11 July 2008

Are You Being Served?

In 1972, one of the greatest TV Shows of all time was created. A British romp about seven department store employees. Then in 1977, someone said, let's make a big screen movie about them, but commit the cardinal sin of removing the story from it's base and placing it somewhere else.

Yes.

In the movie, everyone is on a vacation paid for by the department store. And the seven staff members get into "wacky" hijinx, but none of it really matters too much, because it's all fluff, camp, self-indulgent, and contrived.

I do not think this film shows the best of what this show can be. And for that it gets a big thumbs down. But please, rent the old TV show (which ran for many many seasons). Once it hit it's stride, it was unstoppable.

Spiderman II

I watched from half-way through to the end today, because this portion of Spiderman II might be my favorite of all Superhero movies... Superman Returns is pretty good when Lex Luthor stabs him as well.

Anyway.

Seen the movie tons of times. Just had to watch that last 45 minutes.

Damn. Damn.

Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut)

I watched the original opening weekend, many years ago. I was unimpressed. Ridley Scott isn't perfect. He makes great stuff. But he makes some ass films as well. Despite opinions to the contrary, American Gangster was not a good film. However, Blackhawk Down is one of the best I've ever seen.

That said, I just assumed KoH was another luke-warm film.

Then I read, that over an hour of material was cut from the film by the producerss.

An hour!!!

Someone decided this movie wasn't for history fans or good movie fans. They decided to market it as a massive war movie. And the short version sucked.

Now.

The director's cut is pure honey and gold wrapped in a heavenly aroma. Man. This version is good. And I hate Orlando Bloom. But this film is good, good, good.

Over 3 hours. It includes an intermission. The politics of the film are complex. The king has leprosy. And there's about 20 plot points I'm forgetting to mention.

Enjoy.

08 July 2008

Red Beard

Toshiro Mifune's final performance in an Akira Kurosawa film turns out to be his most humble... and exhausting.

This 3-hour film tracks a half-dozen sad and depressing stories of poverty in post-Tokugawa Japan, in of all places... a free clinic.

Mifune plays Dr. Niibe -- called Red Beard -- the wizened and altruistic doctor leading the clinic. He is the voice of reason in an otherwise melancholy and depressing movie about the need for humanity in an otherwise fragile and painful world.

The pacing is slow, obviously, and Kurosawa tells many many stories throughout, never once stopping to tell a single tale, but rather lots of little ones.

There's not much to more say about this film. I could talk about the framing and lighting and all the other choices that permeate his career as a film-maker. But at the end of the day, it's still Kurosawa. You know it, when you see it.

On the movie barometer, it's a B+. For a Kurosawa film, it's a C+. He's done so many GREAT films that this one sort of gets lost in the miasma. Worth a watch, but it might take several sittings to get through it all.