Thursday, October 1, 2015

September Movie Status

After the last month and a half of not really watching movies I got back into it in September.  I saw 68 new films, plus re-watched Season 7 of the TV show Castle.

I refocused on the Empire Top 500 Movies list and completed that during the month.  I also discovered that even though I had completed the original Entertainment Weekly Top 100 Films list from 1999 they had published a new one in 2013.  It was quite a bit different, but as it turns out there was only one film on it that I had not yet seen, so I took care of that this month, too.

With the Empire list done I didn’t have a strong feeling for what I should work on next.  I did have an unsatisfied feeling of having left some lists undone when I put them on hold to concentrate on the TSPDT list last year.  Those were the list of all Oscar Best Picture nominees, as well as the six genre specific lists of 101 Movies You Must See Before You Die, which were put out by the same folks that did the 1001 Movies books.

I have a consolidated list of all films left across all my uncompleted lists so I used that as a guide.  I first watched films that were on both the Oscars and 101 lists (as well as others).  From there I felt more like doing Oscar films so I watched those, at first starting with the ones also on multiple lists, but then moving back to doing it by decade.

When I had left off I had worked my way backwards in time having seen all nominees from the present to the mid 1940s.  There were a dozen or so left to finish off the 1940s, as well as a handful to finish off the 1920s.  I did knock off the 1920s, but did not quite finish the 1940s.  I discovered a few days before the end of the month that I had 16 films expiring from my Netflix Instant queue on October 1st, so I watched a bunch of those instead.

As of this writing I now have 35 Oscar Best Picture nominees left to see, all of them from the years 1930 through 1940.  Technically, I will not be able to complete this list since one of the nominated films is presumed to be lost (The Patriot) and another exists as a single copy in the UCLA Archives (White Parade), but I will consider myself done when those are the only ones I have remaining.  I may or may not knock those 33 off in October.  The new 1,001 Movies book has come out and I have already seen the ten new films added to it, so I will not have to take any time on that.

In regards to the 101 lists, I haven’t completely set those aside again.  I am getting movies for them one at a time via Netflix while I have been watching the Oscar nominees.  I have 128 of these left to see across the six genres (12 Action, 18 Cult, 29 Gangster, 27 Horror, 16 Sci-Fi, and 26 War).

Because of the fact that so many of the films I watched this month were on multiple lists it might get complicated if I try to name them all.  I will place the movies only under a single category, but know that many were also on the N.Y. Times list of the 1,000 best movies ever made, were former entries in the TSPDT list, were on lists of the best British films, or were on the U.S. National Film Registry of movies to be preserved forever.

Here are the 68 films I saw in September.  Ones I would recommend (give at least a three star rating to) are highlighted.

Empire (22): Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), Brighton Rock (1947), Hellzapoppin’ (1941), The Return (2003), Love and Death (1975), Jailhouse Rock (1957), Bad Taste (1987), In the Company of Men (1997), The Addiction (1995), Radio Days (1987), Unfaithfully Yours (1948), Bugsy Malone (1976), The Great Silence (1968), Danger: Diabolik (1968), Electra Glide in Blue (1973), Enduring Love (2004), Flesh (1968), Le Doulos (1962), Lords of Dogtown (2005), Together (2000), Two Days in Paris (2007), Hairspray (1988)

Oscar (19): The Racket (1928), Dead End (1937), The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935),
Disraeli (1929), The Little Foxes (1941), Love Affair (1939), The More the Merrier (1943), The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), State Fair (1933), The Song of Bernadette (1943), The Human Comedy (1943), Blossoms in the Dust (1941), One Foot in Heaven (1941), In Old Arizona (1929), Wilson (1944), The Pied Piper (1942), Wake Island (1942), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)

101 Genre (4): The Tenth Victim (1965), The Enforcer (1951), The Three Musketeers (1948), The Getaway (1972)

EW (1): A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Other (22): Frozen Fever (2015), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), Two Night Stand (2014), Laggies (2014), Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009), Tusk (2014), The Train (1964), Sabotage (2014), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), Into the Storm (2014), Life After Beth (2014), Furious Seven (2015), What Price Fleadom (1948), Need for Speed (2014), Pixels (2015), Fantastic Four (2015), What We Do in the Shadows (2015), Noah (2014), David Ortiz: In the Moment (2014), Go West (1925), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013), Thanks for Sharing (2012)

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) – If I'm going to watch a film from a list I try to go in with as little info as possible in order to be able to enjoy it more. In this case that may have backfired on me. Based solely on the title I had always thought this film dealt with the Bloody Sunday events so I went into it expecting to see that. Instead it's a quiet little character piece. Through no fault of the film this put a knock against it with me.  In regards to the film itself, I'm sure it must have been quite shocking at the time with its depiction not only of casual sex, but a gay man and a straight woman both civilly sharing a younger bisexual man as a lover. It's no longer 1971, though, so the content of the film now isn't really that startling. It's just sort of there.   2.5 stars

