Hi! :-DCaught BARBIE (2023) before it left DOLBY CINEMA screens. Think of the impossible task Greta Gewin/Noah Baumbach had when Warner and Mattel handed them the equivalent of a $100 million Barbie commercial, which I guess earns Mattle its logo bleeping out the movie's singular profanity. :-P A visually interesting (minimal CG), silly summer popcorn movie that is often laugh-out loud amusing (every scene with Ryan Gosling's Ken is hilarious, particularly the "epic" battles with Simu Liu's Ken) but every 5 or so minutes, like clockwork, stops to have a serious scene (Barbie looking at the old woman in the bus stop, running into Rhea Perlman, etc.) culminating in America Ferrara's amazing speech that elevates this above (slightly, but definitely superior to) typical brain-dead IP studio fare. I can't wait to be a good male feminist and watch this with my sister and her daughter (both about the same age as the mother/daughter in the film) so we can have 'the talk' afterward. "Oppenheimer" is the better half of 'Barbenheimer' (duh!), but "Barbie" isn't as far behind as you expect. Highly recommended, and LGBTIQA+ friendly to boot. Right, Allan? :-)A24's Australia horror import TALK TO ME (2023, THEATER) starts weird, and the Aussie slang with no subtitles doesn't help. Luckily teenagers are the same everywhere (gullible, peer-pressure sensitive fools) and the filmmakers make sure we get to know and like the principals before self-inflicted otherworldly possessions begin. While the design/origin of the McGuffin at the center of the plot is odd and never explained, the payoff at the very end of the movie is both emotionally powerful and really sad. :'( Sophie Wilde carries "Talk To Me" on her young shoulders, and hopefully this will be her ticket into a bigger career. Good (not great) low-budget summer horror.Raymond Bernard's WOODEN CROSSES (1932, CRITERION ECLIPSE DVD) was France's entry in early cinema's arms race to depict World War I as spectacularly as possible (Pabst's "Westfront 1918," Milestone's OG "All Quiet on the Western Front," etc.). It starts slow with a French platoon surviving the close call of a tunnel being built underneath their trenches. The constantly dwindling pool of soldiers we've known from the start due to spectacular set-pieces (cemetery battle, trench warfare, town takeover, etc.) starts to take its toll by the last hour, emphasizing the anti-war pacifist theme the filmmakers are pushing. Didn't care much for the main protagonist Gilbert (Pierre Blanchar), but the large supporting cast makes up for him and ultimately earns "Wooden Crosses" a title I seldom bestow on classic movies: effin' masterpiece.Few overly religious and/or political films end up being good or exceptional. That said, SOUND OF FREEDOM (2023, THEATER) is a decent 'PG-13' thriller (and thank God for that rating keeping it from showing any more than what it already does) with some good performances (Bill Camp explaining the reason he turned his life around) and a little too-Hollywood through line plot about rescuing abducted children. Now that it has crossed the $100 million mark I'd take down Jim Caviezel's in-credits appeal for support, but it's part of the behind-the-scenes drama that is more interesting than anything in the actual movie.Robert Altman's THE PLAYER (1992, CRITERION BLU-RAY) seems like the perfect movie to watch during the ongoing Hollywood labor disputes. Remember when Tim Robbins ruled the early 90's in indie ("Bob Roberts") and mainstream projects ("Shawshank Redemption")? He's so good here at basically being the antihero/villain of Griffin Mills' adapted-from-his-own-life screenplay that even its technical achievements (hilarious pitches, extended one-shot opening, star cameos galore, etc.) pale next to the craftsmanship of the final product. Shame that Greta Scacchi didn't become a star after this, show's so good. And who knew that these many AAA actors would ever appear in a film with such a low budget they had to use 'Ultra-Stereo' tech for the sound. :-P
Oh, Wooden Crosses sounds good. I haven't seen many French war movies, nor many movies from that long ago. I'll have to add it for next time I subscribe to the Criterion Channel.
Thanks, Paul. Hopefully you'll like this and Raymond Bernard's version of "Les Miserables" (the other movie of his in the Eclipse Box Set), which is supposedly the director's masterpiece and among the best movie versions of "Les Mis" ever made. It's close to 300 minutes so I haven't seen it yet, but hopefully soon. :-)
Five hours for a movie is a real marathon, J.M.
I have a marathon ahead of me as well. My goal in the next few weeks is to watch Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition films, around 9 hours in total. I believe you have seen them, J.M.
I've been wanting to watch Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace which is about 7 hours. It's broken up into 4 movies, but from what I understand it's really one piece (similar to Lord of the Rings). Another reason to subscribe to the Criterion Channel again! I watched the first 20 minutes or so about a year ago, but decided the time wasn't right for whatever reason.
Good weekend to everyone.BARBIE (2023) and LEGALLY BLONDE (2001) at Shankweiler’s Drive-In – Barbie at the drive-in was a fun experience. There was a festive atmosphere to the evening, and a lot more women and families were in attendance than there would normally be to for a night of horror or action at the Mahoning Drive-In. Though the film itself was polarizing for me, there was a lot that I liked about it. It was a case of so much going on that ideas are not fully explored or plot points end abruptly. On the positive side, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling play their roles with a lot of energy, and director and co-writer Greta Gerwig pushes the story into unexpected territory. It also looks terrific. I went with family, which meant that I had to leave before finishing the second feature. I probably watched Legally Blonde when it came out on home video (still very much in the VHS days), and I had not revisited it since then. The comedy works well, especially with the tone of Reese Witherspoon’s performance. She is never too far over-the-top that Elle Woods becomes annoying, and the character is allowed to have some depth. LE MAGNIFIQUE (1976, dir. Phillipe de Broca) – A French comedy with a lot of flair. Jean-Paul Belmondo is a pulp novelist in Paris who lives his ridiculous spy stories in his head. He, of course, is the hero of his stories. The lovely Jacqueline Bisset is Belmondo’s love interest and the allied agent and lover in the spy sequences, which are an amusing lampoon of the genre with a great control of tone and a lot of cleverness. Much of the fun of the film is the jumps between Belmondo’s reality and the spy story being composed and re-written according to his moods. It also gets surprisingly violent for the time period. Recommended.
Happy weekend everyone! I had a great week for movies, including a few well known movies I had been meaning to see for some time. To Live and Die in L.A. (1985, dir. William Friedkin) was even better than I was expecting. It seemed to be breaking the genre rules, in that everyone is kind of shitty. Everyone has so much style and swag. I absolutely don’t like 80’s pop rock music, but even that fit perfectly into the time and place.Dressed to Kill (1980, dir. Brian De Palma) was fantastic! He’s doing so much camera work throughout this movie which combined with the music it gives it a dignified feeling. But then layered on is the sex and violence. Add in some split screens and De Palma! This immediately became one of my favourite of his films. Out of his more critically acclaimed movies, I still need to see Phantom of the Paradise and Blow Out (and probably some others). Patrick has expressed his love for the former so often, I’m surprised I haven’t gotten around to it.Domino (2005, dir. Tony Scott). Now hear me out. Is it possible that this movie is crazy...good! It’s crazy, that’s for sure. Scott knew what he wanted to do, and just went super hard with it. The story is a bit convoluted and messy, but that just seemed to fit with the “messy” editing and camera stuff, and the messy lives of the characters. I thought the whole thing worked wonderfully together, and I was just enthralled the whole way through.The Man Who Would Be King (1975, dir. John Huston) was a really fun adventure movie about a pair of English soldiers/con-men, who travel somewhere in central Asia to scam the locals out of their treasures. It’s just full of great banter between Michael Caine and Sean Connery, the imperialist vibes notwithstanding. Huston hasn’t missed with me yet.Also watched Anastasia (1997) which was a pretty decent animated movie. It was Fox trying to do a Disney movie, and doing a fine job of it.A movie that didn’t work for me at all was Lady Vengeance (2005, dir. Park Chan-wook). I had seen most of Park’s movies and loved them all, but this just felt slow and poorly told. I was confused throughout much of the first half, then in the 2nd half the colour drains away from the movie and it’s not even very good looking anymore. The serious vibe of the movie felt more pretentious than anything.
BTW, Ebert liked Domino as well, giving it 3 stars (out of 4?). He said "It's fractured and maddening, but it's alive." Which I think describes it pretty well.
Lady Vengeance was my pick this year for Revenge day. It certainly is more art house than exploitative, but I liked it for what it was. What stuck out for me was that the revenge was not a redeeming one for the main character.
I think I just wasn't in the mood, but wanted to watch it for a upcoming podcast, so it ended up feeling like "homework". And I was getting confused with the non-linear storytelling. At one point there was a woman, then another woman walked into the room, and up until that point I had thought they were the same character (maybe a bit of facial blindness on my part, but they did look similar. And I have a lot of problem keeping track of peoples names, especially with Asian names). So I had to pause the movie, and try to figure out which was which. This happened a 2nd time when I realised that 2 men weren't the same character. And with the flashing forward back and forth in time, I couldn't follow the story at all. So I wouldn't lay all the blame on the movie, but also on myself! Maybe it was all the pausing and trying to figure it out. I should have just let the movie flow over me. I had a similar experience when watching Decision to Leave in the theatre, getting pretty confused about who was who, but obviously couldn't pause it. And I quite enjoyed that one, even if I had to read a plot summary afterwards to completely understand what had happened.
It took me a little time to adjust to the flashback storytelling, too. I remember getting confused with at least one of the characters. I also feel that there were a few Korean touches that went completely over my head. As you said, sometimes it is the mood that you are in. To Live And Die In L.A. is one of those films that cannot be made today. It's still edgy.
