Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick check-in to wish all of my followers, or anyone happening to stumble upon my blog a very, very Merry Christmas. In my neck of the woods, my family and I did most of our festivities tonight, on Christmas Eve and I can sincerely say that we had a very memorable Christmas. Hopefully Santa brings all of you movie fanatics what you asked for, be it special edition DVDs, the newest offerings from the Criterion Collection or what have you. Santa (and my wife, parents, brother and girlfriend-in-law) brought me plenty of stuff to keep me busy for the next few weeks, but soon I'm sure I'll make my way down the path, that is my journey through the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". Again, a very, very Merry Christmas to all of you and to all a good night.

P.S. I'll be back next week to provide wrap-ups for November and December 2012, so there's that.

PPS. If you celebrate Hanukkah or a different holiday at this time of year, I don't want you to feel excluded, so a very Happy Holidays to anyone and everyone this season!

December 24, 2012  10:50pm

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

UPDATE - December 2012

I hope everyone who took the time to read over it, enjoyed my latest and greatest TOP 20 list. I realize the impossibility of our agreeing on all my choices, but hopefully we agreed on a few. I'm proud of the TOP 20 list I made and am excited that thirty more movies have joined the official ranks of my favorite films. Now, when I'm flipping through the channels and see that, for example, "The Silence of the Lambs" is on television, it's no longer just a movie, but one of my TOP 20 choices. Anyway, this is my usual, season ending State of the Union address, where I'll fill you in on the current goings-on, give you a more in-depth sneak peek at next season and officially announce my hiatus from the blog. Here goes...

HIATUS

Since my last hiatus, I've watched and reviewed exactly one hundred movies, so it goes without saying that my batteries are in dire need of a recharging. It shouldn't be a long hiatus, however, because at this point in the game, I'm raring to go and am eager to finish my journey. I can nearly make out the finish line and am ready to throw my arms into the air and run through it, chest first. I trust that new followers will find plenty of reading material. I've made 752 posts since the blog's inception, so that should keep you busy during the month (maybe two) that I'm gone. Don't worry though, I'll be back!

WILDER WEEK

By now you all know that "Wilder Week" will be the grand kick-off to the next 100 films. I'm very excited to take in "Wilder Week" and have high hopes that we'll kick off the season with more than one TOP 20 contender, right off the bat. Here are the films I'll be watching, reviewing and presenting to you, as part of "Wilder Week":

Double Indemnity (1944)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The Big Carnival (Ace in the Hole) (1951)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
The Apartment (1960)

THE 50's PROJECT

It's become somewhat of a tradition, here on the blog, for each season to be focused on a particular decade. Next season I'll tip my hat to the 1950s, as I focus my attention on that decade and try to beef up my personal favorites list, as it pertains to film from the decade that brought my parents into the world. I'll be cramming in a nice chunk of films from the 50s and here are just a few: Ben-Hur (1959), Shane (1953), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), The African Queen (1951), The Night of the Hunter (1955), Les Diaboliques (1954), Marty (1955), Le Trou (1959), The Ten Commandments (1956), Singin in the Rain (1952) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955), plus many, many more.

MORE TRICKS UP MY SLEEVE

The "HAT TRICK's" will keep on coming, as I present three film salutes to Yasujiro Ozu, Alain Resnais, Jacques Tati and Vincente Minnelli, as well as a "DOUBLE SHOT" tribute to George Cukor.

EVERYBODY LOVES RAY-MANN

In addition to "Wilder Week", I'll also be presenting two other tribute week's. The first will have me taking my initial look at the film's of Nicholas Ray, including "In a Lonely Place" and "Rebel Without a Cause". The second will also have me experiencing a new director, as I take in the cinema of Anthony Mann, including such films as "Winchester '73" and "The Naked Spur".

Well that about does 'er. Like I said, I wouldn't expect my hiatus to last long. If I had to guess I'd predict that I'll be back before the end of January and even that's stretching it. Remember kids, I'm no movie critic, nor am I a writer. What I am is an average Joe who adores watching films, experiencing new worlds, new personalities, new characters and the like. Sometimes my opinions don't translate well to the page, but I do try my best and for those of you who appreciate it and take the time out of your schedule to read it, I am eternally grateful to you. I thank all the new followers and of course, all the old ones. I hope you'll keep visiting my little hole in the wall and I promise to hurry back.

I'll be back at the end of the year to write up a RECAP for both November and December. For now, I'll say goodbye, but don't you cry...I'll be back again someday!

December 4, 2012  1:04am

Sunday, December 2, 2012

TOP 20: #502 - #601

I think, by now, we all know the basic drill for these TOP 20 lists. I present to you a list of the twenty best films I saw from the last 100 movies I watched (plus ten honorable mentions). This last one hundred films was, perhaps, the worst set of one hundred yet, but that won't stop me from presenting a pretty kick-ass TOP 20 list to you today. Before I get into it, I just want to give a little detail about my process, when making a TOP 20 list.

When I make a TOP 20 list, I sit down with a list of all one hundred films. From there, I begin eliminating films, one by one. When I've eliminated about fifty contenders, I then start to think about what definitely must be included and make a list, of to the side, on a separate piece of paper. Usually the first ten movies I write down on the "must include" list, are the TOP 10...usually. After I have twenty films listed on the "must include" list, I have my TOP 20...albeit out of order. Then I go back to my original list and start to think about the ten honorable mentions. From there, I eliminate movies until I have only ten remaining and those ten are my "ten worth mentioning". All that's left to do at that point is put the TOP 20 in order and voila, my TOP 20 list is made.

So for anyone new or anyone who didn't already know, that's my grand process for compiling one of these things. I really try to put a lot of thought and effort into getting it just right and it usually takes the better part of an hour before the list is just right. A lot of times my ratings do end up changing when I put a TOP 20 list together too, because I'm looking at the grand picture, with a lot more perspective. This time around I'll just be presenting the list, including excerpts from my original reviews - no extra added comments. Anyway, enough jibber-jabber, let's get down to business.

