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.

Back in October I ended up watching a bunch of horror films from the 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die list.  In early November I finished off all but one of the remaining.  The one left was The Bad Seed (1956), which I had to get from Netflix on DVD.  It had been sitting on my coffee table for weeks, so yesterday I finally took the time to watch it.  This means that in December I also completed that one (Horror) of the six 101 Genre films lists (the others being Action, Cult, Gangster, Sci-Fi, and War).

Here are the 49 films I saw in December.  Ones I would recommend (give at least a three star rating to) are highlighted.

Oscar (19): Alice Adams (1935), Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), Naughty Marietta (1935), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), Cleopatra (1934), Flirtation Walk (1934), Here Comes the Navy (1934), The House of Rothschild (1934), Imitation of Life (1934), Viva Villa (1934), Smilin’ Through (1932), The Big House (1930), The Divorcee (1930), East Lynne (1931), Skippy (1931), Arrowsmith (1931), The Champ (1931), Five Star Final (1931)

101 Genre (2): The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), The Bad Seed (1956)

Other (28): The Crimson Kimono (1959), The Marriage Circle (1924), 300: Rise of an Empire (2014), Spring Breakers (2012), Trainwreck (2015), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), Slow West (2015), I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay (2006), About Time (2013), A Perfect Man (2013), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), The Peanuts Movie (2015), Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015), Twinsters (2015), The Martian (2015), Steve Jobs (2015), Spotlight (2015), The Good Dinosaur (2015), The Intern (2015), Spectre (2015), Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Creed (2015), Frank (2014), The Hateful Eight (2015), Joy (2015), Concussion (2015), Grudge Match (2013)

Alice Adams (1935) – This is the 1930s version of a movie for tween girls. The entire first third is spent with a girl who, tragedy of tragedies, has to, I can't believe I'm typing this, WEAR THE SAME DRESS SHE'S WORN BEFORE TO A PARTY. God, the horror, the horror. And her mother bitches at her father for not making enough money so she can have new dresses every time she goes out, bitches about not having a better social standing, bitches at him about wanting him to screw his boss over - a man who's been nothing but good to him. And all the while the daughter is putting on airs, pretending to be someone she's not, all to try to impress people who are not looking at her. To sum up, the two main female characters display pretty much every negative trait associated with their gender - something that assures that I'll hate the movie.   1 star

Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) – The reason to see this movie can be summed up in two words: Eleanor Powell. Who's that, you ask? I was right there with you as I watched this. She's a fantastic dancer, especially tap. She also does a dead-on impersonation of Katherine Hepburn at one point that is a comic highlight. I looked her up afterwards to find out why I didn't know more about her even though I've seen my fair share of 1930s and 1940s movies. It turns out she got married and stopped working in the early 1940s. That's too bad for us.   3 stars

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) – I've now seen what can only be described as pure 1930's psychedelia. For those of you old enough to get the reference, I would have sworn this was a Sid and Marty Krofft production. The director was a big stage director and this is his one and only movie. It shows. He has his performers overact to the point of absurdity. They can't just laugh; they have to do so as if they are insane, maniacal, or both. And the then 14 year old Mickey Rooney is so friggin' annoying as Puck that it kills the movie every time he's onscreen, which is very often. There's a difference between "mischievous" and "make people want to punch you" and Rooney goes WAY over that line. I put this back on the director, though, who also seems to think that Puck is the lead character of the play.  On the plus side the costumes, sets, and cinematography are very interesting. In fact, this movie produced the first, and only, write-in winner of an Oscar in cinematographer Hal Mohr.   2 stars

Naughty Marietta (1935) – Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy have great chemistry together on film. In the 1700s she's a runaway French princess who ends up captured by pirates near New Orleans. He's a he-man Davy Crockett-type soldier who rescues her, sings opera together with her, and then cleans up really well when they get to civilization. He smart enough to know she's hiding something and so she tries to avoid him. You can guess where it's going.   3 stars

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) – This is a biopic about how poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning met and fell in love. What makes it different is that Elizabeth is dominated by a truly tyrannical father - not "I don't want you dating", more like "I shall kill your dog if you displease me". Norma Shearer does a good job as Elizabeth. And Charles Laughton plays a truly hateful character with a gleam in his eye.   3 stars

