Tuesday, September 28, 2010

442. Giulietta degli spiriti/Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

Running Time: 137 minutes
Directed By: Federico Fellini
Written By: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi
Main Cast: Giulietta Masina, Sandra Milo, Mario Pisu, Valentina Cortese

FELLINI WEEK: 5 of 7

WOW. That was pretty much the only word that was circling my head as "Juliet of the Spirits" concluded. It would take some more serious thought, but I don't think I've ever seen a more gorgeous film in my life. And the ironic thing is that we're dealing with such a sad and heartbreaking story, yet the beauty of this picture is absolutely mesmerizing.

The film tells the story of Juliet, a very plain housewife living in Italy. She is married to Giorgio, whom she suspects is cheating on her. She lives a very "good housekeeping" type of life, very upper class, complete with maids, a gorgeous home, the most modern and stylish of clothing, everything a housewife in the sixties could ask for. When she realizes that her suspicions about her husbands are more than suspicions, she begins to seek outside help, from clairvoyants and private investigators. Later, she becomes friendly with her neighbor, Suzy, who tries to help Juliet tap into a more sexual side of herself, and almost relinquishes her body to one of Suzy's house guests. She, however, comes to her senses at the last minute, but is visited by spirits and demons for almost letting her desires get the best of her.

It's not unbelievable with Fellini to have different interpretations to his films and this is yet another example of that. I had many different interpretations for almost everything that appeared on the screen and honestly this is the only movie that I've ever watched where I wanted to do a running commentary for it, just so I could get ALL of my opinions out in the open. Seriously though, it seems as though every scene is vital and imperative and has some sort of deep meaning, and while with most of the scenes I was able to form my own interpretations, others were up in the air, yet still visually captivating and vital to the film. Like I said above, I have never seen a more visually stunning motion picture and there were scenes that literally had me "ooohing" and "aaahing", that's how absolutely breath taking some of the imagery was in "Juliet of the Spirits".

This is also a prime example of a movie that can help you appreciate camera movement, color schemes and score. Fellini knew what he was doing with his colors and had a way of manipulating his colors into furthering his story, much like a Picasso or a Rembrandt. There were countless scenes in "Juliet of the Spirits" where if I could've freeze framed my television and hit "print", I would've hung some of the images on my walls, they were that gorgeous and captivating. This movie really scoops you up and pulls you into another world, a terrifying world that is so beautiful at the same time. It's a bit of an exhausting picture as well and in my opinion will take any viewer a few days to fully digest. The camera glides along, as though being operated by an angel, yet many of the scenes would likely make an angel weep. The score is perfect and the actors and actresses are superb, especially Sandra Milo as a high class whore and of course, Giulietta Masina, who has proved to be a very versatile little actress.

After watching some of Fellini's much lauded works: "La Dolce Vita" (which I still stand by my rating for), "8 1/2" (which would probably have a higher rating after a few days of contemplation), "La Strada" and "The Nights of Cabiria", I am absolutely dumbfounded as to why "Juliet of the Spirits" isn't one of his more lauded pictures and can only make the argument that maybe it was a little to risky for some critics to get behind. This, so far, is clearly Fellini's masterpiece and will surely be a picture that I'll cite as a Fellini favorite, no matter how good the next two are.

RATING: 10/10 Loved it! If you haven't seen it, see it and be prepared to be totally dazzled by the most awe inspiring picture you've possibly ever seen.

MOVIES WATCHED: 153
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 848

September 27, 2010 11:53pm

Monday, September 27, 2010

Coming Soon: 09/26/10 - 10/02/10

Despite some not so stellar ratings, I've been enjoying my time getting familiar with Fellini and I honestly have NOT stopped thinking about "8 1/2" since it ended and the rating will surely rise in time and with another rewatch. Anyway here's what we have left as far as Fellini goes...

*Juliet of the Spirits (1965)
*Satyricon (1969)
*Amarcord (1973)

Next month will see the coming of a new featured director and I've chosen Alfred Hitchcock. I've already watched four of his films from the book, so that means that there are fourteen remaining. I'm going to try to fit in as many Hitchcock movies into October as I possibly can, even the ones that aren't in the book. Of course, I won't be writing reviews for the ones that aren't in the book. This MAY result in a very brief hiatus, as I watch some of Hitch's earlier stuff, but I'm not entirely sure and I really haven't decided what I'm ultimately going to do as far as Hitchcock goes. Anyway, these would be the first five Hitchcock movies chronologically in the book:

*Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
*Spellbound (1945)
*Notorious (1946)
*Rope (1948)
*Strangers on a Train (1951)

Also, the following movies will be leaving the streaming portion of Netflix as of 10/01/2010, so I'd like to fit them in beforehand, otherwise I'll be forced to add them to my "At Home" queue...

*Top Gun (1986 - Tony Scott)
*The Untouchables (1987 - Brian De Palma)

Well there you have it, that should keep us occupied for the next two weeks, but I'll surely be back next Sunday night with my weekly update. One more quick word about the new review format. I hope everyone is enjoying it. I realize that the reviews may sound a bit rambunctious and rambling, but I also feel that they're more personal. I think before I reconstructed my review format, I had everything down to an exact formula and the reviews were getting very robotic. Anyway, feel free to post a word about whether you like or dislike the new format or feel free to comment on any of the upcoming films that I've listed above.

September 27, 2010 1:50am

Sunday, September 26, 2010

400. 8 1/2 (1963)

Running Time: 143 minutes
Directed By: Federico Fellini
Written By: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi
Main Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimee, Rossella Falk, Sandra Milo, Claudia Cardinale

FELLINI WEEK: 4 of 7

I do believe I had mentioned before that I saw "8 1/2" one other time, years ago and was less than impressed with it. In fact, on my previous viewing of "8 1/2" I downright hated it. This time, however, was different. I went into this picture really wanting to like it and in the end I really did. I didn't love it and still have a bit of a head scratching moment when people refer to it as "the greatest movie ever made", but at least I get their praise, instead of being completely ignorant to it.

"8 1/2" is about a film director, Guido Anselmi (Mastroianni) who is having a very difficult time getting the ideas for his latest picture in order. The picture is about his life, his loves, his escapades. To tell you the truth, this is actually a really hard movie to describe in words. It's something that you really have to experience for yourself. The book puts it well by saying, and I quote: "The story about the anguish of a director having to make a film, about an artist having to make a work, about a man having to deal with women, about a human having to face life and death". I think that statement (or series of statements) really fits "8 1/2", as the movie isn't only about a movie director trying to get his film made, but it's about a man struggling with his own life and more specifically, the loves of his life.

I'm not sure what I didn't like about "8 1/2" on the first viewing, but I can only talk about what I loved during this viewing. There's so much symbolism in the movie, and while I didn't fully understand it all, I was so intrigued and so interested and can't wait to do a little research and rewatch the film. I have high hopes that this will be a movie that grows on me, and I almost feel like I've gotten my boy scout merit badge in film appreciation, because now I think I'm finally getting the hubbub of "8 1/2".

SPOILER ALERT!

The ending was beautiful. The only thing that I could possibly compare it to is the scene in "Big Fish" where Billy Crudup is carrying his father down the riverbank and all of the people from his father's life are there to bid him a final farewell. I think this is a scene much like that. I interpret Guido under the table with the gun, as a sort of career suicide, where he has finally pulled the trigger on the creative side of himself and all of the characters of his life are coming back for one last celebration, complete with dancing and clowns playing instruments. There are so many interpretations that could be made about this film though and I could be totally wrong in my interpretation. But that's the beautiful thing about "8 1/2" is that it's a movie that is NOT straight forward and each and everyone who views it can make their own personal interpretations. I think the film forces all of us who watch it to also examine are own lives and think about all of the "characters" that shaped our life and made us the person that we are today. Oh yes...one more very deep thought: How gorgeous was Claudia Cardinale?

RATING: 6.5/10 It's still gonna' take a possible rewatch or two, but don't let the '6.5' fool 'ya, if you haven't seen "8 1/2" take a look at it, it may very well turn into your favorite movie, as it has that quality about it. While it's not my favorite, I can see why some people cite it as theirs.

