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!!!!
2- The Big Store
3- Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
4- Devil In a Blue Dress
6- Molly's Game
7- Norma Rae
8- The Thrill of It All
9- Thelma and Louise
10- Bundle of Joy
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
20- The Post
21- Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
22- Thank You For Your Service
24- TCM's Noir Alley
25- I Am Not Your Negro
26- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
27- Murphy's Romance
28- Once Were Warriors
29- I, Tonya
30- The Devil Wears Prada
31- Martha Marcy May Marlene
January 31st - MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (2011)
Now this is a rare film; one that I have wanted to see for a long time but until tonight, I've just never seen it listed on cable, or seen it for sale in a Wal-Mart bargain bin (I didn't say I wanted to see it THAT bad). But I'd heard some really great things about this film and Elizabeth Olsen is one of those actresses whom I want to see more of. At first when I heard of her, the first reaction was "How good of an actress could she be, if she's a member of the Olsen family...?" which of course if unfair. But really, after the Olsen Twins became a corporate juggernaught, what were the odds there was a third sister and she was "the talented one" when it came to acting. What's in that water at the Olsen house? Although now that I look at her filmography, it turns out I haven't seen that many of her projects other than her appearances as Scarlett Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Godzilla, plus just a little while ago I saw her in Wind River, which is a fantastic film. BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS FILM? I've been watching alot of movies about PTSD lately. Between "Thank You For Your Service", "Stronger", "Megan Leavey" just this month alone, I might be going through movie-PTSD - which of course is a joke, I would never undermine the psychological trauma people go through on a daily basis. But someone has to ease the tension. This movie is different from most living-with-a-cult movies, in that it deals with life afterwards, dealing with the paranoia and nightmares that come with it. It's told with chronological shifts so we can see flashbacks to her life in the cult. Some things could have been better, like having her brother in law not be such a dick about everything. Sarah Paulson plays Olsen's sister who tries her best to help but is torn. But really, weren't there other ways to show her struggle than to make it so cut and dry as "Get your sister committed to an insane asylum means you love your husband vs. Keep your sister untreated means you love her". There has to be more to the situation than just those two extremes. And the ending is one of the all-time worst. It's so "indy" to "leave things to your imagination" and "not spoon feed the viewer by spelling out what happens next." I used to think that, back in my pretentious film-school days. But people deserve an ending. They've spent two hours getting to know these characters and being in their world, and just to end the movie ten minutes early, just cause the director didn't want to/couldn't make a choice. It's a good movie, sure, but again, not something I'll probably ever watch again. *Smokers Report: There is some smoking, but only so the cult leader, John Hawkes, can point out how bad that is.
January 30th - THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006)
This is a big check off my bucket list. There have been many times in my life the last few years when this movie would come up and I'd say "Haven't seen it" and the looks I would get...So apparently, "The Devil Wears Prada" is one of those essential films (not like a TCM Essential…but who knows twenty years from now they may be interviewing Anne Hathaway on TCM about this…), but like other films on my Movie-A-Day blogs, I just hadn't watched it, and didn't feel the need to. And tonight it was on cable, so why not? Anne Hathway gets a job at "Vogue" magazine, er, "Runway" magazine, working for the meanest people in the world, or at the very least, the meanest people in the fashion industry. And she knows nothing about fashion. But she's super sweet and "fat" aka size 6, so why not? Her boss is the iconic Meryl Streep, and also Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci work there, with only Tucci being a smidge more towards the "nice" side of the personality meter. It's a good movie, but why it's iconic is a mystery to me. No one really has much of an arc. They fake an arc for Blunt (her "transformation" at the end of the film includes still being rude to Hathaway, but in a "nicer way", I guess). Streep's character seems more 3-Dimensional than a typical villain, but not at first, as she rips apart Hathaway for the fact Hathaway couldn't stop a hurricane from existing (and never apologizes btw). I could understand if Hathaway blabbed some important info or did something dumb, but not being able to stop a hurricane? Frankly, I almost turned it off there, but then I figured there has to be some comeuppance for Streep acting THAT badly. But really (SPOILERS) there isn't. She ends the film more powerful than when it began. Simon Baker and Adrien Grenier are also here and kinda important. I was annoyed by Hathaway's character, as half way through the film she's still cheery and oblivious (sample dialogue between her and Blunt, who have now known each other for six months: Hathaway: "Wish me luck!" Blunt: "Go kill yourself." or something like that). And later the justification by Streep for all her backstabbing by saying to Hathaway "You did it too" was crap, honestly. I'm probably missing something, or just don't "get it". Although, other than one cringe-worthy scene described earlier, it was a good movie, although probably one I will never watch again. Always great to see Tucci, though. Ever seen "Big Night"? THAT'S a great movie… *Smokers Report: None that I can remember, although really? The only people who smoke more than writers and poker players are models (and, well, actors).
