Every few months (or years), I get some time off from work and try to get caught up on my movie watching. My PVR gets pretty loaded up during the year and once and a while I need to purge. So as with my other such blogs, I will try to watch a movie a day, with the stipulation that it has to be a movie I haven’t seen before. Or at least I don’t think I have. My memory can suck sometimes. Also during this, I will examine the term “Film Buff” and try to figure out what it actually means… Enjoy!
July 2019 List:
1- Badlands (1973)
2- Artists and Models (1955)
3- Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)
4- Barbarella (1968)
5- Bulletproof (1996)
6- Beauty for the Asking (1939)
7- Brubaker (1980)
8- The X From Outer Space (1967)
9- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
10- Twilight (2008)
11- Fashions of 1934 (1934)
12- Death Becomes Her (1992)
13- Chain Reaction (1996)
14- I’m Going to Break Your Heart (2019)
15- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
16- The Thing (1982)
17- Ice Station Zebra (1968)
18- Pennies From Heaven (1981)
19- What’s Up Doc? (1972)
20- Den of Thieves (2018)
July 1st: BADLANDS (1973)
The fact that I hadn’t seen this movie yet is one reason why some might question my status as a “film buff”. It always seemed “daunting”, like Terrence Malick’s other films. “The Tree of Life” in particular was a chore to watch, and I haven’t even seen “The New World” or “Knight of Cups” yet. Although I loved “The Thin Red Line”, his answer to “Saving Private Ryan” from 1998. So I’ve had this movie on my PVR for a long time but have never really had the urge to watch it. Until now. Why? As simple a reason as I’m going through my PVR alphabetically. That’s it (although not necessarily starting with “A”, obviously). And I am very happy I watched the film. It’s quite beautiful, from the cinematography to the score to the performances from Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. And it’s not 3+ hours, as I had assumed going in. Oddly, Warren Oates (an actor I’ve been watching a lot of film of lately) is 3rd billed but has a very small role as Spacek’s father. One thing I noticed, they reference they are heading towards “the border” which in 99% of movies means they are heading to Mexico, but then they mentioned Montana, so I was surprised they were then heading to Canada. There was one laugh where Spacek’s narration mentioned her looking forwards to seeing the “mountains of Saskatchewan” which maybe she meant the mountains of Montana, or it was said to show her being young and uneducated…but as anyone who has been there will tell you, there ain’t a lot of mountains in Saskatchewan. Another laugh came from looking at the poster, where it looks like Spacek’s character is posing like one of those girls on a semi’s mud flaps. Any who, I’m very glad I finally sat down to watch this film as it was a pleasure to watch.
July 2nd: ARTISTS AND MODELS (1955)
This is Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’ 14th(!) film together and 3rd to last film they made together. This also co-stars a young Shirley MacLaine (pre-”The Apartment”, but still only her second film). Also Dorothy Malone, who is someone whose films I am watching a lot of lately. After always thinking of her as the really sexy girl in the book store in “The Big Sleep”, I’ve seen her in films such as “Two Guys from Texas” and “The Falcon and the Co-eds”. In those films she was a young actress, whereas in “Artists and Models”, she seemed a bit older (31 years IRL) and was now a blonde. Maybe it was because usually she was in the same scene with bubbly energetic MacLaine, but she seemed miscast here. One big surprise was that this was, basically, about comic books and the “comic book scare” of the 1950’s. The main comic here is called “the Vulture” and it’s clearly a spoof of Batman. The affects of violent comic books, and the inner workings of the business, is actually discussed at length in the film. That side plot seems to disappear at some point though, and honestly even MacLaine’s energy couldn’t keep me focused on this movie. Obviously this is a generalization that normally would need to be discussed further anywhere but here, but while Jerry Lewis is a genius, in movies like “The Bellboy” but other times he can be, well, annoying. But seeing Shirley Maclaine in a Batwoman costume (although if you squint you could imagine she was in a Catwoman suit) was pretty cool.
July 3rd: ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1978)
So what does it mean to be a “film buff”? To some, that means being a “film snob”. To some, it means watching every Stanley Kubrick movie and being able to recite the dialogue by memory. But to me, it’s loving all kinds of films and that brings us to “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”! This is thought of as a movie along the lines of Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space” as one of the worst movies ever. Not even in the category of “it’s so bad it’s good”. It’s meant to be a spoof of B-level disaster movies and also movies like Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” which it makes fun of during the opening credits. And is the movie as bad as it’s reputation? Oh yeah! But it had my attention, that’s for sure, as in the first few minutes of the film, a helicopter CRASHES on screen. Legit crashes! I watched it a few times, then had to hit the Google machine and Wikipedia to confirm it was a real crash that happened while they were filming (luckily the pilot wasn’t hurt) so they incorporated it into the film! After that I had to keep watching just to see what else they had in store for me. One funny bit was a “war room” type meeting in Washington DC but in a tiny little closet, where people had to climb over the table to get to their seats. And included in this was the typical expert, who in this case was Japanese but spoke with a Texas drawl (I think), which was actually kinda funny. And the few musical numbers are pretty funny too. I kind of ran out of steam towards the end, and ended up watching more of trailers for the sequels on Youtube than the actual film (including the George Clooney sequel which I now have to watch). It builds to a big action sequence which is absurd but I have to give the movie credit, it went for it, and it didn’t give us a “Holy Grail”-style non-ending. I’d say give this movie a try, at least watch until the crash!
