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Re: February 2011 Watching Thread

Robert Wise's THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) on DVD for the first time. I wish I'd seen this one before sampling George Pal's "The World of the Wars" a few weeks ago. As good as the acting (Michael Rennie's understated performance never lets Klaatu become a two-dimensional lecturer even during lengthy monologues), directing (Wise laid here a blueprint that Rod Serling's "The Twlight Zone" would emulate in compacted, TV-sized form a decade later) and thinking man's script (i.e. pacifist) are, the SFX work and sets are too close to the schlocky look of 'B' flying saucer movies for the movie to not have dated badly. Klaatu's mere threat to sink the Gibraltar rock or wipe out NYC (which actually came across very scary) reminded me of how used we've gotten to CG-enhanced disasters in modern cinema, including this movie's 2008 remake. But seriously (and back to the '51 original), wouldn't the U.S. government have more than two or three guards (plus thousands of curious Washingtonians) watching over a flying saucer and giant robot that landed in the middle of town? Hugh Marlowe makes for a hiss-worthy baddie in his few scenes and Patricia Neal plays it so straight you actually believe she memorized the commands to control Gort. And, even though he wasn't bad (his interactions with Rennie are actually quite good for the more innocent 50's take on man-child relationships :shock: ), thank God the movie jettisons Billy Gray off to the side so we can have a kid's free final act that's better and more grown-up than the disposable flicks this movie resembles. Loved the 'Movie Tones' newsreel covering the '49 peace treaty between Japan and the US (Russia, predictably, is shown to be the a**hole of the international community) and four or five other stories of that era, only one of which is actually about "The Day The Earth Stood Still." An oldie but a goodie.

Sam Raimi's FOR LOVE OF THE GAME (1999) on HD-DVD. I really, really wanted to like this one because it reminds me so much of "Notting Hill" (a film I adore). Kevin Costner (unpretentuious baseball star) & Kelly Preston ("normal" person) are clearly meant for each other but the movie throws every cliche' in the romantic genre playbook (misunderstandings, inability to communicate, nutty friends/relatives, etc.) on its way to a predictable conclusion. It's the type of movie where the streets/parks of NYC are empty for no other reason than to catch the stars at their prettiest during 'golden hour.' Even as a baseball soap-opera (which unfolds as flashbacks during a single baseball game) the movie is so deadly-serious and heavy it borders on being joylless despite depicting alleged romantic entanglements and a fun baseball game (i.e. the Yankees losing :)). You can tell the bitter aftermath of the then-recent MLB lockout season was still on people's minds in Brian Cox's dialogue. John C. Reilly, Jena Malone and JK Simmons (on his way to "Spider-Man" immortality) inject precious little bits of fun into the increasingly-tiresome romantic back-and-forth between Bill and Jane (about 75% of the movie). "For Love of the Game" is a guilty pleasure because (a) it embraces the chick flick view of sports (only in this movie would the love of a woman upstage pitching a perfect baseball game) and (b) is so atypical from every other movie Raimi has directed, before or since. The CG baseball crowds at Yankee Stadium are showing their age in 1080p but at least they're razor-sharp and vibrant, not to mention well-framed by some pretty cool camera angles.

PRIMEVAL: SEASON ONE (2007) on Amazon's Video On Demand Streaming for the first time. This is the first time I've ever streamed something for myself (everything else I've seen streamed has been in somebody else's home set-up) so I went with this 'Stargate SG-1 meets The X-Files' British show (with a healthy dose of "Jurassic Park" thrown in) I've always been curious about but never enough to seek it out. The first two episodes really surprised my by the lightning-fast pace at which things unfolded; 15 min. into the first episode and pretty much all the major characters and themes had been established. It's all loud noises and scary other-wordly monsters (with dated CGI effects to spare) but, like the better "Stargate" TV episodes I've seen, extremely fun and addictive in the brain-dead realm of escapist fun. James Murray (who looks like Rob Lowe) became my instant favorite actor in this early ensemble; nothing against Douglas Henshall, but I'm a sucker for shows/movies in which the second-in-command action guy overshadows the team leader. And, at least in this first six episodes, Stephen Hart's cool-under-pressure screen presence runs circles around Cutter's puppy-eyed need to find out what happened to his wife. Season 2 will be streamed as soon as I budget my time now that Amazon's VOD has made a believer in streaming that I'd already bought and paid for (through August).
by J.M. Vargas
Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:41 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: February 2011 Watching Thread
Replies: 36
Views: 3276

Re: February 2011 Watching Thread

Alexander Korda's MARIUS (1931) on TCM for the first time. Chapter one of a lengthy trilogy (which has been sitting on my DVR for almost two years) is a charming love story between a young man who dreams of the sea (Pierre Fresnay's Marius), the woman he can't force himself to admit he loves (Orane Demazis' Fanny), the parents/adults in their lives, the morals of the time/place and the heartbreak that ensues when lovely Fanny realizes Marius' affection toward her cannot compete with his lust to travel away from the Marseilles port they both have grown in their entire lives. Since this is the first third of a story ample time is given to supporting characters like Marius' father (played by the legendary Raimu, whose César character gets the last third of the trilogy named after him) which brings to life the town folks' many delightful quirks and eccentricities. Even though I already know what's coming (read about these movies a long time in film class) my introduction to the "Fanny Trilogy" was a pleasant and enjoyable one.

René Clément's FORBIDDEN GAMES (1952) on Criterion DVD for the first time. The first five minutes of "Forbidden Games" had me wondering if I could handle the obvious emotional manipulations (worthy of a Disney cartoon) that Clément was engaging in to make me feel sorry for the plight of little Paulette. As the movie unfolded and Brigitte Fossey's natural performance bounced nicely from Georges Poujouly's Michel "Forbidden Games" completely won me over though, even if the Gouard versus Dolle family feud came across like a borderline-slapstick French retelling of the Montagues versus Capulets feud from Shakespeare (complete with young lovers from each family). There's an emotional highwire act that Clément engages in with his young leads that could have easily become a profane and macabre little World War II horror flick. Instead "Forbidden Games" ends as a triumph of stylistic camera work (the movie is gorgeous to look at), virtuoso acting (by two kids!) and a storytelling truth device (children's traumatized selfishness during war time) that conveys the horror of armed conflict by seeing its effect on its most impressionable victims. That the runaway horse from the start of the movie is the one that ends up hurting the older son of the family that takes Paulette in (which eventually leads to her fixation with religious imagery and pageantry) is an almost-ignored aspect of the movie that, on repeat viewing, gives the narrative an even stingier pounce. Extras are OK (neat idea for the alternate intro/ending but too much sugarcoating) and, since this is now an OOP Criterion, all we're going to get for a good long while. A (small) masterpiece, and probably tied with "House" as the most repetitious use of a single piece of music (Narciso Yepes' guitar song) that doesn't grate or becomes annoying because it fits the movie it's attached to so well.

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) on Blu-ray for the first time. I've never seen this from beginning to end (just isolated clips) until now. Despite Bernard Herrman's distractingly histrionic score (which turned laid-back pleasant and soothing during the Mt. Olympus scenes), Todd Armstrong's stiffness (not helped by his dubbed voice) and Nancy Kovacks as Medea (her betrayal of her own people to help Jason is a 'deux ex machina' plot mechanic on steroids) this one was a ton of fun to watch. Ray Harryhausen's SFX work is just phenomenal, especially the Hydra (I actually paused the BD, rewound and started watching the Hydra scene frame-by-frame to admire the detail), the Taron statue attack and the army of skeletons that are just one vicious-looking mob of death incarnate. Poseidon (was it him?) helping Jason and his men pass the treacherous rock slides dropped my jaw though; this scene looked and felt like I'd imagine a Greek God lending humans a hand when I was reading Greek mythology decades ago. Laurence Naismith (Argo), Nigel Green (as a down-to-Earth older Hercules), Niall MacGinnis and Honor Blackman (Zeus and Hera, respectively) are the standouts in a cast of great actors that help the movie overcome having Armstrong front and center as its lead (sorry!). Picture and sound on BD are as good as expected given the processed shots and dated sound elements (i.e. not demo worthy) but the extras are great. The Peter Jackson/Randall W. Cook commentary (educated fanboy bliss that never lets up for almost two hours), Ray Harryhausen Chronicles (1997) documentary (narrated by Leonard Nimoy and showing lots of rarely-seen early work by Ray) and trailers/TV spots are worthy of Harryhausen's reputation. For the eight bucks I paid for this during an amazon sale this was a ridiculous steal. :D

THE HUNTING PARTY (1971) on MGM-HD for the first time. Gene Hackman's intense performance is the only reason to watch this violent Western noir about a wealthy rancher (Hackman) that becomes obsessed with getting back his young trophy wife (Candice Bergen) and settling the score with her alleged abductor (Oliver Reed) by all means possible. Lacking anything resembling a personal touch or subtetly director Don Medford just stages one bloody shooutout after another and pounds the senseless 'R' violence with unnecessary-but-cool-to-look-at slow-motion. Thank you Sam Peckinpah! Reed and Bergen have no chemistry (which makes their eventual romantic feelings for one other feel like cheap melodrama instead of the tragedy the movie wants it to be) and Hackman is so nihilistic and 'out there' as Brandt Ruger that he never clicks with those around him (particularly Simon Oakland as his most patient sidekick). The ending is one of those 'that's it?' nasty moments when you realize you could have saved yourself two hours by just looking at the movie's poster (it's all there!). A reminder that not every adult movie that came out of in the 1970's was a masterpiece or even good.

THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982) on MGM-HD for the first time. Is it just me or was this movie on every other weekend in the late 80's/early 90's on USA cable's 'Up All Night' weekend block of T&A flicks? The movie's first half is like a collection of "Porky's" naughtiest bits strung together without plot or rhyme; the 2nd half deals mostly about Gary (Lawrence Monoson) falling in love with Karen (Diane Franklin) and the ensuing complications with both their friends. Never saw "TLAV" until recently and, despite an unexpectedly poignant coda (kudos to writer/director Boaz Davidson for going there), it's mostly another 80's parade of T&A comedy (of the unfunny 'adults are retards' school of yucks) mixed with some (very intense) colorful cinematography and cool-but-dated pop music. The older I get the more I realize the 80's sex comedies, as a whole, were nothing more than a decade-long flipped bird by Hollywood to Ronald Reagan's conservative principles (to which the MPAA responded in kind with its over-the-top enforcement of its ratings). Yes, it took a Canon/Yoram-Globus sex flick from the early 80's for me to figure this out. :shock:

TITANIC II (2010) on SyFy HD for the first time. This is what I chose to spend Super Bowl Sunday watching instead of the big game... don't ask. ;-) What can I say about this Asylum production (neither worse or better than the direct-to-video crap they routinely put out on SyFy) other that it's almost like writer/director/star Shane Van Dyke (yes, Dick's grandson) is daring us to mock his little 'homages' to Cameron's "Titanic" (which this is not a sequel to, just a disaster movie that happens to have a sinking boat named 'Titanic II') because he at least acknowledges that the '97 movie is part of pop culture. Yep, like re-enacting the builder/captain 'sinking' speech and the 'death by cold water' of one of the leads (along with a 'shoddy construction' subplot from "The Towering Inferno" for good measure) will make anyone overlook the concrete walls/stairs in the lower bowels of the ship (let me repeat: concrete walls/stairs inside a boat! :shock: ) or the casually-dressed extras that look like they just came from the mall. God bless Bruce Davidson though, he emotes and acts like he's in an "X-Men" movie (a paycheck is a paycheck I guess) as a coast guard expert trying to save his daughter (Marie Westbrook) aboard the ship. Never mind the millions of lives on the East Coast of the US (and many other ships in the Atlantic) on the path of the tsunami that sends giant icebergs hurling against the Titanic II boat (the movie's only LOL-worthy moment is when the submarines-as-lifesavers turn out to be the death traps for those that manage to escape), the rescue of Bruce's daughter is all that matters... everyone else in the world be damned. Also starring Brooke Burns as a scientist :lol: ; somehow she managed to get her name removed from the "Titanic II" IMDB cast listing but her face and name on the credits are on the movie for everyone (not) to see.
by J.M. Vargas
Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:59 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: February 2011 Watching Thread
Replies: 36
Views: 3276

Re: February 2011 Watching Thread

Rewatched Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS (1946) on DVD with the Rick Jewell commentary track. Interesting oral history of RKO Radio Pictures, old Hollywood studios and the business/society/cultural atmosphere before, after and when "Notorious" was theatrically released. On its own it would be academic overload, but as a one-two punch with the movie-specific Drew Casper commentary it covers all the basis for Hitch fans. On most commentary viewings I can offer a second opinion on the movie, but Jewell's information dump is so big I can't really do that here. Perfect excuse to watch this puppy again. :D

Ronald Neame's TUNES OF GLORY (1960) on Criterion DVD for the first time. Haven't seen enough of Alec Guinness or John Mills' work to call this 'career best work' but it's easily the best movie I've seen these two in. Neame's directorial style (always at the service of the story and his actors without calling attention to himself as 'auteur'; even sound distortion stunts are there primarily to convey the inner-conflicts tormenting the leads) quietly impressed me, a reminder of why Irwin Allen hired him to helm "The Poseidon Adventure." Guinness, Mills and a perfect cast of supporting actors (which is better than most movie's top headliners) get ample breathing room to make the test of wills between stubborn Scottish men of military honor whose different backgrounds collide (and swing audience sympathy back-and-forth) a fat-free piece of terrific entertainment. Kay Walsh and recently-departed Susannah York (in her first feature) uphold the honor of the fairer sex, but this was clearly meant to be a sausage fest of Brit thesps and that's fine with me. Dennis Price's Charlie Scott is the unsung hero of "Tunes of Glory" (with a shoutout to John Fraser as the Pipe Major), the glue that holds the extremes of the lead characters' personalities in check. Guinness and Mills' characters evolve and change during the movie but they're pretty set in their ways. Charlie is an enigma though, and his interactions with both Sinclair and Barrow are more interesting than the predictable (though still fun to watch) battle of wills that Jock and Basil (along with the other men) engage in. Guinness can't quite sell the movie's final burst of emotion though. This final bit of (over)acting is the only weakness of an otherwise perfect film, crummy vertical line distortion at the end notwithstanding. Does anyone else think that Susannah York's boyfriend (the pipe player whose beating by Jocks sets the secondary plot going in the movie's 2nd half) looks like a dead ringer of Ewan McGregor? Or is it Jude Law that I'm thinking of? ;-)

ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS (1969) on TCM-HD for the first time. My exposure to Showtime's "The Tudors" (bastardized history, yes, but also tons of fun) made me curious to see this movie adaptation of a Broadaway play. Burton looks suitable to play Henry VIII and Geneviève Bujold is a gorgeous-looking Anne Boleyn, but there's an awkward chemistry between these two. They're not bad together (the movie gets away with more adult content than I expected for a '69 PG flick, which helps the leads by not forcing them to verbalize what is better shown) but the flat direction and cliche' script doesn't sell the illusion Henry and Anne ever connected on a deeper level than just physical. Supporting cast is OK (especially Michael Hordern as Anne's father) but the photography looks flat and lifeless. Blink and you'll miss a cameo by an uncredited Elizabeth Taylor, whose presence in a Burton movie six years prior would have set the tabloid world (and box office) on fire.

Rewatched ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (1979) on DVD with the director's commentary track. Though he lapses into the expected dead patches and play-by-play scene descriptions (more of the latter than the former) Norman Jewison at least has interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the actors and trivia (like this being the first Hollywood motion picture shot in Baltimore... ever?) to make this worth a listen. The flick still feels more dated by its sitcom-like pace and enormity of the problems that pile-up on Arthur's lap (framed/dead clients, girlfriend spying, senile grandpa, guilty client, etc.) than the 70's fashion and score. Props to Pacino and small army of recognizable supporting thesps though, they grab this fumbled mess of a movie and run it into the endzone by the sheer strength of their great acting.

MST3K: THE PHANTOM PLANET (1998/1961) on DVD. The cheapo 'white guys in jump suits going to/from outer space' sci-fi movies are a genre with few standouts ("Forbidden Planet") for every couple of dozen or so interchangeable titles/casts/premises/etc. "Phantom Planet" isn't as putrid or insulting as "Monster a-Go-Go" (the worst of this sorry lot) but it doesn't have an original thought, standout performance (unless you count Richard Kiel under pounds of carpet make-up) or signature scene, except maybe the homoerotic 'wisest and best' speech that Mike and the Bots hold on to and never let go as a (weak) comedic punching bag. Arriving after the late-Season 8 creative surge and before the nostalgia-fueled Season 10 farewell, this Season 9 experiment feels surprisingly hollow and rarely scores (though Servo's 'Al Pacino football field' and the opening credits' asteroids looking like breakfast cereal riffs always make me laugh). Maybe too many of these same movies ("The Crawling Eye/Arm," "Clash of the Moons," "Spaceship to Venus," "Space Mutiny," etc.) dried up the Best Brains' funny well from which they could riff "Phantom Planet" with anything remotely resembling a new or creative angle. The 'remember these people? they're in our film' recognition angle (which is an actual joke on this episode) could only carry M&TB's so far. At least this "MST3K" episode features an all-time classic in-between segment in which Crow (Bill Corbett), dressed as the alien creature in the movie, laments to Mike and Servo his inability to control his sudden morphing into whatever character they're watching that week. It's classic meta-introspect humor, and proof of just how deep into Crow's id Corbett had managed to penetrate... or is it the other way around?
by J.M. Vargas
Wed Feb 16, 2011 2:44 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: February 2011 Watching Thread
Replies: 36
Views: 3276

R.I.P. Kenneth Mars

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-passings-20110215,0,2777852.story
During a career that spanned five decades, Mars appeared in more than 35 films, including "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), "Desperate Characters" (1971), "What's Up, Doc?" (1972), and "Radio Days" (1987). He also had roles in scores of television shows, including "Love, American Style," "Fernwood Tonight, "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," "McMillan & Wife" and "Malcolm in the Middle."

In "The Producers" (1968), he played Franz Liebkind, a somewhat demented Nazi whose play, "Springtime for Hitler," attracts a couple of scheming Broadway producers played by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. One of his most quoted lines was, "Not many people know it, but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer!"

In "Young Frankenstein," Mars again displayed a flair for Germanic characters in the role of Inspector Kemp, a monocled police chief with a hilariously malfunctioning prosthetic arm.
by J.M. Vargas
Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:37 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: R.I.P. Kenneth Mars
Replies: 0
Views: 220

Re: Marvel Films Discussion Thread

HGervais wrote:I suppose I look at Fox & Marvel Films differently. With Marvel I at least know comic book creators are deeply involved with the process and as a smaller studio Marvel execs are trying to protect and build a very specific brand. And as a studio they can't afford failures the way a studio such as Fox can. Fox on the other hand has a reputation for meddling almost for the sake of meddling. They don't have the investment in the characters the way Marvel Films does. For one studio Marvel properties are just that. For Marvel films, those properties are their lifeblood.


I totally agree. But I'm with Andrew on this overcrowding problem -- and that this is a Fox production, not a Marvel one. Not to mention Thor and Captain America look much more promising than another X-Men film.
by azul017
Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:47 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Marvel Films Discussion Thread
Replies: 394
Views: 35715

Re: Marvel Films Discussion Thread

I suppose I look at Fox & Marvel Films differently. With Marvel I at least know comic book creators are deeply involved with the process and as a smaller studio Marvel execs are trying to protect and build a very specific brand. And as a studio they can't afford failures the way a studio such as Fox can. Fox on the other hand has a reputation for meddling almost for the sake of meddling. They don't have the investment in the characters the way Marvel Films does. For one studio Marvel properties are just that. For Marvel films, those properties are their lifeblood.
by HGervais
Fri Feb 11, 2011 12:13 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Marvel Films Discussion Thread
Replies: 394
Views: 35715

Re: Arthur trailer

Yes, the trailer made me feel a little sick. I can't exactly say why. It means well but misses on so many levels that it just doesn't work.

Then again I've never seen an Arthur movie. I get the premise, which has been done before and since however.

I thought Arthur was an aardvark anyway? How did he become an English industrialist? First they recast white characters as blacks but this really is too much.
by mkiker2089
Thu Feb 10, 2011 4:58 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Arthur trailer
Replies: 7
Views: 537

Re: February 2011 Watching Thread

I'm going to do everything I can to actually watch as many movies as I can this month and actually have the discpline to talk about them..

Dogtooth - See my thread - WOW! What a film!

The Social Network - As much as I dislike Fincher as a person (he's such a pretentiously arrogant bastard), I do enjoy his films and this is one of them. I must admit that I had to watch the first 10 minutes over again because I just didn't understand what the hell they were talking about (I'm slow that way) and it took me awhile to let the techno. info to sink in, I just didn't GET all of it... I really liked the film allot and I sort of think the Oscar Noms. are more of a protest as to what's happening in our society today more than it is a good piece of film making and writing. Razor edge humor and well paced, Gene Shallet would be proud with all his bizarre review notes.

