August 2017 A Movie A Day Blog!
1- Seven Year Itch
2- John Wick
4- Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (animated)
5- The Duff
6- The Hangover Part 2
7- The Night of the Hunter
8- Black Adder: The While Rotten Saga
10- The Hangover Part 3
11- Star of Midnight
14- Street Smart
15- Freebie and the Bean
16- A Place in the Sun
17- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
18- The Founder
19- To The Bone
20- Bridge of Spies
22- People Will Talk
23- Mr. Right
25- Synecdoche, New York
26- Noises Off!
27- Runaway Train
28- Lilo & Stitch
29- The Rescuers
30- I Ought to be in Pictures
31- An Officer and a Gentleman
August 31st - AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (1982) Last movie of this blog! Not sure if I'll do an September blog, as I am going on the road again for work and it's hard driving 9 hours, getting to the hotel and then HAVING to watch a movie. Anyway, I've never had much of a desire to see this film, eventhough I've heard about it seemingly forever. I've never really been a Richard Gere fan. Other than Primal Fear and Unfaithful, and I guess Pretty Woman, I haven't really seen much of his filmography. He's a very stoic actor and doesn't really...do...much on screen. Especially in this film, his face doesn't move much, he has to get really angry or emotional before his expression changes. He relies on shifting his gaze, mouth movement and body language to convey his emotions. And I was surprised that this movie is known as a love story but the story is actually mostly about Gere's character, Mayo, and his training to join the Navy's Aviation Program. There's way more onscreen time between Gere and drill instructor Lou Gossett Jr., and Gere and buddy Keith David (not David Keith from They Live) than there is between Gere and Debra Winger. But the thing is, Winger steals every scene she is in. She is gorgeous and doesn't get the credit she deserves. Although maybe she would have if she hadn't taken a hiatus for so many years. Anyway, any time she is on screen, my focus was on her. Especially in those sexy-even-by-todays-standards love scenes. So while this film has that iconic ending of Gere picking Winger up in his arms and them walking out of her factory, it's a feel good moment that I'm sure had the crowds cheering in 1982's theaters, it actually was a bigger deal that Gere graduated a few scenes earlier. Interesting that the cast included a young David Caruso and Lisa Eilbacher, who played Jenny Summers in Beverly Hills Cop. I can totally see why this was considered one of the best movies of the '80's. *Smokers Report: A few characters smoke but not alot, which, like the previous film on this blog, I found unusual for an 80's movie.
August 30th - NEIL SIMON'S I OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES (1982) I thought I had posted this last night but apparently not, so here we go. Okay, so I'm searching through Netflix, looking for a movie to watch, which can be a long time-consuming adventure. I just type in "movie" and see what happens. "Movies from 1980's" comes up, and I've seen most of them. Then there is this film, which I'd never heard of. I get more info and it says "Starring Walter Matthau" and I'm in. I've never heard of this film, but I hit play anyway. Dinah Manoff comes on screen, talking and talking and talking and immediately I'm like "okay, this was based on a play" and yes it turns out it was written by Neil Simon, based on one of his Broadway plays. Manoff is the only one from Broadway who ended up in the film. The banter is okay early on but it gets a bit annoying later. I looked up this film and both Siskel and Ebert named it one of the worst films of 1982. Wow! Manoff and Matthau meet, get all lovey-dovey (they are estranged father/daughter), and then start yelling at each other within ten minutes. Ann Margaret shows up and literally says "What do you expect? It won't happen in ten minutes!". I was thinking "AMEN, sister!" Matthau is awesome as a guy slowly falling in love with this young woman who he didn't know existed (his daughter, and I don't mean it that way pervs) and as he slowly takes down his defenses and wants to have this girl in his life. Manoff I remember from sitcoms in the late 80's but not much else. Ann Margaret is one of those actresses I'll always have a crush on. Neil Simon is one of those guys that has done all-time amazing work (The Odd Couple, The Goodbye Girl) and some...not so much. I did like one line where Manoff says "I talk to (her dead) Grandma cause I'm so worried no one else is listening". I guess I'm a sap cause I kind of enjoyed this. I was genuinely emotional at the end of the film. Am I just programmed to automatically love all things Matthau? Is it a great film? I don't know. Watch it yourself and you tell me. A trivia note: This is the only Walter Matthau movie on Netflix (at least my Canadian Netflix). While Netflix is alot of things, it's not great presenting anything earlier than 2000 unless it's a big movie like Back to the Future. Sure there's TCM Online and other streaming services, but most aren't available in Canada. So if it's not on Youtube... *Smoker's Report: Walter Matthau's character smokes but that's it, which is actually kind of weird for an '80's movie.
August 29th - THE RESCUERS (1977) So the more I go down the Disney Animation Rabbit Hole on Netflix, there are alot of films I haven't seen. Or at least some, like this film, that I admit I may have seen as a kid, but have zero clue as to what it's about. I didn't even know Bob Newhart was in this. And I'm a fan of Bob Newhart. I think I got this film confused with "Rescuers Down Under"...I remember that being a thing, so it is possible i haven't seen this at all after all! Anyway, really old school Disney hand drawn 2D animation in the opening sequence, although early on it seems like more like a Filmmation He-Man style of animation, but what do I know? Is it possible to love every character in a film? Bernard, Miss Bianca, Penny, Rufus, Orville, Brutus and Nero, Evinrude, Ellie Mae and Luke and their group...all adorable! Even Madame Madusa is fascinating. The logical side of my brain occasionally butts in and wants details explained (like when twenty minutes in, Rufus asks "But you two are just two little mice, what can you do?" I was like...right?", and how they end up at Madame Madusa's makes no sense, how did Bernard go from being the janitor to being a full agent?...) but like with Lilo and Stitch, the details don't matter. Apparently this was considered a Disney "B" movie back in the day but it's a really sweet film. *Smokers Report: N/A
August 28th - LILO AND STITCH (2002) Another Disney film from an era where I missed alot of Disney films. I'm thinking that at the time I was more into Pixar movies maybe? I don't really have a reason...maybe I thought 2D animation was lame after seeing what 3D was all about? Anyway, I know this film as a huge following and people think Stitch is their spirit animal or something. I really, really enjoyed this. I wasn't sure what to expect, from what little I've seen of clips and trailers, Stitch seemed like a jerk. But apparently he's a fun, entertaining, charismatic Elvis-loving jerk. Funny that I just watched Moana and this also takes place in Hawaii, although that really doesn't seem to be a main plot point, other than keeping Stitch away from a big city. I fell in love with both Lilo and Stitch, even though by "normal movie standards" their relationship doesn't make much sense (why does she like him, how does she discover he can play records, how does he pick up the guitar so quickly...) but that doesn't matter. That stuff was probably explained in an earlier draft but who cares that it was taken out? I like that this is only 85 minutes. I liked Kevin McDonald, of Kids in the Hall, as the "Earth expert". I loved that everyone was just like...okay aliens...cool! By the end I was genuinely moved by Stitch getting to stay with his new family. I'm sorry this movie didn't become part of my life sooner. *Smokers Report: N/A
August 27th Part 2 - RUNAWAY TRAIN (1985) Another selection from my un-opened DVD collection, although this one I didn't know I owned. It was part of a DVD two-pack and I bought the DVD for the TV movie version of "Taking of Pelham 123" that starred Edward James Olmos and Vincent D'Onofrio...so this movie was a bonus. I'd never heard of it, and that could be because of Jon Voight. That's because until that Seinfeld episode with him on it (or I guess technically, his car), I had never heard of Jon Voight. Ever. I was even a pretty big movie fan at this point, but had never heard of Jon Voight. I must have heard of Midnight Cowboy but not seen it. Hadn't seen Deliverence until later. When they said Jon Voight on Seinfeld, I thought it was a made up name. Not until Anaconda, of all things, I didn't get who he was. Then his career rebounded, and as a bonus, he was Angelina Jolie's dad. So, again, I had never heard of this, and then I found out I was really missing something. Apparently this film was nominated was alot of awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Picuture- Drama, and both Voight and Eric Roberts were nominated for Oscars! That shocked me, since this was basically an action film. Again, not sure how I had never heard of this before, but I'm glad I've found it now. It's a great film. I was surprised Rebecca De Mornay was in this, as they "dirtied her up" alot but her looks still shone through the oil and dirt. Some notable trivia: This was supposed to be a movie by Akira Kurasawa, but his involvement fell through. Also, this film is the debut for both Tiny Lister (Zeus in No Holds Barred, the President in The Fifth Element) and Danny Trejo (any tough guy movie ever). And also, this movie was made by The Cannon Group, a kind-of infamous movie studio that made "How Did This Get Made" podcast subjects such as "The Apple", "Lifeforce" and Lou Ferrigno's "Hercules" movie series. Also Highlander, Bo Derek's Bolero and Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo, not to mention cheap horror movies and action flicks, like Bloodsport, Cobra, Superman 4, Masters of the Universe and various Chuck Norris movies. They seemed to occasionally stumble across a good movie like this or the aforementioned Street Smart, 52 Pick-Up and Mannequin. A good documentary about this studio is "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films". Oh, and PS, this is a great film! *Smokers Report: None that I can remember.
