Friday, November 27, 2015

638. Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead
Directed by George Romero

This movie was filmed at the mall that I always went to when I was growing up.  Funnily enough, most of the people that work there still look like zombies. Anyway, I guess technically you are reading the words of a famous person then.  Enjoy your brush with celebrity!

Basically, this is a very cliche zombie film with a very cliche zombie plot.  Four people try to survive a zombie apocalypse at Monroeville Mall.  If they hadn't gotten rid of the candy store, I wouldn't think their fates were so bad.

I suppose I can't actually call this cliche, since it is simply an original movie that has been copied an infinite amount of times.  I personally have never been a big fan of the zombie genre, since I think the kill scenes are always kind of boring.  Still, as someone who has frequently explored the worst the horror genre has to offer, this is actually quite good, if a little overacted.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Gaylen Ross refused to scream, saying that she would lose her strength as a strong female character if she did.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

637. Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven
Directed by Terrence Malick

After such an insane high, we are back to a rather mediocre film.  I think we all liked Badlands, but I don't remember clamoring for a sequel.

In 1916, Bill, played by Richard Gere, kills his boss and decides to flee with his girlfriend Abby.  Well, no one ever praised Malick for his versatility.  Anyway, Bill and Abby pretend to be siblings for some vague reason.  Once a dying farmer falls in love with Abby, Bill encourages her to whore herself out to get the farmer's money.  The movie is narrated by Bill's actual sister.  I am surprised they didn't pretend to be a couple to make the whole thing even more confusing.

This is such a beautiful film, that it is hard to remember that there is not much there.  The plot barely makes any sense and all of the performances are incredibly wooden.  Just watch Badlands instead.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Christian Bale's favorite movie.  Not quite as pretentious as Pacino, but still.

636. Grease

Directed by Randal Kleiser

It's here.  The moment we have all been waiting for.  The greatest film of all time!  I think that statement, coupled with the fact that I just gave a rather low review to The Deer Hunter, might cause a mutiny among my readers.  I don't care!  I am going down with this ship.

Sandy Olsson and Danny Zuko meet during summer vacation.  They both think that Sandy has to go back to Australia for the fall, but her family ends up enrolling her in Danny's high school.  She pretends she didn't know about it, but I recognize stalking when I see it.  Anyway, the fast paced politics of high school life threaten to break them up.

This movie is absolutely flawless.  I have been watching this film since as long as I can remember (although my mom would fast forward the bit where Rizzo and Kenickie get it on).  I can pretty much recite the script to this movie, much to the horror of those around me.

Every song is beautiful and this is simply the most fun cinematic experience you can have.  My only complaint is that Patty Simcox never had a spin off.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Rizzo's hickeys were real.  Jeff Conaway insisted on applying them himself.  That sounds like barely disguised sexual harassment.

Jeff Conaway became addicted to drugs while filming this movie.

My favorite song from the movie:

635. The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter
Directed by Michael Cimino

This is one of the those movies that you are supposed to deem a flawless masterpiece.  I suppose in many ways it is, but it certainly doesn't rank as one of my favorite movies.

A group of Pennsylvania miners go to fight in Vietnam.  I have seen quite a few Vietnam War movies by now, so it is a bit of a spoiler knowing that there is always such a happy ending.  Also, apparently, Russian roulette was a crucial part of the War.  I'm not sure about this...

So, like I said, it is hard to find a flaw in this film.  I am not a big fan of war movies, so the best of the genre will only get a "meh" from me.  Everybody was acting so hard I am surprised no one burst a blood vessel.  Actually, they probably did.  I can't exactly say that this was accessible to people without penises.  Still, you can't not see it, vagina or not.

I know this is kind of a shitty review, but I always feel like the "masterpieces" are less fun to talk about.  Besides, Grease is coming up!

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Apparently, 28 people died from playing Russian roulette after being influenced from this film.

#53 in AFI's top 100.

