Saturday, November 6, 2021

What I've Caught Up With, October 2021

October was surprisingly productive on the “catching up on movies” front. In addition to the five that are listed here, I got through three that I posted full reviews of during my Ten Days of Terror marathon. Bulbbul, Bad Hair, and #Alive were all films recommended to me that I felt worked really well in the context of that yearly event. So, eight movies total, which is a pretty solid effort.

I’m behind on total films watched for the year. I might make it up to an average of 1/day, but right now, even that is looking pretty suspect.

What I’ve Caught Up With, October 2021:
Film: Glorious 39 (2009)

When you hear that Glorious 39 is a film that takes place before World War II and the presence of deep and terrible family secrets, you would probably go directly to collaboration with Nazis. Fortunately for all of us in the potential audience, this film isn’t going to present something so simple. This is a surprisingly engaging drama and one that respects its audience enough to be far more interesting in where the plot goes. A substantial cast (marred in small part by Eddie Redmayne, who I find vaguely intolerable) helps in creating something dripping with intrigue. Trigger warning for potential pet abuse; you’ll know it when you see it.

Film: Advise & Consent (1962)

Like many a Preminger film, Advise & Consent has a cast of thousands. This is a political thriller that centers around the nomination of a Secretary of State candidate (Henry Fonda) who once dabbled in communism as a youth. Filled with intrigue and backstabbing, blackmail, threats, and more, this is a movie that demonstrates that the more things may change in the world, the more the inner workings of power and government truly stay the same. Everybody has skeletons and everybody can be bought, and while the nature of those skeletons may change (one important subplot concerns a senator’s past gay rendezvous, which would be much less shocking today), the fact that those skeletons are there does not change.

Film: King Kong (2005)

What is there to say about Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong? The man followed up one of the greatest achievements in film with an overlong movie that tries to play on the special effects genius of LotR without much of the heart. There’s some weird inherent racism in this tale in a lot of places. Kong (played brilliantly by Andy Serkis) kills all of his previous native sacrifices, but falls in love with the white woman? Those natives are savages untouched by the civilizing influence of the white Americans? There’s the reality that the green screen work in scenes like the dinosaur stampede looks terrible, something shocking for a movie with this big of a budget and this many years after Jurassic Park. It’s also far too long. It’s nearly an hour longer than the 1976 remake, which was itself a good 30 minutes longer than the original. Did we really need to almost double the length of the original story?

Film: The Iceman Cometh (1973)

Of all the movies on the giant list, none was longer than The Iceman Cometh, which made it a priority to remove. I was not prepared for what it was. This is very clearly a filmed stage play, and while that is often troublesome for me, that’s not as much the case here. The cast is tremendous across the board, and the performances are as good as you’ll find. Robert Ryan is an actor who never really got his due, and he’s damned good in this, but everyone takes a backseat to Lee Marvin, who has never been better. That’s coming from someone who is a Lee Marvin fan. We spend four hours watching drunks in a bar talk about their sad little dreams only to have them confronted by the terrible reality of their newly-sober friend who has his own destroyed little pipe dreams. You could make a complete list of Best Supporting Actor nominations without leaving this film, especially the wild performance of Sorrell Booke, best known as Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard, and completely unrecognizable here.

Film: The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

A dandy revisiting of the classic tale and what is effectively the first-ever superhero story. The foppish Baronet Percy Blakeney (Anthony Andrews) is in secret the Scarlet Pimpernel, a secret agent saving the doomed aristocrats of revolutionary France. Along the way he falls in love with French actress Marguerite St. Just (Jane Seymour at her most gorgeous) and opposed by French agent Chauvelin (a ridiculously young Ian McKellan), who is also a rival for Marguerite’s hand. Secret identities, double dealing, mistakes and missed connections abound in a tale of intrigue and adventure. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, and sort of a boy’s-own adventure of the highest order.


  1. I saw King Kong in the theaters as I thought it was a really good remake. Yeah, it was bloated but fun as I really thought Naomi Watts was severely overlooked in the awards season.

    Yeah, I'm starting to despise anything with Eddie Redmayne right now as he's just a pretentious twat.

    1. I have yet to genuinely like Eddie Redmayne in anything. He is the sole reason I haven't watched the Fantastic Beasts movies at this point.

    2. Well, the first one was good but... oh... the 2nd film is just fucking unwatchable. It's not just Redmayne that is unbearable to watch but it's just a goddamn mess with no second act much of the film is about exposition and introducing new characters and such with Jude Law being the only thing worth watching. I hope the third film flops big time so that the whole Fantastic Beasts series ends and J.K. Rowling can stop milking bad fiction on her fans.

      The Harry Potter book and film series were enough as she didn't need to prove anything but instead, she became George Lucas.