The Babysitters - A little, unnoticed indie film with a very clever twist at the end. The subject matter both smart and disturbing works and it really provokes serious thought on just how smart teens are getting today. I didn't see that ending coming, I'd reccomend it.

Good Dick - Great little art film with Jason Ritter.. I read many reviews for it and have to disagree, many critics felt it was more of an "acting exercise" but I don't feel as if they got the point. I was captivated from start to finish and I loved it's quirkiness. Yet another little indie flick that got well under the radar, highly reccomended.

I Spit On Your Grave -2010 - A grueling and rather annoying viewing experience. While clever in it's torture concepts, it just didn't work for me. I'm not a fan of rape movies, have little respect for the French film Irreversable and actually found the remake of Last House on the Left offensive (ironically I liked the original), the original I Spit is quite trashy yet there was something about it that made it even more disturbing than it's reputation. After hearing Joe Bob's comments on the piece it actually changed my mind about it, the original was just a poorly done exercise with clever ideas that didn't go anywhere. As with all remakes, when all else fails, create back-stories on characters nobody gives a shit about.. If you just want to see characters tortured and killed in creative ways than by all means watch it, if your looking for a explotative horror flick that makes you cringe watch an equally shitty Hostel flick, at least those movies understand themselves, shitty films for shitty reasons...
by stypee
Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:15 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: February 2011 Watching Thread
Replies: 36
Views: 3276

Re: February 2011 Watching Thread

^^^ What, no time for "Boardwalk Empire"? ;-)

Alfred Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS (1946) on DVD for the first time. Incredible, just freaking incredible; easily one of the best Hitchcock movies I've seen. I was totally taken aback to see Ingrid Bergman, the definition of class & beauty, not only doing the role of a 'loose woman' early in "Notorious" but also pulling it off convincingly. Then, topping that, I get Cary Grant playing a government stooge whose feelings for Alicia he keeps close to his chest as he both seeks to manipulate her but also steer her toward the 'right' decision, either for him (not take the assignment to spy on old flame Sebastian) or for country (go ahead and sleep with the enemy) as a mole inside a Brazilian nest of German war criminals. And then, as the cherry on top, Claude Rains delivers in Alexander Sebastian a multi-dimensional villain (complete with Leopoldine Konstantin as Hitch's typical mother-as-boss devil guiding her son) whose affection for the leading lady might be greater and more sincere than the movie's hero. This is one seriously f***ed-up love triangle where, whether they intend to or not (and often times they do), the men in love with Alicia hurt her and she hurts them back in an effort to get a rise out of Devlin ('you can add Sebastian to my list of playmates') or just to survive (when Alicia puts the key back in Sebastian's key chain I felt both hurt for him and anxious for her). Hitchcock's movies always have strong relationships driving a protagonist's quest or pushing the narrative forward, and in "Notorious" the elements that bring Grant, Bergman and Sebastian together aren't as intriguing or compelling as the fact their characters' love affairs are front and center throughout its running time. And this is a '46 Hitchcock thriller featuring an American drunkard whose German father was jailed for treason infiltrating on-the-run Nazi's in Rio De Janeiro!

"Notorious'" spy plot and the McGuffin (really, uranium sand? :)) may be secondary to the drama and repressed romance between Devlin-Alicia-Sebastian, but just because the story is playing second-fiddle doesn't mean the plot mechanisms that screenwriter Ben Hecht and Hitch came up with (the long tracking shot from ceiling to key-on-fist close-up, Alicia's slow poisoning, the tension between Sebastian and his fellow German conspirators, the censor-thumbing lengthy kiss sequence, etc.) aren't well executed and perfect backdrop for his post-War World II fantasy with more than a connection with then-contemporary headlines. Watching the movie again with the Drew Casper commentary track (the man sounds possessed by his love and devotion to both Hitch and this particular masterpiece; his fawning is a little OTT but doesn't cross the line into ridicule) I enjoyed "Notorious" even more. It's both typical Hitchcock and unlike any other Hitchcock movie I've seen (haven't seen "Rebecca" or "Spellbound" yet), an intimate love triangle surrounded by intrigue and danger out of a pulp novel that nevertheless comes across as classy and righteous. At first the ending stunned me with its suddenness, but thinking about it and then seeing it again it fits that I would leave "Notorious" feeling as sorry for Sebastian as I was happy for Devlin and Alicia.

Rewatched THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) on DVD with the Gene Barry/Ann Robinson commentary track. God (if he/she/it exists) bless Ann Robinson, she really seems to have liked and embraced this movie early on as a science fiction classic. All the interesting facts, trivia notes and interesting personal comments about the movie come from her (Gene rarely says anything and when he does it sounds generic) making me wish Ann had joined Joe Dante and the historians on the 2nd commentary track. The film is still a fun trip on repeat viewing, especially the now-rare sight on movies of military and science men trusting each other completely and working side-by-side for the common good of humanity. SFX and color photography are neat, too, even if the Technicolor process occasionally yields an out-of-focus or color-waving shot here or there.

Charles Laughton's NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) on Criterion Blu-ray. Showed this to my sister and brother-in-law on their 55" HDTV to break-in their new Blu-ray player. Even though I gave them more show-off mainstream BD choices ("The Social Network," "Beauty and the Beast," "Avatar," etc.) they took a chance on "Night..." and ended up loving it even though there was some sniping at the Mrz. Cooper-Powell singing standoff as awkward. Despite their occasional snarky remarks (which I've come to accept as the norm when trying to expose civilians to classic B&W movies they don't watch regularly) my sister shouted she couldn't stand the tension when Powell and the kids were in the basement (that's before the chase up the stairs!) and they were both amused/poe'd by the Spoons going from Harry's best friends (Icey) to the folks leading the lynch mob with rope & ax in hand. Me? I was in tears at the end and during the 'Leaning' singing standoff, enjoying the joy of both watching a really good movie and sharing Laughton's cinematic vision with people whom I love that hadn't been exposed to it.

EQUINOX (1970) on Criterion DVD for the first time. Even though it was rough-looking and badly-acted there was a soft spot in my heart for Dennis Muren's original '67 version of "Equinox... Journey Into the Supernatural," a love letter from then-young film enthusiasts to special effects on creature features. The version of "Equinox" that 90% of those that saw it back in the day, produced/re-written/re-edited by Jack Woods and Jack H. Harris, sacrifices the innocence and 'charm' of the original for a more pedestrian plot involving an actual human foe (director Jack Woods as a ranger), some gratuitous demonic possessions and lots more of what the original version already had too much of: endless, pointless talking. The only aspect that the revised "Equinox" beats its predecessor at is saving the bulk of the SFX shots for the climactic 2nd half of the movie (instead of dolling them out throughout its meager running time). While this slicker "Equinox" holds together a little better plot wise (and looks even more like the blueprint for the fist "Evil Dead" movie) the atrocious ADR and easy-to-spot difference between the original and extra scenes (with the same cast of actors) result in a nastier, less fawning and more depressing 'creature feature' than what "Equinox" started life as. Woods and Harris sound convinced they improved on the original in their commentary track; it's the fly (IMO) of an otherwise tasty soup of recollections, memories and fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Criterion gives us both versions of "Equinox" to choose from, and I'm firmly on the side of Team Muren.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: THE ROLLING STONES (1973/2010) on DVD for the first time. I love old concert movies that were shot like this (by Rollin Binzer) back in 1972 during the Texas swing of the Stone's Exile on Main Street tour: no crane shots, no fluff, grainy film stock and up-close & personal shots of talented musicians performing their hearts out. I'm not a Rolling Stones fan (like a few of their songs) but even I was impressed by the sheer star power and virtuoso stage presence that Jagger, Richards, Taylor, Watts, Wyman and even a young Ian Stewart (secondary piano) bring to their performance. And as someone else I was watching this concert with pointed out, Mick Jagger's 'package' when he's wearing anatomically-correct pants during a few songs should have received second billing. :shock: You'll have to see the concert to know what I'm talking about. :?

Norman Jewison's ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (1979) on DVD. It's been a long while since I've seen this, and the daily school of "Law & Order" (along with actual knowledge of how our judicial system really works over the past couple of decades) has dated this movie's manipulative satirical/dramatic plot more than its 70's disco score, polyester suites and shaggy hairdos. If judges aren't heartless hypocrites (John Forsythe) they're kind-but-suicidal maniacs (Jack Warden as comic-relief); criminals are either poor misunderstood souls (Tom Waites' McCullaugh, Robert Christian's Agee, etc.) or scum-of-the-earth nut jobs (Dominic Chianese); lawyers are either pathetically indifferent (Larry Bryggman), political opportunists (Craig T. Nelson's ADA) or just plain nuts (a scene-stealing Jeffrey Tambor). In the middle of this rigged-to-maximize-the-ending story walks Pacino, whose tears during his final summation (which I hadn't noticed before) go a long way to make one forgive some of the movie's earlier flaws (why would a defense attorney be allowed to play hostage negotiator with his client?) and sells the heartbreak that Kirkland feels inside as he chooses to throw his career away to save his soul. Like his work with John Cazale in "Dog Day Afternoon" I was surprised I hadn't noticed that Pacino and Lee Strasberg are reunited here five years after working together on "Godfather II." I used to think of "...And Justice For All" as the lawyer equivalent of "Network." Not anymore. :(

Watched SPEED RACER (2008) on Blu-ray... again! If you're going to do a predictable sports movie/TV adaptation of an old TV show in which both the filmmakers and the audience know exactly how things are going to play out (including the hero's cliche' and miraculous last-minute-come-from-behind shot/score/race/lap/point), do it the way the Wachowskis did it in the final lap scene of "Speed Racer": go OTT but continue to ground your one-dimensional characters into whatever personal motivations drives them to pursue the things (silly and predictable as they might seem) that drives them. Seldom has a cartoony live-action Hollywood movie felt both so modern and yet so old-fashioned the way "Speed Racer" does. Yet another of a dozen reasons (including negative reviews that kept potential fans like myself from even going to the theater to see it, one of the biggest mistakes of my movie-going life) "Speed Racer" needs to be seen, preferably in high-def, by an audience that didn't know what they missed when they trusted the 2008 critical pillaging of a movie so sweet and square in its emotional center it betrays its own high-tech SFX fireworks.

BABIES (2010) on Netflix HD Instant Watch for the first time. After watching "Night of the Hunter" (see above) and tending to the needs of my crying eight-month old niece my sister and brother-in-law sat down with me at 2AM to watch this French documentary about four babies born and reared from birth to their first year of life in four different cities/cultures: Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo. Since we were sleep-deprived and goofy (plus the documentary has no narration) "Babies" was both interesting (the editing conveys better the obvious narrative of the have and have-not cultures rearing their young one's to similar results) and also supremely funny in a way that only people with newborns in their lives or an appreciation for the miracle of life (i.e. women) would appreciate. Seeing Mari (the Japanese baby) for an extended period of time having fits of frustration (which we called an 'on-camera existential crisis') was both laugh-out loud funny but also pretty dramatic. Don't get me started on the politically incorrect jokes we cracked about the Mongolian and African babies growing up resentful of the USA for the spoiled upbringing of our young one's (or of Mari asking for algebra texts after she's done with the abacus). Since "Babies" is a French documentary the San Francisco baby's upbringing must come across as exotic and foreign to the French as the Mongolian and Namibia babies seemed to us, American viewers. It's an Oprah-centric perspective of the world on display in "Babies" (we are all the same, beauty of life cuts across racial/society barriers, etc.) but it's done well-enough to be worth watching, IMO.
by J.M. Vargas
Sun Feb 06, 2011 5:41 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: February 2011 Watching Thread
Replies: 36
Views: 3276

Re: February 2011 Watching Thread

Andrew Forbes wrote:Yes, I'm jumping the gun. Otherwise Vargas will get it right off the mark at midnight again with something like "Febru-Aryan Superiority is a Myth Watching Thread!!"
You bastard! I curse you, filthy dirty dog, and the dust your sandals will throw up in the air... whatever, too much CNN! ;-)

And, for the record, this month's thread title was going to be 'FE(BRUARY), FA, FI-FO-FUM I Smell (2011) Watching Thread!'... but noooo, Forbes likes vanilla (and making fun of Nazi's, which is always cool in my book).

Anywho, I was actually working on putting together my February first-post lists when I spotted this. Since it's already started then what the f***? Here's my in-progress list (the three or four more I hadn't gotten around writing I'll add later when I actually watch stuff... you know, in February).

Rewatched Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE (1941) on DVD with the Peter Bogdanovich commentary track. When he isn't quietly watching or describing the obvious (i.e. what we're looking at/hearing in front of us) Bogdanovich engages in one of the most perfunctory and dull exercises of commenting on someone else's movie I've ever heard. Other than a handful of infrequent anecdotes of "Kane's" production that Peter talked with Welles about (no Earth shattering revelations between these two) this is so dull and boring it makes Richard Schiekel seem like a wild and crazy guy.

George Pal's THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) on DVD for the first time. Never read Wells' novel or saw either this '53 version or the TV series that aired in syndication in the 80's. After seeing it twice (second time with Joe Dante & friend's excellent commentary) this 57 year-old movie makes that Tom Cruise star vehicle from 2005 look like the dysfunctional piece of vanilla filmmaking Spielberg has been serving up lately. I freakin' love this movie, and not just because I finally go to meet the real Dr. Clayton Forrester (inspiration in name only for the "MST3K" mad scientist) or the source of the 'laser' sound effects I've heard in every sci-fi show, cartoon and videogame I grew up watching/playing. Despite being every bit as fantastic and implausible as any modern-day blockbuster (you can't give "WOTW" a pass for hooking-up the alien eye to the Earth projector to see AlienVision -TM- and then condemn "Independence Day" for having a Mac laptop implant a virus in the alien mothership... they're both pretty f***ing stupid plot elements that are hard for any audience to buy) the movie never loses touch with either Gene Barry & Ann Robinson (very cute couple) or the humanity of people fearing they're about to be wiped out. Even stock characters like General Mann (good to see Les Tremayne) or Syliva's pastor uncle (Lewis Martin) get little personal moments that, amidst the fantastical and still-impressive special effects (yes, I can see the wires moving the alien ships but I don't care), ground the spectacle into the realm of enjoyable parable. Quasi-religious tone of the final scenes notwithstanding (only Cedric Hardwicke could give Morgan Freeman a run for the money as narrator emeritus of classic prose), "The War of the Worlds" is a king-sized barrel of movie fun. I'd say bring on the Blu-ray but it's Paramount we're talking about here. :(

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! (1974) on HD-DVD. Even though I was too young to have seen the featured movies in theaters this is quite the nostalgia trip. It's a really fun time capsule of both the golden era of MGM musicals (1920's-1950's) and the dilapidated 1970's when the abandoned studio sets served as backdrops (and sharp contrasts) to the introduction of the colorful movie clips. There's also a so-bad-its-good standard definition hour-long network TV special chronicling the movie's premiere and MGM's 50th anniversary (hosted by stiff and out-of-their-league George Hamilton and wife). The difference between the movie clips in this old TV special and the remastered-for-HD clips in the actual movie (with their appropriate aspect ratios) is like the darkness of space contrasted with bright sunshine. The parade of stars introducing clips, performing on the clips or both (Sinatra, Kelly, Astaire, Taylor, Minelli, etc.) makes the hammy staging/dialogue tolerable. Even if you don't like the whole of "That's Entertainment!" (and there are two more of these compilations to go) there are enough classic songs/scenes/moments to make sitting through the boring one's worthwhile.

Caught AIRPLANE! (1980) at an AMC Movie Theater in Times Square this past weekend. Seeing this at age 7 or 8 in a sold out movie theater, when half the naughty stuff went over my head (except the jiggly boobs! :D) with an audience literally howling with laughter, was an early highlight of my movie-going childhood. Revisiting it again on the big screen with a couple of dozen people I laughed at the same jokes I've laughed at 100 times over the past 31 years (the whole 'Stayin' Alive' disco scene still remains my favorite bit of lunacy) and lamented that this turned out to be a eulogy of sorts for Leslie Nielsen and Barbara Billingsley. Hey, I bought my ticket and I knew what I was getting into. I say, let me crash. :lol:

Rewatched James Brooks' BROADCAST NEWS (1987) on Blu-ray with the director/editor commentary track on. Hard to believe the same intelligent, articulate and fun to listen to guy in this commentary could write/direct a $125 million romcom disaster like "How Do You Know." Along with Richard Marks (who barely keeps up with James) Brooks shares the kind of production details and behind-the-scenes anecdotes (with the mandatory ass-kissing about the actors) we've come to expect from Criterion titles.

MST3K: MITCHELL (1993/1975) on DVD. I make it a point not to watch 'transitional' episodes of TV shows frequently so that, during infrequent revisits, I can still experience that sense of awe at 'the change.' For "MST3K" back in the day it didn't get more transitional than switching from Joel to Mike as the bots' companion (both human hosts are featured here without ever crossing paths) and it hurts "Mitchell" a little that no host segments are ever derived from its ridicule-rich 70's fashions, clunky cops & robbers plot and lampoon-rich Joe Don Baker performance. Having Gypsy front and center orchestrating Joel's escape also hurts (I was ready to scream at her umpteenth 'HOOOOW?!?!' yell) but 90% of the show is Joel & the bots unleashing the most hilarious torrent of verbal abuse ever directed at any riffed movie's lead character... ever! Wall-to-wall name jokes ('even his name says, is that a beer?'), put downs (old woman walking away: 'Bite me Mitchell') and condescencion (the immortal classic 'our hero ladies and gentlemen, right there'). A very pretty Linda Evans and Martin Balsam class up the joint for a moment or two, then the baby oil ruins everything. :shock: Favorite running gag that gets overlooked by Joel's departure and the Mitchell bashing: Servo's dead-on riffs as the background music clearly sounds like something out of a 3M industrial video. I hate it when "MST3K" makes a joke out of a movie's incompetence because of the show's editing butchering an already-suspect narrative, and Servo's 'wasn't John Saxon in this movie?' riff crosses the line since Saxon's ultimate fate isn't par for the "Mitchell" incompetence (it was a properly written shot and dealt with plot point). Still, warts and all, a classic.
by J.M. Vargas
Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:55 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: February 2011 Watching Thread
Replies: 36
Views: 3276

February 2011 Watching Thread

Yes, I'm jumping the gun. Otherwise Vargas will get it right off the mark at midnight again with something like "Febru-Aryan Superiority is a Myth Watching Thread!!"

In Cold Blood. It has definitely lost some of its punch over the years, now that serial/spree killers have been dissected to the atomic level and forensic detection fills hours of television programming every evening. What's left is a well-acted character study that reveals nothing but the impenetrability of a killer's psyche. What explanation there is for the killings boils down to bed wetting + daddy issues + sexual insecurity = murder. That wasn't even particularly persuasive analysis in 1967. The interest of the film comes from watching the characters in the moment. As usual, Conrad Hall's cinematography is second to none. Unfortunately, Quincy Jones' score is often distracting.
by Andrew Forbes
Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:10 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: February 2011 Watching Thread
Replies: 36
Views: 3276

Re: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!

Akira Kurosawa's SCANDAL (1950) on Criterion/Eclipse DVD for the first time. Two celebrities are photographed in a compromising (though manufactured by photographers) situation, and their legal and personal struggle to clear their names against the magazine that printed a false story lands them in court. Though tame by today's standards there's a feral intensity to the way Kurosawa condemns tabloid journalism (which flourished in Japan after the American occupation) that would be better appreciated if the director hadn't loaded this movie with enough melodrama to make Douglas Sirk blush. It doesn't help that the magazine publisher (Eitarô Ozawa's Hori) is such a scumbag he becomes a cartoon character. I never thought Takashi Shimura could portray a more pathetic loser than his character in "Ikiru," but for "Scandal" he plays an even bigger and more pathetic loser (an attorney taking bribes to throw the case against his client) with a dying daugher (Yôko Katsuragi ) around Christmas time. I admit that I got teary-eyed when Toshirô Mifune brought down a Christmas tree to the Hiruta household, but then Kurosawa has to stage a Japanese rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" that's so over the top it works as both comic relief and for dramatic effect. For a 'B' side title (to Kurosawa's 'A' side work like "Throne of Blood" and "Rashomon") the tune in "Scandal" ain't bad, it's just not cooking as intensely or feels (to me) as well-prepared as many other Kurosawa-Mifune cinematic dishes.

Rewatched THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) on DVD with the John Frankenheimer commentary track on. Lengthy pauses make this practically a rewatch of the movie (not a bad thing since we get to see Lansbury become a hell of a villain). The few times Frankenheimer has something to say he's so direct and to the point he just shuts up after speaking. The story of why Sinatra's close-up with the deck of Red Queens is out of focus was interesting, and how the filmmakers came up with the interrogation/exposition scene about the brainwashing of the military team even more. Shame that, through most of this commentary, we're not learning anything we didn't already know from just watching the movie.

