Displaying Movies Seen Chronologically
|01.31.12||The League of Gentlemen||Basil Dearden||A solid British crime caper/light comedy that the English used to be so damn good at making. Part of the Criterion Eclipse series, this set celebrating the works of Director Basil Dearden. I intend to visit more discs from the set via Netflix over the year.|
|01.29.12||Infernal Affairs: End Inferno 3||Wai-keung Lau, Alan Mak||Not nearly as good as the other two, III is part sequel, part prequel, with some flashback scenes. This movie would be absolutely confusing to anyone who hadn't watched the original.|
Still, I enjoyed it a lot, and again, this whole trilogy plays out like The Godfather trilogy, which is a compliment. Like The Godfather III, End Inferno is a much more moralistic tale wherein justice, the kind meted out by higher powers than we, finally catches up to the bad guy.
A fitting end to the whole story line.
|01.25.12||Infernal Affairs II||Wai-keung Lau, Alan Mak||A prequel to the first brilliant Infernal Affairs, II is more akin to The Godfather II. I loved this movie, though admittedly not quite as much as the first.|
|01.22.12||Haywire||Steven Soderbergh||A great supporting cast, a truly badass female action star who actually knows her action, and an excellent score and cinematography make this movie easy to like.|
Feels like a minor Soderbergh riff, but even his minor riffs are pretty damn cool.
Probably not the movie a lot of moviegoers were expecting to see, Haywire is a throwback to the '70s era of action/thriller movies. More cynical, not as glamorous, grittier, and better filmed than today's typically superfluous fluff.
|01.19.12||The Hangover Part II||Todd Phillips||Calling this a comedy is an insult to comedic movies. As good as the first movie was is how bad this one is. Shitty through and through.|
|01.18.12||To kako (Evil)||Yorgos Noussias||Average to meh. Some nice, gory SFX mixed with sub par acting and a threadbare story. Still, it's a Greek zombie movie. You don't see those every day...|
|01.14.12||Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps||Oliver Stone||I stayed away from this for a long while because the trailers I saw made it look pretty uninteresting. Too bad, because it's a damn good film. Shia LaBeouf may get a ton of shit for the Transformers and Indiana Jones movies but Money Never Sleeps proves the kid has some serious acting chops. Excellent movie, excellent cast, excellent script and great cinematography.|
|01.14.12||Contraband||Baltasar Kormákur||An ok thriller, better than I expected going into it, though certainly nothing special. Left me wanting to see the original, Reykjavik-Rotterdam, by the same director.|
|01.14.12||Passport to Suez||André De Toth||A lighthearted, comedic spy thriller set in Egypt. Released during World War II, it's easy to imagine that moviegoers were pretty amenable to lighter fluff like this. Still a lot of fun to watch.|
|01.13.12||Skyline||Colin Strause, Greg Strause||I decided to give this a second chance after mercilessly hating it in the theater. I have to say I think I didn't do it justice the first time round. Still not a favorite, but at least I got more of the intention of the filmmakers this go around. I'd actually like to see a sequel to this.|
|01.12.12||Aliens||James Cameron||Got the blu as a birthday gift and so I had to revisit it immediately! Still excellent, though not as good as Alien. This is one of the few Cameron movies I feel has actually aged well in terms of the SFX, though there are some moments here and there where things do show their age.|
I remember seeing this in the theater and being glued to my seat, loving every minute of the thrill ride. Aliens is the classic "Zulu" plot wherein the good guys hole up somewhere and slowly but surely get backed into corners by the bad guys, piling up bodies as they go. The Michael Caine film Zulu is the first time I ever noticed this. Dog Soldiers also uses a similar premise.
This movie is to sci-fi/action what the original Alien was to sci-fi horror.
|01.11.12||Creature||William Malone||Low budget sci-fi with a bunch of mostly wooden actors, but I gotta say, I really liked it by the end. The premise is good and it all manages to be interesting.|
|01.08.12||The Long Riders||Walter Hill||Ok, so it wasn't quite as good as I remembered from when I was a young'un, but still a fucking fantastic neo western. The sound work and slow motion cinematography during the Northfield Minnesota raid made this an enduring epic in my young mind and it's still as brilliant today as it was back then.|
As a kid I never knew that two of my favorite films, The Warriors and The Long Riders, were directed by the same man, Walter Hill. A great man.
|01.07.12||The Conspirator||Robert Redford||A pretty dry, but accurate historical movie. Well acted and shot.|
|01.06.12||Warrior||Gavin O'Connor||Broadcasts its intentions from pretty far off, but this is the kind of epic old school film that Hollywood used to be capable of. Loved it.|
Terribly mismarketed, this thing should have been a colossal blockbuster in theaters. A shame I waited to see it on Blu instead of on the big screen.
|01.04.12||Phase 7||Nicolás Goldbart||Quirky but good. Wasn't quite sure where it was all going at the beginning but by the end I was into it.|
|01.03.12||Point Blank||Fred Cavayé||An adrenaline-fueled everyman's Bourne Identity! Pretty, pretty awesome.|
|01.03.12||Alien||Ridley Scott||Revisited on Bluray. Fantastic.|
|12.31.11||New Year's Evil||Emmett Alston||My friend Pat's pick for the last movie of 2011 on New Year's Eve. (I count the day in which I start the movie, not when it ends. Since we started it at 11:45 p.m. it falls in 2011 for me.)|
I love this movie! Great blend of pseudo punk rock and slasher. The plot is flimsy but the actor who plays the killer is nicely deranged and fun to watch.
This is something of a tradition for movie geeks to watch on NYE, but a first-time viewing for me.
|12.31.11||Death Race 2||Roel Reiné||As an origin story it's not too bad, all things considered. It's always frustrating to see good actors like Ving Rhames and Sean Bean, who have been in some pretty huge, blockbuster movies, stoop to take roles in pretty minor B-movies, but that's life.|
|12.30.11||The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring||Peter Jackson||First time revisiting the regular edition on BluRay. We'd planned on watching all three over the New Years weekend but we had other obligations so that didn't happen.|
Stunningly gorgeous on Blu and still an outstanding movie.
|12.30.11||The Darkest Hour||Chris Gorak||Pretty mediocre, almost completely devoid of any sort of tension.|
|12.29.11||Resident Evil: Extinction||Russell Mulcahy||The series takes a deliberate turn away from the horror focus of the first two and more into the sci-fi/action genres. Not a terrible movie but not as good as the first two either.|
|12.29.11||Resident Evil: Apocalypse||Alexander Witt||Recently picked it up on Blu and my youngest son Gavin wanted to watch it, so we did both this and Extinction. Apocalypse is his avowed favorite of the series. I still prefer the first.|
|12.28.11||The Adventures of Tintin||Steven Spielberg||A solid, fun animated adventure. It lacked the sort of epicness that I think a lot of people were expecting, but I felt it did justice to the source material and was true to the character.|
Definitely a fun watch, we saw it in 3D, which I thought was well used, though it'd probably be just as good in 2D.
|12.28.11||Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.||Gordon Flemyng||Ugh. A groaner. I should preface that by saying that I'm not really much of a Dr. Who fan. I do get a kick out of the Daleks and their whiny voices though. It felt like Peter Cushing didn't have a lot to do here, but apparently he was happy to get the role as a hero since he'd been really typecast playing the villianous sort for some time.|
|12.27.11||Earth vs. the Flying Saucers||Fred F. Sears||A sci-fi classic on TCM; I've seen clips of this movie for years and years but had never watched the entire thing. Featuring some great miniature and SFX from the esteemed Ray Harryhausen, it's an improbable but fun movie. The miniatures work is great.|
|12.27.11||Resident Evil: Degeneration||Makoto Kamiya||A gift on DVD from my friend Pat. The kids had never seen it before so we watched it. I liked it a bit less the second time around, but it's still pretty decent for what it is. The animation is very much in the style of the cut scenes from the more recent Resident Evil video games. If you're a fan of the games, you'll most likely like the movie.|
|12.27.11||The Reef||Andrew Traucki||Short and intense, not full of the fake drama usually used to fill out movies like this. The characters make reasonable decisions given the dilemma they find themselves facing. The fear when they face the sharks is intense and very realistic. I liked it a lot.|
|12.26.11||The Matrix Reloaded||Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski||My parents were in town for the holidays and she'd never seen the second and third Matrix movies. Since I'd just gotten the BluRay set, we decided to watch Reloaded.|
Still a fun, if flawed flick. The animation/SFX are a bit dated now, but it still holds up pretty well.
I still enjoy the wrong direction motorcycle chase scene a lot.
|12.25.11||Drive Angry||Patrick Lussier||Christmas with Nicolas Cage, what more could you ask for?!|
|12.23.11||The A-Team||Joe Carnahan||Watched on Blu with family in town for the holidays. Sharlto makes this movie! Love him.|
|12.23.11||The Bourne Ultimatum||Paul Greengrass||The rooftop chase scene and subsequent hand-to-hand combat are one of the best action sequences ever put to film. The parking lot car crash is also pretty goddamn epic.|
|12.22.11||The Bourne Supremacy||Paul Greengrass||Don't look too closely or you'll see all the plot holes. Fortunately it moves fast so you won't be too tempted to dwell on it much. Still a great movie and the Moscow car chase scene still gets my adrenaline levels up! Watched on Blu for the first time.|
|12.21.11||Wake Wood||David Keating||I liked the premise, but the movie just doesn't fulfill the promise. There are some genuinely creepy scenes scattered about, but the movie just feels generic and tired during the portions that needed to be tense and frightening.|
|12.21.11||The Bourne Identity||Doug Liman||A funny thing happened when I rewatched the trilogy on Bluray. I noticed that Identity has the most coherent and believable plot; it doesn't leave to many holes laying about. It does sacrifice some of the frantic pacing that makes the two sequels such great fun to watch, but in all honesty, from a plot perspective, it's easily the best of the three.|
And the action scenes are still pretty fucking intense! The Paris car chase scene is one of the best car chases put to film and set the bar pretty damn high.
|12.21.11||Map of the Sounds of Tokyo||Isabel Coixet||Map reminds me a lot, in tone, of movies like What Time Is It There?, Goodbye South, Goodbye, and Last Life In The Universe. All textured, thoughtful, complex character studies that don't always explain everything, shot through with loneliness and a sense of longing.|
I liked Map of the Sounds of Tokyo quite a bit, but you definitely need to be in the right mood for it.
|12.21.11||Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster||Wilson Yip||I liked Ip Man 2 even more than the first movie. Donnie Yen is fucking excellent here as Ip Man but Sammo Hung, barely recognizable, steals the show with a great performance.|
My biggest problem with both of the Ip Man movies is in how they make out the antagonists to be so completely evil, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, that they become caricatures. This was more excusable in Ip Man, but less so in Ip Man 2.
This is a common conceit in Hong Kong action movies, so it's not surprising to see it here.
|12.20.11||Pandorum||Christian Alvart||A pretty decent sci-fi/horror movie in the vein of Alien that wants to be more than it ends up being. Still, it makes a good go of it and there are some genuinely creepy scenes interspersed with the more lackluster creature stuff. The creatures are uninspired and really undermine the tension at times.|
The best parts of the movie, by far, are the opening and closing scenes.
|12.20.11||The Myth of the American Sleepover||David Robert Mitchell||Sweet, tender and uncondescending look at teens as they negotiate life and take their first tentative steps towards relationships.|
|12.20.11||Machine Gun McCain||Giuliano Montaldo||Great performances by Peter Falk and John Cassavetes elevates a mediocre plot. Britt Eklund can really steam up a screen!|
|12.19.11||YellowBrickRoad||Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton||I'm not a person who needs to have every little bit of plot spelled out for him; I can deal with some pretty ephemeral stuff. However, I think YellowBrickRoad could have benefited from a little more explanation. I got it, really I did, but that still didn't help explain why for me. And without the why, I can't say I was particularly interested in the characters.|
That said, there are some things to like about this movie. The concept is interesting, at least in a theoretical sense, and there are some pretty damn good horrific scenes. Some of the parts I liked best involved the overwhelming barrage of sound that washes over the characters from time to time, threatening to literally rip everything apart. Great sound work there!
|12.19.11||Rammbock: Berlin Undead||Marvin Kren||A well done zombie film that's fairly short and to the point. I liked it quite a bit.|
|12.18.11||Cold Fish||Shion Sono||At times uncomfortably comical, deeply unsettling and violent, Cold Fish feels like social commentary disguised as a thriller. Cold Fish explores the extremes of masculinity in Japanese society: violent chauvinism on one hand and emasculation on the other; and the consequences of both of these extreme positions.|
I liked the movie a lot, though it does take some time to really sink in.
|12.17.11||Heavenly Bodies||Lawrence Dane||Watched in the wee morning hours on TCM Underground. Pretty good aerobics dance movie that's carried almost entirely by the able-bodied (and then some) lead, Cynthia Dale. She's quite a looker and does a great job with the dance moves as well.|
The movie really falls down with the dance-off marathon contest that serves as the high drama moment of the movie. Really? Just exercising until you literally drop from exhaustion, may the last one standing win? Ugh.
|12.17.11||Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows||Guy Ritchie||A really enjoyed this a lot, even more than Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. I felt like it did a really good job of expanding on the Holmes/Watson relationship and really getting into the Holmes/Moriarty adversarial relationship as well. Very well done, with the exception of Noomi Rapace's character who felt a little one-dimensional and in place for convenience's sake.|
|12.16.11||The Boxer's Omen||Chih-Hung Kuei||An insanely bizarre horror/fantasy movie that defies easy explanation. One of my new favorite bat-shit insane movies! I'll definitely have to give this a rewatch during one of our movie nights, as it's best appreciated with an audience.|
|12.16.11||The Lincoln Lawyer||Brad Furman||A really nicely done courtroom drama/thriller. And Marisa Tomei just gets sexier with age!|
Matthew McConaughey acquits himself well in the lead role here. All of the main characters, save the antagonist, are nicely fleshed out with plenty of depth, and it's done in a way that isn't all exposition, leaving the audience to infer the complexities of their relationships and past histories. That's rare in movies these days, so it deserves to be noted when come across.
I did feel that the antagonist was pretty flat and one-dimensional. Maybe that was on purpose, because who wants to identify with a psychopath.
|12.16.11||Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol||Brad Bird||Splurged and caught the first showing on Friday on IMAX. We had to pick the kids up at school and hustle directly to the movie theater to make the 3:30 showing but it was worth it since it was just us and about 30 other people in the huge-ass 300+ seat IMAX theater.|
Our viewing suffered a bit since we sat a little too close to the front, owing to the fact that I was on crutches and fell once going up the steps and didn't want to risk going further up.
Still, the sound and picture on IMAX were decidedly better than the regular screens at this theater, which tend to be smaller and suffer from sound or projection problems often.
This is probably the funnest, and funniest of the MI movies. I attribute that to director Brad Bird, who managed to pair action and humor so well in the animated The Incredibles. In fact, M:I-GP feels like a live action Incredibles in some ways. That's not a knock by any means.
I also enjoyed the more humanistic approach to the film. Despite being filled with all sorts of tech gadgets, the fact that most of them fail, and the team has to rely on themselves and good old-fashioned teamwork, lends a nice humanistic feel to the movie that I sincerely appreciated.
I also felt that they made a conscious effort to portray Tom Cruise's character, Ethan Hunt, as older and frailer. This shit isn't getting any easier for him and he's not superhuman. It felt a bit like they might be setting it up to pass the torch on to a new person. And of course Jeremy Renner would be a great person to carry on in Cruise's place.
|12.15.11||Phantasm II||Don Coscarelli||Netflix Instant finally added this, so I had to watch it immediately! I haven't seen this since the early '90s so it was great to revisit it. My favorite of all the Phantasm films with some genuinely creepy moments!|
|12.15.11||Armadillo||Janus Metz Pedersen||Perhaps the best documentary on the War in Afghanistan that I've seen. Armadillo manages to convey everything about war: the tediousness, boredom, fear, excitement, adrenaline, moral ambiguity, political entanglements, adrenaline, horror, and the dually mundane and surreal nature of the whole thing in a concise 105 minutes.|
A sobering experience, well worth a watch.
|12.15.11||Black Hawk Down||Ridley Scott||I consider this the third of Ridley Scott's three best films (Alien and Blade Runner being the other two, in that order). I love the shit out of this movie and rewatch it several times a year (along with Ronin and Heat, Black Hawk Down is one of my most rewatched movies ever).|
This is one of the few films that makes me wish I had a true home theater with a 100 inch screen and an HD projector. the Bluray still looks and sounds pretty damn kickass on my 50 inch plasma and surround system, so I'm not complaining.
|12.14.11||Vanishing Point||Richard C. Sarafian||A longtime favorite of mine, I appreciated it even more on this rewatch. It'd been years since I'd seen this and I'd been wanting to rewatch it ever since seeing Tarantino's Deathproof. It's probably the best of the existential road movies to come out of the seventies.|
|12.13.11||Enter The Void||Gaspar Noé||About a year ago you couldn't throw a rock without hitting someone's opinion on this movie; it was all the rage. I planned on watching it early this year when it showed up on Netflix Instant, but held off as I was told it was an edited version.|
My friend Jay loaned me his Bluray which I then sat on for nearly 10 months, awaiting the right opportunity to watch this. I finally pulled the trigger and I am both sad and glad that I waited so long. Sad, because I think I was influenced too much by other people's remarks on Twitter about the film; glad because I was able to watch it long after anyone stopped caring about what my opinion on it might be.
I thought it was technically brilliant. The opening credits alone, which felt like a Scraping Foetus off the Wheel album come to life, were fantastic and worth some sort of an award.
The film itself is brilliantly shot and edited with an exceptional soundtrack. It also lacks any sort of emotional depth; I never really made a connection with any of the characters, nor cared much about what happened to them. I think the reason for that is the same thing that makes the film technically brilliant: the kind of first person camera work. You are constantly aware of the plane that exists between you and the movie; constantly reminded that you are a spectator, not an involved participant, physically or emotionally.
Well worth a watch, but ultimately I felt like it fell short of its goal.
|12.13.11||Phantoms||Joe Chappelle||A mostly forgettable adaptation of a Dean Koontz novel (are there any really good film adaptations of his novels?) with a handful of truly scary scenes and some great practical effects (Liev Schreiber as a half-human, half-tentacled creature writhing across the floor is both of those things!).|
|12.13.11||Detroit 9000||Arthur Marks||A step or two above the typical crime-oriented blaxploitation movies of the time, Detroit 9000 mixes the racial tensions and moral ambiguities up and spreads them around liberally so that everyone gets a dose of cynicism: the police force, the black politicians and community leaders, both the black and white cop protagonists. This is a world where everyone has hidden motives; everyone is trying to advance their own agendas.|
Detroit 9000's great action scenes, including a long-running gun battle between the cops and a heist gang, benefit a lot from being shot on location in Detroit. This is Detroit in the 1970s, in full-on decline and coming apart at the seams; and it shows in practically every scene.
|12.12.11||Bringing Out The Dead||Martin Scorsese||A lesser known Scorsese film, largely forgotten by the general public. I'd never seen it despite multiple attempts (apparently it was out of print for a while and unavailable on Netflix for ages), so I finally closed the gap.|
Its themes are similar to Taxi Driver, both of which focus on individuals who are very isolated from the city around them, despite being heavily immersed in its seedier side. Both characters suffer from moral ambiguity and struggle with their attempts (and failures) to make a difference in the world around them.
Despite the similarities to Taxi Driver, this is no Taxi Driver; and Nicolas Cage is no Robert DeNiro. That's not to say he's not good here; he is. This is the sort of slightly off the rails character that Cage seems to portray well.
Bringing Out The Dead also has some great humor in it that you don't find in Taxi Driver.
Definitely worth seeing, but also definitely a minor work by Scorsese.
|12.12.11||Reservoir Dogs||Quentin Tarantino||Revisiting most of Tarantino's ouvre over the last few weeks. Don't have this on Blu, so watched it on Netflix Instant for convenience's sake.|
Still a damn good movie.
|12.11.11||You Better Watch Out||Lewis Jackson||You Better Watch Out, aka Christmas Evil, is a Christmas horror movie in the same way Maniac is a slasher horror movie; which is to say firmly outside on the confines of that genre.|
The final movie in our Christmas Movie Night, I wasn't sure what to expect here, though I'd guess I thought it was going to follow the kind of cliched holiday horror lines most movies like this do.
Instead, You Better Watch Out is creepy and weird in a way only movies made on the East Coast back in the '70s and '80s could be. Definitely disturbing and unsettling in ways that schlocky, straightforward horror movies never could be.
This will definitely be one of those movies I'll want to revisit during the holiday seasons again.
|12.11.11||Santa's Slay||David Steiman||An over-the-top, campy Christmas horror movie that's full of stupid, twisted fun!|
|12.10.11||Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale||Jalmari Helander||Glad I finally got to see this after missing it last year when it screened at the Music Box Theater. This was the third movie for our Christmas Movie Night, and anticipated by all.|
Not sure what others will classify this as, but it felt solidly in the horror camp so that's what I put it down as.
I kept away from really knowing anything about this movie at all, amazingly, so went into this cold. It was different than I expected, but I still enjoyed it a lot. I'll definitely have to let my kids watch it at some point.
|12.10.11||The Phantom||Simon Wincer||First movie for Christmas Movie Night, thrown in because we all wanted to watch it and my kids hadn't seen it. It's not perfect, but it is a fun movie to watch and does evoke a nice sense of the serials from the '30s and '40s. The acting is purposefully over the top; if you take it for what it is, you'll enjoy it.|
|12.10.11||The Magic Christmas Tree||Richard C. Parish||The Magic Christmas Tree is magical in the same way swallowing a half gallon of Clorox bleach is magical. Must be seen to be truly appreciated! The second movie in our Christmas Movie Night for 2011.|
|12.10.11||Man's Best Friend||John Lafia||So many movies from the 1990s just suck. Man's Best Friend is not a good movie, but it's a fun movie to watch if you like bad movies!|
Not Ally Sheedy's best moment.
|12.09.11||Cedar Rapids||Miguel Arteta||Expected it to be better than it was, but was still watchable. Some truly funny moments are offset by too much reliance of toilet humor that just doesn't seem to play well with me as I get older. Oh well.|
|12.09.11||X-Men: First Class||Matthew Vaughn||The plot contrivances and some of the bad CGI effects are more apparent on second viewing, but still the best of the X-Men movies, IMO.|
|12.08.11||Deep Blue Sea||Renny Harlin||I'm not a Renny Harlin fan by any means, but I'd seen parts of this movie so many times in the past, I figured I owed it a full viewing for the first time.|
It's not a terrible movie by any means. Even though it's outlandish and contrived, it's decent escapist fun.
The CGI shark effects don't hold up really well; they feel pretty fake and dated; but otherwise isn't too bad.
Samuel L. Jackson probably plays the straightest role in my memory; Thomas Jane acquits himself well enough.
|12.08.11||The Big Racket||Enzo G. Castellari||Another Castellari Italian crime movie from the '70s. I'm kind of addicted to these things. Even though this was dubbed on NWI, it's still worth a watch, especially for the great rollover car scene near the beginning of the movie.|
There's some pretty brutal rape scenes as the movie progresses, and at times I found myself wondering what the point of some of the random violence was, but it does all come back around full circle by the end, leading to a minorly epic final battle.
Not Castellari's best, but definitely worth a watch.
|12.07.11||The Mighty Peking Man||Meng Hua Ho||Mighty Peking Man is just a ton of fun with all sorts of craziness, including live tiger wrestling. More or less follows the plot of the original King Kong movie.|
|12.07.11||C.H.U.D.||Douglas Cheek||Another horror movie I missed back in the 1980s. I like C.H.U.D. a lot because it has a gritty, East coast sensibility to it that you just didn't find from West coast based movies back then.|
|12.06.11||Slugs||Juan Piquer Simón||A minor '80s horror classic that I missed back in the day. Sufficiently gross and featuring some great deaths. Well worth a watch if '80s horror is your thing.|
|12.06.11||Wrecked||Michael Greenspan||This tragically overlooked indie drama/thriller from last year features an excellent performance from Adrien Brody.|
This is a movie has little dialogue to it, since Brody's character spends almost the entire movie on his own. Brody slowly awakens from a car crash, still stuck in the car, and it becomes apparent that not only does he not know how he got there, he doesn't even know who he is.
Brody's character spends the rest of the movie trying to extricate himself from his situation: both the physical and the mental.
Wrecked is very well shot and the sound recording is natural and excellent, doing a lot to immerse the viewer in the movie early on (pay attention to the sounds in the car during the opening scenes. They're hollow and enclosed, adding a lot of depth to the claustrophobia of the situation).
There are also a few scenes involving a mountain lion that are staggeringly realistic and deeply unsettling!
If you don't have much patience, this probably isn't the movie for you. However, if you do, I highly recommend watching it.
|12.06.11||Streets of Fire||Walter Hill||Hard to believe I never watched this back in the 1980s, but I finally closed a gap in my Walter Hill movie viewing.|
Kind of a West Side Story meets The Warriors film, shot on some great sets with a great soundtrack! A who's who of character and second tier actors are in this. Michael Pare, Diane Lane and Willem Defoe are the standouts, but Fear's lead singer, Lee Ving, does a great job as Defoe's second in command henchman.
A really fun watch, I enjoyed it a lot.
|12.05.11||Altitude||Kaare Andrews||The trailers for this movie gave it an appealing "Cthulu in the air" appeal back in 2010, but it just kind of fell off my radar (no pun intended) and pretty much went unmentioned by the other movie people I follow on Twitter.|
I should have taken that as a sign that this wasn't going to be a good watch because it's not. To be fair, I wanted to like the movie, because I actually like the overall plot and where the movie goes in the end.
The problem is that ALL of the main characters are so thoroughly unlikable that I spent most of the movie yelling at my TV for them to "shut the fuck up!" and actively rooting for their collective demise.
Great premise for a short, 20 minute film; terrible execution in full length format.
|12.05.11||Beast With a Gun||Sergio Grieco||Also known as Mad Dog and Mad Dog Killer, Beast With a Gun is a pretty apt title. This is a pretty vicious, mean-spirited Italian crime thriller. Probably one of the most sexually violent movies I've seen in the genre.|
|12.05.11||Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man||Ruggero Deodato||One of the better of the '70s era Italian Crime thrillers I've been watching this year, Live Like a Cop starts out with possibly the best motorcycle chase I've ever seen on film. Certainly worth watching for that alone.|
Live Like a Cop is full of over-the-top action, abuse of police power, mail chauvinism, homo eroticism and just plain old violence. If you enjoy the genre at all, you should certainly watch this one.
|12.05.11||The Shrine||Jon Knautz||This was a blind watch on Netflix Instant. It suffers a bit from it's small budget, and the acting isn't the best, but it does go in a different direction than you think it will, and redeems itself because of it. Worth a watch as a decent minor indie horror movie.|
|12.04.11||30 Minutes or Less||Ruben Fleischer||While it does have some humorous moments, overall 30 Minutes or Less is a piece of shit as a movie. Obviously calculated to appeal to male teenagers with Beavis and Butthead mentalities and undeveloped tastes. Even at $1.20 from RedBox, I still felt like I got ripped off.|
|12.03.11||Viva Riva!||Djo Munga||Missed this when it screened at Music Box Theater and was kind of surprised to see it show up on Netflix Instant Watch.|
At times rambling, Viva Riva! is a pretty decent drama that, passively, says a lot about the political and socio-economic realities of Kinshasa, and by extension, much of Central Africa, in a post-colonial world.
|12.03.11||The Lost Volcano||Ford Beebe||TCM has been following up their run of Tarzan movies on Saturdays with a run of Bomba movies, starring the actor who played Tarzan's son in later Tarzan movies (before he got too old).|
This is the second Bomba movie I've managed to catch (though it's the third movie in the series of, I believe, ten total) and it was more enjoyable than the first.
The plot follows the typical white people exploiting the culture/resources of the indigenous peoples for fun and profit. This time, some white hunters kidnap a boy friend of Bomba's and force him to lead them to a fabled lost city within a supposedly dormant volcano.
Shot on a small budget and entirely on sets and at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, inevitably you get what you pay for. But that includes a now hilarious scene where Bomba wrestles with an obviously fake alligator (or is it crocodile, I never remember).
The end scene in the volcano is decently done and overall, it was an enjoyable watch. I hope to catch a few more of these over the following weeks.
|12.02.11||Hanna||Joe Wright||Rented the Blu from RedBox for a family movie night. This was a rewatch since we saw it in the theater, but we all wanted to revisit it.|
I liked it a little less on second viewing, but there's still a lot to like here and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Probably still in my top 10 for the year.
|12.01.11||Jackie Brown||Quentin Tarantino||Revisited this for the first time in a long time after buying the BluRay. Looks great on Blu.|
Not Tarantino's best movie, but certainly under appreciated. There's a lot to like here, especially the all the minor performances by De Niro and Bridget Fonda. Samuel L. Jackson steals the show, but both Forster and Grier acquit themselves nicely and have good chemistry.
|12.01.11||Two-Lane Blacktop||Monte Hellman||A good existential '70s road movie.|
|11.30.11||Kill Bill: Vol. 2||Quentin Tarantino||My last movie of November! I got BluRays of both volumes and watched Vol. 1 the night before, so followed up with Vol. 2 tonight. While I'll always feel that Vol. 1 is hands down the better of the two, there is still a lot to like about Vol. 2. The pacing is slower overall, and the violence not as egregious, but Vol. 2 still has some pretty epic stuff in it, including the entire Pei Mei training sequence, and the Elle Driver vs. The Bride battle in the mobile home.|
|11.29.11||Kill Bill: Vol. 1||Quentin Tarantino||I ordered the BluRay discs of Jackie Brown and Kill Bill Vols 1 and 2 while they were on sale at Amazon and they showed up in the mail today! So I had to start with Kill Bill Vol. 1, perhaps my favorite of Tarantino's films.|
It looks and sounds spectacular on Blu, even if there are very few extras. And yes, the House Of Blue Leaves scene is in Black and White, like the original theatrical release, sorry.
|11.28.11||Ronin||John Frankenheimer||Finishing off the night in total comfort zone! Anyone who knows me knows that Ronin is one of my all-time favorite films. I've probably watched it 20-30 times by now. I just love the hell out of it; it's perfect in almost every way.|
This is the first time I've watched my BluRay of it though, so it was like experiencing it for the first time again.
Definitely an overlooked/underrated Frankeneimer classic. People should watch this film just for the two, TWO, amazing car chase scenes alone. One of De Niro's last truly great performances as well.
|11.28.11||Inception||Christopher Nolan||I got the BluRay from Blockbuster a while back so decided to throw it in today, mainly because I needed something great to offset the pain of my physical therapy.|
I love everything about this movie! My third viewing allowed me to catch a few small things I'd missed before.
This film is just made to be shown on Blu on a nice big HDTV with some nice big Dolby surround. Glad I could oblige!
|11.28.11||Drácula contra Frankenstein||Jesus Franco||A pretty terrible movie, though the Frankenstein's monster character makeup is pretty awesome in its own special, cheap, shitty way.|
To make matters worse, the DVD from Netflix is sized for older non-HD TVs, so I had to endure watching the movie shrunken down on my TV. Not that it would've been any better scaled up.
|11.26.11||Conan The Barbarian||Marcus Nispel||I wanted to like this movie more than I did. It's not that I expected great things from it; but I was hoping for a coherent tale evocative of the world of Conan so well defined in Robert E. Howard's books, and even in the various Conan comics.|
The movie starts off well enough. I really enjoyed the first quarter of the film, which deals with young Conan and sets up the back story for the rest of the movie.
Most of the rest of the movie just feels like a series of set piece scenes tacked together only loosely. I don't know how to describe it, other than to say the movie wasn't compact enough to really drive the plot; nor was it deep enough to evoke the world of Conan. Both would have been great, but I'd have settled for either/or. Instead I got neither/nor.
Not a terrible movie, just not very satisfying either.
|11.26.11||Hugo||Martin Scorsese||I get tired of people telling me what I should and shouldn't like. I also get tired of people telling me what is and isn't a good film for children.|
My wife had read (yes, as in out loud, at bedtime) the book Hugo Cabret, to my sons, who both enjoyed it, as did she. Because they'd read the book, they both were interested in seeing the film. My interest in seeing it had more to do with Scorsese directing it than anything else.
I try to go into most films at the theater without reading any reviews, fawning over endless set shots, reading interviews with the stars, etc. However, some films garner so much attention on Twitter that it's hard to avoid everything. So I'd read a lot of hugely favorable 140 character opinions, and seen some ugly back and forth about the film's use of 3D, as well.
I'll just state that I'm not a fan of 3D generally. I thought it was used well in two movies I've seen: the beautifully animated Coraline, and the over-the-top Avatar. (I've since watched Avatar in 2D on BluRay and I don't think the film suffers any from lack of 3D)
Because of what I'd read on Twitter, I decided to take my family to the 3D showing of Hugo, and I'm glad that I did. I thought Scorsese's use of 3D throughout the film was excellent. I especially admired it during the recreation scenes of old films (and by old, I mean from before WWI; before Hollywood).
I liked the movie a lot; it's an ode to the history of cinema, as well as a cautionary reminder that we need to preserve this rich cultural heritage that has been bestowed upon us. I admire that Scorsese embraced, and used well, a new technology for not only telling the tale, but for moving that very history of cinema an additional step forward, at least in his eyes.
Only time will tell us whether 3D turns out to be another technical milestone for the better in the history of cinema. Despite my doubts, Scorsese certainly makes his case for it eloquently.
As it stands, my opinion is that this film is one of those "hold close to your hearts" minor masterpieces. In Scorsese's legacy, I do not think that Hugo will overshadow Taxi Driver or Raging Bull or... you get the idea.
Personally, I enjoyed the film a lot because I love film. I've not watched a lot of silent era films, though I've seen many, many clips and stills from them when I took my film history class in college and in the many years since. For those reasons, I enjoyed the movie. It was nostalgic and beautiful and felt sincere and not overbearing.
