2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:19 am

It's 1991 Week on F This Movie, leading up to Saturday's 2nd Twiter Film Fest. And I'm playing along. Won't you?

DUTCH (1991) on Amazon Instant Prime for the first time. Even though they were already in the development pipeline 1991 is the year that the "Home Alone" phenomenon from the previous Christmas is truly felt. Of the four John Hughes-produced movie released that year ("Career Opportunities," "Only the Lonely," this and "Curly Sue") "Dutch" is the one that most shamelessly tries to coast on Hughes' previous successes ("Home Alone" meets "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"), not to mention a naked attempt to turn Ed O'Neil's "Married... With Children" TV persona into a star vehicle. I thought that the class conflict between arrogant blue blood brat Doyle (Ethan Embry) and "working class" stepfather-to-be Dutch Dooley (O'Neil in full-on Al Bundy mode) on their Thanksgiving road trip would hold up better in 2012 given the current economic climate. But, since it's established early on that Dutch is also rich, the class conflict between Doyle and Dutch is just empty window-dressing on which Alan Silvestri's music score attempts (and fails) to yield pathos when the inevitable melting of Doyle's arrogant facade at the mugging of Dutch's sitcom antics (and the sight of, gasp, poor black people with hearts of gold) occurs. "Dutch" is not a horrible movie (it's competently shot and made) but "Crocodile Dundee" director Peter Faiman (who never directed again) can't turn Hughes' scripted mayhem into hilarious antics like Chris Columbus could the year before. I guess it really was The Macaulay Culkin Show all along.

Krzysztof Kieslowski's THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (1991) on Criterion Blu-ray for the first time. I've been wanting to see "Veronique" since forever, and now that I have seen it (and gone through most of the generous supplements) I don't know what to make of it. This is the type of prestigious and critically acclaimed flick I'd go out of my way to pat myself on the back for not only seeing but "getting," understanding its subtleties and praising high to show that I'm a cool, learned and discerning movie lover. But I'm also humble-enough (sometimes, not always ;-)) to admit when a movie's supposed greatness and perfection eludes me. I get what Kieslowski's trying to put forth (the delicacy of unfilmable, intimate thoughts and feelings that mean the world to people that put stock in them) and, God (if he/she/it exists) bless Irène Jacob for the not-easy task of personifying two different characters with no visible personality or physical differences besides language. I look forward to watching "Double Life of Veronique" again (along with finally tackling Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy on Blu-ray) but on first impression I found it cold, distant and pretentious, the art house equivalent of a chick flick on steroids. And that makes me a sad panda. :(

Oliver Stone's JFK: DIRECTOR'S CUT (1991) on Blu-ray for the first time. "JFK" is the cinematic apex of conspiracy theories and socially acceptable cynicism (not to mention THE primary source of Kevin Bacon's 'Six Degrees' connections) brought to life by the best non-SFX tools at the disposal of Hollywood in support of a filmmakers' POV. The conviction and skill with which Oliver Stone, his actors (particularly Joe Pesci, Jay O. Sanders, Gary Oldman and Kevin Costner), his collaborators (John Williams amazing score) and his editors (who took home well-deserved Oscars) put forth a seemingly far-fetched conspiracy of who really killed JFK is what ends up pushing it as model work for entertainment, work of art and social tool for change. On a basic movie-enjoyment level there are just so many good actors giving great performances in big (Donald Sutherland turning exposition dumping into an art form) and tiny roles (blink and you'll miss Vinnie D'Onofrio, literally) it's ridiculous. Even Sissy Spacek's underrated and thankless wife role personifies the toll that the quest for the truth has on the personal life on the real Jim Garrison (who appears as Chief Justice Earl Warren). It's often overlooked because of its political content but "JFK" is also a great New Orleans movie on account of its great on-location photography and colorful/eccentric cast of real-life characters (particularly Tommy Lee Jones' take on Clay Shaw).

The extra 17 minutes added to the 189 min. theatrical cut will be easy to spot because they're the most far-fetched in an already bustling-with-paranoia narrative. An assassination attempt on Garrison at the airport? Please! And there's an extra hour's worth of deleted scenes on top of that. "JFK" on Blu-ray sacrifices detail to accomodate all these footage plus the bonus featurettes/commentary (it's one of the softest-looking transfers I've seen on the format, though it's still much sharper than the DVD and HD channel broadcasts) but you can at least brag Warner and Oliver Stone put everything but a kitchen sink into the movie's definite home video release.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:48 pm

My trip through new-to-me 1991 movies keeps a-going.

Joel (and Ethan) Coen's BARTON FINK (1991) on Amazon Instant Prime HD for the first time. If it were just a movie about writing (specifically writer's block) this would join a select group ("adaptation," etc.) that has made the subject matter remotely enjoyable as a film. But there is so much going on in "Barton Fink" besides John Turturro's character's inability to marry his noble-but-hypocritical intentions (a theater for the common man he isn't really interested in listening to) with the done-to-death-but-still-potent juxtaposition of art vs. commerce Hollywood conundrum. I need to see this a dozen more times before truly getting it all but, on first impression: Michael Lerner's movie executive ('Have you heard the story of Solomon's Mommie?' :lol: ) and John Goodman (never better) hit it out of the ballpark, John Mahoney's W.P. Mayhew was the Bill Murray character from "Rushmore" seven years ahead of schedule, the Coens (probably due to the low budget but maybe to challenge themselves) really show restrain visualizing Barton's writer's block as the reality of that small ugly hotel room (no fancy dream sequences like in "The Big Lebowski," whose lead character passivity gets a test-run here) and that final hotel room hallway scene just has to be seen to be believed. It was also great to be reminded what a character actor Judy Davis is in a tricky role (writer's groupie). Along with Roger Deakins and Carter Burwell backing up Dennis Gassner's simple but effective production design (which squeezes a lot of atmosphere out of limited resources) "Barton Fink" is pre-"Fargo" Coen brothers' cinema at its finest. Terrific final shot too. 8)

Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991) on Blu-ray for the first time. My relation with Disney's animated classics swings back and forth between childhood love ("The Rescuers"), admiration ("Sleeping Beauty") or scholarly interest without emotional attachment ("Snow White") of which this Best Picture nominee (the first, back when there were only five nominees instead of 27 now) falls on the latter. Maybe I'm an old crank at 40, but with "Beauty and the Beast" never have I felt better that its Pixar and CG doing today's better animated movies (except for "Cars 1 & 2"). This movie highlighted for me the limitations of (a) the hand-drawn style (which looks now to me like what Ralph Bakshi movies did back then: deformed ugliness) and (b) the Disney formula of music numbers and sidekicks to get to the 80+ minute mark fast and furiously while entertaining the kiddies at the expense of the leads' character development. In this interpretation the Beast's plight, appearance and personality are such a clash with his friendly, likable and lovable cute sidekicks (all sanitized and suitable for Happy Meal product placement; the battle in defense of the castle is easily the most fun part of the movie) that I wanted to run screaming back into Jean Cocteau's slightly-darker universe. I hate musicals too so it was tough to sit through most of the sing-and-dance stuff here (suddenly Russell Crowe's singing in "Les Misérables" doesn't seem as bad as before, wait, never mind!) except for "Be Our Guest" (a legitimate show-stopping, toe-tapping, Brodway-worthy tune with animation to match; who knew Det. Lennie Briscoe from the 27th Precinct had it in him? :)) and Angela Lansbury's version of the title song. If he were younger I'd cast Hugo Weaving as Gaston in a live-action version of this movie. One thing "Beauty and the Beast" nails that's true of every other version of the story I've seen: when the curse finally goes away and the human prince appears I immediately found myself missing Beast's appearance. :cry:

Richard Linklater's SLACKER (1991) on Amazon Instant Prime for the first time. Even when he got succesful enough to afford to animate/paint/CG-enhance his characters' appearance ("Waking Life," "A Scanner Darkly") or hire good-enough actors to sell his prose ("Before Sunrise/Sunset") Linklater never stopped doing what he did when he had no money and was just starting out in '91: let his characters talk and talk and talk about what's on their mind, usually petty/weird stuff that concerns each of them. The man is in love with the spoken word but in "Slacker" the look, style, acting and subject matter (a mish-mash of stream-of-self-aware-consciousness dialogue but young artistic types on a day in Austin, Texas) are just too green and borderline-annoying to make this initial viewing anything other than a chore to sit through. I get that Linklater saw in these characters and their thoughts/words the opposite of what the word 'slacker' has come to symbolize, and I really want to check out the Criterion Collection extras for additional context. To me though "Slacker" is only a reminder of how far, diverse and better Linklater's output has shaped up than other indie darlings from that era (Kevin Smith, etc.).
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:21 am

NEW JACK CITY (1991) on Amazon Instant Video for the first time. I'm surprised that Wesley Snipes didn't make a career out of playing memorable bad guys after this (Simon Phoenix in "Demolition Man" is the closest he ever came to re-capturing his Nino Brown mojo). He absolutely owns "New Jack City" and, in the couple of scenes when he's sharing the screen with Ice T (or anyone else for that matter) he blows him out of the water. I can't remember a movie in which the charisma chasm between the villain and the good guys is so steep. I'm still trying to figure out what the hell is Judd Nelson (who looks like a puffed-up Robert Downey Jr.) doing in this movie, but whatever. As a huge "Law & Order" fan it was fun to pretend Ice T was Odafin Tutuola back in his narcotics days before he transfered to "SVU." "New Jack City" is a little over-the-top and sometimes a cartoon (especially when contrasted with "Boyz n the Hood") but, as an urban rags-to-riches good guys-vs-bad guys tale (complete with now-cliche' "Scarface" worship that it helped cement within rap/hip hop culture), it's entertaining as heck and Mario Van Peebles' best movie. I actually live within walking distance of the "Carter Building" (if I stick my head out my apartment window I can see it) so you'll be happy to know they've done wonders with the place since the likes of Nino Brown and Pookie wrecked it all to hell. 8)
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:50 am

THE GANG THAT COULDN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT (1971) on TCM-HD for the first time. In the bonus features of the making of "The Godfather" (DVD and Blu-ray) its mentioned often that, prior to Francis Ford Coppola, Hollywood movies about the mob were never written/directed by Italians and thus came across as stereotypical. "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" is the living embodiment of a stupid Hollywood Italian mob comedy about the turf war between Brooklyn gangsters Kid Sally (Jerry Orbach) and Baccala (Lionel Standard) that benefits tremendously by Owen "French Connection" Roizman's on-location cinematography making Brooklyn look like the dump it was back in the early 70's (no glamour Manhattan shots here). But the performances by the cast are pitched at such a shrieking cartoon level that they make mobster spoofs like "Mickey Blue Eyes" feel like "Goodfellas" by comparison. It also commits the worse sin a comedy can do of not being funny at all except for the same joke being repeated at the start and end of the flick with different results. Only a very young Robert DeNiro (on the cusp of "Mean Streets" and "The Godfather Part 2" greatness) acquits himself playing a just-off-the-boat Italian immigrant that falls in love with Kid Sally's sister (Leigh Taylor-Jones); they're still cartoon characters but Mario and Angela are the closest the movie comes to having human hearts and a relationship worth giving two s**** about.

JB from F This Movie is right: it's the 70's hair and the wacky soundtrack (not the dramatic one's we got in "Animal House" and "Ghostbuster") that date 70's movies and comedies the worse, which for "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" means this was dated the moment it was made.

Speaking of F This Movie, watched all five movies of the 2013 Twitter Film Festival. My favorites, from favorite to 'just OK.'

BILL & TED's BOGUS JOURNEY (1991) on Amazon Video on Demand for the first time. When Judge Patrick Bromley announced this as an entry in the Twitter Film Fest many (myself included) became those that Piper Laurie was referring about when she tells Carrie White that 'they're all gonna laugh at you.' It's the only movie from the festival I watched again right after the festival was over. "Bogus Journey" flat-out knocked me on my ass. It's a well-made and daring sequel (a rare one that outdoes its predecessor) that sticks with what made the lead characters click in the first movie, specifically Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves committing fully to their character's dumb-but-sweet-and-lovable personalities, then builds on it by taking the premise on a different direction than the typical rehash that has sunk many a franchise ("Ghostbusters 2," "City Slickers 2," etc.). As a diehard "Mystery Science Theater 3000" fan it pains me to say it, but Bill Corbett's 'Bran Guy' schtick was stolen wholesale from the template of the Grim Reaper character William Sadler brings to life here. It takes a lot to upstage and steal a Bill & Ted movie from the stars, but Sadler either comes close or outright pulls it off. George Carlin, Pam Grier and the 'DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY' guy from "Lethal Weapon 2" basically do cameos here, but director Peter Hewitt and writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon know how to maximize and squeeze the most of their limited/crucial screen time. The special effects are dated and the budget limitations show, but ambition combined with laugh out loud comedy and good characterization (basically the Winter, Reeves and Sadler show) make "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" the highlight of the Twitter Film Fest.

James Cameron's TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991 Theatrical Version) on Blu-ray. My heart belongs solid with the 152 min. Special Edition of the movie (it fills the shortcuts of the theatrical version with character development beats) but the 137 min. '91 cut still holds, particularly if you've seen the SE enough times to fill-in the plot holes. This sucker still packs an emotional punch toward the end and some thoughtful ideas about fate, destiny and personal responsibility, but is smart to wrap them around some slick stunts (helicopter under the highway underpass = WOW!) and ground-breaking special effects that still hold up today. Edward Furlong grates often but he has moments as John Connor here that register as genuine, which is key to buying the emotional bond between the cut-from-marble Linda Hamilton matriarch and Arnold Schwarzenegger reprogrammed-from-the-prequel T-800. Robert Patrick, with the backing of Stan Winston's and ILM's best 1991 SFX trickery, make the T-1000 a formidable foe you still find yourself enthralled by even after you've seen many times how it all goes down. It also ties-up the mythology with an ending so tidy and neat it continues to make all "Terminator" follow-ups (movies and TV) irrelevant.

