Monday, February 29, 2016

793. Rain Man

Rain Man
Directed by Barry Levinson

I suspect that this is the last Dustin Hoffman movie on The List, which is quite disappointing.  I think it actually might be the last Tom Cruise movie on The List too but I am less upset about that.  Oh no, horror of horrors.  I just remembered Magnolia.

Charlie Babbitt learns that his estranged father died and left the bulk of his estate to a mental institution that houses a brother he never knew he had.  Charlie is determined to get a hold of the money, since a recent business went south and he's desperate.  He meets his brother Raymond, an autistic savant.  Charlie takes Raymond out of the institution, hoping to gain custody of him thereby getting control of the money.  They travel to Los Angeles, but Raymond doesn't make for the easiest companion.

I am fighting to keep my eyes open, but I want to finish this post before I go to sleep.  I can't take the constant complaining that I don't post often enough!  Ahem...Anyway, I think the thing we all appreciate here is that the movie never enters sappy territory.  In fact, I read that the director wouldn't allow string accompaniment so that it wouldn't feel too sentimental.  And, of course, Dustin Hoffman is  perfect in his role.

Mental health issues can be a sticky topic for filmmakers, but they pretty much nailed here.  I mean, the mere fact that they had a character who stayed at a mental hospital and didn't end up murdering everyone was a step in the right direction.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Many airlines deleted the scenes where Hoffman would talk about plane crashes for in flight viewing.

792. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

This a film that you have to appreciate, even if you didn't enjoy it.  It's a technological masterpiece and still holds up today, which I really wasn't expecting.  People might be turned off because it seems like a kids movie, but it is still worth a watch.  At the very least, you will walk away with confused sexual feelings for Jessica Rabbit.

In this film's universe, cartoon characters are real and live in the animated toon district of Hollywood.  Let's not pull any threads here and just not ask anymore questions (so the animators are basically gods?). Private detective Eddie Valiant has a deep seated hate for cartoon characters, as one killed his brother.  Eddie reluctantly gets pulled into a case involving Roger Rabbit, his ridiculously voluptuous wife, and the sinister Judge Doom.

I was hesitant going into this one, as I thought the filmmakers would be so impressed with themselves for meshing live action and animation that there wouldn't be much substance besides cool effects.  This actually managed to be really entertaining, with many in jokes about the industry and film noir.  I just read a fan theory online that this movie is an allegory for racial segregation, which does make a lot of sense.

Finally, I don't want to scare anyone but I discovered there is a ton of Who Framed Roger Rabbit fan fiction.  I don't think I can ever forget what I found there. Please save yourselves.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Most expensive film produced in the 1980s.

Bob Hoskins studied how his three old daughter played with her imaginary friends in order to get the feel of acting with cartoon characters.

791. Une Histoire de Vent

Une Histoire de Vent
Tale of the Wind
Directed by Joris Ivens and Marceline Loridan Ivens

From the way The Book was going on, it seemed like I should be familiar with this director if I possess any sort of social conscience whatsoever.  Apparently I don't, as I have never heard of him before.  After viewing this film, I am quite glad I managed to avoid him for so long.

This is an experimental/documentary/fantasy movie, so it is hard to give a plot summary.  Basically, Joris Ivens has asthma and travels to China to learn how to breathe well.  Naturally, this leads to him taking a space shuttle to the moon and learning that there is no wind there.  I think this warrants a "duh."  Also, if you were going to reenact a scene from a movie, would it really be A Trip to the Moon?  Given the choice, I would much rather fling myself into Patrick Swayze's arms a la Dirty Dancing or perform one of the stunts from Mission Impossible.

I think I could have gotten into this one if the director wasn't so bent on being "whimsical."  After all, the idea of an old man trying to learn out to breathe by traveling to Asia...that's a pretty cool concept.  There have been previous entries on the List where filmmakers try to find themselves through documentary.  But wow, this movie reeked of pretension.  The Terracotta Army sequence was just ridiculous.

I don't know why, but I keep convincing myself that we are done with experimental films.  Maybe that's how I am getting through this.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Joris Ivens' last film.

790. Die Hard

Die Hard
Directed by John McTiernan

Finally, a Christmas movie I can get behind.  I think I generally find action films rather dull, but I always pause before I write off the genre with the thought "what about Die Hard?"  Or Die Hard 3?  I am pretending the other three didn't happen.

Who hasn't seen this?  With the passing of Alan Rickman, it is downright disrespectful to have not seen this film.  On Christmas Eve, John McClane, a New York City cop arrives in Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife Holly.  He takes a limo (he's classy like that) to the new Nakatomi building where Holly is attending a work party.  The party is disrupted by a group of heavily armed robbers, led by Hans Gruber.  John manages to stay out of the sight and does his best to take them down one by one.

Prepare for some serious gushing.  I adore everything about this film.  Bruce Willis is cocky, but likable, and Alan Rickman makes for one the greatest movie villains of all time.  I love stories that take place in closed time, closed place.  We end up feeling as tense as the hostages.  Although you have to wonder how many lives could have been saved if John had just butted out.  Still, you can't help cheering for him.

On top of all of that, this is one of the most quotable movies of all time.  Clearly, I have to stop before my enthusiasm starts to turn people off.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Al Pacino turned down the role of John McClane.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

789. Dekalog, Jeden

Dekalog, Jeden
The Decalogue 1
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski

I hope this information doesn't cause any of my followers to have an aneurysm, but I did not watch the entire series of The Decalogue.  Allow me a little background for those of you who have never heard of this.  The Decalogue is a ten episode mini series, each story having some connection to one of the commandments.  The Book lists "Dekalog Jeden" as the entry.  "Jeden" is Polish for one, so I think the Book refers to the pilot, not the entire series.  This is also supported by the running time it lists, which is 54 minutes (the entire series is roughly 572 minutes).  I seem to be one of the only list followers who takes this view, as other blogs I have found consider this to be the longest "film" in the Book.  I was open to the idea of watching the rest of the series if this episode grabbed me, but unfortunately, I was disappointed.

Krzysztof is a single parent, raising his son Pawel with the help of his sister Irene (or possibly his sister in law, I'm not sure). Krzysztof teaches Pawel son to think scientifically and seemingly does a good job, as Pawel is very intelligent.  Pawel is also really good at chess, which in movies translates as a genius.  Things...happen from there.  It is hard not to give away spoilers, as the episode is less than an hour.

It's pretty random that the book included this, as it hardly qualifies as a movie.  The 1001 Books people pulled this too by including A Modest Proposal with a thousand novels.  Those scamps.  Anyway, it was hardly brilliant; in fact, it was pretty upsetting (although I guess that doesn't really count as a valid criticism).  I suppose the boy was adorable and the premise of making a story for each commandment is interesting enough.  It reminds me of when my mother forced us to take Sunday school lessons and we each had to draw a commandment (I think I chose kill).  I am not sure which one this connects to; maybe honoring your father or having no other gods (i.e. the computer)?

