2008 science fiction horror movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A monster thing attacks New York City and rips off the Statue of Liberty's head. People panic. Some kids try their best to find one of their friends and survive the ordeal.

Completely stunned. It's part Alien, part Blair Witch, part Godzilla but still retains originality. It's got fervor, an emotional yank, and edge-of-the-seat thrills all thrust at ya with the use of a handheld camera and special effects that (for the most part) don't look like special effects. I was impressed with the acting. More than the dialogue at least since I thought there was actually too much of that. This movie breaks my 2008 record for sitting motionless in the chair afterwards, and for whatever reason, I almost cried. A disorientingly intense experience.


Reign of Fire

2002 apocalyptic sci-fi fantasy adventure movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Oh no! Dragons have taken over the world! Survivors in England, including an American using a faux English accent to try to fit in better, cower in fear, trying their best to replenish a food supply and keep hopes alive. Luckily for these hapless and helpless Brits, some Americans come along and do what they do best--save the day and make the world a better place for everybody. Led by a bald surfer/dragonslayer, the Americans try to recruit soldiers in order to take on the dragons and win back the world.

Pretty decent popcorn stuff with fancy, and nearly seamless, CGI-effects and fine visuals. It's a summer blockbusterish and fairly mindless piece of escapism, but it doesn't suffer from lame attempts at humor or romance subplots or anything terribly cliched. Instead, it's a pretty straightforward action-adventure science fiction thing that doesn't always make a lot of sense but is nevertheless exciting enough in a Mad Max sort of way. I don't mind the generally-maligned McConaughey here, but I dislike Christian Bale more with every movie I see him in. And was it my imagination or did this movie just have one woman in it? Lots of tough guys in this though. I should have made "tough guys" a label. This would be an interesting movie to remake but with one substitution--CGI-donkeys instead of the dragons. No, two substitutions--Billy Curtis instead of Christian Bale. Or anybody else.

This was an RD recommendation. He's an American.

Another American:

The Boondock Saints

1999 action crime drama

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Two Irish brothers, Connor and Murphy, come home from the filming of their reality television series Meat Fights to discover that somebody broke their toilet. They scour Boston and seek revenge by finding the scum of the earth and making them not live anymore. A lowlife peon involved with the Italian mafia joins to "help" out. Hot on their trail is an intelligent, gay F.B.I. agent who likes opera and isn't afraid to get a little blood in his hair. When he finds out who's behind the rampage, he isn't sure whether to put a stop to it or help the brothers out.

There's nothing really new here, but it all adds up to something pretty damn entertaining. Lively weird characters, poetic violence, an attempt at some kind of moral backbone, and a fractured narrative work to create this humorously ultraviolent little movie world. There's some completely unnecessary music and a need for a re-edit on that script, but even when the story seems made-up-as-they-go, it's so over-the-top and entertaining that it doesn't really matter. Things do end on a too-stupid note unfortunately. Actually, things don't end in a satisfying way at all. Is there supposed to be a sequel? One ridiculous scene: The guy from Head of the Class is shooting at the brothers and their Italian friend while they're shooting back. Nobody is moving much at all. They shoot at each other for about twenty-five minutes but can't hit anything? What the hell?

Here I am:

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril

1972 continuation of "Lone Wolf and Cub" series (#4)

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Itto is hired to kill a tattooed female assassin who is on a bit of a killing spree. While searching, he defends himself against the ever-present Yagyu clan and encounters a blast from his past, a guy who once beat him in a fight.

This had a different director, and although the story is one with lots of potential, the result is sort of a mess compared to the first three in the series. Positives include real peril (see title) for the title characters, lots of quick fight choreography, no slow moments at all, nudity (heck, the first shot has a waxy nip in it), cool characters, and terrific cinematography. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough character development, and the story with its side plots and twists doesn't really get a chance to gel. This is the only entry in the series so far that really could have used some stretching. It was entirely too jumpy. Real oddball of the series so far, too, with a guy who can light his sword on fire, the woman who exposes her breasts before killing people, blue ninja-looking guys, people with baskets on their heads, weird style choices, and tacky music. Enjoyable stuff, but my least favorite of the series. The final fight amongst the rocks was full of bloody goodness though with the final body count even higher than the ridiculous body count of the last entry.

