Collected Dailies 10

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 Carrey’s wife watching him in this one – just to check for any expressions of doubt or dread crossing her face in spite of the 20 million he got for doing what he does in this one.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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?

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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??

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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.

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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!

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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.

One Response

  1. Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010) was a lot of fun. Despite the fact that Andy Whitfield was not in the second season – I was surprised to enjoy “Gods of the Arena” just as much!

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