August 27th - NOISES OFF (1992) Here's a film that I bought awhile back but have never cracked open. I think I bought it at the same time as Street Smart as I was on a Christopher Reeve kick. This got horrible reviews but the cast is made up of people that I love, plus it's directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Bogdanovich is entertaining to listen to on TCM when he has vignettes, plus I do love some of his films, such as Last Picture Show and The Cat's Meow (I haven't seen Paper Moon...yet), although looking back over his filmography he's seemingly had a lot of stinkers too. But in some strange way, his stinkers intrigue me, like "At Long Last Love", a musical with Burt Reynolds and Cybil Shepherd? I need to see that! And as I said, this cast is as if I picked it out myself. Chris Reeve, Michael Caine (reuniting after Death Trap), Carol Burnett, John Ritter, Marilu Henner (who I am falling in love with all over again watching Taxi reruns on MeTV lately), plus a gorgeous Nicolette Sheridan, a zany Mark Linn-Baker and a boozy Denholm Elliott (Brody from the Indiana Jones movies), apparently in his last movie role ever. And as advertised this movie didn't really work. The idea of us watching a play (within a play) and having closeups of the actors is just weird, period. It's one thing if you are watching an opera being filmed at a movie theater, you know what you are watching. The slapstick zaniness is Bringing Up Baby-level, which Ritter excels at but it's over the top. So over the top that...I can't even come up with a comparison. I did love the 2nd act, where they are being all zany but silently, with barely any dialogue and just alot of choreographed shenanigans. But altogether it is just to wacky, especially the ending where it just ends with a happy ending out of no where. I might be biased, but Reeve is the shining light, playing it as straight as it gets in this film and when everything stops for him to ask the director Caine a question, it actually seems like a good question. And when his question gets answered he seems genuinely happy and thankful. I'm not disappointed I watched this, it was kind of fun with a big laugh spread out here and there, but overall it wasn't good. *Smokers Report: None that I can think of.
August 26th Part 2: SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (2008) And speaking of Charlie Kaufman...why not watch this film too? So some people have called this film brilliant and some have called it horrible and pretentious. Roger Ebert, who I respected and admired alot but didn't always agree with as far as movie tastes, called this "the best movie of the decade". I admire Kaufman, as noted in my review of Anomalisa below, but I couldn't figure this movie out. It was almost like Kaufman trying to be a combination of David Lynch and David Zucker. It was just a weird movie, happening seemingly at hyper-speed as it speeds ahead 17 years in about ten minutes (I think), but it starts coming together around the time Tom Noonan shows up to play Philip Seymour Hoffman in the play within the play-slash-movie. It was a casting masterstroke to have Emily Watson show up to play Samantha Morton, although I'm not sure if I can quantify why I was tickled so much by that. The movie starts out realistically and the weirdness could have slowly developed, except then they introduce the house-on-fire and any illusion of this being based on reality disappears. There are some Zucker like jokes in here, like when Michelle Williams' character says "Everyone has tattoos", pulls up her shirt revealing a massive tattoo that covers her whole back, and Hoffman says "I've never seen that before" and walks off. Or the scene where Hoffman is wanting to see his daughter, sees a present he bought her in the garbage, Hoffman stops, puts eyedrops in his eyes, then the next scene is him "crying" holding the present, as if that was Kaufman and Hoffman winking at the Academy or something. But the meta-ness started to get suffocating. Between the fire house, the magic diary and the 20 year pre-production of a play, it became too much. Hard to believe I can't love a movie with Catherine Keener, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Hope Davis and Diane Weist. Unlike some people, just because I don't understand a movie, I won't dismiss it as garbage. I am willing to concede that this movie is above my intelligence level. Maybe if I watched this movie a few more times I'll grow to appreciate it's brilliance. Maybe. *Smokers Report: A few characters smoke. Maybe just one, now that I think of it. Not a big deal.
August 26th - ANOMALISA (2015) What a strange wonderful film, but it's from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, so I guess I should have expected that! Kaufman has given us Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and one of my all-time favourites, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I own Synecdoche, New York, but have yet to watch it, for some reason. It didn't take very long to fall in love with this film. I think it was when I figured out every character was voiced by Tom Noonan, you know, on purpose (and it just wasn't me being nuts and thinking everyone sounded alike). Probably when they recreated the "Godfrey loves me!" scene from My Man Godfrey. I recently saw Moana and was amazed by the animation...but this film takes animation and is actually somehow better. One the one hand, they take animation and instead of coming up with alien worlds or superheroes, they recreate the inside of an airplane, then an airport, then a taxi, then a hotel lobby, then a hotel room...and it all looks amazingly accurate in that it's just average looking. And you might think "Why bother? We can see that stuff in real life..." but the fact it's so realistic is part of the charm. I can only imagine the hours and hours it took to make this stop-motion animated film, second-by-second (Wikipedia is a surprising lack of help, only saying it took 2 years to make the film). In particular, the scene of the main character pacing his room practicing a speech, it's so, well, normal and could have been filmed in an hour in a real hotel with a real actor, but it my head it took months to film. And I haven't even talked about the performances or the story...I was interested in particular as I'm a big Jennifer Jason Leigh fan and she doesn't work on enough projects these days. This has one hilarious moment where the main character drives a trolley into an empty swimming pool. The animation is so realistic, so I guess we've got past the "uncanny valley", "dead eyes" thing. And even towards the end I did kind of wonder myself "Why not shoot this live action?" but it becomes clear, as the ending and how it conveys loneliness couldn't have come across as clear using live action actors or CGI. *Smokers Report: The main character smokes, which I think was just the filmmakers showing off as opposed to it being an important story element.