Note: This is the only one of these I can't get at my library. I blame the nipples. The version I was able to download wasn't the best with one scene almost too dark to see and subtitles that didn't make much sense at all. That may have soured the experience.

The return of Samurai Friday!

Batman Begins

2005 superhero blockbuster

Rating: 13/20 (Jen: 13/20)

Plot: Following the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne (rich punk) decides to dedicate his life to fighting evil. He stumbles into Schindler's School for Ninjas where he's trained by Schindler himself to not be a pansy any more. By this time, Gotham City has become a wasteland of corruption and despair. With the help of his butler, Gary Oldman, and the wife of a renowned scientologist, and the narrator of March of the Penguins, he attempts to use his rich boy toys to clean up Gotham City. He becomes Batman, delivers a bunch of clever one-liners, and runs into something even more sinister than expected. Everything finishes right in time for the sequel.

This was recommended by numerous people who promised me a great new start to the franchise. It's ok and certainly better than those other cheesy Batmen blockbusters, but it's not without its problems. The direction is really heavy-handed, the dialogue is bad (especially the overuse of repeated lines), Christian Bale is in it and just not very good, it's stuffed with improbable or hard-to-follow action sequences, it lacks a really engaging antagonist, and it finds itself trapped in cliche too many times. While it avoids the trappings of those cheesier comic book movies and is never goofy, it does seem to borrow quite a bit from the recent Spiderman movies with an attempt to find a Toby McGuire, the moodiness and angst and other thematic elements, and an overall darker, more mature tone. I guess I did sort of like the Scarecrow character, but he wasn't developed enough to be really interesting. I had worried about Christopher Nolan's ability to direct something like this since I don't think he's even very good at what people think he's good at, but there's a chance that he'll hit a groove with these things.

Here are Jen and I wondering where Devito's at:

The Wicker Man

2006 atrocity

Rating: 2/20

Plot: Nicolas Cage plays a cop who decides to go to a private island to investigate the disappearance of his ex-fiance's daughter. Once there, he gets sidetracked while joining in on the female islanders' fun games--Hide the Beaver, Smear the Queer, Hide and Seek with Masks, Monkeyman Monkeyman What Do You Smell?, Combustathon, Is You Damp Yet?, Break a Leg, Downhill Bicycle Death Race 2000, Catch the Raven, Grope the Raven, Raving Groper, Bee Gauntlet, Wet Suit and Tie Racing, Hey Aren't You Keanu Reeves?, Crack It!, Who's in the Bear Suit?, Which Box Has the Dead Girl in It?, and Cream Dreamer. During an impromptu free-for-all face-making contest, Nicolas Cage feels that he's being cheated, punches a few women, and injures his leg. In the end, he realizes (sadly, too late) that the promise of "all the honey [he] can eat" was just a bunch of talk. He punches another woman, karate chops at another, and yells "Bitches!" before (here's the shocking twist ending not seen in theaters--spoiler alert!) pouting to death.

If it wasn't for that religious high school football movie I had to watch at school earlier this year, this would be the worst movie I've seen in a very long time. I'm still not totally convinced that this wasn't a comedy. It's the most I've laughed while watching a movie in a while. Nicolas Cage is America's worst actor, and he delivers some poorly written lines ("Step away from the bicycle!", "God. . .damn it!", "How did it get burned?! How did it get burned?! How did it get burned?!?!", "Owwwwwww! My legs! Owwwwww!", "No, not the bees!") like the real pro-fessional bad actor that he is. When he's not doing that, he's just running aimlessly around the island looking befuddled. The original 1973 film is terrific, and a lot of its greatness is its layers and in the way it creates mystery, tension, and thrills. This remake substitutes the subtlety of the original for one-note attempts to shock the viewer into having the same responses. The only response from me was violent giggling though. The story's essentially the same (although at first I didn't think this was going to resemble the original at all), but nothing about it is as good; in fact, it pretty much seems to have been made just to piss all over the original. Ordinary music (that guy who did the Twin Peaks music. . . I did catch a musical reference to the original soundtrack though), wooden acting (no pun intended!), abysmal dialogue, no style whatsoever. Nearly blasphemous! This was inexplicably dedicated to Johnny Ramone, and it's a good thing he's dead. Otherwise, I'm sure he'd be offended to have his name anywhere near this piece of crap.

