Saturday, July 30, 2011

821. TRUST (1990)

Running Time: 107 minutes
Directed By: Hal Hartley
Written By: Hal Hartley
Main Cast: Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, Merritt Nelson, John MacKay, Edie Falco

A SLIGHTLY TWISTED COMEDY

Taking a small respite from the "Spielberg Week" festivities tonight, I turned to the streaming portion of Netflix to watch a film that is only available for another day or two - "Trust". Otherwise, at least as far as I can tell, it's seemingly a very hard to find flick, so I needed to watch it while I had the chance.

Maria Coughlin (Shelly) is having a bad day. As the film opens she's having an argument with her father, regarding her recent departure from high school. The confrontation between the two ends with Maria slapping her father and him dropping over of a heart attack two seconds later. Pile on to that the fact that she's pregnant and her boyfriend wants nothing to do with her and it's pretty much the worst day ever! Meanwhile, Matthew Slaughter is having a bad life. His mother died while giving birth to him and he lives with his father, who resents him for that fact. He hates his job, where he repairs electronics and when we meet him, he's squeezing his boss' head in a vice and quitting. The two unfortunate souls happen to meet and what do you know, they spark up a little relationship. At first, it's simply an "I'm a loser, you're a loser, so let's be friends" situation, but it turns romantic and soon Matthew is offering to marry Maria and build a family with her and the child she's expecting.

This one was really hard to get a grasp on and I have a feeling that I'm gonna' have a hard time putting my thoughts on this one in words. For starters, the characters are all over the place and it's really hard to get a handle on where they're coming from. At times, I was scratching my head and wondering what the motives and motivations of these characters were. They just didn't seem to have any personality and the personality that they did have was completely psychotic and unnatural. Martin Donovan is great, as I enjoyed his work in the series "Weeds" and I've seen him here and there and he always kind of reminded me of Jeff Bridges (a favorite of mine). He's good here too, but the character that he's expected to bring to life is just out there and it's hard to say whether he delivered a stellar performance or a poor one. In fact, it was hard to get a grasp on this whole film, not just the characters. What was the purpose of the story? What message was Hartley trying to convey? Did our characters learn lessons? Did anything of any real note happen? I should be able to answer these questions, seeing as how I just watched this movie, but it's such an off the wall tale that it's hard to gauge.

I will say that the dialogue is incredibly snappy and well written and there's some definite quotables in there, swimming around. But what are our characters really doing or saying? In retrospect, it just seems that the tale spent nearly two hours and got nothing accomplished. Nothing of any real note happened and it was simply a string of amusing scenes and fresh dialogue that didn't seem to really lead anywhere. It's a hard one for me to describe, because on one hand it made good use of it's time and flowed along nicely never dragging, but on the other hand it was kind of dull and pointless. I could see myself revisiting this one someday and really digging it or I could see myself remembering back and thinking how terrible it was. Like I said, it's just a hard film to get a grasp on.

RATING: 6/10 I had a rough time rating this one. I'll revisit it in a few days for my July recap and maybe I can refine and define that rating a little better, but for now I'll go with a safe '6'.

MOVIES WATCHED: 309
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 692

July 29, 2011 9:58pm

Friday, July 29, 2011

736. The Color Purple (1985)

Running Time: 154 minutes
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Menno Meyjes, from the novel by Alice Walker
Main Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, Akosua Busia

SPIELBERG WEEK: CHAPTER 5

I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't start this post with the phrase, "Continuing on with Spielberg Week". Okay, promise carried out. Now then...Continuing on with "Spielberg Week", we come to a different kind of Spielberg picture in "The Color Purple", as he takes a year off from making big budget summer blockbusters and tackles a more sentimental subject.

Celie (Goldberg) and Nettie (Busia) are sisters, living in the south during the turn of the 20th Century. Celie is raped by her father on multiple occasions, leading to the birth of two children by him, both of which are immediately taken from her and sold. The years tick by and with the passing of time brings new faces, one of whom is Albert (Glover), who has eyes for the younger of the two sisters, Nettie. When asking for her hand in marriage, the girls' Pa objects, but says that if Albert insists he can marry Celie instead. He reluctantly obliges and the two are married and share a home together. Albert has a mess of kids from a previous marriage and while she stays fairly mute, Celie manages well enough handling the kids and keeping the house. It doesn't take long for Albert to become abusive, putting Celie in her place whenever the urge strikes him, backhanding her for the most insignificant of reasons. When Nettie comes for a visit, Albert attempts to rape her, but is kicked away by Albert. Albert, feeling embarrassed, sends Nettie away, citing that she is no longer welcome. The sisters are crushed, but promise to write one another. The years roll on, characters come and go, characters grow up and some become more immature. Celie and Albert eventually settle into a somewhat contented arrangement, which is helped by the entrance of Shug Avery (Avery), Albert's mistress and a woman who also becomes quite close with Celie as well.

SPOILER ALERT!

I had some gripes about "The Color Purple", but for the most part I give it a nod of approval. I never knew that there was a Whoopi Goldberg film that existed, that could nearly bring me to tears and I'll be damned if Oprah Winfrey didn't turn in a truly deserving, Oscar nominated performance. In fact, I think Oprah's character of Sofia may have been my favorite character in the film. She was such a powerful woman and when the time finally came for her to get knocked down a peg or two, it was heartbreaking to see such a powerful woman put through such shame. Goldberg was really good too and hell, there really wasn't a bad actor in the bunch, as Danny Glover and Margaret Avery showed their prowess as well. "The Color Purple" is a film rife with visual spectacles, as Spielberg transforms the early 20th Century South into a sometimes larger than life world, with rolling meadows of pink and purple flowers, giant (sometimes menacing) skies and wide shots that put the make the characters look small against the natural backdrops. I don't think of Spielberg movies as pretty movies, but this was a pretty picture that Spielberg painted and kudos to him on taking a risk and producing something different, at that point in his career.

I did, however, have some gripes and some of them are kind of major. Towards the end of the film, when Celie discovers that Albert has been hiding Nettie's letters from her, she steals them back and begins to read them. Later, at the meal table, Celie begins to finally show some gumption and bites back at Albert, stating that she's going to live with Shug, cursing Albert up one side and down the other. This seemed really preposterous to me. I've never read Alice Walker's novel, so I don't know if the film maker's were just staying true to the novel, but this really seems like a cheap trick to conjure up a happy, movie going audience. I just can't see a woman who has been beaten and abused (verbally and physically) finally standing up for herself and cursing at her spousal attacker. To me, this was a character who didn't do things on such a grand scale, but backed off when intimidated and never stood up for herself. In another example, I don't see Albert as the type of man, who when reaching his older years, catching himself falling further and further into a bottle, who would finally learn his lesson and do a good deed. If Albert hadn't learned his lesson by that point in his life, then he was going to go to the grave as a bitter old man.

Both of these character twists only served to disconnect me from the film and in my opinion, were way too uncharacteristic. Maybe they were just following the book and when adapting someone else's material, it's always good to stick with it - so if that's what they were doing, then fine. But it reeks of Spielberg wanting to provide his viewers with as happy an ending as possible. You could have just as easily left the Albert character to wallow in self pity for the rest of his life and gave us the ending of Nettie returning from Africa and reuniting with Celie. It would have worked just as well and not been so fake.

In the end though, these characters and situations did a fine job of nearly bringing me to tears any film that can make you well up with emotion must be doing something right. The actors shine, the visuals are intense and the director takes a risk and tackles a tough subject and does a fine job with it.

RATING: 7/10 Again, who would've though that Oprah and Whoopi had this in them, but they did and I'm shocked. Next up for Spielberg: "Jurassic Park".

MOVIES WATCHED: 308
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 693

July 29, 2011 2:54pm

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

680. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Running Time: 121 minutes
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Melissa Mathison
Main Cast: Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote

SPIELBERG WEEK: CHAPTER 4

Continuing on with our week (or two) long tribute to Mr. Blockbuster himself, Steven Spielberg, we come to Spielberg's second of his three films about aliens - "E.T."

