Marketa Lazarova

1967 Czech film, the greatest ever apparently

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Feuding clans deal with a pissed-off king. Romance develops. Wolves!

Of course I have to watch the greatest Czechoslovakian film ever made! It's a long movie, and for reasons that I can't figure out, the story was very fragmented. I wasn't sure why this story had to be disjointed because I didn't think it added anything to the proceedings.

The movie's a little boring at times, mostly because it's really fucking long, but Frantisek Vlacil does some incredible things with visuals and sound. The sound is relentless, never has choral music sounded so oppressively brutal. It blends with the visions of snow and wolves and violence and nipples so well while at the same time clashing with it all. The audio experience actually gives this a psychedelic feel even though there's nothing really trippy about anything that happens on the screen.

I liked a lot of the performances. Frantisek Velecky plays a guy with a scarred head, and I thought he was great. And no, that's not the director. It's a different Frantisek. One of the writers of this is also named Frantisek, so I assume that was a popular name or some sort of prank the makers of this were playing on everybody. Josef Kemr is the closest thing to a main character this movie has even though it's named after a different character, and he's also really good. And Magda Vasaryova plays that title character superbly, a mix of virgin innocence and naive curiosity.

The real star of the show is all the snow.

This is the sort of movie that can haunt a person. The visuals mesmerize, and the brutality of these characters, even though they exist in a never-defined past, feel like they could be living in modern times. I wish I connected to what was happening a little more, and I wish the story wasn't so fragmented.

David Brent: Life on the Road

2016 musical comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: The boss from The Office (the British one, not the superior American version) takes a stab at a career as a rock 'n' roll front man. As expected, it doesn't go very well.

This is really a sequel to The Office, and if you like that, you'll at least not think this was a complete waste of time. It's humorous enough, but you kind of get the point early and then have to sit through a lot of the same ideas with slightly different wrinkles. Gervais has a way of combining low-brow comedy with genuine emotion, but I've always thought it worked a lot better in the television series (The Office, Derek) than in the feature-length films. Really, asking the audience to feel sorry for a protagonist who really is sort of a jerk is a lot, and I think that might be where this movie ultimately fails. That, and the songs aren't very good. I can't even really remember any of them except for the one about Native Americans.

See it, I suppose, if you like the series, but don't set your expectations very high.

The Mermaid

2016 action comedy

Rating: 11/20

Plot: A mermaid assassin is sent to dispose of a billionaire whose greedy ways are threatening the mer-people's ecosystem, but she falls for the guy instead.

That plot synopsis might sound pretty pedestrian, but this is a Stephen Chow joint so you know it's not going to be. Chow, in his efforts to blur the lines between reality and cartoons, has lost his mind. His imagination is on overdrive here, but it's not necessarily in a good way. It makes me wonder if he's sort of the Chinese Tim Burton. There are quite a few fun moments in this, but the special effects or budget have trouble keeping up with Chow's imagination, and large chunks of this are just ugly. Scrape off a lot of the weirdness, and there really isn't a story with a lot of meat.

Silent Saturday: A Dog's Life

1918 comedic two-reeler

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A dog helps Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character get laid.

Ok, maybe watching a short for Silent Saturday is cheating. My apologies if any of you are offended. Or maybe I should apologize if any of you IS offended.

The dog in this is wonderful. "Scraps" is played by Mut, a dog who apparently liked Chaplin so much that he died of a broken heart a few weeks after the two were separated. That sounds like legitimate information which is good because I don't deal in "fake news" on this blog.

This movie's very funny. As much as I like silent movies, I can't say that I usually laugh out loud while watching them. This one had me laughing more than once, a better record than most modern comedies.

I'm not sure if this is on the blog or not. I'd look it up and link a previous, likely poorly-written review to this poorly-written review, but I'm a little lazy.

Did Chaplin have any swings and misses from 1918 until the end of his career? I can't think of any.

