Thursday, November 27, 2014

703. De vierde man/The Fourth Man (1983)

Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven
Written By: Gerard Soeteman, from novel by Gerard Reve
Main Cast: Jeroen Krabbe, Renee Soutendijk, Thom Hoffman, Dolf de Vries
Click here to view the trailer


T minus about two hours before I brave the roaring crowds of the Black Friday sales. Truth be told, it's one of the most boring days of the year for a retail man, as most of the day will consist of me just standing around, waiting for the shoppers to arrive. A blessing and a curse and altogether, something I'd rather just skip. Anyway, after writing the Soldier of Orange review last night, I went on to stay up longer than I have in months and watch The Fourth Man, wrapping up the three film salute to Paul Verhoeven.

I forgot to mention the fantastic cinematography that was on display in The Fourth Man, so I'll do it in the form of picture captions. Here is one of Gerard's many premonitions, as he dreams about a man covered in blood and missing an eye rising up out of the ocean.

The film stars Jeroen Krabbe as Gerard Reve, a bisexual, alcoholic novelist who travels out of Amsterdam to deliver a lecture, at a university. Upon arriving, Reve meets Christine Halslag (Soutendijk), who dawns a red dress & a video camera and seduces Reve all the way back to her apartment, which doubles as a hair salon. It's clear at this point that Reve is dependent on alcohol to keep him functioning and it's also clear that Reve has premonitions about the future, as he sees odd signs everywhere - envisioning blood, spiders and even the Virgin Mary - which mostly come in his dreams. Anyway, the two engage in a night of passion and when they awake the next day and Gerard makes note of his intentions to return to Amsterdam, Christine is clearly upset, wanting him to stay. Gerard refuses, that is until he sees a picture of Christine's other boy toy Herman, whom he becomes incredibly attracted to in an instant, gawking at his picture as if it were a Marilyn Monroe pinup. He tells Christine he will stay and subsequently convinces her to have Herman visit, so that he can meet the boy. Christine agrees, leaving Gerard for a period of time, while she goes and picks him up. During her absence Gerard discovers that Christine has been married three times previous as opposed to the one time previous that she's told him about. During a drunken spell, he wonders why Christine has lied to him about this and begins to develop conspiracy theories about her past, all the while trying to write his next great novel and dealing with the premonitions.


I actually screen grabbed this one right off the copy of the movie that I watched, because I loved the shot so much. Seriously, I am a sucker for a row of trees on film! (See "The Third Man")

Love, love, love Verhoeven's use of mirrors, both here and in Turkish Delight. It's no wonder the guy loves throwing in sex scenes as he knows just how to film them to perfection.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, but The Fourth Man also showed me what a fine line a film can walk between being very good and being very bad. There were certain things in here that bordered on being too silly, but just slipped by and worked well. I loved the acting of Jeroen Krabbe, yet a less skilled actor could have and definitely would have dragged down the whole production. I'd say the same thing for Renee Soutendijk, however, I wouldn't laud her acting skill so much as I'd laud her looks - she looked absolutely fantastic, encompassing sexy and scary and using both looks to the film's advantage. In a less skilled director's hands the film probably would have flopped and may have been interpreted with more horror and come off as a gore fest, while Verhoeven mixed horror and thriller well, keeping us attached to the characters and wondering about the mystery of the whole thing and what all the symbols would turn out to mean. This is a film that I've looked forward to for a very long time and one that I may have subconsciously saved for a rainy day, knowing I'd like it. Don't ask me how I knew (perhaps THE BOOK describing it as "Hitchcock like" may have helped, although now that I've seen it, I'd mostly disagree with that likening). I intentionally scheduled the Verhoeven films here, as I needed something to spice up the season and sort of relied on The Fourth Man to sort of get me out of a slump. Little did I know that it would actually be Turkish Delight that would be the slump buster.

The use of the color red is prominent, from Christine's dress the buckets of blood that were used. Here Gerard walks down a street covered in rose petals. Quite the visual!

Okay, so how did Gerard know that all of Christine's husbands were killed? The home movies he watched didn't show their deaths and the only one that Christine actually discussed with him was the drowning. Okay, I guess she also said that Josef (was that his name, I know it started with a "J") died in a tragic accident and then later said that her husband died drowning, so you could technically say he knew that two had died. But how did he know that the third was dead and that Christine didn't just divorce him? Was this him simply using his premonitions and the vision of seeing three carcasses dripping blood as a way of knowing that three of her previous beau's were no more? So clearly there may be a few plot holes, but the whole atmosphere of the movie is both scary and sexy and it's really hard to discount the effects of this one. I'd recommend this, but go in cautious, as it may not be for everyone and could easily be interpreted as silly. On the bright side, if you're one who likes dissecting your movies, ripping them apart, turning them over and over and trying to theorize, this one's for you, plus it has a pretty good plot and fine acting from it's main man. Easy thumbs up from me.

RATING: 7.5/10  I'd say '7.5' leaning more toward '7' than toward '8', but still a fine film and another candidate from the TOP 20, which is quickly approaching.