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 tweaking.

20. Secrets & Lies (1996) dir. Mike Leigh 8/10
I think the film says that EVERY family has their secrets and lies and that sometimes they come out and sometimes they're kept behind sealed lips, never to be mentioned. But the real focus here isn't necessarily on the secrets and lies, but rather the characters, their interactions and their personalities. Mike Leigh gives us characters that we can easily become interested in and always leaves us with one or two questions, just to keep our umbilical chord to the screen intact. The acting is as top notch as you'll find and could be held up against any one of the other 1000 movies in THE BOOK.


19. Brazil (1985) dir. Terry Gilliam 8/10
But why did I really like "Brazil"? Because it is simply a near perfect mixture of so many genres and elements. You've got sci-fi, of course, but you've also got a lot of comedy. The comedy never dominates the sci-fi element and vice versa, but instead they blend kind of perfectly. You've also got elements of film-noir (certain government officials in fedora's, lurking in the shadows), you've got plenty of fantasy (the beautiful dream sequences with Sam and Jill) and plenty of action and mystery. If you tie all that up with a twist ending, then you've got the recipe for a great movie.

18. Fatal Attraction (1987) dir. Adrian Lyne 8/10
I still think this film has that feeling of a little hole in the wall thriller, that you stumble across in the back corner of your local Mom & Pop video store (when those still existed). The film is slow to start and actually as I was watching it I started to think of why this film was so appealing to me, when I bought it on DVD many years ago. On the surface, the entire film hinges on this affair between Dan and Alex and the consequences that follow and really doesn't sound like it would be able to fill out a two hour length. However, Lyne knows what he's doing and is able to add moments of suspense, sometimes with the smallest of details, like a ringing phone and the look on Dan's face when he comes to the realization that it could be and probably is Alex. It didn't take long for the film to swallow me back up into it's world, get me on the edge of my seat and leave me with the feeling that I was watching this film again for the first time.

17. Murmur of the Heart (1971) dir. Louis Malle 8/10
It is quite obvious from the beginning of this film that Laurent has feelings for his mother and not just the normal feelings that a son has for his mom. So why wasn't I disgusted by the act of love that is committed between Laurent and his mother? Well, the film is executed so well that it literally plays with your emotions and the act is hinted to so heavily throughout the film that when it finally happens, you aren't THAT surprised by it. It's actually quite the beautiful scene, one that will stand out among millions of other scenes that THE BOOK has introduced me to.

16. Dawn of the Dead (1978) dir. George A. Romero 8/10
No one can deny that Romero found his niche when he ventured into the world of undead cinema. It's also interesting to note that I never look at Romero's zombie movies as horror films. Even when I saw this film as a kid, I didn't walk away frightened. Instead, I view them as survival films that just happen to feature intense scenes of gore. The movies, for me, aren't really about zombies, but rather about shit going down and a group of people banding together to survive. This movie is a REALLY easy one to like and even people who aren't really into horror movies should still be able to find something to enjoy here. I mean, come on, who doesn't dream about running rampant through a shopping mall and hunting zombies?


15. Paris, Texas (1984) dir. Wim Wenders 8/10
The film is a fine film, one that could easily be picked apart and contemplated over or one that you could just leave alone and take for what it is: a simple story about a man trying to reconcile and come to terms with his past, reconnecting with his estranged family. I kind of wish they had left the character of Travis a little more mute throughout the film, so that when he finally delivers his grand finale speech, we're hearing him talk for the first time. Not totally mute, just thinning out his dialogue a bit more than it was. The big speech at the end, when Travis finally tells what happened to him is pretty great stuff and a credit to Dean Stanton.

14. The Decline of the American Empire (1986) dir. Denys Arcand 8.5/10
I had a really good time with this one, I was drawn to the script, to the characters (despite their unlikeable characteristics) and the barely there plot. The film also reminded me, very much, of "The Big Chill" except with a lot more talking, a lot less plot and more devious characters. The other interesting facet about this movie is the title and how it relates to the characters. The characters, throughout the film, tend to discuss the decline of the North American society. The ironic thing is that these characters are actually perfect representations of that decline, the fact that people like this exist in our society and how despicable of human beings some of them actually are.

13. The Killer (1989) dir. John Woo 8.5/10
This movie was like eating a big piece of chocolate cake in the midst of a diet. It was indulgent! I'm not going to be able to say enough good things about this movie, so I better start now so I don't risk writing too much. From the word "go", John Woo doesn't let his foot off the accelerator, handing us action packed scene after action packed scene, not to mention some pretty kick ass cinematography. The greatness of the photography actually really surprised me because to look at the film, it really looks low budget and maybe it is. However, Woo and his cameraman got dozens of memorable shots (not gunshots, although there are plenty of those too) on their seemingly shoestring budget. Honestly, this kind of thing usually isn't my cup of tea. Hollywood produces mass amounts of high body count movies each year and I've never gotten into that sort of thing. However, if well made, I can literally go for ANYTHING and this is an straight up, very well made action movie.


12. A Clockwork Orange (1971) dir. Stanley Kubrick 9/10
Honestly, after re-reading that plot synopsis, I don't do this film justice in the slightest. "A Clockwork Orange" is a film that cannot be told about, but rather, one that must be experienced. There's a plot and apparently it's a satire, but the thing that really strikes me when I watch "A Clockwork Orange" is not the story or the social commentaries, but rather, the colors, the numbness of the characters and the hint of a frightening aura. Much like the sun, "A Clockwork Orange" is so bright and rich with color, that staring at in excess might just cause damage to your retina's. It's such a bright picture that you can't help but take notice when the reels are rolling and your attention cannot help but be drawn to the screen. Then there's the characters and their complete lack of emotion, devoid of human qualities, as if they're aliens on another planet. There isn't one character in the entire film that you want to know better and in fact, the entire cast is a of characters are miscreants. In saying that, there's also just a hint of horrific tones in the film - seeing the droogs, their shadows stretching across the pavement, preying over an old man, much like a pack of lions prey over a wildebeest or watching Alex's eyes pried open with lid locks as he's forced to watch films of a particularly violent nature. Those are the three elements of this film that really made it unique to me, that and the fact that Stanley Kubrick had a vision, a vision that only a mastermind could reflect onto the screen. It took a special director to create the images and colors and the sometimes skin crawling feelings that the film forces upon it's viewers and after watching this, it's hard to deny the talents of Kubrick.


11. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) dir. Jonathan Demme 9/10
The haunting thing about "The Silence of the Lambs" is that it's about men - evil men. The film takes about ten - eleven minutes before it introduces us to Hannibal Lecter. In that ten - eleven minutes, it spends about four or five detailing what a monster he is and building him up as the villain to end all villains. In fact, they build better than any film has ever built up any monster or villain. And when we finally see him, do you know what we see? A man. Just a man. THAT'S why this film is so scary, because it doesn't present us with supernatural beings or any of the things I mentioned above; it presents us with men that COULD, HAVE and probably do exist.

10. Terms of Endearment (1983) dir. James L. Brooks 9/10
I'm not one who cries that much at movies anymore. Sometimes it even bothers me that I can't be bothered to shed a tear, even under the most tragic of cinematic circumstances. Sometimes, I've encountered moments on film where I just wanted to stick myself with a pin, so that I'd cry for the characters that deserved to be cried for, but for whom my eyes just wouldn't well up. I've often wondered if I'm capable of crying during movies anymore and last night, "Terms of Endearment" answered my question.

09. The Vanishing (1988) dir. George Sluizer 9/10
It's always fun, for me anyway, to watch remakes (whether you see the original or the remake first) and see where the two versions differ and the varying approaches taken by each filming. In this case, both renditions were directed by George Sluizer and it's obvious that he got it right the first time. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a sad ending and it doesn't get much more bleak than the ending to Sluizer's original "The Vanishing". In fact, there's not a lot to dislike here, as the film is easy to follow, exciting, gripping, interesting and intriguing and packs quite the punch, be it for movie snobs or casual movie goers. The leads are magnificently cast, especially Donnadieu who stole the show and almost had me rooting for him.

08. The Wicker Man (1973) dir. Robin Hardy 9/10
It surprised me to see how odd this film was and realize that Hollywood actually attempted to remake this one, starring Nicolas Cage. I'd actually like to see that version, just to witness the inevitable car crash that it must be. This will not be an easy film to forget. Certain scenes were more shocking than scary - naked women crying and having orgies in the cemetary, Britt Ekland dancing naked in her bedroom, festival goers wearing animal heads as symbolism.

Note: I don't really have an excerpt where I gush about this one, because I didn't gush about it at first. "The Wicker Man" really grew on me over time and as it got closer to list time, all I could think of was "I hope I can fit in Wicker Man somewhere!" Turns out it fit quite nicely into the #8 spot. 


07. Rain Man (1988) dir. Barry Levinson 9/10
I mean, seriously, who the fuck doesn't like Rain Man? The first time I saw "Rain Man" I caught it near the end (somewhere around the hearing at the end, when the doctor asks Ray if he wants to return to Wallbrook or go with Charlie) and just by seeing that little bit, I knew it was something that I'd end up loving, if I ever got to see the whole thing. I eventually did see the whole thing...many times and enjoy it every time I watch it. Why? Mostly because of Dustin Hoffman's performance as Raymond Babbitt. I mean, when you can completely transform yourself into a totally different person, with absolutely no traces of your real self to be found, it's uncanny and amazing and after watching this, there's no denying the abilities and talents of The Hoff. But you know what? I also really like Tom Cruise in this. He, without a doubt, holds his own next to the superstar Dustin Hoffman, knows his part and plays it well. In fact, I just like Tom Cruise - call it a guilty pleasure if you want, but there's just something about the guy that makes me want to pay attention to him.

06. Barry Lyndon (1975) dir. Stanley Kubrick 9.5/10
There are three things, in my opinion, that really contribute to the success of "Barry Lyndon": the story, the cinematography and the score. The story here isn't really what I expected. I'd seen tidbits of "Barry Lyndon" before and all I had really remembered from those quick glances was guys in red coats marching into battle. So, of course, my mind went immediately to war movie. However, "Lyndon" is much more than a war movie and in fact, I wouldn't even categorize it as such, as it just happens to take place during a particular war and the entire film isn't totally centered around a war. No, the story of "Barry Lyndon" is, in fact, the story OF Barry Lyndon, a penniless man who rose to fortune and wealth and the path he took to get there. The story is filled with small anecdotes of Barry's sometimes accidental rise from Redmond Barry to Barry Lyndon. It's a story that doesn't let up and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I could've sit right in that same spot, in front of my television, for another three hours, as long as the action proved to truck along at the same pace. Sure "Lyndon" is long, but trust me ladies and gentlemen, it certainly doesn't feel like three hours. It's one of those long films that really breezes by because it presents you with interesting material, the kind of stuff you really want to see unfold.


05. Dear Diary (1993) dir. Nanni Moretti 9.5/10
In "Dear Diary" I found something unlike anything I'd ever seen before. The film blends together, using it's music, imagery, subject matter and the talents of Moretti, to create something very unique and very original, something that I took to almost immediately. Nanni Moretti has been dubbed the "Italian Woody Allen" and I guess that's a fair statement, although I'm really not sure if it fits. The two are alike in that this film was sort of similar to something you'd see from Allen, although Moretti seems to be less concerned with comedy than Allen. At first glance, I didn't view this film as a comedy, even though it kind of was. Instead, I just viewed as this new and unique genre, something like a fictional spin on an autobiographical account - I can't stress enough how original this picture was. I took to Moretti right away and immediately after my viewing of "Dear Diary" I found myself on IMDB looking up further recommendations for his films. He had a presence on the screen that was warm and inviting and that welcomed you to take part in his picture, to enjoy it and to try and connect with it.