July 4th: BARBARELLA (1968)
Another film I’ve been wanting to watch for awhile, I was even more intrigued by this film after seeing the documentary “Jane Fonda in Five Acts”. This was an iconic role for Jane Fonda, and the movie was directed by her at-the-time husband French director Roger Vadim, although she was the 3rd choice for the lead. Fonda says at the time she was bulimic and “hated her body”, yet she had to wear those revealing outfits, and in some scenes, nothing at all. Fonda doesn’t recall the movie fondly, but I actually liked it! It’s a fun sci-fi romp, with a very similar futuristic setting as “Demolition Man” (or at least their idea of futuristic sex, anyway), and other fun ideas. It’s set in a utopian yet sterile future and the film is thought of now as a cult classic. It’s pretty hilarious that this movie came out the same year as Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, as their techniques couldn’t be further apart. There are many scenes with sexual innuendo, and some with no innuendo at all, and it’s hard to decide whether it’s sincere or not. In other words, was I supposed to be turned on? One scene in particular, where Barbarella is being “tortured” with a sex-piano, where ultimately she will be “pleasured to death” is a long drawn out scene and frankly, I’m not sure if it was supposed to be erotic or funny or what. An earlier scene where Barbarella has “virtual sex” seems to make a joke about how she’s done and bored after a minute or so but the guy keeps going…or I’m assuming that’s the joke. The film is so obvious in some ways and subtle in others. It seems like it’s trying hard to say more, to spoof sci-fi and discuss feminism, but then it isn’t and just wants to tantalize. If this review doesn’t make sense, then you know how I felt watching this movie. But, like I said before, I have to say I enjoyed it, although I doubt I’ll ever watch it again. I can see how it has become an example of sci-fi camp and is so influential to so many. Like the anti-gravity striptease Fonda performs over the opening credits, which apparently she performed drunk and while writhing around on a glass table. I’m glad I watched this.
July 5th: BULLETPROOF (1996)
This one will be quick…this movie is crap. Damon Wayans and Adam Sandler (before he was ADAM SANDLER) compete in a mug-off to see who can look the most cool in every scene, with Wayans trying to be the next big action star, and Sandler doing what would be become his act in every film, funny voices and all. From the poster I kind of thought it would be a remake of The Defiant Ones, but this movie isn’t trying that hard. The few interesting things in the film are seeing Jeep Swenson on film (the guy who was juiced to the gills on steroids and played Bane in Batman and Robin) and how stunning actress Kristen Wilson is. I’m not the only one who feels this way about this film, as it has 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I was curious…so now I know! My advise…skip this one!
July 6th: BEAUTY FOR THE ASKING (1939)
So this is a rom-com starring Lucille Ball, before she was LUCY. This is the first time I’d seen her in a starring role in a film (other than the movies she did with Dezi) and she did a great job, so much so I’m curious as to how Hollywood missed out on her as a leading lady. It wasn’t until TV came along where she broke out as a major star. But what about this film? It’s a pretty convoluted love triangle, with Lucy being dumped ten minutes into the film but…it’s way too complicated to explain here. I read it’s Wikipedia page and read it was a “feminist” film, with a strong female lead and everything revolving around her and her relationships. However there is a major section of the film that deals with a friend of Lucy’s wanting to get her husband back and Lucy’s advise to her is to get a makeover, basically. They get her hair done, new clothes and teach her how to be sexy, and it’s a very jarring turn of events to watch in 2019. But the movie does have it’s charms and funny moments. Although the “happy ending” kind of comes out of nowhere. Good (but not great) film!
July 7th: BRUBAKER (1980)
As we continue through the letter “B”…this film is about prison reform. Robert Redford, as the movie starts, is a prisoner arriving at one of those “place that time forgot”, like in “Cool Hand Luke” where prisoners work slave labour, are beaten for no reason and live in horrendous conditions. It starts out brutal, with leather straps being used to punish prisoners who seemingly haven’t done anything and sexual harassment and rape being something that doesn’t shock anyone here anymore. Then MORGAN F’N FREEMAN shows up out of nowhere and there is a huge twist that kind of turns the movie on it’s head, that was actually spoiled for me when I read the Wikipedia page before hand and I don’t want to spoil it for you, it’s that cool of a twist. So what else can I say about the film without spoiling it. In 2019 it would be called a “White Saviour” film, and does it go far enough in the end? There is no happy ending, and reviews of the film at the time said that the film didn’t, in fact, go far enough with it’s overall message. Yaphet Kotto is always a pleasure to watch, as is the ensemble cast. But as I watched the movie end, with it’s pan out shot as a helicopter (presumably) takes off to get it all in, I can only figure that, if this was real life, as soon as the cameras were turned off, the guns started firing…but that’s just me. I recommend this one! Just try to avoid the spoilers as I think you might enjoy it more if you do!
