Tuesday, March 17, 2015

609. All the President's Men (1976)

Running Time: 138 minutes
Directed By: Alan J. Pakula
Written By: William Goldman, from book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
Main Cast: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook
Click here to view the trailer


For the curious, Tarkovsky's The Mirror has arrived from Netflix and I'll be watching it as soon as I get the time. However, I'll be spending the next two days with my wife, watching loads of movies I'm sure, yet I doubt I'll convince her to watch it with me. We'll see...Anyway, I nabbed All the President's Men off of TCM last month during the channel's 31 Days of Oscar marathon and it's been sitting on my DVR ever since. Let's get down to business...

So the whole thing is about Watergate and while I'm sure I can't put it all down on paper (or rather, computer screen) I'll do my damndest. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are reporters for the Washington Post, circa 1972 - in a day when newspapers still had some sort of relevance. We get started when five men break into the Watergate complex, which also happens to be headquarters for the Democratic National Committee. They're later accused of bugging the place and caught thieving important documents, which of course, they plan to destroy. The men are later identified as four Cuban Americans and James McCord, the latter of which is later identified as a CIA officer (or was he a former CIA man by this time, either way...). Woodward makes an appearance at the preliminary hearing of the five men and smells a rat, which gets the whole movie rolling, full speed. Enter Carl Bernstein who smells the same rat and the two reporters are on the case, tracing this thing all the way up the chain of governmental command. Jack Warden plays the boys' direct superior at the Post and Jason Robards enters as the Executive editor. Okay, so I didn't try my damndest to explain everything, but that's the gist of it.

I've realized that I'm the type of person that if I can't understand every aspect of a story, then my whole brain falls apart and wants to reject everything. The long and short of Watergate is that top government officials leading all the way up to then President of the United States Richard Nixon himself, were accused of breaking in to democratic headquarters, which was housed at the Watergate office building, and bugging the place, as well as destroying important documents or stealing documents that could be used against the democrats. The ones who broke in, were affiliated with the Committee to Re-Elect the President, which again, at the time was Nixon - a Republican. That's it. Yet, when words like "slush fund", CREEP (which stupid me finally realized was simply an abbreviation for Committee to Re-Elect the President) and then adding to that DOZENS of names, it gets a little sloshy in my head. I mean, they're rapid firing names at you like Dahlberg, McCord, Colson, Hunt, Porter, Mitchell, Haldeman, Sloan, Segretti and a bunch more and in my head, there's a little man filling out index cards left & right, trying to keep everyone in order. Who was Sloan again? What about Hunt? WHO'S COLSON!? It was frustrating to be trying to keep such things straight in what was such a good movie that I just wanted to fully understand.

And ultimately, I DID enjoy All the President's Men, so much that I would like to buy Woodward and Bernstein's book and maybe even Watergate for Dummies, so that I can understand it all a little better. And that's saying something, because no matter how many movies I watched for THE BOOK about World War II or the Russian Revolution or whatever, I've VERY RARELY thought about buying literature to bone up on the subject further. Of course Redford and Hoffman were great and the whole paranoid feeling of this movie was just great. Why can't fiction writers think up things this compelling? I'll tell you why, because while watching this there's that lingering feeling in the back of your head where you keep telling yourself, "Oh my God, this all actually happened and it's insane". Are newspapers still as relevant today as they were back then? Are newspaper reporters still snooping and hunting, spending hours on end in libraries trying to break the case, just so they can be the lead in the following morning's edition? I tend to think not, but then again, what do I know? I also wonder about the mental state of Alan J. Pakula - was he really as paranoid as his movie's suggested or did he just like paranoia stories? Who knows. Despite not understanding every facet, the whole film still had this overwhelming feeling of corruption and watching Woodward & Bernstein run around, back and froth, to and fro, was just as good as reading a Mickey Spillane novel or a watching Perry Mason (two things I've never done, but I'm assuming). I'd deduct points simply because I'm not a history buff and simply because I was lost at times, but I'd surely call the film a must see and have no objections to it being in THE BOOK. Man, it must have been a scary time to be living in the seventies. You had Vietnam and a President who indeed WAS a crook. No wonder the drugs were flowing like Deer Park.

RATING: 7/10  Like I said, I just have to deduct a few points, just because, but I did really enjoy this and I even watched part of this late at night, on a work night no less, meaning it was good enough to keep me awake. That's saying something. One last queston: Was All the President's Men (the book) about Watergate and the scandal or was it about Woodward and Bernstein themselves investigating the story?


