1992 western

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Will Munny's killed a lot of folk--women, children, anything that walks or crawls--but hasn't shot at a man or drank alcohol for over ten years. Instead, he's tried his best to settle into farm life with a wife and two children. His wife dies and his struggles on the farm escalate at around the same time a young buck visits him with a proposition. The self-named Schofield Kid wants to partner up with Munny to hunt down a couple cowboys who cut up a prostitute. He initially declines but eventually, with old partner Ned, meets up with the kid to travel to Big Whisky. Little Bill, the sheriff in Big Whisky, isn't happy about the prostitutes' bounty and tries his best to rid his town of assassins.

Near-classic has great acting (Hackman being the most memorable although Richard Harris is also enjoyable), great characters, great dialogue, and great visuals. There isn't much wasted here. Well, I don't care for the prologue and epilogue bookends. Beautifully structured with cranky poetry, dusty existentialism, and bloody mysticism.

Summertime is here. Summer is the season of the western. Here I am watching the first of probably many:

C.S.A.:The Confederate States of America

2004 satirical (?) mockumentary

Rating: 10/20

Plot: This is a look at what American history would look like following a Confederate victory in the Civil War. Disguised as a BBC documentary and interrupted by hilarious advertisements that seemed straight out of MAD TV, this starts with the war itself and then moves through reconstruction, imperialism, isolationism, World War II, a Cold War (with Canada), and contemporary times.

The only thing shocking about this is how humorless it was. It attempts provocation or edginess, winds up just pointless. The visuals and interviews were well done and made the thing look authentic, but it doesn't raises any real issues. There's maybe an intriguing idea here, but it's very poorly executed and not worth seeing.

No picture.

Have Sword, Will Travel

1969 Shaw Brothers kung-fu

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Ying Ke-Fing is a swordsman whose skills have depleted with sickness and age. He and his peeps annually escort a whole bunch of government silver from one place to another place. Two of that crew, Hsiang and Yun, are students of the latter's aunt, a "master of hidden weapons" or some shit like that. They're also engaged. When a mysterious and very poor wanderer with lightning-speed sword skills pops into the picture, a high-flyin' kung-fu love triangle develops. Hsiang and Yun must figure out whether this stranger is who he says he is or if he's actually a spy for the Flying Tiger Gang. Whatever he is, they decide, he sure is tiny!

Kung-Furiday! Lots of swords in this one, and, by the end at least, lots and lots of carnage. This starts with an in-studio ballet of slashing and violence behind the credits. From there, things get a little sluggish during the exposition, but by the time this builds to the climactic ambush scene, a lot which takes place in the various levels of a tower, it gets violently poetic and exciting. Love stories are generally extraneous in action flicks, but the triangle here adds to the suspense and character development. But who cares about all that on Kung-Furiday? We want swordplay and wire-aided leaps through the trees and fountains of blood and dorky sound effects. Have Sword, Will Travel's got all that.

School's out, so my Friday martial arts entertainment won't be on the big screen for a while. Here I am:

Clean, Shaven

1993 psycho drama

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Just dismissed from the institution, a schizophrenic man begins a search for his daughter, unaware that his mother has just given her up for adoption. In hot pursuit is a detective who believes the schizophrenic is a murderer.

A disturbing and difficult-to-watch movie. Following Shock Corridor, this was a lot more realistic in its portrayal of mental disorder; jumpiness, weirdo sound effects, weirdo visual effects, and attention to minute details pull the viewer right into the world of the schizophrenic. Unfortunately, after about twenty minutes, the oddness wears off and the whole thing seems gimmicky and flimsy. The use of shock imagery grew equally tiresome although I'll have to admit that a scene involving the removal of a fingernail was extraordinarily difficult for me to watch. Ultimately, the experimentation made things interesting but the characters and plot were too much like a typical, grittier episode of Law and Order.

Unclean and unshaven:

Shock Corridor

1963 movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Johnny the journalist really really wants to win a Pulitzer Prize. He concocts a plan to have himself committed to an asylum to get to the bottom of a murder that took place there. Once there, he begins to lose his mind.

