Must-Sees: August 2011

My five recommendations for this month all come from the earliest years of cinema.  Typical moviegoers make it a point to avoid silent films because they assume that they will be hopelessly boring without dialogue.  Film buffs will have seen these titles, but if you are among the group of skeptics, here are five movies to consider.  They can all be watched on Netflix instant:

Metropolis (1927)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most expensive silent film ever made involves huge sets, captivating storytelling, and fantastic futuristic vision.  The plot of Metropolis incorporates an underground factory, rebellious workers, and a robot that looks a lot like an early prototype of Star Wars‘ C3-PO.  This is the grandfather of The Matrix, Dark City, Blade Runner, and Alien, so any science fiction fan interested in the roots of the genre should not miss Lang’s masterpiece.

The General (1927)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone knows of Charlie Chaplin, but few know of his equal, Buster Keaton.  Chaplin and Keaton were the two best film comedians of their day.  However, for years, Keaton’s movies were lost.  After being rediscovered in the 1960s, only a few years before the actor’s death, Keaton was hailed a master of his art.  The General is his best film.  It is very funny, exciting, and fast-paced, making for the perfect hour-long adventure movie.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only is this flawless tragedy one of the greatest silent films, it is also one of the greatest films, period.  It gets its power from the strong leading performances as well as director Dreyer’s straightforward storytelling and innovative close-ups.  Emotionally, it is nearly overwhelming, ensuring that viewers will never forget it.  The Passion of Joan of Arc is perfect in every aspect.

Nosferatu (1922)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This very well may be the best movie made about vampires.  Even ninety years after Nosferatu‘s release, it still is a genuinely chilling experience.  F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece of horror was the first among many films to explore the blood-sucking creatures, so any fan of Twilight owes a lot to this movie.  Unlike the better known Dracula (1933), Nosferatu will not be received as corny by any audience.

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the 1940s and 1950s, Sergei Einstein’s Battleship Potemkin was considered the world’s greatest film by the most respected critics and filmmakers.  Today, few would agree, but this is nonetheless, a great movie.  It moves at a great pace, painting a portrait of merciless tyranny and a search for freedom.  The result is inspiring, and ends up speaking to viewers in a way that only silent films can.

Bond 23 Movie Posters

The world’s longest running movie franchise releases its newest adventure next year returning Daniel Craig as James Bond as well as starring Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem.  The film has not officially been titled Risico or The Property of a Lady; these names have only been rumored.  Here is some poster art thrown together by Bond fans:

Looking Ahead: Five 2011 Films I Cannot Wait to See

There are obviously many films that I would like to see by the end of the year, but there are only a few that stand out as something that could be great.  Here are five of them:

1.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, and Mark Strong all star in this intriguing espionage thriller in which veteran George Smiley (Oldman) is brought out of retirement to find a Soviet spy hidden within MI6’s group of agents.  This is planned to come out on November 18 (the week of my birthday) and I anticipate it to be well-acted and considerably suspenseful.  It will be interesting to see how Colin Firth’s performance matches up to his previous Oscar-winning one.  I expect Oldman to steal the show.

 

 

2.  Warrior

A second movie starring Tom Hardy.  It isn’t a boxing movie, if you looked close at the poster.  Instead, we get to see Hardy do some mixed martial arts as Tom Conlon, an ex-Marine set to fight his own brother in the final round of the MMA tournament.  The fighting looks intense and the added emotions behind the fight promise to elevate Warrior above our average sports flick.  I will be ready when this is released on September 9.

 

 

 

3. Hugo

November 23, a week after the release of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Martin Scorsese’s newest film will be open for the general public.  What looks promising is that Scorsese has never done anything like this before, and this is the first film that he’s made in nine years that doen’t star Leonardo DiCaprio.  I really don’t know exactly what to expect, but if it is as enchanting as the imaginative children’s book which it is based on, then we should be in for a treat.

 

 

4. The Adventures of Tintin

It wasn’t too long ago that I was reading those wonderful illustrated adventures of Tintin.  These books were funny, intelligent, and high-spirited.  I am excited to see a hint of film noir in the trailer, along with some fascinating settings.  I doubt that Tintin will come close to winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but I would love for the French author, Herge, to get some sort of recognition.  Released on December 23.

 

 

 

5. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I do love some good, mindless action thrills and the Mission: Impossible movies are one of the best franchises at bringing us just that.  While they typically show some significant flaws in some areas, I can always depend on them if I ever want to jump off a skyscraper or be suspended in a touch-sensitive, high-security CIA vault.  I can’t wait to see what director Brad Bird has in store for us this December.

