Thursday, June 30, 2011

987. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Written By: Michael Arndt
Main Cast: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin


Well guess what kids? When you get paid the day AFTER your Netflix membership fee is due, as sad is it is, your account gets put on hold for a day. If it hadn't I'd be writing about "Naked Lunch" right now, but it did and I was forced to peruse my DVD shelf and came out with "Little Miss Sunshine".

To tell the story of "Little Miss Sunshine", I must first talk about the characters, as they are the ingredient that really make this a "must see" film. First you have Richard (Kinnear), a motivational speaker/author who, despite his message of "win win win", can't seem to and he's going bankrupt. Then you have his wife Sheryl (Collette), the Mom who seems to act as the glue to hold the family unit together and who doesn't mind sneaking a smoke behind Richard's back to take the edge off. There's their daughter Olive (Breslin) who's ultimate dream is to be one day crowned Miss America. The other child is Dwayne (Paul Dano), who has taken a vow of silence until he reaches HIS ultimate goal of becoming a fighter pilot. Sheryl's brother, Frank (Carell), has recently descended into a state of depression and suicide when his gay lover left him for his career rival. Finally there's Grandpa (Arkin), a heroin addicted, foul mouthed man, who loves his family, but shows it very differently. These six personalities take to a yellow VW Bus when Olive is chosen to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine competition. Their journey won't be an easy one, as they'll face obstacles and a roller coaster of emotion over the next 800 miles.


This cast reminds me of a group of really good singers who get together on stage and spout out the most beautiful harmony you've ever heard. These six actors and actresses are harmonizing together and making a beautiful movie in the process. "Little Miss Sunshine" tackles the subject and drives home the theme of family togetherness. While out on the open road the family experiences death, heartbreak, failure and disgrace, but through it all they stick together and in the end their left with smiling faces. Everyone...yes EVERYONE in this film hands in an A+ performance and without them we wouldn't be talking about this film, on this blog. The way their introduced at the beginning and the way we leave them at the end is, both times, accompanied by a magnificent piece of music by Devotchka called "How It Ends" - a piece that really suits this film and ties it all together.

If there's anything about the film that I don't like, then it'd certainly be the ending. The first time I saw "Little Miss Sunshine", I liked the ending - I thought it was that last big breakout scene where the whole family, for the first time during the film, is on the same page. Where they all stand up and flaunt their dysfunctionality to the world and for the first time they don't care that they're different. And maybe that's the idea, maybe that's what the filmmakers were going for, but to me the ending is just a little too silly for such a good movie. I'm not sure what ending I'd put to the film, but the ultimate ending of playing "How It Ends" and having the family continue on their journey through life, leaving us to wonder what will ever happen to them, was a fine one and I guess I should be thankful for at least that.

RATING: 9/10 I lopped off a point because of the ending, but don't be mislead - this is a great picture. But don't take my word for it...see for yourself.


June 30, 2011 6:12pm

743. THE FLY (1986)

Running Time: 95 minutes
Directed By: David Cronenberg
Written By: David Cronenberg, George Langelaan, Charles Edward Pogue
Main Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz


Continuing on with our cinematic hat trick/tribute to David Cronenberg, we come to "The Fly", a film that, surprisingly, I had never seen until last night. I say "surprisingly" because I have always been a big fan of Jeff Goldblum and he didn't disappoint here.

