Monday, December 3, 2012

Octvember

Features (15) :(

Holiday Inn (1942) ****
The Lady From Shanghai (1947) ****
Looper (2012) ****
Ride the High Country (1962) ****
In Bruges (2008) ***1/2
The Master (2012) *****
Frankenweenie  (2012) ***1/2
I Walked With a Zombie (1943) ***1/2
The Leopard Man (1943) ****
Rome Open City (1945) ***1/2
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) ***1/2
The Quiet Man (1952) ****
And Then There Were None (1945) ****
Bigger Than Life (1956) ****
Lincoln (2012) ****
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) ***1/2

Television Shows

Dexter season 7
Boardwalk Empire seasons 1 & 2
30 Rock season 7
Parks and Recreation season 5
Seinfeld season 5
The Simpsons (various episodes...as always)
Real Time with Bill Maher
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report


Notes: 15 films in October and November...disgraceful. Despite both months lasting 31 and 30 days respectively, they seemed to move by at an incredible rate. John tweeted yesterday that he couldn't believe it was top ten time already; I agree. What a blur 2012 was. But speaking of 2012 top ten lists, I did at least catch five movies from this year in October and November. I still want to see Argo, Seven Psychopaths, Killing Them Softly, The Hobbit, Django Unchained, and somehow, someway I'll try and see Amour, Zero Dark Thirty, and Cosmopolis before making my list.

Anyway, moving on to the small list of movies I watched over the past two months...

Holiday Inn was a lot of fun. Had I not already been a Bing Crosby fan,watching this movie would've made it so. He's likeable (an undersell) and easy to root for when he's down. I also enjoyed watching Fred Astaire play a character who's a bit of a turd. The movie is great musical and one that's very appropriate for this month. And I wasn't going to mention this, but it's semi-related to our Lincoln discussion so what the hell. In celebrating Abraham Lincoln's birthday, Bing has his dancers and musicians dress in black face. Now normally that would lead me to be heavily critical of a film (even older ones, as you all know). While black face is never, ever okay, this particular number was celebrating Lincoln for the Emancipation Proclamation. So it's a very odd scenario, indeed. Anyway, I'm occasionally known as being the outspoken liberal in instances like these, but I have no large objections here, and again, I feel that the outspoken liberals who are attacking Spielberg's Lincoln should give it a rest.

I enjoyed The Lady From Shanghai. Film noir is fun. Rita Hayworth is beautiful. Orson Welles has a great Irish accent. And for a noir, the twists and turns are very satisfactory. I love the Fun House ending.

We booed about Looper...that was fun, but all that seems so long ago, doesn't it? Hopefully we get the chance to boo about another movie. And maybe we should do some booing for our Twilight Zone group, John. Just a thought. Anyway, now that some time has passed, I'm still high on Looper; it's still one of the better movies of the year in my opinion.

Overall, I liked Ride the High Country more than The Wild Bunch. I had only ever seen a young Joel McCrea as well so it was interesting to see him as an old man. But he and Randolph Scott are great together in this one. And I was kinda bummed out that Scott didn't look like this for the duration of the film:


I watched In Bruges in preparation for Seven Psychopaths, which again, I still haven't seen. In Bruges has enough to like/love, but I admit that there was nothing about the movie that really impressed me. Just me calling 'em as I sees 'em. But Martin McDonagh has my attention and I look forward to seeing 7P.

I watched I Walked with a Zombie and The Leopard Man; I hadn't seen either before. The former was all right; I definitely enjoyed The Leopard Man a lot more and I'd rank it just behind Cat People for the Lewton films I've seen. I like the shift in the character of Jerry Manning. It's just an effective, suspenseful horror/mystery story from beginning to end. The shot where the blood drips past the threshold of the door was great.

I wanted to see Safety Not Guaranteed because it actually looked like a sincere indie film to me. I largely avoid indie films because so many of them seem phoney and stupid. I'm still not sure how I feel about SNG. There are things about it that I really enjoyed and there are things about it that I wasn't crazy about. I can't say that there was anything about it that I hated, though; it is a good movie, but I don't know that I'd recommend it to anyone. I guess I need to let it sit with me more. Mark Duplass kinda reminds me of Matt Besser. I liked his performance. Aubrey Plaza is great and believable.

In Brandon's wonderful write-up on John Ford he lauds Ford's fight sequences. I can't think of a better showcase of that than the ending of The Quiet Man. I'll post a top-5 or 7 John Ford list soon and will offer a few thoughts on this one.

And Then There Were None was one of the more enjoyable movies that I watched recently. Murder mysteries are a lot of fun if they're done right; Rene Clair's film is. Great cast too. Wish I had more to offer.

***

The seventh season of Dexter has been terrible. I'm actually happy that there are only two episodes left this season. I was actually intrigued by the first few episodes, but everything has been downhill since then. The storylines are dull and trashy. I am, however, holding out hope that the writers will do something insane with the season finale. Maybe Dexter gets caught and spends the last season on death row...or maybe Deb will kill LaGuerta and Matthews. Fingers crossed for either scenario.

I re-watched seasons 1 and 2 of Boardwalk Empire and part of me wondered if I would see the season 2 finale any differently upon revisiting it. Not at all. Still hate it. Still don't understand it. Still have no real desire to watch season 3.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lincoln


I have to say, I didn't watch a lot of the trailers for Lincoln. I heard they were cheesy, though, and I think I expected as much. Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the greatest/most important figures in American history, so of course Steven Spielberg's film was going to be heavily romanticized.

Do we build Abe up too much? Yes and no. Is he the white savior who worked tirelessly to end slavery and to ensure black equality? Absolutely not. Anyone who goes into the film thinking that is either a child, ill-informed, or incredibly stupid. The film is not a history lesson...it's a film. And really, I'm a little surprised, although I know I shouldn't be, that there are people out there who are criticizing the historical accuracy of the film. Does that mean that there's nothing else to criticize? Spielberg made a film that was interesting, entertaining, and extremely tight and brilliantly paced - nothing bad to report there. Wait, it isn't 100% accurate?? What a piece of shit. That's more of my response to the first link you gave us, Ben. Again, I didn't read the entire thing, but that was the sense that I got from it and I probably won't revisit that blog post.

The second link, I'm sure, is more respectable. I haven't had the chance to look it over more carefully yet, but I will soon and will have a post up on it. I just wanted to address the argument that is certainly floating out in cyberspace that the film blows because it isn't an accurate portrayal.

But while Lincoln wasn't the white savior, he was certainly a guiding force for the Thirteenth Amendment. The film gives us a little bit of that, but in my opinion it gives more of an overall feel of the man. The Doris Kearnes Goodwin interview with the Boston Globe shows that she was very satisfied with the work done by Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, and Tony Kushner. Goodwin's work gives us a sense that Abe was a folksy guy who was always telling stories and anecdotes. That's exactly what we're given in Lincoln and it's very well done. It's a great script and Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal (as always, I know). Not only does the script call for someone that audience can immediately indentify with and root for, it calls for a man we can't take our eyes off of. DDL is perfect for this film, and I imagine Spielberg and Kushner would not have been as enthusiastic about the project without him playing Abe.

But Brandon's right, there's more than Daniel Day-Lewis to admire about this film. The tone is right, something Spielberg is very familiar with (at times I thought of Amistad). The secondary characters (which offers plenty of great cameos) were all great. I'm not a big James Spader fan (not that I hate him or anything), but he's a lot of fun in this one. The scene where one of the Democrats is trying to shoot him is funnier than anything that Kevin James has ever done in his entire career (sorry that's not saying much, John).

The message of Lincoln is very clear, without being too obvious or annoying. Kushner channeled the side of Abraham Lincoln that Barack Obama admittedly imitates and channels: a man who believed in compromise and "baby steps," if you will. And we are also shown a man who admits to not being able to fully accept blacks as equals. At one point in, Lincoln tells his maid that he would try and "tolerate" a post-13th Amendment America. So while the 13th Amendment wasn't good enough and didn't go far enough, it absolutely set the wheels in motion. We needed the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other bills to do more to ensure equality, but even that wasn't enough. Even in 2012 Republicans are trying whatever they can to block minorities from voting.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic here. Spielberg and Kushner chip away at the theme even further with the Thaddeus Stevens storyline. If you care about something as passionately as Stevens did for black equality and an end to slavery, it's easy to understand the importance of patience and cautiousness. It was an intricate process that, had one false move been made, the entire Amendment would have been scraped. Dramas thrive on that concept, and the film does a great job setting it up and delivering.

So while all this doesn't necessarily compliment an accurate account of American history, it does compliment and drive the film wonderfully.

And sure, the film isn't without fault. I wasn't crazy about the Robert Lincoln storyline either, Brandon (even though I'm a big JGL fan). During one of Lincoln's speeches, I felt Spielberg used too many cuts/angles and it threw me off a bit - that probably sounds stupid, but it's true. And while the trailers are largely misleading, there are few cheesy moments in the film. Again, it isn't perfect, but what it does, it does extremely well.

