Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I made a pledge to review every movie I watch, and I have to watch them in their entirety. I assume that would have to include movies that are playing in my vicinity whether I wanted to watch them or not. So I accidentally watched Rugrats Go Wild. Actually, it wasn't so bad. It's pretty much Rugrats meets Wild Thornberrys only with higher production values. There was a humorous moment where Angelica sings the theme song to The Poseidon Adventure aboard a sinking ship. Clearly, that little moment was just for the grownups. I laughed and didn't feel too bad about it. I mean, I didn't laugh at all through Your Highness, so there's that. I watched it on Netflix Instant Streaming.
Sorry, a trailer doesn't seem to be available.
Liev Shreiber narrates as conservators remove soot and grime from 15th century Buddhist paintings revealing the jewel-like colors trapped beneath in this Nova documentary. That's about it. It's up to the usual Nova/PBS standards, although it's kind of dry. I watched it on Netflix Instant Streaming, and you can watch it below. I don't think anyone will mind.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I realize it's often unfair to say, "Hey, this movie has this person in it, and this subject matter, so therefore this specific set of things is going to happen in it, so naturally I will like it.". You should just try your best to start watching the movie with no baggage attached and judge it on its own merits. Sadly, it just doesn't work that way. I rented Super on pay-per-view, thinking that it has Rainn Wilson it it, and he'll be awkward in a superhero costume and many laughs will ensue. Sadly, it just doesn't work that way. The awkwardness is still there, and it's often brutal, but Super is a very grim, bleak and unsettling film about the consequences of vigilante heroism with all the blood that comes from yelling "Shut up, Crime!" and hitting villains with a wrench. It was well made, with lots of Biff! Bang! Pow! comic book style graphics, but I probably wouldn't watch it again, I didn't laugh that much, and had a seemingly tacked-on ending out of step with the rest of the film. Here's a trailer:
Warning: Do not read this film review if you are unnerved by dolls, marionettes, puppets, tiny people in glass containers, films starring John Agar, films featuring tiny people in glass containers who stand by objects that don't seem to be correctly proportioned, films where people scream at gigantic telephones, films where tiny people jitterbug on desks, or films with tiny black cats in matchboxes. Here's a trailer:
Actually, you probably shouldn't watch the trailer either, because all that stuff is in it. Oops. Sorry. I watched it on Netflix Instant Streaming.
Ip Man is a surprisingly well made martial arts film featuring beautiful cinematography, highly detailed art direction, fine acting, and thrilling martial arts action. Telling the story of Ip Man, who popularized Wing Chun kung fu after World War 2, you don't have to wait long to see impossibly fast kung fu wire work fight sequences. Very impressive. Here's a trailer:
I watched it on Netflix Instant Streaming.
OK, hold on tight. We have a lot of stuff to discuss.
After some blood red opening titles and then a shot of a cemetery sign where someone has taped a new sign over the old one, we see Dracula amongst the headstones digging up Frankenstein because Las Vegas is where his corpse was buried, then a chick at a carnival gets her head cut off by an unseen ax-wielding maniac because the carnival is near the graveyard, I suppose. It was in the books by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley , I think. Anyway, how do I know the setting of this movie is Las Vegas? Honestly, I don't. More on that later. But first let's watch a clip of the film's lead actress with a dramatically plunging neckline singing at a Las Vegas-style nightclub that I'm assuming is near the carnival and the graveyard.
Keeping up with me? No? Well, just try your best. Anyway, Lon Chaney shows up with an ax and a puppy because it's in the script, then every '70s cliche imaginable is trotted out for awhile. Here's a brief list of what you'll see: test tubes of artificially colored liquids, picket lines, blacklite posters, a psychedelic freakout, some bikers, a turtleneck sweater, a Mexican-style poncho, and a beach montage with seagulls and music as narrative. Here's a clip:
While the film does have a creepy atmosphere and some WTF moments; it's poorly lit, has a nonsensical script, terrible effects, and many abrupt scene changes. It's a potpourri of crappy stuff and inconsistent soundtrack choices including haunted house organ, weird Moog-y synth blips, and that classic bit of music from Creature From The Black Lagoon. If you're looking for tons of Drac Vs. Frank action, you might be disappointed as the film only contains about 20% of the title characters, Frankenstein's face looks like an angel food cake that's fallen, and Dracula has a douchey beard and he can shoot Dracula Death Beams from his Dracula Death Beam Ring. I'm not sure why. I think it's in the book. Actually, I often asked myself, "Where are we, how did we get here, and what's happening exactly?". What concerns me most is the setting of the film. Where is this mystical place that has a Vegas nightclub, an amusement park, a beach, some woods, and a cemetery with a dilapidated church all within walking distance? Sounds like my kind of neighborhood. I watched it on Netflix, and it's highly recommended if you like stuff that sucks. Here's a fantastic trailer:
Monday, August 22, 2011
Intangible Asset No. 82 is a documentary about drumming that doesn't feature as much drumming as you would expect. Taking itself very seriously discussing the minutia of drumming and threatening to leave non-drummers wondering what the heck everyone's talking about, the film has very lovely cinematography of clouds flowing over mountains, artfully balanced rocks, darting dragonflies, hills with colorful autumn leaves, and hermits screaming beside waterfalls. Occasionally there's drumming. Here's a trailer featuring most of that stuff:
I watched it on Netflix Instant Streaming.
