Mood Indigo

2013 romantic comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Boy meets girl, but as a lot of these movie romances go, a flower starts growing in girl's lungs and threatens her life. He fights to find a cure.

Michel Gondry's been hit or miss, but he's never dull and when he hits (Eternal Sunshine), the guy hits it very hard. This reminds me a lot of The Science of Sleep, a movie I was a little lukewarm on. The humor in this had me grinning like an idiot. There's probably nothing I enjoy more than superfluous stop-motion animation, and here, Gondry animates food and gives dancers ridiculously long legs, both for absolutely no reason. I couldn't stop giggling at those legs actually. This is unfiltered and unfettered whimsy, enough to sicken people with weaker stomachs, and you have to appreciate a movie that doesn't need an excuse to work in every single ridiculous concept the makers come up with. The love story's almost too goofy or surreal to be touching, but both Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou are both so likable that it's impossible not to take them seriously. Gondry's seemingly working hard to out-quirk every quirky love story out there; still, there's something effortless about the whole thing. It's breezy, but it eventually startles with a change in tone, something that isn't going to sit right with a lot of people. And that's a spoiler.

It's possible that this is my new favorite movie. And I should probably watch The Science of Sleep again sometime.


2009 fantasy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A reaper with a nightmare nose battles forces of subconscious good over a little girl's soul.

This is a hard one for me because I liked aspects of this and appreciated its ambition. Jamin Winans fills it with great ideas and some great visuals, especially with the glowing-eyed guys up there on the poster, a raggedy antagonist, and a television-faced guy. There's a terrific scene where we finally figure out why a blind character counts to four perpetually, human urban existence transforming into a machine in a whimsical yet profound way. Unfortunately, production values--as in, a budget that this never really can rise above--get in the way. Winans' editing, especially during these dizzying fight sequences, hurt my eyes. That antagonist's proboscis was a little goofy, the acting wasn't very good, and during normal scenes, the whole thing looked like a Christian movie.

It's been seven years. I'd be interested in knowing what Jamin Winans thinks about this as a finished product. There are intriguing or darkly touching stories dueling in alternative planes, but the execution, other than some inspired imagery, just never keeps up. I really wanted to like this one more.

This cat might be my favorite new villain though:

The Martian

2015 science fiction movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: NASA tries to retrieve a guy they accidentally left on Mars. Meanwhile, he grows potatoes and cracks wise.

The best thing I can say about this movie is that it really does feel like it's based on a true story, like Apollo 13. The worst thing is that it often feels like a project devised by Matt Damon's people to show how likable and charming he can be. He plays Matt Damon in this, and there's really nothing wrong with that because Matt Damon is likable enough. But there's only so many scenes of Matt Damon being brave and growing potatoes that a person can take. After a while, I got a little bored.

Mars looks as good as you'd expect it to look in a Ridley Scott movie. There's an attempt to make the science part of this science fiction entertainment as realistic as possible; however, most movie watchers--me included--are too stupid to know better or care anyway. The heroes, the ones not played by Matt Damon, are all ultra-heroic, with an almost sickening amount of gumption. The whole thing feels like a sci-fi remake of Castaway except Matt Damon doesn't befriend an inanimate object. Everything happens exactly as it should and exactly as you'd expect, and that's rarely a good thing.

My favorite aspect of this was the role of NASA and its attempts to manipulate the media. A movie more about that and less about Matt Damon being charming would have been a slightly better movie.


2015 action comedy

Rating: 12/20 (Jen: 14/20; Emma: 15/20)

Plot: A CIA analyst goes undercover in the field to uncover a terrorist plot after her partner dies. And that's hilarious because she's plump.

I don't think Jason Statham has a single line in this movie where he doesn't stress some variation of the F-word. I actually don't know anything about Statham. I've seen him in Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (a while ago) and the Fast and Furious movies he's been in, but I've never seen the Transporter movies. I think I've actually seen him in more movies where he's lampooning his the typical characters he'd play than in movies where he's taking things seriously. I thought he was funny in this. I actually laughed a few times during this, but I thought the writing was a little too easy. These modern comedies seem like they could almost write themselves. I got a little tired of the characters and the story, but those were all excuses for slapstick comedy and one-liners anyway.

Melissa McCarthy is the Roseanne Barr of my generation.

Bad Movie Club: Soultaker

1990 thriller

Bad Movie Club: 3/5 (Josh: 2/5; Johnny: 3/5; Fred: 3/5; Libby: 4/5)

Rating: 8/20

This is a repeat for the blog, so you can check out my previous write-up by clicking on Robert D'Zar's immense chin.

I don't think I knew who Robert D'Zar was the first time I watched this, so that made the second viewing extra-enjoyable for me. I don't think this is nearly as bad as most of what we watch although it would have been better if it had been made 6 years before. It's not a 1990 movie.

Hotel Transylvania 2

2015 sequel

Rating: 11/20 (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: Dracula's worried that his half-human/half-vampire grandson isn't vampire enough.

This is probably no worse than the first movie although I recognized the Adam Sandler in it a little more and got bored more quickly.

It Follows

2014 supernatural horror movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: After banging a guy in a car, a young lady discovers that a curse has been passed to her. Creepy people slowly follow her around, and she and her friends try to figure out a way to get rid of the curse.

Cory recommended this, probably knowing that I enjoy my horror movies most when there's a subtext. This one--whether it's really about sexually-transmitted diseases or social stigma or guilt or whatever--is probably a little too obviously about something else. It's especially obvious if it's STD's. Regardless, there's an intelligence to the horror, alluding to T.S. Eliot's Prufrock and Dostoevsky's The Idiot. Of course, there's also a fart gag ("I have an idea." "What?" [Farts audibly] "It got away.") and scenes where characters watch The Giant Claw and Killers from Space, classic bad movies.

I enjoyed the flick, one elevated a bit more by its style. The scares are certainly there. The monster or however you want to refer to the menacing presence lurks in a memorable way, as quietly iconic as the gal coming out of the television set in The Ring. I wonder about the significance of the different forms the stalking creature took. An old woman, a naked lady, a very tall man with no eyes. If I suffered from a curse like this, I'd have to go with the naked lady for obvious reasons. I mean, if you're going to die, you might as well die while enjoying the sight of a naked woman, right? I wonder if I'm missing something with the shape-shifting qualities of the thing.

I also liked how they made the story timeless. A heavy synth score gave this an 80's flavor, but the vehicles used and the houses' decor were all over the place. This could have taken place in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, or 21st Century, probably not a coincidence at all since sex has been taking place during all those decades. Speaking of the synths, the score for this was really amazing--creepy and dated while not being dated at all. Unfortunately, it was put together by some guy who calls himself Disasterpeace.