I'm really rushing these thoughts right now. I want to post more tomorrow and hopefully I will. I want to address that second article. Nighty night.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Top 30 Aughties


1. There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
2. Synecdoche, New York (Kaufman, 2008)
3. No Country For Old Men (the Coen brothers, 2007)
4. A Single Man (Ford, 2009)
5. The New World (Malick, 2005)
6. Inglorious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009)
7. Zodiac (Fincher, 2007)
8. WALL-E (Stanton, 2008)
9. The Fountain (Aronofsky, 2006)
10. The Son (the Dardenne brothers, 2002)
11. Adaptation (Jonze, 2002)
12. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Schnabel, 2007)
13. Dogville (von Trier, 2003)
14. Talk to Her (Almodovar, 2002)
15. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004)
16. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (Tarantino, 2004)
17. In the Bedroom (Field, 2001)
18. Memento (Nolan, 2000)
19. The Fall (Tarsem, 2006)
20. Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)
21. Before Sunset (Linklater, 2004)
22. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Jackson, 2002)
23. Bronson (Refn, 2008)
24. Match Point (Allen, 2005)
25. Pan's Labyrinth (del Toro, 2006)
26. The White Ribbon (Haneke, 2009)
27. Big Fish (Burton, 2003)
28. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Anderson, 2004)
29. Knocked Up (Apatow, 2007)
30. Old Boy (Park, 2003)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Objective Viewing

I was hoping my post would get a little discussion going, Brandon; thanks for the response.

I'll start with Tim Burton. I love the guy - Edward Scissorhands, the two Batman movies, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, Big Fish, Sleepy Hollow. That's quite an impressive/established resume, and one would have to be a fool to deny him auteur status; we all know a Burton film when we see one.

My problem with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice In Wonderland is that they look and felt more like studio duds than something that had the Tim Burton stamp on them. I remember feeling really excited at the respective announcements of both projects.

* Finally, we were going to get a dark version of Alice in Wonderland. I couldn't have been more wrong.

* Tim Burton making a dark, slightly-demented version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? That sounded like a cool idea to me, but when I watched it the movie felt dull and unnecessary.

So admittedly, I did go into both movies with that bit of subjectivity. I had higher expectations for both and envisioned them to look and feel a certain way. So I do put that on myself as well as Burton; I'm still a fan and won't give up on him. But at the same time, I think it's okay to single out a few of his films as being crap, without resorting to hyperbole. It feels wrong to turn on the man and suddenly label him a bad director or someone who's "lost it." Although I think Tarsem might be a different case altogether.

I will grant Charlie and the Chocolate Factory some aesthetical points, but nothing more. You do get a sense of Burton's style, but it isn't enough, in my opinion. And it's interesting to me that post-Pirates Johnny Depp is in both movies (CatCF and AiW). Maybe style and substance were sacrificed slightly so that the studio could potentially do better at the box office?

And you're right, it was silly for me to say that I won't give Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd another chance; I'm sure I will. They were both really well done, even if they aren't favorites of mine.

Moving on to objective viewing, bad buzz can sometimes curb my enthusiasm for a film...but if I'm interested/invested in a project from the start, I usually see it no matter what the critics and fanboys say. I wasn't at all aware of the Dark Shadows TV show, so the movie wasn't really on my list of things to see anyway. But sure, after all of those critics tore it apart, I started to reconsider giving it a shot - a feeling that only lasted a month or two. It's the old 'see it in the theater vs. rent it' argument.

So largely it has to do with my own interests; if everyone had trashed The Master, I still would've been there that night at Cinemapolis. And because The Master was a strong contender for "best film of 2012," I did measure it while watching it, as you did with Anatolia. To me it makes sense to do that for the biggest films of the year. Every scene and line of dialogue needs to be put under the microscope, it would seem. And I think we try do that with quite a bit of objectivity. But depending on who and what we've read about a film, outside thoughts/words can sometimes creep in and alter our viewing moods.

I almost prefer to see a "big" film twice - the second viewing occurring a week or so after the first. For that first viewing, I want to break down and measure every scene and line. With the second viewing, I want to relax and focus on letting the film entertain me or having whatever affect it's trying to achieve on me.

I wouldn't say that Jason, Adrienne, and I are more honest than you, John, and Jeff but if there is a difference between those two groups, I think it might have something to do with the fact that you guys spend more time reading reviews than we do (here's me putting words in Jason and Adrienne's respective mouths). I hear and read little snippets, but I often avoid full reviews...except for the CR5FC ones ;)

Obviously reading the reviews isn't a bad thing. I respect the hell out of the work you, John, and Jeff and do. Your posts are smart (contrary to your own beliefs) and I always enjoy reading them. And I'm sure that from reading other critics, it helps to get the ball rolling.

And really, I'm pretty lame because I almost always avoid the movies that I root against. Mostly I play it safe and watch what I know I'll feel, at the very least, lukewarm about. I'll probably never watch Ted, but I'll continue to rip on it. But I would definitely root against that movie if I were to watch it - same with Project X and this Red Dawn re-make. Political reasons do play a role. And right, there was the Mel Gibson discussion we had. It's easy to root against someone if he or she is an awful human being. Gibson is an awful person, in my mind. Woody Allen is an awful person in the minds of many, but not mine...even though I don't necessarily support what he did. So there's that.

Lastly, I just want to say that we should never condemn anyone for wanting to go against the grain. In some cases I admire it. But just being a contrarian is lame. Consistency in one's convictions is a hell of a lot more admirable, especially given how hard it is to work at and achieve.

Top Ten Tree House of Horror Segments


10. Time and Punishment (Tree House of Horror V, season 6)

Using a toaster with a flux capacitor, Homer accidentally travels back in time to when "dinosaurs weren't just confined to zoos." Once there, he remembers the advice Grampa gave him on his wedding day, - "If you ever travel back in time, don't step on anything because even the tiniest change can alter the future in ways you can't imagine." Obviously Homer fails at this and it's met with hilarious results.

Favorite quote/moment:

Homer: (fed up of the consequences of time travel) Don't touch anything? I'll touch whatever I feel like! (He then begins to stomp and club everything in his path.)



9. The Thing and I (Tree House of Horror VII, season 8)

Lisa and Bart hear strange noises coming from the attic; when they ask Homer and Marge about it, they're told to never go up there. Marge then reminds Homer to take a bucket of fish heads up to the attic.

Favorite quote/moment:

Obviously the moment when Bart and Lisa find the unsold copies of Homer's autobiography, Homer I Hardly Knew Me. But I'll  also go with the moment when Dr. Hibbert shows Hugo his reflection in a mirror for the first time.



8. Terror at 51/2 Feet (Tree House of Horror IV, season 5)

While riding to school, Bart is only person on the bus to see a gremlin trying to kill everyone on board. 


Favorite quote/moment:

Lisa: Excuse me, Bart's a little upset this morning, so could everyone please be extra-nice to him?
(Everyone laughs)
Jimbo: Hey, where's your diaper, baby? (pulls down Bart's pants)
Martin: Thank goodness he's drawn attention away from my shirt. (Martin wearing a Wang Computers t-shirt.)



7. Fly vs. Fly (Tree House of Horror VIII, season 9)

Homer buys a matter transporter at Professor Frink's yard sale for thirty-five cents. After accidentally splicing the DNA of Snowball II and Santa's Little Helper together, Bart decides to splice himself with a fly so that he can become a half-man, half-fly superhero.

Favorite quote/moment: 

The opening at the yard sale is all gold. 

  


6. The Devil and Homer Simpson (Tree House of Horror IV, seaason 5)

Homer strikes a Faustian deal for doughnut. However, a trial must take place to decide whether Homer's soul rightfully belongs to the devil...or someone else.

Favorite quote/moment:

Lenny: Sorry, Homer. While you were daydreaming we ate all the donuts.
Carl: Well, there were a few left, but we chucked them at an old man for kicks.
[shot of Abe running with a donut stuck to his head; multiple birds are swarming on him]
Abe: Damn buzzards! I ain't dead yet.



5. The Homega Man (Tree House of Horror VIII, season 9)

Mayor Quimby won't apologize for offending the French. In retaliation, Springfield is hit with a nuclear missile at the exact moment that Homer is testing out a bomb shelter. Eventually, he realizes he is the only survivor in town...or is he?

Favorite quote/moment:

Yeah, I've got to go with when Homer finds the Gary Larson calendar in the bomb shelter, saying, "I don't get it" each time he turns the page. I also love the moment when the Freaks get into their racer to chase after Homer driving a hearse.




4. Dial 'Z' For Zombies Tree House of Horror III, season 4)

Bart finds a book of spells in the Occult section of the school library. He and Lisa then attempt to bring the The Simpson family's dead cat, Snowball I, back to life. But the spell Bart reads ends up unleashing a zombie attack on Springfield instead.

