Thursday, December 31, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Thoughts I had while watching this movie:

1. I assume the book is much better and actually gives one a sense of the characters. I had no idea what made these characters tick, who they were, or why I should care. They were miserable wankers from beginning to end.

2. I hate the suburbs as much as the next guy but come on, Sam Mendes, is kind of overplaying his hand.

3. Why not just quit the day job and move to Greenwich Village or something?

4. I want to watch Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, the end of Season 3 of Mad Men, or Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? again to actually see some better filmed marital fighting.

5. This movie was about as subtle as Titanic but not nearly as much fun. Maybe it needed a Billy Zane appearance?

6. When was that very first scene with the play and drive home supposed to take place? They backtrack from there but it is never clear where in the course of events it takes place? Maybe I just missed it - I did watch this movie in the middle of the night.

Directed by Sam Mendes
2008
HBO

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Reader

Full disclosure - the only reason I watched this terrible movie was because Marc gave me a copy of it. I knew it was going to be bad but I wanted to know just how bad. The answer - pretty pretty pretty darn bad.

That being said, it was never boring. It was so ridiculous that I couldn't stop watching it and I enjoyed the entire experience. The same can not be said for Changeling which I jettisoned after 45 minutes. That movie is bad and boring. A bad combo.

Or maybe I didn't mind this movie too much because each scene (at least in the first half) carried the promise that maybe Kate Winslet would be naked.

Some of my favorite bad moments. Spoilers galore.
1. The first time the 15-year-old and Katie have sex is so silly. Get in the tub! You got dirty! Let me scrub you clean! Turn around! Feels good, yes? Yes! Yes! Read to me!!!!!!!! Now!!

2. The bombastic score was out of control.

3. Kate Winslet's ridiculous makeup as she aged.

4. Just because Katie W doesn't know how to read doesn't mean she's stupid right? Does she really not understand how she's being sold out by her fellow guards? A great moment in the trial is when one of the survivors discusses how they all thought at first that she had a heart and was different from the other sadistic guards because at night she asked the prisoners to read to her. Cut to the boy who grows up to be Ralph Fiennes as he pieces together Katie's shameful secret!

5. Oh the shame of not being able to read! She'd rather take the entire blame than admit she doesn't know how to read!!!! Oh the shame! Being the mastermind of mass murder - no problem. Admitting that you can't read - no thanks. The moment when this becomes apparent to the one day Ralph Fiennes in court as Katie W admits guilt is my favorite moment of the movie.

6. The whole montage sequence of Katie W learning how to read through the cassettes that the aging Ralph Fiennes sends her in prison is heelarious!

7. I love how we learn she can now write. At first, she scribbles when she has to sign for the books that Ralphie sends her. Later, she concentrates hard and writes her name. Brilliant! Get this woman an Oscar!

8. She commits suicide right as she's about to be released by hanging herself by stepping off the pile of books she had acquired over the years after she had taught herself to read. Praise Jesus! She can read. And now there's nothing else left.

Reviewing my list, I realize that the movie didn't fully go crazy bad until the 2nd half when the young Ralphie as a journalist student realizes that his former lover is an SS Guard when he hears her voice in court.

This movie is Oscar bait in the worst way. Holocaust themes, the bombastic score, the Kate Winslet, the serious tone. At least it didn't win. The book that it is based on can't be as clumsy as the movie, right?

I'm assuming that Winslet had already signed up for this movie when she filmed this scene for Extras which makes the scene even funnier in retrospect. Brilliant.

Directed by Stephen Daldry
2008
Blu-ray

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

By far the most bizarre movie I've seen all year. What the hell was going on? Was this a parody? A straight up comedy? Was any of it supposed to be taken seriously? I guess it doesn't matter what Herzog was up to -the movie is fascinating.

Nicholas Cage is batshit crazy in this. I love it. His performance reminded me of his crazy heyday of Vampire's Kiss, Raising Arizona, and Wild At Heart. You can't take your eyes off of him. He's absolutely mesmerizing. Has Herzog finally found his first muse since Klaus Kinski?

I don't remember much about the original. I remember watching it with Richard J in his house while sipping sweet tea and snacking on Peanut Butter Crunch. I remember bad stuff happening to nuns, full frontal from Harvey Keitel, and that disturbing jerking off scene. Also, wasn't there something with gambling and losing on the Mets? Herzog jettisoned most of that stuff but kept the main idea that the main character is a bad bad lieutenant.

I want to see this again or at least a Cage highlight reel. I want to see old ladies getting beaten up again. I want to see Cage shaving with his electric razor again. I want more of Cage rapping. I want more of Cage and alligators. I want more of Cage and dancing souls.

