November 18, 2017

Justice League.


Review #1011: Justice League.

Cast: 
Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Henry Cavill (Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince / Wonder Woman), Ezra Miller (Barry Allen / Flash), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry / Aquaman), Ray Fisher (Victor Stone / Cyborg), Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Connie Nielsen (Hippolyta), J. K. Simmons (James Gordon), and Ciarán Hinds (Steppenwolf) Directed by Zack Synder (#788 - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

Review: 
To fellow readers: I did not intend for this review to be over 700 words, but here we are. Hopefully this review is consistent enough and useful for you.

Admittedly, the DC comic book films over the past few years have a been a bit...diverse (#788 - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice#828 - Suicide Squad, #942 - Wonder Woman), with their own particular brand of taste and style (and that is putting it lightly). This remains the case with this film, which is certainly a strange movie for one that is also wildly mediocre. Sure, I enjoyed the movie, but it is easily one that won't go down as anything great (in fairness, it's not like Thor: Ragnarok will go down as a hallmark of comic book films). It's clear that this movie wants to be lighter and fun, with varying results that come off as slightly inconsistent, particularly with characters like Batman, though that is not the biggest flaw. In any case, let me start with the main six, which is certainly an interesting bunch.

Affleck pulls off a pretty decent performance, being somewhat endearing even if seems like the character shifts tone from stoic to snarky, though it isn't too awfully distracting. Gadot is the best one of the group, being quite enjoyable and graceful as she was in her prior film. Miller is fairly entertaining in the film and is likely the most amusing part of the film. Momoa is fairly decent, though I'd say it takes time for him to really grow on you. Fisher is probably the weakest of the six, feeling a bit flat (though his character is at least useful to the plot). Cavill (with accompanying CGI-erased mustache) is decent enough for the time that he appears, but he doesn't really appear as much as he probably should've appeared. The supporting cast aren't really given much to do, and that can prove to be a bit disappointing (even in a movie all about the main six). It's not so much that Hinds does a terrible job as the villain as it is the fact that his character just isn't compelling to watch. with this being the worst part of the film. He is not a character that ever inspires fear or anything other than a mild expression, with his scenes with dialogue or fighting reminding me more of cut-scenes than actual scenes. Naturally, he is a villain that doesn't take too long to take down, with the victory feeling somewhat hollow that actually feels amusing to laugh at. The action sequences prove to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, they are sometimes pretty entertaining in their spectacle. On the other hand, the CGI just doesn't hold up that well, and for a movie that was reportedly made for over $300 million it certainly seems puzzling to see how it doesn't really work in the department. The film is at least sometimes amusing, and the cast does seem to have some good chemistry with each other, although at times it can come off a bit rushed, which can also apply in some way to the plot, which isn't too special, especially when it seems to go all over the place with its characters.

The film certainly feels a bit jumbled, no doubt due to post-production efforts in which Josh Whedon  (director of #312 - The Avengers and #706 - Avengers: Age of Ultron) was hired to rewrite additional scenes. In May of this year, Snyder stepped down during this process due to the death of his daughter, with Whedon taking over for rest of post-production, serving as director for scenes that he had written. In any case, Snyder is listed as the only director, though Whedon is given a credit for the screenplay (along with Chris Terrio, who had also co-written the story with Synder). The film certainly feels like a jumbling of numerous things, trying to give time for the three characters without their own film (Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg). Subsequently, the film feels rushed when trying to deliver exposition for them.

Ultimately, this is a movie that achieves its most basic goals of being escapism and entertainment. It is ridiculous in how okay it is, but I found it to be fairly acceptable, warts and all. It isn't anything worthwhile, but it's a movie that will prove just enough for some audiences. Take this film for what it's worth.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

November 17, 2017

Moon.


Review #1010: Moon.

Cast: 
Sam Rockwell (Sam Bell), Kevin Spacey (GERTY), Dominique McElligott (Tess Bell), Kaya Scodelario (Eve Bell), Benedict Wong (Thompson), Matt Berry (Overmeyers), and Malcolm Stewart (The Technician) Directed by Duncan Jones.

Review: 
In terms of science fiction, the genre is certainly interesting for how diverse and how thought provoking it can be with its use of imaginative and futuristic concepts. It's clear that Moon wants to be like some of the classic sci-fi films, such as Silent Running (#091) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (#093), with its own touch of humanity and intelligence. Made on a budget of $5 million, this is an efficient movie that showcases its ideas and never looks off for the most part. Rockwell is the only actor physically on-screen, and he certainly takes good advantage of that, having a fairly outstanding time with this role. If you don't find him to be all that effective to root for or care about, you likely won't have much of a good time with the film, and I will admit that it took me a while to get into the film fully, but it earns its moments with Rockwell fairly well. Spacey does a fine job with this sentient computer role, being slightly creepy but also effective.

I can't really delve into the plot details too much, because doing so would spoil the mystery and fun of seeing it for oneself, but I will say that it is interesting to watch unfold on screen, having a fine pace that certainly rolls itself coherently for my taste. I will admit that the scenes with the hallucinations are a bit odd, mainly because I feel that they don't really go that well with the rest of the plot, feeling a bit out-of-place with what the film wants to be. At 97 minutes, it is fairly paced, with some suspense that does take its time but ultimately feels worthy. The miniature model work is pretty good, having a look and feel that works while having a nice-looking quality to it that fits well with the movie. On the whole, this is a very well made movie, utilizing its human elements and fine movie-making by Jones in his directorial debut that works more often than not in being good science fiction that simply lets you wonder.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 15, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok.


Review #1009: Thor: Ragnarok.

Cast: 
Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Karl Urban (Skurge), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner / Hulk), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Taika Waititi (Korg), Rachel House (Topaz), Clancy Brown (Surtur) Directed by Taika Waititi.

Review: 
It is interesting to see how one will be able to compare this film to the previous two installments, Thor (#041) and Thor: The Dark World (#827), along with how it compares to the other two Marvel films released this year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (#932) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (#966). In a way, this is a film that wins and loses with regard to comparison. On the one hand, it is likely the lesser of the three Marvel films for this year, but on the other hand, it is likely the best Thor film yet. Hemsworth had already shined in the previous two films (along with appearances that he made in other Marvel films), but he does a tremendous job this time around, having a fun flair that is energetic along with entertaining. Hiddleston also does a pretty good job once again, having a mischievous but also fairly compelling, and his scenes with Hemsworth are entertaining. Blanchett does a fair job as the villain, having a few moments where she seems menacing, though I wouldn't say it is really too memorable or great. Goldblum, on the other hand, is pretty maniacal but also pretty entertaining for such a strange role, and he takes full advantage of it that works pretty well. Elba and Thompson are fine, with Hopkins and Cumberbatch doing well in the time that they appear on screen and Ruffalo being decent as well. The end credit scenes are fairly nifty as usual.

The film certainly tries to play itself for more of a comedic angle this time around, and on some level it works but it also can seem a bit overplayed and distracting, depending on the kind of mood or tone you're looking for. It feels more earned for something like the Guardians of the Galaxy films than it does for this film, but I will say that this film at least does shine with some amusement, with Hemsworth and Ruffalo's scenes being pretty good examples of that. At 130 minutes, it seems to have a fairly coherent pace, and while the film may not work for everyone, it certainly had enough to win me over with the fun that it has.

And with that, this ends the 117th review of Movie Night for the year of 2017. It isn't exactly an accomplishment, but this review means that there are more reviews published than there were last year in total (116). In any case, it's good to see some sort of productivity from myself (heck, there were only 90 reviews in 2015), so here's to productivity and more reviews in the future.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 14, 2017

The Racket (1951).


Review #1008: The Racket.

Cast: 
Robert Mitchum (Captain Thomas McQuigg), Lizabeth Scott (Irene Hayes), Robert Ryan (Nick Scanlon), William Talman (Officer Bob Johnson), Ray Collins (District Attorney Mortimer X. Welch), Joyce MacKenzie (Mary McQuigg), Robert Hutton (Dave Ames), Virginia Huston (Lucy Johnson), and William Conrad (Detective Sergeant Turk) Directed by John Cromwell.

