zustifer: (comics: zippy ha ha incongruous)
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), Nagisa Oshima. Feb 10, 9pm. View count: One.
Laitakaupungin valot (AKA Lights in the Dusk, 2006), Aki Kaurismäki. Feb 11, 4pm. View count: One.
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), Mark Dindal. Feb 26, 3pm. View count: One.

Well, okay, this is a weird progression, from bleak awfulness to glib doofiness, but let's do it.

Merry Xmas was a rough one. Somehow I'd never seen this, despite it starring not only David Bowie but Beat Takeshi and Ryuichi Sakamoto, one of my favorite musicians ever since I learned about YMO in college. So I finally rectified the situation, finding that, indeed, it's not a fun movie. It's about a POW camp during WWII, and nearly everyone ends up broken, or dead, or about to be dead. The soundtrack is rather wonderful (I do love Sakamoto); it does a fantastic job of mirroring the grinding awfulness of POW life, along with small strains of defiance or prettiness.
Much is made of the mutual incomprehensibility of the Japanese and the British. A significant amount of time is expended in each trying to make the other understand.

Lights in the Dusk is, from what I understand, typical of Kaurismäki's work, in that it's about The Little Guy and how he gets screwed in daily life. It follows a security guard through his screwing-over by a rich cabal who want to pin a jewelry heist on him. I mostly enjoyed this due to its finnish quotidian details, as the plot was sort of uninterestingly predictable and, in one spot in particular, almost insulting. The interiors were nice, though.

The Emperor's New Groove is another one of those 'dude is selfish and mean and then, through the magic of friendship, learns the error of his ways and becomes Good' things that Disney loves a lot. I was surprised by the way every lead voice actor was readily recognizable, and I'm definitely sad that Eartha Kitt can't be in more movies. (I'm also sad that she didn't really get to turn on the evil, vocally, in the way that we all know that she can. She's more of a Malificent than she is one of these flashes-in-the-pan.) John Goodman also didn't really fit the visual role he was given -- his voice has too much dignity and gravitas. Patrick Warburton, was, however, the right choice, as ever. And David Spade was fine. Visually the whole thing wasn't anything monstrously spectacular, but it was pretty enough (I feel as if not enough research was done into Mayan visual motifs, though). It did, however, nag at me that everyone was so white. Very strange. At least the story seemed to be aware of itself, which is worth something.
I can't shake the feeling that this entire movie's philosophy/zeitgeist reflection can be summed up by these few seconds of video.
zustifer: (comics: creeper)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), Tomas Alfredson. Jan 28, 7pm. View count: One.

Oh man am I pleased I got to see this on the big screen. I'd had some people tell me that they didn't understand it, and that it didn't work for them, but I did not have that experience. I'm sure there are some things I missed, but it mattered not at all, because of the character-centric tone of the movie. The characters had behavior that showed what they wanted -- and so I didn't need to know what the intricate machinations were doing at all times, because all of the characters had direction. If that makes sense. (Honestly even having said that, I didn't feel completely at sea or anything -- I'd wager that a lot of the backstory/intricacies were elided from this two-hour version of the story, and perhaps the remnant feeling of there being a lot of delicate navigation of the spy landscape remained without the actual events to back this up. This could have contributed to people's feelings of not knowing what was going on.)

Stylistically, this one's a beaut. It recalls my favorite slow-burn, distancing directors (Lars von Trier, Wim Wenders in a way, Coppola (specifically for The Conversation, which TTSS positively stunk of. This is the right choice). It also has a distinct european flavor to it, which makes sense given the director, but I'd forgotten this when I was watching, and I still kept thinking "What if von Trier had directed The Conversation in 1974?" (And had also done a good job, which is not always the case with von Trier. (Also: the original novel came out in 1974. Wheels within wheels.)) There's a lot of outside-looking-in, and distancing shots through frame-within-a-frame windows and doorways. Flat, square camera angles, with beautiful natural light sometimes and unpleasant institutional lighting others. The props and set dressing alone deserve a significant amount of praise; the early 1970s stylishness was impeccable, not to mention the effort that must have been expended in tracking down all the antiquated machines and institutional details.

There's little spy glamour in this piece. It's chiefly concerned with middle-aged men and their only subtly dramatic actions. There isn't a lot of hand-holding of the audience content-wise, either. Even Gary Oldman's acting is barely there, but still excellent (recalling Gene Hackman in The Conversation, for sure). I approve of all of these things.

Weirdly, even though the tone was good and the details seemed believable, it was obvious that this film is not from a british perspective. This adds a secondary amount of distance from the events -- a foreignness. I attribute a fair bit of the atmosphere to this thematically appropriate aspect; an underlying sense of not belonging is only right for a story immersed in (but barely focused on in its own right) spy culture. I'm going to read the book on which this movie was based, but I'm actually a little worried that it won't hold up without these visual/atmospheric layers.
zustifer: (comics: achewood: what death looks like)
The Secret of Kells (2009), Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey. Jan 19, 9pm. View count: One.
Conan the Barbarian (1982), John Milius. Jan 20, 9pm. View count: One and a half.
Thieves' Highway (1949), Jules Dassin. Jan 27, 7:30pm. View count: One.
The Breaking Point (1950), Michael Curtiz. Jan 27, 9:30pm. View count: One.

The Secret of Kells I quite enjoyed. It was very prettily done, and interestingly paced. It definitely rejected some of the Disney Movie Pattern that we've come to expect is necessary when it comes to kids' movies, which was welcome to me, at any rate. The characters were fun and not very cliched, and they avoided a lot of stereotypes. Recommended.