Wow, I am really rambling a lot so I will try to wrap this up.  I am not quite certain what Kieslowski's message here was. Was it supposed to be some moral lesson?  I don't think the characters did anything wrong or need to be punished for their perceived sins.

I can't help thinking there must be a better Decalogue episode that the 1001 list makers could have recommended.  The rascals.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Budget of $10,000.

788. Topio stin omichli

Topio stin omichli
Landscape in the Mist
Directed by Theo Angelopoulos

I didn't realize that this was the same director who created Traveling Players, a four hour long monotonous nightmare of a film that I was forced to sit through a few months ago.  With this movie, I had to relive my horror all over again, although at least this one wasn't as long.

Voula and Alexandros are told by their mother that their father lives in Germany.  Armed with this vague information, the two children run away from home and try to get to their father.  Along the way, they meet Orestis, a young actor who looks out for them for a while.  Other people they run into aren't so friendly.  This ends our streak of films without rape, which was currently at two.  Impressive, right?

I have never seen anyone film a movie at such a maddeningly slow place.  It's not artistic; it's just annoying.  Obviously the director doesn't value the viewers' time.  And then when something does actually happen, it's incredibly upsetting.  I am in a really bad mood, so I am particularly vicious today.

Really not a must see and I am glad we are putting this director behind us.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

The tagline is "a voyage of initiation."  The most pretentious piece of nonsense I have ever heard.

787. Hotaru no haka

Hotaru no haka
Grave of Fireflies
Directed by Isao Takahata

After viewing Akira, I feared that anime really wasn't going to be my thing.  However, I actually enjoyed this film quite a bit, so there may be hope for me yet.

In 1945, American bombers destroy the city of Kobe, leaving Seita and Setsuko orphaned and homeless.   The two siblings go to live with their aunt, who is openly resentful that she is responsible for two other mouths to feed.  Various other horrible things happen.

This is a beautiful film.  I actually appreciated the artistry in this movie more than I did in Akira; it seemed less harsh and more childlike.  Of course, this film makes Akira seem like a feel good movie.  I must confess, I did get a bit restless as the filmmakers piled on tragedy after tragedy.  I might be going to hell for that comment, but it did get monotonous.

A gorgeous film that will break your heart.  Might just be worth it though.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Most of the illustrations in the film are outlined in brown, not black.

Isao Takahata was the only animator who lived through the bomb attacks.

786. Dangerous Liaisons

Dangerous Liaisons
Directed by Stephen Frears

I love the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, so I was pretty much ready to love this, no matter how many scenes featured Keanu Reeves.  I kid; he actually wasn't as bad as everyone makes him out to be.    Well, sort of.

Marquise de Merteuil (one of the greatest villains in literature) asks her morally impaired friend Valmont to seduce her ex lover's fiancee Cecile for revenge.  She promises him sexual favors, which he turns down (odd, as sex with Glenn Close seemed to be the thing in the eighties) as he is trying to seduce Madame de Tourvel, the wife of a judge.  Meanwhile Cecile finds herself falling for her music teacher while Merteuil is still determined to ruin her life.  Hell have no fury like Glenn Close scorned.

As I seem to be the rape police (don't you wish that existed? HA!), I have to point out how weird that scene was with Valmont and Cecile.  I kind of felt like it ruined the fun.  Before that Merteuil and Valmont seem to make their conquests through manipulation and skillful seduction, which is always fun to watch.  Watching Valmont take someone by force...not so much.

Still, Merteuil is a great character.  She seems to desire power and as she is a woman in 1781, this is the only way she knows how to get it.  I also enjoyed the adaptation Cruel Intentions, although that is mostly because I have a crush on Sarah Michelle Gellar.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The nobel was considered so scandalous upon its release that Marie Antoinette had her copy bound in a blank cover so no one would know she owned it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

785. Big

Directed by Penny Marshall

Is it possible to watch this film and not fall in love with Tom Hanks?  I think this is a great comedy.  I also think we should all band together and not make the relationship between Susan and Josh gross.  It's sweet...kind of.

Twelve year old Josh Baskin is told he is too small to ride the Ring of Fire at a carnival.  He encounters a weird fortune telling machine behind some of the other rides and wishes to be big.  He gets his wish and wakes up as a thirty year old man.  He gets a job at a toy company, gets a cool apartment, and meets a really great woman.  Basically, he is better than at adulting than I am and he's twelve.  I am not thirty yet, so I still have time to be as cool as him (I do know how to play Heart and Soul already).

So like I said, Hanks couldn't be any more lovable in this role.  I think it would have been easy to have a twelve year old male character be horrible, because really, who wasn't horrible at twelve?  But Josh is a great character; I found myself wanting him to succeed as an adult as much as I wanted him to become a child again.

Just a great, heart warming comedy.  Oh and it is directed by a woman!  Get it girl.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

David Moscow, who played Young Josh, would film every grown up scene.  Tom Hanks would then study how he acted and imitate him.

Penny Marshall is the first female director to direct a movie that grossed over $100 million.  Hurray!

784. The Naked Gun

The Naked Gun
Directed by David Zucker

I know it gives great pain to my readers that I don't like the film Airplane! (pause for boos).  I expected to hate this movie just as much, but I actually managed to enjoy this movie a little.  Only a little.  It still is not my brand of comedy.

Basically it is the clueless spy plot, which has been done now approximately 1674 times.  Frank Drebin is an incompetent police lieutenant who tries to stop the assassination of Queen Elizabeth II when she visits Los Angeles.  He is aided by the would be assassin's assistant, Jane, and the two fall in love.  Oh, and O.J. Simpson is in it.  That guy oozes comedy...

So like I said, it is not my type of humor, as I am not that into visual gags and slapstick comedy.  Still, I did find myself laughing a few times (nothing to see here, move along!).  A part of me will always find Leslie Nielsen slightly annoying, but he was enjoyable enough here.

Not the best comedy I have seen, or even the best comedy of 1988.  But still a light, fun film.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Film is based on the short lived television series, Police Squad!.

783. A Fish Called Wanda

A Fish Called Wanda
Directed by Charles Crichton

Cinema Paradiso, then Hotel Terminus, now A Fish Called Wanda.  This blog has been quite the roller coaster of emotions lately.  Next up, Naked Gun and Grave of Fireflies!

A group of criminals (each possessing varying degrees of intelligence) steal a large sum of diamonds.  Wanda and her idiotic boyfriend Otto betray George, the leader of the heist, and turn him in.  Unfortunately, George hid the diamonds before he became incarcerated.  Wanda devises a scheme to seduce George's lawyer and figure out where the diamonds are.  And really, who could resist Jamie Lee Curtis in the 80s?

I did not expect to enjoy this, as I thought it would basically be Lavender Hill Mob again, without the thrill of seeing Audrey Hepburn. However, this was a lot funnier than I expected.  Otto was a great character.  I feel like actors often overplay stupid characters, to the point where the person seems mentally retarded, which isn't the least bit funny.  Kevin Kline was perfect in this, though; in fact, everyone was.

A great film, and eighties comedies continue to impress.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

A Danish man laughed himself to death watching this film.  What a way to go.

