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Movies, first quarter 2022
BIG STUPID ACTION / CRAIGATHON / CRUISEATHON / LINKS
artwork by Molly Colleen O'Connell
List of movies watched January/February/March 2022. I know I just posted one of these lists, which encompassed the entire year of 2021, but I felt like the list was a tad long, better to break it up by quarter.
This quarter it's mostly big stupid action movies.
These notes are pulled direct from my little computer diary. I do not put a numeric score on each movie because that's not helpful to me, and besides it's not like these are "reviews", this is just my notes.
If you hated any of the movies I enjoyed, that's completely no problem for me. Rewatches are marked with a " ⟲ "
Stage-Struck Tora-San (1978)
We're moving in order through Tora-San movies for the moment, although that's not set in stone-- I may jump around. This is the 21st movie in the series. Opens with a UFO dream sequence and has an oddly funky soundtrack.
Cowboys and Aliens (2011)
I remembered this as being fun, and it really fit the night's requirement of a good but not intense movie. James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) star in this "just what it says on the tin" sci-fi western. And of course Walt Goggins is in this, this is primo Walt Goggins territory. It's cool but also nuts that the aliens in this just want gold-- that's humbling. You almost wish they were more evil, that they wanted to eat people or something, but they just want gold and they have no respect for human life. Sounds familiar.
A Night At The Opera (1935)
I love all the Marx Brothers movies but this is my favorite. Great performances, great bits, great songs, Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones are great as the lovebirds, and the whole thing flows beautifully. It isn't funnier than the other ones but it just pops. This one is the saddle point between the more anarchic movies they made for Paramount, but before the MGM ones got too much like other people's movies. I've watched this one... a hundred times??? Every line and nuance is inscribed in my mind. At this point my favorite parts are the very little things, like Chico saying "sure..." or "Do you mind if I, uh...". I hung out with ML a few months ago and he got me with a perfectly apropos Margaret Dumont quote from this-- "one of those is a day bed". That's not even a funny line but for some reason I love it.
After watching "Cowboys and Aliens" the other day on a whim, we went back and rewatched all the Daniel Craig Bond movies. He's great, in a way that didn't come into focus until we watched a little bit of a Roger Moore Bond later-- with Bond, as with any spy movie spy, you want to see a high level of confidence, but you also want to feel like what they're doing is actually difficult. Roger Moore just kind of walks around and everything seems too easy, but Daniel Craig is really working out there. Spectre is the one about building a global surveillance network, and it's also the "daddy issues" one, with Bond's adoptive brother seeking to destroy him for usurping his father's attention and affection when they were children. According to wikipedia there's a copyright issue with the character of Blofeld, who appeared, as part of the SPECTRE organization, as the main baddie in 8 movies from 1963 to 1971. Then he pretty much disappeared, until this particular picture. As I understand it, there was a plagiarism lawsuit about his appearance in the books, and the settlement gave the other guys the movie rights to the character. Bond author Fleming had a heart attack during the trial, followed by a second heart attack nine months later. So in some way you could say that Blofeld is a bad guy who killed his own author, as Blofeld in this movie is said to have killed his own father. The studios finally got the character back in 2015, through circumstances unclear. Maybe they just paid up?
Casino Royale (2006)
The first Bond movie of the current epoch. Watching it this time I kept thinking about how the young Daniel Craig looks like Weird Mike (aka Mike From The Future). Has anyone seen Weird Mike lately? How's he doing? The bad guy in this is Mads Mikkelsen, who we love, and he cries blood for completely no reason, it rocks. There's a love interest who (spoiler) kills herself at the end for apparently no reason, and this is a plot point for the rest of the Craig Bonds-- not that she died for completely no discernable reason, but that she like "betrayed him". I think I'm sensitive to preposterous accusations of betrayal because I started going to shows during the rise of Emo, but it's fitting for the character I guess. I mean I can really see a character like Bond transmuting his grief into anger via misremembered betrayal, and then making that like 50% of his personality. You have to remember that Bond is messed up emotionally and also sort of a bad person, and this is what makes him valuable as a state-controlled tool of mayhem.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Great bad guy in this, a greenwashing developer who seeks to privatize all the water in Bolivia. All the bad guys in this era of Bond are just doing stuff that governments and corporations are already doing, it's bleak. Of course in Bond world this guy gets abandoned in the desert where he gets so thirsty he drinks motor oil. Meanwhile in our world the Nestle dudes are watching pre-release screeners of this and laughing from their impregnable superyachts. The producers wish to thank Coca Cola. For more on the Bolivian water crisis, see this wikipedia entry for the Cochabamba War: [wikipedia]
if Spectre was the Bond movie about daddy issues, this is the mommy issues one. There's a final battle at Bond's ancestral home in Scotland, which has a secret tunnel in it for what seems like a valid historical reason. Scotland rocks.
No Time To Die (2021)
Finally they made one where Bond realizes "OK, our side does bad stuff too". And then his boss is like "we have to!" but doesn't make a very convincing case, because power corrupts. In the end they destroy the diabolocal invention, but like, can you really destroy an invention? No one has a copy of the plans? The bad guy in this is great, played by Rami Malick. Malick was Freddie in the Queen biopic, a role that was at one point offered to the guy who plays Q in this. The two of them don't have any onscreen time together in this movie, I wonder if they spoke at all on set. Anyway I spent the first half like "wow, that's Freddie Mercury" and then once the unrequited love angle showed up I tried to convince myself that actually it was the guy who played Ducky in Pretty In Pink. Something funny that happens in this one is that Bond makes a simple breakfast for his (spoiler) young daughter, but it's just an apple that he peels and cuts into thin slices. Then while she's eating it (with a fork) he goes "is it good?" and she's like "uhhhh yeah, it's great" and he's all proud. This made me realize that Bond probably hasn't prepared his own food since he was like, 6 years old-- he probably eats in restaurants and hotels for 3 meals a day and doesn't really know how food works. His "cool hack" is peeling an apple.