MOVIES WATCHED: 152
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 849

September 26, 2010 11:54am

Saturday, September 25, 2010

356. La Dolce Vita (1960)

Running Time: 167 minutes
Directed By: Federico Fellini
Written By: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi
Main Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimee, Yvonne Furneaux

FELLINI WEEK: 3 of 7

I can't say that I wasn't warned. When searching for recommendations for which Fellini movies to watch (before I decided to just watch them all), I was told to try and stay away from "La Dolce Vita", for it was one of the director's more complex films that only true Fellini fanatics would appreciate and enjoy. However, I felt that my film watching palate was refined enough that if the film was worthwhile, that I should have no problem enjoying it.

The film follows the main character of Marcello, a photo journalist, as he tries to sort out his life, his loves and his career. He's taken by several women during the course of the film, including a Swedish-American actress, Sylvia, the very wealthy Maddalena and all the while his fiance Emma waits for him at home, ready to give her undivided love to him, although he doesn't want it. He's also troubled by his career, as there is no honor in being a photo journalist and he'd rather be a more artistic writer, than a sleazy celebrity chaser. Many things happen over the course of the film and we follow Marcello through his various activities, like covering a story where some children have claimed to see the Madonna, a visit from Marcello's father and a visit to Marcello's friend Steiner.

The first impression that I get regarding Federico Fellini's work is that he had a lot of things racing through his mind. This would've been a very beautiful film, if we could've kept on the track of Marcello and his different lovers. However, the film strayed into so many different directions that it was hard for me to maintain any level of interest. The film starts out fine, Marcello meets up with Maddalena, they give a ride to a prostitute and while at the prostitute's home, they make love. Following that, Marcello arrives home to realize that Emma, his fiance has overdosed on pills and must be taken to the hospital. So far, so good. Then he meets up with Sylvia and they do their thing, going out for a night on the town and capping it off with a dance in the fountain. I'm still on board at this point.

Then we veer off into a totally different direction and a sizable chunk of the film is eaten up with Marcello covering the children claiming to see the Madonna. While I'm sure there is some significance to that scene, all that it did for me was annoy and bore me and I'm wanting to get back to focusing on Marcello's love life. Then Marcello meets up with Steiner and a big party follows at Steiner's home and we get yet another pointless scene, that eats up a major chunk of film with a lot of intellectuals yakking about God knows what. By this time, they've pretty much lost me, however, we then get a scene where Marcello's father comes to visit and this is a scene that pulled my interests back in, just a little. I thought the scene gave off the emotion of awkwardness, as Marcello was seeing his father in an entirely different way than he had ever seen him before. Then we have the entire scene where Marcello meets up with yet another girl, Nico and they go to a part and hunt for ghosts. Again, they lost my interest and this is another scene that just doesn't belong, in my opinion.

If we could've just stuck to the idea that Marcello was this unhappy guy, with an unhappy love life and an unhappy career and examined that, then we would've had the makings for some gold, because there is no denying the acting talents of the cast involved and I think that plot line and that plot line alone could have been a great film, with some great chemistry, as Mastroianni seemed to have a good deal of chemistry with all the actresses. However, we're forced into several different situations that don't deal with that plot line and thus I find it very easy to believe that this is a film that is very easy to get bored with.

I will say one last thing about Fellini. Never before have I taken a director's work and twisted it and molded it into what I thought it should have been. Usually, when I see a film and I don't like it, I leave it at that. But with Fellini, for some reason, when I watch one of his movies and don't enjoy it, I have a tendency to say "Well that was good, but this would have been better" or "Well that wasn't good at all, it should have been like this". I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, or if I just see so much potential in Fellini's films and that they could be these masterpieces, but then something is thrown in to throw them off the trail of masterpiece status. Although I did thoroughly enjoy "The Nights of Cabiria", this was definitely my least favorite Fellini to date.

RATING: 2.5/10 In good conscience, that's as high as I can go. Here's looking toward "8 1/2" and hoping it "WOWS" me.

MOVIES WATCHED: 151
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 850

September 25, 2010 5:12pm

Thursday, September 23, 2010

847. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: James Foley
Written By: David Mamet, from his play
Main Cast: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin

"ALWAYS BE CLOSING"

I didn't have quite enough time to kill last night that would have allotted me enough time to watch "La dolce vita", so instead I moseyed to my DVD shelf and plucked out an old favorite of mine, "Glengarry Glen Ross". And oh yeah, this is the 150th film I've watched for the "1001" book!

The film takes course over the course of a twenty-four hour period and we begin during a rainy night and a sales meeting for a group of real estate salesmen. It seems that the firm is having a new sales promotion: first place - you win a car, second place - you win a set of steak knives and third place - you're fired. The three men attending the meeting (Lemmon, Harris and Arkin) are given two "dead leads", or people who have no interest in buying land. The men can't close the deals on the dead leads which leads (no pun intended) to some talk being thrown around of robbing the office and getting a hold of the Glengarry leads, a list of genuine buyers. Meanwhile, Ricky Roma (Pacino) isn't sweating things too much, as the fourth man in the office, as his name sits prominently atop the leading sellers board. Act Two begins the following morning, the morning after the office has been robbed and all signs point to one of the salesmen as the perpetrator. Kevin Spacey plays the snarky office manager John Williamson.

This movie has two key elements that make it a must for the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", and that is dialogue and performances.

I don't care who you are or what kind of films you're interested in, if you watch this movie you're going to realize the hard work that ALL of these actors are putting forth. Even Alec Baldwin who shows up for about eight minutes and provides possibly the best eight minutes of acting of his career. A sixty-seven year old Jack Lemmon swooping in and proving that he's not done yet and seemingly saying "Hey, I can still hang with you boys!". Al Pacino giving an Oscar nominated performance as Ricky Roma, the insane salesman who provides probably about 50% of the profanity in a very profane film. Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin and Ed Harris turn in great performances too and damn what a fucking cast that is (sorry it just wouldn't be a Glengarry Glen Ross review without the "f" word).

The dialogue is stellar too and proves that Mamet knows what he's doing when he's pecking out a script. The speeches that these guys are given to deliver probably helps them to flex their acting muscle, especially Pacino who's given a lot of speeches in a very short time frame, during Act Two.

This is just a great movie and those are two very good reasons why. This has always been a personal favorite of mine and from the first time I saw it and even though I didn't fully understand it (I didn't used to know what the hell they were talking about when they said "leads") it's a film that has followed me for years and something that I'll throw in quite often, when I just want to have a good time with a movie. It's one that sucks you up into it's atmosphere and sits you front row to let you watch all the drama play out. Good actors, good performances, good dialogue...What more can I say?

RATING: 10/10 It usually takes me days (sometimes months) of reflection and multiple viewings to give a film a '10'...This one has followed that course.

MOVIES WATCHED: 150
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 851

September 23, 2010 2:04pm




Wednesday, September 22, 2010

319. Le notti di Cabiria/The Nights of Cabiria

Running Time: 118 minutes
Directed By: Federico Fellini
Written By: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Pier Paolo Pasolini
Main Cast: Giulietta Masina, Francois Perier, Franca Marzi

FELLINI WEEK: 2 OF 7

As I finished "Le notti di Cabiria", I was excited. Not because the film drew the emotion from me, but because I can now say that I've seen a Federico Fellini film that I really enjoyed. Not to say that I didn't enjoy "La strada", I just really liked this one and ultimately it was more up my alley.

Giulietta Masina makes an amazing transformation from her days as Gelsomina in "La strada" and proves that she really has some acting chops, as the prostitute Cabiria. Cabiria wanders the streets of Italy like a lost dog looking for an owner, but instead Cabiria is looking for love or at least someone to take care of her. She meets up with several different men over the course of the film, none of whom take advantage of her occupation, but merely use her for their needs at the time and discard her, back into the Italian underbelly. There's Alberto Lazzari, an Italian actor who uses Cabiria when his own girlfriend temporarily breaks up with him. Her other prominent suitor is Oscar, an accountant who confesses his love for Cabiria, but ultimately has selfish intentions. Unlike Masina's innocent, simple-minded Gelsomina, Cabiria is a feisty, tough, street smart woman who doesn't take shit from anybody and always has something to say and even though she gets used time and again, she always manages to pick herself back up and brush herself off.