Seth Brundle (Goldblum) is a scientist working on an extra special project. While schmoozing at a meet-the-press event, Brundle encounters Veronica (Davis). They converse for a minute or two and then head back to Brundle's apartment, where he promises her something BIG in the world of science. Once back at his apartment, Brundle unveils a teleportation machine, capable of deconstructing an object in one "telepod" and reconstructing it in another. Veronica is amazed and soon her real intentions are revealed - she is indeed a member of the press and she is determined to make Brundle and his invention her next big story. Brundle wants no part of the press and even when Veronica tells her editor of the story, he shrugs it off by calling Brundle nothing more than a magician. The teleportation device does still have a few kinks though, which are made evident when Brundle attempts to teleport a baboon and it comes out on the other side, turned inside out. The computer still can't comprehend how to deconstruct a living thing and then reconstruct it the right way. With a little more thought and some inspiration from his new girlfriend, Veronica, whom he hits it off with following their little tiff, Brundle figures it out, successfully teleporting a baboon. Now Brundle wants to step it up a bit and when he and Verinica get into an argument, Brundle drunkenly convinces himself to put himself through the teleporter. The only problem is...Brundle wasn't the only living creature inside of it.


Coming off the heels of a less than stellar showing of "Videodrome", I wasn't really expecting much out of "The Fly". My wife had informed me, prior to my watching it, that it was indeed grotesque, so I just assumed we were in for another "Videodrome", with a solid plot and a lot of special effects to jumble everything up. I was wrong. In the case of "Videodrome" Cronenberg took a pretty interesting sounding plot and by adding his special effects to it, he severed my interest in the film. With "The Fly" the special effects work to drive the story and without them, we're really left with what could be labeled a kids film (minus the scenes of sex and some minor language issues). That might sound strange to link the phrase "kids movie" and "The Fly", but it's kind of true. Scientist invents machine and ends up turning himself into a fly - it sounds pretty cut and dry and just by the sounds of it, it SOUNDS like a kids flick. But it's NOT. It's quite grotesque and like I said, that only helps to drive home the story and give it a personality of it's own. Without Cronenberg's spin on things, this just becomes another meaningless sci-fi film, but as soon as I saw the inside out baboon, I knew I was in for a ride.

Goldblum is great and in fact, he's so great as Seth Brundle, that when he becomes "Brundle-fly", you only feel for him that much more. It's sad in that you really feel for the guy. I mean he's just perfected his invention and is on the cusp of stardom and he just met this great girl and I'll be damned if a housefly didn't fuck all that up. Geena Davis wasn't half bad either and I forgot what a fairly decent actress she was. This film really reminds me of "District 9", in that we're given a character and we're forced to watch him go through changes that even they don't understand. Both films have elements of a love story and both films don't end on a happy note. In "The Fly", the ending is heartbreaking as Brundle, fully transformed into a fly and unable to speak, comes face to face with Veronica, who is holding a shotgun that she wrestled away from the villain of the movie. Brundle reaches up and moves the barrel to his head. It's all truly heartbreaking and the end result, when factoring in all the different emotions that this film sends you through, it escapes with nothing less than a high recommendation.

RATING: 8/10 Cronenberg is 1-1 and "Naked Lunch" will be the rubber film, so to speak.


June 30, 2011 2:30pm

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

695. Videodrome (1983)

Running Time: 87 minutes
Directed By: David Cronenberg
Written By: David Cronenberg
Main Cast: James Woods, Deborah Harry, Sonja Smits, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson


With "Naked Lunch" and "The Fly" currently streaming on Netflix, I went ahead and moved "Videodrome" to the top of my "At Home" queue, so that I could perform a "Cronenberg Hat Trick". The only two David Cronenberg films I have ever seen (prior to today) are "The Dead Zone" and "History of Violence", with the first being pretty good and the second being not so pretty good. So how did "Videodrome" compare?

Max Renn (Woods) is the president of CIVIC TV, a raunchy television station that has a knack for airing softcore pornography and violent content. One day Renn's right hand man Harlan (Dvorsky) picks up a floating signal via a pirate satellite dish. When reviewing the content, Renn is surprised to see the images of a woman being tortured. While the picture of the signal is fuzzy, Renn is consumed by the feed, which is titled VIDEODROME. Harlan continues to track down the feed and eventually tracks it to Pittsburgh. Becoming more and more consumed with Videodrome, Max contacts his friend in the television business, Masha, and asks her about the source of Videodrome. Masha confesses that not only is Videodrome real footage of people being tortured, but that notable philosopher Brian O'Blivion is somehow in on it. Renn chases continues to chase the rabbit down the hole and as he gets deeper and deeper into the tangled web that Videodrome has weaved around his life, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to become faded.


