Thursday, July 31, 2014

756. Dao ma zei/The Horse Thief (1986)

Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Tian Zhuangzhuang
Written By: Zhang Rui
Main Cast: Dan Jiji, Gaoba, Jayang Jamco, Tsesheng Rinzim, Daiba


I told my wife that I was just going to lay down with her for a few minutes and then get back up to write my review for The Horse Thief. Well, about as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out like a light and didn't wake up until it was time to go to work this morning. So, I had to postpone everything by one night and now here we are. Let's get to it...

The plot synopsis I'm about to give you is the plot synopsis that I got from watching this movie. There was VERY little dialogue, which kind of made it a little hard to follow the film. However, I think I pretty much got the gist of everything - so I'll hit the bullet points and we'll go from there. So we've got the main character, his name's Norbu and as the title suggests, he's a horse thief. Except he's not just a horse thief, he's basically a kleptomaniac, as far as I could tell. In addition to being a thief, he's also a family man though, taking good care of his wife and kids (thus why he steals) and trying to provide for them, by any means necessary. The film is set in Tibet, among a clan of religious fanatics who offer sacrifices and offerings to Buddha, in exchange for him taking care of their land. Norbu is a part of the religious clan - that is until he's caught stealing temple offerings and is told to leave and never come back. Furthermore, he's told that if he ever does come back, his hands will be cut off. After being exiled, his son becomes very ill and Norbu believes it's because he's betrayed his God. Where he once got holy water from a lake meant to be used by all of the community, he now holds a pale to a trickling drain pipe in hopes that the rains from the heavens will cure his son. His son eventually dies and Norbu tires to change his ways, going back to the clan to try and make peace, but ultimately getting attacked and ran off.

This is the kind of movie that I'd normally just write off within the first twenty minutes and spend the next hour and change just putting up with it. I decided this time that I'd REALLY try to give this one a fair shake. I'm not saying I liked it or anything, but it wasn't a completely heinous ninety minutes and actually I'll give credit to some good cinematography and I suppose, a decent story. Martin Scorsese supposedly named this one of his top movies of the 90s (citing that it wasn't really a known film until that decade, despite being released in '86) and I'm willing to bet that was a big reason why THE BOOK broke down and included it. It's really nothing particularly important or particularly good and honestly, I think there were plenty of other important films. The lack of dialogue was a big turn off for me and were they really killing those animals? I'm no card carrying PETA member, but some of that stuff looked pretty brutal (cutting a sheep's throat and another scene depicting a group of sheep being buried alive, all for sacrificial purposes).

In the end, if it was something I really wanted to write off, I would have which proves that there must have been something there that kept me attached to the action. Again, not a great film by any means, but it's one of the better rare ones. Like I've said before, the rare stuff is usually the stuff that I dread going into, probably just because I know NOTHING about it. Not a lot of hype, not a lot of opinions to be found online, not a lot of nothing. This one was short enough to not get on my nerves too much, but ultimately I'd call it a worthless entry into THE BOOK, but one that must carry some sort of importance that I'm just not getting.

RATING: 4/10  I'll give it a few notches for the stuff I mentioned, but nothing worth going out of your way to see or anything, despite Scorsese's recommendation.


July 31, 2014  10:55pm

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bresson Week - COMING SOON

644. My Brilliant Career (1979)

Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Gillian Armstrong
Written By: Eleanor Witcombe, from novel by Miles Franklin
Main Cast: Judy Davis, Sam Neill, Wendy Hughes, Robert Grubb, Max Cullen
Click here to view the trailer


So I've been away from the blog for nearly a week now and that's probably going to be the norm until I really get back into the swing of things. I'm just too tired throughout the week to give the attention required to a movie, let alone writing a review. So, since my weekend falls on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, that's when you'll see me the most. Now then...My Brilliant Career...

This is streaming on Netflix for anyone with those capabilities who wants to play along at home. The film stars Judy Davis as Sybylla, the daughter of a couple of laborers (farmers) who are mostly annoyed at her dreams of a better life. Instead of being a famous writer, which she aspires to be, she's seemingly destined to chop wood, milk cows and do all of the other things that go along with being a farmer's daughter. When her grandmother sends along a letter, the parents make the decision to send Sybylla along to live with her for a little while, hoping to teach her a little discipline. At grandma's, Sybylla is exposed to the life of aristocratic, attending balls, wearing fancy dresses and being courted by upstanding gentlemen. The first man who tries for her hand is Frank Hawdon (Grubb), a proper "jackaroo" who dons a mustache and mostly makes a fool out of himself, in hopes of whooing Sybylla - he mostly fails. The other man in Sybylla's life is Harry Beecham (Neill), a landowner who she detests at first, but warms up to as the movie progresses. The two both vie for her hand, but she manages to dodge them both - almost stringing them along. It becomes apparent later in the film that Frank is merely a pawn to her and that if she were to become involved with anyone, it would be Harry. Like any standard romance tale, however, there are ups and downs for the potential couple.

Can I just start by saying how much I loved Robert Grubb in this. He was far and away my favorite character and this is a prime example of giving someone a supporting part and them running it in for a big touchdown. In fact, none of the cast was really worth speaking ill about, except maybe Sam Neill. I just don't get the appeal of this guy. How on Earth he was able to finagle his way into Jurassic Park, a ginormous blockbuster movie, is beyond me. He's just so damned bland, not particularly good looking, not particularly talented and just looks like any schmo off the street. Sorry Sam, it's damn true! In fact, when speaking of My Brilliant Career we're talking about a bagel without any cream cheese, a cheeseburger without a melting piece of Gouda or a piece of toast without any jam - I'm saying it was plain and perhaps the very definition of an average picture. There just wasn't any spark and when it was all said and done, I wouldn't say I'd suffered from having watched it, but I certainly wasn't enthralled with the experience either. I liked having seen an early Judy Davis picture, an actress that would go on to be a favorite of Woody Allen, which means I've seen probably, at least a half dozen of her pictures as it is. She was fine here too, but I kind of realized within the first twenty minutes that this wasn't going to win me over.