Rewatched Kubrick's DR. STRANGELOVE (1963) on Blu-ray with the Trivia Facts pop-up track on. I wasn't expecting the triva to be mostly about real-life Cold War military facts; there was hardly anything related to the production of the movie or Kubrick. Guess that's what the documentaries/featurettes are for, but the movie itself (and its great cast of actors/characters, especially Sellers and Hayden) still kicks ass and ends with one hell of a (multiple) bang.

James L. Brooks' BROADCAST NEWS (1987) on Blu-ray. I saw this a lifetime ago (VHS rental in the early 90's) and remember not being very impressed because it didn't feel to me like the movie taught me anything meaningful about the TV business. I realize now that "Broadcast News" is the "Bull Durham" of TV newsroom media: just because it's happening in the background while the leads go through their relationship/professional troubles doesn't mean they don't love their work and appreciate it, it's just so common to them they rarely stop to think about it until their business has changed for the worse. While some of Brooks' wacky humor sneaks into "Broadcast News" (Cusack's famous videotape run, Marc Shaiman/Glen Roven's news theme demonstration, etc.) the movie is actually pretty serious and heartfelt about the emotions its trio of leads feel for each other as well as their work. James Brooks has written (and the actors bring to life) such competent professionals that we're asked to take for granted they're smart in and outside of work. Tom Grunick's drama-free rise to network anchorman isn't as amusing as Peter Finch ranting, but within the movie's context (Tom being honest about his shortcomings) it's what the movie needed to project how far news standards had fallen at the time without coming across as preachy. William Hurt and Albert Brooks are great (Lois Chiles is also very good) but for the life of me I couldn't bring myself to like Holly Hunter. Her Jane Craig comes off as an uptight nervous wreck in her private life that only a colleague like A. Brooks' Aaron (or a doofus like Hurt's anchorman) would find likable by virtue of her professional competence. Nicholson (who makes for a surprisingly believable network news anchor in his few scenes), the Cusacks (yes, John is in it for like half-a-second toward the end), Robert Prosky, Stephen Mendillo (as Tom's father in two key scenes), and Amy Brooks (her deleted scene is a winner, even Brooks laughs out loud rewatching it) provide great supporting work. There's no satisfying ending to "Broadcast News" (the one in the final version and two additional one's unearthed by this Criterion release are OK but leaves one wanting more/better) but that didn't bother me since getting to spend time in James L. Brooks' pre-"I'll Fly Away" mindset is such a cozy and fun place to be.

Bill Conti tries hard (and mostly fails) to emulate the score from J. Brooks' "Terms of Endearment." Whatever film stock Michael Ballhauss was using back in the 1980's really brings out the grain because, even with a 4K transfer (per Criterion's manual), this movie looks older than '87. It's detailed enough to get by and reflects how the negative actually looks (I shudder to think about the Fox people that DNR'd the "Predator" Blu-ray getting a hold of this) but this is not a show-off movie. The alternate ending and 20 minutes worth of deleted scenes (most of them pretty damn good and well-acted) is why I pay retail prices for Criterion titles and feel I get my money's worth. There's an entire subplot involving a gay whistleblower named Buddy that becomes William Hurt's source/friend; Tom goes from naive to gentle to stone-cold (the handshake!), all for being nice to a gay guy that needed a friend. A lot of these Buddy scenes would end up, reshaped and re-written, into the Greg Kinnear character from "As Good As It Gets." Brooks claims in the deleted scenes commentary that Buddy's scenes were removed for time and other tone reasons, but I just don't see Buddy's homosexuality going so well on a Hollywood mainstream movie in Reagan's America. It's a neat peek into the editing process shaping a movie out of its filmmakers' intial intent.

BACKYARD WEDDING (2011) on the Hallmark Channel HD for the first time. I only watched this because (a) I love Alicia Witt (why isn't Det. Falacci on a plane to Los Angeles to help the struggling "Law & Order" spinoff?) and (b) "Alex Mack's" Larisa Oleynik has a small part as the bride-to-be's best girl. I wasn't expecting much from a made-for-cable TV movie in which the girl is engaged to marry the guy that is clearly wrong for her (Ryan Bittle, playing the Cary Elwes-esque part to a tee) while the next-door-neighbor whom she's known all her life (Teddy Sears) bumbles his way into her heart. Then I realized that, when he had nothing or nobody else to cut two, director Braford May kept cutting to either Larisa's face reacting to someone/something (no dialogue, no context; just random shots of the woman looking at stuff) or the same establishing dolly shots of the house with the big backyard where 90% of the movie takes place. Frances Fisher and Markie Post bring some spunk to their matriarchal roles but "Backyard Wedding" is as forgettable as the channel number that Hallmark Channel is at on your local cable/satellite provider. ;-)
by J.M. Vargas
Wed Jan 26, 2011 2:22 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!
Replies: 125
Views: 10280

Re: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!

It's funny that you say the movie made you feel old because the exact opposite happened to me. The truths on display are so universal and so honest that it brought me back to that time period of my life. A time where I didn't know what I wanted because I didn't know who I was. A time where it was more important to be the person I thought other people expected or wanted me to be than the person I was. If all the movie was about was a 22 year old winning the girl of his dreams your criticisms might have some validity but there is so much more going on than that. Scott Pilgrim was probably the most emotionally honest film I have seen in years and it's also the most misunderstood. Underneath all the flash and the jumpcuts and the visual playfulness is a movie with a great deal of heart & depth.

molly1216 wrote:scott pilrgim v the world...get our your brickbats...<hangs head in shame> i didn't appreciate it. I actually marked it down - this is the first film that made me feel old. It is definitely targeted for the 20-30 something audience. as a nearing 50 something, i walked out of the room to reheat a piece of pizza and just let it run in the background. I was very disappointed...i have adored all of edgar wright's other material, but this is someone else's source material directed by him. I have also become fed up with Michael Cera here playing up the extended infantilism that our society encourages in its young (which is odd that i like his separated at birth twin Jesse Eisenberg better, he's at least playing grownups) I am kinda liking the new trend in young female characters - they are all basically JUNO clones with different color hair. I did appreciate all the Faux Comic book animation and the jump cut editing - i thought it worked great and would work even better in other comic book adaptations...i think my problem is with the plot, i really didn't care if a 22 year old guy won the girl of his dreams...between 22 and 50, years he will most likely have 15 more girl friends.
by HGervais
Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:50 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!
Replies: 125
Views: 10280

Re: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!

scott pilrgim v the world...get our your brickbats...<hangs head in shame> i didn't appreciate it. I actually marked it down - this is the first film that made me feel old. It is definitely targeted for the 20-30 something audience. as a nearing 50 something, i walked out of the room to reheat a piece of pizza and just let it run in the background. I was very disappointed...i have adored all of edgar wright's other material, but this is someone else's source material directed by him. I have also become fed up with Michael Cera here playing up the extended infantilism that our society encourages in its young (which is odd that i like his separated at birth twin Jesse Eisenberg better, he's at least playing grownups) I am kinda liking the new trend in young female characters - they are all basically JUNO clones with different color hair. I did appreciate all the Faux Comic book animation and the jump cut editing - i thought it worked great and would work even better in other comic book adaptations...i think my problem is with the plot, i really didn't care if a 22 year old guy won the girl of his dreams...between 22 and 50, years he will most likely have 15 more girl friends.
by molly1216
Tue Jan 25, 2011 6:56 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!
Replies: 125
Views: 10280

Re: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!

Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE (1941) on DVD twice, once by itself and then a second time with the Roger Ebert commentary on. After watching this several times over the past two decades out of a sense of obligation rather than to derive personal pleasure from it (peer pressure, school, AFI listings, etc.) this is the first time I can honestly say I've thoroughly enjoyed "Citizen Kane" from start to finish as just a pretty damn good movie. "Citizen Kane" has something to say (both in content and as a way to tell a complex story with interesting-to-watch moving pictures), ruffled feathers of the high & mighty and pushed a young Orson Welles to put as much of himself on the screen as he did of William Randolph Hearst (to both men's long-term detriment). Like "MST3K" the older and wiser one gets with age the more fun it is to revisit and reap new rewards from "Kane's" visual narrative (Gregg Toland's deep-foocus photography is begging for a high-def remastering), the all-around great acting from a fine cast (first time I noticed how good Joseph Cotten actually is acting opposite Welles) and the inner/outer spectacle of the lead character's tumultuous life. And my God, has anyone stolen a movie like Agnes Moorehead does in "Kane" with her handful of on-screen minutes without changing her facial expression? Shoot, even the child actor that plays Kane as a kid is terrific.

THE BATTLE OVER CITIZEN KANE (1996) PBS documentary on the second disc, combined with Uncle Roger's familiar voice and context-providing insights (don't have the stomach yet to tackle Bogdanovich's commentary), are almost indispensable to appreciate the similarities and differences between real-life protagonists (particularly Marion Davies, whom we get to see in home movies) and their fictitious counterparts. If I ever try to show "Citizen Kane" to my folks (remember?) I'll have to time it so I can also show them this documentary so that they can get the most "Kane" bang for their viewing time.

Jules Dassin's THE LAW (1959) on TCM-HD for the first time. Douglas Sirk-ish melodrama, Felliniesque comedy, slapstick and old-fashioned 'B' movie noir are just some of the genres from which Jules Dassin begs, borrows and steals bits and pieces to fashion this enjoyable Gina Lollobrigida star vehicle. Set in a small Italian village where a dying patriarch (Pierre Brasseur) still has pull, we watch as every men in town either chases after sexy Marietta (Lollobrigida at the peak of her beauty) or has to deal with women problems. The actual 'Law' from the title is a power-play drinking game that men in town engage in that only seems to exist to drive for viewers the extent of Don Cesare's unspoken authority in town (or how men will turn on each other when given the authority to be honest). I personally found the 'B' story about the young fisherman (Raf Mattioli) having an affair with the judge's wife (Melina Mercouri) more compelling than Marietta's crazy adventures with Swiss tourists, her hateful mothers/sisters (who at one point tie and whip the girl for no reason!) and hard-to-buy romance with an engineer from the North (Marcello Mastroianni). Dassin never allows the movie to sag though (plenty of supporting characters, locations and subplots to cut away to) and Yves Montand is fun to watch as the local gangster with both an eye on Marietta and another on her ongoing family trouble. Worth seeing.

Nagisa Ôshima's CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH (1960) on TCM-HD for the first time. I've never taken the comparisons between Godard and Ôshima seriously (I just don't see the similarities) but damn if watching "Cruel Story of Youth" didn't remind me at every turn of Godard's "Pierrot le Fou." The super-colorful widescreen cinematography and unorthodox shooting style (lots of handheld shots and/or master-less free-roaming photography) as the lovers go about their passionate/criminal activities certainly hint at Godard-esque aesthetics/themes. The movie's look owes more to Ôshima's lack of a signature directorial style than Godard's though (no two of Nagisa's movies are alike) while the romance-free narrative of young people letting their personal passion carry them beyond the norms of Japanese society is typical Ôshima storytelling fodder. Despite the lead couple not looking at all like young students (and lacking in charisma/chemistry compared to, for example, Yûjirô Ishihara and Eiko Higashitani in "Crazed Fruit") "Cruel Story of Youth" has Ôshima's passion and energy carrying it through taboo subjects (abortion), some weak supporting performances (the gang that Kiyoshi confronts seems to have wondered off from a Shaw Bros. movie) and the genre's well-known ultimate fate for doomed lovers. In one standout scene Kiyoshi eats fruit as he watches over unconscious girlfriend Makoto while the latter's older sister talks trash about them from another room (in voice-over). Like a 'sun tribe' disposable flick brimming with the expertise of a master-in-the-making, "Cruel Story of Youth" would be worthy of "Rebel Without A Cause" comparisons (it's that good) if the lead actors weren't so generic and disposable. Sorry Yûsuke Kawazu and Miyuki Kuwano, but James Dean and Natalie Wood you're not.

Joseph Strick's (James Joyce) ULYSSES (1967) on Widescreen VHS for the first time. A lifetime ago I attempted to get through this James Joyce stream-of-consciouesness book and barely made it halfway before quitting, for my own mental sanity's sake. This movie adaptation feels like it's putting one over the heads of anyone watching that hasn't read the book (no narrative pull) but, since it can't come close to covering even a fraction of the book's content, it feels like the Reader's Digest highlights from "Ulysses": wall-to-wall monologues backed by B&W widescreen vistas of Dublin circa 1966 (which I somehow bought as early 1900's). Milo O'Shea's take on Leopold makes him a relatable and human father figure. Shame that Maurice Roëves and Barbara Jefford are just plain dull to watch as Stephen Dadelus and Molly Bloom, respectively, though supporting actors pop in and out of the narrative to spike (or sink) the movie's lethargic pace. Strictly for the literate crowd that can derive enjoyment out of James Joyce prose read aloud with the flattest of Irish deliveries.

Orson Welles' F FOR FAKE (1973) on Criterion DVD for the first time. Watching this soon after "Citizen Kane" (on a library DVD after my DVR screwed up a TCM-HD recording) makes for an interesting look at the bookend of Welles' directorial career concluding (not by his choice) on another winner. An attempt to deconstruct fakery by being fake (though how can the movie be fake when Orson himself tells you beforehand that fakery will be used to emphasize its point... UHHH!?!?!), "F For Fake" is 88 minutes of breathtaking, non-stop images. sounds and interviews/anecdotes about/from real-life characters (art forger Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving, Pablo Picasso and Howard Hughes) that match or are as interesting as Wells saw himself (real-life larger-than-life characters) and his girlfriend (Oja Kodar) in the grand scheme of making a living by deceiving people. A playful devil-may-care attitude, fast-paced editing (long before such things were popular on movies and TV) and the ability to both play by cinema's rules while making up it's own give "F For Fake" the charisma of a once-in-a-lifetime personality getting away with a slight of hand on his audience without deceiving them (what's the movie's title again?). Or maybe Orson was just happy that, for once in this period of his life, he managed to complete and release an actual movie. I have to watch this again because, on just one viewing, I'm pretty sure I missed half of the good stuff. Even after seeing some of his latter-days work (appearances on "Match Game," TV commercials, the "Transformers" movie, etc.) I have to admit I never thought Welles had any 'IT' left in him after "Touch of Evil" until I saw "F For Fake." It's a delightfully meta-documentary long before the word 'meta' became a pop culture synonym.

Dusan Makavejev's MONTENEGRO (1981) on IFC-HD for the first time. My first Makavejev full-length movie (after flirting without succumbing to the temptations of his Eclipse and Criterion offerings) and it's a knockout from the moment Marianne Faithful's 'The Ballad of Lucy Jordan' opens with what turns out to be the movie's final scene (pay attention to the ending). Susan Anspach ("Five Easy Pieces") gives career-best work as Marilyn Jordan, an unhappily-married-to-a-Sweed ("Scenes From a Marriage's" Erland Josephson) American housewife with children living in Stockholm. Then, through circumstances too ridiculous (but wholly believable) to explain, Mrs. Jordan ends up living up her repressed emotional and sexual fantasies along with a bunch of Yugoslavian immigrants that run a low-rent bar/brothel called the Zanzi Bar. While her family worries (and gets over her absence) thinking she's been kidnapped for ransom Marilyn grows from mousy housewife to take-action sex fiend. An erotically absurd social satire wrapped within the trappings of a road movie (Marilyn is just a cab ride away from her family but she might as well be on Mars), "Montenegro" delivers a steady diet of black humor (a toy tank with a dildo for a canon chasing an exotic dancer, an 84 year-old senile grandfather using his grandkids to help him select a wife, etc.) and quirky characters (Per Oscarsson's ABBA-loving Dr. Pazzardjian, etc.) that pile the absurdities without losing track of the juxtaposition between the Yugoslavian immigrants' love of life and the Sweeds' inability to enjoy it (with Marilyn Jordan trapped in the middle and trying to escape toward the former). To watch Erland Josephson basically satirize his own role in Bergman's "Marriage" is funny enough, but to see/hear him do it in English that is clearly the 2nd (or 3rd or 7th) language for everybody in the cast/crew except for Anspach? One of the funniest (the bleak ending gave me a pause though :)) European comedies I've seen in a long time.

Rewatched SPEED RACER (2008) on Blu-ray for the 5th or 6th time, I've lost track. Amazing how, when one is having fun, little details are overlooked that startle on subsequent viewings. I hadn't noticed before (a) the rearview mirror-shaped TV in the Racer's residence, (b) that the rebuilt-from-scratch car that Speed drives for the final race is the Mach 6 (big effin' difference), (c) the little bit of "Moonraker" footage or (d) that Speed-Tracy kept trying to kiss throughout the movie and kept getting interrupted (which makes the 'punchline' at the end clearer but still not funny). Except for most of the Spritle & Chim-Chim solo scenes and the family's trip to the Royalton Factory (where the Wachowski's really go OTT with the needless flashy visuals) "Speed Racer" holds up surprisingly well on repeat viewing and has yet to be beaten as Blu-ray eye candy whose taste I can't get enough of. What is wrong with me? :D

PIMP (2010) on R2 DVD for the first time. Imagine "District 9" but as a British gangster thriller set in the Soho district of London, as we follow successful pimp Woody (writer/director Robert Cavanah) going about his business of keeping 'the girls' in place and the Johns happy. Then the narrative morphs from pretend documentary (with camera angles that are supposed to be secret but couldn't possible be) into a cross between "8mm" and "Pulp Fiction" (complete with Tarantino-sized character titles freezing the action) while still retaining the shaky cam technique from the faux documentary. That's "Pimp" in a nutshell, and not one moment, scene or characterization in this flick hasn't been done (and better) on a dozen different UK gangster flicks over the past two decades. As a loan from a friend that imports a lot of UK R2 DVD's "Pimp" is the first one that's made me question why I'm friends with the guy in the first place. Yes, the film is that bad.
by J.M. Vargas
Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:33 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!
Replies: 125
Views: 10280

Re: Scenes that you just can't watch again

The flaying scene in Flavia: The Heretic.......and even the nipple scene...
I've seen WAY grosser stuff, but.....when the characters in the movie, who are used to seeing torture and have no problem with it slightly flinch at the beginning of the flaying, it just makes me bristle. It's a very nuanced thing but it worth more than a thousand buckets of blood and gore.
I've actually looked away from the screen at that scene simply because of the other characters' slight, but noticeable discomfort, and the realism of the act against the sort of banal, lazy pace of the movie.
by tucco
Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:17 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Scenes that you just can't watch again
Replies: 38
Views: 2698

Re: inception thread (will absolutely contain spoiler)

I think a lot of the confusion with Inception is people reading too deeply into it's intentions. It's an amazing piece of work, but you need to take the narrative at face value. The spinning top at the end? Sheer gimmick. Nolan having one last "ha ha ha" with the audience before the credits roll and the house lights come up. It isn't Blade Runner.

With regards to the phone issue, Nolan kind of creates rules for the world in which his films take place, for example, Batman Begins was set in a world in which Super Heroes do not exist (hence the excising of "The Mark of Zorro"). It's not too far out to think that the alternate reality in which Inception unfolds isn't quite as "up" on wireless communication as our everyday society. You don't see characters whipping out blackberrys or iPhones.

Which leads me to another idea: How will gadgets like the iPhone and Droid phones change the rules of movies? Hollywood hasn't really latched onto this tech the way society has, even TV shows haven't really embraced the idea that these devices have really altered society on a fundamental level - we're all walking around with GPS, instant messaging, and a nigh limitless database of searchable information in our pockets, and yet TV and movie cops still do their legwork the old fashioned way. Outside of local boy, Republic of Doyle, which uses the iPhone as a detective tool rather frequently, it seems like writers may be out of touch with the tech, and thus don't even really know HOW to implement it in a convincing fashion.
by Steve T Power
Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:52 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: inception thread (will absolutely contain spoiler)
Replies: 18
Views: 1622

Re: Epics

Just a few comments in response to Steve’s post above

Alexander – definitely seek out the one called “Alexander Revisited”. Some say it’s too hard to follow due to the narrative skipping between numerous time periods at a moment’s notice, but I never found this to be the case. It just requires (shock, gasp!) concentration, and actually, you know, paying attention to the film you are watching. Alexander also features some of the more visceral and brutal battles I have seen in any epic film, especially the one towards the end in India, featuring elephant-skewering. I can happily watch human beings punctured like pin-cushions (ala 300) but ram a spear through an elephant and suddenly I start to squirm.

