Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie – Immortal Beloved (1994)

Immortal Beloved is the final film from 1994 that I will be reviewing for this A Great Year for Movies category.  It is also the one I saw most recently – about one year ago.  I believe I had heard of this film back when it came out, but it didn’t sound like anything I would be interested in.  And I can’t tell you why I decided to finally watch it after all these years.  I put it in my Netflix queue at one point and I received it a few months later when it came to the top.  After watching this film I kicked myself for not seeing it sooner.  I also went out and bought it so I could watch it again when I wanted, especially a few key scenes from it. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Movie – Serial Mom (1994)

Serial Mom might be the first John Waters film I ever saw.  If you’ve never seen any movies from him let’s just say that they are out of the ordinary.  This film, for instance, is a dark comedy about a seemingly perfect mom that is a serial killer of people who do not observe all the standards of a polite society.  And this may be the most mainstream of the John Waters’ films that I have seen.  Reactions to this film vary widely, as they do with most of his movies.  Some people think this film is an outrage; I thought it was funny as hell.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie – The Last Seduction (1994)

The first time I heard about the movie The Last Seduction was in relation to the controversy over lead actress Linda Fiorentino being declared ineligible for being nominated for an Oscar.  (More on that below.)  I learned that the film was a modern noir, and even though I like that genre, for whatever reason I never got around to seeing it.  I’d always put it on the “maybe later” mental list of movies to watch.  Flash forward to just a few years ago and I decided that enough was enough and I should see this.  I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed the movie and Fiorentino’s performance was ferocious in it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Movie – Forrest Gump (1994)

Every once and a while a movie that is very popular with audiences will also win the Best Picture Oscar.  This happened in 1994 with Forrest Gump.  In fact, the film received 13 Oscar nominations and won six, including four of the “big five” – Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay.  It only missed out for Best Actress (there was no nomination for the film in that category.)  It also provided Tom Hanks with his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar – something only Spencer Tracy had accomplished before him.  Forrest Gump is a bittersweet look at the extraordinary life of one man who touched many other lives around him.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

When I first discovered in April of 1997 I noticed it had a “Top 250” list and that the movie that was ranked number one was The Shawshank Redemption.  While I remembered that it was a prison film, I had not seen it and knew nothing else about it, this despite the fact that it received seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, just two years prior.  A movie about a man falsely imprisoned didn’t sound like something I would want to see, so I didn’t seek it out.  It wasn’t until several years later that I finally did see it and only then did I realize that I had misjudged it.  Yes, the basic plot about an innocent man being sent to prison is correct, but rather than being depressing, the film is ultimately an uplifting one about the power of the human spirit.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


This post is just to let you know that I’m going to be taking a short break for Christmas.  After that I will be finishing up my Great Year for Movies – 1994 category with five more films to recommend.  Two are probably expected, while three may not be.

In the meantime, for those of you who were not around these parts at this time last year, here are some Christmas related posts you may want to check out.

For my first Christmas as a blogger I did a category of the Five Best Non-Traditional Christmas Movies.  I also shared some humorous pictures of Christmas Lights and Christmas Jammies.  And even though I will be back before then this year, I also wanted to share a cute video Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt did for New Year's Eve.

I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Good Winter Solstice, Happy Holidays, Merry Festivus (not so obscure TV reference) and a Good Gurnenthar’s Ascendance (really obscure TV reference).

Friday, December 21, 2012

Movie – The Ref (1994)

I was originally going to do my post on The Ref some time after Christmas, but I was reminded recently by another blogger that The Ref takes place at Christmastime.  I figured it would make more sense to post my recommendation for this film prior to the holiday, rather than after.  It might provide a change of pace for those folks who have overdosed on too many sweet, wholesome Christmas movies.  You see, The Ref is a caustically funny dark comedy that brings together three very different leads and succeeds brilliantly at making it work.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Movie – Widows’ Peak (1994)

At first glance Widows’ Peak would be easy to disregard.  On the surface it looks like just another in a long line of quaint, harmless British/Irish films about quaint, harmless British/Irish people.  Well, in the case of Widows’ Peak anyone who thinks either the film, or the women in it, are harmless would be very wrong.  This film is filled with delightfully nasty bits of both humor and drama that added up to a very unexpected pleasure for me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Movie – True Lies (1994)

After his 1993 movie Last Action Hero did not do well with audiences (it was ahead of its time with its meta premise and self-referential humor – you can read my positive review of it here), Arnold Schwarzenegger came roaring back with True Lies, a good old fashioned, over the top action movie.  It was directed by his Terminator partner James Cameron.  Reportedly it was Schwarzenegger that got Cameron interested in the project.  The result was a very fun movie that provided people with a good combination of action and comedy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit, or A Pox on People Who Bring Babies to Theaters

This isn’t a regular movie review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I will do that post as part of my Oscar nominees posts in January and February, since it will likely get at least a nomination for visual effects or sound.