Cleopatra (1934) – This is a lot more compact than the 1963 version, but it certainly has the sets and costumes. It is a DeMille production after all. It stars Claudette Colbert and a bunch of people whose names you won't know. Apparently the Code was still not being enforced so they took advantage of it with some of her outfits. And there's an opening shot of what is either a topless woman or one wearing a very thin cover over herself in the shadows.   3 stars

Flirtation Walk (1934) – There’s no real reason that I can think of to watch this movie unless, like me, you are working your way through all the Oscar Best Picture nominees. The plot is generic, and when it's not that's because it's completely nonsensical. The songs are generic, too. Both Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were in better movies, even with each other. Watch 42nd Street instead of this film.   2 stars

Here Comes the Navy (1934) – Man, watching Flirtation Walk and this film back to back was not a good idea. They are both pretty much the same story - asshole gets pissed off and decides to join the military for completely stupid reasons. In this film's case it's the Navy. James Cagney plays the kind of guy that would probably end up getting shot by "friendly fire" at some point in his military career just because he's such an asshole. He's also so stupid that to try to get to an officer he fought with he joins the Navy, goes through training, gets assigned to the same ship, and only when he gets there realizes that he's a Yeoman and has to follows whatever orders the officer gives. Oops. And even then he's so stupid he thinks he can just quit the Navy because he doesn't like it. What gives this film any significance at all is that much of it takes place on the USS Arizona - one of the ships sunk when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It adds an eerie quality to what are attempts at comedy. And I read afterwards that a dirigible shown late in the film was also destroyed, in this case a year after the film when it crashed into the Pacific.   2 stars

The House of Rothschild (1934) – This is one serious propaganda piece for the Rothschild family. This movie shows us how they single-handedly saved Europe from Napoleon not once, but twice, saved the British economy, and made life safe for Jews all across the continent. Right. The fact that this was made only a few years before Hitler started sending them to be killed adds a peculiar filter to the movie.   2.5 stars

Imitation of Life (1934) - I saw the 1959 version first and I feel it is the better of the two. In this one they probably spend less than 30 minutes of the 110 minute running time on what is supposed to be the main point - the conflict between the black mother and her daughter who looks white. Instead we get tons of scenes of Claudette Colbert's character's love life. In addition, in this version everyone wanting the light skinned daughter to stop pretending to be white came across as she should "know her place" or "accept her lot in life", rather than how the 1959 version made it more about her disrespecting her mother and her heritage.   2.5 stars

Viva Villa (1934) – This is both a whitewashed bio of Pancho Villa and an almost wholly made up one. Much of what we see on screen never happened. It didn't take me long to give up on the historical record and instead just shut my brain off and treat this as a sort of Mexican Robin Hood story.   3 stars

Smilin’ Through (1932) – This film opens with a man pining for his dead love. Okay, that's fine. Then we learn she died 30 years ago. Jesus, let it go man. Then the movie quickly forwards another 20 years as a young girl grows up to look just like the lost love and starts dating the son of the man responsible for the woman's death. The now old man not only forbids the romance, he is extremely adamant that it end, to the point of destroying all his relationships with others. It's now been 50 years - Jesus Christ, let it go. He's the kind of person who will die a bitter lonely old man, and richly deserve it. Because this is 1932, though, you know things will more or less work out.   3 stars

The Big House (1930) – Decent prison flick (and possibly the oldest one I’ve seen).  The riot in the third act was quite something for a film of this era.   3 stars

The Divorcee (1930) – This is the kind of film that couldn't be made a few years later. A woman's husband gets drunk and has sex with a divorcee. His wife finds out about it and spitefully sets out to get back at him. She gets his best friend roaring drunk and has sex with him. She then tells her husband, who understandably wants a divorce. She then starts crying, saying she's forgiven him why can't he forgive her? Right. If she'd forgiven him she wouldn't have deliberately tried to destroy him (which she succeeds in doing). She then plays the field, getting lots of expensive jewelry from rich men, all while the husband is in a downward spiral of drink. Then for her coup de grace, she takes up with a married friend and gets him to decide to leave his wife for her - a woman he disfigured while driving drunk, no less. The circle is now complete: she is now the divorcee wrecking other marriages.  Now just imagine any of these things taking place in a movie made in the late 1930s.   2.5 stars

