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Old October 29 2010, 10:16 PM   #766
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Michael Clayton - B+. All around good political thriller that plays well to corporate paranoia.

Showgirls - God this movie is horrible. And funny. Horribly funny. Funnily horrible.
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Old October 29 2010, 10:22 PM   #767
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Inception [A+] Chris Nolan can have my babies.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World [A-] I rather enjoyed this movie, although I think it's a little bit too long.
The Social Network [B-] I don't get the hype. And the music that plays throughout is annoying.
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Old October 30 2010, 01:29 AM   #768
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

241. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance [A-]
242. The Last Boy Scout [C-]
243. Background to Danger [C-]
244. Stagecoach [B-]
245. Blackmail (sound version) [C+]
246. The Serpent and the Rainbow [D+]

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: I tend to think that this is Ford's best western. It has all the pessimism that most of his earlier, much more earnest films lacked, generously avoids using racially caricatured Indians as the villains, and has great performances all around. Of course, Jimmy Stewart is 25-30 years too old for a young man just out of law school, but other than that, I can't think of a single thing I don't like about it.

The Last Boy Scout: Bruce Willis is pretty good in his role here, which elevates the movie from being a totally incoherent mess. Damon Wayans is awful in an action role, and the NFL prologue is stylistically excessive and ultimately incidental to the narrative (which is a pretty silly thing in itself). The best part is the end when the entire crowd cheers when Bruce Willis kills one of the villains, even though they should have no idea what is happening and be appalled at such a violent death. Totally ridiculous, but the action is decent and Willis manages to keep it from falling to pieces.

Background to Danger: George Raft proves once and for all that he would have been terrible in CASABLANCA in this wartime piece that is essentially a clone of that movie without any of the charm (Raft even wears what appears to be a copy of Bogie's costume for half the movie). Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are in both films, but only manage to keep this turkey from sinking. In the end, Raft runs away with the girl, even though they don't know each other at all and her brother has just been murdered (and it is partially Raft's fault). Best of all, the editing is all over the place. This is probably a result of wartime restrictions on film stock, but it's interesting to see a Classical Hollywood film that ends up calling so much attention to the way it is edited.

Stagecoach: A fairly effective western that is well-shot and usually considered to be one of John Ford's best. Keeping the final shoot out mostly off-screen is a brilliant stroke, and the supporting cast is good, but I still find the war-whooping Indians to be pretty one-dimensional as villains and the calvary's final charge, no matter how well shot, to be a pretty laughable convention of the genre (even at this point). The romantic ending where John Wayne rides off to Mexico with a girl he barely knows is pretty silly, too, but an artifact of the period.

Blackmail (Sound Version): To my surprise, some things are better in this version of the Hitchcock film (the kitchen scene, where the dialogue is mumbled except for the word "knife" is better, and many of the dialogue exchanges early in the film are better spoken aloud than in the intertitles), but some are worse (especially the staging of the rape and the eventual killing). It's about on par with the silent version.

The Serpent and the Rainbow: Wes Craven's voodoo/zombie film is ridiculous from the word go, whether it be Bill Pullman's pointless, awfully-delivered voice-over narration, or the completely arbitrary supernatural rules (whatever needs to happen simply happens), or the fact that Paul Winfield (of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN) gets to die not once, but twice in service of the white hero...well, it's hilariously awful. I'm not surprised that the 35mm print I got to see was so beautiful--obviously, there isn't a lot of interest in showing this turkey.

This weekend I have to watch THE SEARCHERS, will do my best to watch the entire BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy (a friend just bought the Blu-Ray), and if I manage to time travel, find the time to see GHOSTBUSTERS in 70mm.
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Old October 30 2010, 02:13 AM   #769
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Saw a free screener for the Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell movie Conviction. About a man wrongfully accused of murder in '83 who is set free by his sister's quest to prove it so some 16yrs later.

I really liked it and its sure to get some conversation come awards time.
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Old October 30 2010, 04:43 AM   #770
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Harvey wrote: View Post
Stagecoach: A fairly effective western that is well-shot and usually considered to be one of John Ford's best.
It's generally considered to be the film that elevated the Western from B-movie to critical respectability.
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Old November 1 2010, 02:43 AM   #771
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

80. The Corpse Bride (B)
81. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (B+)

Ah, Tim, we meet again.