January 29th - I, TONYA (2017)
First of all, lame title. It fails the movie title test. If you say the movie title fast, in passing in conversation, and you have to repeat yourself, then (like "Out of Sight" for example), it fails. Just call it "Tonya", or geez, "The Incident" even. But enough about how much smarter I am than everyone in Hollywood (JK, BTW). Anyway, this film, unlike historical dramas "Molly's Game" or "Norma Rae" that I knew little about, this was a movie that covered events that I was well aware of and could remember from my youth. I totally remember the day Nancy Kerrigan was attacked, the "WHY? WHY?" crying, the fallout at the Olympics and during all that "showdown" talk between Kerrigan and Harding, the world fell in love with a little Soviet girl named Oksana Baiul. And then Kerrigan was caught on film making fun of Baiul and her image as an American icon became more of an American sore loser. Once she cried to the judges about her broken laces (when at that point NO ONE has sympathy for the girl who took out America's at-one-time sweetheart), and actually got a second chance and still finished 8th, she was done. I remember her becoming a national joke, I even remember that particular David Letterman Top 10 he did making fun of her that they use in the movie (not that there was just one time that happened). I remember her, later on, getting big money offers to go train in Japan as a female wrestler, which in Japan was actually kind of a big honour, but she apparently scoffed at this and became a female boxer instead. She she wanted to get beat up for real instead of in a controlled environment, I guess. I remember all of this. But this movie isn't just about recreating those events, it's about telling Tonya's side of the story and, I think, trying to point out her innocence. Or is it? It portrays Tonya as not very likeable, and proud of it, but late in the film there is a part where she looks right at the camera and says the media made her a joke and "we all" were complicit. To which I say, well, yeah. Guilty as charged. It's true what she says about America building up heroes and then taking great pleasure in stripping them down. And once Tonya hits rock bottom after the 1992 Olympics, she seemingly turns a corner, and apparently she really had no idea that anyone was going to attack Kerrigan. So should we "forgive her". She still was in on the original plan to scare Kerrigan with death threats. She was cool with that. So she's not "innocent". She talks about nothing being her fault, repeatedly. Over and over again she says this. And seeing what her devil mother was like (played amazingly by Alison Janney) and how her asshole husband abused her (Sebastian Stan) sure, we should probably sympathize with her. But what I liked about the film is that this isn't a black and white issue…it's very complicated. VERY COMPLICATED! And unlike "Foxcatcher", which took a real incident and actually made it more boring that it really was, and more of a black and white issue, this movie gets points for going all in with the wackiness of it all. I read a click-bait headline recently that said something like "Tonya Harding is ready for her apology now". I liked this film, but, at least from me, she'll have to wait a lot longer for that apology. *Smokers Report: Oh, yeah! Harding smokes a lot, and Janney's character is literally never on screen without a smoke in her hand. So that's a big yes!
