Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hiatus time again...

I HATE to do this, but I feel like I need to take a much needed break from THE BOOK, for a little while. I know, I know, I'm so close to hitting the 801 watched mark and I very much wanted to do that before I took a break, but I'm in dire need of a rest and I don't want my opinions of the movies to suffer as a result.

The thing is, though, is that I've just been bumped up to full-time at work, which means an extra work day a week, which means a much more tired film watcher/reviewer. I'm sure eventually I'll get used to the extra work load, but add that to the fact that it's also the holidays and that doesn't make it any easier. For the unaware, I work in retail, which, for anyone who has ever worked in retail, you know the holidays can be a total bitch! Not to mention the fact that I've got family functions and stuff like that to plan around (Christmas shopping with my wife, all that good stuff) and by the end of the day, my energy is just about zapped.

I've sort of made it an unofficial rule to watch 100 films every time I come back from hiatus, but guess what - my blog, my rules and I need a breather. I'll be back in probably late January, early February and we'll knock out this 100 easily and keep on truckin' toward the 901 watched mark.

As always, I check the blog daily (or try to), so don't hesitate to leave comments and I'll be sure to reply and approve them (if they're appropriate).

I'll say goodbye but don't you cry, I'll be back again someday!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

December 11, 2013  9:44pm

Saturday, December 7, 2013

826. Wong Fei-hung/Once Upon a Time in China (1991)


Running Time: 134 minutes
Directed By: Hark Tsui
Written By: Yiu Ming Leung, Pik-yin Tang, Hark Tsui, Kai-Chi Yu
Main Cast: Jet Li, Joseph Sayah, Yuen Biao, Jacky Cheung, Rosamund Kwan
Click here to view the trailer

KEEP YOUR KUNG FU

Here I thought the watching my backwards through the 90s films would be a breeze, yet I'll be damned if there hasn't been a fair share of stinkers along the way. Add to that list, "Once Upon a Time in China" - hands down the worst film with the "Once Upon A Time..." prefix ever made.


Look guys, here goes another one where I honestly couldn't even be bothered to pay close enough attention to even really detail the plot here. I tried it for a good thirty - forty minutes, decided that kung fu films STILL weren't my thing and then my mind just sort of wandered while I waited for the minutes to tick down, so that I could check this off in THE BOOK'S built in check-list. In a way, watching these Jet Li and Jackie Chan movies is kind of like watching a porno: You're really only waiting for a select few scenes and everything else is just filler, bridging the gaps from money shot to money shot. Although I'll admit, I'd rather watch Jackie Chan's entire, 100+ film catalog than be forced to sit through this again. At least Chan's films had better action/choreography scenes, better plot and better comedy, while Hark Tsui's feature played out like a poor man's version of a Chan film.

There's some sort of a plot there, but what was actually going on, I have no idea. It had something to do with the Western impact on Chinese culture. A key scene shows a man with a gun challenging the main character, Master Wong Fei, while the Master uses his sick kung fu abilities to stave off death via bullet. Another really fun scene involves a punch & kick showdown while the two combatants balance on various ladders, jumping back and forth, maintaining balance, while trying to maintain the upper hand in the physical altercation. I'm not gonna' lie and I REALLY don't want to sound racist (because I'm not), but telling the characters/actors apart was a bit of a challenge, since they were all sporting the same bald in the front/braid in the back hairstyle.


All in all, I had a rough time with this one and how I finished it in one sitting is beyond me. Probably because I didn't want to have the idea of having to rejoin this one haunting me. It's something that I knew I'd hate before I even popped it into the DVD player and I know that's unfair, but call me predictable - I know what I like and what I don't like and one thing I don't like is kung fu movies, although in hindsight, Chan's weren't awful. This was brutal though and I'm just glad I'm done with it. Skip the Jet Li stuff and stick with Jackie Chan. While not blow away, Chan at least provides an all around better time at the movies.

RATING: 2.5/10  I'll give it a few hits for some of the action sequences, but all in all I just wish the damn thing had been nixed all together from THE BOOK.

MOVIES WATCHED: 777
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 224

December 7, 2013  10:32pm

Friday, December 6, 2013

822. Nema-ye Nazdik/Close-Up (1990)


Running Time: 97 minutes
Directed By: Abbas Kiarostami
Written By: Abbas Kiarostami
Main Cast: Hossain Sabzian, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami, Abolfazi Ahankhah, Mehrdad Ahankhah

DOCU-FICTION

Just a heads up, expect me to start jumping around a little more sporadically through the 80s and the rest of the year 1990. If I get a chance later today, I may swing in and present a FINAL 25 list, just so you guys know what to expect in the coming weeks, leading to the creation of the 8th TOP 20 list. If I don't get the time to do that today, however, we'll just do the standard FINAL 15, when the time comes. Anyway..."Close-Up"...


