Sunday, November 25, 2007

Movie Review: His Kind of Woman

I recently purchased Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 3 by warner brothers. This was one of those box sets that had been sitting in my Amazon cart and was discounted significantly, enough so to convince me to pull the trigger on the purchase. This particular set was pretty sweet, with 5 films and a documentary on film noir. The films included are His Kind of Woman, Lady in the lake, On Dangerous Ground, The Racket, and Border Incident. I already had VHS copies of 4 of these (all but Border Incident) but these copies were taped of TCM.

I am a huge fan of film noir, but that is probably a post for another day, since it will be lengthier. His Kind of Woman is an interesting noir flick, because while it has a twisting storyline and contains a man (Robert Mitchum) who is caught up in a plot that he is trying to figure out. However, this flick also contains 3 singing performances (all by the great Jane Russell), and tremendous comedic relief via the tremendous performance by Vincent Price(?!) If the only Vincent Price you know if from his horror days (or worse yet, that 2 part episode of the Brady Bunch), you absolutely need to see this movie. Other notable actors include Jim Backus (aka Winston Howell III on Gilligan's Island) and Raymond Burr.

A good sign of an accesible film noir is that my wife thoroughly enjoyed it as well. That means the film has some noirish elements but isn't very hard-edged and nasty, lacking that bitter cynicism that a noir freak like me truly enjoys.

I generally don't like to rehash the plot of my reviewed movies because you can find that many other places (Rotten or IMDB are two good starts). I can only say that as a pretty seasoned film watcher with solid, quality taste, this is a much see film.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Novermber Saturday

Hey everyone, a quick post on Nov. Saturday, beginning of a 3 day weekend. Looking forward to meeting some good friends for dinner tonight at our traditional meeting place, the Olive Garden. Normally I am not a huge fan of chains, but sometimes location is everything, and the Olive Garden is located approximately midway between where we live and our friends live, and the bonus is O.G. is in a shopping mall section, with the Rockaway mall and a Target store nearby. So that means we can multi-task, a little clothes shopping, some checking out for action figures (much to my wife's chagrin), and other little tasks.

Of course, I am now doing something I hate; waiting for the cleaning lady. I could live without having one, but my wife really enjoys the look and feel of the place after her visits, so no biggie. It's tough because of the language barrier, and the fact that we can't communicate well with her.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Movie Review: Severance

Today's review is for a nice, tight little horror flick called Severance. The movie works very well because it contains what I believe to be a key element in a large number of quality horror flicks; dark humor and some kind of relevant subtext. I'm not suggesting that every horror film has to operate on multiple levels, or that I want some ham handed socially relevant message knocking me on the head, but I firmly believe that quite often entertaining genre flix have the ability to work on a secondary level, at least for savvy viewers. (pun intended).

The set up for Severance is pretty basic. The european sales division of a multi-national weapons company (Palisade Defence) are treated by the corporation to a trip to a lodge in Eastern Europe where they will engage in a fun weekend of "team building" (and to anyone who's had to participate in "team building", a fun weekend of such is sort of an oxymoron). The group is made up of a mixture of characters who do an excellent job of establishing themselves as individuals, rather than purely caricatures. That's important, especially in a horror thriller where we know many of them will eventually die, most likely in a horrible fashion. This is a huge element for horror flicks, and I remember something I once read in a book about Quentin Tarantino. He was speaking about Stephen King novels, (one of my favorite authors) , and Quentin mentioned that the key to those novels is that King spends time allowing the reader to get to know these people and maybe even like them or care about them, so that when the carnage begins it hits us with more oomph.

I certainly don't want to spoil too much about the plot, but simply note this: many horrible things have occurred in eastern europe in the last few decades, including attempted genocide, torture, and the use of weapons to inflict this pain had to come from somewhere. Hmm, what if some people survived these events?

The film also uses the now standard but groundbreaking in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction time manipulation, particularly in how it starts with a very intense scene, then abruptly shoots backwards , leaving us as viewers to wonder how we got there. (Sort of reminds me of the great movie Sunset Boulevard, by Billy Wilder, when William Holden is floating face down in a pool and begins the narration. We know the end, but the filmmaker is confident enough that you will enjoy the journey so much the knowledge of the end is secondary - think also about American Beauty, when Kevin Spacey starts out with the gunshot death)

The confidence shown by director Christopher Smith to attempt this is happily met by his ability to pull it off. Highly recommended film, and good enough that I have added Smiths earlier film, Creep to my Netflix que.