Conan on the other hand was not great. I don't think I'd seen it all the way through previously, but it was sort of hard to take most of it seriously. It didn't help that a guy was present at the viewing who kept trying to convince everyone of the movie's merits. This made me like it less in general. There were a few things I respect about it: the love interest looked like a regular person, as oppposed to a cartoon, and could fight; Max von Sydow; the camel punch was sort of funny; sorta liked all the goofy snakes. Maybe I should see this again sometime with less of a grudge against it.

Thieves' Highway (via Noir City) was a pretty good hard-luck noir with some real dark moments. The female lead was uniquely great, although I think they tried to (hilariously) pawn her off as 'french' for whatever reason. I'm definitely a sucker for a story about a guy trying to take care of his parents, or trying to correct an injustice done to them, and this film made me a sucker. It was pretty good.

The Breaking Point wasn't as deft or compassionate, really, but it was fine enough. The troublemaking lady of the picture was in The Day the Earth Stood Still (yay!) and The Fountainhead (boo), interestingly. The coolest moments in this one came from the various children in the story, who'd comment on the action in amusing and apt ways. And one of them was involved in a not-quite-underplayed moment at the end which came pretty close to choking me up at its emotional cruelty. The film had some good moments.
zustifer: (Default)
Woman of the Year (1942), George Stevens. Jan 7, 7pm. View count: One.

This one's sort of a doozy. It comes worryingly close to looking as if the movie's trying to paint Katharine Hepburn in the light of a successful lady who needs to stop being successful because she is married now. Even as it actually turns out, there're undertones of that idea, and obvious ones, too. The allegations that the movie is showing that one has to put in work to make any endeavor happen are sort of founded, but then there're also lines wherein Katharine Hepburn is explicitly called 'not a woman,' seemingly in reaction to actions of hers that are not concerned with the home. The money here is not entirely where the mouth is. The man half of the couple is often petulant and not inclined to talk about what his problems are. There's a couple of clever decisions made, such as not translating or subtitling foreign languages spoken (and Hepburn acquits herself pretty well in german and greek, as far as I could tell), Katharine Hepburn came off pretty believable as a really successful lady, even to the point that her core of wanting to be in a 1950s relationship seemed to ring a little false.
All in all, um, I don't know. I don't really feel like the merits were enough to make me think of it in an overall positive light. The writing didn't really strike me as being massively impressive, and the characters were cop-outs.
zustifer: (Default)
"White Christmas" (1954), Michael Curtiz. Jan 2, 8pm. View count: One.

Fluffy, but reasonably well-handled. A couple of old army buddies who have some kind of Danny Kaye/Bing Crosby singing/dancing theater career going meet up with a "sister act" whose one-song repertoire is about them being sisters. One of them is Rosemary Clooney, and the other is a very breakable-looking lady who does the dancing for the act. They all go to Vermont so that they can sing the word "snow" a lot, and do a Let's Put On a Show show which has some purpose that I can't remember. It was cheery and harmless, and really all the main characters are good at their jobs. Pros, all of 'em.

Hey, guys! I'm, um, having a blog here! I guess! Mirrored for now, but... maybe not forever? I don't know.
zustifer: (comics: decapitated jughead)
The Fall (2006), Tarsem Singh. Dec 14, 11pm. View count: One.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Robert Wise. Dec 15, 3pm. View count: Two?
The Last Unicorn (1982), Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin. Dec 18, 8pm. View count: Probably around ten?
Tron (1982), Steven Lisberger. Dec 19, 11am. View count: Fiveish?
Tron Legacy (2010), Joseph Kosinski. Dec 19, 4pm. View count: One.
All That Jazz (1979), Bob Fosse. Dec 22, 8:30pm. View count: One.

The Fall I really liked, despite the vague memories of its halfassed trailer that I seem to have rattling around in my head. The heart of this movie is the child protagonist, who really knocked her part out of the park. She's easily the most believable little kid I've seen in a movie in recent memory. Brilliant.
Apparently her parts were shot sequentially, so that her slightly appreciable growth and improving accent (English was not her first language) would be consistent and sensical.
The rest of the movie is rather charming, too; a sort of Baron Munchausen story that plays out in parallel to real life. I found it a little simpler than Baron Munchausen (one of my favorite movies, still) itself, but it certainly is comparable.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a solid 50s fear-of-the-unknown piece, which I remembered not at all from seeing it on television as a kid. As far as I can tell, 'klaatu barada nikto' seems to mean "go get Klaatu" or "Klaatu's dead" or some such thing. (wiki link for the pedantic!) I'm disappointed in a lot of the sci-fi references to this phrase, because they seem to all focus on the "don't destroy earth" part when "Klaatu" is right there up front. It probably does have to have something to do with him, you guys.
Anyway, it's a pleasant counterpoint to the usual Invaders-From-Mars-style alien menace, (Did I forget to write up Invaders From Mars? Dang it.) especially given the child-who-gets-it theme that both have in common.
This is a MAN IS NOT YET READY film, but it goes a step further by having the superior civilization threaten to pulverize earth if they get too gung ho about expansion (such that they threaten other civilizations). Respect.

The Last Unicorn is an enjoyable old childhood favorite. I noted this time how star-studded the cast is (Rene Auberjonois! Angela Lansbury! Christopher Lee!), and they do a fine job with the parts they're given. Some of the songs are... hmm, not the best, but, well, we're all products of our times. The backgrounds are uniformly gorgeous, and the story is just enough out of reach of a normal Rankin-Bass production that you get a kind of hinted-at transcendence. "Come on, old man. I'll write you a reference."

