Saturday, April 1, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, March 2023

Today is April Fool’s Day, a day that I genuinely dislike. It’s been my experience that many of the “jokes” that are played on this day are needlessly cruel, so it’s a day where I tend to avoid other people as much as I can, including social media. That’s neither here nor there with this blog, except to say that this post isn’t an April fool—it’s just my regular recap of the movies I’ve caught up with. There were more than listed here, though, because I did full reviews of a bunch of my catch up movies. In fact, almost half of the movies I removed from the giant list ended up with full reviews.

What I’ve Caught Up With, March 2023:
Film: Waking Ned Devine (1998)

A man in a tiny Irish town wins the lottery, and the shock of it kills him. His friends Michael (David Kelly) and Jackie (Ian Bannen) decide to claim the ticket, but since Ned has already put his name on it, they need to fake one of them being the real Ned and hope that the lottery officials don’t discover the ruse. Funny and heartfelt, Waking Ned Devine (or just Waking Ned) is a joy of a movie, and there are times the actors themselves can’t help but laugh. Remember when people made movies that were economical and ran 90 minutes and still told a complete story? They should do that again, and they can start here with how to do it.

Film: The Count of Monte Cristo (1934)

One of the early revenge pictures in the talkie era, The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic tale of bad actions, lost love, and adventure. This really is one of the prototypes of a classic adventure story. An innocent ship captain (Robert Donat) is imprisoned because his presence is in the way of three unscrupulous men. He escapes after years of imprisonment and returns with a fortune in lost treasure to enact his revenge. This is fun stuff, and while Donat feels too nice to be truly vengeful, he has the panache and style to pull it off. Very entertaining.

Film: The Street Fighter (1974)

It's hard not to see The Street Fighter as an attempt to make Sonny Chiba the next Bruce Lee. An overly complicated plot puts Chiba’s Takuma Tsurugi as a sort of freelance operative, assisted by his wacky sidekick Rakuda (Goichi Ramada). There are Yakuza, attempted kidnappings of an oil baroness, and a hell of a lot of fighting. Not a lot of this makes a great deal of sense, of course, but this is not a movie you watch for the plot. This is a movie to watch to see Sonny Chiba play whack-a-mole with a bunch of bad guys. Ridiculous, but a must-see for the Kung Fu Theater crowd. This got an X rating on its initial U.S. release, both for attempted rape and some substantial violence including a man having his junk ripped off by hand.

Film: 14 Peaks (2021)

Also known as 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible, this is one of those “triumph of the human spirit” movies, but it’s also one that really works. Nepalese mountain climber Nirmal “Nims” Purja decides that he’s going to scale the world’s 14 tallest mountains—the 14 that are taller than 8,000 meters. Previously, the record was completing this in less than eight years, but Nims makes the goal of scaling all 14 in seven months. Political issues, like getting permission to climb in Chinese-controlled Tibet and family issues plague the attempt. I’m happy to be thought of as a misanthropist in a lot of situations, but sometimes, humans are pretty damn amazing.

Film: Ice Cold in Alex (1958)

As someone who grew up watching films about World War II, Ice Cold in Alex was the film that I’d heard of in nothing but glowing terms but had never seen, so finding it streaming meant watching it immediately. Essentially, an alcoholic captain of a British ambulance corps (John Mills) is forced to take an ambulance through the desert. He’s accompanied by a pair of nurses, a sergeant major, and eventually a South African soldier. Along the way, they’ll deal with mines, bombers, tanks, and more. The name comes from Captain Anson’s desire to have an ice cold beer in Alexandria. There’s a great deal in common here with The Wages of Fear, and I mean that only in the most positive way. I’m very pleased to have finally seen this.

Film: Liar Liar (1997)

Made in the sweet spot of Jim Carey’s comedy career, just before he started dipping his toes into legitimate drama, Liar Liar puts Carey in the role of a sleezy lawyer who constantly lies, often to his young son Max (Justin Cooper), who nevertheless idolizes him. Disappointing his son one more time on Max’s birthday, the boy wishes that for one day his father will not be able to lie, and the wish comes true. Hilarious consequences and Carey’s brand of overacting follow. It’s mostly harmless and features a stellar cast (Carey Elwes, Moira Tierney, Jennifer Tilley, Amanda Donohoe, Jason Bernard, and Swoosie Kurtz among others). The very end is potentially troubling, though, especially for children who have lived through a divorce.


  1. I also recently caught up with Ice Cold In Alex, and it's a gem.

    1. It really is. I've been looking for it on and off for a few years, so I'm happy I located it.

  2. So you've recently seen TWO movies where guys get their junk ripped off. Unfortunate coincidence. (Not that I can't think of some people who would deserve that treatment.)

    1. Yeah--it's a very strange thing to see happen once, but twice? It's far more graphic in Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes, though.

  3. Some great pictures this month!

    I stumbled upon Ice Cold in Alex. I’d taken a shine to Sylvia Syms after seeing her in a few films close together and was looking through her filmography when the title caught my eye. I’d never heard of it but seeing the rest of the cast she was costarring alongside I sought it out. It was a bit too hard-bitten (not a complaint) for me to say I loved it but I was mightily impressed by both the performances and the overall film.

    I love the base story of The Count of Monte Cristo so any version of it starts off at an advantage and this is an entertaining take with Donat properly dashing though the lavish 2002 Jim Caviezel film captures the excitement of the tale best in my opinion.

    Jim Carrey for me is best taken in small doses usually but I thought Liar Liar was hilarious. Maybe because I went into it more or less blind when the original movie I’d gone to see was sold out and we chose the film at random because it was about to start. It was one that definitely benefited from being seen with an audience.

    Waking Ned Devine does have a great deal of quietly gentle charm even if some of the characters are irascible. Couldn’t agree more about the days of 90 minute or so films pithily told that were little gems waiting to be discovered. Their breed has all but vanished now sadly.

    Haven’t seen the other two and Street Fighter doesn’t really look like my deal but I’m very intrigued with 14 Peaks.

    1. I can't say that you're missing a great deal with The Street Fighter, but 14 Peaks is worth seeking out.

      I wanted to like Liar Liar more than I did. There's a lot here that works, but the ending is really unconscionable and feels dangerous--filmmakers should be forced to watch the end of Mrs. Doubtfire in that regard, because that movie gets it right.

      Waking Ned Devine and Ice Cold in Alex were the real finds for this month. I would love to see a return to that 90-100 minute length on films. Tell me the story and let me get on with my life. Not every movie needs an intermission, and not every story needs to be told in an epic style.