Wow, this was definitely a unique film. I can't say it totally blew me away, but I definitely liked it a lot and it's unlike anything I've ever seen. If you haven't seen it, I highly suggest tracking it down, which won't be difficult, since it's been released via the good folks at Criterion. The film is a documentary, however it also features some scenes which are reenactments of the documentary subject; which is a man named Sabzian passing himself off as the film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, in order to gain entry into a family's home and take advantage of them. Everyone involved plays themselves and participates in acting a few scenes, which are reenactments of what transpired. Even Abbas Kiarostami appears as a voice behind the camera, even allowed to ask questions at Sabzian's trial, of which we see extensive footage from.

It really is a hard film to sum up, as it's one of those few films that I feel like you should just see, as opposed to reading my inferior words about it. However, I'll try my best to give my feelings about the film, although a short, blundering review is probably what will result...


They hook you early with a scene in which four men ride in a cab to the house where Sabzian has committed his crime - a journalist, two police officers and a cab driver - with the purpose of arresting him. The journalist thinking that this will be his big story, goes in first. We don't see anything that takes place inside the house (yet) and instead, are forced to wait outside with the cigarette smoking cabbie. Then the credits roll and after that, we're behind the camera with Kiarostami. I knew right away that it was something special. That here was a guy - Kiarostami - who had an idea and totally saw it through, in a way that no other filmmaker probably could have. What is it about Kiarostami's films that always leave me with an odd feeling of not being able to decide exactly how I feel. I always walk out of them with the feeling that I just saw something cinematically amazing, yet also underwhelmed. I can never describe the underwhelming feeling, it always just happens and I always try to extinguish it and just tell myself that, no it was a great movie and that's that. "Close-Up" was a great, unique film and like I've said, it was unlike anything I've seen, easily earning it the "must see" tag. However, why am I not here now, prepared to give it a '10' or even a '9'. I myself don't even know. Let's just say that I fully expect this film to stick with me, linger in the forefront of my mind until I give in and admit that it was a masterpiece. For now, though, all I can say is see it for yourself and make your own opinions. You won't be disappointed by it, I'm sure.


RATING: 7.5/10  Not a bad rating at all, but I feel like I'm short changing it, while at the same time feeling like I'm giving it more credit than it deserves. Kiarostami is a tough nut to crack.

MOVIES WATCHED: 776
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 225

December 6, 2013  3:39pm

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

November 2013 Recap

Before we get into the recapping, I wanted to let everyone know that I've finally rounded out my ALTERNATE 1000 GREATEST FILMS LIST by including nine movies from this year. With Sight & Sound, Cashiers du Cinema and Empire Magazine putting out their top of the year lists, I decided to just peruse those and choose the nine that seemed to be the most prevalent, they are:

1. The Act of Killing
2. Gravity
3. Blue is the Warmest Color
4. Rush
5. Captain Phillips
6. Stranger by the Lake
7. A Touch of Sin
8. The Great Beauty
9. Before Midnight

So, that brings the total on that list to 1000 and now that list will lie in wait, until I'm ready for it. Anyway, on with the show...

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - As seen in November 2013
1) Short Cuts (1993 - Robert Altman) 9/10 - Still not committed enough to go full monty on this one, but it's being pegged for a prime spot in the upcoming TOP 20.
2) The Long Goodbye (1973 - Robert Altman) 7.5/10 - Pegging this one for, at least, a "Ten Worth Mentioning" nod. Still got that "curry brand cat food" scene still fresh in my mind - loved that.
3) Nashville (1975 - Robert Altman) 7/10 - Let's just keep on right on talking about each and every one of these movies and their chances at TOP 20/Ten Worth Mentioning. This one I can't see making any waves. I'll give it the '7' nod, but not really a personal favorite, more of a technical favorite.
4) The Player (1992 - Robert Altman) 7/10 - Big MAYBE at a Ten Worth Mentioning, otherwise nothing.
5) Three Colors: Blue (1993 - Krzysztof Kieslowski) 7/10 - Would really like to fit this one into the Ten Worth Mentioning section. Better than the two previously mentioned '7' rated films.
6) Three Colors: Red (1994 - Krzysztof Kieslowski) 6.5/10 - Definitely a great candidate for a rewatch. Can't see it making any list waves though.
7) Man Bites Dog (1992 - Belvaux, Bonzel, Poelvoorde) 5.5/10 - Grew on me a little, actually and surprisingly.
8) Farewell My Concubine (1993 - Kaige Chen) 1/10
9) The Double Life of Veronique (1991 - Krzysztof Kieslowski) 6.5/10 - I've been told I didn't understand this properly...
10) Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990 - John McNaughton) 8/10 - Definitely can see this one getting something come TOP 20 time.
11) Thelma & Louise (1991 - Ridley Scott) 5/10
12) The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994 - Stephan Elliott) 6.5/10 - Just now noticing that a lot of my ratings have slightly risen since my initial thoughts. I guess that's a good thing...
13) The Beautiful Troublemaker (1991 - Jacques Rivette) 7/10 - If they'd just shaved an hour off of this, it could've been GOLD! As it is, call it bronze.
14) The Rapture (1991 - Michael Tolkin) 3/10
15) The Blue Kite (1993 - Tian Zhuangzhuang) 4/10 - The Chinese kicked my ass this season.
16) Delicatessen (1991 - Jeunet, Caro) 6/10 - Good, but disappointing.
17) Boyz N' the Hood (1991 - John Singleton) 6.5/10 - Opinion goes down on this one, for now. Still deciding just how much I liked this one.
18) A Brighter Summer Day (1991 - Edward Yang) 1/10 - Screw it, I'm going all the way down, because I just could NOT get into this one, at all.
19) Total Recall (1990 - Paul Verhoeven) 8.5/10 - Call it a guilty pleasure, if you want, but I'm determined to fit this one into my TOP 20.
20) Raise the Red Lantern (1991 - Yimou Zhang) 9/10 - And after the Chinese kicked my ass, this film consoled me. Great movie and almost guaranteed a TOP 20 seed.