Cage and Herzog - this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Directed by Werner Herzog
2009
BAM

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Some Like It Hot

Now that Bart and I have finished our Prisoner marathon, we've decided to start a Billy Wilder one. This was the first installment.

I had seen this for the first time with Stone Groove when I was 10 or so. This is a perfect movie for a 10-year-old - sophisticated yet silly. The second time I saw it was in a packed house at Film Forum and the laughter from the crowd enhanced my enjoyment.

My third viewing was a decidedly more mellow affair. I still really like this movie but I'm a bit perplexed by the AFI ranking this as the best comedy of all time. Hell, I wouldn't even rank this as Billy Wilder's best comedy.

Still, there's a lot to enjoy. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are a lot of fun even if Lemmon is a bit over the top at times. Joe E. Brown from that bizarre early 30's baseball movie I saw recently is funny as Lemmon's suitor. And, of course, Marilyn Monroe is deelicious. That ukelele scene is hilarious. Tony Curtis's fake millionaire voice is classic. It's one madcap scene after one madcap scene.

50 years later, the movie seems way ahead of its time in its view of feminism and gay marriage but it also feels quite dated (in a good way) in its humor. And while I don't find this to be the best comedy of all time, I do look forward to watching it for the fourth time ten years from now with Double Trouble.

Directed by Billy Wilder
1959
TCM

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Even better than I hoped it would be. There are so many hilarious Spinal Tap worthy moments in here yet what really makes this movie special is how poignant it is. These guys have never given up on their dream no matter what sort of shit sandwich life throws their way.

The setbacks, the getting stiffed in European clubs, the Canadianness of it all. If Lips wasn't a real person, Christopher Guest would have had to have invented him. And I still can't get over that the drummer's name is Robb Reiner.

Directed by Sacha Gervasi
2009
VH1

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bruno

While this is definitely not as good as Borat, it does have its moments. The Dave the Straight Guy cage match, the Ron Paul interview, the parents desperate to get their children cast in movies, the hunting scene ... There are many laugh out loud moments.

But it never quite feels like a coherent movie. Borat felt like it actually had a plot - this one just felt like a really long version of the Bruno segments on Da Ali G Show.

Plus, the comedic buildup just wasn't long enough in most scenes. In Borat, it would just keep getting more and more ridiculous until complete comedy gold. In Bruno, the setup and the payoff often seemed too quick thus making the payoff not as good as it should have been. For example, the whole having celebrities sit on Mexicans acting as chairs was funny but where do you go from there?

Perhaps the filmmakers realized that Americans are willing to give kooky foreigners who say awful things about Jews and blacks more latitude thus allowing more time for comedic set up than they will give to flaming homosexuals?

The big question now though is where does Sacha Baron Cohen go from here?

Directed by Larry Charles
2009
Blu-ray

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Wicker Man

What the hell? I mean ... what the hell? What a movie! What a MOVIE! I can't believe I had never seen this before.

I had no idea what to expect and I can't quite believe what I saw. Brilliant. I need to watch it again.

I mean I knew it was a cult classic and all but I had no idea. Things were a little off from the beginning but from the moment that the trusty police officer walks outside at night and finds six couples copulating in the grass, I really knew I was in for it.

Things keep taking more and more of a crazy turn but nothing beats the bang up ending. Wow.

My only complaint about this is that this scene is nowhere to be found.

I think I need to watch the remake right now.

Directed by Robin Hardy
1973
TCM

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thieves Like Us

I was pretty disappointed in this. It is based on the same book, Thieves Like Us, that They Live By Night is. Needless to say, I like the previous film much more.

This was slow. I didn't like the bad guys as much as the ones in They Live By Night. The story was a bit different as well. But that didn't bother me as much as Shelley Duval did. I didn't buy the relationship between her and Keith Carradine. Everything seemed flat to me.

I did like the way the movie was shot though. Not glamorized 30's. Everything looked real. I'm not even sure what I mean by that but I feel like recent films set during the Depression almost give the setting a bit of a sheen. The movie that comes to mind is Road to Perdition. Too stylized. This is nice and gritty looking.

Directed by Robert Altman
1974
DVD

Friday, December 11, 2009

They Live By Night

One of the first lovers on the lam movies. And a good one at that. The couple in question are so naive and to make matters worse the boy (Farley Granger) can't seem to catch a break. He gets blamed for pretty much everything, none of which he actually commits himself.