The film opens in a secluded forest, where a space craft is seemingly getting ready to take off and although they're in the dark, tiny space men seem to be scurrying to get aboard the vessel as government agents race toward them, trying to beat them to the punch. All of the tiny spacemen, save for one, make it aboard the vessel and takeoff, just as the agents get to the location. The one that doesn't make it, hides out in the bushes. Then we're introduced to the humans of our story and the main human, Elliot (Thomas), a ten-year old boy. He has an older brother Michael (MacNaighton) and a younger sister Gertie (Barrymore). While taking out the trash one night, Elliot realizes that there is SOMETHING in the garage, but doesn't stick around to find out what it is. Later, he discovers the tiny spaceman, whom he dubs E.T. (for "extra-terrestrial) and befriends the cute, cuddly creature. Elliot keeps the alien, hiding it from his mother, but revealing it to his siblings and eventually becomes so attached to E.T. that the two begin feeling the same feelings. Of course, cute, cuddly aliens befriending young boys doesn't go unnoticed for long and soon government agents come knocking on the door, ready to take E.T. back to the lab.

SPOILER ALERT!

Honestly, the last time I watched "E.T.", I had it pegged as something like a "2/10", but this time it won me over. I wouldn't call it the greatest thing on two reels, but it works to an extent and certainly serves it's purpose as a cute movie, meant as entertainment for the whole family. I never saw "E.T." when I was a kid, but I'm sure I would've really dug it back then and even last night I was able to slightly lose myself in the film. The film is incredibly cute and while "cute" might not add up to a "must see" affair, I think everyone should probably see "E.T." at some point in their lives.

If I had to nitpick (which I do, because I always nitpick), then I'd point to a couple of inaccuracies in the script. For starters, I don't think they highlighted the bond between E.T. and Elliot enough. I mean, I get that they were buddies and all, but why did they feel the same feelings? What made that happen? It was almost like the script was being written, that idea was thought of, but they couldn't think of a good excuse, so they just wrote it in without one. Also, why did E.T. start to die toward the end? He disappears for a little while and when they finally find him, he's looks the color of ash and is very sickly and later, he's thought to be dead. What the hell happened to him? Did he encounter a group of rag-tag gangsters, while separated from Elliot? There were a lot of elements of the film, where they just got a little sloppy and just didn't feel like getting in-depth.

The other thing that I really hated, was that they ultimately gave the government agents voices and faces and hey, they weren't so bad after all. I hated that! I loved the whole element of leaving the agents as the villains of the film and keeping them voiceless and faceless and just allowing us to think of them as "those guys who want the cute alien". I liked how, in the beginning, the main agent was only identifiable by the keys that hung from his belt, letting us know that "key/belt man" was the same guy who kept hunting down E.T. Otherwise the film mostly works for me and while I wouldn't give it the highest of recommendations for fellow adults, I would definitely advise adults with youngsters to check it out with their kids, because it's definitely a family movie that will allow adults to have a really good time too. It's got a lot of heart, it's very cute, there's memorable scenes, a fair amount of suspense and fairly decent actors (mostly kids).

RATING: 7/10 "E.T." probably won't be showing up on any TOP 20 lists, but it works to an extent and serves it's purpose and that's worth a shining rating.

MOVIES WATCHED: 307
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
694

July 26, 2011 5:49pm

Monday, July 25, 2011

669. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Running Time: 115 minutes
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, Philip Kaufman
Main Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, Jonathan Rhys-Davies

SPIELBERG WEEK: CHAPTER 3

Finally I return with the third installment of the "Spielberg Week" festivities, with another one that really just wasn't for me - "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

Indiana Jones (Ford) is an archeology professor, who just so happens to turn into a super hero on the weekends. When the film opens, Jones is tracking down, an apparently valuable golden idol, only to have it stolen from him at the last minute, by his arch-rival Belloq (Freeman). We come to find that Jones often times goes out in search of rare artifacts, in an effort to procure them for a local museum. After the incredible opening scene of the film, we then get into the real plot, when two Army intelligence agents approach Jones and tell him that the Nazi's are trying to seek out the lost Ark of the Covenant (the vessel in which the original, broken stone tablets of the Ten Commandments were placed in). Indiana Jones informs the men that any Army that has the Ark of the Covenant is indestructible, because it possesses some kind of special power. Also, we're dealing with Nazi's because the movie takes place in 1936. Soon, Indy' is off on another adventure, stopping off in Nepal to meet up with an old colleague's daughter (Allen), to get a special piece he'll need in order to find the Ark.

This is the prime example of a film that just wasn't for me. This is not my type of film in the slightest. For starters, I hate films where the main character can magically turn into a superhero in a moment's notice and we never get an explanation for it. Why was Indiana Jones so damn invincible, I mean the guy was an archeology professor for God's sake. I know, I know, because it's fun and when we're dabbling in Funland, we don't need explanations, just cool effects, snakes and explosions. Secondly, I hate Harrison Ford. I've never seen the appeal of this guy and the only factor that I can attribute to his success, is the fact that he hitched his star to George Lucas' wagon and didn't let go.

Sure, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is fun to a certain extent. The opening sequence of Jones trotting through the cave, in an attempt to get the golden idol is a fantastic opening scene and provides a good hook, to grab the viewer and peak their interests. I loved the whole thing, right down to the giant boulder nearly crushing our hero. Beyond that, it slowly starts to lose it's appeal. Honestly, I think the film is just a little too complicated. The writers go into great detail to explain what the Ark of the Covenant is and why it's so powerful and why it must be obtained. It gets way to in depth, when really, with a movie such as this, a complicated plot is not a requirement. They should have told us as little as possible, because all the discussion about the history of the Ark, really took me out of the picture and did a lot in sapping out some of the fun.

I'm gonna' stop there, because it is not my intention to rip this film a new one. I GET the appeal of the film and I can understand why people for years have been "oogling" over it, but it's simply not for me and that's that.

RATING: 4.5/10 Well Spielberg is 1 for 2 and has another alien flick coming down the pike. If it's anything (quality wise) like his last alien flick, he's in dire straits, as far as appealing to my tastes.

MOVIES WATCHED: 306
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 695

July 25, 2011 2:43pm

Saturday, July 23, 2011

507. KES (1969)

Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed By: Ken Loach
Written By: Tony Garnett, Ken Loach, from the novel A Kestrel For A Knave by Barry Hines
Main Cast: David Bradley, Lynne Perrie, Freddie Fletcher, Colin Welland, Brian Glover

THE LAST "MUST SEE" MOVIE OF THE 60s?

I mentioned earlier this week, in my "Update" post, that I'd be tackling a large number of films from the 1960s during this 100 films and "Kes" is our first. "Kes" is currently streaming over at Netflix and is an above average British film.

Billy Casper (Bradley) is a 15-year old boy who lives with his mother and brother, sharing a bed with the latter. Billy's brother Judd (Fletcher) is both physically and verbally abusive towards him, constantly calling him names and slapping him around. Billy has a paper route to help out his fledgling family and attends school, where he himself is no stranger to a bit of trouble. One day, while walking home from school, Billy spots a falcon flying through the air and manages to capture it and bring it home, where he plans to train it. He names the falcon "Kes" and trains it on a leash, feeding it bits of beef. Billy finds solace in the falcon, using his interest in falconry and his desire to train the bird as an outlet for his troubled youth and as a means to escape the bullying of his brother, teachers and school mates. One teacher, his English teacher, takes an interest and pride in Billy's new found hobby and encourages him to keep at it.