And that's all I watched in November, so let's talk about some TV and then I'll get outta' your hair. By the way, I think I'm canning the TOP 20 Tracker thing, because I like taking a fresh look at the movies, as opposed to continuously looking at them all season.

ME vs. TV

Family Guy, right? We gotta' talk a little bit about the....

SPOILER ALERT!

...death of Brian. I have mixed opinions. On one hand, I was recently thinking how weird it is that NOTHING ever changes on animated shows. Marge Simpson never gets a new haircut, Bob doesn't start selling hot dogs, characters RARELY die and even then, their ghosts are always subject to an appearance or two. So, in that respect, I like it. You have the pen in your hand, you can mess with these characters and that's what sets animated series' apart from live action series'. On the other hand, why get rid of a beloved character if you don't have to? Imagine a world where Steve Carell never left The Office and where Will Smith forever resides in Bel-Air. It's the main advantage that animation has over live action - that none of their characters are ever gonna' go anywhere, get better job offers, die or what have you. So I'm mixed, but I know most people are pissed and I can see their points.

Hostages - In a way, I can't wait for this to just end. I love it while I'm watching it, but when I see it waiting for me on the DVR, I find myself putting it off for as long as possible.

The Blacklist - I'm a little behind, but I still like this. I don't like the whole thing where literally EVERYONE knows for a fact that Ray is Keane's father. I think they should've kept that under wraps. I say, you have to let that cat out of the bag by the end of the season. If they're thinking of saving it, I think it's gonna' lose the impact after a while.

END SPOILER ALERT!

American Horror Story: Coven - Compared to "Murder House" I'm not liking this near as much. I have yet to see Asylum, but am wondering what the general consensus on this current season is. It's good and all, but "Murder House" spoiled me. I'm waiting for this to get better.

Dads - I quit watching this, because I heard it's basically been canned and because I had like three of them on the DVR and no real desire to watch them.

Mom - I'll stick it out through the season, but unless this gets worlds funnier, I think I'll quit after that. My wife loves it and at this point, I'm basically just watching it so that we have yet another show that we watch together. However, we just watched this week's episode last night and I don't think I laughed once - not even a teehee.

The Millers - It's a fine sitcom and I can only see this one getting better with age, once everyone settles into their characters.  Best new comedy by a mile.

Quit watching Night Court DVDs and took a break from Two and a Half Men DVDs. The wife and I have been watching American Dad, however, from the beginning and laughing our asses off. Seriously that show is hilarious. Decided to rewatch them, since my viewing of the show got really sporadic during the fourth or fifth season and I've missed quite a few episodes since then. I'm a stickler for being up to date and all caught up with my TV.

We also quit watching Coupling and The Killing too. Coupling due to time issues and The Killing just didn't hook us.

Rumor has it that Santa Claus will be bringing me the complete series of the original Twilight Zone - an all-time favorite show of mine.

---

That's that mattress man. See ya next month.

December 4, 2013  8:56pm

840. Tongues Untied (1991)


Running Time: 55 minutes
Directed By: Marlon Riggs
Main Cast: Essex Hemphill
Click here to view the trailer

BLACK MEN LOVING BLACK MEN

Netflix had this one on a wait, but finally broke down and shipped it to me from another facility (all the way from San Jose, CA - I'm in Pennsylvania) and I can finally check this one off the grand checklist. Of course, I'm talking about "Tongues Untied" - the ultra poetic documentary from Marlon Riggs.


It's not something that I can really write a plot synopsis on, nor something that I can write intelligently about. The film clocks in at a mere fifty-five minutes (mere chump change compared to some of the flicks I've taken in) and uses a lot of poetry to tell it's tale. Add to that clips of talking heads and some snippets from Eddie Murphy's "Raw" and "Delirious" routines that make light of homosexuals and you've got Riggs' finished product. I think it goes without saying that I'm not the core audience for this one, being neither black nor homosexual. I don't have problems with either minority and feel that a man's color is his color and his sexual orientation is his own business. However, I have to say that even at fifty-five minutes, this one had me all but staring at the clock, just wanting it to be over. I couldn't connect with it and it's obvious that this film was made for a certain audience and white straight men aren't it.


However, Riggs obviously had something to say (with help from the poetic styling of Essex Hemphill) and more power to him for making a film that obviously got noticed. I won't trash the film, for the reasons stated above: THE BOOK forced me to watch something that I don't feel I had any business watching. The film almost played out like a "black, gay men only club" and everyone else need not waste their time. And that's okay. I'm fine with the fact that Riggs' made his statements, used poetry to maximum effect and has a hit. Nuff said.

