zustifer: (Baby Cakes with Viking helmet)
Looks like 79 movies, with one repeat (friggin' Fountainhead!). Worse than last year, but not by too much (well... ten fewer), and better than the year before (which was sucky -- 55?!). Looks like the middle of the year was taken up with work; we'd get home at 9pm and not have the fortitude to put on a movie. We also had a bunch of attention-grabbing games (Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Oblivion), so that's also to the movie count's detriment.
So here is the list. )
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Delia day-o)
Evil Dead (1981), Sam Raimi. Dec 30, 5pm. View count: Two.
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002), Steve Oedekerk. Dec 31, 9:30pm. View count: One.
Grappler Baki (1994), Hitoshi Nanba. Dec 31, 10:45pm. View count: One.
Blazing Saddles (1974), Mel Brooks. Dec 31, 11:45pm. View count: Four?

Evil Dead I found rather lacking, really; I respect it as a student film (which I know it isn't technically, but that's what it feels like to me), but the pacing is so repetitive and uninteresting that I can't go too much farther than that. The effects are fun, and the Raimi touches are always something to love, but I won't be going back to this anytime soon.

Kung Pow I'm actively angry at. Its ratio of funny to not funny is something like 15%/85%. The few actually funny bits usually occurred during What's Up Tiger Lily style dubbed sequences, and I think if it'd been limited to those, it could have upped its funniness to something like 50% with little further effort. I enjoyed the funny voices in general, and there really were a few genuinely amusing bits, but then I had to watch the rest of it. Additionally, looking at Steve Oedekerk's face is an onerous chore.

Grappler Baki is hilarious and overdone, with over-muscled weirdos making weird expressions at each other, the dubbers trying frantically to make sense of the little smirks and 'ah!'s. This is a short pilot for a series. It's about a fighter of some sort, Baki, who is not in fact any sort of grappler, but seemingly a karate master with a preternatural ability to assimilate other people's techniques. It's about punching, and kicking, and the occasional nonstandard technique. In general the action is over-animated, but not to its detriment. Really, the whole thing comes off as somewhat fetishistic, but in an odd and straight-faced way.

Blazing Saddles is still brilliant, with everyone doing a much better job than necessary. Madeline Kahn particularly, whose Dietrich impression is impeccable. I miss Madeline Kahn. Here's the trivia page on imdb, which has a few serious gems (Hedy Lamarr actually sued, a guy Mel Brooks used to work with actually punched out a horse, Barack Obama snuck in to see Blazing Saddles).
zustifer: (comics: decapitated jughead)
The Thing From Another World (1951), Christian Nyby/Howard Hawks. Dec 28, 3pm. View count: Two.

This movie isn't really good horror, but it does everything else well. Most obviously, it's chock full of unaffected, believable dialog, delivered in admirably natural ways; the actors step on one another's lines, laugh seemingly sincerely at jokes, all talk at once in groups, and generally behave in a very naturalistic way (the only possible exception being the scientist, who is the worst caricature of the group and has to carry the director's straw-man anti-viewpoint). There's really very little tension, compared to more normal horror films, so it turns into sort of a military buddies movie with a gentle horror tinge, but in this capacity, it's successful. There's a fair bit of wisecracking and kidding around, which makes everyone seem to be trying to keep a positive attitude and do his job well, as they would any other difficult assignment. Since this takes place in 1951, they succeed. The explainy parts put me in mind of Forbidden Planet -- that special 50s style exposition. "Well, just think! To this thing, we're no more than cabbages in a field!"

Supposedly this movie contains the first full-body fire stunt work on film. The fire sequence is respectable, the monster less so (he is judiciously withheld as much as possible).

I haven't seen the 1980s Carpenter remake yet, but I plan to. I understand that contrary to this version, it's claustrophobic, isolates its unlikeable characters, and shows the monster extensively.
zustifer: (Vincent Price)
Drag Me to Hell (2009), Sam Raimi. Dec 26, 6pm. View count: One.