"Kes" is pretty much your typical average film. There's nothing blatantly terrible, while at the same time there's really nothing outstanding either. I guess there are a few scenes that stand above the rest. I think the best scene comes when Billy and his physical education teacher, Mr. Sugden (Glover), come into contact and a soccer game ensues. Otherwise the story, in my opinion, just seemed a bit stale. The film, as I had read it, was supposed to be about a boy who gets bullied, but ultimately finds solace when he adopts a falcon and begins to train it. While that doesn't sound like the most exciting offering the book has given me, I kept an open mind and went in looking for a good kick-off to my sixties fest. The film, however, really wasn't about that at all, as I perceived it. Sure, Billy was bullied by his brother, but isn't that kind of normal? Aren't older brother's supposed to bully their younger brothers? Mine didn't, but I've heard it's fairly normal and not extraordinary. Otherwise, Billy isn't really bullied at all. Sure the gym teacher gives him a hard time, but he gives all of the students a hard time. And yes, his there is a particular classmate who gives him a bit of trouble, but Billy fights back and gets in a few licks.

What the film is really about, is a boy who is simply troubled and who is mischievous himself and who finds an outlet in his new falcon. But even then, that's not really an extraordinary story, is it? I'm ragging on this film for no reason really, as it wasn't all that bad...but then again, it wasn't all that good either. It was really just an average film, at best and nothing I'd have included in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"...but that's me.

RATING: 6/10 Like I said, nothing particularly bad or particularly good either and ultimately I'd check it out and let yourself be the judge. It's certainly worth at least one look.

MOVIES WATCHED: 305
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
696

July 23, 2011 8:54pm

785. BIG (1988)

Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: Penny Marshall
Written By: Gary Ross, Anne Spielberg
Main Cast: Tom Hanks, David Moscow, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A MAN NAMED HANKS

Well thanks to my own inability to get "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" back in the mail, thus getting another Spielberg flick here for the weekend, I'm left with only "Raiders of the Lost Ark" until Monday. I figured I'd save that one for later on today and go ahead and watch a film that was, instead, co-written by Spielberg's sister - "Big".

13-year old Joshua Baskin (Moscow) is your typical kid. He enjoys video games, he buys baseball cards and he's starting to become interested in girls. However, Josh isn't content with being a kid and that becomes very evident when he is denied access to a carnival ride for not being tall enough. Wandering through the carnival, Josh comes across a wish making machine called Zoltar and wishes that he was big. When he wakes up the next morning, he finds that he's transformed into a 30-year old man (Hanks). When his mother sees him, she assumes that he is the abductor of her son and Josh has no alternative but to flee to nearby New York City. With the help of his friend Billy (Jared Rushton), Josh finds residence in a cheap motel and eventually lands a job as a computer programmer at MacMillan Toy Company. It is there that he meets Susan (Perkins), whom he comes to strike up a love interest with (pretty creepy considering the fact that Josh is really 13 and she's 30). Josh also meets Mr. MacMillan (Loggia), whom he befriends during a Saturday outing at FAO Schwarz and ultimately climbs the ladder at MacMillan Toys.

This isn't the first time I'd seen "Big" and actually it had been a permanent fixture of my DVD shelf, prior to today's viewing. Upon today's viewing though, I realized that "Big" wasn't all that I had it cracked up to be at my younger age. As far as comedies go, it's a great one and Tom Hanks is fantastic as a 13-year old boy. He gets all the mannerisms down pat, including the way he sits down (keeping his fists balled in his lap and his legs close together). But besides Hanks' performance, this is really your typical 80s comedy, where believability was stretched to it's breaking point. This is the type of comedy that, in the 80s, was hugely successful, yet today it wouldn't be. Just look at a fairly recent example of the Jennifer Garner film "13 Going on 30", which didn't do that well (if memory serves me correctly) and today is barely remembered. Nowadays comedies have to be extra raunchy to get ahead and that also gave "Big" a breath of fresh air factor, because for the most part it was wholesome and a really enjoyable time. I'm not sure I'd label it with a "must see" sticker, but it was enjoyable none the less.

No matter how many times I see it though, one thing is always going to stay the same - I'm never going to be able to help but smile during the big piano scene. I just can't help but crack a smile when Hanks and Loggia tip-toe around on those over sized keys and if anything about "Big" is "must see" then it's that scene. The bottom line on "Big" is this: If you saw it when you were younger, then you grew up loving it and it's you're probably always going to have a soft spot for it. If you've never seen it and you see it now, it's probably something that would be written off as more 80s silliness. But Hanks delivers and for me, makes it, at least, an enjoyable affair.

RATING: 6.5/10 Whether you see it, saw it or don't see it you should, at least, track down that piano scene on YouTube or something, because it's a super fun scene.

MOVIES WATCHED: 304
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 697

July 23, 2011 1:07pm

Thursday, July 21, 2011

618. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Running Time: 137 minutes
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Steven Spielberg
Main Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon, Francois Truffaut, Cary Guffey, Teri Garr

SPIELBERG WEEK: CHAPTER 2

Spielberg shows up again in the pages of the "1001" book, two years after the release of "Jaws", with a film that he both directed and wrote. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is a film I had only seen once before, prior to tonight and a film that I would be perfectly happy to never see again...ever.

The film follows several key characters, as the story unfolds. We start out with three-year old Barry Guiler (Guffey), who is awaken from sleep one night when strange things start happening around the house. When his toys start making noise, Barry leaps from his bed to see what's up and ends up finding a bevy of strangeness, like food leaping from the refrigerator on it's own. Eventually Barry's mother Jillian (Dillon) gets up to see what all the commotion is and finds Barry running out of the house and through the field. She eventually chases Barry to a road, on the top of a hill. Switching gears, we also encounter Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) who works for the electric company. One night, while out on a job, trying to find the source of an unexpected blackout, Roy gets a shock of his own. While sitting in his truck, all sorts of weird things begin to happen, as the radio turns itself on and papers fly from the glove compartment. Eventually, Roy is drawn to the same hill where Barry and Jillian are and finds that a small crowd has gathered, where they all collectively are the witnesses of a UFO sighting. Following the sighting, Roy is consumed with the experience and cannot get over it, which leads to trouble at home with his wife Ronnie (Garr). Also, the trio of Roy, Jillian and Barry collectively can't seem to get a certain five bar tune out of their head or stop sketching pictures of a mound that they're all envisioning.

SPOILER ALERT!

I didn't say that I never wanted to see this film again because I hated it, I just think it's a movie that is only worth one or two go arounds and after that you're either a fan or you're not and I'm definitely not fan, despite some positives. In my opinion, this film is the epitome of boring. Again I say that in the most positive of ways, because it's not that the movie drags (although it does AT TIMES), because it actually flows along quite nicely to a certain point. Also, before we really get into this, let me make it clear that while I'm certainly not the biggest sci-fi fan in the world, I do like a good alien story. I've always been fascinated with alien stories. Now then, let's get on with it...

Let's break the film down into sections and go from there. The film actually starts out quite good. It poses to the audience a good swarm of questions and hooks us by making us wonder. Why are things popping out of the fridge? What just happened in Roy's car? Where's Barry going? Okay, there's some UFO's - What's up with those? Are they hostile? It poses a lot of questions and hooks us in and I to was hooked in and ready for a ride. Then we get into the middle section and things take a turn for the worse. Following Roy and the gang's spotting of the UFO on the hill until the time that Roy arrives at Devil's Rock, almost nothing happens. We constantly shift back and forth between Roy and Jillian's stories and Roy is always going batty, either drawing the mound or trying to track down more information. There's a cool little scene where Barry gets abducted, but beyond that we're dealing with over an hour of movie where we're not getting a whole lot accomplished. Then we get to Devil's Rock and despite all the "Ooohing and Aaahing", it's a damn chore to sit through the ENTIRE segment where the scientists make contact with the aliens. It was at least a forty minute affair and NOT a lot happened in those forty minutes.