Tron I rewatched in preparation for the new one, and I generally found it to hold up, but I also watched it initially as a child, thus imprinting it on my psyche a bit (although I remember having a really hard time telling in-computerworld Bruce Boxleitner and Jeff Bridges apart when I was a kid. Face recognition peaks at 40!). I like the mattes, and the early 3D, and the hilarious fake videogames, and also I really like the "a program is a small facsimile/piece of yourself" concept. I've always found this idea useful for providing amusing mental imagery when talking to programmers, especially those who refer to their code in the first person.
I personally feel as if there's a reason that Tron's a classic, with its 80s-proportioned plot, interesting visual style, and amusing acting. I generally find it to have a richness to it that we don't always get nowadays, and that certainly wasn't present in the new sequel.

Tron Legacy, speaking of which, was mostly kinda lame. It looked like it had the potential to do something fun, but I don't think it ever really did. It also made the grave error of carving its prow into the grotesque CG visage of young Jeff Bridges, which was a significant debit to the respectability of this movie. The actual plot was scattered and overreaching, yet sort of pointillistic in its lack of information. (I said "What?" to the screen several times, as I recall.) The protagonist was so bland and featureless that they may as well have used a sock puppet (MAD magazine will use the joke that the CG character is a more believable person, probably. If they don't, they should). They had Bruce Boxleitner and they barely used him.
It's got some fun in it, and Daft Punk probably raised the movie's bar significantly, but it's not a good movie. It's certainly missing some major segments that the original actually did have.

All That Jazz is actually pretty impressive. I'd had no idea. Apparently based on Bob Fosse's actual life (which is kind of awful), it's the best juxtaposition of Show Biz and Horrible Humanity I've seen since uh, Cabaret (also Bob Fosse. The man knows his way around a seedy underbelly). There're some really beautiful touches with sound and editing, too, that contribute to making it a pretty hard-hitting piece. Roy Scheider isn't much of a singer, but he pulls off the rest of the part well, understatedly, in a way. I started out half watching, assuming that the movie didn't require close attention, but I gradually watched more and more closely until by the 1/3 mark I was watching properly (The long takes and sequences throughout make me feel that I didn't do the beginning a huge injustice by doing this. Maybe just a small injustice). Regardless, it has merit, and Bob Fosse, I now know, was a bit of a horrible man. And, you know, a damn fine director.

Okay! Up to date! Now I can watch more movies!
zustifer: (Stan has schadenfreude.)
The Magician (1958), Ingmar Bergman. Nov 27, 6pm. View count: One.
Labyrinth (1986), Jim Henson. Dec 8, 8pm. View count: Eightish?
The Princess Bride (1987), Rob Reiner. Dec 8, 11pm. View count: Also eightish? I should probably just say "a bunch."
High Fidelity (2000), Stephen Frears. Dec 12, 1pm. View count: One.

The Magician is a little light for Bergman, really. It's about a travelling troupe of performers, who have magic as a theme, and their arrival at and departure from a little town. Decidedly worth watching, and surprising in several ways; it's quite difficult to be sure of how much in the way of supernatural activity is actually occurring until the plot has progressed to the end. All the old favorite Bergman touches are generally present, adding up nicely to a pretty well-rounded story. With depth and complexity, yet still occasionally flip, it's an unusual one. I was quite pleased by it.

Labyrinth is, as it always is, pleasant to watch. A lot of love was put into this movie, and even if it's so gentle as to seem toothless, I still enjoy it. Watching with friends is recommended. Also, the blu-ray makes it apparent that Jareth's grey stretch-pants have sparkles on them.
Also also, this.

Princess Bride is another childhood favorite, which does hold up, I was pleased to note. As advertised, it has everything ("Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison [...]"). And I don't think that Cary Elwes will ever see its like again. I was struck this time by how lame the Princess is as a character, but, eh. What else is new. Most other aspects I've essentially memorized, so it's hard to think about them critically.

High Fidelity I'd never seen, due to an idea that it was a wallowy, disaffected man-child movie. Which is is in a way, but it actually was not unamusing. I got some fun out of it, and even Jack Black can't take that away. (I am not usually very much in favor of Jack Black.) I ended up amusing myself by thinking of the whole story as a typically self-absorbed memory belonging to someone semi-functional like Dr. Venture, in which light it sorta worked. The whole thing had such a strong perspective that it encouraged this, I think. The specific viewpoint may have been the most successful thing about it.
zustifer: (Baby Cakes with Viking helmet)
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), Terry Gilliam. Nov 7, 8pm. View count: One.
Paper Moon (1973), Peter Bogdanovich. Nov 8, 8pm. View count: One.
Futureworld (1976), Richard T. Heffron. Nov 10, 10pm. View count: One.
RoboCop (1987), Paul Verhoeven. Nov 14, 8pm. View count: Many.
The 400 Blows (1959), Francois Truffaut. Nov 16, 8pm. View count: Two.
Point Break (1991), Kathryn Bigelow. Nov 24, 5pm. View count: One.
Watchmen (2009), Zack Snyder. Nov 25, 6pm. View count: One.
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966 - MST3K version), Harold P. Warren. Nov 26, 6pm. View count: Four?

Imaginarium I found to be fun and attractive, surprising no one. It did have a sense of disjointedness, and not really because of the replacement of Heath Ledger (that mostly worked okay, I thought, although my thoughts when this happened were more along the lines of 'does he look different? I can't tell' than 'look, it's Johnny Depp!' There were almost always makeup and a mask involved, so it was harder than it could have been). Probably would have benefited from some judicious editing, but I couldn't promise that reshoots wouldn't've been necessary, so...