Brighton Rock (1947) – Decent gangster film that tries some noir here and there, but the many bright outdoor scenes show it was only a half-hearted attempt. It was a little strange at first seeing Richard Attenborough that young. Prior to this the earliest films of his I had seen were The Great Escape and The Sand Pebbles - both from the 1960s.   3 stars

Hellzapoppin’ (1941)Well that was different. Or rather, that was kind of familiar, except decades ahead of its time. While watching this 1941 movie you get to see gags later done in Blazing Saddles (running across movie sets), Airplane ("do you mind if I take a picture"), and Mystery Science Theater 3000 (commenting on the movie being shown) - all at the same time. It has a water ballet sequence years before Esther Williams' films made them popular. It also spoofs many films of the day, most pointedly Philadelphia Story, with gags thrown in for Citizen Kane and many others.  I'll be honest, I've only vaguely heard of Ole Olesen and Chic Johnson - the stars of this movie. They seem to not be as well remembered as Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and similar comedy duos of that day.  This movie is kind of a mess, with more gags per minute than Airplane, but unlike Airplane with them missing more than hitting. It has scenes that not only break the fourth wall, but completely demolish them, especially the characters interacting with the projectionist in the booth that is supposedly showing us this movie.  If you like slapstick then this may be the best example ever made.   3 stars

The Return (2003) – The title refers to the return of a father that two boys have never met. (It's hinted that he's been in prison.) He takes them on an outing to a remote island, obviously to do something for himself, and the boys happen to be along. While he will not win any father of the year awards, the younger brother makes him look like a saint for putting up with him. God, the younger son was annoying.  One note - don't expect to have answers to all your questions when the film ends.   3.5 stars

Love and Death (1975) – This was my second movie of the day with a gag every few seconds, and with most of them missing the mark. In this case Woody Allen does his best Bob Hope impersonation as he parodies both Russian literature and Bergman films.   2 stars

Jailhouse Rock (1957) – Believe it or not, this is the first Elvis movie I'd ever seen. I was a little surprised it was a straightforward drama with the songs as part of his character performing. I figured it would be a more lightweight musical comedy. In fact, Elvis' character is pretty much a tremendous dick to everyone he meets - so much for making him likable for audiences.  Regardless, there are two main reasons to see this film: 1. Elvis Presley's singing; 2. Co-star Judy Tyler's beauty, especially when smiling, which she does a lot.   3 stars

Bad Taste (1987) – An obvious amateur effort - (“hey guys, wanna make a movie with guns and aliens and gore?") - that would be long forgotten if it wasn't the first film from Peter Jackson. Somehow this turned up on the Empire Top 500 films list so I watched it. If you would have told me that someday the guy who wrote and directed this would adapt and direct The Lord of the Rings I would have thought you were nuts. It gets a rating this high because I laughed at a few of the jokes.   1.5 stars

In the Company of Men (1997) – This is an unpleasant movie about two assholes. Both have recently been screwed over by women so the alpha-asshole comes up with an idea for both of them to court the same woman, get her to have feelings for them, then to dump her to get their revenge. The beta-asshole isn't really into it, but goes along. When it becomes clear that beta-asshole is alpha-asshole's boss, and that alpha-asshole isn't just a misogynist, but a sociopath, it becomes clear what alpha-asshole's real plan is. From there it's just letting the film play out until it gets to the "reveal".  While looking through their IMDB credits I was amazed to find that writer/director Neil Labute and star Aaron Eckhart later teamed up again for 2002's Possession - a very romantic film that I highly recommend.   2 stars

The Addiction (1995) – I don't think the world was crying out for an urban vampire movie filled with philosophical babble on the nature of both evil and addiction, but here it is.  In the world of this movie, being turned into a vampire apparently not only infuses them with a need for blood, but also with a knowledge of all the great philosophers, as well as a compulsion to talk about them endlessly. Not being a big fan of philosophy made this aspect of the film irritating after a while.  It would be worth watching this again, though, if it was with a huge Twilight fan just so I could see her brain get fried.   2 stars

Radio Days (1987) – In a lot of ways this reminds me of another nostalgic 1987 movie about the early 1940s - Hope and Glory. I'd rate that film a little higher, but Radio Days is definitely worth watching.   3.5 stars

Unfaithfully Yours (1948) – This is a nasty little piece of dark comedy from Preston Sturges. Rex Harrison's screen persona of being quick to anger is put to good use here. And hopefully without spoiling anything, this movie actually had me going for a while with something that occurred on screen. It's been a while since that has happened.   3.5 stars