Tony Scott's THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991) on Blu-ray. An absolute blast from start to finish, the template of a type of action movie that has been copied and remade over and over with diminishing returns (except maybe for "The Long Kiss Goodnight," another Shane Black-scripted self-aware 90's action masterpiece). Yes, it's sexist, dumb, loud and choking on its own testosterone. It's also whip-smart, well-acted ("Halloween 4's" Danielle Harris is the rare kid actor in an 'R' movie you want to see more of), funny and, despite a few major continuity gaffes (watch out for Joe Hallenbeck's re-appearing jacket during the movie's last 15 minutes), well-shot and directed with confidence by Ridley Scott's baby brother. Damon Wayans and Bruce Willis have great chemistry together, which is good because without them half of Black's best one-liners would go to waste. Kind-of surprised Taylor Negron didn't break out as the 90's Al Leong (who cameos along with Mel Gibson in a clip of "Lethal Weapon" on "TLBS").

Joe Johnston's THE ROCKETEER (1991) on Blu-ray for the first time. Saw it twice, once in the morning by itself, the 2nd time with the Twitter Film Fest. When "The Rocketeer" is on fire (figuratively and metaphorically speaking) it's a blast, no pun intended. The production design is aces (a warm-up for Johnston's "Captain America"), the SFX/action scenes decent for '91 and the supporting actors (Paul Sorvino, Terry O'Quinn, Jon Polito, Alan Arkin, etc.) fun to watch. O'Quinn as Howard Hughes and Sorvino as a gangster (who utters THE line of the movie) are in particularly fine form. Timothy Dalton's Neville Sinclair is the movie's best asset though, playing a villain that is both slimy but also charismatic as heck and worth rooting for his eventual demise. Like Treat Williams in "The Phantom" (another 1990's film set in 1938 that emulates adventure movies from that era that also did poor box office business) Dalton knows exactly the type of movie he's in, and Jennifer Connolly looks like she could have starred in those movies. Problem is Billy Campbell in the title role is a vacuum of charisma that grinds the movie to a halt whenever he takes off the rocket pack and/or mask, which happens often. "The Rocketeer" piles fantasy, impossible coincidences and improbabilities up to the rafters, then bends over backwards to sell it and some of it comes across really well. Pacing issues and Campbell's wooden acting keep this one from taking off as high as it could have flown.

And, last but least, Mario Van Peeble's NEW JACK CITY (1991) on Amazon Video on Demand. Nothing new to add to what I already said (see previous post).
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby mavrach » Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:29 pm

Some more Facebook sloppy seconds for you:

Pontypool - Low budget Canadian zombie movie, told from the perspective of a local radio studio. It has a War of the Worlds thing going for it, as the host tries to piece everything together from incoming stories. They tried something a little different for a zombie movie. That's commendable since zombies are overkilled nowadays, but the spin they put on the zombies was a bit unbelievable. Character actor Stephen McHattie (that guy who got his jaw blown off by Viggo in A History of Violence) gives a surprisingly strong turn as the lead here, making me want to see more of him. I say it's worth a watch, available on Netflix Instant.

Miami Vice
- First time for me giving it a fair shot since I'm a Mann fan now. Mann did a great job as always, it was really really cool, but a little too cool. The characters were locked in a permanent badass mode, staring intently, wearing sunglasses, spouting intense dialogue. The movie stands separately from the TV series, but I wonder if I'd appreciate it more if I'd seen the series. The completist in me feels like I should see the series first anyway. Still you could do a lot worse with your time, but I wasn't as into it as I was the rest of Mann's work.

The Adventures of Tintin - The best Indiana Jones movie Spielberg's directed since Raiders. It's everything you could possibly want from either an adventure movie or an animated movie. This one came out of nowhere for me, and is a reminder the Spielberg still has it.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - I've had a tougher time getting into Westerns older than 1960, mainly because I started out with more violent ones like Sergio Leone's and more modern ones. I think the material warrants a darker tone. For example, Andy Levine's "funny" voice grates on me every time he's onscreen. But this was the best time I've had with an older Western so far. If Jimmy Stewart seems like an odd choice for a Western, that's the point, he's a lawyer whose ideals are put to the test when he ends up in a lawless town. The point is the civilizing of the old west, and it works perfectly.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby mavrach » Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:44 pm

J.M. Vargas wrote:[b]
[b]BILL & TED's BOGUS JOURNEY (1991) ... As a diehard "Mystery Science Theater 3000" fan it pains me to say it, but Bill Corbett's 'Bran Guy' schtick was stolen wholesale from the template of the Grim Reaper character William Sadler brings to life here. It takes a lot to upstage and steal a Bill & Ted movie from the stars, but Sadler either comes close or outright pulls it off.


Watching it last year, I was also surprised by how much I loved it. Well I thought it was soso at first until William Sadler's Death showed up and stole every scene. A sad, pathetic Death who everybody picks on.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:35 am

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Philadelphia for John Hodgson's one-man show of many names (that time, it was "Sunday in the Dark with Joel"). It was really interesting and a lot of fun, and it included a showing of the MST3K version of "Pod People", one of the show's more popular episodes.

I'm planning on seeing the show again this Saturday, when it'll be at the Scranton Cultural Center. As a bonus, I'll be visiting with my aunt earlier in the day.

Oh, and few days before Joel's show, I saw the repeat of the Rifftrax version of "Manos". Ye gods, but that movie was even worse the second time around.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Polynikes » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:44 pm

mavrach wrote:Some more Facebook sloppy seconds for you:

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - I've had a tougher time getting into Westerns older than 1960, mainly because I started out with more violent ones like Sergio Leone's and more modern ones. I think the material warrants a darker tone. For example, Andy Levine's "funny" voice grates on me every time he's onscreen. But this was the best time I've had with an older Western so far. If Jimmy Stewart seems like an odd choice for a Western, that's the point, he's a lawyer whose ideals are put to the test when he ends up in a lawless town. The point is the civilizing of the old west, and it works perfectly.


As my departed father used to say for the last 40 years of his life, "They don't make films like this any more". With graceful resignation, I have slipped into the same way of thinking. It comes to us all!

One of my favourite Westerns which I happened to catch on TV last week, but without going into spoiler territory, surely the main point of the film is that it is a far from one-dimensional morality tale, which happens to be set in the old West, but is applicable the world over in any age?
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby mavrach » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:15 pm

Polynikes wrote:
mavrach wrote:Some more Facebook sloppy seconds for you:

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - I've had a tougher time getting into Westerns older than 1960, mainly because I started out with more violent ones like Sergio Leone's and more modern ones. I think the material warrants a darker tone. For example, Andy Levine's "funny" voice grates on me every time he's onscreen. But this was the best time I've had with an older Western so far. If Jimmy Stewart seems like an odd choice for a Western, that's the point, he's a lawyer whose ideals are put to the test when he ends up in a lawless town. The point is the civilizing of the old west, and it works perfectly.


As my departed father used to say for the last 40 years of his life, "They don't make films like this any more". With graceful resignation, I have slipped into the same way of thinking. It comes to us all!

One of my favourite Westerns which I happened to catch on TV last week, but without going into spoiler territory, surely the main point of the film is that it is a far from one-dimensional morality tale, which happens to be set in the old West, but is applicable the world over in any age?


It's definitely a good movie, and in retrospect am still thinking about it days later. I don't want to sound like I'm bashing it when I do respect it. It's a tonal thing.

But look at how I've gotten into Westerns. I'm 32, didn't grow up with Westerns, and most people my age dismiss the genre entirely, so I ended up going backwards into them. One day I a while back I decided to check out The Good the Bad and the Ugly, then got into the later era Westerns, spaghetti Westerns, Leone & Peckinpah movies, Eastwood's stuff, etc. Aside from that, I saw mostly every modern Western made after 1990, all darker and more violent.


There's a much lighter tone much of the time, lots of quaint conversations, and the above movie also features a scene where you watch a class of schoolchildren sing the full alphabet song. I only recently saw my first John Wayne movie, and at this point have only seen a tiny handful of his overall. But coming off the above movies, it's hard to accept something like this scene from Liberty Valance:
[url]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDMdoNM-pBU[/url]


I need to divorce what I saw later from the older movies though, because I know it's a different era. But it's tough for me because I've seen the wild west be truly wild, and I define that as violent and brutal. So far Liberty Valance was the best of the few older Westerns I've seen. And you're right that it's about the clash of civilization, here represented by Jimmy Stewart who himself is out of place in a Western, and the lawlessness of the land. But I can't help but feel like the message to be properly driven down needs a more heartless land that Stewart can bring civilization to.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby hoytereden » Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:46 pm

mavrach wrote:
Polynikes wrote:
mavrach wrote:Some more Facebook sloppy seconds for you:

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - I've had a tougher time getting into Westerns older than 1960, mainly because I started out with more violent ones like Sergio Leone's and more modern ones. I think the material warrants a darker tone. For example, Andy Levine's "funny" voice grates on me every time he's onscreen. But this was the best time I've had with an older Western so far. If Jimmy Stewart seems like an odd choice for a Western, that's the point, he's a lawyer whose ideals are put to the test when he ends up in a lawless town. The point is the civilizing of the old west, and it works perfectly.


As my departed father used to say for the last 40 years of his life, "They don't make films like this any more". With graceful resignation, I have slipped into the same way of thinking. It comes to us all!

One of my favourite Westerns which I happened to catch on TV last week, but without going into spoiler territory, surely the main point of the film is that it is a far from one-dimensional morality tale, which happens to be set in the old West, but is applicable the world over in any age?


It's definitely a good movie, and in retrospect am still thinking about it days later. I don't want to sound like I'm bashing it when I do respect it. It's a tonal thing.

But look at how I've gotten into Westerns. I'm 32, didn't grow up with Westerns, and most people my age dismiss the genre entirely, so I ended up going backwards into them. One day I a while back I decided to check out The Good the Bad and the Ugly, then got into the later era Westerns, spaghetti Westerns, Leone & Peckinpah movies, Eastwood's stuff, etc. Aside from that, I saw mostly every modern Western made after 1990, all darker and more violent.


There's a much lighter tone much of the time, lots of quaint conversations, and the above movie also features a scene where you watch a class of schoolchildren sing the full alphabet song. I only recently saw my first John Wayne movie, and at this point have only seen a tiny handful of his overall. But coming off the above movies, it's hard to accept something like this scene from Liberty Valance:
[url]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDMdoNM-pBU[/url]


I need to divorce what I saw later from the older movies though, because I know it's a different era. But it's tough for me because I've seen the wild west be truly wild, and I define that as violent and brutal. So far Liberty Valance was the best of the few older Westerns I've seen. And you're right that it's about the clash of civilization, here represented by Jimmy Stewart who himself is out of place in a Western, and the lawlessness of the land. But I can't help but feel like the message to be properly driven down needs a more heartless land that Stewart can bring civilization to.

Watch some of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart or Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott collaborations for some good '50s Westerns. I also like Henry King's The Gunfighter.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby mavrach » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:42 am

hoytereden wrote:Watch some of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart or Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott collaborations for some good '50s Westerns. I also like Henry King's The Gunfighter.


Those were the exact recommendations that were given to me in the other forum. I'm adding some of these to my Netflix queue.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:42 pm

Robert Zemeckis' WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988) on Vista Series DVD for the first time. This expensive and ground-breaking hit's biggest sin, besides having an unappealing and unfunny lead character that grates, is not having a strong-enough excuse to justify the cartoons and the humans interacting in this particular movie universe. You're just supposed to go with the convoluted "Chinatown"-esque 'movie noir' plot/setting, but "Barton Fink" took less of leap of faith to buy. The 'toons' being shoehorned into an adult narrative resulted in both canceling the other one out. As impressed as I was to see all these licensed cartoon characters appear in "Roger Rabbit" it felt an awful lot like "Wreck-It Ralph," which didn't have much of anything remotely interesting to do with its licensed guest characters. So yes, "Roger Rabbit's" influence continues to be felt in movies today. Technically it's an amazing piece of filmmaking with brilliant individual scenes and memorable moments (the 'dueling pianos' battle between Donald and Daffy particularly) sandwiched between many bad one's ('Patty Cake') along with failed/forced attempts at broad comedy that often fall flat on their face. When it connects (which is often enough to make you wish the movie were better) it really feels like Zemeckis is getting away with something. You can see the evolution of his style from "1941" and "Used Cars" up until this point preparing him for the controlled chaos that he bottles into this not-so-family-friendly Spielbergerian fantasy.

Wong Kar-wai's DAYS OF BEING WILD (1990) at the NYC Public Library retrospective for the first time. The tell-tales of Kar-wai's eventual mastery over romantic mood and visual poetry (thank you, Christopher Doyle) with music playing an integral role is already on full display here, his second feature. Although the narrative flirts with being a Robert Altman-esque tale that switches between multiple characters in 1960 Honk Kong it eventually becomes Leslie Cheung's movie as his character Yuddy (a womanizer raised by a prostitute that's obsessed with finding his real parents) is the catalyst that propels everybody else's story. My favorite is the relationship between Su (Meggie Cheung) and a policeman (Andy Lau) that eventually comes around to reveal... nothing really, other than the impression that a moment in time with Yuddi a few months prior had on one of them. A Wong Kar-wai movie isn't a conventional movie as much as a captured-in-time romantic/pessimistic/nostalgic state of mind trapped in a cinematic bottle. It doesn't fly as high as "Chunking Express" (my favorite Kar-wai) but it breaths that rare contemplative air of non-violent HK cinema.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Polynikes » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:37 pm

mavrach wrote:
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - I've had a tougher time getting into Westerns older than 1960, mainly because I started out with more violent ones like Sergio Leone's and more modern ones. I think the material warrants a darker tone. For example, Andy Levine's "funny" voice grates on me every time he's onscreen. But this was the best time I've had with an older Western so far. If Jimmy Stewart seems like an odd choice for a Western, that's the point, he's a lawyer whose ideals are put to the test when he ends up in a lawless town. The point is the civilizing of the old west, and it works perfectly.

But look at how I've gotten into Westerns. I'm 32, didn't grow up with Westerns, and most people my age dismiss the genre entirely, so I ended up going backwards into them. One day I a while back I decided to check out The Good the Bad and the Ugly, then got into the later era Westerns, spaghetti Westerns, Leone & Peckinpah movies, Eastwood's stuff, etc. Aside from that, I saw mostly every modern Western made after 1990, all darker and more violent.

mavrach wrote:
hoytereden wrote:Watch some of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart or Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott collaborations for some good '50s Westerns. I also like Henry King's The Gunfighter.


Those were the exact recommendations that were given to me in the other forum. I'm adding some of these to my Netflix queue.