March 17, 2015  10:26am

Saturday, March 14, 2015

549. Solyaris/Solaris (1972)

Running Time: 165 minutes
Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky
Written By: Fridrikh Gorenshtein, Andrei Tarkovsky, from novel by Stanislaw Lem
Main Cast: Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuk, Jun Jarvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky, Nikolai Grinko
Click here to view the trailer


So it looks like Tarkovsky Week is actually going to end up becoming Tarkovsky Month, as it's just taking an insane amount of time to get movies from Netflix nowadays. Add to that the fact that I'm barely watching any BOOK movies lately and filling up on other stuff and it's slow going. If all goes as planned, however, I'll knock out The Mirror by mid-week.

Most of you have probably heard of Solaris, even if it's because of the 2002 remake starring George Clooney. The film begins by introducing us to the characters and setting up the events that are to take place over the course of the next three hours. We meet Kris Kelvin (Banionis), a former accountant and current psychologist who is all set to travel to a space station that is orbiting Solaris, a planet consisting basically of one giant ocean. We also meet Burton, a scientist who once lived upon the space station and who was called back many years prior for exhibiting strange behavior. In newsreel like footage, we learn that Burton was brought in front of many other scientists who has a vested interest in the Solaris station to testify of what he saw while searching for two lost scientists. Burton testified that he saw a four meter tall child floating outside the window of the station, not to mention yellow sludge creeping out of the Solaris ocean. He basically becomes a laughing stock, despite being a friend of Kelvin's family. Kelvin will travel to the Solaris station the following morning, to decide whether or not the station should continue functioning or whether it should be shut down. Once there, Kelvin learns that of the three scientists residing on the station, one has committed suicide (Dr. Gibarian). Left are Dr. Snaut and Dr. Sartorious, whom both warn him to stay calm if he happens to see anything out of the ordinary. In fact, it doesn't take long and Kelvin does see something out of the ordinary - his wife, who had died many years before. We'll leave it at that...


This was all fine and good...to a point. The idea is, obviously, a fantastic one. A planet that can read your mind and bring your fantasies/memories to fruition. I mean, that's genius, isn't it? The film looks great too and while Andrei Rublev was, sort of, an intimidating film due to it's stature and probably because it was my first Tarkovsky, this one was a more comfortable fit, for me personally. I loved the set design, the visual feasts and of course, the marvelous camera work, all working to accentuate this foreign idea on this foreign planet. It needed to look like something other worldly and it totally did. This was sci fi personified, the mother of all sci fi films and one that isn't that hard to get into, even if you're a sci fi hater (like me).

But, like I said, it's all good to a point. At about the time that the birthday party scene rolls around, it starts to get boring and that final hour or so was a tough one, I won't lie. By the time we got into the last twenty or so minutes, I was done and of the opinion that this just needed to end. What is it about these big sci fi films (I'm thinking this and 2001) that HAVE to be long? I really like 2001 (better than this, for the curious), but still admit that it's too long and COULD HAVE ended a little sooner. Solaris could've ended a LOT sooner and I wish it had. Had Tarkovsky and crew kept this film to right around one hundred minutes, hell even two hours, I probably would be lauding it as a masterpiece now. Pieces of classical music played over Kelvin and his wife staring at each other were doing nothing for me and ultimately, nothing was ever solved. In fact, there really wasn't an ending at all was there. Okay, sure, so Kelvin never gets off Solaris and instead simply THINKS he does, but is that really a suitable ending? Will Kelvin spend the rest of his life meeting multiple Hari's forever? Also, wouldn't it have been more appropriate if Kelvin and Hari were madly in love when she died on Earth? Instead, the back story is that they had actually separated and the marriage was basically null & void when she committed suicide. I don't know, maybe the fact that I'm asking all these questions is a good thing. Obviously the movie made me think and there's nothing wrong with that, ever. I could probably go for another viewing of this and I wouldn't be surprised if after two or three more watches, I was in love with this one. However, for now...

RATING: 6/10  Call it a '6' and definitely a "must see" which is as good a compliment as any, especially when you consider that there are movies in THE BOOK that I really like, that I might not particularly consider MUST SEE.