August 25th - CRAP! Happened again! Now I'll have to watch 3 movies on Saturday!!!! On the bright side "THE SUPERS" is close to publication! :)
August 24th - It was bound to happen...worked an 8 hour day, then went over to my friend's as he's a graphic designer and we worked on my comic book, drove home (an hour commute), got home at 11pm and crashed...so no movie today! Now I'll have to watch two on Saturday! :)
August 23rd - MR. RIGHT (2015) This film was recommended to me by my podcasting parter, Andrew Buckley ( http://www.andrewbuckleyauthor.com/trilogy-spoilers-podcast) and despite the fact we rarely agree on movie tastes, I saw this on Netflix and figured what the hell? I love Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell, the cast also includes Tim Roth and RZA, and also the dude who was the bad guy in Season 1 of Wynona Earp, a good Canadian boy, Michael Eklund. This was a good little film, not a masterpiece but still enjoyable. Tim Roth is interesting character in general (on and off screen), seemingly destined for superstardom during the Tarantino-ing of Hollywood but that never happened. The most memorable thing I can think of that I'd seen him in prior to this was the Monty Python documentary "Almost the Truth: Lawyer's Cut" where he was asked about Python and his favourite sketch and he seemed stoned out of his mind. Anyway, as I watched the film I thought I was losing it, as in one scene he'd have an Irish accent, then the next an American one, but it all makes sense eventually. As mentioned earlier, Kendrick and Rockwell are two favs of mine and they have great chemistry. These "hitman-with-a-heart-of-gold" movie was a dime a dozen in the late 90's after Pulp Fiction but time has passed. It was a little weird with all the guns and death and laughs going along with it, but if it's a little movie that you don't necessarily think too much about, this could be it. It was written by Max Landis, son of John Landis, who also wrote the great film "Chronicle" but also "American Ultra" (which I haen't seen to be fair, but I didn't hear much good about it) who has become a controversial online figure for his opinions. That has nothing to do with this film, but just an aside. PS Landis best works are his Youtube short films "Wrestling Isn't Wrestling" and the all-star cast-led "Death of Superman". *Smokers Report: RZA smokes at one point but I think that's it.
August 22nd - PEOPLE WILL TALK (1951) Saturday was Cary Grant day on TCM's Summer Under the Stars, but it was hard for me to watch a Cary Grant movie that I hadn't seen already. I'm a big Grant fan, and all the shows they were watching were some of my favourites, like The Philadelphia Story and The Bachelor and The Bobby Soxer (which they play all the time on TCM, yet I seem to be the only one who loves it; could be wrong...), Holiday...plus His Girl Friday was on the other day, which was Rosalind Russell day. I've loved watching Grant as a true movie star and all that word means. I don't assume anyone will argue Grant was a great "actor", and be mentioned in the same sentence as Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, etc. I hear Grant mentioned more along the lines of a George Clooney...again as great "movie stars" who are just as comfortable in comedies as they are dramas or thrillers. Grant's filmography includes slapstick like Bringing Up Baby or a Hitchcock like North by Northwest. But like all stars, not every movie is a homerun. Now what about this movie? I only had a few movies to choose from, seeing as the ones they showed I'd seen already, so I picked this one kinda at random. The first hour of the movie drags, and it takes that long to really get the story moving. It starts with Hume Cronyn interrogating the wicked witch about Grant's character, which I thought meant we were going to into a long flashback sequence, but the movie just proceeds from there. Seems everyone loves Grant except Cronyn, who is on somekind of witch hunt. Grant is a bit of Walter Burns and a bit George Kaplan...er...Roger Thornhill, in that he is laid back in his manner but yet talks and talks and talks. Around the one hour mark, Grant proposes to "the girl" (played this time by Jeanne Crain) and ten minutes later they are married and Cronyn has THE EVIDENCE he's been looking for in said witch hunt. There's not much humour here, some scenes that made me smirk, or smile, but not much laughing, but then again it's not that kind of film. The best scene is when Grant and two "distinguised gentlemen" friends are arguing like children, dressed in suits and ties, about their toy train set crash, most of their conversation consisting of 'Beeps'. But then that scene ends in tears too. That also leads into a scene with a misunderstanding, an argument and shockingly, a quick resolution, where people don't rush out of a room angrily, actually rationally discuss something and everything is...fine after. The movie comes down to a big courtroom scene (kinda) and the testimony of Grant's companion throughout the film, where we hear that Grant's friendship with him, a person who others have received "many complaints" about, could end his career. When were these complaints? What were they about? The movie seems to be about the love story, but then its about the friendship. It seems like the filmmakers were trying to do too much. And this movie has quite a pedigree, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. But it really doesn't add up to much, eventhough that last scene with Grant joyfully conducting an orchestra, is pretty cool. And that is one freaking awesome train set! *Smokers Report: Cary Grant is one of those movie stars who seemed to always have a cigarette in his hand or his mouth, but this movie was a rare exception.
August 21st - MOANA (2016) What a gorgeous film! Unlike live-action VFX, 3D animation is killing it! To the point where I wonder why people even bother making big budget live-action films like Transformers and the DC movies pre-Wonder Woman. The water effects alone in this film are spectacular and worth watching. But I found myself looking very closely at everything on screen, in particular the human characters and the rich texture of what was going on. I also loved what the movie didn't give us. I read on Wikipedia that an initial draft of the script had Moana with multiple brothers and her finding her place as the only girl and whether or not she should be the chief of the tribe...I saw that story done really well in "Whale Rider" years ago and didn't need to see it again here. I was shocked when the movie started talking about Moana as the next chief of the tribe in a very non-chalent way, no one even questioned it. I was even waiting for someone to say "Wait...SHE'S going to be our chief? But she's a girl!? and it never happened! That may have been the most revolutionary thing about the movie! The movie also features awesome songs, great performances and, again, amazing animation! Only thing wrong about this film is that it's too long (but I say that about everymovie these days) and I didn't see it in an actual movie theatre. Oh, and it reminded me how Pixar used to be killing it when it came to 3D animation and how Pixar was on a streak, from Toy Story to The Incredibles to Wall-E to Up, of guaranteed home-run movies. Is it really a coincidence this all changed after John Lasseter left Pixar for Disney Animation? I'm freestyling here cause I say that after doing no research at all on the subject. Just throwing that out there. Highly recommended! *Smokers Report: N/A
August 20th - BRIDGE OF SPIES (2015) A little late on this, after not having wifi for a little while, here we are, talking about a movie I had meant to watch but just never got around to it...kinda like most of the movies on this list really. But I actually searched for this film in theatres, as at the time I was trying to get caught up on Oscar nominated movies that year (2016) and my job involves alot of travel, so I would drive to Calgary, for instance, look at the movie listings, see that it had just left Calgary, but was in Saskatoon. So I would go to Saskatoon a week later, and it had just left and was in Regina. Long story short, it's been a journey to see this film. Although after the Oscars, for some reason, the need dwindled, which is weird cause the movie won for Mark Rylance as Best Supporting Actor. As the credits rolled, I was surprised the Cohen brothers had written the script (or re-wrote it, as I found out later). So this movie starred Tom Hanks, directed by Steven Spielberg, co-written by the Cohen Brothers, features an Academy Award winning performance...so why didn't I love it? It has a stop and start feel to it, just getting interesting then slows down...I'll always love Tom Hanks and I root for him to find the success he had in the 90's, and I'm happy this film made money and was critically accepted. I admire it, as it seems to be an attempt at an old-school classic thriller released in 2015 where most of it's viewers will have ADHD. I am always annoyed at scenes like the one where (after defending a Russian spy) Hanks' house is shot at, his family freaked out, a mob is outside his house, and he has a look on his face of "What is going on?", as if everyone else in the film hadn't warned him this was going to happen from the start. Unfortunately the real greatness are scenes between Hanks and Rylance, but Rylance kinds disappears half way through the film and only pops up again for the finale. During the credits, it's said Hanks' character went on to consult for JFK and negotiate the release of hostages captured during the Bay of Pigs. So when is the sequel coming out? *Smokers Report: Rylance smokes through the movie.
August 19th - TO THE BONE (2017) So this was a tough film to watch. There is a disclaimer before the film that warns you that it might be tough to watch. I assumed that meant, since the movie was about people struggling with eating disorders, lots of puking, since it also dealt with depression, maybe some slit wrists and lots of blood, but none of that is shown on screen. In fact, in that sense the film is downright shy. Puke is there but only seen by the actor on screen. Blood shows up briefly but only shown for a split second when the filmmaker could have smeared it all over like it's a horror film. So what could have been so "offensive" that they felt they needed a disclaimer? Apparently the sight of really skinny people might offend people. Although I guess that makes sense; in today's world if you are super skinny or overweight, you are "gross". But what about this film? I really enjoyed it! I have to admit I was rooting for it a bit, as it was written and directed by Marti Noxon, who I've been a fan of since her time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (one of my all-time favourite shows). I liked the cast, the story, the acting. I liked the group inside the treatment house that's run by Parks and Recreation's Retta and Keanu Reeves. Leslie Bibb does a good job too. Lilly Collins as the lead role does a tremendous job as Eli. She was also in Okja too! I, in particular, loves the relationship between Collins and Liana Liberato, who are half-sisters in the film but that's only a label, and they truly are sisters and love and care about each other. The movie, unfortunately, does fall apart towards the end, once Eli leaves the treatment house. Her epiphany is kinda weird (I was assuming a movie this smart would avoid the "she's cured!" ending), her problems with her absentee father are never addressed, and the movie just kind of ends. It is an unsatisfactory ending, but the movie as a whole is well done. Does that make sense? *Smokers Report: Lilly Collins characters smokes quite a bit.
August 18th - THE FOUNDER (2016) I've been looking forward to watching this for awhile. It's probably been two years (I think) since I first saw the trailer, waited for it's release, then realised it had pretty much come and gone from theaters. It apparently wasn't that successful at the box office, which surprises me, considering Michael Keaton is in the midst of one of those big Hollywood comebacks you hear about, but maybe people weren't interested in hearing the "downer" history of how a slick-rick type stole away McDonalds from it's creators? It wasn't for lack of marketing, as I saw trailers for this movie everywhere for a long time. I thought for sure this was Oscar bait, especially if distributed by The Weinstein Company. The Oscar noms came and went and...nothing. Anyway, how was the film itself? It starts out pretty basically, with Keaton having a hard time, hears about this McDonalds place, shows up, orders food, is shocked the the burgers only take 30 seconds to make, asks where and how he's supposed to eat it, etc. Keaton immediately falls in love, seeing dollar signs, whereas the brothers to started the business are skeptical about franchising their restaurant. One interesting bit was that it turns out they had already tried to franchise four more locations but all four had failed, and that's why they were skeptical. One other interesting bit was that Keaton initially wanted rich partners to start franchises, but when it became clear that they didn't care as much as "little people" who would start up with their own money, his recruitment went into high gear towards that demographic. Meanwhile the brothers resented his success, although it's not really clear why. Keaton starts taking credit, telling stories here and there about how he started the company and he eventually convinces himself that he did. The movie is kind of uneven, as Keaton seems to have good intentions, and it's not like he spends money on coke and hookers, whereas the Brothers seem like they are saying no to him just cause their feelings are hurt. In the end, Keaton's character Ray Kroc, is a crook who stole two brothers' business from them and cheated them out of $100's of millions of dollars. And the movie is about him and how he got away with it. Without sounding too corny, it's similar to The Wolf of Wall Street, in that it celebrates "bad behavior". And to me, that's not cool. *Smoker's Report: None. In fact it seems one of the McDonalds brothers was a smoker and they 'deleted' that from the film, so if this was a math equation, they'd be -1 smoker.
August 17th - CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) Elizabeth Taylor is another actress I haven't kept up with (so to speak) so after A Place in the Sun, I decided to watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (and maybe Giant soon too?). Taylor is a Hollywood legend, of course, as much for her personal life as her on-screen work. After watching TCM and listening to the per-show talks by the hosts, I see a pattern developing where it's talked about how Taylor had alot of chemistry with her male co-stars, and if it's Richard Burton, they inevitably talk about their off screen relationship. With this film, though, the hosts talked about how natural Taylor's performance was, possibly one of her best performances, as well as Newman's. Written by Tennessee Williams as a play initially, and I could tell! The long monologue by Taylor at the beginning of the film as she strolled around the room as Newman drank lying on a couch streamed "play!" To start, sure Taylor looked gorgeous, but Newman was seemingly mute, his family was annoying (including Canadian boy Jack Carson) and everyone seemed likea real jerk. But as the movie progresses, the walls come down and Newman's guard drops and the movie becomes something to see. Between Taylor, Newman and Burl Ives as Big Daddy, there are three great performances in this film and you like the characters more and more, something I frankly wouldn't have thought possible early on. It's amazing that Taylor acted in this film after finding out that her husband died in a plane crash. The shot of her leaning on the bed is iconic, and so is the film itself. Although I was disappointed a bit that Taylor didn't give Jack Carson's wife a good smack across the face. *Smokers Report: If there was (other than Big Daddy's cigar) I didn't notice it
August 16th - A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951) George Stevens may be close to being one of my favourite Movie Directors. My all-time favourite is Billy Wilder. I loved that Wilder could make movies as different as Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd, Ace in the Hole, Stalag 17, Some Like it Hot, The Apartment and IMHO the underrated The Fortune Cookie. Or Howard Hawks who could make movies like Scarface, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Big Sleep and Rio Bravo, among others. As I have noticed while I am watching these films, George Stevens has many classic films under his belt - Swing Time, Gunga Din, The Talk of the Town, Giant...and movies on this list and the July list...Woman of the Year, Shane and now A Place in the Sun. This movie is famous for the on-screen chemistry with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. People gush about seeing them together on screen, but I don't know of that many times I've heard people gush about the quality of the movie itself. I'm sure people do, of course. This is a very straightforward film. We meet Montgomery Clift, then Shelley Winters, who he starts dating, but then in comes Elizabeth Taylor and turns his world upside down. The movie is about hubris and ambition, with Clift (although this is implied and not said) getting Winters pregnant and offering to marry her, but then he starts dating Taylor and enters a world of luxury and wants to stay in that world, and won't let Winters ruin that. I pretty much could tell where this was going at every turn, there were no surprises at all. The only real surprise is that Clift doesn't really kill Winters...he clearly wants to but it's an accident that kills her, but he can't prove that in court, so Perry Mason himself (Canadian boy Raymond Burr) gets him sentenced to the death penalty. I try to think of the movies as how they existed at the time they were made, such as was, in this movie, seeing someone walked to his execution, revolutionary at the time? In 2017, I've seen this story many, many, MANY times before. I did enjoy the twist, and that towards the end, Winters started getting tired of Clift's crap and standing up for herself, and the chemistry between Clift and Taylor is palpable, for sure. This story is an old one, and the performances are good but I'm not sure I'll sit down and watch this again. *Smokers Report: There is some, but I think I've said before in my July blog that somehow, in black and white films, smoking just seems natural somehow, so it just kind of blends into the scenery.
