Saturday, January 13, 2018

Three Films Make A Post: The Super-Beast Battle of the Century

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958): If there’s any better way to delight one’s inner child than this classic Ray Harryhausen effects spectacular directed by dependable Nathan Juran, I don’t know it. There’s little not to enjoy about this lovely piece of Hollywood Arabian Nights fluff. Harryhausen’s effects are a joy (and would only get better in the future), while also showing the typical variety of his work; from here on out Harryhausen would seldom use one stop motion monster in more than two sequences when he could create another one, and my imagination thanks him for it. Apart from the effects (which are the star, obviously), this is an excellently paced, cracking 50s fantasy adventure with some choice scenery chewing by Torin Thatcher’s most excellent villain with a decent enough hero in Kerwin Mathews, and photography only a fool wouldn’t want to call colourful. Why, even Kathryn Grant’s Princess Parisa does things in the film, not something you’ll encounter often in this time and genre.

Against All Odds (1984): In theory, Taylor Hackford’s neo noir is a remake of Jacques Tourneur’s brilliant Out of the Past, but you wouldn’t really know watching it. Which is all for the better (the older film does still exist after all), for Hackford certainly is not Tourneur. While there’s nothing wrong with his direction – he’s actually perfectly decent in suspense sequences - he does have a tendency for fluffing things up into TV advertising style prettiness that never does anything as interesting as actually contrasting with the supposedly dark script. But then, the script does tend to make little sense - particular Rachel Ward’s Jessie (who never gets around to being an actual femme fatale) seems to act exclusively in service of going where the film wants her to be instead of where she has any kind of (even messed up) reason to be. There’s a superficial quality to the whole production that suggests a film going through certain surface motions of the noir but completely uninterested in the genre’s philosophy. Jeff Bridges and James Woods are fine, as far as the lack of substance lets them, but then, when aren’t they?

Band Aid (2017): Zoe Lister-Jones’s comedy about a permanently squabbling and arguing couple (Lister-Jones herself and Adam Pally) that decide to turn their fights into songs is a very nice surprise. While there are a handful of moments that seem to come directly out of the quirky indie comedy handbook, much of the film delights by being genuinely sweet, thoughtful and funny, only to in the final act turn to a more serious tone. That switch works out as well as it does because Lister-Jones first took her time to create characters and a world a viewer can care for and believe in, and only after that really aims for more obvious depths without ever betraying what was so enjoyable about the film before. Thanks to this careful approach, the film also manages to go from the specificity of the characters’ lives to the more abstract things the writer/director has to say about being a woman in contemporary US society, the life of couples and the emotional strain following a miscarriage. Which is pretty fantastic for a quirky indie comedy.

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