Wednesday, September 23, 2015

282. Sansho Dayu/Sansho the Bailiff (1954)


Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi
Written By: Yahiro Fuji, Ogai Mori, Yoshikata Yoda, from story by Ogai Mori
Main Cast: Kinuyo Tanaka, Kyoko Kagawa, Eitaro Shindo, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Ichiro Sugai

So my vacation starts tomorrow and while it would be the perfect opportunity to polish off a whole crop of BOOK films, I don't actually have plans to. My wife and I are going to take the week to get some much need R&R and watch some "fun movies" as opposed to me spending the week catching up on my personal project. If I can, I'll sneak one or two, but don't expect much out of me for the next six days. Anyway, the season premiere of Survivor meant my wife was off limits for ninety minutes, which freed me up some time to knock out another two plus hour BOOK flick. Read on...


The film's plot is pretty cut & dry, not to mention pretty basic and uninteresting. When their father (and husband) is banished from a community, two children and their mother must fend for themselves, departing to live with her brother. Years later, the trio set out to fend for themselves once more, setting up camp, lost & alone. They are happened upon one evening by a priestess who is most kind, offering them a warm place to stay for the night and a hot meal. Once she hears of their situation, the priestess offers to introduce mother & kids to some boatmen, who will take them to safety. The next morning, once mother enters the boat, the boatmen and priestess are revealed to be tricking her, keeping the kids behind, as their mother sails off. The kids, Zushio and Anju, are then sold into a slave labor camp, headed up by the title character - Sansho the Bailiff. The kids are worked nearly to death and live as slaves until they are teenagers - the female, Anju, always wondering what became of her mother and her brother, Zushio, becoming a loyal, expressionless henchmen for the ruler Sansho. One day, while taking a dying woman to the mountainside, so that she can pass in peace, Anju convinces Zushio to flee, stating that she will stay behind and lead the guards in the wrong direction. Zushio knows that his sister will be tortured until she gives up his location, but does as his sister wishes. Anju stays behind in hopes that her brother will successfully flee and find their long lost mother.

SPOILER ALERT!



Pardon me if this review stinks, but my attention is currently being divided between the blog and the Big Brother finale. I'll do my best to keep my thoughts in order...

Boy, I didn't like this very much at all. Sure, it's possible that my mind was elsewhere - thinking of getting through my last day of work tomorrow and getting to that much needed vacation. However, my mind knows when a good movie is playing out in front of it and will sit up and take notice, if need be. This just wasn't a movie that grabbed my attention and therefore, my mind wandered and I was rather bored throughout. The film just didn't strike me as anything unique or even worth me wasting my undivided attention. The characters were rather bland and at no point during the two hour running time did I begin to fall for them, caring about how they ended up, rooting for their success, etc. Instead, this whole film felt like something I'd already seen before - perhaps from the likes of Kurosawa or some other sad sap. Kids separated from mother, son rises from slave to ruler and an ending that was both happy & heartbreaking. Nothing about this felt unique to me and while it may have been unique in 1954, it didn't pass the test in 2015.

I guess I can't say it was all bad. We all know I'm a sucker for a sad ending and while the film did end on a bit of a high note, with Zushio reuniting with his mother, you got the sense that she was on her last legs and wouldn't have much life left, making his whole journey nearly fruitless - his sister dead, his mother nearly there. Also while it started out like something that was going to be confusing, it all cleared up pretty fast and unfolded as a plot that was very easy to follow, filled with layers and characters whose lives sprawled out, despite being fairly one dimensional. I wasn't ecstatic about the film, but it may have been a case of wrong film, wrong time. Like I said, my mind was indeed elsewhere and Sansho the Bailiff wasn't near powerful enough to demand my attention, capture my imagination and therefore, I'd have to call it non-recommendable.

RATING: 4/10  Call it a '4', as I wouldn't even go so far as to say it was average or anything worth going out of your way to see. However, BOOK hounds, don't fret, it's a fairly easy watch.

MOVIES WATCHED: 966
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 35

September 23, 2015  10:54pm

Monday, September 21, 2015

582. A Woman Under the Influence (1974)


Running Time: 146 minutes
Directed By: John Cassavetes
Written By: John Cassavetes
Main Cast: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands, Katherine Cassavetes
Click here to view the trailer

CASSAVETES WEEK: PART THREE

Well, it's been a busy week, guys. I had no intention of taking a week off, but now that I have, it's clear that I'm probably not getting THE BOOK finished by Halloween. So let's shoot for the end of the year instead and take some of the pressure off. Anyway, we're still in the midst of Cassavetes Week, which has been disappointing thus far. But, perhaps, A Woman Under the Influence could get me into the good graces of Mr. Cassavetes.


