Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of Year Seven

My goal at the start of the year was the same as last year—watch 400 different movies. I didn’t get there. I’m at 366 at the time of this writing, an average of one movie per day, with a good chance of watching one or two more before midnight tonight. So, I didn’t quite get there, but it’s still a solid year’s watching.

So let’s get the announcements out of the way first. I will be recapping the 24 challenge movies I got this year. I won’t be doing a challenge list in 2017, though. The reason is simple—I won’t have the space for it on the blog. I’ve got about 250 Oscar movies still to watch to complete my lists (not including the new nominees that will be announced in a few weeks), which means a touch more than a year for those. But I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of Oscar Got It Wrong! posts to go. Starting in 2017, I’ll be doubling up on those. You’ll still see them on Fridays, but they’ll also appear on Mondays as well.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Days Like This

Film: As Good as It Gets
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

I think everyone has an actor or two that rubs him or her the wrong way. For me, one of those is Helen Hunt. I don’t specifically dislike Helen Hunt; I just don’t understand the appeal of her. I’ve never been excited about a Helen Hunt role or watched a movie specifically for her. That might be why it’s taken me this long to get to As Good as It Gets, the film for which she won an Oscar. Whenever I see Helen Hunt, I wonder why they didn’t get someone else for the role.

As Good as It Gets is kind of an angry romance, or at least a romance involving a very angry man. Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is a successful novelist but a very unsuccessful person. Melvin is a misogynist and a racist and is buried in many ways by his phobias and compulsive behaviors. The film is going to attempt to make use hate Melvin initially and then have us come to love him by the end of the film. It’ a role that Nicholson does well. He plays a good creep and he gets a lot of benefit of the doubt because of who he is.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Divine Right

Film: The Man Who Would Be King
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

I can’t claim to know a great deal about the works of Rudyard Kipling, which makes approaching a film like The Man Who Would Be King quite a bit like most of the adapted screenplays I come to. What I know about Kipling is that a lot of his stories take place in India and have a specifically British bent to them. That’s at least partly the case here. What makes this one interesting is that the filmed version actually includes Kipling as a character. Essentially, he’s a framing device, and the story we’re told is given to us as an actual story, something that we’re to take as truth.

As the film begins, we’re introduced to Kipling (Christopher Plummer) as he encounters a terrible apparition from his past. That man introduces himself as Peachy Carnahan (Michael Caine), someone who Kipling met several years before. We get the heart of that meeting, which involves Peachy stealing Kipling’s watch and then discovering that Kipling is a fellow Mason, forcing him to return it. Based on that Masonic connection, Peachy asks Kipling to contact a man named Daniel Dravot (Sean Connery) and tell him that Peachy has headed south. Kipling does so.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Waltzing Matilda

Film: The Sundowners
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

It’s entirely possible that I did The Sundowners a little bit of a disservice by watching it on a laptop instead of on a large television. This is a movie that trades at least in part on the big, sweeping panoramas and massive landscapes of the Australian outback. It’s similar in a lot of ways to a standard Western, although it’s a more modern story. Actually, I’m not precisely sure when the story takes place. I think (although I’m not sure) that it essentially takes place around the time the movie was made, despite the lifestyle of the people depicted.

The Sundowners concerns a family of, well, sundowners. The term refers to people in Australia who are more or less nomads, moving from place to place and taking jobs as they come to them. Specifically, the term means people whose home is wherever the sun goes down on a given day. This family is headed by Paddy Carmody (Robert Mitchum), who is the Australian equivalent of an itinerant cowboy. He frequently works as a sheep drover, moving large herds of sheep to market for shearing. He also often finds work as a shearer, but he doesn’t like that work so much because it means staying in one place for months at a time.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Fraud for Fun and Profit

Film: The Fortune Cookie
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

When you think of classic screen duos, there are a lot that certainly come to mind. Limit your thoughts to comedy teams, and there are still a good number. One of those that will almost certainly be early on the list is the team of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, who did 10 films together. Their first pair was The Fortune Cookie from 1966, the brainchild of Billy Wilder, who didn’t make a lot of missteps in terms of films he made or in casting decisions. If for no other reason, the first time these two cinematic greats appeared on screen together makes The Fortune Cookie notable.

The plot is simple. Television cameraman Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) is working the sideline at a Cleveland Browns football game. Star punt returner Luther “Boom Boom” Jackson (Ron Rich) takes a punt up the sideline and is pushed out of bounds directly into poor Harry, who takes a tumble over the rolled up tarp behind him. A few minutes later, Harry is removed from the stadium via ambulance. Harry’s brother-in-law Willie Gingrich (Walter Matthau), and ambulance-chasing lawyer, sees this not as a tragedy or an accident, but as an opportunity. Moments after Harry is pulled out of x-ray, Willie is on the phone to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, stating that he’s planning a lawsuit against the stadium, the Browns, and ABC television for $1 million, which in 1966, was a hell of a lot of money.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Ho, Ho, Ho!

I know that the Keepers of the List don’t pay attention to this site. Why the hell should they? But I do hope that every now and then one of them might wander here and see the suggestions I make on Christmas every year. I don’t ask for much. I want a mere input on 1% of the total each year. Is that too much to ask? Especially since the films I suggest I can justify?

As usual, there’s not any real order here. These are just the movies I think are worth considering for one reason or another.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Trial of the Century

Film: Miracle on 34th Street
Format: HBO Go on rockin’ flatscreen.

Everyone, or almost everyone, has a favorite Christmas movie, at least in the U.S. where Christmas is pretty much universally celebrated. Gun to head, I’d cite Die Hard since it takes place at a Christmas party, but for Christmas-centric films, I’d go with A Christmas Story. It’s difficult to discount the singular joy of older holiday films, though. Of those, It’s a Wonderful Life is almost certainly the most commonly cited favorite, but there is a minority like me who prefer Miracle on 34th Street.

I find it difficult to believe that there are people unfamiliar with the basic story here, but just in case, I’ll offer a quick rundown. Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) is the divorced mother of young Susan (Natalie Wood). Doris works for Macy’s, and among other things, is in charge of the Thanksgiving Day parade. The Santa Claus she has hired for the parade has turned up drunk, so she hires a replacement on the spot. The problem is that the replacement calls himself Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) and truly believes himself to be Santa Claus. Despite this, he is immediately hired to be the Macy’s Santa Claus in the store.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Shades of Salo

Film: Quills
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on laptop.