There's also some nice visual flair, most notably in a pair of scenes featuring long, rotating shots. The opening is a real knockout, and another scene taking place at a school makes you hold your breath. Things do threaten to get a little redundant after a while, and I was never sure whether I cared for any of the characters, but those are minor quibbles. This is a cool little horror film that I would definitely watch again.

I might have docked this a point (completely unfairly) because I know they're going to more than likely make sequels that aren't nearly as good. Get ready for It Follows 2: The Itching and It Follows 3: Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?

Crank: High Voltage

2009 action sequel

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Picking right up where the first film left off (with the protagonist falling to his death from a helicopter, bouncing off a car, and landing in the street), we find our hyperkinetic anti-hero having his heart stolen by bad guys. He tries to retrieve it, only staying alive by finding creative ways to give his artificial heart electric jolts.

The news guy put it best during the opening five minutes: "Events I can only describe as implausible."

This is more of the same, but that's exactly what I signed up for when popping this in and was therefore happy. This pair of Crank movies might be the most ludicrous action movies ever made, the kind of action movies that make Bollywood seem almost normal. I don't think I've ever seen movies take themselves less seriously than these. The movies are insane, and that's exactly why they need to be seen. Statham, brilliantly over-the-top for the duration, says "Just just me" at one point in the proceedings, and that's a little how you'll feel while watching this--juiced, electrified, likely erect.

Gratuitous nudity and violence abound, and Statham and company get some of the dumbest things ever written for movies to say. It's a tribute to Statham's acting prowess that he's able to say things like "Who's got my fucking strawberry tart?" with a straight face. I also really like Dwight Yoakam's Doc Miles character. If they make no more Crank movies, Doc Miles should pop up as a character in other movies, probably saying things like "Is Doc Miles gonna have to choke a bitch?"

Speaking of bitches, I can imagine people having a problem with the role women play in these movies (mostly [entirely?] whores and strippers) and the homophobic slurs. I don't think I'd excuse either, but when your movie is written by pimply-faced 13 year olds (at least I assume it was), it might be expected.

David Carradine makes one of his last movie appearances as a character called Poon Dong. Because of course he would. He's great in his limited screen time.

Aside from Carradine and Statham, the latter who is clearly taking the piss with these, I liked the actor who played The Ferret. That's Clifton Collins Jr., and he gets a great dance scene.

The thing always threatens to go just a bit too far (Godzilla monster fight scene, for example?), but it's always in the name of good non-clean fun. I mean, why would I complain about characters turning into giant monster versions of themselves and fighting after that strawberry tart line, the "9 seconds later" transition they use at one point, shot gun sodomy, shot-up implants, Statham barking (after goat-bleating in the first movie) while wearing a shock collar, a character with "full body tourettes," horse cock, panties caught in teeth at a horse racing track, nipple slicing, and the line "Fuck your mother! I let the boss know you shit in Superman's stomach!"

I took notes on this movie, but they caught on fire during the credits and were completely destroyed. So I don't have much else to say.

Oh, one more thing: Mike Patton, Faith No More frontman turned experimental cartoon music maker, did the score for this, and I thought it was tremendous. It really help the whole thing seem like a cartoon made for grown but immature man-children.

And yes, I did watch this right after Pather Panchali. Find me another blogger or movie critic guy who has done a Pather Panchali/Crank: High Voltage double feature.

Pather Panchali

1955 Satyajit Ray movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: Based on a Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay novel, this is about the poor family of a priest who struggle to survive after dad runs off to find work and bring home more bacon.

This is Ray's first movie, and I love how the guy tells stories. There's almost nothing at all wasted here even though I know a lot of people would watch this and wonder what the collection of very tiny moments really has to do with anything. Characters are built slowly but naturally, and the story barely moves most of the time. But you have time as a viewer to absorb, catch nuances, and really feel like you're almost watching a documentary about the lives of people in India rather than a fictionalized story with actors and actresses. Ray does nothing tricky, and there's very little of what most people would call style although it all adds up to this quiet explosion of tragedy and pathos that gives it an idiosyncratic feel. There are poetic touches, and everything's steeped in symbolism and meaning. I've only seen two of Ray's movies, but they both have this way of working their way into you and becoming something very close to an actual experience, just like the time your first girlfriend broke up with you or your grandfather died. Ray works this kind of hushed magic, and although I know there are people who would call this sort of thing boring, they're people who I really feel sorry for.

Ravi Shankar did the score, and although the music is a little all over the place at times, it does successfully add to the lyrical quality of this story.

My favorite scenes were a terrific death scene that is about as poignant as movie scenes get, and the closing scene involving water and an important symbol that I shouldn't give away. I thought Karuna Bannerjee was great as the mother, the most complex character in the movie. The kid Apu, played by Subir Banerjee, was also very good, and this was his only role. There are actually a bunch of Bannerjees or Banerjees in this, and I'm not sure what's going on with that 'n' in the names.

Turbo Kid

2015 80's flashback

Rating: 14/20

Plot: In the post-apocalyptic world of 1997, the titular superhero battles a tyrannical bald man.

70's Grindhouse had its chance to be recycled, and I guess it's 80's low-budget post-apocalyptic trash's turn. I'd highly recommend this to anybody nostalgic for that sort of thing. Sure, the humor is often a little dumb, and I'm not sure the romantic subplot with the main character and a robot isn't forced, but there's lots of fun to be had here. And if you like blood, this has fake blood galore. Body parts fly all over the place, a character uses a stick with a gnome on it as a weapon, and there's a great scene featuring intestines and a stationary bike that contains the movie's funniest line--"Do you know how long it took to set this up?" Well, I guess you'd have to be there.

There's also more bike action than BMX Bandits, and trust me, that's a lot of bike action.

Like a lot of post-Star Wars movies, this appears to have been made with the action figures in mind first before any story came together. Michael Ironside chews up the wasteland as the main baddie, and his right-hand man--the iron-skulled fellow up on the poster--has the right mix of intimidation and crazy. The heroes and heroine might not be as interesting actually, but that's probably right in line with most 80's movies, too.

Definitely worth checking out for Mad Max fans who don't mind the tongue-in-cheek approach.

People Places Things

2015 romantic comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A divorced graphic novelist tries to balance his professional life, his two daughters, and a teaching job while getting over the fact that his baby mama is crazy.

