Plot: Alfred Butler, a pampered rich boy, decides to toughen up by living out in the wild with his valet manservant. While there, he's smitten by a wilderness girl. Her brother and uncle (dad and grandfather? cousin and brother?) rightfully suspect that he's nothing more than an effeminate weakling and do not approve. That is until they mistakenly think he's Battling Butler, a champion boxer. Alfred does nothing to convince them otherwise and eventually finds himself in a situation where he meets the real Battling Butler face to face.
This has its moments. The finale is kind of neat and the first half of the film, where Butler and his valet (played by the hilarious Snitz Edwards) "brave the elements" is pretty funny. Once Buster becomes a boxer, however, it's just not as much fun, and it leads up to a climax that is really un-Busterlike. There's a lot stretched into a full-length feature film, and there's nothing resembling a classic Buster Keaton moment here. It does have an interesting story and for the most part is paced fairly well.
I also watched "The Boat" from 1921 (not to be confused with Das Boot) and "The Frozen North" from 1922. "The Boat" is a classic and has a lot of memorable scenes. My step-father laughed uproariously at a scene involving an anchor. It's a funny little movie. "The Frozen North" is not a complete film (at least my version wasn't), but it's an odd little surreal and slightly entertaining story. Keaton is apparently parodying contemporary films with this, and I think a lot of the humor is lost without the context. There are some interesting moments though, including the strangest dogsled you'll ever see. Keaton does play a mean character in this one. He robs and kills. My original plan was to force my parents to watch "The Boat" and The Navigator, but my children turned it into an all-request Buster Keaton Saturday and we ended up watching a bunch of shorts we've previously seen.
Rating: 20/20 (Jen: 14/20)
Plot: A pulp writer with a girl's name arrives in post-war Vienna to meet his buddy Harry Lime who has offered him a job opportunity. He's all ready to greet his friend in the traditional way ("When I open the fridge and see a Harry Lime, I throw it in the trash ha ha ha.") when he's instead greeted with the news that his friend has died. But the man with the girl's name realizes there's something amiss and runs around trying to put some pieces together. He's nearly driven insane by zither music.
This movie is flawless, a perfectly told labyrinth of a mystery. Graham Greene's script combines dry humor and tense drama while the set design, the sound (even the zither), the use of light, and the odd tilting camera angles contribute to capture an offbeat but entirely effective mood. Robert Krasker's (Academy Award winning) cinematography is as good as it gets. War-scarred black and white Vienna is beautiful. Great performances. Orson's menacing forehead nearly steals the show, but Joseph Cotton, as the poor, flawed individual who refuses to leave the web he's found himself trapped in, is also really good. This blends genres well, and all the elements add up to something that was very ahead of its time then and is still very different now.
Plot: The life of artist Edvard Munch, from when he bled from the mouth as a child to when he got it on with a cougar to when he accidentally bought too much red paint and had to use too much of the color in his work during what later was known as his "angry red stage."
Pretty impressive multi-genre pseudo-documentary. It combines narrative, voiceover narration, diary excerpts, art critique, and (oddly) interviews in a way which succeeds in creating Munch the person and setting a context with late-19th century Europe. This is very long, maybe even too long, and definitely not for the ADD crowd. Chunks are very very slow, but I like the way the narrative swirls in and out of itself, repeating images and connecting his artwork to both his life and what was happening culturally. The scenes where Munch worked (in various styles) were really well done.
Plot: Borat, Kazakhstan's number one journalist, is sent to America to film a documentary on what makes the country so great. He falls in lust with Pamela Anderson after catching an episode of Baywatch on a hotel television and sets out for Los Angeles to find her.
On the one hand, this makes the misanthropic half of me laugh more than anything else. Attacks on idiocy, brutal satire, jabs of irony. On the other hand, there's something so hateful about a lot of this, and it's often unnecessarily crude. On the one hand, I really love the interaction with the actual, unsuspecting masses--the rodeo crowd, the guy trying to teach Borat how to tell jokes, the gun store owner, the used car salesman. On the other hand, the Pamela Anderson plot is cheesy and low-brow and pointless. On the one hand, Cohen's probably a genius and would have been deserving of a best actor nomination for this largely-improvised role. On the other hand, I really didn't need to see his ass. I like Borat and I'll likely see it lots more times and I look forward to seeing the new one with the gay character, but when I think about how good this movie should have been, it really annoys me. Channel it, Borat!
