Monday, June 30, 2008

June movies

It looks like I saw too many not-so-great films in June. Lots of two or two and a half star films this month--with even a dreaded one star! Part of the blame is because I watched films with Mia Sara or Sandrine Holt in them and let's be honest, they've kind of got a poor track record. Holt's 1998 film Gunslinger's Revenge will be in the running for worst film I see all year. "The gunfighters who rocked the west" is its tagline (David Bowie gives an embarrassing performance) and that sums up the garbage that is this film. It's strange Holt plays Native Americans a lot considering she is half Chinese and half French. While Sara was good in the film A Stranger Among Us, the movie was awful with Melanie Griffith playing a tough talking NY cop--I don't know what Sidney Lumet was thinking with that bit of casting!

The June event for films had to be Indy-A-Thon '08. Check that post out and the comment box for my running journal throughout the day.

The Savages---2007---usa ****
Be Kind Rewind---2008---usa **1/2
Cashback---2006---England ***
Secondhand Lions---2003---usa **1/2
A Stranger Among Us---1992---usa **
Iron Man---2008---usa ****
I Do---1921---usa ****
House of Voices---2004---france **
Mother of Tears---2007---italy **1/2
Gunslinger's Revenge---1998---italy *
Priceless---2007---france ***1/2
Raiders of the Lost Ark---1981---usa *****!
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom---1984---usa **1/2
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade---1989---usa ****
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull---2008---usa ***
Mr. Bean's Holiday---2007---england ***
The Pompatus of Love---1994---usa **
Kotch---1971---usa ***
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired---2008---usa ***1/2
Knocked Up---2007---usa ****
The Butcher---2007---france ***1/2
Joe Louis: America's Hero...Betrayed---2008---usa ***
A Guy Named Joe---1943---usa ***
Mongol---2007---Russia ***1/2

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Asia Argento's style of un-acting

Over the past year I’ve been introduced to a unique performing style by the actress Asia Argento. Daughter of cult Italian horror maestro Dario Argento (Susperia among others), Asia has been performing in lots of b-films since she was in Demons 2 (1986) as a 10 year old. She’s shown up a few times on the edges of serious fare such as Queen Margot (1994) and Marie Antoinette (2006).

Infamous for her large, winged tattoo that takes up a good sized portion of her stomach above her pubic bone (see photo), Argento is starting to get leads in pictures and to be frank, I’m not sure this bodes well for the film because of her style of acting. She seems to tap into some kind of primal quality while delivering a performance. It’s not good (or is it?) yet it’s somehow too raw and animalistic to turn away as you watch her on screen. Argento pouts, rages, stares and delivers these hyper-brooding looks at the camera that I can’t put my finger on—is this good or the worst thing I’ve seen all year?

I watched her in the not very good Boarding Gate (2007) a couple of months ago and what a train wreck this French film from Olivier Assayas is. Argento delivers one of her most vexing, unhinged performances that consists of her wildly over or under acting (often in the same scene!), stripping most of her clothes off repeatedly (and showing off that tattoo) and basically just bewildering me time and time again. It’s terrible—yet I can not look away.

Mother of Tears (2007) is her latest bit of “acting” for her father and she gets to say some of the goofiest dialogue in a silly horror film that you are likely to see. There’s a reason these are called b-films (I’m not being mean-spirited as I happen to like B and C films) after all. In Mother of Tears she’s mostly scared as she’s chased by demonic witches or creatures out to do her ill. Although, a few minutes after almost being killed by some otherworldly thing she’s completely calm, as if out for an afternoon stroll. It's the Argento range in full effect.

The word “un-acting” seems to fit what Argento does because her performances are so confused, meandering and all over the map—I wonder if she is taking direction from anyone at all? It’s possibly a new form of acting altogether: un-acting. There’s a numb quality to her performances for long durations, and then there’s an explosion of rage or fear or emotion that kind of jolts you awake.

I'm going to have to see more films to figure it out I guess--Tony Gatlif's Transylvania is one I'm aching to see but it's not out on DVD yet. Until then, I'll just be captivated by Argento's bad/good style of un-acting. Maybe it's just one of these cinematic puzzles that you can never figure out?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cines Jean Renoir--Madrid

I love the name of this small little theatre--Renoir. Kind of neat
the place was named for the famed French director. What would be great is if more theatres took the names of famous filmmakers from the past. Imagine going to see a film at the Chaplin, the Hitchcock, the Truffaut or the Lubitsch. How cool would it be to say, "Oh, I'm going to the 7.30 screening at the Malick." I would really love that.

Directly across the street from the Renoir is an amazing film oriented bookstore called 8 1/2 (if only the Renoir was called the Fellini!). 8 1/2 was a treasure trove of books, images, posters, and curiosities (I got a nice t-shirt and a little box with a scary image from The Shining on it) all relating to film. Most items were in Spanish unfortunately, although I did find items in English.

Back to the Renoir. I re-watched Juno, a sweet-hearted comedy that I'm sure you know about but Hidden Staircase hadn't seen. I was curious to hear the reaction of the Spanish to the slang + culture heavy film through the subtitled wringer. Not many people were laughing except for us so the answer is--Juno lost a lot in the translation.

