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America may be collapsing under the weight of the single worst mental health crisis the country has ever seen, but at least we've still got movies.

194. (1848.) Times Square (1980)
Two teenaged girls, a runaway and a homeless manic depressive, struggle to find their own way to adulthood. There are hints that this is supposed to be a lesbian love story, but the finished product never quite gels. Still, it's not entirely without some charm (in large part thanks to Tim Curry).

195. (1849.) Carnival Story (1954)
A runaway falls in with a carnival barker who turns out to be a cad. The bad romance gets more complicated when both the carnival high diver and strong man also fall for her. Equal parts exploitative and macabre, it's very much a B movie.

Drink Coke! (Carnival Story)
Every carnival has a Coca-Cola stand, right? Right?

196. (1850.) Frenzy (1972)
I'm slowly working my way through every Alfred Hitchcock movie ever, and Frenzy is one of the best. Even though it spends a lot of time with the killer, it's still very suspenseful. Recommended to suspense fans.

197. (1851.) Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962)
If you haven't figured it out by now, TCM featured circus movies in November. This one is a Doris Day/Jimmy Durante musical comedy of errors, and frankly, it's not as entertaining as Carnival Story.

198. (1852.) Too Many Kisses (1925)
This romantic comedy is the first film appearance of any Marx Brother. Given that it is a silent film, you won't be surprised to learn that Marx Brother is Harpo. I liked it, mostly because I like the lead, Richard Dix, and I like the actor playing the villain even more: William Powell. (Here he's an evil Spaniard. What range!)

More to come.

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We're nearly in 2021, and I'm a whole month behind on my movies list. Here's the first half of movies watched in November.

189. (1843.) I Died a Thousand Times (1955)
A gangster strives to pull off one last big job before retiring. The problem with this sort of film is that if you know anything about Hollywood of the era, you know how it is going to end before it even starts, so the journey has to be worthwhile. In hindsight, I don't think it was.

190. (1844.) Dead Reckoning (1947)
Here's Bogart once again trying to recreate the The Maltese Falcon with varying shades of success. A series of unlikely coincidences propel the plot in act two, but it sticks the landing with a very satisfying ending.

191. (1845.) Fools in the Mountains (1957)
Have you ever seen any of Jacques Tati's French comedies? (Pratfalls, sight gags, mistaken identities, etc.) This Norwegian film is much like those, but with sound, genderbending, and a romantic comedy vibe. Very enjoyable.

Drink Coke! (Fools in the Mountains)
Of course I want.

192. (1846.) The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
According to Hollywood legend, seeing this film is what motivated a young Steven Spielberg to go into directing. It won Best Picture in '52 opposite some films that have earned better reputations over the years (High Noon, The Quiet Man). Yes, the train wreck is impressive, but for my money, the highlight by far is watching Jimmy Stewart commit to his role as a killer in clown makeup. Stewart is just the best.

Drink Coke! (Greatest Show on Earth)
Forget great; it wouldn't even be a very good show without a Coke.

193. (1847.) The Circus (1928)
Disclaimer: I don't know why, but I do not find Charlie Chaplin very funny. I think Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton are hysterical, and Chaplin is undoubtedly technically proficient bot in front of and behind the camera. But I quite literally fell asleep watching him fail to understand how clowns work. *shrug* Your enjoyment is probably proportional to how much you enjoy tramps.

More to come.

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Lately, I've been watching a lot of movies I've seen before and liked. But I still have time for some new-to-me movies like these:

176. (1830.) PT 109 (1963)
This biopic is too long. While watching it, I had ample time to consider a scenario in which the evil land baron who made Patrick Swayze's life hell in Roadhouse was secretly J.F.K., who had survived his "assassination" and moved out to the sticks. I mean, that's not any crazier than anything else you'll hear in 2020.

177. (1831.) Enter the Ninja (1981)
Oh. My. God. Where has this movie been all my life? A gaijin ninja returns to help his best friend by sleeping with his wife and combatting the minions of an evil corporate raider. It's balls-to-the-walls crazy. I can only imagine how much better my life would be if I had seen this action/adventure ninja-exploitation film when it came out. What a wasted childhood.