634. L'Albero degli zoccoli

L'Albero degli zoccoli
Tree of Wooden Clogs
Directed by Ermanno Olmi

I am sorry I have not posted for awhile.  I have been cheating on all of you with Andrew's blog.  I am promise, I am thinking of you guys the entire time.  Actually, to be honest, I have been putting off watching this.  I am glad I finally got it over with, but it was as brutal as I imagined.

There is no plot to this movie.  That's not just me being petulant; apparently, this was an artistic choice. The film follows the lives of several peasant families in Italy during the late 1800s.  As you can imagine, being a peasant is a pretty dull affair.  I don't think I needed a three hour movie to tell me that. To make things even more unpleasant, there are several graphic scenes where animals are killed in appalling inhumane ways.  I am a vegetarian, but I think those moments would upsetting to anyone.  And these weren't staged killings; apparently the director was channelling Bunuel and had these animals butchered for real.

At one point, I thought there would be pretty juicy sexual tension.  Unfortunately, just like in my personal life, the romance was mostly in my head.  I should have known there would be no time for sexiness, as the women were incapable of doing anything but praying.

Dull, dull, dull.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

One of Al Pacino's favorite films.  Ugh.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

633. Five Deadly Venoms

Five Deadly Venoms
Directed by Chang Cheh

Another kung fu movie that makes my shriveled heart leap with joy.  This is one of my guilty pleasures that I can't really defend against criticism.  Still, it is really fun for me and you give it a chance and mix this film with the right snackage, it could be fun for you too!

The master of the Poison Clan is dying and fears that his colleague is in danger because of his large fortune.  He enlists his pupil Yang to warn his colleague and discover the whereabouts of his former, potentially corrupted students (Centipede, Snake, Toad, Lizard, and Scorpion).   Each man has a distinct fighting style and weakness.  How fun is that?  It's pretty much a video game already.

I will say I found this film to be a bit more confusing than other marital arts movies.  Now that I have written that, it seems embarrassing because really, what is more simple than a kung fu movie plot?  I still had a great time with this one.  The fighting scenes were absolutely fascinating.

More, more, more!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The snake role was originally going to be played by a woman!  Ugh.  That would have been so cool.

632. The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
Directed by Fred Schepisi

I am slightly overwhelmed by how much writing I have to do.  I figure this is the easiest piece to tackle since I can put in the least amount of effort.  I really spoil you guys.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith tells the rather gruesome tale of an exploited Aborigine who sort of loses his marbles because of the evil white people.  He's certainly not a sympathetic character, which is why I found the tagline ("The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is the chant of the underdog") so confusing.  It makes it sound like some of Rocky-esque inspirational story.  If this story inspires you, I would like you to check yourself in somewhere as soon as possible.

Obviously, this movie is preaching against racism but I think the film simplifies the issue so much that it really doesn't have that much of an impact.  Australian cinema continues to disappoint...

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Based on a true story.

631. Suspiria

Directed by Dario Argento

This is the first movie that I ever watched with an ex boyfriend and, although this is quite embarrassing to admit, he has completely ruined it for me.  Don't you hate it when that happens?  Maybe that only happens to me.  I stopped watching any movies I love with men.  Anyway, I will try to keep my bitterness to a minimum.  But I make no promises!

Suzy Bannion is an American ballet dancer who has recently enrolled in a dance academy in Freiburg.  I don't want to give anything else away, but some rather gruesome things have been happening.  Why are ballet dancers so unsettling?

The tagline for this film is "The Only Thing More Terrifying Than The Last 12 Minutes Are The First 92!"  I would hardly call this movie terrifying.  I suppose the deaths are rather graphic but I am not sure Argento's fake blood formula is entirely convincing.  Still, it's Dario Argento and his movies are always visually pleasing.  Some of the shots in this film are quite beautiful, though admittedly grotesque.

There, I think I treated that movie justly.  How's that for moving on?  Wow, this post is rather pathetic.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Argento's original idea was to have the academy for young girls up to age 12.  Of course, since no one wants to see children being murdered, he raised the age limit to 20.  Still, he didn't change the script so some of the characters have rather childlike dialogue.