November 27, 2014  11:49am
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

630. Soldaat van Oranje/Soldier of Orange (1977)

Running Time: 167 minutes
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven
Written By: Kees Holierhoek, Gerard Soeteman, Paul Verhoeven, from the book Soldaat van Oranje '40 - '45 by Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema
Main Cast: Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbe, Susan Penhaligon, Edward Fox, Lex van Delden
Click here to view the trailer


Been a busy and (sometimes) frustrating week for yours truly. Being the manager of a grocery store on the week of Thanksgiving isn't fun, add to that the fact that Black Friday is tomorrow and since I'm a Wal-Mart supervisor, I'm stuck in the middle of all that hullabaloo. However, we're now at the calm before the storm, I've just returned from a night out of celebrating Thanksgiving with my family and I'm ready to relax before I'm mauled by hundreds of blood thirsty shoppers, hoping to save a few bucks. It won't be unlike the chaos that a group of college age Dutch faced during the trying times of World War II, trying to survive in a Nazi occupied country (okay, it will be nothing like that, but get a load of that segue!).

The films main star is Verhoeven favorite Rutger Hauer as Erik Lanshof, who upon the movie's opening undergoes the humiliation of being initiated into a fraternity. After a bowl of soup is poured over his head and he's injured by the bowl, the instigator, Guus (Krabbe), comes to apologize a few days later and the two end up as close friends. From there, war is declared and the students are almost excited by the prospect of living in war torn times. However, the excitement and uncaring soon turn to worry and fright, as Erik and his buds realize that being unaffected by the war isn't an option. One of the group, Robby, arranges for Erik and their Jewish friend Jan to escape the now Nazi occupied country and flee to London via plane. During the pickup, however, the group is ambushed by Nazi officers - Erik escapes, but Jan is captured. He is taken back to Nazi headquarters and tortured, where he proves to be anything but weak willed when he refuses to utter the name of the Londoner who arranged for their escape. Jan is eventually killed and Erik is eventually captured. I'll spare you the rest of the details and suffice it to say that the group weave in and out of one another's lives, meeting up and losing touch as the film hurtles toward it's conclusion.

Boy, I just couldn't settle into this one as well as I settled into Turkish Delight, that's for sure. I was really hoping Paul Verhoeven would be my next great director discovery from THE BOOK, but this film didn't do anything to strengthen my opinion of his work. I still consider him a fine filmmaker, but my hopes of finding very few flaws in his work went out the window with this war epic that did nothing for me. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm incredibly sick of WWII tales and this only added to my boredom on the subject. I'm usually more receptive when it comes to Nazi stories, but even that was lost on me here. I will say that the score was superb, as was Hauer's performance (man, I was really missing the boat by being completely ignorant to this guy's work, wasn't I?) and the production grand, but by the time this was over, I was more than ready to call it a day and "earn my tick", as Ray would say. I went in really, really wanting to like this one, hoping this could be one of those few war flicks that kept my attention (see Saving Private Ryan), but ultimately it was not unlike the rest and while I could certainly see someone easily liking this one, it's one that can very well be chalked up as a "not for me" picture - simple as that. And honestly, I probably could've been a bit more receptive, as by the halfway mark, I'd pretty much given up trying to find pros and was focused more on the cons. So I'll take three fourths of the blame for not liking this one and pin the rest on Turkish Delight being so good that it raised my standards too high for this second, more inferior Verhoeven feature from the hat trick (third if you count the great Total Recall, which I watched last year). That's about all there is to it, as sometimes just one paragraph is needed to sum up my thoughts and my rating can put it more precisely...

RATING: 4.5/10  I'll give it notches for the production, the acting & the score and the fact that it held my attention somewhat in the first half, but ultimately a thumbs down for me.


November 26, 2014  11:07pm

Thursday, November 20, 2014

572. Turks fruit/Turkish Delight (1973)

Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven
Written By: Gerard Soeteman, from the novel Turks Fruit by Jan Wolkers
Main Cast: Rutger Hauer, Monique van de Ven, Tonny Huurdeman, Wim van den Brink, Dolf de Vries

Note: I don't have a whole lot of time to play with tonight, but I just couldn't sit down to write tonight without mentioning the passing of Mike Nichols - let alone sitting down to write a movie review. I was a big fan of Nichols and he's certainly a director that's been on my radar long before my delving into the 1001 Movies BOOK. I saw Closer on the recommendation of no one in 2004, when it was released on DVD and fell in love with it instantly. I remember going and seeking out Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate and even blind buying Angels In America (though I never watched it and later sold it) not long after and telling myself that the name Mike Nichols needed to be kept fresh in my mind.Thoughts and prayers to his family. Such a huge loss to the world of cinema...


On to more pleasant business as I kick off my final director tribute of the season with a three film tip of the hat to Paul Verhoeven, as I polish off his other three movies from THE BOOK (I've already watched Total Recall, last November). I'll be doing them chronologically, so first up is his 1973 offering and a film that, in 1999, was named the Best Dutch Film of the Century - Turkish Delight.

I love this shot, as it gives you a real "what the hell" thought process, especially if you see it before seeing the movie.