Favorite quote/moment:

(Homer shoots Flanders)
Bart: Dad, you killed the Zombie Flanders!
Homer: He was a zombie?

I also love the moment when Homer and the family are walking through the halls of Springfield Elementary - killing George Washington, Albert Einstein, and William Shakespeare. "Take that Washington! Eat lead, Einstein! Show's over, Shakespeare!"



3. The Shinning (Tree House of Horror V, season 6)

The Simpsons take on Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which is referred to here as the "shinning" so as to avoid a lawsuit.

Favorite quote/moment:

There are too many to list; the entire episode is brilliant. But one of my favorite jokes of the entire series is:


Lisa: Mom, is Dad going to try and kill us?
Marge: I guess we're just gonna have to wait and see.




2. Bart Simpson's Dracula (Tree House of Horror IV, season 5)

Another brilliant spoof - this time it's Francis Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Favorite quote/moment:


Abe: (running into Bart's room with a stake) We must kill the boy!
Marge: Grampa, how'd you know he was a vampire?
Abe: He's a vampire?! (runs out of the room in fear)

I also love the scenes when The Simpsons go over to Mr. Burn's (who is playing the part of Dracula) castle for dinner.

Lisa: (smelling her drink) Dad, this is blood!
Homer: Correction...free blood! (quaffing)




1. Clown Without Pity (Tree House of Horror III, season 4)

Homer forgets to buy a present for Bart's birthday. At the House of Evil shop, Homer buys a Krusty doll that carries a terrible curse.

Favorite quote/moment:

The Frogurt routine is brilliant and is one my favorite moments in the entire series. But this segment does get my number 1 spot because I love every single scene. Every joke is hilarious and I often quote them. I also love the moments at the Halloween party before and after Lisa tells this story.

Almost made it: Nightmare Cafeteria, Citizen Kang, Hell Toupee, Lisa's Dream: The Monkey's Paw

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dark Shadows/NBC/Tree House of Horror

I haven't seen Dark Shadows yet, Brandon, but I hope to check it out at some point. I couldn't agree more with your first paragraph. It's important to avoid the bullying crowd. John Carter definitely had redeemable qualities, and was much better than a handful of movies that were praised by critics and did well at the box office this year.

At the same time, I also want to say that it's important to try and be consistent with our convictions (not that I'm accusing you of this at all - I'm definitely not) and if a film is truly awful, we should acknowledge that...no matter how many critics and fanboys are shitting on it. Alice In Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were terrible. Sweeney Todd and the Corpse Bride were all right, but I haven't seen either since they opened in the theater, I don't know that I'll ever watch them again.

I'm always rooting for Burton, though;  I'm a fan and I'll keep going to his movies hoping to love what I see.

Jeff and I did see Frankweenie last weekend (has anyone else been to this yet?) I liked it, and was particularly drawn to the message of the film (pro-science/academia). I should probably do a longer post on it, but I almost want to wait for someone else to see it first. It's fun, albeit, a little disorganized...but it's entertaining enough and has a lot of heart.

John, I liked your NBC round-up and I'm really glad you finally caught an episode of Parks and Recreation. (Again, you remind me a bit of Ron Swanson.) I think Lisa's a fan as well, and then obviously Jeff. I would hope there are other fans in CR5FC because it's the best comedy on network television right now. It's a show with a great cast and great characters, and you (John) should definitely start watching from the beginning. I will say that it gets off to a bit of a slow start, though. But stick with it; as you've seen (from the Halloween episode?) it's quite hilarious and enjoyable.

I've never seen Up All Night, but I'm a big fan of Will Arnett. When I saw the first few promos that aired it looked gimmicky - "Hey, we're 30 somethings with a kid...the kid cries at night...it blows...but hey, it's all part of being a family." I don't know, whatever, I'm sure there's plenty to enjoy about it.

I can't believe you're still watching The Office - you deserve a medal for sticking with it. I think I stopped watching after the sixth season. It's started to reach Family Guy territory for me. Okay...maybe not that bad. But I haven't truly enjoyed The Office since Michael Schur, one of the head writers, left to create his own show.....Parks and Recreation - the spin-off that wasn't. Also, they ruined Andy Bernard (Ed Helms' character). He was such a great character during season 3 and makes me sad to see that the 'Nard Dawg was neutered by the writing staff a season or two ago.

Haha, I haven't seen last week's episode of 30 Rock yet. I was going to watch it today, but apparently I can't stream it through Hulu plus on my Xbox. Now I'm dying to see what was so liberal about it. I mean, I know Tina Fey is a liberal and I'm sure all/most of her writers are as well. The show has taken many shots at conservatives over the years...but deservedly so. (It's always deserved, in my opinion; modern conservatives are ass-clowns...but that's another post for another day.)

My problem with 30 Rock is that it isn't as funny as it used to be. I still enjoy it, but seasons 1-5 are the golden years. The jokes were brilliant and made me laugh as much as some of my favorite Simpsons episodes.

I got Bernie texts from Brandon as well, and I do want to check it out at some point.

Shame on you for those Return of the Jedi thoughts, haha. Did you watch the theatrical version or the one with Hayden Christensen spliced in? Good lord that was an awful decision. Anyway, I should re-watch the trilogy soon. And speaking of things you're grumpy about, I'm kinda feeling Lord of the Rings right now; maybe a marathon is in my future. Is anyone dying to see The Hobbit? I have a feeling I might be slightly disappointed...hope I'm wrong. I've never read the book, though, so I should probably shut up altogether.

Goood write-up on your top ten Tree House of Horror segments, Jeff. I started working on one the other day, and obviously it's going to be very similar to yours.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Halloween Traditions


Here's a list of the movies and television episodes I'll be watching this October in preparation for Halloween, some of which I watch every year. Obviously my schedule is built more on nostalgia than trying to scare myself shitless...

Movies

The Wolfman (1941)

Cat People (1942)

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

The Leopard Man (1943)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)

Halloween (1978)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Frankenweenie (2012)

I was obsessed with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Nightmare Before Christmas when I was a kid. Unfortunately I haven't watched them enough in my later years. Disney's TLoSH is beautifully animated and perfectly told. Of course the ending frightened me when I was younger. Still loved it though. And with Bing Crosby narrating/singing...what's not to like?

And when I was younger I knew all the words to the songs from TNBC. Jack Skeleton was something of a hero of mine growing up; he was cool as hell.

The Lewton/RKO pictures are a must. Give me the classics, baby! I haven't seen I Walked With a Zombie or The Leopard Man yet. Looking forward to them.

And even though I detest slasher films, I am curious to see John Carpenter's Halloween. Why not watch THE slasher film? Oh, and maybe I should re-watch Club Dread too...speaking of slashers.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Frankenweenie in the theater. It was time for Tim Burton to get back to what he's good at, so here's hoping it doesn't disappoint.

Hocus Pocus and Ernest Scared Stupid were the two live-action Halloween movies that I watched a lot as a kid. Obviously Ernest is too ridiculous (and terrifying) to re-watch every single year. Maybe though. Hocus Pocus is actually a decent movie, and a little bit fun to pick on.

In past years I've watched The Exorcist, The Omen, The Shining, and Peeping Tom. Those are all obvious classics and probably should be watched every year, so maybe there's a chance for them in 2012. I also watched Trick 'r' Treat (2007) last year and I'd recommend it, as it's a fun Halloween flick.

Of course, I'll look to add to more movies to this list. There's always room from some unexpected frights....MUHAHAHA!

Television shows

The Simpsons - Treehouse of Horror episodes I-VIII

Boy Meets World - And Then There Was Shawn (season 5), The Witches of Pennbrook (season 5)

The Twilight Zone - The Hitchhiker (season 1), The Eye of the Beholder (season 2), Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? (season 2), The Dummy (season 3), Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (season 5), Living Doll (season 5), An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (season 5),

Doug - Doug On His Own (season 2), Doug's Nightmare on Jumbo Street (season 3), Doug's Halloween Adventure (season 4)

Hey Arnold! -  Haunted Train (season 1), Arnold's Halloween (season 2), Four-Eyed Jack (season 2), Headless Cabbie (season 4), Ghost Bride (season 5)

Every year for the past few years Jeff and I have watched all of the Treehouse of Horror episodes. Of course, being the Simpsons snobs that we are, we only watch episodes I-VIII. I think episode IX has Jerry Springer in it...so there's a reason to stop watching right there.

But if my memory serves me well, Treehouse of Horrors X-XII are decent enough. Again, I could talk Simpsons all day, so I'll try and keep this short. My favorite Treehouse of Horror segments are: Clown Without Pity, Dial 'Z' For Zombies, The Devil and Homer Simpson, Terror at 51/2 Feet, Bart Simpson's Dracula, The Shinning, Time and Punishment, Homega Man, and Fly vs. Fly. Brilliant and hilarious. Highly recommended viewing.