Just to give you a quick idea of what I thought of the film: it’s a notch below The Lord of the Rings, and quite a bit sillier, but this is fitting since this is also the relationship of The Hobbit book to the LOTR books.  I did not see the movie at the higher frame rate, so I can’t give you an opinion on that.  Overall, I’d give this film a high 3 out of 5 stars.  For comparison, I would give the three Lord of the Rings movies 5, 4, and 5 stars out of 5, in that order.

No, I am doing this post in the hopes that maybe I have some latent voodoo ability that has as yet not manifested itself and by writing this I will be able to curse two sorry excuses for movie goers. 

I was sitting there in the theater just starting to watch the first trailer when all of a sudden I could hear this screaming coming from the short hallway that separates the entrance from the seats.  I turned to look and a man and woman walked in pushing a stroller.  The screams were coming from the kid in the stroller.

They didn’t just sit in the front.  No, they had to take the stroller up over the stairs, bump, bump, bump, which made the kid scream more.  Once they settled down the kid continued to scream until his mother took him out of the stroller and held him.  Soon she was texting away with one hand while bouncing the kid in the other.  The few people that were sitting by them found seats much further away.

Either the kid was smart for his age or they’d had him in the stroller long past the time he should have been walking on his own because he soon showed the rest of us in the theater that he could talk.  Sure, he didn’t have the largest vocabulary, but he did make up for that lack with an overabundance of volume.

It turns out his favorite word was “Mommy”.  He said it approximately 5,000 times.  Okay, admittedly it probably wasn’t that much.  I lost count somewhere in the 3,000s.

What possesses these people who do this?  I only go to the theater a few times a year and I bet that close to half the movies I have seen in the last three years have included a young child who doesn’t know to shut up.  Yes, I understand babysitters are either hard to find or expensive, but so what?  Maybe, just maybe, becoming a parent involves making some sacrifices like, I don’t know, not going to the movies together when you can’t leave the child with someone else?

Oh well, at least when I eventually watch this movie on Blu-ray I will be able to do it in the peace and quiet of my own home.

By the way, notice how quiet that young gentleman over in the right hand column looks?  I bet you could take him to the movies and he wouldn’t cry.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Movie – Clerks (1994)

For all the talk about Cinemax being “Skin-emax” because of playing a softcore movie on Friday nights back in the 80s and 90s, they also had a great selection of smaller movies that sister channel HBO wouldn’t run.  I saw a number of foreign films, documentaries, and independent films for the first time on Cinemax back then.  One series they had was the first movies from independent filmmakers.  Among those films was Clerks, a laugh-so-hard-your-sides-hurt comedy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Movie – Hoop Dreams (1994)

I was watching TV at the end of 1994 when Siskel and Ebert had their year end awards show.  In prior years the two would often have a number one movie that the other didn’t even have in their entire Top Ten.  In 1994, though, both of them named Hoop Dreams the best film of the year; not Pulp Fiction, not Forrest Gump, but Hoop Dreams.  Years later Ebert would name the film the best of the entire 1990s.  As for myself, I feel that you can keep your blue lines that are thin, your truths that are inconvenient, and your jobs that are inside; Hoop Dreams is the best documentary film ever made.  Period.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Movie – Once Were Warriors (1994)

Once Were Warriors is a powerful drama from New Zealand that takes a look at a Maori family living in Auckland.  If the 2002 film Whale Rider was the rural, hopeful look at the Maori culture, Once Were Warriors is the much grittier city cousin.  I can’t remember why I picked this tape off the rental shelf back in 1994 or 1995, but I am glad I did.  It disappeared not long after and it was impossible to find a copy for many years.  Almost ten years passed before it was finally released on DVD in the U.S.  I bought it and watched it again.  I was a little worried that my memories of this film had been built up over the years and that when I saw it again I would end up disappointed.  As it turns out, my fears were unfounded.  Not only did this film’s impact on me stand up to my memories, if anything it grew in stature.  As great a year as 1994 was for movies I consider this film to be the best of the best.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Great Year for Movies - 1994

“That's why when somebody say, ‘When you get to the NBA, don't forget about me’ […] I should've said to them, ‘If I don't make it, don't you forget about me.’"  - William Gates, Hoop Dreams

If you stop to think about it, the movies that came out in 1994 were released a generation ago.  (Anyone feel old?)  Many of them have already been forgotten, some justly so, some unjustly.  I am going to be recommending the best films of 1994; ones I’ve given at least a four star rating to.  You will find some of the usual suspects among these films (but not The Usual Suspects – that’s a 1995 film).  However, I can almost guarantee that there will be some movies that you have either forgotten about, or maybe never even heard of in the first place.  In fact, the two films that I consider the best of the year – ones I have given five star ratings to – are not the most well known.  The important thing is, you will know about them after I am done.