The film starts by introducing us to Eric Vonk (Hauer), a sexually promiscuous, towhead artist who fancies collecting explicit souvenirs from his female partners. Within the span of the first five or so minutes of the film, we see Vonk bed down with various different women, a man whore on the rise for sure. Suddenly, we flash back two years to just before Eric met Olga Stapels (van de Ven), the barely legal, yet incredibly sexy woman that picks up Eric as he's hitchhiking. The two "intermingle" almost immediately in the car and moments later, Olga crashes into a tree, bloodying herself up pretty badly. Eric flags down help and we flash forward a month or so into the future. Now, Eric is trying desperately to get in touch with Olga, to no avail. He has her address, but she lives with her parents and they refuse to let him see her. Eventually he gets around them and whisks Olga away, ultimately marrying her. From here it's basically a series of vignettes as we work our way back to present day and the current Eric who is without Olga and with MANY others. We see various scenes of the enviable couple, including scenes of them building sand castles on the beach, a scene where they try to have sex but are constantly interrupted and a scene where Olga thinks she may have bowel cancer, only to be reassured by Eric. Their relationship takes the normal twists & turns of any relationship: good times, bad times, broken hearts, tears and ultimately....well, you'll see...


The rain scene that I loved so much and perhaps Verhoeven's little hat tip to Gene Kelly?

First of all, if full frontal nudity and sexually explicit dialogue are too much for you, then you may want to skip Turks Fruit and go for something a bit more wholesome. Of course, if you're reading pas the SPOILER ALERT line, I guess it's too late to warn you. In fact, I applaud Verhoeven for intertwining such a beautiful love story with such an aggressive sexual experience for the audience. It was a union that surely wasn't easy and probably didn't come without flack from certain circles and critics. I love how, when dissected, the film doesn't even seem to be cut from the same cloth. If one were to watch the first half of this movie, throw down their prude card and walk out, they'd probably be shocked to be told how it all ended and that this movie actually, at times, reminded me of something straight out of Nicholas Sparks' typewriter. Was it just me or did the film also tend to resemble Luis Bunel's work? And while you can make comparisons to other filmmaker's and authors, the film was, at the same time, wholly original, beautiful, cringe worthy, heartbreaking and hilarious all at the same time. In other words...such a good movie.

I've noticed lately that it's rare that a film will make me genuinely smile. Not laugh, but smile. I found myself, however, grinning ear to ear at certain scenes between Eric and Olga. It so much reminded me of a real relationship and that's what made it all the more hard when it came time for the ending. Notice how the character of Olga changes just slightly throughout the film, proving that we're seeing things through Eric's eyes (this is also established early on, when we're shown a fantasy sequence of Eric killing Olga and her new lover, without knowing right away that it is indeed a fantasy sequence). From the time they meet until their marriage, Olga is coy and allruing, sexy at all times no matter what. After the wedding bells, she begins to get a bit naggy, more childish even. And in the end, when she's facing death, she wants only Eric, her one true love. Anyway, I genuinely smiled throughout the film: the beach scene, when Eric is legitimately picking on Olga, but ultimately caves and embraces her, the two sharing a fire side cuddle. Or when they drink wine in the pouring rain, only for that moment to end abruptly as Olga is invited to a party and Eric is left alone. I felt a glimpse of what I'd feel if it were my own wife being called away during a tender moment: a sense of jealousy for the party goers who'll get to share her company instead of me.

I TRY to avoid putting pictures depicting nudity or sex on the blog, but this was EASILY the best shot in the movie and one I liked so much that I put the movie on my computer and did a screen grab, just so I could display it here.

The ending is incredibly sad, as Eric plays the Shirley MacLaine to Olga's Debra Winger and we have to remind ourselves that movies are fiction and that this loss is only make believe. The film makes the viewer run the gamut of emotions, finally setting us free in the end, much like Eric's pet pigeon. I wondered when the film started if this was just going to be the stringing together of one bare ass to the next, but I quickly realized that there was actually a means to an end for all the sexual stuff and finally, I didn't mind it whatsoever. It showed that all relationships begin with a physical, animal like attraction and one time in a million the animal instincts are trumped in favor of real, human emotions. Eric slept around with a dozen women in an effort to find his next Olga, yet soon realized that these situations only tend to occur once in a lifetime and ultimately he was lead back to his true love, yet unfortunately it was as her caretaker, by her bedside.

In conclusion, this was great and I'm left realizing that the name Rutger Hauer, someone who only two days ago I knew only as an actor with a funny name, will now mean something to me. It makes me wonder of all the other celebrities names I've heard only and how many of those I'll someday be able to connect to a personal experience. Now when I hear that name, it won't be just a funny sounding one, but will also come with the memory of this fantastic piece of cinema, a movie that I won't soon forget. It's hard to find, but I promise it's worth the hunt and please, do your best to not give up on it after the first thirty minutes.

RATING: 10/10  Only the second '10/10' given all season, although the first was "Cuckoo's Nest" and that was getting a '10' regardless, as it was an old time favorite. I've been waiting for something this good to come along and here's hoping "Soldier of Orange" and "The Fourth Man" are just as good.


