Movie Confessions Blogathon

Since I haven’t yet had the opportunity to do a blogathon and it’s Monday and I’m hating every second of the day because of that…let’s give this a shot!

Nostra over at started this idea for a blogathon, details can be found here if you’d like to participate or see the the other participants.

Without further ado…

Which classic movie don’t you like/can’t enjoy and why?

Since the first movie that came to my mind was West Side Story, I’ll just go ahead and lump other classic musicals in with it. I like music and I like movies so musicals should be a no-brainer for me but for some reason I can barely sit through the majority of them.

Which ten classic movies haven’t you seen yet?

Oh, this is tough…

  • City of God
  • The Wild One
  • Once Upon a Time in America
  • All About Eve
  • Wages of Fear
  • Birth of a Nation
  • Cool Hand Luke
  • Great Dictator
  • Fanny and Alexander
  • The Bicycle Thief

Have you ever sneaked into another movie at the cinema?

I used to go a movie and then sneak into another movie afterward for my own double-features, but I never bought tickets for a movie and then sneaked into a different one.

Which actor/actress do you think is overrated?

George Clooney even though I do enjoy him occasionally, for the most part all I can see is smooth, charming George Clooney. I don’t think there has ever been a role where I can fully accept his character is anyone else but George Clooney. That’s not to say he’s a bad actor, just not much of a chameleon in his roles which takes me out of it. Same goes for Johnny Depp.

From which big director have you never seen any movie (and why)?

I don’t think there is a single “big director” that I haven’t seen a single movie from but I will confess to never having seen a Charlie Chaplin full-length film until last year (the film was Modern Times).

Which movie do you love, but is generally hated?

For a really long time, Starship Troopers was one of my most-watched films in constant circulation alongside Kubrick and Scorsese movies. It seemed that no one else appreciated the film like I did. However, f I was going off of Rotten Tomato scores, then C.H.U.D. takes the top award with a whopping 18%.

Have you ever been “one of those annoying people” at the cinema?

Jeez, I sincerely hope not. Even as a teen, when my friends were acting like morons in the theater I would get irritated.

Did you ever watch a movie, which you knew in advance would be bad, just because of a specific actor/actress was in it? Which one and why?

I saw Righteous Kill because Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were in it, does that count? Oh, and I’ve seen a plethora of pretty weak Charles Bronson movies just because of Charles Bronson.

Did you ever not watch a specific movie because it had subtitles? 

Maybe as a teenager I did this more often but I’ve never shunned black and white or foreign films just for the sake of it. I will admit to picking English-speaking films over foreign ones when I know I may not be giving 100% of my attention just so I don’t miss any dialogue.

Are there any movies in your collection that you have had for more than five years and never watched?

I received Munich as a gift about 5 years ago and it’s still sealed and I’ve never seen it. I think I have True Lies (which I’ve seen) still sealed too, and I got that in like a Wal-Mart $2 bin ages ago. I have many other films in my collection that are sealed, mostly from the Criterion Collection, but I’ve had them for less than 5 years.

Which are the worst movies in your collection and why do you still own them?

I recently purged some of my DVD collection to make room for Blu-Rays so I’m this is a bit tough. C.H.U.D. may take the top spot for this question too since I proudly own that. I also own a Roger Corman collection of films that I’m sure are mostly (if not entirely) crap but I love me some Corman movies so I don’t plan on getting rid of them.

Do you have any confessions about your movie watching setup at home?

I have spent thousands of dollars on a big TV and surround sound for my movie watching in my basement, but most of the time I watch films on the couch in our family room with my wife on a 32″ TV with no surround sound and a lot of light pollution. Oh, I also watch movies with closed captioning on, even if playing at full volume. I just like reading, I guess.

Any other confessions you want to make?

I’m lactose intolerant.
Oh, more movie confessions? Even though Kubrick was my favorite director at the time (arguably still my favorite), the first time I watched Eyes Wide Shut I skipped all of the plot details that didn’t include nudity.

Forgotten Disney Guest Blogger Series [Reblog]

Forgotten Disney Guest Blogger Series.

My buddy over at Forgotten Filmcast is doing a guest blog series for forgotten Disney films and yours truly will have an entry up on Wednesday July 25th. Be sure to check out the Forgotten Filmcast site for all the other guest bloggers and get caught up, it’s really a great site!

The Dark Knight Rises (7/20/12) [Spoiler-free]

Movie One Hundred Seventy Two

The Dark Knight Rises concludes Christopher Nolan’s spectacular Batman trilogy with Bruce Wayne donning the suit of Gotham’s hero for perhaps the final time.