July 8th: THE X FROM OUTER SPACE (1967)
Okay now we jump to the other side of the alphabet…and we go back to our original thesis question…”What does the term ‘film buff’ mean?” I admittedly used to think that the “bad movies” didn’t really count, or at least I had no interest in them. Although really, what is a “bad movie”? If a movie exists, and even just one person enjoys it, does that disqualify the movie from being “bad”? I listen to the “How Did This Get Made?” movie podcast where they watch “bad movies” and make fun of them, although usually movies they talk about are ones I haven’t seen. I mean, why would you sit through a bad movie on purpose? There are so many movies I haven’t seen, a lot of them “classics”, why waste time with the bad ones? But now we are talking in circles…what about this movie? I have a blind spot when it comes to some groups or films, like Audrey Hepburn films, and also KAIJU movies…I created a comic book called “The Supers: 3rd Best Super-team in the World” and one of the main characters is called “Kaiju”, but that honestly had nothing to do with kaiju movies, I just heard it years earlier and thought it was a cool name. I have seen the newer “Godzilla” films (okay maybe one of them, the one with Bryan Cranston and where Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are a couple…weird how no one talks about that…) and I haven’t really had the desire to watch them. This movie was starting on TCM one morning just as I turned the TV on, then I saw the “Criterion Collection” logo…and thought…”what the hell?” Then I started watching…first, one of the main cast is a blonde white woman who speaks Japanese and no explanation is given…which is fine. And then there is…the rest of the movie. The sets, the spaceships, the aliens…this movie seemingly as sponsored by Toys R Us, cause that’s where they got the props from. Like that scene in Superman Returns where Lex Luthor’s gang destroys a train set…only we are supposed to believe the train set is actually a town full of people. I’ve seen bits of old Godzilla movies but I never thought these costumes, where the term “Man in Rubber Suit” was coined, was LITERAL! I enjoyed it, but I have to say, I wonder how people would enjoy these films if they watched them sober? Which is not to undermine the fact that there are lots of people who love these films, but like “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” and “Barbarella”, I’m curious as to if so many people would truly love them without watching them stoned. Anyway, yes I liked it, and this movie does seem to be the “Gold Standard” of Rubber Suit movies, but I can’t see myself suddenly downloading every KAIJU movie ever. Never say never though…
July 9th: SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019)
So this is a modern film, still in theatres as I just got home from seeing it…when a movie is still in theatres I try especially hard not to give spoilers…so what can I say? Well it’s a movie about Spider-man…or is it Spiderman…I always get that confused. How about I recap my Spider-sensibilities? I liked-but-not-loved the Tobey Maguire films (I don’t even think I’ve watched all of “Spider-man 3” although I’d forgotten until watching it recently how AWESOME “Spider-man 2” is, definitely has to be included in a super-hero movie Top 10 list) and I don’t remember much about the Andrew Garfield series, other than Emma Stone and Denis Leary were in them. And while I didn’t particularly love them, it seemed weird that Garfield was just dumped from the role. And then Tom Holland came along and he seems to have defined Spidey for generations to come. He did an awesome job in “Civil War” and basically WON LIFE with this performance on Lip Sync Battle…
Anyway, Peter is in high school, he’s a geek yet a smart ass, has a rough personal life…he’s basically the perfect Spidey. And he’s become a major part of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and in particular the events of “Avengers: Endgame”, which is also still in theatres (or at least some theatres in big cities I guess). And this movie requires so much knowledge of THAT film, it’s hard not to talk about THIS film without spoiling THAT film. So…I liked it? It’s too long, but not “Endgame” long…everyone does a great job…the cast is very likeable, in particular Holland and Zendaya, who wasn’t given enough to do in the 1st film but pretty much steals the movie here. It’s pretty amazing actually how she straddles the line of being geeky/awkward AND gorgeous at the same time, but she makes it work. Even her line delivery and just how she walks in her scenes is tremendous stuff! It’s fun seeing Happy Hogan, Nick Fury and Maria Hill all back with vital roles in the MCU. And of course MARISA TOMEI! There are some actors who I see in trailers for movies and, despite how talented they are (Sarah Paulson and Ben Mendelsohn being recent examples), if they are in EVERYTHiNG, they can get overexposed. Not MARISA TOMEI! She needs to be in MORE movies! What else can I say? I was worried that this film would brush over certain ramifications from “Endgame” but it sure didn’t…but I can’t talk about that…well if you haven’t seen this already, go see it, it’s fun! I have to admit this film may end up like Thor 2, Ant-Man & The Wasp or Dr. Strange which were movies I absolutely enjoyed as I watched them, but even now I struggle to think of actual details from the film. And really, will all Spidey movies from here on just live in the shadow of the masterpiece known as “Into the Spiderverse?” Although normally I would have seen this on opening night, and it took me nearly a week to go see it…is super-hero fatigue catching up to ME? Marvel Studios haven’t announced their Phase 4 lineup yet, so there don’t seem to be any movies in the near future after this (although I understand they are currently filming a Black Widow movie), and maybe that’s for the best?
July 10th: Twilight (2008)
So here we are, finally watching Twilight…this is one of those movies I know a ton about, despite never having seen it…it’s had that much of an impact on pop culture. It’s funny actually seeing the sparkly vampires after all this time! But what about the movie? Well, those actors and actresses sure are pretty! It’s like a CW TV show but bigger…well, actually…not really. At this point a CW show probably has a bigger budget than that initial film. The dialogue is TERRIBLE! But does it matter, cause most of the movie is just Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison staring at each other, longing for each other, him looking creepy, her fixing her hair…I almost want to go look on YouTube for that video where it’s just all the awkward silences from this movie edited together…found it!
