Movie Diary: 'In The Loop' and 'Ashes Of Time'
Thursday was almost a complete bust for me. I saw one film, Shane Acker's animated vision of post-apocalyptic life, "9," but I'm under an embargo so I can't offer up a reaction to it yet. Then Friday, fate conspired to create one of those days where I don't end up seeing a single movie. And I know I'm an addict because a day like that leaves me with a vicious jones.
When Saturday rolled around, I was excited about working my way through the stacks that seem to accumulate each week. All you can do when you're working your way through a bunch at once is just pull randomly from the stack, put it in, watch whatever it is. You can't be precious about your choices, and it makes for more interesting collisions of films.
"In The Loop"
(in limited release in theaters and available on-demand)
I'm not sure I'd recommend starting your day with Armando Ianucci's blistering, ridiculous, venomous look at the petty power struggles of modern politics in London and Washington D.C. Building off of characters and style developed in "The Thick Of It," Ianucci has made a modern "Strangelove," a film that seems well aware that the straighter it plays things, the more absurd they seem. Peter Capaldi threatens to run away with the movie as a truly obscene government bully from the UK, but I was also fairly smitten with James Gandolfini's sly turn as a career military man with political aspirations. I'm not sure the movie says anything I didn't already know about the way power structures work in company towns, but I love the way they get to it, the way the satirical land mines are laid and then detonated. Great stuff, and I'll write more on this before it opens this weekend.
[more after the jump]
Following up something as energizing and exciting as "In The Loop" would have been hard for any movie, but "Combat Shock," sent fo review by Troma, proved to be the proverbial bucket of cold water. Buddy Giovinazzo's no-budget exploitation film about a Vietnam vet who can't adjust to life stateside is a disgusting experience, a physically uncomfortable little slice of filth. Giovinazzo's brother Ricky stars as Frankie, and he's visually upsetting, a slimy little stringy-haired Fredo of a guy. He and his wife have a mutant baby, a la "Eraserhead," thanks to Frankie's probably exposure to Agent Orange in the jungles, and they've got no money, no jobs, and no hope. It's awful. And the micro budget only makes it feel more awful. After making you feel like crap for 80 minutes or so, the film suddenly takes a turn into an abrupt, vile ending, dark even by Troma's standards. The DVD features the theatrical version from the '80s and the original 16mm print that Buddy G showed to Troma to get them interested, which is actually titled "American Nightmares."
"Ashes Of Time Redux"
Nope. Just not for me. I like many of Wong Kar-Wai's films. I like some of them quite a bit. But this one is a near-complete misfire for me, a clear indicator that the director should never try to shoot an action sequence again in his life. And, yes, I know that's not the point, but why even bother making a wuxia epic like this if you're going to drown it in oblique dialogue and terribly shot battles that happen seemingly at random? Since I never saw the original, I'm not sure what's changed in this new cut, but I can't imagine anything would make me love another version of this film. I'd rewatch the amiable but shaggy "My Blueberry Nights" before I ever bothered watching this one again.
I let a friend of mine pick my last film for the night based on a photo I posted on Twitter of one of the stacks in my office. He chose this film, which is good since I needed to watch it this week anyway. I'm moderating the panel for the film on Sunday at Comic-Con, and I hadn't seen it yet. R. W. Goodwin, a producer/director for "The X-Files," has made an affectionate and charmingly styled homage to B monster movies. It does one thing in particular that won me over from the very start... it doesn't make being intentionally bad the point of the film. So many of these "tributes" aren't terribly affectionate. Instead, they seem to think that every single monster movie ever made was inherently awful. Not true. "Alien Trespass" plays like it was made by people who genuinely enjoyed those films, and who wanted to make a fun one that they could put on the same shelf as the originals. As a bonus, even though there's a big weird eyeball monster called the Ghota, I feel comfortable watching this with Toshi, and he's already asked me if he can see it, based on the UFO on the cover. It's that sort of gentle, fun film, a nice and unexpected wrap-up to my Saturday.
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