"If gypsies can curse people so easily, they should be ruling the world. Why didn't she use those powers to make payments or whatever?" -- Someone on IMDB

This isn't a masterpiece, or even a really satisfying unalloyed Raimi bonanza; neither is it complex or very well-plotted, but it's amusing and revels in its style. A lot of people seem to have failed their comprehension rolls on this movie; they assume it's meant to be straight-up horror or a horror-tinged comedy, presumably because they don't know Sam Raimi very well. In this movie he gets to focus pretty single-mindedly on the Madballs-level grossouts which suit him so well. The man also likes his archetypes, and twisting them in simple ways is as far as he goes in this. It's sort of like a 40s horror comic, in a way, unashamed of its intrinsic hokeyness. I appreciate that.
zustifer: (Baby Cakes with Viking helmet)
Dead Reckoning (1947), John Cromwell. Dec 24, 8pm. View count: One.
Wizard People, Dear Reader (2004), Chris Columbus/Brad Neely. Dec 25, 5pm. View count: Eight?

Dead Reckoning is an amusing little noir piece with a dubiously trustworthy dame and a really misogynistic Bogart. Just look at this:
Captain Warren 'Rip' Murdock: Yeah. You know, I've been thinking: women ought to come capsule-sized, about four inches high. When a man goes out of an evening, he just puts her in his pocket and takes her along with him, and that way he knows exactly where she is. He gets to his favorite restaurant, he puts her on the table and lets her run around among the coffee cups while he swaps a few lies with his pals...
Coral 'Dusty' Chandler: Why...
Captain Warren 'Rip' Murdock: Without danger of interruption. And when it comes that time of the evening when he wants her full-sized and beautiful, he just waves his hand and there she is, full-sized.
Coral 'Dusty' Chandler: Why, that's the most conceited statement I've ever heard.
Captain Warren 'Rip' Murdock: But if she starts to interrupt, he just shrinks her back to pocket-size and puts her away.

Yes, that's right. Someone wrote that exchange.
The plotting isn't as clean as it could be; events are sometimes a little muddied and unmotivated. But the archetypes are fun, and there's a few snappy turns of phrase and lovely camerawork. It's not really an exceptional noir film, though.

Wizard People is still the best thing. I can't believe we've only watched it about eight times! We chased it with all of the America, Nows and a fair number of Baby Cakeses.
zustifer: (Amitabh Bachchan)
The Departed (2006), Martin Scorsese. Dec 22, 10pm. View count: One.

So, Scorsese. I hadn't realized that this was one of his until I actually watched this. I've seen, well, Taxi Driver of course, Mean Streets (which I deeply respect), Goodfellas (which I think is more successful than the Godfather), Raging Bull back in college, some of the Last Temptation of Christ, and Gangs of New York, which I sort of hated. I don't remember whether I actually watched Casino. Given this timeline (early well-respected works --> later works I didn't like as well or forgot about), it's starting to seem like I'm not really into his more recent stuff. I doubt I have enough data points to really put my finger on why, but maybe that will change.

I wasn't deeply disappointed in this piece, but it did seem sort of sloppy in a few ways. The imdb goofs page stands testament to the apparent fact that Scorsese is not really interested in continuity or pathological accuracy. I'm not going to blame him for this, but I do tend to have a lot of respect for directors who really due-diligence as many aspects of their work as they can get their hands on. Secondarily, Jack Nicholson was allowed to ad lib. Perhaps this is why his character never really developed past 'guy who does whatever he wants.' I am not really a Nicholson fan. Thirdly, there were some goofy-ass plot holes. A major threat hanging over a major character was having his police record deleted, which was implied to be permanent and unrecoverable (not to mention that apparently Mass. cops don't log these things, so no one would ever know who the bad man was who ruined Major Character's job/life). There was a totally baffling triple-agent style move made by a main character, possibly intentionally, but possibly because he was forced to do so? Maybe? Motivations were muddy at the best of times. Police procedures are also hilariously silly or absent. Simple things (fingerprints, lethal force) are ignored and paperwork-free.

The decision was made to keep the characters simple and all but arc-less for the sake of the somewhat confusing setup and situation. Remembering which undercover agent knows what is enough of a job for the viewer without having to remember how each character's (and there were probably too many characters) feelings about frosted donettes changed throughout the film. This is a valid choice, but nevertheless I couldn't help but feel shortchanged, to some extent; when a supposedly character-defining tidbit was thrown out (because there was only room for one or two), I always found it caricaturish and overdone. Maybe Scorsese believes that one can have a compelling action character whose motivations stem entirely from erectile dysfunction, but, good god. There was also a good deal of narrative space wasted on non-useful things that neither advanced the characters nor the plot significantly. It makes me sad.