However, having said all that, this is something everybody should see. It's freakin' hilarious! Highly recommended!

Here I am enjoying The Wicker Man:

Project Grizzly

1996 Canadian documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Troy Hurtubise is a tough Canadian who works in a junkyard. He's got a pair of knives and a pair of testicles, both pairs probably average-sized for a person living in the Canadian wild but a little larger than those of somebody living in a suburb of Indianapolis. After surviving a sort of bear attack (the bear, he dubbed, The Old Man), he decides that he wants to research grizzly bears up close. He wants to be a "Little Jacques Cousteau," so he devotes his energies to designing a bear-proof suit. This documentary details the testing (giant swinging logs, spills from hill tops, car collisions, etc.) of version six of the suit as well as a venture into the wilderness to look for a bear. Unfortunately, there's a fatal flaw--the suit is too heavy and Troy can't move around in it well enough.

I had trouble deciding whether this was genuine or not. It is, and the guy's a little nutty. I like documentaries about obsessives and their obsessions, and this works because the subject is lively, interesting, slightly off, and funny. Lots of laugh-out-loud moments with the suit of armor being tested, my favorite being when he took it to a bar and had a motorcycle gang beat him with baseball bats in the parking lot. And I could have watched scenes with the thing, the thing being a 7-feet tall Transformer-like thing, being hit by a truck all day. A cheaply-made companion to Grizzly Man though much shorter and not nearly as heavy.

Fascinating, hilarious, and slightly unsettling:

Eagle vs. Shark

2007 romantic comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A likable misfit named Lily working at a Meaty Boy fast food restaurant falls for an unlikable misfit named Jarrod who is frequently a Meaty Boy customer. The unlikable misfit actually looks like a meaty boy. She shows up at his "dress-as-your-favorite-animal" party (uninvited) and impresses him with her skills at a violent video game. They end up doin' it. Later, Jarrod invites her to his hometown, mostly because he doesn't have a car to get him there, so that he can get his revenge on a high school bully. Jarrod becomes even more unlikable.

Recommended by an anonymous person who apparently knows me well enough to know that I generally like quirky stuff like this. The main reason this didn't quite work for me was that Jarrod was such an unlikable guy. I don't expect all characters in romantic comedies to be likable or anything, but I didn't want things to work out for this guy at all. This movie seems to be an attempt at a Napoleon Dynamite and is stuffed with lots of offbeat characters and offbeat moments, but it's not really consistently funny. I laughed out once during the big video game match when she was playing against a kid dressed as a horse. I may have nearly laughed a few more times. The soundtrack is oppressive, sort of like in Juno. There was some stop-motion animation stuff involving discarded apples and ants that was cute, and there were some other cute moments that make this a lot more entertaining than your average romantic comedy. But for an oddball movie, this is strangely derivative here in 2008.

I showered right before and right after watching this movie.

Strangers on a Train

1951 comedy thriller

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Tennis star and aspiring politician Guy Haines meets possibly insane and aspiring murderer Bruno Anthony on a train. Bruno's quite the fan. As he says, he admires people who "do things" and is more than likely sexually attracted to the young tennis phenom. They discuss each other's problems with women (Guy wants a divorce from his cheating wife so he can marry a senator's daughter) and fathers (Bruno doesn't get along with his) while dining, and Bruno tosses out an idea--"Criss cross. I'll kill your wife, and you kill my father. Criss cross. Gonna make you jump! Jump! Jump!" Guy Haines doesn't want any part of all that jumping because he's got a big tennis tournament coming up and wants to save his energy for that and for intercourse with the daughters of senators. Bruno apparently thinks there's been an agreement, however, and takes care of his end of the bargain. That creates problems for Guy.