November 20, 2014  9:50pm

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #11: Home Alone (1990)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Chris Columbus
Written By: John Hughes
Main Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, Roberts Blossom
Click here to view the trailer

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


I realize it's a bit early to be talking about Christmas trees and mistletoes when we haven't even gotten out of the turkey & stuffing season, but my blog, my rules so get on your Santa hats. I work in retail which means the next couple weeks are going to be rough going, but that didn't stop me from taking a small break from THE BOOK to check out my all time favorite Christmas flick - Home Alone and giving it a proper SINS OF OMISSION style review.

The McCallister's, all fifteen of them (including eleven children and four adults), are getting ready for a vacation to Paris, France as this 1990 comedy penned by John Hughes opens. It's about a week before Christmas and the house is in disarray: people running around like crazy, a pizza man waiting for $122.50 (plus tip) for the delivery of the McCallister's dinner and a police officer waiting to speak to an adult, making sure that the neighborhood is on guard for burglars this holiday season. Kevin McCallister (Culkin), Peter (John Heard) and Kate's (O'Hara) eight-year-old son is being a bit of nuisance and when he majorly disrupts dinner, he's sent to his room to think about what he's done. Except it's not his usual room. Because of all the extra guests (cousins, aunts, uncles) he's going to be spending this night sleeping in the attic, with his prone to wet the bed cousin. That night, high winds cause the power and phones to be knocked out and what was supposed to be an 8am wake-up is seriously overdue, as the alarm doesn't go off. The McCallister's rush around and somehow make it to the airport just in time to board their flight to Paris. Whooo - what a relief! The problem? They forgot about the punished Kevin, who was banished to sleep in the attic for the night! Uh oh! Now eight-year-old Kevin McCallister is home alone (hence the title) and just in time for the spike in the rate, which sees more people being robbed around the holiday season. Enter Harry (Pesci) and Marv (Stern), two cat burglars who call themselves the "Wet Bandits" and plan to rob the McCallister home. Meanwhile, Kevin is under the assumption that a wish he made that his family all disappear is the reason that he's spending the days leading up to Christmas alone.

The reason I'm talking about Home Alone on November 19th, instead of say December 19th (where it may be a bit closer to the appropriate time frame) can't all be chalked up to "my blog, my rules", but instead because of a very vivid memory that I have of watching this movie one Thanksgiving night, many years ago. I remember we had spent the day at my Grandma's house, a tradition for many years that we had on not only Thanksgiving, but also Christmas and Easter as well. We'd watch the parade at home, then head to Grandma's for a big dinner and then a lot of sitting around (a.k.a. visiting, which when you're a kid is called sitting around - boring, plan 'ol sitting around). Finally, just before it got dark, my parents would breakdown and say something like "get your coats, it's about that time" and we'd FINALLY go home. Anyway, I can remember watching this later in the evening, probably an eight o'clock showing on NBC, sitting in a chair, low lights, my Dad watching it with me. Every time a commercial cut in, I'd see advertisements for Black Friday sales (something I sort of always wanted to participate in when I was younger, but something my parents had no desire to do). Don't ask me why, but it's always THAT viewing of this film that I cite as being my most memorable. It wasn't the first time I'd seen the movie and it certainly wasn't the last. I guess, Thanksgiving night was always the kick off to Christmas, both when you're a little kid and in the media and popular culture as well. It's when you realize that THAT DAY is only a few more weeks away and those first wonderings of what's going to be waiting for you under the tree start to blossom. I still enjoy Christmas, but it's never as fun as when you're a kid...NEVER.

Anyway, the movie's always been a big favorite of mine and everything about it screams Christmas to me. Whenever I hear that score, I immediately am transported back to being a kid and hearing it then. All of the Christmas songs that are included are the quintessential Christmas songs to me: the Grinch theme, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas as sung by Mel Torme or Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee - they're all some of my favorite holiday tunes and they're all featured here to maximum effect. Also, miraculously, this is one of the very few films starring a kid that I can tolerate. Long time readers of the blog know that I hate children in leading roles, but Culkin is great here, doing most of the scenes alone at that. I mean, sure you have the great Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern to balance it out, but the kid is really the one in the spotlight. And then you have that great big climax with the crooks going through Kevin's fun house - a climax that was hilarious when I was a kid and is still hilarious to this day, as a thirty-year-old.

This film is EASILY my favorite Christmas movie. Sure, there's A Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life, but I discovered both of those later in life. There's something to be said for growing up with a particular movie, be it this one or anything. I've been sitting aside some other films to be possible SINS OF OMISSION candidates and I'm noticing that a lot of them are films that I discovered at a young age, saw a gazillion times and have always felt comfortable with. I like what I like now, but I can't deny my roots, dammit! I'm talking about films like Home Alone, Tremors (the one horror movie that I could watch as a kid and NOT get nightmares) and Trading Places. When I was a kid, I didn't like the classics - I couldn't get into The Godfather or snooty foreign films, but I still liked movies and a lot of them are harmless fun ones, like this one. There's really not much else to say. Home Alone is a personal favorite of mine that always makes me feel nostalgic and really reminds me of Christmas, more than any other movie and just as much as seeing a lit up Christmas tree or a box of red & white canes. It's harmless fun and dammit, it's a quality picture.