Review: 
When I reviewed the original 1928 version of The Racket (#901), I described it as an efficient film that ran at a fine pace that pushed the right buttons and served its purpose as a crime drama that had originally served as a stage play the previous year. In any case, it is interesting reviewing the remake that was made just two decades later, with the man who had starred as McQuigg in the original Broadway production serving as director. In any case, this is a movie that isn't much of an improvement on the original, though it is also a movie that is at best moderately satisfying to the standard of film noir crime drama that you might expect. The best thing about the movie is the scenes involving Mitchum and Ryan, such as their first scene together, when the latter ends up having to deal with his brother's involvement with a singer and an ensuing conversation about his care for him - along with dialogue about how the other will try to pull one over the other. There isn't much going for the film that you could already see in other gangster films (or even the original version), and the characters themselves aren't really all too interesting. Sure, Mitchum and Ryan pull off fine performances, and the rest of the cast are fairly decent, but they can't really elevate these characters to anything too special or compelling, although Conrad is certainly interesting to watch even when in the background. It seems to hint at something more with the corruption element, but it never really comes off as anything too revealing nor does it seem like it wants to say something more relevant than what you might expect. Oddly, though Cromwell is the only credited director, four other directors directed supplemental scenes in the film due to re-shoots ordered by Howard Hughes (owner of the studio that released the film, RKO Radio Pictures): Nicholas Ray (director of Rebel Without a Cause (#181) and Bigger Than Life (#928), Tay Garnett (director of films such as the 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice), Sherman Todd (who also served as editor of the film) and Mel Ferrer (actor/director). Notable scenes that Ray directed include the beginning scene with the the Crime Commission, a police locker sequence, and other bits and pieces.

At 88 minutes, it's not exactly a slog of a film to go through, and it is a movie that is on a basic level entertaining, but it's really hard to recommend this film over other films (The Big Combo (#934), He Walked by Night (#947), or the 1928 original). On a grading scale, this would fall along a C level, but I can't blame someone for finding it useful to watch at least once. It's a mess, but it is a fine mess that shines in all sorts of directions for everyone, for better or for worse, being a pretty good example of a toss-up.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

November 9, 2017

Attack of the Crab Monsters.


Review #1007: Attack of the Crab Monsters.

Cast: 
Richard Garland (Dale Drewer), Pamela Duncan (Martha Hunter), Russell Johnson (Hank Chapman), Leslie Bradley (Dr. Karl Weigand), Mel Welles (Jules Deveroux), Richard H. Cutting (Dr. James Carson), Beach Dickerson (Seaman Ron Fellows), Tony Miller (Seaman Jack Sommers), and David Arvedon (voice of Hoolar the Giant Crab) Directed by Roger Corman (#368 - The Little Shop of Horrors, #684 - It Conquered the World, #852 - The Terror, and #931 - Not of This Earth)

Review: 
Giant radiation-mutated (and telepathic) crab monsters. What's there to say with a premise like that? Quite a bit, actually, although not much of it would be about the scientific accuracy of such a thing, because that spoils the fun in a movie that strives for entertainment and succeeds for the most part. This is a sci-fi horror film (released by Allied Artists) that also has injections of humor during the film, but the real star of the show is never too far behind, with action and suspense occurring at a fairly decent rate. The crabs themselves are pretty...ugly, but what does one expect other than what you get? They don't look too shabby, at least. The acting as a whole is fairly acceptable, nothing that would garner any sort of awards but also not something that would garner too much derision. It has the kind of characters you would expect, albeit with a voice of the giant crab that randomly pops up from time to time that is sometimes chilling but also sometimes ridiculous (if one thought about it too much anyway). This was made for around $70,000, with the film proving itself to be a big success that reportedly made around a million dollars, and it's not really hard to see why. It has an interesting title that it mostly lives up to while also being something you'd watch in a drive-in with company (or alternatively on the Internet on a lark). Unsurprisingly, the film has a run-time of 62 minutes, so that can make this seem like a fair breeze. It was released as part of a double bill with Not of This Earth, and while I will say they both fall under the same kind of quality, the former may be just a bit better, though they both could easily be fine films to watch for anyone looking for some good ol' ridiculous fun.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

November 8, 2017

Fantastic Planet.


Review #1006: Fantastic Planet.

Cast: 
Jean Valmont (Terr), Eric Baugin (young Terr), Jennifer Drake (Tiwa), Jean Topart (Master Sinh), and Gérard Hernandez (Master Taj) Directed by René Laloux.

Review: 
Sorry for the wait for the past few reviews. It has been a while since I touched upon a film that falls under the world cinema label, particularly since this is the first review of a film from the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993), with this being a co-production with France, which I haven't covered since the Three Colors trilogy (#601#602#603) back in 2014. In any case, enjoy the review.

The film (known in France as La Planète sauvage and Divoká planeta in Czech) is certainly an interesting piece of cinema, seeing as it was a co-production between companies from France and Czechoslovakia that was in production for roughly six years, with it being based off the novel Oms en série by Stefan Wul. It was the winner of the Grand Prix special jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. In terms of animation and science fiction, this is certainly a film that stands out among others in its genre, being a unique and strange experience that certainly has more to say than it may first let on. It won't exactly fall as one of my favorite films in either genre, but it will definitely fall as one of those films that certainly deserve a curious look. It's a surreal piece of work, but it is a curious fantastical piece that certainly sticks out with its animation, which was hand-drawn while having stop motion cutouts that gives the movie an alien feel, with a rigid but focused sense of space and medium that contrasts with something that you might see in a Disney film. There is just something alive about how this alien world comes off that just makes the film shine, whether one is watching the film intently or not. There isn't much to the voice acting, though Valmont is certainly acceptable as the narrator, with the other voices fitting the alien nature fine enough. There isn't too much to the character themselves, but the story that it tells (and however one interprets it) make it worthwhile to sit through. At 71 minutes, the film isn't too hard of a sit-through, though it will certainly play better for others depending on what they are looking for in an animated film or in science fiction. It isn't exactly anything too great for me, but I can definitely find why someone else would really enjoy the film's vision, or in contrast find the film to be muddled in itself. I myself found it to be pretty good, mainly because of it having a fairly good grasp of what it aims for and having the visuals to back it up, for the most part.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 4, 2017

Annie Hall.


Review #1005: Annie Hall.

Cast: 
Woody Allen (Alvy "Max" Singer), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Tony Roberts (Rob), Carol Kane (Allison Portchnik), Paul Simon (Tony Lacey), Janet Margolin (Robin), Shelley Duvall (Pam), Christopher Walken (Duane Hall), Colleen Dewhurst (Mrs. Hall), and Donald Symington (Mr. Hall) Directed by Woody Allen.

Review: 
Let's get this out of the way, the film was the winner of four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director (Woody Allen), Actress (Keaton) and Original Screenplay (Allen and Marshall Brickman) Whether one finds the film to be deserving of its accolades or not, it's evident to see the amount of love the film received (and still receives) from audiences. For me, the turnout was almost exactly what I thought it would be: it was a good movie, but I didn't exactly find it to be anything too greatly special. I can at least appreciate it during its amusing moments. I will state that it does have some interesting techniques (such as split-screen), and it definitely is a film worth watching at least once, whether one is a fan of Allen or not (I fall into the category of "un-experienced"). The highlight of the movie turns out to be Keaton and her performance, mainly because of how charming and effective she proves herself to be, like when she sings, and she has interesting chemistry with Allen at times, which can be amusing.

It's a bit hard for me to say my thoughts on Allen's performance in the film, seeing how he also wrote and directed the film as well. On the one hand, the film is capably directed and fairly constructed. On the other hand, his character (full of neurosis and eccentric quirks) can prove grating at times, particularly if you don't have patience. I just couldn't get into (or care) about this character and his characteristics, but at least I can say that the basic story about love and memory is interesting enough that he doesn't completely make this insufferable. Others may find him or the film easier to relate to, but I can't really embrace what the film goes for, like how a Texan can't simply just be a fan of things from New York (or vice versa). This is likely a film that would work best on a second (or third) watch, but I can't really bring myself to do that as much as I probably would do for other films. That's not to say that it is unwatchable, it's just not something I think I'll find myself wanting to look over again and again (though if you do find yourself doing that, I don't blame you). Roberts is fairly interesting, and the rest of the cast (including one scene appearances from Duvall and Walken) serve their purpose well, with one notable cameo from Marshall McLuhan being somewhat amusing. By the time the film ends, there is some sort of satisfaction in having seen how the film plays itself out through its 93 minute run-time and how it works pretty well as a romantic comedy that isn't too boring or too sappy. Simply put, this is a film that I expected to be just fine, and I got what I wanted, for the most part. Take the film for what it is, and you'll probably get something out of it.