August 15th - FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (1974) Apparently this is one of the original buddy cop films. I'd heard the name of this film on and off (it stood out cause it was so different) but I really knew nothing about it, even who starred in it or what it was about. It stars James Caan and Alan Arkin as two cops who destroy pretty much everything in San Francisco as they try to protect a witness. Where has this movie been all my life? It's amazing! How has this not been remade? How is this not more well known? It's smart, funny, great action sequences...the leads have great chemistry together, and Valerie Harper is a Latino version of Rhoda and is absolutely majestic during the "interrogation scene" with her and Arkin. Loretta Swit only has two scenes but shines in the last one. It was a bit weird that Arkin and Harper were supposed to be Latino but I guess back then in Hollywood you just said you were "Mexican" and that was that. How was there not a sequel? Coming after Bullit and Dirty Harry, was this the first time a cop movie like this combined action and comedy? Probably not but they did it really well. Apparently it made money...did they not make sequels circa 1974? Or have movie franchises until later after Star Wars and Jaws came out? It really is amazing how much stuff gets destroyed in this film. Almost over the top. In the scenes where they chase bad guys on foot, it's almost like the director said "Okay, pretend it's like you are playing tag!" and they really were chasing each other as if life depended on it. Some of Caan's dialogue would be considered racist in 2017 but it seemed okay somehow cause, well, he was talking to Arkin, who's white as a sheet, so I guess that made it funny...? Anyway, this is a tremendous film and I recommend it! Coincidentally, I noticed Jack Kruschen in this film, who has starred in this film, McLintock! and Cape Fear (and I didn't recognize him, but he was Jack Lemmon's doctor neighbour in The Apartment, a role where he apparently was nominated for an Oscar). Weird how some patterns emerge here, eventhough how I pick these films is totally random. *Smokers Report: I think Caan smoked in one scene but that's it.
August 14th - STREET SMART (1987) This is the film that launched Morgan Freeman into the stratosphere. Freeman up until this movie hadn't done much other than TV's The Electric Company, and after being nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for this, went on to Glory and later Shawshank Redemption and God...etc. This was a project Christopher Reeve had tried for years to film, and only agreed to Superman 4 after the producers agreed to also finance this. Superman 4 is pretty bad (although if I had to choose, I'd say it's actually better overall than Superman 3, but that's not saying much), but thankfully we got this film too. I'm a big Reeve fan, of course for being the quintessential Superman, but seeing a movie like this shows me how talented he was in the right role and had alot more to show us had he not been paralysed in 1995. After watching movies like this, Remains of the Day, Somewhere in Time and Deathtrap, I'm sure he would have become an in-demand character actor, kind of like how Alec Baldwin re-started his career a few years back. Anyway, how's this film? I really enjoyed it. It wasn't at all what I expected, nor did it play out the way I expected. Most movies like this play out in a very formulaic way, with the viewers able to anticipate every twist and turn. In this film I thought I knew for sure how it was going to go and was constantly surprised. It seemed a bit violent for 1987...maybe if this had come out during the mid-90's, during the new age of indy films, post Quentin Tarantino, it might have done better. But I think this is a hidden gem. Highly recommended. *Smokers Report: Kathy Baker's great performance is one that includes a cigarette constantly in her hand.
August 13th - MCLINTOCK! (1963) I've never been a big John Wayne fan, honestly. Not sure why, just haven't been drawn to his films. Other than Rio Bravo...that's one of my top ten all-time favourites. I have seen El Dorado, the remake and I think I've seen Rio Lobo, the other remake, and I have seen parts of The Searchers...anyway when TCM's Summer Under The Stars featured Wayne, I thought I would get caught up. I figured I'd start with one of the movies where he teamed with Maureen O'Hara. Then I found out this was an adaptation of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. I've never been a fan of Taming of the Shrew. When I say that people say "But it's Shakesepare!" I love most of his work but even the best can have a dud here or there. I saw the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton adaptation in school and didn't like it, thinking it was misogynistic, just about putting women in their place. And that's basically what this movie is too. O'Hara is a shrew, and rejects Wayne the whole film, until he literally spanks her, then she is 'tamed' and wants him bad, then they live happily ever after. I'm guessing this kind of thinking appealed to Wayne, the old school man's man, the kind of guy who thought...well I won't speculate, I don't know the man but knowing things about these actors and their personal lives and how things can bleed over...I can guess that's why I've never been interested in Wayne's films...but what about this film? Well I did kind of like it, it had a nice cast and good performances, and it was kind of a coincidence that both this film and yesterday's, Shane, were about the cattleman-homesteaders, or at least it was at first. There's actually two shrews in this film that need to be tamed, which is funny, and also I liked how Wayne's character treated his old Chinese cook and stuck up for the Native Americans. But then the actors portraying these roles did them in a very stereotypical way, so does that just even out? It's weird watching some of these "classic" films in 2017, especially considering the political climate these days, and the constant battle online regarding misogyny in comics, games, etc. Can I just shut my brain off for 2 hours and enjoy a film for what it is? Not today, unfortunately. I am interested in watching The Quiet Man, though... *Smokers Report: None that I can think of...
August 12th - SHANE (1953) No, I've never seen Shane, but I knew how it ended. This movie is one of those what I've just never sat down to watch, and because I (seemingly) knew so much about it, I kind of passed it by. But I decided to watch it, and was kind of surprised by how much I didn't know. Sure the ending is iconic, as is the face of the little boy (Brandon deWilde), who spends most of the film being a pretty cute little skamp. I knew Alan Ladd was the star, but didn't know Van Heflin and Jack Palance or Jean Arthur were in this film. I was shocked as I watched and realised it was Jean Arthur as "the wife". I wondered why Jean Arthur would take a "wife" role, after starring in so many films, but then I looked it up on Wikipedia and turns out she hadn't worked in years until George Stevens, who had worked with her before, asked her to take the role. It's a pretty standard, heart-on-its-sleeve movie, no irony or sarcasm...everyone says what they mean and does what they say. With one exception, it's pretty much good vs. evil, with the ultimate good guy making the sacrifice for the other good guy who has a family, even beating him nearly to death to stop him from stepping into a trap. It was fun seeing some familiar faces, like Elisha Cook Jr., the little guy from Bogie and gangster movies; Nancy Kulp in a small role, who was Mrs. Hathaway on Beverly Hillbillies; and a young Ben Johnson, who is the one black hat who has a slight shade of grey in him. This film's impact on pop culture is huge, even just this past year in Logan, in just one example. George Stevens isn't reinventing the western genre here, just telling a good story the best he can. I can see why this movie is so iconic and it is a great film. Not sure if I'll ever watch it again, but it is a classic for a reason. *Smokers Report: Not really.