    3. I do find it interesting that Rowling wrote a series of books that essentially stressed to kids the importance of acceptance, and of allowing people to live their own lives as much as they can without hurting others, and then she has gone on this weird "trans people are bad" kick.

      She taught an entire generation to fight against people who are doing what she is doing now.

    4. I also saw Jackson's King Kong in the theater and enjoyed much of it, but yes, it is WAY too long. It's definitely a forewarning that Jackson had lost his ability to edit himself, something that became even more obvious in the WAY too long Hobbit films.

      Don't bother with Fantastic Beasts. They had the opportunity to create a new series in a different era, not focused on dark wizards and wizard conflict, but playing up the fantasy (the beasts) and whimsy, and decided to go full on "Voldemort 2.0". A baffling decision that resulted in one mediocre and one god-awful movie so far. And yes, JK should sit the hell down and shut up about Trans folk. What a betrayal of the values expressed in the HP books.

    5. Jackson evidently fell prey to what Rowling herself did--that fear of editing. The first Harry Potter book is like 250 pages. The fifth one is like 1200 pages. The same thing happened with Stephen King. I like a lot of King's work, but most of it needs to be shorter.

      Oh, and it wouldn't be me if I didn't say that Quentin Tarantino suffers from the exact same illness.

  2. You did make out well this month with only one lemon in the bunch.

    I liked Glorious 39, even if my girl Julie Christie was underused. An interesting story with an impressive performance by Romola Garai who I thought would have had a bigger career by now. I’m indifferent to Redmayne but he doesn’t necessarily irk me. I just find him forgettable.

    Movies like Advise & Consent hit so many sweet spots for me-all-star cast, political intrigue etc. that make them eminently rewatch. I was a bit thrown though the first time I watched it and Betty White (!) popped up as a senator. Terrific performances across the board.

    I liked but didn’t love the first King Kong and thought the Jeff Bridges/Jessica Lange remake was silly but fun in its dumb way. However, I hated this one. There was no real sense of fun or adventure just CGI which I am sure has aged horribly, and it was endless. I don’t walk out of movies as a rule, but I was sorely tempted when this hit the 2 ½ hour mark with no end in sight! I’m in and out on Naomi Watts, she can be fine even good in one film and completely unimpressive in the next but whatever she is she is no Fay Wray.

    This is what I wrote about Iceman Cometh when I saw it and it still fits. Powerful, powerhouse full book adaptation of the Eugene O'Neill play couldn't be better presented but it's so long and full of doom and gloom it’s a hard one to embrace. I knew what I was walking into, I saw a stage adaptation with Jason Robards on Broadway years ago (with no intermission!!) but that did not make it an easier watch. It did provide a great capper for both Fredric March and Robert Ryan’s film careers, but I agree that Lee Marvin is a knockout.

    This is without question my favorite version of The Scarlet Pimpernel!! Anthony Andrews has just the right balance of refinement and athleticism to make him believable in both aspects of the lead. McKellan is properly hissable and cold and Jane Seymour (who I agree is at her most ravishing in the film) gives a skillful reading of her lady in distress. It’s also a beautiful looking production. It really is a boy’s own adventure and one of the best which is strange since the source novel (a great read) is told from Marguerite’s perspective but that wouldn’t work cinematically.

    My birthday project continues and while I didn’t see anything I absolutely loved this month it was much more fruitful than last month with four at least worth mentioning:

    Framed with Joe Don Baker & John Larch is a (quite violent) crime drama about how Joe Don finds himself in the title predicament.

    Moon Zero Two with James Olson was more in a humorous vein as a funky futuristic sci-fi with miles of vinyl costumes.

    Clear All Wires is a fast-moving MGM comic satire with Lee Tracy ideally cast as a fast-talking reporter not particularly burdened with ethics trying to drum up news in Stalin’s Russia. He’s supported by a great James Gleason and ditzy Una Merkel.

    The last isn’t really that great but knowing your affection for all kinds of horror I think you would get a kick out of The Leech Woman with Coleen Gray. It’s a goofy 50’s creeper, even though it was made in 1960 it screams 50’s drive-in fare.

    1. I'm still kind of disturbed at just how racist the recent King Kong felt in a lot of ways. I can convince myself that it was Jackson and Co. trying to stay true to the original story, but it still comes across as really upsetting in that respect. It's also almost worth tracking down just to see how bad some of the CGI is, but it's only worth it if you jump ahead to the dinosaur parts.

      I still say that Sorrell Booke's work in Iceman is so noteworthy because he is unrecognizable in the role. I had no idea that's who was playing that character.

      I've actually seen Moon Zero Two, but only because it was a featured movie on Mystery Science Theater 3000.