So how does "Videodrome" compare to those films that I mentioned earlier? Well, it's really nothing like them and that's neither a good or bad remark. "Videodrome" is a very strange film and even after finishing it today, I was still left flummoxed by the plot and couldn't quite grasp a handle on my own opinion. As I write this, I've yet to do any extra-curricular research on the film and have decided to swing into the review with only the thoughts that are in my head presently. I understood the film, for the most part, but it definitely left me with some questions. There were obviously some undertones in there and Cronenberg was definitely trying to make a statement about how the public (generally Americans, I assumed) take their television a bit too seriously. We're faced with an extremely violent show, a show more violent than any other show and then later on in the film, we're told that the show is actually the cause of brain tumors in anyone who views that show. Now, we're also told that the images that appear on Videodrome are simply hallucinations and that none of it is actually real. Is Videodrome merely a receptacle for the fantasies and illusions that man gets from watching too much television? Let's say a man watches a violent show, then will Videodrome ultimately become the outlet for that man's murderous fantasies? I don't really know and maybe I'm just babbling, trying to get my ideas to this screen. There's definitely an underlying message in there, which I believe to be a bit of a satirizing of the American public and how seriously some of us take out T.V.

In the end, however, I just didn't care too much for the film. It stimulated my brain and for that I am always grateful, but all in all it was a film that just wasn't my cup of tea. The cast was fine, the atmosphere was fine, but ultimately I think Cronenberg was going out of his way to make a bold statement, instead of a bold film. I'll give credit where it's due, however, as the visual effects were startling, James Woods was really good and there was definitely more than a dash of originality. I'll stay positive on the works of Cronenberg and here's hoping that "The Fly" leaves a better taste in my mouth. If you haven't seen "Videodrome", it does still come with a mild recommendation, because I think there is definitely going to be people out there who really like this a lot. Listen to me, I'm acting as if the film opened in theatres today. What I mean is, if you haven't seen it, you might just love it, but me...I didn't.

RATING: 4.5/10 Couldn't even give this one a boost to the average marker in good conscience. I do, however, look forward to "The Fly".


June 28, 2011 10:08pm

Sunday, June 26, 2011

586. Blazing Saddles (1974)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Mel Brooks
Written By: Andrew Bergman, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg, Alan Uger
Main Cast: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, Madeline Kahn


Damn did I used to love me some Mel Brooks. I remember seeing "Blazing Saddles" many years ago on the insistence of a friend and I was hooked, raiding stores for films like "Young Frankenstein" and "Spaceballs". Fast forward to Jun
e 26, 2011 and I think my infatuation with Brooks is finally dead, as "Blazing Saddles" didn't hold up well AT ALL.

While supervising the building of a railroad, Hedley Lamarr (Korman) realizes that he's about to cross through some quicksand and that he'll have no other choice but to detour his railroad through the small town of Rock Ridge. The town of Rock Ridge is a small one, but it is populated and Lamarr will have to think of an idea to empty
the town so that he can proceed with is plans. Enter recently jailed, African American, ex-railroad worker Bart (Little), who is pardoned from an execution at the last minute by Lamarr and appointed as the new sheriff of Rock Ridge. The idea is that the townspeople of Rock Ridge won't put up with a black sheriff and surely skip town. Bart takes on the job seriously, strolling into town despite wandering eyes and racist remarks and upholding his duty as the new lawman in Rock Ridge. Bart does find solace in the company of one man, The Waco Kid (Wilder). The Waco Kid used to be the fastest hands in the west, but lately he finds comfort at the bottom of a Whiskey Bottle. Bart, along with help from "the Kid" will do their best to clean up the town of Rock Ridge and fend off Lamarr and his hired henchmen...and women.

