Rating: 20/20 (see the "el Santo" rule, page 583 of the shane-movies handbook)
Plot: Some vampire women wake up in a dusty castle that nobody seems to know about. It's time to grab the daughter of a professor, apparently because the devil needs her for something. They wake up three vampire wrestlers, turn into bats, and fly off to simultaneously ruin a party and kidnap the daughter. Only El Santo can save the day!
This black and white entry in the Santo series is as good as the others I've seen, meaning it's one of the greatest films ever made. This one has some atmosphere, some really cheesy special effects (the bats are especially bad), and the regular arsenal of silly fight scenes, some which go on far too long. During a key vampire wrestler v. Santo in the ring scene, Santo's mask is nearly removed. Instead, Santo whips off his opponent's mask in what is arguably one of the greatest moments in movie history. I also really like how the vampire wrestlers fighting strategy is to rush behind their victims and karate chop their backs. Lots of fun. The version I watched was dubbed which, of course, added to the joy. I don't know if this one is as good as the ones with the Blue Demon, but if you're jonesing for a movie with Mexican wrestlers and vampire women, this will hit the spot. Wish me luck finding Santo vs. the Martian Invasion.
Plot: Captain Penderton lives with his wife Leonora at an army base. The captain is a closet homosexual and a weak man. Leonora emasculates him in public and cheats on him with friend and neighbor Major Langdon, a man married to Alison, a crazy woman who cut her own nipples off with garden shears. Alison threatens to divorce Langdon and run off to live on a shrimp boat with Anacleto, her effeminate Vietnamese helper with a fondness for watercolor and prancing. Meanwhile, Private Williams spies on the Pendertons, watching their arguments from their yard through open windows and even entering the house at night to watch Leonora sleep and fondle her lingerie. They all ride horses, but Williams does it in the nude and Penderton can't stay on the horse. There. I think I covered everything.
"Have you ever been collared and dragged out into the street and thrashed by a naked woman?"
This is a really strange movie. At times, I thought it was a tongue-in-cheek comedy. The performances (especially Zorro David as Anacleto and some of Brando's at times unintelligible dialogue) are odd, and the characters all seem tortured by their own dark secrets and quirks. Elizabeth Taylor, good here as Leonora, is probably the most normal character, but all the others seem completely off. Private Williams, in fact, I think goes through the entire movie without speaking, and the Lady Godiva horse rides aren't exactly normal. Brando's character keeps a spoon for sentimental purposes. And of course there's the woman who cut her nipples off. I found this movie to be impenetrable after one viewing. What's going on here? Something about sexual repression? Does Williams even exist or does he just represent Penderton's past? Or both? The movie's quite the riddle. It's definitely one of those movies where you feel like you're missing a bunch of pieces to the puzzle, things that you can't possibly understand because you weren't with the characters before the movie started. It's also one of those movies where what happens seems more important on a symbolic level instead of a literal level. But perhaps I'm reading too much into things. I liked all the performances in this but was especially impressed with Brian Keith as Langdon and even more especially impressed with Zorro David. It's an odd role for Brando who has to balance this tough guy side with this really vulnerable side, but it's a strong, appropriately restrained performance. The movie's also shot very well, a lot of it with a golden tint that sort of makes things unnerving after a while. And you almost have to give a bonus point here for a shot of Elizabeth Taylor's bum. Shut up! It is too her! A challenging but entertaining movie.
A Larst recommendation.
Plot: Following a revolution in his European country, King Shadhov retreats to New York. He's got ideas about making the world a better place with atomic energy, but he finds himself penniless after his trusted confidante flees with everything he brought to America. Fortunately, he's tricked into attending a dinner party that turns out to be a sort of reality show, and companies are all of a sudden willing to pay him thousands of dollars to use his dickfarts to sell products. At some point, he meets the son of communist parents and winds up having to defend himself against charges of being a communist.
This really takes its time getting anywhere, and once it does, you almost wish it hadn't. You could never accuse Chaplin of being too subtle, so the political stuff in this, especially with what was going on with Chaplin and America, isn't surprising at all. What was surprising to me was that there were actually some funny moments in this one. There's some fun satirical stuff here about commercialism, movies, and fame in America. This is also worth seeing because it showcases Chaplin's acting chops. I'm always surprised to see Chaplin not overdo things in this later films. It's not Monsieur Verdoux or the earlier silent classics, but I liked it better than Limelight.
Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 16/20; Abbey: 19/20; Sophie: 20/20)
Plot: The title fox reluctantly settles down, retiring from chicken thieving and getting a job as a newspaper man to appease his pregnant wife, Mrs. Fox. Seven years later, his itch needs scratching, and he moves the family into a tree with a view of the farms of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean and begins plotting a final triple-header job. He and friend Badger get some bandit hats and pull off the jobs. This ticks off the three farmers who seek revenge.
"That's just weak songwriting. You wrote a bad song, Petey!"
Lots of biases at play here: 1) It's a Wes Anderson movie. 2) It's based on a Roald Dahl book. 3) It's stop-motion animation. 4) I saw it on the big screen. But at least with the first three, it's a menage trois made in heaven. I always think Anderson's movies are refreshing, and I usually find stop-motion stuff refreshing, too. Combine the two, with Dahl's talking animal characters, and you've got something that's downright whimsical. Petey, one of the farmer's personal banjo players and almost a completely useless character, is my favorite character (voiced by Jarvis Cocker), but there isn't a character in this thing that isn't great. I thought the three farmers were really funny, but the majority of the screen time is talking animals. And I love when a cartoon has talking animals that are so human. Great voice acting, too, with a lot of Anderson regulars. The animation is spectacular although intentionally a little low-fi. There are lots of "How are they even pulling that off?" effects, and lots of times when there's an amazing amount of movement happening on the screen at once. This has a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, and although it almost goes a bit too far in the end, this is the type of movie that I'd love to watch again and again. Downright whimsical!
