Monday, April 11, 2016

Steve’s Selections #16 – Stake Land (2010)

This is the fourth for this year and 16th overall review of a film that Steve Honeywell at 1001plus gave me to see.  He is doing the same with films from me.  This month’s selection is Stake Land, one of the two horror movies Steve gave me this year.  I didn’t know if my health situation was going to allow me to get this done on time.  I was in pain while watching it and I freely admit this may have negatively impacted my impression of it.  Overall, I can see why Steve picked it for me – being a “not your usual” vampire movie – and while there are some good points to it, the film ultimately comes in at an “it was okay” level with me.

Monday, April 4, 2016

My Health and March Movie Status

This posting is days late.  My life has been in some turmoil.  I had another gallbladder attack a few weeks ago and I’ve been fighting with people ever since to have it taken out.  It finally was removed last Friday, but when they got inside it was in much worse shape than they were expecting.  Thankfully, they were still able to do the surgery laproscopically, but they did keep me overnight in the hospital, which is not normal.  Now I’m recovering, hoping the pain gets a little less each day.  I’m only now getting around to this post.  And I never did do a post on what I feel are the Top 10 films of 2015.  I honestly don’t know if or even when I might do it now.

Anyway, on to the March status.  In the month of March I saw 18 new films, re-watched 4 more, and watched a season of a TV show.

I chipped away at the IMDB movies I need to see.  I also knocked off a couple more 101 Genre movies, too.  In both cases there were DVDs I received from Netflix that I watched.  I didn’t get to any of the new TSPDT entries.

Here are the 18 films I saw in March.  Ones I would recommend (give at least a three star rating to) are highlighted. 

101 Genre (2): Manhattan Melodrama (1934), Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

IMDB (5): Little Women (1994), Transformers: The Movie (1986), Strange Brew (1983), Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1995), Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (1980)

Other (11): The Lunchbox (2013), The Flower of My Secret (1996), Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), The Love Punch (2013), Clip (2012), This Island Earth (1955), The Mistress of Spices (2005), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016), Reel Injun (2009), The Rebound (2009), Deadpool (2016)

Re-watches (4): Spotlight (2015), Kingsmen: The Secret Service (2015), Friends with Benefits (2011), The Peanuts Movie (2015)

TV: Daredevil Season 2 (2016)

The Lunchbox (2013) – This is a well-acted, and for the most part, well-written film. Unfortunately, it's a relatively inexperienced writer/director and he either couldn't figure out how to end it, or he was too cowardly to commit to one of the two paths that the film had set up (because either path would have disappointed part of the audience). As a result, the crap ending undoes a lot of good that was built up during the course of the film.   2.5 stars

Manhattan Melodrama (1934) – “Melodrama” certainly is fitting as we have Gable and Powell as lifelong friends - one a criminal, the other a lawman - and Loy who starts with one and leaves him for the other. Gable plays maybe the most happy-go-lucky criminal ever put on screen, and Powell plays maybe the most black and white decision maker ever put on screen. Had this been made a couple of years earlier (pre Code) we might have had a completely different ending.   3 stars

Little Women (1994) – After not caring for the 1930s version of this movie I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to watching this movie. As it turns out, Ryder is far less annoying than Hepburn was, and overall the cast's acting is much better than the 30s one, especially Dunst and Bale.   3 stars

The Transformers: The Movie (1986) – I’m not the target market for this. I stopped watching Saturday morning cartoons a little before Transformers hit the air. The only thing I know about them is from the first three live action films. I watched this because it's on an early IMDB Top 250 year end list. As it started it quickly became apparent that this is about the most clichéd 80s movie I've seen in some time. Music video style sequences? Check. Generic "rock" score? Check. 80's slang? Check. 80's "cool" factors? Check. One thing that did surprise me was that there were some sequences that appeared to be influenced by ones from Heavy Metal (1981), which is pretty much the polar opposite of Transformers.   2.5 stars

The Flower of My Secret (1996) – This is lesser Almodovar, but it's still worth seeing if you like his films (which I do).   3 stars

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) – You can read my review of this here.   3.5 stars

Underworld U.S.A. (1961) – There’s some good acting and cinematography is this otherwise standard tale of revenge. I was hoping that 1961 was modern enough to allow for something other than the standard ending, but unfortunately it wasn't.   3 stars

