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Friday, September 30, 2011

Because you can't review them all...

This is my monthly column to briefly discuss the films I watched (or rewatched) but didn't have the time or energy to write full reviews of. This month, I'll be talking about a porn star, a politician, and Christopher Nolan, among other things.

Airplane! (3 Stars)
Surely, few could argue that Airplane!, directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, is one of the most beloved comedies of all time. Is it one of the funniest, though? Not for me. The film had me in stitches for a while (especially the intercom personalities, Vernon and Betty, arguing over the exclusivity of the red and white zones). But about 30 or so minutes in, the comedy started feeling stale. I enjoyed myself, as I'm sure most would, but "enjoyable" is about as far as I'm willing to go for this one.

Boogie Nights (3.5 Stars)
Considering how much I love There Will Be Blood and Magnolia, it's hard to believe it took me this long to see P.T. Anderson's famous 1970s porn epic. Like the director's other films, this one is extremely complex and filled with many vivid characters. Julianne Moore is tops acting wise, but Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman all stand out as well. This one probably deserves more words than I'm giving it, but speaking from experience, it's also quite rewarding not knowing much going in.

Primary Colors (3 Stars)
"A watered-down Primary Colors" was a popular description of George Clooney's upcoming The Ides of March. If that's the case, the film is in trouble, because Mike Nichols' 1998 dramedy—which is a thinly veiled take on President Bill Clinton's transformation from little-known governor to presidential candidate—is pretty watered-down itself. I'd say the problem is in telling the story through the eyes of a young, idealistic staffer (played competently by Adrian Lester), rather than the electric governor (John Travolta in top form), or even his steely wife (Emma Thompson, giving the film's best performance). Still, political films like this are right up my alley, so even a second-tier one like this is a worthy watch as far as I'm concerned.

Following (3 Stars)
Watching Following ten or so years after its release is fascinating. This is a very small film with a budget in the six-figure range at best. And its director went on to make some of the biggest, most impressive blockbusters in history. But make no mistake, small budget or not, this is a Nolan film through and through. The influences on Memento (Nolan's follow-up to this) are really obvious, and the film's twisty narrative is fun to keep up with. The really short running time (70 minutes) is welcome, but there's something—maybe the gritty, low-budget nature of the production—that kept me at a distance. I admired this one more than I actually liked it. But, come on, it's Nolan. That alone is enough to make this worth a watch.

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