I enjoy Jemaine Clement, but here, he's like a bad sketch artist's rendition of Hugh Grant. The character doesn't work for me, and I don't really like how the ex-girlfriend's character is painted at all. Things (and people and probably places) all fall into place exactly like you'd expect them to. This didn't really work as a comedy, and the romance part never had any real meaning.

The Dudesons Movie

2006 stunt comedy extravaganza

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Finnish jackasses try to kill themselves by performing various stunts, all while cracking themselves up.

This is Jackass-esque, but it lacks the charm. There's nothing unlikable about this quartet of stunt guys, and this does have its moments, especially for fans of their American brethren. So much of this feels like a lengthy advertisement to their television series though, and you have to wade through a lot of stunt set-ups and gags that feel half-baked or don't really work at all. I guess there is a certain charm to watching a group of guys take a lot of time to set up a ramp to jump a car over a barn only to have the car slide off the side of the ramp instead, but most of what these guys do just feels so minor. There are funny moments. They harass a poor neighbor (Mr. Hitler) in ways that makes me hope he's really in on the joke. In one bit, they claim that one of them overreacted after a prank, hilarious since they'd actually caught the guy on fire and pushed a bookshelf on him. And when they gleefully announce, "This is our first good idea!" before accidentally burning their house down, I had to laugh. Injuries are real and often a little difficult to watch, but there's still something almost strangely touching about following these guys who very obviously have this powerful friendship. This might be worth watching for fans of Jackass, but it'll probably just make you wish you were watching those guys instead. A couple of them do make an appearance in this.


2015 cartoon

Rating: no rating (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: After aliens conquer Earth and quarantine its human occupants, an outcast named Oh, a girl, and a cat, team up.

Full disclosure: I fell asleep during this, probably some sort of defense mechanism. It didn't take me long to be annoyed by Jim Parsons' voiced Oh. There was no way I was going to be able to handle that character's butchering of the English language. I can't believe somebody made one character who manages to be more obnoxious than twelve combined Minions.

It's completely unfair for me to rate this movie. I shouldn't have even made a blog post about it.

Pawn Sacrifice

2014 biopic

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The same story told in this documentary.

And Bobby Fischer Against the World probably tells the story a little better actually. It's the way I feel about The Walk, a movie I've not seen, and Man on Wire. The cinematic retellings of the stories seem a little extraneous. I didn't not like this movie, but you're not going to gain insight about the nutcase that was Bobby Fischer, the Cold War, or the chess match in Iceland that serves as a microcosm for that conflict between the Commies and us good guys. It seems to revel in showcasing all of Fischer's warts, but at least the chess looks real. That's always important to me with these chess movies.

I liked the performances. Tobey Maguire's solid although there are times when his Fischer seems a little overcooked. Schreiber's not supposed to stand out as Boris Spassky, but it really does seem like the real 1970's Boris Spassky time-traveled in order to play himself in this.

Chess action sequences are handled well although I would have been a little more near the edge of my seat if I didn't know a lot of the Spassky/Fischer games inside-out and know the story through the aforementioned documentary and the book, Bobby Fischer Goes to War. I wouldn't tell anybody interested in the story to not watch this, however, as the story's got plenty of tension and is told accurately.


1968 hippie dippy gangster shit

Rating: 9/20

Plot: A retired gangster is coerced to take out an old friend. Meanwhile, his hippie daughter is up to no good and eventually gets herself kidnapped by the mob big boss, God.

And God is played by Groucho Marx in what turned out to be his final movie. And he, like nearly everything else about this, is pretty awful. He looks like Groucho and walks a little like Groucho, but he's decidedly not Groucho. Marx doesn't really look like he actually wants to be there, and he's clearly reading every single one of his lines from cue cards. I almost felt embarrassed for the guy although the final movie shot of his career--dressed like a Hare Krishna and smoking a joint while sailing off--is strangely fitting.

This is definitely a product of the late-60's, except it's got a clumsy vibe because it's made by squares. Well, it's made by Otto Preminger. I'm not sure whether he was a square or not, but he definitely made a movie like a square would. The attempt to mash-up a gangster story with all these hippie shenanigans is awkward, likely because nobody involved with this knew anything about either gangsters or hippies. Neither the mob characters or storyline or the hippie characters and whatever they're up to is all that engaging, and the attempts at humor fall completely flat. It's painful comedy, the kind that tries hard enough to give you a headache. Most of the comedy is the type that should have been accompanied with that cartoonish bass drum sound effect. You know, that sound you hear when an extremely fat woman falls down.

I've had the soundtrack to this movie on vinyl for many years and was always a little curious about it although I was pretty sure it was going to be like The Magic Christian or one of those other late-60's dated things that I hate. Like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the makers of this decided to throw everybody they could think of into this. Jackie Gleason's his usual baboonish self, an orange and leathery Carol Channing certainly gives things her all, and John Phillip Law brings some Jesus into his hippie character. Frankie Avalon gives a performance that might convince you he was on something, and a cute Alexandra Hay plays Tough Tony's (Jackie Gleason's character) daughter and doesn't look bad in body paint. I'm not sure, however, that I needed to see a Carol Channing strip sequence, but the movie gives you one. It also gives you several villains from the Batman television show. Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, and Frank Gorshin are all in this thing. And, of course, Otto himself was in that Batman show as Mr. Freeze. So is Richard Kiel. And soundtrack guy Harry Nilsson. And Arnold Stang. And Mickey Rooney. And Slim Pickens. And I think you get the idea.

This is almost worth watching for a truly wacky final 30 minutes or so. Jackie Gleason's character accidentally takes a hallucinogenic drug, and things get about as trippy as movies can get. It's not realistic trippiness, I imagine, but it's silly and entertaining, and it made me glad for sticking with this movie even though I really didn't want to.

Here's Groucho Marx's head on a screw:


2015 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A transgender prostitute, following a short prison sentence, enlists the help of her transgender friend to find her boyfriend/pimp who cheated on her in her absence.

"The world can be a pretty cruel place, destroying Barney dolls, giving you penises."

I'm actually convinced that the above line isn't even in the movie, that I dreamed it up. I'm leaving it there without doing a lick of research to verify that it's from the movie. If it's not in the movie, it should be.

This was recommended by my brother, anonymous. Continuity errors in an opening scene annoyed me, and I thought the characters, as un-PG as this is going to sound, would grate on my nerves. You will have to get used to hearing the word "bitch" a whole lot. I was intrigued that the Duplass brothers produced this and that the entire movie was filmed on four Iphones though, and a great windsock man dancing to a hip-hop beat hooked me. The characters, played by actual transgender actresses with no prior acting experience, really grew on me, and their friendship transcended movie friendship stuff to become something very real. The camera work, much better than anybody would likely suspect, and the way the relationships in this developed gave this the feel of a comedic 50s-60s New Wave film, like New New Wave.

