January 2018 Movie A Day Blog
The continuing saga of a man and his collection of unopened DVD's and his bursting-at-the-seams DVR...I've been watching movies all my life, yet there are still so many movies I have never seen...this is an excuse to watch those films...
I don't re-watch movies...all the movies should be ones I have never seen before...I try to avoid too many spoilers of movies still in theatres but with older movies? I spoil the crap out of them!
*Psssttt! In case you missed it above...SPOILERS!!!!
- 1- Wanted
- 2- The Big Store
- 3- Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
- 4- Devil In a Blue Dress
- 5- $
- 6- Molly's Game
- 7- Norma Rae
- 8- The Thrill of It All
- 9- Thelma and Louise
- 10- Bundle of Joy
- 11- Giant
- 12- Extract
- 13- The Stooge
- 14- Goon: Last of the Enforcers
- 15- Table 19
- 16- Blade Runner 2049
- 17- Megan Leavey
- 18- The Trip to Spain
- 19- The Lost City of Z
January 19th- THE LOST CITY OF Z (2017)
The parade of 2017 movies continues. Although really, this could be called "The Lost Movie of 2017". I remember this coming out and disappearing fast. Few people saw it, but some of them who did called this one of the best movies of the year. I was intrigued by it, with an interesting cast of Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and Tom Holland and also a fun concept. But it left theatres so fast, and then kind of disappeared after that. But now that the "Best of" Lists have come out, it has emerged again…a little. I had forgotten about it again and then saw it on my PPV channel, so I figured what the heck? The movie is about obsession, with Hunnam going on several trips to discover "Amazonia" in South America. One thing I liked that was different from these typical "trip into the jungle" movies was that usually the heroes go on one trip and it last the whole movie and they learn stuff about themselves and each other and stuff. The first mission is underway, some bad stuff happens, then suddenly Hunnam and others are back home. What? So then other stuff happens, and Hunnam returns to the Amazon. Then he returns home. Then stuff happens. Then war breaks out. Then…etc. I like it when movies "speed things up" storyline wise, but this was almost Game of Thrones-like silliness in that someone seemed to journey across the world in three seconds flat. Eventually Tom Holland, the new Spiderman, shows up and he is either sad or angry or…always seemingly this close to crying. I might need more time to evaluate how I feel about Sienna Miller's character. She is either the best wife/mom ever, or the worst. She supports her husband and his adventures. Apparently each trip lasts minimum two-to-five years. And later, more of her family leaves and she doesn't seem all that upset. The only argument she has with her husband is when he forbids her to come with him. How unreasonable of her to want to see her husband more often than once every half-decade or so. I'd actually be interested in a movie about her, being basically a single mom and having a husband who shows up eventually and a son who…well I won't spoil things. They could have had subplots about her having lots of suitors and being conflicted, like Odysseus' wife Penelope. Anyway, despite my quibbles, this was a very well done film. It was slow and took it's time, which in 2017 seems old fashioned. There is a big subplot with Angus Macfadyen but really it goes nowhere after setting up Macfayden as a villain and he meets his fate offscreen in a moment you may have missed if you blinked. There is a great film here, but unfortunately it is a bit anticlimactic I have to say. It's nice to look at and all the performances are done well, but I'm not sure I'll ever watch this again. *Smokers Report: Some cigars, Pattinson's character smokes, I think.
January 18th- THE TRIP TO SPAIN (2017)
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon now have done three movies together in this series ("The Trip", "The Trip to Italy", and now "The Trip to Spain") and I want more, frankly. According to Wikipedia, these movies are edited down versions of a TV series. I want the TV series!! (although the only copies I can find on Amazon are Region 2. That's lame). Anyway, back when I first saw The Trip, I was late to the party, but it was one of the freshest, funniest thing I had seen in years. The sequel, The Trip to Italy had it's great bits but it was a notch below the first one, although at this point that has to be expected with just sequels in general. This third instalment is a return to form and is laugh out loud funny! The charm of these films is Coogan and Brydon's chemistry and how they launch into impressions and impromptu sketches and how they play off each other. They try to have an overall story arc, getting more elaborate with each film and frankly it's just distracting at this point. For example, Coogan and Brydon are playing versions of themselves, and since I don't know much about their personal lives, I don't know how much is fiction and how much is real. Like is Emma really Coogan's assistant? The parts where, in this film, Coogan is dating a married woman…that has to be fake because, well, I doubt the woman's husband would appreciate it. There has been a subplot of each movie dealing with Coogan's womanizing and it's, again, a distraction. One subplot that does work is each one's careers as they have made these movies. At the time the first one came out, Coogan was an emerging star and Brydon was an unknown. In this film, Brydon is still an unknown (although David Bowie was a fan) but seems to have prospects whereas Coogan is having problems getting a movie green lit. Again, I don't know how much of that is true, but I don't really care. And frankly, it doesn't really go anywhere. Maybe the fourth film will deal with it. This film has a major cliffhanger, which I thought was weird and out of place. But the lovely moments in these films are all when Coogan and Brydon sit down and someone brings them food and they start to riff. Again, there are some genuinely laugh out loud moments. Then they get in the car or go back to the hotel and some "Storyline" stuff happens when they call home or whatever, then the next day they sit down and eat and it's funny again. Maybe if I was watching the TV series of six episodes of all this the story lines would help but in this movie version, I just want to see the food and hear them pretend to be Sean Connery or Roger Moore. That is my comfort food. They only possible thing wrong with the riffing is that, Coogan especially with his Mick Jagger impression, borders on obnoxious while in a public setting. In fact, one of their last sit downs inside a restaurant (with them and Emma) they got so loud I was waiting for a waiter to come along and tell them to leave. But other than that, and the out of place ending, this is tremendous and I want to go back and watch all three again. And "A Cock and Bull Story" too. Highly recommended. *Smokers Report: None that I can remember.