East Lynne (1931) – It's too bad the final reel of this is missing because it cuts off right at a very important point. Having seen my fair share of films I can extrapolate what is going to happen, but it is annoying. The story is decent - a woman with crappy taste in men marries and regrets it when the battleaxe of a sister-in-law makes her life miserable at her new home. After being cast out she takes up with another man who ends up disappointing her, and all the while she pines for her young son who she is never allowed to see.   3 stars

Skippy (1931) – This one's a bit of a head scratcher in that 9 year old Jackie Cooper got a Best Actor nomination and the director actually won the Oscar for Direction - still the youngest winner in the category. I'm guessing that these were more for the novelty than anything else. Maybe they figured working with all those kids was worth getting the Oscar. The first two thirds of the film are kind of annoying as it's just a bunch of kids acting like they think adults act. Then something does happen and I was impressed by Cooper's ability to express it...until I read the trivia and found out what they did to him to get the reaction they wanted. Let's just say it's about as far removed from Spielberg dressing in a gorilla suit to make the kid laugh in Close Encounters as you can get.   2.5 stars

Arrowsmith (1931) – I know John Ford directed a ton of silents all the way back to the late teens, but this 1931 talkie is the oldest of his films I've seen. The story is a little uneven and the ending feels very rushed. Reportedly, and it's too good a story not to believe, the studio barred Ford from drinking while he was filming so he cut out whole sections of the script in order to get done sooner and lift the ban. One thing I want to note is that this is also the earliest film I've seen that had a real black character in it. What I mean by that is he isn't presented as shuffling, speaking in pidgin English, having the intellect of a child, or any of the other false stereotypes movies of the time perpetuated. In fact, the character is a doctor with a university degree and speaks perfect English. There's even a scene where he's treating some white characters - something a lot of people wouldn't even allow in real life in some backward parts of the country at the time. Of course, three years later John Ford would make the movie Judge Priest and put the actor Stepin Fetchit in it, and that more than cancelled out any progress this movie may have made.   3 stars

The Champ (1931) – It’s interesting how perceptions and times change. When this film was made presumably what mattered most is that the son loved his father and wanted to be with him. The fact that the father was either spending all his money getting drunk, or losing it gambling, was just something to deal with. We're obviously supposed to sympathize with father and son, but watching it now all I could think was what a crappy father he was and how someone needed to rescue the kid.   2.5 stars

Five Star Final (1931) – This was the final film I watched to finish off seeing all of the Oscar Best Picture winners (not counting one that is lost and another that exists only as a single print in an archive). Thankfully, this was a good film. I've seen a bunch of bad ones on my way to completing this quest. The story it tells is still very relevant today with tabloid journalists digging up a 20 year old murder case for which the woman never paid for her crime, then raking her and her family over the coals, including a daughter who is about to be married and who has no idea what her mother did. It shows that muckraking isn't something that TMZ invented.   3.5 stars

The Crimson Kimono (1959) – This was recommended to me quite a while back when I was doing a series of reviews of films with interracial relationships in them. I finally got around to seeing it. For the time it was made it's both quite lowbrow in its content yet progressive in its racial attitudes. It stars Glenn Corbett and James Shigeta as L.A. detectives on the trail of a killer. It was the first film for both of them and it does show sometimes in the acting. Shigeta is best known to modern audiences as the unfortunate Mr. Takagi, head of the Nakatomi Corporation in Die Hard. Director Samuel Fuller included a lot of content specific to Japanese culture, but not in a "shove it in your face even when it doesn't belong" kind of way. And since there is a subplot of a white woman and Shigeta's character falling in love it also addresses head on the controversy at the time around such a relationship, and not just from white attitudes. However, it also shows the two detectives quite naturally as not only as the best of friends, but also roommates and soldiers who served together in the Korean War.   3 stars

The Marriage Circle (1924) – A silent "sex comedy" from Ernst Lubitsch that has plenty of pre-Code naughtiness in it. A husband (an immediately recognizable Adolph Menjou with his trademark moustache) is married to a crappy wife. She threatens to divorce him and his face lights up. She happens to share a cab with a stranger and is immediately attracted to him. The husband notices and is happy because maybe now she'll leave him. The stranger is, of course, the husband of a friend of hers who has just come to town. The friend is the unknowing recipient of an as yet unrequited love from her husband's partner. There are identity mix-ups, misunderstandings, correct understandings, misplaced affections, innocent behavior that looks suspicious, suspicious behavior that looks innocent, and quite a bit of kissing. Lubitsch would reuse some pieces from this when he later made the sound film One Hour with You which starred Maurice Chevalier.   3.5 stars

