Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blood Simple (1985)

A splatter-movie art movie. The director, Joel Coen, wrote the screenplay with his brother Ethan, who was the producer; they made the film independently, but it's a Hollywood by-product. A Texas roadhouse owner (Dan Hedaya) wants to have his young wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz) murdered; he hires a killer, a good-ol'-boy private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) who takes his money and double-crosses him. The one real novelty in the conception is that the audience has a God's-eye view of who is doing what to whom, while the characters have a blinkered view and, misinterpreting what they see, sometimes take totally inexpedient actions. Joel Coen doesn't know what to do with the actors (they give their words too much deliberation and weight), but he knows how to place the characters and the props in the film frame in a way that makes the audience feel knowing and in on the joke. His style is deadpan and klutzy, and he uses the klutziness as his trump card. It's how he gets his laughs—the audience enjoys not having to take things seriously. The film provides a visually sophisticated form of gross-out humor; the material is thin, though, and there isn't enough suspense until about the last ten minutes, when the action is so grisly that it has a kick. M. Emmet Walsh is the only colorful performer; he lays on the loathsomeness, but he gives it a little twirl—a sportiness. The grimy, lurid cinematography is by Barry Sonnenfeld. With Samm-Art Williams. (Pauline Kael)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Dead Girl (2006)

This is one of those self-consciously "literary" films - you know, a collection of (in this instance)five segments connected in some cosmic way. Here, in each vignette, a woman somehow connected with the discovery of a murdered woman's body has a very literary epiphany...But let's roll with it: Toni Colette is the woman who finds the body (strange, but okay); Rose Byrne,the sister of another long-missing girl, has become an M.E. (really? well...okay); Mary Beth Hurt is the wife of the murderer (she does...what? I don't get it); Marcia Gay Harden is the murdered girl's mother (this was good); and then, Brittany Murphy stomps onscreen as the soon-to-be dead girl, and makes everyone else looks foolish.

The Good German (2006)

Where's Claude Raines when you really need him?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

13 Tzameti (2006)

13 Tzameti would work as a silent movie. Nearly everything you need to know is conveyed in images.

This is the thriller Unknown (below) wanted to be.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Unknown (2006)

Somebody came up with a terrific conceit for a B-movie -- the pitch probably went UsualSuspects/Memento/Twelve AngryMen/ReservoirDogs/Cube/Saw -- and then apparently let a couple of bright high school kids write it and shoot it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sherrybaby (2006)

Maggie Gyllenhaal is always the best part of any movie she's in (see Criminal, or Mona Lisa Smile)

Sherrybaby is all her show, and she doesn't hit a wrong note.

(Also with Danny Trejo!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Lady Vengeance (2005)

Vengeance is hers: I'll never get those two hours back.

You Kill Me (2007)

Ben Kingsley and Tea Leone have some nice scenes together early on – as they flirt, they take turns reacting to each others’ clever lines by suppressing a laugh – but the shaggy-dog mobster storyline is too shaggy by half, and Phillip Baker Hall and Dennis Farina are thrown away.