Didn't think this was going to be in Hitch's higher eschelon while watching it, but that's partially because I didn't understand it. It took me a while to figure out that this was a comedy, a really black, not-laugh-out-loud comedy but a comedy nevertheless. Lots of ridiculous scenes, climaxing with a ridiculously suspenseful carousel ride, pepper the proceedings, and there are bits of dialogue that only seem funny now that the movie is over. Bruno's a great character and very well played by Robert Walker, another actor who died too young. This was actually his second to last movie. Everything he does in the movie seems sinister and innocent at the same time, and that dichotomy is pulled off partly because of the direction and writing but mostly because of the acting. And Hitchcock manipulates once again, forcing the audience to almost side with the bad guy during a scene involving a dropped lighter. Great visuals (especially the murder of the wife and a shot of the audience [with Bruno] at a tennis match), great Hitchcockian suspense, great simple-turned-complex noirish story. Back to that ridiculously suspenseful carousel ride--that has to be the funniest ten minutes or so I've seen this year. I think I'll watch it again.

Never been on a train:

The Last Man on Earth

1964 horror film

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Some kind of plague has seemingly killed everybody but Vincent Price, a man who apparently has some kind of back problem. He lives a lonely and monotonous life during the day hanging rings of garlic and mirrors, cleaning zombies out of his driveway and taking them to the local zombie-burning pit, whining about his dead daughter and wife, and making stakes to drive through hearts. At night, the zombies attack his home and say really menacing things like "Morgan, we're going to kill you." Then he decides to get a dog.

Ok, I love Vincent Price. Movies are automatically better with Vincent Price in them. He's one of the greatest actors of all time. But even though his performance here (most of the time completely alone) could be described as flawless, he does have difficulty making everyday activities look normal. Throwing things across the room in anger? Nope, looked completely awkward. Staking zombies? Nope, looked like he's suffering from rheumatism or something. Getting in a car? Come on, Vincent! How difficult could that have been to pull off? This is a pretty good little movie, and it's hard to imagine what the I Am Legend author didn't like about it to insist that his name was not used in the screenplay credits. I can't compare it to the new one which I've not seen (or even Omega Man since I've not seen that one in a while). The zombies were comedic, for some reason armed only with flimsy two-by-fours and their menacing grunts. I'm also curious to know whether stores that sold mirrors and nothing but mirrors were pretty widespread in the 60's. This had some of those typical science fiction problems where the science part makes very little sense, but the fiction part was at least absorbing. I could have done without the early narration (it's not necessary when you've got Vincent), and the flashback really slows down stuff. It's a flashdrag. Still, definitely worth watching, and I'll watch those other two later on this year to see how they compare. I doubt Moses or the Fresh Prince can hold a candle to Vincent Price's performance though! At least they couldn't hold a candle as awkwardly!


City of the Dead (aka Horror Hotel)

1960 horror film

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A woman, following a suggestion from her professor Christopher Lee, decides to stay in an old New Hampshire perpetually-foggy village called White-something-rather where witchery had taken place many years before. After several weird occurrences and several prolonged silent stares from the village folk, she fails to get the message and winds up sacrificed to Satan. This ruins her trip. Her brother and boyfriend (two separate characters who I swear may have switched roles halfway through the movie) travel to White-something-rather to investigate the disappearance.

Note: I watched a little of this with Christopher Lee's commentary. The parts I listened to were hilariously non-informative since Christopher Lee couldn't seem to remember anything about the plot of the film. A character would walk in, and he'd ask the person interviewing him, "Now who is this who's just walked in?" Good stuff!