Master and Commander – has one of the best opening sequences I’ve ever seen, perfectly demonstrating the utter terror of naval warfare of that period. A wooden ship being hammered by giant balls of iron travelling as fast as bullets...enough said. But another thing about M & C is I love the way that you never see the antagonist; the captain of the French ship is only seen glimpsed through the lens of a telescope. There’s one shot where Crowe is scanning the deck of the Acheron with his scope, and comes to rest upon the French captain also doing the same thing. The moment is chilling. And the kid – his name escapes me but he’s one of my favourite characters in the film – he loses an arm during the attack at the beginning of the film, but is inspired when Crowe’s character gives him a copy of a book about Lord Nelson (a famous British naval officer who also lost an arm in battle) and he ends up being one of the bravest (and coolest) characters in the film.

And Avatar – I left this one off my list but I have now watched it three times and I am enjoying it more each time I see it. Despite things as trite as “Unobtainium” and the villain who practically has “walking cliché” tattooed on his forehead, the film is a big, bold adventure and I think it’s great. (I prefer the original theatrical beginning though as opposed to the one on the extended edition).
by Attrage
Mon Jan 17, 2011 10:40 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Epics
Replies: 16
Views: 1412

Re: Epics

Generally speaking, my criteria for epic:

- A running time that's longer than average. The starting point for me is typically the 150-160 minute mark. Some are shorter.

- Narrative criteria is more of a grey area; true epics span a larger frame of time, with more characters and interaction, and a broader focus. Or otherwise a tighter all-encompassing focus on a single character.

- Whether based on actual events or not, an epic should strive to set a convincing stage. If not historically accurate, an Epic should be immersive. If you spend 3 hours questioning the validity of an epic, you either shouldn't be watching it to begin with, or it isn't trying hard enough.

- Immersion is paramount - Proper epics have the uncanny ability to transport you to another time or place in ways most other genres can't. The very best of the genre make it so three hours or more feels like 10 minutes.

- Setpieces. Epics play with their action the same way they play with narrative. The very best epics have jaw-dropping scenes of spectacle. A 45 minute battle sequence means so much more when it follows 2 hours of buildup. Epics aren't necessarily action packed, but you know a setpiece when you see it.

It's tough to choose, as the "period epic" is by far my favorite genre of film, but a few of my favorite epics in no particular order:

- Kingdom of Heaven (Director's cut) - In its pure form, this one is a lavishly beautiful film. While hardly accurate, the film applies just the right balance of contemporary idealism to allow us as an audience to gather some idea of what the mindset of the time may have been like. The characters are given space to breathe, the sets, costumes, and performances are all pitch perfect, and by God the siege of Jerusalem is one hell of a spectacle. Just a beautiful film.

- Lawrence of Arabia - Put aside for a second, the fact that the film was made in 1962, and yet outside of the opening credits feels like it could have been filmed a year ago. This is quite simply a stunning portrait of an individual who had a huge impact on one particular corner of the globe. Beautifully shot, and brilliantly acted, this is practically the definition of "epic". For set pieces there's the siege of Aqaba, attacks on trains, and the road to Damascus. A near perfect film for which Peter O' Toole was royally robbed of Oscar gold.

- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World - Falls 10 minutes shy of the 150 mark, but an epic in every sense of the word. From the opening moments, the film sucks you into its world, and if you give yourself over to it, you won't want to leave, even after the credits start to roll. Crowe gives what I consider the best and most assured performance of his career, and the entirety of the supporting cast shines.

- The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly - Leone's masterpiece. Sure he made other, longer films later in his career, but this remains the only film in my opinion to really have the feel of an epic. From the crosses and double crosses early on to the Civil War backdrop later in the film, to the final, epic three-way standoff. This isn't just another western.

- Seven Samurai - Oft imitated, never duplicated. It's 207 minutes long, subtitled in Japanese, and black and white, and yet it is relentlessly entertaining. Kurosawa's masterpiece combines visual flair and memorable characters with a meaningful narrative and one hell of a fantastic action sequence. Like so many other classics, the plot is deceptively simple, but the ideas are something a little deeper. Just a great flick.

- Saving Private Ryan - From the harrowing opening sequence to the amazing final act, SPR is about the finest, most entertaining and most flatteringly imitated portrayal of the Second World War in Europe that's been laid to film. I'd also call it the single finest effort in Spielberg's illustrious career, and Hanks' best on screen performance. It's one of those flicks that just transports you completely. Some have problems with the bookends, but they're a decidedly Spielberg-ian touch, and it wouldn't be the same film without them in my opinion.


Some other notables that I love:

- Gladiator
- Alexander - Screw the haters, I thought Stone did a bang up job (avoid the original theatrical cut though).
- Fall of the Roman Empire
- A Bridge Too Far
- Avatar (yes, i said it)
- Braveheart - Hasn't aged as well as i'd like, but still a great effort.
- The New World
- Heat
- The Last Samurai
- El Cid
- Robin Hood
- The Thin Red Line
- The Lord of the Rings
by Steve T Power
Mon Jan 17, 2011 10:06 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Epics
Replies: 16
Views: 1412

Re: Tron: Legacy - anyone? anyone?

Steve T Power wrote:It's just fun, escapist sci-fi fare. Gorgeous visuals and an awesomely clichéd sci-fi plot - I wouldn't have it any other way.

Bingo. You'd think by the critical reaction to Tron: Legacy that the original Tron was a work of staggering cinematic genius. Uh, no. It was a thin (albeit archetypal) story with not very engaging characters existing in a world that's really weird and beautiful and action-packed. Ditto Tron: Legacy. It was a solid afternoon of fun for me and my kid.
by Dan Mancini
Mon Jan 17, 2011 6:38 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Tron: Legacy - anyone? anyone?
Replies: 6
Views: 478

Re: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!

Dan Mancini wrote:Despite being aware of the show since the Tom Baker days and having had a few friends that were really into it, I've only now watched a complete episode of Doctor Who (I'd seen bits and pieces of various Doctors here there over the years, but I'd never actually watched an episode). I streamed the first couple episodes of Christopher Eccleston's run. I'm not totally sold, but I'll continue on through this series and see if it gets its hooks in me.


Join us! Join us in the Who Fandom! Muahahahahahaha!

Um, excuse my evil outburst.

Been mostly watching episodes from the first season of Star Trek: the Next Generation before sleeping the past few nights. It is kind of odd coming back to this show after so long. Roddenberry's preachy, anti-religion slant while treating Starfleet as a religion in everything-but-name is as annoying and idiotic as ever, and it is amazing to think that these robots for characters would ever evolve into the more human, and three dimensional characters they would become. Also, it is just astounding to see how many bad clearly bad decisions were made during this first season, from the laughable execution of the Ferengi (if you are planning to set up an alien race as the big villians of your show, remember to NOT make them a joke upon first introducing them) to the outright racist (while the director of Code of Honor might be to blame for the casting and style of the performances, that doesn't excuse the racisim inplicit in the scirpt. Besides, How on Earth did the director get away for so long without anyone in charge noticing what was going on?).

And yet...there are things in this first season that I wish had remained throughout the rest of the show. For starters, the lighting in the first season is vastly superior to the bland, overlit style to follow starting in season three. And I never did like the mdified uniforms of the latter seasons, though that might just be because of my own hatred of collars around the neck. And as many bat___t crazy and bad decisions are made in this first year, it seemed more willing to go for broke than the latter seasons.
by the5thghostbuster
Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:22 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!
Replies: 125
Views: 10280

Re: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!

Gabriel Girard wrote:After letting it sink in I have to agree with you. I found Faye Wong adorable during the viewing though :-)

Just watched Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger - Another very enigmatic and entrancing film from a genius. It seems to be about the fact that you can't run away from yourself, and if you try to, you get into more trouble. I wish I could say more but I'm still reeling from the masterful last shot, slowly zooming in from Nicholson laying in bed. A unique cinematic experience.


I still can't believe that I have to admit that I have only ever seen Antonioni's Blow Up. Agh! Need to see more of his work!

Over the weekend I caught a few films. First up was Night Key from 1937. An interesting little thriller, but far from the best work from Karloff and Universal pictures. On the other hand, I have (almost) nothing but praise for The Strange Door from 1951. Damn, this is one trippy, dark little film, filled with mostly distrubing, unlikeable, and facinating characters, with Charles Laughton stealing the show with his twisted nobleman. The only mark against it is that it falls into the trap of feeling it needs to make its lead character likeable after being an enjoyable bastard for half the film.

Last night, I ended up watching The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra for about the 30th time, with a few relatives who had never caught it before. Of them, only one really dug it as much as myself.
by the5thghostbuster
Sun Jan 09, 2011 5:00 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!
Replies: 125
Views: 10280

Re: Favorite Movies of 2010

Steve T Power wrote:
Attrage wrote:Hi everyone, new to the forums and thought I'd start here...I’d have to place Robin Hood at the top of my list, though despite claims to the contrary 2010 was by no means a bad year for cinema. Robin Hood got a bit of a bum rap critically and commercially but I think in time it will find it’s place on many dvd shelves. I just think it suffered from the same thing Kingdom of Heaven did: a marketing campaign that sold it as an action film (everyone keeps expecting Gladiator whenever they see Ridley Scott do an historical epic) when it’s really so much more. Ridley Scott is a master of atmosphere and Robin Hood has that in spades. I also think people were expecting the done-to-death Hood story of “rob the rich...yadda yadda” rather what they got was almost like a superhero origin story. I for one would love to see a sequel but Ridley Scott is not big on them in general so it probably won’t happen.


Amen. I'd go one further and say that the line at the end of the film was grossly misinterpreted as a sort of "Batman Begins" reboot of Robin Hood, whereas the true intent was that THIS was the story that inspired the creation of the Robin Hood myth. It's not that this was the first chapter in a longer story, but that it was the story that inspired the legend as we hear it today. I love how the flick is widely regarded as a failure in the States, and yet it did great business everywhere else in the world, and was actually held in fairly high regard, critically. It's one of my favorite films of the year, clocking in at #4.

Yeah, i'm unapologetically a Ridley Scott fan, but it's because I find his flicks so damn engaging. Like Michael Mann, he seems to have a line to precisely what I want to see in my films from a narrative and constructive standpoint, and for me Robin Hood is a standout in a pretty damn exemplary later period. I won't get into how I feel the Ridley of the '00s is actually pound for pound a more consistent filmmaker than he was in the 80s. Sure Blade Runner is amazing and all, and I love Black Rain like nobody's business, but American Gangster, Body of Lies, Robin Hood, and Matchstick Men were all incredible efforts to me, and Kingdom of Heaven (in Director's cut form) is quite possibly my favorite of his films.


Couldnt have said that better myself. I'm also a huge Michael Mann fan (Last of the Mohicans remains one of my all time favourite films) and one of the very few people I know that actually loved his retooling of Miami Vice. I also really dig Body of Lies. It was another quiet achiever film of Scott's, like Matchstick Men, that is endlessly rewatchable. Also rank Kingdom of Heaven as probably my favourite Scott film - though its hard to rank his efforts they are all so incredible. Funny thing, when I saw Kingdom of Heaven in its (massacred) theatrical release, I hated it. Couldnt follow the plot. Couldnt engage with the characters or the story and found it one boring dialogue scene, battle, more boring dialogue etc ad nauseum. But after reading James Berardinelli's review of the director's cut I forced myself to track it down and revisit it. And man, was I glad I did. I was quite literally stunned by it.
by Attrage
Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:36 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Favorite Movies of 2010
Replies: 25
Views: 2713

Re: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!

As promised (threatened?) here's PART DEUX of the stuff I watched in late 2010/first couple of days of 2011 that I didn't write about earlier:

René Clair's A NOUS LA LIBERTE (1931) on TCM-HD for the first time. Owing more than a passing resemblance to the films of Charles Chaplin (who himself would go on to 'borrow' from this very film) and Fritz Lang (the film compositions of "Metropolis," the experimental use of sound in "M," etc.) "À nous la liberté" is a comedic satire on then-modern French society that is mostly heart and message (about the industrial revolution attempting AND FALING to repress human imperfections, like love, that make us who we are) but seldom delivers actual laughs. Like Laurel & Hardy shorts sometimes the painful stuff that happens to Émile (Henri Marchand), Louis (Raymond Cordy) and Jeanne (Rolla France) as their fortunes climb and fall with the opening of a phonograph factory is too dour to make one laugh. You'll have to see Clair's "Le Million" (sweeter & gentler, better sound) and Chaplin's "Modern Times" (funnier, more visually striking) for refined displays of the grand concepts that Clair flirts with here (including a finale straight out of 'Benny Hill's' closing credits) but doesn't quite gel together into a satisfying whole. At least I had a fun time pretending the phonographs were iPads and that the movie was taking place in... wait for it... modern times! :o

Kenji Mizoguchi's SISTERS OF THE GION & OSAKA ELEGY (both 1936) on Criterion Eclipse DVD's for the first time. Though completely different movies I can't separate them since they both feature mostly the same cast (with Isuzu Yamada as the lead in both) and same basic theme: women in Japan had to put up with an unfair double-standard that put them at an unfair disadvantage with their fathers/brothers/co-workers/etc in just making a decent living. In Mizoguchi's movie world a telephone operator is no different than a geisha in the description of 'women,' and in both movies the final outcome sets back the lead women considerably but they're left with the inner-strength and will to carry on. "Osaka Elegy" is the slightly more fun of the two movies because Isuzu Yamada's Ayako is a cute little firecracker that only sleeps with her boss (who is played for laughs as an incompetent buffoon) to get her family out of financial trouble. The lack of appreciation and social outcast status bestowed upon Ayako by family men that should at least appreciate her sacrifices gives the movie's ending (especially a memorable walking shot across a bridge) poignancy that doesn't feel like a cop-out or cheap melodrama. "Sisters of the Gion" is a lot more simplistic and depressing (very little chance of happiness for any character that doesn't have a penis) but showcases Yamada-san's range as she plays the complete opposite of her role in "Osaka Elegy." Yôko Umemura plays the more sympathetic sister that still has optimism (and the self-appointed duty to help her bankrupt lover) until gradually, by the movie's end, these two are left only with each other to face a rough life ahead. Not as polished or nuanced as "Ugetsu" or "Sansho the Bailiff" (masterpieces both), these early movies by Mizoguchi are an interesting look at the vision of a director that's already shaped but getting polished.

Rewatched SLEEPING BEAUTY (1958) on Blu-ray with the commentary track on. I'd forgotten how, even though it starts very girly and childish (a little bit of Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather goes a long way), "Sleeping Beauty" starts kicking ass and getting better as it goes along. Even in the movie's boring passages though (i.e. the drunk scenes) the blemish-free 1080p transfer and Tchaikovsky background music bring out the best out of this animated spectacle. Prince Phillip is still your typical Disney cypher but an infinitely more appealing one than the dude in "Snow White," which helps one root for Phillip when Maleficent goes all-out against him in the still-amazing final battle with the dragon. Pixar's John Lasseter really seems to like this film; his gushing fanboy-ish words of praise in the commentary drown out the sanitized-by-Disney-lawyers comments from Andreas Deja and Leonard Maltin. This is the classic Disney animated movie I like the least but it still ranks as a must-see on BD. It's just too darn purty to not own.

Stanley Kubrick's DR. STRANGELOVE (1963) on Blu-ray. Though the B&W photography and SFX shots don't get an overwhelming boost from being in high-def (unlike, say, "Casablanca" or the Criterion BD of "The Seventh Seal") I don't recall any previous viewings of the movie (in theaters or DVD) in which the close-ups of General Ripper spouting his 'bodily fluids' theory while holding his phallic cigar shook me as much as this one. Sterling Hayden's performance gets a bit lost amidst the looney tunes antics of George C. Scott and Peter Sellers' chameleon roles, but this time it was Sterling's portrayal of hilarious insanity that sold me on the movie's timeless vision of war as the foil of cowardly impotent men (metaphorically speaking) incapable of rationally talking to one another. And holy s*** at the Kubrick idea (which is reprinted in the BD's Digipak booklet) of starting and ending "Dr. Strangelove" with an outer-space hydra monster/narrator poking fun at Earth as an extinct nuclear wasteland useful only for educational purposes. Heavy stuff! Maybe the inception from which the vision hatched for "2001: A Space Odyssey" five years later? Also, where is the War Room pie fight finale? I want to see it, stat.

John Frankenheimer's SECONDS (1966) on TCM-HD for the first time. Saw this last Thanksgiving weekend (right after watching "Speed Racer") alone and late at night. Needless to say it blew my freaking little mind even though I could see the ending coming a continent away (too much "Twilight Zone" training I guess) but, to the movie's credit, knowing what was coming didn't make watching it any less painful or wrenching. I haven't seen enough Rock Hudson movies to have an opinion about the man but, based on his work in "Seconds" alone, he must have been a helluva good performer saddled with s*** roles and scripts. Unlike John Randolph's easy-to-buy willingness to grab an out-of-nowhere escape from his banal middle-aged existence, it's Hudson who sells the idea (and does it convincingly) that his good-looking being is tortured on the inside and wants out (something we now know Rock didn't have to dig too deep within himself to find). James Wong Howe's B&W cinematography is spectacular, Saul Bass' opening credits seem like a continuation of his 'eye' shot from "Psycho," the supporting performances perfect (never have impish little old man in business attire looked more menacing), Jerry Goldsmith's score is excellent and the picture's overall mood so oppressive even during supposedly calm scenes (i.e. the grave-stomping orgy) that it all helps us understand why Hamilton/Wilson does what he does even though we're all screaming at him 'don't do it!' I'm slowly getting the memo (better late than never): Frankenheimer was a very underrated 'auteur' of modern cinema, and "Seconds" is exhibit A. Where's the Blu-ray Criterion?

Nagisa Ôshima's EMPIRE OF PASSIONS (1978) on Criterion DVD for the first time. Far less sexually explicit (but not by that much) though equally steamy, Ôshima's ghost story/erotic thriller has the director firmly at the helm of a rural Japanese cautionary ghost story that could be laughable if handled incorrectly. Instead its yet another exploration of guilt-ridden souls craving physical intimacy while wrestling with society disapproval and inner demons far more scary than anything on-screen (although Takahiro Tamura's Gisaburo as a rickshaw-pushing ghost is mighty creepy). The lovers at the center of the story feel more human (flawed character and all) than their intolerant neighbors, and are thus more accessible than the similar-but-off-putting couple from "In the Realm of the Senses." If you can buy the movie's 26 year age difference between Tatsuya Fuji's Toyoji and Kazuko Yoshiyuki's Seki (instead of the actors' real-life six year age difference) "Empire of Passions" has more brains, eroticism and passion (duh!) than a dozen "Fatal Attractions" and "Basic Instincts" put together.

John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) on Blu-ray. Rented this BD because I don't want to part with the Special Edition's excellent features/superb packaging. While it's still all kinds of awesome this is the first time I've felt "Escape From New York" was moving way too slow and very little actually happens. Maybe it's because I'll be turning 38 this Thursday. :( Kurt is still the man (and Konami owes him "Metal Gear Solid" royalties as far as I'm concerned) but he's more of a poser and pretender than an actual hands-on man of action through most of the movie. And the high-def transfer, sadly, doesn't do much to bring detail out of a Dean Cundey-shot anamorphic picture that was darkly lit to begin with. "Escape From New York's" cast of bad-ass men and women (Borgnine, Hayes, Van Cleef, Barbeau, Dean Stanton, Pleasence, etc.) exist in a dystopian, atmospheric vision of Howard Hawk's motifs trapped in an early 80's exploitation cinema universe. It's 100% pure Carpenter, and thus can never be anything less than goddamn awesome.

GALAXY OF TERROR (1981) on DVD for the first time. Another rental, and that's all I really need out of this decent but joyless ripoff from "Alien." While the better Corman cheap flicks are good for a laugh (especially the B&W one's that wound up skewered on "MST3K") there's also the one's that take themselves seriously and inhabit that no man's land middle-ground between good-enough and passable with little to recommend. Except for the cast (nice mix of character actors like Ray Walston and nobodies like "Happy Days'" Erin Moran), practical SFX work (James Cameron sure knew how to matte paint!) and the bug rape (which isn't kinky or funny, just awkward and gross) "Galaxy of Terror" couldn't get out of my DVD player and back in Blockbuster shelves fast enough.

STRANGE BEHAVIOR (1981) on TCM-HD for the first time. I'm not immune to the charms of low-budget early 80's horror movies ("Sleepaway Camp" is one of my all-time favorites) but this one misses the barn-sized target by a wide margin. The premise isn't half-bad (experiments at a local college on young people's minds turns them into murderers) but the cast is so bland ("Superman's" Marc McClure is prominently featured for heaven's sake!), the gore/blood effects so bad (and shot as ineptly as the effects are staged) and the direction so lackluster (lots of point-and-shoot set-ups that aren't even properly framed) that I only found joy when the movie was over. If the relationship between sheriff Brady and son Pete (Michael Murphy and Dan Shor, respectively) was meant to be the moral center of the movie I missed that subplot entirely. And, like Kathleen Turner in "Marley & Me," Louise Fletcher is top-billed for miniscule, forgettable work. Even the Tangerine Dreams soundtrack (how many 80's movies did this band score?) is forgettable. Thanks Bill Condon, you've come a long way to remind me that once upon a decade you put out crap that makes "Madman" and "The Burning" look like "Halloween."

