Harry Potter and the Whatever's Whatever. Seen Wednesday July 29 at Clearview's Ziegfeld. 1.5 slithy toads. This was nice because it was a guy's night out with Peter V. Brett, who was eager to see the movie again, and I don't often have company for my movies, and we had a nice dinner after, and I saw it at the remaining big single screen movie theatre in NYC. But I just didn't like it very much. One of the problems early on in this series of movies was that the films had no screen life independent of the books themselves. I felt this slowly improved over the first three or four films, but now the series has regressed. This movie introduces you to characters of absolutely no importance to anyone who hasn't read the books, involved in events and situations that make no sense to anyone who hasn't read the books, and as a result it felt dramatically inert sitting in a theatre watching it. Peter pointed out the plus sides of the film. It is a fine reenactment of the book, with excellent special effects on which no expense was spared. And in that sense, not only great effects but effects that are real world enough to keep you in the world of the movie instead of giving the sense as the most expensive bad effects can that you're watching a computer game. But for me, just too too flat.
Fahrenheit 451, seen Sunday August 2, 2009 at the AFI Silver Theater (Silver Spring MD), Auditorium #1. 2 slithy toads. This was also a nice day at the movies with the newest JABberwocky client Myke Cole, in the old restored main auditorium at the AFI Silver, and a nice meal after at Ray's The Classics. This is the 1964 adaptation by Francois Truffaut (the only English language film by this great French director) of the classic novel by Ray Bradbury. I've never read the book, and hadn't seen the movie before, and it was interesting, but at the same time not something I'd hugely and heartily recommend. The performances are a bit icky and flat, and the difficulty Truffaut had coaxing a performance out of his actors in English may be part of why he stuck to doing films in French after. I'd had this notion that the story was about burning books for censorship reasons, so I was surprised to discover that it's the notion of books itself instead of any particular book that's annoying the authorities in this future world. The vision of the future includes weird urban design connected by weird monorail to standard suburbs. The monorail was the most interesting thing to me, with the cars hanging down from the rail instead of being supported by it. And then access was by stairway which comes down from the floor of the monorail and leads very steeply to ground level. So this means that the cars lose a lot of usable space because people can't stand on the spot that's the staircase, and then the dwell time in the stations as people climb up or down a steep set of stairs to the ground must be horrible. Who'd think of such a thing? It must come from the same mindset that would think that reading a book can only be a dark and depressing experience. But the solution the film posits (is it the same in the book?) of oral history as the next generation of book is odd as well. On many accounts an odd and interesting film.
A Perfect Getaway. Seen Tuesday August 11 at Pacific's Culver City Theatre (LA), Auditorium #9. 3 slithy toads. For somebody who usually goes to the movies alone, I saw four straight films with company, in this case horror anthology editor and long-time client Jeff Gelb. Following dinner at the kosher dairy restaurant on Pico run by Steven Spielberg's mom. This was a very nice B movie. It's written and directed by David Twohy, who wrote the screenplay for The Fugitive and has done some other nifty genre turns as writer and/or director like Pitch Black and The Arrival. This looked like above average B movie fun from its coming attraction, and happily the film delivered. With a good cast including Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich. Some smart scripting. Some good Puerto Rican locations doubling as exotic Hawaiian vacation destination. Suspenseful without overdosing on cheap tricks. I enjoyed it at least as much as I'd expected from the decent reviews and the trailer, and Jeff maybe even more so. Not a great movie, but a very good one that I hope will last some on video. Because it's an exemplary example of the kind of thing it is.
And speaking of Steven Spielberg... Close Encounters of the Third Kind, seen Monday August 17 at the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival. 4 slithy toads. My friend Mark from my Scott Meredith days joined me in the park for this, and it's always nice to sit, talk, eat al fresco, people watch, and make a full evening of it. The final showing of this year's Bryant Park Film Festival was packed but happily not quite as much as last year's showing of Superman. Mark was just back from Atlantic City and got me a box of James Salt Water Taffy as a two-month early 15th anniversary gift for the founding of JABberwocky, and lovingly changed every number on the Nutrition Facts box to a "15." I love James Taffy and it still tastes yummy anad really best in classs/best in show for taffy, though sadly it agrees less with my fortysomething teeth than it did my twentysomething teeth. Oh, and the movie... it's a masterpiece still 32 years and multiple viewings on. It's tautly constructed, well-edited, well-acted, I still get goose bumps when we get to the dark side and the music-and-light show begins and the aliens swoop down for their visit.
A lot of the summer it's been a struggle to find good movies to see but recent weeks when I've had a distinct lack of movie time have seen a lot of interesting open. I did see 3 more movies yesterday and am going to try and make time for a few more during midweek, but I'll save those. Four movies in this post is a real post, and that's all the blog time I can give tonight.