I wonder if, in fifty years, my two sons will be able to look back at this moment and be able to reference it as a turning point or some sort of milestone in the history of cinema.
|11.26.11||Die Hard||John McTiernan||A late night, 2 am, couldn't sleep, watch of Die Hard on the SyFy channel? Don't mind if I do!|
It'd been a while since I'd seen the original and I'm happy to say it still holds up well and is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Easily the best of the series.
|11.26.11||Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace||George Lucas||Probably the best comment I can make here is that "it was on the television and I was too lazy to change the channel."|
To be clear, I'm not a fan of the Star Wars prequels. Despite that, there are some great elements in each of the three movies that make for a fun watch. For Phantom Menace, that's the sound of the pod race (kind of lost here in the TV broadcast) and the great lightsaber duel near the end of the film. Oh, and Natalie Portman.
|11.24.11||Blade Runner: The Final Cut||Ridley Scott||My friends Pat and Jay came over for Thanksgiving and we topped the evening off with a first time viewing of Blade Runner: The Final Cut off the five-disc BlueRay edition I bought a full year before (literally my first BluRay purchase). I had yet to unwrap and watch any of the versions on the disc since then, so we decided to do the honors.|
I think we were all in awe over the pristine quality of the film, both visually and aurally. Stunning!
Blade Runner is a film I hold in the highest regard, along with Scott's other masterpiece, Alien. Both have withstood the test of time and are classic pieces of celluloid science fiction, which is a nearly impossible feat to pull off once, let alone twice.
The Final Cut version loses the voiceovers and removes the ambiguity of the ending. Without having watched the other versions in the recent past, I can't tell you which version I prefer, but I can say I didn't miss the voiceovers.
I'm really looking forward to taking the time to not only watch the other versions of this, but to also listen to the commentary tracks, something I rarely do these days.
|11.24.11||Dr. No||Terence Young||Dr. No is easily one of my favorite Bond films. Being the start of the Sean Connery run as Bond and really, the start of the franchise really, it manages to carry over a lot of the cold, calculating Bond persona from the novel, which is also one of my favorite of the Bond books.|
If I'd have been alive and a teenager in 1962, I'd have totally dug on this movie.
|11.24.11||You Only Live Twice||Lewis Gilbert||A Bond marathon on SyFy over Thanksgiving? I had to dip into this a little to at least catch some of my favorite Bonds I hadn't seen in a while. The bonus was watching them in HD for the first time ever!|
You Only Live Twice is one of my favorite Bond films because it's partially set in Japan, a country I love and still hope to visit sometime; and because the ninja assault scene in the volcano base is fucking awesome!
|11.23.11||House of Fury||Stephen Fung||AKA Jing mo gaa ting, House of Fury is a fun movie. I actually have a good copy at home somewhere, but as I was laid up from surgery and could go searching, I opted to introduce this movie to my sons via Netflix Instant. Unfortunately, the version on NWI is dubbed in English, which really hurts the movie a lot.|
This is the second Netflix issue I've had in as many days with Hong Kong films. It really hurts their reputation to rent out old prints and dubbed titles. My sons have NO problems with subtitled movies and we'd all prefer to hear the original language.
At some point we'll watch my proper version.
|11.21.11||Cheung fo||Johnnie To||I got Cheung Fo (aka The Mission) on DVD from Netflix because it was a Johnnie To film I hadn't seen and it had plenty of actors in it I like.|
The movie itself is certainly enjoyable but the Netflix DVD is terrible. It's hard scaled for older TVs, so it shows up as a small letterboxed window completely surrounded by black borders. As if that weren't terrible enough, it also had a large, ghosted watermark in the middle of the movie the entire time!
I really should have turned it off but something made me push through and finish it. I'd love to watch a decent DVD or BluRay version of the movie to make up for this horrible experience.
|11.19.11||Fast Five||Justin Lin||We capped off Saturday night with a Redbox flick, picked out by my son Gavin. We caught this in the theater and enjoyed its ridiculous fun then. I'm happy to say it still holds up well with a second viewing.|
|11.19.11||For Your Eyes Only||John Glen||Another "hey, it's on TV, so let's watch it" movie pick! It's hard for me to believe this film came out in 1981. A lot of very early '80s culture belongs firmly with the '70s, and this film is no exception. By this time, the Roger Moore Bond had really run its course and had slipped so far into self-mockery that it's hard to believe the franchise still exists.|
I've seen every Bond movie of course, but For Your Eyes Only is one of the least watched by me for whatever reason. I can safely say I've seen it only two or three times prior to this viewing.
|11.19.11||The Inn of the Sixth Happiness||Mark Robson||I've seen portions of this movie so many times in the past that I know I've seen the whole thing a dozen times, but never in one sitting.|
I rectified that by catching the whole 168 minutes in one sitting on TCM while laid up from leg surgery. It's a sweeping, heartwarming, and at times heartrending, drama the likes of which we never see anymore, but are perfect for a sick on the couch kind of day.
|11.19.11||Bomba, the Jungle Boy||Ford Beebe||Maybe it's the pain meds, or the rough week I had recovering from surgery. Whatever the reason, by this weekend I was pretty bored and indecisive about choosing movies to watch on Netflix or from my own library. When I was a kid and I was sick at home, I used to love curling up on the couch and watching whatever western, science fiction, horror, war or adventure movies were playing on TV.|
That's how I saw the majority of westerns and war movies; Hitchcock films and Charlie Chan crime capers; and certainly Tarzan movies.
So I decided to just switch over to the TV and watch whatever I could find there.
Lo and behold, I was present with a cheapie Tarzan knockoff from the late '40s, the first in a series of something like 10 Bomba films!
Bomba, like Tarzan, shows a lot of cultural and racial prejudices that were common at the time, no surprise there. Bomba is no Tarzan. He's a younger (late teens) boy and he's got his matching white girl (Bombette?) that he rescues, but most of the scenes are pretty slight and tiresome.
Still, I'd be interested in catching some more of the Bomba series at some point.
|11.18.11||Captain America: The First Avenger||Joe Johnston||A rewatch with the family for our family movie night. We saw this in the theater and really enjoyed it then, and I'm happy to say it still holds up with a second viewing.|
Just a fun, retro-style action adventure movie that's absolutely enjoyable. Easily the best of the crop of super hero movies that came out this year (Thor, Green Lantern).
|11.17.11||Seraphim Falls||David Von Ancken||A classic tale of post-Civil War revenge, turned on it's end a bit, Seraphim Falls starts out pretty damn strong, but gets too caught up in it's own moralities and desire to tie a bow around the plot by the end. The final third of the movie undermines the rough hewn reality of the first third of the film.|
Despite that, it's still an enjoyable watch.
|11.17.11||Meek's Cutoff||Kelly Reichardt||A pretty sparse tale of what faced pioneers as they made their way West in the 1800s. This isn't the prettied up version we're so accustomed to seeing in the Westerns of our youth. Instead, this presents the silence, drudgery, long days and nights, the emptiness and stillness of the Oregon desert; the continuous search for water along the way; and the uncertainty of both guides and pioneers of not only where they were headed, but how they were getting there.|
Certainly not a movie for everyone, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.
|11.17.11||Beach Red||Cornel Wilde||A thoroughly unenjoyable WWII war movie with terrible voiceovers by the actors during combat scenes and some truly awful flashbacks to family life back home; all spliced together with what at the time were probably considered pretty realistic action sequences.|
It's very obvious this is a movie made during (and really, about) the VietNam war era and it carries a lot of political baggage around because of it.
Definitely didn't age well. I can't recommend anyone watching this. It's not even bad in a good way.
|11.16.11||Mesrine: Public Enemy #1||Jean-François Richet||Finally finished off the second part of the Mesrine movies. Arguably better than the first, I quite enjoyed it.|
|11.15.11||36 Quai des Orfèvres||Olivier Marchal||A decent French police thriller that falls flat in some areas; would be excellent remake fodder for a great director like Martin Scorsese.|
|11.15.11||Trollhunter||André Øvredal||Just as enjoyable the second time around.|
|11.15.11||Bay Rong||Le Thanh Son||A decent Thai actioner that's pretty derivative of RONIN.|
|11.14.11||House of Bamboo||Samuel Fuller||A great Sam Fuller crime drama set in post-war Japan, with some stellar performances by a young, rough around the edges Robert Stack, and the severely underrated Robert Ryan.|
Worth watching for the on-location shooting in post-war Japan, including a great end scene that plays out in a rooftop childen's carnival, replete with Ferris wheel and tilt-o-whirl.
|11.14.11||Rampage||Uwe Boll||The fact that I willingly chose to watch an Uwe Boll movie of my own accord should be shocking enough; that I grudgingly liked it is even more shocking. To be fair, it's not a great movie, but honestly, it's not bad.|
I was repaid for this early morning watch by having a spasm in my newly post-operative leg that ended in an overwhelming amount of pain and me blacking out at least once right as the end credits rolled. Talk about odd timing.
|11.13.11||Killer's Kiss||Stanley Kubrick||I'd never seen this noir from Stanley Kubrick, so I figured I'd go ahead and fill the hole. It definitely feels like minor Kubrick, but even minor Kubrick is a lot better than what most directors do.|
Really well shot and edited.
|11.13.11||Hardware||Richard Stanley||Hardware makes the most of its low budget to deliver a pretty decent future horror, with some great robotic effects and gore.|
As if that weren't reason enough to check it out, it also features a cameo by Lemmy from Motorhead as a water taxi driver; Iggy Pop's voice as a radio DJ; video from Survival Research Laboratories, Monty Cazzazza and Throbbing Gristle; and a soundtrack with Motorhead, Ministry and PIL.
|11.13.11||Leviathan||George P. Cosmatos||A sadly overlooked minor Alienesque undersea horror movie, it's been ages since I'd seen this. Still fun to watch.|
|11.13.11||Flash Gordon||Mike Hodges||Perhaps the epitome of '80s era sci-fantasy excess, Flash Gordon, like Krull, suffers from its post-Star Wars comparisons; it harkens back to a more dumbed down, kitschy approach to sci-fi and fantasy that had dogged the genres since the '30s and the age of the cliffhangers.|
My kids had never seen it, so I figured now was as good a time as any to expose them to it.
|11.12.11||Machete Maidens Unleashed||Mark Hartley||A pretty fun, entertaining documentary that explores the exploitation of talent in the Philippines to churn out a lot of low budget films from the 1960s to the '80s. From the director of Not Quite Hollywood.|
|11.12.11||Autumn||Ra'up McGee||A French drama (I hesitate to call it a thriller, since the pace is downright glacial at times) revolving around a retiring killer and his girlfriend, who sells bomb components on the black market.|
The overly complex script leads the viewer into boredom more often than not.
|11.12.11||Caged||John Cromwell||Happened to be awake post-surgery and caught this on TCM at the beginning.|
If not the first, definitely one of the earliest of the women-in-prison movies, though much tamer than any of the '70s or '80s era movies that would gain notoriety.
Definitely quite cynical for its time, and a pretty damning indictment of the women's prison system.
|11.11.11||Resident Evil: Afterlife||Paul W.S. Anderson||My sons' choice for family movie night. Even though I'd had surgery earlier in the day (outpatient, but a major operation on my right tibia) I let them pick.|
Easily the worst of the four RE movies, Afterlife would be better if no one remembered the SFX from the Matrix trilogy, whose action scenes Anderson borrows very heavily from, albeit in an inferior way. It's difficult to watch this movie without mentally comparing it to The Matrix, which proves to be a major distraction.
I do like the series on the whole and am still looking forward to the next one, and the eventual reboot of the entire series. RE seems to have a lot of potential for stories.
|11.08.11||Stake Land||Jim Mickle||I'd heard so many mixed reviews on this, I wasn't sure what to expect. Happily, I liked it a lot. Stake Land felt more akin to Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" than did the actual movie adaptation.|
As my friend @sleestakk commented, it'd be great to see a TV series wrapped around this, since there seem to be a plethora of stories that could be drawn out of this world.
|11.07.11||Bridesmaids||Paul Feig||A good, intelligent comedy with some genuinely funny parts in it, though ultimately I don't think it deserved the amount of attention lauded upon it when it was at theaters.|
That seems to be more an indication of the putrid state of comedy movies than of how great Bridesmaids ultimately is/was.
Still, I enjoyed it a lot.
|11.02.11||The Robber||Benjamin Heisenberg||A really well done Austrian film based on the true story of a marathon runner who also compulsively robbed banks.|
There's a lot to like here, including the fact that the director doesn't try to moralize or judge the protagonist.
The lead, Andreas Lust, was also in Revanche (on my to-watch list!) and had a bit part on Munich as well. Definitely one to watch. Another person to watch would be actress Franziska Weisz, who plays Erika, the protagonist's girlfriend. She oozes raw, earthy sensuality in The Runner and backs it up with some fine acting. I'll definitely make a point of tracking down more of her movies.
|11.02.11||Synth Britannia||Benjamin Whalley||A nicely done BBC TV documentary from 2009 that covers Britain's synth music scene in the mid to late seventies through the mid-eighties. Featuring plenty of music from my youth, including OMD, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Depeche Mode and more.|
|11.01.11||Framed||Phil Karlson||Fresh off the success of Walking Tall, Phil Karlson directed another great Southern revenge/wronged-by-the-law tale, with Joe Don Baker once again doing the honors as leading man.|
While not as good as Walking Tall, Framed still has a lot going for it, including a great no-holds-barred, realistically violent hand-to-hand fight scene.
Karlson also directed the great noir Kansas City Confidential.
|10.31.11||Dog Soldiers||Neil Marshall||It's no secret that I'm a Neil Marshall fan; I haven't seen a movie of his that I didn't like. Dog Soldiers was actually the first I saw, albeit in a chopped up version on SyFy. I could tell from the editing that there had to be a better cut of the movie out there and it didn't take me long to track down and own the DVD.|
I bought the Bluray last Christmas season and figured Halloween was a good time to crack the seal on it. While I still love the hell out of the movie, I've got to say that the Blu transfer isn't the best. It seemed to be washed out and a bit too grainy during the outdoor night scenes. The interior scenes came through pretty well though.
I can't help but compare this movie to Zulu, with its waves of attackers and the slow retreat from defensible position to defensible position. Aliens also applies this same technique to great effect, as do any number of other movies.
|10.31.11||The Thing||John Carpenter||It'd actually been a long time since I'd seen the entire movie; I've often caught parts of it on TV over the last ten years. Still an excellent piece of cinema!|
|10.30.11||The Resident||Antti Jokinen||It's sad to see good actors waste talent on a mediocre movie. The Resident is much too formulaic to merit its thriller categorization. I could even forgive that if it weren't for the editing gimmick that sucks ALL of the tension right out of the movie.|
On the plus side, there are some really well done sexual scenes with Hillary Swank that are worth the torture of watching the rest of the movie.
This is the first production from the newly revived Hammer Films; I'm hoping later productions improve on this one.
|10.30.11||Maniac Cop||William Lustig||With a cast consisting of Tom Atkins, Robert Z'Dar and Bruce Campbell, how can you go wrong? This is a great late '80s movie from William Lustig with a story written by Larry Cohen.|
Our last movie for Halloween Movie Night and a blast! I'm a big fan of Lustig, so it's no surprise that I like this movie.
|10.29.11||The Last Circus||Álex de la Iglesia||Due to time constraints, we skipped Human Centipede in favor of Iglesia's Balada triste de trompeta, aka The Last Circus, for our third film in our Halloween Movie Night.|
This movie isn't a typical "horror" film (none of our Halloween Movie Night movies this year were classic horrors); it's more about the horrors of a fascist society, as it's set during the Marco years in Spain.
I can't begin to describe all the craziness takes place, other than to say it involves some seriously deranged clowns and veers off in directions you don't expect.
I'd love to do a double-feature of this and Santa Sangre.
|10.29.11||Attack the Block||Joe Cornish||This was a rewatch for most of us, but the first time for my kids who not only loved it, but had no problems understanding the thick accents and slang that crippled this movie's release in the U.S. Criminal, since it deserved a wider, better supported release than it got.|
We were supposed to watch the BluRay, but due to an ordering/shipping snafu, we had to resort to renting the DVD from RedBox as a day-of replacement. It still looked great.
Second movie of our Halloween Movie Night.
|10.29.11||The Black Cat||Edgar G. Ulmer||Our first movie for a horror themed Halloween Movie Night!|
The Black Cat is a seriously overlooked "horror" classic with great performances from Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff (billed as simply Karloff here) at the top of their respective games.
Lugosi's accent works to his advantage as he plays a Hungarian returning to his home after a long imprisonment during and after World War I, seeking revenge against the man who stole his wife and daughter from him.
A mystery writer and his wife get caught up in the fray and become unwitting pawns in the cat and mouse game between Lugosi and Karloff.
This movie looks gorgeous in black and white, with some really strong contrasts and a beautiful Bauhaus/modern set.
Well worth a watch, especially if you're a fan of the classic Universal Horror series. It should also be noted that this is the first on-screen pairing of Lugosi and Karloff.
|10.28.11||The Nameless||Jaume Balagueró||I tried to wash the taste of Extract out of my mouth with this Spanish occult horror movie from 1999, but it didn't quite do it. It did have some interesting moments, and the premise is great; it just doesn't come together well and seems to be the victim of indecisive editing.|
The story felt similar to me, so perhaps I saw a remake of this at some point?
|10.28.11||Extract||Mike Judge||Extract plays pretty flat. The comedic moments don't elicit much more than a few chuckles here and there. Not really worth the effort, which is too bad as I like director Mike Judge and a lot of the actors/actresses in this.|
|10.28.11||Beneath Hill 60||Jeremy Sims||A really good historical Australian film revolving around a group of World War I tunnelers (also known as sappers) with strong performances, especially from Brendan Cowell who plays the main protagonist, Captain Oliver Woodward.|
Directed by Jeremy Sims, who has spent most of his career as a TV movie and TV series actor.
|10.27.11||Red State||Kevin Smith||I'm not sure why or how this movie is getting billed as a horror movie. The cut I saw on NWI is definitely not horror.|
I'm not a Kevin Smith hater, or apologist. I like his good movies and hate his bad ones. I don't particularly care if he has anal sex with his wife or sits around and gets high all day. I don't care how much he loves or hates hockey. Which is to say, I'm judging this movie on its merits.
Red State features some truly outstanding acting, with Michael Parks' performance being the most outstanding (Melissa Leo also turns in another strong performance). There are also some great, great scenes in this movie. There's a lot to like here, in pieces. However, the film as a whole just falls flat for me. I really disliked the ending and wasn't particularly impressed with John Goodman's character's moral dilemmas, which really undercut the film a lot for me.
The film builds up well enough and manages to mostly, though unevenly, carry itself well through about two thirds of the running time, then just kind of peters off into nothingness.
|10.27.11||Paranormal Activity 2||Tod Williams||I actually enjoyed this one better than the first. It utilizes more cameras/angles than the first, including some good static security camera footage that grounds the movie a little better than the first.|
Looking forward to seeing PA3 eventually.
|10.25.11||Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed||Terence Fisher||I'd seen this before, but it must've been on TCM and I must've missed the opening scene. Which is too bad really, because the opening scene is perhaps the best part of the entire movie!|
I love the mask Cushing wears, and would absolutely love to have a 1/6 scale figure of his Baron Frankenstein character with that mask!
Terence Fisher does a great job with this film, even though the center portion of the film does drag a little.
Cushing's Frankenstein is an amoralistic beast of a human being in this incarnation. I don't think I've ever seen him in a more evil role.
|10.22.11||Films to Keep You Awake: The Baby's Room||Álex de la Iglesia||This is a Spanish made-for-TV movie, part of a series of six films apparently. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it looked interesting so decided to give it a try.|
Most of the character acting is too drama-infused and over-the-top, but the movie does transcend its TV roots when it comes to the horror elements, which are surprisingly creepy at times.
|10.22.11||The Possession of David O'Reilly||Andrew Cull, Steve Isles||I was in the mood for something creepy and picked this off NWI on a whim. Glad I did, as it really creeped me out, which isn't easy these days!|
Obviously done on a small budget and set, with only four actors, O'Reilly managed to make me sit up and get tense pretty early on. It's a found-footage style movie, which I'm not a particularly huge fan of, but it works well here. It has hints of paranoia as exhibited in William Friedkin's Bug; as well as some of the supernatural elements of the Paranormal Activity franchise.
Probably not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it quite a bit.
|10.22.11||Black Sabbath||Mario Bava, Salvatore Billitteri||This is an anthology piece, featuring three different, and unrelated, horror stories, with Boris Karloff as the narrator. Karloff also stars in the last of the three stories, which is also the best of the trio, about a vampire-infested family in the 1800s countryside.|
All three pieces are very moody and well shot, with some gloriously overwrought sets and almost lurid color. The third story is easily the best, and also the longest.
My kids enjoyed it. My youngest son said "scarier than I thought it was going to be!"
|10.21.11||Undisputed||Walter Hill||I've been meaning to watch this lesser Walter Hill flick for some time; glad I finally got it from the library, as it was pretty enjoyable! I'll be interested to see how the two sequels hold up.|
|10.21.11||Game of Death||Giorgio Serafini||A pretty boring action movie that really does not exploit the potential of Wesley Snipes or Zoe Bell in action roles.|
|10.20.11||Blood River||Adam Mason||I had no idea what this movie was about and watched it cold. I'm not sure knowing more about it would have improved the experience or not. To be sure, it's not your run-of-the-mill horror story.|
My biggest complaint is the amount of time it spends on developing the story. I've got no problem with a drawn out story, but there just isn't enough to hang the entire movie on.
I also have issues with the female lead's portrayal, especially with what amounts to her condemnation. Maybe I'm just not knowledgeable enough when it comes to biblical sin.
|10.19.11||The Reeds||Nick Cohen||I wanted this to be better than it was. It certainly had the proper atmosphere for a good, creepy horror film, but the actual plot just felt too convoluted and unexplained that by the end it was a let down.|
There are still some good, creepy things that happen during this movie, so it's worth a watch, but in the end it falls short.
|10.19.11||The Fog||John Carpenter||This was a rewatch, but it's been so long since I saw the original, it felt new. I noticed a few things I totally missed as a kid, including the nod to Halloween with the Michael Myers dummy/Jamie Lee Curtis jump scare; and the Dr. Phibes character, an obvious nod to Vincent Price's character in The Abominable Dr. Phibes.|
|10.19.11||Diary of the Dead||George A. Romero||I liked this one better than Survival of the Dead, which I found tedious. To be sure, I have some issues with Diary, the main one being the generally cavalier attitude displayed by most of the characters when confronted with life-or-death situations. However, I still felt this was a return to form for Romero, and a good watch.|
|10.17.11||The Tingler||William Castle||First time I've managed to watch this and can't say that I cared too much for it.|
|10.17.11||House on Haunted Hill||William Castle||The William Castle jump scare classic, with a very sinister Vincent Price in the lead! This was part of TCM's guest programmer series, featuring John Carpenter making the selections.|
Not one of my favorite movies, but one of my favorite Vincent Price performances.
|10.17.11||The Horror of Dracula||Terence Fisher||The first, and perhaps the best, of the Hammer Horror Dracula films, I really enjoyed this movie a lot! Fisher is at the top of his game here, and Lee as Dracula is astonishing. He barely speaks any lines during the entire movie, but has an ominous presence as Dracula, particularly at the end of the movie, where the heretofore slow pace gets absolutely frenetic.|
|10.16.11||The Ward||John Carpenter||I know a lot of people were disappointed in this new effort from Carpenter, but I enjoyed it for the low key horror film it was. To be sure, it's no The Thing or Halloween, but I still found it fairly enjoyable.|
Here's hoping he quickens the pace and gives us some more movies to watch soon!
|10.16.11||The Vampire Lovers||Roy Ward Baker||This turned out to be the last movie for us for Music Box Massacre. We were all losing steam, and the seats around us were littered with sleeping horror fans. Pretty happy I made it through this and up to 6 am, but the reality of having to get home and get my kids ready for their final lacrosse game of the season set in.|
The Vampire Lovers is based on the great vampire story 'Carmilla' by Sheridan Le Fanu, one of my favorites of the genre. This is a seedier take on the story, making explicit some of the implied lesbian eroticism of the story. You'll get no argument out of me for the movie heading in that direction!
|10.16.11||City of the Living Dead||Lucio Fulci||One of my favorite Fulci films, and a real treat to see on the big screen for the first time! Movie number 10 for Music Box Massacre.|
|10.16.11||Pumpkinhead||Stan Winston||I have fond memories of this movie from watching it in the '80s, and it still holds up pretty well, anchored by Lance Henriksen's great performance and Stan Winston's lovely practical FX.|
Movie number 9 of Music Box Massacre (we skipped number 8, Poltergeist, to get a late dinner).
|10.15.11||Halloween||John Carpenter||First time seeing this absolute horror classic on the big screen and what a blast it was, despite the faded print.|
Movie number 7 for Music Box Massacre.
|10.15.11||The Wizard of Gore||Herschell Gordon Lewis||My first watch of this B-Movie horror classic, with a nice introduction and Q&A from the director himself, including HGL singing, with a backing band, the theme song to 10,000 Maniacs! Pretty fun time!|
Movie number 5 of Music Box Massacre.
|10.15.11||The Abominable Dr. Phibes||Robert Fuest||Movie number four for Music Box Massacre and a fun watch with a crowd.|
|10.15.11||Hour of the Wolf||Ingmar Bergman||Third movie of Music Box Massacre, and perhaps the most dense and inscrutable of the movies screened. Ingmar Bergman's only horror movie is a surrealistic meditation on how the past haunts an artist. Non-linear, with gorgeous cinematography and brilliant acting by Max Von Sydow.|
I can't say I still understand it entirely, but I can say I'm still thinking on it. I'll probably revisit at some point to see if I can peel away another layer of comprehension.
|10.15.11||Burn, Witch, Burn||Sidney Hayers||This was the second movie of Music Box Massacre 7, a 24 hour marathon of horror movies held annually at the historic Music Box Theater in Chicago. This was my first time attending, along with my friends @patsandberg and @sleestakk (who is a veteran of Massacre).|
I actually missed most of the first movie, a silent era film titled The Waxworks.
Burn, Witch, Burn, aka Night of the Eagle, was a great classic thriller/horror with witchcraft overtones and some pretty odd characters. Quite enjoyable!
|10.14.11||Night of the Seagulls||Amando de Ossorio||The fourth and final film in the Blind Dead series, and the second best of the four, by far. My favorites, in order, are the first, the fourth, the second and the third. The Ghost Galleon, the third in the series is pretty much crap.|
Night of the Seagulls moves the action back to land and goes back to a lot of what made the first movie so good.
|10.14.11||A Horrible Way To Die||Adam Wingard||A Horrible Way To Die has a languid pace, and a wandering camera that has a tendency to trail off and out of focus during fades between scenes. Things like that can be off-putting for a general audience, but once I settled into the movie, it was easy enough to adjust my attention span and patience to the pace of the film.|
There were times I was wondering where everything was heading, but I did clue in a while before I was supposed to.
Probably not for everyone, but I did enjoy the film.
|10.14.11||Quarantine 2: Terminal||John Pogue||I've seen Rec and Rec 2, which make a nice, compact one-two punch rarely seen with sequels. Quarantine and Quarantine 2 are similar in that respect, in that Q2 also picks up immediately after the first movie, though they don't seem related much at first.|
I'm a big fan of Rec and Rec 2, but I think Quarantine and Quarantine 2 also stand well on their own. My only real complaint with Q2 is that the pacing seems off during the second half of the movie, which interferes a bit with the build up of tension. The first have is pretty damn good, especially in terms of pacing.
All in all, a good, enjoyable film and worth a watch.
|10.13.11||The Fighter||David O. Russell||Finally got around to watching The Fighter with my wife last night. Very well done movie, liked it quite a bit. It's obviously Christian Bale's and Melissa Leo's show here, though everyone else does a capable job as well. Mark Wahlberg's performance was nicely understated, and a good counterpoint to Bale's manic presence.|
Melissa Leo is just brilliant, even though you spend most (if not all) of the movie despising her character.
|10.12.11||Die Monster Die!||Daniel Haller||Based on H.P. Lovecraft's short story, "The Colour Out of Space", Die Monster Die! is a fairly proficient gothic horror that manages to get a lot out of a pretty small budget. The sets look great and the lighting is especially effective here. It's difficult to tell this is even an AIP film!|
Boris Karloff was pretty crippled by arthritis by this point in his life, which explains why his character is wheelchair-bound during most of the movie.
Nick Adams also gives a pretty decent performance as the straight-forward square-jawed protagonist.
|10.11.11||The Ghost Galleon||Amando de Ossorio||Ghost Galleon is the third installment in the Blind Dead series of Spanish horror movies from director Amando de Ossorio.|
With the exception of a few genuinely creepy scenes, including the rather excellent ending, Ghost Galleon is largely forgettable and certainly the worst of the three Blind Dead movies I've seen so far.
On paper, the plot actually looks decently entertaining. However, the execution, including some really horribly awful miniature work of the Galleon in the wide angle shots, coupled with some pretty terrible dialogue and acting, ruins it.
The scenes with the blind, undead Knights Templar are effectively creepy, especially for their time. However, there just aren't enough scenes with them to make up for the rest of the movie.
I'd love to see some enterprising genre director tackle this as a remake; I think it could be an effective low-budget horror movie.
|10.10.11||BKO: Bangkok Knockout||Panna Rittikrai||When I checked into Miso for this, I commented "Expecting a goofy plot and great action." That pretty well sums up this whole movie.|
From the director of Ong Bak (this movie is also known as Ong Bak: The New Generation), Panna Rittikrai, BKO is a lot less focused than Ong Bak, so don't get your hopes up for a decent plot.
My biggest complaint isn't even about the silly plot, since I was expecting that; rather it's with the running time of the movie, which just seems to go on FOREVER. That does mean it packs in a lot of action, but by the end it's just a series of "you thought this was the final battle, but AHA, now we've got THIS!" moments, which get wearying after a while.
Still, there are some amazing, jaw-dropping fight scenes and stuntwork going on here that you'll never see in Hollywood because no one would insure the production!
That doesn't keep me from thinking I'd love to see some of this fight choreography in a mainstream movie like the next James Bond film though.
|10.09.11||Forbidden World||Allan Holzman||It's hard for me to believe I never saw this Corman produced sci-fi/horror B-movie classic back in the day. It's so completely up my alley I probably had to go out of my way to avoid it. Weird.|
Forbidden World, aka Mutant, is another in a whole sub-genre of Alien-inspired sci-fi/horror movies. The sets and effects, though obviously not Hollywood grade, are nonetheless pretty effective for a B-movie. The mutant creature isn't the greatest, but there are some pretty cool scenes later in the film with it as well.
Plenty of nudity, violence to go around for everyone, I enjoyed this movie a lot, as I knew I would.
|10.09.11||Return of the Evil Dead||Amando de Ossorio||This followup to Tombs of the Blind Dead is the second of four Blind Dead movies that came out of Spain in the 1970s.|
Known by a number of names including its original title, Attack of the Blind Dead, and Mark of the Devil 5: Return of the Blind Dead, the second in the series isn't quite as well executed as the first, but still has a lot going for it.
The undead, blind Knights Templar are pretty damn creepy and the movie as a whole features a healthy amount of garish bloodiness so emblematic of euro horror from the seventies.
Most, if not all, of the main protagonists are unlikeable, which explains why I was cheering for the knights to do them all in.
I've got the next two movies in the series on the way from Netflix as well, so we'll see how they compare to the first two.
|10.08.11||Ironclad||Jonathan English||I categorized Ironclad as an action movie, and it is, but not the sort of action movie most of us are used to.|
Set in England during the 1200s, Ironclad is a historical drama with some amazingly gruesome savagery in it. I've always been critical of historical movies with 'clean' violence in them. In the 12th century, when a knight hacks into an opponent's shoulder with a fucking broadsword, it's gut-wrenchingly awful stuff. To Ironclad's credit, it gets the violence right, no matter how cringe-inducing it is. And it does induce plenty of cringing, to be sure.
The movie is slow at times, putting a strain on our modern attention spans, but I really enjoyed it quite a bit.
It amazes me that Ironclad got little play in theaters (it was never in my area, to be sure) while a pile of dreck like The Eagle was plastered on big screens across the country. Ugh. There is no justice in the world of movie going.
|10.08.11||Drive||Nicolas Winding Refn||For the first time ever, my wife and I left the kids at home without a babysitter and did a little mini date night. And life was good.|
I admit, I feel like a cheated a little on this movie since I've owned the soundtrack for going on a month before seeing the actual film. The tone and pace of the soundtrack hinted at what to expect from the movie.
Despite that, I went into it thinking Drive would be akin to the '70s era The Driver, perhaps with more chase scenes. To be sure, it does echo that movie a lot, both in terms of the reserved nature and amorality of the main character. But the focus isn't car chases; in fact, the actual driving really takes a back seat (pardon my pun) to everything else that's going on. In short, the driving is just a plot device.
It really didn't take me long to adjust to tone and pace of the film, even though it wasn't what I was expecting.
That's not to say there isn't action in Drive; there is. And it is nasty and visceral and shocking and fucking great.
Easily one of my top 10 of the year so far, and probably a movie I pick up on Blu-Ray eventually.
|10.08.11||Real Steel||Shawn Levy||My kids wanted to see this, but I almost bailed on the rest of the family to catch a concurrent showing of Drive, sticking my wife with the kids. Instead, my wife and I decided we'd catch a later showing of Drive for a mini-date night and take one for the family.|
I have to admit I was rolling my eyes at the typical "down-on-his luck, heart of gold, estranged father who just wants one more chance to do right by his kid even if he doesn't know it" routine, and with good reason. It's a tired, boring cliche. I was really ready to write off the whole movie in the first 15 minutes.
Fortunately for everyone involved, it got better after that. For one, Hugh Jackman actually does a pretty good job of playing the irredeemable asshole father. He doesn't make very many apologies and when he does, it's not some eloquent, out-of-character speech like we typically get. Jackman's character's lines are actually pretty suited to the character more or less throughout, which is kind of refreshing.
Second, I fell for the goddamn punch drunk robot. I'm a cynic when it comes to underdog stories, and I wanted to hate the metal bastard. Instead, I found myself inexorably drawn into rooting for the little guy. It's difficult to instill humanity in a robot, but Real Steel manages to pull it off, with no real emotiveness on the part of the robot.
I can say unhesitatingly that I enjoyed Real Steel more than both Thor and Green Lantern combined.
|10.07.11||S&Man||J.T. Petty||This movie intentionally, very pointedly in fact, blurs the lines between 'documentary' and film, implicating the viewer in much of what goes on here.|
It does a good job of making the audience uncomfortable. An interesting watch.
|10.07.11||Iron Monkey||Woo-ping Yuen||A fun, well-done martial arts movie with plenty of great action and amazing wire-fu. The kids really enjoyed it.|
|10.06.11||Hesher||Spencer Susser||Surprisingly, my wife chose this from RedBox after I gave her a list of possibilities. I'd been meaning to watch it since I'd read reactions on Twitter from other Tallyteers and film critics.|
While there are some truly hilarious scenes, it's actually more of a drama, and a touching one at that.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt does an outstanding job as Hesher, as does Natalie Portman as grocery store checkout girl Nicole. For my money though, the standout performances are from Devin Brochu as the young kid, T.J., and Piper Laurie as T.J.'s grandmother.