January 28th - ONCE WERE WARRIORS (1994)
This was a hard movie to watch. For those keeping track, this was on cable. I had vaguely heard of this, and saw it in the listings, looked it up and thought, "Oh, I have to watch this…" This is considered "The Best New Zealand film of all time". "Better than "Whale Rider?" I say to myself. And it stars Temura Morrison, who played Jango Fett in the Star Wars prequels, and I've heard is pretty cool otherwise. But the Temura Morrison I saw in this film I didn't know existed. This film is a brutal one about alcohol abuse, domestic violence and living in a toxic environment, with no hope in sight that it will end. Morrison is frightening in his role and the other "actors" in the movie don't come across as actors, just people who just happen to be standing in front of a camera as it happened to roll. It does have that "mid-90's indy feel" to it, shot on film but in a low budget way, where you can tell every penny spent is on screen. We still see indy movies, but they are all shot on digital and all look kinda too perfect, whereas these films are a little dirty, probably from using older cameras and cheaper film stock. I'm just assuming all this, of course; I could totally be wrong. At first Morrison's character seems like a good bloke just trying to make things right for his family, fun loving kind of dude, but later once he has a few drinks in him, he can explode, with that phrase "explode" not at all hyperbole. The beating he lays on a tattooed jerk in the bar early on is cheered…the identical beating he lays on his wife (Rena Owen) just a few minutes later isn't so cool (he says in the understatement of the year so far). And then he basically rapes her. And then falls asleep on top of her. Then the next morning, the kids get up and start cleaning up, as the house is turned upside down, plus their mother's blood is all over the walls, but they do this as if they have done it a million times before. This is a regular occurrence that they have gotten used to. Meanwhile, their family is seemingly falling apart, as the kids see their father for what he is, but usually ending up blaming their mother. Their father won't change, and they know that, but why does she stay with him? Plus, she is there, and if they talk back to her, they won't get punched in the face. However, the fact the family is splitting up into different factions actually kind of saves it, but not before tragedy strikes unfortunately. This is a gut wrenching film, so if you do watch it, be prepared. I honestly try not to watch movies like this. And honestly if I had known more about this film, other than it was the "best New Zealand film ever", I might not have watched it. I, at this stage in my life, try to avoid "tough" movies, for better or worse. I haven't seen "12 Years a Slave", for instance, as I just… I just don't want to watch it. Not that I am better than that, or anything else. I remember watching "Monster" in the theatre, and admiring the film, but at the same time, I knew I would never watch it again. I think I can safely say I'd be fine if I never watched another movie with a slave being whipped, or a woman (or man) being raped ever again. The urge to watch all the Oscar films every year is long gone, for instance. Maybe that's me "hiding" from such things, but I think I'm old enough now to decide what I will or won't watch. Or maybe I'm naive. Anyway, I was stunned to learn that the film's director went on to do many Hollywood films, including Mulholland Falls (really?), The Edge, even Die Another Day, the Madonna infused Bond film. He even did the Triple-X film that had Ice Cube. And I was kind of surprised no one from this film, besides Morrison and Cliff Curtis have gone on to big careers in acting. There is one of the actors in particular, Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell who plays Grace in the film, had never acted before this (she was "a natural"), and is now in real estate. After seeing what she had to go through for the role, I can see why. BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS FILM? It was very well done, the acting is about as natural as it gets, and the subject matter is a kick in the gut. I would recommend it for sure, but just be prepared… *Smokers Report: Oh yeah. Every adult character in the film seemingly smokes (other than Morrison, from what I remember) and the teens smoke some pot in one scene.
January 27th - MURPHY'S ROMANCE (1985)
There wasn't anything on cable tonight that I hadn't already seen, so I had to turn to alternative methods to find something to watch. I tried YouTube but then something told me to try iTunes out. For some reason iTunes is just not something I consider when it comes to movies. When I think of iTunes I think of thousands of podcasts and the crappiest way possible to download music. But then I booted up iTunes (is that still a saying?) and with given the options of, well, thousands of movies, I did what I normally do, punch "James Garner" into the Search engine and see what comes up. I've been wanting to watch this movie for awhile, mostly because of Garner, but also after doing research for "Norma Rae", I learned that the team that made that movie (Field, director Martin Ritt and the screenwriters) then made this one too. Also, after "Absense of Malice", another movie I reviewed earlier on one of these blogs, Field and Ritt first approached Paul Newman to co-star, but he declined, so Garner was next. Although apparently, they had to fight for Garner, as the studio wanted someone like Marlon Brando, who they felt was more marketable since Garner was now a "TV star" (in one of the best shows ever, The Rockford Files, btw) but Filed and Ritt were insistent. Garner was later nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS FILM? I really enjoyed it. It's very slow paced and there is no sex or violence, which probably sounds boring, but it really isn't. So much is said with just looks and body language between Field and Garner. I was surprised that the titular "Murphy" is Garner, with movie posters from the time just featuring Field, I assumed that was her character's name. And the movie really is about her, she is in every scene whereas Garner is in 3/4 of the movie, so it is an odd choice for a movie title, but whatever. I'm probably over thinking it. And the fact that there is no sex or violence is a plus. At one point, Field's ex husband shows up (he's also the father to her son, a young Corey Haim) and she wants to kick him out but he is a good dad, so he stays around, which makes an aloof Garner take notice. But again, it's not that simple. You'd think at some point, Field and Garner have a yelling match, Garner punches out the ex, she has to make a hard choice, maybe the ex smacks her around in front of the son, making it easy for Field to kick him out, oh and I forgot to mention, of course the ex is an asshole, but the son still loves him and he and Field yell at each other. But this movie doesn't go in that direction. The ex can drink a little too much, but he's not a bad guy really. He leaves on his own, after Field has made the decision to kick him out, but then she doesn't have to. There is no yelling or punching out. Everything just kind of...works out. And again, not in a boring way. You can see it coming but everyone is so freaking charming that you really want to see how it plays out. And normally I hate movies where the man is nearly twice the love interest's age, but again here it works. Highly recommended! *Smokers Report: Surprisingly, none, considering the stars...
