With work being a bit more low-key leading into the holidays (meaning more time at home as opposed to being on the road 24/7), it occured to me that I could do another Movie-A-Day Blog. I did two previously, in July 2017 and August 2017 so here we are again!
What's the purpose of doing this? Well, after being on the road for a few months, my DVR is packed full and I need reasons to go in and check them off. Also, why not just enjoy watching movies while I can?
A few rules, which usually get broken...must be a movie I've never seen before...although in extreme cases, I can substitute movies I have already seen, as will happen immediately with the 1st movie of the month...just cause...
1- Thor: Ragnarok
2- Robin Hood
3- The Children's Hour
5- A Challenge for Robin Hood
6- And Justice for All
8- Battle of the Sexes
9- Across the Pacific
11- White Nights
12- Keeping Up With the Jonses
13- Absence of Malice
14- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
15- Throw Momma From the Train
16- Around the World in 80 Days
18- The Bishop's Wife
19- Winter's Bone
20- Postcards From the Edge
21- The Sound of Music
22- Jumanji; Welcome to the Jungle
24- A Nightmare Before Christmas
28- John Wick Chapter 2
29- Wind River
30- The Preacher's Wife
31- A Christmas Story
December 31st - A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)
So I finally watched it. This movie that I'd never heard of until I was an adult, when I was TOLD it was a all-time classic, and I heard things like "You'll put your eye out!" and how people wanted a Red Rider BB Gun...in fact as I watched this film I realised I knew most of it already without ever actually seeing it. The part at the breakfast table where Ralphie tries to casually drop hints about what he wants for Christmas, I have seen taht scene so many times already. When the kid gets his tongue stuck...seen it before. The "Fragile" scene...seen it...and laughed again, cause that's just funny. It's funny seeing Melinda Dillon as the mom, as she was in "Absense of Malice", which I reviewed earlier, and won an Oscar for that, and was also the mom in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", and I think the scene where Ralphie's brother plays with his food is an homage to that, or whatever. The Santa's lap scene, the leg-lamp, the bunny suit...I've admired some of Bob Clark's work…and by that I mean I saw Black Christmas in Film School and thought it was great, which is something coming from a person who hates slasher/horror movies. Although I had no idea he directed "Loose Cannons", a movie I loved as a kid but have no idea if it holds up, as well as Rhinestone and Baby Geniuses. But what about this movie? Geez that Ralphie kid cries alot. Melinda Dillon seems like a cool mom and that she's having a legit good time in a few scenes, in particular the Chinese food scene, which is a huge departure from her Absense of Malice role where I don't think she smiled once. This movie is as straight forward as a movie can be. It's about Ralphie getting a specific toy for Christmas and then Christmas comes and the movie is over. And I don't mean that in a bad way. This is a charming funny movie and I'm glad to have finally watched it. In a side note, I remember getting my tongue stuck in the winter...TWICE! The first time I was going for a taste of snow and missed and my tongue got stuck on a steel bar. I was a little kid, and I don't know where my parents were (I think we were going to church that morning), but suddenly I'm stuck and freaking out. Along comes two very old ladies with grey hairs and they basically try to "help me" by yanking on me until me and my tongue are ripped off the bar, and my tongue is bleeding everywhere. I eventually heal and then I remember wanting to do it again. Why? Well, I wasn't sure if that first time was a fluke, so I had to try it again. Duh. Although this time, a smart person came along, calmed me down and told me to get some saliva from my mouth onto my tongue and onto the steel bar. As soon as the saliva hit the bar, I was free! My tongue was still sore, but it wasn't bleeding. Where was I going with this? I can't remember. Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR! *Smokers report: None
December 30th - THE PREACHER'S WIFE (1996)
Earlier I reviewed "The Bishop's Wife" with Cary Grant and David Niven, knowing that this was a remake and wondered if Denzel Washington could walk in the shoes of Grant. Well, there are many things Denzel, as an actor, can do very well, better than most other actors alive today, in fact. But, unfortunately, he's not as charismatic nor as charming as Cary Grant. But then again, who is/was? And with his bright toothy smile, Denzel, as Dudley the Angel, gets pretty darn close. Of course it's unfair to, while reviewing movies, to compare one to another. That being said, let's do just that. The original had a simpler plot. The Bishop felt that his purpose was to build a huge church as a monument to God, but was having troubles getting a misery old lady in town to give him the money without conditions and compromises. While running around, trying to make this woman happy, The Bishop loses sight of his duties as a father and a husband. In this movie, I guess they try to modernise it and bring in topical subjects, like a legal system that is unfair to black people, and how poor neighborhoods rely on the church not just for a place to go on Sunday morning, but for food and clothing as well. But by doing that, it complicates things and Whitney Houston's character, the wife, comes off badly for it. Literally in one scene, as Denzel and Whitney go to a nightclub for fun and dancing, The Preacher (the great Courtney B. Vance) is helping give out food to the homeless. This happens in a bunch of scenes, and then after, Whitney gives Vance grief for doing these charitable things instead of going shopping, or skating, or whatever. It makes her look really bad. In one scene, she gives Vance grief cause he couldn't get a young black boy out of jail. What exactly was she expecting? She's mad at him for DOING HIS JOB! And the subplot with the angel, Denzel, falling for Whitney is underwhelming. In fact, it all kind of fizzles out at the end, as Vance has a big revelation, but from what I saw, it wasn't from anything Denzel did or said to him. He just got in the way. Gregory Hines, Lionel Ritchie, Jenifer Lewis and the rest of the cast are great, and sure the little kid was cute. There were alot of things that didn't add up to me, like why was the final sermon televised, with cameras, boom mics and teleprompters? And why did the judge let the boy out or prison, when really she should have put The Preacher in jail for contempt of court? Was Denzel's big influence really on Whitney, giving her the confidence to go onstage as part of the pageant? It seemed like her character was supposed to be shy, hiding her amazing singing voice, but I'm only guessing that's why she made such a fuss about not wanting to sing in the club. If that's the case, it wasn't hit hard enough by the director, Penny Marshall. This movie was apparently horrible to film, taking three extra months to film, with Houston acting like a diva and there were many accidents, some leading to deaths. But what about the film? There was enough charm to go around, but this movie was a bit of a let down unfortunately. In the original, Cary Grant was supposed to play the Bishop, but the angel was the better part. Here, Denzel should have played The Preacher, cause it was definately the better role. And it goes to show how talented Whitney Houston was as a singer, and how it was all wasted by her drug use, which was apparently in full effect around the time she worked on this film. Her acting isn't great, but when she sings, she seems to be the angel, not Denzel. *Smokers Report: Jenifer Lewis, who plays the mother in law, smokes in many scenes, but there is a definite anti-smoking message.
December 29th - WIND RIVER (2017)
As you scroll through this list, you'll notice I've been watching 2017 movies lately to get caught up on my list of movies I "should have seen" in 2017. Alot are showing up on cable and On Demand, so it's time to watch. This movie is one in particular that I've meant to watch in the theatre, and with all the travel involved in my job, I get to go to alot of cities with second run "cheap" theatres, so I admit I have had more than a few chances to see this, but for whatever reason it just never worked out. I'd heard good things about this, specifically on Rotten Tomatoes, which has it's share of controversy lately. For the record, I only use RT when it comes to deciding between six or more movies in theatres, and I don't know much about any of them. But even after hearing good things about this movie, I still never quite felt that overwhelming pull to leave the warm hotel room and go out in public. But I should have. This was a great film. I actually ahd no idea it was made by Taylor Sheridan, who made "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water". If I had, it may have swayed the film into the "worthy of leaving the warm hotel" column. One thing I had heard was that this film was another one of those "white savior" movies, like "A Time to Kill" or "Amistad", where a white dude comes along to save poor minorities from other evil white people. Actually "Amistad" has two white people as saviours, and so does this movie. But that's politics and as stated in an earlier review, we've got our brain turned off and just want to enjoy a movie, right? Well, sure, but I couldn't help notice Harvey Weinstein's name in the credits, when I had heard his name would be taken out. Maybe that's just for the Blu-Ray/DVD? But what about this film? It's a 2017 film so no spoilers, but both Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are great, as is Graham Green and the other Native American actors involved. Also good to see Hugh Dillon, a good Canadian boy, in the film too. That made me assume it was shot in Canada but it wasn't. It's a mystery movie, so it's hard to talk to much about the film without spoiling anything, so I'm stalling. But I will say that anything that calls attention to the horrible treatment that Native American women receive is definately welcomed. Although by saying that...SPOILERS! A great movie, watch it! *Smokers Report: None that I saw.
