Friday, June 7, 2013

May 2013 Recap

I really hope everyone enjoyed the TOP 20 list yesterday. I think the next time I do a TOP 20 list, I'm going to go through and put in some extra, added comments, just to make it a little more worth your while. I was pleased with the way the TOP 20 came out. I think I've said it before, but even I really have no idea how those lists are going to turn out until I sit down and plot them out. Anyway, it's a week late, but it's RECAP time. Let's get to it, shall we?

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - As seen in May 2013
1) In the Mood for Love (2000 - Wong Kar-Wai) 7.5/10 - This is one that I really wasn't sure I could get a TOP 20 spot and I couldn't, but I did get it into the "Ten Worth Mentioning" making it one of the thirty best movies I saw this past season.
2) L'Atalante (1934 - Jean Vigo) 3/10 - As I write this, I barely remember "L'Atalante", proving how forgettable it really is.
3) How Green Was My Valley (1941 - John Ford) 4/10
4) Ossessione (1943 - Luchino Visconti) 6.5/10 - I would say that this one would be a great candidate for a rewatch someday. I just don't think I was in the mood for it on the evening that I watched it. Definitely better than "The Postman Always Rings Twice".
5) Laura (1944 - Otto Preminger) 7/10 - Just came within a hair of missing the "Ten Worth Mentioning" section of the TOP 20. More good stuff from Preminger.
6) Meet Me in St. Louis (1944 - Vincente Minnelli) 5/10
7) The Sixth Sense (1999 - M. Night Shyamalan) 7/10 - Good enough to nab a "Ten Worth Mentioning" spot.
8) Being John Malkovich (1999 - Spike Jonze) 6.5/10 - Another one that needs a rewatch, as I was positive that it'd be a shoo in for the TOP 20 list and it didn't come close.
9) Beau Travail (1999 - Claire Denis) 4/10 - Sometimes beautiful, but quite forgettable filmmaking from Claire Denis.
10) All About My Mother (1999 - Pedro Almodovar) 8.5/10 - Chalk Almodovar's name into the director's that caught my eye this season, as he managed to get two of his movies into my TOP 20.
11) Fight Club (1999 - David Fincher) 7/10
12) Henry V (1944 - Laurence Olivier) 1/10 - Probably one of the five worst films out of the last 100 I watched.
13) Ivan the Terrible (1944 - Sergei M. Eisenstein) 2/10 - Still willing to give it a few notches for the great photography, but that's really all it has going for it.
14) My Darling Clementine (1946 - John Ford) 6/10 - Leave it to John Ford to keep a Henry Fonda movie out of my TOP 20.
15) The Bicycle Thief (1948 - Vittorio De Sica) 8/10 - Good enough to land in the #20 spot of yesterday's list.
16) Children of Paradise (1945 - Marcel Carne) 6.5/10 - Great first half, disappointing second half. Had the second half been able to keep the momentum going, this could've been gold.
17) Three Kings (1999 - David O. Russell) 6/10
18) Titanic (1997 - James Cameron) 7/10 - Also came REALLY REALLY close to making the "Ten Worth Mentioning" section of the TOP 20. Just wasn't quite as good as anything that was included.
19) Run Lola Run (1998 - Tom Tykwer) 7.5/10 - Lowered it a little, because when making the list, I realized that I saw, at least, twenty other, better films this season.
20) There's Something About Mary (1998 - Farrelly, Farrelly) 6/10 - All in good fun, I guess.
21) The Thin Red Line (1998 - Terrence Malick) 6.5/10 - Another one that had lots of potential, but lost me along the way.

Non-1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - As seen in May 2013

My wife and I have begun the long effort of going through our DVD collection (nearly 1000 titles strong) and sorting out the riff raff. Basically we're going to try to watch everything on our shelves (which will take forever and a day) and get rid of things we mutually don't like and don't think we'll watch again. On the other hand, for the things we like, we're trying to give some of the supplemental material a watch and see if any of it is worthwhile. Anyway, expect to see the "NON-1001" section of the recaps get some action, for a while anyway.

1) Lake Placid (1999 - Steve Miner) 3/10 - This was brought into the collection by my wife, when we first got together and merged our collections. I had never seen it, but had always seen it on the shelf and pretty much knew I wouldn't like it. I was right! Apparently Hollywood is NEVER going to forget that in 1975 "Jaws" made a truckload of cash and will forever be trying to find that next, great, moneymaking man vs. animal picture. This wasn't it. Filled with cheesy effects, a story that's held together by scotch tape and features perhaps my least favorite actor ever, Oliver Platt. I'm not crazy about Bill Pullman either, but at least he has SOME potential and Bridget Fonda should be ashamed to be in this, as she isn't a bad actress and she shamed her grandfather's good name by even appearing here. I can't even justify the '3' rating, except to say that a '1' or '2' seemed too low. My wife agreed with me, for the most part and this was placed in the "sell pile".


2) Elephant (2003 - Gus Van Sant) 7/10 - Brought into the collection by yours truly. I like Gus Van Sant and with the exception of "Gerry", I've never seen a bad film from him (God was that film awful though). "Elephant" is no exception, using amateur actors and even amateur looking photography to give us a real feel for the atmosphere of American high-schools and a little feel for what it might be like to be caught in a shooting situation. This movie is quite relevant, especially in America where there seems to be a school shooting (or some type of shooting) every time you turn around. Van Sant's film takes place over the course of one school day and gives us multiple angles of the same shot, from different characters perspectives. Good stuff from Gus and a keeper to our collection.


3) Ransom (1996 - Ron Howard) 6.5/10 - I realized when watching this one that Ron Howard doesn't have a single film in THE BOOK and you know what, I really can't blame THE BOOK for excluding him, as none of his movies are really stand-out. HOWEVER, "Ransom" is a really good, easy to get into film, that packs quite the punch and works as a really good thriller. It has a great cast, including Mel Gibson (he's good here), Rene Russo (who apparently fell off the face of the Earth, but wasn't awful) and Gary Sinise (a favorite of mine). Gibson's son is kidnapped by a police officer played by Gary Sinise. Things go awry when Gibson's character revokes the ransom and instead offers it as a reward for anyone leading him to his son, thus putting a bounty on the kidnapper's head. Not stellar or anything, but it works and it's pretty good. It's a keeper.


