MQGTTM! The Road (2009)

My Queue Goes to the Movies:

Directed by John Hillcoat
Written by Novel: Cormac McCarthy
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron

I had a rare chance to escape to the movies over the Thanksgiving break, amazing how tough it is when you have a child. I state this due to the added impact this film had on me as a new father. I was equally thrilled and filled with dread at the opportunity to catch The Road adaptation, being familiar with the source material. The film was devastatingly good, heart-wrenching, and depressing, but completely immersive, terrifying, and honest.

Viggo delivers one of the best performances since his Cronenberg film duet as the diseased and desperate father, trying to lead his child to safety through a post-apocalyptic landscape. Unlike the schlock big budget 2012, Road spends a scant 30 seconds on the disaster that salts the earth. The aftermath of the apocalypse is the mileau for this tale, following the pair’s struggle to find food in world devoid of any kind of life, scavanged by starving bands of cannibals.

The imagery in this film is impossibly bleak and unrelenting. Compositions of forrests of burning dead trees, black skeletons smoking amongst rusted hulks of cars, gray landscapes with lonely rotting houses permeate every minute of the film. Father and son constantly have the look of gaunt terror in their eyes, staring out from sooty visages. Viggo’s character is plagued by horrific encounters at every turn and haunted by the suicide of his wife when he closes his eyes. The direction and execution are flawless, leaving the audience trapped in this future with no hope. Beware, this film is riveting, but also not for the weak of stomach, or heart.

Other Films by this Director: The Proposition (2005)

MQGTTM! Inglourious Basterds (2009)

New feature on My Queue, My Queue Goes to the Movies (MQGTTM). These will be peppered throughout the dvd reviews as reviews of current releases, be they good or bad. In this case, mediocre…

Inglourious_Basterds_poster

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger

Saw Basterds last night,the story follows a motley crew of Nazi killers, all Jews aside from the part Apache 1st Lt Aldo Raine and crazed ex-Kraut, Sgt Stiglitz. It also follows a French Jewish woman who escaped the Nazi killing squads led by Col. Hans Landa to Paris where she opens a cinema soon to be the focus of the film’s final set-piece…it also follows a British film critic turned Army Captain’s secret mission to contact a German film star who wants to turn state secrets.

Basterds feels like a hodge-podge of ideas that never coalesced into a singular theme. I’m not sure why it was called Inglorious Basterds for the amount of time you spend with them, getting to know their characters, it could have been called, “The French Cinema Propreiter,” or “Random British Film Critic Commando.” Most of the crew end up as unexplored silhouettes, used only as stand-ins for action scenes. Definitely no Dirty Dozen. Strong performances by Cristpoh Waltz and Malanie Laurant, but Pitt’s protean Brando impression was distracting. Tarantino’s exploitational cutaways, whimsical fonts, and anachronistic music choices draw you out of what could have been immersive dialogue scenes, but ultimately most of those could have been edited back as well. Some moments of interspersed brilliance, like the final set-piece, but other action scenes were brief and overcut.  Somewhere between Grindhouse and Reservoir Dogs, but too confused and self-indulgent to be either.

Other films by this Director: Pulp Fiction (1994), Resevoir Dogs (1992)

A clip…

Walkabout (1971)

Directed by Nicolas Roeg

Starring Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg

Well it looks like it’s going to be Down Under week on My Queue as the slate of films I have planned all come from Austrailia or New Zealand. We’ll start out with one of my favorites, brought to my attention again because it’s scheduled for a Blu-Ray Criterion re-release. And naturally, that made me immediately think about Jenny Agutter. Anyone who’s seen this movie, Logan’s Run, or an American Werewolf in London is gonna know what I’m talking about.

She fine.

Anyway, Walkabout follows the journey of two children who are stranded in the Austrailian wilderness by their deranged father. They befriend an Aboriginal boy who teaches them how to survive in the wilderness and leads them to an abandoned farm house. He tries to court the girl through dance, but when she doesn’t understand his meaning, wanders off and disappears, only to be found later dead, hanging from a tree. Eventually the two children find rescue, but secretly long for their simple days of survival in the wild.

Walkabout is lyrical and ingeniously edited, Roeg juxtaposing life among nature with shots of life in civilization demonstrating the similarities and disparities between the two. It is cinematically gorgeous and Agutter is captivating to watch.

Other Notable Films by this Director: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Midnight Run (1988)

Directed by Martin Brest

Starring Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin

In honor of a recent madcap midnight run I just had through the city the other night, I thought it apropo to review one of my favorite road movies. Part action, part comedy, this film is 100% entertaining from start to finish with strong comedic performances by De Niro and Grodin. The on-screen anti-chemistry between the two places them among the top comedy duos in cinematic history alongside Martin and Lewis, Lemmon and Mathau, and dare I say Shatner and Nimoy (STVI: Voyage Home)? Yes I dare.