I keep getting this feeling like the best movies from THE BOOK are behind me. I'm pretty sure that isn't true, but I keep getting this suspicion. I feel like I've put off the worst until the end and now it's the beginning of the end and I'm left with a bunch of movies that I'm going to loathe. I feel like a kid on Independence Day whose burned up all his sparklers and all he has left are those things you throw on the ground and they make a snapping sound. POOF! Anyway, I'm being overly dramatic here and damn, it was only a few movies ago that I watched Badlands and loved it, so my thinking is totally irrational to boot. I just didn't get the importance of this one at all. Sure, THE BOOK manages to pull some excuse out of thin air, but after a while their excuses as to why something so average is in THE BOOK become so lame, that I'm sick of reading them. Nothing terribly bad to say - it's a period piece and the music, costumes and everything reflect that greatly. The acting, for the most part, is fine and if you're a fan of old Judy Davis, take a look at her as a spitfire when she was a young woman - she evolved seamlessly. However, the film has no spark, no excitement and ultimately is just a bland tale that I don't think I'd ever want to sift through again.

RATING: 5.5/10  A big old *blah* for this one. Like I said, it streams on Netflix so you be the judge, but as for this guy, it's totally forgettable and too unimportant to be included here.


July 29, 2014  11:07pm

Thursday, July 24, 2014

794. Une affaire de femmes/The Story of Women (1988)

Running Time: 108 minutes
Directed By: Claude Chabrol
Written By: Claude Chabrol, Colo Tavernier, from novel by Francis Szpiner
Main Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Francois Cluzet, Nils Tavernier, Marie Trintignant, Lolita Chammah
Click here to view the trailer


Hey, don't hate on me for that subtitle - that's really the subject matter! Finally got sent this one from Netflix after months of it being on a "very long wait" and I have to say, the wait wasn't worth the return. Read on...

The Story of Women is set in France during World War II and revolves around a mother, Marie (Huppert) and her two young children. The three struggle to make ends meet, with the father locked away in a POW camp and Marie & kids living in a dilapidated apartment, that rumbles often from a passing train. The neighbors are helpful, especially a young female neighbor, Ginette, whose husband is also away at war. When Ginette becomes pregnant, Marie decides to help out by performing an amateur abortion on her kitchen floor. She takes some tubing, feeds it into some soapy water and then into Ginette. A few nights later, Ginette awakens with blood pouring down her thighs - the pregnancy successfully aborted. Meanwhile, Marie makes friends with a prostitute, Lulu (Trintignant), whom  she informs of her "special abilities" and offers to help her out if she ever "gets into trouble". Lulu, being a popular prostitute, tells all of her friends and before Marie knows it, she's the number one place in tow to get rid of unwanted pregnancies, now charging upwards of 1000 francs for her services. In addition to that "talent", Marie also begins to rent out the spare room of her apartment to prostitutes looking for a place to get cozy with their Johns. Oh yeah and Marie's husband finally makes it back from that POW camp, returning home to a wife that wants next to nothing to do with him. She gives him the cold shoulder daily and when he begins to question where she's getting her money, she refuses to give him a straight answer. That should pretty much bring you up to snuff...


Okay, so I've got the Hell's Kitchen finale tonight, plus Big Brother so we've got to make this a bit snappier than normal. Hopefully my review doesn't suffer as a result...

I was actually really looking forward to this one, a combination of Isabelle Huppert (whom I liked In Loulou), Claude Chabrol (whose work I admired in Le Boucher) and just the fact that I generally dig modern French films (by modern, I mean 70s and beyond - not so modern anymore). Therefore, this one was kind of coming in with a seal of approval and ultimately, I have to say I was pretty disappointed by this one. I mean, not much happens right? So we're introduced to Huppert's character and we get the information that she does abortions, rents out rooms to prostitutes and loathes her husband and then we stew on that information for the bulk of the picture, until her husband turns her in, she's jailed and put to death. The end. I mean, yeah some other things happens, but as far as I could tell the characters were pretty hollow and as was the story. I never got a sense that there was anything deeper going on, that there was more digging to be done by the audience. The film just existed for about two hours and then it was over, end of story. I usually get a great sense of layering when it comes to French films, movies that demand to be studied and explored, watched over and over again. With this one, I didn't at all.

Even Huppert, whom by all accounts got nothing but praise for her role here, didn't blow me away or anything. I took to her in Loulou, but here she was just doing a job, no more, no less. The rest of the cast was just about ho hum. I'm not even gonna' touch on the whole abortion thing, because as long time readers of mine may know, I'd rather keep issues like that out of the blog to avoid any harsh feelings. To be honest, I'm not staunch on the issue either way, so the subject matter didn't sway my opinion one way or the other. The film was just okay - in fact, the very definition of an average movie. Not great, not terrible by any means either. A must see? Not at all, but not one to particularly avoid either. I'm sure some will love it, others may hate it - I fall directly in the middle.

RATING: 6/10  Barely a '6' and in fact, a '5.5' may be more appropriate, but in a way that also seems a tad too low so we'll go '6'. Anyway...hopefully that wasn't too rushed.


July 24, 2014  6:34pm

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

289. Hill 24 Doesn't Answer (1955)

Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Thorold Dickinson
Written By: Peter Frye, Zvi Kolitz
Main Cast: Edward Mulhare, Michael Wager, Margalit Oved, Arik Lavie, Michael Shillo

Been watching The Leftovers, the new series on HBO and my intrigue grows more and more each week. My wife and I have become TV junkies lately, basically ready to give any new series' a chance, loading our DVR with as much as it can hold. So when The Leftovers started last month, it was a no brainer for us. The episode that focused on the priest was magnificent storytelling. As we're watching, we're constantly batting ideas back and forth, asking each other questions. The show has so much potential to be great, I just hope it can follow through and wrap everything up nicely when it comes time to end it all. I'll be sticking with this one.