4) The Wrestler (2008 - Darren Aronofsky) 10/10 - Someday I'll write a real, full-length review on this one and tell you just why I like it so much and what it really means to me. For now, I'll just say that I grew up watching professional wrestling and when I got older, I started to dig a little deeper and find a greater appreciation for what these men (and women) do. Most will write it off as the bastard child of boxing and "real sports", but few know the skill that actually goes into putting on a wrestling match, albeit a good one. In the ring no one should ever get anymore banged up than a football player, the outcomes are predetermined and the feuds are no different than watching a movie. For me, it's the equivalent of someone watching and enjoying ballet and requires you to suspend your disbelief if you intend to enjoy it, just like with movies. Anyway, in my opinion, this is a great example of what these wrestlers go through, put themselves through and how many of them hesitate to give up the spotlight. This movie is a real favorite of mine! I'll leave it at that.


5) Sleeping with the Enemy (1991 - Joseph Ruben) 6/10 - Despite shoddy acting from Julia Roberts, this one really surprised me in how decent it was. This was one of my wife's movies and again, like "Lake Placid", I'd never seen it. Pretty good thriller, that totally worked for me. Sure, it's on par with a Lifetime movie, but one of the better ones and the guy that plays the crazy husband was really great. We decided to keep this one.


6) Election (1999 - Alexander Payne) 8.5/10 - Another one that I'd like to someday write a full-length review on. I've loved "Election" from the first time I saw it. Just a really great and clever comedy that uses a high school, student body election and fills it in with deceit and corruption. All of the actor's involved know their parts and play them well, especially Broderick and Witherspoon. If you've never seen this, please do yourself a favor and check it out. It's an easy watch and it's a high quality film that deserves more attention.


7) Unbreakable (2000 - M. Night Shyamalan) 7/10 - I watched this one right around the time I watched "The Sixth Sense" and honestly, this was almost as good as that film. It's a very clever concept, as it takes the basic layout of a superhero story and gives it to us, except it uses real people, not men in tights and capes flying through the air. Shyamalan again gives us a twist ending to chew on, except it's not quite as shocking, but perhaps more clever than the twist in "The Sixth Sense". Unfortunately, as I write this M. Night's latest film "After Earth" is in theaters and not doing so good - by box office or critical standards. He's seemed to have really slipped lately and he just needs to get back to what made him a household name: clever, simple stories that bordered on the thriller/horror genre, but also gave us a fair amount of drama and appealed to the masses.


8) Around the Bend (2004 - Jordan Roberts) 6/10 - I brought this into the collection. I saw it back when it came out on DVD, when I was working at the video store and would basically rent anything that looked even half appealing. When I saw Christopher Walken on the cover of this one and noticed that Michael Caine was in it too, I rented it, thought it was great and bought it pretty quickly afterward. It didn't get over on me quite as well this time around, but it still holds up somewhat. It's a little overly sentimental at times and overly dramatic. I'm also not that crazy about Josh Lucas and honestly, Christopher Walken really seems to be phoning in his performance. However, like I said, it works to a certain extent and certainly isn't the worst thing I even saw last month and we decided to hang onto it.


WHEW! Well, that's all I got for you this month dear readers. It is now time for me to officially announce my hiatus from the blog. I need to go and recharge my batteries for a little while, but fear not - I'll be back probably at the end of July or beginning of August. Let's put it this way, by the time the leaves are changing colors, I'll be back to pluggin' away on those final 300 films and before you know it, my journey will be through. Keep an eye out for the June recap, as the wife and I have already put away one more DVD from our shelf, so I'll definitely have something to talk about. See ya soon guys, take care and please, don't hesitate to keep on commenting in my absence, as I'll still check the blog daily and reply to everyone.

June 7, 2013  11:10pm

Thursday, June 6, 2013

TOP 20: #602 - #701

I know this is going to sound like me imitating a broken record, but I just can't believe that I only have three hundred movies to watch before I'm all finished with this journey. It really does seem like just yesterday when I set out to watch all 1001 of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" and here we are now with only 300 left to go. I know that seems like a lot, but when you've already dropped 701 in the bucket, it really isn't. Anyway, it's TOP 20 time again. For the new or the ones who haven't been paying attention, every time I watch 100 films from THE BOOK, I compile a TOP 20 list (plus ten honorable mentions that I dub the "Ten Worth Mentioning") of the best of the best of the last 100 films. It's usually a pretty rough process because when you sit down with a list of 100 films, chances are you liked more than twenty of them (thirty if you count the "Ten Worth Mentioning"). Anyway, it's 2:14am and I'm ready to get this ball rolling.

I want everyone to know that, like always, I put a lot of thought and effort into compiling this list and feel that it is a very accurate, ranked representation of the last 100 films that I watched for THE BOOK. This time around (like last time) I WILL NOT be including any new comments, just copying and pasting from my reviews to save time. Sorry if that's a disappointment, but literally writing out new comments for all twenty of these suckers is a real chore that I don't feel like undertaking.

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. The Bicycle Thief (1948) dir. Vittorio De Sica  8/10
Screw the communism and the neorealism and just watch this movie for what it is. Don't try reading too far into it and trying to understand the intended themes, because it's not worth it and a fabulous movie is provided, without all that mumbo jumbo tied into it.


19. Some Like It Hot (1959) dir. Billy Wilder  8/10
As I watched "Some Like It Hot", I continually asked myself a question and I think it's a good question to ask yourself anytime you watch one of these "man dressing as a woman" comedies. Would this still be funny if they weren't in drag? If they were doing everything just as they're doing it, but they looked like Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis? The answer here is YES - easily yes! I mean, try to picture Jack Lemmon, his sensible, short haircut, in a suit (maybe the type of suit he wore to the Consolidated Insurance Company - maybe even his bowler hat), lying on a bed, gushing about Osgood's proposal and shaking those maracas. My God, I could laugh right now at the thought of that. Hey guys, it's a comedy for God's sake. It's not Tarkovsky, it's not Scorsese, it's not Bergman, it's just a damn funny movie


18. Fight Club (1999) dir. David Fincher  8/10
A man puts a loaded gun into his mouth and pulls the trigger, for the sole purpose of killing his imaginary friend. That's "Fight Club". It's a clever, intelligent story and we may never see anything again that is as innovative, unique or original as this...unless Charlie Kaufman has something to say about it. It's impossible to be a film fan and not like this movie and all I was stating by the above paragraph, is that it certainly does have it's flaws. I'm still convinced that there are plot holes in there somewhere...somehow, there's got to be!


