July 2017 31 Movies in 31 Days
I've been meaning to do this for awhile, seeing others do this online...some do it for a year, but that's weird, so let's try a month first! I have some glaring holes in my movie watching experience and this is a great way to plug those holes. I'll give myself some rules, such as the movie needs to be something I haven't seen before, which shouldn't be a problem. Between some new films in theatres coming out that I'm excited to see, my DVD/Blu-Ray collection that includes a few un-opened movies and my DVR, I shouldn't run out of movies to watch in only 31 days. And there are some "classic" films that I have never seen, so no judging!
*Shall we assume that saying SPOILERS! goes without saying?
*Amendment to SPOILERS rule: I will, however, try to avoid Spoilers for new movies (released this year or last year)...but be warned!
July 1st - Happy Canada Day! I figured I should celebrate our Nation's 150th birthday by watching a movie with two famous Canadians, Dan Aykroyd and the late, great John Candy! That movie is THE GREAT OUTDOORS (1988). This movie has lots of fans, some people feel this is a classic, and I'm not one of them. It was surprising seeing Annette Benning here, plus that it was written (but not directed) by John Hughes. It had some sweet moments, especially with Candy trying to be a good dad to his kids. It's interesting to think of what Candy could have accomplished as an actor if he were still alive. I'm not a huge fan of Aykroyd as a bad guy, I like him more as a shlub(?) like Ray in the Ghostbusters. It got sentimental towards the end, which was actually good I felt as Aykroyd and Candy got to behave like real people as opposed to the cartoon characters that the script initially made them out to be.
July 2nd - KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (2017) in the theatre, released May 17th as a big summer blockbuster. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a critics score of 28% but an audience score of 74%, so there isn't really a consensus here. I am a sucker for this kind of stuff, with the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the Trojan War, Greek Mythology, even Robin Hood and those kinds of stories. Making a movie like this must be a challenge, as there is no one unified King Arthur story, but then again, with a director like Guy Ritchie, he probably thinks that's a good reason to "pump things up". I like it when a movie "expidites" it's storytelling, when they speed things up or fast forwards through scenes that aren't necessary, and Ritchie certainly has a talent for that. He brings modern writing, that makes me think of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, to these classic stories, and doesn't seem to care about accents, which probably annoys some people (critics) whereas I am not a historian and I appreciate the creative freedom. For example, I love the Kevin Costner version of Robin Hood...anyway this film was fun, but way too long. Way too long. And it had a weird way of "taking the piss out of itself" yet also took itself way too seriously. I didn't hate it but I'm not sure I'd recommend it either.
July 3rd - BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961) Never seen this before, never really had the desire to and well, it didn't really do anything for me. Audrey Hepburn is wonderful and it's fun seeing George Peppard pre-A-Team. I admit I have a problem with smoking on film and nearly every scene had one character, or both, smoking away and that just makes me cringe. Somehow, if it's a black and white film it's okay but otherwise...my brain is weird.
July 4th - I tried picking a big all-american film cause of the 4th of July but I ended up watching "THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING" (1975) a movie I bought after not being able to see a screening at the TCM Film Festival but hadn't watched it until today. Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer are all great, but Plummer isn't in it much after the first half hour, so it's mostly just Connery and Caine. They seemed to be trying to make a less fun, more dramatic version of Gunga Din, but with just two guys instead of three. Directed and written by John Huston seemingly trying to make another Lawrence of Arabia-type of film. I have to admit, again, that this classic didn't really do much for me, unfortunately.
July 5th - HANDS ON A HARDBODY (1997) a tremendous documentary that should have been my 4th of July film! This is America! Or, 'Murica! People standing around, one hand on a truck, last one standing wins the truck. It seems silly at first but then you choose your favourites, root for them, get upset when you seemingly catch someone cheating, etc. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the film, I wouldn't take that from you. The best thing to come out of this film's success is that this has been adapted into a Broadway musical (that I have to see) but the worst is that we will never see the Robert Altman film version of this. A film adaptation of this was to be Altman's next film project right before his death, and I would have loved to have seen that with it's reported cast of The Rock, Billy Bob Thornton and Hillary Swank. Great movie!
July 6th - "ACT OF VIOLENCE" (1949) I love film noir and I'm a big fan of Robert Ryan in film noir. I studied film noir in film school but had never heard of this film, intriqued by a Ryan and a young Janet Leigh, plus Mary Astor's name in the credits. It starred Van Heflin and was directed by Fred Zinnemann. It started out as a typical bad-guy-looking-for-revenge-on-good-guy film, but then both Ryan and Heflin's characters was revealed to have layers. Not sure how far I should go for spoilers, as I recommend this film highly. It is rare, in that, after World War II (the supposed "good war"), they have a film where...again, spoilers...anyway, there are layers! Lots of layers!
July 7th - "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" (2017) A highly anticipated summer blockbuster, the 3rd reboot of Peter Parker and Chapter 16 of the MCU ongoing series (yes, there have been 16 Marvel Studios movies since Iron Man in 2008). As a dislaimer, I do like Marvel, but have always been a huge DC fan myself and while of course I know Spider-man, his foes, his allies, his biggest storylines...even while only ever reading maybe a handful of Spidey comics in my entire lifetime. So while some comics fans might have problems with the use of certain characters (I read online that alot of the characters in this film are from the Miles Morales Spiderman character, but I don't know details), I loved this "new" interpretation. I already liked Tom Holland's Spidey, from his first appearance in "Civil War", plus Marisa Tomei's younger, hotter Aunt May. So really the question was, did we really need a third reboot? An even younger Spidey? Turns out...yes we did! I never loved the other interpretations of Spidey, other than the 2nd Tobey Macquire film with Doc Oc (haven't seen that in years and don't know if it holds up, but I thought that was close to a masterpiece). A young, immature, impetuous Spidey dealing with villains that are using weapons salvaged from the attack on New York from the 1st Avengers film (with the film name dropping Damage Control, a huge Dwayne McDuffie shout-out!) was all great stuff! The Captain America cameos were hilarious, the young cast was great and RDJ as Tony Stark as usual was tremendous. And it was good to see Jon Favreau back as Happy Hogan after the events of Iron Man 3. And yes, stay after the movie is over. There is a mid-credits scene AND an after credits scene, one you will love...or hate...whatever...I loved it!
