Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie – K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

K-19: The Widowmaker is a submarine movie that is supposedly a true story.  In reality the filmmakers changed almost everything about it in order to pump up the tension and to make the stakes higher.  In fact, surviving crewmen of the K-19 sent an open letter to many involved in the movie complaining about the fictional parts of the story.  In any case, it is a movie, not a documentary, so the filmmakers can do whatever they want to pump up the plot.  While this is no Das Boot (1981) – the gold standard of submarine movies – it is also better than some others (which will remain nameless).

Movie – Hangar 18 (1980)

Hangar 18 is a movie that was designed to capitalize on the UFO craze of the 1970s, as well as the then recent science fiction hits Star Wars (1977), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).  They even used a font similar to Star Trek’s for the opening credits of the movie.  Hangar 18 is essentially a cross between the 1978 movie Capricorn One and the later TV show the X-Files (1993 – 2002).  In fact, the plot of this movie would be right at home in an X-Files episode.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Movie – Stalag 17 (1953)

Stalag 17 is a comedy-drama directed by Billy Wilder and starring William Holden.  This was a re-teaming of the two men.  Their prior movie together was Sunset Boulevard (1950.)  Billy Wilder was a great director – one of the best ever.  I discussed his career in my review of Sunset Boulevard.  You can read it here.  Stalag 17 had more humor than Sunset Boulevard, but it also had a more serious subject: a World War II prisoner of war camp.  This isn’t a topic that would seem to lend itself to humor, but Wilder managed it.  He received an Oscar nomination for his direction of this movie.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Movie – Sixteen Candles (1984)

Sixteen Candles is one of the 1980’s John Hughes movies that is beloved by a generation of people who grew up on them.  Being male, and just out of my teens when I first saw it, I could not fully identify with Molly Ringwald’s character, but I could still enjoy the movie.  It was made at a time when filmmakers could have teenagers talking like actual teenagers and not get an R rating from the MPAA.  It was made with many actual teenagers, too.  Ah, those were the days.

Movie – Quinceanera (2006)

For those of you who get your information on quinceaneras from episodes of Wizards of Waverly Place, you should know that they are not really a sweet sixteen party for fifteen year old Hispanic girls.  They are actually more akin to a Jewish Bat Mitzvah since they symbolize the girl becoming an adult.  The rituals involved in them vary from country to country and culture to culture.  In all aspects, though, they are about the girl growing up and becoming an adult.  In the larger sense that is what the movie Quinceanera is about, too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Movie – 14 Hours (1951)

14 Hours is based on a real event that occurred in New York City in the late 1930s.  A man climbed out on a ledge and spent the next fourteen hours standing there while a police officer talked with him, trying to get him to come back into the room.  A huge crowd gathered below to see what was going to happen.  Although it has some fine performances and cinematography in it, this movie is probably best remembered for something else: it features the screen debut of the 21 year old Grace Kelly.

Movie – District B13 (2004)

District B13 is an action film from France.  Say “French action film” to most people and you will get a lot of confused stares.  The term doesn’t seem to make sense to them.  In fact, if you take away films that Luc Besson was involved in (as he was with District B13) then the only French action film I can remember seeing prior to this one was Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001).  Rest assured, there are no mimes, long sequences that make no sense, or any other bad cultural stereotypes you may have about French films.  This is a kick ass sci-fi action film with a French accent and that accent is parkour.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Movie – 12 Angry Men (1957)

12 Angry Men is one of the all-time classic movies.  It features a number of excellent performances, an engaging, tension-filled story, and great cinematography – all within the confines of tiny jury deliberation room.  Henry Fonda was the star of the film and out of more than 100 movies he was in, he considered 12 Angry Men one of the three best films he ever made.

It is currently #6 on IMDB’s list of the Top 250 movies of all time.  As I discussed in my Seven Samurai post [you can read it here] IMDB gives higher rankings to movies that receive more votes, so for a film with relatively so few votes to be ranked so high is nothing short of remarkable.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Movie – Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

The 2001 Ocean’s Eleven film was a remake of the 1960 Frank Sinatra movie of the same name.  I have not seen the original, so I do not know how the two films compare.  In general, the stories both inside and outside the movie are the same – a star (Frank Sinatra/George Clooney) got together with some pals and made movies about casino heists.  Some people love gangster movies; I love heist movies, even ones that are B movies.  In this case, the movie is A-list all the way.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Try Your Own Movie Countdown

I’ve made it up to the number 10 now.  I’m going to keep going up to 50, but I wanted to ask all of you to try your hands at your own movie countdowns.  You don’t have to do reviews of the films; just do a list of movies you would recommend whose titles somehow count down from ten to one.  When you post your list on your blog, please come back here and leave a link to it in the comments so everyone can check it out.

