MARCH 31, 1999, the date that changed motion pictures in our lives forever. Me and my then-best friend Richard couldn't wait to get to the nearest theater to catch the history-making theatrical release of... drumroll... TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (1999, Amazon Prime), which would turn Nickelodeon's "Secret World of Alex Mack" leading lady Larisa Oleynik into a movie star! Oh yeah, afterwards me and Rich caught this weird flick called THE MATRIX (1999, IMAX) from the director brothers of that cool flick where Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon do it! Weird, uh? :-OOkay, okay, that's not how it really happened. I dragged Rich against his will to see "10 Things..." with me, and he only agreed to come if we saw "Matrix" immediately afterward at the Astor movie theater in NYC's Times Square (biggest movie screen back then, now replaced by the PlayStation Theater). Rewatching "10 Things..." in '21, Larisa is barely in the movie in a supporting role (the younger sister) that pretty much sidelines her from the main narrative. This is where I first fell in love with both Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger (they easily steal the movie with their chemistry), and young Joseph Gordon-Levitt was already showing great screen presence. For a then-contemporary Shakespeare adaptation of one of his most popular works ("Taming of the Shrew"), "10 Things..." feels surprisingly fresh, timeless and fun. Worth a rewatch and/or rediscovery for fans of the cast (Gabrielle Union, etc.).Even though it's synonymous with big-time Hollywood blockbusters, "The Matrix" didn't get a proper IMAX release until last Tuesday at select AMC IMAX screens. Back in '99 I honestly didn't see what the big deal was about the so-called incredible kung-fu fighting sequences. I grew up watching Jackie Chan, Sonny Chiba, Bruce Lee, Sammo Hung, etc. These Hollywood actors were robotic and wooden by comparison to the genuine articles. My friend Rich was floored by "The Matrix" in '99, but I wasn't impressed. It'd take years and many repeat viewings in different video formats (HD-DVD, Blu-ray, 4K UHD) for me to come to appreciate the film as a whole. Laurence Fishburne is the MVP of the first "Matrix" IMO (with Joe Pantoliano's Cypher a close second). Morpheus' undying belief in Neo being 'the one' is the driving force of the narrative, and Fishburne sells a ton of hard-to-swallow exposition dumps like a seductive pimp. Hugo Weaving's Agent Smith's verbal ticks were annoying in '99 as they are now, but they're easier to swallow now that it isn't a weird unknown thing. Picture's a little soft for IMAX, but that Don Davis soundtrack and those booming explosions in that surround system... WOW! Would have loved to had Rich by my side to relive old memories, but he's a family man raising two daughters in the Bronx and we haven't spoken in years. :'(THE BATTLE AT LAKE CHANGJIN (2021, theater) is the only movie that's made close to $1 billion at the box office this year. A 3-hour, $200 million Chinese propaganda war/action flick about a turning point of the Korean War, it took three veteran directors (including "Once Upon A Time in China's" Tsui Hark) to handle the thousands of human extras and stretched-to-their-limits CG computer rendering farms re-enacting old Korean War era battles as Michael Bay-helmed "Pearl Harbor" spectacle. Storytelling is simplistic to a fault (Chinese = heroic, stoic, willing to give their lives for their countrymen; Americans = bloodthirsty, savage, incompetent; Korean = non-existent), but at least two out of the movie's three hours are solid spectacle. If you can tolerate Mao Zedong's son dying in a slow-motion fireball to protect a map, "Battle at Lake Changjin" is Chinese state-sponsored Korean War porn of the highest order.
[CONTINUED FROM ABOVE]On the opposite end of the Korean War movie spectrum, CEASE FIRE! 3D (1953, Blu-ray 3D) has gimmicks stacked one after another that ultimately don't add-up to more than a filmed taxpayer-funded military exercise. Shot in 3D with actual soldiers and journalists playing themselves on the mountains of Korea just after the armed conflict ended, "Cease Fire!" oscillates between boring/tedious and fascinating/interesting. I've seen episodes of TV's "Combat" that are more exciting, but as a time capsule of its era this is neat stuff. Worth seeing if (a) you have 3D displays, (b) appreciate military history and (c) can get the 3D BD disc cheap.Since I had the 3D player/glasses connected I threw in Edward Ludwig's JIVARO 3D (1954, Blu-ray 3D), a jungle adventure vehicle for Fernando Lamas and Rhonda Fleming to strut off their best assets (his chest and her fiery red hair, respectively). Despite the good 3D effect the whole film feels studio-bound and lacking the exotic feel that its Brazilian jungle setting should convey. Lon Chaney Jr. and young Rita Moreno (painted to look dark-skinned! :-O) have small supporting roles. Glad I own it, but this one is only getting rewatched for the commentary.STALINGRAD 3D (2013, Blu-ray 3D), like "The Battle at Lake Changjin," is a propaganda war film about Russian civilian/military men/women sacrificing their lives to keep German soldiers from tipping World War II toward the Nazis. But "Stalingrad" is slick-enough to have a sense of humor/tragedy about its characters, even though it's a giant Bechdel Test failure given that its only two noteworthy female characters are defined by the male soldiers imposing themselves on them. Pyotr Fyodorov (a dead ringer for Colin Farrell), Thomas Kretschmann (the only Nazi soldier given an ounce of personality) and most of the actors are solid. Though relying heavily on CG extensions, the giant set where most of "Stalingrad" takes place is a work of art. Weird flashback wrap-around segments notwithstanding, "Stalingrad 3D" is solid and a natural copycat integration of "Saving Private Ryan" and "Enemy at the Gates."But wait, we're not done! MARAKKAR: LION OF THE ARABIAN SEA (2021, theater), the most expensive Indian movie shot in Malayalam (one of several languages spoken in the region), is basically "Braveheart" except the evil Portuguese foreigners (including mustache-twirling Francisco de Gama as a sadistic Viceroy) murder the hero's mother alongside his fiancée. Mother's voice haunts heroic Kunjali Marakkar IV from impetuous youth (Pranav Mohanlal) to middle-aged (Pranav Mohanlal), but fiancée is never heard from again. For a movie bragging about the hero's sea adventure that's only a small part of the adventure, looking every bit like a "Pirates of the Caribbean" ripoff. The rest is "Braveheart" to a tee, although the female love interest being (a) a supporting character involved with (b) a non-Indian character (a Chinese warrior/ally of Marakkar) felt radical for Bollywood. Between this and "Battle at Lake Changjin" (which I stupidly watched back-to-back with "Marakkar" on the same night! :-P) the old-fashioned 3-hr. epic is alive and well... in foreign lands.Last and certainly least, SMALL SOLDIERS (1998, Amazon Prime) sucks... but in that special Joe Dante way that makes one smile at the sight of Robert Picardo and Dick Miller in small supporting roles. Toy soldiers are "accidentally" given military computer chips that makes them come alive, pitting peaceful Gorgonites (NOT the Autobots) against the Commando Elite (Decepticons? Nah!) with a boatload of civilians (including Kevin-"Transformers" dad-Dunn) caught in the middle. Decent premise, good budget, great actors... but lousy execution sinks this one from the start. Pass.
I watched a double feature of Stalingrad (2013) and Stalingrad (1993) a few years ago, and found the 1993 German production to be a lot better. It was bleak, cold and brutal, as you would expect a movie about that battle/period to be. The 2013 Russian production was enjoyable but a lot more beholden to the tropes of "Hollywood War Movies".
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And both "Stalingrad" features also have Thomas Kretschmann in common (different roles, same actor). THE MORE YOU KNOW! 🤡👽
I read through the plot of Stalingrad (2013) to refresh my memory, and that was the one where all the soldiers are fighting on fire! It must have been quite the spectacle in 3D.The Battle At Lake Changjin (2021) looks like it will be a movie to check out. Unfortunately, it's hard to get a sense from online opinions/ratings, because half of them are "It was sponsored by the Chinese gov. 1 star". As if the US military didn't directly support a large portion of the great war movies, and they were telling the truth with no bias.I don't belong to either country, and just want an entertaining movie. One of the great things to come out of Chinese cinema, is that they're still able/willing to stage battle scenes with hundreds of extras, which isn't something done in Hollywood anymore.
Too bad it barely got a theatrical release anywhere outside mainland China (I caught the last theatrical screening in NYC). It's biased and propaganda, but "Lake Changjin" scores mighty high in the war spectacle department. And yep, soldiers on fire coming at you in 3D was an early "Stalingrad 3D" highlight. :-)
Seeing WEST SIDE STORY in a movie theater on Thursday night was truly the best movie-going experience I have ever had. I want to give my backstory with WSS-, with the exception of any other autistic/downsyndrome families who might understand, go through the same thing and fancy West Side Story, my family has seen the 1961 film more than ANYONE I bet. Because it is my sister’s FAVORITE and unlike other kids, who grow up and their tastes change and they grow out of their phases...Alicia doesn’t and West Side Story has been her favorite movie- which she has to watch almost every day - for decades. I’ve gone from hating it to accepting it to loving it, to now just accepting that it’s like part of me permanently. (That’s actually how I feel about all her repeat movies - no matter how much I dislike them or truly believe they’re awful at first - I can’t help but come to love and appreciate them after SO many viewings). But I have been SO excited for a Spielberg makeover of WSS - Thank GOD. I’m hoping as soon as it becomes available at home we sub it in and retire the old one foreverr. (I am willing to pay a lot of money to get it early if possible).I happen to be walking around the mall with Alicia on Thursday night, trying to kill time, and I go to harass the people at the movie theater just to ask them to please assure me that it will be playing starting tomorrow. They say actually it is playing starting tonight. OMG! They tell me sorry but it’s 15 min in so we missed the beginning, sadly. I tell them we will pay to go in even if it’s almost over. Thank God Alicia is cute, people are kind, and they don’t require her vaccination cards cuz I don’t have them with me. When I tell them she’ll make noise - she can’t help it - they give us special giant, secluded handicap seats. They were the BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE! When we open the door and start walking up the ramp to the theater THE JETS scene is playing and Alicia cannot believe what is happening (The Jets is her second favorite scene, after Cool Boy). Since we were late it wasn’t like walking into a movie, it was like walking into WEST SIDE STORY WORLD. I have never seen...my sister so happy. She couldn’t believe it, through the whole movie. She even started having a bit of an autistic meltdown at the half point and we had to leave, but then she wanted to go back. It was funny I forgot there was fighting in the movie. Ha! Everything was so um...prissy, in the old one. So I was taken back by the actually violent fight scene. And when I stopped gasping and covering my own mouth I looked over at Alicia, who was....shocked, too. (She’s used to PG.) It was funny. I loved the movie. I couldn’t take my eyes off Anita. Bernardo was hot. Everything was so fun. I like Ansel Elgort because he’s so different. My favorite updated scene was the one between Maria and Anita after the fight. There’s so much more going on than in the original. I felt in the original Maria is basically saying “You know how love is; it’s so strong, please understand”. In the new one she’s more like - “What the hell, how can you judge, you’re exactly the same as me”. Yeah Anita and Maria were great. So much about it was improved, IMO. I loved it.
Oh, one more thing- When the movie ended and everyone was walking out to the parking lot through the special after-hours exit hallway, so many families were singing "Tonight". We kind of sang it together. It was adorable.
What a sweet story.🥰🥲 If l may ask, what are Alicia's other favorite movies she likes to rewatch again and again? And why not wait until Friday to see "WSS '21" from start to finish? Remake or not, walking in when a movie has started is like a pet peeve of mine. Can't do it, it'd ruin my theatrical experience completely. 🥵😖
Glad that you and your sister enjoyed it so much. Musicals are one of my least appreciated genres but the praise this has been getting means I will give it a look. Also, a Spielberg directed movie is always worth giving a chance.
Haha, thanks for asking JM! Her faves are West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Free Willy, Back To The Future, Gordy (an awful kids movie about a pig searching for his family- definitely written by vegetarians), Working Girl and House Sitter. I couldn’t tell you why these are her faves! Alicia is an adorable, non-verbal mystery kid.So, we went in even though we were late because number 1: Babysitting BLUES. I was desperate to kill 2 out of the 5 hours left before her bedtime. It’s a nighty struggle to find activities that will wear her out so she’ll settle down. (I’m home for the holidays and conveniently the caregivers are all unavailable and everyone else is busy!)2. I kinda dig Ansel Elgort a lot. I just watched SOME of the Fault in our Stars and Babydriver movies this week to acquaint myself with him and he’s just...I think he looks like a baby ostrich. And I start to cringe whenever he starts to awkwardly speak. But then he just lands it somehow and comes across as likable to me. How does he do this? I don't know! But I'm intrigued.3. I have dumb patterns of procrastination and bad time management skills that lead to impulsive action and a desire to escape ASAP! :) Oh take me away, West Side Story! ������Paul - yes, even if you don't like the story or original it would be worth it to see Spielberg's take. It's clearly a passion project for him! Maybe your kids will like :)
Last weekend I did my own homemade movie marathon with an "inspiration list" of movies for my current writing project. Saturday was ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991), BLADE RUNNER (1982), TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLESS II: SECRET OF THE OOZE (1991), THE CROW (1994), BATMAN (1989) and BRAZIL (1985). Then on Sunday it was V FOR VENDETTA (2005), TOTAL RECALL (1990) the BBC miniseries NEVERWHERE (1996), and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986). A good time was had by all, and by all I mean me. Also:THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (1987) A movie that makes no sense in any way, and yet succeeds thanks to a no-fail cast and the usual confident direction by George Miller. I would have preferred a little more witchery and deviltry action and a little less soap opera melodrama, but that's up for discussion. SMALL SOLDIERS (1998) Freakin' Gorgonites. PRIME ROSE (1983) Anime about a teen secret agent and his little brother time-traveling to the post-apocalypse future. Or something. I know this was the early days of anime and they were still figuring things out, but this nonetheless comes off a really cheap and sloppily made. One character is designed to look just like Spock from Star Trek, so at least that was worth a laugh.
That's quite the marathon. Colour me jealous!
Switchblade Sisters (1975 dir: Jack Hill. Shudder)Ive been digging into genre/exploitation cinema history and this movie is universally lauded. Being a gap for me and having it show up recently on Shudder i figured it was time to check it out. I flat out loved it. I was most caught off guard by the fact that there is a legit story and plot. Oh its pure drive in exploitation for sure, however the way it handles changing alliances within local gang warfare is really compelling. If you have shudder and dig driven in genre cinema, DO check it out. (Bonus Double Feature: i think it would play exceptionally well with The Warriors. The Warriors is relatively devoid of plot or story but tonally creates a great gang landscape. This movie would fit perfectly with it.)
The only Jack Hill movie I've seen was Pit Stop (1969) one Junesploitation. It's unfortunately not considered one of his best. But I thought of it yesterday, as I was contemplating that the next Fast and Furious movie should move away from the super-spy stuff and just be them doing "figure 8" racing the whole movie. But a really tense and tight 90 minutes of figure 8 racing, with scantily clad women cheering on the side, and drinking Corona during the pit stops! I'd be more excited about it than whatever the franchise is doing now.
Genre and exploitation cinema has been my main cinematic interest for a long time, Mashke. You do not have to convince me that Jack Hill could make a great film. COFFY is, for me, a perfect movie, and has the great Pam Grier kicking ass. In the realm of horror comedies, few are as balanced as Hill's SPIDER BABY. You have seen how fun SWITCHBLADE SISTERS is.
woot! great replies Paul and A Casual. Ive been digging into Jack moreso this last week. Its pretty interesting to see that he stopped doing films rather abruptly after Switchblade Sisters. On deck is a revisit of Coffy which i havent seen for years but remember loving. Like you said, Pam Grier rocks.
I blind bought the Melvin Van Peebles Criterion set last week. I've never seen any of his movies, but was aware of his importance. When i got it i jumped right into Sweet Sweetback Baadasss Song (yes, out of chronological order) and was hypnotised by the movie. Partly for trying to make sense of the structure (which you shouldn't do, because you can't) and also because the whole audiovisual of it not standard. I wish i had the Vinegar Syndrome release, some of its extras seem very interesting. But the ones in the Criterion set are very good too. Then i re-read the piece that JB wrote on it, then i re-listened the podcast that JB and Patrick recorded on it. All is worth you valuable time and money I then watched the other movies, which i liked to varying degrees. Each with a handful of interesting extras.Criterion did it again. A very complete set for a unique filmmaker
After enjoying Jeremiah Johnson quite a bit 3 weeks ago, I've been delving into Westerns from the pre-cowboy era, where there were only "Mountain Men"/trappers and the indigenous. Some highlights:Across The Wide Missouri (1951, dir. Wellman) stars Clark Gable as a trapper who marries a native (common theme in these movies) which will allow him access to new trapping grounds. There was quite a bit of humour mixed with the action in this, and was filmed nearly entirely in Colorado in wonderful Technicolor. Was a very enjoyable watch.Death Hunt (1981, dir. Peter Hunt) stars Bronson as a fugitive, and Lee Marvin as the Mountie sent to find him. The movie is just a long chase through the Canadian wilderness, and super exciting. Bronson is great as always, and Lee Marvin (who I've mostly seen in a handful of war movies) is an actor I enjoy more and more each time.Man In The Wilderness (1971, dir. Sarafian) is approx. the same story as told in The Revenant (2015), with Richard Harris as the mauled man chasing, and John Huston (Yes! THAT Huston in an acting role) leading the team away that abandoned him. Huston is fantastic (and wears a beat up top hat), and film is mostly a slog through the cold barren (but beautiful) land.Pathfinder (1987) is a Norwegian film (also titled Veiviseren or Ofelas) about a nomadic tribe in medieval Scandinavia who is escaping from a more aggressive tribe. Nominated for an Academy Award. It was suggested to me by I-forget-who during Junesploitation last summer.I also watched a handful of "Adventure on a boat" movies, but I'll perhaps recount them next week.
