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Friday, 5 December 2008

An assortment of goodies (of sorts)

Although I'm now down to updating this blog every two to three days (it was more or less daily when I first started and I was keen as mustard), I still maintain my annual average of viewing two or three films a day and occasionally I feel the need to comment briefly on some of the flicks which have recently rolled across my appreciative eyeballs. Like these:

Vatel (2000): Although this French-produced film opened Cannes in the year it was made and although it offers a mighty performance by Gerard Depardieu, it was booed on its premiere showing and was a financial disaster -- largely because it was shot in English, the French script adapted by Tom Stoddard. This is something of a shame since it is a sumptuous production and it is gorgeous to look at with a magnificent Morricone score. Based on historical fact where Chief Steward Vatel lays on lavish hospitality for King Louis XIV visiting his impoverished master, the attention to detail is brilliantly handled. Apart from Depardieu, the rest of the leads are English-speaking by birth, but this doesn't necessarily add to the film's appeal. Uma Thurman is unremarkable as a woman of the court who befriends Vatel and Tim Roth always looks frighteningly weird in period togs and wigs. However, on balance, the movie deserves a kinder fate.

Operation Petticoat (1959) and Father Goose (1964): These are the only two of Cary Grant's late films (post-North by Northwest) which have never held a particularly high place in my affections and which I have not added to my collection. I therefore felt they were worth a reappraisal, especially since the former is considered 'hilarious' in certain quarters. I can't quite agree with that although Grant and Tony Curtis play well off each other. What I can state unequivocably is that Grant is never less than wonderfully watchable, even when given a thankless role as a crusty loner faced with a cloying Leslie Caron and a bunch of schoolgirls in the latter movie. The other thought that struck me as I rewatched this pair is how much George Clooney has begun to affect Grant's mannerisms when playing comedy.

We Own the Night (2007): I found this policier starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg as estranged brothers far more involving that expected. The first film in seven years from writer-director James Grey whose "Yards" also paired these two actors, it was a good, solid action movie which effectively used its Brooklyn Russian-mafia background.

Hold That Co-ed (1938): Of course this would be the movie that I most enjoyed revisiting over the last few days since it stars my great fave John Barrymore. Like most of his late movies when he was permanently in his cups, he still manages to be more than amusing as a Huey-Longish type state governor seeking to run for the Senate and who depends upon building the fortunes of a down-at-the-heel local college and football team as the cornerstone of his would-be popularity. Of course this is all absolute nonsense, but the movie is so good-spirited with cheery performances from George Murphy, Jack Haley, Joan Davis (as an unbelievable football genius), and another of my favourites, Donald Meek, that I enjoyed every minute of this diversion.

What I tend to avoid when doing these occasional multiple reviews is any dwelling on the dross that I have also seen recently, since they seldom bear even thinking about a second time. Foremost amongst these in recent days is the Molly Shannon vehicle Year of the Dog (2007) which was promoted as a black comedy, but rather was something that belonged in a black hole!
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