17. Marty (1955) dir. Delbert Mann  8/10
I'll never forget seeing this for the first time. My wife and I were living in our very first apartment and she'd gone off to work and I stayed home with a cold. I can remember lying on the couch, coffee table scattered with cough drops and tissues and for some reason or another, I popped in "Marty". It was at a time when I was trying to expand my cinematic knowledge, so I was watching pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Still though, I hadn't seen very many films pre-1975, so it was a big deal for me to be watching something this old and when I liked it as much as I did, it only opened the door a little wider for me to enjoy older movies more often.


16. Apocalypto (2006) dir. Mel Gibson  8.5/10
However, Gibson didn't waste any time and quickly put the kibosh on the comedy and started rolling the ball on an absolutely FANTASTIC movie. For me, the skeptical one, it was a film that built and built and built until I couldn't help but embrace the film that was being laid out before me. At first, as I mentioned, I wasn't crazy about it. Then, the village is attacked and I start to get a little more into it, but not too much. The mini war scene when the village is attacked was some pretty great stuff, but I still wasn't sold. Then we started walking and I began to wonder when we'd stop walking. Was the entire film going to be the leading of the captives to their destination or were we going to get there in time to see what happens and then some? That question was quickly answered though, when we did arrive at our destination and the cinematography started to pick up a notch. Immaculate sets,  thousands of extras, camera angles that squeezed every drop of beauty out of the surroundings and the blues of the painted bodies, the sacrificial lambs being led to their slaughter. But it was too soon for all of our main characters to die and if the sacrificing wasn't enough to get you "oohing" & "aahing" and gasping & groaning, you still had the whole final act to go - the escape of Jaguar Paw and to see whether or not he'd survive a band of worthy hunters. By the end, I was exhausted. Going from a skeptical viewer to a 100% hooked one is hard work, ya know?


15. Bigger Than Life (1956) dir. Nicholas Ray  8.5/10
It took some convincing for me to finally come around, but "Bigger Than Life" finally sold me on James Mason. I mean, I always knew he was a great actor, but he was this classically trained actor, this guy who did everything by the book and to perfection, lacking any real character almost. "Bigger Than Life" was controversial for it's time, that's obvious to even me and Mason really pushed himself and delivered in a big way. I loved how this movie took you inside the suburban seemingly perfect home and tore that facade to shreds. We got to see inside these plastic people's house, inside their real problems and what goes on when the picture perfect world crumbles.


14. The Departed (2006) dir. Martin Scorsese  8.5/10
Of course, the story is the real star of the show, as you've got a truly original idea (other than the fact that this IS a remake of a Hong Kong film, thus deeming it quite unoriginal...but I mean the original, original idea), that people are going to obviously get into. At the very same time mob decides to put a mole in the police force, the police force decide to put a mole in the mob and the intensity and suspense of it all is, sometimes, to much to bear. "The Departed" comes complete with those "sit on the edge of your seat" moments, not to mention those moments where you just cannot help but try and communicate with the fictitious characters, through your T.V. If you're watching this movie and not yelling "Get out of there!" or "Oh my God, he's gonna' catch him!!", then you're not getting into the full experience that this motion picture has to offer. Martin wants you to have fun and he knows how to make an audience have fun, all the while making a high quality movie. That's what I love about Scorsese, because first and foremost, he's a fan and knows what we want to see.


13. Grease (1978) dir. Randal Kleiser  8.5/10
I'm just going to lay it right out on the table...I had a blast watching this. I mean, sure the plot is an absolute mess, but until I sat down and actually started to write this review, I didn't even realize what a barely there plot this one has. And, like I said, it really isn't about the plot. The plot is just there to give the actors a reason to sing their songs and it's the songs that make the movie. Literally EVERY song in the movie is listenable and the majority of them are so catchy you'll be shocked to realize that your snapping your fingers, tapping your toes and singing along with John and Olivia. I think my personal favorite and non-obvious choice for best song would have to be "Sandy" by Travolta, but seriously, who doesn't love "Summer Nights" and "You're the One That I Want"? In fact, watch "Grease" and then come and TRY to tell me that you didn't sing along, not once and I'll deem you the liar that you are! Even the song that I like the least, "Beauty School Dropout", is even pretty good and how can you dislike something being sung by Frankie Avalon, as he dances on a stage of white, oozing swag out the yin-yang.


12. All About My Mother (1999) dir. Pedro Almodovar  8.5/10
Look, I've been saying for days now that I'm getting a little burnt out on writing these reviews and working my way toward my short term goal of 700 watched, but "All About My Mother" actually made me grateful that I've decided to keep on truckin'. It's that type of film that makes you want to watch more films, because it makes you realize that around every corner could be your next favorite movie. "All About My Mother" isn't my new favorite movie and it did have a few flaws, however, it was good enough to give me back a little more excitement, which I'll need to finish out the season and for that I am thankful. The story is top notch and while the "Talk to Her" story was a little more simple and a little better, I thought this was right up there. It also makes me realize what a magnificent filmmaker Almodovar is and really makes me excited to see more of his pictures.


11. There Will Be Blood (2007) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson  9/10
So what's it all about? I honestly thought there would be something more to "There Will Be Blood", some big revelation at the end of the picture or something that wrapped everything up neatly. That "something" never came and what we're left with is a picture that simply explores different themes and never really wraps anything up, neatly or otherwise. Anderson's use of music (eerie, would best describe it) and religious overtones, only served to keep my suspicions peeked - suspicions that something else was coming, but again I reiterate, that the "something" never came. So instead of having a story driven picture - one that goes from Point A to Point B - you have a movie that explores themes; more specifically greed and the greed of this particular generation.


