Monday, April 11, 2016

Steve’s Selections #16 – Stake Land (2010)

This is the fourth for this year and 16th overall review of a film that Steve Honeywell at 1001plus gave me to see.  He is doing the same with films from me.  This month’s selection is Stake Land, one of the two horror movies Steve gave me this year.  I didn’t know if my health situation was going to allow me to get this done on time.  I was in pain while watching it and I freely admit this may have negatively impacted my impression of it.  Overall, I can see why Steve picked it for me – being a “not your usual” vampire movie – and while there are some good points to it, the film ultimately comes in at an “it was okay” level with me.

Monday, April 4, 2016

My Health and March Movie Status

This posting is days late.  My life has been in some turmoil.  I had another gallbladder attack a few weeks ago and I’ve been fighting with people ever since to have it taken out.  It finally was removed last Friday, but when they got inside it was in much worse shape than they were expecting.  Thankfully, they were still able to do the surgery laproscopically, but they did keep me overnight in the hospital, which is not normal.  Now I’m recovering, hoping the pain gets a little less each day.  I’m only now getting around to this post.  And I never did do a post on what I feel are the Top 10 films of 2015.  I honestly don’t know if or even when I might do it now.

Anyway, on to the March status.  In the month of March I saw 18 new films, re-watched 4 more, and watched a season of a TV show.

I chipped away at the IMDB movies I need to see.  I also knocked off a couple more 101 Genre movies, too.  In both cases there were DVDs I received from Netflix that I watched.  I didn’t get to any of the new TSPDT entries.

Here are the 18 films I saw in March.  Ones I would recommend (give at least a three star rating to) are highlighted. 

101 Genre (2): Manhattan Melodrama (1934), Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

IMDB (5): Little Women (1994), Transformers: The Movie (1986), Strange Brew (1983), Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1995), Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (1980)

Other (11): The Lunchbox (2013), The Flower of My Secret (1996), Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), The Love Punch (2013), Clip (2012), This Island Earth (1955), The Mistress of Spices (2005), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016), Reel Injun (2009), The Rebound (2009), Deadpool (2016)

Re-watches (4): Spotlight (2015), Kingsmen: The Secret Service (2015), Friends with Benefits (2011), The Peanuts Movie (2015)

TV: Daredevil Season 2 (2016)

The Lunchbox (2013) – This is a well-acted, and for the most part, well-written film. Unfortunately, it's a relatively inexperienced writer/director and he either couldn't figure out how to end it, or he was too cowardly to commit to one of the two paths that the film had set up (because either path would have disappointed part of the audience). As a result, the crap ending undoes a lot of good that was built up during the course of the film.   2.5 stars

Manhattan Melodrama (1934) – “Melodrama” certainly is fitting as we have Gable and Powell as lifelong friends - one a criminal, the other a lawman - and Loy who starts with one and leaves him for the other. Gable plays maybe the most happy-go-lucky criminal ever put on screen, and Powell plays maybe the most black and white decision maker ever put on screen. Had this been made a couple of years earlier (pre Code) we might have had a completely different ending.   3 stars

Little Women (1994) – After not caring for the 1930s version of this movie I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to watching this movie. As it turns out, Ryder is far less annoying than Hepburn was, and overall the cast's acting is much better than the 30s one, especially Dunst and Bale.   3 stars

The Transformers: The Movie (1986) – I’m not the target market for this. I stopped watching Saturday morning cartoons a little before Transformers hit the air. The only thing I know about them is from the first three live action films. I watched this because it's on an early IMDB Top 250 year end list. As it started it quickly became apparent that this is about the most clichéd 80s movie I've seen in some time. Music video style sequences? Check. Generic "rock" score? Check. 80's slang? Check. 80's "cool" factors? Check. One thing that did surprise me was that there were some sequences that appeared to be influenced by ones from Heavy Metal (1981), which is pretty much the polar opposite of Transformers.   2.5 stars

The Flower of My Secret (1996) – This is lesser Almodovar, but it's still worth seeing if you like his films (which I do).   3 stars

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) – You can read my review of this here.   3.5 stars

Underworld U.S.A. (1961) – There’s some good acting and cinematography is this otherwise standard tale of revenge. I was hoping that 1961 was modern enough to allow for something other than the standard ending, but unfortunately it wasn't.   3 stars