January 26th- THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2 (2008)
As this list is winding down, it's getting harder to get these reviews done in a timely manner. With having gone back to work full time after a few weeks off, then also working on The Supers #2, trying to have a smidge of a life, trying to keep up with the few TV shows I do, AND HAVING TO watch a movie every night, it does get tiring, especially with what little sleep I get. And now being back on the road, I will have to depend on whatever is on that particular hotel's cable that night to get this "assignment-I've-given'myself" done. I was tempted to go to a local theatre here and see one of the much-ballyhooed Oscar bait movies, like "The Shape of Water" or "Call Me By Your Name", but I saw in the listings this movie and...well, you can see here who won. I reviewed the first movie in one of my first Movie-A-Day Blogs and really enjoyed it. And so now I'm back to see what more mischief those pants can get up to. And also it's a movie about four very talented young actresses too, btw. But it's hard to figure out who got the better deal between the four. Blake Lively's Bridget got to share scenes with both Blythe Danner and Shohreh Aghdashloo (recently from "The Expanse", Oscar nominated for "The House of Sand and Fog"); America Ferrera's Carmen got scenes where she got to do Shakespeare; Amber Tamblyn's Tibby got to be in a scene where a person gives birth (no spoilers though); and Alexis Bledel's Rory, er, Lena got to make out with two hot guys. This is a surprisingly long movie, with Bledel's story arc being about bonding with her grandmother, but first goes on a massive detour on an archaelogical dig, which somehow brings up feelings form her past about her mother's suicide. It's a bit of a stretch. Then I read ahead on the movie's Wikipedia page and it said "Lena starts to date Jesse, but then Kostas shows up and wants her back" and I looked up and said "She's not even dating Jesse yet!". There is some un-even-ness to the script, as America Ferrera is the over bearing heavy in most scenes, and Bledel is mad at her love from the first film, and is hesitant to get back together with him because he broke her heart...yet SHE BROKE UP WITH HIM!!! To this film's credit, they fixed one problem from the first movie; there are more scenes with the girls together, which was something I wanted more of in the original. They all have chemistry together and it comes across on screen, as they are actually best friends in real life. I like how they dealt with the normal thing where kids grow up to be young adults and sometimes they have to leave their childhoods behind and that means leaving behind not just teddy bears but people too. I remember learning that the first film was directed by a man and thinking "Really?" but they fixed it this time as a woman directed the film (Sanaa Hamri, for the record). So is it a perfect film? Nope! Is it nice to visit these four friends and see what they are up to? Absolutely! And let's hope that one day movie #3 becomes a reality, despite the fact that (like I mentioned with Goon 2), this movie does wrap things up pretty well in a nice little bow. *Smokers Report: None that I can remember
January 25th- I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (2017)
What an impactful documentary! James Baldwin's life is something I'd like to learn even more about. Knowing all three of the African American icons of the time (Medger Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X) alone makes for an interesting life. But then becoming an activist out for equal rights also makes his life out to be something special. Just watching some of the archival footage in this movie is tremendous. I had seen the footage of the school that had the army escort black children to school on the their first day, but I hadn't heard about the young girl in Charlotte who was basically on her own; I can only imagine the fear she had in her heart, but also the determination to stay and sit in that chair no matter what. Of course it goes without saying that I will never experience that kind of prejudice, and hopefully most people, no matter their race never have to feel that again. But in today's world, the future seems uncertain. Which is why this movie is so important. To remind us that as great as Dr. King and Malcolm X were, they were murdered. To this day, I'm shocked and also thankful that President Obama wasn't assassinated. I would be interested to hear what Mr. Baldwin would think about President Obama during either of his terms. I have heard some black leaders saying they were happy the day he was elected but he "didn't do enough". And while totally unfair, his legacy might just be re-written by "the winners", the people currently in power wanting to do everything to undermine what President Obama did accomplish during his time in office. BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS FILM? I watched this twice, as the first time I found the film kind of all over the place, at first a bio about Baldwin and then his relationship with the three men and then back to him…but after watching it a second time, I was able to follow it a lot better and I really enjoyed it the second time. I acknowledge that I am of a certain generation that has to be reminded once in awhile of the horrors of the past, of slavery, and how long it took to get equal rights, and how many great people had to die, and how people will most likely continue to die in the struggle going forward. Dick Cavett in the film interviews Baldwin and asks, basically, things are better now, "why aren't negroes happy with the progress so far?" And the answer is that, yes, things are better now, but there's always more progress to come. *Smokers Report: Baldwin smokes in practically every scene he's in, so yes.