Another thing that made me sad was the accent. I'm a masshole from way back, so this is a thing I'm pretty comfortable with. Matt Damon is supposed to be from Boston as well, so it's confusing that his accent in this drops out periodically. Sometimes he does it really well, but then, a sentence later, it's back to flat Hollywood base accent. One guy got off a 'What'a you, retahdid?' which did my heart good, but exception/rule. Everyone else was vaguely passable, but not really all that convincing. Leonardo DiCaprio (whom I generally hate) didn't try very hard at this, or really at anything else. I'm still baffled as to how he gets work, because it doesn't seem to me that he can do much other than behave like a callow, impulsive 20-year-old. This served him decently in this movie, but it's usually not a plus.

I should note that JP unfavorably (but mostly fairly) compared this movie with The Wire, which ran away with most of the things The Departed seemed to be trying to accomplish. This is true, and although The Wire has a running time which rather hugely exceeds a movie length, lessons are still there to be learned.

I think removing a few characters so that the ones that remain could be better fleshed out would have been the better tactic for this movie. I also think I'd like to see the original Hong Kong movie on which this was based; all the hard-liners on imdb found it superior.
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Delia day-o)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans (2009), Werner Herzog. Dec 6, 6:45pm. View count: One.
Be Kind Rewind (2008), Michel Gondry. Dec 9, 9pm. View count: One.
Yin ji (AKA Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave, 1982), Zhao Li. Dec 11, 10pm. View count: One.
I Married a Witch (1942), René Clair. Dec 14, 9pm. View count: One.

Since I've been remiss and let four movies stack up, these'll be kinda cursory. OH WELL.

Bad Lieutenant is surprisingly hilarious. Nicolas Cage works oddly well as the superego-free protagonist-like character, although I doubt he's Herzog's new Klaus Kinski, as people keep saying. Also, Brad Dourif is in it.

Be Kind Rewind is pretty charming, of course. It's a little all over the place, and the faux documentary isn't all that exciting, but it's not difficult to get past these problems.

Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave involves a lot of wacky stuff, and has goofy dubbing, although I'm finding as I write this that I can't remember much except for the Dracula cameo. There was medieval chinese witchcraft again, with the melting down of human hearts, and a fight sequence with the protagonist holding his father's bones in a sheet. That's something.

I Married a Witch is supposedly the material (originally it was a book) on which "Bewitched" was based (IMDB denies it), but it's a little less fluffy (though still rather fluffy) than the series. I found Veronica Lake a little uneven, as if she were Acting in some scenes and doing a better job of being herself in others. I suppose there's also the 1940s Comedic Woman style to consider. It's an amusing movie, though, with arson, suicide, and a horrible wedding.
zustifer: (Baby Cakes with Viking helmet)
Gui ma tian shi (AKA Taoism Drunkard, 1984), Cheung-Yan Yuen. Dec 3, 9pm. View count: One.
Crank 2 (2009), Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor. Dec 5, 8:30pm. View count: One.

These two movies totally go together, in retrospect. Taoism Drunkard is a wacky kung-fu thing with a demon (called "Old Devil" in the subs) trying to... kill... some people? but thwarted by a a drunken monk and a powerful grandmother, both played by the same guy. There's a spherical pac-man-like entity whose job seems to be to detect males and bite their crotches. There's a weird group of donation collectors who keep showing up, and who provide the only instance of Fat Lady Kung Fu I've ever seen.

Whereas Crank 2 is more of a Troma-like production (except with a budget, more action, and arguably more style). The tone is really similar, though, as is the subject matter.
It's fairly charming, really; the attitude seldom dips into anything really unpleasant, and the whole thing has a level of cartoonish naivete to it. I would hazard that even GTA, to which I've seen this compared, is more weightily violent.
It also has John de Lancie (Q!) as a newsguy named Fish, which is a brilliant stupid decision. It set the tone.
And I must congratulate the dudes who wrote up the IMDB goofs page. An excerpt:
"Anachronisms: When Chev Chelios borrows a cell phone from his girlfriend, it appears to be an iPhone 3G, released July 11, 2008. According to the Google Maps used in-film, the events are occurring over a year earlier than that."
zustifer: (Default)
Chi bi (AKA Red Cliff, 2008), John Woo. Nov 28, 8pm. View count: One.
Lin Shi Rong (AKA Magnificent Butcher, 1979), Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Woo-ping Yuen. Nov 29, 8pm. View count: One.
Bai ga jai (AKA The Prodigal Son, 1981), Sammo Hung Kam-Bo. Nov 30, 8:30pm. View count: One.

