Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Thief of Bagdad

I showed this film to my class. They liked it a lot more than the Chaplin film that I had previously shown them. Even the Boy Who Badmouths Everything enjoyed it.

In general, the class all liked making fun of the special effects but that didn't deter them from getting into the story. It's hard to hate flying carpets, toy horses that come to life, hand to hand combat, genies, and Sabu. Sabu! Sabu!

Directed by Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, and Tim Whelan, Sr.
1940
DVD

Monday, December 22, 2008

Spartacus

I didn't really have a burning desire to see this but it was on so I recorded it. I liked the first 30 minutes and was ready to give a big F you to Gladiator. I liked the super gay scene between Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis. But the majority of this 3 plus hour movie was a big snoozefest.

Although the tear that rolled down the cheek of Kirk Douglas during the famous "I Am Spartacus" scene was downright fabulous. I also really liked the big fight scene. It was nice to see real people fighting in long takes rather than armies of digital nonsense and/or quick cutting. And the ending was great as well. I just wish that Russell Crowe had met a similar ending in Gladiator.

In my review of that film in 2000, I wrote, "As Chris Lawrence says, 'Kirk Douglas at the age of 90 could do a better job than Russell Crowe.'" Exactly.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
1960
Cinemax

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Lodger

Jack the Ripper!

A few things about this movie.

1. It is better than From Hell.

2. It was odd at how nonplussed most people were even as the body count rose.

3. I'm becoming obsessed with Laird Cregar. This the second movie of his that I've seen in the past six months. I'd never even heard of him until recently.

4. Foggy London nights look stunning in black and white.

Directed by John Brahm
1944
Cinemax

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

The first time I saw this movie occurred because my babysitter up the block convinced my parents that this was okay for a 9-year-old to watch on video. They said okay even though they hadn't seen it yet. So they went out and Freddy and I watched it.

When they watched it the next night, they were quite angry at Freddy. They should have known better - this was the same kid who taught me various words for oral sex a few months earlier.

I hadn't seen it in years but I pretty much remembered every single line. Although I must admit that it was weird to see it uncensored because the last few times I saw it were on regular TV. I kept expecting dirty words to be awkwardly censored like in the version I was used to.

A few years ago, I had a discussion with a few friends over beers about the best high school movies ever made. This one was in my top three at the time. Having re-watched it, I feel like there is no doubt that this has to be number one. Is there any movie about high school better than this one? I like John Hughes as much as the next 80's kid but this movie truly has it all.

I mean, what moment in this movie isn't absolutely perfect?

Damone

Phoebe Cates

Jennifer Jason Leigh

Mr. Hand!

Spicoli

Judge Reinhold

Ratner in a tux

The soundtrack is perfect. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates really couldn't have been sexier. To this day, I can't hear Somebody's Baby without thinking of Leigh getting deflowered in the dugout. The carrot scene, the masturbation/pool scene, Damone selling tickets, Mr. Hand crashing Spicoli's night, Spicoli ordering a pizza, I need to stop now because I could write another 1,000 words about my favorite parts of the movie because pretty much every single moment is my favorite part.

Directed by Amy Heckerling
1982
Cinemax

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wendy and Lucy

Alex J. got me into this for free as part of the New York Film Festival. Being a big fan of Reichard's last film, Old Joy, I was very excited to see this. It isn't as good as Old Joy, but it is still pretty darn good. Michelle Williams was excellent and the vibe of the whole thing was quite reminiscent of Old Joy. About the previous film, I wrote, "The loneliness, the longing, the uncertainty is written all over their faces and body language. There are longs stretches of silence that are perfect." The same can be said for this film.

The fact that this didn't resonate with me as much might not be the film's fault. Perhaps I just identify more with a film about males attempting to bond than a single woman on her own. I'm not sure, but my gut sense was that Old Joy was magical at times and this film is simply a very good movie. And I really didn't mean for that to sound like the damning praise that it seems like.

I was quite amused by this disclaimer in the New York Times review of the film.

“Wendy and Lucy” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has some swearing, a little drug use and a brief implication of violence, but no nudity, sex or murder. The rating seems to reflect, above all, an impulse to protect children from learning that people are lonely and that life can be hard.

Directed by Kelly Reichardt
2008
Ziegfeld Theater

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Guide for the Married Man

SHR and I watched this based on Hot Tub Eric's suggestion. Oh Hot Tub.

I think I liked this a bit more than SHR but I can't say that I loved it. It was entertaining at times but really slow at others To be honest though, it was always completely bizarre and fun to watch for the most part for its sheer strangeness. 1967 was a much different time.

Walter Matthau plays a married man who is convinced by his friend, Robert Morse, to cheat on his wife even though he really doesn't want to. Sure he likes sneaking a peak at the bouncing bosoms that parade through midtown every morning but he loves his wife. But he goes through the motions of learning all the right steps so he doesn't get caught - you know because only a man who doesn't care about his wife gets caught.

There are all sorts of "technical" advisors who pepper the short vignettes of assorted husband philandering tales. The advisors include the likes of Art Carney, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Jayne Mansfield, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, and Joey Bishop.

I can honestly say I've never seen another movie like this before. Matthau is great as usual so this movie has that going for it. But 90 minutes is long. This felt like a 22 minute Love American Style episode that was stretched to feature film length .

