Showing 11 - 20 of 409 posts found matching keyword: movies

Not so many movies watched so far this September (because football!), but I saw more than enough in August to take up the slack.

139. (1578.) Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
The big eyes are a mistake. The story arc is a mistake. The acting is a... well, let's just say it's for children. In any case, I can see why audiences turned a cold shoulder to it. I'm sure the Pacific Rim crowd loved it. I didn't.

140. (1579.) Susan and God (1940)
A busybody uses religion to justify her holier-than-thou attitude and comes to regret it. A passable way to spend an afternoon without football.

141. (1580.) The Key (1934)
A bad melodrama, this is the worst William Powell film I've seen. He's the only good thing in it, which is not a recommendation.

142. (1581.) A Dry White Season (1989)
When one good man discovers that operatives of the South African government are so terrified of the oppressed native peoples that they are willing to murder anyone who dares question them, he begins to work against them. Then his family turns against him. It's really a horror film as much as a tragedy.

143. (1582.) Fort Apache (1948)
Having seen it in bits and pieces before, I watched the whole thing beginning to end and very much enjoyed myself, especially the dark ending conceding that the myth of American history has been built by those determined not to admit their mistakes.

144. (1583.) The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
Shirley Temple never grew into much of an actress, but Myrna Loy is really the star of this romantic comedy (as she ought to be).

145. (1584.) Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
The improved version of Pretty in Pink where everyone gets what's coming to them. Nice.

More to come.

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Speaking of movies I don't know why anyone would make: Batman: Hush. That's the latest direct-to-video animated Batman film from the factory at Warner Bros Home Entertainment.

The movie is based on 12 issues of the Batman comic released in 2002/03. Jeph Loeb — the pen behind Commando — was credited with "writing" the story, although he admitted that most of what he did was create ad hoc justifications for what Jim Lee wanted to draw. Jim Lee, you see, is one of the true superstars of the comic world. Back in 2002 he has just been bought out by DC Comics and they wanted to get their money's worth. That meant putting Lee on the best-selling comic, Batman, and letting him do his thing.

As you might guess, the result was that "Hush" is a series of cool looking images hanging from a story frame that barely makes sense. ("Barely" is probably too generous a word.) Few cared at the time because of Jim Lee, and the collected comics continues to be best sellers because of Jim Lee. Creating a movie from that story while subtracting Lee's distinctive personal visual style is like reading War and Peace translated from the original Russian into pig latin.

So why would Warner Bros bother with such a doomed exercise? I'm guessing because people have heard of "Hush" and don't realize (or care) that it is based more on visual art than story. And Warner Bros is only interested in squeezing as much cash from each extant property as possible forever and ever. Their corporate motto: Diminishing returns are still returns!

If you're really interested in who/what "Hush" is, do yourself a favor. Go buy a comic instead.

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Friend Chad recently asked me if I had any interest in the upcoming Joker movie. You know the one. It just won the Golden Lion award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival. My answer, in short, was no. In long, it was *hell* no.

As a longtime reader of comics, I have a well-established mental image of what I expect from Batman and his rogues gallery. As a general rule, I don't enjoy films about gangsters (which Joker was in the 40s) or films about serial killers (which Joker has been since the 80s). I've seen both Bonnie and Clyde and Natural Born Killers exactly once, and that's each one time too many.

My biggest problem with the film is that the Joker is unequivocally a villain. Pure capital-E Evil. However, a story's protagonist has to be relatable to its audience. Just as the short-lived Joker comic series of the mid-70s focused on its eponymous star's zany antics (and minimized the collateral damage), to put the character at the center of a film it becomes necessary to humanize him, to turn him from villain to anti-hero. No, thank you.

Call me a prude, but I don't see any reason to make a film exploring how someone becomes a narcissistic, mass-murdering sociopath on the scale of the Joker. In fiction, the Joker has beaten a child to death with a crowbar, slaughtered an entire talk show audience on camera, and gassed the United Nations General Assembly. All for giggles. If such a monster existed in the real world — an Osama bin Laden-squared — would you pay to see that person's biography on the big screen?

Joker works best in comics as a larger-than-life malevolent force of nature, the personification of the chaos that Batman strives to eliminate from the world. That's exactly how "Why so serious" Heath Ledger played him (and "This town needs an enema" Jack Nicholson before that). If you insist on reinventing the character, I'd say making him mortal is the wrong direction to go. Forget realism for a character that is inherently unreal. Give us a film about how Cesar Romero's wacky Joker earned his place as Gotham City's Clown Prince of Crime with a painted-over mustache (the anti-Groucho Marx!). Or choose to elaborate on any random Joker entry from silly The Super Dictionary.

Joker is a liar! Beets are NOT good to eat.