RATING: 9/10  Can't go whole hog or anything, just in good conscience, but it's a fine film and one that I plan to watch every Christmas until I'm a decrepit old man.

November 19, 2014  11:45am

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

731. The Quiet Earth (1985)

Running Time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Geoff Murphy
Written By: Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence, Sam Pillsbury, from novel by Craig Harrison
Main Cast: Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge, Pete Smith
Click here to view the trailer


Had I remembered that Geoff Murphy was also the director of Utu, another film I watched for THE BOOK and one I loathed, I probably would've been a lot less excited to check this one out. As it was, I didn't recall the name until I typed it in as a tag on the blog and my history remembered it. I had to track this one down online, as Netflix had recently moved it to the "save" section of their site, meaning it's "temporarily" unavailable.

For the unaware, The Quiet Earth is a post apocalyptic survival story (four words that usually make me sit up and take notice). One morning, scientist Zac Hobson (Lawrence) awakens at 6:12 and at first, nothing is out of the ordinary. A dream jarred him awake, one where the sun seemingly exploded. A quick peek through his venetian blinds and he's reassured that the sun is still in the sky, business as usual. He turns on the radio, only to hear white noise and gives a quick call to the operator, only to be met with constant ringing, no pickup. He starts to panic a bit, getting dressed and leaving his apartment, he notices that there's no one in the streets, no one...anywhere. He goes to his lab and it's revealed that Zac was part of something called Project Flashlight and all we need to know is that something went wrong with the project and now Zac is seemingly alone on Earth. He tries hard to find other signs of life, sending out a repeated radio broadcast that states his name, phone number and address, prompting anyone listening to stop by or call him. He paints his information on billboards and goes through the streets making noise, hoping someone will stir. All to no avail. Zac begins to go mad, dressing in a ladies slip and staging a presidential address, declaring himself to now be the president of the world, by default. He regains his bearings just in time to meet up with Joanne (Routledge), a redhead whom he embraces while she's still a stranger. The two are more than happy to see one another and make it their mission to find other survivors, which they do - in the form of Api (Smith). From here, the plot gets a little more involved and actually takes a slight nose dive, but this picture is well worth your time.


I barely looked at anything regarding this film: a quick jump to IMDB to rate it and a visit to ICheckMovies to check it and still I happened into a one or two comments from people saying that they were enjoying this movie right up until the point that Joanne was introduced. I can totally see that point of view and in a way, I wish we could've kept it to just us and Bruno Lawrence. I find that when new characters are introduced after the audience has spent significant time with only one main character, the audience can take it as an intrusion, as we've already begun to form a bond with that one character. I definitely took Joanne's intro as an intrusion and just when I got used to her, I even moreso took Api's intro as an even greater intrusion on the threesome I was having with Bruno Lawrence and Alison Routledge (that sounded way more gross than I intended). However, what would our endgame have been with just Zac? Furthermore, was the endgame that involved the three of them exciting enough? Let me tell you how I think things should've went down...

So we're told that the reason Zac, Joanne and Api survived the "effect" was because at the exact moment that it occurred, they were all in the moment of their own death. Later, not long after they figure that out, Zac figures that the effect is going to happen again. Okay, so since they know why they survived and since they know that it's going to happen again, here's how I saw the end going. They realize that in order to survive again, they'll have to kill themselves. Zac figures that the second effect will take place at 6:12 on a precise morning, so the trio plan to commit suicide at that exact moment. Then you could still have your open ended ending with the three of them walking down the beach, not really realizing if they've died or lived, succeeded or failed. Instead, they wrap the three of them in a love triangle and it gets a bit confusing. Did Joanne and Api know one another before they even met Zac? It all got a little dull for about thirty minutes there and I have to say, I just wasn't that crazy about the ending with Zac driving the explosives truck into the lab.

Anyway, this one held my attention pretty well though outside of those nitpicky things and even that thirty or so dull minutes, which was more than a minor nitpick really. I will say that the concept is completely original to me, despite a few minor plot holes (or maybe there weren't plot holes, it's a lot of information to process and at times it just feels a little too unbelievable). The whole last man on Earth, post apocalypse, trying to survive thing is always a synopsis that interests me and while I think I'd would've have preferred something a little less intricate and with one or two less characters, this was always entertaining, interesting and intriguing. It's also a breath of fresh air in a season of movies that have mostly been hard to sit through. I'll definitely be remembering this one come TOP 20 time and thanking THE BOOK for a discovery that I'd have never made on my own.

RATING: 7.5/10  While "Tokyo Olympiad" was closer to the '7' mark with it's '7.5', I'd say that this one was nearing closer to '8' territory with it's same rating. Good stuff here and a recommendation.