Shock Corridor doesn't connect, and that's its biggest problem. It doesn't work as a psychological thriller because it isn't thrilling. There are moments that look like they're intended to be scary, but it doesn't work as horror. It's almost funny at times, but I'm not sure it's ever supposed to be intentionally funny. It's too unrealistic to be realism, not hopeless enough to be noir. There's a bit of a mystery, but once you meet all the characters, it's obvious who done it so there's very little suspense there. Not much style makes this story, an interesting enough story that could use a remake, pretty dull. The acting and the characters' disorders were so comical (a black guy who thinks he's a KKK member, a brilliant scientist suddenly with the mind of a child, and a veteran who thinks he's a Civil War general) that it almost seemed like every single inmate was supposed to be a journalist pretending to be insane. Far too much acting, and none of it was really very good. The main character's mantra ("Who killed Sloan in the kitchen?") almost makes it look like he's playing a game of Clue. Attempts at social commentary fall flat. The movie also loses a point because of a few strip teases that emphasized the teasing, but it gained that point right back with an appearance by none other than Roscoe P. Coltrane.

Jacques Pompadour:

The Passion of Joan of Arc

1928 silent drama

Rating: 19/20

Plot: A cross-dressing schizophrenic crybaby is put on trial for heresy. The judges, all men with incredibly large faces, question her, trying desperately to get a confession. Later, they all have a barbecue.

I really thought the history of this movie and its survival, which I read about before watching this, set me up for disappointment. However, I watched this late at night, completely silent like director Carl Th. Dreyer intended, and was completely moved. The camera work (lots of empty space and strange angled shots of facial close-ups) makes this move without sound or others effects like no other movie I've ever seen. The acting is extraordinary, especially from Falconetti's role as the title crybaby, and the "special effects" used add to the realism, probably because they are real. The actress really had her head shaved after begging the director not to do it. A stand-in (a prostitute apparently) really did have blood spurt our of her arm during the bloodletting scene. A real cadaver was used during the burning scene. There's no pretension, no preachiness, no tricks. You see and you get and you come away wondering why so many other dramatic films end up looking so stupid. Falconetti's performance made me look up other roles, but this was her last of three roles. Apparently she was exiled and pretty much never heard from again.

Another heretic, albeit a funky one:

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

2006 imaginary biopic

Rating: 9/20 (Jen: 11/20)

Plot: Diane (pronounced pretentiously as Dee-anne) is a housewife with dreams of being a photographer but tries to feel comfortable in a role assisting her photographer husband. When a masked stranger who later turns out to be an extraordinarily hairy stranger (a dog man) moves into her building, she allows herself to be seduced. A brand new Diane emerges as her dreams and fantasies are unleashed. A midget, a woman with no arms, a giant, another midget, another midget, and conjoined twins join in on the fun.

Yuck. I think I'd rather eat a handful of my own hair than watch this again. The actors seemed hypnotized. At least Robert Downey Jr. had a bunch of hair all over him to make his job more difficult. What was Nicole Kidman's problem?At times, the dialogue in this was so bad that it didn't even seem like the actors were on the same page in the script. There was a lot in this that looked very good (especially the naked fat woman within the first five minutes of the movie!), but I couldn't connect emotionally. A very flat, implausible movie.

Here's my chin trying to earn an Academy award:

The Milky Way

1969 religious satire

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Two guys are pilgrimaging from somewhere in France to somewhere in Spain where they'll visit some place that has to do with Saint Thomas. Along the way, people bicker about religious dogma, a nun is crucified, shoes are stolen, a savior readies himself for a nice shave, a donkey needs babysat, the pope is executed, and a stigmatic child thumbs a ride for them. Definitely the pope and possibly God frown on the proceedings.

Sort of an episodic surrealist road movie, this definitely has its moments, but I didn't feel like I was the audience for it. Most of the dialogue, at least according to a note at the end of the film, is taken from religious texts, and I just don't have enough background on Catholicism and its history to get all the little jokes. There was a narrative structure here (although I was never sure about the time travel stuff) but this was still really choppy film making, almost like a series of vignettes instead of a real movie. Worth watching and maybe even worth watching again, but definitely not up there with my favorite Bunuel movies.


Dawn of the Dead

1978 black comedy/horror

Rating: 15/20 (Emma and Abbey saw parts of this even though I told them they shouldn't. Emma turned away during an intestine-eating scene. Abbey watched stoically. Both said they'd give it a 0/20.)

