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Posts Tagged ‘hitchcock

Following (1998)

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So I think by this point everybody’s on board that Christopher Nolan is the bad-A of the times.  The best of the best, the leader of the pack, a movie-lover’s dream.  This is everybody’s man’s debut film.  Following is probably the most similar to Memento of any of his other movies, but it is also completely different in its own right.  It’s almost Hitchcock-esque.  Not quite so trippy as Inception, but still as gripping.  It’s a low-budget gem.

Following is, initially, about a man named Bill who follows people to pass the time.  He’s a writer, but has no current job, and wants to learn about human nature from his followees.  He had to set rules for himself though, so as not to become too obsessive or, IMO, perverted, and his most important rule of all was never to follow the same person twice.  But why set rules unless you can break them, eh?

He follows a man named Cobb.  (More than once).  But this mysterious, handsome man in a dark suit knows that our guy’s up to something and confronts him.  They talk, and share their stories.  Turns out Cobb’s a serial burglar, and he invites our man to go on some jobs with him.  These ain’t your run-of-the-mill-steal-the-jewelry-burglars, though.  Cobb’s more interested in the personal items of their victims.  “Everyone has a box.”  He drinks their wine, rummages through photos, takes a few things here and there.  His intention is that “you take it away, show them what they had.”

They become partners, and Cobb shows the young man what’s up.  The young man starts some burglary projects of his own, changes his appearance, starts a relationship with a blonde femme-fatale.  Things spin out of control soon enough however.  Never follow someone twice, kids.

The chronology is similar to Memento.  Awesome.  It’s not as systematic as that, however (color real-time scenes, black & white backwards scenes, etc.)  But it’s still out of order, and possibly even awesome-r in this modern film noir.  Who’d-o’ thunk that this method of storytelling would be so freaking epic?  I think it’s the best way to reveal the what’s up of a story.  This remains true for Following.  The big end wouldn’t be half as cool were it not for the messed up timeline.  Hats off to you, Chris.

Its length (just over an hour) and detached feel are strengths as well.  The only character credited with a name is Cobb.  This also felt like something Hitchcock would do (and did).  It’s very straightforward, and lacks strong emotion.  You learn the facts about the characters, you learn about the victims.  You can’t always feel what the young man is feeling, however.  It’s hard to describe, because it’s a character story, or study rather, but it still has this edgy, detached feel.

The incomprehensible small budget of just $6,000 is put to perfect use in the gritty underbelly of London.  Everything feels dirty, creepy, and mysterious.  The excellent photography combined with the scenery contributes to the suspense and ambiance.  The no-name cast is also excellent, Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, and Lucy Russell.  It’s a surprise to me that they did nothing else, they’re quite good in this – especially Alex Haw as Cobb.. and he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page!

If you’re just hopping on the Chris Nolan bandwagon, I’d check this one out.  If you loved Memento, this is his father.  Following is another excellent film that credits Nolan as good as any other mainstream effort of his. 9/10

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Written by laurenthejukebox17

March 20, 2011 at 11:35 am

Disturbia (2007)

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“…It’s too close for comfort ahhhh put on your break lights, you’re in the city of wonder… ”
What, this isn’t the Rihanna song? Oh.

An ornery troubled teen (Shia LaBoeuf) on house arrest gets a little bit bored, turns into the nosey neighbor, goes all lewd/perverted over the new girl with the hot bod and the pool, and suspects someone to be a serial killer.  All in a day of boredom and people-watching.

This story is loosely based off of one of my all-time favorite Hitchcock’s: Rear Window.  I never realized just how perverted that show was until now…. but no.  It’s Jimmy Stewart.  And Grace Kelly was not such a deadbeat bikini chick.  Hitchcock was so crazy, how could you possible make a movie that intense without the camera ever leaving one room…? Oh wait, was this review about that Shia LaBoeuf movie?  Shoot, I’d much rather talk about Jimmy Stewart.

