Join Date: Dec 1999
Scaled on 1 to 5 stars
, first viewings are underlined, theatrical screenings are in red
* vomit stew
** bad film
*** good film
**** excellent film
***** a grand artistic achievement... the 'anti-vomit stew'
- 1/1 Killing Zoe, ****
I love this film, and always have. Probably watched it 10 times or more. Got home from a New Years Eve party and just put it in to rock out to the opening titles, and ended up watching the whole thing again. The only reason it doesn't get five stars is that there are maybe two or three very minor stutters in the acting (Zed delivering a line badly to Zoe about not speaking French, him again looking away before firing a gun, etc.), but overall, this is an independant tour de force directorial debut.
- 1/9 Freaks, *****
A masterpiece. The climactic end scenes are nothing less than harrowing.
- 1/13 A Very Long Engagement, *****
Superb job. The film is a technical ace, and the story is very well crafted. It's an excellent showcase of contrasts; brutal graphic violence and sensuous sexual moments, panoramic views of both the idyllic French countryside and of the horrific trench battlefields. Expert photography abounds. I had a sustained interest in the characters as well, their lives so meticulously intertwined, and of course, our heroine Mathilde's hope and perseverance holding fast throughout the film. And even in the midst of war, there are finely placed, subtle humors which might seem out of place under another director's hands but instead come off very naturally here. Director Jeunet does recycle a few of the devices used in Amelie, but they work here just as well as they did in that movie (mainly, a narrator breaking in briefly to announce certain nuances about various characters' personas, and to reveal timeline juxtapositions). Highly recommended.
- 1/16 The Key, ***
Good looking film. Although the story/dialogue left a little to be desired, the general subject matter was enough to keep me in this one. Production value is high and I'm a sucker for women in garters and backseams, thus the three stars.
- 1/19 The Dead Next Door, ***
In the first five minutes of this movie, I had pegged it as a shoo-in for a 2 star, or less. However, while the acting is pretty fuckin' bad, as are the production values, well, and the script - ahem - while these things may leave a lot to be desired, the technical aspects of editing and plot aren't too shabby. The story moves along coherently, and there are enough decent plot devices to add dimension to it. This movie was obviously made by genre fans rather than career minded 'filmmakers', so I give them a pass on the acting and cornball production values. They did a great job of telling a good story with minimal production dinero, and they must have had a great time making the movie. It's actually pretty funny, in that bad movie way, and there are constant references to genre icons (the characters being named Raimi, Carpenter, etc.). The crew even had fun with the credits, condemning video pirates to duplication hell, etc. Bruce Campbell is even credited with post-production sound. And hell, any production that thanks Entenmann's Bakery is alright in my book. Recommended for zombie genre fans with a sense of humor and/or a love of shoe-string budget filmmaking.
- 1/21 Kind Hearts and Coronets, ***1/2 Dry, witty black comedy. Although included in the Anchor Bay set commemorating him, and even though he plays eight roles, Alec Guinness doesn't really get to do much here but die... over and over. While Guinness pulled off a crafty coup with his portrayal of so many characters, it seems slightly misplaced in the set due to the fact that he's not the focus of the film (understandable since this was his first Ealing comedy, which I suppose is reason enough itself to include it in the set). Nonetheless, Dennis Price is right on the mark in the lead, delivering his morbidly humorous lines with a deftness worthy of Guinness himself. So, Given Price's performance, and regardless Guinness' back seat role(s), if you're into early British comedies, especially those on the dark side, definitely check it out.
- 1/21 Miranda, **1/2 Boring as hell, and tedious. As with The Key, this second film in the Tinto Brass collection is filmed very well, but the story is even less intriguing than The Key. Tinto really knows how to film women, this is a certainty, but he falls off in the plot department.
- 1/29 Kung Pow!, *** Pretty freakin' funny.
- 1/29 Thumb Wars, **1/2 Has it's moments, but the whole thumb thing just goes over my head.
- 1/31 Ray, **** Great movie. I was expecting a little more coverage of the latter day Ray, but I guess the 50s-60s were the heyday, so there ya go. Fucking beautiful film, what with the immaculate old cars and era buildings and period fashions and swank furnishings and all of it... it just looked great. As for the acting, it was right on as well, and not just Foxx. But, speaking of Foxx, I never saw him here, which I thought I would; the guy really is believable as Charles. Damn good job. So, what about the music? Well, what can you say? It speaks for itself, so if you're judging the movie on that, it should get all five stars. The soundtrack just flat out kicks ass, but then, I wouldn't expect any less in that department.
- 2/3 Switchblade Sisters, ***1/2 Great, mildly sleazy flick! It moves along at a good pace and has a good, workable storyline that it sticks to. Fun grungy action and dialogue. Funny as hell to see a young Don Stark too (Donna's dad, Bob, from That 70's Show).