2009 seems like an incredible year for animated movies. And I've not even seen Ponyo, Mary and Max, or A Town Called Panic yet.
Plot: American planes armed with two nuclear bombs each are heading for Moscow. Since it's all a mistake, the American war machine does everything it can to stop them. The Russians aren't too happy about the whole thing and threaten to send their newest weapon of mass destruction, a device called The Dickfart Machine, to retaliate. President Henry Fonda gets a gas mask.
Interesting that this was released so close to the release of Dr. Strangelove, even by the same studio. This is actually a whole lot like Strangelove, only without all the penis jokes. This movie gets all the little things right. There's some great dialogue delivered by great actors. I like Fonda as our president, but everybody in this was solid. There's a realism to the performances, and although I'm almost positive there are some plot holes or at least some far-fetched scenarios in this thing, the characters' calm tension sucks you in and makes it all seem plausible. I really like how this is shot, too. Close-ups and long shots used to show characters emotionally attached or distant from the unfolding dilemma; the lighting, or in most cases a lack of traditional movie lighting; sly camera work (I especially like how the camera moves from character to character during some exchanges); and a complete lack of music help add to the tension. This ends in a shocking way, driving home a point that remains relevant even after the Cold War. That the movie can be shocking despite keeping all the "action" off-screen is part of what makes it great. The focus is on the characters making impossibly tough decisions, deepening the drama and tragedy. I also like the goofiness and cheapness of the technology they were using. There was something about that green screen with all those little dots and triangles that helped make the whole thing terrifying. This really cool flick was recommended by Cory.
Two things I didn't really get though: the entire conversation between Walter Matthau's character and the woman he slaps and the bullfighting dream/reference to bullfighting dream that bookend the film. The latter, I suppose, I understand, but I'm not sure if I liked it very much.
Rating: 11/20 (Jen: 12/20)
Plot: Ross has lost his job as a teacher and is looking for a job to help support his police officer wife and his daughter. He gets a job at a call center but is fired before he finishes a single day of work. But he does meet Gus, a scam artist who has an idea to extract thousands of dollars from a reverend. Gus's girlfriend also helps out. Things don't go as planned, however, and the night spirals out of control.
You know how some movies trudge along and don't seem to go anywhere? Big Nothing is exactly the opposite of that. This movie goes everywhere, and that's not really a good thing. The pace is so quick that you have no time to catch a breath, and although there are some fun twists and turns along the way, most of this movie is just relentlessly stupid. There's a fifteen minute chunk of this movie that is really good. The timing between twists and the humor work. Beyond that, this is a mess, the movie falling to pieces like a radio-controlled airplane that you spent an hour putting together and finally flew for the first time with things going well at first until you decided to do a few barrel rolls and fancy maneuvering through the monkey bars and watched in dismay while the toy his a guy holding a picket sign and burst into flames. It's like a Coen brothers' movie without a script, almost to the point where I think somebody said, "Hey, I've got an idea. People like those Coen brothers. Let's make us a Coen brother movie!" I liked Simon Pegg and Jon Polito in this movie, but I didn't buy anything that David Schwimmer was doing. He's not really the greatest of actors, is he? The music in this movie also really annoyed me.
Plot: Kate and husband John decide to adopt a highly intelligent and artistic nine-year-old Russian orphan. Kate, a recovering alcoholic, is trying to get over nearly accidentally killing one of her two biological children and a miscarriage. Things are going swimmingly until Esther, the family's new addition, begins misbehaving. She forms an attachment to John but has trouble getting along with her new mom who wonders if she might be evil. Bad stuff happens. And there's nothing more horrifying, ladies and gentlemen, than when bad stuff happens in a bad movie.
This is a Macaulay Culkin away from being The Good Son. There's also a bit of The Omen in here. In fact, the whole thing is derivative, entirely predictable in its unpredictability, and offensively bad filmmaking. You know that horror movie cliche where the filmmaker dicks around with you, letting you follow a character who is anxious or nervous and then suddenly jabbing you with a shockingly loud musical note or a noise and causing you to jump because the character has seen something scary before revealing that the only scary thing in the room is something innocent like a kitty or a child with a lollipop? If you like that, you'll love Orphan because that's a trick the director uses about ninety times. It's actually almost the entire movie. You also get some really terrible child acting, including a title character who can't remember if she's Russian or not, and several plot points that just don't make any sense whatsoever. Seriously, some of the decisions these characters make are just bewildering. There's a big big twist in this movie. Really, there had to be a big big twist because without a big big twist, nobody would care to sit through this one. But the big big twist is so stupid, crossing the line from "shocking" into "What the hell?" and forcing me, whether fair or not, to really want to kick M. Night Shyamalan right in the head. It was offensive more than anything else, an attempt to trick a reaction out of people. And that's the biggest problem with Orphan--it substitutes good storytelling, realistic character development, and genuine horror and suspense for manipulative movie cliches and lazy trickery and dickery. Trickery, dickery, dock. I really hate this movie, and I hope it's my least enjoyable movie watching experience of the year.