If you didn't already know, my Houston Astros won the World Series a few days ago. As a native Texan, it is a joy to say those words at long last. This was a great (if not stressful) World Series that had two great teams that pushed the boundaries of sanity in terms of fun. In the end, it was all worth it, and I finally get to see the World Series title come to Texas.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

October 31, 2017

Equinox.


Review #1004: Equinox.

Cast: 
Edward Connell (David Fielding), Barbara Hewitt (Susan Turner), Frank Bonner (Jim Hudson), Robin Christopher (Vicki), Jack Woods (Asmodeus), Fritz Leiber (Dr. Arthur Waterman), James Philips (Reporter Sloan), Patrick Burke (Branson), Jim Duron (Orderly and Green Giant), Norvelle Brooks (Detective Harrison), and Irving L. Lichtenstein (Old Man) Directed by Jack Woods and Dennis Muren.

Review: 
Equinox is certainly an intriguing standout, in that not only was it made for a budget of $6,500, it featured stop-motion effects and cel animation, with Dennis Muren (eight time winner of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects) providing (along with David W. Allen and Jim Danforth) the effects that make what would've been just an ultra low-budget movie stick out among other horror "midnight movie" flicks. The film (known as The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural) was originally a short film made over the span of over two years by Muren, Allen and Danforth that the former made while attending college, with the result being liked enough by Tonylyn Productions to distribute it. Jack Woods was hired to direct additional footage by producer Jack H. Harris (producer of #418 - The Blob) in order to make it feature-length, with the final run-time being 80 minutes long, which certainly seems efficient.

The main four characters aren't really anything you wouldn't see in in a monster film, although they are at least somewhat competent.  Woods does a decent job in a role as odd as the one he plays, which is certainly strange. Famed fantasy and horror writer Fritz Leiber appears in the film in a brief but crucial role, despite having no spoken lines. Famed magazine editor and literary agent Forrest J Ackerman also appears in the film as one of the voices heard on the tape recorder in the film. Neither have starring roles, but it is interesting to note their appearances due to their roles in literature and fandom. As for the main four, they do relatively decent jobs, but the real star of the show is the special effects, which are fairly impressive for the time. There's just something about how they move and how they gel with the human actors to make this is an interesting watch. The plot is certainly a bit erratic (along with odd to follow at times), but it keeps itself going on the basis of its energetic spirit. The film gets more interesting (along with more odd) in the second half, but it is worth it due to the effects along with a fairly cohesive horror setup, with a climax that while weird is certainly fitting for something like this. It isn't a classic, but it is at the very least an interesting curiosity that merits at least one watch.

Happy Halloween folks.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

October 25, 2017

Child's Play (1988).


Review #1003: Child's Play.

Cast: 
Alex Vincent (Andy Barclay), Catherine Hicks (Karen Barclay), Chris Sarandon (Detective Mike Norris), Brad Dourif (Charles Lee Ray/voice of Chucky), Dinah Manoff (Maggie Peterson), Tommy Swerdlow (Jack Santos), Jack Colvin (Dr. Ardmore), Raymond Oliver (John Bishop), and Neil Giuntoli (Eddie Caputo) Directed by Tom Holland (#614 - Thinner)

Review: 
I will admit, it took longer to finally cover one of these films than I thought it would, especially since Chucky is a character that is still appearing in films (with the seventh installment coming out just this month), and it is interesting to watch a horror film about a killer doll, though whether this is actually a scary slasher film is up to you. For me, I thought it was a decent movie, with Dourif (along with the animatronics used for Chucky) being the key highlight. Vincent does an decent job (for a child actor), and Hicks is fairly acceptable as well, but my level of entertainment were with Chucky. It's not so much that he is terrifying as it is that it's an interesting villain for a slasher film because of how clever the doll seems (my question though: would there have been any effect on Chucky if they had put batteries in the doll?). The film takes its time before letting Chucky "reveal himself", and whether that comes off as tedious or somewhat clever is up to you, although it really shouldn't be surprising to current viewers, anyway. The voodoo parts are what they are: stuff to explain the story, and I suppose they work well enough.

If I had to compare this to anything, I'd probably compare it to The Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll" (1963) which had a sentient doll, although that one was a bit more suspenseful though this is a fairly capable thriller. The film works best in its second half with Dourif being fairly entertaining and quite resourceful (for a doll, anyway). His voice just fits well (especially considering the actual voice of the doll) with this role. At 87 minutes, this is fairly decent horror fare, and if you find yourself into the concept and wanting more there are more than enough follow-up films for your taste.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

October 23, 2017

Willard (1971).


Review #1002: Willard.

Cast: 
Bruce Davison (Willard Stiles), Sondra Locke (Joan), Elsa Lanchester (Henrietta Stiles), Ernest Borgnine (Al Martin), Michael Dante (Brandt), and J. Pat O'Malley (Farley) Directed by Daniel Mann (#514 - Our Man Flint)

Review: 
When it comes to horror films, Willard is certainly a interestingly strange one. I've done films with killer animals before (such as #462 - Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), #480 - Jaws (1975), #823 - Zaat (1971)), but here's one with killer rats...although they don't exactly do too much killing. Whether that is actually a positive or a negative is up to you, but I found this to be such an average movie (based off a short novel named Ratman's Notebooks (1969) by Stephen Gilbert) that it really didn't matter all too much. The real horror seems to be the human characters and how they act to each other, which actually makes me laugh a bit, mostly because you're supposed to feel for this main character (who just happens to like rats), but I found him to be occasionally annoying (the same could sometimes be said for Lanchester's character, although she is fine). Davison does a decent job with the material he is given with, although I can't really find myself caring too much (this can apply to Locke's character as well). Somehow, Borgnine is my favorite from this film, probably because his maverick demeanor is somewhat amusing. If you are wondering how the special effects are...it's about what you'd expect with rats tearing someone apart. I don't particularly care for rats myself, but I'm not exactly afraid of them. The length of 95 minutes is fairly tolerable, although one has to slog through a first half that sometimes can feel slow, though its second half is at least somewhat serviceable. The climax of the film is likely the best part of the film, for better or for worse, but I can't really convince myself that this movie is anything but just an average b-movie. That's not to say that I am not a fan of what the film was going for (or that I don't like b-movies), but I just can't find myself saying that is really any better than a film like Kingdom of the Spiders. As a whole, this is a mediocre film that inspires a few more laughs than frights/thrills, but it is a somewhat serviceable film for people in the right state of mind.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

October 21, 2017

Money Talks.



Review #1001: Money Talks.

Cast: 
Chris Tucker (Franklin Maurice Hatchett), Charlie Sheen (James Russell), Gerard Ismael (Raymond Villard), Heather Locklear (Grace Cipriani), Elise Neal (Paula), Michael Wright (Aaron), Paul Sorvino (Tony Cipriani), Larry Hankin (Roland), and Paul Gleason (Det. Bobby Pickett) Directed by Brett Ratner (#012 - X-Men: The Last Stand, #305 - Rush Hour, #306 - Rush Hour 2, #402 - Rush Hour 3)

Review: 
It is not so much that this movie is not good as it is that it is not worth giving extensive criticism to. Does one really need over 500 words to express how this is just a film I didn't care much for? In the four films that Ratner and Tucker have teamed up together for (with this being their first), I found only one of them (Rush Hour) to actually be satisfyingly entertaining enough, and that was because the duo of Tucker and Jackie Chan actually worked out quite well (the same can't be said for the sequels).

In this case, Tucker is paired with Sheen, who can be a decent actor when in a coherent comedy (and occasional drama), but they simply aren't an effective duo together. Sure, you could make the case that they aren't supposed to be like other buddy duos (after all, one is a reporter while the other is a hustler), but I never really found myself wanting to care about what goes on with these two. Tucker (and his shtick) is tolerable to a point, with some likely having more (or less) patience with him and his lines. He falls along the middle for me, but that's not really much of a compliment. He certainly is more interesting than Sheen, who doesn't really have much to do. The villain (Ismael) is fairly generic; the only other interesting supporting character is Sorvino, who seems right at home in this role somehow. Simply put, this is a movie without much fire in it. Why should I care about their attempt to get to sweeps week? Why should I care about the valuable diamonds? Or the random twist involving a minor character at the end? If you have read some of the reviews on this show, you know that I do not try to over-think things in a film or overtly go critical on a film, because what purpose does that serve to you? This is a movie that would likely be easy bait for someone wanting to get irritated while not striving for anything other than just being a piece of entertainment. It's not a movie to use as an example of lazy filmmaking nor is it something worth fawning nostalgic over (even after 20 years), but it's a film that is what it is. I can't say this is an awful movie, and I also can't say I blame someone if they like (or at least tolerate) the film. Take that for what it's worth.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

October 19, 2017

The Last Picture Show.


