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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.
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.
We don't always get the Superman we need.
Sometimes we only get the Superman we deserve.
With Wonder Woman being the first DC Comics movie in recent memory to earn critical acclaim, it's becoming common to see people on the Internet praising last year's much maligned Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which introduced Gal Godot's Wonder Woman character, as a misunderstood "hidden gem" or "cult classic." Some are calling it an artistic triumph. I'm going to have to call bullshit on that.
I suppose it's possible that professional critics, who gave the movie a 27/100 on Rotten Tomatoes and a 44/100 on the less exclusive Metacritic, were completely off base and the film is a genuine masterpiece detailing previously unexplored aspects of the shared human condition. Much was made earlier this week when director Zack Snyder confirmed one online fan's theory about hidden symbolism and Superman's inner motivations. Wow. That must have been some great symbolism if no one noticed until the movie had been out for a whole year!
I haven't seen BVS:DoJ. I don't waste time on movies I know I'll hate. However, I'm one of the few comic book fans who didn't. The movie grossed $330 million in America, and an additional half a billion dollars overseas. There's nothing hidden about a movie everyone has actually seen.
I'm willing to conceded that most people just like to see computer-generated things explode. That's totally their right. I'm not even going to lie about my own preferences. I've certainly seen Rocky IV more times than I've watched any single Shakespeare play. I own two copies of The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. I can quote most of Roadhouse. My love for those movies doesn't actually make any of them good.
So let's let Batman V Superman go, all right, Internet? You can watch it if you want to, and you can even like it. But please don't confuse the shoddy object of your enjoyment with something possessing any real substance. That's how we got a Trump in the White House.
May movies watched, the final chapter!
72. (1131.) Satellite in the Sky (1956)
In 1956, no one understood what space travel would be like, but they were certain we'd screw it up with bombs. That's the most realistic part of this story.
73. (1132.) The Eddy Duchin Story (1956)
Brilliant but awkward pianist loses wife to childbirth, spends rest of his life blaming the child for it. Who thought that would be a fun movie to make? (Who thought that would be a fun movie to watch?)
74. (1133.) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
It's a distilled reworking of the pieces that worked best in the original. I expect another round through the distillation process will make Vol. 3 a two hour super-cut of Jackson 5 and Bee Gees tunes playing over an entire planet of dancing raccoons with laser guns. I look forward to it.
75. (1134.) Sergeant York (1941)
There's a lot of war-glorification here for a film about a pacifist. The moral ostensibly appears to be "the Lord works in mysterious ways," though my takeaway was "kill a bunch of people and god will give you a house." (When I sat down to watch this, I was certain I'd seen it before, but not a single frame was familiar. What movie was I thinking of?)
76. (1135.) Home (2015)
This animated children's movie does not care one iota that none of its characters or situations make any sense at all. Everything exists as an excuse to squeeze in puns, sight gags, and jokes. Fun, fun, fun!
77. (1136.) Wild Rovers (1971)
Boring, boring, boring! I didn't finish it. About half way through, I got distracted by something else, and it didn't even occur to me to press pause on the DVR. I don't regret that lack of a decision.
More to come.
For the past month, it's been Guardians of the Galaxy this and Wonder Woman that. For a bit of a reality check, please recall that this is what super hero movies looked like 50 years ago:
Ah, the good old days. When super heroes were just for white males and even officially licensed products looked like Chinese knock-offs! 'Merica!
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May Movies, part 2 of 3:
65. (1124.) Hangar 18 (1980)
Blech. This excrement of a sci-fi movie is horrible, from the misleading advertising to the weak script and dialog to the bad editing and continuity. The ending isn't even an ending; the story just stops! Terrible all around. Even the most devoted Darren McGavin and Gary Collins fans need to think thrice before committing to watching this trash.
66. (1125.) Swiss Army Man (2016)
Now this sort of film is the reason I watch movies. Unique, inventive, and equal parts comedy and tragedy, this independent movie rises above the typical rabble and says something about the human condition, especially in relation to modern disposable society. That makes it art (with a bunch of fart jokes for good measure). Highly recommended.
67. (1126.) The Zodiac Killer (1971)
On the other end of the art spectrum is this throwaway violent exploitation piece. I read after the fact that this was originally intended to help catch the Zodiac Killer, which, if true, forgives a lot, since the entertainment quality of the finished movie wouldn't be its first concern. It's not the worst film I saw in April. (That would be Hangar 18.)
68. (1127.) Gangster Squad (2013)
I have finally seen all three Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling movies! They play a romantically involved couple in all three, though Stone's role in this action film is really just plot device to get to some more action scenes. The movie's highlight is its recreation of 1940s L.A. Its lowlight is Sean Penn's Dick Tracy "Ugly Face" makeup. I was entertained.
69. (1128.) Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)
Tina Fey movies have a tendency to bury their universal "life is what you make of it" messages under self-effacing humor, and this is no exception. The sour reviews led me to expect a dud, but I much enjoyed the humor (especially Billy Bob Thornton's dry delivery). It turns out that life, even in a war zone, is what you make of it. Who knew?
70. (1129.) Hot Millions (1968)
Peter Ustinov wrote and starred in this very Peter Sellers-like comedy about a would-be embezzler who has more scruples than almost everyone in the business world around him. Cute.
71. (1130.) Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
This mundane story — an American reporter falls in love with a "Eurasian" doctor and their life is complicated by the expectations of their cultures — is exactly the sort of tripe men complain about when they deride Harelequin Romance novels. If this is what love is like, I'll have no part of it. (Though I quit watching after an hour, that was was still time better spent than watching Hangar 18. Blech.)
More to come.
I'm not sure what to write about today, so I'll do what I do most days when I don't know what to write about. I'll write about movies.
These are the first six films I watched in May.
59. (1118.) Gabriel Over the White House (1933)
What if the archangel Gabriel was elected President of the United States? Despite that premise, this isn't a theological exploration of Christian mores in politics but a fascist political fantasy about how great it would be if the federal government caved in to the irrational desires of the Chief Executive. It's hard to believe that any American would have thought this would be a great idea. Oh, wait a second . . . .
60. (1119.) Lady Snowblood (1973)
This is the clear inspiration for Tarantino's Kill Bill. If you liked that, you'll like this Chinese tale of ultra-violence, assuming you can handle subtitles.
61. (1120.) X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
I remember that there was some key plot point that bothered me about this movie while I was watching it that I don't seem to remember now. Oh, well. If you're choosing to watch this, the seventh movie in the "X-Men" franchise, you already know what you're getting into. So far as ridiculous period piece superhero action movies go, it's not bad.
62. (1121.) Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance (1974)
This sequel isn't as good as the original (mainly because there is less Lady Snowblood in it), but it still manages a satisfying finale.
63. (1122.) King's Row (1942)
I elected to watch this film because Ronald Reagan starred in it. Though I typically think he's stiff on film, he's very good here as the reformed ne'er-do-well struck by a series of terrible fortunes. There's a lot of pitch-black subtext in this critique of small town America that was too dark for 1942, and this movie is probably one of the very few that really needs to be remade.
64. (1123.) The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
I didn't quite know what to expect here, and I was quite surprised at how enjoyable this fictionalized melodrama is. It's about a woman who has three distinct personalities at odds with one another. Well done.
More to come.
Let's finally finish my reviews of movies watched in April, shall we?
55. (1114.) Peeping Tom (1960)
Peeping Tom is a British movie about a British serial killer. The Brits have the best serial killers. Jack the Ripper. Burke and Hare. Emperor Palpatine. Apparently, this was the first movie to portray a serial killer as a sympathetic protagonist, and I can attest that it can be very unsettling at times. Fans of Hitchcock-style suspense will enjoy this.
56. (1115.) Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)
This sequel — a dumb send-up of heist films — is better than its predecessor. Charlie Day steals every scene he's in that Jamie Foxx doesn't steal first. Kudos also to Jennifer Aniston for playing against type. Enjoyable.
57. (1116.) Call Northside 777 (1948)
Do you remember when Americans considered reporters to be crusading heroes? (Hashtag Trump's America.) Here Jimmy Stewart plays his best, jaded Clark Kent who goes to bat against the state for the mother of a man imprisoned for murder. I liked it.
58. (1117.) In a World... (2013)
Not every movie has to be about life and death. This is a light comedy that is part coming-of-age film, part sex comedy, part Hollywood lampoon. Lake Bell pulls together a great cast of comic actors (many of them her Children's Hospital co-stars) and each scene ends with a subtle punchline. If Lake Bell wants to make another movie, I'll watch it.
More to come.