So apparently the Harry Potter films shut down for a few weeks and a bunch of the actors carpooled over to star in a Tim Burton film while waiting for things to start up again. And, of course, Johnny Depp is here. Seriously, he hasn't made a movie without Depp and/or Helena Bonham Carter since 1996. Anyway, this one's a musical, albeit an incredibly bloody one (which created some serious promotional problems). Depp and Carter, the leads, do their own singing, and they're both decent, but not quite to the level of making a lot of the songs really soar (I wasn't humming any of them when it was over, though "Pretty Women" in particular is well-staged and memorable). Some of the supporting actors are better singers. Depp doesn't give a bad performance, but this is far from his best work; Carter's turn as Mrs. Lovett is more dementedly interesting. Enjoyably macabre, if not quite spectacular.
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Old November 1 2010, 09:54 AM   #772
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

CaptainCanada wrote: View Post
Harvey wrote: View Post
Stagecoach: A fairly effective western that is well-shot and usually considered to be one of John Ford's best.
It's generally considered to be the film that elevated the Western from B-movie to critical respectability.
Having read a couple of books discussing the Western genre over the weekend, it turns out this perception isn't quite correct. 1939 was a watershed year for Westerns that were at last A-pictures, but STAGECOACH was one of many, and it wasn't the first one to be released, either. These other films included JESSE JAMES, DODGE CITY, DESTRY RIDES AGAIN, UNION PACIFIC, and FRONTIER MARSHAL (the titles come from Thomas Schatz' Hollywood Genres, but a quick wikipedia search seems to confirm his claim).

STAGECOACH is just singled out because it features John Wayne in his breakthrough role and is director John Ford's first sound Western.

247. Back to the Future [A]
248. Back to the Future Part II [A-]
249. Back to the Future Part III [B+]
250. Ghostbusters [A]

Back to the Future Trilogy: A friend just bought the new Blu-Ray release, so a few of us spent the majority of Friday night watching the entire trilogy back-to-back-to-back. Overall, it's just as great as always, although the HD transfers reveal more flaws in the first film's old age make-up than I've ever seen before, as well as making some of the less effective scenes with more than one Michael J. Fox character stand out more apparently. Still, it's a fun trilogy. Doc's pronouncement that "the future is what you make it" in the end has always been a little much for me (though the time-travelling train is always fun), but it's a small point of dissatisfaction.

Ghostbusters: Speaking of effects that don't hold up in higher resolutions, those stop-motion dogs in GHOSTBUSTERS sure look awful in 70mm (blown up from the original 35mm). Still, there are so many great lines and moments that it's hard not to love every minute of it ("Listen! Do you smell something?").

I also saw THEM! and THE SEARCHERS this weekend, but comments on those will have to wait. It's late.
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Old November 2 2010, 03:20 AM   #773
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

80. The Corpse Bride (B)
81. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (B+)
82. Beauty and the Beast (A+)

The "best of Disney" poll had this on my mind, so when I saw the Diamond Edition, I figured it was time to buy - I watched this film plenty on VHS in the early/mid-90s (never saw it in theatres; the rerelease of The Great Mouse Detective and Aladdin were my first visits to the cinema), but I hadn't seen it in at least ten years, probably longer. I don't rewatch things a lot, because generally my memory is fabulous, but given the time elapse, there's a lot of stuff I didn't really remember, such as the cameo by future-Frollo Tony Jay as a corrupt asylum master. This set has both the theatrical release and the extended version with a new musical number, which I'd never seen before (the song, "Human Again", is fun and adds a bit more to the castle servants, but one can see why it was cut). A classic by any measure, and I still know all the songs by heart (my younger brother and I used to do "Gaston" all the time at family gatherings). The film is also situated at a bit of a turning point in the history of animation: it really introduces CGI into the mix (the famous ballroom scene), albeit in a supporting role, and it's the last film made before Aladdin and Toy Story introduced the idea of recruiting name actors to play animated parts, something that had previously been considered beneath the stars and a little pointless.
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Old November 2 2010, 05:34 AM   #774
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Saw II [C+]
Saw III [C]
Saw IV [D]
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Old November 6 2010, 10:05 PM   #775
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Last night I saw Fair Game, Doug Liman's new film with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. It was decent, competently made, and reminded me once again why I hated the Bush administration.

I think they could've done a bit more, although given that it's based on real life events, I suppose they went as far as the material allowed them to. It also was a bit of a mish-mash of genres: at times, it's an okay political thriller, but it actually might be more interesting as a family drama, examining the incredible strain put on the marriage of two people while under fire from almost the entire country.
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Old November 6 2010, 10:40 PM   #776
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

251. THEM! [B-]
252. The Searchers [C+]

THEM!: This is an odd B-movie that gave rise (along with THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS) to the atomic monster subgenre of sf that was popular in the 1950s. At times, it is positively brilliant, featuring gorgeous cinematography that is reminiscent of film noir, with harsh shadows, and mobile light sources. The cast is also fairly strong for such a B-Picture, including Oscar-winner Edward Gwenn in one of his last feature film roles, as well as James Whitmore, James Arness, and a memorable cameo by Fess Parker (not to mention a brief speaking role by Leanord Nimoy, and yet another appearance by William Schallert, who guest starred in "The Trouble with Tribbles").