In any of the 148 movie reviews that I've done for this blog, I've never spoiled a film. However, to get some of my points across here, I may have to delve into a little spoilage, so...

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!!

I had high hopes for this one, as the plot synopsis of a hooker looking for love just sounded interesting to me and I almost had the whole film mapped out in my head before I even started it. For one thing, I was under the impression that the film took place over the course of one night and that was certainly something that could have been feasible, but ultimately I don't think it would've worked. Then I started the film and it doesn't take long for Cabiria to meet up with Alberto Lazzari and the entire segment with Alberto and Cabiria is great, flowing along really nicely, even with a bit of chemistry between the two actors, as they sit in Alberto's home and chit chat about different things. I didn't want this scene to end, as I was enjoying the interaction between Alberto and Cabiria and almost wished the film had taken on the plot of "La strada", with Alberto as the Zampano character and Cabiria as Gelsomina. She'd stay with him because she'd know that she'd never find a better or more wealthy suitor and for the brief moments when he treated her well, but in reality those moments would be few and far between, as he'd mistreat her because she wasn't his much better looking, more prominent girlfriend Jessy. That's just a thought, not what actually happened. No, instead Alberto reconciles with Jessy and Cabiria is once again back to the streets and back to searching for her next dollar or maybe, just maybe someone who can find love to give to her.

From the point where she leaves Alberto to the point where she meets Oscar drags a little and nothing of note really happens. Cabiria meets a Good Samaritan and later goes to visit the Madonna to beg for mercy, where Fellini seems to get the point across that he believes religion is no more than a money making scheme. Cabiria eventually lands in a theatre where she participates in a magician's show and is hypnotized into believing that she has finally found her true love. The magician names her lover Oscar and makes her to believe that she is finally happy, proving that Cabiria's fantasy of true love is no more than an idea or an illusion and will never be reality. Then we meet the real man named Oscar, who approaches Cabiria after the show and professes that he was deeply moved by Cabiria's words and movements during the hypnotism. He courts her for ten days before asking her to marry him and Cabiria agrees, seeing this as her opportunity at a real life. She sells her house and most of her possessions and takes a bus to meet her new husband.

The ending was perfect. Oscar, acting very quiet and suspicious, asks Cabiria to take a walk with him through the woods. You just know something is up, but I personally couldn't quite piece it together until they got to the cliff. They're walking through the woods and you can't even pay attention to the dialogue because you just know some shit is about to go down. I loved how the film basically started and ended the same way, with Cabiria's lovers basically wanting to kill her for money, proving that she is expendable in the world and that no one could ever really love her for her.

Ultimately the film ends with Cabiria walking home through the middle of a street fair and despite all the sadness that the film exudes, I really think we get a happy ending. During the street fair, with all the cheerful people dancing, singing and laughing around her, Cabiria looks directly at the camera and gives us a smile and while there is no dialogue, I'd like to think that with that one smile she's telling us; "Don't worry about me. I'll be okay. I'm resilient and I'll make it." So despite it's subtlety and throwing in some of my own personal ideas, I really think we get a happy ending and why not, because the rest of the film is so damn heartbreaking.

I really hope that all makes sense, and I realize a lot of it is just rambling, but I was so excited to write about this movie that an incoherent point may have made it's way through.

RATING: 7.5/10 I really couldn't help but deduct some points for the middle, due to the fact that it just drags too much. What Fellini really needed was one more guy for Cabiria to interact with in the middle of the film and it would've been a home run.

MOVIES WATCHED: 149
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 852

September 22, 2010 1:06pm

FELLINI WEEK EXPANDED

Just a quick note and a cheap way to document a picture of Federico Fellini on my blog: I've decided to expand Fellini week to two weeks and watch all of his films from the book. I think it would be more crucial for me to watch them now, than to watch some now and some later. I think by watching the lot of them now, I can draw comparisons more easily and much like D.W. Griffith in the early stages of the "1001" book, possibly learn to understand his style and thus, appreciate him more. That is all.


September 22, 2010 12:13am

192. Great Expectations (1946)

Running Time: 118 minutes
Directed By: David Lean
Written By: Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean, Ronald Neame, from novel by Charles Dickens
Main Cast: John Mills, Jean Simmons, Valerie Hobson, Martita Hunt, Alec Guinness

GREAT EXPECTATIONS? NOT WHAT I HAD FOR THIS FILM, BUT I WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED

I know, I know...This isn't a work by Federico Fellini, but I figured I could squeeze a few non-Fellini films into this week as well. Before I begin my review I want to make the admission that I have NEVER read the Dickens novel of which this film is based upon, nor have I seen any of the over 250 adaptations for "Great Expectations", so anything I say is purely based on this particular David Lean adaptation, as I went in very ignorant to the plot of GE.

"Great Expectations" is based around it's central character Pip and follows him from his early memory of smuggling food and a file to an escaped convict, Magwitch, to being summoned to the home of Miss Havisham so that he may play and mingle with the "boy-hater" Estella and finally we follow Pip as he is taken to London per the orders of a secret benefactor, where he will become a gentleman...one with great expectations. We meet a smattering of characters along the way, some delightful, others just interesting, from Pip's very moody older sister and her husband Joe, to Pip's guardian in London Mr. Jaggers' to the very joyful and quaint Herbert Pocket.

The first thing that really impressed me about "Great Expectations" is the fact that for a novel written in the 1800s and a film made in the 1940s it still holds up really well and doesn't seemed to have aged, as it is still as enjoyable today, as I'm sure it was back in 1946. I thought everyone turned in really good performances, but I was especially fond of Alec Guinness' Herbert Pocket, John Mills' Pip and Jean Simmons' Estella. Jean Simmons was radiant on the screen and makes me long to see more of her movies, where she is a bit older, with possibly more refined acting skills and not on the cusp of womanhood. I loved the voice over effect, as I'm really a sucker for that. It's such a small, almost-insignificant thing that I just think can really add to a story and make it seem much more meaningful and deep. The movie did, however, drag just a smidgen and only in certain spots and I think there were a few scenes that could've been trimmed out to make the film flow along at a much smoother pace, such as some of the earlier Miss Havisham scenes and the scenes with Drummle, a man that Estella is leading on, yet eventually marries.

One scene that I'll make mention of real quick, simply so that I can look back at this review and remember it and so that you may watch the movie and keep an eye out for it, is the scene where Pip goes to visit Mr. Wemmick and we in turn meet Mr. Wemmick's father, a seemingly senile old man who's only joy in life is being nodded at in agreement. Such an amusing scene that really made me and my wife giggle and such a breath of fresh air, during a point in the movie where a lot of dread is occurring...Estella telling Pip that she plans to marry, Pip being informed that an enemy is in town, etc.

RATING: 6.5/10 At the end of September I plan to post a list of all the films I've watched this month and their respective revised ratings (or their rating after a few days of reflection). Possibly Great Expectations' rating will rise.

MOVIES WATCHED: 148
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 853

September 21, 2010 9:41pm

Monday, September 20, 2010

277. La strada/The Road (1954)

Running Time: 109 minutes
Directed By: Federico Fellini
Written By: Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli
Main Cast: Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Basehart

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A MAN NAMED 'FELLINI'

Note: I couldn't find a trailer for "La strada", but I'm going to keep with my revised style of review. Enjoy!

The first thing that I'm going to have to realize when viewing Federico Fellini's films', is that he's just a filmmaker and that while his films are regarded as some of the best films ever made, he is simply a filmmaker. I didn't think "La strada" was terrible, in fact I liked it, but I think I would've enjoyed it much more if I didn't have this predetermined image of Fellini in my head that says "This man is the greatest and if you're going to be a film fan, then you MUST love his films." Don't worry, it will eventually work out and I'm sure I'll ultimately settle into his movies.