Why am I doing this category?  Why this year?  It is because I consider 1994 to be the second best year for quality, enjoyable movies in all of cinema history.  1939 would be number one, in case you are curious.  1954 and 1974 are also standouts.  1994 had so many good movies that I wouldn’t have time to review them all here even if I spent a month on it.  That’s why I am going to limit this category to only 4 and 5 star films (fifteen in all – four of them I have already reviewed for other categories.)

So that these good films at least get some notice, here are the 1994 movies that I would give three stars to.  Check them out if they sound interesting:  The Legend of Drunken Master; Eat Drink Man Woman; SFW; The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Chungking Express; Pulp Fiction; The Hudsucker Proxy; Nell; Nobody’s Fool; The Lion King; The Crow; Stargate; The Mask; Heavenly Creatures; Ed Wood; Il Postino; Interview with the Vampire; Quiz Show; Sister My Sister; Maverick; Barcelona; Farinelli; The Road to Wellville; Three Colors: Red; Three Colors: White; and Star Trek: Generations. 

Here are the “shut your brain off and have fun” three star movies: With Honors; Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult; Only You; It Could Happen to You; The Santa Clause; PCU; Wolf; I.Q.; Airheads; Speechless; Timecop; Terminal Velocity; My Father the Hero; Milk Money; Major League II; Color of Night; Junior; and Dumb and Dumber.

Here are the 1994 movies I have seen that I would not recommend: Satantango; Legends of the Fall; Cemetery Man; Natural Born Killers; Wild Reeds; Exotica; Muriel’s Wedding; Clear and Present Danger; Ace Ventura: Pet Detective; The Client; Reality Bites; The Paper; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; The River Wild; Corrina, Corrina; Greedy; Blown Away; Disclosure; Blue Chips; Love and a .45; Trapped in Paradise; The Shadow; Princess Caraboo; The Chase; Drop Zone; City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold; The Air Up There; Beverly Hills Cop III; The Scout; The Favor; I Love Trouble; The Specialist; Chasers; On Deadly Ground; The Next Karate Kid; Exit to Eden; and Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow.

There are some notable 1994 movies that I have not seen.  If you have a particular favorite among them, please let me know:  To Live; Crumb; Through the Olive Trees; Shallow Grave; The Madness of King George; Little Women; Wyatt Earp; Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle; and Angels in the Outfield.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and add links here for those posts:

Five star films:

Once Were Warriors
Hoop Dreams

Four Star films:

Leon: The Professional - (reviewed January 11, 2011)
Speed - (reviewed June 2, 2011)
Don Juan Demarco - (reviewed August 15, 2011)

On to the reviews…

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Humor – Honest Trailers

Most of us have at some point watched a movie because the trailer made it look interesting, or funny, or scary, or whatever it was we wanted to see, but when we paid our money we found out that the film wasn’t at all what the trailer made it out to be. 

In fact, there was even a contest a few years ago to craft a trailer of a well-known film, using only footage from the film, but making it look completely different from the truth.  Here is my favorite – a trailer for Mary Poppins that makes it look like a horror film (Scary Mary):

Well, some people have decided to fight back.  They’ve started doing what they call “honest trailers”.  They humorously point out all the stupid parts of movies, even ones they like.  I’ve embedded my favorites below.  Be aware that there are spoilers for these movies in them, so if you haven’t seen one, you may want to skip it.  Also be aware that you need a sense of humor about movies that you may have liked.  Just yesterday another blogger made a post about how she is sick and tired of people making fun of the stupid parts of movies and it was apparently triggered by the “honest trailer” for Prometheus, which you will find below.  For the record, I liked Prometheus, Avatar, and The Dark Knight, but I still think these "trailers" are funny.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Movie – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

If you have never seen the film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure then allow me to introduce you to Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan, two most excellent dudes who have a great future ahead of them – if they can only pass History.  What their future is, and how they try to achieve it, make up the fun that is this film.  It features an early, comedic role from Keanu Reeves, as well as a ton of catchphrases that entered everyday language, some of them still with us today.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Movie – The Butterfly Effect (2004)

The Butterfly Effect might be the number one example of how a studio can destroy a movie by taking control of it away from its creators.  Co-writers/co-directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber crafted a movie that scared the studio.  They forced them to completely change the entire tone and events of the ending.  The result was that the film went from “damn, they actually went there” to “wait a minute, that doesn’t resolve anything.”  The movie “underperformed” at the box office and didn’t get a lot of good reviews.  Thankfully, when it was released on DVD the original version of the film was finally available to be seen.  People couldn’t believe how much better it was over the theatrical version.  If you have not seen this film, avoid the theatrical version and watch the “directors’ cut”.  That is the version I am recommending.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November Movie Status

We interrupt the regularly scheduled set of movie reviews to bring you the following monthly status post:

I saw 87 movies in the month of November, plus two seasons of a TV show, plus one re-watch.  While this is not as many movies as last month, it is still a very heavy month for me.  I took a page out of Steve Honeywell’s plan (at 1001plus).  He has watched most of the longest 1001 Movies entries.  I decided to take as big a bite as possible out of my own remaining 3 hour plus movies in November.  While I checked off most of them (19 out of 21), I am glad I don’t have to repeat it.  I found that most of the longest entries in the 1001 Movies list are not be enjoyed, but to be endured.  (See my worst movies of the month lower in this post for a couple of examples.)  By also throwing in some of the shortest entries I did manage to pass 800 movies watched from the 1001 Movies list.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Movie – Donnie Darko (2001)

Much has been written about the “immediate impact” and “instant cult status” of the movie Donnie Darko.  The funny thing is, most of it is wrong.  The film, with its 4.5 million dollar budget, made only 500,000 dollars on its initial five months in theaters during the winter of 2001/2002.  A subsequent re-release in the summer of 2004, after its cult status had started to grow, still grossed only another 750,000 dollars.  It’s only after a decade of constant talk about it, a “director’s cut”, and the career growths of several of the young stars in it, that the film has truly achieved the impact that it has today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Movie – Timecrimes (2007)

Of the four Time Travel on a Budget movies I’ve recommended so far, Timecrimes is the one that spent the most money – all of 2.6 million dollars.  It’s also the one that heads into the darkest territory so far, although an upcoming recommendation will match it.  Unlike Safety Not Guaranteed, Primer, and 11 Minutes Ago, Timecrimes is not a movie shown from the perspective of the people who are inventing time travel devices.  Instead, it focuses on a regular man who accidentally gets caught up in a time loop that he may never find his way out of, at least not as the same man he was before he started.  It would be fair to say that this movie has some gothic horror elements to it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Movie – 11 Minutes Ago (2007)

So you’re a time traveler.  You go back in time about 50 years to 2007 in order to get air samples from a period when Earth’s air was a lot cleaner, in the hopes that you can use this to deal with the planet’s current problem.  When you take your very first trip back you are immediately confronted with lights, a camera, and a man asking you about your trip back in time.  Needless to say, you would be disoriented and seriously stunned by this.  What the heck is going on here?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Movie – Primer (2004)

There was quite a bit of hype about the movie Primer after it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2004.  I can’t remember exactly when I saw it, but it was within a year or two of this.  With the hype still fresh in my mind (most of it about how this was a fresh and original time travel movie), I ended up being a little let down by the film.  That was mostly because my expectations were too high, though.  It is still a decent movie and one that is good enough to recommend to anyone who wants to see a serious movie on the ethics of time travel.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Movie – Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

I had heard good things about Safety Not Guaranteed.  It had come out of the Sundance Film Festival having won the screenwriting prize and having been nominated for the Grand Jury prize.  It had good buzz about it, but when it opened this summer it got lost amidst all the mega budget movies that were also getting released.  That is too bad because people missed out on a terrific movie.  Now that it has been released on DVD those who missed out will get a second chance to see a movie that I have no qualms about predicting will make my Top 10 Movies of 2012 list.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Time Travel on a Budget

Marty McFly:  “Are you telling me you built a time machine?  Out of a Delorean?
Doc Brown:  “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”
                                                      – Back to the Future

When people think of time travel movies they usually picture big budget ones like Back to the Future, Star Trek IV, Terminator 2, and other similar films.  These are the ones that have big special effects budgets and big names either in front of or behind the camera.  In fact, the concept of a low-budget time travel movie seems quite foreign to many people.  This hasn’t kept some people from making them, though.

Because of the limited budgets of the filmmakers and/or the characters in the films, these movies often do not focus on the “gee whiz” technology, or show scenes where the actual time travel takes place.  Instead they focus on the people involved and the consequences of their actions.  The first one I am going to review – Safety Not Guaranteed – even proceeds with the fact that time travel probably will not occur, instead focusing on a man who believes he can time travel and a few people who come to know him.

In addition to that film, I will also be recommending a film involving storage units, a film shot at a wedding reception, a Spanish film that deals with a serious time paradox, a film with a plane crash, a film about childhood trauma, and a film with two most excellent dudes.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and add links here for those posts:

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Primer (2004)
11 Minutes Ago (2007)
Timecrimes (2007)
Donnie Darko (2001)
The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)

On to the reviews…

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Movie – Brave (2012)

Note: when doing my 2012 Big Summer Movies category I did not get a chance to see Brave, so I was not able to review it during the summer.  I have now just seen it and am writing this review to complete this category.  You can read the parent post for it to see the other summer movies I reviewed here.