The rules I am using for my own posts are:

  1. Numbers from sequels do not count.
  2. Any variation of the number in the title counts whether it is the digits, the word, or even things like first, second, 5th, etc.
  3. Numbers embedded in a combination with letters still count (i.e. K9 is good for nine.)
  4. Numbers that are part of a larger number do not count (i.e. 3:10 to Yuma doesn’t count for either 3 or 10.)
Give it a try and see what you get.  There are a great many combinations that can be made and I’m interested to see what other people come up with.  You can pick any of the same movies I did, if those are the only ones you would recommend for a number.

Here is my list (with links to my reviews):

[Note – you can see all my Movies by Numbers, as well as get some hints on what’s to come, at this link.]

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Movie – 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

I’m going to do something a little different with this review.  Instead of the usual format I’m going to use a list format.  Without further ado, here are 10 Things I Love About 10 Things I Hate About You.

1.  The story – The movie is based on the Shakespeare comedy The Taming of the Shrew, but with a modern twist.  If you say both titles out loud they even sound a little like each other.  If you’ve never seen the original play the basic premise is that a younger woman cannot marry until her older sister marries first.  The catch is that the older sister is a “shrew” and no man wants anything to do with her.  A suitor for the younger sister convinces a rogue to try to court the older sister, so that both can eventually be married.  In the movie it’s a father who’s paranoid about his daughters getting pregnant who forbids his younger daughter from dating until her older sister does.  Most of the characters have names relating to Shakespeare (i.e. Kat and Bianca Stratford, Patrick Verona, Padua High, etc.)  There are also a few lines from various works by Shakespeare in the film.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Movie and Book – 9 ½ Weeks (1986)

The movie 9 ½ Weeks created quite a stir when it came out in 1986.  It was based on Elizabeth McNeill’s book of the same name that chronicled a very intense nine and a half week relationship she had with a man who completely took over her life.  After the relationship ended she wrote the book either based on her diaries, or written in a way to appear to be almost in diary form.  I will be discussing both the movie and the book in this post.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Movie – Love Potion #9 (1992)

I often see the term “guilty pleasure” used when someone is worried that people will think badly of them for liking something.  I’ve never really understood this.  If I like something, then I like it.  I don’t feel guilty about liking it just because others don’t.  I don’t believe this makes me insensitive.  To me, it’s just being comfortable with who I am and what I like.  What does any of this have to do with the film Love Potion #9?  Well, this is precisely the kind of movie that I have seen others describe as a guilty pleasure.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Movie – Dinner at Eight (1933)

Dinner at Eight is a comedy of manners, with dramatic elements, among various well-to-do folks.  It was released at the height of the Great Depression.  You would think it would have been hated, but people watched it for the great escapism that it brought to them.  It allowed audiences to see the clothes, jewelry, homes, etc. that the rich had and live vicariously through them, but it also showed them that the rich had just as many problems as they had, if not more.  It’s a great character study and a bit of a time capsule for a kind of society that was on its last legs from the Depression.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie – Seven Samurai (1954)

What can be said about Akira Kurosawa’s film Seven Samurai that has not already been said before?  I stalled over this review for a few days because I knew that a movie that has been the subject of any number of learned papers has likely had every minute of it dissected at some point.  I then remembered that my goal is not to provide movie criticism, but to communicate information to people on why they may want to see a movie I am recommending.  To that end I will say that the best reason for you to see Seven Samurai is, quite simply, that it is the greatest non-English language movie ever made.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Movie – Six-String Samurai (1998)

Six-String Samurai is a number of things.  It is a classic example of the term “cult movie.”  It is a good example of what you can do (and cannot do) in a very low budget film.  It is a great example of a movie that people will either love or hate.  It’s a good example of allegory.  It’s a combination of The Road Warrior (1981), The Warriors (1979), The Wizard of Oz (1939), westerns, samurai movies, and the movie Crossroads (the 1986 Ralph Macchio one, not the 2002 Britney Spears one.)  It is a good movie to watch for all the musical memes that are on display.  And it is a great movie to listen to for its soundtrack.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Movie – Henry V (1989)

In adapting, directing, and starring in Shakespeare’s Henry V, Kenneth Branagh stepped right into the shoes of Laurence Olivier, one of the all time greatest actors.  Olivier had done this in 1944 for his directorial debut and now 45 years later Branagh was doing the same.  Both would go on to adapt, direct, and star in Hamlet a few years later, as well as other Shakespearean plays.  The general consensus on the two Henry Vs was that Olivier had Branagh beaten at acting, but that Branagh had directed a superior movie.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Movie – Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Born on the Fourth of July is the first movie where I sat up and took notice that Tom Cruise could really act.  He had shown some good promise in his earlier films The Color of Money (1986) and Rainman (1988), acting beside Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman, respectively.  In both movies, though, he was still overshadowed by the legend he was working with, both of whom won Best Actor Oscars for their roles in those films.  Born on the Fourth of July, however, is all Tom Cruise.