- 2/12 Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle Unrated Edition, *** Got trapped over at a friends and was forced to watch this movie, which looked horrible to me from the ads for it. Lo and behold, it was actually pretty damned funny. Plus, it was paced and edited well, so not only is it funny, but there's a good flow to it as well. Comparisons to Office Space and Half Baked are inevitable, as the movie certainly does borrow from these and others, but if you're into stoner humor, don't just write this one off because of that; I think it stands up on it's own very well.
- 2/14 Mark of the Devil, *** Fairly captivating witch trial vehicle which touches on the excesses and desperation to hold onto power of the church and corrupt local authority more than you would expect from a strictly exploitive film. It never delves very deeply into any real inspection of these themes, but I was surprised at how many angles it glanced at them from. The film moves along at a pretty good pace, and although it doesn't quite live up to the legendary billing, the amount of torture and gore is ample. On the negative side, the acting ranges from passable to uninspired, and the soundtrack is pretty damned hideous which took me out of the movie a few times (there is one recurring, creepy string cue though which did work very well).
- 2/19 Killer Nun, *** Kind of slow but well paced, and the plot is a bit minimal but it does play out like a better giallo. Not the best photography composition, but I did like the look of the movie and it had some interesting scenes.
- 2/20 Marquis de Sade's Justine, ***1/2 Excellent production, probably the most polished of Franco's works I've seen to date. This is the film I've always wanted from him. Unlike the previous films I've seen of his, this one is edited well, the sets and props are right on, and the photography is beautiful - the movie looks great, moves along quite coherently, and just seems "finished". The supporting cast is terrific, but that brings me to the one drawback in my mind, which was the lead's effort. Romina Power looks perfect for the part (she looks quite delectable), but she's a dead fish when it comes to acting. I didn't hold a lot of sympathy for the character as Power played her. She had all of the innocence down pat but absolutely none of the awakening lust, and as that is a central theme of the source material, Justine's battle between desire and virtue, the part must exhibit both aspects. Had Power done this, the movie would easily have got a 4 star rating from me. A word about the supplements on the Blue Underground dvd; be sure and check out the short interview piece with Franco and producer Harry Alan Towers, "The Perils and Pleasures of Justine", as it was illuminating, and very funny.
- 2/21 Night Train Murders, *** It took a lonnnng 40 minutes for this one to get kicking. It was plodding dreadfully along until then, but then it started getting all psychosexual and downright brutal. The last half of the movie makes up for the first with lots of in your face, unapologetic action and brutality which, quite frankly, one is more than ready for after the borfest leading up to it. Macha Méril, from Argento's 'Deep Red', puts on a wicked performance, first as a willing rape victim and then as an active instigator of further violence. It's a fairly good looking movie with some very striking imagery.
- 2/26 THX 1138, ***1/2 This was my first time to see this, and on first run, I felt that the plot and script seemed a bit disjointed, unconnected. Aside from this, I still liked it a lot as the photography, music and sound effects alone are curious and hypnotic. Very interesting, visually captivating movie. As for the updated treatment a la Lucas-Tinkering Inc., there were only two CGI scenes which were so obviously fake as to take me out of it. Fortunately, they're very quick cutaway scenes and don't interrupt the movie too greatly.
- 2/28 Napoleon Dynamite, *** It seems most people either love or hate this movie. I'm kind of in between. I liked it, but it's not as completely awesome as some wax on about. I thought the ending was extremely unclimactic. It seemed to end in the middle of it all. Still, some pretty funny situations are exhibited. It's at least worth a rental.
- 2/28 Casshern, *** Beautiful, dark sci-fi fantasy film which I couldn't finish because it was so damned long and it was late and well, the story just went on and on and on and on.... but the visuals are very kickass, hence the three stars.
- 2/29 Elf, **1/2 It made me laugh. A few times even.
- 2/29 Shaun of the Dead, *** Just as good the second time around.
- 2/29 Lady Death, ** Pretty standard Saturday morning cartoon fare, but with some pretty cool backgrounds and graphic violence during the climatic war scenes near the end. Horrible dialogue and voice acting though.
- 3/5 All the Ladies Do It, ***1/2 The third and final film in the Tinto Brass collection is a powerhouse of eroticism. It's a much more lively picture than The Key or Miranda, both in the story and the sexual situations. Best film in the set, and probably the best Brass film I've seen so far.
- 3/12 Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead, *** Pretty entertaining piece of crap no-budget film. Some decently played period sets (medeival, WWII close combat, etc.). This is really not a 'good film', but it's great for a laugh and gets high marks for the gore factor, hence the three stars. The climactic ending is fucking ridiculous, in a good way.
- 3/18 Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, **** One of the best buddy flicks from the '70s. Character driven and introspective.
- 3/19 The Great Escape, ****1/2 Great ensemble cast, great flow, great sets, great photography... simply a great movie.