Plot: Themroc lives a monotonous life in an apartment with his mother and sister. He leaves for work, putting on yellow coveralls and painting a fence black while men in white coveralls paint the same fence white. One day, he sees something he's not supposed to--his boss and secretary getting it on--and he is fired. He walks home, growling at a few trains along the way. Themroc then rebels against society, using a sledgehammer to knock a giant hole in his wall, throwing everything he owns out that hole, and having sexual relations with his sister. When his neighbors are inspired to do the same, police come in riot gear to try to ruin their fun.
Michel Piccoli makes such a good caveman. He's in a handful of Bunuel films, yet this is still likely his oddest role. It really is a good performance, expression without words, visceral and with more emotional depth than you'd guess for a character who does little more than grunt. I'm not sure exactly what they're trying to say in this movie, but I think it would appeal to anarchists. It's shot in an almost anarchic style, filthy and free. Things got a bit repetitious after a while as the grunting and almost no plot started to feel less unique and more of the same stuff I'd been watching for an hour and a half. Since there's no dialogue in the movie unless you count guttural caveman grunts, so obviously, this is not a movie for everybody. I did find some of it very funny, and if you're the type of cinephile who can tolerate this sort of thing, I recommend you take a trip to Blockbuster and grab a copy. It'll be right between Them! and The Mr. O. Chronicles.
Plot: Christine the bank loan officer has a nice job, a future promotion, and a loving boyfriend. One day, an old woman with a creepy eye tries to get a third mortgage extension, and Christine, trying to impress the boss, turns her down. The old woman puts a curse on Christine who, after seeking the professional advice from a psychic, finds out that she's going to be dragged to hell in three days. Oh, snap!
This roller coaster ride of a movie made me feel like I did when I watched and loved Evil Dead II as a kid. I laughed, jumped a little, laughed again, and sat in awe of Raimi's technical wizardry and childish creativity. Sam Raimi's that type of director who probably giggles uncontrollably while he works on his movies in the editing room. Drag Me to Hell is stuffed with gimmicks, has a dopey story, and is probably guilty of using those gimmicks to hide the dopey story. But it's also about as funny as a horror movie can be and as scary as a comedy can be and one of the most entertaining movies I've seen in a long time. Stylistic touches (askew cameras and quick zooms) and his skewed Stooges and Looney Tunes inspired dark humor are reminiscent of the Evil Dead trilogy although Raimi's Spidey powers allow for the finished product to look a lot more polished. It certainly is fun. The sound effects are also a lot of fun. Things clang when they're not supposed to clang and swish when there's no logical reason for swishing so that the film is aurally as adventurous and exaggerated as it is visually. There were two scenes I had to rewind to see a second time, and an early fight scene in a parking garage is arguably the greatest fight scene in movie history. I'm not even kidding. I can't remember seeing anything this completely ridiculous, a movie that so frequently had me shaking my head and saying, "This is insanity." I mean that as a compliment, of course. I definitely enjoyed this more than any Spiderman movie and can happily say that this makes up for the waste of time that Spiderman 3 was.
Plot: Following the death of an opponent and his retirement from boxing, John Wayne O'Leary returns from America to his Ireland birthplace. He purchases the old family property and falls in love with the redheaded neighbor Mary Kate O'Mulligan, apparently because she's the first woman he sees and looks like the type of woman who would be fun to beat the crap out of. Her brother, Hefty O'Topheavy, doesn't like John Wayne O'Leary, ostensibly because of his goofy hat, and does everything he can to keep the two apart.
Is there really enough story here for a complete movie? I was never all that interested in the romance. In fact, I had no interest in either John Wayne or Maureen O'Hara's characters at all and thought the peripheral characters, really in there only to add local color, were much more interesting. The main conflict, muddled by Irish courting customs that never made much sense to me, also really wasn't that interesting. The story clunks along, eventually building to a difficult-to-watch twenty minute scene glorifying spousal abuse which is immediately followed by a preposterous twenty minute scene in which Wayne and the brother engage in awkwardly old-timey fisticuffs. In the end, it all seems like a really long joke. John Wayne as a serious actor could be considered kind of a joke, too. This story and his character depend far too much on his acting ability, and he really have enough range to make a character that seems real. The real star of the show is probably Ireland's countryside, filmed beautifully with lovely splashes of vivid color. The movie's worth watching for Ireland alone probably, but I also really liked the odd assortment of minor characters and the music in The Quiet Man.
This was another Cory recommendation.
Plot: A ventriloquist, a strong man, and a little person break free from a side show to live a life of crime. They come up with an ingenious plan involving cross-dressing, a giant monkey, and parrots. When a couple things don't go according to plan, the trio struggle to keep things together.
Let's go over this again. There's a cross-dressing ventriloquist, a strong man, and a little person disguised as a baby using parrots to rob people? And there's a giant killer monkey and a puppet? I'm in! This is a very strange film for the mid-20s, not surprising I suppose since it's a Tod Browning production with the always odd-looking Lon Chaney, an actor who didn't exactly avoid bizarre roles. Actually, it's not a great movie, more like an extremely silly one, but there are so many ideas straight from left field, that it's hard not to like the thing. I always enjoy Chaney, and he's good here playing a criminal with too much heart. I could have probably played a ventriloquist in a movie from this time period though. The little person (Harry Earles, playing a character named Tweedledee) is also really good, expertly transitioning from a mean little criminal to a baby and vice versa. There are some funny camera effects used to make the monkey seem gigantic and deadly, really succeeding only in making the monkey appear to change sizes from scene to scene. There's also a really goofy courtroom scene that leads to a completely unbelievable ending. Still, this is a silent oddball that is worth checking out.