Rating: 14/20 (Abbey: 20/20; Jen: 19/20)
Plot: Belle is a beautiful but lazy nerd who does nothing but read about dragons. She's the daughter of a kooky inventor. She catches the eye of Gaston, a burly hunter who hangs around with a midget. He nudges the midget one day and says, "Midget, check this. I'm going to hit that." Attempts to hit that prove fruitless. Belle's dad gets lost on the way to an inventor's contest and ends up the prisoner of the Beast who lives in an enchanted castle with talking furniture and a horny candlestick. Belle sacrifices herself for the freedom of her father, and eventually they fall in love and everybody lives happily ever after. Except for Gaston, who aside from having a bad case of blue balls also plummets to his death at the end.
Beauty and the Beast is a good enough movie. It's got lots of nice color and some great animated landscapes. There's Disney's typical creative energy bubbling below the surface of this telling of the classic fairy tale. Unfortunately, it's got lots of problems. First, it's an old school musical complete with dancing and furniture choreography, but there's really only one great song. This is a short movie, but there are still a lot of extraneous moments, most of them songs. The worst offender is the song about Gaston which does nothing but pound home what we already figured out about him. I don't like him much as a villain anyway. Actually, I don't really like any of the characters. The romance happens much too quickly, too quickly to really feel anything, so the ending, which should have been magical and beautiful, ends up as a ho-hum moment with really lazy animation. Belle is just another Disney princess; she's got nothing to offer other than being a pretty prop. The Beast is a jerk who deserved what he got anyway, and his transition into a loving and gentle creature is really contrived and unrealistic. I always imagine that once he's a prince again, he runs off and finds somebody better since he's obviously just using her to break the spell. And there's not really a likable or memorable talking inanimate object either. They're there mostly for comic relief and are more annoying than necessary. I was really hoping Belle would accidentally drop the little teacup (Chip?) and end that misery. And despite some really beautiful animated moments, there are just as many times when the characters and the scenery don't mesh, making it look more like one of those straight-to-video deals than a Disney big-budget theatrical release. Cocteau's version of the fairy tale, although flawed, is better than this one. And I still don't get the ending to the fairy tale. Why does he need to turn back into a prince? Isn't the point that she loves him for who he is and not what he looks like? And why were all the inanimate objects punished by the sorceress? What did they do wrong?
Plot: Oddly, they don't go to Mars. The bumbling duo accidentally steal a rocket and go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Then, after being hijacked by escaped convicts, they end up on a Venus inhabited by a bunch of feminists, but there's no Mars at all.
Nowhere near as funny as Troll 2. Actually, I laughed a single time, but that was only because the Lou Costello dummy they used to flop around in the rocket during take-off was much skinnier than the real Lou Costello. Stale stuff, and I can't actually imagine this not being dated comedy even in 1953. I might check out Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein which I think is supposed to be a much better movie, but I'm not really excited about it. How can you have a movie set partially in Mardi Gras and not feature exposed breasts? I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Lou to take off his shirt.
Lou Costello is the portlier of the two, right?
Plot: Paul and his older sister Elisabeth are close. Really close. Following a snowball fight accident and the death of their mother, they become recluses, shutting themselves off from society so that they can play bizarre games and argue in the privacy of their own room. When Paul falls in love with the boy who injured him with a snowball and later a girl who looks a lot like that boy, Elisabeth starts to get a little jealous.
I really expected to like this one a lot more than I did. I think it suffers from being seen so close to Troll 2. But with the talent involved (I love both Melville and Cocteau), I had enormously high expectations despite the stylistic differences in their films. In a way, this combines those styles fairly well with Melville's stark and simple narratives and character studies balancing Cocteau's dreamy free-floating surrealism, but I have to admit that I just wasn't all that interested in these siblings while watching this. I was a little bored. Parts of whatever narrative this has float like poetry, but the movie seemed too long and didn't have a single goblin or double-decker bologna sandwich. Sacre bleu!
