Friday, January 14, 2011

My Week of Movie Watching

Iron Man 2 – A disappointment. The original is my favourite comic-book adaptation, so the sequel had its work cut out for it, but some of the failures are mystifying. First, take the villain Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) He’s a great invention, and the sequence where he attacks Tony Stark on the racetrack is terrific. But then he has no contact with Iron Man until the finale, and it is over all too quickly. The OTHER villain, the arms dealer played by Sam Rockwell can’t be taken seriously. Shouldn’t a villain seem formidable? Too much of this film was just empty sound and fury. I longed for a classic comic-book moment like the one in the first film where the prototype Iron Man emerges from the cave. Not really recommended.

Street of Shame – Another in Mizoguchis “Fallen Women” series. This one deals with the denizens of a Tokyo brothel in the post-war period, and focuses primarily on the financial hardships they face. The film features a back-story about a piece of legislation that would outlaw prostitution, and it’s striking to see the dilemma its passing would present. Most of the women hate the degradation and shame attached to their life, but they also realize that if the law passes, they have no other prospects. Poignant, sad, and heartily recommended.

My Architect – This documentary follows the efforts of filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn to learn more about his father, the renowned architect Louis Kahn. The film doesn’t arrive at many answers about the brilliant but erratic father, who had three separate families and was found dead in a train station. The real appeal of this film is in its presentation of the mind of a flawed visionary, who could create stunning works of art, but often had no clue about the practical aspects of his craft – Or of his family. A treat for an architecture junkie like myself is the exploring of some of Kahn’s major works, primarily the National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Fort Apache – The first movie of John Ford’s “Cavalry” trilogy is a re-working of the George Custer story. Henry Fonda stars as Colonel Owen Thursday: A cold, brittle megalomaniac whose hubris results in the needless deaths of he and most of his men. John Wayne plays Captain York, who has a more sympathetic view of the Apache nation. On the plus side here are the performances of the two leads, and some magnificent shots of Utah’s Monument Valley. On the minus side is Fords penchant for salting his films with clunky comedic elements. In this case it’s a cadre of hard-drinking Irish sergeants, led by Victor McLaughan. As much as I admire most of Fords work, the man just had no instinct for comedy. A lukewarm recommendation.

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