Bugsy Malone (1976) – This is a period American gangster film...written and made in the U.K. by an Englishman...that's also a musical...starring an entire cast of 12-14 year olds (including Jodie Foster). When you read the prior sentence you either had a "that's stupid" reaction or a "that sounds weird enough that I want to see it" reaction. If it's the latter then I think you might enjoy it. Don't expect much in the way of acting. And the kids aren't actually singing, but are lipsynching to pre-recorded adult singers. All the dialogue is right out of a 1930s gangster film.  3 stars

The Great Silence (1968) – Jean Louis Trintignant and Klaus Kinski once starred together in a spaghetti western? Yes indeed.  I wondered the entire movie why Trintignant's character was mute since they dubbed over all the other foreign accents anyway. If the trivia on IMDB is to be believed, he simply didn't feel like learning any lines, so they changed the character to be a mute. Talk about star power.  Despite the big names, the biggest reason to see this film is the location shooting in the Pyrenees.   2.5 stars

Frozen Fever (2015) – Cute follow-up to the movie. The song is a little generic, but it's the antics with the mini snowmen that are the reason to watch.   3.5 stars

Danger: Diabolik (1968) – This movie is very much a product of the "swinging 60s". It's clearly inspired by the Batman TV show and the Flint movies, which were themselves semi-parodies of the James Bond movies.   3 stars

Electra Glide in Blue (1973) – aka Easy Rider 2: The Hippies Strike Back.  The movie opens by practically fetishizing the lead cop as he goes from underwear, to slowly strapping on the leather outfit of a highway motorcycle cop. Most of the movie is rather pedestrian, except for the ending.   2.5 stars

Enduring Love (2004) – Other than the fact that it was a recent (at the time) British film starring Daniel Craig before he became Bond I have no idea how this made the 2008 Empire Top 500 list. It's an ordinary plot about a psycho who obsesses over someone and brings ruin to his life. It even sets it up for a sequel at the end. And the sound mix is so poor that the score periodically drowns out the dialogue.   2 stars

Flesh (1968) – The flesh referred to in the title is that of Joe Dallesandro, the star. He has multiple long, extended (yes that's a pun) scenes that show everything including full frontal erections.  And that pretty much sums up the movie. The editing is poor, the dialogue and acting even worse. I watched it because it somehow made Empire's list of the Top 500 films of all time.  If you like seeing man flesh, and lots of it, then by all means watch this. Anyone else should skip it.   1 star

Le Doulos (1962) – Had this been the first Melville film I had ever seen I think I would have liked it more. As it was, this is the umpteenth Melville police/crime drama I've watched and I've gotten a little tired of them. I can't really fault the film, and there are the famous long shots with no edits for several minutes, but overall it just didn't grab me.   2.5 stars

Lords of Dogtown (2005) – A bunch of great skateboarding scenes interrupted by long periods where the film tries to be Dazed and Confused. If you watch it, do it for the skateboarding.   2.5 stars

Muppets Most Wanted (2014) – I didn't watch this right away because it didn't get very good word of mouth. That was a mistake. I liked it almost as much as the prior one. It had a lot of good gags in it, some of the songs were good, and there were a ton of cameos. My favorite was Christoph Waltz playing himself as part of the Muppets' review when they were in Berlin. What do you have Christoph Waltz do for entertainment? Why the waltz, of course.  A close runner up would be Usher as, what else, a wedding usher.   4 stars

Two Night Stand (2014) – Above average romantic comedy/drama with Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton. It reminded me just a little of Friends with Benefits and Room in Rome. Tipton has shown before she can do adorable and she puts that to good use here. Teller, however, has been an asshole in every movie I've seen him in until now. It was interesting to see him be something else.   3.5 stars

Laggies (2014) – It's not as good as director Lynn Shelton's earlier movie Your Sister's Sister, but it still has some three dimensional characters in it.  Just a heads up - Knightley's character will probably be unlikable to some of the viewers.   3 stars

Together (2000) – It took a while for me to get into this film (close to an hour), but I finally came around. What helped is that the characters that had seemed to spend the entire movie up to that point yelling had now left the house.  This is certainly a kinder movie that the director's film Lilja-4-Ever, but nowhere near as good as his earlier movie Fucking Amal (aka Show Me Love). Since this film appeared two years between the other two I can easily see it as a bridge from Fucking Amal to Lilja-4-Ever in terms of tone.   3 stars

Under the Skin (2013) – A few months back I used Letterboxd to build a list of the most popular film of each year that I had not yet seen. Under the Skin was the one for 2013. Let's be honest, though - the reason this movie is so popular is because of Scarlett Johansson doing nude scenes in it.  First, the positive: there are a lot of interesting visuals in the film, and no, that's not a reference to Johansson. In fact, all of her nude scenes are poorly lit. That makes them more "artistic".  Second, the somewhat negative: this is a slow moving film. It's the kind of movie where the director spends 2 minutes showing someone walk down a flight of stairs...and...very...carefully...step...on... each...one...and... then...very...carefully...step...down...to...the...next...one...and...then... (you get the idea). Now slow moving can be fine, except that the scenes in this film are heavily repetitive. A sizable chunk of the movie consists of Johansson driving around and asking for directions.  Third, the big negative: the score is extremely annoying. I mean seriously fucking annoying. I finally just hit mute and turned the subtitles on to get away from the sound.   2 stars