Yeah, like I said, this just doesn't hold up for me. Call me a man who's lost his sense of humor, but I don't think I laughed out loud once during this and the most it was really able to coax out of me was a chuckle here and there, thanks to Gene Wilder. "Blazing Saddles" is incredibly racist, but I'll give them credit, as Brooks really makes the entire concept of racism look ludicrous, turning the white racists into bumbling morons. Apparently there was a time when Richard Pryor was attached to play Bart, but they ended up picking Little due to Pryor's drug problem. I'm not even sure if the presence of Richard Pryor could have saved this utterly stupid movie.

Yeah, it's actually pretty stupid. The jokes just don't hold up anymore and are very un-funny. Consider this - In the past 24 hours I've watched three comedies. One from 1942, one from 1974 and one from 2005 and Brooks' comedy was, far and away, the least funny and least appealing of the trio. People always praise Brooks' for being a comic genius, but it seems like a lot of his repertoire is just retakes on Marx Brothers material. Mel Brooks, with the making of "Blazing Saddles", would set the stage for a countless number of parody films to come down the pike over the next thirty years, including stinkers from the Zucker Brothers and the Wayans Brothers. Was Brooks really a genius of comedy or did he set an annoying film trend that won't seem to go away?

RATING: 3/10 Maybe I skipped around the film itself to make some bold assumptions, but suffice it to say that I just don't find Brooks brand of humor that humorous anymore. Nuff' said.


June 26, 2011 6:22pm

150. The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Preston Sturges
Written By: Preston Sturges
Main Cast: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor


From horror in the hospital to 1940s screwball humor...just another dip in the roller coaster that is the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". I'm beginning to become a big fan of screwball comedies and "The Palm Beach Story" was no exception.

Tom (McCrea) and Geraldine Jeffers (Colbert) are a young married couple living in New York City. The film opens with their frantic wedding day and then we're immediately thrust five years into the future to find Tom Jeffers struggling with his architecture career. The couple are being forced out of their duplex and when potential new tenants come to check the place out, Geraldine meets the "Weenie King". The Weenie King is a deaf, wealthy, elderly man who wants nothing more than to help out the beautiful Geraldine, forking over to her $700 as if it were two bits. Geraldine pays the rent and all of the bills, buys herself a new dress and hangs on to $14 to take Tom to dinner that night. Tom isn't thrilled about the idea of them being handed money and later that night the couple make the decision to split up...well, that is, Geraldine makes the decision for him. She decides that together they'll never make it on their own, but alone, Geraldine can marry a wealthy man and Tom can live cheap while trying to execute his architecture. Geraldine takes off for Palm Beach, despite her husband's resistance, to get a divorce. Swindling every male onlooker who'll turn her way, she gets a train ticket and on board the "choo-choo" she meets John D. Hackensacker III, the wealthiest man in the country who is absolutely smitten with Geraldine. Yep, those are fantastic ingredients for a great screwball comedy!


Claudette Colbert, with her second and last film in the "1001" book has impressed me big time. She shines in "The Palm Beach Story" and shined just as much in "It Happened One Night". She'll definitely be filed under the 'significant finds' category when counting the pluses from the book. Another fantastic part of the cast of "The Palm Beach Story" was Rudy Vallee, who was constantly fidgeting with his spectacles and being a very likable character to boot. I knew in the back of my mind that this film was going to end with Tom and Geraldine getting back together, but I liked the character of John D. Hackensacker so much, that I dreaded the ending. The ending eventually came and honestly I'm not sure how I felt about it. On one hand, everyone comes out on top and they live happily ever after...(or do they?), but on the other hand it felt really tacked on and a gigantic excuse to send everyone home happy.