Plot: Genius video game maker Allegra Geller and some video gamers convene in what apparently is a barn to try out her newest creation--eXistenZ! A kid with a tooth gun tries to kill her, and Allegra and Ted Pikul have to travel into her game to. . .well, I'm not sure what they have to do.
Why do I keep watching David Cronenberg movies? I feel like I'm missing something every time I do. For example, was this a comedy? Parts of it were definitely funny, but I'm not sure if that was intentional. Is the acting deliberately bad? Is the really lame reality vs. fantasy theme stretched to such a degree of lameness that it in fact implodes and becomes this intelligent satire that isn't lame at all? Was it Cronenberg's intention to create a movie that made me wish I could shoot myself in the face with a tooth gun and end it all rather than finish the movie? I was left with questions other than "Why do I keep watching David Cronenberg movies?" Why were Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law allowed to act in other movies after this one? Why did the studio allow a movie to have such a stupid name? eXistenZ? That costs it a few rating points right there. Is Canada to blame for this? This is as bad as that Mario Brothers movie and manages to make the script for Tron look like Othello. There's very little in this movie that looks or feels normal--tooth guns, writhing and throbbing fleshy video game systems, two-headed insects, Willem Dafoe--and the onslaught of weirdness makes the experience entirely unpleasant. I always feel really dirty after watching a David Cronenberg movie, and a shower was even required after this one.
Plot: Cowardly Captain Boyd accidentally becomes a Spanish-American War hero. His general sees right through him and sends the coward to an outpost in the Sierra Nevadas to work with a pair of Indians, a guy with sideburns, a blonde soldier, David Arquette, and a religious guy. One night, a nearly-dead frozen traveller pops up with a disturbing tale of cannibalism. They go to investigate.
Really well-done movie here. Part-darker-than-dark-comedy, part-suspense thriller, part-action, part-Western, part-horror movie, part-myth, Ravenous works on a variety of levels while sneakily becoming a metaphor about America's manifest destiny. I'm not familiar with anything else director Antonia Bird has done. I am surprised this movie was directed by a woman just because it's so, well, gross. Parts of Ravenous are difficult to watch no matter how much fun you think cannibalism is, but it's at least an artistic grossness. Guy Pierce is pretty good, especially during the first 20 or so minutes when the character is created without any dialogue. But Robert Carlyle steals the show as the villain. His rather multi-dimensional character is really cool. The location's beautiful, the Sierra Nevadas creating a texture that helps create a mystery and depth for the story. The music is also really good. Damien Albarn (the guy from Blur and the Gorillaz) and Michael Nyman do the soundtrack, and at times, there's this strange ominous hillbilly vibe going down. The best thing about this movie is that in so perfectly blends genres and manages to remain slyly humorous despite being a movie about cannibalism. There are some fine, subtle comedic moments that make this a lot of fun to watch. There's a fight scene at the end that is a bit too lengthy and ludicrous, but other than that, I can't think of a lot of negative things to say about Ravenous. It's bitchin'!
Plot: Punk kid Otto stumbles into a job as a repo man. Seasoned repo veteran Bud shows him the ropes. The job's a dangerously intense one, and Bud and Otto run into antagonists the Rodriquez Brothers and somehow get mixed up in conspiracies involving aliens and radiation.
Harry Dean Stanton is the best thing about this flick. Well, the soundtrack is pretty cool, too. The whole thing seems pretty aimless, and it's considerably dated. You could show the final scene and its dazzling special effects to somebody who hasn't seen this movie, and they'd say, "1984, right?" I couldn't stop thinking of the giant plastic ketchup tubes that would be on our lunch tables when I was in elementary school and how we'd squeeze the condiments directly into our mouths because that's how things were done in the early 80s. Ronald Reagan would watch us and laugh and laugh while stroking his missile. That's exactly what this movie reminded me of. There are a few interesting moments and some characters who would have been great if they would have been developed further, but this just doesn't add up to much at all.
Plot: Glimpses at the lives of six inmates at the largest prison in America, a prison so large that it actually contains a small town for the prison's employees to live. The camera follows a guy with terminal cancer, two guys who have reformed and are ready to service their communities, a guy on death row, a twenty-four year old new arrival, a guy who didn't do it, and a guy who needs a dentist. The only way out seems to be death for them.