Two Days in Paris (2007) – This is a movie about two unpleasant people having an unpleasant time in Paris. It's Before Sunrise if the guy had spent the entire movie complaining, while the woman had spent the entire movie getting into fights with people, except when she was lying to them or flirting with them. Apparently there was a sequel, but I don't think I'll be watching it. I did laugh at a few of the jokes in this film so I didn't completely dislike it.   2.5 stars

Hairspray (1988) – It was interesting seeing the original version after having seen the musical version multiple times. It was also interesting seeing John Waters make a PG rated film (although the prudes at the MPAA would probably give it a PG-13 if it came out today.)  Some of the kids looked vaguely familiar and when looking them up afterwards I found out that Amber was played by the future singer Vitamin C and Link, the guy that looked like Elvis, had ended up playing Elvis in no less than 4 other movies and TV shows.  As for comparing the two movies, they are their own films, concentrating on different things, but with the same overriding concept of a local teen music show. I do prefer the 2007 musical version, simply because it's more fun, but I also like the original.   3 stars

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past – The message of this film is that if you don't marry a woman even though she's psychotic, prone to outbursts, emotionally blackmails people, and constantly has crying jags then you will end up a lonely bitter old man. And those are just the supporting characters. The main character games women and is condemned for it, yet he himself is being gamed even better by a woman and that is celebrated as all that is truly wonderful.  Other than Emma Stone, who stole every scene she was in, and Anne Archer, who was still looking damn good for being in her early 60s, there's not much reason to watch this.   2 stars

Tusk (2014) – I'm not even going to attempt to describe this, except to say I can understand if a lot of people hate it simply for the bizarre concept.  It does have some problems, especially the second half which bogged down and should have been cut down quite a bit. I think I know why it wasn't though - Johnny Depp. Honest to God, I had no clue that was Depp playing the farcical Quebec police inspector until I read the cast list on IMDB afterwards. It makes sense that Smith would leave all of Depp's weirdness on screen, even when it detracts from the overall movie.  Michael Parks is great in this, though, and Justin Long should get a medal just for putting up with what he had to onscreen.   3 stars

The Racket (1928) – Above average gangster film that received a Best Production (what we now call Best Picture) nomination in the first year of the Oscars. It's also on the 101 Gangster Movies You Must See Before You Die list.  None of the stars lasted much beyond the start of the sound era, but in this silent film they do a good job. The story is more complex than I expected, too.   3 stars

Dead End (1937) – Dead End was a Best Picture nominee and it's on two other lists of movies I have. There are three intertwining stories, the best being Humphrey Bogart's gangster who learns you can't go home again.  Unfortunately, someone thought it would be a good idea to include a bunch of street kids who are about as annoying as they could possibly be. The fact that none of them could act worth a damn made their scenes even worse. I could have used far less of them on screen and more of Bogart.  The third story is that of a star crossed set of lovers who both want a better life, but who may not be able to get out of the poor neighborhood they have grown up in.  There is social commentary in the film - a surprise for the time in that it puts forth the idea that poverty and no hope are the causes of crime more so than someone just being innately evil.  Finally, I was impressed by the large, multi-story tenement and street set and the way the camera used all parts of it.   3 stars

The Train (1964) – This was this month’s Steve’s Selection.  You can read my review of it here.   4 stars

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) – Another Best Picture nominee that's also on multiple other movie lists. It's got some good action sequences in it. Gary Cooper's character is exciting on screen, but if you stop to think about his actions he makes a pretty piss poor officer.   3.5 stars

Disraeli (1929) – It earned star George Arliss a Best Acting Oscar.  It appears this was his role and no one else's. He not only starred as British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in an earlier silent film, but also in three separate stage productions.  This version is a talkie, but obviously an early one. The sound quality is not the greatest and we still get a number of establishing title cards onscreen. And the stage origins are obvious both from the fact that anything happening outside a couple locations is simply described by reading notes from those who are offscreen, and from Arliss' acting style, which is very "stagey".  The reason to watch this film is Arliss playing a smart man who tries, and usually succeeds, to be one step ahead of his enemies.   3 stars

Sabotage (2014) – Decent mystery/action flick with Arnold in it. It actually has a story and it could be considered more a mystery with some gunfights in it, rather than an action film.  Some DEA agents, led by Arnold, steal 10 million out of hundreds of millions of cash from a drug cartel, but someone gets to the hidden money before they do. It's not long before someone starts picking them off, one by one. It's interesting in that the movie presents the question of whether Arnold is the bad guy or not.   3 stars