If I had to pick a favorite element of "La strada", I'd have to say that hands down the character development was off the charts. These were real life characters and as a viewer, I really cared what happened to him, no matter how much I liked or disliked the film itself. They were so complex and fleshed out that you really couldn't help but care about them. Zampano was the most complex, and Anthony Quinn did an amazing job portraying him. This is a character that seemed to have constant thoughts swirling through his head, despite his brute and gruff exterior. Giulietta Masina was slightly annoying as Gelsomina, the strongman Zampano's assistant. However, despite her annoying persona, this is a character that undergoes a transformation during the course of the film, starting out as an innocent, simple minded girl, just glad to be getting the opportunity to see the world and eventually developing thoughts of suicide. My favorite character would have to be "The Fool" Il Matto, who's speech on the meaning of life and how EVERYTHING (including the tiniest of pebbles) has meaning in this world, really touched me and was the turning point in the film for me. I loved the line that is delivered by Il Matto, where he compares Zampano to a dog that wants to speak, but can only bark. The ending was great, although tragic and Hollywood could take a note or two, that films don't always have to have happy endings. Sometimes just the sight of a brute man, weeping on the beach is enough, especially when a scene where there is no dialogue says so much.

I like to think that movies are great, unique, unfeasible, tragic or joyous tales that are just yearning to be told. When a movie isn't good, then it's because the story didn't have the elements to make it a "must-be-told" story and didn't deserve to have a film made about it. On the other hand, when a film is really good, it's because the tale was so fabulous and amazing that it scored big time, either on a personal level or to a mass audience. If that is true, then this is a tale that must be told, as it chronicles the journey that Gelsomina was put on when she was plucked from her poverty stricken home and taken on the road with the strongman Zampano and pushed into the public eye, bringing joy and laughter to the world as a clown. That is a great story, and can compare to any underdog story, because who knew that poor Gelsomina could make it so far in the world and touch two lives so deeply.

Maybe that last paragraph didn't make any sense or maybe it did, I don't know. But I'm sticking with it, because it sounds pretty good to me.

RATING: 6/10 Not a great movie, but not a bad one either and it makes me anxious to see more Fellini.

MOVIES WATCHED: 147
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 854

September 20, 2010 4:00pm

Coming Soon: 09/19/10 - 09/25/10

Well my work load proved to be a bit to overwhelming for a five-movie week, but this coming week is a fairly easy week and thus I should be able to fit in AT LEAST five, if not more. I've decided that from now, each month I'm going to showcase one person, be it a director, writer, actor or actress and watch a few of their movies during one week in that month. I'm NOT going to watch all of their movies, because if I enjoy said person, then I want them to be able to show back up on the blog, sometime down the line.

For September I've picked...Federico Fellini

*Amarcord (1973 - Federico Fellini)
*La Strada (1954 - Federico Fellini)
*The Nights of Cabiria (1957 - Federico Fellini)

I did a little research and those three seem to be the Fellini films that are recommended for beginners of the director and that's exactly what I am, having only seen "8 1/2" and that was a long time ago. That will leave "8 1/2", "La Dolce Vita", "Satyricon" and "Juliet of the Spirits" for later consumption in the "1001" book.

Also this week:

*Great Expectations (1946 - David Lean)
*Run Lola Run (1998 - Tom Tykwer)

I promise I'll eventually get to "The African Queen" which I've mentioned for the past two weeks. Currently, it has just been pushed back so that I can fit in "Fellini Week". I'm also planning to watch the first two "Alien" films by the end of the month, "The Sound of Music" and "Amelie".

September 19, 2010 11:29pm

Saturday, September 18, 2010

441. Repulsion (1965)




Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: Roman Polanski
Written By: Gerard Brach, Roman Polanski, David Stone
Main Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux

Note: I'm going to try to tinker with the format of my reviews a little bit and make it a little bit easier on myself to bang them out. Instead of writing a plot synopsis, I'm going to attach a trailer for the film (when I can find one) and focus more on my actual opinion of the movie. I hope you like the new format and for all you reading this, please give me a little feedback, because I can always switch back to the old way of doing things.

REPULSION - APTLY NAMED




I'll start out by saying that I didn't care too much for "Repulsion" at all. Now before you go attacking me for being too close minded to find something a little different from the norm' a good thing, I'll say that I, in most cases, enjoy it when a filmmaker tries for something a little different and thinks outside the box. There was certainly an idea festering in there somewhere, beneath the mostly boring, monotonous plot. I like the idea of having a person who isn't all together there, being locked in an apartment, by herself for a few days and seeing what plays out. However, this film didn't intrigue me that much, and when you're going to think outside the box and do something a little off the wall, then certainly the first element you need is intrigue. I'm not sure if the Polanski fan in me was just expecting something more, as I have never seen this film, prior to tonight. I can't decide whether Deneuve was brilliant as the obviously mental ill loner or if her character was just really annoying and I'm leaning more toward the latter, as that was yet another element that I think was missing here, is that I didn't really care for these characters (or character, as this is pretty much a one woman show) and thus didn't care what happened to them/her.

I really have a love/hate relationship with Polanski's work, as I either seem to love the film or really despise it. On one hand you have the man who made classics like: Rosemary's Baby, The Pianist and Knife in the Water and on the other hand that same man directed The Tenant and now, Repulsion. And speaking of "Knife in the Water", I've always scratched my head and wondered why that beautiful film wasn't included in the "1001" book, and now I scratch even harder, as "Repulsion" could've easily been omitted for a better, more subtle, classic like "Knife in the Water".

With all that being said, I have this sneaking suspicion that someday, a very long time from now I'm going to think about "Repulsion" and say to myself "You know that wasn't half bad, maybe I should give it another go", and maybe...just maybe, then I'll see the greatness that Polanski intended.

RATING: 3.5/10 I gave it a few notches for innovation, unique camera angles, sound, score and for brief moments of interest, but really that's as high as I can go, in good conscience.

MOVIES WATCHED: 146
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 855

September 18, 2010 2:43am



Friday, September 17, 2010

786. Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Stephen Frears
Written By: Christopher Hampton, from novel by Choderlos de Laclos and play by Christopher Hampton
Main Cast: John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Swoosie Kurtz, Keanu Reeves

SOME AMAZING DISPLAYS OF ACTING ABILITY...AND KEANU REEVES

After a brief hiatus and a overworked week, I finally got a chance to sit down and continue down my path of "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die". The movie I decided on was Stepehn Frears "Dangerous Liaisons", a film that I remember not liking, but surprisingly enjoying immensely this go around.

The Marquise de Merteuil (Close) receives a visit from her acquaintance and fellow schemester, the Vicomte de Valmont (Malkovich). Valmont is a vicious character, who's only pleasures in life are the women that he hunts, purely for the sexual enjoyment and then throws them away like a used handkerchief. Merteuil, knowing these facts, asks a favor of Valmont: seduce the daughter of Madame de Volanges, Cecile, so that she may have revenge on a former lover, who is promised Cecile's hand in marriage. Valmont, seeing the task as one too easy for him, due to the fact that Cecile is naive and young and would make to easy of a pawn, declines. He, however, announces his own personal conquest that he is about to embark on which involves the Madame de Tourvel (Pfeiffer), who is spending time at his aunt's house while her husband is abroad. As opposed to Cecile, Madame de Tourvel would be a grand victory and conquering her body would certainly allow him to prove to himself just how much of a master manipulator he is. Merteuil, interested in Valmont's idea and knowing that Valmont wants her as well, proposes a counter offer: get written proof that he "spent the night in de Tourvel's company" and she would give herself to Valmont.