Review #1000: The Last Picture Show.

Cast: 
Timothy Bottoms (Sonny Crawford), Jeff Bridges (Duane Jackson), Cybill Shepherd (Jacy Farrow), Ben Johnson (Sam the Lion), Cloris Leachman (Ruth Popper), Ellen Burstyn (Lois Farrow), Eileen Brennan (Genevieve), Clu Gulager (Abilene), Sam Bottoms (Billy), Randy Quaid (Lester Marlow), Gary Brockette (Bobby Sheen), Sharon Taggart (Charlene Duggs), Barc Doyle (Joe Bob Blanton), Bill Thurman (Coach Mr. Popper), Jessie Lee Fulton (Miss Mosey), Joe Heathcock (Town Sheriff), John Hillerman (English Teacher), and Frank Marshall (Tommy Logan) Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

Review: 
Here it is. The big one. I hope to satisfy you folks with the review of this film, which I had been longing to do for quite some time, so what better way than now? It also happens to be a film set and shot in my home state of Texas. Enjoy the show.

It sometimes feels hard to explain the benefits or the highlights of the town you live in, especially if you live in a small city. What does it have that another city doesn't have? Is there much to having civic pride? Based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry, The Last Picture Show is an interesting look into what makes up a dying little town such as this, and the characters that live in it. Bottoms and Bridges are a fairly effective duo, each having an interesting quality to them that stands out, such as Bottoms' eyes and Bridges' charm, and they both do tremendous jobs that stick out in a cavalcade of stand-out performances. Shepherd (in her debut role) does a spirited job, managing to be interesting along with alluring. Near the halfway point of the film, Johnson's character reminisces about the time spent in a prairie, and the way that he talks about old memories seem like something you could hear from someone in your neck of the woods if you gave a listen. He doesn't have too many lines (in fact he is in the film for nine minutes), but it is the way that he expresses them that makes him an enduring figure in the film, as if he was the soul of the town. Leachman also pulls a capable job, particularly during the climax. The rest of the cast stick out in their own little ways. This film was nominated for six Academy Awards, with Johnson and Leachman winning for supporting roles. These are characters worth watching because these are characters that we can see with fair honesty. They don't suddenly become comic characters for no reason, nor do they become melodramatic, and that serves to be a key highlight and something worth striving for in film today. Is it a bleak film? At times it is, but it also manages to be moving along with enduring, and Bogdanovich is the one responsible for making a movie as put together and complete as this one is.

The city's flatness and empty nature is perfectly captured by the cinematography by Robert Surtees, in part because of how he arranges the shots; the fact that it is shot in black-and-white (decided by Bogdanovich through a conversation with Orson Welles) also helps in showing this town (and its people) with a certain aesthetic that proves fitting for the movie. Everything from the music (with songs from artists such as Hank Williams) to even the clip of the "last picture show" (from the ending of Red River) is planned out in an effective manner. The film proved to be a success upon release, and a Special Edition Director's cut was released in 1992 that added seven minutes to the run-time (making it 127 minutes) that adds a bit to the film's stature. It's a coming-of-age film, but it also is an honest movie that never seems to break its mood nor its intentions. This is a movie worth watching in part because of how it captures the essence of the time it portrays along with its town that seem fresh even after over 40 years since its release.

I just wanted to give a word of thanks to any and all viewers of Movie Night over the past one thousand reviews. It has been a pleasure doing so many reviews in nearly seven years, and I will be the first to say that they have improved in quality over time - but having at least a few people read them (and share appreciation on occasion) feels nice. I do not know what is in store for the next batch of reviews, but I hope that you will enjoy them. Thank you. 

Overall, I give it 10 out of 10 stars.

Attached is a compilation of various celebratory landmarks over the past few years, from the 50th all the way to now. Enjoy:

October 18, 2017

The Man Who Laughs (1928).


Review #999: The Man Who Laughs.

Cast: 
Mary Philbin (Dea), Conrad Veidt (Gwynplaine / Lord Clancharlie), Brandon Hurst (Barkilphedro), Olga Baklanova (Duchess Josiana), Cesare Gravina (Ursus), Stuart Holmes (Lord Dirry-Moir), Samuel de Grasse (King James II Stuart), George Siegmann (Dr. Hardquanonne), and Josephine Crowell (Queen Anne Stuart) Directed by Paul Leni (#863 - Waxworks)

Review: 
I figured that it would be fitting to do a silent film for the 999th review, with this being the 62nd of its type covered on Movie Night. You may notice that the square right next to the title card is in a few colors like pink, grey and black. These colors were utilized for the 99th review (Mutiny on the Bounty), albeit with a bit more stylizing this time around. Enjoy this review.

This was adapted from Victor Hugo's 1869 novel of the same name. The novel had one previous adaptation in 1921 named The Grinning Face, made in Austria. Universal had previously adapted Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (#850) back in 1923, and the intent was to have Chaney star in the title role after the success of that film, although issues to the rights of the novel meant that Chaney would be released from doing this film in favor of The Phantom of the Opera (#774). After that film's release, producer Carl Laemmle decided to try and make this as his next attempt at Gothic success, with Veidt picked to play the title role. Leni, who had recently moved to Hollywood after having been invited by Laemmele, was selected as director. Both choices prove to be fairly crucial in why this film works as well as it does; Leni uses his lighting and sets to fine effect, as one might expect from a German Expressionist such as him. Veidt wears a makeup device that made his mouth swollen while being supplied disturbing teeth, which contributes to the look of his character. While it is a great effect, it takes a good actor to help convey numerous emotions with only his eyes, and Veidt stands up to the challenge quite well. The appearance of Veidt proved to be the visual inspiration for the comic book villain the Joker, appearing in comics over a decade later. Philbin, playing a role not too different from her role from Phantom of the Opera (in which she played opposite Chaney), does a decent job, given that she is playing a blind person.

This film is sometimes counted as one of the films of the Universal Monsters series, and while it isn't much of a horror film, there is a fair amount of gloom within its tone to make a case for it, although it also has elements of romance and swashbuckling action. Yes, it has a climax with excitement, but the scenes that precede it also can be sad, such as when Veidt's character is shown in a freak show, or when he is being propositioned by Baklanova's character. The scene at the House of Lords proves to a moving and effective scene in part because of Vedit and his mannerisms towards the others. Though this is a silent movie, it was (on re-release) shown with sound effects, a synchronized score, and even a theme song (named "When Love Comes Stealing"). The sounds we get to hear are of laughter during the freak show, which is certainly a startling (and satisfying) effect, and the theme is fairly passable as well. As a whole, this is an efficient movie that satisfies on numerous levels while being fairly paced well at 110 minutes. It might not be the horror film that you might expect from seeing Veidt's appearance on screen, but it is a satisfying romance drama (with a bit of horror) with enough competence and style to make a top-notch effort.

Well. Here we are at end of review nine hundred ninty-nine. 
You are likely wondering what is next for the one thousandth review, so I'll tell you...

...tomorrow night, when the review is actually up. I'm not trying to hype the review, but I figure it makes sense to let you all wonder a bit and enjoy. 

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

October 13, 2017

Special - Michael Jackson's Thriller.


Review #X: Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Cast: 
Michael Jackson, co-starring Ola Ray, with 'Rap' from Vincent Price. Directed by John Landis (#328 - Trading Places, #410 - Coming to America, and #513 - Spies Like Us)

Dancers: Marcea Lane, Kim Blank, Lorraine Fields, Tony Fields, Michele Simmons,,Vincent Peters, Michael Peters, Vincent Paterson, Michael De Lorenzo, Ben Lokey, John Command, Richard Gaines, Mark Sellers, Suzan Stadner, Diane Geroni and Suga Pop.

Review: 
You probably are wondering what am I doing reviewing a music video, especially on Friday the 13th. Honestly, I do enjoy Movie Night and the films that it can cover (for better or for worse), but I decided that it wouldn't hurt to do something that was both interesting and different from the usual content. This is basically a one-off special for me, and I hope you enjoy this, especially for an October like this.