Worthwhile horror fare. Lots of horror cliches are at play here, and there are lots of clumsy moments to compliment the really clumsy dialogue. Lines like "These are the dead who killed Nan!" or "I'm that woman who was burned as a witch a long time ago!" are obvious and corny. Christopher Lee's devil worship cape (gaudy as hell) and his hand-washing from a giant stone-mouth faucet he has in an otherwise normal house? Goofy. One of those scenes where a character learns that bullets don't affect the whatever-they-are so he hurls it at them? Genius! Despite its problems, there's actually a lot to like about this low-budget affair. It's got great atmosphere even if the dry ice machine had to work overtime. There are some ingenious shots that add to the tension and give the film a real texture, a lot of the times reminding me of that Mario Bava flick I saw earlier this year. People are filmed in an interesting way; sometimes they appear out of nowhere and sometimes they are shot at odd, close-up angles. It was also fun watching devil worshipping with a jazzy score. This is recommended for fans of the genre.



1999 drama

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Not really much of one. This is a (sort of) coming-of-age story about James, a kid growing up in Glasgow during a 1970's trash collector strike and finding out that the world is garbage. Struggles with poverty, general human meanness, child fears, and the death of a playmate weigh heavily on the youngster as he wanders around, takes baths, and plays with rats.

Freakin' bleak! As bleak as it gets! Profoundly powerful visually and poetically moving, this trudges along with the disturbing realism of a decaying world until one weird, almost out-of-place scene with a mouse and a balloon. Many breathtaking moments within--the opening shot of a twisting curtain, lots of filth and decay, a final shot of a mirror reflecting the sky. Not an easy movie to watch as it's one of those that is in English but still has to have subtitles (at least this VHS copy I watched had 'em). It's also so relentless in its bleakness. I imagine this is a movie capable of transforming the most optimistic person into a pessimistic one. I did sort of laugh a couple times and immediately couldn't figure out why. This isn't so much a movie that you watch; it's one that is more shoved into your stomach until absorbed. Brutal.

Me, stunned:

Johnny Guitar

1954 western

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Forward-thinkin' Vienna builds a saloon and gambling facility on the outskirts of a town because she knows of plans to have the railroad come through those parts. The townspeople, especially a vindictive and sexually frustrated and jealous woman named Emma Small, would rather have her leave. Her ex-flame Johnny Guitar arrives to play his gitfiddle in her establishment. Following stage and bank robberies, Ms. Small and a gigantic black clad posse have more than enough excuses to do a little lynching and get rid of Vienna, the guy with the guitar, and a band of men who may or may not be silver miners.

Layered and fairly intense western here, steeped in symbolism and complex psychologies. It'd be interesting to look at this more deeply from a feminist perspective, and the antagonists being of the gentler sex isn't the only way this western toys with roles and motifs of the genre. There's a love trapezoid, some really interesting uses of color, and some fuzziness with exactly who the good and bad guys are. I'm not sure why the movie is named after Johnny Guitar since clearly Joan Crawford's character is the strongest, most interesting, and most important character in this. As with One-Eyed Jacks, there are some great moments of dialogue, but taken as a whole, the conversations are clunky with the acting occasionally being fairly wooden. There are also some moments where the narrative isn't quite clicking because of some cause-and-effect stuff that doesn't make sense. Some of the characters' decisions really left me scratching my head. And Mercedes McCambridge's performance in this is absolutely abysmal. Still, the interesting far outweighs the bad here. This could benefit from another viewing.

The eyeball of Jimmy Ukulele:

One-Eyed Jacks

1961 melodramatic western

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Rio is screwed over by partner Dad Longbutton following a bank robbery in Mexico. He spends five years in a Mexican prison, and his hate drives him to seek revenge. He finds his old partner in Monterey and is surprised to discover that he is not only married with a step-daughter but sheriff of the town. He puts a plan in motion, a plan which starts with the seduction of Dad Longmullet's step-daughter and ends with sodomizing Slim Whitman.

This was Brando's lone direction credit, and apparently, he didn't even like it very much. Spending well over his budget and time allotted, he put together a cut of the movie that was over five hours long. Studio edited to this nearly two-and-a-half version which seems like it is over five hours. There's an interesting dynamic with the protagonist and antagonist, but I don't completely buy what is going on and everything is far too pretty to seem realistic. After all, the hero's wearing more make-up than the step-daughter he falls for. Brando's just shiny. There are some quality scenes and great lines ("You ain't gettin' no older than tomorrow.") and it's always a treat seeing Slim Whitman in anything, but this dragged-out affair is never capable of building enough momentum or making the relationships between the characters anything you can sink your teeth in. Maybe it did need to be five hours long.

