Thursday, August 17, 2017

Souls for Sale

After getting bad vibes from her murderous fugitive husband (Lew Cody) en route to their honeyman, a young beauty (Eleanor Boardman) hops off her train in the middle of the barren California desert and is rescued by an actor (Frank Mayo) riding a camel filming latest adventure story. Now she struggles to gain fame in the cutthroat industry, falls into a love triangle between the dashing male lead and a stern director (Richard Dix), while her husband, having noted her stardom, returns to reclaim her. Solid silent studio film contains great insider vantage points and cameos, including fascinating appearances by Charlie Chaplin at work and Erich von Stroheim on the set of Greed, and a fantastic, apocalyptic finale.
*** ½ out of ****

Monday, August 14, 2017

Everyone Says I Love You

A depressed neurotic expatriate (Woody Allen) romances a beautiful fellow American (Julia Roberts) in Venice with inside information through his daughter from her psychoanalyst while his ex-wife (Goldie Hawn) and current husband (Alan Alda) and the rest of their sprawling family frolic in New York City while falling in and out of love. The usual Allen fare musicalized to old standards, Everyone Says I Love You is too unfocused, light, and scattered but often very funny. Highlights include specters singing during a wake, Goldie and Woody’s elegant number along the Seine, and the closing Marx Brothers masquerade.

*** out of ****

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Spy Who Loved Me

After British and Russian nuclear subs are hijacked by a maniacal billionaire (Curt Jurgens), with a gargantuan metal mouth henchman (Richard Kiel), a penchant for sharks, and hellbent on submerging the planet and creating an underwater civilization, Bond (Roger Moore) is called into action and paired with a slinky Moscow agent (Barbara Bach) with a deadly vendetta against the British spy. The Spy Who Loved Me is a surprisingly strong, well made, and often spoofed entry with Bach a game Bond girl and Moore finally settling into the role nicely. Jurgens makes a less than formidable villain but Kiel's entry into the series is both fun and menacing.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Detroit

An aspiring Motown singer (Algee Smith) and a friend, along with a security guard (John Boyega), a returning Army vet (Anthony Mackie), and others regrettably assemble at the Algiers Motel near the epicenter of the 1967 Detroit riots and find themselves victims of the crazed and tortuous police force searching for a sniper alleged to have fired from the establishment. Made with screenwriter Mark Boal, collaborator on her recent high profile projects (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit is made with the sole and express intention to incite plus is scattershot and overlong, with too many unnecessary, drawn out scenes and underdeveloped characters, and a misguided inclination to treat the dreadful incident like a horror movie.
** out ****

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Beguiled

A critically wounded Union soldier is discovered and taken into a Southern all-girls boarding school where he is reluctantly nursed back to health while he stokes the ire, passions, and curiosities of its residents. Don Siegel's The Beguiled is more diabolical and carnal than Sophia Coppola's recent respectable remake, made with a very 70s, hallucinatory aura, and a surprisingly talkative role for Eastwood who is quite, especially later on when his character becomes possessed with uncontrollable rage.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Friday, August 4, 2017

Exotica

A grieving bank auditor (Bruce Greenwood) seeks emotional comfort from a dancer (Mia Kirsher) at a specialized Toronto gentleman’s club which stirs the ire of her ex-boyfriend and house DJ (Elias Koteas) while an animal smuggling pet shop owner (Don McKellar) is brought into the damaged circle. Atom Egoyan’s Exotica is pretentiously and obliquely drawn but extremely involving and even spellbinding in parts, with a big assist to the Leonard Cohen soundtrack. Greenwood and especially Koteas standout in the cast.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Night Moves

A cuckolded L.A. private eye (Gene Hackman), who finds his current line of work a far cry from his glory days on the gridiron, takes on the case of a missing teenager (Melanie Griffith) which leads him to the Florida Keys and ultimately has greater ramifications of plundering, sleaze, and murder. Made on the heels of Chinatown and perhaps mirroring that classic a little too closely in terms of plot, Arthur Penn’s Night Moves works marvelously both as a detective story and on an existential, psychological plane while incorporating a snappy, insightful screenplay into an involving story. Hackman shows his unique ability to play a sensitive tough guy and I can't imagine anyone else delivering these lines with such conviction and believability, although Penn doesn't direct the actresses well.
**** out of ****

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

La belle noiseuse

A great master (Michel Piccoli) lives in his picturesque manor in the south of France having not painted in over ten years since he halted work on his masterpiece after the storm it created with his then muse and current wife (Jane Birkin). Now, he is visited by an art dealear, a photographer, and his beautiful, independent minded girlfriend (Emmanuelle Beart) who is seen as a new source of inspiration for the artist as the storms begin to brew once more as he believes he will now be able to finish his magnum opus. Though tough going at times and with an extreme running time, Jacques Rivette's La belle noiseuse is a painstaking, incredibly in-depth look at the creative process and how during which the human factor takes its hand. Piccoli and Birkin are excellent and the gorgeous Beart offers a fearless and nuanced performanced.
*** 1/2 out of ****