Saturday, November 30, 2013

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


November 30, 2013  3:33pm

825. Total Recall (1990)

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


November 29, 2013  11:57pm

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Sunshine Award!

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

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

Here we go...

10 Questions:

1. Most shameful movie confession?

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

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

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

3. Which is your favorite season and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. One movie most people love that I dislike?

Casablanca. We've discussed this before.

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

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

9. What was the last TV show you watched?

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

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

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

10 Nominees: 

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

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

November 29, 2013  10:12pm

Thursday, November 28, 2013

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

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


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

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

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

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


November 28, 2013  11:54pm

Monday, November 25, 2013

827. Boyz 'N the Hood (1991)

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


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

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

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

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


November 25, 2013  5:59pm

Sunday, November 24, 2013

829. DELICATESSEN (1991)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


November 24, 2013  8:36pm

Saturday, November 23, 2013

863. Lan feng zheng/The Blue Kite (1993)

Running Time: 138 minutes
Directed By: Tian Zhuangzhuang
Written By: Xiao Mao
Main Cast: Lu Liping, Yi Tian, Zhang Wenyao, Chen Xiaoman, Zhong Ping


Man, I'd really like to know where THE BOOK came up with some of these movies. It really feels like they just pulled some of them out of thin air, in a feeble attempt to give their "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" a little class and culture.

I don't really want to get into a whole thing on the plot for two reasons: 1) Honestly, there were times when I was only half paying attention (see "Farewell My Concubine") and 2) The film deals a lot with the cultural revolution (again) and life under the reign of Chairman Mao. Therefore, I probably can't articulate all of those parallels quite right, so I don't even want to try. The good news is the film doesn't really delve as deep into history, as much as it just puts the focus onto a particular family and more specifically, a particular boy, Tietou, who is impacted by the changes in Chinese life. At a young age, Tietou's father is sent away, nominated by his colleagues while he was in the bathroom to be a rightist for the Communist Party. Tietou's father, frustrated over having to go away, spanks Tietou one day when he misbehaves. As a result, Tietou is still bitter with his father when he goes away. The film is split into three parts, with the first part entitled "Father", the second entitled "Uncle", in which Tietou's uncle (not real uncle, just one of those people you call "uncle") steps in as the new father figure and a third part entitled "Stepfather", where Tietou's mother remarries. Okay, so maybe I did go into detail on the plot, but I left out plenty.

Have you ever been in the process of short changing a movie and about halfway through you say, "Oh shit, I should've been paying better attention because this is getting better and now I've already deemed it boring"? Well, that, kind of, happened for me with "The Blue Kite". The film starts out extremely slow. It was also a quiet film, with actors delivering dialogue with their backs to the camera, lacking a real voice, one necessary in a film. Perhaps it was my recent struggles with "Farewell My Concubine" too, another film that dealt with the cultural revolution and covered many years worth of time, that caused me to be hesitant to settle into this one. However, like I said, after a while, I sort of started to perk up and while never getting swept off my feet by the movie, I did eventually settle into it and actually begin to care what the ultimate outcomes of the characters would be. It was really such a sad movie, one that could've benefited greatly from a more prevalent, emotional score and your heart really goes out to this family, that is impacted so much by the goings on of the government. I won't even go so far to say that it's good, but even if you've been scorned by other, slow moving Chinese movies that run over two hours, give this one a chance and you may get more out of it than you expect to. I guess that makes me guilty of cinematic profiling and it's a shame I watched this one so close to another film with similar thematic elements, or else I may not have been so cold toward it.

RATING: 4/10  Honestly though, as nice as I'm being, I think even if I'd given this film my all, I still don't think it would've been totally up my alley. However, I'm very willing to admit there's a great movie in there somewhere, that I just couldn't see. Oh and the significance of the blue kite? Anybody?


November 23, 2013  5:39pm

Thursday, November 21, 2013

833. The Rapture (1991)

Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Michael Tolkin
Written By: Michael Tolkin
Main Cast: Mimi Rogers, David Duchovny, Kimberly Cullum, Darwyn Carson, Patrick Bauchau
Click here to view the trailer


Man, I REALLY didn't want to get into a whole religious discussion, but this movie really gives me no other alternative. Pardon me if I step gingerly around the subject at hand and give generic opinions to the real bullet points of "The Rapture".

