Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 2


Plot: Five college students go to a remote cabin only to be terrorized by forces out of their control...but in control by something totally unexpected.

Favorite part: When all hell breaks loose in the labyrinth of horrors underneath the cabin. Also, when Josh from The West Wing (above right) finally gets his wish and sees a merman.

Least favorite part: The story set up with the college students was necessary, but still a trifle slow.

Scariest part: When we learn that a well armed and trained SWAT team is no match for a motivated group of unleashed monsters.

Best screaming: The screams when the zombie redneck torture family first attack are pretty good. But the first scream is usually the best in these films.


Additional casting note: I didn't even recognize that the guy who played one of the students went on to later play Thor until after I watched the whole movie. I guess a lot of people don't recognize me either when I'm not wearing my Thor outfit.

Monday, October 20, 2014

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 1 


Plot: Three college students go out in the woods to film a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch. It does not go as planned.

Favorite part: Little tricks of the film, such as the leaving behind of cairns or faraway noises by the unseen antagonists add much to the tension of the film. (By the way, is this film a real documentary or not?)

Least favorite part: I'm not trying to be prudish here, but our travelers use of four letter words throughout their filmmaking journey got to be distracting after awhile. Save the cursin' for when the witch is chasin' ya!

Scariest part: The end, when we see one of the characters performing a ritual that was subtly alluded to during the course of the film.

Best screaming: At the end of the film, we hear the remaining survivor screeching for her companion, Mike! Wait! Mike!! Mike!!! Mike!!!! Mike!!!!



Additional note: The critical rating on this movie is thirty percent higher than the fan rating on the rotten tomatoes website. Perhaps what seemed so different and unique at one time can start to seem old hat to viewers if it gets imitated enough.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

THE NAKED GUN (1988), AKIRA (1988, JAPAN)



(1988)
The Naked Gun-In the early 80's, a new comedy series called Police Squad! came on television that wasn't your typical sitcom fare. It was in the broad style of the movie Airplane! (and from Airplane! creators Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers). The over the top humor of these films can be hilarious (most of Airplane!) or fall flat when not done with the right touch (most of Airplane II, without the Zuckers and Abrahams). I thought Police Squad! did have the right touch for the few episodes it was on and it also won praise as something totally different for its time. 

Unfortunately, it was a little too different to get any kind of a mass audience and was canceled after a handful of episodes. But the Zuckers and Abrahams didn't give up on the idea and the Police Squad! idea was resurrected in the full length feature The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! The silly but funny gags and the deadpan delivery of Leslie Neilsen made the movie a box office hit. It also spawned two successful sequels. The TV show that failed as a series became a very successful movie franchise!

My friend Droppo (and his baseball blog at http://atlantabraves19701980.blogspot.com/) wants to argue with me that The Naked Gun is actually a baseball movie. I understand that he sees everything through a baseball lens and I admit the scene with Leslie Neilsen enthusiastically calling balls and strikes is my favorite part of the movie. But it's not a baseball movie, Droppo.

Akira
Akira-I suppose my first experience with Japanese animation came with my viewing of the Speed Racer and Kimba the White Lion cartoons when I was a kid.  As I grew older, I began to think of these Japanese cartoons as being exaggerated and a bit silly. The later fascination of my children with Pokemon and Sailor Moon didn't help change my mind. But in going through the anime movies on this list with my son, I began to appreciate the genre. The Miyazaki films in particular and also the somber Grave of the Fireflies were all strong films.

Katsumiro Otomo's Akira is a whole different kettle of fish when compared to the Miyazaki films. I suppose Akira could be labeled as a futuristic, cyberpunk, apocalyptic, manga, action adventure extravaganza...with big monsters! I know these type of films (and their graphic novels) have their fans and I'm glad I got to watch this one, but I don't think I'll make a regular viewing habit of the genre (If I've even properly labeled what this genre even is!.)

Now where can I find some reruns of Speed Racer?

The Naked Gun and Akira may have made the 1001 list,  but here are a few more films from 1988 that I’ve seen that didn’t quite make the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die cut.