04. A Fish Called Wanda (1988) dir. Charles Crichton 10/10
There are many comedies that walk a fine line between comedy and drama, but if you're looking for a straight, out and out comedy, there is perhaps none better than "A Fish Called Wanda" and I'll boldly stand behind that statement. What you have here is an absolutely incredible group of talent, working together like a well oiled machine to produce a movie that is GUARANTEED to make you bust out laughing at least once, if not dozens of times. With not one, but two Monty Python alums (Cleese and Palin) and an on fire Kevin Kline how could this movie not be a laugh out loud time at the movies? And yes, Kevin Kline actually took home an Academy Award for his performance here and it's unbelievable because how often do you hear of comedies even getting Oscar nods, let alone winning? You also have an outstanding script, written by John Cleese and Charles Crichton (who also directed), with intricate details, running gags, well developed characters who have quirky, hilarious traits, one-liners and a movie that never lets up from the word "go". There is no downtime here and every scene proves to be worthwhile, noteworthy or just flat out funny. "A Fish Called Wanda" is one of those films that would be easy to watch over and over again, reliving the humor, laugh after laugh. And did I mention that Jamie Lee Curtis looks stunning as ever, sporting dozens of costume changes, each one sexier than the last.

03. Fargo (1996) dir. Joel Coen 10/10
"Fargo" does a fantastic job of mixing genres and smearing together elements of comedy, noir, thriller, murder mystery and drama. It seems like every time the scene changes, so does the mood of the film and you really have to be a versatile movie watcher to be able to keep up with the different elements. Take, for instance, the scene where Wade and Carl meet for the exchange - a really gritty, noir-like scene that utilizes music and atmosphere to their fullest advantages. That look on Wade's face after he's been shot is priceless and the music perfectly in sync. Then you get scenes with Buscemi and Stormare arguing in the car about what they're going to eat for breakfast - one wants pancakes, the other wants a shot and a steak - a very comedic scene.

02. Drugstore Cowboy (1989) dir. Gus Van Sant 10/10
I remember seeing "Drugstore Cowboy" for the first time, probably about ten years ago or so and thinking that I'd stumbled upon a hidden gem. I hadn't heard much about the film to that point and really only rented it based on my appreciation for Matt Dillon as an actor and because the title intrigued me. I remember buying it soon after and loving it ever since and going on to become somewhat of a fan of Van Sant. However, I never found another Van Sant film that was as good as "Drugstore Cowboy" and that's because there aren't any. This is another one of those movies that I'll have a hard time telling why I like it, because I've liked it for so long that it's just become a personal favorite and that's pretty much the reason why I like it so much. It's funny how we, as film fans, will almost take on an adoptive parent role when we find movies that we think no one else has heard of. They almost become our movies, the ones WE found and the ones WE appreciated before anyone else knew they existed. I realized that I'm not the first one to have found greatness in "Drugstore Cowboy", but I saw it under the recommendation of no one and simply picked it up for myself and decided to try it out...and I loved it.


01. Stranger Than Paradise (1984) dir. Jim Jarmusch 10/10
"Stranger Than Paradise" is a hole in the wall movie and it's not hard to see that it was filmed on a shoestring budget. However Jarmusch's talents shine as he presents an interesting film that is primarily about loneliness and isolation, or at least that's what I took away from it. When Willie gets the news of Eva's staying with him for ten days, he puts up a fight, a fight that he ultimately loses and is forced to play host to his Hungarian cousin, whom he's never met before. When Eva arrives, Willie is very stubborn, proving to Eva and maybe even himself that he would preferably be alone and that he doesn't need or want a roommate. He is very short with Eva, griping at her about everything he possibly can and making her feel as unwelcome as possible. When the time comes for Eva to leave, Willie stares blankly as she packs her bag, asking her to leave him a few packs of Chesterfields. He gives her a new dress, which he picked out personally and sends her to Cleveland. Willie is now alone again and he realizes that being alone isn't all he originally made it out to be. He realizes that his dumpy little apartment isn't much of a life and that at least with Eva around, he had a companion. One year later, Willie still realizes that loneliness isn't an option and convinces Eddie to borrow a car so that the two can go to Cleveland. Willie is at his happiest during the car ride, playing little games with Eddie, calling his name and then turning away, realizing that soon he'll have not one, but two companions, more than he's ever had. When they arrive at Aunt Lotte's house, Willie is even happy to see her, accepting her home cooking graciously and scarfing it down with a smile on his face, realizing that it's good to be around other people. When he finally reunites with Eva, he treats her better than he ever did in New York, being appreciative of her company and even holding conversations with her. In Florida, he starts to take the companionship for granted again, wanting to break out of his rut and go gambling, forcing Eva to stay behind. When Willie loses his money, he flies off the handle, yelling at both Eva and Willie. In the end, they're all left alone again, traveling in different directions, destined to be alone.


TEN WORTH MENTIONING: It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Loulou (1980), The Shining (1980), The Last Battle (1983), Manhunter (1986), Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Do the Right Thing (1989), Say Anything (1989), Safe (1995), The White Balloon (1995)

Well folks, there she be! I hope you enjoy reading it over, deciding whether you agree or disagree with my choices and hopefully making the decision to leave me a comment on it. I never beg for comments, but I do encourage them at TOP 20 time. I'm eager to hear your thoughts and I'll never judge your opinions. I'll be back later in the week to talk about the next season (batch of 100) of movies and give you a more in-depth look at what I'll be watching when I get back from my eventual hiatus.

December 2, 2012  9:34pm

745. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)


Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: John Hughes
Written By: John Hughes
Main Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey
Click here to view the trailer

"BUELLER...BUELLER...BUELLER?"

Before taking my time off from the blog, I had one film left to watch, one film left before I could make my sixth TOP 20 list and how fitting that the film be the taking off of someone else - Ferris Bueller. That sounded kind of stupid, but I'm gonna' go with it.


