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Some Frightening Dingbat
Gone With the Wind (1939), Victor Fleming. Aug 7, 4pm. View count: One.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Don Siegel. Aug 7, 10:30pm. View count: One.

The Expendables (2010), Sylvester Stallone. Aug 19, 9:45pm. View count: One.

McBain (1991), James Glickenhaus. Aug 21, 8pm. View count: One.

Gone With the Wind: This movie did not agree with me. The best I can say for it is that perhaps the book portrayed a strong lady protagonist the best way it could, and the movie production just had no idea how to make that come across. They seemed to think, and I've heard this elsewhere, too, that Scarlett was likeable because she got along via, apparently, sheer force of will. The problem with this theory is that she was conniving and entitled and stupid, too, and so was Rhett Butler. Two unlikeable people having problems and sometimes solving them, often in ways that were due to coincidence. The ending that this movie needed to have would have had Scarlett wiping her face and marching off to secure another sucker with money, but instead we're to believe that she has somehow reformed, for no real reason.
It's just foolish. The Alf comic book version, as I've stated elsewhere, was better. I wish I could find that thing. (I also recall a nice job by Cracked, casting Roseanne Barr as Scarlett and Chevy Chase as Ashley. "Assley," to be accurate.)

Body Snatchers was plenty fun. There's something about how the 50s handled horror that is right up my alley. It never ended up being really clear what happened to the original person once he/she was duped, but I'm willing to let that slide.

Expendables was strangely terrible. There's no real reason for this to have been as bad as it was, and yet here we are. Someone, perhaps several someones, fell down on the job and did not do their 80s action flick research. It wasn't clear enough, gory enough, or FX-ful enough to be a real 80s pastiche, and it wasn't actually good enough to be a fun action movie with the 80s as a stylistic touchstone. It was pretty stupid (the audience was not trusted to get any gags on its own), not too funny (although we often got a close-up of a sign reading "TOOLS" as an establishing shot before going indoors to look at the tools inside, the stars of the picture), and not that impressive fighting-wise. Knives go into throats, no arterial spray. Jet Li kicks a stunt double a lot, guy doesn't go down. Explosions are about half as believable/well-done as they should be. It's all just sort of a shame. Van Damme should probably be pleased that he stayed out of it. Also Bruce Willis looks like a bad 3d model of himself.

McBain on the other hand, was hilarious, and everything the Expendables should have been. Bunch of guys get sick of doing whatever it is they're doing and decide to "casually," as Ruthless Reviews puts it (found apparently by someone at work), "invade[...] and liberate[...] Columbia." Many of the deaths in this movie are totally preposterous, which was sadly lacking in Expendables. Really, the whole thing was great/terrible, which is generally what I'm after when it comes to 80s action. Early 90s action. Whichever is necessary.
Some Frightening Dingbat
Yojimbo (1961), Akira Kurosawa. July 31, 7pm. View count: Two.
The Room (2003), Tommy Wiseau. July 31, 10pm. View count: One.

Yojimbo -- it'd been a while! Since college, I think. I hadn't seen this when I first saw Fistful of Dollars, but retroactive understanding is a perfectly fine sort of understanding. I'd forgotten a lot of the movie, like the guy who actually had a gun, and that the sad-face guy from The Seven Samurai makes a brief appearance.

It's, of course, a classic, so most of it is good eats, as it were. I particularly enjoyed the weird approach to showing violence; very on and off. (It could, I suppose, have been budgetary.) The decision to cut around Sanjuro's beating was especially well-made, I thought.

The fact that Yojimbo, like The Seven Samurai and Godzilla, is a Toho film is a wonderful thing.

The Room is pret-ty amazing. Things that you may have heard are probably all true. "A film with the passion of Tennessee Williams" is the tagline for some reason, and, well, it's true that The Room often has people in unhappy relationships yelling at one another.