July 8th - "GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL" (1957) starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming and a young DeForest Kelley (Bones from Star Trek), directed by John Sturges. There have been many interpretations of the saga of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Tombstone. Movies like "Hour of the Gun", "Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp" and tv shows like Maverick and Star Trek (ironically starring Kelley of course) have all touched on the legend. This one almost seems to gloss over the actual dual, focusing on the friendship of Wyatt and Doc (Lancaster and Douglas, respectively). The first half of the film is Wyatt and Doc in other cities, building up to the Earp Family and the Clanton Family having a shootout, with Doc along based on his friendship with Wyatt. One negative with the film is that we only briefly meet the other Earps so when they get fired at in the big gunfight, we don't feel nearly as much impact. Another is the portrayal of the women in these men's lives...they are all cowards, whiny and turn their backs on their men when in danger. But the chemistry of Lancaster and Douglas, in just one of their many film team-ups, is worth it, and for all "OK Corral" completists, this is a must watch.
July 9th - "THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY" (1982) This is a film I've wanted to watch for a long time. Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, directed by Peter Weir...and the great Linda Hunt, with her Oscar winning perfomance. Now this is one of those weird things, about watching a movie with a big reputation 35 years later, knowing things that the people who watched in when it came out in theatres didn't. For instance, I know Linda Hunt is a woman. But she is playing a character that is a man. I doubt this was well known at the time. But there were times early on where characters were talking about "Billy" and I had to remind myself they were talking about Linda Hunt. Anyway, half way through the movie shifts from Gibson and Hunt's friendship to Gibson and Weaver's romance and while I am a fan of Weaver, I was more interested in what was going on in Indonesia at the time then whether or not they would run off together. At one point they flee a party to be together and break through a check point in their car, getting fired at by machine guns and laughing about it, which was kinda weird, frankly. Although I guess with a movie with that title, it fits...the movie seems to think Gibson is the star when it's really Hunt. And (spoilers; I'm revealing things here where I wouldn't elsewhere, I don't always make sense) once Billy Kwan dies, I lost interest. Gibson makes a beeline to the airport to flee to be with Weaver at the end, and the movie ends with them embracing, but what about all the asian characters who got him there? They don't get to fly off into the sunset...so they probably all died right?
July 10th - Labyrinth (1986) Just never watched this film, not sure why. Could be cause as a kid I was freaked out by The Dark Crystal and figured this was similar...meant to watch this after David Bowie died, bought it but haven't watched it until now. I have heard mixed things about this film, it was kind of a bomb when it came out but became a cult classic...people seem to LOVE this film. Starring Bowie, a teenage Jennifer Connelly and a bunch of muppets, directed by Jim Henson, exec-produced by George Lucas...so what's the verdict? What a great film! It helps that the two flesh and bone actors, Bowie and Connelly, are awesome! But without Henson Studios' magic in creating creatures that are clearly puppets but still come to life as characters, this would be a failure. But with characters like Hoggle, Ludo, Sir Didymus, the Door Knockers...this is an incredibly fun adventure! Looking on Wikipedia, it's interesting that this originally was going to be directed by Monty Python's Terry Jones. Bowie was so talented, and Connelly was and is amazing, I'm shocked she hasn't done more...sure she has starred in many films and has an Oscar, but hasn't done much since "A Beautiful Mind". I assume that's because she's picky with her roles? It was a fun piece of trivia learning that Connelly was the AI voice "Karen" in the new Spider-Man: Homecoming film (which is ironic, as her husband Paul Bettany, plays "Vision" in the MCU). And I will always love the "you remind me of the babe..." part, as it reminds me of the Cary Grant/Shirley Temple/Myrna Loy film "The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer", which is one of my favourite films, possibly the first movie I ever saw on TCM. Highly recommended!
July 11th - BABY DRIVER (2017) I am a huge Edgar Wright fan, and I LOVE Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Some may take offense to that, but whatever, films are subjective. I loved it! I just finished re-watching his tv show with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost "Spaced", which is a classic, and I love Hot Fuzz over Shaun of the Dead, just cause I'm not a huge zombie guy and love buddy cop movies. I even can appreciate World's End! So going into this film, I was excited but then I had heard some horrid reviews. Not that they were universal, but people who didn't like the film LOATHED the film. Kinda how I feel about Batman vs. Superman...anyway I still wanted to see it and judge it for myself. And I enjoyed the film for the most part, but I can see why others hated it so much. It really all depends on the lead, Ansel Elgort and whether or not you find him charming or want to punch him in the face. I can't think of a recent film that depended on the likability of it's lead so much. The script is funny (the Mike Myers big is hilarious), the use of music is great, the supporting cast of Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and others are all solid...Wright is really ambitious here, doing long takes that spoof (honour) hollywood classic like Singing in the Rain and the music chosen in each scene is never random. But Elgort in many scenes is dancing around, mouthing words to songs, prancing even...and again you may love that or want to barf and that really will affect how you view this film. Stylistically it's Wright's biggest film so far, with impressive car chase sequences and big "Heat"-style shootouts. So I liked it...or did I? In my head there are alot more yes' than no's...but like I said, what about Baby? I'll give it a thumbs up...with reservations and an option to change that at a later time... :) *Quick note: I'm going to start putting a "Smoking Meter" on these reviews, not to judge smokers or whatever, just for my own amusement. In one scene, to make him look ominous and just plain ol' mean, Kevin Spacey smokes. So...1 out of 10 smokes...I guess...this is a work in progress...
