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Movies watched in August, part 2 of 3:

112. (1171.) Iron Sky (2012)
Generally speaking, I don't care for movies made with the intention of making fun of their own stupid concepts. I mean, if you know your concept is stupid, maybe don't make it into a movie? Or maybe I'm just too old for this shit.

113. (1172.) True Story (2015)
Jonah Hill and James Franco star in this true-crime courtroom thriller. I found it to be a very interesting concept, but the execution seemed unfocused and somewhat sloppy. It's kind of a mixed bag.

115. (1174.) The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1970)
Rod Taylor starred in this mid-life crisis dramedy that feels very much of its time. (I was frequently reminded of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Carnal Knowledge.) I think it could easily be remade today with very minor changes. Perhaps George Clooney could star.

116. (1175.) Strange Lady in Town (1955)
Greer Garson busts balls as the new lady doctor in a racist western town of assholes! Most of this movie acts like it's promoting gender equality, but in the end, it tales a man to save the heroine from herself. Take that, ladies!

117. (1176.) Logan Lucky (2017)
It's a shame this movie isn't drawing more money at the box office. It's really Ocean's Eleven in overalls, and people love Ocean's Eleven and overalls. I suspect this is headed for cult status once it goes to DVD and people discover it.

More to come.

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Time to catch up on what Walter's been watching! This is part one for August.

107. (1166.) Detour (1945)
The plot of this movie is so slim, the whole thing can be described completely in under 4 sentences. Usually, the hitchhiker in this sort of story is the predator, but in this case he's the, uh, well, bad shit happens to him because he's stupid. It's got a bit of a surrealism vibe because you can't quite buy into the validity of the protagonist's motivations. Anywyay, the movie is still an enjoyable watch thanks to a streamlined script and skillful cinematography creating good atmosphere, and that in a nutshell is the definition of most noir cinema.

108. (1167.) Day for Night (1973)
Loved it! Loved it! Loved it! Hollywood loves to make movies about itself, and the concept works even better when a foreigner (in this case, Francois Truffaut) is making the film with a critical (and cynical) eye. Watching it, I was struck by the impression that the style of this movie was what Robert Altman was always chasing (to varying degrees of success). Given that I seem to spend so much time watching (and complaining about) Altman movies, maybe I should be watching Truffaut instead. Did I mention that I loved this film?

109. (1168.) The Unholy Three (1930)
Sometime in the recent past, I watched the original, silent version of this movie (also starring Lon Chaney and Oz munchkin Harry Earle) and speculated that it would be better if it was a talkie. I was wrong. The silent version has superior menace and a more satisfying ending. The fault here probably lies in the change in directors. Tod Browning, famous for Freaks (also starring Earle), directed the original but not this. (For his part, Chaney took well to sound. He would have made a very successful transition into talkies if cancer hadn't killed him. This was his last movie.) If you have to see just one of these, see the silent version instead.

110. (1169.) Two for the Road (1967)
I'd seen clips of this Audrey Hepburn mid-life crisis film in the past, but I finally sat down and watched the whole thing. This is very much of its era, especially in regards to gender politics and fashion, but Hepburn's screen charisma keeps it entertaining. (How is it that this was released only six years removed from Breakfast at Tiffany's? I wouldn't say Hepburn looks old here, but it's hard to believe that she played Holly Golightly in the same decade.)

111. (1170.) Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014)
I thought this would play out like one of the many formulaic Disney Channel television shows, but it was more akin to a Walt Disney family-oriented B-movie of yesteryear, like, say, The Shaggy Dog or The Absent Minded Professor. (What can I say? I'm a sucker for Fred MacMurray movies.) I'm pleased to see Disney is still making them. (Low key but entertaining family movies, that is. MacMurray died in 1991. His last film was Irwin Allen's ensemble horror killer bee movie, The Swarm. I tell you, the man could do no wrong.)

More to come.

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Some of the movies I watch deserve extra attention.

114. (1173.) Aloha (2015)

This is not one of them.

Aloha is the worst kind of films, the kind that is almost great but misses the mark. The cast is particularly stellar — Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Jon Krasinski, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin; a real murders' row. However, the scriptwriter and the director let them down. Unfortunately, they were the same person. Cameron Crowe has made some great films in his day (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Say Anything...). As I said, this is not one of them.

The first act is abysmally bad, underserving all characters and telegraphing the end. It's bad enough that Stone is supposed to be playing a Hawaiian. Worse, romantic leads Stone and Cooper have no real screen chemistry. Cooper gets along much better with McAdams, and this supposed "romantic" comedy suffers for that misplaced relationship.

Those problems are just the tip of this iceberg. Bill Murray's part was written as a Bond villain. Krasinski is playing a walking plot device and isn't even given any lines. The "space" elements are entirely pointless, and when the second act ends, the audience is given no context to understand what they're seeing on screen. Like I said, it's bad.

There are hints here of a better movie peeking out. If the Hawaiian lore had been handled more subtly, if the criticism of the civilian corruption of the military-industrial complex had been given more attention, if the characters were developed more organically . . . . There's a good movie under here somewhere. Too bad no one got to see it.

As I said, this movie doesn't deserve this much attention. If you haven't guessed by now, the real reason for this post is to explain that I'm now missing only 3 movies on my Emma Stone career checklist (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, 2009; Magic in the Moonlight, 2014; and Irrational Man, 2015).

Gotta watch 'em all! Even the bad ones.

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Movies, July, Group 2 of 2:

101. (1160.) Spellbound (1945)
This is the Hitchcock movie from which Mel Brook's High Anxiety draws its most ardent inspiration. It's pretty good, too, though the third act had me asking "why isn't this over yet?" It's almost like there's a twist for twist's sake, a very un-Hitchcock ending.

102. (1161.) Baby Driver (2017)
I really wanted to see this, and it proved just as satisfying as I hoped, like one long music video/Steve McQueen action film mash-up. Highly recommended to fans of 1970s action films like The Getaway, Bullitt, or even Vanishing Point.

103. (1162.) Killer Fish (1979)
Lee Majors chose to make this film straight off the success of The Six Million Dollar Man, and I have no idea why he would do such a thing. It's a terrible film, a Jaws derivative made by people who really don't understand or care about character or dialog. Avoid this.

104. (1163.) White Comanche (1968)
On the other hand, William Shatner made this straight off the success of Star Trek, and who wouldn't want to see The Shat play good and evil half white, half indian twins in a spaghetti western? Must see for Shatner fans.

105. (1164.) The Mighty Quinn (1989)
Denzel Washington in the film that made him a star! Ok, maybe not (that's probably Philadelphia), but it's still an enjoyable, quirky crime drama set in Jamaica that marches to the beat of its own steel drum.

106. (1165.) The Age of Innocence (1993)
I suggest that this is among the best Martin Scorsese movies. The sets are amazing, the acting superb, and the cinematography second to none. Surprisingly, this film — which I understand is very loyal to Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize winning book — reminded me most of American Psycho in its depiction of the hollowness of New York society (even in the 19th century). Totally worth a watch.

More to come.

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Normally, I treat this blog like it was my own syndicated column in the vein of Lewis Grizzard or Dave Barry (not that I claim to be a fraction as entertaining as they were). My satirical, ranting essays are my attempt to squeeze some cheer from the completely unsatisfying experience of human existence.

I don't always feel that it's worth the effort. Some days, I realize that anything I could say has already been said, especially in the modern Internet era where the last thing the world needs is another self-centered yahoo cluttering the aether with his own narcissistic rambling. Who cares what I have to say?

Thankfully, Monthy Python is usually up to the task of setting me straight.

Right! There's no point to any of this, so I might as well get whatever chuckles I can out of it.

Thanks, guys!

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The first batch of movies I watched in July:

96. (1155.) Eraserhead (1977)
While I generally do enjoy seeing movies that forsake the norms expected by mainstream audiences, I still need them to have something approaching a narrative plot. This movie has some great visual effects (by which I mean disgusting but incredibly well executed), but the events depicted were painfully illogical, a nightmarish dream that left me incredibly frustrated as I struggled to find some meaning at its core. I did not enjoy.

97. (1156.) The Tall Target (1951)
Now this was more in my wheelhouse. Dick Powell shines in this suspenseful crime mystery where the assassination target is President-elect Lincoln! Very enjoyable.

98. (1157.) General Spanky (1936)
General Spanky is the only feature length "Little Rascals" film, and it was definitely worth the watch. Spanky plays the adopted son of a reluctant Confederate at the dawn of the Civil War. The comedy treats the war like a potentially fatal game played between willing adults, which, when you think about it, is every bit as terrifying a treatment as you're likely to find in Dunkirk.

99. (1158.) Ride Along (2014)
Ice Cube! Kevin Hart! John Leguizamo! Lawrence Fishburne! I didn't find this comedy to be as bad as the reviews, though comedies always get terrible reviews. (Humor is so subjective.) The best part wasn't the banter of the all-star cast, however, but the frequent reference to Atlanta. I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing the ATL on the big screen.

100. (1159.) Tea for Two (1950)
I saw the second half of this a few years ago and just now caught up to the beginning. That softened my opinion of some of the characters somewhat, but it's all still super contrived. That's a big problem in some of these Golden Age musicals. The best of them overcome that limitation. Not so much here.

More to come.

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Movies. June. 3/3.

90. (1149.) Cornered (1945)
The plot mostly involves Dick Powell getting hit in the head a lot until he accidentally murders the right guy. It might be a rough watch if not for Powell's commitment to the role. He totally owned the noir films he was in. He's so good at noir, it's almost hard for me to watch him in his early song and dance films.

91. (1150.) Gypsy (1962)
The true life story of Gypsy Lee Rose Gypsy Rose Lee as told in song! I hope in real life, Gypsy Lee Rose Gypsy Rose Lee was more charming on stage than the very appropriately named Natalie Wood. (I liked the film anyway. It was pretty good when Wood wasn't on screen.)

92. (1151.) Zabriskie Point (1970)
My view of late 1960s counter-culture was formed purely by episodes of Dragnet and The Monkees. This film sets out to prove that both of those models were completely accurate. The movie is as beautiful as it is vapid, as though made with a child's understanding of hippie reality and a college art student's pretentious self-indulgence. Re-reading my review, I find I've made it sound far more enjoyable than it actually is.

93. (1152.) When the Game Stands Tall (2014)
Biopic of Bob Ladouceur, who comes across as the Jesus of high school football coaches. There's more than a little luck in his story, but I certainly wish more coaches would emphasize doing the right thing over gridiron victories.

94. (1153.) Wonder Woman (2017)
As I quipped to Coop, the film is called Wonder Woman because Mediocre Woman wouldn't sell as many tickets. Gal Godot is amazing. Everything else is only ho-hum. The third act in particular is a real slog. Way to wear out your welcome, Wonder Woman.

95. (1154.) I Married a Witch (1942)
Fantastic movie with some pretty good special effects for its era. Lana Turner has a reputation as a hell raiser and rumor has it that her costar liked to call this movie "I Married a Bitch." Perhaps that's why she seems so right for her role as a devil woman tricked into mortal matrimony. Recommended.

More to come.

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Movies watched in June, batch 2 of 3:

84. (1143.) Madea's Big Happy Family (2011)
Tyler Perry's satirical family dramadies aren't high art. In fact, they usually feel like Lifetime specials. However, his over-the-top Madea character is a lot of fun. I will watch more.

85. (1144.) Lucky Night (1939)
I'm pretty sure this film wouldn't work without Myrna Loy as the spoiled rich girl determined to live up to her mistakes. Frankly, the ending is terrible, but the journey definitely had its moments, most of them thanks to Loy's wit and smart mouth.

86. (1145.) The Nun's Story (1959)
Audrey Heburn's well-intentioned nun is stymied at every turn by Catholic bureaucracy, misogyny, and racism, yet the movie walks a fine line, refusing to condemn the practices of the religion at its center. It leaves that to the viewer. Mildly recommended.

87. (1146.) Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953)
A true cinematic gem. Barely more than a silent comedy, the characters, scenes, and gags really stick with you. Highly recommended.

88. (1147.) A Boy and His Dog (1975)
Less recommended. The dog isn't as big a character as I was hoping, and Don Johnson's protagonist isn't very charming. That said, I think the bigger problem here is the writer that inspired it. I don't think I generally care for Harlan Ellison stories. He seems to take the point of view in his stories that that humanity isn't worth the trouble. That's some dark shit, and I get plenty of that point-of-view in the nightly news. I don't really want it in my entertainment.

89. (1148.) The World's Greatest Sinner (1962)
Now this movie left me in a terrible mood! The Internet tells me that this movie was never released to the general public, and I can see why. As a selfish salesman declares he is a god and takes over American politics, I felt like I was watching the Donald Trump story. Well, at least until the end, when the Devil kills the protagonist's family for no good reason. At least I think that's what happened. Do not watch to find out if I'm wrong. It's not worth it. Sad!

More to come.

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People keep telling me about television shows they enjoy and think I would like. I agree; I might like them. However, I am always reluctant to commit to any dramatic serialized production until it's over, as I'm really bothered when the story doesn't end well (or at all). That's part of what I like about movies: they're self-contained stories told in (generally) 2 hours. They're the short stories of visual media compared to television's novellas.

That said, let's review the first batch of films I watched in June.

78. (1137.) When Ladies Meet (1941)
This is the Joan Crawford remake of the Myrna Loy movie (though both are based on a play). The Myrna Loy version is better, much better. Crawford replaces Loy's dry wit with a melodramatic self-righteousness that is infinitely less charming.

79. (1138.) A Hologram for the King (2016)
Does this Tom Hanks movie have a point? It starts off like it does, with a surrealistic blast that put me in mind of Trainspotting, itself a harsh take-down of modern life. Then Hologram meanders through some dark, dark territory before eventually settling into a mild romance tale with the bland moral that humans are "all more alike than different." Yawn.

80. (1139.) He Walked by Night (1948)
This cheap crime thriller has some spectacular, high-contrast cinematography that exemplifies the best of mid-century noir. Jack Webb plays a crime lab technician, and this film's DNA is all over Webb's long-running Dragnet. Very good.

81. (1140.) Lassiter (1984)
No! Just no! Tom Selleck plays a cat burglar drafted into helping the London police steal diamonds from Nazi agents because . . . well, I still have no idea why. It's supposed to be part spy thriller, part crime story, part period piece, but none of it comes together. If you have the opportunity to see this, don't.

82. (1141.) The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)
William Shatner plays a defrocked priest confronting a pagan celtic demon in an airplane in this attempt to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist. There's a lot of silly here, and Shatner really comes delivers in the end. Thanks, Bill!

83. (1142.) Aeon Flux (2005)
This seemed . . . pointless. Don't get me wrong, there are some great visuals, but they don't do much to help a very mundane story about typical sci-fi issues like cloning, free will, faith, blah, blah, blah. The whole thing comes down to a bog-standard gun fight anyway, so I recommend you watch RoboCop (preferably the Peter Weller version) instead.

More to come.

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We don't always get the Superman we need.

His superpower is refilling the bottle

Sometimes we only get the Superman we deserve.

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