I did get to break out a proper bit of Spanish without having to stop and thing for 45 seconds before butchering their language. As we entered the downstairs theatre (aka the sub-cave!) it was completely dark--no light whatsoever. There was a Spanish mother/daughter right behind me and I said to them, "Donde es la luz?" ("Where is the light?") That is good Spanish if I do say so myself (unlike the time earlier in the day when I blurted out, "Donde es English?" thinking I was asking if they spoke English and got baffled looks and a confused "Que?" in response).

Photos: Exterior of the Cines Renoir, Replicant + Hidden Staircase waiting for Juno to begin & the screen itself.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cine Capitol--Madrid

When I was in Madrid for my recent vacation my hotel was right next door to the amazing Cine Capitol. Finished in 1933, this Art Deco movie palace is still playing films and was showing a dubbed version of Iron Man while I was there. When I found out it was a dubbed version and that I wasn't going to be able to watch a film at the Capitol I was crestfallen.

One afternoon on the trip I saw the theatre emptying out and decided I'd try to enter and at least look at
the theatre for a bit. I got to the concessions in the lobby when a young kid in a broom stopped me and started in with some rapid fire Spanish. I told him I only spoke a little bit of Spanish and tried to ask if I could just go in and look at the theatre. He went and got another person--this time a young woman--and I asked her about looking inside for a few seconds. She said no. Only for a minute I said to her. "No," was her response. "Porque?" I asked. "No," she said again. I'm not sure her English was actually better than the kid before but I left the gigantic lobby without getting to go any further than the lobby.

So, I stayed in a hotel that let me see the top of the marquee from my window. I walked by the Capitol every day for four days but it just teased me as I didn't get to go into the auditorium once. Heartache! I did get some nice photos of the marquee including these two--one taken by The Hidden Staircase with me standing underneath the massive, neon-lit marquee and one from across the street with the subway entrance sign.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Indy-A-Thon! updates can be found...

Check the comment box for the "Indy-A-Thon!" post for today's event--which starts in about 65 minutes. I will try to post updates, comments and other Indy related tidbits throughout the day in that comment box.

Friday, June 20, 2008


This Sunday I will go where few others have gone and come back the same: Indiana Jones marathon! When I say the word marathon I want to be taken literally. At around noon we (I will not be doing this alone, that would just be sad, wouldn't it?) will begin Raiders of the Lost Ark to be quickly followed by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

A change of venues will occur so we can clear our heads of the first half of Indy-a-thon '08 and cook some chicken + other things on the grill. Then we will watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We will then move to our third location of the day to see the latest, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (the title is not a good sign for the one I've dubbed "Geriatric Jones").

We hope to be finished around 10 that night after watching four films at three separate locations, grilling our dinner and spending the entire sunny, summery Sunday indoors. I should get some Robot cred points from a few readers for this, right?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Barcelona theatre--The Melies

I saw three films at the Melies: The Savages, Be Kind Rewind and Cashback. The first two I'd seen before but I like to watch movies while on vacation (and obviously I like to do that when not on vacation too) so I watched them again. Spain's larger theatres only play dubbed films so you have to seek out the smaller ones like the Melies to get them in their original language. These were all subtitled into Catalonian rather than Spanish which was kind of cool.

The Savages is a smart, biting dark comedy about a brother and sister who are forced to deal with their father's slide into the mental abyss. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney are at the top of their game--is PSH ever not?

Be Kind Rewind does not hold up for a second viewing. While enjoyable, a closer look at the film reveals a flimsy picture and Jack Black doing some of the worst overacting in his career (who has built a career built on overacting).

Cashback is an English film that has one major element to it that I'm obsessed by: the ability to stop time. If a story has time travel or time stoppage in it, I'm usually into it. This is a coming of age film with time stopping, lots of female nudity and some funny bits about a guy in art school. I'd never heard of it so any film I've never heard of with time stopping in it at 10.30 on a Thursday night in Barcelona is going to be good.

(photo of Melies + some stranger in the entryway by The Hidden Staircase)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Iron Man

Big summer blockbusters aren't really my cup of tea but this is getting rave reviews so I braved the packed multiplex to see it. I liked it. Fun; well conceived; effects laden; Robert Downey Jr. is fully redeemed; Jon Favreau is now a big budget director after mostly smaller films; Jeff Bridges looks awesome with shaved head/beard; great to hear a Suicidal Tendencies song in such a mainstream film; at two hours the film is just the right length; I liked that this wasn't a "mutant" superhero kind of film; annoying bit of facial hair by Downey that is too trimmed and veers off to odd angles on his face; Gwyneth Paltrow gets prettier when she wears less make-up and shows off her freckles; noisy people around me included two cell phone/text checks and a woman fanning herself for 40 minutes; might not see another "huge" film the rest of summer.

taken from Kinetoscope
w/ no edits>

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Southern Comfort

I watched a Powers Boothe film (The Final Season) on my recent trip and it was terrible. He was a soft spoken, nice, respected baseball coach and member of the community—how against type is that? It was just wrong and I kept waiting for him to grab a bat and start braining people! Powers Boothe should never be in a film like that as he’s one of the most intense, bad-ass villain or character actors in the past thirty years.