Gena Rowlands (Cassavetes real life wife) is the star of this show, playing Mabel Longhetti, wife to Nick Longhetti (Falk) and mother to three children. The film begins with Mabel loading the three kids into her mother's car, so that she and Nick can have a night to themselves. Except Nick works for the city and on this same night, a water main breaks keeping him out at work all night long. Mabel ends up going to a bar and yada yada yada has an affair with Nick. Except the film isn't about an affair, as Nick never finds out about the other man. The film is about Mabel's slow descent into madness, as she suffers from various mental problems, as well as, probably a pretty good dose of depression on top of all that. The film is doled out in pieces, some short, some long. The film takes place over the course of a couple of days, the one or two days prior to Mabel being committed. Then we skip ahead six months to the day Mabel is to be released from the hospital and we get one more day in the life of the Longhetti's.


I suppose the film is just a tad on the long side, but with phenomenal performances from Rowlands and (to a lesser degree) Falk, how can you blame Cassavetes for not wanting to turn the camera away. At times A Woman Under the Influence is uncomfortable to watch, as if we're guests at the house while Mabel and Nick are going through this peril. In fact, at times it's so personal that for instantaneous flashes, it all feels 100% real. It's as if, for those brief seconds, that we just want to get up and excuse ourselves, but then we remember it's all a movie. I have seen Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and quite enjoyed the performance from Ellen Burstyn. That being said, I'm still of the opinion that Burstyn owes Rowlands an Oscar. I don't want to go overboard here with my praise, so let me just say that I've RARELY seen a performance as good as the one Rowlands gives. Rowalnds poured everything out here, all of her energy, all of her emotion, all of her passion and it's enough to make me want to cry that she wasn't rewarded for it, by her peers.


This is definitely a step in the right direction for Cassavetes, as far as I'm concerned. I wasn't crazy about Shadows at all and Faces was pretty good, but not good enough for a director who's work I'd been looking forward to for so long. I wouldn't go so far as to say I loved this or anything, but I really liked it and call it another strong candidate for, at least, a TEN WORTH MENTIONING spot in the impending TOP 20. I could probably go two or three paragraphs on this one and really analyze it to death, but it's been a long week, so we'll wrap it up with that.

RATING: 7.5/10  Sorry for the awful review, but I really am tired and the smell of my wife's stuffed shells wafting in from the kitchen is REALLY making me want to go see what time dinner will be ready!

MOVIES WATCHED: 965
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 36

September 21, 2015  5:24pm

Monday, September 14, 2015

481. FACES (1968)


Running Time: 130 minutes
Directed By: John Cassavetes
Written By: John Cassavetes
Main Cast: John Marley, Gena Rowlands, Lynn Carlin, Seymour Cassel, Fred Draper
Click here to view the trailer

CASSAVETES WEEK: PART TWO

So after a five day break from the blog, my hopes of getting this thing wrapped up by Halloween are slowly fading away. I'll still give it my best, but I was feeling a bit burned out and needed some time to recharge the batteries. In other news, I've purchased a new notebook laptop and this will be the first official review written on it. I'm really digging it so far and am hoping that it makes writing reviews a bit easier. Read on...


Plot synopsis really isn't completely necessary here, as just a few sentences and I could easily sum up the events of Faces. However, I'll do my best to properly fill you in. At the center of the film, is a married couple - Richard (Marley) and Maria Forst (Carlin). They've been married for a while and while they seemingly get along fairly decent, below the surface, the marriage is crumbling. One evening, the two get into a spat while discussing the infidelities of one of Richard's colleagues, causing Richard to blow up and announce his desire for a divorce. This takes Maria off guard, of course and Richard leaves, proclaiming he'll send for his clothes, but he physically won't be back. Richard finds companionship, instead, in the arms of Jeannie (Rowlands), a prostitute whom he's seen on occasion in the past. The two spend the night together and meanwhile, Maria finds her solace in the arms of blonde haired, playboy Chet (Cassel). During the night, Maria overdoses on sleeping pills, causing Chet to have to go all APARTMENT on her ass. I'll leave the rest up to you and your eyeballs.