10. Happiness (1998) dir. Todd Solondz  9/10
So as much as people want to condemn Todd Solondz for making "Happiness", I'd rather applaud him. Why? Because these sorts of people do exist. Who knows what goes on when people lock their doors and pull their curtains at night. People have all sorts of perversions and turn ons, whether you're a doctor, living in the 'burbs or a regular guy, living in an apartment. Some of our turn ons are fairly run of the mill, but behind a lot of locked doors there are a real sickos: pedophiles, rapists and the like; and then there's guy's like Allen, a little odd, but for the most part, harmless. So thank you Todd Solondz for not shying away from this sort of subject matter and facing it and even more so for being able to find a little humor in it and even more so for adding those few classy touches, in a film that really has no place being classy. For people who say they don't like this movie, but secretly do, I understand. For people who say they don't like this movie and mean it, I don't understand. I'll certainly NEVER bash anyone's personal opinion, but I do apologize if you're offended by "Happiness". I apologize if every film can't be roses & puppy dogs and I apologize that as long as there are directors like Todd Solondz, there will be filmmakers who aren't afraid to grab reality by the horns and show us what's really going on.


09. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) dir. Jack Arnold  9/10
Anyway, in case you can't tell by now, I loved this movie!! Call it being surprised by something I expected to be disappointed by or just call it a fantastic night at the movies, but this was great! The film was only eighty minutes long and that was fine, but had they wanted to, they totally could've added a third act and allowed us to follow Scott outside and continue the adventure. "The Incredible Shrinking Man" plays out like an extra-long episode of one of my all-time favorite television shows - The Twilight Zone; and I'm talking about the good Twilight Zone, the 1950s version with Rod Serling puffing away on his cigarettes and trying to creep us out.


08. The Wages of Fear (1953) dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot  9/10
It was slow to start, but I'll be damned if this picture didn't get damn good after the trucks pulled away. In fact, when the picture kicked off, I had it pegged for a low rating. It's nearly an hour into the picture before the trucks begin their 300 mile journey and I wish they'd chopped that beginning down by about twenty-thirty minutes and this movie could've been looking a a '10' rating. However, you nearly forget that incredibly slow ending - the only good part of which is the beautiful Vera Clouzot (wife of Henri-Georges), wearing loose hanging dresses, barefoot and scrubbing floors in the local pub - when those trucks pull away and the suspense & tension meter is cranked to eleven...yes, it goes ALL THE WAY TO ELEVEN! The journey itself reminded me a little bit of "Le Trou", in that it showed EVERY aspect of what it took for two trucks to transport dangerous nitroglycerin across 300 miles of rocky terrain. Clouzot threw in obstacle after obstacle and made sure to keep his viewers on the edge of their seats. There were moments where I literally spoke to the television screen (something I never do), trying to will characters that existed sixty years ago. I kept saying to myself, "When one of these trucks blow up" because I knew one of them would "it needs to be sudden and it needs to be at a moment when we really think they both have a chance at survival". And, by God, it was the most sudden moment in the whole film, when Jo is rolling a cigarette only to have the blast blow the loose tobacco off his paper and a few flashes light up his face. I had to rewind and watch it again, it was that out of nowhere.


07. Buffalo '66 (1998) dir. Vincent Gallo  10/10
"Buffalo 66" is unique, original, contains a great cast, despite it's less than impressive budget and has Vincent Gallo all over it - a man who doesn't look like that appealing a human being in real life, but who knocks it out of the park in his directorial debut. If you check out the history of Gallo and his actions & comments he's made toward such people as Roger Ebert and even Christina Ricci, he seems like...well, an asshole. But this blogger, when reviewing a film, is less concerned with the person and more concerned with the artist and it's not hard to see that Gallo is a talented individual, who made bold choices that paid off when it came to "Buffalo 66". The film isn't conventional, by any means. It uses unique, original shots, quirky dialogue that somehow, within the confines of this film, comes off as sounding very original and unforced and contains a plot that is both funny and sad. Literally, with a few slight turns of the screws, you could turn this film into a full blown comedy or a full blown drama, but as it is, it's both. From the opening scene of Billy Brown being released from prison, the film sucks you in and uses the hook of a man trying to find a bathroom to get us all invested...as we've all been there. A hook so simple serves as the bridge to get us invested in the rest of the picture and scene after scene we're sucked into Billy's world; hating him, loving him and, near the end, ready to cry for him.


06. The Apartment (1960) dir. Billy Wilder  10/10
It's a great film, end of story. It's one that always takes me back to that first viewing and refills me with all the feelings I felt so long ago. I guess you'd call that a timeless classic, but I'll skip the fancy talk and just call it a definite must see film, one that everybody should see and one that is almost immune to feeble excuses of dislike. If you can't watch this and love Jack Lemmon's performance, get lost in the sometimes outrageous but always interesting, heartwarming and brilliant plot, then there's a problem and chances are it's not a problem with the film. Even if I continued typing for hours upon hours, I couldn't shower this film with enough praise, so I might as well quit now.


05. Trainspotting (1996) dir. Danny Boyle  10/10
For me, "Trainspotting" has always been that movie that I've loved but never really associated with or formed a more solid opinion about. I'd seen "Trainspotting" several times before this morning, with opinions raging from "like very much" to "love", yet I don't even own it on DVD - which, for an avid DVD collector, is a bit odd. It's like that neighbor that you really like and when he sees you out you always talk to him and exchange pleasantries and even behind his back, you tell other neighbors what a great guy he is, yet you never invite him over to see your place, share a piece of pie & coffee and get to know each other a little better. That's what "Trainspotting" is for me: a nice, acquainted neighbor. Today, though, I finally had that pie & coffee and decided that "Trainspotting", despite being aimed at a more general audience (I think) is a marvelous film. Despite not really being a linear story, "Trainspotting" (as I outlined in my synopsis) uses a collection of anecdotes, which are easily watchable and range from very funny to very sad to very disgusting, all emotions that every audience member can easily tap into, to introduce us to the characters and lure us into the story - the basic story being, group of guys on drugs.