Plot: There's a zombie epidemic, and a helicopter pilot, his pregnant woman, a black guy, and a white guy have set up shop in a shopping mall. They barricade themselves and collect supplies and have fun ridding their mall of zombies. There, while the zombies (possibly smurfs) pound on the glass in attempts to get in, they manage to make a nice little existence for themselves, shopping until dropping.

I love the sort-of heavy-handed social satire in this--attacks on consumerism, tragedy as televised entertainment, even subtle (and not so subtle) jabs as racism. I also liked the campiness, the silly blood and violence and the goofy make-up. The use of ironic music via the mall speaker system (elevator music accompanying the violence or scenes with the zombies wandering around the mall) is also a lot of fun. I still think I prefer Night of the Living Dead. This fell into action-movie mode far too often, the music (more Goblin) and special effects really date it, and the ending has to be one of the worst ever. Beats the remake, however, which was loudly obnoxious, way too much like a music video.

Special note: I think musical artist Moby is one of the zombies in this.


Ambush at Blood Pass

1970 samurai movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A ronin-with-no-name (a "yojimbo" quite possibly the same character as in the Kurosawa film of the same name) is hired by a slimy fellow to make his way to Blood Pass and "wait for something to happen." Mifune's character accepts. He goes to the place. he waits. Things happen.

More action and strewn limbs are required for Samurai Friday! I may have to go with Kung-Furiday next school year, but I'm afraid I'd be fired for a bad pun. This was a fine samurai flick though with both Mifune and the guy who plays Zatoichi, the latter with a really interesting character. This has twists and turns--a really convoluted and hard-to-follow plot--so enough is happening to make up for the lack of sword on sword action. The mountain setting also gives you enough to look at when nothing else is going on.

Sad side note: I remember watching Hiroshi's samurai trilogy a while back but remember absolutely nothing about it. I think there's something wrong with my mind.

I watched this while wearing a tie and eating ice cream. Unfortunately, there's no photographic proof.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

2008 summer blockbuster

Rating: 14/20 (Dylan: 14/20)

Plot: Russians kidnap Indiana Jones and a portly gentlemen. There's a mysterious box. Kaboom! Kazaam! Indiana Jones swings from something. Fisticuffs! Shooby LeBoof! Action sequence! Indiana Jones and Shooby LeBoof have to find the title treasure before the communists do or there's going to be big, big trouble. So they go to Peru to do just that. Then Indiana Jones meets an old friend, arguably the first hippie, and mushrooms are had. The remainder of the movie is their "trip" while Shooby LeBoof and an Ewok keep saying, "C'mon, fellows! We've got work to do! This crystal skull ain't gonna find us! Let's roll!"

If this wasn't an Indiana Jones movie, there's no way I would like it this much. I really really enjoyed the first half of the film; the second half was so completely over the top, silly, ridiculous, incomprehensible, and spastic. A tough second half to swallow. The movie certainly looks good, retaining the overall feel of the 80's movies, and Indiana Jones is the same character despite the age difference. I loved the 50's allusions, and I even loved the punchline following the first 20-25 minutes of action (it involves a refrigerator) even though it's the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen in an action movie. An action scene in a jungle that involves Shooby LeBoof and monkeys nearly topped it later on though. Lots of this reminds me of Indiana Jones (the humor, the stunts, the fun after you suspend disbelief), but there were also nods to 50's B-movie sci-fi and, in the imagery preceding the aforementioned refrigerator scene, The Twilight Zone. There are some moments when the script gets a little greasy and overly sentimental and there's probably not anything as indelible as those scenes in Raiders, but overall, it was about as much fun as a person can have with a movie, an Indy flick that might not be as good as Raiders or Crusade but is better than Temple. My only real complaint? No CGI Short Round. Oh, one other complaint. I'm tired of people complaining about George Lucas ruining their childhoods. That's just stupid. I was happy the Star Wars movies came out, and I'm happy this franchise is back. Of course, having a mental age of ten can't hurt.

Note: Dylan and I agreed that the use of the "Wilhelm Scream" in this one was perhaps the best use of it ever. We both laughed in a way that probably made people around us wonder what was wrong with us.