Strange Brew (1983) - Max von Sydow has had one of those careers where every once in a great while you catch yourself asking "what the hell is he doing in this movie?" Strange Brew is the latest example for me. Maybe he never read the script. Maybe someone sold it to him as "Hamlet in Canada". Who knows? In this case he plays an evil man who plans to flood the world with a beer that makes people violent, stupid, and suggestive. Um, isn't that what beer already does? (Maybe I'm overthinking it.) And of course I am because this movie is based on the Canadian comedy sketch show SCTV routine's of "Bob and Doug McKenzie" (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), just as any number of movies have been made of Saturday Night Live sketches. The characters are, of course, dumb but lovable. There's nothing particularly wrong with the movie. It just didn't make me laugh that much.   2.5 stars

The Love Punch (2013) – I like heist movies and the concept of a retired couple pulling a heist to get back their stolen retirement money appealed to me. Unfortunately, the writer wasn't that interested in the heist itself. Whole sections of things that would have had to be figured out or solved were just magically swept aside by someone "knowing a person" whenever a problem came up.   3 stars

Clip (2012) – The obvious comparison here is to 1995's Kids. (Man, has it been more than 20 years since that came out? I suddenly feel old.) Clip shows a bunch of modern teens partying, getting wasted, and having random sex, but in a difference from Kids because of the modern era, they all have their phones out recording themselves, too. The reactions Clip has gotten (denial, outrage, cries of exploitation) greatly remind me of those that Kids got - if you think your teen is not partaking in at least SOME of these activities then you've got your head buried in the sand. It also means that you've never been on the internet. Apparently it was the thousands of thousands of clips of themselves that teens post online doing stuff like this that gave director Maja Mlos her idea for the movie. It happens to be set in Serbia because that's where she's from, but it could be teens anywhere. Lead actress Isidora Simijonovic is gorgeous and appears quite natural on camera. And for those people hyperventilating over the fact that there are maybe 10 seconds of explicit footage in the film, she is not in any of it. The director used body doubles for anything explicit since her main cast (including Simijonovic) was under 18 - much like the Kids main cast was. Only time will tell if Clip will have someone emerge from its young cast and become a star, like Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson did from Kids. Personally, I'd be interested in seeing Simijonovic in another movie.   3 stars

This Island Earth (1955) – I started to watch the MST3K movie, which was crapping on this one, and I stopped because I had heard halfway decent things about This Island Earth and I had not seen it yet, When I did watch it I found it to be an above average science fiction movie from among those made in the 1950s. It's reasonably intelligent. Yes, it does go overboard on what were I'm sure top of the line special effects of the day, but you could say that about many, many movies. If you have only ever seen the bastardized version in the MST3K movie then you owe it to yourself to see the real version.   3 stars

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1995) – I never watched the TV show, so I was not coming into this as a fan. Then the movie they picked as "one of the worst of all time" turned out to be one of the better science fiction films from the 1950s (This Island Earth). I stopped watching this and went to see the full version of that first. I then came back to this and I could see how they had completely bastardized the movie to try to make it look as bad as possible, cutting whole sections out of it so the story made no sense. Finally, the jokes and quips just weren't that funny. I read more about this movie afterwards because I couldn't believe the TV show had had such a cult following if the movie was anything to go by. Apparently, all involved hate the movie. One of the MST3K people, when asked what the worst movie ever featured on the show was, replied "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie."   1 star

Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (1980) – Yup, it was their next movie…..   2 stars

The Mistress of Spices (2005) – This movie didn't turn out to be what I was expecting, but there are still enough parts of it that make it worth watching.   3 stars

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016) – This movie is linked to the first only via Michelle Yeoh's character, the sword, and the title. Don't go in expecting to see the original. And yes, there is another character that would probably have been from the original movie if Zhang Ziyi had signed on, but she didn't so they changed the character name in this movie.   3 stars

Reel Injun (2009) – Not really enough actual film footage, and a little too much time spent with Conspiracy Guy, but still an interesting look at how Indians have been portrayed in Hollywood films.   3 stars

The Rebound (2009) – This is billed as a romantic comedy. It's not. It's a drama with some romance in it. I didn't buy the supposed age difference between them, but I suppose a 31 year old guy playing 25 is nothing what with all the 30 year olds playing teens in movies and TV shows.   3 stars

Deadpool (2016) – This film starts out very funny. I wouldn't even call this part an action comedy, but an out and out comedy that happens to have some action in it. Unfortunately, the movie then goes into a long flashback that features cancer, torture, disfigurement, lost love, and revenge plots. This kills off all the fun in a big, big way. The movie then tries gamely to get it back, with partial success, but it would have been FAR better if they had just kept the humorous tone all the way through.   3.5 stars

