Saturday, February 8, 2020

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Second WOT in a row with a Nicholas Cage picture? :-O

    I went to an AMC movie theater to watch 2020's ASHFALL only because I knew Dong-seok Ma ("Train to Busan," "The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil") is in the cast. Turns out he only plays an against-type supporting role (meek scientist who is ashamed of being South Korean) in an awkwardly entertaining mish-mash of "Volcano," "The Core," "Broken Arrow" and freaking "13 Hours." This is basically the South Korean equivalent of popcorn disaster epic (right down to the "hero" being forced to do one last job before retirement), but it moves like stink and entertains. I still don't know why the heroes must infiltrate North Korea in order to rescue their country, but whatever! :-P

    I hate to not be completely in love with Greta Gerwig's 2019 adaptation of LITTLE WOMEN. I admired the editing of "Lady Bird" (every shot/scene cutting out at the exact moment/frame the point of each scene was clear), and Gerwig out-of-chronology telling of Louisa May Alcott's novel opens it up to mainstream sampling. I'm just sick to death of these characters and this story, which I've seen now in four separate movie adaptations (plus reading the book a while back). For what it's worth loved Florence Pugh using her voice cadence to distinguish young/older Amy, Laura Dern and Timothée Chalamet are on a roll and Emma Watson is cute. It's fitting that Meryl Streep and Saoirse Ronan are together in "Little Women," because I feel the latter is the heir apparent to the former's career of "it" actor for prestige films that's always nominated for Oscars but never wins. :-(

    BAD BOYS 4 LIFE (IMAX, 2020) is better than the 17-year hiatus since the previous entry (which I haven't seen, because "Hot Fuzz") indicates. Never been a fan of Martin Lawrence (in the franchise or in anything he's ever done, ever), but his out-of-shape old man shtick here is a nice contrast to the aging Adonis charm that Will Smith can still bring when he wants to... which isn't often these days. And it took a quarter of a century, but we finally got to hear the actual song by Inner Circle (not a remix, cover or the characters singing it, but the "COPS" intro real deal) for a few precious seconds. In the parlay of "FTM," "Bad Boys for Life" is fine and looks gorgeous.

    Last and certainly least, BIRDS OF PREY... (IMAX 2020) is a much, much better sequel/reboot/continuation of the anarchic antics from 2016's "Suicide Squad." David Ayers not directing and Jared Leto not starring automatically makes this a better film, as does the embracing of an 'R' rating in search of them "Deadpool" box office dollars. Other than the villains having no females working for the big bad (it's dicks vs. chicks across the board) the movie makes the most of having girl power in front and behind the screen. Rosie Perez and Mary Elizabeth Winstead appear to be having a blast, and my entire theater broke out in cheers when 'VOTED FOR BERNIE' flashed across the screen. It's an entertaining flick, but between the aftertaste of last year's "Joker" and the cynicism at the heart of the Harley Quinn character (which I liked better in the cartoon prologue than Margot Robbie's supporting-character-turned-annoying-lead performance) I've had my fill of DC universe bad guys. Gonna have to watch my Ultra HD Blu-ray of Richard Donner's "Superman: The Movie" to remind me how fun superhero flicks used to be. :'(

  2. I kinda had my mind blown this week seeing Deranged (1974). It stars Roberts Blossom (aka the scary old guy from Home Alone) as a Norman Bates / Ed Gein character. He's truly terrifying in it, but what struck me were the similarities to Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which was released 8 months later). There is a scene where he torments his victim who is strapped in at the head of a dinner table surrounded by mummified bodies. Not saying this inspired TCM, or anything like that, and it's not as good, it's much more exploitative and trashy. Well worth seeing though! Any one else seen this before (it's currently on Amazon Prime)?

    1. Deranged is in my list of underrated films, Matt. Roberts Blossom created such a vivid character in Ezra Cobb. He is strangely sympathetic. When Cobb talks to his mother's corpse, you can feel his sadness and isolation. When his violent urges come, though, he is completely cold-blooded. The scene when he chases the woman in the skin suit freaked me out the first time I watched the film.

      Another aspect I appreciate about Deranged is the evocation of rural life. The sense that everyone knows everyone around that town permeates the story.

  3. It was one of those rare weeks when I was disappointed with most of the films I watched. Even the one I enjoyed has some major issues.

