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Movies watched in 2019: the final batch.

209. (1648.) Bumblebee (2018)
Surprise, surprise: it is possible to make a good live-action Transformers movie! No, really, it's a great combination of coming-of-age and buddy action pictures, intentionally evocative of the best of the Love Bug movies. Wriphe endorsed!

210. (1649.) Jojo Rabbit (2019)
If Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was my favorite film watched in 2019, this is my favorite movie released in the year 2019. I'm so glad it was nominated for Best Picture Oscar. More people need to see it. (In fact, it is be re-released in theaters this weekend. If you haven't seen it yet, consider going. You won't regret it.)

211. (1650.) Made in U.S.A. (1987)
I watched this indie cross-country road picture via TCM Underground, and that was a perfect place for it. The plot, such as it is, doesn't make a lot of sense and there isn't a great payoff, but it is definitely some sort of adventure.

Drink Coke! (Made in USA)
No matter how far you are off the beaten path, there's Coke!

212. (1651.) Bundle of Joy (1956)
This is the Debbie Reynolds musical remake of Ginger Rogers' Bachelor Mother. The original movie is so much better. Don't watch this one.

213. (1652.) Office Christmas Party (2016)
Completely predictable, but not without its chuckles. Besides, who really wants a truly chaotic Christmas party.

Drink Coke! (Office Christmas Party)
Oddly, no one in the entire movie actually drinks a soda.

214. (1653.) The Opposite Sex (1956)
Sex comedy, 1950s style: Yawn. Leslie Nielsen leaves his wife for a starlet who cheats on him, so the ex-wife plots to steal her old husband back. Why, lady? He's obviously not that great a catch.

215. (1654.) This Could Be the Night (1957)
Not a great title for an otherwise charming film. A young teacher takes a job in a strip joint and soon charms everyone, including the audience. A good way to send out 2019.

More to come.

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December is over, so it's past time I started wrapping up movies watched in the last month of 2019. Here's the first batch.

204. (1643.) They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970)
The sequel to In the Heat of the Night feels like it takes place in a different universe. That's not to say that this detective story (about finding the real killer of a dead call girl) is bad, exactly, just that it would probably work better if this wasn't supposed to be the same character.

Drink Coke! (They Call Me Mr Tibbs!)
Not a lot to choose from in that soda pop machine, guys.

205. (1644.) The Three Musketeers (1948)
This was the Gene Kelly version, and it may be my least favorite of all I've seen (which is, let's see, this, plus the 1921, 1973, 1993, and 2011 versions). Kelly seems too... *gay* for the role of D'Artagnan, and I mean that in the traditional 1940s MGM musical sense of the word. Watch him dance-fence, and you'll see what I mean.

206. (1645.) Tapeheads (1988)
The spiritual predecessor of Will Ferrell movies. I'd've loved this in high school. (Note: Tim Robins played the art nerd here the same year he was a hotshot pitcher in Bull Durham. Boy had range!)

207. (1646.) Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
A small-time crook gets mixed up in a meandering, hapless bounty hunt for a man who is already dead. It doesn't end well for anyone involved, including the dead man and especially the viewer. Obviously, I'm not a fan.

Drink Coke! (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia)
Also bring me a Coke!

208. (1647.) Phase IV (1974)
Science fiction fable about how humanity's hubris results in its death at the hands of super-smart ants. I mean, considering how many ants I've killed in my backyard, I guess we all have it coming.

Drink Coke! (Phase IV)
Obviously you can't make a movie about an army of ants without a sugary beverage.

More to come.

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Friend Randy complained when my last movie post promised eleven movies and only delivered five. I correct that omission here.

198. (1637.) Terms of Endearment (1983)
Several times during the movie (which is surprisingly more of a comedy than a tragedy), I asked myself "Why am I still watching this." I don't have an answer. The acting is good, yes (in fact, the cast is phenomenal), but the subject matter really isn't that engaging to me. Whatever. Just not my thing.

Except for the Coke.

Drink Coke! (Terms of Endearment)
Spoiler: Teddy is not careful.

199. (1638.) Smithereens (1982)
More my thing, at least in spirit. The actual story — a girl constantly making the wrong decisions in life — wasn't particularly captivating for a whole two hours, but the "indie" (read: cheap) filmmaking style was immersive, like these were real, heavily flawed, people. Felt like a Warhol film.

200. (1639.) I Am a Thief (1934)
A detective mystery (with a little romance) set on a train. Thin and lightly contrived, but still a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

201. (1640.) Downton Abbey (2019)
I told Mom I wanted to go to the movies, and she said she wanted to go, too, so long as we saw this. So we did. I'd never seen an episode and can't believe they are all as good as the film was. Mom assures me they are. I was particularly thankful for the recap the theater ran in front of the actual film so that I had at least an inkling of who the houseful of players were. The most impressive thing about the plot is the incredibly low-stakes plot. There have been many, many dramas that have managed to do far less with much more.

(Sidenote: Mom and I weren't the only two in attendance. A couple of rows in front of us were three people who, it turned out, were watching the film again in anticipation of a vacation to visit the filming location, Highclere Castle.)

202. (1641.) In a Lonely Place (1950)
Is Bogart a murderer or just a bad guy? Is he aware of his own flaws? Is he deserving of love? Overall, a great noir movie. (There's a running gag in the movie about Bogart's screenwriter character having not read the book he's turning into a movie. Apparently, that was the case for this movie and the book it's based on. Meta!)

203. (1642.) Image Makers: The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinematographers (2019)
TCM closed their month-long salute to cinematographers with this documentary highlighting the accomplishments of some of the best film has to offer. As a film buff, I found it engrossing, especially the anecdotes about the early days of Hollywood.

More to come.

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November wasn't only about pies and movies!

When I was a kid, my favorite Christmas decoration was a pair of legs painted on plywood mounted to the top of a chimney. They were connected to a windshield wiper motor and kicked, like Santa was stuck face down. It was a good gag.

Cue earlier last month when Mom said that she wanted a new Christmas yard decoration. She was looking at lit Santa Claus blow molds like she had on her door as a child, but when she tried to convey the idea, all I could think of were those kicking legs.

I didn't manage the same level of technical innovation, but I think I got the nostalgia angle right.

Ho, Ho, Ho

Kind of looks like a bit of Photoshop there, doesn't it? Here it is a little closer.

The Taste of Christmas

My next door neighbor seems to like it. He's already asked where we bought it so that he could get one of his own. Mom had to let him down easy. This Santa stands alone.

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Contrary to what you might have read, I do watch movies that aren't Hallmark movies.

168. (1607.) The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
Another Cold War spy movie that is long on drama/suspense yet light on action. That works to its advantage, especially considering the delightfully gray ending. (How did George Segal start his career with roles like these and end his career on sitcoms? That guy has range.)

169. (1608.) The Emoji Movie (2017)
Critics railed against this movie, calling it among the worst ever made. I don't think it's *that* bad, but it is too little material spread too thinly over some poorly-thought-out scenes with a moral that makes no sense given the initial premise. In summary: Meh.

172. (1611.) Brother John (1971)
I read online someone called this the "blackest film ever." It's a fitting description. Silent, judgy Sidney Poitier is a, what, an angel? An alien? I watched this twice, and I still don't know. I really enjoyed guessing, though. I'd watch it a third time.

The movie takes place in a small Alabama town filled with racists and rapists. Almost everyone is knee-deep in petty sin. It's a weird place to put so much Coca-Cola product placement.

Drink Coke! (Brother John)
You can't see it here, but there's even a Coca-Cola clock on the wall behind Bradford Dillman.

173. (1612.) The Three Musketeers (1921)
Damn, d'Artagnan was a total dick in this silent adaptation by Douglas Fairbanks (in the role of... d'Artagnan). There's a lot of fun in the swordplay, so it's not a total loss.

174. (1613.) Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
I can sum this animated film up with three letters: W.T.F. In a slightly longer summary, it's about a young wife in medieval Europe who is raped by nobility on her wedding day, discovers she likes sex (a lot), and eventually makes a deal with the devil to... have more sex, I guess? Her endgame isn't exactly clear. She's burned at the stake, and the French Revolution happens. The end. Seriously bonkers. Some of the animation is quite impressive, though.

175. (1614.) Riders to the Stars (1954)
To prove that space travel is feasible, three men are launched into space to find out why metal fatigues so quickly outside of the Earth's atmosphere only to discover that the human mind is the most fragile material of all. Reading that back, I realize that sentence is far better than the movie itself. Avoid.

More to come.

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Starting the month with movies.

154. (1593.) Corpse Bride (2005)
More of everything I loved about The Nightmare Before Christmas. Very enjoyable.

155. (1594.) I Know That Voice (2013)
A documentary about voice actors made by voice actors. I pay some attention to such things, and I still found it informative.

156. (1595.) Alfie (2004)
I'm sure I'm in the minority on this, but I much prefer this slick remake over Michael Caine's star-making original. It's not as deep, but that shallowness allows Law's character to be less repulsive. Yes, I'd say it's an improvement.

159. (1598.) A Simple Favor (2018)
Ah-ha! This is what a pulp thriller is supposed to be; dark yet comedic with more than one (admittedly predictable) twist. Great performances by all.

And Coke makes it better.

Drink Coke! (A Simple Favor)

More to come.

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I should be sleeping. Instead, I'm reviewing movies!

146. (1585.) Steel Magnolias (1989)
If Julia Roberts is really from Georgia, why does her accent sound the least convincing of all the actors? This movie is little more than mundane relationship melodrama performed by a stellar cast who (mostly) do no wrong. If that's your thing.... then this.

And remember: you can't have a movie about life in the South without Coke!

Drink Coke! (Steel Magnolias)

147. (1586.) Framed for Murder: A Fixer Upper Mystery (2017)
Singer/songwriter/poet/actress Jewel makes a less-than-convincing handywoman/detective, but I doubt anyone watching a Hallmark mystery movie is overly concerned with realism.

149. (1588.) Class (1983)
Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Cliff Roberson, John Cusack, Alan Ruck, and the delectable Jacqueline Bisset all star in a very lackluster coming-of-age sex comedy more ntable for the appearance of the stars themselves than anything they do to elevate the material they are working with.

And remember: you can't have a movie about sleeping with your roommate's mother without Coke!

Drink Coke! (Class)

150. (1589.) Empire of Dreams (2004)
This is a documentary on the making of the first four Star Wars movies. Friend Keith mentioned it in passing a few weeks back, and I'd never seen it. So I watched it over the course of two days. Lots of good behind-the-scenes Star Wars tidbits, but it suffers from an excessively obsequious tone. You don't have to sell us so hard, guys; everyone has already seen Star Wars.

151. (1590.) Bathing Beauty (1944)
Something of a bait and switch, as Ester Williams isn't really the focus of this musical comedy, Red Skelton is. The disappointment was hard to get over.

152. (1591.) Plastic Galaxy (2014)
Amazon noticed that I watched one documentary about Star Wars and suggested that I watch another. Plastic Galaxy covers the history of the Kenner Star Wars action figures. Talking to the collectors themselves tended to bore me, but those were spaced between great historical anecdotes and creator interviews. (Disclaimer: I know exactly where my 1981 Millennium Falcon is.)

153. (1592.) Lovelace (2013)
Amanda Seyfried stars as the first household name in hardcore pornography, Linda Lovelace. Is this (often dull) movie an accurate depiction of her life? How horrible. Now try watching Deep Throat knowing that the star was being tortured off screen. Boner killer!

And remember: you can't have Deep Throat without Coke!

Drink Coke! (Deep Throat)
Image blurred to protect the innocent

More to come.

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As my father's late mother would have said, there's always time for picture shows!

104. (1543.) John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)
Seeing this in a theater was my treat to Dad treat before his heart surgery, and it was a worthwhile experience... if you like bloody murder-fest actioners, which Dad certainly does. Unlike many reviewers, I thought it was better than Chapter 2. Kill 'em all, John.

105. (1544.) Lady of Burlesque (1943)
A very enjoyable B-picture murder mystery based on a book written by, of all people, the burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. You go, girl! The protagonist is played by Barbara Stanwyck, who I should mention is the greatest actress who should have played Lois Lane but didn't.

107. (1546.) The Bishop Misbehaves (1935)
This film is more a comedic crime caper than the sort of whodunit it's lampooning. Disappointed by the lack of mystery, I found it a bit tedious. Your mileage may vary.

108. (1547.) Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
If this film is to be believed, America is almost as responsible for Pearl Harbor as the Japanese. Another case of victim blaming? From what I've read, the history is pretty solid.

Drink Coke! (Tora, Tora, Tora)
The Pause That Refreshes... before thousands die in a surprise attack: Coke!

109. (1548.) Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Historical accuracy has no relationship with this film. They couldn't even keep Kong's height consistent. I suspect if plays well with the Pacific Rim crowd. I liked the style, but most 1960s comic books were better written.

110. (1549.) Get Out (2017)
I can see why this was such a big hit. More psychological thriller than horror, it is very well made and a lot of fun. It drags a bit late when the writing is on the wall and you're waiting for the reckoning that is obviously coming, but I found that reckoning to be plenty satisfying enough to make up for the wait.

More to come.

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It's June already, and I'm still listing movies watched in April! I need to speed this up.

67. (1506.) High School U.S.A. (1983)
Michael J. Fox leads a cast of recognizable young television stars in this made-for-TV teenage sex comedy without the sex. (The generic title is exactly on point.) It's an interesting snapshot of the state of early 80s television talent, but not a very good film.

71. (1510.) Niagra (1953)
This Hitchcockian suspense thriller has a strong film noir influence. Personally, I wouldn't call it noir because it lacks the typically flawed, doomed noir protagonist. (Monroe isn't the anti-hero protagonist here, Jean Peters is, and her role is more akin to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window than Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo.) Don't let my quibbling dissuade you; this is a good film no matter what label you put on it.

72. (1511.) Blithe Spirit (1945)
I can't say why exactly — maybe it was the garish makeup, maybe it was the characters, maybe it's just my own stubborn inability to believe in the supernatural — but this hybridized romantic comedy/ghost story left me cold. I can't deny it has some snappy though.

73. (1512.) Pete's Dragon (2016)
As if trying to put as much distance as possible between itself and the original material, this remake is now set in the Pacific Northwest instead of the Atlantic Northeast. (Passamaquoddy doesn't even get a mention!) The film is too busy trying to tug at whatever emotional strings it can find to create real characters or much in the way of a plot. But I guess that's what Disney films do these days.

74. (1513.) Paddington (2014)
Whatever magic the original Paddington Bear had has been successfully recreated in this enchanting film. I don't know how any movie can manage to be so satirically snarky and absurdist while also being completely sincere. Delightful.

76. (1515.) Bye Bye Braverman (1968)
Four unlikable men travel across New York City to attend a funeral of a fifth unlikable man in this existential comedy. The journey is the destination, and that journey isn't very enlightening or satisfying. But at least they drink Coke.

Drink Coke! (Braverman)

More to come.

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In 1985, Coca-Cola unleashed New Coke on an unsuspecting world. It didn't go well, the kind of not well that still gets taught as a cautionary tale to MBA students. To their credit, the Coca-Cola Company learned from that debacle and quickly buried New Coke under the basement, never to be tasted again. Until now.

New Coke is now for sale as part of the "New Coke and Stranger Things 1985 Limited Edition Collectors Pack" at cokestore.com for the conspicuous price of $19.85.

Coca-Cola's advertising budget is the stuff of legends. They support everything from little leagues to summer blockbusters. They're so powerful, they practically created Santa Claus just to sell more soda. That they would work with the popular Netflix Stranger Things streaming show is no aberration. But that they are willing to revisit the worst decision in their business history to do so... that takes a special level of masochism you won't find in your average multi-national corporation. It's admirable, in a twisted sort of way.

I just hope the decision doesn't come back to bite them. There are two generations of Americans who have never had the misfortune to taste New Coke who might now try to catch the nostalgic wave. That can't go well. Kids these days drink fewer soft drinks than my generation did, so it might not be a good idea to give them another reason to walk away from a Coke machine.

Take my word for it, kids. New Coke tastes bad. Enjoy it ironically, if you must, but for your own sake, do so from a distance. Not all oldies are golden.

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To be continued...

 

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