My October Movies Round-Up

We are officially in the final stretch of 2012, everyone. Here it is, the middle of November, and I’m finally finished writing up my movies from October. I need to get caught up here!

My goal of 300 movies in 2012 is looking like it’s doable, but it’s going to be tough. I really envy those of you that tackled a movie a day, I think I could watch a movie every day but writing about it too?! No way. I’m sure you’re all aware of how much time I spend reading through your various blog entries so I hope that gets noticed as a huge investment of time. I could very easily just watch movies and then instantly write about them but I think the reviews would feel sterile and I’m sure I wouldn’t have near the amount of awesome support you guys give me in return. Seriously, this site has been an absolute pleasure to run and I hope you feel even an ounce of the gratitude you all deserve. Thank you.

With the holiday season fast approaching, you’ll probably see a shift to my regular holiday scheduled movie watching, but I’ll try to keep things diverse, like they usually are.

Now is the time for me to brainstorm my goal for 2013 – Please help me out if you have any good ideas! Doesn’t have to be long-term goals, I could have monthly goals too.

Shameless plug time…Like Andy Watches Movies on Facebook and follow me Twitter if you want to know more of my shenanigans.

October movies I watched:

  1. E.T.
  2. Casino
  3. Shotgun Stories
  4. Drive
  5. Vivre Sa Vie
  6. The Master
  7. Chillerama
  8. Headhunters
  9. Dracula [1931]
  10. Umberto D.
  11. Oslo, August 31
  12. Primal Fear
  13. Ikiru
  14. Decalogue: Film One
  15. Decalogue: Film Two
  16. Little Shop of Horrors
  17. Decalogue: Film Three
  18. Drag Me To Hell
  19. Frankenstein
  20. Bride of Frankenstein
  21. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Nostalgiathon entry)
  22. Prometheus
  23. Hotel Transylvania (review pending)
  24. Training Day
  25. Re-Animator
  26. The Girl
  27. Young Frankenstein

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Young Frankenstein (10/31/12)

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Young Frankenstein is the story of Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson as he lives down his surname and revisits his grandfather’s experiments.

Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) leaves his fiance, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) and travels back to the estate in Transylvania owned by his family. There he meets his new assistants, Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr), and housekeeper Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman). Frederick becomes interested in his grandfather’s experiments and decides to re-animate the dead and creates his own Monster (Peter Boyle). As the townspeople grow uneasy of Frederick’s experiments, the Monster goes out on his own before being captured again. Frederick transfers part of his personality to the Monster and then in an effort to calm people, the two put on a show.

The plot synopsis of Young Frankenstein makes this seem like a continuation of the original Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein films from the 30s, but it’s a typical Mel Brooks spoof that is securely rooted in the original Frankenstein lore. It’s even shot in black and white and uses some of the original set pieces and props from the ’31 Karloff film. This lends Young Frankenstein an edge of seriousness that almost makes the dry wit of Wilder and Brooks strike like a bell at times or go completely unnoticed if you aren’t looking for it.

To fully understand Young Frankenstein, you almost need a firm grasp of Mel Brooks’ humor and how it works more than you need strong knowledge of the Frankenstein films. Young Frankenstein is one of the finest comedies ever in that it has an actual plot that is taken fairly seriously but is punctuated by lots of great gags to keep things interesting. This isn’t a spoof film like they make today, this was a funny take on a film where the source is clearly loved. The original films aren’t necessarily the butt of the joke, but comedic situations can be made from the source material.

Young Frankenstein is one of the finer comedies ever produced, for my money. It’s a fantastic blend of humor and the original Universal films in a way that only Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder could do. While I thought it took a while to really get going, once all the plot points are setup the film got more than a few “belly laughs” from me. Young Frankenstein is a film that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid, so most of the humor went right over my head. As an adult I can really appreciate the film for what it is, especially after having just seen Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, but Young Frankenstein is just as timeless.

I give it 5 Puttin’ On the Ritz out of 5.

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The Girl [2012] (10/29/12)

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The Girl offers a look at the relationship between famed filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock, and Tippi Hedren.

While casting for his next big film, Alfred Hitchcock (Toby Jones) discovers a beautiful, blonde, young model by the name of Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller). Hitchcock and his wife, Alma (Imelda Staunton) hire Hedren and inform her that the next film will be Hitchcock’s biggest production yet, The Birds. Hitchcock slowly begins to obsess over Hedren and she continuously stops his sexual advances throughout the shooting of The Birds as well as Marnie.

The Girl, a made-for-TV movie that aired on HBO is based on the biographical works of Donald Spoto. Spoto apparently wrote a biography of Alfred Hitchcock while he was alive, but shortly after his death published a scathing, vindictive biography and then published the work that The Girl takes its material from. I only mention this because throughout The Girl, motives are inferred or implied that I simply was not able to connect the dots. In one particular scene, after Hedren has lost all her patience with Hitchcock’s advances, they are shooting the attic scene for The Birds. In what was supposed to be a day-long shoot with mostly fake birds, it stretches to five days and many real birds. Now, The Girl makes it seem that Hitchcock is doing this out of spite for Hedren not sleeping with him but I see it as a director not satisfied with the results of the shoot.

The attic scene was the point in The Girl where I really started questioning everything I was watching. I absolutely believe that Hitchcock had a creepy obsession with Hedren and probably did try to sleep with her even, but everything else seems exaggerated almost to the point of slander. It’s a shame too, because even if Hitchcock was torturing the poor actress for not sleeping with him, it’s presented in almost a villainous, comic book way. *shot of birds near a screaming, bloodied Hedren* *zoom in on Hitchcock’s face with an evil sneer, writhing his hands in enjoyment*

The plot of The Girl had me gripped for the beginning and even until the end, though by that point I was calling BS on almost everything shown. Even more gripping were the lead actors; Jones plays a great Hitchcock and surprisingly  Sienna Miller gives a fantastic performance. I’ve never been impressed by her work before, but she is definitely on my radar now. A few years back I felt bad for Jones because he was playing Truman Capote in a film around the same time that Philip Seymour Hoffman was and Hoffman was clearly superior. Now, he’s playing Hitchcock with Anthony Hopkins also playing Hitch in the upcoming film, Hitchcock. Time will tell who plays a better Hitchcock.

The Girl is not a bad movie, it just seems a bit misguided. Even if the source material was entirely true, the film isn’t terrifically interesting, though I still found it entertaining. Watch The Girl for the performances, but take everything else with a huge grain of salt.

I give it 3 Jones/Miller vs. Hitchcock/Hedren shots out of 5.

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Re-Animator (10/28/12)

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A medical student discovers the secrets of death and becomes the Re-Animator.

Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is involved in an incident where he brings his professor back to life. When discovered, West is accused of killing him, he rebuts that he did not kill him, he gave him life. West then travels to New England and enrolls in a medical program there. He rents out a house with another medical student, Dan (Bruce Abbott), and sets up his laboratory in the basement. The new professor, Dr. Hill (David Gale) has an instant dislike of West because West accuses him of stealing his previous professor’s work. When Dan’s cat is found dead, West is blamed for its death but later West involves Dan in his experiments to defeat death with his reanimation serum.

Re-Animator may very well be one of my favorite horror movies and not only does it have all the great gross-out blood, guts, and gore, it has a fantastically wry sense of humor. Originally based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, Re-Animator seemingly takes itself seriously if you don’t notice the sly winks every once in awhile. The story is also a refreshingly different take on the zombie genre, though it would be hard to classify Re-Animator strictly as a zombie movie.

I can still remember the first time I watched Re-Animator – it was shortly after watching the also extremely violent and humorous Dead Alive. I much preferred Re-Animator’s sense of style and Herbert West as depicted by Jeffrey Combs is far more memorable. The theme music for Re-Animator blatantly uses much of the theme from Psycho, and when I hear either theme song I first identify it as the Re-Animator theme rather than the Psycho theme. That’s the type of thing I’m sure can get you into trouble with certain cinematic circles but I don’t care.

Re-Animator may very well be the perfect modern horror movie. A movie that doesn’t necessarily try to scare, though some parts may. The sense of humor is likely to be missed by most, but those of us that get it will likely eat it up (figuratively, I wouldn’t want to eat anything re-animated). When I asked what Halloween movies everyone makes a point of watching, I criminally left Re-Animator off my list. It’s a film that I have a blast watching every single time and when it’s over I always ask myself “why don’t I watch this more often?”.

I give it 5 Herbert Wests out of 5.

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Training Day (10/27/12)

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A rookie undercover cop is taken for a wild ride as his superior blurs the lines between officer and criminal in Training Day.

Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is starting his first day on the job as an undercover narcotics officer in Los Angeles, riding along with Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). Jake quickly notices Alonzo’s methods are not at all what he expects of such a decorated police officer. After Alonzo makes Jake smoke marijuana laced with PCP at gunpoint, Alonzo’s nature is called entirely into question. As the day progresses, things get even less black and white as Alonzo takes Jake deep into the shadier parts of the job and leaves Jake scrambling to find a way out of the situation, even if it means losing the promotion to detective.

I love Training Day, it’s a movie that keeps me on the edge of my seat every time I watch it. Denzel playing a bad guy, and not just a bad guy, but a bad guy that doesn’t seem to know how bad he is and is also a cop…Wow. Perfect casting even though it’s about as far away from Denzel’s usual roles as it gets, he nails it (and won an Oscar for it). Training Day starts off with the viewer questioning the morality of the situations that Alonzo presents to Jake and even though things seem “off”, it’s easy to ride the fence on what is the best call. Jake seems to go along with this too. When things begin to take a darker turn we question what Alonzo is really playing at. Finding out just how far Alonzo is willing to go is haunting and mesmerizing to watch.

Personally, I find Training Day a hard film to categorize. It’s part action, part thriller, part cop drama but it also hits on some deeper levels. Alonzo is simply one of the best film villains to come along, in my opinion. He is truly capable of anything to get what he wants and he has the power of the police force to help him. He is a man that we likely have seen glimpses of in our real lives and though you almost want to root for Denzel, you can’t root for him because Alonzo is just so far corrupted.

