2018 action horror movie
Plot: A lumberjack gets his revenge on a trio of demon bikers and a religious cult after his wife is abducted.
This is clearly a cinematic portrayal of Kubler-Ross's stages of grief.
Stage 1: Free yourself from barbed-wire shackles, metaphorically, of course.
Stage 2: Drink, growl, scream, cry, and drink some more while wearing a tiger shirt and your underpants in a bathroom.
Stage 3: Forge your own bitchin' battle axe, motherfucker!
Stage 4: Take LSD and have your face melt off.
Stage 5: Kill the demons, and kill them good!
Stage 6: Chainsaw fight!
Stage 7: Smile a blood-toothed smile at a hallucination.
In Terre Haute, there's an old record store run by hippies. It's been there since the late-60s and manages, probably since they sell a variety of other things, to stay in business despite this particular type of store seeming like a thing of the past. On the exterior of the little building Headstone Friends operates in, there are these paintings of dragons and things. My mother never wanted me to go in there because there were rumors that they sold drugs, but that, of course, turned out to be pretty far from the truth. They were a nice group of hippies. When I first started going in there while in high school, it seemed forbidden. The incense was strong, the heavy metal they liked was blasting, there was little light, and there was a vaguely druggy ambiance. There was one particular room, about the size of a large closet, where they had these fluorescent pictures illuminated by black light. Walking in there, a person almost seemed obligated to put up a couple finger devil horns. That little room was, at least to me as a kid, the most rock 'n' roll place on earth.
Mandy is that room. I've seen it compared to heavy metal cover art or paintings on the sides of vans, and those are appropriate comparisons, too. Johann Johannsson's final score combines with the hallucinogenic artsy-psychedelia to scorch your lobes, Nic Cage manages to be simultaneously subdued and swing battle axes and chainsaws and scream "You ripped my shirt! You ripped my shirt!" like he only watched Brad Pitt's "box" lines for preparation, and the dark imagery and ridiculously bleak vibes in the characters' interactions with each other make the whole thing seem like there was a massive goth leak at a Hot Topics or something. Panos Cosmatos's long-awaited follow-up to Beyond the Black Rainbow is meticulously excessive in almost every way, every breath this movie is an inhalation of some cosmic energy and exhalation of fiery funk. The movie is nuts, but it's the product of a singular vision and refusal to compromise that has to be appreciated. You imagine people seeing a storyboard for some of this heavy-metal mayhem and telling the director that he can't do some of this before being answered with a "Yeah? Well, watch me do all of this, mo-fos! Rock 'n' roll!"
So there are cheddar goblin commercials, Erik Estrada knock-knock jokes, ax-forging montages, tigers, knife dicks, cultists entertained by automatic windows, horn of Abraxas ridiculousness, animated dream sequences, chainsaw battles, gnarly psychos, and angry power masturbation after somebody who will not be named doesn't appreciate a song that is obviously better than anything the Carpenters ever put out. The colors are otherworldly, the imagery is hellish, and the world is populated by biker demons. And Nicolas Cage has a tiger face on his shirt because why wouldn't he?
How's Nic Cage in this? Perfect! The film opens with his silhouette waking from a falling tree while King Crimson plays, and it ends with a meme-worthy smile that is as haunted as Cage has ever been on screen. In between, he does some of the best work that he's done in a while. Either he found a project that fit him perfectly or Cosmatos just knows exactly what to do with an actor that has Cage's skill set. Cage gets to be an absolute badass in Mandy, and in a lot of ways, it feels like the exact kind of performance I've been waiting for for a really long time.
My favorite moment: After a really silly playing of the "horn of Abraxas" by the bald cult guy, the cultists wait in their van for something to happen. One cult member starts playing with the automatic window. It was really funny. There were actually lots of moments of humor in this, something that keeps you on your toes.
Plot: A wayward son returns home to Parkman, Indiana, juggles a couple of dames, catches up with an older brother, and befriends a gambler who is having a love affair with his hat.