Curious about the step-daughter (Mexican actress named Pina Pellicer), I looked her up to see what else I might have seen her in. Suicide at the age of thirty. I blame Marlon.

Here I am wishing this western had more toughness:

The Bicycle Thief

1949 drama

Rating: 18/20

Plot: A guy's bicycle is stolen. He and his son try to find it.

Devastating. And devastatingly hilarious!

Here I am pretending to like this movie more than I do so that my snobbier friends will think I'm hip to the scene:

The Road Warrior

1981 apocalyptic western

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Mad Max, following a new haircut, has gas.

Here I am enjoying Mad Max II:

Drunken Monkey

2002 kung-fu movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Master Bill, a Federal Express manager, is betrayed by his employees who stab him in the abdomen and kick him in the head several times just for fun. Later, he trains a pair of morons and a woman so that they can fight like drunken monkeys. Opium is somehow involved.
There are better 'drunken' kung-fu movies and better 'monkey' kung-fu movies than this 'drunken monkey' movie. These modern attempts at traditional martial arts stuff pale in comparison to the late 60's and 70's stuff although it is pretty cool to see the nearly 70-year-old Chia-Liang Liu jumping around and showing off some agility. He also directed. The fight choreography in this one isn't bad at all, but the story lacks depth and all attempts at comedy, mostly of the slapstick variety, makes things really stupid.
Here I am enjoying chocolate licorice:

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

2007 blackly comic musical

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Edward Scissorhands grows tired of making it snow and crying over Winona Ryder stealing his heart. In this long-awaited sequel to the 1990 Tim Burton classic, Mr. Scissorhands changes his name and moves to the dark streets of London to escape his past. He makes friends with a woman who makes nearly inedible pies and makes enemies with Professor Snape and Borat. He tries his best to make a living as the world's worst barber and finds himself in a little bit of trouble after accidentally cutting a few people. They sing songs about it. "Whoops! I cut him again. My blade is too sharp, and I can't stop trembling. Now. . .my. . .sleeve. . .is. . .ruined! Oh no!"

Definitely Tim Burton's best movie since, well, probably Mars Attacks or Ed Wood which, considering almost everything he's done since then has been nearly unwatchable, isn't saying too much. My problems with Sweeney Todd actually have more to do with the songs than the direction though. The songs are a bit one-note which flatlines the movie as we wait for bloodshed. Burton's trademark texture and gothic sensibilities and usual collaborators are here. This might as well be a black and white movie. Well, black and red maybe. The acting's good, and I was especially impressed with that vocal chameleon Borat, here playing a nutty over-the-top Italian eccentric. Depp and Carter and company sing well enough, and the story, though seemingly ripped from any old classical tragedy, is intriguing. CGI London looks a little cartoonish, but it actually works since the action and violence and movements of the characters are also a little cartoonish. This didn't really look too much different than that boring Corpse Bride movie. I probably would have chopped a bit of the fat from this, but it was an enjoyable way to spend a couple hours.

I've never killed a person, but I have eaten one.

Lars and the Real Girl

2007 drama (romantic comedy?)

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Lars is a guy who lives in a garage and is sick and tired of his older brother being the sibling everybody talks about. So he devises a plan to trick people into thinking he's delusional so that he can get all the attention in the small town they live in. He purchases a sex doll and pretends to think that she's his new girlfriend, a shy busty nurse in a wheelchair. Everybody takes the bait, and Lars finds new popularity and happiness. After the townspeople realize they've been duped, they tear apart Bianca (the doll) and use her plastic arms and legs to bludgeon him and leave him for dead.

