Films of 2014, #46: Cape Fear (Thompson, 1962)
I had only seen Scorsese’s 1991 remake of Cape Fear, and while I liked that movie, it seemed to be missing something…
Now that I’ve seen the original I know now that Scorsese’s remake was missing almost everything that made this 1962 film so great. Robert Mitchum gives one of his greatest roles as Max Cady, he’s a creepy fuck and NO ONE does creepy fuck like Mitchum. (Sorry De Niro)
The good guy is Atticus Finch himself, Gregory Peck. But his character doesn’t seem as fully formed as I would want, but you end up sympathizing with him anyways, and it makes for a powerful ending. Peck plays a lawyer who gets hunted down and stalked by Mitchum. There’s suspense all over, which is rare for films this old.
But the thing that really made Cape Fear stand out was how frank everything was. Time and time again, Cady references how much he would love to be sexually involved with either his wife or daughter. It’s still enough to make your stomach churn today.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Films of 2014, #45: Ripley’s Game (Cavani, 2002)
After watching The Talented Mr. Ripley earlier this year, I decided to watch Ripley’s Game as well. It’s not a sequel, and there’s no direct connection to the other film. Yes, Ripley is still here but he’s played by John Malkovich and he’s older and wiser than Damon’s. The story is well put together as Ripley pulls off some elaborate schemes and lures in an unassuming accomplice who ends up getting too deep into Ripley’s shit and Ray Winstone also gives a good performance as a criminal who starts off knowing exactly what he’s doing, only to end up being helpless and begging by the end. Malkovich is perfect here, his Ripley knows exactly who he is, and what he needs to do in order to accomplish whatever deed he needs to. His cold demeanor, professional attitude and general oddness are perfectly mixed by Malkovich, and it’s a shame that there’s only only this Ripley film for Malkovich to riff on.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Films of 2014, #44: Frances Ha (Baumbach, 2013)
Noah Baumbach was able to find the perfect match of story and character with Greenberg and Squid and The Whale. While Margot at The Wedding was too wandering with it’s story. His new film Frances Ha seems too wandering as well, but I feel like that’s part of the point as well. The film follows a 20-something girl who has little idea what to do with her life. The main character is played by Greta Gerwig, and she knows exactly how to sell this character and make her believable and funny. She’s stupid, and we accept this and allow her make bad decisions without hating her or finding her to be too stupid to not care for.
Baumbach’s use of black and white photography is a smart decision, but I can’t help but find it slightly pointless. There’s nothing here that really stands out in black and white, unlike Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. (Yes, it’s going for French New Wave, or Woody Allen’s Manhattan). Frances Ha does have a great way at going about it’s story and it keeps the main character’s bright attitude about life in focus throughout the entire film.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
Films of 2014, #43: Team America: World Police (Parker, 2004)
I’m very unfamiliar with South Park, but I understood it enough to realize that it’s not the kind of thing I’m going to find that funny. So I should have known better than to watch Team America and not be let down. The film is nothing but puppets doing all sorts of stupid action movie stuff, and some sex too. There’s not much here that still holds up, this film is ten years old now and it’s odd to see all these political and cultural references from ten years ago, and how much of it doesn’t hold up today. There’s a few funny moments, but I’m not the audience for this, and I’m seeing it too late anyways.
Rating: 4 out of 10.
Films of 2014, #42: Thief (Mann, 1981)
Michael Mann became one of the greatest action directors of modern cinema in the nineties, but Thief shows where Mann really got started and it’s very interesting document to look at to show how Mann grew over the years. Thief isn’t your typical caper, there’s plenty of sentimental moments that give James Caan moments to shine. Although the film has severely dated, there’s plenty of nice moments and good action sequences to keep the film interesting today. Also, there’s a great score by Tangerine Dream.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
Films of 2014, #41: Owning Mahowny (Kwietniowski, 2003)
Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in this film about a man who’s gambling addiction reaches new heights after embezzling money.
Based on a true story, Dan Mahowny (Hoffman) works at a bank and starts to embezzle money from his clients so that he can up his ante at the casinos. Hoffman sells it and makes this guy into someone interesting to watch, even as you know he’s failing and should find a way to end his gambling. There’s a decent supporting cast of John Hurt, Minnie Driver and Chris Collins who do their best. But their roles here see small compared to Hoffman, and even if they are essential to the story, you don’t really care enough to pay too much attention.
The film is a powerful look at gambling addiction, and also the casino business and how it continually feeds that addiction. John Hurt’s role as the head of a casino gets the point across, but there’s too much of him here. This is Hoffman’s film and his role is filled with silences and nervousness. Mahowny knows he can’t get away with it, but he knows that he has to keep gambling anyway.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
Films of 2014, #40: Julie & Julia (Ephron, 2009)
This true story of a woman who decides to cook directly from Julia Child’s famous Mastering The Art of French Cooking until she covers all 524 recipes in a year for her blog is an interesting story. But I didn’t think first time director Nora Ephron knew exactly how to mix that story with the one of Julia Child.
Child is played by Meryl Streep and she really gives her all on this and brings so much life to the movie that you wish she was in it more than half the time. Stanley Tucci plays her husband, and he’s perfectly cast as well.
But, sadly we have to deal with Amy Adams, who turns in a very boring performance of a very average woman. Adams should have known better than to waste her talent on a film like this. There’s some entertaining moments, but nothing captivating or all that interesting happens with her character. Julie & Julia is very charming and I don’t regret watching it, I just wish there was more Julia Child.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
Films of 2014, #39: All Is Lost (Chandor, 2013)
Robert Redford has given us plenty of great roles over the years, but All is Lost just might be his strongest performance yet. This unnamed man wakes one morning to find his boat has been hit by a shipping container that ruins his navigation system, and then tries to fix his boat, deal with storms and attempt to find out exactly where he’s at in the sea.
It’s a basic survival story, but it’s a powerful one that works because of Robert Redford. He says very little in the movie, and he’s the only actor in the entire film. I can’t think of any film where one actor actually carried the entire film, but Redford pulls it off and he rarely even talks. I couldn’t help but think of Cast Away, where Tom Hanks was praised for his role of talking to a volleyball for half the movie, and how All Is Lost is a more powerful, realistic and more cinematic experience that doesn’t let up for it’s entire runtime. The film could have easily turned into another Cast Away where your main character’s survival doesn’t seem like a real struggle, instead Redford and director J.C. Chandlor knew exactly what kind of movie they were going for, and who this character is. Redford does alot with very little and there’s a chance he could walk away with an Oscar.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
“Admittedly, Abraham’s conviction that they need to get to Washington is such a clearly lost cause that we are going to need more of a justification for his motives than just “it’s the right thing to do.” After all it’s been, what, a year since the outbreak? More? Any right-thinking person would look at this world and realize the chance of a government still holding its shit together is about as lost as causes get. It’s such a ludicrous notion that I almost want it to turn out to be true, just for the shock value. But it won’t, and the challenge the writers will face going forward is how to keep these new folks compelling even after everyone realizes their “quest” isn’t going to have a happy ending. But that’s further down the line, and so far at least, no one besides the trio themselves appear to really believe what they’re selling. Which makes them determined and also sort of sad, in a funny kind of way.”
— From The A.V. Club’s review
of the latest Walking Dead
episode, written by Zach Handlen.