Monday, June 18, 2012

The Netflix Files: June 11-17

Don't Look Now (1973) dir. Nicolas Roeg

A steadily engrossing mystery/thriller, Roeg's film, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, builds its atmosphere more on grief and dread than on any sort of scares. The story of a couple trying to rebuild their lives in the Venice after their daughter drowns in an accident certainly takes its time to really get moving, though the pay off is ultimately worth it. Certain elements feel either stiff or dated - unfortunately this includes some of Sutherland's acting - but Roeg's method of capturing the scenes, often through delirious camera movements and off-kilter edits deserves credit. And even though the climactic scene almost threatens to throw the themes overboard in favor of shock value, it presents a memorably unsettling image that will make you question ever following someone in a red trench coat. 

Grade: B

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006/2008) dir. Michel Hazanavicius 

Before storming awards season with The Artist, Michel Hazanvicius, Jean Dujardin, and Berenice Bejo were busy mimicking another time period and genre of film making. Itself a spoof of a series of spy novels, Nest of Spies is the director's resurrection of the slick spy flicks of the 50s and 60s. Mocking everything from the era's sexism and racism (Dujardin's protagonist is a firm believer that everything French and Western is the only way to go), the film is an enjoyable trifle, though it does outstay its welcome by about 10 minutes. Dujardin is once again perfectly cast, and Hazanavicius' mimicry of the old spy films is uncanny, but the overall feeling afterward is that this could have been a much sharper, wittier, and funnier film. 

Grade: B-/C+

The Terminator (1984) dir. James Cameron

No, this isn't the first time I've seen Cameron's landmark sci-fi action film, but it's been long enough that it seemed to merit a re-watch. Surprisingly, despite certain elements that either feel dated (the score), or reveal the film's budget limitations, the film remains an engaging and exceedingly taut piece of film making. Cameron's direction is uncluttered, and he invests the chase scenes and shoot outs with a bluntness that keeps them from devolving into exhausting or overwrought spectacle. The concern remains, somehow, on the characters, as limited as their arcs are, and it works. There are plenty of cheapshots one can take at Cameron's filmography, but nearly three decades later, The Terminator remains a definitive example of American action cinema at its best (on a tight budget, no less).

Grade: B+/A-

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