Saturday, March 27, 2010

#82 The Lion King: Forgive me for not leaping for joy... bad back, you know

1994. dir.Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane.

Seen it before? Sort of. It was on a 25-hour bus trip with marching band in high school. The VCR didn't quite work so it kept stopping every couple of minutes. I wasn't really paying attention.

Yes, I was a band geek in high school... Mr. Tipps, the band director, was a good teacher, and I did like him, but he had a tin ear for picking out music. OK, well the symphonic band stuff was mostly pretty good, if a little Sousa-heavy; we played some great stuff like Incantation and Dance and Crown Imperial. No, I'm talking about the Pep Band music. I distinctly remember a basketball game where the Saxons just barely held off Hoffman Estates, and the gym was packed, and right after the game was over we played "The Circle Of Life". No, seriously, we did! There were 800 people in the gym when the song started and about 8 when we finished. Cleared the place out like a fart in a Volkswagen.

So yeah. This movie has some jaw-droppingly amazing backgrounds and animation, and some of the worst songs ever. "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" and "Hakuna Matata" are just nails on a blackboard to me, and the less said about "Can You Feel The Love Tonight", the better. (Yes, Tipps made us play that one also.)

This movie has some pretty bad plot holes. OK, what, so Scar takes over as king, and it stops raining? And this is his fault? And then Simba kills him, and that automatically makes everything better? Why? How? And why does Simba think it's his fault that Mufasa died? Scar told him to sit on the rock and wait. I mean, the whole thing makes no sense. And it has Jonathan Taylor Thomas's voice in it, which almost single-handedly negates the coolness of James Earl Jones and Jeremy Irons, who are both awesome. Oh, and fart jokes! Thanks for that, Disney.

Watch it with the mute button.

Position on the list: 146
Worst band song ever: Save The Best For Last by Vanessa Williams. I believe that one was in junior high, not high school. It sucked every bit as bad as it sounds.

#81 Sleuth: Gather ye blunt instruments while ye may

1972. dir. Joesph L. Mankiewicz, starring Lawrence Olivier, Michael Caine.

Seen it before? No.

One of two movies on the list that is not available on Netflix. Apparently the DVD has been out of print for some time (since 2003 or so) and it's somewhat rare, with used copies fetching upwards of 25-30 bucks on eBay. So imagine my surprise to see it on the shelf at the Wheaton library. Hooray!

Lawrence Olivier plays a murder-mystery author whose wife is having an affair with a hairdresser, played by Michael Caine. He invites him over to his house with a proposition, and... well... if you don't want this movie spoiled for you, I suggest you not read anything about it, including the IMDB page. I was shocked to discover that the IMDB lies! See the movie if you want to know what I'm talking about, but two words: "Alec Cawthorne".

I'm glad I found this at the library. Saved me the trouble of buying a used copy, or watching it on the secret, illegal Russian movie-watching website. It's a pretty great movie, worth tracking down.

Position on the list: 202
The other one that's not on Netflix: The Lion King. Library also had that one, so guess what...

#76 Scarface - Daniel has nothing on this guy

1983. dir. Brian DePalma, starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia.

Seen it before? No.

This movie can be summed up in one word - VIOLENT!

Tony Montana is a Cuban expat who turns to the drug cartel 'industry' to move up and get ahead; to afford the things he couldn't afford as a fresh of the boat Cuban refugee. He starts working for Robert Loggia (who is dating a very young Michelle Pfeiffer) but soon works his way to the top and becomes the boss. Murders are happening EVERYWHERE. Somehow he messes up every relationship he hands, lands Michelle Pfeiffer and then screws that up too.

Yes, it is a classic. I get that. Unfortunately my stomach couldn't stand it. Funny considering I am perfectly fine watching Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2 as well as Goodfellas...I don't know what's wrong with me.

Watch it again? As Daniel says, "No fanks"
Own it? Um, no.

#80 The Night of the Hunter: A hard world for little things

1955. dir. Charles Laughton, starring Robert Mitchum, Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish.

Seen it before? No.

Charles Laughton only directed one movie, and it was a good one. Robert Mitchum plays Harry Powell, one of the most e-e-evil movie characters of all time. He travels from town to town and seduces widows by acting religious. Then he kills them and steals their money. While in prison, his condemned cellmate had stolen a large sum of money, so he tracks down the surviving family members - Shelley Winters plays the mother, and there's two kids, played by Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce - and tries to steal the money.

It's really only about two-thirds of a great film. It starts out really suspenseful and dramatic, but then... I won't spoil the ending, but in my opinion the movie comes to a screeching halt the moment Lillian Gish's character shows up. Total deus ex machina. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

Position on the list: 176
And then we watched a Simpsons episode: Cape Feare, which has a lot of references to this movie. No one who speaks German could be an evil man!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hollywood is out of ideas

Guess what movie they're making a sequel to? Butch Cassidy!? What's next, Thelma and Louise 2? Titanic 2?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

#79 Network: And here are a few scenes from next week's show

1976. dir. Sidney Lumet, starring Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall.

Seen it before? No.

Peter Finch plays Howard Beale, a network news anchor who is due to be fired for low ratings. Since he has nothing to lose, he just decides to say whatever he wants on the air - first he says he's going to kill himself, then he declares that life is all "bullshit". His outbursts earn the network record high ratings, so his producer (Faye Dunaway) decides to exploit him. Also she's trying to put together a spectacularly ill-advised show starring a Communist guerilla group similar to the Symbionese Liberation Army. Ehh, that sublot sucked; the joke's not really funny anymore. I guess you had to be there. William Holden plays the head of the news department and Howard's old friend, who gets romantically involved with Faye Dunaway's character.

This movie is a brilliant satire, and is scary in how accurate it predicted the future of not just television and mass media, but corporate culture. Howard Beale is dubbed the "mad prophet of the airwaves" but the movie's real prophet is Ned Beatty's character. (I won't ruin the ending by describing what he says). My only problem was that it was pretty unrealistic how long-winded everyone is.

Position on the list: 213
Best Supporting Actress: Beatrice Straight, one of three acting Oscars this movie won (ties with Streetcar named Desire for most ever.) What's intersting about this is that she was onscreen for only 5 minutes and 40 seconds, making this the briefest Oscar-winning performance ever.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

#78 Yojimbo: Kill one or a hundred; only hang once.

1961. Dir. Akira Kurosawa, starring Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai. Japanese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

Yojimbo is apparently the Japanese word for shit stirrer...

OK, actually it means "bodyguard" but Sanjuro (Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune) doesn't really do that. He is a ronin who comes upon a town that is beset by two warring gangs. He decides to exploit the situation by inciting the two factions against each other and selling his bad-ass samurai skills to both sides.

I didn't like Rashomon very much, and I wasn't crazy about this one either. I think it's a cultural difference. I've read that the performances in Kurosawa's films are heavily influenced by Kabuki, something I don't really understand.

(also the swordplay in this looks really fake. Sanjuro taps people with the sword and they fall down. yeah yeah it was made in 1961 and I shouldn't expect better, but still.)

Position on the list: 142
Remade as: A Fistful Of Dollars

Monday, March 22, 2010

#77 Snatch: It's not a tickling competition

2000. dir. Guy Ritchie, starring Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Alan Ford, Dennis Farina, Benicio Del Toro.

Seen it before? No.

You know, I saw this one just a couple of days ago, and already I don't quite remember everything that happened. OK, so a bunch of guys dress up like Hasidim and steal a huge hockey-puck sized diamond, and then they introduce all of them with head shots. There are like seventeen characters here so it's hard to keep up. So they all start trying to steal the diamond from each other. Oh and there's this whole bit with underground bare-knuckle boxing, and "pikeys", which is I guess UK slang for "dirty people who live in RV's". I guess it's funny. It's shot in that annoying early-2000's way with lots of quick cuts, split screens, and so forth (see also: Go, The Rules Of Attraction, Requiem For A Dream, Run Lola Run, etc.) So yeah, I wasn't a huge fan.

Position on the list: 135
The critics rave!: Roger Ebert on this movie:
What am I to say of "Snatch," Ritchie's new film, which follows the "Lock, Stock" formula so slavishly it could be like a new arrangement of the same song?
So that means... (checks list) yep I get to watch basically this same movie again! yay.

#75 Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans - Some women give the rest of us a bad name...

1927. dir. F. W. Murnau, starring George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston.

Seen it before? No.

See Donnie Darko if you want to know when I'm going to write mine....

I understand that older movies didn't have the technology to create talking pictures. I understand that a lot of the actors in silent films didn't translate well (read - sound good) in "talkies." But this movie pinpointed something that rings true today as it did (probably) back in the late twenties.

A man (a farmer) is married to a woman and has a child with her. They live in the country in a place that city-folk frequent for vacation. There is a character called 'the woman from the city' who is having an affair with the farmer/man. She is SO wicked she tells him to kill his wife by taking her out on a boat, pushing her into the water and leaving her to drown. The intent, of course, is to get the wife out of the way so the two can sell the farm and move to the city...

I won't tell you what happens because you should see it for yourself (or at the very least read the synopsis on

Haven't we seen this story before? probably.
Watch it again? Sure
Own it? Nah

Sunday, March 21, 2010

#74 Donnie Darko - I think the theatrical cut is just the right amount of crazy

2001. dir Richard Kelly, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Holmes Osborne, Mary McDonnell, Beth Grant.

Seen it before? Yes.

Will write mine after Sam writes his.

Time travel...alternate realities...different dimensions...and a crazy rabbit. What is the real fate of Donnie Darko? Why does something falling from the sky have the most impact on this one person and those around him? For extra credit I wrote a paper about the realities (or ambiguities) of time travel in this movie. It was only really the second time I had watched the movie but I wasn't sure what was going on...This time I watched it without distraction, without taking notes. Of course that didn't stop Sam from quoting lines left and right but I don't mind that.
Things I liked - Donnie's parents...Holmes Osborne and Mary McDonnell - they take their kids as they are, they side with their kids when the kids are right, but they parent (read discipline) when need be. They are what psychologists call authoritative parents. The kids respect them but know that they can be silly (read swear - particularly the dinner conversation between Donnie and Elizabeth) in front of them.
Several great pieces of dialogue including the conversation about Smurfs - particularly Smurfette, Sparkle Motion, and the scene with his therapist while he's under hypnosis.
What I didn't like - not much really. It was just too confusing to be seen only one time.

If you want to understand this movie watch it several times and go into it with an open mind. I found I liked it much better the fifth time than I did the first or second time.

See it again? Sure, now that I think I get it.
Own it? Sam already does.

#73 The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly - Which one was Ugly?

1966. dir. Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef.

Seen it before? No.

A few things went through my mind regarding this movie so I'll share them...they aren't in order...
- Quentin Tarantino gets a lot of his ideas from these Westerns eh?
- Eli Wallach was in Mystic River, which we just watched, and is the old man named Arthur in The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. It's just hilarious seeing him play a young guy with jet black hair. First of all, he is dubbed "the ugly". How that's even possible is beyond me...he's not ugly. He isn't good either for that matter but he's definitely not ugly. I loved how he had the laundry list of charges against him that earned his captors more money for turning him in. I loved that despite not liking 'Blondie' he couldn't just leave him.
- Clint Eastwood at 36 yrs old is so freaking hot! I couldn't stand seeing him hurt but that's not changed in the almost thirty years I've been alive and watched attractive men on screen getting hurt. The blisters were just painful to watch! I know he was good, but Sam's right, the guy killed a bunch of people with no questions can he be good?
- The Bad is named "Angel" IRONY (in a sing-song voice)...
- The Civil War made the hunt for $200,000 practically impossible for the three guys. They kept crossing paths with it to the point of comedy.
- Was this supposed to be super serious? Because there were a lot of parts that seemed comic relief

Sam shocked me when he told me this was #4 out of 250. All I could say was, "REALLY!??!" How is that even possible? It was good. It was what I thought it was going to be. The theme song was, well, CLASSIC is pretty much the only word I can think of...and overplayed, okay, so maybe there were two words.