Ferris Bueller (Broderick) is sick! Actually, he's not, but his parents think he is and that's what he wants them to think as he plays a good old fashioned case of hooky. In Ferris' case, hooky is more of an art form, as he sets up tape players, programs his piano to make vomit noises and places a lifesize, wooden dummy in his bed to throw off his parents, just in case they come snooping. You see, Ferris is a senior in high school and before he, his friend Cameron (Ruck) and his girlfriend Sloane (Sara) part ways, he wants to have one last hurrah with them - a day they can all remember for as long as they live. So, Ferris convinces his friend Cameron to sneak out his father's Ferrari and the two pick up Sloane from school, making Dean of Students Ed Rooney (Jones) believe that her grandmother has died. The trio spend a day doing all sorts of things, including visiting a museum, conning their way into a classy restaurant, going to a baseball game and taking part in a parade. However, Ed Rooney isn't buying Ferris' sick story and plans to catch him in the act, even going so far as to show up at his house.


When I was a kid, I missed a lot of school and more often than not it was by playing hooky, much like Ferris Bueller. Sure, I didn't go to the extremes he did, but I did have overprotective mother who didn't take any chances at the slightest utterance of me possibly being sick. I think we've all probably ditched school at one time in our life. We were all school age at some point and we've all had those circumstances come up where we just couldn't go to school that day, because either we just didn't feel like it or we had someplace better to be. Therefore, I think we can all relate to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and watch it, all the while flashing back to our own teenage years. In John Hughes' movies it's the teenagers that matter and while they have lines, the parents kind of play the part of Charlie Brown's mother, unable to grasp the plight of the high-schooler, just there for a visual aid. I wonder if John Hughes had bad parents growing up, because there always seem to be bad parents in his scripts, ones that never seem to show up. In "Ferris Bueller" it's Cameron's father and in "The Breakfast Club", there are several less than savory parental figures mentioned.


"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" isn't quite AS GOOD as "The Breakfast Club", but as mentioned, it's something we can all relate to and I think it's a little easier to enjoy than "The Breakfast Club". It's more accessible, more quotable and has a more universal humor. The primary cast do a fine job, but I particularly like Alan Ruck, who was 30-years-old at the time this was made, playing a high-school senior. Years later, Ruck would go on to play Stuart on "Spin City" - a semi-popular sitcom that I used to enjoy.

RATING: 7/10  Well another one hundred movies dropped in the bucket, four hundred to go! I can't say for sure when I'll be back to present the new TOP 20 list. It probably won't be tonight and maybe not even tomorrow. Check back sometime at the beginning or middle of the week, as I owe my wife a little bit of my time, after she's allowed me to watch all these movies.

MOVIES WATCHED: 601
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 400

December 2, 2012  12:51am

Saturday, December 1, 2012

174. The Battle of San Pietro (1945)

Running Time: 37 minutes
Directed By: John Huston
Written By: John Huston
Main Cast: (narrator): John Huston

600!

I really should've put forth a greater effort to watch something a little more poignant and, well, longer from THE BOOK, for my 600th movie. However, for some reason, I'm just really ready to wrap this season and get a look at my next TOP 20 - a TOP 20 of which I'm not sure how will play out.


In 1945 John Huston was commissioned by the U.S. Army to make a propaganda film about the soldiers fighting in World War II. Can I just stop for a second and point out how in love THE BOOK is with World War II pictures. I can't even begin to tell you how sick I am of war movies in general, let alone WWII films. Anyway, Huston accepted, because he's a patriot or something and put together a thirty some odd minute documentary about the brave men and women that fight for the U.S.

I've gotta' say after spending a day watching short films and documentaries, I'm not sure I'll ever find one that's for me. I just can't seem to get invested in movies that are over not long after they begin. The only short movie I've ever enjoyed (outside of some Buster Keaton and PIXAR shorts) is "The Red Balloon" and who knows if there are anymore. "The Battle of San Pietro" is filled with a lot of war/military jargon and you all know how I feel about that type of thing. THE BOOK has shown me very few war films that I've actually been able to label (or re-label) as favorites and I think the bottom line is that I'm apparently a lover, not a fighter. You know, make peace not war and that whole thing. Thumbs down!


RATING: 1/10  WOW!!! What a day! FOUR...Count them...FOUR movies rated either a '1' or a '2'. I really saved the worst for last out of this crop. I really should have made a better effort to spread some of these around, because watching this many failures in a day can't be good for my health.

MOVIES WATCHED: 600
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 401

December 1, 2012  10:09pm

A Look at Things to Come...

Well despite all the "not so must see" movies today, I am excited about today. Not only do I get to sit down later with a list of this season's movies in hand and make a TOP 20 list, but I also get to present to you a sneak peek at next season. It's become tradition here on the blog for me to put together a little three-minute video at the end of each season, highlighting some of the more popular movies that I'll be watching in the upcoming season. Without further ado, I present the Road to 700!


288. Les maitres fous/The Mad Masters (1955)

Running Time: 36 minutes
Directed By: Jean Rouch
Main Cast: (narrator): Jean Rouch

ETHNOGRAPHIC CINEMA

This is replacing "Mediterranee" from the FINAL 15 list, because that movie, while on YouTube, has subtitles that are severely out of sync. Therefore, in order to replace something short with something short, I've chosen Rouch's "The Mad Masters".


Rouch's film chronicles a day in the Hauka movement - a movement that consisted of African laborers and commoners coming together to perform a ritual where they'd enter into a trace-like state and mimic British Colonial Administrators. Yeah...I couldn't make this stuff up! Rouch himself provides the narration and we're "treated" to a front row seat to watch these people foam at the mouth, butcher animals and become possessed, all for the sake of imitating their oppressors. At least it's short and if I can be positive, I will say that it gave me a glimpse at a culture I hadn't experienced before. I'm always grateful for new experience, but I think this is an experience I could've done without. The ending of the film is also quite interesting, as Rouch takes a moment to follow these people the day after the ceremony, as we watch them return to very normal lives.