With the main story going on full force, you also had a few side acts that served to split your side on a continual basis, including "The Ale and Quail Club" and The Wiener King, who I got an immediate kick out of. It's a shame to think that this used to be the standard material being churned out of Hollywood and when compared to what is being churned out today, this is worlds better stuff. I couldn't imagine Hollywood putting out something this satisfying in today's age. In conclusion, a knockout cast paired with a great story, tied up with a mildly unsatisfying ending makes for a good day at the movies.

RATING: 7/10 I may be undercutting it by just a hair, but if so, I'll certainly rectify it come the end of the month. '7' is my knee jerk though.


June 26, 2011 3:00pm

885. Riget/The Kingdom (1994)

Running Time: 280 minutes
Directed By: Morten Arnfred, Lars von Trier
Written By: Tomas Gislason, Lars von Trier, Niels Vorsel
Main Cast: Ernst-Hugo Jaregard, Kirsten Rolffes, Holger Juul Hansen, Soren Pilmark, Birgitte Raaberg


Ah Saturday's! A day to ease down into bed with your wife and find a nice long movie to keep the two of you occupied. And today, that's just what we did, as we set our sights on the four part Danish mini-series, "The Kingdom"...the one and only mini-series in the pages of the "1001" book.

Bear with me as I try to write a movie review for what is basically a four episode television show.

"The Kingdom" begins each episode with a tale about how the hospital, located in Copenhagen, Denmark was built on the site of ancient bleaching ponds. Following that we get a standard, musical television opening, complete with photos of the cast and we're underway. The Kingdom is, of course, the name of the hospital and while it houses many characters, both patients and staff alike, the main one is Dr. Stig Helmer (Jaregard). Stig is a Swede who was ostracized from practicing medicine in his home country when it was found out that he plagarized some medical articles. Wanting to continue his practice, he relocates to Denmark and The Kingdom. Stig is a real "crab" if there ever was one, a man who removes the hubcaps from his car each morning before he enters his workplace, so that the local hoodlums can't swipe them. Stig is the chief neurosurgeon on his wing and spends the duration of the series feuding with Krogshoj Hook (Pilmark), someone he gets off on the wrong foot with and never does get along with. Stig has recently botched an operation, where a mistake on his part turned a small child, Mona, into a drooling vegetable. Meanwhile, Mrs. Drusse (Rolffes) is an accused "malinger" who fakes illness in order to gain access to the hospital, so that she can investigate the spirits that she believes haunt The Kingdom. Her son, Bulder, works there as an orderly and despite his better judgment, remains loyal to his mother. Mrs. Drusse spends the duration of the series chasing down Mary Jensen, a ghost that will not crossover to the other side and holds a dark secret as to the mystery surrounding her own death.

Other story lines that continue throughout the series involve Dr. Bondo and the drastic measures he'll take to secure a very large hepatoma from a dying man's liver, an ambulance that calls into the hospital every night announcing it's arrival then always disappearing and young medical student Mogge and his infatuation with the nurse who presides over the sleep research lab.

Despite not seeing a lot of his films, I've always been very curious of the work of Lars von Trier. I'll admit that the curiosity reached a peek last year when I saw "Antichrist" and was left scratching my head for days after. While von Trier's films aren't always the most straight forward tales, they have almost always left me feeling intrigued. "Dogville" is a film that I wish had been included in the pages of the "1001" book, as it's the best von Trier film I've seen to date. Now that I've written a few sentences about Lars himself, lets jump into the film, "The Kingdom".

In a sentence - I liked it a lot. While it certainly wasn't the scariest thing I've seen (not by a mile), it held an aura of creepiness about it and the fact that it was set in a hospital (buildings that we normally associate with bad feelings) only serves to add to the strangeness of the series. We have a wide range of characters to keep us busy for the 4+ hours and a over a half dozen different story lines to keep "The Kingdom" from ever getting dull. While we're dealing with the supernatural for a lot of the film, the series also blends in a dash of murder mystery, as we follow the vibrant Mrs. Drusse around the halls of "The Kingdom", gathering clues and putting together pieces to move the story along. I loved the grainy and rust colored lens that we were forced to peer through as well, as it only added to keep us on edge.