Watch it again? Yes, why the hell not
Except for...the blistered face...I can't take it!

#72 The Killing - FINALLY a Kubrick movie I LIKE!

1956. dir. Stanley Kubrick, starring Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Marie Windsor.

Seen it before? No.

The premise is one you've probably heard before...a man (Sterling Hayden) wants to go legit and needs to pull off one last heist before he runs off with his sweetheart. As with other movies (like The Italian Job remake with Mark Wahlberg) there's a bit of a glitch...or two.

So there's a guy on the inside, one of the story lines that you actually can't just tune out, unfortunately, and he has a wife who makes me look like the best wife in the world...even on my bitchiest of days...and she is just grating (played by Marie Windsor) and she's a cheater, lazy, and a taker. In other words, I hate her and I don't know why George (Elisha Cook) stays married to her...she treats him SO poorly! Of course, being the inside guy, he's integral to the plan...but he confesses to his wife about what's going to happen and you can just imagine how that goes over with the higher ups in charge of the scheme.

I know that's a lot of information but I promise you I haven't even scratched the surface with characters and the entire plot. I will give you a hint...Horses, horses, horses, horses (sorry, couldn't help myself I was just thinking of Sleepless in Seattle when Meg Ryan is driving to her fiance's parents' house).

See it again? Yes, just in case I missed something
Own it? I don't know, is that even possible?

#76 Scarface: Say goodnight to the bad guy.

1983. dir. Brian DePalma, starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia.

Seen it before? No.

It's the story of Cuban immigrant Tony Montana (Al Pacino), who arrives in Miami in 1980 and gets sent to a refugee camp. Tony engineers a violent rise to the top of the drug trade, but risks it all by alienating himself from everyone he meets. Also he does way too much cocaine and I think this interferes with his judgement. I would say this movie is the tipping point between restrained intense Godfather Al Pacino and over-the-top woo-ha Scent Of A Woman Al Pacino. Nevertheless this is a hell of a performance. Quite entertaining.

Supporting cast includes Robert Loggia as a crime boss, Steven Bauer (the only actual Cuban in the movie) as Tony's partner in crime, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Tony's love interest ("Her womb is so polluted!"). This is one of those movies where almost everyone gets killed in a violent bloodbath (oh, umm, spoiler) so don't see it if you're squeamish about that sort of thing. Otherwise, you should, because it is the greatest movie ever made.

Oh yeah, they wanted to re-release this in 2003 with all the cheesy 80's synthesizer music replaced by gangsta rap "inspired" by this movie. Apparently rappers all love Scarface. Fortunately the idea was nixed.

Position on the list: 161
Useful quote for when you play Mario Kart: SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND! Blue shell, bitch.

#71 Amadeus - oh how the mighty fall...

1984. dir. Milos Forman, starring F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Jeffrey Jones.

Seen it before? Yes, several times

The one cool thing about being in a high school orchestra is that you get to watch films about composers' lives. We got to watch this during class on two days after a well performed thing I never forgot was the annoying laugh "heeeheheeheeheheheheeeheheee" YIKES!

Salieri tells the tale to a monsignor type guy who proves his point when he hums a tune which the guy doesn't know and then hums a Mozart tune which the man immediately identifies as Mozarts...whoops.

I loved Elizabeth Berridge as Stanzie...because she was strong (her business dealings in regards to Mozart and how he wasn't very good with money were true to the phrase "behind every great man is a great woman") and truly loved Mozart - despite all his craziness.

I felt sad for his death, and how he was buried...he was so young...35...heck I'm going to be 35 in five years! I wondered if there was a Mozart still alive today (I had looked it up when I studied Mozart a long while ago but since forgot) and sadly no Mozart exists today for his sons didn't have any children.

If you don't want to ruin your own perception of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart don't watch this movie. If you want to see something somewhat entertaining - the guy got around - with great music, then it's a must see.

Watch it again? Yes
Own it? Eh, not necessary.