This also might be one of my new go-to Christmas movies.

The performances were very good, both funny and sad so naturally. I found myself laughing at the antics of characters unique to movies, and then I found myself actually caring about them. The taxi driver, played by Karren Karagulian; Kitana Kiki Rodriguez's brash and unruly Sin-Dee, a character you know hasn't seen her last jail cell; Mya Taylor, the more level-headed friend, at times almost like a straight man to Sin-Dee's shenanigans (though her "big performance" of "Toyland" nearly steals the show; and eventually James Ransome playing what Vanilla Ice could have become if he didn't have that successful career as a white rapper and movie star. They made me chuckle multiple times, and I really did find their stories gripping.

I had never heard of a "bbbj" and for whatever reason, felt the need to Google it. Who says you can't learn things from movies?

One question: There are scenes where the actresses talk to extras. Like, "What the fuck are you looking at?" kind of talk. I assume the lines weren't improvised as I didn't see any of these extras looking at the cameras or anything, but it does make me wonder if any of those scenes were unscripted interactions with actual pedestrians.

Hail, Caesar!

2016 socialist propaganda

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

Plot: A movie studio executive tries to fix a variety of problems--including but not limited to a missing star, a whorish mermaid, a cowboy who can't act, twin gossip columnists, and a secret Communist society--so that Capitol Pictures can complete the Biblical epic that is its biggest release of the year.

This seems to be a divisive movie, and it's for all the wrong reasons. A character--one of the secret Communist society members--says that writers sneak Communist messages into movies all the time. There's nothing sneaky about the messages in this one with its clash between socialists and the capitalistic machine represented by the movie studio (with Lockheed Martin mixed in for reasons that I don't understand) added to the clash between Rome's ideals and those of one of history's greatest socialists--Jesus H. Christ. This might be a movie that Bernie Sanders would get a kick out of actually, and I wouldn't imagine many true Americans liking it very much, mostly because Channing Tatum's character seems a little gay.

Thematically, I'm a little confused, and it's probably because I'm stupid. This movie has a lot of moving parts. There are subplots and subplots for the subplots--subsubplots, I guess--and I know it all connects to a central idea, a metaphor, the pieces of a parable, or the satirical jabbing. Let me know when you've seen this because I'd love to discuss it with you. Of course, it's a Coen brothers' movie, so I'll end up seeing it again (and probably again), so those moving parts might all come together eventually.

But no, it's divisive for different reasons if you look at reviews or message boards. People don't seem to like it, and I can't understand why. I'm the type of movie blogger who has no problem at all when people don't like movies that I don't like. I'll defend my Team Americas and Eraserheads and Star Wars prequels until I'm blue in both face and balls, but I really don't give a shit if people don't like what I like. But this is different for some reason. I don't really understand why people--especially those movie people--don't seem to like this one.

I'm just not sure how anybody who loves movies, especially classic movies, wouldn't at the very least get a kick out of it. One of my favorite things about this movie is how much it drifts from its central narrative. I could fully understand somebody watching this and thinking it's a little all over the place, but that's precisely what I loved about it. It's like the Coens had all these ideas, tried to get rid of some of them, and then shrugged and decided to just use them all anyway.

So they wanted a lengthy Astaire-esque song and dance number, and they put one in there. And, by the way, it put a gigantic smile on my face, so if that's what they wanted to do, they succeeded. I'm sure they care about whether or not Shane from shane-movies is grinning like an idiot in a theater, right?

They wanted to introduce a character with a ridiculous cowboy stunt, so they filmed one and left it in. They wanted a water ballet mermaid Scarlett Johansson (damn!) sequence, and they gave us one that would delight any fan of Busby Bixby films or mermaid cleavage. They wanted a musical western sequence with a little slapstick, and they squeezed one in. They wanted a nearly-pointless side-story with Ralph Fiennes director character (the perplexingly-named Laurence Laurentz) and Alden Ehrenreich's cowboy actor character, and they found a place for it. They wanted a comical discussion between Josh Brolin's character and four spiritual advisers, and they tossed it in even though the average moviegoer might not find any connection whatsoever with the rest of the movie. It does (like I'm convinced every single one of those moving parts) fit into the big ideas. They wanted a lasso trick, so they gave themselves an excuse to toss one in.

In one of the movie's funniest (and probably most typically Coen-esque) scenes, a projectionist has issues with an accessory, and there's absolutely no reason for the scene to exist. But it does, and that's part of what gives the movie this flavor. The string of nods to classic movies and its various genres just tickled all the right spots of this movie fan, especially since it was all so well filmed. Look at that moon! Look at those mermaid tails and that mechanical whale! Look at those tablecloths! Look at that submarine! Look at that line of Roman soldiers!

Sure, it's not a tightly-constructed narrative, but when have the Coen brothers ever given us neatly-packaged stories? Barton Fink? O Brother, Where Art Thou? Hudsucker? Lebowski? These are filmmakers who aren't afraid of tangents, and the audience should, by this time, have learned to embrace them. This movie meanders virtuosically, and the excursions make it a really fun ride.

People also seem upset that Johansson or Jonah Hill or Tatum aren't in the movie all that much, but why do they need to be? Why can't big Hollywood movie stars be auxiliary characters? That's sort of a Coen thing, isn't it?

Those performances are fantastic. Brolin gives us an emotional center, playing the character more like a tortured noir detective than what you'd expect from a studio exec. Clooney overacts, but that's why he's in these movies to begin with and is the perfect 1940s/50s big-time movie star. Fiennes and Ehrenreich are outstanding, and the latter should get a Best Supporting Actor nod. Well, unless I find out that that was a CGI lasso or something. Tilda Swinton is very funny as two completely identical characters. I can imagine the direction for Swinton. "Shouldn't I have some sort of nuances to make the two characters different from each other?" "No, just play them exactly the same way!" The socialists crew have to be the funniest collection of commies ever assembled. Tatum dances more than he delivers lines, and he's great when he does either. McDormand, Johansson, Hill. They're all just so good at fitting into this Coen-esque fantasy land.

The movie looks perfect. It's ambitious. It's mentally challenging. It's stuffed with a cast of characters created by great performers. It made me giggle. It left me guessing. I can't think of a movie I've seen recently that has entertained me in the amount of ways this one did. To me, this is the brother writer/director team at the height of their powers and making the type of movie that people should be expecting them to make. It seems to me that they make two types of pictures--dark dramas with a bit of black comedy along the edges and lighter wacky comedies. This is a bit of a mix. There's some wacky Raising Arizona in here, but there's also a little Barton Fink. And it's a beautiful blend, my friends.