BARBIE (2023) Yes, I saw this at the theater. And it’s legit great! Funny and smart. OPPENHEIMER (2023) Honestly, I’m not sure how to feel about this one. Everything in Los Alamos and the build-up to the big boom is supposed to be the good stuff, but I felt it was rushed through to get to the legal drama. I’m in that weird headspace where I know it’s well made with good performances, but it’s not the movie I was expecting. HOT FUZZ (2007) “The greater good.” MISSION IMPOSSIBLE DEAD RECKONING PART ONE (2023) Take a drink every time someone says, “The Entity.” ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011) Great movie, innit? RENFIELD (2023) I pretty much agree with what everyone else has said. Cage is great, as is the overall comic book-y tone. But too much time is spent on the cops vs. gangsters plot and not enough on Drac and Renfield. ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) Bruce Lee leads one heck of a supporting cast in an action classic. It maybe takes a while to get going, but the last 30 minutes are stellar. Every anime series that does a tournament arc owes something to this. MEGAN (2023) Best thing about this movie? The realism. SHIPWRECKED (1990) Interesting Disney curio. It’s high seas adventure when a young cabin boy discovers a pirate conspiracy and (spoiler) gets shipwrecked. It lacks the big-screen thrills of Pirates of the Caribbean, but I found it rather enjoyable.
I watched Shipwrecked a few years ago and enjoyed it too. While it didn't have as much swashbuckling as some other sea-faring/pirate movies, it did have a shipwrecking. I was nursed at the teat of Swiss Family Robinson, so it's always a scenario I enjoy in film.
Severin’s box set The Sensual World of Black Emanuelle arrived this week, and I immediately delved into this depository of cinematic trash. The films usually star the Indonesian-born Laura Gemser, who has distanced herself from the Emanuelle (note the one "m" in the name) role for close to three decades now. Any interviews are all archival. I discovered the Black Emanuelle entries directed by Joe D’Amato back in the early 2010s. Those particular films were such a big part of my discovery of European genre cinema that I knew I was going to get this pricey box set at its release. Besides the 24 films (a good portion directed by D’Amato) included, there are plenty of extra features, a thick book, and a couple of CDs of the soundtracks. Looking at the content of the films, I would think that many are too extreme to go onto regular streaming platforms. If one is not already a convert to the questionable charms of sleazy 1970s and ‘80s Italian exploitation, it might not be the best kind of blind buy. I watched one of the films that was new to me.INFERNO ROSSO: JOE D’AMATO ON THE ROAD OF EXCESS (2021) – Born into the Italian film industry, Aristide Massaccesi began his career performing various roles on film sets, most notably as a cinematographer. He shot the giallo What Have You Done To Solange?, for example. By the mid-1970s, he became well-known as a director under the pseudonym Joe D’Amato, though he worked under numerous names throughout his career. He was always about pushing the envelope, leading to some controversial directions in his career. He later founded the Filmirage company, which produced films like Troll 2 or Michele Soavi's Stage Fright. What I appreciated about the doc is how his story is connected to the rise and decline of Italian genre cinema. There are plenty of interviews from actors and production collaborators who worked with him.A Joe D'Amato title that I picked up during the recent Severin sale is the 1975 exploitation opus EMANUELLE AND FRANÇOISE. This does not feature Laura Gemser, though. I was reminded again of what a strangely effective hybrid of drama, e-r-o-t-i-c-a, and horror the film is. George Eastman gives a fine performance as a horrible human being, and Joe D’Amato showed that he could be a decent director when he wanted to be. This and the earlier Death Smiles On A Murderer are the best-made films of his that I have encountered.Other pick-ups from the Severin sale were Wild Beasts (from Patrick's recommendation), The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, She Killed in Ecstasy, and The Female Executioner.
Blogger is really twitchy anymore when it comes to mentioning certain things.
That quite the large box set! You're going to be all set for your sexploitation watching for some time. I watched The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh last year for Junesploitation. It was pretty good, and I liked it better than E. Fenech/G. Hilton and Sergio Martino's other collaboration, All the Colors of the Dark which was a bit odd and less of a traditional giallo.
It is a thorough set, Paul. I probably have seen around a third of the films on it. I take them for what they are, but I know there are some terrible ones. If you take into account the cost of getting the titles that already have individual releases, the price of the set is pretty reasonable. The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is one that I have meant to acquire for some time. Since I enjoy them so much, I am focusing on having more Italian genre titles in my collection. I try to be more selective these days, too. There is a lot out there that I would l love to own, but with sites like Tubi having such a vast amount of the things to watch, I know that streaming can be utilized to filter out what I do not need to own.
I watched Wall Street (1987, dir. Oliver Stone) yesterday, and it was very good. It seems like a movie a lot of people might take the wrong message from. I couldn't be less interested in that world, so it's a testament to Stone's film-making that the movie completely grabbed my attention. While going to bed I put on Titanic with Cameron's commentary. Wow! What a great commentary. There's zero dead air, and he has something to say about every little detail. You can really feel his passion. Playing a drinking game every time he says "that's historically accurate" would kill most people by the 30 minute mark. I finally made it to somewhere past the 2 hour mark before falling asleep much later than I had hoped.