1.     The Unbearable Lightness of Being-I'm surprised this movie adaptation of Milan Kundera's book never made the 1001 book. Now that I've actually read the book, I'm wondering how they ever made a movie out of this at all! But I still love Lena Olin and her bowler hat.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
2.     Talk Radio-Movie based on the Eric Bogosian play and starring Eric Bogosian where the best thing in it is definitely Eric Bogosian!

3.     Track 29-I remember watching this with friends when it first came out on video. One of the friends said to his girlfriend who rented it after it was over, "Thanks for checking out the weirdest movie I've ever seen!" I wouldn't go that far, but a Nicholas Roeg movie with Gary Oldman and Theresa Russell has got to he a little weird.

4.     The Seventh Sign-Have a feeling this modern day tale of the apocalypse probably wouldn't date too well if  I saw it again. Demi Moore is the chosen one!

5.     Scooged-Movie featuring Bill Murray as a modern day Scrooge seems to be better thought of now than when it first was released. Bill is a favorite of mine and so is Karen Allen, so I'm prone to give this one a thumbs up.

6.     Patty Hearst-Strong and underrated Paul Schrader drama.

7.     My Neighbor Totoro-Speaking of anime...Miyazaki is well represented in the 1001 book, but I do wish they had still found room on the list for this one.
My Neighbor Totoro
8.     Midnight Run-Oddball teaming of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin worked here (from what I remember seeing it twenty-five years ago).

9.     High Spirits-Remember those years in the late 80's when it seemed that Steve Guttenberg was in every other movie?

10. Eight Men Out-Not exactly a "feel good" baseball movie, but not everything is. Hey, Droppo! This is a baseball movie!

11. Last Temptation of Christ-Boy, this movie caused a scandal when it was released. But put up against The Passion of the Christ, I'd go with this one. Sorry, Mel.

12. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels-Have I actually seen this movie? I know I've seen clips of it so many times over the years, but maybe I just think I've seen it. No, I'm going with I've seen it and leave it at that.

13. Cocktail-And speaking of seeing a movie in segments...I've definitely seen all of this Tom Cruise movie, just not in order. TBS has shown this movie at least a gazillion time over the last twenty-five years and I'm sure I've seen it all at some point.

14. Twins-I had a friend who told me they knew someone whose favorite movie was Twins. And not that I don't like Twins, but how can it be your favorite movie?

15. Beetlejuice-Come on 1001 book editors! How can you not give a little love to Beetlejuice?
Beetlejuice
Well, it's time for me to peel off the remains of my Dukakis for President bumper sticker and leave 1988 for now. I'm sure I'll return. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

SECONDS (1966)


Ted Turner's Atlanta area Superstation was the first TV channel that I ever experienced that showed movies through all hours of the night! And I watched quite a few of them growing up in the 70's. Perhaps the one I remember the most from this period was an odd film called Seconds. Perhaps the reason I remember it so well is because I only saw a portion of it, but the portion that I did see, I've never been able to shake.

Seconds is the story of a successful middle-aged man whose life has become stagnant and is given the opportunity to toss aside his old life and start anew through an operation that can gives him a different body and identity.

When I first watched this movie those thirty-plus years ago, it was kind of late at night and I fell asleep during the middle of it. So, I really only watched the first and last of it. I still liked it. Who needs the middle part, anyway? I think the dreamlike quality of this unusual movie seeping into my brain may have been aided by my falling in and out of sleep. I believe I tried to watch it again a year later and the same thing happened!

My memories of the movie over time were enhanced by the way I saw it. In fact, when I made a list a few years ago of my favorite movies, I felt obligated to put Seconds on it even if I hadn't seen the whole thing!

I can't recall it ever being on television in recent years and I never chose to seek it out. But since it is on the 1001 movie list and Criterion has put out a new DVD of it, I decided it was time.

It's funny (or maybe not so funny) that I'm now the same age as the main character in this movie. It really makes it seem odd that I was fifteen or so when I first saw it. I hopefully am not feeling the same dead end stagnation in my own life that the main character is feeling today, but it is definitely food for thought.

There are a few movies that I experience in an unusual way, but I think this is at the top of that list.So look for yourself and try not to fall asleep while watching it, but if you do that isn't necessarily a bad thing.