04. Talk to Her (2002) dir. Pedro Almodovar  10/10
Movies have a way of really messing with you, if you think about it. Some of you may remember a while back, when I reviewed "The Celebration", I mentioned how odd it was that I actually felt sympathy for the pedophile, rapist father at the end of the film, when his family drives him away from the table. It was such an odd feeling, which is why I spoke about it and Almodovar kind of does the same thing to me again, with "Talk to Her". If any of us were to be watching the news and hear a story about a male nurse who raped and impregnated a coma patient, we would be disgusted and appalled. However, in "Talk to Her", that very same situation plays out and at the end, we're almost in tears for the Benigno character, feeling for him...at least I was. That's one of the really special things about cinema - when done right, it can totally twist your emotions, feelings, opinions and personal stances and make you totally second guess how you would normally view a situation. Did Benigno have issues? Certainly, however, the way Almodovar unfolded the story and told it to us, it wasn't that bad of a thing that he did. The sign of a truly great filmmaker, when they can literally play with your emotions and then make you wonder why you viewed something the way you did.


03. Blue Velvet (1986) dir. David Lynch  10/10
What's not to like about "Blue Velvet" really? Oh sure, there's a TON of cursing, some nudity and a bunch of sexual content & dialogue, but if you're a big boy or girl, you can handle and what you'll get in return is an amazing time at the movies. "Blue Velvet" works on so many levels, whether you're the type of movie goer that likes to dig a little deeper or whether you're the type that just likes to sit back and enjoy the ride - "Blue Velvet" will accommodate all tastes. Isn't it funny how sometimes the scariest films are the ones that you wouldn't necessarily classify as horror films? I'd consider "Blue Velvet" to be ONE OF the freakiest movies I've ever seen and it's because we're dealing with real people here. I have no doubt that there are people walking the streets right now, somewhere in the country I live in, somewhere in the state I live in, perhaps somewhere on the street I live on, that are just as psychotic as Frank, if not worse. To me, one of the things this film represented was the birth of evil. When we open, we zoom in on Anytown, USA. A fireman waves hello from his truck, roses outside of a white picket fence are highlighted and a man waters his lawn. It all has a very "Leave It to Beaver"-esque quality and while we're never told when the film takes place, I'd assume it takes place in the 50s or so.


02. Pulp Fiction (1994) dir. Quentin Tarantino  10/10
It's like saying water is wet and heat is hot, to say that the dialogue in "Pulp Fiction" is magnificent. Everyone who has seen it and liked it cites those exact words, so I won't hammer that point home. But it's more than just the dialogue. It's the way these stories are made to hook us and that, my God, there's three of them!! Maybe it's the fact that each story isn't copy & paste, cookie cutter material and that any of the three stories potentially had dozens of different outcomes. Would Mia have cheated on Marcellus with Vincent had she not overdosed? What if Butch hadn't gone back to save Marcellus? What if Bonnie had made it home? And, sonofabitch, what's in that briefcase!!?? Tarantino keeps us on our toes. He hooks us with the common criminals, continues hooking us and makes us laugh a little with the "Royale with Cheese" dialogue, warms us up with the Mia Wallace story, keeps the heat on for the Butch Coolidge story, lets us breathe a little bit and laugh with the Bonnie Situation and finally, has the criminals, that we've probably forgotten about at this point, reemerge and meet our two main characters. It's a ride man and let me tell you, it's a lot of fun and it's just so damn good. With this film, in 1994, Tarantino proved that he was the next link in the great director's chain and that if he stuck around, he'd become a force to be reckoned with on the filmmaking scene.


01. Le Trou (1960) dir. Jacques Becker  10/10
BUT, as it is, "Le Trou" is perfect and on second thought, maybe I wouldn't change a thing, because why mess with perfection. I thought about this movie all day today, kept replaying scenes in my mind, thinking about Roland's last words and seeing those guards reflected in that tiny mirror. "Le Trou" is the kind of movie that makes me want to amend my previous '10/10' ratings for "The Apartment", "Buffalo '66" and "Some Like It Hot", because clearly THIS is what a '10' picture looks like, feels like and is. If this isn't the #1 spot of my next TOP 20, then I can't wait to see the movie that I deem better than this, because I'll be damned if this wasn't the best movie I've seen in a LONG time! Perhaps...perhaps even better than anything I watched all last season. Now that's a bold statement.


TEN WORTH MENTIONING: La chienne (1931), Les Diaboliques (1955), The Defiant Ones (1958), An Autumn Afternoon (1962), My Fair Lady (1964), Taste of Cherry (1997), Run Lola Run (1998), The Sixth Sense (1999), In the Mood for Love (2000) and The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Well boys & girls, yar she blows! I hope you enjoy the seventh presentation of a TOP 20 list here at the blog. I always have a really good time making these, because it gives me a chance to prove my last 100 movie choices and see what really stood out. I hope you'll take a moment to peruse the list, leave a comment and tell me where we agree & disagree, what you'd change, etc. I'll be back soon (either later tonight or tomorrow night) to present my "May 2013 Recap" and then I'm outta' here for one or two months. Thanks, as always, for reading.

June 6, 2013  3:08pm

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

667. AIRPLANE! (1980)


Running Time: 87 minutes
Directed By: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Written By: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Main Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges
Click here to view the trailer

300 TO GO

So "Open Your Eyes" was still on the fritz and wanting something that would be an easy watch and because I had plenty of serious TOP 20 contenders to choose from already, I came across "Airplane!" on the net and decided to make it the final film of this season.


The story really doesn't matter in "Airplane!", but I'll do my best to try and put something together for the people who haven't seen this one. Basically think "Scary Movie" years before that type of film became a dime a dozen. "Airplane!" is a parody of disaster flicks and tells the story of Ted Striker (Hays), a former fighter pilot who has developed a fear of flying due to a traumatic experience during the war. His girlfriend, Elaine (Hagerty), a stewardess, leaves him due to the complications that his fear of flying put on their relationship. When she's about to takeoff on a flight to Chicago, Ted chases her down and ends up boarding the flight, just so he can continue talking to her and beg her to stay with him. During the course of the flight, a bad fish dinner leaves half of the passengers with a severe illness, including the pilot and co-pilot. Now, Ted must face his fear of flying, as he's the only man on board capable of landing the plane. He is talked down by his former commanding officer in the war, Rex Kramer (Robert Stack), whom he still holds a contempt for. Also on board the plane is Dr. Rumack (Nielsen), who is trying to keep the sick passengers at ease, while Ted tries to land the aircraft.