There's really not a lot to get into here. I watched it, I earned my 599th tick mark and now I can move on. I tried my best to appreciate it, at least what I could and ultimately it just ends up being a third turd in the punch bowl here, on December 1st. I would deem it "unrateable" but I don't think it fully qualifies for that. It had a beginning, an end and it was a documentary film - albeit a short one - with a purpose.

RATING: 2/10  I feel like I'm cheating or something by watching all these short movies at the end of this 100. Oh well, it's a long journey, so short cuts are necessary.

MOVIES WATCHED: 599
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 402

December 1, 2012  3:04pm

395. Heaven and Earth Magic (1962)

Running Time: 66 minutes
Directed By: Harry Smith

MAY YOU CHOKE ON AN UMBRELLA

Realizing that I was quickly approaching the end of my journey, this season I took an interest in some of the movies that, after watching half of them, I still wasn't able to find. I scoured YouTube and other video hosting sites, hoping to find intact versions of some of the more rare films from THE BOOK and watch them before they were removed. Certain titles that fall under this category, that I watched this season, include: "Deseret", "Report", "Vinyl", "Celine and Julie Go Boating", "The Man in Grey", "Deewaar", "Ceddo", "Blonde Cobra" and a few others. "Heaven and Earth Magic" also falls under this category, as it is a movie that, except for YouTube, I wasn't able to find anywhere else.


The film was made between the years of 1957 and 1962, as Harry Smith used cutout, animated photographs to put together a sixty-six minute picture. I'm not even going to try and relay the plot, because, as far as I'm concerned, this film doesn't have one. I tried hard to let the odd mixture of images lull me into their embraces, but it didn't work and thus, I was more annoyed with "Heaven and Earth Magic" than I was with "Sans Soleil". I'm a plot and actors man - that's what I grew up on, that's what I like. Give me something I can invest my time into and not something that I have to try and make heads or tails of. I didn't even try to make heads or tails of "Heaven and Earth Magic", I just let it play.


RATING: 1/10  Make that four '1' ratings. There's no use drawing this review out...I didn't like it and no amount of writing is going to change that.

MOVIES WATCHED: 598
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 403

December 1, 2012  1:51pm

2013 Is Going to Be Wilder!


"Wilder Week" will be the kickoff to my next 100 films and will begin in early 2013!

698. Sans Soleil/Sunless (1983)


Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Chris Marker
Written By: Chris Marker
Main Cast: Florence Delay, Arielle Dombasle, Riyoko Ikeda, Charlotte Kerr, Alexandra Stewart

IMPATIENCE

Hopefully today will be the final day of the sixth season, as I put in double overtime to try and reach my short term goal of 601 movies watched (400 to go). This morning, I rose early and popped in "Sans Soleil", the other Chris Marker film in THE BOOK (the first being "La jetee", which I've already reviewed) and found myself in a constant state of impatience.


Even THE BOOK notes that to summarize "Sans Soleil" would be impossible, so I won't even try. I'll just tell you that the film consists of many different images and scenes, shot mainly in Tokyo (although Iceland, San Francisco and Africa were also used as filming locations), that are set to narration, using fake letters, supposedly written to her by the cameraman. Key scenes and segments include Marker's attempt to try and locate & visit all of the key locations in Hitchcock's "Vertigo", a hunter shooting a giraffe (shown in explicit detail) and an interesting girl in a marketplace in Guinea-Bissau - shy and mysterious. "Sans Soleil" is an experimental film, which tries to evoke thought and implements original ideas and uses, sometimes, poetic, nonsensical dialogue to overlap it's images.

I just couldn't wait for this movie to be over and I continue to be baffled by the appeal of the experimental film. I'm not advocating against filmmaker's experimenting with film. I feel that any man who feels the urge to pick up a camera and shoot should do so, in hopes that they might capture something wonderful. However, my befuddlement is caused by the praise that these experimental pieces of cinema are showered with. I just don't understand it and as I watched "Sans Soleil", I grew more impatient, waiting for the end of the film, wanting it desperately to be over. The only time I actually got lost in the film was when the filmmaker was shooting the marketplace in Guinea-Bissau - hundreds of people reacting to a moving, shooting camera; either turning away or looking straight at it. The girl who tries desperately to avoid looking and then, in an instant, gives a glance that lasts a twenty-fourth of a second, was mesmerizing...but only for twenty-fourth of a second. Other than that short sequence, I found my mind wandering, barely able to pay attention to the narrator.


I've bashed experimental films so much in the past, that there's no use continuing to do so. You all know my feelings and since I'm a positive person, I still await the day when someone, experimenting with film, captures my attention and my mind. For now, I'll just leave "Sans Soleil" alone.

RATING: 1/10  I'm a glass half full kind of guy, so how about this thought: This is only the third '1' I've given all season and I've given four '10' ratings. So, perhaps, my earlier comment of this being the worst season ever was a little hasty.

MOVIES WATCHED: 597
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 404

December 1, 2012  12:06pm

671. Gallipoli (1981)


Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed By: Peter Weir
Written By: David Williamson, Peter Weir
Main Cast: Mark Lee, Mel Gibson, Robert Grubb, Tim McKenzie, David Argue
Click here to view the trailer

WAR DOWN UNDER

Despite being up since 6:30 this morning (technically yesterday morning, now) and spending four hours Christmas shopping earlier this evening, I'm staying up late tonight to bring you the first post of December 2012 - "Gallipoli".


"Gallipoli" is a war film, but doesn't start out as such. In the opening scene we see an uncle motivating his nephew, Archibald Hamilton (Lee), a runner who is readying himself for a big race. The film continues on with a pretty good hook, establishing Archy as a superb athlete, betting another man that he can race faster on foot than he can on his horse. Meanwhile, however, World War I rages on around the world and young men in Australia, especially Archy, long to enlist in the service and do their patriotic duty. One man who doesn't long to enlist, however, is Frank Dunne (Gibson), another runner who has plans of opening his own bike shop. After Archy's big race (where he competes against Frank and wins), he informs his uncle that he won't be returning home and proceeds to enlist. When the local division won't take him, because they recognize him as not being twenty-one or over, he travels to Perth, in the company of Frank, to try his luck there. Along the way, Archy convinces Frank to sign up and succeeds; both men now ready for battle. Soon the men are sent to Cairo, where they undergo training in the Australian Imperial Force and discover the wonders of the world, outside of Australia. The film culminates with the battle in the city of Gallipoli.