November 18, 2014  8:46pm

435. Tokyo Orimpikku/Tokyo Olympiad (1965)

Running Time: 170 minutes
Directed By: Kon Ichikawa
Written By: Kon Ichikawa, Yoshio Shirasaka, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Natto Wada
Main Cast: Abebe Bikila, Jack Douglas


It was back in February of 2010 when I came to this blog and gushed about Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia. Thinking back, it was probably one of the first reviews I did that didn't make me cringe upon re-reading it and remembering the film, it was one of the first documentaries that I really took a shine to. Anyway, Tokyo Olympiad follows nearly the exact same format, instead focusing on the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Plot synopsis really doesn't exist with documentary, does it? However, I'll go over the particulars with you of what you'll see and then we'll get into some quick thoughts before wrapping up and moving along. As with any Olympic games, it all starts with the opening ceremonies and the welcoming of 93 competing countries to the Land of the Rising Sun. It's quite the spectacle watching all of these countries parade around in the main stadium and get a load of those cowboy hats on the Americans - I suspect someone lost a vote to Texas? From there, we get into the games themselves: shot put, pole vaulting, long jumping, running, crossing hurtles and various throwing events (javelin and hammer throwing) make up the first half of the film. All gloriously shot by Ichikawa, who focused more on the artistic integrity of his finished product, rather than the actual competitions themselves. Like Riefenstahl's Olympia twenty seven years earlier, athletes tend to resemble moving works of art, as they flow through the air in events like the pole vault or even the gymnastic events. Spectacularly sculpted human bodies, the finest of athletes competing for grandeur on display here for the purposes of artistry as opposed to sportsmanship. We round out the whole thing with a marathon run won by Abebe Bikila who runs BAREFOOT! The shots of the runner's blistered feet as two plus hour event came to a close were cringe worthy.

This is how I like my Olympics, thank you very much. I've always been sort of fascinated with the concept of the Olympic games: a series of sporting events, the origins of which can be traced back hundreds of years, with even the modern games being over one century old, with competitors from all over the world converging on one major city every four years to see who is the best. I mean, doesn't that just sound great?! However, watching them as they air on television proves more difficult for this reviewer, as I've never been much of a sports guy. Oh I can handle certain events (volleyball comes to mind as a fun one to catch live), but ultimately it's never been something I can completely get behind. However, Ichikawa's 1965 documentary I'm left wishing that every Olympics could be directed by him and transformed into a beautiful amalgamation of art and sports. I know it sounds like three hours worth of watching people run, jump, swim, fence and shoot would be boring, but it's the exact opposite and don't ask me why, but I'm always left thinking I could've watched even more (with both this and Riefenstahl's film). Seriously though, if they had a series of these on DVD, where you could watch every Olympics like this, I'd totally buy into that and check them all out. Think about it, you cut out all the boring stuff, you bring in someone who knows how to accentuate actions, movement and the human form (like a movie director) and you get about three hours of the opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies and all of the breath taking moments in between, including comprehensive showing of the winners and their gold medal acceptance.

Keep an eye out for that walking race, as the music turns from smooth, classic jazz to something out of a Three Stooges montage and it's obvious that this event was even being snickered at by the director, who obviously had high respect for these events otherwise. The rules are you can only have one foot off the ground at a time and we're left with a bunch of really tired looking guys, who are making themselves look a lot older and a lot more foolish than they probably actually are. Other key events to keep your eyes peeled for are the gymnastic and pole vaulting events, simply for artistic purposes and the final marathon is one big salute to sportsmanship, competition and what the games are really all about. 

RATING: 7.5/10  I went '10' for Riefenstahl's vision of the 1936 Berlin games, but that was probably way too generous. As much as I really liked this, I can't justify giving it anymore than a solid '7.5', which is nothing to sneeze at.


November 18, 2014  4:13pm


Saturday, November 15, 2014

271. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Donen
Written By: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Dorothy Kingsley, from the story The Sobbin' Women by Stephen Vincent Benet
Main Cast: Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Russ Tamblyn, Jeff Richards, Matt Mattox
Click here to view the trailer


So we go from an underground, almost softcore pornography in Pink Flamingos to the cute, lively and 100% sexist film from the 50s, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. You couldn't get two different movies and yet, I disliked them both.

It all begins with Adam Pontipee (Keel, who looks like a cross between Ron Burgundy and the Brawny paper towel man) going into town to buy some supplies and noting that he's also looking for a bride. The shopkeepers basically tell him to get lost, saying that there are no brides to be in the town. Adam is persistent though, so he goes through town singing a song and finally lands at the doorstep of a cute blonde named Milly (Powell). He introduces himself to her, talks to her for all of two minutes and somehow convinces her to marry him in that time. So it's back to his cabin in the outskirts of nowhere, where she meets his six brothers: Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frankincense and Gideon (named in alphabetical succession and all Bible names - how adorable!). The boys are all wild men at first, but Milly works on the lot of them and eventually transforms them into gentlemen. While attending a barn raising, the boys dress in their finest colored shirts (each one in a different color - how adorable!) and end up meeting six women. Back home, the boys mope about not being married like Adam, so Adam convinces his brothers that they just need to go and get their brides to be. So that's what they do. They literally go to these women's homes and kidnap them, taking them back to their little shanty in the woods. And this is all supposed to be cute, you see. It's a 50s musical people, so you better know that it all ends up sunshine & roses in the end and if you can't predict the ending you must be new to the cinema game.

