Three months at a whack this time. Somehow May got away from me, but then again it didn’t really matter too much, since I only watched one movie in May. WHAT. I know, right? I did okay watching some movies when I was just taking care of Karina, but now I’m back at work, working from home, and taking care of Karina at the same time, and that leaves ZERO time for movies. Someday this will all even out and I will get back to watching movies. In the meantime, I’m not sure where my lack of time leaves this blog. If I were smart I’d take an official leave of absence. But I’m not smart. What I’d rather do is just do shorter, more bite-sized posts and not feel like everything has to be either an in-depth review or a long recap with a dozen capsule reviews. Sometimes I just get too ambitious and feel like I just shouldn’t bother posting anything that isn’t ambitious in some way, but I don’t really want to feel like that. So the blog may get a bit more personal and stream-of-consciousness for a while. That is, if I ever actually post at all.
Okay, introspection over. On to the movies!
What I Loved
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
My husband has been after me to watch this almost since we started dating; I had never really considered watching it, but that’s because I clearly had no idea how awesome it is. Thank goodness Jonathan understands my sense of humor and knew I’d love this. The absurdity of Pee-Wee’s existential journey to find his stolen bike is right up my alley, and pretty much all the vignettes hit immediately. I can definitely tell this is one we’ll be quoting a LOT as the years go by.
1985 USA. Director: Tim Burton. Starring: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger.
Seen April 24 on HBO.
Apparently this was Orson Welles’ least favorite of his own films, and I’m not really surprised – it’s far less ambitious and personal than most of his other films. Still, it’s too bad it tends to fall through the cracks, because regardless of how it stacks up against Welles’ masterpieces, it’s an extremely solid film noir, reminiscent of Hitchcock’s 1940s noirs (especially Shadow of a Doubt). Robinson is a detective searching for Nazi war criminals who have gone incognito after the war, and he thinks he’s found one in small-town America. Some great visuals and suspense, though perhaps a bit too dogmatic at times.
1946 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Orson Welles.
Seen April 28 on Netflix Instant.
I love me a good western, and when I heard the credentials of this one, I knew I was in for a treat. I wasn’t disappointed. Hawks and Wayne reteam seven years after Rio Bravo with another hanging-out style western, as Wayne and rookie James Caan help out drunken sheriff Robert Mitchum against baddies. It’s a very similar vibe to Rio Bravo to be honest, and I enjoyed it just about as much.
1966 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan.
Seen March 6 on Netflix Instant.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Did I mention I love me a good western? I did? Oh. I’ve about run out of name-brand classic westerns on Netflix Instant, but thankfully I found this one on there. Lancaster is lawman Wyatt Earp, who’s consistently thrown together with drunkard gambler Doc Holliday (Douglas) despite their differing viewpoints on, like, being law-abiding. It all eventually leads to the titular gunfight, but getting there is actually more fun than the climax itself. The little narrative bits of song sung by Frankie Laine are a bit on the cheesy side, but I loved them, too. Douglas’ performance is a great asset, too, bringing a devil-may-care facade on top of a man struggling greatly with illness and loneliness. I figured I’d like this film, but I think it was even better than I expected.
1957 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet.
Seen April 26 on Netflix Instant.
Mildred Pierce (1945; Michael Curtiz) – The film that taught me that melodrama isn’t a bad word, and it still holds up. I had actually forgotten how the murder played out, so the suspense even worked the second time around (I have a notoriously bad memory for the resolution of mysteries).
What I Really Liked
The Five Year Engagement
Definitely my favorite Apatow-produced film thus far. It’s warm, actually funny, and hits in the difficulties of long engagements quite well. Disclaimer, my husband and I got married about three weeks after we got engaged, so we went into this film with some pretty clear preconceptions about just going ahead and getting married. The film ended up jiving with us pretty well, and neither of us are fans of romantic comedy/dramas in general. Note that the other Apatow production I don’t dislike is Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and it could just be that Jason Segal’s writing wins me over. Also, Emily Blunt and Alison Brie fighting in Muppet-ese = awesome.