 

 

 

Trailers:

 

 

 

 

Film Review: The Parking Lot Movie (2010)

 

I am not a violent man, but I did once swing a lead pipe at someone.”

So says Tyler Magill, a former parking lot attendant, who is interviewed in Meghan Eckman’s Parking Lot Movie.  Magill’s explanation for this action is that his victim refused to pay the 40 cent parking fee.  But this isn’t just Magill’s way of handling these situations, it embodies the attitudes of all his other fellow attendants.  Some of which are college students, some are mid-thirties and have been doing it for at least ten years.  But they all agree that the job is plenty of fun.

They acknowledge the poor reputation of their title, they say they are being paid to do almost nothing, and they exalt the activity as one of the most worth-while things they will ever do.  But with their enthusiasm and bitter disgust for the lot’s winy customers, comes a dry sense of humor that encompasses the whole film.  The way the parking lot is defined by the attendants’ funny rituals and sarcastic words reminds me of one of my favorite television shows, The Office.

But while The Office gets its hilarity from constant exaggeration, The Parking Lot, being a documentary, consists of cruel sincerity.  Throughout the film, we are shown the duties, habits, pastimes, and philosophies of the employees.  By the end, you will feel like you have actually met them, which is something hardly any Hollywood movies have achieved.

Its only significant flaw lies in the very beginning, and that is that it fails to intrigue the audience enough to watch the picture all the way through.  But none-the-less, there aren’t many slow bits once it picks up.  After all, it is only an hour and fifteen minutes and ends up being a funny, entertaining film that is well worth the time.

Rating: 4/5

Film Review: Amadeus (1984)

More any other genre, classical music is best at expressing certain feelings.  For this reason, movies that use it can be especially captivating.  However, that is only part of the reason that I found Amadeus to be an astonishing film.  There are chilling undertones of jealousy and murder which make it both fascinating and thrilling.  Though many films have attempted to achieve this exact same feel, this is the first that has accomplished it so elegantly.

Most everyone has heard of Mozart.  He was a child prodigy and wrote heavenly music, but he died a young father and husband.  Mozart would never find that one of his colleagues, fellow composer Antonio Salieri, had once planned to murder him out of envy.  Salieri, vividly portrayed by F. Murray Abraham, could not bear the extreme jealousy that filled him when he discovered Mozart’s talents.  But Salieri was determined to be glorified as a great composer. So he convinced Mozart to compose a Requiem that he could steal and call his own after murdering him.  The theme of Amadeus is not the death of Mozart but instead what drove Salieri to murder. It was too much for him, knowing that he was completely incapable of what Mozart did so effortlessly.

Mozart’s work is the perfect soundtrack for this biographical film which also features a great group of performances, a superb script, and exquisite sets and costumes.  Amadeus is a film that stands high above all other period dramas, it is beautiful, unforgettable, and one of the few movies that can honestly be called a timeless masterpiece.  Not even in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has director Milos Forman gotten so close to perfection.

Rating: 5/5

Film Review: Michael Clayton (2007)

Michael Clayton is the ‘fixer’ for a New York law firm engaged in a class-action law suit, when one of the firm’s legendary attorneys uncovers evidence that they are on the “wrong side.”  Clayton, brought to life by one of today’s finest actors, George Clooney, is cool and intelligent, but thanks to Clooney, a softer side is subtly revealed.  Accompanying him are actors Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and the late Sydney Pollack.  Wilkinson is the attorney who loses his job and eventually, his life, after making a vital discovery; it is an Oscar-worthy performance.  Swinton (also known as the White Witch in the Narnia movies) actually did win an Oscar for her bit as a lawyer opposing the actions of Wilkinson.

Clooney’s poise makes for the best performance in the bunch, but Michael Clayton boasts more than good acting.  Tony Gilroy’s directorial debut is pulse-pounding and above all, impressive as a first-rate paranoia thriller.  The striking score, the abundance of blue and gray, and the building suspense create a wonderfully ominous tone.  It is this tone that makes the whole picture stand out among other thrillers.  Sharp dialogue is common here, as well as a truck-load of details.  Every member of the audience who wants to get his/her money’s worth out of this film will have to pay attention.  While the movie is pitch-perfect, it moves rapidly and it can be easy to fall behind.  Keep up and you’ll be happy that you were along for the ride.

Michael Clayton never really had a chance of winning Best Picture at the 2007 Oscars, especially over two masterpieces as incredible as No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.  Nonetheless, it was nominated because it was well-made, and should not be missed.  It will always be a favorite to those who love movies that require them to think and be fully alert.

Rating: 4/5