I don't think the phrase "spoiler alert" is applicable here, as I've pretty much just told you 90% of the film and still, I didn't really spoil anything. Faces is not a film that is subject to spoilage, as it's a film that needs to be experienced, rather than one intended solely for entertainment purposes. I need to clarify already, that I wasn't completely blown away by Faces, even though this is normally just the type of thing I go for. I definitely liked it, don't get me wrong, but I'd say at this point Cassavetes is 0-2 with me. In a normal world, he'd be 2-2, but I had SUCH high hopes going into these that I'd have to consider both Shadows and Faces to be, at least, mild disappointments ("mild" in Faces' case, "medium" in Shadows' case). I don't know what it was about the film. How about all the hysterical laughing, for one? How annoying was that? That whole scene where Richard and Maria are discussing Draper's sex dreams and they're just laughing at each other for like ten minutes - while it does a lot to develop the camaraderie in the Forst relationship, it's also hugely annoying. Also and I don't know why, I really couldn't stand Gena Rowlands here. I'd really have to think to remember another movie I've seen her in, so we'll consider this my first experiences with Ms. Rowlands. While I thought she was a fine actress and a looker to boot, I just couldn't get into her character. Any scene that involved her, quickly realized that it was going to be another slow step in the film.


On the other hand, certain segments were quite fascinating, ie. the scene where Maria overdoses and the scene where we first see Richard and Maria together, early in the film (save for the laughing part). I also really enjoyed John Marley and Lynn Carlin. I thought they were both gems and I'd have LOVED to have seen more between them. I felt like we were entitled to a bigger blowup from the two when the divorce is announced and maybe even a second knock down drag out toward the end, as the film ends and the two fall into each other, exhausted from their verbal battle, realizing they're made for each other. As it is, the ending is fine. I loved Cassavetes' decision to end the film with a whimper, as opposed to a bang - the two couples sitting on the stairs, nursing their cigarettes, silent - probably contemplating where it goes from here, just as we are probably contemplating the same thing.

Boy, I'm really torn on this one. On one hand, it was sort of perfect and even writing about it and reflecting about it have caused me to sweeten on it. However, I can't help but feel disappointed by Faces and by Cassavetes, thus far, as a whole. Perhaps it's my own fault for waiting nearly ten years to see movies that I could've easily seen then. Don't put off till tomorrow, what can easily do today, right? Right!

RATING: 6.5/10  Put it right outside the door of a '7' and that upper tier I always talk about. I can see myself liking this one even more in a few days, once my brain has marinated in it's thoughts & processes for a little while longer.

MOVIES WATCHED: 964
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 37

September 14, 2015  4:51pm

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

346. SHADOWS (1959)


Running Time: 87 minutes
Directed By: John Cassavetes
Written By: John Cassavetes
Main Cast: Ben Caruthers, Lelia Goldoni, Hugh Hurd, Anthony Ray, Dennis Sallas
Click here to view the trailer

CASSAVETES WEEK: PART ONE

Welcome to a week (or what will probably amount to closer to two) dedicated to the father of independent, American cinema - John Cassavetes. Of course, we're talking about John Cassavetes, who has four movies in THE BOOK, starting with his 1959 debut - Shadows.


The film is reminiscent of the French New Wave and THE BOOK even compares it to Breathless, something I'd call a spot on comparison. The movie takes place in New York and tells of three siblings: Hugh (Hurd), Ben (Carruthers) and Lelia (Goldoni). Actually, the film really revolves around Lelia and her courting of three different men, over the course of the film's running time. The first guy is a scholarly type, a bit older and a bit of a square. In fact, Lelia is stolen from the first guy, by the second guy, Tony (Ray). Lelia and Tony hit it off just fine and cap their night off with a bout of lovemaking, Lelia's first time. I guess I should take a minute to tell you that the siblings - Hugh, Lelia and Ben - are African American, but that Hugh is very dark skinned, while the other two are so light skinned that they're often mistaken as white. In fact, Tony himself even manages to mistake Lelia for a white girl, so that when her brother Hugh arrives at Lelia's home, unexpected, Tony's true colors shine through and thus, wants nothing else to do with Lelia. Lelia slips into a bit of a depression, shutting out the world. Her third suitor eventually comes along - an African American boy who is also a huge pushover. Meanwhile, Hugh tries to make it as a nightclub singer and Ben buddies around with his guy pals. It's Beat-Era New York City, folks.


How about we start with a story?

It was 2007 and during that summer, I moved out of my parents home, about twenty miles away to my very first apartment, with my very new wife. I've talked about this before on the blog - the two of us had a blast and I'll never forget those early days of roughing it on our own, cooking Hamburger Helpers and other cheap meals. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. T

That winter, I started to get very interested in film. I'd say this is when I officially turned up the notch on my movie addiction, form casual movie watcher to wannabe film buff. I started making notes of everything I watched and in January 2008, I actually started keeping a tablet, writing down everything I watched, along with the year and the director of each movie. Again - getting ahead of myself.