Red Cliff is a solid ancient Chinese mytho-historical epic thingy, seemingly the first Chinese production John Woo's been involved in in a pret-ty long time. It shows a lot of semi-mythical Awesome Historical Figures whipping ass in righteous warfare. It's fun, you don't worry very hard about the good guys, and a lot of Woo's trademark touches are shoehorned in. There's a weird English VO in a couple of spots (which pronounces names in such an anglicised way that's it's actually hard to tell who it's talking about), but otherwise the subtitles are perfectly good.

Magnificent Butcher is purportedly a side story to a Robin-Hood-like mythos, where Sammo Hung plays Butcher Wing, a follower of famous kung fu badass Wong Fei-Hong. The story ends up being kinda dark, but the kung fu is impressive as always. The drunkard has some great expressions, even though he's replaced with a pitifully obvious stunt double when anything much gets going. Wong Fei-Hong has a scene wherein he does calligraphy on a rival's forehead (possibly the best scene in the movie), and you get to see a photo of young, thin Sammo Hung.

The Prodigal Son is another Sammo Hung/Lam Ching-Ying vehicle, where they (eventually) vie over a student. It's pretty amusing, and it's apparently a story about how parents screw you up. It's also about Lam Ching-Ying fighting a bunch of guys in theatre-drag.
zustifer: (JFK with psi-rays)
The Space Children (1958), Jack Arnold (MST3K version). Nov 26, 6pm. View count: One.
Master Ninja I (AKA The Master, 1984),
Michael Sloan (MST3K version). Nov 27, 3pm. View count: One.
Gui da gui (AKA Spooky Encounters, AKA Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind, 1980), Sammo Hung. Nov 27, 7pm. View count: One.

Space Children is sort of goofy, but harmless. The MSTing seemed a bit extraneous in some areas, but then there was rather an abundance of plot holes and "wait, what" sorts of moments. As some stranger on imdb puts it, "The dramatic structure of the movie is weak. It starts well enough, with the arrival at the missile base, the landing of the alien, its discovery by the children and its first communication with them. After that, it just meanders all over the place. There is no steady build up of tension and no real climax. Things happen, but for no particular reason."

Master Ninja I'd never actually seen, so this was a thing I'd needed to do. As is pointed out repeatedly, this is the first of a series of seven movie-length compilations of TV episodes. This leads to weirdness as regards characters who show up, engage with a plot, have a wrap-up, and leave after twenty minutes, never to be seen again in the rest of the movielike work. Fortunately it doesn't really matter. Lee Van Cleef is pretty hilarious as White Guy Ninja, and his apprentice is an 80s golem who likes to throw shuriken. The end.

Spooky Encounters is an excellent picture. Pretty much everything in it is awesome. Lam Ching-Ying even has a cameo as a cop! Full-on comedy Sammo Hung in this one. And truly, it is chock full of spooky encounters. Recommended.
zustifer: (Default)
Geung si sin sang (AKA Mr. Vampire, 1985), Ricky Lau. Nov 21, 9pm. View count: One.
Ling huan xian sheng (AKA Mr. Vampire III, 1987), Ricky Lau. Nov 22, 8pm. View count: One.
Jiang shi xian sheng xu ji (AKA Mr. Vampire II, 1986), Ricky Lau. Nov 23, 7:30pm. View count: One.
Jiang shi shu shu (AKA Mr. Vampire IV, 1988), Ricky Lau. Nov 24, 9:30pm. View count: One.
Xin jiang shi xian sheng (AKA Mr. Vampire V, 1989 (released 1992)), Ricky Lau. Nov 25, 7pm. View count: One.

These are great movies -- kung fu with various supernatural whatnot. The first one holds together the best, of course, with the third and fourth ranking roughly equal (I'd say) in entertainment value. The second is easily the crummiest, with a weird "heartwarming" aspect and several ve-e-ery lo-o-ong segments in which everyone's under the influence of a sedative, and thus are pretending to move in slow motion. And then there's the fifth, with the western-style vampire and the fake bats. (It should also be noted that the movie we watched which was labelled as Mr. Vampire 5 bears no resemblance to the summary on IMDB, and yet I can't find a closer match. It's weird.)

