Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Best Movies for Each Letter of the Alphabet – Part 3: R to Z, Plus Some Observations and a Link

Note: For an explanation of my ground rules for this, as well as my picks for letters A to H, plus numbers, click here.  For my picks for letters I to Q, click here.

For those films I have reviewed, I have made their titles clickable to take you to them, if you are interested.  Maybe you are wondering, “Why the heck does he think so highly of that film?”  My review will shed some light on that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Best Movies for Each Letter of the Alphabet – Part 2: I to Q

Note: For an explanation of my ground rules for this, as well as my picks for letters A to H, plus numbers, click here.

For those films I have reviewed, I have made their titles clickable to take you to them, if you are interested.  Maybe you are wondering, “Why the heck does he think so highly of that film?”  My review will shed some light on that.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Best Movies for Each Letter of the Alphabet – Part 1: A to H, Plus Numbers

Note: this was too long to do in a single post.  I will break this up into three pieces and then include links to each one as I go along.

From time to time I’ve seen people attempt to name what they feel are the best films that happen to start with each letter of the alphabet.  (If you have done this, let me know and I will include a link to your post when I am done.)  I find these interesting to read, but I had never tackled it myself because I have an aversion to trying to rank “the greatest ever”.  That is mostly due to the fact that I may have a different choice a month later simply because I am in a different mood.

It’s always been in the back of my mind, though, and it’s not as if this is set in stone.  I’ve done posts on the Top 10 films every year I’ve been running this site.  And I think for all of these I have later seen at least one movie that would have made my Top 10 if I had seen it before I had made those posts.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

If You Could Own Any One Object from Any Movie What Would It Be?

To be clear, I am not talking about a movie prop, like the ruby red slippers Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz, or the Maltese falcon from the movie of the same name.  No, I’m talking about what if some object from a movie could really exist and you could be the one to own it.  For instance, how about a light saber from Star Wars, the laws of physics be damned.

Maybe you’re more of a Star Trek fan and would like to have a phaser or transporter.  How about the Green Destiny sword from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?  Or Excalibur?  Or the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings?  Or Aladdin’s Lamp?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Movie – Interstellar (2014)

If you go to you will find Christopher Nolan’s films to be rated far beyond all reason.  There is actually a group of people who tirelessly work through thousands of accounts they have set up to rank all his movies as high as possible (and to rank competing films such as The Avengers as low as possible).  The result is that seven of the eight films he has directed since hitting the public consciousness with Memento (2000) are not only in the IMDB Top 250 list, six of them are in the Top 100, and three of them are in the Top 25, including Interstellar at #23.  While Interstellar is far from being the 23rd best movie ever made, it is good enough to take the last spot on my Top 10 of 2014 list.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Movie – The One I Love (2014)

I saw the film The One I Love just before finalizing my Top 10 Films of 2014 list.  I’m glad I did because this movie ended up making it onto it.  It’s another small independent film starring Mark Duplass.  In recent years I’ve come to keep an eye out for his movies that fall into this demographic because he seems to be able to pick films that are better than average (i.e. 2012’s Safety Not Guaranteed, 2011’s Your Sister’s Sister.)  In this case the Netflix Instant description didn’t exactly sound that interesting, but I gave it a try anyway just on faith.  I was glad I did.  This is a film that went in completely unexpected directions.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Steve’s Selections #4 – Jesus Camp (2006)

Jesus Camp is a documentary about how fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. ensure they get their message to as wide a range of children as possible.  As Aristotle wrote, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”  The primary adult focused on in this movie is a firm believer in this.  She draws parallels with how some Muslims will train children from the time they are young to groom them to be suicide bombers and how guerillas in Africa will turn children into soldiers.  From her perspective, she is trying to turn these children into the future generation that will ensure the country “returns” to the Christian values she believes it has gone away from.  The result is a sometimes disturbing look at the methods used.  Steve called it one of the scariest documentaries he had ever seen.

Friday, April 10, 2015

TV and Book – Game of Thrones Season 4

The fourth season of Game of Thrones is based on the last third of the novel A Storm of Swords, as well as parts of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons – the third, fourth, and fifth books in the ongoing series titled A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.  Please note that this review of the fourth TV season and fourth book contains spoilers for the first three TV seasons and books.  If you have never seen this show and would like a spoiler-free overview of what it is about and why you might want to watch it, please read my review of the first season and book here.  My reviews of the second season and book can be found here and the third season and book here.

