Monday, June 4, 2012

Grab Bag: Alice, The Fury, Hissatsu!, Gift Shop

Hi, folks! I took a week or so off, but now I'm back. Today I'm going to do something a little different. I know this is highly unorthodox, but I'm getting tired of being way behind, so today I'm going to post brief mini reviews for a few movies. I won't be going as "in depth" as I normally do (which isn't very in the first place). Just a paragraph or two per movie. OK, here goes!

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore by Martin Scorsese, 1974

I feel kind of bad not devoting a whole review for this, but ugh, I'm so bogged down. By coincidence, I watched this on the day before Mother's Day, which was totally appropriate. It stars Ellen Burstyn as Alice, a wife and mother living a suffocating existence, who is given a chance to start a new life with her son in a new town. After his breakthrough with Mean Streets, Martin Scorsese proves himself a truly versatile director, making a movie that's both romantic and brutally honest at the same time.

The performances are aces, especially Ellen Burstyn in the title role. Even to this day, it's not often that so much respect is given in movies to women over 30. Harvey Keitel manages to first charm and then terrify in his small part. Also, Alfred Lutter is utterly believable as Alice's obnoxious kid. He might have a smart mouth on him, but I think he's going to turn out OK, because he totally listens to T. Rex and Mott the Hoople.

The Fury by Brian De Palma, 1978

As a follow-up to his massive hit Carrie, Brian De Palma made another thriller about teenage psychics. Kirk Douglas stars as a government agent whose psychic son is kidnapped by a dirty fellow agent looking to turn him into a living weapon. Douglas finds and enlists the help of an unstable psychic girl (Amy Irving) to rescue his son.

This movie was a lot of fun, doubling as both a horror movie and a paranoid conspiracy thriller. It was pretty cool seeing a 60-plus Kirk Douglas still kicking ass in chase sequences and stuff. John Cassavetes plays the villain, and this was the first movie I'd ever seen him in, but it won't be the last. Also, the score by John Williams is fantastic, maybe one of his best non-Spielberg/Lucas scores. I used to think I didn't like Brian de Palma, based on the small number of his movies I'd seen, but now that I've seen some more, I understand what his fans see in him. At least in his earlier films. I still just don't like The Untouchables, guys. Sorry. Maybe I'll revisit it someday.

Hissatsu! (Sure Death!) by Masahisa Sadanaga, 1984

This is the first samurai movie I've ever seen from the 80's, and it was pretty crazy. I hear it's part of a popular series, but I haven't learned much about the sequels. It follows a group of assassins who pose as local merchants, who have to fend off another group of killers trying to take them out by killing them first. It was enjoyable and quite silly. Everybody had killing techniques that fit the jobs they work in their civilian identities. The score is weird too, sometimes it sounds almost like an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western score, other times, it's straight-up funky, and other times it almost sounds like 70's Sesame Street music or something. I enjoyed it, but I think I enjoy every samurai movie. It's nowhere near the same class as the ones of the 50's and 60's, and it doesn't have the crazy stylized hyperviolence of the 70's ones.

Exit Through the Gift Shop by Banksy, 2010

A fascinating, funny documentary on the worldwide explosion of the Street Art movement. It follows Thierry Guetta, an eccentric French-American vintage clothing store owner, his growing obsession with the guerrilla artists leaving clever and often thought-provoking tags on the sides of buildings and elsewhere, and his eventual rise to fame as a street artist himself, Mr. Brainwash. Much of the story focuses on Shepherd Ferry and the anonymous Banksy, two of the artists at the forefront of the movement. Much speculation has gone into how much of this documentary is true and how much is a hoax or a prank. It's legitimately difficult to tell where the line is drawn between reality and comedy, or if there even is one. Captivating and entertaining stuff.


Well, I think four reviews is enough for now. I'll probably post another group of reviews tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed the change in format!

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