What's a prison documentary without a rape scene or two? Nevertheless, gripping objective filmmaking here. I would have liked to see at least one of the six inmates wind up with a happy ending, but I suppose that wouldn't represent the reality of their situations. Learning about the logistics of a place this gargantuan was fascinating (i.e. the amount spent on toilet paper). I thought the warden came across as a pretty interesting fellow, much more optimistic than I figured he would be. Most disturbing was a scene with a parole board that I just couldn't believe. The warden you figure knows he's got a camera on him and might be adapting his personality a bit. These parole guys act as if there's not a camera in the room and provide what is the most shocking bit of dialogue I've seen in a long time. This never gets sappy or preachy, never suffers from the filmmakers getting in the way, and is a compelling hour-and-a-half.
Plot: A pair of fairly rude hit men arrive in a sleepy town to take out the Swede, a gas station worker. An insurance investigator named Reardon interviews faces from the Swede's past and gradually unravels the mystery.
The opening scene of The Killers, in which the menacing hit man look for the Swede in a cafe, is so entertaining. The hit men are interesting fellows, and come across as those types of smart-ass hired killers you can only find in a movie like this. This is based on a Hemingway short story, and I wonder how much of his dialogue was used. It's a well-written script, and the way the story unfolds through flashbacks of various characters keeps the mystery alive until the very end as the deceased gets into deeper trouble the deeper you get into his back story. Burt Lancaster's first role, and I'm not sure it's all that memorable. It's more the story and the way it's told with The Killers. In fact, the narrative's structure is maybe why I think this seems a little more modern to me than a lot of its 1940's cousins. I'm also impressed with the cinematography. It's got all those noirish shadows and two long unbroken shots early in the movie that are really amazing.
Plot: Sad times in 11th-Century England as two homosexual lovers split up.
Love the dynamic between a randy and spiralling-out-of-control O'Toole as Henry II and Burton as the calmer more contemplative Becket. Both characters have a passion though, and it comes across through some great dialogue. Like The Lion in Winter, the script seems to be written by a person who realizes that every word matters, and while watching, I felt that it was important not to miss a single word of the dialogue. Henry's got some of the bile and bite of The Lion in Winter Henry, but there's also a strange repressed tenderness and hurt in the character as well that makes him even more interesting. The developing conflict is very real and very tragic because there's a heart to the characters. I must say that I was a little bored whenever O'Toole wasn't on the screen although one of my favorite and most powerful scenes is when Becket excommunicates the guy. But O'Toole has a way of taking a character you're really supposed to hate (he's abusive to everybody including his mother, he's power hungry, he's too much the coward to come out of the closet, his facial hair is a little wacky, he whines) and making him not only immensely entertaining but somebody you sort of like and want to see more of. I think I like his Henry II in The Lion in Winter a little better maybe, but I like the sets better in this one. It's a very good-looking movie with vibrant colors and period textures. I also liked John Gielgud who plays the (also gay) French king.
This was recommended by Cory.
Plot: The life of broadcasting legend Harry Caray. This runs through his childhood; his years with the Cardinals, the A's, the White Sox, and the Cubbies; his love for drinking, dining, and socializing; his impact on the cities he worked in; and his death.
It's probably impossible to be a baseball fan and not appreciate Harry Caray. I always claimed to hate him because he was the Cubs guy, but he's a lot of the reason I watched nearly every Cubs game that was on. He's also probably a lot of the reason why I'm a baseball fan. This documentary was good at bringing back some memories and making me laugh. Longtime partner Steve Stone on Harry's pronunciation of Mark Grudzielanek's name was really funny. Paraphrase: "Harry never got his name right and finally said, 'Well, they all call him G-Man in the clubhouse, so I'll call him that.' There wasn't a single player who called him G-Man." I also loved seeing footage of Harry's traditional "It's way back. . ." home run call when the ball was actually rolling between two outfielders. Unfortunately, the documentary's kind of a mess. There's a loose structure, but it feels like a first draft. There's also a ton of interview snippets (Bob Costas, Stone, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandburg, Pat Hughes [who also narrates]) in which Harry Caray anecdotes are shared, but I would have loved to see more of Caray broadcasting and less footage of his funeral and none of his grandson interviewing fans on the street. This is a really cheaply-made PBS documentary.