I really hate to use the "B word" when it comes to describing a movie, as I usually feel that it's a cop out when describing how a movie made you feel. However, I'll make an exception for this pile. It took me two sittings to finish this. I started it this morning and after about a half hour of enduring, I couldn't keep my lids open anymore and succumbed to a nap. When I woke up hours later, I hesitantly resumed and finished.

I can't even really present a proper plot synopsis because I tapped out at the same time I stopped to take a nap. By "tapped out" I mean, I just sort of stopped paying attention and during the last hour, I just kind of watched, let the images flash across the screen, just so I could claim my tick. It had to do with four characters being put on assignment in Israel to defend a hill that overlooked the road to Jerusalem. We learn a little bit about each character and learn within the first five minutes that by the story's end, they'll all be dead. It was yet another war film you can add to the probably five hundred plus war films that are in THE BOOK. Is that a bad estimate? I mean, I really feel like half the movies I've watched have had SOMETHING to do with some war (especially World War II).You'd think that after watching that many war movies you'd start to get a taste for them, but if I never saw another war movie again, it'd be too soon.

This was more of a propaganda film than anything and there was some sort of message in there I'm sure. The thing is, I never cared enough to pay enough attention to take away any messages. I just wanted this to be over. I'm probably making it out to be a lot worse than it is and maybe it was just that I wasn't in the mood for crap today, but this movie just bored me to tears and even writing this review is something that I put off until the last minute tonight. I have nothing positive to say here, other than the fact that there was a pretty good little foot chase near the beginning of the film, which lead to a somewhat interesting little romantic side story, but it certainly wasn't enough to do this one any wonders. Let's just say that I didn't like it and call that a review, shall we?

RATING: 1/10  Again, I'm probably being too harsh and I realize that wasn't much of a review, but I'm tired and I have nothing more to say, so that's all I got. Sorry...And no, I couldn't even find any proper pictures for this one.


July 22, 2014  9:49pm

Sunday, July 20, 2014

637. Days of Heaven (1978)

Running Time: 95 minutes
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Written By: Terrence Malick
Main Cast: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz, Robert J. Wilke
Click here to view the trailer

Been re-watching Oz on HBO on Demand with my wife, since she's never seen it and am being reminded of just how awesome that series was! I still remember discovering it for the first time, on recommendation from my brother (add another one to that ever growing list) and just binge watching it like a junkie. Seriously, if anyone ever wonders why I'm a fan of professional wrestling, it's because when it's great wrestling can be just like Oz. Great characters, good guys/bad guys, feuds, build-ups and great climaxes. I kind of wish the creators hadn't decided to end the show after only six seasons. They could've easily interchanged characters in and out and kept the show running for as long as they wanted to. It would never be hard to introduce new characters and thus, create new feuds/interactions. If you haven't seen the show though, you need now!


So after revisiting Badlands the other night and taking to it, I was eager to check out Days of Heaven for the first time - a film that I'd heard many great things about, which included it having mind blowing cinematography. Anyway, the wife worked night shift again last night, which gave me the opportunity to check it out. Let's not dawdle...

This shot literally made me snap my head back and mouth "WOAH", not unlike Joey Lawrence.
Richard Gere stars as Bill, a steel mill worker in Chicago who, in the very beginning of the film, intentionally kills a boss at the mill where he works. Fearing prosecution, Bill takes his girlfriend Abby (Adams) and his little sister Linda (Manz) and hits the road - destination: Texas. They hop a train, deciding to tell anyone who asks that Abby is also Bill's sister ("because otherwise people will talk") and eventually arrive in the Texas panhandle and don't waste time getting jobs as laborers on a rich man's farm. While looking for some medicine for Abby's blistered hands, Bill overhears a doctor talking about the farm owner (Shepard), saying that he has less than a year to live - dying from an unspecified illness. Other workers begin to question whether Bill and Abby are really sisters, seeing as how they are so publicly passionate with one another. After a while, the farm owner begins to eye Abby and talk to Bill about her, asking how he knows her. Bill sticks with the brother/sister story and keeps listening while the farm owner tells him that he likes her. Bill goes back to Abby with this information and convinces her to pursue a relationship with him, so that when he dies (which is presumably soon), they can inherit his wealth - granted the two marry. She reluctantly agrees and the rest you'll have to witness for yourself, because we're getting into spoiler territory here.

Loved every image of that giant house towering over everybody, everything. Great house!

Boy, where do I start? How bout with, I didn't care for it. First of all, the damn thing LOOKED amazing - there's no questioning that. I wanted to like it so much because the cinematography coupled with the Ennio Morricone score was enough to make any film snob cream their pants. However, I'm big on story and that's where Days of Heaven left me hanging. I'll even go so far as to say the acting wasn't anything worth writing home about either, a young Richard Gere and a seemingly talentless Brooke Adams in a movie that looked way too good for what they deserved. In regards to it's dialogue and story, the film is just TOO quiet. At times, I felt as if I was intruding on conversations between the characters, intimate ones that I wasn't meant to barge in on. There weren't any pronounced exclamations, the kind of words that make cinema - just muttering that we were happening upon. And as much as I appreciated the Sissy Spacek narration in Badlands, I felt the exact opposite with the Linda Manz narration here. I don't know how old she was supposed to be in the movie, but THE BOOK says she was seventeen at the time. Maybe, I'm crazy but I was viewing her as a twelve or thirteen year old and thinking the whole time that these narrations were WAY too adult for this character - adolescents wouldn't be having this deep of a perspective on the human race.

I'm pretty sure ever single shot in the movie was blocked to perfection and perfectly calculated. Here, a simple shot of a scarecrow in a wheat field is magnificence. 
On the IMDB message board for this movie, someone brought up an excellent point. Why did Bill and Abby lie and say they were brother and sister? I know that they give the whole "people will talk" explanation, but if that's the case, you could just as easily lie and say Abby was your wife, if you were Bill. The first response to this poster's query? Because without that lie, there is no movie. EXACTLY! It's a pointless lie and yet, the entire movie hinges on it. Someone else mentioned that if they actually wanted people to believe they were bro/sis, why were they so openly affectionate - because obviously they were, as other laborers noted it. It's just sloppy storytelling and again, it's so disheartening to say that, because everything else is etched out to perfection. The thing that really gets me though, is the fact that the IDEA was superb! If you could figure out a believable way as to why Bill and Abby had to pretend to be siblings, then the IDEA is a fantastic one. They meet a wealthy man, he takes a liking to her and so that they can inherit his dollars, they stick to the bro/sis story and Abby marries him, so that when his impending death strikes, the real couple can inherit the whole shebang. WONDERFUL IDEA! It's just the execution of that idea that is lacking and it's a real travesty, because otherwise, we'd be talking about 10/10 picture.