Brave is the latest movie from Pixar Studios.  It is also the most “Disneyfied” to be released since Pixar was acquired by Disney.  It features a princess, a witch, cute animals, and a couple intended-for-the-pop-charts songs.  Those are steps backwards.  On the other hand, Pixar was attempting to emphasize they were moving forward by making their first film for girls with a female lead character in a movie written and directed by a woman.  They hit some speed bumps along the way, though, and were not completely successful.  I will explain.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Movie – North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest is one of the best, if not the best, movies directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Even people who know little about his films can usually name this as being one of his.  They also usually can mention the crop duster scene and/or the Mount Rushmore scene, even if they haven’t seen the film.  For those who have watched it, North by Northwest triggers something in almost all of us because we can shudder about how we would feel if we were trapped in a situation where no one would believe us.  It also lets us live out a fantasy of imagining that were we caught in something like this, we would be resourceful enough to respond to it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Movie – White Heat (1949)

White Heat is a movie that James Cagney made after he got over his concern of being typecast as a gangster.  He may not have gotten completely past it because this film still shows up on “Top Gangster Films” lists quite often, despite the fact that it is far more a crime thriller than a gangster movie.  It’s a good thing Cagney agreed to do this film because he gives the second best performance of his career, in my opinion. (Yankee Doodle Dandy being number one.)  He also was brave by allowing his character to be played as a “mama’s boy”, albeit the toughest one probably ever put on the silver screen.  The result is an intelligent thriller where both criminals and cops are smart and well-matched, and where there is much tension over an agent who is undercover in Cagney’s gang.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Movie – Jaws (1975)

As I mentioned in my recent Casablanca review, sometimes movies are not the result of careful pre-planning, but rather a series of serendipitous occurrences.  Jaws is one such movie.  Filming went so far over schedule, and there were so many problems with the mechanical shark built for the film, that director Steven Spielberg had to change many of the shots he had planned.  In addition, some of the most famous lines from the film were not in the original screenplay, but were adlibbed or written by the actors.  Not bad for a film, that when it finally came out, scared the crap out of moviegoers and that is now widely credited with single-handedly inventing the summer blockbuster.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Movie – Field of Dreams (1989)

I’ve only ever known one person who hated Field of Dreams.  She’s also the only person I’ve ever known who hated The Princess Bride, so make of that what you will.  Her reason for hating Field of Dreams was two-fold: she didn’t like baseball, and she didn’t like how unrealistic the movie was.  I can understand the first reason, but I had to really fight to hide my laughter at the second reason.  Watching a movie where a disembodied voice tells a man to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn crop and expecting it to be “realistic” seems really bizarre to me.  Since then I’ve seen other disparaging comments about this film that also boil down to the fact that it’s unrealistic.  I am not one of those people who feel that way.  Not only do I like baseball, but I have a very personal connection to this film because of my relationship with my father and the fact that he passed away a few years before this film came out.  I will talk about that in this post (in a well-marked section that can be skipped by those who have not seen the film and want to avoid spoilers.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Movie – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was a bit of a revelation for me.  I had seen Humphrey Bogart in several films, but he seemed to always play the confident, tough guy who was usually in control of a situation.  In this film he is grungy, unshaven, and paranoid to the point of insanity.  Despite Bogart’s Oscar win for The African Queen, and two other nominations for Casablanca and The Caine Mutiny, I consider his performance in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre to be the best of his career.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Movie – Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

What can be said about the movie The Empire Strikes Back that has not already been written a dozen times?  Rather than do a “normal” review where I have a short summary of the movie and point out a few things of interest, I thought I would do something different.  I’ve often wondered what my reaction to Psycho would have been if I hadn’t known about the shower scene ahead of time.  It’s pretty much impossible to not know what happens, just as it is pretty much impossible to not know what happens in The Empire Strikes Back.  Well, at one time I didn’t.  I’m going to share with you what it was like to be a teenager when the whole Star Wars phenomenon was starting, and when no one knew what was going to happen next.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Movie – Sherlock: A Study in Pink (2010)

There have been many, many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes over the years.  Some of them have contributed permanent additions to the mythos surrounding the character – in some cases these are things that his creator – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – never intended, or could have ever imagined.  I once read that Holmes was one of only five fictional characters that were known to every nation and every tribe on Earth.  (Superman was another; I can’t remember the rest.)  ‘Sherlock’ has chosen to show us a version of Holmes set in the present, with him being a very modern man.  It is a very well written show that appeals to both the Sherlock Holmes fan, and the casual viewer, alike.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Saw 100 Movies in October

We interrupt the regularly scheduled set of movie reviews to bring you the following monthly status post:

The title of this post does not mistakenly have an extra zero in it.  I actually saw 108 movies in the month of October, plus another two re-watches.  While I have only been keeping detailed track of my movie viewing since the beginning of this year, I am very sure that this is the most movies I have ever seen in a single month.