I paid money to see this:

Blast of Silence

1961 crime drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A hit man is born. He leaves Cleveland for a job in New York during the Christmas season because, as we all know, that is the most ironic time of the year to be hired to kill somebody. After finishing some preliminary stalking (and sulking), he's left with nothing to do but wander the streets and go to really lame parties with squares where he's forced into competitions involving pushing peanuts across the room with his nose. He tries to get some and fails. Circumstances cause him to rethink his life and occupation.

Very solid, stylish hit man story with a noir-ish elements and cheap but very good direction. I'm not generally a fan of narration (Sunset Boulevard being an exception because the narrator has died), but this one uses a second-person point of view that gets you inside the head of the protagonist. That and the fact that the protagonist is in every single scene drags you along through the melancholy streets of the big city and forces you to descend into hell right along with him. A good tight script reminiscent of a really watered-down Sin City. The opening and closing shots are really powerful, bookending the succinct tragedy in between. Life, we're reminded, isn't very good. And by the way, that scene with the peanut race is one of the silliest missteps I've ever seen in a movie. What the hell?

Here I am with my trigger thumb:

There Will Be Blood

2007 horror film

Rating: 18/20

Plot: A dirty man falls in a hole. That dirty man climbs out of the hole and becomes an oil man, wealthy through greed, his lust for land above oceans of oil, and his lack of concern over stomping over anybody who gets in his way. He and the orphan boy he calls his son get a tip from the son of a preacher man and buy up land with the intent of drilling and then pipelining. God saunters along, and the dirty man spits on him. The air smells of oil, fire, brimstone, misanthropy, and bone.

Incredible. I can't remember seeing a movie as dark and as bleak and as utterly hopeless as this one, and after two and a half hours, I felt sort of like I'd been beaten with a stick. Just like Daniel Plainview's character (and Daniel Day Lewis is very very good in a gritty, physical, and chilling performance), the movie is just relentless. There's an atmosphere created from the very first scene, the gorgeous, dark cinematography sucking you into the movie and just gripping you. Every tiny bit of grime or ugliness or violence or thunder you see here is beautiful, each shot boldly artistic. I watched thinking, "Hmmm. . .odd but sort of interesting score," completely forgetting that it was the Radiohead guy, and I'm not sure whether or not I liked the score. Definitely different, probably adds to the overall experience. This and Old Men are true American movie experiences (both interestingly enough filmed in almost the exact same location and both interestingly enough not really made for the typical American audience), and they both paint with the most depressing colors in the crayon box. Both also make a good argument that great, complex characters can make great, complex movies. Paul Thomas Anderson can't make a bad movie, by the way. Anybody who can make a good movie with Adam Sandler in it has to have some kind of golden touch.

I won't forget this movie. And it won't forget me!

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

2007 biopic parody

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Dewey Cox ponders his life and career and his choices both good and bad as he readies himself to accept some kind of lifetime achievement award. It's a life filled with fatally injuring siblings, infidelity, hit singles, meetings with prominent musicians, orgies, drugs, and seemingly every music fad to come in go in the years spanning his career.

I expected to only sort of like this, but it is by far the best thing Judd Apatow was associated with last year. It skims along like a Will Ferrell inflatable raft, but stays cream rather than crap because of very cool songs (including a protest song about midgets) and hilarious satiric touches. Laughed more at this than I have for a long time. Lots to see for the music fan as Cox's life trounces on highlights from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. I expected mostly a lampooning of Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, but there are echoes of the Beatles and Dylan ("Royal Jelly," with lyrics penned by Dan Bern, is a musical highlight for me), Seeger-esque protest songs, Smile-era Brian Wilson nonsense ("This song needs 500 didgeridoos!"), Bowie's glam, disco, and so on. Walk Hard not only borrows sonically but visually from pop culture moments, and most of the movie is clever fun. Sure, with any comedy like this you're bound to have some really stupid moments, but more often than not, it delivered. I think a hatred of biopics probably helped me enjoy the irreverence even more.

Sitting hard:

The Five Obstructions

2003 documentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Pretentious filmmaker Lars von Trier challenges pretentious filmmaker Jorgen Leth to remake five times a short film called The Perfect Human from 1967. Before Leth runs off to do so, however, Trier gives him obstructions--no shot more than 12 frames, for example. The maid wonders which one ejaculated on the linoleum.