What was the deal with the locusts? Was there some kind of religious message in the background that was going totally over my head?
One has to wonder if Terrence Malick disappeared for twenty years because he was on the lam with his girlfriend after killing someone. Seriously, what was his fascination with the whole love on the run gimmick? Something else occurred to me while I was watching this movie and I'll leave you with this thought/question: Have a group of director's ever teamed up to make a single movie, where each of them tell the exact same story, just their own interpretation of it? By "teamed up" I'm thinking like New York Stories or Four Rooms - where director's get together to make one movie, but different sections of that one movie. The only time I can think of one story being told two different ways is Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda and that was just him telling a story twice. If this has never happened, I think it would be a really cool idea. You get together three directors, you give them a generic script and let them run wild with it and add their own artistic genius. They can make it a comedy or drama, cast men or women in different roles, whatever it is they wanna do and then put them all together in one film and let the audience decide which they like best. Has it been done? I don't think so.

RATING: 6/10  I just can't bare to rate this one any lower and yes, the camera work is THAT GOOD! I seriously want to rewatch this one someday, because I still want to like it. This film is like a beautiful woman with a terrible personality.


July 20, 2014  6:13pm

Thursday, July 17, 2014

560. BADLANDS (1973)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Written By: Terrence Malick
Main Cast: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri, Alan Vint
Click here to view the trailer

Note: Finally finished off Fargo (TV Series) and I have to say it was fantastic! Seriously, this was a great homage to the film and you could really tell that the creators of the show had utmost respect for the Coen's film. I've heard mixed reports on whether or not this has been picked up for another season, but I for one would LOVE to see it run in the same vein as American Horror Story, where we get a brand new story each season, perhaps even using some of the same actors. I think their challenge next time will be separating it from this series and the movie. I think anyone who's seen the series will admit that it shared many similarities to the film, in that each character was seemingly patterned after one of the characters from the movie. They obviously can't do that every time, so can they make another, separate series? Apart from that, you just had to love Billy Bob Thornton in this. I said on Twitter that I'd rarely seen him better and I meant that. Martin Freeman was also fantastic and really there wasn't a bad apple in the bunch as far as the cast went. The other outstanding factor of this series was the camera work. Just unbelievable, too good for free TV stuff. If you missed it, pick it up on DVD when it comes out, especially if you're a fan of the film and keep an eye out for all those hidden references to the original movie. Now then...


My wife's working one of her rare evening shifts tonight, which means I had about four hours to kill between the time I got off work and the time she gets off work, which meant...MOVIE TIME! And hey, I even I had a spare hour or so to get the review taken care of too. This is of course an ode to the final two Terrence Malick films in the BOOK. If I'd been thinking, we could've made this a "hat trick", but I'd already watched The Thin Red Line last year, so that was out. Badlands and Days of Heaven are supposedly his finest two works anyway, so better to lump them together.

At it's bare bones, the film is your typical love on the run film - a more realistic approach to the Bonnie & Clyde scenario - with a little more poetry via a Sissy Spacek narration, Martin Sheen giving the performance of his career and a talented cameraman grabbing one of a kind shots. It all kicks off when Kit Carruthers (Sheen), an uneducated garbageman meets and immediately falls for Holly (Spacek). The only problem is, is that he's twenty-five and she's only fifteen. Holly's father (Oates) obviously disapproves and during a scene where Kit goes to ask for his approval, her father blatantly tells him to stay away. That night, Kit sneaks into the house and begins packing a bag for Holly. When her father sees him and questions his actions, Kit becomes a bit irate and shoots him, killing him. Holly is, at first, upset with Kit, but ultimately decides to go with him, as the couple plan to exit South Dakota (where the film begins) and go where the road takes them. They first take refuge in a wooded area, building a labyrinth of treehouses and elaborate traps, to catch anyone that may be after them. They live like savages for a while, a Tarzan and Jane couple with shades of Bonne & Clyde (Kit fishing using a pistol) and things seem to be hunky dory for a while. They're eventually found and Kit has to shoot his way out of another situation, killing three this time. It becomes a widely publicized story, the fugitives Kit and Holly and the two are officially on the run, killing anyone who get in their way.

I had seen this once before and according to a combination of my memory and IMDB, I wasn't THAT crazy about it - barely remembering it and only having it marked as a '6' on the movie site. I actually took to it quite a bit more this time around and even wondered why I hadn't recalled this one more fondly. I was dog tired when I got off work (as per usual), so coming out of the shower and plopping down on the bed with a good movie was just what the doctor ordered. Also, sort of a risky move, as sometimes I'm so dog tired that I just can't keep focused on a good movie and my eyelids become like anchors. This one was really easy to slip into though, providing an easy to follow plot, interesting characters, real life dialogue and a backdrop that was relatable. In fact, I applaud the way Malick was able to slip in the real snobby elements - you know, the ones that make the film snobs gush. At first, Spacek's narration is just like any other narration, a girl reading from prospective diary entries. And then you realize how literary they sound and honestly, I was shocked to read that this WASN'T an adapted work, as the narration seems like Spacek just reading lines out of a great novel:

"He needed me now more than ever, but something had come between us. I'd stopped even paying attention to him. Instead I sat in the car and read a map and spelled out entire sentences with my tongue on the roof of mouth where nobody could read them."

Tell me that's not brilliant writing...

And then, of course, there's that camera work, which provided me with a multitude of shots to choose from for this very post, but ultimately I had to decide on three. It's funny because the characters don't really deserve this good of a movie. When you think of this heathen Kit Carruthers, poetic lines and visual artistry don't spring to mind and maybe that's why this film stands out as such a great one - because it creates a mash-up of such beauty and such ugliness.

