Saturday, January 30, 2010

Viewing log: 29/1/10

New Releases

Better than Chloe, but a plausibility nightmare; gets plain silly

Lordy, I loathed this -- ugly, amateurish and intolerably overextended

A hot mess, barely intelligible, with some (almost) redeemingly weird scenes

Not Zoo 2. Somewhat faux-naif, but engagingly sad and gently whimsical

Wondrous colours and a fascinating relationship with urban modernity

Temple explores the backstreets of music history with addictive flair

Plenty of mistakes, but the movie's half-deranged empathy can't be denied

Lovely visuals when it's in New Orleans; the bayou bits drag, unfortunately

Other Adventures

An old favourite I still love for its implacable, paranoid logic and the perfs

The Lodger (1927)
Hard to beat for clockwork build-up of suspicion and eroticism

Neeson's quite good, but Nesbitt's terrible, and the script flails conceitedly

Georgia (1995)
A sublimely complex sisterly relationship; the occasional duff note elsewhere

Bananas (1971)
Irresistible nonsense: surely one of the funniest of the "early, funny ones"

Billy Bathgate (1991)
Elegantly muted, nobly adapted and way-underrated. Steven Hill is superb

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Viewing log: 22/1/10

New Releases

Armored B–
Yay for Walter Hill throwbacks this businesslike, even when the plot's creaky

The Boys are Back B
Far more sincerity and detail in the relationships than you'd think

One fake moment after the next, thanks to Benioff and the glum leads

It scrunched my face into a dyspeptic rictus from start to finish

Brutal and tender, unshakeably real and daringly surreal, epic and confined

Still every bit as glorious, and Pixar's real benchmark for story construction

Other Adventures

Some great imagery, but the script's too patly diagnostic

The Invasion (2007) F
Did aliens make this, or Nokia PRs? Literally nothing goes to plan

88 Minutes (2007) D–
Might be Pacino's nadir, and I've seen Righteous Kill

The Unloved (2009) B+
The parent scenes don't work, but everything else is compassionate magic

A chintzy, Neil Simon-ish simulacrum of hell, absurdly up itself

Borderline drudgery, but improves towards the end, and Vera's great

Nine Lives (2005) C+
Liked the early segments, before it slides into softcore Guillermo Arriaga

*denotes a repeat viewing

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Old Rope, new life

Bertie Carvel in Rope, at the Almeida, might be my favourite performance on the London stage since Bill Irwin in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, or at least Douglas Hodge in the Menier's Cage aux Folles. He's that good. To those who only know Patrick Hamilton's soiree-murder nailbiter from the Hitchcock movie, this is the Jimmy Stewart role -- but who knew Rupert Cadell could be such a peach of a part for a young actor? (He's 33.) The last to arrive on stage, he makes his entrance count, hobbling in with a gilded cane, an expression of distaste at the octagonal chest serving as a canape table centre stage, and a hissily accented drawl -- part Gordon Kaye, part Anton Walbrook -- which he sustains quite immaculately for the next hour and a half. When he turns his withering sarcasm on each of the party guests in turn -- they include the droll Henry Lloyd-Hughes as a bluff, hearty athletics champ, and the priceless Phoebe Waller-Bridge, turning the excitable flapper Leila into the very model of a gangly Max Beerbohm caricature -- it's a controlled torrent of contemptuous aestheticism. And there's a sadness to him: the war wound causing that limp has curdled his worldview into bitter desolation. His only comfort is in catching others out, which is to say smelling an instant rat at the whole complexion of the evening.

Roger Michell's production isn't perfect. The leads have their individual moments: Blake Ritson's Brandon, a brittle charmer with a dead soul, is an energetically conceited MC, and Alex Waldmann plays Granillo as a small, querulous schoolboy -- an also-ran. In tandem, though, the sense of duet is missing: they don't communicate enough eye-flashing anxiety across the stage, and Waldmann goes OTT at least twice with the screeching hysteria, as Michell allows the tone of the piece to tip over too precipitously into macabre farce. Their fate is never felt to matter, because they are second-class citizens, particularly under the shriveling gaze of Carvel's Rupert, who lurks by the fireplace watching their whole charade play out, and prodding it occasionally with his line of suspicious questioning. The last scenes are fascinating, because Michell and Carvel have built enough ambiguity into the character that you forget whether he's going to let them off the hook or not. We hold our breath while morality and cold logic conduct a duel in his head. The tortured physicality that Carvel brings to his whole performance -- the sheer effort it takes him to cross his legs, his brusque, impatient but clomping progress across the room -- pay off beautifully when he gets his tiny glimpse at what's in the chest, and just stands there. He'd already guessed, but the full measure of what they've done stops him in his tracks. Brandon and Granillo may have lifted the corpse inside, but it's Rupert's job -- and Carvel's job, pulled off just tremendously -- to weigh it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Viewing log: 15/1/10

New Releases

44 Inch Chest C+
Hurt & McShane really get their teeth in, Winstone tries. But why so curtailed?

All About Steve D+
Some gags fly, and go Sandy, but it's too often maddeningly garish and random

Carts around its old-hat ideas with an impressive lack of humour or credibility

Crude B–
Could have been shaped more forcefully, but bitter and cogent all the same

A smirkfest amusing itself rather than us -- doubt I'll race to see Nest of Spies

Ozu-lite? Kind of, but limpid and lovely in its simple way

Glib and opportunistic, I'll admit, but the Vera/George stuff still delights

Other Adventures

See How They Fall (1994) B–
A very uneven rough draft of a movie; does tip daringly into outright man-love

Dinner at Eight (1933)* B+
House champagne, with cracking turns from Dressler and the good Barrymore

Fata Morgana (1971) B
Herzog at full noodle; off-puttingly spare and opaque, but oddly resonant

Not enough grit, except from Day-Lewis, to make its conflicts reverberate

The Sorcerers (1967) C+
No Witchfinder, but the hokey plot is staged with some style and integrity

Bent (1997) D+
An Important Play stultified with makeshift editing and mainly rotten acting

*denotes a repeat viewing