July 2012 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Blog-A-Thon: Danny’s Movie Confessions

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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You know what? It's one of those days. I've been having a lot of one of those days lately, so today I'm going to participate in the 'Movie Confessions' blog-a-thon masterminded by the sun-flared blog MyFilmViews.

Which classic movie don’t you like/can’t enjoy and why?
Ever watch one of those movies that leaves you in a stupor? One that slowly begins to aggravate you as it goes along, and by the end you're just stuck staring at the screen in a hazy mix of disbelief and anger? That movie for me is Charlie Chaplin's City Lights, one of the most baffling and clumsy films I've ever seen. It's the definition of the word 'maudlin'.


Step Up Revolution (2012)

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TitleLast week's major disappointment was through Nolan's final Batman film, this week it's a painful entry in the Step Up franchise.  I'm starting to feel that the world isn't going to allow me to have pleasure anymore.

Coming off the tails of the surprisingly creative Step Up 3D, which features the best use of 3D technology since it came back in-vogue, this dance flick is a huge disappointment.  Gone are the borderline-insane dance routines where coal miners faced off against multicultural robots in a warehouse.  Now it's a bunch of protestors looking to make a dent in the Miami government by taking a stand against a real estate developer who is looking to turn a string of well liked small businesses into one mirrored omniplex.

It's a strange idea turning a series about dancing into a long form commentary on how large corporations are stomping out the little man.  But it's one with promise, dance as an art can be very confrontational and put in the right hands it could have led to an interesting use of the form.  Instead it's a bumper for scenes of people moping around about their relationships failing, their local beer joint closing, and a Youtube contest they just might not be good enough to win.  Ah, so not only is it also a dance film about unchecked Capitalist expansion, it also is really dour and features mostly repetitive dance sequences set to thumping cameras.

This isn't exactly the upper I was expecting on a Friday night.


Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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"Thank you for supporting my weirdness."

The pivotal moment for Katy Perry: Part of Me comes when, shortly after realizing that her marriage had finally crumbled beyond repair, Perry has to go up on stage and perform a concert to a sold out venue. She's barely able to hold it together, looking distraught and at a total loss. Standing on the platform, about to be lifted up onto the stage, she looks down and realizes that she currently has a pair of mechanized rotating peppermints on her breasts and is holding a microphone that's bedazzled beyond recognition.

Her face crystallizes into a smile. Katy Perry, Pop Star, is ready for her show.

For all of its candy coated joy and smiling fan testimonials, Part of Me plays with a lot of themes that were touched on last week by The Dark Knight Rises. (How's that for a sentence you never thought you'd read?) For all the film's talk of Katy spreading joy and being herself, it's a surprising contradiction as we soon learn how many deep dark issues are at play here. Katy Perry, Pop Star, is a mask, an illusion crafted for as much Perry's personal well being as much as being a viable commercial entity.


Akira Kurosawa: Stray Dog (1949)

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Stray Dog is a full-fledged, traditional film noir from Kurosawa that shows—much like the sometimes deceptively close link between his coming samurai films and American Westerns—that he can take established genres, work within them with incredible efficiency, and still manage to make them his own (or, as with his samurai westerns, elevate them to an entirely new level). This one doesn't quite lift itself completely above the established noir conventions, but it does make use of them in a compelling fashion that continues his post-war commentary in a way we haven't quite seen before.

The movie is pure film noir from the start, with a dramatic narration filled with over-saturated descriptions and complaints about the heat. I don't have the exact lines in front of me, but I believe it starts with something like, “It was hot that day” or “We were in the middle of a terrible heatwave” (which, of course you were, but that begs the question, can I just not think of any classic noir films set in winter? It seems like prime noir season). The lines are uttered with nonchalance. You can almost hear a cigarette crackling and a lighter clicking in the background. The music is a bit much.

In a curious move that shows that Kurosawa is still playing with the conventions of his chosen genre, this voiceover is quickly abandoned after less than a minute, never to return for the duration of the movie. This makes way for two nearly wordless sequences early on that brilliantly set the stage for the rest of the story, define its central character in basic terms, clearly establish the engine of the plot—the theft of a police officer's gun and his desperate hunt to get it back—and show Kurosawa being more experimental with montage and cutting than in his previous films.

These two sequences feature the police officer whose gun has been stolen (played by Toshiro Mifune, still not yet fully transformed into future maniac samurai) tailing a women he suspects has information. This establishes his tireless determination, which borders on clueless stubbornness as he simply wears down his mark. By the end of the movie it will have transformed into patient, heroic resolve, and Kurosawa stages this transformation not through a change in Mifune's character, but by changing the challenges he is faced with and their escalating consequences.


Age of the Dragons (2011)

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Danny and I have different reviewing philosophies.  He is willing to turn off a film if he feels it has no merit and continuing to watch it will only further emphasize the point.  I do not want to give my opinion about a movie until I've watched the entire movie because it feels like I'm not doing the film its proper due by watching it as intended.  We could hash philosophical even further by wondering what "as intended" is, but for the purposes of this review let's keep it as start to finish.

Clear?  Ok.  I watched all of Age of the Dragons but it is the second film I've ever watched I fell asleep trying to do so.  The other movie was Last Year at Marienbad, an experience I was only able to make it through on my third attempt thanks to Danny beginning a riff-a-thon that kept me laughing and awake throughout the whole movie.  Dragons is not as lucky, it does not have any arresting images, it barely even has a change of scenery.

Acting through the image of what I think is a responsible film critic, I tried to go back to the moment I fell asleep but found it difficult to determine where my attention nodded off.  No one moment distinguished itself from the last after ten minutes into the film.  Dour characters stare gloomily into the snowy ground and talk tough while Vinnie Jones suckles on a pipe as though industrial strength turbo glue was basted on the shaft.  Wintery backgrounds give way to the same long shot of a familiar snow covered expanse and then a badly animated CGI dragon stops just long enough to taunt the players with its wing-span.