I’ve had Quills sitting on my desk for more than two weeks. I’ve been telling myself that I need to get to it for a number of reasons and I just haven’t been able to pull the trigger on it. This is a film based loosely (very loosely, apparently) on the life of the Marquis de Sade, whose writings inspired Salo, which remains one of the most unpleasant movie experiences I’ve ever had. I think, based on that, I can be forgiven for some reticence.

The bulk of film takes place in Charenton, an insane asylum in which the Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) has been imprisoned. Despite his imprisonment, de Sade has a spacious cell with a number of amenities. He continues to write a series of depraved stories dealing with sex and torture, smuggling them out by concealing them in his bed linens. The laundress Madeleine (Kate Winslet) takes them from his linens to the gate, where they are passed on to an agent who has them published. Naturally, the salacious nature of the Marquis’s prose has a number of effects on the populace. The people can’t get enough, but the powers that be want him stopped. Specifically, Napoleon wants his writings burned and the man silenced. To that end, he appoints Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) to oversee Charenton.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Black Phillip

Film: The Witch
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

Has there been a resurgence in horror? It feels like there are suddenly good, new horror movies around that are getting good reviews not just from genre wonks and horror fanboys but from actual critics. One of those leading the way in that respect is The Witch (also called The Witch: A New-England Folktale, and sometimes written as The VVitch). There’s a lot here that works in terms of overall horror cred. I think there’s a small chance it might make next year’s 1001 Movies list. It hits a lot of those notes—it’s highly acclaimed in an underrepresented genre, it’s a period piece, and it’s heavy on the atmosphere instead of the gore. Finally, the critical acclaim is far above the typical audience rating. Fingers crossed that it makes it.

As mentioned, this is very much a period piece, taking place in the very early days of Puritan life in the Americas. At a plantation, a family of Puritans is sent into the wilderness because the father, William (Ralph Ineson), has been preaching a different interpretation of the gospels. Defiant, William leads his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son Caleb (the awesomely-named Harvey Scrimshaw), and young twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) into the wilderness. The family sets up a farmstead, and soon there is a fifth child, Samuel (Axtun Henry Dube). Everything seems to be going well for the family.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Off Script: Blood and Black Lace (Sei Donne per L'Assassino)

Film: Blood and Black Lace (Sei Donne per L’Assassino)
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

Mario Bava more or less invented the slasher. Bay of Blood is typically thought of as the prototypical slasher film, Bava was starting to build up the style years before. That’s evidenced by 1964’s Blood and Black Lace (Sei Donne per L’Assassino, which translates to “Six Women for the Murderess”), which is also one of the earliest films in the giallo style. This is all about the style and far less about the actual plot, which is also pretty common for films made by Mario Bava.

The sell here is that the murders that are committed, and there are a bunch of them, happen in the context of a fashion house. That might not sound interesting, but it does make for a very interesting visual style. Since Bava spent a good deal of his professional life as a director of photography/cinematographer, this isn’t too surprising. What this means for us is that we get beautiful women in high fashion being brutally slaughtered by a maniac wearing a faceless mask. So, if nothing else, this is a movie that doesn’t look like anything else out there.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Nick's Picks: Easy A

Film: Easy A
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

This is the twelfth in a series of twelve movies selected by Nick Jobe.

Teen comedies aren’t easy to do well. This is evidenced by the vast amount of teen comedies that are light on the comedy. Many of the best ones get help by more or less co-opting classic stories and putting a teen spin on them. Enter Easy A, a modern teenage version of “The Scarlet Letter” with the twist that the action that earns our heroine the metaphorical (and eventually literal) letter is entirely a fiction, a lie that went out of control. Hey, if you’re going to crib from someone, you may as well crib from a classic, right?

High schooler Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) finds herself in the position of school nobody…and immediately I take issue with Easy A. High school may be multiple decades in my past (my 30-year reunion is in the rearview mirror), but I remember enough of it. I remember enough to know that if Emma Stone was walking around in a high school, she’d have to have the equivalent of social rabies to be completely ignored. But hey, let’s ignore that for the time being. We have a movie to look at, and if that’s the biggest problem with it, well, we have a pretty good movie to look at.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

There and Back Again

Film: Brooklyn
Format: HBO on rockin’ flatscreen.

When I look at the movies that I still have left on my Oscars list, I see that I have a habit of leaving a Best Picture nominee or two from each year unwatched for some time. Evidently, that’s not going to be the case for 2015, as Brooklyn is the last one I have left. I’ve had this saved on the DVR for a cou

cple of months and have just now gotten around to it. There’s no particular reason other than the realization that my DVR is getting old and that I have a lot saved that I should watch before it goes legs-up and dies on my with all of those recordings unwatched.

I think my reticence for watching Brooklyn comes from not really being that interested in the story as it is depicted. Certainly there is a family connection of a sort here, one I’ve mentioned before. My grandmother came to the States from Denmark on her own when she was 16 (possibly 14; we’re not really sure) to a new country where she didn’t speak the language or really know a soul. In a sense, Brooklyn is less impressive than what my grandmother did. Our main character her is older and already speaks the language.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Better Late than Never

Film: Deadpool
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

I realize that everyone who regularly reads this site almost certainly saw Deadpool when it was originally released earlier this year. Sometimes it takes me a few months to catch up. I don’t really enjoy going to the theater that much, and despite the fact that this is something I did want to see, I just didn’t get to it. I was actually surprised when I found it in the library. I tried to check out several movies and one of them was on reserve…and it wasn’t Deadpool. My wife loves Ryan Reynolds, so I figured she’d want to watch it, too.

Turns out I was both right and wrong about that. Less than 30 minutes in and Sue bailed on the movie, so I had to remove it from the Blu-ray player and finish it on the laptop. She wasn’t prepared (honestly, neither was I) for the level of violence. I can’t say it bothered me, but it did bother her quite a bit. Still, even knowing the basic story, I was expecting a lot more funny right off the bat and a lot less decapitation and brain splatter.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nest of Vipers

Film: Hedda
Format: Internet video on The Nook.

Let’s be honest; I was never going to be a huge fan of Hedda in the best of circumstances. I do my best not to allow the various problems I might have with the version of a film to affect how I feel about it, but that might have been impossible with Hedda. This is one of those films I couldn’t find for the last few years, so when it turned up online, I jumped at it, if only to get it watched before it vanished. The version that is online is not quite in a condition worth watching. The film locks up frequently, and not too long into the running time, it becomes hopelessly out of sync. Eventually, the audio is running 30-40 seconds ahead of the video. Eventually, I treated it as sort of a radio play. But, as I say, even in the best of circumstances, I probably wasn’t going to like this much.

So, what are the strikes against Hedda going in? First, it’s an adaptation of a stage play, in this case, “Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen. Second, it’s a drawing room drama, which means that there’s not much opportunity to separate the film from the stage play. Third, it stars Glenda Jackson, who has always left me cold for some reason, even when I’ve thought she was good in a particular movie. There’s something about her that’s like biting down on a piece of tinfoil for me. She always comes across to me as something of an ice queen. I’m not sure what it is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Red Knight

Film: The Fisher King
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on laptop.

In a lot of ways, Terry Gilliam is the Orson Welles of today. I like Gilliam a lot and have liked his work since I was a kid. I loved Monty Python (even named a dog after the show), and I remember my mother saying that she thought the show was funny, but hated the animation. I loved the animation, which was all Gilliam’s work. One of Gilliam’s most famous projects is the one about Don Quixote that he never completed. There’s a touch of synchronicity in this, as Terry Gilliam is himself a fairly quixotic guy. He’s tilted at the windmills of studios for most of his career and a lot of his films have a large fantasy element to them. Like Welles, Gilliam’s quixotic nature is at least partially self-inflicted. The Fisher King is heavily influenced by Arthurian legend, which makes it something of a return—a far less comedic one—to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is a popular talk radio personality loosely modeled on Howard Stern. He’s rude to his callers, but funny. One day, just has he’s about to break into acting on a sitcom, an off-hand remark to a caller causes a tragedy. The caller takes Jack’s comments about a war against Yuppies literally and takes a shotgun into a nightclub and kills seven people before turning the gun on himself. It destroys Jack completely. Three years later, Jack and his girlfriend Anne (Mercedes Ruehl) are living over the video store she owns and Jack is frequently drunk and just as frequently unable to deal with people.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Off Script: Dementia 13

Film: Dementia 13
Format: DVD from LaSalle Public Library through interlibrary loan on laptop.

Roger Corman might be known for low-budget schlock, but you have to hand it to the man: he was if nothing else a great judge of directorial talent. Among his protégés is the great Francis Ford Coppola, a man who in many ways defined American film in the 1970s. Corman gave Coppola his start, and a large part of that start came in the film Dementia 13. Coppola punched out a short script over three days and filmed using the same sets and actors as another of Corman’s films provided he could do things on the cheap and work around Corman’s shooting schedule.

The result of those constraints gives us a film that shows a good deal of ambition but also shows all of the strings and gaps of needing to work on the quick with actors involved in another film. Personally, I find it interesting to see the work of a director best known for feats of cinematic brilliance like The Godfather Trilogy, Apocalypse Now, and The Conversation making a film that hints on the supernatural and involving an axe murderer and a woman swimming in her lingerie. There’s something wonderfully lurid about it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Picks from Chip: Another Earth

Film: Another Earth
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the twelfth in a series of twelve films selected by Chip Lary.

In the best science fiction stories, the science fiction is used as a backdrop for the characters. There are some exceptions to that, of course, but a great deal of the best science fiction is an exploration of humanity, not aliens and laser guns. Films like Gattaca and The Man from Earth demonstrate that we don’t need to have expensive special effects or weird technology to make an interesting film. Another Earth, Chip’s final pick for me this year, promises to be a film in that vein, where the premise relies heavily on ideas of science fiction, but the story is about the characters more than anything.

In fact, aside from The Man from Earth (one of Chip’s selections for me last year), this might be the least science fiction-y science fiction film I’ve ever seen. The departure from the real world is literally in the background for a great deal of the movie, and while it more or less starts the story and drives an undercurrent of the plot, this is a film that could just about be told with no changes if the science fiction elements were removed completely.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Off Script: Popcorn

Film: Popcorn
Format: Internet video on The Nook.

The traditional horror movie puts a group of people in a specific location with someone or something that wants to kill them. Often, the thing that is trying to kill them is what makes the movie different. Every now and then you get something like Popcorn that really tries to do something interesting with the premise. Popcorn is all about the premise, because what follows the premise is pretty standard slasher fare.

We start with Maggie (Jill Schoelen), a film student at a college that has a fledgling film school that frequently gets the monetary short end of the stick from the rest of the school. Maggie has been plagued with strange dreams that she is taking notes on in the hopes of turning it into a film. At school that day, the film professor Mr. Davis (Tony Roberts) and a student named Toby (Tom Villard) have come up with a plan to raise funds for the department. They’re going to stage a triple horror feature at a theater a few weeks away from demolition. The idea specifically is to select films that were marketed with gimmicks (one involves electrified seats as in The Tingler). The work gets easier thanks to Dr. Mnesyne (Ray Walston), who had a long career in theater and a huge collection of old timey props to use to decorate the theater.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Off Script: La Horde (The Horde)

Film: La Horde (The Horde)
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on The Nook

While it’s not entirely true that if you’ve seen one zombie movie you’ve seen them all, there is a kernel of truth in that assessment. Most of them start with the beginning of the infection where the main characters slowly figure out what’s going on. A few of these people will be bitten at some point to give us the convention that a bite leads to the victim turning into a zombie. A couple of zombies early on will soon turn into a mass of them, and victims toward the end of the film will not be merely bitten but completely devoured. There are a few films that attempt to do something new with the genre. More frequently, there are films like La Horde (The Horde) that offer a different starting premise and follow the same traditional path.

La Horde starts from the premise of The Raid: Redemption. A cop has been killed by a drug lord and now four cops are going for some revenge. This is a completely unofficial raid bent solely on the idea of vengeance. The drug lord, Adewale Markudi (Eriq Ebouaney), his brother Bola (Doudou Masta), goon Jimenez (Aurelien Recoing), and a few others have holed up in a mostly-abandoned and condemned building.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Propaganda, Comrade

Film: The North Star (Armored Attack)
Format: Internet video on The Nook.

I’ve been hitting a lot of internet-available films lately. There are days when it’s easier to watch something in this format than a more typical one. There is a more serious reason, though. Slightly more than one-third of the movies I have left to watch on my various Oscar lists at this moment are ones I don’t own and that aren’t available through NetFlix. That number is a little better if I include libraries that I can use, but there are still a lot of movies that need to be watched in a different way—more than 25%. Thus, The North Star (often shown under the name (Armored Attack) was on the docket for today.

Since this is a war film from 1943, it should come as no surprise that The North Star is a propaganda film. What makes it particularly interesting is that this is an American production, but concerns Ukrainian peasants, not American troops. The movie skirts the idea of being pro-communist, but it’s certainly pro-Russian. Evidently, The North Star was cited as a premiere example of the sort of thing HUAC wanted to root out of Hollywood. In fact, it’s why the film was released under the different title. As Armored Attack, The North Star has all references to Russian and Ukrainian peasantry removed.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Devil's Island

Film: Condemned
Format: Internet video on laptop.

There’s a simplicity to early talkies that is attractive. While movies weren’t new, sound in movies was, and that meant that so much focus was put on that new innovation that plots were often simple, east-to-follow, and entertaining because of it. A single complication, typically associated with a romance, and you’ve got enough for something close to 90 minutes. Sure, they often tended toward melodrama and also had acting that was geared toward the back of the theater, but when they’re done well, there’s a particular charm to them. Condemned, which I found on YouTube today, is one of these movies, and it’s a pretty darn good one.

As mentioned in the paragraph above, the plot here is almost painfully simple. We start by witnessing prisoners being transferred to Devil’s Island, the French penal colony in Guyana. We’re then introduced to our main players. We have the warden, Jean Vidal (Dudley Digges), who is constantly upset with his wife, Madame Vidal (Ann Harding, and no, we don’t get a first name for her). His main problem is that he is ashamed that, as the wife of a prison warden, she demeans herself by doing all of the work around the house and won’t let him conscript a convict to act as combination butler/housemaid.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Head, Body, Head

Film: The Fighter
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I often like Mark Wahlberg in movies, but with the exception of Boogie Nights, I like him in supporting roles like The Departed so much better than when he is the focus of the film. I do always go into movies with as clean of a slate as I can, though, attempting to give every movie a fair shake and always wanting to like what I’m watching. So when The Fighter showed up, a movie starring Wahlberg, I heaved a sigh and dived in, hoping that Wahlberg might rise to the level of his best roles. Thankfully, he does, and he’s got a tremendous supporting cast to help him over the line.

The Fighter is the mostly-autobiographical story of boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his half-brother, boxer Dickie (spelled “Dicky” in the film) Eklund (Christian Bale). This is both a standard boxing story and a very different one in some ways. We’ll get a lot of the boxing tropes that have been around since boxing movies, but there’s also a great deal of social commentary going on here. While the tropes certainly exist in the movie, it’s worth noting that a great deal of this is based on the real life and experiences of Ward and Eklund.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Man Needs a Maid

Film: Diary of a Mad Housewife
Format: Internet video on laptop.

IMDB lists Diary of a Mad Housewife as both a comedy and a drama. Having watched it, if it qualifies as a comedy, it is only as the blackest sort. This movie is absolutely oppressive. Seriously, I’ve seen Holocaust documentaries that were less unrelenting. What we’re going to see is what we see in the opening couple of minutes as the housewife in question, Tina Balser (Carrie Snodgress) is run ragged with doorbells, phones, the dog, and just about everything else in rapid succession.

This is likely going to be a short review because there isn’t a great deal here to talk about. This is, at least the version that I saw, two hours of seeing a woman deal with being trapped in a life that she chose and that turned into something far different than she wanted or expected. Everyone in her life treats here with an astonishing amount of contempt. Not anger, not frustration, but pure contempt. She tries her best to deal with it, but everywhere she goes and everyone she meets treats her exactly the same way.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Late for Thanksgiving

Film: Alice’s Restaurant
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

Alice’s Restaurant is one of those movies I’ve put off for a while. I’ve had a copy sitting on my desk for almost a month and just haven’t gotten around to it. I think a part of it is that I was unsure of Arlo Guthrie being enough to carry an entire film. Guthrie, who may well be a decent songwriter and talent in the folk music world, is someone who, it seems to me, is famous because his father was Woody Guthrie. I’m not sure Arlo gets any press or fanfare without his dad opening the door for him.

This is a difficult movie to pin down as well. It’s at least partly autobiographical, as is Guthrie’s song of the same name. The film, since it covers only a small portion of Guthrie’s life, is more a memoir than an autobiography, though, and a great deal here is fictionalized. However, there’s no getting around the fact that this is Arlo Guthrie playing Arlo Guthrie, dealing with the illness and eventual death of his father and with a few other things as well. Sure, it’s a somewhat fictionalized and (mildly) sanitized version of Arlo, but he’s not playing a character. He’s basically playing himself.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Long Mile

Film: Dead Man Walking
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

The best opinion I’ve ever heard on capital punishment is one I can’t quote directly and can’t attribute to a specific person. Essentially, it goes something like this: “If it were my child that were killed, I’d be for the death penalty. If it were my child that had done the killing, I’d be against it.” When a movie shows up like Dead Man Walking, it brings up a lot of these questions. It puts me in a strange position. I’m not sure I really want to spend that much time thinking about capital punishment. It’s a hell of a movie with a number of tremendous performances and a great cast, but the issues are ones I’m not sure I really want to spend that much time thinking about. I realize that’s cowardly in a sense, but at least I admit it.

Dead Man Walking is based on the book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean (played by Susan Sarandon). Sister Helen works with the poor, and is told that she has received a letter from a man named Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) who has been on death row for six years. Poncelet claims that while he was a part of the crime that put him on death row—the rape and murder of two young people—he didn’t actually kill anyone. He’s out of his legal chances now and needs someone else to attempt to push for additional appeals. Sister Helen is his choice, and as a nun, she feels compelled to help him in any way she can.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Completed Once Again

Film: Son of Saul (Saul Fia)
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

When the latest version of the 1001 Movies list came out, I’d seen seven of the new 10. It would seem, then, that finishing up would have been something I could pretty much handle in a weekend. And yet here we are, after Thanksgiving and close to the end of November, and I’m just putting the bow on the additions now. The reason for that is that I haven’t really wanted to watch Son of Saul (Saul Fia) that much. I’m not sure I can fully explain why, although I can try.

I understand on a rational level why there are so many films about the Holocaust. It’s the sort of thing that we need to remind ourselves happened. This is a part of history that needs to be constantly refreshed in the minds of the world, especially now that we are generations away from the actual events. But there’s also a limit, I think, to how much I want to spend in these events. I know a great deal of what happened. I understand, at least on an academic level, the horror of what happened. On an emotional level, I’m not sure how many more times I want to go through this wringer.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful for YouTube

Film: Thunderbolt
Format: Internet video on laptop.

I’ve mentioned before the usefulness of YouTube when it comes to tracking down some obscure films. Thunderbolt is one that has appeared on my personal database as “unfindable” since about the time I started this project. I was extremely pleased, one might even say thankful, to find it on YouTube this morning. There’s something really interesting about pre-Code talkies, and Thunderbolt is one of the first.

Make no mistake here; this is absolutely a pre-Code crime drama that turns on the romance that is forced into it by the evident necessity of needing a romance in every film of the time. Because this is such an early talkie, a lot of the clichés that play into the genre certainly got part of their start here, at least in terms of the talkies.Thunderbold hits all the notes: unrepentant criminals, jailhouse confessions, a good girl gone bad, secret romance, and even a police captain who is trying really hard to sound like what Edward G. Robinson sounded like in his early talkies. Sure, there’s a lot of cliché here, but there’s a lot to like as well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Off Script: When a Stranger Calls (1979)

Film: When a Stranger Calls (1979)
Format: DVD from Morris Area Public Library through interlibrary loan on laptop.

There are moments in movies that become iconic. Similarly, there are lines in films that stand the test of time and have a life well beyond the movie itself. For horror movies, lines like “The power of Christ compels you!” are the sorts of things that live on past the movie. There are few horror movie lines that approach that sort of iconic status as “We’ve traced the call. It’s coming from inside the house.” That line, and the incredibly iconic scene that contains it, comes in the original 1979 version of When a Stranger Calls.

I’m not lying when I call the opening iconic. The first 20 minutes of When a Stranger Calls is one of the most iconic movie openings in history and is also considered one of the scariest movie openings ever made. It’s so highly thought of that Wes Craven paid clear homage to it with the equally iconic first 12 minutes of Scream.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ding Dong Bell

Film: The Well
Format: Internet video on laptop.

In 1949, a little girl named Kathy Fiscus fell down the narrow shaft of an abandoned well. The story became a national sensation and a national tragedy when she was pulled up dead from the shaft. Woody Allen made reference to this in the end of Radio Days and there’s a pretty solid connection with Ace in the Hole as well. But the clearest connection to the story is 1951’s The Well. The benefit for the viewers is that The Well only focuses a part of its time on the little girl who is trapped. The rest of the time is spent dealing with spiraling racial tensions in the town where the event occurs.

It’s also worth noting that The Well has the most misleading art I’ve ever seen for a movie. Take a moment and check out the IMDB page for this film. You’ll see a shirtless man clutching a woman who looks terrified. These events aren’t a part of this film, not even a little. You would expect, seeing that, a film about a dangerous femme fatale and a heist of gold bullion, not a film where a little girl falls into a well and a town explodes into racial violence.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Nick's Picks: Killer Joe

Film: Killer Joe
Format: Blu-Ray from Rock Island Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the eleventh in a series of twelve movies selected by Nick Jobe.

I tried to watch Killer Joe a couple of months ago. When I say that I tried to watch it, I mean that I actually watched about 20 minutes of it and stopped. This wasn’t because I couldn’t bear to get through it or anything like that. No, it was that I discovered that I’d located the R-rated version of the film when it’s the unrated version that I really wanted to see. I knew enough about the movie to know that if I was going to jump down into the sewer, I might as well go in head-first. There are times when the unrated version doesn’t really add that much to the experience, but I knew in my gut that this wasn’t going to be one of those times.

Killer Joe director William Friedkin is no stranger to pushing the envelope with his movies, of course. There are plenty of people who love what he did with The French Connection while I take a much more positive view on The Exorcist from the director’s chair. I’m also one of the only people I know who really likes the 2006 movie Bug, and a lot of what I like about it is the way that Friedkin told the story.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Praise Be

Film: Hallelujah
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

Before the actual opening of Hallelujah on the version I received from NetFlix, there is a long disclaimer from Warner Bros. Essentially, it says that the film that is about to be displayed is filled with prejudice and stereotypes that were common when the film was made. That’s certainly true. The disclaimer goes on to say that the depictions in question were wrong when they were made and still wrong, but that it’s important to show the films unadulterated, as it were, because to do otherwise would be to essentially pretend that this part of history can be or should be ignored. It’s interesting, and having now seen Hallelujah, I get why they felt the disclaimer was necessary.

What makes Hallelujah historically interesting is that it was one of the first, if not the very first, major studio production with an all-black cast. Certainly every named character is black and every character who has anything to say is black. Within Our Gates came first, of course, but didn’t have the backing of a big studio. Hallelujah was evidently seen as such a risky proposition that director/producer King Vidor was forced to invest his own salary into the production. After all, in 1929, this would not necessarily seem to be the sort of movie that would attract Middle America…or even any of white America.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hero Worship

Film: The Fallen Idol
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’m almost certain that I’ve mentioned before that I consider myself a fan of author Graham Greene. Greene’s tight and intelligent screenplay is one of the things that makes The Third Man such an intense watch. A few years previous, the pair collaborated on The Fallen Idol a film that hits on a lot of the same themes and ideas that pervade the work of Greene in general. There is crime (kind of), misunderstanding, marital strife, infidelity, and high-ranking officials in ambassador-like positions. It’s got all the makings of a classic Greene tale, and with a director who knows how to do intrigue as well as anyone.

What makes The Fallen Idol particularly interesting is that a great deal of it comes from the perspective of an eight-year-old child, who happens to be the son of the ambassador in question. Young Phillippe (Bobby Henrey) is the son of the (evidently) French ambassador to England. Phillippe’s best friend is the butler, Baines (Ralph Richardson), who frequently spins wild tales to keep the boy entertained. The other relevant person in Phillippe’s life is Baines’s wife (Sonia Dresdel) who, if she were nicer, might qualify as shrewish. She seems to hate everything, most especially Phillippe and her husband.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Game, Set...

Film: Match Point
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

I tend to like Woody Allen’s movies. I realize that I like some a lot and I like some a little, but in general, his movies really work for me. I go into a Woody Allen movie more or less expecting a certain thing or a certain set of things. If it’s an early comedy, I expect a lot of wacky stuff happening. If it’s a later comedy, I expect it to center a lot more on sex and various neuroses. If it’s a drama, I expect a much more serious look at those neuroses. And then there’s Match Point, which is a Woody Allen film in terms of the general story, but a very un-Woody Allen film in the way it develops.

Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a former professional tennis player who has retired, realizing that he’ll never be one of the game’s greats. He takes a job at a London tennis club where he meets the wealthy Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode). The two bond over a love of opera more than a mutual respect for the game of tennis. The friendship blossoms more when Tom’s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) develops more than a passing interest in Chris. Unfortunately for all involved, Chris also takes more than a passing interest in Nola (Scarlett Johansson), an American actress who happens to be engaged to Tom.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Mother Dearest

Film: One True Thing
Format: DVD from NetFlix on various players.

I don’t always closely monitor my NetFlix queue, which is why movies like One True Thing show up unexpectedly. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Renee Zellweger. In fact, I’ve pretty studiously avoided her films for the last six years, knowing that I’d have to get there eventually. Make no mistake here—Meryl Streep was nominated for her role in this, so she’s the reason I watched, but this is Zellweger’s film. I didn’t even know she was in it. When I discovered that a few moments in, I braced myself for what was to come.

This is one of those stories where the characters are desperately successful and desperately broken at the same time. Ellen Gulden, a Harvard graduate (yes, this is mentioned frequently), is working as a writer for a New York magazine. Her father George (William Hurt), is a former literary great, the winner of a National Book Award, and heading his department at the college where he teaches and claims to be working on another novel. Ellen’s brother Brian (Tom Everett Scott) is currently at Harvard and struggling with, amusingly enough, English literature. And then there’s Kate (Meryl Streep), the mother.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Picks from Chip: Ondine

Film: Ondine
Format: DVD from Peotone Public Library through interlibrary loan on laptop.

This is the eleventh in a series of twelve movies selected by Chip Lary.

I try to go into movies as neutrally as possible. That said, there are times when you can’t help but have a preconceived notion. Ondine had two strikes against it before it even made it into the spinner. The first is that at the top of the box is Colin Farrell. I like Colin Farrell in In Bruges and that’s about it. He’s okay in Minority Report. Otherwise, I don’t have a lot of use for him. Second, the movie’s tagline is, “The truth is not what you know. It’s what you believe.” That’s the kind of bullshit that makes people think that the Earth is flat and only 6,000 years old. Screw that noise.

An Irish fisherman with the unlikely name of Syracuse (Farrell) is out on his boat one day. When he pulls up his net, he finds a young woman (Alicja Bachleda) inside. The woman claims to not remember her name or anything else and also says that she doesn’t want to be seen by anyone. Syracuse, nicknamed “Circus” from his drinking days, takes her to his late mother’s house, a place where she can live without anyone seeing her.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Please, Mr. Postman

Film: A Letter to Three Wives
Format: Movies! Channel on rockin’ flatscreen.

Since I’ve watched The Great Dictator, the biggest whole in my classic movie knowledge/viewing history is probably A Letter to Three Wives. Naturally, when I saw it on the schedule of one of the several movie channels I have available to me, I recorded it to knock it out. I literally knew nothing about this going in. I didn’t know who was in it, who directed it, or what the basic plot was about. Based on the title, I assumed it was a letter from a man to three former wives about something. Well, I was pretty wrong about that.

Instead, the letter in A Letter to Three Wives actually comes from another woman. In this case, the woman in question is named Addie Ross (an uncredited Celeste Holm), who never appears on camera but narrates the film. Addie, we learn, has just run off with the husband of one of three women in town. All of the women know Addie, who is more or less perfect in the eyes of everyone who knows her. Even more, all of the husbands know Addie as well, and all three revere her greatly. Finally, all three marriages have a particular tension, so the end result is very much in doubt.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

HMS Torrin

Film: In Which We Serve
Format: MGM HD Channel on rockin’ flatscreen.

A propaganda film is its own thing. On the positive side, we can get a solid drama that has the additional elements of nationalism and patriotic pride. On the downside, you get something that is little more than jingoist bukkake. Propaganda films run the gamut. The bad ones generally aren’t worth the film stock they are on, while good ones can truly stand the test of time. The other day, I recorded one of my favorites on the DVR. In Which We Serve seems to have a lot going against it on paper, but it finds a way to make it all work.

In Which We Serve is one of those movies that more or less starts at an important moment and then spends most of the movie flashing back. What’s most interesting here is that the flashbacks all come from the perspectives of multiple characters. We’re told at the beginning that this is the story of a ship. In this case the ship is the HMS Torrin, a British destroyer. We begin with the Torrin firing on German transport vessels, and then coming under attack from bombers. It’s not long for the ship, and she’s hit by a bomb and begins sinking. The men fight back as long as they can until they are ordered to abandon ship. A group of men swim to a float and hang on for dear life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pure Colombian

Film: Maria Full of Grace
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’m incredibly busy with work right now, so when Maria Full of Grace showed up from NetFlix, I was stressed. I don’t really have time for a subtitled film right now. However, if you don’t watch the NetFlix films you get, the account is pretty much a waste of money. So I worked as much as I could today to have the time I needed to watch this. Given that I put well over 100 grades in my gradebook today to make the time, I hoped it was worth it.

Good thing it is. Maria Full of Grace, for a film that takes place in bright sunlight, is a dark and disturbing tale about hope, fear, and the drug trade in Colombia. The Maria of the title is Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a 17-year-old Colombian girl who works on a plantation stripping the thorns off roses. She also happens to be pregnant by her boyfriend, who offers to marry her when he finds out. Maria declines the offer, realizing that she doesn’t love him and he doesn’t love her. When her morning sickness gets in the way of her job, she quits, despite being one of the few people supporting her family, especially her unemployed, single-mother sister.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Not Fade Away?

Film: Morning Glory
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

It’s undoubtable that Katherine Hepburn was one of the greatest actresses in film history. I find myself in the odd position of liking the latter part of her career much more than the earlier part. There’s something manic about her early performances that rubs me the wrong way. In Morning Glory, Hepburn is on screen for about 65 of the film’s 74 minute running time. I think she’s talking about 60 of those minutes. I understand that a great many people find this performance charming; she did win her first Oscar for this role, after all. But I have to say that for probably 56 minutes of the 60 she’s talking, I wanted her to shut the hell up. I’m evidently in the minority on this.

It may also simply be the plot that annoys me here. Morning Glory is the story of a young actress who calls herself Eva Lovelace (Hepburn) from a small town in Vermont where she has achieved some measure of success on the amateur stage. She arrives in New York determined to make it on Broadway, evidently by talking non-stop to everyone she comes in contact with. She’s decided that the best way to break into the business is to show up at the office of Louis Easton (Adolphe Menjou), a major Broadway producer.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Off Script: I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

Film: I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Format: Starz Encore on rockin’ flatscreen.

When I was a kid, I Spit on Your Grave (also known as Day of the Woman) was one of those movies you heard about because your older brother had seen it. Kind of like Faces of Death in that respect. That’s really what I knew about this going in. It was something my brother Tom had seen at some sort of midnight movie somewhere and talked about with his friends. I picked up what I knew about it through osmosis more than anything else.

So what did I know? I Spit on Your Grave is about a woman who is gang raped and, once she recovers, who takes bloody, nasty revenge on her rapists. And guess what? That’s pretty much the whole movie. The first half leads up to the rape and contains the disturbingly long rape sequence. The second half is the revenge of our heroine, who exacts it with an increasing brutality as the film winds to a sudden and abrupt conclusion.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Rebel with a Cause

Film: Viva Zapata!
Format: Movies! Channel on rockin’ flatscreen.

Whitewashing has been a problem with Hollywood movies for a very long time. It still goes on, of course. You don’t need to look further than the casting of British Tilda Swinton as an ancient Tibetan in Doctor Strange to see it. It somehow seems more egregious in older cases, though, where entire collections of people were replaced by white actors in various cosmetics. And it wasn’t just whitewashing. Ricardo Montalban was cast as Japanese at least once. With Viva Zapata!, the crime seems to reach a new height. The title Mexican folk hero is played by Marlon Brando, while the elder brother was played by Anthony Quinn, who was Mexican. Revenge may be sweet, though; Quinn won a Supporting Actor Oscar for the role.

Emiliano Zapata (Brando) begins the film as a simple farmer, who goes with a group of fellow farmers to see long-time Mexican president Porfirio Diaz (Fay Roope) about a land claim. He and his fellow farmers have been kicked off their traditional land by wealthy farmers who have planted sugar cane in their cornfields. Diaz, notoriously corrupt, passes off the farmers’ claims, saying that fixing the problem will take time. The farmers, however, don’t have time—without corn, they won’t be able to eat. Diaz even tries to bribe Zapata with a decent tract of land, but Zapata rejects the offer. Soon enough, Zapata and his brother Eufemio (Quinn) are openly rebelling against the Mexican government.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Off Script: Child's Play

Film: Child’s Play
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I like horror movies, so it was natural that eventually I’d get around to a review of Child’s Play. Since it’s on one of my horror lists, and since I’m still coming down from all the horror movies of the last couple of weeks, it seemed like a good opportunity to knock this one out. What came as a surprise to me when I started watching this was that I’d never actually seen the whole thing. I’ve seen large chunks of the film but never the whole thing from front to back. Who knew?

Anyway, even if like me you haven’t actually seen the whole film, you almost certainly know the basics of the premise. There’s a Teddy Ruxpin-like doll named Chucky who is actually alive somehow and is also a psychotic killer. Fun premise. There’s always something interesting about the corruption of innocence in a horror movie, and making a child’s toy horrifically evil is certainly doing that. Like any good horror movie, there are plenty of places where we need to suspend disbelief, but the premise actually carries us through the entire movie pretty solidly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Before the Music Died

Film: The Buddy Holly Story
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

Believe it or not, there was a time when Gary Busey wasn’t certifiably (and entertainingly) insane. The Buddy Holly Story is evidence that the man was possessed of a real talent. I wasn’t sure what to expect here beyond hearing the music of Buddy Holly. Honestly, that was kind of enough to get me interested. I’m not a Holly fanboy, but it’s hard to deny that there’s something really infectious about the man’s sound.

We start in Lubbock, Texas where Charles “Buddy” Holley (Gary Busey) and his band, drummer Jesse (Don Stroud) and upright bassist Ray Bob (Charles Martin Smith) are playing a gig at a roller rink that is also being broadcast on local radio. After playing standard slow country songs, the trio breaks into some rock numbers. The reaction is mixed. The kids who are roller skating love it, but the parents react badly. The next day, after a fiery sermon from the local minister about the evils of this new music, Buddy’s parents ask him what he plans to do with his life now that he’s a year out of high school.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: The Orphanage (El Orfanato)

Film: The Orphanage (El Orfanato)
Format: DVD from personal collection on rockin’ flatscreen.

Last year, Chip Lary and I traded a list of 12 films for each other just as we did this year. One of the wild cards I picked for him in 2015 was The Orphanage (El Orfanato). I was nervous about the selection even though I genuinely love this movie because Chip wasn’t a horror guy. He wasn’t a fan of blood and gore, and while there’s only a touch of that here, this is clearly a film in the horror genre. As it happened, it was the only movie he gave five stars to from my list last year, and Chip didn’t hand out a lot of five-star reviews. I was genuinely pleased that he liked it as much as he did—it validated the choice and validated what I saw in the film.

The Orphanage, if it has a weak point, ticks all of the boxes in terms of horror movie clichés. There’s a big, spooky, old house that used to be an orphanage (hence the title). There are things that happen in the house that defy explanation. We have a child who has invisible friends who may be real and may not be real. There are paranormal investigators as in Poltergeist. There are also ghost children who are absolutely terrifying.