Plot: Some tough guys, led by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is tricked by Carl Weathers into venturing into the South American jungle to find captured soldiers. While there, a scary alien thing hunts them one by one and strips them of their skin. Apparently it's a hobby.
I wonder if I'm the only person who can't watch Carl Weathers in this without inserting the line "You got yourself a stew goin'" after everything that he says.
"We pick up their trail at the chopper, run 'em down, grab those hostages and bounce back across the border before anybody knows we were there. And you got yourself a stew goin'!"
"Goddamn jackpot. We finally got those bastards. We got 'em. And we've got ourselves a stew goin'!"
Arnold: "Bleed, bastard. Bleed."
Carl Weathers: "And you've got yourself a stew goin'!"
It's really amazing how many of the actors in this ended up with a political career. Everybody knows that Schwarzenegger became the governor of California, and almost everybody knows that Jesse "The Body" Ventura became governor of Minnesota. But did you know that Bill Duke (Mac) later became a congressman in New York? Or that Richard Chaves (Poncho) was a senator for seven and a half days before being ejected from his seat due to a sex scandal involving a mollusk? Sonny Landham (Billy) became the mayor of Sugar Tit, South Carolina, and R.G. Armstrong was elected the president of Belarus. The Predator himself, a guy named Kevin Peter Hall, could have retired after a terrifically versatile career playing a mutant bear, an alien, a monster, another alien, another monster, another mutant bear, a mutant alien, a mutant monster, a mutant, a regular bear, and Harry from Harry and the Hendersons to become President of the United States, but he sadly passed away in the early 90s and never got the chance. This movie is pretty straightforward. You get exactly what you figured you'd get--a ton of explosions, some inexplicable; some stock characters; a fistful of Arnold one-liners ("Stick around."); action scenes piled on top of action scenes; some pretty good special effects; and a wafer-thin plot. Most of the movie looks like the director just said, "Hey, fellas, why don't you wander around the jungle here for a few hours. We'll film you and then pull out the best stuff to use in the movie." I do really like the jungle imagery in this. It's filmed really well. Some of the action sequences are fine; others make little-to-no sense. The Predator's look is cartoony whenever he's in his camouflage state but effectively menacing when he's not. The climactic fight scene between Arnold and the alien, a fight scene you know is going to happen before you pop the dvd in the machine, is actually kind of boring.
And I thought of a new movie idea, a screenplay I'm going to write and present to Arnold himself to get him back on the silver screen. The movie poster above actually inspired me because it almost looks like the movie is called Schwarzenegger. My movie, titled Schwarzenegger! (note the punctuation) will have Arnold playing himself with all the things and people he's ever beaten up or killed coming back to get their revenge. At the end of my movie (spoiler alert!), Sinbad is going to kill him. How badass is that going to be?
Plot: Francois the postman delivers mail via bicycle in a quiet French town as its inhabitants prepare for the arrival of the annual fair. When he sees a short film at the cinema on America postmen, he envies their speed and reputation and becomes determined to match their rapidity.
It's shame this isn't readily available, and I'm surprised this wasn't Criterionized before the inferior Trafic. This is Tati's first film, before M. Hulot came along, and like his later and better known projects, this is a charming and quiet look at the humor of the everyday lives of everyday people, heavily inspired by silent slapstick classics and funny enough to force a few grins. Actually, I don't see how it's possible for anybody to watch this movie without having a goofy grin on his face from beginning to end. There's lots of great visual humor (a runaway bike, a ringing church bell, a romantic movie advertisement, a drunken bike ride, a race) and a lot more dialogue than in his other movies. Not that the dialogue adds much. The entire movie feels like a subplot filled with subplots, miniature stories without beginnings or endings that give the town and its people character. Unsurprisingly, there's a humorous criticism of a rapidly modernizing society and a gentle reminder about the importance of slowing down. I would some day like to live in a small town that has a hunchbacked old lady who walks around with a goat and narrates everybody's activities. This movie also made me want to own chickens. Add that to the shane-movies blog Christmas wish list with those other things I asked for.
Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 12/20)
Plot: Tired pale souls wander in the solitude of a crowded purgatory.
I searched and searched for this about six years ago, finally found and watched it, and was kind of disappointed. Roy Andersson, not exactly a prolific filmmaker, has a follow-up which has just found its way onto dvd, so I thought it would be a good time to give this a second chance. I'm really glad I did because it really connected this time. There's a fragmented narrative in here--something about a corporation going out of business, a traffic jam, a guy burning down his furniture store for the insurance money, stuff that wouldn't be out of place in a Monty Python production--but the story doesn't matter. This one is all about the images, and Andersson's got the sort of eye that make a film survive entirely on images. The camera is static, moving (I think) during only one scene, and you really get the sense that you're watching a photograph filled with people and objects who decided to break the laws of photography and move around a little bit. They're photographs from incomplete dreams, stuffed with surreal imagery like multiple crucifixes, magician tricks gone wrong, scurrying rats, former generals trapped in cribs, the wandering dead, and group flagellation. The dialogue's occasionally dippy, and it'd be hard to argue with somebody who thinks the drab colors give this a monochromatically faded and depressing appearance, but there's something in every single scene that fascinates, whether it's because it cleverly connects to another scene, contains complex choreography with things or characters moving in the background, has interesting geometry and angles (lots of really long streets and hallways, sets actually constructed in a studio), or is just too bizarre to not pay attention to. One observation: the characters' interactions are so completely unnatural (I'm not sure there's one conversation with characters who are facing each other) that it's at least depressing and almost unnerving. That's one of the many aspects of this that make it not very easy and not for everybody, but it's a unique work of art with some heavy philosophy that was not only universally relevant at the beginning of the millennium but is actually even more relevant today. I look forward to seeing You, the Living, apparently the second piece of an unfinished trilogy. My favorite scene is the one in which the main character (or the closest thing to a main character this has) is introduced on a subway. It's a moment that was simultaneously beautiful and hilarious, just like all of the world's best things.