January 17th - MEGAN LEAVEY (2017)
Wow I loved this movie! Why don't more people know about this? Okay, I admit I knew about this film and should have seen it sooner. I had the chance to see this in theatres and, as I mentioned before, sometimes I'm just too lazy or able to come up with some lame excuse not to leave the house/hotel. And I now regret that. This was such an uplifting feel-good film that made me cry, made me gasp, actually made me put my hand over my mouth at one point. I can't remember the last time that happened. I remember smiling like a fool watching Wonder Woman this year, tears rolling down my cheeks as I watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But a hand-to-mouth gasp? Nope. Megan and her partner, Rex are such an inspirational story. I didn't want the movie to end. I wanted an immediate sequel where they show Megan and Rex living together after retiring. Admitidely it might not be that interesting, but I still want it. I loved that they got right into it. The introduction of Megan, her enlisting in the army, her crazy home life, her bootcamp training was all established within the first ten minutes. Then she screws up and ends up being punished by having to take care of the K-9 unit of the Marines, but then meets Rex. I also liked how they didn't even show us Rex training as a bomb sniffer; he had already been trained, he just needed to learn to trust Megan. Then they get shipped out and they quickly earn the respect of their fellow Marines on missions. I was shocked to learn how they don't like dogs where they were (I think it was Iraq), and sometimes will kill dogs, then stuff them with bombs to kill Marines. That's a special kind of evil. The rest of the film is both Megan and Rex recovering from injuries, Megan decides to leave the Army but even though he is still injured, they send Rex back to the Middle East, with Megan failing to convince the Army to let her adopt Rex. I'm sure you can guess what happens here, so if I keep talking is it really a spoiler? The ending (should) just get you in the feels. Kate Mara stars as Megan Leavey, and she goes a great job. It's a great cast, with Edie Falco, Bradley Whitford (who was very understated here, unlike in the West Wing back in the day), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy, of all people playing a US Marine, although he dos a good job), Common (who seems to be a regular contributor here), and Ramon Rodriguez as well. It was directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who doesn't even have a Wikipedia page, but apparently has only done a documentary before this. But she does a great job. The one big fight scene is quite intense and well done. Not sure what else I can say about this. This is a great film and people should check it out. Sidenote: I found an interesting History vs. Hollywood article comparing the movie to reality. Plus, apparently, the person who took over Rex's care after Leavey wrote a book about Rex, which is talked about in the article. *Smokers Report: In one scene Edie Falco smokes while eating lunch at a diner, so it made we wonder when that scene was supposed to take place? Maybe when there were still smoking sections in restaurants? In this case (unlike Goon and Tusk, for some reason), I trust these filmmakers that that particular detail was researched.
January 16th- BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)
Okay, so I'm going to say something new that will probably get my film-buff registration card revoked…I'm not a big fan of the original Blade Runner! In fact, until recently, I never really "got it". I tried watching it a few times and just never got into it. Plus, it was always in the back of my mind whether or not I was watching the "right" version. There have been a lot of different cuts over the years, between the Theatrical Cut, Director's Cut…seven total cuts apparently, according to Wikipedia, including "The Final Cut". The one I watched off of cable the other day (to prepare for this movie) had Harrison Ford's monotone monologue, which apparently he hated (in his words, he went "kicking and screaming" into the studio to record it), and the "$" (which is what I'm now going to call the "Studio-Mandated-Awkward-Happy-Ending"). In fact, one thing I read about the new movie was that it would go along with the idea that Ford's character is a replicant. Well, in the version I saw, that was never discussed, at least as far as I can remember. I also imagine it must have been hard for the writers of the sequel, trying to decide which version they were making a sequel too…but anyway, this movie was one I kind of wanted to see in theatres, I would have called myself at least "curious" to see it, but it's 2 hour and 44 minute runtime (over three hours actual time if you add in commercials, trailers, finding parking, standing in line for popcorn, etc.) was intimidating. Plus I would have wanted to re-watch the original first, since like I said, it wasn't burned into my memory like it was for some people. But then lately this movie was on a lot of year-end-lists, and it ended up on my PPV, so here we are. But what about this film? It is…epic, that's for sure, like "Giant" I reviewed earlier. Scenes are allowed to breathe, sure, but there is one scene where Ryan Gosling's character (SPOILERS) finishes up a chat with Morgan from Walking Dead, he plays with what looks like an ashtray on the desk, and then he proceeds to go look around the furnaces for something that we know he's going to find, as he had shared a memory earlier. We know where this is going, but it takes over four minutes of screen time for us to come to the conclusion. They show us looking down, then looking up, then turning around, then coming out the door, then walking down the stairs, looking left, looking right…you must see what I'm getting at here. All the while Hans Zimmer's "BLAAAAAHHHH" score ringing in my ears. Maybe I'm just not a connoisseur of movie scores, but Zimmer…am I the only one who thinks all his scores sound the same? Like an air horn but with just way more bass? Anyway, that being said, there is a bit of a mystery here and it's well done. I liked newcomers Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks and Carla Juri, with Armas making the biggest impression, but the movie has been tagged with claims of sexism, as every female character is a automaton, a villain or a space prostitute. I thought Robin Wright and Canadian Mackenzie Davis' characters were above that, but whatever, I'm not getting into the Blade Runner sexual politics here (I did that for other movies back in 2016 here...). Bigger stars Harrison Ford and (ugh) Jared Leto are in very few scenes, although Ford was in more than I thought he would be, and Leto not in as many as I thought he would be, which was a nice trade off. Did they dub Leto's voice? It just didn't seem to fit, especially in his last scene. Also another reason not to watch this film when it was in the theatres was the vignette I saw where director Canadian boy Denis Villeneuve, when talking about Jared Leto, referred to his performance as something like "if Jesus was an actor" or something like that which just made me go "Eww". Leto is becoming the new Ben Affleck with negative charisma, as in I want to avoid his films and not see them. On a positive note, it was nice seeing Edward James Olmos as well. One minor side note, in the trailers I kept seeing Ana de Armas's character, although I thought it was another Canadian, Mia Kirschner…they look really alike, although Armas is 13 years younger, which I'm sure is a coincidence. BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS FILM? I did like it, I admit. I wasn't blown away by it, however the cinematography, the sets, the costumes are all beautiful to look at. I even enjoyed the original Blade Runner when I re-watched it. I'm glad I watched them, but is 2049 going on my top ten list (if I had one)? No. It's like Denis Villeneuve's other recent film "Arrival". I respect it, admire it, and realize I should probably watch it again to fully appreciate the artistry involved. But something tells me I won't ever be doing that. Maybe I need my lead actors to have more going on? When watching Ryan Gosling just staring at people instead of engaging them in dialogue, I found myself saying "sure, that's an interesting choice, but can ya…do something?" Between this and ScarJo in "Ghost in the Shell", can we not have emotionless robots as lead characters anymore (not a spoiler, btw, it's in the trailer). Sure characters like Data on Star Trek: TNG were cool but would I want a whole Data movie? Although, if you need someone pretty to just stare straight ahead and look confused, Canadian boy Gosling is your man. So, final verdict? It's not the "instant classic" that some have called it, and it's not "horrible and pretentious" that others have called it. I say watch it, but find a comfy seat and give your self an intermission (aka pee break) cause this movie isn't going to do it for you. *Smokers Report: Yes, in one scene Gosling smokes, but I don't remember him ever doing it again. It was weird. Was this their way of tipping their hat to Ridley Scott? At least in "The Fifth Element" when they have Bruce Willis smoke early on but never again, it established why later on in the film he would have matches on him. But here…it didn't fit. Between that and the few nipples on display, it just seemed like they were saying "This is a big boy movie!". Or maybe I'm over thinking it…that happens. :)