Brochu has to express a lot of different emotions, which can be difficult to do for young actors. He does an outstanding job handling a range of conflicting emotions.
Laurie is just awesome as the befuddled, caring, out-of-it grandmother. There is are two standout scenes with her, back-to-back that really cement her performance and provide some serious backbone to the movie. I really enjoyed her performance a lot.
Definitely not for the easily offended or young crowd, but a good movie.
|10.05.11||The Curse of Frankenstein||Terence Fisher||Another TCM movie picked by guest programmer John Carpenter, Curse of Frankenstein was the first Hammer horror film pairing Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It was also the first color movie of the Frankenstein story.|
The monster makeup on Lee is spectacular. Lee livens up the character a lot more, adding a schizophrenic, disjointed, angular quality to the monster that one might expect from a creature sewn together from the body parts of multiple dead people.
|10.05.11||It! The Terror from Beyond Space||Edward L. Cahn||Another TCM guest programmer movie picked by John Carpenter. It's easy to see why, as It! is an obvious precursor to Alien, setting down more than a few plot devices that would find their way into Alien.|
To be sure, it has some rough edges and some glaring plot holes, including a pretty campy man-in-a-suit monster. Those things aside, it's still an enjoyable nuclear age sci-fi/horror film. Glad I finally got to catch it.
|10.05.11||The Thing From Another World||Christian Nyby||Part of TCM's guest programmer lineup, this was the first movie picked by guest John Carpenter. I love the hell out of this movie, so any excuse to catch it again is ok by me.|
There are so many things that work so well about this film, it's just a treat to watch.
|10.05.11||1990: The Bronx Warriors||Enzo G. Castellari||I generally enjoy Castellari's movies, even when he's not at his best. There's a lot of elements in Bronx Warriors that I wanted to like... but it just fell flat.|
Bronx Warriors tries marry heavily borrowed elements from Escape From New York and The Warriors without much success. Perhaps the biggest issue is the wooden acting from Mark Gregory as the anti-hero, Trash. The plot is kind of a mess as well, with no real motive driving the whole thing.
Highlights are Vic Morrow's over-the-top performance as a bounty hunter/cop named Hammer, the decayed urban landscape of New York City, and motorcycles, lots of motorcycles.
|10.05.11||The Professionals||Richard Brooks||When I was a kid, I suffered from a lot of major ear infections. I remember many a day being home from school sick, laying on the couch in the basement under piles of blankets watching a steady diet of war, western and Hitchcock movies on TV.|
Since I was sick this day, I figured a good western would fit right in. Happily I'd just received The Professionals on DVD from Netflix.
When you throw Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Jack Palance and Claudia Cardinale together in a cynical mid-sixties western, I'm happy to say the result is pretty damn good.
Palance doesn't get a lot of screen time, which is actually ok. The show really belongs to Lancaster and Marvin here, who are a great one-two combo. Cardinale's charming assets weren't too shabby either.
|10.05.11||Underworld||Len Wiseman||I was going to revisit the first two movies while sick at home, but stopped after this one, since it wasn't nearly as good as I'd remembered it being. Just wasn't up for the second one (though I still enjoy the third in the series).|
|10.04.11||Galaxy of Terror||Bruce D. Clark||My first time watching this, at least that I can remember. A great Alien "inspired" sci-fi/horror B-movie from Roger Corman, with a great cast including Sid Haig, Robert Englund, Grace Zabriskie, Ray Walston and more.|
Lots of fun if you enjoy schlocky b-grade stuff like I do.
|10.04.11||The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest||Daniel Alfredson||Probably my least favorite of the trilogy, both in book and movie form. There is a lot left out of the movie by necessity, but it does make for a less engaging experience.|
|10.02.11||Stone||John Curran||If you like excellent acting and character studies, this film is wall-to-wall perfection. What it isn't is a thriller, which it seemed to be marketed as to get bodies in seats. Surely a disappointment to anyone who walked into a screening of Stone expecting such.|
De Niro and Norton as both brilliant, with De Niro's role more nuanced and understated.
The two real standouts though, are the secondary female co-stars, Milla Jovovich and Frances Conroy. I don't think anyone would expect the amazing performance that Jovovich pulls off here. It's great to see her shine as a real actress in a role totally different from the action-oriented stuff we know her for.
Conroy's performance is the best of the film to me. There is so much going on with her character, all of it below the surface and expressed more through her body language and facial expressions than by words. Truly brilliant stuff.
|10.01.11||The Bourne Ultimatum||Paul Greengrass||It's hard to argue against this as being the best of the trilogy, but I still prefer The Bourne Supremacy as my favorite of the three, mainly for story reasons.|
Still, the combined motorcycle/scooter/rooftop foot chase scene that culminates in probably the best, most raw and physically exhausting hand-to-hand combat scene ever committed to film definitely sets this movie above the others.
All said and done, watching all three of these movies is still a ton of fun. The only thing that's come close to the adrenaline rush of these movies in recent memory would be the recent Bond movies, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
|09.30.11||Godzilla: Final Wars||Ryûhei Kitamura||This 50th anniversary effort from Toho is a mishmash of, and ode to, practically every Godzilla movie in the entire cannon (it even pokes fun at the shitty American Godzilla movie).|
It doesn't work all that well, to be honest, but there are some fun scenes, especially the ones involving American actor/stuntman Don Frye, who plays Douglas Gordon and looks a hell of a lot like Stalin in his military uniform.
Strange to say it, but the opening credits montage is also pretty damn cool, as is the fact that the movie opens with the old Tohoscope widescreen Toho logo.
|09.29.11||Take Aim At The Police Van||Seijun Suzuki||Perhaps not my favorite of the Nikkatsu Noir series from Criterion, but a solid effort nonetheless. This is an early effort from famed genre director Seijun Suzuki, who has a long list of great Japanese crime movies to his credit. Definitely a body of work worth checking out. I've not delved nearly deep enough into his ouvre.|
This was the last of the six Nikkatsu Noir offerings from Criterion for me.
|09.29.11||Bad Day at Black Rock||John Sturges||A really solid anti-rascist neo-western set in some nothing of a town called Black Rock in the American west. Spencer Tracy is excellent, and there are some nice turns by Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan and an especially evil performance by Lee Marvin.|
Very ably directed by the famed John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven, among many other great movies).
|09.28.11||High Lane||Abel Ferry||I originally started to watch High Lane via Netflix Instant, but the terrible dubbing made me stop. Instead, I eventually got around to getting the DVD from Netflix instead.|
The first half hour of the movie is actually very well done; great cinematography and good natural tension from the mountain climbing.
Where things go wrong is when the horror portion kicks in. From there on in it's just generic and cliched, with little character development and no background to latch on to for why all of this is happening in the first place.
|09.25.11||The Bourne Supremacy||Paul Greengrass||My favorite of the three; the Moscow car chase is just epic; the most intense car chase scene in movie history!|
|09.24.11||Contagion||Steven Soderbergh||Contagion is a really well done medical thriller/drama; tightly scripted and shot, with an excellent ensemble cast. I expect people may be led to believe this has a lot more 'end-of-the-world' action in it than it does, but the lack thereof isn't a negative. This feels to me what a real virus outbreak would be like: and it's frightening.|
The best role of the movie is Kate Winslet's. She does a great job.
|09.23.11||The Bourne Identity||Doug Liman||Not my favorite of the trilogy, but man, what a great film! This movie pretty much redefined what a great action movie should be and still holds up really well.|
The Paris car chase scene is still one of the best since The French Connection, and the embassy fight scene is swift and brutal.
|09.22.11||The Collector||Marcus Dunstan||From the producers of Saw, The Collector is a fun little horror romp with an interesting premise. It was inventive enough to hold my attention and stretched things for about as far as it could without overextending the movie.|
Of course the scene with the cat in it, made me cringe the most.
|09.20.11||Dead End Drive-In||Brian Trenchard-Smith||Another BTS flick, this time a classic mid-eighties post-something sci-fi with plenty of punks in it.|
The plot is bit messy, but the action and the punks are a lot of fun to watch.
|09.17.11||Limitless||Neil Burger||My first movie post NAGW conference. Limitless is a nice, tightly plotted and well acted thriller. I enjoyed it more than I figured I would. I actually thought De Niro was pretty decent in his limited role. It was also fun seeing Abby Cornish again (she was in Sucker Punch).|
|09.11.11||Blitz||Elliott Lester||Meh. Not terrible, but not great either. Guess I expected something better out of a movie with Jason Statham and Paddy Considine in it. Considine actually does a decent job with his role, bringing depth to his character that's sadly lacking in Statham's.|
Zawe Ashton does a pretty good job as WPC Elizabeth Falls, a patrol officer and ex-undercover cop who is a recovering addict. I expect to see more of her in the future.
|09.09.11||Rango||Gore Verbinski||A rewatch, this time on Blu, since my wife didn't get to see it. Just a perfect, fun movie!|
|09.08.11||Lebanon||Samuel Maoz||Often referred to as Das Boot on tank treads, I was disappointed in Lebanon. It's a strong anti-war movie, but I expected a more realistic experience of what it was like to serve in an Israeli tank during the First Lebanon War.|
There was plenty of realism there, but the anti-war plot was overly wrought and demanded so much attention that it took away from everything else.
Das Boot let its anti-war message unfold as a natural consequence of the daily trails of the u-boat crew; so Lebanon should have as well, instead of trying to force-feed its message.
Despite that, there are some pretty intense scenes and it does manage to convey the claustrophobic, tin can feeling of being trapped in a metal shell in the middle of a war zone.
|09.06.11||Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen||Andrew Lau||A period actioner based on real life, Legend of the Fist suffers from a bit too much nationalism and is a bit too densely packed. Still, it's a pretty fun watch and the period set pieces, though they take some getting used to, are pretty fun and a bit reminiscent of the opening scenes in the second Indiana Jones (and the Temple of Doom) movie.|
|09.05.11||Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!||Mark Hartley||A great documentary on Ozploitation movies of the 70s and 80s. I really enjoyed it a lot and came up with a whole list of movies I have to track down and watch!|
|09.05.11||This Film Is Not Yet Rated||Kirby Dick||I knew the MPAA was a fucking joke long before this documentary, so watching this didn't really make me angry as much as it just reconfirmed my opinion.|
I felt the documentary was at its best when Dick was interviewing directors who has gone up against the ratings board for their films. Their descriptions of the surreal experiences they had gave more insight into the mechanations than any of the investigative reporting portions did.
|09.04.11||Cold Weather||Aaron Katz||A nice little indie mystery flick. It gets off to a purposefully slow tart, but it's intriguing and just fun to watch as the plot thickens. I really enjoyed it; it was a nice change from some of the stuff I've been watching lately.|
|09.04.11||Arctic Blast||Brian Trenchard-Smith||A more recent BTS flick from last year. So-so, with some pretty cool freezing SFX scenes.|
|09.04.11||The Exterminator||James Glickenhaus||An odd blend of Viet Nam actioner and gritty streets of NYC crime/revenge story. Lots of fun to watch as the closing movie for our movie night.|
|09.03.11||Dream Home||Ho-Cheung Pang||A fun, fun, wicked movie! And by fun, I mean the "laugh at inventive ways people die" fun, which works just fine for me.|
|09.03.11||Battle Beyond The Stars||Jimmy T. Murakami||A bit of nostalgia on movie night. Fun to revisit, even though it's by no means the best movie ever. A product of its times and a fun watch nonetheless.|
|09.03.11||Super||James Gunn||Fucking brilliant and completely wrong! I loved the hell out of this movie. It goes places you just don't expect. I'm sure it offended plenty of people, which is fine by me.|
|09.03.11||Like a Dragon: Yakuza||Takashi Miike||A pretty mediocre 'gangster' film geared towards the younger teen crowd, with an over-reliance on cheap computer-generated SFX. Not Miike's best work, by far.|
|09.02.11||The Rite||Mikael Håfström||Pretty average, not what I was expecting, but then again the trailers for this never got a clear cut message through, so not sure what I was expecting.|
|09.02.11||Priest||Scott Charles Stewart||I thought this was a pretty solid movie; too bad I missed it in theaters. My kids enjoyed it as well.|
|09.02.11||In The Dust of the Stars||Gottfried Kolditz||Another East German sci-fi from the 1970s, Im Staub der Sterne has a definite socialist bent to it. But who cares, the fucking awesome space suits, dancing alien chicks and great soundtrack totally steal the show here!|
I rather enjoyed this flick.
|09.01.11||Never Let Me Go||Mark Romanek||This is one of those polarizing films that people either love or hate. I'm decidedly more on the love side, but wasn't completely enthralled.|
Really well made, with some fantastic location shooting that helps to set the tone.
|08.31.11||Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever||Ti West||Kind of an odd little bird of a movie. It has some great comedic moments, and some pretty horrific moments, and overall does a good job of walking the line between the two.|
The transition from impending horror to full-on gorefest happened too quickly for my liking, wasting a good build up for very little return in that respect.
There are some interesting social aspects to the movie that go against convention and were a refreshing change.
|08.30.11||Hobo With A Shotgun||Jason Eisener||I felt like a rewatch. Loved it just as much as the first time!|
|08.30.11||Vigilante||William Lustig||It's no Maniac, but was still enjoyable. The car chase scene in particular felt pretty damn realistic.|
I kept feeling like it had the potential to be more, but it just never really got there.
|08.29.11||Zombie||Lucio Fulci||Hard to believe I'd never seen this before. Filling in a gap. Turns out it didn't really need filling. Thought the movie was fairly mediocre on the whole, with a tepid plot and the best parts left out altogether.|
On the other hand, zombie vs. shark!
|08.28.11||Cowboys & Aliens||Jon Favreau||So-so. Caught it in theaters, barely. Kids enjoyed it. I liked it, but it was a pretty average effort and tried to be too many things.|
|08.27.11||Green Zone||Paul Greengrass||Give this another viewing. Didn't like it much when I saw it in the theater and it didn't improve much with my second viewing. It was an action/thriller that should have actually had a slower pace to it. I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if they'd taken more time with the plot points and developed it like the better political thrillers of the '60s and '70s.|
|08.27.11||Eolomea||Herrmann Zschoche||An East German sci-fi from the early seventies. Visually interesting at times, but the convoluted plot and rather creaky structure of the film kill it for the most part.|
|08.27.11||Columbiana||Olivier Megaton||I liked it despite its shortcomings. Good action set pieces, though, on the whole, the main plot of movie felt too short. It certainly could have been fleshed out a little bit more with better details and more "missions." Zoe Saldana does a decent job in the role she's given. I could buy her as an action heroine if she finds more roles like this.|
I certainly enjoyed watching her dance...
|08.26.11||The Warrior's Way||Sngmoo Lee||Kind of a meh blending of martial arts and western styles. It had potential, and there are parts that are interesting, but it's dragged down by the overuse of below-grade CGI effects.|
|08.25.11||Buried||Rodrigo Cortés||Surprisingly effective, with a few minor "oh, please" moments. Felt like it went on for just long enough. First movie I've actually liked Ryan Reynolds in.|
|08.24.11||The Snow Creature||W. Lee Wilder||Not very good (I know, that came as a surprise, right?) but, you know, YETI! Ok, man in obvious Yeti costume, but still.. YETI!|
|08.24.11||Gog||Herbert L. Strock||An interesting cold war paranoia sci-fi/murder mystery with plenty of science in the sci-fi. Yeah, it can get goofy at times, but overall a decent little movie.|
|08.23.11||The Catman of Paris||Lesley Selander||A decent little Republic Pictures release, with a pretty cool 'monster.'|
|08.22.11||The Slaughter of the Vampires||Roberto Mauri||A decent Italian vampire movie with a flat out gorgeous female co-star, Graziella Granata. Seriously, I'm still swooning from watching her heaving breasts.|
There are some nicely atmospheric scenes, some great, suspenseful music and restrained eroticism. Some of the dubbed dialog is clunky, but other scenes make up for it. Not the world's greatest movie by any means, but still worth watching if you appreciate the classic Universal Horror films.
|08.22.11||Girly||Freddie Francis||It was expiring on Netflix Instant Watch, so decided to finally screen it. It's a hard movie to describe. It doesn't take itself quite seriously enough to truly be a horror film, though it's got all the elements.|
It was likeable enough but just didn't put enough emphasis on the elements that would have made it into the creepy little film it could have been.
I'll repeat my Miso comment here:
"This movie screams out for a Rob Zombie remake. No one would be offended (including me) since he wouldn't be butchering a classic."
|08.21.11||Sword of War||Renzo Martinelli||Pretty mediocre historical drama about German king and Holy Roman Emperor Friederich I, aka Barbarossa, and his attempts to conquer central and southern Italy in the 12th century, thereby re-establishing the Holy Roman Empire.|
Rutger Hauer plays Barbarossa, but doesn't have a lot to do here, unfortunately.
There are some pretty damn good battle scenes, with some mix of CGI blood and real gore FX that are blended pretty well. That said, the action doesn't do enough to hold this wannabe Braveheart together and keep it from being tedious and boring.
A pair of beautiful women actually have the two better roles in the movie: Vincent Cassel's half-sister Cécile Cassel; and Polish actress Kasia Smutniak.
|08.21.11||Bad Seed||Jon Bokenkamp||Norman Reedus minor role marathon continues! This isn't really a minor role though, since he's one of the main characters. More of a minor movie.|
You figure with Norman Reedus, Luke Wilson and Dennis Farina all in the same thriller, how can you go wrong? Oh, you can go wrong, so wrong. Too bad, because the core of the plot is interesting; the parts are just miscast and the film ends up almost mocking itself.
|08.21.11||Let The Devil Wear Black||Stacy Title||I wasn't expecting much out of this, the first of a Norman Reedus minor roles double bill (yes, I make this shit up as I'm watching), but it was surprisingly decent!|
Mary-Louise Parker is gorgeous as the main character's mentally unstable love interest. Lots of other recognizable Hollywood names make an appearance, including Jacqueline Bisset, Chris Sarandon, Jamey Sheridan, Phillip Baker Hall and the aforementioned Norman Reedus.
|08.20.11||Across 110th Street||Barry Shear||I've been reading a great book (The Savage City, by T. J. English) about the racial tensions in New York City during the early sixties to early seventies, and this movie draws on that, although it's a bit melodramatic to be a serious study on the topic.|
Anthony Quinn's performance in particular is a little over the top.
Still, it's a pretty decent movie; a cross between a gritty NYC police drama and a blaxploitation movie. It does give a glimpse of the squalor of NYC's black ghettos and the rampant racism running through the NYPD, as well as the tension between the city's poor black population and the police force.
|08.18.11||The Hole||Nick Hamm||I didn't have high hopes for this, but it fit my theme for the evening: underground horror (although this is more of a mystery/thriller than a horror film).|
It's actually not a bad little movie, with some pretty strong performances from all four leads. It also features a brief glimpse of Keira Knightly's breasts, so there's that.
I feel kind of bad for Thora Birch who hasn't seemed to be able to live up to her early potential from Ghost World.
|08.18.11||Creep||Christopher Smith||A fairly decent little horror movie, that maybe tries to stretch its premise a little too far. Franke Potente is quite fetching.|
|08.18.11||My Bloody Valentine||Patrick Lussier||Serviceable by I'm not a fan. I actually think this would've been fun to see in 3D at the theater.|
|08.16.11||Dirty Pretty Things||Stephen Frears||Nothing special.|
|08.14.11||The Italian Connection||Fernando Di Leo||Good movie, but still doesn't compare to Il Boss, my favorite of the three.|
Silva isn't the main character here; instead he plays a secondary character - an amoralistic, callous hired killer - who is tasked with tracking down and killing a nobody pimp who's being framed for the theft of some heroin shipment. The plot is kind of a shambles, but some great action set pieces make up for it, including a long foot/car chase that's epic and brutal.
Probably my second most liked of the Di Leo crime films.
I coined an alternate title for this movie: "Henry Silva Kills a Kitten."
|08.14.11||Rise of the Planet of the Apes||Rupert Wyatt||Took the entire family; rewatch for me. Not as great the second go-round, but still a really well done Hollywood summer movie.|
|08.14.11||Caliber 9||Fernando Di Leo||Kind of a mess of a movie; just all over the place. Still, there are some great moments and it's still worth watching.|
|08.13.11||The Next Three Days||Paul Haggis||A lot better than I expected it to be. I avoided this in the theater because it looked pretty mediocre, but I was surprised by a fairly solid story and some good acting from Russell Crowe.|
|08.12.11||Blade II||Guillermo del Toro||Rewatched with the kids, who had never seen any of the Blade movies. Figured I'd start with the best of the bunch! A little more sweary than I remembered, so probably not the best for the kids, but they loved it of course.|
|08.11.11||Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant||Paul Weitz||Watched with the kids for Friday family movie night. Wow, what a pile of mediocre. Too bad, because it seems like the story itself had some potential. Even the kids were pretty "meh" on it.|
|08.09.11||Johnny Cool||William Asher||Since some of the Di Leo titles on NWI were having issues, I opted for a related film instead. The connection here is Henry Silva, who really gets a nice, vicious role to dig into in Johnny Cool.|
Lots of Sinatra-connected people in on this film, including a small part played by Sammy Davis, Jr. Other Frankie pals include Joey Bishop and Mort Sahl.
This movie is also a who's who of TV actors, including the stunningly beautiful Elizabeth Montgomery as Dare, who most people know better as Samantha, from Bewitched. Seriously, she's GORGEOUS in this film. Also making appearances are Richard Anderson from Six Million Dollar Man, Brad Dexter, a supporting actor in practically every TV show ever in the '50s and '60s. Elisha Cook Jr. and Telly Savalas also make appearances.
|08.08.11||Rulers of the City||Fernando Di Leo||Another Di Leo film, this one is definitely goofier in parts than the others. There's still some pretty fun action going on, and the final massive shootout is ridiculously entertaining.|
One thing about the Di Leo films is you see a lot of the same actors, albeit in different roles, from film to film. Watching a group of them back to back can be disconcerting at times.
Also known as Mr. Scarface.
|08.08.11||Il Boss||Fernando Di Leo||The first of a handful of Fernando Di Leo Italian crime thrillers that recently hit Netflix Instant Watch. I've had these on my radar for a while now. This is listed under the English title of Wipeout! on IMDB.|
Il Boss starts off with an awesome assassination of a group of mobsters and just goes full tilt from there! Starring the criminally under appreciated Henry Silva.
Probably the best of the Di Leo films I've seen.
|08.08.11||Maniac||William Lustig||Hard to believe I'd never seen this classic before! So very completely up my alley. My viewing was hampered a bit by Netflix streaming issues, so I'll probably revisit again, maybe even for a movie night with friends.|
Great, great movie!
|08.07.11||Short Night of Glass Dolls||Aldo Lado||Starts out rather slowly, and confusingly, but by the end it's rather interesting and entertaining. Not the best Giallo I've ever seen, but worth a watch if you're a fan of the genre.|
|08.07.11||Rise of the Planet of the Apes||Rupert Wyatt||Comments to come.|
|08.07.11||Nightmare City||Umberto Lenzi||Comments to come.|
|08.06.11||Tucker & Dale vs Evil||Eli Craig||Comments to come.|
|08.06.11||Sleepaway Camp||Robert Hiltzik||First time seeing this and it was on the big screen with the director present for a Q&A after! Very fun movie with plenty of fun stuff in it looking back almost 30 years now.|
Some of the violence is pretty damn brutal and the ending is great!
|08.06.11||Inglorious Bastards 2: Hell Heroes||Stelvio Massi||Terrible quality print, but the movie itself is fairly solid despite the low budget and, at times, goofy, wooden acting. Still, there's a lot to enjoy here.|
|08.05.11||We Are What We Are||Gorge Michel Grau||I was intrigued by what I'd heard about this movie, but didn't have any real expectations. I really enjoyed it a lot! Very well done, worth watching! More drama than horror, but some scenes are pretty violent.|
|07.29.11||The Adjustment Bureau||George Nolfi||Ok, nothing special.|
|07.28.11||Season of the Witch||Dominic Sena||I really wanted to see this in the theaters but it didn't stick around long enough and it never seemed to work out. Bummer, because I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, as I suspected I would after seeing the trailer way back when.|
Cage's performance is oddly straight, if a bit wooden at times, but that doesn't really detract from the movie at all.
Christopher Lee's cameo is excellent, and Ron Perlman obviously has some fun with his role.
I'd really like to do a double feature of this and Black Death, since they both touch on the same subject matter, in more ways than one.
|07.27.11||Blast of Silence||Allen Baron||An auteur masterpiece of late noir, Allen Baron's Blast of Silence is just great! The urban New York City scenes are raw and realistic, as are the characters and the violence.|
Easily the best use of narration in any movie I can remember seeing; and the smouldering, brassy jazz score is excellent.
|07.26.11||The Revenge of the Living Dead Girls||Pierre B. Reinhard||The plot is some goofy thing having to do with corporate sabotage, poisoned milk (I shit you not), dumping toxic waste and, of course, the undead! Most of it is precariously strung together, and at times it's a bit boring.|
However, the great makeup and practical effects, coupled with gratuitous nudity (even full frontal, those crazy French) and some particularly gruesome scenes involving violence to genitals puts it solidly in the 6.5 stars camp for me.
|07.24.11||The Asphalt Jungle||John Huston||The Asphalt Jungle is a brilliant piece of noir filmmaking by none other than John Huston, starring one of my favorite, criminally underrated actors, Sterling Hayden (who also starred in another classic noir, The Killing, by another great director, Stanley Kubrick) as Dix Handley.|
Everything goes tragically wrong for almost everyone in this great heist film. While Marilyn Monroe gets mentioned a lot for her part in this film, the actress who plays Doll Conovan, Dix's unrequited love, Jean Hagen, is great. She's also quietly beautiful in an understated role.
The Asphalt Jungle would make a good noir double bill with The Killing. I'd love to own them both on Blu some day.
|07.24.11||A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop||Yimou Zhang||Though it's been a while since I've seen it, Blood Simple is one of my favorite Coen Brothers movies. Since A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop is a retelling of Blood Simple, I've had it on my to watch list for a while.|
Sorry I didn't get to it sooner because it doesn't disappoint! Though it starts out almost comedically, it continues to get darker and sparer as it moves along.
Great cinematography and acting, coupled with some beautifully stark landscapes make this a truly wonderful film.
|07.23.11||Battle for the Planet of the Apes||J. Lee Thompson||Easily the worst of the five movies, Battle obviously suffers from a rushed production and a thin budget. The action sequences are terribly boring; even the attack on Ape City is tepid at best.|
I do, however, like the way the movie brought the plot around full circle, back to Beneath The Planet of the Apes. Otherwise, pretty meh.
|07.23.11||Conquest of the Planet of the Apes||J. Lee Thompson||Despite the goofiness of Ricardo Montalban's character, Conquest is pretty damn dark and mean; it really feels like a rightful heir to the original POTA more than any of the other movies.|
We watched the uncut version on Blu-Ray and it's easy to see the differences. This version was a lot more violent, with some serious (though still obviously fake) blood shed.
Easily my third favorite of the series, and maybe even edges out Beneath The Planet of the Apes if I watch it a few more times. My kids really liked this one a lot.
|07.23.11||Escape From The Planet of the Apes||Don Taylor||Not the worst of the series, but not the best by a long shot. There's some pretty silly stuff in the middle of this movie before it delves into darker territory by the end.|
Probably the least coherent in terms of the plot, given that the major plot point is such a jump from Beneath. Still, it does set up Conquest quite nicely.
|07.23.11||Beneath the Planet of the Apes||Ted Post||The first movie in our POTADay marathon, we watched all these films off the new Blu-Ray set that @sleestakk got. The prints were pretty damn nice, all things considered.|
Beneath is probably the movie I've seen the most outside of the original POTA. Still, it'd been a while (btw, we started with Beneath because my kids and I had recently watched POTA, so we didn't feel the need to revisit it so soon).
Definitely my second favorite of the series.
|07.23.11||Captain America: The First Avenger||Joe Johnston||Kudos to Joe Johnston for creating the first Marvel Comics-based movie since the original Iron Man that's actually pretty good.|
Took the entire family to the $3 matinee showing, in 2D natch, and really enjoyed the hell out of this. The final third of the movie felt too rushed for my tastes, but man, the first two-thirds were excellent!
This is the action movie I've been anticipating all summer long; so happy it didn't disappoint.
|07.22.11||Never Back Down||Jeff Wadlow||The last disc from my library loan pile for the week, so we knocked it off.|
NBD is pretty much a generic teen fish-out-of-water movie, completely interchangeable with any other movie in its genre. Think any dance movie, except with MMA in place of dancing; or really Karate Kid, except with... MMA.
Mildly entertaining, nothing more.
|07.22.11||Titan A.E.||Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, Art Vitello||I remember seeing this in the theater in Seattle one evening while I was there for a conference.|
I thought my kids might like it and had good memories of it. Turns out it doesn't hold up as much 11 years later. The animation is an odd cross between a typical flat cartoon style and computer-generated 3D, which was just coming into its own then, I assume.
Kids liked it, but I don't think any of us were wowed by it.
|07.21.11||Hellboy II: The Golden Army||Guillermo del Toro||Another movie I liked better after my third time watching. I think I love the comics so much that I have a hard time letting the movie exist all on its own.|
Quite a fun film and left me wanting a third movie. Don't know what the chances of that happening are; pretty slim I'm guessing.
|07.20.11||Anzio||Edward Dmytryk||A strange anti-war film that felt like it wanted to be a big budget war movie from the '50s instead.|
The best part of the movie is Peter Falk's character; I think this is the best role I've seen him in from his younger days.
|07.19.11||The Girl Who Played With Fire||Daniel Alfredson||I LOVED The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and immediately after watching it, I sought out The Girl Who Played With Fire. Didn't like it nearly as much at the time, but I chalk that up to not having read the books yet and being a bit tired when I watched it. It's definitely a movie that demands your attention because it has a fairly intricate plot that requires you to follow along closely.|
Happy to say I enjoyed it a lot more on the second time through. Now I need to see the final movie.
|07.19.11||Escape From L.A.||John Carpenter||I have fond memories of watching a way-too-dark print of Escape from New York at a drive-in theater back in the day, but remember hating Escape From L.A. when I saw it at the theater. I decided to give it another chance and actually quite enjoyed it this time around.|
The SFX don't hold up so well, and maybe they didn't even back in 1996, but still a fun post-apocalyptic movie. Have no idea why I hated it so much the first time round.
|07.18.11||The Contractor||Josef Rusnak||Seriously, what happened to Wesley Snipes that he went from Spike Lee movies and the Blade franchise to direct-to-video mediocre films like this? The Contractor isn't terrible, but it's nothing outstanding either.|
|07.18.11||Last Man Standing||Walter Hill||Hill's take on Kurosawa's Yojimbo (on which Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars is also based) is set in 1930s West Texas. It's a gritty, pretty period accurate piece of nastiness that's an enjoyable watch.|
The over-the-top gun battles are especially fun to watch!
I'm a big Walter Hill fan. I love The Warriors and The Driver. While Last Man Standing isn't quite up there with those two, it's still a fun watch and worth seeking out if you haven't seen it.
|07.17.11||Twelve||Joel Schumacher||I still haven't forgiven Schumacher for that Batman shit.|
A serviceable movie about... well, not really sure what the point was other than drugs fuck up your life and rich, upper east side NYC preppies lead vain, self-indulgent lives and... well, whatever.
The main thing is you don't really care about any of these people, so whatever point there was is kind of lost. Not terrible, just kind of self-indulgent.
|07.16.11||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2||David Yates||I think my expectations were just too high, as I wanted this final movie to be an epic send-off of the entire series. It just fell short for me in a number of ways.|
The battle for Hogwarts just felt unfocused, with some fairly serious events not even getting screen time.
Ironically, I liked Deathly Hallows Part 1, because it really took the time to drive home the isolation and the struggle to do the right thing, impressing upon the audience that there is a price to pay and a long road in front of anyone who does so.
Part 2 felt it could have easily been an hour longer without any problems at all. Can I hope for an extended cut on Blu some day?
|07.15.11||Hulk||Ang Lee||I think I love this movie more every time I watch it, which is amazing considering how much I disliked it when I saw it in the theater.|
|07.15.11||Cronos||Guillermo del Toro||It's been many years since I first saw Cronos, so a revisit was in order. The rewatch didn't quite live up to my memory of it, but it's still an interesting and enjoyable film.|
|07.13.11||Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives||Apichatpong Weerasethakul||I really regret not having seen this at the Music Box Theater when it played its short run there. It begs to be seen in an arthouse setting.|
Uncle Boonmee is a very quietly paced movie; the type of movie whose pace can be unsettling to the typical American moviegoer who has been trained to expect jump cuts and jitter cam footage.
It's a very spiritual movie as well, with some, not frightening, but disturbing, scenes. The monkey men, with their glowing red eyes really made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, as did a scene involving a spirit slowly materializing out of thin air. That last happened so slowly and plainly that it was shocking to suddenly realize what you were seeing.
Probably not a movie for most people, but I enjoyed it a lot.
|07.12.11||[Rec] 2||Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza||Finally watched this! Kept forgetting to add the disc to my queue on Netflix. I loved the first one, and this one picks up exactly where the first left off. Nothing to hate here except some questionable decisions by the police group that goes into the apartment complex. Lots of fun though!|
|07.11.11||Mad Detective||Johnnie To||Not perfect, but a good movie. Johnnie To can be hit or miss sometimes. This was technically a rewatch, but I think I was so tired the first time I watched it that I missed a lot of plot points.|
|07.10.11||The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera||Adam Simon||An all-too-brief (55 minutes) glimpse at the genius of Sam Fuller, including interviews with Martin Scorsese, Tim Robbins, Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino. The highlights are the talks with Fuller himself, who comes across as a direct, powerful, honest character, the likes of which we just don't see anymore.|
This was an extra on the Criterion Blu of Shock Corridor, though I'd originally seen it air on TCM last year.
|07.10.11||Shock Corridor||Sam Fuller||I finally broke the seal on my Criterion Blu-Ray of this and watched it last night. A great piece of almost noirish filmmaking that manages to tackle some serious social issues head on.|
The transfer is gorgeous on Blu; a really beautiful piece of filmmaking from a highly underrated, yet very influential, filmmaker.
|07.10.11||The Ruins||Carter Smith||This was a rewatch, but my first time seeing it on Blu-Ray, which apparently has a different ending than the original theatrical release. Interesting. The extras also contain the original theatrical release and also an alternate ending, which I preferred even more than the other two.|
The movie definitely has its plot holes and flaws in logic, but I still think it's a pretty damn good little movie.