July 12th - TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN (1962) I've been on a Kirk Douglas kick lately (see Gunfight at the OK Corral above) and one of my all-time favourite films is "The Bad and the Beautiful". This movie was said to be an almost sequel, if you squint a bit. The film reunites Douglas, director Vincente Minnelli, producer John Houseman, screenwriter Charles Schnee, composer David Raskin and studio MGM from TBATB. This film even shows scenes from TBATB in it! This film has the great Edward G. Robinson, Clare Trevor and (to me) an unrecognizable Cyd Charisse as well as a young George Hamilton, supposed to be playing a James Dean-type which even Hamilton himself has said was less than appropriate. I admit I had a hard time getting into this film and had to re-start it a few times. Douglas is a shouty-actor, either shouting as a heel (like in BATB) or as a good guy losing his s*it (like in Gunfight), and there is some of that here, but he mostly reigns it in and his best scenes are with young Daliah Lavi walking around Rome. The theme of washed up actor Douglas talking about the pitfalls and hardships of fame, particularly the loneliness, is something people are still talking about today. But the screetching and backstabbing from the female actresses in this film (with the exception of Lavi) got annoying (although kind of similar to Gunfight...another Douglas film...hmmmm...). On that point, there were a few instances where actor-turned-director Douglas has to deal with his tempermental actress, who isn't happy with her part, scene, lines...whatever. In one scene he flatters her, another he kicks her in the ass...both tactics work and she's instantly obedient. Do most Hollywood directors watch a film like this and go "Yeah...that's how it's done! Damn actresses and their opinions, thoughts, ideas, whatever...!" And it all leads up to a confusing finale...Douglas leaves the girl and a big opportunity in Rome behind to race to the airport, get on a plane and...what? I admit I was confused by the ending. Was he going back to Hollywood? Back to the asylum? Why didn't he take the girl with him? I'd say this was a good but not great film. *Smoke Meter: 10 out of 10!!! Every scene, every character in every scene practically smokes. Just things I notice...
July 13- CONCUSSION (2015) This is a tough movie to watch. I am a big sports fan, and the cold shower of reality when it comes to concussions and their affects is frankly a real bummer. I love NHL hockey, but also watch football, baseball, basketball, etc. This movie focuses on the reality of concussions in football, but it relates to all sports, including boxing, car racing and even pro wrestling. The statistics in this film are staggering, and I can sort of understand why the NFL hated the fact people like Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) were "ruining their fun". But yet more and more athletes suffer and die from complications from CTE. Are people's lives, the athlete's lives, all just collatoral damage? Like the gladiators of the past? Unfortunately, if you want head injuries outlawed, what's left? Basketball, Golf, Bowling...Baseball with wild pitches and base-stealing banned? But what about the film? Will Smith provides a great performance, I almost forgot it was him by the end of the movie. The scenes with him, Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks were amazing, I would have loved to have been in the room for those scenes. Although I have to say I didn't really care about the love story...while I understand it kind of needed to be included in order to see Omalu's journey, it was distracting as I wanted to hear more about the concussions and the fight with the NFL. And really, at BTW over two hours long, was this a biography about Omalu or the concussion problem in sports? Whenever there is a romantic subplot it in a movie like this it always seems like a studio note..."Sure the brain stuff is interesting but can't we have a scene with the doctor guy dancing in a night club?" This, and another movie I saw recently and was infuriated by it's politics, "Sully" (which also starred Mike O'Malley as a real jerk, he should worry about being typecast), has to keep putting obsticles in the main characters way but almost to the extreme. Most people would scoff, saying "It's based on a true story, so all that must be true", whereas I know enough about movies to know that "based on a true story..." means very little. Take "Foxcatcher", watch it, then watch a documentary about what REALLY happened...anyway, what was I saying? Good movie, not great. Again, good performances but a bummer. I can kind of see why this movie bombed, frankly. No one wants a cold shower of reality...especially in movie-fantasty-land. *Smoke-meter: Can't think of any, which actually is kind of weird...all those people suffering from concussions and no one was smoking pot?
July 14 - A LITTLE CHAOS (2014) This was directed by the wonderful Alan Rickman (his second apparently, now I have to watch "The Winter Guest") and I've been wanting to watch this since his tragic death. And of course, seeing this as a tribute to Professor Snape himself, frankly there is no way I was going to hate this film. Especially with him IN IT, plus the always amazing Kate Winslet, plus Stanley Tucci and some kinda recognizable very-English actors...how could I not love this film? Rickman and Winslet have three scenes together and those three (especially the first!) are worth the price of admission. That first scene, where their characters meet and there is a misunderstanding but in a marvelous way, crackles with their chemistry together and is very sweet. It's a cool story about Winslet's character helping to design the Gardens of Versailles. Winslet's characters are always best "punching up" against people telling her she can't do whatever it is she wants to do. It's not a must-see film but I recommend it.
July 15th - THE BIG SICK (2017) I've been looking forward to this film for awhile. It's odd, as my anticipation for this film is a byproduct of modern day let's call it "new media"....? I have "gotten to know" Kumail Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily Gordon through alot of podcasts and comedy shows. As podcasts were becoming more popular, Kumail started appearing on a lot of them, such as "Doug Loves Movies", "The Nerdist" and "Harmontown", appearing as himself and coming off very funny and likable. Gordon herself has also appeared on various podcasts (Emily and Kumail hosted a podcast called "The Indoor Kids"), with ones such as Pete Holmes' "You Made it Weird", where Holmes and his interview subject can sometimes sit and talk for up to three hours and talk about literally their whole lives (although this was years ago, I haven't committed their lives to memory, and I should make a note to go back and re-listen to those old episodes). And Kumail, Jonah Ray and Gordon also hosted "The Meltdown" comedy show and it involved telling alot of real-life stories, not to mention Kumails' own comedy stand-up routine. Then I heard that their story was being made into a film by Judd Apatow, someone I admire, if only for the greatness of "Freaks and Geeks". And on top of all that, the movie was getting rave reviews. What does all this mean? I had high hopes, let's just say. And yes, I really liked the film. There are somethings that were weird, such as Emily being played by a different girl while Kumail plays Kumail. "Knowing" Kumail and Emily as real people made this a smidge awkward. And, as it says in the trailer (so this shouldn't count as SPOILERS) most of the film isn't really about Kumail and Emily, it's about Kumail and his family AND Kumail and Emily's family, played by the great Holly Hunter and the surprisingly good Ray Romano, while Emily is comatose. I honestly (and I don't know what this means, other than my brain is weird, as established earlier) could not stop thinking about the Sandra Bullock movie "While You Were Sleeping" (which ironically starred Peter Boyle, Romano's on-screen dad for years). I was waiting for them to make a reference to it. The chemistry between Kumail and Zoe Kazan (faux Emily) was great and I did like them as a couple. The biggest problem with the film is that is just ends without most of the problems resolved (although it does make us assume it WILL BE resolved, and everyone will live happily ever after), which I guess means there really has to be a sequel! BUT as the credits start to roll, they show real pictures of the real Emily and Kumail and also a picture from their wedding, with Kumail's family there, so that major plot thread solved itself off screen, BUT the biggest thing to me was, as they were a huge part of the movie, where was the picture of Emily's family at the wedding? Again, this all screams SEQUEL! I may have to watch this again to just soak it in as a movie onto itself. But just as it is, I highly recommend it! *Smoke meter: None that I can remember...I totally expected Kumail and the Holly Hunter character to bond while smoking a joint.