Fascinating look at the creative process unfortunately with a twat count that breaks springs on the geiger counter in my neighbor's walk-in closet. The dialogue between the two is often over my head, and I wonder about those subtitles. The original The Perfect Human was fun enough, jerky and pretentious, and each of the five remakes (four actually since von Trier takes on the last one in a difficult-to-swallow display of grandiosity) delivers. The first obstruction brought giggles, the second nearly made me cry, the third made me cough until I started bleeding from the nose, and the fourth (animated) one gave me a seizure. Perfect case of something I can't completely understand because I'm not smart enough and don't own a bowtie but could still appreciate. Good stuff and oddly inspiring. It inspired me to put my hand firmly down the front of my pants! Booyah!

The seventh obstruction:

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

1989 action adventure

Rating: 16/20 (Dylan: 14/20; Abbey: 1/20)

Plot: Indiana Jones is once again up against Nazis as he tries to find the holy grail, an archaeological obsession of his father's. There are close calls along the way.

Big step up from the last one. It seems the more vehicles involved, the better with these movies. This has tanks, planes, a zeppelin, a motorcycle with sidecar, boats, horses, camels, and a train. One could accuse this third movie of being formulaic, much closer to Raiders in tone and pacing but maybe too similar, but it's saved from being a clone by having a great script and great (and very funny) chemistry between Ford and Connery. It also has great action scenes (although maybe nothing as iconic as the original) and beautifully filmed scenery. Lots more fun than icky Temple of Doom. But was it just me or did John Williams' music seem even more over-the-top in this one than it normally does?

Anticipating Thursday and the fourth installment. I'm going to bring my own whip!

Cache (Hidden)

2005 psychological thriller

Rating: 15?/20

Plot: Georges and Anne are an upper-class couple living somewhere in France. They have a teenage son named Pierrot and lots of books. Georges hosts a book-related public television talk show, and his wife goes around doing whatever she does. Everything's copacetic. That is, until the couple starts receiving anonymous video tapes showing hours of surveillance at their home. As they contemplate who could possibly be sending these tapes, later accompanied with childish but violent drawings, details about their secret past and present emerge and put a strain on their relationships.

Not real sure about the 15/20 rating above with this one. It's one that requires multiple viewings. I've only seen one other Michael Haneke movie (Funny Games), but it seems like he's a director who isn't making movies so much as he is just dicking around with his audience. This is a movie clearly not made for American audiences. There's nothing easy about it, and it's compiled from scene after scene in which next-to-nothing happens. Several times, I wondered if I had accidentally hit the pause button. But it's complete genius how Haneke is able to create so much tension and suspense while this next-to-nothing is going on. There's also no music at all in this, and long bits of dialogue that don't seem to matter but that you are forced to listen to (actually, I had to read them) in search for clues. Frustrating viewing, but I thought it was worth the investment. Something about the direction compels you to lean toward the screen and look at every single scene more closely than you normally would. (In fact, I had to rewind and watch the last scene again to see exactly what I missed the first time.) There's a historical context (a French black eye that has something to do with mistreating Algerians) that I have absolutely no background on, and I wonder if I'm missing something a little deeper. Actually, I know there's more beneath the surface of this one although it's still an engrossing look at the affect of guilt on people's lives.

Here I am watching:

The Fox and the Hound

1981 Disney cartoon

Rating: 13/20 (Abbey: 20/20)

Plot: A mean hunter kills a cute little baby fox's mother. A nosey owl, a woodpecker who sounds just like Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons, and a bird sing a song and then leave the baby fox at a kindly old lady's home. The old woman sings a song and names her new pet Tod, probably because she can't spell very well. Meanwhile, her next door neighbor, a hunter, brings home a new hound dog to raise as a hunting dog. I forget its name. Smithy, I think. The fox and the hound become good friends. The owl sings a song about it. The old lady sings another song. The relationship of the fox and the hound becomes strained when they realize their roles in the world.

Trivia note: I saw this movie in a theater as a child, and it's the first movie I can remember that made me cry. I was an emotional eight-year-old apparently.