Rating: 11/20 (Jen: 13/20)
Plot: A groom-to-be goes to Vegas with two buddies and his future brother-in-law two nights before his wedding. The next morning, groom-to-be Doug is missing, and the other three--now in possession of a baby, a tiger, and a chicken--have no memories of the last twelve hours. They try to piece together the clues to find Doug and get him to his wedding on time.
This isn't a completely awful way to spend nearly two hours. There were a few laughs. I liked the baby, Mike Tyson has a cameo, the brother-in-law was sort of funny, I like that guy from The Office, I like the guy from Community, it was fast paced, and there was a breast or two. A lot of the jokes worked, and some of them worked very well. But a little of this kind of humor goes a long way, and after a while, I got pretty tired of the whole thing. It started ludicrously, managed to get more ludicrous, and then all of a sudden surprisingly got even more ludicrous. That's fine, I suppose. It'll impress the college kids and probably even the high school kids, and they'll have something to text about on their media devices that according to a survey I just read about they spend fifty-three hours per week using. But this curmudgeon, a guy who embarrassingly needs at least a half an hour to type out and send the rare one or two sentence text, started feeling like somebody was hitting him with a rubber mallet. Probably a rubber mallet that smells like urine. The oppressive soundtrack didn't help. There were so many songs in this movie that the soundtrack has to be three or four compact discs. And they were all loud songs, too. I have to go to bed now.
Plot: Poor Oskar. He's underdeveloped, has goofy hair even for a Swedish kid, and is getting bullied at school. Luckily for him, an androgynous vampire named Eli moves in next door. He befriends her, sharing a Rubik's cube and having boring conversations. When the old dude who collects blood for her gets himself caught, apparently because he's an idiot, Eli's relationship with Oskar deepens and she convinces him to stand up for himself. Then, they have more boring conversations, occasionally through a wall using Morse code.
A handful of scenes in Let the Right One In (a title I don't fully understand, by the way) are beautifully and artistically shot and effectively creepy. The climax is especially startling and effective, a very inventive shot that leaves just enough to the imagination and ends up more shocking because of it. This movie has a consistent tone that I really liked, and for the most part, the children chosen for the roles do a terrific job. I just don't think this movie is consistently great. It doesn't really add up to much at all. The story's flimsy, and the characters don't have a lot of depth, instead working more as types than anything else. There are a few scenes where there was an obvious attempt to shock me (artistically!) instead of allowing the story to unfold naturally, and they were ultimately more of a distraction than anything else. A subplot involving an infected woman seemed unnecessary and really really silly, especially during a scene involving a bunch of cats that I think might be the funniest thing I see all year. The end of that subplot was actually pretty funny, too. I also had trouble connecting with the characters despite the good acting. I'll admit that there might be a vampire bias at play here, but I do think that's the reason why some of this seemed a little derivative and possibly why some of the characters seemed flat. This is a beautiful enough movie. In fact, it's really really beautiful. But it's also pretty pretentious and a little shallow. The goth kids would all love it though!
This was recommended by Cory, a former goth kid.
Plot: Lieutenant No-Name roams around the city, almost lifelessly, performing cop duties. In the spaces between, he gambles recklessly and obsessively, cavorts with whores, and drugs it up. Darryl Strawberry tries to make it to the World Series with his Dodger friends.
It couldn't have helped that I had to watch this movie in fifteen installments. But it couldn't be helped. I couldn't have my daughters walking in and seeing Harvey Keitel's penis. They'd be traumatized for life. And I couldn't have my wife seeing that either, frankly because it puts mine to shame. And although my son is at an age where he's mature enough to watch more mature movies, seeing Harvey Keitel jacking off next to a car or the rape of a nun might give the lad ideas and lead him into a life of jacking off on cars and/or raping nuns. I nearly like Bad Lieutenant. I think Harvey Keitel is frequently brilliant, but the performance is ultimately an uneven one. At times, his character is so bloated by badness that it begins to look like a parody of itself, more comical than anything else. During one final scene, when Keitel begins excessively whining like a wounded animal, I almost laughed, and I don't think laughter was what Abel Ferrara was going for in that scene. I also found a scene with Jesus almost uproariously funny. Lots of religious imagery in this one, far too much in fact. It almost felt less like watching a movie and more like the pope hurling religious objects at me. And I'm not sure if you've had the experience of the pope hurling objects at you, but it's not something I'd recommend. I do like a bunch of the stark and gritty scenes. Bad Lieutenant refuses to hide anything at all, and as uncomfortable as that might make the typical audience member feel, it does succeed in being realistic and at times emotionally charged. But this is Keitel's show. He's the center of every single scene, and when what he does works, which it frequently does, everything works. And when he doesn't, things unfortunately get sort of goofy.