I really want to read the book, which a Twitter follower told me was even better than the movie.
I thought Laura Ramsey, who plays Stacy, really stole the show.
|07.10.11||Tarkan Versus The Vikings||Mehmet Aslan||This is by far one of the best "bad" movies I have ever seen! Based on a popular Turkish comic book, Tarkan revolves around our titular hero and his 'wolf' Kurt's attempts to first protect, and then rescue, Ghengis Khan's daughter from a group of evil Vikings (who are accompanied by the Chinese Emperor's daughter and her retainers).|
It sounds goofy enough as is, but then throw in a giant, hilariously fake octopus that the Vikings sacrifice victims to; the fact that the Vikings are all clothed in velour in place of fur (and in all sorts of unnatural colors, like light blue and pink) and sport some seriously epic wigs and fake mustaches, and it goes from average Z-grade goofy to just plain nuts.
There's plenty of pillaging, raping and killing in masterful scenes of violence that are so bad that they're laugh-out-loud great! I can tell you that I wouldn't normally laugh so hard as to have tears in my eyes when a baby, carried by her mother, gets whacked by a Viking axe, but here that's the response. The battle scenes are so unrealistic that you don't have to worry about them being the least bit serious.
This was one of two movies on a single DVD double feature from Mondo Macabre. If you like trash cinema like I do, I cannot recommend picking up this disc enough. It's worth every penny you spend on it and then some (you can also get the disc from Netflix if you're so inclined; that's how I got mine).
Sadly, it's the only Turkish Pop Cinema release from Mondo Macabre, and a quick search of the Internet hasn't really turned up any other promising discs released here in the states.
If anyone knows how I can lay my hands on more Turkish movies from the sixties through the eighties, let me know!
|07.09.11||The Deathless Devil||Yilmaz Atadeniz||Apparently a remake of an old Republic Serial called The Mysterious Dr. Satan, this cray, weird Turkish film from the Seventies is chock full of nonsensical plot and action, and a whole lot of fun to watch! It does very much feel like a Republic Serial.|
The plot involves an evil cruelly mustachioed guy named Dr. Satan who tries to steal a device that allows anyone to remote control machines and robots. A masked superhero (ala the Santo Mexican wrestler/superhero films) named Copperhead and his Sherlock Holmes-like comedy sidekick must stop Dr. Satan. Throw in some robots built out of cardboard boxes and silver spray paint, and plenty of Turkish women who like to disrobe for our hero, and you've got yourselves... The Deathless Devil!
Seriously, after that description how can you NOT watch this movie?!
The picture quality isn't the best and the aspect ratio is 4x3, but honestly, I think we're lucky any sort of print of this survived long enough to be put onto DVD.
This was one movie on a double feature disc released by Mondo Macabre, the other movie being Tarkan vs. The Vikings. Also on the disc is a documentary about Turkish cinema. There are also some notes about the films themselves that are worth reading.
|07.08.11||13 Assassins||Takashi Miike||Sad I missed this in the theater (was only playing at the Music Box in Chicago and I just couldn't seem to make it work), but glad to have finally caught it on DVD.|
This is probably the strongest film from Miike since Audition, in my book. A really well done period drama that happens to have some epic action in it (rather than an epic action movie with some drama as a plot device), 13 Assassins really hit the mark for me.
I should note that the version I watched was the International version, which excises some of the goofier scenes with the 13th assassin in it, pitching it more as a straight up drama and keeping the tone more solemn. It does also cut some scenes that would have better explained bits of the plot. Overall, I think this version is better for the cuts, but I'd love to see a version that only excises the humorous scenes while leaving the bits of plot intact. I'm not sure what version played in theaters. (The DVD does contain all the cut scenes so you can see what's missing)
There are a few things worth pointing out that help set 13 Assassins apart. One is the lack of dramatization of the violence. For the most part, violence is done pretty quickly without interjection from Miike. In other words, he doesn't use music or other types of film conventions in an effort to make us feel one way or another; he's not manipulating our emotions in that way. (There are a few key scenes where this DOES happen, but I'd agree with those choices)
The other is the lack of music throughout much of the final half of the movie, which is made up almost entirely of one epic battle. The effect of this cannot be understated. The audience gets to hear the clash of steel on steel, the disturbing sounds of swords penetrating and slicing through flesh, and all the other sounds of battle that are usually hidden from us via the score. The lack of music makes the violence real, and keeps it on an even footing for everyone. No matter who the violence is visited upon, it's raw, unnatural and frank: a death is a death, no matter whether the character is a protagonist or antagonist.
Compare this to Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, where the score is so chock full of chest swelling surges of patriotic jingoism that it overwhelms the action completely, letting you know exactly how the director wants you to feel and when and for whom.
13 Assassins is well worth the watch, and definitely on my list of top movies I've seen this year (that list seems to be full of movies NOT made in Hollywood. Go figure.)
|07.08.11||Class of Nuke 'Em High||Richard W. Haines, Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman||Too self-aware and self-mocking for me to really enjoy, but there were still fun parts, especially the pseudo punks. I'm pretty sure one of the girl punks was also in Mutant Hunt. Wouldn't surprise me one bit.|
|07.07.11||Intruder||Scott Spiegel||Recommended by @BTSJunkie and @sleestakk, this late eighties slasher was a lot of fun. The director, Scott Spiegel is a Sam Raimi pal and shows up as a bit actor in numerous Raimi films, including Darkman, Spiderman, Spiderman 2 and Drag Me To Hell.|
Sam's brother Ted, has a great part in Intruder as a butcher in the grocery store where the movie takes place. Bruce Campbell, another Raimi staple, almost makes a bit appearance here.
The whole time I was watching this movie, I was stunned that a slasher film had never been set in a grocery store before (not one I've seen anyway)! I mean, the place has everything a good slasher needs: teenage workers/victims; all sorts of sharp objects like butcher knives, meat cutters, trash compactors, meat hooks, etc; and a nice contained environment in which to let the mayhem take place. A truly perfect setting!
While it actually could have been gorier, it's a pretty fun (you know, if you're demented like me) film, with some inventive kills and an ultimately incredulous plot, which really is what makes it a classic.
If you enjoy slasher movies from the '70s and '80s, you're going to like this one. Best part is, it's on Netflix Instant (one note about that: it's presented in 4:3 ratio, so I'm guessing it was shot on video and not film, though I could be wrong).
|07.07.11||Mutant Hunt||Tim Kincaid||I watched Mutant Hunt as the second half of a sci-fi "West coast vs. East coast" double feature (see my entry for Condor for the other half), and it was a perfect double bill, as it highlights the huge difference between LA and NYC filmmaking at the time, especially in the world of low-budget sci-fi.|
Whereas Condor was a made-for-TV movie, Mutant Hunt was a direct-to-video effort from prolific director Tim Kincaid who appears to have rebooted his career in 2001 under the name Joe Gage as a director of gay porn.
Mutant Hunt is everything Condor isn't: dark, post-apocalytic, gritty, sexual and gory. What it does share is cheesy effects (the typical laser weapon battles) and not-so-good acting. The creature effects are pretty damn cool though.
The story is revolves around some androids that are infected, thereby becoming mutated android "psychosexual" killers.
Filmed in NYC, it has the gritty feeling of New York, shot mostly at night and mostly in shitty locations.
It was pretty amazing to see the differences between two low budget sci-fi movies released a year apart in the mid-eighties; the contrast between the two is amazing. While I can't really recommend anyone bother with Condor, I think Mutant Hunt is a fun B-movie watch.
|07.07.11||Condor||Virgil W. Vogel||Condor was one half of a sci-fi "west coast versus east coast" double feature I set up for myself on NWI. Both of the movies I chose (the other was Mutant Hunt) were made in the mid-80s; Condor in 1986 and Mutant Hunt in 1987. These two movies couldn't have been more different.|
Condor is set in L.A. and is obviously either a pilot for a never-made TV series or just a one-off made-for-TV movie. Everything about it is hokum, but there's a bit of kitschy charm that helps it along.
All the tech and sci-fi is outlandish in a Buck Rogers sort of way; and kind of just tacked on to the outside of '80s L.A., which is humorous in and of itself. This is the kind of sci-fi we dreamed about when we were six or seven years old: full of cool, gee-whiz gimmickry like laser rifles and jet packs, computer controlled cars and silly robots.
Mutant Hunt, which I'll get more into in it's own review, is the total opposite. It's the evil sci-fi future we feverishly dream about as teenagers, complete with killer cyborgs, pleasurebots, evil villians, and a generally dark and moody atmosphere.
That's also a pretty good description of the differences between L.A. and New York City back in the '80s (maybe even now).
I can't say I recommend anyone actually watch Condor; it's too fluffy and silly to be much of a viewing pleasure; but it did work well as part of my double feature.
|07.06.11||The Man From Nowhere||Jeong-beom Lee||A great South Korean thriller that I've been looking forward to seeing for some time. I actually forgot it was recently added to Netflix Instant until I saw it in my queue.|
Along with Mother and I Saw The Devil, The Man From Nowhere makes for an excellent trio of South Korean films worth watching.
As an aside, Bin Won, who is the protagonist here, also stars in Mother.
I don't want to reveal much of the plot other than to say that it's somewhat along the same vein as Taken, though honestly, a much better film (and I liked Taken).
There are some small, overly melodramatic parts that weaken the movie a bit, but the overall pace and tone of the movie are great. The action is pretty brutal and fairly realistic, something it shares with Taken.
Well worth a watch!
|07.06.11||Appointment With Danger||Lewis Allen||Appointment With Danger is a 1951 noir vehicle for Alan Ladd, set in Gary and La Porte, Indiana, which is one of the things that drew me to it.|
It was a lot of fun watching Harry Morgan and Jack Webb, who teamed up as cops for the classic Dragnet TV series, working as two criminals here. Morgan's very convincing stammer is excellent and Webb is pure evil delight.
Ladd does an ok but not-quite-convincing job as the tough, hard-hearted postal inspector investigating the murder of a fellow inspector.
For as much time and effort that is spent on the heist plan that figures as a central part of the plot, the actual heist itself is laughably minor and easy to pull off. Two kids with slingshots and a whim could've done it.
I do love watching shootouts in older movies. Invariably the participants jerk the gun around when they pull off a shot, like that's supposed to somehow make it more accurate. Maybe directors back then didn't think holding a gun relatively still and actually aiming it conveyed enough action. Doesn't matter to me, it's fun to watch!
|07.04.11||The Killing||Stanley Kubrick||Having watched Cruel Gun Story earlier in the day made me fire up Kubrick's The Killing, which I hadn't revisited in a few years. CGS was obviously influenced by The Killing, but I was having troubles picturing the particulars, so it seemed like a good idea to rewatch.|
I'm a big fan of Jim Thompson's pulp novels, and the dialogue he wrote for The Killing is just a joy to listen to. It's pulpy goodness in the best way possible. My only real issue with the movie is some of the voiceover stuff. I still feel like The Killing could be a better movie if it'd moved that exposition on to the characters themselvs. Still, it serves it's purpose and doesn't intrude on the movie too much.
The real standout actor in this is, of course, Sterling Hayden, in the main role. He's just good looking enough to be likable despite being a pretty hardcore criminal underneath. He really sells the whole plot and his performance is great.
Other standout performances include Elisha Cook as the whipped racetrack teller, who perhaps has the best scenes in the entire movie; and Kola Kwariani, a real Russian chess playing wrestler who pretty much plays himself here in his only film appearance.
|07.04.11||Cruel Gun Story||Takumi Furukawa||What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than by watching a Japanese crime noir movie? No better way, I say!|
I watched this in the morning, partly to wash away the stink of having seen Transformers: Dark of the Moon the day before.
Cruel Gun Story is part of Criterion's Eclipse Series, Nikkatsu Noir; one of many noir movies to come out of the Nikkatsu film studio. This was the 5th or 6th Nikkatsu Noir film I've seen this year, and was the best yet.
As pointed out by my friend @sleestakk, Cruel Gun Story is obviously influenced by Kubrick's The Killing. It borrows the general plot line and characterizations, though it veers off in different directions.
While some of the plot points can be silly if scrutinized too closely, on the whole it works well, and nothing really takes you completely out of the action.
The cinematography is great; very stark black and white, capturing the action in true noir style. I would go so far as to call it a minor noir masterpiece.
One interesting thing I noticed was that Cruel Gun Story makes use of the same bar set that was used in Rusty Knife. The bar is easily recognizable and plays a fairly important role in the movie, so it was weird to see it being reused from a previous movie, even though they're separated by a good six years.
Even if you don't want to dive headlong into the Nikkatsu Noir series, I would highly recommend giving Cruel Gun Story a watch. Easily the best of the series so far. I look forward to watching more.
|07.03.11||Transformers: Dark of the Moon||Michael Bay||No one should feel sorry for me, I pretty much knew what I was getting into with this movie. My kids wanted to see it (what kid wouldn't?) so it was a foregone conclusion that we'd catch this in the theater.|
We hit up the 12:15 matinee at our cheap seats theater, which meant we caught the 3D version since it was the first scheduled to play. At $5 a ticket, even for the 3D version, it was a pretty cheap outing (though I think I'd argue that even at $5 it was a waste).
I'd heard decent things about the 3D and I have to say it was well done for what it was. I typically stay away from 3D because I don't think it adds much, is typically done badly, and is a pathetic attempt by Hollywood to scam more money from our pockets.
My expectations for this were pretty low, though I did go in predisposed to enjoy it rather than not, based on the mixed reactions from critics and other film enthusiasts on Twitter. Personally, I hoped it would be less crude (in both the sexual and drug departments), less misogynistic, less racist and less sweary than TF2, which I was embarrassed to have even taken my kids to. Well, it was less crude at least. Most of the overt sexual and all of the drug stuff that made TF2 so awful for kids didn't make the cut. It was even less overtly racist (though there was still plenty of subtle racism going on). It was terribly misogynistic though. It's saying a lot that Megan Fox's character in the first two TF movies is more of a role model for strong women than Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's character is in Dark of the Moon. She is mere wallpaper, with only a hint of plot vehicle attached.
I wasn't even offended by that. I was more offended by the way Frances McDormand's character was treated. The movie flies between treating her like a evil dyke, questioning her sexuality, and an object of crude sexual jokes once any supposed power she wielded had been eviscerated.
McDormand is an example of how to waste a great veteran actor/actress. I do have to admit that John Malkovich and Ken Jeong had great, funny characters. The unfortunate part is everything they did felt like it was a wholly different movie. Neither added much to the movie itself; instead they felt like brief interludes to entertain us while someone prepared the next scene for presentation.
On to Shia LaBeouf. His scrambly, mile-a-minute, confused schtick that actually worked fairly well in the first movie, is just grating here. Even more grating than in TF2. I was actually hoping and praying he'd die any number of times during the movie. After the TF series and Crystal Skull, I have absolutely no desire to see his face on a movie screen ever again.
The problems with LaBeouf's character are just a glimpse at one of the main issues I have with this movie: lazy, shitty screenwriting. The plot is hackneyed, the dialogue laughable, the characterizations so shallow as to have no depth at all. I could overlook ALL of that if the action were epic.
Unfortunately, another huge issue is the fact that the action scenes were poorly executed. Even the massive spectacle of the attack on Chicago just feels flat and ineffective. Most of the fight scenes are poorly blocked and edited. The segments that ARE done well are handicapped by the crap that precedes and follows it. Any time I started to get into the action, something else just as quickly took me back out of it.
It's the equivalent of having some awesome fireworks go off about five feet in front of you. You're too close to actually enjoy the spectacle for what it is. Instead, you're left with a bad taste in your mouth, ringing ears, and the distinct sense that you've been had.
I don't hate Michael Bay. I don't begrudge anyone who enjoyed this or any of his other movies. I actually liked Bay's The Island quite a bit. I say this because it wasn't a foregone conclusion that I'd hate Dark of the Moon. In fact, I went in thinking I might enjoy it for what it was.
I didn't. I thought it was a pretty awful movie on almost every count. About the only thing I can say about it is that it was less offensive than Transformers 2. That says a lot.
|07.02.11||Rusty Knife||Toshio Masuda||Sabita Naifu is the third or fourth Nikkatsu Noir film I've watched this year. While it's not my favorite, it still holds up pretty well, albeit with some incredulous plot twists.|
Those plot twists garner a "c'mon, really?" reaction that will take you out of the movie and blunt the edge of an otherwise pretty spectacularly noirish film, with some seriously flawed heroes, epic bad guys and lots of great, stark black and white cinematography.
Overall, the Nikkatsu Noir series has been great. If you enjoy classic Hollywood noir, you should do yourself a favor and check out this excellent box set from Criterion, part of their Eclipse Series.
|07.02.11||Trollhunter||André Øvredal||My entire family and I made a special trip in to Chicago to see this movie at the Music Box Theater. My kids have really only experienced movies in modern theaters, so this was a chance to expose them to a different sort of movie going experience. Except for their minor complaints about the springs in the old seats, I think it was a pretty positive experience for them. They both love Chicago.|
I knew enough about Trollhunter to know the sort of film making involved (handheld camera work, fake documentary style), which isn't my favorite type, but I'd heard mostly positive things and the previews I had seen looked good.
Trollhunter mostly succeeds in being a fun, sometimes scary, fantastic adventure. My kids enjoyed it immensely. They've been raised on Japanese sci-fi and superhero TV and movies, and are quite comfortable with subtitles, so that wasn't a barrier for them at all.
My youngest son, Gavin, compared Trollhunter to Cloverfield, which is still a favorite of his.
I sometimes have motion sickness issues with handheld filmmaking, but Trollhunter does a pretty good job of keeping it just professional enough for it not to be some amateur mess. I think this is probably harder than it seems like.
The Trolls were fantastic and the filmmakers did a great job on what must have been a limited budget blending the CGI'd trolls into the very real landscape.
Though I marked this as horror, really it's not that scary. There are some scenes that are tense and perhaps a bit scary, but a lot of it is actually pretty fun, and funny.
This was a perfect movie for the kids as there really wasn't much language and no real sexual or adult-themed stuff going on, with the exception of some religious references that I guess could be confusing for some kids (though, not mine).
All in all, a very enjoyable experience in a great theater for my whole family!
|07.01.11||Message From Space||Kinji Fukasaku||It's hard not to like Message From Space for the gleefully unapologetic way in which it rips off Star Wars. It's a mess of a movie, but so full of random fun and goofiness that makes it enjoyable to watch.|
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, best known for the Japanese sequences of Tora! Tora! Tora!, Battles Without Honor and Humanity and Graveyard of Honor; or more recently, the excellent Battle Royale; among 66 other directorial efforts. Yeah, he's been pretty prolific.
I've seen a few of his movies over the years, and Message From Space has to be the messiest. It's just all over the place. A lot of the action scenes are hyper-kinetic, with wildly over-the-top physical action, reminiscent of Japan's super hero TV series such as Ultraman and Kamen Rider, coupled with always-on-the-move handheld camera work and quick zooms.
Throw in ridiculous outfits, garish, low budget sets, an international cast overdubbed in English, and a barely coherent plot, and you would normally have a big steaming pile. What's amazing is that all this crap, when added together, adds up to more than the sum of it's parts. In short, it somehow works. By no means is it a good movie, but it is a great bad movie!
My kids loved this for it's wackiness and obvious riffs on Star Wars. The miniatures, models and SFX scenes were a lot of fun to watch, especially because the Japanese really know how to work that sort of thing, having had decades of experience. And they didn't skimp on the explody goodness either.
Aside from the miniatures, some of the best scenes are the sword combat scenes with Sonny Chiba, who is far and above the best actor on set here.
Apparently Vic Morrow was hard on the bottle during this period of his career, and it's pretty easy to believe watching him act here. It's a shame that he was killed while taking steps towards a serious comeback while filming Twilight Zone: The Movie. It was a horrible accident that also killed two young child actors.
|06.30.11||X: The Unknown||Leslie Norman||Radioactive, gelatinous sentient mud threatens small Scottish village, and therefore the entire world, in this pretty decent sci-fi/horror flick from Hammer Films. I rather enjoyed this one and it's a bit nastier in terms of the violence done by the monster than other films of the age.|
|06.30.11||The Magnetic Monster||Curt Siodmak||The Magnetic Monster is a strange film, more science than science fiction. It starts off as a criminal investigation involving various incidents and deaths due to radiation exposure and magnetization of metal objects, but then heads into The Monolith Monsters territory.|
There's a lot of stock footage here, but it's used pretty well and cut into the dramatic scenes exceedingly well, and so, somehow, it all works better than it sounds like it should.
It's still a bit sleepy, but considering it was done in 1953, I think it turned out fairly well.
This was the third movie of the evening in Turner Classic Movies' final TCM Drive-In feature that they'd been running for about a month on Thursdays. I hope they revisit the idea from time to time because it's been a lot of fun.
|06.30.11||The H-Man||Ishirô Honda||Directed by Ishiro Honda, the legend of Japanese monster and sci-fi cinema (Gojira, Rodan and a bajillion other great movies and TV series), The H-Man is an interesting cross between a gangster flick and a sci-fi movie that actually works fairly well.|
I want to like this movie a lot and give it a higher rating, but for that I'll have to track down the recent (2009) widescreen, subtitled version as the TCM Drive-In version was 4x3 and horribly, horribly dubbed in perhaps the most racist of ways. Those two things really made me cringe.
Apparently there are even issues with the 2009 DVD release, but they seem minor in comparison.
Still, it was good to see this movie being shown on TV, and it's one I've been meaning to see forever but just never made an effort to track down.
I do have to point out the great effects in The H-Man; they're amazing for their time! The titular monster is highly radioactive and some victims literally melt when touched by or exposed to it, leading to some really effective melting people scenes that were just awesome. Well worth watching for that alone.
|06.30.11||Phantom from Space||W. Lee Wilder||Pretty tepid piece of '50s era sci-fi with lots of scenes of people driving back and forth scanning for an alien, running back and forth looking for an alien, and zzzzzzzz....|
|06.29.11||Black Hawk Down||Ridley Scott||As my friends already know, this is one of my all-time favorite war movies. I've watched this movie so many times I've lost count. However! I've never seen it on Blu-ray, so I decided to finally break the seal on the BD disc I'd had for a while now and give it a watch since Netflix Instant was having issues.|
It's even more stunning on Blu-ray. The film grain and all the grit and debris from the battle scenes comes through with such clarity, that at times you feel like you're on the street and should cover up before you get pelted with shards of glass and bits of dirt and body parts.
It's a lot of fun to revisit movies like this because you often come across actors who've since gone on to greater things. For instance, Tom Hardy has a minor role in Black Hawk Down. He has since gone on to break out in Bronson and Inception!
Since I'm also a big Trainspotting fan, it's great to see Ewan McGregor and Ewan Bremner working together here, and both with great roles.
Having just watched Drive Angry, it's also fun to see William Fichtner as one of the Black Hawk pilots.
Another absolute standout role in BHD is Eric Bana, who was pretty much unknown before this movie and his subsequent turn as Bruce Banner in Ang Lee's The Hulk (a movie which I initially hated the HELL out of but have since come to kind of adore).
I'm sure I'll watch this again and again, but it sure was fun to see it in high definition for the first time since catching it in the theater.
|06.28.11||Kill The Irishman||Jonathan Hensleigh||I'm not sure where this movie came from, it just kind of showed up on DVD from out of nowhere. I'm guessing it got dumped straight to video because I don't recall seeing it in theaters anywhere near me.|
I knew nothing about it going in, so I was surprised by it. It's a good, if uneven, movie. Based on the real-life rise and fall of Danny Green, an Irish gangster who goes up against the mob in the '70s in Cleveland, it does a pretty damn good job of portraying that time period. I've been to Cleveland a few times and in some ways, parts of Cleveland still feel like it's the 1970s.
There are some great minor performances by people like Vincent D'Onofrio, Robert Davi and Vinny Jones, but some others feel a bit wasted, like Christopher Walken's turn as Jewish mobster, Shondor Birns and Val Kilmer as cop Joe Manditski, who isn't given a lot to do.
Ray Stevenson as Danny Green chews up the scenery though. He's great, larger than life, and kicks a lot of ass.
I also particularly liked Linda Cardellini as his first wife and Laura Ramsey as his later girlfriend.
Worth a watch.
|06.27.11||Somewhere||Sofia Coppola||I'm an admitted admirer of Sofia Coppola's directing. After seeing the trailer for Somewhere late last year, I knew it was my kind of movie, but I just wasn't able to see it in the theaters, sadly. So I finally caught up to it with a RedBox rental.|
As I said, I knew I was going to like it going in, and I did. It plays like a lesser version of Lost In Translation (one of my all-time favorite movies) and reminded me a bit of another favorite of mine, What Time Is It There?
Somewhere got a lot of flack from critics who didn't seem to be able to look past the movie star life of the main character, Johnny Marco, played to perfection by Stephen Dorff. I recall reading a lot of "I don't care about some fucking movie star's emotional issues" tweets at the time.
First, I think a movie star is the perfect vehicle for the dis-affectation and reconnection that is on display here. Secondly, I wonder if this isn't at least a little bit autobiographical on Coppola's part, given that she's the child of a famous director. I don't know anything about the Coppola's personal lives, so I really can't speak to that.
It's certainly not a movie for everyone. There are plenty of static shots with minimal or repetitive activity that require a patience many moviegoers simply aren't capable of these days. If you ARE patient, the payoff lies in the film's ability to free your mind to actually contemplate what you're seeing, rather than just consume the imagery and spectacle.
The best moments are some of the more touching scenes of interaction between Dorff and his character's daughter, Cleo, played with grace and beauty by the young Elle Fanning. You cannot help but fall in love with this girl and your heart breaks for her at the moments when her uncertainty takes over.
Dorff's character spends a good deal of the movie alienated from the life around him; a life that he created but has kind of taken on its own momentum, carrying him along in its soulless void. The real story here is both in this disconnection from, well, everything, and the beginnings of his ability to reconnect to the world again through his daughter.
I found the movie to be sad, touching, funny, and ultimately uplifting. I can't say that about too many movies these days. While it doesn't do as good a job with the same material as Lost In Translation, it's still a minor triumph for Coppola. I hope to see her do more work like this.
|06.27.11||Cyborg 2||Michael Schroeder||Another movie I've known about for years but just never got around to watching, Cyborg 2 embodies a lot of what's fun about B-movies. It's certainly not perfect, but it does have some fun stuff, including some great miniatures scenes at the beginning and end of the movie, a very youthful Angelina Jolie, Elias Koteas, who strangely looks the same age as he does now, and lots of voiceovery goodness from Jack Palance. Oh, and let's not forget the overacting of Billy Drago, and the beautiful actress/stuntwoman Karen Sheperd.|
Ostensibly a sequel to Jean-Claude Van Damme's 1989 Cyborg (a movie I'm sure I've watched but can't recall at all), the plot is fairly meaningless and the action is a bit goofy at times, but overall, a lot of fun to watch.
Michael Schroeder, the director of Cyborg 2, also directed the sequel, Cyborg 3: The Recycler (a telling title if there ever was one) which features Malcolm McDowell and has the tag line "Enter the dark underworld of Cybordellos, Mechano-Whores and Synthetic Humanoids."
You know I have every intention of watching that, just as soon as I watch the original Cyborg to refresh my memory!
|06.27.11||Switchblade Sisters||Jack Hill||Switchblade Sisters is one of those '70s exploitation/trash cinema movies I'd heard about for years but had just never caught up with til now. I'm glad I finally did!|
Directed by Jack Hill, another protege of Roger Corman, and director of Blaxploitation classics Foxy Brown and Coffy, as well as a slew of other B-movie classics, Switchblade Sisters is kind of a girls' version of Rebel Without A Cause crossed with the Women In Prison sub-genre with a little juvenile delinquency, street gang and blaxploitation thrown in for good measure.
The Dagger Debs, an all-girl arm of a male juvenile street gang, are the center of attention. The do suffer quite a bit at the hands of the violent male members of the gang, suffering all sorts of humiliation, rape, verbal and physical abuse, despite their supposed toughness. It WAS the '70s, after all, but still I kept wanting for the girls to cut one of the guys' balls off with a knife.
No one is good here; everyone is bad in their own ways, right down to the cops, repo men, and female prison guards. You don't feel particularly sorry for anyone. Instead, you get to sit back and watch everything go to hell in the inner city!
|06.23.11||The Giant Behemoth||Douglas Hickox, Eugène Lourié||I love old monster and sci-fi movies, but I'd never seen The Giant Behemoth. TCM Drive In gave me the perfect opportunity to catch it.|
While in some respects Behemoth feels like it's aping Godzilla, which came out five years prior, what it does with similar material is different enough to keep it interesting.
The stop motion animation is great and some of the practical and makeup effects (like the irradiated fisherman) are great!
|06.22.11||Run! Bitch Run!||Joseph Guzman||I had to go with a middle-of-the-road, ambivalent five stars on this, mainly because I'm conflicted on whether I actually liked it or not.|
This is pure indie grindhouse sleaze moviemaking. Depending on who you are, that's a cool thing, or a really bad thing. Offensive and chock full of gratuitous nudity and violence from pretty much the first five minutes of the film on, this movie never lets up in that department.
Made for an estimated $25,000 (and let's be honest, it shows), Run! Bitch Run! was directed by the same guy responsible for 2010's Nude Nuns With Big Guns (come on, you KNOW you want to see THAT!) and the short film Chingaso The Clown. So yeah, there's that.
There are really no likable characters in Run! Bitch Run! which is maybe my biggest problem with it. I don't really care what happens to anyone here, and that disconnection allowed me to be apathetic, which in turn brought on at least a little boredom. The other issue is that it's so unrelentingly graphic that it blunts the effectiveness of its own shock tactics.
Definitely not a movie you want to watch in polite company. I'm pretty sure my wife would've been offended by this. Watch at your own risk.
|06.22.11||Step Up 3D||Jon M. Chu||My first date ever, I took the poor, unlucky girl, Jenny, to see Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Partly because it was playing at a theater within walking distance of her house, and partly because I secretly really loved break dancing.|
So I guess it's no surprise that I really enjoyed Step Up 3D (for the record, didn't watch it in 3D, obviously). Yeah, the story is pretty silly, and there's just enough to hang the movie on. Frankly, I'm ok with that. It's a dance movie, not a period drama. We'll be ok on our own here.
The thing I require from dance movies more than anything else, is, you guessed it, lots of dancing. Step Up 3D delivers on that front with plenty of dance battles and practices, but also some almost-musical dance numbers that were kinda charming. In fact, those numbers made me wonder why they didn't just go the entire musical route. A number of key plot point scenes could have easily lent themselves to musical song-and-dance interludes; in fact it probably would've improved the movie.
At any rate, the dancing here is fantastic and made the movie. Born from a Boombox, yo.
|06.22.11||Black Water||David Nerlich, Andrew Traucki||I'm not gonna lie, this movie scared the shit out of me. Not in the traditional "scary movie" sense, but in the "I just watched Jaws and no fucking way am I ever going in the ocean" way. Except instead of sharks, it's crocodiles and instead of the ocean it's mangrove swamps. Seriously, no fucking way am I ever going anywhere near a mangrove swamp. Ever.|
This movie cuts to the chase pretty quickly, giving us just enough character development to make us care about what happens to the central trio of individuals. Even before things go south for our hapless trio, the tension is thick enough to cut with a knife. I pretty much spent 90% of the movie with teeth clenched and fingers curled in a death grip around the blanket on the couch. By the end of the movie, my muscles ached.
Such a great 'real' horror movie. Highly recommend a watch!
|06.21.11||Interzone||Deran Sarafian||In retrospect, it probably wasn't a good idea to watch this after having watched Kurosawa's Yojimbo and Sanjuro, as well as Malle's Elevator to the Gallows, the day before. Pretty much anything is going to pale in comparison. However, my taste in movies is wide ranging, and I felt like some good old '80s post-apocalyptica.|
What I got was possibly the worst movie I've watched all year. And I LIKE bad movies. Part of my hatred stems from the for-shit 4x3 print up on Netflix Instant Watch that looked like it was mastered directly from someone's cousin's friend's mom's VHS copy taped from late night TV. Considering the original is in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this version was missing a lot.
Another portion of my dislike stems from the terrible sound. IMDB lists the original sound as being in mono and I can attest to the absolutely terrible quality that produced. Much of the dialogue sounds like it was recorded at a distance from the actors (what, no boom mikes available in Italy that week?), giving them a far-off "what the fuck did he just say?" quality. Seriously. Terrible.
Next up, the costuming was pretty meager too. Most of the characters looked like people I went to high school with, including their clothing. Given the subject matter and setting, I'd have thought they could have come up with something more outlandish, if not futuristic.
The vehicles, though limited in use, fared a little better, getting closer to the Road Warrior look they were derived from.
There are some pretty entertaining portions in the movie, including the opening scene, which features some of the strangest, homoerotic dancing I've seen come out of the '80s.
Director Sarafian and male lead Bruce Abbott are both still involved in movies, and actually both have had pretty long, successful careers in TV and film, amazingly. Abbott may be best known for his role in Re-Animater, which he did two years before this schlockfest.
If you're brave enough to attempt a watch of Interzone, I'd recommend trying to track down a copy in the correct aspect ratio rather than watching the terrible print on NWI.
|06.20.11||Sanjuro||Akira Kurosawa||Kurosawa's sequel to Yojimbo, once again starring Toshiro Mifune, isn't as strong as the first movie, but still highly entertaining. In fact, I think Sanjuro has more comedic elements to it than Yojimbo did. The story just isn't as strong.|
Near the end is an epic scene of violence that underscores a point made earlier in the film. It had to be fairly shocking to audiences of the time, at least in Japan, if not overseas.
|06.20.11||Yojimbo||Akira Kurosawa||I'm a big fan of Kurosawa, but I'm ashamed to admit that there is a significant portion of his films I haven't seen. One of those was, until now, Yojimbo. I have no excuses. I knew forever and a day that Leone's A Fistful of Dollars was wholly based on Yojimbo, and I love A Fistful of Dollars. Like I said, no excuses.|
I expected a great movie, and that's what I got. What I wasn't prepared for was the amazing score! The music adds so much to this film that I simply could not imagine it without.
Toshiro Mifune is brilliant as the nameless samurai.