Westerns pre 1960 certainly bear no comparison with Westerns of the last twenty years in terms of showing the unglamourised violence, harshness and bleakness of the old West. However, perhaps because of the technical, social and regulatory restrictions which forced them to be sparing in the use of action, I find that the best of the old breed tend to outperform the best of the modern in terms of character and story. To take as an example two Westerns I rate highly and which have excellent critical reputations, High Noon does not begin to belong in the same league as Unforgiven in portraying a realistic picture of the unremitting grimness of life and how gunfights were not the glamorous shoot outs celebrated in earlier films; but I find High Noon a more gripping film. I worry about Gary Cooper, whereas I can't get interested in the fate of Clint Eastwood, and I find the story and characters of High Noon more subtle and interesting than the tale and characters of Eastwood and his companions - there is little or no nuance to the latter. I am not denigrating Unforgiven, just using it as an example of the relative strengths and weaknesses of early and modern Westerns.

Pre 1960, I totally agree with the recommendation of the Anthony Mann/James Stewart collaborations, particularly Winchester '73 (unless this is a rose tinted view as I have not seen it for many, many years). Out of a long list, I would definitely recommend High Noon. Day of the Outlaw and The Ox-bow Incident stick in my mind as two of the relatively darker pre 1960 Westerns, although it is many years since I have seen these. The Searchers features high on most lists, although I recall getting irritated by some "humour" in the middle section which is jarringly at odds with the tone of the rest of the film. One of the weaknesses of older Westerns is that they occasionally lapse into stilted wise-cracking, goofiness, funny accents or slapstick - a valid point you made about certain scenes in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance .

I would suggest that you don't ignore the 1960s and early 1970s, which in many ways I find capture the best of both from their predecessors and successors. Try Ulzana's Raid, Hombre, or One Eyed Jacks.

Too many good films to mention! Glad to see you are inquisitive enough to give older films a try, and I am sure you will find your enquiries rewarding.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Dan Mancini » Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:32 pm

The Searchers features high on most lists, although I recall getting irritated by some "humour" in the middle section which is jarringly at odds with the tone of the rest of the film.

The Searchers does have a broad and irritating comic relief performance by Hank Worden, but don't let that keep you away. In terms of darkness and thematic richness, the movie goes places even self-aware post-'50s Westerns don't. And John Wayne's performance is straight-up amazing. He plays sustained, sublimated rage so convincingly it doesn't even look like acting. It's a fairly terrifying performance that's brilliant in the way it plays against our expectations of Wayne.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:21 am

René Clair (w/ Francis Picaba) ENTR'ACTE (1924) at NYC's Anthology Film Archives for the first time. Like Jean Vigo's "À propos de Nice" but six years earlier, "Entr'acte" is intoxicated with the then-endless experimental possibilities that the new medium of film could bring to French avant-garde artistes like Clair, Picaba and composer Erik Satie (the last two appearing on-camera during the opening cannon bit atop the roof of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées). It's only 22 minutes long but "Entr'acte" packs enough slow-motion, tilted-sideways and primitive SFX shots (my favorite one: the paper boat made to seem like it floats across Parisian roofs) to make its rather-mundane plot about a man who gets shot, falls from a building and then comes back to life (with a camel-pulled funeral procession that results in some Keystone Cops-type mayhem in-between) feel like you're watching a master filmmaker getting his jollies out of the way before he settles down to business. As a big fan of "Le Million" and "À Nous la Liberté" (and, to a lesser degree, "I Married A Witch" with Veronica Lake) it's nice to see Clair at his most youthful and anarchic still retaining the child-like flair for serious flamboyance he brought to his latter films.

Dusan Makavejev's W.R.: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM (1971) at NYC's Anthology Film Archives for the first time. After Makavejev blew my mind with 1981's "Montenegro" (one of the best out-of-nowhere-and-didn't-see-it-coming movie experiences I've ever had) there's no way I was going to pass on a chance to see one of his most famous works projected in 35mm (in a packed theater to boot). It reminded me of "I Am Curious Yellow/Blue," except it's in color and the sanctimonious/serious tone is replaced by an anarchic/sexually charged one. Somehow archival footage of Joseph Stalin and Wilhelm Reich (the latter coming across as Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master" type of guru, only saner) seamlessly contrasts with the political/sexual adventures of two Yugoslavian women (Milena Dravic and Jagoda Kaloper, whose on-screen characters share the same name). A Russian championship skater (Ivica Vidovic) proves too principled/disciplined a communist to fully embrace Milena's 'Erotic Socialism,' though what Vladimir ends up doing to her troubles him enough to sing about it like Julie Andrews in the opening of "The Sound of Music" (with hobos). Some of "W.R.'s" silly stunts misfire (Tuli Kupferberg parading around Manhattan as a soldier) but even they get swept into Makavejev's anarchic mise en scène. This is a playground of the absurd in which you're not sure if a shot of an interview showing workers hammering paintings on a barn is staged or the happy accident of a well-placed camera, but you can't help but laugh out loud at what you're seeing. Silly but deadly serious, sexually charged but not really erotic (YMMV), political but not anti-communist (more like anti-whoever's in charge) and seemingly cobbled-together from old footage but scripted/acted impeccably (its influence can be still felt on a legion of documentary filmmakers like Michael Moore, Larry Charles, Morgan Spurlock, Robert Kenner, etc.), "W.R." is a primo example of Yugoslavian filmmaking obliterating its censorship opponents (Dusan had to know this would get banned in his home country) and going for broke. Gonna have to track down "Sweet Movie" now to keep this Dusan Makavejev party going.

Charles E. Sellier Jr.'s SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) on DVD for the first time. There's a simplicity and effectiveness with which "Silent Night, Deadly Night" goes about fleshing out its simple premise/story (little kid is traumatized, emotionally abused at an orphanage as a pre-teen and a grown-up psycho that snaps into a killing rampage on Christmas eve) that, in today's era of high-concepts or slick storytelling, makes it refreshing to watch it go about its slashing business with no attempt to be anything other than the then-latest holiday-themed horror cash-in. It flirts with being truly subversive (box cutter gift, taking an ax swing at a nun, etc.) but "Silent Night..." is, despite the misplaced controversy that cut short its theatrical life back in '84, a pretty innocuos low-budget horror flick by genre standards. With the complete version footage re-instated (not as damaged as 1981's unrated "My Bloody Valentine" but clearly inferior-looking to the 'R' footage) this is the type of flick that would have given me nightmares and become a touchstone of my youth had I seen it then. As a now 40 year old I could object to the linear-to-a-fault storyline (everything telegraphed = no surprises) and cheaply-made gore effects. Instead I choose to embrace the 80's kid within me and proclaim "Silent Night..." a still-effective, somewhat disturbing (those mullets!) and fun-on-multiple levels horror flick from a bygone era. Check it out with the F This Movie commentary track for an added jolt of the smileys. ;-)

Don Coscarelli's JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013) in theaters for the first time. When I showed up at the Landmark Sunshine theater in NYC for the Saturday midnight showing of "John Dies at the End" the place was packed; it was the most people I've seen in the lobby of this theater since they showed the "Sena" documentary and "The Room" premiere in the past. For a moment I felt really good for Coscarelli and thought his decades of low-budget filmmaking were paying off with a strong cult following. Then someone yelled 'Now seating for The Godfather' (the weekend's repertoire feature), there was a stampede for lines and, when I sat down to watch "John Dies at the End," I was the only one sitting and watching it in an empty theater while "The Godfather" played at another screen to a packed house. I literally felt like Frank Drebin in "Naked Gun" when he comes to America and talks into the microphones before realizing 'Weird Al' Yankovic is the real star. :)

Anywho, "John Dies at the End" is the mix of genres and styles with an in-your-face self-aware comedic attitude we've to expect now from Coscarelli (and yes, somehow the silver ball from "Phantasm" is worked into the narrative). For most of its running time the movie (a mix of a Philip K. Dick novel, The CW show "Supernatural," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and, well, a Don Coscarelli movie) is a fun riot, the type of low-budget hybrid film that can throw visual references to Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" and pay homage to THE line from "New Jack City" while simultaneously being either an invasion movie and/or parallel to drug addiction as the key to alternate dimension hopping. All that while looking like it only cost a few bucks to put together, which is not a slam since the digital effects manage to squeeze a lot of bang for minimal production money. Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes (the former more than the latter) seriously look like they could take over the guys from "Supernatural" tomorrow and keep that TV show going for another decade, their chemistry and awareness of the flick they're in is so good. Paul Giamatti (who also produced) starts as audience surrogate inquisitor but ends up becoming a poignant footnote to the story he's chronicling while Clancy Brown gives his infomercial-pitchman-turned-world-savior schtick just enough tongue for the cheek to get a little wet (EEUU!). The film occasionally misfires (a "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" subplot/tribute feels totally superfluous even by Coscarelli's kitchen-sink approach to his pop culture references) but even then you have to smile at the gall of having a 'Mall of the Dead' location (complete with burned out cars in the parking lot) and then having our expectations twisted about what's to come. It's more "Bubba Ho-Tep" than "Phantasm," but it's 100% pure Coscarelli so you know what you're in for.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:15 pm

Fernando DiLeo's RULERS OF THE CITY (1976) on Blu-ray for the first time. My first DiLeo movie, a relatively-minor but entertaining 'poliziottesco' about a small-time mob collector (Harry Baer) and a fellow thug (Al Cliver) that cause a war between the Luigi gang of thugs and the bigger, more ruthless gang from Mr. Scarface, aka Jack Palance looking like/playing a mean bastard, by playing a big con on the latter. Vittorio Caprilo steals the movie as Napoli, an old-school flamboyant (i.e. flaming gay) mobster that decides to side with Tony and Rick to get out of this jam alive. With all the ladies on the movie being either prostitutes or strippers and all the male characters mobsters you have nobody to root for except for the cool red dune buggy Tony drives, which you'll find yourself rooting for it to get to the end of the movie unscathed. "Rulers of the City" is the type of disposable genre flick that has a fist fight/shoot out like clockwork every 5-10 minutes, little but explicit nudity and no cops in sight (the one's that do appear are pretend cops pulling off the con on Mr. Scarface's thugs). While it's on you're thoroughly entertained by it and not questioning its more loopy parts, like a final showdown in an abandoned meat plant that goes on and on and on. Terrific HD presentation by Raro Video; nothing like grainy Eastmancolor film stock and 70's fashions to put you in the mind of 'poliziottesco' mayhem.

Jon Favreau's IRON MAN 2 (2010) on Telemundo-HD for the first time. Somehow I managed to enjoy "The Avengers" without seeing this and "Thor" beforehand. And holy s***, was Scarlett Johansson just awful in "Iron Man 2" with her wide-eyed expressions and hairstyle; the contrast between the cool and collected Agent Romanoff of "The Avengers" and this clearly-nervous Johansson debut is as extreme as the fall from grace of the first "Iron Man" going into this masturbatory mixed-up sequel. Where the first "IM" gave us a troubled and cocky a**hole we could sympathize with in Tony Stark the second is basically the "Tony Stark Is Awesome" show, in which his troubles (alcoholism, a worsening bad ticker, Mickey Rourke phoning his bad guy schtick, etc.) are solved by some seriously goofy shortcuts (leftover family home movies, a new element, Sam Rockwell also showing up just for a paycheck) when "IM2" isn't too busy setting-up "The Avengers" at the expense of itself. Some little touches like the Stark Expo final showdown (nice to have some New York superhero action set in a borough other than Manhattan), the ever-present chemistry between Stark and Pepper Potts and the War Machine vs. Iron Man fight in the middle (anyone that ever read a comic book issue in which heroes fought among themselves will smile at the thinly-veiled excuse to get this fight started) make "IM2" worth seeing, but barely and just for completeness' sake.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Mach6 » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:14 pm

Expendables 2 (Blu Ray): To get myself ready for Die Hard 5, I finally had some free time to check it out. I remember having one of my best movie theater experiences watching EX2 with an audience that knew its’ 80’s action movies. (They were laughing their asses off for a minute after Chuck Norris told a Chuck Norris Fact.) On Blu Ray, it holds up & I still like it better than the 1st with the action being better directed & Van Damme just great every second hamming it up as the arrogant, Eurotrash mercenary leader. It feels more like a team effort than the Stallone & Statham show with some backup in the first one. Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner still steals every scene & is just freakin hilarious. On the other end, Schwarzenegger is just so off his game. Arnold is just so rusty & awkward from his line readings, his one-liners (with the worse being “Who’s next, Rambo?” UGH!), & he even looks uncomfortable holding & shooting the super rifle in the airport battle. Even the usually wooden Chuck Norris gave a better performance & looked professional in the few scenes he had.
In the special features, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Van Damne could still do his patented jumping reverse kick because I thought “Stunt Double!” or they CGI’d his face in when I saw it at the theater. The Simon West commentary was interesting in how much he wanted to get Willis, Stallone, & Arnold in the same frame together even if it wasn’t in the script. He also had to cut out a lot of subplots in order to get it in the desired running time. (I appreciate that the Expendables movies are less than 100 minutes long.) Finally, I liked Stallone’s idea for Expendables 3 of bringing in younger action heroes to carry the legacy of the old guard. I would take it a step further & have a Young vs Old Story with The Rock, Tom Hardy, & Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog from The Raid: Redemption) as the main villains for EX3. Can you imagine a no holds barred martial arts fight to the death between Jet Li & Mad Dog?
J.M. Vargas wrote:Jon Favreau's IRON MAN 2 (2010) on Telemundo-HD for the first time. Somehow I managed to enjoy "The Avengers" without seeing this and "Thor" beforehand. And holy s***, was Scarlett Johansson just awful in "Iron Man 2" with her wide-eyed expressions and hairstyle; the contrast between the cool and collected Agent Romanoff of "The Avengers" and this clearly-nervous Johansson debut is as extreme as the fall from grace of the first "Iron Man" going into this masturbatory mixed-up sequel.