As a baseball fan, why don't I remember this Mets/Dodgers playoff series?
Plot: It's 1902, and Russian captain Vladimir Arseniev and some of his pals are dicking around in the Siberian wilderness. They find themselves discombobulated but luckily run into Yoda who helps them in their exploration and even saves Vladimir's life because Vladimir doesn't know how to make shelter with grass on his own. Eventually, Yoda and Vladimir, now BFF's, part ways only to meet again on another of Vladimir's outings later on.
Great story of friendship and survival told simply and gracefully by Master Kurosawa. Those Japanese fellows sure can photograph nature, and Kurosawa's got the eye to make the icy Siberian wasteland look simultaneously beautiful and treacherous. The characters are terrific, and their relationship wonderfully develops through the actions and expressions of the character rather than through unnecessary language. There's not as much action as you might expect from a movie calling itself a survival tale, but when there is action, like during the scene where Dersu and Vladimir have to collect grass to protect themselves from a harsh winter's night, the details are meticulous and the situations are tense. I really like those characters, especially wacky Dersu, and I was disappointed that the ending couldn't have been a little happier. I'm not typically the kind of guy who requires a happy ending, but these just aren't the type of characters who deserved the unhappy one. Although I love Kurosawa, this wasn't one of his movies that was on my radar, so I'm really glad Winter Rates recommended it.
Plot: The Hindu epic poem Ramayana juxtaposed with the contemporary story of the filmmaker's divorce. Sita accompanies Rama into the dangerous forest after his banishment from his father's kingdom. A multi-headed demon guy kidnaps her, and Rama, with the help of a monkey king, has to go get her back. Then, Rama decides that Sita is damaged goods. Meanwhile, in the present day, a couple's marriage disintegrates after the husband is transferred to India.
I really liked the mishmash of animation styles which added a nice variety to the proceedings. The movie is colorful and frenetic, and the mythology is easy to follow. The filmmaker, a woman scorned apparently, also uses the 1920s (?) blues of Annette Henshaw, and the choice of songs blends very well to the telling of the Ramayana. It helps to humanize the story and proves how timeless and universal the themes in the epic poem are. The story's told with a sense of humor, with snarky shadow puppets commenting on the finer details of the tale in between scenes, and the loose, irreverent animation helps keep all of this fun rather than bitter. After a while, I started to get a little bored. The epic poem rambles a bit, and parts of this felt like a series of music videos instead of a movie. I also thought that an intermission was a waste of my time, and hated several scenes that bombarded me with techno music. More than once, I thought this wandered into the too-much-of-a-good-thing territory, and the point was driven home a few too many times. Still, much credit has to be given to Nina Paley who apparently made all of this on her computer.
9. That Art Clokey left his wife and family for sixties counterculture, experimenting with hallucinogenics, being a Buddhist, and getting his picture taken with Frank Zappa.
10. That Clokey produced a beautiful 70s short called "Mandala" that looks like something pretty special.
11. That Gumby was taken to India to be blessed by a holy man.
I can't say I really liked the cutesy Gumby and Pokey narration/interviews, and there's a ridiculous Gumby/Art Clokey dance number at the end of the documentary. Other than that, this is good stuff. Well, there's the troubling period for Clokey in the 60s when he apparently loses his mind. That was sad. Henry Selick and Harryhausen make appearances. I really liked hearing Clokey (and his son) talking about how Gumby and his friends represent different parts of their creator's personality. "They're all me," Clokey said.
R.I.P. Art. Thanks for the Gumby. And somebody buy me a Moody Rudy!
Plot: Two college girlfriends, Martha and Karen, graduate with no real idea what to do with the rest of their lives. They decide to travel to an old house one of them inherited to turn it into a school for girls. When they get there, they find an uninhabitable house and a doctor playing with some bees in the attic. The doctor convinces them to fix the house up. The trio get the school going, and the brunette woman (Martha or Karen) and Dr. Joe become engaged. But when a troubled little girl, angry with being disciplined for being a pain in the ass, tries to get her revenge by spreading gossip, the lives of all three begin to unravel.
If I had to pick a least favorite decade in movies, it would probably be the 1930s. And These Three is ninety minutes of everything I hate about the decade. Actors who act like they're on a stage because they haven't figured out how to act in a movie, uninventive camera work, a suffocating score, unrealistic dialogue, and conflicts that are too easily resolved by the end of the movie. Although I like the central ideas (the ramifications that can stem from a single lie and the idea that children are evil), nothing about this thing rings true. When the characters spoke to each other, I couldn't help but screaming at my lap top (my dvd player is apparently broken), "People don't talk like that! Somebody slap those mo-fos!" I didn't mind Joel McCrea so much, and I enjoyed Walter Brennan in his small part as the "taxy" driver. But Miriam Hopkins and Merle Oberon, as Martha and Karen respectively, gave terrible, bloated, overly-melodramatic performances that actually made me want to spread vicious rumors about them. And the children's acting in this is brutal, especially Bonita Granville as the malicious Mary Tilford. Apparently, somebody (I'm blaming her parents) told her to "Give it your all, Sweety" before sending her to the studio to give a performance that I hated more than any other performance in recent memory. She screams nearly every line, has a few ear-piercing nervous breakdowns, and really makes any scene she's involved in almost impossible to watch. I looked her up and noticed that she played Nancy Drew a few years later. I was thinking about finding some Nancy Drew movies for my daughters to watch, but I would hate for Bonita Granville's wailing version of the detective to ruin the books for them.
This was recommended by Cory, apparently as revenge for my recommendation of How to Draw a Bunny.
Plot: Michael Travis is training to become a salesman for a coffee manufacturer when another employee unexpectedly dies, opening a door for him and giving him control over the Northwest part of England. He travels to his region to sell some coffee, apparently enters a dream, and has a series of surreal misadventures involving raunchy sex shows, top secret military locales, experimental hospitals, and hippie communes.
This sneakily surreal and completely fascinating satirical comedy-musical had been on my "Want-to-See" movies list for a while. It's likely way too long and definitely in the not-for-everybody camp, but I really enjoyed it. It's a movie with a rhythm of its own. There are a few outrageous moments (a very strange and shocking scene in the hospital most notably), but for the most part, this is a calm movie, filled with extended scenes and quiet humor. I really like Malcolm McDowell here. He's the center of attention for the entire three hours, and his performance just fits. It's the type of character whose shoes you can't imagine anybody else filling. Maybe that's just a Malcolm McDowell thing though. It's not just McDowell though because O Lucky Man! overflows with terrific comic performances, most of the actors playing three or four roles. Seeing the familiar faces pop up as brand new characters also added to the dreamy quality this has. I was surprised after I watched this movie how much I actually laughed out loud. This is a funny movie with no punchlines, and a few times, I think I laughed just because I felt the need to react in some way and figured laughing was as appropriate as anything else. There are a few times (once at the very beginning) when the film turns silent, black and white with title cards. Those are cool. Oh, and the songs. I thought this was supposed to be a musical, but the characters don't sing. There are interludes with Alan Price and his band though, and I enjoyed those songs and thought they added to the narrative. I won't claim that I completely understand what this movie's about, but it doesn't really matter. I thought this entire film was a treat, a baffling and refreshing and unique treat. Add this to the ever-lengthening list of great things that came from 1973.
Plot: Details the final three months of existential angst as fatally disillusioned Charles tries his best to feel something in a world he despises. His pals try to show him pictures of baby seals being clubbed to death to make him feel better about the world he's not sure he wants to be a part of, but he decides to kill himself anyway. The end.
Geez. This wasn't just depressing; it was profoundly depressing. Being thematically depressing is usually enough, but this is stylistically depressing as well. As I've learned to expect with Bresson, I didn't quite grasp everything after one viewing. This is thickly symbolic. Like with Pickpocket, we've got lots of open and closed doors, and I think there's something going on with transportation. The way the characters are displayed on screen is very odd, lots of characters shown walking slowly from the neck or even waist down for extended periods of time. The camera sometimes lingers on, well, seemingly nothing at all a lot of times. At first I thought it was the product of a director who's apparently lost his mind, but I think there was something deeper going on there, too. The narrative feels incomplete, drained of anything that feels vital, and the emotionally detached acting makes it difficult to connect to the characters. The actors seem completely bored with their roles. But am I allowed to say "in a good way" following that? I really think Bresson's refusal to allow the audience to emotionally invest in anything actually helps what's going on in the protagonist's head to go on in the viewer's head. By the time one of the final scenes (involving classical music and a television) comes along, you're about ready to lose faith yourself and off yourself right along with Charles. That's a great scene. So is the final scene, a scene on a bus when the title is spoken by a guy who barely gets his name in the credits, and a conversation with a psychologist. This isn't the most fun movie I'll watch this year, and there's absolutely nothing that will dazzle you about Le Diable Probablement. It's difficult and heavy stuff, but I'm really glad I saw it.
A Winter Rates recommendation.
Rating: 6/20 (Mark: 9/20; Amy: 19/20; Amy's friend: 20/20)
Plot: A birthday clown named Shakes has a lot of things going for him. He's got friends, he's got a girlfriend with aspirations of becoming a professional bowler, and he's got a shot at a television gig. Unfortunately, his alcoholism has gotten in the way of his career. When rival clown Binky gets the television role instead of him, it sends him over the edge. His girlfriend dumps him, his boss fires him, and his friends are no help. That's what happens when your friends are Adam Sandler, I guess. Things get worse when Shakes is the primary suspect in the murder of his boss. Oh, snap!
You've got to respect a film that makes a large (and largely unfunny) joke out of alcoholism. It's a dark topic for a comedy. The problem with this movie is the lack of anything resembling comedy. It's stuffed with jokes and slapstick more likely to make you roll your eyes than smile. One of the first scenes shows a child peeing on Shakes' face, and the onslaught of scatalogy and vomitology never slows down. The writing is bad enough to make jail time for writer/director/star Bobcat Goldthwaite a legitimate possibility. It didn't take very long for me to want to urinate on Goldthwaite's face. I liked the idea enough, but the story was very thin, stretched like rubber vomit into a ninety-minute film and about as deep as a cream pie. I've seen a lot of movies where I find a lot of scenes that should have been cut, pointless scenes that add absolutely nothing to the story. More than half of the scenes in Shakes the Clown were like that. Robin Williams was also in this. That's rarely a good thing, but this was apparently during one of his non-sober times. This did get a bonus point for a midget mime. I'd apologize for throwing out the M-word after saying I no longer would, but the alliteration was impossible to pass up.
This is one of my sister-in-law Amy's three favorite movies.
Plot: In Japanse-occupied Shanghai, future-whore Mai Tai Tai and her university drama student friends naively attempt to assassinate Mr. Yee, a important Japanese official. It doesn't work out so well, but a few years later, a guy recruits them to try again. Mai Tai Tai works to become first a friend of Yee's wife, then an occupant of his house, and finally his mistress. They do it, repeatedly and roughly, and the time soon arrives when the crazy kids can get a shot at their man.
I liked the last third of the movie a lot better than the first two-thirds, but it couldn't completely save this one. This was so deliberately paced, too deliberately paced, and it was really hard for me to focus for two and a half hours. Scenes were stretched so much that the minutia squeezed to the surface from their pores, and I'm sure Ang Lee thought the minutia was important for the audience to see, but I'm not completely sure that's the case. This movie could have been a lot shorter. Lee had the same problem with the overrated Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger which both had scenes that were far too long, and his Incredible Hulk movie which was about two hours too long. I know the feelings between the two characters had to be given time to become believable, but I'm not really even sure they were all that believable. When the movie ended, I was convinced that the guy was a creep, albeit a creep with feelings (Tony Leung Chiu Wai who, I noticed after glancing at his filmography I've seen in a ton of movies, is very very good) but that the woman was nothing more than a materialistic whore. But maybe that was the point. I'm not the type of movie watcher who typically loses patience with slow-moving dramas, but I did lose patience with this one, and it's definitely a movie I respected more than I enjoyed.
Rating: 16/20 (Jen: 17/20)
Plot: I really messed up on this one. I thought for sure I was about to watch Little Shop of Horrors around the Corner, the infamous film where Jimmy Stewart is repeatedly violated by a giant flower. Unfortunately, this has almost the exact same plot as You've Got Mail with Jimmy Stewart inventing the Internet and courting Margaret Sullavan through electronic mail.
OK, wait a minute. This takes place in Hungary? I didn't buy Jimmy Stewart as a teenager in It's a Wonderful Life, and I don't think he's very convincing as a Hungarian either. Despite that, I really like him in this. I don't always like him as much as some people, but he's got the right amount of charm and fragility in this to create a character that is very real within this kind of ludicrous situation. All of the performances are actually very good--co-star Sullavan, Frank Morgan (the Wizard) as the shop owner, the other employees in the little shop. Contrary to what Jennifer thinks, this is world's better than the Ryan/Hanks remake. It hasn't dated at all, and it doesn't manipulate the audience like modern romantic comedies seem to do. I can understand why this has been remade. It's a good story, and I did enjoy seeing it executed with grace and subtlety.
Plot: Walter Craig travels to an old house to meet with some people and shares with them that he is currently living a recurring nightmare. The psychologist doesn't believe him despite his ability to predict things that will happen. The other guests begin sharing their own tales of supernatural intrigue.
Interesting but a little dated "horror" film. The individual stories are a lot of fun in a Twilight Zone sort of way. In fact, I distinctly remember a Twilight Zone episode very similar to the first story with the hearse, and the Twilight Zone has about fifteen episodes with ventriloquist dummies. My favorite story-within-the-story is the final one with the schizophrenic ventriloquist. Some of the stories work a lot better than others, and some of the acting, most notably whoever plays the young woman, is over the top. The entire final sequence, an exercise in surreal dream logic, is surprising and very cool. Dead of Night's original structure, instead of just being a gimmick, aids in the storytelling and allows for tension and well-timed humor.
Recommended by Cory.
Rating: 9/20 (Dylan: 3/20; Emma: 11/20; Abbey: 15/20)
Plot: See Home Alone. Except place the child star who will later become a drug addict in New York City after he gets on the wrong plane and finds himself separated from his family. Other than that, things are almost identical.
Rob Schneider is in this movie. I don't feel the need to type much else about Home Alone 2. I think I probably could have written this screenplay with nothing more than the screenplay for Home Alone 1, ten bottles of white-out, a pencil, and forty-five minutes.
Rating: 7/20 (Dylan: 4/20)
Plot: Poor Mitch. Or whatever his name is. After his wife dies in an automobile accident, Mitch becomes a self-help guru, touring and writing books in order to help people move on after the loss of their loved ones even though he's far less than an expert in that category. While in Seattle, the hometown of his wife's parents and her parrot, he meets Jennifer Aniston and decides that having sex with her might help him to forget the past.
This movie starts with the cliche about making lemonade when life hands you lemons. I think the line (and subsequent similar banalities) is meant to show that Aaron Eckhart's character's self-help advice is trite and superficial. Still, it's a bad start to the movie. Actually, it might be the perfect start for this movie, an hour-and-a-half-or-so full of hackneyed drivel and predictable sludge. I stopped assuming Jennifer Aniston will eventually make a good movie a long time ago. She's the same character that she always is, and cute to the point where she becomes a real distraction. I don't know who this Aaron Eckhart fellow is, but he's got the range of a telephone pole. Love Happens' worst crime is when it spontaneously turned into a commercial for Home Depot. At that point, I turned to the guy sitting next to me on the plane (a guy who was on the first leg of a 26 hour trip to somewhere in the Middle East [or Middle Earth? I think he might have said Middle Earth.]) and said, "Can you believe this crap?" He opened his eyes and said, "Please stop talking to me. I really need to sleep." The best thing about this movie was probably the bird. And unfortunately, the bird wasn't even very good.