January 24th - TCM's NOIR ALLEY
I'm a big fan of film noir and every Sunday morning, Turner Classic Movies has it's "Noir Alley" at 7am (Pacific) where they show a classic example of "film noir", which is basically a movie about bad guys, essentially. I usually tape them and watch them later. On this day, I watched a few in a row, "711 Ocean Drive", "Pushover" and "In A Lonely Place". "711 Ocean Drive" (1950) is a movie about how new technology, the invention of long distance telephone wires and conference lines, helped the bookies of the world take bets and hear the results of events from the other side of the country. This development brings one smart guy into the fold, who goes from a blue collar dude to the head of the local mafia, and all the problems that ensue. It's an interesting movie, with a twenty minute chase ending that just goes on forever. Apparently at the time this movie was a big deal, with the writers given tons of access to police records and inside info, and this was a big "look inside" to their world. Unfortunately today this movie is interesting (with the look back at how phones were so primitive) but not necessarily groundbreaking. And the chase sequence at the end is repetitive. "In a Lonely Place" (1950) is Noir Alley's host, Eddie Muller's, favourite movie and he calls it a masterpiece. It stars Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Graham, directed by Nicholas Ray, all film noir all-stars. It is a great film, with Bogart playing an aging screenwriter in need of a hit, who meets Graham, who is his alibi at first, then they fall in love, but she's not sure he didn't commit the original murder, etc. This is a great movie, but frankly, the behind the scenes stuff is more interesting to me. Apparently, Graham and director Ray were married, having problems, then Graham hooked up with Ray's 13 year old son (her step-son) and they fell in love and ended up together. That must have been an interesting Thanksgiving! But my favourite of the three was "Pushover" (1954) starring Fred McMurray and a 20-year old Kim Novak. McMurray is known as a Disney guy, but can "play dirty" with his iconic role in "Double Indemnity" and this movie is almost a remake of that, only with McMurray as a cop instead of an insurance seller. Novak is a younger version of Barbara Stanwyk from "Indemnity" and isn't quite there as an actress, but you can understand why McMurray is willing to throw it all a way for her. Maybe it's because I love "Indemnity" so much that I loved this film…but who cares? I was interested the whole way through, especially once I realized Dorothy Malone was in it too, who just died recently and who I'd always been a fan of since her one scene with Bogart in "The Big Sleep" where they try to "get wet" while inside a book store. I loved the opening scene as well, where two hoods rob a bank without saying a word, while the credits roll. I also found it interesting that this movie was adapted from not one but two books, "The Night Watch" by Thomas Walsh and "Rafferty" by William S. Ballinger. And who adapted them? None other than a young Roy Huggins, the mastermind behind such TV classics as my favourites "The Rockford Files" and "Maverick", plus "The Fugitive", "77 Sunset Strip", "Hunter" and others. So of the three, I'd recommend "Pushover", which admittedly is "Double Indemnity"-lite, whereas most people would probably prefer "In A Lonely Place." *Smokers Report: Three film noir black and white films. What do you think???