August 11th - STAR OF MIDNIGHT (1935) It's Ginger Rogers Day on TCM's Summer Under the Stars and I'm making sure to watch all the non-Fred Astaire team-ups. I'm a big Ginger Rogers fan but have to admit I favour the musicals as they are a special kind of magic that neither Astaire nor Rogers could match with other co-stars. I have seen her big solo movies, such as Kitty Foyle, Stage Door, Bachelor Mother, Rafter Romance...two in particular that I love are The Major and the Minor and also Vivacious Lady, a comedy with her and James Stewart that I think was the first movie I ever saw on TCM. But I had never heard of this movie, that co-stars William Powell, another favourite of mine, from My Man Godfrey and the many movies with Myrna Loy, who was Powell's Fred Astaire...so to speak. So Powell without Loy and Rogers without Astaire...I wonder if Loy and Astaire ever did a movie together, to even things out? This is a movie similar to The Thin Man series that starred, again, Powell and Loy. A mystery to be solved by Powell and he doesn't seem to want any part of it. This actually came a year after the first Thin Man movie, and after Rogers had starred in three musicals with Astaire (Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcee and Roberta), but later this year saw the release of Top Hat, which some think is the best of the nine Fred-Ginger movies. So how does this movie play out? Is it just Thin Man-Lite? Well, kinda. There really is nothing like the chemistry between Powell and Loy, plus Loy's Nora is even more into the cases they are on as Powell, possibly more and eventually her enthusiasm to solve the whole thing herself carries over. Rogers is wonderful and can carry a film on her own but does seem to pale in comparison at times. Like here, I can't watch her without comparing her to Loy. Rogers and Powell aren't married, and Rogers is pursuing Powell, trying to convince him to marry her and Powell doesn't seem interested. Which makes Powell's character kind of dumb, ironic since Powell keeps making fun of Rogers' intelligence (whereas he would play along with Loy's silly questions). The movie is good, as funny moments and a plot that makes no sense, and when the killer is revealed I thought "Who's that?", but Powell's and Rogers' charm carries it through. But what chance did this movie have, being a Thin Man knockoff, but no Asta! *Smokers Report: Oh Yes! Powell is an old school movie star like Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart, never without a lit cigarette in his hand, and even Rogers smokes too, which I hadn't seen her do in many films, although it does seem at times she's just doing it to keep up with Powell.
August 10th - THE HANGOVER PART THREE (2013) Well, it's over! I can say that this movie is better than Part Two, but not nearly as good as Part One. What else? Poor Doug. I guess for him Part Two was "the good one", eh? They return to Las Vegas, which was good, but took awhile, which was bad. The movie takes a turn away from the typical "Hangover" formula, which is good, but then it's nothing like the others, which is bad (I think). I'm not a professional critic, I'm not getting paid by the word or whatever...so final thoughts...watch the first one...skip the others...although that kid who plays Carlos (who I'm 99% sure is the same kid who was the baby in the original) has haunting eyes and that scene with him in it was probably the best in the whole film. *Smokers Report: Don't remember...don't care...
August 9th - OKJA (2017) Okay, right away, Tilda Swinton is in this, has a funny voice...this is gonna be weird. I've heard alot of good things about this film, and was waiting to see it in theatres, but it turns out it was on Netflix the whole time. At one point I loved watching foreign films and watched as many as I could. But as I got older and my mind wanders more easily, I find myself multi-tasking, watching movies but also tweeting, going on Facebook, writing these blog posts...so watching foreign films are harder, as I can't just listen to the dialogue and look up occasionally, I have to concentrate. Anywho, this movie is cooperating with my ADHD as it's half English and half Korean. And as I mentioned before...it's weird! But it's awesome! The little girl and Okja are both adorable and their relationship carries the movie. The ALF group, with Lilly Collins, Paul Dano and GLEN FROM WALKING DEAD, are trying to save Okja but in the most awesome and hilarious way! The movie grinds to a halt when Dano and the group have Okja and Mija in the back of a truck and Dano is trying to explain who they are to Mija (and us) and talks and talks with Glen doing very little translation to Mija (who doesn't speak English) and it's kind of weird and not really addressed, but then gets back on track. Shirley Henderson and Giancarlo Esposito are always a pleasure to see. Jake Gyllenhaal is so over the top that his performance will be studied for centuries to come as either genius or drug-induced...or more likely both. The film is quirky and funny and has moments of action-adventure but towards the end can be heartbreaking on a Schindler's List-level. Is this movie going to make me stop eating meat? No. But will I smile everytime I think of this film? Absolutely! This will be on my Top Ten Best Films of the Year list (if I make one) for sure! Director Bong Joon-ho, who before this gave us "The Host" and "Snowpiercer", is incredibly talented and I look forward to whatever he has up his sleeve next. *Smoker's Report: One or two smokers but that's it.
August 8th - BLACKADDER: THE WHOLE ROTTEN SAGA (2008) This counts right? I have just finished re-watching the entire four series of Blackadder, the classic British TV show (every episode available on Youtube, btw) and noticed that there was this full 90 minute documentary about making the series, so one thing lead to the other and here we are. For those of you who haven't watched it, Blackadder is a generational sitcom, with each series taking place decades (centuries?) apart, and following the characters from one series to the next as their own descendants. What is it about British TV shows being about history...this and Dr. Who and...I guess that's it. Anyway, apparently that was just something that evolved in going from the first series to the next and not the grand scheme surprised me. This show stars Rowan Atkinson (more famous for Mr. Bean, which to me is a shame, although I am not at all one of those Mr. Bean haters) and also British legends such as Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, Rik Mayall, Tim McInnerny, Brian Blessed, Peter Cook, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane, Miriam Margoyles and written (mostly) by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, who after Blackadder went on to huge things (Google them). The show's first series, which everyone in the doc seemed to admit wasn't very good, was created by Curtis and Atkinson, and almost didn't come back for a second series, but Atkinson just wanted to act, so Curtis brought in Elton to co-write and then the show itself evolved into something great. The most interesting bit was learning that Tim McInnerny decided to leave the show due to not wanting to be typecast as a moron, as he was going to play Prince Regent, but by walking away, Hugh Laurie was cast instead after a memorable cameo in the prior series. This seemed to energize the series and shook things up a bit. The final series is thought of as the best (how often does that happen?) with the final few minutes being part of British TV history. But it was also interesting to learn that the ending was kind of improvised in the editing room, when the actors refused a second take and the producers and editor had to come up with something other than what they had originally envisioned. For me personally, Blackadder might be my all-time favourite British TV show, up there with Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and Red Dwarf. I remember being shown the aforementioned final episode in Social Studies (History) class in Grade 10 and it having a huge impact on me, so much so that I had to go back and watch the other series. And until it was pointed out, I had never noticed such massive changes from the first series to the second (less on location filming, taping it in front of a live audience, flipping the script on characters, specifically making Atkinson the smart one of the group and Baldrick the moron) other than the quality went up several notches. And watching this doc, with interviews with most of the people involved (Rowan Atkinson wasn't a talking head, but they did have archival footage of him discussing the show, but unfortunately no Rik Mayall) and some funny and insightful stories about the making of the show (and even some behind the scenes footage too), I highly recommend the show and this doc too. *Smokers Report: N/A
August 7th - THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) Another pick from TCM's Summer Under the Stars, with Robert Mitchum as the star in question. This, like most of the movies on this and July's list, are movies I've intended to watch but just never have for some reason. I consider myself a Mitchum fan, but looking at his filmography, I really haven't watched many Mitchum films other than Out of the Past, Crossfire, Holiday Affair and a few others. I knew alot about this film already...the LOVE and HATE tattoos on Mitchum's knuckles, the monologue about how Love beat Hate...So finally sitting down to watch this film, I knew I was in for a classic...one list of the best movies of all time placed this #2, just behind Citizen Kane in ALL TIME MOVIES (just wanted to stress that again) but I think I wanted too much. The first thirty minutes or so speed through alot of plot, which normally I like when a movie gets to the good stuff, but here it just seemed rushed. There are parts of this film that come across almost as a comedy...especially the scene in the cellar, with Mitchum stumbling and chasing the kids up the stairs, getting his fingers caught in the door, and then a hard close up of the young boy. The look of the film is spectacular, with the shadow work being haunting, and scenes like when Mitchum is staring down Lillian Gish, a girl with a candle comes along, causing a flare, then Mitchum is gone...it's a genuinely great scene. But I didn't get what was happening in some parts of the film, especially towards the end. The people in the town are freaking out, yelling at the kids and such...did they think Mitchum was innocent? I was really confused then the movie just kind of ends with Gish giving a speech to the camera. And Shelley Winters is given second billing but has a very limited role. Mitchum was haunting in his performance but I can't say this was a great film, let alone the 2nd best movie of all time. *Smokers Report: None that I can remember.