July 16th - THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) I had planned on watching another film noir today but I woke up to two huge pieces of news 1- There is now a female Dr. Who (awesome!) and 2- George A. Romero had died (and later that day, I heard Martin Landau had died as well. RIP sir). I know Romero's work well merely by reputation, as I have never seen any of his zombie films...or any other of his films either. I am not a horror guy, I was shielded by that kind of stuff alot as a kid. I may have been an adult before I watched the non-TV uncensored version of Ghostbusters, to give just one example. And once I was an adult, I never have developed a taste for gory films. I watch The Walking Dead, but only because we review it on our podcast Trilogy Spoilers (cheap plug - link is http://www.andrewbuckleyauthor.com/trilogy-spoilers-podcast)...so I decided, if possible, to watch the very first Romero "zombie film", the one that started it all. I looked On Demand, and on Netflix and there is a shortage of Romero there. On Youtube though I found a few versions of the film, and even the 1990 remake, for free to watch. Researching the film I found out that it was made for only $114,000, but made millions and started an entire genre (or sub-genre?) of movies and Romero himself has been named as an influence on an entire generation of filmmakers. I could list a bunch of stats but that's what Wikipedia is for. But did I like the film? Yes, I did. Some of it doesn't age well, like the fight scenes (compared to today's films, it seemed like the characters were fighting underwater), sound effects (the rifle's shots sounded like a capgun), and at times over-the-topness was comical, with this usually provided by the actors in their performances. But no matter the budget, the filmmaking is top notch, as there are several genuine moments of dread and great amount of tension. As the characters are listening to the newscasters describe what the "ghouls" are capable of (the word "zombie" is never actually used) the looks on their faces, matched with the words being said, is moving. As characters start to die, and in some cases, turn on each other, you pick favourites and want them to survive. And this is also one of those movies that is interesting to watch now, in hindsight. While I am not a horror fan, I have seen The Walking Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Shaun of the Dead, etc. so I do know the typical tropes and jokes that those shows are based on. And now watching the "OG" but in the "wrong order" so to speak is interesting. I can only imagine being in an audience in 1968 watching this film, it's unprecedented amount of gore for the time, the kid in the basement, and when the main character's fate is determined...at the time this must all have been ground breaking. The fact that the main character is black, and what happens to him, is actually ground breaking when considering TODAY's films, really. But then it's sad to think how far we haven't progressed in that sense. Final analysis...I liked it, almost enough to want to go back and watch the others (the original Dawn of the Dead for sure, as for comparison). Whether or not I do go back is another question entirely, but I do have more appreciation for Romero, a true legend. RIP George A. Romero. *Smoker Report: N/A as it was in black and white, and in my weird brain, smoking is okay in black and white movies. I don't make the rules, people...
July 17th - MULAN (1998) I've always been a huge fan of Disney animated films, I know big shocker! But for whatever reason there seems to be a gap around the late 90's, as I realised I had never seen Mulan or Pocahontas, despite hearing raves about both films. Which is weird as I have a soft spot for movies with strong female characters. Regardless, here we are. Although watching this film turned out to be a bit of a chore, although the film itself did nothing wrong, really. Up until this point, this list has been a joy but for a variety of reasons (mostly personal so I won't go into them), on Monday July 17th I was really tired and I would have gone to bed but I HAD TO watch a film for my blog. I should have resisted, as that's not fair to the film, but I went ahead and fell asleep twice while trying to watch this movie. Finally I woke up, saw that the film was winding up and I had missed most of it and gave up and went to bed. The next day I tried to re-start 15 minutes in but had to stop for more life-stuff that was getting in the way. Finally I finished the movie and how was it? I really liked it! First impressions, and piecing things together abit, I feel the film really had a great pace, getting to the point quickly, as it seemed that Mulan was in the army, posing as a boy, fairly quickly after the movie began. And I like that, when movies just get to the point! And it wasn't long after that where Mulan is revealed to be a girl...but she still manages to save the day! I really liked the voice work of Pat Morita, George Takei, Harvey Firestein, Miguel Ferrer, James Hong and of course one of my all-time favourite comedian Eddie Murphy. The snow avalanche scene was where things really started to pick up steam and by the end of the film, I really was enjoying these characters. This is a movie pointed out as a great movie for young girls, starring a kick ass female, although for most of the film Mulan doesn't really kick ass, so I was wondering if this would end up like old school Disney films like Cinderella, Snow White, etc. where, sure, the main character (the TITLE character, in fact) is female, but is Prince Charming going to come along and do the heavy lifting while the main character is alseep? Luckily, Mulan does kick ass in the last act, which made me very happy. Ultimately, this is a great film and I'll have to watch Pocahontas at some point soon! *Smokers Report: N/A as this is a Disney animated film
July 18th - CAPE FEAR (1962) I'm a big Robert Mitchum fan, and one of the first movies I ever saw that really made me think was "To Kill A Mockingbird", so the fact I've never watched this is strange (haven't seen the remake either). But now I get to watch it now, so it all works out in the end! First thing...Telly Savalas with hair! I had no idea he was in this and frankly I had assumed he was born bald! But right off the bat, what an amazing villain Mitchum plays! His eyes, when he first sees Peck in the courtroom are just...haunting! And this movie is alot smarter than I had given it credit for, and is anything but formulaic. I had assumed that Mitchum would taunt Peck, sure, but usually in these kinds of films, no one believes the hero when he says the villain is a crazy murderer, and its not until the end of the film when the hero is redeemed. In this film, everyone believes Peck and he uses his friendship with the police chief to try to run off Mitchum, only Mitchum keeps coming. I found that to be tremendous, almost to the point it makes Mitchum likable. Almost. In fact if Mitchum wasn't so devious and so in-your-face to Peck, laughing and taunting him and his family at every turn, he would almost be the hero. To a more modern audience, I can definatley see Mitchum being the hero. He never stops, almost like a Terminator. That is until the end of the film, when he goes full-evil and tries to rape both Peck's wife and 14 year old daughter. At that point you are rooting for Peck. His character is quite interesting too, using his political power and outright illegal dealings to do whatever he can run Mitchum off without getting his hands dirty. Until the finale, that is. I was kind of shocked at the scene in the police chief's office where Peck and Savalas are planning, with the chief, trapping and the murder of Mitchum. And again, until the end, Peck's character never really loses his cool, much like Atticus Finch. Perhaps this film would have come off totally different if someone like Charlton Heston played Peck's character. And I imagine at the time this was a huge film, with the graphic violence at the end but having a villain as smart as Cady too. Excellent film! *Smokers Report: Mitchum smokes a cigar and of course Telly Savalas smokes a cigarette constantly, possibly the same one through the whole film. In my mind, up until now, Savalas was born bald with a cigarette in his mouth. At least one of those things have been proven wrong now...
