Bob le Flambeur

(Jean-Pierre Melville, 1956)

alone, Netflix streaming, 10/1/11

4

A cool, nostalgic slice of Paris, with lots of noir attitude, but a completely baffling ending that makes you feel the screenwriters just gave up.  Lovely, impudent Isabelle Corey is the perfect quasi-jailbait femme fatale, as desirable as she is impossible.  But seriously, what’s up with that ending?

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Published in: on October 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Moneyball

(Bennett Miller, 2011)

with Mom, Dad, Caitlin, and Darcy, Millerton Moviehouse, 9/24/11

7

“It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball,” says Brad Pitt as Billy Beane.  Movies are inherently romantic too – which probably helps to explain why baseball and movies have such a long, rich history together.  There’s something perverse, then, about a movie like Moneyball, which documents a maverick’s quest to replace intuition and good old-fashioned horse sense with statistical analysis and a bargain-hunting approach to player acquisition.  How do you make number-crunching romantic?  How do you make it cinematic and satisfying?  Well, you play up the underdog angle.  You make sure your lead character has a deeply personal stake in the success of his system.  And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Brad Pitt.

Like a lot of movies based on real events, Moneyball treads a fine line between realism and romance.  It’s up to the challenge.  Documentary footage is skillfully blended into the narrative, the dialogue is witty without being literary, and Pitt’s performance is both understated and magnetic.  Perhaps the most true-to-life feature of Moneyball is its wistfulness.  Beane’s successes may be historic, but his failures mark him more.  You take your lumps, you have your triumphs, you alter the face of the game you love – and life goes on, almost as if you weren’t such a big hairy deal in the first place.

Published in: on October 4, 2011 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  

The Fourth Kind

(Olatunde Osunsanmi, 2009)

alone, on DVD at 1681 3rd Ave., September 2011

4

Creepy enough, but nothing indelible.  Milla Jovovich maintains a remarkable amount of emotional investment, even as the movie keeps reminding us that she is simply an actress performing “reenactments” of “real” events.  Unfortunately, the movie’s director, who appears as himself, is a terrible actor.

Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 5:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Drive

(Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)

with Elizabeth Edmonds, Brooklyn Heights Cinemas, September 2011

7

Brooding, meditative oddball noir, tethered by a beautifully spare Ryan Gosling performance.  Drive is so poker-faced that it takes us a while even to know what genre it belongs to.  Frequent musical interludes give the movie an increasingly dreamlike quality, even as the dream descends into violent nightmare.  A cryptic and hypnotic film.

Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 4:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Damned

(Luchino Visconti, 1969)

alone, on DVD at 1681 3rd Ave., September 2011

2

Nasty people being nasty to each other, very, very slowly.  If The Damned has a sociopolitical thesis, it’s that Nazism thrived in Germany because Germans are assholes.  The pace is excruciating, the acting is wooden and/or hysterical, and the often-exquisite cinematography can only be described as cold comfort.  On the plus side, Charlotte Rampling is gorgeous.

Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 4:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Super 8

(J.J. Abrams, 2011)

with Devin, Christine Gray

7

Sleek, expert storytelling, with an impressive child cast – especially the wonderful Elle Fanning as the young hero’s love interest.  Super 8 is a little by-the-numbers, but it does have heart – and a child protagonist this likable is an exceedingly rare thing.

Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment