Tuesday, June 30, 2015

339. Les quatre cents coups/The 400 Blows (1959)


Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed By: Francois Truffaut
Written By: Francois Truffaut
Main Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Albert Remy, Claire Maurier, Guy Decomble, Patrick Auffay
Click here to view the trailer

Note: NON-BOOK UPDATES: 

I Confess (1953 - Alfred Hitchcock) - Didn't really care for it, especially when comparing it to other Hitchcock. I can think of about twenty Hitchcock movies off the top of my head that are better than this. Still I'd call it about a 6 or 6.5/10, proving that Hitchcock's bad is any other movie's "pretty good". 

The Upside of Anger (2005 - Mike Binder) Call it 6 or so out of 10, as well. Not bad, but too cliche. The ending is pretty unpredictable though and all the females put out good performances, especially Joan Allen who is great. I can't stand Kevin Costner in anything though, for some reason.

Doubt (2008 - John Patrick Shanley) 7/10 - Best of the three. Love Philip Seymour Hoffman and I couldn't stop thinking, throughout this whole movie, what a talent we lost when he died. I've rarely, if ever, seen Meryl Streep better. While I wasn't thrilled with the idea of the film not having a conclusion, I guess the film keeps the audience in as much doubt as it keeps it's characters. 

Nothing bad all week!

Now then...

TRUFFAUT WEEK: THE CONCLUSION

Going to try and tackle Ben-Hur between today and tomorrow. My wife has, albeit reluctantly, agreed to go at it with me, so that makes it easier to find the time to watch it. However, today we're concluding my introduction to Truffaut, by watching probably the best of the lot - The 400 Blows.


Young Antoine Doinel (Leaud) is a pretty typical kid, I'd say. He goes to school, sets the table, takes out the trash, runs amok with his friend Rene and does all things that normal kids do. However, in Antoine's case, he also manages to get into his fair share of trouble and as the film starts, he's almost immediately being sent to the corner by his teacher, whom the students dub Sourpuss (Decomble). However, the trouble isn't anything too terrible: failing to complete homework assignments, talking in class, petty stuff. His mother (Maurier), however, gives him a pretty hard time, while his father (Remy) is more accepting and forgiving of young Doinel, joking with him and being less hard. While less hard, the father, along with the mother, constantly threaten to send Antoine to military school unless he shapes up. When he skips school one day, Antoine catches his mother making out with another man and when he gets caught lying about the reason for his school absence, he runs away, only to return soon after - living on the streets overnight, stealing milk and sleeping in mills. Later, he runs away a second time, staying with his best friend Rene (Auffay), sleeping in a spare bedroom to avoid Rene's parents. The next morning, after spending the night with Rene, the two are hard up for cash and Antoine suggests stealing a typewriter from his father's office and hocking it. However, when the two can't get rid of it, they decide to return it, only to be caught red handed.



I liked this well enough, but after watching it I couldn't help but wonder if all the praise this movie gets is from people convincing themselves that they NEED to like it to be accepted in the film watchers community. This is obviously an important film in the history of cinema, as it ushered in the famous French New Wave, a new way of thinking for a group of french filmmaker's, who were tired of the old and the traditional way of making movies. This "new wave" would explore new themes, ideas and new movie making techniques, such as how the camera was held and how shots were framed and captured (see the tracking shot at the end of The 400 Blows, with the camera following a running Antoine). The film is very easy to like, as it provides the general audience with an accessible plot, while providing the snooty audience with the things that I mentioned above. However, I don't think it's SO GOOD that it quite deserves all the praise that it does get. You have to realize that I'm not really a critic, I'm not a film student or an aspiring filmmaker. I'm just a Joe who grew up on movies, mainstream movies to be exact, so that when I watch something like this I'm taking a step out of my former comfort zone. THE BOOK has given me the opportunity, however, to step out of my comfort zone so many times, that now my comfort zone encompasses more than it used to. For example, I'm finally learning that old movies are usually better. Every Sunday night, I go through the TCM schedule for the next week and set up a DVR recording for anything that sounds good. I almost always at least LIKE the movies that I record, more often than not loving them. Therefore, I feel like THE BOOK has helped me to broaden my horizons and become acquainted with other decades, as well as other countries.


The only thing I'm trying to say, is that while it's good, I wouldn't go so far as to call it great. I think a lot of the praise is wannabe critics who just REALLY WANT to like it and simply the fact that it's an incredibly important film more so than it's an incredibly good film. However, the movie is very easy to like, with a plot and ideas that aren't hard for an average Joe to understand, so I'd certainly recommend it to even the most intermediate film watcher. I wonder, why wasn't Antoine's mother's infidelity explored more? He catches her kissing up on another man and hints that he can use it as leverage if he gets in trouble for skipping school, but then we never really hear about it again. His mother does come to see him in juvenile hall, toward the end of the film and she hints at a letter he wrote, which may have contained something about her affair, but it's only really mentioned in passing and never really brought up in further detail. The film is supposedly very autobiographical, so perhaps it was simply Truffaut way of saying, "and yes, I also caught my mother cheating on my stepdad". I feel like this is another one that, upon multiple viewings, I will only like more and more and more.

RATING: 7/10  Liked it well enough to add the other four Antoine movies to my Netflix queue, so I'll keep you posted of my thoughts on those. Proud to say I was a big fan of Jean-Pierre Leaud before The 400 Blows and even before Francois Truffaut. If I were to rank the Truffaut films, I'd say they got progressively worse with The 400 Blows being the best and The Last Metro being the worst, with the exception of Day for Night being better than Jules and Jim, at least in my opinion.

MOVIES WATCHED: 930
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 71

June 30, 2015  10:43am

Saturday, June 27, 2015

635. The Deer Hunter (1978)


Running Time: 183 minutes
Directed By: Michael Cimino
Written By: Michael Cimino, Louis Garfinkle, Quinn K. Redeker, Deric Washburn
Main Cast: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale, Meryl Streep
Click here to view the trailer

WAR SUX

I think we can safely say that my determination to finish this project has returned, full force. Armed with a cup of salted caramel tea, you're getting a rare appearance of me on the blog, on a work night. Add to that the fact that over the last two work nights, I've taken in The Deer Hunter (in two sittings) and with a smile on my face, I might add. It shouldn't be too long now...


The plot is pretty straightforward, split into three pretty decisive parts. The first part lasts almost exactly an hour (I think it's like 1:06) and simply introduces us to the characters. It seems to be Cimino's intention here to get us as attached to the characters as he can, without eating up too much screen time. We meet a group of friends: Michael (De Niro), Nick (Walken), Steve (Savage), Stan (Cazale), John (George Dzundza) and Axel. We meet them as they're getting off the midnight shift, from the steel mill in the small Pennsylvania town where they live (in fact, the film is set in Clairton, PA, which is something like sixty miles from where I live). On this day, Steve is to be married and it is to be the final day before Mike, Nick and Steve head off to the Vietnam War. Act I goes through the wedding party, with Act II beginning abruptly, right in the heat of battle. We pick up on the three as their held captive in a tiny shack of a POW camp, where their captors force them to play Russian roulette. As Mike and Nick are forced to hold revolvers to their temples' and squeeze the trigger, obvious psychological damage is being done by the second, least of all to Michael and to a greater extent to Nick and Steve. The three finally escape, but are separated. We pick up Act III with Michael returning home and, at first, not knowing what happened to Nick and Steve. I'll leave you there...

SPOILER ALERT!

Boy, where do you begin? With a sip of tea, perhaps?....

Ahhh...Truthfully, I'm not sure about this salted caramel tea, I picked it up because I love things that are salted caramel flavor and I love tea, but I think I'd have preferred regular tea or chamomile.

Ok...now then...


This is probably the best BOOK movie I've seen in some time. I'd call it the best movie period that I've seen in some time, but I just re-watched Dial M for Murder the other night and damn, what a picture! In other words, I really liked it and I'd even go so far as to call it EASILY the best war film I've ever seen...EASILY! The thing is, is that it's really NOT a war movie, is it? It's a movie about regular people who wind up in a war and it ruins their lives forever. That's the appeal. After watching The Deer Hunter, I took to IMDB, as I usually do when I finish a movie I like and I scoped out the message boards. I can't tell you how many people were cursing the opening scene - the long, long wedding reception! I can understand that. As I watched it, I DID say to myself at one point, "Why is this going on for so long?". Then I realized why and I said to myself, "I hope Cimino drags this out as long as he can afford to". The whole thing is designed, I thought obviously, to make us fall in love with the characters even harder - so that when they went marching off to war, anything that happened to them, would hit us more personally. The longer Cimino spent filming Nicky, Stevie and Michael clapping their hands and drinking and having fun, even hunting deer and having a bit of fun at John's expense, then it was only going to effect (or is it affect?) the audience that much more personally. It was genius on his part really and a risk. I feel like he probably knew that starting his "war film" with a one hour wedding celebration would turn some off, but he had to know that his last two hours would reel 'em back in. In fact, you could look at the whole first hour as a prologue and look at hours two and three, as one, two hour movie. In fact, the war stuff starts so abruptly, that it's as if a whole new film is beginning.

Shame on me for always rooting for gloom & doom. Not only did I get an unwanted unhappy ending with Shoot the Piano Player, but then I turn around and watch The Deer Hunter and get the most unhappy ending of all unhappy endings. Man, what a bummer this film ends on, Cimino showing that you can, technically send your audience home unhappy to success. As much as I would have HATED it, if the film had had a Last Laugh, tacked on happy, cherry ending, I was so bummed out by the way these characters lives ended up. I will, however, nitpick at one little tidbit. I kind of hated that the film ended with the group sending God Bless America. I feel like, at this point, the least thing these characters would be feeling is patriotic. I feel like you could've just as well ended the film with the group singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and it would have made so much more sense than "God Bless America". If you think about it, the last time EVERYBODY from the group was REALLY happy, was that morning, when they'd just ended their shift, one of them ready for marriage, three of them wide eyed with the thought of heroism in their mind, going off to war, drinking at their favorite watering hole, surrounded by their people, shooting some pool, planning a hunting trip and singing along with Frankie Valli. That moment, at the beginning of the film, actually made me smile along with the men and I think if they'd used it at the end, to toast the fallen Nick, it would have made me cry along with them. Nitpicky stuff, but worth mentioning.


After this, I think I almost HAVE to consider De Niro among my favorite actors. I mean, this, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull alone are enough to boost him to the top of the list, not to mention Heat, Goodfellas and Cape Fear, as well as all the others I'm probably forgetting. Not to mention the fabulous Walken, Cazale and Streep performances. Every time I think about John Cazale, I wonder what could have been. What a fabulous actor, who picked his roles wisely - all of them showing up in THE BOOK. Add to that great cinematography and a fantastic score, that pops in at opportune times, to maximum effect.

I think the reason I liked this so much, is because I was able to relate to it. Like I said, the movie is SET about sixty miles from me. Guys who worked the midnight shift, donned trucker caps, went hunting, lived in trailer homes and had drinking buddies are the same types of guys that I've been surrounded by my whole life. I'm not saying I'm ONE of them (far from it, actually), I'm just saying there's a lot of Michaels, Nicks and Stevies around here. Just a really great movie, that uses a three hour time limit perfectly, spending an hour getting us acquainted with the characters, so that when they go through hell, a little bit of us goes with them. When Nick shoots himself and Michael lays down beside him on the floor, crying, clutching Nick's head in his hands, screaming "God, NO", he's doing that for us all, the whole audience should be devastated at that moment. It's such a devastating moment, that I'd rank up there with one of the biggest bummers in movie history, easily a TOP 10 sad moment.

RATING: 9/10  I feel like if I watched this again in say, six months to a year, I could easily give it a '10". However, for now, it's like the guy you just met at a party - he seems awesome, but it's going to take a one on one luncheon before you solidify your opinion of him.

MOVIES WATCHED: 929
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 72

June 27, 2015  8:13pm

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

562. PAPILLON (1973)


Running Time: 150 minutes
Directed By: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written By: Dalton Trumbo, Lorenzo Semple Jr., from the novel by Henri Charriere
Main Cast: Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Victor Jory, Don Gordon, Anthony Zerbe
Click here to view the trailer

WORST PRISON MOVIE EVER!?

Since my last writing, I've seen two very good, NON-BOOK movies: Purple Noon (which I'd rate around 7.5/10) and Mary and Max (call it 8/10). I figure instead of doing monthly recaps, which I've proved I simply don't have the time for, I figure just mentioning my other viewings within my reviews will suffice. Anyway, "Papillon" has been sitting on my DVR for months now, as I caught it off TCM some time back, trying to save myself from having to get it delivered from Netflix. I also have "Z" and "Forbidden Planet" nabbed from TCM and waiting for me.


The film is long and begins with Henri Charriere (McQueen) a.k.a. Papillon (nicknamed for the butterfly that is tattooed on his chest) arriving at a French Guiana prison, wrongfully accused of killing a pimp. From the get go, he is dead set on escaping, mentally refusing to spend the rest of his life in prison and seeks out the help of Louis Dega (Hoffman), a forger who is worth millions and has much of his fortune stowed away in his insides. Papillon strikes a deal with Dega: he'll protect Dega from getting his stomach cut open (the guy literally has his loot stashed inside himself), if Dega will finance his escape, which will cost whatever it takes to bribe a guard and secure a boat, since they're imprisoned on an island. Meanwhile, the men are informed of the penalty for attempted escape: first attempt equals two years in solitary confinement, second attempt equals five years in solitary and further attempts will result in execution. Attempt number one for Papillon goes off unsuccessfully and thus he's sentenced to two years in the hole. When his new found friend Dega gets the news, he begins sending him extra food, which Papillon is eventually caught with. Not willing to give up Dega, his rations are cut in half and he nearly starves to death in solitary, but leaves with honor and the loyalty of his friend still intact. However, life alone and in the dark doesn't persuade Papillon to become a model prisoner, as he continues to hatch his scheme to be set free.


I'd have to stick this one up there with The Hustler, in the list of biggest disappointments to come out of THE BOOK. One of the reasons I saved Papillon for the final season was because I was almost sure it would be a hit with me. I mean, my God, it's a prison movie for pete's sake and I love prison movies just as much as I dislike sci-fi movies. I figured, we got Steve McQueen who I loved in The Great Escape and this will be a nice reminder of how great that movie was, but instead a whole new movie with him trying to do basically the same thing. I figured we also had Dustin Hoffman co-starring and you can never go wrong with the original Hoff (the current "Hoff" being David Hasselhoff, of course). And finally, I figured IT'S A FREAKIN' PRISON MOVIE!! But the thing is, is that it's really not - not entirely, anyway. It's more of an adventure or as THE BOOK puts it, a man vs. nature movie. And I'm not really that big on man vs. nature movies. Don't get me wrong, I'm not calling Papillon a BAD movie, I'm just saying that as far as escape/prison movies go, it's down there, which isn't saying much, because I've rarely seen an escape/prison movie I disliked (this is the first, if memory serves...and again, I wouldn't even go so far as to say "I disliked it").


Perhaps, my hopes were just TOO HIGH - that can happen. Actually, I think I just was expecting a different movie. I think I was expecting The Great Escape 2 and what I got was Papillon 1. Despite having the same leading man and both being about escapes, they're two very different films. While The Great Escape is more up my alley - an up and up ESCAPE flick, with much of the films plot dedicated to the intricacies of the escape plan - while Papillon is more up someone else's alley, obviously. It's more about a man's will to do himself his own justice. Papillon is innocent and rather than spend his life wrongfully paying a price that he doesn't owe, he becomes determined to just be free. Notice that when Dega suggests that his case could be appealed and that he could be set free in three years, Papillon refuses to even consider the idea of spending another three years of his life locked up, when maybe, just MAYBE he could get himself out. Papillon is a bit deeper, while most other prison/escape films are just good fun, intricate in showing us how these guys get out of their jam, amusing as we watch to see if they can actually get away with it or not. Papillon is about human emotion and a bond between two men. I didn't care as much for it, but more viewings could sweeten my current sour taste against the movie. Again, not bad, just disappointed really. I DID love the scene where Papillon is being held in solitary, easily the best bit of the whole picture. Oh and the other notable aspect of the film is the comedy - specifically Hoffman. I actually can't remember a movie where he was funnier than he was here. I actually laughed out loud multiple times and actually, it takes a lot to get me to actually LOL. I'll leave you with a line Hoffman's Dega delivers near the end of the picture, when he's clearly losing his mind, as he yells at his pet pigs, while feeding them:

To Adam, the pig: "Now that's not yours - now you get away! I'm not going to tell you again!"

To Freddie, the pig: "Here you are Freddie"

To Adam, the pig: "Freddie's not feeling well today and you should appreciate that fact!"

GOLD!

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't really get it into '7' territory, considering my disappointment level, but it was good enough to get really close. Tomorrow is my last day of vacation, so here's hoping I can knock out at least one more movie before I have to head back to work, preferably The 400 Blows.

MOVIES WATCHED: 928
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 73

June 23, 2015  10:39pm

888. BRAVEHEART (1995)


Running Time: 177 minutes
Directed By: Mel Gibson
Written By: Randall Wallace
Main Cast: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Angus Macfadyen, Catherine McCormack
Click here to view the trailer

Note: Added some new things to the sidebar, including a link to the IMDB list of my (to be) 1,000 list, as well as a link to the same list on Listal, complete with stills from all 290 films. Be sure to upvote or like or comment or whatever it is you do on those sites, if you will. I also added a picture from my time in Philadelphia last month. The picture was taken by me at the top of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art - the very steps that Rocky scaled while training to fight Apollo Creed. Just a bit of decoration on the blog, which also happens to be a movie reference. Now then...

"YOU WILL NEVER TAKE OUR FREEDOM"...HOWEVER, WE WILL FORMALLY DECLINE IT IF GIVEN THE CHOICE

So over the next few weeks I'll be trying to tackle the three hours and over movies from THE BOOK, so that I'm not left with a big pile of really long movies when I get down to the end. It is my goal to watch the remaining movies in order of their length, so that when I get down to only having ten or fifteen left, they're all ninety minutes or so. I'm sure I won't go in the exact order of length, but I plan to stick as close to it as possible. So expect reviews for The Deer Hunter, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Ben-Hur, The Sorrow and the Pity, Seven Samurai and Scarface coming soon.


The story (yes, STORY - it's CLEARLY historically inaccurate) begins by bringing us up to speed on King Edward I a.k.a. Edward Longshanks (McGoohan) who was the heartless ruler of England (and Scotland, among other countries) in the 1200s. We can skip ahead to the part where Edward rules that all new brides will spend their first night as a wife with an English lord, as opposed to their new husband. This, of course, enrages the Scots and forces William Wallace (Gibson) to marry in secret to his love Murron (McCormack). However, during a skirmish, Murron is killed by an Englishman, which enrages Wallace to the point that a small battle erupts, where he ends up killing a local English garrison. This pretty much puts into motion the whole movie, which sees Wallace lead an army of Scottish and Irish against the English, in a few battle scenes, which are epic and good, solid movie action. I think enough of us are familiar with Braveheart that I can pretty much stop there as far as plot summary goes and get right into my thoughts. Shall we?


Okay, so of course I wasn't SURE that the film was historically inaccurate, since you're dealing with a history buffoon, but it was pretty obvious, wasn't it? And then I get on Wikipedia today to nab the poster for the blog post and I notice that there's paragraph after paragraph about all the history goofs in the movie. In fact, the only thing that historians agree with the movie on is that William Wallace existed, he DID kill someone when they killed his wife and that there was a war with the English that he was involved in. The rest is complete rubbish, as far as everyone who should know is concerned, but even as a work of fiction, Braveheart pretty much works for me! I dig it, for the most part, even though now that I KNOW that 90% of the movie is a load of horse crap, it's almost going to be laughable to watch now. Although and even though I like it, I'd say that I've probably had my last viewing of Braveheart for a lifetime. I said the same thing about The Usual Suspects when I reviewed it for the blog - that even though I think both movies are fine examples of successful filmmaking, I feel like I've seen them enough times now that anymore viewing would be unnecessary. I've formed my opinions staunchly and that's that.


Does anyone else cringe at Gibson's attempt at humor here? Man, I sure did. Gibson has a way about him that is really, sort of annoying if you ask me. There were moments, mainly in the beginning, where I just wanted to punch him in the face and tell him to stop trying to be cute and funny. It was even enough to make me drop my rating, but only a bit. Overall I'm fine with Braveheart as a whole. Even if the history is rubbish, it IS a historical film and one that gives us information (no matter how inaccurate) and makes sure we know what's going on and why. The battle scenes rank up there with some of the best and if you consider this a war movie (which I do, in part), then I'd have to consider it among the better war films. The three hour running time seems excessive and actually, I feel like this could've been scaled back to right around two hours and everything would have been more succinct and nicely packaged. It seems to me that everything from about the two hour mark to about the 2:45, at times just feels like extending the time for the sake of making an epic. If I'm being honest, there were times in that span where my attention did wane and I just wanted everything to get wrapped up. Otherwise, a fine time at the movies and speaking of Gibson, are there any other directors in THE BOOK who have their entire directorial career included as a "must see"? Charles Laughton comes to mind, but then he only directed the one movie. I guess by default I'd have to consider Gibson among my favorite directors, since I gave favorable reviews to all three. For those keeping track, I'd call Braveheart his worst and Apocalypto his best. It's enough to make me wish he'd decided against the acting career so many years ago and just decided to be a director.

RATING: 7.5/10  Okay, I just checked and apparently Gibson also directed The Man Without a Face, which isn't in THE BOOK, so all of his films aren't in there. I guess I should scoot that one to the top of my watchlist though, considering.

MOVIES WATCHED: 927
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 74

June 23, 2015  11:38am

Monday, June 22, 2015

SINS OF OMISSION - Entries #12 - #21

WHAT IS A "SIN OF OMISSION"?
As noted many times in the recent past here at the "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die" blog, in the next 6 months the ultimate goal of this blog will transform from 'one man's journey to watch all 1001 movies in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book' to 'one man's journey to create his own, personal canon of 1,000 favorite films and show "those 1001 people" just how it's done! Sins of Omission will become a regular feature on the blog where I'll take one film (or many) that WAS NOT included in any incarnation of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and DOES NOT appear on the next list of 1000 films that I plan to tackle, give it a formal review and make it a permanent part of my list, which is entitled: 1000 Films You REALLY Should See Before You Die: A Personal, Ongoing Canon of My 1,000 Favorite FIlms.

---

Okay, so I need to update that whole "What is a Sins of Omission" thing, because with this post, the way that I add a movie or movies to my personal 1,000 list will be a little different. From here on out, I will no longer add one film at a time to my personal list. In the past, you've seen reviews for such films as Sin City, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Closer and Escape from Alcatraz - me simply picking films I like and saying, "Yeah, these are good enough to be included as personal favorites and help fill out my personal 1.000 favorite movies list". However, this year, that will all change. From now on, what I'll do is this: Each time I watch 100 movies (that doesn't include BOOK movies), I'll sit down and choose ten of those to put on to my 1,000 list. It just so happens that last night, I watched my 100th film this year (again, NON-BOOK) and went ahead with plans to select 10 of them for "preservation" on my 1,000 favorite movies list. The following is a listing of the ten films I've chosen, including a brief paragraph or SOMETHING stating my reasons. We'll save giving these ten films proper reviews for sometime down the road when material for the blog is in demand. Now then....

CLICK HERE TO SEE A COMPLETE LIST OF THE 100 FILMS I'VE WATCHED, THAT WERE NOT INCLUDED IN THE 1001 MOVIES YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE LIST. THESE MOVIES WERE WATCHED BETWEEN JANUARY 2015 AND JUNE 2015

Entry #12
DOGVILLE (2003 - Lars von Trier) 10/10

Chosen because since I saw Dogville for the first time, I've really loved. Different from anything I've ever seen, I can remember going around after watching it and telling people, "Yeah, it's good. Get this - the whole thing takes place on a stage. Walls are drawn with chalk, even the dog is imagined." I can remember gushing about this movie, urging people to see it simply because it was so fresh and unique. The story is pretty fantastic/tragic too with Nicole Kidman giving one of her best ever performances and really the whole cast stepping up to do their best for von Trier. Actors like Chloe Sevigny, Siobahn Fallon, Patricia Clarkson and Paul Bettany have rarely been better. This is pretty definitively the best movie I've seen so far this year, BOOK or NON-BOOK.


Entry #13
BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965 - Otto Preminger) 8.5/10

I've found that some of my favorite films are the ones where I can't shut up during. I watched this with my wife, recorded off of TCM solely for the reason that the title intrigued me, and during the watching I can't tell you how many times I grabbed the remote, pushed the "pause" button and rattled off another one of my theories. I wanted her to know that if I was right about how it all ended up, I would be able to say, "I totally predicted that!". The beauty part? I must've rattled off ten or so theories and I still didn't guess the ending. I commented at the time that I wasn't pleased with the ending, but this film ending at all was going to be a disappointment. It was one of those that could've gone on for three, four, five hours and I would've happily sat like a good audience member.


Entry #14
TROLLHUNTER (2010 - Andre Ovredal) 8.5/10

Another one that I constantly talked through, my wife too, as our excitement just tended to overflow and spill out of us during the watching of one of the best horror films I've seen in years, probably. I'm a sucker for found footage films and this ranks right up there with The Blair With Project, except Trollhunter is more fun. Sure, it may be a bit silly at times, but it always takes itself seriously, which makes you want to take it seriously. Who's to say there aren't trolls roaming around the forests of Norway - I've never been there, who knows? Great, great movie that requires a suspension of disbelief, a wild imagination and a viewer that's ready for a fun day at the movies.


ENTRY #15
DRESSED TO KILL (1980 - Brian De Palma) 8/10

I'd wanted to see this movie for as long as I can remember. I dug Brian De Palma's work on Carlito's Way, for years one of my favorites and I'm also a big fan of Michael Caine. So knowing that there was a taut, suspense thriller that featured the work of both, it's something that sat upon my watch list for years. I finally saw it back in January when my wife and I were on a four day vacation and it's one of the few that actually lived up to years of me building it up in my head. A fantastic, gritty little thriller starring actors that aren't known for their sophistication (save for Caine, who's actually barely in it). Nancy Allen proves that looking like a twelve-year-old boy in Robocop was just a fluke, looking absolutely vivacious here as a call girl who helps Keith Gordon track down his mother's killer (the equally vivacious Angie Dickinson, looking stunning at nearly fifty years old). Throw in Dennis Franz as a smart ass cop and how can you go wrong?


Entry #16
CACHE (2005 - Michael Haneke) 8/10

I chose this because I've rarely been as intrigued by a movie as I was by Cache. It's another one that I've eyeballed for YEARS, always putting off seeing for some unknown reason. In fact, I think I'd wanted to see this since I saw Funny Games for the first time, which was something like 2007! Geez. I really don't know why I never got around to seeing it, but it finally happened back in January and honestly, it could've done with one or two more viewing immediately after finishing it. In choosing these ten films (which, may I say was extremely difficult, as there were upwards of thirty really strong candidates), I asked myself, "Do I really want to choose a film that I don't think I really, fully even understood?". The ultimate answer was "yes", because again, it was just too damn intriguing to pass up on. When choosing these movies, I, at times, looked at it as, "Which ten of these 100 would I take with me to a deserted island, to watch and rewatch for the rest of my life". I also looked at it as, "Which of these films would I feature if I owned a video store or a movie theater?". Cache was an easy answer to both questions. If you want more rambling from yours truly, you can click here for my thoughts and theories on the film.


Entry #17
THE HUNT (2012 - Thomas Vinterberg) 9/10

For the unaware, I actually also have a Letterboxd account where I post reviews, including reviews I write for the blog, as well as an occasional oddball review that I'll write for a movie that I just have a lot of thoughts about. I wrote a review for The Hunt (which can be found here) and noted how it was a horror film, without a monster. This was probably one of the five best films I've seen since January 1st, even including BOOK movies and was an easy choice to showcase in my list. Thomas Vinterberg is fast becoming someone that I need to see the rest of their filmography, as The Celebration is also featured on my 1,000 list and is basically the counterpart of The Hunt. Check out my review for further thoughts and analysis.


Entry #18
WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957 - Billy Wilder) 8.5/10

Wilder at the helm, a fantastic, funny and dramatic Charles Laughton and dynamite performances from both Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power. It's another case of "what's not to like". It's also a courtroom drama, perhaps the mother of all courtroom dramas. It's a little known fact around the blog, that I actually grew up on courtroom dramas, my father always sniffing out that genre during trips to the various video stores around town, which were frequent. Being a kid in my house, you either watched what your parents watched or you didn't watch anything and being a TV junkie, I opted to watch what my parents watched. Also another one that's been on my watchlist for a while (I guess I just know my own tastes), I didn't hesitate to "DVR" this when I saw it pop up on the TCM schedule back in February.


Entry #19
127 HOURS (2010 - Danny Boyle) 8/10

This was actually the last one that I selected as part of these ten movies. Ultimately, I had to admit that this was just too good to pass up on. It's a story that will constantly have you saying things like "Wow" and "Oh my God" to yourself. Franco is great and it actually makes you forget the atrocities he starred in alongside Seth Rogen (actually I have never seen The Interview or Pineapple Express, I'm just assuming). You've also got Boyle at the helm, which is always good for business. This could've easily been a trainwreck - I mean, it's basically a whole film with just James Franco. However, Boyle spins it so that it's always interesting and always heartbreaking. There were a dozen other choices, but in the end, I'm happy I picked this one.


Entry #20
CHLOE IN THE AFTERNOON (1972 - Eric Rohmer) 8/10

Let's look at the statistics: I've seen a total of three Eric Rohmer films in my life and all three are now included as part of my, what will eventually be, 1,000 list. I think that means that I need to get to work and see the rest of the Rohmer filmography, as I wouldn't be surprised if there was a handful more movies waiting to be added to my list. This was right up my alley, very Woody Allen with a French twist. I'm coming to really love French cinema, especially the types that deal with infidels. Although to be fair, SPOILER ALERT! Frederic wasn't an infidel END SPOILER ALERT! Also, how hot was Zouzou? The whole film was basically one, giant tease and what man among us has not been teased by a woman? I could almost feel the inner sexual yearning of Frederic. Another easy choice.


Entry #21
THE OUT OF TOWNERS (1970 - Arthur Hiller) 8/10

I'm really beginning to love old comedies and another new discovery for me is Neil Simon. In fact, you could nickname this vacation I'm currently on the Summer of Simon, as it's the vacation where I discovered both The Out of Towners and The Goodbye Girl, both really good comedies, with the former being very laugh out loud funny, which is something that I can't say for a lot of comedies personally. I just can't take modern comedies too much anymore - too much lewd behavior, too much cursing. I much prefer something like this to laugh at - Sandy Dennis exclaiming over and over again that "she's not worried" and her classic "Oh My God!". Lemmon was sensational as the annoyed George Kellerman, with his list of all the people that he'd sue. Good stuff all around and even though I only watched this last week, I knew it was something I wanted to include.


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Well there you have it. Like I said, I passed on about twenty other really, REALLY good movies. One could argue that I should have chosen more than ten, but I want my 1,000 list to be an exclusive club as opposed to an easy to get into type of joint. Movies like Whiplash, Rififi, Killer's Kiss, Sexy Beast, Nymphomaniac, Melancholia, Carnal Knowledge, The Miracle Worker and even Rocky (a BOOK movie that I watched years ago and decided to give a second chance at making it into the fold) were all fantastic examples of near flawless cinema that I just didn't have room for. Feel free to peruse the master list, which I linked to at the top and share your opinions. Which favorites of yours did I omit? What did I get right? So on and so forth...

Want some links? Wanna save my entire 1,000 list (which as of today, sits at just 290 films) on some popular websites? You got it!

IMDB
Listal
Letterboxd
ICheckMovies

June 22, 2015  7:38pm

Sunday, June 21, 2015

683. Blade Runner (1982)


Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Hampton Fancher, David Webb Peoples, Roland Kibbee, from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Main Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah
Click here to view the trailer

SUCK-FI

Couple things: I'm about four page views away from hitting 400,000 page views, so thanks for that, even though a quarter of those are probably from myself. Also, I wanted to let everyone know to keep an eye to the blog, as I MAY be popping in sometime soon with a SINS OF OMISSION post, adding one or two or ten movies to my personal 1,000 list, perhaps...

Anyway...Blade Runner...ugh...


Let's tackle the plot and then I'll tell you how much I hated it and then we can both get on with our lives. If you're a fan of Blade Runner, maybe you want to stop reading now, because my review won't be favorable, I promise. So the plot is actually pretty straight forward and actually, on paper, sounds pretty good. So there's these four replicants, right - which is basically the same as saying there's these four robots, because that's pretty much what replicants are - robots passing themselves off as humans. How do you spot a replicant? Well you give it this test and ask it these questions and if it's a replicant it eventually freaks out and goes ape shit. Anyway, we're getting off base here: There's these four replicants who are on the loose and need to be brought to be retired (killed). The police come knocking of former police officer and number one replicant killer, Deckard (Ford). He resists at first, but eventually takes the gig and begins hunting down the robots. The four are: Leon, Zhora, Pris (Hannah) and their leader, Batty (Hauer). And actually, through the course of events, there comes to be a fifth that needs retired, Rachael (Young), whom Deckard has already formed an emotional attachment to, as she saves his life at one point. After that, I couldn't tell you what the hell was going on here, because I mentally checked out at about the one hour mark, as I'd had enough and knew this was something I really wasn't taking to. Beyond that point, I just started looking at the images and thinking how bad ass Daryl Hannah's career has been, as she was easily the most cool looking replicant - the black eyed Pris who nearly squeezed Harrison's Ford head off with her thighs all the while sporting a certified insane look on her face, plus she's played a mermaid and Elle Driver and probably a bunch of other cool stuff that I'm totally forgetting.


Should I start out by telling you about how much I detest Harrison Ford? Why? I don't really know, but man, I just can't stand the guy. Is it because I've seen him in interviews and think he comes off like a dick or is it something else? I honestly do not know, but I don't like Indiana Jones, I don't like Star Wars and honestly, I can't think of a single Harrison Ford movie that I even like, let alone "really like" or "love". Okay, The Fugitive was okay, but it didn't blow me away or anything. Fine, The Conversation was AMAZING, but certainly not because of his bit part. Anyway, I'm getting carried away here....

Anyone who didn't KNOW I wasn't going to like this, hasn't been paying attention. Since the inception of this blog, I've preached my dislike for the genre that is sci-fi and this is the king of all sci-fi movies and damn, I hated it. Okay, so maybe even I didn't KNOW I was going to dislike it. Hell, I dug 2001: A Space Odyssey and more recently, I liked District 9 enough. Actually I had high hopes for this considering it has such a cult following and considering it had fine actors such as Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah in it. I'd just seen Hauer in The Hitcher (great little horror movie) and I liked him quite a bit in Turkish Delight as well, last season. And honestly, the plot SOUNDED good. Ex-officer reenlisted to hunt down four/five robots and eliminate them. However, was it just me or did they get way off base? Like I said, I kind of checked out at a certain point, but things seemed to be really muddled and there seemed to be much more to the movie than just Ford hunting down the rogue replicants. Also why does every futuristic world look the same? Video screens in telephone booths, flying cars, all that bullshit. I realize this was like the start of that idea and Scott basically invented all this and it became the blueprint for all future sci-fi movies, but I'm judging it on it's own, against my personal tastes and I can't stand all that futuristic STUFF! Why couldn't Deckard and his replicants existed in a sort of 1950s, Robert Mitchum-ish world, without the flying cars and the giant LCD Coca-Cola ads. I think it would've been better to bring the film more down to Earth and give it a more realistic feel and then introduce these robots. But what do I know, I'm just a Joe sitting in his boxers, writing a review. I'm a geek behind a computer screen, so don't take my word for it, as Levar Burton would say.


If you liked this, good on you - I'm glad! I didn't and have no qualms about saying so. It had a disadvantage from the get go, being a sci-fi movie, a genre I don't like. I'm just glad I've seen it and it's over with and now I can move on. I don't have any really good reasons for not liking it, other than I just didn't like it. I felt like the plot was good, but literally EVERYTHING else about it ruined it from being as good as it could've been. I have a feeling the book is much better, as I feel like my imagination could do this film more justice than Ridley Scott could. Philip K. Dick died in 1982, so he never got to see the finished product. I really wonder what he'd have thought of this. Anyway, that's my two cents...

RATING: 2.5/10  I'll give it a few points, but that's a more than fair representation of my opinion of this movie. Sorry for blathering on and on and maybe not really saying much more than "I didn't like it", but that's how this movie left me feeling: with not much to say other than I DIDN'T LIKE IT!

MOVIES WATCHED: 926
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 75

June 15, 2015  10:50am

358. Tirez sur le pianiste/Shoot the Piano Player (1960)


Running Time: 85 minutes
Directed By: Francois Truffaut
Written By: Marcel Moussy, Francois Truffaut, from the novel Down There by David Goodis
Main Cast: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michele Mercier, Serge Davri

Note: This will mark the first time that you'll get two consecutive reviews, written back to back, because as I write this, I've actually finished watching two movies: Shoot the Piano Player and Blade Runner. Since the inception of this project, I've been strict about my rule of writing the reviews directly after watching the movies, without watching anything else first. However, I decided to change things up and since the cable company decided to give away a free preview of Cinemax this week and since Blade Runner was streaming via Cinemax OnDemand, I decided to go ahead and watch it while I still could. So, immediately following the writing of this review, I'll log back into the Blogger account and immediately begin writing my Blade Runner review. Hopefully this all goes well...

TRUFFAUT WEEK: PART FOUR

I'm shocked that I'm actually managing to keep Truffaut Week contained almost to a week. Sure it'll probably realistically almost reach two weeks, but that's pretty good considering my lagging lately. Let's get down to it and discuss easily the best Truffaut so far - Shoot the Piano Player.


The plot is very film noir, with the whole thing starting out with a criminal named Chico running from a couple more criminals - Momo and Ernest. It's a good way to start the film, so that as soon as we sit down, we're right in the thick of SOMETHING - what, we don't know yet. Eventually Chico makes his way into a bar, where his brother plays piano on a nightly basis. The brother is Charlie (Aznavour) and soon, we get his back story - once a famous piano player named Edouard Saroyan, he went small time when his wife betrayed him and ended up offing herself. Chico begs Charlie to help him out, Charlie showing Chico the back door and leaving it at that. However, the clumsy gangsters, Momo and Ernest don't stop there when it comes to Charlie's involvement, thinking he's hiding Chico somewhere. Meanwhile, Chico plays it shy when it comes to waitress (at the same club where Charlie plays) Lena (Dubois). He just can't seem to spit out the right words and he's sure she thinks he's a nobody, when actually she likes him too. At home, Charlie lives in modest digs, taking care of his kid brother Fido and sleeping with his next door neighbor, who also happens to be a prostitute, on a seemingly nightly basis. When Charlie is pulled into the criminal underworld, the people around him can't escape the same fate and soon Charlie's world is turned topsy turvy, all because his brother chose to come running into the same joint where he plays piano.

SPOILER ALERT!



Was anyone else reminded of The Godfather while watching this? You had this family of four brothers (sure, the Corleone's had a sister too - beside the point), all of whom are career criminals, save for one (Michael/Charlie). However, when they are pushed, both Charlie and Michael get pulled into criminal activity, losing the life they once knew or the one they long for. You get the sense in "Shoot the Piano Player" that the death of Lena will only lead to more bloodshed from Charlie and that his plunge into the criminal underworld won't stop with Momo and Ernest. Perhaps my comparison is off base, but I couldn't help thinking of the Michael Corleone story while watching the events of Shoot the Piano Player unfold.

Otherwise, I thought Shoot the Piano Player was a fine movie, kept short & simple and after reading THE BOOK entry for the film, I learned that it was actually a piece of very self indulgent filmmaking on Truffaut's part. Apparently he vowed to himself to make a film that he would enjoy and makes me think that perhaps Francois Truffaut and I have similar taste, as this was easily my favorite Truffaut film thus far. In fact, I feel like I could like this even more on multiple viewings, my heart breaking harder and harder for Charlie on each viewing. This film also made me realize that perhaps I'm not as much of a downer as I thought I was. I'm always asking for a tragic ending and deducting points when I don't get it, however, here I got the tragic ending and was disappointed with it. I think I'd have much preferred to see Charlie, Lena and Fido walking hand in hand, off into the sunset, as the end credits started to roll. Charlie's story was so tragic throughout, that by the time the end rolled around, I felt he needed a break and to send the audience home happy.


If you're a fan of old school, Hollywood film noir, gangsters, hoods, dive bars, broken hearts, suicides, prostitutes in love and depressed nightclub musicians, check this out. Just when you think that Truffaut is playing it safe in 1960, Michele Mercier flashes her breasts or Charlie's wife jumps to her death and you realize that the MPAA wasn't a thing in France. I, for one, was pretty shocked to see a nude scene and a violent death scene, both shown on camera. It only adds to the grittiness of the film and the grittiness lends itself to the heartwarming aspects, to combine for a pretty great concoction. Perhaps it could've been longer, but perhaps longer would've only hurt it. Perhaps it could've been more intricate, but that may have hurt it too, so who am I to criticize.

RATING: 7/10  Good stuff, not really great stuff yet, but again I think that on multiple viewings, I'd only like this one more and more and more. Here's hoping The 400 Blows closes Truffaut Week with a bang.

MOVIES WATCHED: 925
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 76

June 21, 2015  9:52am