene is a little disturbing and I can imagine it would be deeply unsettling for a child but that’s probably true of certain scenes in most Disney cartoons. Having, of course, never seen it before, I was expecting him to fly much earlier in the film but it’s such a great triumph-over-adversity ending that I couldn’t help grinning like an idiot.

Rating: 5/5

Dracula (1931)
Dracula is such a familiar tale that it’s hard to believe that when this film was made, the novel was only 34 years old. Having read it at university (well, most of it) and seen countless Hammer versions and sequels, and Francis Ford Coppola’s liberty-taking rethink, it’s nice to return to one of the first screen outings of the tale. Bela Lugosi is an imposing presence as the creeping count, but Dwight Frye is just as good as the manic Renfield. The set design, make up and Tod Browning’s careful direction are impressive even today although the bat puppets are a bit shit.

Rating: 4/5

Shame list total: 763

I also watched:

No Country For Old Men (2007)
Having now seen the two best reviewed films of last year (this and There Will Be Blood) I can see what all the fuss is about. I can see great merit in both films (There Will Be Blood has been on my mind since I saw it last week) but I did find the Coen brothers’ modern day Western the better film. Exciting in a way that few films are these days, it doesn’t rely on music to propel the tension – there is virtually none played in the film, instead using silence to chilling effect. Javier Bardem is simply terrifying as Anton Chigurh, the killer without a conscience but with principles. Although I still don’t understand why everyone kept going on about his haircut. The film is set in 1980 when bad barnets were plenty. Although there are great performances throughout, Tommy Lee Jones as world-weary sheriff Ed Tom Bell really drives the film and personifies the key theme of a generation who can no longer understand the violence and inhumanity of the world.

Rating: 5/5

Untraceable (2008)
An enjoyable if by-numbers thriller with its fingers in the increasingly popular pies of cyber-plotting and torture porn. Diane Lane plays FBI agent Jennifer Marsh on the trail of a killer on whose website victims are killed in horrific ways. The more people watch online, the faster the victims die. A couple of decent surprises, some inventive murders and a little bit of can’t-believe-anyone-can-be-this-sick shock make it an acceptable way to pass 97 minutes if you like this kind of thing, although the abrupt ending is a little unsatisfying.

Rating: 3/5

Keeping Mum (2005)
This sweet black comedy is like a kindly old pottymouthed great aunt who cheerfully forgets your name and farts at the dinner table. The Goodfellows are a model family living in the sleepy town of Little Wallop. Father Walter (Rowan Atkinson) is a humourless revered, mother Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas) is having an affair with her sleazy golf coach (Patrick Swayze) while the son and daughter have the usual stereotypical kid problems. Enter housekeeper Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith) with her unique problem-solving technique: murder. It’s a bit like a violent episode of Last of the Summer Wine… only funny.

Rating: 3/5

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