So, the first one is easily the best (although I bear a great fondness for #4), and apparently codified the chinese movie vampire. (Wikipedia link: "In the movies, jiang shi can be put to sleep by putting a piece of yellow paper with a spell written on it on their foreheads [...]. Generally in the movies the jiang shi are dressed in imperial Qing Dynasty clothes, their arms permanently outstretched due to rigor mortis.") This is of course the basis for Hsien-ko/Lei lei, who's my default avatar. Even she's sort of a takeoff, with her shifting from foot to foot instead of hopping, and ability to speak.
Anyhow, vampire shows up (ancestor buried in a bad location), hassles Lam Ching-Ying and disciples, almost transmits vampirism (apparently through fingernail wounds?), and eventually is vanquished.

Number Two is schmaltzy and has a vampire family, the child of which becomes friends with a brother and sister in a really, really american mid-century house. Number Three has a con artist with pet ghosts (somewhat reminiscent of the Frighteners). Number Four has a rivalry between a buddhist priest and a taoist one (they are next-door neighbors), and it's totally hilarious, with a lot of goofy slapstick. Anthony Chan as the 'Four-Eyed Taoist,' (he has glasses) a total dick who nevertheless has cool powers, is the best part. Weirdly, I think Lam Ching-Ying wasn't in this one.
And number Five is the christianity-and-western-vampirism one, which wasn't so hot.

Okay, I'm wrapping this up now, because I have more movies in the queue.
zustifer: (bowie xray)
Control (2007), Anton Corbijn. Nov 20, 9:15pm. View count: One.

I haven't quite been able to figure out exactly what was wrong with this movie. My best stab at it is that its british detachment went too far into the "impenetrable" side of things, making everyone's emotions (apart from obvious surface ones) impossible to ascertain. I felt throughout as if I were waiting for people's characters to fill out, but they never really seemed to.

Supposedly this was based on a book by Curtis' wife, which could explain the second-degree opaqueness of it all. It had a distinct outside-looking-in quality, which didn't do much for understanding of the protagonist.

Structurally I suppose I'd say that we didn't get to see enough of the grinding day-to-dayness of things; when we were shown difficult situations they tended to be the first we'd really heard of that, or a light-touch callback to a previous event. Weirdly, the simple trope of showing the protagonist walking around aimlessly, fitting poorly in an uncaring world -- that would have been highly appropriate and would have allowed for some "loneliness" time.

Of course, the soundtrack was wonderful, and Anton Corbijn knows his way around a lighting setup. I think the two things that charmed me the most were the situational soundtrack choices and the grey gobbets of food that people ate towards the end. But I simultaneously approved of and was a little leery of the 'clever' soundtrack moments; it's not up to Wes Anderson territory, but, still, putting "No Love Lost" up against the word "HATE" written across the protagonist's jacket? A little cutesy. (It's also true that that particular sequence struck me as a misstep -- defiant punky clothing graffiti hardly looks like the work of a guy who's totally losing it.)

I think that this movie would have done well to note the maxim about making every shot develop character or advance the action. Or indeed to refine the action and character arcs in advance, before trying to portray them.
zustifer: (Stan has schadenfreude.)
Star Crash (1979), Luigi Cozzi. Oct 17, 8pm. View count: One.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009), Grant Heslov. Nov 7, 7:45pm. View count: One.

Star Crash is hilarious, stupid, and terrible. It's up there as regards bad movies that are kinda wonderful. There's a robot who kind of sounds like Slim Pickens, David Hasselhoff, and a Who's Tommy-styled guy who apparently was a child preacher in real life. Recommended.

Goats: I came out of this movie rather angry. It's frustrating, because it has sort of a cute premise, and a cast of fairly good people. You had every advantage, little movie, and yet you just hang around mentioning Star Wars all the time. Why do you do that? Are you making a joke? Are you making a statement? No -- you are just repeatedly invoking Star Wars. Having Ewan McGregor present does not make this easier to stomach.
The movie's not a magical-realist Box o' Wonder, it's not a Coenish knowing semi-comedy, nor is it a Jarmuschian meandering character piece, any one of which (cliches) could have saved its bacon. It's JUST A STUPID COMEDY. It's formulaic like unto Dreamworks. The most you can hope for is Kevin Spacey saying "Twizzlers." (That was the high point, I think.)
The narration, also, is a really poor choice. And the satire is the most toothless satire I've seen in years. Really nothing to love here.