It's as if, instead of making The Wizard of Speed and Time, Mike Jittlov took thirty years off to work out and take Weird, Thick French Accent lessons, whereupon he became a heroin addict, suffered a stroke, and lost a fair bit of linguistic and mental function. He must have managed throughout, however, to retain the sense of self-importance marbled with self-pity that led him to make a movie about his plight.

This is a pretty fair sum-up of the personality/scary face behind this movie, a face that kinda looks like it has Bell's palsy. Like Mike Jittlov, this Tommy Wiseau guy cast himself as the embattled lead actor (Johnny) of his little drama, a saintly man who, for inexplicable reasons outside the scope of the film, has lady problems. Johnny's particular lady problems are that his fiancee has decided for no apparent reason that she is sick of him, despite the urgent counselling of every character in the movie that Johnny is the best man in the universe and that she definitely shouldn't hurt him.

Beloved by everyone except his girlfriend, who nevertheless will not break up with him (according to her mother, she is unable to take care of herself), Johnny walks around taking care of a very stupid teenager, playing football with his friends (where playing football consists of playing catch with a football in rather close quarters), and having horrible, horrible sex scenes. They're just intolerable. Wiseau sort of looks like a less healthy Iggy Pop, simultaneously semibuff and withered, and his lumpy back gets a really unwarranted amount of screen time. And I haven't even brought up the dialogue yet, which is uniformly horrifying and poorly delivered.

It's a horrible, horrible movie, which you should maybe watch? It's rather special in its horribleness. Tommy Wiseau is clearly a simpleton in all the ways that matter, but it isn't stopping him making a (intentionally?) humorous new film called "The House That Drips Blood on Alex" and, apparently, according to Harper's, wants to make a video game based on The Room. Yes.

A quote from someone who purportedly was crew on The Room: "[There existed a] billboard for the film [with] Tommy glaring at me as if to say, 'I telled you I could make movie.'"
Some Frightening Dingbat
26 July 2010 @ 05:56 pm
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976), Sidney Smith. June 19, 4pm. View count: One.
Bye Bye Birdie (1963), George Sidney. June 19, 8pm. View count: One.
Tears of the Black Tiger (2000), Wisit Sasanatieng. July 2, 10pm. View count: One.
The Quick and the Dead (1995), Sam Raimi. July 10, 9:30pm. View count: One.
Tromeo and Juliet (1996), Lloyd Kaufman. July 17, 10pm. View count: Six?
Babylon 5: The Gathering (1993), Richard Compton. July 19, 7pm. View count: One.
Babylon 5: In the Beginning" (1998), Michael Vejar. July 21, 8pm. View count: One.
Inception (2010), Christopher Nolan. July 22, 8:10pm. View count: One.
Babylon 5: Thirdspace (1998), Jesús Salvador Treviño. July 25, 2pm. View count: One.

Paul Lynde Special is really, really special, arguably in the 'retarded' sense. It's horrifying. I love Paul Lynde and sometimes have a high threshhold for horribleness, so I sort of liked all of it, but the people I was with were writhing a little.
It has terrible musical numbers, terrible costumes, terrible guest stars (Margaret Hamilton! Florence Henderson!), and... Kiss. Kiss the band showed up and did some numbers for this thing. It's sort of like when Alice Cooper was on the Muppet Show, except if instead of Jim Henson, my mom was in charge.
There is also a horrible quiz in the DVD menu wherein one can answer inane questions about Paul Lynde's life (which usually one hasn't any way of knowing). If the wrong answer is picked, a clip of Paul Lynde saying "Terrible" is played. I grew to sort of love that clip.

Bye Bye Birdie JP wanted to show me because he'd been in a production of same in high school, and I had no knowledge of it. Turns out it's a little stupid, but it does have Paul Lynde as a suburban dad, which was the standout performance by far. The exaggerated 50s stylee was amusing as well, I suppose.

Tears of the Black Tiger is a cute Thai 50s cowboy pastiche. I'll write more of this later, because I've forgotten the details and have to look them up.