Paper Moon I'd only ever read the book, so this was nice to see. 70s does 20s, which is unusual of itself, I think. The lead actress did a really impressive job with a demanding part, and there was even a small part for Madeline Kahn!

Futureworld: Pretty terrible. It's been too long since I saw this to remember its redeeming qualities.

RoboCop is always better on the big screen.

The 400 Blows we watched on blu-ray, to try out this new functionality, and it was accordingly quite beautiful. I learned this time around that every damn line in this movie was overdubbed by the actors (no sync sound -- too expensive), which is a heroic feat. It's a brilliant looping job; you'd never, ever know if you weren't told. Impeccable.

Point Break I think I was not quite in the right mood for, but I still thought it had its good points. The chase in the middle was legitimately good, and I'm always up for watching Buseys behaving oddly. Also, Kathryn Bigelow? The lady who directed Hurt Locker? Hmmm.

Watchmen I was rather pleased with. I think the decision to make Dr. Manhattan entirely CG was a bad and distracting one, although it did not ruin the movie for me. The only other major issue I had was the overbearing, intrusive soundtrack, with its Big Hits of the Past 30 Years!! Too on the nose, too music-video-envy. As a whole, though, the little touches were brilliant, and the tone was spot on. The casting was very good, and, really, Rorschach made the whole thing worthwhile. I hope that guy is getting a lot of work, because he's got chops.

Manos is terrible/amusing as always.
zustifer: (Baby Cakes with Viking helmet)
House (AKA Hausu, 1977), Nobuhiko Obayashi. Oct 31, 9pm. View count: Two.
Straight to Hell (Returns) (1987), Alex Cox. Nov 1, 7:15pm. View count: Five?
Days of Heaven (1978), Terrence Malick. Nov 4, 7pm. View count: One.
Mad Monster Party? (1967), Jules Bass. Nov 6, 5pm. View count: One.
El Topo (1970), Alejandro Jodorowsky. Nov 6, 9pm. View count: One.

House I have a lot of love for. It's a weird, weird movie, with a few horror aspects that don't really make it into a horror movie. It is, however, filled with amusing, self-aware effects and mattes, lovable acting, and stuff you'd never have thought would be a good thing to include in a movie. Schoolkids talking over someone's retelling of a memory, as if it were a film, and they could see it? A character whose scarf is always blowing around, for seemingly no reason? A skeleton who, even in the background, is really into whatever's happening? All these and more, friends. It starts slowly and never truly gets fast, but if you can take the low rate of occurrences as a natural consequence of appreciating the secondary visual and conceptual aspects, then maybe you will like it.

Straight to Hell is an old favorite of mine. It's not as polished as Repo Man, and its meandering plot is perhaps the most obvious symptom of that, but it has so many good components. Not the least of which is the wonderful casting -- Jim Jarmusch, Courtney Love, Elvis Costello -- heck, Joe Strummer is a lead, and does a damn fine job. Alex Cox bears a lot of knowledge and love for the western genre; he's even written a book, so you know he's on the level.

Days of Heaven was recommended us by a coworker. My favorite part, easily, is the running monologue from the little sister, Linda. JP characterized it as Babycakes-like, and it is, after a fashion, but it's missing Babycakes' whimsy? If Babycakes were a twelve-year-old girl who had grown up on various factory floors, being exposed to various weird stripes of biblical input, then maybe that would be Linda. A few quotes here.

Mad Monster Party is pretty terrible. Maybe if I'd seen it as a child I would see fewer of its flaws, but as of now it does seem to be mostly flaws. Phyllis Diller, for once, did not help. The jokes are poor, the songs are excruciating... it's all very sad.

El Topo is the sort of thing that, if I were ever to have patience for it, it would have been in college. However, I can't help but think that even then I would have rejected it. I was not in the correct mood to appreciate much of it, and therefore did not pay attention.
zustifer: (Default)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010), Edgar Wright. Aug 27, 9:40pm. View count: One.
Hausu (AKA House, 1977), Nobuhiko Obayashi. Sep 3, 9:15pm. View count: One.
Machete (2010), Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez. Sep 5, 2:45pm. View count: One.
Quai des Orfèvres (1947), Henri-Georges Clouzot. Sep 11, 12pm. View count: One.
Death Wish 3 (1985), Michael Winner. Oct 3, 5pm. View count: One.
The Limits of Control (2009), Jim Jarmusch. Oct 17, 4pm. View count: One.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Robert Altman. Oct 18, 8pm. View count: One.
Metropolis (Complete) (1927), Fritz Lang. Oct 19, 7:30pm. View count: One for this cut.
Excalibur (1981), John Boorman. Oct 20, 10pm. View count: One.
Logan's Run (1976), Michael Anderson. Oct 21, 7:30pm. View count: Six?
Les yeux sans visage (AKA Eyes Without a Face, 1960), Georges Franju. Oct 22, 8pm. View count: One.

MOVIES. Jesus.
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Otho is Very Upset)
Gone With the Wind (1939), Victor Fleming. Aug 7, 4pm. View count: One.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Don Siegel. Aug 7, 10:30pm. View count: One.

The Expendables (2010), Sylvester Stallone. Aug 19, 9:45pm. View count: One.

McBain (1991), James Glickenhaus. Aug 21, 8pm. View count: One.

