Monday, October 31, 2016

Always (1989)

IMDb plot summary: A romantic adventure about a legendary pilot's passion for dare-devil firefighting and his girl.
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, Brad Johnson, and John Goodman.

When the credits rolled and I saw this was directed by Spielberg, I may have actually yelped out loud, "What were you DOING with this?" It's an amateurish script where none of the interactions ring true. Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter try to save it by imbuing their characters with excessive playfulness, but it just makes it all the more jarring when they abruptly turn serious. Several dramatic themes are explored and then dropped with no warning, leaving me constantly asking, "But what about...what happened to...why isn't he...?"

It's not all bad. The firefighting scenes are spectacularly done and are easily the highlight of the film. The script doesn't do an adequate job of almost anything else, but it does give us a good quick overview of the technical aspects of these characters' jobs, and the action sequences help to highlight that. It's not very often that I think a movie should have been more action and less drama, but that does happen to be the case here.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Always < My Best Friend's Wedding
Always < The Professional
Always > Out of the Past
Always > Never Been Kissed
Always < Mulan
Always > I Accuse My Parents
Always < Saw
Always < How to Marry a Millionaire (why is that so low on my chart?)
Always < Silverado
Always < 27 Dresses
Always < The Verdict

Final spot: #2007 out of 2527.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

True Lies (1994)

IMDb plot summary: A fearless, globe-trotting, terrorist-battling secret agent has his life turned upside down when he discovers his wife might be having an affair with a used car salesman.
Directed by James Cameron. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, and Art Malik.

I knew very little about this movie before watching it. I knew James Cameron did it, it was an action movie, that people loved it, and that it starred Schwarzenegger. I figured I'd be mildly appreciative of it at best, as Cameron's action movies often don't capture my imagination. This movie, however, is an exception. What keeps this fresh is that it's only about 2/3 action, and the other third is about Schwarzenegger's marriage to Jamie Lee Curtis, and the two together make for a really great movie.

Cameron does a much better job pacing the story here than I've thought he did in previous movies, especially his longer ones. The movie is still about 20 minutes too long, but even a two-hour action movie is tough to keep interesting. Cameron not only keeps the action scenes rolling by loading them up with zaniness but he also widely varies the *type* of action happening. Even in the midst of a giant gun battle, he pauses frequently to switch to flamethrowers or hand-to-hand combat or a chase to keep you on your toes. That's impressive.

I did find myself a little skeeved out by the "revenge on the cheating wife" section of the movie, but fortunately A) it doesn't last long, B) it's played with Schwarzenegger being in the wrong, and C) the movie works hard after this moment to give her enough to do that it doesn't feel like her existence in the movie relies on her functioning as a wayward woman to be punished.

Overall, it's a great ride, and certainly my favorite thing either Cameron or Schwarzenegger's done outside of the Terminator series.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
True Lies > Interiors
True Lies > A Clockwork Orange
True Lies < A Man for All Seasons
True Lies > I've Loved You So Long
True Lies < Flight
True Lies < Super
True Lies > Jaws
True Lies > Anomalisa
True Lies < Regarding Henry
True Lies < M. Butterfly
True Lies < Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
True Lies < Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Final spot: #443 out of 2526.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Life as a Dog (1985)

IMDb plot summary: A boy and his brother don't get along well. In order to let their ill mother rest, they're separated and sent each one with their relatives.
Directed by Lasse Hallström. Starring Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, and Melinda Kinnaman.

I'm a little ashamed how few Criterion films I've seen as a film buff, so it's always great to add another to the "seen" list. This is a very lovely movie that falls a little short of being a movie I *love*, but, man, there are some great moments in here. Ingemar is such a compelling character, right from the opening where he comforts himself by comparing himself to others who had more miserable lives (and deaths). Like a lot of coming-of-age movies, it has a tendency to feel rambly, but I enjoyed most of the rambling, so I didn't mind too much.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
My Life as a Dog > Everyone Says I Love You
My Life as a Dog > Gone Baby Gone
My Life as a Dog < A Man for All Seasons
My Life as a Dog < I've Loved You So Long
My Life as a Dog < Heavenly Creatures
My Life as a Dog > Chariots of Fire
My Life as a Dog < The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
My Life as a Dog < 9
My Life as a Dog < Bubba Ho-tep
My Life as a Dog > Key Largo
My Life as a Dog < Zodiac

Final spot: #588 out of 2525.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Teacher of the Year (2014)

IMDb plot summary: Surrounded by the eccentric faculty of Truman High School, Mitch Carter wins the California Teacher of the Year award and immediately receives a tempting offer that may force him to leave his job.
Directed by Jason Strouse. Starring Matt Letscher, Keegan-Michael Key, Sunny Mabrey, and Larry Joe Campbell.