This was another Criterion movie that's expiring on Netflix Instant on 6/21.
|06.20.11||Elevator to the Gallows||Louis Malle||I'd been meaning to watch this for a while, and since it was scheduled to be removed from Netflix Instant Watch on 6/21, I pulled the trigger.|
This is just a brilliant piece of filmmaking! I haven't watched a lot of Malle, though I know OF his films. I'm going to have to correct that now.
|06.19.11||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1||David Yates||Having seen the trailer for Part 2 in front of Green Lantern earlier in the day, we decided to pick up the Blu of Part 1 and rewatch in preparation for the final movie.|
I saw this in the theater originally and liked it a LOT. I had just finished reading the entire series of books and Hallows: Part 1 was the first movie in the series I'd seen AFTER reading the books. Because it was so fresh in my mind, I thought the movie did a great job of capturing the frustration and hopelessness of the tasks confronting HP and friends. That period of time is very drawn out in the book and paints a pretty frustratingly bleak picture for the reader. The movie did a great job of capturing that.
By its very nature, Hallows: Part 1 is more contemplative and less action/adventure driven than any of the other movies. I'm ok with that.
This second viewing, months and months after I've read the books, that feeling was lessened a bit because the details weren't so clear in my head. Despite that, I still really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the final installment.
Maybe after that, I'll go back and read the books again for the hell of it.
|06.19.11||Green Lantern||Martin Campbell||Just... boring. So much time spent on exposition that would have been better spent on character development through actual action. I came close to falling asleep twice, which is very unlike me. I can stay awake through just about any movie.|
Given that Campbell directed, among other things, Casino Royale, which I loved, I think the blame here can be laid at the feet of the ratking of writers credited with the script.
I will say that I'm interested in the mythos, however, and I do think a sequel could be much more interesting than this initial effort.
As for my kids, one said it was "awesome" and the other said he liked it "but it was kind of slow and didn't have much action." They're 12-1/2 and almost 11, so neither of those two reactions surprises me and I'm glad they were entertained by it. Maybe it doesn't really matter what adults like me think.
|06.18.11||Vanishing on 7th Street||Brad Anderson||I didn't have high hopes for this based on what I'd read of other people's opinions, but since Anderson's previous directorial efforts included Session 9 and The Machinist (as well as two eps of The Wire, my all-time favorite TV series), I was intrigued enough to give it a go and rent it from RedBox.|
It's a pretty average, mediocre film. At times, the budget shows through, but I will say that Anderson seems to have put the estimated 10 million dollar budget to fairly good use. Shot in and around Detroit, they probably didn't have to do too much to achieve the deserted city look they were going for.
Probably the biggest disappointment is that there isn't really any payoff at the end of the film. That, coupled with shallow character development, give me a "who cares" attitude.
|06.18.11||Monsters vs. Aliens||Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon||Third time I've watched this movie, and I think I enjoy it more every time. Seth Rogen's Blob character really steals the show.|
I think my kids appreciate some of the in-jokes and classic movie references more now that they have a little more background (we've watched Creature from the Black Lagoon and the original The Blob in the last two years, though we've yet to take on Vincent Price as The Fly).
|06.17.11||Hobo With A Shotgun||Jason Eisener||Jason Eisener made good on his fake Grindhouse trailer with Hobo With A Shotgun! This film is everything that Machete should have been but wasn't.|
I attended a midnight screening of this at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago with my friends @Sleestakk, @Kreepylady, @PatSandberg, all of whom helped bring Hobo to the Music Box by signing an online petition. Thanks guys!
Even though it's been available on VOD for a while now, I'm very happy I waited to see this on the big screen with friends, because it's the best way to experience this over-the-top masterpiece.
HWAS is an ode to early '80s trash cinema in all the very best ways; insanely violent, non-sensical at times, and full of quotable 'WTF' lines. I kept finding myself thinking "they're not gonna go there. No way. OH SHIT, they are!"
The violence is so gory and crazed that I kept finding myself laughing out loud while clenching my stomach muscles and pushing back into my seat at the same time.
Rutger Hauer steals the show here as the titular Hobo, but Molly Dunsworth does a great turn as Abby, a prostitute that Hauer's character befriends. Except for this movie, she's done strictly TV movie stuff. I hope we see more of her, and of Hauer.
As @sleestakk said after the movie, "easily in my top ten for the year." I echo that. I can't wait to buy the Blu-Ray of this and see it again!
|06.16.11||Queen of Outer Space||Edward Bernds||Probably the most overtly sexist sci-fi movie I've ever watched. Though that's pretty typical for the time period, this one is pretty relentless in that respect.|
Featuring Zsa Zsa Gabor, this is campy fun, with lots of preposterous situations.
|06.16.11||Village of the Giants||Bert I. Gordon||This is just goofy fun: a cross between a teen sex movie and a campy sci-fi, with plenty of dancing going on. The camera spends a fair amount of time ogling the girls' best assets during the dance numbers.|
And then there's Beau Bridges, whose acting turns slow, deliberate and wooden as soon as he gets turned into a giant. Let's not forget little Ronny Howard as Genius, the kid who invents the substance that enlarges whatever eats it, including two hapless ducks who get barbecued, literally, later in the film.
I loved the hell out of this movie!
|06.16.11||Attack of the 50 Foot Woman||Nathan Juran||A classic piece of sci-fi on Turner Classic Movies. I've never seen a better print of it, ever! Beautiful looking HD broadcast!|
|06.15.11||Ip Man||Wilson Yip||I can't believe I waited so long to see this movie. Great film, with some absolutely fantastic martial arts action and a good historical story to go along with it.|
The only minor setback to me was the obvious "set-like" quality of the, er, sets. You tend to see this a lot in Hong Kong period pieces, so it's not much of a distraction, and, in fact, the set pieces are like big pieces of art, visually fascinating in their own right.
Can't wait to watch Ip Man 2 now!
|06.14.11||Prey||Antoine Blossier||There are a lot of movies named Prey out there; this one is the French movie, Proie. It's a fairly quick little bit of eco-horror that keeps the back story to a minimum. I'm generally fine with that, but it could have used more running time for better character development. Ultimately, I found myself not really being invested in anyone's future here.|
That being said, it was a pretty decent little movie with some genuine jump scares that startled me; pretty hard to do considering how jaded I am.
On Netflix Instant, worth a quick watch.
|06.13.11||Suspect Zero||E. Elias Merhige||I'd describe myself as a fan of Elias Merhige if only he'd made enough movies to warrant fandom. Still, I love his Hollywood directorial debut, Shadow of the Vampire, and I even own and admire his avant garde film Begotten.|
If you've ever watched Begotten, then you'll know pretty quickly that Suspect Zero is very obviously a Merhige film; it carries over many of the experimental visuals of Begotten in some flashback and other non-linear scenes.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is fairly mediocre. It just seemed like the cast didn't have as much to work with here, which is too bad because it's a pretty decent cast, including Ben Kingsley, Aaron Eckhart and Carrie Anne-Moss. When you've got those three together and there isn't any chemistry, you can probably point fingers at the director.
After seeing this, it's not hard to fathom why Merhige hasn't done any major studio work since. According to IMDB he's got something stewing for this year (2011) though; perhaps an indie effort that will re-establish him?
|06.12.11||Warrior of the Lost World||David Worth||I now know where Persis Khambatta went to die after starring in the first Star Trek movie (she was the bald chick, in case you forgot): B-movie oblivion.|
It suits her though, and frankly she's one of the highlights, if you can call it that, of Warrior of the Lost World, which is a typical post-apocalyptic '80s movie, replete with motorcycles, badly armored 'Road Warrior' derivative vehicles, punk/new wave gangs, and bad acting.
The worst acting is by the film's star, Robert Ginty, whose lines consisted almost entirely of "C'mon, let's go" and "C'mon, let's get out of here." I shit you not.
Donald Pleasence took some time out of his busy Halloween schedule to turn a trick as the evil mastermind who the good guys are trying to bring down. He has a pretty good death scene that's worth watching for.
The gun battle action is hilarious, as it pretty much involves people running really fast and mowing down other people running really fast. I guess the tactic of firing from cover was lost in the future.
And in case everything I wrote above didn't make it clear, I loved this movie!
|06.12.11||Gor||Fritz Kiersch||Epic '80s epicness! Not the world's greatest movie by any stretch of the imagination, but Gor does have a charm to it. I'd say I liked this as much as Krull; it definitely deserves more love and recognition than it's gotten.|
Oliver Reed is pretty much a fat waste here, with the exception of his death scene near the end, which is pretty fun.
Jack Palance is billed as one of the stars but doesn't make an appearance until almost the very end, laying the path for a sequel, which I'm told was made. I really need to track it down next.
|06.12.11||Super 8||J.J. Abrams||I really had no expectations going into this. With the exception of an early trailer, I pretty much avoided any press or advertising having to do with the movie. I did see plenty of tweets about it though, with people's reactions ranging from superfluous to angrily cynical. Crap like that is why I don't really read too many movie sites.|
I took the whole family to this, and my kids were kind of lukewarm to the idea of seeing it, since they didn't know much about it.
I have to say, I really liked it. It was one of those fun, "magical" movies that just enjoys itself and delights in the power of cinema to whisk you away on a Saturday afternoon into some other world and keep you entertained for a few hours.
My kids really enjoyed it; much more than they thought they would, which was cool to see.
|06.11.11||The Lives of Others||Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck||I'd been meaning to watch this for a while now, so glad to have finally caught up to it. From the same director who did The Tourist.|
This movie slowly draws you in to the human side of a politically driven drama having to do with the Stasi, Communist East Germany's secret police; how corrupt the communist system was; and the toll it took on real people, their creativity and the performing arts.
It's a very heartbreaking, and yet uplifting, story that really brings home the consequences of that era.
|06.11.11||The Ghost Writer||Roman Polanski||I've been a long time fan of Ewan McGregor ever since Shallow Grave, so much so that I named my first born son after him. Still, when this hit the theaters I wasn't moved enough to go out of my way to see it.|
Too bad I didn't, because I rather enjoyed it. My friend @sleestakk mentioned the color palette, and he's right. The grey tones and washed out colors that inhabit most of the film set the tone and also hint at the political murkiness of the plot. I really enjoyed the look of this film a lot.
|06.10.11||Kung Fu Panda||Mark Osborne, John Stevenson||Since I didn't get to see this when my wife took the kids, I thought I'd catch up. We watched this for family movie night.|
It was a lot of fun and quite well done. My biggest complaint is why did they even need name actors for the voice parts? I thought they could have gone with veteran voice actors for this and no one would have even noticed.
|06.09.11||Drive Angry||Patrick Lussier||This was just a lot of fun to watch! Not quite what I expected, which just made it even better. Amber Heard kicks some ass here. Nice to see a strong female lead in this sort of movie.|
|06.09.11||Fishbone: Critical Times - The Henhouse Sessions||Unknown||Focused on Fishbone's recording sessions at the Henhouse, a free, community-driven recording studio. Not incredibly insightful, but kind of cool to see their working process when putting together songs.|
|06.09.11||Honey||Bille Woodruff||A mostly likable, if fairly shallow, dance movie with Jessica Alba in the lead. Really needed longer dance numbers though.|
|06.07.11||Cold Eyes of Fear||Enzo G. Castellari||Castellari has directed a ton of movies, but I'm only just beginning to delve into his catalog. My first taste was the original Inglorious Bastards, and Cold Eyes of Fear is my second.|
This isn't quite a giallo, but it does have some of the same elements. Basically a mystery/thriller revolving around a kidnapping and search for evidence to exonerate a criminal who claims he was wrongly convicted, there are plenty of odd turns to keep it interesting.
There are some great, stylish shots and scenes of violence that set this one a bit above average. Fernando Rey, who has been in an obscene amount of movies, but who most will remember from The French Connection, plays a secondary part in this. It's always good to see Rey crop up in a movie!
Almost a character unto itself, Ennio Morricone's crazed jazz soundtrack really helps elevate this more or less average movie. I love Morricone's work, and while his stuff here isn't on the same iconic level as The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, it's still a lot of fun to listen to.
|06.07.11||Superstarlet A.D.||John Michael McCarthy||Superstarlet A.D. is a very low budget indie sci-fi filmed mainly in the Memphis area in 2000. Featuring lots of lingerie clad women with guns, in factions based on hair color (Redheads, Blondes and Brunettes) the movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where clothes no longer exist and the few men who are left are mutants. Hence the lingerie. And the lesbianism. And the guns.|
It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't good either. I couldn't really tell you much about the plot since I had a hard time discerning one.
|06.06.11||Red Hill||Patrick Hughes||Red Hill is the third of three solid Australian movies I've seen this year (the other two being Animal Kingdom and The Square). I didn't like this nearly as much as I wanted to; it felt too heavy handed with the melodrama, which kept it from being as taught a thriller as it yearned to be.|
This is director Patrick Hughes' first full-length feature, and as such it's a solid effort. I expect we'll be seeing more from this man.
After watching about a third of the movie, my first comment on Twitter was "so far everyone in this is either a fucking coward, a bad shot, or both." I didn't know how prescient that comment would be! It's also really your major clue that everything here isn't as it seems to be.
Worth watching, for sure, but easily the weakest of the three above-mentioned movies. If you're going to explore them, I'd recommend doing them in the order I mention them, saving Red Hill for last.
|06.05.11||Star Slammer||Fred Olen Ray||It's Fred Olen Ray, so you pretty much know what you're in for. Actually, to be honest, this has higher production values than the typical Fred Olen Ray effort. The male guard costumes are actually kinda cool, and there are some decently passable creature effects in this.|
Since most of the action takes place on a prison ship in space, you're also not subjected to as much of the "L.A. hills as stand-in for anywhere else" scenery, which is a relief.
The best thing though, is probably the awesome poster art. It's the kind of stuff that made you grab this VHS off the shelf at your local video store back in the day.
Strangely enough, this was the second half of an unintentional Aldo Ray double feature for me (the first movie I watched earlier in the day was Kill A Dragon from 1967). Ray plays the Inquisitor here. Funny seeing him by accident in two movies decades apart. I'm sure he'd have liked that.
|06.05.11||Kill A Dragon||Michael D. Moore||The attraction here was Jack Palance, and really, he's about the most interesting thing happening in this movie. The, at times, goofy action and sexual quips, not to mention some Batman style sound effects during an opening brawl, really make this a curiosity of a movie.|
The plot is all over the place, and generally makes little to no sense. At times I felt like I was watching some twisted, updated version of an old Republic serial. It just had that goofy feel to it.
|06.05.11||X-Men: First Class||Matthew Vaughn||There were lots of plot holes and in general, I felt it tried to do too much, but it was still a damn good movie.|
The New X-Men was my first teenage comic book love. I bought Issue #111 off a comic book rack in a convenience store while at summer camp and was immediately hooked on the combo of Claremont and Byrne.
First Class reminded me a lot of those stories, even though it's set in the '60s. I quite enjoyed the pseudo-retro style, especially on Sebastian Shaw. Bacon really nailed this character! It was great to see him in such a cool role.
Most of the casting was a surprise to me since I try to avoid reviews and pre-release news about movies. I was kinda shocked to see Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Mystique. I thought she acquitted herself nicely. It's great to see her getting work after her excellent turn in Winter's Bone. I'm guessing The Hunger Games will put her over the top.
Aside from Bacon, the one who steals the show here is Michael Fassbender as Magneto. He brings a lot of humanity and conflict to his character.
Jason Flemyng as Azazel was practically unrecognizable under all the makeup. I actually had to look him up on IMDB to reconnect the name to the face.
Going back to the comics of my youth, it was great to see some of the characters from that era, since that's when I first got introduced to the likes of Moira McTaggart, Banshee, Havok and The Hellfire Club (which, if I recall correctly, is based on a real sex club that operated in NYC back in the '70s and/or '80s).
Here's hoping we get more films in the series that do as good a job or better in exploring this universe.
|06.04.11||Land of Doom||Peter Maris||Definitely not in the A-list of '80s era post-apocalyptic B-movies, but still a fun watch, even though the main character's feminism seems misplaced here.|
Lots of black leather studded bad guys on motorcycles that have been obtusely retrofitted in all sorts of counter-functional ways; cannibals and mutants; and lots of fighting and pillaging. Woot!
|06.04.11||Vigilante Force||George Armitage||Kind of a mess of a movie, but not without its merits. Starring Kris Kristopherson, Jan-Michael Vincent and Victoria Principal, the plot revolves around a vigilante force of ex vietnam soldiers who are hired to augment the police force of a small town dealing with a lot of crime from an influx of oil workers after nearby oil fields are opened up for drilling.|
The setup here is pretty cheesy, and the movie really falls down on character development. You really don't get any good sense of the motivations driving any of the main characters, but especially Kristopherson, who seems to just be nihilistic for the hell of it as the main antagonist.
We don't even find out that Principal's character is a school teacher until near the end of the movie, even though it's a plot point. Sadly, her character gets short shrift here, since she screen smoulders when she's present. She's absolutely gorgeous, and serves as the conscience of the entire town, but is never given the chance to really do anything much with the character.
Still, if you enjoy low budget '70s and '80s actioners like I do, it's a fun watch. It definitely goes places you don't expect it to, even if you don't know why.
|06.04.11||Howard The Duck||Willard Huyck||I decided to finally introduce my kids to Howard The Duck this weekend. I hadn't watched it since I saw it in the theater back in the day, when it was a flop.|
I gotta be honest, I really enjoy this movie. I still can't believe it ever got MADE, but I do enjoy it. I find it funny that this was Lea Thompson's next role after her breakout film, Back to the Future. Probably not a good career choice for her!
I was surprised to see Tim Robbins in this, as I didn't recall him from when I watched it in 1986. Even funnier is that his acting here is completely, awkwardly, over-the-top. There is really no hint of the good actor he would eventually become, which makes his performance more enjoyable to watch now than it was back then.
Jeffrey Jones does a freaking GREAT job as Dr. Walter Jenning though, especially the scenes where he's transforming into, and then possessed by some sort of other dimensional demon. Just awesome stuff, right up there with Ghostbusters, etc.
My kids really liked the movie, though some of the sexual overtones were on the edge of embarrassing for them. Speaking of sex, Lea Thompson is downright hot in this movie! If it weren't for the fact there was a three foot tall duck in bed with her during her almost-sex scene, it would have been, um, sexy. Considering some of the sex stuff, including at least three Lea Thompson upskirts, I still find it funny that this movie is rated PG. Ah, the good old days.
|06.03.11||Circle of Iron||Richard Moore||Circle of Iron is an odd fantasy movie focusing on a fighter's quest for enlightenment. Based on a story idea by, among others, Bruce Lee and James Coburn (I know, right?), Circle of Iron is about Bruce Lee's idea of Zen.|
David Carradine in appears in four different roles, my favorite being Monkeyman, the leader of a tribe of monkey men whose costumes very much resemble those in the Japanese movie and TV series, Time of the Apes. The Monkeymen were by far my favorite part of the entire movie.
Jeff Cooper plays the main character, Cord, who's supposed to be a bad-ass fighter. His fight scenes are hilariously bad, since he's actually a pretty terrible fighter.
Eli Wallach, Christopher Lee and Roddy McDowall all make guest appearances in this as well.
|06.02.11||Violent City||Sergio Sollima||Violent City, aka The Family, isn't Bronson's best, but it did hold my interest.|
Like The Mechanic, Violent City is pretty cynical in it's take on humanity: no one can be trusted, everyone is a double crossing bastard. Jill Ireland, Bronson's real life wife, is gorgeous in this.
Though it's slow at times, and some of the edits seem to leave out crucial information, it's still a decent watch.
|05.31.11||Tears of the Black Tiger||Wisit Sasanatieng||Both an homage to, and parody of, the classic western, Tears of the Black Tiger is just crazy fun!|
It feels like a blend of a Republic serial, every classic western you ever saw, and a foreign soap opera, as filmed by a Thai Guy Maddin.
I'd love to see a better print than what's on Netflix Instant Watch. I have a feeling the garish colorization and sets would stand out even better.
I particularly enjoyed the over-the-top gun violence.
|05.31.11||Valhalla Rising||Nicolas Winding Refn||I loved Refn's Bronson and have heard good things about his Pusher trilogy. That, coupled with the recent raves about his latest effort, Drive, piqued my curiosity enough to give Valhalla Rising a try, despite the reactions I'd seen from other movie peeps on Twitter.|
I'm still not sure how much I liked it. It's really well filmed; a very stark movie that relies on some very visceral violence, great establishing shots and beautiful scenery.
I will unabashedly say that I loved Mads Mikkelsen in this. Most people, including me, know him best for his role as the Bond villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. He's also in Pusher, which makes me want to see that movie even more now.
|05.31.11||Blue Valentine||Derek Cianfrance||Just an amazingly great piece of film making; and utterly depressing at the same time. Gosling and Williams are both excellent in this.|
I'm really looking forward to seeing Meek's Cutoff with Williams; and Drive with Gosling.
I really liked Williams in Wendy and Lucy. Looks like I'm going to have to search out more of her movies now.
|05.30.11||The Black Swan||Henry King||I watched this to wash away the bad taste of the Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides from my mouth. Ugh.|
The Black Swan is a nice, classic pirate movie from the glorious '40s, starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara. It also features an eye patch wearing Anthony Quinn!
A fun, adventurous high seas tale, set in the carribean. Plenty of swashbuckling, sword fighting and cannonades to keep everyone entertained.
|05.29.11||Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides||Rob Marshall||There are a lot of words that I could use to describe this movie, but they would all mean 'mediocre', which is what it is.|
There are some chuckles here and there, but nothing laugh out loud. The action is tepid, the cinematography static.
|05.29.11||I Am Waiting||Koreyoshi Kurahara||Another Nikkatsu Noir film from Criterion's Eclipse collection; the second one I've watched.|
Shot in black and white, with some great stark shadows going on, I Am Waiting gets off to a slow start an requires some patience. If you stick with it, it pays off though, as you get slowly drawn into the characters and their stories, which fuels the climax.
Well worth a watch, but definitely requires patience.
|05.27.11||A Fistful of Dollars||Sergio Leone||A Fistful of Dollars is Sergio Leone's take on Kurusawa's Yojimbo, except set in Mexico in the 1800s. This movie kicked off the Spaghetti Western sub-genre and was the first in the "Man With No Name" trilogy of westerns, all starring Clint Eastwood.|
This was my first watch on Bluray and it presents the movie in probably as good a quality as you'll ever see it. Certainly leaps and bounds ahead of all the TV viewings I've ever watched of it.
The DTS soundtrack is wondrous, with Ennio Morricone's score lighting up my surround system.
The print isn't perfect, but I think the Bluray transfer does a damned good job of it.
Can't wait to watch the other two in the trilogy!
|05.27.11||Fast and Furious||Justin Lin||Probably would've helped to have watched this before Fast Five, but oh well. It was enjoyable, but kinda wasn't digging all the green screen and SFX racing shots. Ah well.|
It did fill in some holes in the Fast Five plot that I was missing (holes in my comprehension of plot points, not actual holes in the plot).
|05.25.11||Attack the Block||Joe Cornish||I'm lucky I have good friends who look out for me. If it weren't for my friend @sleestakk I wouldn't have had a pass to this free screening of Attack The Block. This was one of 25 different screenings across the U.S. for this as-yet-unreleased flick.|
I loved this movie! It was just plain fun and cool. It maintained a great balance of comedy and sci-fi action, which, frankly, is pretty damned difficult to do.
Directed by Joe Cornish, who co-wrote the screenplay for the forthcoming TinTin movie, AtB is his first big screen movie. Congrats to him for knocking it out of the park!
AtB premiered at SXSW and there was a lot of talk about whether the thick British accents and heavy urban slang would prove to be a barrier to it doing well in the U.S. It DOES take some time to kind of get your hearing in sync with the dialogue, but that wasn't a barrier to me at all. I think the accents and slang add a LOT to the movie. It just wouldn't be the same if it were subtitled or dubbed.
I should also mention the soundtrack, which was a collaboration between The Basement Jaxx and Steven Price, who has done a ton of music editing, programming and composing for a long list of films, including Scott Pilgrim, Batman Begins and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
What really sets AtB apart is the great acting by a group of unknown kids, led by John Boyega as Moses. My favorites were Mayhem and Probs, played by Michael Ajao and Sammy Williams, two 9ish year old wannabe gangbangers, but all the kids did a great job in their respective roles.
If you get the chance to see this film, I highly recommend it, even if you have to go out of your way to do so. Here's hoping it gets a U.S. release date from Screen Gems.
|05.24.11||Code of Silence||Andrew Davis||I grabbed this DVD from the library mainly because I hadn't seen it before, and it was based in Chicago in the eighties, which was about the time I was coming into Chicago a lot as a teenager to see shows and buy music.|
While I enjoyed it, it's not a great movie, especially in the pathos of Chuck Norris movies. Norris doesn't do much in the way of hand-to-hand ass kicking here; it's mostly gun play and bad acting.
The movie appears to be entirely shot on location in various parts of Chicago, including areas on the North side, where I used to live. It was a trip seeing places I recognized. Everything was dirtier and sleazier back then. We often don't appreciate just how great a job the late Mayor Daley did in beautifying Chicago.
The other cool thing in Code of Silence is the police 'robot' called the Prowler! The remote control is about the size of a mid-80's Chevy Impala transmission, but it does a great job of laying down the law in the final warehouse showdown.
Henry Silva plays the bad guy and Chicago native and ex-policeman Dennis Farina plays Norris' sidekick. What would a Chicago movie involving cops be without Farina in it?
Again, not an earth shattering movie, but for me at least, a fun watch.
|05.23.11||Anaconda 3: Offspring||Don E. FauntLeRoy||You can tell this is made for TV because there's plenty of gory violence but no nudity, sexuality and damn little profanity. Because, you know, violence is ok for everyone!|
Pretty amusing, though run of the mill, movie. It's fun to watch the Hoff chew through his lines and play a bad guy here.
The plot is dull and the budget low. I mainly watched this to finish off my streak of Anaconda movies, only to discover there is apparently one more directed by the same guy who did this one. Ugh. Why do I do this to myself?!
|05.22.11||Conquest||Lucio Fulci||A sword and sorcery movie directed by Lucio Fulci? I'm in!|
The plot is disjointed in places, but overall this was a pretty fun movie. Lots of goofy action, budget effects and costuming make it a great watch. It's also scored by Claudio Simonetti. I'd love to have a copy of the score in all its '80s glory!
Since I've never seen Conquest before, I'm not sure of the washed out, dull print I saw was a result of a bad transfer (Blue Underground DVD release) or if that's how the movie was actually filmed (hard to tell since there was so much machine generated fog wafting through many of the scenes). Either way, it was a detraction.
Assuming it was a bad transfer, I'd LOVE to see a good 35mm print of this on a big screen, or even a better DVD transfer.
Despite that, it's a fun watch; probably better with friends than alone.
|05.22.11||Fast Five||Justin Lin||I'm not a Fast and Furious franchise fan boy, though I thought the first movie was decent. So I was surprised that I actually kinda enjoyed Fast Five. I won't say I went into it with a negative attitude, but I wasn't expecting much.|
At times, it felt like I was watching a remake of Ocean's Eleven with the goofy "Here's what we're gonna do" lines from Vin Diesel (I have a hard time picturing him doing that much critical thinking) but that's probably more to its credit than a negative.
To be sure, there are some ridiculously outlandish things going on in this movie, but that's really the point, and the fun, of it all.
This was another $3 matinee at my local cheap seats first-run theater, so we more than got our money's worth. My kids weren't entirely happy that I picked this over Pirates of the Carribean 4, but they enjoyed it more than they thought they were going to.
I'll have to watch this again after revisiting the rest of the series though, as there were more than a few references to previous plot elements that I missed.
|05.21.11||Vanquisher||Manop Udomdej||A confusing mess of a movie, this Thai actioner is all over the place, and none of it good.|
It gets a few stars for technical proficiency and for having some beautiful Thai women in lead roles, but otherwise, not much to see here. Move along.
|05.21.11||Dreamscape||Joseph Ruben||After hearing Chuck Russell (who produced this) talk about Dreamscape during a Q&A after a screening of Critters 2, I felt I needed to track this movie down and watch it.|
Luckily it's on Netflix Instant, so we settled the whole family in to watch.
Given that it was released in 1984, this is a pretty damn good movie, with great practical effects and makeup/costuming. I really enjoyed it a lot. My kids liked it too.
As a bonus, for me anyway, it had David Patrick Kelly, who most people know as the weaselly antagonist in Walter Hill's excellent movie, The Warriors. He's equally good here, though typecast in the same sort of role.
Also, Kate Capshaw was looking pretty fine back in '84. Just sayin...
|05.20.11||Gulliver's Travels||Rob Letterman||What a pile of horseshit! Sheesh. Although, after the musical number at the end, I have to say this could have worked as a musical if they'd had the balls to go all out with it.|
Even my kids thought this was crap.
|05.19.11||The Mechanic||Simon West||I'm a big fan of the Bronson original, of which this is a remake.|
This version is just too damn politically correct for its own good; it lacks the cynicism that pervaded the original (and seems to be a hallmark of some of the best '70s era movies).
Every time it has a chance to go callous, it throws in a bit of redeeming quality for its main character, which just irritated me.
Despite that essential flaw, it's a very watchable film with some excellent action sequences. It could have benefited from some additional length, especially for character development. I kept wanting some shots to linger longer on the setups to certain scenes, and the aftermaths.
If you've not seen the original, do yourself a favor and watch it.
|05.17.11||I Saw The Devil||Jee-woon Kim||From the guy who directed A TALE OF TWO SISTERS and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD, so I had high expectations going in.|
On the whole, loved the movie, but it could have used a bit of editing; it just felt too long in places. Having said that, after watching some of the deleted scenes, I felt that they should have been left in, because they critically change your understanding of some of the characters and their motivations.
This is, at times, a brutally violent movie that can shake you up (well, not me because I'm jaded, but others certainly), but there are some particularly hilarious scenes as well that you feel guilty laughing about.
|05.15.11||Black Death||Christopher Smith||Wasn't what I expected but I still really enjoyed it. There were some nice, authentic historical touches (like the penitents who were flogging themselves in hopes that God would spare them from the plague) that added to the atmosphere for me.|
The underlying messages about religion and belief took time to sink in. I kept finding myself thinking about the movie days after watching it.
|05.10.11||A Colt Is My Passport||Takashi Nomura||Koruto wa ore no pasupooto is part of Criterion's Eclipse collection of Nikkatsu Noir films (Japanese gangster films with a noir style from the Nikkatsu film company).|
After watching this, I'm really leaning towards picking up the box set of all five films from Criterion. Just waiting for a good 50% off sale to take advantage of.
For more on the Eclipse Series, check out the review of the box set by Glenn Erikson over at DVD Savant.
|05.08.11||Thor||Kenneth Branagh||I'll flat out admit that Thor was never very appealing to me as a comic book hero. Norse mythology just doesn't float my boat.|
I wasn't expecting much here, so when compared to that, it's actually a fairly entertaining and serviceable movie, even if it does feel like a filler/bridge between Iron Man and The Avengers.
Stan Lee's cameo was actually pretty good here, and there are some great, light hearted, laugh-out-loud moments that let you know that this movie isn't going to take itself too seriously.
Kat Dennings, Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth et al, do a good job in their roles; nothing standout. Being a huge fan of The Wire, it was cool to see Idris Elba as Heimdall, even if he was barely recognizable.
Since it's been ages since I've read Avengers or Thor, the plot reveal after the credits didn't do anything for me, but I'm ok with that.
REALLY looking forward to seeing Captain America, and then also Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye in the Avengers movie. I'm a Renner fan ever since 28 Weeks Later and The Hurt Locker.
|05.07.11||The Brides of Fu Manchu||Don Sharp||This was the second movie of a double feature DVD from Netflix, and also the second of five Fu Manchu movies for Christopher Lee. Since this is the first one I've watched, I can't compare to any of the others.|
It has a fairly goofy plot involving Fu Manchu kidnapping leading scientists' wives and daughters in order to force them to carry out his plot to rule the world.
I really need to read the Sax Rohmer books these are based on. By today's standards, Brides is pretty tame and, like Chamber of Horrors, felt just average to me. It also felt like an old Republic Serial, just slower and with none of the exciting cliffhanger stuff.
|05.07.11||Chamber of Horrors||Hy Averback||Part of a double feature disc from Netflix, Chamber of Horrors was originally a pilot for a TV series called House of Wax that appears to have not made the cut.|
Knowing that, however, does explain a lot about the film because it does feel serial in nature.
Featuring the Fear Flasher and Horror Horn to warn of impending (not so) gory scenes, it's a bit of a novelty.
Patrick O'Neal does a standup job as the main antagonist, but ultimately this one is pretty tame and average.
It does feature a midget named Tun Tun, played by José René Ruiz who has more than just a bit part, which is kind of cool to see. He was the best part of the movie for me.
|05.06.11||Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl||Yoshihiro Nishimura, Naoyuki Tomomatsu||I don't know if Horror is the right category for this movie; a more appropriate category would probably be splatter/gore comedy.|
I didn't like this as much as I'd hoped I would. Probably wasn't good to watch it on the tail end of a four-movie night, but there it is.
It's still fun, over-the-top, and rains blood on many occasions. You can't take it too seriously, because it's not meant to be taken seriously.
Nishimura also directed Tokyo Gore Police, The Machine Girl and Suicide Club, among others, so if you've seen any of those, then you know what you're going to get here.
While watching, I kept wishing VGvsFG would've been a lot more fun if it'd just broken out into a straight up musical. Now that would have been awesome!
|05.06.11||Mutants||David Morlet||A good, self-contained French zombie movie. Not without its problems, but easy enough to overlook for the fun you'll get out of the movie.|
I have to say the SFX/makeup on the zombies was great; reminiscent of the creatures in The Descent. No surprise that Laetitia Hillion also did special effects on Frontier(s) and La Horde.
|05.06.11||Unstoppable||Tony Scott||I'll give Tony Scott this, he knows how to ramp up the fake tension via hokey, bullshit means that probably plays well with the uneducated masses. And I don't mean that as an insult to the average moviegoer.|
I'm not a big Tony Scott fan, though I will say Unstoppable was better than I thought it was going to be (not too hard, since I was expecting total shit).
Still, the obvious stupidity on display kills it for me. A movie where a town being evacuated means the evacuation route is right next to the tracks for the runaway train; and where clearing an area because the runaway train may crash causing a huge catastrophe means law enforcement stage themselves about 100 feet away, are not good movies in this day and age.
That's the fake tension. Cram a bunch of shit into the frame, crowd it with people and things going on, and whammo, drama!
While the camera work here wasn't nearly as frenetic as, say, Domino, it's still crazy, with TONS of shots from moving helicopters.
