Archive for the ‘Movie Marathons’ Category

January Movie Marathon – 2021 Edition

January 24, 2021

Another year, another holiday season Movie Marathon, but just like 2020 itself (and the beginning of 2021 so far), this ‘pandemic’ marathon was particularly exceptional. For those seeing this Marathon post for the first time, I set a goal of watching at least 31 movies in 31 days during the holiday season.

The good news – if it can be classified as such – was that because of the current Covid pandemic which curtailed many of our usual leisure activities, I had much more free time on my hands which translated into more time for hobbies and certainly more movie watching. I knew that I was going to shatter previous years marathons in the number of films watched.  I reached my goal of 31 movies with 9 Days to spare, and then went on to watch a total of 39 films. To be honest , I kinda wished I hadn’t slacked off the one or two nights I did not watch a movie which would have made it at least 40.

As part of the lineup, I also snuck in a mini-Ape-O-thon, watching for what seems like the millionth time the five classic Planet of the Apes films albeit I did not watch them in order of release. Other than that, I tried to hit as wide a variety of genres and formats as I could.

Without further ado, here is what I watched.

 

1 – Forrest Gump (1994)
2020 was a pretty messed up year so why not start this holiday season viewing with a messed up story? A mentally challenged, semi idiot-savant, Forrest manages to overcome all obstacles and ingrain himself in history making moments while at the same time teaching us a few life lessons. Life was like a box of chocolates and there was no creamy center this year but at least Forrest’s adventures in this semi-alternate reality are entertaining enough to take our minds away from reality for a brief time.

2 – Road to Bali (1952)
My first viewing of one of the many “Road” movies that teams Bob Hope and Bing Crosby with Dorothy Lamour, always the woman in the triangle. Watching this reminded me how funny Bob Hope could be, especially when breaking the ‘fourth wall’. I could do without the singing and dancing in these films, but back in the day the musical aspect of the film industry was strong so I have to assume people liked it. Next stop: Morocco!

3 – Donovan’s Brain (1953)
A well meaning but naive doctor takes advantage of recently deceased body to advance his research into keeping brains alive and cognizant after death as defined by heartbeats.The trouble is this brain is that of an evil wealthy man and the brain develops telepathic powers that quickly control more than you would think a brain in jar could achieve, none of it good I might add. I read Curt Siodmak’s novel on which this was based years ago and it was just as enjoyable if not more so.

4 – Carry On Doctor (1967)
One of the many “Carry On” absurd British comedies combining slapstick, corny one liners and risqué situations. As the name implies, this one features bumbling doctors, nutty nurses and problematic patients. I chose this one due to the recent passing of Barbara Windsor, one of the many regulars members of the “Carry On” troupe. Far from the best of the 30 odd “Carry On” films made over a span of 3 decades (not including TV specials and a short lived TV series), but always good for a few laughs.

 

5 – Man on a Ledge (2012)
A former cop goes to extreme lengths (well heights really) to clear his name. To do it, he and a few accomplices have to pull off one of those enormously complex heists (explosives, decoy cameras, crawling through air vents, and all that high tech gadgetry) to turn the tables on the man who set him up. But the plan relies completely on an unknowing, police negotiator playing along. Sure these movies are a dime a dozen but that’s because they are just entertaining enough to keep us guessing as to what is really going on and this one does just that. I’m sure I’m not spoiling it to say that no, he does not leap.

6 – Black Angel (1946)
The wife of a falsely accused murderer has to track down a luckless, drinking piano player who may be able to clear her husband’s name. Once she finds him, the clues point to a shifty nightclub owner as the suspect, but they need hard evidence and thus concoct an elaborate plan to get it. Standing in their way is a developing love affair and a hard nosed cop. As in most Film Noir there is the expected twist ending but this one was particularly surprising. Always a pleasure to watch Peter Lorre and the underrated Dan Duryea.

7 – Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
There is no need for me to watch any of the classic Planet of the Apes movies in order as I can almost recite all of them, line by line. I watched the ‘unrated’ version Blu-ray which is much gorier and without the tacked-on conciliatory portion to Caesar’s speech at the end. Easily the second best in the series after the first film. This was also the very first Apes film I ever saw, back when movie theaters were majestic palaces with more than a thousand seats, so many nostalgic fond memories to go along with this viewing.

8 – Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)
A rethread of the film Paint Your Wagon wherein a surprise gold strike results in the overnight creation of a frontier town with an imminent need for law and order. James Garner reluctantly comes to the rescue as the crackshot sheriff to fit the bill against a family clan running roughshod over the town. It’s got some fairly funny setups such as successfully holding prisoners in a cell with no bars. I was never much of a James Garner fan but I have to admit the more I see of him the greater my opinion sways in his favor.

 

9 – Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1975)
Despite being inferior in some ways to its predecessors, this last of the five classic Apes movies still has so many great moments in which humans and simians are forced to forge a unity or perish at one another’s hands. The apes learn that they are not that much better than humans after all. It’s also the film in which an ape first breaks the cardinal rule “Ape shall never kill ape.” This was the extended version Blu-ray that includes the subplot with an Alpha Omega bomb.

10 – Dune (1984)
This proto-steampunk Dino DeLaurentiis production proves once again that you can throw a lot of prime talent both in front of and behind the camera to lens a screenplay based on a great science fiction novel and still create an incomprehensible mess. A mix of the visual stunning and laughable, antiquated special effects. Everyone from Sting to Patrick Stewart wants to forget this one. All the more sadder given that Alejandro Jodorowsky worked so long and hard only to have his superior vision quashed. Watch the 2000 miniseries instead.

11 – Gremlins (1984)
I had to watch at least one “Christmas” movie in this lot and Gremlins won out. You can’t go wrong with a bunch of wide eyed fuzz balls even if they do turn into mischievous and deadly leathery pranksters. Some of the animatronics remain amazing to watch even after all these years.

12 – The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
Even if one of the least favored of the Hammer studios Frankenstein films, it still beats some of the more acclaimed stuff. Being only the second of that studio’s Frankensteins after the much better Curse of Frankenstein, they would later regain their footing with many more sequels. As always, just seeing the late, great Peter Cushing as Baron Von Frankenstein is more than enough. Best special effect: a set of detached human eyeballs floating in an aquarium and following moving objects within their field of vision.

 

13 – A Quiet Place (2018)
One of the most highly acclaimed horror films in a long time. A novel premise and genuinely scary but there was a surprising number of logic missteps that both my son and I quickly pointed out which certainly was a bit of a letdown. The thrills come as much from a family going to all possible means to remain quiet as from the aliens that have left the Earth in a dystopian shambles. If nothing else it makes the current pandemic changes to our daily living pale in comparison.

14 – Charlie Chan: The Jade Mask (1944)
I snagged about a dozen Charlie Chan DVDs a while back and have been enjoying them all year. This is one in which the illustrious Hawaiian detective is played by Sidney Toler but I prefer the earlier ones with Warner Oland. A scientist working on a secret government project is killed but the entire household and servants admittedly all hated him. In the end all the family, guests and the help are rounded up to hear Charlie’s brilliant deduction to solving the crime.

Beer game: Chug down a Blue Hawaii every time Charlie says “Excuse please.”

15 – Leap of Faith (1992)
An unabashed and admitted fake faith healer and his entourage end up stuck in a small town for a few days and decide to set up shop and fleece the already poor and miserly citizens. A lot of it feels like a circus (which it is in a way) from the troupe raising the Big Top tent, the side sales and attractions and having a barker. The love interest between the Sheriff (Liam Neeson) who is the only town member to see beyond the facade and the road manager who manages the ‘con’ (Debra Winger) seems out of place in the lackadaisical script. Not one of Steve Martin‘s better comedies.

16 – The Jacket (2005)
A bit of a surreal drama with a science fiction bent in which a former Persian War veteran who was once shot in the head ends up standing trial for killing a cop but in the same reality is in an asylum as a result of his previous injury. He is then subjected to unauthorized experiments that have him thrust into the future, where he learns that he has already died. This of course leads him and a girl he once rescued, a woman in the future, try to change history. The ‘time jumps’ are easy to understand, so it’s not overly complicated in that aspect. The hook of the story is not only that of the man, but the life of the girl/woman he interacts with at various points in time.

 

17 – Clash by Night (1952)
A self confessed woman who wants more than to just be a regular housewife finally throws in the towel and marries a hard working loving man only to cheat on him with his best friend. The speed and frequency that this zebra changes her stripes undermines the credulity and the very ending of the film. While this is supposed to be a minor classic there are just so many more better films from this era that those accolades have me scratching my head. Perhaps some of the film’s distinction is due to Marilyn Monroe having a minor role, and she certainly carries her own here. I don’t fault any of the actors, as the problem clearly lies with the script.

18 – Ford V Ferrari (2019)
In 1963 Enzo Ferrari, facing bankruptcy of his Ferrari car company, rebuked an offer to merge with the Ford motor company, instead using the offer to have rival Fiat up their rescue bid. Irate, Ford decided to hire race car designer Carroll Shelby and (reluctantly) driver/mechanic Ken Miles to develop a contending racing car to beat out Ferrari and their string of wins at the celebrated 24 Hours of Lemans race. This is the story of the friendship between Shelby and Miles, and the success of that collaboration that would shake Ferrari’s dominance for years. Definitely a high octane film.

19 – Zardoz (1974) 
The oddest Sean Connery film you will ever see. [See full review here]

20 – Films of Fury (2011)
A lighthearted documentary on the history of Kung Fu movies. While it does cover all the heavy-weights such as Bruce Lee, Gordon Liu, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, and even Chuck Norris (somewhat mockingly), it surprisingly neglects to pay respect to the revered Shaw Brothers who made it all happen. It does do some justice to the women in the industry with the likes of Angela Mao, Michelle Yeoh, and a few others, but here again, no mention of Etsuko “Sue” Shihomi. So much of the film time is wasted on a silly animated story driving the narration that they even completely forgot to mention Sonny Chiba. Despite the missing tributes, it is a fun and informative film with many classic highlights and movies titles that everyone should see.

 

21 – The Devil’s Hand (1961)
A hokey story about a small cult run by a couple who recruit people telepathically and control them via voodoo dolls. It’s all nonsensical since the couple have the power to predetermine the outcome of horse races and the stock market, talk about being immortal, but inexplicably need recruits. They subject some recruits to a ritual in which members are placed on a sacrificial altar in a trance-like and have a spinning wheel which has one real blade and others made of cardboard (yes, we see the fluttering cardboard) descend upon them. My DVD was a dual box with They Saved Hitler’s Brain including the original Madmen of Mandoras to which scenes were added, and both of those actually made more sense to give you an idea of how bad The Devil’s Hand is.

22 – Godzilla 2000 (1999)
Also known as Godzilla 2000: Millennium, the Big G’s nemesis in this one is an alien that lay dormant at the bottom of the sea for millions of years until some scientists accidentally revive it. At the same time, the members of the Godzilla Prediction Network (GPN) – basically a scientist, his savvy daughter and a newspaper reporter who really just joins them for the free ride – discover Godzilla’s regenerative powers.  This was the first Toho film after they leased the license to Tristar for the 1997 American “Godzilla” movie. A little too much green screen for my liking, but the alien does metamorphosize through some cool phases. You’ve got one guess as to who wins out in the end.

23 – Columbo: Try and Catch Me (1977)
I’ve been slowly rewatching all the Columbo TV movies from the 70’s. Despite the fact that these were very formulaic, one cannot but love seeing Peter Falk as the bumbling, soiled trench-coat wearing and stubby cigar munching detective. As usual we see an intricately planned murder being committed at the very beginning. Know who is guilty. See the murderer and Columbo skirt one or more ‘McGuffin’ clues. And in the end Columbo brilliantly solves the murder by revealing some obscure piece of evidence, often a ‘cheat’ in the sense that the viewing audience are not even aware of it’s existence. This one has the loveable geriatric Ruth Gordon as a renown Murder Mystery novelist bump off her nephew, but for a very good reason.

24 – Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
The centerpiece of the Planet of the Apes series, Escape has always been a standout in many ways. The true magnificence of Escape is how it begins with a departure from the two first films and suddenly plucks us into a contemporary tale that is a light comedy then quickly transitions into a serious thriller only to end with one of the most tragic and gruesome scenes in the entire series. The great music score by Jerry Goldsmith varies accordingly. I love it for the many fun moments but the shocking end is always what first comes to mind.

 

25 – Fist of Fury (1972)
After watching Films of Fury (see above) I was inclined to rewatch some good old Kung Fu and decided upon Fist of Fury with the legendary Bruce Lee. I had already seen and reviewed it under it’s alternate title The Chinese Connection which I enjoyed but was not overwhelmed with originally. However I enjoyed it much more this time around with a pristine DVD transfer and sound enhancement from this DVD in the Bruce Lee Collection box set. This story is loosely based on the suspicions of poisoning in the death of real life Chinese Martial Arts pedagogue Huo Yuanjia, long considered a national hero. Yelling “How can a healthy man die?”, Lee’s utterance is particularly prophetic given that his own death under mysterious circumstances would shock the world only a year later and elicit similar suspicions.

26 – The Wizard of OZ (1939)
My first viewing of this fantasy children story classic [See full review here]

27 –  Rest Stop (2006)
I’ve watched more than my share of horror/thriller films that have a scene or two that do not quite make sense. I’ve also seen more than an handful of characters performing deeds that are not only dumb and dangerous, but that last thing you would want to do for a given predicament or situation. The good news is that if you enjoy all of the above, Rest Stop is the movie for you. When a woman who has just run off with her boyfriend gets stranded and stalked by a mysterious serial killer, she suddenly becomes the dumbest person on the Earth is the only way I can describe this film. More’s the pity is that this was directed by X-Files veteran writer John Shiban who should have known better.

28 – Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
There was a time when I did not think too highly of Beneath, the first sequel in the Planet of the Apes series. My misgivings were due to how the film largely mimics the first at the very beginning. But I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more with every viewing. This is the film which not only made the Gorillas more than background simians, but gave us Ursus (James Gregory) and his marvelous speech decrying “The only good human is a dead human.” It also gave us the radiation raved mutants. And just for shits’n’giggles they blow up the Earth at the end.

 

29 – Double Indemnity (1944)
The seminal Film Noir, and masterpiece template for the genre. The film that had everything bucking against it through production, but at the same time ended up with all the perfect ingredients. Director Billy Wilder’s breakout film from which he never looked back. Barabara Stanwyck is the femme fatale who naively tries to buy insurance for the husband she plans to bump off. Insurance salesman Fred MacMurray smells out her ill conceived plans but falls for her and offers up a better plan, a perfect plan. All that stands in their way is the insurance company’s fraud detective, Edward G. Robinson. Thrilling from the first frame to the very last. Doesn’t get better than this.

(Read another short review I wrote ten years ago here)

30 – Weekend at Bernies (1989)
Two young dudes working at an insurance firm try to climb the corporate ladder by analyzing the company records to see if they can find extra funds to impress their boss, the extravagant Bernie who has everything going for him. When they do find some suspicious account activity he delightfully invites them to join him for the weekend at his island mansion. When the boys arrive they find Bernie is a stiff and circumstances have them propping up the body and maintaining the pretense that he is not only alive and well, but hosting lavish parties. Not nearly as good as I remember it, but still fun.

31- Lovelace (2013)
Deep Throat was the breakthrough porn movie that thrust the dingy, garage industry into the mainstream consciousness by shattering the box office and luring throngs of patrons, men and women alike, curious as to what it was all about. Overnight, star Linda Lovelace became a household name and fodder for late night talk-show hosts. This is the sad story of how she came to be in that production and separates the façade from the reality. The format uses an innovative approach by first showing us the public view version of events and then revisiting them while revealing what was happening behind closed doors. Both fascinating and heartsick at the same time.

32 – Gilda (1946) 
Film Noir classic that deservedly made Rita Hayworth a star. [See full review here]

 

33 – Moneyball (2011)
This is a second viewing already for me. While not a baseball fan per se, this is not about heroic athletics which is usually the focus of sports themed films. Rather it is based upon the then revolutionary concept of putting together a roster cheaply by strictly sticking to statistics, and removing all personal observation analysis. That is not to say that this is a ‘science’ movie, but science is integral to the plot. Loosely based on the true life story of Oakland A’s GM Billy Bean (Brad Pitt) after he lost key players in 2002 and had to rebuild the team but without adequate money for payroll. The real star here is the surprising sedate role by Jonah Hill as the data analyst (earning an Oscar nomination along with Pitt), proving he can do much more than star in stoner comedies.

34 – RV (2006)
Had to fit in at least one Robin Williams movie in the marathon. This one has him as a father and husband trying to keep his family happy while being stressed by his job and facing the prospect of losing it. When his boss demands that he be present at a remote meeting at the same time the family had plans to vacation in Hawaii, he rents an RV and plans a trip to his meeting while keeping his work plans secret from them. Not one of his best (by far) but meeting (and shunning) another travelling family brings just enough comedy to make it worth the watch.

35 – Planet of the Apes (1968)
What I consider to be one of the finest science fiction movies ever made and just as powerful today as when it was released. The original Planet of the Apes is rife with political and social commentary, particularly highlighting the racial divide but also critiquing religion, the military and other facets. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it, and yet I still pick up on nuances in the dialogue that are as relevant today as it was back then, perhaps even more so in these trying times.

36 – Training Day (2001)
A rookie cop bucking to someday make detective gets the opportunity to team up with a seasoned veteran working the dingy streets. But his first day on the job proves to be not just a shocking revelation regarding corruption, but a deadly game of rogue cops who turn out to be worse than the criminals he was hoping to reign in. Denzel Washington is downright nasty but finds his hands full trying to reel in rookie Ethan Hawke. A great story with many surprises, but cramming it all into a single day strains credulity.

 

37 – Horton Hears a Who (2008)
It’s been a while since I watched an animated film so I thought it was high time I got around to watching this one. I do remember watching the original Horton Hears a Who half hour short many, many times as a kid, but realized that stretching a 30 minute Dr. Seuss cartoon TV special to feature length film would necessarily be quite different. I can’t say I was thrilled with it although it’s always fun seeing the outlandish contraptions in mythical Whoville.

38 – Sabotage (1936)
Sabotage is an early Alfred Hitchcock film which tells the story of an agent tracking a suspect in London after a spate of minor incidents aimed to terrorize a pre-war English public. The saboteur is a cinema owner, married to a young widow with a son who gets entangled in his evil deeds, and ones that escalate in severity. Not to be confused with the much superior Saboteur which Hitchcock made in 1942, it is, even as an inferior film, still packed with intrigue and nerve wrenching scenes. While based on the novel Secret Agent, it should also not be confused with the Hitchcock film Secret Agent released the very same year.

39 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Of all the Bond films, this one sometimes gets short shrift because it is the one in which George Lazenby played James Bond in his singular outing and the first post Connery Bond. But this film has a lot going for it, not the least starring the late great Diana Rigg as the ‘Bond girl’. Add in Telly ‘Kojak’ Savalas as the nemesis Blofeld and you have a great, exciting film. It’s not often Bond helps out a crime syndicate and gets married.

January Movie Marathon – 2020 Edition

January 24, 2020

Time for my annual 31 Movies in 31 Days challenge that I’m glad to report was successful with one caveat. In past years these were January challenges where the movies had to be watched during the month alone. Suspecting that I would be a bit busier this year I cheated a bit by shifting the challenge to begin Christmas day,and gave myself 31 days from that point, so ending January 24th (today!), which also made more sense given that those interim days between Christmas and New Years are really prime relaxing viewing days. My suspicions were correct and even with the shift I just made my quota!

Unlike previous years where my movie viewing was across the gamut of genres and eras, my son and I decided to binge rewatch all the Harry Potter movies so the scale is slightly tipped in favour of those eight movies. But I think the others films preent are a nice variety regarding content and quality. In the order in which I watched them, here are my short reviews.

#1 – Dead Snow (2009) My second viewing of this Norwegian Nazi Zombie film was not as memorable as the first time I watched it at the Fantasia film fest years ago. A bunch of young adults shack up in a remote cabin for a few days of skiing the slopes when (surprise!) World War II era SS troops led by recalcitrant commandant disturb their snow bound vacation. Some fairly funny bits and I did love the Nazis popping out of the snow like Whack-a-Moles at and arcade.

#2 – The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)  As are all the Roger Corman Poe adaptations, this one is a very loose interpretation of the source material. But with Vincent Price and Barbara Steele headlining you really can’t go wrong. And damned if there really isn’t a pit and a giant human slicing pendulum in it and other interesting devices in a torture chamber.

#3 – Christmas with the Kranks (2004) Well I had to watch at least one Holiday film for this list, didn’t I? Sadly, there are a lot better than this one. Even Jamie Lee Curtis as the wife of a couple who decided to forego Christmas for a cruise couldn’t really raise my interest above “Meh.” Should have gone with other Christman movie standards like Die Hard, Gremlins, (Yes, those last two are Christmas movies!), A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life. I guess you could say this one left me Kranky.

#4 – Mommie Dearest (1981) The legacy of silver screen diva Joan Crawford is not so much her films as the events described in the tell-all book “Mommie Dearest” (adapted here) by her daughter after her death in which she revealed that her troubled childhood included beatings with coat hangers. It made headlines at the time and I can’t get it out of my mind that arch enemy Bette Davis must have loved every minute of it. Faye Dunaway nails it as Joan. (Disclaimer: No Nails were used in the beating of the children.)

#5 – Ransom (1996) Mel Gibson turns the cards on Gary Sinise, his son’s kidnapper by putting a ransom on his head rather than paying one, much to the surprise of his own wife (Rene Russo). A decent thriller although Mel is over the top at times as is the entire premise. Much better Gibson/Russo chemistry in Lethal Weapon 3 and Gibson is crazier in that one as well.

#6 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) It’s been a long time since I watched the Harry Potter series. The first movie about the boy wizard, introduces us to Hogwarts, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Snape, McGonagall, those other meddling kids (Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley), a few muggles and not to forget: Quidditch!

#7 – The Night Strangler (1973) This was the second Kolchak TV movie before the The Night Stalker TV series. (I already watched The Night Strangler  pilot movie which started it all a month earlier). l Always wanted to watch the proto-X Files series and I’m finally getting around now 47 years later.  This one has Kolchak (Darrin McGavin) being aided by an exotic dancer (Jo Ann Pflug) solve the mystery of a recurring murderer popping up every few decades since the civil war.

#8 – Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber (2002) Harry, with the help of Ron, Hermione, Dobby the elf, Moaning Myrtle (not a porn star as you would be led to believe), and a book previously owned by Voldemont himself rescue Ron’s sister from the titular chamber. And of course more Quidditch!

#9 – Halloween (2019) I was very excited to hear that there would be another Halloween reboot after the dismal last entry in Rob Zombie’s reboot. The fact that Jamie Lee Curtis was returning in her original role sealed the deal. Now I have to admit that this was not as good as I had hoped and the slow, predictable start nearly had me give up on it entirely but stick with it to the end, bear some of the sillier aspects, and it does carve out a place for itself in the Halloween pantheon. At least it’s a lot better than some of the others.

#10 – The Rock (1996) When a bunch of uber-patriot elite Marines feel slighted by their country they take over Alcatraz and threaten to launch missiles they’ve set up on the isle of the former prison. Without any accurate blueprints and layout of the compound they ask a current convict Sean Connery who is also being screwed over to help.The plot is as convincing as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but it’s Bad-Ass Connery so who cares?

#11 – Godzilla VS. Hedorah (1971) Read review here.

#12 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) Someone is out to kill Harry, Ron’s rat escapes, and there’s a werewolf. If nothing else, this was an excuse to get Gary Oldman into the storyline. And there’s a game of Quidditch against a team with the unlikely name of Hufflepuff.

#13 – The Thirteenth Floor (1999) Twists and turns galore as character’s jack-into a 1930’s virtual world with mols, cops, murder and mystery. Sure the effects are dated (even for that time) but this is all about plot and plotting and the truth is a doozy!

#14 – Red Eye (2005) Nearly the entire film takes place within the confines of an airplane as a hotel manager is coerced by a terrorist (Cillian Murphy) to make particular arrangements for a special guest.

#15 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) Not just any Quidditch but nothing less than the World Cup of Quidditch. And then a Tri-Wizard tournament! Sounds like a lot of fun except for that Voldemort dude killing folks.

#16 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) Harry Potter gets expelled from Hogwarts! Actually one of the better films in the series but (egads!) no Quidditch! Includes one of the most wasted character names in cinematic history: Nymphadora Tonks. Nuff said.

#17 – The Purge (2013) The Purge series of films set in a not too distant future America in which once a year, for 24 hours, people can kill one another to ‘purge’ pent up frustration (the thinking being that it’s somehow better in the long term). This first movie has an upper scale family being safely locked in their home until one of the kids decides to ‘save’ a stranger being hunted. But the stranger ends up being the least of their problems.

#18 – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) The ‘blood’ in the title must be indicative of the many fluids in the plot including love potions, poison, liquid luck, and mead. My least favorite of the series and more a setup for the ending in the next installment.

#19 – Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970) Read review here.

#20 – First Strike (1996) Jackie Chan dishes out his usual “Chan-anigans” as a Hong Kong cop helping the CIA nab an arms dealer in Australia and meeting up with some Russians. I think they were going for International appeal.

#21 – The House that Dripped Blood (1971) Read review here

#22 – Dead Reckoning (1947) Humphrey Bogart has to track down his best friend and fellow former paratrooper after he ditches at a train stop just before the to are set to receive prestigious war medals in Washington. Following a byzantine set of clues (including a false name to begin with) he finds that his buddy was an accused murder on the run. But why did he suddenly go back to the scene of the crime and them seem to disappear altogether. Bogey has to rely on his buddy’s former gal (Lizbeth Scott) but can he even trust her? (prosecution witness?)

#23 – Duck Soup (1933) You can never go wrong with The Marx Brothers’ vaudevillian humour. Between Groucho’s fire-a-minute witty one liners, Harpo’s voiceless antics, and Chico’s accented haggling and scheming, who needs a plot? But if things like that are important to you, Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) is sworn in as the new leader of Freedonia to remedy their cash shortage, while his brothers are bumbling infiltrators sent in from a rival country hoping to start a war. I won’t mention Zeppo.

#24 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) Harry and his friends ‘jump the shark’ with this entry in the series. What began as a fun, interesting saga with great characters has transgressed into a dark, repetitive here as they set up the finale in Part 2. And not even one damn Quidditch game (although a Snitch figures prominently in the plot).

#25 – Romeo Is Bleeding (1993) A greedy cop (Gary Oldman) earns a little extra side income by tipping off the mob on informant hideout information but things start to go wrong when they take out an informant about to spill their secrets but also take a few cops with them in their assault. Not only can he not back out of their little deal, but he is now being forced to take out one of those informants on his own. But Mona (Lena Olin) is no mere informant, but a mob hitwoman who took out the previous informant and a roomful of cops. Intense, action packed, saucy and sentimental.

#26 – Forbidden Planet (1956) Read review next week here!

#27 – The Money Pit (1986) Mid-eighties rom-com where a young couple (Shelley Long and Tom Hanks) are suddenly in need of a place to stay and chance upon a mansion that needs a little work but is surprisingly within their limited means. But as all “too good to be true” parables their fortunate find ends up putting a strain on their relationship as their dream house begins to crumble before their very eyes. Corny but fun.

#28 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) I must admit that my disappointment with part one of this finale was fully redeemed with this satisfying ending. All the questions, some looming since the very beginning, are answered here although not always to fan’s hopes. Which is as is should be. My one complaint was that a lot of scenes seemed to be pilfered directly from other blockbusters including Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. How many times must we see hordes of evil creatures descending on an isolated hamlet backstopping the forces of good? How many times must we see the two most powerful characters, good vs evil, deploy mystical weapons against each other, streaming in mid air (conveniently in different colors), to determine which is stronger?

#29 – Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935) One of nearly fifty movies featuring the illustrious pulp-era Chinese sleuth (the first few being silent era films and many of the others now lost). Hard to believe that it’s been nearly 40 years since the last, loosely based on a real life Hawaiian detective of Chinese descent. Scored ten DVDs last week so I’ll be enjoying a few more. This one even has Stepin Fetchit who only adds to negative stereotypes depicted in these films. (The DVDs even include a warning lest some be offended.)

#30 – Watching the Detectives (2007) Not the Elvis Costello song but a film about a versed film buff (Cillian Murphy) who owns and runs a low key video rental store whose life gets turned around when he meets quirky Violet (Lucy Liu) who lives her life on the edge, moment by moment while playing sophisticated, agonizing pranks on him. Some pacing irritants but the characters make up for it. I must confess that I just loved all the movie references bantered between all the video store employees although the message of the film is to abandon viewing and start to live instead. Disingenuous as had I done that I wouldn’t have watched this film.

#31 – Fury (1936) This was Fritz Lang’s first American film after escaping an increasingly Nazi led Germany. Spencer Tracy is a hardworking, honest man saving every penny so that he can get married to the love of his life. But life throws him a curveball just as he has finally saved up enough and is on his way to meet his fiance when he is thrown in jail suspected of being a member of a group of kidnappers that have taken a child. As word of the capture spreads across the grapevine, the overzealous townsfolk have made up their mind and storm the jailhouse which is soon engulfed in flames. Miraculously managing to escape the inferno, the innocent man, now out for blood himself, decides to lay low as a number of the lynch mob are put on trial for his murder having established that they had the wrong man. Great suspense and pathos.

January Movie Marathon – 2019 Edition

February 1, 2019

My annual tradition of cramming in (at least) 31 movie viewings during the month of January continued this year. It was a closer call getting in the required viewing (only one film over the target this time) mainly due to all that excess snow this year having me out shoveling instead of watching. Here’s a brief review of what I watched this year.

1) Anatomy of a Murder (1959) – Jimmy Stewart plays the small town lawyer hired to defend what is supposed to be an ‘open and shut’ murder case. Dealing with the evidence and facts isn’t as hard as dealing with the accused’s lovely wife. If all that wasn’t odd enough, consider that this is a comedy by director Otto Preminger.

2) Comic Book Confidential (1988) – A great documentary featuring the radical independent comic creators of the time. Lots of legendary creators (Crumb, Miller, Pekar,  Kurtzman, Eisner) with other not so familiar names. The best part is MAD’s Bill Gaines reminiscing about the pre-code EC days.

3) The Day the Fish Came Out (1967) – (see full review here)

4) Lifeboat (1944) – Only Alfred Hitchcock can get away with an entire movie set on a lifeboat adrift at sea after a Nazi U-boat attack. Of course he also manages to throw in a murder. Dazzling portrayal of the self centered journalist by Tallulah Bankhead (dahling!). It’s Hitch. It’s great.

5) Rock ‘n’ Roll Frankenstein (1999) – Greedy record producer decides he can make the greatest Rock star ever by piecing together the parts of legendary dead artists. The plot sounds a lot better than it is.

6) The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) – Will Smith plays the ‘down on his luck’ portable bone-density scanner salesman who earns a shot as a stockbroker intern, but has to live on the streets with his son in order to possibly get the job. The usual Smith goody-goody, “live your dreams” stuff.

7) Columbo: Double Exposure (1973) – Hey I’m slowly going through all the Columbo TV movies! Columbo nabs murderer Robert Culp, a motivational researcher, by using the same subliminal image video technique he learned from the perpetrator himself.

8) The Children (2008) – Not as frolicky fun as “Girls Gone Wild” but this horror is basically “Kids Gone Wild”. Lots of bad shooting choices makes one wonder where this movie is going for most of it (not in a good way) and the payoff just isn’t there at the end.

9) Lords of Dogtown (2005) – Docudrama capturing the birth of the competitive skateboarding scene on the beaches of Venice California in the mid 70’s. Don’t let the subject matter deter you if you’re not into that scene. Between all the Ollies and Halfpipes, this one packs a punch. Gnarly!

10) This Gun for Hire (1942) – One of the few Veronica Lake – Hollywood’s peek-a-boo girl – films I’ve seen. Not Film Noir at it’s finest to say the least. Lake is embroiled in a murder mystery centered on a chemical formula and WW2 traitors.

11) The Head (1959) – (see full review here)

12) Dead Poets Society (1989) – Robin Williams is the marquee star but this movie is clearly about the young boys in his class at an Ivy League seeding school who learn to “Seize the Day” against all odds. Carpe Diem!

13) 12 Days of Terror (2004) – Drama depicting the summer of 1916 New Jersey shark attacks that supposedly were and inspiration for Peter Benchley to write Jaws. Enough of a bite to watch, but it is a TV movie so keep those expectations in line.

14) Ice Station Zebra (1968) – The cold war goes frigid when a crucial satellite component ends up in the frozen Arctic and both the East and the West race towards Ice Station Zebra to recover it. The good guys can only get there by submarine but, as expected, not everyone on board are who they appear to be.

15) Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) – This fourth installment in the series of movies in which the story of household spooks activities are conveyed purely via the video feeds of home monitoring systems is the one where they ‘Jumped the Shark’. Really nothing new here despite it being something of a sequel to PA3.

16) Witness for the Prosecution (1957) – (see full review here)

17) Billy Elliot (2000) – Little Billy discovers that his interests lay not in the proud boxing tradition of his family, but in ballet, much to the chagrin of his father who is in the midst of England’s notorious coal miners strike just trying to keep the family together.

18) The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) – What is the secret of Santa Vittoria? Millions of bottles of wine. Anthony Quinn is the bumbling, reluctant mayor of the little Italian town who must hide their horde from the encroaching Nazis during WWII.

19) The Giant Behemoth (1959) – Even Britain was getting in on the Giant Monster kick of the 1950’s. While they did not use rear-projection footage of pet lizards and the stop motion animatronic was not much better.

20) 13 Going on 30 (2004) – Jennifer Garner plays the girl/woman who wakes up one day to discover that she has gone from a pubescent teen to a grown woman overnight. Honestly Tom Hanks did it better in Big in the 80’s.

21) Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964) – Goofy Godzilla goodness in which Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra (larval form as the original Moth died in the previous movie) take on the new bad boy on the block King Ghidorah. In preparation for the return of Ghidorah in this year’s May release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters

22) House of Strangers (1949) – Edward G. Robinson plays the family patriarch who works all his life to build a successful local bank but his overbearing ways has taken a toll on his family, the and nearly costs his favored and most devoted son everything.

23) Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965) – This was the first of two Dr Who films made by Amicus which starred the great Peter Cushing and the world’s first chance to see Daleks in color. Who and crew take the TARDIS on its first voyage to a far future post-apocalyptic Earth where the last few remaining Daleks are still fighting the handful of humans.

24) The Bodyguard from Beijing (1994) – Your typical “feds have to bodyguard a witness to a mob murder” plot where Jet Li is the all-business master protector and Christy Chung is the beautiful, rich, overbearing damsel he has to keep alive. And of course at the end they are in love.

25) The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) – (see full review here)

26) The Jerk (1979) –  Steve Martin’s first feature film where he took his brash, daring stand-up comedy and came up with a dimwitted man on a rags-to-riches-to-rags journey to find himself. I still get a kick of him discovering his ‘special purpose’. Silly but still funny.

27) Hellboy (2004) – I hear that there will be another Hellboy movie coming out this year. But without Ron Perlman, John Hurt, or director Guillermo del Toro. No chance in Hell it’s as good as this original.

28) Born to Kill (1947) – Film Noir great Lawrence Tierney in a movie in which the title says it all. He’s a lowly con man who wants it all and doesn’t blink an eye snuffing out anyone who crosses him or just rubs him the wrong way.

29) Black Snake Moan (2006) – Odd film in which a weathered black man (Samuel Jackson) takes in a battered promiscuous young white woman (Christina Ricci) to get both her and himself back on the right track of life.  (I hope to have a full review in the coming days.)

30) Timecop (1994) – Jean Claude Van Damme at his barely comprehensible thespian best. Which isn’t a whole lot. Well at least it’s a Science Fiction time travel story which JCVD mumbles through.

31) The Right Stuff (1983) – I decided to revisit this movie about the original Mercury astronauts on the 50th anniversary of the tragic Apollo 1 fire. Great film but if you have a chance read Tom Wolfe’s book that was the source for the script

32) The Spirit of St-Louis (1957) – I started with Jimmy Stewart and it was only fitting that I ended this month long blitz with another of his films. Aside from the fact that Stewart was nearly twice the age playing Charles Lindbergh, the story of the first solo transatlantic flight remains a classic.

 

 

January Movie Marathon – 2018 Edition

February 1, 2018

My January 31 film Marathon (2018 edition)

After a particularly film filled January two years ago when I noticed that I somehow managed to watch 31 films in the 31 days of January. Since then it’s become something of an annual tradition for me to try to step up to the same challenge. Knowing that I was going to be out of town for both the first three days and the last four days of the month and not being able to watch even one film those 7 days, I didn’t think my odds were going to be good for a repeat this year. It meant I would have to watch 31 films in a mere 24 days. But I doubled my efforts with a slim hope that I could somehow pull it off. And pull it off I did, not only managing to watch them, but managing to watch an extra movie for good measure and all done by the 27th of January.

And these were the random eclectic picks from my shelves with one being a current theatrical release I saw at an actual theater:

  1. Irma La Douce (1963) –  Director Billy Wilder reunited his cast of Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine from The Apartment made three years earlier. Nearly as funny and just as touching, this one has goody two shoes Lemmon falling for street walker MacLaine.
  2. Black Christmas (2006) – Not nearly as good as the original Canadian classic, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be either. Adds a bit more to the lore of “Billy”.
  3. The Runaways (2010) – Biopic of the rock band that included Joan Jett and Cherie Currie as they rose to fame, and just as quickly crashed and burned before Jett had a second resurgence. Interesting movie but could have been better with some tighter editing.
  4. Heavenly Creatures (1994) – Two rural teenage girls, living in a world of their own end up killing the mother of one when they face being separated. Early Peter Jackson film which recounts the brutal 1954 New Zealand murder case.
  5. My Amityville Horror (2012) – Documentary which chronicles Daniel Lutz’s (the son living in the infamous Amityville home) account of the controversial alleged events. While there are a few interesting pieces of information, it does little to validate supernatural claims.
  6. The Man Who Would Be King (1975) – Director Walter Huston’s interpretation of the Rudyard Kipling story. With Michael Caine and Sean Connery in the lead roles entertainment (and madness) is assured.
  7. Kung Phooey! (2003) – Low budget comedy that successfully hits every Chinese stereotype joke imaginable. A good ribbing at a clash of cultures, that would probably not pass the PC threshold today. Good on all those who participated in this and dared to be funny while laughing at themselves.
  8. Hang ‘Em High (1968) – Clint Eastwood western where an overzealous gang of vigilantes try to hang him thinking he’s a cattle rustler. When he’s proven innocent he’s also hired as a marshall and then starts to round those that tried to kill him. Not his best western by far but it’s still Clint.
  9. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) – The fact that it’s a Planet of the Apes movie should be enough. For those living under a rock this is the final of the trilogy that began with Rise and Dawn.
  10. The Tenant (1976) – Roman Polanski thriller about a man who rents an apartment where the former dweller committed suicide and the becomes subsumed in her previous life. Full review here.
  11. Grimm Love (2006) –  This film explores the real life German case of the Rotenburg Cannibal in which a man searched for and found another man willing to be eaten alive. Not the low budget film I thought it was although it was needlessly told as flashbacks from the point of view of a psychologist trying to delve into the case.
  12. The Shape of Water (2017) – Guillermo del Toro’s latest fantasy and while our eyes are meant to embrace his personal take on a “Creature from the Black Lagoon” it’s  Sally Hawkins that steals the show and Michael Shannon that is the beast.  13 Oscar nominations. Nuff said!
  13. Feed (2005) – A look at the phenomena of men feeding women to the point of mortal morbid obesity. Australian cop scouring the internet for sexual predators comes across disturbing video and then does his own followup to find the man behind it all. Both interesting and disturbing.
  14. White Heat (1949) – One of James Cagney’s best as as a psychopathic gangster who will stop at nothing and where he utter the classic final line “Look Ma. I’m on top of the world”. And he certainly was.
  15. Full Metal Yakuza (1997) – Early display of madness by director Takashi Miike. Full review here.
  16. Reeker (2005) –  A group travelling across the desert to get to a rave end up stranded and accosted by a ‘reeking’ mystical creature. Full of holes in logic and plot points but what was even worse was the kludged ending that tries to explain what really happened. Even Michael Ironside could not save this one.
  17. 28 Days Later (2002) – One of the earlier zombie films that spurned the craze at the start of the millennium and certainly one of the better ones out there. Despite denials to the contrary, this is where Robert Kirkman stole the idea of a man waking up in a hospital to find out there was a zombie outbreak while he was out cold.
  18. 28 Weeks Later (2007) – The aftermath of the apocalypse in 28 Days Later in which humanity believes it is OK to resettle London. Not nearly as good as 28 Days Later but certainly different.
  19. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) – Bill Murray seems to enjoy being in Wes Anderson movies but perhaps he should have skipped this one. Lots of decent jokes in a facsimile of a Jacques Courteau character passed his prime, but a lot of lulls as well.
  20. Payback (1999) – Decent Mel Gibson thriller about a small time con taking on the underworld to get back  the 72 grand he feels they owe him. If the long list implausible events are bothersome they will be made up by Lucy Liu as the sadomasochist hooker.
  21. Hannah and her Sisters (1986) – Although highly lauded this is far from Woody Allen’s best films.  Full of neurotic, paranoid, doubting, cheating, conniving, morose, and brooding characters. Everything you would expect from Allen but without many actual laughs.
  22. Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) – Director Robert Rodriguez rounded up the Who’s Who of Mexican actors (Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Ruben Blades, Eva Mendes) and then added Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe to complete his Mariachi trilogy. But I prefer his simpler, lower budget but more charming {El Mariachi}.
  23. Tarzan and the Green Goddess (1938) – This very old Tarzan film with Bruce Bennett in the starring role really had a low budget and sketchy production values. Not surprised to later learn this was a cropped together from a serial. The only thing mildly interesting was Tarzan fighting animals.
  24. Easy “A” (2010) Being about a high school girl who leverages a rumor about her virtue to gain social status you’d think this was a brainless comedy. But this is way better and deeper than it sounds. Emma Stone’s first starring feature.
  25. The Breakfast Club (1985) A reference about this movie in Easy “A” above was enough for me to plunk in my disc. I don’t need much to remind me to rewatch this brat pack classic. I could watch it again right now.
  26. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) Full review here.
  27. The Iceman (2012) Chilling biopic of real life convicted hitman Richard Kuklinski. Winona Ryder plays his unsuspecting wife, but star Michael Shannon shines as the tormented killer. My second Michael Shannon movie this month and I can’t understand why I’ve never heard of him before.
  28. Moscow on the Hudson (1984) Robin Williams plays a Russian musician who defects when visiting New York city with a circus troupe. His earliest role where he is more serious than just a comic, and honestly that was what he did best. Slightly dated but worth a rewatch.
  29. Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) The unlikely team up of Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster as officers in a WWII submarine bent on taking on a ship in the particular deadly Japanese “Bunjo” strait works largely because of director Robert Wise.
  30. 13: Game of Death (2006) A Horror from Thailand of all places that is actually pretty cool if you disregard the lame ending. A hapless, down on his luck musical instrument salesman is led on a game in which each successful harder challenge puts more money in his bank.
  31. Four Rooms (1995) This is a film with four distinct stories taking place in a Hollywood hotel glued together by the bellhop who figures in each story. Four directors directed the segments including one from Quentin Tarantino and one from his bud Robert Rodriguez. Both have thankfully done a lot better.
  32. The Rat Pack (1998) I watched a Brat Pack movie so why not finish off with a movie about the Rat Pack that inspired the name? An all-star cast tells their story but it wasn’t the fluffy glitter extravaganza I expected. This one actually deals with the deeper issues like race, politics and the men behind the facade.