Flick Clique: August 5-11
Cry of the Heart (1974). A French obscurity about an upper-class family who becomes fractured when the teen son gets into a debilitating accident. The plot sounds like pure corn, but the film is actually darker and more kinky than one would normally expect. It’s not terribly good, however, with inconsistent direction and a campy lead performance by actor Eric Damian. I picked it out of the DVD Talk screener pool; the full review can be read here.
The In Crowd (1988). A special gift from Netflix! Okay, this isn’t the greatest movie ever, but I was grateful to be able to catch it and compare/contrast with the inferior Shag (review here). This one follows gawky Philadelphia teen Donovan Leitch as he sneaks backstage into the local dance show he idolizes, nabs a spot as a dancer on the show, and falls for Vicky (Jennifer Runyon), a dancer who is romantically attached to one of the other guys on the show. Kinda silly and dumb, with two leading actors who have zero chemistry (Leitch pings my gaydar and Runyon is too ’80s-generic to pull off this role). However, I enjoyed the movie a whole lot. The dance scenes are well done, and the soundtrack is full of lesser-known goodies that better convey a feeling of the mid-’60s than most flicks of this ilk do. A big part of the fun here is Joe Pantoliano as the teen dance show host, Perry Parker. He has a lot of infectious energy and gives the Perry role more depth than perhaps the script dictated (manic, older, somewhat unhip and desperate to please). Not as snappy or indelible as Hairspray, perhaps, but worth a peek for students of ’80s-on-’60s pop culture like myself.
Octopussy (1983). Big Lots has had many of the James Bond DVDs in stock lately at low prices; I picked this one up mostly because it was the expanded edition with making-of docs and commentary. It was also one of the Bonds that I’d never seen. Although this later Roger Moore entry has been trashed for its silly, flippant qualities, I actually found it quite fun and squarely in line with the previous film in the series (and the first Bond I ever saw), For Your Eyes Only. Sure, it has a few cringeworthy scenes (Bond swinging on a vine and emitting a Tarzan yell is a low point), but I loved the lush Indian settings, the smoothly executed chase/action scenes, the many beautiful women (including terrific turns by Maud Adams and Swede Kristina Wayborn), and the overall mood of international intrigue combined with popcorn thrills. What might have hurt Octopussy in its original release was that it came along shortly after Raiders of the Lost Ark, which raised the action-adventure bar to such an extent that it made Moore & co. seem tired and passé. There are a few scenes (the circus climax, for instance) that indicate this one is a turkey, but time has been surprisingly kind to the movie. It’s fun.
A Separation (2011). Very good, intense drama involving a pregnant woman, an old guy with Alzheimer’s, and a fall down a staircase – all of which happens to a middle-class Iranian family as the elder man’s son (Peyman Moadi) and daughter-in-law (Leila Hatami) are negotiating a divorce. This really wasn’t what I was expecting, in a good way. The acclaimed Iranian drama was the most recent recipient of the Best Foreign Language Oscar, which on the one hand brought it a lot more attention. On the other hand, the recipients of that award have always been inconsistent, trending towards safe, sanitized dramas. This one was excellent, however, beautifully performed with a cast full of finely etched characters. The fact that it has a canny mystery at its center is a terrific bonus. This is another disc received from DVD Talk, so a more complete review will be coming along soon.
White Material (2009). A film about a selfish, stubborn French woman (Isabelle Huppert) who refuses to leave her African coffee plantation while a civil war is erupting about her. Pretty decent, a little slow moving at times. Director Claire Denis did a good job of conveying the main character’s steadfastness as she dips into madness by the film’s climax. Huppert delivers a good performance, although both of us thought the film would be way more effective with Kristin Scott Thomas.