January 15th - TABLE 19
I watched this film out of pure curiosity. Plus it is a 2017 film, and I'm trying to watch as many as possible as I can (short of limited release movies like Shape of Water or I,Tonya) and somehow watching this movie makes up for not watching others. So more quantity than quality. Plus I'm a big Anna Kendrick fan, so that helped. Actually, I liked this entire cast. Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow play a married couple, Stephen Merchant (who I like in pretty much everything he does, starting with the British "Office" series, all the way up to this year's "Logan"), Tony Revolori (the kid from Grand Budapest Hotel) and June Squibb rounding out the table, with Squibb being the only one I hadn't heard of before. Apparently she was nominated for Best Actress for "Nebraska"? Is that true, internet? The more you think you know…anyway, this is a comedy about six strangers who go to a wedding and have to sit together at the last table, where all the "randoms" are placed. And the wackiness that ensues. Also in the cast is Wyatt Russell, ironically, who I just saw in Goon 2 yesterday. Weird how that turned out, totally a coincidence! Also here is Amanda Crew, a Canadian girl who you might know as Monica on "Silicon Valley". And why am I wasting time going over the cast? Hmmm…I liked this movie, I did. But here I am, a few hours later, trying to write this and there's nothing going on here. There was a bit of a twist when it came to who Kendrick would end up with, which was good. I liked the cast, the premise, the set-up, the results…it was just FINE I guess. I can't give it a bad review, as it was a fine movie and there was nothing offensive about it. It was just…FINE! If you want a fine comedy to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon…this works! A short review…I guess this makes up for the really long Goon 2 review…*Smokers Report: A few of the Table-ers smoke a pipe at one point and get high…I think that's it…
January 14th- GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS (2017)
Okay, so I am a huge hockey fan. And when I heard that the first in this series was going to be called "Goon" and was going to focus on the fighting side of the game, I was disappointed. But still, there was a movie…about hockey! I, in principle, disagree with this movie's point of view (that hockey is a sport about blood and fighting and nothing else), and hate that fighting, as opposed to the real art of a sport that requires it's players to do everything basketball players do but WITH STICKS AND ON ICE, would be the focus. I do acknowledge that fighting as a place in the game, and disagreed with pundits in the 90's that yelled for fighting to be abolished. The fact fighting exists helps keep down the amount of high sticks, ankle-hacks and cheap shots, in my humble opinion (except if you are Phil Kessel...ha! hockey fan joke!). I remember watching "Slap Shot" for the first time and wondering "Is that really how they played hockey back then?" with using their sticks like swords in a Robin Hood movie? Then the first Goon came out and they introduced something that I had never seen before…when two players want to fight, everything just stops and they go to centre ice like two boxers. That even started happening in a few NHL games afterwards, but I haven't seen it since. But what about this film? This is the sequel to that first "Goon" hockey fighting movie, which I did enjoy. Is it possible to put away my feelings about the glorification of fighting in hockey and actually be able to enjoy a movie? Sure. In the original, I liked the cast and it was funny through most of the film. I liked the fact young Canadian actors like Eugene Levy, Jay Baruchel and Alison Pill are appearing in a Canadian film and not just all Hollywood Blockbusters along with good ol' Canucks Nicholas Campbell and Kim Coates. One side note about the first Goon movie (that does relate to this film) is that I was always distracted by Sean William Scott's face…it looked like he had gotten a facelift and his face was all stretched out. Everytime they cut to him, I was weirded out. But that wasn't the case in this movie and Scott was back to looking like an older Stifler. But, again, WHAT ABOUT THIS MOVIE? It was good. Not as funny as the first one, but it is a more complete story, with a few characters actually having story arcs, Scott's Doug being one of them. This is actually more of a hockey movie, as Doug's teammate LaFlemme matures as a player, starting to block shots and hit opponents, leading to him becoming not just a hot dog puck hog like he was in the first film and he ends up being named the Team Captain. He gives a speech late in the film that all young hockey players should listen to about "evolving". There are ALOT of fights here, but they become parody, as in the world of this movie, there is a touring road show that involves hockey goons, fighting on skates, but no hockey. Like pro wrestling on ice. The movie adds Elisha Cuthbert, Jason Jones and Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn and as a guess, I imagine this kid grew up playing alot hockey, as Russell and Hawn are huge LA Kings fans) and Baruchel is a minor character here (probably because he was the director?). Liev Shreiber is good here and I was happy for his character, one of the ones I mentioned getting an actual arc. Callum Keith Rennie is always fun to see on screen (have you seen "Hard Core Logo"?), an amazing Canadian talent (technically he was born in England, but has lived in Canada since he was four) and he is tremendous here. Alison Pill's character becomes a pill (pun intended) but they even acknowledge this by having her character admit it, and she gets mad at Scott for making her that way (although shouldn't she have been mad at Baruchel, who co-wrote the script?). And btw, was it awkward that Baruchel and Pill had to work together, years after they broke up? There are some things that take me out of the movie, like TJ Miller (what?) as the TSN Sportsdesk anchor who keeps saying the F word…that just doesn't happen. Even in Canada, still can't say the F word on TV, people. And also James Duthie as a Sportsdesk anchor…as if! And the blood…my God the blood! There is so much tinted-red-ice here, it looks like that scene in The Last Jedi where they skid the speeders over the salt field. There is so much blood that it's a turn off. Apparently there was a sale on fake movie blood that day. But in the end, I am happy for Doug and his family and teammates and really, Baruchel has talked about making Goon 3, but I wouldn't. I really think everything was wrapped up tight in a neat bow here. And what would Goon 3 be about? He gets a call to the NHL and, again, hockey causes family problems, and Pill gets on his case for not being part of the family and worried about him getting hurt? We've seen that movie. Sidenote #2: the word "Concussion" is never uttered in this film. Doug has a lingering injury, but it's a shoulder injury from throwing too many wicked-hard punches. I wonder if they just figured the word "concussion" was too depressing and too many people would end up agreeing with Pill's character...Anyway...so I did like the film, actually probably more that I did the first movie. And I want it to do well, cause that means the Canadian movie industry does well too. So see this one! *Smokers Report: Not as much as the first one, where Liev Schreiber smoked everywhere, even in restaurants (which also Johnny Depp did in Kevin Smith's "Tusk" as well…same as the F word on TV…DOESN'T HAPPEN PEOPLE!). Schreiber's character still smoked in just about every scene but at least he's outside when he does, like every other human being for, like, years!