300: Rise of an Empire (2014) – This just doesn't have half the impact of the first one. The lead (never seen him before and already have forgotten his name) had zero screen presence and the attempts to give him the "Big Speech" scenes just fell flat. And watching ships ramming into each other is kind of boring after the first time. Finally, I'm guessing this was also a 3D movie since the almost rookie director had dozens of scenes of blood spraying directly at the screen in slow motion.   2 stars

Spring Breakers (2012) – I avoided this film for quite a while. Sure, pretty much everything connected to promoting the movie showed the four actresses running around in bikinis, but I also knew it was from Harmony Korine, the "creative" mind behind such pieces of crap as Gummo. I finally gave in to hope that there would be something approaching entertainment to be found in it. Big mistake. The first half is marginal at best, but when Franco's character shows up the movie becomes unwatchable. He plays the worst kind of poser - one who's too stupid to even realize deep down he's a poser. This is a one star movie; it gets an extra star for the partying extras.   2 stars

Trainwreck (2015) – I get now why people called this a star-making turn for Amy Schumer. In addition to starring in the film she also wrote the screenplay - the first time Judd Apatow has not insisted on writing his own movie. (And that's probably a good thing with the way his stories have been going in his movies.) Oh sure, Trainwreck is a little too long for the kind of movie it is; it could lose 15 minutes without missing much. On the other hand, it actually has some depth to it, which is something I was not expecting. From what I've read, the biggest knock against this film is some people did not like Schumer's character. That's pretty much the point of the movie folks - she's NOT a good person. She's the one who screws up, not the man (hence the title.)   4 stars

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) – This is a light, breezy, fun spy movie and I liked it. I hope they make another. I should state that I have never seen the TV show, so I don't know how close or how far from it Guy Ritchie may have strayed. I know his Sherlock Holmes films are about as far from the real Holmes as you can get, and that caused me to dislike them, so maybe a fan of the show will have the same reaction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie. I do have to wonder about the casting with a Brit playing an American, an American playing a Russian, and a Swede playing a German who speaks with an English accent. The three did have good chemistry together, though.   3.5 stars

Slow West (2015) – This is a tough one to rate. On one hand it has great scenery and a downbeat ending that critics will love. On the other hand, it's got lazy writing (i.e. the kid just magically knows where to find his lost love) and a glacial pace. The title is a literal description. I'll give this three stars, which means I recommend it if it sounds like something you might be interested in.   3 stars

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay (2006) – This is Steve’s Selection for this month.  You can read my review of it here.   3 stars

About Time (2013) – Appealing fantasy movie from the writer/director of Love Actually. They tried and failed to make Rachel McAdams look dowdy in order to lessen the huge gap in attractiveness between her and the male lead. It's interesting that in a movie where time travel is possible for some people if they just really want it to happen that the least believable aspect was the pairing of the two.   3.5 stars

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – Decent action flick which later got remade a couple of times. Matthau and Shaw play well against each other verbally even though they only share the screen for a minute or so. It was interesting to see Hector Elizondo in an early in his career role.   3.5 stars

A Perfect Man (2013) – First things first, the trailer makes this look like a comedy. That's serious false advertising. Second, they somehow managed to make a boring movie about infidelity AND make the two leads as uninteresting as possible. Third, I found out afterwards that this film sat on the shelf for TWELVE years after filming completed. You'd think somebody somewhere would have realized there was probably a pretty good reason for that. It should have stayed there.   1 star

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – To sum up: better than Episodes 1 and 2, not as good as episodes 4 and 5, about on par with episodes 3 and 6. Abrams did the same thing with this Star Wars movie that he did with his last Star Trek movie - he did a semi-remake of an earlier, popular entry in the franchise. For Star Trek it was The Wrath of Khan. For Star Wars it was the original film. I had two major concerns going into this - was Abrams going to shoot it in extreme shakycam like his Star Trek movies and are the three major stars from the first trilogy going to only have glorified cameos or are they going to be important to the movie. I can report that thankfully Abrams left his paint mixer/camera stand at home and that at least Harrison Ford has as sizable a part as the new characters. Carrie Fisher has a few scenes, while Mark Hamill just has a cameo with no lines (for good reason, though, at least in regards to the story.)   4 stars

