As per my promise to JB last week, watched Akira Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI (1954, Criterion 3-Disc DVD) for the first time. Twice actually, the second time with the commentary track by various scholars (including Dr. David Desser) doing a scholarly analysis. While I'm familiar with the tropes from all the films that took inspiration from it (everything from "Star Wars" and "Magnificent Seven" to Michael Bay action blockbusters and Marvel's "The Avengers"), "Seven Samurai" feels like a masterpiece under its own terms rather than one blessed from high above by universal critical acclaim. From the moment Shimada (Takashi Shimura) says he can't waste the rice the poor villagers offer him to defend their village after they witness him saving a kid from a thief (a sequence that feels like the first of an endless series of 'film school 101' moments), I was fully on board. And as much as Toshirô Mifune's Kikuchiyo steals the movie with his unrestrained clownish performance, Seiji Miyaguchi's Kyuzo stood out for me as the most badass silent-type warrior I've ever seen in a Japanese samurai picture. Like the rookie young samurai Katsushiro (Isao Kimura), I worshipped Kyuzo like a little girl fawning over an idol. And even though I could have done away with the melodramatic interludes involving farmer Manzo (Kamatari Fujiwara) and his daughter-pretending-to-be-a-boy Shino (Keiko Tsushima), this feels like a tightly-edited 207 minute picture that has already jettisoned superfluous conversations/meetings. I prefer my Kurosawa epics in B&W anamorphic framing, but this and "Ikiru" (still my favorite work by the filmmaker) signal the director was a master in any format he cared to frame his stories.Great scholarly commentary, one in which the commentators each tackle about 40-50 minutes. Donald Richie's recollections of attending the '54 premiere of the movie and its subsequent, decades-long butchering of the international versions was most interesting. It was 11:15AM when I was a "Seven Samurai" virgin, and by 6:45PM I felt like a cinephile big boy that had crossed a big item off his shame list.When I started watching CECIL B. DEMENTED (2000, Amazon Prime) for a group watch-along with Facebook's Jury Room 4.0, I had no idea it was a John Waters joint. Baltimore's movie marquees get a ton of love (Ricki Lake says hi) in this bordering-on-farce satire about a Hollywood actress (Melanie Griffiths) kidnapped by the titular indie filmmaker (Stephen Dorff) and his guerrilla filmmaking crew in order to film an underground indictment against commercial filmmaking. Cartoony mayhem and much fun ensues, particularly from then-unknown actors (Adrian Grenier, Jack Noseworthy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, etc.) delivering performances way above Waters' clearly non-existent pay grade. Alicia Witt and Michael Shannon make the most of their roles, but Griffith actually gets better as the overwrought story unfolds. A most pleasant and unexpected surprise.Chasing the magic from "Action Jackson" I spun STONE COLD (1991, You Tube), Craig R. Baxley's third film after "Jackson" and "Dark Angel/I Come In Peace." Seen it before, but now that we're in a post-Capitol Attack mood it's harder to enjoy the Nazi redneck terrorists we're supposed to sympathize with mowing down judges, civilians and security guards to rescue their leader. Brian Bosworth is a giant slab of charisma-free beefcake as an undercover cop infiltrating a Mississippi gang. Having Lance Henriksen and William Forsythe as the main baddies helps keep the ludicrous plot going in-between impressive action set pieces, but "Stone Cold" feels like sloppy seconds after the fun experiences of Baxley's two previous flicks.
JMs recommendation, Autumn Sonata, is really on my watch list. It looks a bit like homework but also my-kind of homework, but anyway I ended up putting it off bc of the subtitles; I wanted a background-noise movie. So I chose THE ASSISTANT (2019) thinking I'd be able to pick up on office-chatter. Surprise, there is NO SPEAKING IN THIS ENTIRE FILM (almost). I had to pay attention for however long it lasted. This movie is about the Harvey Weinstein company atmosphere, which is VERY anti-woman. They made a good point to show that everyone else in the company culture is a problem just as much as "the boss" is, if not more so. I really hope things have changed in the last couple of years. I would never work at a place like this. If someone said to me "this is what you have to do to become a producer", I would know better now, I hope all women can see other options. CHARLEY VARRICK (1973)So this was delightful and low-key. Walter Matthau got to play the smarter, more charming guy than everyone else, which is his strong suit for sure. But sleeping with a lady on the first night? Idk Mr Wilson... I guessss!!! But it's a really enjoyable movie. My favorite part is ...there is a kid who looks JUST LIKE WALTER MATTHAU! Of course, it's his son. But he is SOooO adorable in his little cameo.
THought about it again and..it is very fitting that The Apprentice is almost a silent film.
I have an blu-ray of Charley Varrick just waiting for a watch. I will get around to it at some point this year.