Now in a way, that last forty minutes of the film are pretty cool, in that it kind of treats everything as if we're watching a "Breaking News" segment on our local station and witnessing a real unfolding of events. However, this is fiction and this is the type of film where you expect things to happen. It's a Spielberg movie and even at this stage in his career, after "Jaws", you expected suspense and intrigue along with all the "ooh" and "aah" stuff. Remember, this was Spielberg's follow-up to "Jaws" and you cannot give me the greatness that is "Jaws" and then follow it up with this meandering mess. Sure, the movie isn't terrible and there are a lot of pretty things to look at and there are some other positive things too, but for the most part it's a damn dull affair and that is why, despite the positive things, I will more than likely never see this movie again.

I'm not going to go over all of the positive things, because for the most part they were small and unimportant, but I'll touch on a couple. For starters, Dreyfuss was really good in this and over the course of this film and "Jaws" he's proved to me that he's not just a comedy actor, but that he can hang with the big boys. There was a time when I sought out Dreyfuss for his work in things like "Stakeout", "Tin Men" and "What About Bob?", but he can definitely GO when it comes to acting. The other thing that I REALLY liked about "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is the fact that the aliens are never really exploited on film. They don't shove them down our throats. They're only ever hinted at and at the end, when we finally do see them, we only see them in the shadows and are never really given a good look at them. I liked that, it made them even more ominous and exciting.

RATING: 5.5/10 See, I didn't hate it! I just can definitely say that it IS a dull film and once is definitely enough. I can see why people get all gaga over it though.

MOVIES WATCHED: 303
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 698

July 20, 2011 11:55pm

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

605. JAWS (1975)

Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Carl Gottlieb, from the novel by Peter Benchley
Main Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

SPIELBERG WEEK: CHAPTER 1

Moving right along, we get to some of the bigger pictures from the "1001..." book and kick-off our journey to 401, with "Steven Spielberg Week". In reality, this will probably be more like "Steven Spielberg Two or Three Weeks", but who's counting. We kick it off with "Jaws" and we set a high bar, right off the bat, for the next TOP 2o list.

Martin Brody (Scheider) is the newly appointed Amity police chief, just in town for the 4th of July festivities. Brody is a New York City cop and his transfer to the beaches and ocean that come with Amity Island, is a little surprising, considering he's petrified of the water. Right off the bat, Brody is faced with a BIG problem, when a late night swimmer named Chrissie Watkins is seemingly mangled to death by a shark. Brody tries his best to get the beaches closed down, but Mayor Vaughn (Hamilton) won't allow it. The holiday action provides a lot of commerce for the town and the mayor decrees that the beach must remain open. When a second casualty is taken under by a shark, a marine biologist, Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss), is called in to investigate. He notes that the shark they're after is a monster and that it's not going to be an easy fish to catch. But one man on the island thinks he has what it takes to catch the fish and that's Quint (Shaw). His demands are $10,000 and he guarantees that he'll bring in the shark, but when it's revealed that it's not just any shark, but a great white shark, Brody and Hooper insist on going along with Quint on his journey.

Before we get into talking about "Jaws", let me just say that I don't consider myself a big Steven Spielberg fan. Like most, I've seen a lot of his movies and I've enjoyed a few of his movies, but he's simply always been that guy who puts out the big summer picture and or the big Oscar contender and then goes away for a little while, possibly producing a film or two in the meantime. We kick off our line of Spielberg films with "Jaws" and I got to tell you, it's a really hard film not to like. There's not a lot to dislike here actually. For starters, you have Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw, all putting on killer performances (especially Shaw). Down the road I'm going to be saying how big of a Robert Shaw fan I am and I only just realized it today. Isn't he just a wonderful actor? Not only here, but in other films like "The Sting" and "A Man for All Seasons". Scheider and Dreyfuss are nothing to sneeze at either and it's actually Scheider's character that holds a lot of appeal to me. You have this New York City cop, who's probably been chasing drug dealers down back alleys and surveying knife fight victims, and you throw him on to an island, you reveal that he's afraid of water and can't swim and you put him on a boat with an old sea dog and a marine biologist tracking a shark. I mean, that just sounds appealing. I cheered a little (in my head) when Brody pulls out his pistol and starts firing at the shark, while on the boat - as if the shark were a NYC thug.

Truth be told, I'm not a big fan of adventure stories, but "Jaws" does a fine job of mixing adventure and horror with staples like great dialogue and character development. Amidst all of the shark hunting you have scenes where the three leads sit around a table in the boat's cabin and tell "war stories". Quint's Indianapolis speech is famous and not only that, this film is quite quotable. Personally, I've always enjoyed Quint's inaugural speech, when he's first introduced, over his Indianapolis speech.

Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

Bottom line is this - "Jaws" is one of the few films that if you don't like it, then you almost have to give some sort of explanation. With this one there's no pussy footing around, chalking it up to boredom or anything of the sort. The words "boredom" and this film DO NOT go hand in hand. They don't make blockbusters like this anymore. It seems that back then, blockbusters had to be both big budget and good to boot, and now they just have to be flashy. "Jaws" is the real deal and it's a damn good film...a true "must see"!

RATING: 10/10 And the bar for the next TOP 20 just got set really high. 99 films have a chance to dethrone it, but as of now, this is the #1 film for the 4th TOP 20.

MOVIES WATCHED: 302
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
699

July 19, 2011 2:45pm

UPDATE - July 2011

Coming off the heels of another TOP 20 created, I figured I'd better pop in here and survey the scene and write a quick update post. First and foremost, I hope everyone who is reading my blog is having a good time doing so. I also hope everyone enjoyed the TOP 20 post and maybe, just maybe, you'll take my advice and see a few of the pictures that appeared on that list. The main cause for this update is to tell you the plan for the next 100 films, so let's cover that.

SPIELBERG WEEK

You've probably seen the posters that have been swamping the blog, promoting the upcoming "Spielberg Week". Just to make it clear, I'm not a huge Spielberg fan or anything, but I do realize he is a popular director, hence the posters. "Jaws" will be the kick-off to the next 100 films and I'll more than likely watch it tomorrow. On a side note, my progress here will probably be slowing down just a bit. I've been putting in extra hours, so to speak, for the blog in order to get to 301 watched and now that I've gotten there, I'll probably start watching things more gradually.

60s

This might get a little confusing, so bear with me...

I was looking over my previous two TOP 20 lists and noticed that the dominant decade, when looking at both lists is the 1930s. It's not hard to figure out why that is, however, and it's simply because the 1930s was a decade with a considerable amount of films in the book and a decade that I watched entirely chronological. I got to thinking and it just didn't seem fair that the 1930s got such a distinct advantage to impress me and because I was now moving in a much more random fashion, no other decade would get that opportunity. So I've decided that with 700 films left to watch and seven considerable decades remaining in the book, that each group of 100 films, from now on, will be dominated by a particular decade. For this next 100 films, I've chosen the 1960s and it breaks down something like this...

I'll be watching...

63 movies from the 1960s
8 Spielberg movies
29 open spots, which will still give me a little bit of freedom to move around when I need to get out of the 60s.

I WON'T be watching EVERY movie from the 1960s just the majority of them and giving the 60s a chance to provide me with some new favorites.

GODARD, LEONE, WISE, NEWMAN

In addition to a week dedicated to Steven Spielberg, in the next 100 films there will also be weeks dedicated to Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Wise and a four film Paul Newman salute titled "NEWMANIA!". There will also be a "Sergio Leone Hat Trick", which will cover Leone's three films from the book.

STILL ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

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Like I said I'll probably get around to "Jaws" tomorrow. If not tomorrow then I'll be back with it be weeks end. Thanks to EVERYONE who takes time out of their schedules and swings by hear to read or write comments. No matter how hard I try, I'll never be able to show you my true appreciation for that. Keep coming back and keep enjoying. Thank you!