July 19th - COLOSSAL (2017) First reactions...what a weird movie! And yet, totally straightforward and never confusing...really. It starts off slow, building the world that Anne Hathaway's character lives in, then boom! Huge things happen (literally!). And it's totally worth the ride. I've been waiting to watch this film for a while. I wanted to watch it in theaters but where I live it wasn't really an option so I pre-ordered it on iTunes! Finally it's here! It's hard not to talk too much about the film as to avoid spoilers...eventhough the overall idea was spoiled in the trailers, and the overall plot and plotpoints where spoiled by one specific jerk (Dan) on "The Flop House" podcast's "Mother's Day" episode. Having known what that feels like, I don't want that to happen to anyone else. So just go watch the film! I guess. Right? *Smokers Report: None!
July 20th - HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971) This is just one of those films that I always intended to watch, would record whenever it came on TCM, but just never made time to sit down and take it in. First thing...for some reason I always through that the film took place in Europe. Not sure why, maybe because of the film stock they used? Maybe, in my mind they would only make a movie like this in Europe? This dark a comedy, about a young boy, obsessed with death, falling in love with an old woman, isn't that really European? Once again with a film I'm watching specifically for this blog, I had a hard time getting into it and actually fell asleep at one point, but after going back to it and re-starting it, I really got into the film and the characters. Especially once Maude shows up and starts stealing cars, shovels and the rest of the film, really. If Harold hadn't done those elaborate death hoaxes to freak out his dates, he wouldn't have really had much of a presence at all. I loved the sequences with a young Tom Skerritt as the highway cop baffled by Maude and her logic. And, knowing what the movie was about, I was curious to see how they actually handled Harold and Maude's relationship, if they would hint at it, if they would actually show them being affectionate with each other, especially since this was made in 1971. I was also shocked how much I started to root for them as characters and was happy when Harold surprised Maude for her birthday and they started sweetly slow dancing. This movie is surprisingly funny, with a lot of laugh out loud moments. And that soundtrack by the former Cat Stevens is iconic! I'm really glad I finally got to take in this classic!
July 21 - VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS (2017) I first heard of this at last year's San Diego Comic Con, where I believe they showed the first trailer, and I've been very excited about it ever since! Why? Luc Besson returning to his "Fifth Element" roots! Amazing visuals! Plus Cara Delevigne! And Rihanna! Besson's imagination is seemingly limitless, has wanted to adapt this from the comic book that first came out in 1967, but has had to wait for the VFX to catch up! Apparently Besson found funding for the film outside the Hollywood studio system and it's the most expensive "indy film" ever at over $209 million budget! So why am I Wikipedia'ing you? Cause I don't really want to talk about the film itself. Because, other than a few scenes here and there, there just wasn't much going on here. Remember when I talked about Baby Driver and the importance of whether or not you liked the lead actor? It's not as important here, but important nonetheless. And having Valerian, who seemingly charming space-rogues from Han Solo forward have been modelled after, played by Dane DeHaan, didn't work for me. I might have been more forgiving to Delevigne, but she worked for me. I thought she was terrible in Suicide Squad, if that evens things out (but then who wasn't, other than maybe Margot Robbie?). There was no chemistry between the two leads, and as the only two humans on screen for most of the film, that's kind of important. The writing is terrible, with more than one long monologue about love or justice or duty or something blah blah blah. But bad writing and dialogue can be saved by actors with charisma and chemistry. Check out the big emotional scene in "The Fifth Element", where Bruce Willis is explaining love to MIlla Jovovich's "Leelu"...it's corny but at that point we love both characters and...it works! There is a similar scene here and I almost strained my eyeballs as I was rolling them so much. Actually, there are two scenes like this, one in the beginning and one at the end. The one at the beginning is bad, almost made we want to check out for the rest of the movie, but I think the one at the end is worse, cause by that point the characters should have won me over, and they didn't. The monologue at the beginning is designed to make Valerian out to be stud but, not to be that guy who lives in a glass house, DeHaan is a dweeb and is no Han Solo! He's not even Ace Rimmer, or for that matter even Arnold J. Rimmer, from Red Dwarf! And not to sound all "You kids and your rock n roll!", but these "advanced" VFX suck! It just looks like I'm watching someone else play a video game, especially when DeHaan is going all flippity-ninja-man and killing some actually likeable plumpy aliens. Again, back with Fifth Element, they used costumes and puppetry, and the aliens seemed way more "alive", whereas now I know it's all done on green screen with the actors talking to tennis balls on sticks for their eye-line. There are two great scenes in the film, when Rihanna shows up for her "performance", she is...wow! The second great scene is a quick one, with Delevigne captured and trying to communicate with an alien, who just wants her to try on dressed for some reason. That kind of is all one sequence, so maybe there is just one great scene in the movie! Maybe if they had flipped the roles, had Delevigne as Valerian, it might have worked, despite the horrible dialogue, but then Besson would have had even more haters than he did already by "not being true to the source material". Anyway, if you like crazy visuals and no real plot or emotion (for example, do you like the Transformers franchise?), then go ahead and see Valerian. But for me it was a HUGE disappointment. *Smokers Report: ZERO!