ABC's TGIF line-up ruled, and Boy Meets World was one of my favorite shows back in the day. Two of the best episodes in the entire series happen to be ones associated with horror and Halloween. I watch the two episodes listed above every year and will continue to do so. More hilarity, not necessarily scares...though "And Then There Was Shawn" is slighty creepy, I've gotta admit. Disclaimer: I am a coward.

When I think of this time of year, The Twilight Zone instantly comes to mind. Essential stuff and I look forward to re-watching a lot of those episodes listed above. If you haven't seen them, check them out through NWI and youtube. And I think Sy-fy (or however the hell they're spelling it these days) does a marathon every October.

There's something about animated kid's shows that really capture the spirit of Halloween so well. Love Doug and Hey Arnold! and all of those episodes are great to watch this time of year.

Anyway, this is just to get the ball rolling. What are some of your Halloween movie and TV traditions? I imagine mine are the least terrifying. Also figured I'd consider any suggestions from the CR5FC gang, but I can't guarantee that I will garner enough courage to watch any of them, haha.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Septivity

Features (12)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) *****
The Night of the Hunter (1955)  *****
V/H/S (2012) **1/2
Shadows (1959) ****1/2
Amarcord (1973) ***1/2
La Bete Humaine (1938) ****
Pat and Mike (1952) ****
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) ****
The Master (2012) ***** 
Adam's Rib (1949) ****1/2
The Curse of the Cat People (1944) ****
The Wild Bunch (1969) ****
 

Television

Breaking Bad, season 5
Boardwalk Empire, re-watching season 1
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
The Colbert Report
Dexter, season 7
Doug season 4
Parks and Recreation, season 5
Real Time with Bill Maher
Seinfeld seasons 4 and 5
The Simpsons (various seasons)
Weeds, season 8

Notes: I started the month out with two films from the Brandon Musa Essentials list - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Night of the Hunter. Both have quickly become essentials of my own.

Brilliant stuff from John Ford, as expected, with Liberty Valance. The story and the cast were perfect (shout out to Edmond O'Brien for kicking ass). Because the characters are so loveable, it's easy to feel involved in the film. I love the shot of Valance being gunned down (the reveal at the end). This is everything a film should be; I think I felt every emotion while watching it.

Robert Mitchum gives one hell of a performance in The Night of the Hunter. He's dangerous, terrifying, with charm. Also, I can't believe we got that shot of Shelley Winters underwater - haunting and cool. A shame that this all we have from Charles Laughton, director.

Shadows was my first Cassavetes film...maybe I'll watch them all in order if I can. I really dug this picture. Very impressive and fascinating. There's so much going on in the film that it only deserves an in-depth analysis. Hopefully I can get to that at some point here.

I'm still not in love with Fellini, but Amarcord was never going to be the film to change that. It's beautifully shot, though, and I'll never be one to write Fellini off as being too pretentious or boring. It's a fun film, but it didn't do enough for me.

I really enjoyed La Bete Humaine, but I'm afraid I don't have a lot to say about it. Jean Gabin is awesome, as always, and I love the story. Here's a bit of train movie for you, John. And as far as train movies are concerned, this might be one of the best.

Jeff told me to get Pat and Mike on Netflix, claiming that he liked it better than Adam's Rib. Sorry, J-dawg, but give me Adam's Rib over Pat and Mike anyday. Both are enjoyable, though. I love the Tracey/Hepburn team; they play off of each other so well. It's a case where, each time they play a married couple or two people who've fallen for each other, you immediately buy into it.

Gentlemen Prefer Jane Russell...I mean, Blondes was grand, but it started off a bit slow for me. But once it got going, it didn't disappointed. Jane Russell is great and definitely more a catch than Marilyn Monroe. Because I'm of a younger generation, I admit that I don't really give a crap about Monroe. I don't find her very attractive (I mean, clearly she is, she's just not my cup of tea) and she obviously isn't the most talented actress. Anyone else agree with me here?


The Curse of the Cat People is the strangest sequel of all-time, which Jeff had previously warned me about. I watched Cat People a year ago, and probably should've watched it again before CotCP as a refresher. I did really enjoy it though. The little girl is great and it's got some nice, creepy moments. It's nice to see that Simone Simon's character gets a chance to redeem herself.

I like Sam Peckinpah's style, but I admit, there were a few moments when I was bored watching The Wild Bunch. The gunfight in the beginning, the train robbery, the gunfight at the end - all great, but there were some dull moments as well. I think the problem was that I found it a little difficult to connect with the characters. I'm going to see Ride the High Country soon.

September saw the final episode of Weeds. I'm considering doing a big write-up on it. I liked the final season, though, and the series finale. It felt satisfying, which is what you always want from a final episode.

Dexter is back. After having seen the first episode, I've gotta say, it's got my interest back quite a bit. I wasn't sure how to feel about the season finale last year, but now that I know where the staff is going with this new development, I am pleased. We'll see how it all plays out.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Master


After seeing Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, I considered whether I enjoyed it more than There Will Be Blood, which, for me, was the best film of the previous decade.

And as you might've guessed, I wasn't able to arrive an answer. 1) It's too early to say (I didn't truly love There Will Be Blood until weeks after seeing it in the theater). And 2) There's no reason to compare them, despite numerous similarities.

I think both films benefit from brilliant scenes, strong performances from the entire cast, and from the complex relationships between the main characters. And those characters themselves are similar - Eli Sunday and Lancaster Dodd are more spiritual and use religion to their advantage, and Daniel Planview and Freddie Quell are both crazy assholes.

The teasers and trailers for The Master got me really excited to see it. We all know what Joaquin Phoenix is capable of doing, but this is easily his best performance to date. I think I'll say the same of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as well; I don't often use the word "mesmerizing," but it applies to Hoffman here. He's the perfect cult leader and I'd drink up every ounce  of his kool-aid. I'm not a big Amy Adams fan, even though I'll admit she's a talented actress. She's wonderful as Peggy Dodd. Despite only have a handful of scenes together, you quickly get a sense of the relationship between Lancaster and Peggy.

But back to Phoenix as Quell. I read a little bit of Jeff's review (the only one I've glanced at so far) and I saw something that compared him to a stray dog. That's definitely an apt comparison, but really I see Freddie as more of an infant. While his extracurricular activities are definitely more adult, emotionally and mentally, he's clearly a child. And more than that, he's a orphan looking for paternal and maternal figures. Lancaster Dodd steps in to fill the paternal role, and Freddie accepts him and becomes very loyal to him rather quickly. In fact, when Lancaster's biological son Val expresses perfidious views of his father, Freddie lashes out in anger and violence (granted, that seems to be his response to anything that bothers him).

And Lancaster seems to need Freddie as well. I do think there's a genuine quality to their relationship, and they legitimately care for each other. But given the opposition to Dodd's movement, I can see Lancaster warming up to anyone who's oblivious to who he is and what he preaches. And quite possibly, one of the reasons why Lancaster seems to keep Freddie around is because he recognizes that Freddie is the perfect soldier.

Maternally, Freddie's search is a little more complicated. While he's a bit sex-obsessed, he has it in his mind that he'll marry a young girl named Doris. Even though she is younger than Freddie, odds are, she's already more mature than he is. Even though their relationship doesn't work out, I do think that Freddie is on a search for a woman who'll take care of him. In the last of the film, Freddie is in bed with a woman he picks up. There's a strange shot in this scene where the woman's breast is in the corner of a shot focusing on Freddie's face. Between that shot and the final one, where Freddie rests his head on the woman made of sand, I'd argue that Freddie is a child in search of a bosom.

As far as Scientology is concerned, I don't see a reason for Scientologists to be so upset with the film that it would lead to threatening the Weinstein Co. Of course, those Scientologists will never actually see the film (and their reaction does not come as a surprise). But it's clear that Anderson is gentle with Lancaster Dodd. There's a fine balance of qualities and flaws, as there is with Eli Sunday in There Will Be Blood. Yes, he's full of shit, but that doesn't mean he isn't a man, above all things. Or an animal. And when Dodd and Quell unleash their inner-animal, they've got one hell of a zoo.

Best film of the year so far. I can't wait to see it again.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Oh no...beta!


 A quick ranking of the films in V/H/S:

1. Second Honeymoon
2. Amateur Night
3. 10/31/98
4. The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger
5. Tape 56
6. Tuesday the 17th

Having typed all that, I have agree with John that V/H/S is ONLY worth watching in a setting similar to our experience. We had a great crew and it made everything more enjoyable. We shared a few laughs and some moments of confusion and anger (McQuaidddddddddd!!!).