    LOVE AND BULLETS (1979) - A pedestrian Charles Bronson film that should not be as lifeless as it is. The character played by Jill Ireland, Bronson's real-life wife, was completely grating, and the pacing was slow even for the time. There were at least a few pleasant aspects: Henry Silva looking as mean as ever, the cinematography of the Swiss locations, and Bronson improvising a blowgun. I nominate Henry Silva for a Juneploitation day.

    STEWARDESS SCHOOL (1986) - A cross of Police Academy and Airplane that is painful to watch throughout most of its run-time. Despite the best efforts of the cast to make the material work, the jokes constantly fall flat.

    Now for the somewhat good...

    BORDERLINE (1980) - Charles Bronson plays a US Border Patrol officer tracking down the people responsible for the death of a colleague on the Mexican border. Unlike most of Bronson's other roles at this time, he is not going around killing bad guys here. Though the conclusion lacks excitement, there was enough going on in the film up till then to make it a worthwhile watch. The cast, particularly a young Ed Harris playing the main villain, is very good.

  4. After reading Patrick's "24 Hours of Cage" article and listening to Screen Draft's episode on him, I've realized how many of Cage's movies I haven't seen and I've been rectifying that lately. After a few, it's sent me on a full-on Cage binge. I can't help it folks, I guess it's contagious.

    I was really lucky Color Out of Space played in theaters in my town for a couple nights and I got to see it. I definitely wasn't expecting it to be as good as Mandy, but I might have even liked it more. It's up with The Witch and The Guest for me as some of the best modern horror. I love From Beyond and In the Mouth of Madness and this was exactly that kind of thing. Perfect for me.

    Moonstruck and Matchstick Men are amazing and I'm so glad I caught up with them. Also enjoyed Snake Eyes, The Weather Man, and Honeymoon in Vegas. It's great diving into an actor (something I've rarely done before) because you end up putting on a lot of random movies you'd never watch otherwise. I'm thinking of doing Pacino next, in honor of Reserved Seating, and because there's so much classic stuff I've missed in his filmography.

    Hope everyone else is doing great! Can't wait for F This Movie Fest.

    1. So glad you've been enjoying all these Cage flicks, too!

  5. I watched the most bizarre movie of 2020 and yes I know it's only February. The movie is called Come to Daddy starring Elijah Wood. It's a black comedy, very violent at times and you think it's one kind of movie but turns into another kind of movie. Watch it.

    1. I'm gonna be seeing that one soon and I can't wait. Elijah Wood makes such interesting choices.

    2. If you don't want to wait, it is on VOD right now (and only $10 to buy on Vudu.) But if you want to wait to see it in a theater, I think that's a good idea. It is quite a ride, every performance is pitched perfectly. I really can't wait to hear everyone's thoughts on it.

  6. I'm watching the FRIDAY THE 13th movies for the first time. So far I've watched the first six, and my rankings are (best to worst) 5, 6, 2, 4, 3, 1. Because I might be a monster.

    1. Anyone who puts number 5 at the top is alright in my book!

    2. Hard to believe a disposable low-budget cheapo like the original "Ft13th" spawned so many sequels that are considered better. It's the complete opposite of every other major horror franchise ("Elm Street," "Hellraiser," "Exorcist," "Chainsaw Massacre," "Halloween," etc.) except perhaps the "Saw" movies.

      My ranking of best-to-worst "Friday" movies (Generation 1, aka the Paramount era): 2 and 4 nearly tied at the top, and waaaaay below both... 6, 3, 1, 7, 5 and 8.

    3. During a screening of a slasher at the Mahoning Drive-In, I remarked to someone that the subgenre was forty years old. I had not thought about it in those terms before. While many of the prestigious productions of the 1980s drift into obscurity, the Friday the 13th franchise is still being watched and discovered by new generations.

    4. FRIDAY THE 13th: THE NEW BLOOD was super disappointing. I was onboard for Jason vs. a telekinetic, but this might have been the least interesting teens and (other than the sleeping bag) the least imaginative kills. Also, seven movies in, I really don't need a 10 minute recap of the simple mythology. Least favorite so far.

  7. One of my favorite things this time of year used to be "Siskel and Ebert: If we picked the Oscars". Looked forward to it every year. After realizing that that the Academy had issues when "Dances with Wolves" beat "Goodfellas" I haven't really put much stock into the awards since thend. But Siskel and Ebert not only seemd to offer better choices they explained their picks. Celebrity never seemed to play into their decisions. And I glommed onto it. But everyone is doing their picks or given their top tens. I'm not going to do that though.
    So in honor and tribute Siskel and Ebert I present to you;

    "If I watched the Oscars"

    I might have some popcorn.

  8. So I watched The Blood of Heroes (1989) the other day, aka Salute of the Jugger. I know Patrick has recommended this movie before in one of his streaming columns and it's currently on Prime (although it would be nice for this to get cleaned up and come out on blu ray at some point).

    The movie itself is entertaining (Rutger Hauer, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Joan Chen as post-apocalyptic athletes paying a sport that involves putting a dog skull on a spike), but what I found notable about is that it's the only feature film from director David Webb Peoples. Peoples is best known for writing or co-writing the screenplays for movies like Blade Runner, Unforgiven, and 12 Monkeys but he never directed any more movies following The Blood of Heroes.

    I guess I always find it interesting when someone only takes one turn at directing a movie. I'm sure in a lot of cases a second opportunity just never came up and maybe some just realized that directing wasn't their thing. Some (like Daniel Attias who directed Silver Bullet) went on to have extensive careers directing TV. It's always interesting to me to think about how their careers might have gone if they had directed more films or what their one movie might say about them.

    1. Also for reference, a list I've started compiling of one and done directors:

      Charles Laughton - The Night of the Hunter (1955)
      Karl Malden - Time Limit (1957)
      Marlon Brando - One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
      Herk Harvey - Carnival of Souls (1962)
      Leonard Kastle - They Honeymoon Killers (1970)
      Dalton Trumbo - Johnny Got His Gun (1971)
      James William Guercio - Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
      Saul Bass - Phase IV (1974)
      Gerald Kargl - Angst (1983)
      Douglas Cheek - C.H.U.D. (1984)
      Daniel Attias - Silver Bullet (1985)
      Walter Murch - Return to Oz (1985)
      Jet Li - Born to Defense (1986)
      David Byrne - True Stories (1986)
      Stephen Chiodo - Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
      David Webb Peoples - The Blood of Heroes (1989)
      Tom Stoppard - Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)
      Gary Oldman - Nil By Mouth (1997)
      Jeremy Thomas - All the Little Animals (1998)
      Maya Angelou - Down in the Delta (1998)
      Kinka Usher - Mystery Men (1999)
      Tim Roth - The War Zone (1999)
      Hironobu Sakaguchi - Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
      John Malkovich - The Dancer Upstairs (2002)
      Nicolas Cage - Sonny (2002)
      Philip Seymour Hoffman - Jack Goes Boating (2010)

    2. Yeah, I tried to hold off on more recent instances where it's possible/likely the director just hasn't made another movie yet. Jack Goes Boating made the list for the obvious reason of course.

    3. Add cinematographer Wally Pfister to the list. After helming 2014's "Transcendence" he went back to being a DP, but chances are he'll direct again.

      Here's a list of additional one-time directors for your growing list. :-)

    4. What is most striking about that list is the number of actors include in it.

      Are you only counting feature films, Ross? Herk Harvey made a lot of shorts for the educational and industrial marketplace.

    5. Steven Seagal - On Deadly Ground
      Stephen King - Maximum Overdrive

  9. Casual, for the purposes of my list I was looking specifically at people who had only made one feature film for lack of a better way to put it. If they had made some shorts they still made the list. TV movies are a bit of a grey area. I thought about maybe putting Bill Murray on with an asterisk since he had a co-director on Quick Change. As mentioned, some more recent stuff got left off (I could see Drew Barrymore directing another movie).

    Initially my list was intentionally not comprehensive as I was looking at movies that I either liked or were generally considered good, but then also started expanding it out with stuff that had an interesting backstory (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within). It kind of went from "what if these guys who made great first movies had continued directing" to "even the bad ones probably have an interesting story, lesson, or some other hook behind them".

    And yeah, funny you should mention that there are a lot of actors on the list. I assume it's because they have the money and the pull to get backing for a movie if they really push for it. When I first started putting together the list, I thought about leaving them off, or making a separate list because there's probably a common thread between most of them. That would have meant leaving off The Night of the Hunter though which was one of the main inspirations for the list and I couldn't do that.

    There's also a much more comprehensive list here:

    Although I do notice I have a few things they didn't get.

  10. Just stopping by again to stare at this picture. <3 Happy early Valentine's Day to all the movie lovers out there.