The Quick and the Dead I was surprised by, a bit -- somehow I hadn't seen this, despite loving Raimi of this era. The chief conceit here seems to be that Raimi constructed a western that was 90% showdowns, which allowed him to do his thing extensively. Leonardo Dicaprio was excellently cast as a cocky teenager; he'll never do that well again, I fear. Lance Henriksen was cool but underused as a fancy trick shooter, and Gene Hackman was a fun if not great villain.

Tromeo and Juliet we showed to a couple of friends, with mixed results. I still maintain it's important to view it, although, really there should exist somewhere a "good stuff" cut of the movie which is mmmaybe 1/3 the original length. It is one of those things wherein one's expectations are significantly lowered, only for a legitimately good thing to sneak through now and again. There are also some really appalling puns.

Babylon 5 movies are sort of variable in quality. The first one, the pilot for the show, is fairly bad. Nearly everything that turned out to be important in the actual show (which we enjoyed immensely) is either totally absent or in an embryonic state in the pilot. Even the acting isn't so hot.
The second one, In the Beginning, is nearly all a rehash of events we already know about. It is unexciting. Thirdspace is a little better, but it seems rather like an extended episode (and one that exists with no seeming influence on the continuity), and therefore isn't all that successful either.

Inception is a decent action movie. It's fun, and has some amusing parts, but I didn't find it irresistible. I do hate Leonardo Dicaprio nearly always, and in this he seems to be an artificially aged teenager who still does not really act very well. Too much explaining (and then contravening the explanations when it is convenient) is in evidence, as is a vaguely unsatisfying main character arc (JP thought of a nicer twist than what actually showed up).
Still, it had some charming components, mostly from 3rd Rock From the Sun guy, who had a good showing in a good part.
Some Frightening Dingbat
17 June 2010 @ 08:07 pm
Gojira tai Mekagojira (AKA Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, 1974), Jun Fukuda. May 25, 8pm. View count: Three?
The Lost Boys (1987), Joel Schumacher. May 27, 9:30pm. View count: Two?
The Last Starfighter (1984), Nick Castle. June 2, 9pm. View count: 5?
Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971), Don Taylor. June 5, 4pm. View count: One.
The Set-Up (1949), Robert Wise. June 5, 9pm. View count: One.
Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Robert Longo. June 11, 10pm. View count: Two.
Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009), Jean-Pierre Jeunet. June 12, 9:15pm. View count: One.
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), John Cromwell. June 13, 8pm. View count: One.

Godzilla/Mechagodzilla I have fond memories of from childhood. However, watching again nowadays, I wonder at my ability to pay attention when I know that I was only interested in the monsters. Long stretches of humans running around and doing not much are in evidence.

The Lost Boys is amusing cheese, a fine upstanding example of an 80s teen movie. Everyone's hair is alarming, and the mom from Edward Scissorhands is the mom. Both Cor(e)ys are present.

Last Starfighter I thought held up; it's another old favorite from when I was a child. What I didn't know back then is that Robert Preston (also heard in my many hours of listening to the Music Man soundtrack for some reason) plays Centauri, the lovable but actually pretty mercenary starfighter-recruiter, and Dan O'Herlihy (the Old Man who runs OCP in Robocop) plays Grig, the lizardman navigator assigned to Protagonist whose name I forgot. Anyhow, it's a fun trailer park/spaceship piloting adventure thing, although I do remember being awfully frustrated with Protagonist's inability to realize how cool shooting things in space was. DEATH BLOSSOM.

Escape Apes is pretty horrible. Some apes are thrown back in time by the bomb that Charlton Heston sets off (I think), and do a bunch of pointless things (including shopping for 70s outfits) before going on the lam and everything ending badly. Ricardo Montalban is in it, as, essentially, himself, and so is Sal Mineo(!), as an ape. I don't want to watch this again.