March 14, 2015  6:44pm

Friday, March 6, 2015

My Month at the Movies - February 2015

Okay, so this would be the second installment of the "My Month at the Movies" feature on the blog, although I did several years worth of monthly recaps, so if you're familiar with those, this is pretty much the same. What I present to you in the following post is a ranked list (from best to worst) of EVERYTHING I saw last month (BOOK movies and non-BOOK movies). I've made it my goal in 2015 to watch more movies than I did in 2008 - which, since I've been keeping track, is the calender year where I watched the most movies (311 to be exact). I watched four less movies in February than I watched in January for a total of 37 in February and a grand total of 81 for the calender year thus far (counting the three I've watched in March so far).

1. Dogville (2003 - Lars Von Trier) 10/10
2. The Hunt (2012 - Thomas Vinterberg) 9/10  review
3. Carnal Knowledge (1971 - Mike Nichols) 8.5/10
4. The Miracle Worker (1962 - Arthur Penn) 8.5/10
5 & 6. Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (2013 - Lars Von Trier) 8/10  review
7. Nightcrawler (2014 - Dan Gilroy) 8/10  quick thoughts
8. Melancholia (2011 - Lars Von Trier) 8/10
9. Rififi (1955 - Jules Dassin) 8/10  quick thoughts
10. Whiplash (2014 - Damien Chazelle) 7.5/10  quick thoughts
11. On Golden Pond (1981 - Mark Rydell) 7.5/10
12. [REC] (2007 - Balaguero, Plaza) 7/10  quick thoughts
13. The Boondock Saints (1999 - Troy Duffy) 7/10
14. Antichrist (2009 - Lars Von Trier) 7/10  review
15. The Theory of Everything (2014 - James Marsh) 7/10
16. Wit (2001 - Mike Nichols) 6.5/10  quick thoughts
17. The Godfather: Part III (1990 - Francis Ford Coppola) 6.5/10  review
18. Boyhood (2014 - Richard Linklater) 6.5/10
19. Caddyshack (1980 - Harold Ramis) 6.5/10  quick thoughts
20. Knocked Up (2007 - Judd Apatow) 6.5/10  quick thoughts
21. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991 - Bahr, Hickenlooper, Coppola) 6.5/10  review
22. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973 - John D. Hancock) 6/10
23. Words and Pictures (2013 - Fred Schepisi) 5.5/10  quick thoughts
24. Go, Go Second Time Virgin (1969 - Koji Wakamatsu) 5.5/10  quick thoughts
25. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014 - Wes Anderson) 5.5/10
26. Pretty In Pink (1986 - Howard Deutch) 5.5/10
27. The Life of David Gale (2003 - Alan Parker) 5.5/10  quick thoughts
28. Passenger (1963 - Andrzej Munk) 5/10  review
29. Manderlay (2005 - Lars Von Trier) 4.5/10
30. What Lies Beneath (2000 - Robert Zemeckis) 4/10  review
31. Alien 3 (1992 - David Fincher) 4/10
32. Mon Oncle (1958 - Jacques Tati) 4/10  review
33. Playtime (1967 - Jacques Tati) 4/10  review
34. In a Year with 13 Moons (1978 - Rainer Werner Fassbinder) 4/10
35. Birdman (2014 - Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) 4/10
36. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958 - Richard Brooks) 3.5/10  quick thoughts
37. Andrei Rublev (1969 - Andrei Tarkovsky) 3.5/10  review


I meant to write reviews for all those 2014 films I watched, but time became an issue and then I also promised myself that I wouldn't force myself to write if I didn't feel like it. It was an EXTREMELY disappointing month, as I'd gone out and blind bought Birdman, as I was sure that I'd at least like it, if not love it. I actually ended up almost hating it. Likewise for Grand Budapest and Boyhood (although I somewhat liked the latter, yet still was disappointed). Honestly, I don't think anyone who was nominated for Oscars this year deserved their nomination (save for a choice few) and since when do we give out awards for mediocrity (I'm looking at you Patty Arquette!). In a perfect world, Ralph Fiennes (for Budapest) and Jake Gyllenhaal (for Nightcrawler) would've gotten Best Actor nods and Gyllenhaal would've walked out with it easily. His performance in Nightcrawler was easily the best acting performance I've seen from 2014 (or maybe neck and neck with J.K. Simmons' Whiplash performance). It was a big month for Von Trier and I have the rest of his filmography on my Netflix queue (save for The Idiots, which they don't have - any help on where I can track it down would be appreciated). Lots of good stuff this month too though, with Nymphomaniac, Melancholia, Rififi, The Hunt, Carnal Knowledge, Nightcrawler and The Miracle Worker all being first time viewings for me and all paying off. Nothing stellar from THE BOOK this month, as the Tati films were a bust and the few others I saw ranged from bad to *meh*.