Plot: The Monty Python guys examine life from birth to death which is about how long the movie seems to last.
This needed to be either funny or meaningful. It was neither. The bits don't know when to end, and they're likely dead on arrival anyway. The worst offender would be the really fat guy throwing up repeatedly in the restaurant scene. They shoot some fish in some barrels, they get crude, and they sing some ridiculous songs. Monty Python fans would enjoy parts of this, but I doubt many would enjoy it as a whole. I thought for sure that I had watched this a long time ago and completely forgotten it. Now, I'm ready to completely forget about it again.
Plot: World War II has ended and idealistic American Leopold arrives in Germany. His German uncle gets him a job as a "sleeping car conductor," and while training for the job, he falls in love with the daughter of the owner of the railroad. He soon finds himself in the middle of a conflict between occupying Allied forces and some Nazi terrorists called Werewolves. It hurts his job performance.
Lars von Trier recently said, "I am the best film director in the world." I'm not even paraphrasing or taking him out of context. That's what he said and that's what he meant. Whenever I watch his movies, I can almost hear him whispering that from behind me. I'll be watching a scene, maybe even mesmerized by a scene, and I'll hear him whisper, "Psst. Shane, I am the best film director in the world." That's why I'm almost always ready to hate his movies. And while he is pretentious, manipulative, and artsy-fartsy, the movies are at the very least interesting and more often than not really good. Ten minutes into this one (which my brother recommended), I thought, "Finally! A Lars von Trier movie I can trash." But gradually, the hypnotic narration (literally here), the film's mesmerizing style, and the Kafka-esque story sucked me in. There's a sort of second-person narration that puts you in the center of the noirish thriller, and even if you don't really like the main character or if the actor who plays him isn't very good, you still identify with him. The narration, with some creepy background music, also sets the tone and creates this ambiance for the rest of the film. The rest of the film is stylistic, likely a love-it-or-hate-it type feel, that fits the noirish story perfectly. Crisp black and white with occasional red splashes, double exposure (or whatever it's called...the actors are clearly acting in front of screens most of the time), and striking imagery lend a unique feel to this one. Lots of stylistic trickery going on here, but I never saw through it. My only gripe would be with the acting which seems really awkward and lifeless at times. Still, this is a really good movie that won't be easy to forget.
This might be called Zentropa in America. I'm not sure why that'd be the case though.
Rating: 10/20 (Abbey: 20/20)
Plot: Global warming! Oh, snap! Sid the sloth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger, and Manny the mammoth must travel to a "boat" at the end of their valley in order to survive an upcoming hydrapocalypse. Sid struggles with his place in the herd, Diego struggles with aquaphobia, and Manny struggles with the possibilities of being the last of his species. Along the way, they meet a couple of annoying possums and a female mammoth and then everything is resolved exactly like you would have figured it would be five minutes into the movie.
From the script (which has some annoying adult humor) to the character developments to the animation, this whole thing looks half-assed. You've pretty much got the same characters doing the same things. The interesting landscapes from the first movie are gone and replaced with stuff not worth noticing. The new characters are annoying (the two possums actually reminded me of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from that terrible The Cat in the Hat movie), and the old characters quickly wear their welcome. The best parts of the movie are the bits with the prehistoric rat thingy (see above) and his attempts to procure an acorn, but even that is completely rehashed.
Plot: Ghost Dog, a black contract killer who adheres to the philosophies and codes of the samurai, finds himself a target of a clumsily inept mob. He and his pigeons have to take care of business.
I noticed the other day that I had no Jarmusch movies on this blog and felt the need to remedy that. I'd actually always avoided this movie despite a recommendation from a buddy, and I'm not exactly sure why. Jim Jarmusch? Good. Samurai? Good. Comical mobsters? Good. I'm not sure why I'm surprised to like this rather special movie so much. It has a lot to say about personal codes, fading traditions, communication, friendship, stereotypes, and loyalty. And it's really fucking entertaining. There's action, there's laughs, and there's a great performance by Forest Whitaker in the title role. A hammier performance would have easily destroyed the character and the film, but Whitaker plays it suave and delivers exactly what the role calls for. Ghost Dog's interesting because it's more the characters, their motivations, and the philosophies that push the plot forward rather than just a story. With typical Jarmusch nuances, those characters that meander just outside the fringes of normalcy, and thematic depth, this is the type of uniquely entertaining movie that will be rewarding again and again. I'm going to have to watch Dead Man again soon to see if there are some thematic connections.