I don't wanna' make like I was totally offended by the plot, because I really wasn't; but damn, it was seriously sexist wasn't it? I mean, I'm not one to really be bothered by such things, but I could totally see how someone (especially women) might be put off by all this "kidnapping in good fun" stuff and singing songs about how macho you are and how your wife just needs to stick to the housework and the cooking. Speaking of the songs, I'm usually up for a good musical, but these songs pretty much sucked to put it bluntly. I mean, I wasn't humming one five minutes after it ended and would be hard pressed to even remember the names of the tunes even now, less than twenty-four hours after finishing it. I mean, there just wasn't a whole lot to like here and even the words "above average" appeared in THE BOOK'S summary of this one - in a BOOK where those words don't really make me feel like I MUST SEE something. I wasn't impressed by the acting and the plot was just stupid. Man goes off and married a woman, treats her like crap and then his brothers wanna' do the same thing so he tells them to kidnap six girls. Geez!

How did I not know that the guy who played Riff in West Side Story and the guy who played Dr. Jacoby in Twin Peaks were the same person and that they were both named Russ Tamblyn? While watching this I thought I recognized Riff and pulled out my phone to consult Wikipedia, only to find a photo of Dr. Jacoby plastered to his Wiki entry. A real "wow" moment for me. Anyway, not a lot left to say here folks. If you dig old, cutesy, goody-goody musicals then this might be for you, but beware because there's definitely some potentially offensive material wound throughout the tunes. It's no wonder you probably haven't heard of a lot of the actors here, because the acting on display here just isn't up to snuff. I love Tamblyn, but he's doing nothing of note here and Keel and Powell aren't worth writing home about either. I will note that the choreography is pretty great and keep an eye out for the scene where the boys try to raise the barn and get into a fight AND the scene just prior to that where they dance with the girls and square off with the guys. Probably the only good thing about this one.

RATING: 4.5/10  Can't even get it to the halfway marker and that's a shame because I really could've used something great to lift my spirits after the dread that was Pink Flamingos. Oh well...


November 15, 2014  6:08pm

Thursday, November 13, 2014

556. Pink Flamingos (1972)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: John Waters
Written By: John Waters
Main Cast: Divine, David Lochary, Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce, Danny Mills
Click here to view the trailer


A definite sigh as I sit down to write this one, wondering what I'll say, collecting my best insults and ready to give John Waters a proper thrashing for this piece of trash that THE BOOK has forced upon me. "Trash" - yeah, I guess that's what Waters was aiming for, but not what I wanted.

Surprisingly, if you strip away all the shock stuff and appalling garbage, there actually is a somewhat decent plot on display here. Divine stars as basically herself/himself (I'll play along and just call him a her) a.ka. Babs Johnson, living in a rundown, pink mobile home on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland. She resides with her simple minded, egg obsessed mother Edie, her son Crackers (Mills) (who lives out back in the shed) and her BFF Cotton (Pearce). Divine prides herself on being given the moniker of "filthiest person alive", a title that the Marbles couple take exception to. That would be Raymond (Lochary) and Connie Marbles (Stole), a couple who make their living picking up female hitchhiker's, drugging them, tying them up in the basement, having their butler impregnate them and then selling the babies to lesbian couples. Oh and lest I forget Raymond's pastime of exposing himself to women, just for kicks. Anyway, the Marbles' finally track down Divine to the mobile home in the backwoods of Maryland and a feud is born between the two clans. First, the Marbles' crash Divine's birthday party, calling the cops who show up only to be attacked by Divine and company, who go all cannibal on them. Realizing that it must have been the Marbles' who've called the fuzz, Divine and Crackers break into their home and proceed to lick everything in sight, before going at each other in an unsimulated, oral sex scene. By now, I was fed up and just hanging on for the rest of the ride.

Where do I begin, where do I begin, where do I begin....

I was ashamed to have had to watch this and my little rule about giving every movie two chances finally meets it's exception as I'll be sure to have my head examined if I ever find myself slipping this one into my DVD player again. I've been told time and time again, by various people that THE BOOK isn't the 1001 BEST movies, but the 1001 most IMPORTANT ones. Well, fine...but why this piece of absolute garbage is considered in either a best or an important category is beyond me. It seems that the ones who enjoy it like to make up some sort of excuse, citing that it's about Waters' pushing of the envelope, an exercise in anarchy and basically seeing what he could get away with. I find absolutely nothing talented about filming a drag queen eating dog shit or watching a man butthole-lip sync his way through the happy birthday song. I'm sorry, but there's no art on display here, only absolute garbage. And I realize that every time I call it "garbage" or "trash", I'm simply hitting the nail right on the head, as that's basically what the film is - an example of the trash genre, but I'm not saying "garbage" and "trash" in the nice, genre specific way, I'm calling it flat out, needs to be taken to the curb on pickup day, vile, disgusting, art-less TRIPE!