January 23rd - STRONGER (2017)
This was a great movie. I wasn't sure going in, but as I mentioned in my review for "Thank You For Your Service", it doesn't take much to sway me (and presumably others, I'm not that different after all) into the "let's watch this movie" column. For this, it was the possibility of seeing Canadian Tatiana Maslany on screen. She's pretty awesome. But then I saw that Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown were in it too. Richardson I've liked since watching Black Adder back in the day. Brown is always great with his distinctive voice, but for me he's the voice of Lex Luthor from Superman the Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited. This is a very down to earth film, takes it's time with what's going on, after a quick opening. 15 minutes in and the Boston bombing has happened and Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Jeff, is recovering in the hospital. But in that first fifteen minutes, we meet Jeff, a goofy outgoing chatty guy who everyone loves, who is in love with Erin (Maslany), who he's dated for years but they always break up, but end up back together. At the beginning of the film, they have been split for awhile, but Erin wants to run in the Boston Marathon, and in trying to impress Erin, Jeff wants to show up and support her. And by being there, at the finish line, Jeff's a victim of the bombing. The performances are all well done, and you can definitely see the arc of Jeff's character. It's great also in how America treats it's celebrities, how someone like Jeff is seen as a beacon of hope, a living symbol of "not letting the terrorists win", but later when his mom brings him out to the car, coming out of his rehabilitation to go home, no one is there to help her get his wheelchair in the trunk. One of the best scenes is with Jeff in a bar and someone recognizes him, he assumes it's cause they want a picture, like everyone else, but the guy wants to know the truth, in that Jeff was paid a lot of money to fake his injuries so "Obama could go to war with Iraq". The guy says this to Jeff's face, as he's there in a wheelchair. If this took place in any other city other than Boston, I'd scoff. PS It used to be every movie took place in New York…but now, since Good Will Hunting, every frickin' movie takes place in Boston…anyway, ironically, this movie is a lot like "Thank You For Your Service" in that it deals with PTSD and the trauma of dramatic events, brain injuries that we still don't know much of anything about. Something that happens more than once is Jeff being used by sports teams to make appearances…to "throw out the first pitch". I've never felt comfortable with this, not in a bad way I guess, I guess it's good to recognize people who do great things (most NHL teams have a visiting "hero" from the Army as a guest) but if you saw (again) "Thank You For Your Service", if those special people aren't getting treatments, yet are trotted out for "feel good moments", that seems exploitive. Or I'm over thinking. Another good sign for this film is that when writing this, I just noticed I'm using character names to describe what's going on. Normally I rely on the actor's real names. But in this movie, it really was about Jeff, Erin, Carlos and the rest of the people; they seemed real, not actors. Or I just didn't want to type out Gyllenhaal a bunch of freakin' times. Great movie, very inspirational but not in a "USA, USA, USA" way. *Smokers Report: Miranda Richardson's character smokes like a chimney. Everyone of her scenes (other than the ones in the hospital) has her with a cigarette in her hand or her mouth.
January 22nd - THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE (2017)
These days there are so many movies to choose from…it's interesting (to me anyway) to try to figure out why we choose to watch some films and not others. This movie I heard was a good movie, but it's another "war" movie (or so I assumed), so why pick it? I'd heard Amy Schumer was in it, and it was a more dramatic role, rather than a comedy. That's pretty much it. I picked this movie rather than "Stronger" or "Detroit" or the Deep Throat Liam Neeson movie, and that's it really. "Stronger" will probably be next simply be because Canadian girl Tatiana Maslany is in it. Weird. BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS FILM? Well, it's not really about war, it's about life after war. It's about life after coming home from war and the expectation of having a "normal life". Early on, the main character says "We need some help" which surprised me. Usually in the movies, at the start of the third act, the main character says "we need help" and then there is a fun montage and, tada, happy ending, all life's problems go away and people "get over" whatever their problems are. This movie is the opposite of that. It's all about servicemen coming home after being blown up and shot at, killing people and being the worst versions of themselves, then having to come back and just forget all that, get jobs and be husbands. Just turn it all off. And most come home with some form of PTSD. Even the ones who aren't messed up need some kind of help. So you assume that the US government takes care of them, right? These people sacrificed their lives and afterwards, anything they need is given to them. Nope. Apparently even people who acknowledge they need help can't get any. And they try to help themselves, over medicate themselves, get into trouble…it's heavy stuff. But this is an important film. Although PS…Amy Schumer only in a few scenes, and some she doesn't even have dialogue. So don't watch the film just for her. It's always good to see Keisha Castle-Hughes, though. *Smokers Report: Miles Teller's character becomes a smoker 3/4 of the way through the movie, after never having smoked before. He just pulls out a cigarette, lights it up and smokes. Weird.