The other way a Tony Scott film produces fake tension is through editing. I don't think there was a single shot that was longer than five seconds. Seriously.
|05.06.11||Marwencol||Jeff Malmberg||Marwencol is one of those documentaries you just need to see for yourself. It tells the story of Mark Hogancamp, an upstate New Yorker, and his recovery from a vicious attack that damaged his brain and left him with little memory of the past and having to relearn how to live and where he fits into the world.|
Doesn't sound all that interesting until you throw in the fact that he provides his own therapy in the form of a town he creates called Marwencol, out of 1/6 scale (think old 12 inch G.I. Joes) figures who represent himself and other real people in his world.
There is more to the story, but the creativity Hogancamp exhibits (both before and after the attack) is really astounding.
I really recommend watching it, especially because it's on NWI.
|05.03.11||9th Company||Fyodor Bondarchuk||Watched on Netflix Instant, which might've influenced my rating a bit due to picture quality. Either the print itself was a bit soft (likely) or NWI was having difficulties streaming that day. Probably an issue with the print itself.|
Anyhow, a fairly good war drama based on true events, set during the Russian occupation of, and war in, Afghanistan. We all know how THAT went.
It had the potential to be very good, but falls into the cliched '80s era action moments of Rambo-style movies. That sort of overt patriotism just doesn't play well with me. Still, worth a watch for some truly good battle scenes tucked in here and there, as well as some of the more touching training camp bits.
|05.03.11||La Horde||Yannick Dahan, Benjamin Rocher||La Horde is a French zombie movie with a unique take. Though it has its problems, I liked it quite a lot. It doesn't shy away from the gore and violence, has touches of black comedy to it, and is pretty self-contained.|
|05.02.11||Out of the Past||Jacques Tourneur||Continuing my Film Noir theme this year, I watched this on DVD from Netflix.|
A really solid noir with a young Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, who are both excellent here. It's easy to see how Mitchum was such a ladies' man back in the early days.
Douglas' role here is understated, and he does a great job of it. The standout performance is Jane Greer's though, as the damsel playing both of them.
|04.26.11||Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways||Victory Tischler-Blue||Directed by Vicki Blue, one of a handful of girls who played bass in The Runaways, this is a pretty straightforward and honest retelling of the rise and fall of all-girl rockers The Runaways.|
While there are no interviews with Joan Jett, the rest of the band is represented here, especially Lita Ford, who was given pretty short shrift in THE RUNAWAYS movie, in my opinion.
It's absolutely amazing that the members of THE RUNAWAYS didn't all end up dead in a ditch somewhere, considering everything they went through, and put themselves through.
|04.26.11||The Alien Girl||Anton Bormatov||I wasn't sure what to expect with this, but it turned out to be a pretty damn good watch. Kind of a Russian road/gangster movie, with plenty of double crosses, revenge and violence.|
It felt like a pretty realistic portrayal of criminality in modern day Russia and the Ukraine.
Would definitely recommend it.
|04.25.11||Girl Boss Guerilla||Noribumi Suzuki||A pretty fun, lurid pinky violence film featuring girl motorcycle gangs who don't take no shit from no one and constantly run scams on everyone and everything.|
Great music, sex, violence, a lot of bright colors; just a fun movie to watch.
|04.25.11||Let's Scare Jessica To Death||John D. Hancock||A very average, slow moving horror tale, that's pretty light on the horror.|
|04.25.11||In the Folds of the Flesh||Sergio Bergonzelli||A bizarre movie. The plot summary doesn't even begin to describe the weird, convoluted happenings. Still, it was a fun watch.|
|04.24.11||Bangkok Adrenaline||Raimund Huber||A serviceable Thai based comedy/actioner with some surprisingly decent fight sequences.|
The plot is trivial, but easily ignored in favor of the action. It killed time and didn't make me think too much, which were my main requirements for the day.
|04.24.11||Raw Force||Edward D. Murphy||AKA Kung Fu Cannibals.|
Words cannot begin to describe this whacked out movie. Part sex comedy, part martial arts action, part adventure, part zombie horror! For serious.
Oh yeah, and piranhas. Salt water piranhas no less.
|04.23.11||Fade to Black||Vernon Zimmerman||This is not a great movie in the general sense of the term, but it is fun and it does hold a place in my heart. I have fond recollections of watching it on VHS back in the early '80s. It's really a nice watch for movie buffs, who will enjoy it more than the average person.|
It's always interesting to revisit movies from your past. It was a bit disappointing, as Fade to Black wasn't nearly as good as I remembered it being. But it was cool to see a young Mikey Rourke in a small role in this; an actor I wasn't even aware of back then.
This movie is out of print, likely because it contains clips from a handful of classic movies. We watched a DVD copy of the VHS tape.
|04.23.11||Down Terrace||Ben Wheatley||A viciously funny and mean little crime movie. I liked it a lot. World work well paired with Animal Kingdom (though different in intent).|
Best part was that one of the characters' last names was Pringle (my last name). It's a little freaky to watch people talking about killing off 'Pringle'!
|04.22.11||Wild Target||Jonathan Lynn||A fun little film, picked out by my wife and kids. There are some flat out hilarious moments in this crime comedy that made me laugh out loud.|
Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt and Rupert Grint all have some great moments, many of them just tiny little things that just brought a smile to my face.
A fun watch.
|04.21.11||The Time Traveler's Wife||Robert Schwentke||My wife picked this out and we finally got around to watching it. I had heard good things about it and was actually looking forward to watching it.|
Because I don't read many movie reviews, I figured the "time travel" in the title was allegorical or fantastical, not actual. Turns out I was wrong!
I admit, I shed a few tears while watching this. Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams were both great in this and the story is touching, heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time.
|04.21.11||Point Blank||John Boorman||Just an amazing film. The composition of shots is brilliant here, especially scenes that break the film plane and force you to acknowledge the film itself as an element in the movie. The window screen pattern in one shot is the most obvious example, as are the plethora of shots through glass and reflections, some of them reflections of reflections.|
Color is also used to great effect.
This movie should be studied in film classes everywhere. A really nice piece of film making.
Lee Marvin is great, but Angie Dickenson is just gorgeous in this.
Based on the novel "The Hunter" by Donald E. Westlake (nee Richard Stark), one of my favorite pulp crime writers.
|04.20.11||The War Game||Peter Watkins||A short documentary produced by the BBC back in 1965 about the very real events and possible outcomes of a limited nuclear war and how it would affect the city of Birmingham and surrounding areas in England.|
It was banned in Great Britain for nearly 20 years. The matter-of-fact explanation of the immediate effects of a nuclear blast are still shocking to see and hear described even now.
Definitely an eye-opener.
|04.19.11||Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country||Anders Østergaard||Excellent, but ultimately depressing documentary on the underground video journalists who risked life and freedom to document the 2007-8 protests in Myanmar.|
|04.19.11||Afro-Punk||James Spooner||A nice short little documentary about the parallels between race and punk. Focuses on four African-Americans who are also punks, with lots of interviews of other punks all across the country.|
|04.17.11||The Driver||Walter Hill||Ultra cool, bad ass characters and gritty, realistic car chases through L.A. make this one of the top ten car chase movies ever. Loved the hell out of it.|
|04.17.11||Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion||Shunya Ito||A Japanese women's prison exploitation film that was a fun watch. The first of the Scorpion series.|
|04.16.11||We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen||Tim Irwin||Watched part of this in my iPad while away on a trip visiting friends, then finished at home on the TV.|
Good doc on one of the under-appreciated punk bands to come out of the California punk/hardcore scene.
|04.16.11||Bandits||Barry Levinson||A quirky Barry Levinson crime/comedy that doesn't fire on all cylinders, but it's still an enjoyable watch. Billy Bob Thornton does a nice job here, and it's a treat to see Cate Blanchett in a non-ice queen role for once. It also reminded me why I have a thing for Cate Blanchett, so there's that.|
|04.12.11||Black Belly of the Tarantula||Paolo Cavara||A pretty cool giallo. Not my favorite of the genre, but some of the set pieces are great and there's something about '70s era naked Italian women that does it for me (don't tell my mom).|
|04.12.11||The lost Tribe||Roel Reiné||Four stars is being... generous. Still, the creature effects are pretty cool, and there is some great music going on in the score. Other than that, meh.|
Lance Henriksen barely even makes an appearance, so don't get suckered in by that.
|04.11.11||Bloody Territories||Yasuharu Hasebe||Sparse, at times bordering on leaden, Bloody Territories explores what has become familar, er, territory at this point: Yakuza gangs running up against the law and other gangs, fighting over territory and against obsolescence.|
Despite all that, there are some great scenes here, if you just have the patience to sit for it.
|04.11.11||Alien vs. Ninja||Seiji Chiba||I can't even begin to describe this. It doesn't take itself too seriously, which is good. Over the top, goofy, and gory all at once.|
|04.10.11||Source Code||Duncan Jones||Happy to have caught this in the theater. It was a good watch; intelligent person's sci-fi/thriller/mystery. I didn't like it as much as Jones' previous effort, Moon, but thought it was a solid follow up effort.|
|04.09.11||Kiss Me Deadly||Robert Aldrich||This movie makes a lot of "must watch" noir lists, so I finally got it from Netflix and gave it a watch.|
It's so weird to see a young Cloris Leachman in this, but she's great.
Based on a Mickey Spillane novel, it's a good noir with some unexpected twists to it. Mike Hammer, the detective, isn't very likable, but that's the point. I enjoyed it.
|04.08.11||Deception||Marcel Langenegger||A nice little thriller with some interesting plot points. I watched because I'm a fan of Ewan McGregor. Definitely a better movie than any of the trailers led one to think.|
|04.08.11||Hanna||Joe Wright||Hanna is not as advertised. It's not some pubescent Bourne Identity, but instead a charming action-comedy with a coming-of-age plot, dipped in a healthy dose of grim back story.|
Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan were both great, but the actress who plays the girl in the English family Hanna meets steals the show. Her comic moments provided some great levity and really caught me off guard.
|04.08.11||The Tourist||Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck||A remake of a French movie called Anthony Zimmer (that I've not seen yet), The Tourist is actually an enjoyable little throwback to movies from the '50s like Charade.|
I quite enjoyed it and really don't understand the negative response it got. I guess people were expecting more wizz-bang action.
|04.07.11||Elite Squad||José Padilha||This feels a bit like a Brazilian Training Day or something. Can't quite accurately describe it. The film does a good job of showing all sides as almost equally repulsive, cops and criminals; even the people caught in between. The fact that it does this while telling the tale from the side of an Elite Squad commander does seem to push it more into the "good guys" camp.|
I don't know, maybe my western moral code just doesn't hold down in Brazil. In fact, I'm sure it doesn't.
A good movie though. I need to track down and watch Elite Squad 2 now.
|04.07.11||Open House||Andrew Paquin||Directed by Anna Paquin's brother, Andrew. I had no right thinking this movie was going to be anything other than B-grade torture porn, but I have to say it was actually pretty damn good!|
It has a nastiness to it while still running a bit of hopefulness throughout that kept my interest. There is some fairly brutal, senseless violence going on here that both draws you in and repels you at the same time, which is kind of the point.
Tricia Helfer is particularly evil in this.
|04.06.11||Observe and Report||Jody Hill||This movie is a comedy the same way watching your friend have a spectacular wipe out on his skate board is funny. Which, it turns out, is pretty funny!|
Not the sort of humor I was expecting, but I'm ok with that. There are some truly LOL moments that are, at the same time, very uncomfortable. I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I was going to.
I can't imagine Paul Blart: Mall Cop is anything at all like this; people who compare the two as similar probably shouldn't be watching movies.
|04.05.11||Vengeance is Mine||Shôhei Imamura||Bleak, amoral, brutal, but not in a "violence in your face" way. More in the "indifferent, Camus' The Stranger" kind of way. Very nihilistic.|
|04.04.11||Ninja Assassin||James McTeigue||Eh. Felt like some mindless violence this night. This was a rewatch. I took my kids to see this in the theater. Upon watching it again, that might not have been such a good idea, but it seemed ok at the time.|
The fake CGI blood didn't bother me as much this time. My favorite part is still the shuriken vs. car scenes! Quite fun that.
|04.03.11||Domino||Tony Scott||I first saw this back in 2005 at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Which is a big deal for me, since that's the one and only time I've been to Hollywood. I disliked the movie then for its visual assault, shaky camera, ADD editing, etc.|
I decided to give it a rewatch to see if my view had softened any.
Not much. This is style over substance, which I don't necessarily have an issue with, but the damn movie gives me a headache watching it.
I do admire some of the film exposure and textural tricks that Scott used to get some of the colors and grain in the movie now that I didn't then. It's also fun to trainspot actors who you know now because of later work, that you didn't know then.
For instance, I'd never heard of Macy Gray or Edgar Ramirez when I first saw this film. And Mickey Rourke hadn't made his Wrester-fueled comeback either (he's actually pretty decent in Domino, and looks much better here then he does now, his face being smoother and less pockmarked).
Still, overall, I still carry my dislike forward for this film, and most Tony Scott movies for that matter.
Oh well, I tried.
|04.03.11||Four Lions||Christopher Morris||Not as funny as I thought it was going to be, but still a pretty biting piece of satire. Enjoyed it.|
|04.02.11||Avatar||James Cameron||Still visually stunning, even at home in two dimensions.|
|04.01.11||Five Deadly Venoms||Cheh Chang|
|03.31.11||Insidious||James Wan||My last film of March was an advance screening of Insidious, with my friends Pat, Kristin and Mitch.|
Though the crowd was at times insufferable, overall, I'm glad I saw this in a theater, as it has some great jump scares that are best experienced with a crowd. The girl next to my almost ripped her boyfriend's arm off and made me jump a bit every time she did!
This is a great, classic non-gory, non-sex drenched, non-sweary, FUN horror movie! There are some scenes in the end that kind of made me roll my eyes a bit, but that aside, just plain old spooky fun.
|03.30.11||Cassandra's Dream||Woody Allen||A really solid Woody Allen flick. I enjoyed this, though I don't think he really got all he could get out of the two leads, Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell. Both DO turn in good performances, and at times even great, but I constantly felt like I was watching an actor act; I just never got fully drawn into their characters.|
Aside from that, a really good film.
|03.30.11||The Last Legion||Doug Lefler||A kind of family TV movie medieval adventure movie. I watched part of this with my kids once before but I was pulled away for work or something, so never finished it.|
Got the DVD from my library and finally watched the whole thing through. It's interesting, and has it's moments, but is pretty average overall. My kids did enjoy it.
|03.29.11||Primeval||Michael Katleman||I had watched maybe the last 20 minutes of this movie before while skipping around channels at some point last year, and was intrigued enough to finally get the disc from my local library and check it out.|
Though it doesn't always work, it's still a damn fun movie and perhaps one of the better killer croc/gater style movies out there.
|03.29.11||Turistas||John Stockwell||Heard both good and bad things about this, so figured I'd finally get around to checking it out for myself.|
Somewhat surprisingly, I actually liked it quite a bit. Though it's more or less the same basic "fish out of water gets butchered by the native population" type of horror/torture porn, it does break free with some inventiveness, especially with some great, tense underwater cave chase scenes that were pretty damn cool.
Worth watching unless you can't stand brutal violence.
|03.28.11||Micmacs à tire-larigot||Jean-Pierre Jeunet||This movie was as charming and odd as I hoped it would be. Jeunet rarely disappoints. Sorry it took me so long to see this.|
|03.27.11||The Bat People||Jerry Jameson||Ugh. Pretty terrible movie, with not a lot going on. I had hopes for an epic, schlocky person in a fuzzy bat costume at some point but was mostly disappointed even in that respect.|
|03.27.11||Sucker Punch||Zack Snyder||Sooooo much hatred for this movie from critics made me want to see it even more. I'm not a contrarian Armond White movie schlub, but having enjoyed Snyder's 300 and Watchmen a lot, I felt like I was going to like this going in.|
To be sure, the film feels like it misses the target Snyder was aiming for, but I still felt it was enjoyable and a good movie. Not great, but good.
I guess my biggest issue was the lack of subtlety, which seems like a bit of an insult to the audience. I had no problems picking up the plot elements and the underlying (overarching?) theme, so the last voice over did seem a bit pandering and heavy handed.
Visually, the movie was exactly what one would expect from Zack Snyder, which leads to my other complaint. There is so much emphasis on visual style that it does tend to flatten the effect of some of the scenes. Things really start to blur and the action scenes never seem to be allowed to really reach heights of tension or excitement that one would expect.
I was also disappointed that the dancing scenes weren't there. It almost felt as if they'd been chopped out. I fully expect to see a director's cut of this some day with a lot more content.
I really didn't understand the cries of porn and exploitation. I felt that the costumes and "objectification" of the females in the movie were fairly restrained and tastefully done. None of the main protagonists were wearing thongs and there were no gratuitous upskirt shots; Transformers II was more pornographic and adult-themed than this movie by far.
We went to this as a family, and going in I did have some concerns for my two sons, since the back story here references some fairly adult themes. Again, I felt everything was handled well and tastefully done for a PG-13 movie.
My kids can handle, and have been exposed to, R-rated movies depending on the content, but some sexually themed things still embarrass and annoy them, which is easy to understand given their ages. They had no problems with Sucker Punch.
|03.26.11||Red Riding Hood||Catherine Hardwicke||The kids really wanted to see this, and I had a feeling it was going to be better than I was led to believe; still I didn't have high expectations.|
We attended an 10:30 a.m. matinee and had the entire theater to ourselves, with the exception of an old-timer who came in right as the movie started and sat in the front three rows. Apparently with matinees at the Randall Imax Theater, heat costs extra, because we froze our asses off.
Visually, Hardwicke is a competent filmmaker and does a good job on this, though I think the movie tries to combine too many bits from folk tales together to have a hope of producing a tight, compelling experience.
To be sure, there is some hokiness here, and plenty of stuff that seems could have been left out. Still, some of the nods to folk tales are clever (naming one of the main characters Peter, as in Peter and the Wolf, gave me a chuckle).
Since I recently watched Jennifer's Body, I've been a bit infatuated with Amanda Seyfried, who's the main protagonist here. She does a competent job; though I keep hoping that she'll find some better roles and really shine at some point. I just feel she's got more there than meets the eye (and there's plenty to meet the eye, that's for sure).
All-in-all, a lightly enjoyable movie.
|03.26.11||Mystery Team||Dan Eckman||I know nothing about any of the talent surrounding this film, or where it came from. I also knew nothing about the movie itself except that a lot of people loved it when it first came out.|
It is hilariously wrong! Donald Glover is excellent and the combination of youthful innocence with really raunchy shit happening is excellent.
I highly recommend watching this on Netflix Instant Watch while it's around. Completely worth it. I plan on rewatching it because I was fading in and out at the end as it was really late.
|03.25.11||Fiend Without A Face||Arthur Crabtree||A groundbreaking SFX sci-fi horror movie with some shocking gore for its time, Fiend Without A Face seems tame and B-movie-ish now. Of course that didn't stop me from loving the hell out of it.|
It's a really fun movie and seems ripe for a good remake. This was the Criterion disc from Netflix.
|03.25.11||The Brothers Grimm||Terry Gilliam||I'd seen bits of this before but never the entire movie all the way though. My wife and I thought it'd be a good movie to watch with the kids on a Friday night, so that's what we did.|
A very enjoyable movie and perhaps one of Gilliam's more commercially accessible (and probably less plagued than most of his other productions though I don't know for sure).
Heath Ledger is especially good here, and you can see shadows of his Joker character that he'll be forever known for.
Matt Damon also does a great job, and some of his comedic moments are the best parts of the film!
While the effects are generally good, there are times when they feel a bit flat and dated. I don't know if it was the budget Gilliam had to work with or just the state of technology in 2005. Either way, not enough to prove much of a distraction.
The kids really liked it. Now they've seen Time Bandits and this, next up will need to be Baron Munchhausen and Brazil.
|03.24.11||Miami Vice||Michael Mann||A rewatch. I really liked this the first time I saw it a year or two ago, so felt it was time for a revisit.|
Still liked it a lot though there are some plot holes/silliness that I must've glossed over the first time.
|03.21.11||Rage of Honor||Gordon Hessler||Another Sho Kosugi '80s era campy ninja movie, this time set in South America. Directed by Gordon Hessler, who also did Pray For Death two years earlier (he also directed Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park), this is more of the same over-the-top, campy ninja action.|
I actually enjoyed this more than Pray For Death. Even more crazy action here than in PFD. The weirdest part is when Kosugi is dropped into the jungle in search of his lover and gets ambushed and systematically massacres the indigenous tribesmen. Only in the '80s could you do this!
|03.21.11||Strip Nude For Your Killer||Andrea Bianchi||Classic '70s Italian Giallo with lots of nudity, naked dead people, lurid colors and a jazz soundtrack backing it all.|
SNFYK probably has more nudity in it than all the mainstream Hollywood releases in the past 20 years put together. I think the only two people who don't take their clothes off in this at some point are the two primary detectives.
Practically everyone dies, most of them in the, you guessed it, nude.
Great, fun watch. I highly recommend it if you're at all interested in Giallo or exploitation cinema.
|03.20.11||The Haunting In Connecticut||Peter Cornwell||I originally skipped this when it came out because I was fed up with modern poltergeist/possession movies. Sorry I did, I think this would have been a good watch at the theater.|
While there is some familiar territory here, the story introduces some interesting and unique elements, like the fact that the family's son, who is the one being haunted, is going through excruciating treatments for cancer.
There are other unique things going on here too that make it worth watching. Hell, just the fact that I got goosebumps watching this should be enough! That doesn't happen much anymore.
The movie does suffer from trying to fit too much into too short a running time. There are some plot points that were wrapped up too quickly and neatly, and there were some characters that could have benefited from more depth, but to do so would've required a longer running time.
I'd be interested in seeing a longer director's cut of this some time.
The extras on the DVD were laughable, consisting of other Lionsgate trailers! Considering that this was based on a true story, I was expecting a documentary or other extras delving into the real life situation it was based on. Oh well.
|03.20.11||Event Horizon||Paul W.S. Anderson||The last movie of Sci-Fi Spectacular, and I considered skipping it to get home and get some sleep. Luckily it started close to on time, so I decided to stick it out and complete the whole Sci-Fi Spectacular.|
I've seen Event Horizon a few times before, and while it's a servicable movie, and has some genuinely creepy stuff happening, overall it's always been a disappointment to me.
I just wanted it to be more than it was.
Still, seeing it on the big screen was a treat, and the 35 mm print was in great shape.
|03.19.11||The Blob||Chuck Russell||I'd never seen this remake/reimagining of the 1958 classic, and it was great to be introduced to it on the big screen for the first time. Better yet, it was followed by Q&A from director Chuck Russell, who was a great guy and had a lot of insight into the making of the movie.|
The practical effects in this are amazing, considering the 4 million dollar budget!
This is really a different take on the original movie, and I liked the plot and how things played out a lot.
I remember seeing clips from this, and The Stuff, on USA's Up All Night back in the '80s, so scenes here and there looked competely familiar.
It was a lot of fun!
|03.19.11||Rubber||Quentin Dupieux||I classified this as a horror movie, but that's only because there really isn't a classification to fit this great movie in to.|
This was the central reason for my attending Sci-Fi Spectacular and I wasn't disappointed.
I really had no idea what the movie was about other than the "sentient tire that can psychokinetically explode people's heads" description I'd seen.
Rubber is really a satire of Hollywood, the filmmaking process, film festivals and movie audiences, and it's brilliant at poking fun at all of it.
There isn't a lot I can write here that won't give things up. All I can say is definitely watch it.
As a nice little extra, we got small foam rubber tires as giveaways!
|03.19.11||Naked Lunch||David Cronenberg||I'm a huge William S. Burroughs fan and have read Naked Lunch and many of his other works; I'm also a big Cronenberg fan, so this seems like a match made in heaven for mokes like me.|
Honestly, I've tried to watch this movie a number of times before and for whatever reason could not get through it.
So I was interested to see the whole thing in a theater. Despite the five talky chicks behind me, it really took for me this time. With the exception of the talking, there were no distractions here, just sitting in my seat and paying attention.
I can't imagine this movie ever found a mainstream audience, and I'm willing to bet even a lot of horror and/or Cronenberg fans aren't crazy about it, but I really enjoyed it a lot.
Having read Naked Lunch, and two or three biographies on Burroughs, I was able to get more out of it than the average moviegoer.
So glad to have seen this on the big screen, even though the print was scratchy as hell in some places.
|03.19.11||Critters 2||Mick Garris||I rarely watch a sequel before watching the original, but since this was part of Sci-Fi Spectacular, it happened. I'd never seen any of the Critters films before, and after watching this one, I'm going to rectify that by watching Critters soon.|
The best part of this showing was the Q&A with director Mick Garris afterwards. He is an amazingly prolific and gifted director, very down to earth, and provided a LOT of insight into the making of Critters 2 and the filmmaking process in general.
This was one of the unexpected highlights of the Spectacular for me.
|03.19.11||Krull||Peter Yates||It was amazingly fun to see this on the big screen! I don't recall if I originally saw Krull in the theaters when it first came out, so this might have been the first time for me.|
It should be pointed out that all the movies shown at Sci-Fi Spectacular 5 were 35 mm prints; no digital projection of DVDs, but actual film prints! LOVE THAT.
|03.19.11||Day the World Ended||Roger Corman||The first movie of the Music Box Theatre's Sci-Fi Spectacular 5 that I attended with friends in Chicago.|
This was a last minute substitution for another Roger Corman film that was supposed to play.
Early, early B-movie nuclear apocalypse movie, and quite a bit of fun in it's campy, low budget way. Honestly, I grew up on films like this, so I love 'em.
|03.17.11||The Unborn||David S. Goyer||This was a well shot movie, and located in Chicago, which was a surprise to me. I wanted to like the movie more than I ended up doing so, but still it wasn't terrible.|
Pacing seemed to be the biggest issue, along with some cliched plot points. It's a shame to see a talented actor like Gary Oldman take on these throwaway bit parts (along with Idris Elba, who is also mostly wasted here, though his possession scene almost makes it worth it!).
Odette Yustman (nee Annable) does a decent job in the lead role (I'm not gonna lie, I became an instant fan immediately after the underwear/bathroom scene). In some scenes she seemed much older than the character's age she was portraying, but in others came across as younger. While this might seem minor, it was enough to make me question how old she really was supposed to be and what the hell really was going on.
I wouldn't go out of my way to watch this, but it's not terrible if you find yourself sitting in front of it.
|03.16.11||Conan The Barbarian||John Milius||I loved the hell out of this movie as a teenager and it'd been years since I'd watched it, so a revisit was in order after seeing the trailer for the upcoming remake.|
It was a frustrating viewing experience because the DVD I checked out from the library was scratched to hell.
The movie itself is as great as I remember, and I think this is probably Arnold's best role. Just a fun, fun watch. I also particularly enjoyed James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom. I completely forgot that he transforms into a snake at one point!
The giant snake Conan battles in one scene here is heads above the CGI snake in Anaconda. Interesting to see, since it was a visual FX here.
|03.16.11||Jennifer's Body||Karyn Kusama||Better than I expected given all the negative comments on Twitter and the horrible reviews it got. Frankly, I think a lot of it was just hate for Megan Fox in general.|
This was a fun movie at times, though the dialogue tries to be too witty for it's own good. Still, some fun moments.
While everyone in the movie may have been gawking at Megan Fox, I'd have to say that Amanda Seyfried was pretty fetching.
My biggest complaint was the shortness of the "seduction/murder" scenes. They were way too short, didn't build up nearly enough suspense or tension, and had little sexuality to them. Given that was a huge sell point of the movie to their presumably young adult male crowd, it seems like a serious issue.
|03.15.11||The Cave||Bruce Hunt||A rewatch. Not as bad as I remember it being, and at times, kind of interesting. Cliches galore, and still nowhere near as good as The Descent, but was a fun rewatch.|
|03.14.11||Ong Bak 3||Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai||The final Ong Bak movie. I've been meaning to watch this as soon as it came out. Luckily it hit NWI sometime this weekend, so it was a no brainer watch.|
This was probably my least favorite of the three. It picks up right where Ong Bak 2 left off and tends to the more spiritual/mystical side of things, focusing heavily on Tien's recovery (both spiritual and physical) as well as the cursed king.
The violence, when it does break out, is even more brutal than either of the other two Ong Bak movies. I know that's hard to imagine, but the violence here is driven by blood lust and revenge and it really feels dirty.
I'll eventually get all three movies on Blu and then I'll watch 2 and 3 back to back, since 3 really feels like it got trimmed off of 2 for running time. I think it would have played better as one long four hour long feature.
|03.14.11||Dragon Tiger Gate||Wilson Yip||A shallow, mildly entertaining martial arts fantasy movie, this was on NWI and is, unfortunately, dubbed, which probably added to the mild annoyance factor.|
Probably not worth anyone's time to track down and watch.
|03.12.11||Battle: Los Angeles||Jonathan Liebesman||My kids had been anticipating this movie for some time, so we took the whole family out, met my friends Jay and Pat, and did a showing at the Muvico Mega Movie Palace. Muvico has the epically comfy seats and digital projection and THX certified sound system, so it's the perfect place to view an explody, effects-laden popcorn movie like this.|
And that's exactly what Battle:LA is, make no mistake. If you showed up looking for involved plot or deep character profiles, well you're the sucker. Ain't none of that here!
I honestly don't understand the critics who alternately bashed and lauded this movie before it came out. I heard everything from "greatest movie ever!" to "Worst Hollywood directed movie I ever saw." Really? Then you must not get out much.
Shit blows up; there is CONSTANT gunfire and explosions, all nicely packaged with an interminable surge of patriotic music underscoring every bit of action.
It does play like a recruiting movie for the marines, which, along with the score, is perhaps the most annoying part of the whole thing.
There is also a lot of frenetic camerawork that threatened to make me ill in the first part of the movie, but either I adjusted to it or there was less of it later on in the movie, because I was fine 20 or so minutes in.
It did feel overly long, at 116 minutes. There were a few too many objectives that got a bit annoying.
Still, a fun, mindless bit of entertainment that I enjoyed for what it was. Ultimately forgettable, but I'll probably buy it on Blu Ray just to rattle my subwoofer and enjoy bullets wizzing past my head.
|03.11.11||Time Bandits||Terry Gilliam||This was a family watch with the kids. We thought they'd enjoy it, and they ended up liking it a lot.|
The DVD, from Netflix, is pretty crappy, despite being a Criterion Collection disc, mainly because it's so old it's made for 4X3 TVs, which means it was a floating widescreen window. So sad.
We still enjoyed it a lot and plan on watching The Adventures of Baron Munchausen sometime soon.
|03.10.11||Wicker Park||Paul McGuigan||The second movie in my "shot in Chicago" double feature (the other was Call Northside 777), Wicker Park is what I would call a light mystery romance. No one dies, there's no violence, it's just a nicely put together mystery set primarily in the Wicker Park area of Chicago (an area I know well as I used to work near there and shop for records and catch live bands there too).|
I'd actually seen this before but I'd been a long time, so I couldn't remember the reveals.
A nice enjoyable movie, nothing earth shattering.
|03.10.11||Call Northside 777||Henry Hathaway||Not everything I was hoping for, but still a solid noir with the always great James Stewart. Filmed in and around Chicago and Illinois, it was great to see a lot of recognizable Chicago landmarks, along with a lot of stuff that just isn't there anymore. |
Watching the raising drawbridges over the river taking place in a window behind the characters as they talk during a scene was especially cool.
|03.10.11||The X Files: I Want To Believe||Chris Carter||I guess it's been much too long since I've watched the X-Files TV show, because I felt completely indifferent about this movie.|
If felt like an overly long episode of the TV series.
|03.09.11||Up In The Air||Jason Reitman||Checked this out from the library to watch with my wife, who has suggested that I don't like to watch romantic comedies (true, but I can't let her win, can I?).|
She fell asleep and I quite enjoyed the movie, though the ending was telegraphed from a mile away.
I loved Vera Farmiga in this; I've admired her from the first time I saw her on some USA TV show that went nowhere, both for her great acting and for her beauty.
Well worth a watch.
p.s. My wife rewatched it the next day and loved it.
|03.08.11||The Breed||Nicholas Mastandrea||Part of my creature feature (which included the first two Anaconda movies), The Breed had promise but just didn't live up to it.|
There are some good, tense scenes, especially when the crazed pack of dogs breaks into the house, which had the beginnings of feeling like the cottage werewolf fight and flight scene in Dog Soldiers, or the room by room battle in the medical center in Aliens (or the infirmary battle in Zulu for that matter), but it ended a little too quickly for it to reach that level of epicness.
You do get to see Michelle Rodriguez in a bathing suit, so there's that. I saw her in 2009 when she was signing autographs at Chicago Comicon and I can safely say that she's amazingly beautiful in person, even more so than in any movie I've seen her in, this one included.
|03.08.11||Day of the Dead||Steve Miner||Meh. Pretty hollow remake of Romero's semi-classic. Some of the zombie attacks are pretty cool though. And um, yeah, that's about it.|
|03.08.11||Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid||Dwight H. Little||I'd never seen this sequel to Anaconda, but my library had it on DVD, so I grabbed it and did a double feature with the original.|
With the exception of Morris Chestnut, the cast is pretty unknown, and I wasn't expecting much, given the poor effects and goofiness of the first movie.
Wow, was I surprised! This is actually a pretty well done movie with good dialogue, good acting, and a reasonably realistic and interesting plot.
The creepiness factor on this sequel is much greater than the first movie, mainly because they keep the giant anacondas as a lurking, ominous threat more than shove it out there. Fear of the unknown is much greater than fear of the badly CGI'd.
|03.08.11||Anaconda||Luis Llosa||I decided to revisit this movie since my library had both it and the sequel on DVD.|
This has a crazy mismatched cast that includes Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Owen Wilson (!!), Kari Wuhrer and a young Danny Trejo. So bizarre!
Voight is over the top with his Scarface accent and the CGI snake effects aren't very effective, but as long as you don't take anything too seriously, the movie is fun to watch.
|03.07.11||Legendary Assassin||Chi Keung Fung||Oh Legendary Assassin, I wanted to love you like a good throwback '80s era Hong Kong action flick, but you weren't committed enough.|
The martial arts action is pretty decent, though the end battle royale suffers from the Matrix effect where the director thought adding huge amounts of enemies would make it more epic. Instead it buries the action in a sea of mediocrity. I'd rather have seen the protagonist tee off on a half dozen or so henchmen in some well choreographed scenes than to see him mow down black-clad baddies like he was cutting grass. Just didn't work well for me.
