Saturday, February 12, 2011

2011 Recently Watched Movies - Mini reviews

I have been going crazy lately (all this year) watching movies, a real binge, and wanted to give my brief thoughts on several of them. Many of these are classic (1960's) sci-fi wonders. The list here is presented in alphabetical order. There are probably a few minor spoilers here, so be careful. Anything marked with a "*" is something I think you really ought to see if you have not already.

2012 : A large scale modern disaster movie, which I found an entertaining watch at the time (I was bored in a hotel room), in an Americanised "action-packed" way. I don't think I'd watch it again. The best part is watching Woodie Harreison as the conspiracy theorist in raptures as Yellowstone goes up. The worst is all the underwater scenes, they may as well have been swimming in corn syrup.

A Clockwork Orange * : Seen it before, just wanted to see it again. Actually, I skipped bits, which is a crime, I know. Very intense film, with a lot of great but often disturbing scenes.

Barbarella * : Sci-Fi soft porn from the year I was born, with the very innocently played Jane Fonda. How can you not like a film where the main character strips in the opening credits? Actually, it has a real creativity in this film that I love, and more than a bit of popular culture was born from it. Good old Dino De Laurentiis (who also did Dune), it's a classic.

District 9 : An odd modern (2009) Sci-Fi where aliens land in South Africa but they are more or less refugees. Racism (well, the inter-species version of it) is quite well presented. It gets corny near the end, but overall a surprisingly good movie - it's got a very different vibe to anything I've seen before. It seemed like a black comedy documentary at first, but it changes.

Fahrenheit 451 : Probably the oldest film here, made in 1966. The premise is that the firemen actually start fires to burn books, which are banned. The story follows one such fireman. It meanders a little, but I did enjoy seeing a "future house" from the mid sixties. The large colour video wall must have seen so far out back then, but is a reality now, for example. An interesting plot on the whole, worth watching if you can find it.

Fight Club * : I am very late to this party, but I finally watched this. This is somewhat essential viewing if you are to understand the crowd at, which is where I hang out some times. There are some plot inconsistencies, but overall I was very involved, and loved the character of Marla.

Flesh Gordon * : Note the spelling. This is the soft-porn version of Flash Gordon, which is one of my favourite movies from my youth. Surprisingly, it came out before Flash Gordon, but follows the plot of that film very closely. The stand out for me was William Dennis Hunt, who plays Emperor Wang the Perverted so magnificently. It's all harmless fun, with some nudity, and some simple but effective effects. You are more likely to laugh than be aroused. Based on this I also watched the sequel, "Flesh Gordon meets the cosmic cheerleaders" which is very, very bad indeed and needs to be avoided. Don't get them confused.

Inception : This is a story about people that can enter into a shared dream. It takes itself seriously, and also takes quite a bit of the time to explain what is going on. There are some plot inconsistencies if you stop and think about it for long -- such as the weightlessness is transferred from one dream to the next, but not to the next. They could have put more weirdness in it, and bits were a little matrix like in parts. I enjoyed watching this though, and it was a good thinking movie.

The Island : It might be hard to review this, even in a mini-way, without giving away the plot. This ultra-modern sci-fi lacks the subtlety of many of the older sci-fi movies in this list. It's been Americanised, and there are gratuitous action scenes which in the end add nothing. The scene with the mother "going to the island" is awful, not in a cinematic way, but as a repugnant idea presented unapologetically. Logan's run is, in my opinion, much better.

Logan's Run * : Note the apostrophe! I'd never seen this old sci-fi, and I really should have, it's great. Of course the effects are dated, and the scene with the robot is particularly sad, but there are other ideas that really make up for it. I don't know why exactly, but I really enjoyed this. I have a strange fondness for 70s architecture, so perhaps that's it.

Moon : A recent Sci-Fi, which had a bunch of interesting concepts in it. It's a kind of lonely film, but involving and well executed in the main. Shades of Alien, Space 1999, and probably 2001.

Repo Man * : I had seen this before, when it came out in 1984, and remember enjoying it at the time. It has aged well in my opinion, and I enjoyed re-watching it a lot too. Emillio Estevez plays the character of Otto as a likeable, flippant, dispirited youth. It has some elements of a David Lynch film, and gets pretty weird in places.

Shaun of the Dead : This one is a real change of pace compared to everything else on the list. I came to this movie after watching the entire 2 series of "Spaced", which is excellent. This movie almost has the same cast. It's a comedy zombie movie, of course a piss-take of Dawn of the Dead, and it's surprisingly funny. Tempted to put a star there, but ultimately all it is is entertainment - not much to think about afterwards.

They Live : Another old sci-fi, although not as old as some of the others at 1988. Roddy Piper plays the lead, and his acting is fairly poor on the main. However, the ideas in the film build up and eventually become quite engaging. There are corny one-liners in this movie like it's an Arnie film, but it doesn't come off as well. If you are paranoid, in a tin-foil hat government conspiracy kind of way, this movie is for you.

The Trip : From 1967, a Dennis Hopper creation of what it is like to take LSD.  There were a small number of annoying kaleidoscopic effects that went on too long, but overall this is a really good film. The scene in the laundry mat is a gem, as are any where Hopper appears.

Tommy : A rock musical, which for me isn't a good thing. I wanted to see this again for two scenes only really : The pinball song with Elton John on stilts, and the TV scene where the baked beans pour out. I re-watched those and that was it.

V for Vendetta : This is a strange movie in a lot of ways. I did like it a lot overall, with some powerful visuals. I quite like Portman too. I wonder what percentage of the movie is spent looking at the masked face of V though? Seemed like a bit too long by the end.

(Edit 24/3/2011 : Added links to Amazon DVD's. I didn't write this to generate money, but if you want to buy a DVD of any of these movies from Amazon, use the link and I'll get a small cut. Thanks.)

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