July 7th, 2009


Public Enemy Feud

We Do Love Our Gangster Movies

Mrs. Dr. Phil and I knew we were going to see this movie the moment we saw the trailer a few months ago. Despite the hard times of the Depression, there were some aspects of the 1930s which bespoke of elegance and a grandeur that is missing from our not-as-polite society today. Obviously, this is all viewed through one helluva filter, but we're talking about the Myth not the Reality. And perfect fare for a Fourth of July movie choice.

To that end, Celebration Cinema North had in its lobby, what I would call a real California car -- a creamy coffee colored 1930 Packard. One without side windows, save for two cool glass angled deflectors for the back seat, and a convertible top. Yeah, you wouldn't want to drive this out in a Midwestern winter, not without a serious car coat. Mrs. Dr. Phil noticed that if you leaned over the rope barrier and looked in, there were a couple of fedoras on the front and back seats.

I believe the sign said that this elegant conveyance was $3190 when new -- a fortune in 1930 for a car.

I'm sure it is lacking in many safety amenities, but OMG this is a CAR, back when cars were cars. And though I probably can't fit behind that giant steering wheel, I would so love to tool down a highway at speed with that lo-ong hood and all those cylinders pushing all that iron and steel forward. Environmentally irresponsible, you say? Pfshaw! The environment hadn't been invented yet. (grin)

Public Enemies [R]
Celebration Cinema North, #2 - $7 - 3:10pm

Is Public Enemies a movie with two heroes? Or not at all? Johnny Depp's Dillinger versus Christian Bale's FBI Special Agent Purvis. Since we do love our gangster movies, is it so wrong to be rooting for the bad guy? Even if we know him to be doomed? Or do too many people not know the story and so don't know he's doomed?

Johnny Depp is an actor that I have probably been late to realize just how good he is. Like Holly Hunter and some others, Depp is a chameleon who never seems to appear the same way in two films. Between face and voice, there is absolutely no hint of Captain Jack Sparrow in Depp's Dillinger, charming though he may be from time to time. The dark sunglasses and the thin mustache in the third act, might remind a few stray minds of Cap'n Jack, but by then things are coming to a head and there's really no time for such frivolity. Or maybe the third act Depp is channeling Leonardo DiCaprio... Should we be surprised that Michael Mann also produced The Aviator, another 1930s style lovefest? (grin)

And there certainly is plenty of opportunity to study faces in this movie. Do not sit close to the screen for this one. Mann chose to film this tight, with faces filling the screen at every opportunity, that it becomes a distraction and a confusion during some of the action scenes. Still, one does get a rare chance to study the quality and workmanship of a real fedora, back in the age when men wore hats -- I've never really noticed the perfect rows of stitching along the edge of the brim before. Could never see such detail in a Cagney movie. (A Michigan business provided a lot of the period costuming.)

Though J. Edgar Hoover is here, he seems like he has left a number of scenes on the cutting room floor. Bale's Pervis seems to be a man looking for a personality at times, but I think that works for him. Lord knows that Dillinger has enough personality to carry the film -- and Baby Face Nelson has WAY too much. And uncomfortably truer to 1930 than 2009, this is not a politically correct film, so deal with it.

It's not just all the cars, the clothes, the guns or the attitudes, though. It's also the locations. The entrance to the Indiana State Penitentiary in Michigan City IN is rusted and looks old, almost too old for 1930, but it is imposing and depressing and inhumane, so perhaps it serves its cold purpose. On the other hand, the gilt work in Chicago Union Station and the lobbies of the big banks speak to the splendor that such public places once had in that era and why we like period gangster films so much.

Michael Mann also did The Last of the Mohicans, which I mention because there is a background theme reminiscent of the themes in LOTM. And since I adore the soaring soundtrack of The Last of the Mohicans, unfortunately I found it distracting. Equally distracting are some scenes where I swear a Thompson submachine gun is blazing in front of a window and there is intact glass right in front of the barrel. Also, walls might not quite provide the bullet stopping potential shown here. Amazing what blanks and squibs can accomplish, but sometimes the Physics gets in the way of my entertainment.

Ultimately, though I enjoyed Public Enemies, I think that Road to Perdition is a better film.

Trailers: Besides some dumb couples retreat comedy, two trailers stood out. (1) Bruce Willis in an SF movie Surrogates. Seeing Bruce as a perfect remote body -- with blond hair -- is a hoot. This looks like it could be a fun thriller, even if the plot seems a bit farfetched and unrealistic. (2) Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island. There's an institution and he's an investigator -- or is he an inmate? Reality is going to be twisted in this dark dank tale. Will need to see more about this one, to see if it's worth a look-see.

Movie on! There's a lot of summer left.

Dr. Phil