Plot: The wife of a rickshaw driver begins an affair with a younger man. Together, they decide that the husband needs to be out of the way, so they get him drunk, strangle him, and throw him in a well. But then there's nobody to drive the rickshaw! Oh, snap! The townspeople start gossiping about the woman and her disappearing husband. To make matters worse, the woman begins seeing her husbands ghost all over the place, and this really throws off her concentration when she's trying to have sex.
I thought there was something stale about this one. The ghost was creepy, and the sex scenes were erotic , but there was just something missing that was apparently needed in order for me to feel the story. Something stifled. Maybe the problem was that it was just a little creepy and a little erotic? The movie seemed a lot longer than it was, and the actions of the characters didn't always make complete sense to me. I really think I would have liked this movie a lot more if everything wasn't so literal. There were some nice moments (the opening scene of a foreshadowing spinning wheel and shots from within the well) that make me think Nagisa Oshima, a director I'm not familiar with, is worth checking out, but the movie as a whole did not impress.
Plot: Thanks to a mystic mime with a shimmering crotch, Queen Elizabeth I, an advisor, and a midget are able to travel to 20th Century England. They find that it's a pretty trashy place. Living in that modern England are several filthy punk rockers. Like most punk rockers, they're funny looking. Scantilly-clad Crabs, spiky-haired Mad, the shirtless Amyl Nitrate, Chaos, Angel, Sphynx, and Viv, bored out of their minds, talk a whole lot and then run out and do what punk rockers do best--act punky. They vandalize, murder, pillage, and expose themselves. This likely upsets the midget. Then they play Monopoly. But, since they're punk rockers, they don't follow the rules! Hell yeah!
Made with his non-actor punk rocker friends on a budget of apparently sixty-five dollars and seventy-three cents, Derek Jarman's Jubilee looks exactly like you'd expect it to look. It looks like trash. Now I understand that Mr. Jarman was probably intentionally making a trashy film and that's generally something that I can appreciate, but this was not entertaining or insightful at all. I believe the non-relatable characters rambling long and philosophical, the shocking images of late-70's counterculture, Hitler allusions, and the bad hair were supposed to make me feel something, but that's the biggest problem with this movie--I didn't feel anything at all. Jubilee is a poorly written and even more poorly acted, and with the possible exceptions of pretty boy Adam Ant and oft-nude Crabs (my brother's favorite part of the movie, it seems), there's very little here worth seeing. This is gross, languid, and stupid when it needed to be full of energy and dangerous. It's not shockingly memorable enough to be as "good" as a John Waters' movie, it's not satirical or smart enough to be A Clockwork Orange, and it's not original enough to be truly avant-garde. It's nothing more than an embarrassing pop culture artifact that nearly made me wish I was watching a movie about deviant disco dancers instead.
Sort of recommended by my brother.
Plot: A masked individual hacks away at him/herself with a straight razor and finally dies. A woman emerges from beneath the corpse and wanders aimlessly while fondling her breasts. Suddenly, she's pregnant. She wanders some more but outside in a bleak and barren landscape. Then, in an uplifting twist, a twitching guy (her son?) is attacked by cannibals. In the end (spoiler alert!), giant burlap-clad people make pudding.
This disturbing little avant-garde nonsense is definitely one of those "either you like it or you're normal" type movies. There's not another movie that looks like this one out there, but that honestly just makes me feel a lot better about "out there" than anything else. I will give credit to the man who plays "twitching guy" because there's some quality convulsing that goes on for about half of this film's length. Let's see Tom Hanks pull that off! Recommended for anybody who likes to watch grainy disturbing image after grainy disturbing image with some ambient music and minimalistic sound effects including birds chirping, scraping, farts, thunder, crickets, slurping, dripping, gurgling, more crickets, dragging, and rubbing. I never thought I'd say this, but there are so many grainy disturbing images in this that I got a little sick of them and don't even know if I can call myself a fan of grainy disturbing images anymore. The same thing happened with me and Will Ferrell actually. Seriously, if you watch five minutes of Begotten (which, if my little review has inspired you to, you can see online), you've really seen it all. While watching this, I couldn't help but wonder if the director's main purpose was to make a movie that is more difficult to watch than footage from the Holocaust. This is apparently one of those "cult films," but these cult members probably need to drink the Kool-aid as soon as possible. To Elias Merhige's credit, at least he hasn't made a sequel.