I should stop to say something about the fact that these characters become celebrities from being violent, but is it worth even mentioning this in a day & age when this sort of thing has become so commonplace? Even today people who take guns inside fitness centers and schools get glorified by the media, whether this is the media's intention or not. Kit Carruthers has good intentions, yet by the time he's carried out all of his "work", his intentions seem to be lacking anything good. This would be a fine time to mention Martin Sheen and the stellar performance he turned in, turning his thirty-something self into a twenty-something, transforming his voice into a drawled dialect and a character worthy of dissection, a sort of dirt road Travis Bickle, with far less complications. I won't go into the dissection at this time, because it probably wouldn't turn out that good and in fact, I think I'll call that a review. Certainly a film worth your time for all the reasons I mentioned above. It has few flaws, not even any really worth committing to paper though. For some reason, Malick would make Days of Heaven five years later and then disappear from the movie scene altogether until 1998 and The Thin Red Line. Has he ever given any explanation as to his disappearance?

RATING: 7.5/10  Can't go '8' because then you're talking a whole other ballpark, but it's damn close and perhaps come recap time it'll win me over by sticking with me.


July 17, 2014  7:05pm

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

522. Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini/The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970)

Running Time: 94 minutes
Directed By: Vittorio De Sica
Written By: Vittorio Bonicelli, from novel by Giorgio Bassani
Main Cast: Lino Capolicchio, Dominique Sanda, Helmut Berger, Fabio Testi, Romolo Valli


Today's my day off and I woke up extra early this morning to greet my wife lying beside me, as we both decided to do our own thing for a little while. Her watching her shows and me opting to tick another film off of the 1001 list, which is now at less than 175 movies to go. Today's feature: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.

The film opens with a group of young friends (pre-college age) riding their bikes to the Finzi-Contini estate, a beautiful, walled property with acres and acres of trees, greenery and ultimately a mansion and tennis courts. The property is of course owned by the Finzi-Contini family, a well to do Jewish-Italian family, of which we meet the two younger Finzi-Continis: Alberto (Berger) and Micol (Sanda). Among the bikers is Giorgio (Capolicchio) who has a mad crush on Micol. Giorgio comes from less wealth, is also Jewish and has known Micol since the two were children, playing in the Finzi-Contini garden. Micol seems interested in him too, but gives him a hard time about getting close to her - sometimes welcoming his advances, other times giving him the cold shoulder. Meanwhile, new edicts from Mussolini are handed down via the local newspaper: no Jews are to marry outside of their religion, nor are they allowed to employ domestic help. Thanks to their social status, the Finzi-Continis aren't too bothered by the news and go about their business without a care. When Micol goes away, Giorgio who vowed to her never to return to the property, becomes a frequent visitor to the Finzi-Contini home, as the older members of the family allow him to use their library (since Jews are no longer allowed to use the public library). Later, as Girogio returns from visiting his brother in France, he realizes that the pressures of political resistance are heightening.


Can't say I loved it or anything, but will say De Sica has a way of getting his political points across without completely marring his films with the stuff. Take The Bicycle Thief for instance, a story intended to symbolize growing communism and a shining example of Italian neorealism. Those are mighty big words to the average movie going Joe and something that's bound to be off putting too. However, if you look at the surface of The Bicycle Thief, you have a perfectly fine story about a man who gets his bike stolen during a time when his bicycle is his bread & butter. It's sort of the same situation here (to lesser effect, however), as we get a perfectly acceptable story about adolescents basking in their youth, while an invisible countdown clock ticks down in the background. The BOOK notes that these youngsters enjoy their "last revelries" and that's exactly the story that De Sica is trying to get across, or at least the one that he got across to me.

My favorite scene, where Giorgio finds Micol lying naked with Bruno, staring at him with an icy stare. They say so much in their exchange of glances. Sanda was incredibly provocative in this.

The actual garden of the Finzi-Continis represents a great memory, a fond recollection that these characters (if they live) will look back on and it's really a "you can't go home again" scenario. Giorgio, if he makes it through the war, will one day as an old man remember many horrors surely. He'll cry when he speaks about his father who will probably die in a concentration camp and then his mind will shift to the Finzi-Continis, whom he'll also cry about at first. Then he'll remember those days on the estate, the giant dog, those budding trees that grandma brought back from holiday and that time he and Micol escaped a rain storm to sit in the back of a carriage. He'll recall that time he spotted Micol is a post coital state, lying nude beside Bruno. He'll realize then that his father was right, that the sting eventually went away and that now it's just a memory - a happy one compared to the horrors that his family witnessed.

All in all, I can't go full throttle on my recommendation, but it's certainly a fine film and was a fine way to spend an hour and a half. I always enjoy old movies from France, Italy or any other European countries, as I just love looking at all the old architecture, wondering how long these building had been standing and whether they're still standing. The score to this is also another thing to gush about, as it's such a brilliant one.  The replaying of the tune "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" was a beautiful touch and collaborated well with the gorgeous Dominique Sanda, as she donned her white heels and laid on a bed, eyeing Giorgio. I'm sure I've heard that tune in a Woody Allen movie before, if not, it's just like something he'd use. Am I crazy or did Romolo Valli look just like Robert De Niro? A fine actor too. Actually, the whole cast was fine and after seeing both this and The Bicycle Thief and enjoying both, I realize I really need to take in more De Sica.

RATING: 6.5/10  Good, but I've seen better. Still nothing to dread here if you're a prospective BOOK watcher and most will probably get more out of it than I did. I'm just not that knowledgeable on foreign history and always worry that that's why I have a hard time easing into these films.