Gone With the Wind: This movie did not agree with me. The best I can say for it is that perhaps the book portrayed a strong lady protagonist the best way it could, and the movie production just had no idea how to make that come across. They seemed to think, and I've heard this elsewhere, too, that Scarlett was likeable because she got along via, apparently, sheer force of will. The problem with this theory is that she was conniving and entitled and stupid, too, and so was Rhett Butler. Two unlikeable people having problems and sometimes solving them, often in ways that were due to coincidence. The ending that this movie needed to have would have had Scarlett wiping her face and marching off to secure another sucker with money, but instead we're to believe that she has somehow reformed, for no real reason.
It's just foolish. The Alf comic book version, as I've stated elsewhere, was better. I wish I could find that thing. (I also recall a nice job by Cracked, casting Roseanne Barr as Scarlett and Chevy Chase as Ashley. "Assley," to be accurate.)

Body Snatchers was plenty fun. There's something about how the 50s handled horror that is right up my alley. It never ended up being really clear what happened to the original person once he/she was duped, but I'm willing to let that slide.

Expendables was strangely terrible. There's no real reason for this to have been as bad as it was, and yet here we are. Someone, perhaps several someones, fell down on the job and did not do their 80s action flick research. It wasn't clear enough, gory enough, or FX-ful enough to be a real 80s pastiche, and it wasn't actually good enough to be a fun action movie with the 80s as a stylistic touchstone. It was pretty stupid (the audience was not trusted to get any gags on its own), not too funny (although we often got a close-up of a sign reading "TOOLS" as an establishing shot before going indoors to look at the tools inside, the stars of the picture), and not that impressive fighting-wise. Knives go into throats, no arterial spray. Jet Li kicks a stunt double a lot, guy doesn't go down. Explosions are about half as believable/well-done as they should be. It's all just sort of a shame. Van Damme should probably be pleased that he stayed out of it. Also Bruce Willis looks like a bad 3d model of himself.

McBain on the other hand, was hilarious, and everything the Expendables should have been. Bunch of guys get sick of doing whatever it is they're doing and decide to "casually," as Ruthless Reviews puts it (found apparently by someone at work), "invade[...] and liberate[...] Columbia." Many of the deaths in this movie are totally preposterous, which was sadly lacking in Expendables. Really, the whole thing was great/terrible, which is generally what I'm after when it comes to 80s action. Early 90s action. Whichever is necessary.
zustifer: (comics: The Fonz)
Yojimbo (1961), Akira Kurosawa. July 31, 7pm. View count: Two.
The Room (2003), Tommy Wiseau. July 31, 10pm. View count: One.

Yojimbo -- it'd been a while! Since college, I think. I hadn't seen this when I first saw Fistful of Dollars, but retroactive understanding is a perfectly fine sort of understanding. I'd forgotten a lot of the movie, like the guy who actually had a gun, and that the sad-face guy from The Seven Samurai makes a brief appearance.

It's, of course, a classic, so most of it is good eats, as it were. I particularly enjoyed the weird approach to showing violence; very on and off. (It could, I suppose, have been budgetary.) The decision to cut around Sanjuro's beating was especially well-made, I thought.

The fact that Yojimbo, like The Seven Samurai and Godzilla, is a Toho film is a wonderful thing.

The Room is pret-ty amazing. Things that you may have heard are probably all true. "A film with the passion of Tennessee Williams" is the tagline for some reason, and, well, it's true that The Room often has people in unhappy relationships yelling at one another.

It's as if, instead of making The Wizard of Speed and Time, Mike Jittlov took thirty years off to work out and take Weird, Thick French Accent lessons, whereupon he became a heroin addict, suffered a stroke, and lost a fair bit of linguistic and mental function. He must have managed throughout, however, to retain the sense of self-importance marbled with self-pity that led him to make a movie about his plight.

This is a pretty fair sum-up of the personality/scary face behind this movie, a face that kinda looks like it has Bell's palsy. Like Mike Jittlov, this Tommy Wiseau guy cast himself as the embattled lead actor (Johnny) of his little drama, a saintly man who, for inexplicable reasons outside the scope of the film, has lady problems. Johnny's particular lady problems are that his fiancee has decided for no apparent reason that she is sick of him, despite the urgent counselling of every character in the movie that Johnny is the best man in the universe and that she definitely shouldn't hurt him.

Beloved by everyone except his girlfriend, who nevertheless will not break up with him (according to her mother, she is unable to take care of herself), Johnny walks around taking care of a very stupid teenager, playing football with his friends (where playing football consists of playing catch with a football in rather close quarters), and having horrible, horrible sex scenes. They're just intolerable. Wiseau sort of looks like a less healthy Iggy Pop, simultaneously semibuff and withered, and his lumpy back gets a really unwarranted amount of screen time. And I haven't even brought up the dialogue yet, which is uniformly horrifying and poorly delivered.

It's a horrible, horrible movie, which you should maybe watch? It's rather special in its horribleness. Tommy Wiseau is clearly a simpleton in all the ways that matter, but it isn't stopping him making a (intentionally?) humorous new film called "The House That Drips Blood on Alex" and, apparently, according to Harper's, wants to make a video game based on The Room. Yes.

A quote from someone who purportedly was crew on The Room: "[There existed a] billboard for the film [with] Tommy glaring at me as if to say, 'I telled you I could make movie.'"
zustifer: (Default)
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976), Sidney Smith. June 19, 4pm. View count: One.
Bye Bye Birdie (1963), George Sidney. June 19, 8pm. View count: One.
Tears of the Black Tiger (2000), Wisit Sasanatieng. July 2, 10pm. View count: One.
The Quick and the Dead (1995), Sam Raimi. July 10, 9:30pm. View count: One.
Tromeo and Juliet (1996), Lloyd Kaufman. July 17, 10pm. View count: Six?
Babylon 5: The Gathering (1993), Richard Compton. July 19, 7pm. View count: One.
Babylon 5: In the Beginning" (1998), Michael Vejar. July 21, 8pm. View count: One.
Inception (2010), Christopher Nolan. July 22, 8:10pm. View count: One.
Babylon 5: Thirdspace (1998), Jesús Salvador Treviño. July 25, 2pm. View count: One.

