PG Cooper Quick Reviews: Another Earth, Hard Eight, and Singin’ in the Rain

Posted: March 3, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

I recently joined a film club and have been writing reviews for the films I see. These reviews will be a lot shorter than my usual, so I’ll be posting three per post. More to come.

 

Another Earth

Though the title and premise would lead you to believe that Another Earth was a sci-fi driven plot, that isn’t entirely accurate. The film is more about the story and characters. After a traumatic event, Rhoda (Brit Marling) ruins both her life also the life of a man named John (William Mapother). At the same time, the Earth is in shock as a second planet Earth has appeared in space. That’s all I want to say about the film since one of Another Earth‘s many pleasures is watching the story unfold.

There’s a lot to like about this film. I thought Brit Marling was great, and I also really liked William Mapother. What’s great about these characters is that they are interesting people with interesting lives even when you remove the story of the second earth. The relationship between Rhoda and John is fascinating, and I found myself conflicted about how I felt about their relationship (I mean this in a complimentary way).

The science fiction ideas are really interesting here too. The simple concept really left me thinking and contemplating the effects it would have. The imagery of the second Earth is great. There’s two especially great scenes. The first is the one where “First Contact” is made (creepy as hell). The second is the ending which, while I didn’t like at first, I started to love shortly after.

Though it has a creepy tone and can be very depressing, Another Earth is also very uplifting and cathartic in a number of ways. Credit goes to writer/director Mike Cahill. Another Earth is a film that makes me wish I’d held off on doing my blog awards because it would have done very well. It’s a smart film, and the best science fiction film I’ve seen since Inception. Awesome movie.

Rating: A

 

Hard Eight

Last year, I became huge admirer of Paul Thomas Anderson because of two films: Magnolia and There Will Be Blood. Both struck me as two of the best films I’d ever seen, and made PTA a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Since seeing this films, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see his break out film Boogie Nights, and the film that won him the best director award at the Cannes film festival, Punch-Drunk Love. I was also quite curious about his first film, a low key crime thriller called Hard Eight. So the film club came along and recommended it, I jumped at the chance to finally see Anderson’s cinematic debut.

An elderly man named Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) approaches a young man named John (John C. Reilly) sitting alone, outside a diner. Sydney offers to buy John a coffee and give him a cigarette, and the next thing John knows, Sydney’s showing him techniques for how to succeed at casinos.

I don’t want to say much more about the story. When of the film’s strengths is you’re almost never 100% sure where it’s going. There was quite a few times where the film took me off guard. That said, I have issues with the story. While I did find the plot interesting on the whole, something about the narrative didn’t flow naturally with me. I also found the ending abrupt and unsatisfying.

My criticisms more or less end there though, and there is a lot to like here. For one, I liked all the characters and thought all the actors did a good job. Especially Philip Baker Hall, who’s awesome as the enigmatic Sydney. He’s always so calm and in control, and he’s always a pleasure to watch. It’s also engaging to see John C. Reilly do more dramatic work.

A lot of Anderson’s signature touches are here as well. The cinematography, the editing, the cast, it’s all very reminiscent of his later work. If nothing else, Hard Eight is worth seeing just to see the emergence of a great filmmaker. It doesn’t flow as well as Magnolia or There Will Be Blood, nor is it as deep as those works, but it’s still an engaging crime thriller worth checking out.

Rating: B+

 

Singin’ in the Rain

The film revolves around a silent film star named Don Lockwood(Gene Kelly),adjusting to the death of silent film and the rise of the “talkie”. Along the way, he tries to romance Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), while putting up with annoying co-star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen).

The first thing that struck me about the film was the look. The colours pop with vibrancy and it’s really nice to look at. The song and dance numbers are also filmed very well. I admit, some of them went on too long, but they were always well executed and full of energy. Energetic would be an accurate way of describing the film as a whole, since there’s always something happening. The best of the dance numbers were of course the iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” scene, and I also really liked “Good Morning”. And while it isn’t a song or dance, the scene with Gene Kelly climbing on top of cars was pretty awesome.

The cast here is pretty good. Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds are both very charming and have some great numbers. Personally though, I found the supporting cast stole the movie. Donald O’Connor plays Don’s best friend Cosmo, and I really liked this character. He was sarcastic, funny, and full of life. He also has some great numbers of his own. Finally, Jean Ragen is awesome as the annoying and obnoxious Lina Lamont. Her actions, her personality, and that VOICE! Lamont is hilariously ignorant, and Ragen plays her just perfectly. You hate her, and yet you love her at the same time.

Yet despite all the good things about it I can’t love this movie. As I said, some of the numbers go on too long, but the real problem is the story never really has any drama. There’s never a lot of tension since nothing ever seems to really be at stake. Even when a problem does come around, the characters seem to solve it rather quickly. I realize the film is suppose to be escapism, but I felt the characters could have had more low moments. Still, this is a very entertaining film that was well worth watching, and I would happily recommend it to film buffs.

Rating: B+

P.S. I can finally sing “Singin’ in the Rain” and not feel like a monster, so that’s nice.

Comments
  1. Michelle says:

    I have a lot of movies to catch up with you… I did see Another Earth and I agree – good movie. Amazing scene with a guy playing a saw – how many movies have that?! This is the music from this scene on the composer’s website http://www.scottmunsonmusic.com/news/music-in-film-another-earth-soundtrack

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Cool that you got to see Hard Eight considering it’s pretty much a hidden gem but is very tense and filled with such great style. It also had me totally shocked to know that PT Anderson directed it considering it didn’t remind me of his type of film at all. Good reviews all around.

  3. ianthecool says:

    We definitely agree on Another Earth. Gotta disagree with you on Singin’ in the Rain. Jean Ragen and the infamous rain singing scene are the only two parts of that film that I really liked.

  4. moviebuff801 says:

    Just watched Hard Eight tonight, and REALLY liked it. It constantly had me engaged and kept me guessing about what was going to happen next; excellent film. Now the only PT Anderson movie I need to see is Boogie Nights.

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