- 3/21 Who Done It?, ***1/2 Abbott and Costello murder mystery. Many funny skits, a well designed plot and script, good acting all around and a good pace.
- 3/25 Pardon My Sarong, *** Some obviously rehashed skits yet Abbott and Costello pull it off naturally and convincingly. Good adventure plot, but it's pretty weird watching honkey island natives and a doo wop band called The Inkspots.
- 3/27 The Last Temptation of Christ, **** Great casting, excellent production. The soundtrack of course brings it to yet another level altogether. The film is simply mesmerizing.
- 4/3 Freeway (1996), ***1/2 At the same time brutal and funny as hell.
- 4/6 Sin City, **** Expertly crafted film with a jaw-dropping cast and a whole damned lotta heart.
- 4/9 The Child, *1/2 A little bitta creepy, a whole lotta crappy. The only reason this doesn't get a one star, vomit-stew rating is because it actually does have a passable pace and the shots are decently framed/composed... for the most part. But the plot is minimal, the action is minimal, and the kills and effects are minimal. Good lookin' Laurel Barnett is wasted on a horrible 'hysteric, can't-do woman' role. I think she just screams and covers her eyes pretty much the second half of the movie. Almost as annoying as the horrible vaudevillian, non-stop crescendo piano score. Crap.
- 4/10 Grizzly, *** Classic '70s man-against-nature cheese. WARNING; DVD is crap pan & scan. I love these kind of movies, and this one's pretty entertaining, but as with Day of the Animals (watched last year), this poor movie is damned to a pan and scan fate.
- 4/12 Kagemusha, **** Beautiful film with an engaging story. The production values here really come off vibrantly like a living Japanese scroll painting, with ample military pageantry, vivid colors, and frenzied action.
- 4/16 Ecstasy (1933), **1/2 Rather boring but technically well shot film. This early German talky suffers from the standard-of-the-day lack of much dialogue but some of the shots are really impressive for 1933. The camera moves quite a bit, especially in one indulgent exterior crane shot. A historical film curiosity in that we get to see a few minutes or so of Hedy Lamarr nekkid swimming in a lake and then running through the woods, as well as her performance of what may be cinema's first orgasm - but all of that can't really make up for the other 85 minutes of tedium in regards to plot. Still, the movie is shot well enough and what story there is comes off coherently enough to be spared a 'bad film' rating.
- 4/19 Tales of Terror, ***1/2 Nice to see Rathbone here, but this is really Price and Lorres' baby - the middle segment with them is great. Screenplay by Matheson helps the three stories along very nicely.
- 4/25 Maria Full of Grace, ***1/2 Very well done. Good camerawork and a fine cast tell a wrenching story.
- 5/1 The Dreamers, ***1/2 Great looking film and a rather twisted story about siblings and sexual awakening. It moved along well enough, but I think they could have done a little more in the character development department. That said, the story was interesting enough that it still held my attention. And first time actress Eva Green was most luscious indeed.
- 5/10 Kingdom of Heaven, **** Great looking spectacle, and a well told story too, if only a bit surface deep. The acting was fine, except that I think Orlando played it all too subdued - not sure if he was right for the part. And it was great to see Eva Green (from The Dreamers) again, even though her character was reduced to bystander status after the first half. As with Gladiator, the only real problem I have with Kingdom of Heaven is the MTV style editing during the battle scenes closeups. Sure, there is quite a lot of gore and carnage showing the brutality of war, but Scott's camera is too frenzied to really catch the determination and desperation during the middle of it all. I understand that he's trying to display the frantic pace of battle, and I don't think we should hold on every single shot, but I think there could be a little more balance between the two styles. Anyway, that's what I would do if I were Ridley Scott. Nevertheless, very recommended.
- 5/14 Kung Pow! ('Book on Tape' audio version), *** Still funny the second time around. All the dialogue and narration in this version is done by one guy in an exagerated monotone voice, which came off pretty damned funny.
- 5/15 Ed Gein, **1/2 This was not quite as bad as I'd heard it was. I'd say they got most of the, ahem, meat of the story right (although I'd have to do some refresher research to be sure, as it's been several years since I read about Gein). The production value is that of a decent made for tv movie, and the acting and dialogue was believable enough. The editing was fine in that the story was presented in mostly a linear fashion with a few flashbacks that worked well to flesh out Gein's backstory. I think they also did a good job of capturing the feel and look of 1950s rural Wisconsin. The brief archival news footage used for the credit sequences is certainly of interest to Gein-ophiles, and lastly, and maybe most importantly visually speaking anyway, the movie got the gruesome details down correctly. I'd give you examples, but I don't want to possibly spoil anything for you. A word of warning if indeed you are unfamiliar with the case... Eddy Gein was one sick mofo, so don't eat a big meal before watching. Recommended rental.
- 5/17 House of 1000 Corpses, *** Overall a pretty fun movie with good brutal action and imagery. Twisted folks and twisted humor... works for me.
- 5/17 The Devil's Rejects, **** This is the feelgood movie of the year - for ruthless outlaws, that is. It's gritty, grimy, ugly, relentless, and just plumb raw as fuck. It indulges greedily in exhibiting brutality for brutality's sake, not for some cheap thrills; there are no 'GOTCHA!' moments here - just a whole lot of blood, guts, and anarchistic abandon. Some of the humor is retained from 'HOTC', but it's not as overt, and this is a much more serious movie.
- 5/18 Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, **** Great looking, sinister little story with biting (literally ), dark humor. I was afraid this was going to be another 'Jim Carey Show!', but he did fine and didn't suck up the whole movie. In fact, the kids are very strong characters, and they do very well portraying them. The supporting characters are strong as well, so I was happily surprised by this one.
- 5/19 Star Wars; Revenge of the Sith, *** This is by far the best movie of the 2nd trilogy, both visually and plot-wise, but Hayden Christensen still just kills it for me; every single line he has takes me right out of the movie, he sucks so bad. The story actually made sense, and each plot point had a purpose, as opposed to the previous two movies, which took meaningless, meandering, aimless steps to get from point A to B. I thought imagery was great, far better than the previous two movies. Palpatine was a right good rat bastard, and Yoda kicked butt. Grievous' fight with Kenobi was pretty cool too. And wookies! RAARRGGHH!!!
- 5/22 Dreamscape, *** Never saw this 80s gem back in the day. Sure, it's dated, but it's got an interesting premise and it's played out fairly well. And hell, it's got genre workhorse Max Von Sydow going for it... can't go wrong there. It's also good to see Sully from Commando here, being his usual bad self.
- 5/24 Million Dollar Baby, **** Fucking damn... didn't see that one coming. Great performance from Swank, and Eastwood and Freeman live up to their names. Great direction, solid story, hardcore pull no punches ending.
- 5/26 High Tension, **** Great job of re-establishing the killer genre. Hard, gritty movie that stands right up there with the hardest from the 70s/80s. In an age of Screams, Valentines, and IKWYDLSs, it's real refreshing to see movies like this being made again. Seeing both this and Devil's Rejects just ten days apart gives me some much needed hope for horror film in general.
- 5/27 The Last Man on Earth, *** The narration in the first section just about kills this for me. I think it would have played much better had they not tried telling us everything that was happening before our eyes; it would have been much creepier had there been the natural silence that would occur in such a scenario. And the acting in the flashback sequence was just bad. Nonetheless, there is a great visual story here, and Price saves the film, hence the three stars. I think I'll pull a Scorcese and give this one a second spin sometime without the sound.
- 5/28 The Stendhal Syndrome, **** One of Argento's deepest, most developed movies I've ever seen. An interesting, dynamic plot with a compelling vehicle (the main character's affliction) to move it along. The movie benefits greatly from a very effective Ennio Morricone score.
- 5/31 Daughter of Dr. Jekyll **1/2 Standard 50s spookum fare, but with decent plot and editing in general. Story is predictable by today's standards, but it still works technically. My main problem with the movie is that it doesn't really know exactly what it wants to be, jumbling several monster lores together; here we have thrown together in one case everything from vampires to werewolves, as well as a little of Jekyll and Hyde to justify the title. Disregard for traditional monster lore aside, the movie did hold my interest throughout. A recommended rental for those into 50s frights.
- 6/4 Alice Cooper - The Nightmare, **** So good to see this TV special again. Great showmanship by the two masters, Cooper and Vincent Price. The sets are pretty lo-tech, but they're still cool as hell, and of course, the music is classic. Price's Black Widow intro is gold.
- 6/9 Zatoichi 5 - On the Road, ***1/2
- 6/9 Svengali (1931), ***1/2 John Barrymore is wicked in this, and the rest of the cast are good too. The story moves along nicely and the sets and camerawork are intriguing.
- 6/11 Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii (original concert), ***** Perfect.
- 6/11 Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii (Director's Cut), **** I don't mind the new fangled CGI and stock footage so much, but the band interviews cut into the flow. They're great to have, no doubt about it, but it makes the movie come off more as a 'making of' film rather than a feature film. The Dark Side of the Moon session footage is priceless though.
- 6/12 The Invisible Ghost, **1/2 Lugosi is in good form, and the rest of the cast do quite good as well, but a preposterous script really holds this one back.
- 6/12 Sunrise, ***** A captivating story with dark forebodings, dismal dread, and renewed hope only to be threatened by precarious turns of fate. Also, there are a few moments of delightful humor throughout. Great camerawork and incredible pace. An amazingly sophisticated example of cinema for 1927.
