Mini Reviews Too Late
Dirigible (1931). In Dirigible, a very early film by Frank Capra, we watch our brave hero Jack Bradon (Jack Holt) battle for the future of US Navy rigid airships! (Well, we know how that turned out.)
Our hero is married to Fay Wray, but there's a triangle with fighter pilot Frisky (Ralph Graves), who is frankly a lot more fun to be around than Jack, who acts as if he's got a rigid airship shoved somewhere up his fundament.
The climax takes place in Antarctica, where Frisky attempts to conquer the Pole in a mere three-engine monoplane and crashes. It's the dirigible to the rescue!
There's some truly spectacular footage in this one, particularly of an air show at Lakehurst, where the US Navy's entire dirigible armada seems to be on display at once. The special effects are really very good, particularly in the Antarctica scenes and in a scene involving a zeppelin crash at sea. (Incidentally, did you know that every rigid airship built in the US crashed, killing almost all their crews? The ones we got from the Germans did just fine.)
The drawback to this film is the acting, which is downright wretched. All of the actors, including Ms. Wray, exhibit what can only be described as negative charisma. Odd, because the three principals all had long Hollywood careers subsequent to this film. Apparently the audience was watching the zeps, and no one cared what the actors were doing. I advise doing exactly that.
The Happening (2008). Further evidence that M. Night Shyamalan is a one-hit wonder. This story would have made a great half-hour Twilight Zone episode, but is very flabby at 143 minutes. The latter parts of the film are so dull that a spooky old farmhouse with a menacing old lady was added to provide some tension. (A plague causing the entire population of the Northeast to commit suicide wasn't scary enough, I guess.)
The acting is very flat, and a subplot added to provide texture to the principals' relationship is ludicrous. Avoid.
Lost in Austen (2008). Jesus Christ, do we really need a romantic comedy that's three hours long? Okay, it's three episodes of a UK miniseries stuck together to make a feature for US release, but still . . .
It's a comedy with one joke. (Modern woman enters fictional realm, takes place of Elizabeth Bennett.) And yes, we'd all like to kick Mr. Collins in the balls, and chew out Mr. Bingley for being a gormless twit. And the acting is good, and the dialog gives a genuine feeling for the period.
But three whole hours . . . ? My God, Miss Bennett, those are three hours that I shall never again see!
Redbelt (2008). Macho playwrite David Mamet writing and directing a martial arts movie? Damn, I'm like so totally there!
It's not what you expect. It builds to all the traditional beats of a martial arts film--- including the one where the warrior gets tired of taking endless shit from these remorseless corrupt sacks of dog crap who run his life and the world in general, and then goes for his katana and gets all samurai on their asses!--- except that doesn't happen. Mamet is a master of the unexpected, and though all the beats are there, he rings changes on all of them. (Okay, mixed metaphor there.)
The result is a film that is set in a much lower key than the conventional martial arts movie, but that has its own satisfactions. It also has a very, very twisty plot that I found myself admiring a lot--- but then I'm Plotboy, and that's the sort of thing I like.
The Hidden Kingdom (2008). Speaking of martial arts movies, here's an amiable kung fu flick that won't surprise you at all, but that keeps every promise that it makes. It features Jackie Chan doing wire-fu rather than the amazing physical stunts that built his reputation--- and that's sort of like getting a Mercedes SLC Gullwing to play the role of a 1975 Ford Pinto--- but what the hell. If he doesn't mind, I guess I don't.
Labels: reviews too late