Now, Southern Comfort, a drive-in style film from 1981 is what I expect to see Boothe in. Directed by the great Walter Hill (who made some of my favorite films in the ‘70s and ‘80s with The Warriors, The Long Riders and 48 Hours), Southern Comfort is kind of an unknown gem of a film that has gone under the radar for too long. Southern Comfort, like Hill’s best work, is a well made thing of beauty that’s a lean, mean and gritty film that delivers great action and suspense.

Southern Comfort is a survivor tale in the vein of Deliverance (1972) that has Cajuns trying to kill people instead of Appalachian hillbillies. Like any good survival tale—this has people out of their element (in this case an overzealous National Guard unit) going up against locals and it doesn’t look good for the outsiders. These Cajuns make all kinds of mincemeat on the soldiers as they try to make it out of the swamp alive.

The film has a great cast—Boothe, another favorite in Fred Ward, Keith Carradine and the late, great bad guy Brion James as the main Cajun. James, who featured prominently in Blade Runner, was one of the best “unknown” screen villains so to have James going up against Boothe, Ward and Carradine—that’s action film gold!

If you are in the mood for an old-school, drive-in esque, action film with Cajuns trying to kill off outsiders from an underrated American director in Walter Hill—Southern Comfort is recommended. Watch it late at night with the lights out for best results.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Film Club book review

Book review time here at CineRobot. I was intrigued by this film related memoir when I came across it on the new release shelf at a local bookstore. The premise is interesting in multiple ways—father lets 16 year old son Jesse drop out of high school if he agrees to a few conditions: no drugs and watch three films a week together.

As someone who hated school with a passion as a teenager who was obsessed with film related culture—I think this bit of parenting is not only daring, it’s downright genius! Granted, I have no kids so that might skew my opinion. My days in high school were a complete waste of time. I was a voracious reader outside of school and loved learning—just not within the restricting confines that was my small town Oklahoma high school so this kind of strategy might have worked for me.

Gilmour agonizes over his decision as his son seems to drift and drift—is he ruining his son’s future and causing him damage rather than inspiration? Gilmour also writes a lot about other things in his life—his turbulent work situation, his ex-wife, his current wife, his childhood and Jesse’s romantic life. All the subjects merge into one cohesive narrative that Gilmour intersects throughout the book.

Of course, any book called The Film Club is going to have a lot of film talk and that’s a major aspect of the book. Father and son watch all kinds of films—ranging from classics such as Citizen Kane to Basic Instinct. There’s a nice blend of film history (all the biggies are covered from French New Wave to Kurosawa) and immediate reaction from the viewers and it’s interesting to see just what films Jesse responds to and the ones he dislikes.

The Film Club is pretty thin. I read it on an airplane and in an airport very quickly. It’s also got a level of suspense in it regarding what is going to happen to Jesse—is he going to find something to be passionate about or just keep on drifting. While I’m not a big fan of memoirs—this one hooked me in due to Gilmour’s direct, honest, simple writing and the film angle.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Blade Runner (Final Cut) trailer

No matter how many times I watch this film--it fills me with absolut awe.

May movies

I'm way behind here due to travels. I'm home now so I'll try to get a few posts out over the next week or so. Highlight of the month has to be watching Blade Runner (Final Cut) in Lisbon. It blew me away. Looked amazing, sounded amazing and I even enjoyed that it was subtitled into Portugese as The Hidden Staircase and I watched it. Best sci-fi film ever!

First Saturday In May---2008---usa ***
Love Affair---1939---usa **
Speed Racer---2008---usa *1/2
Forgetting Sara Marshall---2008---usa ***1/2
eXistenZ---1999---canada ***1/2
First Blood---1982---usa ***1/2
The Visitor---2008---usa ****
Roberta---1935---usa ***1/2
I Could Never Be Your Woman---2007---usa ***
The Final Season---2007---usa **
Blade Runner (Final Cut)---1982---usa *****!
Juno---2007---usa ****
Un Chien Andalou---1929---france ****
Honeydripper---2008---usa ***1/2

Monday, June 02, 2008

Film audiences in Portugal + Spain

Barcelona. Since I wrote a lot about the Finnish people last year (and still have that up on the main page) I thought I´d report in regarding the behavior of people in movie theatres on my trip. The report is positive. I´ve seen four films and while the Portugese and the Spanish are not up to the well mannered level of the Finns (who are basically so silent and still they might be either comatose or dead!), these two countries are light years from American audiences.

I have heard ZERO phones going off, I have seen ZERO people texting or looking at texts and I have heard ZERO conversation from other people in the theatre. That´s right--nothing. I did hear one lady who was squeeking the back of her chair off and on during one film but that´s something only a noise fanatic like me would hear--I was with Hidden Staircase and she didn´t hear it.

So there you have it. Two more countries who are obviously more civilized than the one I call home. It will be again painful to return to the land of the ¨text¨ and the ¨phone call¨ and the ¨let´s talk to one another during the film just like we are sitting in our living rooms¨...a period of adjustment will have to take place or I´ll be back to my combative ways.