From what I’ve been able to gather about the live-action Michael Bay Transformers movies (I haven’t actually seen them), the general premise of them is that alien robots or robot aliens–I’ve never been clear on which it is–invade our world, or at least a world mostly similar to the one we, the audience, inhabit. Revisiting The Transformers: The Movie for the first time this century, I was reminded that this animated 1986 feature takes the opposite approach, lifting a single human boy out of his element and into a completely alien universe of constant war. It’s like if The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were simultaneously more aimed at children and more violent.
This week’s Monday Movie comes from a list I did for the Rupert Pupkin Speaks blog, detailing the best older movies I discovered in the year 2015. You can find the rest of the list here.
Describing this movie makes it sound almost like a prank. Yes, it’s about samurai plotting revenge on the man their master was executed for trying to kill. But it’s also a four hour movie that consists almost entirely of people sitting in rooms talking. The major action set-piece, the raid on the rival master’s home, happens off screen and is relayed when a letter describing the events is read aloud. Somehow, though, it remains riveting. That’s because The 47 Ronin is not really a revenge story at all. It’s about how people in a society where protocol and decorum are inextricably tied to one’s standing, honor and sense of self-worth negotiate their way through their passions and emotions. Every bit of rage, envy, love, abandon, etc. has to be made to fit the boxes prescribed by the culture. It’s more fascinating to watch than any swordfight.
Director: Takeshi ‘Beat” Kitano
Cast: Beat Takeshi, Aya Kokumai, Tetsu Watanabe, Masanobu Katsumura, Susumu Terajima and Aya Kokumai
Sebastian Silva’s Nasty Baby is a deftly naturalistic portrait of the lives and social circles of three well-to-do Bohemian New Yorkers. Silva’s camera is always in motion but never jarring and the realistic dialogue overlaps in improvisatory waves. In the end, though, this naturalism is the film’s undoing. Nasty Baby‘s firm footing in reality is irrevocably upended when the screenplay forces the characters to behave in a decidedly unnatural fashion.
Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies starts off deceptively, with the opening titles and the texted prologue in a simplistic font that mirrors the lean and straightforward approach to the early part of the story. In its extended first act, the film rushes forward excitingly. But when the scope broadens, things peter out like water exiting an unattended hose to splash uselessly on the pavement.
Title: The Testament of Dr. Cordelier
Director: Jean Renoir
Cast Jean Louis Barrault, Teddy Bilis, Michele Vitold and Sylvane Margollé
On the one hand, it’s not hard to understand why NBC pulled the plug on Welcome to Sweden just four episodes into its second season. The show never, at least in the episodes we saw, found its voice. It went back and forth between broad, slapstick humor and low-key absurdism. And, as an international coproduction, it tried to pander to both its Swedish and its U.S. audiences. On the other hand, however, it’s a bummer to see the series cut down just as it was starting to address these issues and become a better show.