John Cleese chose the name Archie Leach because it was the closest he would ever come to being Cary Grant.

782. Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie

Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie
Directed by Marcel Ophuls

In my previous post, I was just going on and on about how Cinema Paradiso will make you appreciate art and humanity.  Now we have a documentary about one of the most sadistic men in history.  Maybe I should have watched Cinema Paradiso after this...

Through a series of interviews, the life of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie is pieced together as Ophuls attempts to answer the question: how could someone be so evil?  We hear from people like Barbie's defense attorney, journalists, and victim's families.  It is chilling to listen to his supporters.  I don't know how Ophuls got through filming without lunging at his interviewees.

This is obviously a very disturbing movie.  It makes me wonder how many other people would commit these horrific acts if given access to enough victims.  It is not an enjoyable film, but perhaps one everyone should see.  I do feel like I say that a lot, and really, how many Holocaust documentaries should one person have to sit through before you can say you are done?  Maybe this will be the last one, but it certainly made a memorable impact.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Ophuls did not use footage from the Holocaust, as he believed the audience was too desensitized for it to make an impact.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

781. Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore

Man, I did not handle the last scene of this film well.  I can't see anyone not crying during that scene, although I suppose people think the same thing about Terms of Endearment, which I watched with dry eyes.  I just love movies so much!  Okay, I'll stop before I start to blubber.

Salvatore, the young son of a war widow, loves films and spends all his spare time at the local movie theater.  He develops a friendship with Alfredo, the projectionist, and eventually learns how to run the projector himself.  He also starts experimenting with cameras, meeting the beautiful Elena in the process.

I didn't make that sound very interesting, but I wasn't sure what would constitute as a spoiler or not.  This is just a film for movie lovers and since you are on a film blog, it's safe to say you would enjoy it (unless you are just here for my winning personality).  Even without that element, the relationships and characters in this film are heartwarming; I don't think you can walk away from this movie without feeling just a little better about the world.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Tornatore's vision was that the film would serve as an obituary to the movie industry in Italy.

780. Akira

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo

I was dreading writing this post, as I really do not feel like writing a plot synopsis for this.  It is an action packed two hours and tells a complicated story with many different characters.  My sister just went out to pick up food.  I keep hoping she will come in so that I can put this off.  And also because I really want pizza.

So basically some kind of psychic detonation caused World War III and destroyed Toyko.  A new Toyko is created, but it is plagued by gang violence and terrorism.  Tetsuo Shima, a member of the Capsules gang, has psychic powers similar to Akira's, the person who caused all this mess in the first place.  A doctor is ordered to kill Tetsuo if he gets too out of control, which I guess is reasonable, as he does get quite out of control.

That didn't even begin to cover it, but it's the best I can do.  I usually like anime, but I couldn't get into this one.  It was incredibly complicated; I felt like I should have done an hour's worth of reading on the world before I watched this.  I felt like I was watching the animated version of A Clockwork Orange, which isn't exactly what I look for in animated movies.

It's still an impressive piece of cinema, but decidedly not for me.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The movie uses 327 different colors, a record for an animated film.

One of Kanye West's favorite movies.  Now I dislike it even more.

779. The Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line
Directed by Errol Morris

I have never watched a "true crime" story before, but after seeing this documentary, I understand the appeal.  I have a feeling that it would only take about two Dateline episodes before I go live in a bomb shelter, so maybe I shouldn't indulge.

Randall Adams was convicted to a life long sentence for the murder of Officer Robert Wood.  In a series of interviews and reenactments, the crime is dissected.  It is generally believed that the actual killer was David Harris, but because Harris was a juvenile at the time, Adams was prosecuted so that they could get a death sentence conviction.  Ah, justice.

This film brings up really interesting questions, but I suppose I shouldn't make this a forum to discuss the death penalty or police ethics (I kind of want to though; down with the death penalty).  It is a movie that I think everybody should see, but it hardly feels like something you are sitting through simply because you would feel guilty if you didn't watch it.

Did that make sense? It's been a long day.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Randall Adams never received payment from Texas.

David Harris was executed for the murder of Mark Mays in 1985.

778. Ariel

Directed by Aki Kaurismaki

I was surprised by how short this film was (my version was only 69 minutes), but honestly, I don't think I could have taken many more misfortunes so I am glad the running time was so brief.

Taisto Kasurinen inherits some money after his father kills himself in a cafe restroom.  He is mugged fairly soon after that and framed for a crime he did not commit.  At least he meets Irmeli Pihlaja, a single mom.  Although she is so weird herself, it is hard to label that as a win.  Throughout all his trials, Taisto remains unexpressive and looks almost as bored as I was.

Okay, maybe bored isn't the right word, as this movie is so short that it is hard to get too restless.  Still, I had a hard time caring what happened to these characters, as they didn't seem to care themselves.  I did enjoy the ending; I just wish the filmmakers had gotten there quicker than they did, within the frame of the movie.  I would have been happy to watch the film for longer if it meant that I could see the characters actually take the initiative, like they started to do towards the end.

Still, the director had a kind of slow, intriguing style that attracted me, so I might have to visit some of his other work.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Kaurismaki wrote the script over a weekend.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

777. Bull Durham

Bull Durham
Directed by Ron Shelton

Finally, I found a baseball film that I actually enjoyed.  Who knew the key was Susan Sarandon?  On a separate note, I now have a very serious crush on her.

Annie Savoy is a baseball groupie (because apparently those exist) who chooses one player from the Durham Bulls every season to be her student/lover.  She narrows her choices down to Ebby,  an idiotic rookie player, and Crash, the veteran player sent to train him.  Crash, however, doesn't want to "try out" so Annie selects Ebby, despite the fact that she has feelings for Crash.

I thought Sarandon was brilliant in this.  What an interesting character Annie was.  I hope I am like that in the future; dating men fifteen years younger than me and actually teaching them something.  Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins don't have the most compelling screen presences, but Sarandon more than made up for it.

There are certainly some tired cliches here, but I am so excited that a baseball movie didn't bore me to tears, that I am quite happy to overlook them.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer auditioned for the role of Annie.

776. Spoorloos

The Vanishing
Directed by George Sluizer

And this is why you never help a stranger who claims to have a disability, as they are most likely a serial killer.  Even if you see me hobbling around with my crutches.  In fact, you should probably trip me, just to be safe.

Rex and Saskia are on vacation in France when they stop at a gas station for drinks.  Saskia disappears without a trace and Rex becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her, even if the truth would be impossible to live with.

This isn't the fun kind of horror film that is far removed from our reality.  It's not a story I wanted to hear, which makes me the polar opposite of Rex, who cares more about knowing what happened than anything.  It reminded me of the book The Collector; its purpose was to disturb, rather than provide jump scares and bloody deaths.

Not a film that I enjoyed, or would even recommend, but it is undoubtedly effective.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Remade in English in 1993.

775. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Directed by Pedro Almodovar

Is that the title of my life? HA! Sorry, I thought I had to say it.