An oddly-foreboding opening tune clues us in that not all of these characters are going to wind up with happy endings as we watch small-town America from the windows of Sinatra's bus. The colors just pop in this opening scene, and the colors pop throughout the movie, right to the almost-expressionistic climax with its carnival lights and cartoon darkness. Sinatra's Dave Hirsch answers that Parkman "used to be" his hometown, but you can't lose a hometown any easier than you can shake the past, and Hirsch is about to find that out.
There's a lot to like about this Vincente Minnelli picture though it hasn't aged well. The men in Some Came Running are all jackasses. Seriously, every single one. They're the kinds of dudes who refer to all women as "dames" or, when they've got a little alcohol in them which seems to be all the time, "pigs." The chauvinism dims the experience of watching some interesting but entirely flat characters doing interesting and sometimes flat things. Dialogue hints at pasts that the characters understand even if the actors don't, and there's always a quick bite. And as I said, the colors pop.
Sinatra and Arthur Kennedy and Dean Martin and Dean Martin's hat are all serviceable, but it's Shirley MacLaine who really steals the show. She acts circles around the others here. Her best moment is when she interrupts a nightclub performance by belting out a stirring rendition of "After You've Gone." What a dame!
Minnelli shows off during a nighttime chase sequence at some sort of carnival that has conveniently rolled into town. A shot with an out-of-towner in front of a wall bathed in this red light with this intense score swell made me laugh, but I later liked characters shot in front of a colorful Ferris wheel. There's a story about Sinatra not enjoying his experience in Madison, Indiana, and threatening to not finish this movie during the filming of that scene when Minnelli wanted to move that Ferris wheel about six feet. That enhances my enjoyment of the entire movie.
I'm sure Madison, Indiana, still looks a lot like this.
Plot: A day in the life of bustling Berlin.
The wild editing and music (the Olympia Chamber Orchestra was in this version that I heard) reminded me a little of Koyaanisqatsi a little. The chaotic arrival of a train hooked me, and then my eyes were glued to this thing. Typewriter dizziness followed by monkeys, fun animatronics in shop windows, the innards of factory machines, traffic, the hustle and bustle of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. I don't know what it reveals about Berlin, apparently a great city, unless the intent was to show off the "hat game" of Berliners during the nightlife scenes at the end. With that sort of hat game, no wonder Kennedy was proud to proclaim that he was a Berliner.
This whole thing is just so musical, so the "symphony" in the title is apt. Fiercely-edited juxtapositions, perfect camera angles, and some 1920's movie trickery give this a rhythm that, even watching this 90 years after it was made, is refreshing. There are a lot of more poignant moments, too, including a windy section in Act 4 where there's an apparently suicide, completely staged by director Walter Ruttmann, I suppose. It makes the whole thing a little difficult to trust, but it can be forgiven because the way the lady's eyes are shown in that scene is such a powerful image.
Oh, and Charlie Chaplin's feet make a cameo appearance.
Plot: A surgeon has sex with a bunch of women in Czechoslovakia as Russians invade.
If I'm working on a best-of-1988 list, I can't pass up a movie that features Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche, can I? There are so many accents going on in this, but both give great performances. And so does Lena Olin, who I don't think I know. There's a physicality to the performances. A great early scene has Day-Lewis chasing Binoche through an old-folks home, and it's filmed really well but also features these performers who know exactly what to do with their bodies. And that continues throughout--from the quiet scenes where characters are reflecting on something to the numerous sex scenes.
Most of those sex scenes are wild endeavors, like director Philip Kaufman and the actors wanted to go at them like they were action sequences. The first time Day-Lewis and Binoche get together, for example, made me wonder how at least one of them didn't get seriously injured. They're erotic, but Kaufman isn't really filming them with the purpose of being erotic.
However, I have to say that there's a recurring bowler hat here that had a "Pavlov's dog" type of effect on me. An early scene has Lena Olin writhing and crawling over a mirror on the floor, and she's wearing the bowler. Later, the bowler was used in some sort of foreplay again, and eventually, I started to get aroused every time I saw that bowler. Nice trick there, Kaufman. Nice trick.
This is often a sprawling and difficult-to-follow story that feels a little pompous, but I did like some comedic bits thrown in. There's some fun visual humor with a lady and a dog in a car, and there's another moment with a fellow passenger on a train that was almost funny. There are also a pair of pigs that play a single pig, and their performances were really good.
