Monday, July 29, 2013

Centurion 21

Centurion (2010) was another Rod Heath/Ferdy on Film suggestion. I knew there were two of these Roman-Legion-in-Britain movies made in 2010-2011, and I could never remember which one was supposed to be good. Once I had his recommendation, I went for it.

This is basically the story of a handful of legionnaires on the Scottish border fighting a guerrilla war against the native Picts. The Legion (the lost Ninth of legend) is soon reduced to a handful, racing across the snowy mountains of Scotland, trying to get back to the Roman line. They are pursued by the beautiful but deadly Etain, played by the exotic Olga Kurylenko, in lovely woad-blue makeup.

In some ways, this is a B-movie sword-and-sandals action romp. It is incredibly bloody - There were more throatcuttings than decapitations, and there were a lot of decapitations. People administered long bloody gashes the way you might pat someone's cheek. From torture to hand-to-hand to melees, there's something for everyone.

But it is also a beautiful film, full of gorgeous scenery and settings. The rugged snow covered mountains, the rugged shirtless Michael Fassbender, the blue-tinted Kurlyenko - it seemed like more of an art film than an action movie sometimes. I understand that it was made on a slim budget, but it doesn't show in the cinematography.

I liked this a lot. I now want to see The Eagle, the 2011 movie about the lost legion. And probably Gladiator, which sort of started the trend. And... any other recent Roman epics? Has anyone remade Ben Hur?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Freezing Tri-Flap

The Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) is another W.C. Fields movie. What, so soon after You're Telling Me? Sure, why not? I was just back from vacation, feeling jetlagged and bleary and it was just the tonic I needed.

Besides, this one's different. Yes, he is a drunk with a nagging wife and a loving daughter but he is not an inventor - he works as a memory expert. He remembers every detail about every man his executive boss has met so that the boss can impress them when they meet again. It's just funny to see the vague, bumbling Fields reel off the exact information nobody else can remember.

As for the rest of it, well, it's not really that different. Hitting the cider jug, singing "On the Banks of the Wabash" with some burglars, telling the boss his mother-in-law is dead so he can go to the wrestling match, and so on. Plus Grady Sutton, that jabberknowl, as Fields' worthless brother-in-law. Just what I was looking for.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kick Ass

I've recently add Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee to my blogroll. Proprietor Peter Nellhaus seems to concentrate on classic black&white and recent Asian action movies. This Girl Is Badass (2011) is one of the latter.

It stars Jeeja Yanin from Chocolate and Raging Phoenix (which I saw but didn't blog?). She is definitely the girl from the title. She is a bike messenger who takes shady jobs, and executes sweetly, sliding under trucks, jumping off her bike and over walls - then jumping back on again, etc. She works for a very goofy outfit, with a bald giant with a Hitler mustache and a penchant for frilly outfits as a boss. She gets tangled up with some bad (and pretty silly) gangsters, and much fighting ensues.

The fights are great, especially the fight in the bike shop. The rest is just bizarre, with her boss's outfits getting more outrageous, her partner, an Italian cyclist who is never out of his spandex gear and helmet, and the gangsters competing for most silly evil-doers.

I got pretty tired of the Thai comedy - it probably isn't much more subtle in the original Thai, I think it's just a matter of taste. But the action more than made up for it. Thanks, Peter.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

One After 9:09

Somehow, I just figured it was time to watch 3:10 to Yuma (1957). My idea might have been to get it under my belt so I could see the 50th anniversary 2007 remake. Maybe Mr. Schprock had recommended it - I'm too lazy to check. Whichever, it was a good choice.

So, poor but honest farmer Van Heflin and his two sons happen upon a stagecoach robbery, led by notorious bandit Glenn Ford. Right off, the conflict is set up - Heflin is anxious, defeated from the start. He doesn't want to get involved in heroics that might put him and his sons in danger. Ford, on the other hand is charming, self-confident and cruel. But Ford is captured when he tarries in the saloon chatting up the bargirl. Now the citizens of the little town have to get him to prison in Yuma before his gang comes back and liberates him.

Van Heflin doesn't want to do it, but takes the job for the money. He will try to get Ford on the 3:10 train to Yuma without letting letting the gang find them. This gets harder and harder, and the tension just keeps building.

Director Delmer Davies made a bunch of westerns, none of which I've seen (I've seen his Hollywood Canteen). This one hits the right notes of revisionist (Heflin is a reluctant hero, Ford is a charming villain) and classic - the mechanics of the robbery and the chase are so precise and inevitable. He has a nice visual sense, nothing fancy. It's clear why this is considered a classic. Now I don't want to watch the remake.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rom-Com Romp

First, in case anyone noticed, I've been on vacation - hence the break in blogging. Second, and as a consequence, the next few posts may seen a little vague, since it's been a long time since I saw the dang movies I'm trying to write about. But that's probably no different than most posts.

So, Nadine (1987). Kim Basinger is Nadine, a 1950s beautician in Austin TX, who posed for some "art studies" and wants them back. But the photographer (Jerry Stiller) turns up dead and Nadine takes off with what she thinks are the negatives. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Jeff Bridges, discovers that they are actually plans for the new highway, which could be worth millions for land speculators - like bad guy Rip Torn.

So, comic monkeyshines plus sizzling southern sexual hijinks - fun but not really quite my cup of tea. The southern-ness is maybe a little too mannered, the romance a little too archly white-trashy for my taste. But, hey, it's good to get out of my comfort zone (not too far), and it was very well done. Now I think I want to see Bird on a Wire.