Badlands (1973 - Terrence Malick)
Days of Heaven (1978 - Terrence Malick)
Story of Women (1988 - Claude Chabrol)
Hill 24 Doesn't Answer (1955 - Thorold Dickinson)

July 16, 2014  3:24pm

Saturday, July 12, 2014

648. Die Blechtrommel/The Tin Drum (1979)

Running Time: 142 minutes
Directed By: Volker Schlondorff
Written By: Jean-Claude Carriere, Gunter Grass, Franz Seitz, Volker Schlondorff, from novel by Gunter Grass
Main Cast: David Bennent, Mario Adorf, Angela Winkler, Daniel Olbrychski, Katharina Thalbach
Click here to view the trailer


I think this is the longest I've waited in between watching a movie and writing the review. I actually finished The Tin Drum on Thursday night, but was just too tired yesterday to make it hear and discuss the movie. My goal is to usually try and write the review within twenty-four hours of finishing the film, but it didn't work out that way this time. Oh well...

To describe the plot of The Tin Drum may be difficult, but I'll do my best. The film is narrated by the main character, Oskar Matzerath (Bennent), who upon his birth, is told that on his third birthday he will be given a tin drum. Even as an infant he can hear the adults make the promise and therefore can't wait until his third birthday. It should also be noted that we never really know who Oskar's father is, as his mother has two lovers, one being her cousin, Jan Bronski (Olbrychski) and the other a Nazi cook named Alfred (Adorf). So anyway, the third birthday finally comes, he gets the drum and he loves it. Also on his third birthday, he makes the decision to stop growing. He intentionally throws himself down the stairs to his cellar and somehow that stunts his growth permanently. So anyway, he's got the drum and he bangs it constantly and whenever anyone tries to take it away from him, or make him stop, he screams. In fact, he screams at such a volume that he can shatter glass and therefore, no one ever succeeds in quieting his drumming. It is presumed from an early age that Alfred is in fact the father to Oskar, though no really knows. Alfred opens a grocery shop with Oskar's mother Agnes (Winkler) and the three live together. What Alfred doesn't know is that Agnes is having an affair with Jan, however Oskar does know, as he catches them in the act. There's actually a whole lot more, but for some reason I'm struggling to put this wonderful movie into words, via a plot synopsis so I think I'll just leave you with that.

Probably my favorite shot from the movie, as Oskar witnesses his mother be "felt up" by her cousin, while the mirror in the closet he's hiding in shows his other presumed father none the wiser. 

So this one actually sat on my desk side table for a good week before I finally broke down and popped it into the DVD player. There was just something about that title - The Tin Drum - that made me think it would be a boring mess. I knew absolutely nothing going in, which may have been a mistake. I was thinking the movie was a historical piece, something about a Germany involved war. Technically, I guess it is about a Germany involved war, but really that all takes place in the background and it's this wildly unusual story that is the driving force. I mean, listen to some of these plot ideas: a boy who decides to stop growing, a woman who OD's on fish and a boy who who is in love with his stepmom and may or may not be the father of his supposed brother! I mean, it's like Maury Povich, but with style.

I actually started this on Wednesday night and got too sleepy to finish it, so had to carry it over to Thursday night. After the Wednesday night session (about forty-five minutes), I just wasn't sure. I admitted that it was different, but I was thinking something along the lines of a 5.5/10 or something. When I returned the next night and kept watching, I kept getting drawn in further and at one point, I looked at the DVD time and realized I only had like ten minutes left. I was a little sad, because I wasn't ready to be done with these characters and wanted to hear more of this story. I had gone from lying on the bed to sitting up - a sure sign that a movie has you in it's clutches. Another sign that I really like a movie? I'll find myself detailing the plot to my wife the next day, which I also did. You should've seen the look on her face when I talked about a three year old who was really a twenty year old and who was traveling with this performing group of other people who decided not to grow and performing for the German troops.

All I can say is you need to see this movie, because while it's supposedly filled with symbolism and references to Nazi oppression, it's also a movie that you can just sit back and enjoy for what it is. I have no idea how faithful this film is to the book, but honestly it comes off like it'd be a fantastic piece of literature and here's hoping it is. I actually kind of want to read it now just to see. Oh and the European landscapes are gorgeous, as always - another treat to this gem of a movie.

RATING: 8/10  Man, that seemed like a really crappy review, but this one was a hard one to try and put into words. Definitely one that needs to be experienced.


July 12, 2014  12:32pm

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Versatile Blogger Award!

Hey Ma, look at me...I'm versatile!

Isn't it something when people FAR more talented than you recognize you for a job well done? Well, that's exactly what's happened here as Karen Burroughs Hansberry of Shadows & Satin - a FANTASTIC blog that you NEED to be reading and bookmarking - passed along to me the Versatile Blogger Award. A big thank you to Karen and please, do check her out on the interwebs, be it at her blog or on Twitter @TheDarkPages. She's one of the coolest people you'll want to meet and she knows her stuff when it comes to movies, especially noirs and pre-codes.

As with all of these awards acceptances, there comes a set of rules and for this one, they are:

1. Thank your nominator and provide a link to their blog. (check)

2. Make your own fifteen nominations and tell them they've been nominated.

3. Offer up seven interesting facts about yourself.

Let's start with the facts and then we'll get into the other nominees (do I even know fifteen other bloggers? Yikes!)


Trust me, I'm just not that interesting of a guy, so these are probably all things I've talked about before, but I'll try my best to spruce them up a bit.

1. I have been married for seven years now (June 21, 2007). I was married on a Thursday morning in Morgantown, WV at the courthouse and the only two people who knew about it, for the longest time, was me, my wife, the judge who married us and two court appointed witnesses who were present. I met my wife online in July 2006 and after talking to each other every single day on the phone for over ten months, we finally met on Memorial Day 2007. It was probably the most nervous I've been in my life, waiting for her to pull up, meeting her for the first time. Do any of you watch Catfish? Well I knew what my fish looked like, as we'd previously video chatted, but it was still stomach in your throat type stuff, I promise you. I love that show and really feel for those people when they're walking up to those doors.