Strange Brew (1983) - Max von Sydow has had one of those careers where every once in a great while you catch yourself asking "what the hell is he doing in this movie?" Strange Brew is the latest example for me. Maybe he never read the script. Maybe someone sold it to him as "Hamlet in Canada". Who knows? In this case he plays an evil man who plans to flood the world with a beer that makes people violent, stupid, and suggestive. Um, isn't that what beer already does? (Maybe I'm overthinking it.) And of course I am because this movie is based on the Canadian comedy sketch show SCTV routine's of "Bob and Doug McKenzie" (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), just as any number of movies have been made of Saturday Night Live sketches. The characters are, of course, dumb but lovable. There's nothing particularly wrong with the movie. It just didn't make me laugh that much.   2.5 stars

The Love Punch (2013) – I like heist movies and the concept of a retired couple pulling a heist to get back their stolen retirement money appealed to me. Unfortunately, the writer wasn't that interested in the heist itself. Whole sections of things that would have had to be figured out or solved were just magically swept aside by someone "knowing a person" whenever a problem came up.   3 stars

Clip (2012) – The obvious comparison here is to 1995's Kids. (Man, has it been more than 20 years since that came out? I suddenly feel old.) Clip shows a bunch of modern teens partying, getting wasted, and having random sex, but in a difference from Kids because of the modern era, they all have their phones out recording themselves, too. The reactions Clip has gotten (denial, outrage, cries of exploitation) greatly remind me of those that Kids got - if you think your teen is not partaking in at least SOME of these activities then you've got your head buried in the sand. It also means that you've never been on the internet. Apparently it was the thousands of thousands of clips of themselves that teens post online doing stuff like this that gave director Maja Mlos her idea for the movie. It happens to be set in Serbia because that's where she's from, but it could be teens anywhere. Lead actress Isidora Simijonovic is gorgeous and appears quite natural on camera. And for those people hyperventilating over the fact that there are maybe 10 seconds of explicit footage in the film, she is not in any of it. The director used body doubles for anything explicit since her main cast (including Simijonovic) was under 18 - much like the Kids main cast was. Only time will tell if Clip will have someone emerge from its young cast and become a star, like Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson did from Kids. Personally, I'd be interested in seeing Simijonovic in another movie.   3 stars

This Island Earth (1955) – I started to watch the MST3K movie, which was crapping on this one, and I stopped because I had heard halfway decent things about This Island Earth and I had not seen it yet, When I did watch it I found it to be an above average science fiction movie from among those made in the 1950s. It's reasonably intelligent. Yes, it does go overboard on what were I'm sure top of the line special effects of the day, but you could say that about many, many movies. If you have only ever seen the bastardized version in the MST3K movie then you owe it to yourself to see the real version.   3 stars

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1995) – I never watched the TV show, so I was not coming into this as a fan. Then the movie they picked as "one of the worst of all time" turned out to be one of the better science fiction films from the 1950s (This Island Earth). I stopped watching this and went to see the full version of that first. I then came back to this and I could see how they had completely bastardized the movie to try to make it look as bad as possible, cutting whole sections out of it so the story made no sense. Finally, the jokes and quips just weren't that funny. I read more about this movie afterwards because I couldn't believe the TV show had had such a cult following if the movie was anything to go by. Apparently, all involved hate the movie. One of the MST3K people, when asked what the worst movie ever featured on the show was, replied "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie."   1 star

Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (1980) – Yup, it was their next movie…..   2 stars

The Mistress of Spices (2005) – This movie didn't turn out to be what I was expecting, but there are still enough parts of it that make it worth watching.   3 stars

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016) – This movie is linked to the first only via Michelle Yeoh's character, the sword, and the title. Don't go in expecting to see the original. And yes, there is another character that would probably have been from the original movie if Zhang Ziyi had signed on, but she didn't so they changed the character name in this movie.   3 stars

Reel Injun (2009) – Not really enough actual film footage, and a little too much time spent with Conspiracy Guy, but still an interesting look at how Indians have been portrayed in Hollywood films.   3 stars

The Rebound (2009) – This is billed as a romantic comedy. It's not. It's a drama with some romance in it. I didn't buy the supposed age difference between them, but I suppose a 31 year old guy playing 25 is nothing what with all the 30 year olds playing teens in movies and TV shows.   3 stars

Deadpool (2016) – This film starts out very funny. I wouldn't even call this part an action comedy, but an out and out comedy that happens to have some action in it. Unfortunately, the movie then goes into a long flashback that features cancer, torture, disfigurement, lost love, and revenge plots. This kills off all the fun in a big, big way. The movie then tries gamely to get it back, with partial success, but it would have been FAR better if they had just kept the humorous tone all the way through.   3.5 stars

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Steve’s Selections #15 – Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

First things first, this is a few days late.  Steve Honeywell at 1001plus and I plan to post our monthly reviews of the films each of us gave the other on the second Monday of the Month.  This time I gave Steve a heads up that health would prevent me from being able to do so on schedule this month.  I have since watched the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop and I liked it.  The big question surrounding this documentary is whether it is a hoax or not.  I have no firm opinion one way of the other, but I will submit that in the end, it actually doesn’t matter.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

February Movie Status

In the month of February I saw 7 new films, plus I re-watched 2 more.