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) – Decent reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise (just don't analyze the plot too much), although I understand this didn't do enough box office to warrant a sequel. Pine is serviceable as Ryan, but there will only ever be one real Jack Ryan - Alec Baldwin.   3 stars

The Little Foxes (1941) – Best Picture nominee about a horrible family in the deep South in 1900. Three siblings have taken advantage of and ripped off pretty much everyone they can, with the worst being the sister played by Bette Davis. Those that married into the family, and Davis' daughter, manage to be okay, but often overwhelmed by the evil around them. It's the performances that make this worth seeing.   3 stars

Love Affair (1939) – An Affair to Remember is practically a scene by scene remake of this. I saw it first, so watching this was not as entertaining. It's only fair I give the two films the same rating, though.   2.5 stars

The More the Merrier (1943) – This Best Picture nominee is a really fun film. During WWII housing shortages were so bad in Washington, D.C. that people shared apartments. An older man takes half of a single woman's place, but then turns around and rents half of his half to a handsome soldier and proceeds to play matchmaker between the two.  This film features a very sexy scene for the time, and it also shows off just how great Jean Arthur looked at 43. (She was very believably playing a character in her 20s.)   4 stars

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) – There are better films about this king, even though Charles Laughton plays the title role. He won an acting Oscar for it, too. The problem is the movie just isn't very good. It crams five of his marriages into 90 minutes and none of them are that interesting. The best is Elsa Lanchester as Anne of Cleves (#4), although the portrayal is probably all fiction.   2 stars

State Fair (1933) – This is the original, non-musical version of the story of a family going to the Iowa State Fair. It was made before the Code was being enforced so let's just say that the son has a REALLY good time there after he meets a trapeze artist. The daughter also finds romance, but of course she's not allowed to have sex. Three guesses which of the two actually ends up with the object of their affection.   2.5 stars

The Tenth Victim (1965) – Interesting concept (at some future point people sign up to try to kill each other, alternating between hunter and victim), but not very well executed (pun intended). I'm surprised I had never heard of this, considering it's a science fiction film starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress. No attempt is made to disguise the fact that it was the 1960s. In fact, the entire film just screams it, from the clothes, to the hair, to the cars, to the phones, to everything.  The ending is kind of a mess, as if they couldn't figure out what they wanted to happen and they just filmed anything that came to mind.   2.5 stars

Into the Storm (2014) – The movie starts out for the first 30 minutes or so introducing us to a whole bunch of people apparently so we will identify with them and then worry in the tornado scenes if they will live or die. The problem is that they are pretty much all totally unlikable so if anything I was hoping to see them get sucked up into a funnel cloud.  This appears to have been Richard Armitage's attempt to spin the Hobbit stardom into more roles. After seeing this I think he needs to fire his agent.   2 stars

Life After Beth (2014) – This is a zombie comedy, but unlike Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Warm Bodies this one isn't really funny at all. Oh, it tries, but it doesn't ever really succeed.   2 stars

The Enforcer (1951) – This is a police procedural with Bogart as an Assistant DA going back over the events of the case in a desperate attempt to find something new after his only witness dies. We see flashbacks within flashbacks as we learn what led to this.  I was kind of surprised that this movie presented the concept that murder for hire was something completely unknown to the cops and that it had not even existed until the main bad guy came up with the idea. I suppose it's needed for the narrative.  There's some good tension in places.   3.5 stars

Furious Seven (2015) – This has completely insane, over the top action stunts in it....and they're great. Shut your brain off and have fun with them.  There's also a nice tribute to Paul Walker at the end.   4 stars

The Song of Bernadette (1943) – The movie starts right away on a low note. It has an opening statement that for those that believe the story then no explanation is needed, while for those who do not believe then no explanation is possible. My immediate reaction to that was "Then why make the damn movie?" When I got done watching it two and a half hours later I had the same question.  Don't watch this hoping for anything resembling subtlety or evenhandedness. This is a full blown “music swelling every time the chosen one speaks" kind of movie.   2 stars

The Human Comedy (1943) – This is an occasionally preachy, very saccharine, slice of life ensemble melodrama made during WWII. I have no clue how it got a Best Picture nomination, let alone won the Oscar for Best Original Writing. It had to be the crappy times people were going through that made this movie have the impact it did.   2 stars

The Three Musketeers (1948) – During the action sequences this film buckles its swash with the best of them. Unfortunately, for the first half of the movie they have the actors, especially Gene Kelly, play their roles so broadly that they are practically a parody. The movie gets more serious as it goes along, but I could never quite forget the goofiness of the first half.   3 stars

What Price Fleadom (1948) – This is a Warner Brothers animated short that was on the DVD of The Three Musketeers.  It doesn’t have any of the familiar characters and it’s not really that funny.   2.5 stars

