Monday, February 22, 2010

My Movie Year, Part 3.

Continuing my look back on the films I watched via various venues in 2009.

*- viewed in theater.

X-Files: I Want to Believe
* Up

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Dodge City
Sex and the City
Thunder Road

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian


The Most Dangerous Game

Green Lantern: First Flight

There was a time, my friends, when I was a big fan of the X-Files TV series. Witty and fresh, with an appealing pair of leads and a gnarly mystery lurking in the background, it was appointment TV for me in the mid-late 90's. Then, a funny thing happened about four seasons and one feature film in; I first realized that the one-off episodes with monsters and freaks and stuff were a lot more satisfying and just plain fun than the episodes that supposedly advanced the increasingly-becoming-more-obscure alien abduction/invasion storyline that was ostensibly the spine of the entire show. Finally, in 1999 sometime it occurred to me that the writers didn't really have an ending in mind, and they were dangling all these -shocking!- revelations in front of us viewers like a carrot in front of a horse...and I bailed. I no longer cared what happened to Mulder's sister, or how Scully got impregnated by aliens, or what the fuck was up with the Smoking Man, or any of that. I stopped watching and never looked back. By then, it all began to fray at the edges anyway as it barreled into confusion and tedium; David Duchovny left, only making cameo appearances, and new agents were introduced, Tara Kings all of them. The show was mercifully killed in 2002. Then, in 2005, for some reason, someone thought a sequel/update feature film was a good idea, even though only the hardcore X-Files junkies cared...and I Want to Believe was the result. Wisely eschewing the whole dead-end alien conspiracy theory crap, it was back in the "paranormal investigators" mode, and honestly, I didn't think it was all that bad. It felt padded and overlong, but it was good, after all that time, seeing Mulder and Scully again, and Billy Connolly was interesting as a pedophile psychic priest. It had the misfortune of coming out the week after Dark Knight premiered, which sure didn't help the box even though there has been some discussion of a third feature film, it sure seems like we've seen the end of the franchise as we know it, for now, anyway. Mrs. B and I went to see Up on the Fourth of July; it's a tremendously entertaining flick that 1), played terribly on my fear of heights; and 2) moved me to tears at least twice thanks to a couple of highly emotional flashbacks. Heck of a good movie, but I don't know if I'm ever going to watch it again! The third Mummy flick was that rarest of rare things, a third sequel that was actually more fun than its predecessor. Of course, it helps that it starred Brendan Fraser, and was partially set in Tibet. Wanted was another comic book based film that was hamstrung by the arbitrary and mostly unnecessary changes they made to the source material. Still, it had some decent effects and action sequences, and the cast was good. Dodge City, another classic Western that aired on TCM; I am always up for an Errol Flynn pic, especially when Olivia De Havilland plays opposite. I pretty much ignored Sex and the City when it aired on HBO as a regular series; just wasn't my Voutton bag, baby. This is another one I sat and watched on a slow afternoon; the sight of Kim Cattrall naked save for a bare-minimum sushi covering was a plus, but everything else was kinda dull. Thunder Road featured Bob and Jim Mitchum as shine-running brothers; it was a fun and diverting little Fifties flick. I liked the first Narnia movie just fine, as I did the book when I read it as a kid. Somehow, I never got around to reading the sequels. This one wasn't particularly memorable, even though most of the original's cast returned. Still, if they ever put out Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I'll probably check it out too. Coraline was visually beautiful, but the script, adapted from Neil Gaiman's book, held few surprises and was more than a little cloying. Most Dangerous Game was another TCM viewing; it starred the stunning Fay Wray as one of a group of people who have the misfortune of shipwrecking on a remote island and being hunted as game by the nutjob occupant. It's a familiar story, but this was one of the first attempts to film it. Finally, First Flight was an animated Green Lantern movie, which gave us an account of how Hal Jordan of Earth came to get the power of the Power Ring, and join the outer-space peacekeeping Green Lantern Corps. It had its moments, and I didn't think it was terrible, but it didn't blow me away either.

Whew! July was probably my heaviest movie watching month for some reason.

Punisher: War Zone
Transporter 3

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
The Big Heat

Max Payne

War Zone was very violent and over-the-top, and was ridiculous fun because of it. I think I preferred Thomas Jane in its predecessor, but Ray Stevenson looked a bit more like Tim Bradstreet's comics covers. Speaking of over the top and silly, Jason Statham (whom I will apparently watch in anything) returned with another Transporter sequel; it was also good fun, especially if you didn't pay too much attention to the script. My grandson, who was very much into the latest Star Trek film, noticed we had STVI on VHS, and wanted to watch it. I've always thought it was one of the best of the Shatner/Nimoy flicks, and Nevan liked it too. The Big Heat was a Fritz Lang noir classic, with Glenn Ford as a driven cop determined to take down a crime syndicate boss. Being able to see movies like this is just one reason why I love TCM so much. Finally, Max Payne was a clumsy attempt to mix the supernatural and cop drama genres; it was pretty bad.

Southland Tales
* Inglourious Basterds

For some reason, as summer made its way into fall, I didn't watch too many movies, especially in September. Part of the reason was that I held on to Southland Tales for several weeks, hoping to get in the mood to finish it and failing. It was a mess, despite an interesting cast. Maybe someday I'll get around to finishing it, but it won't be anytime soon. I did go out and see Basterds, Tarantino's latest, a sly and clever attempt by the movie junkie auteur to demonstrate how film can change and reflect our perceptions of the world around us, all dressed up in Dirty Dozen clothing. Great cast, especially Christoph Waltz as Lanza, the hissable, yet devious and crafty "Jew Hunter", and Brad Pitt, channeling Clark Gable as a Sgt. York-type who heads a group that hunts Nazis. For a far better examination of this film than I can provide, I refer you to Todd Alcott.

I will conclude soon with October through December!

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