- 6/12 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), *** A little stagey and overly dramatic at times, but that was the way things were done back then. As the movie progresses, John Barrymore's perfomance as Hyde gets better and better. The murder scene truly is brutal and stunning.
- 6/13 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, **** Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw and the rest are just great in this 70s New York City thriller. Some great period humor (the characters are truely 70s New Yorker personas) and lots of tense action. One of my favorite movies.
- 6/14 Amityville Horror (2005), ***1/2 Tight flick. I don't understand the hate, other than that it's a remake. I think on it's own it plays pretty damned well. The story flows well, the characterization is good, and the acting is believable.
- 6/15 Batman Begins, **** Thought this was great. The acting by all was good, and was more realistic than in the previous movies. The story was complex and the scenes were great.
- 6/16 Bill Hicks Live; One Night Stand ****
- 6/17 Bill Hicks Live; Relentless, ****
- 6/18 The Human Monster a.k.a. The Dark Eyes of London, *** Pretty fun little slice of depravity. Not the best movie technically, but the acting is fine and the plot situations are gruesome. Must have been pretty shocking back in '39.
- 6/19 Night of the Living Dead (1990), *** Pretty good effort, but it just doesn't capture the eeriness of the original. Still, some good scenes and some good laughs.
- 6/19 Dawn of the Dead (1978), ****
- 6/19 Day of the Dead, ***1/2
- 6/20 Night of the Living Dead (1968), ****
- 6/21 Land of the Dead, **** Great return! My only complaint at all was that it was too short - the end really came up fast, and I was all 'noooo, don't stop now!' The acting was mostly believable by all the cast, and the gore, while not overly abundant, was very satisfying. Much munchings and crunchings, and head blasts and such make Hyde a happy zombie-boy, and Land of the Dead delivers.
- 6/25 Return of the Living Dead 3, ***1/2 Brian Yuzna and Mindy Clarke... nuff said.
- 6/26 Return of the Living Dead 2, ***
- 6/28 House of Wax (2005), ***1/2 Not too shabby. Moves along much better than I expected, and the ending is pretty intense.
- 6/28 To Hell and Back, **** True story of Texas farmboy making good by storming through Italy, France and Germany during WWII to become the nation's most decorated war hero. Slightly sentimental autobio-pic is well done, showing the camaraderie of war, if not exactly the explicit brutality of it (to be sure, there are plenty of 'bang, you're dead!' moments, but they're not as excessively graphic as something like 'Saving Private Ryan' or 'A Very Long Engagement'). Reminds you how even heroes can have humble beginnings. At only one awkward point did seeing Audie playing himself onscreen feel odd to me, and even then I was alright with it. Good show.
- 6/29 Hell's Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films, ***1/2 Far ranging history of the people who made the films, including some of the more dubious non-traffic related material they were involved with. Very wild seeing archival cameos by Dick York, Sammy Davis, Jr. (pics only), Sonny Bono, and Ronald Reagan among others doing their part to help save us from ourselves.
- 6/30 Signal 30, *** First short from the Highway Safety Films folks (1959). Gruesome as is to be expected; gets good marks for editing, staying focused on the message, and for the sheer impact of the material. Included on the 'Hell's Highway' DVD.
- 6/30 Highways Of Agony, ***1/2 Same quality of editing and quantity/level of gore and shock value as 'Signal 30', but with an increase in quality of script, soundtrack and production values in general. Included on the 'Hell's Highway' DVD.
- 6/30 Option to Live, *** Half of this one is a compilation of scenes from previous Highway Safety Films productions, the narrator summarizing what the producers had attempted to accomplish over the years. The latter half is new material, in the same vein as the two previous entries here. Included on the 'Hell's Highway' DVD.
- 7/1 Bill Hicks Live; Revelations, ***1/2
- 7/4 Comic Book Confidential, **** A true joy to watch for damn near any comic book fan. EC and other old school veterans (William M. Gaines, Al Feldstein, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby, etc.), underground icons (Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Harvey Pekar, Bill Griffith, etc.), and modern day trailblazers (Frank Miller, Jaime Hernandez, Charles Burns, Art Spiegelman, etc.) speak candidly about their craft and it's beginnings, transformations, and future. Any fan of the old horror comics, MAD magazine, Marvel's history, and/or the '80s independent wave should certainly watch this one.
- 7/5 American Splendor, **** Excellent film; terrific editing, script, directing... crazy yet deftly handled mix of auto-biographical and sometimes on-screen narration by Harvey Pekar himself, and good acting by Paul Giamatti and the rest. Reading or hearing how the film is structured, it may seem that it just wouldn't work, but they pulled it off exceptionally well.
- 7/6 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, ****
- 7/7 Ossessione, ***** Perfect. Rootless wanderer meets unhappily married babe in this gripping erotic crime noir; the desire and sinister conspiring saturates the screen like so much passion-sweat... and then the plotting begins. Tense, lusty and yet dismally hopeless, this is an exceptionally crafted film with superb photography, pace and direction; highly recommended for fans of film noir. Italian, 1943.
