Saturday, April 17, 2010

#89 My Neighbor Totoro - My goodness Japanese animators have amazing imaginations...

1988. dir. Hayao Miyazaki, starring Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto. Japanese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

The third of the Japanese animated films and probably the kid-friendliest of them all. A family moves to a new home where the girls encounter strange creatures, a strange boy neighbor and his grandmother. Fantasy comes to life as the strange creatures help the girls grow trees, mysteriously appear (and disappear) and make life generally more interesting.

Daniel liked the movie and was so upset the following day when I told him we couldn't watch it again because I returned it...I wouldn't mind letting him watch it was a bit weird but you know what? Kids come up with weird ideas in their imaginations so I'm on board with this.

FYI there IS a mother but she's in the hospital...what is it with Disney movies and the lack of mothers...yes, I realize this isn't Disney per say but they did pick it up and redistribute it...and the girls DO have a mom but she's really not in the picture (much).

Watch it again? Sure
Own it? I don't know about that...
another FYI...Daniel seemed to get the movie despite it being entirely in Japanese (with English subtitles, of course)

#96 Heat: That's the discipline

1995. dir. Michael Mann, starring Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, Amy Brenneman, Jon Voight.

Seen it before? No.

It's the much-hyped first ever pairing of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino - they were both in Godfather Part II but they had no scenes together. Here they have three, but two of them consist of the two of them firing guns at each other. Also, by this point, I think it was too late, as neither of them had much in the way of acting skills left. This was mumbly underacting DeNiro and shouty overacting woo-hah Pacino.

The movie itself is pretty ridiculous. Pacino plays a detective in the shockingly inept LAPD, and DeNiro plays an elite bank robber. And there's lots of other characters too - Val Kilmer is one of DeNiro's partners, and Ashley Judd is his wife... Hank Azaria and Natalie Portman are in it for some reason... Hey, was that Dennis Haysbert? There are way too many people in this movie, and a lot of them don't need to be here. This movie has Magnolia disease: it's almost 3 hours long because there are too many go-nowhere subplots.

The police are totally incompetent in this movie. DeNiro's crew robs a downtown bank in broad daylight. And by crew, I mean 4 guys. The cops show up, but SOMEHOW DeNiro is able to walk away with the money. I mean come on! Then, later, the police try to trap him by having a guy who betrayed him stay in a hotel, and then they tell people in prison where he was so DeNiro would hear about it and go try to kill him. (Uhh, great plan Walter. It's a Swiss fuckin' watch.) So DeNiro shows up at the hotel, but do they have anybody guarding the room? Nope. Anybody guarding the exits? Nope. Morons! Then he hops over a fence and tries to escape by RUNNING ACROSS THE TARMAC AT LAX. Huh!?

Position on the list: 122
Hey! It's that guy!: This guy in one pointless scene looked familiar, but I couldn't place him... turns out it's Tone Loc. Funky cold Medina!

Friday, April 16, 2010

#88 The Matrix - no, I don't want to know

1999. dir. The Wachowski Brothers, starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Joe Pantoliano, Hugo Weaving.

Seen it before? Yes.
Understand it a little better? Yes
Any questions? WHY!?!??!

I know this goes against everyone thinking this is the coolest movie EVER but I really, really didn't care for this movie. Don't get me wrong, the action sequences were pretty freaking great, but the story made me want to beat my head into a wall and scream WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why does "Neo" think it's a good idea to leave his world behind?
Why does the Oracle not answer outright?
Why does the whole crew take Neo to see the Oracle?
Why does the minor character guy overcome his potentially fatal wound to save Trinity and Neo?
Why would machines have to use humans to sustain life? Sam's right, can't they use animals?

I have to say that I still have to sit through this whole's painfully boring to me. Yes, you can say I just don't get it. Frankly I don't care. There are other movies on the list that have caught and held my attention.

See it again? Do I have to?
Own it? ditto
Why is my 'review' so short? Have you READ Sam's?!?!?!?

#87 Spirited Away - this is MUCH better.

2001. dir. Hayao Miyazaki, starring Rumi Hîragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki. Japanese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

a little girl and her parents are heading to a new town but take a detour (because the dad can't be bothered to ask for directions) that takes them on a very interesting journey to a land where humans are disgusting, workers are greedy for gold, and a witch rules a bath house while caring for a big baby...confused? So was I...

Daniel saw this movie with us and he actually enjoyed it so much that the following day he became upset because I told him we returned the movie to NetFlix...whoops****. I thought it was much easier to follow than Princess Mononoke. Don't get me wrong, it's still incredibly confusing. The people who "work" in the bath house look (for the most part) human to me so I don't know why they don't smell.

I promise you I haven't given anything away. You may not believe me until you watch it for yourself.

See it again? Yes
Own it? Eh
Question...why are we watching so many damn cartoons in a row?!?!?! So much for SPACING them out!!!
****Actually I realized after writing my next post that it was My Neighbor Totoro that Daniel wanted to see again...this movie kind of creeped him out, especially the weird witches with the gigantic eyes!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

#95 The Seventh Seal: Doomed, doomed, doomed!

1957. dir. Ingmar Bergman, starring Max von Sydow, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, Nils Poppe. Swedish with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

Netflix now has streaming content on the Nintendo Wii. We got our disc yesterday and this was the movie we watched. The interface is much more Wii-ish than it is on the PS3. The picture quality is a little worse, but that was expected (since the Wii doesn't do HD.)

This movie takes place in medieval times, during the Black Plague. A knight (Max Von Sydow) is returning from the Crusades, and he encounters Death. He challenes Death to a chess match. Yep, just like Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. That's the aspect of the movie that everyone talks about, but actually that's only a small part of it. There's also some nonsense about a troupe of actors, one of whom runs off with the blacksmith's wife. There's a girl who's getting crucified for being a witch, and people whipping themselves for some reason.

The title of the movie comes from the book of Revelation:
And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
Lots of lengthy religious discussions here, about doomsday and the absence of God and so forth. Kind of longwinded. Not being religious myself, I didn't really get most of it.

Position on the list: 115
So I have a question: Why is the Book of Revelation in the Bible? I mean, think about it. Any time I've asked people how they picked which books were included in the Bible, they say, "well, these are the ones that are historically accurate." Putting aside whether that's true or not, if all of the stuff in Revelation is going to happen in the future, how do you know it's accurate?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

#94 M: He'll make mincemeat out of you!

1931. dir. Fritz Lang, starring Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut. German with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

"M" is for "Murderer", or whatever the German word for Murderer is. There's a depraved child killer (Peter Lorre) on the loose, and he's making everyone anxious and paranoid. (Although not quite paranoid enough; people still seem fine with letting their children walk home unsupervised.) The police have responded by instituting random raids and searches, which is making life difficult for the local crime syndicate. So they have a meeting, and decide they are going to capture him themselves. I'm not sure how much sense this plan makes. Suppose they capture him and kill him, which is what they wanted to do - wouldn't the police still be looking for the killer? So It's a race to see who captures him first, the police or the criminals. The police use CSI: 1930's Germany techniques: fingerprinting, evidence gathering, handwriting analysis, and the like. The criminals hire the beggars (who are surprisingly well organized) as an army of informants.

This is a great movie. Peter Lorre is terribly creepy as the killer who doesn't quite understand what he's doing. This movie is at times suspenseful, and darkly funny.

Position on the list: 56
You're a slacker, McFly!: You are 9 reviews behind, Bambi. Get cracking!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

#93 Bonnie And Clyde: They'll bury them side by side

1967. dir. Arthur Penn, starring Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael Pollard.

Seen it before? No.

I consider Warren Beatty to be one of the all-time biggest wastes of talent. Check out his imdb entry: Everything he's done since 1981 has been crap-ola. I distinctly remember seeing Dick Tracy as a child, and even then I was like, well that sucked. And mind you, I did not have particularly discriminating taste in movies back then.

