Thinking that it would be a good afternoon movie, I had my second go through North by Northwest. And I’m glad I did, as I liked it better than last time. Or maybe the two leads bothered me less than they did last time. It’s a great and crazy story of a man being mistaken for someone that he isn’t (someone who doesn’t exist even) who happens to be a secret agent. After an attempt is made on his life he sets out to uncover who is after him and why. In his attempts to clear his name and get out of trouble, he gets a murder pinned on him and becomes a fugitive from the law. North by Northwest is a tale of secret agents, international espionage, mistaken identity, and is a fun tour through Chicago, the plains (with the famous bi-plane pursuit), the United Nations building and that wonderful crazy chase across the front of Mount Rushmore! Cary Grant does still bother me in this (with that accent…) but he does an alright job and is actually rather appropriate for the role. James Mason is just great as the lead villan and Martin Landau is fine, but sadly underused… Though this was quite early in his career. In this day and age the the suspense isn’t that over the top but (except for some tiring, yet relevant romance) the movie is non-stop and the sets are good, I especially like James Mason’s house in South Dakota.
Otheriwse, we watched Eagle vs. Shark. We had to, as it stars Jemaine. But it wasn’t particularly good. A sort of “indie” movie that is a little too intential to be genuine and a little too boring and corny to be entertaining. Jemiane is a nerdy guy who meets a nerdy girl and they akwardly get together, even though he is basically a big asshole and is obsessed with going back to his home town to beat up the Samoan who bullied him when they were in high school and “ruined his life”. There is some lame disfunctional family dynamic going on and the the dumb or dull characters are more like caricatures. It felt like listening to a hip indie rock album if it were made by MadTV.
Then we watched Margot at the Wedding. I don’t know… Maybe it was good. One of those dramas about people who treat each other badly. At the end I thought, “if you were to sum up this movie in a paragraph, who on earth would think that it was a movie that needs to be made?”
Margot is a woman who is in the process of leaving her husband and having and affair. To aid in both of those efforts, she brings her teenage son to the wedding her estranged sister. These sisters don’t get along. And Margot does not like her sisters fiancee Malcolm, thinking him too “coarse” and beneath her level. She also escalates a unpleasent feud that her sister is having with their hillbilly neighbors. Anyway, while all of the “drama” is going on, they throw in some other unsavory stuff as we wonder if this wedding is even going to happen…
Ok, that sounds bad enough but… Margot is played by Nicole Kidman, who is horrible enough in her own right, but her she puts on a portrayal that is the most unsympathic character I have ever seen in a movie, just a terrible snotty bitch who is arrogant, selfish and mean to everyone nearly all of the time. Her sister is played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who in addition to that unbearable affectation that is her voice (not as bad as in The Hudsucker Proxy, but still) is a a nutty and erratic loser. There is some relief in Jack Black as the artist/musician fiancee, who is kind of a jerk, but is certainly of more interest than any other character. And for some reason, perennial favioite John Turturro makes a couple of appearences as Margot’s cuckold husband. Bascially the movie is a of downer that goes no where and says nothing except that these folks are fools and don’t treat each other very well.
Down the road at the local store, we picked up a couple of DVDs from their rather sparse rental selection. Firstly we got Casino Royale. As someone who grew up watching Bond films, I haven’t had much interest in any of the movies since Moonraker, and I hadn’t much interest in seeing this one. The James Bond films are easily my favorite film franchise, but my only experience of the films since Roger Moore left is a viewing of Goldeneye, which I didn’t find particularly exciting. It didn’t occur to me to bother with this new Bond until the new film came out and I read that it picks up immediately after the conclusion of Casino Royale (this, the 2006 Casino Royale, not the atrocious parody from 1967) and, for some reason, I then decided that I should step back to the films. I came away from this one with a generally favorable feeling, though with some mixed opinions. If it would have just been a British Espionage/Action movie, I think it would have worked better for me. As a James Bond movie? I don’t know. I didn’t mind Daniel Craig, though I didn’t really think of the character as Bond (Sean Connery will always be Bond, Craig was acceptable as a fugazi, but certainly not the real thing) as the character was somewhat lifeless, but the movie was quite exciting… Though I spent a good deal of the running time wondering if anything of substance was ever going to appear. There are some exciting chase scenes and I thought that the chase through the construction site had some great twists and turns. Sure, highly improbable, but in a very entertaining fashion. It also features a good death count and multiple Aston Martin’s (the classic Bond DB5 and seemingly the public unveiling of the new DBS) .
Aside from all of that? Casino Royale is the early story of James Bond, starting before he receives his “00″. This Bond is quite brutally violent and he gets in a bit of trouble when a killing of his is photographed. Ordered (by, um, Judi Dench) to take a vacation, he continues a crusade to follow the trail of terrorist money through a string of villains. Featuring exotic locations, car chases, explosions, double-crossings, fancy things (cars, houses, yachts, ladies) and a very high roller poker match that dominates the middle of the film… All the goodies are here. The only part that really snoozed me was that is has It has a very un-bond romance storyline which takes way too much of the film for my liking. But excepting for that, I did find it to be a nicely serious and grim film. Maybe if I watch the new one, I will become more accepting of Criag as Bond and Judi Dench as M?
We also rented State and Main. It was a comedy about a film crew coming to Waterford Vermont to make a film. Now, as the town line of Waterford is a couple of hundred feet up the road from our house, and we just drove through the “largest” of the two villages in Waterford last week, I was very curious what they would put in, as the village is one street with about three buildings that aren’t houses. It was quite shocking to see what appeared on the screen. A full-on town! Sidewalks, streets, intersections, all sorts of businesses! Nothing at all like what Waterford is like. If they were intent on filming a movie in Massachusetts about a town in Vermont, couldn’t they have at least made up a fake town? Biddleford, Vermont? St Waterford, Vermont? I know that movies are frequently filmed places other then where they say that take place, but something that obvious to anyone who knows the town is a bit hard to swallow.
Anyway, the movie is rather forgettable, though entertaining enough. A film crew of Hollywood jerkies comes to town (after being kicked out of a town in New Hampshire) to make a film called The Old Mill. Of course, this town has no Old Mill and that’s just the beginning! We proceed to get all sorts of knee-slapping incidents with the locals, romance and even some illicit behavior! It’s pretty flat, but it has some funny moments and there is quite a cast: William H Macy (the beleaguered director), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (the screenwriter), Alec Baldwin (the pedophile movie star), Sarah Jessica Parker (the starlet with a conscience), Charles Durning (the town mayor)… Even Jonathan Katz makes an appearance. And the cast do a pretty good job. State and Main is a very light-hearted movie, but not particularly memorable… Not at all what I would expect from David Mamet, who wrote and directed it.