The best scene has Day-Lewis staring down a cactus because if there's a scene in which Daniel Day-Lewis stares down a cactus in a movie, it's probably going to be the best scene.
1966 Czech sci-fi comedy
Plot: A married pair of scientist find themselves in some trouble when the wife's dream experiments unleash her husband's dream characters into the world.
Czech sci-fi comedy is where it's at! This was recommended by Eric. Last year, I made it a goal to watch more movies from Czechoslovakia because they usually hit my sweet spot. They're usually so imaginative and fun. I think I watched somewhere around five. So that wasn't good. I don't remember seeing any that showed us both a glimpse of a cow's dream and a child urinating on a superhero dream character as he tried to climb out of a sewer.
There's a lot of creativity here as three dream characters--the fetching Jessie who I just couldn't stop leering at like I was also some sort of comic book villain, a cowboy villain, and some sort of caped strong man villain--pop into the real world. There's chaotic destruction, but they also take time to play a piano or, in my favorite recurring reference, drink a baby's milk. This reminded me of the Batman television show that came out at around the same time. It didn't have the onomatopoeic effects, but the dream characters did communicate via talking bubbles that were hilariously swiped or shot away and in one instance even turned so that other characters could see what was being said. I liked how the husband character always had to look up to see what Jessie was saying since it couldn't be heard.
There are all sorts of fun throwaway moments that keep things wacky, but I wonder if there's a subversive message to the whole thing, something about a "freedom from dreams" or the obligation we have regarding our dreams. I'd like to know what a feminist would have to say about where the husband and wife end up by the end of this.
I don't know this director--Vaclav Vorlicek--at all, but he's apparently still working at the age of 80-something. Maybe I'll Czech out more of his work soon.
Plot: A look at the murder of a police officer in Texas and whether or not the man in jail is actually the one who committed the crime.
Burger King product placement made me laugh as I was supposed to be focusing on how the "wheels of justice" are capable of doing a lot of harm. There's a lot that is haunting about this Errol Morris look at the story of Randall Dale Adams, a drifter who was accused and convicted of a murder he didn't commit. Knowing that the whole thing has a semi-happy ending with this documentary playing a part in the discovery that Adams was indeed innocent makes it a little easier to watch, but here's a guy who lost 11+ years of his life, prime years when he could have gotten all kinds of women with that bushy hair and mustache combination that he had going on. Most chilling might be a tape recording played right before the closing credits. The crime is also shown from various angles in these artsy reenactments. I didn't know how to feel about them at first, but that slow-motion flight of a Burger King cup with a chocolate milkshake convinced me that I was watching something great. Also chilling were these words--"It takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man."
I'll tell you what really threw me off here. In the interview segments with Adams, I couldn't help hearing Nicolas Cage. He has a very similar cadence or rhythm to his voice as Cage.
Loved the score, a very typical Philip Glass thing that fit perfectly.
I wonder what Werner Herzog had to eat after Errol Morris completed this documentary. My guess--a Burger King chocolate milkshake.
1950 heist movie
Plot: A recently-released criminal gets a team together to pull off a heist.
Marilyn Monroe's first performance although I don't think she ever looks quite like she does on the poster. I think I'd like to see Monroe's appearances in chronological order to check out the development of her mole.
This has just enough style and some good performances (I especially liked Sterling Hayden), but the double crosses seem a little Hollywoody. A good heist movie is only as good as its big heist scene, and this pulls its off with style and suspense. It's reminiscent but not as good as the one in Rififi.
My favorite part is close to the end. This is probably a spoiler, so you might not want to read it if you haven't seen the movie, but I believe it's suggested that some horses are going to devour one of the characters.
1959 first movie
Plot: A French actress has a brief affair with a guy in Hiroshima.
So this was Alain Resnais's first feature film? It's so confident that that's difficult to believe. And so enigmatic. That opening, with the entwined bodies glistening and eventually covered in ashes, is almost coming out and announcing, "Hey, everybody, hold on! This is going to be a masterpiece!" Then, there's haunting and horrifying Hiroshima imagery--a museum tour, a bouquet of bottlecaps, wounded people--and you're almost convinced that this is going to be a documentary with some intercut artsy-fartsy sex scenes.
