The Morning After: Aug. 19, 2013

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Notorious


I haven’t seen all of Hitchcock’s films, so my frame of reference may be a bit skewed, but Notorious may well be one of the least Hitchcockian films I’ve ever seen.

Agreeing to take on the dangerous role of a spy in Brazil for the American government, the daughter (Ingrid Bergman) of a convicted German terrorist must flirt her way into the life of a German nationalist (Claude Rains). Her familiarity with him and his infatuation with her make her the perfect spy. The agent (Cary Grant) who brings her into the operation falls in love with her and his love threatens to get in the way of their plans.

The film is briskly structured and without the characteristic twists and frequent double-crosses you come to expect from Hitchcock, the film goes by unbelievably fast. This is a tightly constructed picture with few superfluous scenes. Hitch has collected some brilliant actors doing some of their best work including Bergman, Rains, Grant and Madame Konstantin among others.

The Southerner


A migrant cotton picker decides to start his own farm with all the hard work and heartache the proposition promises. With his wife (Betty Field) at his side in the cotton fields, Sam Tucker (Zachary Scott) faces poverty, disease and a hateful neighbor as he struggles to make a success of his first crop.

Legendary director Jean Renoir takes a familiar topic and presents a richly authentic picture with strong performances from Field and Scott and a purposely annoying one by Beulah Bondi as their cantankerous and frequently complaining grandmother. Not as symbolic or deeply meaningful as Grand Illusion, Renoir’s film is compelling in its realism. Many directors would add a touch of gloss to their design to make it more palatable to modern audiences. Largely staying away from those well-worn tropes is a benefit.

Elysium


In a distant future, the wealthy have isolated themselves from the masses on a large space station where they are cured of disease and aging, leaving full and productive lives while the citizens on the Earth below are left to struggle in the squalor of their overcrowded world and at the hands of brutal, tyrannical robotic peacekeepers.

Neill Blompkamp’s stunning debut film, District 9 gave many of us hope that a new voice was emerging into the crowded world of filmmaking. While some of the passion and originality is still there, Elysium is decidedly a step down from his prior effort. Matt Damon adds humanity to his role as an ex-con who finds it necessary to protect himself and his childhood love by taking on the risky task of breaking onto the station Elysium to stop an egomaniac (Jodie Foster) is attempting a coup while employing her nasty Earthen henchman (Sharlto Copley) carry out her scheme.

There are enough flaws in the film to make it a frustrating experience. The science seems relatively sound, which adds authenticity while the film’s various messages about greed and humanity form a compelling narrative.

Planes


There’s a reason why Disney’s “training studio” for animators released most of its products directly to video. Poorly written and corny as hell, Planes exemplifies the rampant commercialism that has characterized Disney for so long.

A pseudo-sequel to Cars and Cars 2 takes the concept of talking cars to a new type of vehicle, airplanes. The premise is that of a crop duster who wants to be a racer. Borrowing character archetypes from the original film, Disney’s animators have made a slick-looking film that lacks the depth and vocal talent a Pixar-made sequel might have had. They even plugged in Pixar legend John Ratzenberger for a cameo, which felt more like a stab in the heart than anything.

Most of the actors in the film are second- or third-rate thespians such as Stacy Keach as the curmudgeonly World War II bomber that eventually trains our hero, Dane Cook as our hero Dusty Crophopper and Teri Hatcher as the smart mechanic who is the film’s voice of reason. Brad Garrett and Julia Louis-Dreyfus take time off from their TV gigs to put in zero effort as part of the voice cast while John Cleese is clearly not intending to perform at the top of his game.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.