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 James Bond, George Clooney, and a great documentary, among other things.
Stardust Memories (3.5 Stars)
First, there's Woody Allen. Last month, I saw Love and Death for the first time (funny flick, nothing incredible), and this month I checked out Stardust Memories. And in case you weren't sure, Allen is a big Fellini fan. The film is more than just an homage to 8 1/2—it's kind of a remake. Sure, the names and stuff have changed, but this is more or less what 8 1/2 would have been if you substituted Marcello Mastroianni with Allen. It's lovely look it and still very existential, but it has Allen's unique voice at its heart which makes it quite a curious, but enjoyable, little film.
Dr. No (3 Stars)
I've been thinking I'd revisit the Bond franchise before the 23rd film hits theaters next year. To get through those other 22 films, however, is going to take a lot of time. So I started really early, this month in fact, with Dr. No, the first 007 film. Now, I've seen this a half dozen times before, and it's never been one of my favorites, but I have a newfound respect for it after this viewing. Sean Connery is unsurprisingly fantastic, as is Joseph Wise as the titular villain. But what I loved most is how small-scale most of it is. You've got only one main location (Jamaica), and so much of the film is just a series of cat-and-mouse games—between Bond and Felix Leiter, and between Bond and a series of Dr. No's henchmen. It's funny because that's what I've always found unappealing about this film, but I found it really refreshing this time around.
The Man with the Golden Gun (2 Stars)
I also checked out The Man with the Golden Gun, the ninth film in the franchise, and one I remember having fond feelings for. That's not the case anymore. I should say I really got into this franchise when I was about 13 or 14, so the zaniness of films like this and Diamonds Are Forever were right up my alley. Ten years later, this one looks like a mess. So much of it is an absolute disaster, from the Bond girl to the henchman. Yet, it contains one of my all-time favorite Bond villains (yes, still): Christopher Lee's Scaramanga. The back-and-forth between he and Bond is fantastic, but it gets bogged down far to much by some silly energy-hoarding scheme and a host of unwelcome comic relief scenes. Certainly not the worst in the series, but probably only for young folks and big Bond fans.
Good Night and Good Luck (4 Stars)
George Clooney, as I've written many times before, is one of my favorite working actors. He's so cool, yet there's also a great deal of substance to most of his performances. And as a director, he's terrific. Though I'm slightly troubled by the decidedly (and surprisingly) mixed buzz over his latest, The Ides of March, which just premiered in Venice, all of his other ventures behind the camera have been successes (even Leatherheads, which was slight, but still effective). His shining hour by far, though, is Good Night and Good Luck, a masterful film that follows CBS News anchor and journalism pioneer Edward R. Murrow as he goes toe-to-toe with Senator Joseph McCarthy. It's a gripping story about the power—and limitations—of the press and the courage of one man to stand when so many around him are choosing to sit. David Strathairn's performance as Murrow is career-defining, and he's surrounded by a host of other superb performances (Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, and Clooney himself among them). The black-and-white cinematography is stunning, the writing is sharp, and the pacing is perfect. It's just brilliant film on every level.
Food, Inc. (3.5 Stars)
My girlfriend and I often struggle to find movies to watch together. Our tastes just differ, but oddly enough, the genre we most often come together on is the documentary. We both share a love of non-fiction filmmaking, which is awesome, but we don't necessarily want to watch the same ones. Take Food, Inc., for example. The film came out in 2009 to absolute raves. She's a real advocate for healthy eating, while I am (or, I guess, was) blissfully ignorant. She kept telling me I have to watch Food, Inc. It's the one movie everyone needs to watch, she's say. Yet, I kept deflecting. Sure, I'd say, we'll watch it sometime...
Well, sometime was this past week, and I'm glad I finally relented. It's a need-to-watch film for the information alone, but even beyond that, it's so well-constructed and surprisingly emotional that I can see why so many championed it when it was released a few years ago. Of course, part of me still wishes I didn't know just how much shit (literally) is in our food, but awareness is a good thing, and I thank director Robert Kenner—and my girlfriend, Katelyn—for making me more aware (and for making me never want to eat beef again).