Amen Vargas!
Anytime I pop in the Blu Ray I basically skip the middle portion of it since it’s all about setting up the Avengers & “will Tony Stark be able to cure himself” subplot really drags it down. Johansson’s performance was 100X better in the Avengers than here. Iron Man 2 is OK or around 2.5 stars out of 4 for me, but it is clearly the worst of the Marvel produced movies.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:42 am

Jean Cocteau's THE BLOOD OF A POET (1930) on Criterion DVD for the first time. Continuing my trip through early French avant gard (Jean Vigo's "À propos de Nice," René Clair "Entr'Acte") here's one of the pillars of the genre, the first of Cocteau's so-called "Orphic Trilogy." If you had shown me this without telling me it was a Jean Cocteau movie I would have guessed it was his just from the similarities, in style and mise-en-scène, with Cocteau's version of "Beauty and the Beast." Unlike that polished and cinematic 1946 movie though, "The Blood of a Poet" defies conventional description or even genre. 'A painter steals the mouth of his work-in-progress, makes out with it and goes through a mirror into another dimension' is a crude summary (one that doesn't do it justice) of only one of the four "stories" Cocteau weaves together with primitive but still-effective SFX work that sells the director's intent to escape 'the mortal tedium of immortality' with this loosely-strung-together-by-dream-logic filmed spectacle. It'd be easy to call "Blood of a Poet" surrealistic or symbolic except Cocteau himself rejects those descriptions. Currently OOP, "The Blood of a Poet" is worth seeing (public libraries probably have a copy) but I wouldn't spend crazy loot chasing after the Criterion Box Set.

Carlos Saura's PEPPERMINT FRAPPE (1967) on TCM-HD for the first time. Julián (an excellent José Luis López Vázquez), a middle-aged lonely doctor in 1960's Spain, experiences re-awakened repressed desires when his childhood friend Pablo (Alfredo Mayo) re-enters his life married to much-younger pretty blonde wife Elena (Geraldine Chaplin), who reminds Julián of an old flame. Unable to seduce or get Elena to show any interest in him, the good doctor channels his desires for Elena on his young shy female assistant Ana (Geraldine Chaplin again but as a brunette) until their desire to please each other's needs gets the better of them. Long before Luis Buñuel's "That Obscure Object of Desire" pulled the 'same character, different actress' card ("Peppermint Frappé" is dedicated to Buñuel) the writer/director of "Cria Cuervos" was dabbling with his then-girlfriend actress in similar-but-not-quite-the-same psychological identity territory in this excellent and understated drama that uses subtlety to underscore pointed criticisms at both the Franco regime and bourgeoisie society. Julián is no saint (you can see a direct line from him to the obsessed doctor Antonio Banderas plays in "The Skin I Live In") in that he rejects Ana until she makes herself look more like the idealized woman Julián pins for (the scene with the doctor's magazine scrapbook is genuinely creepy). Combined with Geraldine Chaplin's ability to play both Elena and Ana like complete opposites that gradually come to resemble each other in Julián's mind at first, "Peppermint Frappé" packs quite the psychological wallop. It's no "Cria Cuervos" but definitely up there in Carlos Saura's distinguished oeuvre.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Polynikes » Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:50 pm

I am impressed by the range and number of the films you get through, J.M.V., and the well written reviews.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:31 pm

Thanks. :) Starting January 1st I decided to watch a new-to-me movie every day of 2013 as my New Year's Resolution, partly inspired by Tim Lucas' 2012 attempt at writing in a blog of every movie he saw that year (http://vwpro.blogspot.com/2012/01/1-mad-dogs-and-englishmen-1971.html) and also inspired by the growing pile of unwatched movies sitting on my multiple kevyip piles. Wish me luck, and thanks for reading. 8)
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:35 am

Mikio Naruse's FLUNKY, WORK HARD! (1931) on Criterion Eclipse DVD for the first time. The earliest surviving work from Naruse's prolific silent era (and a badly-damaged two-reeler at that), this blue-collar dramedy is unique in the director's canon in that it focuses primarily on the male leads instead of the working-class women Naruse was so fond of making the centerpieces of his movies. Comparisons to Ozu's "I Was Born, But..." are inevitable since it and "Flunky" shows the plights (the good and silly along with the bad and the heart-wrenching) of working-class kids and their parents dealing with the effects of then worldwide Depression on their lives. Here a young boy that wants a toy plane and is constantly bullied by other kids shares screen time with his goofy insurance salesman father (Isamu Yamaguchi), who competes with another insurance salesman for the business of the mother of five rich/spoiled kids. Naruse's camera, unlike Ozu's, is always moving and here culminates in a montage at a key dramatic moment to illustrate the turmoil of a character's decision coming back to haunt him. Essential and interesting for completists, "Flunky, Work Hard!" gives the earliest available hint at the future quality of Naruse's body of work.

Michael Moore's THE BIG ONE (1997) on DVD for the first time. Between 1989's "Roger & Me" and 2002's "Bowling for Columbine" Michael Moore dabbled on television ("TV Nation," "The Awful Truth"), feature films ("Canadian Bacon") and the speaking/book tour circuit (the working-class blue collar prototype for Kevin Smith's speechifying career). Moore's only other theatrically-released documentary in those 13 years, "The Big One," is part masturbatory celebration of the success of his then-best selling book (Random House paid for a book tour that Moore was smart-enough to film on the company's dime), part dated recap of the dissatisfaction with the 1996 election campaign (i.e. the good old days) and part Michael's really dated repeat of his crash-the-business-headquarters-with-in-your-face-stunts provocative techniques that here yield little that's new or fresh. Besides the Miramax cache' giving it a large-enough budget for lots of expensive music (including the then-obligatory use of the Del-Tones'/Dick Dale's "Misirlou") and the fact this PG-13 documentary gets away with two flagrant uses of the word 'F***' "The Big One" is more of a sad reminder that Michael Moore still was a human being in the mid-90's before he became a full-on left-wing ideologue preacher. His couple of minutes singing like Bob Dylan alongside with Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen really make you miss that guy, now replaced by an MSNBC talking point-spewing facsimile with the words 'Michael Moore' superimposed on-screen.

PARTNERS IN ACTION (2002) on UniMas for the first time. Generic, forgettable direct-to-video action/thriller in which former cop Jack Cunningham (Armand Assante on auto pilot) battles small-town dirty policemen and drug dealers that have framed Jack for a murder he didn't commit. A dumb teenager (Doug Smith, from HBO's "Big Love") partners and helps out Cunningham's crusade, getting himself and his mother in the crosshairs of the bad guys, even though a few good-but-afraid-to-intervene cops (like TNT's "Falling Skies" actor Mpho Koaho) are on Jack's side. Veteran director Sidney J. Furie has done better/worse movies (three "Iron Eagle" movies, "Superman IV," etc.) but I doubt they're as easy to forget or even remember why you started watching it in the first place (answer: boredom, and it was what followed some boxing matches I was watching) as "Partners in Action."

Steven Soderbergh's SIDE EFFECTS (2013) in theaters for the first time. With this alleged "retirement" swan song to motion picture directing (raise your hands if you believe that... what, no takers?) Soderbergh is back into the 'psychological mind games couples play on each other' territory he explored so deftly in his 1989 breakthrough film "Sex, Lies and Videotape." Basically a NYC-set medical procedural with thriller elements (and twisty one's at that... even M. Night Shyamalan would approve with envy he didn't think of these plot about-turns), "Side Effects", toward the end (and not a spoiler as much as a personal observation), becomes more of a character study about the capacity of all kinds of people to be cruel to one another to serve their selfish needs than the promised medical drama the first three thirds of the movie sets-up. I'm not happy with what happens in the last act of "Side Effects" not because it's bad or comes from nowhere but because, frankly, it seems too clever by half and beneath both the quality of how the movie was set-up at that point and the good performances by the main cast. Rooney Mara (who does 'pretty crazy chick' better than anyone at the moment) and Jude Law (the only good actor in last year's re-imagining of "Anna Karenina") steal the movie in both their scenes together and on their own against the supporting cast, including an underused-but-effective Channing Tatum and a vampy Catherine Zeta-Jones. "Side Effects" is neither career-best or career-worse Soderbergh, but intelligent movies for grown-ups are a rare commodity worth seeking out while they're still around.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:06 pm

Yesterday, I saw "Shoes of the Fisherman" on TCM. I thought it was a good movie, though, as a Baptist, I'm not sure how accurate it was regarding the Catholic Church. What I found more interesting, though, was the timing. I'm not sure how far in advance it was scheduled, but recent events make it pretty fortuitous.

And I've noticed that the TV movie remake of "Bye Bye Birdie" is making the cable rounds on Encore. It's actually pretty good, and it's a lot closer to the original musical than the theatrical movie was.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:33 am

Maurice Pialat's WE WON'T GROW OLD TOGETHER (1972) at NYC's Anthology Film Archives for the first time. Boom, there goes the French existentialistic drama explosion. Take the insane-for-each-other couple from Andrzej Zulawski's "Possession," make them equally-stubborn French lovers (he a lot older than her and married) and replace the otherworldly-violence and Berlin Wall metaphors with lacerating verbal jabs, bickering break-ups and heart-felt reconciliations (often all of them in the span of the same scene). All these watched with the keen analytical eye of the dispassionate filmmaker that talked/walked the talk/walk and also made "À nos amours." That Jean is vane enough to think he's worth the pain he brings to the women in his life without making apologies for his behavior only helps make this a character study of not only personal relationships but also the mores of the society and family structure (perfectly embodied by Catherine's meek parents) that don't confront it. Without a soundtrack and no apologies for the logic-defying reasons Marlène Jobert and Jean Yanne (both excellent) use for constantly entering and leaving each other's lives (which is still somehow stronger than Jean's marriage to the most understanding wife tolerating her hubby's infidelities ever put on a French movie, and I do mean ever!) Pialat captures on film the beauty, madness and insane behavior of obsessive love that takes P.T. Anderson jumping through hoops in "Punch Drunk Love" to manufacture. This is Pialat at his most emotionally naked, raw and in complete control.

Albert Brooks' MODERN ROMANCE (1981) at NYC's Anthology Film Archives for the first time. And here it is, the loosely-inspired American remake of a superior French movie that's (surprise!) as good or better than the genuine article. Though it shares the basic premise (bickering lovers that can't quit each other, the male being consumed by jealousy that his woman might be seeing someone else, etc.) and some loose plot structure (filmmaking as the lead character's profession) Brooks smartly tones down the bile and ups the self-doubting neurotic humor to meet his comfort zone. I can't think of too many actors that could make me laugh from them talking to themselves (a pet peeve of mine), but here Brooks nails every bullet point in the lonely broken heart club's manual (songs on the radio, driving by your ex's home, dialing for dates, etc.) without going overboard. The handful of showbiz cameos (George Kennedy as George Kennedy, James L. Brooks essentially playing John Landis! :lol: ) and stabs at Hollywood ("The Incredible Hulk" and "Heaven's Gate" in the same scene? I love you Albert Brooks! 8)) are neat distractions, but Kathryn Harrold's Mary and Brooks' Robert Cole are front and center throughout their movie. It might be argued that "We Won't Grow Old Together" and "Modern Romance" are still male-centered views of a relationship by male directors, but Brooks deserves credit for not only putting himself down (I actively wished as the story unfolded that Mary would realize she could do a lot better than Robert) but for doing it in a society that, unlike France, can't seem to break away from the fairy tale romance myth. One of the best Valentine's Massacre double-headers I've ever seen.

Andrew Davis' THE FUGITIVE (1993) on HD-DVD. Man, where did Dr. Richard Kimble get an invisibility cloak shield to walk in and out of Chicago buildings with the greatest of ease while being plastered on wanted posters and TV broadcasts? And who'd ever thought that a 20 year-old movie based on a 'man on the run' TV show would be a more intense medical thriller than Soderbergh's "Side Effects"? ;-) You can't make a movie like "The Fugitive" anymore in a post 9/11 society full of cameras on every corner (Kimble would have been caught by the 2nd reel), and in a time when Hollywood favors the flashy and kinetic over the methodical slow build-up that Andrew Davis stages like a mother f'ing clockwork maker. Harrison Ford makes an excellent but bland audience surrogate/leading man, a nice contrast to Tommy Lee Jones' parody-worthy and semi-improvised U.S. Marshall character Samuel Gerard. The real star of the movie is Chicago, who seldom gets photographed in movies these days without Michael Bay blowing it to bits or Channing Tatum losing his wife to memory loss. A hell of a town, indeed.

GALAXY QUEST (1999) on Cinemax-HD. The Mel Brooks prerogative for parody (your movie should have the same production values of the thing you're making fun of) is on full effect here, one of the smartest, heartfelt and funniest SFX-heavy comedies that breathes that rare "Ghostbusters" air of repeatability. The real star of the spectacle isn't the actual spectacle (no offense to Stan Winston's designs or Industrial Light & Magic's SFX, which were OK for '99 but clearly made by their 'B' teams) but the ability of an ace cast (heroic Allen, sexy Weaver, pompous Rickman, hilarious Rockwell, on-fire Shalhoub, etc.) to be both believable as the thing they're parodying while simultanously poking fun at it (and themselves). That ain't easy to nail, let alone sustain for 102 min. You can tell everyone in the cast/crew, including the extras, cared about this one and it shows. I'm still unsure if Fred Kwan is supposed to be high and that was cut from the narrative (it's heavily hinted at) but man, everytime Shalhoub appears on-screen he kills (and double-teamed with Rockwell it's even better). 'Jane Doe as Laliari.' :lol:
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby mavrach » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:15 am

Ordinary People - Some incredible performances and a serious look at the repression of emotions in the wake of a tragedy. The somber tone did wear on me after a while and it felt very plain in its attempt to show a seemingly normal family coping with an intense loss. It's known as one of the great Oscar upsets since it beat Raging Bull, and unfairly to the movie itself, that was on my mind the whole time. In no way is this a better movie on any level, I don't even think this is debatable. I think this deserved all of its acting awards but I can't see myself ever returning to it again.

Miami Vice - First time for me giving it a fair shot since I'm a Mann fan now. Mann did a great job as always, it was really really cool, but a little too cool. The characters were locked in a permanent badass mode, staring intently, wearing sunglasses, spouting intense dialogue, and it came off as a little phony. The movie stands separately from the TV series, but I wonder if I'd appreciate it more if I'd seen the series. The completist in me feels like I should see the series first anyway. Still you could do a lot worse with your time, but I wasn't as into it as I was the rest of Mann's work.