- 7/8 It's Just a Ride, ***1/2 Informative documentary about Bill Hicks includes spots with his childhood friends, his parents and brother, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Brett Butler, Richard Belzer and other fellow comedians.
- 7/9 Fitzcarraldo, *****
- 7/11 Open City, **** Tense drama about a Nazi man-hunt in occupied Rome. Filmed in Rome within weeks of the allied liberation, the movie is a fine example of stark realism. It is full of striking images (Nazis flooding the streets, merciless torture, on the spot unceremonious execution...) and themes (constant surveillance, willing informants, immoral materialism, drug addiction, lesbian seduction...), yet it could be considered tame by today's standards as they are not excessive; the movie is illustrative, not exploitative. Note; Forget the copy on the back of Image's dvd - the print isn't exactly pristine. And worse, the subtitles are very sparse, often condensing dialogue and even leaving you completely hanging during multiple conversation exchanges. Sure, you can get the gist of the movie, but I seriously guesstimate that about half the dialogue is left untranslated. Also, it looks like the torture scene has been edited; there are suspect scene transitions, and there's even an image on the back of the dvd case that isn't to be seen in the film. Very shoddy. I've read online that the VHS doesn't have these problems, so that may be a decent little nugget to hunt down.
- 7/15 Once Upon a Time in China, ***1/2 Pretty slow going at first, but the story is good and things really pick up in the second half. It is talky, very plot-driven, and even a little preachy so it actually plays more like a straight historical drama than an all out martial arts actioner. Still, there are some fine action sequences here amidst the drama, so it's a fairly well balanced flick. Jet Li fans and fans of martial arts films in general, check it out.
- 7/17 Layer Cake, **** Very well done crime epic.
- 7/19 Jeremiah Johnson, ****1/2 Visually stunning film with a liberating central theme. Great therapy for the disaffected city dweller.
- 7/20 One Day in September, **** Gut-wrenching, blood-chilling documentary about the terrorist hostage crisis and massacre at the '72 Munich Olympics. “If we give in, no Israeli in the world can feel safe. It is blackmail of the worst kind.” - Golda Meir, Israeli Prime Minister '69-'74
- 7/21 Blind Shaft, **** Gritty, grungy movie about scheming coalminers who subject other miners to fatal accidents. They then pass off these miners as relatives in order to extort under the table insurance payouts from mine bosses who want to keep the accidents secret from the government, for fear of the mine being shut down. Very well done, character driven killer-for-profit scheme movie. Chinese, 2003.
- 7/27 The Caine Mutiny, **** Great production values and a good story.
- 7/28 Metropolis (animated, 2001), **** Great attention to visual detail and the story moves along well, unlike many animes.
- 7/28 Dirty Harry, ***** A real classic - one of the all time best tough cop movies, possibly the best.
- 7/28 The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, **** See 6/13 entry above. I never tire of this movie.
- 7/31 Shane, ***1/2 Pretty good story and action, but a little heavy handed in the sentimentality department; would have got 4 stars had Alan Ladd and the kid not creeped me out so much. Seeing an extremely young and extremely mean Jack Palance makes up for that though.
- 7/31 The Asphalt Jungle, **** Great John Huston crime noir. The movie really clicks along and the ensemble cast is very impressive.
- 8/2 Land of the Dead, **** See comments above, 6/21. I think it holds up to the same rating and comments on a second viewing.
- 8/2 Unleashed, **** Realllly enjoyed this one. Great mix of action (Jet Li RULES) and a dramatic story. Things like this usually get real disjointed, and seem to be two different movies, but it works seemlessly here and the cast is great. I'll be watching this one again.
- 8/3 DerailRoaded - Inside the Mind of Wild Man Fischer, **** Intimate, often funny, often uncomfortable documentary about unconventional vocalist, Larry Wild Man Fischer. Original interviews with Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo), Frank Zappa's wife Gail, Barnes and Barnes ('Fishheads'), radio's Dr. Demento, and Fischer himself among others offer great insight into Fischer's erratic history. Various Fischer family members show up as well. Archival footage abounds of Fischer, Frank Zappa, Weird Al Yankovic, and Barnes and Barnes. Caught this at the Dallas Video Festival, and it was a real treat. Highly recommended for fans of the weird..
- 8/6 The Maltese Falcon, ****1/2 An uncomfortably claustrophobic plot with all characters scheming to outdo the others. Not only John Huston's directorial debut, but film noir's debut as well. Great cast, fine acting by all, perfect pace, excellent photography.
- 8/7 Lord of the Flies (1963), ****1/2 Microcosm of a slice of society wondefully realized. Tropical island locale provides for excellent, aesthetic contrast in photography.