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Steve’s Selections #15 – Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

First things first, this is a few days late.  Steve Honeywell at 1001plus and I plan to post our monthly reviews of the films each of us gave the other on the second Monday of the Month.  This time I gave Steve a heads up that health would prevent me from being able to do so on schedule this month.  I have since watched the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop and I liked it.  The big question surrounding this documentary is whether it is a hoax or not.  I have no firm opinion one way of the other, but I will submit that in the end, it actually doesn’t matter.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

February Movie Status

In the month of February I saw 7 new films, plus I re-watched 2 more.

This is even fewer than last month and the reason is the same – I just haven’t been in much of a movie watching mood.  I don’t know why.  I made myself watch two of the three DVDs I’ve had from Netflix for more than a month.  I’ve been doing some reading instead.

In February I did finish off the last of the Oscar Best Picture nominees for 2016 – making me as complete as I can be on all nominees again, but I didn’t watch any of the 14 additions to the IMDB list.  February also saw a new They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list being issued.  The result of the re-ranking done for 2016 is that I now have 16 films to watch to once again be complete on that, too.

I will probably plug away at these 30 films over the next few months rather than try to just get them all out of the way as quickly as possible.

Here are the 9 films I saw in February.  Ones I would recommend (give at least a three star rating to) are highlighted.  

Oscar (3): Room (2015), Bridge of Spies (2015), Brooklyn (2015)

101 Genre (2): Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), The Wiz (1978)

Other (2): Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015), Crazy Horse (2011)

Re-watches (1): Hollywood Shuffle (1987), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Hollywood Shuffle (1987) – I re-watched this film and reviewed it for an “Acting Black” blogathon.  You can read my review here.   3 Stars

Room (2015) – I reviewed this Best Picture nominee here.   3 Stars

Bridge of Spies (2015) – I reviewed this Best Picture nominee here.   4 Stars

Brooklyn (2015) – I watched this Best Picture nominee, but did not write a review because it was not quite good enough for me to recommend.  Oh, it's not a bad movie, but ultimately there's not much depth to it or the characters.  A young Irish woman with a crappy life moves to the U.S., is homesick, makes friends, takes classes, aces her bookkeeping certification, meets a great guy, falls in love, and is very happy. Of course, if you know anything about movies you know the happiness won't last for two major reasons: 1. the movie's only halfway through; and 2. critics like the movie.   2.5 Stars

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – I re-watched this Best Picture nominee.  You can read my review of it here.   4 Stars

Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)This is a different kind of film. It's one part anti-war drama, one part musical, one part satire, and one part theatrical allegory. A whole host of familiar faces cameo in a retelling of how WWI started and its impact on one fictional British family.   3.5 Stars

Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)It doesn't start out that well, but after 30 minutes or so it improves. Aardman has done better than this, both with this character and with others, but there are still some smiles to be had. Just don't expect A Close Shave.   3 Stars

The Wiz (1978)There are parts of this that are quite good (i.e. Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow breaking into Ease on Down the Road for the first time), but there are also parts that are just terrible (i.e. trashcans with fangs, many of the bland songs early in the film).  I do admit that it grew on me as it got towards the end, but not enough that I could recommend this.   2.5 Stars

Crazy Horse (2011) – Director Wiseman has been making documentaries since the 1960s. I guess it takes that much experience to film the most famous nude revue show in the world (Paris' Crazy Horse) and somehow make it a little boring.   2.5 Stars

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sorry, I Can’t Do Oscar Predictions This Year

This is just a quick post to say that there’s been a sudden and unexpected death in the family.  I’ve been helping out however I can and I won’t have an opportunity to put the thought needed into making decisions on potential Oscar winners, then formatting a post on them.

At this point I don’t know if I’ll have a post-Oscars post, or if I’ll even be watching them tonight.  We will see.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ranking the 2016 Best Picture Nominees, Plus Some Observations

I have now posted reviews for the seven of the eight films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar that I would recommend. 

In regards to ranking the eight nominees I had a much easier time this year picking the best than I did last year.  The Martian was one of the most enjoyable films I had seen for quite a while.  And following after it is a clear number two – Mad Max: Fury Road.