July 19, 2011 2:22am

Monday, July 18, 2011

TOP 20: #202 - #301

As always, before I actually get into the TOP 20 itself, I have to blab a little bit. Once again this group of 100 films provided me with some difficult decisions in the end, when making this list. There are some things that don't even appear in the "Ten Worth Mentioning" section here, that are VERY good films, but sadly there are only so many spots. I put a fair amount of time into thinking about this list and what I'm about to present is, what I think, a really accurate depiction of the twenty greatest films I watched over the past 100. As always, with these TOP 20's, I encourage comments. It's really the only recurring post where I do encourage comments. Let me know your thoughts. What were my "sins of omission"? What do you agree with? What do you think of the list overall. Thank you for reading, not just today, but always and without further ado, the TOP 20 movies of the past 100 movies I've watched from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book.

CLICK HERE TO SEE A COMPLETE LIST OF THE LAST 100 FILMS I'VE WATCHED FOR THE "1001 MOVIES YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE" BOOK, INCLUDING MY INITIAL RATINGS OF THOSE FILMS


Note: I've revised some of the ratings for the following 20 films, as some of them needed a bit of tweeking.

20. Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) dir. Hector Babenco 8/10
It's hard for me to elaborate on a review that I just wrote yesterday, without sounding like a broken record. As soon as I finished this film yesterday, I knew that it would be able to find a home on this list. I've always been a big William Hurt fan and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" provided him with a different kind of role and a role I think he knocked out of the park. The idea of two prisoners simply sitting in their cell, trying to pass the time, while telling stories to one another, just sounds incredibly appealing to me, as a fan of film and it wasn't a shock that I took to this one like I did.

19. Groundhog Day (1993) dir. Harold Ramis 8/10
I couldn't help but include "Groundhog Day" on this list. It was the second film I watched in this set of 100, but it's been a favorite of mine for years. To me, this was always more than just your run of the mill Bill Murray laugh-fest. This was a film, that even at a young age, I GOT the message of. It had a clear cut, good-hearted message of: Live your life the best way you can and good things will happen. This film has NEVER just been a comedy to me, but rather a movie with a message and a lot of memorable scenes and a good performance by Bill Murray. Later on in life, Murray would prove that good performances came natural to him when he started to take on more serious roles like, "Lost in Translation" and "Broken Flowers".

18. Zero Kelvin (1995) dir. Hans Petter Moland 8/10
Another recently watched film, "Zero Kelvin" was a big shocker of the past 100 films, as I went in expecting next to nothing and came out with my #18 on this list. I'm a dialogue guy - I love hearing characters talk and converse and I like to see how characters interact when put into an isolated place and in rough circumstances. This was perfect for that cause, as it put three guys on a fur tracking expedition against the elements and had them physically and verbally battle it out.

17. The Big Heat (1953) dir. Fritz Lang 8.5/10
If this 100 should be known for anything, it should be known for introducing me to the genre of film-noir, as just in the past week or so, I've discovered a whole new genre, with a plethora of films waiting for my eyes. While I haven't seen many noirs, "The Big Heat", I'm sure, has to be considered one of the greatest ones. The plot is simple and deals mainly with a hard-boiled cop out to avenge the murder of his wife. Sometimes it's the simplest of films that get my biggest nod of approval. Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame, fill out the standard noir cast of bitter hero, dastardly villain and ditzy dame and they all do a fantastic job to boot.

16. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) dir. Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris 8.5/10
This is a film that I'm not really sure how far it would have gotten, if it hadn't been for me seeing it before. "Little Miss Sunshine" is a film that I saw for the first time back in late 2006 and I loved it from the word "go". Over the years I've re-watched and re-loved this film, over and over, but this time around it was lacking something. Maybe it's my tastes, as they slowly seem to be changing, but it just didn't get over on me as highly as it used to. But none of the films on this list deserved to be looked down upon and "Little Miss Sunshine" clearly had a reserved spot on this list, just for being a damn fine film. When you pair up a cast as good as the cast in this movie, good things are bound to happen and good things did happen.

15. Body Heat (1981) dir. Lawrence Kasdan 8.5/10
Damn, did I undercut this one last night! In less than twenty-four hours "Body Heat" jumps 1 1/2 points and makes the final cut of this TOP 20 list and it's no fluke. I definitely underestimated this one and the more I thought about, the more I realized that "Body Heat" was my kind of flick. Sleazy characters, sleazy situations and sleazy music coupled with a very well written script, a nice twist at the end and good performances from Hurt and Turner, make for a definite good time at the movies. I honestly can't believe that this one went unseen by me for so long, especially considering how big I am on William Hurt. The only drawback here, besides the small ones I mentioned in my original review last night, is that they may have gone just a little overboard on the sex scenes. They were well done, but in my opinion they were a bit excessive and not really needed to that degree. Otherwise - damn fine film!

14. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) dir. Sidney Lumet 8.5/10
This is another one that I saw prior to my watching it for the "1001..." book and another one that is REALLY hard to dislike. Al Pacino is such a great actor that he easily turns any film into a "must see" and when you sprinkle in the elements of true story, bank robbery and Sidney Lumet it just gets that much more must see. This is another one where you can kind of see what my tastes lean toward - I obviously like films where a mass amount of characters are put into a confined space and we get to see how things play out. That's always been an attraction for me and while that may not be all of the appeal that I have for "Dog Day Afternoon", it's certainly part of it.

13. Moonstruck (1987) dir. Norman Jewison 9/10
I knew when this wrapped up the other night, that I'd make sure I found a spot for it on this list. It doesn't get too much more romantic comedy than "Moonstruck" and I'd go so far as to say that this may be one of the best romantic comedies of all-time. Romantic comedies really aren't my forte, but this one is just too good to pass up. Cher, Cage, Aiello and really the whole damn cast do a fine job, bringing forth a very cute, very romantic, very heartfelt film about love in Brooklyn, New York. This reminded me of an old movie and eventhough it was in color, I could see sparks of the old black & white days popping out of the performances, the scenery and the situations.

12. Funny Games (1997) dir. Michael Haneke 9/10
If it wasn't for that damn stupid ending, this could've been TOP 10 material, maybe higher. But I'm not here to harp on the bad, but to focus on the good and when you give me a film about two youths who hold a family hostage in their own home, just for kicks, it's something that, description alone, attracts me. I had only seen this for the second time this go around and both times I've felt the same way. It's a good film, that draws you in and has some truly incredible performances - and yeah, I say the phrase "incredible performances" a lot, but the emotion that the mother and father in this film depict is really uncanny and had to have been trying for them to conjure up. Great film!

11. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) dir. George Roy Hill 9/10
For me, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" was a film that really takes the audience on a journey with it. We always seem to know just as much as the main characters and we're asking the same questions they are, as they're being followed through the hills and wonder who in God's green Earth is chasing them. Sometimes I watch so called classics and they just don't hold up and I'm left asking myself, "How in the world did that film get tagged with classic status?", but this is one that deserves it's accolades and if you watch it and see Paul Newman riding around on his bicycle, as carefree as a small child, I defy you not to miss him...just a little.

10. The Sting (1973) dir. George Roy Hill 9/10
When I first watched them, back in February of this year, I pegged "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" as the better of the two Newman/Redford flicks. With some consideration today, I realize that it was "The Sting" that held my interest better and was just a slightly better film. I've also realized in this group of 100 films that I LOVE poker/card playing scenes in film. If it's done right, a game of poker can be just as suspenseful as a shootout or a standoff and it's all done top notch in "The Sting". Not only are the card playing scenes intricate, but really the whole plot is very intricate in detail and really you can't help but smile as Newman and Redford con Robert Shaw for all of his dough.

09. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) dir. Woody Allen 9.5/10
Woody has made his presence known on this list! This will be the first of three Woody Allen films to make the main list of this TOP 20 and a fantastic one to boot. Before I gush about the good, let me just say that I'm not really sure what it is about this film that holds me back from giving it a '10', but I'm just not feeling '10' for this one. Now then...terrific cast and terrific writing (as usual with Woody) lead to a terrific film (it's not rocket science) and "Hannah and Her Sisters" lands a TOP 10 spot on this TOP 20. It's hard for me to really explain why, other than that it's Woody Allen and for me, it's one of his better films...And I stress ONE OF.