Logan Lucky (2017)
Fun Soderbergh heist movie with Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig (continuing our Craigathon). Daniel Craig knows that he has to do a weird accent in every non-Bond movie he's in, or the audience will say "there's James Bond". Some people can't operate with a burden like that but some people seem to really luxuriate in its horrible gravity. Needless to say Craig is on team Burden Luxuriate In Gravity Of, and in this movie his accent is as unconvincing as his joy is evident. Director Soderbergh describes Logan Lucky as being like Ocean's Eleven but it's all "rubber band technology", which is apt, and as with Ocean's Eleven et al, we get to watch a plan that we think we understand play out perfectly, and then at the end there's a reveal that there's an even more diabolical plan underneath that, and it also goes perfectly. Checkers to chess. I liked it. Adam Driver has the best accent of everyone in this, I really liked him (and I didn't really like him in Star Wars).
Knives Out (2019)
Zany whodunnit that upends the format in a novel way, where you know who did it at the beginning (ala Columbo) and then you hope they don't get caught (because it was just a mistake), and then only at the very end do you learn that (spoiler) it actually was a murder, and (spoiler) they didn't do it, it was (spoiler) someone else. Daniel Craig does his craziest accent yet, a sort of Foghorn Leghorn. Don Johnston, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Toni Collette make the most of the opportunity to play annoying low-level bad people. I watched this initially at the beginning of the pandemic, and rewatching it now felt weird-- I've been inside long enough to rewatch a movie I saw already and didn't totally love.
Searching around trying to find another Bond movie that we like. Tried to watch Moonraker but Roger Moore was just too much of a dud. This one (with Sean Connery) was good. One thing that really struck me is that the initial bad thing that the bad guy does, which is the reason that the Bank of England (!) tells Bond to go after him, is that he's buying gold in one location and selling it at another location where it's worth more money. That may be against the best interest of the Bank of England but come on, that's not morally wrong by any stretch of the imagination. Also Goldfinger's ultimate plan is to 10x his investment, which honestly seems kind of paltry by today's standards. I mean if you're kind of evil and you already have 10 million dollars, I imagine you'd be able to get to 100 mil in a fairly short period of time, without ever personally pulling a trigger or vivisecting a rival by laser. Not to say that this guy's a dummy, but rather, that times sure have changed. Maybe I'm wrong but I feel like today's financial crimes are enshrouded in law.
I had this idea of "a Pollyanna" as a sort of goody-goody character, so I wasn't really that interested in seeing this for a while. Finally I did and I really liked it. There's a bit of a Moomin feeling, where there's a likeable character in a griping and grousing Hell world, constantly beset by miserable operatives hung up on their own hooks. This made me anxious for the first half, and I was thinking "if only Pollyanna was with other Pollyannas, then she could start really lifting some serious weight". But then wouldn't you know it, she transforms the hell world into a glad land. This movie rekindled my interest in what I call "the ice cream bullshit 1910s". It's a weird mood to pin down but architecturally it's like the Addams Family but everything's brand new.
Bringing Up Father (1947)
I went looking for more movies set in the ice cream bullshit 1910s and someone suggested this so I looked it up. Usually I watch a movie all the way through but this one I had to stop, it was an unrelenting cavalcade of displeasure. I watched this on YouTube and the comments let me know exactly who's digging this in the 21st century-- bitter old dicks. "What a wonderful movie, it was a time when everyone knew their place and stayed there". Yuck! Wikipedia says "The more he rails against his staff, his cook, his wife, his horse, salesmen, holidays, his children and the inability of the world to live up to his impossible standards, the more comical and lovable he becomes to his own family who love him despite it all." I didn't find this loveable at all, I found it tiresome and unbearable. William Powell stars and a young Liz Taylor fails to charm in this vile and contemptable stinkeroo.
Project A 2 (1987)
rewatch of this extremely enjoyable Jackie Chan movie, the sequel to 1983's Project A (which is similarly superb). Set in Hong Kong of the late 1800s, which is suuuuuuch a great time period for an action movie, mostly because very few people are in cars and there are only a few guns - just enough to add a level of high danger when present. Also the costumes are great! And setting it in Hong Kong at this time is also great because you have Hong Kong police, Navy guys, Chinese secret agents, imperial British dudes, revolution guys, corrupt cops, regular bad guys, AND pirates, all working with and against each other at different times, with lots of new construction to climb on and through. I watched an interview with Jackie and he said that after Project A, western reviewers kept comparing him to old film comedians, even though he had never seen these movies. It's crazy to think of making a movie where you hang from a huge clock without being aware of Harold Lloyd, but watching old movies was a non-trivial feat in the age before the VCR. Anyway in between Projects A and A 2 he made a point of schooling himself on old Hollywood comedies, if only to figure out what everyone was talking about. This one has a tense and wonderful scene based on the famous stateroom scene from Night At The Opera. Strong recommendation.
Wrath Of Man (2021)
Jason Statham / Guy Ritchie movie that is simply not good. It's not bad, but you can tell that the formula is way off. Ritchie adapted this from a French movie, and it's like in order to make it "his" he had to go ahead and topload the first half with ennnnnndless quips. Quite frankly there's too much quipping in this!!! You can't have everyone quip all the time, it's tiresome. They keep ragging on this one guy, saying he's gay and he likes kissing boys and so on, and he just rolls with it and you're like, wait, are they being homophobic or is he actually gay and they're trying to be supportive in their own shitty way? They never clear that up. Anyway it's just quips and people shooting at each other, I didn't like it. They do the thing where you see something happen and it makes sense but then later you see it again with more information and it makes a different sort of sense-- generally I like that in a movie. But like I said I didn't really like this. It's neither well made nor passionate and I need one or the other, ideally both. Statham plays his trademark tough but fastidious guy, but unlike his better films, not once in this does he prepare a nice meal for himself, or even take a bite of any food. At one point he orders "a burrito" but he doesn't even say what he wants in it, he just tells the guy "burrito" and the guy goes "coming right up". And then he doesn't even eat it, he just drops it on the ground! How are you going to make an action movie if you skip lunch like that??? The worst part is that the crux of the movie is that he's avenging his son's death but the only thing you learn about his son is that his name is Dougie and he's a college kid who doesn't believe in global warming.... Neither of these things inspire sympathy.