Pepa Marcos is a voice over actress who is currently dubbing Johnny Guitar (what is everyone's deal with that movie) in Spanish with her boyfriend Ivan.  Ivan dumps Pepa with a message on her machine, then refuses to talk to her.  Harsh.  I feel you, girl.  Pepa seems to want to commit suicide, but keeps getting sidetracked by the people around her.

I know some people find this film hilarious, but I was too busy trying to follow along to get much laughter out of this one.  I don't like farces very much.  I think it was just too wide of a cultural gap for me to really get the humor.  Otherwise, the acting was well done and I always appreciate the hunky Antonio Banderas.  I think he is single now...

I did like the director's style, but this ultimately wasn't an enjoyable film for me.  Maybe I will explore more of his work.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The idea of an American remake was considered, with Jane Fonda as Pepa.

774. A Chinese Ghost Story

A Chinese Ghost Story
Directed by Ching Siu-tung

I am a little mixed up in my feelings for this film, so I apologize if this review comes across as messy.  Ultimately, the movie wasn't what I wanted it to be, but maybe that's not a bad thing.

Ning Choi-san takes shelter in a deserted forest temple (it sounds like a Zelda game; watch out for giant spiders!).  He meets and falls in love with the beautiful Nip Siu-sin, but realizes that she is merely a ghost.  Her remains are buried at the foot of the tree, thereby enslaving her to the Tree Demoness for eternity. Ning wants to save her, but really lacks any sort of skill to do so.

I was hoping this would be a horror film, but it actually ended up being a fairy tale.  At times it played out like a Greek tragedy, with Ning being our Orpheus.  I suppose I was mildly disappointed by the pace of the film, as it moved rather slowly.  Still, it turned out to be a pretty beautiful film and I have no valid criticisms for it.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Remade in 2011.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

773. Fatal Attraction

Fatal Attraction
Directed by Adrian Lyne

I saw the play adaptation of this in London with Kristin Davis and it was so painfully bad that my sister and I couldn't stop laughing during the performance.  We weren't the only ones (I think I heard someone else use the term "Fatal Production") but I still feel bad.  It did feel good to laugh that hard.

Dan Gallagher, a successful New York attorney, meets and is instantly attracted to Alex Forrest.  He's married, but since his wife and child are out of town, he takes the opportunity to have an affair with Alex.  He tries to pretend the whole thing never happened but Alex becomes increasingly obsessive.

I'm not quite sure what this says about me, but as I get older, I sympathize more and more with Alex.  I mean, he pursued her; she was just minding her own business!  And then when it is convenient for Dan, he just wants to pretend she doesn't exist!  This would be heartbreaking even if she wasn't pregnant (or allegedly pregnant).  Yes, she is a bit loony, but I do feel sorry for her, which I think makes this a very special kind of horror movie.

This definitely isn't the most empowering film I have ever seen.  Alex is a career woman, so the fact that she is hellbent on having a husband and child doesn't exactly make women look great.  But I just had a ton of fun with this one.  Glenn Close is absolutely phenomenal.  The fact that she lost the Best Actress Oscar to Cher...well, I can't even talk about it.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Glenn Close was pregnant when she filmed the reshoot.

772. The Dead

The Dead
Directed by John Huston

I really don't like James Joyce, but I am going to try not to let that color my review too much, as this is a separate entity and should be viewed as such.  I can still feel my hatred surging through me, so I apologize if you like this movie.

In 1904, two sisters host a party in Dublin.  Among their guests is Gretta and Gabriel Conroy,  a seemingly happy couple.  Of course, Joyce is too in love with his own style to give us much more in way of plot.  Sorry, that sounded bitter.

I wasn't too impressed with Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick's last film in the book.   Gee, I am hard to please lately aren't I?  I am getting fussy in my old age.  Anyway, John Huston similarly ends his reign in a rather lackluster fashion.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The film was released after John Huston's death.

771. Hong Gaoliang

Hong Gaoliang
The Red Sorghum
Directed by Zhang Yimou

I was absolutely convinced that this film was going to start with a rape and watched the first fifteen minutes in between my fingers.  I was kind of right, although I guess it would officially fall under the category of "dubious consent."  I am still not sure how I feel about this film, even after I have had several hours to reflect.

A young woman is sold by her father to a rich leper (even more rape-y vibes, although at least we don't have to see it).  She is being transported by sedan, when her wedding party is attacked by a bandit.  A member of her party is able to fight the man off and the two later have a tryst that kind of feels like rape.  Her husband dies, leaving her in charge of the distillery and while the workers suspect murder, they cannot identify a culprit.  The entire film is recounted by the woman's future grandson.

I felt like I missed the point of this movie, although I might be over thinking it.  It's only ambition might have been to tell a love story, but the male lead was so unlikable that I found it hard to root for the characters.  The narrator immediately identifies his grandmother and grandfather, taking some of the mystery out of the story.  I got excited when she took over the distillery.  I thought it was going to be like Far From A Madding Crowd, but somehow that plot line never fully became a tale of empowerment.  That's fine, but it made the remainder of the movie rather dull.  The ending felt really out of place, although I suppose its suddenness was intentional.

I am rambling quite a bit.  I guess I don't really think it deserves its place on the List, but I am not ready to call it a bad film.  It's my decisiveness that makes me such a good reviewer.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Acting debut of Gong Li.

770. The Untouchables

The Untouchables
Directed by Brian De Palma

I am not usually into costumes and set pieces as I am into story lines and characters but I was blown away by this visual display.  According to Roger Ebert, the film is completely unoriginal and uninventive, but hey, I am a plebeian so I liked it.

In 1930 Chicago, prohibition is in full swing and Al Capone is supplying liquor citywide.  An agent from the Bureau of Prohibition, Eliot Ness, is assigned to bring Capone down.  Ness recruits several men he knows are free from corruption and leads a successful raid, gaining some publicity as "The Untouchables."

Robert De Niro is obviously fantastic in this film.  I was actually impressed with Kevin Costner's performance, as his character could have easily come across as dull.  I was also surprised by the strength of Sean Connery's performance, who I have never given too much credit before.

It's getting quite late so I am going to wrap it up kind of early.  Like I said, it is a beautiful film, beautifully performed and beautifully staged.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Body count of 24.

Robert De Niro had his clothes made by Al Capone's tailors.

769. Moonstruck

Directed by Norman Jewison

Man, do I hate this movie.  I might be the only one on Earth who feels this way as I have never met anyone who did not like this film.  Usually I can understand what people see in things if there is talent behind it, but I just can't figure out this movie's appeal.

Loretta Castorini is an accountant in Brooklyn living with her parents and grandfather.  She accepts her boyfriend's proposal and he leaves her to plan the wedding as he visits his mother in Sicily.  He asks her to invite his estranged brother Ronny to the wedding but Loretta has trouble making contact with him.  When she finally tracks him down, the two find themselves instantly attracted to each other.  Who will she choose?  I was honestly curious, as both men are so unappealing.

I know the characters are supposed to be slightly wooden and weird, but even that can't excuse the bad acting on display here.  I am in utter shock that Cher won Best Actress for this role, beating both Meryl Streep and Glenn Close.  It seems we are supposed to fall in love with these characters, but they were all too malicious for my taste.