This is an... odd movie in terms of tone. It sets itself up as a silly mockumentary about teachers, but there's not as much out-and-out comedy as I would expect. A few side characters are entertainingly over-the-top, but our central character is very much grounded, and his entire arc is something more out of a heartwarming teacher movie than something by Christopher Guest. The two tones don't mesh terribly well. The principal and the robotics teacher are too ridiculous to fit into the primary narrative, and that narrative is too sincere to fit a genre with the word "mock" in it. I'm inclined to like it more as a serious story about a teacher trying to figure things out in an occasionally-quirky school. The primary character is likable and interesting, and his story went in an unexpected direction that I appreciated. So... an awkward movie that can't figure out what it is, but not a terrible one.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Teacher of the Year < Interiors
Teacher of the Year > The Last Temptation of Christ
Teacher of the Year > Marathon Man
Teacher of the Year < Quitting
Teacher of the Year > Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Teacher of the Year < Kagemusha
Teacher of the Year < Blue Velvet
Teacher of the Year < Frequency
Teacher of the Year > Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Teacher of the Year > Luther
Teacher of the Year < Hide and Seek

Final spot: #1491 out of 2524.

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

IMDb plot summary: The story of the battle of Iwo Jima between the United States and Imperial Japan during World War II, as told from the perspective of the Japanese who fought it.
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, and Ryô Kase.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This falls in that category of movies I respect and admire without feeling much connection to. Part of that is because, like in many war movies where everyone's wearing the same thing, I am so bad with faces that I could not keep the different characters and their stories straight. Lots of individual moments I appreciated, but because I couldn't identify individual characters very well, I couldn't follow their narrative arcs through to the end. That's a flaw on my end, obviously, not the movie's, but it does help to explain the emotional disconnect as a whole.

What I thought the movie did do very well was convey the sense of the Japanese soldiers' expectations of honor and loyalty and how that matched or didn't match with what they encountered. The scene that affected me in the most was where the soldiers are ordered to retreat but choose to commit suicide instead, and as soldier after soldier puts gun to their head or grenade to their stomach and ends their life, you see the internal struggle of the one who ultimately does make it out from that scene alive.

I wish I could say I liked this movie more, but I do think it's a good one, and very well-made.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Letters from Iwo Jima > Everyone Says I Love You
Letters from Iwo Jima < A Clockwork Orange
Letters from Iwo Jima < The Pursuit of Happyness
Letters from Iwo Jima > The Dark Knight
Letters from Iwo Jima < October Sky
Letters from Iwo Jima > National Lampoon's Vacation
Letters from Iwo Jima > The Switch
Letters from Iwo Jima < Bee Movie
Letters from Iwo Jima < The Matador
Letters from Iwo Jima > Splash
Letters from Iwo Jima < Now You See Me

Final spot: #1041 out of 2523.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Queen of Katwe (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.
Directed by Mira Nair. Starring Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o, and Martin Kabanza.

If you know anything at all about this movie, you know pretty much all of it. It follows the expected path of most underdog competition movies -- the rise, the fall, the rise, the personal problems, the triumphant ending. Disney does this formula better than many others, and it definitely works here, largely thanks to the incredibly likable actors at the center of the story. There are no surprises, but the trusted formula is used well, and it's a sweet movie. The highlight is seeing the actors meet their characters' real-life counterparts in the ending credits sequence.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Queen of Katwe > Everyone Says I Love You
Queen of Katwe < A Clockwork Orange
Queen of Katwe > The Pursuit of Happyness
Queen of Katwe > The Intouchables
Queen of Katwe > Me and Orson Welles
Queen of Katwe < Don't Drink the Water
Queen of Katwe > The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
Queen of Katwe < Battle Royale
Queen of Katwe > The Band Wagon
Queen of Katwe > The Cat Returns

Final spot: #681 out of 2522.

Internet Famous (2016)

IMDB plot summary: The Internet has given them fame. A talent contest could make one of them a superstar. If only they had any talent.
Directed by Michael J. Gallagher. Starring Shane Dawson, Steve Greene, Wendy McColm, and Amanda Cerny.