RATING: 3/10  There were a few "sit up and take notice" moments, but barely and even at fifty-five minutes, it's like doing homework.

MOVIES WATCHED: 775
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 226

December 4, 2013  5:27pm

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

816. King of New York (1990)


Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Abel Ferrara
Written By: Nicholas St. John
Main Cast: Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso, Victor Argo, Janet Julian
Click here to view the trailer

IT'S GOOD TO BE THE KING?

Moving right along, back tracking my way through (probably) my favorite decade - the decade of the 90s. Hey, I was born in the 90s, so for all of you 90s haters, I'm sorry, but almost all of my childhood memories took place in that decade. Anyway, we're talking about Christopher Walken and "King of New York".


The film is your basic, run of the mill crime drama, except it features a few knockout performances, which helps to set it a little higher than your usual "drug lords running rampant in the city" picture. Walken is Frank White, who's just been released from prison and wants to reintroduce himself into the criminal underworld of The Big Apple. His partners in crime are a group of gold chain wearing thugs, lead by Jimmy Jump (Fishburne), White's brother in crime. Frank makes it known to all of the different factions of the criminal under belly, that he is back in town and wants a piece of everyone's action. "If someone sells a nickel bag in the Central Park, I want in on it" says White, moments before blowing away a top notch foe in the crime business. Meanwhile, the film also follows a group of cops who want nothing more than to bring Frank White to his knees, by any means necessary. The cops are lead by Bishop (Argo), followed by Gilley (Caruso) & Flanigan (Wesley Snipes).


I had seen this movie once before, many many years ago and as I started it up last night, I remembered that viewing and remembered hating this film. The truth is, I was probably much too young to really appreciate it (or even be watching it, for that matter) and so I didn't hold my previous opinion against the film, but rather decided early to be ready to form a new one. In the end, I can say that the film isn't bad in the slightest and is only a few notches away from being really good. The things I didn't like were more nit picky than anything, but a few major flaws kept it from really winning me over. For starters, I'll say that the film didn't feel like anything special. It just felt like one of those direct to video films that were popular in the 90s, with excessive nudity and violence, put in place to lure viewers. The thing is though, is that you've got Christopher Walken in there giving this AMAZING performance and so, it kind of washes away that straight to video feeling and you quickly realize that there's a parade of talent being displayed right in front of your eyes. Not just Walken, but David Caruso and Laurence Fishburne turn in ultra fine performances, everybody proving that they can play both good & bad with just the flick of their eyebrows.

SPOILER ALERT!


While I'm not a fan of the "everyone dies at the end" ending, it does work here and when it came to wrapping up this film, I think we can all agree that the bleaker it was, the better. I'm also not necessarily a fan of movies that give us literally no one to root for, but again, this film pretty much makes it work and I guess Frank White is the one whose side we're supposed to be on. THE BOOK notes that Frank, by wanting to build a hospital, is trying to atone for his past sins, but I didn't see it that way. I saw Frank as this guy who wanted to be in the crime business, who liked being the crime business, but who also liked doing the right thing. He notes that he's killed no one that didn't deserve it and I feel like he's an honest criminal, yet a powerful one. THE BOOK also notes that the NYC that "King of New York" depicts is like a Gotham City and I couldn't agree more and thank THE BOOK for pointing that out. I kind of wish they'd have included "Bad Lieutenant" instead, as I've always wanted to see that and even THE BOOK notes it as being another of Ferrara's strong films. Guess I'll have to see it without THE BOOK'S guidance.

Anyway, this is a fine film. While I really can't point to any particular flaws, I just don't think it feels special enough to be considered a classic or anything. The performances are about the only thing classic about it and the rest is just slightly above average. It's a fine way to spend two hours and I think most will come out agreeing that they've just seen a totally solid film.

RATING: 6.5/10  If it would grow on me just a little bit, it might be strong enough to make a TEN WORTH MENTIONING spot, but otherwise I can't see it having any lasting impact on me.

MOVIES WATCHED: 774
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 227

December 3, 2013  6:18pm

Monday, December 2, 2013

792. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)


Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Written By: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, from the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
Main Cast: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy; (voices): Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner
Click here to view the trailer

ANIMATION MEETS REALITY

In case this entry didn't tip you off, I've decided to continue moving chronologically past the 90s and through the 80s as well. I realize we're not chronologically back to 1988 yet, but this was streaming and my wife wanted to watch it, so here we are.


The film is probably unlike anything you've ever seen, as it expertly blends animation and live action seamlessly. The film stars Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant, a private detective who's been hired by Maroon Cartoon Studios, to find out if Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Turner), wife of A-list toon Roger Rabbit (voiced by Fleischer), is cheating on him. It doesn't take long for Eddie to snap a few risque photos of Jessice with Marvin Acme ("risque" in Toon Town; in fact, the two are just seen playing patty cake together) and confirm Roger's suspicion, breaking his heart. The next day, Marvin Acme (of cartoon's famous Acme products) is found dead and all fingers point to Roger. However, Eddie has different suspicions, which are confirmed after he talks to Roger and realizes that the white rabbit is innocent. Meanwhile, Judge Doom is trying to rule Toontown with an iron fist and is rallying for Roger's immediate execution, as he's developed the only way possible to kill a toon. The film blends elements of film noir and of course, animation to create a movie that you won't soon forget. The really fun part, though, is spotting all the toons: everyone from Loony Tunes characters to Disney characters make cameo appearances.