July 22nd - THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS (2005) BECAUSE I WANTED TO OKAY!?!?! I was flipping through the channels and this was just starting, and technically I've never seen it before, so...actually that's not true, I saw it was on, checked if it was on later, set the DVR to record, then sat down to watch it...CAUSE I FELT LIKE IT! I'm a fan of all four girls in the movie...at the time the movie came out I knew Alexis Bledel the most from Gilmore Girls, America Ferrera from the indy film "Real Women Have Curves" (a great film BTW), Amber Tamblyn from "Joan of Arcadia", an underrated show and at the time, Blake Lively was the unknown of the four. In the years since this, and it's sequel, Lively has become the biggest star, Ferrera is in a hilarious sitcom "Superstore", Bledel hasn't done much other than some appearances on Mad Men and the Gilmore Girls revival, and Tamblyn has kind of disappared off my radar, other than the fact I'm fascinated with her real-life marriage to David Cross (Tobias from Arrested Development). So how was the film? I liked the chemistry of the four with each other (which apparently spilled over to real life and the four became best friends for real), but the movie isn't about that. The movie is touted as being about friendship but we really only see that in a few scenes, letters done in voiceover, and how they talk about each other to other people. I would have liked a movie just about them hanging out, not split up in four directions. Tamblyn and Ferrera do get some good scenes together but it's not enough. Tamblyn's storyline is about death, Ferrera's is about family, Bledel's storyline is about young love and Lively's storyline is about young sexuality. Although that maybe too simple...but are there really soccer camps in Mexico? Was that really an El Santo movie being watched on a TV in the background in one scene? And are all soccer camps in Mexico filmed in B.C.? Are all of Blake Lively's scenes in this movie supposed to make me feel dirty? An admittidely under-age Lively's whole storyline is about seducing a guy, one of her coaches, who is ten years older than her. I guess it's good that she is in control of her sexuality, choosing what to do, rather than be preyed upon? And was the Bledel "Romeo and Juliet" storyline about her supposidely pure young love to balance that out? It's too bad Tamblyn isn't in more stuff as she has a great presence on camera, and can really say alot with doing very little. And Ferrera's emotional phone call with her dad (Bradley Whitford) and reconciliation scene later on in the film is really powerful. Bledel kind of just plays Rory Gilmore with a different name, as she seems to do alot (not that it's bad, I like Rory...). Of the four, Lively showed the least range but she is tall, blonde and gorgeous, so I guess it's not a surprise she's become the biggest star really. Not that she is bad in the film, though, it's just that her scenes involved alot of running and looking hot, which isn't her fault. And on a side note, I think she looked better pre-nosejob. But it is Ferrera who steals the movie, and I'm glad she has found success as a producer and star of a funny sitcom (as rare as that is) and something other than a show called "Ugly Betty". Movie gets extra points for including a Chantal Kreviachuk song. I'm actually looking forward to watching the sequel. And let it be said that I am no movie snob! *Smokers Report: A few of Tamblyn's co-workers smoke but that's it.
July 23rd - QUICK CHANGE (1990) I had heard of this film but had never been able to sit down and enjoy it. I was surprised to find out that this film was co-directed by Bill Murray and featured a lot of young actors by the names Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Phil Hartman and also Kurtwood Smith. The beginning of the film was a standard bank hostage caper, with Murray's acting style being his standard "too cool for school" smartass who's too smart for this script (which is weird, since he's co-director) but once Murray and his cohorts leave the bank and things start going wrong, it becomes a funny movie with lots of twists and turns. I liked how Murray's character knew how smart the police chief (Jason Robards) was, and Robards knew how smart Murray was and that part of the cat-and-mouse game was fun to watch (although, of course, Murray was always much smarter). Murray, though, never quite loses it and always does seem to be in control, and with a few exceptions, never stops being Mr. Cool, which kind of lacks dramatic tension. Randy Quaid's character is supposed to be endearing but is just annoying. Geena Davis was (and is) super talented and I hope she gets that one great role once more in her career. On the list of great movies in her career, this probably isn't one of them. Tucci and especially Shalhoub stand out here, especially Shalhoub who I figured was just going to be a one-note stereotype but as the camera lingers, he shows more and more the talent on screen that we would see in years to come. I wonder if there is a backstory about this movie and Tucci and Shalhoub becoming friends, leading to their friendship and the classic indy film "Big Night". It's probably not a coincidence. Also in the film in a small role is Jamey Sheridan, who played Oliver Queen/Green Arrow's father on "Arrow". It is funny, watching this in 2017, with every character's seemingly endless desire to get out of the "hellhole" of 1980/1990's New York City and seeing personally what NYC and Manhattan in particular have become since (I think "Disney-fied" is the term people use). It might not sound like it but I love Bill Murray and it was worth it just for those few moments here and there where he would show a spark of his charisma and acting chops that he would later show off in "Lost in Translation" and other more dramatic movies. Not great but good. *Smoker's Report: None that I can remember.
July 24th - WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942) This was kind a a surprise to the list. I recorded it out of habit, as I always record TCM's Essentials on Saturday Night, even if just for the intros of the film (it's not the same without the beloved Robert Osbourne, with Alec Baldwin taking over but still...). I thought I had watched this film already and once I had watched Baldwin and guest Tina Fey discuss their thoughts of film, I was going to just erase the film from the DVR. But as they showed clips, I realised I hadn't actually watched this particular Tracey-Hepburn movie, apparently the first one they worked on together and what sparked their romance of Hollywood legend. As Tracey's character is a sports reporter, I learned a few things, like the Oakland A's used to be in Philadelphia and football teams used to all wear black or dark uniforms which made it difficult to see who was whom. The role for Katherine Hepburn was figuratively and literally written for her, and I'm not sure anyone else could pull off the role and not seem "bitchy" and still be likeable. Tracey kind of glides through the film, with a smirk on his face, looking at Hepburn like "Isn't she amazing?", which makes sense based on what was happening behind the scenes. In an example of "The more things change, the more they stay the same", back then Hepburn's character would have had to have her commuppence in the end, as a woman that smart and dedicated to her career has to be shown "the right way", although I was happy to see that she tries to "be put in her place" but Tracey wouldn't have it. These days Hepburn would be called an "elitist", as keeping up with current world events and knowing five different languages is considered a bad thing by some people on the right. As I said, I had feared the movie would really be about good old boy Tracey "taming" the smartypants Hepburn, but it ended up with Tracey basically accepting her for who she is and her vowing to try harder to spend more time focusing on them, which isn't too horrible a message even today, but I have to think that this couple, at least the movie version, is doomed once the cameras stop rolling. Still a very charming film. *Smoker's Report: Lots of smoking, as both Tracey and Hepburn are smokers.