Don Coscarelli's THE BEASTMASTER (1982) on DVD with the commentary track. I'm not a fan of 80's sword & sorcery movies (haven't seen "Labyrinth," "Legend," "Willow," "The Dragonslayer," "The Dark Crystal," "The Princess Bride," etc.) but this low-budget cult classic is the type of well-made cheese that's just fun to watch on a boring Saturday afternoon (like I did on New Year's). Marc Singer's conviction sells us on his heroic antics (buff and bloodless killing machine one moment, tender and smiling dope the next), Tanya Roberts is topless (early 80's PG rating ruled!), trained animals pretend to attack people, friends (John Amos) kick ass alongside the hero and Rip Torn chews off a huge chunk of scenery (a fake pyramid's worth). The primitive pre-CG effects charm rather than hurt (you can clearly see the paint on the black tiger) and the movie just wants to entertain you for two hours. Coscarelli and co-producer/friend Paul Pepperman have a laid-back track in which they share frustrations and their love for the project with delightful candor. Saw this two years ago and it's still a fun little flick.

Rewatched Ivan Reitman's GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) on Blu-ray. I agree with the5thghostbuster that the first movie one sees in the new year is an important one. That's why this guaranteed pleaser (which always makes me laugh and/or brings a smile to my face) was the first movie I saw in 2011 after the New Year's festivity was over. Don't know why but this time the 'wrath of God' speech the guys give to the mayor (which is already hilarious to begin with) struck me as funnier than usual and had me laughing outloud at 3AM. :D

Stuart Gordon's FROM BEYOND (1986) on DVD. Like the last time I saw it (remember?) I couldn't help but immediately rewatch "From Beyond" a second time with the commentary track after seeing the movie. Stuart Gordon has a directorial style that lacks flash or signature visuals but it always shows you enough (or too much if you're the MPAA!) to keep you going from one unbelievable set-piece to the next without missing a beat. Jeffrey Combs, Ted Sorel (villains don't come nastier than the guy that 'became the thing that ate him') and Barbara Crampton (in what amounts to a "Re-Animator" role reversal with Combs) do terrific work but Ken Foree, sadly, is miscast and just plain bad as the comic relief muscle backing up the 'good' scientists. What the movie lacks in production values (the Pretorious house, Resonator machine and laboratory look super-cheap) it overcompensates for with gory SFX, great cinematography (which does for bright pink hues what "Re-Animator" did for bright green), uniquely grotesque monster designs and a decent Richard Band music score. The commentary is great (Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna tackle production; Combs and Crampton crack endless jokes) and reminded me of the fun making/watching a good horror movie can be. A double-bill of "Videodrome" and "From Beyond" for this year's Halloween WATCHING challenge would open quite a few eyes around here (wink, wink).

James Foley's AFTER DARK, MY SWEET (1991) on Sundance Channel for the first time. It took me two viewings to 'get it' (and also because I wanted to dwell on the simple fact Rachel Ward looks smoking hot!) but this is an underrated film noir about three losers getting together to execute a doomed 'get rich quick' scheme. Jason Patric (looking in the movie a lot like he looks now) makes for both a pathetic but also sympathetic tortured soul as a boxer that's down on his luck and maybe even an escaped mental patient. Jason's physical look and paunchy walk go a long way to sell his character's downward spiral, something the boxing flashbacks (badly staged) and love-making scenes (which show him to be a stud) tend to undercut. There are scenes between 'the Kid' and a local doctor (George Dickerson) so wrapped with homosexual undertones I seriously wondered if they were taking place inside the character's mind. Bruce Dern's Uncle Bud reminds me of a character Peter Weller played on the just-concluded fifth season of "Dexter" that is a lot more pathetic than his threatening exterior indicates; Dern has few scenes but when he's on the movie perks up. And, as the femme fatale, Ward has the delicate task of making us love and hate the way Fay seems to constantly switch sides between Bud and 'the Kid.' The small budget shows but James Foley's direction is tight and focused. Nice little film noir for those that saw "The Killer Inside Me" and were left wanting more Jim Thompson-based movie adaptations.

MST3K #815: AGENT FOR H.A.R.M. (1997/1966) on DVD. This MST3K experiment doesn't get a lot of love from fans (and is permanently saddled with host segments tied to the first half of Season 8's crazy ongoing plot about Mike Nelson blowing-up planets left and right) but it's one of my personal favorites. There's something about a TV pilot masquerading as a theatrical feature that wants to talk and walk like James Bond, but instead produces TV veteran Peter Mark Richman and asks us to buy his Cardigan sweater-wearing behind as a chick magnet with killer moves he learned on the 'judo range.' Since the movie couldn't use the James Bond music Mike and the Bots supply it with their mouths ('da dat DA DAAAAA...') along with an unending litany of hilarious spy-era jokes to complement the 95% action-free flick. The nonsensical plot about a 'spore gun' derived from a meteorite (!), the pretty girl (Barbara Bouchét) who may or may not be related to the 'spore gun' inventor (Carl Esmond) and some interchangeable bad guys can't compete with the majesty and beauty of the movie's hidden lair... a duplex beach home near Venice Beach, CA. :lol: The 'Agent Prince' jokes in "Agent for H.A.R.M" had me laughing harder than at any time since this season's next-to-last "Dexter" season finale.

Mamoru Hosoda's SUMMER WARS (2009) in theaters for the first time. Imagine the relationship between the fictitious Erica Albright character and Mark Zuckerberg from "The Social Network" (if these two were Japanese high-school students) at the heart of an anime crossover between "War Games," "South Park's" Cartoon Wars episodes and Ozu's "Tokyo Story" (?!?!) that takes place both (a) inside a virtual OZ that's like a cross between Facebok & Hello Kitty as well as (b) a traditional & laid-back Japanese Villa. That's "Summer Wars" and, though it has its fair share of gigantic explosions and over-the-top anime action set-pieces, there's a surprisingly restrained touch and sincere attempt to keep the human drama of an extended family gathering for their Matriarch's 90th birthday as prominent and important as the plunging satellite from outer space (and the accounts-gathering cybermonster that threatens all of humanity). There are moments when the director can't shake his roots as the helmer of "Digimon" animated features (especially a climactic scene involving the all-bets-are-off virtual playing of a Hanafuda Koi Koi card game) but the unique look of OZ and its millions of avatars, interesting premise and see-saw between all-out action and pathos (if you've seen "Tokyo Story" I don't need to tell you what happens at the end) makes up for the overwhelming number of characters to keep track of (way too many Jinnouchi family members) and seen-it-a-million-times-before romance between beauty and the geek. Surprised Warner brought this over to the States for a limited theatrical release; the NYC theater I attended last Saturday night only had three paying customers (including me)! :?
by J.M. Vargas
Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:24 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!
Replies: 125
Views: 10280

Re: Favorite Movies of 2010

Stolen from Facebook:

As the end of the year rapidly approaches, and I take in what is probably my last theatrical flick of the year, thoughts turn to the past 12 months of movies, both at home and in a darkened room with a 40 foot screen and a couple of hundred strangers. It wasn’t a ‘quote’ “GREAT” year for movies, but it was certainly a fun one. 2010 was undoubtedly the “summer of action”, with a more concentrated level of asskicking than just about any other year since the 1980s, and science fiction got a little love as well. The year won’t go down in history or anything, but the ratio of good:garbge was definitely skewed to the “good” side.

One of the joys of being a writer for DVDVerdict is the fact that it does give some small measure of legitimacy to an opinion. The fact that someone felt my writing was strong enough to give me an output, and the opportunity to comment or critique some pretty high profile titles, is both an honor and a privilege, no matter how small a measure of legitimacy it actually affords. There another luxury afforded as well; I needn’t concern myself with my peers, and when I do sit down and craft a top 10 list of my favorite films of 2010, in purely pretentious fashion, I needn’t concern myself with tarnishing said minute legitimacy by listing movies like “Legend of the Guardians”. Yes, these are my favorite films of 2010, in numerical order, they may change over time, some films may be added, others may disappear, but as 2010 enters its twilight hours – these are the flicks I saw over the last 11 and 7/8th months that I felt the most joy while witnessing.

10- The Expendables – So much has been said of ‘Stallone and Friends’ that it probably easily grabs the “most hype” of 2010 award. Sure, the plot, something about a rogue CIA agent setting up shop on some fictional South American Island Republic only to be kicked the hell out by Stallone’s small time band of Private Military Contractors, makes about as much sense as Stallone’s Mom’s psychic powers, but damn it was a ton of fun. ‘The Expendables’ is a total throwback that lacks the smug self-awareness of other recent efforts (Black Dynamite was a riot and all, but hardly authentic). No, ‘The Expendables’ doesn’t smile and wave, or wink with tongue in cheek at ‘80s action flicks, it truly believes in its heart-of-hearts that this is 1987. It also brings the carnage in remarkable fashion, right down to a 30 minute final act battle royale that uses every ounce of its dream team stunt casting for maximum effect.

9- The Losers – If ‘The Expendables’ is the ultimate glimpse at action’s past, then ‘The Losers’ is a solid look at the present and future. It features all of the modern action trimmings, including corrupt agents and black-ops specialists, and it relies whole heartedly on the “men on a mission” scenario, but it also has a tight, relatively intelligent script (“Snukes” McGuffin notwithstanding) and a central cast that devours the material with aplomb. Even with a watered-down PG-13 rating, ‘The Losers’ handles the action extremely well, drips with style, and shines on the fact that it’s truly an ensemble picture with great performances from all involved (and one awesome villain in Jason Patric). The caper side of the flick is also clever and well implemented; the whole thing feels like ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ crossed with ‘The A-Team’. Sadly, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever get that sequel they setup in the closing moments.

8- The Wolfman – It’s been a while since I’ve payed any credence to ‘Horror’ as a genre. That’s not to say that I feel the genre is dead, but the sheer wealth of torture-porn, slasher homage and zombie crapola out there has made the whole “scary movie” scene rather stagnant. ‘The Wolfman’, with all of its stuffy gothic atmosphere and its morbid seriousness is like a breath of fresh air. As a collective whole, the cast is awesome, and the direction and effects-work is as top drawer as it gets. The movie looks stunning, and takes itself seriously enough to be taken seriously in return. It makes an incredible companion piece to Frances Ford Coppola’s early ‘90s take on ‘Dracula’.

7- The Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – Yes, this is a PG rated animated film from the director of ‘300’ and ‘The Watchmen’, and yes, it features talking owls. What I love about Zack Snyder’s take is that every ounce of his visual flair has made the transition intact, and beyond that, ‘The Legend of the Guardians’ is a different sort of animated beast. Like some of the best output from the house of mouse, or Don Bluth’s early ‘80s material, ‘Legend of the Guardians’ goes to some mighty dark places, and there’s no shortage of the same sort of violence and mature themes that shaped films like ‘The Black Cauldron’ ‘ The Dark Crystal’ or ‘The Secret of NIMH’ into the destroyers of fragile Child psyches that they are today. It’s so refreshing to find a children’s flick that doesn’t rely on potty humor, gimmicky voices, or garish colors, and instead falls back on the tale that it tells. It’s great to see a gorgeously animated film that isn’t tailored at the genetic level to sell happy meal toys, and above all else, armies of Owls fighting with 9-inch long metal blades on their talons are pretty damn bad ass. Imagine if a filmmaker like Ridley Scott or James Cameron had the sheer audacity to try something like this as early in their careers as Snyder did.

6- Centurion – For sheer rugged manly-manliness, ‘Centurion’ makes ‘The Expendables’ look like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Neil Marshall’s period pseudo-epic combines one part ‘Gladiator’ with one part ‘First Blood’. This is an action packed “Boy’s Own” adventure yarn about the Roman 9th Legion; a force that goes from 3000 strong to 7 cold and weary soldiers trying desperately to get back to Roman lines while being hunted through Dark Ages Scotland by Picts. Marshall does action incredibly well, and the cast, led by Michael Fassbinder and a terrifying nemesis in Bond-girl Olga Kurleynko do a great job with the material. Sure, it’s pulpy stuff, but pulp doesn’t get much better than this.

5- Robin Hood – The latest collaboration between Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe took a number of licks in the North American press, and was written off as a colossal failure in spite of its rather healthy critical and financial reception everywhere else in the world. It’s a shame, as Ridley has crafted another fine historical drama that provides a decidedly different take on the Robin Hood myth. All of Ridley’s typical strengths are on display; visual style, great performances, and a dramatic tale that plays better to a mature audience than to your average blockbuster fan. There’s not a feathered mullet or Bryan Adams song to be found, and nowhere within does Robin Hood don a pair of green tights and rob from the rich to feed the poor. This is a tale anchored in the reality of post crusades Britain, when the King fed off of the landowners with little given in return. It actually makes a fine follow-up and companion piece to Scott’s earlier Crusade-epic, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. Like that earlier film, stick with the director’s cut.

4- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – I was never a fan of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of manga inspired comic books, but with Edgar Wright involved, I had to give this one a shot. Visually, its one insane minute after another, full of sight gags and kung fu tomfoolery, but beneath the surface there’s a heartfelt tale about love, maturity, and respect. Plus, Scott Pilgrim’s quest to defeat the 7 evil exes who control the future of his soul mate’s love life is just stuffed to the brim with hilarity. Wright and O’Malley collaborated on the script, dumping what didn’t work, gouging out the series’ more bizarre flights of fancy, and grounding the film in a just this side of real world Toronto. Michael Cera is great, the supporting cast are universally awesome, and the evil Exes are pitch-perfect (especially Chris Evans and Brandon Routh). There’s also the great dialogue, great music, great sets, great fight scenes, hell – this is just one hell of a great movie.

3- The Town – Ben Affleck is quickly proving that not only is he a better than capable dramatic actor, but that he’s one hell of a force behind a camera as well. ‘The Town’ is a riveting crime drama in the spirit of Michael Mann’s best, with beautifully realized characters and some beautifully mounted action scenes sprinkled throughout. The film hinges on Affleck’s performance, and it’s easily a career best. The supporting cast is also universally fantastic, including another incredible turn from up and comer Jeremy Renner. The film’s “big score” set piece rivals the very best “robberies gone mad”, Think the Shootout in ‘Heat’ and you’ll have some idea of just how intense it is. There hasn’t been a lot of serious effort put into Crime films in recent years, but this is probably the best one to come along since the genre had its heyday in the 90s.

2- Inception – Much has been said about Christopher Nolan’s brain-bending thriller, and rightfully so. Nolan has crafted a science fiction masterpiece that’s one part treatise on human dreamscape and one part all out heist film. Leonardo DiCaprio shines, backed by an intelligent and thought provoking script, but it’s the ideas, the surreal images, and the narrative flow that really make ‘Inception’ truly something special. It keeps you guessing, it sideswipes you, and the labyrinthine machinations of Cobb and his team of dream thieves keep you on your toes until the final, fantastically low-key conclusion. Seldom do we see a thriller on such a huge scale feature such a vivid imagination, but ‘Inception’ pulls it off, and is relentlessly entertaining.

1- True Grit – I’ll be up front here, The Coens haven’t been the same for me since 2001’s ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’. That’s not to say that their post ‘00s offerings suffered, but there was some floundering there, accompanied by a smattering of sombre self indulgences. There’s no doubt that Joel and Ethan are truly gifted and challenging filmmakers, but their later work, while still suitably quirky, lacked that charm and appeal that peppered even the darkest of trips they took us on in their earlier films. ‘True Grit’ is very likely their masterpiece. The film captures everything that’s best about the Brothers Coen, both from their earlier efforts and their later works, and gives a seamless blend that goes beyond anything else in their extensive body of work. Forget John Wayne’s 1969 version, this is not a remake of that film, but rather an adaptation of the source novel, and it nails the tone and the tale perfectly. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin all turn in exemplary performances, but it’s the young lead, Ms. Hailee Steinfeld who really steals the film and just pulls you in. The film also looks and sounds absolutely beautiful thanks to the efforts of longtime Coen collaborators; Cinematographer Roger Deakins, and composer Carter Burwell. The rest of this list may have been a tad difficult to put together, but there was no doubt as to which film was taking #1.
by Steve T Power
Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:18 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Favorite Movies of 2010
Replies: 25
Views: 2713

Re: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!

Dollhouse episodes 1 & 2 (Ghost and The Target—not Echo, aka episode 0). So far I love the show. Very Ghost in the Shell, which I've no doubt was a major influence. The dialogue is smart, but the Whedonisms are dialed way down. It doesn't feel as though all the characters have the same voice as in Buffy and Firefly.
by Andrew Forbes
Sun Jan 02, 2011 1:07 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!
Replies: 125
Views: 10280

January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY! :D

There's a ton of stuff I watched as far back as Thanksgiving (and as early as this evening) that I haven't written about. So here's PART ONE:

Rewatched CASABLANCA (1942) on HD-DVD with the Roger Ebert commentary track. Funny how, even though I know Michael Curtiz directed "Casablanca," I can't bring myself to put his name before the movie's title. To me the movie doesn't belong to any one actor or crew member (not even Bogart, whose Rick Blaine needs interaction with the other characters to bring out the best in him and viceversa) but it's that organic photoplay that lives and pulsates to its own synergy of audience friendly near-perfection. With all due apologies to Nobuhiko Ôbayashi's "House," "Casablanca" is the only motion picture with any right to start by calling itself 'A MOVIE' because that's what it is: not Michael Curtiz' vision, not the Bogey-Bergman show, not the Claude Rains show or the Dooley 'Sam' Wilson musical hour... it's just "Casablanca." It's also nice to have Uncle Roger's voice forever immortalized while talking about a movie he truly loves even as his critiques of it (those darned transit papers) are valid without taking away from its worth.

Rewatched Alfred Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) on DVD with the commentary track on. Robert Walker was DA MAN. Shame his career was cut short because he could have gone on to become an even greater character actor (probably in a few other Hitchcock movies) although I doubt he would have ever topped his Bruno Antony role. I'm not a fan of scholarly commentary tracks that piece together audio clips from interviews (no spontaneity) but the one here is decent enough.

Rewatched Charles Laughton's NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) on Criterion Blu-ray. It just gets better and better with repeat viewings. In its own twisted way this should become a Christmas (Halloween?) classic just like "It's A Wonderful Life" and be shown regularly on network TV. Will never happen but hey, a cinephile can dream. :)

Rewatched Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) on Blu-ray a couple more times (including the Stephen Rebello commentary track) plus all the extras/bonuses on the BD (same as the DVD CE). So, this past week I've watched "Psycho" more times than I did during my previous 37 years of age. Maybe it's because "Dexter" just ended its latest season and I'm pinning for a substitute, but I just cannot get enough of Norman and his crazy mother, the Crane sisters (and that hunk of meat named John Gavin they both take turns dragging around), Herrman's score, Balsam's Arbegast, Hitch's impish sense of humor, etc. The sequels are next (saw them once 18-20 or so years ago and only remember them being better than I expected) but I just don't have it in me to give Van Sant's 1998 shot-for-shot remake the courtesy of a tryout. What does the peanut gallery say?

Rewatched Ronald Neame's THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) and John Guillermin's THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) on DVD with their respective commentary tracks on. These two Irwin Allen productions are inseparable to me as the only really good disaster movie's from the 70's in which everything (premise, execution, star power, WOW factor, etc.) lived up to their own standards/hype. Everything else from this genre (including the disaster movies Allen directed himself) were just different variations on craptastic, guilty-pleasure trash. "Poseidon" and "Inferno" benefit from having experienced directors like Neame ("Tunes of Glory") and Guillermin ("Rapture") working with good actors while letting Irwin do what he did best: big action sequences on even bigger sets. These aren't the finest acting moments from the likes of McQueen, Hackman, Newman, etc. but it doesn't come across on-screen that these stars are slumming for a paycheck. It's almost reassuring to hear in both movies pre-"Star Wars" John Williams composed scores free of Mickey Mousing notes. And even though "Towering Inferno" is already on Blu-ray (with "Poseidon Adventure" sure to follow any day now) it'll be a long time before anyone pries these well-packed DVD catalogue titles (with their great cover artwork, lobby cards, booklets and stuff) from my cold dead hands. They're a reminder that not too long ago (2005) movie studios still put thought, effort and care into their home video catalogue releases.