dazzling starpower in this great, almost quiet movie from the writers of WarGames (1983). It's about hackers, and they never once use the word "hacker". Nonetheless I think it's more realistic than any other movie about or tangential to computer crime. The movie is about a motley crew of freelance security engineers, that's like the legal side of hacking-- you rob a bank and then tell the bank how you did it, and they let you keep some of the money. The key aspect of this field is finding a way to bypass the problem in a novel and unexpected fashion, and Sneakers visualizes this in a few fun ways, without feeling overly clever. There's one elegant part where Redford has to move suuuuuper slow to avoid a motion detector and it's really brilliant-- how many times have you seen a thriller where people are trying to go as fast as possible?? Moving extremely slow is even more tense, and it's a great use of resources when you're making a movie starring Robert Redford in 1992. The team they assemble in the movie is dynamite, a believably mixed bag of rogues, and as for the actors making the movie, I mean the only thing I can say is "star power": Redford, Sidney Poitier (RIP), Dan Ackroyd, River Phoenix (RIP), Ben Kingsley, James Earl Jones (in a small role)(RIP). Technical advisor on this was Leonard Adleman, the "A" in RSA encryption, so the math stuff is pretty alright (as I understand it). And the soundtrack features fuckin Branford Marsalis! I'm not a Marsalishead by any means but come on, that's star power, baby. According to the director, they had so much fun making this movie that the only way they could've had more fun would be if the film lab lost the footage and had to make the whole thing all over again!!!! UGH that is sooooooo CUTE!!!!!
dynamite movie, Ben Kingsley crushed it. Great casting, I loved it! This movie is 3 hours long and there's an intermission in the middle, which is quaint but I appreciate it. Did movie-goers really get up and stretch their legs? Seems like a logistical problem-- If I did this now I think I'd put a status bar on screen so you'd know how to time it. That's how they do it at the drive-in.
I loved Weird Al as a kid, and I loved this movie. As an adult I'm amazed to find that I still feel the same way. Weird Al seems like such a sweet guy, and maybe that's the weirdest thing about him- that he's nice and sweet and everyone loves him. Great casting in this: Fran Drescher, Billy Barty, Kevin McCarthy, John Paragon (RIP), Michael Richards, and the first person to play Bozo the Clown on TV, Vance Colvig Jr., plays an incredible bum, perhaps the most scintillating bum performance in Hollywood history. According to wikipedia, Ginger Baker from Cream wanted this role???? I imagine that in this instance alone the rejection was lightened by the fact that "some Bozo got the job instead of me". Other almosts: they wrote the TV scientist character for Joel Hodgson (pre-MST3K) but he wasn't comfortable acting, he bailed. Then they tried to get Crispin Glover for the role, but he was only interested in playing the car salesman in the commercial. They turned him down, not the right type. The studio thought this was going to be a huge hit so they released it the same time as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Lethal Weapon 2, Batman, Do The Right Thing, Licence to Kill... needless to say it flopped.
Kingsmen: the Secret Service (2014)
After all those James Bond movies I was grasping for more spy stuff. I remembered this franchise as being kind of fun, but then we put it on and it's surprisingly cruel and joyless. The action shots are filmed in an innovative way but there's so much killing and it's all so casually approached that it grossed me out. The bad guy in this (played as a lisping cowardly tech billionaire by Samuel L Jackson) is motivated to mass annihilation by environmental concerns-- I feel like I've seen this angle a few times and it only furthers the idea that the problem is over-population. The more this gets repeated, even in an action movie, the more it seems like an obvious truth, but it's dishonest and easy to exploit by IRL bad guys. The problem isn't too many people, it's too many fuckin BILLIONAIRES.
Gangs of New York (2002)
pretty bonkers Scorcese movie that's like almost a fantasy movie. Every little detail in this movie is so bananas, and it seems like the craziest stuff was pulled from real life, like the character of Hellcat Annie, who had sharpened brass claws she'd wear into battle and kept a jar of human ears on display at her bar. The year was 1862 and America was batshit crazy. Daniel Day Lewis doesn't exactly have a psycho accent but it's pretty weird and he really punches it, and all the little turns of phrase are so peculiar, that yes I would classify this as a "psycho accent movie". Love to think of Scorcese picking up the book this was based on (also called "Gangs of New York") and thinking "what's this book going to tell me that I don't already know?", and getting his wig pushed back severely because his knowledge base only goes back to the 1920s.
Ride The Pink Horse (1947)
Lily's on a noir kick where she reads the book then watches the movie, and I started lurking her Letterboxd account for recs. This one was good-- the main guy is unpleasant but it doesn't really matter, and if he was contemporary-likeable it would've made the movie worse. He's a guy wound pretty tight trying to get something for himself. Something really weird that I loved was that the guy gets really physically messed up and basically loses his mind for a while-- I mean that certainly seems like it could happen if you got stabbed and had to keep running on empty, you just don't see it in movies very often. Most of the time when people get hurt in movies they either shrug it off or not-- you don't really see the reality-fogging agony of a bad but ultimately non-fatal wound. There's a really great merry-go-round operator in this that starts off as a friendly loudmouth who's taking advantage of the main guy, but then the main guy is like, hey, I like your spirit. I love it when a thriller has a festival component and this one has a good one: the Fiestas de Santa Fe, when the giant marionette Zozobra is burned, along with as much of the town's sadness and woe as can be written on scraps of paper. I looked up "Zozobra" on wikipedia-- this is a real festival and furthermore:
Zozobra is a Spanish word for distress. The Mexican philosopher Emilio Uranga has used the term to describe a specific form of existential anxiety related to uncertainty and ambiguity, following its usage by the poet Ramón López Velarde.