Abbizzle and I were home alone yesterday, so I got a chance to watch this Disney near-classic. The animation is alright, the characters are likable, and the story is cute (overly cute?), but there's really nothing special about it. And there are too many songs (I think three or four), none of them being any good. The incidental music is very good at times, and probably too dramatic at other times. Typical voice talent, a couple even recognizable as Disney regulars. Kurt Russell, fresh off his role as Snake Plissken, also had a voice role in this. So did Paul Winchell (the voice of Tigger) who also was apparently the voice for Papa Smurf. And Sandy Duncan, the sexiest one-eyed woman of all time, was in this after she had already played Pinnochio. The world of animation is an incestuous one! Potential bad influence on the youth of America: Tod and a female fox (Sandy Duncan) have a one-night stand off-screen. The Disney people don't even try to hide it.
I probably should have made the decision to watch The Great Mouse Detective instead of this one. Abbizzle watched that solo and gave it a 16/20 because it had scary parts. The Fox and the Hound just had scary pants!

This picture is a reenactment:

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades

1972 third part of the baby cart series

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A more complex story here as Itto and child are still fending off attacks from the Yagyu clan while encountering a troubled prostitute, a troubled ronin, and a troubled man missing an arm. Itto is employed to take out a corrupt district deputy, and after defeating a sharpshooter, some ninjas, and a guy who boasted of his flying sword technique, he faces an entire army of archers, gunmen, and sword wielders with tricks both up his sleeve and in his baby cart. Absolute carnage.

Perhaps more emphasis on developing the character than on action although there is plenty of the latter and the highest body count of any film of the series so far. It's also the most Western (as in, spaghetti) so far, and one of my only gripe would be that Itto uses guns at one point. I'm not sure why that bothers me though. There's philosophical depth, humor, tension, slicing, and dicing, and it's pretty much all a guy can ask for on Samurai Friday.

As usual with Samurai Friday, no picture is available.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

2007 documentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Billy Mitchell, a businessman/video game snob/self-described greatest person to ever walk the earth (he also resembles Jesus), has the world record score for Donkey Kong. Steve Wiebe, a school teacher/family man/possibly mildly autistic man, decides that he is going to beat that top score, and after practicing for God knows how long on the arcade game in his garage, finally does just that. He sends a video tape to a "referee" and is denied the record after fears that his machine has been tampered with. He travels to an arcade to come face-to-face with mega-geeks and beat the record live. The school teacher must overcome classic video game politics, hypocrisy, and taunting as he attempts to beat the record.

Well, this was a fascinating look into a world that I didn't know (and probably would ordinarily not care to know) existed. But the cut-throat world of competitive Donkey Konging is pretty exciting stuff! I wonder how much of the editing works in the amateur's favor because it just becomes too easy to root for him and hate the other guy, but it really does seem like that other guy is a true classless asshole. With bad hair. The narrative documentary is told through interviews with family and friends of the two men along with people associated with Twin Galaxies, the sanctioning body. It's one of those stories where the documentarians seemed to have just stumbled on a story that is about to become remarkable, recording everything so that we can just be along for the ride later (like Hoop Dreams). Throw this in the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction category. I laughed, nearly cried, and enjoyed myself immensely while watching this.

Here I am, a little sick and not recalling whether or not I ever got past the first level of Donkey Kong:

Safety Last!

1923 romantic comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Harold Lloyd, played by an actor named Harold Lloyd, moves to the big city to try to climb to the top of the proverbial ladder and make it big or whatever they do in America. He leaves his sweetheart behind with the promise that he will some day have enough money to marry her so that the neighbors will no longer accuse them of "shacking up like sex-crazed spawn of Beelzebub himself!" That's how people talked back then. He struggles with a job where he spends his day cutting cloth. His girlfriend arrives, Lloyd successfully lies to her (the foundation of any good relationship) about having a much better job, and through a completely unlikely series of events, he is forced to climb a thirteen-story building for 10,000 dollars. That'll buy not only a wedding, but an awful lot of stupid looking hats, Harold Lloyd!

Note: I wonder if I should give a bonus point for punctuation in movie titles.