January 13th - THE STOOGE (1951)
I remember back in the summer of 1991 discovering cable for the first time. And by that I mean the kind of cable you had to pay for and rent one of those cable boxes from the cable company. In the summer of 1991, this was new to us, so we got one and we got (if memory serves) four new channels - TBS from Atlanta, WGN from Chicago, the Disney Channel and Super Channel (which was just a movie channel, basically). TBS gave me a lot of WCW pro wrestling, WGN gave us pretty much nothing new other than we could watch the Chicago 6pm news (and why would we?) but also the promise of watching local Chicago sports teams play, Super Channel was awesome, and the Disney channel was, well, kinda lame. That was the crown jewel, as everyone who wanted the cable box said "Well, at least we'll get the Disney channel". But from what I remember, there wasn't much to it. What I do remember (besides that crappy cable box…seriously whenever they did a "free preview weekend", they just flipped a switch and boom the channels were no longer fuzzy…yet to get the channels permanently, you 'needed' to rent the box…my first ever "cable provider scam"! part of every young boy's growing up phase), is that they would occasionally show Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis specials (I'm pretty sure they were repeats of the Colgate Comedy Hour, or at the very least highlight reels - I'm going off memory here people). I believe they were their TV specials, not their movies, but I could be remembering that wrong. Point is, I LOVED watching Martin & Lewis together. I thought they were the funniest people I'd ever seen. I'm not saying anything new, but Martin being so damn cool and the straight man to Lewis' craziness was just perfection. I've always wanted to see some of their movies, all these years later. Jerry Lewis passed away and on Labour Day, TCM did a tribute to him (fitting since he did the Labour Day telethon for so many years). Among the movies they showed were "King of Comedy", "The Bellboy" and this movie "The Stooge", the only Martin & Lewis one that I recorded, and according to Illeana Douglas (who was friends with Lewis) this was their best one. This was their fifth movie made together but was the seventh released; apparently the studio didn't think it was funny enough and would hurt the duo's box office magic. This is a great film and actually brings up some interesting comedy "psychology". In the movie, Martin's character is an entertainer in decline until he meets up with Lewis, who becomes his "stooge", a character planted in the audience who Martin can make fun of in a hilarious fashion and make the audience laugh. The act becomes a big success, but everyone around Martin, including his wife, get mad because Martin wants to keep Lewis' talents a secret, and not acknowledge him in the posters, programs, etc. His argument is that if people knew about Lewis and that he was part of the show, the audience members wouldn't laugh as hard or be as entertained. If they knew it was all "fake" or "choreographed" as opposed to "real" and "spontaneous", then word would get out and the show wouldn't be as popular. The people around Martin just think he's being selfish and wants all the credit for himself. But I actually thought Martin had a very genuine argument. When the audience comes in knowing they are part of the act, then that changes the emotion they are feeling. Instead of watching the show, Martin on stage with his accordion, they are sitting there wondering when Lewis is going to show up. That being said, of course Lewis' character deserved recognition. And Martin's argument falls apart when you consider at some point, if they tour for years successfully, at some point SOMEONE is going to see the show twice, or even more often, and what happens then? What happens when they've toured all over and come back to a city for the second time? Are the people who come to the show going to be all new people who have never seen the show before or mostly people coming to see it again? Am I over thinking this silly comedy? Probably. When it gets right down to it, it's great seeing these two talents together, and I look forward to watching other Martin and Lewis movies. It's too bad they split up and didn't talk for twenty years. This movie is apparently thought of as "too real", as if their characters in the film shared the same kind of relationship in real life. I'm sure that a movie about that would be interesting. But would it be as interesting as "Where the Truth Lies?" *Smokers Report: Dean Martin is in this film. Nuff said.
January 12th - EXTRACT (2009)
This movie has been a curiosity to me over the years. Mike Judge is an interesting artist, after all. I loved Beavis and Butthead, and King of the Hill, then "Office Space" is a still a movie I will watch whenever it's on TV (and like "Ocean's Eleven", it's on ALOT!) and I'm currently a fan of "Silicon Valley". Like many other confessions I've made on here, this might get my film-buff credentials taken away, but I don't quite 'get' "Idiocracy". I watched it years ago but I'd have to watch it again, cause I'm a bit baffled by it's current legendary status. I knew very little about this film and didn't even know it was a Mike Judge film until later. I had heard bad things about this film, eventhough it had Jason Bateman in it (who I'm a fan of from Arrested Development) but Bateman was in every other film at the time and just his presence in a movie didn't necessarily mean it was good. I also was curious about the whole Ben Affleck thing. I saw the trailer with Affleck (who was in "movie jail" at the time after Daredevil and Gigli) and thought it was hilarious he wore that weird wig, almost to "hide" that AFFLECK was in this movie. And if someone told me that, I would believe it, as Affleck at that point was the only person who would cast Affleck as the lead in a film, he was that toxic. Then he started getting out of movie jail as a director with Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, but then he had to go and want to play Batman and the internet turned on him again...but what about THIS film? Well, it has an all-star cast, eventhough at the time it came out it wasn't an all-star cast. In the years since, Mila Kunis, JK Simmons, Kirsten Wiig, TJ Miller, Clifton Colins, Jr, David Koechner have all become stars and even superstars. There's a even a good Canadian boy, Dustin Milligan in the movie...every movie needs at least one! It's billed as a comedy, but I only remember laughing once. I think. And it came from Simmons...Gene Simmons actually, not JK. Gene plays a ambulance chaser-lawyer, and says to Bateman at one point that they will drop the charges if Bateman agreed to have his balls slammed in a doorway. He says this three or four times. Finally, Bateman gets mad and says he'll slam Gene's balls in the doorway instead. Gene gets serious, looks at him and says "Are you threatening me?". Maybe you had to be there. Despite the hilarious, talented and beautiful cast, there isn't much here. The script is all over the place. It's called "Extract" but that's about the only thing in the script that doesn't become a factor. I assumed part of the plot would center around a secret formula being sold to a competitor or something. Kunis steals all her scenes, with her fireworks display of a smile, although later she has to fake cry in a scene and it's the fakest fake crying ever. Maybe if she'd had to really cry, it would have been better? And Wiig is bland at first but gets more and more interesting as the movie progresses and is wonderful, as usual. Affleck is almost unrecognizable here, not only cause of the wig but he's really slim and kinda goofy, totally different from the usual Affleck character. But not in a good way. I also almost didn't recognize TJ Miller, or even Judge himself in a cameo. This is a movie I'd almost have to watch and study to figure out why it just doesn't work. But chances are I'll never watch this again. *Smokers Report: None that I can remember...I'd double check but why?
January 11th- GIANT (1956)
I had no idea this was 3.5 hours when I sat down to watch it. Apparently director George Stevens took over a year to edit it down, and still ended up with an "epic" movie. What did he take out? Every scene here seems like it goes on for at least ten minutes or more. EVERY SCENE! There are lots of pauses and pensive reflections and back and forth arguments, some of them even repeated twice (like when Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson argue before going to bed about her wanting to be able to talk politics, and then in the morning they argue about it again!). And I don't necessarily mean that as a criticism. But as someone who might have ADHD (never been diagnosed anyway) it was hard for me to stay focused during this film. During James Dean's scenes especially. Whenever he's on camera, he stammers and shuffles his feet and takes a stroll between sentences of dialogue, towards the end of the film his mumbling is inaudible (on the Wikipedia page it says Stevens had to get someone to come in and dub over Dean's voice…I know exactly which scenes, and also, couldn't they have gotten someone to at least sounded like Dean?). Rock Hudson would have long pauses but at least you could tell what he was thinking by his facial expressions. Elizabeth Taylor is the opposite of Dean in many ways…she yells, stomps her feet and is immovable, leaving no doubt what she is thinking, cause she'll tell you! To your face! This is a story about Texas and multiple generations of a family and after 3.5 hours, the last scene is about (SPOILERS) Rock Hudson saying after all that time that he's a failure, and Elizabeth Taylor basically agreeing with him, but yet, finally, he's become her hero. Cool. I was waiting for one more scene, where Rock Hudson goes back to the restaurant and buys it, or SOMETHING happens (or kicks that racist dude's ass, like in Superman 2!). There's a ten minute fight scene that kinda goes nowhere. The major subplot is about racism, and I was surprised that in fact Hudson becomes the "good guy" (so to speak) by becoming a little less racist than he was in the beginning. Just a little though (in that last scene he still looks at his Latino grandson with disdain) although I guess we are supposed to be satisfied but the fact he lets that grandson into the house at all? Or maybe I missed the point and he was just sad about the fact the old ways, his ways, are gone, and he's the only one who seems to care? Maybe. It is of course a tragedy that James Dean died weeks after this movie finished filming. But to me Elizabeth Taylor totally steals the movie. She fights back at the overwhelming sexism and racism in that region, including improving the quality of life for everyone no matter their race, she tries to raise her children properly…and yet in the end her sole reason to exist is to make her husband feel good about getting his butt kicked in a fight. Mixed messages maybe? Or maybe I'm over thinking it? Or under thinking it? Anyway, I did enjoy the film, although I actually agree with the studio heads from then…it could have been shorter, even just a little bit. *Smokers Report: Yes there is smoking throughout the film, mostly by Dean and some by Hudson, but it's nothing, really.
January 10th - BUNDLE OF JOY (1956)
So legend has it, during this film Debbie Reynolds was pregnant with Carrie Fisher. And it's about a woman becoming a mother. Pretty cool! Only thing that would be cooler was if they made the movie a year later and baby was played by Carrie herself. Although by then had Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher been split up by Elizabeth Taylor? Anyway, this is a musical remake of "Bachelor Mother", which starred Ginger Rogers and David Niven. I really enjoyed that film, but do musical remakes work? I love "The Philadelphia Story" but can never get into "High Society" for some reason. So we'll see...the setup of the film, other than the added musical numbers, are nearly shot for shot the same as "Bachelor Mother". Even the weird part where Niven confronts Ginger, yells at her and fires her, walks toward the door, turns around and seconds later nicely asks if she has decided to beg for her job back. Eddie Fisher does the same exact routine here, and it's just as weird. Why would she beg for her job back, you just fired her? David Niven couldn't pull that off, so Fisher didn't really have a chance. As an actor, let's just say he's a great singer...he tries some slapstick Jerry Lewis type stuff but just looks silly. But as I said before, this is a great story, so if they did follow the formula, they should be okay. Anyway, by the end of the film, I felt emotional, happy for Debbie and Eddie, Adolphe Menjou who melts at the sight of a child who MIGHT be his grandson, but mostly for little Johnny, who is abandoned outside an orphanage, but finds not only a mother and a father, but a protector in Ms. Dugan, and a grandfather...an entire family. And that's pretty cool for someone who "nobody wanted". Apparently this was the first and last time Debbie and Eddie were in a movie together and, as I said earlier, they split soon after thanks to Eddie falling for Elizabeth Taylor...which leads to tomorrow's movie... *Smokers Report: None other than Menjou smoking a cigar.
January 9th - THELMA AND LOUISE (1991)
It's funny how a movie like this can take on a legend of it's own. I have never sat down to watch this film, and yet I know everything about it. I knew how it began, I know how it continued and I for sure knew how it ended. So up to this point, I had wondered "Why should I bother?" But then I also thought "Why not?" And then seeing Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon at the Golden Globes together made it more of a pressing need. But did what I "knew" match up to reality? I was curious how a "feminist" movie like this was directed by Ridley Scott, for instance. And because of that fact, I knew the movie would look really slick. More Beverly Hills Cop 2 than Beverly Hills Cop. Stylish as hell. There is some of the fakest looking rain in scenes with Harvey Keitel and Christopher McDonald. And while I'm at it, let's do the Smokers Report now...there is so much smoke in this film that it gets distracting. Sarandon, at least in the beginning of the film, always has a smoke in her hand and exhales to the best of her ability each time. Pretty much every important character smokes in this film. There's even one scene where a dude is cleaning the pool at a hotel and he's smoking. Even the extras smoke! Not sure the point of the scene with the Jamaican guy, smoking a joint who comes across the cop in the trunk, though. All the dust flying around makes for a good effect, especially during the car chase sequences through the desert. And of course there's a big damn explosion. Of course. This is a long film and it's slow to start, but that's important to establish both Thelma and Louise and their characters. Plus the men in their lives, and the circumstances that lead them to their situation. Davis' transformation in particular is really well done, from snivelling scaredy-cat housewife to total bad ass, as opposed to Sarandon who starts out with a chip on her shoulder and she gets "softer" as the movie progresses. I liked the Keitel character and the fact that he was the only good man in the film, and that if I didn't know the ending of the movie already, I would think him and Sarandon got together eventually. Brad Pitt here is almost unrecognizable (to me anyway) as a skinny punk hayseed, but I guess I can see how this turned him into a star. I don't remember him eating food in any of the scenes, so maybe that's why I didn't recognize him? The only real negative criticism I can give the film (the stuff with the smoke and fake rain was just annoying) is the ending. Not that ending, the one we've all seen a million times, hand clenched together. I mean the part when they fade to white and IMMEDIATELY cut to a happy montage with happy music, as if the studio wanted to, after all the time, just get the hell out of there and were in their cars driving home before anyone watching realised what just happened to their two favourite characters. It, like the ending to "$", just seemed like a studio note. But this was a great film and I'm very happy I finally watched it.
January 8th - THE THRILL OF IT ALL (1963)
I am a huge James Garner fan, but not so much Doris Day, which is border line blasphemous in classic movie fan circles, and it's not like I don't like her, I just haven't seen alot of her movies. Kinda like Audrey Hepburn. Please send hate tweets to @abuckley23...But what about this film? It is super old fashioned! The movie ends with the housewife, after getting a taste of a life outside the home, agreeing to give it all up and have a third baby with her husband, just to make him feel better. It's a sweet film, but I can see some people today watching this film and being so enraged they throw their TV's out the window (although with today's flatscreens, it wouldn't be difficult as it was "back in the day".) The funniest part to me was finding out that this was directed by NORMAN JEWISON of all people (of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and ROLLERBALL) and written by Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart, two legendary comedic talents. Looking up their timeline of their careers, this was before Reiner created the Dick Van Dyke Show and before Gelbart created MASH (and that movie Neighbours I mentioned before...gotta watch that...and Rhinestone, although that's not related to this...)...so I guess this was a bunch of young up and comers trying to pad their resumes and hopefully later get to the point they can do...better? This isn't remembered as a classic, but there are some funny bits, starting around the part Garner does the classic "if looks could kill" look as he drives his car into the backyard pool, and up to the guys coming and getting rid of all the soap suds from the backyard. And the kids were cute, as the little girl in this movie was the littlest girl from "The Sound of Music". I got a little confused at the end, with Garner stopping his male chauvinist tirades and trying to make Day jealous instead, but that's all dropped when a background character has to deliver a baby. And perhaps the problem is that Garner is too charming...by the end of the movie you are almost convinced that "Yeah, she really should get back to being barefoot, pregnant, taking care of the kids and making sure he has dinner on the table when he gets home..." Not sure I'll ever watch this again...if anything this movie maybe should go in a time capsule for future generations to look at how it used to be but never for it to be like that again... *Smokers Report: About every third character smokes...in fact at one point it looked like the only people not smoking were Day and the two kids.
January 7th - NORMA RAE (1979)
The theme of movies about strong women continues with this film starring Sally Field in her most iconic role as the fictional Norma Rae, a single mom who wants a better life for her family and wants to have the textile plant she works for to unionize. First, I was surprised to hear that Norma Rae is a fictional character, based on a real person, Crystal Lee Sutton, her actions and her book that came out in 1975. In reading up on this movie, it's funny that they changed the name of the main character but yet filmed scenes that were based on real events, like when Norma transcribes the letter posted on the bulletin board and when she stands on the table and writes "UNION", followed by her co-workers shutting down their machines in a sign of solidarity. Plus it seems like alot of Sutton's personal life is just like Norma's...being a widow, remarrying later on, etc. So why did they not just call the character Crystal Sutton? And why am I hung up on this? Having just watched "Molly's Game", based on a real person, using her real name (and not using others, which is a theme in the movie), where alot of events/timelines (seem to be) changed (based on the minimal research I've done aka read the Wikipedia page). It's funny-slash-puzzling to me how things are done in Hollywood, and most likely always will be. But what about this film? They do a great job with the backstory of the main characters and there is more texture than I would have thought (for instance, why not just start the movie with her married to Beau Bridges?). I guess they wanted to show her struggling as a single mom, show her relationship with her mother and father? That she did, in fact, "sleep around" with married men, and it wasn't a character flaw. Her courtship and marriage to Bridges happens so fast if I had blinked, or gone to the bathroom, I might have missed it. But the most important relationship in the movie is between Norma and the union organizer, Ron Liebman. And his scenes in the movie are all great, with this self identifying Jew trying to fit in in this little town. A town so small that Norma asks him if he has horns, as that's what she's always heard. His intensity is tremendous on screen, and it's funny that I don't recall seeing him much at all over the years. I remember watching "Night Falls on Manhattan", a very underrated film IMHO, where he is one of the leads and I thought "Who is this guy?" And now I want to know what he did between those two movies. He's great. Although as I look him up, he was Rachel's dad on "Friends" and apparently appeared in "Rhinestone" which is on my DVR and I plan to review soon. And he's married to Jessica Walter, who is best known as Lucile Bluth on "Arrested Development", so that's cool. I admit I did expect more violence in the film, like Norma getting beaten up, Liebman getting beat up, late night phone calls, even possibly the "R" word (not that I wanted to see that, I just assumed the writers would include one)...but the people in charge of the factory seem like people who don't want the union but aren't THAT bad people, probably just uneducated. And there aren't any real HORRIBLE things that go on to make the union a reality. There is one part where six white dudes beat up a black guy who is part of the union, but that's the only kind of non-union violence I can remember, and even that is broken up quickly. At times the movie does seem more focused on Norma's social life and TELLING us the factory is awful than showing us. Norma's mother and father being the exception, of course. And it is kinda weird that Liebman is in that backwater town for so long and doesn't at least get a black eye or something. Just for being a Jew and existing, really...would those hillbillies need more of a reason? Anyway, now I'm just rambling. The last scene is great and I'm glad they didn't go for the obvious ending (like they did for "$" apparently.) Overall this is a great film and I recommend it. Sidenote: Funny seeing those textile machines in two movies this month...this movie and "Wanted". *Smokers Report: Yes, but not alot...
January 6th - MOLLY'S GAME (2017)
Wow, this was a great film. I told a friend I was going to see this film today, they asked what it was about, and I honestly couldn't say. After seeing it, I can say things like "It's about Molly Bloom, who was an Olympic skier, then ran poker tournaments, got into trouble, wrote a book, got into more trouble..." Apparently Molly Bloom was named the "Poker Princess" by the tabloids and this was a big story at one point, but I had never heard of it. They must not have covered it on the Daily Show. But back to that description...that doesn't sound too interesting, does it? It's hard, especially without revealing spoilers, talking about this movie too much. It's written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (the first movie he's directed, surprisingly) and the dialogue is exceptional. It snaps and pops, especially with scenes involving star Jessica Chastian and Idris Elba. This back and forth verbal duels are just as sexy as if they were having a love scene. Sorkin I have had a love-hate relationship with. I loved Sports Night when it came out, but have since re-watched it and...not so much. I respect it, sure, but other than Robert Guillaume (RIP), everyone came off as entitled liberal whiners...and that's coming from me! The West Wing I LOVED when I watched it (except for Bradley Whitford...I wanted to punch him), probably cause that's how I hoped the West Wing was actually ran (especially at the time, with Bush in charge; and if I watched it now, it would probably be soul-crushing). The Newsroom I hate-watched the f out of that show. I wanted to punch Will McAvoy in the face (not Jeff Daniels...him I like). How West Wing and Newsroom are different in my brain...I guess it is really quantified by "A Few Good Men", which when I watched it as a teenager (not knowing who the f Aaron Sorkin was), I was happy when Jack Nicholson went to jail. When I watched it later on as an adult, still liberal but older and jaded, I cringed. But what about this film? Like I said, it's hard to talk about without spoilers...Chastian will get nominated for an Oscar, Elba and Kevin Costner should be, and Aaron Sorkin will be lavished with as many accolades as possible. And as I said in my "Wind River" review last month, it's always a pleasure to see Graham Greene on screen. I liked how it was told "out of order" (but not in a Pulp Fiction way...it still was easy to figure out what was present day and what was a flashback). And the message, basically about a woman almost literally wanting to "stick it to the man" is very timely. There are certain parts of this movie that are heart breaking and some that (should) want you to stand up and cheer. Only weird thing is that I read the Wikipedia page of this entire real-life situation and it was alot different than the movie. Not "A Walk to Remember" different (only example I could come up with quickly), but maybe that's why there was a joke in the movie about Molly not wanting to sell her story to Hollywood because of "Creative Differences"? Anyway, this is a GREAT film, probably will be in my Top 10 (if I did such things) so GO SEE IT! *Smokers Report: Yes, lots of smoking. It's about dudes sitting around playing poker, so yeah, lots of smoking in this movie.
