Sunday, January 30, 2011
A piano player in a dive bar is visited by his brother who is trying to elude a couple of criminals. This brief encounter with his family forces the piano player to revisit his past, only now the criminals are after him. A lovely, sad and thoughtful film with excellent performances and cinematography. I found it to be a profound examination of time and the inevitable repetition of history. Classified as a thriller, it's more fitting to call it a noirish drama from the French New Wave. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
A boy and girl with an acoustic guitar from Moosejaw, Canada in the futuristic and glittery period of time known as 1994 enter a song contest; but they don't win because they don't have 30 dancers flailing behind them, don't play see-thru keytars, don't wear silver pants, don't wear golden helmets, or have sparkly eyebrow adornments. There's a lot of Biblical allusions and everyone spontaneously sings and dances in unison in an awkward, tone-deaf and ham-fisted kind of way. It's sort of like what would happen if Jesus Christ Superstar and Grease were hijacked by Starland Vocal Band after they rummaged through Patti Labelle's closet. Tuneless, excessive, outlandish and has way too many tap dancers and feather boas for its own good. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Monsters and robots wrestle, only they look like a Muppet jumble sale of old Fozzie bear heads and beat-up pots and pans. A human is going to enter the competition for the first time in either 50 or 1000 years, but the script is somewhat vague on that. It's a lot like Rocky, if Rocky fought a huge drooling bug creature with 6 arms and pincers. It's also like Star Wars, only with a lot more musical numbers, one of which directly rips off Leia's hologram scene. Sadly, this movie is not like those movies because this movie sucks. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
It's exactly what the title promises. 2 minutes of footage shot by the Lumieres from 1899 of a train arriving and the passengers leaving it. Everyone has on the same coat, hat, and late-19th century facial hair. Fascinating. I watched it here:
Monday, January 24, 2011
It must be tough either being dick clark or working with dick clark. He is The World's Oldest Teenager and all, so I guess dick clark's typecast now, and that's why he hasn't been in more movies. Now, you're probably saying to yourself, why didn't he capitalize dick clark? Well, apparently, dick clark has his own font. And when your name shows up the the credits of the film you're starring in more than 5 or 10 times, well, I guess you're calling all the shots and you can now go around all high falutin' with a hit-or-miss southern accent and a dodgy mustache and not have your name in capital letters. Merle Haggard is in the movie, in fact, he plays a guitar and sits on a porch swing, and he doesn't get his own font. Mike Curb is also mentioned in the credits, and he doesn't get his own font. So I can imagine how that meeting went..."I'm freakin' dick freakin' clark, and all these nobodies need to be in that western style font, and I need my own font, and don't capitalize my name. Got it? And I need all brown M&Ms in my trailer". Anyway, so this movie's all about moonshinin' I guess, and dreaming about going to California, and driving old cars along red dirt roads real fast, and shootin' up the place. I'm not sure about moonshinin' protocol and communicating memos to your employees, but when you have 6 hand grenades nailed to a tree, do you need a large cardboard sign that says "For Emergencies Only"? I think that goes without saying, really. So, banjos are plucked, and slide guitars are strummed, and Merle Haggard's songs play throughout, and dick clark paddles a canoe, and this movie seriously never wants to end. Maudlin, slow-paced and an Appalachian nightmare. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Gerard Depardieu battles a villain in a golden helmet to Carl Orff's Carmina Burana in France just before the Revolution. Claustrophobic and frenetically shot on digital video with almost no sense of negative space, and directed by Pitof (Golden Raspberry winning director of Catwoman). The camera swoops, dives, twists and turns as if on a gyroscope. Meticulously CGI'd and art directed within an inch of its life, and every shot is crammed full of something. When the camera isn't artfully shooting through wagon wheels or swooping down from the ceiling or hovering mere inches from cobblestones, you get extreme closeups where you can count nostril hairs. No take lasts more than 15 seconds, and there's almost no room to breathe. Nonsensical. If you insist on watching, it's on Netflix Instant Streaming, but you should dose up on Dramamine first.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Girder slapstick. Petroleum based environmental disaster related slapstick. Sad muted trumpet. Bar-fight at Wang's Pub featuring 9 foot bologna sandwich slapstick. Airplane staircase dragged by suspenders slapstick. Rickshaw slapstick. Spontaneous ferryboat kung- fu. Spontaneous boiler room kung-fu with slide whistle. Drumstick/chopstick slapstick. Junky kung-fu aboard multiple junks. Features schizophrenic elevator/supermarket music and jazz flute. Features dialogue like, "A certain Wang brought us to Hong Kong.", "Hung Lo receives no visitors.", and "Hurray for USA al dente!". Also has terrible rear projection effects and a restaurant kissing scene where the camera bumps into a hanging lantern. Incredibly dumb. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