Because the show and the books are no longer in sync with each other, I will only be discussing those parts of books 4 and 5 that were part of the show.  The reason for this situation is that the producers wanted to end Season 3 with the Red Wedding and the fallout from it.  They wanted to keep the further events of book 3 for this season.  Unfortunately, not all characters have enough book 3 plot left to last an entire season without dipping into their future storylines. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Movie – Nightcrawler (2014)

When the Oscar nominations were announced in January the film Nightcrawler was one that I would sometimes hear mentioned as having been “robbed” (although it did get one nomination for Best Original Screenplay).  Of course, every year there are some films that have passionate supporters that feel exactly the same way when their personal favorite does not get nominated so I didn’t pay too much attention to that.  I do try to see as many Oscar nominated films as I can.  And I did make a mental note to see this movie before doing my Top 10 Films of 2014 list, just in case its supporters were onto something.  I am glad I did because this did make my Top 10.  Nightcrawler turned out to be a great movie not just for its story, but also for the lead performance of Jake Gyllenhaal.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March Movie Status

I watched 22 new movies in March, plus rewatched 1 film, plus rewatched a TV show season.

I spent the month mostly concentrating on 2014 films so that I could put together my Top 10 list for the year.  I only saw three films from the TSPDT list.  I happened to see one movie from the Empire Top 500 list because it was expiring from Netflix Instant.  I also spent a sizable chunk of time rewatching the fourth season of Game of Thrones, which came out on Blu-ray this month.  Once again there are a ton of extras on the disks.  As always, I will be writing a review for it before the fifth season starts in mid-April.

I said last month that I was figuring on completing the current version of the TSPDT list either that month or this month, depending on how much I concentrated on it.  Since I saw so few from the list in March I will have to set the same goal of completing it either this month or next month.  I have 27 entries left to go.  And I still have three films new to my Consolidated IMDB Top 250 at the 2014 year end that I have left to watch.

Here are the 22 new movies I saw in March.  Highlighted films are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.

TSPDT (3): Street Angel (1937), Dust in the Wind (1987), Land of Silence and Darkness (1971)

Empire (1): Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Other Movies (18): Ida (2014), The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2014), The History of Future Folk (2012), The Zero Theorem (2014), I Origins (2014), Big Hero 6 (2014), The Boxtrolls (2014), The One I Love (2014), 30 for 30: I Hate Christian Laettner (2015), Nightcrawler (2014), Dinosaur 13 (2014), Inherent Vice (2014), Song of the Sea (2014), Upside Down (2012), In Your Eyes (2014), Damaged (2014)

Rewatches (1): The Core (2003)

Ida (2014) – Good, but not great, despite winning the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.  You can read my full review here.   3 stars

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2014) – Well done film from Studio Ghibli and the director of Grave of the Fireflies.  The animation style is a little different and for the most part it works.  3.5 stars

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) – People who hadn’t read the book were disappointed by the fact that they felt this was slow, but if you know what to expect going in you should find this to be quite good.   4 stars

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2014) – Documentary on Studio Ghibli shot during the production of their films The Wind Rises from Miyazaki and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya from Takahata.  There is far more Miyazaki in this since he apparently cooperated with the documentary crew more.  It's a good look at the inner workings of the studio, and Miyazaki shares his thoughts on many things, not all of them positive.  For instance, he figures Studio Ghibli will be no more in the future with the way things are going.   I would recommend having at least seen The Wind Rises before watching this since the ending of that film is discussed.  And the more Studio Ghibli films you have seen, the more you will enjoy picking up on a lot of little things such as artwork hanging around the studio or references various people make while talking.  3 stars

The History of Future Folk (2012) – This is a fun movie.  You can read my full review here.  4 stars

Street Angel (1937) – This is a strange mix of slapstick comedy and melodrama, all in an early Chinese film.  The combination didn’t quite work for me.  2.5 stars

Dust in the Wind (1987) – Yet another slow moving Taiwanese slice of life film from Hou Hsiao-Hsien.  I’m beginning to think it’s the only kind of movie he knows how to make.   2.5 stars