It's a shame, because this movie, which Beatty produced when he was 28, is revolutionary. First of all, it is the godfather of graphic film violence. There's a scene early on where Clyde shoots a guy in the face, and he immediately gets all bloody and falls off the car. This had never before been done all in one shot, and wouldn't have even been possible in Hays Code era Hollywood. I'm sure it was pretty shocking at the time. I'm all desensitized to it myself, since this was my other favorite movie back in 1990. Also revolutionary is the way it's shot; lots of jump-cuts, handheld shots, that sort of thing. That's the influence of the French New Wave, but this is one of the first American movies to feel this jittery and kinetic.

As for the performances, I'd say Faye Dunaway as Bonnie carries this movie; Beatty plays Clyde Barrow as sort of a one-dimensional cartoon, but Dunaway shows a lot more vulnerability and inner conflict. Probably my favorite scene in the movie is her family reunion towards the end, where she meets her mother for the last time; the scene feels more like a funeral and Dunaway just nails it.

Position on the list: 215
Hey! It's that guy: Dub Taylor, who's in pretty much every Western ever made, including yet another of my 1990 favorites, Back To The Future Part III.
Obligatory Simpsons quote: "They didn't start chasing us until you turned on that getaway music!"

Monday, April 12, 2010

#92 Double Indemnity: Ten times twice as dangerous

1944. dir. Billy Wilder, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson.

Seen it before? No.

You know, it's amazing how many of these movies have been parodied or referenced somehow on The Simpsons. This blog could be 95% Simpsons references if I didn't restrain myself. Stealing, stealing, stealing a car for Moe...

Mild-mannered insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) goes out to visit his client Mr. Dietrichson to renew some car insurance policies. He's not home, but his wife (Barbara Stanwyck, with a terrible blonde wig) is; he gets infatuated with her. Actually this part of the movie is pretty funny. If you were an insurance salesman back in the 40's, would you really go around drinking on the job and openly propositioning your clients? Sounds like fun. I think it's hilarious that the part of her that he's the most attracted to is her ankle. I guess that's the Hays code for you.

Anyway and the two of them hatch a plan to take out an insurance policy on Mr. Dietrichson and then murder him. The plan they come up with is actually pretty good, and it does fool the police. Unfortunately for them, Neff's coworker at the insurance company is Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), who is a total genius and has a knack for sniffing out suspicious claims. I wish he could have been in the movie more, because I love it when movies show intelligent characters.

So it's your basic Hitchcock-esque suspense movie, kind of like Dial M For Murder. Highly recommended if you like film noir.

Position on the list: 57
And here's a weird coincidence: Miklos Rosza did the score for this and the previous movie, Ben Hur. That score was epic... this one was OK I guess.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

#91 Ben-Hur: A strange inconsistency in this man

1959. dir. William Wyler, starring Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd.

Seen it before? No.

A huge movie in every respect; scope, cast, budget, running time (at 3 hours and 42 minutes, it's the longest movie we've seen so far, and maybe the longest on the whole list; I'm not sure). This film won 11 Academy Awards, which is tied with Titanic and Lord Of the Rings: Return Of The King for the most ever. A lot of the attention this movie received is due to the chariot race scene, which was awesome.

It's a fairly simple story. Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is a Jewish nobleman. His childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) becomes the Roman tribune in charge of Judea. The Jews are resisting the rule of the Romans, so Messala makes an example of Judah by selling him into slavery. Judah then saves the life of a consul, who brings him to Rome and employs him as a chariot driver. This puts him in a position to obtain his revenge on Messala. So if you're thinking, "Hey, isn't that basically the same plot as Gladiator?", give yourself a gold star.

Of course the plot takes sort of a strange turn at the end, where this robed guy whose face we never see gets crucified, and this somehow magically solves everyone's problems. What's up with that? Totally gimmicky, deus ex machina ending. Disappointing.

Position on the list: 140
Homoeroticism, yay!: Gore Vidal was an uncredited screenwriter on this movie, and deliberately added some sexual tension between Judah and Messala.