I have yet to see The Innkeepers or The House of the Devil but I've obviously heard plenty of good things about Ti West from Jeff and Brandon. Jeff also played that West interview for me last Friday - it's an interesting interview and it helped to affirm that Second Honeymoon was the best of the bunch. It's the only one rooted in reality and for that reason, it's effective and a bit more haunting than the other films. And even though found footage is an embarrassing gimmick, West was the only one to play by the rules. This twist was also my favorite; there are some nice clues along the way but mostly you don't see it coming. It might've moved just a tad too slow for me, though, but I'm aware of what he was trying to do.

I feel kinda sorry for the bug-eyed demon chick in Amateur Night. The way she says, "I like you" is kinda heartbreaking at the end. But I like think that after carrying Camera Glasses up in the sky, they eventually worked things out. About time the dudes from The Hangover got what they deserved. This one was creepy and set a tone and mood that was perfect for the genre.

Actually, the only thing I truly appreciate about 10/31/98 is the special effects. Beautiful work, especially with the window on the front door and the midair dinner plates. Nicely done. The ending is weak, though...even with the interesting twist.

There are definitely moments where I really appreciate The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily... but it would've benefited from cleaner execution. Yes this one is the most "high concept," but still. It's issues are glaring and it comes off as ridiculous/laughable at times.

Calling Tape 56 "pointless" as Jeff does is pretty spot-on. If it weren't for Randy/Dennis/Glenn McQuaid, it would probably be everyone's whipping boy. I understand you need frame/set-up these tapes in some fashion, but there's a definite air of confusion surrounding this wraparound. I'd ask for more development, but at a running time of 116 minutes, the film is already too long.

Tuesday the 17th. Poor marks across the board. Every decision Glenn McQuaid made was awful and since I have nothing positive to say, I'll just move on.

The lack of scares in V/H/S is evident; I did think it would be much scarier than it was and really that's fine by me. I'm not really a seeker of thrills. The Twilight Zone comparisons are apt because it seems that these filmmakers spent more time working interesting stories with twist endings than they did on trying to scare the audience.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Julaugust

Features (17)

High Sierra ****1/2
The Virgin Spring *****
That Touch of Mink ****
Brave ****
Holiday ****
Gun Crazy ****
The Artist **1/2
The Dark Knight Rises ****
Angels with Dirty Faces ****
In a Lonely Place ****1/2
The Rules of the Game ****
Wings in the Dark ***
Big Brown Eyes ***1/2
Pickpocket ****
Bed and Board ****
The Last Days of Disco ****
Lawrence of Arabia ****1/2
Celeste & Jesse Forever ***
Metropolitan ****

Television

Breaking Bad seasons 2, 3, 4, 5
The Wire season 1 (the first ep.)
Seinfeld season 4
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
Weeds season 8
The Newsroom season 1
Doug season 4

Notes: That Touch of Mink is a lot of fun and was much funnier than I thought it would be. Cary Grant and Doris Day are a great comedic team in this one.

I really enjoyed Brave and I wish I had posted on it back in July. The theater was packed with families and little kids when Jeff and I went to see it. But instead of thinking, "no one should bring a toddler to a movie" like I usually do in those moments, I realized that that's what I should come to expect watching an animated film at the theater. I think Brave was the first Pixar film I've seen in the theater since Toy Story. Anyway, there were moments when I thought the film was going to lose me, but ultimately I was impressed and loved the story. It's a great mother/daughter story with heart. Something we don't get to see too much of. Merida is a great character for little lasses to look up to.

I agree with Jeff on The Artist. Time for Uncle Jesse to join film club (I really love his top ten list, by the way). Anyway, I assumed The Artist would charm the hell out of me, but it didn't do much of that at all. There aren't many memorable scenes. I wasn't expecting too much from the film, despite/because of its awards and acclaim. I just wanted it to entertain me and it failed in that regard. The dog was great, though; I'm sure we all agree there. Give him the Oscars. He'll know how to treat them properly.

I need to watch more Bresson. As it stands, all I've seen is Pickpocket and The Trial of Joan of Arc. Diary of a Country Priest is on our DVR and I will watch it at some point. His other films are in my Netflix queue. Anyway, I like Bresson so far but I am waiting for one of his film to come along and really impress me.

I just need to see Love on the Run and I've finished the Antoine Doinel series. Apparently that one contains clips from the other four films. That's kinda lame, but I am looking forward to watching it anyway. Love me some Trauffaut.

Watching The Last Days of Disco at Brandon's was a lot of fun. It was hilarious - I especially love the discussion about Lady and the Tramp. It also made me appreciate Damsels in Distress even more, and I did like that one quite a bit to begin with. Glad to see that Metropolitan was reinstated on NWI. All of Stillman's films are great - sign me up for the fan club, too. I'm not sure which is my favorite film, but I still need to see Barcelona (I added it to my queue). Chris Eigeman is damn good in Disco and Metropolitan, but really the casting for all three films is commendable.

Celeste & Jesse Forever is one to pass on. It's not very good, but it does have some good laughs. Rashida Jones is great and makes the film much better than it is - and I say that with the fact she co-wrote the script in mind. But Jones hilarious and loveable. I especially enjoyed the scenes where her character hits rock bottom. I only wish I had photographic evidence to compliment that fact but I couldn't find the pictures I wanted on-line. Anyway, she's is definitely worthy of praise here.

This isn't a competition, but I actually found The Newsroom to be too corny during the second episode. The tone of the first episode was something I preferred - it was angrier and more dramatic. The second episode tried too hard to be funny and likeable. I'll continue to watch, but I'm not a huge fan of it so far. If it were a show that was completely devoted to bashing conservatives, I'd enjoy it more probably. But I have Real Time with Bill Maher for that so....meh.

I've only seen the first episode of The Wire. Now that Breaking Bad is on a long (bad) break, I might start watching more episodes. Good stuff so far.

Nickelodeon's Doug kicks ass. I love that show.

Watching the final season of Weeds. Thank god it's the final season. I'm not sure how I feel about this particular one yet. Guess I'm waiting to let it all play out before I judge. I will say that I enjoy the opening credit sequence this year. It's nice having "Little Boxes" back - that and the sketches of everything the Botwin's have been through over the past eight years is kinda cool and sentimental.

Also, welcome Alex! We've met once or twice already. From what I can tell, you're a great guy...but I'm an awful judge of character.  I watched Election a long time ago and I've forgotten everything about it. Hopefully I have something to offer for your next post.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lists


Great hang out at Brandon's the other night. Those burritos were excellent...wish I had one right now. The Last Days of Disco, like Damsels In Distress, is very smart, hilarious, and fun. Don't believe me? Just ask Sir Nod. Jeff and Brandon, I think you'd both really enjoy Damsels. If only we could watch Metropolitan together next week, but unfortunately it's been pulled from NWI. Ridiculous. Take it from me, gang, this Instant Watch thing just ain't worth the money.

John, thanks for the BARTMAN game. I'm not exactly sure how to play it, but that won't deter me from enjoying your gift. I'll keep it next to the Sea Captain Simpsons toy I just bought on Amazon. Seriously. "Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eatin' machine."

Speaking of things I love and enjoy, these "greatest films of all-time" lists have been fun. Here are my favorite selections from each list so far...

John's: There Will Be Blood. Like Jeff, I love this pick and before I posted my list, I was deciding between Empire Strikes Back and TWBB. ESB won out in the end, but if I were to make this list again tonight, PTA's film would probably make it. There Will Be Blood is easily the best film of the last decade and it's definitely worth recognizing on an "all-time" list. I haven't seen Stalker yet, but your pick might prompt me to watch it sooner.

Brandon's: Rio Bravo. It probably would've been Night of the Hunter. I had plans to watch it before all of these lists were made, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Jeff has been trying to get me to watch it for weeks and claims I would love it (I imagine he's correct). When he decided to tape it off of TCM a month or so ago, I started to watch it but quickly fell victim to one of those notorious afternoon naps. Anyway, my favorite pick off of your list is Rio Bravo because it just might be my favorite Hawks film. A brilliant one that filled me the same elation a junkie gets from freebasing.

Jeff's: The Phantom of Liberty. Brilliant and funny. Thanks for telling me to watch it way back when. Blow-Up is a bold selection. It's definitely a film that I would classify as "must-see." I'm sure Brandon will agree ;) Too bad you followed the Sight & Sound rules, Boogie Nights is noticeably missing from your list. In fact, other Mark Whalberg movies are noticeably missing from your list. Where's Shooter, duder? I need to watch Diary of a Country Priest...if only there some way for me to watch it...

Ben's: The Fountain. I love that film and I'm glad you do as well. It's beautiful and underrated. For a while there, it felt as if Jeff and I were the only ones who really appreciated it. I also really like your Before Sunrise/Before Sunset pick as well. Those films contain some of the best conversations in all of film.

Adrienne's: 2001: A Space Odyssey, obviously. It'd be interesting to discuss the specifics about why we both made this one our number one pick. When I made my list, I tried to think of films that felt larger than the medium.  2001 immediately came to mind. I love all of Kubrick's films (though there are still two or three that I need to see), but 2001 is a remarkable achievement. Watching it for the first time is an experience you'll never forget.