The Set-Up on the other hand is fairly good. It's a boxing picture, and you can see, even without listening to the Scorsese commentary, how much it lent to Raging Bull. The realtime, excruciating fights that make up half the movie are obviously influential. Not a false character step in it. Even the lower echelon boxers that file through the locker room are all believable as heck.

Johnny Mnemonic is just as hokey as I remembered, although I thought Henry Rollins lived longer. I didn't recall that Keanu's 3/4 mark breakdown was based on his missing his fancy comfortable life, though. Keanu does not have enough personality to make us care about him despite his privilege, sadly. Also, the concept of cramming 320 gigs of data into a 160 gig device is hilarious. Seepage indeed.

Micmacs I'd read was more of Jeunet's same, and it is, really, but that doesn't prevent it from being quite enjoyable. I was pleased by it, and found its relatively light treatment of darker subject matter fairly apt.

Prisoner of Zenda we decided to attend at the last minute, and I'm glad we did, because it's a great movie. Surprisingly clever and even self-aware at certain points, it kinda exceeds expectations for 1937. There is a shot where the protagonist throws a glass at a wolfhound, though, which isn't that cool.
Some Frightening Dingbat
19 May 2010 @ 09:15 pm
To Catch a Thief (1955), Alfred Hitchcock. Apr 9, 9pm. View count: 1.5.
A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. Apr 10, 9pm. View count: One.
True Stories (1986), David Byrne. Apr 17, 9pm. View count: 10?
Majo no takkyûbin (AKA Kiki's Delivery Service, 1989), Hayao Miyazaki. Apr 21, 8:30pm. View count: One.
The Running Man (1987), Paul Michael Glaser. May 8, 10pm. View count: Two.
Theodore Rex (1995), Jonathan R. Betuel. May 13, 8:30pm. View count: 1.2.
Shield For Murder (1954), Howard W. Koch & Edmond O'Brien. May 15, 6:20pm. View count: One.
Dellamore Dellamorte (AKA Cemetery Man, 1994), Michele Soavi. May 16, 8pm. View count: Four?

To Catch a Thief is surprisingly dull for Hitchcock, all told. People seem to consider this worth seeing for Cary Grant, but I really don't think his acting is great enough to hang a whole picture on. Admittedly, I stopped paying close attention to this partway through.

Matter of Life and Death: This is a goony postwar take on wartime. A pilot bails out of his flaming plane sans-a-chute and somehow wakes up alive. This means that he must go on trial in heaven for the right to continue living (because he has fallen in love with a radio operator, don'tcha know). There are silly character actors in various period clothing, there's emergency brain surgery, and an elfin french guy who can stop time. These are probably the best things.
Having read up on this a bit, I found that this movie was made to reaffirm US/UK postwar relations, which I suppose were not at their best. This makes the very labored "He's an englishman! But he is IN LOVE! With an AMERICAN GIRL! From BOSTON!" plotline a lot less baffling.
Diverting at best, slightly embarrassing at worst.

True Stories was for probably fifteen years one of my top ten movies. Maybe it still is.

Kiki's Delivery Service I wasn't utterly thrilled by, but it's fairly charming. I somehow hadn't seen it before. I think my favorite part is the eurogibberish on the street signage.

Running Man is goofy as anything. My largest bone to pick with it is that the audience sympathy flip felt unwarranted, and I could have used more Network references.

Theodore Rex is absolutely awful. Don't watch it. It's not funny; it's just sad. I have a fair amount of evidence that it was trying to reference/rip off Blade Runner, which is a big problem when the final product is a straight-to-DVD horror with a lead actor who had to be enticed back to the production with more money. The puppets are by the same company that worked on the Dinosaurs television show, except somehow they are less enjoyable here. The plot feels like it was reworked a lot, never very well.

Shield For Murder is a fun little Bad Cop piece, with enough of a nuanced part for said Bad Cop that he doesn't feel entirely like a cardboard cutout. John Agar is in it! The best part is toward the end, in a bar. Fun.

