February Movies Round-Up

A recap of what I watched in the month of February:

  1. The Artist
  2. Drive
  3. Airplane!
  4. Drive (again)
  5. Tangled
  6. Some Like It Hot
  7. Le Silence De La Mer
  8. They Live
  9. Iron Giant
  10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  11. Gangs of New York
  12. Lonesome Jim
  13. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  14. Le Samourai
  15. Terri
  16. Five Easy Pieces
  17. The Conversation
  18. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  19. Three Outlaw Samurai
  20. Super 8
  21. Belle De Jour
  22. Captain America
  23. The Departed

Overall, I watched some fantastic movies in February. I was introduced to some new favorites (Le Samourai, Five Easy Pieces, The Conversation, Le Silence de la Mer) and revisited some of my favorites (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Star Wars).

Some February statistics:

Movies watched/Days in month = 23/29 = ~79%
My average movie rating = ~4.348 out of 5 (8.696/10)
Average IMDB rating = ~7.8
Average Rotten Tomatoes rating = ~87%
First time viewings = 12

Method of watching:

  • Blu-Ray = 11
  • DVD = 4
  • Netflix (DVD rental) = 3
  • Netflix Instant Watch = 4
  • Theater = 1

My year to date statistics:

Movies watched/Days in year = 40/60 = ~67%
My average rating = ~3.95
Movies remaining vs. Days remaining = 260 vs. 306
Percentage complete = 40/300 = ~13.3%

I once again want to say THANK YOU to everyone for your continued support. I have had a great time writing about these movies and I hope you have enjoyed reading.

I am open to suggestions about movies to watch, things to change on this blog, statistics you would like to see, etc. I have a few things in mind to do very soon that I hope will increase traffic and also be useful information.


The Departed (2/29/12)

The DepartedMovie Forty

This was my special Leap Year movie!

The Departed is one of my favorite films by Martin Scorsese. Without knowing that is is an Americanized version of the Hong Kong thriller, Infernal Affairs, The Departed feels very much like an original Scorsese movie.

I have not seen Infernal Affairs yet, but I am very interested in seeing the entire trilogy. While many international remakes may tend to lose the allure and vibrancy of their original, The Departed is so strong on its own that I simply cannot imagine the original being any better.

The story is a bit confusing at first; A young boy is recruited by a mobster (the illustrious Jack Nicholson). That boy becomes a cop (Matt Damon). We see another man becoming a cop (Leonardo DiCaprio). Matt Damon is working for Nicholson as his inside man in the force. DiCaprio becomes an undercover cop in Nicholson’s crew as the inside man for the cops. Both Damon and DiCaprio are trying to find out who each other is.

It is intensely thrilling from start to finish and while things do start making sense eventually, but multiple viewings surely help. This was my third or fourth viewing since its release and I still was putting certain pieces together. When my father watched this movie several years ago he mentioned that he thought that Damon and DiCaprio were the same person, which must have made the whole movie an incomprehensible mess for him, assuming he never figured out that they were two different people.

The plot weaves in and out and it does take a bit of patience and a lot of attention. The pacing is terrific and once the film grabs you by the throat it doesn’t let go until the credits roll. For those of you wondering, Goodfellas is my favorite movie of all time and I love Scorsese’s work. The Departed ranks as one of his stronger films and I would definitely recommend it to anyone willing to possibly get confused even if you are fully vested in watching.

I give it 5 leopard print robes out of 5.

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Captain America (2/28/12)

Captain AmericaMovie Thirty Nine

Captain America surprised me. When Marvel announced they were going to make an Avengers movie, I was kind of excited. I haven’t been a big comic fan in the last decade or so, but comic books have always been something I enjoy. Captain America is not one of my favorite comic books, so I expected a rushed movie just to sell the Avengers down the road. I was wrong.

Captain America has been made into a movie before, and actually that was one of the first DVDs I ever watched. Needless to say, it left a sour taste in my mouth for the character. Luckily, the new movie about Cap treats the franchise with utmost care and it turns out to be a pretty good action/superhero movie.

As an origin story to the character, we see Steve Rogers as a 90 pound weakling that wants to get into the army during World War II. He is eventually accepted into a program that turns him into a super soldier by enhancing all of his qualities, not just his bulk. At the same time, the Nazis are formulating a similar program and the film’s villain, Red Skull, is created in the same manner as Captain America. Obviously the effects are the opposite on his personality and he ends up horribly disfigured.

The film really gives us a detailed account of what makes Steve Rogers become Captain America. Almost too much detail. While I thought the action in the second half of the film really made the time fly, there is quite a bit leading up to those points, some of which may not have been absolutely necessary. Overall, Captain America tells a great story and sets up the upcoming Avengers movie perfectly.

I boldly stated that Captain America was in my top 5 superhero movies of all time, but after thinking about that for a minute discovered that isn’t true (I had forgotten about Nolan’s Batman movies somehow). Most likely in my top 10, though. I was surprised that I would be interested in seeing Captain America’s origin story play out, but it really does make a good movie. Fans of the comics should be pleased.

I give it 4 “I didn’t know Stanley Tucci was in Captain America!”s out of 5.

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Belle De Joure (2/27/12)

Belle De JourMovie Thirty Eight

Belle De Jour is a complicated film for me to discuss. Not because there are plot twists and lots of characters but because the subject matter seems so foreign to me.

The story revolves around a beautiful, rich young woman, Séverine (played wonderfully by Catherine Deneuve) who can not bear to be intimate with her husband. She begins to have fantasies about rape and other extremes and eventually begins spending her afternoons working in a brothel. She is reluctant at first but seems to greatly enjoy it soon after.

What is confusing to me is that many plot synopses describe Deneuve as something of a ‘bored housewife’. She is not bored, this isn’t like an episode of Desperate Housewives or something, this is a serious movie with a female masochist understanding her sexuality. Director Luis Buñuel even gives us several reasons why she is this way through flashbacks. It is still very unusual ground to tread for a movie today, I’m sure it was even more taboo in the 60s.

As best as she tries to keep her day affairs secret, a particularly uncouth client ruins this when he decides he wants Deneuve all to himself. Even if you do not care for her actions, there is lots of tension because you want Deneuve to prevail. There is a point near the end of the film that has a two shots superimposed, one of a building and one of a forest and the camera pans up in one and down in another. It forces a break in what is really happening and what may have happened and we get to see both. It makes the audience wonder what is real and what is fantasy.

After I was finished watching Belle De Jour I didn’t know what to think. Did I like it? Did I hate it? I spent several days thinking about it and in writing about it I have thought about it even more. I would love to sit down and watch the film again to understand its finer points and truly appreciate it. I truly think Belle De Jour requires multiple viewings to make it less complicated.

I give it 4 silver teeth out of 5.

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Super 8 (2/25/12)

Super 8Movie Thirty Seven

I wanted to love Super 8, I really did. When I read that the film is essentially a love letter to all great 80s movies involving kids having adventures and monsters, I knew I needed to see it. When I finally saw it I was elated but ultimately left unfulfilled.

Super 8 is about a group of kids in the 80s that are filming their own zombie movie when a train derails and things start getting weird. We eventually learn the train contained pieces of an alien spaceship (and also the alien) and he just wants to go home. Although I realize that sounds a lot like the plot of E.T., E.T. himself was not 30 feet tall and grotesquely scary…Well, at least not on grotesque on purpose.

In fact, the alien in Super 8 reminds me a lot of the monster in another J.J. Abrams flick, Cloverfield and apparently there’s a reason for that. So we have an alien terrorizing this town and the military moving in to keep things under wraps and re-secure the alien. Meanwhile, the kids are formulating their own plan to save a friend of theirs and save the day. If it sounds familiar, it is but that is also on purpose and is meant to be part of the charm of Super 8. It’s almost like if the Goonies were helping E.T. while E.T. destroys stuff.

If you grew up watching Steven Spielberg’s movies from the 80s then Super 8 is worth seeing, but the movie is slightly lengthy at nearly two hours. I thought it could have been a bit more focused during the middle because the ending felt rushed. Overall, I enjoyed Super 8 but I had higher hopes for it. When someone tells you “J.J. Abrams basically made a Steven Spielberg movie from the 80s” you instantly fall in love with that idea and the film just didn’t deliver that magic to me. I still found it highly enjoyable, but not the classic that it could have been.

I give it 4 Argus cubes out of 5.

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Three Outlaw Samuari (2/24/12)

Three Outlaw SamuraiMovie Thirty Six

Three Outlaw Samurai is, in many ways, like other samurai films from Japan. There is a heavy price for honor and doing right and the lead samurai are all expertly skilled and incredibly smart.

While Western cowboy movies tend to lift the story lines from a samurai movie (Fistful of Dollars is Yojimbo, Magnificent Seven is Seven Samurai) I do not believe Three Outlaw Samurai has ever been emulated exactly, but the core pieces of it are familiar.

A group of peasants kidnap a magistrate’s daughter in the hopes getting fair treatment. A wandering samurai (ronin) finds the peasants and decides to help them. The magistrate is none too pleased about the kidnapping and sends men to kill the villagers. Among them are two other samurai. All three samurai have different goals, but eventually they unite to right the wrongs of the corrupt magistrate.

The movie is quite enjoyable and I had fun imagining what a spaghetti Western version of it would be like and how would play the samurai and the magistrate. While this is a Criterion release, it is short on the usual abundance of special features but comes at a lower than usual price as well. The rest of the package for Three Outlaw Samurai is great, and the film looks wonderful and crisp, however.

I give it 4 kidnapping peasants out of 5.

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Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (2/23/12)

The Empire Strikes BackMovie Thirty Five

Ah yes, another original Star Wars movie down…One to go.

