Get Low. I caught Get Low on my last night in Seattle at the lovely neoned Guild 45th. Great neon there. I enjoyed the film but I could never quite shake the feeling something was a little off as I watched it. The tone of it was just a strange mix of somber/reflective and quirky/whimsy. Director Aaron Schneider never makes up his mind what he wants and the film ends up being slightly less powerful because of it. Even the big payoff scene near the end isn't as effective as it could have been due to the bouncing from serious to humorous that precedes it. The 79 year old Robert Duvall gives a very solid performance as a Tennessee hermit who wants to have a big "funeral party" for people to come and tell a story about him before he dies. Duvall specializes in these rural rascal types of characters. The reality is he wants to tell his own story tied to why he became a hermit. Get Low is very lovely to look at, warm hues and the wooded 1930s Tennessee setting is quite striking. Bill Murray, Lucas Black and Sissy Spacek are all solid in support. Get Low is an odd little film that feels out of place in 2010 and that is a mark in its favor.
Matinee. I recently re-watched this charming coming of age film I first saw when it came out in 1993. If you are into b-films, the lost innocence of moviegoing, John Goodman, the Cuban Missile crisis or family friendly coming of age films--Matinee might just be for you as it is all those things. It's just a heck of a lot of fun as Goodman plays a William Castle type film director coming to Key West to screen his latest opus Mant! (half man, half ant!). While there he befriends a teenager who loves these sorts of films whose father is off on a ship dealing with the nuke stand-off between USA/USSR/Cuba. Matinee is a love letter from director Joe Dante to all the things from the 1960s for kids from this time period. Lots and lots of movie talk among Goodman and others. Indie hero John Sayles has a small part to which I'd forgotten about. Matinee is a sweet, heart-warming movie that any dear readers with kids in the range of 10-15 should show on the next family movie night.
Zurdo. Speaking of sweet, heart-warming movies, Zurdo is something unexpected and good from Mexico about a marble playing kid in a bleak city. I had no expectations for this 2003 film--a sci-fi with lots of marble playing scenes? Okay, I'm game but slightly doubtful. I was won over early in the story about a kid named Lefty who is the best "shooter" in his area who is challenged by an outsider in a match against "The Wizard." All the locals decide to bet lots of money on Lefty which creates a lot of apprehension, especially with a ruthless cop threatening everyone around him if he doesn't throw the match. Classic set up of underdog kid vs. powerful, wealthy adults. Don't expect great CGI here, Zurdo is low-budget terrain with effects bordering on the cheesy. That only added to its appeal for me. So was the funky "futuristic" clothes, the semi-dystopian aura of poor workers and yes, the marble playing. It has a good deal of the melodrama that Mexican films are chock full of but this time I didn't mind at all. Zurdo is a pleasant and fun little surprise and another good family film if the kids are up for reading subtitles.