The film stars Mimi Rogers as Sharon, a swinging, single, telephone operator who is growing fed up of her boring, listless existence. Together with the extremely sleazy Vic (Bauchau), she goes to clubs and hot spots, in search of foursomes, where she and Vic pretend to be a couple and swap partners. One night, she meets Randy (Duchovny), who's sporting a wicked mullet, which may be why she kind of falls for him. Putting Randy on the back burner, we continue to watch Sharon's downward spiral and her turn toward Christianity, which comes when a couple of door to door religious apostles come knocking to tell her about the good word. After giving it some thought, she decides to ditch Vic, marry Randy and turn her life around, giving the bulk of her love to God and Jesus Christ. However, when Randy is murdered during a shooting at his workplace (via a disgruntled ex employee), Sharon begins to get visions that she's to meet God in the desert and await her ascent up to heaven, via the rapture. Sharon and her little girl Mary (Cullum) spend upwards of two weeks without food or any sort of appropriate shelter, in the desert, awaiting God, but he stands them up. When Mary begins begging to just die so that she can go reunite with her daddy, Sharon begins to consider this option.

Oy vey, where to begin, where to begin....How about I begin by telling you what a pile of crap this movie was? Yes, that's that ticket! I don't know if this was ever in theaters, but if it was, Tolkin should've been ashamed to present this epic mess on the big screen. What it DID resemble was one of those straight to video pieces of garbage, that used B-list actors and some harmless sexual situations to lure potential renters at the local Blockbuster. Apparently, what we have here is a director with a statement to make and therefore I'm forced to sit through a terribly boring plot and bad acting for 100 minutes of my life.


Look, I believe in God and Jesus Christ, but do I show up for church every Sunday morning? No. Do I pray over my pizza before woofing it down? No. Do I try to convert total strangers to believe what I believe and they too can be saved? No. I hate Bible banger people, who know no other lifestyle than to force their faith down your throat. I don't want to hear it, keep it to yourself; I'll do what I do, you do what you do. Therefore, I hated watching Mimi Rogers portray this holly roller, just the type of person that is so proud of their religion that they too must be committing sin just by being THAT up front about it. Then, toward the end, the Sharon character kills her daughter and turns her back on God, because so many bad things happened to her. And I'm supposed to be all "Yeah, you tell him Sharon, he totally messed up your life!"? Is that SUPPOSED to be my reaction? Yeah, God messed up this characters life, it couldn't have been the idiocy of the character - no, never....

Wow. I didn't mean to be THAT forceful with my thoughts. Look, I just didn't like it and that's that. I gave a few reasons and if you don't agree with my thoughts, just chill - because I know religion is a hot button issue and it's a hard thing to agree on. Chalk my dislike up to the cheap movie making and forget my religious disliking of it.

RATING: 3/10  Ummm a '1' and '2' seem too low, so that's my justification for a '3'. I suppose there are a few moments where time doesn't drag as much as others, but let's just suffice it to say that it's a bad movie.


November 21, 2013  5:42pm

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

832. La Belle Noiseuse/The Beautiful Troublemaker (1991)

Running Time: 237 minutes
Directed By: Jacques Rivette
Written By: Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette, from the novella Le Chef-d'Oeuvre Inconnu by Honore de Balzac
Main Cast: Michel Piccoli, Emmanuelle Beart, Jane Birkin, David Bursztein, Marianne Denicourt


Fellow Netflix members who are also interested in "La Belle Noiseuse", may have realized that the film is currently (and has been for some time) on a "very long wait", which is what prompted me to go hunting for this one and thankfully finding it uploaded to YouTube.

The plot isn't too hard to follow, considering the film is four hours long, directed by Jacques Rivette (see "Celine and Julie Go Boating") and French - the French sometimes have a way of leaving me with a perplexed look on my face, wondering what I've just witnessed. The film revolves around a painter named Frenhofer (Piccoli), who one evening has some admirers over to his house for dinner. The one who is most excited to dine with Frenhofer is Nicolas (Bursztein), a fellow painter and a big fan of Frenho' (which is what he is called by his wife). Also dining with Frenhofer and Nicolas is Marianne (Beart), Nicolas' girlfriend and Liz (Birkin), Frenhofer's wife, as well as another friend of Nicolas. Over the course of the evening, the conversation takes many directions, but eventually lands on La Belle Noiseuse - a painting that Frenhofer has never been able to capture on canvas, one that has plagued him for many years. Nicolas is encapsulated by the idea of such an elusive thought as La Belle Noiseuse that he offers up Marianne to Frenhofer as inspiration for La Belle Noiseuse, without her consent. That night, Nicolas tells Marianne of his offer and needless to say, she's pissed. However, the next morning before David awakes, Marianne sneaks out and goes to Frenhofer to begin modeling for him. After a while, David becomes jealous of the relationship that is developing between Frenhofer and Marianne - the powerful relationship between model and master.