It’s 26 minutes long, although that’s for the entire saga (all 5 movies; 1st film has 5.5 minutes of silence!)…for awhile there Kristen Stewart touching her hair was up there with Brad Pitt eating in every scene as a new Hollywood rule…but I have to admit being a fan of her work. For someone so young she has been in ALOT of movies; “Panic Room”, “Adventureland” and “In the Land of Women” all came out BEFORE Twilight. And upcoming is her in the new Charlie’s Angels film, which if the trailer is any indication, she’s having a blast! And Pattinson is THE NEW BATMAN! Although it’s not much of a stretch…he was a vampire, now he’s a bat…anyway how about this film? It was clearly a Chapter One movie, setting up all the characters, the rules for this universe and perfectly sets up a sequel. Early in the film, Stewart and Pattinson’s awkwardness is, well, awkward, but somehow Stewart in particular is fascinating to watch! I kept asking myself “Why does she trust him to quickly?” and I guess the answer is “True Love” which is one of those things like MAGIC where you can just “Break Glass, Insert ___ here” for any screenwriting problems you might have…late in the film she says she wants him to turn her into a vampire, she’s ready to be with him for eternity…after THREE DATES!…geez maybe you should, like, try living together first? Get a dog? So, is this movie completely horrible? No, not at all. The young cast includes Anna Kendrick, who is always tremendous…I’ll watch her in anything. I have checked and parts 2 & 3 are on cable next week, so I am sufficiently intrigued in that I might watch them. After all, I want to see for myself the Twilight evolution…Michael Sheen hamming it up, Taylor’s abs and that freaky, weird baby…good to have this off the bucket list…
July 11th: FASHIONS OF 1934 (1934 duh!)
So I am a big William Powell fan, so I will watch pretty much anything he’s in. One blindspot I have in my film knowledge is Betty Davis, though. Today on MeTV, I was watching a classic episode of “Gunsmoke” and there was Bruce Dern, then Tom Skeritt, then all of a sudden there is Betty F’N Davis! And she was awesome! So then, I searched through my PVR for a Betty Davis movie I had recorded, and turns out I had one with Davis and Powell together! Great! So first thing I noticed was the credits saying “William Powell in Fashions”, so the “…of 1934 must have been added later. Then it mentions “Dance sequences by Busby Berkeley” which is weird cause I thought this was a movie about fashion. Then Betty Davis comes on screen and she is “dolled up” and has blonde hair, not the Betty Davis I had expected. And she definitely looked, well, different than she normally does (compared to say “All About Eve”). So then I’m watching and it’s a typical William Powell movie, where he talks a mile a minute (in between puffs of smoke) and he’s in pretty much every scene and it really doesn’t matter who the other people in the movie are. There was a major difference here as Powell’s character wasn’t trying to solve a murder, as he does in seemingly 95% of his other films (even when he’s not playing a detective). Anyway, why was Busby Berkeley involved? Well the movie has a convoluted plot where Powell’s character is a scam artist who starts with investing, then fashion design and later a producer of plays, which leads to one big Berkeley style musical number that, as a stage play, makes no sense logistically, but looks gorgeous. The plot ended up pretty confusing, and there was a tacked on happy ending…along with a funny gag about silk worms, believe it or not. And remember how I said Betty Davis looked “dolled up”? After reading some Wikipedia about this movie, turns out she hated this film, the idea of being one of those actresses who looked pretty and smiled, and this helped spark her career turn around where she would say “Never again”. So apparently this is a pretty important film. But is it good? For a Powell completist like me, yes I’m glad I watched it, but I can’t imagine watching it again.
July 12th: DEATH BECOMES HER (1992)
So this is one of those movies from the 80’s/90’s like “Bonfire of the Vanities” that I have heard a lot about but never actually sat down to watch. This movie had state-of-the-art visual effects for the time, so of course it was directed by Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis was on a high here, coming off “Romanicing the Stone”, three “Back to the Future” movies and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, two of those movies being all time classics (I’ll let you guess which two), and this begins Zemeckis and his seeming desire to, like James Cameron, discover the next big thing in visual effects. And this was a big deal when it came out, but I also remember it not getting good reviews. Anyway, I watched it and…it’s true. The visual effects are pretty neat (winning the next year’s Oscar), especially in retrospect, but the movie itself wasn’t good. I found myself drifting off when scenes would play out. Maybe it’s a side effect of just watching too many movies and being a writer myself, but I knew what every scene was about and where they were all going. When Isabella Rosellini shows up and she and Meryl Streep have a LONG scene where Rosellini is trying to convince Streep to take a magic potion, I felt the need to fast forward. I knew Streep was going to take the potion, so the ten minutes it took to get there was a waste of time, for me anyway. The movie started off great though, with the first ten minutes doing a great job introducing the three main characters (Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis), their relationships and then jumped ahead a bunch of years. And then the movie just sort of slows down nearly to a halt. Late in the film, Rosellini tries to convince Willis to take the same potion, and this scene is basically identical to the one with Streep earlier, which if I were in the theatre watching this I would have really been frustrated, having to sit through the same scene twice, especially since it wasn’t all that great the first time. Although Streep does have one funny line, after taking the potion and Rosellini tells her “There might be side effects” and Streep asks “Now you tell me!” or something like that. It was fun seeing Alaina Reed Hall after watching her on “Sesame Street” and “227” when I was a kid, but she was only in one scene. I read on Wikipedia that this movie has become a “gay cult classic” and a musical on Broadway. That’s cool. I always love seeing Goldie Hawn on screen but when I think of great Goldie Hawn movies, this ain’t going to be one of them.
July 13th: CHAIN REACTION (1996)
A movie with Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman…Rachel Weisz’s first big movie role…and all-star cast of character actors Fred Ward, Kevin Dunn, Brian Cox, Joanna Cassidy, Chelcie Ross…Michael Shannon shows up as a flower delivery guy…ten minutes into the film Reeves makes a major discovery to control water using music or SOMETHING (I have no idea what) and everyone is happy and then shit blows up and it’s a chase movie. The movie claims to be about clean, renewable energy, with an opening prologue of taking about how we are killing the planet, having wars over limited resources and how things need to change before things are too late…IN 1996!!! There have been a ton of movies the last few years about green energy, or at least came to be but really are trying to be topical while having things blow up real good in the background. So this movie may have been the first! Good for them! But is it any good? Not really. It’s one of those movies where an explosion takes out eight city blocks and Reeves is able to out run the flames with his motor bike. It’s one of those films where Reeves is framed for murder, or blamed for said explosion and spend the rest of the movie running from “bad guys”…who those bad guys are is unclear and of course there are FBI agents chasing him too but we aren’t sure who’s side they are on…at one point I started noticing alot of the same actors in this movie appeared in “The Fugitive”, the same aggressive reporter, the same detectives, the same beat cops including the guy who played the janitor on “Scrubs” who I think dies in both films…since it takes place (and was shot in) Chicago, I guess it makes sense…I always knew there was specific casting for Canadian films, UK films but is there specific Chicago casting? These are the things I think about when a movie is repetitive and is just kind of there…Morgan Freeman has a good quote at one point, saying human loss sometimes is essential in making discoveries, like how it cost the lives of ten astronauts to get to space. I also think it would have been interesting if they did a movie like this where the hero was just a dummy and made all the wrong moves and still survived…they might have done that here but not sure if that’s just Reeves’ performance…and later a big plot point, like in “The Fugitive”, is that Reeves is framed for murdering a few cops along the way and he’s innocent and has to prove it…but then he DOES kill a few people along the way…but of course it’s a movie and it’s okay if they are bad guys…and, what the hell I’ll spoil this movie (who cares) Fred Ward (whose character’s name is FORD btw) becomes the Tommy Lee Jones of this film and believes Reeves is innocent…all the while sitting in an FBI office that looks a lot like the Marshall’s HQ from, again, “The Fugitive”. Wow this has been a really long review for a so-so movie. It’s a rip-off of that Harrison Ford movie with the one-armed man but with lots more running, more plot twists, and Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman instead of Ford and Lee-Jones. Or is it a really convoluted remake of “Speed”, with Weisz playing Sandra Bullock? Anyway, it’s movies like this that seemingly tried so hard and took a big swing but didn’t hit a homerun…okay I’m ending this review…now…really…wow i just noticed on the movie poster it says “From the Director of The Fugitive”…can you sue yourself for plagiarism?
July 14th: I’M GOING TO BREAK YOUR HEART (2019)
So after watching this documentary about Canadian musical artists Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida, I have to wonder who it was made for. It’s about them going to marriage counselling and then trying to get away from their kids to write a song together. But really, there’s not much to it. I’m a big fan of Kreviazuk and have even been to a few of her concerts. Maida I’ve known as the frontman for “Our Lady Peace” since they started out, mostly for their song “Superman is Dead”, but also the band provided the theme song for WWE wrestler Chris Benoit, who later killed his family and himself in 2007. In interviews over the years, I’ve always had the feeling that Chantel (easier that writing her last name over and over) is a fun person, very talented, excellent singer, while Maida is intense and frankly, takes himself way too seriously. I had to admit when I heard they had married all those years ago, I figured that was a weird match. So now there’s a documentary about them! Let’s watch! Will it provide some insight to their relationship, other than what we could assume about them? Not really. Chantal has her heart on her sleeve and Maida is a closed door of a person. She’s worried the marriage is in trouble and he’s like, “Okay…” They take off together to an island in France to write a song, and, of course, to fix their marriage. This isn’t one of those docs with talking heads or narration. The pictures and images do all the work. It’s shown in linear time (sorta) and is basically them bickering over the song they want to write, something that as far as I could tell, NEVER GETS RESOLVED! So they have three kids who they have left behind, who they talk to on Videochat. Chantal is worried about one of the kids being sad, and Maida basically says “Just leave him alone”, showing their different parenting techniques. Her luggage is lost and they go shopping…she loves shopping and he gets bored quickly and wants to leave. Cause she’s a girl and he’s a boy, I guess. They discover a pastry place near where they are staying and Chantal says a good husband would, the next day, awaken her with coffee and pastries. And the next day, Maida does it! But later Chantal says she hated waking up without him. Just from that you get the idea he is screwed, and you actually start feeling (a little) sorry for him. Later they are discussing the song and he hates most of her ideas and shuts them down immediately, but never yells, so he can say “I never yelled” to her when she gets defensive or starts crying. So there goes HIS sympathy. There’s ALOT of this…then there are time jumps, suddenly they are performing in the nearby pub, as they are leaving the island. Did they finish the song? Did I miss it? They go home to seemingly beautiful California (lots of B-roll of palm trees and beaches) and their family. And that’s it, really. They never mention why two Canadian artists from Toronto are living and raising their kids, seemingly, in Los Angeles. I can imagine it’s because Chantal works with a lot of Hollywood studios for songs on soundtracks, but I’d have to read her Wikipedia page for that. Also, at one point, Chantal freaks out when Maida steps on a frozen lake, worried he’ll fall in. She exclaims “I’ve had too much tragedy in my life already!” You have? Again, let’s go to Wikipedia, cause there’s no more mention of it here in this film. In a different documentary, that would lead in to a segment explaining what she meant by that, but no. I remember watching an interview with Chantal where she mentions being in an accident when she was younger and as a result parts of her face are paralyzed…she joked at the time “I can never again feel a kiss!”…no mention of that for example…Again, I’m not sure who this is for. Was it a doc done for the Special Features of an album or…I don’t even know how that makes sense. There is some footage of their wedding, but again with no talking heads interviews of say, a relative saying “I would have never guessed they would have lasted this long…” we don’t get any context of, well, anything. This doc isn’t even mentioned on their Wikipedia pages (or at least not Chantal’s). It’s on IMDB and apparently was just released on 5/23/19. It ends with a happy ending, with Maida looking into Chantal’s eyes and starting to make a big speech about how much he loves her and he gets three lines in and she’s already crying, and he just has a look on his face like “That’s it? That’s all I had to do?” and their marriage is saved. And we’re done! I wish them all the best, and I’d love to go see another Chantal concert live. But this doc is skippable, unless you are a huge fan of either, then go for it. But don’t expect any kind of insightful revelations…
July 15th: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)
Okay so this is one of those times I kinda have to rely on my sketchy memory, as I don’t remember ever watching this. I was watching TCM as they are doing a salute to sci-fi in July, and watching “The Day The Earth Stood Still” again, then a favourite of mine “Forbidden Planet” then “War of the Worlds” from 1953, and as I was watching it, I realized I hadn’t seen it before. Then this movie came on, and after watching it, I’m pretty sure (kinda) that I haven’t seen it. Anyway, it’s hard watching one of these movies, after seeing the rip-offs and Simpsons spoof them, actually sitting down to watch them can be underwhelming. I remember watching the original “Night of the Living Dead” and I ended up really enjoying it. What about this film? I was surprised it starts with a flashback and goes from there, although that was something tacked on by the studio and the director Don Siegel hated. And again, since we’ve seen all the other versions or mutations of this film, you immediately start to ask “why don’t they believe him?” or “Why was that cop such a jerk to him?” but then you realize, oh, they have to, it’s a movie! The thrills and twists are done very well, and stars Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter do a good job. Although later I was a little confused, as they had to stay awake to avoid being taken over…but I thought the pod people just…anyway…it was fun seeing Richard Deacon, who played Mel the producer on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. And I absolutely see how this has inspired a ton of writers of the genre, with the satire on McCarthyism, a Post-War America, as either pro or negative towards communism, as a “allegory for the loss of Personal Autonomy” as one critic said…this is where the phrase “Pod people” came from…I was curious if anyone in that town voluntarily just gave up and wanted to be a Pod person after hearing their sales pitch…I’m sure someone must have as it sure sounded a lot easier…I’m glad I finally saw the OG Body Snatchers and I hear the 1993 remake is truly scary, although the 2007 “Invasion” with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman is super terrible. The 1978 remake has Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy and is said to “validate the entire concept of remakes” on Wikipedia! Might have to watch that one, if I can find it! Every version is on YouTube except the 1978 one! Hmmm…
July 16th: THE THING (1982)
So as mentioned before, I’ve been watching TCM’s Sci-Fi tribute during the month of July and was watching “The Thing From Another World” (1951) and suddenly I realized I had seen it before (although I had suspected it going in) and then as I was reading more about it on Wikipedia, I noticed that there was a remake called “The Thing”…then a lightbulb went off…John Carpenter’s ”The Thing” is a movie I’ve had saved on my PVR for awhile and needed a reason to watch…now I had one! So after watching it, what do I think? I’m not the big John Carpenter fanatic some people are, I can only really think of a few of his movies I’ve seen…”Halloween”, “Assault on Precent 13”, “Starman”…I’ve never seen “Escape From New York” but “They Live” is a favourite of mine. As I was watching the film, I noticed how really different they were. The original, directed by Howard Hawks (although the credit was given to Christian Nyby, Nyby confessed years later that Hawks should have received it), there isn’t really much of a sense of dread. The dialogue is snappy and overlaps, much like “His Girl Friday” and even during times of what should be great suspense, the characters are joking around and nearly giddy, not really taking things seriously. In the remake, that’s not the case. There is a lot of dread, seriousness and freaking out. The two movies aren’t really alike at all, other than their locations and initial plot points. Carpenter turns this film into a study in claustrophobia and paranoia, with the cast of characters turning on each other at every turn. The original has great one liners and one nice speech, there the resident scientist says “We owe it to the brain of our species to stand here and die without destroying a source of wisdom”, basically saying they can’t kill the monster, as they need to die…FOR SCIENCE! There’s nothing like that in the remake, as the monster is a killer, and the humans need to kill it to survive. It’s that simple, and part of the fun with the movie is trying to figure out who dunnit, really. I won’t spoil too much, but if you look at the “star rankings” of the movie you will probably figure out who survives. I do have to say that the models and practical effects were kind of funny to look at, and I wonder if that was the case back in 1982 when it came out. Carpenter doesn’t hold back at all and I guess that’s why some of the cheesier affects get a pass. The film is incredibly well put together and Carpenter really knows how to layer the tension on. Again, a great film but not sure I’ll ever watch it again.