The term has been used to describe the feelings of uncertainty and distress in the United States due to the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the political events of the Trump presidency and 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Not really relevant to the movie but anyway, wow!
I needed a loud movie to watch while eating nachos ('needed' is maybe too strong a word here) so I fired up this dynamite movie that is maybe my favorite video game movie adaptation. The NES game fascinated me as a kid-- it's like a bootleg King Kong and an ersatz Godzilla tearing a town apart and that's it. I don't need anything else. Of course the movie adds something else, it adds action movie star The Rock, and no complaints there. After some consideration, I would say this is my 3rd favorite "small group of pals destroy Chicago" movie, after Blues Brothers (1980) and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). Rampage is only at the bottom because they didn't show the Picasso in Daley Plaza, as the others did. You're talking about enourmous mutants colliding with the urban landscape and you don't show the Picasso, that's a major league missed opportunity. Other video game adaptation movies I liked include Super Mario Brothers (1993), Tomb Raider (2018), and Street Fighter (1994). Sadly none of those include a Picasso either (I think). For a sec I thought there was a Picasso in Batman (1989), a movie that was made into a video game (also 1989), but I looked it up the clip, it was a Francis Bacon. I tried to figure out if there's a reason for excluding Picassos from motion pictures and it doesn't seem to be a licensing issue-- in fact a 1970 District Court declared that the Chicago Picasso is technically in the public domain. So what gives??
Night And The City (1950)
another noir from Lily's list. Great cast, and the main guy is dynamite as a kind of pleasant weasel, "just trying to be somebody". He's got brains and he's got guts and he's just pointed in the wrong direction, "an artist without an art" as his cool neighbor says. His girlfriend Gene Tierney is so striking that it's almost unbelieveable that she'd be with this zero but that's how it goes sometimes. Herbert Lom is smoking of course. And there's some great wrestlers in this too, including one of the greatest legitimate wrestlers of all time, Stanislaus Zbyszko, who basically plays himself. Zbyszko was famous in his day for wrestling legendary undefeated grappling demigod the Great Gama to a somewhat undignified technical draw in 1910, and the movie treats him with enourmous respect. Jules Dassin directs.
The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973)
Third Lily noir of the weekend. Now I'm just echoing Lily's Letterboxd account but Robert Mitchum really nailed this particular flavor of old Boston accent. At one point one of the titular friends says that he's a bulldozer driver, and does bank robbery because the bulldozer thing is seasonal, and it got me thinking that crime does pay but not really very much. I mean this guy does 3 bank robberies and that's equivalent to 6 months of a regular job? And the bank robbery is probably harder, with all the scouting and the stress. And then Peter Boyle is a hitman who feeds info to the cops for a measly $20 a week???? OK, adjusting for inflation from 1974 to 2022 that's about $120, and over a year that's like 6 grand, but still, come on! Not only is he getting paid shit, he's risking his life for it! If I was a crime guy I'd tell my dudes, listen, if you're hard up for cash, come see me, I'll find you some more work. Don't rat me out just so you can afford to buy a used car in rough shape.
Mission Impossible (1996)
this is based on a TV show I've neither seen nor ever considered watching, yet somehow I know the main riffs already-- the message will self destruct, ripping off a rubber mask, theme music. It's easy to see how this movie launched a franchise but at the same time, it's not very good. The thing that caught my attention was the computer stuff-- Tom Cruise is looking for a guy and his only clue is a bible verse, so he goes to Usenet (!) and seemingly stays up all night sending the same message to the same malformed address (???) via different Usenet bible groups (that are shown as websites in the movie). Hmmm. Computer stuff in movies is tough because you have to make it visually compelling, with emails that fold up into a little envelope or something, I'm not going to take this movie to task for that. I enjoyed seeing an internet from before wide-spread web adoption but after (or during) Usenet's "Eternal September" (which happened, or started, in 1993). Incredibly he does search the web but gets nothing-- he's looking for this guy max so he types in "MAX.COM", gets no results, and looks really frustrated. Via the Wayback Machine I'm able to see what max.com was in 1996 and it's a website for Integrated Technologies and Systems Group (ITG), a full service Systems Integration and Client/Server Software Development company specializing in the development of Powerbuilder, Oracle, and Lotus Notes client/server applications on Microsoft NT, Novell, and UNIX platforms. I hope they had a good laugh about this.
