This Week In Cinema: May 08-14, 2011

I subjected myself to torture this week, that’s right, I watched another Quentin Tarantino movie!

A lot of movies this week, I mean a lot,

The Good Son (1993, Joseph Ruben, United States Of America) ***

It’s all very ridiculous and schlocky, but The Good Son is one of those movies that knows exactly what it is and what it needs to do to get a reaction from its audience. It may always take the easy route, but by doing so it makes Macaulay Culkin a very easy character to root against. That’s what The Good Son is, an old fashioned yarn of good versus evil, I wanted the good guy to win and the bad guy to lose. The Good Son delivers on what it promises, it is the movie it wants to be and I enjoyed the movie it chose to be.

Judgment At Nuremberg (1961, Stanley Kramer, United States Of America) ***1/2

I’m taking points off for the overture and the exit music. Yes, I know it’s superfluous and semantic on my part, but that stuff has always bugged me because of how unnecessary it is. The actual picture I found to be a superb melodrama. There’s plenty of grandstanding and attention grabbing speeches, but it’s executed with such well, balls, that I loved it. None of the melodrama would work if not for two things, the acting and Stanley Kramer giving the film space to breathe. Mr. Kramer inserts lots of long pauses and moments of reflection and this help to anchor the film and allow the melodrama to achieve its full impact. Maximilian Schell received all the accolades for his portrayal of the defense attorney, but he wasn’t the only standout performance. Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift delivered in smaller, but very important roles. Spencer Tracy was the compass and guiding force for me as a viewer. I was most taken with the performance of Burt Lancaster as Ernst Janning. He’s stoic throughout and even in his big speech he stays reserved and brings a sense of immense import to his words. Judgment At Nuremberg may be melodramatic, but it’s melodramatic in the best way, completely gripping.

Karla (2006, Joel Bender, United States Of America) 1/2*

Canada, you really let me down with this one. Unremittingly terrible, there isn’t a single second of this that is worth anything. Karla isn’t a movie about evil characters doing evil things, it’s a movie that revels in the evil acts of its characters. It loves the abuse, the rape, the death, it’s extremely leering and kind of sickening actually. It doesn’t help that it’s terribly acted across the board, badly written, scored, and looks like it was directed by a guy who’s never touched a camera or had anything to do with film in his entire life. Question for the Canadians, do the lawyers in Canada really have to wear that ridiculous get-up? If they do, there’s zero chance I am ever taking any legal proceedings in Canada seriously, that robe and sash thing was just too much.

Something’s Gotta Give (2003, Nancy Meyers, United States Of America) ***

I view Something’s Gotta Give along the same lines as I did Last Chance Harvey. The premise of the film isn’t anything new, but the two leads give such lived in performances that it is a joy to spend time with them. Something’s Gotta Give has a lot more flaws than Last Chance Harvey, but it’s still very enjoyable. Nancy Meyers does spend too much time with the cursory characters, Keanu Reeves and Amanda Peet don’t really matter to the plot and they didn’t need to be given as much time as they were. Still, Mr. Nicholson is surprisingly low key for a change and this may just be one of the last genuine performances from Miss Keaton. I enjoyed getting to know their two characters, they made the movie for me.

Save The Last Dance (2001, Thomas Carter, United States Of America) **1/2

From a production and technical aspect Save The Last Dance is a well made film. From an enjoyment aspect I can’t say it did much for me. I love hip hop, but hip hop dance has never been an area of popular culture I have wanted to explore. Hip hop dance could serve as the backdrop to an interesting movie, but this isn’t a movie about much of anything except for very surface issues that again, didn’t do much for me. Not my cup of tea I guess, but I’m sure it’s the type of tea that a lot of other people enjoy.

Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino, United States Of America) *

Completely and utterly boring. A collage of ideas cribbed by someone who lacks the ability to create on his own. The violence is excessive, the dialogue is not only boring but vacuous to the extreme. Pulp Fiction is a movie crafted by someone who is in love with himself and simply wants to put as much of what he thinks is cool about himself on screen. It’s not cool though, it’s pretty freaking stupid and useless. The sad thing is that almost every single actor tries, but they can’t make anything of Tarantino’s second rate script. I know I’m in the minority, and that this will cause most people to say I’m crazy or I have no credibility. But, I honestly do not see the worthwhile traits in this film that so many others do. Pulp Fiction is truly the work of Quentin Tarantino, it is without meaning, it is soulless, it is empty, it is entirely forgettable.

Thor (2011, Kenneth Branagh & Joss Whedon, United States Of America) ***1/2

The more I think about Thor the more I really like it. This is a film that gets all the little things right, the inherent camp that Asgard has to have when juxtaposed with the modern world, the beauty of things like the Rainbow Bridge, the jealousy of siblings, the awesomeness of Destroyer, the stiffness of much of the people of Asgard which turns into something very cool because you realize they are legit in how stiff they are. Most of all Chris Hemsworth is note perfect as Thor, his portrayal was very genuine and made me care about the character and believe everything that happened to him. I had a lot of fun, I dig the mythos, and I want to spend more time with these characters, Thor is a big pile of win.