July 17th: ICE STATION ZEBRA (1968)
As I was reading up on John Carpenter for “The Thing” I realized he thinks of this movie as a guilty pleasure, and I’ve had it saved on my PVR for awhile now, so I hit play! First of all, this is a SLOW movie. And a LONG movie. It definitely takes its time telling it’s story. If you are interested in how submarines work, this is the movie for you! Around 1/3 of the way through the movie, the sub is heading towards the arctic and wants to surface through some ice, and we get a full dissertation on how all the gimmicks and buttons on the sub work. And then the sub goes to surface and…it can’t! It goes to give the ice and uppercut and the ice fights back! And for some reason, I found this all fascinating! Roger Ebert called this movie “dull and stupid” and it has a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But it had my attention. Maybe because any movie with Patrick “The Prisoner” McGoohan, Jim F’N Brown and a Russian Ernest Borgnine among the cast can’t be all bad. The climactic battle, which ends up being an old fashioned staring contest, really (but not in a fun Conan O’Brien vs. Andy Richter way) takes a long time but it gets there. It’s funny watching movies from back in the day, of instance this movie came out around six months AFTER “2001: A Space Odyssey”…maybe the producers of this film saw that and thought “We need to make this film LONGER! Slow that plot WAY DOWN!” Literally, at one point late in the film, our heroes hear on the radio that fighter planes are headed their way, then we cut to a shot of the fighter jets, in the air, approaching. This shot takes A FULL MINUTE! Just planes flying through the air, over glaciers and such. A MINUTE of screen time! Imagine that in a modern action film, Michael Bay style. We’d be lucky to get eight seconds! The movie starts with an overture and has an intermission half way through. Directed by John Sturges, who also directed a few of my favourites “The Great Escape” and “The Magnificent Seven”, as well as another movie featured on TCM this month “Marooned”, so he knows what he’s doing. I mean he’s no Howard Hawks but…anyway, if I had watched this any other day I may have been hitting the FF button a lot, but on this day I let the movie happen, although I did have to take a break half way through (that is what the Intermission is for, right?).
July 18th: PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1981)
I’m a huge Steve Martin fan, or at least I thought I was, until I listened to his autobiography and realized I didn’t know much at all about his early film roles. I knew “The Jerk” but other than that I didn’t know much about him pre-“The Three Amigos”. I love “Roxanne”, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, “LA Story”, etc. One of my favourites is “Bowfinger”. But again, young Steve Martin I didn’t know much about. I have “The Man With Two Brains” and “The Lonely Guy” recorded, plus this movie, so I figured now was as good a time as any to start. This movie is (according to my research on Wikipedia) a dramatic musical romance, based on a BBC TV series. So after watching the first few minutes I was like…”So this ISN’T a comedy? I’m not supposed to be laughing?” Early on, after his wife won’t have sex with him after be practically begs, he follows her into the bathroom where she is brushing her teeth and he just stands there, gawking at her. It’s creepy. Then the music swells and I figure I’m going to get to hear Steve Martin sing. But it’s a girl’s voice! He’s lip-syncing to a woman singing a love song. And frankly, it’s hilarious! But then the song is cut short, the couple goes downstairs and they bicker some more, with Martin’s character whining she won’t have sex with him, again, and he wants money for his business. Then he goes to the bank wanting a loan and a Busby Berkely musical breaks out. It’s clearly a spoof of musical numbers, with the jazz hands and everything, but Wikipedia is telling me this is Steve Martin’s first attempt at a dramatic role! Later he sees Bernadette Peters (fresh from co-starring with Martin in “The Jerk”) and two scenes later, Martin is in her bedroom, professing his love to her. Now, he saw her in the scene prior (where he fell in love with her, fair enough) but she never noticed him, so this is the first time she is ever seeing him. EVER. This stranger who is in her bedroom, minutes earlier was just watching her sleep, is now saying he’s in love with her. Then a man’s voice yells for her. Martin looks at Peters and says “Who’s THAT?” and seems annoyed. WHAT AM I WATCHING? And we’re only 30 minutes in! Martin’s character takes in a homeless man who stutters, buys him food but then turns on a dime and is an asshole to him for no reason. Am I supposed to like this character? So from there there are two pretty cool tap-dance numbers and Martin’s character seems to lighten up, but then he lies to Peters about not being married but then slips up and mentions his wife but quickly catches himself and says “…God rest her soul”. Which is pretty funny! But then he manipulates Peters into having sex with him…everything about Martin’s performance is comedic. But this isn’t a comedy? Martin then goes home to his wife and IS A COMPLETE DICK to her! COMPLETE!!! I won’t even describe the lipstick joke…or is it a joke? Can anyone other than an misogynistic incel feel sympathetic to him? Are we supposed to? Even when Peters comes on screen and things come to life, they have her LIP-SYNC! It’s Bernadette Peters! This movie has energy in the dance numbers, for sure, especially when, an hour into the movie, of all people CHRISTOPHER WALKEN shows up and tap dances his way into our hearts! But he’s only in that one scene. And Peters’ character goes from shy girl to nymphomaniac back to shy and then street wise…and again, who are we supposed to relate to? Martin’s character is a sociopath who manipulates women as best he can. And then there is the scene with the blind girl…I’ll be here all night if I describe everything I had a problem with but we have to at least talk about the biggest one of all…they include a scene from “Follow the Fleet” and one of it’s Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers dance numbers…and, well, as someone might say, “The balls on this guy…” (Fred Astaire hated this movie, btw, just throwing that in there). Steve Martin once said in an interview that if you didn’t get this film you were “ignorant scum”. And it is 85% on Rotten Tomatoes but it was a box office bomb when it came out. I’m kind of baffled by this film, really. Martin would try another homage-movie next with “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”, a film noir that took the Fred & Ginger idea from this movie and added 19 more scenes just like it. I’ll always be a big Steve Martin fan and think he’s a genius. But if you asked him about me, I guess he’d describe me as “Ignorant scum!” From Steve Martin, I’ll take it!
