Daily Movies

12/11/12 Hannah’s Law (TV movie) – The cowpokes have been out on the trail for lord knows how long – but their hats, and all the rest of the hats in the movie – are brand new and spotless.

10/04/12   Watch 10 movies or so a week and writing even a line for each is a royal pain in the ass. Just the same, I miss doing it. Just watched “Griff the Invisable” and felt sad that I was wasn’t going to comment on it.

 04/10/12      I used to comment on movies and TV shows recently watched or rewatched, but I’ve sort of lapsed, leaving the following to be discussed at some future time, or never: Quarantine 2; Take Shelter; Forgetting Sarah Marshall; Irina Palm; Young Adult; Date Night; My Weekend With Marilyn; Master Harold and the Boys; Shakespeare (BBC Mini); The Descendants; Yakuza Weapon; Tiny Furniture; Tower Heist; Another Happy Day; Toast; The Big Year; Restless; Whip It; House of Games; The Sorcerer and the White Serpent; Alone in the Dark; Martyrs (most horrifying of the horror films?); Pain; The Inbetweeners; The Monk and the White Snake; Drive; Is Anybody There; Real Steel; Chalet Girl; Killer Elite; More Beckett short plays; Mr. Foe; In Time; Mother; The Guard; The Fighter; Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark; Wake Up Sid; Boy Eats Girl; Higher Ground; The Merry Gentleman; The Big Easy; Rare Birds; Saving Private Perez; Monsieur Hire; Life Stinks; Pathology; Passing Strange; Final Destination 5; Cemetary Junction; The Ides of March; Shawshank; Moneyball; In Bruges; Pirate Radio; Scorpion King 3; Contagion; Friends with Benefits; Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Jack Goes Boating; Another Earth; True Blood, Season 3; In Treatment, Season 3; Warrior; The Devil’s Double; Our Idiot Brother; Cowboys and Aliens; Midnight in Paris; Friday; All Hat; Monarchy; Marry Me; Ballast; Miller’s Crossing; Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang; Eastbound and Down, Season 2; Foyle’s War, Season 4; John Adams; Invictus; Peep Show; Pusher II; Copying Beethoven; The Help; In Treatment, Season 3; Big Love, Season 5.

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Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 (2011) – I loved the book, nutty as it is. The movie is an outline, but I like to watch sketches like this.

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A Little Help (2011) – Perfect movie if you want a little romcom vibe, but not the formula or the unreality.

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Super 8 (2011) – J. J. Abrams’ take on E.T. Nice, but the notion constrains Abrams a bit.

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Just Another Love Story (2007) – If you want true, pure noir these days, go Dane.

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Conan the Barbarian (2011) -As a Conan fanboy since the early 50s, I give this one my seal of approval.

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East Bound and Down (2011) – Season 2. HBO is not afraid to follow the logic just about as far as it can go, here with reference to the ultimate self-involved lowlife.

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Straight to Hell Returns (2010) – What was was he thinking?

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) – Perfect finale for a great series.

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Beginners (2010) – Well written, well acted, well made. I felt like I’d seen it before a few times and the Woody Allen-style background music caused me to start looking for influences in the film, but otherwise ok.

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Red Rock West (1993) – Holds up great. Cage, Hopper, and Lara Flynn Boyle. John Dahl is still getting it done, directing and writing for Justified, Californication, Dexter, Caprica, etc.

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Vincere (2009) – Glorious, operatic Italian history lesson. Some, like my viewing partner, might complain that the abrupt ending causes the film to be “not a movie.”

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A Man Apart (2003) – Holds up, although the writer trips and replaces the climax with a coda. I’d like a commentary just to see how that happened.

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Trespass (2011) – There is a good thriller in here somewhere.

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Bunraku (2010) – A movie that draws on every trope, style, and convention to be found in the action genre, and the better for it. The two greatest fighters in the land (the good guys) end up facing Ron Perlman, who in Sons of Anarchy has trouble holding onto his Harley’s handlebars with his aging arthritic mitts. Will he be called upon to actually fight here? It’s a question that kept me interested to the end.

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Ed Wood (1994) – Untarnished by age.

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Eastern Promises (2007) – Holds up. I’d like to ask a native speaker sometime how Viggo’s Russian sounded to them.

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Little Big Soldier (2010) – Chinese history, Chinese scenery, a cast of 1000s (most CGI, but who cares). Jackie Chan acting. A little martial-arts tom-foolery tossed in. Two enjoyable hours.

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – There are comic-book movies and there are comic-book movies. Green Lantern is a comic-book movie. Captain America is a Hollywood movie with comic-book themes.  I like them all, except Ang Lee’s Hulk, which I need to give another chance. But three strikes and it’s out.

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Crazy, Stupid Love (2011) – Excellent romcom with everyone sorted out in age-appropriate fashion.

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Green Lantern (2011) – There are comic book movies and then there are comic book movies. This is a comic book movie.

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Water for Elephants (2011) – We just went to the circus. Who knows what drama was occurring off in the wings? Here, Reese is ten years older than Pattinson. Mild cradle robbing.

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The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) – Called early on account of lack of interest. Saw the original, set in Boston, when it came out, in Boston. All I remember is a scene on the beach and, maybe, that we recognized the beach.

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Matinee (1993) – Seems like I watch this one every so often. Still holds up. Great for those of us who were in high school during the Cuban missle crisis.

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The Princess Montpensier (2010) – All the French history of the 1500s you could desire.

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Made In Dagenham (2010) – Back when there was still something called a “union.”

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Mr. Nice (2010) – Legalize weed!

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Terribly Happy (2008) -Danish Coen brothers. I won’t be moving to Denmark anytime soon, at least out into the countryside, but the movie was excellent.

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Entourage (Season 7) – Strikes me as a good first half for the last season. Goes much darker and more profane than in previous seasons.

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Bad Teacher (2011) – Good enough for Wednesday night. Be interesting to see where Cameron Diaz’s career goes from here. The Goldie Hawn route?

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The Hit (1984) – Stephen Frears emerges from TV. Noir in the Spanish sun. Terence Stamp, John Hurt, and Tim Roth. Criterion. An hour-long BBC interview with Stamp on his now-he’s-here, now-he’s not career. Another how-have-I-missed-this-one-since-1984? movies, and swell in all respects.

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Terri (2011) – There is a party scene in which teens use alcohol and pills unwisely. I thought it captured the perils of youth beautifully. John C. Riley, like Will Farrell, is getting to exercise his dramatic chops. Wonderful film.

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Paul (2011) – Just as funny the second time.

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Incendies (2010) – Some unnecessary plot goofiness and a massacre you might want to avoid, but otherwise 130 minutes well-spent in Jordan (masquerading as Lebanon).

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What About Bob? (1991) – One of those “How did I miss this one for twenty years” films that it was fun to catch up with.

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Welcome to the Rileys (2010) –  There are falling-down movies, like Falling Down (1993), and then there are falling-down-and-getting-back-up movies. After “Everything Must Go” and “The Beaver” and this one, I’m wondering whether we’re living in a time that wants a little hope, which is what these movies provide.

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Scream 4 (2011) – The high-class leader in amusing stabbing porn.

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Everything Must Go (2010) – I never cottoned to Raymond Carver much, but I liked this film. Something about the photography, though, for me at least, made the Arcadia neighborhood, and 7730 North Dreamy Draw Drive in Phoenix, look like someplace other than where it really was.

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The Lost Future (2010) – Worthy SyFy TV effort, filmed in South Africa. The sound recording makes the dialog seem dubbed, but the movie is something to watch on your iPhone, so that’s ok. Sean Bean doesn’t have the stone face of the usual hero, but that’s because he can act.

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Sons of Anarchy (Season 3) – Richard Thompson’s “Dad’s Going to Kill Me” plays throughout the final scene of the premiere. Dynamite.

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3 Women (1977) – A reminder of the greatness that was 70s cinema. But where is Shelley Duvall’s Oscar nomination? A role for the ages.

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The Warrior’s Way (2011) – Korean cinema has been great for westerns. Dong-gun Jang is great in the Eastwood role, substituting sword for gun. Perfect role for Kate Bosworth. Sngmoo Lee directs.  Filmed in New Zeland, also serving the genre well.

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Tamara Drewe (2010) – Gemma Arterton, back from being Queen of Persia, joins an entertaining cast of English locals in an old-fashioned country comedy.

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Children’s Hospital (Season 1) – Six episodes, five minutes each. Packs a lot that is funny into that thirty minutes. Ditto Season 2.

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Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (2011) – Michael Jai White and four worthy youngsters perform some well-filmed MMA. A little sex, a little soap. Pretty good genre flick.

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Fringe (Season Three) – Did not disappoint. I mourned the loss of Lost, but I needn’t have. Multiple universes, multiple futures, time travel, mysterious beings, soap. It’s all here.

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Ironclad (2011) – Good historical drama about the defense of Rochester Castle after King John turned his back on the Magna Carta. Paul Giamatti does a swell King John, earning his check with a couple of worthy monologs. Brian Cox is a mighty warrior, believe it or not. At least until Paul whacks off his hands and feet. Jonathan English was working on a small budget here, but he made me believe. At one point he turns five horses into an army; ah, the magic of digital… The tagline is “Heavy metal goes medieval,” which suggests that English wasn’t served well by the Marketing department. The movie is a serious effort, including Charles Dance and Derek Jacobi in the cast. The Danes are played by Czechs and Hungarians. The suffering Templar is James Purefoy.

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The Last Kung Fu Monk (2010) – Heart’s in the right place. I’m walking away from the wisecracks. Probably plays better with its Mandarin and Cantonese dubs.

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Bridesmaids (2011) – Interesting to watch episodes of 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and this movie, comparing the work of Fey, Pohler, and Wiig. Three sisters.

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Stake Land (2010) – Zombieland meets Winter’s Bone. One of my top five zombie movies.

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X-Men: First Class (2011) – Having been present during the Cuban missile crisis, I can report that I don’t remember any panic buying or heading for the hills or other such activities. The primary mood was one of anxious resignation. Definitely put a crimp in the world series, in which the Yankees beat the Giants in game 7 ten days before the resolution of the crisis.

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Tracker (2010) – I’ve seen some comparisons to Seraphim Falls (2006), which I liked but can’t remember the ending of. Neeson vs Brosan. It kept me guessing till the end. This one is just as scenic but more plot heavy, with some complicated moral juggling between Maori, Hottentot, Boer, and the British Empire. Ray Winstone is totally believable as a Boer, and then in the included interviews, he’s this colloquial Hackney character. I guess that’s why they call it acting. I remember liking Michelle Yeoh in something – Crouching Tiger maybe – as a down-to-earth martial artist, and then watching her glammed up in a post interview and thinking, hey, what happened to Michelle?

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Barney’s Version (2010) – Barney is required to look across the room and instantly fall in love with the woman he sees.  Rosamund Pike makes it seem reasonable to me, though not to she with whom I was watching.

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With the amazing “The World As I Found It” and to some extent “Quicksilver,” I forget that I’m reading fiction.

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Kill the Irishman (2011) – Cleveland in the ’70s, back when Cleveland meant something. Now it ranks 45th in population in the U.S.

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Small Town Murder Songs (2010) – And swell songs they are. A movie about redemption. Good to see that somebody still believes in it.

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13 Assassins (2010) – Excellent genre movie, that, while entertaining us, reminds us that humans have evolved way too rapidly, which is why we’ll end up extinct at some point, having all killed each other off… Part way through the movie, one of the assassins says, “Only 130 [of the enemy] left.” It didn’t occur to me at the time that he was actually saying, “Ten bad guys per assassin left at this point.” Then, each assassin proceeded to kill many more than ten, so I guess his count was off.

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Night of the Demons (2010) – Seven demons so bad they’re kicked out of hell. Still, while they do manage to kill off a bunch of kids (of the thirty- and forty-something variety), they can’t quite finish the job, with that one spunky young woman surviving, with a swagger…

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Zatôichi monogatari  (TV series, 1974-1979) – If you’re a fan of the manyZatôichi movies and can lay your hands on this new DVD collection of the TV series, do so.

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Fringe (Season 3) – Promising beginning, with two of everybody. Could get very complicated, and I hope that it does.

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Blitz (2011) – One more chance for me to try and remember how Jason Statham’s last name is spelled. A well-made movie that reminds us why it’s important to have violent, rogue cops on the force beating and killing evil doers who evade convicton by the criminal justice system, or never get that far once Jason gets his hands on them. I spent the movie marvelling at how much the bad guy reminded me of the guy who gets elected mayor in The Wire and holy cow, it’s him. Statham’s police boss tells him to cool it a while or he’ll be fired and Statham replies, “This [beating and killing] is what I know how to do.”

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Super (2011) – Entertaining but not for everyone, as there is an unmistakable whiff of snuff porn present in it. Good to see Gregg Henry working, and Rooker, of course. Everyone involved is swell.

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Cypher (2002) – Not quite the same ride, the second time around, but still fun. I’ll watch anything with Lucy Liu’s slightly crossed eyes in it.

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Outsourced (2006) – American guy goes to work in India, is initially clueless. I wonder how I’d make out, spending my days as I do with as many India-born  workers as Euro-Americans. Ditto for China.

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Your Highness (2011) – Undistinguished low comedy, with some laughs. In a recent column about some other movie, David Denby commented that CGI, in the future, will help deliver movies to us in a shape that we can’t even imagine now. I thought of that as I watched Your Highness. Regardless of the movie’s content, the landscapes and effects kept catching my eye and tickling my imagination.

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Gunless (2010) – Slings and Arrows being my all-time favorite series, I was delighted to discover that its star Paul Gross was cast as The Montana Kid in this Canadian oater. Too bad his wife Martha Burns wasn’t in it too. That would have been perfect. Hurrah for Canadian movies.

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The Beaver (2011) – This is how I picture Martin Riggs ending up.

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Dinner for Schmucks (2010) – Add this to the list of movies I skipped for a while because of the savage reviews, but ended up liking… Athough now that I review the NYT and Ebert, I find that they both liked it too.

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Viewing on the plane (I like those little seatback screens): Hanna, Paul, Fast Five, Thor, Win Win, Diamonds Are Forever, The Expendables, episodes of Community, Justified, Eastbound and Down, and Big Bang Theory. And others that I was too groggy to remember. A consolation of really long flights, along with the cup-o-noodles and free beer and wine that Cathy serves.

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Cinderella (1950) – It’s been a while. That duet at the ball recalls the 40s and is still pretty great.

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True Blood (Season 2) – David Thomson in his massive book of biographies has an entry for Anna Paquin, stating that her work in True Blood is, I don’t know, the greatest acting of the decade or something like that. I sat staring at that entry for a while. The man was jonesing when he wrote it, must have been, but it caused me to try out Season 2 again and this time I’m totally hooked.

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The Politician’s Wife (1995) – Three-part BBC mini-series. If you like political drama with some kinky sex thrown in, this is on top of the top of the heap. Don’t miss it. Strangely, IMDB buries Juliet Stevenson below the fold. She is the star of the show.

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Moon (2009) – Still excellent the second time. May Duncan Jones not be corrupted by the big budget for his third effort.

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Source Code (2011) – Spoiler. Plus a few words in case your eyes keeping moving but you really don’t want it spoiled. The real loser in this script is poor old Sean Fentress. First he gets blown up and then, when he survives, he’s been replaced by Mr. Stevens. Kudos to Frédérick De Grandpré, who plays a reflection in a mirror and a train window.

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Anton Chekhov’s The Duel (2010) – Anger, hysteria, great scenery, and of course, a duel.

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The Pretender (Season 1) – Formula 90s series. Super-guy can be a doctor, jet pilot, race-car drive, etc., etc., and uses his powers to right wrongs, one wrong at a time. I was entertained… In fact, I’m finding it hard to stop watching.

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Parks and Recreation (Season 2) – Watched a couple of episodes. Made me laugh. Will watch more.

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Arthur (2011) – Watched some of it. Quality goofiness. Greta Gerwig delivers some strange line readings. If I ever have the movie around again, I want to go back and replay some of them, to figure out what she was trying to do. Mumblecore star finds herself confronting Russell Brand, Jennifer Garner, Helen Mirren, etc.

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Limitless (2011) – Fun. What’s new in Limitless? Needing a drug badly and obtaining it by licking up blood from an exsanguinating man, from the linoleum.

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I was in the library today and just happened to see David Thomson’s book “Have You Seen…” on the shelf. I checked it out. The book comprises 1,000 pages, each page containing the author’s thoughts about a particular movie. It’s an unbelievable performance and makes me want to write one-page reviews like his (without the intellectual content, I’m afraid). Note to self: try this with a current or recent movie that I’ve seen. Some fellow movie bloggers do this already. Taken together with Thomson’s gigantic volume of biographical sketches of those who make movies, which I also checked out the other day, one is in possession of some large percentage of all movie knowledge. The trick is to move that data and those pensees from betwixt the covers of the books, into the brain. I happen to be watching Limitless (2011) but don’t have the pills that Bradley Cooper has.

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 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) – David Thomson, along with many other critics, designates the late 60s/early 70s as the last golden age of movies. Watching Harry Potter, with all its imaginative inventiveness and technical expertise, next to Cable Hogue, reminds me that there is something ineffable about those old movies that I don’t often find in movies today.

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The Balland of Cable Hogue (1970) – Looks like Robards did Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and came back for this reprise with Peckinpah. It goes in my “How have I missed this movie for the past 40 years?” bin. I love westerns. Peckinpah was my Tarantino back in the day. Maybe I saw Cable Hogue and forgot it, but it’s too good for that.

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You Never Can Tell (1977) – Settle back and enjoy. Shaw comedy of errors first staged in 1897… Act 2. Seven at table in the restaurant, plus the waiter. Where can you find extended scenes with dialog like this today? Fie on the quick cut. Drama is dead. Just watch a couple of Tony winners if you don’t believe me… No, not dead, just sadly wanting. It’s like American male soccer. All the best athletes sign up for pro careers in football, hockey, basketball, and baseball. I presume that potential playrights are doing the same sort of thing in the entertainment business.

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The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief (2006) – Documentary about clubs in Osaka where young women pay young men (hosts) to drink with them, play with them, romance them, etc. Not something that you’d find in the U.S., to put it mildly… Turns out, the only women who can afford the full treatment when they come in – and some of them have been coming in for four or five years – are sex workers looking for fun and company.

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The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) – I’ve listened to a number of Connelly books on tape, including several of the Mick Haller numbers. Clever plotting. This is a worthy screen adaptation. McConaughey usually strikes me as a little goofy, but likable.

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Gunfight at La Mesa (2010) – I watched more than an hour of this one, just because it wears its heart on its sleeve and because it was filmed in southern New Mexico. Small, amateurish, subject to critical abuse of all sorts for its myriad goofs and bad acting, I, like the guy at DVD Verdict, in spite of all that, wish the makers well. Keep trying! But don’t show us the Rio Grande and tell us that we’re in Arizona.

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Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) – God bless Rutger Hauer. It’s been a while, but he’s finally found himself in another classic.

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Insidious (2010) – Fun horror. Interesting to watch Lin Shaye and Barbara Hershey acting side by side. They’re both well into their 60s, Lin with her normal face, Barbara with that generic lift that has removed her individuality completely (or tell me that I’m wrong).

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Breaking Bad (Season 3) – Series like this one are clinics in plotting. It’s fun to speculate in advance about the twists.

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Choose Me (1984) – A movie that makes me want to write.

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The Man of Destiny (1981) – A young Simon Callow as Napolean. My 11th Shaw play. I’ll be sad to finish all of the plays that have been committed to film. Then the only way to see a new one will be to track down some obscure stage performance. Nothing wrong with that, if I could find one… Callow does a rousing job. Thirty years later, he has had an estimable career, but maybe not as glorious a one as this performance might have predicted.