LaBeef isn’t such a bad actor.  I love him in Holes.  Lately I’ve just been disappointed in the films he’s been in.  Transformers? Eagle Eye? Oh jeez.  Anyway, he ain’t bad in this either.  A little annoying, but I attribute that more to the script than the acting.  Basically it’s a lot of teenage puppy dog CRAP, with a little suspense thrown in there.  The amazing thing about Rear Window is its ability to allude to the obvious temptation Jimmy Stewart has of staring at the half-naked girl across the way without being overbearing.  In Disturbia: Here’s the girl doing yoga.  Ooh, here’s here walking slo-mo into the pool, oh NOW she’s tossing her hair back, and how cute – she’s reading a book on her roof while sunbathing in booty shorts.  It didn’t make it much better that I watched this with a group of immature guys who were loving all the skin they could get.  I’m not a boy.  I don’t care.

The two adults in the movie were decent, David Morse and Carrie-Anne Moss.  The girl (Sarah Roemer) sucked.  A Megan Fox wannabe, and I don’t even like Megan Fox.  LaBeef’s friend (Aaron Yoo) was pretty funny though.  There were some enjoyable things too, (twinkie towers?) and LaBeef’s restraining anklet made for an interesting turn.  It IS a pretty okay-crafted thriller for a teen movie, I’ll give that to D.J. Caruso.  It did get pretty intense late in the climax, I’ll admit that as well.  But it wasn’t enough to convince me to enjoy this ridiculously cliché, terribly written, knock off of a classic. 3/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

January 30, 2011 at 5:27 pm

films that defined us

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I was asked by Marc from the awesome blog Go, See, Talk! to participate in this awesome blogathon: Films That Defined Us.  Man, these are the best things to think about.  Everyone remembers the movies that touched us as kids, movies that we could watch all day long on a Saturday, movies that we’ll always consider special.  My list plays directly off the word define.  I tried to choose movies that I not only enjoyed but movies that shaped the person I am today – or influenced future movie viewing habits.

8 genres, 8 movies.  Ready, set, go!

8. Drama: Apollo 13 (1995)
This is one of the first “adult” movies I remember watching and I thought I was soooo cool to get to see it (I was probably 6 or 7…)  Being already fascinated with space travel (thanks to Star Wars) this raised it a whole ‘nother level – this baby actually happened, it’s history.  Still a favorite movie and a must-see – annnd I still think it should have won Best Picture… (sorry Braveheart).

7. Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
I grew up watching and loving musicals but this was my favorite.  Somewhere between tapping the Tapioca and quirky, kidnappin’, Chinese women I became obsessed with this nonsense.  Today, while it’s since been replaced by West Side Story as my fav, I still know every lyric, I still love Mary Tyler Moore and John Gavin, and it still makes me want to dance.  I would cite it as the biggest influence in my musical-loving life.

6. Animation: Mulan (1998)
I dare say that this movie “defines” me more than just about any other movie because I used to pretend to be Mulan. It also inspired the martial arts side in me to come alive.  I now have a black belt and that passion began sometime while watching this Disney chick kick Hun-trash.  In the animation genre, I’d have to say that there are many that surpass (yeah, Pixar happened), but it’s still a lot of fun.

5. Thriller. Kind of: Rear Window (1954)
And so begins my Hitchcock obsession.  And a love for Jimmy Stewart.  I can’t even remember how old I was when I first saw it but it always stuck with me (and made me never want to watch Perry Mason…)

4. Adventure/Comedy/Romance/Everything: The Princess Bride (1987)
Man, what genre does this film fall under anyway?  It’s got “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” Anywho, this is where I learned to quote movies.  “Anybody want a peanut?” and “Have fun storming the castle!” I used on a daily basis.  It also gave birth to an undying admiration for sword fighting.  Whatever genre it may fall under, it’s made for every kid, teen, and adult.

3. Sports: Hoosiers (1986)
Favorite sports movie of all time.  Bball is also my favorite sport and every time I watched this, I’d want to get out and play.  So you could say it helped improve my ballin’ skills.  Basketball is still very important to me.  As for its genre, it’s simply the best out there.

2. Classic: On the Waterfront (1954)
This one came later on (as in just a few years ago), but has nonetheless made its mark on my life.  This is where I really got the whole classic-movie-gig.  Though I already wanted to marry Cary Grant, this movie made me want to watch absolutely anything made before 1960.  It has defined me by helping me discover the thrill of classics.

