Sunday, August 2, 2015

What I Saw Last Night - 6 Movie Reviews

Its been a busy month but here are some of the films that have kept me awake.

Armored (Nimród Antal, 2009, Crime, Thriller) - With a stellar cast comprising Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich, Lawrence Fishburne, Fred Ward and more, this should have been a winner. Yet, this 2009 heist gone wrong thriller of Armored Guards making the perfect robbery has an uncanny feeling of “been there, done that” throughout its 90 minutes runtime. However, if you have nothing else to do and are willing to ignore the countless clichés, it’s a not so boring time passer. This is a dissapoitment considering its from the same director who gave us the Kate Beckinsale horror film Vacancy (2007) and the superb but dark Kontroll (2003)

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex / The Baader Meinhof Complex (Uli Edel, 2008, Crime, Thriller) - Based on the best selling book of the same name by Stefan Aust, this is a sensational piece of German cinema chronicling the rise of the left wing Baader Meinhof (Red Faction) radical group that was famous in the 1970s and the 1980’s for staging audacious arson attacks and bombings in West Germany and beyond. With spotloss performances from it stars Moritz Bleibtreu, Martina Gedeck and Johanna Wokalek and a water tight screenplay, this is a pleasure to watch. No reason why this was nominated for an Oscar under the Best Foreign Language Film in 2008. Truly unmissable. 

Lucky Luciano (Francesco Rosi, 1974, Crime, Drama) - This Italian-American co-production was a disappointing attempt to cash in on the Godfather craze of the early '70s. The talented Francesco Rosi, known for capturing detail in his films, here uses authenticity to his disadvantage. The movie plays like a mediocre documentary. It is disjointed, with frequent crosscutting between New York and Italy and unannounced flashbacks and flash forwards. Gian Maria Volante, a very good actor, does a credible job here as Luciano when he speaks Italian, but when he speaks Brooklynese English his voice is poorly dubbed.

Peggy Sue Got Married (Francis Ford Coppola, 1986, Comedy, Fantasy) - Never has Coppola been so lighthearted and romantically bittersweet as in this candy-colored retro fantasy that was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design. Kathleen Turner delivers an impressively nuanced performance as a soon-to-be-divorced woman who goes back in time to the '50s at her high school reunion. Suddenly she's a cheerleader dating her future husband again (played with false buck teeth and unintended Pee Wee-isms by Nicolas Cage). What would Peggy Sue do if she could change her destiny? Funnier, flakier and more poignant than the similar Back To The Future (1985). Kevin J. O'Connor makes an impressive debut as the wild-eyed, poetry-spouting Kerouac clone Peggy Sue secretly desires. 

The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963, Drama) - In his first collaboration with playwright Harold Pinter, exiled director Losey creates a stunning surrealist look at power plays and decadent perversity in the relationship between a handsome, very proper member of the British upper crust (James Fox) and his seemingly dutiful manservant (Dirk Bogarde). All runs smoothly in their tasteful townhouse until the arrival of Bogarde's so-called "sister" (played with youthful sensuality incarnate by a nubile Sarah Miles). Then all hell breaks loose, including the notorious concluding orgy scene. A distinctive ever roving camera, brilliant performances and psycho-sexual dynamics with homo erotic overtones make this one of Losey's best. 

Under Fire (Roger Spottiswode, 1983, War, Drama) - A gravel-voiced Nick Nolte stars as a photojournalist asked by Nicaraguan Sandinistas to photograph their murdered leader as though he were alive to save their cause. This easy-to-swallow primer of Nicaraguan Revolution that toppled the Somoza regime has lots of great kinetic action complemented by a great Jerry Goldsmith score. Cinematography by John Alcott (who shot Kubrick's Barry Lyndon) is consistently inventive. Good peripheral performances from Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Joanna Cassidy (who has a stunningly cool-sensual presence) make this a solid political thriller along the lines of Costa Gavras' Missing (1982).


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