That Christmas of 2007, I was at Barnes & Noble bookstore - the only place to buy Criterion Collection films, that I know of - and my eyes caught a Cassavetes, Criterion Collection box set. Now, at this point, I had yet to see any John Cassavetes movies and probably didn't even realize that this was the same guy who played Rosemary's husband. For some reason, I had to have that box set. I just wanted it. Somehow I knew that the movie enclosed would all be superb and that it would be a blind buy worth going in blind on. However, the set was something like $150 bucks and being a newlywed with new bills like rent and car payment, I just couldn't bring myself to splurge. Eventually, I came to my senses, told myself that I'd watch the films first and that if I still wanted the box set, I'd save up and buy it.

Flash forward to today and my DVD collection isn't the pride & joy it once was. With things like Netlflix and OnDemand, the necessity to have a DVD collection is becoming less and less. As for my infatuation with the unknown work of John Cassavetes? Well, I never did see any of his movies - that is, until yesterday and my first ever viewing of a Cassavetes picture, Shadows.

All I can say is, so far, I'm glad I didn't splurge on the box set.


Nah, I just didn't care for it THAT MUCH and while it was ahead of it's time, it was no more crucial to the advancement of motion pictures that Godard's contributions to the French New Wave, namely Breathless, which is just as ahead of it's time and better, to boot. I didn't hate Shadows or anything, as it was a decent, little picture. However, "little" is the key word there, casting amateur actors who seem to be improving their lines (and not particularly well) and a very amateurish feel to the whole affair, complete with grainy, ugly black & white. I get it. It's an independent feature, it's supposed to be amateurish, it's supposed to be grainy, but that's just a hint of what also happened to turn me off.

I don't want to get into a whole question of race or anything here, but yours truly has never encountered a black person who was so light skinned, I mistook them for a white person. Maybe there are black people who are THAT light, but I've never encountered it personally. So, when Hugh walked in on Lelia and Tony and everyone started flipping out, I had to reach for the pause button and ask my wife for a little clarification. Up to that point, I thought Lelia & Hugh and Hugh & Ben were just calling each other "brother" and "sister" playfully, meaning they were good friends who thought of each other as siblings. II never crossed my mind that Lelia and Ben were his actual siblings. I was definitely confused by the whole thing and wondered why Cassavetes didn't just cast light skinned, black actors. Because Carruthers and Goldoni were actually white, right?

I realize that we're talking about 1959 here, when race relations was a very taboo and sensitive subject and it's not something you really spoke about openly and freely, especially within the medium of motion picture. However, it's not 2015 and recent events in Ferguson and Baltimore, among other places, make me want to hear less and less about racial tensions, even if it is coming from a time capsule movie from over fifty years ago. I find it absolutely ridiculous that in 2015 there are still racists and that's one of the hundreds of problems that when I turn on a movie, I want that movie to help me forget about. Okay, so maybe I'm being a little over dramatic in blaming Shadows' racial topics on my dislike for the film. Most of it, I think, was just pure disappointment. I mean we're talking about a filmmaker that I've been waiting to sink my teeth into for nearly a decade and his first picture out of the gate was a less than impressive feat. I'll be approaching his next film with caution, in high hopes that by the time I've watched all four, I have a contender for new favorite movie.

RATING: 5/10  Let's just call it average and call it a day, shall we? I could see this one growing on me with multiple viewings, but as a first go around, it was perfectly average.

MOVIES WATCHED: 963
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 38

September 9, 2015  11:33pm

Monday, September 7, 2015

Cassavetes Week - COMING SOON





677. Czlowiek z zelaza/Man of Iron (1981)


Running Time: 153 minutes
Directed By: Andrzej Wajda
Written By: Aleksander Scibor-Rylski
Main Cast: Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Krystyna Janda, Marian Opania, Irena Byrska, Wieslawa Kosmalska

A DOUBLE SHOT OF WAJDA: 2 of 2

Hey, it only about two weeks, but I finally managed to bring myself to watch Wajda's Man of Iron and cap of the double shot tribute to the Polish filmmaker. My wife and I did a Redbox run before we came home tonight, therefore tonight is about quality time. However, she's assured me that she'll do at least one BOOK movie with me tomorrow and then I need to get scootin' if I wanna wrap it up by Halloween. Read on...