Arthur's: The Royal Tenenbaums. There's a good chance you'll never read this, Arthur, but there are many interesting picks on your list...including the aforementioned Wes Anderson film. I love Wes and the way he writes his characters, especially father figures. Royal is a wonderful character and Gene Hackman does an exceptional job with the role. I'm kinda disappointed that there were no James Bond movies on Arthur Bond's list. Clearly I'm an idiot for writing that joke.

Tara's: Dumb and Dumber. Best comedy of the 90s and arguably the best comedy of all-time. The voices of Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels seem to pop up in my head all of time in the form of some quote from this movie. I love the fact that there are actual jokes in the film, and some brilliantly well-written ones at that. Also love the Big Fish, Charade, and Eternal Sunshine picks.

Brandon's parents': Roman Holiday and The Thin Man. Both films are instantly charming and loveable. We love films because they make us feel good and those two picks are perfect examples. Also, The Bourne Identity is the ultimate "Dad pick". If Rich Howard made a list, TBI would be in the honorable mentions at the very least.

When I posted my list, I thought about including the line, "this is not a favorite movies list." In making my list, I considered movies that a) I loved and b) deserved to be called one of the greatest films of all-time. In doing so, I ended up leaving off a lot of my favorite films. And then others were left off because I mostly tried to go with one film from each director (though there are a few exceptions). Anyway, here are some movies that would've made list had I done a Top Ten Favorites list:

Dr. Strangelove
Love and Death
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Rushmore
The Tree of Life 
Christmas In July, Unfaithfully Yours, Hail to the Conquering Hero
Rope
Monsieur Beaucaire 
Big Fish
Being John Malkovich 
The Fountain
Memento
Drive

Monday, August 20, 2012

Top Ten Greatest Films of All-Time

10. Empire Strikes Back
9. Taxi Driver
8. L'Atalante
7. Duck Soup
6. M
5. The Earrings of Madam de...
4. The Searchers
3. Vertigo
2. The Seventh Seal
1. 2001: A Space Odysessy 

HM aka proof that this was difficult (in no particular order): There Will Be Blood, Days of Heaven, Make Way For Tomorrow, Meet Me In St. Louis, Rio Bravo, White Heat, Rashomon, The Graduate, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Annie Hall, The 400 Blows, Solaris, The Godfather, No Country For Old Men, Synecdoche, New York, Grand Illusion, Zodiac, A Single Man, Stage Coach, Ninotchka, Rio Bravo, Ball of Fire, It's a Wonderful Life, Singin' in the Rain, On the Waterfront, Three Colors: Red, Citizen Kane, The Phantom of Liberty, The Gold Rush, Port of Shadows

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises


Driving home from the movies yesterday, my dad and I had brief conversation about Batman. He told me that when he was a kid, Batman and Superman were his two favorite heroes/comics. He especially loved Batman because of the fact that he had no super powers. Of course, if we look at the history of the Batman, we see that the character's first appearance was in Detective Comics #27. I don't say this to patronize anyone, especially since I know very little about the Batman comics (I'm sure Jason could teach me a thing or two)...but I do say this as a reminder that Batman is really just a detective in a mask.

And it's that fact that makes Batman so compelling. Alan Moore's Dr. Manhattan is a brilliant character because he's a super man who turns his back on the people, ultimately deciding that they're not worth saving. Compare that to Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, who is in no way a super man, who gives everything he has to save the people of Gothham.

There are a couple of great conversations between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. At one point, she tries to convince him that he doesn't owe the people of Gotham anymore and that he's given them everything. Later in the third act, she tries to get him to skip town with her. It'd be all too easy for a guy with a Batcopter to flee a city that's being held hostage by a terrorist with a nuclear bomb. And yet, fleeing never crosses his mind...not even for a second. It's nice to have someone who's looking out for you, even if that someone isn't invincible. Bruce Wayne/Batman gives everything he has to stop Bane & Talia and it all plays out beautifully in Nolan's film.

I'm definitely with Jeff and Brandon on this one. Heath Ledger's Joker is still the better villain, but The Dark Knight Rises is definitely the better film. It's cleaner, and so much more complete (imdb lists 39 continuity errors for TDK and 8 for the TDKR, so there's that as well). It seems that the criticisms I've heard about TDKR are only stemming from: a) those who never liked Nolan to begin with, or b) those who were hoping to see The Dark Knight: Part II. I'm not sure why those people were hoping to see the same exact film. Yes, we all loved Ledger's performance, but I never saw it as the only laudable aspect of TDK.

And don't get me wrong about Tom Hardy's Bane. It was perfect casting and he gives one hell of a performance. I mean, I guess I don't really have to explain myself, considering how brilliant Heath Ledger was. But Hardy is absolutely worthy of praise. I do love the voice (though there are moments when the audio is too loud - but probably better to be safe than sorry). And Brandon's right, rather than giving us something obvious to fit the brutish nature of Bane's appearance, Hardy gives us one of the most sinister high-voices we've ever heard. And know that the Joker has some great lines in The Dark Knight, but for me, Bane is just as quotable. Part of me feels that the masks hurts the performance a bit, though. Without the mask, Hardy's face could've added to what was already a pretty damn good job. I don't know, I'm torn. Also, quickly, praise for Marion Cortillard as well. I love the reveal/the scenes with Bane and Talia.

I would say, "say what you want about Chris Nolan..." but most people do that anyway. A lot of attention is paid to him, and it seems to me that the guy is criticized more than most directors. But I guess he brings that upon himself; he's one of two/three directors working right now who consistently gives us compelling blockbusters. He's a guy in the limelight. 

In no way am I saying that he isn't without his flaws. A lot of fanboys love his movies unconditionally. When a few national film critics gave The Dark Knight Rises bad reviews, those mindless fanboys resorted to bullshit hate speech. It's disgusting really, especially since those people hadn't even seen the film yet. So I get it, these movies are popular and morons love them. But I also happen to enjoy them, and I don't care what the critics/fans have to say. Nolan always seems to entertain me, which is something that I can't say of most directors, and it's something I'll always appreciate about him.

And I love the way Nolan defines his characters in the The Dark Knight trilogy. I'm not a big Anne Hathaway fan, but she's brilliant here as Selina Kyle. It's a real credit to Hathaway and Nolan. We have a smart, tough, badass cat burglar with a bit of resentment toward the rich. And I do identify her as being the only representation in the film of the Occupy Movement. She's aware of the wealth disparity that exists today, and predicts a "storm" is on the way. But the storm that ends up coming is not exactly what she had in mind. 

Jeff brought up A Tale of Two Cities (Brandon has some nice counter-points). While Nolan makes a habit of capturing the zeitgeist in his films, I do see more French Revolution than Occupy Wall Street in TDKR. While I commend the Occupy Movement for bringing more attention to an important issue, I can't give them any props beyond that. The movement is entirely too lazy. You're right, Brandon, time to do more. That isn't to say that it's time to break out the guillotine. But what we should do, what Occupy should do is nominate and vote for candidates who represent their values and who will actually stand up to Wall Street and the big banks. If we convince ourselves that that can't be done, then there's no point in staying in this country.

Anyway, that's a completely different discussion. The point is, Bane's plan says more about the French Revolution to me than Occupy. Yes, there is a danger with Occupy that someone could emerge from that group and call for bloodshed and/or trials. Based on what Occupy has been so far, I don't think we'll have to worry about that. But then again, if Occupy doesn't move out of the parks and into the polls, something ugly could happen. The problem is real and it will be addressed one way or another.

Bane is also using an atomic bomb to manipulate the people; their actions are only a result of fear. And Batman only seems concerned with that bomb. Sure, he doesn't have the time to think about anything else, but even when the people are at their worst, Batman is only concerned with their safety. I'm also positive he recognizes the full extent of the situation. Talia and Bane claim they're finishing Ra's al Ghuls' plan, but they're also getting into Joker territory here, too; they're hoping for fear and chaos. 

I don't see it as a case of "Stop Bane and preserve the status quo," rather more of a "Stop Bane because he's got an atomic bomb...and if I have to comment, yeah this whole exile or die thing might be too extreme. I'm not at all opposed to addressing income inequality, though." Haha. I understand that a film needs a succinct message and this one might appear to present the former, but I honestly don't see it that way.

As far as the final five minutes of the film are concerned, Nolan wraps up the trilogy perfectly; I couldn't ask for a better ending. Many speculated that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character might be Robin in the film. I do admit that I almost let out a groan when that name was uttered, mainly because I think it's unnecessary. I mean, it's really just a little nod/wink for the fans, so I can't really complain too much (and I was sort of prepared due to all of that speculation). But yeah, more important than what his legal name is, I love the fact that someone of John Blake's ilk stepped up to keep this symbol of hope and justice alive.