Since I covered my thoughts about the current state of the Star Wars universe and the awesomeness of the recent Blu-Ray releases in my review of A New Hope, I won’t double-dip. The Blu-Ray release of The Empire Strikes Back is flawless.

Considered by many (including me) to be the best of the Star Wars films, Empire is chock full of movie goodness. There’s action, romance, double-crossing, evil, heroes, plot twists, humor, great writing, superb characters, and excellent directing. The writing and directing portions are crucial to making Empire the best Star Wars movie – George Lucas did neither.

For some reason, Lucas handed off the reigns for directing and took a backseat on writing this movie and Return of the Jedi. I’m not sure if he thought he had something to prove by taking the reins again to do the prequel trilogy, but I really think that is why the newer movies simply aren’t as good. Lucas created a fantastic universe, but apparently isn’t equipped to make great movies anymore.

Before I get too far off on a nerd rant, watching The Empire Strikes Back is something I could probably do every week for the rest of my life and never grow tired of it. I still noticed new things and appreciated just how good of a movie it is. It truly is a great movie, not just a great Star Wars movie.

I give it 5 bounty hunters out of 5.

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The Conversation (2/22/12)

The ConversationMovie Thirty Four

A movie like The Conversation simply would not be the same if it was made today. The fact that the entire purpose of the film is hinged on capturing a conversation using then state of the art technology.

Throughout the course of the film we watch as a couple have a conversation. This conversation is being recorded by several people through different means. We do not know why this seemingly benign conversation is happening, nor why it is being recorded. The couple is wary of being recorded and they think walking in a large public space will keep their privacy. In 2012, a satellite would have been able to record their entire conversation, videotape them, and likely a myriad of other things as well.

We soon meet Gene Hackman, a mastermind at private surveillance and the technology involved. He becomes engrossed in the conversation which he has to record but a past event has caused him to try to remain a neutral third party, a mere eavesdropper. As the movie progresses the story unfolds and our questions begin to be answered, but more questions arise.

As the tensions rise and we start to understand what is going on, the film does a complete 180 in one of the best twists in cinema. Suddenly everything we have heard from the couples conversation makes sense, it seems so obvious!

The Conversation is a gripping thriller from start to finish. While Coppola is best known for the first two Godfather movies and Apocalypse Now, The Conversation is not a film to be missed. It is taut, well-paced and exciting.

I give it 5 saxophone playing Hackmans out of 5.

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Five Easy Pieces (2/21/12)

Five Easy PiecesMovie Thirty Three

In his Great Movies write-up for Five Easy Pieces, Roger Ebert called it “the first Sundance film”. This was of course referring to the Sundance Film Festival, which did not begin for another eight years. What he meant by this was that Five Easy Pieces was a pioneering indie film.

Jack Nicholson plays Bobby Dupea, a musician working in an oil field, purposely making sure he does not live up to his potential. He is determined to be a mediocre outcast, but struggles to fit the role he wants for himself. Nicholson is divine as the lead role and despite his best efforts to make himself seem disagreeable, I found him to be identifiable and funny.

The story takes us with Bobby to visit his dying father back home. He travels with his girlfriend, whom he cannot seem to stand but keeps around as part of his facade. We discover he comes from a well off family and we also learn why Bobby wants so desperately to be his own man and disconnect from the bourgeois lifestyle. The film ends in a spectacular way that is perfect for the tone of the film.

After watching Five Easy Pieces I was surpised to learn it was nominated in four different categories for the 1971 Academy Awards, including best picture. I was not surprised because of the quality of the movie, but more so because I’m surprised audiences 40 years ago were very receptive to it.

The Criterion Collection has released Five Easy Pieces as part of their BBS Box Set. The set includes seven films from the BBS production company: Head, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Drive, He Said, A Safe Place, The Last Picture Show, and The King of Marvin Gardens. I would highly recommend it, Five Easy Pieces alone makes it a gem.

I give it 5 barking Nicholsons out of 5.

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Terri (2/18/12)

TerriMovie Thirty Two

Terri is a coming of age story about an overweight high school student. There isn’t much to the film other than what’s on the surface but it is fairly enjoyable. It’s the kind of indie drama/comedy we have come to expect; it doesn’t do anything groundbreaking but it’s solid.

The movie takes a snapshot of Terri’s life in a span of a week or two. We find out his uncle is ill and Terri takes care of him, his school life is hard, and he wears pajamas all the time. John C. Reilly plays the vice principal that also tries to help Terri out. The other characters are quirky and I found them all to be unlikeable. Terri eventually befriends a girl, who herself becomes an outcast after a sexual experience during class.

Terri (the character) is quiet but we can often tell what he is thinking and his motivation for doing things. He’s a nice kid that is just trying to get by. I never found anything to be particularly memorable about Terri but it was not a waste of time. If you’re like me and you’re a sucker for indie movies, it may be worth your time.

I give it 3 Creeds out of 5.

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