And now, some stills from MY MONTH AT THE MOVIES. See ya next month!










           IN A YEAR WITH 13 MOONS




Thursday, March 5, 2015

530. KLUTE (1971)

Running Time: 114 minutes
Directed By: Alan J. Pakula
Written By: Andy Lewis, Dave Lewis
Main Cast: Donald Sutherland, Jane Fonda, Charles Cioffi, Roy Scheider, Dorothy Tristan
Click here to view the trailer

Note: So my wife and I made a trip out to Millersburg, OH on Tuesday to pick up a new puppy. This is the same place where we bought our first dog and despite the first dog having health problems, we still trusted this place, as it's run by a very nice Amish man who seems on the level. Plus, they come highly recommended by a lot of people, so there's that. Any way, we ended up coming home with a three month old, female shih tzu named Emma. Very cute dog and hopefully she can fill the hole that the first one left. Anyway, it's been rough going trying to get movies watched. Trips outside every hour to house break a puppy doesn't make it easy to watch a movie. We ended up finshing Foxcatcher (2014) after about twelve sittings and today, we made it through Klute in about two or three. Anyway...on with the show...


Since it seems to be taking two - three days turnaround time to get Netflix discs nowadays, I managed to nab a few of THE BOOK movies off of TCM, during their 31 Days of Oscar movie-thon. This is one of those movies, with Papillon, Z and All the President's Men waiting for my viewing (hopefully) pleasure.

The film begins by cluing us in on the disappearance of Tom Gruneman, a successful business executive from Pennsylvania who up and vanished six months ago. The police and FBI have extinguished their resources trying to find him and now the Gruneman family, namely Mrs. Gruneman and Tom's partner Peter Cable, want to send their own man in to find Tom - enter John Klute (Sutherland). Klute is a somewhat cornfed, Pennsylvania boy who barely has any experience as a P.I. and even less experience navigating the big city of New York. Why New York? Because an obscene letter found in Tom's office is addressed from a call girl from the Big Apple - Bree Daniels (Fonda) and that's the best lead Klute has to go on. Klute travels to the city and immediately rents an apartment in Daniels', an aspiring actress, apartment, tapping her phone and hounding her for answers. Daniels doesn't take kindly to Klute at first, but as silent phone calls and a constant fear of being followed haunt her, she turns to Klute for protection, as it becomes increasingly clear that Daniels wasn't involved in the disappearance of Tom Gruneman. In fact, Klute's questions lead him on the trail of one of Daniel's johns, a dominatrix type, abusive man, who may or may not be Tom Gruneman or the man who knows where Tom is. It actually becomes apparent early on (whether it was intentional or not) who the real culprit is, but I won't spoil that here, just in case it was meant to be a surprise.


I love me some Sutherland and actually, despite not being a big fan of hers, I'll even admit that Fonda was fine here (and never looked better either, I might add), but damn, for a movie that should've been filled with suspense, intrigue and nail biting moments, this was dullsville! Like I said, the killer is pretty much revealed within the first forty five minutes as Peter Cable and it's no big shocker that, when the ending comes around, he's finally revealed as the man behind the death of Tom Gruneman. However, even if it hadn't been predictable, the Peter character wasn't major enough to provide any kind of good ending, even if it had been built up as some super secret, big reveal. It's a shame that a 1970s film starring Donald Sutherland and featuring a smokin' hot Jane Fonda and even Roy Scheider in a supporting role, left me wanting more, as it should've been a clear hit with me.

I will say, however, I'll still give the film good marks because it was better than most of the films I saw from 2014 and it possessed an atmosphere that I was keen on. A sometimes groovy, sometimes eerie score that accented the skyscrapers of New York City and accompanied the characters of a private dick and a hooker brilliantly. Add to that a theme of voyeurism, complete with tapped phones and prowlers on roof tops and it was hard not to somewhat get lost in this film, despite wanting a lot more out of it. I feel like EVERYTHING (acting, score, atmosphere) were all calling for a much better script, filled with loads more tension and even some better dialogue, but it was nothing doing as we marched toward a predictable, *blah* finale.