And with Bruce Wayne's new life in Europe with Selina Kyle, initially I was thinking that it would've been cool if Alfred had looked up, smiled....and that was it. But as I think more on that, it would've been too similar to the ending of Inception. Also it's just so refreshing to see Christian Bale sitting at that table. Like Alfred, we know what he's been through and what he's given to us, and it does pull on the heartstrings to see that he's finally starting a real life for himself. The Alfred/Bruce relationship brings a emotional weight to the story (nice work as always, Bale and Caine) and it's done well.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Breaking Bad: Magic Mike


Last Sunday's episode of Breaking Bad, "Madrigal" just may have completely one-upped the premier. Sure, there were no magnets (yo), but we did get plenty of Mike Ehrmantraut. Apparently Vince Gilligan is an avid reader of this blog; my request last week for Mike to remain an essential part show was granted; Walt and Jesse have a new business partner and I couldn't be happier. I'm not sure how long it will last, though, but at least we have it for now.

And I know I'm not alone in loving Mike/Johnathan Banks. I think most fans would admit that he's one of the best characters on the show - if not, the best. And a lot of that is a credit to Banks, who is absolutely perfect for the role. Vince Gilligan says as much in this EW.com interview. Listening to Aaron Paul's interview with Terri Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, it was revealed that in the early stages of the show, Jesse was supposed to be killed off. Of course that didn't end up being the case because Vince Gilligan was so impressed with Paul's performance - as well as the dynamic between Jesse and Walt. Anyway, I bring that up because I'm not sure how long Vince planned to keep Mike around initially. Based on Johnathan Banks' performances over the past couple of years, it's easy to understand why they ended up writing more and more for his character.

Jeff's new BFF Matt Zoller Seitz is dead on about last week's episode. So many great shots. So many great scenes. It's also just fascinating the way that Gilligan comes up with new deaths - referring to opening sequence with our short-lived German friend, Mr. Schuler.

I've always admired Vince Gilligan's ability to combine both severely intense moments and ridiculously humorous moments into the same 47-minute episode. It's a real gift and completely aids the show in making it feel as realistic as possible. 

I also love what Jeff wrote about Walt in his BB post. I love that Walt is still trying to justify his behavior, and is doing so in the name of family. Re-watching seasons 2-4 over the past few weeks, I've thought more and more about Walt's motives and what seems to drive him. His selfishness and his ego are unrivaled. But yes, what an uncomfortably great scene that was to end the episode. Agreed, Skyler might just be another time bomb like her husband. They've attempted a separation/divorce and that failed. Time for Skyler to attempt a full measure. 

Is it Sunday yet?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm not even the Buzz Aldrin of the Moonrise discussion...


I've started my Moonrise Kingdom "review" so many times. For whatever reason, I was never able to write anything beyond two paragraphs, and none of it seemed interesting to me anyway. Besides, Brandon, Jeff, and John all did a great job writing about the film. Three very tough acts to follow. Thanks, guys ;). I also pretty much agree with everything you all wrote.

But let's see how far I can get right now... 

Moonrise Kingdom isn't my favorite Wes Anderson film...not yet, anyway. It is a beautiful film, however, and just might be Wes' best work to date. From the moment I saw the first trailer, I was completely hooked. I really enjoy the "us against world" love stories. I think the reason behind that is because I've always felt that if all I had in the world was one person whom I loved unconditionally (and whom loved me equally), I would have everything I need.

But luckily for Sam and Suzy, they have more than just each other. That something more might not always be enough (as Bill Murray's character succinctly states), but it certainly isn't worthless. I'm referring to the sense of community that's promoted in Moonrise that Jeff praised in his posts. Sam and Suzy, despite being a pair of young, misfit rebels, receive plenty of helping hands along the way by Captain Sharp, Scout Master Ward, Cousin Ben, and the Khaki Scout Troop. This charming sense of community demonstrates that even though it feels like an "us against the world" romance, the world will be there to support you if your love is true.

Centering this story around kids on a remote island was a brilliant move on the part of Anderson and Roman Coppola. Often the romantic feelings of young people are dismissed by their elders. In truth, many of us grow older without learning anything about love; life experiences and relationship histories do not automatically make us experts on anything. In the end, there is no formula in finding love. Moonrise Kingdom does a fantastic job of reminding us all of that and more.

Anderson carefully balances the innocence and the maturity in Sam and Suzy's relationship. The more sexual scenes between the two characters do not scandalize or hurt the film in any way as a result. I do admit, I felt slightly uncomfortable when I saw those scenes play out in the theater. It was as if Wes was now asking too much of his young actors. But obviously as I type this, I've come to accept the idea that because the innocence between these two characters is so beautifully established early on in the film, it eases the audience into those slightly stronger, sexual scenes. Not to mention the fact that whether we like it or not, the reality is that many young people are sexual.

Anyway, moving to less of a hot-button issue, I thought the cast was excellent. Every actor was perfect for his and her role. I would've liked to have seen more Bill Murray, but what can you do? It's nice to see Edward Norton in a good film again. He's like a old friend from your childhood who you get to see only every now and then. I love that he's playing a soft-spoken scout master here; another (increasingly less frequent) reminder of what a talented actor he is. Also, Jason Schwartzman and Wes Anderson do it again. From the moment we meet Cousin Ben, I felt the film really picked up. I definitely enjoyed myself the most during his scenes. Great stuff.

I don't really have much to end this post on. I'm just happy that I've finally expressed some love and admiration for it; it's an excellent film. I don't expect anyone to respond to this post (due to my tardiness...all right, "tardiness" is an understatement). I do want to move on to Brave and The Artist. Adrienne's post on Brave really got me excited about the movie again and I'd like to discuss it, even briefly.

I really agree with Jeff on The Artist, so I'm not sure that I'll have much to add there. Then, of course, I can't wait for the Dark Knight Rises discussion. Again, I really need to watch the entire film before I post on it. I've seen everything except for about twenty minutes of the beginning of the third act (so I do know how the film ends). I think I've now spent enough time in the Regal bathroom to last a lifetime.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Breaking Bad: Season 5


 SPOILERS THROUGHOUT

I wish I had found the time to marathon seasons 1-4 of Breaking Bad before the season 5 premier last Sunday. But I was able to re-watch most of 2 and the first half of 3. While I'll probably finish the second half of season 3 and all of season 4 in next few weeks, I reminded myself this morning that I'll have plenty of time to marathon the entire series when season 5 is on a 9-month break. That's gonna be a painful...

Season 5 is off to a great start, and when I think about where we'll be a year from now, I can't foresee being disappointed at all. Vince Gilligan has set this show up for success. For five years now it's been building and building and I imagine we'll be treated to one hell of a showdown at the end. But just who is that machine gun for? You would think that it's meant for a group of people - my first thought was the DEA. Maybe Hank finally discovers who Walt really is. Maybe Jesse discovers more of who Walt really is and tips off Hank. Or maybe the gun is meant for other Cartel members.

As you wrote, John, the magnet heist was f'ing awesome (there's no chance of not sounding like Chris Farley here). One of the great things about the show is that it contains many elements from different shows/movies/genres - a show with many hats. But back to the magnet sequence - the problem was interesting/original and the solution was cool and brilliant. Well done, Gilligan.

I do hope Mike sticks around, but now that the laptop is destroyed, I'm not sure that he would want to. He's become my favorite character on the show, though, so I'd be sad to see him go.

I actually didn't mind Skyler in that last episode. No doubt Anna Gunn is a good actress, but I've never liked the way her character is written. I guess all it took was for Walt to go off the deep end for me to garner some sympathy for her.

I had briefly forgotten what happened Ted at the end of season 4. The previously on Breaking Bad helped some, but yeah, there's a moment in which I really needed to re-watch the show. Not sure if I feel bad for Ted at all. He's kind of a douche.

Walt needs to die. Not now, of course, but at the end of the series. It's been one hell of a transformation and it's interesting to see how quickly things snowballed and got out of hand, but yeah, the person Walt has become cannot go on living. I wonder who will be the one to take him out or will his cancer finally get him?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Juuuunnnneee

Features

La Dolce Vita ****
Indiscreet ***1/2
Le Samourai ***
Prometheus ***
Angel Face *****
Freaks ****
My Man Godfrey****
Masculin Feminin ****
John Carter ***1/2
Moonrise Kingdom ****1/2
A Star Is Born (the first hour, will watch the rest later) N/A
You Can't Take It With You *****

Re-watched

Bringing Up Baby ***** 

Television

Game of Thrones season 2
Mad Men season 5
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
Real Time with Bill Maher
The Ricky Gervais Show season 3
Seinfeld season 3
Downton Abbey season 2

Notes: Sorry for the lack of posts lately. The fact that I sit in front of a computer all day at work doesn't always grant me the ability to post consistently. That might sound like a shit excuse to some, but it's the only one I've got. Anyway, I hope to have something up on Moonrise Kingdom tomorrow or Sunday (and hopefully Jeff and I will see Brave soon). So far I've really enjoyed reading the Moonrise thoughts of Brandon, Jeff, and John; hopefully I'm not too late in joining in.