In his "Poseidon" commentary Ronald Neame wishes he had dialed back the OOP acting from Hackman and Borgnine when their characters fight/argue; I disagree because, for the first time (and after numerous viewings), Rogo really grew on me and I was actually laughing with (instead of at) Borgnine arguing with Stella Stevens. Watched it earlier this evening (Dec. 31st) and "Poseidon Adventure" makes a great New Year's Eve flick despite the toy boat and Leslie Nielsen endlessly tempting one to laugh out loud. For the "Towering Inferno" commentary F.X. Feeney (who was really good in Criterion's "Night of the Hunter" group commentary) runs out of things to say and resorts too often to play-by-play of what's happening on-screen. Even after all these years and countless viewings though, "Towering Inferno" is one of those movies I get lost into and forget little details (did the two woman that ran on the roof toward the helicopter caused it to crash, or was it the wind all along? Why does Senator Vaughn try so hard to save Richard Chamberlain from killing himself?) that always startle me when they unfold in the narrative. Having just seen them on "Network" it was also weird to watch Faye Dunaway and William Holden with their clothes on. :D

MST3K KTMA-21: LEGEND OF THE DINOSAUR (1989/1977) on DVD for the first time. My trip through the formative years of "MST3K" concludes with yet another badly-dubbed Sandy Frank Japanese import, the show's last KTMA show before going national. Besides being at the top of their game and loose with the riffs (though a few jokes like 'Yellow Broadcasting System' are racist!) Joel and the bots benefit from (a) no little children in the cast (hooray!), (b) a trippy soundtrack (Billy Taylor meets Disco Inferno!), (c) very little actual dialogue from the characters and (d) the bonkers premise of an Earthquake releasing ancient Japanese monsters (not dinosaurs!) trapped below a lake into the surface. And yes, that's the same premise of this summer's bomb "Piranha 3D." Ironically, when it started on Season 1 of the national "MST3K," the show's humor/riffs took a step back from the latter KTMA-era experiments, primarily because they were riffing pretty bad old B&W American poverty row movies. Joel, Trace and J. Elvis Weinstein (whose take on Servo I've learned to appreciate and even like alongside Kevin Murphy's iconic voice) would only be sporadically as funny on the Comedy Channel's early days as they were on KTMA's final shows.

HEART OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER'S APOCALYPSE (1991) on Blu-ray. Except for the absence of even a still image of Harvey Keitel as Willard (for legal reasons I presume) this is as good and informative as a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of a movie can ever get given the time, money and egos involved in the making of "Apocalypse Now." The years separating the on-location old documentary footage from the shooting of the new documentary's talking head interviews help tremendously give both distance and perspective. You will never see Brando the same way again after watching his bug swallowing outtake, or see/hear a still-young F.F. Coppola in various mental stages (tyrant, diva, delusional, self-pity, etc.) and shirtless as he struggles to battle the elements (man-made as well as mother nature) to get his vision filmed. A commentary track by F.F. Coppola and his footage-shooting wife (both recorded separately) achieves a degree of meta-reflection seldom experienced in contemporary media; old Coppola commenting on what middle-aged Coppola circa 1990 was thinking about what young Coppola circa 1977 was doing in The Philippines (all backed by grainy but sharp 16mm footage) is as surreal as any moment in the actual "Apocalypse Now" movie. Not the best movie of 1991 (an honor Gene Siskel bestowed upon it) but a great BD to have alongside the genuine article.

Rewatched Bryan Singer's THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) on Blu-ray. Very soft and old MPEG-2 transfer (released back during the war with HD-DVD) hampers this one from truly shining in high-def. The extra boost in detail over DVD (particularly close-ups of Spacey, Byrne and Palminteri) also highlight how compressed and lacking in space this BD-25 disc is, even without extras (except a dozen space-hugging HD trailers for other MGM/Sony movies like "S.W.A.T." <sigh>). Oh well, unless I have the need to hear Singer, Ottman & co. yap (it's what the old DVD is for), "The Usual Suspects" on BD is still the same endlessly rewatchable whodunit I've always loved.

Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX (2001) on Blu-ray. Before I saw the theatrical version of "Apocalypse Now" with my parents (remember?) I watched "Redux" to refresh my memory. Because of Kilgore's obsession with surfing and the stolen surfing board Lance (Sam Bottoms) is more prominently featured in "Redux," which makes his descent into madness more harrowing and visible (he's more of a background player in the theatrical cut). The French Plantation scene is endless and borderline pointless (plus the French actors are weak); it's one more softening of Martin Sheen's Willard (more playful and 'one of us' with the boat's crew) which just doesn't play as well as Willard's stoic, quiet and inner-conflicted persona Sheen projects in the theatrical version. Watching "Redux" (both the good and bad stuff within its bloated running time) makes one admire the maturity and vision that a younger Francis Coppola showed back in '79 when trimming out the fat from "Apocalypse Now" before its theatrical release. I'm happy to own "Redux," but I'm even more happy that it's an optional version of "AN" within the same BD and not the only one.

BULLETPROOF MONK (2003) on MGM-HD for the first time. Like "The Matrix" with all the soul, myth and charm drained from it, this comic book adaptation is a barrage of now-dated SFX-fueled action stunts that don't pass the laugh test or excite. Chow Yun-Fat tries hard and we still love him (seriously, who doesn't like Tequila? ;-)) but his charm alone cannot sustain an action movie in which director Paul Hunter (a music video guy who hasn't helmed a feature since "BM" bombed at the box office) is more concerned with CG-enhanced camera tricks and PG-13 fight choreography to pay attention to the fact nothing on-screen is working character/storywise. Seann William Scot just effin' grates as Kar (our hero?) and Jaime King looks like she wondered off the "Elektra" set, but at least the heavy (played by Marcus Jean Pirae) is hiss-worthy. This is one those high-def movies where the clarity of the image actually works against the flick by exposing the obvious fakery of the CG character models. This also happened to the "Matrix" sequels, but at least those movies had memorable characters (Neo), good actors (Fishburne) and a vision (the Wachowskis') guiding one past the action scenes. "Bulletproof Monk" doesn't, hence its supreme suckage.

Rewatched FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (2004) on Blu-ray with the commentary track on. I'm glad these guys (director John Moore & crew) had a blast making this remake of the old Jimmy Stewart classic; their enthusiasm for the project (and jealousy of Dennis Quaid's ripped physique :shock: ) comes through in this commentary. But that still doesn't make the movie any better or more thrilling than your generic, creatively-hampered Hollywood remake. Except as a demo movie for the DTS soundtrack (L-O-U-D) so my sister can play around with her new Blu-ray player "Flight of the Phoenix" has nothing left to offer me.

CONVICTION (2006) on DVD for the first time. This 13-episode spinoff from the "Law & Order" TV series (created to use the built sets from then just-canceled "Law & Order: Trial By Jury" spinoff before "Conviction" also got the ax) is the opposite of the mothership show that spawned it. The personal lives of a dozen or so young NYC prosecutors (including a borderline-ridiculous amount of sex scenes meant to appeal to a young audience) are front and center, with the cases at hand either backdrop or something tied to a cast member's personal issue. There's a ridiculously annoying jazzy score in the background during lots of scenes that nearly drove me bonkers. Except for two of its cast members (Milena Govich and Julianne Nicholson) going on to star in the main "L&O" shows "Conviction" is disposable, forgettable TV that only makes a "L&O" whore like myself miss the mothership even more.

Rewatched SPEED RACER (2008) on Blu-ray a couple of times, once on my parents' 52" Samsung LCD with 120hz refresh rate (i.e. the one's that make movies look like soap operas) which was pure visual nirvana. The mixture of artificial backgrounds, insanely-colorful hues, non-stop camera movement and super-imposed actors works as good as any CG animation in bringing out the liquid-smooth best out of high-def TV's that refresh a screen higher than the used-to-be-standard 60hz refresh rate of regular and plasma TV's. To me, surprisingly, the movie keeps getting better and better with repeat viewings (even Paulie Litt and the chimp's antics grew on me, although there's still way too much of these two on-screen) because of how straight and serious this cast of pros play the crazy stuff the Wachowski brothers ask of them. The scenes between Benno Fürmann (a German actor with nothing else on his resume) and Matthew Fox's Racer X are particularly well acted. As just a demo of how pretty two-dimensional HD can look and/or a wild, imaginative adaptation of an anime property into live action run amok (with a Hollywood budget to match) "Speed Racer" will always park into my winner's circle.

More to come...
by J.M. Vargas
Fri Dec 31, 2010 10:20 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: January WATCHING Thread of Catching-Up!
Replies: 125
Views: 10280

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) on Blu-ray. This is only the third time I've seen the movie but, since it's been several years since I saw it last (on VHS to boot), watching it again in high-def blew my mind and not just because of John Russell's tight B&W photography. Yes, the exposition-spewing psychiatrist at the end really blows (though it cracked me up that Lila Crane takes the news that her sister is dead so well) but that final scene with Mrs. Bates' voice-over is just ice-cold chilly AND FUNNY! This is what stood out for me watching "Psycho" again: the gallows humor. The movie's first 25 minutes are just one disaster after another (man-made as well as forced by nature) forcing Marion's guilt-ridden fugitive (Janet Leigh) into the unsuspecting arms of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Hitch dispatching our leading lady when she's made the decision to turn her life around... with just 15 minutes left between her and safety... just WOW! BTW, are the voices that Marion hears as she's driving (the cop talking to the car dealer, the boss talking to the secretary, etc.) figments of her paranoid imagination or actual conversations taking place? I know Hitch intended these inner-voices to be both real and imagined (per the movie's bonus features) but for me the movie works better if these are imagined conversations. Regardless, Bernard Herrman's score is flat-out incredible (though I admit to personally liking the rip-off score from "Re-Animator" a little bit better) and Saul Bass' opening titles/little visual tricks enhance the nightmare-happening-in-reality feel. Like "The Usual Suspects" this is a movie that is still fun to watch despite everyone knowing THE SCENE from overexposure in pop culture lore, done back when blood evidence could be wiped away with a bucket & mop and DNA were just three randomly put-together alphabet letters.

LISA LAMPANELLI: THE QUEEN OF MEAN (2002) on Netflix Instant Watch for the first time. I'd never seen Lisa outside her late night stand-up appearances and Comedy Central roasts (where she always killed despite the handicap of bleeps and censorship). Watching this uncensored Lisa stand-up performance from 2002 with friends & relatives on Christmas Eve (the first thing I've ever watched on Netflix Instant Watch via my sister's account) I realized a little bit of Lampanelli goes a long way. Though it's refreshing to see politically incorrect humor Lisa has been riding the 'I date black men' and 'aren't I shocking?' schticks for way too long (I heard jokes in this 2002 stand-up I've heard her repeat recently). Just calling people in the audience 'Jew' or 'Black Guy' isn't funny anymore (hasn't really been since Don Rickles made insult humor his calling card) but, if you're in a forgiving mood, Lisa is one loud and funny broad. ;-)

Rewatched David Cronenberg's A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) on Blu-ray with the director's commentary track on. I didn't like this the first time I saw it. Cronenberg's commentary has almost single-handedly convinced me that I saw the movie with the wrong perspective clouding my initial judgement. Since the publicity and regular movie descriptions gave away that Tom Stall has a violent side to his seemingly mild-mannered personality I already knew what was coming; Cronenberg makes it clear in the commentary he intended the movie to be seen without the audience knowing that Tom had a hidden side. I didn't see the movie as the duel of personalities between Joey and Tom, or appreciated the subtle acting nods that Viggo made to distinguish one personality from the other. And the slow-burn, irony-free way 80% of the movie unfolds didn't prepare me for the John Hurt hurricane that his hilarious Richie character turns out to be. I still have issues with the movie (Ashton Holmes' mopey portrayal of bullied son Jack in particular) but it went from being on my 'to be traded' pile into the must-keep one despite being an underwhelming-looking high-def disc.

MARLEY & ME (2008) on Blu-ray for the first time. Funny that, for a movie about a dog, the only thing I remember about this flick is Alan Arkin making me laugh hysterically with his deadpan Florida newspaper character. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston (with an inexplicably top-tier billed Kathleen Turner for what amounts to a minute-long cameo) essentially disappear into a forgettable rump about troubled professionals (i.e. whiny yuppies) on an upward career/family trajectory they don't seem to appreciate. In between their domestic and familial squabbles stunt dogs get into mischief and, at the end, you're supposed to care about any of them (human or animal). There's a throwaway scene in the middle of the movie when Owen attends to a female neighbor he hadn't bothered to meet for years that had just been victimized. Maybe if Owen's character had bothered to befriend this neighbor (instead of dragging Jennifer and their kids to a safer neighborhood) I would have liked or given a damn about these self-centered bastards. Also, like "A History of Violence," the high-def transfer on this Fox BD is shy of being barely worth the price premium (even though I got the three-disc BD set for ten bucks).

Rewatched Neill Blomkamp's DISTRICT 9 (2009) on Blu-ray with the director's commentary track on. This is such a self-assured and well-done potpourri of a motion picture (mock documentary, balls-to-the-wall action. social critique, etc.) it's easy to forget this is Blomkamp's first feature-length movie. And, as good as the special effects and Sharlto Copley's lead-performance are, David James steals the movie as bad-ass mercenary Koobus.

KEVIN HART: SERIOUSLY FUNNY (2010) on Netflix Instant Watch for the first time. What Kevin lacks in stand-up skills (he talks way too fast and is often impossible to follow the set-ups) or originality (the 'married with children' schtick has been mined to death) he more than makes-up with split-second timing and facial gestures/mannerisms that are hilarious. His 'peeping Grandpa' segment is a gut-buster (as is making fun of Shaq and LeBron James to their faces) but Kevin is better off sticking to the Hollywood paycheck roles that make him a recognizable 'that guy looks familiar' face.

David Fincher's THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010) in theaters for the first time. Saw this Christmas Day in a packed NYC theater and loved it. Great casting (Garfield and Eisenberg particularly), Sorkin's quirky/rapid-pace dialogue is always a delight to hear (especially when uttered by Rooney Mara) and the mature Fincher's tendency to let his movies feel conventional (while showing themselves to be anything but on repeat viewing) didn't prepare me for how engaging and interesting a movie than can be described in a couple of sentences could be. The seemingly-convenient device of using depositions to tell the characters' stories (which isn't about Facebook as much as the life-altering friendships, betrayals and decisions young people make that they carry with them for the rest of their lives) is brilliant because it allows us to witness within the span of the 121 min. running time what the young kids we're watching grew up to become. I knew of Fincher's penchant for 'invisible' SFX shots and I thought I spotted a couple (background plates in Harvard campus, the Thames rowing scenes, etc.) but I had no idea Armie Hammer played both Winklevoss twins. Holy s***, I was completely fooled and had no idea Hammer was pulling a double-role until I read about it afterwards. That's the highest complement I can pay to the SFX shots of the movie. I could relate to the somewhat-fictitious Zuckerberg's subtle (unconscious?) efforts to isolate himself emotionally from the characters that showed him true affection. The movie's final scene isn't as emotionally powerful as "City Lights" or any other film in which a lonely person pines for an impossible loved one's affection, but for a generation reared on "Transformers" CGI blockbusters it might as well be.

Sylvain Chomet's THE ILLUSIONIST (2010) in theaters for the first time. "The Illusionist" takes a running thread of the Hulot movies (a young woman with whom Hulot develops a kinship that borders on, but never fully blossoms into, true love), expands on it and then wraps it around a 'what if' scenario (Tati never becoming a filmmaker and continuing his stage act into has-been status) that is both magical, occasionally funny but also brutally depressing toward the end. The movie's last 10-15 minutes skew humor for the type of heartbreaking pathos that the live-action Hulot movies only hinted at. As a relative newcomer to Jacques Tati that saw and loved all his movies this year (starting with "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" in May) I'm amazed an animated movie with such narrow appeal would even be made. It might connect with new viewers unfamiliar with the Hulot character or Tati's personal life (for whom this will feel like the most depressing and existentialist animated feature since "Grave of the Fireflies") but they'll miss the movie's true worth. The more familiar you are with the character/person behind the animated drawings the more you'll get out of this. "The Illusionist" looks gorgeous (a lot of it invisible CG but mostly hand-drawn) and yes, it allows Tati fans a chance to experience the Hulot-like antics one more time in animated form (and without the super-deformed style that characterized Chomet's "The Triplets of Belleville"). Chomet wisely keeps the animated Tati tricks within the realm of human possibility (no exploding cigars or "Pink Panther"-type antics) which, like the Hulot movies, results in a steady trickle of small laughs. The rock musicians gag (stay tuned until after the credits for this and similar gags to pay off) was my favorite. For Tati enthusiasts (or fans of Chaplin's "Limelight," which "The Illusionist" often resembles).

Sofia Coppola's SOMEWHERE (2010) in theaters for the first time. Sofia is quickly becoming the most well-known and publicized director of a cinematic genre with little-to-no commercial appeal whatsoever (unless you get Bill Murray to star and give career-best work). Even if "Somewhere" didn't work for me as a whole movie (the ending cold-cocked me, the opposite of the knock-out opening scene even though both feature basically the same actor/prop doing similar things), there are many scenes that are quietly powerful and add-up. A mesmerizing zoom-in during Johnny's prosthetic make-up session and its equivalent bookend zoom-out when Johnny and Cleo are sunbathing by the pool (the latter landing on the movie's poster) stand out. Though not autobiographical you can tell Sofia is using personal observations of her life inside the showbiz bubble to feed the movie's believable moments; the midnight ice cream sampling while watching a "Friends" rerun dubbed in Italian (and the awkward morning-after breakfast between Johnny, Cleo and an Italian actress) is the type of perfectly-executed scene that didn't feel forced. Sofia's editing rhythm and decision to let scenes breathe far longer than they would in a normal movie (like an ice dancing scene establishing both the intimacy of Johnny's relationship with his daughter as well as Cleo's normalcy) give Johnny's chaotic slice-of-life vignettes the poignancy of both a normal life lived but also wasted. Ironically the movie's final scenes, to me, undermine the simplicity of the movie that preceded them. As good as Dorff is he doesn't sell his emotional breakdown well-enough to make me buy what he does at the end. Little Elle Fanning (whose breakdown while being driven to summer camp I completely bought) could actually score an Academy Award nomination from her portrayal of Cleo, she's that good and convincing as a showbiz daughter that (against the odds as portrayed in this movie) retains her normalcy and wits about herself. Not as good as "Lost In Translation" but definitely made from the same sturdy template.
by J.M. Vargas
Mon Dec 27, 2010 1:59 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Love and Other Drugs -- I feel with the many tonal shifts in this film, that Edward Zwick should've pitched this as an HBO or Showtime TV series to give the secondary characters (Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Oliver Platt) room to breathe. Still, even with the tonal shifts, I still liked it just for Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway's performances.
by azul017
Wed Dec 22, 2010 12:20 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Andrew Forbes wrote:Broken Trail part one. If the second half lives up to the promise of the first, this will rank among my favorite westerns. The plot meanders, but in an organic way that perfectly complements the livelihood of the characters. Alan Geoffrion's dialogue is by turns naturalistic and lyrical, and Walter Hill's direction is unobtrusive, with a keen eye to character and tone. He wisely avoids the overt stylization of The Warriors or Wild Bill. The gorgeous southern Alberta landscapes are the icing on the cake.

After part two, I'm slightly less enthusiastic, but that isn't to say that this isn't a fantastic film. It's merely that certain plot threads are resolved in a conventional way, which keeps the movie from true greatness. Still, it has more than earned its spot on my shelf. This is a western with a delicacy and depth of feeling equal to that of The Shootist.
by Andrew Forbes
Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:40 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Broken Trail part one. If the second half lives up to the promise of the first, this will rank among my favorite westerns. The plot meanders, but in an organic way that perfectly complements the livelihood of the characters. Alan Geoffrion's dialogue is by turns naturalistic and lyrical, and Walter Hill's direction is unobtrusive, with a keen eye to character and tone. He wisely avoids the overt stylization of The Warriors or Wild Bill. The gorgeous southern Alberta landscapes are the icing on the cake.
by Andrew Forbes
Sun Dec 19, 2010 4:09 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Mystery, Alaska - A great hidden gem that I loved. This is despite the fact that I generally don't care for happy little movies about quaint small towns, nor do I have any interest in sports whatsoever. This should have been forgettable, but it really took the idea of what a small town is and realistically fleshed that out, and showed the differences between that and a larger and "more civilized" metropolitan culture. Lots of characters all with their own subplots and moments, all while keeping the movie fun and inspirational. You know you're in for something different when right in the beginning a little kid blurts out "F__ ME!!" This actaully got the R rating, which you'd never expect something with this subject matter to go for. Highly recommended.
by mavrach
Sun Dec 19, 2010 3:23 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Juan Antonio Bardem's DEATH OF A CYCLIST (1955) on IFC-HD for the first time. I'm a big a fan of Spain cinema and have no trouble reading between the lines what filmmakers from that era had to do to get around the Franco regime's censorship. But this movie left me cold, unmoved, bored to tears and desinterested. Basically what I got was that Bardem really liked Hitchcock, really liked Hollywood film noir thrillers and really felt like hammering his viewers with the social class pettiness of his characters relentlessly. Maybe if Juan had a fling with Matilde it would have spiced things up dramatically (and given María José a stronger reason for doing to Juan what she does before the end) but that would have gotten in the way of Bardem's depiction of Juan as one of the most inner-conflicted, guilt-ridden, middle-class pussies to appear in a Spaniard flick. Lucia Bosé delivers a cold, sexy portrayal of a woman for whom class status is worth cover killing for and, in the end, setting up her and her lover's downfall. Even at 84 minutes though this felt twice as long. Buñuel and Saura at least clouded their criticism of their targets under enough mise-en-scène technique and thematically entertaining stories/characters. Guess I have to watch more (uncle) Bardem flicks to see what's so great about his films that didn't come through in this one.

