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Tag Archives: Ross Hunter

Flick Clique: November 27-December 3

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011). Despite having a huge aversion to mainstream romantic comedies, I put this on my queue since it got fairly good reviews when it came out. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered? Christopher put it more succinctly: “this is a film made for people who are not Matt and me.” Although it’s sparked by a semi-funny script and several appealing performances, the film’s strangely breeder-and-suburbia centric sensibility really bugged me. You recall this is the movie where Steve Carrell plays a schlub who is shocked to find that his wife of 25 or so years (Julianne Moore) wants a divorce. Crying into his drink at a bar, he befriends a young lothario (Ryan Gosling) who teaches him how to dress right and attract women. The scheme basically succeeds, but then Carrell decides that he’s lonely without the only woman he ever loved and resorts to the usual contrived stuff to get her back. There are some comical subplots with the couple’s kids, but that’s the basic gist of things. It was okay, kind of funny and kind of awful, with a climactic speech by Carrell that is total hogwash. Mainstream Romantic Comedies are not our thing, I guess.
Lost Horizon (1973). I was jazzed to get the new made-on-demand edition of this notorious musical flop for review at DVD Talk. Put briefly, the film is a plodding, overproduced bore – but the disc presentation as done by Sony Screen Classics by Request is outstanding. This was Ross Hunter’s musical remake of the James Hilton best-seller (which was made into a better-remembered but still financially disappointing Frank Capra film in the ’30s), complete with lavish production values, strangely miscast actors and a tuneful score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It is a weirdly structured, ill-conceived mess, but I can see where it could have worked with the right T.L.C. The most notoriously wrong thing about the film is having non-singers like Peter Finch and Liv Ullman performing the songs (dubbed, thank goodness). There’s also some disconnect between the happy/perky score and the heavy theme in an exotic setting. The utopian Shangri-La as envisioned by Hilton here comes across more like a blissed-out hippie commune with weird religious undertones (moonies, anyone?). For the DVD, the film is restored to its original length with some wonderfully campy musical segments that were deleted after the original release. There’s also some great behind the scenes stuff with Hunter proudly crowing about his wonderful achievement, and several demo recordings with Bacharach croaking out the tunes (to be fair, the soundtrack does have some wonderful songs that would have fared better in a more elegant setting). An awful film with a great DVD? This will be a challenge to write about. We’ll see how the final review comes out.
The Recipe (2010). This intriguing looking South Korean mystery was a film I picked out for review at DVD Talk. It’s slight, inconsistent, overall enjoyable. My review is here.
Super 8 (2011). This J.J. Abrams scripted and directed, Steven Spielberg produced kids-‘n-aliens flick was one of the more overhyped films coming out of Summer 2011. I basically enjoyed it, although there were a lot of formulaic and borrowed-from-better-film elements that prevented it from being a true Popcorn classic. The story is about a group of Jr. High aged Ohio kids who are making their own zombie movie in 1979. While filming a scene at the local railroad depot, their shoot is disrupted by a huge train crash which revealed (through their still running camera) the train was the U.S. government attempting to transport an alien. The kid characters seem a little too Goonies-ish for me, but they were a well-cast and appealingly real bunch. I also like the generally spot-on attention to detail (except for a few glaring examples, i.e. a Rubik’s cube reference) in capturing a late ’70s Midwestern atmosphere. The movie gets more plodding as it moves along, and once the alien itself is finally revealed the end product is underwhelming. Still, it was a fun and expertly scripted movie that I’d recommend.