July 25th - DUNKIRK (2017) Remember a few days ago when I talked about how todays VFX looked fake and that inhibited my ability to enjoy Valerian? Well, Christopher Nolan's latest epic, Dunkirk, uses lots of practical effects, using thousand of extras and actually destroying planes and boats, all in the name of filming a big ol' war movie. And the result was movie I only liked a little more than Valerian. And that's not saying much, as I didn't like alot about Valerian, whereas Dunkirk didn't really have anything I hated, there just wasn't much there that I got attached to. By that I mean I didn't really get attached to any of the characters on screen other than knowing I should root for them cause they are "good guys". It's said you should watching this on an IMAX screen, given how Nolan used 60mm film and IMAX cameras to capture the action. I believe that. There was some shots where I was legit wowed, such as a shot from a plane where a boat blows up and as the plane circles the boat we see it sink to it's left. Alot of the shots towards the end of the film of Tom Hardy's plane, flying without the engine going and basically gliding along the beach, I would have loved more of that. Was there another reason I couldn't quite get into this film? Am I just rejecting Nolan himself, who after "The Dark Knight" has kinda just become pretentious and seemingly takes himself too seriously? Am I just rejecting Hans Zimmer's score, that all sounds the same to me? Have I become a shallow moviegoer, and I should revisit "Pearl Harbour" cause it didn't really mess with all that war stuff and made it all about a love triangle? I don't really know. Maybe my brain today just rejects war films that are, above all, about how war is awesome, when they are trying to say war is terrible, but it sure makes it look cool. Not to spoil things, but in the end, one kid is mourned but the others returning home are treated as heroes. How can war be that bad, assuming you survive? I'm not writing a term paper and these aren't supposed to be "epic" reviews (unlike Nolan's films) that take forever to get through, so this might seem flippant, but I really am struggling with this film and my feelings for it. I don't want to just say it was boring, cause it wasn't. I just felt, well, cold towards it. I watched it, then came home, and nothing really happened. I didn't receive any new insight on war that I haven't seen in dozens (hundreds?) of other war movies, other than what "Dunkirk" was. There are a few young soldiers we follow and through their adventures we kind of get to know them a bit, and I liked how they were kind of con artists, scheming as much as they could just to get ahead of everyone else, but all their scheming just gets them back to the beach, to start all over. But even that storyline ends up about valour and right and wrong and people saying lines like "It's not fair!", just to trigger in our brains the response "War isn't fair, son!" In no way are my feelings on this film meant to diminish what those soldiers actually went through in the real-life Dunkirk, or in any war movie. Those were brave men most of whom made ultimate sacrifices. But so many filmmakers claim to make war movies in order to show how horrible war is. And to that I say "BS", as the purpose of a war movie today is basically the same in the 30's and 40's; as propaganda...what more can I say? *Smokers Report: Zero.
July 26th - FUNNY FACE (1957) So apparently I have a severe mental block when it comes to Audrey Hepburn...looking at her filmography, I've only ever watched Sabrina, Robin and Marian, Wait Until Dark...so no Roman Holiday, no My Fair Lady, no Charade, no The Children's Hour, no Breakfast at Tiffany's until very recently...not sure why, it's not like I dislike her or anything. If anything, making this list will correct at least some of those holes in my film watching where she is concerned. I am a big Fred Astaire fan, although to be clear, I am more of a Fred & Ginger fan, and between the two individually, more of a Ginger Rogers fan. I haven't seen many Fred without Ginger movies, cause frankly it's kind of weird. Plus the best Fred & Ginger movies are black and white (Top Hat, Shall We Dance, Swing Time...) so seeing Astaire in colour is weird too. Not to mention he's THIRTY years older that Hepburn and looks it. Looking back at my Breakfast at Tiffany's review (and wow they used to be short!) I didn't really like Hepburn as the "heavy" so to speak, a not very likeable character, whereas here she is the lovable girl next door, and I find it much more suitable. I mentioned Kate Winslet in an earlier review and how I prefer her "punching up", and being the hero fighting the odds and proving she can do more than people expect of her and Hepburn seems to be the same kind of actress. The musical numbers aren't that memorable in my opinion, other than the solo Astaire has "Kiss and Make up", although it goes too long. The cinematography during the three-way song "Bonjour Paris" really made me want to visit Paris, which is weird cause lots of film have been filmed in Paris and I've never had that urge before. I liked the film but I'll most likely never watch it again. *Smokers Report: Lots of it, especially in the Bohemian Cafe!
July 27th - ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953) Now THIS is a great film. Both Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn are great in this film. And I'm now starting to see what "all the fuss" was about with Hepburn. She is wonderful and a ray of sunshine in this black and white feature. I now wonder if I had watched this first and fallen in love with her, would that have changed by opinions on Funny Face and Breakfast at Tiffany's? For 2017, it's pretty standard stuff that we've seen a million times and I have to remember to remember that this is the OG of "princess wanting to be a pauper for a day" movies. But there are some scenes that surprised me, the first being the coffee shop scene where Eddie Albert shows up and Peck doesn't want him to reveal his true identity. There is no chill here and the gags go from subtle to over the top, with Albert landing on his head at one point. Later, when Hepburn's Princess returns to the castle, I expected her to cower and feel terrible about what she had done, but she kicks serious ass and basically tells her handlers to back off and as of now, that things are going to change. And the ending absolutely shocked me, but if you are like me before today and haven't seen it, I won't spoil it. Sometimes older films have weird scenes that you watch and are like "Well, I guess that was acceptable back then!" There is one scene where Peck tries to wrestle a camera away from a little girl and as it starts I'm like "Wow, that's creepy" but as the scene progresses, it turns out that was weird behavior back then too. Alot of funny and just plain sweet moments throughout. A big recommendation! *Smokers Report: Off the top of my head, I remember there is one scene with Hepburn trying to smoke...sidenote I've always found it weird in moves and tv shows where characters will take a few puffs then throw the smoke away...I guess in old movies that's more acceptable cause cigarettes didn't cost as much as they do today? When I see that in modern films/tv shows, it takes me out of the film and I'm like "yeah, that guy didn't pay for that, otherwise..." I've lived around smokers my whole life and you don't take two puffs and throw it away...you just don't. Sidenote #2: Wow the blacklist sucked. A major oversimplification, I know...but screw the House Unamerican Activities Committee and God Bless Dalton Trumbo.