The one nominee I did not review was Brooklyn because it wasn’t quite good enough for me to recommend.  When it comes right down to it there’s just not much depth there in either the story or the characters.  People who have read the book it is based on seem to like it more, so perhaps the director just didn’t do a good enough job conveying inner feelings well enough for the audience members who have not read the book.

Here is how I would rate the eight Best Picture nominees from best to not quite the best.  I have also included how these films are ranked according to the Rotten Tomatoes critics (RTC), the Rotten Tomatoes audiences (RTA), and the IMDB voters. 

The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road
Bridge of Spies
The Big Short
The Revenant


My trend of not really aligning with any of these three groups continues.  It’s interesting to see that Brooklyn is the highest rated among critics, but towards the bottom with audiences and dead last with IMDB users.  I also found it interesting that The Revenant, one of the more picked nominees to win, is the lowest rated for both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, yet is second highest among IMDB users.  Finally, I’m amazed Mad Max: Fury Road did so poorly (relatively) with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

A few more observations now that I have seen the eight movies:

  1. Last year I wrote, ”Thankfully, the last two years have had only a single nominee longer than 2 ½ hours (The Wolf of Wall Street and Boyhood).  And also in the last two years there have been two nominees under 2 hours long (Philomena, Gravity, Whiplash, and The Grand Budapest Hotel).  Each of the last two years the remaining nominees have been just under or just over two hours long.  I hope this trend continues.”  It did.  This year only The Revenant is more than 2 ½ hours, while Brooklyn and Room are both under 2 hours long (and Mad Max: Fury Road is exactly 2 hours.)
  2. The Big Short is one of the stronger contenders for Best Picture (it won the Producers’ Guild Award for Best Film).  If it wins the Oscar it will go back to back with last year’s winner Birdman, which was the first film with comedic elements in it to win since back to back winners Shakespeare in Love (1998) and American Beauty (1999).  Maybe humor is acceptable to the Academy for a couple of years at a time, every couple of decades.
  3. The prior three years I liked all the Best Picture nominees enough to recommend them.  This year I finally had one that I felt wasn’t quite good enough to do that (Brooklyn).
  4. Last year five movies were rated R and the other three were PG-13.  The same thing happened this year.  Unlike recent years where Spielberg’s PG-13 rated film War Horse would have received an R for violence if directed by anyone else, and Nebraska received an R despite having no sex, no nudity, no violence, and two F-bombs, this year I pretty much agree with all the ratings across the board.
  5. The prior three years have seen a trend of nominees re-creating true events (Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, The Wolf of Wall Street, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Selma, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and American Sniper.)  That continues this year with Bridge of Spies, The Big Short, Spotlight, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road.  (Just kidding on that last one.)
  6. I’m a little surprised that this year features not one, but two science fiction films with Best Picture nominations.  That hasn’t happened since 2010 with Avatar and District 9 (probably not coincidentally that was also the first modern year of more than five nominees.)  And in case you are wondering, 2014 with Her and Gravity doesn’t qualify because Gravity is not science fiction.  In fact, those four films from those two years represent almost half of all science fiction films ever nominated for Best Picture.  The others are A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars, E.T., Inception, and Her.  Fantasy has had more nominees (i.e. Toy Story 3, Benjamin Button, Crouching Tiger, etc.) and one winner – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  Even Horror has had a winner with The Silence of the Lambs.  No science fiction film has ever won Best Picture, though.  And sadly, I don’t think it’s going to happen this year, either.
  7. Three years ago Jennifer Lawrence broke a string of 27 straight years, and all but 4 years since 1970, where the Best Actress winner has done nudity during their careers.  Many of the winners appeared nude in the role that won them the Oscar.  (So much for “real actresses don’t do nudity.”)  Two years ago Cate Blanchett, who has also not appeared nude on screen, repeated Lawrence’s win.  Last year we went back to the norm with Julianne Moore winning.  This year both Lawrence and Blanchett are nominated again, and Saoirse Ronan has also not done nudity.  Only Charlotte Rampling has not been shy onscreen, and at all ages, too.
  8. Tom Hardy appeared in two of the eight nominees (Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant), and he was nominated for the latter.  Domhnall Gleeson appears in both The Revenant and Brooklyn, but did not receive a nomination.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Movie – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