Talk Of The Town Tora-San (1978)
the 22nd movie in the series. Reiko Ohara co-stars as the love interest, a recent divorcée. Ohara was voted "Japan's most adored actress" a whopping 14 times in her career, and as far as I can tell, really was a recent divorcée during the filming of this movie, from frequent co-star Tsunehiko Watase. Her life was made into a TV program, "Actress Reiko: Like a Flame", I wonder if her appearance on Tora-San is included in that?? I'm assuming this is the same Reiko Ohara who sang "Peacock Baby" in the 60s, although her bio doesn't mention a singing career. Great tune nonetheless-- [youtube]
Red Notice (2021)
as fans of the Fast and Furious franchise, we capitulated and watched this isotope starring 2 of the main actors from F&F and 1 actor who plays a recurring role. I love art heist movies and movies involving Fabergé eggs, and of course I love The Rock, but I really don't like Ryan Reynolds, and there was way too much quipping, it was overworked. This was made for Netflix and it feels like it-- it's not poorly made per se, but it does feel like someone just checking off boxes. When Netflix started making movies I was kind of interested-- I mean they have tons of data so presumably they could recognize a gap in the market for, for instance, a buddy cop movie with orcs (Bright, 2017). I thought they'd grind out a bunch of weird entries like this that stacked search terms in novel ways, but I was wrong. I guess once you capture a certain chunk of the market you don't need to innovate anymore, you can be lazy and just do "some people you know in a familiar setting". Once a year I housesit at a place with Netflix and it blows my mind that people pay for it. There's really nothing on there and there's less and less every year.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
cool spy movie with Matt Damon, who Sakiko refers to as "potato man" because of The Martian (2015). Franka Potente co-stars, I loved her in Run Lola Run (1998) and she's great in this-- they updated her hair from Run Lola Run's ketchup red to a playful auburn with pink streaks, and from my perspective (as a Gen X / Millenial cusp) that's a very realistic continuation. Her character just sort of bounces around Europe following a carefree wind, and personally I was happy to finally see some representation for "cool person that does whatever". Something I loved about this whole series is that no one has a nice car! Everyone's driving some tiny little European shitbox. If this was made today they'd pull over and steal a Ferrari or something, but it's like they say in Fast and Furious, "it's not about the car, it's about the driver". The soundtrack has a lot of jungle, which is ideal, but for the ending credits there's a Moby song with vocals and it's like the weakest shit in the world. It sucks so bad. Small role for Walt Goggins.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Another one and it's pretty good, although they really steered into the "shaky camera" look. Who started this trend for action movies? Bourne is a cool character-- a trained assassin with amnesia. This gives him a funny edge over all the other trained assassins coming to get him, in that he only has instinct. The other guys can remember their training and that limits them-- they think about things and consider options and waste valuable microseconds. Bourne has a hunch that something is possible and nothing stops his body from giving it a go. And by avoiding decisions entirely he lands at undecidable outcomes. It's like I always say- for any consistant axiomatic system there will always exist statements that are true but unprovable within the system. Took me a sec to recognize where I saw the font they use in this series, but then I fuckin pinned it on the first guess:
There's no revelation here, it's not iconic enough to be a clever reference or anything, and there's no connection as far as I can see, I'm just shocked that I got this on the first try.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
OK this one was alllllmost too shaky for me but I liked it. I wouldn't want to watch an action movie shakier than this one. Julia Stiles reprises the role she had in the first two of these movies but she gets a bigger slice of the narrative pie this time. She basically plays a continuation of her "cyberpunk teen" character from the PBS television program Ghost Writer (1994).
Green Planet (2022)
I don't usually include nature docs in these write-ups because I think of them as "television" rather than "movie", but that does them a disservice. I watch them all the time and they're honestly better than most movies. And each one gets better and better, due to the advances in knowledge and in camera technology. This one has a lot of stop motion plant photography that really puts you in the plant's time frame and allows you to see the drama. The research, patience, editing, sound design, and pacing, combined with the childlike wonder of David Attenborough, all add up to make a truly delightful and inspiring program. Hopefully by naming this "Green Planet", they attract the viewership of the stoned browser clicking through titles at home, for whom the entire Attenborough oeuvre is miraculously perfect.
Jason Bourne (2016)
I liked how many flip phones and burners there were in the first couple of these movies, and this one's right on the cusp of smart phones everywhere. There's a not-bad-but-sketchy snake-voiced guy in this that's clearly based on Julian Assange and a surveilance tech social media company that's kind of like Facebook but with the culture of early Google, and they're called "Deep Dream", which is also the name of software that Google came out with in 2014. The head of the tech company is named Aaron, which made me sad thinking about Aaron Swartz (who died in 2013) but I don't think that was a direct riff, I think they just had to name the guy something. The cyber cop lady in this was the same person who played Tomb Raider in the latest movie of that name (2018), and I finally looked it up-- she didn't go to Brown University, she just kind of has that look. Not sure if that makes sense. Aaaaanyway I feel like the first one of these is the best one, the rest are just objects in its wake. Though to be clear, I had fun watching this.
The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)
I wanted something funnish that I've seen before to zone out to and this was great. William Powell and Myrna Loy drink a lot in these movies, but in this one they don't drink at all. I just learned that it's because of wartime liquor rationing! They thought it would be rude to the audience, to show main characters quaffing what the audience cannot quaff. I appreciate that. The guy from Room Service (1938) who says JUMPING BUTTERBALLS is in this, but he doesn't say JUMPING BUTTERBALLS, not even once.
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
After watching all those potato man movies we longed for this earlier work, even though we just watched it a few months ago. Yes, it's still extremely fun. I just learned that they tried to get Luke and Owen Wilson to be in this as the "two Jethros", then when they said no they tried Joel and Ethan Coen!!! Eventually they had to settle for Ben Affleck's brother and James Caan's son, both of whom are great in this. Actually there's a lot of family in this ensemble cast: Rob Reiner's dad, uhhhh Rosemary Clooney's nephew... wow, before Matt Damon they were going to go with Donnie Wahlberg's brother, but he bounced to do Planet of the Apes! Whaaat's up with the FAMILY?? Was that an organizing principle? It's like they made a movie that was 70% Zeppo. And why didn't they call Clint Howard??? He'd have been great in this.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
A great gory crazy movie about a futuristic cross-country race in which the drivers get extra points for killing pedestrians. Roger Corman had a great thing going making cheap crazy movies and serving as a proving ground for new talent-- I guess there's nothing like that today because you don't even need the semblance of a studio to start making movies, you can just get a camera and a computer and get going. But that is a great loss-- I think a lot of people would benefit by getting a quick lesson in [chosen field] by grinding out some cheapo variant for a content mill like Corman's. Wikipedia notes that "Corman wanted to make a futuristic action sports film to take advantage of the advance publicity of Rollerball (1975)". It shows the power you have as an independent-- I mean maybe Rollerball put more butts in the seats in 1975 but in the long view of history Death Race 2000 is the good one, because it's fun and wild and carefree. Paul Bartell directs, you may remember him as an actor from his key roles in other weird road movies like Eat My Dust (1976), Grand Theft Auto (1977), and Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985).