How many music videos linger in your memory? Or more importantly, can a music video be more than just a "vanity piece" for a song/album? If you haven't guessed my opinion, Michael Jackson's Thriller is one of the most memorably crafted pieces of music video ever put onto screen ever since its release in 1983, especially if you enjoy Jackson's music (as I do from time to time) or like the execution of direction and movement. The Thriller album happens to be the world's best-selling album, but the motivation for doing this album is because the record had fallen off being #1 in the summer of 1983. One can't really say anything too substantial about the acting, since it plays only a small role in regards to the "story", but it gets the job done (this was five years before Moonwalker (#403), which was actually stranger, especially since that was an actual film). Jackson and Ray seem to be a decent little duo, but the real star of the show involves the dancing and the "Rap" by Vincent Price, who seems to revel in delivering these lines so capably well, the perfect choice. Landis, who had directed An American Werewolf in London just two years prior (speaking of films, that is one I will have to get to eventually) was recruited by Jackson to make (along with write) the video, and it certainly is interesting seeing how film directors did not generally direct music videos at the time. He does a fine job in setting the mood, with the photography by Robert Paynter being a big help as well in making for a spooky experience, especially with the ending. The choreography by Michael Peters and Jackson is praiseworthy, having movements that are still being done and repeated to this very day. The fact that there are numerous allusions to horror films also helps in making for a interesting atmosphere, from the parody of horror films to the style of the two leads in clothes. Rick Baker contributed to the special effects, and they are the hauntingly spectacular capstone in a video that has expert production values. It was actually screened in theaters (along with the 1940 film Fantasia) in December of 1983 as an attempt to garner a nomination for an Academy Award as a short subject, though it was not nominated. However, it did win a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video (now known as Best Music Film).

Among all of the iconic things one can cite from the film, the jacket (designed by Deborah Nadoolman Landis) worn by Jackson is particularly noteworthy, particularly because of how cool it looks. There is something undeniably entertaining about how he rocks the jacket. You might wonder if it overstays its welcome, seeing how it runs at 13 minutes, 41 seconds. But it really isn't, and that is likely due to how entertaining it proves itself to be, not feeling overtly dragged out. This is a landmark of music videos, to the point that it was even selected for the National Film Registry in 2009 by the Library of Congress, the first ever music video to be selected.

For the rating system, here is something different for the review different from the rest. Enjoy today, along with the rest of the month, folks. I hope you enjoyed this special.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

October 12, 2017

I Walked with a Zombie.


Review #998: I Walked with a Zombie.

Cast: 
Frances Dee (Betsy Connell), Tom Conway (Paul Holland), James Ellison (Wesley Rand), Edith Barrett (Mrs. Rand), James Bell (Dr. Maxwell), Christine Gordon (Jessica Holland), Theresa Harris (Alma), Sir Lancelot (Calypso Singer), and Darby Jones (Carrefour) Directed by Jacques Tourneur.

Review: 
This was based off an article of the same name written by Inez Wallace for American Weekly Magazine; this was the third film produced by Val Lewton, known for doing numerous low-budget horror films for RKO Pictures in the 1940s, and he had three rules given to him: The film would have to be made for under $150,000, it would have to run under 75 minutes and his supervisors gave him the film titles to utilize for the film. With a movie title like this, you certainly get what you came for, along with a fairly cohesive film. Just make sure you read the disclaimer on the credits "The characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictional. Any similarity to actual persons, living, dead, or possessed, is purely coincidental." It differs from other horror films of the time in how it relies on mood and ambiguity than some sort of monster. It was Lewton's idea to fit the structure of the film like the novel Jane Eyre, and it certainly seems to make sense, seeing how compelling the characters seem to be. Dee and Conway manage to have a fairly interesting chemistry together, mostly because they don't really go for anything too melodramatic, instead having a natural feel that goes with the rest of the film. Barrett is also fairly decent as well, particularly due to her role being more useful than it might seem, and she takes good advantage of that. Gordon does a decent job in the title role as well. It has an exceptional atmosphere and a competent kind of plotting that makes for a breezily interesting experience. The story has numerous turns, and it certainly helps in keeping the film feel fresh while not letting itself become predictable - with a capably odd end scene. The parts with the people of the island aren't as riveting, but they aren't too harmful for the film. It's not a film that goes for scares, but it certainly reaches for chills and succeeds without much doubt in that regard. At 69 minutes, I find it to a fairly easy movie to recommend, sticking out quite nicely from other horror films of its time.

Well. Only one batch to go. The last review with only three digits for the number will be next week, while the big milestone review will follow a day later, as per tradition. No spoilers yet, folks.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

October 7, 2017

Blade Runner 2049.


Review #997: Blade Runner 2049.

Cast: 
Ryan Gosling (K), Harrison Ford (Rick Deckard), Ana de Armas (Joi), Sylvia Hoeks (Luv), Robin Wright (Lt. Joshi), Mackenzie Davis (Mariette), Carla Juri (Dr. Ana Stelline), Lennie James (Mister Cotton), Dave Bautista (Sapper Morton), Jared Leto (Niander Wallace), Edward James Olmos (Gaff) Directed by Denis Villeneuve (#753 - Sicario)

Review: 
It has been over five years since I reviewed Blade Runner (#100, The Final Cut edition), and I will admit that I never actually thought a sequel would happen. Well, here we are with a sequel 35 years later (and 897 reviews after I did the original, which seems fitting). I even watched the original film hours later I saw this, mainly so I could process my thoughts for this film a bit better. In any case, that film still manages to hold up quite well, but I still never dreamed that there would ever be a follow up, because of how the film built itself, owing to its direction but also its screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples; I mention this due to Fancher returning to write the screenplay for this film (with Michael Green serving as co-writer).

Honestly, this was a pretty great movie. For fans of the original, I would say that it was worth the wait, and its shining achievement is in how it is not a retread of the first film, managing to utilize elements from it that make for a capably clever narrative. Like the original, it is a bleak, shocking kind of science fiction film, and it certainly is a movie made to tell a story with numerous threads to it, owing to the 163 minute run-time (which is probably the longest for a film I've seen in quite some time), but it never bored me as it earns every minute of its time, although it admittedly could take a while to really kick in. Roger Deakins, who had done the cinematography for Skyfall (#572), Sicario (#753), and Fargo (#765) (along with several other films) does a tremendous job in this film, utilizing light and shadow all throughout the movie with a wonderful touch. Gosling does a fine job, carrying the film with the right kind of tone and feel that you would expect. It isn't too much of a spoiler to say that it takes quite a while for Ford to show up but when he does it certainly seems like the best time for him to appear, with the film having built itself enough tension already. Ford also does a fine job, being quite useful for the narrative while also showing some emotional prowess; likely the best scene with him in it involves him and Leto, mainly because of the exchange that they have. de Armas does a fine job in a role that certainly is unique while also being fitting for a film all about it means to be human. Hoeks steals the show, being quite chilling and incredibly stealthy in her role. Wright also does a fine job in the time she has on screen, as does Davis and Juri. Leto has a few scenes that certainly come off as a bit strange...so of course it makes sense in the context of the film, which he pulls off pretty well. Even if I wanted to, it is hard to really talk much about the film's plot because of how it builds itself with imagination that certainly will leave the viewer with some sort of emotional response (and some questions) by the time the film gets to its end.

Watching this film is not so much an endurance as it is an experience (which I hope does not come off as sounding pretentious), and it is one that I would recommend for someone looking for a film that challenges you to follow every step it ventures to take with its tone and characters. Whether there is a sequel to this film or not, this is a movie that stands on its own as a fine piece of entertaining science fiction, doing what it sets out to do without any kind of restrictions or bounds. It isn't a perfect film, but it is definitely an exceptional one at least.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

October 4, 2017

Demon Seed.


Review #996: Demon Seed.

Cast: 
Julie Christie (Susan Harris), Fritz Weaver (Alex Harris), Gerrit Graham (Walter Gabler), Berry Kroeger (Petrosian), Lisa Lu (Soon Yen), Larry J. Blake (Cameron), John O'Leary (Royce), and Robert Vaughn (Proteus IV) Directed by Donald Cammell.

Review: 
What better way to (belatedly) start off October but with a horror film? I honestly had planned for the review to occur later in the month, but I decided that there needed to be some kind of start, especially with the countdown. Anyways....

