Friday, 24 September 2010

Octuple Bill Mini Musings: September 2010 #2...

Compared to the likes of other real-life-serial-killer movie biopics (of sorts), such as the superior Dahmer (starring Jeremy Renner) and Ed Gein (starring Steve Railsback), this isn't much cop ... nor when compared to the likes of more lurid films such as The Hillside Strangler (the one the guy from all those terrible Asylum movies) or Ted Bundy (which Tom Savini worked on). However, when compared to the bizarre, confusing and even dull Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders, and Ed Gein: Butcher of Plainfield - in which Kane "Jason" Hodder (a large, intimidating dude) plays the slight, quiet and odd farmer who inspired Psycho's Norman Bates - Gacy stands taller. Not by an awful lot though. The pace is unsure, the plot is confusing and while the first four titles I mentioned all give a far better sense of time, escalation and motivation, Gacy isn't strong in any of those fields.

The Blues Brothers:
I remember a friend loaned me his VHS copy back in high school - more from his recommendation than from my own interest - and I gave up on it pretty quickly. Then again my interest in film was far more limited in those days, and my movie-viewing stamina was surprisingly all over the place (I'd often watch movies in 10-20 minute chunks and have several on the go at once, skipping from one to another). Anyway, I wouldn't have appreciated it in my high school days, but now I recognise why it's considered a bit of a classic. It's absolutely bat-shit crazy, and the epic scenes of destruction are all the more impressive as there's not a sliver of CGI to be seen - being that it wasn't invented yet. It's utterly barmy - in the good way.

17 Again:
I didn't really intend on watching this movie a while ago, but ended up seeing several portions, so figured I'd just watch the whole thing. I have zero interest in High School Musical and all that, but I can understand why this Zac Efron guy is so popular. He's a talented dude and has a real screen persona that's interesting to watch - even in this fairly paint-by-numbers flick. You know exactly how this movie is going to play out, but it's just a bit of fun. It's a cheeseburger of a movie really ... but yeah, it'll be interesting to see if Efron takes up more challenging roles.

Black Mama White Mama:
Inspired by the documentary American Grindhouse, I got myself into a bit of a blaxploitation/Pam Grier flick kick ... although BMWM is really a women-in-chains/prison movie, not a blaxploitation/soul flick. It's properly good grindhouse though - but it does lose its momentum by the third act. If you like your grindhouse cinema though, it's definitely worthwhile - Pam Grier, nudity-galore, Sid Haig as a cowboy pimp, outrageous side characters, oddball scenes ("eight ... three and a half") and shot in the Phillipines.

It could have used a little more of Pam Grier toting a shotgun and bringing her brand of justice to the scum of the streets, but again it's properly good grindhouse fun - and Sid Haig's in it as well.

Foxy Brown:
It starts off a little bit unsure, but it really finds its feet in the second act and then goes out with a strong finish (including Grier driving a prop plane - owned by Sid Haig's bit part drug trafficker - through a bad guy!) - yep, you guessed it, properly good grindhouse fun.

The Boston Strangler:
Never mind 24, the use of split-screen is something to behold. Not an awful lot to say about it, but over-the-piece, it gets a thumbs up.

The Longest Day:
Saving Private Ryan really dunked you head first into what it might feel like to be one of those brave men storming the beaches during the Normandy landings, but this true epic really coveys the sheer sense of scale to the operation that turned the whole war around. Not only that, but the tension on the side of the Allies, and the cocksure predictions of the Axis, is writ large. It's an honest-to-God epic - no wonder if had three directors (one each for the American, British and German portions ... but I wonder who directed the French parts?) Beautifully shot, large scale, it doesn't ignore the big players who didn't happen to be Americans (the French and Germans characters wisely speak in their own language to boot) and surprisingly for a film that's just shy of three hours long - it doesn't drag.

Some of the knowing pontificating about the nature of war and the importance of the invasion are a bit 'too movie', but equally, verbalising the fact that the Brits (and as an extension, the French) had been slogging their guts out and really struggling through for years before the Americans got involved, is a welcome dose of fact that's so often ignored with more recent WW2 movies - a criticism that can most certainly be levelled at Saving Private Ryan, despite its highly commendable way of presenting warfare on film in an entirely new, involving and radical way.

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