Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Here are the Official Changes for the 2014 Edition of the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Plus the Renumbered List

I received the 2014 edition of the 1,001 Movies book from Amazon U.K.  Note to anyone else who is thinking of buying it from them: unlike Amazon U.S. they don’t ship books in a box that protects them; they simply wrap a thin piece of cardboard around the book apparently to keep dirt off it.  The book arrived battered at both ends from knocking against other packages.  I paid full price (plus shipping “across the pond”) for a new book and received one in used book condition.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

TV – Castle Season 6

Note: This is part of my ongoing reviews of the Castle television show’s seasons, the books written by “Richard Castle”, and some events related to the show.  For the parent post with links to all of these, please click here.  In the coming days I will also post reviews of the latest books.

Note 2: There are spoilers for Season 5 in this post.

This season picks up right where Season 5 ended.  Castle has just proposed marriage to Beckett.  The context at the end of Season 5 was one where it seemed more likely they were going to break up than they were going to get engaged.  It was then surprising for the fans that show runner Andrew Marlowe actually had her accept.  Most fans had grown cynical of Marlowe’s apparent continued dislike for the two of them as a couple.  It’s possible the network had a word with him and told him that they wanted ratings, which meant giving the fans what they wanted to see – Castle and Beckett as a couple, or “Caskett” as some fans referred to them. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Is This the Most Iconic Music Video of All Time?

I happened to catch part of a music video recently that did a different kind of spin on the image from a popular 1980s music video.  That reminded me of how many times those images had been repeated in videos over the years.

Now “iconic” means different things to different people.  Those old enough to remember when Mtv actually stood for “music television” might be thinking Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.  It certainly was played a ton of times and it wouldn’t surprise me if it holds the record for most times played on Mtv.  While the claymation aspect of it was entertaining, other than Gabriel’s next video I don’t think too many other people have copied the look of it. (Weird Al Yankovic did do the train around the head bit in his Lady Gaga parody “Perform this Way”.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Movie – Yojimbo (1961)

Yojimbo from writer/director Akira Kurosawa has been remade twice – the first time as a spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood (1964’s A Fistful of Dollars) and the second time as a Prohibition era action film starring Bruce Willis (1996’s Last Man Standing).  Those two films show the universal nature of the story by seamlessly shifting the setting from feudal Japan to the old American West to 1930s small town America.  The fact that one version was an out and out western shows once again how Kurosawa’s films were often influenced by American westerns, especially the films of John Ford.  I consider Yojimbo to be the best version of the three movies, although Eastwood’s is certainly the best known.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Movie – The Sundowners (1960)

The Sundowners is based on the 1952 Jon Cleary novel of the same name.  There is also a 1950 American film of the same title, but it has nothing to do with either the novel or the 1960 film.  The story is set in the Australian outback in the 1920s.  The Carmody family are sheep drovers and they live in what is, for all intents and purposes, a covered wagon.  Change the sheep to cattle, and the setting to the American west in the 1800s and you’d have an instantly recognizable western.  Director Fred Zinneman had previously done High Noon (1953) and Oklahoma! (1955), so he knew his way around the look and feel of the old west.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September Movie Status

I saw 8 new movies, re-watched 1 other, and re-watched two TV show seasons in the month of September. 

I managed to get a couple of “Very Long Wait” DVDs from Netflix for the TSPDT list, and one of them was among the longest movies I had left.  I also was able to track down a few more of the ones I was having trouble getting from Netflix.

With TV shows coming back in September they release the sets for the prior season as a marketing gimmick to remind people of them.  I spent a sizable amount of time rewatching the entire seasons for a couple of shows.  That cut into my movie viewing quite a bit.

Here are the 8 new movies I saw in September.  Highlighted films are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.