08. Crimes & Misdemeanors (1989) dir. Woody Allen 10/10
We enter into that hallowed ground of the perfect 10/10's, with our first entrant being "Crimes & Misdemeanors". This is just a film that weaves two stories together pretty flawlessly. When I reviewed this for the book, I undercut it a little, stating that it "just didn't do it for me as much as some of the others did". Not sure where my head was there, but hindsight is 20/20 and thank God for hindsight, because this is clearly a picture that deserves one of the top spots, this time around. Woody Allen, Martin Landau, Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston all turn in great performances and really I could watch Woody Allen act any day of the week...twice on Sunday.

07. Reservoir Dogs (1992) dir. Quentin Tarantino 10/10
"Reservoir Dogs" marks the first time in the three TOP 20's that I've created, where the first film I watched for the group makes it to the list and boy did it MAKE IT, placing in at #7. For a while, leading up to the making of this list, I wasn't sure how good "Reservoir Dogs" would fair against some new found favorites, but today, when considering everything, it's simply a film that's always going to be a blip on my radar...and I mean that in a good way. I think that, no matter how much my tastes change, "Reservoir Dogs" is always going to be one of those old stand by's that you can pop in and re-live. Some of the best dialogue ever written for the screen (not THE best, but some of the best), great performances and once again the plot device of holing up characters in a small space and letting them duke it out.

06. Midnight Cowboy (1969) dir. John Schlesinger 10/10
I don't think I could explain the placement of "Midnight Cowboy" any better than the way I described the film in my original review. It's a film that has fantastic performances and in my opinion, was the equivalent to moving art. From my original review on February 26, 2011:
This film is also probably one of the most artistic films I've ever seen. To me the entire experience of watching "Midnight Cowboy" is like staring at an intriguing painting. It allows you the freedom to make certain interpretations, it provokes thought, it's beautiful and scary at the same time and I think that everyone will ultimately see some things different. For me, I saw a movie that captures the height of the sexual revolution. A movie that turned me on, but also made me feel. Instead of using colors to paint the picture the film maker's use different assets as their colors. The atmosphere, the characters, the city, the beauty, the sex and the tragedy were this films equivalent to Roy G. Biv, and they were all mixed and mashed together to form something that was brilliant.

05. No Country for Old Men (2007) dir. Joel and Ethan Coen 10/10
The Coen's are and probably always will be some of my favorite directors. Their pictures, while not scary movies, seem to have an atmosphere that is frightening and gives you tingles down your spine. "No Country for Old Men" is not different, as the Coen's craft POSSIBLY their best film. It's pleasing to think that this MAY BE one of the Coen's best films, and that it's also one of their most recent films. It hopefully means that they're just now hitting their stride and that fantastic Coen brothers films will continue to hit the big screen for years to come. I'm getting off topic though. I think this was my favorite viewing of "No Country for Old Men". My previous view didn't have me drooling quite this much and I definitely acquired a new found taste for this film. It's yet another very simple film. Guy A has a satchel full of cash and Guy B wants it. Guy C is a Sheriff and he wants them both. Set them loose on a West Texas terrain, with Joel and Ethan at the director's chairs and you've got gold.

04. Woman in the Dunes (1964) dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara 10/10
One of my greatest finds from the pages of the "1001..." book and like I've said so many times before - Movies like this are the reason I'm watching my way through this book. This was a beautiful, brilliant film and one that I recently purchased on DVD and am excited that I'll now be able to re-live it again and again and try to peel back more of the layers and answer more of the questions and simply enjoy the film. From my original review on March 26, 2011:
I've always loved movies with a very small cast and this film is basically a two person gig, with the man and the woman (we don't find out Niki's name until the VERY end of the film, so I'll just refer to him as "man"). To me small casts are great, as it gives the opportunity to gifted actors, who have good chemistry, to just cut loose and see what kind of magic they can create. I thought both leads did an outstanding job and I also loved the cinematography - I've never seen sand look so good.

03. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) dir. Chantal Akerman 10/10
This is one that I probably would have seen without the "1001..." book, as I had been eyeballing it for quite some time. A lot of people are going to hate this movie, period. It's a film that can easily be written off as boring and I don't even think I'd try to argue with anyone who didn't like it. What I would do, is tell why I liked it. I think it's a film that is very interesting. I'm not a pervert, nor have I ever been and I don't get my kicks looking in people's windows, but..."Jeanne Dielman..." gives us the chance to peer into the life of this character and watch her just be. We watch her go through her daily routine and then we notice something has upset that routine and just as if we were looking through a window, we have questions. We don't get all the answers, but we're free to speculate and watch things unfold. This film is voyeurism at it's finest and is a masterpiece, in my opinion.

02. Manhattan (1979) dir. Woody Allen 10/10
My favorite Woody Allen film. I love everything about "Manhattan". I love the fact that Woody shot it in black & white. I love the characters. It has what could arguably be called one of the greatest opening pieces in film history, as Woody introduces his character Issac in a perfect way, accompanied by the sounds of Gershwin. I love the cast, the cinematography and for me this is really a flawless film. From my original review on February 9, 2011
I love that Allen went the black & white route with this film, as it gives us an old time feel in a very modern world and I honestly can't imagine this film being in color. The shots of New York City are sublime and watching this film makes me feel like I've visited NYC and been back to tell about it. Woody really takes you right into the heart of the city and busts open the psyche of some of it's characters, for us to muse at and be entertained by. Love this movie!

01. 12 Angry Men (1957) dir. Sidney Lumet 10/10
My original review pretty much says it all. I will add that I've had this pegged for the #1 spot since I watched it back in March and since, nothing has been able to surpass it's greatness. The entire cast deserve to go into the annals of film history and movie making doesn't get too much better than this. In fact, this MAY BE the best movie I've watched from the book thus far...out of all 301 films I have watched. From my original review on March 20, 2011
The passion that these twelve actors are able to evoke is uncanny. Whoever decided to give the script that one little twist of having it take place in the middle of the summer, in a hot room, was a genius. The entire movie gives off a heated, claustrophobic feeling as we slowly get used to the surrounding of the room and when the door finally opens at the end, I myself could almost feel a gush of cool air slap me in the face, as I was finally out of that room, with those twelve angry strangers, who argued and screamed at one another. I love the character study that comes along with "12 Angry Men" and how each individual man in the room has their own distinct personality. I can't help when I'm watching this film but wonder about the backgrounds of these characters and I know it seems silly because it's irrelevant, but I start to picture Juror #7 at that baseball game that he was trying to get to and knowing because I've seen the film so many times, that he never gets to it. I, for some reason, picture Juror #3 and wonder what he's like when he's not being called a "sadist" and trying to convince people that the boy who lives in the slums is a murderer. I feel like I literally know someone who mimics the personalities of every single juror sitting around that table. I'm sure sometime in my life I've come across a man just like Juror #10. Someone who had their opinions pre-formed and nothing (almost nothing) was going to ever change their minds. They were stubborn and they had a certain way of looking at things and that's just the way they were. I feel like I knew a man like Juror #12, someone who was a deep down smart guy, but acted a little foolish from time to time and sometimes got mixed in with the wrong crowd. And if I haven't already, I hope someday I come across a man just like Juror #8, a man willing to help his fellow man and not afraid to stand up for what he truly believes is right. A man who stands his ground and argues for what he believes and isn't afraid to break the rules (or the law) to lend a helping hand.

