Monday, August 24, 2015

581. Zerkalo

The Mirror
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky delivers us another incredibly boring movie.  Perhaps 1974 isn't our year after all.

Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what this movie is about.  I didn't understand it during its grueling run time, and I still don't get it, after doing some research online.  Basically, this movie is about the life of Alexei, who is an exceedingly dull "protagonist."  Pictured above, you will one of the pivotal scenes, when his mother washes her hair.  Heavy stuff...

This is the kind of pretentious nightmare that I think most people picture when they hear the term "foreign film."  Avoid at all costs.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

I have nothing on this one.  Dull to the very end.

580. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Directed by Tobe Hooper

I absolutely worship slasher films.  I have no idea why.  I always know exactly what is going to happen.  They almost never scare me.  Maybe it is because I have fond memories of them.  I used to get together with my friends in high school and watch a horror film every Saturday night.  Now I mostly watch them with my siblings.  No matter how bad the movie is, we usually have fun laughing about it.  I always bring the candy and pretend it is for everyone.  It is a great tradition.

Anyway, I have seen at least a hundred slasher movies, usually by searching for the very worst Netflix has to offer.  I suppose this is the first slasher film there is, unless you count Peeping Tom or Psycho.  But this film truly created the formula that almost every horror director has ritually copied.  A group of teenagers travel to the middle of nowhere for some obscure reason and slowly get picked off one by one by a masked killer.  Sluts in the front, please.

I am pretty sure I can handle any amount of violence on screen, unless it is sexual.  This film really tested that theory about myself.  There were scenes in this film that were just plain disgusting even to me, a seasoned viewer.  I usually like my slasher movie kills to be a bit more clean and fast.  I am much more interested in the tension than watching someone being impaled by a meat hook.

I can't honestly say I enjoyed this film, but I do appreciate its place on The List and the influence it had on one of my favorite sub genres.  Still, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great slasher.  That honor would go to Scream.  Or Cabin in the Woods.  Or forty others I can think of right now. Got a pen?

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The actor who played Leatherface could always run faster than Marilyn Burns, so in several scenes you will see him doing random things to slow himself down.

Edwin Neal said filming this movie was more miserable than his time in Vietnam.

579. The Conversation

The Conversation
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Maybe 1974 will be our year!  It has been a very strong showing so far.

Harry Caul owns his own surveillance company in San Francisco.  He is hired to bug a couple in Union Square, but is disturbed when he hears them say "He'll kill us if he gets the chance."  Poor Gene Hackman is always getting pulled into things.

Lately, the most moving and significant parts of a film have been at the end, but I can't comment on that without spoiling the movie.  So basically the thesis of my latest reviews has been "that end though..." Aren't I a good reviewer?

I do have one complaint.  For a film in this genre, I thought the pacing was a bit too slow. Still,  Hackman's performance was, of course, phenomenal.  We also got an unexpectedly great performance from Harrison Ford.  I wonder if he is in anything after this.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Coppola's favorite of all his films.

The dialogue between the couple was recorded several times in order to create the effect that the meaning is unclear.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

578. Dersu Uzala

Dersu Uzala
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

I watched this back when I was greedily viewing anything that Kurosawa was remotely involved in.  This was certainly not what I expected.  For one thing, the film is in Russian.  There were also no wipe effects!  Still, it is a great film.  Kurosawa could direct an infomercial and I would be impressed.

Arseniev is the leader of an expedition troop and uses a nomadic tribesman named Dersu Uzala as a guide.  Of course, he is looked down on as a crazy old man in the woods.  But it quickly becomes clear that he isn't the clueless one.

That was a pretty shitty plot summary, but I felt like I would spoil it if I revealed anymore details.  I won't give anything away, but the ending hit me pretty hard with the feels.

Of course this is a beautiful movie, since Kurosawa was involved. The relationship between Dersu and Arseniev has to go down as one of the greatest bromances of all time.  And hey, now I can technically say that I found a Russian film I enjoy.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Only six members of his crew were Japanese.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

577. Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid

Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid
Directed by Sam Peckinpah

Sam Peckinpah is back to disturb us once more.  Hey, at least we made it further into the movie this time before we had to witness the first rape.  Well, not much further.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid are old friends, but they have ended up on the opposite sides of the law.  Garrett chases Billy the Kid around the West for the entire movie.  The film is punctuated by cameos, some of them good (Slim Pickens), some of them not so good (what the hell was Bob Dylan doing there?).

Apparently, there was a battle between Peckinpah and the studio in post production.  The studio ended up cutting a portion of the film, so it has practically been disowned by the cast and crew.  Personally, I am on the studio's side, partly because I still hold a grudge about Straw Dogs, and partly because I am sure if Peckinpah had his way his films would go on for several days.  Still, there is no denying that the end product is rather choppy.