TSPDT (5): Heaven’s Gate (1980), Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954), Entr’acte (1924), The Thief of Bagdad (1940), They Died with Their Boots On (1941)

Other Movies (3): Mosquita y Mari (2012), Sixteen (1973), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Rewatches (1): Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

TV (2): Marvel’s Agents of Shield Season 1, The Big Bang Theory Season 7


Mosquita y Mari (2012) – Interesting film with some potential but unfortunately the director didn't seem to know where she wanted to go with it. The two actresses do a good job with what they are given to work with. I just wish there was a better overall story for them to be a part of.  2.5 stars

Sixteen (1973) – Hicksploitation film from the early 1970s ostensibly starring Oscar nominee Mercedes McCambridge, but really more a film looking for an excuse to show off Simone Griffeth's beauty. She plays a daughter of a swamp family. The whole family goes to a carnival where she is seduced by an older male performer, while her teen brother is seduced by an older female performer. 2.5 stars

The Amazing Spider-Man (2014) – The first Spider-Man retread was really poorly written - laughably so - and yet they chose to bring back the same writers for the sequel.  This time around they decided to repeat almost everything wrong with Spider-Man 3. Too many villains running around? Check. One of them Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin, pissed at Peter? Check. Completely forced relationship breakup? Check. Too many different subplots, leaving them all undeveloped? Check.  2 stars

Heaven’s Gate (1980) – Beautifully filmed, but incredibly bloated, movie. This is a basic story of the Johnson County War, with a love triangle thrown in. There's about 90 minutes of story, but director Cimino famously delivered a hugely overfilled movie. The official version is three hours and 39 minutes long.  And the sound mix is horrible. There were many times where the background noise drowned out the dialogue. There were no English subtitles on the DVD I got from Netflix to help with the sound problem, either.  2 stars

Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954) (aka Honor Among Thieves) – This isn't a heist film - that's already happened before the movie opens. Instead, it's a movie about what happens afterwards. In these kinds of films either the criminals turn on each other, or one's an idiot who blabs too much to others and gets everyone in trouble. This movie is the latter.  Jean Gabin is terrific as the world-weary mastermind whose partner gets them both in trouble. Watch also for an early in her career Jeanne Moreau as a showgirl who finds out about the heist.  3.5 stars

Entr’acte (1924) – Think Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali invented film surrealism? Think again. Rene Clair made this short 5 years before they did Un chien andalou.  I am certainly no fan of surrealism, but the imagery in Entr'acte is actually entertaining and in some cases even kind of fun.  3 stars

The Thief of Bagdad (1940) – I’m sure I would have liked this film much more if I had seen it as a child.  It has adventure and characters to root for.  Unfortunately, I saw it for the first time just now.  It’s a simplistic story that does not hold up to even the slimmest amount of thought.  Everything is overacted.  The score is incredibly loud and irritating – to the point where I literally had to hold the remote the entire film, increasing the volume to try to hear the dialogue, but then decreasing it to try to not get my ears blasted by the score.  It’s a very colorful film and some of the special effects, such as the magic carpet ride, still hold up today.  And if you like male beauty, this is the film for you.  2.5 stars

They Died with Their Boots On (1941) – Even by the standards of film biographies of the time this movie is pure Hollywood hokum.  About the only thing they got correct with this bio of General Custer is that he died at Little Big Horn.  Everything else is fiction.  Errol Flynn as Custer has charisma oozing out of every pore, and Olivia de Havilland once again joins him on screen, but even they couldn’t quite rise above the “gee whiz and aw shucks” scenes.  I would like to note this might be the earliest made film I’ve ever seen that is reasonably sympathetic to American Indians, even referring to them once as “the only true Americans.”  2.5 stars

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Movie – The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008)

When is a western not a western?  When it’s an “eastern”.  Take all the standard western story points, and even horses, guns, and wide open spaces, and transplant them to Manchuria (northeastern China) in the late 1930s.  For those who don’t know their world history the Japanese had invaded the region in 1931 and set up a collaborationist government there.  The result is that many people operated outside the law, including the Koreans whose country was to the southeast of Manchuria.  This means that the wide open spaces of Manchuria were literally the “wild west” for Koreans in the late 1930s.