It is not a documentary about Hiroshima although that public tragedy plays a big role in the understanding of a character's very personal tragedy. No, this is a movie about the "horror of forgetting," a look at memory and the inability to forget, fears of futures, fears of indifference, other unknown fears, dreaming, being unaware of dreams. A character claims, "You think you know, but no. Never." The script is poetic to the point where it's unreal, the kind of dialogue that could only be found in an intellectual's wet dream. But it adds to the lovely mystery. It's a movie you understand with your bowels or those parts of your mind that can't shake the past's regrets or memories of misfortunes. Or maybe you don't understand this one at all? This is another one of those movies that you just let envelop you, one you feel.
The cinematography, by Michio Takahashi (who I've not heard of) and Sacha Vierny (who I have), perfectly adds to that mystery. So does the score, a really good one for the 1950s.
And oh! I almost forgot to mention Emmanuelle Riva, the French actress who plays the French actress. This is her first film, too, and she's just about perfect, a real case of "1,000 women in one" as the guy character says.
Some favorite moments: that opening, of course; the shimmering light in a scene that takes place in a tea room, a possible nod to Casablanca; mirror inner monologue; and a remarkable old lady at a train stations who sits in between the couple as they have a conversation.
Plot: A married couple visit Italy.
There's no time to read about the ending of Roberto Rossellini's anti-romantic drama and sightseeing tour of Naples, Italy, and I'm not sure what to think of it. I didn't like it, but it didn't sour me on the rest of the film, one of those that ties its setting to its drama so perfectly. The symbolism of the places Bergman's character visits is a bit on the nose, but they're cool to see and well filmed. The part in Pompeii is especially poignant though I would rather watch the Coogan/Brydon Trip to Italy again before watching this. It's got more impressions and sing-a-longs, and it doesn't force you to watch the disintegration of a marriage, something that's a little depressing.
You could argue that the disintegrating marriage is the main character in Voyage to Italy, but I do like how both of the characters are created. Their conflicts have begun a long time before we see them riding in a car at the beginning of this, that disintegration en media res, and it's entirely unclear what happens after the credits roll. Their differences are clearly defined by Bergman and Sanders desiring different things at this stage in their relationship. Bergman's character's fueled by some inner anguish, and there's a lot of subtlety to her performance. Sanders appears to be an actor tortured by this entire experience, and that adds some depth to his character here.
By the way, George Sanders' character mentions being bored a handful of times in this, and it's a little hard to watch that a few decades after he wrote a suicide note about being bored before taking his life.
1992 black comedy
Plot: Residents of a one-street suburb next to an artificial forest try to figure out what they want in a mailman.
Possibly, this is Alex van Warmerdam critiquing repressive nature of Dutch suburbanites. The town does have its own school, butcher shop, and forest, and they do have access to a church in a nearby community, but they're really closed off from the rest of society. The characters feel like pieces in a playful allegory. The blind hunter guy, the postman, the other postman, the kid on the motorcycle, the horny butcher. Add in a vulture, a religious icon coming to life, forest butt temptation, surprise sainthood, and an inept traveling museum, and you've got a lot of pieces that don't really come together but feel like they have to be about something.
Regardless if the non sequiturs and absurdist humor really add up to anything at all, this might be the van Warmerdam movie that I've enjoyed the most so far. I think I've decided that I have a sense of humor that fits right in with the collective sense of humor of Scandinavia. Kaurismaki, Andersson, Bergman. van Warmerdam. These guys are hilarious!
If you need any evidence that van Warmerdam is a comedic genius, look no further than the scene in this where a guy pops in to sell ice cream.
2004 television sci-fi action movie
Bad Movie Rating: 2/5 (J.D.: 1/5; Josh: 1/5; Lisa: 1/5)
Plot: Aliens are trying to do something, and kids into extreme sports team up with the titular blue alien, also into extreme sports, to stop them.