An interesting if lackluster documentary about whistling, Pucker Up is often just quirky for quirk's sake. Featuring barely functional cinematography, it's not much to look at. However, it was quite engrossing. That's really all I've got.
Sorry, no clip. It's on Netflix Instant Streaming.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
It wasn't my intention to watch this movie. I was enjoying approximately half a carton of some unfortunately titled Ben And Jerry's Volun-Tiramisu when my dog sat on the remote and started the movie. Since I had paused momentarily for a refreshing spoonful, and I was growing increasingly tired of clicking through Netflix dreck, I figured Wild Target was about as good as it was going to get. I'm going to try to have a serendipitous beagle choose the movie with her ass more often.
Wild Target is a wry, zany, contradictory and somewhat implausible English crime caper film starring the stone-faced Bill Nighy, the delightful Emily Blunt, and one of the actors from that multi-billion dollar worldwide grossing teenage wizard franchise. It features a witty screenplay, several pratfalls, some humorous sight gags, and a Monty Python homage. I found it to be humorous and charming enough to suspend disbelief in the moments that don't make a whole lot of sense. Here's a clip. It's a high speed chase aboard a stolen Mini Cooper where drivers switch places en route then Emily Blunt eats a dine-and-dash sausage and smacks the crap out of that Harry Potter kid.
Again, it's on Netflix and if your dog is choosing the movie you could suffer through much worse.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Comedies are often unfairly maligned. Not so in this case. Danny McBride plays a slacker prince and James Franco plays the character he played when he hosted the Oscars in this misguided and beknighted stoner bromance, but the bromancing seems to be between the actors and not the characters, and there's very little stonage going on. Like a Middle Ages cross between Cheech and Chong and Clash of The Titans, it's laugh-free from beginning to end, loaded with unnecessary CGI, and contains transient accents from everyone involved. Comedies should be funny and they shouldn't be boring. I watched it on pay-per-view and should have watched Pineapple Express. Here's a trailer containing all of the jokes from the movie and a bikini-clad Natalie Portman, so save $5 and watch this instead.
See what I mean? What's happening? Heck if I know. Anyway, I watched it on Youtube, and you shouldn't. If you can't stop yourself, you can watch it below:
Ernest Borgnine narrates this interview-style documentary and threatens to break a hip. OK, I know what your thinking. You're thinking, "Wow, that was outrageous, inconsiderate, and ageist." Not so. In the first 5 minutes of this film, Academy Award winner for Best Actor for the film Marty (1955) tightrope walks along some railroad tracks. The entire time I was thinking, "Oh crap, don't fall! Who approved this shot, and does your insurance company know about this?". So yeah, I only have Ernest's best interest at heart. I guess everything turned out alright, because he goes on to interview some extravagantly monikered hobos. We get to hear from Hopalong, Connecticut Shorty, Train Doc, Merle Haggard, Chooch, and Luther The Jet, but very little light is shown on their lives and why they chose a life on the rails. I watched it on Netflix.
Sorry, no trailer.