I found the whole film to be rather unoriginal.  I suppose it is in the Book because of Bob Dylan's score, but having never been a huge Dylan fan, that's not a big draw for me.  Easily skippable.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

There were rumors that Sam Peckinpah was barely able to work due to his alcoholism.  He also apparently peed on the screen when shown the studio's cut of the film.  Gotta love that Peckinpah.

Kris Kristofferson was playing a 21 year old at 36.  This film is a trainwreck.

576. The Harder They Come

The Harder They Come
Directed by Perry Henzell

I fully expected to dislike this movie, since we have been stuck with so many bores lately.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by this film and once again, the Book helps me discover another gem I never would have found otherwise.

Jimmy Cliff stars as a poor Jamaican man named Ivanhoe Martin who dreams of making it big as a reggae singer.  He is able to get a song produced, but is only paid $20.  In order to make money, he starts to deal marijuana.  Just as you start to write this off as another disillusionment of a dreamer story, Ivanhoe gets a little knife happy.  And a lot gun happy.

The soundtrack of this film is absolutely fantastic; I was smiling as soon as the first song started playing.   I wish I could comment more on the last scene, but I have a no spoiler rule.  All I will say is the main character is pretty fascinating; he honestly sees himself as a hero.

Worth checking out just to see people dance to reggae music.  It's about as awkward as one would expect.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

First Jamaican feature film.

The language in this movie is Jamaican Patois, which can be understood somewhat by English speakers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

575. Amarcord

Directed by Federico Fellini

I watched this while trying to get all the Fellini films over with as quickly as possible.  This was the bright spot in all the darkness.

Basically, the story is about Titta, an impish, horny adolescent.  Because the story is told through his eyes, I can sort of forgive every woman in the movie being reduced to a sexualized caricature.  Anyway, the people in his town and family are a bit...eccentric.

This film is described as a comedy and while there weren't exactly laugh out loud moments, I still had fun with it.  Fellini will never be my style, but at least I could follow the storyline in this one...somewhat.

Another short review.  I haven't had a lot to say lately...I am sure many men are rejoicing over that fact.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The title is the phonetic translation of the italian phrase "Mi ricordo" (I remember).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

574. La planète sauvage

La planète sauvage
Fantastic Planet
Directed by Rene Laloux

Well, that was a big swing.  I am sure many people will give it credit just for being so different.  After all, you don't see a cut out stop motion trippy sci fi movie everyday.  Thank god for that.

Giant blue humanoids called Draags keep human beings as pets in their home planet Ygam.  A Draag leader gives his daughter an orphan human, who figures out a way to receive Draag knowledge.

So this was frankly not my scene.  I'm not a big animation fan, I hate psychedelic art, and stop motion gets on my nerves.  However, if you are not as cranky as I am (which, let's face it, you probably aren't) you could easily fall in love with this film.

I am trying to get caught up on these so I will keep it short.  Pass.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Based on the Soviet occupation of the Czech Republic.

573. El espíritu de la colmena

El espíritu de la colmena
The Spirit of the Beehive
Directed by Victor Erice

I have struggled with sitting down and writing this post, since I have zero interesting things to say about this film.  Didn't I just say that in a previous post?  Either I am getting boring or the Book is getting boring.  It's definitely one of those things.

The story follows a family of four in rural Spain.  The father is mostly fascinated with bee hives and the mother is writing to an unseen ex lover.  The two sisters go to see the 1931 movie Frankenstein.  Ana is fascinated by it.  Isabel taunts her sister and acts like a complete sociopath, but no one really seems too concerned about that.

This is obviously a beautiful movie.  Part of the beauty seemed to come from the film's slowness, but that also made it a bit dull for me.

Of course, Roger Ebert wrote an entire essay about this movie and I can barely come up with two sentences about it, making me look like an asshole.  Thanks, Ebert.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Exactly 1000 shots in the film.  None of these shots had the family together.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

572. Turks Fruit

Turks Fruit
Turkish Delight
Directed by Paul Verhoeven

I am trying to figure out something remotely intelligent to say about this film.  All I can come up with so far is "that was disgusting" and "damn, those Dutch girls sure are hairy."  Hopefully, I will come up with something further into this review.

Eric is upset about his break up with Olga, so he picks up women in the street.  There are some very frantic sex scenes, one of which includes Eric cutting off a woman's pubic hair and wearing it as a mustache.  Ah, art.  Anyway, the film flashes back to his relationship with Olga, which is no less disturbing and gross.

Well, I don't think anyone would predict that I would enjoy this movie.  Apparently, this is the most successful Dutch film of all time, so enough people like it.  I honestly don't get it; have you ever seen two less charismatic leads?  Maybe in Moonstruck.