Acting aside, Training Day is well-crafted and Antoine Fuqua directs the film with so much tension you can practically see it on screen. What brings the film down a bit is the somewhat complicated final act. Though it ties the layers of the story, there are a lot of layers to bring together and some things are resolved a bit too conveniently. It doesn’t hurt Training Day too much overall, but some of the details may be lost in the shuffle during the first viewing.

I give it 4 badass Denzels out of 5.

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So I watched Prometheus again…

If nothing else, it solidified my thoughts and I came up with a few more interesting theories on what is going on for the bigger picture. I highly recommend repeat viewings and if you own a blu-ray player, get the 3D edition of the film for the extras in the set.

My updated review

[Update]

I watched Prometheus again on blu-ray and was blown away by the presentation. As far as blu-rays go, it’s one of the nicest ones ever produced from what I’ve seen. I have yet to go through all the special features, but the few I watched were very eye-opening so I look forward to seeing what else is in store. After a second viewing, I am less inclined to believe that Prometheus has any glaring plot holes; yes, there are parts with all too convenient writing, and other parts are quite nebulous but that is fiction, people.

Prometheus should not be a movie that explains everything, especially when the point is the creation of life itself. Too much explanation would make for a fumbling movie and Prometheus deftly skirts these issues at times and if it seems like it is tackling something head-on, it drops off just short of giving everything away.Obviously many folks saw this as poor writing and I can certainly see how it’s frustrating to expect answers and not get them. I see it as a puzzle and the movie lays out most of the edge pieces for us but leaves many pieces with the face side down for us to flip over ourselves, or at least theorize what piece goes where.

I appreciated Prometheus much more after a second viewing and I urge the people that doubted it to view it again. The 3D blu-ray package is worth buying for the special features alone, even if you don’t own a 3D player/TV because there is a full disc in this version not found on the regular blu-ray set. Will the special features answer everything? Not likely – but as I said, they shouldn’t answer everything.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (10/25/12) – Nostalgiathon

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Movie Two Hundred Forty

A sailor, a professor, and his assistant climb aboard the Nautilus for adventure as they travel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

A mysterious sea monster is attacking ships in the Pacific Ocean and is halting sea trade. Professor Pierre Arronax (Paul Lukas) and his assistant, Conseil (Peter Lorre) are commissioned by the U.S. government to travel and look for evidence of the monster. After having no luck on the sea, the ship is attacked by the monster and the professor and Conseil are thrown overboard along with cocky crewmember Ned Land (Kirk Douglas). After being adrift in the ocean, the men arrive upon a strange metal submersible and realizing that it is the monster they have been looking for climb aboard looking for answers. They look outside a large porthole window and see the crew of the vessel diving in large suits. The crew comes back aboard the Nautilus and their captain, Nemo (James Mason), takes the three men as captives. As Nemo reveals his intentions, the crew of the Nautilus travel the treacherous seas as Ned plots his escape.

Since this is the kickoff for Nostalgiathon, I will start by explaining why 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is my perfect choice. As a kid, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of my favorite movies but also the movie I found the most terrifying thing ever. The giant squid that attacks the Nautilus near the end of the film made young Andy have nightmares for weeks and still effects me today. Also, the Shedd Aquarium here in Chicago had a lifesize model of a giant squid on the ceiling in one of their exhibits that would make me cry every time we went there. But even though I was terrified, I was also incredibly intrigued by the creature.

To young me, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea WAS the giant squid attacking; the rest of the movie was filler for that scene. As an adult, the rest of the film is actually incredibly smart and mature considering this is a Disney film. Ned Land acts as most the film’s comic relief since he sings songs and acts crazy, and there is also a seal that seems tossed onscreen to appease kids, but the actual plot and Nemo’s motivations are quite adult. Even though I had watched this film many times as a kid, other than a few spotty things here and there, the only thing that was still burned in my brain was the giant squid attack and I’ll be honest…I still got chills from that scene as a 30 year old. Though no nightmares this time around, I’ve matured!

As mentioned, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a Disney film, the first sci-fi film from the studio. When Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, submarines did not exist, which blows my mind. This was science fiction that turned non-fiction. The style of the film is also largely credited with popularity for the steampunk movement since the design of Nautilus is incredibly unique, even today.

As a kid, Kirk Douglas’ over the top sailor, Ned Land, always made me chuckle and he was the only character I really remember anything about. Now, Mason’s and Lorre’s performances stick out just as much, though they are a little more subtle. Mason as Nemo has such a dark hidden rage and Lorre is just a loveable assistant but gives a great performance.

Since I was lucky enough to see 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on the big screen this time, the giant squid was still huge and scary and amazing. It is still the highlight of the film for me, but now I am able to fully understand what is happening in the film. I think it has aged quite well both as a film and as a piece of nostalgia

I give it 4 (what else?) giant squid attacks out of 5.

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