Blossoms in the Dust (1941) – I'm surprised this Best Picture nominee isn't better known. I had never heard of it myself and it's apparently never been released on DVD.  Greer Garson has a good role as a real woman who found homes for abandoned children in Texas in the early part of the 20th century. She also fought the bigotry against "illegitimate" children.   3.5 stars

One Foot in Heaven (1941) – This is the story of a man who screws his wife over again and again and again. Oh, that's not what the studio intended - it's the simple, mundane story of a minister that we're supposed to walk away with.  The problem is they chose to make him one who cares nothing about what his wife's hopes and dreams may be, even going so far as to give his word on the naming of their child - a minister's word - and then going back on it to do exactly what he wanted to do.   2.5 stars

A Face in the Crowd (1957) – This film is a combination of Meet John Doe (1941) and All the King's Men (1949). It's obviously heavily influenced by the McCarthy hearings, especially where the director and screenwriter both named names. The latter fact also explains the lack of any Oscar nominations. At the very least Andy Griffith should have received one for Best Actor and Kazan for Best Director.  The film does overstay its welcome just a little. It makes its point, but then decides to make it two more times. It could have been tightened up by 10 minutes or so.  And it is just a little self-serving for a movie director to make a film about the dangers of the (then) new TV explosion and the cults of personality that were springing up around the performers, especially considering how movies were losing a lot of ticket sales to the new entertainment medium.   3.5 stars

In Old Arizona (1929) – This Best Picture nominee (and Best Actor winner) is a very early all sound movie. Much like directors of 3D films today throw in pointless things purely for the 3D effect, this film throws in many quick scenes purely for the sound - frying bacon, a blacksmith's anvil, etc. Considering they shot a lot of it outdoors, though, it's pretty impressive that they were able to record sound as well as they did.  The acting is typical of the period (i.e. playing to the back row of the theater.) Overall, this movie was just okay.   2.5 stars

Need for Speed (2014) – This is car porn, pure and simple. It's got sports cars, muscle cars, and supercars. It's got scenes from The Fast and the Furious, The Gumball Rally, Death Race 2000, Gone in 60 Seconds, Thelma and Louise, and Vanishing Point. In regards to the last one, Michael Keaton mimics the DJ talking to the driver. I'll bet of the 2014 films Keaton did he hopes everyone remembers Birdman and forgets this one and Robocop.  Need for Speed doesn't even bother trying to come up with a coherent story; it's just the weakest possible excuse to string the driving scenes together. And at more than 2 hours, it's 30 minutes too long for the kind of film it is.  All in all, if you watch it then do it for the cars, not for anything else.   2.5 stars

Wilson (1944) – This movie is big on flag waving, which is understandable considering it was a movie about the President during WWI and it was made during WWII. It doesn't do more than dip a toe into any one thing Woodrow Wilson did from the time he was President of Princeton to him leaving office in Washington, so if you are looking for an in depth story this isn't it.   2.5 stars

The Pied Piper (1942) – This is an interesting little film about an older Englishman trying to get some kids safely out of France and into England just as the Nazis invade France in 1940.  The reason to see it is the star - Monty Woolley. In addition, director (of other films) Otto Preminger makes his acting debut in this movie in a small, but important role.   3 stars

Wake Island (1942) – This is an early WWII film about the taking of Wake Island by the Japanese. The movie is pretty much complete hokum, spending lots of time on the hijinks of two privates trying to be Abbott and Costello, as well as changing the ending from the real life Marines surrendering after the first attack to one where they held out for weeks and fought to the last man. I'm sure a movie accurately showing them surrendering didn't fit the War Department's propaganda machine and Hollywood was happy to comply.   2 stars

The Getaway (1972) – For a film titled "The Getaway" there were an awful lot of slow sections in it where not much happened, especially the first 25 minutes.   2.5 stars

Pixels (2015) – I had heard all the horrible reviews. I was hoping that my own nostalgia from having played all these games in arcades as a kid would help me like the film whereas people too young to have ever experienced them would not. You know what? It almost did. Ultimately, the film suffered from having not enough Peter Dinklage and WAY too much Kevin James.  Most of the best jokes were already shown in the trailers. There is a great callback joke at the very end with Dinklage's character, though, that made me laugh quite a bit.   2.5 stars

Fantastic Four (2015) – This is hardly the pile of crap I'd heard it was. Its crime appears to be that it is not what people have come to expect from a superhero movie. There are no quips or jokes or lighthearted moments. There is one big action sequence, but that's it. What this film is, is a very serious take on what it would mean if this happened to these people. It's not a "cool, we've got superpowers!" kind of movie. And in fact, this film functions mostly as an origin story that is really introducing the characters for the next film.  It didn't surprise me to learn afterwards that the studio took over the film and cut major sections out of it. It was obvious while watching that there were missing scenes.  My biggest complaint with the film is that they cast a bunch of people in their late 20s and early 30s to play high school kids. There's no reason to make the characters that young. In fact, it makes what they are doing (working on a government project) much less believable. They should have made them college grad students.  Overall, you can at least say that this is better than any of the Fantastic Four movies that have come before it.   3 stars