After a thirty year wait Max Rockatansky returns in Mad Max: Fury Road…probably.  (More on that in a bit.)  This is a balls to the wall, completely insane action film and it blows my mind that it somehow got nominated for Best Picture.  Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s entertaining as hell.  It’s just that these kinds of movies pretty much never get Oscar nominations beyond ones for visual effects, sound, and editing.  Well, Mad Max: Fury Road (MMFR) received nominations for no less than ten Oscars, including one for director George Miller.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Movie – Bridge of Spies (2015)

What do you get when Steve Spielberg directs a film from a screenplay written by the Coen Brothers?  Bridge of Spies.  It’s a period drama (Coens) starring Tom Hanks (Spielberg) and a bunch of lesser known actors (Coens), done on a lower budget than most mainstream studio releases (Coens) about a man who is principled and steadfast (Spielberg).  The result works pretty well.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Acting Black Blogathon – Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

As you can tell from the banner above this review is part of the Acting Black Blogathon.  When I saw Dell’s explanation of this the very first film that popped into my head was Hollywood Shuffle – Robert Townsend’s biting satire of what it’s like to be a black actor in Hollywood.  And even though it was done almost 30 years ago, things have only marginally improved since then.

The movie’s framework is that a young black man named Bobby Taylor who is an aspiring actor.  We see him go for an audition, a callback, and then during filming.  Interspersed among these base scenes are ones where Townsend’s character daydreams about all the roles he’d like to play, or has bad dreams about the roles he’s afraid he might be forced to do.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Movie – Room (2015)

Room is nominated for four of the big five Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  I don’t know that it will win any of them because of the flaws in the film.  Brie Larson probably has the best chance of winning because her best scenes are during the better parts of the movie.  Overall, I’m guessing this got its Best Picture nomination because of the subject matter, not because of the actual quality of the film compared to the other potential nominees.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Movie – Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight is a film about the work Boston Globe journalists did to research and expose the vast scope of child molestation and cover-up that had occurred in the Boston-area Catholic churches.  The title of the film comes from the name of the team of journalists within the Globe who would get assigned months-long investigations of important stories.  This is a good film about a tough topic.  The best thing it does is treat the subject with the respect it deserves and not try to be sensationalistic with it, even though that has caused those who want more excitement and action to label the film “boring”.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Steve’s Selections #14 – Rollerball (1975)

Steve Honeywell at 1001plus and I agreed to continue to do a monthly review of a film the other picked for us.  We did 12 in 2015 and we will do 12 more in 2016.  The second one this year is Rollerball – the original version from 1975, not the 2002 remake.  It’s also on the list of the 101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die, and I am slowly working on those entries.  I saw the remake of Rollerball back when it came to DVD and I honestly can remember nothing about it other than it had Rebecca Romijn and LL Cool J in it, so I will not be comparing/contrasting the two films in this post.

Monday, February 1, 2016

January Movie Status

In the month of January I saw 12 new films, plus I re-watched 2 more.  I also watched about 30 Oscar-nominated shorts, mostly from the 1930s.

The number of movies is low because I didn’t watch any new ones after the 10th of the month.  I just wasn’t in a movie mood, and I felt like reading instead.  I’ve gone through several books in the last week or two, including re-reading many of the Pern books.  I didn’t watch any of the additions to the IMDB list, nor any of the three remaining new Best Picture nominees I have not yet seen.

Watching the shorts came about from seeing comments on a Letterboxd list of every single thing ever nominated for an Oscar.  Someone built a YouTube list of over 500 nominated shorts that were available there.  If you are interested you can find that here.  I figured I’d do them decade by decade, but hours later I still hadn’t finished off the 1930s.  Even “shorts” can be long when you add them together.

Here are the 12 films I saw in January.  Ones I would recommend (give at least a three star rating to) are highlighted.  Note – I’m not going to list out all of the Shorts, except for one on which I want to spread the word.

Oscar (2): The Revenant (2015), The Big Short (2015)

101 Genre (4): Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978), Wild Style (1983), Rollerball (1975), Went the Day Well? (1942)

Other (5): The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition (2014), Some Kind of Beautiful (2014), Cheap Thrills (2013), Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016), Carol (2015), Viola (2012)

Re-watches (2): Twinsters (2015), The Martian (2015)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition (2014) – Like the previous Hobbit film Jackson didn’t just add in more footage, he also changed some of the scenes from the way they were in the theatrical edition, making this a different movie.  The largest change is that the dwarves and elves actually do fight each other now.   3 stars

Some Kind of Beautiful (2014) – Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba play sisters who both sleep with the same man played by Pierce Brosnan. How the heck do you make that boring? I don't know, but the director managed to do it.   2 stars

Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)This was on the 101 Cult Movies to Watch Before You Die list. I've noticed that the editors seemed to have wanted to have more than 101 Horror movies and so they shifted several more over onto the Cult list.  This isn't a cult movie. It's not even a "so bad it's good" movie. It's just plain bad. Bad acting, bad story, bad props/effects. It's the kind of movie where a family - camping in a friggin' RV that can leave on a moment’s notice no less - has to get attacked three nights in a row at their campsite by wild dogs before they decide maybe they should leave.   1 star

Cheap Thrills (2013)This was recommended to me a year or two ago and it finally made it to the top of my Netflix DVD queue. It wasn't worth the wait. Two guys keep getting paid money to do dares.  200 dollars to smack a stripper's ass? Count me in. 500 dollars to slug a huge bouncer? Not a chance. That's when the film lost me right there - the main character was an idiot and I didn't care what happened to him after that.  And the worst thing is is that the film is completely predictable. The dares have to keep being upped, otherwise there's no movie. Eat a dog? Chop off a body part? Gee, I WONDER where it's ultimately going to lead? I wonder what the ultimate action to get a payoff will be?  Some might argue that this film isn't intended to be real - that it's all a metaphor for the evils of capitalism or some such thing. I think that's giving the movie too much credit. The clue is in the title - watch this movie to get some cheap thrills from seeing two guys humiliate themselves and each other for money.   2 stars

Wild Style (1983) – This is ostensibly a movie about graffiti artists, but the reason to watch it now is to see performances from several early rap acts, along with some breakdancing.  IMDB labels this a documentary, but it's not. It stars non-actors, but it is a fictional story. None of them can act worth a damn, but they were cast because they did graffiti for real or they were real rappers.  One note - those expecting today's easy listening rap based on 70's R&B soft hits, may be surprised by how rap sounded before it got watered down.   2.5 stars

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016)Despite the premise of the modern day characters being traditional ones in the 1890s this actually is a continuation from the last movie that aired (or season 3, episode 3, if you prefer). I won't spoil how, though. They essentially show us what's going on just a little ways in anyway when a particular coroner appears.  This is well done, with numerous references to the written stories, but with the related changes to them to both make them more modern and just different enough to be new for the story readers.   4 stars

Rollerball (1975) – This is both on the 101 lists and it’s a Steve’s selection.  I’ll have a review and rating coming next month on the second Monday.

The Revenant (2015) – You can read my review of this Best Picture nominee here.   3.5 stars

Carol (2015) – Haynes revisits the "1950s closeted homosexual" theme he explored in Far from Heaven. The difference is that his earlier film also had other things going on, especially the potential racial romance aspect. Carol has nothing but the main story.  And that story meanders, wanders, stops, starts up again, and just generally is there, rather than having much of any build towards something. Related to this is that everything is presented very distant and antiseptic. I felt nothing between the two women, to the extent that I wondered if that was actually the point - that's it's not actually a love story but rather a rich, bored forty-something housewife who has a fling with a young, beautiful shop girl, but it means more to the young woman. In other words, a story that's been done many times with the mid-life crisis man and the young ingénue, except with a lesbian twist.  If you want to see a period lesbian romance/drama then you can do much better with Desert Hearts (1984). And for the theme of 1950s homosexuality in general you can do better with Haynes' own film Far from Heaven.   3 stars

Viola (2012)I'm at a bit of a loss on how to describe this. It's not really a film. It's more a series of loosely connected and unconnected scenes that seem to exist to show off the acting of the people on screen. And it's barely an hour long, with an abrupt ending as if they ran out of money, ideas, or both.  The highlight of Viola is something that would make an excellent ten minute short - one actress, in a bit of mischief, decides to use a scene from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night that she performs (as the character of Viola disguised as a man) with another actress to attempt to seduce the other actress to prove that deep down a strong, obvious desire from someone else is irresistible, even if there was no attraction there before. They run the same lines over and over, but they take on different meanings as the first actress gets closer to her goal of seduction.   2.5 stars

The Big Short (2015) – You can read my review of this Best Picture nominee here.   3.5 stars

Went the Day Well? (1942) – You can read my review of this 101 List film and the first of Steve’s Selections for 2016 here.   3.5 stars

Twinsters (2015) – This was a re-watch and I enjoyed it just as much the second time.  It’s streaming on Netflix Instant for anyone who wants to see it.   4.5 stars

