Comments on watching and making films.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Judgements on recent DVD's

Taxi To The Darkside - Alex Gibney's Oscar winning documentary about torture in Abu Ghraib and beyond is informative, but a little boring. I was expecting it to be a specific story about the taxi driver who was abducted under false pretenses by military soldiers, captured, and killed, but his story was sort of secondary to a documentary that was only generally about torture. The next film was a lot better - 

Standard Operating Procedure - Errol Morris's visually stunning documentary about Abu Ghraib and the famous images that came out of it, is another amazing Morris film. He interviews many of the people responsible for those images (unlike Gibney's Taxi To The Darkside). Morris's goal is to question the reliability of an abstract image and its meaning, and he does so with incredible result. When those pictures were released, most people would have strung up those soldiers. After watching Standard Operating Procedure, you realize the problem wasn't simply with a few soldiers, but a disease that started at the top of the chain of command and worked its way down. The most unfortunate thing about it is that only the most obvious people were punished for it. A must see.

House of Wax - This Vincent Price vehicle was a remake of a film from the 30's, and was remade a few years ago into a horrendous waste of time, who's only redeeming moment was a Paris Hilton death scene. Price plays a genius wax sculptor who is disfigured and let for dead by his partner. He survives, though, rebuilding his wax museum with people who look strikingly realistic. A little too realistic, in fact. The film is interesting and enjoyable for a film from that era. Price is a great actor, though he often was cast in bad horror and sci-fi films. Worth a watch.

The Furies - Anthony Mann's epic western deals with a battle between a father and his daughter for control of a huge ranch known as "The Furies". This is a classic western with a lot of eye candy scenery. While some of the acting is kind of hokey, and 1950's stereotype's abound, over all the film is a good watch if you're into westerns.

The Night Porter - The story of a Nazi soldier who reconnects with a young woman who he had a strange sexual relationship with in a concentration camp. The story makes sense, but is long and boring. This film is considered one of the greatest films of the 70's "golden" era, but is not worth your time unless your trying to see as much 70's film as possible.

The Foot Fist Way - Danny McBride stars as an idiotic martial arts instructor who's life is going down the tubes. His wife is cheating on him with everyone she can, his students don't respect him, and, after meeting his martial arts hero, he realizes the guy is a complete tool. McBride is hilarious and writer/director Jody Hill and writer Ben Best do a great job at bringing us a hilarious comedy about a complete idiot. 

Gray's Anatomy - I love Steven Soderbergh, but I'm going to have to take a pass on this one. I tried watching this twice and fell asleep both times, about 30 minutes in. The third time, I made sure to watch it early, and fast forwarded through the 30 minutes I had already seen (twice). I'm assuming if you know, or like, Spalding Gray, this film is probably great, but I don't know or like him, and found his monologue to be uninteresting. Did Soderbergh honestly believe that a bunch of people were going to sit around for 80 minutes watching a guy talk about an eye problem? Sorry Soderbergh, but, in a long and illustrious career, you've finally got your first strike.

Erin Brockovich - I'm not a big Julia Robert's fan, but I am a big Steven Soderbergh fan, so I have been trying to hit up all of his stuff that I haven't seen yet. I missed Brockovich when it came out because I didn't know who Soderbergh was yet, and it seemed like a chick-flick. The true story of rags to riches lawyer Erin Brockovich, who helps hundreds of people win a judgement against an energy concern that has been poisoning their water for decades, Robert's is competent in it, and the film definitely has its moments both funny and sentimental. Much like Out of Sight, Erin Brokovich is not one of Soderbergh's best, but it is a good film and enjoyable enough to sit through its 2+ hour running time.

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