The story is a little hokey, but this had a lot of fun silent movie visual gags. There was also some dated stuff that just didn't work. A policeman having "kick me" written on his back and then kicked in the butt? C'mon! It's a tidy little story that ends exactly like you think it will (with Harold Lloyd plummeting to his death and his lover, so devastated, taking her own life moments later), and the acting is pretty solid for early 20's stuff, but the real greatness is in the last half hour in which Lloyd scales those thirteen stories. I can't even imagine how exciting this would have been in 1923 or how it raised the bar on movies with stunts, and the tension and thrills still work eighty-four years later. I don't want to know how it was done. I imagine tricks were used, but I couldn't detect anything askew and I know he actually climbed a building. The photography is great, and I think I actually laughed two and a half times although one of those times was because the front of my pants looked funny.

Somebody should remake Safety Last! with the main character trying to climb to the top of my hair:

The Brood

1979 piece of garbage

Rating: 3/20

Plot: A guy you won't care about is raising his daughter by himself as his wife receives treatment with a experimental psychologist. The wife and doctor role-play, and it's during these sessions that her rage in the form of midgets (maybe children) are unleashed to bludgeon old people and school teachers. The guy you don't care about has to get to the bottom of things before whatever else is going to happen happens.

Admittedly, I'm not David Cronenberg's biggest fan. I got this only for the midgets. It's absolute crap--90 minutes of really cheap horror gags, terrible actors acting terribly their way through a trashy story, and more cheap horror gags. There's bad child acting that actually doesn't look as bad compared to the bad acting from the adults, most notably the husband, the psychologist, the crazy guy, the old people, and the wife. It took me three nights to get through this one, and I wouldn't put myself through it again if I were my own worst enemy. And speaking of enemies: David Cronenberg, after that overhyped History of Violence and this, you have made yourself an enemy!

Here I am enjoying the ultimate experience of outer pudding:

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

1974 comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Following the death of Scooby Doo (worms, in case you're wondering), the rest of the gang (Daphne, Shaggy, Charles, Velma, and Smitty) take a trip in the Mystery Machine to the absolute worst part of Texas to visit the home of the grandfather of two of them. They pick up a hitchhiking lunatic, and things get ominous. After they run out of gas (of course), they're forced to stay the night at (get this!) the grandfather's house they were going to stay at to begin with! Unfortunately, the neighbors are a family of mentally-challenged cannibals, and most of the gang are chopped up or slaughtered in an equally gruesome manner before they can pull off one of the cannibal's masks and say, "Mr. Withers! It was you all along!"

This thing's manic. I remember hearing about this as a kid and being scared of the thing. It was banned! It was based on a true story! It was in a special part of the video store, and we couldn't even check it out! It was the bloodiest movie ever made! It ends up being surprisingly tame, although it is pretty psychologically gruesome, and mostly an experience that is bizarre more than it is terrifying. Tobe Hooper is very good with sound and with tight, almost claustrophobic shots that create some suspenseful moments. He does a lot with probably almost no time and money. Predictably, the story is dopey and the acting and character motivation are ridiculously bad. The exposition stretches pretty thin and barely makes sense anyway, and the scene with the chainsaw-wielding maniac chasing the girl through the woods that goes on for about thirty-five minutes too long. I laughed more than I was frightened, but I'm not so sure that wasn't the original intent anyway. The dinner scene near the end is funnier than anything in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The biggest fault of this is that it is so influential because, unfortunately, it inspired filmmakers to make really crappy horror movies with nearly identical plots. I do realize that my rating of 12/20 is at the same time too kind and too critical for a movie that is simultaneously really junky and really original.


Monty Python and the Holy Grail

1975 British comedy

Rating: 16/20 (Dylan: 12/20--laughed a lot but he wanted more plot coherence and a better ending)
Plot: King Arthur is riding around (sans horse) with hopes of recruiting valiant knights to sit as part of his round table in Camelot. He finds Lancelot, Galahad, Robin, and some other knights of varying degrees of bravery. After deciding not to go to Camelot after all ("It's a silly place."), they are directed by a cartoon deity to find the holy grail. Along the way, they meet black knights, pyromaniac sorcerers, a castle of siren-esque castle of beautiful women, bridges of death, snooty Frenchmen, and fluffy killer beasts.

