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I've really fallen off the movie watching pace this year. It looks like I'll only see maybe 140 new-to-me films in 2023, my lowest total since 2016. Let that be a lesson: When you work too hard, there's not enough time to sit on your ass and watch movies. Time to reinvestigate my priorities.

112/2278. Man Hunt (1941)
Walter Pigeon is hunted across England by Nazis because he thought about assassinating Hitler. It gets pretty brutal; the Nazis do not play fair. And to think: This movie was made in America in 1941! (Director Fritz Lang had escaped Nazi Germany, so he had some first-hand experience and an axe to grind, and grind it he did.) The call to action at the end is a bit much, but thumbs up otherwise.

113/2279. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)
I've played in my share of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, and I can attest that this movie gets it all right: wisecracking, well-intentioned but marginally competent (and greedy) heroes make for a crackling good time. It made me want to get together with friends and start a new campaign.

114/2280. The Flash (2023)
I covered the key aspects of this piece of trash back in September. To reiterate: it's bad; don't watch it. (On my first attempt, I made it to the 8 minute mark before I couldn't take it anymore and had to bail. A friend convinced me to try again, starting at 1 hour, when Michael Keaton arrives. I did as he said, and I was left with bile in my mouth as I watched Keaton parody himself for a big paycheck. Poor guy. Maybe Birdman was more autobiographical than I would have previously believed. The real sin here: never remind your audience they could be watching other, better movies.)

115/2281. Summer of '42 (1971)
What I didn't like about this enjoyably bittersweet coming-of-age story was the dialogue between the three friends. I was that age once, and I'm sure my friends and A) had a much better grasp of sex B) didn't sound like egghead playwrights. Very distracting in what was otherwise a very naturalistic setting.

Drink Coke! (Summer of '42)
"In '42, we were thirsty... for love."

116/2282. A Zest for Death: A Hannah Swensen Mystery (2023)
I'm glad that Hallmark has resumed their Hannah "The Baker" Swensen mystery series. I enjoy them in large part because I enjoy using their established formulas to resolve which of the newly introduced characters has to be the murderer, no matter how improbable the story would want you to think it is. In other words: dumb puzzle movie make Walter feel smart. Hooray!

More to come.

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107/2273. The Boys in the Band (1970)
First of all, this movie perfectly demonstrates why I hate parties. Stick around long enough with a bunch of drunks, and shit always goes bad. That said, it's a very well performed play. I don't generally enjoy dramas where the protagonist is an asshole, but here the descent into self-destruction is gradual (but well telegraphed), and, perhaps more importantly, the protagonist is very soundly called out (and punished) for his bad behavior. I enjoyed it.

108/2274. The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamera (2003)
This autobiographical documentary of McNamera imparts important lessons about the former Secretary of Defense's philosophy and experiences while still tiptoeing around the topic of how much responsibility he had in the quagmire that became the Vietnam War, largely because he refuses to directly entertain the question. He wants you to respect the man, even if you dislike him. In fact, that's Lesson #1: "Empathize with your enemy."

109/2275. BS High (2023)
Another documentary, this time about the man behind the fraudulent Bishop Sycamore High School that played prep football on ESPN. Some things are just wrong.

110/2276. Cocaine Bear (2023)
Yeah, the bear murders people while high on cocaine, but aren't the real monsters humans? Loved it.

111/2277. Two O'Clock Courage (1945)
Tom Conway plays a man with amnesia who might be a murderer in this noir that's not embarrassed to lean into genre cliches. The short runtime is a real asset, keeping it tight and suspenseful, even if I still don't know what exactly "two o'clock courage" is.

More to come.

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102/2268. Hide in Plain Sight (1980)
James Caan directs James Caan in a movie that could do with a little less verisimilitude. It's based on the true story of a man whose wife goes into witness protection hiding with their son. In a movie full of cops, gangsters, and lawyers, we spend a little too much time with Jimmy being frustrated with his day job and new dog.

Drink Coke! (Hide in Plain Sight)
The color on this is bad because it was taken from the trailer on YouTube. I assure you, in the actual movie, the Coke is red.

103/2269. Killer McCoy (1947)
Working title: Mickey Rooney, professional boxer! He fights men! He picks up women! He spends a lot of time in cars! The film has a fun script could work... with someone else in the starring role. I just cannot believe that tiny Rooney could beat a man to death in a boxing ring.

104/2270. Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1969)
The most striking thing about this thriller (which has an aborted pregnancy at its center) is that it was scored by John Williams. Ok, fine, the abortion angle is pretty striking, too, especially when the stalker starts insisting that his ex-girlfriend kill her new baby as penance. Actually not a bad thriller.

105/2271. The Password Is Courage (1962)
Dirk Bogarde as charming war hero! I'd caught the opening act of this movie some time ago, and it was a delight to finish it off. I'd swear this was the basis for Hogan's Heroes.

106/2272. Damn the Defiant! (1962)
Dirk Bogarde as ruthless child torturer! In this case, the show is stolen by Alec Guinness as the captain of the HMS Defiant... and the boy's father. I was actually bored by the action scenes, but the melodrama was pretty engrossing.

More to come.

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95/2261. Teen Witch (1989)
This is a coming-of-age fantasy power movie in the vein of Zapped! but for girls... and much tamer... and made by incompetents. Its misguided confidence is surprisingly charming. Watch for the teen lust hunk unironically shaking up the Coke before he gives it to our heroine!

Drink Coke! (Teen Witch)

96/2262. The Murder Man (1935)
Holy cow, Spencer Tracy is always good, even when he's playing a detective reporter who is also.... Aw, but that'd be giving it away!

98/2264. Sergeant Rutledge (1960)
John Ford's take on racism in the American West... and in America in general, I guess. Frankly, the third act feels a bit like a cop out, but I have to accept that Ford was working in an era that demanded happy endings for Hollywood tales about the limits of American exceptionalism. I should probably be satisfied that such a movie (with a such dark subtext) even exists in the period.

99/2265. Blondie (1938)
The first in a series of movies that adapted the long comic strip into a live action situation comedy. This was apparently very popular in its day, but Dagwood is too incompetent to be sympathetic — or coupled with a hottie like Blondie!

100/2266. Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
John Ford directs Henry Fonda struggling with frontier life during American Revolution. What it lacks in realism (which is a great deal), it makes up for in cliches! Which doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Cliches get repeated for a reason.

101/2267. Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Another John Ford picture that tries, in its way, to correct the public record on the tragedies of Manifest Destiny in the American West. (Ford was no innocent bystander in this. He sure presented the French-allied Indians in Drums Along the Mohawk to be particularly bloodthirsty rapists and murderers worthy of exterminating.) Sadly, the worst part of this isn't all the unnecessarily dead Cheyenne but the extended "comedy" sequence with Jimmy Stewart playing Wyatt Earp just before intermission. While this may be another of Ford's concessions to contemporary audiences, it's so tonally incongruent with what comes before and after that it robs the rest of the movie of any dignity, making the whole experience feel more exploitative than sympathetic. Yuck.

More to come.

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90/2256. Mississippi Burning (1988)
This is another one of those movies you might have expected me to see before now, but I really didn't care for Gene Hackman when I was younger. (I've since corrected that mistake.) It's a fine movie, I suppose, if you can get past the rather blatant "white savior" tropes that would have you believe that the FBI were the true heroes of the civil rights movement!

91/2257. The Ghost Breakers (1940)
Gene Hackman I've grown to appreciate; Bob Hope, not so much. Certainly, not a lot of ghosts get broken in this Bob Hope "comedy," and I'm still not sure the plot makes any sense. Do they ever in Hope films? I think that's a large part of why I avoid them.

92/2258. The Man with a Cloak (1951)
More thriller than murder mystery, the real question in this is the "true" identity of the cloaked protagonist detective (played by the always worthwhile Joseph Cotton). I appreciated the reveal, so I won't spoil it here.

93/2259. Cry Wolf (1947)
Maybe I've seen too much Hitchcock, but I saw the third act "twist" in this thriller coming from two acts away. I had more fun trying to imagine who might have been tricked by such a plot than I had watching the story unfold (although I did appreciate the stunt casting of "evil" Errol Flynn and "naive" Barbara Stanwyck).

94/2260. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (2021)
Sadly, this isn't as charming as its predecessor; it has pacing problems as it lurches from cliched episode to cliched episode in what I assume is an attempt to keep younger audiences entertained. But it does seem to be aware of its flaws, and it tries to makes up for the rough edges with extra doses of self-referential meta-commentary. I am always down for that.

97/2263. Born to Dance (1936)
Jimmy Stewart sings and dances! And he's really not that bad. Of course, he gets a lot of help from co-stars Buddy Ebsen and Eleanor Powell, plus a ridiculously over-the-top finale that would have embarrassed Busby Berkeley. It's not perfect, but it is worth a watch.

More to come.

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[The Internet ate my original post here, which was a very long complaint about the movie The Flash. I'm not going to try to recreate it. The important takeaways were that that A) it has Batman in it, and B) it sucks.]

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84/2250. Elmer, the Great (1933)
The premise here is that baseball player Elmer (Joe E. Brown in an over-the-top performance of buffoonery that would embarrass Adam Sandler) is such a great batter with such intolerable eccentricates that the Chicago Cubs are forced to lie to him about his love interest in order to ride his bat to the World Series. Of course, the lies lead to crime, specifically a gambling syndicate, that potentially compromise the game. Because that's what lies do.

85/2251. Skippy (1931)
Never heard of the comic strip "Skippy"? I doubt this film will make you seek it out, although I'm lead to believe it was a big hit in its day. Li'l Jackie Cooper breathes life into one of the most famous comic strip characters of the early 20th century in a series of misadventures involving, among other things, dog murder. Seriously. Cooper was nominated for an Oscar for this because everyone is heartbroken to see a child crying over a dead dog. Shame on you, Hollywood!

86/2252. Three on a Match (1932)
While the popularity of the Skippy comic strip inspired a peanut butter brand to steal the name, Three on a Match was built on the popular superstition encouraged (created?) by a safety match tycoon to sell more matches. The story is a salacious tale of intertwining lives of three former classmates. Naturally, the third one to light on the match suffers a bad end, although that's owed more to her use of drugs than her thrifty use of matches. (Trivia note: this movie also supposedly includes Jack Webb's first screen appearance, but good luck spotting him in the crowd.)

87/2253. Private Detective 62 (1933)
Decades before Remington Steele, debonaire but destitute William Powell fast-talks his way into a becoming a partner in a private detective agency. Too bad for Bill that his new partner is no Stephanie Zimbalist and lacks any sort of scruples.

88/2254. The Castle of Sand (1974)
I interrupt today's list of pre-code Hollywood films with this Japanese police procedural with a very strong social justice message. (Lepers are people too!) The last act leans a little too heavily into sentimentality for my tastes, but the extended Dragnet-style investigation that precedes it earned my tolerance as the killer's motivations are finally revealed.

89/2255. Svengali (1931)
From the German Expressionism of the set designs to the Horrific gothic shadows of the lighting and costumes, it's pretty clear this production was heavily influenced (for the better) by the original Dracula. What's most surprising about this adaptation of the novel Trilby is how sympathetic it actually is to the hypnotic outsider Svengali, who really could (and perhaps should) be presented as something of a demonic sexual predator. I think the movie is much less kind to the prudish English fop Billee, who in his own way, isn't any better than the story's titular "villain," although I'm certainly willing to admit that my 21st-century perspective probably colors my interpretation of what "acceptable behavior" is. Worth a watch.

More to come.

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78/2244. If I Had a Million (1931)
This is the rare anthology film, with each segment built around the idea of a dying businessman giving away a million dollars each to individuals he chooses at random out of a phone book. Interestingly, the new money makes very little difference in the lives of most of them. Pretty good on the whole.

79/2245. The Color of Money (1986)
Paul Newman revisits the character of 1961's The Hustler twenty-five years down the road. I didn't care for "Fast" Eddie Felton then, and I don't much care for him now. The strength of the movie is actually the charismatic up-and-comer played by Tom Cruise. Gee, once upon a time, that guy could really act.

80/2246. Crime Wave (1953)
I really love snarling, toothpick chomping Sterling Hayden playing a cop who just might be dirty as he leans way too hard on an ex-con the audience knows is innocent. It's good noir with a satisfying payoff.

81/2247. Julie (1956)
The ridiculously contrived third act of this unsubtle thriller starring Doris Day would seem to have inspired much of the following-year's Zero Hour! (co-starring Serling Hayden), which as we all know, is the template for the single greatest comedy film ever made, Airplane!. So that's cool.

82/2248. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004)
The movie takes the television characters on an epic "save the world" adventure that, other than some very, very dark turns, isn't really any different than the source cartoon. But it is 100% worth watching for David Hasselhoff's brief but hilarious part. (I hope that man has had half as much fun in the entertainment industry as I have had watching him.)

83/2249. Desperate (1947)
When a robbery goes sideways, a well-intentioned teamster and his wife spend the rest of their life on the run from evil mastermind Raymond Burr instead of, you know, going to the cops. I guess if they'd done the sensible thing, it would have been a much shorter movie, and who wants that?

More to come.

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72/2238. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)
Complaint 1: This movie was made explicitly for fans of Indiana Jones, with all the excessive fan service and nostalgic callbacks that entails. (No surprise to see Kathleen Kennedy's name in the credits.) Complaint 2: It's too long by an hour. Other than that, it was fine, the third best Indiana Jones movie. Far better than Crystal Skull, which I just rewatched last week to find that it is even worse than I remember.

73/2239. El cochecito (1960)
The theme of this satirical Spanish movie is that the elderly and invalids are just as fucked up and deserving of respect as everyone else. It's almost cute, until you get to the shocking ending.

Drink Coke! (El cochecito)
A man steals a wheelchair... and a Coke!

74/2240. The Crippled Masters (1979)
TCM ran this and El cochecito back to back on a theme night. In this martial arts cripple exploitation film, the theme is also that the physically handicapped can be just as deadly as normally abled martial artists. Other than the gimmick of a pair of martial artists without the use of their arms or legs, it's really pretty dull.

75/2241. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Something New (2023)
If you're not up to date on your behind-the-scenes of the ongoing Hallmark Channel vs Great American Media catfight, you might be surprised that the title character in these was recast and the timeline rolled backwards to her college years. (My biggest complaint is actually the recasting of Aurora's friends, but this series has always been about the supporting cast for me. I don't like Aurora herself.) But the script is still written by Teena Booth who is a consistent workhorse at delivering a very satisfying formula of mild-mannered murder mystery.

76/2242. The Goodbye Girl (1977)
Romantic comedies in the movies came of age as screwball comedies of the 1930s which transitioned to the sex comedies of the 50s. Here in the 70s, we can see the genre becoming what we now recognize as a modern example with a healthy dose of New Hollywood's unique interpretation of "realism." It's pretty good, in no small part because it knows exactly what it is and what it wants to be doing.

Drink Coke! (The Goodbye Girl)
There were so many shots of Coca-Cola product placement, it was hard to choose just one.

77/2243. The Second Time Around (1961)
Perhaps this is best described as an adventure picture, Debbie Reynolds Goes West. But it leans heavy on broad comedy and romance (choosing between Andy Griffith at his most cornpone and Steve Forrest at his most oily). I think I'll call it an interesting artifact of its time and leave it at that.

More to come.

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66/2232. Something's Gonna Live (2009)
This documentary follows Robert Boyle and his friends reminiscing about the highs and lows of their Hollywood careers. There's a lot of grumpy-old-men complaining about how things have changed since their heydays in the 1950s through 70s (such as working for Hitchcock), but there's also a lot of open admission that the "good" old days weren't always so good (especially for minorities and the disenfranchised). A good documentary for cinephiles.

67/2233. The Dancing Detective: A Deadly Tango (2023)
Not so many years ago, Lacey Chabert was Hallmark's crossword-puzzle writing mystery solver. Now she's an undercover American agent on Interpol assignment in the ballroom of a corporate murderer. The crossword-writer was more believable. It's all very contrived, but I'll take what I can get after The Pandemic reduced the flow of new made-for-tv mystery movies to a trickle.

68/2234. Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)
Much has been said in reviews about the third act's bad CGI and extended Skittles product placement, but the real problem with this sequel is Shazam himself. Zachary Levi plays the Big Red Cheese like a complete moron. What can I say other than he's not MY Captain Marvel.

69/2235. Deep Valley (1947)
This movie made so little impression on me that I just had to look it up on IMDB to remind myself what it was: poor little Ida Lupino is a socially deprived mountain girl who falls for an escaped criminal good-for-nothing. Spoiler alert: It doesn't work out.

70/2236. Inside Moves (1980)
For a movie that begins with a very graphic suicide attempt, this movie about a cast of characters struggling through physical disabilities that put them on the margins of society is surprisingly uplifting. Directed by Richard Donner, there's even a running sight gag of a Superman: The Movie pinball machine inside the local hangout at the center of the film. It's all very good.

Drink Coke! (Inside Moves)
A cripple walks into a bar... and orders a Coke!

71/2237. Thief (1981)
James Caan really inhabits the role of an ex-con who gets squeezed by some very stupid, stupid men. Like most Michael Mann films, I didn't love it, but I respect it.

More to come.

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To be continued...


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