This was adapted from the 1973 novel of the same name by Dean Koontz (which he would later rewrite and republish 24 years later), and I certainly have to give credit to the strange and unique premise: an artificially intelligent computer imprisons a woman in order to try to make a child. The computer (which can control the lighting, temperature control, security, etc) is certainly an interesting character to watch, especially with Robert Vaughn (who was not credited for the role) doing the voice for him; there is just something about the way he speaks that is quite chilling and effective. Christie proves to be a pretty capable lead, being quite vulnerable along with watchable as well. The rest of the cast do a capable job in their roles, not being dumbed down (too much, at least) or made to be fodder. It proves to be an interesting blend of science fiction and horror, though it is hard to say that it is really a classic. It definitely is watchable, and the performances are certainly workable, but I can't really say that the film as a whole works enough to be great. It certainly doesn't plod much at a run-time of 94 minutes, earning most of its minutes while also a fairly shocking ending that serves as either the capstone of a film worth watching or a film as ridiculous as it gets with science fiction (and horror as well). It has fairly interesting imagery (for the most part) and an a fairly useful soundtrack by Jerry Fielding as well. Regardless of creepy (or offbeat) one finds the film, it manages to have enough compelling moments to deserve at least one watch.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

September 29, 2017

Alice's Restaurant.


Review #995: Alice's Restaurant.

Cast: 
Arlo Guthrie (Himself), Pat Quinn (Alice Brock), James Broderick (Ray Brock), Pete Seeger (Himself), Lee Hays (Himself – Reverend), Michael McClanathan (Shelly), Geoff Outlaw (Roger Crowther), Tina Chen (Mari-chan), Kathleen Dabney (Karin), William Obanhein (Himself – Officer Obie), and James Hannon (Himself – the blind judge) Directed by Arthur Penn (#981 - Bonnie and Clyde)

Review: 
The enjoyment of the film may rely on what you feel about the culture or the style that the film bases itself around, and while I might not call it a masterpiece (or anything too great), I did find that this was a fairly useful movie experience. This is an adaptation of the folk song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree", that had been written and sung by Guthrie two years prior (along with having a length of 18 minutes), based on a true incident that had happened to Guthrie, in which he had been arrested for littering, with some liberties being taken. Guthrie himself is a capable lead who seems to have the right sense of presence and timing for the film, being fairly interesting to watch on screen. There is a casual but fairly entertaining atmosphere to all of this. Quinn and Broderick also pull capable performances, though the film is more an expression of the times than a developed plot, which may attract or repel audiences from it. If one considered it to be an extended music video, it may actually play better, but it doesn't hold much of a candle to something like Tommy (#687). The ending scene is an interesting one, mostly because of how it lingers on one particular image (while having a part from the song playing), which certainly makes for an enduring image that sticks out. Whether your view of the film is domineered by nostalgia or (in my case) curiosity, this is a movie that has as much appeal as the song it is adapted from that aims to show the spirit of the time - for better or for worse. I can't say this is a really good movie, but I can see the appeal for others, and I guess that is all for the best.

Here we are, five to go. On to October.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

September 25, 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle.


Review #994: Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Cast: 
Colin Firth (Harry Hart / Galahad), Julianne Moore (Poppy Adams), Taron Egerton (Gary "Eggs)" Unwin / Galahad), Mark Strong (Merlin), Halle Berry (Ginger), Elton John (Himself), Channing Tatum (Tequila), Jeff Bridges (Champagne), Pedro Pascal (Whiskey), Edward Holcroft (Charles "Charlie" Hesketh), Hanna Alström (Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden), Poppy Delevingne (Clara Von Gluckfberg), and Bruce Greenwood (The President) Directed by Matthew Vaughn (#042 - X-Men: First Class and #993 - Kingsman: The Secret Service)

Review: 
Sequels always seem like they have to try and live up to the original film, whether by having high stakes or anteing up the action/effects. In the case of this film, there is definitely an attempt at making a bigger piece of extravagant action and violence (complete with an extended Elton John cameo), for better or for worse. It is hard to not compare this film to the first one, and in that comparison this is the weaker installment, not seeming to have much in terms of cleverness, though it does retain most of the charm and style. It doesn't play for any kind of safe territory that other spy films might pull, and it certainly is daring to see the risks that the movie takes, even if it sometimes feels a bit much. Some might term the film's tactics as "overkill", but it definitely has an appeal for someone looking for a movie that will go off the rails and yet still have enough pull from its action sequences and humor to work. If there is any kind of film that this one might remind me of, it would likely be Men in Black II (#212), or even Die Another Day (#174) - take that for what you will.

Firth and Egerton are still a fine duo, even if they don't have that same kind of chemistry as before. Moore proves to be fairly entertaining, and her plan is definitely an interesting one, but I felt that her plot thread nearly went off the rails by the time the climax ended. The Statesman crew are fairly interesting, although they do not have too much screen-time (with Tatum's role feeling like a cameo) as compared to the main Kingsman, with Pascal being the key standout, mostly because he certainly comes off as the most interesting. The rest of the cast is fairly decent, with Strong being a fine highlight. Whether one is a big Elton John fan or not (I have two songs of his in my one of my playlists), he certainly has an interesting presence over the time(s) that he appears in the movie - which can either be charming or tiresome - I found him to be fairly entertaining on the whole. The run-time may be an easy issue for some (141 minutes, as opposed to the original's 129 minute run-time), in part because it may just seem too long for a movie that seems to want to pack in every sort of action and effect it can, which can come off as a bit tedious. The film strives to entertain, and it does on some level succeed in its goal, but whether it comes at the price of competency is up to the viewer to decide. I fall around the middle, it that I know the movie is somewhat inferior to the first film, but I also know that I had a fine time watching it.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

September 23, 2017

Kingsman: The Secret Service.


Review #993: Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Cast: 
Colin Firth (Harry Hart / Galahad), Samuel L. Jackson (Richmond Valentine), Mark Strong (Merlin), Taron Egerton (Gary "Eggsy" Unwin), Michael Caine (Chester King / Arthur), Sophie Cookson (Roxanne "Roxy" Morton / Lancelot), Sofia Boutella (Gazelle), Samantha Womack (Michelle Unwin), Geoff Bell (Dean), Edward Holcroft (Charles "Charlie" Hesketh), Mark Hamill (Professor James Arnold), Jack Davenport (James Spencer / Lancelot), Jack Cutmore-Scott (Rufus Saville), Lily Travers (Lady Sophie), Hanna Alström (Princess Tilde), and Bjørn Floberg (Scandinavian Prime Minister) Directed by Matthew Vaughn (#042 - X-Men: First Class)

Review: 
It is evident early on to see the influence the James Bond films had in making this movie (based on the comic book series The Secret Service): specifically, the Roger Moore films. Granted, this is certainly more stylized in its action (and decidedly more violent) than those films, but this is a movie that is fairly enjoyable entertainment that will fill some people's taste significantly better than others. The best parts of the film involve either Firth and Egerton together on screen, or Jackson. The mentor-trainee aspects aren't particularly new (you could take your pick on what it reminds you, my pick would be Men in Black - #211), but they certainly are enjoyable to watch along with being capable heroes in their own right. Jackson does a capable job in part because he seems so comfortable with the role he is playing on screen, with a good sense of humor and self-awareness (which the film has a good deal of already) that is fairly entertaining; his supervillain plot is certainly an interesting one, resembling something one of the Moore Bond films would've done, reminding me a bit of Moonraker (minus the space parts, naturally) that certainly might seem a bit odd with its implications if deep thought was put into it, though what spy flick doesn't have that kind of quirk? The rest of the cast is fairly enjoyable and capable at their roles, such as Strong and Cookson, with Boutella proving to be a fairly useful (and thrilling) henchwoman.

The movie certainly has a useful sense of humor to it that hits more than it misses when required, fitting with the tone of the film for the most part. The action sequences are interesting to watch to be executed on screen, never really seeming to miss a beat nor feel too murky (with the easiest standout being at the church); the violence might prove to be a bit graphic for some, but I generally thought that it worked finely enough to the movie's advantage, for better or for worse. Ultimately, the enjoyment one gets from this movie comes from how they feel about the action and the way the movie goes about with getting to the highs (and slight lows) that it does. Take it for what it is worth, and you get a movie that has something to like (or watch) for most people, for better or for worse.