Nine Lives

2016 family movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Come on. Who are we kidding? If you've seen any other movie where an avaricious human being is turned into an animal, you already know the plot of this one.

I thought this would be a lot more entertaining than it was. Instead, it just made me very very sad and made me wonder what I was doing with my life. Of course, I'm not Kevin Spacey. He's got more explaining to do than I do.

If you want an entertaining bad movie about a person being turned into an animal, you should watch Gary Busey in Quigley instead. This one's just a waste of time.

Silent Saturday: Destiny

1921 drama

Rating: 17/20

Plot: After Death comes along and tries to take her husband, a woman is given three opportunities to save him.

Bernhard Goetzke's portrayal of Death in this reminded me of Kinski, probably because of his stare. He's got a Kinski-esque stare. His first scene, a stranger wandering into a quiet town, is so good--menace incarnate, mostly a black silhouette with a threatening hat brim.

The bulk of this is made up of three stories where the lady tries to save her husband. One's got a Persian setting, one takes place in Italy during the Renaissance, and one is set in China. Lang's showing off a bit with some ingenious special effects and camera work, and there are some tremendous visuals that give this a modern feel.

Both Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel were influenced by this movie.

Yeti: A Love Story

2006 horror-comedy

Rating: 6/20

Plot: College kids on a camping trip encounter a cult and the horny Yeti it worships.

I only watched this because there's a sequel coming out this year--the movie's fan had to wait 11 years for the continued story?--and Whitney Moore, my celebrity crush from the Birdemic movies, is in it. So I felt I had to see it. It's nowhere near a good movie, but it's got it's own cheap, gross sort of charm. And there's a scene with a nursing Tentacle Boy, some intestines, and enough Yeti-on-man sex (with a hand job thrown in) to keep things going.

It's hard to believe something this good could be shot in only five days.

Kubo and the Two Strings

2016 animated feature

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A one-eyed orphaned street musician battles evil spirits with the help of a monkey and Matthew McConaughey.

Beautiful stop-motion animation in a brave story about a brave kid. The humor doesn't really work all that well. I could have done without that, especially since it was probably more directed at kids while at the same time being in a movie that is probably too perplexing for kids.

I like that animation studios are taking risks with stories that are very cultural. This really isn't an Americanized version of this sort of thing at all.

Florence Foster Jenkins

2016 biopic

Rating: 16/20 (Jen: 18/20)

Plot: An eccentric socialite performs opera poorly while her husband tries to keep her from realizing that audiences are ridiculing her.

Worth watching for Meryl Streep's wonderful performance alone, this movie has a great mix of comedy and pathos. Singing well on camera is one thing, but Streep really pulls off something special by imitating the inimitable Jenkins. Hugh Grant, apparently retired, brings his usual graceful charm, and the relationship between the two isn't easy to understand but nevertheless strangely touching. Simon Helberg, an actor who plays a character on the seemingly endless Big Bang Theory, might do a little too much at times here as Jenkins' accompanist, but it's a good character.

I've had a recording of Florence Foster Jenkins for about fifteen years, and I'm only pointing that out to solidify my hipster cred.

Bad Movie Club: Dreamaniac

1986 horror movie

Bad Movie Rating: 2/5 (Mark: didn't finish; Fred: 2/5; Jeremy: 3/5; Kandi: 3/5; Josh: fell asleep)

Rating: 6/20

Plot: A succubus takes advantage of a sucky heavy metal wannabe at a party that also sucks. Everything sucks.

Mark asked for David DeCoteau and then skiddooed after some internet difficulties. That makes four DeCoteau movies which makes him the director who we've BMC'd the most.

The story's borderline incomprehensible, but there's some nudity and gore and a really stupid twist ending. My favorite part of the entire thing was the frequent shots of four bags of Quaker Oats on top of a refrigerator. I know it's very likely accidental product placement, but it certainly was effective because I immediately starting online shopping for a Quaker hat that night.

I'm putting Quaker hat on my Christmas list.