30 year old actors playing teenagers horse around where a spaceship recently crashed although we never see it. We're supposed to believe they are chasing one another through the forest, but they are just running back and forth in front of a static camera, and the cruddy editing is supposed to convince us otherwise. Suddenly the woman stops in close-up and screams because she's seen something terrifying, we still don't see it, and the credits roll. There's a lot of that sort of thing in this movie, where someone sees something but we don't, and I suppose it's to create a sense of suspense and dread, but it doesn't. Many scenes are shot at dusk rendering a stark look and causing the camera shadow to be seen, the night shots are so murky you can't see what's happening, the music doesn't seem to jive with the action onscreen, and sometimes there's a magical harp on the soundtrack that probably was used in many episodes of Bewitched. Here's a clip:
Sorry, someone replaced a terrible clip from Night Fright with the opening title sequence from Bewitched. I'm angry, thankful, and relieved. But you do get to hear the magical harp I was talking about, so there's that. I'm not sure why the filmmakers decided to use that particular sound in Night Fright, because I wouldn't call Night Fright "movie magic". Anyway, the kids all head to the forest in the dark to unconvincingly boogie to a transistor radio, because that's what middle-aged people pretending to be teenagers in the Sixties did and seemed like a sensible and groovy thing to do. About two months into this 75 minute movie we finally see the monster, and it's only a lumbering carpet sample with a gooey red skull for a head. Don't get excited, it's not as awesome as it sounds, and it's poorly lit and very brief. I watched it on Netflix, and you shouldn't. If you can't stop yourself, you can watch it below:
Friday, August 12, 2011
Hello everyone visiting from USAToday's Pop Candy! I love Whitney's blog and I read it every day. You should, too, if you don't already. Thanks Whitney for featuring my Avengers movie set pictures! Here's a link:
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
A guy does somersaults, catches fish with his bare hands, burns food in a large outdoor wok, and does all sorts of kung-fu. Other than that I have no idea what this movie is about. Enter The Clip:
It's 90 minutes of that. Normally, that would be cool. But when you're unsure who these people are or why they're doing what they're doing, it becomes as tedious as an instructional video. I watched it on Netflix. You can watch it too, but with the sound turned off while you're doing something else, although you'll miss the moment where the filmmakers borrow some incidental music from Jaws and use it awkwardly.
Gene Wilder directs, writes, produces, and acts in this slapstick comedy that somehow sucks all of the comedy out of Gene Wilder, Carol Kane and Dom Deluise. Let's watch a clip, shall we?
Um, yeah. There's a lot of that. Let's contrast and compare.
The scenes are similar, but there's clearly no comparison. The timing, the phrasing, the physicality, the hair. So, avoid The World's Greatest Lover and watch Young Frankenstein again. You know you want to. The World's Greatest Lover is on Netflix if you can't stop yourself.
The film opens to Dracula and Van Helsing struggling atop a runaway carriage. It crashes and Ol' Drac is somehow impaled by a wagon wheel, which is pretty cool, and there's plenty of garish technicolor blood. Dracula turns to dust, Van Helsing croaks, and some dude appears and scoops up some of the vampire dust in the handy glass container he just happens to have in his coat pocket for nineteenth-century-speeding-carriage-battle-crash-spoke-impalement-vampire-dust emergencies, because you never know when you're going to need one of those and he just happened to be in the neighborhood. Cue credits, which are the kind you find in the seventies with gothic lettering and a very brassy score that would be equally fitting for SWAT or Charlie's Angels.
Then suddenly and with very little warning, we cut to a raucous party, where older sophisticated British stiffs stand around and gape at hippies getting groovy. It's a happening, I guess, where generic early '70s rock plays, and people boogie on/under pianos/tables because that how you can stick it to the establishment, and some folks were told it was okay to wear unfortunate headbands or seemingly jaunty hats.
The fuzz arrives and busts up the joint because it was in the script, then the hippies go to an extremely unlikely church, have some sort of blasphemous ceremony, soak Caroline Munro in a chalice full of a frothy technicolor blood/vampire dust concoction and revive Dracula. Cue an hour of largely vampireless plot.
Anyway, the parts I liked I liked, but they're near the beginning and end of the film. I watched it on Netflix.
Monday, August 8, 2011
And the streak ends. Plot: It's murder, and someone's responsible. An early Alfred Hitchcock thriller (and I'm using the term very loosely) lacking his trademark touches, although the old chestnut where the "accused killer who's really innocent and who's now on the lam and who's now going to hide in this old building" bit was okay. Hindsight being 20/20, you can't help but think it was used to better effect in Foreign Correspondent and North By Northwest. To say, "Hey, this movie isn't as good as North By Northwest." is similar to saying, "Hey, Dirty Work isn't nearly as good as Exile On Main Street, even though the Rolling Stones through a long and illustrious career made many masterworks and had a few missteps.". It's unfair, but I don't make the rules. Here's a ham-fisted clip from the beginning of the film, where there's an argument between "Blinky The Bad Guy" and his victim, who doesn't appear at all throughout the film until he's caught at the end during an unfortunate chunk of racism that doesn't really have much to do with the rest of the movie. Cry spoiler if you'd like, this stinker is already spoiled:
Oops, that appears to be a clip of Young And Innocent performed by hand puppets. While the sound doesn't sync up with the actors lips, I enjoyed the performance, brevity, and cinematography, all of which had a loose, cinema-verite feel much more than the film on which it's based. Kudos to you, mystery hand puppet actors. I watched Young And Innocent on Netflix, and you shouldn't.