Plot: The story of an on-again/off-again romance between a lonely, socially-awkward garbage man and a grocery store cashier. When she helps him bandage up a wound on his hand, he gets the nerve to ask her on a date. He takes her to play Bingo; needless to say, the date doesn't work out. But following drastic measures the woman takes after losing her job, she gets some help from the garbage man.
No wonder that Kaurismaki movie (The Match Factory Girl) I watched earlier this year reminded me of Jarmusch. Apparently, they're good buddies, and Jarmusch even had a cameo in the Leningrad Cowboys movie as a used car salesman. This, like The Match Factory Girl and Ariel (see next blog entry), have that same quiet tone that Jarmusch's movies have with a pace that forces you to focus on the subtleties, the quirks, the fringe details. The minimalistic film's story stumbles along in a slow motion stream-of-consciousness that reflects life pretty accurately, and there's an unpredictability here with the characters' expressions, mannerisms, and words that makes this a complete joy to watch even when things aren't necessarily joyous for them. This is the type of movie that just hits the spot. Despite miserable characters, bleak settings, and sad situations, this little movie still made me happier than any non-animated film has made me in a long time.
Rating: 14/20 (adjusted for Don Knotts bonus)
Plot: Inspector Winship and Dr. Tart have been sent from Scotland Yard to a sprawling mansion to investigate the murders of Lord and Lady Morley. Occupying the secret-passageway-ridden mansion are the adopted daughter of the Morleys and a motley assortment of hired help including a samurai, a hunchback, and a guy with no tongue. They encounter ghosts with bombs, buzzard puss, cleavage, a torture chamber, and a few murders as they investigate the case.
Quite possibly the funniest movie ever made, The Private Eyes benefits from the chemistry between Knotts and Conway and top-notch old-school humor. I'll come clean and admit that I can't look at Don Knotts without laughing. All Don Knotts has to do to get a laugh from me is be present in a scene, and he's present in many scenes in this movie. Conway, who co-wrote the script, is also good. Screwiness, horror, an intriguing story, twists and turns, cleavage, mystery. This film's got it all! An undeniable masterpiece!
Plot: None. A man with a camera photographs Russians going about their everyday business from dawn until dusk.
There's so much to see here. The titular man risks injury to capture some unique and kinetic moving pictures of everyday people absorbed in mundane activities. I struggle to understand exactly what the point of it all is (one could discuss its connection with modern day reality television or paparazzi, I suppose, but I'm not sure Dziga Vertov was familiar with MTV's The Real World--Tucson or how grotesque that Amy Winehouse looks in cut-off jean shorts); however, I sure enjoyed watching it. There's a lot of shots of men and women interacting with machinery which, in a way, makes this an interesting companion for Chaplin's Modern Times. Director Dziga Vertov uses (invents?) an assortment of film tricks--double exposure, stop animation, split-screen, slowed down film, etc.--which makes this not only an important document for sociologists but folks interested in cinema. Even if you're not interested in either, the images come at your rapidly enough that the movie remains interesting for its duration. Vertov creates a language of images here that is startlingly unique today and must have really blown 1929 audiences away. The version I watched had music by Michael Nyman who scores Peter Greenaway's movies, and it's always great to hear his stuff.
Recommended by Cory.
Plot: Victor wants to know who his father is. Unfortunately for him, the only person who has that information, his Alzheimer-suffering mother, can't even recognize him. He works at a Colonial Williamsburg-esque park during the day and at night scams restaurant patrons by pretending to choke on food so that he can be saved and then later sent money. Or something. He also spends lots of his time at sex-addiction meetings. He has a friend who masturbates a lot.