December 28th - JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017)
I reviewed Part one of this series on one of my previous blogs. I liked it for what it was. A shoot em up with style. This movie picks up where the last one left off, with lots of shoot shoot bang bang and choreographed fight scenes which were fine. But as the movie progresses, you get more and more into the world of John Wick that was only hinted at in the first film. You see the professionalism, the rules, the "gentlemanly conduct" so to speak that this world strictly adheres to. So when Wick does what he does in THAT scene, you know what he's done and how he's screwed himself big time, but you also understand that's how his character reacts to being pushed. And how that all leads to the third film where the stakes will be huge, making the first film and it's motivations (a dead dog and a stolen car) look quaint by comparison. As with 2017 films, I try to adhere to rules myself and don't want to reveal too many spoilers. So I'll say how I liked seeing Ruby Rose here and I'd like to see a movie that challenges her more. Ian McShane is always a pleasure to watch onscreen and with how the movie ends, sends shivers down the spine. Even "splainy" scenes are interesting, like when Wick goes to the assassin tailor who explains they have kevlar fabric now, so his coat will stop bullets but the process will be incredibly painful. So later when Wick is hit by the occasional bullet and he flinches, we understand why. And there has to be a website where they list all the kills Wick performs in this film. Normally I don't like these movies, as I do subscribe to the theory that all that "killing" leads to desensitization, but these movies are so stylish and over the top that I have to appreciate the craftmanship involved. And of course part of the appeal of the movie was seeing Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne reunite onscreen. I have to assume this will lead to Carrie Ann Moss appearing in the 3rd film of the trilogy? I hope so. This movie reminded me of another Reeves film, Speed, where there were three big action sequences and each got bigger, with higher stakes, as the movie progressed. The big scenes towards the end of the movie, one in a subway and one in a museum, are tremendous. Anyway, this movie exceeded my expectations, is better in my opinion than the first movie and I look forward to the next one. Highly recommended. *Smokers Report: Some henchmen smoke but that's all I remember.
December 27th - CHIPS (2017)
***I realise now that, despite the random nature of how I pick movies for this blog, I should have planned ahead and watched "Postcards From the Edge" today, to honor Carrie Fisher. RIP General Organa
After so much holiday cheer, I felt like a "dumb" movie to relax with. And this is as I thought it was...dumb. I like Dax Shepard, how he started as a guy on Punk'd and has worked his way up the system...jealous of him cause he's married to Kristen Bell sure, and the fact he was allowed by Warner Bros. to write and direct a remake of a potentially successful franchise (like 21 Jump Street, for example) is, at first, gives me a "good for him" kinda feeling. But then I saw the movie. There's nothing really terrible, per se, about it. There are alot of beautiful women in it (like Bell, and two actresses I'd never heard of before, Rosa Salazar and Jessica McNamee, who reminds me of a young Kylie Minogue - she's even from Australia) but there is alot of talk about the "hotness" of women, ranking women on a scale of ten, even with one scene with a group of women agreeing they aren't attractive...I felt uncomfortable watching those scenes. If the women are putting themselves down, does that make it okay? I was shocked to see a bare breast in the first scene of the film, not that it was ever something that happened in every movie, but having that and two other scenes with breasts in them and being surprised by it probably says more about the kinds of movies I watch. It was fun seeing Adam Brody, Jane Kaczmarek and Veronica Mars alum Ryan Hansen on screen (although there was a scene missing at the end showing "Ponch" and Kaczmarek's character Lindel hooking up). Michael Pena is one of the great actors of this generation, and he is tremendous in everything, recently killing it in "Ant-Man", "The Martian" and other films. If I was another person, I would point out that it's funny a guy like Shepard, who has written and directed on other movie, "Hit and Run" which wasn't exactly a hit, was given this franchise to play with, whereas someone like Patty Jenkins had to wait 14 years in between directing movies, even after the first one won an Oscar. But who wants to deal with all that? It's the holidays, brains turned off dammit! But what about the film? On the action movie scale, where Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Speed, Point Break are the best...this is no where near that. If my brain was turned on, I might have been offended by some of the scenes mentioned above, but since my brain was off, the movie was just a silly way to spend a few hours. Watch it, don't watch it...whatever. *Smokers Report: Boobs, but no smoking. Today's R rated film...
December 26th - JUMANJI (1995)
So, this came on cable and I figured this was as good a time as any to finally sit down and watch the original Jumani, having just seen the "sequel" in the theatre a few days ago. It's funny how, I guess cynically, I think I know all the beats to movies these days. The opening few scenes explain who the main character is, Alan Parrish, how he gets stuck in the Jumanji board game, then the next fifteen minutes of the movie set up the "modern" storyline, with Kirsten Dunst and her brother moving into the abandoned Parrish house, and then eventually they find Jumanji...etc. Then Robin Williams shows up and the movie can actually start. Weird things happen, and so then Williams, Dunst and the boy settle into this rhythm where a board game has deadly consequences and it's all kinda not that big of a deal. Until Bonnie Hunt shows up and she's freaked out and it's like "Finally someone gets it!". I thought it would be fun to see Williams in action again, but Williams is deadly serious here, like "Insomnia" serious, almost as if he's trying to ditch his "funny guy act" here. I guess it worked, as he got alot more dramatic roles after this, like Good Will Hunting and his Oscar win. There is a dated "crazy postal worker" joke. The CGI is pretty terrible, and not just in a "compared to 2017" way. And the biggest question I have, after seeing the sequel, is the physics of what happens to players who go into the game and then come back out. So Alan goes in as a kid and comes out 26 years later in modern times. But in the sequel *SPOILERS* Nick Jonas goes in, is in for twenty years, and when he comes out, he goes back to being a kid and history is changed. What's up with that? That's what I'm thinking as I watch it, but by then end, I guess it all makes sense with what happens to Williams and Hunt's characters after they win the game...I guess. The middle part, or basically anything with the hunter guy, drags the movie to a halt. Bonnie Hunt is a treasure who is grossly underused these days (in fact, I had to Google her just now to make sure she's still alive). Dunst's acting consists of making her eyes bigger and smaller alternately (not a criticism, she's just a kid here, just an observation) and Bebe Neuwirth is always a treat to see on screen, although she doesn't have much to do here. The film, once it focuses on the game itself, is very charming and fun. But it does seem like a 75 minute movie stuffed into a 104 minute bag. I liked it, but like other movies I've been watching lately, I'm not sure I'll ever watch it again. But I will remember it fondly. Sidenote: doing research for this makes me realise that apparently Robin Williams died in 2014...it seems like a decade at least, not three years...it has always seemed like a little piece of the world went with him too... *Smokers Report: The dad in the movie smokes a pipe.