Does a hybrid of extreme sports and science fiction sound like the kind of thing for you? Do you like movies from the 1990's that seem like they can't let go of the 80's but were actually made in 2004? Do you long for the type of action provided by old-school Power Rangers episodes but can't find even though there are a seemingly endless amount of incarnations of that product? Well, Zolar might be the movie for you!
Obviously, the actors were hired for kind of being able to skateboard or whatever more than having any ability to act. They're mostly bad in the typical ways teenagers are bad. Jordan Hoffart, the kid covered in the blue paint and (I hope) is given prosthetic ears and a fake nose, is a special case. Sounding inauthentic as either a kid or an alien, Hoffart gives a performance that somehow manages to offend. Look at this fucker:
C. Thomas Howell, an actor who probably should know better, is even worse. He's not in the movie as much, playing a character who, even though he's supposedly the main villain, does next to nothing. It's a hilariously bad performance, aided by his ridiculous costume. I mean, look at this fucker:
None of them are helped by the script, penned by some guy named John Derevlany, a guy who's been nominated for a Primetime Emmy. Instead of winning something like that, he should probably be bludgeoned with one.
Most inexplicable moment: It has to be how it takes about a half an hour of movie time with Zolar before the kids realize he's not human. They think he's one of those blue-tinted people from Kentucky.
Plot: Neighbors connect after discovering their spouses are cheating on them with the other's spouse.
Kar-Wai Wong could say that he finds the story of the tragedy of missed connections or failed romance as beautiful as a love story with a happy ending, but I wouldn't understand him because we don't speak the same language. This movie has language, but it's the visual language that really communicates here. Wong's a wizard in the ways he conjures these colors, colors that just made me swoon. I could spend two hours just looking at the dresses in this movie, especially if Maggie Cheung's wearing them because quite frankly, I enjoy her shape. I'm not able to articulate exactly what any of these color combinations mean because they're not communicating on a logical level. They mean something in some recesses of the soul.
This is one of the best-looking movies I've ever seen. The colors are part of it, but the framing of these shots, the recurring visual motifs, this crisp cinematography, these two gorgeous human beings, and the movie's rhythm all contribute to its aesthetic appeal. I loved all these random shots--of excessive smoking rising into a light (smoking has rarely looked this good in a film), the panning shots of food during a reenactment that looked more like how a tennis movie should be filmed, lots of clocks, those walks for noodles at the noodle stand, Mahjong tiles, lots and lots of hallways, shadows of a blowing curtain.
The leads are filmed with the same eye as the colors. Cheung and Tony Chiu-Wai Lang really are gorgeous, but they also know how to move. Both make all sorts of barely-perceptible movements that have enormous amounts of meaning. Sadness, longing, jealousy, more longing, horniness, indecision, understanding, not understanding, more longing, desire, and every other possible emotion that two people in this couple's particular situation could have are articulated without any verbal communication. They verbally communicate, but you could watch them work their bodies and get the same messages. Wong also frames them so well, using the architecture and set design to help us understand these characters and their situations. Walls trap them, ceilings seemingly cave in on them, bars and other obstacles obstruct. Sometimes, they're just shadows.
"The past is something he could see but not touch. And everything he see is blurred and indistinct." Oh, shit!
Plot: I saw on Twitter yesterday that a movie critic isn't supposed to start a review with a plot synopsis, so I'm going to pretend I'm a movie critic and not include one here.
Demy said this was a "musical without music," but it does have music. That includes a use of the second movement of Beethoven's second symphony, the music that I'd like to die to. That's twice in about half a month that I've heard that piece of music in a movie, so at this rate, I'll hear that in around fifty movies. That likely means I'll die while watching a movie this year, so that's bad news.
Anyway, even if this didn't have music, the movie and its characters still move musically. Most musical in her movements is Lola herself, the titular cabaret dancer who we find out has a backstory that doesn't quite match her bounce. She's hardly still, and even when she is, she moves. The first time you see her, you know two things about her based on the way she smokes a cigarette, moves, and invades personal space (not in an unwelcome way, it should be noted): she's dangerous and she's going to break hearts. The other characters move as well, of course, but they're almost like mannequins compared to Anouk Aimee. Well, not those randy sailors. They start dancing as soon as they enter a room.