There's also a lot of frivolous, semi-comedic crap that passes for story in-between the action set pieces. It was poorly timed and didn't fit very well.
|03.07.11||Primal||Josh Reed||This was a random "grab" off Netflix Instant Watch's New Releases list, partly picked because it was in HD with Dolby 5.1 sound.|
An intriguing Australian horror film that works partially outside of conventions, Primal is ultimately unsatisfying. I wanted to like it more than I did.
It does has some smart stuff in it, and I really enjoyed the fact that a lot of the "menace" is left unexplained. However, the characters lack depth, which means that you're not really emotionally involved in them and whether they live or die.
A few of the characters switch their convictions so fast in certain key scenes that you're left wondering WTF!
Still, the movie has promise. Given the short running time, I wonder if there isn't a longer cut out there somewhere that might be a better watch.
|03.06.11||Catfish||Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman||This documentary garnered a LOT of attention when it premiered (at Sundance? or SXSW? Can't recall), with a lot of people questioning whether it was a set up or truly a spontaneous documentary.|
I'm not going to pretend to know for sure, but I'd like to take the directors at their word and assume it's on the up-and-up.
The film raises a lot of troubling, and unsettling, questions about the nature of identity in this new digital world of ours.
I have a long history with online communities and digital identity, going back to my early days of BBSes and continuing on through my adult life of online gaming, Facebook and Twitter. We all have multiple "identities" that are typically compartmentalized into roles such as work, family, distant friends, recreational groups, etc.
It has become much harder to maintain that segmentation online with the advent of Facebook and Twitter. With an intermingling of professional and personal friends, it can be hard to know what image you should be projecting, or whether you should project an image at all, but rather just "be yourself."
In Catfish, it's more about creating a persona and living that out in place of your real self; and what happens when that escapist fantasy comes crashing down into the real world.
Still, don't we all do that to some degree already? We cultivate and edit our digital personalities as much by the things we omit as the things we post.
Suffice it to say, Catfish is a compelling documentary; thought provoking and moving. Which is what a good documentary should be.
|03.06.11||Rango||Gore Verbinski||My wife had to work and my oldest son was going to a birthday party (and seeing this movie as part of the party), so it was a great opportunity for me to hang out with just my youngest kid.|
We chose to go to the cheap seats theater and catch the first matinee because it would only run us $3 a ticket. That came at a price though: it wasn't digitally projected (I was ok with that) and the movie was sold out and packed with obnoxious parents and their kids. To be clear, the kids were all right (except for the little bitch with the light up tennis shoes in the front row who put on a light show every time she moved an inch; and being a 5 or 6 year old, she moved a hell of a lot), it was the parents who were the pricks.
The woman sitting next to my son probably updated her fucking Facebook status on her iPhone more during the movie than I have in an entire year. I imagine the updates went something like "At the movie"; "Still at the movie"; "Ha, that was funny!"; "this 50 gallon tub of popcorn is delic!"; "why am I fat?"; "I think the man next to me might try to kill me."
Well, at least the last one was true.
But I digress.
The movie was a lot of fun, even if a lot of the homages were lost on the bulk of the audience. There was so much going on that I'll need to view it again to get a good sense of the movie, without distractions.
Easily worth a second view!
|03.05.11||Brothers||Jim Sheridan||I put off watching this for a long while based on the trailer I'd seen, which really turned me off. I thought it was going to be a love triangle gone wrong with the war as a backdrop.|
Turns out it's a complex, character-driven film with a lot of depth to it. All three primary actors, Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman, do outstanding jobs here.
Little Bailee Madison, who plays one of Portman's two daughters, does an especially excellent job. She ran through a complex range of emotions, often via facial expressions, and sometimes in the background of a scene, that would've been tough for a lot of adult actresses to pull off.
I really loved Portman's character here too. She's an excellent actress, so happy she got an Oscar for Black Swan.
|03.05.11||Pray For Death||Gordon Hessler||Recommended by @BobFreelander, this was an attempt to fill a hole in my '80s era ninja movie watching, which is woefully incomplete.|
Starring Shô Kosugi, the plot involves Kosugi's family moving to the shit side of Houston and opening a Japanese restaurant. Would've had better luck with a methadone clinic. There they get harassed by some mobsters and a bunch of epic ninjaness occurs.
Campy fun in a way that could only have been a product of the '80s, and enjoyable stuff.
|03.05.11||New Gladiators||Lucio Fulci||I was drawn to this mostly because it was directed by Fulci, and it's post-apocalyptic Italian '80s-era sci-fi! What's not to like?|
Well, quite a lot actually, but it's still a fun watch. I really enjoyed the end motorcycle chariot battles.
Also known as Rome 2033: The Fighter Centurions.
|03.05.11||Unknown||Jaume Collet-Serra||A decent action/thriller flick. It took a while to settle in on me, and portions of the plot were just too convenient, but overall I enjoyed it.|
Took the whole family to watch it and they enjoyed it for the most part, though some of the plot confused my youngest son (he's 10). His comment was "It was like Salt. I couldn't tell if he was really a good guy or a bad guy."
Things are still more black and white for him; moral grey areas don't have much resonance with his young little soul.
|03.04.11||New Police Story||Benny Chan||Was pretty sure I'd seen this before (turns out we'd watched it at a movie night a few years ago) but my memory of it was pretty fuzzy, so I rewatched it.|
Ehh. It's not terrible, but not as good as I hoped it would be. I think it's safe to say that Jackie Chan is mostly dead to me now.
|03.04.11||The Day the Earth Stood Still||Scott Derrickson||This movie tries to be intellectual sci-fi but can't break free of its desire for big SFX action, which it also does not achieve. Ends up in the middle, a muddled mess.|
|03.04.11||Game of Death II||See-Yuen Ng||Terrible attempt to cash in on Bruce Lee's fame after his death.|
|03.04.11||Taken||Pierre Morel||A rewatch; saw this in the theater back during my first set of knee surgeries, so it seemed appropriate to watch while recovering from my third knee surgery.|
Doesn't hold up as well on second viewing, but still a brutally violent movie.
One thing that does hold up is my absolute hatred for "Kim", Neeson's character's daughter and the one he's on a mission to save. I spent the entire movie praying and hoping for her death. She's such a whiny "oh look I got a PONY for my birthday! I'm gonna pee!" bitch that I would actually whisper under my breath "please God, let her die by the end of this movie."
Oh well, can't have everything.
|03.03.11||Castle of the Walking Dead||Harald Reinl||Known by a number of titles including The Blood Demon and The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, this movie is just odd, possibly not in a good way.|
It was difficult for me to decide, since the worn 4x3 print on Netflix Watch Instantly was so awful. I wouldn't have even bothered except I was drawn in by the weirdness of it all.
Christopher Lee is mostly wasted here. In fact, he's barely in the movie.
Large portions of the movie involve people walking, traveling by horseback or by carriage. And I mean that in the most interminable, dragged out sort of way possible.
A better print might get a more favorable review from me, since so much of the film relies on atmosphere rather than action.
I really cannot recommend watching the version that's on NWI though.
|03.03.11||Doppelganger||Kiyoshi Kurosawa||This odd movie is billed as a sci-fi/thriller/horror but really isn't any of them. I guess the closest thing it comes to being is a thriller, so that's what I categorized it as.|
Kiyoshi Kurosawa has some done some great movies that are particular favorites of mine, including Cure and Bright Future. I wouldn't put Doppelganger in the same category as those two films, but it does carry the same whimsical sensibilities.
Worth watching, but you should clear your mind of any expectations of typical sci-fi, horror or thrillers.
|03.03.11||Roman de Gare||Claude Lelouch||A decent, likable French mystery movie starring the great Dominique Pinon (who I mostly remember as the crippled Vriess from Alien: Resurrection).|
The plot is confusing for a while, and seems to weave a number of possible characters together. Some of the characters are not-so-likable, and it took me a while to muster up any sympathy for them.
It does feel a little too forced, which seems to be typical of French mysteries, but still enjoyable.
|03.02.11||R.O.T.O.R.||Cullen Blaine||Not a good movie in any sense of the word. Not even a good bad movie.|
The director apparently has quite a long resume in storyboarding and story directing animated TV series though. He even did Spiral Zone! So there's that.
|03.02.11||The Order of the Black Eagle||Worth Keeter||This movie and its sequel, Unmasking the Idol, are both a lot of tongue-in-cheek direct-to-video fun. I watched both back-to-back, and though I enjoyed Unmasking the Idol more, Black Eagle is a lot of fun too.|
The plot here revolves around a fourth reich organization intent on restoring the preserved remains of Hitler. Along the way we get some South American western-style shootouts, hot air balloons, a tank driving baboon named, wait for it, Boon, and more!
lots of campy fun from a director who went on to do lots of TV series like Power Rangers, Beetle Borgs and Masked Rider. My kind of stuff!
|03.02.11||Unmasking the Idol||Worth Keeter||Part of my Worth Keeter semi-intentional double feature while laid up recovering from knee surgery, Unmasking the Idol is a fun b-grade, direct-to-video effort that doesn't take itself too seriously, which opens the way for a lot of goofy fun.|
I think I did the two movies in reverse order (the other movie is The Order of the Black Eagle) and this is the better of the two, though both are great.
Keeter is good with action and explosions (and by good I mean, campy but cool), so it's no surprise he went on to direct a shit ton of Power Rangers, VR Troopers, Beetle Borgs and Masked Rider TV series.
|03.02.11||The Tomb of Ligeia||Roger Corman||One of Corman's many Edgar Allen Poe based movies. Vincent Price's character's glasses are great in this, but it's the black cat and the dead fox that are the true stars here!|
|03.01.11||True Romance||Tony Scott||Recommended by @bobfreelander following a discussion about Tony Scott (who I have a love/hate relationship with), it's hard to believe I hadn't seen this Quentin Tarantino written film before.|
Like Heat, it's amazing to see the who's who of actors who're in this film!
I liked it a lot, though there were scenes, especially the ending, that probably would have been better had they been directed by Tarantino himself.
The scene between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken early in the film is brilliant. It's also rather humorous to see a dreadlocked Gary Oldman pull off an audacious Ghetto black accent.
Though it's not 100 percent, there's a lot to like here and probably one of Scott's better films. I still maintain that Man on Fire is his best film.
|03.01.11||The Army of Crime||Robert Guédiguian||A "based on real events" story about the immigrants: Armenians, Jews, "Red" Spaniards, etc. who dared to form their own partisan resistance groups and conduct guerrilla warfare against the Germans and collaborator French in occupied France during WWII.|
I liked this movie a lot. It tells a mostly untold story about France and how so many of the French stood by and did nothing, or worse, collaborated with the Germans, against immigrants in their country; and how those immigrants fought for their freedom and that of the French people.
Well worth watching, and probably a nice companion piece to Army of Shadows, which is also about the French Resistance.
|02.28.11||Heat||Michael Mann||One of my all-time favorite, go-to, movies. Also perhaps one of the last movies Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were brilliant in.|
This was my first time watching this on BluRay, though I've seen the movie probably 20 times now.
It's interesting to see the number of great actors who cross paths in this flick, some waxing, some waning.
Makes me want to rewatch Mann's underrated Miami Vice again.
|02.27.11||Kick-Ass||Matthew Vaughn||A rewatch. I felt like watching something familiar and fun. I still maintain that this is one of Nicolas Cage's best roles.|
|02.26.11||Charade||Stanley Donen||I can't believe I'd never watched this movie as a kid, given that my mom and I spent countless hours watching Hitchcock and other classic movies.|
Charade is simply brilliant. The comedic reparte between Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn is pure gold, and a delight to watch. These two great actors obviously worked well together, and the results are fun from the very beginning.
It's also fun to see familiar faces in the supporting actor roles, including Walter Matthau, James Coburn and George Kennedy, all eventually great stars in their own right.
|02.26.11||The Thomas Crown Affair||Norman Jewison||Part of my ongoing quest to watch every Steve McQueen movie, The Thomas Crown Affair is a great comedy/drama/crime movie.|
Reportly McQueen's favorite of the movies he made, TCA is a cynical take on fortune and love. I'd seen the remake a few times, and really enjoyed it as well, but it was nice to see the original had a much more cynical outlook (and outcome).
Faye Dunaway is gorgeous and brilliant here. I really enjoyed her in this movie. The cat and mouse exchanges between McQueen and Dunaway are brilliant. It's so fun to watch two great actors play off each other so well. In particular, the chess scene is one of my favorites.
|02.26.11||The Eagle||Kevin Macdonald||I HATE it when I waste a theater watching experience on something that doesn't deserve it. Such was the case with The Eagle. I can sum this up in one tiny sentence:|
Watch Centurion instead.
Timing, and trying to take in something with the family, conspired to get us into the theater for this one. I was angling for Unknown, but the times didn't work for us.
You know a movie's bad when you have to point to Channing Tatum's acting as the highlight over the positively awful performance of Donald Sutherland. I guess Sutherland needed a paycheck, but nothing else explains his presence, and terribly casual dialogue, in this movie.
The worst part however is the shitty cinematography. If you're going to tell a story about Roman Centurions in the Scottish Highlands, then PULL THE FUCKING CAMERA BACK AND GET SOME LONG SHOTS FOR GOD'S SAKE! Seriously, probably 90% of the time the camera spends within two feet of someone's head or other body part. There are hardly any establishing shots; almost all of the action is shot close and tight, making it confusing and downright boring to watch.
By far, the cinematography was my biggest issue with this movie. The sad part is that Anthony Dod Mantle is an Oscar winning Cinematographer with some truly great movies under his belt, including 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire (for which he won the Oscar) and Antichrist.
Which leads me to believe that the best shots were probably left on the editing room floor.
So seriously, do yourself a favor and watch Neil Marshall's Centurion. FAR BETTER.
|02.25.11||Poseidon||Wolfgang Petersen||I've been avoiding this movie for years, mostly because I saw no reason for a remake of what I consider an iconic, classic disaster movie.|
My kids and I recently watched The Towering Inferno and I wanted to follow it up with The Poseidon Adventure. However, it wasn't available at the library and this was. I decided I'd do it for the kids.
While no masterpiece, I enjoyed the movie. I was particularly relieved to see that it wasn't really a remake, just a different, updated riff on the same premise.
Best part of the movie? Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas drowns! Seriously, worth a watch for that reason alone.
|02.25.11||I Walked With A Zombie||Jacques Tourneur||Part of my Val Lewton-produced double feature (the first was The Body Snatcher), I Walked With A Zombie is pretty cool.|
I love the pre-Romero zombie movies; White Zombie, which mines similar territory, is one of my favorites.
I Walked With A Zombie is the middle of three Val Lewton-produced horror movies that Tourneur directed, the other two being The Cat People and The Leopard Man.
There are some genuinely creepy scenes here, especially the voodoo and zombie portions.
|02.25.11||The Body Snatcher||Robert Wise||A curious picture from an amazing (and amazingly prolific) director. Robert Wise has directed some iconic movies in his time: The Day The Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Andromeda Strain, Audry Rose!|
This isn't one of them. It is however, a serviceable drama and Boris Karloff turns in a creepily effective role as John Cray, the titular body snatcher.
Bela Lugosi also has a minor role here, but it's throwaway stuff, sadly.
Watch for Karloff and some sinister cinematography, but don't expect too much.
|02.25.11||I Am Number Four||D.J. Caruso||I'll be honest. I wanted to hate the hell out of this movie. I was prepared to hate it. I went in pre-hating it. I pretty much did everything to bias my opinion about it before buying the tickets for our family movie outing.|
I came out thinking "not too bad." I'm giving this one six stars, which in my world is a solid like. To be sure, I Am Number Four trots out some of the tired teen adolescence to manhood tropes. However, it manages to mostly overcome those (not without struggling) and at least attempt to transcend the genre. It's not completely successful in that regard, but enough so to raise it above other dreck like the Percy Jackson movie (that not even my kids liked).
I expected the usual amounts of exposition to explain the back story and wrap everything up in a neat bow. There is some exposition, but it doesn't beat you over the head with it. It also, for the most part, treats its target audience (13-16 year olds) with respect; doesn't talk down to them much; treats its main protagonist as a complex individual (albeit heavy handed at times) and tries not to trivialize his issues.
Yes, there's the "new kid trying to fit into school" and "standing up for the little guy" and "problems with the school jock/bully" stuff; and yes, it's tired and cliched. But the rest of the movie pulls itself above that and makes it watchable.
I hope it does well enough to get a sequel, because, in the right hands, it could be even better.
|02.24.11||Whip It||Drew Barrymore||I rented this with my wife in mind and fully expected it to be mediocre based on what I remember hearing about it.|
Instead, I thought it was a nice, enjoyable light comedy. It knows better than to take itself too seriously, which makes it easier to overlook some of the inconsistencies. On the whole though, it was a lot of fun.
I've been meaning to go to a Chicago Roller Derby match for a few years now and watching Whip It has re-inspired me to attempt to attend again.
|02.23.11||Carlos||Olivier Assayas||IMDB calls this a three-part mini series, but since it played limited runs in theaters as a full movie, I'm counting the whole three parts as a single movie.|
At a running time of five hours and 19 minutes, it takes some dedication to watch this. I watched it over two nights: part one the first evening and parts two and three back-to-back on the second.
Though I felt the second half of the third part lagged a bit, the movie as a whole is excellent, reminding me at times of both The Baader Meinhof Gang and Battle of Algiers (both movies would make great companion pieces to this).
I highly recommend catching on Netflix Instant Watch. It makes it easier to watch when it's naturally broken down into three parts, though I'd not have minded taking the entire thing in with one sitting.
Edgar Ramirez turns in a great performance as Carlos. Juana Acosta does a very nice turn as Amie de Carlos. I really hope she sees more Hollywood roles turning up in the near future.
|02.22.11||Mesrine: Killer Instinct||Jean-François Richet||A great French crime drama. This is part one of two. Watched this on NWI and the hi-def stream looked great. Can't wait for part two, which comes to NWI soon.|
I keep hearing comparisons to The Godfather. Not even close stylistically, or really even with the subject matter. However, it's still a well-filmed and acted movie. I really liked the opening scene; it captures the spirit of the rest of the film very well.
|02.21.11||Act of Vengeance||Bob Kelljan||AKA Rape Squad, Act of Vengeance is an exploitation film featuring ass-kicking women bent on getting vengeance against a hockey mask wearing rapist who makes them single a Christmas carol while raping them.|
If you like exploitation films like I do, then this is right up your alley. Nothing too great, but definitely serviceable.
|02.20.11||Apocalypse Now||Francis Ford Coppola||I cannot imagine a movie viewing world in which this film does not exist. One of my favorite movies of all time, this was a rewatch, but on Blu-Ray for the first time ever.|
The print and sound were amazing; this is the closest I can hope to come to seeing this in a theater. Eventually I'll watch the Redux version which is also on this two-disc set, along with a bunch of extras.
If you love Blu-Ray, I highly recommend picking this up for your collection.
|02.20.11||Sex and Fury||Noribumi Suzuki||I loved this movie, a DVD that my friend Kristin loaned me. Part of the Japanese sub-genre of Pinky Violence (think tame softcore nudity crossed with gory, theatrical violence and you get the idea), Sex and Fury featured plenty of nudity, though no full frontal, and lots of over-the-top samurai violence!|
Two of my favorite scenes were the naked bath house fight scene, where Reiko Ike's character, Ochô Inoshika, is ambushed while taking a bath and fights the ensuing battle totally naked, splattering blood all over her naked self in the process; and an ambush that takes place on a train and involves nuns with switchblades!
A must watch!
|02.20.11||Blood Spattered Bride||Vicente Aranda||Based (loosely) on Sheridan Le Fanu's classic vampire story, Carmilla, Blood Spattered Bride is a Spanish exploitation film with heavy doses of sexual sadism and vampiric violence.|
It does drag on for a bit too long, but overall it was a great watch. It seemed fitting to watch this on a Sunday while churchgoers were driving past my house. I can only imagine their reactions if they happened to glance into my window as they passed by!
|02.20.11||Death Race 2000||Paul Bartel||I haven't seen this movie in at least 20 years, and it was a fun rewatch as the final movie for our movie night. Jay had brought a Blu-Ray disc of it and the print was outstanding.|
This is so much campy, over-the-top fun! David Carradine, as Frankenstein, and Sylvester Stallone as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo were excellent! It was also great to see Mary Woronov in this; I love her.
This is one of those movies I can't wait to show my kids as soon as they're old enough.
|02.19.11||Santa Sangre||Alejandro Jodorowsky||I've been dying to watch this movie again for a long time. I first caught it, almost by accident, when it played at Chicago's historic Music Box theater. I feel lucky to have seen it on the big screen.|
Through the years, the movie has stuck with me because, at the time, it was just so bizarre. Since then, I've seen thousands of movies, and more than a handful have outweirded Santa Sangre easily.
When I heard Severin Films was finally releasing this on Blue-Ray and DVD, I knew I had to own it. The Blu-Ray transfer is gorgeous, though I was a bit disappointed in the Dolby Stereo sound mix. I assume Severin did the best they could given what they had to work with, but it would have been nice if it had 5.1 audio on the Blu.
Because of my movie viewing history, this rewatch didn't quite live up to expectations, but it was still great to revisit this truly strange film from my past, especially with friends, some of whom had never seen it.
|02.19.11||Dogtooth||Giorgos Lanthimos||Another rewatch for me, this time for movie night with friends.|
I loved this movie even more the second time, though it does lose some of the WTF response I had from my first blind viewing. I focused more on the smaller details and sorting out some of the stuff that didn't make sense chronologically the first time around.
Really just a brilliant piece of film making. Unlike anything you're likely to encounter.
|02.19.11||Monsters||Gareth Edwards||A made a special trip into Chicago with my friend Jay to see this movie on the big screen (caught it on the last night it showed too). I liked it a lot then, and I liked it even more after watching on Blu-Ray.|
The interaction between the two characters, whose journey is is an emotional transformation for both of them, is great; and the "monsters" really just provide the backdrop and dramatic context for the story of these characters to paint themselves into.
I think this movie succeeds BECAUSE of its tiny budget; given constraints, it works within and beyond them to do some great storytelling that so many big budget films don't manage to pull off these days.
I know Edwards is set to direct the next Godzilla reboot, and I have no doubt he'll do a good job, but I do hope he doesn't get pigeonholed as this SFX sci-fi director. The man can tell a good story no matter the genre.
|02.18.11||Shoot The Piano Player||François Truffaut||I like Truffaut, I like David Goodis (whose novel this is based on), but I just could not get into this movie.|
Perhaps because I knew the source material, I felt the movie just didn't live up to it. That or I just wasn't up for French New Wave cinema this night.
|02.17.11||Art School Confidential||Terry Zwigoff||I loved Ghost World and Bad Santa (haven't seen Crumb yet), so I was hoping for something decent here.|
I didn't get it. Being an art major in college, I found the broad character sketches too hollow and cliched for my liking.
Not a terrible film, just not nearly as good as Zwigoff's other work.
|02.17.11||The Dark Corner||Henry Hathaway||The Dark Corner isn't the best noir out there, but it has some elements that are brilliantly executed and make it an absolute pleasure to watch.|
Some of the dialogue is just so hard-boiled and pulpy, that it's a surprise this movie doesn't receive more attention as iconic.
The cinematography is also excellent. There are some scenes that are so starkly black and white that you'll swear you're watching Sin City!
The movie is uneven in places, and not nearly as nuanced as, say, The Third Man, but the great moments are truly great.
Lucille Ball does a nice turn here too. So weird to see her in a crime noir, though there are touches of comedy and lightness to her character that make it obvious why she was chosen.
I highly recommend watching this if you're in noir.
|02.16.11||(500) Days of Summer||Marc Webb||I thought this was a well-written romantic drama/comedy about the falling into and out of love. Though Zooey Deschenal plays the heartbreaker here, I didn't view her as overtly mean or evil, though some of her actions had painful consequences for Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character.|
Really, the shoe could easily be on the other foot (and in many movies it typically is).
I think many people can identify with both of the characters here: knowing for certain that person is "the one"; while on the other hand, that person doesn't share the same sentiment.
|02.15.11||Before The Rain||Milcho Manchevski||Another Criterion disc and another insightful drama about war; this time the racial divisions in Macedonia (and the Balkans in general).|
As the summary mentions, the film is circular in nature and can be slightly confusing at first.
|02.15.11||Under The Volcano||John Huston||This was one of two Criterion movies I watched the same evening, checked out from the Library.|
Albert Finney does a fine job as a drunken British consul living out his last day on earth (though he doesn't know that) in Mexico on the eve of World War II.
The movie feels overly long now, but it's well worth the watch and has a great ending.
I mostly read this as a metaphor for European civilization leading up to World War II; and if you approach it that way, I think it makes more sense and holds your attention.
|02.14.11||Pathfinder||Marcus Nispel||A blending of Viking and North American Indian actioner starring Karl Urban and Moon Bloodgood.|
Not a bad movie, with some violent action, but not as good as I was hoping for either.
Seemed like a good pick for Valentine's Day though, since my wife was working.
|02.13.11||Werewolf of London||Stuart Walker||Revisit of a classic. I really enjoy Henry Hull as the werewolf, more man here than in subsequent werewolf pictures. Valerie Hobson, who also starred in Bride of Frankenstein, is elegantly beautiful in this.|
|02.13.11||Queen of Blood||Curtis Harrington||For its time and budget, pretty damn well done movie! Obvious parallels between this and Alien. Dennis Hopper and Basil Rathbone! Come on people, get on this one!|
|02.13.11||Doubt||John Patrick Shanley||Incredibly well written, with nuanced performances by Streep, Hoffman and Adams.|
|02.12.11||The Social Network||David Fincher||Good movie, but I have a hard time understanding all the buzz this movie got. Oh well.|
|02.12.11||Ong Bak 2: The Beginning||Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai|
|02.11.11||B-Girl||Emily Dell||Given that I'm a middle-aged white boy from Arkansas who grew up in Illinois, I have a strange liking for breakdancing. It stems from watching live breakdancing competitions at a local Pizza Hut back in the day, and probably from the fact that my first date ever involved taking a girl named Jenny to see Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo.|
(insert uncomfortable silence here)
B-Girl was a fun watch. The acting isn't brilliant, but not bad either, and the plotline is take it or leave it. The draw here is the dancing. It's just fun to watch B-Boys and B-Girls break, and they do a great job of it here on a small budget, especially lead actress Jules Urich (who you can also see in Step Up II: The Streets and You Got Served.
Probably not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.
|02.11.11||Shock||Mario Bava||Shock, aka Beyond The Door II, is a bit of an oddity. I was naturally drawn to it partly because it's directed by Bava, and mostly because it stars Daria Nicolodi (Dario Agento's paramour and mother to Asia Argento), who I adore in the way teenagers in the '70s adored sultry, sexy, foreign women. Which is to say, lusted after.|
Mostly a psychological horror tale involving wife and mother, Dora's (Nicolodi) repressed guilt for an act she may or may not have committed, perhaps the most disturbing parts of the film are the creepy borderline incestual scenes involving Dora's son, Marco.
Not Bava's strongest work, but still a fun watch.
|02.11.11||The Towering Inferno||John Guillermin||I love the hell out of this movie! I've been slowly exposing my two sons to every Steve McQueen movie ever made, and since I hadn't seen Towering Inferno in forever, we made a Friday night pizza and movie night out of the affair.|
I'm surprised how well this movie has held up over the 30 plus years. Yes, some of it is dated, but it was still an entirely enjoyable watch. The kids liked it a lot.
I didn't remember the movie being as long as it was (it has a 2 hour 46 minute running time), and it did feel long, but it's got plenty of action and drama to move it along for the most part.
The "message" that the movie pays passing lip service to, that urbanized mega skyscraper living is bad mmmmkay, is eerily prescient in our post 9/11 world. It really is a different feeling watching this movie now then it was before 9/11. One particular scene, where a burning person jumps/falls through a window and plummets 100 plus stories to the ground, was particularly disturbing to me.
Paul Newman and Steve McQueen do all the heavy lifting here when it comes to acting, with Newman as the "turning my back on urbanism" architect, Doug Roberts, who designed the Tower, and Steve McQueen as the fire chief, O'Hallorhan.
McQueen in particular is fun to watch in this. He retains his quintessential cool guy facade and throws off some great stone-faced lines.
Faye Dunaway, as Newman's love interest, is little more than scenery here. She's absolutely gorgeous scenery, especially in her clingy, plummeting neckline, evening dress, but still just scenery. Which is a shame, because she's one of my favorite actresses (Bonnie and Clyde anyone?) and her talent just isn't display here.
There are lots of other recognizable faces here, including Richard Chamberlain as a drunken, cowardly electrical contractor; William Holden in as the basically good, but morally flawed owner of the deathtrap (LOVE his thick-rimmed glasses and chic red and black dinner jacket!); O.J. Simpson as head of security; Fred Astaire; Robert Vaughn; Robert Wagner; Dabney Coleman!
The set design is freaking awesome. The Tower is styled in future modernism that looks both terribly dated and outrageously cool. The architect's offices, which comprise one of the floors of the building, are a study in sharp angled lines; the whole building decor features the outlandishly garish colors only people in the '70s could have thought were cool. The colors and architecture make the interiors a feast for eyes and really add a lot to the movie.
Some of the SFX are dated, but for the most part, they hold up very well. The fire scenes are pretty damn good, and the stairwell explosions in particular are thrilling.
Now that we've got this one under our belts, I'm going to have to expose my kids to the original Poseidon Adventure next!
|02.10.11||The Tomb||Fred Olen Ray||This is Fred Olen Ray stuff, so you pretty much know what you're going to get here. Story, acting, plot, cinematography, SFX, etc. all pretty much suck. But isn't that the joy of intentionally watching a bad movie?|
One of the funniest scenes occurs right at the beginning, during an exchange of illicit archeological loot for greenbacks. Of COURSE the financier tries the cheat, and of COURSE the protagonist shoots the airplane with a single bullet from his pistol thereby exploding the fucking thing! Seriously, funny stuff.
B-Movie Queen Michelle Bauer provides most of the eye candy here as the returned-from-the-dead Egyptian queen Nefratis, but the famously endowed Kitten Natividad makes an appearance as, what else, a stripper; and Sybil Danning "rounds out" the cast.
The incredibly ancient John Carradine also pops up, just two years short of his death.
|02.10.11||The Curse of Frankenstein||Terence Fisher||A rewatch of a Terence Fisher Hammer Horror classic! So great to see Christopher Lee as the monster here. I'd pay good money to get a 1/6 scale figure of his character in this movie.|
I also love the absolute viciousness of Cushing's Dr. Frankenstein in this. I would have loved to have seen this in the theater when it first came out just to see the reaction of the crowd!
|02.09.11||Downfall||Oliver Hirschbiegel||I'm a huge history buff and have read boatloads of books on both of the World Wars, so most of the material covered here was known to me. Despite that, Downfall's material managed to anger and appall me. I guess one never gets used to the senseless slaughter of so many people, including the German civilians, during World War II.|
Hats off to Oliver Hirschbiegel for tackling such a sensitive subject with a non-judgmental eye. The movie does a great job of letting the horror of the war, and the insanity of Hitler, bubble to the surface all on its own.
|02.09.11||The Sentinel||Clark Johnson||Meh. I actually expected something marginally decent here, given the presence of Michael Douglas and Keifer Sutherland.|
The plot points are so outlandishly ridiculous that they really took me out of the movie. If you can't establish a bit of plausibility, you're doing something wrong, given the subject matter.
Light fluff at best.
|02.09.11||Legion||Scott Charles Stewart||From all the groaning I'd heard from other people, I expected this to be worse than it was. Actually, it wasn't too bad. Maybe because I had such low expectations to begin with.|
A decent night's mindless entertainment.
|02.08.11||The Transporter||Louis Leterrier, Corey Yuen||A rewatch just for fun. My favorite of the three Transporter movies, though after watching this, I kind of want to revisit the other two as well.|
Also, Qi Shu... sigh.
|02.07.11||Machete||Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez||Man. I had high hopes for this. Ok, maybe not THAT high, but still.|
The introductory scene is fucking brilliant and comes off the way the whole rest of the movie should have; as a throwback to the grindhouse days replete with scratchy film and washed out color, over-the-top violence and gratuitous nudity.
If only the rest of the movie were as good. That's not to say it's terrible, but really, it could have been better. It comes across as an idea that never really got properly fleshed out.
Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone. Most of Rodriguez's films are one-trick ponies. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't.
Aside from Danny Trejo, Jeff Fahey probably has the best role in the movie. I liked his character a lot.
Most of the rest of the cast is too cutout to do much here.
|02.07.11||Case 39||Christian Alvart||I don't know if I just wasn't in the mood or what, but Case 39 just failed to impress me. Certainly, there are some creepy scenes (the hornet scene in particular), but the movie just left me feeling "meh" about the whole thing.|
I'm not a particularly big fan of Renee Zellweger; her stuffed chipmunk cheeks and squinchy eyes just make it hard for me to take her seriously.
Oh well, win some, lose some.
|02.07.11||The Crimson Cult||Vernon Sewell||AKA Curse of the Crimson Altar, The Crimson Cult is a super saturated orgy of color, flesh and satanism. The first 20 minutes are perhaps the best, with some youth-gone-wild parties as could only happen in the '60s, and some great hallucinatory satanic ritual scenes.|
Karloff and Lee are mostly wasted in their roles here, Karloff looking particularly old.
Still, a fun watch!
|02.06.11||The Third Man||Carol Reed||I've seen The Third Man before, but it's been a while, so a rewatch was in order.|
Filmed mostly in real post-war Vienna in 1949, this movie is a tour-de-force of cinematography. The night and sewer scenes are especially sinister and beautiful.
Orson Welles does a chillingly excellent turn as the amoral Harry Lime, one of his best performances.
I can't help but see this movie as an indictment of America, both in the amoral, anything for a dollar, inhuman scheming of Welles' Harry Lime and in the bumbling, making things worse by claiming the path of righteousness, moral outrage of the main protagonist, Joseph Cotton's Holly Martins.
Alida Valli's Anna Schmidt, caught between the two of them, is the embodiment of post-war Europe, trying to get by, but getting screwed over by both sides of the American coin.
|02.06.11||Kansas City Confidential||Phil Karlson||This has long been on my list of noirs to watch, so I'm glad to have finally done so.|
The premise, three robbers hired by a fourth man, all masked and unknown to each other (except the boss), pull off the perfect heist. The wrinkle comes when an ex-con gone straight gets fingered for the job instead.
Full of classic shots and tough guy acting, Confidential is an iconic movie. The opening scenes do a great job of catching the feel of Kansas City and its criminal history.