I think my biggest problems regarding "The Kingdom" came during the final part. If I'm forced to judge this part, and this part alone, as a film from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, then I must be honest and say that the ending had some trouble. For those who don't know, three years later Lars von Trier would produce "The Kingdom II", a sequel to the original that apparently picks up right where this one left off. The ending of this "Kingdom" was left with a major cliffhanger and thus the end result was me not being satisfied with the final product, that was later stuffed into the pages of my current "1001" text. I also felt that after the first three parts delivered ten fold in keeping me totally captivated, the final part just didn't have enough of a payoff. I expected more in terms of twists and turns in the plot. There was also a comedy bit that came very close to the end of the film, where the hospital director walks around with his superiors to show them the progress that the Kingdom has made, only to find mishap after mishap around every corner. To me, this wasn't the place for a comedy bit (especially during the finale) and it only served to remove me from the story and totally kill the suspense that had been building inside me.

RATING: 7.5/10 I liked it, I just had problems with certain things (mostly the final part). I'll definitely be checking out "The Kingdom II" though.


June 26, 2011 12:16am

Saturday, June 25, 2011

871. CLERKS (1994)

Running Time: 92 minutes
Directed By: Kevin Smith
Written By: Kevin Smith
Main Cast: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Jason Mewes


Seeing as how I came back from a two month hiatus, from this project, a couple of days ago and saw two less than stellar offerings, I decided to give myself a reboot and watch an old favorite of mine - Kevin Smith's "Clerks".

Dante Hicks (O'Halloran) is a convenience store worker who gets called in, on his day off, to man the store. Upon his arrival, the day sets it's own tone by proving that it's going to be a bad one. Before noon Dante must deal with gum, that is stuck in the store shutter locks, a hostile salesman trying to repel customers from buying cigarettes and his nagging girlfriend and her admittance of the number of men she's "been" with. Connected to the Quik Stop convenience store is RST Video and soon our second clerk enters the picture - Randal Graves (Anderson). Randal is someone who doesn't take his job seriously, to say the least, as he spends the majority of his day locking up the video store to visit his friend Dante at the convenience store. Dante, who was only supposed to watch the store until noon, gets stuck there all day and takes some cues from his friend and starts acting a little irresponsible. Dante closes the store to play a scheduled hockey game and later, to attend the funeral of one of he and Randal's former classmates. As Dante progresses through the horrible day, he continually reminds himself (and everyone around him) that he "wasn't even supposed to be here today!"

I remember the day, as if it were yesterday. It was the late 1990s ('98 or '99) and my interest in movies had started to heighten. My brother, who as a child was my passageway into all things cool, started to show me a handful of films that he loved and thought I'd enjoy too. This was the period of time that I got acquainted with a group of movies that would go on to be called some of my favorites over the years. Movies like "Pulp Fiction", "Reservoir Dogs", "Seven", "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Clerks". I remember watching "Clerks" for the first time and busting a gut and being fourteen or fifteen and realizing the genius that was Kevin Smith. I went on to watch all of Smith's films that were released to that date and Kevin Smith has been a favorite of mine ever since...

...Well, I guess I should say, that he's been a favorite person of mine ever since, as I've really soured on his direction choices these days. Even when going back and re-watching some of Smith's other films, I realized that as I grew up, they didn't seem to have that same luster as they used to. Today, I consider myself a fan of Kevin Smith the person, not the director. In fact, I'd even say that "Clerks" may be his best picture, because it was the best effort of a man trying desperately to try and break into the film industry and that once he was in, his work almost immediately began to suffer, because he didn't have the determination factor anymore. Kevin Smith is a funny guy, just watch his "Evening with Kevin Smith" specials, but his films (aside from "Clerks") are no longer favorites of mine and believe it or not, it took me a long time to finally admit that to myself. Anyway...back to "Clerks".

