Weekly Movie Roundup

I watched 6 movies last week:

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun 1776 Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F
  • I watched The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun because I’d heard Quentin Tarantino sing its praises recently and had never even heard of the film before. He compared it to The Bird with the Crystal Plumage—which is maybe apt, given that that’s hardly my favorite Dario Argento movie. This one isn’t, strictly speaking, giallo, but I can see the parallels Tarantino draws to it. Maybe it’s my more hesitant appreciation for the genre, though, that kept me from really enjoying this strange, often confused haze of a movie.
    • The songs in 1776 aren’t particularly good, much less memorable, but the movie itself has a fun enough momentum, thanks largely to the cast, including William Daniels. It’s a little weird reading contemporary reviews of the film, like from Roger Ebert, who thought the movie was somehow an insult to the great men of history and “emasculated our founding fathers in story and song,” when the fact that it treats these men as incredibly flawed and often petty, squabbling people, nonetheless in pursuit of an ideal, is probably the best thing about the movie.
      • For a legacy sequel, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is pretty good, and it manages to recapture a lot of the fun of the original. That’s about all it captures—its own plot is largely forgettable, sometimes feeling a little like a xeroxed copy—but it’s also genuinely a lot of fun when Eddie Murphy is on screen. And if nothing else, it’s hands-down better than the third movie in the franchise.
      Boxcar Bertha Late Night with the Devil The Deep End
      • Martin Scorsese’s sophomore effort, Boxcar Bertha, doesn’t necessarily herald the arrival of a great filmmaker—and it maybe feels less representative of his later work than his first film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door—but it does some interesting things.
        • Late Night with the Devil gets a lot of the ’70s-period detail right, which is why it’s kind of a shame that it’s otherwise it’s a mostly bland, by-the-numbers horror movie.
          • By the end of The Deep End, I was convinced I’d seen it before, which may explain why it never really connected with me, despite a good performance by Tilda Swinton.

          Weekly Movie Roundup

          I watched just 4 movies last week:

          Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution Trouble in Mind Poolman The Beast
          • Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution benefits enormously by being filmed backstage during a night of celebratory comedy—a 2022 Netflix special I haven’t seen, but which this documentary very much makes me want to watch. The documentary is fun and informative, warm and welcoming, and not afraid to take Netflix to task (by name) for frequently airing non-welcoming, particularly anti-trans comedians.
            • Trouble in Mind is an odd movie—one “that takes place within our memories of the movies,” as Roger Ebert wrote, but I feel like I was immediately on movie’s strange wavelength.
              • Poolman is an odd movie…and I feel like I had a much tougher time getting on its wavelength. The movie does a lot of interesting things, often very amiably, but it’s not difficult to see why a lot of critics absolutely hated it.
                • The Beast…is an odd movie… but also a hauntingly, terrifyingly beautiful one, with a fantastic performance(s?) by Léa Seydoux. As critic Glenn Kenny writes:

                  “There must be beautiful things in this chaos,” Gabrielle tries to reassure the movie’s scariest version of Louis at one point. Bonello, and this movie’s, greatest dread is that someday a terrible order will emerge, one that will make whatever beauty remains disappear.

                Weekly Movie Roundup

                I watched a dozen movies last week:

                Pressure Point Plane Jarhead
                • Pressure Point sometimes feels a little too stagey, but it has some strong performances and interesting things to say.
                  • Plane is never terrible, but it never does anything remotely interesting. Memorably terrible would be a lot preferable to the boring paint-by-numbers actioner we get here. As Nick Allen writes, it’s “the case of an action movie in which the dumb title—the most memorable thing about it—isn’t an artistic statement, it’s an alibi.”
                    • Jarhead is like a war movie without the war. As Ebert writes, “It contains no heroism, little action, no easy laughs…[and] is about men who are exhausted, bored, lonely, trained to the point of obsession and given no opportunity to use their training.”
                    Tau Old School A Touch of Class
                    • Even Maika Monroe can’t save Tau, a never exactly terrible but also instantly forgettable film whose sci-fi premise would probably feel tired even if the film itself brought anything remotely new to the table.
                      • “‘Old School‘ wants to be ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House,'” wrote Roger Ebert in his review, “but then don’t they all.” Will Ferrell’s sincere commitment to the bit is occasionally almost-endearing, but there’s not a single moment in the movie that I would call funny, and it’s all held together in the laziest way possible.
                        • There was a time when A Touch of Class was nominated for Best Picture. Even discounting the quality of the other four films nominated that year—The Sting, The Exorcist, Cries and Whispers, American Graffiti—that’s kind of astounding. I suppose the movie has its lazy ’70s charms in Segal and Jackson’s performances, but the characters feel very dated and unlikable, and the whole thing feels perhaps best left in 1973.
                        The Resurrected The Osterman Weekend The Evictors
                        • Cut The Resurected‘s runtime (and probably its number of characters) neatly in half, and you’d likely have a very credible entry in a horror anthology television show. It boasts some impressively gruesome special effects and decent performances, especially by Chris Sarandon, but the dialogue often feels stilted, and the runtime really drags halfway through.
                          • The Osterman Weekend doesn’t make a lick of sense. You get the feeling that the cast is really trying, but the finished product, as Roger Ebert wrote, “resembles the proverbial movie that was fed through an electric fan and then glued together at random.”
                            • The Evictors doesn’t entirely work, especially once it answers the mystery of what’s been going on, but there’s a reasonably effective creepiness up until that point.
                            Separate Tables The Queen Valhalla Rising
                            • Separate Tables has some lovely performances and quiet tender moments.
                              • The Queen isn’t revelatory (or even necessarily informative) about the drag queen subculture it presents, but it is an interesting snapshot of a moment in a time, especially daring for 1968.
                                • By turns hypnotically slow and brutally violent, I’m not altogether sure Valhalla Rising has a whole lot to say, but it is often visually stunning.

                                Weekly Movie Roundup

                                I watched just five movies last week:

                                Hit Man Frank Stopmotion
                                • Hit Man is very amiable, like a lot of Richard Linklater movies, and the two leads, especially Glen Powell, are very good. I’m just not sure it totally earns the darkly comedic places it winds up going.
                                  • Frank is oddly endearing and often quite funny.
                                    • The exceptionally creepy animation notwithstanding, I found Stopmotion mostly insufferable, and there’s never any surprises as to where this descent into madness story is going. As critic Peter Sobczynski writes, “Although it clearly wants to be seen as some kind of wild hallucinatory exploration into the heart of madness, [the movie] eventually reveals itself to be little more than a collection of barf-bag visuals and tired conventions that are occasionally enlivened by some nifty animation and the strong performance from Franciosi.”
                                    Under Paris Tension at Table Rock
                                    • Under Paris plays things very straight, which does not necessarily always work in its favor, given the ridiculousness of its premise. (Only Anne Marivin, as the mayor of Paris, seems to understand the over-the-top silliness that premise suggests.) The movie’s fun enough, but also a bit forgettable.
                                      • Tension at Table Rock is a fun little Western.

                                      I also re-watched The Wicker Man for the first time in some twenty years. The first time I watched it, back then, I remember not enjoying it very much, indeed finding the movie more quaint than scary. I enjoyed it a lot more this second time around. Which is odd, considering how this time I knew how it would end, for whatever reason—maybe Edward Woodward’s performance—the movie worked a lot more for me on the re-watch.

                                      Weekly Movie Roundup

                                      This Happy Breed Love Lies Bleeding Vengeance Is Mine
                                      • This Happy Breed is the British domestic drama that all other British domestic dramas want to be when they grow up. Not above being a little sappy, there are nonetheless some wonderfully staged moments throughout, and I found it very satisfying movie.
                                        • The one thing you can’t say about Love Lies Bleeding is that it doesn’t go hard.

                                            Brooke Adams is good in Vengeance Is Mine, but for all its interesting moments, the movie feels very muddled and unsure of itself.

                                          Short Sharp Shock Dinner in America Am I OK?
                                          • Short Sharp Shock feels very much like a ’90s gangster movie, one heavily indebted to its American inspirations of Scorsese and Tarantino, but the three leads are also very good together, in this simple story of the bonds of friendship, betrayal, and violent crime gone wrong.
                                            • For a lot of its run, Dinner in America feels like it’s trying a little too hard. But by the end, there is genuinely a sweetness (nonetheless undercut with nastiness) between these two characters.

                                                Am I OK? is…OK. It doesn’t entirely come together, especially at the end, and there are a few scattered bits and even characters I might have cut. But the film is full of funny and tender moments, as well as a thoroughly endearing performance by Dakota Johnson.

                                              I also re-watched and really enjoyed Bull Durham (1988).