Magic Crystal (1986)
I loved this absolutely bonkers kung fu movie with really great fight sequences AND psychedelic "what is this movie" parts. There's some Indiana Jones parts, and an ET theme with a cute kid and a papier mache alien, I guess that's how you sell a movie to a distributor in 1986. But there's also a lot of innovative stuff, including a completely original sequence in which a guy wakes up and his feet and hands have switched places. And the fight sequences are top notch. This is currently on youtube and I strongly recommend it. With Cynthia Rothrock in a supporting role. Also released as "Fight To Win".
Psychos In Love (1986)
A slasher film in the style of early Woody Allen, and honestly it was pretty good! I know that set-up sounds kind of cringey but there's a surprising amount of good jokes in this and we had a lot of fun watching it. The main character runs a strip club, and as with Times Square (1980), the music is crazy, the dancing is fun, the clientele is varied, and I would definitely hang out there.
Mac and Me (1988)
bizarre and blatant ET rip off that is absolutely full to bursting with product placement for McDonalds and Coca Cola. I've never seen so much product in a movie. The alien's design is completely repugnant, absolutely disgusting, with a little butthole mouth that can only sip Coca Cola from a straw, no other food or beverage or energy source. IMDB suggests that if you like this you may enjoy Garbage Pail Kids (1987), which I think is true and also very damning. "If you like this you may enjoy lying face down in sewage being screamed at by children and bitten by rats." I mean I had fun watching this but I was with a small crowd, I'm starved for human contact so being with friends doing anything is a blessing, AND we were all pretty drunk. CW: the kid gets shot and killed by cops at the end but it's ok because he gets Lazarused by these nauseating aliens.
Death Spa (1988)
A great supernatural 80s gym horror with all the leotards which that setting requires. Need I say more??
Blast From The Past (1999)
Really nice Brendan Fraser rom com with Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek, and Dave Foley. About a family that seals themselves in a bomb shelter in 1962, and come up in 1997 when the shelter's 35 year locks disengage. This is the second "guy from the distant past emerges from underground" movie for Fraser, after 1992's Encino Man. After this of course he did the Mummy trilogy, but he didn't play the underground past man in those, it was someone else. And then in 2008 he did "Journey To The Center Of The Earth", which I didn't see but I'm thinking that must've been like a prequel? This one has music by the Cherry Poppin Daddies and it's honestly a great part of the movie, I think it's the least I've ever been annoyed by a swing revival band. To be honest this was fun and everyone was great in it. Brendan Fraser is great. This is a long shot, but if you're reading this Brendan Fraser, I thought you were great in this. I watched this with some friends and afterwards we all said "you know what, that was really nice, and Brendan Fraser seems like a really good guy". I hope all is well.
Deadly Friend (1986)
Wes Craven wanted to make a macabre love story with a teen interest, to try and break free from his catalog of gory movies. But when the initial cut of the film was shown to a test audience of Craven fans they were like hey buddy, where's the gore?, and the studio insisted on additional filming. So what we're left with is a fun little movie that periodically veers into beheadings and ends in total nonsense. I enjoyed it but that's an agonizing situation for any filmmaker.
Russia's first horror movie, based on the short story by Gogol. Not really "thrilling" but fun, cool ghost sequences, great haircuts, great atmosphere.
Fast 5 (2011)
Rewatch for the nth time, on the occasion of a visiting friend who had never seen any of these movies and who lives down the street from the house in LA. This one starts with a heist gone wrong and quite frankly it's Vin Diesel's fault. They could've just done the heist, got their cut, and moved on, but Vin Diesel had to take charge of the situation and make life difficult for everyone, and impossible for those who died in the crossfire. No one ever brings this up. Also their take (for the second heist) is like 100 million dollars and yeah that's a lot of money, but I kept wondering during the movie if they were doing 100 million in damages, or more, or less. I mean they're stealing money from this bad guy but they're also "stealing" time and resources from basically every person onscreen, not to mention the human lives lost, to which I refuse to assign a monetary value.
Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
there's a little thing in here where the villian can shut down any car that's computer controlled, so for the rest of the movie they can only drive classic cars. That's a nice set up (previously used in Battlestar Galactica (2003)) but I wish they didn't stop there. What if they made it so that they could only drive Model T's? Everyone wearing long scarves and big fut coats? I'd love that. Too steampunk? What if the villain had some sort of gas that turns power steering fluid into a vaporous neurotoxin? Yes I am available to juice a screenplay. My rates are competitive.
Furious 7 (2015)
There are other spy movies where someone creates this sort of semi-intelligent panopticon surveillance tool, but usually it's like an evil guy. In this case someone cool makes it, just because they can, then the evil guy simply steals it, and then the government gets it, and then they use it. Zero issues with privacy concerns. Did we all just give up on the idea of protecting one's privacy??? Kind of feels like it to be honest. Fuckin Patriot Act... Another weird thing about this one is that they're fighting over a computer program that's embedded in hardware-- that's really not how these things work. A program is something you can make infinite copies of-- the scarcity required by an action plot just doesn't exist. A lot of action movies do this, fighting over a thumb drive or whatever-- I guess it's just a disbelief that we suspend for the sake of the thrill. Other truths we eschew for narrative ease include: cars don't really just blow up like that, you definitely can't get punched that many times and still run around, and the United States police force is basically a criminal organization.
Shinobi No Mono (1962)
Like many children of the 80s / 90s, I love ninjas. Sneaking around, having cool tools, being invisible, having a secret... Unfortunately when you really get down to it the life of a ninja basically sucks. This movie is about that. I mean there's the good stuff and the bad stuff. It's based on a series of popular novels that were serialized in a popular magazine, and that's why the movie just sort of twists and turns-- it was born as an episodic page turner with regular cliffhangers and now you're forced to breeze through it all in one go. There's a mid-movie reveal that's positively Lynchian, where it's revealed that this guy's rival is actually the guy himself in disguise-- I would have lost it if that dropped on the last page of this months installment of some adventure magazine, but in a movie it was weird that it just happens and now we're moving on. Well anyway yeah the life of a ninja sucks and large narrative arcs are phony anyway. I know that you need to know if there are throwing stars in this and the answer is: big time. There's no other cool ninja weapons but there is poisoning someone via a viscous liquid running down a long thread, wearing black pajamas, and moving silently with extreme intent. There are a few movies in this series and I'm probably going to watch them.