I've honestly been sitting here for about five minutes just thinking - thinking about what I want to write and how I want to sum up this movie. As I sit, looking at my blank, white, cyber canvas, I can't help but be reminded of the Frenhofer character, as he took meticulous care to make sure his drawing table was just right, before dabbing his pen in the ink and starting to draw the first lines of Marianne's body. It makes you realize that art and expression exist in all forms - not just as paint brush on canvas or pen on paper, but sometimes even as words or even as a thought. The film to me was the ultimate portrayal of a painter's process. Look at the exhaustion and the agony that this character of Frenhofer went through as he struggled to create something that he didn't know if he could create. During the process, he questioned his own agility, knowing that he was an old man now and wondering if he'd lost the gift of being able to take on such a task. He forced himself to stare youth in the face and try to recreate something that would not impact him, but would impact the model upon it's completion.

According to a few pieces that I've read following my completion of this film, it seems to me that it was only Marianne who would know when the painting was finished and judging by the look on her face, Frenhofer would know whether or not he had succeeded or failed. The 'La Belle Noiseuse' was something that would show Marianne a different version of herself and probably change her in some way - what way, I do not know. In the end, Frenhofer buries the painting alive, hoping to someway protect Marianne. Notice the way the two look at each other at the end of the film, knowing that they spent a considerable amount of time in Frenhofer's studio and knowing they uncovered certain pieces about one another that no one else could ever see. Did the two have an affair? Not in the traditional sense, but I think Nicolas' fear of losing Marianne was totally justified, because he knew the power that this relationship had - the relations between the model and her sculptor. Yes, the two had a raucous affair, that went beyond the physical act of making love. This is evident throughout the film, in the growing fear that begins to exist and grow inside Liz. At first, she's totally fine with Marianne posing for Frenhofer, even convincing Nicolas to let her come back. Then, as the film goes on, she grows uneasy and scared, knowing that her youth has escaped her and that she no longer has what it takes to symbolize La Belle Noiseuse.

What is La Belle Noiseuse? I haven't a clue, but to me the whole idea just represents something that exists on canvas and is ever elusive - something that must be searched for and perhaps stumbled upon. Something that Frenhofer sees in Marianne, but didn't see in his own wife. Despite an easy blueprint, the film definitely makes you think and isn't a bit boring. Whether or not I've even slightly cracked the nail on the head, I do not know. However, I definitely have some thoughts and I like what I've come up with.

RATING: 7/10  I'll just stop there and let that speak for itself. I almost can't even justify the '7' rating, but I know, for the most part, I liked the film and the four hours was quite easy.


November 20, 2013  10:33pm

866. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: Stephan Elliott
Written By: Stephan Elliott
Main Cast: Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter, Sarah Chadwick
Click here to view the trailer

Note: As a follow-up to my little diatribe at the beginning of my "Thelma & Louise" post, I've decided to now ban comment posting from anonymous posters. I want to firstly apologize to any anonymous followers of mine who were playing by the rules. I know it sucks for you guys, but to make things a little tighter, I think this is the best way to go. Maybe someday I'll reopen the comment posting to everyone, but for now, hopefully signing up for a Gmail account isn't too much of a hassle for people who really want to make their comments heard. Although, I can't imagine anyone is THAT gung ho to leave a comment on my lowly, little blog. Now then...


Not only did P.J. Hogan blast the ABBA tunes in "Muriel's Wedding" (which also starred Bill Hunter), but that very same year Stephan Elliott went a little ABBA crazy, filling his film with chit chat about the Swedish pop, not to mention the finale number - "Mamma Mia".