Despite the fact that the film WILL stick with you and you won't soon forget it, it still is something that didn't leave me as giddy as I'd have been if I had seen it at a younger age. Sure, it's cute and sometimes funny, but for me - a twenty nine year old male - it just doesn't hold up and ultimately, I was waiting for this to be over, more than I was wanting it to last longer. The film tries very hard to appeal to both adults and children and succeeds on some levels, but I think it's going to be a case by case basis, as to whether or not the grown ups are going to like it. I, for one, could've done with it's exclusion, but that's just me. On the other hand, I totally get WHY it was included and am more than willing to admit that it's expertly done. In a day when CGI and 3D are run of the mill, it's really hard to see any flaws with this animation work and it's interaction with live action subjects. I think I've said my peace on this one, so lets call that a short review.



RATING: 5.5/10  Better than average, but not by much. Like I said, don't take my griping to heart. I get it if you love it and I certainly wouldn't detract anyone from seeing this for the first time.

MOVIES WATCHED: 773
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 228

December 2, 2013  6:24pm

Saturday, November 30, 2013

828. Da Hong Deng long Gao gao Gua/Raise the Red Lantern (1991)


Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Yimou Zhang
Written By: Ni Zhen, from novel by Su Tong
Main Cast: Gong Li, He Caifei, Cao Cuifen, Jin Shuyuan, Lin Kong

CHINA HITS A HOME RUN, FINALLY!

I can't tell you how much I was dreading this movie and is it any wonder, after sitting through "A Brighter Summer Day", "Farewell My Concubine" and "The Blue Kite"? Well, I'm happy to report that my dread was unwarranted, as I actually really loved this movie.


The film starts by giving us a lot of information - all the information we need to get started - in just a short amount of time. We meet Songlian (Gong Li), a nineteen-year-old student, who's father has just died and who's stepmother can no longer afford to pay her tuition. Songlian decides to take her stepmother's advice and get married and chooses a rich man, for whom she will be his latest concubine. She travels to her new Master's palace, following the marriage and we discover that Songlian is to be the fourth mistress to the Master. As the new mistress, she is treated like royalty, being chosen each night as the mistress whom Master will spend the night with and thus, receiving foot massages and brightly colored, lit red lanterns outside her door & around her room. After a day as the new mistress, Songlian is taken to meet the other three mistresses, whom refer to her as "Fourth Sister". The first mistress has few words, but is respectful to the new sister. The second mistress is almost too nice, offering advice and kind words for her new sister and the third mistress feigns an illness, perhaps out of jealousy for hew new sister. As time goes by, Songlian learns that backstabbing is the norm around the palace and people whom she thought were on her side, may not be.


SPOILER ALERT!

Seriously, why couldn't THIS have been the film that ran for four hours?! I totally would've been down for even more of this and if I had to make one complaint it would be the ending. I know I shouldn't have expected a happy ending, but I really wanted one to emerge, somehow, some way. The mood and atmosphere are so bleak and dreary, however, that a happy ending here may have felt really artificial. Although, a faux happy ending, may have totally worked. By that, I mean just killing Songlian, because that's what she really wanted. Having her just go mad and wander around the palace for, seemingly, the rest of her days was a bit of a letdown, but I guess I can swallow that ending. Anyway, the film is pretty close to flawless, with some outstanding visuals that will surely leave your eyes thanking you for feeding them such beauty. The plot is totally there too and I was beginning to wonder if Chinese filmmakers even knew what an intriguing plot was. It was a breath of fresh air to see a Chinese film that didn't harp on the governmental oppression or the impact of historical changes on society and rather, just fed us a great film that I personally really feasted on. It was one that I gave a fair chance to, thank God, during a time when I had just watched a bunch of Chinese films that did absolutely nothing for me. It proves that you should NEVER short change a movie and always give a film a fair shake at winning you over.


The film comes highly recommended by me, as you watch these four women show the personalities of their characters. I've said a million times that I love films that could double as stage plays and this could totally be reenacted on the stage and I wonder if it has ever been? I'm seriously looking forward to "Red Sorghum" now, which I'll probably watch before the season is over.

RATING: 9/10  Man, I'm getting to be a real picky son of a bitch aren't I? I just can't seem to bring myself to give out a '10' lately.

MOVIES WATCHED: 772
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 229

November 30, 2013  3:33pm

825. Total Recall (1990)


Running Time: 109 minutes
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven
Written By: Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon, Gary Goldman, from the short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick
Main Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside
Click here to view the trailer

OPEN YOUR MIND, MAN

So the turkey leftovers are just about wiped out, the Christmas shopping season is in full swing and Arnold Schwarzenegger wants nothing more than to go to Mars and kick some interplanetary ass!