I've noticed a trend. I have less to say about the good movies than I do the bad ones. First of all, I'd rather not spoil the good ones for you. Second, I'm just a terrible person and have nothing nice to say. I'm okay with that.
Strand: Under The Dark Cloth is a well made documentary about the obsessed photographer/film-maker Paul Strand. There you have it. Here's a trailer:
Oops, no trailer. I watched it on Netflix.
In this moving and thought-provoking documentary, a team of Brazilian catadores sort through the mind-boggling landfill of Rio De Janeiro for recyclable materials. Artist Vic Muniz photographs the people who dig through what society throws out and creates works of art, giving the proceeds directly to the catadores. Here's a trailer:
Before you say anything, I know. This is an unusually long stretch of good movies. I have no explanation for that. Sometimes it happens.
Vision: From The Life Of Hildegard Von Bingen is the story of the mystic, author, musician, scientist, healer, and nun from the 12th century. Apparently, the only thing she wasn't was a procrastinator. Anyway, this film is well shot and acted, but it's overlong and slightly Lifetime-y, focusing more on interpersonal relationships and less on her accomplishments. Maybe the filmmakers figured viewers would be less interested in her creative process, but they would be wrong. It was also so moving and could have used more of her music, but maybe the licensing would be cost prohibitive. Overall, a passing grade. Here's a trailer:
Art historian (and daring fashion plate with a fondness for crushed velvet) Tim Marlow gives a tour of famous Impressionist paintings. Nearly exactly like Great Artists Two, only Tim gives you a moment of quiet to reflect on the work before elaborating. I watched Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Cezanne on Netflix before nodding off in front of the computer. Did you know Monet painted these 8 massive (6 feet x 40 feet) Water Lillies paintings when he was 80 and had cataracts?
I know! I'm hoping to still be alive at 80. Considering my diet consists of cupcakes and coffee the outlook is not good. Anyway, here's a clip.
Art historian and snazzy dresser Tim Marlow takes you on an enlightening, if somewhat dry, tour of some famous artwork in this brief documentary series. Features closeup high-def images of the art. Sadly, just when you start to get comfortable the show is over. I watched Piero della Francesca, Holbein, Caravaggio, Goya, David, Delacroix, and Schiele before I got distracted and moved on to something else. Holbein was particularly interesting because of the work known as The Ambassadors. This is it:
See that weird blob at the bottom of the piece? If you turn your screen to the extreme side you'll see a memento mori rendered in anamorphis perspective. Cool, right? You learn something new about skulls every day.
Anyway, I watched this show on Netflix because I couldn't find anything else to watch. Here's a brief clip.
I've seen it several times, but my family had not. It's fantastic. Gorgeous black and white deep focus cinematography, a crackling script, and incredible acting all around, including an Oscar nominated role for Madeline Kahn and an Oscar winning role for Tatum O'Neal. Here's a clip. You're probably used to today's lightning fast, MTV-style editing, so let me remind you this is one long take and Tatum is 9 years old.
Or this clip, where Madeline Kahn adroitly skips through 14 different emotions as she bargains with a child, plus the magical blooper they left in at the end.
I watched it on Netflix. It wouldn't kill you to watch it, and you should.
Werner Herzog spelunks in this beautifully shot documentary. I enjoyed this documentary very much, but its dry, academic tone drove my family from the room. There were a couple of clunky, overwrought moments; but you can't blame someone getting a once in a lifetime chance of filming nearly inaccessible 30,000 year old cave paintings for becoming a little maudlin. Contains several long shots of the paintings cast in an realistic campfire-like light near the end of the film. The avant-garde classical score adds a level of tension throughout. I pay-per-viewed it. Here's a trailer:
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The Blancheville Monster is one of those low-budget period Italian dubbed jobs, where there's a dark, candle-illuminated old castle, and actors sit at grand dining room tables with spooky candelabras on them and their lips don't quite sync up with the dialogue, and lightning flashes and thunder cracks, and it's all very atmospheric; and the entire time you think, jeez, there's entirely too much plot and too many actors in this thing, and this movie wouldn't be half bad if they digitally removed all the actors and plot and junk, and just showed 90 minutes of an old spooky castle in a storm. Now, that would be a good flick, and I would watch the heck out of that. Sadly, this one isn't that movie, it's the other one. I watched it on Youtube, which has quite a selection of cruddy old horror films, much better than Netflix's current selection. You can watch it below.