This silly little movie does a great job of capturing all the various aspects of Internet fame, from those who never wanted to be famous to those who are famous for nefarious reasons to those who are famous for reasons other than what they think. It's definitely a very narrow film in the sense that it has a limited timespan and a limited audience. This is a movie for YouTube followers right now, and I don't know that it'll have much appeal to almost anyone else. The characters aren't developed enough to have the longer reach of, say, Christopher Guest's best mockumentaries. All that being said, however, I enjoyed it for what it was and had a good time watching it.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Internet Famous > Music Within
Internet Famous < A Clockwork Orange
Internet Famous < The Pursuit of Happyness
Internet Famous > Let the Right One In
Internet Famous < October Sky
Internet Famous < National Lampoon's Vacation
Internet Famous < National Treasure
Internet Famous > Hitch
Internet Famous < Titanic
Internet Famous < The Avengers
Internet Famous > Ghost Ship

Final spot: #1091 out of 2521.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Body Snatcher (1945)

IMDb plot summary: A ruthless doctor and his young prize student find themselves continually harassed by their murderous supplier of illegal cadavers.
Directed by Robert Wise. Starring Henry Daniell, Boris Karloff, Russell Wade, and Bela Lugosi.

From the very beginning of this movie, I was drawn into the mystery of the story. Boris Karloff is great as the ominous cabman Gray, whose frequent smiles and laughter somehow seethe with undertones of something much more sinister. The movie is short, but not a moment of it is wasted, and every new development in the story drew me in further. The final sequence was somewhat expected for me but really stunning in how it plays out. I hadn't even heard of this movie before it was assigned to me, but it was a definite hit.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Body Snatcher > Scrooge
The Body Snatcher > A Clockwork Orange
The Body Snatcher < Kramer vs. Kramer
The Body Snatcher < I've Loved You So Long
The Body Snatcher < Heavenly Creatures
The Body Snatcher > Catfish
The Body Snatcher > GoodFellas
The Body Snatcher > Borat
The Body Snatcher > Crossing Delancey
The Body Snatcher < Mad Max: Fury Road
The Body Snatcher < Amelie

Final spot: #556 out of 2520.

The Overnight (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Alex, Emily, and their son, RJ, are new to Los Angeles. A chance meeting at the park introduces them to the mysterious Kurt, Charlotte, and Max. A family "playdate" becomes increasingly interesting as the night goes on.
Directed by Patrick Brice. Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche.

This movie is... odd. It presents itself at first as a fairly straightforward comedy about two very different groups of couples meeting and becoming friends almost too quickly, and then it segues into a relationship drama about insecurity and dissatisfaction, and then it awkwardly bounces back between the two for the remainder of the time. Honestly, I'm just not sure what to make of it. It ends with a sort of "Well, that was an educational experience" feeling, but I'm not convinced our main characters took much away from it at all. I just came away from it feeling like it was on the verge of being something really interesting and then it just... wasn't.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Overnight < Scrooge
The Overnight < Gangs of New York
The Overnight > Band of Outsiders
The Overnight > Dragonball Evolution
The Overnight > Maggie's Plan
The Overnight < Inkheart
The Overnight > Outsourced
The Overnight > Hangman's Curse
The Overnight < The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Overnight > Whisper of the Heart
Final spot: #1935 out of 2519.

Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed (2005)

IMDb plot summary: After saving herself for marriage, a forty year old Christian woman finally meets her soul mate. But her hopes sour once she finds out this candidate carries extra baggage.
Directed by Larry Flash Jenkins. Starring Ce Ce Peniston, Randy Brooks, Anica Barbosa, and Larry Flash Jenkins.

Oh, this is awful, both as a movie and as a Christian movie. Our main character is whiny and pessimistic. When one of her sidekicks tells her, "The Pamela I know is a fighter," I almost laughed out loud because that was so contrary to the character we'd been shown. On top of that, the movie has a very odd point of view on marriage and divorce for what is otherwise a typical Christian movie. The technical aspects are incredibly amateurish, with the dialogue barely audible over the cheesy R&B soundtrack and many shots cutting off the top of actors' heads. This is just a mess all round.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < Music Within
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < The Last Temptation of Christ
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < The Art of War
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < Captain January
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < The Matrix Revolutions
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed > The Game Plan
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < Prince of Space
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed > The Mask
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed > Mr. Deeds
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < Bee Season

Final spot: #2464 out of 2518.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Cat's Eye (1985)

IMDb plot summary: A stray cat is the linking element of three tales of suspense and horror.
Directed by Lewis Teague. Starring Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Robert Hays, and Alan King.

