28 DAYS LATER
For a brief time, I unfairly dismissed the movie because of its shitty remake; the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, whose most hideous feature wasn't the zombie special effects but the movie's glib vapidity. [For a while, I wondered if taking a pop-classic of social and political satire like Romero's original movie, stripping it of all the intelligence that had animated it and then letting the gory, mindless corpse that was left shamble through our multiplexes was some clever but stupid piece of meta-textual commentary from the remake's creators -- a zombified zombie movie -- but I got a definitive answer on my speculation after about five minutes of 300.] Anyway, I don't know if 28 DAYS LATER is as sharp as the original DAWN -- anything sounds smarter with a British accent -- but it hangs well with Danny Boyle's other films, which is no mean feat for a monster movie.
BACK DOOR TO HELL
I'm disappointed that this disk doesn't have a director's commentary because Monte Hellman gives the best ones, even [sometimes especially] on his more unfortunate films. I haven't seen this movie in a million years -- on paper it sounds like a recipe for shit pie [very young Jack Nicholson and folky-pop star Jimmie Rodgers star in no-budget war movie] until you reduce Hellman's masterpiece to its abstract [folky-pop star James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson star in low-budget car-racing movie]. It's safe to assume that BACK DOOR TO HELL is closer to BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE than TWO-LANE BLACKTOP in execution, though.
THE BLACK SWAN
My favorite pirate movie -- beautifully shot, Tyrone Power makes a great rogue and wall-to-wall character actors and cute girls. If the restoration is well done, it will blow our fucking minds.
BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA
I imagine that, CONVOY aside, there's not a Sam Peckinpah movie that doesn't have a substantial fanatic base that claims it as his best: The grace and humanity of RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, the heartbroken fury of THE WILD BUNCH and STRAW DOGS, maybe even the subliminal studio rebellion of MAJOR DUNDEE and THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, etc. Me, I go for his misanthropic buddy films, THE GETAWAY and especially ALFREDO GARCIA. It's the only movie I can think of where one can't imagine a more fucked-up turn for the plot to take on its own logic. I suppose Warren Oates could have kissed Garcia's head before making a run for it at the end, but even that wouldn't have disturbed me as much as the scene where he hits the head's sack a few times during their discussion in the car always does.
TORA! TORA! TORA!
Richard Fleischer had an odd career; he broke into the big time helming low-budget programmer movies that were near-perfect reels of film noir [FOLLOW ME QUIETLY, ARMORED CAR ROBBERY, THE NARROW MARGIN], had a long commercial hot streak in the middle but ended up making cheap sequels to other people's movies [CONAN THE DESTROYER, AMITYVILLE 3-D], all without ever developing a signature style. [Can you tell that the same man directed FANTASTIC VOYAGE, DOCTOR DOOLITTLE, SOYLENT GREEN, CHE!, TORA TORA TORA and COMPULSION? As much as I like many of his films, I can't find any auteurist dots to connect.] I enjoy COMPULSION mostly for Orson Welles' hammy underacting as the Clarence Darrow character. Best closing-argument speech, ever.
One of my desert-island favorites, one of the only movies in my library that I bought knowing it was a shoddy package [pan & scan, no extras] but I couldn't wait for a [when/if] proper release. Judging by his last few interviews, a commentary track from writer Eric Monte would be .... something, whether or not he has completely kicked his crack habit.
THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW
I've written about this movie in the past; I stand by my reasons today.
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
I'm an unapologetic Robert Wise hater -- that jowly prick stabbed Welles in the back over THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS -- but I go weak in the knees for politically minded science fiction.
DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK
One of the many text files of unfinished essays in my To Do desktop folder is one about how virtually every major filmmaker who came up in the years before color film became the standard made a stunning debut in color. [Hitchcock with ROPE, Tati's MON ONCLE, Kurosawa's DODESKADEN, etc.] DRUMS was John Ford's debut in Technicolor, and it is absolutely lovely, even though it would barely rate in Ford's top ten that decade.
EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN
THE WEDDING BANQUET
Gojira summed up the pleasures of these two films far better than I ever could:
EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN: Before he came to America to punish cineastes with shitty action movies, Ang Lee made entertaining, interesting romantic comedies. Really! He did!! This one's my favorite, since the torrent of loving shots of amazing food makes me drool like a retard every time. As I grow older, I find myself appreciating his earlier PUSHING HANDS more and more, despite its clumsy, flatfootedness. And THE WEDDING BANQUET is a delight -- especially if you pretend, as I do, that the honky-boyfriend character is actually a woman and thus gives us a full notch on the no-bullshit Asian Man/White Woman relationship-O-meter. Anyway, in addition to the food, EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN also does a beautiful job of showcasing the effortless timing of the late Sihung Lung, who never got his due propers.
EMPEROR OF THE NORTH
It's difficult to retain memory that Ernest Borgnine was one badass character actor; part of it is his physique, but I would say the bulk of this problem comes from the number of lame projects [fucking AIRWOLF] he's done in the long years between decent films. It's the curse of the working character actor, I suppose; on that score, dying before cameras could roll on a STRIPES TV series was the smartest thing Warren Oates could have done. Anyway, EMPEROR is as beautiful as it is brutal.
THE FAMILY STONE
I don't know if this one is actually good or if it was simply pounded into my brain during my convalescence over the holidays. But Rachel McAdams is awesome and I'm hoping that the disk's commentary gives an answer about whether or not Diane Keaton's mastectomy scar is real or CGI. [Worst purchase reasoning, ever.]
FRITZ THE CAT
If I had to choose between Bakshi's Fritz movie or Crumb's Fritz comics, I think I'd take the movie -- although I would ask to see both again before a final decision.
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES
I'm not much of a devotee of musical comedies, but there's a minute but deep-seated mean streak that runs through a lot of '50s musicals like BLONDES.
I'm not sure when this movie stopped being enjoyable for me -- I write about it here in case you want or need a copy for less than the cost of a Coon's chicken dinner -- probably whenever the initial tsunami of genuine excitement over Dan Clowes' mainstream success receded or the second Scarlett Johansson interview I read, whichever came first. But even before that I was painfully aware of what an undigested mishmash of Clowes' and Zwigoff's obsessions and sensibilities the movie was, with Zwigoff's supplying one dealbreaker after another. [I have no intention of ever seeing the ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL movie, and from the sounds of it, I'm not missing anything. But I'm excited to see Clowes' RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK movie and see the film he's doing with Michel Gondry.]
GREG THE BUNNY
Another victim of Fox's panic-button era of programming -- see also ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE, FUTURAMA, THE CRITIC, FAMILY GUY, UNDECLARED, TITUS, etc. -- This two-disk set provides such an ideal textbook example of how a network can tweak a series to death that I'm surprised it was ever published. The only thing that could improve it would be a complete archive of the GREG public-access and Independent Film Channel material.
Mike Judge's animated work hasn't rocked my world since around my 18th birthday, but I couldn't admire his feature films more. Yes, all two of them, but still. I can't imagine how that kind of humor could work as well in the theater as on home video, like it's too intelligent and sly to be broadcast loudly.
THE LAST WALTZ
As a documentary, it's self-absorbed and banal in the same way all coke-fueled acts of hubris are self-absorbed and banal; as a recording of one hot night of American pop music, it's unique and undeniably great. Why so many hot/young directors make at least one inconsequentially-crafted concert film [Hal Ashby's LET'S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER, Spike Lee's PAVAROTTI & FRIENDS, Phil Joanou's RATTLE & HUM] when they have no documentary experience to speak of, I have no idea. But no one has topped the many failings as a documentarian as Martin Scorsese racked up while helming the film about The Band's final concert. Scorsese himself is in the film more than any two members of the band who aren't Robbie Robertson! If the performances weren't so amazing and the hall itself so beautiful a setting, such a shitty production would have sunk faster and deeper than KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK. To add insult to injury, the DVD includes a commentary track from Scorsese and Robertson, in case you want 100% pretentious-douchebag content saturation for your viewing experience.
Hitchcock's stunt movies are the most rewatchable.
THE MARK OF ZORRO
I'm not sure I understand why the studio withdrew the previous edition of this disk to immediate rerelease the package but as a flipper disk with a new colorized version on the other side. Although the new cover, which looks a lot like the designs used for the Antonio Banderas ZORRO flicks is probably a giveaway to their intentions here. I'm totally gay for Tyrone Power when it comes to swashbucklers.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
Still won't watch this with other people.
The second-closest thing to outright nihilism ever reached by a Hollywood studio movie.
THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION
I never saw FRIENDS until a season or two before it ended, so I missed out on all the hating people [probably rightfully] had for the cast from having the show shoved up their asses for almost a decade. So, I don't know how to take Jennifer Aniston as anything other than a charming albeit lightweight actress. I appreciate Nicholas Hynter's movie for the way it presents New York City, a way that you really don't see much and rarely from an American: as a city where you can't go from here to there without passing through dozens of social/ethnic/cultural/etc. strata. [Yes, I know FRIENDS is a perfect example of this NYC tunnel vision.] Old gay men are the saddest-eyed people I know, and Nigel Hawthorne embodies that so fully I almost feel I know his character.
I don't know how well this has aged in just the dozen or so years since its release, but Jeremy Piven's commentary track is sure to remain a timeless classic of amusing, almost hypnotic passive-aggression. [Did you know that, on a movie that celebrates anarchy, the actors were not allowed to improvise a single word?]
I'm somewhat fascinated with the mid-'90s cycle of romantic comedies where the audience has to accept that the magazine-covergirl lead actress is an unlucky-in-love schlub who has to contrive some ridiculous plot to achieve true love. If only I had been born five years sooner, then I would have jumped into that nonsense with both feet with my [still unfinished] magnum opus, UNTITLED OBJECTIVIST BEDROOM FARCE. Anyway, this is like the anti-OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION in many ways.
PORTRAIT OF JENNIE
They don't make fantasies like this anymore! But then, they never did.