Paul Lynde Special is really, really special, arguably in the 'developmentally disabled' sense. It's horrifying. I love Paul Lynde and sometimes have a high threshhold for horribleness, so I sort of liked all of it, but the people I was with were writhing a little.
It has terrible musical numbers, terrible costumes, terrible guest stars (Margaret Hamilton! Florence Henderson!), and... Kiss. Kiss the band showed up and did some numbers for this thing. It's sort of like when Alice Cooper was on the Muppet Show, except if instead of Jim Henson, my mom was in charge.
There is also a horrible quiz in the DVD menu wherein one can answer inane questions about Paul Lynde's life (which usually one hasn't any way of knowing). If the wrong answer is picked, a clip of Paul Lynde saying "Terrible" is played. I grew to sort of love that clip.

Bye Bye Birdie JP wanted to show me because he'd been in a production of same in high school, and I had no knowledge of it. Turns out it's a little stupid, but it does have Paul Lynde as a suburban dad, which was the standout performance by far. The exaggerated 50s stylee was amusing as well, I suppose.

Tears of the Black Tiger is a cute Thai 50s cowboy pastiche. I'll write more of this later, because I've forgotten the details and have to look them up.

The Quick and the Dead I was surprised by, a bit -- somehow I hadn't seen this, despite loving Raimi of this era. The chief conceit here seems to be that Raimi constructed a western that was 90% showdowns, which allowed him to do his thing extensively. Leonardo Dicaprio was excellently cast as a cocky teenager; he'll never do that well again, I fear. Lance Henriksen was cool but underused as a fancy trick shooter, and Gene Hackman was a fun if not great villain.

Tromeo and Juliet we showed to a couple of friends, with mixed results. I still maintain it's important to view it, although, really there should exist somewhere a "good stuff" cut of the movie which is mmmaybe 1/3 the original length. It is one of those things wherein one's expectations are significantly lowered, only for a legitimately good thing to sneak through now and again. There are also some really appalling puns.

Babylon 5 movies are sort of variable in quality. The first one, the pilot for the show, is fairly bad. Nearly everything that turned out to be important in the actual show (which we enjoyed immensely) is either totally absent or in an embryonic state in the pilot. Even the acting isn't so hot.
The second one, In the Beginning, is nearly all a rehash of events we already know about. It is unexciting. Thirdspace is a little better, but it seems rather like an extended episode (and one that exists with no seeming influence on the continuity), and therefore isn't all that successful either.

Inception is a decent action movie. It's fun, and has some amusing parts, but I didn't find it irresistible. I do hate Leonardo Dicaprio nearly always, and in this he seems to be an artificially aged teenager who still does not really act very well. Too much explaining (and then contravening the explanations when it is convenient) is in evidence, as is a vaguely unsatisfying main character arc (JP thought of a nicer twist than what actually showed up).
Still, it had some charming components, mostly from 3rd Rock From the Sun guy, who had a good showing in a good part.
zustifer: (Boring)
Gojira tai Mekagojira (AKA Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, 1974), Jun Fukuda. May 25, 8pm. View count: Three?
The Lost Boys (1987), Joel Schumacher. May 27, 9:30pm. View count: Two?
The Last Starfighter (1984), Nick Castle. June 2, 9pm. View count: 5?
Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971), Don Taylor. June 5, 4pm. View count: One.
The Set-Up (1949), Robert Wise. June 5, 9pm. View count: One.
Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Robert Longo. June 11, 10pm. View count: Two.
Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009), Jean-Pierre Jeunet. June 12, 9:15pm. View count: One.
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), John Cromwell. June 13, 8pm. View count: One.

Godzilla/Mechagodzilla I have fond memories of from childhood. However, watching again nowadays, I wonder at my ability to pay attention when I know that I was only interested in the monsters. Long stretches of humans running around and doing not much are in evidence.

The Lost Boys is amusing cheese, a fine upstanding example of an 80s teen movie. Everyone's hair is alarming, and the mom from Edward Scissorhands is the mom. Both Cor(e)ys are present.

Last Starfighter I thought held up; it's another old favorite from when I was a child. What I didn't know back then is that Robert Preston (also heard in my many hours of listening to the Music Man soundtrack for some reason) plays Centauri, the lovable but actually pretty mercenary starfighter-recruiter, and Dan O'Herlihy (the Old Man who runs OCP in Robocop) plays Grig, the lizardman navigator assigned to Protagonist whose name I forgot. Anyhow, it's a fun trailer park/spaceship piloting adventure thing, although I do remember being awfully frustrated with Protagonist's inability to realize how cool shooting things in space was. DEATH BLOSSOM.

Escape Apes is pretty horrible. Some apes are thrown back in time by the bomb that Charlton Heston sets off (I think), and do a bunch of pointless things (including shopping for 70s outfits) before going on the lam and everything ending badly. Ricardo Montalban is in it, as, essentially, himself, and so is Sal Mineo(!), as an ape. I don't want to watch this again.

The Set-Up on the other hand is fairly good. It's a boxing picture, and you can see, even without listening to the Scorsese commentary, how much it lent to Raging Bull. The realtime, excruciating fights that make up half the movie are obviously influential. Not a false character step in it. Even the lower echelon boxers that file through the locker room are all believable as heck.