December 25th - GREMLINS (1984)
First of all MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ONE AND ALL! I hope everyone had a great day and got spoiled with lots of presents! I was going to finally, after all these years, watch "A Christmas Story", but shockingly, it was no where to be found! I could have watched it on demand for $5.99 or on YouTube for $3.99, but then I saw Gremlins was on cable for free, so maybe next year! Funny after there being years where TBS would show ACS for 24 hours straight and I never watched it then, and now I want to watch it and...oh well. Just something about that movie never appealed to me. But what about this film? This recently came up in a Twitter debate about Christmas movies...one person was giving the usual "Die Hard is the best Christmas movie" schpeel, and other people responded with their picks, with this movie being one of the most identified as a "real" Christmas movie. I have no one in this fight, but this made me realise this was another movie I hadn't seen. So here we are. It is charming, for sure. First, of the three rules you have to follow if you own a "mogwai"; the first rule, no bright lights, is fine I guess. The second rule, don't get it wet...how do you avoid getting anything wet? And how does it survive if it can't even drink water? Does it self-hydrate somehow? And the third rule...no food after midnight...which midnight? Is that midnight Pacific time? Eastern time? Gizmo starts out in China so is it midnight there? Or was it just a generic Chinatown in a big city and is it in the same timezone? Fun to see a young Judge Reinhold, young Jonathan Banks (who I just put together was the "bruiser" guy in Beverly Hills Cop...small world!) and a kid sized Corey Feldman...and Phoebe Cates! Wow! And fun to see at the "inventor's convention" they have the original "time machine" and Robbie the Robot walking around, reciting his lines from "Forbidden Planet". This is supposidely a fun family holiday movie but there are some really gross things in it, like when one of the Gremlins blends itself. It's trying to be an homage to both holiday movies and horror movies at the same time, as evident by the fact Billy is fan of old horror movies and they show clips of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and other films throughout. It's fun how they make it out like these Gremlins are the same Gremlins that people talk about causing fighters to go down in WWII (presumably the same gremlin that William Shatner saw on the wing of the airplane in that Twilight Zone episode). Oddly, while the Gremlins are kinda scary at first, they become entertaining, like killing the mean old lady while dressed up as evil carollers, flying around while holding onto a ceiling fan or playing with hand puppets...are we supposed to root for them or the boring Billy? The movie seems over produced at points, with every car frosted over to the most extreme by the fakest snow I think I've ever seen (it's weird some of the things you notice watching movies sometimes). The montage in the bar is fun at first but goes on way too long, with Phoebe Cates(!) taking out more of the Gremlins all by herself than Billy and the cops together. I mean, he needs help from Cates, Gizmo, Barney the Dog...just to take out one Gremlin...But then Cates has her big monologue of how her Dad died...are we supposed to laugh or cry? In the end, I guess the cause for the Gremlin's demise is apathy. Did they want to take over the town? Or the world? No they just wanted to watch a movie and that's what killed them. Is there a message there? I hope not...but this was fun to watch...plus there is a fun "War of the Worlds" reference! *Smokers Report: Yes...not a ton but they are there.
December 24th - THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)
Yup. Another "all-time classic" that I've never seen. I've never really been a big fan of Tim Burton's work. Other than Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood (which I loved), I've always thought Burton's work was a little too dark and weird for me. Even his "Batman" was off to me (and don't even mention Batman Returns). So what do I think now that I have watched this film? Other than it being a little slow in the middle, both the beginning and the end were tremendous. In fact, the beginning was so good that even if the rest of the film had fallen off a cliff, I still would have enjoyed it. With the songs "This is Halloween" and "What is This?" I loved the beginning. I was surprised to hear that Danny Elfman himself was Jack Skellington's singing voice. I really enjoyed this and it might become a new Christmas tradition, like Dr. Who and a Harry Potter marathon! *Smokers Report: N/A
December 23rd - KILLSHOT (2009)
I bought this DVD years ago, based on the fact it was, well, based on an Elmore Leonard novel. And I'd heard it was better than it's straight-to-DVD fate. And the cast...Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Thomas Jane, Rosario Dawson, Hal Holbrook...directed by John Madden. Is this really so bad? And, at least the first part of the movie, is set in Canada! How could it go wrong? Well, Rourke plays a Native American. A Native American who's had alot of face lifts, apparently. Gordon-Levitt is one of my favourite actors, but here he's unhinged and with a weird accent. Even Diane Lane seems off. Dawson is good but not enough of a factor to make it good or bad. Thomas Jane is the only one who seems to be actually in a real movie, but even his performance is...weird. In a movie full of weird. And the dialogue is weak. Lane's character is seemingly nuts even before the movie starts, and Jane is too relaxed for someone being chased by the mob. Their marriage is the central relationship in the movie, and it's weird too. They have separated, and Jane wants to fight to stay together, but we don't know anything about why they split or why they'd want to get back together...why are they fighting? Why are they not getting back together? Did they just fall out of love? If so, sure that happens in real life, but this is a movie, dammit! It all builds up to a big dramatic face off, guns going off, blood everywhere...and it tries to be different with lots of talking and double-crossing and should-be-tense moments, but it doesn't really add up to much. Apparently a whole subplot with Johnnie Knoxville was edited out to make things make more sense and flow better, but it still has it's problems. Skippable film in my opinion. *Smokers Report: Rourke smokes in the film but that's all I can remember, so it' s minimal.
December 22nd - JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (2017)
As I sat in the theatre to watch this movie (a half empty theatre, which wasn't a good sign for the movie's box office this week vs. Star Wars), I realised "Crap, I should have watched the original Jumanji first." That's right, I have never seen the original Jumanji. But then I realised, wait...it's Jumanji. I saw the trailer, I think I got the gist. I tried to have low expectations (I do this for most movies, it just helps) and I was very happy with this movie. It's too long, but as I've discussed before, I think most movies are too long. And after seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, this movie seemed like it was shot like a TV movie by comparison, with TV level CGI too. Usually in a movie like this, everyone has a "role" and only one person gets to be "the funny one", but all four get to be funny here and all four have major moments of hilarity. The Rock and Kevin Hart should become the next big movie duo as their chemistry is amazing here, much better than their last movie "Central Intelligence". Jack Black is so funny, and most times would have stolen the show playing a shallow selfie-obsessed teenage girl trapped in a "middle-aged fat guy's body". And it was nice to see Rhys Darby. Nick Jonas is just kind of there, although I was actually surprised where they went with his character's storyline. But for most people the discovery will be Karen Gillan. I've been a fan of hers for awhile since she debuted as Amy Pond on Dr. Who and became smitten with her, but I never fully loved her character like Rose Tyler, for various reasons (I never liked how she treated Rory, for example). I felt bad for her, as it must not have been too fun having to look like that for all those months, wearing that outfit and being that skinny. But she steals the movie for me, both with her comedic timing and also by looking frigging amazing. I know that shouldn't be a factor in reviewing a film, but I can't help it. Karen Gillan is gorgeous and right now is right at the top of my celebrity crush list along with Daisy Ridley. This is a fun movie for sure, alot better than I thought it would be. Highly recommended. *Smokers Report: Nope
December 21st - THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
I think, technically I've seen this movie...it's one of those movies I probably saw as a kid but never revisited, unlike "It's a Wonderful Life", which I've watched many times as an adult. This movie just never came up, I guess. Despite it being shown all the times during the holidays. Anyway, I had no idea the movie started with THAT song, and leads into lots of other songs. THIS is a musical. Holy crap Christopher Plummer is young here. And even WITH grey streaks in his hair. And another movie I can describe as "epic". Alot happens here. The movie goes on so long a war breaks out. That's a long movie! I foolishly watched it WITH commercials, and it took over four hours to watch! Despite that, it did move quickly from plot point to plot point. Julie Andrews is a nun, goes to live with the Van Trapps, the kids are jerks, but they all fall in love with her two scenes later, there is a montage of them learning to sing, Plummer very quickly goes from jerk to softie (which I liked, don't get me wrong), Andrews leaves but then returns, they get married, the Nazis take over, the family wins a singing competition, they escape through the hills...this movie is a movie and a half, like a movie plus it's own sequel. The only thing missing is a bit where Uncle Max organizes a tour for them across America and they become hugely popular. Although that apparently was a thing. You learn alot on the movie's Wikipedia page. Like that this movie was shot on a Todd-AO 70 mm camera, just like Around the World in 80 Days that I reviewed earlier. Another thing I learned was that this family's real life was totally different than the movie version, although I guess that can be expected from Hollywood. It just made me think...What if someone made a movie about my family one day and it changed facts, consolidated characters, turned a jerk into a saint...how would that make me feel? Would I spend my life with people coming up to me, saying they saw the movie but I'd have to tell them "Well, that stuff didn't really happen that way..." I wasn't really surprised to learn that this movie won Best Picture, but I was surprised that this was the biggest box office movie of all time for awhile. But what about the film? I loved it! The kids were cute, Julie Andrews was a delight, Plummer was scary cold but then also has a great smile. I would love to watch it again sometime...when I had lots of time to spare, of course. Great film, highly recommended! *Smokers Report: None.