August 6th - THE HANGOVER PART TWO (2011) Wow, this might be the shortest blurb/review yet. There's nothing here. It's shocking. Especially since I LOVED the first Hangover movie. I might have seen it three times in the theatres. I loved it that much. Looking back I'm not even sure why...do I just love movies that take place in Las Vegas? Was it the fresh faces of Bradley Cooper, Zack Galifianakis, Ken Jeong...the over the top comedy that also was kind of a mystery...did I really want Ed Helms to succeed after leaving The Daily Show...I honestly don't know. Seeing as they stuck to the same formula, what went wrong...maybe the fact they were lost in Vegas, sure it's a huge city but it's really self-contained and they knew the language...getting lost in Bangkok but bringing it all together in the end maybe is just too unbelievable? Should I bother with the 3rd one? Is it like the Ocean's Eleven movies...another Vegas film that lost it's way a bit in the sequel that wasn't in Vegas but rebounded in the 3rd film, which coincidentally goes back to Vegas? I guess what I'm asking is does Hangover 3 take place in Vegas? If so I might check it out...What else is there to say? Wow, Jamie Chung is gorgeous and, between this and Sucker Punch, deserves way better! Other than that...I got nothin'... *Smokers Report: Uh...sure...I think so...one or two smokers...I don't care really...
August 5th - THE DUFF (2015) "Designated Ugly Fat Friend" is what "The Duff" stands for. Just to get that out of the way. I admire Mae Whitman as a person and as an actor. She took on the role of Michael Cera's bland girlfriend on Arrested Development where it was constantly hit home how....well, bland she was. And she survived that. Then after becoming a bit of a star, she WASN'T recast as the President's daughter in the sequel to Independance Day, which, if she didn't turn down the role, had so suck to see the role given to a younger, blonde girl. At 29 she was already "too old" by Hollywood standards. But what does that have to do with this film? Just some context, calm down. I heard this was a good film, so I'm watching it. After the John Hughes movies of the 80's, there was a resurgence of teen movies in the 2000's (did American Pie start this trend?) and within all the noise, there were some great ones in there too, such as Juno, Mean Girls and Easy A. And after he guest starred on The Flash, I became a fan of Robbie Amell. And it turns out ALLISON JANNEY is in this too! So how was the movie? I liked the cast, especially Amell, who was saying some awful things but yet somehow came off very likable. And there were some funny bits, like Whitman's old Halloween picture with her two other friends being Angels, and Whitman dressing up as Bosley instead of the 3rd Angel. This is kind of a remake of Can't Buy Me Love, with the genders switched, eventhough this was made from a novel, so I guess the novel was a remake of Can't Buy Me Love, which btw has already been remade...Whitman and Amell are great, so good in fact that all the rest of the movie between them becoming friends and actually getting together is kind of a waste of time. How about a teen movie where it's clear where things are going, but then they change gears, the two meet cuters actually become a couple (which I kind of thought they were doing in the "rock" scene) and the movie is about them being a couple, rather than the will-they-won't-they stuff? I guess I have an idea for a movie..."irregardless", it was a good movie with some funny stuff. Not an all time classic but it has a good message for modern teens about cyberbullying. And most importantly, the girl gets the boy by being herself and not having to change, which is nice (I'm looking at you Breakfast Club!) *Smokers Report: Zippo!
August 4th - JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS (2015) This is a DC Animated Universe movie, the second in a series after the "New 52" reboot of not only the animated universes and also the DC comic books. "The New 52" was something done by DC Comics in 2011 that, long story short, restarted the entire 75-year history of the books and gave every character new origins (some more different than others; they tried making Superman more hardcore whereas Batman and Green Lantern, their best selling titles at the time, pretty much stayed the same). And the Animated universe got the same treatment. This movie is the 2nd in a series, after "Justice League: War", which was where the Justice League was formed with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and newcomers Cyborg and Shazam replacing Aquaman and Martian Manhunter Jonn J'onzz. The series, like the comics, tried to be more adult, with the occasional "shit", lots of blood splatters and even a beheading or two (which really started with the animated "Flashpoint Paradox"; be warned about watching that with the kiddies around). One weird thing is that eventhough this is a series, probably half of the characters' voices were recast, the most notable being Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern, replacing Justin Kirk, although really it's a re-cast, as Fillion played GL in three previous (unrelated) JL movies...confused yet? This film is the backdrop for the origin and rebooting of Aquaman, one of the more famous JLers, but probably not for the best reasons. Aquaman has always been the butt of jokes when it comes to super heroes, most notably on the TV series "The Big Bang Theory", and, as seen by trailers for the big upcoming Justice League live-action feature film, DC and Warner Bros are trying their best to change that image by casting badass Jason Mamoa as the King of the Seven Seas. But what about this movie, the reason we're here in the first place? The movie starts with Aquaman mourning his dead father, cause no good superhero can exist without a dead parent and/or daddy issues. Plus the movie goes into Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship, as one of the biggest things about the New 52 was making the two most powerful heroes a power couple. One weird thing right off the bat is that they cast George Newburn as Steve Trevor, and Newburn was the voice of Superman in the all-time great Justice League Unlimited tv series, so that was hard to get used to, although it passes as Trevor isn't exactly a major character. Another overused trope for the past few years is the reluctant hero, best example being the Henry Cavill Superman from "Man of Steel" and that other 'v' movie-that-shall-not-be-named, where sure he's the most powerful being on the planet, but mopes about asking "I dunno, do I really wanna be Super?". That's what's so great about Gal Godot's Wonder Woman...she knows she is special and knows she is the one to save people...but that's another digression...what about this film? Random notes...whomever played Aquaman, his line delivery was annoying...also the writers use terms like "terrorism" and "living under a cloud of fear" is trying to make this timely...Mera is awesome...But this darker, more adult version of the DC Universe, much like the new 52 comics, turned me off, which is kind of why it's taken me two years to watch this movie. There are little details that just bug me, like adding Cyborg and Shazam to the League (Cyborg is a Teen Titan, people!) replacing Jonzz and Aquaman, and while I like the idea of making Aquaman a better character, making him brooding and a killer isn't how I'd do it. Anyone see the cartoon series "Batman: Brave and the Bold"? THAT is the best version of Aquaman! It's so good it's OUTRAGEOUS! Geoff Johns grew up reading about Barry Allen as the Flash and Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, and so did I, reading George Perez' Justice League of America. But as I grew up, and saw different versions, like the BWAHAHAH JLI, Grant Morrison's JLA, and later Bruce Timm and Dwayne McDuffie's JLU tv series (even the prior series, "Justice League" and it's Aquaman story "The Enemy Below", while not as good as JLU stuff but it's still better than this), I have my own favourite version of the League. And that includes John Stewart as Green Lantern! And when you get right down to it, MERA is such a better character than Aquaman...make her Aquawoman and be done with it...what was I saying? Oh right, this film...the big fight at the end is Orm aka Ocean Master and his army invading the streets of Metropolis and the Justice League having to fight them off...which was the EXACT same finale to the last "JL:War" movie, with it being Darkseid's army there. That's just lazy storytelling. And these versions of the characters just aren't as interesting, which is kind of why, six years later, the New 52 is all but forgotten and the DCU is being rebooted yet again (or is it re-started?). But what about this film? There are a few cool bits, like John Henry Irons' cameo, and Lois Lane interrupting Clark and Diana's date, Black Manta's fate and what Aquaman says right after that, Fillion's few good one-liners...but the outright carnage of this film, with Wonder Woman and Mera both more interested in beheading Atleantean soldiers than anything...at least in the last film they were beheading aliens and usually in missions they beat up robots...the violence against PEOPLE somehow seems worse. And maybe it's just semantics but that did bother me. And they seemed to be setting up a "Justice League vs. Injustice Society or Legion of Doom" movie, with Lex Luthor approaching Ocean Master at the end, but that never happened. They used much of the same cast in the next Justice League movie, JL vs. Teen Titans, but whether or not that was a sequel to this...I'll have to watch it and find out... *Smokers Report: Heck no! These animated films can say "shit", behead people and have blood splatters everywhere, but no smoking! (and that's good, imho, just to be clear...)