But don't try to remake Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy with a super-villain behind the greasepaint. Once was enough for that one, too.

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It can't be September! I haven't finished listing movies I watched in July yet.

132. (1571.) Ice Follies of 1939 (1939)
Jimmy Stewart and Joan Crawford on ice! Well, only briefly. I mean, there are a lot of skating scenes, but the stars aren't the ones in skates. Fells a little bait-and-switchy. (The studio must have thought so too, judging from Joan Crawfords final lines.)

133. (1572.) Final Exam (1981)
A pretty typical college-coed slasher flick in the vein of Halloween. The highlight is the ridiculous number of times she stabs him with the knife in the end. It's a lot.

134. (1573.) Night School (1981)
Another slasher! (Thank you TCM Underground!) It has the atmosphere of a procedural crime film, but the killer is painfully obvious from very early on, limiting the "mystery" and my interest. The scene with the pot of stew was notably hard to stomach (har, har).

135. (1574.) The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)
Uh, so war is hell but we do it anyway because.... they tell us to? I think the message here is a little muddied, but you do get Grace Kelly skinny-dipping. That's not nothing.

136. (1575.) Life After Flash (2017)
Someone made a documentary for the Flash Gordon movie. It's ostensibly about the f'd-up life of the lead actor, Sam Jones, but there's also many great movie anecdotes and Brian May of Queen. Probably a more enjoyable watch than the movie it celebrates.

137. (1576.) I Confess (1953)
Shallower than the usual Hitchcock thriller, but I liked it. I think it made good use of Montgomery Clift's usual stoicism.

138. (1577.) The Boss Baby (2017)
Great animation. Very imaginative. Very enjoyable. Another case of Alec Baldwin's voice making a movie better.

More to come.

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I watched two buddy picture movies on Sunday that, on the surface, would appear to be polar opposites. The first was Jimmy Stewart's Harvey, which I own and have long declared one of my favorite movies. The other movie was

158. (1597.) Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Despite its infamy, I've avoided this film for years because it contains two things I generally don't like: Dustin Hoffman and John Voight. They always turn in great performances, sure, but they never play anyone I want to spend any time with. Case in point: here Voight is an idiot wannabe hustler and Hoffman is a deranged petty thief. Fun guys.

But Midnight Cowboy isn't really about whether or not I like those two jerks. It's about those two jerks' unified struggle to survive in a downright hostile New York environment where they have failed to be either A) smart or B) pleasant. They might as well be a drunk and a six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch tall invisible rabbit in 1950s suburbia.

Say what you will about how many awards Midnight Cowboy won, many of them deserved, but I still consider Harvey to be the better movie. Midnight Cowboy is so concerned with either apologizing for or justifying its protagonists that it overloads with camera tricks, flashbacks, meandering incidental vignettes, and songs. Maybe if it had been a stage play first, the director would have realized that sometimes lipstick only makes the pig uglier.

If the raw grittiness of Midnight Cowboy your thing, that fine. There's certainly something to be said for the fearless intimacy of the experience. Personally, I'll keep Harvey and its stronger, more satisfying narrative in which everyone finds someone to love. Life is already too much of a downer to spend my free time in someone else's gutter.

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I was going to blog about my broken car today, but you don't want to read about that. Instead, here's something else you don't want to read about: movies I watched!

125. (1564.) Double Dynamite! (1951)
Reportedly named for Jane Russell's chest, this screwball movie instead spends most of its runtime chasing the antics of odd-couple Groucho Marx and Frank Sinatra. Enjoyable (even if the Sinatra-as-sad-sack routine wears thin).

126. (1565.) Footlight Parade (1933)
If there's any kind of movie that they don't make them like anymore, it's Depression-era, Ziegfeld-style musical spectacles like this. Worth a watch.

127. (1566.) First Men in the Moon (1961)
More fantasy than sci-fi (there's plenty of fiction here but drastically little science). I found it very dry, boring, and almost cruelly misogynistic.

128. (1567.) Five Came Back (1939)
Survival horror isn't really my thing, so I'd chosen not to watch this on several occasions. I finally gave in because with Dad around the house, about the only thing I can be sure we won't argue over are TCM films. Happily for me, this is a long way from the modern interpretation of the genre, and I was surprised by how watchable it was. (It feels cliche at points, sure. But so does Emerson if you're already familiar with the century of similar work that followed the ground he broke.)

129. (1568.) Bachelor Mother (1939)
They say that 1939 was the best year in Hollywood history, and if even its throwaway romantic comedies like this — starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven — are any indication, they're right.

130. (1569.) Lilies of the Field (1963)
Sidney Poitier was a damn fine actor, and this movie is really, really great on many levels. Icing on the cake: Coca-Cola gets a shout-out.

131. (1570.) Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
Frank Capra's remake of his own Lady for a Day is terrible. I'm on record as no Capra fan, but it's still a shame his career ended like this. Let's pretend this doesn't exist.

More to come.

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When last I listed some movies watched, I only listed six. I've got such a backlog, I don't know why I stopped so short. (Perhaps because six is how many it takes to get an eggroll. Har, har.) Therefore, today you get eight!

117. (1556.) Ransom! (1956)
As you can tell by the exclamation point, this is the original, not the Mel Gibson remake. It's much better than that one, in part because you never even meet the kidnappers. You really don't know what's going to become of the kid. Suspenseful with an extra helping of "serious" actor Leslie Nielsen.

118. (1557.) Woman in the Moon (1929)
There's a short list of directors I'll watch anything by, and Fritz Lang is on that list, even though his greatest movies are silents. This one is a third spy film, a third science fiction, and a third nutso. It would be better if it moved faster, but it's worth it for Lang's unique vision.

119. (1558.) Money Monster (2016)
George Clooney plays a television stock market pundit with no redeeming values. However, because he's George Clooney, you really want him to win out when he becomes the victim of a kidnapping. The movie has several obvious flaws but manages to overcome them with dramatic momentum earned by its lead actors.

120. (1559.) War of the Worlds (1953)
No, really, I'd never seen this classic. Sure, I'd heard the radio production many times, but I wasn't aware that the movie version had a genuine miracle save the Earth. It's a bit heavy handed. Special effects are great, though.

121. (1560.) Mystery 101: Playing Dead (2019)
This is the second in a series about a mystery-writing teacher who solves mysteries. I like Jill Wagner and the general concept, but this has a really messy and unsatisfying ending.

122. (1561.) Beat Street (1984)
Rappin', Breakin', and this would make an ideal box set for lovers of 80s rap exploitation movies. That guy has to exist somewhere. Hrm. Maybe he's me.

123. (1562.) Cold Turkey (1971)
Comedy by Dick Van Dyke and Bob Newhart, songs by Randy Newman! A seriously great movie about religion, exploitation, and human nature at the crossroads of Middle America.

124. (1563.) Desk Set (1957)
Stop me if this sounds familiar: Katherine Hepburn is a know-it-all and Spencer Tracy is a curmudgeon. I know, I know, but the formula works. There are no bad Katherine Hepburn + Spencer Tracy movies.

More to come.

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I saw 23 films in July, but I still haven't finished reporting for June. So let's take care of that now.

111. (1550.) Legally Blonde (2001)
I've never been a big Reese Witherspoon fan, but I do understand now why so many people like this film. It's dumb and fluffy, but sometimes that's all you want in a comedy.

112. (1551.) Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)
Uh-oh. Dumber and less inspired than the first. Not a good mix. Easy to see why there hasn't been a third.

113. (1552.) Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
To be perfectly clear, this isn't a bad movie. It's well made and the actors appear to be trying very hard, often too hard. But, and this is a big but, it feels soulless, like a ghost wearing the skin of someone you loved in order to lure you into its clutches.

114. (1553.) On Dangerous Ground (1951)
The worst part of this crime noir is the ending with its totally unearned "happy" outcome for the disillusioned hero and the embittered object of his desire. I can't recommend it.

115. (1554.) Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (2012)
By the time this was made, I don't think the audience it was meant to serve existed anymore. Who needs softcore porn in the Internet era? It's a weird sort of nostalgia indeed.

116. (1555.) The Monster Squad (1987)
The Goonies remade with the Universal Monsters. It has it's moments, but they are few and far between. For the record, I feel the same way about The Goonies.

More to come.

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Since I started seriously tracking the movies I watched in 2012, the actor I've seen the most is William Powell (33 times). That isn't an accident.

Powell is one of those "actors" who always turned the characters he played into some variation of himself. We usually call that class of actor — which includes the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Clint Eastwood, and Tom Cruise — "movie stars."

Powell's cool, confident, and sarcastic persona was perfect for playing con men, attorneys, and especially gumshoes. He's most famous as Nick Charles, the detective who caught the Thin Man in seven movies (the best of which is the first), but you may recognize him as Philo Vance who he played in five other films (beginning with the silent-turned-talky The Canary Murder Case).

I mention this because tomorrow, July 29, would be Mr. Powell's 107th birthday. TCM is celebrating with seven films between 6AM and 6PM. Manhattan Melodrama is in the middle (11:15AM). That's the movie that Public Enemy Number One John Dillinger was walking out of when he was gunned down by G-Men. It's also the first film to pair Powell with his on-screen soul mate Myrna Loy, the future Nora Charles (and not-coincidentally, the actress I've seen the most, 35 times). Oh, and Cary Grant is in it, too (14 times).

Happy Birthday, Mr. Powell.

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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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To be continued...

 

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