But I guess if you choose to hang out with bad men, you have to pay the consequences. Poor Farley.

I love the overhead shots. I love the bank robbery at the beginning. I love the bad dude with the glass eye. I love the weird names of characters -- T-Dub, Keechie and Chickamaw. What kind of names are those?

I saw this a number of years ago at Film Forum. It did not disappoint upon second viewing.

Directed by Nicholas Ray
1949
TCM

Thursday, December 10, 2009

They Drive By Night

Truck drivers who drive by night. Fun loving they are. But that is before the accidents, the lost limbs, the fist fights, and the MURDER by garage door opener.

Ida Lupino is the best. So evil. So cool. So conniving. I love her. And her courtroom scene breakdown is one for the ages.

Directed by Raoul Walsh
1940
TCM

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

They Made Me A Fugitive

Trevor Howard (Brief Encounter) is stupendous in this. As is the violence. As is the fight scene at the end. I love the dialogue. I loved how dark (both literally and figuratively) this movie is. I love the shadows. I love postwar London at night.

Basically this movie is about an ex RAF pilot turned criminal (Howard) who joins up with a criminal syndicate led by a bad dude named Narcey. They don't like each other. Howard gets framed for the murder of a policeman. He goes to jail, bides his time, and plots his revenge. And then he breaks out of jail and comes to London for some payback. Sweet!

Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti
1947
TCM

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang

Sometimes old movies that are supposed to be classics end up disappointing me. This one didn't. I loved it.

First off, I'm kind of a sucker for a good prison film.
Secondly, I always like a good escape yarn.
Third, what's not to like about 1930's films with a strong social agenda?

I didn't know anything about Paul Muni before this movie but he was great as the main character. He stars as a World War I vet wrongly accused of robbery and sentenced to 8 years of hard labor. Eventually he escapes and I was amazed at how suspenseful and brilliantly shot the escape scene was. But this is only the beginning of the story.

I don't want to give too much more of the plot away because you should just see it. The movie is great from beginning to the very haunting end. Add this to your Netflix.

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
1932
TCM

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Climates

Despite the glowing reviews for this movie, I resisted seeing it for 3 years. I remember being disappointed with 2002's Distant, by the same filmmaker, but I think I might have been too sleepy on the day I saw that movie.

I'm not sure if I ever would have gotten around to seeing this. In fact, it had been on my Netflix Queue for two years or so. But when I saw the incredible short film by the Coen Brothers that features Climates, I had to see it.

In the short film, Josh Brolin's character (straight out of No Country for Old Men) wanders into an arthouse and has to decide between Rules of the Game and Climates. He asks what Climates is about and is told, "It's about lovers and estrangement, former lovers, flawed people, and the difficulty of love and so forth." After viewing the movie, Brolin's character is impressed and says, "There's a helluva lot of truth in it in my opinion."

I couldn't agree more.

Climates is a fantastic film. A film to savor and reflect on. A film to see more than once. In retrospect, this film would have ranked in my top ten of 2006, if not top 5.

The short film. It's only 3 minutes. Watch it!



Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
2006
DVD

The Thing

I remember being freaked out by this movie when I watched it with my dad back in the early 80's. Super TV anyone? I wasn't freaked out at all this time around. It wasn't scary! But it was still fun.

The special effects don't really hold up but the craziness and gore still translate to a completely bizarre movie. Kurt Russell looks super badass with frost in his beard. The idea of a parasite taking you over and you don't even know it and then it explodes out of you is so Invasion of the Body Snatchers meet Alien. Lovely.

I love the opening scene of the helicopter chasing and shooting at the dog. I love the nonstop flamethrower action. I love the Ennio Morricone score in the style of Carpenter's score for Assault on Precinct 13. I even love Wilford Brimley as a crotchety bad guy.

Plus as an added bonus - this is easily T.K. Carter's second best film role - after his star making turn as Diavolo Washington in Doctor Detroit.

Directed by John Carpenter
1982
HBO

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ballast

Pretty impressive for a directorial debut. Absolutely gorgeous. And the acting performances from complete unknowns were quite good too. Quiet and understated. Sometimes it was so understated though that it was a bit slow going at times. And I like slow movies. Still, I'm pretty interested to see what director Lance Hammer does next.

The movie centers on three characters in rural Mississippi: a single mother, her troubled son, and the identical twin brother of the boy's father. It reminded me a bit of Frozen River - another movie about people you don't normally see in movies - the rural poor. I liked this film a lot more than that one though. There are moments of absolute poetry in this film.

Directed by Lance Hammer
2008
Blu-Ray