July 19th: WHAT’S UP DOC? (1972)
One of my blind spots in my film knowledge has been Barbara Streisand. I admit it. I remember watching one of her early films a few years ago (I think it was “Hello Dolly”) and despite not remembering many details about it, I do remember really enjoying it and being smitten by her. For whatever reason, I haven’t seen one of her movies since. But this movie, paired with director Peter Bogdanovich, I recored this awhile ago, of course on TCM, and just now decided to watch it. Bogdanovich I have a mixed opinion on. I really liked “Last Picture Show” and “The Cat’s Meow”, as well as “Noises Off” and am jealous of his life, having met and talked to film legends like Orson Welles, Cary Grant and Billy Wilder. But his films seem to have a rollercoaster effect; some go really high, but others go really low. And Ryan O’Neal is a guy who’s done lots of stuff and has two talented daughters; on named Tatum and one named Bones. Anyway, what about this film? As I watched the opening credits, I noticed Polly Platt’s name, which confused me, as I thought this movie came after “Last Picture Show” and I know during that movie Bogdanovich ended his marriage with Platt and started dating Cybill Sheppard, but maybe there was some crossover there. Anyway, this is supposedly a tribute to slapstick comedies like “Bringing Up Baby” which, despite being a huge Cary Grant and Howard Hawks fan, I found “Baby” really annoying. Looking back on it, I think what frustrated me was the fact both leads where really ditzy, Grant and Katherine Hepburn, and their scenes just frustrated me. But with this film, it’s O’Neal who is ditzy and from the first time she comes on film, Streisand is (seemingly) a con artist who knows exactly what she is doing. And Streisand keeps this movie together. Streisand here is really a revelation to me (which makes me about 30 years behind the rest of the world, I know!). When I was growing up, Streisand was thought of as a Goddess, the subject of those Mike Myers SNL skits where they talked about her in reverential terms. So it was probably me just rejecting the mass opinion. If I had seen this film back then, I would have been right there with everyone else. This movie does get super wacky later on, and really, the reason to keep watching is Streisand. Her glistening eyes, long flowing hair and THAT SMILE…amazing! One of the best parts of the whole movie is when late in the film, she comes out from hiding inside a blanket, smiles and says “Hi daddy!” in a sweet sheepish in a way that shows her in a different light from the rest of the film, with an innocence that is tremendous. Also in the opening credits, it says “Introducing Madeline Kahn”. I was shocked to learn this was her first film, with “Blazing Saddles”, “Young Frankenstein”, “High Anxiety” and others coming a few years later. Her character is a bit one note but still, it’s Madeline F’N Kahn! It’s fun seeing young versions of Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton, Randy Quaid, and a younger M. Emmet Walsh (a guys like that was just born in his late 30’s, right?). I see on Wikipedia a young Sylvester Stallone was an uncredited hotel guest, but I missed that. Something to see the next time I watch it, as this is one I’ll be seeing again. I also have Streisand’s “The Owl and the Pussycat” recorded and I’ll probably be watching that soon.
July 20th: DEN OF THIEVES (2018)
I mentioned before that I listen to a podcast called “How Did This Get Made?” where they talk about bad movies and make fun of them. One of the co-hosts is Jason Mantzoukas and he was in a film called “The Long Dumb Road” (2018) and it was on cable recently. I watched it. It was…okay. I could write a review but there’s not much to say, and I think it’s mean to pick on small indie movies. So what is this then? On the show, Mantzoukas is constantly talking about his favourite movie “Den of Thieves”. So let’s watch that instead. It helps that I am a big “Heist-movie” fan. So, before I get to the movie, there is one actor in particular in this movie whose whole performance is “cigarette-acting”, where, if it isn’t obvious, the performance is totally based on how he smokes. He happy-smokes, and sad-smokes, and angry-smokes…screw it, it’s Gerard Butler. So, as someone who has never gone to acting school, I have to ask…are there “Smoking Acting Classes”? Or is that something you are expected to learn on your free time? But what about this film? It’s pretty great! I will probably see it again just to make sure everything makes sense, and it is a very complicated heist set up. I don’t want to spoil stuff, but the cast is good, with Pablo Schreiber having come a long way since being “Pornstache” on “Orange is the New Black”, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. doing a great job. Even “50 Cent” is good. There is really no humour here, except for one scene that is pretty cliche but is done well, where one of the hoods’ daughter is going to prom and the date shows up and he has to intimidate the young lad. But yes, this is a great film, and I’m kind of baffled that it only has 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. Highly recommended.