Picking up eight years after the end of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises has Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) living in seclusion, except for Alfred (Michael Caine) of course, after he uses Batman as a martyr and sets Harvey Dent up as Gotham’s real hero. During a party at Wayne Manor, Bruce finds a young woman stealing his mother’s necklace and taking his fingerprints. Bruce soon finds out this woman is Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and she is selling Wayne’s fingerprints for a plot by Bane (Tom Hardy) to bring down Bruce Wayne and also Gotham city itself. With the assistance of old friend Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), “hotheaded” rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and board member Miranda (Marion Cotillard), Bruce Wayne must come out of the shadows to become Batman and save Gotham before Bane destroys everything.

There are no doubt going to be people that walk away from The Dark Knight Rises disappointed, it’s inevitable. And yes, there are some disappointing things about the film, but nitpicking aside, it shows some of the strongest filmmaking of the trilogy and I would say it actually exceeded my expectations by a fair margin. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have pulled out all the stops for The Dark Knight Rises and I will say that the action grabs you by the throat early on and doesn’t even let up, though the film throws a lot at you to begin with so that helps keep you on your toes.

While I did not view this film on an IMAX screen (I will in a few weeks, though) there is obvious care taken to filming and I could safely guess which portions of the film were shot for IMAX. The sets are somehow even grander than The Dark Knight and Gotham feels larger too. Both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were filmed here in Chicago and The Dark Knight Rises was filmed elsewhere (Philadelphia, I believe Pittsburgh) so that may play a part in this. Most surprising for me was the high quality acting, Michael Caine especially. It would be forgivable for a comic book film to have the actors mostly phone it in, but the actors all truly deliver here. The only exception would possibly be Tom Hardy as Bane…

Which leads me to my few nitpicking gripes about the The Dark Knight Rises. Bane is my biggest peeve since he sounds like a cross between Hardy’s earlier role in Bronson and Sean Connery doing a Peter Sellers impersonation. Obviously test audiences had a hell of a time understanding Bane when he talked, so they made his voice this way on purpose and it sits high in the mix too. At least he is clearly audible. My other main gripe is that the CGI is a bit uneven. Nolan is fantastic at using real sets for his stunts so maybe the CGI portions just stood out because of this, but I thought some of the bits looked a bit flat.

I was not expecting to be surprised by The Dark Knight Rises and yet I was. Several times, in fact. While Christopher Nolan may not be returning to Batman films anytime, I hope he and and his brother are at the very least creative consultants on the next set of Batman films. In case you are wondering if I prefer this film over The Dark Knight, it’s a close call. In fact, I would rate all three of Nolan’s Batman films 5/5 so technically I can be noncommittal and say they all tie! I will be seeing The Dark Knight Rises again very soon and I honestly cannot wait. This is a real contender for best film of 2012.

I give it 5 Pee-Wee Herman narrates the trailers out of 5.

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Goodfellas Reblog

Watched this one again, this time on blu-ray!

Andy Watches Movies

GoodfellasMovie One Hundred Twenty One and One Hundred Sixty Seven

Goodfellas is based on the true life story of Henry Hill, a former member of the New York mob.

Goodfellas starts with a young Henry (Ray Liotta) growing up working for mob boss Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino), first as a porter and errand boy and eventually one of the leading members. We meet other mob members Tommy and Jimmy (Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro, respectively) and the three have differing experiences with the mafia lifestyle. Life changes for all of them after a particularly large heist.

Some of the most dedicated followers may know that I consider Goodfellas my favorite movie of all time. My above plot synopsis doesn’t do the film much justice, it doesn’t touch on any of the characters, the humor, the dialogue, the violence, the allure of the mafia, the directing, the soundtrack, the acting…I…

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The 400 Blows (7/14/12)

400 BlowsMovie One Hundred Sixty Six

The 400 Blows is a semi-autobiographic look at François Truffaut’s difficult childhood.

Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is a 12 year living in Paris with his mother and step-father. He does not do well in school and suffers at home. Both his parents and teacher think he is uncaring and Antoine constantly runs away. After unsuccessfully stealing a typewriter from his father’s workplace, Antoine is forced into jail, imprisoned with prostitutes and other hardened criminals. Antoine is then shipped off to a school for troubled youth, where he gives some insight to his life before deciding to flee once more.

I normally don’t give the full plot details of a film but in the case of The 400 Blows, I do not consider any of the above to be a spoiler. The plot points are not what defines the film so much as how the characters behave. Antoine’s question and answer session near the end of the film is heartbreaking and beautiful and easily one of the best scenes in film history.

A landmark film of the French New Wave, Truffaut’s film was widely successful from the start but over 50 years later, the film is still just as touching now. The cinematography is also such a wonder to behold, as the shots pan and track so precisely yet appear almost casual. The 400 Blows is an absolutely breathtaking film. The actors, particularly young Léaud, whom was used in several other Truffaut films reprising his role, are all remarkable.