ROAD TRIP! Yes, this is a road movie, but it has drag queens so it's kinda' set apart from all the other road flicks you and I may be used to. While there are a few main characters in the film, the true central character is Tick (Weaving), a Sydney based drag queen who, early in the film, gets a call from his ex-wife to perform at a hotel, located in a remote part of Australia. Tick hesitantly accepts the job, partly because it's time to confront old demons and offers an opportunity to two fellow drag queens to join him: Bernadette Basinger (Stamp) and Felicia Jollygoodfellow a.k.a. Adam (Pearce). Before the final arrangements on how to get there are made, Adam buys a bus, which the girls christen "Priscilla" and head out on the road, complete with suitcases full of shoes and recording of all their favorite hits, which they'll lip sync to during their act. Along the way, the girls become victims of hate, victims of a broken down bus and victims of each other, as the girls get in and out of spats daily. They also meet various characters along the way, including Bob (Hunter), a mechanic whom Bernadette falls for.

Not only do Aussie's love their ABBA, they also love Bill Hunter, as I've seen three Australian flicks in the past month and he's been in all of them. I've gotta' say I'm a big fan of the guy, although I will say I didn't care much for him here and Stamp, Weaving and Pearce were clearly the stars of this show. In my opinion, Bill Hunter is a tried & true villain and should never be cast as anything else. Anyway, while we're on the subject of cast, I can't deny the talents of our three stars. I can't even begin to express my shock at the fact that Terence Stamp played a drag queen. I had no idea he was in this and it wasn't until I saw his name cross the screen, that I realized 1) he was a main character and 2) my God, was he going to be a transsexual? Yep, he sure was! That alone automatically makes this a must see. Kudos to Hugo Weaving too, who carves out his path to Hollywood with his portrayal of Tick - letting La La Land know that he has what it takes to land two of the biggest trilogies they've ever produced (The Matrix and LOTR). Even bigger kudos to Pearce, who, perhaps, plays a woman better than he plays a man and again, Hollywood takes notice. I'll tell you this, if smiling is important to you then see this movie now, because I smiled dozens of times and there were big chunks were you couldn't wipe the smile off of my face with mom's dish rag. Scenes to look out for include basically all of the musical numbers, including "Finally" (my personal favorite), "Mamma Mia" and "Shake Your Groove Thing".


On the other hand, while the film made me smile immensely, it also played out very predictable and the only real, lasting appeal is 1) the cult personality of the whole thing: the garb, the songs, the costumes, the over the top nature of it all and 2) seeing Stamp in drag. The film doesn't really worry about putting too much stake in it's plot and worries more about things like choreography and costume design, knowing where it's successes lie. Therefore, everything plot wise is pretty cookie cutter stuff. It's a film that IS a LOT of fun, but in the end, you realize that fun doesn't equal quality filmmaking and you acknowledge that. It's something I'd gladly watch again, while probably never quoting it as a favorite or anything. It just sort of left me with that *meh* feeling, again, despite all the smiles. To put it a better way: This film's fun exists in 5 - 10 minute moments and then we're left to trudge through a lot more average movie making until we get to another 5 - 10 minutes of fabulousness. Had they added about five or six more musical numbers and totally abandoned trying to establish any sort of plot, I think I'd have enjoyed it loads more. As it is, we're left with plot points that never get cleared up - ie. the never budding romance between Bob and Bernadette and likewise, there is a hinted at romance between Tick and Adam that is never explored or cemented.

RATING: 6/10  Tough one to rate, because I DID enjoy parts of it so much, while never really loving it as a whole.


November 20, 2013  12:02am

Sunday, November 17, 2013

835. Thelma & Louise (1991)

Running Time: 129 minutes
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Callie Khouri
Main Cast: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald
Click here to view the trailer

Note: Here's the deal guys: I am not a movie critic! I say this because 1) it's true and 2) because I think some people out there think that I'm here, on this blog, trying to be the second coming of Roger Ebert and that couldn't be further from the truth. The reason I say this is because I've recently gotten a couple of bitchy comments submitted, from people (or actually I think it's one person) who seems to be really taking my opinions or comprehensions of movies to heart. First of all, if you're such a destructive personality that you take the time to not only read something that you dislike, but then turn around and take the time to make a nasty comment about it, I pity you. Realize people that OPINIONS are not facts and that just because I don't like your favorite movie doesn't mean the world is going to end, I promise. I say I'm not movie critic because this was never meant to be anything professional. This blog was only ever meant to be a diary, for me personally, to track the movies that I watched so that maybe I could remember them a little better years from now and why I thought what I did. I think it's awesome that a few of you have taken that personal diary and made it mean a little more, by reading what I've written, by leaving comments and by, maybe, taking my suggestions. I like movies. I grew up in a world filled with video stores where you could go and you could look at a wall with hundreds of choices and pick the ones that appealed to you. I've worked in three video stores and I'm proud of my taste in film. SO...before I get too winded here: to the persons (or person) who saw fit to come and leave comments that I didn't even care to finish, I say this: Relax. Next time you want to leave a comment that doesn't add positive discussion to the blog and only serves the purpose of making you look like a jerk, don't. Because 1) They will not be published and 2) You won't change my opinion or my comprehension (or lack thereof) of a film. Of course, maybe I should be flattered. I mean, if you're going to get THAT upset over something I wrote, then maybe you really do value my opinion. Is there a "thank you" that I'm forgetting to dish out? Seriously people, it would be different if I was posting this stuff on IMDB or some other open forum, but you're coming to my little corner, my little home base on the internet and your asshole attitude won't be tolerated, nor will it impact what I write. Now then....