January 5th - $ (1971)
Okay, first off, I'm all for being creative with names for films. You kinda have to be, especially today. There are some great films with bad titles (like "Out of Sight") that I think legit would have done better with a more creative title. But just having a dollar sign? I'm sure the people who had to plug this movie, like radio DJ's and movie theatre ushers and the like, were always like "Is that how I say it? Is it "Dollar", or "Dollars"? Or maybe "Dollar Sign?" Screw this…" I always remember in "That Thing You Do" (great movie, great title) when the band is starting out and they want to be called the "One-Ders" but everyone calls them the "O-KNEE-ders" and Tom Hanks comes along and just simplifies it to "The Wonders" and off they go. This movie is weird, right off the bat, even in the credit sequence. Quincy Jones did the music, then they list the songs Little Richard will sing in the movie, weird as that's usually done at the end but maybe when this movie came out they were still figuring out things like the credits, as in movies during this time sometimes had all the credits in the beginning, some at the end…and then the next credit comes up as "DON ELLIOT The Human Instrument". WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Is Don Elliot an actor and he's in the movie playing The Human Instrument?" Does he contribute to the soundtrack? I DON'T UNDERSTAND! So anyway, this movie has started with a bang! I'd never heard of this film before I saw it listed on TCM. And the fact Goldie Hawn is in it…well, say no more! The fact I'd never heard of a particular film doesn't necessarily make me assume the movie is crap (usual theory is "If a movie is any good, you would have heard people talking about it"). Like I just discovered a movie called "Neighbours" which when I saw it listed, I assumed it was the Seth Rogan/Zack Efron movie, but no, apparently it's a John Belushi/Dan Akroyd film. So I'm curious…but I have heard the legend of Belushi told and I've heard tons about Blues Brothers, Animal House, 1941 even…but Neighbours not so much, so it must suck right? Wow, I'm off on a tangent. But what about this film? It's a heist film, and right off the bat, like Devil In a Blue Dress, it introduces alot of characters all at once, but it does it with confidence. Warren Beatty comes on screen with no backstory, already a developed character, with the job of a bank security manager. Goldie Hawn is, of course, a prostitute. MOVIES! But she's a prostitute with weird clients, like a guy who gets off thinking he's on fire and sprayed with seltzer water. This takes place in Germany, and because of tax laws and such, it's legal to have undeclared income in safe deposit boxes...and Beatty gets an idea to rip off alot of people, but only bad people, with Hawn's help. This is a fun heist movie with a fun plan for the heist. Heist movies, like film noir, are the kind of movies I'm a sucker for. I love the planning, the maps and blueprints, the making of gadgets...also in this movie is Goldfinger! Freakin Goldfinger! I'm dancing around plot points, as eventhough it's a 47 year old movie, as I stated before, I don't think anyone has seen this movie so I don't want to spoil it. People should see this movie. It's fun to watch, funny that apparently Goldie Hawn did this movie after winning an Oscar, which I didn't even know happened. The only thing about the movie I didn't enjoy was the end of the film where there was literally (I checked) a twenty minute chase scene. I guess it was creative, with the chase incorporating cars, trains, old fashioned on-foot, even ICE! But it went on way too long. Also, there is a SUPER TACKED ON Studio-Approved-Happy-Ending here, and back in the day apparently they didn't have it written into their contracts that they had to do re-shoots. Not sure when this will air again on TCM but people should find this film. Hopefully they show it again soon, as I always delete films when I'm done watching them out of habit, which I did here, but I would like to watch it again, the first hour anyways (before the chase) and see if it really did all add up. *Smokers Report: Goldfinger smokes at least once in the movie, as I recall, but that's it...
January 4th - DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS (1995)
Another Denzel Washington feature...I'm a sucker for film noir and also neo-noir (movies that want to be a film noir but aren't filmed in black and white...right?). Detective stories are always interesting to me, especially ones set in Los Angeles, like LA Confidential, Chinatown, Marlowe, etc. Something about the sunshine and palm trees during the day and seediness that comes out at night. Of course this is a twist, as Denzel's character, "Easy", is someone who is dragged into an investigation and is assumed to be a private investigator by more than a few characters in the movie. And he ends the movie talking about opening his own PI firm, so presumably if there was a sequel, it would show him as a PI. This movie reminds me of "The Big Sleep" in the sense that this movie doesn't make...er, sense - at least to me. There are alot of characters here, some literally only on screen for one scene and a brief one at that, but are important parts of the plot. There are people shown once who we are told is a main character's brother, or another character's lover, and only about four or five characters are in alot of scenes, so this movie is kind of a memory exercise. After the movie was over, I went back and read the Wikipedia page for the movie to really figure out what happened. I kinda figured it out but I had lingering doubts. And there is one big twist (one that involved Jennifer Beals' character) that I guess back in 1995 was a big twist, but with the advancement of time, it really wasn't a twist. It's not something on the level of "The Crying Game"'s twist, but still a twist that wasn't a twist to me, at least. And Don Cheadle...was this his breakout movie? He kills it (pun intended) in every scene he's in. This is, like I said, a bit confusing at times, but what film noir isn't, at least a little bit? I enjoyed the film...but it's not going to be on any of my favourites list. And usually I save this for the Smokers Report, but there was ALOT of smoking here. And I might as well talk about this here, but in movies like "The Big Sleep" where it's in black and white somehow the smoking blends in, whereas in a modern movie like this it's distracting (to me). I understand this was most likely a very specific choice, with the scriptwriters and/or actors thinking they needed to have lots of smoking in order for it to "qualify" as a film noir (or neo noir), ESPECIALLY with the femme fatale character. I mean, she HAD to smoke, right? They would be laughed off the screen if she didn't, right? Anyway, good, but not great film.
*Smokers Report: OH YEAH!
