Martin Teller's Movie Reviews

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trio of quick shots

Posted by martinteller on December 6, 2014

Sorry about the mini-reviews.  I don’t want to use the word “lazy” so let’s say I haven’t been motivated to spend the extra time it takes to do more fleshed-out write-ups.  I don’t want to stop writing about movies, but it has become less important to me.  Or maybe this is just a phase and eventually I’ll go back to the longer reviews, or do one when the spirit moves me.  I don’t know, don’t wanna overanalyze it.

Under the Skin is an intriguing work but comes up a little short for me.  There’s some great imagery — I love the barren black rooms where “she” takes her victims, and the intro is pure Kubrick.  I also thought the music was terrific, and Johansson is perfect casting because she always seems a little dead inside to me anyway.  It’s actually a nice, nuanced performance as she has this emotional awakening.  The film does achieve some measure of profundity about what it means to be human but ultimately it’s too sparse and detached to dig very deep.  There’s something there, but it didn’t seem like a whole lot.  Still, it’s one of the more unusual movies I’ve seen this year.  Rating: Good (76)

It is impossible to watch Begin Again without comparing it to Once.  John Carney is clearly attempting a repeat of the successful formula: a man and a woman, both in somewhat unstable situations and both experiencing difficulties in their most recent relationships, develop a connection through musical collaboration.  The comparison doesn’t do this film many favors.  The music is good but not as memorable (and Gretta’s songs often sound just as overproduced as the music she complains about).  This movie also seems to be trying just a little bit harder to convince the audience how great the music is.  And most importantly, you can’t ever forget that you’re watching Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo.  They’re not as natural as the raw appeal of Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova, and they don’t really have the acting chops to fake it.  There’s always something a bit phony about them, from Knightley’s “Okay okay… okay, we need to dance” to Ruffalo’s bullshit “producer-y” gestures.  They’re a little bit fake, and when Knightley performs you can tell she doesn’t have any real connection to the songs.  This sounds like a lot of griping, and I guess it is, but that’s only because I love Once so much that this can’t help but feel like a pale imitation to me.  However, it captures the same spirit, it has the same essence.  It doesn’t get as much right as its predecessor does, but it doesn’t truly get anything wrong either.  Rating: Good (79)

Jacques Tati shot his first feature, Jour de fête, with two different cameras: one color, one black & white.  The color process was experimental and he couldn’t get a successful print, so he was forced to release the film in monochrome.  In the 60’s he re-released it with certain elements colorized, and in 1995 much of the color negative was restored and a new version was printed.  Criterion’s exhaustive Tati box set offers all three versions.  Having seen the original version already, I opted to go for the newest, full color edition.  It didn’t help my appreciation much.  Although there are some good gags, I still think it’s one of his weaker movies and frankly I lost interest after a while.  It bugs me how everyone in the town picks on Francois, making him not just a bungler but a boob.  And the old woman “narrator” is a mistake.  After my disappointing revisit with M. Hulot’s Holiday, I’m starting to regret buying this box set.  I think I may like Tati more in theory than in practice, and I’m wondering if Play Time might not actually drop off my top 100 list.  We shall see.  Rating: Fair (68)

2 Responses to “trio of quick shots”

  1. nancy said

    I have been recommending “under the skin” for an odd reason: male full frontal. I find it so rare to see penises in movies that I’ve been telling gals about this one. “You may not understand it, but the mood is great and there are naked men.” I definitely agree with your review. I think this was one of the most stylish movies I’ve watched in a while, and perhaps one of the riskiest (Can you follow the plot? do you understand where exactly she is taking these guys? Where is that big pool of water / embryonic fluid in which they float?) as this movie, to me, was mainly about style over substance. No explosions, no female full frontal (silhouettes only, right?) – this does not seem to be aiming toward the 15-year old male demographic. I liked that at a minimum.

    • Yes, the male frontal nudity is pretty rare, especially in a state of arousal, and especially in a film with a major Hollywood star. My understanding is that she was harvesting skins, presumably for other males of her race. The pool was in her house. There was a little female frontal nudity in the beginning, although very brief.

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