Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir: The Asphalt Jungle

The Asphalt Jungle (1950, John Huston)
*mild spoilers*

How many ways can a team of filmmakers create a heist film? More to the point, what can matter in such a movie, where can the stakes be created, and where might they bring the characters? The question appears deceptively simple, for what might be at the forefront of a film lover’s thoughts when someone mentions ‘heist film’ is the heist itself, both its preparation and execution, which is a reasonable reflex, if a decidedly easy one. So much more can enrich a story surrounding a heist. Who is committing the act, why are they doing it and, what further hurdles might the group of anti-heroes encounter after the completion of the mission, for, as one should have realized, the heist is not over until they have truly escaped the authorities. For a full experience, a heist need concern itself with the before, the act itself, and the aftermath. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Casino Royale (2006)

(Directed by Martin Campbell)

007’s (Daniel Craig) first true mission began in Madagascar, when he and a contact were in pursuit of a bomb maker who presumably had considerable connections to a terrorist group. While this excursion did not conclude as planned, our newly promoted agent followed his nose (and the clues) to the Bahamas, where more seeds of a greater nefarious enterprise began to reveal themselves to Bond. Help from the wife (Caterina Murino) of one of the unnamed organization’s operators, Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian) permitted 007 to prevent a significant attack on Miami International Airtport, an operation funded by another one of the terrorists associates, the mysterious Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who then needed to earn back his losses. He chose so by travelling to the Casino Royale in Montenegro and do one of the things he did so well, play cards, more specifically, Poker. It turned 007 himself was quite the card player as well, and one way to further investigate this strange new terrorist cell was by defeating Le Chiffre at the table and forcing him to turn. In addition to René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) from the Deuxième Bureau helping Bond on this delicate mission, there was a treasury representative, the beautiful but cold and strong minded Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). She was none too impressed with Bond at first, which certainly did not allow their partnership to start in very promising manner...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir Marathon: The Set-Up

The Set-Up (1949, Robert Wise)
If there is ever one type of sports film people never seem to tire of, it is undoubtedly the boxing-themed picture. Hockey is not really part of the equation, basketball a bit more so, and baseball has had its heyday of great films but few of have emerged over the past while. American football is has also been the basis of a fair amount of solid movies, but it is boxing which, for many reasons, is ripe for cinematic drama. One need only look back approximately one year ago when The Fighter was released and recollect its gargantuan popularity. Good, dramatic cinema should about interesting characters, their story arcs and how they culminate with a memorable, gut wrenching climax. In the case of boxing, the gut wrench might even be literal. If one is to take those notions and thrust them into a sports related story, what better athletic profession than that of boxing? Man versus man, emotional and physical well being put to the test with each successive round, and of course the crowds who, with vested interests sometimes, gather around to witness two fine specimens whack the silly putty out of each other.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Casino Royale (1954)

Casino Royale (1954, William H. Brown Junior)
Tonight, a Climax one of a kind thrilling adventure. ‘Card Sense Jimmy Bond’, played by Barry Nelson, battles the slimy Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre) in a card game in which the stakes are raised to the point where their very lives are on the line! MI6 contact Clarence Leitter (Michael Pate) assists Bond in this stupendous adventure, and no spy movie would be complete with a femme fatale, in this case the beautiful girlfriend to Le Chiffre, Valerie Mathis (Linda Christian). Get ready!
Whoa, whoa, whoa. What in heaven’s name is going on here? Peter Lorre was in a Bond film? There is yet another version of Casino Royale besides Daniel Craig’s outing and the 1960s spoof? To top it off, there is a version of James Bond where the character is American?!? The world is upside down!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir Marathon: Gun Crazy


Gun Crazy (1950, Joseph H. Lewis)

This article may now be read at Sound on Sight in the Friday Film Noir column here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir Marathom: Out of the Past

Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur)
There are a handful of actors and actresses whose names synonymous with the genre of film noir. One might think of the legendary Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino, or Sterling Hayden. Robert Ryan, whom this blog has heaped praise upon before, is another that fans of the genre should never omit. However, no discussion of this fascinating genre would be complete without mentioning the one and only Robert Mitchum. Star of a countless number of movies, Mitchum was, at one time, clearly one of the most popular actors working in Hollywood, with that fame being mostly the result of is work within the genre under inspection in this marathon. Out of the Past, directed by Jacques Tourneur, is considered a staple, with, of course, Mitchum playing a huge role in that film’s lasting appeal. There is an entire host of other factors which, coalescing together like cigarette smoke and shadow in a dimly lit room, lead Tourneur’s famous picture to resonate with people still till this very day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir Marathon: Murder, My Sweet

Murder, My Sweet (1944, Edward Dmytryk)
Cinematic translations of Raymond Chandler’s famous mystery novels featuring Philip Marlowe produce the most unlikely, oddball and satisfying results. In the first Forgotten Film Noir series, the Robert Montgomery directed Lady in the Lake was discussed. That film, which also starred the aforementioned director, opted to take the most literal way of bringing a book to the screen by having the viewer privy to Marlowe’s first person point of view, complete with very personal narration as the character thought to himself as the adventure evolved. What he thought, the viewer heard, where he went, the viewer went. No such avant-garde, first person point of view technique is utilised in the film under review today, Murder, My Sweet, yet the filmmakers still remain true to the spirit of bringing the story of a novel to the silver screen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Forgotten Film Noir returns!

Hello readers.

Some of you may recall that very early in the year, Between the Seats blitzed through a film noir marathon. It was boat loads of fun to discover those fantastic, lesser known films. It is a genre much beloved among film buffs, functioning as a venue for sharp dialogue, deliciously ambiguous characters and some haunting cinematography. Needless to say that any opportunity to watch some more shall be heartily welcomed here at the blog. Over at Filmspotting, some of the message board members are in the midst of their own film noir marathon, aptly titled noir-vember.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Die Another Day (2002)

 (directed by Lee Tamahori)
007 (Pierce Brosnan) had fallen into the clutches of enemies of the state before, yet being equipped with the quartermaster’s special tools and his own legendary quick wits provided for miraculous escapes. This time would be different however. M orders were for 007 to infiltrate North Korean Colonel Moon’s (Will Yun Lee) personal base situated along the DMZ zone have put an end to his diamonds for weapons business. Circumstances led Bond to engage Colonel Moon in a terrific hovercraft chase, which itself ended with Bond being captured by the North Korean military and the colonel supposedly dead. Our agent remained incarcerated for 14 months...until, to M’s great reluctance, Britain decided to make a trade with the North Koreans: James Bond 007 for Zao (Rick Yune), colonel’s Moon right hand man who had fallen into our hands.

Unsatisfied with his fate, Bond opted to go against official regulation and hunt down Zao to finish off the job he had been tasked with over a year ago. The renegade military man was now in Cuba for a very mysterious reason: plastic surgery. Just prior to coming face to face with his old nemesis Bond came to notice a CIA agent who was also hot on Zao’s trails, Jinx (Halle Berry).  Even together they failed liquidate Zao, but opportunity for them to form a partnership would come knocking again as both were sent to Iceland to attend a grand spectacle of technology hosted by one of Britain’s most tireless entrepreneur, Gustav Graves (Tobey Stevens). His crack team of scientists had created a super satellite which fed off the power of the sun, and he was about to make a glorious demonstration of its power. Something about Graves did not sit well with Bond however...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shaw Brothers Marathon: The Avenging Eagle

The Avenging Eagle (1978, Chung Sun)

With the Shaw Brothers marathon winding down (only a few films left after today’s article), we have arrived at a point where, if you have been following along, the popular trends and storytelling techniques can be easily discerned, with the same going for sequence or directorial choices which surprisingly go against the grain. Those instances when a film from this studio provides a different flavour are not terribly frequent given how the people behind the films had to remain true to the Shaw Brothers image, but they are refreshing. The Chung Sun directed The Avenging Eagle does, in fact, indulge in some small surprises, most of which are readily welcomed, even though they may not pay off as handsomely as one would like.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Defintive Bond Marathon: The World is Not Enough (1999)

(Directed by Michael Apted)
007’s (Pierce Brosnan) latest crusade to protect the world was one of his most challenging yet, putting Her Majesty’s most accomplished secret agent to the test not only physically, but emotionally as well. The astounding series of events began in Bilbao, Spain, where 007 was dispatched to recover a large sum of money belonging to well known oil tycoon Sir Robert King. Unbeknownst to anyone at MI6, least of all Bond, the sum of cash had been tampered with in a highly sophisticated way so that when Sir King was reunited with his money, the package denoted, thus killing the respected business man.

