Thought I’d look through my little video collection and give a thumbs up to some of the more stellar editions. I know no one reads this so it doesn’t matter.
Amadeus: The first thing you have to understand is that this is fictional. Too many people think it is a historical documentary. It’s not. It’s an engaging story with a clever plot that is well written, directed, and acted all around. There are no weak performances here. Never mind the “flaws”; it’s entertainment and it has great Mozart music to boot. I think the oddest thing is that the maid seems to show the most sadness at Herr Mozart’s death.
Barabbass: You want to see a bad ‘biblical’ movie? This one is bad, but not so much so as to be unwatchable. The plot is a good idea, but it is so poorly executed as to be laughable. The directing is amateurish to the point of being idiotic. The writing nonsensical. It is obvious that any remake effort could only improve it. Anthony Quinn demonstrates his lack of talent to perfection, and both Jack Palance and Ernest Borgnine are wasted. It drags you through the mud (well, dust) and kicks you repeatedly with its lack of subtlety. Compelling awfulness.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: If you’re not a Hunter S. Thompson fan you won’t get it. Johnny Depp is perfect in his roll. Terry Gilliam’s direction is sometimes oblique and mindless or over-the-top (one of the best scenes was cut but is on the DVD as an extra) but over-all accurate. The writing when it’s straight from Thompson is golden: the way he suddenly switches from everyday drivel to a deep social commentary shows the genius behind the madness. The profanity is excessive sometimes so it’s not for the squeamish, otherwise it’s the right word in the right place (“Finish the fucking story!”). My favourite vignette is when he sees the real HST in an acid flashback to the ’60s. Nice little cameo that bolster the effect no end.
Galaxy Quest: Good heavens if this doesn’t go down in history as a classic there’s no hope for the human race. It has no faults. None. Tim Allen manages to hold his own against what are admittedly better and more experienced actors. The writing is sharp as a scalpel, the plot brilliant and intricate, although there are some small flaws that can easily be shrugged off. It does not go overboard on special effects either, which is a common flaw in any type of sci-fi movie.
How To Steal A Million: A romantic comedy with perfect chemistry between Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. Much snappy comedy. Good plot with the usual heist-film flaws. Eli Wallach’s character is the worst job in the whole show, and it’s not that bad. Not a classic exactly, but an enduring favourite.
I, Robot: Forget the writing it’s based on as it is a fairly loose base. This film stands up in its own right and could easily have been called something different. The flaws are in excessive and unnecessary profanity in a few places and some rather dragged-out ‘action’ sequences that look like ‘filler’. The best performance is by a ‘dead guy’, but even the bit players are at top level in this one. I like the fact they toyed with a sexual connection between the two main characters but didn’t fall into the trite trap of going there. The funniest bit is the one about cats (I won’t go on; just watch it). One plot hole I can’t get past: why would Landing’s house be torn down after he dies? No explanation given, and none plausible can I think of. Bridget Moynahan gives a fantastic performance as the genius scientist and is way too sexy in this roll without being a Hollywood bimbo version. Will Smith’s best performance in my opinion, even better than Men In Black.
It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Money chase is always a good plot. Writing? Eh. One liners; who needs more? We just fill the movie with the best comedic actors we can get our hands on (including some clever cameos) and let it go wild. Allegedly after the cast was shown some of the stunts filmed Buddy Hackett said “whadda ya need us for?” No, it’s not cinematic history. It’s a watch-it-repeatedly comfort comedy.
Jesus Christ, Superstar: It started as an album, then they made the movie. The stage version came after that. Kind of backwards from the traditional method, but it works. Fantastic acting and singing by most of the cast. Ted Neeley struggles but Carl Anderson shines like no other! Andrew Lloyd-Weber music, Tim Rice Lyrics, story from The Bible, Norman Jewison directing. Hard to miss with that combination. It was quite controversial at the time (and may still be) despite the fact any honest theologian would admit it’s the most accurate retelling of the story regardless of the unusual method. My only complaint is the use of modern military ‘props’ for emphasis. Doesn’t really work. But you’ll come away humming and singing the songs anyway.
Kelly’s Heroes: Okay I did this one already; Kelly’s Heroes
That’s enough for now: I’ll leave off here and continue next week I guess.