Alfonso Cuarón's SOLO CON TU PAREJA (1991) on Criterion DVD for the first time. Growing up in the 70's and 80's in a Spanish-speaking Central American country that got most of its non-American Spanish media (movies, telenovelas, TV shows, pop song stars, etc.) from Mexico I was constantly bombarded by an assault of the lowest-common denominator crap that came from that country. It's not like I didn't like Chespirito, Cantinflas or a really good Mexican telenovela every now and then, but to have only that type of entertainment endlessly recycled over and over again? It's like being a fan of all kinds of comedies but being stuck watching only "The Benny Hill Show." Which is why Cuarón's "SCTP" came as somewhat of a revelation to me given the time it was made (early 90's). Here's a low-budget Mexican 'sexicomedia' that chooses to emphasize male insecurity over macho posturing, color palette, Mozart music, a middle class lifestyle (rare for Mexico), young people's follies (who hasn't felt like killing themselves after being betrayed by a lover?) and friendship (the wacky neighbors that are not there just for cheap laughs) all wrapped in the neat and tidy bow of high brow cinematic aspiration. It's all Lubitsch-lite (but with drunken Japanese tourists as bonus!), a velvet-glove approach to screwball that doubles as satire of macho culture. The cast is OK, particularly Claudia Ramírez' Clarisa (who looks like Jennifer Connelly) but it's the style and pace of the movie's fancy that stands out more than the humor (which is scattershot at best). "SCTP" is basically an amusing, slightly weird curio of what Mexican cinema/culture was NOT LIKE back in the early 90's, i.e. good.

KNIGHT AND DAY (2010) on Blu-ray for the firs time. While I'm not as enthusiastic as Judge Becker (Grant and Hepburn comparisons for Cruise and Diaz, really?) I have to concur with his review: this is a much better and fun popcorn flick than I expected, the latest in an endless procesion of spy-themed escapist media that may have reached saturation point. Yes, the CGI-enhanced stunts are distractingly obvious; so were the one's in "Quantum of Solace." It doesn't mean I wasn't blown away by the motorcycle race through Sevilla as homage, parody and/or good ol' Hollywood car chase magic. "Knight and Day" has major pace issues (director James Mangold tries to pull a Robert Rodriguez trick and 'fade' away from the action... no dice!) but a somewhat-plausible McGuffin involving a battery (along with its wacky inventor) and a peppy, "Lambada"-inspired soundtrack keep the movie in the realm of tongue-and-cheek amusing. Cruise, bless his insane little heart, goes all out and sells his Roy Miller persona like Duvall in "Apocalypse Now," never once fearing he'd get hit by gunfire. Diaz is being her usual on-screen ditzy self but, by the third act, I totally bought that she'd put herself in danger so prince charming would come to the rescue; the 'truth serum' scene (an old chestunt for this type of flick) actually made me laugh out loud because Cameron sells it so well. Since nobody else in the cast stands out (Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis barely register) Tom and Cameron are it, but their chemistry is good-enough to get the movie (barely) across the finish line. I'd say rent it, or give it as an Xmas gift like I'm doing.
by J.M. Vargas
Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:53 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Winter's Bone
Fine performance by the young lead but is this ever one dour movie. The secondary characters failed to sell me on their ruthlessness. Doesn't end the way one might expect which for me was not a positive. Similarly frigidly titled Frozen River was much more satisfying. C+
by Future Man
Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:39 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

The Night of the Hunter Blu
I say this is overrated. Yes the lighting and overall style are very innovative and Mitchum’s character is certainly memorable but dramatically speaking the story is not well told. The climax is ill-staged and what follows with the townspeople is hard to follow or even comprehend. Perhaps worst of all, the (rural) secondary characters are condescendingly presented as garish stereotypes especially concerning their religious beliefs and practices.
by Future Man
Thu Dec 09, 2010 8:37 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

SPOLIERS AHEAD - though it may be a warning

Andrew Forbes wrote:Valhalla Rising SPOILERS

molly1216 wrote:Valhalla Rising (2009) which i watched twice and read the synopsis at the official site..and i still don't 'get it'.
not for one moment do i think that the character comes from the land where he finally ends up.
and he didn't managed to 'save' arn, now arn is not only alone but he's hell and gone from anywhere.
on the other hand...great fight scenes...only 120 lines of dialogue and the locations rock..literally.
so it's good, it just doesn't make much sense.

I'm not surprised that you're confused, given that the synopsis on the site gets the story wrong.

We're not meant to believe that One Eye is from North America. Keep in mind that all of the characters are deeply superstitious and attempt to reason through their circumstances with half-understood concepts from their mixed pagan and Christian heritage. They think One Eye, a stoic, deadly, silent threat, is from Hell. And faced with a new and lethal environment, they assume they've stumbled into it.

No, he didn't save Are in the sense that the boy is still more or less doomed to death through starvation, but there seemed to be a tacit understanding that he was trading his life for Are's immediate survival. The film's deliberately obtuse ambiguity serves to put the audience in the position of the characters: faced with an unforgiving world devoid of reason; challenged with making sense of the senseless; stuck with the brutality and desperation that drives this most basic level of survival, and left with no answers at the end. It's bleak stuff, but probably the best representation of ancient life I've seen in a movie. I loved it. It would make a great double feature with Aguirre: The Wrath of God
.


One Eye made good choices all the way through and then gets to end and made a riproaringly bad one?
bad story telling all around.
in a hollywood movie the ideal ending would have been for them to JOIN these warriors.
in a grownup, movie he would have died defending the boy and they would have taken the boy into their clan.
in a nihilistic european ending, both of them would have been killed
just leaving it with 1 stupid decision that accomplishing nothing just makes me angry.
it's like the director is playing a practical joke.
by molly1216
Sun Dec 05, 2010 5:38 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Valhalla Rising SPOILERS

molly1216 wrote:Valhalla Rising (2009) which i watched twice and read the synopsis at the official site..and i still don't 'get it'.
not for one moment do i think that the character comes from the land where he finally ends up.
and he didn't managed to 'save' arn, now arn is not only alone but he's hell and gone from anywhere.
on the other hand...great fight scenes...only 120 lines of dialogue and the locations rock..literally.
so it's good, it just doesn't make much sense.

I'm not surprised that you're confused, given that the synopsis on the site gets the story wrong.

We're not meant to believe that One Eye is from North America. Keep in mind that all of the characters are deeply superstitious and attempt to reason through their circumstances with half-understood concepts from their mixed pagan and Christian heritage. They think One Eye, a stoic, deadly, silent threat, is from Hell. And faced with a new and lethal environment, they assume they've stumbled into it.

No, he didn't save Are in the sense that the boy is still more or less doomed to death through starvation, but there seemed to be a tacit understanding that he was trading his life for Are's immediate survival. The film's deliberately obtuse ambiguity serves to put the audience in the position of the characters: faced with an unforgiving world devoid of reason; challenged with making sense of the senseless; stuck with the brutality and desperation that drives this most basic level of survival, and left with no answers at the end. It's bleak stuff, but probably the best representation of ancient life I've seen in a movie. I loved it. It would make a great double feature with Aguirre: The Wrath of God.
by Andrew Forbes
Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:15 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Doctor Who Season 5 I am of two hearts about this one. Smith is far and away dissimilar to previous 2 Doctors and hence cannot be compared with them. He is playing a younger more bouncy puppy wacky professor Doctor than any of the last few predecessors; perhaps more Tom Baker mark II. He can't pull of any sort of deep scary voice Doctor as could 9 and 10 - but then they haven't had him try. If i had never seen Tenant I would say that he is my favorite doctor..but alas....

Watchmen on this second viewing I can truly say that i liked it more....this time i approached it as just a 'movie' and not a comic book movie. i actually thing it's better than the book. I am sure most folks who expected an action hero movie thought it was talky and tended to drag when it gave each of its characters the spotlight. I definitely think it's a really decent epic novel.
by molly1216
Sat Dec 04, 2010 4:23 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!

Been away from the forum's 'Watching' thread for a couple of weeks because of too much work (which is good) but also because I was away visiting my folks in AZ for Thanksgiving (not so good but better than a kick in the head) so I'll cram my late November viewing into this thread (sorry! :D). Let's start this differently with the movies I co-erced my folks to watch with me on their 52" Samsung HDTV (with Surround Sound tech they bought but never used) whenever we weren't walking their dogs five miles (ugh!) or playing ping-pong (UGH!). Keep in mind (a) my folks are simple people in their 60's that aren't into movies, (b) I didn't reveal the titles of these movies until they saw them themselves in the opening titles and (c) I didn't have a plan in choosing other than trying to match the mood they were in on viewing day. They took bathroom breaks (I paused the movie) and were allowed to talk/comment on the flick, otherwise they wouldn't have bothered to watch them (even though they said they enjoyed them all afterwards).

We kicked things on a Saturday evening with Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL (1977) on DVD while eating a home cooked meal on a table set directly in front of the huge TV (my idea, hoping once the movie got rolling they'd be hooked long after they finished eating). I knew my dad and his wife were huge Dianne Keaton fans but her earliest movie they had seen was "The First Wives Club" (and yes, that means they haven't seen "The Godfather" movies! :shock: ). Anywho, they didn't catch-on that it was Keaton until the scene where she shows up in her thrown-together jacket-and-tie and they asked me if it was her; they immediately fell in love with her character (as does pretty much everyone that watches that scene). They laughed at a few of Woody's zingers and the ending left all three of us sitting quietly reading the closing credits in complete silence (a first for them) but my folks said afterwards that if Dianne wasn't in it they wouldn't have liked it as much. BTW, this DVD (which I picked from the local library as a last-minute substitute) looks like ass on a 52" HDTV to my high-def loving eyes but they didn't say a word about its looks.

Tuesday (folks weren't in the mood on Sunday or Monday to watch anything except their daytime/primetime TV shows) for Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) on Blu-ray. For this one I forced them to sit in a slightly-uncomfortable bench directly in front of the TV because the comfty couches in the back of the room would have definitely put them to sleep. They liked it but my stepmom almost bailed out during the gore scene of a wounded soldier in the helicopter/village attack and when the cow gets you-know-what toward the end. They were both riveted and even started yelling 'when is this Kurtz guy gonna show up' an hour before he did. My Dad said outloud 'holy s***, that's Marlon Brando' when Kurtz emerged from the shadows (he didn't recognize him from the voice or the earlier pics of young Brando-as-Kurtz that Martin Sheen was looking at on the boat). Also, even though they had no idea who he was, they were both riveted by Hopper's drugged-up dude. When they were making noises about whether Willard or Chef called the air strike on Kurtz' compound (yep, that was their main beef with the flick) I showed them the YouTube video of the theatrical credits on my laptop as soon as the Blu-ray ended (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuZVukrNo8g). Only when they saw the title in the YouTube video did they know the name of the movie they had just watched for the past three hours. :)

Wednesday I tackled my stepmother's life-long refusal to watch slapstick comedy with the gentlest, nicest and most audience-friendly example of the genre I could think of, Tati's MON ONCLE (1958) on Criterion DVD (another last-minute library substitute). Since they're dog people and had just returned from a French vacation I figured the dogs in the movie and contrast between old France and then-modern ideas of the future would amuse her. Well, the short of it is that it was the most vanilla and dry viewing experience for stepmom (she laughed a little but didn't really mention the movie afterwards), my dad enjoyed it (laughed out loud during the party at Hulot's brother-in-law lawn) and I couldn't hold back tears of joy when the movie ends on that pleasant note of dogs running around without a care in the world set to the 'Mon Oncle' theme song. Basically I felt I wasted a night and a movie with this one until I saw the Terry Gilliam intro afterwards in which he mentions that the just-watched "Apocalypse Now" paid tribute to "Mon Oncle's" title card with one of its own.

Thanksgiving night was reserved (though my folks didn't know it) for Robert Wise's THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) on Blu-ray, which turned out to be one of the most surreal viewing experiences I've ever had as a group. We sat in the comfty chairs and I dragged the 52" Samsung across the living room to be as close to the screen as possible (about five feet). They had no idea what was coming from the minutes-long opening shots of the Alps (at one point my stepmom turned to me and asked point-blank 'is this Stallone's "Cliffhanger"?' :shock: ) so, when the camera finally comes down to Julie Andrews' face and she belts 'The Hills are alive with the sound of music...', it literally hit my folks like a ton of bricks. They haven't stopped singing that line since. As the movie dragged on though they couldn't contain their innate inability to watch musicals with a straight face (which I understand since, with few exceptions, musicals also are tough for me to slug through) and engaged in impromptu 'RIFTING' (what they have settled into as a substitute word for the term 'riffing') with some savage comments. I introduced them to Rifftrax Live last October by buying them tickets to "House on Haunted Hill" in their hometown (they've never seen "MST3K") and, primarily to keep awake this Thursday night, they started really tearing into "The Sound of Music" while simultaneously enjoying it. During a 'dunk your face into cold water to keep awake' break (again, my idea) I explained to them that 'RIFTING' doesn't work like they were doing it. That, for riffing to work, the movie had to suck and/or not be compelling. So they dialed-down their 'RIFTING' (it got really bad during the musical segments, especially when Peggy Wood's Mother Abbess starts belting out her tune and they went crazy with 'singing penguins' jokes) but whenever a song was good (like 'My Favorite Things,' which my stepmom figured out was where Oprah Winfrey got the idea for her giveaway shows) they sang along even as they were mocking the characters. When Eleanor Parker says 'there's a girl that will never become a nun' to Plummer my folks screamed in delight and cheered. Somehow, though they were engaged in 'RIFTING' "The Sound of Music," they were totally into the movie's narrative and were following along. I had more fun laughing with them and seeing their faces than the movie itself. Did I mention we were sitting in sleep-inducing comfortable chairs?

Then, when the camera pans down after the wedding bells shot to show Austria under Nazi control with Swastika flags everywhere, my dad and his wife were completely flabbergasted and stopped their 'RIFTING' cold. Judge Giron talked about this on his review of the Blu-ray recently (http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/soundofmusicbluray.php) but I actually lived through the tonal shift of the movie completely turning what was a 'fun' family movie into a dead-serious one. Since my folks (a) had not even heard of the real Von Trapp family or (b) seen the movie before they honestly didn't know whether Maria, the Captain and/or any of the kids would live through the end of the movie. Afterwards they told me that, since I've shown them movies with downbeat and/or depressing endings before ("2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Shining," the aforementioned "Apocalypse Now," etc.), they thought the reason I liked "Sound of Music" was because all the happiness in the first two thirds would be offset by death and tragedy in the end. So, with my folks completely engrossed by a final act I knew too well wound end with happiness for all (except for Rolfe ;-)), came to an end one hell of a fun but surreal exposure of "The Sound of Music" to a new pair of converts. Sad part is that I bought the Blu-ray for me thinking I would leave the DVD copy of the movie with my folks after I showed it to them for the first time in HD. But they balked at the idea of watching the movie again in anything other than high-def Blu-ray (it really is a stunningly good-looking transfer) so I had to leave the BD behind. Now I have to start saving my pennies for a new BD of "Sound of Music" for mua.

Friday (again laying in the comfty chairs with the big screen TV five feet in front) I tried a double-feature since the first movie, Sergei Eisentein's BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (1925) on DVD, was only 69 minutes long. It was a reach for me to try to get my folks to appreciate the nuisance of silent film technique in a 1920's Russian propaganda movie (they saw Lang's "Metropolis" last summer in NYC and kind-of liked it) but they were reasonably amused and gripped by the Odessa Steps massacre. The sailing of the Potemkin ship toward the Admiral's fleet just annoyed the hell out of them though, especially when you-know-what doesn't happen in the end. I had the HD-DVD of "The Untouchables" ready to go (get it? "Potemkin"... "Untouchables"... baby carriage down the stairs... har har) but at the last second I got cold feet and went instead with Sidney Lumet's NETWORK (1976) on DVD. Halfway through the movie we lost my dad's wife to sleep (guess I shouldn't have done a two-fer) but my father, whom I usually have to wake-up when he falls asleep, was riveted by the whole thing. Like me he's a news junkie that has MSNBC as his cable box's default channel (hates Fox News) so the whole movie just went down like showers in April. Howard Beale is his new hero and dad wondered what other good movies 'Hatchet,' aka Robert Duvall, has done. When I asked him how many Robert Duvall movies he has seen he told me only the two that I had showed him ("Network" and "Apocalypse Now"). Sounds like it'll be a "Godfather" weekend next time I visit the folks (especially since Dianne Keaton is in it and they don't know it). The scene in "Network" that my father thought was too improbable and too unbelievable to be true? How high Faye Dunaway's body was when she and Holden were making love. Either it was bad blocking or Holden was... well, Holden (snatch). "Network" is the only movie my father asked to keep from the one's I brought on my visit; I told him I'll mail it back with its proper case and the disc of bonus features when I return home. And, since "Network" and "All The President's Men" are getting released on Blu-ray in February of 2011...

Saturday night we went back to the 'dinner and a movie' setting from the week before and, since the folks were on a good and attentive mood, I unleashed the A Bomb that is Charles Laughton's THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) on Blu-ray on their unsuspecting minds. To say they were blown away by the movie would be an understatement, they were transfixed and entertained by the whole thing. They both recognized Robert Mitchum the moment he appeared and, since they thought there was a good chance his preacher character would come out ahead (again, using my reputation as a guy that likes negative movies to pull a wool over their expectations like I did with "Sound of Music"), didn't expect "Night of the Hunter" to go the way it did. They kind-of fell back on RIFTING when Mitchum and Lillian Gish engaged in their sing-off duel (which kind-of defused with laughter one of the most tense moments in the film) but afterwards we engaged in a very intense debate about the movie and its historical setting (they didn't know about the abandoned children of the Great Depression or the historical setting in which the movie took place). Not since I showed them "400 Blows" on BD a year prior were they so eager to talk about a movie. Personally (this was my 2nd viewing of "TNOTH") I love how the Spoon couple (Evelyn Varden and Don Beddoe) are partially guilty of the death of Shelley Winters' character, yet you don't hate or despise the couple (particularly Varden's portrayal of Icey Spoon) because that was the way many a good folk was back then. And whoever cast young Billy Chapin as Peter Graves' son deserves kudos because they really look alike. Though very grainy at spots (not in a bad way but noticeable) the B&W cinematography of this movie is borderline stunning. This movie's failure robbed Laughton out of a potentially great second career as a director, but there are many directors with lots more movies that don't come close to the near-perfection that is this odd duck of a children's horror fairytale.

Sunday afternoon, with only a few hours to spare before my scheduled flight back to Gotham, we ate a tasty Sunday brunch (again in a conviniently-positioned table in front of the 52" HDTV) and watched Nic Roeg's WALKABOUT (1971) on Blu-ray. The day before we went on a little hiking trip to the top of South Mountain near Phoenix (next to a cluster of radio and TV antennas that oversee the city) so this seemed like an appropriate send-off film. My stepmom nearly barfed at the hunting/butchering sequences and, even though I told them beforehand to try and abandon any previous expectation of normal movie storytelling (i.e. don't get stuck wondering why the father shoots his kids and then blows his brains out), she couldn't get past the jump-in-time final scene with Agutter-as-a-grownup reliving her memories. Stepmom really wanted to know how the kids got back to their home, how their mother reacted, did the black boy really die (yes he did!), etc. She called the movie 'strange' and 'weird' but afterwards said she liked it (lie). My father liked "Walkabout" a lot more (and joked that it resembled our odd family life the previous week) but it was a lot of internalized, quiet joy at seeing the whole 'circle of life' idea presented so simply. As with "Mon Oncle" I felt afterwards that I chose the wrong movie because, even if its memorable, it didn't inspire much conversation afterwards. Looked 'purty' on dad's big-screen TV.

