August 2012 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
30Aug/120

Chimpanzee (2012)

Chimpanzee is the latest attempt from Disneynature to explain to the world how Disney brainstorms their film ideas.  It turns out that, throughout nature, a perpetual reenactment of Milo & Otis meets The Lion King is performing non-stop.  Wee little animal children are being constantly orphaned while the adults either scheme orthump logs in honorable triumph after a noble victory.  The story of Disney is the story of life, once again narrated by Tim Allen.

Despite the attempt at portraying nature as something that follows a cohesive story line where good children live another day, we all know that's not the case.  Chimpanzee tries to present the story of survival like Bambi without the firm acknowledgement that death happens.  Yes, there is death in Chimpanzee, but off-screen and barely remarked upon.

The problem with Chimpanzee is that there are two films competing for space.  The first is the Disneyfied narrative of an orphaned chimp who is adopted by the grumpy leader of another pack.  The significantly better film is in the spaces between the narrative chunks where the camera is silent and watches the fingerprints of the forest dance around.

There isn't anything that can be done to strengthen the first film short of rerecording new narration in the style of the French dialogue in the original March of the Penguins.  In that version, the penguins trudge through the cold but ask themselves existential questions about why they bother to try.  Granted, that isn't the kind of film that is going to win over the hearts and wallets of Middle America, but it would have been a lot more entertaining to watch.

29Aug/122

Think Like A Man (2012)

Words inspire women to become something other than themselves, because the last thing any man wants is a woman comfortable in her skin.  Words cause men to become lying deviants, with the only exception the women who are trying to act more like men.  Words translate into tunes written by men who are so aching to feel they add drum loops to Savage Garden songs, dumb down the lyrics, and pass them off as honest expressions of loneliness and heartache.

These lessons, and more, are why I am struggling to give a damn about Think Like A Man.

This also led me to a series of questions.  Have I become so accustomed to the way the entertainment market is catered to my gender that a film dedicated entirely to "thinking like a man" strikes not a single chord of rage in me?  Are gay panic jokes so prevalent in mainstream romantic comedies that when stereotypes are paraded around I can't find a single thing wrong with it?  Is there not a single way to film romantic comedies with visual flair?

In quick response - no, no, and yes (for starters, (500) Days of Summer.)

At first, I thought I didn't hate this film.  Then I realized it neutered my ability to think for too long.  Shortly thereafter, the hate began to grow.

28Aug/120

New on DVD reviews for the week of 8/28

28Aug/124

The Apparition (2012)

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

"Why are we making this film?" is a question I imagine didn't get asked very often during the production of The Apparition. The best answer I can come up was that either the cast had lost some compromising photos that may have ended up in the director's hands, or the idea of combining last year's Fright Night and those Paranormal Activity movies was just too tempting a honeypot.

Anyway, I went and saw this film because I saw that it was getting a 0% over on Rotten Tomatoes. Movies that achieve a consensus like that are the best kind of go to-- if I go and like it, then I'm cool and unique! If I hate it, then I'm cool and fit in! Win-win!

Unfortunately, 0% also means one other thing: no one could even get bribed to give this a positive review. Films like The Apparition don't get reviews like this if it's a so-bad-they're-good; they happen when they're nothing, empty experiences punctuated by empty moments. This is a flick that iMovie made on its own during some downtime.

26Aug/120

Wilder: Five Graves to Cairo (1943)

NOTE: Just a few days ago it was revealed that Five Graves to Cairo is finally being released on DVD in October. When we talk about its unavailability... well, that ends soon!

In June 1942, the 8th British Army Corporal John J. Bramble (Franchot Tone) is retreating from Rommel's Afrika Korps and has sunstroke, reaching a remote hotel in Sidi Halfaya. He is helped by the Egyptian owner, Farid (Akim Tamiroff), under the protest of the French chambermaid, Mouche (Anne Baxter, pronounced 'Moo-sh'). However, soon the hotel is home to a new guest: none other than Rommel (Erich Von Stroheim). In disguise, Bramble must sneak his way through a contingent of Nazis and discover the truth behind Rommer's strategy, codenamed 'the five graves.' The fate of the British in Egypt depends on whether a humble corporal can penetrate that secret...

Let me start this review with a quick thank you, Danny. You really championed this movie many times while we were discussing films I made it my goal to find this movie. Even though it was hard to find (and it's total bullshit that this isn’t on DVD/Blu-ray), it was worth it in the end, and everything you said about the film was true, so thank you again for promoting this movie so much.

Now what is Five Graves to Cairo all about? It is the first movie in my opinion that showcases what Wilder really could do with a film. The Major and the Minor was a fun film and is highly enjoyable but at the end of the day it is still a very well made romantic comedy and Mauvise Graine, was a dull film that feels much longer than its 76 minutes run time. Five Graves to Cairo shows that it is something special from the first shot.

While rewatching these films again I am trying to focus more on the director Billy Wilder and less on the writer Billy Wilder and what I saw in this movie is a man mastering the visual medium by his second film. The opening shot is of the total devastation of the British army by Germany. Wilder does not have to show much actually destruction but he follows one single bombed out tank rolling through the desert of Egypt with the hero of the story on board. This shot conveys the horrors of war, the absolute defeat that the Allied armies were being handed in the African theater, and it immediately ratchets up the tension that the film sustains throughout the movie. This shot is also very bold because the movie was made released in 1943 when the war was not going well for the Allies, and the opening was probably not a good way of boosting morale.

There is so much more I want to cover in this film but I will let you speak before unleashing all of them. The one thing I really want to ask you right away is your thoughts on the way that Wilder uses shadows and light/darkness in this film. I thought many shots really played up these contrasts and shadows in a way that was very reminiscent of noirs from this time. While this is a war picture and a damn good thriller, it does share some traits with noir in the fact that most of the characters operate in a shade of grey where both the villains (mostly Rommel) and heroes cross lines they normally wouldn’t in order to help win the battle/war. Do I have something here or am I crazy?