What I Watched, What You Watched: Installment #135

ON

I actually have more than just one movie to discuss this week as I was able to watch three films outside my normal screening schedule for the first time in a long time. Well, actually I watched four, but I will be talking about my Blu-ray experience with Battle Royale later this week. For now, here’s what I watched…

Gambit (1966)

Gambit poster
At the end of February the contract between Netflix and Starz ended, which resulted in a swath of Netflix Instant titles disappearing from their catalog. As the date neared Drew McWeeny over at HitFix.com was urging people to watch Gambit, a 1966 comedy caper flick starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine. I already had the film in my queue so I gave it a go and really enjoyed it.

The film centers on Harry (Caine), a cat burglar who offers a dancer (MacLaine) $5000 to help him pull off the perfect heist. Harry has all the markings of your traditional cool cat, thief and over the course of the first 30 minutes or so we’re given a look at his plan as he has it mapped out. It goes off without a hitch, just as most heists by accomplished thieves in films turn out, but then reality hits and we’re brought back to the hear and now, a world where everything doesn’t necessarily go as planned.

Gambit‘s true quality is in the way it goes against everything films have taught us to expect from heist features. It also adds a fair share of laughs thanks to the interplay between Caine and MacLaine, a perfect teaming of talent. Then there’s the mark, Herbert Lom playing the wealthy Shahbandar, and I would swear Lom was channeling Orson Welles for this performance. Beyond simply looking like Welles he brings the same air of superiority to his performance. I really enjoyed it.

Diner (1982)

Diner poster
Believe it or not, I’d never seen Diner, but having now watched it I can assure you it won’t be the last time. Starring the likes of Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin, Paul Reiser and Mickey Rourke all in their early years, this is a great look back not only at a group of well regarded actors, but at a great film from director Barry Levinson with on-point dialogue and plenty of LQTM comedic moments.

One of my favorite moments in the entire film, and one that probably wouldn’t stand out for most, is when Bacon says, “Do you ever get the feeling there’s something going on we don’t know about,” after he and Rourke pull of to the side of the road to chat up a girl on a horse only to have her blow them off. Just the way Bacon said it had me rolling, but it’s clearly something you need to see in the context of the rest of the film as I understand it’s probably not at all funny the way I’ve written about it.

The reason I chose to watch Diner (beyond the fact it had been in my Netflix queue forever) was largely due to a piece at Vanity Fair written by S.L. Price titled “Much Ado About Nothing” which was all about Diner and how it “changed cinema” by paving “the way for “Seinfeld,” Pulp Fiction, “The Office,” and Judd Apatow’s career.”

You should give the piece a read and if you don’t want to watch Diner afterward then I don’t know what to say. On top of the films and television shows name checked in the lede, the way the film was described meant it was right up my alley… and it was. It captures a moment in time and while, like Price says, it isn’t necessarily about anything, it paints a picture that captures our attention with characters we want to get to know and know more about. It’s quite simply a great film and should it get a much needed Blu-ray release (seriously, the DVD copy I watched was terrible) I will be adding it to my collection.

X-Men: First Class (2011)

X-Men: First Class poster
I watched X-Men: First Class for the first time since reviewing it last June where I gave it a “B-” and after watching it again I’d probably drop it down to a “C+”. The characters outside of Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw and Fassbender’s Magneto are largely uninteresting, especially the younger mutants where only Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Nicholas Hoult as Beast create any feeling that they’re important to the story. And as big and action-y as it’s trying to be it just doesn’t move me all that much.

I stand by what I wrote in my earlier review when I said “this film doesn’t really feel like it’s necessarily all that ‘new’ as much as it feels like it was just sort of plopped down on the landscape.” Plopped, in this case, feels right. It felt like a film that was made out of a need for Fox to maintain rights to the franchise and just because last year’s superhero films were so lackluster this one got dubbed as the best, but as for me, I’d rather watch Thor again… at least that one was fun.

So how about you? Did you head to the theaters this weekend? Did any of you watch that new show “Awake”? I was going to but ended up missing it.