178. (1832.) Revenge of the Ninja (1983)
Not a sequel so much as an anthology installment, this is a pale reflection of its predecessor. (A rogue gaijin ninja begins killing mobsters, unintentionally revealing himself to the rival ninja whose life he ruined. Oh, and there's also some child endangerment.) If you have the opportunity, watch Enter the Ninja again instead.

Drink Coke! (Revenge of the Ninja)
That's a very familiar clock on the wall of that, uh, Y.M.C.A. dojo?

179. (1833.) Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)
As a live-action adaptation of a young children's cartoon, this film should be terrible. But it's not. By leaning into the source material, it actually manages to be quite charming. I recommend it.

180. (1834.) Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death (2020)
One of the worst aspects of 2020 is that the pandemic has robbed me of these Hallmark mystery movies that I love to hate watch. The formula is as tired as ever; I identified the killer literally the first time he appeared on screen. I'd watch as many of these as Hallmark could make in a year.

181. (1835.) Ninja III: The Domination (1984)
The third and final movie in the "Ninja Trilogy" fully embraces the supernatural in all its absurdity. To sum up: a cable repair woman is possessed by the soul of an undead ninja who goes on a killing spree against all the policemen who (justifiably) tried to kill him, a rampage that can only be stopped by the swordsmanship of *another* ninja. Better than the second but not the original. Boy howdy, Enter the Ninja was good.

More to come.

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The Miami Dolphins offered 13,000 tickets to their game on Sunday. Only ~11,000 were sold. Is that because people were scared of the pandemic, the weather, or being forced to watch the Miami Dolphins play "football"?

We all should have watched movies instead. Perhaps movies like these:

145. (1799.) The First Wives Club (1996)
Great cast, mediocre result. I'm always game for a buddy revenge comedy, but the movie lost me at the high-rise window washer scaffold misadventure, which would have been too silly for most sitcoms.

146. (1800.) The Red Shoes (1948)
Put this film in the category of movies disappointed by a bad ending. I admit that the dancing is pretty darn good, but having a real ballerina acting the part of the put-upon artist/romantic lead left an insurmountable hole at the center of the film, a flaw that was left badly exposed by the abrupt conclusion.

147. (1801.) Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
Frank Sinatra really loved gangsters, didn't he? His film roles are filled with bad guys with a heart of gold, such as here, where smuggling, counterfeiting, and gunfights are presented as victimless crimes. On the up side, this does A) prove that Peter Falk was a great comedic actor and B) introduce the world to "My Kind of Town." So not all bad, then.

148. (1802.) Smorgasbord (1983)
Nothing about this anthology series of loosely connected vaudeville skits *should* work, and very little of it actually does. There are a few genuine chuckles, but most of the skits are either terrible, one-note ideas or have had the comedic timing destroyed by director Jerry Lewis indulging performer Jerry Lewis's ego. (The editor is Gene Fowler, Jr, who also edited the abysmally paced It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. So he probably deserves some blame, too.)

149. (1803.) Brewster McCloud (1970)
There's no way to describe this movie without making it sound absolutely nuts, so here goes: A bird-obsessed boy living underneath the Houston Astrodome avoids sex and builds a flying machine while under investigation for a string of murders. See? Nuts. There's also no disputing the fact that I loved it! The Player is still my favorite Robert Altman-directed film, but there's a new entry at second place.

150. (1804.) Never So Few (1959)
Is being a commando soldier really any different than being a gangster? Watching Frank Sinatra in the role, the answer would appear to be no. This dawn of World War II movie's plot examining the absurdity of the Rules of War is made nearly insufferable by the shoehorned inclusion of a romance with Gina Lollobrigida.

Drink Coke! (Never So Few)
Take it from Steve McQueen: drinking Coke makes you cool!

More to come.

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I've only finished 3 movies so far in September, but maybe that's because I watched 25 in August. I should probably get a start on reviewing that backlog, so here goes.

139. (1793.) Winchester '73 (1950)
An anthology Western movie loosely organized around a rifle that keeps getting passed around. Jimmy Stewart is the star, but the cast also includes Rock Hudson, Shelley Winters, and Tony Curtis among others. Very good.

140. (1794.) You Were Never Lovelier (1942)
The Taming of the Shrew is the basis for the plot in this Fred Astaire/Rita Hayworth musical comedy. Astaire plays his usual manipulative skirt-chasing character, but Hayworth is the highlight.

141. (1795.) Hit the Deck (1955)
This film is a mess. It feels like the studio (MGM) had a bunch of stars they wanted to stick in the same movie, so they had someone write something where the sole criteria was "get all these people on screen." Debbie Reynolds is a good example; her character serves no role in the plot other than giving an excuse to get "Debbie Reynolds" on the marquee. The fruit salad of movies.

144. (1798.) Game Night (2018)
This sort of misadventure comedy — sibling jealously and a series of coincidences lead to a life-or-death situation milked for laughs — is the bread and butter of Jason Bateman's career, but Rachel McAdams is the star player. (She never disappoints.) I enjoyed it, especially the scene with the $17 bribe.

142. (1796.) Thirty Day Princess (1934)
Someone else who never disappoints is Preston Sturges, who wrote but did not direct this permutation of the premise of The Prince and the Pauper. I enjoyed it, too.

143. (1797.) Sabotage (1936)
As much as I like Preston Sturges movies, I love Alfred Hitchcock's work. I think I've often quoted his "if you show the crowd the bomb, you can't let that bomb go off" philosophy, which was very clearly a revelation he came to *after* making this movie. Very watchable and far less predictable than I would have expected.

Drink Coke! (Sabotage)
Coca-Cola in 1938 London! What, what?

Many more to come.

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It's almost September, so let's go ahead and get these last July movies out of the way.

133. (1787.) The Daydreamer (1966)
Rankin-Bass would films are so, so slow, which I'm sure is why their television work is so much better known. A 30-minute Christmas special is far more entertaining than a drawn-out ninety-minute slog through children's fables.

134. (1788.) The Breaking Point (1950)
A sailor makes a series of bad decisions that destroy his life. It's a pretty great noir, actually. Recommended.

135. (1789.) Insignificance (1985)
Golly, I want to like this more than I actually do. There's such a great idea at it's core: what if Marilyn Monroe's attempts to spend the night with Albert Einstein were disrupted by Joe DiMaggio and Joe McCarthy? It's such a crazy allegory, it just might work. But then it doesn't, in part because the characters come across as exaggerated waxworks instead of real people.

136. (1790.) 4 for Texas (1963)
In this case, the four are Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Anita Ekberg, and Ursula Andress. It's a comedy that no one really seems interested in being in, Sinatra least of all. Having seen it, I can't blame him (although Ursula Andress appearing in a back lit doorway wearing a sheer negligee isn't nothing).

137. (1791.) Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter (1968)
Think Help!, but replace the Beatles with Herman and his Hermits and replace a stolen ring with a dog and remove the criminals.... You know what, never mind. It's just a thin excuse for some silly songs and a romp through 1960s London.

138. (1792.) Love, Simon (2018)
I've said it before, but I'm a sucker for coming of age movies, apparently even when they are also coming out movies. It's a total fantasy, sure, but I watch movies to get away from the reality of what coming of age is actually like.

Drink Coke (Love, Simon)

More to come.

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What's Walter watching? Let's find out.

127. (1781.) The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938)
Edward G. Robinson is a doctor who becomes a criminal to research crime only to learn that it doesn't pay. He could have saved himself some trouble and just watched some Edward G. Robinson movies.

128. (1782.) The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974)
Part anti-establishment romantic comedy, part anti-war tragedy, this film earns high marks for bringing a reasonably light touch to several real issues. (The movie was produced by Playboy, and you can totally feel the magazine's mid-seventies vibe in the finished product.) If you can tolerate the inevitable tonal see-saw, you'll probably enjoy it.

Drink Coke (Julius Vrooder)
Crazy Goes Better with Coke! ®

129. (1783.) Three Strangers (1946)
The Chinese goddess of destiny brings three flawed but related people together for a share of a fortune with predictably tragic results. It's like a long, forgettable episode of The Twilight Zone.

130. (1784.) The Killing Fields (1984)
Feeling depressed about the state of global political affairs in 2020? Then don't watch this (more or less) true story about reporters caught up in the chaos following America's withdrawal from Cambodia in advance of the murderous Khmer Rouge in the mid 70s. That there are monsters in the world who would do these sorts of things.... The devil is real, and he is human.

Drink Coke (The Killing Fields)
Killing Goes Better with Coke! ®

131. (1785.) The Boston Stranger (1968)
My string of uplifting movies continues with this pile of horseshit. Though it pretends to also be a biopic, it's really nothing more than an exploitation film trading on the horror of some real murders. I have to assume that all the great acting talent involved must have been unaware that the producers were going to turn their work into such dreck.

132. (1786.) White House Down (2013)
When a self-described terrorist group led by a right-wing decorated former secret service agent invades the White House, it's a race against time for "Charmin'" Channing Tatum to save President Not-Obama and unravel their evil plot. There are some fun action scenes, but the movie's big problem is that the enemy's plan is so dumb and obvious that every government bigwig comes across as a fucking moron for failing to decipher their true intent before the last 5 minutes. Wait, was I supposed to be cheering for the terrorists? Stupid liberal Hollywood.

More to come.

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There's no such thing as good news anymore, so let's just watch movies.

120. (1774.) Pale Flower (1964)
A Yakuza hitman commits murder to impress a girl addicted to gambling, drugs, and fast living. So uplifting. The moral is clear enough by the great ending, but I can't say it's a lot of fun getting there.

121. (1775.) The Sign of the Ram (1948)
I had to check out imdb to refresh my memory on this one, which probably tells you everything you need to know. For reference, it's about a jealous handicapped bitch crushing the love lives of her stepchildren. Whee!

122. (1776.) The Vikings (1958)
Damn, Hollywood has a strange obsession with romanticizing violence and pretending it's okay so long as it's presented as Shakespearean. (To be fair, this probably has more to do with justifying attempts to satisfy the bloodlust of American audiences than any true moral perversion on Hollywood's part, but still.) I'm damn glad I wasn't a viking.

123. (1777.) Rocketman (2019)
I liked this Elton John bio-pic, but I think you'd have to be deaf not to. I'm starting to really respect Taron Egerton as an actor. He goes for it.

124. (1778.) Little Nellie Kelly (1940)
Eighteen-year-old Judy Garland plays a mother and her own daughter in this musical comedy with tragic elements. When no one's singing, it's mostly cliched melodrama, but I still liked it. Cliches work!

125. (1779.) Alexander's Trail: The Coke Bottle Story (2019)
A bloodless documentary re-enacting the life of the man arguably most responsible for manufacturing the original Coca-Cola bottle. It's as long on imagination as it is light on details, but it becomes clear in act 3 why this was made when everyone's face lights up as they start talking about Coke. (Mmm, Coke.) Worth a watch only for Coke fans, since they never even really bother to explain how the bottles were actually made.

Drink Coke (Alexander's Trail)
They were made by computers, apparently.

More to come.

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I'm currently rewatching The Rocky Horror Picture Show as I type this, and it's really hard not to type the dialogue I'm hearing. Damn it, Janet.

114. (1768.) The Women (1939)
This will be remade in the 50s as a musical called The Opposite Sex (which I did not care for). Talk about a time warp! The sexual politics involved here are practically paleolithic, but by taking all the men off screen, the film makes a more subtle — and frankly unflattering — commentary about the patriarchy's domination of American society. Much, much better than the musical.

