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The Death of Karl Malden

Posted by: Matthew Turner 03/07/2009 @ 15:27
Subject: Film

Films seen so far this year: 220
Films seen this week: A Boy Called Dad, The Crimson Wing, The Maid, Crying With Laughter, Wide Open Spaces, Unmade Beds, Kicks, My Last Five Girlfriends, The Maiden Heist, Blood: The Last Vampire, Public Enemies, Am I Black Enough For You, Embodiment of Evil, Tenderness, Ice Age 3, Imagine That, Bandslam

RIP Karl Malden
Like film fans everywhere, I was saddened by the loss of screen actor Karl Malden this week, though at the age of 97 he certainly had a good innings. As well as possessing one of cinema's most distinctive noses, Malden was a terrific character actor whose presence in a film always ensured there'd be something worth watching. He's probably best remembered for his roles in the two Elia Kazan movies he made with Marlon Brando, playing Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire and Father Barry in On The Waterfront. However, my favourite Malden performance was his role in another Kazan movie Baby Doll where he plays a creepy, middle-aged cotton gin owner driven to almost psychotic levels of sexual frustration while waiting to consummate his marriage to his child bride (a thumb sucking, crib sleeping, skimpy negligee-wearing Carroll Baker). Of course, Malden's also fondly remembered for The Streets of San Francisco, the TV series he did with Michael Douglas, but I never saw that. Malden's best character name? A toss-up between Harvey Shoemaker in The Birdman of Alcatraz or Zebulon Prescott in How The West Was Won.

Trailerwatch: The Informant
The trailer for Steven Soderbergh's The Informant was released this week and I have to say, it looks like an awful lot of fun. Matt Damon's shown hints of his comedic abilities before (eg Stuck On You, a hilarious cameo in EuroTrip, taking part in the Sarah Silverman 'I'm ****ing Matt Damon' video) so it's great that someone's finally given him a proper comedy role. That said, it's not a straight-up comedy, but rather a black comic thriller that's based on the true story of Mark Whitacre, who became the highest-ranked US executive ever to turn whistle-blower. However, Whitacre also suffers from severe bipolar disorder, which apparently leads to delusions of being a 007-style secret agent when asked to go undercover for the FBI. The trailer hints at strong comic support from the likes of Tony Hale (who'll always be Arrested Development's Buster to me) and a welcome return to the screen for Scott Bakula. I'm also pleased to see Melanie Lynskey, who's been one of my favourite actresses since Heavenly Creatures but who's been severely under-used in movies ever since (she also contributes a terrific cameo in Sam Mendes' Away We Go, out later this year). My one complaint with the trailer is that they seem to do the same joke over and over again, but maybe the repetition is part of the joke. Can't wait to see it, anyway – it opens here on 20 November, which means it's a very good bet for the London Film Festival.

Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
It's a pretty poor week for new releases this week, with only one new entry in the top ten – Michael Mann's eagerly-awaited Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp as legendary '30s gangster John Dillinger and Christian Bale as the FBI man determined to bring him down. It's a shame that Sugar has already disappeared from cinemas, but keep an eye out for it in second-run cinemas like the Prince Charles because, as I may have mentioned before, it's my favourite film of the year so far. This is also probably your last chance to catch effective British horror The Disappeared on the big screen, although it will almost certainly be on TV within the year.

1. Drag Me To Hell
2. Star Trek
3. Synecdoche, New York
4. Public Enemies
5. The Hangover
6. Anything For Her
7. Rudo and Cursi
8. Sunshine Cleaning
9. The Disappeared
10. Gigantic

DVD of the Week: Gran Torino (out now, price £19.99)
This week's DVD of the Week is Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, in which Eastwood plays grizzled Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski, who sets out to reform his young Hmong neighbour (Bee Vang as Thao) when he catches him trying to steal his mint condition 1972 Gran Torino. The film gives Eastwood his best performance in years and he also gets terrific performances from his two unknown young leads, Vang and Ahney Her as Thao's kindly sister Sue. In addition, the script is simultaneously suspenseful, shocking, emotionally engaging, thought-provoking and frequently laugh-out-loud funny throughout and if “Get off my lawn” doesn't become a Clint catchphrase to rival “Do ya feel lucky, punk?” then there's officially no justice. The DVD has a pretty lousy extras package though and includes just two short featurettes: a cursory Making Of and something on the titular car.



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