1: Sci-fi/Adventure: Star Wars (A New Hope) (1977)
There it is.  The king.  I must have watched the original trilogy of SW over 100 times in my childhood.  I used to pretend to fight with lightsabers and play with my brother’s toy Millenium Falcon.  I had no idea  a movie could be so wonderful and thought there was nothing parallel.  My perfect movie.

Thoughts?

Written by laurenthejukebox17

August 13, 2010 at 3:00 am

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

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Much like Blackmail, The Lodger looks and feels like a Hitchcock piece.  But The Lodger is even better.

It’s about a series of murders committed by the neighborhood’s Jack the Ripper type killer called “the Avenger.”  Seven golden-haired girls have already bit the dust and the culprit is still at large.  Then, at the Bunting residence, a new tenant (Ivor Novello) arrives interested in their room for rent.  He’s very reserved, pays in advance, and is oddly frightened by golden-haired lady pictures  donning the walls.  Then, after first glance of golden-haired daughter Daisy (June Tripp… though apparently her screen name is simply “June”), this duo are instantly attracted to one another.  (There is no short supply of golden-haired chicks floating around, hence the periodic “To-night ‘Golden Curls'” memo – where, in fact, the blondies attempt to hide their golden locks for fear of being labeled as potential victims).

Daisy’s policeman beau Joe (Malcolm Keen) is assigned to the Avenger case and is definitely into Daisy’s new interest.  One evening Mrs. Bunting (Marie Ault) catches the lodger sneaking out in the middle of the night and the next morning another dead golden-haired girl is discovered – around the corner from their home.  Could the Avenger be the lodger? (he does have a name, by the way – Jonathan)

The Lodger is an excellent silent ranking in my top 3 early Hitchcocks.  It’s suspensful and excellently sets an apprehensive mood.  Our leading lady is an interesting character though at times a little much.  The other actors are quite good, particularly Ivor Novello.  The musical score (though better than Champagne) felt like the same three themes on repeat, but at least it was applicable.  Where history is concerned, this is the true molding for the master’s future career as it is his earliest to have survived in its entirety.  All in all a really great piece of work. 8/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

August 3, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Posted in 1920s, drama, movies, mystery

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Number Seventeen (1932)

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Subtitles, guys… subtitles… Any admirable qualities are washed away in a wave of ambiguity.  We’re talking a BIG hole when you can hardly understand the dialogue.  Or maybe I’m just stupid.

Number Seventeen, based on a stage play by J. Jefferson Farjeon (thanks Wikipedia), takes place in an old house by a railway.  Detective Gilbert (John Stuart) is looking for a valuable necklace that was robbed.  While searching the old house, he and an old man named Ben (Leon M. Lion) stumble upon a dead body.  Throughout the film more characters show up including a woman who falls through the roof named Nora (Anne Grey), and the actual gang of thieves responsible for the robbery, Mr. and Mrs. deaf-and-dumb Ackroyd (Henry Caine and Ann Casson) and a third.  The dead body soon disappears, guns are being pulled at everyone, people keep getting locked into different rooms, the sought-after necklace is recovered, and everybody ends up on a train.

First of all, I would love to see a remake.  It’s an idea with great potential, and although this production is not gold-star worthy I was really interested.  Second, Leon Lion is really funny to watch on screen – he’s that bad.  Can one man move their face that many different ways in the space of twenty seconds?  Yes, he can.  Third, the sound and music meshes together much better than Champagne (aka it was actually intentional).  Fourth, the mood and pace are quite good.

Hitchcock cites this film in his famous interview with Truffaut as being a disaster.  I beg to differ, Champagne was a disaster.  Number Seventeen is unrealized potential.  I enjoyed it, and there’s definitely some solid material to build upon.  5/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

July 31, 2010 at 11:11 am

Posted in 1930s, movies, mystery, thriller

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Champagne (1928)

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What is this: name that tune classical edition?  I heard some “Liebestraum,” some “Clair de Lune” … Beautiful stuff.   Too bad it does absolutely nothing for the story.  I was already very opinionated about the importance of music and sound to affect the mood of the film.  This film reiterates my position.  Without the usual musical cues, the mood gets lost in translation.  The march begins while the characters laugh in a bedroom.  It’s light and airy when she’s obviously depressed.  I never knew when to be happy or sad or worried.  So I usually just laughed.