Sep. 17th, 2009 04:50 pm
zustifer: (Goggalor)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Stanley Kubrick. August 19, 7:30pm. View count: Five?
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), Edward D. Wood Jr. August 20, 8:30pm. View count: Two.
Kaminey (2009), Vishal Bhardwaj. Sept 13, 3pm. View count: One.

Dr. Strangelove we happened to see at our local theatre, the Rafael. It was hosted by Brad Bird, who showed up and took arbitrary questions from the audience at the end. Todd Alcott happens to be doing a writeup of Dr. Strangelove even now, so although his is patently not the type I'd do, it's probably smarter, and certainly longer (although it is true: the "formal structure" of movies seldom interests me seriously).
It was good to see it again -- I don't think I'd ever seen it on the big screen. It was an impeccable new, clean print, really good-looking. We sat next to an awesome middle-aged lady, who talked with me for the hour or so we sat around before things happened (she told me that there had been a high school theatre production of Dr. Strangelove recently nearby, and that a teenage girl had played the part of Major Kong. I find this excellent).

I think my favorite thing about this movie is the way Kong's plane goes from valiant military fellas doing their duty to valiant military fellas doing their duty to blow up the world -- and they're treated the same way, regardless. Against the odds! Suspense! Just doing their jobs.

One of the things Brad Bird brought up was the broadness of the humor, and the tactic of using humor to put forth very serious ideas. He referred to his time on the Simpsons, and how this had allowed them to get away with much more than a live-action show could have. Now, I hardly think that Kubrick had a problem with getting away with things, but there is purportedly a story wherein he realized that it was potentially a very silly narrative, whereupon he decided to go with it.

Finally: it's a little weird to simultaneously feel sorry and pleased that Peter Sellers declined Slim Pickens' role.

Plan 9 we saw in that Rifftrax broadcast that they had going a few weeks ago. It was colorized, which I hadn't been familiar with beforehand (it didn't do much for the film, really). The Rifftraxing didn't do all that much for it either, but it wasn't bad. Scarily, since the broadcast was from Nashville, they had Lowtax come onstage and do something.

Kaminey I didn't find all that compelling, but "it had its good points," as our friend mentioned afterward. The best of these was when one of the twin-brother leads spun around in the rain with his best buddy, singing "Spiderman! Spiderman!" Except he had a fake speech impediment, so it was more like "Fpiderman!" It was a beautiful moment.
The rest of the movie was about Good Twin and Bad Twin, and the girlfriend of the Good Twin towards whom he was fairly ambivalent. There is an amount of action, and a pretty wacky disco scene. (We actually showed up at the theater wanting to see Daddy Cool (which is taglined "Put the Fun in Funeral" or some such), but we were late and for some reason it wasn't subtitled.)
zustifer: (Default)
Love Bug (1968), Robert Stevenson. July 6, 10pn. View count: One.
Zazie dans le Métro (1960), Louis Malle. July 14, 10pm. View count: One.
Tron (1982), Steven Lisberger. August 1, 8:30pm. View count: Six?
District 9 (2009), Neill Blomkamp. August 15, 5:15pm. View count: One.

Oh man, I have been so remiss. Okay. Let's.

Love Bug is a stupid 60s movie, with the dad from Mary Poppins as the villain, and the cop from That Darn Cat as the protagonist. It's silly, and I didn't regret watching it.

Zazie is an amusingly non-serious movie, with flights of fancy erupting from every juncture, and a just-barely-not-grating precocious kid as a protagonist. If this had been an american film with twelve-year-old Audrey Hepburn or something, it would probably be on everyone's DVD shelf.

Tron is Tron. It was good to see it again. It holds up well, of course; the effects don't quit, and you'd never know that the actress playing the female lead had no clue what she was talking about. Also, we think that Dillinger went to Yale with the Old Man from Robocop.

District 9 I thought was quite, quite good. I won't spoil here, but the choice of locale, as an element of the first half's harsh, biting satire was very nicely done. I have a few questions about the scifi logistics, but it is, as they say, all good. I will consider it even if I can buy an 18-inch action figure of a certain mech.
zustifer: (JFK with psi-rays)
Moon (2009), Duncan Jones. July 4, 4:45pm. View count: One.
Road House (1989), Rowdy Herrington. July 4, 9pm. View count: One.

Well! This is a ludicrous pair of movies.

Moon was pretty charming, really, and did a great job of making its effects work difficult to notice. I had a problem with the ending, though, which I will discuss under a cut due to spoilery. ) Wasn't quite as smart as could have been hoped for, but it wasn't stupid, and I'm glad I saw it.