And yes, that Gene Kelly directed this.

Directed by Gene Kelly
1967
DVD

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Tale

Alex J's friend Jon recently wrote this as a Facebook status update: Jonathan saw "A Christmas Tale." It is not a french film. It is *the* french film.

I think I can agree with that sentiment.

I've liked Desplechin's films ever since I saw My Sex Life or How I Got Into An Argument with Marc when I first moved to NYC. I wish that I had seen more of his films over the years. I love Mathieu Amalric and this was part of my Amalric double feature on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving - the James Bond movie being the other.

Catherine Deneuve was good as usual. Emmanuelle Devos is a Desplechin regular and she's always great.

It is a two and a half hour dysfunctional family comes together at Christmas type movie - but done all French style. Funny, fascinating, and dark. A good movie.

I sent Jon the link to this post. He responded, "I loved the movie, but what I actually meant by my update was that it was *so freaking French* I could not get over it! The father reading to his daughter to cure her neurosis. The woman fucking the cousin and not hiding it from the husband. The cigarettes!"

Well put. As I said, this film was done all French style.

Directed by Arnaud Desplechin
2008
BAM

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Quantum of Solace

What a letdown. After having taken 21 years off from the Bond franchise before seeing Casino Royale, I was ready for another installment. But this Bond was boring, very boring.

I don't mind a darker Bond if it is going to be interesting. But this Bond film wasn't. Bond is a killing machine but there was no charm, no nothing to the Bond in this film.

Maybe the next installment will feature at least one smile from Mr. Bond.

And am I too old or what? I really can't stand the way action films are shot these days in tight close ups. I can't tell what the hell is going on.

The one scene in the entire film that I really liked was the opera sequence. Other than that, this Bond was pretty forgettable.

In my review of Casino Royale, I wrote, "You've got to keep the template a little if you're making a James Bond movie, otherwise you'll end up with a long episode of 24. " This installment reminded me of 24 - with Bond going all renegade. Blah.

In that review, I also wrote, "As SHR said, this was kind of a Batman Begins movie - we get to see Bond discover himself." This one was like The Dark Knight where Bond goes all dark and shit. I didn't love that movie but I did like it a whole hell of a lot more than this one.

Directed by Marc Forster
2008
Court St.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Cool Hand Luke

After recently watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Verdict, SHR and I decided to get this film from Netflix. She hadn't ever seen the whole thing and I don't recall seeing it since I first watched it with my dad sometime in the 80's.

I liked it as much as I remembered. SHR was a bit disappointed. I also talked to Mitch about this film recently and he isn't the biggest fan either.

Yes, it is a bit slow and yes it feels a bit dated, but Newman is great. As is George Kennedy. I also had forgotten that Harry Dean Stanton was in this. The eggs scene is as funny as I remembered and the classic "What we have here is a failure to communicate" stills packs a punch. The warden is awesome as is the evil overseer with the sunglasses.

Plus, I think I'm just a sucker for prison movies.

Just don't ever forget that the Man will get you in the end. People were so darn cynical in the late 60's.

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
1967
DVD

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My Blueberry Nights

Whoever is in charge of such things, please don't ever let Wong Kar-Wai make another movie in the U.S. again. Please.

Every aspect of his movies that I like were in this movie ... but done poorly. The longing romantic leads - yup. But sucky. Good songs played over and over again - yup. But the whole thing felt amateurish rather than transcendent like the usage of California Dreamin' or Nat King Cole songs were in earlier movies. Everything about this endeavor simply seemed off.

The movie held my attention but it wasn't good. And Norah Jones wasn't good.

At least Chan Marshall was good in her one scene.

I knew that this movie wasn't supposed to be great but it was worse than I thought it would be. I had never seen a Wong Kar-Wai movie that I didn't like before this one. Now I have.

Directed by Wong Kar-Wai
2007
DVD

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Conan the Barbarian

I think that I wanted to see this when it came out but my dad wouldn't let me. Something about too much sex and raunchy violence. I see what he meant. I had no idea how much raunch there was to this movie.

Other thoughts I had while watching this movie:

- Oliver Stone co-wrote this?

- Wow, Conan's mom just got decapitated while poor little Conan was holding her hand. So dramatical!

- This reminds me of Mongol.

- Conan sure likes killing people for sport.

- Conan sure likes being asked to mate. He's all gentle too. But rough when needed.

- This also reminds me of Krull, Caligula, Princess Leah in bondage in Return of the Jedi, and Clash of the Titans. I love this movie!

- How many lines of dialogue does Arnold actually speak? Less than 10?

- Wow, Arnold is wearing A LOT of makeup.

- Dude, Conan just boned that witch, soft core style, and then threw her into a fire after she bared vampire teeth! What the hell is going on?

- James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow! What a movie!

- What's up with James Earl Jones' haircut?

- That one dude really looks like Derek Smalls.

- More with the decapitations!

- This reminds me of the one time I tried to play Dungeons and Dragons as a kid and my character's penis turned to stone when he tried to have sex with Medusa. I'm not sure if we were playing the game correctly.

- I feel like I have a better understanding of Chris Larry now.

- Is Conan the Destroyer any good? I see that is on later this week.

Directed by John Milius
1982
Cinemax