This is even fewer than last month and the reason is the same – I just haven’t been in much of a movie watching mood.  I don’t know why.  I made myself watch two of the three DVDs I’ve had from Netflix for more than a month.  I’ve been doing some reading instead.

In February I did finish off the last of the Oscar Best Picture nominees for 2016 – making me as complete as I can be on all nominees again, but I didn’t watch any of the 14 additions to the IMDB list.  February also saw a new They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list being issued.  The result of the re-ranking done for 2016 is that I now have 16 films to watch to once again be complete on that, too.

I will probably plug away at these 30 films over the next few months rather than try to just get them all out of the way as quickly as possible.

Here are the 9 films I saw in February.  Ones I would recommend (give at least a three star rating to) are highlighted.  

Oscar (3): Room (2015), Bridge of Spies (2015), Brooklyn (2015)

101 Genre (2): Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), The Wiz (1978)

Other (2): Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015), Crazy Horse (2011)

Re-watches (1): Hollywood Shuffle (1987), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Hollywood Shuffle (1987) – I re-watched this film and reviewed it for an “Acting Black” blogathon.  You can read my review here.   3 Stars

Room (2015) – I reviewed this Best Picture nominee here.   3 Stars

Bridge of Spies (2015) – I reviewed this Best Picture nominee here.   4 Stars

Brooklyn (2015) – I watched this Best Picture nominee, but did not write a review because it was not quite good enough for me to recommend.  Oh, it's not a bad movie, but ultimately there's not much depth to it or the characters.  A young Irish woman with a crappy life moves to the U.S., is homesick, makes friends, takes classes, aces her bookkeeping certification, meets a great guy, falls in love, and is very happy. Of course, if you know anything about movies you know the happiness won't last for two major reasons: 1. the movie's only halfway through; and 2. critics like the movie.   2.5 Stars

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – I re-watched this Best Picture nominee.  You can read my review of it here.   4 Stars

Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)This is a different kind of film. It's one part anti-war drama, one part musical, one part satire, and one part theatrical allegory. A whole host of familiar faces cameo in a retelling of how WWI started and its impact on one fictional British family.   3.5 Stars

Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)It doesn't start out that well, but after 30 minutes or so it improves. Aardman has done better than this, both with this character and with others, but there are still some smiles to be had. Just don't expect A Close Shave.   3 Stars

The Wiz (1978)There are parts of this that are quite good (i.e. Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow breaking into Ease on Down the Road for the first time), but there are also parts that are just terrible (i.e. trashcans with fangs, many of the bland songs early in the film).  I do admit that it grew on me as it got towards the end, but not enough that I could recommend this.   2.5 Stars

Crazy Horse (2011) – Director Wiseman has been making documentaries since the 1960s. I guess it takes that much experience to film the most famous nude revue show in the world (Paris' Crazy Horse) and somehow make it a little boring.   2.5 Stars

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sorry, I Can’t Do Oscar Predictions This Year

This is just a quick post to say that there’s been a sudden and unexpected death in the family.  I’ve been helping out however I can and I won’t have an opportunity to put the thought needed into making decisions on potential Oscar winners, then formatting a post on them.

At this point I don’t know if I’ll have a post-Oscars post, or if I’ll even be watching them tonight.  We will see.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ranking the 2016 Best Picture Nominees, Plus Some Observations

I have now posted reviews for the seven of the eight films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar that I would recommend. 

In regards to ranking the eight nominees I had a much easier time this year picking the best than I did last year.  The Martian was one of the most enjoyable films I had seen for quite a while.  And following after it is a clear number two – Mad Max: Fury Road.

The one nominee I did not review was Brooklyn because it wasn’t quite good enough for me to recommend.  When it comes right down to it there’s just not much depth there in either the story or the characters.  People who have read the book it is based on seem to like it more, so perhaps the director just didn’t do a good enough job conveying inner feelings well enough for the audience members who have not read the book.

