Monthly Archives: May 2013

#189 King Kong

(1933, Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack)

“It was beauty killed the beast”

It was inevitable that at least one giant monster movie would end up on my list. For a time you couldn’t move for giant monster movies, whether it was Universal chucking increasingly silly prehistoric monsters at New York or the nuclear monsters that stomped all over Tokyo in the Japanese kaiju genre. But they all owe a debt of gratitude to the original giant monster, the one and only monkey man, King Kong.

Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is a famous director who likes to make movies in the jungle. For his latest big picture, he plans to travel to an uncharted island, and for the first time he plans on using an actress in a prominent role. However, no big-name actresses are willing to make the long journey, so Denham goes out on the streets to find someone, and ends up hiring an unemployed woman named Ann (Fay Wray). When Denham and his crew reach the island, they find that the natives worship a creature named Kong, who turns out to be a giant prehistoric ape who takes a shine to Ann.

And then at that point the plot drops out so we can watch creaky puppets fight each other until Kong gets taken to New York and decides to climb the Empire State Building in a fit of rage. Your average Thursday, then.

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#188 Body Heat

(1981, Lawrence Kasdan)

“You shouldn’t wear that body”

Lawrence Kasdan is a pretty decent screenwriter when he works with collaborators. I enjoyed his work on the Indiana Jones movies, and The Empire Strikes Back was the best in the Star Wars franchise. But when he works alone, he tends to be a little clumsy, as I discovered in The Big Chill. But did he fare much better in his directorial debut, an attempt to revive the film noir genre, Body Heat?

Body Heat focuses on a slightly inept and very sleazy lawyer named Ned Racine (William Hurt), who meets an attractive woman named Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), who is married to the somewhat shady businessman Edmund Walker. Ned and Matty begin an affair that they go to great lengths to try and hide. However, things take a darker turn when they decide that the way to safely continue to pursue their relationship is to kill off Matty’s husband. Cue a web of deceptions and shady dealings and all that fun stuff.

So let’s talk about this affair, which was central to the whole movie. My main issue with it revolved around the fact that it began very clumsily. I can accept the two of them flirting awkwardly in public places, since there’s no other way to really pull this off. The real issue comes from the fact that the relationship sparks from Ned being a creepy sexual predator, following her back to her home and insisting on seeing her wind chimes (yes really) before rushing at her and leaping into her pants before she has a chance to say no. The whole thing came across as disturbing and didn’t really help to make the audience identify with our protagonist.

OK, it fits with the character anyway, since the guy is meant to be sleazy and somewhat unlikeable, but the way he practically forces himself on her feels too much like rape to make the affair work in any realistic manner, since the movie then shifts to presenting Matty as the one in control of the whole affair. Bit difficult to believe that when she wasn’t the one doing the pursuing, and there were no hints that she was planning on luring him in either.

I also found the movie fairly dull during the earlier parts of the movie. With the affair clumsily kicking around centre stage with characters that were unlikeable and uninteresting, it’s hard to get into the movie at first. There are mildly entertaining near-misses where they’re almost discovered, including an uncomfortable impromptu dinner with Matty’s husband or when Matty’s young niece catches them in the act, but other than that, a good part of the movie is dedicated to the two lounging around naked talking in hushed tones.

It also didn’t help that the movie absolutely loved to keep pointing out its own name, by making constant references to how hot it was. Characters are frequently drenched in sweat and there’s a conversation about the weather every five minutes. If I wanted to see endless conversations about the weather, I’d go to any public place in Britain, and if I wanted to see people looking this sweaty constantly, I’d go to a gym.

When the talk of murder sneaks in, however, the movie does start to pick up a little. The movie becomes messy in the most glorious way, with the police adding a new difficulty to the affair, and the duo constantly trying to cover their tracks. Matty’s behaviour gets a lot more suspicious and the level of mystery and intrigue lifts right up. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I love me some intrigue and mystery.

There are a ton of twists and turns at this point in the movie, and I enjoyed most of them except the very last one regarding Matty’s identity. I’m not going to spoil it, but while every other twist followed some kind of logical progression, this last one felt a little out of nowhere, and seemed to raise more questions about its logic rather than adequately wrap up the film. The way it’s dropped in also felt like it was a last-minute addition to the script than something that needed to be there.

Body Heat is a pretty decent film noir throwback, but it’s a little awkwardly paced at times, leaves a few plot holes far too open and spending too much time lounging around naked and drenched in sweat to be an amazing movie. It’s watchable, but fairly average. And pretty much proves that Lawrence Kasdan does better work as a screenwriter in a team than in the director’s chair.

Starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston & Mickey Rourke
Written by Lawrence Kasdan
Produced by Fred T. Gallo, Robert Grand and (uncredited) George Lucas
Music by John Barry
Cinematography by Richard H. Kline
Edited by Carol Littleton

Favourite Scene: The will reading scene was pretty tense and started raising questions about who Matty is and what she really wants.
Scene That Bugged Me: How to convince a woman to sleep with you: break into her house, grab her and start forcing yourself on her. WORKS EVERY TIME.

Watch it if: You want to see Kathleen Turner naked.
Avoid it if: You really don’t want to sit through 45 minutes of a couple lounging around doing nothing

#187 Rio Bravo

(1959, Howard Hawks)

I’ve made my opinion on the western genre pretty clear in the past, through my review of The Searchers especially. I find them very slow, very samey and generally very fond of playing up really mundane things as being incredibly important. Will Rio Bravo win me over? We shall see.