Let's jump right into it, shall we? Schwarzenegger is Doug Quaid, an everyday Joe who has dreams of being on Mars with a beautiful woman. When he wakes up, he finds that he's already married to a beautiful woman - Lori (Stone) - albeit a different one from his dream. The film is set in the future, at a time when Mars has been colonized and Douglas is infatuated with the Red Planet, constantly watching news bits about the goings on of Earth's planetary neighbor. He tries to persuade his wife to take a trip, but she turns him down, suggesting Saturn instead. Then Doug hears about Rekall, an agency that specializes in manufacturing memories of virtual reality vacations. Doug, assuming this is the safe route and knowing his wife will never allow the real trip, decides to pay the cash and get implanted memories of a trip to Mars. For an extra few "credits" (this future's version of money) Doug purchases an accessory that will allow him to be a secret agent while away on his virtual vaca'. Once he's hooked in the chair, however, things go wrong and Doug goes a little loony. In an effort to avoid any trouble, the folks at Rekall skip out on the implants and slip Douglas into a Johnny Cab (driven by a dummy). On his way home, Doug is attacked and sent into a violent fight for his life, his memory and his identity. Is everything really happening or are we simply witnessing Doug's Rekall?

SPOILER ALERT!


Mark this one down, because it won't happen often. I actually found a sci-fi film that I like! I know, I know, it's amazing isn't it? For the unaware, my most detested genre is usually sci-fi. While other kids awed in the face of interplanetary exploration, robots, aliens, silver jumpsuits and flying saucers, I sort of just shrugged my shoulders and gave a hearty *meh*. It's nothing that ever appealed to me and usually the genre leaves me with an ugly taste in my mouth. However, who knew Schwarzenegger would be the man to bring me around! I mean, come on, who can deny this film? To me, it's such a fantastic example of the sci-fi genre, that also blends high action, not to mention forcing you to ponder about dreams, memories and all that cool stuff.

You know what I really love about this movie? The fact that you can actually make a case for why it's so cliche and Hollywood. You see, in my opinion, nothing we view past Doug's visit to Rekall is actually really happening. It's all a part of his virtual reality vacation and the special, added secret agent feature. Therefore, since everything we're seeing is manufactured (fake), we have a reason why Doug, an ordinary man, is suddenly transformed into a super hero - because that's what he paid for. It also accounts for all the over the top special effects, excessive gun battles and the heroic ending. It's perfect. It's a loop hole that allows you to NOT roll your eyes at things that would normally be eye-rollable. Also, was it just me or did the plot to this remind anyone else of "Open Your Eyes"/"Vanilla Sky"? Man is unhappy with everyday life, so he goes to an agency that replaces reality with something more appealing. I'd have a hard time believing that the original author of the "Open Your Eyes" screenplay wasn't influenced by this, at least a little bit.


Seriously though, for a good time call Paul...Verhoeven, that is. Here, he swoops in a seriously kick ass movie, one that's enjoyable, one that makes you think about the future, the prospect of colonizing Mars, the whole memory/identity/reality vs. perception thing and gives you loads of special effects, not to mention gun battles, car chases, explosions AND a twist & turn at every corner. Whew! This is a good one!

RATING: 8.5/10  I watched about ten minutes of the 2012 remake OnDemand today and wasn't feeling it too much. I may try it again soon, we'll see.

MOVIES WATCHED: 771
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 230

November 29, 2013  11:57pm

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Sunshine Award!



I know I mentioned it in a previous post, but Brigitte Badeau was kind enough to bestow upon me the Sunshine Award. You can check out Brigitte and her marvelous film reviews over at I Blame Movies. Anyway, I'll, of course, be gracious enough to participate in the award accepting responsibilities, which go something like this:

1. Include the Sunshine Award in a post or on your blog
2. Link to the person who nominated you. 
3. Answer 10 questions about yourself (you may use these or come up with your own)
4. Nominate 10 bloggers.
5. Link your nominees on your blog and comment on their blog to let them know they are nominated.

Here we go...

10 Questions:

1. Most shameful movie confession?

Apparently I didn't quite understand "The Double Life of Veronique". I'm was properly dressed down about it though and I finally stopped crying myself to sleep at night.

2. If you won a free trip, all expenses paid, to ANYWHERE in the world, where would you go?

Hmmm that's a toughie. Let's say London. Always been a fascinating place to me. Plus, I hate sunshine and I hear it's scarce over there.

3. Which is your favorite season and why?

Probably winter. You've got Christmas, plus I hate the heat and LOVE days cuddled under blankets with my wife. Cuddling under blankets in the summer is miserable.

4. Do you ever play board games or non-computer games? Got any favorites?

My wife is a board game junkie and I guess, by default, I am too. We have loads of board games. The Scene It games are fun, but finding someone who's a match for me is difficult. I RULE!! Also love Scattergories and Outburst!

5. What pets do you have? What are their names?

Tucker, an almost three year old toy Yorkie. Here's a picture:


6. Name an early movie memory (film that you loved or hated as a kid, etc.)

When I was a kid, my parents rented "Dirty Dancing" and allowed me to watch it (because it really wasn't vulgar or anything). Anyway, I remember falling in love with that movie for a minute, and watching it about five times before having to return it to the video store. The obsession eventually wore off and I came to my senses, cinematically speaking.