Go see it on the big screen and "squint against the grandeur!"

The Last Supper

1995 black comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Five annoying liberal grad students decide to start inviting right-wing extremists to dinner parties in order to poison them and then grow fantastic tomatoes.

I first watched this when I was in my early 20s which is just about the right time to watch it. I had fond memories, remembering it as a sort-of gateway movie that got me into dark comedies more. I was listening to a lot of talk radio at the time--Rush Limbaugh and the liberal radio talk show guy Alan Colmes--and still kind of figuring things out ideologically, trying to wrap my mind around right wing and left wing and Kennedy's assassination and abortion rights and all the desert wars. I really miss those days, back when I was young enough to be excused for not having everything figured out and forgiven for voting for the wrong person in the 1992 presidential election. Now I'm middle-aged and closer to death than birth, and I still don't know what the hell is going on. All I really know is that I don't like extreme viewpoints. I'm not a fan of terrorists, and I'm not a fan of Donald Trump although I'm pretty sure he's actually more of a faux-extremists. That's pretty much it. Like more Americans should admit about themselves, I still haven't figured things out exactly.

This movie's all about extremism, and I like how sneaky it is. You're fooled into rooting for one side early although there are definite signs that they are, as the kids say, douche bags. I mean, they use words like "puerile," a douche bag word. They also eat salad after the main course. No, there's nothing wrong with that until you refer to it as "European style," and then there's a huge problem with it. There's also a character with a goatee but no mustache. And more seriously, that black guy is belligerent from the get-go, totally jabbing at Paxton. Paxton almost always leaves a bad taste in my mouth; ironically, he's playing a terrible human being in this movie, and he somehow manages to be more likable than normal. Figure that one out. But anyway, there are clues that this will end up being a movie without any good guys early on, but when you first watch The Last Supper, that does more gradually sneak up on you.

This write-up contains spoilers, by the way. I probably should have pointed that out even though I am writing a movie that is over 20 years old.

I don't know who Stacy Title is, but it's too bad she didn't direct much else. Well, other than Hood of Horror, a movie with Snoop Dogg. This was Title's debut, and I'm sure if she had to do it all over again, she'd take out the pair of montages where characters are messing around with tomatoes or glancing at each other. Or masturbating. Annabeth Gish's character is shown pleasuring herself, and I had absolutely no problem with that scene. But I digress. Those montages, especially the one with a terrible "When I Fall" song by Sam Phillips. The female one.

Dan Rosen, the screenwriter, didn't do anything else either. The writing's fine even when it's a bit obvious. The satire bites. After a while, this gets a little redundant though.

Mark Mothersbaugh handled the score although there's nothing that stands out or would make you think of him. Jason Alexander pops in for a bit. Perlman bookends the movie as a Limbaugh-type character and is about as good as I've seen him. It's really an unforgettable character. Charles Durning is good, too, as a reverend. And there's a bird. I think it was a raven.

Jude, Paulie, Luke, Marc, and Pete. Hey, those are all names of people who were down with Jesus. I wonder what that means.

My favorite moment in this, by the way, is the group's fake screaming during Charles Durning's scene.

The Swimmer

1968 drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A guy decides to swim home. Through a series of pools close to his house.

Joan Rivers is in this movie, and it's still something I liked a lot. That should tell you everything you need to know.

I was reminded of Falling Down with Michael Douglas, and when I checked things out online, I noticed that other people had made the same connection. Both movies about journeys home. One has a lot of water while the other ends with water. Only one has a 50-something guy with an impressive physique though. And that's The Swimmer! I hope I look half as good in a bathing suit when I'm in my 50s as Burt Lancaster looked here. Hell, I wish I looked half as good now. And those dazzling blue eyes of his! They were downright hypnotic!

This is a strange little movie, sneakily dreamy. It's the kind of movie you watch and realize quickly that nothing is really happening the way it's portrayed on the screen. Gradually, you learn the truth about this character, probably long before he does, and what starts as a wacky misadventure swimming in other people's pools--a river of pools all the way to the guy's house--grows more and more depressing as pieces are put together. Other than Falling Down, it reminds me a little of a short story I once read--The Young Man Who Flew Past--a character study in fragments that requires some gap-filling. You watch the movie and wonder why all of this seemingly extraneous dialogue and encounters Lancaster's swimmer has are even necessary. Various friends, a babysitter (a very cute Janet Landgard, who I'm surprised didn't go on to be a huge star), nudists, some kid with a pool empty of water, an angry woman, traffic, a shower Nazi at a public pool ("Spread your toes."). Eventually, you realize that it all matters! It all helps shape this character who just wants some sugar on his strawberries. The film's denouement is just about the most depressing ending to a movie I can remember seeing, and it's partially because of how this character is created in this completely original episodic way.

Parts of this are a little dated. I did really enjoy the cool score, one that was big and classical and epic when it didn't really need to be at all. There's some weird stuff with horses where Lancaster has a race with one and later pretends to be one in a too-long steeplechase sequence. There are also these weird impressionistic transition scenes that I enjoyed although it placed the film firmly in that late-60s/early-70's range.

There's not much story here, but with a good Burt Lancaster performance and a unique storytelling structure, this is recommended. It's not very happy though.

What We Do in the Shadows

2014 horror-comedy mockumentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A documentary crew takes a look at the life of a quartet of vampires sharing a flat. Their undead lives change

And before you start correcting me on whether vampires are undead or not, keep in mind that I really couldn't give a shit.

This was recommended by Cory as a possible February Oprah Movie Club suggestion, but I didn't have the patience and just decided to watch it.

A vampire movie? A mockumentary? Sure, I'm tired of the former, a genre I never cared for to begin with. And sure, a lot of people are sick of the latter since we've been inundated with them the past decade. For the record, I'm a sucker for the mockumentary format. I'm usually disappointed when a movie or television show isn't a mockumentary actually. So my credibility when writing about things like this might be shot. But trust me on this one. This is hilarious.

Those familiar with Flight of the Conchords might know what to expect here. This is written and directed by the comedy team of Taika Waititi (the guy who did the quirky Eagle vs. Shark and the really good Boy and who apparently is directing the next installment in the Thor story) and Jemaine Clement who I almost always think is funny. They also play two of the vampires along with a couple other guys. This was largely improvised, hours and hours and hours of accumulated footage edited into a somewhat-coherent story. And as I mentioned up there, it's hilarious! If this isn't the funniest comedy I see this year, I'll be surprised.