The attack on Sir King convinced M (Judi Dench), an old friend of the late entrepreneur, to offer his daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau), protection from the suspected perpetrator of the murder of her father, the mysterious and vicious terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle), a man still walking and breathing despite their being a bullet lodged comfortably in his head. A trip to Azeirbajan to safeguard the heiress to one of the world’s largest oil companies provided insightful clues with regards to the whereabouts of Renard and his team of operatives. It was by infiltrating a nuclear test site that 007’s path crisscrossed with that of a beautiful and rather opinionated physicist, Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), who would act as a strong ally for Bond as the race after Renard continued before the latter could obtain nuclear weapons and while the risk against Elektra’s life worsened. Things took a dramatic turn when a secret ally of Renard revealed their identity...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011, Sean Durkin)

One of the stranger occurrences resulting from a movie experiencing is the exhilaration from feeling angry. Written as such, that notion probably makes little sense. However, when one goes to see as many films as those who participate in the movie blog community, there comes a point when, sad as it may sound, one becomes somewhat numb to film. There are good movies, but how many good movies do we remember vividly a year down the road, or even 7-8 months down the road? Sometimes a furious jolt is required to liven up one’s film reviewer sense, to rekindle that one thing people want to feel every single time they watch a film: emotion. If the emotions elicited by said film are those of frustration and anger, so be it. It more than likely means the film is doing something correctly.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Capsule reviews: Drive, Contagion, Andromeda Strain

Apart from the recent Festival du nouveau cinema, Between the Seats has not been to the movies since September, believe it or not. Here is a small sample of what little we did go see in theatres, as well as what we caught on our favourite television channel, MPix.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

(directed by Roger Spotiswoode)
Few would dispute the usefulness of easy and accessible transmitted information from one region of the globe to another through various media. The only possible point contention is the person or entity exercising said transmission. He who controls the flood of information can control a whole lot more, and such was the central issue of 007’s (Pierce Brosnan) latest mission, which began when both Chinese MiGs and the HMS Devonshire were attacked at sea, with each country accusing the other of belligerency. The first media outlet to cover the story was the Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) owned newspaper, The Tomorrow. It seemed to many that the story leaked just a bit too fast, a bit too early. How did Carver get his information so quickly and what have he to do with this international incident? Time was of the essence as communication between Great Britain and China heated up, with the potentiality of war growing by the minute.

007 was commissioned with the investigation of Carver and his enterprise during the latter’s much hyped about launch of a 24 hour news television station to take place in Hamburg. It was there that our agent came in contact with a former flame, Paris (Terri Hatcher), now Carver’s wife, as well as the beautiful Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), an Chinese secret agent posing as a journalist seeking an exclusive interview with media mogul. Bond’s snooping, running and shooting shed more and more light on his target, thus making it abundantly clear that the British ex-pat did indeed have a hand in the international incident, aided by a techno wizard named Gupta (Ricky Jay). His goal? To increase television ratings as well as newspaper and magazine readership. Control the content by creating it. The euphoria felt by the fans as a result of Goldeneye was always going to be difficult to live up to. Having one Bond film in which the story deals with the post-Cold War world is one thing, but if the producers were going to make more films, and we all knew they would, new ideas for threats would have to created again and again. What could be considered a danger to the world? It needs to be plausible both in the world of James Bond and in our real world. The Roger Spotiswoode directed Tomorrow Never Dies does address a fascinating issue that many do indeed consider to a problem: the domination of news media by a select few. After all, when so much information is selectively delivered by so few, it is understandable for certain ethical to arise.