Wrap-Up:

Movie of the week is Thor, although Judgment At Nuremberg comes awfully close. I know people will complain about my lambasting of Pulp Fiction, but at least it wasn’t Karla bad. I’m gonna end it positive though, Thor was awesome, so was Judgment At Nuremberg, all in all this was a great week for movies.

Cheers,
Bill

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14 responses to “This Week In Cinema: May 08-14, 2011

  1. mcarteratthemovies

    W-O-W. I have never, ever seen anyone give “Pulp Fiction” a bad review. While I don’t agree with your consensus at all, I applaud your honesty. I think sometimes reviewers are tempted to pretend to like a critical darling they actually hate. I’m glad you didn’t do that.

  2. AdamSherlock

    It never ceases to amaze me. You know how to stir that pot better than Julia Child herself. The Good Son and Somethings Got To Give both make it to 3 stars, and even Save The Last Dance gets 2 and a half, but your suspension of ‘for what it is, it’s pretty good’ goes right out the window with the first sentence of your Tarantino review – ‘completely and utterly boring’. And ‘without meaning, soulless and utterly forgettable’? Wow. Thats pretty bold. I will say this: For better or worse, the rest of popular culture didn’t forget it, and have been cribbing the ‘ small talky hitman ala Jules and Vincent’ ever since. You have to at least acknowledge that. Hehehehe. Bill, you drive me crazy, but I love you for it.

  3. MCarter: I can only write what I feel, and I know this means I am often brutally honest in a way that is off putting to some. But, I’m a very emotional writer, it’s my style, and that means you get reviews like Pulp Fiction that are straight from the gut.

    Sherlock: I know I’m in the minority, and I won’t deny the popularity of Pulp Fiction among the casual fan and among film makers who have attempted to emulate, or in a lot of cases provided much better films in their attempts to be like Tarantino. But, it’s not for me, I honestly go into every Tarantino film I watch with an open mind, but he just doesn’t do anything for me but bring out a lot of vitriol for how awful I find him to be as a filmmaker. I love you too bro, I love you too. 🙂

  4. Mark Middlemas

    THOR! Right on. I agree 100%.

  5. Very, very interesting. I haven’t seen Pulp Fiction in almost 10 years and have been looking to get around to it. Your review may have spurred that on a little. Nice job!

  6. Wow, you slipped the Pulp Fiction slam in the middle there. I wasn’t interested in reading it (what more can people say about that movie?) but did a double take and went back when I saw the one star. Here’s my question, though. Is the rating just based on that film on its own or the overblown Tarantino reputation? How would you rate some of his strong (in my opinion) other works like Jackie Brown? I’m not making the argument that Pulp Fiction’s perfect. Just curious about your thoughts.

  7. Mark – Indeed! 🙂

    Jordan – Glad to hear it.

    Dan – I have yet to see Jackie Brown, it’s the one film that he directed that people say I would like. One of these days, I think it’s in my Netflix queue actually.

    As for the rest of his work, I really liked True Romance, but he didn’t direct that. Of his directorial efforts I have yet to see a film I have liked, Pulp Fiction is the only one I’ve outright hated though. I find most of his work mediocre, but Pulp Fiction is easily his most self-indulgent film and he wants the viewer to think the film cool, but I don’t see the cool at all and that irks me about him and the film.

    My dislike of the rest of Tarantino’s work probably colors my view of Pulp Fiction, but since it’s the only film of his I’ve hated I think that says a lot about how little I thought of the movie on its own.

  8. I’d definitely recommend seeing Jackie Brown. It has a few Tarantino touches (the “cool” dialogue, time switching) that may bug you, but there are several great performances from Robert Forster and Pam Grier. It also has a laid-back style that appears in none of Tarantino’s other movies and is a pretty strong Elmore Leonard adaptation. It’s my favorite of his films but wasn’t as successful as most of his other movies.

  9. I plan on seeing Jackie Brown at some point, but I’m in no rush.

  10. Hey I agree 100% with you. Pulp Fiction was an ugly clever movie that was crafted to pander to degenerate and tasteless hipsters.

  11. I’m not sure who it was made for, other than Tarantino’s self-gratification, but I’m not about to call the people who like the film any names. They like it, I don’t, that’s all there is to the equation.

  12. Pingback: Podcast Review: The Feminine Critique | Bill's Movie Emporium

  13. Karla was made in America by Americans. Don’t blame Canada, except for producing the real life slime the movie was based on.

  14. Interesting, back when I wrote the review I swear that IMDB had it listed as a co-production from Canada and America. Now only America is listed, so either I read it wrong, or it’s been changed. Either way, point taken, pin the blame on that bit of awfulness on America. 🙂

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