January 21st- COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE (2012-2018)
Yes, this counts. Okay, so I've been watching some heavy movies lately, and I found out that this Jerry Seinfeld talk-show-while-driving-getting-coffee series had been added to Netflix, and figured I'd only watch a few. They average about 15 minutes each, I can bang a few out and then watch a "real movie". But then it's on Netflix, so you just let it run and the next thing I know I'm 20 episodes deep and it's 10pm…so I'm calling an audible and reviewing this. They all go back to back and with Netflix, so there are no credits, so it's like watching a documentary…or just a string of vignettes back to back. At one point I looked to see how many episodes were left in "season one", and I was at #16, so I figured I'd keep going. But then "season two" started with President Barack Obama and I had to watch that. Then it was Kevin Hart…then Will Ferrell…then I just had to keep watching until they got to the episode with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. And then I kept watching until the end of "season two". I remember watching these (or the early episodes, more on that later), when they came out and loving them, but then with most things I lost touch with when the new episodes came out. Apparently the next "season" is going to be season TEN for pete's sake. And the weird thing is that these episodes on Netflix are all shown out of order than how they were originally uploaded. Just for example, the first episode shown is with Jim Carrey, which is from Season 6 in 2015. The next two episodes is the two-parter with Jimmy Fallon in Season 5. Early episodes people talked about how popular the show was, which was weird. I am confused why they did this. Some things are better, as when I originally watched them I got annoyed with the ads for Crackle and things like the Michael Richards as the Crackle President in Season 5, which they have taken out here. Some are illuminating, like the Jim Carrey episode where he kind of comes off as a little nuts, but frankly I wouldn't be surprised to hear one day that he killed himself. Is that mean? I learned about apartheid from Trevor Noah. They pretty much are all enjoyable, there isn't a bad one…which, I mean, they're only 15 minutes…how can you spend hours with these funny people and NOT have at least 15 minutes of good stuff? The most disappointing was Kristen Wiig, which isn't to say it's bad but it's just not as good as the others. Christoph Waltz is probably the worst cause…well, it's just an odd choice. And it's as if Waltz knew that. John Oliver, Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell, Ricky Gervais are all hilarious. Sarah Jessica Parker is a delight, as is Tina Fey, like they are people you'd want to be friends with. It's fun watching Seinfeld try to drive a tour bus and then a semi-truck in the Aziz episode, then him and Chris Rock getting pulled over for speeding. Watching the Michael Richards episode is moving, with him reflecting on the night he went nuts at a comedy club and how it's haunted him since. That episode and the Julia Louis-Dreyfus episode are awesome cause it's just old friends reminiscing. The biggest surprise was the Ali Wentworth episode, as it's similar to the Seinfeld reunion shows in that they are old friends and you seem like a fly on the wall to a very cool dinner party with the funniest people on the planet. The shortest episode is Joel Hodgson episode at 11 minutes, and while it's very funny, you wonder at times "Is Joel okay?" The funniest episode (and longest at 22 minutes) is probably the Norm Macdonald episode where it's just a laugh a second. Seeing Seinfeld interview Barack Obama was tremendous. But the one I loved the most, though, was the one with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. These two comedy legends are a treasure, as it starts with Reiner but Seinfeld ends up invited to their nightly dinner at Reiner's house. Brooks then takes over and never stops talking while Reiner serves the food. You can tell Reiner has heard these stories a million times but loves Brooks, plus you can tell Seinfeld is having the time of his life as if comes across on screen. Same goes for the Don Rickles episode, but to a little lesser extent. And of course you get to know Seinfeld alot too. He's a prickly pear at times, they kind of guy who will stop and take a picture with fans and then as soon as the fans are gone he'll make fun of them. The most telling quote from him was as he's walking down the street, someone screams out of joy, he waves at them, says hello, then says "I hate that sound. The high pitched squeal is the sound of dumbness". But yet somehow he's still really likeable, probably because he's basically found a dream job and gets to do fun stuff that doesn't really involved too much work. And of course, he's really funny too. So I look forward to watching all the other episodes at some point. *Smokers report: None.