The dialogue in this film was even stranger than the characters.  I just don't get it, but it doesn't feel like a big loss.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Cher threatened to quit if Nicolas Cage wasn't cast.

Monday, February 22, 2016

768. The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride
Directed by Rob Reiner

I think I have made every single one of my boyfriends watch this film (hmm, maybe that's why they are exes?).  I absolutely love this movie and really, who doesn't?  It's a perfect adventure story.

A young boy is sick and stuck in bed.  He wants to just play video games, but his grandfather comes to read him The Princess Bride instead.   The book tells the story of Buttercup, a young peasant woman who falls for Westley, the farmhand.  Westley goes off to sea to find his fortune, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts.  After five years, Buttercup agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck, who you can tell by his name is nowhere near as sexy as Westley was.  Before the wedding can take place, she is kidnapped by three men (a Sicilian, a giant, and a swordsman).  I can't go on, I am getting over stimulating.

Man, what more can you want from a movie?  The score is brilliant, the characters are memorable, the lines are quotable.  My favorite scene is the sword fight between Inigo and The Man in Black, but literally every scene is exciting and moves the story forward.

Not to get too whimsical, but since I am stuck in bed, I almost feel like kid at the beginning being told stories every day to forget about his pain and discomfort.  I guess The Book would be like my giant grandfather.  The metaphor worked better in my head.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Robin Wright and Cary Elwes had crushes on each other during filming.  I think I just had a stroke.

Uma Thurman was deemed too exotic looking for the part of Buttercup.

767. Housekeeping

Directed by Bill Forsyth

Well, I suppose you could hardly call this film predictable, which is one thing it has going for it.  I watched this movie about four hours ago and I am still not sure what to make of it.

Ruth and Lucille are teenage sisters who are raised by their grandmother after their mother kills herself. When their grandmother passes away, the girls move in with their Aunt Sylvie.  Sylvie is a bit weird, as she often sleeps on benches and puts marshmallows on branches in the woods to attract children.  Still, she is always kind to the girls, but maybe a tad indifferent.

What a strange film this was.  I kept expecting it to commit to something, but it continued to waver.  At first I thought it was going to some sort of Dickensian drama about an awful guardian.  But as the film progressed, Sylvie never seemed harmful, just not very maternal.  I then thought that one of the sisters would do something outrageously rebellious and that the story would follow them on the run.  This was a bit closer to truth, although the movie seemed to shy away from having the characters do anything too dramatic.

The fragility of the film was rather enchanting, but I found myself getting annoyed by the ninety minute mark.  I have to reflect on this one a bit more.  For now, let's call it three stars.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Diane Keaton was originally cast as Sylvie, but left because of "creative differences."

766. Broadcast News

Broadcast News
Directed by James L. Brooks

I think I have to embrace the fact that I like William Hurt.  He is apparently a horrible and abusive man, but I can't help it; I really enjoy watching him on screen.  Damn it, Hurt.

The film follows three characters who work in news.  Jane Craig is a workaholic producer who is secretly loved by her friend Aaron Altman.  Jane finds herself attracted to the new news reporter, who is sexy and charming but vacant.  Who will she choose?  At the beginning of the film I thought "If she doesn't choose Aaron I am going to scream."  I really have a decent grasp on reality, don't I?

I really loved this movie.  It seems a lot of people only see the romantic comedy genre as a guilty pleasure, but there are some truly brilliant films that fall under that category.  The cast is obviously amazing. The ending isn't entirely pleasing, but I still appreciate that the "career woman" wasn't portrayed as some sort of cold robot who is dangerous to society.

A great film and one that is getting me pumped for When Harry Met Sally!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Debra Winger was originally going to play Jane Craig but had to be replaced when she got pregnant.

765. Au revoir, les enfants

Au revoir, les enfants
Goodbye, My Children
Directed by Louis Malle

I remember watching this in my French class and trying not to get too emotional.  As I was determined to be invisible in high school, crying would have made my head explode with embarrassment (a rare but documented phenomenon).  Thankfully, since I am now alone in bed, I can cry to my heart's content.

Julien Quentin is a spoiled bully who attends a boarding school during World War II.  He soon discovers that the headmaster is granting asylum to young Jews, which include Jean Bonnet, a new student.  A friendship develops and Julien begins questioning the behavior of everyone in his life, including himself.

Our last Louis Malle film was Atlantic City, which I thought was rather horrendous.  With this film we have rekindled the old flame, as this reminded me heavily of Murmur of the Heart.  I don't often like movies staring children, but the actors here were perfect.

A heartbreaking story and one that deserves to be told.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Based on a real incident in Malle's childhood.

764. Good Morning, Vietnam

Good Morning, Vietnam
Directed by Barry Levinson

So far I have skillfully dodged Robin Williams movies where he is at his most Robin Williams-y (i.e. Mrs. Doubtfire) and have only seen him in decent films like Good Will Hunting and Aladdin (if that counts).  Unfortunately, after I saw this, my innocence was gone.

Adrian Cronauer is a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service in Saignon during the Vietnam War.  His attitude pisses off his superiors.  Basically, the whole film is Robin Williams being better than everyone else and Sergeant Dickerson not being able to stand it.

So I knew going into this that the broadcasts were going to be almost unbearable, as it would just be uninterrupted improv.  My worst nightmare.  I had hoped that the rest of the scenes would be better, but no such luck.  We were supposed to think Adrian was just the most likable, rebellious man in the world.  For example, when Cronauer is taken off the air, another man takes his place.  This man isn't funny and will only play polka music.  Are we really expected to believe that if Adrian didn't exist, no one else would ever tell a joke or play decent music?

If it was a true story, it would be a bit more interesting, but the real Adrian Cronauer said the film is only 45% accurate.  It just seemed over the top and ridiculous to me.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

All of Adrian's broadcasts were ad-libbed by Robin Williams.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

763. Withnail and I

Withnail and I
Directed by Bruce Robinson

I apologize if I totally spaz out during this review, as I get quite excited about films set in England.  Some of the scenes take place in Regent's Park which was about a five minute walk from my flat when I lived in London.  This made an otherwise rather dull film quite enjoyable.

Two young actors live together in Camden Town.  Withnail is an eccentric, all around weirdo while the other, unnamed man is more level headed.  They arrange to stay at Withnail's uncle's cottage in Penrith.  Withnail's uncle is constantly hitting on...I?

Okay, maybe "dull" wasn't the right word, as I did enjoy watching these characters.  Admittedly, not a lot happens but the big personalities in the film make up for it.  It did seem like a story that might work better in print.  In fact, it reminded me of several novels where a narrator seems more intent on describing another character's adventures rather than their own (i.e. David Copperfield with James Steerforth or Nick Jenkins with Kenneth Widmerpool).

This really wasn't my kind of humor, but it definitely wasn't the worst comedy in The Book.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Richard Grant said on Twitter than Withnail's first name is Vivian.

762. Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

I was warming up to Kubrick after Barry Lyndon and The Shining, but he has displeased me once more with this.  If he was still here, I am sure that would greatly upset him.  Anyway let's talk about Platoon 2.  I mean, Full Metal Jacket.

During the Vietnam War, a group of new Marine recruits begin their training.  Our narrator is James "Joker" Davis, who wears a peace sign on his uniform and writes "Born to Kill" on his helmet.   But those are two separate things???  Who is this man???  We are never going to figure out such brilliance so we better just move on.  Anyway, their drill instructor is a horrifying man and after several traumatizing experiences, they are sent to Vietnam.

I thought this was very much your typical Vietnam movie, which was very disappointing.  Even when I don't like him, Kubrick usually brings something new to the table and really, how was this that different from Platoon?  I also hate this genre to begin with but perhaps if you are a fan, you wouldn't mind the rehashing.

This is Kubrick's last movie in The Book and I am quite sorry we ended on such a sour note.  We were star crossed lovers from the start, as I was never going to like a Vietnam War movie anyway.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Anthony Michael Hall was originally going to play Private Joker but couldn't agree with Kubrick on a salary.

761. Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

I have an embarrassing movie secret to reveal: I have never seen The Big Lebowski.  I know, I know.  It is very shameful.  I plan on getting around to it eventually, since I do really enjoy the Coen brothers.  But for now, I must live with my shame.

A convenience store robber and a policewoman fall in love, but are unable to conceive.  They learn that a local furniture tycoon's wife has given birth to a set of quintuplets and decide to steal one of the babies.  It is strange that such an upsetting topic actually turns out to be convincingly light hearted.

I know I keep saying this, but I am shocked about how much I am enjoying 80s comedies.  Since comedies tend to feel dated, I had kind of resigned myself to never really finding these films laugh out loud funny.  But this was great and Nicolas Cage actually didn't creep me out.  Or, at the very least, didn't creep me out more than he was supposed to.

It certainly isn't the best Coen brothers movie I have seen, but it is still definitely worthy of its place in The Book.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

All of the main characters cry except the baby.

760. Babette's Gaestebud

Babette's Gaestebud
Babette's Feast
Directed by Gabriel Axel

It seems to be the era of Isak Dinesen as we come across another adaptation of her writing.  I think I preferred Out of Africa, although this was still relatively decent.  It does seem like her stories work better in literary form, so I might have to add her to my "to read" list.

Two elderly Protestant sisters live in a small village in Denmark.  In their youth they received plenty of male attention but they decide they want to remain unmarried and stay with their father.  Babette Hersant, a refugee from Paris, arrives to work for the sisters.  They can't afford to pay her anything for her work, but hey, who wouldn't want to work as a cook for a stuffy conventicle for free?  Babette then wins the lottery and decides to spend her money in an odd way.

The story actually reminded me of Like Water for Chocolate, in the way that food seems to have magical powers over people and their behavior.  It was actually pretty fascinating to watch and strange to see what people consider to be holy devotion. Still, it could hardly be argued that the two sisters were compelling characters, in fact, their supreme dullness is what made them unique.

I had been looking forward to this one and was a tad disappointed, as it did drag on in bits.  Still, worth a watch.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Pope Francis' favorite film.  Well, isn't that something.

759. Project A, Part II

Project A, Part II
Directed by Jackie Chan

I don't think I have found a Hong Kong action film that I haven't liked, unless you count Peking Opera Blues, although I think that was trying to be something else.  I really need someone to explain that movie to me one of these days.

The Book notes that the plot to a Jackie Chan movie isn't that important.  I agree; all you really have to know is that Chan is the good guy and must defeat everyone who runs at him.  Which he does.  Basically, professional bad ass Dragon Ma is asked to take over the Sai Wan district, as all the police officers there are corrupt.  His attempts to get rid of the gangsters and criminals of the city are largely met with resistance, so it is up to Chan to kick everybody into place.

I look to these films for pure entertainment and mindless fun, although I did sense that there was something deeper here, as it had such a political backdrop.  In the end, though, Jackie Chan decides to ignore the bigger issues and focus on pulling off stunts reminiscent of Buster Keaton.  And really, who could blame him?

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The peppers Jackie Chan eats and rubs in the eyes of his attackers were real, as production did not have time to make fake ones.

Friday, February 19, 2016

758. Der Himmel über Berlin

Der Himmel über Berlin
Wings of Desire
Directed by Wim Wenders

I remember one of my writing professors urging us to see this film as she was trying to get us to have more political meaning in our work.  Although that was my first class writing fiction and as I could barely come up with plots at that point, maybe she should have set her sights a little lower.  Anyway, when I finally did see this, I was disappointed about how over the top and melodramatic it was.

Invisible, immortal angels populate Berlin.  They observe and comfort lonely people, but they seem to be sadder than any human, as they are always on the outside looking in.  One of the angels who longs to be mortal falls in love with a trapeze artist.

So yes, this was film was beautiful.  But it is also quite a demanding movie.  Wenders is constantly hitting us over the head with metaphors and having characters utter lines that are supposed to make us cry.  I found the experience to be exhausting, rather like going to see a ballet.  I just prefer something a bit less sappy.

Still, undeniably a gorgeous film, just decidedly in the "not for me" category.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Basis for the American film City of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.  What a lovely cast...

757. Yeelen

Directed by Souleymane Cisse

Like The Horse Thief, this is a film I felt really guilty about not liking.  Man, I really tried with this one but I couldn't help being bored.  Still, it was cool seeing a film from Mali.

Okay, I will do my best to give a plot summary here, but as my attention was wandering and the plot was confusing anyway, don't expect anything too descriptive.  Basically, Niankoro has magical powers which are resented and feared by his father.  Niankoro escapes with his mother but his father follows him, using a magical wooden stick for guidance.

After doing a bit of research I discovered that Cisse resents the analyses put forth by many Western critics.  In fact, we aren't even supposed to view this as a fantasy film.  Obviously the cultural gap is enormous here, which makes this movie pretty hard to enjoy.  I will definitely defend its place on The List, but it isn't something I would recommend unless you are really trying to get a grasp of world cinema.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Filmed in Bambara and Fula languages.

756. Dao Ma Zei

Dao Ma Zei
The Horse Thief
Directed by Tian Zhuangzhuang

I kind of knew going into this that it would be a chore to get through.  I knew that it had very little dialogue, so I resigned myself to just enjoying it as a visual spectacle.  Unfortunately, it didn't really deliver on that front either.

The movie tells the story of Norbu, a horse thief.  Yes, I know that is obvious, but give me break.  Not a lot happens in the film and the few compelling events are relayed in such a dull way that it was hard to pay attention.

Like I said, I expected to be in awe of the visuals in this film.  I suppose there were moments of beauty, but there were also several instances of animal cruelty. I am 99% it was all real, which is quite upsetting to me.  I whine so much about sexual violence though I guess I can let this one go.

Sorry for such a short review.  It was just kind of forgettable and one that I could have happily skipped.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Martin Scorsese's number one film of the 90s.  It came out in 1986 but I guess it didn't really make it to the United States until the 90s.  And if you are Martin Scorsese you can just arbitrarily change facts at your leisure.