- 8/10 Mephisto, ****1/2 Good job of portraying the unsteady motivations of an artist deciding whether to work under Hitler in familiar surroundings or branching out to new environments under unknown conditions. Excellent cast, production and direction.
- 8/11 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), ****1/2 Don Siegel (Coogan's Bluff, The Beguiled, Dirty Harry), nuff' said... except maybe for a fine cast of worthy character actors, exceptional photographic composition, timing/pace and plot devices. Terrific, captivating film.
- 8/12 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, ****
- 8/13 Kung Fu Hustle, ****
- 8/14 War of the Worlds (2005), ***1/2 Good marks for bunches of dead people and lots of raining blood. F/X are a mixed bag though, with good looking alien machines but poor job on impact gore from the incinerator beams. Pretty good brainless action flick if you don't mind some uninspired character and plot development (which isn't really needed here anyway, what with all the people, buildings, cars and alien ships blowin' up).
- 8/14 Time After Time, ***1/2 Malcom McDowell and David Warner in 'Jack the Ripper comes to the 20th century' time travel story? I'm there! Nothing exceptionally spectacular here but just a good, tight story well played out.
- 8/16 Body Heat, ****
- 8/21 Godzilla; Final Wars, ***1/2 It's great to see the big guy in action again (especially on the big screen) and the monster scenes rock, but the CGI unfortunately looks horrible at times. Furthermore, the soundtrack is pretty weak, which just simply should not be the case in a Godzilla film. Still, it was action packed and had a pretty far reaching plot that didn't fall to pieces. An all out monster bash, worthy of any kaiju fan's time.
- 8/21 The Girl Next Door, ***1/2 Pretty funny, well plotted, and nice eye candy to boot.
- 8/23 All Quiet on the Western Front, ****
- 8/23 Of Mice and Men (1939), ****1/2 Lon Chaney Jr.'s finest moment, and Burgess Meredith shines as well.
- 8/24 Strangers on a Train, ***** Hitchcock at his best.
- 8/28 I Confess, **** Was not very impressed with the first half of this one, but Hitchcock eventually pulls it off well in the second half.
- 8/28 Grizzly Man, **** Werner Herzog's documentary about wildlife activist Tim Treadwell who met his fate at the hands of the bears he swore to protect. Herzog extensively uses Treadwell's own footage which, the viewer knowing up front Treadwell's fate, lends a deep eeriness to the film. Herzog also interviews several of Treadwell's family and friends as well as others who had contact with him. Treadwell was certainly an eccentric character, and it's only natural that the eccentric Herzog would take an interest in his story. An interesting and captivating film.
- 8/30 The Man Who Wasn't There, ****
- 8/31 Burden of Dreams, ****1/2 Fascinating glimpse into the making of Werner Herzog's 'Fitzcarraldo'. It is simply incredible that the film was ever made.
- 8/31 Rock & Rule, ***1/2 The story is fairly simple and the animation is good, but the real good stuff here is the characterization and the music. Included is a gem of a 'making of' featurette, which includes vintage interviews with Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of 'Blondie', Maurice White of 'Earth Wind & Fire', and original soundtrack composer Patricia Cullen. While it is unfortunate that no one from Cheap Trick is present, with everyone else here it's still a great, very welcome look into the music of Rock & Rule.
- 9/4 Seed of Chucky, ***1/2 Pretty funny, some good kills and... Jennifer Tilly.
- 9/7 Dirty Pretty Things, **** Very well done, macabre little drama/thriller... and it's always nice to see Audrey Tautou as well.
- 9/15 Raging Bull, ****1/2
- 9/16 Harold and Maude, ****
- 9/17 Notorious, ****1/2
- 9/20 Black and White in Color, ****
- 9/21 The Sky Above, The Mud Below, ***1/2
- 9/24 12 Angry Men, *** Technically sound film with excellent photography and direction, and superb acting from some of the finest character actors of the day. Unfortunately, the story is utter crap.
- 9/26 Requiem for a Dream, *****
- 9/28 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, *****
- 9/28 Casablanca, *****
- 9/29 All The King's Men, ****
- 9/30 We Were Soldiers, ****
- 10/3 Sword of Doom, ***1/2
- 10/4 Black Angel, ***1/2 Quaint little crime noir. A bit sappy at times, but it works here. If for nothing else, check it out for Peter Lorre, but the two leads, Dan Duryea and June Vincent, are good as well.
- 10/7 The Apartment, ****
- 10/19 The Fearless Freaks, **** Documentary covering the history of Oklahoma punk/garage band turned alternative darlings, The Flaming Lips. Vintage, essential footage plus intimate interviews makes this a must have for fans.
- 10/20 WIZARDS, (Ralph Bakshi's) *****
- 10/28 Airplane! **** Pure genius. An absolute classic.