January 20th - THE POST (2017)
So, here's the prequel to "All the President's Men". No really, watch the film and then you'll want to run home and put in a copy of that movie right away. As far as I can tell (having only done about thirty minutes of research since coming home from watching this film in the local theatre), only one character carries over between the two and that's Ben Bradlee, who is played by Tom Hanks here and Jason Robards in "ATPM". How's this for an interesting sidebar. I was about to write "In the year in between the court case and the Watergate break in (aka the year in between the end of "The Post" and the beginning of "ATPM"), Bradlee seems to have aged about ten years!" But then I looked it up…Robards, when he played Bradlee in ATPM, he was 54 and when Hanks played Bradlee, he was 60…so that's weird, eh? In other words, Tom Hanks is a wizard!!! BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS FILM? So it's about THE POST aka The Washington Post (which is headquartered in New York, btw, not Washington), and it's team of reporters, headed by Bradlee, and also the rich owner of the paper, Katherine Graham, played by Meryl Streep and the conflict of whether or not to print leaked classified documents. And also President Nixon's attempts to stifle the "freedom of the press". And protests…lots of protests. See any modern day parallels? The only things that are different then to now are that the US isn't in a full-on war like with Vietnam (at least not yet) and that a white woman comes out the hero (whereas today white women are THE REASON this is all happening, according to some). And this is a very pro-women film, painting Streep's character as someone to admire and look up to, putting literally everything on the line to "do the right thing". Plus all this big moments, where John Williams score really kicks in and the camera slowly (but not at all subtly) moves in for a close up, all those moments are big speeches by women. Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon (from the 3rd season of Fargo) and even the wonderful Alison Brie gets a moment to shine (Paulson is even third billed, which I thought was weird, but good for her agent). Which is very cool and probably a tradeoff, since otherwise the movie is all (white) dudes and Streep. Deirdre Lovejoy from The Wire, as Hanks' secretary, didn't get much to do, so maybe there was something cut from the film. I haven't seen much about this online, which is funny how a movie with Hanks and Streep, directed by Steven Spielberg, isn't getting much buzz. And there is an all-star cast here. From Bradley Whitford (in another one of his cringe-inducing roles), Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys (and his haircut) from The Americans, Michael Stuhlbrg and Jesse Plemons (apparently Spielberg is a fan of the Fargo TV show and Breaking Bad), but the coolest thing to me was the Mr. Show reunion of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, minus any comedy whatsoever. Odenkirk is given the third biggest role and does well, although his character looks like he's dying of cancer most of the time (PS he's not, he just looks like that). This movie does want me to re-watch All The President's Men, but also the Robert McNamara documentary "The Fog of War", and also another 2017 movie "Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House" starring Liam Neeson which prior to this I didn't know about. It's very cool how they used Nixon's actual voice in the actual recordings from the White House. I did see one criticism of the film in that it glosses over The NY Times's efforts to also report this story, which I respond to by saying "The movie is called "The Post"…not "The Times". So after saying all that, was this a great film? Well, I guess so…it has all the ingredients for a great movie. Maybe I'm just an old cynic now, but I remember getting goosebumps watching ATPM for the first time, or even The Fog of War doc. The only real eye opener to me was that the movie slammed JFK, and actually said that Nixon was just going along with what JFK and JBJ started, and that the "embarrassment of losing a war" was the reason the Vietnam War was still going on and all those American soldiers were dying. Usually in a liberal Hollywood movie, JFK is portrayed as a paragon of virtue who practically walked on water, along with Martin Luther King Jr., and not portrayed as a human with flaws. Also, one minor detail, is that as the movie's storyline is happening, the Vietnam War was still going on (and wouldn't end until 1975, approximately four years after this movie takes place) it took me about 3/4 of the movie to realize that. I think that would have given it more "oomph" if that was hit harder. I mean, is the movie about freedom of the press or stopping the Vietnam War? Looking back, the first scene of the movie in Vietnam War seems tacked on in post production cause they focus grouped the movie and after they were like "Oh, was that about Vietnam?" The biggest thing early on in the film, before the "papers" are even mentioned, is Nixon's daughter's wedding. I don't consider myself a history buff, but I know stuff, but I can only imagine today's generation watching this and not knowing what's going on, really. But maybe the that's the point. I might watch this again when it's on free cable, and it's something for sure to include if you are doing a "Nixon years" movie marathon, but even then it would be down on the list of importance with other movies like ATPM, Apokalypse Now, Nixon, etc. (although now that I think of if I'm not sure I've ever sat through all of "Dick", so that review is coming soon!). This probably sounds like a negative review, but I did enjoy it, but I just can't say it moved me like other movies with similar subjects. And the Spielberg-haters will probably have a field day with this, saying he puts a semi-gloss sheen over the whole situation. I think viewers will like Streep's character transformation, who goes from a mousey quiet yet powerful woman who no one thinks is qualified for her job (Whitford's character early on rips her apart to others knowing full well she's three feet away…I wanted him fired!) to someone who finds her voice and stands up for herself and for what's right. I just have to wonder if it's Much Ado About Nothing. But I say go see it…or not. Whatever. *Smokers Report: Yes, lots of smoking. Who smoke more in movies, writers or poker players? Tom Hanks even smokes here, which I think is the first time he's smoked onscreen (I saw him on Broadway in "Lucky Guy" where he smoked like a chimney) so it wasn't a surprise for me but other might think it's weird seeing Mr Nice Guy Hanks with a cigarette. Or I'm just weird. That's totally possible.
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...