THE SONG OF BERNADETTE
One of the few religious films that doesn't make me dry heave.
SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
I've always wanted to know more about Alexander Mackendrick, particularly how he went from making the highpoint of British comedy [THE LADYKILLERS] straight to the last great American noir in SSoS and then, he shortly walked away from it all to teach film. One of the pleasures of SSoS, even after you've watched it a dozen times, is the startlingly clear images of 1956/1957 NYC and its inhabitants.
TALES OF TERROR and TWICE TOLD TALES
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER/THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM
PANIC IN YEAR ZERO/THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
If I wasn't so lazy and nervous about owning superfluous stuff, I'd buy a few extra copies of these MIDNITE MOVIES DOUBLE FEATURE sets -- especially the Corman/Poe ones -- to hoard away for a while and then sell on eBay for many more beans, considering how they've been going OP and not returning. If nothing else, it would offset how much I have to shell out for a used copy of the PSYCHE-OUT/THE TRIP volume.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
THE GREAT ESCAPE
What sold me on SEVEN was a clip I saw recently where all six of Yul Brynner's gunslingers are doing their damnedest to upstage him; it really is a gas to watch the narrative brinkmanship of so many hams in battle for the audience's attention. I still would like to know how [or perhaps why] John Sturges made even bigger but more controlled ensemble action movies like THE GREAT ESCAPE and ICE STATION ZEBRA later.
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
A peer-pressure purchase; I don't have enough horror movies for some people's taste. I still haven't gotten around to watching it, but I liked THE VIRGIN SPRING and I hear this is really good for a remake.
THE LONG GOODBYE
One of my more underdeveloped pet theories is that all male movie stars [as compared to actors] can be put into two categories, eventually: guys who are bald and guys with back hair. Usually one or other, rarely both and never neither. Eliott Gould is my favorite back-hair movie star.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Dude, even Keanu Reeves works in this Shakespearean adaptation. Kenneth Branagh rules.
MY SUMMER STORY
Even after renaming IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY to emphasize that this is a sequel to A CHRISTMAS STORY, it still doesn't register as such. You just can't forge a sequel to a perfect movie -- SEVEN SAMURAI II: KIKUCHIYO'S RETURN, ALPHAVILLE 2: ALPHA 60 STRIKES BACK, FOUR-LANE BLACKTOP -- because there's no unfinished business in relative perfection. I would argue that the shittier the original movie is the more sequels it can seed, but that would require more thought than I can give it right now. SUMMER STORY is a fine, fun little movie despite nothing being able to connect it to its prequel in most viewers' minds.
PATHS OF GLORY
A cheapo slab of classic Kubrick. I still haven't seen SPARTACUS yet, but PATHS just has to be the most useful context Kirk Douglas' stiff acting ever got.
SINCE YOU WENT AWAY
I like any all-star WWII movie that includes Monty Woolley, Hattie McDaniel and Agnes Moorehead. I've stolen from this movie more than anyone could know.
It's Stanley Kubrick, it's noir and it has a youngish Sterling Hayden.
Not even the metric ton of modern Hollywood/Las Vegas bullshit that is dropped on this story every night can bury the original. Zero Mostel uber alles!
What Kubrick did for Kirk Douglas, John Frankenheimer did for that big stiff Burt Lancaster.
Like RED DAWN, this movie seems to have become oddly relevant again, although not in as through-the-looking-glass a way as DAWN. I like that Matthew Broderick's character isn't presented as cool, capable or even mature -- David's just a kid with more intelligence than sense -- and he doesn't really become any of those things at the story's climax. [I've always read John Wood's Cheshire Cat grin during the final countdown as Falken letting them all sweat and watching to see if David can think of the solution himself; I really like the idea that the Professor, like the Doomsday Clock, is five minutes ahead of nuclear Armageddon.] Anyway, Ally Sheedy's girlfriend character seems to be in the movie only so Broderick doesn't have to talk to himself for the movie's first hour. Although, in the end it's the NORAD staff whose characters have changed, not David! Even the knuckleheads in the raunchiest teen comedies are changed by their movies' events; David keeps his modem.
THE THIN RED LINE
I've never understood why people would be shocked or surprised by this movie, unless they went into it knowing nothing about it but the movie-star names on its lobby poster. The movie itself is exactly what a Terrence Malick adaptation of a James Jones novel would/should look and sound like.
THIS IS SPINAL TAP
It's so close to reality it's a little terrifying. The scene in the guitar room makes me a little misty every time.
TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH
I can easily see why this film gets used so often in leadership courses, even today. It's a solid WWII aviation movie too. [I notice that there are quite a few Fox war movies in this sale that either are or will soon be out in Special Editions, so they're probably burning off all the backstock on them.]
VON RYAN'S EXPRESS
Raffaella Carra is in this movie. I think it's about a train or something. It also stars a bunch of famous guys, but none of them are Raffaella Carra so I don't care.
Vaughn Bode-like critters vs. HITLER. Ralph Bakshi kicks so much ass.