Champagne is about a spoiled heiress Betty (Betty Balfour) (also the only character with a name) who uses her father’s (Gordon Harker) airplane to meet up with her lover (Jean Bradin) on a ship and run off together.  Though apparently she’s not supposed to do the marriage arrangements otherwise groom-to-be will get angry and lose the desire to get hitched.  Our fourth character is a mysterious man (Ferdinand von Alten) whom Betty had met while her boy was seasick and stuck in bed and revisits the scene many times throughout the movie.

The tables definitely turn when her disapproving father announces that he has lost their entire family fortune.  Betty attempts to sell all her jewelry only to be robbed in the process.  Totally broke, they have to rough it and unfortunately for the father, little Betty can’t cook well enough for a dog.  She ultimately finds work at a restaurant where she meets up with the mysterious man and boyfriend one last time…

Etc. I’m having a hard time writing this review because I was as far from interested as I could be.  Don’t get me wrong – I gave it my all, I sat through the entire thing and tried my best to appreciate what little I could.  My biggest irritant was by far the music, though I can’t really blame Hitchcock for that.  I’m sure he had no intention of placing nearly 50 classical pieces to play at random throughout his entire work.  I suppose there’s nothing terribly wrong for the story, just the pace.  The acting is fair.  The only thing commendable is innovative visual technique.

I really hope I don’t have to watch this again.  That’s all. 2/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

July 29, 2010 at 12:22 am

Posted in 1920s, comedy, movies

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Blackmail (1929)

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It took me fifteen minutes to figure out what the heck was going on… but once I finally found my whereabouts I was pleasantly surprised.  It began (both the film itself and production) as a silent but was later changed into a sound feature film, one of the very first British talkies.  (It was later released as a complete silent, something I have yet to see).  Blackmail is based on the play by Charles Bennett of the same title and the plot is just that.  Blackmail.  Starring the ever enchanting and delightful Anny Ondra as well as John Longden, Blackmail starts cooking when Alice White (Ondra) ditches her boyfriend detective Frank Webber (Longden) for a date with a Mr. Crewe (Cyril Ritchard), an artist she had agreed to meet.  Their “meeting” takes them to Mr. Crewe’s private studio where Alice naively flirts the night away, unaware for much too long of Mr. Crewe’s obviously lewd intentions.  Unaware, that is, until he attempts to take advantage of her and she stabs him to death.

The following day Frank is assigned to investigate the mysterious murder case.  He immediately discovers Alice’s connection after finding her glove in the studio.  He, unfortunately, is not the only one who knows of Alice’s involvement.  Local thief Tracey (Donald Calthrop), who had seen her with Mr. Crewe the previous evening, comes to confront Alice and Frank at her father’s shop in attempts to, you guessed it, blackmail them.  The film concludes with a surprisingly intense chase-scene and a satisfying end.

Chronologically speaking this is my “first” favorite.  For a film made in 1929, I was genuinely invested, genuinely frightened for our leading lady, and genuinely intrigued by its plot.  One scene in particular stands out to me.  After Alice has returned from her rather horrifying evening, she’s sitting at the kitchen table with her parents.  Another woman in the room is commenting on the murderer’s choice of a knife, and each time the word is uttered Alice’s eyes get a little wider.  The word is emphasized to the point that you can practically see it typed in bold-face on the screen.  Soon all we (and Alice) hear is “knife… Knife, KNIFE…” until she drops a knife onto the table.  It’s so perfectly tense.

I think the thing I’m most impressed with is how gripping the story is.  Many other films of this time period are far from that (The Farmer’s Wife for one).  And, I mean, if we’re comparing this to something like Speed of course it isn’t similarly jam-packed with action.  Nevertheless, from beginning to end it moves quickly and captures your attention.

Though stunted by awkward lip-syncing (talkies were too new to dub over in post production, and her Czech accent was too thick to suit), I am delighted with Anny Ondra.  She’s as cute as they come, I also enjoyed her in The Manxman.

Overall, Blackmail is a well-made early talkie, worthwhile to any film historian or movie lover and essential to a Hitchophile.  The beginning is misleading, but stick with it for fifteen minutes.  It picks up.  7/10

p.s. Hitchcock’s trademark cameo in this is a new personal fave.

Written by laurenthejukebox17

July 27, 2010 at 2:21 am