Other movies I had in my pouch that I didn't choose to be among the 'chosen' eight for dad and his wife: "The Usual Suspects," "Sansho the Bailiff," "Bonnie & Clyde," "Goodfellas," "The Iron Giant," "Atonement," "Paths of Glory," Ozu's "The Only Son," "Tin Cup," "Suspiria," "North by Northwest," "The Third Man," "Back to School," etc.
by J.M. Vargas
Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:13 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: All I Want for Xmas is my DECEMBER Watching Thread!
Replies: 123
Views: 12073

Re: Que Usted) NO VE (A)MBER?" WATCHING THREAD

molly1216 wrote:
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was that a cockney accent that Jake was affecting? whatever it was it was distracting. Most of the UK actors do Royal Shakespeare company English when in a costume drama...his accent was excellent but IMHO it stood out. On the whole i liked the Sinbad without Sinbad epic, but I would have been much happier with a simpler plot perhaps get the princess from point A to Point B to hide the dagger......and a dagger with a button? what was with all the traveling? i wasn't really sure of the geography. I did like the stuntwork, endless chases through crowded streets dodging arrows that narrowly miss the hero...never gets old in my book.


It was breezy fun. but the Dagger with a Button plot device is evidence of why a movie adapted from a video game can't be TOO faithful and still be excellent. That said, I had a great time with Prince overall, sure Kingsley is easily telegraphed, but I like that the rest of the characters don't quite evolve as they're initially presented, and the ending is really pretty slick; similar to, though actually not as subtle as the video game's ending.
by Steve T Power
Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:05 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Que Usted) NO VE (A)MBER?" WATCHING THREAD
Replies: 58
Views: 4975

Re: Que Usted) NO VE (A)MBER?" WATCHING THREAD

Whatever Works - Larry David is definitely the best Woody Allen stand-in yet. The movie is an odd beast though, it's really great until Melody's parents show up and then it falls into caricature and 180 degree turns from the characters. Minor Allen is still funnier than most comedies out there.
by Gabriel Girard
Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:20 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Que Usted) NO VE (A)MBER?" WATCHING THREAD
Replies: 58
Views: 4975

Re: Worst Sequels ever!

Dan Mancini wrote:The Matrix Reloaded deserves a place high on the list.

Amen. I can’t even watch the 1st Matrix anymore knowing where the story & characters went in Reloaded & the slightly better Revolutions.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace - A condescending, campy message movie about the “evils” of nuclear weapons that had horrible special effects, even by mid-80’s standards, & one of the lamest super villains of all time in Nuclear Man. Except for Hackman, the rest of the cast is going through the motions or are just plain horrible (especially Jon Cryer & Mariel Hemingway). Superman III started building the coffin for the Superman series & Part IV put the final nails into it.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - The story of trying to find The All Mighty in the universe was a promising idea, but it turned into a boring mess with way too many attempts at humor that fail miserably. The first hour was such a drag & the big payoff with “God” & the neutered Klingons was so disappointing.

X-Men: The Last Stand - I thought the 1st two X-Men movies were ok yet I was still really looking forward to see how they would end it. I wasn’t just disappointed, I was pissed off. The script was so disrespectful to most of the characters. Either they die like punks with no impact on the main story, lose their powers against their will or in Rogue’s case, willingly want the cure & miss out on the big battle & look like a whiny coward. The cringe inducing one-liners didn’t help either. The final F*** you was the ending that questioned the effectiveness of the cure.

Transformers 2: The Revenge of the Fallen - Wait a second. I thought the 1st TF sucked. Never mind.
by Mach6
Fri Nov 12, 2010 9:30 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Worst Sequels ever!
Replies: 25
Views: 1819

Re: Worst Sequels ever!

Oooooh, I LIKE this topic! I'll try to avoid moaning about horror movies, which were usually made on the cheap as a general rule to generate sure profit, and therefore sequels were unavoidable.

Bad Boys II
I realize the original was hardly considered high drama, but it was an effective action movie that helped prove to dwindling audiences that the late 80s to early 90s action mindset could still work. Yes it pretty much followed the buddy-cop playbook step by step, but it definitely had a sense of energy. Plus it took in close to 150 mIllion dollars on a less than 20 million dollar budget. The sequel on the other hand, took eight years to materialize and still managed to stumble into just about every pitfall a followup should avoid. The original director was back, the majority of the original cast was back, including the background characters, which should've given Bad Boys II the rebirth of Lethal Weapon stamp. Instead we get a 150 minute long orgy of blood and fire, action sequence segueing into action sequence with no semblance of a plot, not even a basic story to help it make any sense. Will Smith and Martin Lawerence play obnoxious cartoon sterotypes of the characters they were in the original, with Lawerence being especially obnoxious, and Smith being less Martin Riggs and more Bugs Bunny. The villains are worthless, ballooning the screentime to add nothing of value, just more irritating goofiness. The MANtastic score from the first Bad Boys is jettisoned in favor of a P-Diddy produced slurry of Hip Hop snippets. The entire last act could've been compressed into a single climactic battle and shaved down the runtime and budget considerably. Maybe I'd hate it less if I'd sit through Point Break beforehand.
by Jon Mercer
Thu Nov 11, 2010 6:32 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Worst Sequels ever!
Replies: 25
Views: 1819

Re: Que Usted) NO VE (A)MBER?" WATCHING THREAD

I wasn't crazy about the ending the first time I saw The Mist, as I felt it was a bit too heavy-handed for the film's old-school monster movie tone. However, a second viewing convinced me of the ending's merit - I was able to accept that the film is trying to deal with the characters in a serious, credible manner despite the B-movie elements built into the plot. And Gabriel is right; the black-and-white works wonders for the film (scenes that seemed a bit campy in color were spectacularly creepy in b&w).
by cdouglas
Sun Nov 07, 2010 4:26 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Que Usted) NO VE (A)MBER?" WATCHING THREAD
Replies: 58
Views: 4975

Re: "(Que Usted) No Ve, (A)mber?" WATCHING THREAD

:? Am I the only one watching stuff in November? Or is everyone else just hungover from too many Halloween movies?

Watched the 'Preview' version of Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) on DVD for the first time. It's about 95% identical to the original but the 'happy' upbeat ending and alternate takes on the original's narrative sure stand out when rewatched a few days apart. Also, on repeat viewing I can see (though not necessarily agree with) Judge Hatch's point that it seems Bruno deliberately bumped into Guy on the train because he knew too much about him and was, thus, stalking him. Personally the idea that a complete stranger (one that happened to know about Guy because he was a professional tennis player) would bump his feet and insinuate himself into another person's life is a more scary thought, plus a parallel commentary on celebrity and the kind of personalities it attracts (Bruno would have eventually found someone else to try his 'criss-cross' plans with even if he hadn't bumped feet with Guy). Hitchcock movies (almost?) always get better with repeat viewings and, since I already knew how it would go down, found myself yet again mesmerized by Robert Walker's performance and even humming along with Dimitri Tiomkin's distinctive scores for the characters.

MST3K KTMA-19: HANGAR 18 (1989/1980) on DVD for the first time. The late 70′s/early 80′s movies riffed by The Brains during the national run of “MST3K” (“Laserblast,” “The Touch of Satan,” “Clonus,” etc.) are some of my favorites, and this one most closely mirrors those. "Capricorn O...", sorry, “Hangar 18″ takes its 'aliens on Earth' conspiracy plot way too seriously (Robert Vaughn makes a good heavy), which only makes it more funny that Gary freaking Collins is our astronaut hero! With Teen Wolf’s dad as the sidekick (cherry on top! :D) seeing the current fugitive of justice (http://edition.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/celebrity.news.gossip/11/04/tv.host.warrant/) fight mano-a-mano with FBI agents is a hoot. Only Darren McGavin walks away from this turkey unharmed because, well, he’s Kolchak damn it! 8) Besides the obvious similarities to “Capricorn One” and “Close Encounters…” I couldn’t help but be reminded of Emmerich’s “Independence Day” when the scientist inside the ship uses the alien tech to tune into a local radio station (!). A voice-over ‘happy’ ending is bulls***, it's clear the producers went dark and this KTMA version attempts to cover that in a rather clumsy last-minute deviation from the predictable plot.

Other than the slightly-awkward first few minutes when Josh/Joel/Trace keep running over each other’s lines the guys are seriously beginning to gel in-theater with palpable, though not perfect, riffing chemistry. (‘It’s a surprisetory!’) I love it when Joel cracks laughing. Host segments range from the historic (in and out of the satellite in less than five seconds when 'Movie Sign' comes on) to the mundane (1,000th club member… big whoop!). Ratio of joke-per-minute is improving but, unlike the earlier “SST Death Flight” (which they were clearly delighted to be riffing), back in '89 The Brains seemed to not be as inspired to assault a movie with humor the least they liked or cared about it. Still, the prototype 70′s flick that would become a staple of "MST3K" during its national run begins here, and it's a dooze. Watch out for Gary Collins though, he's on the loose! ;-)
by J.M. Vargas
Thu Nov 04, 2010 4:00 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Que Usted) NO VE (A)MBER?" WATCHING THREAD
Replies: 58
Views: 4975

Re: Halloween watching thread

Halloween bonus round:

The Fog (1980) which i have never in my life seen from end to end. i missed a lot. i liked it to pieces. it was eerie and suspenseful i can just imagine how bad the remake is..i am sure all running around and explosions.. this was just creepy. no long winded expositions, no characters with extended backstories and personal problems...just a simple strong plot. period. i miss that about good movies. the only thing i didn't like was that Adrian Barbeau's character doesn't interact with any other character besides a couple of phone calls. considering how close to the wire the reshoots were i can forgive that...but i think if that was fixed, this would be much higher on people's favorite lists.
by molly1216
Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:48 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Halloween watching thread
Replies: 211
Views: 15960

Re: "(Que Usted) No Ve, (A)mber?" WATCHING THREAD

Nobuhiko Obayashi's HOUSE (1977) on Blu-ray. Here's what I wrote about "Hausu" back in January of 2009 (http://www.dvdverdict.com/juryroom/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=2946&p=37558&hilit=Nobuhiko+Obayashi+House#p37558): Seven age-school Japanese girlfriends with names that denote their personalities (Mac = hungry, Kung Fu = strong, Sweet = sweet, etc.) decide to spend a weekend at the countryside home of the wheelchair-bound aunt of their friend Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami), who is sad because his famous film-composer widow father is remarrying a jewerly designer (Haruko Wanibuchi). Sad that she's about to get an unwanted stepmother Gorgeous writes to his auntie asking if she and her friends can come visit. Then a pussycat named Blanche shows up in the mailbox along with a letter welcoming the girls to visit...

...I have to single out this one out because it's on a league of its own. Not to be confused with the 1986 horror/comedy "House" (they share the same English title and genres) "Hausu" is like the demented grindhouse cousin of "Evil Dead 2" and "Happiness of the Kutakuris" except it has more creativity and energy than those two movies combined times 100. Think Sam Raimi and Dario Argento (complete with constantly-repeating musical cues) meet Takashi Miike minus the misogyny that characterizes Dario's work. The girls all develop endearing archtype personalities of their own which, combined with the 'happy' music and the colorful backgrounds, makes them come across as a 'sentai' anime troop. No more than a minute goes by without a shot, prop, frame-rate change and/or camera trick (often a matte painting or blue screen shot to make a distance background look deliberately phony) turning what should be a standard-issue 'haunted house' story into one of the most cinematically insane 'house of horror' rides I have ever experienced. Even if some of the special effects are crude (it was shot in 1976) every frame of this movie is alive with the joy of filmmaking, which most contemporary movies have forgotten about. Here's the Japanese trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN0HVJ5tkIM.

That was just from my first and only viewing in standard definition on a compressed cable channel of a years-old print of the movie. Even though it's not showcase material (too soft and grainy) "House" on Blu-ray is a revelation. Colors jump out but aren't (except for select scenes like Gorgeous' balcony meet with her dad and stepmom-to-be) too strong or attention-gathering. Though some of the SFX work looks more crude and simplistic the integration of matte paintings and drawings in the background survives high-def scrutiny. I fully expected the illusion that foreground/background would be shattered by the extra resolution but, except for the views of Auntie's house from the watermelon stand (which also looked rough on regular TV), I was blown away by how picturesque and bigger-than-life a 33 year-old movie primarily shot in studios with analog chroma key technology/matte paintings supplying most of the backgrounds could look. Even better, since I'd already seen it I picked up little things about the characters that made their 'sentai anime troop' live action antics more endearing. Surprisingly, for a horror movie in which young nubile girls are dismembered (Melody) or stripped naked (Prof, who early in the story is told she has a great figure but doesn't show it), "House" doesn't come across as mean-spirited or hateful of women. If anything it's men (the watermelon salesman and the teacher) that are made to look like ineffective fools. The final scene's sad lament about lovers goes a long way to closing the "House" spectacle with a healthy dose of respect (and creepiness) that doesn't explain anything and yet says all that needs to be said. Kudos also to Obayashi-san for one insanely-cool and backstory-packed segment involving silent B&W footage-of-the-mind that Gorgeous' friends comment on as they 'watch it' on the bus ride to Satoyama Village (the arrival to the bus stop is my favorite scene in the movie, when Asei Kobayashi and Mickie Yoshimo's fetishistic repetition of their main theme song becomes narcoleptic and endearing).

If you own a Blu-ray player and don't grab this cheap from the Barnes & Noble 50% off sale then you're an even bigger fool than the girl in the movie that follows directions from a cat that can open AND CLOSE (!) doors on her own. ;-)
by J.M. Vargas
Tue Nov 02, 2010 8:58 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Que Usted) NO VE (A)MBER?" WATCHING THREAD
Replies: 58
Views: 4975

Re: Halloween watching thread

Future Man wrote:the Thing from Another World
Definitely retains the ability to startle with a couple of scenes and the 'kerosene' set piece definitelty made me wonder "how'd they do that?," but I wish the clever banter and wisecracks could have been dialed down as the tension was supposed to be mounting. Enjoyed the chemistry between the captain and the lovely assistant. First time I noticed that that this wasn't actually directed by Howard Hawks per the credits.

If it wasn't directed by Hawks it still has his signature all over it-The overlapping dialogue, the comraderie (something sorely missed in the remake IMO) within Kenneth Tobey's group, a strong leading lady, etc. Plus, I've always seen the ending as a variation of the classic Western showdown-Instead of a shootout on main street, the Thing slowly walks down the corridor towards its fate. There's tension aplenty in this film its just that time and countless variations (copies) have taken the edge off it. Just imagine seeing this back in the early '50s when all of the UFO, Aliens, stuff was brand new. :shock:

Anyway, ended my Halloween with the following:
The Vampire Bat-Easily could have been a Universal or Warner's film instead of a "Majestic" (aka Poverty Row") movie. Interesting that already some of the stars had been typecast: Atwill-The Mad Scientist, Wray-The woman in peril, and Frye-The looney.
The Corpse Vanishes-One of Lugosi's Monogram masterpieces. Good fun.
The Devil Bat-Same as the above title except it's a PRC film.
The Bride of Frankenstein-A classic. First time I noticed Thesiger's characters fondness for Gin in this film and instantly thought of The Old Dark House "I like Gin!" Wonder if in real life.....?
by hoytereden
Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:44 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Halloween watching thread
Replies: 211
Views: 15960

Re: (NOT) THE (...Horror, The Horror...) OCTOBER WATCHING THREAD

PSYCHOMANIA (1972) on DVD for the first time. I picked this up solely on Judge Ike Oden's positive review (http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/psychomania.php) and it absolutely lives up to expectations. Scares and gore are minimal but it's a testament to the movie's effectiveness that they're not missed. The genre mash-ups on display (50's biker gang mentality, 60's psychodelic mindset, early 70's punk vibe, horror/sorcery motifs inspired by the post "Rosemary's Baby" success, etc.) coated with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor (how can one not smile at the sight of a dead biker turbo boosting out of a tomb in his bike, "Knight Rider" style) and casual attitude toward coming back to life make for a refreshing change of pace from the Romero/Boyle school of the living dead. Nicky Henson makes for an appealing lead as a "Clockwork Orange"-ish bloke that wants his gal Abby (Mary Larkin) and 'Living Dead' gang to crossover, leading up to a montage of suicide attempts that is both hilarious and disturbing. Throw in some spectacular motorcycle stunt work (for '72) and heartfelt scenes between Abby and Tom (unlike Judge Oden I found Abby's passivity a normal non-reaction to the incredible things happening around her) and "Psychomania" is the perfect cult flick to celebrate Halloween with.

Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL (1977) on MGM-HD. Even though I haven't seen it in well over a decade (some scenes are too close to some of my own real-life experiences to be anything other than a tear-jerker to me) "Annie Hall" remains my second favorite Woody Allen movie. "Manhattan Murder Mystery" is my favorite one, so I want to think of Alvy and Annie as the couple that met on "Annie Hall," eventually married (somewhere between '78 and '93) and we met-up again years later in "MMM" (it helps that a good chunk of the plot from the original "Annie Hall" script wound up in "MMM"). Do girls from Chippewa Falls get more out-of-fashion pretty than Diane Keaton's tie-and-shirt outfit when she meets Alvy after their tennis match? I fell in love with Keaton the moment I saw her in this movie. While some of Allen's jokes/lines of dialogue land with the thud of repetition (not the flick's fault) some sequences (the 'Christmas in Beverly Hills' song montage, Woody's 7th grade classroom, the classic 'masturbation' line, the brief animated "Snow White" scene, the subtitled first-courtship dialogue, Christopher Walken's cameo, Annie's soul leaving her body, etc.) are still laugh-outloud funny. How can anybody that's been in love not smile when Alvy goes back to Annie's apartment and pictures of him with the lobster are framed on the wall? :lol: The poignant ending (the montage leading up to the final shot and silent credits) pulls everything into perspective and places the movie (and Allen) into filmmaking immortality. The high-def transfer is underwhelming but is miles better than the non-anamorphic DVD we've been stuck with for a decade. :(

MST3K KTMA-18: THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU (1989/1967) on DVD for the first time. An (unintentional?) "Austin Powers"-type parody of 60's spy movies starring George Nader and Frankie Avalon (this movie's low-rent equivalents of James Bond and Felix Leiter) pitted against an all-female terrorist group trying to take over the world one seduced leader at a time (led by gorgeous Shirley Eaton as the title character). And, probably because he owed producer Harry Alan Towers a favor or two, Wilfrid Hyde-White pops up regularly as an exposition-spewing elder agent that moves the "plot" along. Joel and the Bots run into the same problem here that they would run into in Season 2's "Catalina Caper": how do you riff something that's already silly, goofy and self-aware to begin with? Avalon is particularly horrid as the comic relief sidekick that breaks the fourth wall (“I wonder if this is where I’m supposed to sing…nah.”) and carries the assault on Sumuru's island lair (the movie's best... I mean, only action scene) by himself because Nader's too busy... uhh, 'acting.' ;-) Even Servo bails midway through the movie but Joel and Crow get through "Sumuru" by concentrating on the endless amount of gorgeous women ('midriff village'), implied (but never shown) sex and complete lack of anything resembling coherence in the plot. Shame the PQ is half-ass (lousy pan-and-scan copy) but the riffing, all things considered, is slightly-above average for KTMA-era "MST3K." Blink and you'll miss an OTT Klaus Kinski cameo as President Boong, easily the highlight of the movie.

SUBURBAN GIRL (2007) on Showtime-HD for the first time. Predictable but harmless romantic comedy in which miscast Sarah Michelle Gellar (she's supposed to be a spunky rising star in the NYC literary community but SMG wearing glasses/clothes to seem smart just doesn't cut it) falls in love with Alec Baldwin (excellent as the publishing equivalent of a smoother version of the same character he plays on TV's "30 Rock"). Maybe this would have worked better as either a straight drama or romantic movie because the constant need for the characters to bicker and argue for the sake of moving the plot along (a) gets old fast and (b) isn't really funny. A couple of great supporting performances (James Naughton as Brett's father, Maggie Grace's Chloe, etc.) and the Gotham location shoot make this worth a look if it's playing on TV on a lazy Saturday afternoon (which is how/when I caught it), where it'll be as quickly forgotten as the infomercials its competing against.
by J.M. Vargas
Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:41 pm
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: (NOT) THE (...Horror, The Horror...) OCTOBER WATCHING THREAD
Replies: 45
Views: 4473

Re: Halloween watching thread

Audition. My third go round with Miike and the first wholly satisfying one. Sukiyaki Western Django was a ton of fun, but it wasn't a particularly deep experience. I thought Ichi the Killer was a piece of sh*t. Audition, despite my knowing how things turn out before going in (if ever a movie suffered from the demands of its own marketing, this is it), felt very nearly perfect in every regard. Here Miike builds his characters with patient naturalism, only venturing into stylistic excess when the story demand it. Had I gone into the movie blind, it probably would have been exponentially more impactful, but I could still appreciate the experience even if I wasn't as affected as I would have been.
by Andrew Forbes
Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:50 am
 
Forum: Movies
Topic: Halloween watching thread
Replies: 211
Views: 15960
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