What We Do in the Shadows (2015) – This is an amusing mockumentary very much in the style of Man Bites Dog (1992). In this case, instead of following a serial killer around the "documentary crew" are following vampires. Anyone who liked Man Bites Dog should see this, and vice-versa.  The humor is not the laugh uproariously kind, but rather the "lot of little funny moments" kind. An example is when the vampires meet a group of werewolves and one of the werewolves objects to a vampire wearing fur.  The first 15 to 20 minutes were the funniest to me, but that might be because that was when the concept was the freshest.   3.5 stars

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) – I've never read the novel. Perhaps if I had I would have liked this movie more. It's nearly three hours long and the first half of that consists of people who are already at a bridge with dynamite, fuses, etc. doing nothing but talking about blowing it up. By the time it got to the intermission I couldn't have cared less if they blew up the bridge or not. And I still had almost another hour and a half to go.  The screenplay gives Bergman nothing to work with. She's supposed to be this damaged character, but all she is given to do is to stare dreamily and vacantly into Gary Cooper's eyes. For three hours.   2 stars

The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929) – This is a curiosity from the early days of sound. It received a Best Picture nomination despite not really being a film at all. It's a recording of what is essentially a stage vaudeville show, but with the big name stars the studio had under contract at the time. There is no story or plot, just some quick jokes in between musical/dancing skits. Nowadays this would probably get classified as a documentary.  There are a couple of reasons to see this, other than being a Best Picture nominee. One is that you get to see several names you'll know all in one film (i.e. Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Jack Benny). Of course, there will probably be more names you don't recognize than those you do. The second is that this has the first appearance of the song Singin' in the Rain in a movie. The third is that there are two sequences where they experimented with the two strip color process, so the scenes were not entirely black and white.  Overall, though, the jokes mostly fall flat and the condition of the film is such that both picture and sound suffer quite a bit, hurting the enjoyment of the song and dance numbers. In addition, the film is off center due to the way sound was originally intended to accompany the film (on a separate disk instead of a strip on the side of the film itself.) If this was ever restored it would be more worthwhile to see.   2.5 stars

Noah (2014) – The key to watching this for me was to treat it like any other epic fantasy tale like The Lord of the Rings and then go from there. That meant things like magic potions that make animals sleep for months, touches that instantly heal, forests that grow in seconds, and rock-covered beings were just par for the course.  Biblical purists were probably having conniption fits over this, especially since Noah is portrayed as a man who is not very nice at times. Like all good zealots he comes to believe that he knows The Creator's ("God" is never mentioned) wishes and it's up to him to see it through, even if it means murder. The film also makes no bones about the fact that he could have saved many people, but just sat and listened to their screams as they were dying outside his ark.  This isn't one of Aronofsky's better films, but it's worth seeing.   3 stars

David Ortiz: In the Moment (2014) - This is a very good documentary on Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz, starting with the (then) recent World Series win in 2013 and then looking back on his family life growing up in The Dominican Republic, as well as his earlier years in baseball with the Minnesota Twins (who released him after he had a year with 20 home runs - oops!) and the Boston Red Sox.   4 stars

Go West (1925) – Once again Keaton takes an idea that Harold Lloyd did and then puts his own spin on it. There are a number of classic Keaton moments. My favorite is when he's told at gunpoint to smile when he calls another card player a cheater. Of course, "The Great Stone Face" doesn't smile in his films.  I wouldn't place this anywhere near the top of the Keaton films I've seen, but it does still entertain.   3 stars

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) – Better than the first movie, but that's not exactly saying much. They get rid of Tatum early on and make it Dwayne Johnson's movie, with an extended cameo from Bruce Willis. The story is far-fetched, but there are some good sword fighting scenes, especially one on the sides of cliffs.   2.5 stars

Thanks for Sharing (2012) – This movie tries to argue that A. sex addiction is real; B. that the only way to combat it is to have plain, vanilla sex in a long term relationship; and that C. masturbation is the downfall of men (and women).  Really.  At least it does show that this horseshit has screwed up one of the three "addicts" so badly that he can't even have a real relationship anymore because he's afraid to have fun sex with the woman who loves him.   2 stars

10 comments:

  1. Wait, you think Pixels and the new Fantastic Four is better than Under the Skin? You make me sad.

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    1. Pixels and Fantastic Four didn't have a godawful annoying score in them. That cost Under the Skin a star right there.

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  2. thevoid99 forgets the old saying "different strokes for different folks". Under The Skin I liked, but is not for everyone.

    The fake applause in the final scene of A Face in the Crowd (1957) felt iconic and haunted me for days afterwards. Agree Andy Griffith was terrific.

    I had the same reaction to Sunday Bloody Sunday, I thought it was about the riots, and I ended up not even bothering to finish the film.