Several things happened that caused me to reach this number.  First, I had a lot of expenses in September, so I wanted to cut back some in October and staying home to watch movies is very cheap entertainment.  Second, the 2012 additions to the 1001 Movies list were announced at the beginning of the month.  I had already seen 11 of the 14 and this increase in my total viewed meant I had a chance this month of passing 700 total movies seen from the list.  I did accomplish that and then some.  Third, I also watched quite a few unavailable-on-DVD movies that I had collected over a period of time in order to ensure they were playing correctly before sending them to someone else.  Fourth, there were almost no new TV shows this fall that caught my interest, so I didn’t spend much time watching TV.  Fifth, I bumped up the number of Netflix DVDs I have out at the same time.  Sixth, a bunch of films from my two major lists were expiring from Netflix Instant viewing.  Seventh, Steve Honeywell at 1001plus loaned me a bunch of DVDs. (Thanks Steve!)  He's watching and reviewing every film in the 1001 Movies list.  You should check out his site when you get a chance.  And finally, a few days before the end of the month I did a count and found I was in the 90s.  I then made a conscious effort to see enough to reach the 100 mark.

I also finished seeing every single film that has been added to the 1,001 Movies list since it was originally published in 2003, and I just passed being two thirds complete with the entire list.

Currently, the two main lists that I am taking movie suggestions from are the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list and a list I put together of every Oscar Best Picture nominee.  You can see those lists by clicking on these titles:  1,001 Movies; Oscar Nominees.  I’m also close to completing the Combined AFI Movies list.

So far in 2012 I have seen 418 movies that were new to me.  Among those 418 films, 210 were from the 1,001 Movies list and 61 were Best Picture nominees. 

Here are the 108 new movies I saw in October.  Highlighted movies are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.  I will single out the four and five star films in the paragraph below the list.

1,001 Movies (89):  Bus 174 (2002), Senna (2010), The Kid with a Bike (2011), Deseret (1995), Too Early, Too Late (1981), Vinyl (1965), Mediterranee (1963), Heaven and Earth Magic (1962), Lucia (1969), The Decline of the American Empire (1986),
The Barbarian Invasions (2003), Le Havre (2011), Drowning by Numbers (1988), Distant (2002), Lantana (2001), Artists and Models (1955), The Phantom Carriage (1921), Napolean (1927), The Big Parade (1925), Greed (1924), The Crowd (1928), La Chienne (1931), The Baker’s Wife (1938), Superfly (1972), Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), The Last Laugh (1924), Little Caesar (1931), Rocco and His Brothers (1960), The Cloud-Capped Star (1960), The Housemaid (1960), Los Olvidados (1950), Mother and Son (1997), Red Psalm (1972), The Given Word (1962), Entranced Earth (1967), Tristana (1970), Turkish Delight (1973), Chronicle of a Summer (1961), Loulou (1980), Guys and Dolls (1955), The Public Enemy (1931), The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short (1965), No Fear No Die (1990), Farewell My Concubine (1993), Europa ’51 (1952), Voyage in Italy (1953), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), White Heat (1949), Sabotage (1936), The Nail of Brightness (1975), Black God, White Devil (1962), The Fourth Man (1983), Peking Opera Blues (1986), Mother India (1957), Red Sorghum (1987), A Tale of Winter (1992), Center Stage (1992), The Idiots (1998), Judge Priest (1933), A City of Sadness (1989), Ceddo (1977), Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer (1955), On the Town (1949), Pinocchio (1940), Zero for Conduct (1933), Queen Christina (1933), Once Upon a Time in China (1991), Romper Stomper (1992), Mean Streets (1973), A Star is Born (1954), Broken Blossoms (1919), Nanook of the North (1922), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), The Wicker Man (1973), Suspiria (1977), Russian Ark (2002), The Big Red One (1980), King of New York (1990), The Butcher Boy (1997), Poltergeist (1982), Way Down East (1920), Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Foolish Wives (1922), Night and Fog (1955), Dog Star Man (1962), The House is Black (1963), Camille (1936)

Oscar Nominees (11):  Cavalcade (1933) – the last Oscar winning film I had left to see, The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Funny Girl (1968), Norma Rae (1979), The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Longest Day (1962), Madame Curie (1943), Love Story (1970), Midnight Express (1978), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Coming Home (1978)

AFI Movies (2) (several others also appear in the two sections above):
Cinderella (1950)
The Omen (1976)

Other Movies (6): The Five-Year Engagement (2012), People Like Us (2012), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), Burke and Hare (2010), A Dirty Shame (2004), Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Re-watches (2): Stephen Fry in America, The Avengers

I had no new five star films in October, although one might get bumped up to five when I watch it again.  That film is Safety Not Guaranteed (2012).  Like last year’s Another Earth, it’s not about the science fiction, but about the people in the film.  It’s my favorite movie of the month, and by coincidence, the 100th I saw.  I plan to create a “Time Travel on a Budget” category in order to review this film in a week or two, so for now I will just say that I expect it will be in my Top 10 Movies of 2012 list. 