The Martian (2015) – This was a re-watch of this Best Picture nominee and I liked it even more the second time.  You can read my review of it here.   5 stars

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011) – This is the short I wanted to emphasize.  It won the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2012.  Anyone who likes books should see this.  It’s The Red Balloon for adults.  You can watch it here:    4.5 stars

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Movie – The Big Short (2015)

As I write this The Big Short just became the unexpected winner of the Producers Guild Award for Best Picture.  Since the PGA winner has presaged the Oscar’s Best Picture winner for seven years straight, and since The Big Short was not considered the Oscar front-runner, this has thrown the Oscar race a big curve.  Making it even more unsettled is that if The Big Short were to win it would be the most comedic film to do so since at least American Beauty (1999).

Friday, January 22, 2016

Movie – The Martian (2015)

I have seen five of the eight Oscar nominees for Best Picture so far and among them The Martian is my favorite.  It combines the best aspects of Apollo 13, Castaway, and Gravity.  And I’ll address this right up front – despite the Golden Globe wins for the film and star Matt Damon in the comedy categories, this is a drama with some lightly humorous moments, not a comedy.  It’s also a great story.

I like movies where smart people deal with issues by being smart, or to paraphrase a line from the film - by sciencing the shit out of it. We have far, far too many movies about idiots being idiotic, so it's nice when every once in a great while a film like this gets made.  This is easily Director Ridley Scott's best movie in quite some time.  Drew Goddard (who got his start with Joss Whedon writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer) delivered a great script, too.  It’s all based on a book that started out as free, serialized posts on the blog of writer Andy Weir.  He got so many requests to turn it into an e-book that he finally did and was selling it for 99 cents.  It attracted Hollywood’s attention and the result was this film.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Movie – The Revenant (2015)

As I write this The Revenant appears to be the emerging favorite to win Best Picture at the 2016 Oscars.  That is still more than a month away, though, so we will have to see if it keeps its momentum or if it starts to fade.  It is a simple tale of survival and revenge very loosely based on the story of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman in the 1820s who was attacked by a bear, left for dead, but managed to make his way back to a fort.  It stars Leonardo DiCaprio in what might finally be an Oscar winning performance for him.  It’s got a lot of good things going for it, but The Revenant also has some flaws.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Observations on the 2016 Oscar Nominations (with No Bitching About What Didn’t Make It)

The 2016 Oscar nominations were announced Thursday.  Going down through them there are a few eyebrow raisers, but no out and out WTFs like a few years ago when Ben Affleck didn’t even get nominated for Best Director for the movie that ended up winning Best Picture (Argo).

Here are the eight Best Picture nominees:

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Monday, January 11, 2016

Steve’s Selections #13 – Went the Day Well? (1942)

Steve Honeywell at 1001plus and I agreed to continue to do a monthly review of a film the other picked for us.  We did 12 in 2015 and we will do 12 more in 2016.  The first one I chose from Steve’s list for me this year is a British war film from 1942.  It’s also on the list of the 101 War Movies You Must See Before You Die, and I am slowly working on those entries, so it seemed like a good place to start.

I called this a “war film” and it is to a certain extent, but it’s more accurate to call it either a thriller or a war propaganda piece.  The events do not take place on a battlefield, but rather in a small village in England that gets infiltrated by Nazis in preparation for a full-scale invasion.  The Nazis have disguised themselves as British soldiers that are in the village to inspect its readiness for home defense and to conduct some training.  For the most part they speak perfect English and have all the mannerisms down.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Look Back at 2015 and a Look Ahead to 2016


Circumstances were such in 2015 that my contract as a Project Manager continued throughout the year, with some time off in November.  The hours continued to be full time plus, and when combined with my commute time, it meant my hours for movie watching and post writing were still curtailed. 

As the year went on my movie watching took priority and I posted less and less often.  Writing reviews started to feel more like homework assignments.  I find I write short “reviews” on Letterboxd now and those seem to mostly satisfy my desire to get some words down on a movie.  That may change (see 2016).

Major lists I completed during 2015 were the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They (2015 Edition), Roger Ebert’s Great Movies, and all the Oscar Best Picture Nominees. 

Other lists completed in 2015 include Empire Magazine’s Top 100 World films (2010 edition), the top 301 films of all time (2014 edition), and the top 500 films of all time (2008 edition).  Also completed were Entertainment Weekly’s 2013 list of the top 100 films, the BBC’s 2015 list of the top 100 American films, and the 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (put out by the same people who do the 1001 Movies books.)