Valmont embarks on his conquest, visiting his auntie in the country and laying the ground work with de Tourvel. Meanwhile, Cecile (Thurman) has fallen in love with music teacher Chevalier Danceny (Reeves), although her mother doesn't approve and doubly doesn't approve when she finds out that they've been corresponding. Wanting to get back at de Volanges for boycotting his progress with de Tourvel, Valmont decided to help Cecile get letters back and forth to Danceny, cooking up a scheme that requires that Cecile get him her bedroom chamber key. With they key in hand, Valmont can't quite resist the fact that a beautiful woman lies just feet away at his auntie's and uses the key to enter Cecile's chamber and take advantage of her. Valmont also continues to make progress with de Tourvel, proclaiming his "love" for her and receiving only friendship in return, as they take to daily walks on auntie's grounds. Valmont begins to feel real love for de Tourvel, and sensing this fact Merteuil throws him off of that course by telling him a story and making him fear for his reputation.

The book proclaims that "Glenn Close steals the show..." and I'll have to fiercely disagree. In my eyes, it is John Malkovich, who without a doubt walks off with the show stealing title here, despite a fantastic performance by Glenn Close, which even at fantastic can't compare with the performance of Malkovich. Not only is it the performance of Malkovich that is entertaining, but the character of Valmont as well, an absolutely despicable character that you really do love to hate...or maybe hate yourself for loving. He is such a cretin, however, even at his most cretinous you want him to succeed in his schemes. The movie is quite sexy, despite being set in the 18th century. However, the word "sex" or any of it's derivatives are never mentioned in the film and instead we're treated to clever nuances (for lack of a better word), and in turn it makes the movie that much more sexy, because we're never hearing anything really being discussed directly and thus forced to form our own ideas. If I have any gripe it would be Keanu Reeves, who has a laughable onscreen presence, with the likes of a game face toting Glenn Close and John Malkovich and the guy really just seems out of place, like a little leaguer playing outfield for the Yankees.

RATING: 7/10 Without Malkovich this film would've been good, but not nearly as enjoyable and in my opinion it is he who makes the film.

MOVIES WATCHED: 145
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 856

September 17, 2010 6:14pm




Tuesday, September 14, 2010

183. Brief Encounter (1946)

Running Time: 86 minutes
Directed By: David Lean
Written By: Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean, from the play Still Life by Noel Coward
Main Cast: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A MAN NAMED 'LEAN'

When I think of David Lean, I think of epic films like "Doctor Zhivago" or "Lawrence of Arabia" (two films that appear later on in the 1001 book). However, from now on when I think of David Lean, I'll certainly not forget to remember "Brief Encounter", the film that I took in tonight and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Laura Jesson (Johnson) is a suburban housewife, who's life doesn't have too much excitement outside of her weekly Thursday trips to Milford, her neighboring town, for which she takes a train to go to the grocer's, have lunch and catch a movie. On one particular Thursday, while standing on the platform awaiting her train, Laura gets some debris in her eye. Rushing back into the station's refreshment room, she asks for a glass of water to bathe her eye, but instead gets the kind help of a stranger, a doctor who happens to be in the room and helps her cure her eye problem. She thanks him and leaves and the next Thursday runs into him again as he is on his way to the hospital and she on her way to the grocer's. The following Thursday, they meet again, in a crowded restaurant that they've both chosen for lunch, and due to the overwhelming crowd, Laura extends her one person table to the doctor, who introduces himself as Alec (Howard), a married, general practitioner. The chit chat, make inside jokes about the band that's playing at the restaurant and eventually decide to take in a movie together that afternoon.

They continue to meet every Thursday, engaging in various different activities, such as going to the pictures, going for walks, taking boat rides and just talking. They soon realize that despite their marriages, they have unavoidably fallen in love with one another. Laura begins to lie to her husband, telling him that she was with female friends of hers, and then calling the female friends to arrange alibis. On another Thursday, Alec borrows a car from a colleague, Stephen, and the two take a drive through the country, returning back to the city and Stephen's flat. Alec offers Laura the chance to join him in his colleagues' flat and at first she declines, only to return back to the apartment. Nothing ends up happening, as Stephen returns home and Laura is forced out the back way, leaving her to miss her train and forcing her to call her husband and make up yet another lie. This event forces the twosome to realize that their love can never be and in not wanting to disturb either persons' family, Alec decides to take a job that has been offered to him in South Africa.

I've mentioned before that I'm a sucker for prison movies, well you can also mark me down as being a sucker for movies told in flashback. I don't know what it is about that element of storytelling, but it almost always appeals to me and "Brief Encounter" is no exception. In this films case, I particularly love the way that the entire movie is told from the perspective of Laura, as if she were confessing the entire, sordid affair to her husband, a character that deserves sympathy but gets none here, because the affair and love that is developing is so fairy tale-esque. Aside from the fine acting performances, I also enjoyed the use of the camera, lighting and music, as Piano Concerto No. 2 was a perfect selection and the shadows on the wall as Laura and Alec round a corner at the train station, are two unforgettable elements about the entire picture. If I had to nitpick about anything at all, I would say that the scene where Alec and Stephen have a brief conversation is totally out of place, especially seeing as how everything is from the P.O.V. of Laura and Laura wasn't present for the conversation in question.

This movie is a great piece of storytelling, as the entire premise is so fantastical that it's easy to get caught up in it. This is what movies are all about, when you can totally let go and find yourself standing on a train station platform, the wind of a speeding train blowing against your face and witnessing a great love affair unfold before your eyes. In fact, I think that if any picture can really define the word "movie", then this would be the one and this would also be a prime candidate to show to someone who doesn't appreciate the art of black & white cinema.

RATING: 7/10 Wow, you'd think after all that praise, I would've went a little higher. No, a '7' seems like a good choice, but don't get me wrong this is a great film.

MOVIES WATCHED: 144
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 857

September 14, 2010 3:45am

Monday, September 13, 2010

802. My Left Foot (1989)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Jim Sheridan
Written By: Shane Connaughton, Jim Sheridan, from book by Christy Brown
Main Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Ray McNally, Fiona Shaw, Hugh O'Conor

THE STORY OF CHRISTY BROWN

I just had a hunch about this one. More often than not, those infamous hunches don't pan out and high hopes for a movie quickly crumble. But on this particular occasion the hunch did indeed pan out and delivered in droves, as "My Left Foot" was without a doubt a fantastic film, showcasing one of the best performances I've ever witnessed.

Christy Brown (Day-Lewis) was born in 1932 in the city of Dublin, Ireland. Upon his birth he was diagnosed as mentally challenged, however that didn't stop his loving mother and gruff father from loving him. There were several other brothers and sisters and the family didn't have much money, but they were close knit, living in their two-story home in Ireland. Around the age of ten, while trying to convey a message to his family, by grasping a piece of chalk between the toes of his left foot and trying desperately to communicate to them, his parents realized that he couldn't possibly be mentally challenged and his diagnosis was then changed to cerebral palsy. Though his speech was barely audible to the rest of the family, his mother (Fricker) always seemed to know exactly what Christy was saying, and despite almost total paralysis, with the exception of his left foot, Christy was able to have a pretty normal youth, playing ball with the other boys and sending love notes to girls that he admired. He eventually learned to more carefully control his foot and toes and took to painting, where he excelled.

Later in life, he was approached by Dr. Eileen Cole (Shaw) and taken to an institute for cerebral palsy patients. Though he didn't work out well at the institute, Dr. Cole continued to work with Christy at his home and turn his inaudible speech into a more clear, prominent voice. After working so closely with Dr. Cole, Christy falls in love with her and in a scene filled with loads of emotion, goes into an outrage when Dr. Cole informs Christy that she's engaged. Christy can't stand being alone and imprisoned in his own body, so he tries to commit suicide, except he can't quite reach his left foot to his right wrist and fails at the task. Christy eventually wants to try his hand (or foot) at writing, and follows up the notion by publishing his life story as "My Left Foot: The Christy Brown Story". Despite his outraegously successful life as a painter, writer and overcomer of odds, he still can't shake the feeling of lonliness and turns to his nurse Mary for companionship.