Road House, surprising no one, was the stupidest thing ever. We watched this in lieu of actual fireworks, and I think it was a good decision.

Patrick Swayze is a big-headed weirdo who is apparently some sort of super-bouncer at some bar, when a dude with two lines shows up and hires him away to be a bouncer at HIS bar, because his bar is needlessly rowdy and he is always "sweeping eyeballs off the floor" at the end of the night. Safety hazard, don'tcha know. So Patrick Swayze shows up, does a lot of pointless things, and somehow the bar gets nicer and nicer. But there is a bad man who owns the town, and he's a dick, and he sort of looks like a cut-rate mixture of Jonathan Pryce and Sam Neill. Patrick Swayze is also a Buddhist, according to the DVD box copy and nothing else, and he shows this by doing tai chi in a field while an old farmer with a beard blushingly wipes sweat off his head. And blah, blah blah.
It's all pretty awful, but if you have the right group of people, it can be respectably hilarious.
zustifer: (Mrs. White)
A Gnome Named Gnorm (1990), Stan Winston. June 21, 10pm. View count: One.
The Fountainhead (1949), King Vidal. June 23, 5pm. View count: Two.
Baby Face (1933), Alfred Green. June 23, 7:30pm. View count: One.

Gnome was a wretched pile. Really just horrid. I'm surprised we made it through the whole thing. So, Stan Winston directed it. Stan Winston's a pro at the effects, obviously, but perhaps not so much at picking half-decent scripts. This winner, Pen Densham, was one of two writers, and plus he came up with "the story." He produced, too. The other writer conspicuously was a co-producer on pretty much everything else that Densham worked on, so clearly they're buds and on the same gnomey wavelength. I haven't actually heard of much of the stuff they worked on, but it's probably for the best.
Anyhow, this movie was pure pain from start to finish. The titular gnome is trauma-inducing, whatsisface from The Breakfast Club is annoying and repeats things over and over in a Really Urgent! tone of voice, and guy from Law and Order kinda phones it in. Robert Z'dar is in this, and he's probably the high point. Weirdly, he plays (surprise!) a henchman, and his boss is named "Zadar." It's confusing.
In conclusion, the gnome likes to mutilate people's genitals.

Fountainhead I sat through most of again so I could show its bombast and Agenda Über Alles to JP, but I relented and doodled through part of it. It's not really a fun movie to sit through, even if you hear more about Ayn Rand on a daily basis than most people do. The lead actress has a neat face, though.

Baby Face was actually quite good, although we drew a version (apparently there were multiple versions, censored variously) that had the happy ending but contained most of the rest of the disputed material. Barbara Stanwyck was quite good, and she really managed to get across a lot of character. The lady playing her maid was great, too, with more of a part and definitely more fun than most maids of the time. The happy ending felt pretty undermotivated, but the unhappy ending would have also seemed a bit weird, so perhaps let's chalk it up to the times.
zustifer: (comics: uncle buster)
Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972), Robert Butler. June 6, 8pm. View count: One.

So supposedly this is the sequel to "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes," which I've never seen, possibly because no one disliked me enough as a child to subject me to it. This one's bad enough, although pretty hilarious for several reasons: 1. Cesar Romero; 2. Kurt Russell as an alpha teenager; 3. Lots of terrible live-action Disney "invisibility!" effects.

There is, however, a high percentage of golf in this, and some terrible, pointless car chases.

Arguably the best thing about this movie is the guy who played the hapless redheaded sidekick went on to write the episode of DS9 in this exchange occurs.
zustifer: (why can't monsters get along)
We're No Angels (1955), Michael Curtiz. May 26, 2pm. View count: One.
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), Mervyn LeRoy. May 26, 4pm. View count: One.
Brute Force (1947), Jules Dassin. May 26, 7pm. View count: One.

We're No Angels is a cute little 'nice criminals' Christmas movie, wherein escaped prisoners threaten unconvincingly to be mean to a nice family in French Guyana. Everyone is nice, even the poisonous snake. Peter Ustinov is in it, and he is awesome. Oh, and Basil Rathbone as The Bad Guy! (He's not nice, but how could he be?) The surprisingly dark bits stand out all the more in such a 50s-pleasant context, which I think is pretty amusing.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a pretty cool (and surprisingly harsh in spots) depiction of a guy's life in and out of the titular chain gang. I was impressed by its portrayal of the Georgia (implied only - the state is never named, but apparently Georgia was insulted enough to ban the film and sue people) justice system, especially the part where a man stands up at a hearing to tell the court how beneficial the chain gangs are for an inmate. Not to mention a fairly pointed opinion on the fate of WWI vets, with a nice concise scene in a pawn shop. Good stuff, really.