So my wife has been hounding me for LITERALLY years about when I was going to watch "Thelma & Louise". Every time she'd mention, I'd tell her we'd get and then it would slip my mind and it wouldn't come up again for a while. Well, last night I finally got around to sitting down with her and giving this one a go - and not for the first time.

I have a hard time believing you guys & girls haven't seen or at least heard of "Thelma & Louise", but I'm a stickler for a little plot detailing before I get into the opinion sections, so lets go over the meat & potatoes of T&L. First you'll need to know Susan Sarandon is Louise and Geena Davis is Thelma. The two are best girlfriends and the film kicks off on a Friday, when Louise plans to take Thelma for a weekend away in the mountains - an all girl, weekend getaway. Louise plans for Thelma to run the news by her overbearing, controlling husband, Darryl (McDonald), but knowing he'll forbid it, she decides to skip the permission talk and just jet with luggage in tow. On the road, the girls stop by a small town bar for a drink and a bathroom break and get henpecked by Harlan, a local yokel, redneck who wants to dance with Thelma. However, Harlan's fun doesn't end on the dance floor, as he sees Thelma to her car and tries to get a little frisky. When Thelma cuts him off at the pass, Harlan gets a little cross and a would be rape is cut short by a gun toting Louise. The girls get away, but when Harlan makes one last snide comment, Louise flies off the handle and blows him away, killing him. Now the two gals are on the run, with next to no cash and a lot of land between them and Mexico - which is where they plan to hideout.

Oh I suppose that should just about do it for plot synopsis. My wife had actually seen "Thelma & Louise" multiple times prior to last night's viewing and only wanted to watch it because she liked it so much. After her latest showing last night, she's actually lowered her opinion of the movie, citing it as "too long" and a "bit too boring". I can't say I disagree with her, as T&L could've benefited greatly had they somehow been able to shave off about thirty minutes or else beefed up the plot a little bit, to justify a running time of over two hours. At times, I got the feeling that we were just killing time until we got to the next hurdle and all the stuff with Brad Pitt (as good as he was) and the stuff with the obscene truck driver, just seemed tacked on to give the film a few more "hoot & holler" moments. On a more serious note though, what the hell happened to Geena Davis? She was decent here - I mean she was no Susan Sarandon, but she turned in a fine performance - and she was certainly attractive enough. It seems like she may have taken a wrong turn somewhere and fell off the face of the Earth. I suppose I could go to Wikipedia or IMDB and just look it up, but I find it more fun to ask it here and have (probably) no one answer me.

Anyway, the film isn't all bad, that's for sure. The cast choices, for the most part, aren't bad, as you've got Susan Sarandon becoming a hero to women everywhere and Christopher McDonald tearing it up in a supporting role. I'd say that Harvey Keitel may be the oddest cast choice, as he seemed to more resemble a fish out of water, as opposed to a "Thelma & Louise" cast member. He was just sort of there and perhaps just as confused as the audience as to why he was onset. I mean, I realize he was the cop and his role was important, but...I don't know, he just seemed miscast. Likewise for Michael Madsen. If you're watching this for the first or even the second time, it may hold up just fine and provide you with a perfectly enjoyable night at the movies. But beware, it doesn't hold up against multiple viewings and after about ninety minutes or so, you may be the one wanting to drive over the Grand Canyon.

RATING: 5.5/10  That's about as good as it gets for T&L. I really expected this one to hold up too and be a contender for the next TOP 20. Oh well...


November 17, 2013  10:31pm

Sins of Omission - Entry #94: ZODIAC (2007)

Running Time: 157 minutes Directed By: David Fincher  Written By: James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Robert Graysmith Main Cast : Jake...