RATING: 6/10  Call it a better than average movie that, with a better script, could've been an easy '10/10'.


March 5, 2015  6:34pm

Monday, March 2, 2015

841. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)

Running Time: 96 minutes
Directed By: Fax Bahr, Eleanor Coppola, George Hickenlooper
Written By: Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper
Main Cast: Francis Ford Coppola, Eleanor Coppola, Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, John Milius
Click here to view the trailer

Note: So it's been a rough week on my end folks and if you have a minute, I'm in a sharing mood. Feel free to skip over this and to the subtitle which will take you right into a sure to be subpar review.

On Monday - one week ago - my wife and I were forced to make a hard decision and have our dog put to sleep. It was a period of time filled with many tears and a few days when I really realized what the term "man's best friend" meant. My wife was more stricken than I, but I won't lie, I was attached to the little guy too and I'll always remember him, as he was my first dog. Understandably, I didn't get a lot of movies watched last week, however, we did set aside Wednesday as a Redbox day where we spent the day in bed taking in five of the this year's Best Picture nominees, almost all of which I was disappointed by (including a blind bought copy of Birdman) - more on that in the monthly recap. Anyway, on Thursday it was back to work and it's been a long week there too, which meant come 8 o'clock at night, my eyelids became heavier by the second and attempting to stay up later to watch movies or write reviews seemed out of the question, so I opted to hit the sack early almost every night last week. I actually finished Hearts of Darkness on Friday night and am just now making it to the computer to take care of the review. I can still remember when I first started the project and how I'd made it a rule never to write a review more than twenty-four hour removed from finishing the film. Today, I could really care less as long as it gets written and I've learned to trust my memory and just say "screw it" when I get too tired. Anyway....long week, but I'm back...let's do it.


Don't expect much out of my here, as I feel a bit rusty at this even though it's only been something like two weeks. I'll do my best and we'll see how it all turns out.

I actually meant to watch this back when I watched Apocalypse Now, but I'm only getting two BOOK movies from Netflix at a time now, it's hard to rush anything and since I'm having fun taking in more non-BOOK movies nowadays, I'm putting myself first when it comes to watching movies lately. If I don't feel like a BOOK movie, I don't have one and it feels good to have that freedom back. Yada, yada, yada....let's cut to the chase.

The film is, of course, about the trials and tribulations that faced Francis Ford Coppola when making Apocalypse Now, which took him like three years and millions of dollars of how own dough. It just goes to show that when you take in a documentary about a subject that you're interested in, it pays off and this was a fine film about filmmaking and I enjoyed it. Actually it's funny that I watched this in the same week that I watched Birdman, Boyhood, The Theory of Everything and The Grand Budapest Hotel - four disappointing films that were nominated for Oscars this year and four films that I'm sure didn't feature a director running around the jungle bare chested. It goes to show that this sort of rogue, bad boy filmmaking is dead and we've entered into a more straight laced era, where the movies that "should be" nominated for Best Picture will be and the ones like Apocalypse Now - featuring director's who were rebels seem to have faded away. However, I doubt that the days of the rebel filmmaker are gone for good and I'm sure someday a new crop of wide eyed and busy tailed movie makers will arise and exciting things will happen.

Man, though, how great must the 70s have been? Bare chested directors pouring heart and soul into their art, drug addled musicians still managing to make masterpieces, while perfectly sober artists today can barely whittle together pieces of music worthy of our ears. Andy Kaufman and Andy Warhol were still alive proving that even things like comedy and soup cans held some sort of creative expression. It was a decade where there was this hemorrhage of talent just oozing out of the world and I wonder if anybody realized it at the time? Certainly Coppola himself didn't even realize it, while making Apocalypse Now - a film that would go on to become one of the most heralded. Sure, it wasn't my personal cup of tea, but I'll admit genius at work and I'll reiterate that the ending is magnificent. It's unreal to hear Coppola talk about shooting himself and dreaming about dying and waking up, only to realize the dread that is his life continued. Good, good stuff here and a doc worthy of your time.

RATING: 7/10  It's good, but honestly, I can't ever see myself rewatching it or anything, as it sort of falls under the category of once you've seen it once, there's really no need to see it again.


March 2, 2015  9:45pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #66: La piscine/The Swimming Pool (1969)

Running Time: 120 minutes Directed By: Jacques Deray Written By: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jacques Deray, Alain Page Main Cast: Alain Del...