Tons of visual humor, "Awakey-wakey," bow and arrow dartboard shenanigans, Vladislav the Poker, Nazi vampires, an alternative to mirrors, hitting a main artery ("So it didn't go great. On the upside, I think he had a really good time" is so quintessentially British) and then that shot with half a roll of paper towels, a line about a sandwich, an "erotic dance for my friends," a mask of crackers, a coffin masturbation gag. This, probably wisely, focuses less on story (although there is one) and more on just trying to make me giggle. And their home is visually perfect, just the right amount of darkness so that the comedy over it feels even more surprising.

I'm not sure how I feel about the werewolf characters.

Stop reading this because it isn't well written anyway, and just go watch this movie.

Bad Movie Club: Shreck

1990 historical horror movie

Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Fred: 2/5; Josh: 2/5 or maybe a 3/5 because of its name)

Rating: 4/20

Plot: Three Nazi-and-horror-obsessed idiots stupidly bring infamous Nazi Max Shreck and some ghosts to life after a seance and then have to try to get rid of him as he causes problems.

No, this is not the whimsical animated fractured fairy tale with the ogre and talking donkey. That's Shrek. This one has a C in it. This is a low-budget video trash classic that was the first and last movie directed by Carl Denham, a name I could have sworn was familiar but apparently isn't. I'm actually amazed that this movie wasn't written and directed by the actors. It just feels like a movie that three stooges decided to make over a series of weekends after they finished up their shifts at their 7-11's or whatever gas stations they were working at. Two of the three were in a handful of other movies--mostly the same movies--while the third guy came to his senses and got out of the profession. Big Joe Mueller, the guy who lumbers around (well, mostly stands around) as the resurrected killer and looks about as menacing as a guy with a gas mask and hockey gloves can look, was in another movie 11 years later. I'm intrigued by the writers of this movie. Don Adams and Harry James Picardi (because it took two whole human beings to write this) have directed some straight-to-video things that look like future Bad Movie Club picks--Vengeance of the Dead and Jigsaw, especially. The story was actually fairly interesting although I might be in the minority in thinking that. There are some nearly-clever twists involving time travel and ghosts in this mess that accidentally give away the writers' secret--that they might actually be creative!

The movie's stuffed with this weird angst. There's some really weird violence including, for the second BMC in a row, an attempted murder by cleats. There's also a decapitation with a swastika fan blade because the makers of this thing were obsessed with Nazis. The story's got a weird clash of all these historical tidbits, a love for cheap horror flicks, and crappy heavy metal. Maybe one of the writers--probably Picardi--was the history buff and could provide all these small details about how German grenades were shaped like flashlights and the other guy was the horror guy? And maybe the three characters were actually a band called Dogs of Gore and provided the score? Well, actually Hell Hound did the score. I'm sorry that I'm dwelling on this, but I'm just shocked so many people were involved in the making of this movie.

Where can I get myself one of these shirts, by the way?

Those would look great with my Zubaz actually. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll ever find these shirts available anywhere since I wasn't even able to find a poster for this movie and had to use one for Shrek instead.

This would be more good-bad-movie watchable if it wasn't for one thing. Outside shots, for whatever reason, usually look like this:

It appeared as if we were watching a copy of a copy of a copy on Youtube, and I was having technical difficulties again, but most exterior shots were tinted with this dark blue that really looked pretty hideous. There was other weird tinting, too, so it seemed like a stylistic choice that Carl Denham made, almost like he said, "If I'm only going to make one movie in my life, I want to make sure that a lot of the movie can't even be seen."

Anyway, this is a bad movie I'd almost recommend because of general weirdness, bad acting by the three leads, a goofy and completely non-intimidating monster, Scooby-Doo inspired ghosts that actually had sheets, and a couple really gruesome deaths.

Hotel Transylvania

2012 cartoon

Rating: 12/20 (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: Dracula's got his own secluded hotel where fellow monsters can't take refuge from dangerous humans. Friends father at Hotel Transylvania to celebrate his daughter Mavis's birthday. She's ready to explore outside the confines of her home, but her overprotective father doesn't want her to. When a human boy stumbles onto the premises, he threatens to disrupt his plans.

All I want to say is that I was surprised that this was directed by Genndy Tartokovsky, the guy who did Samurai Jack, one of my favorite things ever. I would have likely seen this way before I did if I had known that. I didn't care for it. Nothing about it--the characters, the story, the visual gags--went anywhere you wouldn't have expected them to go. It was simultaneously bland and annoying.

Buster liked it though. She's probably more articulate than I am, so here are her thoughts:

"Hotel Transylvania was the best thing in the world because there were vampires in it. I liked the part where she flied [sic]. I liked the part where the person came in the house. I liked when the monsters came in the house. I liked the sand part where the mummy slid down the sand thing. [Spoiler Alert!] I liked when he was smoking. The vampire bat, the girl's dad.

I liked the movie."

The Pornographers

1966 Japanese movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Pornography filmmakers deal with the mob, widows, and pet fish.

I didn't think I was enjoying this, but its genius kind of crept up on me. I was hooked by how many scenes were shot through windows or frames that looked like windows. It made me feel like a voyeur, and although I don't think I quite understand what that meant thematically, it at least kept me interested in the movie stylistically if I wasn't quite engaged with its characters or story. That, and I was fascinated by the carp that was supposed to be the main character's girlfriend/landlord's reincarnated husband. I couldn't wait to make a reincarpated pun on the blog. I was actually a little confused by the story, likely because I couldn't keep the characters straight and watched this in too many installments because I kept starting it too late at night. If this wasn't the latest pick for the little Criterion adventure my brother and I are on, I might have actually given up. I'm glad I didn't because the second half is terrific. There's a great moment where a character loses her mind that climaxes in this gorgeous shot accompanied by out-of-place surf rock. There are all these shots through the carp's aquarium that I really liked, including one that makes it seem like the fish is floating above the characters in the scene. That aquarium's another window, I guess. That fish, by the way, could act! There's another great shot where a woman is walking down a long hallway toward the camera that is about as cool as anything I've ever seen in a movie. The movie unravels--but in a good way--and nearly morphs into a science fiction movie at the end, finishing with a lovely shot of buoyant loneliness before the revelation as the credits come in that the whole thing isn't exactly what we thought it was.

Stick with this one because there's always a lot more going on than what you might think. I actually feel like seeing it again, maybe all in one sitting this time, to put its pieces together a little better.

Next Criterion pick for my brother and me, if you want to participate: The Tin Drum, a movie I've seen but don't remember.

