Monday, September 30, 2013

The Devil Is a Woman (1935)

IMDb plot summary: Film told in flashbacks of an older man's obsession for a woman who can belong to no-one but can frustrate everyone.
Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Starring Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Atwill, and Edward Everett Horton.

If I never have to see Marlene Dietrich roll her eyes and sigh dramatically to manipulate someone into doing what she wants, I shall be quite content. I hate everyone in this movie, from the obnoxiously coy and manipulative Dietrich to the men who apparently decided they owned her and could do whatever they wanted with her. I'm sure I was supposed to side with one and support their attempts to undercut the other's ruining their life, but I just hated everyone all round. It's a melodramatic mess of a story with unlikable characters and a long winding plot that doesn't really go anywhere. Not a fan. 1 star.

Flickchart: #1739 out of 1961, below Dumbo and above Band of Outsiders.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

IMDb plot summary: Leslie Howard plays Sir Percy Blakeney, an 18th century English aristocrat who leads a double life. He appears to be merely the effete aristocrat, but in reality is part of an underground effort to free French nobles from Robespierre's Reign of Terror.
Directed by Harold Young. Starring Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, and Raymond Massey.

Ever since I read the book, I have been strangely drawn to the Scarlet Pimpernel story. Whether it's the love story (oh gosh, that story just HOOKS me with the unrequited love angle and that delicious "he's loved me all the time" reveal) or the adventurous, almost swashbuckling actions of the Pimpernel, I find myself truly enjoy every incarnation of it. Leslie Howard here is perfect at playing both the Pimpernel and Sir Percy, jumping easily back and forth between being a competent, resourceful leader and a ridiculous prettyboy. I also really like Merle Oberon as Marguerite in this version - she is clearly conflicted and sad, but she makes smart, strong choices that flesh her out as a real person, far from the swooning dainty woman I expected her to be. In short, this is an excellent movie adaptation, and well worth the watch. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #478 out of 1960, below New York Stories and above You Can't Take It With You.

Man Hunt (1941)

IMDb plot summary: British hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by German agents and aided by a young woman.
Directed by Fritz Lang. Starring Walt Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, and George Sanders.

While the premise of this movie is fascinating and the final 20 minutes or so are really captivating, the entire middle section with the romance was thoroughly uninteresting to me. I found the girl alternately bland and irritating, and I got impatient with their relationship. I admire the theme and overall arc of the movie, but the actual execution of it was not my favorite. 2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1180 out of 1959, below Hustle & Flow and above Lincoln.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oblivion (2013)

IMDb plot summary: A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough.

While this movie looks gorgeous, with some truly incredible visuals, there's not a lot of substance here. It's a lot of tired sci-fi tropes combined in a way that doesn't really hold up once you start thinking through the plot. In addition, it's a very *dark* movie, emotionally, and I found it fairly depressing, without any of the things that makes a depressing movie actually worth the watch. Disappointing. Now I want to wipe it from my mind by watching Vanilla Sky, a much better (and even more visually stunning) psychological sci-fi starring Tom Cruise. 2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1233 out of 1958, below The Devil Wears Prada and above Marie Antoinette.