It starts promising enough. An angry, torch-wielding mob of villagers hunts down a female vampire and stake her to death while she screams hysterically. Terrible dubbing and stilted dialogue follows. Almost a complete Dracula rip-off; it still has good atmosphere, creepy corridors, long shadows, theremin, and plunging nightgowns. Watch it with the sound down. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
A Caribbean adventure (you can tell because all the extras wear Hawaiian shirts) filmed in Cinemascope where 1,000,000 year old dinosaurs are discovered frozen at the bottom of the ocean (or aquarium if you can't suspend disbelief) which are then accidentally revived via lightning storm. It could happen. Anyway, stagey dialogue follows, and a child actor shouts all his lines. Cruddy rear projection effects, wobbly split screen effects, Harryhausen-esque stop motion animation are all used poorly. Science is completely abandoned. A mercifully brief Duck Soup-like mirror scene with a caveman and an axe occurs, and this film is no Duck Soup. Moments later, the caveman throws a pie in someone's face. It could happen. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
An excellent documentary about a teacher from Rye, New York who taught children with the crazy idea you should creatively present challenging subject matter to kids. Features jaw-dropping footage of elementary school aged children performing Sophocles as if they were being filmed by Ingmar Bergman (actually, they were filmed by Robert Downey, Sr.). Why isn't this form of teaching more widespread? On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Look, you don't have to tell me. I know it's not a movie, it's only a TV show. And I know it isn't much different from other "a giant thing attacks another giant thing and destroys Tokyo" movies/TV shows...it's all chroma-keying and forced perspective, rubber suited people wrestling and smashing miniature sets. But it's brief, action packed, loaded with nostalgia and has a jaunty theme song. I watched it here.
Before the credits roll, a ship is attacked by a gooey-tentacled giant squid, which is then attacked by a hairy not-so-jolly green giant, who then dunks the ship like a donut in a cup of coffee, chews up the normal-sized humans and spits out their clothes. There's a musical number for some reason, and a woman bleats out a shrill tune that grates. Thankfully, the gargantua attacks and puts an end to that. A cast of thousands scream and flee Tokyo being knocked down. Toy tanks are thrown and miniature cars are crushed. Sometimes gargantuas battle one another for the sole reason to leap into the air and demolish empty waist-high buildings. Watch a Godzilla movie instead. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Monday, January 17, 2011
I was on the fence about this one. It's a standard documentary. But I connected with this little Utopian college town parking lot, and could relate very well with the over-educated attendants who work there and their daily struggles with customers and ennui. Humorous, infuriating, and enlightening. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
I've learned quite a bit from watching these bad old movies. For instance, I've learned to never visit small towns; especially the ones with wisecracking, slingshot carrying children who throw rocks through windows and say "Aw gee!", or where large groups of gossipy and conspiring townsfolk loiter in the drug store or on the street corner, or where the circus has recently come to town and a killer ape has gotten loose, or worst yet, where Boris Karloff lives, and he is the town doctor/mad scientist who practices medicine/experiments on people illuminated by a single dangling light bulb. These are valuable lessons to learn. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Friday, January 14, 2011
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp supposedly purchased a urinal, signed his name on it, and submitted it to an art exhibition. It was never shown and created a huge controversy. A photo was taken of this groundbreaking piece of conceptual art, and then the piece itself was supposedly lost. Duchamp commissioned copies of this work of art known as "Fountain", and these are what you see in museums around the world. In the meantime, Duchamp created a few more conceptual artworks (at one point actually assuming the guise of a women known as Rrose Selavy) but he supposedly grew tired of art. The world believed he retired, and had become a world class chess master. In reality, he had been working for 25 years on his masterpiece, the room-sized installation known as Etant Donne, and it was not shown to the public until after his death. It is in the Philadelphia Museum Of Art, in a dim little room off the main Duchamp collection (the largest in the world), and if you don't know what you're looking for you very well might miss it. The Etant Donne is a pair of very large wooden doors with a peephole, and you should get very close and look at what lies beyond.