TEN WORTH MENTIONING: The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), Giant (1956), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Zabriskie Point (1970), The Heartbreak Kid (1972), Sleeper (1973), The Thin Blue Line (1988), Clerks (1994), Hoop Dreams (1994), Amelie (2001)

Well there you go guys, that about wraps 'er all up. We'll, of course, do this again when we hit 401 movies watched and hopefully you've enjoyed this list. Again, if you're reading this, I invite you to make your comments known, whether you agree or disagree. I look forward to some feedback and I'll be back soon with more reviews as we make our way further through the pages of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die".

July 18, 2011 5:12pm

748. Children of a Lesser God (1986)

Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Randa Haines
Written By: Hesper Anderson, from play by Mark Medoff
Main Cast: William Hurt, Marlee Matlin, Piper Laurie, Philip Bosco, Allison Gompf

HURT'S SO GOOD: PART THREE OF THREE

301 down, 700 to go. Concluding our salute to William Hurt and wrapping up another bundle of 100 films, this morning I watched "Children of a Lesser God", a less than stellar Hurt film.

James Leeds (Hurt) begins work at a New England school for the deaf. With some different types of methods, he gets his students to open up to him more and use their voices and learn how to lip read, instead of always relying on sign language. When Leeds meets Sarah (Matlin), the school's janitor and a former student, he is taken by her. Leeds is told that Sarah has never spoken and though attempts have been made, she always relies on signing. Leeds eventually introduces himself and although she's stubborn at first, eventually Sarah slowly comes around. The two go out to dinner together and before long they're even living and sleeping together, as they've fallen in love. The entire time, Leeds tries his best to get Sarah to open up more to him and to speak to him, but Sarah continually refuses.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

I had several problems with "Children of a Lesser God" and it's a shame, because it could've been really good, but I found it failing at many aspects. For starters, the biggest problem I had with the film is that a resolution to the main conflict of the story is never reached. The main conflict of the story being Sarah's refusal to let James help her. There's a really powerful scene where the two argue, which leads to very aggressive sign language from Sarah and eventually she screams at him, but beyond that Matlin's character never speaks and I know Matlin herself CAN speak. It just seems like the logical path in a film like this. Speech teacher meets deaf girl who won't talk, falls in love with her and he works with her to get her to use her voice.

The other big problem I had with the film was Hurt's constant repeating of everything Matlin's character would say with her hands. She'd sign, he'd say the words for what she'd sign, so as not to leave the audience out in the cold. I understand why they did this, but surely there was a better way. It became quite annoying, when Hurt literally repeated everything that she said and it almost gave her a voice, because really we were hearing what she had to say, just through the James character. I'm thinking maybe subtitles would have been the way to go. That way, you really silence Matlin and when she has her outburst near the end, it becomes even more powerful. Also, you don't have to have Hurt constantly repeating her dialogue and then delivering his own. It would've sped up the process and made everything flow a little better. The ending was also lax in my opinion, with it being dragged out for something like twenty minutes, with a lot of useless scenes that simply served to get to some kind of pointless resolution. Don't get me wrong, "Children of a Lesser God" has it's moments and Matlin is the show stealer with her performance, but for the most part, there was more bad than good, I think.

RATING: 5/10 We'll slice it down the middle and call it an average flick. I think a lot of my troubles were tons of nitpicky things, but some of them were also valid I think. I'll be back later with my 3rd TOP 20.

MOVIES WATCHED: 301
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
700

July 18, 2011 1:37pm

673. Body Heat (1981)

Running Time: 113 minutes
Directed By: Lawrence Kasdan
Written By: Lawrence Kasdan
Main Cast: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston

HURT'S SO GOOD: PART TWO OF THREE

Well, while my cold is getting better, it's still making a full night's sleep a hell of a challenge. That is why I come to you at nearly 6am on a Monday morning to tell you about the film I watched last night, "Body Heat".

William Hurt returns to the blog as Ned Racine, a down on his luck lawyer, who, on a hot summer's night in Florida, makes the acquaintance of Matty Walker (Turner). Matty is the wife of wealthy businessman Edmund Walker (Crenna), and after exchanging some flirtatious advances, the two separate, only to meet back up the next night in a local bar. Once again, the flirtations flow and one things leads to another, with Ned back at Matty's house, so that he can "see her wind chimes". He sees the chimes, but as you guessed the two end up taking a roll in the hay and Matty releases the information that her husband is only home on the weekends - the rest of the week he's out of town on business. Ned and Matty's affair continues on the weekdays, as the hot summer night's continue as well, adding an extra dash of passion, to Ned and Matty's already sweltering love affair. Eventually, just sex isn't enough for the duo and they mutually agree to kill Matty's husband, leaving the rich and able to be together. The duo pull off the killing, but now it's up to them to hide it. Can Ned and Matty band together to trick the authorities or will they ultimately be caught?

SPOILER ALERT!

"Body Heat" started out a little slow, but as it progressed I got more and more lost in it. Just as a quick note before I get into the meat and potatoes of the review - I love films where extreme heat is emphasized. I think it always adds an extra element of tension and almost always "works". Films like this one, "12 Angry Men" and "Do the Right Thing" are all made more tense due to the constant talk of the HEAT. Anyway, "Body Heat" provided me with yet another example of the shining actor that is William Hurt. This guy was on such a roll in the 1980s, as he managed to get five movies into the "1001" book (just from his 80s career) and one that was and still should be included, that being "The Accidental Tourist". Here "Body Heat" plays out like a film noir, with scummy music and scummy characters to boot. I was, at first, really disgusted by these characters as they just came off to me as very sleazy and slimy. As the film progressed, I gained more and more sympathy for Ned, but the rest of the characters never got that far and characters like Matty, Edmund and even Lowenstein (Danson) all felt corrupt and scummy.

I'll give this film it's credit on one point and that's the end. As the film progressed I became more and more interested in what would happen to these characters and what would happen to them. Maybe it's because I was sick and not "with it" or maybe the writing was done really well, but they had me fooled right up until the end. I did not see THAT ending coming and I'd chalk it up as one of the better movie twists in film history. The only thing that didn't really make sense to me, was having Ned relay the ending to Oscar (Preston), having Oscar shut him down and then having EXACTLY what Ned said be the outcome. It just didn't seem believable that this dumb lawyer, who couldn't pull off a murder and could barely win a court case, would be that insightful as to peg Matty so well. They should have done it differently, where Ned found out a different way - maybe by cutting out the end scene with Ned and Oscar and just having Ned receive the yearbook. I think that, paired with the final shot of Matty on the beach and the audience would have figured it out for themselves.

RATING: 7/10 Good erotic thriller/neo-noir and yet another fine example of the acting muscle that is William Hurt. One to go...

MOVIES WATCHED: 300
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 701

July 18, 2011 6:01am

A Look at Things to Come...

The following video is one that I made, composed of some pictures of some of the films that I'll be watching over the course of my next 100 book movies (#302 - #401). I've taken the time to plot and plan out just some of the films that I'll be watching in that particular bundle of 100 and will be back soon with an update, explaining my choices and the plan for that group of 100. Enjoy the video and remember that I made it in the span of about ten minutes, so don't be too harsh.




July 17, 2011 11:30pm

730. Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Hector Babenco
Written By: Leonard Schrader, from the novel Beijo da Mulher Aranha by Manuel Puig
Main Cast: William Hurt, Raul Julia, Sonia Braga, Jose Lewgoy, Milton Goncalves

HURT'S SO GOOD: PART ONE OF THREE

I didn't intend for the finale to this group of 100 films to be a three film salute to William Hurt, but that's the way this bundle will end. My wife watched "Kiss of the Spider Woman" today and realizing it was in the book, I decided to join her and I'm glad I did.