7. One movie most people love that I dislike?

Casablanca. We've discussed this before.

8. Which do you prefer: sweets or salty snacks?

Salty snacks for sure. I don't have much of a sweet tooth. Just give me a bag of Hawaiian Sweet Onion Kettle chips and back away slowly. 

9. What was the last TV show you watched?

Like literally the last one I watched? World's Dumbest on TruTV. It's a definite guilty pleasure, but damn it if it doesn't make me howl with laughter. Brad Loekle is HILARIOUS!!

10. Name a movie that you knew would be terrible just by reading the title?

Hmmm Battleship, perhaps? I'm sorry, you just can't go around making movies out of board games. 

10 Nominees: 










10. Ummm....I literally don't know ANY other bloggers. So if you want to be a part of my blog roll, just shoot me a message or something and I'll get you in there. I WOULD have nominated Dave and his Letterboxd thing, but I'm not sure if that's a blog and...I don't know...

Once again, thank you, thank you, thank you to Brigitte. Please check her out at her own blog, I Blame Movies. She does a wide variety of films and currently has up a review of a great little thriller/courtroom drama "Jagged Edge". 

November 29, 2013  10:12pm

Thursday, November 28, 2013

830. Guling jie shaonian sha ren shijian/A Brighter Summer Day (1991)


Running Time: 237 minutes
Directed By: Edward Yang
Written By: Yan Hongya, Lai Mingtang, Yang Shunqing, Edward Yang
Main Cast: Chang Chen, Chang Kuo-Chu, Elaine Jin, Lisa Yang, Wong Chizan

ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of the American readers, although by the time you read this, Thanksgiving will be over. Anyway, here's hoping you had a happy and safe "Turkey Day" and didn't get mauled while doing your Black Friday shopping.


So here we have "A Brighter Summer Day", a film that I was moderately looking forward to, since it was the other film in THE BOOK directed by Edward Yang, director of "Yi Yi" - a film that I really liked and one that even landed a "Ten Worth Mentioning" spot. I've got to be honest and say this film was a travesty for me. It has a running time of about four hours and I can tell you first hand that the four hours wasn't warranted. I'm not even going to get into the plot, because, to be honest, I kind of checked out at about the ninety minute mark or so and everything after that was me just watching, but only about half paying attention, while I stared at the clock and hoped this movie would just end ASAP. I really hate to admit that, because I'd like to think I give all movies my 100%, undivided attention, however, there are times when I try and fail to give that privilege to a film and "A Brighter Summer Day" was one of those times.


I think my biggest complaint would be that, like "The Blue Kite", the film just wasn't loud enough. It was like that person speaking at the back of the room, with everyone else saying "Huh?" and "What did he say?". The film would've benefited greatly by a music cue here and there - and I'm not talking about a lot of music, but this film had absolutely no music and a shot of piano or weeping guitar would've done wonders to give off a little emotion - or actors who weren't paid amateurs. I'm not even sure if these actors were amateurs, but they looked like amateurs, so that's what I'm calling them. The film also got me curious to know if Chinese cinema ever strays away from telling stories about the impact that historical events and governmental shifts had on everyday people. It seems that every single time I watch a movie produced in China, it's always something that draws off of something that really happened. It's enough to make this viewer hit a culture clash wall, where maybe it just doesn't have the same impact on me, because I just don't know what they're talking about or because it didn't impact me at all, whereas it impacted them directly.

RATING: 2/10  I'm going to give it a '2', because I liked it more than "Farewell My Concubine" and because I think there was a great movie buried in there somewhere, that I just couldn't see.

MOVIES WATCHED: 770
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 231

November 28, 2013  11:54pm

Monday, November 25, 2013

827. Boyz 'N the Hood (1991)


Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: John Singleton
Written By: John Singleton
Main Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Larry Fishburne, Nia Long
Click here to view the trailer

ON MY JOURNEY I PASSED THROUGH THE HOOD

For the unaware, I work in a grocery store and this is my busy time of year! Therefore, bear with me as I struggle through these next few days and try to simultaneously keep up the flow of movies being watched and reviews being written. I'm going to try REALLY hard to have this season wrapped by the end of the year, although it's looking more and more like a first week of January wrap-up. Anyway - "Boyz N the Hood"...


Think of "Boyz N the Hood" as a Spike Lee Joint without all the preaching & anger and more of a point A to point B plot (not that Lee's movies are plot-less, it's just that they aren't as basic as this). The film tells focuses on Tre Styles, whom we catch up with at the age of ten, when he's sent to live with his father, after his mother is tired of seeing him get suspended from school and winding up in physical confrontations. At his father's, Tre is set straight by his level headed, stern, yet loving old man, Furious (Fishburne). In the "hood", Tre meets and befriends brothers Ricky and Doughboy. Once the relationship between the boys is established and once Doughboy is arrested at a young age for theft, we jump ahead seven years. Now Tre (Gooding, Jr.) is a good grade achieving high schooler, thinking about college; Ricky (Chestnut) is a scouted high school football talent and Doughboy (Ice Cube) is just out of prison, spending his days loafing on his mother's front porch and his nights instigating gang wars with rivals. It's all just another day with the boys in this hood.


