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At the current pace, I should see barely more than 100 new-to-me movies this year, which will be my lowest total since I started tracking a decade ago. I need to spend more time in front of the television!

4. (1863.) Ships in the Night: A Martha's Vineyard Mystery (2021)
2020 was such a long year, made none the better by a total lack of made-for-television Hallmark mystery movies for me to solve based on the formula alone. This was the fist new one in 2021, and was surprisingly the best in the "Martha's Vineyard Mystery" series so far. Martha's Vineyard was made for quarantine isolation.

5. (1864.) Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976)
Since discovering the existence of this crime exploitation movie — famous for pointlessly showing Lynda Carter's bare breasts (they're a wonder!) — I have jokingly called it "Bobby Jo and the Dinosaur," which in fact would have been a far better premise than this warped "Bonnie and Clyde" knock-off in which Billy the Kid is presented as the heroic ideal. In Bobby Jo's world, crime doesn't pay, but neither does *not* crime. Maybe it's a bit too much like the real world for comfort.

Drink Coke! (Bobby Jo and the Outlaw)
Sadly, she only drinks Coke with her shirt on.

6. (1865.) Smallfoot (2018)
The movie immediately establishes the questioning of authority to be an existential danger (*gasp*) before pivoting to a theme of personal responsibility and neighborly love. It's got a lot of cute song and dance numbers, but I'm just too cynical to buy in to the third-act twist where everyone's heart abruptly grows three sizes in one day. *shrug* It's a kids' movie.

More to come.

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Before we get started with 2021 movies, let me mention that there was a 4-way tie for actor I saw most in 2020, each of whom appeared in 4 movies. Those actors are Kirk Douglas (who I have seen in 18 total movies since I started counting in 2012), Edward G. Robinson (15 total movies since 2012), and Tomisaburo Wakayama & Akihiro Tomikawa ("Lone Wolf" and "Cub" respectively in all 6 of the awesome "Lone Wolf and Cub" movies ). That's a good crowd to belong to.

Now, on to 2021!

1. (1860.) If Winter Comes (1947)
Make no mistake: Winter *does* come. Despite its soap-opera-y melodramatics, this is a morality play in which a good man is punished by society for being good. It lays it all on a bit thick, but I don't think it's wrong. We do always assume the worst from people because we usually are. Be best!

2. (1861.) Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Sadly, this sequel is nowhere near as good as its predecessor. Someone seems to have forgotten that the real star of these movies is not Bryce Dallas Howard's shoes or Chris Pratt's smarm but the people-eating T-Rex, a lesson that I hope the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion takes to heart. Or at least to its teeth. Its very, very large teeth.

3. (1862.) Rachel and the Stranger (1948)
One step below the mail-order bride is the indentured-servant bride, but Loretta Young manages to hold her own against frontiersmen-in-need-of-a-domestic Bill Holden and Robert Mitchum in this adventure story/romantic dramedy. Enjoyable.

More to come.

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Ok, campers, rise and shine and don't forget your booties, cause it's co-o-o-old out there!

It's cold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?

Not hardly. And you know, you can expect hazardous travel later today with that, you know that blizzard thing.

That blizzard thing? That blizzard thing. Oh, well here's the report. The National Weather Service is calling for a big...blizzard...thing.

Yes they are. But you know there's another reason why today is especially exciting.

Especially cold.

Especially cold, okay. But the big question on everybody's lips—

Yeah, their chapped lips!

On their chapped lips—

Chapped lips!

—right. Do you think Phil's gonna come out and see his shadow?

Punxsutawney Phil!

That's right, woodchuck chuckers. It's...Groundhog Day! Get up and check that hog out there! Hee-yah!

Sooey! Sooey! Come here, groundhog!

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Finally! These are the final entries in my 2020 new-to-me movie list, all coming from December.

199. (1853.) Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace (2019)
This is a documentary about the kind of movie houses that barely exist anymore, those built to worship the mythology of the big silver screen. It's equal parts nostalgia and an oral history of the decline and fall of western civilization. I loved it.

200. (1854.) Monster Zero (1965)
This is one of the Toho Godzilla films (also released as Invasion of Astro-Monster). Here's the plot: a group of aliens beg Earthings to lend them Godzilla in order to eradicate the threat King Ghidrah presents to their home, Planet X, but it's all really a trick to get Godzilla off Earth so the aliens can take over. I have to assume it made more sense in the original language, because this thing was nutso in all the best possible ways.

201. (1855.) Black Christmas (1974)
A slasher flick which treads heavily on the "The call is coming from inside the house" ghost story. I did not find it particularly satisfying, despite the presence of Margot Kidder and John Saxon.

202. (1856.) Teen Titans GO! To the Movies (2018)
I watched this only to see Booster Gold, and I was pleasantly surprised. Fans of comic books will enjoy.

203. (1857.) Downhill (1927)
This early Alfred Hitchcock silent doesn't have a cameo appearance by the director, which is a shame, because the film is equally devoid of any real substance. (Rich boy gets blamed for knocking up a shop clerk and his life goes quickly, well, you get the idea.) For Hitchcock diehards only.

204. (1858.) Red Sun (1971)
Did you know there was a spaghetti western starring Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune, the samurai who inspired The Man With No Name? Well, there is. And it's very good.

205. (1859.) It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
Another very good film, this time a light comedy of errors featuring class warfare butting up against Christian spirit. It could easily have ended happily several times, but to its credit, it never takes the easy way out and still resolves excellently. A Merry Christmas to us all!

Onward to 2021! More to come.

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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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The year 2020 has been horrible in so many ways, but Christmas was not one of them.

Because the family was minimizing the amount of time we were spending with one another outside our households, I woke up at 1:30PM and opened presents — provided by friends and relatives who were much too generous — at 3 with just my Mother. When we were done we delivered pound cake and key lime pie to family elsewhere in town, and then came home to a ravioli dinner and a rerun of Jeopardy!. I finished the day watching a silent Hitchcock film and a spaghetti Western staring Toshiro Mifune.

I recognize that most people would disagree, but as someone who generally finds the holiday chafing, I think it was the best Christmas of my life.

Thank you, COVID-19.

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I've really slacked off on new-to-me movies here at the end of the year. This batch is from back in October!

182. (1836.) The Werewolf (1956)
A mad scientist turns a man into a savage werewolf. But it's not a horror movie. Not really. It's really a police procedural in which we follow the manhunt. Er, the wolf-hunt. It's not good, just different.

183. (1837.) Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly (2020)
These are definitely getting easier. I had it solved before there was even a murder. And that's why I watch 'em.

184. (1838.) Party Girl (1995)
The independent movie that made Parker Posey "Queen of the Indies" is indeed pretty darn cute. To its credit, despite following all the standard rom-com conventions, it still manages to feel original and smart. Well worth its reputation.

185. (1839.) Venom (2018)
About halfway through, Venom gives up being a horror sci-fi movie and embraces the anti-hero action genre. I find in the end I like the character more than I liked his comic origins, but I also find that's true about most onscreen Marvel comic book adaptations. I don't like Marvel comics, I guess.

186. (1840.) The Wicker Man (1973)
Another classic of its genre, but I can honestly say I hated this one. It's more suspense than horror, but the ending... holy, crap. No, just no. I don't care what its fans say, this is nothing more than an exploitation snuff film.

187. (1841.) Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1972)
Speaking of exploitations films: have you ever asked yourself what must the romantic life of a working hooker be like? This independent film answers it, and the answer is "sad." (Apparently this was released to New York theaters in a triple X-rated version. Glad I didn't see it. Depressed with a boner is not a crowd pleaser.)

188. (1842.) Guru, the Mad Monk (1970)
Ok, so maybe the reason I've been watching fewer movies here at the end of the year is because I watched movies like this in October. Made independently on the cheap, like Party Girl and Fleshpot on 42nd Street, but without any real understanding of cinematography or editing. Or acting. Or screenwriting. Imagine goth middle school kids filming a Shakespearean play they wrote themselves as extra credit for a history class they didn't attend, and you get the picture.

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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To be continued...

 

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