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Chungking Express (1994) – Finally I watch it. The Criterion edition. A lot to like.

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Cedar Rapids (2011) – Congenial, life-affirming humor. Made me laugh.

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Unknown (2011) – Liam Neeson, up against Johnny Depp in The Tourist (2010). Which of the two plots is sillier? Hard to decide.

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Scary Movie 3 (2003) – When I want to laugh and not think, I return to a Zucker movie that I’ve seen. They are dependable that way, for me.

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Breaking Bad, Season 3 – At one point my spouse asked me why I was laughing. Thinking about it, the show is sort of a comedy… It makes Albuquerque seem a lot more interesting that I ever found it… Have they given Danny Trejo two cameos now, and killed him off in both?

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Scary Movie 4 (2006) – Picked it up thinking that it was Scream 4 (2011), but that’s ok. Made me laugh again the second time.

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Arms and the Man (1989) – Helena Bonham Carter at 23 wiggles her brows in the service of her art. Early Shaw.

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The Adjustment Bureau (2011) – The producer sits in his office and the door bursts open. In rushes an agent waving a piece of paper. “I’ve found another Philip K. Dick story, and Damon is available!”

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Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) – Holds up nicely. Cheadle still great as the homicidal Mouse. Too bad it did poorly at the box office; no more Mosely books onscreen. It was the first film that Washington’s Munday Lane company helped finance. They rounded up a lot of 40s automobiles for this one; that and the way they dressed a four-block neighborhood, plus the star salaries, account for most of the $50 million (in 1995) budge.

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The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) – Several “I’d watch him in anything” stars, and I enjoyed watching them in this.

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Battle Los Angeles (2011) – I watched long enough to get a look at an alien. The aliens could learn something from the Taliban or the Viet Cong.

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Sherlock (2010) – BBC. Three episodes in the first season. Totally entertaining. Sherlock with a cell phone, computer, and a Doctor Watson just back from combat in Afghanistan. Can’t wait for next season.

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Mrs. Harris (2005) – Annette Bening and Ben Kingsley, a most entertaining couple. As the movie began, showing the beginning and end of their relationship, I expected the usual arc from happiness to unhappiness. In this case, the details of the arc were more unexpected and more entertaining than usual.

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Bomber (2009) – Film Movement never disappoints me. Good road movie (Holland and Germany) for the older demo.

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Le Mans (1971) – I had forgotten Le Mans, mistaking it for Grand Prix (1966). If you want to experience Formula 1 racing and the 24 Hours at Le Mans, this is the film for you. Almost a documentary. Makes me want to revisit Grand Prix, which I remember as awful soapy, and Winning (1969), which I remember liking a lot. Newman had that long racing career and Winning fit right in.

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Just Go with It (2011) – I like Adam Sandler. In this one, he’s a plastic surgeon and Jennifer Aniston is his assistant. Someone asks him if she’s had work done and he says no, she’s just naturally beautiful. However, she doesn’t look quite real in her closeups. Just heavy makeup?

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Midnight Run (1988) – Holds up on all counts. Who would have guessed, watching it, that Charles Grodin was about to go way right wing. Took a look at his wiki but can’t tell where his head is at these days.

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The Verdict (1982) –  Boy, this movie and Bachelor Party seem so old. Were the early 80s that long ago? Anyway, The Verdict holds up. Newman, Warden, Mason, O’Shea, Rampling, Lumet, Mamet. Wow.

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Bachelor Party (1984) –  Hanks is 28, but seems younger. Clunky but considered a classic? and it made me laugh, which is sufficient. Loaded with actors who never went anywhere.

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True Grit (2010) – An honorable western, reminding me how much I enjoyed the book by Portis, and his The Dog of the South as well.

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I find that an hour of Sons of Anarchy followed by an hour from a Shaw play such as Heartbreak House, makes for fun viewing. The contrast emphasizes the strong points of both.

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Bright Star (2009) – There is a moment in this beautifully made film that was just perfect for me. I hope to revisit it. On my not-worthy side, Ben Whishaw kept reminding me of a young Johnny Carson.

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Fast & Furious (2009) – I like this franchise. Number 4 is an honest effort. So was number 3. I’m glad to see that number 5 is being so well received.

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I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) – Acting school is now in session.

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 Drive Angry (2011) – It’s why I watch movies.

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To Die For (1995) – When this movie came out, I glanced at the reviews and gathered that it was a serious movie about a woman who killed herself, probably courtesy of an eating disorder, in her attempt to reach the top of the TV news business. A podcast set me straight the other day, and I finally watched this topnotch black comedy.

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 One False Move (1992) – How did I miss this class movie? Bill Pullman takes the Timmy Olyphant Justification role, same voice, just fine, years before acquiring those three wives and settling down in a series with them. This is Billy Bob Thornton five years before Sling Blade. I forget who his dialog coach was, but I could have got those line readings out of him better. I wonder if Angelina ever saw him in this one… He married his co-star (Cynda Williams) shortly after the movie wrapped… Texas grows some extra hills as the Texas scenes were shot in California.

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The Rite (2011) – Worthy film for exorcism lovers. At the end of the movie, when the young priest must amp it up to cast out a devil, we have a good example of shouting versus having-a-big-voice. A Geigud or Olivier or even Hopkins, the shoutee here, could scare the devil out of an oak tree with a couple of good roars blowing straight up from their fundament. Colin O’Donoghue has the priestly genes ok, but not, or not yet, the true exorcist’s lungs and voicebox.

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The Mechanic (2011) – Comparing this one to The Mechanic (1972): in the early 70s, the hero is flawed, suffers, and dies; in 2010, the hero is the thunking heart of a potential franchise, dude. You’d be crazy to kill him. If you did make that mistake, as they did in Crank (2006), fergeddabout it. Bring him back anyway in Crank 2 (2009), with no apologies.

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The Town (2010) – Affleck channels early De Niro in a film rooted not in Charlestown but in Hollywood.

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 MILF (2010) – Before you deride these actors, remember that if you were called on to star in a movie tomorrow, you wouldn’t do half as well as they do, probably. Plus, at least half of them have had their teeth whitened.

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The Tourist (2010) – Two things about the movie: (1) The viewer’s wonderment at the ending. Really? Two big stars? Big budget? And you’re going here? See my Life in Hollywood posts for an explanation of the scriptwriting business. (2) Angelina Jolie. It’s just about looking at her. It’s fun. She’s like a Star Trek alien of some kind, but in a good way.

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The Next Three Days (2010) – Brian Dennehy gives a class in how to keep all eyes on you even when you have absolutely nothing to do in a scene. Elizabeth Banks tries out this and that; some of it works.

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Fish Tank (2009) – Good looks at Barking, Tower Hamlets, Dagenham, Havering, Tilbury, and Stanford le Hope, all on the east side of London. Doesn’t make me want to live there, though.

***

Fringe (Season 2) – There is a term, which I forget, for standalone episodes thrown into a series that has a through line. BSG would do this from time to time. I usually find these episodes annoying, and in Fringe they abound, at least up to Episode 8 of the second season, at which point things get back on track (that’s where I am now). Someone on a podcast mentioned the patience shown by the network wrt to this dilly-dallying, and I decided to keep watching through the seemingly detached Episodes 6 and 7 at this promise of things to come. The main story, or what little of it has been revealed, has finally returned and I’m interested in it… Ulp. Episode 9, back to the standalone. Episode 10, back to the through story… 11, back to standalone. The series is more standalone than through. But every once in a while they throw in a few moments of the mysterious central character played by, yes, Leonard Nimoy. Hard to leave when he’s hovering around… Oh, never mind. It’s almost all standalone. But sort of entertaining.

***

The Good Guy (2009) – The bad guys are Ebert and the NYT, who suggested that this movie was worth watching. It features (1) that sinking feeling you get when you suddenly realize where the plot is going; you’ve been there before, many times, (2) the female protagonist suffers from Meg-Ryan-helicopter-pilot syndrome: she’s a wet noodle who is supposed to be on her way to directorship of a big-city department; no way. The movie also fails that test, the name of which I’ve forgotten: (1) It has two or more women in it, check, (2) They talk to each other, check, (3) They talk about something besides men, nope.
***

Legion (2009) – Seems like I’ve seen Dennis Quaid in so many movies that I’ve liked. Catch him in Savior (1998) for the rare movie in which he never smiles, or grins that grin of his; although he doesn’t smile much in this one, either… Question: while Michael and Gabriel are fist-fighting to determine the fate of the world, what are the other two archangels, Uriel and Raphael, doing?

***

Ocean’s 12 (2004) – Rewatching with the spouse. I find the Ocean movies eminently rewatchable.

***

Heartbreak House (1977) – Eighth Shaw play in my marathon.

***
Sports Night
(1998) – Laugh track. The first chuckle, I thought it was a cast member. Maybe Sorkin himself. Next chuckle, disbelief. Then a cast member read a benign line that was followed by a guffaw from the track. So I watched maybe two minutes of Season One. Not bad, except for the track.

***

Grown Ups (2010) –  I’ll add this to the list of movies that got horrible reviews but I liked anyway. Not unusual when Adam Sandler is involved. And I did quit partway through, just because I had other stuff to watch. Ditto Police Academy (1984). The Green Hornet (2011) Seth Rogen slimming down. How often does that happen? Plus, Admiral Adama in retirement. The big-screen extravaganza at the end somewhat lessened by viewing on letterboxed PC on stomach in bed.

***
Secretariat (2010) – Written by the Sports Movie Screenwriting Robot with it’s originality chip removed, the film still engaged me in the race scenes, especially the last one. Though there is an unfortunate moment in one of the first races where the film is speeded up to make the horses run faster. That was just embarassing.

 ***

Rabbit Hole (2010) – Nice. Screenplay by the author of the play. Might have been best not to watch it in parallel with Mrs. Warren’s Profession, though. Shaw is tough to be compared to.

***

Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1960) – Mother and daughter discuss at length the moral and social imperatives that cause one to choose prostitution and the other engineering. My seventh Shaw play and just as engrossing as the other six… Shaw drops a rare bombshell plot twist at the end of Act 2 in this one.

***

The Special Relationship (2010) – I’ve always thought that Hope Davis sort of looks like Hilary Clinton. Through all of Season 2 of In Treatment, there Hilary was, with her therapist. Now Hope  gets to actually play Hilary and they’ve made her look less like her. Strange.

***

Sons of Anarchy – Wife of the club president enters menopause. Now that’s a biker show.

***
Conviction
(2010) – The spouse liked it. I got a little bored although, paradoxically, Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell were never boring.

***

Fair Game (2010) – Eight years of Bush and his minions. I’m sure glad that they’re gone. There is a school of thought that the Civil War was caused mainly because of a failure of the government to solve the political problems between North and South in the ’50s. Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan come in for a lot of blame. I wonder how the Bush administration would have handled that challenge.

***

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) –  A worthy addition to the “Drift” subgenre of racing movies. Unanswered question: How is Vin Diesel ever going to get that huge muscle car to drift at the end of the movie?… We learn here that you can get by perfectly well in Tokyo, going to high school, working, etc., without speaking a word of Japanese.

***

The Train (1964) – If you want to watch old steam engines puff around and derail and get bombed, this is your movie. Ditto if you want Burt Lancaster in his prime, doing plenty of his own stunts. Probably couldn’t afford to make a movie like this today, outside of the Thomas shorts.

***

Medicine for Melancholy (2008) – Indie movie. African-American mumblecore vibe. The medicine is to hang out with a good-looking, articulate, passionate stranger in San Francisco for twenty-four hours or so. Wears off shortly after the stranger leaves?

***

In all the movies, they hold the flashlight overhand. I probably never have. I’m thinking that the next time, I’m gonna do it, even if it’s a little tiny single-AAA battery guy.

***

Local Hero (1983) – Haven’t watched it in years. Still great.

***

Mrs Warren’s Profession (BBC Play of the Month) – Seventh in my Shaw marathon. Begins, like so many Shaw plays, with a long scene introducing the four principal characters while we observers sit back and enjoy the dialog.

***

Stone (2010) – I haven’t looked into it, but this seems like the project of someone who has had some success and can now make any movie that he/she wants. At any rate, a labor of love. It’s a meditation, with stars, unlike most dramas out there.

***

Chantrapas (2010) – My second visit to a film festival, this one the San Francisco International. Chantrapas was two hours spent mostly in the Republic of Georgia, or whatever they’re calling it these days. I liked the movie and I liked the festival venue and atmosphere. The writer/director of the movie, Otar Iosseliani, a very European-seeming curmudgeon, came out before and after the movie for Q&A, which itself was worth the price of admission.

Back in the day, bel canto became all the rage in St. Petersburg, and the Italians set up a school to teach it. When a child came to try out, the Italians, not speaking Russian (and the Russians not speaking Italian), would say, in French, either “Chantra” or “Chantrapas.” That is, “You can sing” or “You can’t sing.” “Chantrapas” became a synonym for “failure.” After Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, and sundry other notables were deemed chantrapas, the word came to mean, not a failure, but someone out of the ordinary. The movie Chantrapas chronicles the movie-making adventures of a young Georgian chantrapas, in his native land and in France. It’s a comedy, but since it deals with the Georgian Communist bureaucracy, it’s not always easy to tell when it’s kidding. Nobody gets shot, but everybody drinks constantly and smokes their brains out. It’s worse than Mad Men that way, if that’s possible.

***

Today’s love letter to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The reason I liked Lost so much was that from week to week, anything could happen. Surprises in every show. the Terminator TV series started out with a T888 chasing Sarah and her son and I wondered how that chase could possibly stretch over two seasons. I wasn’t reckoning on other T888-like bad-guy robots who didn’t agree with the T888s, or the liquid metal versions, bad but somehow ambivalent, or the good robots continually evolving, or multiple futures, which seem to keep changing, or present-day soap. The writers are given a blank slate and are invited to create something interesting, and they do.

***

The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009) – Had to go back and read the Wiki plot summary of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009). Was reminded how, when the whole serial killer thing was revealed, I realized that that movie was strong cheese disguised at first by its Swedish vibe. This time around, I picked up the cheesiness even before the gratuitous lesbian sex on the rug. I assume that there was a rug under them. Meanwhile, that whole Wiki thing: it’s like humans as ants, building an anthill. Creepy… And having finished TGWPWF, yes, cheesy, way cheesy.

***

The Major and the Minor (1942)  – I first saw this on TV as a kid staying home from school sick in the 50s. Thought it was awfully romantic. Now, watching the first third or so, I immediately pick up that sort of strange Wilder vibe that is present in various of his movies, to me at least. Rogers is in her thirties and looks it, playing eleven. A lot of suspension of disbelief necessary; otherwise, Ray Milland is just plain nuts… But now, the vibe recedes. But Ginger at the prom, playing a kid only by elevating her voice a little, that’s a stretch. Also, Ginger doesn’t look quite like I remember her, he says, without getting specific. She looks a little older than her true age, in fact… Diana Lynn was only 15 in the movie, so her kid-hood worked better… After the movie was over, I checked the vibe left in my head. Yep. A little strange, a little creepy. Maybe just a little German. Billy Wilder had the creepy gene.

***

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles -The first season ended abruptly, to the shock of the actors, after 9 episodes. For Season 2, we get 22 episodes and after the first four, I’m already mourning the cancellation of the show after two seasons. Oh, well. 18 more to enjoy. There’s a lot of plot room when you can send somebody back from future when things get slow, good guy or bad guy, T888 or liquid metal. Throw in the FBI and a giant evil corporation and high-school romance and road trips and Sarah Connor and her possible love interests and the teen babe robot pretending to be Arnold, with commentaries, and how could this thing get scotched so soon? It’s an outrage.

***

Cairo Time (2009) – Doesn’t make me want to go to Cairo, but I am going to look up the depth of the Nile. I jog every day next to water that ripples like the Nile, when the tide’s in. Then the tide goes out, exposing miles of mud flats and revealing that the water is only about six inches deep… Hmm. Average depth 35 feet. That’s deep.

***

The King’s Speech (2010) – Deserved the Oscar more than The Silence of the Lambs (1991), I thought. The Silence of the Lambs. How did that happen? And why were the lambs silent? What was that about? And why was it so cool that Hopkins ate people? And why does the poster have a moth over Jodie Foster’s mouth? Where’s the lambs?

***

The Switch (2010) – I didn’t quite make it to the end of this one, so remind me. When the mismatched pair in a rom com finally link up at the end, has the one (or the both) who is wacky, eccentric, gruff, or whatever, become less so – has become more normal – or does the other member of the couple just accept him or her for what he or she is? In the recent one with the morning news show and perky news showess, Harrison Ford transforms himself from a mean old bear to a teddy. Which is more unlikly, a complete character transformation at the end or acceptance of a flake into a romantic relationship by a non-flake?

***

Mademoiselle Chambon (2009) – Just watch Brief Encounter again.

***

The Cable Guy (1996)Continuing my project of watching unpopular movies, following Howard the Duck (1986) and Death to Smoochy (2002), both of which I liked, and Ishtar (1987) and Heaven’s Gate (1980), neither of which I got very far into, and after hearing the guys on /Filmcast talking about it, I’m halfway through The Cable Guy. Carrey definitely goes to the dark side. I’d like to watch a movie of Carrey’s wife watching him in this one – just to check for any expressions of doubt and dread crossing her face.

***

Walking Tall (2004) – Back in ’73 in Los Alamos, my spouse and I walked down one night to the little local cinema to see the current movie, which was Walking Tall (1973). We asked the ticket taker before going in whether the movie was violent or not. He said nah. This was the true-life tale of Buford Pusser, Tennessee sheriff, who administered justice with a big stick of wood. The movie, step by step, grew increasingly violent as we watched. When it reached the point where Buford (Joe Don Baker) sat with a huge round total-head cast, eyes peering out of holes in the plaster like a mummy, after getting shot in the face, we left. As I recall, the movie had some of the earnestness of The Phenix City Story (1955) in it, mixed with 70s movie grit.

The modern version has been spiffed up, moving the action to a scenic British Colombia coastside village and featuring The Rock, not in a head cast. Violence or no violence, a comparison of the two movies suggests what was right with 70s cinema and what’s wrong with it now.

***

Mad Men, Season 4 - Getting hard to keep Draper’s scorecard up to date.

***

Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010) – Cheesiest series I’ve seen in recent memory, based on Episode One. T&A cheese. CGI blood and landscape cheese. Dialog cheese:

She: You will fight no more?
He: Forever.

Best line steal I’ve seen.

Travelling back in time from the Old West to Thrace, long before the Bulgarians got there.

Somebody also gets put in harm’s way.

Having said that, I loved the show. Lucy Lawless and John Hannah made it. Spartacus himself, Andy Whitfield, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma after the season wrapped. Was treated and pronounced cured. Then the disease returned. I found this out partway through my viewing of Season 1, which brought it down a little. There are 16 types of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Let’s hope Andy’s is of the less aggressive types. But he’s out for season 2.

For the most part, the down-under actors keep their accents in check.

***

Dogtooth (2009) – Wow. What’s going on in Greek cinema these days?

***

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – The spouse returned from Las Vegas and asked to see one of the Ocean movies. I liked them all. Jeez, it’s been ten years, but this one holds up fine.

***

Faster (2010) – Dwayne steps away from the tooth-fairy roles long enough to kill a bunch of people. Excellent SoCal scenery, but if you set out on a day trip, don’t count on covering as much ground as these dudes seem to.

***

The Last American Virgin (1982) – It would be fun sometime to trace the evolution of the teen sex comedy. Or maybe just read the wiki article. Watching an “Apatow” wannabe made twenty-some years pre-Apatow makes it clear what amazing talent Apatow has. Or has Apatow just been blessed with a stable of actors, like Ingmar Bergman? The last virgin was Lawrence Monoson, who in the 30 years since has put together a career, a lot of TV work. Today’s version of Monoson would be Jay Baruchel in She’s Out of My League (2010); I’m guessing that Baruchel’s career will sparkle a little more than Monoson’s has. The last virgin’s fat friend is played by Joe Rubbo, who did not make a career in the movies; today, we’d be talking Jonah Hill. The last virgin’s obsession, Diane Franklin, has enjoyed a career similar to Monoson’s over the past 30 years; today she’d be who, Emma Stone, or Katherine Heigl? The point I’m making is that as I watched TLAV, I found myself thinking that it was clunkier than today’s similar genre comedies, but swap in an A-list cast back then and maybe it would not have been so. I watched The Sure Thing (1985) at the same time. The female lead, Daphne Zuniga, is right in there with Monoson and Franklin, careerwise.  But also present, at the beginning, are Rob Reiner and John Cusack. Makes a big difference.

***

Triggerman (2009), a sequel to Doc West (2009), with Terence Hill and Paul Sorvino still getting it done in these PG family spaggetti westerns. The Italians come to Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico to film. As Doc West rides out to consult with the Indians on medical matters, we hear tom toms quietly beating in the distance. They don’t stop till he’s done. Those tom tom players haven’t seen a lot of work in the last fifty years or so. At movie’s end, Hill tries to ride off like Shane, but no, we just can’t let the big lug go. I have a lot of like for these throwback oaters. I’m guessing Doc West will return.

In the 50s, dudes were cats, as in “He’s a real cool cat.” In the 2000-whatevers, dudes are dogs, as in “What’s up, dawg.” Significant?

After watching Gabriel Pascal’s four Shaw productions, Pygmalion (1938), Major Barbara (1941), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), and Androcles and the Lion (1952), I put a hold on the BBC Shaw Collection, 11 hours of Shaw in 5 plays. It finally arrived. I’m starting with The Millionairess (1972) with Maggie Smith. The plays are part of the BBC Play of the Month series, which ran for 16 years. The Millionairess begins with a 40-minute scene in a solicitor’s office: the rich wife, her idle husband, her lover, his mistress, and the solicitor. If you crave acting, non-stop, English upper crust, humor and Fabianism, this can’t be beat.

Watchng Fringe, Season 2, Episode 4, and there’s Theresa Russell. She’s  in her 50s, which must mean she’s had work done, because she looks 15 years younger, but I couldn’t tell. Running an eye down her work in IMDb just reminds us how much stuff is out there that we’ve never heard of, and what it means to be an actor or any other artist trying to make a living.

Bowfinger (1999) – This one made a splash when it landed, but what’s happened to it since then? It’s still funny… Steve Martin wrote it. Eddie Murphy, who should have ended up a national treasure, solid; running an eye over his work, I’m thinking that it’s better over the past decade than it’s given credit for; he’s a wonder in this movie. He’s not dead yet. Maybe he’ll make a couple of great choices in his 50s and be reborn, cinematically speaking… Martin’s writing: “Last night was perfect.” “I know. I’ve never done it lying down before.”… Frank Oz directs; solid career, not counting the muppets, for which he’s immortal.

***

D13-U (2009) - When did the tiny-font credits start, which can be read on the big screen but not on a TV screen? Two minutes into this one, I had to pause it and go check the plot line, just so I’d know what I watching at the start… I for one am glad that Luc Besson is around… The movie reminds me of the canceled Olympic event, the Low Jump. That’s the one where the competitor who jumps the farthest down sucessfully is the winner. In this flick, guys jumping off buildings are worthy of entering that competition, if it ever returns. And let’s remember that if your cat is going to fall out of a window, make sure that it’s at least eight stories up. Chance of survival decrease with each floor below that. It’s about the flying squirrel effect: the cat getting flat, air in the loose armpit skin, so forth. But even though it’s true, don’t toss your cat out way up there, just to win a damn bet.

***

Doomsday (2008) – Seems like I get a lot of good movies to watch by listening to the Double Feature podcast, this being one of them. “You have forty-six hours.” Chief trope: decapitation. That’s how you know they’re dead. Unexplained: heroine gets her ear bitten off, but thereafter, it’s still there. Heroine: strong Evangeline Lilly vibe.

***

Fulltime Killer (2001) – Johnnie To movies: get on for the ride. But I liked Wild Target better. English vs Chinese humor?

***

Wild Target (2010) – I hope that Emily Blunt’s career isn’t starting to slide. Meanwhile, Bill Nighy can appear in literally anything; once you’ve been king of the vampires, you’ve got carte blance wrt your projects… And for Rupert Grint, this is just a checkmark on his growing-up curriculum vitae…  The movie made me laugh repeatedly.

***

Jonah Hex (2010) – Where did all the hate come from for this movie? I’ve got to check the reviws. Because of the handheld crossbows with some kind of exploding missile bolts in them? I forget; where did those come from?… Brolin doing Eastwood? No, doing a cross between Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones, with more Jones than Eastwood, and that’s a good thing… Malkovich being weird? He does that a lot. Give the man some respect; he’s out there on a horse, assuming that’s not a double. Westerns are expensive.  Is this like Howard the Duck and Death to Smoochy – undeserved scorn? Fassbender got a lot of cred for Inglourius Basterds, but the man did make Blood Creek and he did participate in Jonah Hex, as second banana to Malkovich… “Full steam ahead.” I guess I didn’t know that expression. I thought it was a writer’s blunder.

***

Watched The Secret of Kells (2009) a second time, with family. That movie is a labor of love. Great Celtic soundtrack, combined with a guy experienced in film scores. The team started working on this film in 1999. Searched for, and found, funding in a myriad of places. Worked with many animation studios. Ars longa est and this art took longa to create, so let’s hope it lasts. One of the main voices in the movie has already passed: vita brevis.

***

Criterion’s Eclipse Series has been around since March, ’07, but I’m just discovering it, first with the Shaw films and now with The Pearls of the Crown (1937), Sacha Guitry’s 200-character traipse through history, real and imagined, as he traces the fortunes of seven pearls, four now in the British Crown.

***

40 episodes of In Treatment (that is, season 1) in the books, and I feel mentally much better for it. The only thing Garbriel Byrne can’t do for me here is prescribe some pills… Oops. Thought that was the whole season and went on to Season 2, but no, there are 3 episodes left. The end did seem rather abrupt.

***

Red Hill (2010) – Innocent young constable who has trouble pulling the trigger; his innocent young wife, very pregnant after miscarrying the first time, now located out in an isolated home; town full of hard-ass cops, heavily armed; escaped homocidal maniac, expert tracker, bent on revenge; a hungry panther… Big storm coming and now it’s here; spagetti-western Mexican trumpet music as the hero mounts up and rides (his car won’t start); that hungry panther? It as a taste for flesh. Human flesh.

***

Hustler Squad (1971) – I was suprised to hear “f**kin A” in the dialog. Didn’t remember that “A” going back that far. Viet Nam, I guess… Drive-in DVD. The flip side is Wild Riders (1971).

***

The Secret of Kells (2009) – Assigned to me for the February Filmspotting Movie Dictator Club. First question: where did director/writer Tomm Moore come from?

***

The Ringer (2005) – Revisited five years later, it’s still cringeworthy in the first half. Walking the line between politically correct and the opposite, The Ringer is bound to leave some critics on both sides of that line disatisfied. I refer you to the reviews. For the rest of us, and I speak as someone without a special-needs family member, so I can’t gauge the offensiveness factor of the movie for such a household, the movie provides laughs and some touching moments, Johnny Knoxville doing what he does best: falling on his back, and Katherine Heigl looking great.

***

Justified (2010) – Is it my imagination, or is “Let me ask you something?” the  new go-to phrase for tough guys? Coggins uses it at least three times in the pilot; then some other heavy does so in the next episode. Also “Let me tell you something.” The trick is to swallow the the first word. It’s one reason why following dialog in a foreign language can be difficult. Words are missing, but the native-speaker automatically fills in the gaps… This show is soooo Elmore Leonard. He must be in heaven producing and otherwise working on it. Week after week, he gets to watch Olyphant and a succession of bad guys act out his favorite tropes onscreen: the ensemble, not-to-bright ne’r do wells, the showdown shootouts. Graham Yost has got Leonard dialled in here… Clarence Williams III, of the Mod Squad: good to see him still working, even if only in a cameo as a cranky old dude.

***

Easy A (2010) – Why can’t they all be this good? Bert V. Royal, keep writing.

***

Iron Man 2 (2010) – It was ok. Fast-forwarding over the end credits to get to the final teaser, I felt like I was watching pages of the Hollywood phone book zip past. So many names. So many who worked on the movie. Fight unemployment. Make more blockbusters…

***

Somewhere I got the idea, in advance of seeing it, that Pascal’s Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) wasn’t a good movie. Maybe because it flopped at the box office. But not so. Claude Rains is a wonderful Caesar, and Vivien Leigh a terrific Cleopatra, some sort of cross between Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois as the Queen of Egypt. Funny to compare her in this role with Elizabeth Taylor. Plenty of Shaw dialog to revel in. These Eclipse Criterion releases are swell: this one includes CaC, Major Barbara, and Androcles and the Lion, all in a sleeve. Get your Shaw on.

***

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally watching Howard the Duck (1986)… Check it out for a class in 80’s hair, especially the mop on Lea Thompson… The only thing wrong so far is Howard’s line readings. They could use a little more edge, a little Jersey, a little Richard Dreyfuss, or Devito or Vaughn or whomever, or is it “whoever”?; otherwise, the attitude is there. Reminds me of how I missed Death to Smoochy (2002) for years because of the bad press, to my loss… Th scene in the Cajun Sushi place? Made me laugh… This is one of those PG movies before PG-13 was born; duck condoms, duck/human bed time, duck tat-tats. Most of Lea Thompson’s skin. Violence. So forth… The mystery of screen chemistry between a couple. When is it present and when is it not, and why? In this case, the woman and the duck have chemistry. Interesting… Lucas’ FX is still fresh, 25 years later. But there is probably too much Ghostbusters (1984) in the movie.

***

I was just thinking about three movies in which a bunch of old stars go off to do battle. The Wild Bunch (1969) is downbeat and all the geezers get killed, excepting Robert Ryan. The Expendables (2010) and RED (2010) are upbeat. I only watched part of The Expendables, but I’m guessing that most of the geezers survive. In RED, Morgan Freeman is burdened with Stage 4 liver cancer, so he gets to be the martyr, and Dreyfuss gets to be the bad guy, but all the rest survive with a happy ending that would support a sequel. Is there an essay in this? Movie made when the baby boomers were just starting out and Viet Nam was at its height kills off the geezers; movie made when the baby boomers are starting to retire keeps them happy and kicking at the end? Plus, The Wild Bunch and RED were made forty years apart, but Ernest Borgnine is a geezer in both of them. Some kind of geezerage record??

***

RED (2010) – It may be about geezers but that don’t mean Willis has got to go for Helen Mirren. Mary-Louise Parker’s bones will be made available for him to potentially jump. This is Hollywood we’re talking about… But anyway, true or false: get enough real stars together and you’ve got a good movie. Probably false, or flip a coin, but in this case, true… And MLP is 46 or 47, so in Hollywood years, they did the right thing here with her and Willis, especially since Mirren gets to end up with Brian Cox. And hello to Ernest Borgnine, 94 and still getting it done. And Dreyfuss, the John McEnroe of Hollywood.

***

The Karate Kid (2010) – I liked the final match, wherein Jaden Smith, twelve years old but pre-growth spurt, plays a tiny JCVD playing Frank Dux in Bloodsport (1988), while his mom watches from the stands as his leg gets mangled to a pulp but he keeps on goin’, her only response being to do some serious wincing. That’s good parental restraint!

***

In Treatment (disk 1) – I love it. Or am I just needy? Transference, as Gabriel Byrne gets angry and his brogue slips out? Must discuss this with my therapist during my next visit.

***

Email from my niece:  Danny DeVito is coming to SF Sketchfest next Tuesday night at the Castro, to have a conversation with James L. Brooks after a screening of Broadcast News (1987). Janet being the co-founder/co-director, our tickets await at the door, if only we can bestir ourselves and drive up to the city. 99 acts in its 10th year; the thing is getting huge.

***

Friday Night Lights and Undeclared, from Netflix. The Undeclared cast, after their 17 episodes and cancellation, go on to fame in various flavors. Who from Friday Night Lights has gone on to stardom?

***

Androcles and the Lion (1952) – When I saw Victor Mature looking down from a balcony on Jean Simmons in this one, I immediately asked myself, what chemistry is this? Victor, dressed in his Roman general’s togs, looks tired, world weary, aging. Just his role, or too many Hollywood nights? I remember when I first noticed Pacino looking old. He never tried to hide it and I respected that. Some, age hardly touched. Paul Newman. Some aged early. Tommy Lee Jones got the gig in Space Cowboys (2000), side by side with Garner, Eastwood, and Donald Sutherland, and didn’t look out of place with the three geezers at all. Supposedly, he was their contemporary. Either way with Victor, the true ravages of age or a role calling for a worn-out legionaire, I took his interest in Simmons, who was dressed, or wrapped, in a simple white fabric and was in her early twenties at the time, with a mixture of Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor vibes and plenty of closeups, to be that of an older man called upon to reflect on life’s beauty and missed opportunities. Then I discovered that he was only 38 when he made the movie and that whole train of thought went out the window.

***

Mother and Child (2009) – A lot to like. Be fun to write about, some rainy day.

***

Arn: The Knight Templar (2007) – In Sweden, it’s all in Swedish; in the Holy Land, English. Then Arn lays out a little Arabic and Saladin says, “You speak our language.” and I through, dude, you’re a Kurd; it’s not your language either. But Saladin probably never made a big deal about the Kurd thing whilst uniting the Arabs.

***

The Social Network (2010) – Sorkin can write, no doubt about that. I was taken out of the movie somewhat by Eisenberg channeling Danny Pudi all the way through… My college had four fraternities, one each for the BMOC, jocks, rich party animals, and nerds (before the taxonomy of nerds had been clearly established). As a freshman, I attended all the rush parties. Uncomfortable! Except for that of the nerd group. On the day that invitations to join appeared in our student-union mailboxes, I found one, from the nerds. This being the early 60s,  it turned out that the nerds, to the surprise of everyone, harvested all the most sought-after frosh. This being the early 60s, although I attended the introductory parties, I never considered actually joining a fraternity. I was gratified by the invite, though. And I did have a girlfriend for a year who was in a sorority, so I did get to go to a couple of parties and a couple of dances, getting drunk at all of them, and experiencing the  sorority-house cat and gossip.

***

Buried (2010) – Ryan Reynolds clearly didn’t see Kill Bill (2004), in which The Bride faces the same situation. I felt a lot more uncomfortable with Uma in the box that I did with Reynolds, but then she was only required to zen punch her way out, not emote for ninety minutes in a Stephen King-type situation… Funny to hear Stephen Tobolowsky’s dulcet tones over the line three-quarters of the way through, as he be’s mean. If you’ve never listened to The Tobolowsky Files podcast, I recommend it… Having watched North Face (2008), Frozen (2010), and this one, I am not taking endings for granted anymore.

***

Big Love, season 4 – I’m sort of amazed at how dialed-up this season is – intense every moment. There have been crises that in previous seasons would have taken weeks to resolve. Here,they crop up and then get shouldered aside because so much else is going on. Makes me wonder what the final season, number 5, just beginning, can do to maintain parity, or more… I haven’t checked any reviews or discussions or whatever, but of the multitude of soaps I’ve watched, I can’t remember seeing anything like this. It’s great…And it goes out with a perfect bang. Soap at its best… Meanwhile, the next-t0-last episode of Caprica 1.5 introduces a plot twist that I so never saw coming. That’s what I always liked about BSG and Lost: the surprises.

***

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) – How I knew this was a class film: Milla Jovovich goes to the showers, gets the water running, takes off her guns and knives, but before she can remove a single piece of leather, gets interrupted and has to go fight zombies… I have absolutely no memory of the first three entries in this franchise, all of which I’ve seen. This one is all about the visuals. Ali Larter adopts a babe look that doesn’t work for me as well as her Heroes persona… Some rainy day, I’d like to look into this more closely – Wes Anderson and Jovovich, now 35 and a mom but still kicking zombie ass. Instead of using the quick cuts that make it impossible for the viewer to follow a fight, Anderson goes the other way, using slo mo to linger over the action. Video game on screen.

***

One little thing about Big Love: seems to me that often as not, they don’t get the hymns right. Seems like a strange thing to get wrong, but every few episodes I find myself thinking, where did that music come from?

***

Listening to a Robert Parker 2010 novel. He left a few behind when he died, which is good. Takes a little of the fun out of it, though, knowing that he’s gone.

***

Went to see Amaracord (1973) one night in San Diego, back in ’73, and then The Godfather (1972) the following night. My impression at the time: Coppola was no Fellini, in spite of The Godfather’s subsequent glory. I mention this because I watched the first hour of Piranha (2010) last night, after watching Machete the night before, and Aja is no Rodriquez. I can enjoy a ride at the county fair, but for a classic ride, you’ve got to go find a Disneyland… First sign of trouble in Piranha: old guy gets eaten but later his bloody corpse washes up. Corpse?!? These are Jurassic super piranhas? There shouldn’t be anything left of the geezer but a couple of clean white bones, a wedding ring, and a grinning skull; Aja just wanted that corpse to rear up in th water; weak! Second sign of trouble: the CGI blood is laughably bad – there is no excuse for bad CGI blood in this, our high-tech age – bad CGI in 2011 is sort of like Rush Limbaugh still big and bold eleven years into the new millenium. Makes you realize that (1) Kubrick was off by a thousand years and (2) it takes less than 50% of the population to screw everybody, including the planet itself… Anyway. T&A-wise, Aja is a wannabe Rob Zombie here, and I’m thinking of unrated, director’ cut of The Devil’s Rejects. Inadvertantly or vertantly, Aja has put himself in his own movie via Jerry O’Connell. My best financial advice to you the reader: invest in gun companies. They do well no matter what, and especially well in times of trauma, like, for example, when a mentally ill person goes on a shooting spree at a public gathering. If the individual uses a Glock, say, and manufactures casualties in the double digits, Glock sales dependably shoot up. You could look it up… Anyway. Too many underwater piranha POV shots after which, cutting back above water, the piranhas don’t show. Weak! Rule of thumb: the more artificial boobs, the worse the movie. So far in Piranaha, they’re all artificial. In Crank: High Voltage (2009), the Neveldine/Taylor flick, the artificial boob takes a round and springs a leak. Now that’s quality moviemaking! Let’ go see what Aja can do in the final 28 minutes to win me over… I hiked in to Havasu Canyon back in ’58, before the lake was created. Canyons, waterfalls, reservation. When the lake came on the scene, my parents bought a lot. Nothing ever came of it, even after the developers moved London Bridge to the lake, piece by piece. I wonder if it’s still there.

***

Machete (2010) – Doctor tells nurse that human intestine is 60 feet long. Shortly thereafter, Danny Trejo, holding a scalpel and faced with a bad guy, needs to dive out a window with a 60-foot drop to survive… Babe agent sits in her car in front of a house. House blows up. Barbecued corpse bad guy lands on her hood with meat thermometer sticking out of his neck. Red mercury goes up and pops out top of thermometer with little squeekey sound… At some point in this thing, I realized that I might be watching a classic, according to my personal definition of the term. Trejo, the aging incredible ultimate chick magnet. Steven Seagal, wearing a truly strange rug, his fat draped, playing the mom- and daughter-decapitating chief bad guy. De Niro, capping his career with an accent of unknown provenance. Jeff Fahey, no longer Lost: “Where are my wife and daughter?” “In hell.” “Then give them my best regards…” and “Where are my wife and daughter?” “In heaven.” “Guess I won’t be seeing them, then.” Cheech in a dog collar, with a box of Cubans and a box of Mexican blunts. Don Johnson, gunning down innocents… Is there a baby-boomer vibe with this venerable cast? Many a moment when Tarantino would have stuck in a homage, but Rodriquez is his own homage… Attack of the undocumented: lots of pimped out low riders, one of which rears way up and squashes a bad guy, and, at the back of the pack, an ice-cream cart… It’s a classic if I want to rewatch it later, and then again later; so the jury is out. It’s got a chance, though.

***

Big Love, season 4, and Caprica 1.5 – Both still getting it done for me. Medicine for Melancoly (2010) – Good start; looking forward to watching this one. Lots of San Francisco in a genuine indie with a cool color scheme: black and white with shades of color.

Major Barbara (1941) – I sat down to watch this mainly to see Wendy Hiller again. Plus Rex Harrison and an all-star cast… After being away from Shaw for a long time, I was looking for something to read on vacation a while back and took along Man and Superman. I had forgotten what an interesting blend of romantic comedy, conversation, politics, and religion some of his plays present. He wrote Major Barbara in 1905. Young penniless academic fellow (Harrison) falls hard for young Major in the Salvation Army (Hiller), who turns out to be the daughter of the world’s most successful (richest), eccentric maker of weapons  – as opposed to, in Pygmalion (1938), not-so-young well-off academic felow (Leslie Howard, and then Harrison in My Fair Lady (1964)) falls hard for poor young flower-seller (Hiller)… Here, our very first glimpse of Deborah Kerr in the movies… Major Barbara has a great deal of dialog that, it seems to me, would be of great interest to Kurosawa (who I’ve been studying). I’ve got to Google Shaw and Kurosawa and see if there is any connection between them… Well, there is someone named Shaw Kurosawa… Major Barbara was shot with German bombs falling on London. Cast and crew would run to the bomb shelters and then return when the all-clear sounded… The Salvation Army was formed in 1865; it was forty years old when Shaw wrote his play… I read a review in which the critic opined that there was much to relish in the movie but that just sort of sat there. Hmm. If you watch a Shaw play, you will be lectured; perhaps it was the critic who just sort of sat there while he took his medicine.

***

Devil (2010) – Shyamalan finally got his name on something decent.

***

One way to measure how good a romantic comedy is, is to see how quickly and how much you want the two protagonists to fall in love. In the case of ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ (1945), the Powell/Pressburger film, with Roger Livesey and Wendy Hiller as the lovebirds, for me, the answers are: quickly and a lot.

***

The Other Guys (2010) – Enough smiles and chuckles to satisfy me. 44 Inch Chest (2009) – It screens like a play and I like plays. Just sat and enjoyed listening to a movie’s worth of dialog. Ian McShane plays the urbane, less-foul-mouthed member of the group, which is a change that’s fun.

***

Why did Fonda make My Name is Nobody (1973)? I could look it up, or try to, and maybe I will…And while I’m at it, why did Leone want that movie  made, either?

But I’m glad they did it.

Fonda was 68, and looked pretty good for that, but his heart had to be bothering him by then, and it was an action film that had him on a horse and flat on the ground more than once. He had nine years left, and was involved in twenty-three more projects. Maybe he wanted to add to Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) or maybe he just wanted to work, because that’s what he did. It’s a same to see a legend showing up in his twilight for something like Tentacles (1977). But then, Shelley Winters, John Huston, and Bo Hopkins were all in that thing as well. “It’s turning the beach… into a buffet.” Must have been some money to spend on salaries…

***

I was in Safeway yesterday and it seemed like every time I turned down an aisle, Alice Cooper and his mom were there, discussing some purchase. The guy stands out. Very friendly. He posed in the checkout line for a phone pic by my spouse, who told him that she was a fan, though beyond recognizing his name, she doesn’t know much about him. He’s just finished his 2010 Theater of Death world tour and said he was fagged, and looked it… Tonight nine of us were sitting in a pizza joint, eating our pizza, when Owen Wilson came in for the fifth time in two weeks and waited ten or fifteen minutes in front of us for a couple of take-out pizzas. This was a couple of hours after the virial “Owen Wilson was killed snow-boarding” news on the Internet. The usual thoughts-when-face-to-face-with-a-celebrity crossed my mind. Get an autograph. Mention my niece, who had a role in at least one of his movies. Ignore him. Figure out a way to interact with him in a way that would cause a hint, a tiny particle, of his – fame, money, talent, you name it – to rub off on me. Then he left and the normal world reestablished itself in my vicinity. And speaking of my niece: ten years ago she and David Owen and Cole Stratton created SF Sketchfest. A decade later, the three of them continue as the festival’s directors  and the thing is just booming. It runs in SF for  three weeks every January and the list of performers this year blows my mind. Almost 300 entries. Roll call for  improv and standup. It’s Comedy University and all you need for admission to it is money.

***

Sitting in Maui with a laptop, appropriately, in my lap, watching Futurama, My Name is Nobody (1973), and South Park is something new for me. The Netflix in the lap, not the Maui. Seems sort of decadent.

***

Kenny (2006) – It made me laugh. The film took a while to get here from Australia, but worth the wait.

***

Something has to be done  about the wolf pack situation in the eastern U.S. You can’t go skiing or snow boarding without being pulled down and eaten. You can’t go down into the New York subway, or was that a train station (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)), without the  same thing happening. Great time to be a wolf movie star, though, or his or her agent.

***

One of the guys on /Filmcast absolutely loved Frozen (2010). Somebody else didn’t, I forget who. It’s genre, it’s predictable but unpredictable, it gives some love to New England ski slopes, which counts for something, even if was really filmed in Utah. Despite myself, by the end of it, I had some dampness in the armpits, sorry for that image. It’s a way to pass 93 minutes. If you want quality and a much deeper level of emotional distress, I refer you to North Face (2008).

***

The Duplass brothers continue to ascend and I still haven’t watched the second half of The Puffy Chair (2005). It’s an outrage… If you know what they were doing with the camera in Cyrus (2010), please write and tell me – that little zoom in/zoom out thing and clunky back-and-forth move during the one-on-one conversations… Working with John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, and Catherine Keener – that’s making a movie… Tomei and Hill did the same zoned-out-zombie thing; were they being mother and son with that? It worked for me.

***

The A-Team (2010) – Right off the bat, quick cuts in the action scenes. I do not like that. Nothing actually has to happen. The director just needs to capture snippets of action and stitch them together. Boo… But having said that, if you want an expansive (they’re all expensive but not all expansive)  action movie with some ideas and some stars,  you’ve got to put up with cost-cutting somewhere. Good action movies don’t grow on trees. And while I’m think of it, I liked G. I. Joe (2009) just fine; don’t know why so many rag on it… Why the hyphen in “A-Team”?… At the end of the movie, as everything is blowing up, metal hurling, fireballs, gunfire, exploding cars, so forth, I noticed that there was a score, and I had to smile as I imagined Alan Silvestri sitting there watching the silent footage of the mayhem and shouting out to his wife and kids in the kitchen, I’m supposed to write music for that!!?!… But he wrote the score for Volcano (1997), so maybe not.

***

Pranzo di ferragosto (Mid-August Tea) (2008) – Mid-August in Rome, when the holiday Ferragosto is celebrated. Four women in their 80s and 90s. Two men in their 60s. Nobody gets hurt. Wine is drunk and food is eaten. There are smiles. The Italian for “It’s fine” and “Don’t worry” and “Eat!” and other such simple phrases is repeated often enough for you to learn and remember them.

***

First experiment with Netflix Instant on the TV instead of the computer: The Red Shoes (1948). Some practice will be required to control the experience as completely as if it were emanating from a DVD player.

***

Finally, after… well, years, and two previous setups that I didn’t use… my son and I found ourselves in the same room with the TV and my laptop and the wireless hub and the something box, that have all been sitting there, with cables, for ages, and he kindly reconstituted it all for my Netflix Instant queue and whatever other online viewing I choose to do, streaming or otherwise. It struck me yesterday how much time I spend at Blockbuster and various libraries and dealing with Netflix movies in the mail… Be interesting to see how quickly and how much I switch over to this new source. Maybe I need all that running around to provide meaning to/for my hamster-like existence, or maybe I’ll be liberated from some of it.

***

Caprica (2009) – Dramatically tough to create an engaging 17-episode first-season series when you know that it’s going to end with the world blowing up (well, not in Season 1, but, in the end…)? Well, disks 1 and 2 have kept the surprises coming. I’m not disappointed… Plus, one sign that a show is working for you is that you want more of whatever it’s giving you. I want more Graystone interaction with his cyborg daughter (so far, none). So I keep watching, waiting for it.

***

Bound (1996) – It’s been 14 years since I last saw this. It holds up. Remember Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity (1944), in the scene where he tells Stanwyck how carefully they’re going to plan the murder, and then they turn around and go out with some half-assed plan that runs right off the rails? Same thing here. Fun-but-violent nonsense, but this Joe Pantoliano, this guy, this Ralph Cifaretto, this f**king guy – pure gold… What a start for the Wachowskis, after which they turned around and made The Matrix.

***

Amazing coincidence department: Watched Episode Two of Extras and then started to rewatch The Devil’s Rejects (2005), and both had the non-PC-correct rhyme “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, what are these?” in them. How can that even happen?… If someone asked me to name the ultimate exploitation film, I might use this one. From start to finish, appeals directly to the most debased and prurient interests. Many try, but few succeed this well.

***

Bored to Death (2009) – Somebody on /Filmcast liked this series. The first episodes are engaging. Strange to say, Jason Schwartzman sort of reminds me of Tom Cruise… I don’t think of myself as a TV-watcher, since my TV isn’t hooked up to anything but a DVD player, but what with Community, Caprica, Extras, Breaking Bad, The Office (English version), Reno 911, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Big Love, Fringe, True Blood (at least Season 1), Six Feet Under, Lost, BSG, Slings and Arrows (my favorite of all), the one about the pie maker, the one about Eli the lawyer, the one where a piano falls on her and she’s dead, Heroes, Terminator, some Sons of Anarchy, some Jericho, Flight of the Conchords, Deadwood, The Wire, and The Sopranos, I guess I qualify…

***

I was wondering if Ron Perlman and Mickey Rourke ever made a movie together, because if so, I’d want to see it. But IMDB says no.

***

Inception (2010) – Jeez, DiCaprio in the movies – the guy gets a lot of grief. Goes crazy in The Aviator. Bad marriage in Revolutionary Road. Shutter Island, I won’t say. Next movie, he’s J. Edgar. If you’ve read Ellroy, you know all about J. Edgar. Give this guy a break – let him take a Tom Hanks role for a change… I saw Inception at the multiplex whilst surfing for six hours there. If ever there was a big-screen movie, this is it. On the TV screen, the second time around, not so much… Ok, I take that back, after watching the whole thing. I just remembered the gun play and ruckus from the first time around; I forgot how clever the movie is. Why can’t there be more like it?

***

I Am Love (2009) – Tilda Swinton, getting it done. She shows a side, or at least a part, of herself that I haven’t seen before… For the score, I think that John Adams turned up some unused pages from his “Nixon in China.” I was mesmerized (probably not the composer’s intent)… Tilda’s line readings were kept to a minimum; if you’re fluent in Italian, let me know if she sounded like a Russian speaking Italian, like an American  speaking Italian, or like an American speaking Italian like a Russian.

***

Knight and Day (2010) – The movie begins and I get to thinking about Tom Cruise. Is the man a walking metaphor for life itself? He works at his craft from a young age, making movies, making more and more successfuller movies, becomes a mega star, does quality work, has some publicity ups and downs, and now here he is at the age of 48, back in the traces, making a movie that he has to know will not burnish his long career (or can you burnish a career? what can you burnish? your legend?), but which no doubt pays a bunch, and what’s up with his wife and kids and Scientology, so forth? And just as I’m thinking about how futile it all is, there he goes, onscreen, talking about his life’s regrets, right at the start of the movie. Wow. I’m put in mind of Lee J. Cobb at the end of Twelve Angry Men, with his angry monologue about life and how it screws you. Cruise, it’s like carrying that boulder up the mountain and then the buzzard pecks out your liver, on a daily basis. (Sometimes it takes two myths to encompass the mystery of life.)… The Wachowski brothers (well, it’s brother and sister now, I guess) spent a lot of time and money building a freeway section in Oakland and using it to film the action sequence in The Matrix Reloaded (2003). Seven years later, Knight and Day comes along, in this new age of CGI, and casually tosses out a scene on I-93 that makes a mockery of Neo and his ealier doings… I like Cruise and Diaz in this. Cute couple. He’s ten years older than her, which in Hollywood boy-and-girl years is just about right; Cameron won’t be playing this role ten years from now, though Cruise might… Sarsgaard is a cross between Jack Lemon and Keifer Sutherland here. Viola Davis earns a paycheck playing that CIA boss of a thousand movies; I hope they have reunions, those of this role; I’d like to see that; cocktail hour where they mingle, all being the boss; banquet and speeches; and then home, deep in the Valley.

***

So marijuana movies have become a genre? There was Cheech and Chong and there was Easy Rider, and increasingly, movies like Half Baked and the Friday movies. I recall a Canadian Vancouver-based movie with “green” in the title. And the one where the older woman is growing pot. But have we passed the grass tipping point? Perhaps with Weeds and Pineapple Express? When grass is finally legal, will the genre wither or simply transmogrify? To be continued…

***

Leaves of Grass (2009) – I can’t get over how well actors act, especially actors like Edward Norton. The movie begins with him lecturing a class in classical philosophy and he, well, he sounds like a professor giving a lecture that he’s given many times before, with lots and lots of words pouring out of his mouth. Lately I often find myself shaking my head as I watch a scene, thinking, Now that’s acting!…And speaking of words pouring out, I was noticing once again that Kermode is remarkable in that respect, once he gets wound up. He talks about the talent in his book… I like this movie. Feels fresh and is for sure unpredictable. Tim Blake Nelson wrote, directed, and did a good job acting in it. He’s a busy guy. The Grey Zone (2001) was one of his. He’s got six more in post-production or filming… The film’s social conscience, such as it is, makes it a nice sidebar to Red Beard.

***

The Filmspotting Forum’s movie dictation club or group or boards or whatever it is has dictated Red Beard (1965) to me for December. Watch and report. I haven’t done one of these since last February. Must get under way tonight, though last time it took me ten months to wrap it up... Possible beard marathon: Red Beard, Yellowbeard, Blackbeard, Bluebeard, Silver Beard, and Janice Beard.

Or, for those bloggers with the lists: The King’s Beard; Growin’ a Beard; The Lady and the Beard; Spock’s Beard: Don’t Try This at Home; The Man with the White Beard; The Dreaded Beard; Beard Club; Beard & Co; Beard & Moustache Experiments Nos. 1-4; Beard the Lion; Bested by a Beard; Bothered by a Beard; Enter the Beard; Father’s Beard; Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko’s Beard; Sam’s Artistic Beard; Snow Beard; Hello, Fred the Beard; The Beard; The Winter of the Beard; Why Father Grew a Beard; and With Peter Beard in Africa: Last Word from Paradise.

***

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) – Like Connery as Bond, Noomi Rapace defines the role. Rooney Mara may step up, but one thing we know for sure: she won’t be ripped like Rapace is.

***

Going the Distance (2010) – A good movie to study in screenwriting class. What works in it and what doesn’t? Plenty of both to choose from. Exam question: how many different movies are fighting each other here to get out, and which of them, if any, makes it?… It’s also a good movie to rag on for fun…  Has Drew Barrymore had work done? Besides the reduction surgery, I mean. Makeup can make an amazing difference, as anyone who has been to a wedding knows. But still, the woman just looks different here and I wonder whether simple weight loss and cosmetics can explain it… This is director Nanette Burstein’s first foray into fiction. I liked The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002) a lot, and the book even better, skipped American Teen (2008). Barrymore shoulda gave her a hand with this. The we-almost-make-it ending provides a metaphor for the whole movie… Whoa. Just saw Mick LaSalle’s review in the S.F. Chronicle: little man jumping out of his seat. One of the best romcoms of 2010. Gives us a flavor of the economic concerns of young folks. That would be Drew and Justin Long. Well, in the movie Drew gets a job at the Chron, so let’s cut LaSalle some slack. The NYT liked the movie, which is why I watched it. No accounting…

***

The Mystery of Charles Dickens (2000) is Simon Callow’s one man show featuring the great man and Callow is up to the job. I like these things. Watched the Ian McKellen Shakespeare anthology, Acting Shakespeare (1982), the other night. Who knew, watching him emote, that in the fullness of his years he’d find himself transmogrified into Magneto, surrounded by bad mutant henchmen. Callow as Dickens immediately introduces a mystery in his show, by saying something about a “rook’s nest.” I thought that a rook was simply another name for a crow in a flock. Hence, a single bird in a nest couldn’t be a rook. But no, I’ve learned something. A rook is just one type of crow. That’s too bad. I liked the idea of crows ganging up and acting rookishly, but I’ve been disabused. Though I haven’t been rooked.

***

Having watched Powell and Pressburger’s Colonel Blimp and A Matter of Life and Death, I’m having a go at A Canterbury Tale (1944). So far: when you introduce an American character, a G.I., have him start every sentence with “say.” Say, that’s not a bad idea… The American, John Sweet, wasn’t a professional actor; Powell saw him work in a production of Our Town in England (he was a G.I. over there for WW II) and hired him for the movie; he never made another one and now he’s a retired teacher in North Carolina. But anyway, I keep hearing John Wayne in Sweet’s voice, so I checked and the two were born within 280 miles of each other, 9 years apart, so I guess that explains the accent… From the dialog, sounds like the movie was made before Pearl Harbor, during Lend-Lease. An interesting time in American/UK history, which we don’t often see onscreen. (Later: nope, it was made after Pearl Harbor, but to hear the actors say it, there were still a lot of isolationists after the Japanese attack. I should look it up. I’d say Pressburger got that wrong.)… The movie is a fable, a confection, a propaganda film, with four miraculous happy endings for the price of one,  but everyone in it is so damned decent and honorable, with the young men preparing to ship out (the Normandy landings commenced on June 6, 1944), that I couldn’t help feeling moved. The heroic English score didn’t hurt. There is a sequence of bombed out buildings, followed by a quick shot of contrails overhead, that is worth the price of admission for me. The actors are all gone now, save for Sweet and Sheila Sim, and God bless them both. Criterion includes interviews with each… It’s rare to find an actor or actress named Sim (my mother’s maiden name), at least of the English or Scottish variety, Sim also being an Asian name. Alastair Sim playing Scrooge might be the most famous…

***

Iron Man 2 (2010) – You know how sometimes in the credits there is a crawl with a list of stars, diminishing in luster a la Doug Benson’s Leonard Maltin game, but with “and Marlon Brando” or “with Laurence Olivier”  at the end? This one has that, using “with,” and my question is, what’s the difference between “and” and “with”? Is it just whim, or do the two uses signify?

***

There is a line running from revenge to slasher and the dude in The Horseman (2008) is located quite a ways along that line away from Josey Wales and towards Michael Myers – unless we just accept Australians as operating on a trigger more easily pulled than otherwise normal… Scene-not-seen-before: dad receives daughter’s ashes in a pot. Takes pot to the ashes cemetery, I’ve forgotten what that place is called. Later retrieves the ashes and takes them home for later scattering. Discovers daughter was in a porn video. Dumps ashes in kitchen wastebasket. Thinks better of it later and sits on kitchen floor sorting ashes from peelings.

***

Anybody here remember Terence Hill (Mario Girotti)? Back when Eastwood headed back to the States, the blue-eyed, blond Hill helped fill the spagetti-western void in the ’70s with movies like My Name Is Trinity (1970) and My Name is Nobody (1973). I sat watching Doc West (2009) last night, marvelling at this dude. He’s 71 and looks absolutely great. How did he manage that? The movie itself is silly family fare, upon which I won’t rag. The nostalgic, elegiac music cranks up every time a female face or landscape appears onscreen – that was a good thing. Someone complained about a couple of glitches in the sound sync, but I’m guessing that some of the actors spoke their lines in English and others were dubbed from Italian… This is a movie where the hero steps into the saloon and the piano stops and silence falls as he walks to the bar and orders a glass of iced tea… One thing that did make me smile was the scene in which Doc West rides into Santa Fe – a typical cowboy-movie town on the prairie, with an assortment of boxy clapboard houses distributed along a wide main street – whereas Santa Fe was founded in 1608. By the late 1800s, the town had been around for 250 years or so. Adobe and (Pueblo) Native Americans abounded. The funny thing is, this film was shot on location in Santa Fe, at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, south of town. The state has a variety of western-town movie sets and Hill has worked at this one before. More New Mexico scenery, please!

***

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) – Fine entry in the kidnap genre.

***

The fellows on /Filmcast were saying the other day how much they liked The Rockford Files (1974), so I Netflixed the show and watched an episode. James Garner was the likable actor of his day, sort of like Tom Selleck. Garner had filled out a bit from his Maverick days for Rockford… Funny to watch everyone drive around in those old U.S. clunkers with not a foreign car in sight, other than the odd Mercedes. Course, our Bug was seven years old by then and we had also acquired a little box-on-wheels, aluminum-engine Corolla… James Woods shows up in the episode I chose, very young… I never watched Rockford and I was trying to remember what I did watch in 1974.  The answer: not much. From ’62 to ’70, the only shows I remember are The Man From U.N.C.L.E (1964), Secret Agent (Danger Man) (1964), and for a year at dinner-time, F Troop (1965). Then a spate of Masterpiece Theater shows, but by ’74, we weren’t watching anything. Our TV set only received one station for years and we didn’t get color until ’81. But now, with DVDs, all things are possible.

***

Solitary Man (2009) – Out of respect for what Michael Douglas is going through, I’m not going to rag on this movie. I will say that he plays the same part in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) and I liked him in that.

***

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) – Pleasant to watch – I’m partway through – with Ricardo Darín radiating some screen charisma. However, if this ends like I think it is going to end, both with respect to the crime and to the romance, I’m going to feel that it was too obvious and too plot-silly to deserve the Oscar respect that it received. I’m always glad to be watching a South American film, though. Reminds me of that PBS (?) series, the name of which I’ve forgotten [see comment below], used in Spanish class, that took place in part in Argentina and had a little romance in it… Later: My problem is, I’ve seen soooo many of these murder-mystery movies that it’s hard to ignore the wheels turning – hard not to spend time trying to guess the twists, which takes one out of the movie. Plus, the romance almost seems like part of another movie to me. I’ve seen a number of them lately with the man and woman reconnecting after twenty years or so… The writer has a bright idea for an ending and builds the story back from there, and then tacks on the romance. I mean, if man and woman are desperately in love for x years, why did nothing happen all that time? Explain please… And there is the matter of the Oscar. I remember when Silence of the Lambs won. It was a moment in my life when I realized that some things were never going to get better and the best that I could hope for was that they not get any worse. Silence of the Lambs, acme of U.S. culture for a year… I just caught a glimpse in the newspaper of a picture of Bening and Moore in The Kids Are All Right. Treasures.

***

Watching Community, Joel McHale keeps reminding me of somebody else. He looks a little like Jim Carey, but that isn’t it… now it comes to me: Peter Krause… Jack Black and Owen Wilson show up. As with Entourage, I wonder how the big-star visits come to pass. With Larry David it seems obvious. But with Community, not so much.

***

Watched The Kids Are All Right (2010) and saw an awful lot of acting, wall-to-wall acting. I mean, Please Give had acting, but it couldn’t hold a candle to this one. Thank God they didn’t let Streep anywhere near it. That would have been intolerable… Someday I plan to check out all of Julianne Moore’s movies and calculate the percentage of them in which she becomes nude, in full or in part, at some point or other, and then do the same for Charlotte Rampling, and see which percentage is higher. Of course Rampling is 64 and Moore is only 50, so Rampling’s gross numbers will be higher… If you know which campus that is at the end of TKAAR, please let me know.

***

I liked Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008) and Youth in Revolt (2009), so I don’t have a problem with Michael Cera. I’ve only watched Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010) up to the battle of the bands at the beginning, but so far, I’m not feeling it. Maybe this is because a romantic comedy comprises the emotional road trip that begins with two individuals apart and ends with them together, and our enjoyment of the trip depends upon the chemistry between the two along the way. Do Scott and Knives have that chemistry? Cera, 22, and a high-school senior, or junior? Or are they even the couple in this movie? Do Scott and Romona have that chemistry? Not feeling it here… I’ll give it a chance, but A. O. Scott begins his NYT review, “There are some movies about youth that just make you feel old, even if you aren’t.” Scott believes that SPVTW is the opposite of that, but at the moment, I don’t… Ok, I take it all back. A likable movie that won me over. A good-natured movie that never required more than 60 seconds of attention at a time. Also helped to have a buzz on.

***

I wanted sleazy slasher horror – something to have fun reviewing – so I plucked Blood Creek (2009) off the shelf. Cover photo of a bald guy with a scarred, swastika-embossed noggin, in a leather jacket. Only four reviews on MRQE, including ones from FulVue Drive-in, Bloody-Disgusting. and Buried. Positive reviews. Promising. But uh oh. Original title: Town Creek. Not promising. Doulbe up-oh. Michael Fassbender is the Nazi. I should have checked the box more carefully. The man is a star. This is not good. On the other hand, Kevin Costner made The New Daughter, and that think was excreable. Don’t give up. Hmm. A cast comprised of Aussies and Brits and Germans? The budget to fly them all to West Virginia, where the movie is set would be… oops, my mistake. Filmed in Romania. Director  is Joel Shumacher, who has made, well, lots of stuff. Real movies. Two Batmans. Falling Down (1993). Tigerland (2000).  Phone Booth (2002). The man is 71. Going senile? Or have I stumbled over a real actual movie here by accident? Chances of sleazy horror? Going down!

***

Looking for Eric (2009) – Ken Loach’s latest. I’m up to the part where we learn that our man walked out on his pregnant wife and now, thirty years later, wants to go back and hook up with her. How’s that going to happen? Otherwise, all that great Loach realism is on display, indicating that England is still England… Opening credits: the longest list of production companies I’ve ever seen on a movie. Given Loach’s low budgets, seems like every one of these companies must have been a individual who kicked in $20 or so (in £s, of course)… Oops. There goes the realism. Nice feel-good japes though. Fun to see a genuine sports hero switch over to acting, too.

***

Agora (2009) – The sound I was making as I watched it. Philosophy. The clash of religions. The Library of Alexandria. Rachel Weisz’s body double stepping out of her bath before you’re properly settled in your seat.

***

World War II: When Lions Roared (1994) – The lions are Hoskins, Lithgow, and Caine. When the parts were handed out, and I picture it sort of like a high-school play, the two obvious stars got Roosevelt and Churchill, leaving Stalin to the third. Who is that under that wig and those eyebrows and that Stalin ‘stache?… Yes… it is him… Good history movie. I read a great biography of Harry Hopkins’ years with FDR, the author of which I forget. Good to see Hopkins get some screen time for a change, well-played by Ed Begley Jr.

***

Flight of the Conchords – Guess if I want to see these guys anymore, it’ll have to be live.

***

For whatever reason, I haven’t watched any of those doctor and lawyer shows that each week deal with a current social issue or two. Until Eli Stone (2008), that is. I just watched the first season on DVD. Each episode, a new issue. My question is, given the fact that no one has ever learned anything in high-school civics/social studies class, why not just show an episode from one of these shows every so often? Couldn’t hurt.

***

The Hulk movies are entertaining except for the Hulk himself. It would make all the difference if The Hulk, when called into existence, was moved to do something other than rage and break things. Perhaps his big transformation could be triggered by Bruce Banner’s extreme hunger, and Hulk would binge on sushi, or the transformation could get set off by Bruce Banner’s powerful thirst, with Hulk doing Jello shots to an insane degree. Or, of course, Bruce could get a powerful itch down there.

***

Earthstorm (2006) – Starring Stephen Baldwin and, yes, Dirk Benedict. I’ve finally watched a movie starring Dirk. (The moon is splitting in half, and one of those halves, the big half, is going to fall down here. News at eleven.)

***

You know how when you go to IMDB and list all of a particular actor’s movies  and you haven’t heard of 98% of them? Take Malcom McDowell, for example. He made If… (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Blue Thunder (1983), and at least 120 movies I’ve never heard of. Well, Cut Off (2006) is no longer one of them; I’ve not only heard of it now, I’ve seen it. (And hey, IMDB no longer numbers its lists of actors’ movies. Boo.)

***

My metaphor for Please Give (2010): it’s like a ride down a river, a river not too big, not too fast but not sluggish either, no rapids, bending this way and that in gradual fashion, heading towards (toward?) that final big ocean (which is you know what), but, between beginning and end of the ride, gets nowhere near that finality. You’re on board with eight ensemble actors, all of them indistinguishable from actual interesting, quirky (in the service of plot) characters. Nicole Holofcener is at the rudder. The ride ends and you get out and stretch your legs, refreshed and thinking that somewhere down the road, you’ll come to another dock, with Holofcener waiting in another little boat, ready to give you another enjoyable little ride.

***

I probably have heard more positive comments about Community (2009) than any other TV show. Finally Netflix’d the first disk and watched the first episode. Ultra smart, fast-paced, satisfying. Good to see Chevy Chase working, in something that’s good. He and Jeffrey Tambor seem to be converging into the same person (bad grammar? They aren’t merging; their appearance and timing are becoming more alike)… Uh oh. Episode 2 beats the same drum. One thing I loved about Lost was its knack of introducing new, frequent, unexpected developments… But now, more episodes. I like. Though why write a character who is of Arabic extraction and then cast a half-Indian/half-Pole? Plus cast a Pakistani as his dad? If you want Danny Pudi for the kid, and he’s great, he’s perfect, then why not just rewrite the character to fit?

***

A little love for The Box (2009) – Brisk pacing. Some money up on the screen. Frank Langella, James Marsden filling in for Tom Cruise, Cameron dressed absurdly to the teeth throughout, made up in a way that accentuates the wrong things, southern accent. I never had a clue where the thing was going but I didn’t mind the ride. Supremely silly. Richard Matheson wrote the short story. He’s 84 now. Wonder if he watched this and if so, what he made of it.

***

Georgia O’Keeffe (2009) – I love Joan Allen in so many movies. She’s perfect for O’Keeffe in her later years. However, here, at the age of 53, she’s called upon to play a 29-year-old beguiling the older Alfred Stieglitz, who was 52 at the time. There is suspension of disbelief, and then there is sort of looking sidelong. Oh, well. When she finally takes off for Taos, I breathed a sigh of relief. We lived in Los Alamos from 1970 to 1973 and a couple of times, we took off around the Jemez to Abiquiu to see if we could spot her, but we never did.

***

Netflix’d The Big Bang Theory (2007) due to the ongoing good reviews. Our TV isn’t connected to anything, antenna or computer, so TV shows come courtesy of DVD. Oops. Laugh track. Show is automatically disqualified, which is too bad, because the segment up to the opening credits made me smile. Same thing happened with The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006) and Mad About You (1992) with Helen Hunt. Laugh-tracks? Really? In 2010? I wondered for a moment if Big Bang might be filmed in front of a live audience, but no, and even if so, an audience that robotic would count as a laugh track anyway… Could it be that Big Bang started with the tracks and then dropped them?… 7,000+ entries for “The Big Bang” and “laugh track.” Filmed in front of a live audience. Could be professional laughers in the audience. Laughter could be enhanced with canned laughs. There are some clips with the laughter removed, leaving silent gaps. Other audience sounds betray live presence. So forth. Hmm. Probably still going to send it back. Too annoying.

***

Finally getting around to The Double Life of Veronique (1991), or “the beloved Double Life of Veronique” as someone put it. ***Spoiler*** For some reason I thought that the Pole lived and the French… hey, how come I can say “Pole” but nothing better than “Frenchie”?… Anyway, I had that backwards, which took me out of the movie for a minute. The  cinematography is mannered but that’s ok. Weronika goes to the cardiologist, who evidently did not tell her not to smoke… There is a political layer to Double Live, with Poland achieving freedom at the same time that Weronika’s soul looses its mortal coil and heads west to France; this layer, twenty years later, is probably transparent to most U.S. viewers; it didn’t have much punch for me. I liked the real world photographed in the movie and Irène Jacob was ok. She’s 44 now and she’s made a bunch of ok movies, nothing special; Kieslowski died in his 50s of heart disease and AIDS. knowing where Jacob and Kieslowski were headed probably bummed me out a little as I watched the movie.

***

I’ve never tired of westerns. I was making a mental list the other day of all the 50s TV western series I could think of. A lot. An amazing number. So I’m glad to welcome Joheunnom nabbeunnom isanghannom (The Good, the Bad, the Weird) (2008) to my TV. I figured out the Bad pretty quick, and then the Weird, who, given the difference in cultures here, I thought at first might in fact be the Good. In fact, maybe he is the Good. Nah. It’s just that the Weird grabbed the most screen time at first, then the Bad. I presume that the Good will catch up in due course. I started another Asian western maybe a year ago, dropped it. No so this one. A train sequence at the beginning involves the G, the B, and the W all there and operating for difference reasons – one to rob the train, one a bounty hunter hunting, one after a treasure map. Result: gun-play and callbacks to Leone. The title is not misplaced. One can only watch and rewatch The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) so many times. Just as Lost in Austen revisits Pride and Prejudice, and if it isn’t the same masterpiece as PAP, so what, just so does TGTBTW lets us enjoy the wine of TGTBTU in a new Asian bottle… Too bad Leone isn’t alive; I think that’s he’d have enjoyed this one, especially the finale, a complete, loving homage.

***

Is there an island with a neighborhood on it in the river next to the Bronx called City Island? Let’s Google Maps it… Huh. There it is. Well, kudos to writer/director Raymond De Felitta for making a swell comedy/drama - City Island (2009) – that takes place there. Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Steven Strait, Alan Arkin, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Ezra Miller, and Emily Mortimer take the script in their professional hands and make us believe. And a fine script it is. De Felitta has won some prizes and maybe he ought to win something for this one. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Italian-American family members all yelling at each other at the same time, especially at dinnertime. De Felitta wrote Two Family House (2000), which I liked a lot and then totally forgot, like most of what I watch… Looking at the map, I realize how much I don’t know New York. I picture the Bronx more to the west, but if you’re coming down 95,  City Island is off to your left in Long Island Sound.

***

In the Name of the King (2007) – If I were king of the movies and you wanted to make one of those tales in which the guy’s wife and/or kid are foully murdered or kidnapped, to set the guy up for,  and loose him on, a 90-minute quest of  enraged vengence-taking audience-pleasin violence, I’d give you five minutes of screen time for that family-devastating prolog. Wife and kid must be dead or kidnapped by 5:00 into the film. That should be plenty. She’s beautiful. Modest cleavage. He loves her. He loves the kid. He spends his days growing turnips and splitting firewood, whilst, as it happens, he’s the greatest martial-arts swordsman in the kingdom. So by 5:01 of the film, not one second later, I want action. Don’t want to wait longer than that for him to shovel into the grave the strangely rich, soft, black, loamy soil that he’s managed to find in a totally rocky landscape.No later than that for his teeth-gritting oaths, etc. Ray Liotta is waiting out there, one of our current great, if not greatest, vengeance magnets for guys like Statham.

***

When Deliverance (1972) came out, my dad and I went to see it together. Afterwards (afterward), I asked him what he thought about it, because he grew up in the hills, whereas I grew up down on the flats. He said, “It was realistic, except for the people.” I was thinking about that tonight as I watched Winter’s Bone (2010). That is, I see what he meant… The movie reminded me how cold it can get in winter. Especially if you’re living in a house with a chimney that’s come away from the wall… The first image that comes up for me when I think about the folks around about where we lived: we knew a family that kept a little store on the highway and one night when we were leaving their house after dinner, the mom stood in the doorway and called, “Ya’ll come back, hear?” Everybody  always said that – we said that – so I don’t know why I happen to remember her so well. She had her apron on… I’m adding this movie to my top-5 movies-where-somebody-loses-a-tooth list.

***

A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven) (1946) – Having watched Powell and Pressburger’s Colonel Blimp, I thought I’d try another, and the FilmSpotters raved about this one. RAF pilot bails out without a parachute, should be dead, but his “conductor” (guy standing in for Death) loses him in the fog and he survives. The movie immediately put me in mind of A Guy Named Joe (1943), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946),  and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), movies in which men almost die, die and come back, or just plain die, but then find themselves in touch with both the living and the beyond. During the U.S. Civil War, there was a dramatic increase in interest in the supernatural. Psychics abounded. So many young men taken from their families. Could they at least be contacted one last time? Could they tell those left behind where they had gone? It made me wonder whether these movies were a similar response, to the multitudes killed in WWII. In the present, we’ve had a spate of shows in which the protagonists are dead but don’t know it. Hope that’s not a sign of something.

***

I’m one of those who reads Pride and Prejudice again every so often (and Persuasion too), and has watched many a miniseries of it, as well as a few feature films, including the Keira Knightley misfire. It was with great delight that my eye fell on Lost in Austen (2008) on the library shelves. I plucked it up and was careful not to read any reviews of it, because I didn’t want to be told that it was a stinker; let me savor my anticipation of a little fresh Austen, sort of, and let me find out for myself whether it’s good or  disappointment, in due course. LIA is an English miniseries in which a young woman, Amanda, , obsessed with P and P, to the exclusion of any interest in her boyfriend, finds herself magically trapped back in time in the Bennett domicile, just at the start of the action in the book. Elizabeth, meanwhile, is thought to be away visiting Amanda’s home at the same time. In other words, British TV has devised a way for us to take one more look at a favorite novel, from a novel perspective. (Elizabeth is played by Gemma Arterton, prepping for her   roles as Io in Clash of the Titans (2010) and Tamina, Queen of the Persians (or whatever) in Prince of Persia (2010). For more,  much more of the exterior Arterton, there is The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009), made, I’m guessing, before she knew what lay ahead for her, starring-roles-wise… Later: This is great. So unexpected. A revisit with tweaks. Hat off to Guy Andrews, who shares the writing credits with, naturally, Jane Austen.

***

Predators (2010) – Adrien Brody. Makeup and facial prosthetics for the role? Don’t know why, but I like it. Doesn’t look like him. I’ve got an in-law working in makeup; I must ask her about this. They’ve made Brody look just that much less dippy as he assumes the Schwarzenegger role. He lets Poley push him around in Splice (2009) and look what happens there. He’s not going there here… The problem of proportion: as the wild pigs attack, Brody and his mates open fire, the Russian with a gattling gun that expends about a thousand rounds, and next to him the Yakuza popping off a couple of shots with a Sig 9. Sort of like a fireman with a fire hose wide open, and next to him, a companion with a squirt gun… Scene that defines the movie: the band of misfits commences fire and expends enough ammo to stop a battalion. All pause to reload. These guys have enough room in their pockets to provision an armory and none of it shows… As with horror movies, part of the fun is guessing in what order the protagonists will get picked off. The first here is a no brainer if you’re thinking in terms of actor’s contracts and schedules. Other than that, the guy I chose to go first was still kicking after two others had gone down. Take a drink every time you get one wrong… Let’s keep in mind that these Predators hunt Aliens for fun, too, not just humans, another issue of proportion…OK, I was in the ballpark, picked-off-wise. I’ll try to do better in the sequel.

***

Temple Grandin (2010) – Worthy HBO effort. Claire Danes earns her paycheck, going full autistic. Most viewers probably know the general facts presented by this biopic, but it’s interesting and informative to see Grandin’s story realized onscreen. Austin environs stand in for Scottsdale, which seems a little odd if you’re familiar with Scottsdale in the 60s, but that’s a nit. The same trope is cycled multiple times throughout the film: mean, uncaring grammar school kids; mean, uncaring high-school kids; mean, uncaring college kids; mean, uncaring graduate school teachers; mean, uncaring feed-lot workers; so forth. But in each cycle, Grandin takes another step. Lazy screenwriting, but the material overcomes that. This is perhaps the only movie outside the Third Reich with a happy ending based on the improved design of a slaughterhouse.

***

Death at a Funeral (2010) – I heard/read more than once that this remake is funnier than the original. Maybe it is, although I liked the original a lot, and maybe if I had waited longer between watching the two of them, I would have enjoyed the second one more, but plot/action/arc were just too familiar the second time around, deflating the humor of surprise, and so I bailed.

***

Jumping from Crowe’s Robin Hood to FanFan le Tulipe (1952) makes me realize, in contrast at least, how turgid Robin Hood is. Gérard Philipe  and Gina Lollobrigida leap off the screen.

***

Right at Your Door (2006) – Huh? I thought that this was a recent release, but I guess not… My theory is that it was funded by one of the major big-box stores, to get us to go out and stock up on emergency supplies: a dirty, virus-infested series of bombs are detonated in L.A (I had to look up “series is” vs “series are”). The only hope of the locals is to duct-tape their houses to a fare-thee-well. Some time is spent on tape acquisition at the outset. Meanwhile, my spousal unit, during the initial scenes, kept remarking on how unsympathetic the main character was. Made me wonder whether the writer/director planned it that way or not. See, the whole point of the movie  is that the guy tapes himself inside, but his wife is outside, downtown, probably infected with the toxic virus. She makes it home and wants to come in, naturally, virus or no virus; he says no, please curl up out back. So my question is, did the writer/director intend for the guy to be sympathetic at that point or not? Does it matter? He’s running around concerned about his wife in the beginning, so he cares, but it’s tough to make him the nice guy when his wife is outside the door pleading and he goes, Baby, I’m sorry, but… The movie continues. Stuff happens. It’s a movie for our time, a cautionary tale, a horror story, operating on multiple levels, a nice little, have-a-nice-day-but-oh-by-the-way-you’re-screwed movie, sort of like the daily news. Kudos to Chris Gorak, writer/director. May he prosper.

***

I’ve been reading Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, Amy Kelly (1950), for, well, for years, a few lines at a time. I keep the book in a spot where I usually only have time for, say, a half page or less, not being one to dawdle. And now, in Robin Hood (2010), it’s spoiled for me in the first five minutes of the film? Unbelievable… I wasn’t interested in the movie until I listened to an interview with the director, who described the historical research that went into the script-making. I’m a total sucker for historical dramas, so I obtained the movie immediately… Kermode and Mayo have been merciless re Crowe’s accent or accents in this movie. Northumberland residents writing in, Irish-Scottish-Kiwish references made. Good example of ignorance (mine) being bliss: I can’t hear the problem. I’m postponing my plans to become wiser by learning the Northumberlish accent, at least till I’ve finished this movie… Why would a major-league scriptwriter put dialog into these twelfth-century mouths like “We go all the way back, me and him.”  “Stay safe!”  “I love you all to bits!” “Don’t go in harm’s way1″ and worst of all, “They’re men of the hood”?… And speaking of accents, William Hurt did just fine in Yellow Handkerchief, with his Louisiana oil-platform speakin. But here, as a Norman noble, he looks pained and wisely lets out his assigned dialog, in barely disguised American, as surreptitiously as possible. King John to Hurt: “What the devil are you doing here?” which is what I was thinking too… How many English are in this movie? Any at all?… Lot of black capes in this movie. Bill Russell wore a black cape. Velvet. You have to be a mighty cool dude to carry that off, and when I saw him in an S.F. restaurant with it on, he was… Request for comment: Does a steel sword pulled quickly from a leather scabbard always give a mighty ringing sound?… Anyway, the history: 1200 A.D. is sort of early to be doing the English/French thing. Is it better to insist on getting the history right, or just go ahead and make a movie full of nonsense because it, at least, introduces the subject?… There is something basicly wrong with this movie, history aside. It’s got the visuals, Ridley Scott in good form, the stars. Was it me, just wanting a Roberto Rossellini cinema history lesson, or was there something more going on here? Perhaps there should have been less history, to mitigate the nonsense. Yes, that’s it.  This is a fundamental good guys/bad guys tale; history isn’t; lose the history… Has someone done a chemistry comparison of the Robin/Marian couples in cinema? Do Crowe and Blanchett have chemistry? Together, I mean. She’s still Queen Elizabeth to me, even if she’s hanging out in the Saxon fields here. Crowe and Blanchett, the beauty and the beast… Flynn and DeHavilland, Connery and Hepburn, Costner and Mastrantonio, Elwes and Yasbeck, Bedford and Evans, Fairbanks and Bennett, Bergin and Thurman, Greene and Driscoll, Greene and O’Farrell, Todd and Rice? Ten couples to watch and rank on the romantic-o-meter. I seem to recall Connery and Hepburn squabbling before one or both of them expires tragically. Bummer! Don’t end a Hood movie with a dead Hood, even if he’s a geezer!… Romance question: when one member of the couple, usually the female in the case of a heterosexual pairing, is grievously or mortally wounded, often with blood on, in, or about the mouth and lips, how often in real life does the couple go into a passionate lingering kiss? Seems like the suffering one would push off weakly and go “Jesus. Please…” weakly… One thing that this R.H. got right: in the ’38 version, Flynn brings down a huge buck and later carries it in to the Sheriff’s banquet hall over his shoulders. The thing would have weighed 500 pounds. In the finally scene of the 2010 R.H., one of his men strolls along with what is essentially a doe over his shoulders. Less dramatic, but there’s good eatin in those does!

***

I had a strong sense that something was wrong with MacGruber (2010) as I was watching it. Maybe something about its mixture of silliness and action violence. Tropic  Thunder (2008) and Pineapple Express (2008) brought that off, but it must be tricky to do.  I frequently found myself, at the beginning for example, relating to the movie as action-only; wherefore the sudden goofiness was then somewhat jarring. Or something. But having said that, I smiled, chuckled, and chortled quite a bit… Val Kilmer. This guy. He’s kind of a mess. Works in anything and everything. And he’s an actor I love to watch. Perhaps the fact that in MacGruber he played a character named Dieter Von Cunth, silent h, helps explain the movie’s R rating… Remind me to research the surname “Wiig.”

***

Splice (2010) – You may be wondering what genes get spliced together to make the critter in this movie. Answer: just the ones necessary to advance the plot… Sarah Polley – what a filmography for someone only 31, and she looks like a normal person. Now she’s been in both my favorite modern series (Slings and Arrows) and a truly silly movie.

***

The Yellow Handkerchief (2008) – Engaging road movie with two  youngsters still fresh to me, Kristen Stewart (oops, turns out I”ve seen her in six other movies, and I have yet to catch a Twilight movie) and Eddie Redmayne, doing an interesting American accent, plus William Hurt, playing that guy who is gruff and uneducated, but does the right thing a couple of times up front to ensure that you like him and root for him in the movie, and who utters a profound screenwriter’s thought from time to time (and the kids get to utter those thoughts, too), but who in flashbacks and the heat of passion commits an accidental  sin or two, for which he seeks forgiveness after serving six years. You know, that guy. Also Maria Bello, taking her clothes off a couple of times, per usual. Great locations along the Mississippi that had me sketching a map of the states as I watched, to see if I could remember the course of the river and its Missouri and Ohio tributaries. Hurt waxes voluble with his Louisiana accent, whereas in Robin Hood, he limits himself (I’m just imagining him standing there in the Hood scenes, telling himself that he’s English royalty.).

***

A lot of my movie-watching choices are inspired by film discussions that I listen to on podcasts such as /Filmcast, B-Movie Cast, Movies 101, Double Feature, etc. Such is the case with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), featured on Filmspotting recently. First thing to impress me in the movie is its color. I wrote a review of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and I remember reading about the care and trouble taken with the color in that movie. Some woman – I forget her name – was the great Technicolor expert, I think. When Speed Racer (2008) came out, I remember a lot of chatter about the color in it (I liked the color, but not enough to finish the movie). We’re living in an age of greater subtlety in color palates, not to mention the ubiquitous blue light, but it’s still a pleasure to feast one’s eyes on the richness of a Colonel Blimp. And what happened to the “r” in “colonel”?

The first startup that I worked for encountered a rough patch and was acquired by the Arthur J. Rank company, which also made Colonel Blimp. Perhaps you’ve seen the big dude hitting the… the gong? Whatever that big cymbal thing is called… I never got to meet Mr. Rank, if he was in fact still living at the time. Rank Co.  eventually sold the company to some awful Texas conglomerate of three letters, the first being D, but I was long gone by then.

It’s remarkable to me that this movie, made in 1942/1943 in England, can be as temperate as it is toward the German people.

***

The Square (2008) – It’s been done many times before and it’ll be done many times again, but mixing a bag of money, adultery, blackmail, arson, lowlifes, dog-eating sharks, general violence, and multiple deaths, well, that’s entertainment!

***

Proof (1991) – Russell Crowe at 27, playing a lot younger. Just a kid. A lot of miles to go, to turn into Robin Hood. Hugo Weaving at 31, maybe playing a bit younger as well. Genevieve Picot, a Tasmanian (and I met another Tasmanian a couple of weeks ago as we waited in line at the Rinconada Children’s Pool), who beguiles the young Crowe.

***

What’s missing most in movies today? Sharp dialog? I keep hearing about Mamet, perhaps because he’s fundamentally a dramatist, with dialog his stock in trade. Last night I just sat luxuriating in the interchanges betwixt Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion (1938)… At one point in the movie, at the start of a grand ball, a diplomat strides into the hall and then pauses at the foot of the stairs with his hand to his ear. For a moment, I assumed he was taking a call on his cell that would effect the plot.

***

The House of the Devil (2009) – I don’t get it. How many times does the devil have to get born? Every time I turn around, another young woman has been impregnated in a satanic ritual. Wasn’t Rosemary’s little boy enough? Nursery schools are going to hell.

***

Paging through the Flick Nation yearbook, I’m reminded of how many movies I see and then forget forever. Movies from the past year like War, Inc., Severance, Flawless, Married Life, Smart People. If you average a movie a day, say, that’s 7,000 movies over 20 years. Even if you’re one of those who focuses on top-1000 lists and the like, you still need thousands of unsung flicks to fill your dance card. Thousands of movies watched, for what? Does writing about the experience help excuse the waste of time?

***

The Man from Earth (2007) – Netflix Instant. A little movie about a conversation between friends, one of whom mentions that he’s been alive since paleolithic times. In fact, back in the day, he was Jesus. His friends doubt this. The movie reminds me a little of the old Steve Allen TV show Meeting of Minds, in which Allen sits at a table with three historical figures and discusses their accomplishments and history from their perspective. Allen was a man of many parts. As for Man of Earth, let’s have a sequel and take the conversation to the next level.

***

Watching Just Friends (2005), I made a note: “Seven bags of rock salt.” If you have any idea why, please contact me… Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit and then out of the fat suit, strange sensation. He seemed, something, more real? in the suit… Some rainy day, I’d like to spill some ink about this movie. To me, it’s endearing and a mess. Reynolds – compare and contrast this outright channeling of Will Farrell with his subtle turn in Adventureland (2009). And props to him for making a whole movie in a coffin… Chemistry between Reynolds and Amy Smart in this rom com? When he’s goofing, which is most of the time, zero chemistry. In the moments when he drops that and exposes the actual dude that we know is there, there is as much chemistry as is possible with Ms Smart, who is (or was) engaged to 12-year boyfriend Branden Williams.

***

I went to see The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) at a tiny metroplex in Phoenix, just when multiple-screen cinemas were newly invented. Only, at the door I swerved and bought a ticket for something junky, against my better judgment. But finally, after hearing folks rave about the movie lately,  I moved Coyle up to the top of my Netflix queue. It’s never too late! Criterion. My main problem now, as I watch it, is that I remember the ending from the book. Nothing else, just the ending, but that’s enough, cause on one level I’m just waiting for the bad news here. George V. Higgins made a splash, at least in the Boston area, when he wrote the book. He was a what, I can’t remember, a  D.A. or defense lawyer or something like that. His books were almost 100% dialog. Every fourth scene, say, in the movie, one of the actors gets to spout a page or so. Best parts of the movie, by far…  I remember reading that Higgins died a while back, RIP… The movie has that strong 60s-70s flavor, which I think is mostly about hair, mostly sideburn hair. There’s a scene in the new-at-the-time and sterile Government Square, which replaced the lively, lowlife Scollay Square. The movie was made three years after I left but I’m sitting here with the locations, Sharon, Weymouth, waiting for Wakefield or other points north, or Somerville or Medford, as if the thing is a travel log. You can’t go home again, but you can watch old movies… Those cars – all American, all big – though I was driving a bug at the time. Boston, and I had no plans for the future and now it’s, what, 40 years later. Still, no plans, so I shouldn’t feel sorry for anybody in the movie who is stuck in their job… There is a guy in the movie, so familiar. I check IMDB but most of the cast, no head shots. This guy should have a head shot. Please, somebody in the movie, call him by name so I can look him up by his character’s name… Ok, it was Richard Jordan. Died much later of a brain tumor; Mitchum, lung cancer; Steven Keats, suicide; Boyle, I can’t remember; Bobby Orr, bad knees killed his career. Remind me to just watch the damn movie and let it go at that. Nah, I was there then and I’m not there now and neither is anybody else in the movie, so what the hell… Funny to watch this, the ultimate in movie realism, at the same time as Le Samurai, the ultimate in auteur, the two with such similar arcs.

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Stir of Echoes (1999) -I took this one for the team, as she who must be obeyed sometimes wants a scary movie. Scary the genre, not scary the fact, though this one did make me jump a couple of times. And I like Kevin Bacon. He had to drink a lot of OJ and water and beer in this movie, and dig with a shovel and pick and no gloves on, and sometimes act all wild-eyed and stuff. Kathryn Erbe, whom I don’t know but who seemed familiar – would that be Ur-bee or Urbah or just plain old Urb? – has the thankless task of playing the wife and mother who time after time experiences something that would bring any normal person’s life to a standstill till she figured out and understood what the hell was going on, but who, to keep the plot moving forward, is constrained to continue with her normal housewifely chores, looking good!, getting naked at least once, whilst periodically also acting all wild-eyed and stuff, though not so much as her husband, the star of the movie.

***

I keep hearing about Le samourai (1967), so I finally started watching it. It has a great many moments in it where you (and by you I mean me, no I mean I) go “wait… what…?” I hope that this guy, Mr. Samourai, ***spoilers***, a premier hitman in Paris, has better luck on most of his jobs than he does on this one. He doesn’t exercise a lot of finesse, though, so maybe he gets what he deserves. Walks into a crowded club, shoots the boss in his office, and the next thing he knows, he’s in a lineup with six witnesses eyeballing him. Is this good hitman craft here? Or a recipe for hitman fail? This movie is #1 on many Hitman Top 5 lists. It’s got an IMDB 8.1 rating. I must keep watching, to discern what I’m missing or what is to come. Perhaps Delon and Melville and the vibe in the movie were taken as ultra cool in ’67; I mean, Peter Gunn was ultra cool in ’58 – at least, I thought he was – but that doesn’t mean he’s  cool now. When I finish the movie, I’ll read a bunch of reviews by respected cinema professionals. They’ll tell me what to think… Ok, I couldn’t wait. I checked out the first part of Ebert’s great-movie paean. Whoa. From the first scenes of the movie, we are in the hands of a master. The world is screwed up enough already; who am I to disagree with Ebert here? Still… Ebert writes that the master hit-man hot-wires a car. In fact, the hit-man steps into a 60s-vintage Citroen and pulls out a key ring with about a thousand keys on it, and starts trying them in the lock. Fortunately for him, and for us, he finds one that works after four or five tries. After decades of watching actors hot-wire cars, is it so strange that this might wring a smile from me. Wouldn’t Mr. Bean start the car this way? (Later, a cop with a similar key ring uses the same method to gain access to the hit-man’s apartment. It takes him longer to find the right key, so that his partner can do various bits of business while we’re waiting.)… Also worrisome in the movie are the shots of the hit-man’s pet bird acting upset in its cage. How did the director get the bird to act so upset? Could it be that the director in fact upset the bird before rolling the cameras? I’d hate to see bird abuse perpetrated solely for our amusement… One of the cops or one of the bad guys, can’t remember which, when asked something, replies (in French, not in the subtitles) “impossible.” I remember reading somewhere that this is a typical first response in France to various questions and requests… Paris is older than where I live now. The hallways, yikes, scabrous paint. Funky molding. Layers of plaster… Melville is known for the details, the scenes which show us somebody doing something. Bugging the hit-man’s apartment, for example. How they did it 40 years ago in Paris, that is. I don’t care… The hitman (I was using hit-man to avoid the red “incorrect spelling” marks, but I like hitman better. Ditto hotwire instead of hot-wire. I refuse to be ruled by the spelling Nazis.) returns to the woman who refused to identify him in the police lineup even though she recognized him. I thought perhaps we were going rom com here, weirdly, but no, there eventuated in their meeting a bunch of plot… There are a couple of jarring cuts that maybe made sense and maybe didn’t. One doesn’t expect any such in a masterpiece… But credit where due: the hitman seems to steal only Citroens for his jobs, so that ring of keys that he carries are probably only Citroen keys, right?… Some day, which is to say probably never, I’ll take the time to explain why this film has so many cross-resonances 43 years later; for now, let me just say that Point Blank with Lee Marvin that same year got right what Le Samourai got right, without the autuer, the Parisian bushido, and what to the non-Gaul can seem goofiness.

***

What to watch on TV with a three-year-old who doesn’t have a chance to watch at home, but would like to, although it’s probably a good thing that she doesn’t, but who does get a few minutes of viewing time during the week at the grandparents’ house? (And who does watch some video on Mama’s iPhone.) I can recommend the PBS Curious George DVDs (2006 – Present). Brief gentle stories narrated by William Macy, posing a problem for George to solve, followed by real-life kids doing something similar. Maybe George is a little too human for a little monkey, but it’s not like watching Splice (2010).

***

Get Him to the Greek (2010) – Back in the 50s and 60s, you had to scuffle to find and enjoy blue comedy. Rusty Warren’s “Knockers Up” came out in 1960, but it was hard to find. Redd Foxx albums, same thing. Now, you can just sit back and let it wash over you. I was listening to Comedy Death-Ray today and Aukerman had to rein in Nick Swardson and Jon Daly, who accelerated out of control into bluer than blue. Mix in lots of non-PC material and it’s even better.

***

She’s Out of My League (2010) – I’m going to do a viewer poll. Do Alice Eve and Jay Baruchel have onscreen chemistry?

***

Letters to Juliet (2010) – Amanda Seyfried, do your three moms know that you’re out making movies like this?…And what kind of movie is it? The kind where Amanda says to the guy, “Oh my, can you move?” and everybody watching shouts “Only my lips!” just before the guy does… This movie makes me worried about Vanessa Redgrave. Maybe she was just distracted, getting pulled into a shot here and there to read her lines while she actually had something else on her mind. The effect, though, is that she seems to be going prematurely senile.

***

***SPOILER***  Passengers (2008) and Lost, Season 6(2010). Same plot. Who borrowed from whom, or did both borrow from someone else? Not worth researching, but it would be interesting to know. “Passengers” might have more kick for viewers who haven’t just watched the final episodes of Lost… And why watch a movie that received such poor reviews? In my case, because someone local liked it and my spouse wanted “something scary” and I was in a hurry at the library.

***

Why do Canadian geese insist on walking across busy streets in a flock? You can tell they don’t like it, that they’re nervous about it, that they stop and start as the cars and trucks whizz by, at the honking (of horns, not of each other). One good flap of the wings and they’d be over to the opposite grassy verge, but they don’t do it. Strange.

***

I’ve heard about Johnnie To, but I can’t remember if I’ve seen any of his movies. After listening to a discussion about him on a podcast, I Netflix’d Election (2005). Fast-paced, well-made, didn’t know what was going on in a couple of the major set pieces, but with two chapters to go, I get the picture. Plus, my English has taken on that Cantonese ahhh  sound at the end of every sentence.

Later: After the last two chapters, I’ve learned that it’s hard to kill somebody by hacking at him with a machete, kicking him, and breaking bottle after bottle over his head, but you can do it; also hard to kill a guy by bashing him repeatedly over the head with a rock, but again, it can be done. I also learned that I’m not going to say anything bad about Mr. To, as I don’t want him coming after me.

***

Me and Orson Welles (2008) reminds me how much I loved the three seasons of  Slings and Arrows. I look forward to watching them again. I had Season 1 in my hand today, but decided to wait.

***

For years I kept up with the Harry Potter books on tape, followed by the films. Then I ran out of gas or lost my momentum or whatever a third of the way through the Half-Blood Prince (2009). Watched the first part of the movie two or three or four times. Manohla Dargis obviously had the same problem, but she didn’t have the luxury of waiting a year or two. Now, with the Deadly Hallows in the offing, I’m going to try again…and… I’m glad I waited. It feels fresh, it’s dark, there are hormones, students and teachers and parents can get killed, which makes it matter, it’s noir, and… uh oh. The “seven” trope. Seven battles in Scott Pilgrim. Do I have to sit through seven pieces of Valdemort in the next two movies? Should I read the book first?

***

Finished Lost, Season 6. It didn’t disappoint. I’ve seen a lot of great series, but for pure entertainment, this one is my favorite.

***

Well, I’m the first-round winner of the Cinexcellence UnScene contest. I get a dvd, which I’ll review here.

***

Just Wright (2010) – How did Queen Latifah get that scar? Is it common knowledge?… She’s 40+ playing 35, but she looks younger than that. Makeup! She’s another entry on the long list of women working after 40 (along with Pam Grier in the movie) – once a rarity, now a commonplace… Common, btw, plays an NBA all-star but the cameraman in several shots makes him look shorter than Queen herself. And how come at 38, a top NBA player, he’s still single, but then falls hard for a transparent gold-digger like the Paula Patton character?… But no, I wanted rom com and I got it, because Latifah and Common have chemistry and whatever that means, whatever that is, it’s all you need to make the long wait for the final clinch worthwhile… I need to watch Chris Rock’s Good Hair (200), wherein Rock “explores the wonders of African-American hairstyles.” Latifah, Patton, and Grier don’t have a single curly hair among them; what’s the current zeitgeist?

***

Gunga Din (1939) is William Goldman’s choice of best movie ever. Starts out very cowboys and indians, filmed up near Owens Lake and Lone Pine, with those typical Hollywood-movie rocks in the landscape. I asked a couple of Indian friends about the movie, as it matches three British soldiers against hordes of Thuggees. My friends were not enthusiastic, about Gunga Din or about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

***

As I watch Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010), a couple of questions:

- Is the movie borrowing from Season 6 of Lost?

- Why not find real Persians to play the  prince and princess? Disney could strengthen U.S./Iranian relations with such a move, even if Walt himself would have bombed Teheran by now. Well, you may say, Disney needed bankable stars, but stars are in a movie for one reason and one reason only, or so claims William Goldman, and that’s to open it. Since when has anyone counted on Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton to open a movie?

- For a guy who’s been knighted, Kingsley, who requires to be addressed as “Sir Ben,” sure seems to get a lot of thankless bad-guy roles.

Nice touch having the Persian prince and princess discuss Armageddon.

But just to be clear, loved the movie.

***

There is a scene in Ip Man (2008) ( a Grade-A movie) that reminds me that all cultures are not the same. Two martial-arts masters duel in secret. A young man sees them and reports the outcome of their match to others; meanwhile, the two men agree to keep the results of the match to themselves. Soon the whole town is talking about the match, and the loser is outraged. A scene follows in which the losing master, the young man, the young man’s brother, and a crowd from the town all argue about the rights and wrongs of the situation. The winning master, Ip Man, stands watching with a quizzical look on his face.

Watching the scene evolve, I wondered if the film was setting up conflict between Ip Man and the losing master. The losing master denied everything, demanding justice. Would he think that Ip Man spoke out of turn? He demands that Ip Man confirm his words. Ip Man stands quietly, a quizzical look on his face.

In our current Western culture of gossip, tell-all media, and 24/7 news cycles, the group onscreen and the audience with them would automatically assume that the cat has been let out of the bag. Everybody now knows who  won and who lost the fight, even if everyone isn’t already sharing a video of it on their   phones. The focus falls on the loser’s denials, or Ip Man’s superiority, and secondarily on the youthful paparazzi’s luck,  acumen, or culpability. The loser’s protests then seem pro forma and we watch Ip Man for his response and the losing master for his discomfiture.

In the scene as it plays out, however, the older brother scolds the young man. The masters are forgotten. How could the boy speak out as he did? He has brought embarrassment to a master. As an object lesson, his brother hauls down the young man’s trousers, exposing his bare buttocks to the crowd. Be part of the group! Consider the consequences of your actions to other members of the group!

***

William Goldman’s “The Big Picture” was published  in 2000. It’s a collection of newspaper articles written over  a ten-year period (the 90s), predicting the performance of each year’s summer movies, guessing at Oscar nominations, and opining on the state of Hollywood cinema. I discovered Goldman in the 50s and have been following him ever since, and this collection of articles provides some great insights into the movie business. Among other things, Goldman reminds me to keep watching old movies and indies, because new and big and Hollywood are not necessarily, or even probably, synonyms for “good.”

***

I was  killing time in a fabric store a long time ago, waiting for my spouse, and I picked up a copy of “War and Remembrance” that was lying by the cash register, and began to read it. By the time that we left the store, I was hooked, and I checked out a copy of the book from the library the same day, and read it through. Then, when the miniseries came out, I was excited to learn that the romantic lead was to be played by Robert Mitchum, whom I liked a lot. Sadly, he was too old to be credible in the role and I never finished the miniseries. I was remembering that as I watched Anzio (1968) last night. Mitchum is the perfect age for this one. Despite being made by Dino De Laurentiis, it’s a war movie with a brain… I checked out some reviews of the movie and found one for the Sun-Times by Roger Ebert. What a career. The review is 42 years old. But come to think of it, I used to watch Ebert on PBS with Gene Siskel in the 70s. A little Jack Russell terrier would jump up on the couch for the Dog of the Week pick and one week, Siskel picked Circle of Iron (1978), which I liked, and I jumped up on my couch in protest.

***

Boy, the old comedies really rub your nose in the racial divide.

***

Tough watching Make Way for Tomorrow (1937). Although a classic, no wonder it was a flop at the box office in 1937. Four grown kids with lives of their own are faced with a mom and dad who have lost their home. As my three sisters and I try to deal with a similar situation, I can only watch this one scene at a time. It’s too accurate. And I know it advance that it doesn’t have a happy ending.

***

Watching You’ll Find Out (1940), available from NetFlix, was like walking down the street and going to the movies on a weekday evening when I was a kid. Fun and pleasant. Lots of references to popular radio, which in those days was our TV. Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Peter Lorre get top billing on the movie these days, but Helen Parrish, Dennis O’Keefe, and the Kay Kyser band were the actual leads in the movie. Karloff in his scenes sounded an awful lot like Jeremy Irons in later life. His mouth looks like the Irons mouth. One thing I like about a lot of  ’40s movies, including this one, is the closeups. Let’s have more closeups! Or maybe they’re just better in black and white. The movie includes Ish Kabibble (Mrywyn Bogue). I can’t remember ever seeing Ish in a film before, but I do remember him from radio. He died in Joshua Tree, California, of all places. Not much happens in Joshua Tree, but if I had known he passed on there, I would have sought out the commemorative plaque.

***

Harry Brown (2009) – Too bad actors have to get old and poop out. Caine is 77 and I’ll be sorry to see him go when that happens to him. In the meantime, he’s still able to man up and keep the slums safe by shooting and stabbing wayward youth.

***

Near Dark (1987) reminds me how badass Lance Henriksen could be. 70 years old, 166 roles, most of which are in movies and TV shows that I’ve never heard of. Still working,  cranking them out. He was in The Slammin’ Salmon (2009) and Appaloosa (2008), but sadly I didn’t remark him in either. Maybe I’ll go to Netflix and list his films and watch him in several of them for a bit.

***

Ahh. Lost Season 6. Finally.

And as I watch, I’m as interested and engaged as ever. Happiness is having a whole season to watch of a show that you like.

***

I had an urge to watch Taken (2008) again.Didn’t remember most of it and enjoyed it all over again. Of the multitude of silly parts, the only one that bothered me – because it was just so lazy? – was the scene in which Neeson pretends to be a French policeman shaking down some Albanian lowlifes, and the whole thing is done in English. Weird… Maggie Grace, 25, playing a 17-year-old, that was a little weird as well.

***

Whiled away 6 hours at the metroplex. Inception (2010), Salt (2010), half of The Other Guys (2010), the start of The Expendables (2010), and my first look at 3D via part of the climax of Avatar (2009)  (didn’t like it – the 3D or Avatar). Empty theaters on a Friday afternoon; playing hooky from work; time well spent.

The name Benjamin Button is odd, but the name that always bothered me a little was Brad Pitt. I would ask myself, why choose a name like Pitt for your screen name? This was before I realized that these days, lots of actors keep their own names, regardless, and that Thomas Bradley Pitt was one of them. It has never bothered me that the two Pitts were Prime Minister. Eartha Kitt is OK. Mitt is OK, though I don’t like his politics. I’ve got nothing against armpits, or fruit pits, or Pittsburgh. Just seemed like a strange name to choose. Now if he ever marries Angelina (whose real name is Angelina Jolie Voight), she can be Angelina Pitt.

There is a scene at the beginning of She’s Out of My League (2010) in which Alice Eve walks through the Pittsburgh airport, stopping all male traffic as she strides along in her red high heels, preceded by her cleavage and posterierceded by her flowing blond hair. We’re required to suspend our disbelief just a tiny bit because, although she is looking mighty fine in the scene, and is backed by a supportive musical soundtrack, maybe she’s not… quite… that fine. But we get the point. The thing is, I was reminded of my first job after college, wherein I sat at a desk in a very large room filled exclusively with men of all ages dressed in short-sleeve white shirts and dark ties. Every afternoon at two, the boss’ daughter pushed a mail cart through the room. We knew that she was coming because there was another room just like ours through the doorway to the south and we could hear the silence fall there at one fifty-five. This young innocent with her cart and Virgin-Mary blank stare and exaggerated secondary characteristics, dressed like a Burger-King hooker, was the prototype, the ur-babe, the apotheosis of show-stoppers. No one, including yours truly, could get enough of her. Then when she had passed on to the next room to the north and the cone of silence moved with her, we all  slumped back in our chairs in unison, shaking our heads, rolling up our fingers in our ties, spent.

Happy Endings (2005) – Someone recommended Short Bus to me as a movie in which many modes of sex are showcased with no ill results, though other interpersonal behaviors do provide drama. Don’t know if that’s accurate, not having seen Short Bus, but it does describe Happy Endings, a movie with a sweet spirit, sex without feathers, and conflict out of bed.

Why was Charlie Chan more popular than Mr. Moto?

Yes, I too await the arrival of Sharktopus (2010). No more Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus (2090), which for me at least, had only one great moment, and that was in the Making Of short. Sharktopus: the head of a shark; the tail of eight tentacles, all presaged so brilliantly by SNL’s land shark.

The Drummer (2007) – “I’m a hoodlum. He’s a hoodlum in a suit.” I’ve got to ask one of my Taiwanese friends how prevalent the indigenous Taiwanese language still is, and who speaks it and who doesn’t, and how far Mandarin has spread on the island, and how many Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong residents, on fleeing to Taiwan, would be able to understand the language…  Aha, and the answer is, the indigenous Taiwanese language, Fukienese, was in disfavor for some years as Mandarin was imposed on the island, but now is acceptable again. Mandarin is more widespread on the island in the north, Fukienese in the south. And Fukienese is also the language of Fukien Province north of Hong Kong. Cantonese speakers can also often understand and speak Fukienese, as in the movie…  I hope Film Movement is doing well. Once when writing a review, I interviewed the head of the company. I’ve enjoyed so many of their films, it would be a shame if they went belly up…

Virtuality (2009) -The  opening titles kept appearing… one… by… one… for the longest time into a movie that I’ve ever seen… Presented as a Fox reality show. I don’t like reality shows. But it’s really a nicely photographed science-fiction movie with a virtual-reality hook. Between my likes and dislikes, I’m watching the movie in bits and pieces, waiting for the payoff.

Reno 911: Miami (2007) – My spouse liked it. Yay. Means I’ll probably get to watch all 5 seasons again.

I wish that in history class I had been shown a few movies like The Age of the Medici (1973). As much as I knew already, or thought I knew, on the subject, the movie added so much texture and color. A toast to Rossellini for doing the right thing late in life.

Click on the Policy Tab > create a new Policy named TestingColdFailover. Reason for this change is to confirm that your GMC Standby node was installed correctly. We will confirm this at the end of the Standby GMC Server install. Here we do not assume a Good Messaging Server is installed. We are first installing Good Mobile Control Server in a cold standby configuration. 13) ****Before installing on the Standby node, be sure to stop and disable the Good Mobile Control server service on the primary node. SECTION 2 – Installing Good Mobile Control cold standby on the Standby Server. 1) After installing the Primary Good Mobile Control Server, stop the GMC Server services in Windows Services on the Primary node before installing the Standby GMC Server. 2) Log in using the Good Mobile Control service account. 3) install Good Mobile Control on this standby node. Most of the steps are identical to installing GMC on the Primary node with some notable exceptions. 4) Choose “Standby GMC Server”. This is one of the differences between this being a primary host and Standby host.. 5) The SQL Server Host must be remote in a cold standby configuration. This remote SQL Server must be the same SQL server as the one selected=”>Moscow, Belgium (2008) reminds me again, as so many European movies do, that if I want something with a soul and a heart, I shouldn’t count on Hollywood to provide it.

Susannah York is filmed with serious gauze or vaseline on the lens in The Silent Partner (1978). We get a closeup of Elliot Gould and then one of York, and the difference in apparent focus is hard to ignore. I assumed while watching the movie that she must have been playing younger than she was, to match up with Gould, but no, she’s a year younger than he is. Better a little gauze than having work done, though. By the time The Silent Partner was shot, she was well into her eclipse as a star, but she’s kept working since then, and she’s still at it… The Silent Partner: lazy plotting (makes you think about the plot while watching, but in a “no… wait…” way)  but a fun movie anyway – strictly a star vehicle for Gould in his heydays.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009) – If you’re in the mood to watch Robin Wright, Winona Ryder, and Maria Bello, with a little Julianne Moore and Monica Bellucci thrown in, acting in each others faces and occasionally up against a game Alan Arkin and Keanu Reeves as the men – men! whaddaya gonna do with them? – mother and daughter struggles through two generations – then settle down and enjoy. It’s Wright’s movie and she was still – but only just – Mrs. Penn when she made it; be good to hear her compare the contemporaneous divorces – the one in the movie and her own.

Repo Men (2010) – Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, Jude Law. This is not chopped acting chicken liver we’re talking here. How I wish I could have been in the room when the three of them were pitched this movie.

O’Horten (2007) – Quietly reminds us how lousy the U.S. mass transit system is.

Evil Under the Sun (1982) – I suggested watching this one and then cringed at the over-the-top drapes-chewing performances of everyone concerned, particularly Diana Rigg, Sylvia Miles, Maggie Smith, Ustinov, and especially Roddy McDowell. Then, during a lull, my spouse said how much she was enjoying McDowell. You think that you know them, but no matter how many years you spend together, you really don’t… As the movie progressed, either the actors or I or all of us calmed down and they proceeded to entertain me… A while ago, I went to a reading by David Sidaris at a local bookstore. Someone asked him what he was reading these days and he said that he had discovered and was enjoying Agatha Christie, for the English manners in her books. I listened to a couple of her books on tape; if you’re in the mood for English manners, you could do worse. This week’s New Yorker (August 16 and 23, 2010) contains an article on her. Evil Under the Sun seems a good summing-up of her craft to me.

Sons of Anarchy (2008) -I’m fascinated with Ron Perlman. He’s 60 but that shouldn’t be a problem for Hellboy, whom I presume to be immortal. It’s just the look of the guy – he’s one of a kind. How did he get into pictures? By playing Early Man in Quest for Fire (1981), that’s how.

Watched the first part of Lost Highway (1997) again last night, with company. I wondered going in if it would retain its creepiness and power. At first, not so much. Hard to believe that it was made as late as 1997; felt a lot older to me. The score, the cinematography… Lynch in Mulholland Drive (2001) and Inland Empire (2006) has refined and subtlized his work to such an extent that Lost Highway felt, in a way, like an artifact. Plus, I was much aware of Patricia Arquette hiding under that red wig. I also found myself wondering how influencedMichael Haneke was in Caché (2005) by the first segment of Lost Highway. In the end though, I was drawn in; still felt the magic. And hoorah to Bill Pullman for his perfection in those scenes at home.

Maybe Baby (2000) is a perfectly fine romantic comedy, full of clever lines, romcom humor, and standard situations. The writer/director, who shall remain nameless, as I plan to go negative about him within the next two sentences, causes the male protagonist to head down a path sure to cause severe tire damage to the metaphorical automobile of  the couple’s romance at the bottom of the movie’s slope. How will this resolve, we ask, knowing that the man and woman in question must end up together. How will the guy get out of his misdeeds, in the face of his wife’s coming fury? Answer: the writer/director, like me as I watched, couldn’t figure that one out. Instead [spoiler, but in my defense, the logical resolution that you await as you watch this movie isn't going to arrive, so what exactly am I spoiling?], the couple separates for a decent number of frames, after which, in a voiceover, the aggrieved wife tells us that, well, oh, all right, I forgive him, the big lug! The end.

