Dudley Do-Right (1999) – Hugh Wilson
So, Brendan Fraser assays the heroic mounty of the title, Sarah Jessica Parker is the hapless Nell and Alfred Molina is the villainous Snidely Whiplash. You need more? Okay, this movie is incredibly dull, terrifically unfunny and absolutely stupid. It’s a dire, horrific viewing experience that will destroy your soul. I can’t express just how absolutely horrible this movie is.
Sgt. Bilko (1996) – Jonathan Lynn
Steve Martin is the titular conartist originally created by Phil Silvers. Dan Ackroyd is the bumbling, not exactly bright commander of the Army Base. Phil Hartman is the by-the-book straight arrow who wants to take Bilko down. Glenne Headley is Bilko’s hapless girlfriend. The supporting cast also includes a freakishly young Chris Rock and a very funny Austin Pendleton. The movie is, with that cast, probably not as funny as it should be. But it does have laughs. Ackroyd plays subtle and so does Hartman, to contrast with Martin’s wild and crazy guy goofiness and the contrast works. Some of the funniest moments are the subtlest, but the script has some great lines as well. “It is my understanding that you can no longer ask me these questions” went into my lexicon of great movie lines when I first saw this movie over a decade ago; on a reviewing, it gets to stay. Could the movie be better? Does the ending make total sense? Do the characters ever rise above cartoonish to really human? Well, yes, no, & no, but it is my understanding that you can no longer ask me these questions. See how it works?
Angst isst Seele auf (2002) – Shahbaz Noshir
A spiritual remake/sequel of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul by Fassbinder. In it, a young actor who’s perspective is represented by a first person POV shot is on his way to play a character in a theatrical version of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. On the way, he faces the same kind of racism that the character faces in the original film. It’s an interesting short film, but not essential viewing. Of necessity it pales next to its inspiration. It can be found on the Criterion DVD release of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and is a fun viewing after you’ve seen the real movie. Brigitte Mira, star of the original film, has a brief, but absolutely luminous cameo at the end of the short film, nearly thirty years older, but still captivating the screen.
Mr. Skeffington: A Picture of Strength (2005) – John Anderson, Drew Casper, Charlotte Chandler
Extra feature on the DVD of Mr. Skeffington I bought. The film, with Bette Davis and Claude Rains, is a melodrama and features neither of their finest hours, if you get my drift. This under ten minute documentary of people talking about how great the film is didn’t convince me and probably won’t you either. I suppose Skeffington itself is worth a watch; this one: no.
Looper (2012) – Rian Johnson
Am I going to gripe because a movie gets a little slow in the second half, because it’s interested in character? No, I’m not. This movie had a lot of great pleasures, but it still left me wanting more. The moments when the movie really shows you what it has are so great that you wish it would have put it all out there a little more. Paul Dano’s twitchy Seth doesn’t stick around nearly long enough and Jeff Daniels’ paternal Abe is sadly cheated as well in screen time (and don’t even talk about the sloppy way he’s written out of the film). A great set piece of a villain searching a house, the showstopping climax when that villain returns a bit later and meets a very strange fate and a fantastic bit where we flash over thirty years in a matter of a couple of minutes are stylish, imaginative and fantastic. An alley action scene shows what you can still do by not being stylish or flashy. But the movie has longueurs too, especially in the second half, though Emily Blunt is very good. Still one can only sit on a farm for so long even with Emily Blunt for company, and I would have liked more of a connectin between Joe and Sid during all this. Then there’s a sequence in which Bruce Willis resolves a lot of plot by essentially getting two machine guns and killing a boatload of people; it’s lazy storytelling and something we’ve seen a billion times before. And what about that ending? Well, I was hoping, frankly, for a much more humanistic one, one of faith in the future. Instead, we get a fairly nihilistic ending that doesn’t really sit right with what we’ve been building towards. But do I pan a movie, in today’s slam-bang-pow environment for being too slow? Once again, I don’t. I appreciate the effort put into Looper to make it something more. It doesn’t quite get there, but I’m just glad when anyone tries these days.