On my shortlist of favorite directors, Fellini would not crack it. I just prefer different directors. Even though I'm not a huge fan, I still respect him and acknowledge that he was a brilliant director/storyteller. I also admit that his films can be, at times, a lot smarter than I am. So this is me not calling something pretentious, but saying that La Dolce Vita is something bigger and better than I will ever be. I will say that the more I read about La Dolce Vita and Fellini, the more I like.

Indiscreet is a decent Stanley Donen romantic comedy. There are some nice twists and turns as the script unfolds. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are loveable, as usual. It's interesting to see them paired up during the latter stages of their careers - Notorious and Indiscreet would be a nice double feature.

I was actually disappointed by Le Samourai. I really enjoyed Le Cercle Rouge, but for whatever reason Le Samourai didn't do as much for me. I love Alain Delon and his badass persona, but there just wasn't much else for me to take enjoyment from. Oh well...we'll meet again, Melville.

Angel Face is a hell of a lot of fun; I'm glad Jeff told me to move it to the top of my Netflix queue a few weeks ago. Jean Simmons is sort of like a nefarious version of Audrey Hepburn - great performance. Hopefully John was able to watch this one in full. It'd be nice to have a conversation about. I wish we all could watch and discuss it.

Freaks surprised me...in a good way. I was actually surprised at how respectful the film was - not that I expected it to be brutally offensive or anything. But I knew of how the film ended and there was a part of me that was concerned that the stars of the film would be exploited for the purposes of frightening the audience. But the only thing truly frightening about this film is Olga Baclanova's character, Venus.

My Man Godfrey was enjoyable and worthy of all of those stars I gave it above, but I have to admit...I don't like it as much as Jeff does. Carol Lombard kinda annoyed me in this one :( In no way am I writing her off as an actress...I'm just saying I wasn't a big fan of her character. Maybe I'd change my mind if I saw it again (and I will see it again). I do like the message of the film.

There's quite a bit to love about Masculin Feminin. I'm not too big on Godard either, but this might be my favorite of the films I've seen so far by him. I just love those moments when Jean-Pierre Leaud is interviewing the girls. It leads to some very interesting conversations and ideas on love and life. And I don't know what it is, but there's something about Leaud that kinda makes me want to punch him in the nose. haha. 

John Carter probably deserves its own post but I might be too late to resurrect any sort of discussion. Maybe I'll have something more on it in the near future. I think it'll probably be on Brandon and John's top ten lists for the year (or both of you guys) so maybe we can talk more about it then. I liked it (3 and a half stars) but I'm not sure that it did enough for me. It was one of those mostly enjoyable experiences that ended with a "meh" reaction.

Moonrise Kingdom thoughts coming soon.

Again, I've only seen the first hour of A Star Is Born. It's on a DVR so I'll finish it at some point. More drunk James Mason please.

I really love You Can't Take It With You and the moment I fell in love is when Jimmy Stewart brings his snooty parents over to Jean Arthur's house for dinner 24 hours early. From that moment on, I don't think I ever stopped smiling. Again, I'm drawn to the theme/message. I must really hate rich people. Yeah, I kinda do.

The first time I watched Bringing Up Baby, I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be...mainly because I thought it would be funnier/have better one-liners. Second time around I really enjoyed it. But throughout the film I kept thinking, "Oh, this must be why John doesn't really care for Katherine Hepburn." Not does she get under Cary Grant's skin, she got a little under mine at times. But because Grant plays such a square, we know he deserves he. Great performances from both actors.

Breaking Bad is almost here. I watched a couple of episodes from season 2 today. I really wish I had the time to marathon seasons 1-4.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Old Thoughts: Now Newly Phrased!!

90% of horror films are crap. There's a definite link to Sturgeon's Law here; I would say the same of other genres. 90% of action movies are crap...hell, 95%. Comedies, dramas, indies? Uh huh. A lot of this has to do with the influx of movies each year. Quantity will almost always lead to a deterioration in quality. And I am speaking more of contemporary films (the past thirty years or so). I really like what Brandon wrote in his last post on this subject (the Pissed Jeans paragraph). Does anyone else agree?

It's not as if horror is my whipping boy; it is a genre known for cheap thrills, but action movies are guilty of the same. But the "killings" aspect of horror is interesting, though, because certain people come to expect that there will plenty of bloodshed in a given movie, and often become disappointed when there isn't enough of it. Sure it can desensitize those people, but more than that, it drives them to become cheerleaders for brutality and murder in that moment.

Disclaimer: all horror fans are not cheerleaders for murder. And because these movies are fictional...I can't say that I care too much. Last time I checked, horror films aren't a gateway drug to serial homicide.

Anytime I note the over-reliance on sex and violence in horror, Jason and Brandon redirect my attention to slasher films, and rightfully so. I also want to include torture porn in that as well. We all know I hate torture porn with a passion, but with slashers, I only hate the newer ones. I can give props to the original slashers of the 70s and 80s; I bet I wouldn't find faults in Halloween. And even though it's possibly a cheap shout-out at this moment in time, I do want to remind everyone that I really like Club Dread ;)

So we've covered slashers. That leaves us with...

Haunted house movies: I don't have a problem with them...other than the fact that they make me shit myself. I love The Shining and The Others, and I imagine I would find some things to enjoy about The Innkeepers if I watched it.

Zombies, vampires, monsters, and alien invasions: it really depends. It seems like most people are either big into zombies or vampires...which is why True Blood and The Walking Dead get great ratings despite their mediocrity. Maybe that's a source of slight annoyance for me as well. You throw a zombie or a vampire into anything and it will sell...unless it's Tim Burton's Dark Shadows.

Vampire/zombie films that I really enjoy: Let the Right One In and Shaun of the Dead.

If 90% of all horror movies suck, 10% are great and worthy of praise. Because I mean this proportionally, this assessment seems more than fair to me. It's not as if I think that are only ten good horror films out there (I mean, come on, I've only seen six anyway). I respect the genre, even if it isn't my thing.

But "my thing" be damned, sometimes someone makes a great film that transcends its genre. The problem with horror is that too often people who make horror films get lazy. We talk about critics/bloggers being lazy, but goddamn, how many times are we going to see the same characters, plot points, and scares? It's for this reason that I enjoyed what Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard did with Cabin in the Woods. It came at the right time and was mostly well-done.

And sure, fans come to expect certain things, which is why they don't grow tired of seeing the same thing over and over...but I'm not really one of those kinds of people. That does not make me smarter or better than anyone else (and certainly not braver). Allusions I can understand and appreciate. I am aware of the community aspect of horror and sci-fi and can respect it.

-------------------------

Also, if we're discussing the idea that calling something "shit" is being too dismissive...might I also point out that calling something "pretentious" is just as lazy/dismissive.

Brandon writes: "I can’t speak about PROJECT X honestly because I haven’t seen it but I was appalled by the marketing campaign. That director (the douche who made the stupid HANGOVER films) has marketed films that nurture adult’s prolonged adolescence. He promotes every type of stupidity imaginable and has made heroes out of misogynists, homophobes, and GASP! preppies. He’s the devil as far as I’m concerned and PROJECT X seems like his latest “let’s do molly and get girls to strip for us” mantra. Sorry if this is fiery but I have been extremely fed up with the youth of today lately. I love the idea of having a good time, even if that means sex, drugs, law breaking, and boozing is involved. But this “all I do is party” scene is running rampant, we have JERSEY SHORE morons running amuck calling dude’s like Jeff and I faggots while driving down the streets (actual incidents… yes plural). I’m sure you’ll have a lengthy response to this so I’ll take my answer off the air. Haha."

If anyone ever asks me why I like Brandon, I'll direct him/her to this paragraph. I couldn't sum it up any better myself.

I think a good test for you, Jason, is to see Ted. If you like it, I'm afraid we're really gonna have to challenge your glasses theory. None of us are getting paid to blog, so it's understandable/acceptable that we'll write some lazy criticisms every now and then. But guys like Seth McFarlane are getting paid millions of dollars to come up with the most mind-numbing shit. A movie about a teddy bear who curses, drinks, smokes, and hangs with hookers must die a horrible death. It's way too easy, and the Jersey Shore morons Brandon referenced will eat it up by the barrelful.

Sorry, I just can't pat anyone who makes a film on the back. I don't want to be the guy who hates on movies - I love them and I love going to the theater to watch them. But filmmaking isn't for everyone and hundreds of movies are absolutely worthy of wrath and indignation. I think it's fair to draw the line at personal attacks. Just because I hate Seth McFarlane's writing doesn't mean that I hate him or want him out of the business. I just wish he would challenge himself and his audience more.

Anyway, feel free to ignore my 90% comment, Jason. After all, you can come up with statistics to prove anything; 14% of all people know that.