You know, I kind of like ending the seasons with comedies. It's a nice, easy landing (no pun intended) after 99 other potentially serious pictures and usually by now I'm pretty burnt out after watching and reviewing 99 other films. Comedies are easy to sum up and while they're usually nowhere near on par with other films I've watched during a season, they're just easy to review. Now then, I didn't care for "Airplane!" and really, why should I? It's a film that had absolutely no place in the "1001 Movies You Muse See Before You Die" book and is just put in because it and AZZ (Abrahams, Zucker, Zucker) were sort of a big deal at the time of it's release. The only reason this film got the attention that it got is because no one was doing this sort of thing at this time. If you'd release "Airplane!" today, critics and moviegoers would crap all over it and rightfully so. I guess it has a few redeeming qualities, almost all of them beginning and ending with Lloyd Bridges and his cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking, amphetamine popping, glue sniffing air traffic controller and some of the gags got a little more than a chuckle out of me, but all in all it's a huge waste of time. I couldn't believe it when I read the BOOK passage and they actually took the time to mention Stephen Stucker as being exceptional. My God, I hated that guy! He was utterly annoying, quite unfunny and got no laughs out of yours truly.


Yet another movie where I can honestly scratch my head and consider it a shame that films like "Dial M for Murder", "Scenes from a Marriage" and "Life Is Beautiful", as well as countless others, got the boot to make room for this garbage.  As far as I'm concerned you can take "Airplane!", as well as all of the "Movie movies" (Scary Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie, Dance Flick, Superhero Movie, Disaster Movie and Not Another Teen Movie), add them to the list of spoofs made starring Leslie Nielsen (2001: A Space Travesty, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Spy Hard, Wrongfully Accused and An American Carol) and add to that all of the films that Abrahams, Zucker, Zucker and the Wayans Brothers (for good measure) had anything to do with and sink them to the bottom of the ocean, so generations to come will never have to suffer through them. End of story, end of season.

RATING: 3.5/10  Wow! I got a little carried away there at the end, didn't I? I bet you were expecting a '1', but I have to give it SOME credit, because like I said, I loved Lloyd Bridges. Anyway, that does it for another season. Like I mentioned before, I'll be back either later tonight or tomorrow to present the 7th TOP 20 list and I hope you're as excited for it as I am.

MOVIES WATCHED: 701
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 300

June 5, 2013  1:01pm

921. Ta'm e guilass/Taste of Cherry (1997)


Running Time: 95 minutes
Directed By: Abbas Kiarostami
Written By: Abbas Kiarostami
Main Cast: Homayoun Ershadi, Abdolrahman Bagheri, Safar Ali Moradi, Mir Hossein Noori
Click here to view the trailer

700 DOWN

Another quick update before my review: The copy of "Open Your Eyes" that I'd tracked down online isn't working properly for me. I'll try it again in the morning, but if it still isn't working I'll be forced to scramble and come up with a last minute replacement for that film. Stay tuned. By the way, current plans are for me to finish up the last movie and last review in the morning, make the TOP 20 tomorrow afternoon and post it either tomorrow night or Thursday. Now then...cherries and stuff...


"Taste of Cherry" is a pretty simple, little film and detailing it shouldn't take no time. Mr. Baadi (Ershadi) is driving around Tehran, Iran, looking for someone who will assist him when he kills himself the following morning. Basically the plan is for Mr. Baadi to take a bottle full of sleeping pills and lie down in a hole, that he's already pre-dug, beneath a cherry tree. If he's able to find someone to assist him, it will be that person's duty to come to him the following morning, at dawn and either A) cover him with dirt if, he's dead or B) help him out of the hole, if he's alive. He's offering 200,000 tomans for the man that will accept this odd job. First, Baadi picks up a soldier on his way to the barracks and a shy soldier at that. The soldier ultimately refuses to help out Mr. Baadi and ends up running away, perhaps thinking that Mr. Baadi is either crazy or that he has other motives. The second man that Mr. Baadi picks up is a seminarian and while he doesn't really try to talk Baadi out of suicide, he is stern that it goes against everything he believes in and that he cannot assist him. The third and last man that Mr. Baadi talks to is a taxidermist and because he has a child who is ill, he agrees to help Mr. Baadi. His name is Mr. Bagheri, a wise, old gentleman and as they drive through town, he tries to talk Mr. Baadi out of his decision

SPOILER ALERT!!


For those of you who have seen this movie and who have been following me for a long enough time, you probably already can kind of suspect what I'm going to say. You probably know my #1 gripe with this picture and the thing that ruined the entire movie for me...shall we say it together?...

The ending.

I'll get to the ending in a minute though. "Taste of Cherry" was a movie that I've been wanting to see for a very long time. I knew just by reading the plot that it sounded unusual and unique enough to be something special and just knew I'd like it, no matter what. And hey, I did like it. I mean, what's not to like? Oh sure, you'll have people who claim that it's boring, that it's just a man driving around in his car, talking to strangers, having the same conversations. But for me, it's right up my alley because I love dialogue driven movies and this is a movie where we're literally driving dialogue! The performances are very natural, almost like real conversations and it's probably a testament to Kiarostami, who sat either in the passenger's or driver's seat and played each scene like an interview, looking for genuine reactions from his actors.