Bad Movie Club: The Stabilizer

1986 Indonesian action film

Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Fred: 1.5/5; Jeremy: no rating: Johnny: no rating; Josh: fell asleep)

Rating: 5/20

Plot: The Stabilizer searches for the evil Greg Rainmaker, a guy with cleats.

This movie has more barrels than I've ever seen in one movie.

It's a really dumb action movie, but Indonesia's got a way to make their dumb action movies seem like outsider art. There are explosions, cleat-stomping sequences, a guy who looks like Mr. T, barrels, motorcycles bouncing off guys' skulls, Batman-TV-show-inspired evil plots, a little romance, and more barrels. Fred complained that this was 15 minutes of plot and 90 minutes of "gun/kung-fu/motorcycle/knife fighting," but I question where he found 15 minutes of plot and wonder if 90 minutes of "gun/kung-fu/motorcycle/knife fighting" is even a bad thing. I think I'm getting dumber as a movie fan as I get older.

Peter OBrian plays the title hero. His perm has no business being in an action movie. I'm interested in The Intruder, another Indonesian action movie in which his character is called Rambu. And speaking of Rambo, which I almost did, my favorite part of this movie might be the picture of O'Brian that is hanging in either his or his girlfriend's bedroom:

Reminiscent of a poster for another bad movie, isn't it?

Well, Sly isn't wearing a see-through shirt unfortunately.

It's possible that this is a better bad movie than I'm giving it credit for. Bad Movie Night was riddled with technical difficulties for me, and the movie was oft-interrupted by buffering.


1965 Russ Meyer movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A trio of motorpsychos on a raping and killing adventure meet their match in a veterinarian.

I was going to criticize the actor who played Haji's husband, a wacky Cajun, in this and just noticed that it was Coleman Francis, the director of The Beast of Yucca Flats, one of the worst movies ever made. Haji, also in the superior Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, isn't a great actress. In fact, she's abrasively bad. I'm not even sure she's intelligible, but she's got the right physique for a Russ Meyer's flick which is all that really matters.

See? You have to appreciate Meyer for the lack of subtlety, but there's a definite creepy vibe here. I loved a scene where the motorcycle punks--who ride, by the way, the least tough bikes ever--force a victim to dance. But at the same time, you're a little uneasy as you watch Meyer bringing these weird fantasies to life on your television screen. Later, there's an interaction between a doctor and a cop:

"Looks like they did a number on her."
"Nothing happened to her that a woman ain't built for."

What the hell? I suppose feminists wouldn't swallow a line like that very easily. Speaking of swallowing, this has a great scene where the vet has been bitten by a snake and wants Haji to suck out the poison, the wild cries of "Suck it! Suck it!" building to a nifty double-spit transition that shows what kind of genius Russ Meyer probably was.

This came out the same year as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! but lacks the flavor that makes that one an iconic slice of trashy art. It's worth watching, especially for fans of Meyer, but it's disappointing compared to his, um, best work.

You do have to love a guy who isn't afraid to title his movie with a pun like that. Brazen!

Eight Diagram Pole Fighter

2014 Shaw-fu shenanigans

Rating: 15/20

Plot: After his family of pole fighters is betrayed, the surviving fifth brother trains with monks and tries to get revenge.

Another great Shaw and Gordon Liu collaboration with a stunning final fight sequence during which it's revealed that monks like to engage in forced dentistry while fighting. Highly recommended for kung-fu fantatics. Gordon Liu is a badass.

Guess what happens next. 


2015 flop

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A disillusioned former child inventor prodigy and a girl in a baseball cap team up to unlock the mysteries of a place that doesn't seem to really exist in order to save the world from humanity.

The liberal propaganda and sloppy storytelling are equally off-putting, but there's a lot to like with this Brad Bird Disney movie. In a way, it reminds me of a sci-fi National Treasure without the Nicolas Cage. A lot of the appeal is that it's bursting with creativity. Tomorrowland itself is an inspired frenzy of special effects, all jet packs and futuristic spires, the sort of future-world-building showing off human ingenuity that would likely give Walt's head a woody. Holographic dogs, bathtub ejections, launching landmarks, and killer robots round things out, and it's hard not to at least appreciate the explosion of imagination that went into storyboarding and creating this. The movie's easy on the eyes and fun to watch.

Unfortunately, it's a mess as a story. The tone's a little all over the place, like the movie never figures out whether it wants to be a high-spirited family sci-fi adventure thing or something a little more sinister. Individual scenes are borderline fantastic, but when you string them all together, it clashes. It feels like several directors huddled together, came up with the story, divided up individual scenes there were interested in creating, put their hands together in the middle of a circle, said "Break!", ran off to make their own segments, and then met again later to assemble the thing. A scene in a sci-fi novelty shop feels like something extracted from one of those Men in Black movies. A large chunk of the movie is just driving in a stolen pickup truck. Two vibrant scenes show characters trying to absorb the wonders of the titular futuristic land. Characters visit France and Nikola Tesla and his buddies. It all builds to a climax that belongs in the 80s, and only seems to be in the movie because they needed some way to end things. The parts are fine; they don't, however, gel into a cohesive whole. Director/co-writer Brad Bird's told great, simple stories in the past (although we all know there's much more going on with Up than most people think), so it's disappointing that this story ends up so messy.

It was good to see the "It's a Small World" kids though. That won't give me nightmares or anything.

I really liked Britt Robertson who is playing a character about 10 years younger than she is. If the movie had been received better, it could have been her big breakout. Clooney's character is as uneven as the rest of the movie. When he's charming and heroic, it works fine, but he spends the majority of the movie disgruntled and mean which just doesn't fit him. Hugh Laurie plays a sort-of dull antagonist.

The movie has a good message, but it's so explicit that you're likely to be annoyed even if agree with it. I guess you'd never accuse Disney of being subtle, but this delivery is especially Mickey-fisted.

I wonder if any Disney sci-fi or action movie that isn't part of a franchise can do well. If it's not Star Wars, Marvel, or Pirates, I'm not sure if moviegoers will take a chance on it.


2006 stupid action movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: An assassin's been poisoned by some guy who wants him dead for reasons that are almost explained, but it's a special kind of movie poison where he'll die if his heart rate falls below a certain rate. He searches for an antidote while doing anything he can to keep that heart pumping. Meanwhile, our hearts pump right along with him.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who thought this, but Crank is like Speed but with a human being instead of a bus. It's probably no significance that the titles are monosyllabic. The producers know their audience and how many syllables they want to utter at box office windows. This movie really is dumb, but it's also an edge-of-your-bean-bag-chair thrill ride from start to finish. Beginning in medias res, this wastes no time at all to get to the techno-music-fueled first action sequence. And then, you get another action sequence. Then another. Then twelves more. By the halfway point of this fairly short movie--a short movie that moves so quickly that it seems like it's fifteen minutes--you're out of breath and have your pants around your ankles.