Are the English a depressed race? This question occurred to me as I watched Episode 1 of Life on Mars (2006). It’s not spoiling anything to tell you, unless you’ve been living on Mars yourself for the past couple of years, that this two-season English series (not the U.S. remake) consists of 16 episodes that chronicle a man in a deep coma living in a past created in his own mind, knowing all the time that he is in that coma and can’t get out. The episodes may be fascinating, with surprises measured out along the way, but that premise… perhaps it’s just my claustrophobia, but it bothered me.

On the other hand, I don’t care much for police dramas (The Wire excepted), but staying on for Episode 2 of Life on Mars: intense, gritty, hard to turn off, a lot to like there. I guess I’ll watch some more.

I was watching The Last of Sheila (1973) last night – an old-fashioned flick in which James Coburn and all his teeth gather a group of friends together on a yacht off the Italian coast, to have them work out which of them murdered his lover a year in the past. Along with Coburn, the group consists of actors of an earlier cinematical generation: James Mason, Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, Joan Hackett, Raquel Welch, and… Ian McShane? Where did he come from? I was just watching him in Nemesis Game (2003), but 1973? Checking out his credits, I see that they run all the way back to 1962. The man has appeared in episodes of Miami Vice, The West Wing, etc., etc. He didn’t just drop into Deadwood fully cock-sucking (as Al Swearengen would have it) formed.

Meryl Streep ruined It’s Complicated (2009). The movie could have been a mildly diverting garden-variety romcom. All the necessary elements are present onscreen, except one: a bearable protagonist at the center of the film.

Streep could have played her character in so many different ways. She could have gone with a substrate of anger, angst, insanity, mild retardation, nymphmania, i am woman hear me roar, quiet desperation, Madison County – anything but what she chose, which was “normal,” or “natural,” or “boring.” And shame on director Nancy Meyers, too,  and on Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, for standing by and letting Streep, this national treasure, who can accomplish just about anything in front of the cameras, leave her chops at home and behave like Jessica Alba or my sister performing in a high-school drama.

I Do and I Don’t (2007) – I was reading a series of comments on another blog yesterday, whichwere  discussing whether that blog should clean up its language or not. The three basic arguments: (1) The blog was becoming more popular and therefore should gentrify its language in order to avoid injuring the sometimes-tender sensibilities of mainstream readers, or (2) Four-letter words have their place, but should be used only as le mot juste, not in a lazy way to avoid finding the absolutely awesome correct fucking word, or (3) It’s a free country, dude – say what your thinkin.

I was reminded of this debate as I watched “I Do and I Don’t,” because each of the points, (1) through (3), has its merits. Context is all. Jane Austen’s style did not require recourse to the vulgar. On the other hand, Deadwood was enriched immeasurably by Ian McShane’s over-the-top invocation of “cock sucker.” I for one enjoy the humor of overused profanity.

“I Do and I Don’t,” which one critic has labeled sitcom-grade filmmaking, indulges in the humor of inappropriate sexuality, beginning at point A (detailed prostate humor), jumping quickly to point B (crazed-married-but-unfaithful-horny-cougar humor) and thence in spritely fashion from point to point along a curve that traces the pubis of laughs. It’s an Argument-(3) movie. Well, until near the end when the writers get a hold of themselves and yeah, go sitcom on us.

I wrote a while ago that I had reached my Cuba-Gooding-Jr. limit (I’m still OK with Cuba Gooding Sr.). It might have been after watching the Cube in that peculiar Shadowboxer (2005) that Lee Daniels made before making Precious (2009). However, as I finished Hardwired (2009) last night, I realized that I had made it through the whole thing with nary a negative Gooding thought (unless you count the fact that the script provided him with one of those automatic handguns that contain 1,000 bullets in their clips). Is the man wearing me down through the sheer quantity of his output, or was this little B movie just good enough with him in it to satisfy me? That mug of his – the wrinkled brow, the twisted lips – he was becoming Cuba Badding, lost to me, but jeez, he and Val Kilmer, these guys must get up every morning, grab the script they find out on their front porch, delivered daily like a copy of the Times, and head off to the day’s shoot while perusing it for the first time.

Blaise Pascal (1972) -In the latter part of his career (1962), Roberto Rossellini announced that film was dead, or words to that effect, and turned to TV work, which he regarded as the medium of the future. As he was the first Italian neo-realist (correct me if I’m wrong) and one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, this came as rather a shock to many cineasts. Nonetheless, he made many fine biographical movies for TV in the next decade or so. Fortunately, Criterion has gathered three of them in a box set. “Blaise Pascal” is one of them.

I love historical movies, especially when they’re true to the facts. In making his, Rossellini skipped the usual dramatic trappings of arc and acts and laid out the facts of the subject at hand, as he understood them. Having watched the movie, I read the intro to Pascal’s wiki entry; it might have been a summary of the movie, the difference being that I’ll forget the wiki piece within hours, whereas I’ll remember the movie much longer. There is something a little strange about reading a few sentences packed with facts, bearing in mind the human drama that attended them onscreen.

It was ok, too, to turn from Pascal’s physical woes and the menace of mid-Seventeenth-Century Catholic physics, in which a vacuum could not exist, for theological reasons, and you believed otherwise at the risk of your life, to The Young Victoria (2009), in which Emily Blunt takes a little longer to man up than Cate Blanchett did in Elizabeth (1998).

High Crimes (2002) – This is that movie where everything starts to go bad for the high-performance heroine because she has somehow neglected to notice that her lovable husband is a homicidal maniac.

The Losers (2010) – The bad guy (Jason Patric) walks along a beach on a tropical island with his principal henchman beside him. A beautiful woman walks with them, on the other side, holding a parasol over the bad guy’s head to keep the sun off him. The bad guy and the henchman argue and we sense that the bad guy, though ever cool, is getting steamed. A gust of wind off the water causes the beautiful woman (in heels) to step back, exposing the bad guy to the sun for just a second, after which the woman recovers, steps back, and apologizes. Meanwhile the bad guy stares at his henchman and then asks for his sidearm, a big hunk of automatic weapon. The henchman shrugs and pulls it out of its shoulder holster and hands it over. The bad guy hefts it, points it to his left without looking, pulls the trigger, and blows away the woman. All we see is her hand holding the parasol suddenly jerk out of the frame as she is blasted back. With regard to the badness of the bad guy, this is an establishing shot.

Wolfhound (2007) – or “Volkodav iz roda Serykh Psov” to you. Some podcast expert whom I trust – maybe one of the dudes on /Filmcast – said that Wolfhound was good fun, so I gave it a look. Russian, dubbed. The movie rips off Conan the Barbarian at the beginning, though the filmmakers evidently had no James-Earl-Jones-caliber villian available to whack off the hero’s mom’s noggin when the moment to do so arrived… Now we jump ahead to see the orphaned  son as a grown man. What’s that on his shoulder? Your eyes do not deceive you. It is a bat (the mammal, not the Louisville Slugger). So as night falls, the bat can’t just hunker down on its master’s shoulder. It must choose between hanging upside down in the master’s armpit or jumping off the shoulder to hang from a dead branch nearby. That’s as far as I got.

Secret Honor (1984) -This Altman film reminds me what a pipsqueak George W. Bush was, what a pimple on the face of history, compared to Nixon. From the late 40s through the 70s, Nixon brought Shakespearean weight, for good and for evil, to the nation.

A Single Man (2010) – Spoilers. Is it ever ok to set up an individual’s problems at the beginning of a film, have him/her work on solving those problems with the result that they get better, get worse, stay the same, or change – whatever the film’s chosen arc, only to have all issues resolved in the end by the individual keeling over stone cold dead?

Why is this movie rated R? The only violence was the bloodied face of a car-crash victim. The only sex was… well, I don’t remember any. Mystifying.

Hung (2010) – What have I learned about sex, watching TV and movies? From Episodes 1-5, Season 1, of Hung, I am taught that size matters. This knowledge, if true, can be of no particular use to any male, since as far as I know, in all normal circumstances, you’ve got what you’ve got and it’s not going to change. So that if size matters, it doesn’t matter.

Moving on, the show teaches us that, the deed having been done, the participants continue their lives and perhaps their relationship according to interactive principles that have nothing to do with the deed itself. In this sense, sex is rendered minor, in not inconsequential. But then, contrariwise, sex can equal $$$ and the solution to life’s most difficult problems. In this sense, sex is rendered important, a life-saver.

Speaking of which, does anyone use the term “size queen” anymore? Seems like I haven’t heard it in years. Urban dictionary has an entry, of course, but no data on current use. Hmm, Wikipedia: “This article needs additional citations for verification.” How would that work?

I was thinking that maybe I’d take a quick informal poll at work to find out if size matters around here, but I’d better be careful. Many of the women that I would ask were born in countries other than the U.S. That might confuse the issue. What if in their country, the only size is “small”? I want to be politically correct here. Best to go check with HR first… Ok, I went to HR. Didn’t want to just come out and ask the lady there if she thought that size matters, so I played it smart. I told her that a female co-worker had asked me if I thought so and was it ok that she had asked me? The HR lady said why did my co-worker ever ask me that. I wasn’t expecting such a question right back at me so I told her that I had asked the co-worker whether if I was a lot larger than normal, would that make me more attractive to her – you know, just to get her thinking about the subject. The HR person got prissy when I told her that, even though I had come to her in the first place! It was my idea! She got me moved out to “L” wing, which I  thought had been closed. Nobody out here but me and Bud and Cletis. They were both allowed to stay with the company after winning their suits on the basis of mental disability. So, no in-house poll on whether the girls here think that size matters.

[to be continued]

Matrix 2 (2003) – I noticed Matrix 2 on the library shelf the other day (Matrix: The Something or Other) and felt a sudden craving for some. Same thing happened a while ago with Matrix 3 (Matrix: The Whatever). I knew, as I picked up the disk, that it wasn’t as good, not remotely as good, as Matrix 1 (Matrix: no subtitle necessary). But I wanted some anyway.

I began at the beginning with Matrix 2, but at some point I realized (probably knew this already) that what I really wanted was action in the city. Forget Zion and everybody in it. Boring! How could the Wachowski brothers not know that? How could they make 2 and 3 with all that Zion in there? Brother!

The plot is complicated, so it’s not like they were forced to go with the machines attacking the stupid humans. Keeps us in the damn city.

Anyway, I hit fast forward to the city scenes and got what I wanted, so I’ll move on. Just a wasted opportunity for the brothers, but sequels – they’re famously hard to get right.

The Book of Eli (2010) – Has there ever been a post-apocalyptic movie in which things are ok in the world and the whole deal is kinda upbeat? If so, this one isn’t it. I suppose the apocalypse is a bad thing, from which bad things come, but still, there must be one movie out there with an apocalypse of  apple blossums and lions gamboling with lambs…?

Suppose you’re the main bad guy and you confront a good guy using a whole lotta your guys with guns and this good guy just shoots everybody in sight, picking guys off rooftops at 100 yards with a .45? Wouldn’t you, the bad guy, say to yourself, ok, this guy is on a mission from God and I am not going to be able to take him down?

For me, silliest movie of the year.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) – The ghost (Rex Harrison) is a sea captain. Mrs. Muir (Gene Tierney) is typing up his memoirs in return for living in his house. At the typewriter, she tells him that she isn’t comfortable with some of the words he is using (which we haven’t heard). Then just use a different word for the same thing, he tells her. She looks down at the page. In this case, she says, I wouldn’t use any word. Then just use mine, he says, it’s a manly book. She sighs and then pecks out four letters: one with the left hand in the middle of the keyboard, one with the right hand in the middle of the keyboard, another with the left hand, middle but lower, another with the right hand, middle of the keyboard. And sighs. Unusual, for 1947 and The Code.

Shutter Island (2010) – I wondered, as I watched Shutter Island, what inspired, if that’s the word I want, Scorsese to make this movie. I haven’t listened to a commentary or any interview with him in which he has addressed this question, so my surmise, which follows, is no more than a surmise. Scorsese is an older guy and I’m thinking that, famous as he is for following film doings, and casting about for a next step, his thoughts turned to Tarantino and Tarantino’s similar love of film and Tarantino’s habit – see Ingloureous Basterds – of paying homage to favorite films and filmmakers, and the fun that Tarantino seems to have as he creates a Death Proof, and Scorsese thought, I could do that, I could make a fun movie with tropes and tricks and references and the odd homage, as good or probably better than anything Tarantino can do. That’s my explanation for a film like this from a master.

Valdez Is Coming (!971) – For years, when asked to name my five favorite westerns, I included Valdez Is Coming in the list. When I saw it in the theater, I loved it. When I rewatched it, I still loved it. Years passed. The other day I noticed it at the library and checked it out. Started to watch it. Thought uh oh, this is Valdez Is Coming? A rookie director worked on it and it shows (Lancaster produced and wanted to see what a Broadway director could do with a movie). I paused it halfway through and put it aside – but then came back to it and finished it and by golly, if it isn’t in my top five, it’s still high on the list. The final scene, and Lancaster, and the score, and the cast, and the Elmore Leonard dialog make the movie for me.

Lancaster had made Lawman (1971) the same year. It was OK, but Valdez, and then Ulzana’s Raid (1972), those were some westerns.

Starship Troopers (1997) – Back when Starship Troopers came out, neither Ebert nor the NYT was happy with it, and rightly so, for this flick, which has lived on in spite of the downturned-mouth reviews, is beautifully and particularly made for one special demographic: the adult male who read and enjoyed the Heinlein book at the age of 14 when it was published in 1959 and now, at the age of 52 (this was in ’97, if you follow me), wants to sit back and take in the book again, realized onscreen but juiced up with the additional sex and violence (but not common sense) requisite for the fellow in his maturity. Ebert watched and reviewed the movie as if expecting it to have grown up like he had. It didn’t. Besides, Ebert was 17 when Heinlein published. Probably already too late for Roger to read it in the way that he claims he did in his review – as a true kid, that is. Paul Verhoeven, on the other hand, was 21 when the book arrived, so this isn’t a walk down memory lane for him either. I, on the other hand, was 14 when the book hit the rotating wire racks in the drugstore, so I’m among the select few who can truly appreciate the movie for what it is. 

Freetime Machos (2009) -Finally went to my first film festival movie – at the Provincetown International Film Festival. Yay. Thursday night, a community room with folding chairs. Four of us and four other individuals scattered about the room. Then, eight or ten others drifted in. Lakers/Celtics game 7 probably depressed attendance (we tivo’d the game and watched it later. Unfortunately.)  Kevin Smith and Tilda Swinton were given awards Saturday night down at the theater venue but we missed that. The movie was a Finnish documentary. I didn’t know it was a documentary until somebody told me later, and even then I found it hard to believe. It was o.k. About guys playing rugby.

Cypher (2002) – Kermode and Mayo were chatting with Vincenzo Natali on their show the other day, about Splice and his career, and Kermode happened to mention that he liked Cypher. I started but never finished Cube and had never heard of Cypher, but I Netflix’d it and just watched it and it isn’t half bad.

Hard Eight (aka Sydney) (1996) – Check out Philip Baker Hall in Secret Honor, the 1984 Altman film, for a movie that befits his gravitas. I’d heard about Hard Eight for years without ever quite getting around to watching it. Expected a movie about an older man teaching a younger man the ropes in Las Vegas – that is, a movie about gambling. Hard Eight starts that way and got my hopes up, but quickly switched over to a young man’s concept screenplay that, while I enjoyed every minute of it, didn’t really work for me. Hall and a youthful John C. Reilly telling each other, tearfully, over the phone, betwixt Las Vegas and Missouri, that they love each other, the old hood and the kid who appears boarderline challenged, after a relationship between them that must have included significant interaction offscreen after the second and before the third acts – that rarest of all birds, the middle-of-the-movie unspoken backstory – is not a scene that you will see every day.

From Paris with Love (2010) - Whatever the questionable merits of the movie, I enjoyed watching, and listening to, the shaven-headed, goateed, non-Travolta-sounding Travolta as he earned his paycheck. And while I’m thinking of it, Crank: High Voltage (2009) remains the hyperkinetic gold standard. And does Jonathan Rhys Meyers with a ‘stache have Johnny Depp’s mouth?

Bitch Slap (2009) – I was watching this Tarantino knockoff, which features three young women working to look hot while keeping it covered, 50s fashion, when it occurred to me that implants don’t work especially well in such a venue. There is something about  the grindhouse aesthetic that remains not just low-budget, but quintessentially natural, pre-silicone. Hard women, yes, but a little more pliant up front, back in the day.

Questions about Daybreakers (2009): The vampires smoke a lot. The top vamp likes cigars. Since they’re all asleep during the sunlight hours, and humans are rare and hunted, who grows the tobacco? Also, vampire Ethan Hawke doesn’t drink human blood cause it’s not ethical; yet the world of vampires is dying because of lack of blood. So why doesn’t everyone drink, or eat, what he does? And what does he eat and drink, anyway?

The New Daughter (2009) – I watch very few bad movies all the way through. That’s because if I watch a movie all the way through, it must have some redeeming qualities, at least for me. Here is an exception. I wasn’t permitted to turn it off, or leave.

Why  was Kevin Costner in this? Did one of his children make it? Did he lose a bet? Is he going senile.

One (of oh so many) inanities in “The New Daughter”: The plot is based on the notion that an ancient super race consisted of male workers and a queen. The males could not live without the queen and now they need a new one (Costner’s daughter). Ants and ant farms abound. Evidently no one told the writer that worker ants are all female.

Edge of Darkness (2010)

Items of interest:

  • Because a long and complicated miniseries is here shoe-horned into standard revenge format, (spoilers ahead), we have to settle for the violent deaths of the evil head of the corporation and three minions and one evil senator and two minions, as the proper wages of sin. The seven are proxy for some vast network of folks who must have known that they were perpetrating evil. But oh, I almost forgot: as is standard in this genre, the press at the end is fully appraised of the facts, so that we can rest assured that justice will be meted out in full.
  • Gibson is listed at 5′ 9 3/4″, although at his age he’s probably shorter. At least twice in the movie he allows himself to be filmed walking along with guys over six feet tall. Rarely do we get to see what a little dude he actually is.

The Devil’s Tomb (2009) – This film’s opening shot is of an automatic handgun in a hand. The hand grips the gun and slowly turns it toward the hand’s owner’s noggin – Cuba Gooding Jr. (as opposed to his father). Is Cuba turning the gun in the direction of his own head?!? I think, my God! he’s going to off himself because of his career – because of movies like this one!

Black Dynamite (2009)

Woman: “You’re one of those guys who thinks he can get by with a wink and a smile.”
The guy winks.
Woman: “What about the smile?”
Guy: “I am smiling.”

Surrogates (2009) – A leading contender for the It-makes-no-sense-but-what-the-hell Oscar. Will never catch Crank 2, though.

Message: It’s ok to get old without having any work done. Expect a flood of these as the boomers continue to age.

6 Responses

  1. The Spanish class series you speak of is Destinos! And I promise that The Secret In Their Eyes is better. I mean, it’s hard for something not to be.

    • Aw, I loved Distinos. Maybe because I discovered it on my own and wasn’t required to watch it for a class. I especially enjoyed the romance in it. Seems like a long, long time ago that I watched Destinos, but I guess VHS had been invented by then, whenever it was…

  2. Hey, fellow Spout refugee! Thanks for your comment, and for putting me on your blogroll! I appreciate it : )

  3. A Man of Destiny. That sounds great! Where did you find it? (I like Simon Callow. He narrated the Aeneid, which was quite something.)

    • Check your local library (I don’t think that Netflix has it):

      The Shaw collection [videorecording].
      Publication Info. [London] : BBC Video ; Burbank, Calif. : Distributed by Warner Home Video ; [North Kingston, R.I. : Distributed by BBC Audiobooks America], c2006.

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