Tuesday, May 31, 2016

953. Meet the Parents

Meet the Parents
2000
Directed by Jay Roach








I feel as though this is the spiritual successor of There's Something About Mary.  I won't completely destroy this movie, as Robert De Niro's presence elevates it into something greater.  At least, that's what I tried to tell myself during the sewage scenes.

So like I said, it's pretty much There's Something About Mary, but surprisingly, it manages to be even grosser.  In TSAM, Ben Stiller was trying to impress the girl.  In Meet the Parents, he has the girl, now he is trying to impress the father.  It plays on every "father with a shotgun" cliche in the book and rarely covers new ground.  To give you an example of the screenwriters' ingenuity, I will reveal that the main character's name is Gaylord Focker.

Like I said in my TSAM review (an abbreviation I am clearly trying to get started), if this film made you laugh, I'm glad.  We need more laughter in this world and I would never begrudge anyone for being amused.  Still, I don't think a film like this should be in The Book.  One Ben Stiller comedy was more than enough.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Anthony Hopkins was considered for the role of Jack.

952. Amores perros

Amores perros
Love's a Bitch
2000
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu








I have been complaining that there are no good foreign films recently and this is seemingly the answer to my prayers.  Ye gods, we are saved from documentaries on trash collection and dull family melodramas.

Three separate but loosely connected stories are told.  Octavio is in love with his sister in law Susana.  He takes to dog fighting in order to earn money to run away with Susana.  The dog fighting scenes are even more disturbing than the cock fight scenes in No Fear, No Death.  Thankfully, this wasn't a Bunuel film and no dogs were actually hurt...I hope.  Another story follows Daniel, who has recently left his wife for Valeria, a supermodel.  Valeria breaks her leg, leaving her miserable at home while she recuperates (that's a familiar tune, huh?).   One day, her dog gets trapped under a floorboard, causing tensions to erupt between Daniel and Valeria.  The final story follows El Chivo, a hit man who is trying to get in contact with his estranged daughter.

I didn't anticipate liking this one, as I didn't think dogfighting would be a fun topic to explore for over two hours.  Fortunately, it was well paced and seemed more intent on showing us the madness behind the characters who commit such a heinous crime than the crime itself.

So a good film, which is good, because Meet the Parents is next.  Be afraid.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Shot in dangerous parts of Mexico City and many of the crew members were robbed.

951. Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a Dream
2000
Directed by Darren Aronofsky









I have awkwardly alluded to the fact that I don't like drug movies, as I have some experience with the destructive nature of people's addictions and I don't like revisiting those memories in film.  So this is a brilliant movie that I did not enjoy in the slightest.

Sara Goldfarb, a television obsessed widow, becomes addicted to the weight loss amphetamine pills her doctor prescribes after she wins a spot on a television game show.  Sara's son, Harry, is a heroin addict. Harry, along with his best friend Tyrone and girlfriend Marion, start a drug dealing business that goes awry.  As everyone's addictions spiral out of control...um, things get worse.  Maybe I could have started with that clause and eliminated the rest of the paragraph.

There is really nothing to complain about here.  The editing and the direction are truly inspired; it makes you feel as though you too are on a drug induced nose dive into oblivion.  While it is impressive to create a film that is so atmospheric, it's obviously not going to be something I...vibe with.

Anyway, I am glad this film was made and I encourage people who are ignorant about drug addiction to see it.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Contains over 2,000 cuts.

The word heroin is never used by the characters.

950. Yi Yi

Yi Yi
A One and a Two
2000
Directed by Edward Yang








Edward Yang's first movie in the Book, A Brighter Summer Day, was a test of endurance.  This film, which is probably about an hour shorter, was another exercise in dullness.  I have really not had luck with foreign films lately.

This movie is way too long to write a detailed synopsis of without payment.  Basically, the film follows the actions of several members of the Jian family.  Is that too vague?  The only story line I found remotely interesting was the teenaged daughter's, but as that contains quite a few surprises I won't spoil it for you.

I really have nothing of interest to say about this one.  It was another overly long family drama that lulled me to sleep.  That is, at least, a blessing as I have been hitting the Tylenol PM rather hard lately.  I suppose it looked beautiful, but I need a story that is slightly interesting too.  If I was a man this would be called emotional maturity.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Yang's final film.

949. Kippur

Kippur
2000
Directed by Amos Gitai







We really must be nearing the end of the war films, as we only have 52 movies left and I can't think of any must see war films post 2000. Unfortunately, I also thought I was done with experimental films, and those keep cropping up so who knows.

For the uninformed, on October 6, 1973 (the holiest day in Judaism), Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel.  Weinraub and his friend Ruso are called by a military draft to fight, but, due to the confusion from an undeclared war, they are unable to find their reserve unit.  Truly fascinating.  More stuff happens and it is about as propaganda-y as you would expect from a war movie.

I don't have much to say about this one.  Obviously, the politics of this film are interesting (particularly now) although I don't think the intentions of the filmmakers were to stimulate any kind of debate on who is wrong and who is right.

One of the biggest snores in recent memory.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Based on Gitai's own experience in the war.

948. Dut yeung nin wa

Dut yeung nin wa
In the Mood for Love
2000
Directed by Wong Kar-wai








This is the last Wong Kar-wai film on The List so his last chance to impress me.  I am sure he is waiting for this review with bated breath.  Well, sorry Wong, but I am still left thinking your movies are only so-so.

Basically, two neighbors, Chow and Su, form a strong (but platonic) relationship after both suspect their respective spouses of cheating with each other.  Soon their friendship evolves into something more, but they are hesitant to act on their feelings, as they do not want to stoop to their spouses' level.

This is the best of the movies that Wong Kar-wai has to offer on this List, but something about it was still lacking.  The characters are a bit off center but the film seems reluctant to apply the same eccentricities to other aspects of the production.  I thought the odd nature of the characters' actions was the only memorable thing about this film.

Anyway, a short review because my Tylenol PM is kicking in.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Maggie Cheung's hair and make up took five hours a day to apply.

Monday, May 30, 2016

947. Gladiator

Gladiator
2000
Directed by Ridley Scott









I never paid close attention to the similarities between Braveheart and Gladiator before.  Now having seen them both relatively recently I can testify that they are basically the same movie, just with different historical backdrops and unlikable leading men.

Maximus Decimus Meridius is a general who leads Rome to victory against the Germanic tribes.  The Emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius offers the throne to Maximus, in hopes that he will save Rome from corruption.  This incites the jealousy of Marcus's son, Commodus, and Commodus kills his father in a rage, thus becoming emperor himself.  He orders for the execution of Maximus and his family. Maximus manages to escape, but his family does not.  Maximus is then captured and sold to Proximo, who trains him to be a gladiator.  Although reluctant to commit violence at first, Maximus desires to fight at the Colosseum, earn his freedom, overthrow the emperor, and enact his revenge.  It is surprisingly easier than you would think.

So I guess I don't have too many complaints on this one.  It delivers on what it promises: action packed battle scenes and spectacular visual effects.  I think this was a simple story that really didn't need almost three hours to be told.  It doesn't exactly have layers and the characters are a little cartoonish (although I suppose the real Commodus was a little cartoonish as well).

Still, it is hard to deny the epicness when Russell Crowe yells "Are you not entertained?" in his armor.  Looking all sweaty and muscular.  Ahem.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Mel Gibson turned down the lead role.

Over 20,000 arrows were created for the opening battle.


946. Les glaneurs et la glaneuse

Les glaneurs et la glaneuse
The Gleaners and I
2000
Directed by Agnes Varda










Kicking off the last century on this blog, we have a documentary about people who dig through garbage!  It is not quite as dull as it could have been, but I wouldn't exactly call it a strong start.  We only have seven more years to impress, people!

The film follows a series of gleaners as they...glean things.  Some of the gleaners search for food in fields, while many of the gleaners are urban based and forage for knickknacks and other personal items.  Agnes Varda's presences as a filmmaker plays a significant role in the movie, as she often draws parallels between artists and scavengers.

I did like how Varda inserted herself into the film.  I always appreciate when filmmakers do that with documentaries as it makes the viewing of the movie so much more special.  You are not just receiving information, you are going on a journey with someone.  Still, as the premise wasn't the most interesting of topics (to me, at least) I did find myself watching the clock a bit.  I guess not all films are trying to be on the edge of your seat thrillers, but its flatness will probably stop me from ever watching this again.

Happy 2000s!

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Translates to The Gleaners and The Gleaneress.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

1990s Oscars!!

Greetings all!  I am currently quite miserable, as I am in pain and sick from the medication that was supposed to help with the pain.  As always, watching an absurd amount of movies has helped me cope and has made the days seem a little less endless.  Going into this project, I knew that the 90s was probably going to be my favorite decade.  I was delighted to realize that I still had favorites left to discover, although the 90s certainly had its share of lemons.  So, without further ado, here are the best (and a little bit of the worst) this decade had to offer:

BEST PICTURE: American Beauty
Nominees: The Sixth Sense
                  Festen
                  The Piano
                  Scream
                  Reservoir Dogs
                  The Silence of the Lambs
                  Goodfellas
                  Fargo
                  The Bravehearted Will Take the Bride
BEST DIRECTOR: Coen Brothers
Nominees: Martin Scorsese
                  Wes Anderson
                  David Fincher
                  Eric Rohmer
                  Agnes Varda
                  Hideo Nakata
BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore
Nominees: Frances McDormand
                  Toni Collette
                  Holly Hunter
                  Gong Li
                  Maggie Cheung
                  Irene Jacob
                  Susan Sarandon
                 Adrienne Shelley
                 Juliette Binoche
BEST ACTOR: Anthony Hopkins
Nominees: Tom Hanks
                  Steve Buscemi
                  Morgan Freeman
                  Ewan McGregor
                  Ralph Fiennes
                  Jeremy Irons
WORST PICTURE: The Rapture
Nominees: Pretty Woman
                  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
                  Strictly Ballroom
                  Xich Lo
                  Funny Games
BEST LINE: "Anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45 and a shovel.  I doubt anybody would               miss you."
Nominees: "Look inside yourself.  You are more than what you have become."
                  "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
                   "Movies don't create psychos.  Movies make psychos more creative!"
                   "Hold onto your butts!"
               

945. The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense
1999
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan








Ladies but mostly gentlemen (from what I can gather from the comments section), this is the last movie on the List from the 20th century.  Thankfully, we are ending on a high note.  I will talk more about this milestone in my next post, which will be my Oscar (or Blogscars) picks for the 90s.  For now, let's talk about the Sixth Sense.

Child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe is shot in an attempted murder suicide by one of his former patients, Vincent Grey, who believes he failed him.  The following fall, Malcolm is still haunted by Vincent's actions and has consequently grown more distant from his wife.  He begins working with a new patient, Cole, whose mother is concerned about his increasingly odd behavior.   Cole can see dead people who seek his help from beyond the grave.

If the ending of this film has not been spoiled for you, please, drop everything you are doing and watch this movie.  Unfortunately, I don't believe such innocents exist anymore.  Still, it is an undeniably great twist and I really do miss this M. Night Shymalan (although The Visit was actually quite enjoyable).

Not enough good things can be said about Haley Joel Osment's performance, which was truly remarkable.  Osment elevates the film into an emotional experience that just happens to contain elements of horror.  It is also beautifully shot and certainly the highlight of a lot of careers.

So a decent send off to the nineties.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

One of only five horror movies to be nominated for Best Picture.

The role of Malcolm was written for Bruce Willis.

Friday, May 27, 2016

944. The Matrix

The Matrix
1999
Directed by Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski
I am fairly certain that parts of this movie don't make an ounce of sense and that it overuses tired action cliches.  Still, I saw this with my brother when he was having his angsty teenager phase (which meant he was rarely available for socialization) so I will always kind of like this.

Machines have taken over the world and are now harvesting humans for energy.  This doesn't exactly scream plausibility but we will go with it.  Anyway, all human beings are plugged into the Matrix, which is a shared simulation of the world as it was in 1999.  Thomas Anderson is a computer hacker who grows suspicious of the world and the repeated instances of the mysterious phrase "the Matrix."  Agents of the Matrix come after him, but he is saved by a group of rebels.  The rebels believe that Thomas is the "One": the person destined to save the humans from the machines.  The leader of the rebels, Morpheus, gives him a choice: you can take a red pill and learn the truth about the Matrix, or take a blue pill that will return him to his old life.

Sorry if that plot synopsis was a bit confusing.  This film either went over my head or wasn't that well thought out to begin with.  Either way, it is still fun.  Neo dodging bullets might be one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. It is also fun to discuss which pill you would take.  I think I would take the blue.  Sorry humanity.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The opening scene took six months of training and four days to shoot.

Ewan McGregor turned down the role of Neo as he was working on Star Wars.

Takes place in the year 2199.

943. American Beauty

American Beauty
1999
Directed by Sam Mendes








I think I finally fixed the Recent Comments section, but please let me know if you are still having trouble with it by leaving a comment that I would have no way of seeing.  Thank you very much!

Lester Burham is a 42 year old office drone who is having a middle life crisis.  He has a materialistic wife and a teenaged daughter who seems to despise him.  He has a reawakening when he attends his daughter's half time cheerleading routine and becomes fixated on her beautiful friend Angela.  Angela seems to enjoy the attention that Lester gives her, and Lester becomes dedicated to seducing her and transforming his dull suburban life.  Meanwhile, his daughter falls for Ricky Fitts, a new, somewhat creepy neighbor who provides weed for Lester.  That was a somewhat strange synopsis, but it is a hard movie to describe.  The film is more of a character study than a plot driven adventure.

I absolutely adore this movie; I think nearly everything about it is brilliant.  I understand why some people might find it a bit pretentious, but honestly, there is something beautiful behind the pretension.  All of the characters seem so hard at the beginning, but the film gradually strips away all the walls people put up and reveals the softer side of humanity.  That score will never cease to make me emotional.  And I suppose it goes without saying that the cast is spectacular.

I could go on and on, but I will stop here by saying if you haven't seen this, you are truly missing out.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Title refers to a breed of roses that is beautiful on the outside, but often rots underground.

Sarah Michelle Gellar turned down the role of Angela.  Damn her.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

942. Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich
1999
Directed by Spike Jonze








I know I was supposed to fall in love with this film's originality and absurdity, but I was unable to take to this one.  Maybe it's because I can't stand Cameron Diaz.  I have also been cold towards John Cusack since I saw the trainwreck that was 1408.

An unhappily married puppeteer, Craig, develops a crush on his coworker Maxine after being hired as a file clerk.  He discovers a portal behind a filing cabinet that allows him to enter the mind of John Malkovich.  If I was going to become a Yeerk (points to readers that understand that nerdy reference), John Malkovich would be low on my list of desired targets.  Craig reveals to the portal to Maxine, and the two begin to charge admission.  It isn't long before Craig learns how to make Malkovich one of his marionettes and um...things escalate logically from there.

There is certainly an original idea behind this film, but I think it might have better been explored in a less comedic way.  I mean, the implications of this universe are staggering, but the movie gives us very little information.  I wouldn't be complaining if the comedic aspects had worked better, but I didn't find the characters quite as amusing as I was supposed to.

I can see the appeal of this film, but in the end, I just didn't mesh well with it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Spike Jonze has said that one producer asked him to rewrite the film as Being Tom Cruise.  That would quickly turn into a horror movie.

941. Beau Travail

Beau Travail
1999
Directed by Claire Denis








I can't believe I am almost done with the nineties.  It seems like only yesterday that I started this decade.  Maybe it was just yesterday...I am moving rather quickly.  At least, I am moving rather quickly when I am not taking several types of pain medication,

Basically, master sergeant Galoup reminisces about his time as a soldier in the French Foreign Legion in Djibouti.  While there, he develops feelings for another solider, Gilles Sentain.  Unable to accept his homosexual urgings, he regularly picks fights with Gilles and generally makes his life a living hell.

Sorry if that synopsis was a bit vague, but I had a hard time following this one.  It just did not capture my attention, but, to be fair, I am a tough audience right now.  Their military training exercises resembled dance rehearsals for West Side Story.  It almost reminded me of Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia, as it had the same sort of fascination with the male form.  Personally, I was able to um...appreciate the male body more in Fight Club.  Still, I appreciate what she was trying to do.

So a thumbs down for me, as I just found it dull.  I don't have any major grievances, however, so might still be worth checking out.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Dance scene was shot in a single take.

Monday, May 23, 2016

940. Todo sobre mi madre

Todo sobre mi madre
All About My Mother
1999
Directed by Pedro Almodovar









Happy belated Mother's Day, everyone.  Really belated if you are in the UK.  Work with me here; I am trying to pretend this blog has holiday related themes.  So in honor of Mother's Day, we will talk All About My Mother.

Manuela is a single nurse who lives her teenaged son Esteban.  On his seventeenth birthday, Esteban is hit by a car and killed while trying to get an actress' autograph.  Manuela is persuaded to donate Esteban's heart to the hospital.  Manuela then quits her job and travels to Barcelona to find Esteban's father, Lola, a transvestite who is unaware he has a son.  While there, Manuela becomes involved in the lives of several characters, including a pregnant nun and a drug addict.

I think any filmmaker is brave for tackling the subject of AIDs as no one wanted to touch that topic for decades.  It was even more courageous the way they handled it here, but to go into detail on that point would be a spoiler.  Suffice to say, the person afflicted with the disease wasn't your stereotypical AIDs victim.

I did think the movie dragged at times, but overall my favorite Almodovar film so far.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Dedicated to Bette Davis, Gena Rowlands, and Romy Schneider.

939. The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project
1999
Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez









This is probably one of the most polarizing films of all time.  I know a lot of people think it is stupid and nauseating, with absolutely zero pay off.  I happened to really enjoy it. but that may be because I have an overactive imagination.

Three film students are producing a documentary on the Blair Witch of Burkittsville, Maryland.  They begin filming by conducting interviews with the locals about the legend, garnering some rather chilling answers.  On the second day, the trio set off into the woods to find proof that the Witch exists.   Um...they get it.

I have always thought that the scariest things are the things you never see.  We are allowed to imagine the witch however we want. What I am picturing is probably worse than anything that could be shown on screen (particularly since one of the locals described the witch as having hair covering her body like a horse).  Still, I can see how people might feel a little cheated.

I was quite young when this came out, so I don't remember everyone thinking this might be real.  I think it is very impressive that the filmmakers created something so horrifying and realistic with such a small budget.

Found footage isn't for everyone, but I can't seem to get enough.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Heather Donahue's mother received sympathy cards from people who actually believed her daughter was dead or missing.

All the lines are improvised.

Nominated for the Worst Picture Razzie.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

938. Audition

Audition
1999
Directed by Takashi Miike








I am back home after my surgery!  Everything went well although the pain has been...intense.  Let's just say a couple nights ago I was wishing Asami had amputated my foot too.  But as I am confined to bed once again, I will continue watching an absurd amount of movies and writing an overwhelming amount of posts.

Shigeharu Aoyama is a middle aged widower who is urged by the people who love him to start dating again.  His friend, who is a film producer, sets up a fake casting audition where young women audition for the part of Aoyama's wife.  Tinder really has made everything so much easier.  Anyway, Aoyama is infatuated with one of the women, Asami, but she may not be quite as perfect as she appears.

Parts of this film were extremely disgusting.  I will spare my readers the details, but let's just say I could have gone without a few of the scenes (and I am not talking about gore).  Other than that, I really enjoyed this movie; it was well acted and well paced.  It is also strangely relatable.  I mean, I have never dated a psychopath like Asami, but I understood the fear Aoyama had of putting himself out there again.  Exposing yourself to rejection and heartbreak does take a special kind of bravery.

So Japanese horror films continue to impress.  I probably didn't enjoy this as much as Ringu, but a great film nonetheless.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Had a record number of walkouts at the Rotterdam Film Festival.


937. Fight Club

Fight Club
1999
Directed by David Fincher









I believe I mentioned this in a previous review, but based on my field research (going out with men and demanding to know their favorite movie then judging them accordingly), this is the favorite movie of a lot, followed closely by Pulp Fiction.  While I certainly wouldn't call this a favorite, I can appreciate it (see the above shirtless picture of Brad Pitt).

Our unnamed protagonist is a lonely office worker who regularly attends support group meetings, I suppose so his suffering is given some sort of credence.  He meets another impostor, Marla Singer, and the two negotiate so they won't attend the same meetings.  On a flight home from a business trip, he meets Tyler Durden and is immediately intrigued by Tyler's philosophies and mansplaining ways.  The two start a fight club, but their idea quickly evolves (or devolves) into something more.

So, like I said, I wouldn't consider this a masterpiece but it is quite enjoyable. The movie seemed to be fueled by testosterone but I still managed to enjoy the ride. The characters are, obviously, fantastic and the gritty cinematography is dazzling. I did think it could do with some trimming, but all in all, a fun movie.  And my enjoyment of it usually helps me with the fellas.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The author of Fight Club has said this was an improvement on his novel.

Helena Bonham Carter had all her make up applied by the make up artist's left hand, as she believed her character wouldn't be particularly skilled at applying make up.

Sarah Michelle Gellar was approached for the part of Marla, but was already committed to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  That would have been epic.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

936. Magnolia

Magnolia
1999
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson








Today (meaning May 13th) is the day of my next surgery.  I am scheduled to go in at 10:45 am.  I was hoping to wake up rather late and not have to wait around very long.  Right now it is 8:26 am.  Oh well.  The best laid plans...at least I have time to talk about one of the most pretentious films of all time.

Basically, this film follows in the footsteps of Short Cuts, in that we follow the stories of a plethora of characters for way too long of a running time (I enjoyed Short Cuts a lot more).  I suppose I will describe some of the more interesting characters.  Police officer Jim Kurring becomes attracted to Claudia who, unbeknownst to Jim, is a coke head.  Claudia's father is Jimmy Gator (apparently Anderson had trouble thinking of more than one male name) who hosts a quiz show called What Do Kids Know?  Jimmy is dying of cancer.  Coincidentally, so is the show's former producer, Earl Partridge.  Earl's son is a sleazy pick up artist/motivational speaker for men.  I am glad white straight guys have finally found a champion.

So there are a bunch of other characters, but honestly don't have the energy to describe everyone.  The first time I tried to watch this movie, I stopped as soon as Tom Cruise's character came on the screen.  When I realized I would have to eventually finish this film to complete this project, I put it off as long as possible.  Where does all this seething hatred come from?

Well, for one thing, none of these characters seem real to me.  Unusual characters can be interesting, but none of these people seemed believable to me.  I won't give away any spoilers, but I could not fathom the motivations of Jim Kurring, Donnie Smith, Jimmy Gator, or Linda Partridge.  I don't necessarily have to relate to every character I see on screen, but I need to at least understand where they are coming from.  And then of course....the frogs.  So was God supposed to be punishing these characters like he supposedly punished the Egyptians?  As far as punishments go, it is fairly abstract.  Wasn't this plague sent down because the Pharaoh was enslaving an entire population?  I mean, the characters in Magnolia were pretty much assholes but I still don't think it is comparable.

Maybe there wasn't a biblical connection at all.  Maybe the frogs came down for another even more pretentious reason.  In any case, I am glad this film is behind me.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Fiona Apple created many of the paintings seen in the film.  Well, that's one good thing about this movie at least.

Paul Thomas Anderson has admitted that the film is too long.


935. Three Kings

Three Kings
1999
Directed by David O. Russell











As I am going into surgery tomorrow (meaning Friday the 13th; trying not to read too much into that), I really needed a movie that was going to distract me completely.  This fit the bill and while it certainly wasn't perfect, it was entertaining enough to get my mind off the fact that I will be split open tomorrow.

At the end of the Persian Gulf War, four soldiers set out to steal the gold taken from Kuwait (with the help of a map found in an Iraqi officer's anus).  Major Archie Gates is a sexy, sexy officer who is disillusioned with war, Sergeant Troy Barlow has a wife and kid at home that he is desperate to return to, Sergeant Chief Elgin has basically no personality at all, and Private Conrad Vick is basically an idiot.  During their mission, they discover that people need their help, because, interestingly enough, American interventionism didn't solve a whole lot.

I won't comment too much on the politics of this one, although I am sure the sarcasm in the previous paragraph can give you some indication of my thoughts.  I will say I was pleased that some of the  soldiers seemed more interested in following their hearts than following orders.  I wish all soldiers had that philosophy.

Anyway, parts of this film did drag a bit for me, but for the most part, I was quite pleased with this one. It seemed to masquerade as lighthearted entertainment, but ended up delivering interesting political commentary.  And that is one good looking cast.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

George Clooney and David O'Russell got into a fight during the filming of the climax because Clooney objected to the way O'Russell treated an extra.  So Clooney stands up for people in real life?  *Swoons*

Banned in Iraq.

Shot in the Arizona desert.


Friday, May 20, 2016

934. The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line
1998
Directed by Terrence Malick






I appreciated that Saving Private Ryan did a few original things, even if at times it slipped back into tired cliches.  The Thin Red Line doesn't seem to have a single unique moment.  But hey, at least the cast is brilliant.

During World War II, the men of the C Company are tasked with capturing a Japanese stronghold, Hill 210, at all costs.  This is an ensemble piece, but I suppose our main character is Private Witt, a solider who went AWOL but was recently found and imprisoned.

I know this is based on an autobiography, so I don't want to be insensitive by calling it unoriginal.  I just found all the characters to have familiar arcs and the themes to be rather uninspired.  It also didn't help that this film is almost three hours long.

I am being kind of a hypocrite here.  Romantic comedies and slasher movies are just as uninventive, and I can watch those any day of the week.  I suppose I am just not a fan of this genre so I wish there was more variation in the motifs.  In any case, this is probably quite enjoyable if war movies are your thing.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The producers and Malick fell out during preproduction.  Consequently, the producers were not allowed on set during filming.

Adrien Brody was shocked at the premiere to discover his character had barely any screen time, as he had believed he was the lead.


933. Ringu

Ringu
1998
Directed by Hideo Nakata








This might be the first horror movie on the List since Psycho that has actually scared me.  And speaking of scary movies, has anyone seen the movie Hush?  I watched it recently and was blown away.  But for now, let's talk about Ringu.

Reiko Asakawa is a divorced reporter with a young son.  Her teenaged niece Tomoko and three of her other friends have all recently died on the same night, with their faces twisted in fear.  Reiko is determined to figure out the cause behind their deaths.  She travels to the rented cabin that the teenagers recently rented in Izu and discovers an unlabeled tape in the reception area.  After watching the tape (which contained a series of strange images), she gets a call from an otherworldly voice telling her she has seven days.  Realizing she now has seven days to live before she meets the same fate as her niece, Reiko enlists the help of her ex-husband to try to figure out a way to survive.

My favorite part of any horror film is the backstory, when we learn what is causing all the, shall we say, wackiness.  I thought the background of this story was very interesting and I loved all the flashbacks (although I might have watched parts of this between my fingers).  There is, of course, the inevitable horror film frustration, where the characters act in ridiculously idiotic ways.  Still, I wasn't too annoyed with the characters.  It reminded me of Spoorloos, where the characters are intelligent enough to realize where their investigation might lead, but they are too curious to let it go.

Ultimately one of my favorite horror movies.  And seriously, check out Hush too.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Rie Ino'o was filmed walking backwards, then the footage was shown in reverse in order to achieve the scary ass movements of Sadako.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

932. There's Something About Mary

There's Something About Mary
1998
Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly









This is not the type of movie that I find to be funny.  I don't mean to sound like a snob when I say that, and if you enjoyed it, I'm glad.  I wish I had, as I could have used something hilarious after the gloom that was Happiness.  Alas, the Farrelly brothers are incapable of making me laugh.  Maybe I should be one of the Buckingham Palace guards.

In 1985, Ted, a total geek, somehow got Mary, a beautiful popular girl to go to prom with him.  Unfortunately, on the day of the prom, Ted has a zipper...incident and has to go to the hospital.  Thirteen years later, Ted is still carrying a torch for Mary and hires Pat Healy, a slimy private investigator to find her.  He falls for Mary himself and feeds Ted false information about her so he will lose interest.   Hilarity ensues.  Or, at least, tries to.

Okay, so like I said, I didn't find this funny and really, if you don't enjoy the visual gags, there is really not much else to appreciate.  As previously stated in one of my many rants related to Vanilla Sky, Cameron Diaz really gets on my nerves.

I should probably stop here, as a my services as a wet blanket might be needed somewhere else.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Matt Dillon and Cameron Diaz were dating during the filming.

Jon Stewart auditioned for the part of Ted.

931. Pi

Pi
1998
Directed by Darren Aronofsky







This film always reminds me of a friend of mine, who is quite good with computers and suffers from migraines.  He believes he is better off than me, as I have extreme bone pain from a condition called Multiple Hereditary Exostoses.  I always think he has it worse and really, I should be the authority on the subject as I have had both (don't eat the sandwiches at Sainsburys).  Anyway, cluster headaches trump everything.

Max Cohen is an unemployed number theorist who suffers from cluster headaches.  He believes that everything can be understood by numbers and is intent on figuring out the stock market through calculations on his computer.  His computer comes up with a 216 digit number that Max initially believes has no meaning, but later discovers could be the answer he was looking for.  Doesn't he know that the answer to the universe is 42?

The movie was effective in creating a mood; everything seemed to contribute to the overall feeling of intensity and near hysteria.  In lesser hands (or perhaps with a bigger budget) this could easily be a mindless thriller: mathematician discovers a secret that some agency wants so they come after him, causing many explosions and cringeworthy quips.  However, this was a thoughtful movie and I felt a deep connection with the main character.

I also felt for the ending, as my friend told me he fantasizing about doing the same thing.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Most of the props on set were hot glued together.  The smell caused nausea in many crew members.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

930. Happiness

Happiness
1998
Directed by Todd Solondz







This is a film I wish I had never seen.  It actually kept me up a couple of nights ago, as I reflected on some of the more disturbing scenes.  Well, my anxiety actually kept me awake, but I will blame this movie for at least a half hour of my unwanted consciousness.   I'm not saying this was exploitative or shouldn't have been made; I just don't know why anyone would want to see it.

The movie tells the story of the three Jordan sisters.  Joy is a timid telephone saleswoman whose personal life is unfulfilling.  The film opens with Joy rejecting a potential suitor, who later goes on to kill himself.  Her older sister Trish pities Joy, as she imagines Joy is jealous of Trish's suburban family.  Trish is unaware that her husband Bill is a pedophile (although I didn't think her life was that enviable in the first place).  The third sister, Helen, is a narcissistic author who regularly gets obscene phone calls.  She is infatuated with the anonymous caller, unaware that he is her awkward neighbor Allen.

First Festen and now this. I guess child molestation is the theme right now for movies.  I guess showing the humanity in a pedophile is brave in a way, as we usually picture them as easily identifiable creeps and not as ordinary looking people.  Personally, this made the film extra upsetting for me.  I suppose the director was intent on making the audience uncomfortable.  Job well done, sir.

So should people see this, even though viewing it is such an unpleasant experience?  I'm not sure it enriched my life in any way; I walked away feeling disturbed and slightly less optimistic about human beings.  Still, I can see people appreciating the temerity of this movie.  But honestly, I wish I had skipped it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

On Premiere's "25 Most Dangerous Movies" list.

Jack Black was considered for the part of Allen.

929. Lola rennt

Lola rennt
Run Lola Run
1998
Directed by Tom Tykwer








This is one of those movies that I had a really good time with, but I am not entirely sure it deserves a place on this List.  Still, I rate films on this blog by their enjoyability factor so I am going with four stars.

Lola gets a call from her boyfriend Manni.  He accidentally left a bag containing 100,000 deutsche marks on the subway and a homeless man made off with it.  Manni frantically explains that if he doesn't deliver the money by noon to a gangster, he will probably be killed.  He plans to rob a bank.  Lola has twenty minutes to find the money some other way and prevent a potential Dog Day Afternoon scenario.  The story of Lola's twenty minute run is told three times, each with small variations that ultimately lead to drastically different outcomes.

Like I said, this is a fun and engaging movie, although something is preventing me from calling it a favorite film.  I didn't really like the cartoon sequence, but I imagine that was done for budgetary reasons.  I guess we just didn't know the characters very well, so nothing struck me as particularly emotional.

In the end, it was an original idea and a fun ride.  Maybe I am just being too picky.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

During filming, Franka Potente couldn't wash her hair for seven weeks as the color would have gotten lighter with each washing.

The inspiration behind Majora's Mask.  Hey, it's interesting to me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

928. Rushmore

Rushmore
1998
Directed by Wes Anderson








I wasn't entirely sure that I would take to this one.  I thought the characters might be a bit too "wacky" for my taste.  Thankfully, I found the movie to be charming.  Wes Anderson seems adept at toeing the line between quirky and obnoxious.

Max Fischer is an eccentric prep school student who couldn't care less about his studies.  He is, however, obsessed with his extracurricular activities.  He is friends with Herman Blume, a successful businessman with an unhappy family life.  Max falls for the new first grade teacher, Rosemary, and quickly develops an unhealthy obsession (add it to the list).  Herman also falls for Rosemary, causing a feud.  Come on, guys.  Bros before hos.

I think the film blended comedy and drama well, but others might think it went too dark.  It certainly wasn't hilarious, but it treated serious matters with levity, which in itself was refreshing.  Bill Murray gave a brilliant, understated performance.  I was equally impressed with Jason Schwartzman; I might have to check out more of his work.

So a peculiar film but one that is worth watching.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Film debut of Alexis Bledel.

Elijah Wood auditioned for the role of Max.

927. Buffalo 66

Buffalo 66
1998
Directed by Vincent Gallo








I absolutely hate this man.  He says the most offensive things and you can tell he thinks he is god's gift. He is pretty much the Donald Trump of movie directors, come to think of it.  I will try to get over my hatred of him for this review, but I really think this guy needs a kick to the balls.

Billy is released from prison after five years for a crime he didn't commit.  After a lifetime of disappointing his abusive parents, he decides he has finally had enough of their disapproval.  He kidnaps a girl to bring and show off to his parents, promising he will kill her if she doesn't go along with the story.  It works out though, because the girl is into it.  Uh...okay...Apparently, Gallo is borrowing themes from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  I hope no one is watching this and taking notes.