Do I even have to mention the performance that Day-Lewis turns out here? No, I probably don't, but I will. Daniel Day-Lewis is a fantastic actor and that's never more apparent than with his portrayl of Christy Brown. After watching the movie, I decided to do some light reading into the film, and found out that Day-Lewis refused to break character between takes, even going so far as to frustrate his agent to the point that he stormed off the set. What an actor and seriously...what a performance, as Day-Lewis transforms himself completely into a man with cerebral palsy, a man lonely, afraid and sometimes frustrated. This movie is also probably one of the most inspiring films I've ever seen and I'm sure I'll think twice the next time I complain and will be able to tell myself more easily that "It could be worse". I feel like I'm babbling and I really don't want to do that. Sometimes you just like a movie and that's that and trying to explain why you like it, is like trying to explain the color red to a blind man...there are just no words.

RATING: 10/10 Finally a 10/10 and I don't count "Kramer vs. Kramer" because that has been a personal favorite of mine for years and "My Left Foot" was viewed by me for the first time tonight.

MOVIES WATCHED: 143
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 858

September 13, 2010 2:47am

COMING SOON: 09/12/10 - 09/18/10

Ok, so you saw how this worked out last week, I posted four movies that I was planning to watch for the coming week and I only actually ended up watching two of the four that I posted. So...don't take the following list to heart, but these are a few of the films that I'm thinking about watching for the week beginning 09/12/2010 and ending 09/18/2010:

*My Left Foot (1989 - Jim Sheridan)
*Dangerous Liaisons (1988 - Stephen Frears)
*Brief Encounter (1946 - David Lean)
*Happy Together (1997 - Wong Kar-Wai)
*The African Queen (1951 - John Huston)


I have a pretty heavy work schedule this week, so I may or may not get to five movies. Next week, on the other hand, I have a fairly easy work load and may take the extra time to squeeze in a couple Fellini films.

Feel free to comment on the selections listed above and as always, thanks for reading.

September 12, 2010 10:43pm

Saturday, September 11, 2010

317. An Affair to Remember (1957)

Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Leo McCarey
Written By: Leo McCarey, Mildred Cram, Delmer Daves, Donald Ogden Stewart
Main Cast: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning, Neva Patterson, Cathleen Nesbit

NICE STORIES DON'T ALWAYS MAKE GOOD MOVIES

On this, the one year anniversary of the beginning of my journey through film, I'm trying to squeeze in a few movies to commemorate the occasion. The second movie that I chose for the day was "An Affair to Remember" and after finishing it I can admit that, although the story was nice and romantic, the film itself failed to impress me.

Nickie Ferrante (Grant) is an infamous womanizer who has finally decided to settle down and make an honest woman out of young, beautiful heiress, Lois Clark (Patterson). En route from England to New York City, aboard the SS Constitution, where he will meet up with his bride to be, Ferrante meets up with another woman by the name of Terry McKay (the elegant Kerr) and although they squabble over Ferrante's lost cigarette case at first, she is ultimately invited to dinner on his behalf. Unable to pass up a beautiful woman, Ferrante turns on his charm and sweeps McKay off of her feet. During a five hour stop made by the ocean liner, Ferrante invites McKay to join him as he visits his grandmother on the Mediterranean coast. McKay immediately hits it off with Nickie's grandmother and learns that there is more to Ferrante than meets the eye, like that he has a knack for painting and playing the piano, but it's the things that he can't have that appeal to him the most, so he gave up talents that came so easy to him.

Back aboard the SS Constitution, Nickie and Terry realize that they've indeed fallen head over heels in love with each other and that their respective fiance's will have to fall to the wayside. There is only one problem and that is that they are both supported by said fiances and neither of them have done much real work in their lives and have come accustomed to living the swanky lifestyle. They decide to turn their lives around, get jobs and get out of their relationships and meet each other in six months time atop the Empire State Building, an agreement that is made as they reach New York and see the building towering over them. Six months go by, Nickie gets back into painting and manages to sell a few and Terry goes to Boston and revisits her roots, being a nightclub singer. The six months expire and they're all set for the big meeting. Terry is running late due to being stopped and questioned by her ex-fiance and runs into traffic, with only four minutes to spare before 5 o'clock, when she's to meet Nickie. As she races into traffic she is hit by a car and ends up in the hospital, leaving Nickie to his broken heart atop the Empire State Building.

As my headline eludes to, this is a nice story. In fact, when thinking of a single word to describe "An Affair to Remember" that's the one that kept popping to mind. It's not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, this movie takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. When we start out it seems as though the comedy is being laid on pretty thick, and Grant is shining as the funny man and Kerr is relatively charming, although there never seems to be any real chemistry between the two. Then we get to the grandmother scene, and to me this is a throw away scene, as nothing is really established here, except a few coincidental things that are eluded to later, like the song that the grandmother plays on piano and the shawl that she promises to send to McKay because she likes it so much. It's an entire segment of movie that could've easily been taken out, as it really slowed down the entire pace of the film and the movie, in my opinion, never picks back up.
Then the six month deal is struck, Terry gets hit by the car and the movie finishes off with some more throw away stuff that really doesn't work, like Terry turning some troubled youths into a choir and Nickie having a few dates with his ex-fiance.

It seems to me that Leo McCarey had a small idea for a film and instead of saying "I could never turn that small idea into a two-hour film", he instead just ran with it and the finished product is like going down a street and hitting all red lights, as every time the movie picks up a bit of pace, it is halted by yet another scene that is out of place and totally halts the flow of the film. The entire film hinges on the six month meeting and Terry getting hit by the car and basically everything else, outside of the first thirty minutes, is of no crucial importance, and we're forced to go through the motions until we get to the next crucial scene. And I've said it before and after all this time, I'll say it again...There is just something about Cary Grant that I don't like and I cannot for the life of me put my finger on it. He just has an air about him that doesn't appeal to me and unless the film is overly stellar, it is hard for me to settle into a film starring him.

RATING: 5/10 And that's being generous, but the first thirty minutes of the film were engaging and interesting enough to, at least, warrant that much.

MOVIES WATCHED: 142
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 859

September 11, 2010 8:50pm

912. SCREAM (1996)

Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Wes Craven
Written By: Kevin Williamson
Main Cast: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, David Arquette

ONE YEAR LATER

It was one year ago today, when I sat down at the computer to type up my review for " A Trip to the Moon". Today, as I sack out on my bed, I choose a movie that comes almost 100 years later, "Scream", a movie that I remember watching twice the day that it came out on VHS, which seems like so many years ago.

The film opens with Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore), sporting short, blonde hair and cooking some popcorn in preparation for a scary movie in front of the television. Casey, who is home alone, receives a phone call and the wheels of the movie are set into motion. The caller talks politely at first, despite his eerie voice and questions Casey about her movie choice and then goes on to talk about more scary movies, Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc. As Casey continues to hang up on the caller, he becomes more agitated and his true motives are eventually revealed. He has tied up Casey's boyfriend on her porch and he plans to kill them both before the night is over. Her only hope is if she can answer a question correctly: "Who was the killer in Friday the 13th?". She fails the pop quiz and quickly finds herself hanging from a tree, her insides on the outside. Following that, the rest of the cast is revealed, her high school classmates, as they're shocked to hear about the vicious murder of Casey.

The main character is Sidney Prescott (Campbell), a virginal young girl who's boyfriend Billy (Ulrich) wants nothing more than to stamp an "R" rating on their "PG-13" relationship. The school and town is rocked by the murder of Casey and her boyfriend Steve and Gail Weathers (Cox), a local news reporter wants nothing more than to expose the situation and make a name for herself, just as she did with the story of Sidney's mother, who was brutally raped and murdered almost one year prior to Casey's death. Eventually a curfew is set in place and more murders take place, including that of the high school principal, Sidney's best friend Tatum and nearly Sidney herself as the killer, wearing a ghost faced mask, tries the same routine on her, as he did with Casey Becker. However, Sidney is seemingly more resilient and continues to escape the murderous clutches of the slasher, a slasher who wants nothing more than to get his hands on Sidney. Toward the end, all signs point to Neil Prescott, Sidney's father, but in horror movies, nothing is as it seems.