Brute Force, if you cut out the flashbacks that mostly were pretty boring, would be a better movie. However, it's still a very watchable and occasionally impressively badass prison picture, with a sadistic guard-captain (who is really well-played), a violent and vindictive protagonist (who would be MUCH more fun without his sticky-sweet flashback), and prison-work activities that seem to actually include making license plates. If you watch this, be sure you make it to the end, though, as several (but not all!) of the most awesome (in the 'wow, he hit him with that!' sense) moments are placed in the last 10-15 minutes.
zustifer: (Keep your teeth clean)
The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), Otto Preminger. Apr 28, 2pm. View count: One.
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), Otto Preminger. May 1, 3pm. View count: One.
Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Otto Preminger. May 1, 8pm. View count: One.

The Man With the Golden Arm is an entertainingly abstracted movie, which seems like an interesting direction to go in given that the book it's adapted from is said to be rather complex and dense. I think it suits the subject matter rather well; the four or five sets, each seemingly visible from all the others, bolster the boxed-in atmosphere. Sinatra does pretty well as a dude from circumstances who is rather excited to have in mind a thing he wants to do for a living, only to have everyone around him practically shove heroin needles at him. (Note: everyone calls him 'Dealer' not because he deals drugs (he would then be called a 'peddler'), but because he deals cards in illegal poker games. It took me a while to figure that one out.) All the rest of the cast does decently as well; I particularly enjoyed the sidekick, who is apparently played by a comedian of the time; he's a guy who's ignored and pushed around by most, and that enables him to mouth off to a small but measurable extent, to keep a small but measurable amount of dignity. Kim Novak is described by someone on IMDB as "plant-like", which I now have to agree with. She's that Ideally Supportive Woman that is often to be found in movies, which makes her fairly dull.
The wrap-up at the end I found something of a cop-out; I've seen earlier movies that managed to lay a pall of pessimism or precariousness over a relatively up ending, but this one did not do this. It was just a happy, convenient ending. Preminger seems to do this a lot. Oh, and finally, there is a smooth-coated terrier of some kind which drinks beer out of an ashtray to please a woman. This will be revisited later.

Where the Sidewalk Ends is about a violent detective who just can't stop beating up bad guys. Occasionally he beats up non-bad guys as well. He also has a highly supportive lady that he likes, although that lady does not have a beer-drinking small dog. A lot of the movie is spent on detectives figuring things out, and trying to find one another in various bars and houses. The ending here is almost entirely a happy cop-out as well; I was rooting for something much more along the lines of "and he took the secret to the grave," but you know me and secrets and graves.

Anatomy of a Murder is apparently an adaptation of a True Story, which was accordingly Ripped From Today's Headlines (where "today" is defined as "sometime in the fifties"). It's in large part a courtroom drama, which is mostly entertaining enough. The real kicker, however, is the sheer number of times that Jimmy Stewart says "panties." It's punishment, but it's the kind of punishment that makes one still kind of want a little mp3 of each instance. I mean, what if I needed it?
Apparently the discussion(s) of rape that happens in the movie was fairly off-putting to at least some people, including Jimmy Stewart's father, who reportedly "was so offended by the film, which he deemed 'a dirty picture,' that he took out an ad in his local newspaper telling people not to see it." It does all seem fairly inappropriate for the fifties, albeit the late fifties, and, as I say, probably Jimmy Stewart's father was just reacting to the horror one cannot escape when Jimmy Stewart says "panties."
The rape victim is the one with the terrier that drinks beer from an ashtray (she, like the woman in Man With the Golden Arm, is utterly charmed by this for some reason), and the dog is even used to point out a stuffy man who does not like dogs. Oh ho ho, only bad men do not like dogs!
I would not exactly recommend this one; it has sort of a sunny tone which does not much befit the subject matter. However, the courtroom scenes are well-handled and don't drag, and you could do worse if you're looking for a movie with law in it for some reason. And Jimmy Stewart saying "panties."


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Karla Z

February 2012

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