SPOILER ALERT!


I was enjoying this movie for a while, but then, suddenly, my proverbial umbilical chord to the screen was severed and I slowly, like a dying man losing blood, started to lose interest.The hook was great and I was on board all the way up until Frank and Archy enlisted and were sent to Cairo. That's about the time my personal movie preference calculator clicked off and I shifted into auto pilot. Everything up to that point was fine - decent acting, especially from Gibson, an enjoyable story and it looked like we were going to really establish these characters and make the audience become attached to them before we sent them into battle. However, at about the time they went to Cairo, I sort of stopped caring about where the characters would end up and just hoped they got their as fast as possible. From there, the film really slacks off and all we get for a good chunk is a linking together of various scenes, showing the Australian boys adjusting to life outside of the Outback. It's all very repetitive and dull and gets really old, really fast. Of course, things pick back up during the last 15 - 20 minutes, as we witness the tragic battle of Gallipoli and I couldn't help but be reminded of the film that kicked off this season - " Paths of Glory".


Is it just me or do all war films show the dehumanization of man and the loss of innocence, without ever really establishing any hard and fast characters. Sure, "Gallipoli" does a better job than most war films at establishing it's central characters, but I still wasn't very emotionally invested in them come time for battle. I guess that's better than the usual "band of brothers" that are thrown together, who are barely given identities or personalities - all we need know is that they are soldiers, that's enough. In "Gallipoli", it's as if Weir started out with the intention of introducing us to a couple of characters, but then stopped halfway and said "Eh that's enough". "Gallipoli" wasn't a bad film or anything, but be prepared for a steep drop off come about the forty-five minute mark or so. Like I said though, the ending is very emotional and very well done and honestly, I think I would've preferred a short film that just contained the last twenty-minutes of this movie.

RATING: 6/10  Kind of a 'meh' feeling on this one, although certainly not bad. Call it a thumbs staunchly in the middle.

MOVIES WATCHED: 596
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 405

December 1, 2012  2:50am

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wilder Week - COMING SOON


159. The Man in Grey (1943)


Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Leslie Arliss
Written By: Leslie Arliss, Margaret Kennedy
Main Cast: Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Phyllis Calvert, Stewart Granger, Harry Scott
Click here to view the trailer

IT CAME FROM YOUTUBE

Expect an onslaught of reviews to be rapidly fired your way between tonight, tomorrow and Sunday morning, as I wrap up the sixth season of my "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die" project and move one step closer to my ultimate goal of 1001 movies watched.


"The Man in Grey" is told in flashback style and begins at a boarding school for girls, where a new teacher, Hesther Shaw (Lockwood), arrives.  In the beginning, Ms. Shaw and popular pupil Clarissa (Calvert) don't get along, but after a while, they settle their differences and become best friends. After a while, Ms. Shaw leaves the school to marry a man named Barbary and soon after, Clarissa also departs the school, later marrying Lord Rohan a.k.a. the Man in Grey (Mason). Clarissa and Lord Rohan don't get along, nor do they love each other and it is admitted by Rohan that the only reason he married Clarissa, was so he could have an heir. After Clarissa bears him a son, Lord Rohan and Clarissa seldom see one another, nor does she even see much of her son, as Lord Rohan keeps him secluded most of the time. Later, Clarissa meets back up with Hesther and asks her to move into her and Rohan, in London. Hesther obliges and though he is reluctant at first, once Rohan lays eyes on the gorgeous Hesther Shaw (now Hesther Barbary, although she's split from her husband) he gives in. Is is here that Hesther becomes more wicked, as she plans to steal Lord Rohan away from Clarissa, which is initiated when they begin an affair. Meanwhile, Clarissa begins falling in love with a man named Rokeby (Granger), an actor and explorer.


THE BOOK admits that the plot to "The Man in Grey" is very forgettable and that the only reason it was chosen for inclusion was because of it's fabulous art design, noting that the crew were able to resurrect Regency period England. That very well may be, however, it seems like a weak reason to label a film as "must see" material. I'm sure that when I reach the end of my journey, I'll barely remember "The Man in Grey", as it is quite the forgettable little tale. In fact, the only positive thing I took away from the production was the brilliant acting, and of course you're going to get brilliant acting when James Mason is involved. He's a man that, while I'm not a fan of many of the movies he stars in, is always reliable for a fantastic performance; an actor who truly becomes his character and plays him to perfection. However, the true star of the picture, for me, was Margaret Lockwood; a standout discovery for me and someone who made the screen shine when she appeared on it. Actually, I didn't care for Phyllis Calvert at all and found myself rooting for Margaret Lockwood to come out on top, even though I knew she wouldn't. If nothing else, I'll be able to note "The Man in Grey" for introducing me to her, as I hope to seek out and watch more of her films. Other than that, I really don't have much else to add to this review. "The Man in Grey" was a VERY random choice and something that I can safely tell you IS NOT a must see!


RATING: 3/10  I'll give it three notches for the performances of Lockwood and Mason, but that's about as high as it gets on this one.

MOVIES WATCHED: 595
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 406

November 30, 2012  10:48pm

Thursday, November 29, 2012

594. Deewaar/The Wall (1975)


Running Time: 172 minutes
Directed By: Yash Chopra
Written By: Javed Akhtar, Salim Khan
Main Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi

B-B-B-BOLLYWOOD!

With only one Bollywood film under my belt, I went into "Deewaar" with very low expectations. Actually, I was dreading the damn thing, because I knew I wouldn't like it and it was nearly three hours. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the film turned out to be really good!