Ryan Gosling's performance was fine, I suppose, but I really never bought that he had a mental disorder and really thought the doll was real. I also was never sure what I was watching. Dramatic comedy, I guess, but there was very little drama and nothing at all was funny once you've seen the guy sitting at a dinner table with a sex doll. You can put a crazy guy in different places (hospital waiting room, forest, car, church) with a sex doll, but it's eventually not going to stop being funny. I did laugh twice, but one of those times was because of bad acting during a scene that was supposed to be sad and the other time was because I thought my toe looked really funny. To me, it seemed like an hour and fifty minute trailer for a fake movie instead of a real movie. Not especially well written, but at least the writer never went for cheap laughs. In different hands, this could have easily gone from not very good to horrifyingly stupid.

Unlike the "real girl," I am anatomically incorrect:

3:10 to Yuma

2007 western remake

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A one-legged-veteran-turned-struggling-farmer-barely-succeeding-in-keeping-his-family-alive volunteers to help escort a dangerous criminal and leader of the Bad Nasty Boiz to a train that will take him to prison and his inevitable execution. Following closely behind are the aforementioned heartless Bad Nasty Boiz, more than one of them flamboyant and all of them great shots. The dangerous criminal, Ben Wade, plays mind games with farmer Dan Evans when he's not too busy killing off the others escorting him.

This manages to end in an interesting way--it's obvious what happens with all of the characters, but in some way it's still an interdeterminate ending. Old-school western is very good if not great. The biggest problem with 3:10 to Yuma (and I realize that this is the silliest problem to have with a movie) is that it is too much like a movie. I liked the performances. I liked the characters even if there was nothing new and they fit molds. I liked the action even though a lot of it was implausible. I liked the sets and beautiful scenery. And I liked the story. But I wasn't sucked in enough; I was completely aware that what I was watching was a Hollywood creation. Things were too slick, too glossy, and the resolution was probably a bit too tidy. I also could have done without the guy's son even though that would have changed the story considerably.

Romans 3:10: "There is no one righteous, not even one."

The exception to the above Bible verse:

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

1987 "neurological opera"

Rating: 11/20 (Jen: She didn't watch the movie but listened to the whole thing and seemed annoyed by it. She asked why I was watching so many stupid movies lately and gave it a rating of "one point five point five" and later tried to give it a zero.)

Plot: Title of the movie says it all actually. A music teacher suddenly loses his ability to recognize everyday things. That's called visual agnosia if you're keeping score at home. The story is about the man, his wife, and a psychologist named Oliver Sacks trying to figure out what is going on with the patient's brain. Something ain't right all up in there!

Well, this is an oddity. This really is a Michael Nyman penned opera based on a neurological case (really, a case of Alzheimer's), and although it's an interesting approach to a documentary subject (the opera is also broken up with interview segments of Oliver Sacks himself), the opera is really really boring. Extended scenes in the doctor's office and the patient's home would be dull as hell even if the characters were speaking. Since it was difficult to understand what they were singing (especially the wife), this was almost impossible to even want to follow. There was an uninterrupted fifteen minutes (I don't even think I'm exaggerating here) where the doctor would hold up an object (a rose, a picture, a shape) and sing, "What is this?" followed by the guy trying to figure out what it is. There's also a chess game played in which they sing out the moves. Gripping stuff! I had to give this bonus points simply for being the only neurological opera I'm likely to ever see.

Here I am probably not enjoying this in the least:


1977 animation

Rating: 10/20 (Abbey: 18/20; Neither Dylan nor Emma could finish.)

Plot: I have no idea. There are troll things and fairies and wizards, and some kind of battle between good and evil sometime after a nuclear apocalypse. I believe everybody may be fighting over a magical robot donkey. War, apparently, is no good. And neither is technology.

Probably the less said about this, the better. I liked some of the imagination displayed and some of the animation, although the latter looked cheap. Lots of rotoscoping was used with the animated characters fighting over images of Nazis or smoke. It gave the cartoon a little psychedelic flavor. Unfortunately, none of the characters or plot made this the least bit interesting.

One of the people in this picture enjoyed this. None of the stuffed animals did.

Afro Samurai

2007 animation science fiction samurai adventure

Rating: 13/20

Plot: In a world where people fight over headbands, Afro Samurai, a well-trained and ticked-off samurai with an afro, is on a journey to avenge the death of his father. Lots of challenges stand in his way. There's carnage galore.