To truly do The 400 Blows justice, I would need to devote a heavily detailed breakdown of individual shots and scenes. An easier method would be watching the film yourself, I truly believe it’s a must-see. If French New Wave films have turned you off before, or if you are new the genre, The 400 Blows is the perfect place to start.

I give it 5 reading Balzacs out of 5.

PS – In case you were wondering, apparently the French title, Les quatre cents coups, refers to the expression “faire les quatre cents coups” roughly translated to mean “to raise hell”.

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Thief (7/13/12)

Movie One Hundred Sixty Five

Thief is about an ex-con and expert jewel thief that decides to pull a few more heists in order to start a new life.

Frank (James Caan) is a professional safe-cracker that robs cash and/or diamonds and sells them. After his fence is killed, Frank and his partner in crime, Barry (Jim Belushi), are led to a Chicago outfit boss, Leo (Robert Prosky). Leo wants Frank to do a few jobs for him and Frank reluctantly agrees so he can start a new life with a waitress, Jessie (Tuesday Weld) he has been dating. After the big score, Frank wants out but Leo has other plans.

Many people know Michael Mann for his awesome work in Heat, but Thief does some elements of the heist movie just as well, if not better. Frank and Barry are characters easy to understand and relate to, even if we know that it will be hard for things to go right for them. Even if it’s a story we think we’ve seen before, as a whole it is an entertaining one.

I’m not sure if it’s my undying love for the film Drive, but I found many similarities between the films. The opening sequence of Drive has to be an homage to the beginning of Thief, there is no way it’s coincidental. Both Frank and Driver both are cool, calculating, and vengeful, though Frank is much more outspoken. Even the title font and soundtracks are similar. If anyone was disappointed by what Drive wasn’t, then Thief may be the film they are looking for.

There are portions of Thief were the plot seems to lose a bit of its footing and the pacing suffers but then things pick right back up. When Frank is trying to make a life with Jessie I found myself tuning out a bit and waiting for the next scene. I understand we need to know Frank’s motives for going against his instincts and teaming with the mafia, but their relationship still didn’t seem real to me even after all the time spent doting on them. Drive builds a better relationship in less time and with hardly any dialogue.

Thief has been a bit lost in time but it’s a great noir/heist film and outside the Godfather, some of James Caan’s better work. In spite of a few stumbling areas, Thief delivers on every expectation of the genre and perhaps even more.

I give it 4 Thief’s opening sequences out of 5.

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A Clockwork Orange (7/11/12)

A Clockwork OrangeMovie One Hundred Sixty Four

A Clockwork Orange centers around a youth who partakes in drugs, sex, Beethoven, and ultra-violence before being imprisoned and reformed.

Alex (Malcolm McDowell), and his gang of droogs start A Clockwork Orange in the milk bar they frequent and we see their fights with rival gangs, rape, brutal beatings, speeding in cars and in general what they refer to as “a bit of the ol’ ultra-violence”. Alex is particularly callous and sociopathic in his ways, but has a fondness for Beethoven. After murdering a woman with a giant phallic statue, Alex is betrayed by his gang and is hauled off to prison where he is involved in an extreme experimental procedure to “cure” him.

Stanley Kubrick stands as one of my favorite writer/directors, if not the favorite and I used to watch A Clockwork Orange several times a month in high school. It has been several years since I had seen the film and was lucky enough to get a chance to see it shown theatrically. Unfortunately, the theatrical release was marred by an old restoration or a careless one which is perplexing since the film was recently relreleased on blu-ray and this was definitely not the blu-ray. The sound was a bit muddy and the picture had several hairs and specks on it that weren’t quite distracting, just disappointing.

As for the film itself, A Clockwork Orange has certainly stood the test of time. In 1971 when it was released it obviously caused quite a stir, even today it is a very hard R-rating. Kubrick shows an unflinching view of the rape and violence as well as Alex’s treatment. This is not an easy recommendation for everyone but for those willing to look deeper into the meaning of the pointed remarks being made about government, psychiatry, and the prison system may appreciate A Clockwork Orange for what it stands for.

Malcolm McDowell is absolutely chilling in the lead of this film and the role of Alex has gone to define his career. In A Clockwork Orange he is terrifying while also charming and likable, long before Dexter graced our televisions. The other performances in the film are executed well, but none come close to McDowell’s. I also have to point out the fantastic soundtrack, comprised of classical music and synthesized tracks. It would be impossible to imagine the film working with any other soundtrack and it adds tremendously to the tone of the scenes.

A Clockwork Orange is a great film that is sure to disgust people that aren’t aware of what the film is actually about. Stanley Kubrick made a career of directing masterpieces and A Clockwork Orange is still one of the greatest films released.

I give it 5 Ludovico techniques out of 5.

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