Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July 31st Log

2007, Werner Herzog, United States
1st Viewing, Theater

After making several acclaimed documentaries, the great German auteur Werner Herzog returns to fictional filmmaking with Rescue Dawn (his first since 2001’s Invincible). Among the most evident themes of Herzog’s films is that of human obsession or madness, and the chaos of nature. Almost as a parallel to Herzog himself perhaps, the leading characters of his films are often ambitious and determined characters that are driven by destiny or personal desire. Here Herzog returns to one of his favorite subjects, Dieter Dengler. In 1997, Herzog made the brilliant documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly and Rescue Dawn is a fictionalized retelling of the story. While probably the most commercial and widely accessible film of Herzog’s career, Rescue Dawn re-imagines the essence of his themes, particularly that of man versus nature or more specifically the jungle. Through wonderful storytelling and pacing as well as flashes of poetic imagery Herzog has created a mainstream action survival film that remains rooted in the definitive core of Herzog’s artistry. The film handles some moments questionably (notably the politics and exaggerated Laotian soldiers), yet Herzog’s focus is the battle with the jungle and the landscapes and the mental state of the characters. Less haunting then Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Rescue Dawn is a gripping film with absorbing storytelling.

2007, Edgar Wright, United Kingdom / France

1st Viewing, DVD

After the critical and box office success of Shaun of the Dead, writers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg reteam for the action comedy Hot Fuzz. Much like Shaun of the Dead was an embracing spoof, Hot Fuzz takes on the Hollywood action films, specifically the buddy action films. Pegg plays an overworking police officer who is transferred from London to a small town where he finds himself stuck in a place without crime and with a partner who’s only interest in police work is imagining he’s in a Hollywood action film (such as Bad Boys 2 or Point Break). The film has a lot of fun working in and around the clichés, capturing the fun and the silliness of Hollywood action. The film is very clever and Wright has a sharp and clever visual eye as well as comic timing with editing, making this a great comedy for both it’s witty dialogue and visuals. The cast is lead by Shaun of the Dead leads Pegg and Nick Frost, and also features some acclaimed British actors (Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Timothy Dalton). There are also a couple clever cameo performances including Steve Coogan, Peter Jackson and in a hilarious early scene Cate Blanchett as Pegg’s girlfriend in London. Much in the way Shaun of the Dead was, Hot Fuzz is intelligent and funny and sincere. The film embraces what we love and love to hate about Hollywood action films.


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