Here comes yet another one where I really can't go too deep with plot synopsis, as I was sort of lost and it was probably my own fault to boot. I definitely mentally checked out of this one at around the one hour mark, but it seemed to pretty much pick up right where Man of Marble left off, giving us an even further Polish history lesson. While Man of Marble focuses on fictional character Mateusz Birkut, Man of Iron focuses on his son, Maciej Tomczyk (both played by Radziwilowicz). Here, Krystyna Janda's character is actually married to Tomczyk and the two have a baby. There's also a character named Winkel (Opania), who basically replaces the role that Janda's character played in the first one, going around and asking the questions, getting the history. Instead of shooting a film however, it is Winkel's task to get some dirt on Tomczyk, so that his opposing party can smear him. As Winkel digs deeper and deeper, he begins to side with Tomczyk on the issues, getting the real story from Tomczyk's college roommate and Janda's Agnieszka. That's about the long & short of it.


Actually that's not too bad for someone who mentally checked out at the hour mark. I pretty much have the same thoughts here that I did for Man of Iron, except (and THE BOOK even agrees) I actually liked Man of Marble a bit better. I felt that the story of Marble flowed a lot better and was more accepting of outsiders, who may not know the back story of the propaganda that Wajda was trying to spread. I felt that Man of Marble was more inviting to ignoramuses, in other words. On the other hand, Man of Iron seemed to be more of an insider film - like you had to know a bit of Polish history to "get it" all. Man of Iron, as Woody Allen would say, was too much like doing a homework assignment and less like a night at the pictures. I really feel like all propaganda films should have been left out of THE BOOK, as they serve a 100%, entirely different purpose than movies that are for sheer entertainment value. There's no way to compare this to something like The Jerk or Airplane!, as the two categories are apples & oranges and shouldn't even be mentioned together. But what do I know...Take a pass here, unless you're really into history - then enjoy!

RATING: 3.5/10  I dropped it a half notch compared to Man of Marble, simply to convey that Marble WAS better. They're both a couple of stinkers though and I'd suggest avoiding the lot - again, unless you're into history.

MOVIES WATCHED: 962
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 39

September 7, 2015  8:08pm

Saturday, September 5, 2015

329. Man of the West (1958)


Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Anthony Mann
Written By: Reginald Rose, from the novel The Border Jumpers by Will C. Brown
Main Cast: Gary Cooper, Julie London, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur O'Connell, Jack Lord
Click here to view the trailer

MAN(N), I'M JUST NOT THAT IMPRESSED

Sorry for the delay. After the episode I had on Sunday night and my little visit to the E.R., I think I may have contracted a cold from the hospital, as I've been pretty miserable since Wednesday. A steady diet of DayQuil and NyQuil for this guy and today, I finally dragged myself out of bed to write about Man of the West. Don't expect Shakespeare here folks...


The film started out just fine. An aging Gary Cooper riding into town on a horse, a mysterious stranger to the townspeople. Someone recognizes him and he shrugs them off, saying his name is "Wright" and heading to the nearest train station to purchase a ticket to Ft. Worth. On the train, he's engaged by yet another man, this time changing his name to something different altogether. From the get go, we know something is amiss, Cooper's character carrying a bag, presumably full of money, and lying twice about his name. We don't know if he's good or bad and that's when a band of outlaws jump the train during a stop and rob it. Cooper's character, whom we later learn is named Link Jones, is knocked out by one of the bandits and Link along with Miss Billie Ellis (London) and another man with a sprained ankle are left behind as the train pulls off. Knowing the nearest town is a hundred miles away, the trio wander. Link eventually leads them to a small homestead, where he tells them he once lived. He seems not to know if the residence is occupied now, so he goes in for a closer look, stowing his two companions away in a nearby barn. It turns out that the homestead IS, in fact, occupied by the men who robbed the train and furthermore, the men are from a gang that Link used to belong to. Remember, it's a small world after all. It turns out that Link used to be an outlaw, but has since reformed himself, almost getting sick to his stomach at the thought of his old life. Link pretends to be back in the fold, as the outlaws pretty much hold the trio hostage, eventually....well, eventually doing things that would spoil the story...

SPOILER ALERT!