Here is how I would rate the eight Best Picture nominees from best to not quite the best.  I have also included how these films are ranked according to the Rotten Tomatoes critics (RTC), the Rotten Tomatoes audiences (RTA), and the IMDB voters. 

The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road
Bridge of Spies
The Big Short
The Revenant


My trend of not really aligning with any of these three groups continues.  It’s interesting to see that Brooklyn is the highest rated among critics, but towards the bottom with audiences and dead last with IMDB users.  I also found it interesting that The Revenant, one of the more picked nominees to win, is the lowest rated for both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, yet is second highest among IMDB users.  Finally, I’m amazed Mad Max: Fury Road did so poorly (relatively) with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

A few more observations now that I have seen the eight movies:

  1. Last year I wrote, ”Thankfully, the last two years have had only a single nominee longer than 2 ½ hours (The Wolf of Wall Street and Boyhood).  And also in the last two years there have been two nominees under 2 hours long (Philomena, Gravity, Whiplash, and The Grand Budapest Hotel).  Each of the last two years the remaining nominees have been just under or just over two hours long.  I hope this trend continues.”  It did.  This year only The Revenant is more than 2 ½ hours, while Brooklyn and Room are both under 2 hours long (and Mad Max: Fury Road is exactly 2 hours.)
  2. The Big Short is one of the stronger contenders for Best Picture (it won the Producers’ Guild Award for Best Film).  If it wins the Oscar it will go back to back with last year’s winner Birdman, which was the first film with comedic elements in it to win since back to back winners Shakespeare in Love (1998) and American Beauty (1999).  Maybe humor is acceptable to the Academy for a couple of years at a time, every couple of decades.
  3. The prior three years I liked all the Best Picture nominees enough to recommend them.  This year I finally had one that I felt wasn’t quite good enough to do that (Brooklyn).
  4. Last year five movies were rated R and the other three were PG-13.  The same thing happened this year.  Unlike recent years where Spielberg’s PG-13 rated film War Horse would have received an R for violence if directed by anyone else, and Nebraska received an R despite having no sex, no nudity, no violence, and two F-bombs, this year I pretty much agree with all the ratings across the board.
  5. The prior three years have seen a trend of nominees re-creating true events (Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, The Wolf of Wall Street, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Selma, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and American Sniper.)  That continues this year with Bridge of Spies, The Big Short, Spotlight, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road.  (Just kidding on that last one.)
  6. I’m a little surprised that this year features not one, but two science fiction films with Best Picture nominations.  That hasn’t happened since 2010 with Avatar and District 9 (probably not coincidentally that was also the first modern year of more than five nominees.)  And in case you are wondering, 2014 with Her and Gravity doesn’t qualify because Gravity is not science fiction.  In fact, those four films from those two years represent almost half of all science fiction films ever nominated for Best Picture.  The others are A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars, E.T., Inception, and Her.  Fantasy has had more nominees (i.e. Toy Story 3, Benjamin Button, Crouching Tiger, etc.) and one winner – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  Even Horror has had a winner with The Silence of the Lambs.  No science fiction film has ever won Best Picture, though.  And sadly, I don’t think it’s going to happen this year, either.
  7. Three years ago Jennifer Lawrence broke a string of 27 straight years, and all but 4 years since 1970, where the Best Actress winner has done nudity during their careers.  Many of the winners appeared nude in the role that won them the Oscar.  (So much for “real actresses don’t do nudity.”)  Two years ago Cate Blanchett, who has also not appeared nude on screen, repeated Lawrence’s win.  Last year we went back to the norm with Julianne Moore winning.  This year both Lawrence and Blanchett are nominated again, and Saoirse Ronan has also not done nudity.  Only Charlotte Rampling has not been shy onscreen, and at all ages, too.
  8. Tom Hardy appeared in two of the eight nominees (Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant), and he was nominated for the latter.  Domhnall Gleeson appears in both The Revenant and Brooklyn, but did not receive a nomination.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Movie – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

After a thirty year wait Max Rockatansky returns in Mad Max: Fury Road…probably.  (More on that in a bit.)  This is a balls to the wall, completely insane action film and it blows my mind that it somehow got nominated for Best Picture.  Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s entertaining as hell.  It’s just that these kinds of movies pretty much never get Oscar nominations beyond ones for visual effects, sound, and editing.  Well, Mad Max: Fury Road (MMFR) received nominations for no less than ten Oscars, including one for director George Miller.