755. Sherman's March

Sherman's March
Directed by Ross McElwee

If I had actually had to watch a documentary on General Sherman's march that was over two hours, I think I would be in tears right now.  Luckily it was not at all like that, so I don't have to throw a hissy fit.

Ross McElwee had the intention of making the boring historical documentary of my nightmares.  Instead, it turned into a chronicle of his relationships with women.  I think I would have a similar experience as I have a habit of coloring narratives with my own experience.  In fact, I would have the camera in my hands for five minutes before I was inserting myself and interviewing ex boyfriends, demanding answers.  See this review for an example of that compulsion.

Anyway, I loved this type of filmmaking, although I have now seen so many found footage horror movies that I kept expecting everyone to get murdered.  McElwee really was great in this, hopeless in a lot of respects but still likable.

Definitely a unique movie that deserves its place on The List.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The film cost $75,000 to make.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

754. Top Gun

Top Gun
Directed by Tony Scott

I was quite surprised when the Book said this film appealed to a female audience.  It seemed to me like it was made mostly to persuade men to join the US fighter pilots.  I guess we are supposed to think the men in the movie are dreamy, but I really wasn't that turned on.  In fact, I spent most of the film waiting for Maverick and Iceman to kiss.

Maverick is a young aviator who is a talented, but reckless, flier.  He attends Top Gun, but his handsomeness, recklessness, and handsomeness causes tension, and before long he has a rival in the handsome Iceman (okay, maybe I liked looking at the men a little).  He pursues his instructor Charlotte Blackwood, who becomes devoid of personality as soon as she gazes into Tom Cruise's deadly gaze.

I am not trying to be a snob when I say I didn't like this.  I just found it to be quite dull and predictable.  There were a few memorable scenes, like when Maverick serenades Charlotte, but I don't really think it deserves the praise it receives.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

At the real Top Gun school, an instructor can be fined for $5 for quoting the movie.

Tom Cruise had to wear lifts in his shoes in scenes with Kelly McGillis.

753. Salvador

Directed by Oliver Stone

Having just reviewed Platoon I pretty much have the same criticisms for this film, although at least this story is a bit more unique.  On the other hand, it also has James Woods.  It's a real toss up as to which one I hated more.

Photojournalist Richard Boyle is a cocky alcoholic.  He decides to takes some photos in El Salvador, hoping to capitalize on the political turmoil while enjoying some booze and drugs.  Of course, the conflict doesn't turn out to be the barrel of laughs that he was expecting.  Things are further complicated when he falls for a Salvadoran woman and must get her out the of the country.

So the rape scene was obviously very gruesome.  It's like one of those chalkboards that record how many days there have been since an accident.  I am going to go replace the four with a zero on my "movies watched without a rape scene" chalkboard (our last one being Platoon, although I suppose the rape was prevented).  The whole movie is very disturbing, which I suppose was its goal.  The "wake up America" message was quite heavy handed, but I guess it was effective as well.  I did get the sense that there were times when Stone was trying to get us to laugh, which seemed wildly out of place.

Not a film that I would recommend and I am quite relieved we are done with this director.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

James Woods improvised the scene where his character takes confession.

752. Peking Opera Blues

Peking Opera Blues
Directed by Tsui Hark

Maybe I am getting stupider in my old age, but I had a bit of trouble understanding this one.  I still had fun with it for the most part, but can I give an accurate plot summary?  It remains to be seen.

While Sun Yat-Sen attempts to create a democratic republic in China, warlords fight for power.  Okay, I got that far from my Asian history minor.  Now I am flying by the seat of my pants.  During a warlord's siege of Peking, a soldier catches a young woman stealing a jewelry box.  Most of the action after that takes place around an opera house.

Wow that sucked.  I hope I am never called to the stand as a witness after that display.  I don't know why I was so confused.  I think it was because all the major characters kept dressing up and I couldn't get anyone straight.  I do know that the action scenes were fantastic and the costumes were beautiful to look at.  Maybe I will try it again with a notepad, a translator, and a chart.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Tsui Hark said the film was a satire on the "Chinese ignorance of democracy."

751. Tampopo

Directed by Juzo Itami

I have never seen a Japanese comedy. In fact, I couldn't even name one before I saw this.  Although I confess this didn't have me clutching my sides, it was nice watching a Japanese film where no one was beheaded.

The film starts with a gangster yelling at a man for eating potato chips in the cinema (fun fact: the character was loosely based on me).  He tells us the movie is starting and it does.  Trippy.  The story begins with two truck drivers coming across a rundown noodle restaurant.  The restaurant is owned by a widow, who struggles to keep the business afloat while simultaneously raising her young son.  The drivers decide to train her to be a noodle goddess and make her restaurant successful.  There are other subplots all featuring sex, food, and death (often in strange combinations).

Man, I really fell in love with all of these characters (even the weird gangster).  This film wasn't perfect, as I didn't think a lot of the secondary story lines worked (the one with the oysters was just plain disgusting).  Still, it felt very cohesive and I felt like the success of Tampopo was crucial to my own happiness.  I think I am getting a bit stir crazy.

An obscure, funny movie that I never would have found without The List.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Many young Japanese mafia members (called Yakuza) do wear the flashy suits shown in the film.

Slurping your noodles is considered polite in Japan, as it demonstrates your appreciation to the cook.  Meanwhile I had to mute the noodle etiquette scene because I couldn't take the...noises.

750. Caravaggio

Directed by Derek Jarman

750!  Officially three-fourths of the way done!  I know I am traveling at breakneck speed here so I thank everyone who is still keeping up with my reviews and sharing their thoughts!  It is really helping me get through these last couple of months, which haven't been easy.

Caravaggio tells the story of Michelangelo with almost no accuracy and intentional anachronisms for some obscure artistic reason.  Caravaggio lives a life of general debauchery, often sleeping with the many models he paints.  He meets the sexy Ranuccio and his girlfriend Lena and develops feelings for both of them.  Love hurts, etc.

What a great cast this film has.  There, that is the only positive thing I can say about this film, as I thought it was incredibly dull, even though it was trying to shock us with its weirdness at every turn.  It didn't get interesting until the very end and by then I had given up caring about any of these selfish characters.

I am puzzled as to why this was included on The List, but I suppose it is undeniably unique.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Tilda Swinton's first film.

749. Platoon

Directed by Oliver Stone

Man, am I sick of the "young, idealistic man goes off to war, becomes disillusioned."  It's even worse than the "guy is a womanizer, meets quirky girl who changes him, guy gets girl" formula.  At least that has hot people having sex.  All we get is Willem Dafoe and Charlie Sheen and they don't even kiss.

Chris Taylor volunteers for combat duty in Vietnam.  He is stationed near the Cambodian border and bonds with Sergeant Elias.  Taylor becomes increasingly desperate as he must deal with attacks from the enemy, the harsh jungle, and the other sadistic soldiers, including the psychotic Sergeant Barnes.