Usually, I hate films because they bore me.  This one actually held my attention, which I guess says something good about the movie.  Still, Gallo is insufferable.  Even his nod to Ozu was annoying.  I am not a huge fan of Ozu, but even I know that Ozu is in a different league than Gallo.  God, he is pretentious.

So all of the characters are rather repulsive and the themes here are rather...worrying.  Definitely can be skipped.  Oh yeah, and Gallo, you are still the director of Brown Bunny.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Billy Brown's parents' house is the same house where Vincent Gallo grew up.

Monday, May 16, 2016

926. Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan
1998
Directed by Steven Spielberg








I remember watching this in my high school history class, which seems rather inappropriate considering all the other arbitrary rules.  We can watch people get their limbs blown off but girls weren't allowed to wear spaghetti straps.  In any case, I am quite glad I saw it; it made the experience of visiting Omaha myself much more powerful.

Following the Normandy invasion, Mrs. Ryan is informed that three of her four sons have been killed in action.  General George Marshall orders that her fourth son be immediately brought back from the front.  Captain John Miller is charged with leading a squad of seven men to find the last Ryan son and ensure that he makes it home safely.

By now I am kind of sick of war movies, as they always seem to have the same messages and themes: war is bad, loss of innocence, no glory in battle, etc.  I believe in these motifs, but I kind of get bored watching them play out over and over again in 2 hour+ productions.  While this film certainly had its share of cliches, I was actually quite pleased with some of its original elements.

For one thing, the movie is shocking in its realism.  I know Vietnam War films are supposed to be the grittiest war movies, but usually the senseless violence depicted isn't based on true events (I am thinking Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now).  To actually watch a brutal battle play out much like it did in real life was both horrifying and emotional.

I also liked the story, as simple as it was.  It was at least better than the usual "young soldier goes to war, it's worse than he expected" plot.  Ryan's character was put in such an interesting predicament.  Here all these men are dying for him, trying to save him and bring him home to his mother.  It must have been quite an emasculating experience.  I loved seeing what Ryan represented to the other characters and what, in their eyes, made him worth protecting.

So overly simplistic in some areas, but richly complex in others.  One of the better war movies I have seen.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The Omaha Beach scene cost $11 million to make.

All of the main actors, except Matt Damon, underwent a week of army training before filming.  Damon was spared so the other actors would resent him as they did in the film.

The Omaha scene was shot in Ireland.

George W. Bush's favorite movie.  Yikes.

Body count of 225.

925. Festen

Festen
The Celebration
1998
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg









I remember watching this in my playwriting class as an example of closed time, closed space.  We also saw a few clips from the play adaptation and it looked quite good.  The audience surrounded the stage, almost as if they were part of the dinner party.  Anyway, I thought this was brilliant and hopefully, I will see it on stage one day.

Family patriarch Helge is celebrating his 60th birthday at his family run hotel.  His children, Christian, Helene, and Michael, travel to the hotel for the party. While the rest of the family puts on a happy face for the celebration,  Christian is still clearly mourning the loss of his twin sister, who recently took her own life.  At dinner, Christian makes a shocking accusation.

I am not a huge fan of the Dogme 95 movement, but I did absolutely love the look of the film.  It felt like there was a reason here behind the rules, instead of mere pretension.  I really felt like I was one of the guests.  I think we can all empathize with the family and the attendees.  When I see family or acquaintances that I am not close to, I put up a wall.  When they ask me how I am or how my medical issues are going, I am not going to actually detail my problems.  Most likely, I will just say I'm fine and that I am getting better because, honestly, that's what they want to hear.  I feel like everyone was in that headspace in this film, although, of course, the secret they were protecting was a lot more disturbing and salacious than my own.  In any case, if someone knocked down that wall like Christian did, I don't know what I would do either.  I thought it was fascinating watching the aftermath of Christian's toast and I almost wish the film had been longer.

Anyway, one of the best films of the nineties so far.  Might even grab the Oscar.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Some of the guests at the table would take turns holding the camera, as Dogme rules state that the camera must always be handheld.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

924. Abre los Ojos

Abre los Ojos
Open Your Eyes
1997
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar









"Life is a dream" is a theorem put forth by many unimaginative stoners and really, it is an issue I couldn't care less about.  So what if it is? It's real to me.  This is a film that promises some profound message, but really ends up saying nothing at all.

Cesar, a sexy playboy meets his best friend's new girlfriend, Sofia, and immediately falls for her (it's Penelope Cruz, so really, who could blame him?).  This meeting excites the jealousy of his crazed ex lover Nuria.  After Cesar spends the night at Sofia's, Nuria pulls up to her flat.  She offers him sex and a ride.  Cesar gets in  (I will suppress making a statement about the nature of men for the benefit of all my male readers) and Nuria crashes the car, intent on killing them both.  Cesar survives, but is horribly disfigured.  And then...well, I am really not sure what happens.

I just recently saw Vanilla Sky with a friend and thought it was absolutely terrible.  I was so grateful that it was over and that I would never have to watch it again.  Then I discovered that this was on The List.  You know, that's just the way things are going recently.

I was surprised by how similar this was to Vanilla Sky, at least until the ending.  I would still call this a vast improvement, mainly because of the cast.  I couldn't stand Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz in the remake.  I should really stop talking about Vanilla Sky, as Open Your Eyes shouldn't be blamed for the sins of its posterity.

Okay, I am not saying I would handle facial disfigurement any better than Cesar would, but damn, his behavior was obnoxious to watch.  The scene in the club was one of the most cringeworthy scenes I have ever watched in a movie.  The Phantom of the Opera handled himself better and he lived in a weird lair under the opera house.

So the story really didn't interest me, but I suppose the acting and cinematography were just fine.  Much better than Vanity Sky anyway.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Tom Cruise reportedly was on his phone trying to get the remake rights by the time the credits rolled.

923. Titanic

Titanic
1997
Directed by James Cameron








There are many tragic films I can watch without shedding a tear, but this one really destroys me.  As Joey Tribbiani said, those two had only each other!

I am assuming everyone who is reading this knows the plot of this movie.  I am even assuming they know the ending, which breaks my usual no spoiler rule, but I have to argue with people who claim Jack could have fit on the debris (it's not about space people, it's about weight!).  Anyway, for tradition's sake, I will give a brief summary.  A young, unhappily engaged aristocrat falls in love with a poor but sexy artist onboard the doomed Titanic.

So this is a beautifully made film with insanely accurate detail.  If Cameron had directed Braveheart, we all would have been a lot happier.  I think this is the type of film that could easily coast with a less than stellar cast, but thankfully, everybody gave fantastic performances (I was particularly impressed with Bates and Stuart).  Normally I would complain about the length, but I just read that Cameron wanted the running time to equal the actual time it took the ship to sink after colliding with the iceberg.   That's actually pretty awesome, so I will keep my mouth shut.

Usually epic romances bore me, but something about their chemistry makes them more likable.  The problems they face are not caused by their own stupidity (here's looking at you An Affair to Remember).

Finally, I agree with a Best Picture winner!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The line "I'm king of the world" was improvised by Leonardo DiCaprio.

James Cameron pitched the film to 20th Century Fox by saying it was Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic.