Public Enemies - My last Michaell Mann movie. Along with Ali I had lowered expectations on this one. The movie was a bit of a slog, I took 3-4 breaks but had some good character moments. A period gangster movie might seem like a strange choice for Mann, but it's still one of his cops/criminals movies that just happens to take place during the Great Depression. Also it's nice to see Johnny Depp in a tougher role like this, instead of another outlandish quirky character. He does strange so much that it's strange to see him play normal, if that makes any sense.

Two Mules for Sister Sara - It's not the greatest Western I've ever seen, but it was way different than what I expected. Going from the title, it sounds like some sort of quaint prairie story, but it's a straightforward western with the twist of Eastwood being paired up with a nun. It ended up being good fun.

Hitchcock's Young and Innocent aka The Girl Was Young. A decent mid-level lesser known Hitch entry from the 1930's. The finale was quite awkward though, where the villain hides out in a musical band...in blackface. Changing times and all, but it's front and center. The scene just went on and on, and it's treated like a practical place to hide. "Wipe the black off his face, is that him??" The matter of fact way that this is presented as a regular part of life shows the progress that we've made since then. The movie itself isn't racist per se but it's so distracting it's almost comically awful.

Heckler - Documentary on Netfix Instant. While the first 20 minutes is about comedian hecklers, the rest of it actually focuses more on film criticism, mainly the online variety (hey we have a target audience here!). The main subject is Jamie Kennedy, who we'll all have a knee jerk reaction to instantly hate, but he goes through a load of his own bad reviews and even confronts some of his critics in person. While it's mostly about mean spirited amateur critics who use the internet to lash out, as opposed to educated and experienced reviewers, the point ends up being to be respectful if you must criticize, which I can agree with. The idea that you can hate the work but there isn't a need to hate the performers themselves. Personally I'm in the clear because I shook Steve Guttenberg's hand last year at a book signing ;-)

Out of Sight - I saw this in the theaters when I was way too young to appreciate it and forget everything about it, so I essentially saw it for the first time tonight. This was a hell of a lot of fun. I'll state a heresy and mention that I respect and enjoy Jackie Brown but it's one of my least favorite Tarantino movies. But OoS I found to be a perfect companion piece which connected to me both on a storytelling level as well as a plain fun experience.

Insomnia - For one of Christopher Nolan's less-mentioned movies, this was excellent. I find procedural investigation type movies to be a bore. You will never find me watching an NCIS or any of its clones, and most movies that are simply about a detective solving a crime tend to bore me because the movie itself created the problem. However Insomnia has a bigger story to tell, because it's really about guilt. Al Pacino was excellent and Robin Williams surprisingly held down the villain role. I remember for a couple of years there he was trying to do bad guy roles (One Hour Photo??).

Transsiberian - A Tense thriller reminiscent of Hitchcock. Without trying to spoil, it's about an American couple returning from missionary work via the transsiberian railroad through Russia, they meet another couple and basically bad things start to happen. I think this is the sort of movie that works best if you don't know much about it. Woody Harrelson plays a goody two-shoes better than you'd think, but it's Emily Mortimer's movie. I'd recommend it, it's on Netflix Instant for only a couple more weeks.

Elfen Lied - I tore through the 13 episodes in 2 days. An interesting anime series with an extremely violent opening that settles into a more character-driven story. I haven't watched a new anime series in years, and in tone this would lie closest to Neon Genesis Evangelion (though not as epic). It's nice having this stuff on Netflix Instant because I used to pay $30 per DVD for these. And I have no idea why it's titled Elfen Lied.

Total Recall (2012) - I can't believe I had a blast watching this. I've seen the original dozens of times growing up, so this was a hard sell, and I had lowered expectations going in. It completely makes sense to combine Lori/Richter into one character, and it also helps to combine Quaid's friend with the "take the pill" guy, as well as removing Mars which raises the stakes. The world created here was totally immersive. Now it's hard to totally rate the story, since it follows the same beats as the original so there were no surprises, I may have been filling in the gaps myself, or would it legitimately be an engrossing story for a first time viewer?
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby mavrach » Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:25 pm

One more:

Tron - Despite my claiming to be a big geek, I'd never seen this before. Overall I liked it. It is a bit dated and spends too much time going "hey check it out, it's CGI!!!!" But it was a lot of fun and it was cool to see a young and energetic Jeff Bridges. I can see nostalgia carrying a lot of weight here. I grew up with another early CGI fest, The Last Starfighter, which is one of my favorites but I'm not sure somebody watching it now would entirely appreciate. If I'd done the same with Tron I bet it'd have the same effect on me.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:05 am

Dusan Makavejev's LOVE AFFAIR, OR THE CASE OF THE MISSING SWITCHBOARD OPERATOR (1967) on TCM-HD for the first time. More sexually-explicit sociopolitical monkey business from the former Yugoslavian republic's most notorious and provocative filmmaker of the 60's and 70's. There's a "Girls" (the HBO TV series) vibe to the adventures of a young woman, Eva Ras's Izabela, as she experiences romantic adventures and escapades (along with no small amount of sexual harassment at work) with men of all ages and social spheres of the then-Yugoslavian society. Her sexuality both empowers and puts Izabela at risk, which the director films in such a natural 'no big deal' style (particularly the post-sex bed sitting arrangements) it's disarmingly charming. Unlike his more free-roaming and seemingly-improvised works of the 70's though ("W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism," etc.) Makavejev contrasts Izabela's contemporary romances with an ongoing "CSI"-like dissection of a crime which, along with the constant and now-expected political messaging ('Be proud, Yugoslavia'), keeps the lid on the gallows humor restrained and more sober while still being somewhat-ridiculous on purpose. I've only seen three of his movies but Dusan Makavejev's stock is rising fast in my favorite directors list.

Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD (1986) on MGM-HD for the first time. So this is what being hit by a runaway train feels like. Holy s***, I did not see this one coming. I started watching "Something Wild" as a curio thinking I'd tune out a few minutes later and then, when I realized I had no idea where this road movie was going, I couldn't get off the train midway. Peppered with great cameos in tiny roles (Charles Napier, John Sayles, John Waters, etc.) and a peppy sing-along soundtrack along with the best acting I've ever seen from Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels, this movie was a gift that kept on giving. The moment Audrey's mom calls bulls*** on Charles' charade in a non-threatening, seen-it-all-from-her-daughter tone, is both potent but underplayed beautifully by Demme's direction (blink and you'd miss it). Then Ray Liotta shows up and the tension about the inevitable explosion that builds and builds is amazing (nobody does uncomfortable tension better than Demme, except maybe for John McNaughton in his 90's prime and Paul Thomas Anderson) leading to an unexpected payoff/ending that manages to be typical Hollywood while also being characteristic of Jonathan's 'oeuvre.' I honestly don't know if "Something Wild" will hold as well on repeat viewing (most of the joy from this viewing came from not knowing what would happen next, then having my expectation of where things were headed twisted) but seeing it clarified for me why Criterion had picked it for its prestigious brand in the first place. This and "Sid and Nancy" would make a great opposites-attract 80's double feature. :)

David Wain's WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (2001) on Showtime-HD for the first time. There's a brilliant sequence late in this movie when Victor (Ken Marino), one of the horny camp counselors, goes missing and he's the only one that can save some kid campers whose raft is hovering near a water fall miles away for what seems like hours (don't ask). For a few insane moments the movie takes the old 'calls are coming from inside the house' premise and goes apes*** with it, leading up to Victor's hero moment saving the kids that is described to us instead of shown because (a) the filmmakers probably didn't have the budget to shoot it and (b) the summer movies "Wet Hot American Summer" is parodying wouldn't have had those resources either. That's the movie in a nutshell, a mix of extremely-clever and abysmally-unfunny jokes/characters/situations at the expense of a genre that wasn't that stellar to begin with. It veers closest to "Meatballs" in style and execution, but it name-drops scenes/moments/lines from the likes of "Sleepaway Camp" ('Meet me at the picnic table in 10 seconds' :lol: ) to give it an early 80's vibe that is constantly undermined by the shameless mugging-for-laughs of cast members from The State (a show I wasn't crazy about). Gotta say though, for all the one-dimensional cardboard and cartoon characters on parade here (Chris Melloni's creepy Vietnam vet cook, Molly Shannon's Arts & Craft teacher, Catskills funnyman "Alan Shemper," etc.), "Wet Hot American Summer" has two very cute couples (Beth & Henry and McKinley & Ben, of which the latter get the explicit sex scene!) that somehow cut through the joke/gag-thrown-at-the-wall parade and achieve a degree of humanity and decency not present anywhere else on the movie (on purpose, naturally). A very, very mixed bag (the continuity/shoddy filmmaking doesn't help, whether intentional or dictated by budget/weather constraints) whose cult following I can understand but not get fully behind, unlike McKinley (ding!).
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Gabriel Girard » Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:10 am

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo- Fincher version. I haven't read the books nor seen the Swedish version but I still really loved this. Nobody can create tension and atmosphere like Fincher. I really was impressed with how he handled the various storylines and with Craig's acting. Very intense film and his most satisfying work since Zodiac. I also have to give props to Zaillian's screenplay and Stellan Skarsgard's chilling performance.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:10 am

THE EQUINOX... A JOURNEY INTO THE SUPERNATURAL (1967) on Criterion DVD. The commentary track on the '67 original version of "The Equinox" (the one without the raping woodsman) is a charmer, with old-time SFX champs Dennis Muren, Mark McGee and Jim Danforth sharing anecdotes, laughing at their own inexperience and poking non-mean comments on their breakthrough work. Through these men's recollections and their charming/quaint '67 SFX shots I get the love some cinephiles feel for this particular genre, even though I don't feel as strongly for that genre.

Woody Allen's BANANAS (1971) on MGM-HD for the first time. Bookended by Howard Cosell's play-by-play improv ('You've heard it with your own eyes') and an early attempt at a colorful introduction (before he went Ozu on the opening credits of his future movies), Allen mines the stereotypes of third world Latin American nations in political turmoil AND Americans' uninformed perceptions of those news events (which allows for Allen's over-the-top satire to score big laughs) with a series of gags that feel very episodic. Blink and a cameo by then-unknown Sly Stallone as a subway hodlum (complete with a moustache-twirling silent film song) will just flash by, along with the movie's loosely-concocted plot to get Woody Allen down to the fake country of San Marcos to become involved with a rebel uprising. Though there's a love interest (Louise Lasser) "Bananas" lacks the humanity and heart that made Allen's post-"Annie Hall" romantic comedies so special. You do feel a young Woody throwing everything at the wall (low-brow stuff like falling down a manhole and high-brow concepts like Edgar J. Hoover as a big black woman) and, while most of it sticks (personal favorite: a small store in San Marcos serving a delicatessen food supply for the rebels), watching "Bananas" makes you glad that Allen grew-up as both a person (well, Soon-Yi notwithstanding) and a filmmaker.

Neil Jordan's THE BRAVE ONE (2007) on Action Max-HD for the first time. I wrote in my notepad (the one I use to take notes when I watch a movie for these reviews) 'NO, F' NO, WRONG!!!' at how this modern-day remake on the classic "Death Wish" formula (with a sprinkle of Bernard Goetz-inspired NYC urban paranoia for good measure) wraps-up. Then it hit me that, like the characters in the movie, the assumption that it was a man all along doing the shootings was coloring my reaction to the ending. This meant that, between Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard (whose chemistry in their next-to-last-scene at a diner is wonderful) and Neil Jordan's direction the film managed to imbue a predictable story with enough panache to make me care about the characters. That ethnic bad guys practically line-up for Erica Bain to engage in urban vigilantism smacks of insensitivity, which I guess the fact she was dating Sayid from "Lost" was supposed to balance out. Then again, as someone that has lived and worked in New York for three decades now, "The Brave One" (whose title only makes sense ironically since Foster's character should have been called "The Lucky One") does get right the idea that you're a different person after a violent crime touches you and/or a loved one's. Bet this flick's on permanent rotation in Wayne LaPierre's Netflix queue. :(
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:39 pm

Robert Aldrich's KISS ME DEADLY (1955) on Criterion Blu-ray for the first time. For the first two thirds I wasn't enjoying this very loose (i.e. completely different) film adaption of Mickey Spillane's "bedroom dick" as portrayed by Ralph Meeker. Nothing against Ralph, but when I think Mike Hammer I don't see him as Meeker and Aldrich portray Mike here in mostly ironed shirts and nice cars/suits with then-modern conveniences (an answering machine?); only the dames throwing themselves at Mike and his general apathy toward them came across as classic Spillane. Plus, given the Hays Code rules still in effect in '55, whenever there's violence or tough guy stuff it feels slightly neutered (particularly Cloris Leachman's fate). Then Mike peeks into "the box" (which came completely out of nowhere to me... WOW! :shock: ) and "Kiss Me Deadly" final third turns into both a fantastic noir-by-proxy piece of paranoid cinema and a cool Mike Hammer movie. Meeker's mug grins with animal delight as Hammer begins bitch-slapping people around and the veneer of civility from earlier in the film vanishes; the more wrinkled/crooked Mike's clothes/ties are the better, IMO. The finale doesn't add-up to much of anything (lots is left unanswered) besides (a) Mike's quest to find the great 'what's it' got him in trouble, again, plus (b) women are selfish, greedy and deserve whatever bad's coming to them (but at least one is worth saving). "Kiss Me Deadly" would make a great double-bill with Kurosawa's "I Live In Fear." ;-)

Wes Craven's MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010) on USA Network for the first time. Blatantly stealing from himself ("Shocker," "Nightmare on Elm Street") and better source material for premises ("Village of the Damned"), Craven concocts a bats*** crazy movie about a serial killer with multiple souls that wrecks his beyond-the-grave vengeance 16 years after his "death" on the seven kids (and anyone unlucky to be around them) born in the town of Riverton on the same day. Without Kevin Williamson around to fake it a little bit better (but not that much, because "Scream 4") Wes is way out of his league trying to portray young people as anything other than "types" (jock, nerdy best friend, religious, etc.), which leads to the movie's only great scene where older bad sister Penelope (Zena Grey) beats the ever-living-crap out of "innocent" Bug (Max Thieriot) as she angrily spouts exposition. And haven't four "Scream" movies taught us that seeing people stabbed to death isn't scary or horrifying anymore (even when the knife holder is a re-incarnated schizophrenic)? After a relatively-cool opening (again though, the 'ambulance ambush' thing has been done to death) "My Soul To Take" takes a nosedive into the worse thing a horror movie can ever become: boring dullness.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby azul017 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:39 pm

House (1977) - A new cult favorite of mine. Second time watching it -- and it is still a blast to watch. If you haven't seen it yet, you ought to. Words can't describe how crazy, dreamlike, funny and out there it is. It's worth rewatching numerous times just to soak in the small details imbued in every frame, like the skeleton dancing in tune to the piano forte or the beautiful matte paintings.