Did I need to know why Mr. Baadi wanted to kill himself? Not at all. Did I need to know, in the end, whether Baadi lives or dies? Nope. However, would it have been nice to know both of those facts? Yes. Look, movies are storytelling, I think we can all agree on that. I've said it before and I'll say it again, don't give me this "interpret my own ending" bull crap. If you're a writer/director and you've got an idea for a film, then tell me a story. Show me things, let me all the way in and don't make me guess. I don't want to press this issue too much, because honestly, it wasn't that big of an issue for me. I'm fairly confident that we're given enough footage to know that Baadi probably dies in the end. Now, as it pertains to why he wants to kill himself, I'd have liked to have had a scene where he finally breaks down and tells Mr. Bagheri why he's committing suicide. In fact, when he runs back in to meet Mr. Bagheri, after dropping him off, I thought that's what we were going to get. However, it never comes and we're left to interpret. Why did you think Baadi was killing himself? Personally, I'd like to think he had a wife and she died. Perhaps he had a relationship like the one I have with my wife. Now, I could never do the relationship that my wife and I have justice with words, but let's suffice it to say that it's really something special and yes, if she were to pass away, I would probably want to pass away too. Well, I'd like to think that's what happened with Mr. Baadi and if I'm going to go ahead and thing that, then I can view the film a little easier, because now I can give Mr. Baadi the rest of his story, the story that we don't get from the STORYTELLER! Perhaps the spot where he wants to be buried was where they had their first date, first kiss, or maybe it's where they made love for the first time. These are my interpretations and I can draw from personal experiences/feelings (my wife) and make Mr. Baadi's journey more impactful. More impactful than if Kiarostami had just told me? I don't know.


Anyway, then there's that ending. No, not the one with Mr. Baadi lying in his grave. I'm sure he dies...at least that's my interpretation. No, I'm talking about the ending with the camera crew and Kiarostami himself appearing and even the actor who plays Baadi showing up. According to several online resources, it's apparently Kiarostami's way of telling us, "Don't worry. Don't cry, it's only a movie. Mr. Baadi is fictional and see, here's the actor that played him and he's just fine". Look, don't tell me it's only a movie. I pressed the play button, of course I know it's only a movie. I want to be emotionally rocked...that's what I paid for. No one goes into movies not knowing anything. Either we go to the theaters after seeing a trailer on television or we rent a DVD after reading the back of the box. When you read the synopsis or see the trailer for "Taste of Cherry" you're going in expecting to be emotionally wrenched. Now, there are some other interpretations, but the "don't worry" one seems to be the most popular.

At this point, I just really don't know how to take this film. In some ways, it was brilliant and in other ways I wanted a lot more. I loved it up to a certain point, but when it became apparent that we were going to have to help Kiarostami finish his ideas and then deal with that awful ending, it hurt the movie a lot. I was all prepared to come here and lay praise upon this picture and tell how I teared up a little at the end and really gush, but I didn't get to do that and with a few tweaks, it could've been the picture that I imagined it being. I really don't know...let me keep thinking...

RATING: 7/10  It's at least a '7', so there's that. Even now, I'm coming to terms with the fact that I had to interpret and I'm getting more comfortable with it, but I still think this film had much more potential and ultimately, despite the '7', I'm disappointed a little.

MOVIES WATCHED: 700
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 301

June 5, 2013  1:37am

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

930. HAPPINESS (1998)


Running Time: 139 minutes
Directed By: Todd Solondz
Written By: Todd Solondz
Main Cast: Jane Adams, Lara Flynn Boyle, Cynthia Stevenson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker
Click here to view the trailer

PERVERSION IS EVERYWHERE

For the curious, the movies that have been/will be held over from the "Final 15" post are: "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and "Beauty and the Beast". These three movies will be early views at the start of next season, which I'll probably get going on in August or September. The final two movies this season (after "Happiness") will be: "Open Your Eyes" and "Taste of Cherry". Now then...


Let's see...where to begin, where to begin. "Happiness" actually follows several different storylines, but all of the characters are in some way connected to three sisters: Joy Jordan (Adams), Helen Jordan (Boyle) and Trish Maplewood (Stevenson). Joy Jordan is the baby of the three siblings and is having a bit of a hiccup in her life. Her love life is in shambles and her job opportunities are limited. Joy finds herself crying on a regular basis, trying to cope with the hand she's been dealt. In order to find more fulfillment in her life, Joy takes a job teaching adult immigrants English, where she's a scab teacher (the former teacher is on strike) and begins dating one of her students, Vlad - a Russian. Meanwhile, Helen's life is perhaps too exciting - a sex writer who has constant appointments, lunch dates, dinner dates and appearances to schedule. She can have any man she wants, but the one man that she doesn't want, who wants her, is her neighbor, Allen (Hoffman). Allen is a lonely guy, who gets off by calling women on the phone and sometimes talking dirty to them. When he begins calling Helen anonymously, Helen becomes excited by him and requests to meet him. Then there's Trish Jordan, who has a seemingly perfect life. A white picket fence, a psychiatrist husband, two sons, PTA meetings and family meals. What she doesn't know is that her husband Bill (Baker) is sexually attracted to little boys and has even gone so far as to rape two of his sons schoolmates. Throughout the film, his son Billy questions his father on the birds and the bees, which leads to some very candid and straightforward discussion.

SPOILER ALERT!!


Whenever I'm not 100% sure, I have ways of telling whether or not I liked a particular movie. If I find myself on IMDB following the watching of said movie, reading message board posts and seeing what others had to say about it, that's a good sign. If I find myself retelling the plot, in detail, to my wife, that's also a good sign. Both of these signs were fulfilled following the watching of "Happiness" and after going through an entire day not really knowing whether to accept or reject this film (I watched it last night), I think I've finally decided. I think it's a really great movie, despite some really appalling and disgusting subject matter. You see, that's not really easy for me to admit because I'd seen "Happiness" once before and in fact, I used to own "Happiness" on DVD (a blind buy purely because Philip Seymour Hoffman was a part of the cast - I used to love that guy...still do). It sat on my DVD shelf for years and when I finally broke down and gave it a watch, I hated it. I'm pretty sure I didn't waste any time selling it away and figured I'd never watch it again. Well, apparently I didn't know about THE BOOK then and when THE BOOK came along, I realized I'd have to give it one more go around. I think that pretty much brings us up to speed on where I stand with this movie. This time, I had absolutely no problem sitting through this over two hour movie, which felt more like forty-five minutes. Solondz used his time very wisely and didn't take a second of his film for granted, cramming in something essential during every scene.