First movie to gross a billion dollars.

Friday, May 13, 2016

922. Funny Games

Funny Games
1997
Directed by Michael Haneke








I get the impression that you pass the test Haneke has created by turning off the film or walking out of the theater.  Unfortunately, I couldn't do that as I want to complete the List.  I still hated it; does that count for anything?

A wealthy Austrian family (Georg, his wife Anna, their son Georgie and their dog Rolfi) vacation on a house on the lake.  I suppose we were supposed to cheer for this family's demise because they have so much money and apparently this is the French Revolution.  Anyway,  two men from Vienna torture and terrorize them, often breaking the fourth wall.

So yes, I hated this as I hate all home invasion films.  I suppose Haneke was attempting to hold up a mirror to fans of the genre.  I didn't need a reminder that the film was sick and will happily forget about this as soon as possible.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Michael Haneke has said that if the film is a success it means the audience didn't understand it.  Way to cover your ass, Haneke.

921. Ta'm e guilass

Ta'm e guilass
Taste of Cherry
1997
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami








I was shocked to discover that Roger Ebert actually gave a negative review of this film.  This seemed like the kind of dull chore of a movie that critics would hail as a masterpiece.  Reason number 151 that I love Roger Ebert: he isn't pretentious.

A man drives around Tehran, looking for someone to bury him after he dies.  He plans on killing himself and explains that he will enter a pit at nightfall.  If he is dead by morning, he hopes that someone will fill the hole.  If he is alive, he hopes that someone will help him out.  The film follows his attempts at trying to find someone for this strange task.  It is never explained why he wants to commit suicide, who he is, or if he even decides to go through with it.

Ebert called this film "excruciatingly boring" and I have to agree.  Forcing us to watch this man drive around aimlessly for an hour and a half without ever revealing an interesting back story just felt cruel.  And what was up with the ending?  Was it just to remind us that it was all just a movie?  Kiarostami is relying on the viewer to fill in all the blanks of his story and yet still believes the audience is too stupid to realize it was just a movie?

Anyway, I think we are finally done with Kiarostami and the only time he truly impressed me was with The White Balloon.  I guess that means it was worth it?

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Kiarostami shot each of the actors separately with him either sitting in the passenger seat or driver seat.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

920. Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights
1997
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson








I am not sure why the comment section isn't working.  I have looked at other blogs and I don't think the widget is working for them either.  Hopefully, it will start working again magically without me putting any effort into it.  That's the dream, right?  Anyway, I will keep replying to all comments and I apologize that this is now a huge pain in the ass.

Now then.  I did not anticipate enjoying this film.  I have strongly disliked Paul Thomas Anderson ever since I saw Magnolia (but that's a rant for another time).  However, I actually did have fun with this one; I think Moore's presence comforted me.

In the late 70s, Eddie Adams is a high school drop out working as a dishwasher at a night club.  He is approached by a porn filmmaker, Jack Horner,  and um...auditions.  Eddie impresses Jack with his exceptionally large penis and Eddie enters the world of pornography, adopting the pseudonym Dirk Diggler.  Apparently he never heard of the "take the name of the first pet plus the street you grew up on" rule for finding your porn name.  Anyway, at first the pornverse seems glamorous to Eddie, but gradually the seedier aspects of the industry become apparent.

There really isn't much to dislike about this film.  It has a great soundtrack, a great cast, and a great story.  Maybe it was a bit too long, but at least the pacing felt right.  Obviously, we can all imagine that the porn world is sordid, but it is a largely unexplored subject in mainstream film.  It was intriguing/horrifying to finally get an inside look.

Unfortunately, not the last Anderson on the List.  He would have ended on such a high note!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Leonard DiCaprio had to turn down the role of Dirk Diggler as he had already signed on to do Titanic.

Body count of 9.

After seeing a rough cut of the film, Burt Reynolds reportedly fired his agent for recommending the role in the first place.

919. The Sweet Hereafter

The Sweet Hereafter
1997
Directed by Atom Egoyan







I am currently staying at my sister's apartment.  Right now she is out picking up her new cat and is going to bring Mexican food back.  When she returns my heart might explode with happiness.  Fortunately, this movie can act as a mood stabilizer, as this was one of the most depressing films I have ever watched.

In a small town in Canada, a school bus skids off into a lake, killing fourteen children.  All of the grieving parents are approached by a lawyer (played by Ian Holm) who urges them to sue, as he doesn't believe there is such a thing as accidents.  Bilbo Baggins has problems of his own, as his drug addicted daughter recently tested positive for HIV.  Oh, there is also a sexual assault story line, which is the final square on our sadness bingo card.

The filmmakers probably could have cut one tragedy.  It was starting to get ridiculous; I felt like I was watching a Lifetime movie.  I even left out a few in my summary.  A girl is also paralyzed and the bus driver's husband is mentally disabled.  I mean, Jesus.  As a storyteller, I believe if you torture your characters like this there should be some sort of payoff or lesson for the viewer.  What was the point of any of this?  That life is cold and miserable and...that's it?  None of the characters were particularly inspirational.  I suppose the most heroic character was Nicole, but I didn't understand her actions at all.

In a film like this there are, of course, moments of beauty.  Still, I wasn't too impressed.  The filmmakers' only goal seemed to be to see how fast they could make the audience cry.  I made it through without tearing up once so I might just be a monster.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Donald Sutherland was originally cast as Mitchell Stephens but backed out at the last minute.

Russell Banks has said this was an improvement on his novel.

918. The Ice Storm

The Ice Storm
1997
Directed by Ang Lee






I have to officiate a wedding tomorrow (tomorrow meaning April 29th when I wrote this) and my anxiety about the whole thing is reaching a fever pitch.  Today I am just trying to stay distracted and not think about my impending speech.  I am doing a good job so far, don't you think?

Ice Storm is about two miserable, dysfunctional families during the 1970s who escape their problems through alcohol and sexual experimentation.  Ben, the patriarch of the Hood family, is having an affair with Janey Carver, a depressed, middle age housewife.  Meanwhile, their children play sexual games of their own.   Paul, Ben's son, compares his family to the Fantastic Four, citing similarities between the level of dysfunction in each group.

I really expected this to be much more atmospheric.  I thought everything (the music, the colors, etc) would contribute to an icy feeling like the elements of Zero Kelvin did.  I really didn't get that with this film, but as I seem to be the only one that feels this way, I am willing to accept that the subtlety was lost on me.

In any case, Sigourney Weaver truly shines in this and oddly enough, so does Tobey Maguire.  I never thought of him as an acting powerhouse.  Definitely an interesting find.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The author of the novel this film was based on, Ricky Moody, was so impressed with the movie that he sobbed during the credits.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

917. The Butcher Boy

The Butcher Boy
1997
Directed by Neil Jordan









The Butcher Boy is not to be confused with The Butcher Boys, which is some kind of torture porn film based on A Modest Proposal.  I accidentally started to watch the wrong movie, but luckily, I caught my mistake fairly quickly.  If there is one essay I don't want to see acted out, it's A Modest Proposal.

