Monday 31 March 2008

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) - ickleReview (DVD)

Woody Allen period film set in 1940. Allen plays W. C. Briggs, an insurance investigator who feels threatened in the office by the new efficiency expert Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt) who is having an affair with the boss, Chris Magruder (Dan Aykroyd). On an office night out, W. C. and Fitzgerald are both hypnotized under the Curse of the Jade Scorpion. The trigger words "Constantinople" and "Madagascar" remain effective after the evening's entertainment. The hypnotist later calls W. C. [good initials, by the way] and gives him instructions, under hypnosis, to steal a valuable collection of jewels. The next morning he is on the case, investigating himself, but not knowing that he is the thief.

Like Radio Days (1987), another of his 1940s nostalgia flicks, the period detail is finely observed. There is a real old-school feel to the insurance office, when women were still treated as objects to be not-so-subtly ogled at. Elizabeth Berkley is one of W. C.'s office floozies, while Charlize Theron plays a notorious high-society playgirl blonde, both, of course, implausibly attracted to the Allen character (he never lets us down - hey, it's the movies!).

Nugget: this is apparently one of Allen's favourite movies of his own making - this usually means the production process went well, with few flaws and much luck. The result is certainly an entertaining and amusing 98 minutes. There are no great secrets about the plot; the joy is in watching it unravel under Allen's customary directorial charm.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Zoolander (2001) - ickleReview (DVD)

Silly film about male models and the fashion industry. Ben Stiller is Derrick Zoolander, three-times winner of Male Model of the Year, who is recruited by evil fashion designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell) to assissinate the new Malaysian prime minister, who has promised to stop child labour and hence disrupt Mugatu's supply chain of cheap sweat-shop materials. Zoolander is first humiliated, and then assisted, by Time magazine journalist Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor) and upcoming "he's so hot right now" male model Hansel (Owen Wilson). The film includes lots of celebrity cameos, including Victoria Beckham, Natalie Portman, Lenny Kravitz, Gwen Stefani, Paris Hilton, David Bowie, Winona Ryder, Billy Zane, and many others.

Nugget: get your popcorn ready. Occasionally hilarious and eminently quotable amongst friends.

Sunday 23 March 2008

Radio Days (1987) - ickleReview (HD)

Woody Allen film set in the early 1940s when life revolved around the radio. Allen narrates a string of nostalgic, loosely related stories about a Jewish family from Rockaway, New York, which involve the radio in some way. The jazz soundtrack is pretty much non-stop. The cast includes Julie Kavner (the voice of Marge Simpson), Dianne Wiest, Mia Farrow, and in smaller roles Larry David (as a Communist neighbour), Jeff Daniels, Diane Keaton, and William H. Macy. The period details are pervasive. As there's no real plot, the last third of the film drags a little, even though the running time is only 88 minutes.

Nugget: not one of the best or the funniest in Woody Allen's oeuvre, but still good stuff, especially for the soundtrack.

Monday 10 March 2008

Overlord (1975) - ickleReview (DVD)

An exceptional war film, part documentary, part fiction narrative, about the Allied invasion of France on D-Day, 6 June 1944, which was codenamed "Overlord". The film is directed by Stuart Cooper and photographed by John Alcott, who worked with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), the Oscar-winning Barry Lyndon (1975), and The Shining (1980). 30% of the film is archive footage from the extensive Imperial War Museum collection and required 3,000 hours of research to find and select. Overlord won the Silver Bear for Direction at the 1975 Berlin Film Festival.

Nugget: one of the best and most original war films I've ever seen.

Read the full DVD review on FilmExposed.

[Update: Friday 17 June 2011: looks like FilmExposed is no more, so that link is broken.]