What does this have to do with Banksy: Exit Through The Gift Shop? Nothing, or possibly everything. On the surface, this is a very well crafted and entertaining documentary about street art. Or you could take my viewpoint, and see it as a much grander piece of conceptual artwork. I would say more, but what does it matter? Is truth what the documentarian chooses to present to us? Or is the truth what the documentarian chooses to leave out, or keeps hidden from view? Judge for yourself. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I watched Frozen. I have no idea why I would watch this considering the weather for the past 2 months has been cloudy, snowy, windy, and wintry. Also, I don't like heights. So the thought of watching a movie where 3 unlikeable snowboarding young people grift their way onto the last chairlift up a mountain only to be stranded confounds me. While it was fairly tense and gripping; was it merely because I dislike cold weather, physical activity, heights, and being near irritating people? I don't know. I am going to have to say that if we are basing a modern film on the prospect that 3 people under the age of 30 do not have a single working cell phone on their person somewhere, even while doing strenuous outdoor activity, and they didn't tell anyone where they were going or what they were doing in this world of narcissism and instant communication, I'm going to have to cry "Bullcrap!" and the entire plot unravels. Could it happen? Sure, if those kids were Amish. I completely understand not wanting to lose your phone or the possibility of breaking it; but how do your peers know you're doing something cool if you aren't continuously texting or taking action photos while you're doing it? Even I do that, and I'm nearly ancient. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
25 bad movies reviewed in 18 days. While I don't believe that's any sort of record, it is a test of endurance for most people, and I think I may be buckling under the strain. Don't get me wrong, I've seen more than my fair share of bad movies. However, with the bitter cold, the howling wind, and the never ending snow; cabin fever may be setting in. I'm not sure I can tell what is "good" and what is "bad".
Take for instance the film I Bury The Living; a story about a man thrust into the role of figurehead of a cemetery, and when he puts pins in a map of cemetery plots the owners of those plots suddenly die. I didn't see any obvious gaffes or continuity errors. The film was consistent in its editing, and seemed competently directed. The acting was average for a film of its era, although the makeup was a little dodgy and the caretaker's brogue was tough to understand and seemed a bit forced. I was impressed by the cinematography at the end, which had some very interesting and unusual pin and/or headstone imagery. However, the action throughout consists of little more than excessive sweating, telephoning, cartography, and pin insertion and extraction. Does this make a film bad? It makes a film not very entertaining, but not especially bad. While I question the wisdom of building a bonfire inside a shed after barricading oneself in from fear of potential zombie reprisals, I don't think that particular moment would tag it as being "bad". I question the likelihood of getting one's overcoat snagged on a headstone and not being able to easily free oneself from it, but again I don't think that spoils the whole film. Overall, a less than average effort. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
An excellent and gripping documentary about the making of the film Fitzcarraldo, where film-maker Werner Herzog drags a 300-ton steamship over a hill in South America. For 4 years he battles illness, rapids, re-shoots, delays and star Klaus Kinski to get his film made. Check both out. Burden Of Dreams is available on Netflix Instant Streaming, Fitzcarraldo is available on DVD.
A complex study of the delineation between academia and...who am I kidding? It's a pseudo-scientific Wolfman minus the mystique that includes a transformation scene they just run backwards and forwards as they see fit. The folksy yokels all say words like varmint, critter, feller, and chaw; and the uppity and stuffy scientists say words like forbade. A tiger skin rug with the head still on has a close-up while standing-in for a living tiger. A crackpot gives a scientific discussion with a diagram that includes Piltdown Man to a roomful of extravagantly bearded cigar smoking academics. Sadly, this film contains a lot more footage of the Neanderthal than is really needed, who is often beating picnickers senseless and dragging their women kicking and screaming into the brush. The makeup is awful, and the Neanderthal's rigid face looks like a Pleistocene Beethoven with a pompadour. Boring. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Monday, January 10, 2011
My wife is growing tired of watching bad movies. I don't blame her, but I will persevere. I'm almost to my 25th bad movie review in little more than 2 weeks, and I would like it to be special. It won't be, but one can always hope. Anyway, I recommend The Philosopher Kings; a lovely, noble and moving documentary about custodians working in Ivy League schools. Invisible and omnipresent, these people who have lived harrowing lives and persevering through hardships that would destroy most people, often are the unseen force allowing these venerated institutions to continue functioning and are rarely acknowledged for the extremely important role they play. Very inspiring, and you should watch it. On Netflix Instant Streaming.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
A vague nuclear accident reanimates corpses, but it's not as fun as it sounds. These corpses knock on doors, appear overly Brylcreemed, yak-yak-yak in long conversations explaining destruction of the Earth in 24 hours, and seem slightly threatening in an insurance salesman kind of way. Most of the movie's plot is forwarded through narration over excessive use of stock footage or using that old chestnut of showing made-up newspaper headlines that say stuff like, "Charges Of Space Attack Branded Ridiculous" or "Boring Movie Causes Localized Narcolepsy". For the briefest of moments, a crowd of over-dressed men are seen shuffling around in large groups, but it's hard to discern if they are in fact zombies or a convention of assistant high school principals on a bender. On Netflix Instant Streaming.