It's a fast and easy watch, not very meaty. Walter Matthau is capable of carrying a lot more plot. But it's low key fun. :)
BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980) Roger Corman assembles an overqualified crew both in front of and behind the camera in hopes of earning a slice of Star Wars' pie. The result is a total nonsense movie, but at least it's not boring. CANDY (1968) A ton of super-famous celebrities slum it in this dreamlike sex comedy, that's pretty gross and sexist if we're being honest. All I can do is throw my arms up and say, "Hey man, it was the 60s." NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988) "Welcome to Wonderland, Alice." CECIL B. DEMENTED (2000) Total anarchy from John Waters. Often feels more like Troma than Waters' usual fare, and I mean that in a good way.ONWARD (2019) Good-but-not-great outing from Pixar. The world building didn't make a lot of sense, but I suspect the animators care more about the characters' emotional arcs than the fantasy magic. But a lot of gags were genuinely funny and I really like the freeway chase against the motorcycles. It was better than BRIGHT, that's for sure.
Mac, ANYTHING is better than "Bright." 😵😡And even though l can see the Renny Harlin cracks and comedian Freddy formula taking hold of the franchise, "NOES4" is my favorite entry after Wes Craven's original. l know, but the 💘 wants what the 💖 can't explain. 😜🥸
Hope everyone's having a great weekend!So I came across a movie called The Daughter of Evil on a streaming service, and turns out it's a stupid alternate title for The Blackcoat's Daughter, which I vaguely remembered someone (Patrick?) championing at one of the end-of-the-year podcasts. And rightly so, because it's great! Oz Perkins (star of Quigley and son of Norman Bates) creates an eerie atmosphere throughout the movie which kept me on the edge of my seat for approximately 90 minutes.I also liked the original 1958 The Blob, but couldn't help comparing it to the 80's remake, which moves at a faster pace and doesn't have goofy 50's teenager characters. And Netflix's new The Dig is a pleasant little movie and looks pretty, although some of the side plots should've been exiced completely.I've also been watching Disney animations along with two different podcasts (Disniversity covers every Disney animation in order and Blank Check are just starting a miniseries on the movies directed by Musker & Clements), and just watched Dumbo and The Great Mouse Detective. I think Dumbo might be one of my favorite Disneys (despite the obviously problematic stuff), it's fun and inventive, full of iconic scenes and moves at a breakneck speed. Vincent Price is definitely the high point in The Great Mouse Detective.Crocodile Dundee is still a pretty fun movie, the two sequels are bizarre, soulless, and plain bad. And Robert Zemeckis's remake of The Witches has some fun elements but they're few and far between. "Why was this made" was my foremost thought. I guess the answer is "so Zemeckis could play with his CGI toys again".
The Blackcoat's Daughter had another name when it was in festivals too. "Feburary". I think it was Erika who was championing it on her years best list. It was actually filmed just outside of Ottawa, where I live. Great movie.I'm going to be revisiting all of the Musker and Clements movies as well. I might have seen The Great Mouse Detective as a child, but am not sure. Hercules and The Princess and the Frog will be new to me.Dumbo was the first movie I ever watched with my son. He loved it! It really does clip along. I'll eventually end up watching the new live-action one, but I have no desire to really. Not a big Burton fan either.
You're entirely fine without ever seeing Burton's Dumbo, but it is easily my favorite of the live action remakes (of the ones I've seen anyway). Not that that's a particularly high bar to clear.
Love the picture of The Ghost and the Darkness! I watched that a year or two ago, and really loved it, despite always hearing that it wasn't so good. I think that type of film (Historical adventure as wikipedia describes it) is really right up my alley. And Val Kilmer is good in everything.
Val Kilmer IS good in everything. I think his career would have been even bigger (before getting sick, I mean) if he hadn't been so difficult to work with.
Second the appreciation for the Douglas/Kilmer pic. So good! 😉😄
It was not an active week for movies. (I listen to music more than I usually do.) What I saw was re-watches, too.ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (1999, dir. Pedro Almodóvar) – It has been a long time since I watched TODO SOBRE MI MADRE. Now having watched most of the films Almodóvar made before the late 1990s, I have a different appreciation of it. I am charmed by the elegance of the storytelling blended with a little of the mischievous spirit of his early work. The female cast is a who’s who of his acting troupe, particularly Marisa Paredes and Cecilia Roth. They shine in the film. PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985, dir. Tim Burton) – One of the movies I remember most from my childhood. Watching it as an adult is a different experience. Pee-Wee Herman is a weird guy, period. But I still love his big adventure. The section in Hollywood is the weakest part for me. Up to that point there are so many great small moments. I particularly like the scenes with the waitress, the conversation with Dottie in the bike shop, and Pee-Wee and the convict pretending to be a couple.
I have this weird familiar feeling about Pedro Almodovar like I've seen a lot of his films but actually I haven't. I only saw WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS. Ha! Anyway, can't explain it. Also I must remedy this and watch more Almodovar.I went to a puppetry camp one summer after realizing that the people who I wanted to surround myself in my life professionally were probably the people who made The Muppets - and I was on a mission to like join those people somehow. They all loved PEE WEE's Big Adventure SO MUCH. I felt so uncool that I did not...like it. Yea he (and I just mean the character) is weird.
I have watched many of Almodóvar's early films recently through a classic movie channel, Meredith. There is a continuity to his work in the casts and the stories he tells. So, in a sense, if you see one Almodóvar you have seen others. For example, a subplot of Dark Habits about an unusual romance novelist becomes the main story of The Flower of My Secret. The one thing I find that you need to be in the mood for with his work is melodrama. 1980s and 1990s Almodóvar loves melodrama.
I've watched a number of good movies already in 2021. Highlights:I watched 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954) on New Years morning with my kids. They protested a bit ("it's so old") to begin with, but quickly got into it. I had very fond memories of watching it as a kid, but probably hadn't seen it since the 80's. It was surprisingly philosophical, with James Mason brilliantly playing Captain Nemo, a man obsessed with ending war (and updating the original novel with themes on the dangers of nuclear energy). There's a couple slower bits in the middle, but they were just showing off the underwater photography, which must have been quite something back when it was released.Also watched War Witch (2012) a Canadian (Quebec) film about a child soldier in Africa (original French title Rebelle). Not an easy movie, but not unpleasant either. As one reviewer put it, "It's a poetic look at something which is not poetic in nature". It kind of focuses on the emotional journey of the young girl, while the war and violence is a backdrop. Although there were a couple difficult to watch scenes, it really carefully balanced the necessity of showing the ugliness of the whole affair, without sensationalizing it overly. It was nominated for Best International Film. Recommended.Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) was a fantastic submarine movie! It had shades of Crimson Tide with a man obsessed and conflict between the officers. The battles and model work were well done. Some war movies of the era can feel (relatively) slowly paced, but this one just fly by, full of suspense.
I've been going through a mini Burt Reynolds marathon. Not sure why. Sharky's Machine (1981) - Weird, but excellent. Directed by Reynolds. He comes off as a major creep, but I think that’s unintentional. One of those things that give you insight to the mean. He was a sexy glass of water, charming for sure. But borderline date-rape vibes. Which is actually a plot point in the next film, lol. Stroker's Ace (1983) - Pretty Bad. There were a couple funny bits and watching Reynolds charm his way through a mountain of 80’s babes is entertaining, but his creep factor is also on great display. There’s a plot point where Loni Anderson can’t believe he didn’t date rape her when she passed out drunk. She’s so overjoyed and surprised she starts crying. I think this is more insight to the 80’s. It was really the height of the ‘men being dirty pigs and getting away with it because no social media yet’ . Stick (1985) - Based on an Elmore Leonard novel. Also directed by Reynolds. Amazing first half, mediocre second half. I think it shows the best and worst of Reynolds as an actor/director. He understands the inherent danger and vibe of a Leonard novel, but can’t help himself to become the dashing hero who saves the day. The first half is a gritty crime opening on the level of Scarface, then it becomes a TV-movie. Odd. But the best part of the film by far is Dar Robinson. Legendary stuntman plays a killer in his only speaking role. Though I think he was dubbed. Still, killer presence! 😊 Hooper (1978) - I fell asleep watching this last night after a bottle of wine. I’ll watch it again tonight and see if there are any other Reynolds films I haven’t seen. I knew Reynolds was a thing, but didn’t realize how much directing he did. It’s not long after he loses his physical charm that he drops off the map until PT brought him back..
"Hooper" was the first Burt Reynolds movie I ever saw. Think "The Stunt Man" as a Reynolds-lite vehicle for stuntmen gags. Worth watching when you're not tired of a long evening watching 80's Burt being a macho creep. James Best, John Marley, Sally Field and young Jan-Michael Vincent being ditected by Hal Needham cashing his "movie for me" credit for 1977's "Smokey and the Bandit." Not a classic, but easily the most fun of the Burt flicks you watched. 🥵🤢
Hooper weirdly made me appreciate 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood' even more, which is impossible. Like I'm seeing the inspiration for Brad Pitt's old stuntman thing. I thought he would have an adversarial relationship with jan-michael Vincent's young up-and-comer, but in this case game respects game? There wasn't really much of a plot either, just like, will he be crippled before he retires? Still Wow. The one giant takeaway I have is: Burt Reynolds was a MORON for ever losing Sally Field. I smiled so wide the way she jumps into his arms after a hard-days work my wife glared at me for an hour.