Just splendid.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby hoytereden » Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:51 pm

azul017 wrote:House (1977) - A new cult favorite of mine. Second time watching it -- and it is still a blast to watch. If you haven't seen it yet, you ought to. Words can't describe how crazy, dreamlike, funny and out there it is. It's worth rewatching numerous times just to soak in the small details imbued in every frame, like the skeleton dancing in tune to the piano forte or the beautiful matte paintings.

Just splendid.

One of my favorites since I caught it on TCM Underground some time ago. After that I had to get the Criterion Blu-ray. What's fun is checking out other people's reactions after showing it to them for the first time. :shock: :)
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby azul017 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 10:53 pm

The Lion In Winter (1968) - Wow. Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn were born to play these roles, eagerly delving into James Goldman's meaty script and bouncing the wordplay off one another as Henry II and Eleanor. A highly-engrossing costume drama, impeccably shot by Douglas Sloacombe and scored effectively by John Barry. Why MGM hasn't given the film its due on DVD is beyond me. They should lease it to Criterion for a proper DVD/Blu-ray release.

Jack the Giant Slayer - It has a problem facing several other Bryan Singer films -- the characters feel half-baked and the relationships feel either nonexistent or halfway there, even though the film has a lot going on. It either needed another rewrite before shooting started, or more time in the editing room. Still, it's a moderately entertaining film. And I have to say John Ottman outdid himself, score-wise. Frankly, I didn't know he could write something this large, complex and engrossing for a film like this.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:05 am

Jean Vigo's ZERO DE COUNDUITE (1934) on Criterion Blu-ray for the first time. My second Vigo movie, an incomplete but potent allegoric work in which rebellious students at a boarding school stage a coup/revolt against the cold and uncaring faculty figures (except for the one teacher, a Chaplin-esque type soul, that goofs and retains the child-like qualities his fellow teachers lack) on the anniversary of the school. Though at first a meek and shy background player, Gérard de Bédarieux's Tabard character emerges as the soul of the movie when his rebellious act of telling off a hands-on teacher gets him the respect of his peers and propels him to lead the student rebellion other students planned but did not execute until Tabard led them. Hugely influential (everything from Lindsay Anderson's "If..." and Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" to the early 80's movie "Taps" and even Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" steals a piece of it) and banned in its native France until after World War II, "Zéro de conduite" isn't just an underdogs-take-over-the-asylum tale but another mixture of genres/styles from Vigo. A bedroom pillow fight scene that becomes an impromptu parade, shot with backwards-acting and dreamy slow-motion, along with the opening minutes made to feel like a silent film (before the cold reality of the adult supervision makes its presence heard via actual sounds) give "Zéro de conduite" charm and personality. Ending abruptly, the movie leaves you wanting more, an apt metaphor/parallel to the career/life of Jean Vigo itself.

Sam Peckinpah's THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND (1983) on DVD for the first time. I have not seen so much love bestowed on such an inferior entry into a revered director's canon as Anchor Bay's 2004's Divimax 2-disc DVD package for "The Osterman Weekend," i.e. 'We got the rights to a Sam Peckinpah movie, woohoo!' Most of 'Bloody Sam's' earlier, much better movies (as in "not Convoy") don't have home video releases as thorough and fawning as "Osterman Weekend's," including an eye-opening (and worse-than-VHS-quality-but-thanks-for-throwing-it-in rough-looking) alternate cut of the movie that simultaneously improves the narrative slightly (the confusing-as-hell ending makes more sense, along with a restored subplot fleshing character motives a little bit more) and makes you realize that sometimes producer intervention can save a bad movie from being even worse (i.e. the "digitally wavy" opening of the movie as Sam envisioned it that would have turned audiences off immediately). In the end though, like Sam Fuller's "White Dog," the early 80's were simply rough on an old Hollywood veteran trying to stamp an already-creaky 'Big Brother is watching' voyeuristic character study/techno Cold War thriller (based on a Robert Ludlum best-seller) with his signature visual style (slow-motion 96 fps cross-cutting action shoot-outs and car chase) and character types (manly men and their codes of conduct when under pressure). In a movie crammed with bad-asses (Rutger Hauer, Dennis Hopper, Chris Sarandon, John Hurt) and the women who loved them (Meg Foster, Helen Shaver, Cassie Yates) Craig T. Nelson stands out, not only for the porn star-type phony 'stache he's wearing but for the contempt that through his character (a TV producer that's a 'nihilistic anarchist who lives on residuals') Peckinpah lashes at then-modern society's embrace of television and talking head culture as substitutes for... whatever it is that Sam wishes people had embraced, I guess. :? Little touches (like the spy meetings at a drive-in parking lot and the movie's embrace of the early 80's 'Skinemax' pay cable aesthetic for its voyeuristic sex scenes) and the ace cast elevate "The Osterman Weekend" from early 80's trash, but just barely.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:51 am

Henry Selick's TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) on Blu-ray for the first time. While audience fascination with Tim Burton's brand of dark, misunderstood weirdos cinema is beginning to wane (as the box office receipts of 2012's "Dark Shadows" and the feature-length "Frankenweenie" will attest to) some of his past efforts have withstood the test of time, highlighting the universal appeal of the man's obsessions when done right. Though Burton produced it, co-wrote it and stamped his name all over it, Henry Selick's neat stop-motion directing and Dannny Elfman doing more than just composing the tunes (associate producer, singing the lead character's voice, etc.) give Halloween Town ruler Jack Skellington's quest to take over the Christmas holiday a little boost in creativity (emphasis on "little") over Burton-directed stuff. A handful of tunes (especially the show-stopper 'What's This'), some really funny/subversive humor (Jack reading 'The Scientific Method' and doing chemical experiments to "get" Christmas, kids opening their ghoulish Christmas presents), great action set pieces (Jack's battle with Oogie Boogie, etc.) and the presence of at least one likable character in a sea of nasty-looking weirdos (Catherine O'Hara's Sally, herself as darkly gothic as females in other Burton movies except here it's against her will) make "The Nightmare Before Christmas" that rare breed of film to me: a Tim Burton (and Henry Selick's and Danny Elfman's) flick I actually like, freaky and off-putting artistic designs notwithstanding.

James Toback's TWO GIRLS AND A GUY (1997) on Sundance Channel for the first time. Pretentious indie flick in which up-and-comer actor Blake (Robert Downey Jr.) is busted by girlfriends Carla (Heather Graham in her "Boogie Nights" prime) and Lou (Natasha Gregson Wagner) for two-timing them. Taking place in the swankiest Soho apartment any poor actor has ever been able to afford (the type you start fantasizing about living in when you've lost interest into whatever's happening on-screen) these three characters talk, argue, engage in not-sexy f'ing, make-up and confess truths (maybe?) about themselves before a tragic event hinted at throughout the movie brings two of them closer than before. Since two of the characters are actors (a Toback shortcut to excuse their eccentricities, like quoting Shakespeare lines from "Hamlet") and the narrative is stacked in favor of one of the girls being more understanding/smitten with Blake than the other there's a lack of balance that constantly undermines whatever pathos "Two Girls and a Guy" is in the neighborhood of coming close to achieving. It could have been worse if Robert Downey Jr. weren't giving it his all (his bathroom mirror monologue is hilarious) to lift what amounts to a dated late 90's 'battle of the sexes' chamber drama.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Wed Mar 06, 2013 10:38 am

Three-for-one-ticket-price day at New York City's Anthology Film Archive's Tribute to 1933. All pre-code era flicks under 80 minutes, all starring one James Cagney and all in Library of Congress-preserved 35mm prints. 8)

Mervin LeRoy's HARD TO HANDLE (1933) for the first time. A still-youthful James Cagney plays fast-talking con man Lefty Merrill, constantly moving from one con (a dance marathon) to the next (carnival treasure hunt) and the next (cosmetics) between both coasts, all to get enough dough from the 'suckers' to marry his sweetheart Ruth (Mary Brian) and, by proxy, Ruth's nagging mother Lil (Ruth Donelly). The desperation of a nation in the grip of a worldwide Depression is palpable in every one of Lefty's cons (particularly the California-set cons featuring hundreds of extras tearing up the joint for a shot at a few measly bucks) but never to the point that the fantasy aspects of Lefty's rags-to-riches story don't overwhelm the film with the sunny disposition of a feel-good movie. Cagney and Donelly have great chemistry together and on their own (Lil's constant back-and-forth love/hate on Mary's suitors based on the size of their bank accounts is a scream) that helps compensate the fact Mary Brian and Claire Dodd (who plays one of Lefty's clients that has the hots for him) are kind-of bland. An absolute blast from start to finish, especially since the absence of Hays Code restrictions lets the sexual innuendo and nasty barbs (most of them by Lil) fly high.

Lloyd Bacon's PICTURE SNATCHER (1933) for the first time. Cagney is in fine form as Danny Kean, a mobster that gets out of jail and makes an honest attempt at going straight by applying his street smarts to being a tabloid reporter for the sleaziest rag in the city. Taken under the wing of the paper's city editor (Ralph Bellamy) Danny's drive gets him promoted fast, but not enough to impress the father of his college-age student girlfriend Patricia (Patricia Ellis), who also happens to be the cop (Robert Emmett O'Connor) that busted and sent Danny to prison. The story would be ridiculous and unbelievable (what '33 movie didn't bend over and backwards to be so?) if "Picture Snatcher" didn't crackle with great set-pieces, pop with finely-timed humor and move ridiculously fast from one situation to the next in which Danny uses his smarts as well as his fists and feet to get things done. By the time the movie ends on a shoot out with one of Danny's former associates, Jerry the Mug (Ralf Harolde), in which they're both chased after for completely different reasons you're seeing the James Cagney movie star persona in prime wattage. Super-clean and pristine 35mm print too, which highlights the stock opening credits repeated throughout all these '33 Warner flicks.

Roy Del Ruth's LADY KILLER (1933) for the first time. This movie and LeRoy's "Hard to Handle" surprised me with how modern and sophisticated they treated their stories and audiences; I know, I know, silly me for assuming that people decades ago were morons. :? Playing former theater usher Dan Quigley, who ends up going from being part of a gang of con men/robbers (Mae Clarke and Douglass Dumbrille among them) to a Hollywood movie star with a leading lady girlfriend (Margaret Lindsay's Lois), Cagney gets to both poke fun at his own rise to stardom while challenging himself by mixing his pretend real-life with the gangster roles he's most famous for. The sexual innuendo and violence (particularly Quigley dragging Myra by her hair across a room that had the packed theater in mouth-wide-open shock) is the pre-code stuff cinephile dreams are made of, and the Hollywood aspects work as part of the fantasy narrative (love the directors within the make-believe movies having European accents, ala Michael Curtiz) instead of the more cynical style of today's backstage showbiz satire. It's another assembly-line Cagney movie (one of five released in '33) but Del Ruth's direction keeps the cons, jokes (personal favorite: the first sight of 'Sunny California'), romantic hijinks and bullet holes coming too fast and furiously to realize 76 minutes of "Lady Killer" just flashed by. Pre-code era Cagney movies are so much fun. :)

Quentin Tarantino's RESERVOIR DOGS (1992) on DVD. Every time I revisit this movie its stock falls a little bit more, but it was so high to begin with that it's still an enjoyable experience even if Tarantino's inexperience (as a bad actor, great screenwriter and OK-at-best visual director) constantly shows. I can't help but focus on a different character each time I see "Reservoir Dogs," which still makes my infrequent repeat viewings a blast. This time Steve Buscemi's Mr. Pink stood out as both a voice of reason (why did he return to the warehouse if he suspected there was a rat in the group?) while Chris Penn's monologue about he and his father's respect for Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen in the role that defined his career for good) jumped at me as a signature 'honor among thieves' movie scene, one of the most intense and best ever. And I'm still amazed how Tarantino can derive tension out of Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) walking into a bathroom full of cops when the context of that scene should mean we as the audience shouldn't feel tense at all.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:06 am

Saw "Road to Bali" again earlier today. While it's not as flat-out funny as "Road to Morocco" or "Road to Utopia", it's still got a lot of laughs. And Hope & Crosby had some some of the best comic timing in the business.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby mavrach » Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:44 am

The Devil's Rejects - My third viewing. It feels like such a unique movie, focusing on a trio of killers who are unequivocably evil. But the performances are so electric that you can't help but root for them when you know you shouldn't be. It's shockingly violent moments are interespersed with hilarious comedic scenes. When paired with House of 1000 Corpses, it's a bit lopsided, but at the same time the sequel went in a totally different direction.

Magic Mike - I liked this despite my insecurities. Actually something cheap happens early on that's kinda brilliant - Geek goddess Olivia Munn has a topless scene. It tells the straight guys not to worry, this is a movie for everybody, so don't feel odd for watching a movie about male strippers. If this factoid were better known, guys would be flocking to see the this one Anyways as we all know this is a Soderbergh movie and not bachelorette party fodder, so you get a decent character story out of it. A couple of the supporting cast members were weak, but it's definitely worth a shot for anybody here.

The Stuff - Cheesy fun 80's B-movie. A mysterious white substance is discovered and marketed as the next big snack treat, and if you eat it, it takes over your mind, body snatchers style. Worth a look if you want to see something ridiculous and a little different.

El Dorado
- Yeah, it's pretty much a remake of Rio Bravo, but I like El Dorado much more. You get the rather strange combination of John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, and a very young & eager James Caan, which somehow works perfectly since I've never seen the latter two in a Western before.

In the Name of the Father
- This is one I'd avoided for a long while because I thought it would be depressing, but had it on my list because I want to see more of Daniel Day-Lewis' work. Turns out this was an energetic movie that ended up being inspirational. I did not expect to like this one as much as I did.

Killer Joe
- I wish we lived in an alternate universe where Matthew McConaughey decided to make decent movies like this all the time, instead of rom-coms where he's leaning on somebody on the poster. This was twisted but funny at the same time, I'd recommend this for something a little different.