Land of Silence and Darkness (1971) – Occasionally moving, early documentary from Werner Herzog.  It’s about people who are both deaf and blind.  One such woman tries to help others like herself.   3.5 stars

The Zero Theorem (2014) – Gilliam’s semi-remake of his own Brazil that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.  Melanie Thierry is the best thing about it.  The sound mix on the DVD wasn't great, and when combined with the multitude of accents from the cast, it made about every other line unintelligible.  I had to turn on the subtitles about 10 minutes in.  3 stars

I Origins (2014) – Mike Cahill and Brit Marling, who gave us one of the best films of 2011 - Another Earth - pair up again on this film.  While not quite as good as Another Earth it is still well worth seeing if you like topics outside of the norm handled intelligently.  3.5 stars

Big Hero 6 (2014) – Entertaining film.  You can read my full review here.  3.5 stars

The Boxtrolls (2014) – A little disappointing since it was nominated for an Oscar as Best Animated Film.  It relies too much on the grotesqueness of the characters for humor, when they should have been trying to make a better overall story.   2.5 stars

The One I Love (2014) – Great movie with a completely unexpected story in it.  It’s another winner from the Duplass brothers.  It made my Top 10 for 2014 and I will be reviewing it in full in the coming days.   4 stars

30 for 30: I Hate Christian Laettner (2015) – Amusing documentary on just how wrapped up some people got (and still get) in hating a man who was a very successful college basketball player 25 years ago.  3 stars

Nightcrawler (2014) – Great movie with a great lead performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.  It deserved an Oscar nomination, but the subject matter probably made some of the Academy squeamish.  It made my Top 10 for 2014 and I will be reviewing it in full in the coming days.    4 stars

Dinosaur 13 (2014) – If this documentary doesn't piss you off about abuse of power then I don't know what will.  After fighting to keep their T-Rex fossil that they had found, excavated, bought, paid for, and were putting on display in their little town near where it was found – only to have the government come in with the National Guard to take it away from them – a few folks then find that the government is doubling down by now coming back to indict them on more than 100 charges.  As one of them points out, if you added up all the time he would get if convicted on all charges it would be 363 years in prison - more time than Jeffrey Dahmer got for killing and eating 13 people...and all for collecting dinosaur bones and not filling out two forms properly.   4 stars

Inherent Vice (2014) – For the life of me I have no idea how this received a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination.  A large part of this 2 1/2 hour film consists of scenes where people just show up to spout exposition at the protagonist to explain to him what is going on.  Combine this with the voice over narration and it's as if the director was trying to reproduce the book instead of make a movie.  I can't believe this is the same person who adapted an Upton Sinclair novel to make There Will Be Blood.   2 stars

Song of the Sea (2014) – This Oscar nominee for Best Animated Film is from the same people who brought us The Secret of Kells (2009).  If you liked that film then you should like this one, too.   3.5 stars

Upside Down (2012) – Packaged as science fiction, but really fantasy, a boy and girl who live on different planets only hundreds of feet from each other, but with opposing gravity fields, fall in love with each other and create an interplanetary incident.  It has a great concept, although it doesn’t always play by its own rules of how the planets and people interact.  3 stars

In Your Eyes (2014) – Based on a more than 20 year old script Joss Whedon wrote when first trying to break into Hollywood, a man and woman on opposite sides of the country can literally see through each other’s eyes and hear each other.  This creates a very intimate relationship, which is a problem since she is married and he is an ex-con on parole who can’t leave his state.   3 stars

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) – Large Marge sent me to tell you that if I had seen this as a child I probably would have loved it.  Seeing it as an adult meant being really annoyed by the main character (and yes, I realize the whole point of the character is to be an annoying child).  On the other hand, the movie got better once he hit the road and the jokes were not focused on Pee-Wee's personality.  For example, the "deep in the heart of Texas" scene was silly, but it made me laugh.  All in all, they balance things off.   3 stars

Damaged (2014) – Lead actress Merritt Patterson is very beautiful, but that’s about the only reason to watch this movie that I stumbled across on Lifetime and thought, “Wow, she’s beautiful.  Who is that?”   2 stars