My other four star films were The Barbarian Invasions (2003), Napolean (1927), White Heat (1949), Queen Christina (1933), Nanook of the North (1922), Madame Curie (1943), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958).  The Barbarian Invasions is the sort-of sequel to The Decline of the American Empire and I watched them back to back, which I feel increased my appreciation for the second film. Napolean is a white-washed bio of Napolean Bonaparte from childhood to him starting to assume power.  At one point this 1927 film is impossibly, gloriously, in widescreen – almost 30 years before anyone else made movies that way.  White Heat is one of the best crime dramas I’ve seen.  Other than Yankee Doodle Dandy, this is the best performance I’ve seen from James Cagney.  I will be reviewing this in a few days.  Queen Christina is a largely fictional bio of the title character who controlled the throne of Sweden for a time.  Greta Garbo is great as the lead.  Nanook of the North is the 1920s documentary of an Eskimo and his family.  While some people like to argue over how much is staged, it is still a great look at a way of life that no longer exists.  Like all bios of its time, Madame Curie is a somewhat fictional movie of the great scientists Marie and Pierre Curie.  Unlike almost every other film, though, it treats science and the scientific process not only seriously, but relatively accurately.  Anyone who has a daughter with even the slightest interest in science should show her this movie.  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has a great cast, headed by Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, both at the peak of their sex appeal.  If you have an appreciation for great eyes, this is the movie to see.

With over 100 movies watched in October, I did see my share of stinkers.  I won’t mention all of them, but I will single out Vinyl (1965).  This is in the 1001 Movies list and it is just godawful.  The only reason anyone would ever put this on a list of movies to watch is that it is from Andy Warhol.  It is essentially a home movie being performed by and shot by people strung out on LSD.  The 1001 Movies book says it is supposedly a version of A Clockwork Orange.  Either the reviewer was also on LSD when he wrote that, or Andy Warhol said that’s what the film is about in order to mess with people.  Honestly, you can see videos on Youtube shot by kids doing stupid stuff in their houses that are on par with this movie.  Oh, since Edie Sedgwick spends most of the movie sitting on the right of the screen smoking one cigarette after another this movie will probably be loved by smoking fetishists.  (You know who you are.)

(We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Movie – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

A majority of people list Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) as the best of the Trek movies.  While I am of two minds on that, I can definitely say that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the most entertaining.  Audiences agreed with me since this was the highest grossing Trek film until the reboot almost 25 years later.  While the prior three Trek films had been quite serious, including losses of characters, writer/director Leonard Nimoy decided to lighten things up this time around and actually have a little bit of fun with the characters.  And what better way to do this than to have them be fish out of water stuck in our present?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Movie – Casablanca (1942)

Look at pretty much any movie-related person’s or publication’s list of the greatest films of all time and you will find Casablanca at or near the top.  It is considered one of the all time classic films by both critics and viewers alike.  And considering that this movie partially owes its existence to a quick attempt to cash in on the popularity of The Maltese Falcon, as well as the U.S.’ entry into World War II, that’s pretty damn good.

Nowadays we’re used to top tier movies having months, or even years, of pre-production with every single element carefully planned out.  Casablanca is an example of almost nothing being planned and serendipity providing all the right elements.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Misquoted Movies

“Play it again, Sam” – not said by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca

“Do you feel lucky punk?” – not said by Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry

“Beam me up Scotty” – not said by William Shatner in any episode of Star Trek

“Elementary, my dear Watson” – not said by Sherlock Holmes in any Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel or story

“Luke, I am your father” – not said by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back

“Badges?  We don’t need no stinking badges.” – not said in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

“If you build it, they will come.” – not said by the voice in Field of Dreams

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – not said by Roy Scheider in Jaws

“You dirty rat!” – never said by James Cagney in any role

“Judy, Judy, Judy” – never said by Cary Grant in any role

"Life is like a box of chocolates." – not said in Forrest Gump

I’m one of those (possibly annoying) people that loves quoting movies.  You may have noticed that I start every movie category parent post with a quote related to the category.  A small part of what makes a good movie to me is how many lines from it are memorable. 

A lot of other people love quoting movies, too.  The problem is that so many people misquote them that the wrong quotes actually take on a life of their own and replace the real quotes.  This is hardly a new phenomenon.  Shakespeare has been getting misquoted for centuries.  (i.e. It’s not “Alas, poor Yorick.  I knew him well.” that Hamlet says; it’s “Alas, poor Yorick.  I knew him, Horatio.”)

In this category I’m going to review movies that tend to get misquoted.  You may have noticed some quotes above that don’t relate to a specific movie.  In those cases I will select a movie to represent the characters or actors involved.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and add links here for those posts:

Dirty Harry (1971) - (posted February 16, 2011)

Here is a short video of James Cagney at his 1974 AFI Lifetime Achievement ceremony.  The “Frankie” he refers to is Frank Gorshin, who was famous for his impersonation of Cagney.