115. (1769.) The Hustle (2019)
A gender-swapped remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which was itself also a remake). I generally think con/heist movies work best when they play bait-and-switch with "reality," building the antici-pation before the reveal. Sadly, here you see the ending coming almost from the beginning. The spy training montage is the highlight. That Rebel Wilson really goes for it.

116. (1770.) Peeper (1975)
From the beginning, this movie presents itself as a parody of noir detective films from decades past. That ain't no crime. What is a crime is that it then proceeds to take itself far too seriously, as though it forgot it was supposed to be in on the joke. (I have to admit that my bias against Natalie Wood, here in the role of the femme fatale, may have played some part in my dissatisfaction. I just don't believe her.)

117. (1771.) The Swimmer (1968)
Burt Lancaster often *acts* too hard here, often calling attention to the very unreality of events. But as this existential nightmare of a warped American Dream gets more surreal, that works to its favor. I liked it a lot.

Drink Coke! (The Swimmer)
Dynamic tension must be hard work. Cool off with Coke!

118. (1772.) Hardcore (1979)
Written by the writer of Taxi Driver, this somehow fails to have any of that movie's depth, which I'd say owes more to Martin Scorsese's true talent as a director than any comparative value between George C. Scott and Robert DeNiro. Other than a very funny scene with Hal Williams as angry pornstar Big Dick Blaque (and a brief cameo by Reb Brown!), I'd say the rest should be avoided when possible.

Drink Coke! (Hardcore)
There's no crime in giving yourself over to pleasure. And yes, I'm talking about Coke.

119. (1773.) The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977)
When Eddie said he didn't like his teddy, you knew he was a no-good kid. Equal parts salacious and sympathetic, I suspect your enjoyment of this movie will be based largely on your preconceived notion of Hoover and his manipulations to maintain his place in — and his conception of — history. What a guy. Makes you cry. And I did.

Planet, Schmanet, Janet.

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I should be working. Instead, I'm writing movie reivews.

107. (1761.) Strike Up the Band (1940)
Poor Mickey Rooney. He's so focused on becoming a famous bandleader, he doesn't realize that Judy Garland has the hots for him. Lot of good musical numbers in this, none better than the animated band of fruits and nuts created by George Pal (aka, the director of The Time Machine).

And although Mr. Morgan is initially presented as a bad guy, you know he really means well when he offers Mickey a Coke from his bar.

Drink Coke! (Strike Up the Band)

108. (1762.) Kagemusha (1980)
Akira Kurosawa's Shakespearean history of a particularly unusual era in Japan. The movie looks great, but I'm sorry to report that I found it very dull. I've never had much patience for tragedy in slow motion.

109. (1763.) The Underworld Story (1950)
This was more my speed. An ethically unmoored newspaperman champions the cause of a wrongly accused black woman to line his own coffers. The movie is black and white, but only the audience seems to know it.

110. (1764.) Hopscotch (1980)
This spy comedy of misadventures is notable only because it features Walter Matthau's typical curmudgeonry.

111. (1765.) Little Women (2019)
I've seen the 1933 (Katharine Hepburn) and 1949 (Elizabeth Taylor) versions, and I'd judge the 2019 (Soairse Ronan) to be the best Little Women yet. I haven't seen it, but I can't imagine the 1994 [Winona Ryder] version could possibly be better. Forget the fact that it's a chick flick, it's just a darn good movie.

112. (1766.) Vibes (1988)
Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper are psychics who travel to South America to help Peter Faulk find a lost city of gold. It's the sort of thing you used to see filling up Saturday afternoon television. (That sounds dismissive, but I have to admit that Goldblum always delivers.)

Drink Coke! (Vibes)
This is NOT Jeff Goldblum.

113. (1767.) Torrid Zone (1940)
The title promises more than the film actually delivers. Gangster-in-all-but-name Jimmy Cagney courts con woman Ann Sheridan on a banana plantation during an overdue political revolution. It's the worst of colonial capitalism played for laughs. Hollywood has never been quite as progressive as Tailgunner Joe would have us believe.

More to come.

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To be continued...

 

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