December 20th - POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE (1990)
I've been thinking alot about Carrie Fisher lately, both because of The Last Jedi and because it's coming up on the one year anniversary of her and her mother's tragic deaths. Supposidely this movie is about them, written by Fisher and assumed by most to be about her and Debbie Reynolds. I bought this Blu-Ray a while back and I've been wanting to watch this but now I'm glad I didn't and I could watch it for this. Carrie Fisher, of course, isn't really a space princess/warrior general. But she is Hollywood royalty who was a good actress, a better comedienne and a great writer. And that writing leads us to this movie. I remember the trailer from this film from back in the day, with the line about MacClaine's skirt twirling up, and Streep hanging off the side of the building and shrugging. I still remember seeing that, this was back before DVD special features and everyone knew about how movies worked. At one point a house "drives off" behind Dennis Quaid as they are on a movie set, and back in 1990 that must have been...well mind blowing is probably an overstatement, but it was interesting. This is an amazing cast, beyond the two stars and Quaid, there is Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner, Annette Benning and young versions of CCH Pounder and Oliver Platt, directed by legend Mike Nichols. And of course all the gossip around this movie was regarding speculation that Streep and MacLaine were just playing movie versions of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, which both have denied over the years, with Fisher saying that would assume she had no creativity and just a tape recorder. Although of course in the biggest irony, Debbie Reynolds auditioned for the MacLaine role but Nichols turned her down, saying she "wasn't right for the part". This doesn't necessarily age well, as it's supposidely about addiction but not really, and after watching movies like Leaving Las Vegas, the treatment of addiction and it's struggles are a bit underwhelming. But other than that, there is nothing wrong with the film and the cast is tremendous. And if you want to actually know more about Fisher and Reynolds relationship, watch the documentary "Bright Lights". Fisher will be remembered for many reasons, as she should be. Both her and her mother were legends and the world is lesser without them around, as even Reynolds has recently had a career resurgence, so to speak, thanks to TCM. It's been a year since they left us, Carrie first and Debbie the next day, her family saying it was due to a broken heart and not wanting to live in a world without Carrie. Despite never actually meeting Carrie Fisher, I can kinda understand that. RIP. *Smokers Report: Most of the cast smokes, which since it was filmed in the eighties and it's about Hollywood, it fits.
December 19th - WINTER'S BONE (2010)
Has it only been seven years (well, almost eight) since JLAW became a thing? Will our grandkids ask us one day "Daddy, where were you the day you discovered JLaw?" That probably won't happen, but I do remember (kinda) when I discovered who this Jennifer Lawrence person was. I had heard her name announced as an Oscar nominee, for some movie called "Winter's Bone", along with John Hawkes (who I did know), but never really had a desire to see the film, or desire to figure out who this new blonde girl that was Hollywood's "It girl" of the year/month/moment was. I remember looking at pictures from the red carpet of that year's Oscars and seeing all the glammed up "stars", desperate for attention and wearing gowns and smiling away. But then I saw a picture of Jennifer Lawrence, dressed in a basic red dress, smiling sure but it was a forced smile, and I remember thinking, "Who is this?" As has been analysed to death in the years since, she had a kind of down-home, girl next door quality that immediately made me like her. I remember the phrase "Breath of fresh air" being said alot. And of course in the seven years, she has gone from being super popular to receiving the inevitable backlash after a few bad films and just the good ol' "We are so over her" social media pendulum swing from the public at large, the same public at large who embraced and put her on the pedestal in the first place. But what about this movie? It seemed like a depressing, albeit well made film, but depressing is something I have to work up to. So here we are seven years later. I owned the DVD, so I wanted to see it at some point, as why did I buy it in the first place? But I obviously wasn't in a hurry. JLaw, or more appropriately in this role, she is just plain Jennifer Lawrence, does a spectacular job being the main actor in every scene, carrying this role on her back, much like her character carries her family on her back. It's about a world I don't know much about (the drug producing Ozarks with it's backwater mafia) so that in itself was fascinating. And the movie contains a bit of a mystery too which is always fun. In fact I don't want to go into too many details cause it will ruin the suspense. The best parts of the film are really Lawrence spending time with her younger siblings, teaching them how to shoot a gun, hunt and skin a rabbit, and later take care of some baby chicks, including some stuff I'm sure was just them improvising (or in the kid's case, just being themselves). Lawrence deserved all the praise she got for this role, and I'm not sure she's done as well since. Sure she won the Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, and I did like that movie (getting past the obvious problems, like no one as pretty as her and Bradley Cooper have that many problems, right?) but actors don't usually win Oscars for the roles they got nominated for, they win for roles they SHOULD HAVE won for. Blah Blah aside, this is a great film. I should have watched it sooner. And Jennifer Lawrence is legit...although I admit I'm late to the party here...now I guess I have to get the DVD's for all the seasons of "The Bill Engvall Show", to see if she was robbed of an Emmy for her role as "teenage daughter"... *Smokers report: Hawkes always seems to have a smoke in his mouth or hand, but that's about it.
December 18th - THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947)
Another David Niven movie, although I picked this cause I'm a big Cary Grant fan, actually. This is the first of more than a few holiday movies I'll be watching and reviewing here...tis the season after all. I am kinda surprised to find out this was nominated for Best Picture and a bunch of other Oscars. And originally, Cary Grant was cast as the bishop but wanted to switch roles and since he was the bigger star, he got to play the angel. So he didn't have to flip a coin to switch roles like he did with Douglas Fairbanks on "Gunga Din". Also in this movie is Citizen Kane's mom and little Zuzu from "It's a Wonderful Life", one year older. So the story of the movie is David Niven prays for help, a guys shows up, says he's an angel there to help him, just like he asked, and the next day, Niven leaves this guy in the house with his wife and daughter. That would never happen! Plus this "angel" keeps spending alot of time with his wife. Does this movie make sense? No, but damn is Cary Grant alone makes this enjoyable. His smile (or is it a smirk?) and how his eyes light up when Niven is going nuts...now I know what the phrase "he smiled with his eyes" means. Or is that a phrase? Anyway, this movie is a charm-fest and lots of fun. The scene where Grant is on the floor telling Zuzu a story is fun. I actually felt jealous of little Zuzu, as I would have loved to have Grant look at me like that. I don't mean that in a pervy way...I just think it would be awesome to have Cary Grant tell me a story, that's all. And watching this kinda makes me want to watch "The Preacher's Wife" and see if Denzel Washington can possibly match up to Grant. *Smokers Report: Strange considering it's a Cary Grant movie, but it lacks any kind of smoking whatsoever...