In the year 2015 I saw a total of 345 movies that were new to me.  I also re-watched another 9 films. (Note: I don’t count watching a DVD/BD with the commentary track as being a re-watch or my number would be higher.)  And I watched/re-watched 10 full seasons of various TV shows on DVD/BD/Streaming.

During 2015 I saw 41 films that I would rate at least four stars (14 more than in 2014).  They are, in chronological order within ranking:

5 stars:  The Orphanage (2007), (and a special mention for the TV show Orphan Black, which I would also give five stars to – especially the first season).

4.5 stars: Inside Out (2015), Twinsters (2015), The Martian (2015)

4 stars: Life Itself (2014), The Imitation Game (2014), American Sniper (2014), Boyhood (2014), Birdman (2014), Citizenfour (2014), Interstellar (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), The History of Future Folk (2012), The One I Love (2014), Nightcrawler (2014), Dinosaur 13 (2014), 30 for 30: Four Days in October (2010), Dil Chahta Hai (2001), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Samurai Rebellion (1967), Only Lovers Left Alive (2014), The Grey Zone (2001), Predestination (2015), Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), 30 for 30: Unguarded (2011), Looney Toons Golden Collection Vol 1 (2003), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), The Train (1964), The More the Merrier (1943), Furious Seven (2015), David Ortiz: In the Moment (2014), Tomorrowland (2015), Riley’s First Date? (2015), Mr. Holmes (2015), Trainwreck (2015), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), The Peanuts Movie (2015), Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015), Spotlight (2015), The Hateful Eight (2015)

As always, I will post my Top 10 films for 2015 after the Oscars are chosen (which allows me time to see many of the films others picked as the best.)


Barring sudden incompetence on my part (or large budgeting changes) my job should continue throughout the entire year.

In regards to movies, right now I am trying to play catch up on recent, popular films (primarily 2013-2015) that I have missed, rather than working my way through any “official” list.  I am watching a few films from the five remaining 101 [Genre] Movies You Must See Before You Die lists as I get the DVDs from Netflix.  These will very likely be the next large set of movies I complete, and since I have just under 100 left I hope to do them all in 2016.

Assuming I have the time and/or inclination my next large set of movies after the 101 Genre ones may be Top British films or the movies that have been preserved by the U.S. National Film Registry.  Mixed in may be some “low hanging fruit” – lists where I have only a few entries left to complete.

There are also lists that change or expand every year.  I just updated my consolidated and weighted IMDB Top 250 list with the 2015 year end, as well as old lists from 1996 and 1997.  As a result I have 15 new films to watch to once again be complete.  In February the newest version of the TSPDT list should be coming out and I intend to knock off whatever new ones appear.  In the fall there will be a new edition of the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die with the resultant dozen or so additions to watch.

And of course, coming up shortly are the 2016 Oscar nominations and my goal is to watch and review (if worthy of recommendation) all the Best Picture nominees, just like I have in all prior years I’ve had this site.  That will mean posting more frequently than I have been in recent months.  I do wonder if this might get me back into the swing of things again, and make me feel like reviewing categories of films like I used to.  We shall see.

Regardless, in 2016 Steve Honeywell and I have agreed to continue to do once a month reviews of films the other has selected.  And I will also do my monthly status posts with mini-reviews, so there will still be some activity here, even if it doesn’t turn out I continue with full movie reviews after the Oscars are over.

I’d like to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year and I hope you have a great 2016.

Friday, January 1, 2016

December Movie Status

Note: like last year I will be doing two separate year end posts – a regular one for the month of December and one for 2015 in review that will also look forward into 2016.

In the month of December I saw 49 new films.  I did not re-watch any, nor did I watch any seasons of TV shows.

In my last monthly movie status post I wrote that I had 19 films left to finish seeing all available Oscar Best Picture nominees and that my goal was to achieve that before the end of the year.  I’m happy to say that I did do that.  I wrote a post on completing it which you can read here.  Once the 2016 Oscar nominations are announced in a few weeks I may have more to see, but for now I am done.

After finishing off that list I shifted gears and started playing catch up on recent films I had not yet seen, especially ones from 2015.  This means I have likely already seen some of the movies that will receive Best Picture nominations in 2016.  I don’t know which ones, of course, so these are just in the Other category in this post.