The Peanuts Movie (2015) – This is an absolutely faithful adaptation of Charles Schulz's creations and Bill Melendez's TV specials. Even the 3D animation is done in a way to still make it look a little like the TV animation - call it "2 1/2 D". There is a great message in the movie, small moments from the comic strips and TV specials are sprinkled in now and then, and the new animation does a fantastic job with Snoopy's daydreaming about fighting the Red Baron. The dogfights were actually pretty damn good. And yes, there is a bit of wish fulfillment in the movie that Charles Schulz may have objected to, but the film was made in close cooperation with his family, including his son and grandson as co-writers on the script, so I don't have a problem with it. In fact, this grown up man got a little misty eyed at the end of the film. If you like Peanuts at all then do yourself a favor and watch this film.   4 stars

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) – Another winning entry to follow the fourth one. There are a bunch more stunts, although the plane one was watered down by having seen it so many times in the promos. Rebecca Ferguson is a great antagonist/ally for Hunt in the film.   4 stars

Twinsters (2015) – I do genealogical research and have published a couple of books so I tend to hear about things related to it. A couple of years ago I came across the story of two Korean adoptees, one an American movie actress (Memoirs of a Geisha, 21 & Over), the other a French fashion designer, who discovered each other over the internet and eventually learned they were identical twin sisters separated at birth. What I didn't know until recently is the American had been recording herself starting a couple days after her sister first contacted her. She and another person then filmed their first meeting, as well as other times they got together. It's a very personal recording of both how bizarre and how wonderful it was to suddenly find out that you have a twin. The reactions of both sisters are a joy to see. The first 50-60 minutes were fantastic - very emotional and touching as the two of them start to connect, finally meet, and to also see their friends and families also meet and get to know each other. The final 30-40 minutes chronicle their trip to South Korea both to experience more of their heritage, but also to try to find out more about their adoptions. This was obviously very important for both of them, but it was a bit of a step down emotionally for me. It felt like the documentary faded a bit towards the end. That's the only thing keeping this from being a five star film for me. I think that unless you are dead inside you will be touched by the story of these two sisters. I highly recommend this film.   4.5 stars

The Martian (2015) – Take the best aspects of Apollo 13, Gravity, and Castaway and you've got The Martian. I like movies where smart people deal with issues by being smart, or to paraphrase a line from the movie - 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 movie like this gets made. This is easily 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. But to address the Golden Globes, no, this is not a comedy (or a musical) despite the running joke about disco music.   4.5 stars

Steve Jobs (2015) – The best thing about this movie is that it accurately represents just how much of a complete and utter shit of a human being Steve Jobs was. Prior movies have alluded to it, or addressed one or two things (like adamantly denying that his daughter was his so he could avoid paying a few hundred dollars a month in child support), but this movie pretty much addresses it from beginning to end. It must be extremely upsetting to the many members of his cult of personality who prefer to pretend he was a helpful man out to make their existences better by selling them gadgets. And yes, I realize I am speaking ill of the dead, but if it matters, I was saying the same thing back in the 80s when the cult was already strong and growing. Even though Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet (who I didn't even recognize for a while) are in it, the performer who impressed me the most was actually Seth Rogen. He does a great job in a dramatic role as Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple and the brains behind their successful computers, in case you didn't know). If anyone gets a nomination from this film it should be Rogen (an opinion, not a prediction.)   3.5 stars

Spotlight (2015) – This is a solid, well made film about journalists exposing the Catholic Church in Boston for covering up molestation of children by its priests for decades. It is much in the vein of All the President's Men. This movie may be tough to watch for parents of younger children. It thankfully doesn't show any molestation, but there is much talk about the sheer volume of it. I've seen some complaints that this movie is boring, but the best thing it does is NOT make it sensationalistic (like some Lifetime movie.) It focuses on the legwork and drive of the reporters following the story, not the much more lurid aspects of what was going on.   4 stars

The Good Dinosaur (2015) – This is lesser Pixar, but still watchable. Inside Out is definitely the better of the two movies they released this year.  And what is with movies now representing cavemen as acting like dogs (The Croods and this one)?   3 stars

The Intern (2015) – The first two thirds of this film was pretty good, but the last section really dragged. And it became all this big drama with women crying and men cheating and two minute long monologues about not wanting to be buried in the "singles section" of the cemetery. Yeah. This more than 2 hour long movie could have easily lost 20-30 minutes (most of it towards the end) and been much better for it.   2.5 stars