December 17th - COCO (2017)
Another beautiful, amazing, gorgeous film from Pixar! Pixar had an incredible streak of movies that could claim to not only being the Best Animated Film of that year, but the best movie, period. My personal favourites have been Wall-E, Up and The Incredibles, with the Toy Story films, Ratatouille and Brave also being exceptional...Pixar got replaced with Marvel Studios as having one great film after another consistently. I am not a fan of the Monsters Inc., or the Cars movies, but even those aren't bad movies. Anyway, what about this movie? Something I love about Pixar is that they are willing to make movies about other cultures (cultures other than the typical white America, anyway) and have the confidence that they aren't making it for a niche audience; that if they make a great movie, people will come, even if the movie is about rats who live in Paris, of all places. This movie takes us into the Mexican culture, which probably isn't THAT much of a risk, as people have been saying Latino culture is the "next big thing" ever since 1999, and people are dumb if they don't acknowledge this. I loved the nods to Frida and of course, El Santo, the Luchador wrestler who was so famous, after his death they made up a holiday celebrating him. He's not Hulk Hogan big, he's like...is there an equivalent? Who gets holidays named after them? Martin Luther King Jr.? This is a strong movie about family, a great backdrop of Dia de Muertos aka the Day of the Dead and has great songs too! "Remember Me" should win lots of awards! Now I have a reason to watch that similarly themed animated film "The Book of Life". Highly recommended! Go see it! *Smokers Report: N/A
December 16th - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956)
I described Star Wars: The Last Jedi to a friend as "epic" and then I pick this movie randomly and it is also "epic". Starring David Niven, Shirley MacLaine and Cantinflas (who I had never heard of until this), this is as if a movie and one of those IMAX nature documentaries had a baby. Part scripted adventure, part travelogue, this features some beautiful cinematography and funny moments too, usually thanks to Cantinflas. At three hours long, including an intermission and a seven minute ends-credits sequence, this is the kind of movie people today might fidget through, but once I got into it, I admit it flowed over me and I enjoyed it alot. The "team" travels, off the top of my head, from London to France to Spain to India to Hong Kong to Japan to San Francisco to the Wild West then back home across the Atlantic. So didn't Australia, or Hawaii, or South America or Africa exist in 1956? I guess the point was to go around the globe, not hit every continent, although the bet was kind of vague. This movie was a mess of guest stars, with Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Buster Keaton, Peter Lorre, Cesar Romero, Red Skelton all showing up to wave at the camera. A full list is on the Wikipedia page. Also on the Wikipedia page is a description of the cameras they used, using 70mm film shot in Technicolour, that looked amazing but apparently forced them to shoot everything twice...I don't get it but take a read, maybe you will. It would be cool to watch this movie in IMAX or Cinerama, that's for sure. Cantinflas is a discovery here, apparently a huge Latin American star, who Charlie Chaplin admired, but I had never heard of him, like I said earlier. I was confused as I started watching it, as it included a prologue where Edward R. Murrow talks about the 1902 film A Trip to the Moon by George Melies, then shows a rocket being launched in "real life", then the film begins. It's weird, as I still have no idea why this is there, other than the fact Jules Verne is connected. But it was cool seeing Murrow nonetheless ("Good Night and Good Luck" is one of my all-time favourite films). If you have a lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing to do, take this in. *Smokers Report: Yes, but not much.
December 15th - THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN (1987)
This was really bad. So bad I barely got through it. In fact, I'm not totally sure that I did. I may have fallen asleep. Not sure how this happened. Danny DeVito, in his directorial debut, made a real stinker in my opinion. Between him and Billy Crystal, two legends, I'm not sure how this happened. But this was a commercial success, so what do I know? I have a hard time watching Anne Ramsey, and I was shocked to learn she was nominated for a Golden Globe for this. I mean, good for her, she was probably a nice lady in real life. She was good in The Goonies but had a far smaller role there. I've always had the image of DeVito nailing Crystal in the head with a frying pan in my head since I first saw the trailer back when I was a kid, but yet I've never actually watched the film until now. About the only fun I had was catching certain cameos in the film. Like how Crystal's writing class includes Philip Perlman, who plays "Phil", and also played "Phil" on Cheers and is also Rhea Perlman's dad in real life. Also in the class was J. Alan Thomas, who played Jeff on Taxi, DeVito's all time classic TV series. Rob Reiner shows up but I felt bad for Kim Greist, both her and her character. After being in Brazil and Manhunter, she deserved better. Not to mention the great Kate Mulgrew...but that's just my opinion. *Side note: is this where Crystal perfected the move where he rests his face/head on his hand on the movie poster? I can think of at least one other example, "Father's Day" with Robin Williams, where he did that, but there has to be others. When I think of Billy Crystal, I think of him like that. *Side note #2: I'm still looking for a way to watch "Running Scared", the buddy cop film starring Crystal and Gregory Hines... *Smoker's Report: I don't remember but it was in the 80's so there had to be, right?
December 14th - STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (2017)
Yup...I just saw THAT movie! And what can I say without spoiling it? Not much...if you believe the "evil" (or Dark Side) of the internet (aka Twitter), even me saying whether or not I liked this movie is considered a spoiler...so...I say...Go see this film! You probably will anyway, I doubt I will sway anyone this way or that...let's see...Rey aka Daisy Ridley is my new celebrity crush...I thought she was cool and badass before but now I'm just plain ol' smitten...Mark Hamill is a God among men, as after all these years of hearing him do other voices in cartoons (like being MY Joker), I had no idea hearing him talking in "Luke's voice" would mean so much to me...the movie was a great tribute to the late great Carrie Fisher...lots of cool fight sequences but you probably could have guessed that...okay, I'll say it, I loved this film! I have to go back and see it again (and again...and again...) but highly recommended! Only a franchise like Star Wars can make me feel like a kid again, and what they failed to do with the prequels they are doing in spades with Force Awakens, Rogue One and this film! Can't wait for Part Nine (and presumably Part Ten, cause...c'mon! How can they not?) Go see it! *Smokers Report: N/A
December 13th - ABSENCE OF MALICE (1981)
Starring Sally Field and Paul Newman and directed by Sydney Pollack. This movie was apparently about the responsibility of the press, but it seemed to get bogged down by the romance of Field and Newman. And it didn't really make sense either. In his review when it came out, Roger Ebert wrote about this film that the reporter Field is terrible and "no respectable journalist would ever do the things that Sally Field does to Paul Newman in this movie. She is a disgrace to her profession." But also said he liked the romance of the film and that the fact that Field is bad at her job probably won't matter to most viewers. Well it mattered to me. The whole plot is kicked off by her bad reporting and I guess it's necessary to kick the plot into gear, but I couldn't get past it. Plus how quickly Newman forgives Field for an even bigger mistake, although I guess later it turns out the ending lot twist negated that...but then I'm not sure that's what happened. And if if DID happen, then Field forgives Newman way too fast. Either way...It was nice to see Wilfred Brimley come in, kick ass and literally take names. But most of the rest of the film is kind of a mess. To me...*Fun Fact: By total coincidence, this movie is sold on DVD in a two-pack with And Justice For All, which I reviewed not that long ago...scroll down to see... *Smokers Report: Oh Yeah. It's about reporters and gangsters. Everyone smokes. I wonder if that was really the case or it's just a cliche that was just passed down generation to generation?
December 12th - KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES (2016)
This has GAL GADOT in it!!! WONDER WOMAN!!! Along with Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Patton Oswalt, Matt Walsh...a great concept, so why did it bomb? Well cause it's not very good...well, ten minutes in, Fisher suspects Hamm and Gadot of being spies and they reveal that, yes...they are spies. But no one believes her...cut to thirty minutes later...Zach and Isla break into Hamm and Gadot's house...he shoots her with a dart...wackiness ensues...blah blah. She follows Gadot to a change room in a mall and Gadot comes out wearing lingerie and that's a fun scene...although now that's like looking at Wonder Woman in lingerie and is that wrong??? Is that like looking at Mother Theresa in lingerie? So the movie is 2 hours long and it takes an hour before the scene from the trailer, with Hamm and Gadot yell at Zach and Isla to get in the car and Zach takes off without Isla, to happen. There are some funny lines here and in the ensuing car chase, but then it's back to blandsville. It's too bad as, like I said before, this is a fun concept with a great cast. Interesting tidbit: Rumours are that Ben Affleck is seeking a "graceful exist" from the DCU movies and Batfleck, and one of the rumoured choices to take over is Jon Hamm, which after seeing this film, with Hamm and Gadot's chemistry, that Hamm's Batman and Gadot's Wonder Woman would work well on screen together. Thinking about THAT movie got me through this one. *Smokers Report: Nope.