People constantly say it, but it's because it's so true - If I only had the chance to say one good thing about "Clerks", then I'd point to the dialogue and say that it's some of the best I've ever heard. The people in this film (Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson) talk like I talk and have the type of conversations that I could see myself having. These characters are people who could just have easily lived in my town and worked in my town's convenience and video stores. Hell, I worked at a video store when I was seventeen, so to watch a film about a couple of Joe's who hold the same types of jobs that I've held, kind of hits close to home. In fact, you could even say that "Clerks" is a movie that reeks of 1990s - the music, the characters and the setting are very much a part of the 90s culture, as these are the types of guys who existed in that decade. Dante is your typical 90s American male. He bitches about his girlfriend, wears flannel shirts and jeans, plays hockey, works at a dead end job, has goofball friends and lives with his parents, despite his age. I like "Clerks" for the same reason that a person who grew up in the 1970s likes "Saturday Night Fever" or for the same reasons that all the flower children of the 60s went to Woodstock - because it defines my generation and gives me a plethora of things to relate to. And yeah I know, Kevin Smith's generation isn't really my generation, but it's not that far off.

I don't think I will ever not like "Clerks". At this point, for me to admit that "Clerks" is no longer and enjoyable film experience for me, would also be for me to admit that my entire tastes in film have drastically changed and that I, myself, have even changed. I won't have a mid-life crisis when I turn 30 or 40, but instead I'll have a crisis the day I watch "Clerks" and don't laugh anymore or go out of it saying, "You know what, I just don't like it this time around."

RATING: 10/10 Did you expect anything else? As a post thought, I could definitely hear arguments for people who just don't like "Clerks", but like I said, I like it because it's a film that's near and dear to me.


June 24, 2011 10:48pm

Friday, June 24, 2011

631. SUSPIRIA (1977)

Running Time: 98 minutes
Directed By: Dario Argento
Written By: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi, from the book Suspiria de Profundis by Thomas De Quincey
Main Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Joan Bennett, Alida Valli, Flavio Bucci


"Suspiria" is departing the streaming portion of Netflix at the end of this month and to prevent me from having to add it to my "At Home" queue, I decided to check it out while I still could. Much like Argento's other film in the "1001..." book, I didn't think to much of this one either.

Suzy Banyon (Harper) has just arrived in Germany, from the United States, for the reason of studying dance at a prestigious dance school. Upon her arrival she hails a cab in the rain and makes her way to the school. When she arrives at the school, her arrival coincides with the exit of another student, Pat, who stands outside the doorway of the school, screaming something that Suzy can't quite make out and then running off into the woods. Later that night Pat is brutally murdered by a hairy armed man. The next day Suzy starts her tenure at the dance school and encounters a bevy of odd characters, including Miss Tanner (Valli) and Madame Blanc (Bennett), two of the school's esteemed instructors. Over the next couple of weeks Suzy makes a few friends, a few enemies and discovers some very odd happenings at the school. The oddest occurrence coming when a rainfall of maggots fall from the ceilings of the school, covering the girls and sending the screaming into the halls. Suzy's best friend at the school becomes Sarah (Casini), who tells Suzy of the odd things that have been happening for a while now and the notes that she and her best friend, the recently deceased Pat, have taken about the weirdness of the place. One night before bed, Suzy and Sarah hear the teachers walking the floors and before Suzy drifts off to sleep, she recalls Sarah saying something about witches.

I think my biggest problems with Argento's films, is that he seems to be going for more shock value than anything. In the first film I saw of his, "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage", there was an ending so unbelievable that it was more stupid than cool. In this one, the best parts are the scenes where the murders occur and everything else is just filler, making us wait for those gruesome scenes where a character may fall into a gigantic pile of barbed wire and get sliced to ribbons. The acting is absolutely atrocious, especially the main character played by Jessica Harper, who is more annoying than anything and you almost secretly hope Argento has cooked up an extra bloody death for her character. The music is actually quite brilliant and provides us a constant excuse to stay on the edge of our seat, because music like that could only mean that danger looms around the corner. In conclusion, long, dull scenes with terrible actors, do not a good movie make.