Dellamore Dellamorte is another one of my old favorites. I thought it held up, and I maybe even looked a little more kindly on the ending, which historically I've hated a little. It's really well done, with the adorable filmic flair indicators that film students contractually have to love. It's also my first zombie movie.
Some Frightening Dingbat
04 April 2010 @ 02:47 pm
Hot Fuzz (with commentary)(2007), Edgar Wright. Mar 25, 8pm. View count: Two.

Sik San (AKA God of Cookery, 1996), Stephen Chow, Lik-Chi Lee. Mar 28, 8pm. View count: Three.

Alphaville (1965), Jean-Luc Godard. Mar 30, 8pm. View count: Three (possibly four).

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1963), Roy William Neill. Apr 3, 3pm. View count: One.

The Big Knife (1955), Robert Aldrich. Apr 3, 9pm. View count: One.

Hot Fuzz previously written up. (I'm glad that my first watching of this was within my writeup span!) Um, we watched this with commentary, even though we hadn't seen it in several years. This may have been a bad move. However, we learned a few fun things about the production, and, well, I guess we'll have to watch it again!

God of Cookery I still love -- its wackiness is mostly just right for me. Obviously I'm missing out on a lot of the HK film in-jokes, but what're you gonna do. I still like it.

Alphaville is still good -- it really is an amusing mishmash of styles, concepts, and themes. Its willingness to try weird things (one of my favorite parts, the still-frame fight most of the way through, is one of these things) combined with its obviously low budget (shooting in public places, &c) always puts me in mind of a student film -- and what student film is not Godardian? I ask you. I found out this time that one of my other favorite parts, the voice of Alpha 60, is actually a man with throat cancer (it's some kind of voicebox, apparently)! It is the best voice for an AI. Also apparently Alpha 60 is an australian fashion label?
The ideas are surprisingly normal: destroy the AI with ideas it can't understand, Mad Scientist avec Beautiful Daughter (thank you, Heinlein, sigh), dystopia with thought control. But with Godard's weird attention to sound and signage, his wacky character names, and the totally unsupported 'space' dialog (and his constant fixation on ladies in various states of undress/subjugation) make it unusual and pretty great.
In closing: There's no sci-fi like a low-budget Godard sci-fi.

Sherlock Holmes is actually a pretty terrible example of the body of work, even with Basil Rathbone. This story was, with no explanation, transported to the 1940s and crammed into the war effort, but the actual problem was that the writing was just kinda hacky and lackluster. Nothing terribly exciting ever happened, and even Basil Rathbone barely got to do anything cool except for dressing up in a few interesting disguises. Inspector Lestrade usually had his mouth open.

The Big Knife is an obvious stage play adaptation (few sets, all about the dialog), which I would have minded less if it had all been more motivated. Young Jack Palance is the protagonist, and he seems to be an actor who does boxing pictures. However, the script treats him as some kind of creative who is longing to express himself. This is weird because we never see an inkling of this, except for the fact that he talks like a weird, idiom-loving writer sometimes (he makes a lot of bird-related metaphors). This is sort of baffling, and mixed in with the kinda stereotyped characters, some scenery-chewing by his boss (the head of the studio), and a weirdly-integrated subplot about a starlet who won't stop spreading information that Jack Palance doesn't want public (but he doesn't actually seem to care?)... it's all a little not-gelled-together. Not unfun, in parts, but not a great film.
Some Frightening Dingbat
21 March 2010 @ 09:09 pm
Inglourious Basterds (2009), Quentin Tarantino. Mar 21, 2:30pm. View count: One.

Not bad! Fun, all in all. The Tarantino self-indulgence was lower than usual (or, really, it was channeled better: film history, etc.; although the Scary Man Lecturing sequences ran kind of long), and there was a pleasing thematic thread or two that made the whole seemingly straightfaced 'Kill the Nazis!' (pronounced "Na-zees") content much less silly. Maybe it really made the whole movie more evenly silly; Brad Pitt's goofy accent (I thought Brad Pitt was kind of fucking awful, acting-wise and character-wise, but I suspect I am mostly alone in that), the Mike Myers cameo (shudder) -- the seesawing between silly and WWII Serious was somewhat exhausting. Although the violence was generally less... personal than I'm used to from Tarantino, making the overall tone lighter.