I honestly can't pinpoint why I didn't like this, as the plot was actually pretty good and the actors were on point. The only thing I can think of, is that I think it's finally time to admit that I just do not like westerns. Like sci-fi, there are a few exceptions to the rule (Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), but for the most part, I'm just not a western type of guy. The whole thing just seemed to old fashioned for my taste and even saying that this was "old fashioned" is kind of stupid, since most westerns ARE old fashioned - that's one of their key traits. Like I said, this started out just fine. It was almost a mystery movie, in that we didn't know what Gary Cooper was or even who he was. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? Where did he get all that dough? All signs seemed to point to him being a baddie and then at about the twenty minute mark, we find out that - no, he USED to be bad, but now he's good. This was just a boring revelation, if you ask me. I'd have liked to see the movie draw out even more with the audience in question. Have us believing that Link is a bad guy right through the train robbery, having the outlaws recognize him and leave him alone, since he used to be a part of the gang. If they leave him alone, then we're convinced he's one of them and when the train speeds off and leaves them behind, we're now worrying for the state of Julie London and Arthur O'Connell, because they're now alone with an outlaw. Hell, keep us believing that Link is a bad guy, even as he saunters up to the homestead and reunites with his former gang. He pretty much pretends to still be one of them anyway, so as long as we're all pretending, leave us out of it. Then, when Link goes to the barn to collect his two companions, maybe it's here that he comes clean? And when he does come clean, maybe we, the audience, don't really believe him. Keep us in suspense, give us doubts. Instead, we got the answers right out of the box and the rest of the movie ended up being pretty flat & dry, not unlike it's scenery.

Oh, but how awesome was Lee J. Cobb? I always keep an eye out for the 12 Angry Men cast and I'm always pleasantly surprised to see them turn up in other movies. I can still remember being surprised when Martin Balsam showed up in Breakfast at Tiffany's, that Lee J. Cobb showed up in The Exorcist and now showing up in this. I always love to see those twelve actors - I'm always impressed by all of their talents. Cobb here was a powerhouse and about the only 100% enjoyable thing in the whole film. I can give or take Gary Cooper and the rest of the cast was sort of *meh*. Julie London though? What a looker and I'm shocked I haven't heard more from her.

RATING: 5/10  Call it down the middle and leave it at that. There's one Mann left and I'm hoping The Naked Spur turns out to be the cream of the Anthony Mann crop.

MOVIES WATCHED: 961
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 40

September 5, 2015  2:21pm

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Month at the Movies: August 2015

Grandma's Boy (1922 - Fred C. Newmeyer) 7/10 - Another one caught off of TCM during a double bill of Harold Lloyd films they aired one night. I liked The Kid Brother enough, when I watched it for THE BOOK, to go ahead and set up the DVR for this and For Heaven's Sake. It took me a minute to ease into this one, but once I did, it was pure entertainment. Several laugh out loud moments and (I've said it before) that's big with me, cause it takes an awful lot to get me to actually LOL.


The Hitchhiker (1953 - Ida Lupino) 6.5/10 - TCM again. I liked this well enough. I will say it started out better than it finished. By the end, I was sort of ready for it to be over. I think it lacked one or two (or three) REALLY suspenseful moments, where the captive ALMOST escape their captor, but fail just short. The whole thing with giving the killer a bum eye though, so the kidnapped never knew when he was asleep or awake was pretty damn cool! Mild recommendation...


Tightrope (1984 - Richard Tuggle) 7/10 - We'll call that BARELY a '7' as it just sneaks into that upper echelon of ratings. I dug the grittiness of it, the jazzy score and the New Orleans shooting location acted as another character to enhance the atmosphere. I will say this though...

SPOILER ALERT

Why did they take careful consideration to keep the murderer's face covered throughout the whole movie, if, when he was revealed, he wasn't someone we'd recognize? It seemed like this was all leading to the police sergeant or even Eastwood's partner getting revealed as the culprit, only for the mask to come off and....it's just....some guy...Otherwise, really decent mystery/thriller.


Brute Force (1947 - Jules Dassin) 6.5/10 - A '6.5' for a prison movie is actually pretty atrocious, considering it's me - the one who's a sucker for a good prison flick. I just couldn't settle into this and about the only thing I'd say is worth praising would be Hume Cronyn. Prior to this, whenever I thought of Cronyn, I thought of that little man in Shadow of a Doubt who was preoccupied with murder. From now on, I will always look at him in a different light. The scene where he roughs up the inmate is a doozy!


My Dinner with Andre (1981 - Louis Malle) 5.5/10 - I'd been wanting to see My Dinner with Andre for YEARS. I'd always known the premise - two old friends sit down to dinner and talk, that's it. I'm such a sucker for dialogue that this is one that has been on my watch list for years and now I've seen it and I really didn't like it. It's just that it's filled with such mumbo jumbo that I had a hard time believing that anyone really had actual thoughts like this or really talked like this. Was this Andre Gregory being totally himself? If so, wow, what a turkey! It got to the point that when Wallace Shawn finally speaks up at the end and basically calls Gregory out on his bullshit, I sat up a little straighter and perked my ears a little higher. It was a definite, "you tell him!" moment. Of course, Gregory fights back and eventually derails Shawn's thought process, but it did get a bit interesting at the end. I could've done with more dialogue coming out of Wallace Shawn and a more back & forth style of dialogue. Instead, we get about 3/4 of Gregory spouting off and then Shawn speaking up at the end, when it's too late to salvage any sort of viable rating. Approach with caution.