This movie is tremendously weird. I really knew nothing about it going in, not even that it was by Stephen King, but it certainly *felt* like Stephen King -- ideas that made me laugh out loud with how ridiculous they were and enjoy the silly tenseness of it. This movie fully lands on the "delightfully campy" side of King, which is where I tend to like him best. This is the kind of movie where of COURSE there's a weird little goblin in someone's wall and of COURSE people are throwing severed heads at each other.

My favorite of the three stories in this anthology is by far the first one, which was also the only one I felt to really have an element of plausible tension to it. It was bizarre but it felt consistent. Just because other two weren't tense didn't mean they weren't enjoyable, however. Such an odd but fun little film, and a fitting one for the month of October.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Cat's Eye > Music Within
Cat's Eye < Children of Men
Cat's Eye < The Village
Cat's Eye > Revolutionary Road
Cat's Eye > October Sky
Cat's Eye < Knight and Day
Cat's Eye > Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Cat's Eye < Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
Cat's Eye < Smiles of a Summer Night
Cat's Eye < The Ring
Cat's Eye < V for Vendetta
Cat's Eye < The Miracle Worker
Final spot: #1001 out of 2516.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Shock Treatment (1981)

IMDb plot summary: Janet and Brad become contestants on a game show... but wind up as captives instead.
Directed by Jim Sharman. Starring Jessica Harper, Cliff De Young, Richrad O'Brien, and Patricia Quinn.

Let me start off by saying I was never much of a fan of Rocky Horror, Richard O'Brien's previous cult musical movie. I thought the first 20 minutes or so were a hilarious parody of classic B-movies, but then it devolved into bizarre nonsense that was not enjoyable enough to make it worthwhile.

This movie is like everything after the first 20 minutes of Rocky Horror with less talented performers and less interesting songs. I can't decide whether it feels more like a movie written on all the drugs or a painstakingly faithful adaptation of someone's dreams. Either way, it's incoherent and, while I never thought I'd say this about a musical, there are too many songs, making the already vague plot even more vague as the characters take a break to sing about something that is in no way connected to what's been going on. On top of that, not sure whether it was my copy of the movie or the movie itself or a combination of the two, but the visuals were dreary and sloppy and looked distractingly low-budget, but I think even if it had had a clearer picture it wouldn't have made them look prettier.

Unfortunately for whoever suggested this to me, this is a definite miss, though it's probably one I needed to see eventually given my (typical) love for musicals.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Shock Treatment < Scrooge
Shock Treatment < Anchors Aweigh
Shock Treatment > The Art of War
Shock Treatment < Enough
Shock Treatment < Love in the Afternoon
Shock Treatment < Hamlet 2
Shock Treatment > All Dogs Go to Heaven
Shock Treatment < The Great Train Robbery
Shock Treatment < Big Business
Shock Treatment < Clash by Night
Shock Treatment > Distant Drums

Final spot: #2179 out of 2515.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Real Life (1979)

IMDb plot summary: A pushy, narcissistic filmmaker persuades a Phoenix family to let him and his crew film their everyday lives, in the manner of the ground-breaking PBS series "An American Family".
Directed by Albert Brooks. Starring Albert Brooks, Charles Grodin, Frances Lee McCain, and J.A. Preston.

This is, I believe, my fourth Albert Brooks film and it is by far my favorite. I typically find him too understated to really be clearly comedic. This one, however, pushed that line just far enough for it to really, really work for me, and now I'm much more interested in watching his other films. Here the understated, everyday nature of the movie is very much the point, only to be constantly disrupted by Brooks (playing himself as director of the film) on his self-seeking quest. Everything works here, and the final scene is a hilarious and fantastic finale. I knew almost nothing about this movie before I started streaming in on Netflix, but I'm glad I watched it.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Real Life > O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Real Life < Children of Men, though I deliberated over this one for awhile
Real Life > The Pursuit of Happyness
Real Life > Nerve
Real Life < Bend It Like Beckham
Real Life > The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Real Life > 28 Up
Real Life < An American Tail
Real Life > Source Code
Real Life > His Girl Friday

Final spot: #719 out of 2515.