The plot is long and somewhat complicated so, as always when that's the case, I'll fill in the main points and get on with my opinions. The film begins with a police officer accepting an award and inviting his mother onstage to accept it with him. We then flashback to a family - a father, mother and two sons - with the father involved in a labor strike. When his family is threatened, Anand Verma, the spokesman for the laborers, has no choice but to sign away the rights of his fellow laborers and be shunned from the town as a result. When Anand runs away from his troubles, his wife, Sumitra (Roy) raises her two children, Vijay (Bachchan) and Ravi (Kapoor), with very little money, taking on any job she can to support her sons. When he's old enough, Vijay agrees to go to work too, so that he and his mother can put Ravi through school. We then flash forward to the future, with the two sons grown up and taking very different paths. Vijay finds himself involved in the criminal underworld of smuggling and Ravi decides to go through police training.  While Ravi is away at police training, Vijay rises through the ranks of the criminal hierarchy, becoming a big time boss. When Ravi returns to Bombay as an active duty police officer, he is immediately given the task of bringing Vijay to justice, something that he struggles with.


SPOILER ALERT!

There were good and bad things about "Deewaar" and, as usual, we'll kick things off with the negatives. I thought the film, for the most part, was a gem, however, it did run a little on the long side. THE BOOK notes that normal Bollywood films have six to ten musical numbers, while "Deewaar" only has three. At first, I wasn't crazy about the musical numbers, wanting to continue seeing the plot unfold and not patient enough to sit through the songs, despite the fact that they were well done numbers. However, after a while, I realized that some more musical breaks would've done this film good, serving to break up the action and give the audience a little respite. The film is also a bit too melodramatic, but, there were even times when that didn't bother me that much. I was able to get over it quickly and let the melodrama unfold and swallow it easily. The ending, with Vijay dying in his mother's arms, was perhaps the most over the top acting in the entire picture, but it still worked and none of the actors overdid it, they simply put on powerful, bold performances. The script could've also benefited if they'd cemented the relationship between the brothers a little more, when they were boys. When we get to the end and Ravi's chase for Vijay, it comes off as less powerful, because their relationship was never really, fully established as a solid one.


On the other hand, the plot was great and "Deewaar" made me realize what an untapped market I have in Bollywood cinema. How many other great Bollywood pictures have gone unseen by my eyes, I wonder? We've seen the feuding brothers storyline done to death before, since 1975 and "Deewaar", but Yash Chopra does that same old storyline his own way and manages to make it original, intense, interesting and powerful. As noted above, the acting is good to great all around with Amitabh Bachchan getting top acting honors, in this viewers opinion. It's worth noting that my only other Bollywood experience, "The Brave-Hearted Will Take the Bride" was directed by Aditya Chopra, Yash Chopra's son.

RATING: 7.5/10  An '8' seems to high, at this point, but I could see this rating going up. The entire film is currently available via YouTube and although it may be a small thing, I think I would've enjoyed the film even more if I wouldn't have had to watch it via my uncomfortable computer chair, sitting up at my desk.

MOVIES WATCHED: 594
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 407

November 29, 2012  2:15am

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

810. The Unbelievable Truth (1989)


Running Time: 90 minutes
Directed By: Hal Hartley
Written By: Hal Hartley
Main Cast: Adrienne Shelly, Robert Burke, Christopher Cooke, Julia McNeal, Gary Sauer
Click here to view the trailer

ANOTHER SLIGHTLY TWISTED COMEDY

I first became acquainted with Hal Hartley in July 2011, when I watched "Trust" for THE BOOK. It was a film that I had a hard time really getting a grasp on, noting that the characters seemed out of this world and that the plot never really went anywhere. I'd have to say that "The Unbelievable Truth" was a bit better, but still lacking something.


The film begins with a man trying to hitch a ride, alongside the highway. We soon learn that the man's name is Josh (Burke), he's an auto mechanic and he's just been released from prison for committing murder. Meanwhile, we also zoom in on Audry (Shelley), a defiant teenager with paranoid thoughts about the end of the world. Vic (Cooke), Audry's father, wants her to go to college and is prepared to broker any deal he can to get her there, even if it means donating money to one of her "communist, bomb loving" charities. One day, Audry and Josh meet and Audry is crazy about him immediately. When she finds out that he's a mechanic, she gives him the address to her father's car repair shop, so that he can get a job. Audry tries to think up excuses to see Josh, even stealing his wrench at one point, so she'll have an excuse to go see him again. Meanwhile, a scamming photographer cons Vic into getting Audry into modeling, promising that the line of work pays well. The con ends up paying off for the reluctant Audry, who makes tons of money modeling and moves out of her parents house. There's also Pearl (McNeal), the daughter of the man Josh murdered, who is trying to cope with Josh's return to town.


Again with Hartley, I see characters who just aren't acting natural and who are really hard to get a read on. It's almost as if Hal Hartley and his movies are from Mars and not meant to be fully understood by us Earthlings. "The Unbelievable Truth" is a mildly interesting film, but not one that's going to make you reexamine your personal tastes or anything. I had a fair amount of fun with it, enjoyed it for the most part, but when it was done, it was done and that's that. The cast all did a fine job, adapting their styles to fit into the confines of a Hal Hartley film. They're all pretty much unknown faces, but they all delivered, especially the primary players: Shelly, Burke and Cooke. The dialogue was snappy and well written, but again, Hartley's sense of humor is something that I can't entirely comprehend or get in sync with. Therefore, the film left me wanting a little more in the way of seriousness, more naturally acting characters and a stronger plot.


Despite my mild enjoyment to Hartley films, I still see something there that appeals to me and I'd like to see more of his films to maybe find one that I can connect with. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to drop a line in the comments box.

RATING: 6.5/10  Not horrible by any means, but not blow away either. For the curious, this actually replaced "El Norte" from the FINAL 15 list, which went to a 'short wait' on Netflix.

MOVIES WATCHED: 593
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 408

November 28, 2012  12:26pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #63: ALADDIN (1992)

Running Time: 90 minutes Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker Written By: Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Bu...