Spectre (2015) – Spectre is the eighth and latest of the Jason Bourne films to come to theaters. This one is overlong and takes far too long to get the main villain involved. It does have some good action sequences and it opens with a faked single tracking shot that looks almost real.  But this is only the fourth best spy movie from 2015 that I’ve seen (after Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).   3 stars

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013) – The doc is flawed in that it never communicates WHY this film not getting made is supposed to be such a tragedy, other than the fact the director wanted to make it (despite never having read the book). It also goes to Cuckooland when it tries to say all these other movies that did come out were influenced by Jodorowsky. That would be a neat trick since none of those other directors ever saw Jodorowsky's book. (And do you REALLY want to claim Flash Gordon and some of those other films as being influenced by you anyway?)   2.5 stars

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – The stop motion animation was interesting and a little different from some other movies. Other than that, though, I don't have much good to say about it. The story was very basic and not that engaging. The pace was slow, to the point that it felt much longer than 87 minutes. And the main character is very unlikable, making it hard to sympathize with anything happening to him. At best, this movie was just okay.   2.5 stars

Creed (2015) – Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a semi-remake of the original Star Wars, and coming out about the same time is Creed, a semi-remake of the original Rocky. In both cases the remakes are good films, and better than some in the series, but not as good as the ones they are trying to copy.   3.5 stars

Frank (2014) – Much like the title character himself, this film desperately wants to be liked, but doesn't know how to go about doing that and instead settles for just being randomly weird. I suspect that a large part of the popularity of this movie stems from the actor playing the title character who never removes a large fake head. I won't be spoiling his name here, even though Letterboxd seems to have gone out of its way to do so on the movie's main page. All of the songs are intentionally bad, except for the one used in the final scene. That one is catchy, and it's played with real emotion. This scene is easily the best in the movie, but it also left me feeling as if the first 90 minutes were just the setup for it and not really of much importance themselves. If you want to see a much more entertaining movie about a music act that's a little different then try the film The History of Future Folk.   2.5 stars

The Hateful Eight (2015) – This film is 2 hours 45 minutes long, but didn't need to be. While they are not huge individually, there are a number of scenes running a minute or two that are essentially pointless (such as the one with the men driving the stakes in the ground and running a rope to the outhouse.) Cutting those could have easily gained back 15-20 minutes and not been missed. As for the content of the film, it's Tarantino. He does like his blood and violence. Those with gentle dispositions may want to think twice before watching this. The story itself kept me engaged despite the running time. You can see several westerns rolled into this one, most especially Stagecoach.   4 stars

Joy (2015) – Russell, Lawrence, DeNiro, and Cooper have had a good run, but this film was a big swing and a miss from them. The movie just dies every time her family is on screen. Unfortunately, that's all the first 50 minutes consists of. And even once it focuses more on the business side and Cooper's character appears, it keeps going back to the family and the film just loses any momentum it started to have. Oh, and don't believe the Golden Globes. This is another film that isn't remotely a comedy that they have shoehorned into the category.   2 stars

Concussion (2015) – This should have been a better movie, but the studio chickened out. The Sony hack revealed a script that was going to not pull any punches on the NFL. By the time it made it to theaters, though, it was watered down and a whole romance subplot was pumped up to fill the time. It's disappointing, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It’s still worth seeing, though.   3 stars

Grudge Match (2013) – I'm kind of on the fence with this, but I'll tip it toward
"recommended" just based on the concept - get Stallone and DeNiro to play competing boxers. It's billed as a comedy, but unless you're one of the few people who don’t find Kevin Hart annoying as hell, there aren't really many big laughs. There are little jokes on Rocky here and there ("don't punch that meat - it's unsanitary"), and it was amusing to see the fight being sponsored by Geritol, but for the most part it's really a light drama with some humor. The scene with both of them trashing MMA was both amusing and satisfying. The biggest laugh is from a scene in the credits, so don't shut the movie off when the credits start to roll.   3 stars

The Bad Seed (1956) – I was all set to give this film a recommendation because the ending was going to what I felt were some dark places and I was impressed that a mid 1950s film would do that...then they completely undid it all, apparently even changing the original story to do so. So I'm left with my original impressions I had throughout the movie - it drags in some places and the performances are WAY over the top. I have no clue how they got Oscar nominations. Apparently the director retained most of the cast from the successful Broadway play - many of whom had never been in a film - and he even specifically instructed them to still act as big as they did on stage. The result is some incredibly overwrought emoting. Imagine a 1920s melodrama, but with sound.   2.5 stars


  1. I'll take these one at a time, and it won't surprise you much that I haven't seen most of the 2015 releases...

    Alice Adams--I gave this a half star more than you did, and I'm not sure why. I agree with everything you've said here. What a waste of my time.