The story follows tough-as-nails ex-cop Jack Walsh (De Niro) who is tasked with bringing in mob accountant John Mardukas, aka the Duke (Grodin). What seems like a simple job at first explodes into twisted imbroglio of double-crosses, betrayal, and mishap as Walsh is beset on all sides from completing his mission. There’s the mob boss that wants the Duke’s head and Walsh dead, the FBI and cops who want the Duke for themselves, and the rival bounty hunters that want the payday for bringing in the fugitive.

What makes this film click is the constant nagging banter from Grodin’s character and De Niro’s dry sarcastic one-liners. The interaction between Agent Mosley and Jack is also hilarious, Walsh constantly stealing Mosley’s cigarettes and sunglasses. The action is great, the dialogue funny, and the plot plays out with a satisfying conclusion that ties all the warring factions together…and they say “fuck” 132 times. Just…try to ignore the fact that Brest went on to make Gigli 15 years later.

Other Notable Films by this Director:WarGames (1983), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Scent of a Woman (1992)

Dead Man (1995)

Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Starring Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer

“Some men to sweet the light, some men born to endless night.” -William Blake

Called an “acid Western” by director Jarmusch, Dead Man definitely turns the genre’s stereotypes on its head. Shot in black and white with unflinching violence and sarcastic dark humor, the film is unlike any western you’ve ever seen.

William Blake is a prosaic accountant journeying to a rough western town called Machine for a apprenticeship position. Once there, he finds his position filled, pockets empty, and options depleted. A local whore takes him in, but when her jealous boyfriend finds them together, Blake is mortally wounded, forced to kill a man, and flee for his life.

He awakes being tended to by a Native American named Nobody, who tells him his wound is serious and his days numbered. When he learns of Blake’s name, Nobody, a poet pundit, vows to become Blake’s companion. He teaches Blake how to use a pistol, saying, “this will be your new poetry, and your words will be written in blood.” Together the duo journey to the sea in the west where Blake will die, but not before encountering a host of interesting quirky characters, including 3 doomed bounty hunters led by Lance Henrikson, a group of bumbling trappers including Billy Bob Thorton and Iggy Pop, and a racist missionary played by Alfred Molina.

Dead Man is simultaneously funny and dramatic, mimicing the stages of a psychedlic trip that darkly examines the mortal coil. There’s meaning and symbolism here, if you submit yourself to the film’s world and though bleak in its conclusion, its whimsicality leaves you with a wam feeling of cathartic soulfulness.

Other Notable Films by this Director: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), Broken Flowers (2005)

The Defiant Ones (1958)

Directed by Stanley Kramer

Starring Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier

Awards: Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen

In the same genre of movies like Cold Hand Luke and Midnight Run, The Defiant Ones, is the ultimate prisoner-on-the-run movie. The classic pairing of Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as racist Joker and Noah respectively creates a building tension that satisfyingly culminates in one of the great on-screen friendships. Interesting shot choices from a cinematic viewpoint also lend to this film’s artistic merit.

Noah and Joker are prisoners who loath each other and are chained together. Together they escape from a chain gang, and through numerous trials learn to respect and trust each other.At one point the duo is aided by a lonely woman and her son and their chains are broken. Following the woman’s directions, Noah runs off into the swamp to safety and Joker stays behind. Joker later finds out the woman lied and led Noah into a trap and despite having everything he wants, runs to the swamp to help his friend.

There are several remakes out there of this film, including a crap 90’s version with talented Laurence Fishborne and born-again hack Stephen Baldwin called Fled. Flee from it, see the original. Tense, entertaining, and topically controversial for its time.

Other Notable Films by this Director: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Le Dernier Combat (1983)

Directed by Luc Besson

Starring Pierre Jolivet, Jean Bouise, Fritz Wepper, Jean Reno

Besson’s first feature length film, the Last Combat has the unique disitinction of being the only silent, black and white, post-apocolyptic, action/comedy. Already, Besson’s style and genious presents itself in an engaging story that is poignant, thrilling, and funny.

Jolivet plays the unnamed hero, who uses his wits to first defeat a group of thugs and attain a battery for his homemade plane, then again to best a brute played by Jean Reno and save a captive woman. Despite there being no dialogue, Besson manages to establish notable characters and genuine relationships such as the partnership between the hero and the doctor who is protecting a hospital and the woman in it.

Also to note are the brilliantly captured slapsticky moments that come to identify Besson’s directing style such as the hero experiencing alcohol for the frist time and Reno’s character’s failed attempts to gain access to the hospital.

Other Notable Films by the Director: Nikita (1990), Leon (1994), The Fifth Element (1997)

This one’s a little obscure, you’ll have to go here for the trailer…

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