Now then, with all that being said, I will say that it didn't drag a bit and if I was forced to pick two positive things about the whole movie, I'd point out the kick ass soundtrack which features tons of happening 50s tunes, that, at times, make your forget that you're in the middle of the sickest movie you're probably ever going to see. I'll also go so far as to say that David Lochary and Mink Stole were actually pretty memorable villains, their blue and red hair respectively a somewhat perverse tribute to the American flag, their toe sucking sex scene both grotesque yet hilarious. Seriously, I can handle a bout of toe sucking and compared to the rest of the film, it's downright tame. Kudos to them for keeping it mostly clean, despite a bit of full frontal from Lochary, which again, in a film filled with dog poo dining and drag queen blowjobs, is also quite tame.

I was watching this movie in mine and my wife's bedroom while she watched Survivor. As soon as I heard her coming to the room, I made sure to hit the STOP button and while I planned to finish it in the bedroom while she slept, I was honestly ashamed at what I was watching and opted to retire to my television watching room, so as not to let her awake to see God knows what onscreen. Sure, I woke this morning and told her all about on the way to work, but still...couldn't chance being caught in the act. I felt scummy for even watching this and while it did move along at a brisk pace, with a decent core plot and certain memorable characters, it's the easiest '1' rating I've ever had to give out. Seriously folks, there's simply no talent on display here in the movie making process (with the exception of Lochary & Stole and maybe even Divine to a certain extent). The whole thing feels like a home movie, where Waters went out, rented a camera and decided to be a pervert for a few weekends and then as a good, decided to release it to the public. And God knows, there's always a group out there who can find art in anything. Hell, Andy Warhol painted up soup cans and they hung the damn things in a museum.

RATING: 1/10  I said my peace. If you like it, I don't judge and good on you for finding something here. But in good conscience I can't give it anything more than the lowest rating possible. If there is a hell and one day we're all damned there, this has got to be one of the reasons why.


November 13, 2014  6:04pm

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

313. High Society (1956)

Running Time: 107 minutes
Directed By: Charles Walters
Written By: John Patrick, from the play The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry
Main Cast: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, John Lund
Click here to view the trailer


I have to admit I kind of lost a little bit more of my drive this week, as I used my off day yesterday to skip movies and take care of some other business (including a dentist appointment and some Christmas shopping). However, I'm back and trying to promise myself that I'll make some serious progress in the coming week. And we're off...

It's the weekend of Tracy Samantha Lord's (Kelly) wedding and inside her family's glorious, multi-room mansion, we are introduced to many visitors. There's her ex-husband/neighbor and musician C.K. Dexter-Haven (Crosby), who is still very much in love with Sam (as he calls her). He swoons over her as he invites his old pal Satchmo (Louis Armstrong playing himself) over to play some music and cover some Cole Porter tunes (nine in total, which THE BOOK claims don't take over the film, but I disagree). There's even a couple of magazine reporters who are granted VIP access into the home of the Lord's and the details of the wedding, in exchange for not publishing a story defaming Tracy's father. The reporters are Mike Connor (Sinatra) and Liz Imbrie (Holm). It seems that everyone is falling or re-falling in love with Tracy. There's her fiance to be George Kittredge (Lund), her ex C.K. and even the magazine reporter Mike Connor begins to fall under the spell of the beautiful Grace Kelly...and really, who can blame them. Look, it's the 1950s, it's a musical-comedy and I've given you the cast and characters, you can probably figure out the rest of the plot for yourself, as it goes pretty much how you'd expect.


Not a lot to say about this one, so let's keep it short & sweet shall we? It was a pleasant enough way to spend two hours, but I wouldn't go writing home about it or anything. I liked the cast, I liked about half of the songs (however none of them stood out) and the story was just about *meh*. If you've seen the original Philadelphia Story from the early 40s, then you'll probably agree that trading Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn for Crosby, Sinatra and Kelly isn't really a fair trade (although the Hepburn/Kelly swap is fine by me!). Someone, somewhere on the internet stated that "it's really not that long as you don't compare it to the original". I very much agree with that statement. And it's not like I LOVED the original or anything, it's just that it's better. Seriously though, has there ever been a more GRACEful, gorgeous actress than Grace Kelly? It's no wonder that this was her last Hollywood role before being scooped up by the Prince of Monaco and becoming a bona fide Princess.

One more thing: I always pride myself on being able to separate the artist from the person, but I found it very difficult to get into anything starring Bing Crosby, after assuming the things his son wrote of him were true. I paused the movie at the halfway mark, remembering some unsavory stories about Crosby and wanting to find out exactly what they were. I'll spare you the details if you don't know and tell you to visit Wikipedia or something and read them for yourself. His son painted him out to be quite the monster and therefore, I found this singing, dancing, charming, swooner of Kelly to be a nothing more than an impostor, a wolf in sheep's clothing if you will.

RATING: 6/10  I've said my peace in the one paragraph and that's really all there is to say. Not bad, not great, lingering at that average '6' mark that I've gotten so used to this season: good, but not good enough.


November 12, 2014  9:55am

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...