I look fondly on this movie, as it was something that I specifically remember being hyped and being a big success at the box office. I also remember sitting with my brother and watching this movie for the first time and having a blast. With that being said, "Scream" has absolutely no right mingling with the movies that are contained in the pages of the "1001" book. Sure it's a fun film when you're a teenager, but when you grow up some of that fun begins to fade and you realize that it's just another cliche slasher flick, full of plot holes. Not to say that ALL of the fun has diminished, I still had a pretty good time reliving my childhood today and taking in "Scream" for the first time in ages. You would think that Wes Craven would want his big comeback horror flick to be a really quality one, that creeped you out, instead of an ode to old horror movies (many of them his own) that makes you laugh, just as much as it makes you jump. In the end, you realize that the best part of this movie came within the first five minutes, and the scene with Drew Barrymore, a really perfectly played out scene that really amps you up for what SHOULD follow, but instead is only the high part of a movie that goes downhill from there.

RATING: 4.5/10 If you've never seen it, then 'yes' I'd recommend seeing it once, but "Scream" is a movie that is no longer for me, as apparently me and my tastes have grown up.

MOVIES WATCHED: 141
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 860

September 11, 2010 3:20pm

490. TARGETS (1968)

Running Time: 90 minutes
Directed By: Peter Bogdanovich
Written By: Polly Platt, Peter Bogdanovich
Main Cast: Boris Karloff, Tim O'Kelly, Peter Bogdanovich

THERE ARE THINGS IN THE WORLD SCARIER THAN MOVIES

Having realized that I have yet to watch a movie from the decade of the 60s, I sat down and scoured through the movies from that decade that were available to watch instantly on Netflix, and came up with "Targets", the first film directed by Peter Bogdanovich and a very effective thriller, which stars Boris Karloff and Tim O'Kelly.

The film follows two different plotlines, which in the end are tied together. First off, we have Byron Orlok (Karloff, essentially playing himself), an aging actor, who in his prime was the main man when it came to horror films. After screening his most recent picture, Orlok comes to the assumption that his career is winding down and although he is scheduled to shoot another movie, decides to throw in the towel and retire. This angers up and coming director, Sammy Michaels, who is quite proud of his newest screenplay and was counting on Orlok to make it a success. Later Orlok also cancels an appearance that he was supposed to make at a local drive-in, where they'll be screening his new movie "The Terror". He eventually changes his mind, suggesting that this could be his final swan song before bowing out of the movie business for good.

Meanwhile, we also follow the day to day life of Bobby Thompson (O'Kelly), who lives a pretty basic life. It's just about as "Leave it to Beaver" as you can get, as the family, consisting of Bobby's wife, mother and father, crowd around the television watching the late night shows, going to work and gathering at the dinner table each evening to talk about their day. As clean cut as that all sounds, Bobby has some demons lurking in his mind in the form of morbid thoughts about murdering people. He keeps a small arsenal of guns in the trunk of his car and one day finally snaps, murdering his mother, his wife and the grocery boy. He types a letter, basically saying that these murders are only the beginning and before he is caught, more people will die. He heads to an oil refinery, with a staircase leading to the top of a large platform and with his guns in tow begins to snipe out drivers on the freeway. When the cops arrive on scene, Bobby flees and ends up at the Reseda Drive-In, the same drive-in where Byron Orlok plans to say his goodbye to the movie business in just a few hours.

You don't have to dig very deep into the film to realize the motives behind the story. In the world there are pretend monsters, like Orlok and there are indeed real monsters like Bobby Thompson. While Orlok can turn his evil on and off, the evil that lurks inside Bobby is an evil that will only grow bigger and bigger until it manifests itself in the form of murderous actions. I loved the idea behind this movie, because its all so true. There is nothing that we can witness on a television or movie theatre screen that could possibly compare to the real terrors that are on the streets everyday. While watching "Targets" it was that very idea that bounced around my head for most of the ninety minute runtime. I've never really had much experience with the directing skills of Peter Bogdanovich, but this was a great directorial debut, despite its floundering success at the box office. I loved all the little eerie nuances that Bogdanovich put into play to make the film that much more creepy. The fact that there is no score during scenes of major suspense, the close-ups of Bobby's itchy trigger finger, the herky-jerky editing style (which I thought was brilliant) and the subtlety of Bogdanovich trying to tell us all a little something about life, like no matter how clean cut and well brought up you are, evil can still creep into your psyche and eventually your actions.

RATING: 7/10 Nothing really bad here, just really only felt like a '7', but I'll definitely keep an eye out for more Peter Bogdanovich.

MOVIES WATCHED: 140
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 861

September 10, 2010 11:32pm

Friday, September 10, 2010

214. The Heiress (1949)

Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed By: William Wyler
Written By: Augustus Goetz, Ruth Goetz, from the novel Washington Square by Henry James
Main Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins

JUMPING BACK TO THE '40S TO CHECK OUT A TRUE CLASSIC

Since deciding to go random last week and after a brief hiatus following "The Maltese Falcon", I hadn't watched a movie from the decade of the 1940s in some time. In jumping back to the decade, I wasn't disappointed and was once again reminded of the fact that they made some truly great flicks back in the day.

Olivia de Havilland plays Catherine Sloper, a very homely looking girl, who spends lonely days at home, highlighted by embroidery. She lives with her father, Dr. Austin Sloper, who is constantly comparing Catherine to her deceased mother and trying to coax her to get out of the house more and be more social. One evening, with the help of his sister, Lavinia, Austin finally convinces Catherine to go to a gathering that the family is attending. While at the gathering, Catherine meets Morris Townsend (Clift), a handsome, young bachelor who immediately sweeps her off her feet, both literally and figuratively, as they share a dance and swoon over each other, despite the hesitancy of Catherine. They go their separate ways following the party, but Morris promises that he'll visit and he does...every day, for several days. Following a series of many house calls by the suitor, Dr. Sloper decides that it would only be proper if he invited the fellow for dinner.

Over a conversation at dinner, where Morris reveals that he has no real career and has never saved a lick of money, Dr. Sloper begins to become suspicious of Morris' infatuation with Catherine, for as meager as she is, a gentleman with the looks and smarts of Morris couldn't possibly be in love with his Catherine. However, Morris continues to proclaim his love for Catherine and eventually, although again hesitant, Catherine returns the sentiment. They plan to marry, but after a talk with Dr. Sloper, where he makes his opinions heard, the plans are immediately veered into a different direction. Dr. Sloper proclaims that Morris could only possible be interested in Catherine's ample inheritance and nothing more. Catherine fights with her father and the couple plan to elope, and Catherine plans never to return to the home of her father. They set the meeting time for 12:30am and Morris fails to show up, making Catherine realize that her father was right and that Morris was indeed only interested in the financial perks of marrying Catherine.

Since I had never seen "The Heiress", watching the film with my wife (who had also never seen it) was a fun experiment. While my wife (the romantic) sided with the character of Morris through the first half of the movie, stating that surely he loves her and that the inheritance has nothing to do with his feelings, I tended to side with the father's perspective. I loved watching the film and not really knowing which one of us was right, only being able to guess and finally getting the big reveal and eventual payoff. The cast was excellent and while de Havilland and Clift shone, it was Ralph Richardson who caught my eye, as I loved him in the film and wouldn't mind seeing some more of his work. If I had to gripe about anything it would only be that I wish they had held the father's tongue for a little bit longer, before he made his opinions about Morris known. It would've given the audience a chance to draw our own conclusions about Morris, instead of having the ideas put into our head by the Dr. Sloper character. But that, my friends, is only a minor gripe and in the end, what I thought would be a film not for me, turned into a really great one and a good time for me and my wife at the movies.

RATING: 7.5/10 I constantly blab about knee-jerk ratings and that's what the '7.5' for "The Heiress" is and as I always tend to say, I definitely forsee that rating rising in the future.