Ten Days of Terror!: Splinter

Film: Splinter
Format: Streaming video from Hoopla Digital on the Nook.

One of the reasons I enjoy low-budget horror films is that in the hands of the right person, wonders can be worked. A good, inventive director, willing actors and a creative team can do a lot with a little. It’s why I love little movies like Pontypool. A good premise is created and a lot is done to ramp up tension, with a little bit of practical effects used to heighten the realism, and there’s your movie. Splinter is like that. I can’t imagine that this was made on much more than a shoestring, but it’s got an earnestness that really works for it. It’s creative and inventive and has a truly brutal scene near the end that I found difficult to watch.

Splinter is also a movie that doesn’t screw around, and it can’t at only 82 minutes including the final credits. Fifteen minutes in, and we’ve established that there is a horrifying creature, we’ve got main characters trying to have a romantic camping weekend, and a couple of criminals who happily carjack our campers. Our couple is Seth (Paulo Costanzo, immediately recognizable if you’ve ever seen the show Royal Pains) and Polly Watt (Jill Wagner). When they accidentally destroy their tent on their one-year anniversary camping trip, they return to the road to be carjacked by wanted fugitive Blake Sherman (Charles Baker) and his junkie girlfriend Lacey (Rachel Kerbs). Blake and Lacey just want to get to Mexico to elude the police, and Seth and Polly are their ticket there. Unfortunately, they hit an animal in the middle of the road.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Aswang

Film: Aswang
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

I often wonder what it is about making a low budget film that pairs so often with the horror genre. I understand that you can’t do a fantasy or science fiction blockbuster with a shoestring budget, but horror often requires a great deal of makeup and physical effects. Wouldn’t a drama be cheaper? Seriously, plenty of dramas require nothing more than sets and actors and have a higher budget only for name actors. Is it because people are more forgiving? Is it because ultra-low budget horror films like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity have such a massive potential upside? Whatever the reason, Aswang was made with a budget of about $70,000, which isn’t much for a feature-length film.

One also has to wonder where the idea for this came from. Aswang was evidently made in Wisconsin, but the title creature is a mythical monster from the Philippines that feeds on the unborn. The film takes place somewhere in the States as well. I think we can safely assume that it was actually filmed in Wisconsin, but the real location is never really mentioned that I can remember. A great deal of this film is done in the Sam Raimi/Evil Dead style, which is appropriate, given the genre and the basic subject matter.

Ten Days of Terror!: Single White Female

Film: Single White Female
Format: Starz Encore on rockin’ flatscreen.

I like Bridget Fonda. When I first started becoming interested in movies, she was one of the first actors I gravitated toward. Now that she has retired from the business—14 years without a movie—watching a Bridget Fonda movie comes with its own set of emotional experiences for me. There’s a wisp of nostalgia, a small bit of joy at seeing someone I like, and the realization that I’m old. One of the Bridget Fonda films I’d never caught up with until now is Single White Female. I’m not sure what that is, frankly. It’s certainly one that I knew about.

Single White Female is perhaps the last great pre-internet stalker film. We’re a few years before everyone had an email address and about three or four years before everyone had a cell phone. Single White Female is very much about identity as well. This is the sort of film that works on a number of different levels of fear. It’s the kind of thing that just barely scrapes by on the level of possibility, the sort of thing that makes a good thriller. We’re given a premise that is just on the edge but manages to still be completely believable.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: The Exorcist III

Film: The Exorcist III
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

The Exorcist was one of the most important horror movies ever made. So, naturally, a sequel was planned and made as well. The Exocist II: The Heretic is widely considered one of the worst sequels in film history. It’s the kind of thing that would typically end a series of films. It was that bad. So it’s actually a little surprising that 13 years after the disastrous sequel that a third movie was created. The Exorcist III does exist, though. Fortunately for all involved, it managed to attract no less a star than George C. Scott. It’s also surprisingly good, although nothing close to the original film.

The third film takes place 15 years after Georgetown was plagued by a serial killer known as the Gemini. Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) worked on the Gemini case in which the victims each had the index finger of his or her right hand removed and the Gemini symbol carved into the left palm. These details were incorrectly leaked to the press to prevent false confessions. Eventually, the Gemini killer was caught and executed. Now, however, a new series of killings is plaguing the town, each following the Gemini killer’s exact pattern, including each victim having a name that begins with a K.

Ten Days of Terror!: Flesh for Frankenstein

Film: Flesh for Frankenstein
Format: Internet video on laptop.

It was not without trepidation that I came to Flesh for Frankenstein. There’s a single reason for this: it’s sometimes known as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. I get why Warhol was important in the art world even if I’m not generally a fan of his work. That said, Andy Warhol’s Vinyl is the single worst movie I have ever seen. There are certainly movies that I’d want to watch again less than Vinyl, but I genuinely can’t think of a film that I’ve seen that was worse. That stays with you. It’s hard to trust again after one has been that badly burned.

Knowing that I had a mindset going in to dislike the film, I prepared myself for the worst. And, well, it’s not the worst film I’ve seen and not even the worst horror film I’ve seen. It’s not even the worst horror film I’ve seen this month. That doesn’t make it any good, though. It might well be that it was impossible for me to actually like Flesh for Frankenstein with as much of a negative set against it as I had. But I tried. I really did try.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Hard Candy

Films: Hard Candy
Format: DVD from NetFlex on laptop.

I try not to drop a lot of f-bombs on this website, but there are times when it becomes absolutely necessary. Hard Candy is fucking hardcore. This film is an emotional rollercoaster, one that plays with all of the expectations of the audience. We sympathize in with each of the two main characters in different ways and at different times. This is a film that works through a series of levels, a cat and mouse and cat game that builds relentlessly until it finally concludes. I can’t stress this enough—if you haven’t seen Hard Candy, it’s a film that will stay with you for a very long time.

We start with an internet conversation between an as-yet unknown man and woman who have been flirting with each other. They agree to meet, and it becomes evident that the woman is actually a girl, needing her sister to drop her off at their meeting place. So we know from the opening moments of the film that we’re dealing with pederasty at the very least. In this opening conversation, things are already uncomfortable.