The courthouse in Morgantown, WV where we got married

2. I recently heard someone say, "No one is dumb enough to start smoking past the age of eighteen". Well, I did. I started smoking on Christmas Eve 2005, about six months after I turned twenty-one. I was out & about with my brother. We'd done our annual visit to my grandma's house and were back at my parents house (where I still lived and he didn't). His girlfriend at the time usually worked the holidays, so instead of going home to sit alone, he offered me a free ride in his PT Cruiser and I accepted. We cruised town and at one point, I began expressing an interest in smoking. I honestly didn't know why I wanted to, but I did. I didn't have a license at the time, so he scored me a pack of Camels and we pulled into a parking lot for me to try my first one. I coughed a bit and wasn't sure what I thought. Eventually, Joe Camel and I were inseparable and I was hooked. I smoked until the age of twenty-eight, when last year I finally kicked the habit, cold turkey. I still crave one here & there, but ultimately decide that my grouchiness during those first few months wasn't worth having to live through again and more importantly, putting my wife through again.

3. I was recently promoted to supervisor at WalMart. I know, I know - WalMart, BOO! For reasons I really don't know a lot of people knock WalMart (is it our lack of unions?), but I can hardly say a bad word against them, as they've been paying my bills for the past four years. You know that old cliche, "hard work pays off"? Well, until last month, as far as I was concerned that was just a cliche. But I'm here to tell you, that if you work hard eventually SOMEONE will recognize you and hopefully reward you. I busted my butt at WalMart for four long years always treating my job with importance and making sure I earned every dollar that lined my pockets and when a supervisor spot came available, I applied and was finally recognized for my dedication. I hate to sound like a sap and I know it's just WalMart, but I'm proud of that job and where I am in that company.

4. More about my wife? Okay. Every year my wife and I go to the park where we spent the day after that initial Memorial Day 2007 meeting. On that day, we'd just spent the night together for the first time and were preparing to say our goodbyes. During our first meeting, she could only stay the night before returning five hours down the road to her home in Ohio (I lived in Pennsylvania). Anyway, we went to this park and just walked around and before we left I asked if I could snap a picture of the two of us. We sat on a rounded wall and I put one arm around her while holding out the other one, camera in hand. I snapped us both with one of those throw away cameras and hoped I hadn't cropped either of us out of the shot. Now, every year we go back, sit on that same rounded wall and snap the same pose. I can hear you all "awwwwing" from here.

The first one, in 2007, the day after we first met
This year's offering, from the day after Memorial Day 2014

5. When I was a kid, I would spend my summer vacations staying up all night, binging on Nick-At-Nite. So, here's the story. When I was young, my parents never really cared when I went to bed, as long as I didn't give my mom any guff when she tried to get me up for school. And when the summer's came, they really didn't care. So, I'd spend the first week getting into my new sleep schedule, staying up as late as I could and then sleeping the day away. By the second week, I was into graveyard shift mode and I'd last until about 10am before finally passing out, sleeping until dinner time and then doing it all over again. Honestly, it sounds awful now that I'm typing it out, but I loved those days and I think I can thank those old shows on Nick-At-Nite for giving me a higher tolerance for old movies, which I eventually would come to love. The best Nick-At-Nite lineup was as follows: Taxi, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, Rhoda and Happy Days. Occasionally they'd also play Phyllis, a spin off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which as also good, but I think it was only on Sunday mornings or something. I still adore all of those shows, by the way.

6. When I take my hiatuses, I'm can usually be found watching professional wrestling. I know, I know, but I love it and I have ever since I was a child. No, I don't think it's real and no, I'm not one of those ding bats who wears the t-shirts and acts a fool. In fact, I don't even watch WWE programming (the major leagues of professional wrestling). What I enjoy most is an independent company known as Ring of Honor, with a bunch of pro wrestlers you've probably never heard of. Think of it as the minor leagues for the WWE, just with no affiliation. I actually go to attend my first ROH show last May, my send this past January and will be going to my third this September. It's just so much fun. My wife and I go (she's a fan too), always sit ringside and scream our heads off, chanting and banging the steel plates that they hang over the guardrails. The first show we went to, we came home with bruised hands and could barely hold our fists together for a week. Wrestling was a huge part of my childhood (it consumed it) and I will ALWAYS love it.

7. It's nearly midnight as I write this and I can't think of anything else, so instead I'll just share a couple of recent pictures of me, from my recent trip to Ohio:

Me chillin on the couch, in our room at the Staybridge Suites
This hot tub was great. Too bad some kids flooded it on our last night there


Here goes nothing. These are really all fantastic blogs and you owe it to yourself to go and check them out:

1. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

2. Rambling Film

3. Mike's Movie Projector

4. Flick Chicks

5. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

6. The Man on the Flying Trapeze

7. Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions

8. Lindsey's Film Odyssey

9. A Mythical Monkey Writes About the Movies

10. Tales of the Easily Distracted

11. Cinemalacrum

12. I Blame Movies

13. Don't Look in the Cellar

Ummm that's all I know....

I literally don't know any other bloggers, so that's all I can do. Which leads me to my next point:

If you're a blogger and you wanna be featured on my BlogRoll! just drop me a line. I'd kind of like the blog to be movie, music or television related, as that's what my blog revolves around. Anyway, let me know and I'll more than likely hook you up with some pluggage.

Thanks again to the wonderful, the talented and the extremely awesome Karen Burroughs Hansberry. Please visit Shadows and Satin and pay your respects to someone far more talented than myself. Also, don't forget to check the sidebar for a link to The Dark Pages newsletter, a great publication that yours truly has even written for. Great stuff all around from a great lady. Thanks Karen!

July 8, 2014  11:55pm

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #10: Sin City (2005)

Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Frank Miller, based on his graphic novels
Main Cast: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba
Click here to view the trailer

As noted many times in the recent past here at the "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die" blog, in the next 12 - 18 months the ultimate goal of this blog will transform from 'one man's journey to watch all 1001 movies in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book' to 'one man's journey to create his own, personal canon of 1,000 favorite films and show "those 1001 people" just how it's done! Sins of Omission will become a regular feature on the blog where I'll take one film that WAS NOT included in any incarnation of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and DOES NOT appear on the next list of 1000 films that I plan to tackle, give it a formal review and make it a permanent part of my list, which is entitled: 1000 Films You REALLY Should See Before You Die: A Personal, Ongoing Canon of My 1,000 Favorite FIlms.