630. Soldaat van Oranje

Soldaat van Oranje
Soldier of Orange
Directed by Paul Verhoeven

I have a quick announcement before I get to my review!  Andrew, from From the Moon to the Grail, has asked me to be a weekly contributor to his blog.  If you click here, you can read his post which includes a segment from yours truly.  He even made me a logo, so he is quite a classy guy.  If you read my post there, you can hear me promote this blog!  It's like a vicious cycle of self absorption.  Join the fun!

I have been watching this movie in short increments for the last week or so.  I kept falling asleep, despite the fact that I found this to be quite an interesting film.  The story follows a group of Dutch students as they navigate their way through World War II.  I suppose our main guy is Erik, who fights alongside the Allied forces.

I was surprised by how exciting this movie was, which I suppose is my own prejudice.  I didn't exactly imagine Dutch war film from the 70s could be that interesting.  This is one of the few instances I can stomach being wrong.  Still, there is something about Paul Verhoeven that repulses me a bit.  There are always quite a few gross out moments in his films that seem unnecessarily disgusting.

Still, a definite improvement from Turkish Delight.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Based on a true story.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

629. The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Eyes
Directed by Wes Craven

All right, we all know how I am going to react to this.  There is another pretty upsetting rape scene that we have to sit through.  Would the movie really be that different if that was taken out?  I don't understand why it was necessary.  I guess I should just be grateful we didn't have to deal with Last House on the Left.

The Carter family is on a road trip, but their car crashes.  Of course, the hills that the Carters are traveling in are infested by cannibalistic rapists.  It's Craven subtlety that makes his early horror films so special.

There is nothing clever in this film.  It's simply shocking, disturbing act after shocking, disturbing act.  Unlike a movie like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I don't feel like there is any real need to see this if you are interested in the evolution of the horror genre.  Completely skippable.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

Craven considered this to be an homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Craven originally wanted the baby to die, but the cast and crew threatened to walk if that happened.  Because, you know, that's going too far.

628. Der amerikanische Freund

Der amerikanische Freund
The American Friend
Directed by Wim Wenders

German cinema continues to impress with another fantastic film.  Is there anything Germans can't do right??  Oh wait.

Dennis Hopper plays Tom Ripley, a rich American who is involved in an art forgery scheme.  Ripley is approached by a French gangster (they have those?) who wants him to murder a rival.  Ripley suggests that Jonathan Zimmerman is better suited for the job.  Zimmerman is an everyman who is dying of a blood disease.  Will bromance bloom?  Watch to find out!  Or just spoil it for yourself on Wikipedia.

Excuse the cliche, but this film was really a feast for the eyes.  I was in complete awe of the shots in this film. Although clearly they didn't creatively inspire me too much, as all I can come with to describe them is tired phrases.  Truly a visual masterpiece...okay, I'm done.

So a very beautiful, exciting movie.  I have a slight problem with Dennis Hopper (is he ever not a sleaze?) but other than that, highly recommended.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The actors had to use real guns in the assassination scene because the filmmakers couldn't afford fake ones.

Bruno Ganz and Dennis Hopper got in a fist fight on set.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

627. Ceddo

Directed by Ousmane Sembene

This is one of those experiences that you know you won't enjoy at the time, but you are glad you did later.  Like cleaning out your closet or going to the dentist.

The film takes place in Senegal.  The commoners (the ceddo) try to preserve their culture but, as we all know, white Europeans are determined to destroy it.  The ceddo kidnap the daughter of a local king who is siding with the Muslims.

I don't think this earned its entry to the book by its compelling plot or stellar acting.  More likely it was because most Western movie watchers can't even point to Senegal on a map, let alone identify a Senegalese film.  Of course, the subject matter is important as well. It seems strange that we have to constantly be reminded that it is not okay to wipe out entire cultures.  And yet we keep doing it!

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Banned by the government for years because of its portrayal of Islam.  The official reason given by the government for its ban was that "Ceddo" was spelled in the European way, instead of the Senengalese way.  They are sticklers.