- 10/29 Night of the Hunter, **** Great, sinister little flick. Robert Mitchum is terrific as the serial rapist/murderer/con-man in preacher's clothing. The rest of the cast do good as well, from a young Shelley Winters to elderly cinema legend, Lillian Gish, to the children who play the young brother and sister that Robert preys upon. Good to see a young Peter Graves here as well, if only briefly. Fine direction by Charles Laughton as well as cinematogrphy by Stanley Cortez (The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor).
- 10/30 Cutie Honey (live action), ***1/2 Full of some pretty cool action sequences and goofy humor. Does a great job of bringing several aspects of anime to live action. I was pleasantly surprised.
- 10/31 Dead and Breakfast, ***
- 11/2 Twelve O'Clock High, ****
- 11/3 Constantine, ***1/2 Really not that horrible. No, Reaves is not the real John Constantine of Hellblazer comics, but the movie around him is very good looking, and the story is coherent and captivating enough.
- 11/4 The Big Clock, ***1/2 Nice murder mystery noir from '48. Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton serve up good supporting roles to Ray Milland's excellent lead. Also, nice to briefly see Noel Neill here, Lois Lane from the 'Adventures of Superman' TV series.
- 11/6 Unpublished Story, ***1/2 Wartime espionage film (1942) about a pair of London journalists uncovering a group of influencial pacifists who've been infiltrated by Nazis. Very interesting in that the film portrays events that were occurring at the time in which it was made (London bombings, Nazi fifth columnists, etc.). Obviously a bit of British propaganda in it's own right, the film regardlessly stands on it's own as a good example of British film. The movie is ably directed and well shot (minus a few bad f/x moments), and both traditional British humor and Churchillian resolve in the midst of daunting circumstances are on ample display here.
- 11/8 The Black Pirate, **** Insane filmmaking. Great action flick from 1926, and in Technicolor no less. Douglas Fairbanks' physical antics alone are worth watching, but then there is also the exceptional physical direction of numerous scenes simultaneously involving several cast members at once. A fine accomplishment.
- 11/13 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), ***1/2
- 11/21 White Heat, ***1/2 Classic James Cagney crime flick, with Jimmy returning in fine form to his staple genre after a bit of a hiatus.
- 11/22 High Noon, **** Excellent pace and direction. Although there is no action until the last two minutes or so of the film, the time spent leading up to it is a tense pot-poiler.
- 11/22 My Darling Clementine, *** Cinematically, technically sound film, but most of the time is spent on Doc Holiday's problematic love triangle and his self-loathing rather than Wyatt Earp's quest for vengeance against his brother's killers. I have no problem with 'nothing happening' until the end (case in point, 'High Noon'), but the central theme of the vengeance story is treated more like a side-plot here. The dvd case has an Ebert quote that this is John Ford's greatest western? I call bullshit on that one.
- 11/22 Gunga Din, ***1/2 Great buddy adventure story/comedy. I loved this as a kid, and it holds up very well today.
- 11/25 A Special Day, *** A bit too claustrophobic for me, taking place in one setting between two depressing characters in Nazi occupied Italy, but we do get two good performances out of foreign screen legends Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Also nice to see Animal House's John Vernon in a small part (it was high cinematic crime though that his highly distinctive voice was dubbed). Viewer beware; the Jet Films dvd is a pretty bad VHS port, with horrible audio and even a tracking glitch at one point where a wide bar of white noise briefly washes over the screen.
- 11/30 Tokyo Godfathers, ***1/2 Excellent backgrounds and character animation. Story was well done too, with all the main characters having more depth and dimension than in your standard anime fare.
- 11/30 Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, ***
T.V. sets completed in 2005
The Outer Limits, Original Series Season One
- 12/3 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, ****
- 12/3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, ***1/2
- 12/6 The Manchurian Candidate (1962), ****
- 12/14 Heartbreak Ridge, ***
- 12/23 The Life of Emile Zola, **** Fiercely independant writer fights censorship and exposes institutional corruption and conspiracy in pre-WWI France at the risk of his own freedom. The acting and script are very well done, even if the movie does get a little sentimental and preachy near the end.
- 12/26 The Man Who Would Be King, ****
- 12/27 The Last Picture Show, **** This is one wicked little film about some Texans in the '50s with too damned much time on their hands. Wanna talk Desperate Housewives? ABC ain't got nothin' on this 'cept maybe for that murder business. This is high-brow sleaze noir, with excellent pacing and photography which perfectly complements the daunting monotony of the endless, flat, west Texas landscape; cast is full of unknown folks and Hollywood greenhorns who would later go on to lead notable careers in film - lots of fun picking them out along the way.
; 1st season, vol. 2... so good.
Prime Suspect, 1
; Very well done.
Prime Suspect, 2
; As above, well done again.
"When I go to confession, I don't offer God small sins - petty squables, jealousies - I offer him sins worth forgiving!"
Movies seen; 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011