January 3rd - BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989)
Been watching alot of Keanu Reeves lately, so why not finally watch this "classic"? Don't really have a reason that I've never seen this film, just never had the chance. It's not like it's shown on cable all the time, like "The Italian Job" or "Ocean's Eleven" or "Speed"...it's one I'd have to search out and find. And also, recently someone pointed out that in this movie, the way that the boys are able to time travel is by using a phone booth. Apparently, they original script had the time machine as a car, but they wanted to change it as it would be too similar to "Back to the Future". But then they changed it to the very TARDIS like phone booth. I had never put together the Dr. Who connection for some reason. I figured this was a dumb comedy, which I enjoy from time to time (I freaking loved "Encino Man" back in the day, although it's probably been twenty years or more since I've seen it), but again this has just never been an easy film to watch. I was surprised that the beginning was very slow to get going, with the opening title sequence reminding me of a James Bond cold open (at least the song "I Can't Break Away" did). And at first I was kind of confused with the plot, as Bill and Ted go through time cherry picking historical figures like Billy the Kid and Joan of Arc and bring them to modern California to be a part of their oral history report, but how will this get them an A? From the teacher's point of view, if Bill and Ted brought a bunch of actors to a class, and those actors in costume talked about their accomplishments, how does that prove Bill and Ted knew enough history to pass? Well apparently at some point, Bill and Ted sat down and chatted with all these historical figures, or all the information about them magically was implanted in their brains the closer they got to them, cause Bill and Ted suddenly DID know alot about these people and their accomplishments, so then I can accept them passing their class, even though it makes no sense really. But then again, this is Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, right? They go through time, getting in wacky adventures, and I started losing interest, honestly, but then they accidentally end up in the future and the scene that happens, for some reason, really felt poignant to me. The song here "In Time" helps too.
So I found the Soundtrack most excellent. There are other fun time travel jokes too, as right off the bat, the Bill and Ted from 24 hours earlier show up to tell the current Bill and Ted to go ahead and believe what Rufus is telling them, a nice way to speed things up. And later, the stuff with Ted's dad and his keys is all fun sci-fi stuff too. And of course Napoleon being a dick, and his Waterloo waterpark adventures, are pretty funny. And George Carlin is sorely missed, especially his wit in this modern political climate. But was he wearing a fake nose? That distracted me. And I liked the last scene where they go to "jam" together but of course it's the first time, so they all suck, when I figured they'd magically all be awesome, cause it's a movie. So I did like this movie and will be definately downloading the soundtrack. And I will watch the sequel, if I can get my hands on it. I'll even be rooting for that third movie that's been rumored for awhile now. And remember, Be Excellent to Each Other! *Smokers Report: Uh, well I think Bill and Ted are meant to be stoners, and I was looking for evidence, but I couldn't really find any. I don't remember any smoking at all, really.
January 2nd - THE BIG STORE (1941)
I recorded this on my DVR as part of TCM's annual New Year's Eve Marx Brothers marathon, along with "A Day at the Races", "A Night at the Opera", "Go West", etc. I just automatically record Marx Bros movies on TCM, like "Casablanca", the Rat Pack's "Ocean's Eleven", "His Girl Friday", "The Philadelphia Story" and others, just cause. I usually watch a few minutes of these movies and then delete them, but as I watched "The Big Store", I realized I hadn't seen it before. So then I started paying more attention, and looking it up on Wikipedia. Turns out this was the last of their five movies with MGM, and advertised as their last EVER movie. It wasn't, as they did two more movies together ("A Night in Casablanca" and "Love Happy") but this was towards the end of their run together as movie stars. I've always admired the Marx Bros for not only their gags but their intelligence as well. Kind of like how I loved and also admired Monty Python, who were not only hilarious comedians, but college graduates whose comedy challenged social and political norms of the time. The Marx Bros didn't necessarily do that, other than in their best film "Duck Soup", but their comedy was a notch above the Three Stooges, for example, as they had great sketches full of hilarity, but also music numbers as well. Groucho talked fast and had a machine gun wit, but then Chico could play the piano and Harpo could play, well, the harp! And on top of that they would have musical numbers and dance sequences that were a notch below Busby Berkeley but still great. One tiny twist right off the bat made this a different movie, as to start Groucho and Harpo are teamed up and Chico is off on his own, which kind of brought a different dynamic. Although later Chico introduces Harpo as his brother, so anyways…there are lots of moving parts here, as usual there is the Bros storyline, plus another romantic subplot involving non-Bros actors. Plus there is another storyline where the owners of the Mall where the Bros end up working is for sale and a bunch of people are all trying to buy it, some of which are gangsters. And the male lead character, Tommy Rogers, played by Tony Martin (who can really sing, btw), wants to sell his part of the mall, but yet for some reason it takes the entire movie to make this happen. And even then, the gangsters want to drag it out to specifically 1pm for reasons I didn't quite get, I admit. I probably missed a plot point of two while researching the movie, ironically. But all that, and the reason the movie takes place in a mall is just so the Bros can run wild, including some awesome sequences, one musical number called "Sing While You Sell", and later a big chase through the mall (or I guess "department store") as the Bros are trying to escape the gangsters, both of which are very fun to watch. It's as if they saw Charlie Chaplin's skating in-the-store scene in "Modern Times" and thought it was great but there could have been more, that there was enough material there for a full movie…plus the great Margaret Dumont is in here, Groucho's favourite foil. This isn't the best Marx Bros movie but I am glad I watched it. One disclaimer before watching is that there are scenes (like the bed scene) where there are major ethnic stereotypes displayed, but I don't think anyone is treated too terribly…I guess… *Smokers Report: Groucho as always has his cigar present, but this is a black and white film and smoking in these old films just kind of blends in so I guess this is a N/A
January 1st - WANTED (2008)
After seeing John Wick Chapter 2 (which also starred Common, as a coincidence...but is it really?), I figured I should catch up on other gun gun bang bang movies. Or, really, this was on cable and I figured, what the hell, Angelina Jolie is in this right? She was badass in Mr. and Mrs. Smith...and yes she is here too! And I had no idea Chris Pratt was in this. I always thought Pratt, prior to Guardians of the Galaxy, was only on Parks and Recreation and that was it. Apparently he was in alot of movies, just ones I didn't watch. Or, like in Moneyball, I just never noticed that he was that Andy guy from TV. I've never been much of a fan of Mark Millar's work, although that's for no real actual reason, I admit. As I look over his Wikipedia page, I realise maybe I should be. I think I just wasn't impressed with Kick-Ass and that was it. Anyway, back in the day, (brace yourself for this generalization) Hollywood movies were either stylish, or well written...never both. This is both. Always great to see Terrence Stamp, and of course God himself Morgan Freeman. Although I might have liked this movie more before I saw John Wick Chapter 2, with all it's explanation of not only Wick's world of assassins, but the rules, conduct and expectations of that world. In comparison, this movie is a shallow exercise of "cool shit" like making bullets bend in the air after they've been fired. As I think back on it, it really is a basic story, like the Matrix (ironically starring Keanu Reeves...or is it?), where a loser finds out he is "special", a hot girl takes him under her wing and a wise black man shows him the way...hmmm! But what about the film? I could have done without the Trainspotting/Fight Club style monologue at the end. It's funny how a movie like this tries to hard to be "cool" and at the end it's like they are saying "F*ck you, loser" to it's viewer, which of course is all part of being cool...I guess. It's a fun watch, but I'm not sure I'll ever watch it again, honestly. Other than maybe to figure out why the Russian dude blew up that rat... *Smokers Report: None, which weird since the villains are European...they always smoke in the movies...