You know what this is? This is a movie for people (let's face it--probably guys) who thought the Fast and the Furious movies were a little bit too realistic.

The action's both cartoonish and frenetic, visuals that almost force you to have Carl Stalling music in your head. Somebody should mash-up a scene from this with "Putty Tat Trouble" or something just to see if that gels. I bet it will! There's Red Bull product placement, possibly the most appropriate product placement I've ever seen. Midway through these shenanigans, I felt like I had taken in a Red Bull or three, probably intravenously.

I should point out that this isn't a movie without its problems. The camera is almost always doing the exact wrong thing. The music is obnoxious. You feel a little jerked around while watching this, mostly with loud sounds accompanying the jerking. And there are lines like "He's gone dipsy doodle, yo." Now that I've typed that, however, I can't figure out how that would be a "problem" exactly. But this is the sort of adrenaline rush where the ridiculously awesome outweighs the bad. A character saying "How frickin' awesome was that, huh?" after cleaving off a dude's arm. Public sex in Chinatown ("I'm alive in Chinatown!"), absolutely necessary since the guy needs to do what he can to stay alive. A great scene where Statham's walking around with a giant erection. A bad guy playing Berserk of all things. A moment when Statham erupts with goat bleating. At least I think that happened. A terrible special effect where Statham bounces off a car!

Holy hell! I think humanity has reached the apex of stupid with this crazy work of macho art, and I loved every minute of it. I'll see the sequel soon.

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet

2013 Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Young T.S. Spivet tries to recover from a family tragedy and the fact that his mom has no luck with toasters. He's surprised by an invitation from the Smithsonian Institute to accept an award for his perpetual motion machine. He sneaks away from his Montana ranch and his father, mother, and sister to ride the rails all the way to Washington.

I'm not sure what was going on with the toasters.

This has all the elements you'd expect from a Jeunet movie. There are quirky characters and camera zaniness, and the whole thing feels airy while you know there's this melancholic undercurrent. Actually, I don't know if there's an undercurrent. Jeunet spreads the pathos pretty thick here. This movie keeps threatening to break out and hatch into a great Jeunet movie, but it just never comes together, never connects. There's a trip into the sister's cortex; there's a talking dog (seriously, I swear this is about the sixth movie I've seen this year with a talking dog in it); Dominique Pinon pops in as Two Clouds, a hobo with Johnny Cash's boots; a jack o'lantern gets a golden shower; some insects. It meanders, but it doesn't meander as beautifully as Amelie although the introductions to the central characters might remind you of that movie. It ends up being a road trip movie that feels like something you've seen before, and when you watch a movie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, you definitely don't want to be watching something you feel like you've seen before.

This doesn't have much of Jeunet's imaginative camera work. There's a fun little sight gag that has to do with the train, there are some swooping crane shots, and there's a nice quick moment with some great sound effects before a character gives a speech. And Jeunet does find an excuse to work in an upside-down swinging vantage shot. Montana looks really good in this movie although I have reasons to believe this was actually not filmed in Montana. Apparently, this is the first movie to be shot with some newfangled 3D camera, but I didn't watch the movie in 3D and couldn't tell you anything about that.

I thought the kid, played by Kyle Catlett, was pretty good although there certainly was a lot of him. I believe the kid's in every single scene of the movie. That's a lot of kid.

Oprah Movie Club Pick for January: Dr. Mabuse: the Gambler

1922 crime drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The title villain tries to cheat and hypnotize and disguise his way to the top while a detective tries to find and stop him.

I'd like to apologize for two things:

1) Being late with this Oprah entry. I promised the end of the month, and I'm a few days tardy. Of course, if you really care about the Oprah Movie Club, you already knew that was going to happen.

2) Picking the longest fucking movie ever made for the first Oprah Movie Club pick for 2016. This movie, at least the version that I saw, was a tad over four hours long, and it actually felt a little longer than that.

I wouldn't mind that length if the movie were more engaging, but this was pretty boring. And keep in mind that I'm typing that as a cinephile who likes silent movies a lot. I'm a silentcinephile. But I think I'd rather have stared at that poster up there for fifteen minutes than watch this for a little over four hours.

Not that it's a terrible movie. The story is fine, really a solid tale of a super-villain. It didn't take movie guys long to start naming their movies after the nefarious characters. Mabuse isn't a wacky 20's super-villain either. He doesn't rub his hands together, throw his head back, and laugh or anything like that. Rudolf Klein-Reige plays him in his many incarnations (see, he's a master of disguise long before Dana Carvey ruined that phrase for Hollywood), and he's really good. He's got these great eyes, and if Fritz Lang did nothing else right, this would still be worth watching for all the shots of those eyes. He's really mesmerizing, the kind of character who you enjoy watching so much that you get irritated whenever he's not around. The disguises were cool, and the conflict would have been engaging enough if it wasn't stretched over four hours. Scenes dragged, title cards felt like novellas, and eyes drooped. I started to wonder if Lang was being paid by the minute like Charles Dickens was paid by the word.

It does have its moments. The climax in the sewer, a sequence that features double-exposure ghosts and great shadows, is fun although I just kept thinking about how a paranoid chase sequence was done better in M. Lang's use of shadows and light is great although I just kept thinking about how Metropolis came a few years after this and blew everything else away. There's a naked woman on a half shell, my favorite kind of woman/shell combination. There's what has to be one of cinema's first car chases featuring shaky cam. And there's a really great hypnotizing scene where light is used about as perfectly as light can be used. But those moments are submerged in this miasma of tedium, the story just sort of oozing toward a finish line that you start to feel will never even come.

I'm being awfully negative about a movie that I'm rating a 16/20.

With a great super-villain, an almost-interesting cat-and-mouse game, and some very cool early-20's movie tricks, this is worth watching. I did it in two installments and probably needed four to put me in a slightly better mood. It's one of those movies that you probably have to watch in order to even be called a silentcinephile, but it's definitely going to make you sleepy.

I'm wondering if this is all my fault. Maybe I'm too tired and old for a four hour silent movie these days. Or maybe I have to reacclimate myself to the ebbs and flows of silent cinema. It has been a while since I've really immersed myself in movies from the 20s.

Did anybody else make it through this?