With blu-ray and instant viewing on netflix, the whole world of movie watching is changing, and new vs. old releases is becoming harder to pinpoint, so my discoveries here are proudly of all ages based only on what I saw this year that I wanted to write about, liked, but didn’t have anything clever to say. Some movies are great but don’t mean anything, like DOOMSDAY! I love that movie, but… where do you go from there when you’re dealing with a genre retread? Hmm, as it turns out, it helps if you’re British! Why can’t we be cool like them?
MIAMI VICE (2006) ***1/2: I saw this recently, since it made the decade list of the inestimable Keith Uhlich over in the House Next Door. The British Time Out Film Guide notes Mann’s got “images intricate in their expressionist elqouence and mythic in their noir poetry.” What does the America’s Leonard Maltin say? “Super cool cars, boats and planes keep this watchable on a fantasy level, but the final showdown is awfully conventional.” Wha? Bro, applying “conventional” to Mann is like applying “predictable” to Madame Butterfly: “Clothes and singing make this passable, but still ends on the same depressing note.” The end note in VICE is actually interesting, an implication through cross-cutting that all female energy is interconnected and serpentine, and if you have a close buddy it’s weird how on certain nights everyone you know either breaks up or hooks up. Von Trier biblical sacrifice shit goin’ down. Great minimalist dialogue, great music (low end in effect!), great mutton chops. The always underrated Colin Farell does what Leo di Caprio couldn’t do in BODY OF LIES, which is impersonate Russell Crowe. Poor Leo was trying to be so manly and Crowe was trying to be so neutered, and Crowe still trounced him. There’s none of that here. These guys are super tough and every line of dialogue is as punchily brilliant as Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leonard
TIDELAND (2006) ** (my rating): Leonard Maltin: “Wrongheaded and squirmy on every count” He gives it a BOMB rating and it’s kind of okay, since it’s his duty to warn unsuspecting parents, sane individuals and children under five feet they cannot board this ride. It’s not bad though, if you’re childless, schizophrenic and looking to watch Terry Gilliam mash up RETURN TO OZ with Jodorowsky-style “shock-absurdism” this is it. And yet, even so… there’s just too much imagination… at a certain point, even your trippiest friends can’t understand your gibberish. In this case, the over-imagination extends from our director to his PSD-inflicted brunette Aussie-accent-sometimes Eliza Rose. One could certainly unravel the weird mythic knots if one had the time, but there’s no time. Only Jeff Bridges seems to have some idea what he’s doing and what time and acting is all about, likely since he’s done it before. It seems like the kind of film you should see twice to fully understand, but I did that and… no, the whole idea of “understanding” just melts into the breeze.
PACIFIC THEATER DOUBLE FEATURE:
AIR FORCE (1943) **** and GATE OF FLESH (1964) **** – Hawks’ AIR FORCE has great work by John Garfield as the cynical peacetime B-17 bomber gunman, smirking in disbelief at the first reports on the headset radio of Pearl Harbor under attack (“Orson Welles is having a joke on you guys!”) Of course he joins ranks with infectious zeal once he sees the damage done. Fueling the fires of freedom with a bit of the ol’ racist dogma (they have a cute terrier who barks at the name “Moto”), the film’s a perfect double bill with Seiun Suzuki’s post-war Tokyo prostitution saga, GATE OF FLESH. In comic book primary and secondary color the way AIR FORCE was deeply black and white, FLESH uses chaotic crowd scenes where AIR FORCE is seldom out of the plane; disjointed editing and sudden theatrical violence where AIR FORCE has a seamless rhythm broken up by stock footage festival battles. Both films are suffused with an air of detached deadpan humanity. Men can hide from women in a bomber, a nice safe place to share real open emotional connection. Women hide from men in public, surrounded by them and contemptuously robbing them and charging them for sex. Each is detached most when physically attached to the other, i.e. via contracted sex, or bullets. Together the films present a whole yin-yang of dichotomies – male/female, jingoism/disillusionment, war/post-war, demonizing the Japanese / demonizing the Americans, even as each is about a group of individuals joining together out of sheer necessity. Put these two films together and you get UGETSU times BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES!
DOOMSDAY (2008): ***1/2 – I thought this was going to be some drab video game adaptation, instead its a borderline satire action film about a girl who looks like Kate Beckinsale doing a badass version of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK that starts out RESIDENT EVIL then goes ROAD WARRIOR! Tyler Bates score squiggles through a 70s-80s history of classic synth ominousness like John Carpenter joining Goblin at the hip. That is, until there’s a horrific use of some blase British 80s electro-rock during the car chase finale. I’m in love with Rhona Mitra! I love her as Kate Beckinsale more than I love Kate Beckinsale. Bob Hoskins shows up as the tired old police chief who’s been more of a father figure to Mitra’s orphaned officer (she bums cigarettes from him after tense scenes with the hopped-up bad guys or thuggish prime minister David O’Hara). Including all the films it borrows from and sends up, DOOMSDAY has the best, truest ending. I wish for a sequel, though the film bombed bad enough (thanks to posters and ads that made it look like a 90% CGI video game bore) so there won’t be one. Damn, it could still earn a cult. It could be like THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, which Bates also scored, magnificently! Free Bird!