Cujo (1983 - Lewis Teague) 6/10 - I had just finished the novel and as any lover of both books and films will do when finishing a novel, you watch the movie. It just so happened that my wife is a fan of this one, so we owned it on DVD. I will say that it wasn't that bad and give kudos to the filmmaker's for at least trying to get this as close as they could to the novel. However, all kudos go flying out the window when....

SPOILER ALERT

...Tad lives! God forbid we send an audience home with a tear or a frown! I'd still love to see someone remake this, someone who had the creative control and artistic ability to make it right. You'd have to still set it in the 80s, as if it were made in a present day setting, one cell phone call would turn this into a short film.

One thing I did notice about the movie, that also irked me was that they never really mention the heat. It's not enough to just have the characters sweating, you need to constantly be having them comment on how hot it is. Think 12 Angry Men, think Do the Right Thing. I don't remember a trickle of sweat, but I remember Danny Aiello's griping about the hot summer day.


Two Days, One Night (2014 - Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne) 7.5/10 - My first Dardenne brothers film is met with praise! I really liked this and hey, it got me and my wife having an actual, meaningful discussion about what we'd do in the situation that Sandra puts her co-workers in. I think me and my wife were in agreement that 1) no matter how poor we were, it would be too embarrassing to go to these people, some glorified strangers, and beg for them to give you a vote over their bonus. I personally am way too socially awkward to do anything like this and even asking someone to sacrifice more money for my sake...wouldn't do it. 2) In this particular situation, I think I'd vote against her. It was CRYSTAL CLEAR that she wasn't particularly reliable, due to her depression. She had several episodes where her voice gave out on her and she had to ride down the street with her head hanging out the car window, like a dog, just to be able to go on functioning. I feel like, if put in this exact situation, I'd look at someone like that and say "Why would I give up my bonus for someone who very easily may not last at the job anyway. She clearly has issues and any day now, she could crap out on us again, be readmitted into the hospital, be fired and then we'd have given up our bonus for nothing". I hate to sound like a complete asshole, but that's really how I feel. However, if put on the spot, if visited by a co-worker, I may react differently. I guess it would also depend on how close I was to said co-worker. If they were a friend, sure, I'd keep them around. But otherwise, it would take some serious thought and I suspect I'd lean toward the greedy route.

Also, how great is Marion Cotillard?


Grizzly Man (2005 - Werner Herzog) 6.5/10 - I decided to go ahead and extend HERZOG WEEK to include a documentary of his that was streaming on Netflix and one I'd wanted to see for ages. Also another one that brought up a lot of discussion between me and my wife. At first, I was easily on Timothy Treadwell's side, but as the movie got going, I started to turn on him. I guess you could sort of compare this to Aguirre: The Wrath of God, except this is a real account of a man going into nature and disturbing it. Here, Timothy, not Aguirre, is the Wrath of God and it just so happens that he strikes himself down with his own wrath. The guy seemed kind of bonkers and seemed like he had another agenda, aside from "protecting the bears". He seemed to always be auditioning for a television spot that he'd never get, constantly hosting his own nature show that, as far as he knew, no one would ever see. Again, I hate to sound like an awful person, but I feel like Treadwell sort of got what was coming to him. He shouldn't have been where he was and having no prior nature experience or formal training around wild animals, he was putting himself in even more danger. It's awful that he died, but was he really trying to protect animals or was he only out to make himself into a star in his own mind?

Not a bad doc and I wouldn't mind seeing more Herzog docs.


The Circus (1928 - Charles Chaplin) 7.5/10 - Really good Chaplin. I'd say it's even better than the very popular City Lights myself, but not on par with The Gold Rush, nor Modern Times. Plenty of LOL moments and clearly this is Chaplin in his prime. I SERIOUSLY need to see out and find the rest of the man's filmography as I'm sure there's not a bad one in the bunch.


Frances Ha (2012 - Noah Baumbach) 8/10 - Only the third NON-BOOK movie I've given an '8' or higher to in the past three months, Frances Ha was an absolute gem of a movie, as was it's star and co-writer Greta Gerwig - so good, I now want to seek out everything she's ever done and consume it like the Cookie Monster tackling a bag of Chips Ahoy! I also clearly need to see the rest of Noah Baumbach's filmography, as both this and The Squid and the Whale have been big hits for me this year.