Johnny Mnemonic is just as hokey as I remembered, although I thought Henry Rollins lived longer. I didn't recall that Keanu's 3/4 mark breakdown was based on his missing his fancy comfortable life, though. Keanu does not have enough personality to make us care about him despite his privilege, sadly. Also, the concept of cramming 320 gigs of data into a 160 gig device is hilarious. Seepage indeed.

Micmacs I'd read was more of Jeunet's same, and it is, really, but that doesn't prevent it from being quite enjoyable. I was pleased by it, and found its relatively light treatment of darker subject matter fairly apt.

Prisoner of Zenda we decided to attend at the last minute, and I'm glad we did, because it's a great movie. Surprisingly clever and even self-aware at certain points, it kinda exceeds expectations for 1937. There is a shot where the protagonist throws a glass at a wolfhound, though, which isn't that cool.
zustifer: (skeleton: omg!)
To Catch a Thief (1955), Alfred Hitchcock. Apr 9, 9pm. View count: 1.5.
A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. Apr 10, 9pm. View count: One.
True Stories (1986), David Byrne. Apr 17, 9pm. View count: 10?
Majo no takkyûbin (AKA Kiki's Delivery Service, 1989), Hayao Miyazaki. Apr 21, 8:30pm. View count: One.
The Running Man (1987), Paul Michael Glaser. May 8, 10pm. View count: Two.
Theodore Rex (1995), Jonathan R. Betuel. May 13, 8:30pm. View count: 1.2.
Shield For Murder (1954), Howard W. Koch & Edmond O'Brien. May 15, 6:20pm. View count: One.
Dellamore Dellamorte (AKA Cemetery Man, 1994), Michele Soavi. May 16, 8pm. View count: Four?

To Catch a Thief is surprisingly dull for Hitchcock, all told. People seem to consider this worth seeing for Cary Grant, but I really don't think his acting is great enough to hang a whole picture on. Admittedly, I stopped paying close attention to this partway through.

Matter of Life and Death: This is a goony postwar take on wartime. A pilot bails out of his flaming plane sans-a-chute and somehow wakes up alive. This means that he must go on trial in heaven for the right to continue living (because he has fallen in love with a radio operator, don'tcha know). There are silly character actors in various period clothing, there's emergency brain surgery, and an elfin french guy who can stop time. These are probably the best things.
Having read up on this a bit, I found that this movie was made to reaffirm US/UK postwar relations, which I suppose were not at their best. This makes the very labored "He's an englishman! But he is IN LOVE! With an AMERICAN GIRL! From BOSTON!" plotline a lot less baffling.
Diverting at best, slightly embarrassing at worst.

True Stories was for probably fifteen years one of my top ten movies. Maybe it still is.

Kiki's Delivery Service I wasn't utterly thrilled by, but it's fairly charming. I somehow hadn't seen it before. I think my favorite part is the eurogibberish on the street signage.

Running Man is goofy as anything. My largest bone to pick with it is that the audience sympathy flip felt unwarranted, and I could have used more Network references.

Theodore Rex is absolutely awful. Don't watch it. It's not funny; it's just sad. I have a fair amount of evidence that it was trying to reference/rip off Blade Runner, which is a big problem when the final product is a straight-to-DVD horror with a lead actor who had to be enticed back to the production with more money. The puppets are by the same company that worked on the Dinosaurs television show, except somehow they are less enjoyable here. The plot feels like it was reworked a lot, never very well.

Shield For Murder is a fun little Bad Cop piece, with enough of a nuanced part for said Bad Cop that he doesn't feel entirely like a cardboard cutout. John Agar is in it! The best part is toward the end, in a bar. Fun.

Dellamore Dellamorte is another one of my old favorites. I thought it held up, and I maybe even looked a little more kindly on the ending, which historically I've hated a little. It's really well done, with the adorable filmic flair indicators that film students contractually have to love. It's also my first zombie movie.


Apr. 4th, 2010 02:47 pm
zustifer: (Klaus Nomi)
Hot Fuzz (with commentary)(2007), Edgar Wright. Mar 25, 8pm. View count: Two.

Sik San (AKA God of Cookery, 1996), Stephen Chow, Lik-Chi Lee. Mar 28, 8pm. View count: Three.

Alphaville (1965), Jean-Luc Godard. Mar 30, 8pm. View count: Three (possibly four).

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1963), Roy William Neill. Apr 3, 3pm. View count: One.

The Big Knife (1955), Robert Aldrich. Apr 3, 9pm. View count: One.

Hot Fuzz previously written up. (I'm glad that my first watching of this was within my writeup span!) Um, we watched this with commentary, even though we hadn't seen it in several years. This may have been a bad move. However, we learned a few fun things about the production, and, well, I guess we'll have to watch it again!

God of Cookery I still love -- its wackiness is mostly just right for me. Obviously I'm missing out on a lot of the HK film in-jokes, but what're you gonna do. I still like it.

Alphaville is still good -- it really is an amusing mishmash of styles, concepts, and themes. Its willingness to try weird things (one of my favorite parts, the still-frame fight most of the way through, is one of these things) combined with its obviously low budget (shooting in public places, &c) always puts me in mind of a student film -- and what student film is not Godardian? I ask you. I found out this time that one of my other favorite parts, the voice of Alpha 60, is actually a man with throat cancer (it's some kind of voicebox, apparently)! It is the best voice for an AI. Also apparently Alpha 60 is an australian fashion label?
The ideas are surprisingly normal: destroy the AI with ideas it can't understand, Mad Scientist avec Beautiful Daughter (thank you, Heinlein, sigh), dystopia with thought control. But with Godard's weird attention to sound and signage, his wacky character names, and the totally unsupported 'space' dialog (and his constant fixation on ladies in various states of undress/subjugation) make it unusual and pretty great.
In closing: There's no sci-fi like a low-budget Godard sci-fi.