But that doesn't get around the times when the cinematography is positively embarrassing--once you start to notice that in certain shots the director has blocked up to seven actors into the 4:3 frame you can't stop noticing it, as the actors awkwardly take their positions so that everyone can be in frame at once. It also doesn't help the ants, which look terrible. They're wisely kept off screen for more than half an hour, but once they appear it seems like they never leave (Warner Bros. apparently asked the director to include as much of the ants as possible, despite his protests, and it shows). It also doesn't help that the film switches from 35mm to 16mm near the end (and often alternates between the two) which is positively jarring.

Finally, there's the Dr. Medford character (Gwenn). At times, he's the voice of science and of reason (let's ignore the fact that even Warner Bros. own research files, pulled from articles written in the late 40s suggest that 'giantisim' of any sort was just plain fantasy), but at other times he speaks of biblical prophecy, of science gone too far, and the end of the world. It feels like these lines have been tacked on, and the idea that "science has gone too far" (implicitly, that it has encroached upon 'God's domain') leads to incoherence when science (in concert with military might, itself the development of science) ultimately comes to the rescue in the end. But, I'm sure nobody else cares--I've just been working on this angle as part of a research project lately. Getting to look through the old studio files about THEM! has certainly been fascinating.

The Searchers: This is often hearalded as one of John Ford's best Westerns (if not the best), but it's not without some major problems. For one, despite the fact that Wayne's character is intended to viewed with scorn by the audience (his sneering in close-ups, and his slaughter of buffalo, drive home this point), the film undermines this scorn by supporting his racist viewpoint. You see, the Indians of this film go around raping women, murdering families, and kidnapping children. The late suggestion that this is retaliation over the murder of Chief Scar's sons does little too alleviate the fact that he and the other Indians are demonstrated again and again to be brutal savages. It's not nearly the revision of the norms of the classical Western that some critics suggest. The Indians are also, of course, terrible shots. Despite being armed with plenty of guns, they can't seem to hit any of the white characters, while the Indians are killed by the dozens.

It's also held down by the subplot with Vera Miles, which injects some unneeded humor (often, where humor is innapropriate--such as the revelation that Jeffrey Hunter's character could only be bothered to write one letter to Vera Miles in five years). The heart of the story is the relationship between Wayne and Hunter (yes, the original Captain Christopher Pike), and the film spends a third of its running time, if not longer, on a long tangent that distracts from that.

THE SEARCHERS has several strong elements, but it is not Ford's masterpiece. Even Roger Ebert, who hails the film as one of the "great movies" cannot praise it without intense qualification.
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Old November 7 2010, 12:52 AM   #777
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

I saw a couple more new movies on Halloween, forgot to list them.

Saw VI [B-] This is the only one besides the original that had a plot that made sense. Pretty decent film.

House of the Devil [B-] I can't believe I watched a girl sit alone in an empty house for an hour and a half. It was ok, but nothing I'd watch again.
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Old November 7 2010, 01:53 AM   #778
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Saw 3D

Not too bad. Not great.

B-
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Old November 7 2010, 05:58 PM   #779
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

I wrote a huge review of "Them!" somewhere in this thread. I really had no problems with it and thought it was one of the best monster movies I've ever seen. I was very impressed with the look of the movie (didn't notice any of the problems mentioned above) and appreciated the way it took ants seriously as a species and even went into scientific detail about how powerful they can be in order to give the story more weight. I thought the giant ants looked great too. "The Searchers" bored the hell out of me. I did enjoy John Wayne's screen presence, though, and if nothing else it made me want to see more movies starring him. I agree that the blatant racism of it really sucks and brings the whole movie down. I just hope the next John Wayne movie I watch is more interesting.
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Old November 7 2010, 08:31 PM   #780
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Try seeing THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE or TRUE GRIT. I hear Wayne's final film, THE SHOOTIST, is also good, but I haven't seen it.

253. The Bigamist [B-]

Ida Lupino is a filmmaker and actress who I had never heard of before seeing this film, which I saw in class (and the 35mm print was in pretty good shape, which was nice), but looking at IMDB she had a long career as a director and an actress, which would be unusual now and is doubly unusual in the even more male-dominated directing field of the 40s and 50s. It features yet another appearance of Ed Gwenn (in addition to a pair of meta-references--once, a character says he looks like Santa, and in another scene, a tour guide points out the house of Ed Gwenn!) and a fine cast (including Lupino).

The genre (social melodrama) isn't one that usually grabs my attention, but I have nothing bad to say about the film (which revolves around a man who secretly maintains two marriages, and then, shockingly, gets in a lot of trouble when somebody finds out). It's well shot (the black and white photography approaches the film noir style, though not quite). I doubt anyone here is a fan of social melodramas of the period, but in that rare case, it's worth the download (it's available for free online).
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