Movement is important here because the characters are mostly restless. Roland doesn't believe in dreams but dreams anyway, and he's bored and antsy. The teenager ready to burst out of adolescence. Her mother, you sense, wants to be whisked back into the past. The sailor's a stranger in a strange land and in a hurry to grab on to every available memory he can before he skiddoos. Michel has already run off to have his adventures and is ready for a next stage. Lola's son has too many trumpets, so who knows what his future holds.
While I watched, I had to get out the old tackboard, some string, and some thumbtacks to keep track of the web of character connections in this, all the romantic links and the parallel experiences. Once things all start to come together with these characters and you realize that that's what the movie's really about, this really becomes something special.
Plot: After a governor is exiled for being too nice, his wife and daughter experience misfortunes.
A beautiful downer, this film lets scenes of these characters' plights unfold in a way that makes them deeply felt by the viewer. I can't remember seeing a movie in which this much time unfurled so naturally. Lots happens, mostly tragic, but by the end of this epic, it's all so focused on one main idea--that the world is cruel, probably even crueler for those who live selflessly--that it almost feels like nothing's happened at all. How Mizoguchi packs in so much story and still allows enough space to appreciate it all in a film a little over two hours is probably what is the most masterful about Sansho the Bailiff.
That title is a strange one. I can't imagine why this is named after the main villain, who only gets about ten minutes of screen time tops. I assume it's because of his beard. He hardly seems all that vital as a villain as the movie makes clear from the words I had to read at the beginning that this is a world "when mankind had not yet awakened as human beings." Clearly, it's the world that is the villain here.
It's a hard film to enjoy because you can't enjoy what happens to these characters. Each one experiences, some offscreen. They lose things, they long, they despair, they give up on their ideals, they redeem themselves, they wander off, and they sacrifice. It's all so quiet, Mizoguchi apparently afraid that if he draws any more attention to what is going on, it would be too much for the audience. Moments still stand out though. The resolve of the titular bailiff's son, the sacrifice of a sibling, the skepticism of a downtrodden character. These are images that I'm not likely to forget.
Plot: Newlyweds live on the barge the husband captains with a first mate and a cabin boy. They have early marriage troubles.
If I have a movie goal for 2019, it's to fill in some embarrassing gaps in my movie watching and see some movies that I probably should have seen a long time ago. This Jean Vigo romantic comedy is one of those, and I'm glad I watched it because it's just lovely.
Part of my trepidation with any movie from the 1930's is an assumption that the movie's score will be oppressive, but I liked the score here. I was hooked initially when some ringing church bells worked their way into the score, a scene where the newlyweds are walking from the church to the dock while onlookers follow to wish them a hilariously apathetic farewell.
The boat itself might be a sort of metaphor for the voyage of marriage. At the very least, the clash between the husband's desire to be on the river and the wife's desire to explore the sights on land are a good representation of the kinds of conflict that can get in the way of people just being in love. Gorgeous shots of fog and boat clutter are visuals representations of just how lost young lovers can be.
With a romantic story like this, you'd expect the married couple to be at the center of this, and they are. But that doesn't happen at the expense of a third character, the first mate Jules who is played by Michel Simon. He's a great character, one with all sorts of untold backstory and relationships with the other characters that are almost impossible to pin down. When you meet him, you think he's going to be a dumb brute of a character and largely background, kind of like the cabin boy ends up being. Instead, he's integral. And I'll tell you--he's one sexy beast of a boatman! I mean, when he's showing Juliette the contents of his cluttered cabin, his knickknacks collected from around the world, and says, "I'll show you my puppet," I swooned. These souvenirs from all over the world are things that could each have their own story, and spin-off films detailing the misadventures of Jules would have been worth making. Jules is a character who has possibly loved, maybe even loved and lost, but those are the kinds of details you have to figure out for yourself.
"I'll show you my puppet." Swoon!
There are some beautiful shots in this thing. At various stages, you get to see a montage with all three characters on their own search for something, and those shots are just wonderful. Vigo also makes this clunker of a ship feel like the most romantic place on earth at some points, and there's a scene near the end that almost approaches a kind of magical realism with some double-exposure shots that I really liked.