The plot bogs down a bit about two-thirds of the way through, but still, very enjoyable.
|02.06.11||Doomsday||Neil Marshall||When considered as a followup to Marshall's excellent Descent, Doomsday can be a bit disappointing. But if you let it stand on its own, don't take it too seriously, and are a fan of '80s era post-apocalyptica, then you're going to love this movie, as I do.|
Doomsday pays homage to the 1980s post-apocalypse genre in general, as well as Mad Max, The Road Warrior, 28 Days/Weeks Later and more.
If its guilty of anything, it's of trying to fit too much into one movie.
Still, it's an enjoyable movie to watch. Rhona Mitra looks ravishing here, despite the creepy camera eye, and nice little turns by Bob Hoskins and Malcolm McDowell are featured as well. Dog Soldiers fav Sean Pertwee also makes an appearance.
|02.05.11||The Naked City||Jules Dassin||I admit that movies that rely heavily on voice overs tend to lose me.|
The Naked City starts that way and I prepared myself to get annoyed, but the excellent cinematography and the crime story within the larger panorama does a great job of lifting the film out and letting it shine.
The crime and subsequent investigation are the precursors to every police procedural since.
Shot on location in New York City, the city itself becomes a main character in the movie, and it never looked better.
Considered on of the noir classics and well worth a watch.
|02.05.11||Dogtooth||Giorgos Lanthimos||There is no synopsis of Dogtooth's plot line that can come anywhere near accurately describing how fucked up this movie is! And I mean that as a compliment.|
This movie takes you so far out of your normal movie watching comfort zone, you might as well be on another planet. Who knew the Greeks were this batshit crazy?!
By far one of the best movies I've seen. Period. Loved the hell out of it.
Dogtooth is begging for a movie night rewatch and pairing it with Santa Sangre may just be the thing.
|02.04.11||The Disappearance of Alice Creed||J Blakeson||This is a smart, tight little thriller that turns the whole kidnap and double cross plot line neatly on its head.|
Very well edited with a brisk running time, it never really bogs down and there are enough little surprises to keep things moving right along.
Martin Compston, who plays one of the kidnappers here, Danny, also shows up in Doomsday, which I also recently watched. Checking him out on IMDB, this bloke has been working a ferocious pace the last few years. He does a great turn here, so I'm sure we'll see him in more movies.
|02.04.11||Date Night||Shawn Levy||Romantic comedies and I don't really get along very well to begin with, so maybe I had a bias against this movie from the start.|
Still, it had Steve Carell and Tina Fey in it, so I was hoping for good things.
Unfortunately, it just wasn't funny. There were some chuckles here and there, but really, Romancing The Stone and True Lies did this schtick better.
Where this really falls down for me though, is that it just lampoons its intended audience. It's akin to the idiotic beer commercials that make fun of young males. Don't sell me something by calling me an idiot. And don't mock the fact that I'm sitting on my couch with my wife watching your shitty movie about a married couple who never go out and when they do it ends in disaster.
|02.04.11||Fantastic Mr. Fox||Wes Anderson||What a great film! Quirky, beautifully animated.|
|02.03.11||Merantau||Gareth Evans||I decided to follow up yesterdays disappointing Raging Phoenix with Merantau, another martial arts movie, this time from Indonesia.|
The story follows a young man who leaves his idyllic country village on his rite of passage to manhood, i.e. Merantau, by traveling to Jakarta, the capitol of Indonesia. Of course he runs into the criminal element abusing a girl, whom he rescues. And from there on its fight, fight, fight.
I liked it a lot, though not as much as I could have. The movie was more darkly themed and grittier than I expected, which was fine. However, it got to be overly melodramatic for my taste. The camera lingering around for effect on especially dramatic scenes in order to make damn sure you recognized how heavy things were getting got to be tedious at times.
It really could have used a tighter edit to bring the running time down a bit.
Another irritation was the overacting of the principal antagonist, Ratger, played by Danish actor Mads Koudal, who is so outrageously vile and outlandishly violent that it takes away from the drama and realism of the rest of the movie.
Despite these setbacks, Merantau is heads above Raging Phoenix, though steps below Chocolate and the Ong Bak movies. The fight scenes are pretty brutal, not showy, and mostly well staged. These guys looked like they were really beating the shit out of each other. There were some especially brutal moves involving taking out bad guys mid-jump that had me cringing!
Out of 10, Id give Merantau a solid 6.5. Maybe 3.5 stars out of 5. Well worth a watch if you love more recent martial arts movies like Ong Bak and Chocolate.,rating_id=15,rating_id=21
|02.02.11||Raging Phoenix||Rashane Limtrakul||I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. Starring JeeJa Nanin who made her debut in Chocolate, one of my favorite martial arts movies, Raging Phoenix seems to blow through all the good, entertaining action scenes in the first half hour. From there its downhill, with a convoluted and silly story and odd set pieces that just dont live up to the promise of the beginning of the movie.|
Some of the best scenes are at the beginning and combine drunken Muai Thai and breakdancing in a very effective and entertaining manner. I really loved the first few fight sequences.
|02.02.11||Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb||Seth Holt||A mostly forgettable horror movie based on Bram Stokers novel Jewel of the Seven Stars and featuring the assets of Valerie Leon, who also had bit parts in not one, but two, Bond films.|
|02.01.11||The Devil Within Her||Peter Sasdy||Heres the IMDB plot summary: A woman gives birth to a baby, but this is no ordinary little tyke. The child is seemingly possessed by the spirit of a freak dwarf who the mother once spurned.|
That pretty nicely sums up The Devil Within Her, also known as Sharons Baby and I Dont Want To Be Born.
Featuring Joan Collins, who gets her breasts fondled by a dwarf while working as a stripper in a nightclub, and Donald Pleasance who plays her doctor, this isnt exactly classic cinema. You do get to see Joan run around in exotic lingerie though, if thats your thing.
The best character in the flick is the baby, followed closely by the dwarf. It also has some great 70s era porn music going on.
Directed by Peter Sasdy, who, to no ones surprise, did mostly TV work before and after a run of movies in the 1970s that included Taste The Blood of Dracula, Countess Dracula and Doomwatch, among others. I think most of these are also on Netflix Instant.
|02.01.11||Harakiri||Masaki Kobayashi||My first movie of February was Harakiri, a classic anti-samurai movie from Masaki Kobayashi. This was the Criterion Collection DVD.|
Slowly and meticulously paced, it requires your complete attention as the story of a ronin (masterless samurai) who shows up at the house of a feudal lord asking to be allowed to commit ritual suicide (hara-kiri) in his courtyard plays out over two hours.
Harakiri is a movie of rebellion against the establishment and neatly skewers the samurai code, and, by extension, modern Japan and its rigid social and societal codes and rules.
|01.31.11||The Square||Nash Edgerton||A nasty piece of noir from down under, The Square reminds me of Body Heat and the better Jim Thompson novels.|
No one is innocent, nothing goes right, and its going to end even more badly than you think it will. The only characters I truly had any sympathy for were the two dogs.
If youre a fan of classic noir, the aforementioned Body Heat or the recent Animal Kingdom, youll like this movie.
Eight stars from me.
|01.31.11||The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day||Troy Duffy||Of the two, I liked the original Boondock Saints better, though neither of them are above average in my estimation.|
|01.30.11||Army of Shadows||Jean-Pierre Melville||Once thought lost and just restored in 2005, this frank portrayal of the French resistance, the titular Army of Shadows, during World War II is well done.|
Director Jean-Pierre Melville served in the resistance, as did writer Joseph Kessel, whose novel the movie is based on.
You wont find any wildly crazy action scenes here. Instead, what you get is an honest, and sometimes tedious, portrayal of history. That said, there are some pretty startling scenes of brutal violence.
|01.30.11||The Public Enemy||William A Wellman||Finally filled a hole in my classic movie knowledge by watching this. Cagney is brilliant and just tears through his scenes. Its easy to see how he became a star.|
|01.30.11||True Grit||Ethan and Joel Coen||Finally got to see this at the cheap seats theater. Since it was a matinee, we paid three dollars each. Not bad!|
Loved the movie, very well done. It angers me to no end that Josh Brolins name is splashed all over the movie posters where Hailee Steinfelds name should be. She was phenomenal in this and deserves an Oscar for her performance.
|01.29.11||Mountain Patrol||Chuan Lu|
|01.29.11||The Incredible Melting Man||William Sachs||The Incredible Melting Man is essentially a road movie for walking flesh-melting astronauts out for a kill-stroll.|
I have no idea what the plot is here, and neither did the director, so just sit back and enjoy the campiness and the excellent SFX by Rick Baker.
I may have watched this because Kreepylady mentioned it earlier in the week. Or I may have watched it out of sympathy for sleestakk who was at the 24 horror b-movie marathon, B-Fest, in Evanston. Either way, it was Cinemasochism at its finest!
I think I may need to follow this up by tracking down and watching Sachs 1980 sci-fi Galaxina, which stars the ill-fated Playboy model Dorothy Stratten in the titular role.
|01.28.11||Horsemen||Jonas Åkerlund||It makes me sad to see a great actor like Dennis Quaid struggle with roles in sub-par movies like Horsemen. Horsemen has potential, and Quaid does a servicable job here, but the movie ultimately falls short.|
The plot is typical, involving serial killings, a struggling detective whos lost his wife and doesnt live up to his familial duties, blah blah blah.
Horsemen could have transcended this mediocre plot if it had just been bolder in its editing decisions and exploited some of the great acting, especially by Ziyi Zhang. As it stands, Zhangs role is never fully taken advantage of, which is frustrating, because she does a particularly creepy and unsettling turn in this film.
The closer to the end of the movie this gets, the more obvious the rushed editing decisions are.
The second best part of the movie (after Zhangs creepier moments) is seeing Eric Balfour hanging from meat hooks. He deserves this as punishment for my having sat through the abysmal Skyline.
|01.28.11||Devil||John Erick Dowdle||Devil got a bad rap because if its relationship to M. Night Shyamalan, who wrote the story (but not the screenplay) and produced this film.|
Thats too bad, because it was a nice, concise, tense little horror movie that I enjoyed a lot.
Taking place mostly in a stuck elevator in a downtown Philadelphia office building, the scenes are well shot and the pacing is spot on, keeping you engaged enough but not straying into heavy exposition. The audience is given enough background on the characters to move things along, but not so much that it bogs everything down.
Very well done.
|01.28.11||The Medallion||Gordon Chan||The Medallion is a pretty mediocre Jackie Chan martial arts action comedy that we rented mainly for the kids.|
The fantasy elements came across as particularly hokey, and even the action itself felt sub-par.
The only bright spot was Claire Forlani who looked quite fetching in this. Otherwise, mostly forgettable.
|01.28.11||The Dark Knight||Christopher Nolan||I got a new Onkyo receiver and threw in The Dark Knight to test my setup. Of course, once I started watching, my youngest son, appeared from nowhere, and we just had to sit and watch the whole thing!|
Im a huge fan of this movie. Though Ive heard criticism of the pacing and how it just seems to never end, those are the things that make it so brilliant to me.
Its unrelenting in its mission to drive home the Jokers chaos and anarchy. Its the flip side of the existential coin that posits that our existence, and therefore our actions, have no meaning. The Jokers reply to that is well, if theyve got no meaning, then why the hell NOT do some crazy bat shit stuff! Indeed.
The film also gets at the greater role of Batman himself as a vigilante and what that means in terms of moral conduct and the codes he should live by, as well as the ones he can ignore.
A great deal of this movie is filmed in Chicago and it provides a great version of Gotham thats much more gritty and compelling than the sci-fi monorailed Gotham of Batman Begins.
|01.27.11||Night and the City||Jules Dassin||Another classic noir film, I chose this as it once again featured Gene Tierney, who I had just watched in Laura and Where The Sidewalk Ends.|
Tierneys role here is strictly supporting the amazing Richard Widmark who just tears through scenery left and right as the perennial sad sack hustler, Harry Fabian.
Always scheming, betraying the ones he loves, including Tierney, Harry wouldnt know a moral if he tripped over it.
Almost completely filmed at night in post-war London, Night and the City shows the underbelly of this epic city through stark shadows and hard edges; just like the characters it portrays.
If you love noir, this ones a classic, and its streaming on Nexflix.
|01.27.11||The American||Anton Corbijn||I was finally able to catch up with this movie. I had really wanted to see it in the theater last year, and after watching, was sad that I hadnt, as the film is visually compelling and would have been gorgeous on the large screen.|
Directed by famous photographer Anton Corbijn, the film, as mentioned above, is gorgeous. Filmed mostly in the Italian countryside, the landscape is beautifully desolate, which neatly mirrors the soul of the protagonist, Jack.
Jack is well played by Clooney here. Hes tight, nervous, untrusting of everyone, dour. Very little of the typical Clooney warm and charm is invested in Jack, which is a good thing.
Though the trailers would lead you to believe that The American is a taut, action thriller brimming with chase scenes and busting with violence, its not. Instead, it flows along on an undercurrent of paranoia, perceived (and sometimes real) violence, and moral ambiguity. When violence does break out, its often unexpected, or takes unexpected turns. Its also sickeningly real and remorseless.
From the opening scene, its difficult to really like Jack a lot, and I dont think were meant to. Instead, Corbijn seems to want to instill the same standoffish, uncaring detachment in the audience that his character has. Thats how were supposed to identify with him, and it mostly works.
While not a movie for those looking for a Bourne Conspiracy styled thriller, The American worked for me.
|01.27.11||Days of Glory||Rachid Bouchareb||Indigenes, aka Days of Glory, is a war drama that follows a small group of North African men who enlist in the Free French Army to fight for France during World War II.|
The movie follows the men as they fight in North Africa and then in France, battling each other and prejudice and racism from their French compatriots.
A well done, though sometimes slow, movie with some brutal action set pieces, Indigenes does a great job of getting to the heart of the matter: what compels a man to fight for a country that doesnt even consider him an equal citizen; and what it means to be a patriot, both personally and in the larger sense of the word.
The last encounter the small group of soldiers has with the Germans during the liberation of Alsace is brutally realistic and draws favorable comparisons to the same climactic scene in Saving Private Ryan.
A great double bill followup to Indigenes would be to watch the political drama Battle of Algiers, which chronicles in almost documentary style the Algerian peoples fight to liberate their country from the French in the 1960s.
|01.26.11||Predator||John McTiernan||Since I rang in the new year by watching last years Predators, I felt I needed to give the original a rewatch.|
I remember disliking Predator when it first came out, but I really enjoyed it this time around. Its held up pretty well over the years, though the Predator SFX do feel dated.
|01.26.11||Red||Robert Schwentke||A mostly lighthearted piece of throwaway action comedy with a group of great stars. For whatever reason, I thought this movie was rated R. Turns out it would have been a perfect movie to take my kids to. Fun action, pretty light on language and sexual situations. They would have loved it.|
Me? I liked it, but didnt love it. A fun nights entertainment for when you want to disengage your brain.
|01.26.11||Frozen River||Courtney Hunt||I had wanted to watch this since it first came out. Frozen River feels like a companion piece to 2010s Winters Bone, in that they both focus on fragmented, poverty-stricken white, non-urban families who have been victimized by their father/husband.|
While not as good as Winters Bone, Frozen River is still a very good movie. Melissa Leo, in the lead role, does an excellent job.
|01.25.11||The Hills Have Eyes II||Martin Weisz||I really enjoyed the viciousness of the remake that this movie is a sequel of, but II is very pedestrian and not worth watching. Not horrible, but mostly pointless.|
None of the characters garnered the slightest bit of sympathy from me.
|01.25.11||The Snorkel||Guy Green||Part of the Hammer Icons of Suspense series. This is a bizarre little crime mystery which lays out everything in the nicely shot opening scene.|
After that, the movie moves along very slowly, focusing on a young girls futile attempts to convince the adults around her that her stepfather is a murderer.
The payoff is in the final 20 minutes of the film, as the tables are turned.
Not a great film, but if you stick with it, it is an enjoyable watch.
|01.25.11||Maniac||Michael Carreras||Part of the Hammer Icons of Suspense series. A confusing movie at times, but pays off in the end with a great chase scene filmed in what appears to be a massive salt mine. Worth watching for the ending alone.|
|01.25.11||Never Take Candy From A Stranger||Cyril Frankel||Part of the Hammer Icons of Suspense Collection.|
|01.23.11||The Honeymoon Killers||Leonard Kastle||The Honeymoon Killers is a shrill, discordant true crime drama, shot in black and white; the one and only film directed by Leonard Kastle, who also wrote the script. This was the Criterion Collection DVD.|
Based on the true story of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, who met through a lonely-hearts correspondence club, The Honeymoon Killers takes place in the 1950s, and in a lot of ways, feels as if it were shot in the 1950s as well. Well shot, the cinematography imparts a sense of decay and unease throughout. The film grain in this beautiful Criterion print really adds to the tone.
The story itself moves along very slowly and threatened to lose me a few times. Im glad I stuck with it though, because the last ten minutes are the payoff.
The sound is the difficult part, accounting for the shrillness note above; very tinny and loud. It does, however, add to the stiflingly claustrophobic feeling of the film. Well worth a watch, if you can be patient with it.
|01.23.11||The Killer Inside Me||Michael Winterbottom||Let me preface this by saying that Im a HUGE Jim Thompson fan. Ive read most of his books, including The Killer Inside Me, so Im predisposed to like a good adaptation of anything hes written.|
And I do really like this movie. It retains the absolutely nihilistic nastiness of the novel, though at times the violence, especially against women, can be difficult to watch. Its NOT for the feint of heart, and will probably leave a bad taste in your mouth and make you feel dirty for watching it.
Casey Affleck does a brilliant understated turn as the main protagonist, Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford; Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba are both great here too, though Hudson in particular is underutilized. The things that happen to both of these women in this movie made me queasy.
My only gripe is with the depiction of the historical time period. Set in Oklahoma in the late 1940s, at times the sets and props feel too glossy to be realistic. And a few scenes show glimpses of obviously more modern scenery, which can be jarring when it happens, pulling you out of the film a bit. I doubt most people will notice, but since Im a son of the South, I did note the inconsistencies. Still, it wasnt enough to make me like the movie any less.
|01.22.11||Animal Kingdom||David Michôd||I had heard a lot about this movie, so was happy to find it at one of my local RedBoxes. It didnt disappoint.|
Animal Kingdom is definitely not for everyone. The pacing stays at an uneasy simmer for the entire length of the film; there are no pinnacles or low points. It literally maintains the same pace throughout.
As fellow Tallyteer Noahphex pointed out on Twitter, "it was like watching the lost end of a movie that never finished." Hes right. However, for me that was a positive, not the negative it was for him. The movie doesnt beat you over the head with exposition, it leaves you to guess at all the stuff swirling around the current events, never explaining them, never establishing any ulterior motives other than those onscreen, and never attempting to sway you to feel one way or the other about any of the characters.
What youre left with is a horrifyingly unsettling piece of film. The violence and situations depicted feel queasily real because there is no epic crescendo of music every time the violence spills over; no slow motion gun battles; no masterful foleying of bigger-than-left gun shots.
The violence is astonishingly sudden, flat, banal, monochromatic; Because thats the way it is in real life. People arent good or bad in real life because theyre often both, depending on the situation.
Animal Kingdom does a great job of showing how average and every day crime is; how it insinuates itself into the normal fabric of life and what sorts of profound effects it can have.
|01.22.11||Where The Sidewalk Ends||Otto Preminger||Fresh on the heels of Laura, another classic Preminger directed noir film I watched this week, is this absolute gem of a movie.|
It once again pairs Laura co-stars Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. Having seen her in two movies now, I can safely say I have a crush on Tierney.
Andrews plays a tougher, hard luck detective here than he did in Laura, and does a better job of it.
The cinematography is excellent. One static shot in particular, involving a car pulling onto a freight elevator, is absolutely brilliant; as good as anything Orson Welles did in Touch of Evil.
Well worth watching, easily nine stars from me.
|01.22.11||Seventh Moon||Eduardo Sánchez||Seventh Moon has an interesting premise and some truly creepy scenes, but the almost total reliance on shaky handheld camera work brings it down a lot.|
Sanchez was one of the co-directors of Blair Witch, so I guess I should have expected as much.
Much of the movie is filmed at night in low to no light settings; using existing light from real sources like car headlights, flashlights, even a cell phone screen at one point. At its best, this convention reminds me of the tension-filled low light moments in The Descent. At worst, it reminds me of the aforementioned Blair Witch Project, which I absolutely hated.
I dont begrudge Sanchez his handheld camera and low light atmospherics, but theyre tools that should be used in conjunction with other mechanics. The lack of static and/or smooth camera work, establishing shots, etc. really hurts this movie.
Having said all that, I didnt hate it as much as others have, but in the end I did find it pretty average.
|01.21.11||The A-Team||Joe Carnahan||This was a rewatch, but the first time I saw this movie, I went in to the theater expecting to really hate it. I WANTED to hate it. I couldnt believe it could be good.|
Instead its a fun, escapist movie that I enjoyed immensely, even on this, the third time Ive seen it.
Though the entire cast does well, hats off to Sharlto Copley (from DISTRICT 9) who just NAILS the Murdock role. He really adds a lot of the fun to this flick.
I also really enjoyed the performance of Brian Bloom as one of the baddies, Pike. Bloom has done a ton of voice work for video games like Kane & Lynch and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. I hope he gets more acting roles because I thought he did a great job here.
|01.21.11||Laura||Otto Preminger||This Otto Preminger classic noir from the 1940s has an excellent cast. The gorgeous Gene Tierney stars as the titular character who all the drama is centered upon; Dana Andrews nails it as the detective investigating her murder.|
Laura also features a young, handsome Vincent Price, whose character literally towers over the other actors! Hes a good head taller than anyone on the set.
As noirs go, this one is on the lighter side with plenty of biting humor to take the edge off. Its no Maltese Falcon or Blue Dahlia, but definitely holds its own. Well worth a watch if you havent seen it.
|01.20.11||The Runaways||Floria Sigismondi||Ill admit that I know little about the real life players in the biopic about The Runaways, the band started by Joan Jett, Cherrie Currie, Lita Ford, et al, so I cant vouch for the accuracy of it. However, it was based on the book written by Currie and produced by Joan Jett, so one would hope that its got some truth to it.|
At any rate, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, though it felt too short and never really seemed to take its audience to the level I felt it could have.
Im not a big fan of Kristen Stewart, but she nails Joan Jett. It was fun to watch her get into the role and I found myself forgetting the actress and seeing the character. Dakota Fanning also does a good job as Cherrie Currie. Its so strange to see little Dakota growing up and taking on these decidedly more adult roles. Makes me feel old! I also thought Stella Maeve did a great job as Sandy West, the drummer.
|01.20.11||Takers||John Luessenhop||I liked this movie a lot, but some criminally bad sound editing decisions in one scene, and some generally cliched bullshit at the end dropped it to just above average.|
Takers has one of the best foot chase scenes, hell, one of the best chase scenes period, in it in recent years. The excellently choreographed chase, with some great parkur stunt work, is tense!
There is also what could have been a great action sequence had it not been for the shitty sound editing and the overwrought slo-mo bullshit that sucks all the tension and pacing out of it. Its too bad, because it was a well sequenced and edited scene otherwise.
Despite these flaws, Takers is definitely worth a watch. It has a crazy cast including Idris Elba (from THE WIRE),Chris Brown (singer, also from STEP UP), Hayden Christensen (after watching him in this you can stop hating him for the STAR WARS prequels), Jay Hernandez, the astonishingly beautiful and woefully underutilized Zoe Saldana (STAR TREK, THE LOSERS, AVATAR), Paul Walker (THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS) in perhaps his best role to date, and Matt Dillon.
|01.19.11||Sleep Dealer||Alex Rivera||Sleep Dealer is a decent, though slow Spanish subbed near future sci-fi that deals with issues of water rights and immigration in unique and somewhat interesting ways.|
The privatization of water rights and the virtualization of immigrant workers are the core sci-fi elements at here, and drive the storyline.
For being so cheaply made (reportedly 2.5 million), its not bad. There are no real high energy points in the movie though, which results in a slow, cumbersome pace.
One bright spot is Chilean actress Leonor Varela, who plays Luz. She does a good job as an amateur reporter and the protagonists main romantic interest. Shes also been in Blade II and The Tailor of Panama. I hope to see her in more movies.
I liked it, but probably wouldnt recommend it to most people. Four stars.
|01.19.11||Tell No One||Guillaume Canet||A very well done French subbed thriller. It kept me tense throughout most of the movie, so thats a good thing!|
Some of the best scenes in the movie were the quiet, contemplative ones, and, conversely, the most violent ones.
This movie had more heart and soul to it than most, if not all, Hollywood thrillers.
Though I got the DVD from the library, I believe this is also on Netflix Instant Watch, so look for it there. Eight out of ten stars for me.
|01.18.11||Edge of Darkness||Martin Campbell||Perhaps the best acting Mel Gibson has done in forever. An uncompromisingly violent and brutal movie. I absolutely loved it. Ray Winstone also turns in a great performance.|
I may have to seek out the 1985 BBC mini series that this is based on.
Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. Criminally neglected in 2010, probably due to Gibsons off-screen, real-life antics.
|01.17.11||Diabolique||Henri-Georges Clouzot||I originally tried to watch this while in St. Louis during my moms brain surgery (that sounds really terrible doesnt it?) but the connection in the hospital just wasnt up to the task of streaming it via Netflix.|
I had been wanting to watch this movie for a really long time, and I have no idea why I waited so long.
Its a terrific, mystery crime movie, well done in every aspect. The plot twists are excellent right up until the, literally, very end.
Im a big fan of Clouzots Wages of Fear, so I guess its no surprise that Id like Diabolique so much. Im going to have to make an effort to see more of his films now.
Vera Clouzot, the directors real-life wife, is quite beautiful in this film, though its easy to overlook it until close to the end of the movie.
|01.17.11||Seven Days||Daniel Grou||I started to watch this late last year, but the timing was wrong. I just now got around to properly watching it. NOT for the faint of heart. The emotional rollercoaster had my teeth clenched and muscles tightened through the entire movie.|
The story deals with the rape and murder of a nine year old girl and the subsequent attempts at revenge by the father. In lesser hands, this would play out in some half-assed Hollywood fashion, but Grou does an excellent job of laying out all the conflicting emotions and getting deep into the main characters without a bit of crutch-leaning exposition or grandiose rage-driven pontification.
The movie is beautifully edited and shot and the use of sound (or lack thereof) brings the uncomfortableness of the story directly to the viewer. Some scenes will have you unconsciously pushing yourself back into your couch as you watch.
I highly recommend watching this. Just have a some puppies and rainbows nearby to console yourself with afterward.
|01.16.11||Breakfast on Pluto||Neil Jordan||My wife picked this one out and it was a fun watch. Cillian Murphy does a great job as the main character, who is a misunderstood Irish transvestite looking for his mother who abandoned him at birth. The amazing cast includes Liam Neeson, Stephen Rae, Liam Cunningham (from The Dog Soldiers), Gavin Friday (from the band The Virgin Prunes), Brendan Gleeson, and Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music) in an outstanding cameo.|
|01.16.11||Jubilee||Derek Jarman||This was the Criterion Collection DVD. One of the (many) films featured in the Destroy All Movies book, it is hard to know what to make of this film. Very anarchic and unfocused, it features a who's who of luminaries from the British punk scene (irony intended). It held my interest though.|
|01.16.11||The Green Hornet||Michel Gondry||What a piece of shit. This will surely make my list of worst movies of 2011. There were glimpses of decency here and there but they were so few and far between that they did nothing for me. My reaction to this movie was on par to my reaction to The Last Airbender. Terrible. I expected better from Michel Gondry.|
|01.16.11||The Wild Geese||Andrew V. McLaglen||I have fond memories of this movie from when I was a kid, back in the 80s. It has not aged as well as I hoped it would. Starring Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Roger Moore and Hardy Kruger, it comes off as a product of the times, cynical on war but with jokiness and that stiff upper lip prevalent in British action films of the time. Still worth a watch for old time sake.|
|01.15.11||The Deer Hunter||Michael Cimino||First rewatch of this in a long time. While the running time is over three hours, it feels right. Great cast including heavyweights Robery DeNiro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep; with excellent support from John Cazale, George Dzundza, John Savage and Chuck Aspegren, whose performance is excellent and mostly overlooked considering he was actually a foreman at the Gary Steel Mill who fell into the role by accident.|
|01.14.11||Lord of the Flies||Peter Brook||Stark, savage movie. Still holds up nearly 40 years later.|
|01.13.11||Road to Perdition||Sam Mendes||Another rewatch. Emotionally powerful movie. Many of the scenes were filmed in the area where I live. Interesting to see Daniel Craig in this, since his morally corrupt role here is really a precursor to his work in the Bond films. Watching this it is easy to see why they chose him.|
|01.13.11||Taxi Driver||Martin Scorsese||Rewatched for the first time in years; visceral, shockingly violent movie and another De Niro career defining performance. I completely forgot about Scorsese as one of the cab passengers in this.|
|01.12.11||Raging Bull||Martin Scorsese||One of the classics. So hard to believe this movie was filmed in 1980; it feels like a classic piece of cinema from the 50s. Was nice to revisit it.|
|01.11.11||Repulsion||Roman Polanski||Part of an accidental Polanski double feature while traveling by train across Illinois. This is the first time I made it all the way through this entire movie. Watched parts of it previously at least three times. The starkness of the cinematography combined with the, at times, jangling jazz soundtrack make for an unnerving cinematic experience. Brilliant movie that requires your full attention and immersion.|
|01.11.11||Chinatown||Roman Polanski||Revisited this classic via my iPad while traveling across Illinois by train on a snowy day. Still blown away by this movie, especially the small cameo by Polanski himself. Huston is a subtle powerhouse in his role as well. It was fun seeing Dunaway and Nicholson at the top of their games.|
|01.10.11||Krull||Peter Yates||Decided to honor the passing of director Peter Yates, who died today, by watching Krull on my birthday with my kids and mother-in-law. The vintage special effects show their age, but for me that just serves to cement it in the era it was made. Never knew that Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane were in this! They play two members of the gang of thieves. Great to see them so young and before they would become stars!|
|01.09.11||The Fountain||Darren Aronofsky||A visually stunning and emotional masterpiece of film. I cannot believe I waited so long to see this, the only Aronofsky film I had yet to see. Possibly the best acting work by Hugh Jackman in his career. Easily nine stars for me.|
|01.09.11||Timestalkers||Michael Schultz||This is a made-for-tv movie from the 80s,starring William Devane, Lauren Hutton and Klaus Kinski. Also, John Ratzenberger and Forrest Tucker! Quite a cast. It was pretty tame, mildly entertaining fare.|
|01.08.11||The 36th Chamber of Shaolin||Chia-Liang Liu||A martial arts classic that I had not seen yet so we threw it on. My final pick for the evening. Not everything I hoped it would be, but still entertaining. Gordon Liu was excellent. Fun flick, definitely worth a watch.|
|01.08.11||All The Boys Love Mandy Lane||Jonathan Levine||A great indie horror movie with a bit of a twist on the typical plot. Hard to believe this has not been released in the States. We watched a Region 2 import Blu Ray that Sleestakk brought.|
|01.08.11||Ninja||Isaac Florentine||Great 80s throwback ninja movie. A fun watch.|
|01.07.11||Frozen||Adam Green||A nicely done little indie thriller from the director of Saber and Hatchet. I did find myself yelling shit at the TV, trying to educate the fools stuck on the lift, but to no avail (like usual).|
|01.06.11||The Feeding||Paul Moore||a 4x3 direct-to-video effort. The creature effects and practical effects are pretty abysmal, but some of the dialogue is pretty witty and decent. Would have had more potential of the creature effects were better.|
|01.06.11||Black Belt Jones||Robert Clouse||Been meaning to watch this for a while. Glad I caught up with it finally! Fun, kung-fu blaxsploitation movie, highly recommend it!|
|01.06.11||Black Swan||Darren Aronofsky||Finally managed to see this in the theater. So happy I got to see it on the big screen. loved the frenetic camerawork. Excellent cinematography, score and acting. Highly recommended.|
|01.05.11||The Assassin Next Door||Danny Lerner||Very bland title for what turned out to be a very good movie. Set in Israel and starring Olga Kurylenko, who is the Bond girl in Quantum of Solace, but also the female lead in Centurion! Happy to see anything with her in it. Well, ok maybe not Max Payne... Highly recommend giving this one a watch.|
|01.05.11||Nomads||John McTiernan||What a bizarre little film from McTiernan! Full of punks, with Adam Ant as one of the punk leaders, and Pierce Brosnan with a horrible fake French-English accent! Still enjoyable though.|
|01.05.11||Femme Fatale||Brian De Palma||Pretty well done De Palma flick I have never even heard of, let alone watched. Really enjoyed it. Very stylistically De Palma. Recommended.|
|01.04.11||Play Dirty||Andre De Toth||An absolutely nihilistic late 60s take on war. Great performances by Caine and Nigel Davenport. Worth watching.|
|01.04.11||Silent Running||Douglas Trumbull||Great movie, hard to believe I waited so long to watch it.|
|01.03.11||Squirm||Jeff Lieberman||Man-eating worms! I remember an article on this movie in Famous Monsters of Filmland from when I was a kid. Never saw the entire movie until I was inspired by a tweet from KreepyLady. Loved it!|
|01.03.11||Arn: The Knight Templar||Peter Flinth||Very beautifully shot movie, though light on actual action. Sofia Helin, who plays the main love interest, is stunningly beautiful. Many languages spoken, including English, but the movie is subtitled.|
|01.02.11||Vital||Shinya Tsukamoto||Starring one of my favorite actors, Tadanobu Asano. I watched part of this movie once before and probably own a DVD copy of this somewhere.|
|01.02.11||The Korean||Thomas Dixon||B-Grade actioner with some seriously flat acting. The editing and sequencing, though confusing at times, was a nice attempt to transcend the source material. Props to the director for doing a decent job on an obviously low budget, but not a great film.|
|12.31.10||Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen||Michael Bay||How sad that this POS movie is the last movie I watched in 2010. Sigh. On to better stuff for 2011!|
|12.30.10||Predators||Nimrod Antal||With the parents.|
|12.28.10||Predators||Nimrod Antal||Rewatched on DVD. First saw at midnight show opening night with @sleestakk. Liked it the first time, liked it more after watching it again. Probably because my expectations were appropriately set. Also, Alice Braga? HOT.|
|12.27.10||Despicable Me||Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin||DVD. Watched with the kids for the first time. I think I laughed more than they did. Jaded little bastards.|