Red White & Blue - The first 2/3 were a decent dark character-based movie that was slowly becoming bleaker. The last third however veered off into insane land and killed the potential for me. To discuss further I think would spoil plot points but the movie didn't work for me.

Dragonslayer - I'd seen bits and pieces of this Krull-era fantasy on TV as a kid and didn't have any interest, but I watched it as a curiosity. I don't know what I was thinking back then, because I had a hoot today. There's some interesting character business and doesn't go by the numbers at all. And I miss the days when PG movies could have nudity.

Dredd - I'm seriously impressed. Most of my familiarity with the character was from the Stallone movie, so I wasn't itching to see this one. This takes the grim tone, paints it to an epic scale, but keeps the movie confined to one story and doesn't aim to be the biggest movie ever. I miss the days when comic book movies weren't made to be the super blockbusters of each year and when they weren't afraid to go for the R rating. The Crow is still one of my favorites for this reason.

Ordinary People
- Some incredible performances and a serious look at the repression of emotions in the wake of a tragedy. The somber tone did wear on me after a while and it felt very plain in its attempt to show a seemingly normal family coping with an intense loss. It's known as one of the great Oscar upsets since it beat Raging Bull, and unfairly to the movie itself that was on my mind the whole time. In no way is this a better movie on any level, I don't even think this is debatable. I think this deserved all of its acting awards but I can't see myself ever returning to it again.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby hoytereden » Fri Mar 08, 2013 1:32 pm

Dragonslayer was quite a revelation in it's day. For folks expecting the usual fun ride it was a bit grim with some unexpected twists. Ralph Richardson was a blast and the dragon effects still hold up pretty well today. Very good film. :)
Ordinary People-I think the biggest shock for me back in the day wasn't that it beat Raging Bull but the fact that Mary Tyler Moore was so good in a role that was so different from what I was used to seeing her in. Polar opposite of Laura Petrie. :o
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:39 am

Jean Vigo's TARIS (1931) on Criterion Blu-ray for the first time. Most educational shorts commissioned by government-funded state agencies profiling a star athlete for masturbatory jingolism pride wouldn't qualify as a "movie" worth noticing. But when it's (a) one of only four works ever made by (a) a renowned experimental filmmaker who left this world too soon as well as (c) his first sound film (after "À propos de Nice") you bet your sweet tuchus that Jean Vigo's "Taris" is worth its tiny weight in cinephile gold. At first glance a seemingly innocuous puff piece about star French swimmer Jean Taris (the Michael Phelps of France in his day), Vigo puts just-enough 'this is how you swim' meat in the sandwich to appease the backers. He then also throws little scenes/moments (Taris posing/smiling underwater, backwards-motion diving, dissolves between ripped athlete & fat swimmer, etc.) that are pure Vigo and clearly the work of an 'artiste.' Though never erotic there's a clear love for Jean Taris' body that drives the whole short, which only makes the fact Taris is fully-clothed in the final moments all the more subversively delightful. Only one more Vigo to go (the big one). :cry:

Ridley Scott's ALIEN: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1979/2003) on Blu-ray for the first time. Though not radically different or better/worse than the 34 year-old (!) theatrical cut, this slightly-enhanced-by-Ridley version of "Alien" (which takes out almost as much as it puts back in, with the net effect being only one standout new scene) still packs a wallop and makes the whole of "Prometheus" its bitch before even the first facehugger shows up. I haven't seen "Alien" too many times to keep (a) its magic alive and (b) from growing sick of it (it's rather predictable and gore-free on repeat viewings) and boy, was I blown away this time. This is one of the least-dated epic sci-fi flicks I've seen, with the dated technology (screens showing primitive graphs or numbers) an insignificant cog in Ridley Scott & Co's arsenal of tricks, including heartbeats in the soundtrack along with very atmospheric Jerry Goldsmith musical cues during the quieter, looking around scenes. And cat lovers the world over must rejoice that everyone in the crew (particularly Ripley and Brett) care so much about Jones. ;-) It still shocks me when the characters/actors are dispatched in charisma order (from most to least, especially the final trio) because, if I didn't know any better, I'd still think Tom Skerritt's Dallas would be the hero of "Alien" and Sigourney Weaver's Ripley among the early-to-middle victims. As the standoff between Dallas and Ripley over Kane being brought aboard the Nostromo shows (a character build-up scene with consequences that resonates throughout the whole series), she was the reasonable choice to fight the creatures all along. Classic.

James Cameron's ALIENS (1986) on Blu-ray for the first time. Watched this right after "Alien: TDC" so I could listen to the "TCFTN" James Cameron podcast ("The Abyss" is the only one left to watch) and holy shit, despite some seriously bad decisions (i.e. too much space marine macho posturing, with Bill Paxto's Hudson and Jenette Goldstein's Vasquez the guiltiest 'trying too hard' parties) this is where James Cameron, blockbuster filmmaker extraordinaire, met the budget and technology to match his vision (which was compromised by small budgets in his previous films). Seeing this made me realize how much "Starship Troopers" and "Avatar" (not to mention TV shows like "Space: Above and Beyond" or videogames like "Doom" and every other FPS shooter) owe to the cliche-but-effective space marine macho posturing myth fueling "Aliens" throughout. That these tough sons of bitches' posturing and firepower is no match for what they're up against is kind-of subversive, but knowing Cameron's follow-up work it's doubtful that was the point of making the marines such a focal point of "Aliens" through most of its running time. Shame, because Lance Henriksen's Bishop (as fascinating a character as Ian Holm's in "Alien" and Michael Fassbender's in "Prometheus") and Sigourney Weaver's take on Ripley (I totally cheered when she disobeyed Gorman and started driving the tank) could have benefited from less time spent watching pretend marines pretend-trash talking. I didn't much care for Burke (how did Paul Reiser get cast on so many classic 80's movies? "Diner," "Beverly Hills Cop 1 & 2," etc.) or Newt, but it's because of the latter that Ripley went into the belly of the beast (literally!) and "Aliens" ends on such an incredible, action-packed, balls-slamming (!) final 20 minutes. Between the 2nd unit direction and SFX work by Stan Winston (building on what H.R. Giger had done in the first movie) and the relentless pace once the inevitable and built-up appearance of the title characters happens, "Aliens" is a worthy (though nowhere near superior) follow-up to the original's legacy. It's all downhill from here. :(
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby mavrach » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:34 am

J.M. Vargas wrote:Ridley Scott's ALIEN: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1979/2003) on Blu-ray for the first time. Though not radically different or better/worse than the 34 year-old (!) theatrical cut, this slightly-enhanced-by-Ridley version of "Alien" (which takes out almost as much as it puts back in, with the net effect being only one standout new scene) still packs a wallop and makes the whole of "Prometheus" its bitch before even the first facehugger shows up. I haven't seen "Alien" too many times to keep (a) its magic alive and (b) from growing sick of it (it's rather predictable and gore-free on repeat viewings) and boy, was I blown away this time. This is one of the least-dated epic sci-fi flicks I've seen, with the dated technology (screens showing primitive graphs or numbers) an insignificant cog in Ridley Scott & Co's arsenal of tricks, including heartbeats in the soundtrack along with very atmospheric Jerry Goldsmith musical cues during the quieter, looking around scenes. And cat lovers the world over must rejoice that everyone in the crew (particularly Ripley and Brett) care so much about Jones. ;-) It still shocks me when the characters/actors are dispatched in charisma order (from most to least, especially the final trio) because, if I didn't know any better, I'd still think Tom Skerritt's Dallas would be the hero of "Alien" and Sigourney Weaver's Ripley among the early-to-middle victims. As the standoff between Dallas and Ripley over Kane being brought aboard the Nostromo shows (a character build-up scene with consequences that resonates throughout the whole series), she was the reasonable choice to fight the creatures all along. Classic.

James Cameron's ALIENS (1986) on Blu-ray for the first time. Watched this right after "Alien: TDC" so I could listen to the "TCFTN" James Cameron podcast ("The Abyss" is the only one left to watch) and holy shit, despite some seriously bad decisions (i.e. too much space marine macho posturing, with Bill Paxto's Hudson and Jenette Goldstein's Vasquez the guiltiest 'trying too hard' parties) this is where James Cameron, blockbuster filmmaker extraordinaire, met the budget and technology to match his vision (which was compromised by small budgets in his previous films). Seeing this made me realize how much "Starship Troopers" and "Avatar" (not to mention TV shows like "Space: Above and Beyond" or videogames like "Doom" and every other FPS shooter) owe to the cliche-but-effective space marine macho posturing myth fueling "Aliens" throughout. That these tough sons of bitches' posturing and firepower is no match for what they're up against is kind-of subversive, but knowing Cameron's follow-up work it's doubtful that was the point of making the marines such a focal point of "Aliens" through most of its running time. Shame, because Lance Henriksen's Bishop (as fascinating a character as Ian Holm's in "Alien" and Michael Fassbender's in "Prometheus") and Sigourney Weaver's take on Ripley (I totally cheered when she disobeyed Gorman and started driving the tank) could have benefited from less time spent watching pretend marines pretend-trash talking. I didn't much care for Burke (how did Paul Reiser get cast on so many classic 80's movies? "Diner," "Beverly Hills Cop 1 & 2," etc.) or Newt, but it's because of the latter that Ripley went into the belly of the beast (literally!) and "Aliens" ends on such an incredible, action-packed, balls-slamming (!) final 20 minutes. Between the 2nd unit direction and SFX work by Stan Winston (building on what H.R. Giger had done in the first movie) and the relentless pace once the inevitable and built-up appearance of the title characters happens, "Aliens" is a worthy (though nowhere near superior) follow-up to the original's legacy. It's all downhill from here. :(


Try to keep an open mind for Alien 3, but make sure you watch the Assembly Cut. I'm a huge defender of this entry. It's extremely bleak and goes back to having a single alien. If you go in expecting the machismo and gunplay of Aliens, you'll be disappointed.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:27 pm

J.M. Vargas wrote:Ridley Scott's ALIEN: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1979/2003) on Blu-ray for the first time. Though not radically different or better/worse than the 34 year-old (!) theatrical cut, this slightly-enhanced-by-Ridley version of "Alien" (which takes out almost as much as it puts back in, with the net effect being only one standout new scene) still packs a wallop and makes the whole of "Prometheus" its bitch before even the first facehugger shows up. I haven't seen "Alien" too many times to keep (a) its magic alive and (b) from growing sick of it (it's rather predictable and gore-free on repeat viewings) and boy, was I blown away this time. This is one of the least-dated epic sci-fi flicks I've seen, with the dated technology (screens showing primitive graphs or numbers) an insignificant cog in Ridley Scott & Co's arsenal of tricks, including heartbeats in the soundtrack along with very atmospheric Jerry Goldsmith musical cues during the quieter, looking around scenes. And cat lovers the world over must rejoice that everyone in the crew (particularly Ripley and Brett) care so much about Jones. ;-) It still shocks me when the characters/actors are dispatched in charisma order (from most to least, especially the final trio) because, if I didn't know any better, I'd still think Tom Skerritt's Dallas would be the hero of "Alien" and Sigourney Weaver's Ripley among the early-to-middle victims. As the standoff between Dallas and Ripley over Kane being brought aboard the Nostromo shows (a character build-up scene with consequences that resonates throughout the whole series), she was the reasonable choice to fight the creatures all along. Classic.


I remember seeing the Director's Cut during its theatrical release. I'd seen the original movie several times on TV, but the was the first time on the big screen, and it still scared me. I also remember a bunch of teens coming into the theater; they were chatting and joking before the movie, and left it in total silence. Take from this what you will.

Oh, and I was watching "The Girl Can't Help It" this morning. Good work fromTom Ewell, Edmund O'Brien and director Frank Tashlin, along with a great soundtrack and one of Jayne Mansfield's best performances. Still, for actual laughs, I prefer the follow-up from Tashlin and Mansfield, "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?"
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:06 pm

mavrach wrote:Try to keep an open mind for Alien 3, but make sure you watch the Assembly Cut. I'm a huge defender of this entry. It's extremely bleak and goes back to having a single alien. If you go in expecting the machismo and gunplay of Aliens, you'll be disappointed.
I've seen the theatrical cuts of "Alien 3" and "Alien Resurrection," but have yet to see the mythical Fincher-disowned Assembly Cut of "Alien 3" and the non-theatrical "Resurrection." Based on the theatrical cuts of those two that I've seen though I can't help but see them as diminishing returns compared to the first two.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Mon Mar 11, 2013 11:07 am

THE ACE OF HEARTS (1921) on TCM-HD for the first time. Minor Lon Chaney silent era film in which he plays Farallone, one third of a love triangle between Forrest (John Bowers) and Lilith (Leatrice Joy) inside a clandestine group that plots to kill wealthy capitalists that haven't employed their means for the good of the common man. When the task of killing the latest chosen person (a mission that may result in the carrier's own demise) falls on one of the trio the emotional implications of the rapidly-approaching assignment affects everybody. Think "Star Chamber" but aimed at the top 1%, which would be pretty radical for '21 if the movie were courageous enough to treat the politics it advocates seriously. Instead director Wallace Worsley is content to use 'The Cause' as window-dressing for the romantic/emotional entanglements between Farallone, Edward and Lilith. The pat and convenient conclusion would have upset me more, but Lon Chaney is terrific as is everybody else in their one-dimensional roles. Shame that, either by commercial reasons or censorship, "The Ace of Hearts" folds its cards for greatness willingly and early on.