August 3rd - CHARADE (1963) Last month I admitted I hadn't seen alot of Audrey Hepburn films, and tried to correct that. I continue that cinematic journey here. I'm surprised I hadn't see this yet, as while I wasn't a big Hepburn fan, I'm a huge Cary Grant fan, and also a huge Walter Matthau fan, plus the movie has James Coburn, George Kennedy and is written and directed by legendary Stanley Donen. Given all that talent was involved, I wasn't really that impressed unfortunately. Grant is great, but the others don't do much. Especially Matthau who only has a few scenes in the whole movie. There are some nice twists, especially that Grant's character isn't all that interested in Hepburn and she is constantly flirting with him and pushing for something to happen. But even after she finds out his secret she still is persistent, and Grant is still hesitant, eventhough getting together with Hepburn would help him out...it was kind of weird but apparently Grant requested this, being sensitive about looking like a dirty old man. Do all of Hepburn's movies take place in Europe? This was a disappointment. *Smokers Report: A few smokes here and there, which I expected considering who the leads were but not much, especially compared to Funny Face or Breakfast at Tiffanys.
August 2nd - JOHN WICK (2014) Okay, so I am not usually a fan of shoot em ups. And knowing I'm a movie guy, people often recommend movies to me. And no offense to everyone ever, but my cinematic tastes are usually a little different that everyone elses'. But last year(ish) it seemed like literally everyone I talked to said "Have you seen John Wick? You'll love it!" So much so that it backfired and it made me NOT want to see the film. But then John Wick 2 came out and everyone loved THAT ONE too. So here we are, starting with the first one, then maybe later this month, the second one. If this one is as good as everyone ever says. So does it live up to the hype? One other thing...spoilers don't really affect whether or not I decide to watch a film...I'm either going to watch it or not...I may get mad when someone spoils important specific plotpoints of a movie for me, like with Colossal (see July 2017 blog), but again, I'll watch what I want to watch. I knew early on that in this movie, the dog dies. Apparently a really cute dog too. And that just pissed me off. Killing a puppy? F*ck that! But again, I heard over and over it was great...so I'll give it a chance. And yup, the cute puppy dies like ten minutes into the film. And the worst thing is the killer is that Theon Greyjoy loser from Game of Thrones, who is THE WORST!!! I have to watch a movie with THAT GUY? I guess I can look forward to him getting his ass kicked at some point...unlike Theon who is basically the cockroach of GoT...Anyway...I like movies that are a little different, and I liked how this movie seemed like it was just another shoot em up, with a innocent man out for revenge against an army of mafia men who scoff at him. The twist is that the army of men are all scared of John Wick, and I liked that detail. Other than that, really, it is a typical shoot em up, but with some great fight scenes. Keanu Reeves is good here, with minimal dialogue and lots of punching. I liked the supporting cast. I liked the look of the film. And I think I am looking forward to the sequel. But I do worry it will be like the Taken franchise, with that one you start to think Liam Neeson is just a bad father. With Wick, I wonder how many cute dogs will have to die before the SPCA people lock the doors when they see him coming... *Smokers Report: Some bad guys smoke, like bad guys do...
August 1st - THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955) Every year August is the month for TCM's Summer Under the Stars, with every day of the month dedicated to a particular classic movie star. So this month might feature alot of older classic films, much like how July featured alot of blockbuster movies currently (at the time) in the theatre. August 1st was Marilyn Monroe day, so that gave me an excuse to finally watch this film. It's one of those I'm told I have to watch but as to why...is it because it's one of Monroe's few major roles? Just the fact that it's a Billy Wilder film, one of my favourite directors, is reason enough to watch. Chronologically, this film came a few years after Monroe's "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", "How To Marry A Millionaire" but four years before Monroe teamed again with Wilder in "Some Like it Hot". For the first 30 minutes or so, other than one Monroe scene, it's all Tom Ewell, someone whose name I recognized but face I didn't. Throughout the first 1/3 of the film, Ewell is alone on screen but talks and talks and talks, making me think "Is he crazy?" and once he starts hallucinating, it's kind of confirmed. Monroe emerges and the comedy is with Ewell, a married man, trying to seduce her. Which is completely understandable, in that it's HER, but kinda crappy for the leading man. It's especially weird that we are apparently cheering for adultery in 1955. And as I drift towards Wikipedia, turns out Wilder thought this was a "nothing film" and that he was "straightjacketed" by censors, as in the play version, the two leads have a full on affair while in the movie it had to be made out as all in his head. So if Wilder doesn't think much of this film...apparently Ewell played the role over 900 times on Broadway and won a Tony and a Golden Globe for it. I did laugh a few times, like when Monroe dips a potato chip into her champagne, or when Ewell is apologising for basically attacking her while going in for a kiss, her response is "It's okay, it happens to me all the time." This movie is of course famous for the image of Monroe standing over a subway grate and her dress blowing up, but it's really quick but Wilder is so smart that he does it twice, just in case you missed it the first time. Apparently Walter Matthau auditioned for the Ewell role and normally I celebrate any chance to see more Matthau, but I see him as a more cynical character as opposed to the bumbling one Ewell portrays, and I'm not sure it would have worked as well. Ewell does grow on you after awhile, and Monroe, is of course, MONROE! She is gorgeous and charming and...she disappears for a good twenty minutes until the big dress scene. And it only lasts a few minutes...so really we have to ask "what makes a great film"? Does one iconic scene make this film a classic? Roger Ebert used to say any movie with three great scenes in it was automatically good. And after awhile I felt a bit mislead, as this really is Ewell's film...Monroe gets top billing on the poster, but there are long stretches where it's just Ewell on screen, so if you don't love Ewell then you aren't going to love this film. *Smokers Report: Ewell's character smokes, as does Monroe, but not much else...