I don't usually get to say exactly what is next up on Movie Night, but here's a rare exception.
Next Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle. 

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 20, 2017

The King of Comedy.


Review #992: The King of Comedy.

Cast: 
Robert De Niro (Rupert Pupkin), Jerry Lewis (Jerry Langford), Diahnne Abbott (Rita Keane), Sandra Bernhard (Masha), Tony Randall (Himself), Shelley Hack (Cathy Long), Ed Herlihy (Himself), Frederick de Cordova (Bert Thomas), Margo Winkler (The Receptionist), and Kim Chan (Jonno) Directed by Martin Scorsese (#990 - Taxi Driver)

Review: 
This is certainly an interesting black comedy film, in that it is a black comedy that doesn't invite itself for laughs, but it invites you to follow these strange but interesting characters while also feeling very relevant even after nearly 35 years since its release. When compared to Taxi Driver, one can see some similarities within the main character (both played by De Niro) in their loneliness, although their results definitely have a significant contrast (namely, one film has blood while the other doesn't); Scorsese stated this about the connection between the two characters: "Taxi Driver. Travis. Rupert. The isolated person. Is Rupert more violent than Travis? Maybe." De Niro undeniably pulls a great performance out of this aspiring (and deranged) character that reels you in with his passion and desire (as odd as that might seem). Lewis (in a role that was rejected by Johnny Carson) does a tremendous job as the beleaguered host who has an unquestionable subtle charm to him (even with all the things that happen around him). Bernhard pulls off a capably deranged performance, always managing to make you not take your eyes off and what offbeat thing she might be doing next. Abbott also does a fine job, having a naturally innocent charm to her that resonates well when paired with De Niro. For me, my favorite scene comes during the second half, with De Niro, Lewis and Bernhard acting together, involving some gum and cue cards which works because of how well each actor plays off each other and the way that the film plays with the circumstances and mood. The camera shots are also fairly fitting for the film's tone, where fantasy and reality not being particularly distinct from each other but also showing mayhem (such as the opening scene).

The rest of the cast are satisfactory in their roles, with my favorite being Herlihy (who had been the voice of Kraft Foods commercials for decades) and his richly distinctive voice. As stated before, there are some laughs, but the movie never really desires to let you absorb it because of how enclosed it seems with its dark aspects; one particular example is a scene where Lewis is accosted and told by an old lady that he "should only get cancer". It's a brief but useful scene in understanding this film, for better or for worse. It never strives to overstate itself nor focus on being just satire or thrilling. It blurs the line between fantasy and reality a few times throughout the movie (something that once again someone could compare to Taxi Driver), and it definitely has an interesting repel effect, with the ending also being an interesting point of discussion. It never goes for the jugular in laughter nor give you the satisfaction of seeing a character show their layers, but there is something about how it portrays the perspective of media culture and worship that certainly resonate even now. It shows an ugly side to the culture that without doubt leaves an indelible and unforgettable mark. It definitely is not a movie for everyone, but it definitely is a fine winner in my mind, laughter and all.

Happy to mark that this is the 100th film reviewed in 2017 on Movie Night, the fourth time that I've done at least 100 films since 2010.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 18, 2017

It (2017).


Review #991: It.

Cast: 
Jaeden Lieberher (Bill Denbrough), Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom), Sophia Lillis (Beverly Marsh), Finn Wolfhard (Richie Tozier), Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon), Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kaspbrak), Wyatt Oleff (Stan Uris), Nicholas Hamilton (Henry Bowers), Jake Sim (Belch Huggins), Logan Thompson (Victor Criss), Owen Teague (Patrick Hockstetter), Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie Denbrough), Stephen Bogaert (Mr. Marsh), Stuart Hughes (Officer Bowers) DIrected by Andy Muschietti.

Review: 
Admittedly, I hadn't read the novel of the same name by Stephen King before going in to see this movie; I also never watched the 1990 miniseries adaptation, partly because I wanted to go into this like I would with any kind of horror film, without any real sense of comparison or with too much hype. In the end, I would say that this definitely succeeds as a thrilling piece of entertainment, even if it may not be the chilling kind of horror movie that one might have desired, though there are some quality scares. The cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung stands out pretty well, with the film's 80s look certainly passing itself off pretty well (without being doused in too many references), which makes for a good atmosphere.

The core of the film is the seven child actors (Lieberher, Taylor, Lillis, Wolfhard, Jacobs, Grazer, Oleff) that do tremendous jobs that surely keep the movie on the rails while also standing out quite well; Lieberher proves to be a quite capable lead, with Taylor and Lillis also being fairly interesting, though the one who sticks out the most is Wolfhard, who helps inspire some laughs with some timely "mouthy" remarks. With regards to Skarsgård and his performance, he does a pretty good job, mostly because he toes the line between playful and terrifying, with accompanying facial expressions (and some digital effects that are mostly successful) that make for satisfactory creeps and chills. The rest of the cast (such as Hamilton) do pretty decent in their roles, definitely helping in the creepy factor. It doesn't go too much into the gore factor, but it definitely is a movie that uses its R rating decently enough. Admittedly, there are a few jump scares, and while they don't come off as too distracting to the film's credit, I can see where someone might find it more harmful to the film. At 135 minutes, this certainly has an acceptable length when it is all said and done, and seeing how there most definitely will be a "second half" to this film in the near future, I can say that I will be waiting for it with curious anticipation.

It seems fitting to have done a horror film as part of the countdown to #1000, and it is also fitting that it is done just five years since the first installment of the Theater Saga on Movie Night, Paranorman (#240), done on September 8, 2012. Interesting how times have changed. The movie theater certainly has gone through some changes, but the experience is still pretty fun even to this day. 

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 15, 2017

Taxi Driver.


Review #990: Taxi Driver.

Cast: 
Robert De Niro (Travis Bickle), Jodie Foster (Iris "Easy" Steensma), Harvey Keitel (Matthew "Sport" Higgins), Cybill Shepherd (Betsy), Albert Brooks (Tom), Leonard Harris (Senator Charles Palantine), Peter Boyle (Wizard), Harry Northup (Doughboy), and Norman Matlock (Charlie T) Directed by Martin Scorsese.

Review: 
It seems odd that it has taken so much time to cover a Martin Scorsese film, but it seems fitting to cover this one (his fifth overall movie), which has quite the reputation (it was awarded the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival while also being nominated for four Academy Awards), and it is easy for me to see why. The way that the film shows a look into the dark elements that make up New York (for the time it was made) along with the lonely world of an alienated (but always compelling to watch) main character played expertly by De Niro. There is just something about the way he speaks and his mannerisms that make him a character one could relate to, or at least be invested in his story, which always manages to be compelling, with numerous highlights (such as the famous "You talkin' to me?" scene, which serves to feed into how lonely this character is that still endures in pop culture to this day). Foster is quite effective in her role that only serves as part of the nightmare kind of world that this film sets itself in. Keitel is also fairly effective, having a brutal nature that makes the skin crawl without relying on over-the-top moments. Shepherd is probably the most normal character in the film, but she certainly has an important place while also being fairly charming, and her scenes with De Niro are fine. Brooks and Harris don't have much screen-time, but they certainly do make for an entertaining impression. The rest of the cast (including a short scene with Scorsese himself) do fairly effective jobs. The use of slow motion in some parts of the film certainly contributes to making this movie stand out amidst the grime and a good musical score by Bernard Herrmann (who had finished the music score the day before his death on December 24, 1975). The climax of the film (and the end scene that follows it) is the pinnacle of an already exceptional movie, with a look and feel that is as rapid as it is effective, with an ending that certainly lends itself to discussion. In any case, this is a capable thriller that certainly still endures even after forty years since its release.

As dedicated readers can tell, we are in the final stages of the countdown to the big pinnacle for Movie Night. Get ready for the rest of the batch to come soon.

Overall, I give it 10 out of 10 stars.

September 11, 2017

The Nutty Professor (1963).


Review #989: The Nutty Professor.