The film history stuff was good, of course, and having relatively recently read the biography of Leni Riefenstahl, pretty accurate. (Just check out this shit [admittedly some of it is crap].) The White Hell of Piz Palu was from when Leni Riefenstahl was still just an actor, but at the time Inglourious Basterds took place she'd moved on to being a director much more in the public eye (which is why she could be hated by anyone much), and probably was not in this movie because of a shoot elsewhere. Goebbels wanted her to shoot a film for him (which may have been the root of the film-within-a-film here), but she refused repeatedly and ran away to shoot her own work.
Le Corbeau, the occupied-France film about distrust in a small community, was a nice ref, too.

The main villain did an excellent job, really. I would also like to note that the Masshole was a good Masshole this time.

Reading the beginning of this trivia page, my respect for many of Tarantino's clever moves in this production are mostly crushed -- so many utterly stupid things almost got done. Leonardo Dicaprio? LEONARDO DICAPRIO?
Some Frightening Dingbat
21 March 2010 @ 08:18 pm
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Joel Coen. Mar 4, 9pm. View count: Four? Five?

Well! It'd been a while since I'd seen this. Back in college I considered this a fine example and a model of filmmaking. Seeing as how it's a temporary Raimi/Coens crossover, this is unsurprising for me personally. This time around I actually found it... overdone, to some small extent -- just a bit too much in all directions. Too blaring for its depth. I still like it, and it's obviously a serious show of craft, but candy-colored caricatures writ large are I guess less my thing now than then. I never would have named a Coens piece as one unlikely to age perfectly, but, here we are. My feelings about this are complex, I assure you. ('Wow, I was kind of shallow back in college / But I still appreciated high craft / Stop writing off this movie -- it's a fine and well-executed thing / But, seriously, magical negro and woman afraid of appearing mannish?' &c.)

However, the craft really is quite impressive. The snappy patter, the costumes, the friggin' brilliant sets and lighting, the decision to just go for it, period -- all of these things are excellent. It's beautiful to look at, the acting is quite good, and all the concepts get across, with significant amounts of flair.

I guess I've just lost some of my starry-eyed love for this film; it feels now to me like an intermediate work, trying for something and not quite making it.

(Aside: I should mention that something that has bothered me all along was that Tim Robbins' inventions were actual products. I liked them much better as abstract concepts. Once you take them into the mundane world of toy shops and what have you, you've lost the platonically perfect idealism of that circular concept, and something important goes away. I feel similarly (although less so) about the fight of the good and evil guardians. Anyway, I think that concretizing the inventions was a bad move, but I realise that the movie would have had to change some as a result of not doing that.)

I may come back and write more about this later, but I have another movie to cram into the queue now, so...
Some Frightening Dingbat
14 February 2010 @ 11:30 pm
Hey, strangers and less-strangers, I just noticed that it's Feb 14, 2010. I started having a blog nine years ago today, on diaryland, and I didn't use capital letters.
Some Frightening Dingbat
14 February 2010 @ 11:28 pm
Backstroke of the West (2005). Feb 9, 8pm. View count: Two.

As always, better than the actual movie, which is like a heap of vaguely disgusting garbage with maybe a couple of half-decent action figures sticking out of it. I kind of hate Star Wars categorically, and the prequels are just pain and a half. So a thing like the Backstroke subs that can give value to this painful experience is a good thing. It's not going to stop me rearranging events mentally so that they suck less, but it cuts way down on that.
It's a bad movie, with long, dull stretches where the ceiling is better to watch. However, many things are better when they are renamed "Ratio Tile."