When an alcoholic former deputy sheriff by the name of Dude (Dean Martin) gets into a bar brawl with Joe Burdette (Claude Atkins), Joe shoots a bystander who tries to break it up, killing him. Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) appears and arrests Joe for murder, taking Dude on as his deputy. However, this creates trouble as Joe is the brother of local land-owner Nathan Burdette, who decides to surround the town with his men to intimidate Chance into giving up his brother and preventing him from leaving to bring in assistance. Alongside this, a passing stagecoach drops off a young woman named Feathers (Angie Dickinson), who develops a fondness for Chance.

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#186 The Birds

(1963, Alfred Hitchcock)

“How could we possibly hope to fight them?”

BIRDS. Scourge of the sky. Horror from the clouds. Monsters from up on high. I mean, have you seen those pudgy baby sparrows, aren’t they terrifying? What? No? You’re saying that not all birds are terrifying? Well, let me tell you, you are wrong and have clearly never seen Hitchcock’s classic horror movie that isn’t Psycho, The Birds.

The Birds starts out pleasantly enough. A young socialite named Melanie (Tippi Hendren) meets a DASHING MAN named Mitch (Rod Taylor) in a pet shop where he pretends to think she’s a shop assistant and asks her about lovebirds he’s trying to buy. Intrigued, she buys some lovebirds and tracks down Mitch’s address with the help of her father’s newspaper so she can deliver them in person. But during her adventures in Bodega Bay, birds start acting strangely and begin to attack people at random, turning the film from a comic romp into a nightmare.

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#185 Dumbo

(1941, Ben Sharpsteen)

“I ain’t never seen a elephant fly”

So, after In The Realm Of The Senses last time, I need something to come down from the un-erotic and borderline creepy non-step sex; preferably something more wholesome and refreshing. Do I have any more Disney movies to review?

YES! YES I DO. Here’s Dumbo.

Dumbo is the fourth film in the Disney Animated Canon, and quite possibly one of their simplest. It’s about a baby elephant who gets made fun of because of his big ears, gets ostracised by his fellow elephants following the imprisonment of his mother and eventually triumphs over adversity to teach kids that you shouldn’t make fun of someone with physical deformities, especially if it gives them special powers. It’s basically Disney’s X-Men before X-Men became Disney’s X-Men.

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#184 In The Realm Of The Senses

愛のコリーダ (Ai No Korida)
(1976, Nagisa Oshima)

“A girl like you can stab a man’s heart without a knife”

WARNING: TRAILER IS VERY MUCH NSFW! (as if that thumbnail didn’t make that obvious)

There’s something odd about Japan’s attitude towards sex. They have a reputation for producing incredibly debauched and outright weird pornography, despite their strict censorship laws that prevent genitalia being shown on camera. On top of this, traditionally there seems to be a bizarre link between sex and death, no more obvious than when, in 1936, former prostitute Sada Abe strangled her lover, Kichizo Ishida, during sex then removed his penis and carried it around with her everywhere.

In The Realm Of The Senses is based on this true story, and is the most sexually explicit movie on the Movies You Must See list. The movie is an account of Sada (Eiko Matsuda) and her affair with Kichizo (Tatsuya Fuji) leading from his initial sexual advances while she worked as a servant in his home to the eventual murder. And because their relationship was known for being very sexually charged, so is the movie, since a great deal of it features entirely un-simulated sex scenes. That’s right, it’s practically porn.

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#183 M

(1931, Fritz Lang)

“I have no control over this evil thing inside of me”

M is one of those old films I’d vaguely heard of in the past. I knew it was the first sound movie by Metropolis director Fritz Lang, and I knew it had Peter Lorre in it, a German actor well-known for his many roles alongside Humphrey Bogart. But that was all I knew, so it’ll be interesting to see what I think of this.

M is set in an unnamed city where children are being abducted and killed, and the police are at a complete loss about what to do due to lack of clues. To combat this, they put the entire city on lockdown, conducting random searches and treating everyone as a possible suspect. The criminal underworld naturally don’t like this as it gets in the way of their “business transactions”, leading them to start an investigation of their own, creating a lynch mob in the process. And shenanigans happen.

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#182 Buffalo ’66

(1998, Vincent Gallo)

“I’m asking you to come there and make me look good”

OK, so I complained about Europe making incredibly self-indulgent movies, but it turns out it’s not exclusively a European problem. Exhibit A: Vincent Gallo. Originally an actor, it turns out he’s made a ton of independent movies, all of which seem to star him as a character that the universe seems to revolve around. Here’s Buffalo 66, a movie that seems to have been made just to satisfy Gallo’s own ego.

Gallo plays Billy Brown, a man who’s recently been let out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Having lied to his parents about disappearing due to a high-profile government job contract, he’s invited to dinner along with his non-existent wife. In order to maintain the illusion, he kidnaps a young woman, Layla (Christina Ricci), and gets her to pretend to be his wife. And then it all goes downhill from there.

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#181 Don’t Look Now

(1973, Nicolas Roeg)

“The one who’s blind. She’s the one who can see”

I’d always been kind of curious to see Don’t Look Now despite not knowing much about it beyond the fact that we see a little girl in a red coat throughout the movie. I’d heard it was spooky and weird and another example of a great British horror movie. So let’s watch it and see if it’s actually any good.

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