RATING: 4.5/10 Short, but to the point, so we'll call it a very strong 4.5. This would be really good for a late night horror fest with your girlfriend or wife, but there's nothing fantastic on display here and otherwise take a pass.


June 24, 2011 5:11pm

309. All That Heaven Allows (1956)

Running Time: 89 minutes
Directed By: Douglas Sirk
Written By: Peg Fenwick, Edna L. Lee, Harry Lee, from story by Edna L. Lee
Main Cast: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Grey


Two months later and I find myself back, clickity clacking away at the keyboard, donning a pair of eyeglasses and ready to spew my opinion on yet another one of these 1001 Movies That I, Apparently, Must See Before I Die. My returning film is "All That Heaven Allows", which I viewed a little earlier via the streaming portion of Netflix and why waste time jibber jabbering...Let's get down to business, shall we.

Cary Scott (Wyman) is a mother of two and a widow. She lives a very ordinary life, the type of life you'd expect any good natured woman living in the 1950s to lead. She sees her two, college age children on the weekends, has friends over for luncheons during the week and goes to social gathering with her appropriately aged male suitor, Harvey (Nagel). She also, like many other suburban wives of the 1950s, has a gardener under her employ and one day when her best friend Sara (Moorehead) can't stay for lunch, she invites the gardener, Ron Kirby (Hudson), to join her instead. They talk a little bit and on another lonely day in the life of Cary Scott, Rob asks her to his home, so that she can see his tree nursery. Cary is enamored with Ron's entire existence, his home and his friends. With a bit of a rushed plot, we're pushed forward and soon Cary and Ron are head over heels in love with one another and Ron is asking for Cary's hand in marriage. Of course, there is one little speck of information I forgot to mention - Ron is a much younger man and remember, we're dealing with a 1950s society, where the idea of a younger man and an older, widowed woman, was severely frowned upon.

I'm a twenty-six year old guy, but hey, I've seen "Leave It to Beaver" reruns and I know how persnickety people could be back in the day. It almost seems laughable today to think that this sort of thing would be frowned upon, but I realize that this was probably not just a fictional plot for a lot of women living back then. If you look up the actual ages of Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman, you'll find that Wyman is actually only eight years older than Hudson, which makes the situation even more unbelievable. I think that the thing that I could attribute most to this film, is how it makes you think of the societal changes that our world has gone through. I mean, you set a story up like this in 1956 and it's controversial, risque and racy subject matter, but if this film was made today, set in today's society it would be boring and unexciting. To think that the idea of an older woman dating a younger man today, is so socially acceptable that there are television shows about such occurrences. I'm not sure if we've advanced socially or become less conscious about the way we should behave...

"All That Heaven Allows" screams "black and white" and is really a film that I would have rather seen without color. I don't know, it just seems to me that color screams modern and that this is a tale told in a very un-modern world and a tale that needs to be reminded that it exists in an older time period. Of course, then we're fed gorgeous images of snowfall and deer frolicking outside of a gorgeous picture window and I realize that maybe the color wasn't so bad after all. Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson were pretty good and I definitely want to check out more of Rock's line of work. This was a good film, but not something that I'll likely watch again and certainly not the type of film that I'd want to see on a regular basis. Eventhough we're dealing with very adult subjects, I still would say that the film is definitely of it's time and a little bit too "goody goody" for me. It was a good love story, but love stories really aren't my bag. The film DID make me think though, and that's never a bad thing.

RATING: 6.5/10 Average film, but I was looking for something with a bit more of a wallop for my big comeback movie. Oh well...maybe next time.


June 24, 2011 3:04am

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #69: Re-Animator (1985)

Running Time: 105 minutes Directed By: Stuart Gordon Written By: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, Stuart Gordon, based on the story Her...