This is wall-to-wall violent action with almost every single scene ending with a shot of a limb-strewn landscape and rivers of blood. Hip hop accompanies courtesy of The Rza. The story's structure also works well, intertwining flashbacks to help characterize and give the story some emotional connection. There's some neat animation and some bloody artsiness, and for a little under two hours, it remains undeniably cool. Ultimately, it completely lacks substance and doesn't move past the typical good vs. evil/revenge stories it mimics. Afro Samurai references more traditional samurai stories (although it lacks the depth and values and overall sophistication), Star Wars, and maybe even blaxploitation flicks. Probably something that works in small doses (it is, after all, a television series instead of an actual movie) rather than in one sitting unless you're in the mood for two hours of sword fights that barely make sense.

Not an afro (I don't even know what it is.):

Days of Heaven

1978 drama

Rating: 18/20

Plot: It's the 19-teens, and Bill from Chicago finds himself in some legal trouble after killing one of his supervisors and the alleged molestation of the mascot for Chicago's professional soccer team, the Gerbil. He (Bill, not the Gerbil) flees with his girlfriend Abby and his young, more than likely retarded sister Linda to a state with a panhandle and gets them jobs on an expansive farm for three bucks a day or week or month or year. Bill and Abby pretend to be siblings to not draw attention to themselves. They also like to make everybody else working on the farm uncomfortable when they make out or grope each other. After Bill finds out that the farmer (whose name seems to be The Farmer) might have less than a year to live, he talks Abby into marrying him so that they could inherit the man's riches and lifestyle. The plan doesn't work out so well.

Terrence Malick spends a lot of time on his movies, and it shows visually. Badlands and The Thin Red Line are both beautiful movies, but even they can't compare to the stunning and poetic visuals of Days of Heaven. The majority of the story is wisely told in silence or with Morricone's score or Leo Kottke's guitar. In fact, I believe there might be more narration (the sister's, generally enigmatic) than dialogue, and there isn't really an excess of narration. Subdued acting and a really simple (nearly soap opera) story don't distract from the real star, the setting--the flowing fields of wheat, the clouds, the house against a stark background. Every shot is like a painting. Absorbing and haunting and an absolute cinematographic feast.

Note: Obviously, from the picture I used above, there is a Criterion release. I'll have to grab that one some time.

Addendum: I just read in somebody's interpretation of this movie that the four main characters could stand for the four elements. Bill = fire, Abby = water, Linda = earth, The Farmer = wind. There might be something to that! Interesting.

This guy also has a more than likely retarded sister:

Lust in the Dust

1985 western comedy

Rating: 5/20

Plot: A wanderer who at first has no name and then later does have a name (I've forgotten it.) meets up with one of the filthiest women alive somewhere in the desert. They travel to Chili Verde where they meet the busty proprietor of a brothel/tavern, an elderly whore, a younger whore, a piano player named Red Dick, a priest, and some Mexicans. Later, the Hard Case Gang shows up. They all have one interest in mind--hidden gold! Using a limerick and two halves of a map tatooed on the behinds of the female characters (no, I'm not kidding), they figure out where the treasure is hidden and race to grab the prize.

I picked this up for three reasons. 1) The review on the cover: "It would've made John Wayne lose his lunch!" 2) It stars Divine in a movie that isn't a John Waters' movie. She accidentally breaks a midget's neck while being orally pleasured by him. That's something. 3) I noticed last week that I hadn't given a movie a 5/20 yet and thought this looked like a good candidate. Silliness abounds, but it's unfortunately not very entertaining silliness. It doesn't seem like the director (Paul Bartel of Eating Raoul and Death Race 2000 infamy) knows whether he wants to make something completely campy or something a little more subtle, and as a result, it doesn't work on any level. The action sucks, the comedy sucks, the sex scenes suck, the plot sucks, and the writing sucks. Oh, and the acting. It sucks. There's some entertainment value here, but probably not enough to ever watch it again.

Here I am enjoying Lust in the Dust, probably wishing there was a little more dust: