The Man with the Golden Gun

1974 James Bond movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: 007 finds out that the titular man wants to kill him with the titular gun and globetrots to find the assassin before the assassin finds him so that he can go back to saving the world or whatever it is he does.

Bitchin' 70s funk here! Within minutes, you've got Herve Villechaize, the appearance of a third nipple, fake skeletons, an old-timey shooting range, chaos in a house of mirrors, and wax figure finger target practice. Then, the theme song to end all theme songs! "One golden shot means another poor victim has come to a glittering end. For a price, he'll erase anyone. The man with the golden gun!" All behind the visual of women's dancing silhouettes against a background of fireworks! Shipoopi! Just when you think the movie has to slow down and take a breath, you're treated to details of a circus-born assassin, bellydancing, swallowed bullets, gun fondling, kung-fu hijinks, an attack with a watermelon, faux nipples, sumo wedgies, threats with a trident, something called a Solex Agitator or something, a car chase, a boat chase, another car chase, a racist Cajun, elephant molestation, a car-plane, a sun gun, a stunt that out-Dukes the Duke Boys with slide whistle accompaniment, a conceited Christopher Lee, explosions, more than a few bad puns, and a lot more Herve Villechaize. This is nutty stuff, but you've got a great bad guy doing his damage with a cigarette case, a lighter, and a fountain pen, and an intriguing plot stuffed with too many twists and turns for the average slide whistler to be able to keep up with. I'm far from a James Bond aficionado, but I really like the tongue-in-cheek approach this one has. It's nutty but not afraid to be nutty. It leaps on a kung-fu bandwagon unapologetically. It's got lines like Christopher Lee's "Look behind you. . .lower" which, in context, is as funny as anything I've heard in any comedies I've recently seen. It's got exotic locales, improbable action sequences galore, and beautiful women. And Herve Villechaize, sometimes shirtless! What more could a warm-blooded man want?

The Man from Laramie

1955 Western

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A guy who rolls up the cuffs of his jeans brings a load of supplies from Laramie to Coronado, a dinky town controlled by a rancher named Waggoner. Secretly, he wants to get to the bottom of who's selling rifles to the Apaches. He has a run-in with the mischievous Waggoner son, resulting in his wagons being burned and his mules being shot. He decides to stick around anyway and gets on everybody's nerves.

It's still hard for me to see Jimmy Stewart as a tough guy, but there's a terrific long shot of a very pissed-off Jimmy walking toward a guy who wronged him who apparently is also the cameraman. It made a believer out of me. The fisticuffs that follow, wrastlin' amidst a herd of cattle on the dusty streets, have a grit that lends a realism to the proceedings, as do a few gun fights that come later. We catch the stock characters in medias res, but as the story unfolds, there's a depth to them that I really like. That story's a little uneven at times, and there's a ludicrous explosion along the way. Parts of certain conflicts seemed unresolved or, when I did squeeze pieces together, didn't really fit right. Sort of like Jimmy Stewart's pants. There had to be easier ways for some of these characters to get what they wanted in the movie. Regardless, this is beautifully shot and well-acted Western that shows off the great American West in a story that, although it wasn't, seems like it was pinched from the samurai.

A Man Called Horse

1970 movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: King Arthur, taking a break from shooting birds to bathe in a stream, is attacked and captured by Sioux Indians. At the Sioux village, he's forced to work for Buffalo Cow Head. To make matters even worse, someone left his cake out in the rain. Green icing's melting all around, and he doesn't think he can take it. It took so long to make it, and King Arthur will never have that recipe again. Oh, no! The Sioux make fun of him for obsessing over a cake. They dance around him, point at him with spears, and scream "Gay baker!" in a Sioux ritual called Hazing of the Homosexual White Man under the Fall Moon Dance. Eventually, King Arthur learns to appreciate Sioux culture and is suspended by his nipples to prove that he's actually a tough guy.

This is really just a metaphor about how far the typical man would go to get a woman to come into his teepee. But what a woman! Wankatanka! This is a pretty good film, a sort of cowboys and Indians thing but without any cowboys. It does have a more shots of Richard Harris's ass than you're likely to see in any other film, the possible exception being that second Harry Potter movie. Wankatanka! Harris's performance is a solid, physical one. Dame Judith Anderson gave what was likely the performance she was most proud of as Buffalo Cow Head. Nope, that's not a name I made up. This is a fascinating look at Native American culture although I wonder if it was all historically accurate. Highlights (other than Dumbledore's naked bum, of course) include the Sun Dance Ceremony in which Harris's character is suspended by two chest piercings and a dizzying battle near the end. The former looks completely real and completely painful, and the lighting and music contribute to make that a really powerful, if sort of unpleasant, scene. The latter's got some editing that could induce a seizure and is stuffed with scalping, pouncing, clubbing, and jousting, more action than you can shake a tomahawk at. A large percentage of the movie isn't in English (I doubt a lot of it, especially when Judith Anderson is involved, is spoken in Sioux either) and the other "language" isn't translated, but the story moves along just fine without words. I also liked a weird almost psychedelic sequence even though it dates the movie somewhat. It's groovy stuff!

Man of the Year

2006 dramedy

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Comedic talk show host Tom Dobbs (side note: Isn't there a real talk show host named Tom Dobbs?) decides to run for president. He's got no chance although with his hilarious speeches and shooting-from-the-hip approach, his popularity grows and he even gets an invite to a presidential candidate debate. Election day arrives, and to the surprise of everybody, Dobbs wins. However, the computer people running the vote just might be hiding details of a malfunction that gave Dobbs the victory.

Ah, Barry Levinson's movie almost tricked me. I anticipated more of a dumb comedy, but more than half of Man of the Year has more elements of a political thriller or drama than your typical comedy. So I was almost tricked into liking this thing, but the longer it went on and the more I thought about things, the more I realized how empty it was. As satire, it's incomplete. As a drama, it's color-by-numbers. And as I expected before popping it in, the comedy doesn't work either. The comedy comes mostly from conversations with Dobbs and his cohorts or from Dobbs speeches, sound bite after sound bite that I think are supposed to sound politically profound but mostly sound like stuff I've already heard before. There's dialogue where it seems like Robin Williams was given room to improvise, and those are the moments that failed most obviously. I will give credit to Man of the Year for using three of the most distracting actors working today (Robin Williams, Jeff Goldblum, and Christopher Walken) and somehow keeping the whole thing coherent and tolerable. Watching scene after scene with Robin Williams giving speeches or debating with quick flashes to Walken saying, "Yes!" or "Bring it home!" got pretty old though. The most irritating character is actually played by Laura Linney. Her performance is also irritating, but the biggest problem is that almost everything that happens to her character Eleanor Green is something that could only happen in movies. Even her name is a movie name. I just didn't believe in any of these characters, so I couldn't believe in their stories. This is a film that probably could have said something. But it doesn't and ends up incomplete and unsatisfying.

Superman Returns

2006 sequel

Rating: 10/20 (Dylan: 2/20; Emma: 12/20; Caden: 20/20)

Plot: Superman's been away a while, five years specifically. So has Clark Kent actually, but nobody's able to make that connection. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor somehow wins he appeal, is released from prison, and concocts a complicated plot to use crystals to make a big island because, just like in the first movie, he's obsessed with the idea of beach front property. Superman takes care of bad guys while dealing with the fact that Lois Lane has moved on.

I don't like this Superman. There's nothing wrong with this Brandon Routh kid, the guy who plays the Man of Steel, but just like the above poster presents him, he at times seems more like a magician in this movie than he does a superhero. Plus, this version of Superman is both a Peeping Tom and a wife stealer, and I felt bad for Lois Lane's new guy (Richard) who really did nothing to deserve having a guy in tights trying to move in on his girl. I didn't realize that this movie was a sequel. I thought "reboot" had more to do with starting from scratch, so I was surprised to see Marlon Brando and hear the recognizable music. Unfortunately, a lot of ideas are recycled, too, if not from previous Superman movies than from other contemporary comic book superhero flicks. This movie is uglier and darker though and the fun from those first two Superman movies (probably the other two, too) is replaced with a sinister seriousness, mostly because of a different Lex Luthor character. Kevin Spacey is awful here in what would have been called an attempt to Heath-Ledgerize his bad guy if The Dark Knight had come out a couple years before Superman Returns. Spacey looks more like Graf Orlok than a criminal mastermind, and I actually thought he was going to try to bite Superman at one point. At least he's about the right age, unlike Superman and Lois Lane who, despite being in a movie that takes place five years after the others, looks a lot younger than Chris and Margot. This movie's got some clean, crisp visuals, but the special effects aren't consistent, sometimes even within the same scenes. There's an early scene with involving a plane, easily more exciting than anything that happens later in the movie, that looks pretty cool, completely ridiculous, and all the adjectives in between. And don't get me started on how Lois Lane survives without a scratch despite being bounced around that plane like she is. There's also a scene with a young Clark Kent running through a cornfield that reminded me of the rubber-legged Clark Kent in the first Superman movie. Perhaps it's an homage to that scene? Ironically, my favorite effects were when Lex Luthor destroys a model train set. I liked that scene, and I also liked a completely unnecessary shot of Jimmy awkwardly eating a sandwich and a scene with a poorly-tattooed henchman and Lois Lane's son playing a piano duet. But when the best scene in an action movie is less than two seconds of a guy eating a sandwich, you've got a problem.

Note: I only saw the first fourth of this movie with Dylan, Emma, and Caden. They finished without me, and I had to finish watching later.

Indestructible Man

1956 science fiction B-junk

Rating: 7/20

Plot: A murderer known as The Butcher is executed for his crimes but soon after revived by a scientist and his assistant who start dicking around with his body. Not only is he brought back to life--he's also indestructible! He's ticked and wants revenge on his "friends" who double-crossed him.

This wasn't very good. Lon Chaney Jr., who I have nicknamed "The Man of One-and-a-Half Faces," competently plays a big, mute goon. There are a lot of unnecessary close-ups of his face, including one where he is supposedly dead but has wildly-flickering eyelids. He kind of looks like a Native American Andy Griffith at times. Hokey voice-over narration and almost constant music don't help this one, but it's got some moments--a surprise theramin, a scientist who can't pronounce the word syringe correctly, a gangster's womanly scream before a dummy version of himself is tossed off a roof, another obvious dummy thrown in an alley, attacks with a flame thrower and bazooka that prove the indestructible man's clothing is also somehow indestructible, and an improbably silly ending. This is cheap and choppy, seemingly shot in a fortnight, and beefed up with a ill-fitting and half-assed love story between the police detective and The Butcher's love interest. This story could have easily been told in under thirty minutes, so a lot of the seventy minutes drag. This is campy, but it's not really campy enough to make it worthwhile.

The Last Man on Earth

To celebrate the two year anniversary of when I last saw The Last Man on Earth, I decided to watch it again.

Long before the impressive "man" streak, long before my beard was longer than it is now but shorter than it was before, long before my wife threatened to take my life because of this blog, and long before I was ready to admit that Vincent Price is the greatest actor of all time, I sat down and watched this, the first adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. It was June 23, 2008. I sat down with my action pants (a pair of tights with a jock strap worn over them), a muscle shirt, and a bowl containing approximately eight servings of tapioca pudding, and I watched The Last Man on Earth. Halfway through, I realized (and I've never told anybody about this before, but this is the kind of thing you share on two year anniversaries) that the ghost of Vincent Price, sans pants (action or otherwise), had sat beside me, leaning forward slightly and fondling the coffee table like it was a woman. We watched the rest of the movie together. I laughed twice, and he shot me a look like you see on the poster there. I yawned once; he shot me the same look. One year and two days later, while I was celebrating the one year anniversary of when I watched The Last Man on Earth, I was playing Michael Jackson's Thriller, and the song "Thriller" came on. I had attached jumper cables to my nipples in anticipation of the part of the song where Vincent Price laughs, and at that precise moment, my telephone rang and a man named Lucas who I had briefly, at a gas station in Nebraska, conversed with about how many different kinds of soda pops there were now compared to when he was a kid and then never seen again informed me that the King of Pop had died. "I thought you'd like to hear it from me first," he said. "I'm drinking something called a Grape Crush. Where the hell do they come up with this stuff?" That night, I was visited once again by the ghost of Vincent Price, sans shirt this time, and we wept together while he quoted a line from "Thriller": "Now is the time for you and I to cuddle close together. Yeah." It was one of five life-changing experiences I had that week, but I don't remember the other four.

You can find my other write-up on June 23, 2008. My feelings haven't really changed. I think Price is excellent as usual. This movie really starts strong, sags in the middle with a really long flashback, and then has an unsatisfying conclusion. There are some great opening shots--empty gray buildings and streets, a gray sunrise, haunting gray corpses curled up on sidewalks or across stone steps, abandoned gray automobiles, a church sign with the ominous message "The end has come." And this has such a great opening line (Price's narration): "Another day to live through; better get started." The zombies really remind me of Romero's in Night of the Living Dead, but that could just be that I haven't seen a black and white zombie movie in a long time. I'd still rather them be mute though. When the zombies are first shown in motion, it's right after Vincent Price's character has thrown on a jazz record, and it looks for a moment like they're dancing. Something else I noticed this time around: There's a scene where Price is watching film, and he starts laughing at a scene with monkeys. It reminded me of the scene in Ghostrider where Nicolas Cage is laughing at televised monkeys, a scene that, if you haven't had to pleasure of watching Ghostrider yet, is very nearly a religious experience.

This is, for those of you keeping score, 50% better than The Omega Man and over 100% better than the terrible I Am Legend. And before you accuse me otherwise, that has nothing to do with my opinion on rights to own firearms or my racism.

The Man Who Knew Too Little

1997 comedy

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Wally, a Blockbuster employee from Des Moines, travels on his birthday to visit his brother in England. His brother is smack in the middle of business and pays for Wally to participate in the Theater of Life, an improvisational theatrical performance with audience participation. Wally takes the wrong phone call, is mistaken for a spy, and winds up in the middle of an assassination plot.

The saddest thing is that this has less laughs than The Man Who Knew Too Much. A lot less laughs. No, I take that back. The saddest thing is how it almost seems like they are setting things up for a possible sequel at the end of this, and there really isn't even enough material for this first movie. It's pitiful. This one's got a cute premise, but it's lackadaisically written. Characters are jerked from one bit of comic mischief to the next, and it doesn't take too long to figure out that there's just nothing here. Bill Murray seems to be going through the motions, hoping to coast on his Bill Murray fumes or something, and with a decent script, that would have worked fine. With nothing even resembling a decent script, he's just a tired parody of himself, most obvious during a too-long Russian dance scene that I suppose was intended to be both comic and suspenseful and succeeds in being neither.

Note: I've actually owned this movie for over two years (long story), and now that I've finally watched it (only because it has "man" in the title), I no longer have a use for it. Who wants it? Post your favorite movie quote in the comments below to be entered in a drawing to win The Man Who Knew Too Little.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

1956 movie

Rating: 14/20 (Cory: 14/20; Dylan: 3/20)

Plot: Following a medical conference, Indianapolis doctor Ben McKenna decides to explore Morocco with his wife Jo and their son Hank. Bad idea since Morocco is apparently the most dangerous place on earth! After befriending a mysterious Frenchman on their bus, a series of events occur that lead to poor Hank being kidnapped and taken to London. Dr. McKenna knows too much, but he isn't allowed to reveal anything as he and Jo zip on over to London to look for Hank, even though Hank is sort of obnoxious.

This is not one of Alfred Hitchcock's better efforts. It's colorful and the textures of both people-packed Morocco and nearly-vacant London add to the film. I like Doris Day even when she's singing the seemingly endless "Que Sera Sera," and I like about half of what Jimmy Stewart is doing. But there are more than a few of those moments of Jimmy Stewart awkwardness, like in a very exciting scene where his character has trouble eating. I really like Reggie Nalder, the guy who plays the assassin, looking like the kind of guy who should be a villain in a James Bond movie. The story is good here, and the building up of suspense in a climactic scene at the Albert Hall is very well done. Unfortunately, this movie is way too long, gets really goofy, and has a sort of second ending that really takes away most of the wallop that the Albert Hall scene delivered. It's a second ending that is way too long on its own, but it's also completely preposterous. Oh, and then there's a third ending which is a silly joke. It all leaves a bad taste in my mouth and nearly makes me forget the positives about The Man Who Knew Too Much. One positive I didn't mention is a scene in a taxidermy shop. That scene was easily the best of the film, and it has very little to do with the story. It's probably not a good thing when a red herring is the best thing about the movie.

This was actually a historic occasion, marking the first time I've watched a movie with blog-reader Cory. Jimmy Stewart is his favorite actor, but look at that poster up there. The guy can't even act on a poster!

Momma's Man

2008 movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Mikey (same guy who will eat anything in those Chex commercials, I think) has a job, a wife, and a baby back home in Los Angeles. For whatever reason, he doesn't want to be there and extends a visit with his parents and retreats back into his childhood. He stops answering his worried wife's calls, sits around reading his old comic books, throws a ball against the wall, thinks about walking down the stairs, decides against walking down the stairs, plays his guitar (poorly), refines old song lyrics, eventually tumbles down the stairs, eats, pretends to be doing work, and gets in touch with old friends and girlfriends. His parents, at first happy that he's around, begin to worry about him.

If this movie were a painting, you'd almost have to call it a still life. Mikey doesn't do much of anything. There's barely a narrative here. There are long periods of time without dialogue. There are scenes that go on long enough to aggravate the average viewer, and a lot of scenes that would make those average viewers ask, "Why the hell is that there?" This is a picture of ennui, a featherweight glacier, a slow-mo sketch of a mid-life crisis, and poor Mikey's a disembodied soul who has no idea what his next step should be. The film, as well as the non-acting of Matt Boren, is absorbing, however, and I couldn't help but empathize with Mikey even if I couldn't exactly identify with or completely understand him. There's not much flash in Azazel Jacobs' film. The cluttered and claustrophobic home fills the screen with lots of interesting things to look at, but I also thought it helped bring a focus, framing Mikey as this guy who feels trapped by forces that don't make sense, entombed in a silent turmoil. Director Jacobs has his own parents (according to the back of the dvd case) play Mikey's parents, and although neither of them can really act, they're both very likable and very real. The father looks like he could have wandered off the set of a David Lynch movie at times, especially in a scene where he shows his grown son a wind-up toy. And there's a really touching scene where the mother embraces Mikey, a scene that blurs into a flashback. But is it all entertaining? That's likely debatable. Fans of the dry humor of Jarmusch, Whisky, or Kaurismaki will likely enjoy, but it's definitely one of those types of movies that Shane typically likes where nothing really happens. I really love certain scenes in this one though--when Mikey "shaves"; when his friend, recently out of prison for unknown crimes, talks about how listening to the Indigo Girls in prison made him feel free and then sings one of their songs, a scene that could easily have been much shorter but at the same time was just about the perfect length; a scene where Mikey, in the middle of the night it seems, falls head-first down the steps and then gives a double thumbs-up to his parents when they emerge from the apartment to see what's wrong; the creepy neighbor in Los Angeles missing his backgammon partner; the parallel episodes with the wind-up toy and a shot of a trophy. Nice little movie that I probably wouldn't have bothered seeing if it didn't have "man" in the title. Speaking of the title, this does have a terrible one. Momma's Man? I could see Will Ferrell being in a movie called Momma's Man.

Cinderella Man

2005 boxing movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Jim Braddock loves punching people in the head. For a while during the late-1920s, he is really good at it and getting paid. Then, he breaks his hand. And everybody gets depressed. And he can no longer find anybody to pay him to punch people in the head. He desperately searches for work so that he can keep his wife and children fed and warm. A few years later, his manager gets him a one-fight offer, essentially to get paid to be knocked out for the first time by the then number two heavyweight contender. Improbably, he wins, and the performance puts him back in the spotlight as a legitimate contender to the heavyweight crown and as a people's champion.

Anybody who wants to make a derivative feel-good sports movie that teeters on edge of the Cliff of Over-Sentimentality starring the oft obnoxious Russell Crowe and the always obnoxious Renee Zellweger should watch this Ron Howard joint first to see how to get it just right. I was surprised that I liked this as much as I did, twice as much as Rocky and just as much as the original Karate Kid II. Crowe and Zellweger, as usual if I want to be fair, have fine, restrained performances, and it's so easy to root for them. There are several times in this story when poorly written dialogue or over-emoting could have made me vomit all over the boxing gloves and shiny pink trunks I wear when I watch boxing or boxing movies. (Yes, it's difficult to eat popcorn with boxing gloves on.) But the fears and worries, Crowe's when he has difficulty bringing home the bacon and Zellweger's whenever she pictures her man coming home with less head than he started out with, are restrained and authentic. Paul Giamatti, as Braddock's manager, tops both the leads with a great character and lines that he really gets to sink his teeth in. I also like a lot of the minor details, especially the ones that showed Braddock's relationship with his children. The Depression-era period detail paints a grim picture, and the boxing matches are brutally realistic and exciting. I did think the stuff with Braddock's friend and co-worker Mike, a sort of foil for the protagonist, could have been developed a little better, and I almost thought Craig Bierko's Max Baer was overly antagonistic almost to the point of silliness. I'm not exactly a boxing aficionado (Is Jorge Paez still around? That guy was my favorite!) so maybe Max Baer was actually just like that. This might not be the type of movie I love, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this, even to folks who don't necessarily like boxing.

The Lawnmower Man

1992 science fiction wackiness

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Remington Steele's been experimenting with the use of virtual reality and Hi-C Ecto-Cooler to make monkeys smarter. Of course, the government wants to use this super-intelligence to boost our military strength. After his monkey tries to escape, Remington decides it's time for a hiatus, but he knows he can have more success with a human subject.

Funny story: I saw this movie in a theater, and midway through, I spilled my popcorn on the floor and had a seizure but not in that order. I woke up, six days later if you believe my watch, and realized I was missing my kidney. I've never discovered who took my kidney or what he's doing with it, but the authorities ended the investigation after a twenty-five minute search for the culprit. A couple years ago, I had a pain in my lower back and went to the doctor. The doctor told me he needed to "get in there," and during surgery found that my kidney had been replaced with a Matchbox car, a little cement truck with a plastic mixer that spun around. When I awoke after the surgery, the doctor was standing by my hospital bed, kind of standing in a gay way I thought, holding the miniature dump truck. "You," he said to me in a very sanitized voice, "must have seen The Lawnmower Man."

The Lawnmower Man is a movie that manages to look dumber than Tron even though it was released ten years after that Disney classic. I think some of the costumes were even pinched from the Disney warehouses (the Tron section) for use in The Lawnmower Man. The poster claims this is based on a Stephen King short story, but I've read that story (in fact, it's the only story I've ever read) and it's about a guy who eats grass. Saying this story is based on the Steven King story is like saying Shark Tale is based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. Jeff Fahey is silly as the title character although he does stretch his acting chops a bit to play both a guy who looks too stupid to get a role in Dumb and Dumber and a vengeful hyper-intelligent computerized version of himself. Fahey's character is also in one of the more interesting sex scenes I've ever seen, a scene where he and the town slut get it on a virtual world. She begins to get a little uncomfortable, but the lawnmower man tells her, "I know what you really want." He then turns into this giant puking frog thing who spews red stuff on her. What? That's what she really wanted? Pierce Brosnan's also embarrassed to be in this movie (I imagine) and looks as lost as I was as he floats through jellybean advertisements and listens to lines like "Once I've entered the neural net, my birth cry will be the sound of every telephone in the world ringing at the same time." I also really enjoyed these lines:
1) "He was the best chimp I've ever had."
2) "Can we play cyber boogie today?"
3) "Whoa! That was sketched!"
4) "He was probably dancing with the booze lady."
5) "The first sign of psychosis is a Christ complex."
Those were paraphrased. The Lawnmower Man must be an embarrassment to anybody involved in the production. As a futuristic (now very dated) action update on Flowers for Algernon, this thing utterly fails.

Cannes Man

1996 comedy

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Big-shot producer Sy Lerner makes a bet with a buddy that he can take any individual his buddy picks and turn him into the talk of the Cannes Film Festival. Enter Frank, a cabbie with no film experience except for some work in a video store. Sy dubs him Sy Lerner and takes him to meet some other big shots, introducing him as screenwriter Frank Rhino, writing of Con Man.

Here's a cheap one. I'm surprised so many big names (Depp, Hopper, Del Toro, even Chris Penn!) agreed to be seen in something so crappy. As a parody, it falls flat. There's nothing especially biting here and not a single laugh. A lot of the crappiness, however, is because of sub-genre inconsistency. It's uneven as a mockumentary, seeming more like a traditional and cheaply-made narrative with a bunch of interviews and poor narration thrown in. Francesco Quinn (Frank Rhino in this and Anthony Quinn's son in the real world) provides that narration. His performance was awkwardly bad, terrible even. I looked him up because he seemed familiar, and I imagine that's because he was, in a completely different sort of performance, terrorist Syed Ali in season two of 24. He was also in Platoon. Seemingly, Cannes Man (or Con Man or apparently and goofily Canne$ Man) was filmed with a scant script. A lot of the interviews seem to be select samples from much longer improvisational ramblings, and a lot of the dialogue feels more spontaneous. But for the most part, it seems as if the director gave the talent an instruction to improvise but with a "Don't Even Think About Saying Anything The Least Bit Funny" rule. An extended cameo involving Sy and Frank visiting Jim Jarmusch and Johnny Depp is probably the funniest part of the movie, but that might be the reason why it seems to clash with the rest of the story. This movie thinks it's just so clever. It isn't.

The Thin Man

1934 murder mystery comedy

Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 16/20)

Plot: A thin man goes missing. After the murder of a couple of his acquaintances, retired detective Nick Charles, vacationing with his new wife Nora and their dog Asta, finds himself involved in the case. It's unfortunate because all he really wants to do is drink and spend Nora's money.

The first time I watched this, the mystery, even after William Powell's Nick summarizes the whole thing at a dinner party at the end of the movie, was a complete mystery to me. I lost interest in that part of the story, the part you'd think would be pretty important since, and just enjoyed the banter between Powell and Myrna Loy, the zippy dialogue and prickly but playful teasing. It was so entertaining, and I'd never heard early 30s movie banter this good before. Now that I've seen The Thin Man a second time, the mystery part of the plot still doesn't make all that much sense to me, but there's still something so fresh and fun about the rapport between the two leads. I love their little dog, too. This movie will be celebrating its 80th birthday in a few years (probably with a lot of drinking), but it's got ten times the laughs and fifty times the wit of a modern movie with "man" in the title like I Love You, Man. The Thin Man can't hide all its wrinkles. Every scene involving a gun looks dated because the characters hold their weapons in such an old-timey way. It's also very obvious that this was a quickie production. However, it's stuffed with a class and elegance that modern movies painfully lack, and I'm looking forward to watching the thirty-five sequels as I continue my quest to break the world record for watching the most consecutive movies with "man" in the title.

I Love You, Man

2009 movie that Cory didn't warn me about in time

Rating: 8/20 (Jen: 6/20)

Plot: Paul Rudd's character (c'mon, you know the guy) has popped the question to his girlfriend of eight months. Zooey says yes, but soon after, she and her girlfriends start thinking that it's odd that Paul Rudd's character has no male friends. He overhears a conversation about their concerns and frantically tries to befriend another male so that he'll have a best man for his wedding. Enter Jason Segal's character (you know him, too). They hit it off wonderfully because they both like Rush. However, Paul Rudd's character has problems juggling his new friendship, his life with his future wife, and trying to sell the Incredible Hulk's house.

This is rated R, and I think I figured out what that R stands for. It's R for Recycled. This is essentially an Apatow clone, raunchy as all get out; a potential frat guy favorite; a smorgasbord of references to drinking, puking on people, sex, and man caves. I would almost swear on my wife's life that almost every line in this movie has been yanked without mercy (for the audience that is) out of a handful of other recent comedies and rearranged, like a William S. Burroughs' cut-up text, into I Love You, Man's script. About 85% of that script is Paul Rudd's character (you know, that guy) being really awkward as he attempts guy talk, slanging it up and trying to match the cool he hears in the banter of other men. He succeeds in being awkward, but he doesn't quite get to both awkward and funny. An ongoing gag about Paul Rudd's character (him) sounding like a leprechaun was actually pretty funny. Pretty funny. But most of the Klaven speak just seemed like an OK supporting actor trying way too hard to be a leading funny man. The best example is in a scene where (that one guy) Paul Rudd's character's fiance finds out that Paul Rudd's character (see: any other movie or television show with Paul Rudd) plays an instrument. He repeats "I slappa the bass" ad nauseam (in fact, Paul Rudd's character [you know who I'm talking about, right?] still might be saying it) while Zooey critiques his attempt at a Jamaican accent. I can understand the scene being in the movie, but I don't understand why it had to be twenty-five minutes long. Part of the problem with this is that it seemed the performers were given lots of room to improvise. Is some of the stuff they come up with funny? Sure. But when you have almost two hours of that same kind of funny, it gets tedious. Watching people in tuxedos and fancy dresses throwing pies at each other might be funny for a couple minutes, too. Would you want to watch a two hour pie fight though? Maybe the producers of I Love You, Man just wanted to jump on the green bandwagon, recycling and reusing what's worked the last few years to assemble this all-too-predictable comedy. Or maybe they're just really lazy.

Now that I think about it, I probably would want to watch a two hour pie fight. But only if Tarantino directed it.

He Was a Quiet Man

2007 garbage

Rating: 3/20

Plot: A disgruntled, bullied office worker named Bob, egged on by his talking goldfish, tries to muster up the courage to shoot five of his co-workers and himself. Another co-worker beats him to the trigger, however, and when Bob manages to shoot him and save a life, he becomes a hero. Jack Bauer's daughter is somehow involved.

This is the type of movie where during the end credits, you realize just how much it disagreed with you and begin vomiting up the movie so that you have He Was a Quiet Man all over the floor, walls, and even the ceiling. Projectile. So not only did I have to go to all the trouble of taking this dvd out of a case, putting it in the player, hitting a button, and spending ninety minutes with this terrible piece of crap, but now I have to clean little wet chunks of Christian Slater, William H. Macy, and Elisha Cuthbert up. And William H. Macy stains! I'll probably have to repaint the entire bedroom now. And, like Pavlov's dog, I probably won't be able to walk into my bedroom without thinking of Christian Slater yelling, "I am not a spoon!" and get nauseous again. That's right. Because of He Was a Quiet Man, I will no longer be able to enjoy sexual intercourse in my bedroom. Let's look at the sins of this movie. It's got some of the worst acting I've seen in a long time. Christian Slater just sucks anyway, but at least he's not channeling Jack Nicholson in this one. This has to be the worst that William H. Macy has ever been. There's a guy who's made some solid career choices. I don't recognize any other names on the cast list and I'm trying to forget character names, but this is just stuffed with bad actors playing predictable and/or unbelievable characters. This has some really gimmicky effects (sped-up vehicles, talking fish) including the worst CGI in the history of cinema. It's a scene where Bob is imagining blowing up the building he works, and the computer effect is so bad that it really could have been "animated" using Microsoft Paint without much difference. You wouldn't believe how bad it is. There's some cheesy songs, including some written and performed by director Frank Cappello. Cappello wrote Suburban Commando (starring Hulk Hogan) and Constantine, a movie recently written about on reader Kairow's comic book movie blog. Throw in a lame montage, a goofball sexual scene with Slater and a quadriplegic, dialogue that Ed Wood probably would refuse to take credit for writing, and a twist that I'm not even sure was a twist and you've got yourself a film-school project gone embarrassingly wrong. Black comedy, Lynchian nightmare fantasy, straight drama? I don't know what the hell this is, and I really hope nobody reminds me that it exists within an hour after I've eaten.

The Man Who Wasn't There

2001 existential neo-noir

Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 18/20)

Plot: Ed cuts hair in his brother-in-law's barber shop. One day, he decides he's not content with his life after listening to a customer go on and on about plans to start a dry cleaning business. Ed decides to invest. The problem is that he doesn't have any money to invest. He comes up with a dumb plan, probably because he's a dumb guy, to blackmail his wife's boss. Things don't go as planned.

This is one of the best-looking black 'n' white movies I've ever seen. The Coen brothers sure know how to use blacks and whites, and their homage to noir is complete with twirling smoke from omnipresent cigarettes, dark shadows, gratuitous fedoras, and sharp contrasts. The Coens throw in all the elements of classic noir and just to keep things interesting, add UFO's into the mix. That genre's existential themes, here more obvious with repeated lines of dialogue and the sort-of narrated epilogue Billy Bob has, are also present here. With Ed, we've got a character who can't find his niche in the world, a character trying to mold some sort of existence for himself, a character who's lost and transient and directionless. And perhaps better than any other filmmakers, the Coens are able to incorporate imagery and symbolism to help nail down that theme, from the beginning shot of a rotating barbershop pole (of course, spiralling down and without the striking red and white) to the chair and razor at the end of the movie (a parallel image to the chairs and razors associated with Ed's profession) and all the numerous circles, hubcaps, lights and shadows, hair references, sonatas, and UFO 's in between. Thornton's deadpan performance is disarming. He's a man suffocated by his own existence, yet he seems oddly unaffected by the mess he's gotten himself in. Lots of faces familiar in the Coen universe, those typical oddball characters that inhabit their stories. I thought Frances McDormand was especially good, and Tony Shalhoub (not to be confused with Shooby Leboof) seemed like he was born to play the hotshot lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider. The story's got some left turns and it's not always clear exactly what's going on, but it's all told with such a remarkable visual flair and an abundance of style, that it doesn't really matter. It's not all noir moodiness and fatalistic despair either. I thought a lot of the movie was pretty funny, but there were times when I laughed or almost laughed and thought, perhaps because of the somber tone of the movie, that it was inappropriate, like (SPOILER ALERT!) in a car crash scene where a car flies absurdly across the screen. Like a lot of Coen bro movies, I can't quite put all the pieces to this haunted stroll through a barber's nightmare together, but it's definitely fun to meditate upon. I saw this way back when it came out and didn't remember it so well. I don't know why I'm surprised that I liked it as much as I do.

The Cameraman

1928 comedy

This is already on the blog, and my opinion hasn't really changed. Everybody should see this movie. I think this one is an example of a movie that is actually great rather than being just a great Buster Keaton movie. Apparently, I'm a little biased some times. A couple things:

1) Very few title cards used in this. They did a good job showing the "dialogue" nonverbally.

2) Marceline Day might have been Buster's most attractive love interest, good looking enough that I'm planning on using some of the tips I learned from A Guide for the Married Man and attempting to hook up with her.

3) I'm still convinced that Josephine the Monkey's performance in this is one of the best performances by monkey or human in movie history. Josephine makes Christian Bale look like a hack!

Now, for your review, my ranking of Buster Keaton's silent films:

1) The General
2) Steamboat Bill, Jr.
3) The Cameraman
4) Sherlock Jr.
5) Our Hospitality
6) The Navigator
7) Go West
8) Seven Chances
9) Three Ages
10) Battling Butler
11) College

I haven't seen The Saphead yet. I'm not sure why.

A Guide for the Married Man

1967 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Inspired by his friend Ed's swinging lifestyle and despite having a very supportive, lovely, and seemingly perfect wife at home, Paul decides he wants to have an affair. His buddy Ed shows him the ropes of adultery, guiding him with a series of rules, taking him on a trial run, and prepping him for a night of cheating.

I had a lot of trouble buying into the idea that Walter Matthau and Inger Stevens would even be married, let alone that Matthau would feel the need to cheat on her. I liked this comedy a lot more than I figured I would. In a lot of ways, it seems like it would have been dated when it came out, the outrageous chauvenism seeming like a product from a much earlier, less enlightened time. However, the flamboyant direction really does a lot to bring this to life and even with the dated fashion and lounge music soundtrack (and that terrible theme song performed by The Turtles), this really has a modern feel. The zippy vignettes and playful style almost dance, appropriate since Gene Kelly directed this thing. The style actually reminds me of a modern sitcom, definitely something from the post-MTV era when nobody has an attention span. One could call a lot of the gags as outdated as Walter Matthau's suits, but there are some witty bits throughout. Still, this movie might be more fun than it is funny. This is comedy for juvenile adult males, but its originality, its swarms of shots of attractive women, and countless fun cameo appearances make it worth a look. A long lustful look.

Special note for Jen: This was not research.

The Man Who Laughs

1928 drama

Rating: 16/20 (Jen: 2/20)

Plot: Based on a Victor Hugo writing, this is the story of the oddly-named Gwynplaine, the son of a lord who pissed off a king. Young Gwynplaine was punished for the sins of his father by having a permanent surgically carved to his face. He's abandoned by gypsies, and while wandering through the snow to look for help, he comes across a baby in the arms of her dead mother. He and the baby eventually arrive at the home of Ursus, a philosopher, and he raises them. Years later, Gwynplaine and blind Dea put on plays as part of a traveling circus. They're in love, but Gwynplaine has low self-esteem because he grins all the time and is apprehensive about marrying his beloved. Meanwhile, an evil jester named Barkilphedro (damn, was Hugo even trying on these names?) is thinking up a plot to get rid of Gwynplaine as part of a ploy to gain favor with the queen.

This movie really could have been cut by thirty minutes without losing anything at all. It's a Paul Leni joint, and there's some of the expressionist set design (especially in a scene where young Gwynplaine wanders past a series of gallows), and a lot of experimental shots and unusual perspectives (most memorably a shot from a Ferris wheel) that he's known for. The Man Who Laughs has also got editing that surprised, reminding me of Battleship Potemkin. I guess that makes sense since Potemkin came out three years before this one, but I was still surprised by the quick cuts, jarring in comparison to most silent movies. There's also a nice texture to Leni's 17th Century England. The old and ominous castle walls, some torture paraphernalia, and statues concealing secret passageways added a moodiness at the beginning of the movie. There are a lot of scenes that go on way too long, but this one has more than its share of great scenes, ones that connect emotionally in a way that doesn't seem typical of 1920's melodramas. I really liked one lingering scene where a clown removes his make-up while Gwynplaine, with his permanent preposterous and grotesque grin, watches. There are a lot of good performances here, especially for the silent era, but Conrad Veidt's performance as the laughing man himself is really impressive. Think about it. You have to portray hurt, despair, fear, happiness, and a variety of other emotions without the benefit of a variety of facial expressions. To look sad with a big goofy grin on your face? It's not easy. And I should know because I spent about two hours in front of my bathroom mirror trying to do just that. I thought it was a great performance.

Admission: I had to give this movie a bonus point because of Homo the wolf, played, according to the opening credits, by "Zimbo." He's blind Dea's dog. I just love that there were title cards that said nothing but "Be quiet, Homo!" or "Where are you taking me, Homo?" There are also some ridiculous "special-ed" effects used with Homo at the end of the movie where it looks like a guy's attacking himself with a really stiff stuffed animal. I often add my own dialogue to silent movies, so of course I spat out a "Get him, Homo!" at that point.

The Man of the Year

2003 Brazilian movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: An unemployed 20-something with nothing exciting whatsoever on the horizon loses a soccer bet and has to dye his hair blond. His new hairdo adds some unanticipated pizazz to his life, and with a new confidence, he's able to ask out that pretty hairdresser and he's able to shoot the guy who called him a fag. That murder makes him a popular guy with local entrepreneurs and inspires his dentist to recruit him as security for businessmen willing to pay him.

This has cool covered. The Man of the Year is stylish, and the premise is as nifty as it is improbable. It sure is a jumpy movie, both visually with some quick cuts and handheld camera work and with a oft-disjointed plot. The jumpy plot isn't really a criticism. The story skims along, touches the high points, and focuses more on the causes and their effects. In a way, it lacks depth, but it's usually entertaining. My main criticism is that I had trouble feeling anything for the main character. I wanted (and I'm guessing the director wanted me) to like him, but there are a few moments when he does some reprehensible things and is guilty the entire movie of selfishness. In a voiceover at the beginning of the movie, the protagonist tells us that God has messed up his life in ingenuous ways, but I failed to see it. He was sort of driven by forces he couldn't control, but I wasn't sure these forces were driving him into a negative place exactly. So thematically, I thought this was pretty uneven. I'm not sure what the makers of this were trying to say about life in Brazilian slums or if there was any social commentary at all, but the poor urban backdrop did seem to add a little more than just texture to story.

The Man in the White Suit

1951 social comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Sidney Stratton's an inventive chemist and fabric genius who gets jobs with clothing factories in order to surreptitiously work on a new indestructible fabric that can never get dirty. After being fired by several factories, he finally has enough time to complete his experiments. At first, his employer thinks it's a terrific idea, but the rest of the fabric community realizes that Stratton's invention might cost them a ton of money.

Awesome comedy! This is suave and sophisticated comedy with just a pinch of cynicism that gives it a sharp edge. The great Alec Guinness is about perfect, and I like the rest of the class playing an assortment of characters, a few of them a little on the kooky side. A guy named Ernest Thesiger almost looks like he's been pulled straight from an offbeat cartoon as the turtle-like Sir John Kierlaw, a sort-of patriarch of the fabric industry. I just loved that character. I also loved the blooping and burping series of test tubes and beakers and other chemistry gadgets that Guinness would assemble everywhere he went. The sound effects used for that sounded like something from Raymond Scott's kitchen! I've got to remember get the mini-disc recorder to sample some of that. The Man in the White Suit is well-written comedy, slyly hysterical and perfectly paced with a great story that has a little to say about capitalism, greed, labor, and the dangers of progress. I also love that movie poster up there. Another Ealing winner!


1984 science fiction romantic comedy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: It's the exact same plot as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial except in this version, things get erotic between E.T. and Elliott. It's also a version where the producers don't have any money, so instead of using special effects and making an alien-lookin' thing, they just use the guy from Tron.

I wrote down a note while watching Starman. It's illegible because I wrote it, but I think it might say "shouts wad - explosion!". I don't know what that would mean. I can't remember a wad - explosion anywhere in the movie. Whenever I do remember anything about this movie (I remembered little from when I saw it as a child), I'll probably remember the creepy visual of an infant Jeff Bridges transforming into an adult Jeff Bridges while Karen Allen watches. Weird stuff. The special effects in this film are a bit different. The space stuff looks weird, the blue hue looks weird, and everything that happens in Karen Allen's character's house once the alien arrives looks weird. But the effects are interesting and really don't date this movie. I like both Bridges and Allen in this. She quite easily could have turned her character into a wimpy obnoxious damsel in distress type but didn't. And he had to have felt pretty stupid doing some of the movements required for his character, but his performance is never overplayed and he brings a dignity to what could have been a really silly character. I think this movie is really funny, sometimes unintentionally so. When Karen Allen reveals that she doesn't know her states, any time Jeff Bridges walks in the first half of the movie, and a lot of the dialogue as the alien learns new English words and tries to use them. I do wonder how he picked up some of the weird syntax nuances in our language. I don't like the last half of this movie nearly as much as the first half, and Starman does have it's share of groan-inducing moments (i.e. when he looks at a picture of the husband and a Jeff Bridges head pops out of the picture and starts rotating; a lot of the love stuff; [SPOILER ALERT!] the whole baby cliffhanger thing). But this, despite essentially plagiarizing the plot of E.T. which came out two years earlier, manages to top Spielberg's blockbuster.

shouts wad - explosion

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man

2006 documentary

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Documents the career of reclusive "poet and composer of the unconscious" Scott Walker, from his boy band days to his current music that most everybody would find unlistenable. There are a whole lot of scenes of musicians listening to his music. There's also some studio video of recording sessions for The Drift, his last album.

First off, happy birthday to one of my four and a half readers, Mr. Larst! Hope you had a good one, big guy!

What I enjoyed or learned from this Scott Walker documentary:

1) Some pretty cool television appearance video. His voice (assuming it's not Milli Vanilli'd) is always strong, but he never looks completely comfortable on a stage. Of course, the documentary made a point about him not being able to perform live although he did say at the end that his next album will be one that he can reproduce live and has plans to tour.

2) Yes, the recluse is in this. And I'm almost a little disappointed with how normal and grounded he appears. He's just a guy, and when you listen to his music (especially the last two albums, released ten years apart), it doesn't sound like music that can be made by a normal human being.

3) If you're a male Scott Walker memorabilia collector, you're more than likely creepy.

4) My favorite interviewee was "Cally" Callomon. I had no idea who this guy was, but when he first appeared, they had him labeled as "Cally Callomon, no fixed profession" which I thought was funny.

5) Scott Walker signed a 12-album deal with Virgin in 1979. One of the interviewees said that at the pace he was making albums, he would finish his 12th album when he's over 200 years old.

6) There's footage of Jacques Brel in this. Man, did that guy have a sweating issue. He was drenched in his own perspiration.

7) Rumor Jarvis Cocker heard about Scott Walker before he met him: that he just likes to sit around and watch people play darts.

8) Melody is "banal," and musicians recording with Walker were often frustrated because albums would be made where the melody of particular songs was a "closely guarded secret."

9) There's some great footage of a guy slapping meat during a recording session. That's not the best part though. The best part is when Scott Walker has to instruct him on the best way to slap the meat. Apparently, the guy was slapping too rhythmically.

10) When a label guy was listening to Tilt with Walker and others for the first time, Walker insisted that it be played very loudly through giant speakers. The label guy eventually couldn't take it any more (it's an aggressive, harsh album) and asked if they could hear it through smaller speakers. Walker said (paraphrase), "I'd rather hear it through the big speakers because this is the only time I'm going to listen to this."

11) Another paraphrase of my favorite quote: "Scott Walker knows what sounds he wants in the studio and will often describe it in traditional ways. Other times, he'll say, 'I'd like a donkey.'" This was followed by a snippet of a song that uses the sound of a braying donkey.

12) Did anybody but Anonymous get this far?

A Man for All Seasons

1966 English king movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: More history, so I don't even know where to begin. It's all about Sir Thomas More and how he pisses everybody off, especially King Henry the VIII who wants to end a son-less marriage with Catherine, a woman he no longer finds hot, and marry Anne Boleyn, historically regarded as the Paris Hilton of the day. Sir Thomas More's a religious nut with too much of a conscience and refuses to first agree with Henry that this is all a good idea and later to take an oath which makes him a treasoner. More's head is removed (Oh, snap!), a decapitation which ruins his chances to take future oaths. Ironically, oath-taking was one of his favorite hobbies.

It's just great watching a collection of great actors (I believe the collective noun for that is a fluther of actors, just like the collective noun for a group of jellyfish) playing with such great writing, and A Man for All Seasons has a fluther of great actors and some terrific, literary dialogue. Paul Scofield won the Oscar playing a walking oxymoron, loudly silent and bursting with a calm fervor, but he couldn't have done it without the help from the supporters to bounce these lines off. Roseanne Barr gives a subdued performance as the Jabba-esque and weasly Cardinal Wolsey. George Segal is just right as the despicable Cromwell while Sonny Bono manages to be even more despicable with the brown-nosed Richie Rich character, with just the right amount of shadiness and flattery. And who wouldn't appreciate the comic stylings of Buddy Hackett as the Duke of Shipoopi or Vincent Price's unusual but interesting take on the Jiminy Cricket character. And I really dug the way Henry Winkler plays such a daffy Henry VIII. My favorite scene in the movie is when Henry jumps from his boat to a muddy shore, looks down at the mess he's splashed on himself, and starts laughing hysterically, joined in laughter by his entourage only after he glances back at them to see if they're laughing. Only an actor as good as the Fonz could manage to bring the funny without causing an otherwise serious film to completely lose focus. I really like the bits of humor peppered into the story. Lines drip with irony, murky cinematography (the film starts with shots of shadowy gargoyles) adds a sense of foreboding, and the tension caused by a tug-of-war match between God and government that threatens to tear poor More apart builds at a perfect pace. The movie's a pessimistic and timeless treatise on the negative effects that can result when a man actually follows his conscience and on how actions, or a lack of actions, speak more powerfully than any words can. There are a lot of ways the last scene could have been handled, but I thought the chilling and elegant ending this one has is about perfect. That a movie based on English history didn't completely bore me is a plus, and I wasn't bored by a single minute of A Man for All Seasons.

Note: Due to Blogger issues, I had to write this three times. The first one was probably the best.

Medicine Man

1992 movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Dr. Robert Campbell, sporting a ponytail because he's the type of doctor who doesn't play by the rules, is researching in the Amazon. He believes he's found a cure for cancer. Dr. Rae Crane, possibly the most annoying woman on earth, arrives to assist him, and Campbell tries to figure out a way to get cancer so that he can avoid being around her much longer.

This movie might be worse than cancer. Lorraine Bracco. I couldn't tell if her character was irritating or if her acting was irritating or if it was an unholy combination of both of those, but I haven't been this annoyed by a character since watching Willie in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Sean Connery is playing pretty much the same guy he plays in every movie except he's got the ponytail in this one. His gruffness or misogyny or whatever you want to call it seems manufactured or heavily scripted. And that gruffness or misogyny or whatever you want to call it makes the developing relationship between the two main characters completely improbable. This movie might have broken a record for me losing interest in what's going on. I lost track about three and a half minutes in, said, "Ah, screw it. Maybe some exciting stuff will end up happening. . .or maybe Shooby Leboof will pop up later one!" and then sat in bored confusion for almost two hours. And how am I rewarded for my efforts? Treacle in the hair! I guess I now know why I'd never heard of this movie. There are a lot of images of barely-dressed native peoples if that's your bag.

Man on the Flying Trapeze

1935 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Ambrose Wolfinger (I love these names in W.C. Fields' movies) has a shrew for a wife. To compound things, he lives with his mother-in-law and his no-good, unemployed brother-in-law. At least his daughter is nice to him. After brushing his teeth, he goes to bed, but the couple are awakened when a pair of burglars begin singing in the cellar. This somehow results in Ambrose being arrested. The following day, he really wants to go to a wrestling match, so he tells his boss that he's got to attend his mother-in-law's funeral and gets the afternoon off. If his plans worked, we wouldn't have much of a comedy.

Hey, guess who's in this movie. Go ahead. Take a guess. No, not the Yugoslavan Burt Reynolds. Nope, Don Knotts isn't in this. Buddy Hackett? No, he's not in Man on the Flying Trapeze. Shirley Temple? No, but that's a good guess. Give up? Tor Johnson is in this movie! Tor Freakin' Johnson of Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 from Outer Space fame. Tor Johnson, the beast in The Beast of Yucca Flats. Fields' character in this is more likable. You don't always feel sorry for his characters, but Ambrose works hard and puts up with more than an Eskimo. And as things get more and more complicated, Wolfinger remains indomitable, unflappable. There's nothing really hysterically funny going on here, but the absurdity of the uber-bungling burglars delivering their extended rendition of "On the Banks of the Wabash," Wolfinger's traffic problems, and the mother-in-law's discovery that she has passed away are pretty funny. And I loved Wolfinger's truthful lying upon his return home after the wrestling match. After this movie ends in a satisfying way, there's another tacked-on abrupt ending that falls flat, but it doesn't change the fact that Tor Johnson is in this movie. My main gripe, probably a big one, is Mrs. Wolfinger played by Kathleen Howard. She's really obnoxious, that 1930s kind of obnoxious, and I couldn't stand her. Of course, that was likely the point.

Man Is Not a Bird

1965 movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: An older man arrives in an industrial town to oversee work at a copper factory. While in town, he starts sleeping with a hairdresser who also happens to be his landlady. A guy with a moustache, the Yugoslavan Burt Reynolds, also constantly comes to the barber shop for groin thrusting and mild fondling. Meanwhile, a worker at the factory has troubles at home resulting from his adulterous ways.

This, Dusan Makavejev's first movie, is not an entertaining movie at all, and it doesn't make me want to rush out and find any of Dusan Makavejev's other movies like Dusan Makavejev's second movie, or Dusan Makavejev's third movie, or Dusan Makavejev's fourth movie. The dvd box set me up, convincing me that I was about to watch something "antic" and although there were some free-form elements and an almost pseudo-documentary approach that gave the film a different and almost exciting feel, I was kind of bored. I think part of the problem is that I couldn't connect with the politics, the social issues, or the Yugoslavia historical importance. There was a hypnotist in a few scenes with a hypnotist, the truck driver with the moustache (the Burt Reynolds of Yugoslavia), the people working at the mill, a circus, a performance of Beethoven's Ninth right at the factory, but I couldn't figure out how it all connected or what it all added up to. So while the acting and some individual scenes are fine and the gritty style promising, this sub-eighty minute movie almost seemed longer than The Music Man. And there was no Buddy Hackett!

The Man with Two Brains

1983 comedy

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Neurosurgeon Dr. Hfuhruhurr, still mourning the loss of his wife, falls in love with a woman he runs over while giving an egotistical interview. He saves her life thanks to his screw-top technique and marries her. Unfortunately, Dolores Benedict is incapable of love and is more than likely planning on murdering Hfuhruhurr for his money. Now I'm not sayin' she's a gold digger, but she ain't messin' with any broke neurosurgeons. And she won't consummate the marriage, leaving Hfuhruhurr frustrated and unable to focus on his work. They honeymoon in Europe where the doctor falls in love with a brain in a glass jar that he can communicate with telepathically. If only there was a body in which he could put this beloved brain! Oh, snap!

Moderately funny movie with jokes ranging from nearly clever to far too obvious. At times, it seems like a middle schooler wrote this which is only good for the gratuitous nudity or partial nudity, mostly involving the sultry Kathleen Turner or, more accurately, Kathleen Turner's body double. This wears out its welcome kind of quickly and turns into nothing more than an excuse for Steve Martin to wave his arms around in an exaggerated way like he does in every movie or television show he's in. Don't get me wrong. Steve Martin waving his arms around in an exaggerated way is hilarious! This is dumb comedy, patched together and flailing and predictable, and although there's definitely a place for dumb comedy, this is nowhere near a classic of the genre. Paul Benedict plays a butler.

Dead Man

1995 metaphysical Western masterpiece

Rating: 18/20

Plot: William Blake arrives via Crispin Glover-driven train to the Wild West town of Machine where he's been promised a job as an accountant. He's too late, and the job's been given to somebody else. His life is threatened. He meets a woman, and because he looks just like Johnny Depp, she sleeps with him. Unfortunately, her fiance strolls in after the deed is done and shoots them both. Blake kills the man, steals a horse, and flees into the wilderness. An Indian named Nobody, thinking he's the reincarnation of English Romantic poet William Blake, guides him on his journey as a trio of bounty hunters--the vile Cole Wilson, the verbose Conway Twill, and young Johnny "The Kid" Pickett--sent by his victim's father track him down.

On certain days, usually Thursdays when the sun's hitting me just right and I've added just the right amount of sugar to my tea, my answer to the question "What is your favorite Western featuring Iggy Pop wearing a dress?" would probably be this peyote-induced nightmare of a travelogue, Dead Man. Man, does Jim Jarmusch know how to start a movie or does Jim Jarmusch know how to start a movie? Following a quote about how it's preferable to not travel with a dead man, you get the incoherent ramblings of Crispin Glover and the senseless shooting of buffalo from a train. Then, Depp's character enters Machine. William Blake walks the dusty street, passes a coffin shop a la Hang 'Em High, a bunch of animal skulls fastened to a wall, a wagon filled with antlers, a urinating horse, a grunting hog in the middle of the road, Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes on the receiving end of a blow job, and a creepy-looking fellow with troll ears and a troll nose, all with Neil Young's plaintive guitar. They're visuals that let you know what's what in Machine, reminiscent of one of my favorite film images--Kurosawa's dog with a human hand in its mouth at the beginning of Yojimbo. The tone is set, and then you get a ceaselessly surprising man-on-the-run Western with more great Neil Young, lovely shots of great American Western landscapes shot in crisp black and white, an odd assortment of characters and cameos, faux-philosophies, and the best comedy this side of Dante's Inferno. This might be the funniest movie I've seen all year, and it's definitely the funniest Western ever made. Sorry, Mel Brooks. At the center of that is William Farmer's Nobody, the embodiment of a stereotype, spouting Native American-ish riddles and non sequiturs. My favorite scene might be where Nobody tries on William Blake's hat. No, my favorite scene is probably where Nobody and Blake are watching three mysterious men, one being Iggy Pop as "Sally" and another being Billy Bob Thornton, and barely being able to hear snippets of Iggy's retelling of the "Three Little Bears" story. Or maybe my favorite scenes are the ones with Robert Mitchum. No, wait, Crispin Glover's in the movie, so my favorite scene probably has him in it. Or maybe they're all my favorite scenes. It's definitely unique, a riddle of a film that grows every time you watch it and one of those movies you almost want to watch again as soon as it's over. It might be an acquired taste. It's dreamy Johnny Depp as a straight man in an askew Wild West philosophical comedy, mysteriously poetic and absurdly fascinating, and if you've got a high tolerance for the offbeat, this just might be your cup of poisoned tea.

Now, do you have any tobacco?

The Music Man

1962 musical

Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 14/20)

Plot: A fast-talkin' travelling salesman
arrives in River City, Iowa to con its inhabitants by promising to create a boy's marching band despite having no musical training. He falls for the librarian, the town whore, and cleverly avoids pressures from the members of the school board and the town's mayor to show them his credentials. Everybody sings. A lot.

At two and a half hours, this is at times a test of endurance. If you don't like musicals, you're not going to like The Music Man. It's a musical in every sense of the word. At least it never seems like a stage musical though. The camera's fluent, weaving its way through the colorful characters and the colorful River City, and personality just bursts through the screen. Not literally. I would have been pissed if all those colors ended up on my living room floor. However, if I had to have a movie all over my living room, The Music Man wouldn't be a bad choice. It really is gorgeous. Director Morton DaCosta does a terrific job making Iowa look like the most exciting place on earth. An interesting thing happens to a person physiologically while watching The Music Man:

1) You're so happy that you're watching this during the first half. You vibrate internally, your left arm twitching abnormally. If male, you may have a boner.

2) Around "76 Trombones" you lose control and run head first into a wall, an attempt to stop obsessing over band instruments as phallic symbols.

3) You wake up thinking, because you dreamed it, that there was a Buddy Hackett nude scene, but while you're enjoying the memory, you notice a sharp pain in your lower back and discover that somebody has removed one of your kidneys. During the fifth reprise of "Gary, Indiana," you investigate and discover that you somehow removed your own kidney.

4) At a little over the halfway point, Ronny Howard begins speaking to you subliminally. He tells you, in what might be the worst lisp in cinematic history, that you should find Satan and, no matter what he tells you, kill him. He hints that Satan may be living inside your puppy.

5) You decide you need a break and pause the movie to see if your children still remember who you are or if they've all graduated from college and gotten jobs.

6) Buddy Hackett begins dancing and saying, "Shipoopi!" over and over again. You become a polytheist, believing instantly that every role Buddy Hackett played in his career is a separate god. You have to pause the movie again to found a religion based on your beliefs. You put on a white shirt and a white tie, travel door-to-door in your neighborhood, and let everybody know about the power of Shipoopi. You're assaulted and eventually stoned to death. You resurrect in three days in an ill-fitting plaid suit you've never seen before.

7) During the eighteenth reprise of "Gary, Indiana," you start thinking about Robert Preston living in contemporary Gary, Indiana, singing and dancing in his checkered suit, and being murdered in broad daylight by thugs. You can no longer concentrate on The Music Man because you can't see through your laughter. You pause the movie and laugh for thirty-seven straight hours before you're able to resume.

8) More internal vibration!

9) You finally finish the movie after a month, realizing that you can no longer see out of your right eye, hear out of your left ear, smell out of your right nostril, feel with your left hand, or taste anything white. You decide that it's worth it.

Side note: I honestly feared for my life while watching The Music Man. I really thought Jen was planning on killing me.

Shipoopi! Shipoopi!

The Old Man and the Sea

1958 fishing movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: An old Cuban man, here played by famous Cuban actor Spencer Tracy, doesn't have a lot of luck. He stoically ventures out every day in his boat, but he hasn't caught a fish in months. Everybody makes fun of him except for a boy who apparently looks up to losers. One day, Spencer Tracy decides to go out further than the others and manages to catch a gigantic fish after struggling with the beast for a few days. Unfortunately, shark trouble and fatigue make it difficult for the old man to get his prize back home again.

This terrific Man v. Nature conflict isn't without its problems. The entire movie is narrated (by Tracy, in third person) which is usually something that doesn't work for me. The narration is a little uneven although it's hard to argue against Hemingway's text being in the film. Hell, Hemingway would probably punch me for even suggesting that his text shouldn't be in this picture. There are probably multiple reasons why Hemingway would want to punch me though. Ultimately, I surprisingly like the narration in this one even though I'd usually rather wrestle with a big fish for days than watch a movie with this much narration. It doesn't seem possible that this single-character-out-in-a-boat thing would work without the internal dialogue. The biggest problem with this movie is that old man is in a studio a lot of time instead of being in the sea. Apparently blue (green?) screen technology hadn't been perfected in '58 because there are a lot of scenes where Spencer Tracy's got a white line around him, obviously not anywhere near the beautiful backdrop behind him. It's tacky, and Hemingway, who apparently didn't like this movie anyway, probably should have punched somebody over it. The whole production has the feel of a Disney movie. Having said all that, the story is beautiful, and those aforementioned backdrops perfectly compliment it. There's a scene where the fisherman are departing before dawn to fish for the day. The sunrise, the line of boats, the sparse lighting, and the infinite sea sure are pretty, and the haunting male choral soundtrack nearly makes the scene a religious experience. While watching the build-up to the catching of the fish and everything that happens on the old man's journey back home, I had some worries about how they'd pull it off, but it all looked good. These one-man shows wouldn't be easy to pull off, but you can read Santiago's frustrations in the lines on Tracy's face. I thought his performance was moving, and it was easy to empathize with his character. The movie's good, but I'd still recommend the book first even though it takes a little longer to get through.

If I travelled in a time machine to visit Ernest Hemingway and described blogs to him and how I had one, do you think he would try to punch me?

The Wrong Man

1956 Hitchcock movie

Rating: 15/20 (Jen: 15/20)

Plot: The Right Man has been flying around the neighborhood committing armed robbery. The Wrong Man, jazz bassist Manny Balestrero, looks a lot like The Right Man, and is mistakenly identified as The Right Man even though he's actually The Wrong Man. He's arrested for the crimes, and he and his wife, The Wrong Man's Right Wife, have to find an alibi to prove The Wrong Man's innocence.

Ah, Hitchcock, you're a tricky one. After he gets his shadowy cameo out of the way early, he gives us a scene with our protagonist walking out of the Stork Club, his place of employment, and down a sidewalk while flanked by a couple coppers. It's a wonderful bit of visual foreshadowing. There are a bunch of shots I really like in this one. Hitchcock gives this "true [suspense] story" a noir flavo[u]r, and the way the city and its shadows are filmed perfectly complements poor Manny's bewilderment and fears. The cinematography is simple and almost frill-free but it's effective. I really like a scene after Fonda moves into his jail cell and the camera follows him through the tiny rectangular hole in the door. I also think a scene in the courtroom where Fonda's character looks around and notices that nobody is paying attention is really good. This is far from a Hitchockian masterpiece though. Whether it actually happened that way or not, I really dislike the wife-goes-crazy subplot. I just didn't buy that whole thing. I also thought parts of the story were a bit rushed, causing it to lose a little of the effect. And there are a few scenes with children that are just brutal, especially one involving a couple girls announcing that the previous owner of an apartment has died and then laughing hysterically. And back to Hitchcock's trickiness: Is The Right Man seen in this movie before the big revelation at the end? That'd be cute, Alfred. Real cute.

Yes Man

2008 comedy

Rating: 10/20 (Jen: 12/20)

Plot: Carl's struggling. His wife Stephanie has left him after less than a year, and he's bored with his job. He spends most of his time avoiding phone calls from his best friends and watching movies like some loser. But that all changes after he meets self-help guru Terence Stamp and decides to force himself to say "Yes" to every offer, every opportunity, every situation, every request, and every plea for help, thus becoming a "Yes Man" and giving the movie its stupid title.

There are times when I think Jim Carrey is a really good actor, and I'm glad I'm watching a Jim Carrey movie. This wasn't one of those times. See the poster? When I try to remember this movie in a month (I won't, by the way), I'm going to remember it as nearly two hours of watching Jim Carrey do exactly what he's doing on the poster. My memory of this movie will then by more gayer than my memories of The Sound of Music and The Music Man combined, and that is an enormous amount of gay. A staggering amount of gay! There are some good moments. Terence Stamp (Zod!) is in this playing a guy named Terrence. And I like almost all of the scenes that Rhys Darby (Flight of the Concords manager, a series of commercials that are obviously very effective since I can almost remember what they're for) is in. That guy's a hoot, and luckily, he's in this quite a bit. My guess is that his role was supposed to be a minor one, but the filmmakers sensed comedy gold and decided to give him more to do. There are just too many unfortunate moments in this. Carl is a really inconsistent character and Carrey plays him awkwardly, and a scene involving an elderly woman and fellatio is more disturbing than it is humorous. I did think Zooey Deschanel's band was humorous, and Jen had to explain to me what the great band name, Munchausen by Proxy, even meant. I'm a sucker for bands that wear sea creatures for hats.

The Wolf Man

1941 monster movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: The second son of a rich guy, a guy rich enough to own his own telescope, ventures into town to pick up chicks. He buys a cane with a wolf's head in order to impress one, a gal he Peeping Tommed with the use of his daddy's telescope, and she recites poetry about werewolves. Then, they meet another character who recites the same poem about werewolves. Then, a pair of gypsies tell the guy all about werewolves and tell him he's about to be bitten by one. Then, he's surprised when he's bitten by a werewolf and turns into one himself. This ruins his plans to boink the gal he spotted with his daddy's telescope.

Some rich atmosphere, quality writing (despite what I wrote up there), and a monster you can connect with and feel sorry for save this one. The titular monster (is it obvious that I really like using the word titular?) is really pretty goofy looking. He really just looks like a hirsute guy with a terrible haircut who might be getting ready to go to a discotheque or might just stay home for the evening, sipping brandy and smoking his phallic pipe while leering at women through a telescope. And the wolf man really isn't in the movie very much. The back of the dvd box tells me that it took make-up people six hours to make Lon Chaney Jr. look like a wolf man and then three hours to make him look like Lon Chaney Jr. again. I think that was for only a single day (or night) of filming though because the wolf man doesn't do a lot. The great Bela Lugosi, here playing a gypsy wolf man and apparently too lazy to spend time with the make-up people so that he gets to be a wolf man on screen, also isn't in this movie nearly enough. Actually, you could argue that there's not nearly enough movie here. At a zippy seventy minutes, it all seems kind of rushed. I would have liked a little more character development and a lot more scenes of the wolf man raping people or biting chickens' heads off or doing something other than just running around the same few trees over and over again. And less lycanthrophy poetry! I do like some of the ideas the makers of this hint at about the duality of human beings (the werewolf as a metaphor), but just like a lot of the rest of this, it's only hinted at.


Superman II

1980 sequel

Rating: 14/20 (one point lower than the first one; I had to change the first one to a 15/20 to make that happen)

Plot: After a lengthy recap of the first movie (Superman: The Movie), it's revealed that the nuclear bomb Superman hurled into space exploded and made the three leather-clad villains from Krypton 3-D again. They come to the first planet with one sun, conveniently the same planet that Superman is on, in order to rule. Meanwhile, Superman is keeping very busy with his goal of trying to get into Lois Lane's pants. (SPOILER ALERT!) It works, and she understands exactly what all that Man of Steel stuff is all about if you know what I mean. You're a mature reader, so I'm pretty sure you do! Lex Luther escapes from prison and tries to hook up with the visitors, each with Superman's powers, while Superman himself actually makes the decision to give up his powers, presumably because of the sex.

1) What the hell? My memory must be terrible because I do not remember that Superman FLIES AROUND THE WORLD REALLY FAST TO REVERSE TIME in this sequel just like he did in the first movie. Come on! They thought that was a good enough idea to use twice?

2) I completely forgot to mention this in my review of Warning from Space, but there's an idea from that movie that had to have been stolen by the Superman people for both of these Superman movies. You know the hula hoops that are used to imprison the leather-clad bad guys on Krypton? That identical image is used in Warning from Space!

3) Speaking of the leather-clad bad guys, they're the antagonists in this one. They're cool. Marlon Brando alludes to Irsa's perversions within a minute and a half of this one. What a tease! I really like Terence Stamp (The Collector and Phantom Menace, the best of the Star Wars movies) as General Zod, especially at the end of one scene where he seems to have forgotten the rest of his line and just decides to yell his name. "Zod!" Irsa's cool, too. The thug with the menacing beard doesn't say anything, but the other two have some great lines. I especially like the scenes involving their acclimation with their new home. And Zod's response to Perry Mason's warning that there's a man who'll never kneel ("Who is this imbecile?") is really great.

4) The special effects are good. I especially like the scene that takes place on the moon. There are two scenes as embarrassing as the scene with rubber-legged Clark racing the train though. Both involve somebody falling, the first Lois Lane after she stupidly leaps from the window to test her theory that Clark is Superman (Why didn't she just toss Jimmy out?) and the second when a boy falls at Niagara. Is that even possible by the way?

5) Speaking of Lois-jumping-from-the-window scene: Wouldn't she have suffered some awful injuries bouncing off a canopy onto a vegetable stand?

6) One more thing about that scene: I love Clark Kent's answer to his boss's question about where Lois Lane went. "She just stepped out." There are a lot of really funny lines in this movie, and a lot of humor that just falls completely flat. The NASA guy's line about somebody turning on a hair dryer after the tragedy on the moon was really bad. I expected a second NASA guy to turn to him and say, "Too early, NASA guy. Too early."

7) There's a "flying date" reprise, or at least the threat of one, but it's sans the bad poetry so that's ok. There's also a scene where the bearded guy flies with Lex Luther which is likely the hottest scene in the history of superhero movies.

8) As I said earlier, some of the comic relief in this works great. I still love the stuff with Otis and Lex and later with Ms. Teschmacher and Lex, but both of those characters (the ones not named Lex) aren't in the movie very long. Ms. Teschmacher flushing a toilet at Superman's ice house is pretty funny though.

9) Once Zod(!), perverse Irsa, and Beardo arrive on earth, they run into a couple cops who get some great lines. "Hey, hippies, get off the road!" is my favorite line in the movie. What the hell would make that guy think they're hippies? And then his partner used the exclamation "Holy skunk sweat!" which almost made me want to attack my neighbor with hedge clippers.

10) The scene where Clark Kent gets beat up is hard to watch. These truck drivers had to think that Clark Kent was the biggest pansy in the world. "M-m-my blood. My blood." At least he wasn't wearing the tights.

11) Oh, my favorite line in this or any other movie that has ever been made: Lex Luther's "Funny is a person trying to smile without any teeth."

12) This is a thinly-veiled propaganda piece about the evils of premarital sex or, to put it less controversially, a commercial for abstinence.

13) Everything Marlon Brando or his giant head says or does in this movie is goofy. When he's combining Kryptonean philosophy with Beach Boys lyrics, things just get ridiculous.

14) Favorite scene: The top of the Empire State Building has been laser-eyed off and is falling to the street below! What's a guy standing below do in response? Turn his back and cover up his head, of course! That'll save him!

15) I love the product placement in this. I'm not sure why Marlboro and Coca Cola thought that people would want to rush out and buy their products just from watching a superhero or super villain fly through one of their signs. And when Superman ludicrously flies around the earth really fast and repairs the Coca Cola sign? I'm sure there's a pro-capitalism subtext there to go along with the abstinence message.

16) This movie ends with a bang like all good superhero action movies should--Clark Kent back in the restaurant taking care of a truck driver who mistreated him earlier in the movie. Reeve's delivery of a line about how he's never seen "garbage eating garbage before" is delivered with such gusto that the man should win some kind of posthumous lifetime achievement award where the audience at the awards event is forced to watch a loop of him saying that line for at least two hours. I'm not even kidding.

17) This isn't as good as the first Superman movie. Some of the whimsy and novelty is gone, and although the big fight scene with the bad guys is pretty exciting, it's almost numbed by some of the goofiness that takes place afterward.

18) Oh, one more question: How did Lex Luther know about the relationship between Lois and Superman?

19) Marlon Brando's chest "S" still bugs me.