Cast: 
Jerry Lewis (Professor Julius F. Kelp/Buddy Love/Baby Kelp), Stella Stevens (Ms. Stella Purdy), Del Moore (Dr. Mortimer S. Warfield), Kathleen Freeman (Ms. Millie Lemmon), Howard Morris (Mr. Elmer Kelp), Elvia Allman (Mrs. Edwina Kelp), Julie Parrish (College Student), Milton Frome (Dr. M. Sheppard Leevee), Buddy Lester (Bartender), and Med Flory (Warzewski)

Review: 
When I reviewed the remake back in 2013, I had given the film a 8/10 star rating while not comparing it to this film, due to not having seen it; in any case, the remake has aged finely for me, having a charm to it that worked just fine. I say all of this not to cast a shadow on this film, but because it wouldn't feel right to not do so. No matter which version you prefer, they both are good film, so let's move on to the original, which happens to be the first film on this show that features the late Jerry Lewis.

At any rate, this film (based on the novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) does tend to have more hits than misses while serving as good amusement, with Lewis being the key highlight. His high energy along with how he plays both characters make for good entertainment to watch, with both characters having their moments to shine. His performance as Kelp is certainly endearing and also fairly clever (with a particularly distinctive voice as well). Lewis had stated that Buddy Love was based on every obnoxious self-important hateful hipster that he had known, contrary to the perception from others of it serving as a lampoon of his former comedy duo partner, Dean Martin. In any case, there is something quite about his performance as Love that seems to captivate you and never let you take his eye off him, despite the nature of his character. Stevens does a fine job, being fairly capable in handling scenes with both of Lewis's characters consistently enough. Moore serves for some amusing banter scenes with Lewis while also being welcomely over-the-top. The rest of the cast serve their purpose fairly well. The nature of film is a bit of a double-edged sword: the film does take risks and has a variety of gags and characters while also being unpredictable at times, but the tone of the film occasionally feels uneven, with the climax being a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, the sequences at the dance are pretty effective, but the last scene and how it seals the film up with Lewis and Stevens's characters seems a bit murky. In any case, this is a successful film that certainly has enough laughs and charm to make for a good time.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 7, 2017

Westworld.


Review #988: Westworld.

Cast: 
Yul Brynner (The Gunslinger), Richard Benjamin (Peter Martin), James Brolin (John Blane), Norman Bartold (the Medieval Knight), Alan Oppenheimer (the Chief Supervisor), Victoria Shaw (the Medieval Queen), Dick Van Patten (the Banker), Linda Scott (Arlette), Steve Franken (Technician), Michael Mikler (Black Knight), Terry Wilson (Sheriff), and Majel Barrett (Miss Carrie) Directed by Michael Crichton.

Review: 
Westworld is certainly an interesting film, in part because of how clever it feels in terms of its construction of plot and style. It's interesting how it can be classified as a "science fiction Western thriller", but it is even more interesting that this was the directorial debut of Michael Crichton, a novelist who prior to this film had four of his novels adapted into films (most notably The Andromeda Strain), while also directing a television film (Pursuit) and writing for another film (Extreme Close-Up). In any case, this is a fun movie that establishes an interesting premise and atmosphere while not bogging itself down with its characters. It's easy to immerse in the fantasies that the character go through in part because of how familiar they seem (namely the shoot-out in the saloon or the sword fight in the hall), but they are being played out in a world all about reenacting things like the Old West or medieval Europe or even Rome. The film is not merely "robots gone amok", feeling like a fable about the danger of corporate greed, but in any case the film still feels pretty relevant today.

Benjamin and Brolin are certainly an interesting pair of protagonists, partly because of how much charisma they give off despite not much being revealed about their characters (aside from one brief conversation); one of my favorite scenes is them being involved in a brawl, in part because you can see the amount of fun they seem to have (even at something like fighting), prior to the climax. Oddly, one other favorite scene of mine doesn't involve the main cast; it is the opening scene, advertising the park (named Delos), complete with a showcase of satisfied customers. Perhaps it's their enthusiasm over what they experienced from the world they visited, but it certainly helps establish the film's credibility without needless exposition. Brynner does a fine job that serves as the highlight of the film, certainly making for a good foe for both the world he inhibits along with in the climax (especially with those piercing eyes), with the look of the Gunslinger being similar to the character that he played in The Magnificent Seven (#427). It was the first film to use digital image processing, done so in order to simulate the Gunslinger's point of view, which was done by pixellated photography by John Whitney, Jr, and Gary Demos at Information International, Inc). I think the view ages pretty well for what it is used for, and the effects with the robots are also certainly quite effective. It's interesting to note how the run-time is 88 minutes, because the film certainly never feels lacking in any kind of quality. A follow up called Futureworld would be released three years later, and there have been two television shows broadcast (Beyond Westworld and Westworld, with the latter premiering in 2016). This is an enjoyable film that certainly lends itself to enjoyment even after over four decades since its release.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 5, 2017

Show People.


Review #987: Show People.

Cast: 

Marion Davies (Peggy Pepper), William Haines (Billy Boone), Dell Henderson (General Marmaduke Oldfish Pepper), Paul Ralli (Andre Telfair), Tenen Holtz (Casting director), Harry Gribbon (Jim, comedy director), Sidney Bracey (Dramatic director), Polly Moran (Peggy's maid), and Albert Conti (Producer) Directed by King Vidor.

Review: 
This was a lighthearted look at Hollywood released near the end of the silent era, but it featured synchronized musical score and sound effects, with numerous cameo appearances from stars of the time throughout the film, such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert, with Davies and Vidor making cameos as themselves. Admittedly, it may feel a bit familiar to anyone who has watched a film about a person's rise (and their ensuing change in personality), but this is at least decent fare. This is an enjoyable film that utilizes some star power along with a ready amount of charm and well crafted direction to be good entertainment. Davies does a capable job, seemingly well suited for the comedic situations that happen (best signified by her reaction to being sprayed with a seltzer bottle). This is definitely a fine delight of a film, mainly because Davies proves quite capable at eliciting laughs while also being fairly interesting to watch to interact with the rest of the cast. Haines is a fairly decent counterpart for Davies, and he does help elicit some laughs as well. The rest of the cast also do fine jobs in their parts, but the real highlight is the amount of guest appearances, which are pretty charming; though I did not recognize all of the actors that make an appearance, they certainly feel useful enough without seeming obnoxious (my favorite of the cameos has to be Davies, as she and her character meet for one short scene). At 79 minutes, this is a clear pick for anyone looking for a nice enjoyable little clever comedy.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

September 1, 2017

An American in Paris.


Review #986: An American in Paris.

Cast: 
Gene Kelly (Jerry Mulligan), Leslie Caron (Lise Bouvier), Oscar Levant (Adam Cook), Georges Guétary (Henri "Hank" Baurel), Nina Foch (Milo Roberts), and Eugene Borden (Georges Mattieu) Directed by Vincente Minnelli (#405 - The Reluctant Debutante, #510 - Father of the Bride, #620 - Lust for Life, and #878 - The Long, Long Trailer)

Review: 
This was inspired by the 1928 orchestral composition of the same name by George Gershwin; I can't say I've done many movies based off a orchestral piece before, and I also can't say that they also have a 17-minute dance included as the climax either. In any case, this is a fine film, with a good amount of execution with its music and how it is shot. The music by Saul Chaplin and Johnny Green is fairly entertaining, but the biggest help to making all of the connections click is the things around it; the cinematography by John Alton and Alfred Gilks is top-notch, having a look that just syncs up with the mood; the costumes by Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, and Irene Sharaff are also fine in giving the movie some fine flair. Admittedly, the plot is a bit thin in construction (with the kind of turns that you'd expect from a romance standpoint), but it manages to be enough of a showcase that it doesn't really drag the film too much. It isn't as great as something like Singin' in the Rain (released the following year), but both movie are good in their own right. Kelly is charismatic as ever, having the kind of charm and usefulness that one would expect from him, graceful in movement and stature. Caron, a dancer in her film debut, does alright, although she shines more in the dancing scenes than when sharing time onscreen with the plot, mainly because she doesn't really have chemistry with either Kelly or Guétary, although she at least has some screen presence. Guétary has some mild charm in the scenes that he is in. Levant is fine to watch, with his piano sequences being pretty entertaining. Foch is okay, although her scenes with Kelly don't really go anywhere too special in terms of appeal. The biggest highlight is probably the sequence at the end (lasting 17 minutes), being the ultimate showstopper spectacle for a film musical like this.

This movie won six Academy Awards, with wins for Best Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, Best Music Scoring of a Musical Picture, Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. In addition, Kelly received an Academy Honorary Award for "his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film", and it certainly seems fitting. He pulls in a tremendous performance that (along with all of the other things that shine in the movie) make for a great piece of entertainment that works in most of the right places, charm and all.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.