Monday, December 21, 2009

Deeply Excellent Movies

I was sick for some days this past week (*cough!* and today), and spent a great deal of time sleeping. In between, I found time for three flicks I can't help but recommend.

"Becket" is just fandangtastic historical fiction. The writing is the best, historical inaccuracies be d*mned, the dialogue is sparkling without having that Noel Coward sheen of pretty wrapped around it; some of the emotional scenes are as raw as anything I've ever seen performed. Peter O'Toole is at the very tip-top of his game, and this may be the single most exemplary and excellent performance Richard Burton ever gave, of course. It's O'Toole, though, who "does it for me" here - the demands on him are so much less cerebral, so he has much more on display than a voice, powerful as Burton's is, which one can't help but remember was as much G-d given as it was a tool in the use of skilled acting. Peter gives his all, in the most vintage way, and I never EVER come away from a viewing of this flick thinking of Thomas. It's always Henry, for me. (See also his turn in "Lion in Winter" for more unbelievably amazing dialogue - and Kate Hepburn, as well!) His commentary (I had to listen to that after the flick itself, again) is also everything a commentary should be - a collection of reminiscinces and insights into the production, a highly entertaining view of a wildly skilled professional - and, one's gotta say it, bon vivant - and a fascinating duel with his own interviewer as well, whom he shoots in the foot-in-mouth once or twice, flatly ignores several times, and occasionally puts to good use at others. Hee. Awesome. Peter, baby, I'm all about ya.

"Superman Returns" I have on a stripped-down no-frills DVD edition, and every time I watch it I hate not having extras. But with or without, this is an intensely entertaining film, for me. I love the way it looks, I love its callbacks to Reeve's editions, I love even the incredibly creepy moments where Brandon Routh's voice sends shivers down the spine because occasionally he actually sounds like Christopher. I love the story, the pacing, the casting, and almost especially, the Other Man - a plot which is actually really engagingly handled (yeah, adverbial overload; sorry, kids). I remain weirded out that the little boy is allowed to, you know, KILL SOMEONE - even if said someone is a scary minion guy even more dark than some of the larger plot points themselves. But this is a spectacle, it's a tribute, it's a ripping yarn and a wild ride, it's FUN and be-darned if Routh wasn't perfectly serviceable. The blue contacts were weak, and with a budget like that, one might think they could have CGI'd a better cosmetic fix, but if THAT is the nature of a complaint about a movie, it must be doing pretty well overall. I do love me some Bryan Singer, and here he's just Hollywood Dandy.

Speaking of Hollywood - in the Absolute Blockbuster department, I finished both illness and weekend with "Iron Man."

RDJ earned himself a TON of goodwill both leading up to and with this movie, and d*mn me if I can find any reason to dispute or complain about that, even if the guy has become a republican. This movie entertains my pants clean off, and I started it AND finished it dancing around my home going, "This movie is SO GOOD I can't even deal with it!" and generally discomfiting the dog. Holy smokes is this a great flick. I love the music, I love the character of Tony Stark, I love the contextualization - something which is so hard to manage, with comics that hold a character at age's bay over decades of crime-fighting, which sort of "need" to be placed into a recognizeable setting in space and time to really sell a ticket with relevance. I love the development and the reveals. I love the music. Listening to Williams' work in "Superman Returns" I was already keyed to "soundtrack" for this viewing, and be dang if "Iron Man" didn't dance along perfectly. The cues are just amazing, and I can NOT wait for II to come along, all crunchy-scenery-Mickey-Rourke and all. And RDJ, who makes me love him to pieces even though I once sat through "The Pick Up Artist" and barely survived. Roger Ebert goes on about his eyelashes in a review his maudforsaken site stupidly refuses to search properly (Ebert's Sun Times reviews site is one of the biggest pains in the behind when it comes to its "search" non-function ...), and there is another observation about a film I just can't argue with. Those follicles are amazing (and check out all the other whack-tastic facial hair, I mean - of COURSE)!

So even if I couldn't breathe over the past five days, and even if I was snowed in with a completely deranged canine, and even if it exhausted me just to walk up my own stairs, at least I was entertained. And really well, too. That is important, when illness comes to call.

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