MOVIES WATCHED: 139
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 862

September 9, 2010 9:33pm

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

516. PATTON (1970)

Running Time: 170 minutes
Directed By: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola, Edmund H. North
Main Cast: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, Michael Strong, Michael Bates

"...NO BASTARD EVER WON A WAR BY DYING FOR HIS COUNTRY..."

Seeing as how "Patton" will be leaving the instant stream portion of Netflix this Saturday, I figured I'd catch it before it left and get it knocked out for the book. While I thought George C. Scott certainly transformed himself into a cutthroat army General, I'm all in all glad that I got this one done and over with.

The movie begins with a famous speech given by Gen. George Patton himself, in what I thought was a great way to introduce us to the character and giving us quite a bit of insight into who Gen. Patton really was and what he was all about. From there we're plummeted into World War II and the Americans have suffered a great defeat at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. Gen. Patton is called in to whip the soldiers into shape and teach them how to win a war, which is to make the opposition die for their country. He gets them ready and leads them to victory at the Battle of El Guettar and it's on to Sicily, where we learn that George is a bit of a glory hog. He makes it known that he wants to be the one to secure the port of Messina, and not Gen. Montgomery, the General of the British Army. He's given his orders, which state that Montgomery will be the first to land in Messina and defies those orders when he arrives first, capturing Messina and stealing the glory from Montgomery.

Later, while visiting the Army hospital, Patton slaps a shell-shocked soldier and accuses him of cowardice, an act that would get him relieved of his duties, something that eats Patton alive. After he commits a second act of defiance, by insulting Russia, when failing to mention them as an ally at a press conference, he is even further demoted and is used for nothing more than a decoy during the infamous D-Day landings at Normandy. In a last ditch effort to catapult himself back into the thick of the war before it's all over, he makes a plea to his former subordinate Omar Bradly (Malden) to let him take command of the Third U.S. Army. Bradley reveals that those very plans have already been put into motion by Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower. The film winds down with Patton leading his Third Army to great victory, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of German soldiers.

As always, I never give away the endings to movies, but suffice it to say that this one doesn't end with the bang that would be only fitting for a man who was full of bang. But lets start at the beginning and lets first start with the good. I shouldn't even have to mention George C. Scott, as I think all film fans agree that his performance is legendary and as cliche as it may sound, he truly brought the character of Patton to life. I also really enjoyed Malden, who held his own on the same screen with Scott and provided a great level-headed character in the form of Gen. Omar Bradley. Some scenes ARE really engaging, but for the most part I found this film to be really quite boring. The running time of three hours is much to much when you really think about the big events of "Patton". The only real events that take place are the introduction of Patton, the Battle of El Guettar, the soldier slapping at the Army hospital and Patton's reinstatement as head of the Third Army. That's it! Sure, there's the invasion of Sicily at Messina and the events surrounding the Battle of the Bulge, but all in all the few events that I mentioned are plenty to fill a standard two-hour film, and in my opinion three-hours just sends this one into a very stale state.I'm not one for war films in the first place, but USUALLY well choreographed battle scenes dull the sting for me, and "Patton" doesn't even have those.

But why would it, because this isn't your typical war film, this is a biopic and while we are talking about World War II, we're more so talking about Gen. George Patton, who I will agree was a prime candidate for a biopic, but in the end, it's a biopic that just isn't for me.

RATING: 4.5/10 That's just about as high as I can go, as the good elements were inferior to the bad and giving it a '5' would be calling it average, which in my opinion, it isn't even that.

MOVIES WATCHED: 138
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 863

September 8, 2010 4:40pm

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

COMING SOON TO A BLOG NEAR YOU!

I might try to keep this up on a weekly basis, but we'll see how faithful I can be to it. Basically I have a few ideas for movies that I'm going to watch this week and just so everyone knows what's coming up, I figured I'd share them. Know that some of these have reasoning behind them and some are just totally random.

*The Heiress (1949 - William Wyler)
*Patton (1970 - Franklin J. Schaffner)
*The African Queen (1951 - John Huston)
*Independence Day (1996 - Roland Emmerich)


I'll almost assuredly watch more stuff between now and this coming Sunday, but those are a few of the ones you'll see in the week to follow. Feel free to comment the choices, leave opinions, but I beg of thee...please refrain from spoilage. Thank you

September 7, 2010 12:47am

Monday, September 6, 2010

967. The Pianist (2002)

Running Time: 148 minutes
Directed By: Roman Polanski
Written By: Ronald Harwood, from book by Wladyslaw Szpilman
Main Cast: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Ed Stoppard, Emilia Fox

A MOVIE THAT WILL BREAK YOUR HEART OVER AND OVER AGAIN

Opting yet again for the Netflix instant queue, I chose a relatively newer movie from the pages of the "1001" and went with Roman Polanski's "The Pianist". Now before I start showering a bit of praise toward a Roman Polanski film, I'll ask that anyone who has shunned Polanski and his work, due to his recent newsworthy tidbits, please refrain from battering me with verbal insults, as I'm merely separating the artist from the man.

The film chronicles the journey of Wladyslaw Szpilman as he tries to survive in a Nazi occupied Warsaw, Poland. We start out by establishing the fact the Szpilman was a classically trained pianist, but Polanski doesn't waste a second of his film and we're quickly into the thick of things as the Germans take over Warsaw. Several decrees are made, the first stating that all of the Jewish population must wear armbands with the Star of David to identify themselves. The following decree has all Jews being forced to repopulate in the Warsaw Ghetto. Once there, they are blocked in by a wall of brick and must face hunger, as Wladyslaw and his family try to fight for their survival and witness the hideous acts of the Nazi regime. One particularly brutal scene shows a troop of Nazi's storming into an apartment building in the Warsaw Ghetto, going to the top floor and forcing a Jewish family to stand. When an elderly man in a wheelchair is unable to comply, they dump him over the balcony to the streets below. They march the rest downstairs, shoot them all and then drive off, running over bodies as their vehicles depart.

Eventually the family is taken away from the Warsaw Ghetto, as the Nazi's prepare to take them to an extermination facility in Treblinka. At the last minute, Wladyslaw is saved by a member of the Jewish police, who also happens to be a family member. At first he is taken back inside the ghetto to become a slave labourer. It is there where he begins to talk with some of the other Jews and learns of plans for a Jewish uprising, where other Jews plan to bring in guns to fight back against the oppression of the Germans. Later, prior to the start of the uprising, Wladyslaw decides to go into hiding outside the ghetto, relying on the help of some friends he had prior to being imprisoned. They set him up in an apartment building, keeping him locked inside and bringing him food whenever the coast is clear. At this point of the film it becomes a tale of survival, and it feels like one man against the world as we follow Wladyslaw.

I'm not real big on history movies, as I'm not a real big history buff and therefore not all that interested. The holocaust, however, does hold some interest for me, if only for the fact that it's unbelievable the amount of horror that was inflicted on the Jewish population during this time. I haven't seen a whole lot of holocaust movies, but I can definitely say that this is the most harrowing one that I've seen and it really makes you stop and think: "My God this stuff actually happened", in fact you can't help but think that. As far as the movie itself goes though, I thought it was excellent and really only have two bad pieces of criticism. The first is that the film does kind of drag, but only very minor and only in a couple spots, nothing major. The other thing that I didn't like and something that actually removed me slightly from the film, was the fact that there wasn't more subtitling. We have a movie that takes place entirely in Warsaw, Poland, as it's being invaded by Germans, and the primary language that the characters are speaking is English. You'd really expect Roman Polanski to be a little more risky and go for the subtitling, I think I would've really been able to let myself be captivated by the environment, had that been the case.

RATING: 8.5/10 Other than my minor quibbles at the end there, you'll get nothing but a big thumbs up from me on "The Pianist" and I'm glad I chose it.

MOVIES WATCHED: 137
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 864

September 6, 2010 2:56pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #65: Les nuits de la pleine lune/Full Moon in Paris (1984)

Running Time: 100 minutes Directed By: Eric Rohmer Written By: Eric Rohmer Main Cast: Pascale Ogier, Tcheky Karyo, Fabrice Luchini,...