If you’d like to see the whole speech that this is excerpted from, you can watch it here.

On to the reviews…

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book – Richard Castle’s Storm Season

To date there have been four novels published under the author’s name of Richard Castle – the fictional character on the TV show Castle.  When the show opened Richard Castle was the popular author of a series of thrillers that all had the main character of Derrick Storm.  During the course of the show we have seen the Castle character write the four Nikki Heat novels, which are based on the Detective Beckett character.  What about all those Derrick Storm novels that are supposed to already exist?  The people involved with the show decided to do “adaptations” of these books in the graphic novel format.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Movie – Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

In the seven years since the film Mr. & Mrs. Smith came out, it has become best remembered as the one Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were in together before they broke up their respective relationships to start dating.  This is unfortunate because it is an entertaining film that should be remembered for what is on the screen, not for what happened after it was released.  So what is on the screen?  A good combination of action and comedy, with the added bonus of some great chemistry between two of the most sexually appealing people on the planet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Movie – Raising Arizona (1987)

I first saw Raising Arizona when it came to HBO back in the late 1980s.  I laughed quite a bit and remember thinking those Coen Brothers had a good future as makers of comedic movies.  I had no idea they had already done a dramatic crime movie prior to this one.  This film was the first time I had ever heard of them.  I had seen Nicolas Cage before, but this was also the first time I ever saw Holly Hunter in a movie.  As it turns out, it was her first starring role.  Both she and Cage do great jobs playing stylized characters with very distinctive vocal patterns – something that would become a Coen Brothers trademark.  In future movies both would go on to win Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Movie – What’s Up, Doc? (1972)

The movie What’s Up, Doc? is a love letter to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s.  Co-writer/director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) sets this film in San Francisco and makes inventive use of a number of famous locations in the city, most of them during an extended and very funny chase scene involving dozens of characters.  This film touches on, or even reproduces, many of the events from classic screwball comedies.  But by making the movie in the 1970s Bogdanovich was able to get away with some jokes that would not have been allowed back in the 1930s.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Movie – Seven Chances (1925)

Seven Chances is not often mentioned first when people are naming the greatest Buster Keaton films of all time, but it is one of my favorites.  It contains a constant sequence of gags capped off by one of the most insane and funniest foot chases in movie history.  Anyone who has seen a Keaton movie knows that he uses his physicality and athletic ability to do any number of crazy stunts.  While this movie doesn’t have some of his wildest, like hanging off a waterfall or having a house fall on him, it does have him dodging a virtual avalanche.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Movies with Funny Chases

“Son, you got a panty on yore head.” – Hayseed in Pickup, Raising Arizona

Way back in 1998 IMDB first created message boards.  They didn’t look like they do today.  They were divided into “Men’s Room” and “Ladies Lounge” and the idea was to give each gender a place to discuss movies.  The real reason for the separation was likely the fact that Amazon had just bought IMDB and they wanted to link to gender-specific products in each message board.

I mention this because the very first post ever made in the Men’s Room was “What is the best car chase in movies?”  All the usual suspects were named.  Since then the same question has been asked several thousand more times (and that’s probably a conservative estimate.)

While I’m not ruling out doing a car chase category in the future, I figured I’d put a little different twist on the subject and recommend some movies that have funny chase scenes in them.

The movies I am going to write about involve a man looking for a bride, a mix up over some suitcases, a bickering husband and wife in a van, and a man just looking to pick up some Huggies.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and add links here for those posts:

Seven Chances (1925)
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

On to the reviews…

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I hadn’t planned to post today, but as I was reading everyone else’s blogs I just got a hell of a scare.  An earthquake, preliminary estimates of 4.6 magnitude, just hit about five minutes ago as I write this.  The epicenter was only 7 miles from my house.  It was felt as far away as Nova Scotia and New York State.

Those of you in California, or other earthquake prone areas, may be giggling a little bit at how small this is, but for someone who lives in an area that almost never has one, this was a shock.  It’s only the third one I have ever felt in my life, and it’s the strongest, probably because it’s the closest I’ve been to the epicenter.  The last time Maine had a damaging earthquake was 1940.  This is in the range that might start to cause damage.

If you are wondering, I had no damage that I know of.  I’ll need to wait for daylight to look at the outside of my house.  I had no warning.  It was just a literal “boom!” and I thought my new furnace was exploding.  I raced down the stairs and opened my cellar door, but by then the noise was starting to subside.

The weird thing is, it wasn’t really a gradual shaking like I had felt in a lighter earthquake many years ago.  That was a longer rumble that started out as just noise like a truck was driving down my road, then a gentle shaking as the noise peaked, then the noise gradually fading away.  This earthquake was immediate.  There was no noise buildup.  It was an immediate strong shaking that eventually got weaker and stopped.

Anyway, I got my stair work in for tonight, so I guess I’ll go back to catching up on your blogs.