So yeah, I mean once you get the basic premise, you can probably, pretty much map out the rest of the film. It's not an unpredictable movie, to say the least, but I will say it's effective and it makes good use of it's two hours. However, much like when I watched "Do the Right Thing", I just got this overwhelming feeling like I shouldn't be watching this movie; like it wasn't made for me and therefore, I needed to find my own, non existent film about the hardships of the white race. I will give credit to Singleton, however, for straying away from the preaching and just, for the most part, telling us a story and giving us a few facts to chew on in the process, never shaking a finger at his audience. There's really on one scene where things get a little preachy, but it's minor and able to be overlooked. Gotta' give some credit to the cast here too. I particularly liked Laurence Fishburne (credited as Larry), whom I've always liked but never really knew why - now, at least, when I say I like him, I have SOMETHING to cite as to why. Ice Cube was great too, perhaps because he probably was doing less acting and more recollecting. I'll give a hearty *meh* to Gooding, Jr. and pretty much everybody else and go so far as to say I wish Angela Bassett had had a more prominent role.


RATING: 7/10  My computer keeps freezing for some unknown reason and I've pretty much hit all the points I wanted to make, so we'll call that a review. It seems that lately I'm getting more "Ten Worth Mentioning" nominees, as opposed to TOP 20 noms.

MOVIES WATCHED: 769
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 232

November 25, 2013  5:59pm

Sunday, November 24, 2013

829. DELICATESSEN (1991)


Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
Written By: Gilles Adrien, Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Main Cast: Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Karin Viard, Ticky Holgado
Click here to view the trailer

NOTES: A very big thank you to Brigitte Badeau, of I Blame Movies for giving me the Sunshine Award. Please take a moment to check out the great work Brigitte is doing with her own blog and again, thank you Brigitte. I promise to participate in the awards questionnaire ASAP. I also wanted to give a quick shout out to a newly acquired commenter named Dave. I promised to link to his Letterboxd profile, so here ya go: http://letterboxd.com/sootster/ Seriously, if they'd had these Letterboxd things when I was first starting this blog, I think I'd have gone that route; looks like a pretty cool, little home base. Anyway, check both of those people out, because they deserve it and because I said so! Now then...

AVOID THE 'MEAT OF THE DAY'!

This is one that I've been looking forward to for quite sometime, although I will admit I started this one YEARS ago, only to shut it off at about the thirty minute mark. Still, I knew my tastes had changed drastically, knew I loved Jean-Pierre Jeunet's other BOOK movie, "Amelie" and the plot sounded like something right up my alley.


The film tells of Louison (Pinon), a former clown performer who's partner on the stage, a monkey, died and is now in need of work. Louison answers an ad in the paper for a maintenance man at a delicatessen, which also happens to sit under an apartment building, owned by the butcher (Dreyfus). However, it turns out that the "want ad" was only a means of luring an unsuspecting person to the deli, so that they can be used as the next meat platter. Yes, that's right - the meat that the butcher/landlord is using is human meat and in a post-apocalyptic France, where food is in short supply, people are sinking their teeth into their brethren. Meanwhile, Louison falls for the butcher's daughter, Julie (Dougnac), a "blind as a bat", cello player who is both cute & sweet and most of all, wants no harm to come to her new love interest. The rest of the of the apartment building is filled with colorful characters, from a suicidal woman who hears voices, to a basement dweller who surrounds himself with frogs.


Hate to say it, but this was a HUGE disappointment! I know, I know, but I just couldn't ease into it. It was like bath water that was WAY too hot - no matter how many times I tried to sit my ass on the floor of the tub, I just couldn't help but raise up in unease. I wanted so badly to like it and trust me, I TRIED to like it and ultimately, I certainly didn't hate it, by any means, but I was expecting great things from this and it didn't pan out that way. It seemed like everything existed no in a post-apocalyptic world, but rather a loony toons world and no harm was going to come to anyone, because the guns were plastic, the knives weren't sharp and the bombs that DID explode were only going to leave you coughing up soot. It was such a phony, hokey world and while I Jeunet and Caro all the credit in the world for their inventiveness, I would've liked a little bit more seriousness. It seemed to me that the film relied more on a few, carefully choreographed gags and less on fleshing out the plot.


Speaking of the plot, it just seemed like we were meant to do a lot of guess work. It wasn't made clear right away that the butcher indeed wanted to hack Louison and the relationship between Julie and Louison just seemed to come out of nowhere - one minute their strangers, the next minute their in the throes of love. Even THE BOOK notes that Clapet wanted to kill Louison ONLY because he fell in love with Julie, while I was under the impression that Clapet wanted to kill Louison because the sole purpose of posting the want ad, was to get some fresh meat and that it had nothing to do with the romance between Louison and his daughter.

RATING: 6/10  The film LOOKED like a million dollars, but would only spend so far before a cashier drew on it with her special pen and deemed it counterfeit.

MOVIES WATCHED: 768
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 233

November 24, 2013  8:36pm

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...