TOP FIVE - AUGUST 2015

1. SCARFACE
2. FITZCARRALDO
3. STROSZEK
4. FRANCES HA
5. THE CIRCUS

539. The Last Picture Show (1971)


Running Time: 118 minutes
Directed By: Peter Bogdanovich
Written By: Peter Bogdanovich, James Lee Barrett, from novel by Larry McMurtry
Main Cast: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn
Click here to view the trailer

NOTES: Couple things...

Sorry for the delay in reviews. I actually found myself in the emergency room on Sunday night, after having a bit of an episode. It turns out I was on unneeded blood pressure medicine and my pressure was running way too low, causing me to get little blackouts and bouts of dizziness. I wanted to be down to having only forty films left before August ended, but I didn't make it. Oh well, I'll just have to make up a couple in September, so that we can get done by Halloween.

In other news, I contacted Barron's about getting a review copy of the newest 1001 edition, due out next month. I received a reply saying that they already had me on the list and to expect THE NEW BOOK to be delivered sometime in mid-October. I did happen to see the cover, which isn't just one film this time, but a bunch of movie posters and noticed that "Birdman" and "Boyhood" are two of the films that made the new edition. I'll, as usual, be reviewing the new edition and looking at the ins and outs.

Now then...

END OF AN ERA

I ended up having to order this one through my OnDemand service, as Netflix had it listed as a "very long wait" and I'm trying to make sure I get all of my loose ends tied up before it comes down to nut cuttin' time. I'd only seen The Last Picture Show one other time, many years ago, as I used to consider Jeff Bridges to be my favorite actor and there was a period where I was scarfing up all of his movies I could get my hands on.


When considering the plot of The Last Picture Show, think a more serious version of American Graffiti, that takes place over a more extensive time period. While Graffiti takes place over one night, The Last Picture Show takes place over the course of a couple of years and happens to use country music as it's soundtrack, as opposed to rock 'n' roll. Timothy Bottoms can be considered the star of the picture, playing Sonny Crawfoed, who, when the film begins, is nearing his high school graduation, a member of his school's football team. He has a girlfriend who refuses to put out and when his coach asks him to take his "old lady" to an afternoon doctor's appointment, in exchange for the coach getting him out of his civics class, Sonny accepts. The coach's wife is Ruth (Leachman) and the two bond when she gets bad news from the doctor and ultimately begin an affair. Meanwhile, Sonny's best friend, Duane (Bridges), is dating popular high school senior, Jacy Farrow (Shepherd) and focusing on being a typical American teen - attending the local picture show, shooting pool at Sam the Lion's pool hall and copping a feel in front of his pickup. When Jacy becomes promiscuous, she tires of Duane and spends the end of her youth in a constant state of sexual exploration, attending nudist parties, making eyes at her daddy's friends and getting married - only to get divorced soon after. The lives of the residents of this small Texas town intertwine, as the fifties come to a close annd before the hippie era that would soon follow. Men contemplate going to war, women contemplate marriage - it's a coming of age tale and a pretty good one at that.


Yes, "pretty good", as I can't go "great" or even "very good". I liked it enough and it's another one of those movies where I can see myself liking it more and more every time I watch it, until it becomes a favorite. That's actually what I did with Taxi Driver, as I watched it once - hated it and then, for some reason, kept re-watching it and liking it a little more each time. Today, Taxi Driver is a favorite movie of mine and every time I watched it, I picked up something new, something different, more appealing attributes, more to like. Anyway, I initially had The Last Picture Show pegged at around the '5' mark, when I watched it years ago. This go around, I'd call it closer to '7', so it's growing on me, for sure.

I thought all of the actors here were superb and loved the characters to the point where I'd kind of like to check out the novel, just to see if I could gain more insight into them. These were not characters who just existed on the surface, for the sake of filling in roles in a motion picture, but rather, they more resembled real life people. While this was a slice of life of a small Texas town, it reminded me of a slice of life of any American town that may have existed in the 50s and when I think of the world that my mom & dad grew up in, I don't think this is too far off of my perception. It just seemed so perfectly right on. I must say too, that I loved the country music soundtrack and found myself searching Spotify after the film was over, re-listening to some of the old, whiney (in a good way) tunes. I feel like it was the voices of Hank Williams and company who added a little seasoning to this otherwise perfectly tasty, yet just slightly bland dish.


RATING: 7/10  Was going to go '6.5' right up until the end there and then I just decided to say "screw it" and go to '7'. Sorry for the short & sweet review, but it's nearly dinner time here and I feel like I've said what I needed to say.

MOVIES WATCHED: 960
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 41

September 2, 2015  5:45pm