This holds up so well as screwball period comedy, dada goofballery, and nutty absurdism. There are classic scenes (and admittedly a few that fall flat on their faces) and classic lines, stuff that college kids like to quote to each other while playing Halo or doing the drugs or whatever it is college kids do these days. There's also some quality low-budget set pieces that foreshadow Gilliam's later work, and some quality acting with the Monty Python chameleons playing multiple roles very well. Removing the problems with this movie (Dylan's problems with plot development and an ending he really hated) would take away almost all the appeal, by the way. There was a time, by the way, when I wanted to slap people who liked this movie, but I've gotten over it.

This is what I look like when I laugh:


1994 documentary

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A brutal look at the life of 60's counterculture comic artist icon Robert Crumb and his dysfunctional (word is too mild here) family. Bizarre sexual proclivities (piggyback rides and thick legs), mental disorders, and misanthropy abound.

"When I was young, I was sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny."

Possibly the most honest documentary look at an individual ever made with subtexts about sexuality, family, genius, the worlds of art and pornography, individual expectations. Crumb's an interesting and quirky enigma, a guy who is almost unbelievably portrayed as the most normal of the three brothers in his family with the older an Autistic recluse who rarely leaves his room and spends all of his time writing illegibly in notebooks or reading and the younger a pseudo-monastic painter who rarely paints and spends the majority of his time sitting on nails or begging on the streets with a wooden bowl. Director Zwigoff, who apparently spent over ten suicidal years creating this labor of love, lets the audience just watch the subject without embellishment, and it's fascinating to see an artistic genius surviving in a world he hates by retreating into his sketchbooks. Uncomfortably entertaining and sometimes difficult to watch and sad. Pretty brilliant work.

I just might be better looking than Robert Crumb:

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

1984 action adventure

Rating: 12/20 (Dylan: 12/20)

Plot: Indiana Jones flees from Shanghai with his little bodyguard Short Round and a blond cabaret singer who spend the rest of the movie battling to become the most annoying character of the trilogy. They flip, flop, fly, fall, and end up somewhere in an Indian village where the villagers' magical testicle and children have been stolen. Indiana Jones and his peers travel via elephant to find fame and fortune and meet misadventure every step of the way.

Just not even nearly as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark. In fact, it's nowhere close, and my rating above is probably too nice for this mess. There are some good action sequences. The mine car chase, the collapsing room, and rope bridge scenes are very exciting, but don't come close to the traps, the chases, the fights, or the suspense of the first one. Whereas the pacing in the first movie is almost perfect, this one clunks. And whoever had the idea to start this one with a musical number really missed the boat. Harrison Ford gets some good one-liners and the title character stays a perfect heroic icon, but almost all of the comic relief courtesy of the stereotypical Asian kid and the damsel in distress doesn't work. The exception is when Short Round says to Indy, "You my best friend!" about an hour and thirteen minutes after he told an elephant, "You my best friend!" I can't stop quoting that one, generally to strangers in line with me at the grocery store. Such dark detours in this one, and although this was like candy for me as a kid, it really spoils the trilogy now.

Dylan refuses to be in these pictures. Rest assured, he does in fact exist.

Mars and Beyond, etc.

1955, 1957 fun-ucational Disney programming

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Writer/Director Ward Kimball, several charismatic scientists (or folks dressed as scientists), and Walt himself explain the history of man's interest in space and potential human interaction with that space with the use of animation, models, and a robot named Garco.

I watched three and a half of these "Tomorrowland" short features--Man in Space, Man and the Moon, Mars and Beyond, and another one about weather satellites. Really, I only had interest in the Mars one which was 95% animation. Clever animation, too. There were segments I rewound to watch again, probably because of the Disney magic everybody's always talking about. There's a cartoon spoofing pulp sci-fi stories with surreal flourishes and clever humor. Notable in all the featurettes was the historical and philosophical background on human being's obsessions, superstitions, experimentations, and speculations having to do with outer space or the stars or the moon or the planets. As an added bonus, Georges Melies' Voyage to the Moon, the first science fiction movie from 1902, is in there somewhere. Details about Cyrano de Bergerac's supposed trip to the moon were also amusing. Fun, creative animation reminds of just how cool Disney is. As if anybody needs to be reminded about that!

Here's a picture of what I look like in 2008: