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Worst of November: Wiener Dog
A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.
Not a great start. What a fiasco! Another "don't listen to anyone's warning...just do as you please" plot line. Completely unbelievable especially to us that lived with hurricanes as a part of our lives nearly every year. I was rooting for the alligators by the middle of this one.
Ford v. Ferrari
but Unleashed (2016), Maiden and Missing Link were not far behind
Worst of November
X-Men - Dark Phoenix
Fanny and Alexander (1982). Dir. & written by Ingmar Bergman. Cinematographer: Sven Nykvist. TCM ran the 3 1/2 hour version. The movie was apparently restored by Criterion -- looks like it was made yesterday. In sharp color. Nykvist shot most of his Bergman films in B&W; this one shows his mastery of color -- a real treat for the eye (helped by excellent set decoration). As indicated, bucket list material -- viewed it for the first time & very impressed! Considering purchasing the Criterion DVD, which has both the 3 1/2 + the 5 1/2 Swedish TV version. Bergman had a lot to say! Huge cast. Starts with a family Christmas celebration of a well-off theatrical troupe -- reminded me a little of the Thomas Mann novel Buddenbrooks -- time & place early 1900s in Sweden. Then the 2 children's father dies onstage -- Hamlet is the play. Mother (Ewa Froling) re-marries the local Lutheran bishop, Edvard Vergerus, and her 2 children, Fanny & Alexander are taken with her to the bishop's dwelling. This second part recapitulates David Copperfield. Vergerus (Jan Malmsjo) is the Murdstone of the story, and Malmsjo makes a terrific villain -- further, he is as anti-Semitic as some of the Swedes in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the semi-magical scene with Isak Jacobi (Erland Josephson) -- a puppet master and another character who serves as a mask for Bergman. The scene where he interrogates and beats Alexander (Bertil Guve) is harrowing stuff, even though the actual punishment takes place off-screen. So what's happens in the third part? I'll leave that open if you haven't seen it but my reaction was Watch Out for the Ekdahls. There's magic and ghosts too! Ending has a Dickensian flavor to it. Like Dickens in David Copperfield, Bergman is patently as autobiographical in feeling in his work's dark core, and also so much like Dickens where the author tries to ward off the ghosts of a miserable childhood through a fantasy alternative world that can only be realized in fiction. Great holiday viewing.
Another TCM carryover from November:
La Belle et la Bete (1946). Directors, Jean Cocteau & Rene Clement. Screenplay, Jean Cocteau. B&W, cinematography Henri Elekan. French "classical" cinema, pre-New Wave. Haven't seen too many classical French movies, but it did remind a little of Marcel Carne's famous Children of Paradise in style; the soft focus glamour photography of Belle (Josette Day) was like the photography of Arletty in the Paradise film, or Greta Garbo in her many films. The Cocteau touch can best be seen in the Beast's (Jean Marais) enchanted castle. In the early going the Beast doesn't want to be seen, so many of the objects take on human limbs to serve dinner -- but the hall corridor with human arms holding up the lamps is downright spooky. The most suggestive difference that movies do better than the written word is how Belle's suitor's transformation takes place. Does this represent Belle's ambivalent feelings toward Avenant? Does Avenant's transformation represent his own development or a change in how Belle sees him?
This one was not a carryover; saw the whole thing in December, also TCM:
Paris, Texas (1984). Director, Wim Wenders. Writers: L.M. Kit Carson, Sam Shepherd. Photography, Robby Muller, Music, Ry Cooder. Color, 2 h4. 25 min. Long film; from the comments some objected to length and pacing. I watched it largely without pause & found it absorbing, with a caveat. It opens with a shot of the Mojave desert, and a man who appears to have been wandering about for some time. He drinks the last of his water and dumps the plastic gallon bottle (the type you can get at Walgreens drugstore) in the pristine landscape. How did he get into this situation? He finds a small, dilapidated store in the middle of nowhere can collapses. From a card in his pocket, his rescuer is able to contact the man's brother in Los Angeles, who flies down and then drives to get him. We learn that the lost man -- Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton, a character actor who made his mark with this portrayal) has become mute and can't remember who he is. In LA, his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell, who I initially thought was Tommy Lee Jones) and the brother's French wife Ann (Aurore Clement) -- PARIS, Texas, get it? -- coax him back to what appears to be himself. We learn that their 7 year old Hunter (Hunter Carson, the screenwriter's son?) is Travis' son. What happened to Travis & his wife Jane (Nastassja Kinski) 4 years ago? Hunter was too young to remember. Watching Travis's returning to himself and tentatively establishing a relationship with Hunter, and their journey together to find Jane, was all absorbing to me, and the movie passed by quickly. However -- when they find Jane -- here's the caveat -- much of it turns plot-wise into a shaggy dog story. We never find out what either have been doing for the past 4 years, and what led up to that gap turns out to be as banal as a country song, except it allows Jane to wander off into pretentious existentialist soliloquizing. Both Stanton's and Kinski's soliloquies reminded me of students doing a reading in an acting class. One of the commenters on ImDB was positively enthralled by Kinski's performance -- she was reading her soliloquy for heaven's sake! I assumed this nonsense was due to Sam Shepherd, who started in theater, but it seems the scriptwriters were writing the screenplay while the film was being shot (fortunately in chronological sequence), Shepherd had to leave before writing the conclusion, and Carson (L.M., but it could have been Hunter as far as I'm concerned) was apparently the culprit. P.S. Music was one of the good things in the movie, as well as the photography. For the commenter who referred to Cooder's slide guitar as repetitive twanging of strings -- you sir, have a tin ear. I should say that a quick glance at ImDB and Rotten Tomatoes indicates most viewers love and cherish this film, so don't let me turn you away from it; everything but the conclusion was fine with me.
On Halloween, a group of friends encounter an "extreme" haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some nightmares are real.
From the beginning it very quickly morphed into a ho-hum...same old same old...kids in the middle of no where...a Halloween haunted house attraction that was being run by characters that would have sent a sensible person running...and of course they paid and obediently turned over their cell phones to these characters. You knew the whole thing was going downhill like a runaway train.
This is a repeat for me but still one of my favorite action films and you gotta love Alan Rickman who played Hans Gruber.
I have never seen this film before but just got a big kick out of Alan Arkin who is trying to have various affairs with other women but is just striking out. It was also fun to see the 1970 outfits that the woman wore.
6 Souls (2010)
A forensic psychiatrist discovers that all but one of her patient's multiple personalities are murder victims. She will have to find out what's happening before her time is finished.
This is a movie that should have been finished about 30 minutes after it started. Interesting first few minutes and then it went off the track trying to make the plot fit.
Eye For An Eye (1996)
Bereaved mother Karen McCann becomes obsessed with getting revenge upon the acquitted psychopath who raped and murdered her teenage daughter. When the man kills again, Karen joins a support group and realizes that some of the other parents have taken justice into their own hands.
A taunt action film that moved along at a rapid pace. You found yourself routing for Karen after the disastrous results of the killers court appearance and the inaction of the police.
John Wick Chapter 3 (2019)
John Wick is on the run after killing a member of the international assassin's guild, and with a $14 million price tag on his head, he is the target of hit men and women everywhere.
Just love to watch this guy in action. This one has the usual gunfights, knife fights, crashing through glass walls...any of of any them would kill the average man but not John Wick. The whole thing is impossible but none of it is dull. I will have to say that it was almost too much action and not enough story line.
>16 .cris: Funny you should say that. I though he might be a good looking guy if he would only wash his hair! How does he keep it out of his eyes while he's beating the crap out of the bad guys??? I guess it's so full of grease and dirt that it just doesn't move.
Anita Gates. NYT 12/15/2019: Anna Karina, Star of French New Wave Cinema, Is Dead at 79
Check out also the links at the end to earlier NYT articles under: The Cinematic Life of Anna Karina.
>16 .cris: Try to keep your hair shampooed when you've been on the run from assassins since W2!
Correction, I meant W3 for the Halle Berry & the Dogs scene (also a good rock band name)
Fiddler-A Miracle of Miracles 2019
This is the documentary of the history/making of the play and the film Fiddler on the Roof. I was fascinated by the information. I have never seen the play but I loved the film and still listen to the music. I don't know if it was ever released at the theater but I got this from my library on DVD.
Les Infants Terribles. (1950) Director, Jean-Pierre Melville. Screenplay: Jean Cocteau. Actors: Nicole Stephane (Elisabeth), Edouard Dermithe (Paul), Renee Cosima (Dargelos/Agathe), Jacques Bernard (Gerard), Melvyn Martin (Michael). Melville is considered to be a director who anticipated French Nouvelle Vague. He's best known for his gangster films, e.g. Bob le Flambeur & Le Samourai. This one precedes and is quite unlike the gangster films, and it's loony loony loony. Almost a French screwball comedy played straight. Probably this can be attributed to Cocteau. Stay for the brother-sister fights where the adults basically act like twelve year olds. The two have grown up in the hot house environment of a single apartment with their dying mother, nursed by Elisabeth. Paul goes to school but conveniently becomes an invalid for sister to nurse when the mother dies. Paul's injury is the result of being injured by a snowball (!) thrown by fellow student Dargelos. Dargelos has a scene with the school principal when he (at this point) gets expelled that is on the level of the brother-sister fights. Part of the loony atmosphere is the way the seemingly normal ancillary characters -- family friend Gerard and his father, the maid Marietta, Elisabeth's fiancee Michael -- overlook the arrested development of the siblings. Then there is the unexpressed romance of Agatha and Paul which Elisabeth does her best to break up. Paul falls for her because she looks so much like Dargelos (who becomes a successful businessman after being expelled). Oh, and Elisabeth becomes a successful model overnight, becomes Agatha's purported BFF and marries a millionaire (Michael) who plays the piano and sings, and who dies the day after the wedding and leaves her a rich widow. Unlike an American comedy, there are obvious incest and gay undertones in the screenplay which for all I know inspired Tennessee Williams, and which might have seemed naughty in the 1950s. Black and white w/subtitles.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Director Sidney Lumet. Screenplay Frank Pierson. Principal actors: Al Pacino, John Cazale (Sonny & Sal, respectively), Chris Sarandon (Leon, Sonny's boyfriend/wife), Charles Durning (Det. Frank Moretti). This is one everybody's seen that I never got around to watching till now. At times seemed like a prototype Robert Altman ensemble movie (I especially liked the hostages), except the supporting characters are eclipsed by the supernova that is Al Pacino, maybe letting off steam from his repressed Michael Corleone character. No repression in this one, rest assured -- "Attica! Attica! Attica!" Gay marriage & sex change not played for laughs, thankfully. I was totally surprised by the ending at the airport. Cazale has garnered praise for his morose portrayal of Sal, but I couldn't help thinking this might be more a result of his knowing he was actually dying. I strongly preferred him in the Godfather films, especially his moving last scene in Godfather 2. Arguably he is the only character in Dog Day who isn't acting out before the TV cameras. Also a shout out to Penelope Allen, the obscure actor who played the clerk supervisor and hostage. Kind of unsung, I thought.
The Late Show (1977). Directed and written by Robert Benton. Principal actors: Art Carney (Ira Wells) and Lily Tomlin (Margo Sterling). Produced by Robert Altman, and it did remind of The Long Goodbye, especially Lily Tomlin. Benton is a highly respected screenwriter, with credits for Bonnie and Clyde and Kramer vs. Kramer, but Tomlin's stream of consciousness dialogues (monologues really) have the improvisational feel of an Altman movie. Art Carney was Jackie Gleason's pal in The Honeymooners, the TV series I'm old enough to have seen first run on broadcast TV. Loved him in Harry and Tonto. Carney's Ira Wells character is not an Altman type, on the other hand -- very 40's hardcore noir PI, except really old -- like Mike Hammer if the drinks and dames had a realistic effect on him by the time he reached his 60s (Carney would have been about 58-59 when the film was made; he looks considerably older). Our PI's still tough as nails, and about as articulate. Stay for the characters -- besides Carney and Tomlin, I liked Bill Macy's Charlie Hatter with his house full of goods that fell off a truck somewhere or other, and John Considine as Hatter's bodyguard. The plot is traditionally twisty.
The Shooter (2007)
A marksman living in exile is coaxed back into action after learning of a plot to kill the President. Ultimately double-crossed and framed for the attempt, he goes on the run to find the real killer and the reason he was set up.
One of my favorite movies. I watch it at least once a year. If you like action movies like John Wick...you'll like this one.
The Dead Don't Die
This offbeat/oddball film revolves around a zombie invasion. The earth's axis has tilted and this starts the zombie apocalypse. None of the actors really show any emotion and go about as nothing major has happened. This has to be one of the most low key film about zombies I have ever seen. The cast is a all star cast with Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Steve Buscemi and a ton more stars.
When a family is held hostage, former hostage negotiator Jeff Talley arrives at the scene. Talley's own family is kidnapped and Talley must decide which is more important: saving a family he doesn't even know or saving his own family.
Another film that is filled with lots of action. I like Bruce Willis in almost anything. "Hostage" is a dark, intense, and edge-of-your seat film.
So, I'm trying to get back into movie watching. I'm having a hard time focusing on movies at home. I think it's my old eyes and maybe I need to get a bigger TV?
Last night, I watched Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which I thought was fine, but it kind of lost my attention about 3/4's of the way through. It's not really a comedy and it's slowly paced. The main characters are rather unsympathetic. But it's well acted. I might give it a rewatch when I can focus better.
A Simple Favor 2018. Director Paul Feig. Screenplay Darcey Bell, based on her novel. Principal actors: Anna Kendrick (as Stephanie Smothers), Blake Lively (as Emily Nelson), Henry Golding (as Sean Townsend). I thought this was going to be a kind of Gone Girl mystery, but since Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy, The Heat) signed on as director I should have known better. Funny and entertaining like most of his other movies, but Blake Lively's potty mouth will make moms cover their children's ears. Anna Kendrick is a kind of smothering (get it?) single mom who does household hints on her vlog to make a little extra coin, though she's the type who would give you free household hints whether you wanted them or not. She agrees to pick up Blake Lively's child from her son's school, because that's what a good neighbor would do, and Emily Nelson (Lively) seems to be leading a glamorous life. But Emily disappears and her husband Sean (Golding, from Crazy Rich Asians) is in London. She becomes an amateur sleuth when the police don't help, and she is as obstinate in sleuthing as she is in baking cookies for the school bake sales. Happy ending.
Three guilty pleasures -- two seen at theater when they first came out (not in Imax, alas), and watched again on Prime -- the last one a Prime discovery:
Alita Battle Angel (2019) Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Written by James Cameron & Laeta Kalogridis. Special effects list is long, but Weta Digital leads. Principal actors: Rosa Salazar (Alita), Christoph Waltz (Dr. Ido), Jennifer Connnelly (Chiren), Mahershala Ali (Vector), Jackie Earl Haley (Grewishka), Keeann Johnson (Hugo). Based on a manga. Closer to Avatar than Titanic, and depends a lot on special effects. Script has a kind of Young, Young Adult feel. Nothing profound, but great fight scene in a bar, and a murderous roller derby. Alita is a junkyard robot, an anime (big eyes) version of Salazar, and clearly a product of special effects animation, but with very sophisticated movement. Dr. Ido is a specialist in prosthetics, and characters resemble humans more or less based on how much of the body has been replaced by prosthesis. The movie is not full 3D type animation like Shrek or Toy Story or fully 2D manga films like Ghost in the Shell; about half of the actors are live action, though the painterly dystopia seems to be mostly CGI. The film ends when the story seems to be only half way through, as if a sequel was in the works. But it was a 170 million flop in the U.S. so I'm not sure whether there will be another one. It did make 405 million world wide, though, so you never know. Just appeals to my sense of spectacle, I guess. I don't really care for full 3D animation (kind of like all the characters are balloons) and the live action - CGI animation seems to be a reasonable compromise. Salazar appears in the "TV" streaming series Undone (sorry, couldn't link to a touchstone) on Prime which is "rotoscope" animation, and she seems to be very good at acting in front of a green screen. PS: Undone is nothing like Alita, just to be clear.
Godzilla King of the Monsters (2019) Directed & written by Michael Dougherty. Principal actors (cast is quite large): Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobbie Brown (the Russell family, Emma, Mark, & Madison respectively), Brad Whitford (Dr. Rick Stanton), Ken Watanabe (Dr. Ishiro Serizawa), Charles Dance (some terrorist or other). This is mostly a special effects movie, & I'm not sure who to credit, but I thought the monsters looked pretty good, so props to the visual effects department. The real stars: Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and 3-headed Ghidora together for the first time in the 21st century. I quite enjoyed the earlier 2014 Godzilla, with the big guy's destruction of Waikiki Beach, a place with which I'm familiar. As an amusing sidenote, Godzilla's attack also destroys the city's monorail, which in the real world has yet to have been built due to cost overruns. But back to the Kaiju. In the Godzilla universe, the monsters emerge to restore balance, which means wiping out most of the human population. As Vera Farmiga explains, humans deserve to become semi-extinct because of how they've ruined the environment. This seems to be an opinion becoming more acceptable among cynical environmentalists, and in fact the krakens are released by terrorists (Charles Dance & company) who have this in mind. Interesting that the theme surfaces in a film intended for a wide audience.
Dead or Alive (1999). Director Takashi Miike. Screenplay: Ichiro Ryu. Film editing: Taiji Shimamura. Cinematography: Hideo Yamamoto. Principal actors: Riki Takeuchi (as Ryuuichi) and Sho Aikawa (as Det. Yojima). I like Japanese chambara (samurai movies). You may have seen 13 Assassins when it was streaming on Netflix, and I have Blade of the Immortal in my Prime Library. So I did a search on Prime for this director, and pulled up a lot of ... Yakuza films (many of them free on Prime, by the way). Checked IMDB & this guy's been prolific, directing over 60 films, most of them probably B-movies. The film at hand opens with a really extraordinary montage showing the first move in a gang's attack on a rival -- some of it may be explored in the film -- for control of vice in a Tokyo district -- watch the guy eating ramen among other jittery editing cuts. The film ends with an over the top fight between the gang's leader and the detective trying to bring an end to the gangster's career, as if the screenwriter quit before finishing and Miike just improvised an ending that could have been dreamed up by a bloody minded 10 year old (the type who reads gory manga on one of those bullet trains). Miike did 2 sequels, not involving the principals for obvious reasons, which I have not seen, but this one must have been relatively successful in Japan. Hard to tell whether the movie is a comedy, a crime thriller, or a sexploitation film. There's also a subplot involving bestiality pornos and drowning in feces. Matter of taste, for sure. The chambara films, by contrast, are relatively chaste, so don't let me scare you off them.
I have been very lazy of late, but I had to share how much I loved Togo. An outbreak of diphtheria in a tiny Alaskan hamlet, an oncoming storm and the nearest batch of immunization drugs a 600 mile round trip. Who ya gonna call?.... Willem Dafoe and his sled team, lead by the indefatigable runt, Togo. It's a dog film. The inevitable happens, but it's so underplayed I managed to get through with nary a tear, but a warm glow of satisfaction and a smile on my lips. "Hike pup!"
Knives Out 2019. Comedy ??? This film has won 24 awards and is nominated up the ying-yang. It's a whodunit in the vein of an Agatha Christie story, so perhaps that's the reason I didn't like it. A (nearly) all-star cast doesn't have much to work with, and the reviewer who labelled it "hilarious" must have an abnormally sensitive funny-bone. This review guarantees it will win Oscars and every other award going.
The Forgotten (2004)
After being told that their children never existed, a man and woman soon discover there is a much bigger enemy at work.
Sci-fi and mystery /suspense fans will find this entertaining...although the sci-fi part will have to wait until almost the end. There is an alternate ending on the DVD that is totally different and worth the few minutes it takes to watch it.
The Haunting of Hill House- season 1 (Netflix network) (2018)
Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it.
I can't say that I was impressed with it beyond the first disc. Not enough was told about the WHY of the haunting. The most interesting part was when the kids were small and the family lived in Hill House. The children as adults are all totally unlikable and obnoxious. If anyone is expecting it to be anything like the book or the movie...you are going to be disappointed. IMHO it's a bad family drama that has parts of it taking place in a haunted house. Not sure if I'll tackle season 2 or not.
Everything Is Illuminated
Jonathon, a fastidious individual, is on the trail to find the woman who helped his grandfather escape from the Nazis. Helping him is a couple of oddball Ukrainian’s who add levity to the film. Started a little slow for me but picked up as it went on and I ended up really enjoying it. Elijah Wood stars. I missed this when it came out in 2005 but I enjoy Elijah Wood and gave it go. It is based on the book by Jonathon Safran Foer and is based on Foer and his trip to find out about his grandfather.
Emily Temple. Dec. 12, 2019. LibHub: The 10 Best Literary Film Adaptations of the Decade ... and then some.
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