Formerly "A Movie A Day" :/

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Born on the Fourth Of July - 1989 - Dir. Stone

Having somewhat given up on really getting into Stone movies, I had pretty low expectations. I would say this movie met them with flying colors. I saw it primarily because it was being taken off of Watch Instantly and Tom Cruise shouting in a wheel chair had been ingrained in my memory at a young age and I was never able to shake it, so was kind of naturally interested in the movie. And yeah, Tom Cruise does an awful lot of shouting. It's pretty good shouting, I guess. No, you know what, it's great Tom Cruise shouting. Some of his best. The movie focuses Kovic's experience in Vietnam and mostly on his return home and readjustment. It's a tumultuous one to say the least. The entire Brooklyn hospital sequence is probably the most striking and memorable part of the movie. It feels like we spend as much time in the Hospital as in Vietnam and Stone seemed to make a point of making it even more horrific. Generally speaking, I felt like Stone's broad strokes effected me the way they usually did and turned me off quite a bit. I always feel yanked out of the story and any kind of emotion that I might have had. More than twenty years later, the movie has become a blue print for the returning vet movie. So I guess, it feels a little aged, the events just feel familiar. It's just become a very Hollywood Blockbuster tale at this point.

Friday, April 29, 2011

How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck - 1976 - Dir. Herzog

Sort of a mini-documentary. Or just a normal documentary, I guess. "It's forty minutes long" is what I'm saying here! Herzog is capturing the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship. There are a handful of interviews in the beginning, some shots of Pennsylvania, but I would say the majority of the film is watching auctioneers strut their stuff. So the length is really appropriate length for the film. Any longer and I might have started to pull my hair out. That isn't to say that the subject matter isn't interesting. It's fun to see how all of the auctioneers do what they do. And rather hypnotizing. The scope of the film is a little limited. Apart from the opening when the auctioneers talk about their "craft." There isn't much to the movie apart from the actual auctioneering. I would have gotten a kick out of speaking with a few more people. There's something kind of funny when people are filmed talking about a subject about which they certainly don't seem to have a lot to say. Even the auctioneers don't have much to say repeating the mantra "Practice makes perfect" and go through how they began to practice. The movie is nice in depicting the atmosphere of the Championship. There seems to be something inherently engrossing about the film to someone like me who is very distant from that world, and also somewhat amusing.
Cattle! You are all just Cattle! It makes me sick!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Robocop - 1987 - Dir. Verhoeven

I love this movie. I've seen it a small handful of times, but I enjoy myself during every viewing. It's a ton of fun to watch. You can chuckle at it without being dismissive of it and losing interest because of the silliness. It's just silly enough. It has a really nice balance of action and sci-fi elements (neither overwhelms the other). There are a ton of my beloved 80's Practical Effects (is that what they're called?). Easily the most memorable of which would be what happens to Emile after his run in with the Toxic Waste, which is also probably one of my favorite sequences in the film. A host of great/campy actors. Miguel Ferrer and Kurtwood Smith are just a portion of the ridiculous cast of villains but to me they stand out as THE TOPS! Both of which are so slimy and over-the-top. I also get a kick out of Ray Wise's bug-eye and forehead. It's one of those nice movies where everyone seems to be on the same page which helps it maintain the satirical, goofy tone. Peter Weller does a great job being a Robotic Cop. Naturally, something like that could look pretty silly but the thought never even crosses my mind. The script doesn't exactly pull any surprises as far as story telling in concerned but it's just a good example of a well-crafted sci-fi blockbuster. It's very indicative of the time.
Peter Weller. Actor.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - 2009 - Dir. Gilliam

