Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

19 August 2006

Four Reviews

After the Thin Man, the sequel to the film classic The Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy sees our two stars return to the screen along with the director of the first, W.S. Van Dyke. The second film also boasts a very good pre-Mr. Smith Goes to Washington performance by Jimmy Stewart. The film is sturdy and silly and exactly what I'd expect from this franchise. It's a little too silly for my taste, but it is what it is and I quite liked the film, particularly the surprise ending. I also love William Powell's Nick character in these films. He's cynical beyond belief and drunk most of the time. It's very fun and I find its casual mood actually rather refreshing.

Mogambo is a fairly stupid love triangle drama about a big game hunter in Africa (Clark Gable), a chanteuse who joins the hunting party by accident (Ava Gardner) and a twenty-something anthropologist (Grace Kelly) with a husband. The plot is ridiculous and the film is cut with wildlife footage that looks nothing like the rest of the film and makes the editing look shoddy. Ava Gardner is absolutely great in the picture, but Clark Gable is slightly past his prime and doesn't quite have the matinee-idol look anymore that would make any woman swoon. Grace Kelly is annoying as Hell (but then, she usually annoys me if I remember correctly.) The script, as I said, is very, very weak, so even though Gardner does stellar work as the lonely, desperate night-club singer, she hasn't hardly anything to work with and the picture feels shallow and over-budgeted.

Snakes on a Plane. I can't even believe I'm talking about this movie. My roommate made me go, so... Suffice it to say that I liked it more than I disliked it, it's plot is laugh-out-loud ludicrous, and it's edited very poorly. There is a lot of squirm-in-your-chair grossness from the whole "snakes on a plane" thing, but the film isn't particularly funny and definitely isn't clever. The male romantic lead gives a terrible performance. Julianna Margulies is beautiful and pretty good in the movie, Samuel L. Jackson is his usual badass self and... well there's nobody else really in the movie, so there isn't much else to say about the performances. Oh yeah, Bobby Cannavale is in it for, like, 10 seconds, too. I love him, but I have nothing to say about his performance in this movie. The plot and the title are the same: snakes on a plane. It's either your thing or it isn't. It isn't particularly my thing. My roommate loved it, though. Bought the sountrack, is going to go see it again. You get the drift. Snakes on a Plane is really a throwback to those old Irwin Allen disaster movies (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Fire!, Flood!) and I think I should just probably have a break from them. One of these concoctions every eighteen months or so is okay and I think I've had my fill for a while.

Olivier Assayas's Clean is a movie about a woman trying to get her life back on track after her rocker-husband overdoses on heroin and she is charged with possession of narcotics and goes off to prison. Maggie Cheung is wonderful in the lead role and Nick Nolte does really superb work as Cheung's father-in-law. Nolte's character is raising Cheung's son (his grandson) and trying to keep it together, teaching the boy about his parents and trying to bring him around to loving his mother as much as he loves his grandparents. They are both excellent performances and the film is sensitive, hard-bitten and feels very honest. It contemplates the life of a troubled artist who can't use drugs if she wants to keep her son: the decisions she makes about her life become the subject of the entire film. What do we choose as artists? When does family take precedence over other things? How much pain can we take? It's a beautiful film. I'll have to rent Irma Vep, Cheung and Assayas's other collaboration, very soon. Recommended.

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