Francie Brady is a twelve year old bully who routinely terrorizes both children and adults with the help of his best friend Joe Purcell.  Francie's father is an alcoholic and his mother is emotionally damaged.  When Francie's behavior goes too far, he is sent to a reform school, where he fantasizes about the Virgin Mary and is molested by a priest.  When he finally returns home, things are a bit...different than he remembered.

Well, this kid might be one of the most annoying children I have ever seen in a film.  At least he didn't try to be overly cute but I still wanted to smack his ginger head.  The Book says that Fiona Shaw's character, Mrs. Nugent, is the town busybody.  I didn't get that at all.  She seemed like an ordinary woman that was terrorized by two young boys.  Were we supposed to be cheering for his sadistic behavior toward her?  I really hope not.

Perhaps we were supposed to sympathize with Francie because of his awful childhood.  At one point, one of the characters declared that he never had chance.  I struggle with that attitude a little bit; it's not like because he had a shitty childhood he was fated to defecate in Mrs. Nugent's living room.  It was definitely hard for me to watch.

I do think the questions posed by this film were interesting.  Where is the line between normal childish playing and complete insanity?  Still, I don't think this movie deserves its place on The List.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Eamonn Owens had no previous acting experience before appearing in this film.

916. L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential
1997
Directed by Curtis Hanson








I kind of thought we were done with noirs, but the genre has really been cropping up a lot lately.  I am certainly not complaining, as I have missed watching women make men do horrible things by asking them in throaty voices.

In the early fifties, three detectives investigate an unsolved murder.  Detective Lieutenant Exley is trying to live up to his father's name, Detective White is willing to break the rules to get justice, and Detective Vincennes gets absorbed in the seedier sides of celebrity culture.

This film isn't Big Sleep complicated, but it is complicated enough that I struggled with the plot synopsis.  I think the story could have done with some trimming, but I guess part of the noir appeal is to have plots with inexplicably confusing twists.  Anyway, the acting was obviously phenomenal, as you have both Kevin Spacey and James Cromwell.  Russell Crowe is about half as talented as he believes he is, which is still pretty good.

I loved the atmosphere in the film, although I did feel a strong urge to take a shower after it was over.  Definitely worth a watch.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Kim Basinger turned down the role three times before finally accepting it.

The movie has 80 speaking parts.

Body count of 30.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

915. Mononoke hime

Mononoke hime
Princess Mononoke
1997
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki








I am not sure how nerdy my readers are, but I kind of excel in that department.  This film actually played out like a lot of video games I have enjoyed.  While I can understand why this wouldn't appeal to everyone, it certainly appealed to me.

In the Muromachi period of Japan, Ashitaka defeats a demon before it destroys his village.  However, the demon cursed him, giving him superhuman powers that will eventually kill him.  Ashitaka searches for a cure but finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and a mining town.

This really does sound like a Legend of Zelda game, so much so that I am kind of starting to think Ocarina of Time is a rip off.  Perish the thought.  Anyway, it probably would have worked better as a video game, but it was still visually stunning.  After Akira, I was a bit wary of anime and this was a pleasant surprise.

Still, I understand if the fantastical plot would turn some people off.  As I own my own Link figurine (with detachable parts!), I enjoyed it.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

In Japanese mythology, wolves and dogs always have male voices, while cats always have female voices.  For this reason, a man does the voice of the mother wolf.

550 colors were used in the film.

914. Cheun gwong tsa sit

Cheun gwong tsa sit
Happy Together
1997
Directed by Wong Kar-wai







I wasn't that enthusiastic about watching another Kar-wai film from the List.  I thought Chungking Express was entertaining, but ultimately not super impressive.  Happy Together, once again, was decent but didn't blow me away.  I hope I either hate or love his next movie so I can finally form a definitive opinion on him.

Basically, the film depicts the turbulent romance between Ho Po-wing and Lai Yiu-fai after they travel to Argentina to mend their relationship.  While Ho Po is pretty much a cheating asshole, Lai is more rational and loving.

This was a bit tough to watch, in a Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? type of way.  I was still intrigued, but I would hardly call this enjoyable to watch.  Thankfully, the cinematography is stunning enough that it is still worth a watch despite the unlikable characters.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The two main characters are named after the film's assistant cinematographers.

913. The English Patient

The English Patient
1996
Directed by Anthony Minghella







I keep meaning to read this book, as it always seemed like a story that would work better in print.  I didn't dislike this, but I can't say that other people's complaints about it (that it is too long and boring) aren't valid.

Towards the end of World War II, Hana, a French Canadian nurse, takes care of a badly burned man in an Italian monastery.  At first, the dying man cannot even remember his name but slowly, his past is revealed through a series of flashbacks.  We learn that he is a Count who fell in love with the beautiful, but married Katherine Clifton.  As Hana tends to the Count, she has a love story of her own with a British soldier.

Did this really have to be three hours long?  It's strange that even with such a lengthy running time, I still wish there had been more scenes between Kip and Hana.  This is, in part, due to the fact that I have an intense crush on Naveen Andrews.  But more than that, I thought they were a much more interesting couple than Katherine and Almasy.  I mean, really, what was K and A's hook?  That she was married?  Not very compelling.

Still, I think this was a beautiful movie.  The cast was excellent; I will never stop gushing over Juliette Binoche.  Every shot in this film was gorgeous.  Was every shot necessary?  Definitely not.  But I still don't think this was the Academy's oddest pick for Best Picture.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Ralph Fiennes' make up took five hours to apply.

I feel you, Elaine:

Monday, May 9, 2016

912. Scream

Scream
1996
Directed by Wes Craven






I adore movies that are clearly made for cinephiles.  This is a personal favorite of mine and I am grateful that it has come along, as the recent films I have been reviewing have merely been okay.  Finally, something fantastic.

Casey Becker receives a phone call from an unknown person while she waiting for her boyfriend to come over.  At first, the caller is flirty but he quickly becomes sadistic.  He tells her that if she can't answer his horror movie trivia questions, he will kill her and her boyfriend. By the way, I would totally have nailed this.  If you know horror movies (and to fully appreciate this film this description has to apply to you), you know what happens next.  We then meet Sidney Prescott, whose mother was killed a year ago.  Her boyfriend Billy wants her to move on from this, so he can get laid.  But he's Skeet Ulrich, so he is still charming.  Anyway, there are more killings and it quickly becomes clear that Sidney is being targeted.

I don't know why I went into such detail with the plot.  The jokes and irony come from the fact that the plot is a cliche; I probably could have just said "It's like Halloween."  Anyway, I was initially wary of this one, as horror movie parodies are often cringeworthy.  But I love how this film still delivers; it's still a horror movie, even with all the in jokes and self awareness.  There are genuinely frightening moments and great twists.

Personally, I liked Scream 4 better, but I understand why this entry was selected.  Definitely a must see for any movie fan.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Linda Blair makes a cameo as a reporter.

Ghostface's costume was originally going to be white so that he would look more like a ghost.  However, his robes were changed to black so that he wouldn't look like a KKK member.