When I said "slog" in Man In The Wildness, I meant that the men were slogging through a brutal landscape (and towing a big boat on wheels for most of the movie!). Not that the movie itself was a slog to get through. It was anything but.
Peter Hunt directed "Death Hunt"? "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" director, influential editor of the early Sean Connery Bond pictures? That Peter Hunt??!! :-O
Hi gang! Hope everyone's having a great weekend!So I saw West Side Story (the 1961 original) for the first time a few days ago. I don't count myself among musical lovers, but WSS is kind of an undeniably good movie. I was struck by how many songs I was more or less familiar with already without knowing which musical they were from. I counted at least five songs where I said "Oh this is where this song it from". And for about half of the movie I kept wondering why Tony and Riff looked kinda familiar, until I realized both actors were in Twin Peaks three decades later.I also started a Matrix rewatch ahead of the new one. So far I saw the original (still awesome even though it's been copied and parodied to death) and The Animatrix (only seen it once or twice years ago, but the soundtrack album is definitely among my most listened to soundtracks ever, so it felt both new and oddly familiar at the same time). The sequels are next on my watchlist.And I also watched the D.A. Pennebaker-directed doc 101, following Depeche Mode (my favorite ever band) on their 1988 tour and also a handful of fans following the band by bus, leading up to the tour's 101st and last show at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. I have no idea if it's any good as a documentary, but I love the music so much I always enjoy it. Plus the new Blu-ray looks great.I have some free time this coming week, so besides the Matrix sequels, I'm planning on catching up on theatrical movies I didn't get around to these past few weeks. If I can manage it, I'm trying to see West Side Story, Last Night in Soho, House of Gucci and The Card Counter (plus Spider-Man, obviously, and Benedetta, which comes out next week here).
Here in the States "Last Night in Soho" has pretty much vanished from theaters. It barely made any money, so hopefully over in Europe Edgar Wright's latest is being appreciated and better received than here. :-(
Unfortunately, it hasn't made any waves here either. I just realized that tonight's the last screening in my town, so I better get on it.
Even though I have plenty of movies to choose from already, I decided to subscribe to the MUBI website. There are several films currently on it that I have wanted to see. With the Alejandro Jodorowsky films going off the site this week, those were automatically my first choices. They are my only watches for the week.PSYCHOMAGIC: A HEALING ART (2019) – Is Jodorowsky insane? That probably is not the case, but his perception of the world undoubtedly is eccentric. Jodorowsky explores his ideas of healing through symbolic acts in this doc that never seems to be a whole film. Unless you are a Jodorowsky completist or connect with the techniques presented, this would likely be a slog to get through. EL TOPO (1970) – This more than lives up to its reputation as one of the weirdest films ever made. Alejandro Jodorowsky directs and stars in as gunslinger who inadvertently goes on a spiritual journey. That, at least, is my interpretation of all that happens. The spaghetti western trappings are frequently comical, and the flow of images, particularly in the gunslinger sections, is very striking. Although the concluding sections considerably slow the film down, I found the viewing experience memorable.
Congratulations, you're ready for Jorodowsky's "The Holy Mountain." He did other equally famous movies ("Santa Sangre," etc.), but "Holy Mountain" is his peak IMHO. :-)
I saw Holy Mountain many years ago, J.M. It is by far his best film. I was glad to have read a lot of books on the occult before I watched it. I found Santa Sangre compelling; I might get the Severin release of that when it goes on sale. Fando Y Lis was on Mubi, but I did not have time for it this week. It is off now. As for Jodorowsky's later films, they are a strange mixture of biography and fantasy. I have not seen Endless Poetry yet.
I saw "Holy Mountain" a few years back at a packed IFC Center screening of mostly new viewers (big college crowd). When THAT ending happened half the crowd cheered (myself included), and half were cursing and raging against the movie. Love that decades after he made it Jorodowsky could still push people's buttons with this flick. :-D
The Holy Mountain would be a fun film with a crowd. I remember being surprised by the ending and can understand people being angry. The Holy Mountain and El Topo were shown at the Mahoning Drive-In this year. An obligation prevented me from going.