It's a controversial piece, there's no denying that. It's a film that will certainly leave your casual movie goer with a dropped jaw and probably turn off a lot of people. I won't deny that there were times during the picture where I felt dirty and disgusting for even watching it and even more so, for enjoying it. Certainly I'm, for the most part, talking about the storyline involving Dylan Baker. However, the film (in a way) redeems itself for giving us a few happy moments, moments of closure and letting us know that, at least these characters recognize their wrongdoing, which is more than we get in real life sometimes. The short scene where Bill Maplewood turns to his half sleeping wife, in bed and tells her that "he's sick", not referring to a virus he may have picked up, but rather that he's sick for being a pedophile. He's sobbing at the time and really, I thought that was a brilliant inclusion and I wonder what I would've thought of that storyline if that scene had been omitted. There's another nice scene where Allen finally realizes that the girls he calls on the phone and more notably Helen, are never going to accept him or find him appealing and that his other neighbor, Kristina will. So he goes to her apartment and lies down with her; Allen on top of the blankets, she underneath. It's a nod to the fact that neither of them really like the physical act of sex. Allen gets off on being distanced from his objects of desire (his penchant for using the phone) and Kristina has been raped, so neither will she find sex an appealing activity. They're perfect for each other - awkward and perfect.


So as much as people want to condemn Todd Solondz for making "Happiness", I'd rather applaud him. Why? Because these sorts of people do exist. Who knows what goes on when people lock their doors and pull their curtains at night. People have all sorts of perversions and turn ons, whether you're a doctor, living in the 'burbs or a regular guy, living in an apartment. Some of our turn ons are fairly run of the mill, but behind a lot of locked doors there are a real sickos: pedophiles, rapists and the like; and then there's guy's like Allen, a little odd, but for the most part, harmless. So thank you Todd Solondz for not shying away from this sort of subject matter and facing it and even more so for being able to find a little humor in it and even more so for adding those few classy touches, in a film that really has no place being classy. For people who say they don't like this movie, but secretly do, I understand. For people who say they don't like this movie and mean it, I don't understand. I'll certainly NEVER bash anyone's personal opinion, but I do apologize if you're offended by "Happiness". I apologize if every film can't be roses & puppy dogs and I apologize that as long as there are directors like Todd Solondz, there will be filmmakers who aren't afraid to grab reality by the horns and show us what's really going on.

RATING: 8/10  See, I have a hard time accepting movies that I once held such a passionate dislike for, so that explains the '8' and explains why this film MAY not make the TOP 20 list...but it probably will.

MOVIES WATCHED: 699
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 302

June 4, 2013  6:15pm

Monday, June 3, 2013

853. The Crying Game (1992)


Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: Neil Jordan
Written By: Neil Jordan
Main Cast: Stephen Rea, Miranda Richardson, Forest Whitaker, Jaye Davidson, Adrian Dunbar
Click here to view the trailer

"IT'S IN MY NATURE"

Because my wife and I were both off from work today, because she felt like watching one more movie with me and because she didn't want to watch any of the ones I previously had scheduled, I let her pick just one more replacement from the DVD shelf. This time around she chose "The Crying Game", a movie that she bought and that I'd never seen.


The film begins at a carnival where black British soldier Jody (Whitaker) has picked up a girl, Jude (Richardson) and is trying to show her a good time, before trying even harder to get her into bed. However, as it turns out, the girl was just a decoy and a member of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and along with her cronies - Fergus (Rea) and Maguire (Dunbar) - they kidnap Jody and try to use him as leverage to get other members of the IRA out of custody. From there they hole up in a desolate area, where they keep Jody tied to a chair with a cloth sack over his head. After a while, Jody and Fergus strike up conversation and actually become quite chummy, despite the promise that if their comrades are not released in three days, Jody will be shot. Knowing that he'll die no matter what, Jody asks Fergus to take his wallet and look up his girlfriend, Dil (Davidson). Jody wants Dil to know that at the end of his life, he was thinking about her. When the three days are up and the deed is set to be done, Fergus takes Jody out into the woods and knowing that Fergus won't shoot him in the back, Jody takes off running. Fergus pleads with him to stop, but when Jody makes it to the road he is run over by a military truck. Following that, the house where Jody was being kept is raided and everyone except Fergus is seemingly killed. Now, Fergus intends to keep his promise, heading to London to find Dil. He finds her quickly enough and the two strike up a romance of their own, but their relationship is saturated in secrets...from both sides.

SPOILER ALERT!


Don't really have a whole lot to say about this one, so I'll probably be keeping it short, sweet and to the point. I liked the movie for sure, but am not sure how it will fair on the upcoming TOP 20 list. It may be a case of too little, too late or even a case of following something stellar ("Blue Velvet") and not being able to come close to it's greatness. The film was like two movie split in two, with the first one being the relationship that buds between Fergus and Jody and the second being the relationship between Fergus and Dil. If I had my way, the Fergus/Jody stuff would've been lengthened by about twenty or so minutes, just to add another layer of icing to the cake. I would applaud that Jordan was able to establish and cement that relationship so quickly though and make everything that follows believable. I guess it's just that I was enjoying Forest Whitaker and thought he may have gotten knocked off a bit too quickly.


From Jody's death we get into the Fergus/Dil stuff and it was fine, but I did have a few gripes. Let me first say that I knew beforehand that Dil was going to be exposed as a man, so that was something that was already spoiled for me. However, it didn't effect my enjoyment of the picture, because I looked more forward to the inevitable scene where Fergus told Dil all about what happened to Jody and expected a really emotional, heart wrenching scene. Instead, it sort of pops out of nowhere when it does finally happen and it's during a part in the film where the character of Dil is all hopped up on pills, so the emotional reaction is nil. I was really disappointed by all of this, as it seemed to be what we were building to and it never really paid off. I also didn't like the return of Jude and Maguire. I felt the picture would have benefited more if we'd have just kept exploring the relationship between Dil and Fergus, Fergus trying to figure out his own sexual preference and how he was going to break it to Dil that he knew Jody and was partly responsible for his death. Anyway, those are significant gripes, but I liked the picture for the most part. It was engaging, the acting was superb (British film - what do you expect) and there were enough little moments that made the picture worth seeing. Thumbs up, but if I'd had it my way, things would've played out a little differently.

RATING: 7/10  Not bad in the least, just not how I pictured it turning out. It's a good film, but like I said, I think it will be too little, too late as it pertains to "The Crying Game" and the TOP 20 list.

MOVIES WATCHED: 698
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 303

June 3, 2013  4:23pm

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

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