Fate Of The Furious (2017)
The movie opens in Cuba and they finally show "what if you had to drive an actually shitty car", and it rocks. Charlize Theron wears a Metallica tshirt and I ran through all the combinations for her character: she's a fan, she doesn't know it's a band, she knows it's a band but doesn't care... eventually I decided that she's only ever heard St Anger and she thinks it's "really powerful".
The Equalizer (2014)
rewatch of this enjoyable "assassin with new life gets called back" movie starring the superb Denzel Washington. Last time I watched this I was really dialed in on the Boston accents-- who can do it and who can't. This time the little thing that I enjoyed was watching people on smart phones get an incoming call, look at the name of the caller onscreen, then reject the call by swiping the bar gently to the left. That's a funny little gesture that we all know, I guess there's nothing special about it, but I've been watching all these recent action movies and everything's on a touchscreen nowadays because it's more cinematic. People are always tapping the tablet confidently in the midst of a skirmish or during a debriefing and it's so fake. If I was in some kind of firefight I'd want an actual button that I can find without looking, feel without pressing, and then press with the confidence of "I definitely pressed the button". Anyway it was nice to see a realistic use of this technology-- you have to be dainty and slow and look at the thing for the duration of the event to make sure that what you pressed was really a button and that it did the thing you anticipated. Oh yeah I liked the movie, this was hardly the only thing I enjoyed about it.
Equalizer 2 (2018)
Denzel is great in this, kind of a high school teacher feeling, he's tough but you respect him because he's fair. At one point he calls his teenage friend "Lil Yummy" as a dis and you're like, was this established in a deleted scene? But thinking about this guy and 2018 youth culture, that's a pretty good dis. I think maybe this is the earliest movie I've seen with this contemporary hat style where a beanie cap gets rolled way up past one's ears and snug to the head. Famous guest star Orson Bean guest-stars as a holocaust survivor with a thick Yiddish accent and honestly they should've got an actual old Jewish guy with an actual Yiddish accent. Also I think Denzel is younger than he was in Equalizer 1???
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)
I've been looking for "gorilla power" movies to watch with Sakiko, that's an action movie with outside-the-box thinking. We watched the first MI movie and it was kind of slow, but I kind of remembered that the later ones were bonkers, so we went back in. Tom Cruise really is something special, almost inhuman. He's like a guy who put everything into charisma, with no other qualities. In this one they go to the opera, I love that. There aren't a ton of lifelike rubber masks in this one, but there's not none.
Mission Impossible 2 (2000)
OK, so the first one in this series felt like it was just enough, and when I watched it I was like "this is it?". But this second entry, directed by John Woo, is appropriately bonkers. Of course there's people in rubber masks and exploding communiques, but there's also some great stunts, cars, motorbike chases, and a really good slugfest at the end with a *lot* of different jump kicks. It's like a department store of jump kicks. My mind wandered a little during this because one of the henchman looks enough like Scott Thompson that I felt I had to map all the other characters to other Kids In The Hall. That was ultimately no problem except that there were two Mark McKinneys (the main baddie and the evil tech guy) and they were frequently onscreen at the same time. That feels like a no-no. I'm not going to say who everyone else was but it shouldn't be a very tough puzzle for a fan.
Really fun Australian biker movie where the bikers come across as wild and gross but ultimately a reasonable response to bullshit society. Really makes a good argument for being a biker! Everyone looks cool and even the main guy's dopey Paul Revere look grew on me. Almost everyone in the movie admires the bikers to some degree, I wouldn't be surprised to learn this was biker-financed. Cool soundtrack that also had a lot of well-placed silence-- you don't see a lot of positively charged negative space in movies, much less in biker flicks, but this movie's got it baby and it's a groove. A few of the actors reappeared in Mad Max (1979), and there's even a guy named "Bad Max". The description on the box will make it seem like them being Satanists is going to be a big plot point, but in the movie the bikers treat it like a tax dodge or something-- it gets them out of certain requirements via the Religious Freedom Act of Australia. I'm not saying that as a dig, just as a warning to those expecting supernatural fare.
Mission Impossible 3 (2006)
First one with Simon Pegg, and now the team is assembled. Pegg is a great addition, bringing a likeable lightness to the mayhem. It's kind of a corny move but ultimately it's nice to have a guy where you're like, "that'd be me if I was up there". All spy movies have cool gadgets in them but this franchise is great because the key gadgets are so unreasonable- a super-realistic rubber mask, and a message that explodes 5 seconds after you read it. It keeps it pure in a way, like firmly a movie. What's really weird is seeing the other technology-- no one had cell phones in the first two, although at one point in 1 or 2 there's a car accident and someone cries out "does anyone have a phone?", which lands quaintly on 2022's smart phone ubiquity. In this one they have phones and it's no big deal but at a certain point they're driving around and they're trying to make a call but they can't get a signal. I was like ahhhhhhh I remember that.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
Happy to see someone finally lifted the only (?) good part from Hudson Hawk (1991), which is precisely timing a caper using diagetic music shared by the team. Unfortunately this one had the fewest rubber masks of any of these movies- there's one and it doesn't even make sense for the guy to be wearing it. As far as technology, they got to the point where everything's a fuckin touchscreen. At one point Tom Cruise just plops a thumb drive ON TOP of a touch screen, and the screen draws a red circle around it and then opens the files. I mean that's stupid but I accept it, not as a gadget thing but as a solution to the problem of "it's boring to watch someone use a computer". Realistically we should be seeing him rooting around trying to find where to plug the thumb drive in, and then he tries to plug it in but he puts it in upside down and has to flip it, then that doesn't work and he flips it again, and now for some reason it works, and he looks at any other character, they're like "whuh??", and he makes that smug multivalent Tom Cruise face that's like "what are you gonna do / hey don't knock it / it's complicated / I know right?". To be frank I'd love to see that on the big screen.
Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)
It's funny watching all these in a row because now instead of saying "that must be some guy from one of the earlier movies" I'm like "Oh there's that guy again, I pretty much remember who that is". Lots of good masks in this one, the most recent one as of this writing. That's a relief. This movie is 2 and a half hours long, they don't tell you that when you start watching it, it just keeps going, and you lose the pacing of a standard 90 minute action movie and you have to just give in to the madness. Saw this at the drive-in with Dave and Tsarlag when it came out and I remember by the end I was feeling unmoored but elated. This time I was ready though and I paced my expectations, so it was just a movie again. I mean it's still nutso but I was more prepped.
Fantômas: In The Shadow Of The Guillotine (1913)
I love the Fantômas books but I never watched any of these old silent serials until today. This one's pretty good. Silent films always seem sort of unwatchable at first-- you see a bunch of people talking and then you read a summation of what they said? That seems unreasonable. But then once I get in there I'm having a great time and letting fly any number of my classic movie-watching catchphrases like ahhh this fuckin guy, and watch out lady, and (in the case of Buster Keaton especially) you wouldn't catch me up there doing that. I watched this on youtube and the quality of the picture was extraordinary, and I got to feeling like the silent film is a viable format after all. Fantômas is a great character-- he's the villain and he's absolutely diabolical and he always (spoiler) gets away. He's constantly in costume and in the books you're like "is that Fantômas? is he disguised as the milkmaid? or the aide de camp?" and it's like an early workaround for having an unreliable narrator (which had yet to be invented). In the movie though you know who the hell it is right off the bat because they show you a montage first thing of "all these people are Fantômas in disguise" and they're all crossfading malevolently to drive the point home. And besides that, the guy playing Fantômas is so scintillating he burns a hole in the screen with his piercing eyes and eats up the scenery with his sharp little teeth. You see him a mile away. Luckily the majority of the blockbuster 1913 audience had read the fantastically popular book, and likely ditto for the miniscule audience of 2022. We're not here for surprises, we're here to see a horrible man with sharp little teeth escape the titular guillotine. In a rave review from Chronique Cinématographique, critic Maurice Raynal wrote that "There is nothing in this involved, compact, and concentrated film but explosive genius." The year Is 1913. Stravinsky's Rite of Spring premiers in Paris, the Mona Lisa (stolen in 1911) is returned to France, Albert Camus is less than one year old, the notorious Bonnot Gang have been put to trial after a massive shootout in Choisy-le-Roi, and the people want LURID CRIME in service of ANARCHY. Unfortunately what the bigwigs cooked up for them was World War I, which sold more records than societal upheaval but no one really liked (see also Little Richard / Pat Boone).
Knight And Day (2010)
My friend from growing up is in this, Eric Robert Bradshaw Bennett, he's the truck driver who can be seen in his truck for 2 seconds singing "Rock You Like A Hurricane" at the top of his lungs. As I remember the story, Tom Cruise didn't like the look of the guy who was cast as the truck driver, and said "now that guy looks like a truck driver", and pointed at my friend, who was working on the movie doing lights. So my man got plugged in! He's got big mutton chops, he looks great. I don't know if the song was an improv or what. The last time I really talked to Eric was many many years ago, he told me his favorite part about being a lighting technician was when he got to be the moon. They send you way up in a huge crane with a bright light, and stunt drivers are whizzing around you, and you're just up there being the moon. That's so nice! Eric if you're out there, hi, how are you? Have you been the moon lately?
links / misc
If you can't get enough of the "lists of movies" format, you can read the previous list, which encompassed all of 2021, here: [link]. The 2020 list is here: [link]. The 2019 list is here: [link]. Gonna do these quarterly from now on.
as far as like "actual movie review" blogs, my two favs aren't being updated very regularly but they're still there, and if you've never read them they're new to you. Of course I'm talking about Bubul and Harms At The Movies [link], and Flan Flips For Flicks [link]. They're both really good and fun to read, even if you've never seen the movie in question or have any plans to.
Thank you for the nice comments about last week's maddening blast. This green skeletal hand points especially to reader ANTHONY, who wrote to say that Madball (band) is named after a billiard ball in a sock, used as a weapon. Thanks Anthony!
longstanding friend of the castle Mindy (dba VIRUSSE) is going on tour for the next week with noted publisher and musician Leah (dba HOLY PEOPLE). If they're playing in your area (Providence, Philly, Richmond VA, Chapel Hill, Asheville, Atlanta, Baltimore, Brooklyn) and you're up for a gathering, check it out. Here's the info, listed on a jpg flyer: [jpg]. Virusse is contemporary synthpop, here's the bandcamp link: [bandcamp]
Greg Harvester has a new zine coming out, or it's not his but he's publishing it-- it's called "Death By A Thousand Nostalgic Cuts (vol 1)" and it's a book of photos by Karoline Collins. The subject of the book is the Naked Cult of HICKEY, with many previously unpublished photos of this storied band. There's a pre-order up now on Greg's website, and the book will be out by the end of April: [link]
Kevin Huizenga has been adding to his website lately, in addition to running a nice little Patreon. Kevin has a practice of making these "mind maps" as he thinks something over and they're fun to look at it, it's really like looking at a cartoon character's thought bubble as they read, for instance, Jameson's Allegory and Ideology. the blog is here: [link] and there's links from there to the Patreon. As I understand it the Patreon is like hiking up the mountain a little and getting cool meltwater from a crystal stream, and the website is like swimming around in the reservoir. Both are nice.
the magazine at the top of the page is by Molly Colleen O'Connell, it was part of a fantastical newsstand installation she made for the big Chicago Comics show at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago). Museuolly Collart O'Contemporary. She's been selling off these single mags and they're all great. Her website is here: [link] and her instagram is here: [link]
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