By the way, has anyone tried Turkish Delight?  I find it to be rather disgusting.  Curmudgeon out!

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

571. The Exorcist

The Exorcist
Directed by William Friedkin

For someone who claims they love horror movies, I sure do bitch about them a lot.  I did like this movie and I promise not to nitpick too much.  Still, I am not a huge fan of exorcism movies, simply because I'm an atheist, and the devil doesn't exactly scare me.  A girl coming down the stairs doing the spider walk hits a little bit closer to home.

I am not even going to summarize the opening sequence, because who the hell knows what was going on there?  However, in Georgetown a single actress lives with her young daughter, Regan.  Regan begins to act even weirder than girls that age already act.  Her mom consults several physicians and finally decides to turn the matter over to a couple of Catholic priests.

I am sure very few people still find this frightening since the special effects have become a bit dated (although my mom refuses to watch this because of her Catholic upbringing).  Still, it's an exciting movie that still provides some chills.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The projectile vomit misfired and accidentally hit actor Jason Miller in the face.  His look of disgust is real.  If I had a nickel for every time that happened.

First horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture.

Supposedly based on a true story.

570. Serpico

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Does anyone else think Al Pacino is a huge asshole?  I find him rather exhausting to watch.  He's in so many good movies that his overindulgent performances are often forgivable.  This is not one of those times.

Frank Serpico tries to be a noble cop, but struggles against the corrupt police department.  That's pretty much it but, of course, it is over two hours.  I suppose that's how long it takes us to fully grasp Al Pacino's genius.

It's dark, it's gritty, and if you love Al Pacino, you will be impressed.  If you think he is pretentious and overrated, you will be digging your nails into your face by the forty-five minute mark.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The real Frank Serpico spent a great deal of time with Al Pacino to help him with his role.

Al Pacino would go to different neighborhoods in character and supposedly pulled over a guy.  God, he's a dick.

569. Sleeper

Directed by Woody Allen

This is the beginning of many Woody Allen raves you will read on my blog.  This makes my mother and sister very uncomfortable, considering Allen's creepy personal life.  I did end up taking down the poster of him in my room, but I still find his movies hilarious.  Compromise.

Miles Monroe is cryogenically frozen for 200 years and revived in the future.  He is awakened by members of a rebellion, hoping to use him as a spy.  Hilarity ensues and of course, Diane Keaton is adorable.

Well this certainly isn't the strongest Woody Allen comedy we will see.  I just watched Annie Hall again a couple nights ago (and forced a reluctant friend to watch it with me) and it is hard not to compare it.  Still, it is witty and fun and loads better than any comedy that has come out recently.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Woody Allen consulted with Isaac Asimov about the scientific feasibility of his movie.

568. Don't Look Now

Don't Look Now
Directed by Nicolas Roeg

Everyone seems to be hellbent on spoiling this movie so if you haven't seen it yet, and don't know the ending, drop everything and watch it right now.  They should have some sort of government protection for people who haven't seen movies like The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects.

John and Christine Baxter take a trip to Venice after the death of their daughter.  A blind psychic approaches them and informs them that she can see their daughter.  Although John is initially skeptical, he soon catches glimpses of his deceased child.  Oh yeah and there is a gratuitous sex scene.  Donald Sutherland actually makes quite a few expressions.

I adore horror movies and this is just weird enough to become one of my favorites.  Still, did anyone else feel like it moved a bit too slowly?  Eerie but could definitely have benefited from some cuts.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The actors shot the sex scene first in order to get it out of the way.

567. La Nuit americaine

La Nuit américaine
Day for Night
Directed by Francois Truffaut

Attention, everyone.  Not only is this our 567th film, but it can be found on page 567 in The Book.  This is weirdly exciting to me.  I have spent way too much time alone with The Book.

The plot is centered on the making of the melodrama "Meet Pamela".  There is not much of a cohesive storyline; the film is mostly made up of vignettes on filmmaking.  This includes a segment about a washed up actress who can't remember her lines, Jacqueline Bisset just being beautiful all over the place, and a lengthy shot of a cat eating off a tray.  The title "Day for Night" refers to the filmmaking technique where they shoot sequences outdoors in daylight using special film stock to make it appear as if it is night.  This film itself exposes the artificiality of cinema.  Mind=blown.

I can see why people might regard this film as a bit of a bore, but I really found myself enjoying it.  The acting is absolutely superb, although since many of the people were probably playing themselves, heavy praise might be unwarranted.  I find filmmaking fascinating enough that I could just sit and watch directors do their job all day.  However, if you are not as boring as me, this could be a major snooze.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Dedicated to Lillian and Dorothy Gish.

Truffaut's character wore a hearing aid.  Truffaut explained that so many people ask a director questions that it is easier to pretend you're hard of hearing.  My aunt has been employing a similar strategy.