Samuel Fuller's THE BIG RED ONE: THE RECONSTRUCTION (1980/2004) on DVD for the first time. Though it feels at times like a really long 'special episode' of the TV series "Combat," with invisible shields protecting the core crew of five from World War II enemy fire (the constantly rotating 'wet noses' the group keeps running into become a sick running joke), you can feel the air and spirit of authenticity all around this production. Writer/director Sam Fuller, star Lee Marvin (both WWII veterans) and a big Hollywood production bring every production trick available at the time (including the odd location of Israel passing as WWII theaters of operation) to immerse the audience in the episodic adventures of the 1st infantry squad, i.e. Marvin and four kids being ahead of everyone at different frontlines. I personally loved the way Fuller frames the little foreign kids that keep following 'The Sarge' around (something I actually watched as a kid growing up in a third-world nation) even as Fuller can't help but go one step too far for the sake of a laugh (i.e. how the squad deals with a sniper). "The Big Red One" was shot in the late 70's but belongs to the pre-Peckinpah era of cinema when shot at characters keel over and die without squibs, making the odd sights of spilled guts or blood-drenced corpses (and the profanity) feel out of place despite the 'R' rating. Richard Schiekel's reconstruction allows the movie to breath and expand Fuller's original scope that was chopped in the original version. Between the meandering pace, the unemotional survivor narration (which makes Matthew Modine's VO in "Full Metal Jacket" seem Shakesperean) and odd inclusion of a villain (Siegfried Rauch's Schroeder) the group keeps running into though, "The Big Red One's" chance to make an emotional impact on its audience has long passed. The Omaha Beach D-Day landing scenes, for example, feel so underwhelming compared to "Saving Private Ryan's" that they render this film's value a curiosity for WWII film buffs.

THE NUDE BOMB (1980) on HBO Family for the first time. Ever since I saw a movie trailer for it in the early 80's I had curiosity to see the movie about a bomb that makes people nude, but never got around to watching it. Imagine my surprise, after spotting and DVR'ing the flick from cable, that not only it was (a) a "Get Smart"-inspired spy spoof (the trailer I saw as a kid was all about the nude bomb) but that (b) there's barely any nude bomb scenes (and 99% of them are PG sausage fests). I'm familiar with "Get Smart" but are not a fan or loyal viewer, but even if I were I'd be disappointed that Agent 86, i.e. Maxwell Smart (Don Adams, i.e. the voice of Inspector Gadget you'll hear and not be able to get out of your head), seems out of place and from a distant era even in 1980 with his Clouseau-style pratfalls and verbal quips ('We got to invade that zipper before the mountain's fly closes'). "The Nude Bomb" had major coin thrown at it with some impressive James Bond-inspired set pieces (the 'clones' battle, Agent 86's secret pad and desk, the half-scientist half-fashion designer villain, etc.) but you know the wheels have come off when one of the big set-pieces is a chase across the Universal Studios theme park that highlights all the tour's attractions. The cast would bounce back with an actual "Get Smart" reunion movie a couple of years later (and 'guest stars' like Dana Elcar and Sylvia Kristel acquit themselves OK) but, coming the same year as "Airplane!" and preceding "The Naked Gun" TV-to-film trek by seven years, "The Nude Bomb" is as forgotten and forgettable as its thin premise suggests.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:53 pm

Mikio Naruse's APART FROM YOU (1933) on Criterion Eclipse DVD for the first time. The earliest silent film of Naruse that earnestly embraces the director's concern with the plight of Japan's working class women, which would come to define his career. Though primarily about how aging geisha Kikea (Mitsuko Yoshikawa) and her teenage son Yoshio (Akio Isono) deal with the latter's shame of what his mother does for a living, gradually Kikea's younger geisha friend Terugiku (the gorgeous Sumiko Mizukubo) and her desire to both better her friend's relationship with her son as well as her own troubled family life take center stage. Straightforward, well shot (unlike Ozu or Mizoguchi, Naruse's camera moves/dollies like a motherf***er) and told without artifice or filler, "Apart From You" marks an interesting footnote in a master filmmaker's body of work.

Jean-Luc Godard's LE PETIT SOLDAT (1960) in 35mm at Film Forum for the first time. Banned in France until the mid-60's because of its depiction of terrorism and anti-French involvement in the Algiers conflict, Godard's second feature is as big a departure from "Breathless" as that movie was from other films like it before. Shot handheld in Geneva with characters (particularly French deserter Bruno Forestier) wearing their political alliances into their every action translated into cinematic archetypes ('cinema is truth 24 times a second'), Godard eschews narrative coherence by forcing the audiences to follow along and try to keep up with the constantly-changing plot (double and triple-crosses galore) because it's the only way to get to know what characters are thinking/doing. Featuring the gorgeous Anna Karina in her motion picture debut and an OK lead performance from Michel Subor, "Le Petit Soldat" frustrated me as much as it amused me (seeds of Godard's post-'68 radical political cinema are already visible here), though it's treatment of torture techniques (not unlike last year's controversial "Zero Dark Thirty") feel surprisingly timely for a 53 year-old movie.

Steven Spielberg's ALWAYS (1989) on Showtime HD for the first time. What's worse than a Spielberg-directed action comedy with airplanes, i.e. "1941"? A Spielberg-directed romantic action comedy with airplanes, that's what. Seldom have all the Spielberg trademarks (constantly-moving camera angles, soaring John Williams score, production values through the roof, rampant sentimentality for middle-class values, etc.) worked so hard to achieve such an uneventful cinematic flatline. Think "Ghost" without a spark of life (or "Unchained Melody" playing in the background) which is why, ultimately, "Always" is better than "1941" or "The Lost World": it means well and tries hard, but just doesn't come together. Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter have zero chemistry as the lead couple, Hunter has even less chemistry with Brad Johnson (Spielberg and the movie seem to agree because "Always" loses interest in Ted Baker as its story unfolds) and Dreyfuss' scenes with Audrey Hepburn (in her last movie) define embarrassment. John Goodman seems to have already been thinking 23 years ahead to his goofy best buddy schtick in "Flight" because he was best actor around this one, for both comedy and drama, back in '89. Joe Johnston's aerial sequences are a highlight (which he did the same year he bailed out Disney's "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"), but what sticks with you as "Always" plays is how insensitive and tone deaf it is to the fact there are fires ravaging forests, homes and livelihoods but everyday is a dance party at firefighter headquarters. Worth seeing, just to witness Spielberg at the height of his powers unable to turn lead into cinematic copper, let alone gold.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:20 am

Jess Franco's THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF (1962) on TCM-HD for the first time. Kudos to TCM for showing this cheap B&W Jess Franco ripoff of "Eyes Without a Face" and "Frankenstein" (or any other crazy mad scientist with a 'pet muscled human monster' sidekick killing others to try and save a person they're close to) with English subtitles instead of the typical dumbed-down American voice-over from that era. It's tame and restrained by Franco's latter standards (though there are still a couple of exploitation-worthy inserts of female breasts from too-obvious stands-ins for leading lady Diana Lorys) but the flick still achieves the tricky balance of making you care for its misunderstood former serial killer Morpho (Ricardo Valle) and his creator, Dr. Orloff (a restrained Howard Vernon), even as they engage in horrible deeds. It helps that Conrado San Martin plays the "hero," Insp. Tanner, as a bland and clueless dope until the very end. A curio for Francophiles who've been through Jess' better films once over.

Judd Apatow's THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN: UNRATED (2005) on USA Network HD for the first time. Though it goes way too long for a comedy (a bad habit that's only gotten worse in Apatow's latter movies) I can't blame anyone involved for not trying to get out as much of the filmed material as possible because a lot of it walks that fine line between gross and funny that most sexual comedies ("Porky's," "American Pie," etc.) veer into. Steve Carrell could have easily played Andy's "plight" for dumb laughs (and he comes close a few times) but Apatow, Carrell and rogue's gallery of Apatow comedy buddies (including Paul Rudd in his best role to date that I've seen and a hilarious pre-"Glee" Jane Lynch) approach Andy as a leading man whose character-based integrity is worth teasing but not outright compromising. I haven't laughed so hard at little things (the "MST3K: The Movie" poster, the Stevie Wonder song, the 'be like David Caruso in "Jade"' line/response, the gang breaking fluorescent light bulbs in the loading bay, etc.) that I either did, saw or happened to me and friends in the past. Even when it goes too high-concept (like the Bollywood musical number) "The 40 Year Old Virgin" is bending over backwards to be funny, raunchy, sentimental and sweet. Unlike Apatow's future comedies (particularly the one's he directs) it balances its disparate elements so that it doesn't outstay its welcome, but just barely (seriously, comedies shouldn't be more than 2 hrs. unless they're called 'A Michael Bay Film').
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby hoytereden » Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:25 pm

The sad thing about Always is that it's a remake of a Spielberg (and mine) favorite: A Guy Named Joe. You know you're in trouble when you have Dreyfuss in the Spencer Tracy role. :evil:
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Polynikes » Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:10 pm

Robin Hood (2010).

In January, I wrote:

The first 45 minutes of Robin Hood (2010). My children wanted to watch something on another channel, so I let them switch over. Ignoring the absurd liberties taken both with the legend and with history (and I gather these only get worse as the film progresses), the fascination for my wife and myself lay in trying to work out which accent Russell Crowe was going to use scene by scene. I think actors should try to change their accents if possible and if they can do it realistically. Renee Zellwegger was convincingly British in the Bridget Jones films and I am told by Americans that Hugh Laurie sounds as though he was born and bred in the USA in House. However, in Robin Hood Russell seems to delve into a hotchpotch of Irish, Scottish, and "soomwhere oop narth" in England. Hilariously bad. I shall try to get to see the whole thing, because I gather some of the action and landscape scenes have Ridley Scott's usual masterful touch, and I am told that if one can look beyond the awful script and terrible accent, it is an enjoyable romp. In t'meantime, Roossell, keep oop that amazing accent in taam for t'sequel, eh lad?


Tonight, I watched the whole thing from start to finish, and it surpassed my expectation - it was worse than I thought a film by Ridley Scott ever could be. Where to begin the litany of woe? The history is butchered brutally, and the knowledge of British geography would shame a primary school child. Apparently, Nottingham, the South Coast and the White Horse - presumably the Uffington White Horse - are all close to each other, which is news to me as an Englishman. There are too many plot absurdities to list, and there is no convincing narrative thread. The pace is painfully slow for most of the film punctuated by implausibly hasty developments (Robin moves in almost a few seconds from an unknown to being the man on whose word everyone hangs and the king's right hand man in war). Despite being portrayed as having worked the land all her life, Marian suddenly becomes an expert swordswoman, cavalrywoman - oh, and she is a brilliant archer as well and she even has her own chainmail. With the aid of a few kids with masks, she is capable of defeating French soldiers. Robin Longstride is said to be an adventurer archer - but becomes a "plausible" knight, an expert wielder of a sword and passionate crusader for civil rights because by shutting his eyes for a moment he is instantly reminded of lessons taught his father when he was a little boy, and completely forgot until that point. Some writers make it possible for me to suspend disbelief, but that does not happen here. I can't understand what this film wanted to be. It is intentionally far removed from any of the extant Robin Hood legends, so why include the Sheriff of Nottingham only to make him almost an irrelevance in the film? Was the last half hour (the battle on the beach) a Pythonesque attempt at parodying Saving Private Ryan? 12th century landing craft??!! I must not go on.....

How did a man who directed The Duellists, Blade Runner and Gladiator come to direct this terrible mess? A very large and unsightly blot on his CV. Please let there be no sequel.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby Paul Kile » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:16 am

hoytereden wrote:The sad thing about Always is that it's a remake of a Spielberg (and mine) favorite: A Guy Named Joe. You know you're in trouble when you have Dreyfuss in the Spencer Tracy role. :evil:


Amen to that, hoytereden! A Guy Named Joe is one of my mother's favorite movies - it also stars a P-38, her twin brother flew them in WWII.

With all the panning and derisive comments about Always, no one picked up on the best scene of the movie...the PBY "flat hatting" across the lake and terrorizing the two guys in the boat. And the best part is it happens right at the beginning so you can enjoy it without watching 99.9% of the movie!
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby J.M. Vargas » Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:02 am

^^^ I'll grant you that, the opening shot of "Always" (and pretty much all the aerial footage and SFX shots by Joe Johnston) is awesome. And "1941" also has some rad aerial footage, so Spielberg obviously knows how to shoot planes well. It's the comedy and romantic aspects, i.e. anything to do with any human except John Goodman (who rules), that sucks.
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Re: 2012-2013 WINTE(nd of the world!??)R Watching Thread

Postby mavrach » Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:14 am

The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) - Pass on this one, especially considering the quality of the original. A squealing, overacting John Travolta does not compare to Robert Shaw in the original, and it's missing the humour that Walter Matthau was able to bring previously. Tony Scott tries to bring some energy to the movie, but it wasn't nearly enough. At least Scott & Denzel were able to properly apologize with the better train movie that is Unstoppable.

Joe Kidd - Another brisk Eastwood Western, directed by John Sturgess. Eastwood is affiliated with the wrong side in a land dispute. If I have any criticism, it'd be the title. If you name your movie after the main character, IMO that character should have more defining characteristics besides just being Eastwood again.

Side By Side - This is available on Netflix Instant, a documentary about filmmaking going from film to digital. It features input from most of the big directors around today. Everybody here should track this one down.

Into the Wild - I watched this on a whim and ended up being fully engrossed. The true story of a college graduate who essentially gives up on society and decides to leave it. I'm not sure what I expected, maybe something "hippie-ish" or something trying to make a poignant statement. It came off more as a character study of the actual guy.

Robot & Frank - Frank Langella as an aging theif whose given a robotic assistant to help him live his life, and he shows improvement when he realizes he can use the robot to steal. A neat little mishmosh of an old man's aging, sci-fi, and it's sort of a buddy movie as he begins to accept then use the robot, then it's part crime movie. I haven't heard much buzz on this one around these parts, so I want to give it some appreciation.

Contagion
- I've got to hand it to Steven Soderbergh. The guy has some serious range, to the point where it's hard to even pin him down. This one covers a worldwide epidemic outbreak, following several trails of different characters. You get a nervous tension and it covers a wide scope of how something like this would play out.

Revenge - What a dreary and depressing movie. The only thing it has going for it is Tony Scott's expected style, but that grittiness even makes it bleaker IMO. Very mean spirited, probably the worst Tony Scott movie I've seen (and I'm only missing Deja Vu which is in the mail). Also way to pick the laziest title possible.

Inglourious Basterds
- Man I love this movie, my third viewing. It's got a few scenes that start out calm but very gradually become tense. Christoph Waltz lends to that terror while also being insanely likeable. Let me put it this way, due to some personal issues for the past couple weeks I've had trouble focusing on movies, and this one had me glued to the screen every second.

The Inbetweeners Movie - Very weak considering how strong the BBC series' were. They made a raunchy but witty awkward high school show into an American Pie ripoff movie. I chuckled at a few points but wasn't worth much.
+1. this is very interesting.
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