    The Broadway Melody of 1936--I could watch Eleanor Powell all damn day. Man, she could dance!

    The Barretts of Wimpole Street--I don't really buy the romance, but I completely buy the family drama.

    Flirtation Walk--I like Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, but I didn't think a great deal of this.

    Here Comes the Navy--Waste of time. Anything that makes me not want to watch Cagney is not a good film.

    The House of Rothschild--A promotional piece for a banking family. What a weird film!

    Viva Villa--Wallace Beery is having fun with this, but I think he was the only person (including me) who was.

    The Big House--I kinda liked this one. I agree about the prison riot, which seemed ahead of its time in a lot of ways.

    Arrowsmith--Not a fan. Too damn melodramatic for me.

    Five Star Final--An interesting premise. I also tend to like Edward G. Robinson, and he's really good in this.

    I'm a Cyborg but that's Okay--Obviously, I liked this well enough to recommend it.

    The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3--I really enjoy this version. The remake isn't nearly as good, so I wouldn't bother.

    Jodorowsky's Dune--We'll disagree on this. I think there is some good evidence that parts of this film showed up in other films because the people Jodorowsky was working with ended up making a lot of other films.

    Fantastic Mr. Fox--I evidently liked this more when I watched it than I do remembering it. My least favorite Wes Anderson so far.

    The Bad Seed--I agree on the ending, but I like this more than you do.

    1. I saw the remake of Pelham back when it came to DVD. All I can remember of it now is Denzel Washington was the good guy.

      A clarification on what I wrote about Jodorowsky's Dune. What I meant was JODOROWSKY didn't have the influence on all these other films that his inflated ego thinks he did because those other directors would have been unfamliar with what he was going to do. Individual artists, however, of course re-used some of their designs that they originally created for him. Giger has a VERY distinctive style and no matter what he draws it will look the same as whatever else he drew before, including what he did for Jodorowsky.

  2. I haven't dug into 1930s cinema as much as I would like. Looks like you've been exploring that decade, as well as new releases.

    Imitation of Life: I guess I was right to go with the 1959 version, which I love.

    Spring Breakers: I couldn't look away, and it felt very different to other films out there. I actually thought Franco's character was what made the film interesting. To me, the stylized neon visuals made it unique.

    Trainwreck: I liked it a liitle less than you, but it did have enough fun moments to keep me entertained. Agree it's a tad long for a comedy.

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens: I was happy to see the old characters and it sets up well for E8. I hope they take a few more chances next time and create something that adds to the universe rather than just repeats.

    Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation: The stunts were memorable but the villain was a bit meh. I liked Ferguson was an equal to Cruise, and that seems to be the trend at the moment having strong female action stars( Furiosa in Fury Road,Rey in Force Awakens, female Ghostbusters )

    Spectre: The cinematography was good, but I too prefer Rogue Nation.

    Jodorowsky’s Dune: I was entertained by his anecdotes, though the man has delusions of grandeur about his unfinished film(Maybe that's part of the fun). For me, the doc is biased and did not look at his project objectivly, that it might not have been masterpiece. The comparisons to Lynch's Dune are lacking, except a small clip of him laughing about it.

    1. Spring Breakers - I don't fault Franco's performance, merely the character he was given to play. People like that are ones I don't like and would avoid in real life.

      Rogue Nation - Ferguson was probably my favorite part of the film and I've heard she may be on board for an eventual sixth film.

      Dune - I felt Jodorowsky was WAY to full of himself. He goes to meet with the top man in Hollywood for special effects and gets pissed because the man doesn't kowtow to him. "I had the second highest grossing film in Italy last year!" So effing what. And he yells at Pink Floyd, who took time off from making Dark Side of the Moon to meet with him, and who have the audacity to eat hamburgers in front of him instead of according him the non-eating respect he feels he deserves from them. Right.