Sherlock Holmes is actually a pretty terrible example of the body of work, even with Basil Rathbone. This story was, with no explanation, transported to the 1940s and crammed into the war effort, but the actual problem was that the writing was just kinda hacky and lackluster. Nothing terribly exciting ever happened, and even Basil Rathbone barely got to do anything cool except for dressing up in a few interesting disguises. Inspector Lestrade usually had his mouth open.

The Big Knife is an obvious stage play adaptation (few sets, all about the dialog), which I would have minded less if it had all been more motivated. Young Jack Palance is the protagonist, and he seems to be an actor who does boxing pictures. However, the script treats him as some kind of creative who is longing to express himself. This is weird because we never see an inkling of this, except for the fact that he talks like a weird, idiom-loving writer sometimes (he makes a lot of bird-related metaphors). This is sort of baffling, and mixed in with the kinda stereotyped characters, some scenery-chewing by his boss (the head of the studio), and a weirdly-integrated subplot about a starlet who won't stop spreading information that Jack Palance doesn't want public (but he doesn't actually seem to care?)... it's all a little not-gelled-together. Not unfun, in parts, but not a great film.
zustifer: (Default)
Inglourious Basterds (2009), Quentin Tarantino. Mar 21, 2:30pm. View count: One.

Not bad! Fun, all in all. The Tarantino self-indulgence was lower than usual (or, really, it was channeled better: film history, etc.; although the Scary Man Lecturing sequences ran kind of long), and there was a pleasing thematic thread or two that made the whole seemingly straightfaced 'Kill the Nazis!' (pronounced "Na-zees") content much less silly. Maybe it really made the whole movie more evenly silly; Brad Pitt's goofy accent (I thought Brad Pitt was kind of fucking awful, acting-wise and character-wise, but I suspect I am mostly alone in that), the Mike Myers cameo (shudder) -- the seesawing between silly and WWII Serious was somewhat exhausting. Although the violence was generally less... personal than I'm used to from Tarantino, making the overall tone lighter.

The film history stuff was good, of course, and having relatively recently read the biography of Leni Riefenstahl, pretty accurate. (Just check out this shit [admittedly some of it is crap].) The White Hell of Piz Palu was from when Leni Riefenstahl was still just an actor, but at the time Inglourious Basterds took place she'd moved on to being a director much more in the public eye (which is why she could be hated by anyone much), and probably was not in this movie because of a shoot elsewhere. Goebbels wanted her to shoot a film for him (which may have been the root of the film-within-a-film here), but she refused repeatedly and ran away to shoot her own work.
Le Corbeau, the occupied-France film about distrust in a small community, was a nice ref, too.

The main villain did an excellent job, really. I would also like to note that the Masshole was a good Masshole this time.

Reading the beginning of this trivia page, my respect for many of Tarantino's clever moves in this production are mostly crushed -- so many utterly stupid things almost got done. Leonardo Dicaprio? LEONARDO DICAPRIO?
zustifer: (Default)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Joel Coen. Mar 4, 9pm. View count: Four? Five?

Well! It'd been a while since I'd seen this. Back in college I considered this a fine example and a model of filmmaking. Seeing as how it's a temporary Raimi/Coens crossover, this is unsurprising for me personally. This time around I actually found it... overdone, to some small extent -- just a bit too much in all directions. Too blaring for its depth. I still like it, and it's obviously a serious show of craft, but candy-colored caricatures writ large are I guess less my thing now than then. I never would have named a Coens piece as one unlikely to age perfectly, but, here we are. My feelings about this are complex, I assure you. ('Wow, I was kind of shallow back in college / But I still appreciated high craft / Stop writing off this movie -- it's a fine and well-executed thing / But, seriously, magical negro and woman afraid of appearing mannish?' &c.)

However, the craft really is quite impressive. The snappy patter, the costumes, the friggin' brilliant sets and lighting, the decision to just go for it, period -- all of these things are excellent. It's beautiful to look at, the acting is quite good, and all the concepts get across, with significant amounts of flair.

I guess I've just lost some of my starry-eyed love for this film; it feels now to me like an intermediate work, trying for something and not quite making it.

(Aside: I should mention that something that has bothered me all along was that Tim Robbins' inventions were actual products. I liked them much better as abstract concepts. Once you take them into the mundane world of toy shops and what have you, you've lost the platonically perfect idealism of that circular concept, and something important goes away. I feel similarly (although less so) about the fight of the good and evil guardians. Anyway, I think that concretizing the inventions was a bad move, but I realise that the movie would have had to change some as a result of not doing that.)

I may come back and write more about this later, but I have another movie to cram into the queue now, so...
zustifer: (Big Cheese says "Do tell")
Hey, strangers and less-strangers, I just noticed that it's Feb 14, 2010. I started having a blog nine years ago today, on diaryland, and I didn't use capital letters.
zustifer: (czech alligator is smug.)
Backstroke of the West (2005). Feb 9, 8pm. View count: Two.

As always, better than the actual movie, which is like a heap of vaguely disgusting garbage with maybe a couple of half-decent action figures sticking out of it. I kind of hate Star Wars categorically, and the prequels are just pain and a half. So a thing like the Backstroke subs that can give value to this painful experience is a good thing. It's not going to stop me rearranging events mentally so that they suck less, but it cuts way down on that.
It's a bad movie, with long, dull stretches where the ceiling is better to watch. However, many things are better when they are renamed "Ratio Tile."


zustifer: (Default)
Karla Z

February 2012

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