As I get back into the swing of things here on the blog, I don't expect to bang out more than one or two reviews per week - maybe three on a good week. My days off each week are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so those are the prime times you're going to see me coming at 'ya. Through the week, I don't get the chance to watch movies until my wife hits the hay and by then, I'm dog tired myself. Anyway, now you know.

I'm going to be writing a piece about Sin City and it's ties to film noir for an upcoming issue of The Dark Pages newsletter, so I took the opportunity to get reacquainted with the film and in doing so, decided to go whole hog and just include it as a SIN OF OMISSION. It's actually a very important film to me, more on that later. Read on...

The film is busted up into three parts, with each section telling a different story, which also happen to be based on graphic novels by co-director Frank Miller. We start out with "The Hard Goodbye", the main character of which is Marv (Rourke), a scarred up brute with super human strength and a penchant for beating people up. Marv spends the night with a hooker named Goldie and when he awakes in the morning, he finds her in his bead, without a pulse. Conveniently, the cops storm his apartment at that exact moment and Marv begins to realize he's being framed. He busts from the cops and goes on the hunt, wanting to avenge the death of a beautiful girl who treated him nice even though she didn't have to. His search leads him all the way to the upper hierarchy in Sin City and Cardinal Roark, a powerful man who's brother is the state senator. Next we meet Dwight (Owen), a sneaker wearing tough guy who's currently shacking up with the ex-girlfriend of a thug named Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro). When Jackie Boy makes his way into Old Town - a corner of Sin City where the prostitutes are in charge and police have no jurisdiction, per a deal between the two groups - he grabs hold of the wrong skirt and gets turned into a pez dispenser for his troubles. With Jackie Boy dead, Dwight picks his pockets to see who he is and finds that Jackie Boy is actually a cop, albeit a crooked one. Now, fearing that the deal between law enforcement and the girls may be off, now that they've offed an officer, Dwight helps the girls, including his ex-girlfriend Gail (Dawson) dispose of Jackie Boy's body. Finally, we're introduce to Detective John Hartigan (Willis), an aging detective with a flaring case of angina. Days from retirement he saves a little girl, Nancy Callahan, from a serial pedophile/killer and in the process takes away the killer's manhood. Later, Hartigan finds himself awaking in a hospital bed, being talked to by the killer's father, who just happens to be Senator Roark, who tells him that he plans to spend money out of his own pocket to ensure that Hartigan live a long life, even arranging surgery to cure his angina so that he can rot away in prison for disfiguring his son. Hartigan is framed and is sent to prison. In prison, he receives weekly letters from Nancy. The letters come for eight straight years and then one week, they stop. Then he gets an envelope with what appears to be Nancy's severed finger and he decides to play good con, appease the parole board and get released so that he can go look after her and make sure she's okay. Once released, Hartigan inadvertently leads Roark Junior - now a disfigured, yellow monster - right to Nancy's doorstep.

When I was a kid, a neighbor lady used to take me and my brother to the movies. We didn't have a decent movie theater in the town that we lived, so we'd hop into her car and she'd take us to the next closest town - about twenty miles north. She took us to a theater called Cinema World, which my brother and I would jokingly call Cinnamon World. It was kind of a dive theater, an independently owned little hole, but as kids we didn't know it was crappy and we loved it. It was there I got my earliest glances at cinema, seeing flicks like The Rescuers Down Under, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and No Holds Barred (the Hulk Hogan movie). We probably only saw a handful of movies there with the neighbor lady and after a while, that fad fizzled out and we stopped going. Flash forward to April 2005 and for some reason my brother and I found ourselves back at the God forsaken Cinnamon World, preparing to feast our eyes on Sin City, a movie we'd been anticipating for weeks, months.

A couple of months prior to this, perhaps having heard about the impending movie (I don't remember), I had asked to borrow my brother's copies of the Sin City graphic novels. My brother had always been a big comic geek and these were titles I'd recognized from his book shelf, when he still lived at home. He obliged me, of course, bringing them over one night and I read them up in probably a matter of days, loving every black & white panel. I can still remember seeing the trailer for the first time, having just finished the books and watching these characters breathe for the first time. Watching Clive Owen being called Dwight, a man I'd just read on the written page and Mickey Rourke as the scarred up, bandaged Marv. Oh, it was going to be a great movie and my brother and I made plans to go almost immediately. However, I don't remember the circumstances that had us landing back at the shitty theater, with stained floors and seats that had squeaky bolts. It didn't matter though, here was Marv, Dwight and Hartigan living and large on the big screen and I for one was mesmerized by the black & white, with splashes of color. It seemed as though every other frame deserved inclusion in MoMA and I was overdosing on quotable lines. It was pretty much, word for word the same lines that I'd read only a month prior, but to hear them spoken, accompanied by actor's with passion in their throats and a score behind them made them goosebump inducing.

Maybe it's just a personal thing, but that night at that little hole in the wall theater is a night I'll never forget because it was probably the most excited I'd been to see a movie on the big screen. I've stated many times before on the blog that I'm not a guy who goes out to the theater that often and can usually hold off to seeing movies on the small screen and in the comfort of my own home. For Sin City, waiting wasn't an option. I had a healthy obsession with Frank Miller for a long while after this, even reading some of his Daredevil work and of course, 300, but it was Sin City that always struck me as his most mesmerizing work and yet it was all so simple. Tales from a city where crime is second nature, where fast cars important and where dames will leave you with "to die for" feelings. A city that lurked and lived in the shadows, where the sun didn't shine and where smoke rings rose up to circle a pale moon that barely lit the dangerous alley ways, alley ways where you could find nearly anything - a kind hooker, a yellow bastard or a headless cop.

RATING: 8/10  I feel like that's a good note to end on, so I'll end on it. Great movie, one that will dazzle your eyeballs and hopefully leave you wanting to read the graphic novels, although I'd suggest doing that first.

July 8, 2014  10:59pm

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

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