It really felt like half of this movie was cut out or something. It's such a choppily-paced story that I wound up discombobulated beside the ottoman. And my zipper was down! Quirks-a-go-go! I felt completely disconnected from the characters and really only stuck around for the nudity. Disappointing.
Plot: If there's any type of person the misanthropic title cop hates more than anybody else, it's hippies. And San Francisco is currently being tormented by a maniacal one who is sniping random folks from rooftops and promising that he'll continue his bad behavior until the city forks over 100,000 dollars. And he does it all while giggling which ticks off Dirty Harry even more. So, Dirty Harry grows his hair really tall and goes after him, breaking more than a few rules along the way. His struggles with counting make the task even more difficult.
A lot of this movie is too dark. Was that just a problem with the dvd version I saw? I suppose this is the movie that a lot of people have been trying to copy for a few decades now. The story's actually a little weak, and the villain is a little campy (I prefer Malcovich in In the Line of Fire), but there's a coolness working here and combined with some good writing, real characterization, and exciting action scenes, this will likely remain a dated but timeless classic shoot 'em up flick.
Plot: Beatrix Kiddo, a member of The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, gets knocked up and decides that it's time to hang up her samurai sword and settle down in Texas. Bill, her old boyfriend and father of her unborn child and head honcho of the aforementioned squad, doesn't like that idea and crashes her wedding rehearsal in a violent manner. Four years later, after Beatrix wakes from a coma, she's not very happy about it and wants revenge. So she hunts down Sonny Chiba, gets herself a sword, and does some killin'.
There's such an odd combination of grace and mayhem in these movies. The fight scenes and choreography are terrific, but the quiet moments preceding and following the fight scenes are terrific, too. Sure, that killing spree in the House of Blue Leaves is entertaining and beautifully choreographed, but the long-shot prior to Beatrix's arrival and the tranquil wintry scene following that slaughter are in some ways even more exciting. I've seen enough kung-fu movies to appreciate the allusions in both halves of this revenge epic, and I've seen enough spaghetti westerns to appreciate the allusions in the second, less frenetic installment, and it's really an interesting marriage of these movies. Tarantino's got a good eye and ear, and the visuals and music collide in stunning ways throughout both volumes. There are some song choices I don't like, but for the most part, the recycled soundtrack stuff fits great with the action. And while there's truly some virtuosic filmmaking going on here, Tarantino often gets in his own way and makes a mess of things. Kill Bill is probably far too ambitious and sprawling, and it could easily have been a series of films. I would have loved to see more characterization for the other assassins anyway. The dialogue is strong although once again, Tarantino's goofiness gets in the way (see that "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids" line). There are also a lot of great humorous moments hidden amidst the strewn limbs and blood-stained walls. My favorite is the conversation with Bill and the four-year-old daughter:
Bill: What movie do you want to watch?
Daughter: Shogun Assassin.
Bill: Shogun Assassin is too long.
Together, these are a really solid, if uneven, film. It is a bit jarring that Beatrix goes from killing about a hundred people in the first half and only one in the second.
Rating: 11/20 (Jen: 13/20)
Plot: Kym (this movie lost a point just for this spelling) is released from a rehabilitation center to participate in her sister's wedding with her dysfunctional family. Drama unfolds.
I can't figure out if Shane Getting Annoyed or Shane Getting Uncomfortable would be a better alternate title for this movie. First off, Anne Hathaway's performance is really inconsistent. At times, she's terrific and makes it easy to become emotionally involved in her character. At other times, she's shaky, almost confused by her character. Speaking of shaky, this is filmed in that faux-documentary style with handheld cameras, and that gets old really quickly. There are some extraordinarily awkward scenes in this that go on far too long--endless toasts at a wedding rehearsal dinner, some sort of variety show, a weird scene involving an impromptu dishwashing competition, and a reception that seemed twice as long as any reception I've ever been to. That reception, by the way, included the only reason I wanted to see this movie in the first place as Robyn Hitchcock plays a wedding singer and performs a couple songs. He's juxtaposed with an annoying rapper though which perfectly illustrates what's wrong with this movie. There's some good, maybe even some great, butting violently up against the bad in a way that makes this ultimately clunky and unsatisfying.