    I'm glad you quite liked The Return (2003), it impressed me with its cinematography and story, and is one of the better contemporary Russian films. I liked I wasn't handed all the answers at the end.

    I know you hated Bad Taste (1987). It can’t escape the look of a low budget horror film, which of course it is. I liked it more than you. The ending was pretty amazing.

    Glad you had fun with What We Do in the Shadows. An above average comedy in a sea of average comedies.

    Curious about The More the Merrier (1943), thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. The thing that got me about Griffith's performance is where they'd have the quiet scenes and his face would settle into this abstract look of dislike or even loathing. A good one is when he is on the train leaving the small town he got his start with.

      It's funny about the Sunday Bloody Sunday film and our expectations. I read afterwards that the Bloody Sunday events actually occurred while this film was still being shown in theaters there.

      The Return definitely had a lot going for it. The fact that I still liked it that much despite the younger brat in it says something.

      My reaction to Bad Taste isn't specific to that film, but to the gorehound movies in general. They hold no entertainment for me, so the fact that I actually gave it a rating higher than a single star indicates I did get something from it and that was some of the humor. There are a bunch of really bad movies from the 80s that I do like, but they are not filled with gore; they are filled with naked women. :-) Think Andy Sidaris movies...

      I was kind of surprised someone hadn't made a film like What We Do in the Shadows before this. The genre is ripe for parody and abuse. If you haven't seen Man Bites Dog I recommend it.

      I hope you like The More the Merrier.

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  3. This is the first chance I've had to give the sort of substantial comment this post needs, because I've seen a bunch of these.

    Radio Days: I like this more than you do. It's not my favorite Woody Allen movie, but it is my favorite Woody Allen script. It's funny without being mean, and I love that it looks at that era through such heavily-tinted rose-colored glasses.

    Love and Death: A Woody Allen movie I've never felt the need to rewatch. It does, however, contain one of my favorite of his lines:
    Sonja: I want three children.
    Boris: Yes, one of each.

    Hairspray: Love it. This is the John Waters film I wish was on the 1001 Movies list.

    Dead End: Three stars is about right. Interesting as a proto-noir, and of course Bogart is always great when he plays a thug.

    The Lives of a Bengal Lancer: There's a scene in this where Colonel Stone tries to tell his officers about his son and he just can't get the bat off his shoulder and actually show emotion. It's such a great and unexpected scene that it boosted my rating for this by at least half a star.

    Disraeli: Interesting, and George Arliss is definitely the reason to see it. He has a lot of fun with this role.

    The Little Foxes: Ugly characters, great performances. Beautifully shot.

    Love Affair: An Affair to Remember is far better, and I only kind of like that, so...

    The Private Live of Henry VIII: I agree completely with everything you say here. Hard not to like Laughton and Elsa Lanchester on screen together, though.

    State Fair: A complete non-entity of a film. I wasn't precisely bored, but I wasn't interested in it while it was on, either. I remember almost none of it.

    The Song of Bernadette: Two stars is very generous of you for what is essentially a 158 minute slog through molasses sweetened liberally with Jesus magic. Jennifer Jones got her acting direction here from a lead pipe. Ick.

    One Foot in Heaven: Take 60 seconds--can you think of a more self-righteous ass of a main character who doesn't get a comeuppance by the film's end? I can't, and I've been trying to think of one for a lot longer than 60 seconds.

    In Old Arizona: It's all about Warner Baxter, who's having a great time in the role. Otherwise, it's interesting for (as you say) technical issues.

    The Pied Piper: Both too long and not long enough. There's a story here, but the film doesn't quite tell it, and what it does tell it takes too long to do.

    Wake Island: I like it a little more than you. Taking into consideration that this was a propaganda film, the changes in history were understandable, at least as a product of the times.

    The Hollywood Revue of 1929: Interesting as a showcase, as a sort of "Vaudeville on film" idea, but not much of an actual film. Still, it's nice to see a Laurel and Hardy routine.

    The Train: Damn right!

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    1. Missed one!

      The More the Merrier: It's fluff, but wildly entertaining, and Charles Coburn is fantastic in it. In fact, the second act is weaker than the other two because he's not in it as much. I'd love to see a movie about Benjamin Dingle.

      And yes, Jean Arthur looked great for 43.

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    2. Thanks for the comments on all the movies. I did go back and read your reviews of the Oscar Best Picture nominees that I had not seen at the time you posted them. It was interesting that we usually had the same general reaction to most of them.

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  4. I'm pretty disappointed that you didn't get into Under the Skin...that was one of my favorites of that year!

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    1. I was looking forward to it, and as I said in my mini-review, it had a lot of great visuals in it, but a film that actively annoys me via a grating score is not one that is going to get a recommendation (at least 3 stars) from me. I liked it better once I hit mute and put the subtitles on, but how can I recommend a movie where I had to do that?

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