December 11th - WHITE NIGHTS (1985)
As with most of these films, this is one I've always heard about but just never watched. I always have had the image of stars Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing together in a studio, in tandem, both being amazing dancers. But I didn't know the context or anything about the film. For all I knew, they were American and Russian cops working a case who just happened to like dancing together when not fighting crime. From the poster, it looks like a martial arts film in the same vein as Rocky IV. Turns out this is about a ballet and tap dancer who become friends in Russia behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. The scenes where they dance together are tremendous, but the stuff in the middle drags, and it's a two and a half hour film! There is a lot of homoerotic undertones which is funny, along with their dancing that involves seemingly too many karate moves that I assumed would be used later on in a big fight scene but alas...Not to mention the unintentional comedy of the dramatic "yelling" scenes, usually with Hines over emoting. Fun to see young John Glover, Helen Mirren and Isabella Rossellini (with the "introducing" tag in front of her name), with Jerzy Skolimowski, who later played the Russian agent "interrogating" Black Widow in the 1st Avengers movie. And the movie is directed by Taylor Hackford, who met Mirren here and they ended up married. Mikhail was coming off being nominated for Best Supporting Actor for "The Turning Point", a movie that was nominated for ELEVEN Oscars, and despite that is a movie I've never heard of. Speaking of Oscars, "Say You, Say Me" by Lionel Ritchie is from this movie, and apparently it won the Oscar for Best Song that year, beating out another song from this film "Separate Lives" and "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis from Back to the Future (which FYI was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay and was ROBBED! ROBBED I SAY!). Also at the Oscars that year both Jon Voight and Eric Roberts were nominated for "Runaway Train", a movie I previously reviewed, so that's a neat connection. I'd say fast forward to the dance numbers, but that's crappy to say. Watch the movie, or don't. I have to track down that one movie "Running Scared" where Hines teams up with Billy Crystal of all people and they apparently are bad-ass Lethal Weapon style cops. Can't wait to see that one! *Smokers Report: Mikhail almost literally smokes every time he is on screen, as do alot of the "Russian" back ground actors.
December 10th - BENGAZI (1955)
I kept hearing this name "Bengazi" over and over again in this political climate, then as I was searching through the TCM schedule, I saw this movie listed, so that's really all I needed for a reason to watch it. The cast is fun, made up of stars of some of my favourite films. Richard Conte stars, who was in Ocean's 11 (the Sinatra version). Mala Powers was Roxanne in Jose Ferrer's version of Cyrano de Bergerac. Victor McLaglen was in Gunga Din. Early black and white Hollywood seemed obsessed with any movie concept that involved a desert...or treasure. And a treasure buried in a desert...BINGO! I remember lots of old Bugs Bunny cartoons (among others) where the main character would be lost in the desert, see water, run towards it, but the water is a mirage. I was waiting for the heroes in this movie to run into a mirage of their own. I was hoping this movie was a hidden gem that people say they find on TCM from time to time (and I have as well, I admit). The idea that I've heard of and seen all the classic movies on TCM is a depressing one for sure. I tend to record the same movies over and over that I know are great and I love (I currently have Casablanca on my DVR three times, eventhough I just saw it in theatres, not to mention having it on DVD, and will most likely delete them when push comes to shove) but the search for the elusive hidden gem in black and white continues. The synopsis of this film says "Three Shady characters hunt for Nazi Gold in the African Desert" but I read that after the movie, and that makes more sense, but still not alot. This movie is named "Bengazi" (spelled wrong, as it's "Benghazi") but I never once heard the word "Libya" or "Africa". They say "Tripoli" once. It's nothing like the aforementioned Casablanca, where you know why the characters ended up in a distant, foreign land, and why they have stayed there, and the circumstances where they would want to/have to leave. Here the characters are just there, want gold for no better reason than to get rich, and we don't get any motivations anywhere. Once they get the gold, then what? Why is there a CID officer stationed in Libya? Why is there Nazi Gold in Libya, or is there? It's never called that in the movie, just the synopsis. Why are the local "tribesmen" trying to kill our heroes? At one point a character sacrifices himself...but his reasons for doing so make no sense. In typical Hollywood style, a woman falls for a rogue after knowing him only for a day, and only after he forces her to kiss him. Conte talks tough, like John Garfield, but usually with these movie tough guys there really is something likeable about them, like Frank Sinatra. Not here. Overall a miss in my opinion. *Smokers Report: Lots but it's in black and white so somehow it works.
December 9th - ACROSS THE PACIFIC (1942)
I recently got the chance to re-watch Casablanca on the big screen as part of it's re-release to celebrate it's 75th Anniversary, so seeing Bogie come up on TCM made watching this a no-brainer. Although it would make more sense watching this after watching "The Maltese Falcon", as this cast and crew worked together on that film a year earlier. Is this as good as TMF? Nope. There is a reason why this film isn't listed among Bogie's best. It's not bad...it's just not great. It's funny seeing Bogart and Mary Astor goofing around a bit on screen, after their tense relationship in TMF that was based on lies and deception. And as a Canadian, my brain flares whenever I hear "Canada" or "Canadian" mentioned. In this movie, Astor's character is supposidely Canadian (from Medicine Hat, to be exact, although whether she really is or isn't ain't exactly clear), some action takes place in Halifax, Bogart tries to join the Canadian Army, etc. Little details like that make me pay attention, eventhough it really has nothing to do with the overall story. Even the name "Across the Pacific" is misleading as they never make it across the Pacific as the action takes place in Panama. And in one specific instance, they show that the date of this all happening is December 6, 1941. As far as I can remember, after this there is no mention of Pearl Harbour and the attack, and from what I read online, this movie was supposed to be about a fictional attack on Pearl Harbour, but they re-wrote it after the Japanese bombing in real-life. One quick note: I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but am I the only one not captivated by Mary Astor? It would be fine, she is a great actress, but it just seems weird, especially after in TMF when she's referred to as a "knockout". Them using that word for some reason just seems wrong...but it's a minor detail... *Smokers Report: Yup, but it's black and white...
December 8th - BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)
This movie is still in theatres, so I'll lay off the spoilers...but this is an exceptional film! I loved most things about it. Emma Stone and Steve Carell are both tremendous as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. I loved that they didn't make it a good vs. evil thing. Sure Riggs played up the "Male Chauvanist Pig" routine, but he really is a loveable, funny guy. When they have the press conferences, they show Stone-as-King smiling and laughing and seems to kinda be having fun, despite the fact she does really want to beat Carell-as-Riggs in their tennis match. It shows that King did seem to like Riggs, warts and all. They could have undercut these scenes with one of those deals where Stone is smiling for the public but then turns her head and is clearly mad, or a flash forward to her crying in her hotel room later after being embarrassed. There was a tremendous balance there...it is possible for people to be competitive with each other and not want to murder each other. I loved little details when Stone is coming out to start the match and she gladly gets on the big sedan to be carried to the arena by muscular men. In a lesser movie, they would portray it as King being against such a thing, not wanting to turn her passion, tennis, into a spectacle like pro wrestling. She knew the game she was playing and even gets to one-up the showman Riggs at times, like handing him a baby pig just before the game gets underway. I also loved that both had amazing spouses who loved them, despite their issues. Riggs is a hustler, King is laser-focused on tennis and her career. I had no idea that this whole time period was when the WTA was formed, and learned other little bits of info about these tennis players, most I won't reveal as - again - spoilers! Let's just say I ended up liking Austin Stowell more than Andrea Riseborough, and after the film you'll understand what I meant. And ultimately, those relationships are important to the overall story, but the film does a good job reminding everyone that this is about a tennis game between and man and a woman, and not a soap opera game of who will end up with whom! And isn't Elisabeth Shue awesome? Why aren't more people talking about her? Not to mention Sarah Silverman and the AMAZING Alan Cumming both knocking it out of the park (couldn't think of a tennis joke there, had to settle for baseball...)!!! I hope alot of the talent involved here gets recognized come awards season, especially Stone and Carell. Stone is already an Oscar winner and Carell was nominated for "Foxcatcher" (imagine reacting ten years ago to the idea that "Superbad" star Stone and "40-Year Old Virgin" star Carell would one day be Oscar winners/nominees...), but I see both these roles as more "worthy" of Oscars than their previous work (I really hated Foxcatcher...), but whatever...anyway...GO SEE THIS FILM WHILE IT'S STILL IN THEATRES! *Smokers Report: SIlverman's character is always smoking, plus Virginia Slims gets alot of face time, as they sponsor the initial WTA tournaments.
December 7th - TRUTH (2015)
Another chance to catch up with Cate Blanchett. I am a Canadian who, in today's world, actually knows more about US politics than Canadian politics. But I have no memory of this whole "Killian papers" scandal. They must not have talked about it much on "The Daily Show." Anyway, the movie hits the ground running and, in my opinion, assumes the viewer knows alot about the subject. Since I didn't, it took me awhile to figure out that this was about a story about President GW Bush and his service record, or lack thereof, and the implications of that. In fact, it isn't until 42 minutes into the film, where Robert Redford recreates the 60 Minutes opening where I had a distinct feeling of "Oh, okay...got it." There were a few problems as the movie progresses...I have to admit I couldn't buy Robert Redford as Dan Rather...the use of "uplifting" music in certain scenes like when the piece first airs, and rock music when Blanchett is putting her badass news team together, like they are The Avengers or something...the scary horror movie music used when Blanchett sees the mean things people are saying about her on the internet... The movie is kind of manipulative, reminding me of Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing or The Newsroom (oddly, I loved West Wing but hated The Newsroom for reasons I can't quantify). The all star back up cast of Elizabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace are fine, but the movie is about Blanchett and Redford. Both are great, especially Blanchett. *Smokers Report: None.
December 6th - AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (1979)
Okay, so now after watching this film for the 1st time, I know where the "You're out of order, you're out of order, this whole court is out of order" famous line comes from. I can check that off my list of "To-Do's" that I didn't know existed. Although the line is misquoted, as it's actually "You're out of order...this whole TRIAL is out of order..." I record some movies randomly just based on stars, or the director or if the image shown associated with the movie looks interesting. The write up for this movie says "A lawyer in contempt of court agrees to defend a judge he hates, accused of rape." Starring Al Pacino, Jack Warden, John Forsythe, Lee Strasberg. Based on that, I don't know why I recorded it, really. Sure Warden is awesome and I know Forsythe from Dynasty, and Strasberg I know from Inside the Actor's Studio sure...no mention of the fact Norman Jewison directed this, Barry Levinson co-wrote it and it has an all-star cast of "wow they were young then" Craig T. Nelson, Christine Lahti, Joe Morton, Larry Bryggman (John McClaine's Captain in Die Hard 3) and the awesome Jeffrey Tambor, who has a full head of hair and also delivers the best line of the movie, better than the famous Pacino rant, to end the film. In today's instance of weird random connections between films, this is alot like "The Children's Hour" in that things really haven't changed after all these years. The events depicted in the life of a lawyer in the big city from 1979 seems like it could be the pilot of one of the many lawyer shows on TV today. The scenes are almost like skits or vignettes about a lawyer's life that don't seem to be connected, other than Pacino connects them as the actor in each scene, but it all comes together in the end as Pacino's character, who at this point hadn't become the "shouty Pacino" he's become, gets louder and louder and starts screaming...but of course it works, as the character earned the exasperation he feels in the final courtroom scene, after one judicial disappointment after another. Some scenes, like the helicopter scene, are seemingly out of place, but add to the overall bizarreness of the movie and the eccentricity of the characters involved. For a movie I chose at random, I really enjoyed it. *Smokers Report: Nada.
December 5th - A CHALLENGE FOR ROBIN HOOD (1967)
I found out that, while doing my other lists, patterns just kind of emerge. Thor: Ragnarok lead to Cate Blanchett, who lead to watching the 2010 Robin Hood, which now leads to this film that was on my DVR but I had forgotten about until I was scrolling through looking for something to watch tonight. This was on TCM months back but as I watch the credits roll, I realise I recognize absolutely zero names listed. The only name I recognise is "Hammer", which means the people who made this film also gave us the classic "Hammer Horror Films". I recognize the man playing Robin Hood but have to look it up as Barrie Ingham, who ironically I just watched in an episode of the classic British TV show "The Avengers" "You Have Just Been Murdered", which inspired me in my writing a certain storyline for The Supers #1 and beyond...weird how all this is connected. This movie and it's interpretation is a little different than any other interpretation, but still kinda the same. There is, of course, Robin and his Merry Men, Maid Marian, the Sheriff of Nottingham...hiding in Sherwood Forest...a contest that leads to a big action sequence...rescuing Maid Marian from the bad guys...the big differences are how Robin becomes an outlaw, and how Maid Marian is "hiding in plain sight" to begin with, which isn't referred to at all going forward, but was pretty creative. The movie is pretty inoffensive, has lots of humour and no blood or gore. It's a better Robin Hood story than the 2010 version, but not nearly as heart warming as the Errol Flynn version or as...er..."blockbustery" as the Kevin Costner version. There are certain stories that just keep getting told over and over again, like this one, and each time, I imagine, the filmmakers have to ask "Why do this...how can we make this different?" In 2001, they put out "The Princess of Thieves" starring Keira Knightley in one of her first roles, about older Robin is trying to raise his and Marian's daughter, Gwyn, as a single parent (Marian has died) and is still hanging out in Sherwood Forest. While you have to still wonder why the Merry Men are still hiding out twenty years later, the movie was about the daughter trying to impress her father, and while not amazing, it was a different take on the legend. While some things are switched around, this does seem like the same old-same old. While I didn't like the Russell Crowe version, it is at least a totally unique look at the legend. Despite it being made by masters of horror, this is an incredibly family friendly version of this legend and I liked it, but if I have to watch a Robin Hood movie it will be the Errol Flynn version...or the Costner version...or the Disney cartoon... *Smokers Report: None
December 4th - HANNA (2011)