So like I said, I am sick of Vietnam war movies.  I get all the points they try to make: there is nothing romantic about war, no side is morally superior, loss of innocence, blah, blah, blah.  It's nothing new.  I sound completely heartless, as this is obviously a very personal story for Oliver Stone.  But it definitely didn't open my eyes in any way.  In fact, it closed them due to excessive boredom.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Banned in Vietnam because of its depiction of the Vietnamese.

Based on Oliver Stone's experience in Vietnam.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

748. Children of A Lesser God

Children of A Lesser God
Directed by Randa Haines

Fair warning, I am totally going to gush over this film.  I know it is often dismissed as a melodrama, but I think it is a masterpiece.  I am currently learning American Sign Language, as one of my many "what can I do so that I don't lose my mind during surgery recovery" projects.  It is a beautiful language and I am glad that it was featured in such a brilliant film.

James Leeds is an unconventional new teacher (not the unbearable Robin Williams type, thank goodness) at a deaf school in New England.  He meets and is instantly attracted to Sarah Norman, a deaf janitor.  James encourages his deaf students to speak (because what if you are doing a handstand and someone comes to ask you for money?) but Sarah is resistant to his efforts.  The two begin a relationship, despite the communication barriers between them.

I have heard a lot of people complain about there not being subtitles and how annoying it is to have William Hurt say all of Marlee Matlin's dialogue.  But they really had no choice but to handle it that way as subtitles would take your eyes of Matlin's signing.  Part of the brilliance of this film is watching Sarah's character speaking so emphatically and passionately without ever making noise.  Also James is an incredibly pushy character so having him speak for her fits.

Just a beautiful story and the pool scene always gets me.  *Runs for tissues*

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

First film directed by a woman to be nominated for Best Picture.  Yay!

At 21, Marlee Matlin was the youngest actress to win for Best Actress.

747. A Room With A View

A Room With A View
Directed by James Ivory

I am not sure if any of my 1001 book followers read my movie reviews, but if you are out there you know that stuffy English romance novels are sort of my jam.  Also if you are out there, I apologize for not updating in so long; I am currently reading A Dance To The Music of Time and it has taken over my entire life.  Anyway, I am surprised I didn't like this more since I am usually such a fan of this kind of romance.  Maybe it is a genre that comes across better in print.

Lucy Honeychurch is visiting Italy with her spinster chaperone Charlotte Bartlett.  They meet George Emerson, a sexy English intellectual.  Charlotte considers George to be a "rake," and does not approve of any relationship between George and Lucy, despite the fact that they are falling for each other.   Things come to a head when Charlotte sees Lucy and George kissing.  After all, everyone knows that when a man kisses you, you are supposed to slap and say "The impudence!"

The repression and prissiness of the Victorian era is cleverly mocked often, but I credit Forster more for that than the filmmakers.  In fact, I felt like the filmmakers decided to portray this novel in the blandest way possible.  They even make the big kiss dull, as it was supposed to be in a field of violets, not barley.  Also, I am sure no one is with me on this one, but Daniel Day Lewis always got on my nerves.

I think the story is worth your time, but perhaps is better explored with the novel.  I still had fun with it, which is more than I can say for some of the other entries.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Helena Bonham Carter's first film.

746. Down by Law

Down by Law
Directed by Jim Jarmusch

I find all of Jarmusch's films to be exhausting. I just get the impression the guy has absolutely no sense of humor, which made his previous comedy almost unbearable.  This is a drama, but that doesn't make it any less painful.  Let's just get through this as quickly as possible.

Three men are arrested and held in a New Orleans jail cell.  Jack and Zack are both arrested for crimes they didn't commit (although they are both such assholes I am sure they are guilty of something).  The other cellmate is Bob, an Italian who speaks very little English.  They decide to escape (despite the fact that they all seem to hate each other) and go on the run through the bayou.

That sounds like a rather interesting film based on the summary, but I can assure you it is not.  A movie with this set up has to have astounding dialogue to keep the audience's interest.  I found the dialogue to be quite stale and dull.  Oh, the Italian can only speak limited English so all his lines are simple. But in their simplicity lies truth that the most complicated phrases can't convey.  Excuse me while I go vomit.

Wow, I am harsh today.  It wasn't the worst thing I have ever seen and I think it is even an improvement from Stranger than Fiction.  Still wish I could have skipped it though.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Nicoletta Braschi was Roberto Benigni's wife in real life.

Roberto Benigni had never been to America prior to appearing in this film.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

744. Aliens

Directed by James Cameron

I have such a low opinion of sequels.  It seems like nowadays every successful film has at least two sequels.  And then of course, when the number of sequels reaches the double digits they usually just reboot the franchise and start over.  I sound like such a curmudgeon. There are obvious exceptions like The Godfather: Part II.  I wouldn't exactly consider Aliens a masterpiece, but at the very least it wasn't as disappointing as it could have been.

Ripley is rescued and debriefed after drifting through space in stasis for fifty-seven years.  None of her employers really believe her account of what happened.  In fact, the planet (or moon...or whatever) where the alien eggs were found is now home to a colony.  Once contact is lost with the colony, the company sends a Marine unit to investigate. Ripley warns everyone about the dangers but everyone is too busy mansplaining to listen.  Ripley agrees to go with them and things go about as well as you would imagine.

By their very definition sequels are never really going to show us anything particularly new, so I can see a lot of people complaining that this is basically a rehash of the first movie, plus a really cute kid.  I happened to really enjoy the first movie and gladly sat down to watch Ripley fight the patriarchy and be a bad ass again.  I also liked that the stakes were a lot higher than last time, so it felt like we were building to something rather than just facing the same conflict again.

So maybe not a film that I would consider a "must see" but I still had a really good time with this.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Carrie Henn kept messing up the shot of her sliding down the vent on purpose because it was so fun.  Cameron told her if she got it right she could play as much as she wanted.  Adorable.

Longest Alien film.

743. The Fly

The Fly
Directed by David Cronenberg

I was completely disgusted by Videodrome (which I suppose was the point) and had no desire to watch anymore David Cronenberg films (which I suppose wasn't the point).  I did get excited about this remake and while it is not a favorite, it certainly isn't a candidate for the worst movie of the 80s.

Seth Brundle is a brilliant scientist who has recently developed teleportation pods.  While the pods successfully transport inanimate objects, gross things happen when Brundle tries to transport living things.  He shows off his invention to Veronica, a journalist, and the two begin a relationship because what is hotter than science?  One night Brundle gets drunk and attempts to teleport himself.  Unfortunately, he doesn't notice that there is a fly inside the pod with him and things get even grosser as he slowly becomes an insect.

I am not sure that the filmmakers succeeded in making us sympathize with Brundle.  I felt like we were supposed to feel great compassion for him (especially at the end) but I thought he was an asshole from the very beginning.  I suppose that doesn't matter, since the main purpose of the movie is to have the audience ooh and ahh at the special effects.  Or ooh and vomit.  Either way they were quite well done, even if that isn't my preferred type of entertainment.

 I don't sound too positive, but I actually did enjoy most of this.  The acting was surprisingly good and the film never lagged.  Still prefer the original though.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis were dating at the time.