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

The Campaign (2012)

"I know he can do better."  That thought repeated in my head over just about every scene of The Campaign, even the ones that were effective.  Will Ferrell can do a better clueless politician without all of the elongated vocal tics.  Zach Galifanakis can be funnier if directors weren't asking him to crank up the country-boy caricature all of the time.  Then there's director Jay Roach, who has done significantly better movies (the first Austin Powers) and even other politically based films that were both on-target with a message and very entertaining (Recount).

I'm sad I didn't get to say "I know she can do better" or at least throw in a nice gender-neutral "they" but I suppose politics is still pretty much a boys-only club.

The problem with The Campaign is that it allows everyone to paint in the broadest brush possible.  In the case of the leads it allows them both to engage in the kind of performances I've seen from them numerous times in more effective films.  This makes me wonder why they're not better, but instead reminding me just how far they can fall.  Since Roach has two Austin Powers sequels of questionable quality for under his belt I would hope that he'd have learned the lessons of taking the occasional high road but that's clearly not always the case.


Val Lewton Blog-a-Thon: Bedlam (1946)

This post is part of the Val Lewton blogathon hosted by Stephen aka Classic Movie Man &  Kristina of the Speakeasy blog  – see more posts at either Classic Movie Man’s Lewton page   or the Speakeasy Lewton page!

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

The thing that fiction loves to remind you-- poking at that dark spot in the back of your mind-- is that sanity is completely relative. Worse, it's not just relative to society, but to the circumstances. The Val Lewton produced Bedlam eagerly preys upon this fear; any one among us may find ourselves reasonable, but we can easily be ostracized or worse by the will of unfriendly circumstances.

Here we have Nell Bowen (Anna Lee), a young, beautiful woman in the employ of Lord Mortimer (Billy House), a rotund and goofy fellow who has more money than sense. Mortimer has moved his copious posterior to a new town where he is intrigued by an asylum named Bedlam. That it's run by a guy named George Sims is of no consequence, but knowing that he's played by Boris Karloff makes quite the difference.

Sims is the asylum's manager, and regularly enjoys discovering the abuses he can heap upon his prisoners. He has a few perform for Mortimer, and the bourgeoisie lap it up as he cajoles his prisoners into monologues and embarrassing recitations. One man, coated in gold paint, stutters and then dies miserably from skin asphyxiation.

Nell becomes incensed by these cruelties, and decides to manipulate Mortimer into endorsing reforms. Unfortunately for her, no one can out-snake Karloff and she finds herself robbed of all of her property save for one foul mouthed cockatoo. She uses that to insult the Lord, which gets her railroaded into the asylum. Which, believe it or not, may not be a very good place to be.


New on DVD reviews for the week of 10/30

  • Safety Not Guaranteed (Danny's Indifferent review)

  • The Campaign (Andrew's review coming 10/31)

  • Ruby Sparks (Andrew's review coming 11/1)


Fun Size (2012)

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

You know what are awesome? Penises! Huge, erect penises!

In case  you're wondering where I'm going with this, most of the themes from Fun Size involve the use and abuse of sex as currency. Considering the day of the year when it's set, it's not super surprising, but it's still so poorly executed in the context of the undeniable horror of the holiday that it feels as utterly formless as the rest of the film.

You can tell Fun Size was focus grouped to death. Besides its sexual currency sugarcoating, we're working heavily in Pretty in Pink territory, where the cute girl has to choose between the sexy guy and super nerd. I'm going to guess that someone along the way noticed that the sexy guy was, oh, way, way more attractive than the nerd, and the movie had to cut the sexy man's part down to a minimum and add an indecent amount of narration in to make the nerdy guy even halfway appealing.


Wilder: Sabrina (1954)

Linus (Humphrey Bogart) and David Larrabee (William Holden) are the two sons of a very wealthy family. Linus is all work -- busily running the family corporate empire, he has no time for a wife and family. David is all play -- technically he is employed by the family business, but never shows and has been married and divorced three times. Meanwhile, Sabrina Fairchild (Audrey Hepburn) is the young, shy, and awkward daughter of the household chauffeur who has been infatuated with David all her life, but David hardly notices her. That is until she goes away to Paris for two years, and returns an elegant, sophisticated, beautiful woman. Suddenly, she finds that she has captured David's attention, but just as she does so, she finds herself falling in love with Linus, and she finds that Linus is also falling in love with her.

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

[Note: Danny reviewed this one for his watch through Audrey Hepburn's films a couple of years back. You can read that review here.]

Oh, Sabrina. It's so hard not to love this movie.

Billy Wilder decided to tackle a fairy tale again, wisely avoiding Bing Crosby and setting the whole thing up with some fantastical narration and creating an enchanting mood with some absolutely sensuous black and white photography. He grabbed two of the best actors of the day for the romantic leads and dialed up the charm to an absurd degree. And to top it off, he's made it a ringer by selecting the perfect princess to build his story on.

Audrey Hepburn, barely a few years off her Academy Award winning turn in Roman Holiday, runs off with another picture. I actually went over Sabrina before when I was reviewing all of her films a while back, and I can't say my opinion has changed greatly from my other thoughts.

I have to say that Humphrey Bogart impressed me more this time through. His Linus gets a lot of play as the man completely clueless at love, and Bogart's attempt to regress to a younger state are subtle and fun. I appreciated the haunted moment he has on the balcony of his office this go around, where he realizes he cares more about Sabrina being happy than his business deal. He sells that switch with such a muted sadness that it reminds you that his overtures to Sabrina earlier about his lost loves may not have been such an exaggeration as he seemed to want to believe.

Outside of the acting, this is one of those movies you have to show people who don't like black and white movies. From the opening shots of Sabrina up in the tree to the darkened office building where Linus uncovers his true feelings, this movie plays with lighting and contrast deftly and elegantly. There's a warm glow to most of it, further emphasizing the storybook structure.

The movie's structure is surprisingly based on its music. The songs "Isn't It Romantic?", "La Vie En Rose", and "Yes! We Have No Bananas" (seriously) all get their turns as we use them to represent the different characters-- David, Sabrina and Linus respectively-- and take the spotlight to show what characters change and when.

There's a lot to like about this. Well, in my opinion, anyway. Ryan, is your souffle burned-- or did you remember to turn on the oven?