MAN! Gilliam is nuts. I believe I've said before that I'm a huge fan of his. I was actually kind of nervous to watch this one so I passed up the chance to see it in theaters. It looked a little bit like Brothers Grimm Redux, yeah, I'm still reeling from that one, I guess. It's not Brothers Grimm Redux though... It seems to to leap into the area pretty frequently, but never gets too out of control. To some degree, I find it really refreshing to watch a movie that doesn't really bother with typical storytelling. It's more like a fairy tale. A very scatterbrained fairy tale (I get the impression that some things were edited for time making it more scatterbrained). At the same time, it also illustrates why certain storytelling elements have become so frequently replicated. Gilliam, however, seems more interested in visuals and images. And the movie is chock full of them. Parnassus' stage is friggin' incredible. I was very hesitant with the CGI, Gilliam always seems to work much better with practical effects, but in the end, I think it worked in the context of the film. I was really impressed with the acting in the film. Andrew Garfield especially, after seeing him in Social Network, doing a completely different kind of role. Ledger's performance is a reminder as to how damned good he could be. The Depp/Law/Farrell stand-ins are a little surreal (even in the context of the movie, but they also just look a little creepy) but they work. The movie can be a struggle to keep up with at times but it's a really satisfying modern fairy tale and a breath of fresh air these days. It's not perfect, but it's fun enough to warrant repeat viewings.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tron (again!) - 1982 - Dir. Lisberger

It was sort of an accidental re-viewing of Tron. I would certainly say I didn't seek it out or really consider watching it again. Not that I'm trying to trash Tron exactly, I guess, I just didn't feel very enthusiastic about watching it a second time, so recently especially. It's still pretty fun and goofy and obviously created quite a world. I still feel like the entire concept ends up being a little wasted in the film and is treated more like an AWESOME premise rather than a movie with a full world behind it. I realize I must sound spoiler because Tron: Legacy does that and I still wasn't happy. I think I was a bit more aware of how thoroughly silly the movie could be. Corny sci-fi one liners were way more prominent this time around. Although, it's still a very imaginative movie and understand that the nostalgia factor plays in a great deal to many people's feelings to it. The movie is incredibly dated. It could have played on MST3K in a heartbeat. I guess the movie works best as a snap shot of American Sci-Fi movies. I feel like there is a lot of forgiveness involved and constantly framing it in the period it came from when watching this movie nowadays, unless you can see yourself as a pre-teen having your mind blown at the theater, in which case, I'm sure it's a blast.
I really don't want to make an Ultimate Frisbee joke... :(

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Jerk - 1979 - Dir. Reiner

Haven't seen this movie since my high school days and to be honest couldn't remember much about it until someone quoted it and the memories came flooding in. I was a huge fan when I first saw this! And I still am! Steve Martin's first starring role as a supremely naive man raised by a poor black family who goes out into the world when he realizes that he's not their blood child. That and he discovers the pleasures of white people music. It's a fun movie. My especially favorite part would be the gas station section of the film, which is kind of a shame because it's so early on in the film. The movie never gets AS funny as that section. It certainly has its laughs throughout. It's not as seriously plotted as many comedies, he becomes rich, then loses it. Generally, not due to any actual action he takes. But that's about as far as we go. So it's like a series of goofy scenes dragging a story along behind it. Certainly we're never really asked to take the plot seriously or do we ever worry that things won't work out for him in the end. I suppose that feels like a weakness sometimes, but the movie is just too silly for serious story-telling, so it feels right that it treats the story as it does. It's a great early Steve Martin role especially to see him in his prime doing something other than the sarcastic prick roles that he seemed to be typecast in frequently afterward.
That's what I wear when I go to the bathroom!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Black Dynamite - 2009 - Dir. Sanders

This film was repeatedly recommended to me by a friend. It seemed like a good idea but I just repeatedly put it off. MAN! I can't tell you how surprised I was by this flick. It reinvigorated my faith in the Parody genre. After years and years of duds, this is one that actually got me laughing out loud. In fact, I could say I laughed more at this than I have at anything in a long while. The tone and attitude of the film is perhaps what helps it the most. Rather than getting overly silly, it sticks to it's Badass image. It saves all of the over-the-top wackiness until the very end, successfully topping itself. It felt like it was dragging a little at first, because it very distinctly shifts gears around the third act. So perhaps it's not the smoothest transition to the wackiness that it could be. But to be honest the third act works so well that the transition to it is a minor complaint. Naturally, it has all the classic Blaxploitation stereotypes of boom mikes in frame and shitty acting but the movie also maintains the style of a classic Blaxploitation. It's just a parody that really knows it subject and knows how to pace a story. Michael Jai White plays a terrifically badass protagonist, all the while being able to make sure there's a vein of inept acting running throughout. Excellent choice if you're in a goofy mood!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Capitalism: A Love Story - 2009 - Dir. Moore

I haven't seen a Michael Moore movie since Bowling for Columbine came out. I just find him awfully smug... or I dunno. I generally don't disagree with him. But often times, I'd rather just read an article. I don't need his jokey bits and "clever" illustration (we know he's not getting into the wall street offices, he knows he's not getting in, no one would expect that he be let in, so why bother?!). I gave in to this one because I do love a good anti-capitalism rant. Probably my previous experience with these kinds of movies, made this a bit less impact-full. Maybe I'm just too cynical but generally my reaction kept being "Yeah, and?" It's a little like The Corporation-lite, with schmaltzy tragedy thrown in. I dunno, there were so many sad crying people in this movie. I felt like I wanted more facts, more dates, more damning evidence. Of course, all this awful shit will make families upset, seeing it just makes me feel like Moore is trying to pull at my heart-strings rather than actually try and speak to me intellectually. I mean, it's Moore so I guess this IS more for mainstream consumption. For people who'd rather watch a movie than read. On a lesser note, Michael Moore looks like an exhausted old woman in this movie. It looked like any minute he was going to melt into the ground. I was always unhappy when he was onscreen... which was a lot.
That's guy's hand is HUGE! :o

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One - 1968 - Dir. Greaves

What I think is especially neat about this movie is that as you watch it, it does seem to be shaped as the movie goes on. Rather then there being a strong premise and we follow closely to that, there does seem to be an organic nature to the way the movie proceeds. Naturally, Greaves had an idea as to what he wanted to happen and seemed to plan ahead of time to a degree. And editing in the end shapes the story more than anything else. But the movie does kind of have an organic narrative that develops within this very free-form and experimental doc. It's also a pretty humorous movie. Greaves is entertaining to watch direct while trying to answer questions about what all these people are really doing in the film. While the crew ponder the meaning of the film, often times the pretentious language and high-handed explanations that occur are pretty amusing on their own. It's also just interesting to watch because of the way everyone is reacting as they are filmed. Greaves talks about how the Uncertainty Principle inspired the film and it is pretty clear. People's behavior DO change obviously when they are filmed, reality TV has long been proof of that, but it's neat to this late sixties take on it. The movie can be a little slow, even though it's under ninety minutes. But I feel like there's enough going on that I would definitely rewatch.
The Joys of Film making!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

F for Fake - 1974 - Dir. Welles

I had no concept about what this movie was going to be like before watching it. So I was pretty surprised to say the least, especially coming from Orson Welles. It seems like Kane overshadows this later work, which I suppose makes sense, especially since Kane is way more accessible. It's Welles' examination of authenticity or FAKERY and naturally, he goes about it in a bit of a sneaky way. The movie is incredibly playful which also makes it unlike a normal documentary. Ostensibly, it is about Elmyr de Hory, a professional art forger, and his biographer Clifford Irving, who has been declared a hoax after writing a fake biography about the last days of Howard Hughes. There are a few deviations from this basic premise and it's a little tough to follow at first, Welles drops a lot of information on us at once. And he also has some pretty intense editing to begin with, which is probably my favorite part. It's like a precursor to the wild editing we're so used to seeing these days, but all seventies. It's pretty neat to see that Welles had a hand in it back in the day. As if his name wasn't already big enough! I have to say that I struggled to keep up with some chunks of the movie. Especially when it involved Hughes and Irving's relationship. I'm not well versed in what went on there, Welles mostly catches us up but he takes his time doing so, making some of the movie a bit of a struggle. Welles is charming enough to keep us going though, unless you happen to think of him as an unwatchable, pretentious douche later on in life... in which case, this movie might be a bit of struggle. He is ALL OVER THIS MOVIE. Like a plate of french fries. I don't hold that opinion, so I say: A great doc!
Orson is freaking ooouuuutttt!

Breathless - 1960 - Dir. Godard

I saw this back in my college days with Shoot the Piano Player and I got down with STPP way more. I saw this as not nearly as much fun as his other work and actually pretty dull most of the time. I understand it's place in cinema history and I think it fully deserves it's place. But I'd rather watch Weekend. That's just the kind of fella I am. But you know, I get it. It's his first movie, he's not gonna take the kind of risks he would later on, but I feel like without his visual flair and his editing lessened (comparatively), we're left with a story about a jerk who acts like a film-noir jerk and isn't able to convince a woman he loves her. I just don't really get into Michel. Godard doesn't normally have all that sympathetic characters by any means... or really strong characters at all, but usually there's so much other ridiculousness going on that I don't really care or notice. In Breathless, we're stuck with this schmuck, we get some nice jump cuts but that doesn't make up for it! I still think that the end sequence is bitchin' though. It stuck out most of all in my memory from my first viewing. So I'm done badmouthing this landmark type movie. Probably if I had to recommend any starter Godard, this would be the one... Although I suppose that would be kind of deceptive wouldn't it...

Late Spring - 1949 - Dir. Ozu

It's a pretty run of the mill Ozu film. Like with many of his other films, I always get the impression that I've seen it before. They're always very satisfying to watch, calming almost, so I don't think I really mind familiar feelings. I guess, it's tricky because the topics of his films often overlap. Late Spring is about a daughter who is perfectly happy caring for her widowed father and planning on becoming an Old Maid in a sense. Her Father, wants her to get hitched, even though it'll leave him on his own. It features my two favorite Ozu actors, Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu. It felt like it leaned more towards the serious spectrum of his films. That's not to say he goes around making comedies or anything but they can be light-hearted sometimes. This one, not so much. Anyway, I'm always impressed as to how he can make the simplest stories so watchable... and enjoyable. I rarely find myself impatiently looking at the running time. I feel like he set his pace very clearly, very deliberately. So there's little confusion as to the speed in which the movie will go. It's a good film. Solid Ozu. There's certainly better ones out there but if you have a thirst for Ozu, this will certainly quench it... that or Gatorade (The joke is that Gatorade will make you feel like you just watched mid-twentieth century Japanese cinema).
Setsuko Hara friggin LOVES making that expression.

Friday, April 1, 2011

House - 1977 - Dir. Obayashi

I've been excited about this movie for a really long time. I had hoped to make a screening of it back in NY last year but THE TIME JUST WASN'T RIGHT. When someone tells me there's a Japanese movie where the directors eight year old daughter helped out and the special effects are outrageous, I get pretty excited and skeptical. Preferring to watch it in the right frame of mind. And the movie is certainly a handful, beginning with hyper melodramatic sequences of schoolgirl's "normal" everyday life. Oh, and the girls names are just descriptions (Prof, Gorgeous, Sweet). The movie is so insistently innocent and cutesy, I think I was a little surprised when the horror aspects ended being somewhat gory. It's certainly more goofy than scary or violent, probably no one under ten would be intimidated. The special effects make no attempt to convey realism and are more of a tool to say "Look what we can do with film!" So they end up being fun. The movie is fun when you get right down to it. It's silly, unpretentious, and paced really well. I didn't find myself getting impatient, "waiting for the good stuff." It's all good stuff. About as genuine as you can get trying to translate a child's vision to film. I would certainly be on board to watch it again.
Check out this rope I found!!