Here we continue our Cate Blanchett Appreciation...ness...? I guess there's probably no point saying "I've been meaning to see this movie for a long time..." cause that's the case with all these movies. I'd heard lots of good things and I can see why. This was a very stylistic film, great to look at. I liked alot about the movie but there was just something missing. It was interesting to watch but I didn't really find myself getting emotionally involved. Cate Blanchett didn't have much to do here. It's pretty much all about Hanna herself, Saoirse Ronan. She does a great job, and I like her journey but, again, there was just something missing. The action scenes are well done and I like the settings, like the container ship-yard and a freaky amusement park. A good but not great film. *Smoker's Report: Nope
December 3rd - THE CHILDREN'S HOUR (1961)
Been meaning to see this for a LONG time. Almost saw it at the TCM Film Festival, have had it on the DVR before, but just never sat down to watch it. I've heard great things, and I'm a huge James Garner fan and Shirley MacLaine fan, so I was looking forward to this. As I've stated in other Movie-A-Day Blogs, I have major gaps in my movie watching when it comes to Audrey Hepburn. And I have yet to find a Hepburn role that I've loved, some that I've liked (Wait Until Dark) and some I've just hated. And as for this movie, I loved all of it...except Hepburn! In fact I think I might have hated Hepburn's character. HATED! Without spoiling the movie, as I do recommend it, it's about how rumours and heresay can ruin lives. And how children are evil and I'll never have any...cause EVIL! I loved how, once Hepburn and MacLaine get into trouble, Garner stood by them and never doubted them. Until the big emotional scene where Garner wants all three of them run off together and start fresh, even insisting MacLaine come with them at least until she can get on her feet, then along comes Hepburn to ruin everything as she badgers him over and over and basically forces him to admit that he did believe "the rumors" in a moment of weakness, and she then sends him away. That whole scene I was just...wow! At that point I wanted MacLaine and Garner to run off together and leave Hepburn alone to mope by herself. The little girl in this movie is very convincing at being evil, as is Miriam Hopkins at being a self-centered actress. Alot of the tension at the end of the film revolves around everyone loving Hepburn and that I didn't get. And the finale is heartbreaking. Funny that this is a remake by the same director, William Wyler, who did the original, which is rare outside of Howard Hawks, who made TWO remakes of Rio Bravo. Wyler wanted a second crack at the material, as when he made the first (sharing the name "These Three" with the play it was based on) in 1936, there wasn't even a hint of lesbianism allowed. And even then, MacLaine has said she was disappointed about how Wyler didn't go far enough....Also, as a side note, it's really sad how little we've evolved since 1961 (or 1936, when the initial movie was made, or 1934 when the play first was performed). Sure, people these days can at least say the word "lesbian" and be so publicly, which is great, but somehow I doubt that if a couple of lesbians were to run a day care center that their lives would be care-free and they would never receive a sideways glance, even in 2017. *Smokers Report: As stated in other Blogs, for some reason, in black and white movies smoking doesn't seem to be as big a deal as in colour movies. Garner, as always, smokes in this film, but I didn't really notice it until it was pointed out in a scene by Hepburn (Grrr). Again, she just ruins everything!!!! :)
December 2nd - ROBIN HOOD (2010)
Because Cate Blanchett was so awesome in Thor: Ragnarok, and also because on cable Saturday morning they showed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (a favourite movie from my childhood, Kevin Costner's accent be damned), it made me think of this film...and how I'd never seen it. Going back to childhood, my fascinations were Superheroes, pro wrestling and Robin Hood...so apparently early on I admired men in tights (but oddly not Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights...). I loved the old Errol Flynn version, the Costner version, and the Disney cartoon version. I remember hearing alot about this film in it's build up, how it was going to be the definitive "historically accurate" Robin Hood...and I thought "Who needs that?" As I get older, I've started to realise you "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story"...add to that I've never really been a big Russell Crowe fan. I wasn't a fan of Gladiator, which these days is almost like admitting you don't like The Godfather...but that's another story...This movie had the usual Crowe dinner theatre players (Scott Grimes as Will Scarlett, Canadian boy Kevin Durand as Little John for example), Crowe's buddy Alan Doyle of the Canadian band Great Big Sea (who all randomly guest starred with Crowe on the Canadian CBC drama Republic of Doyle, in a little trivia for you), and his favourite director Ridley Scott. There was also an all-star cast of Mark Strong, Oscar Issac, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Max Von Sydow, Mark Addy, Lea Seydoux, Jessica Raine...etc. How was the film though? It's...fine. It's definately more complicated than any other version. Robin LONGSTRIDE and his Merry Men fought with King Richard the Lionheart and Robin of Locksley in the Crusades. Locksley was married to Marian, but Locksley dies, Robin returns to Nottingham to fulfull a vow he made as Locksley died, Robin pretends to be Locksley, meets Marian, all the while Richard's death mixes things up politically in London, with Isaac's King John taking over, coming up with "taxation", etc etc etc...this looked like, from the trailers, a dour humourless adaptation but there is some humour, especially once Crowe and Blanchett meet up. There's even a scene where they share a bedroom but not a bed so there is a sheet that divides the room...just like famous scenes in such classics as "It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert and "No Holds Barred" with Hulk Hogan and Joan Severence. People always make lots of fun of American Costner's British accent in "Prince of Thieves" but no one seems to make fun of New Zealander Crowe's British accent. Probably cause he'd kick their ass if they did. It's an hour into the film before Crowe and Blanchett meet, and an hour and a half before Crowe meets the army of Sherwood Forest...there is somekind of political stuff going on with Hurt/Issac/Strong in London but it's confusing and over complicated, some stuff about Longstride's secret origin, Hurt tries to get a war started by simply yelling "They're FRENCH!!!!"...Going in I expected great action sequences, with Scott involved but while a spectacle (it was apparently the Middle Ages version of Saving Private Ryan's invasion of Omaha Beach) it is messy, as at certain points Crowe is attacking from the left, then he's attacking from the right...and it takes you out of the movie. And when it gets right down to it, this isn't a Robin Hood movie! The only part of this that is "Robin Hood" is the last five minutes, I guess setting up a sequel that will apparently never happen. Blanchett is always awesome, and I like Crowe when he's smiley and with softer edges and their scenes are great. But the rest is...well, again...over complicated. There are lots of other, better versions of Robin Hood, so go check them out first. Man, I hope my other reviews aren't so long... *Smoker's Report: Nope
December 1st - THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)
Okay, so full transparency...I saw this movie on opening night, a month ago...and loved it! And it's been in the back of my mind ever since. Over the past month, while I was on the road travelling all over Western Canada, I had the chance to see it again, but never did. Upon returning home, I got together with my podcast partner Andrew Buckley to record for the first time in awhile, and the topic of our first podcast was Thor: Ragnarok vs. Justice League. To get ready for this ahead of time, I listened to a few other podcasts (Comedy Film Nerds and Filmspotting to be precise) to refresh my Thor memory. And then I started flashing back, remembering all the great scenes, and then talking about it with Buckley on our podcast TRILOGY SPOILERS made me want to see the film again BAD! So I did! I went again and I had previously claimed that it might be in my top 3 Marvel films period! After seeing again, it was amazing and I still loved it, but towards the end in the big fight I did get a little drowsy. The movie has so many memorable scenes it's hard to list them all. The banter between Thor and the bad guy in the "swinging-while-chained-up" opening scene, the amazing cameos in Loki's "play-within-the-movie" (which I won't spoil), Dr. Strange's cameo, Hela showing up and being awesome!...then the movie shifts to the planet of SAKAAR and the movie turns into an early episode of The Simpsons with a joke-per-second ratio that is simply amazing! As soon as Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie stumbles off her space ship, then Jeff Goldblum shows up...then THE HULK shows up...the BRUCE BANNER shows up (there is a difference)...someone on a podcast (I think Filmspotting) mentioned that it was almost too bad that Cate Blanchett's Hela was in this movie, as she was so good and such a great character that she could've had her own spinoff...I agree...the big final fight is well done (despite my drowsiness) and this does a great job setting up the next Marvel Avengers movie "Infinity War". Special mention to Taika Waititi, the director, who after odd ball movies "Eagle vs. Shark", and the great "What We Do in the Shadows" was picked to tackle this 3rd Thor movie and apparently make it as weird and different as the other 2 Thor movies, which most people think of as a cross between Lord of the Rings and Shakespeare. As we are inching towards the 20th edition of the Marvel Movie Universe, these movies are trying new things, and whomever came up with the idea of a Thor movie being a space opera/buddy-cop/action-comedy movie deserves a raise! Not only did he do that as a director, he contributes on screen as "Korg" a wonderful character who I hope we see more of in the future. Other than the first Iron Man, first Avengers movie, first Guardians of the Galaxy movie...this movie is up there on the list! Can't recommend this enough! *Smokers Report: N/A