Luis Molina (Hurt) and Valentin Arregui (Julia) are two very different types of men, who are sharing a prison cell together in Brazil. Luis Molina is a homosexual man, imprisoned for "corrupting a minor" and Valentin is a political prisoner. Molina is a very kind man and wants nothing more than to pass the time as timidly as possible with Valentin. Molina enjoys recounting an old movie that he once saw, years prior, to Valentin and as long as he doesn't go into detail about food or women, Valentin allows Molina to tell his stories. However, Valentin doesn't realize that Molina is actually spying on Valentin for the warden. The warden has cut a deal with Molina for an early release for any information that Molina can provide regarding Valentin's revolutionary group. Things get even more complicated when Molina falls in love with Valentin and Valentin reciprocates the affection. Will Molina sell out his new found friend and lover or will he stay true to his cell mate?

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

I wasn't really expecting much out of this film, to be honest with you. In reading the title, one might get the impression that "Kiss of the Spider Woman" is a sci-fi movie. In reading a synopsis on Netflix, one might get the idea that "Kiss of the Spider Woman" is a political drama. Really it's neither of those things. What "Kiss of the Spider Woman" was for me, was a movie that was first of all, very dialogue driven. It was also a movie about friendship and love in the unlikeliest of places, betrayal and loyalty. It was a fantastic bit of film making, where William Hurt put on an outstanding performance and reminded me why I like him so much. Back in the day, I was a huge William Hurt fan, but this movie always escaped me and it's a real shame. The best parts of the film for me were the scenes where the dialogue flowed between Molina and Valentin. I couldn't really get lost in Molina's retelling of the old movie and for me, those parts were simply drudge as I waited to get back to the real movie.

The dialogue eventually gets placed on the back burner and some intriguing plot elements are sprinkled in and it all plays out wonderfully. In the end, I liked how they never really made it clear whether or not Molina was betraying his friend or staying loyal to him. Was he trying to get followed by the agents or was he genuinely trying to lose them? I'd like to think that Molina stayed true to his friend and his lover. William Hurt made this picture for me and it was, in a way, awkward to see William Hurt playing a homosexual man, but he did it brilliantly. Raul Julia was very good too and who knew that the guy from "The Addams Family" had such good acting chops.

RATING: 8.5/10 Aaaaand the making of the 3rd TOP 20 list just got a little bit harder. And we still have two William Hurt movies to go.

MOVIES WATCHED: 299
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
702

July 17, 2011 11:21pm

Sunday, July 17, 2011

856. Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993)

Running Time: 92 minutes
Directed By: Francois Girard
Written By: Francois Girard, Don McKellar
Main Cast: Colm Feore, Derek Keurvorst, Katya Ladan, Devon Anderson, Joshua Greenblatt

INTRODUCING GLENN GOULD

I've included a link in the headline of this post, because "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould" was a different type of film, that seemed to call for a different type of review. I'm not saying I particularly liked the picture, but will admit that it's stray from the ordinary was intriguing.

Colm Feore plays Glenn Gould in a film that will be almost impossible for me to relay to you via a synopsis. For some reason I didn't think that the film would ACTUALLY be thirty-two different little short films about Glenn Gould. I'm not sure why I doubted what was made very clear in the title, I just thought that it was a title and that they couldn't possibly squeeze thirty-two short films into an hour and a half. But they did. They did tie together though and Colm Feore was always the one that played Glenn Gould in, when the character of Glenn Gould was called for. One of the shorts was purely a piece of animation. One of them was a look at the skeleton of a piano player, a piano player who was induced by drugs. One was a long take of Glenn Gould walking through a snow covered terrain. My favorite was called "The L.A. Concert", which was simply Gould walking to the stage for his final performance. It had an eerie quality to it and while I can't explain it, it WAS my favorite piece. Another good one, was a short where Gould seems to compose the conversations of the people around him, while dining in a truck stop restaurant.

This is going to be a prime candidate for a re-watch after I'm all finished with the "1001" book. I didn't care too much for the movie. In my opinion, it was far too erratic and while I applaud Girard's attempt at doing something unconventional, as opposed to a linear biopic, this film didn't really do a good job in explaining who Gould was. But then again, maybe that was the point. I mean, we all knew he was a concert pianist, but I think Gould himself was a little erratic, so maybe the film that was to be made about his life just couldn't be a linear one. The film does show that Gould was a typical artist: reclusive at times, selfish, odd, misunderstood - all the characteristics that are usually used to define a true artist. To me, the film was really intended for admirers of Gould. If you were familiar with Glenn Gould and knew of his work and of his life then you could probably watch the picture and be enthralled with it. If you weren't familiar with Gould (as I wasn't), then you may have felt a little left out in the cold. I kinda did anyway.

I can't, in good conscience, give the film a shining review or even a recommendation, but someday I would like to see it again. I think it's something that maybe I wasn't mentally prepared for. I really went in not knowing what to expect, as the title kind of threw me off and I was just thrown for a loop from the beginning. I know, that's not really a valid excuse, as I should be prepared for all sorts of oddities as I go on this journey, but it happened, so what can I say. I guess the saving grace here is that it is indeed thirty two short films about Glenn Gould and if you don't like one, you may like another. However, the style is a little off putting, in that, you can't really get lost in a film that is constantly stopping and re-starting.

RATING: 4/10 Someday I'll re-watch it, but on the surface it seems like another prime candidate for a film that could've easily been omitted from the book.

MOVIES WATCHED: 298
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 703

July 17, 2011 3:21pm

Spielberg Week - COMING SOON


"Spielberg Week" will be the kick-off to our next 100 films!

946. Les glaneurs et la glaneuse/The Gleaners and I (2000)

Running Time: 78 minutes
Directed By: Agnes Varda
Written By: Agnes Varda
Main Cast: Agnes Varda, Bodan Litnanski, Francois Wertheimer

THE FIRST "MUST SEE" MOVIE OF THE 21st CENTURY?

Well, according to the "1001" book, "The Gleaners and I" IS the first "must see" film of the 21st Century, as it gets the coup in kicking off the year 2000. The film is a documentary, directed by Agnes Varda and while it certainly sounds like a very boring synopsis, it's actually not too bad.

I always have a hard time describing documentaries, but I'll give it my best shot, as always. I also ask that you bear with me if this review isn't up to snuff, because I have a cold that is walloping my butt big time. Quite simply put, "The Gleaners and I" is about people who salvage. The term originated back in the days of farmers and farming and the word "glean" was used to describe people who would scour harvested land, picking up any crops that were left lying on the ground. To "glean" is to take what has sprouted out of the ground and to "pick" is to take what is hanging from a vine or tree. The film follows several different types of modern day gleaners, people like homeless men and women, who are forced to pick their meals out of dumpsters and artists who use the items that people have thrown away to create art. Agnes Varda takes the trip with us, interviewing and conversing with these gleaners and through the film you're able to criss cross on the roads of Europe. It's hard to believe how many legal barricades, bar people from taking leftover crops or trash that people have thrown out.

I'm not going to spoil anything, so no need for a warning. I read the synopsis for the film and I started watching it and I thought this was going to be TERRIBLE. I mean, why on Earth would I want to watch a nearly ninety minute documentary about people who pick things up off the ground. In actuality, once the film started getting going, it was quite interesting. Surprisingly this was a nice movie to watch when I was sick, because it was fairly laid back and was kind of perfect for a Saturday afternoon in bed. I think the most appealing part of the documentary to me, was getting to be Agnes Varda's passenger as she traveled through France. I've always been fascinated with foreign countries and to hear the people of France speak from the heart and see the French landscapes and sights, was quite interesting.

"The Gleaners and I" certainly isn't the best documentary I've seen thus far, but it held up and didn't really disappoint. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "must see", but I'd say if you get the chance to kill seventy-eight minutes, it'd be worth your time and despite the way it sounds, it's NOT at all a bad film.

RATING: 6/10 Again, sorry for the short and sweet review, but I just wanted to get in here and jot some things down. This really isn't the film that called for a LONG review anyway, so I think all is well.

MOVIES WATCHED: 297
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
704

Note: I plan to be finished with this 100 films on Monday and ready to have my TOP 20 posted by Monday night, Tuesday morning at the latest.

July 16, 2011 10:17pm

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,...