July 28th - LIKE CRAZY (2011) I had heard about this film, saw it in my DVR and was like..."Sure!" I had heard Jennifer Lawrence was in it, and that's how it came on my radar, and I didn't know much about Felicity Jones other than she was in Star Wars: Rogue One. And she was in a Dr. Who episode, but one I don't really remember (other than there was a really big wasp in it I think). Anton Yelchin I've seen more of, due to the Star Trek films and heard more about following his tragic death. Felicity Jones is really young looking here, as is Lawrence, once she actually shows up. As I was watching the film, I usually multi-task (do some writing, tweet, research the movie I'm watching, etc.) and looking this film up I saw that it was a very low budget indy film, most of it was improvisational, and that people loved Jones and Yelchin's performances but thought the overall movie was flawed by it being completely unrealistic. I didn't really see how Jones and Lawrence fell for this guy so hard, Yelchin's performance consisted of being mopey and dead-eyed most of the time and generally unhappy when, from a dude-bro's point of view, two of the hottest, smartest and coolest women in the world are both professing their love for each other. I'm sure it would be a real bummer having to choose between them. Poor guy. :) Jones, even when she is unhappy and crying still has a spark to her that makes her insanely loveable. And Lawrence, even in her very limited amount of screentime, is amazing. Jones and Yelchin's love story isn't one I was really rooting for; they fall in love, argue, make up as if they were teenagers, when they are supposed to be adults. When it built up to the big finale I wasn't all that enraptured, unfortunately. But did I mention Alex Kingston is in this film too? *Smokers Report: None. Lots of alcohol consumption, but whatevs.
July 29th - WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017) WOW, THIS MOVIE WAS AMAZING! Sorry for the capslock, but it's true. This third "Apes" movie was tremendous! I highly recommend it. A few months back on my podcast "Trilogy Spoilers!" (link here) we were talking about the Best Movies of 2017 so far, and I made a remark that unless the new Star Wars movie is amazing, then I can't see another film dethroning Wonder Woman as the Best Movie of the Year! I loved WW that much! But now there's this...I have liked other Apes films (of the original movies, I've really only seen the first Chuck Heston version, hated the Tim Burton/Marky Mark version, liked the Franco version (Rise...), and liked the sequel even more (Dawn...)) and heard good things about this version (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) so I went in with high hopes. And they were met! The VFX are so good you think that there are actual apes/monkeys talking to each other on screen. The movie doesn't mess around, as two minutes in there is a major battle sequence, then a few minutes later another one, then the movie kicks into gear with the addition of a new ape (should I spoil it and reveal who does the voice? No, I'll let you discover that yourselves, but I loved it) and the young girl in the poster above was tremendous too! Woody Harrelson nails it...Matt Reeves as co-writer and director nails it...I really loved this film! Have I made that clear? I'm just mad at myself now because it took me so long to go see it (it came out 15 days ago!). All the apes, especially Andy Serkis' Caesar, are fully developed characters that we care about and, considering what I said about VFX in my Valerian review earlier, I would say this movie is an exception to the rule. Plus bonus points cause it was filmed in Canada, eh! Plus classic film fans will probably recognise some homages to movies like "The Great Escape", "Bridge on the River Kwai", "Apocalypse Now" and others. I expected blow ups and cool set pieces but I was not expecting such an intelligent script! Go see this! *Smokers Report: None!
July 30th - ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) As I wrap up this list and month, I am planning on doing another list like this for August but I realise there might not be as many new releases on that list. July was a good month, August doesn't seem to be, but that's for another time! Now, for this movie...what a fun ride! The plot makes no sense, but neither did the plot of "The Big Sleep", and that movie didn't have the amazing fight sequences that this one does! As scenes happened, and there was double cross after double cross, and things were said in dialogue that related to things on screen that hadn't happened yet, and the narrative switched voices...but really none of that matters cause Charlize Theron kicks serious ass! Plus the soundtrack is amazing and I downloaded it as soon as I got home. Plus having all this go on as the Berlin Wall was coming down was a great set piece. It really did remind me of the Bourne movies but that could be because of the European setting. And the Bourne movies made sense. Really, leave your brain at the door and just go to enjoy lots of people getting punched in the face really hard! *Smokers Report: LOTS! Literally every character in this movie smokes all the time! But I didn't mind it so much, maybe because it was set in the 80's???
July 31st - BON COP BAD COP (2006) This probably should have been my Canada Day movie. It's Canada's first attempt at a big budget buddy cop movie. It was good but way too long. Way too long. It couldn't really decide if it was a dark serious cop movie or a buddy cop-comedy. I liked the "meet cute" between the two cops, bickering over whether a dead body, lying half way over the border between Ontario and Quebec and the two leads have chemistry. I liked the plot where the killer is targeting people responsible for taking hockey away from Canada and to the States, and it's kind of interesting how they were clearly referencing the NHL, Wayne Gretzky, Peter Poklington, Gary Bettman but having to just say "The Great One", and giving characters similar names like "Pickleton" and "Buttman". But was it interesting enough for a whole film? Things started to unravel for me towards the end and lost interest, I have to admit, although there was a recent sequel that I would watch if it came on cable. It looked good and clearly had a good budget, and these sorts of projects should be encouraged. Just a little more editing maybe? *Smokers Report: one of the main characters is always smoking (which do you think, the Frenchman or the English?) and a few other characters here and there do as well...
*This has been fun...I do plan on doing an August list like this, so keep an eye out for that...