2012 USA. Director: Nicholas Stoller. Starring: Jason Segal, Emily Blunt, Alison Brie, Chris Pratt, Rhys Ifans.
Seen April 4 on HBO.
Wet Hot American Summer
Before seeing this, I’d only heard that it was stupid funny (which can go either way for me, depending on the type of stupid), better than it looks, and I’d seen the scene where Janeane Garofalo makes Paul Rudd put away his dishes. I tell you, Paul Rudd is awesome. I tend not to like a majority of the movies he makes, but he’s always pretty awesome. But I digress. This movie is much crazier than I expected (a meteor, for real?), and oh, so stupid. But it’s stupid in the good way.
2001 USA. Director: David Wain. Starring: Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce.
Seen March 13 on Netflix Instant.
In Bruges (2008; Martin McDonagh) – Second time through on this was quite a bit better than the first for me. I think kind of knowing what to expect in terms of tone helped a lot.
What I Liked
Nobody Lives Forever
John Garfield is a conman pulled into a job with some lowlifes who aren’t really as good at it as he is; Geraldine Fitzgerald is the mark, a rich widow Garfield is supposed to schmooze until he can bamboozle her out of her money. Instead, he falls in love with her. It’s not particularly unpredictable or original as noirs go, but it’s solid and enjoyable, with a quite good and suspenseful climax. And Walter Brennan. I mean, come on.
1946 USA. Director: Jean Negulesco. Starring: John Garfield, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Walter Brennan.
Seen April 11 on TCM.
The Girl from Missouri
Catching up on Jean Harlow movies has been on my back burner for a couple of years now, so I picked this one off TCM when I had the chance. It’s a barely Pre-Code, with Jean as a small-town girl headed for New York to try her luck on Broadway, but really intending to marry the first rich man she can find. It starts out light enough, but with a suspicious death and a relationship that threatens perpetual mistresshood rather than marriage, there’s a good chunk of melodrama thrown in. Harlow handles it like a pro, though, in a good role for her – an idealistic golddigger who’s heart is really in the right place when it comes down to it. Oh, and Lionel Barrymore is always, ALWAYS fun.
1934 USA. Director: Jack Conway. Starring: Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Franchot Tone, Lewis Stone, Patsy Kelly.
Seen May 6 on TCM
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
A who’s who of older British character actors join up as Brits taking some extended time in India, staying at the Dev Patel-run title hotel. It’s mostly an excuse to play all these people off each other, but it’s actually pretty good at doing that and staying interesting, even outside its target demographic. Better and more meaningful than I expected it to be.
2012 USA. Director: John Madden. Starring: Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel.
Seen March 17 on HBO.
Oz: The Great and Powerful
Things I liked: The opening sequence being in black and white and full frame – adding the shift to widescreen as well as the shift to color was a great way to recapture the wonder of the original. Rachel Weisz chewing scenery. The heart brought by the little china girl. The confrontation with the Oz’s projection, which was clever and well-executed. Things I didn’t like: How every single woman in the movie was defined by Oz, even though he wasn’t who they thought he was – I didn’t believe that the Witch of the West would’ve turned just because he rebuffed her. Some terrible matting effects, especially when Oz first arrives in…Oz. Things I thought while watching it: “I wish I were watching the real Wizard of Oz.” “I wish I were watching Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams face off in something that actually requires their acting ability.”
2013 USA. Director: Sam Raimi. Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff.
Seen March 14 at the Rave.
When it comes to special effects, give me the stop motion of Ray Harryhausen or George Pal any day of the week over modern CGI. It’s fun and charming. Here Pal directs the endlessly energetic Russ Tamblyn as Tom Thumb, the tiny son provided to a lowly craftsman and his wife when they wish for a son. There’s a whole plot with gold where Tom has to defeat Terry-Thomas and an almost unrecognizable Peter Sellers, but the real joy is just in seeing Tom interact with things – especially all the toys his father has carved. That extended dance sequence alone is worth the movie.
1958 USA. Director: George Pal. Starring: Russ Tamblyn, Alan Young, Peter Sellers, Terry-Thomas.
Seen April 12 on TCM.
I’m a huge Looney Tunes fan, so I’ve meant to check this out for a while (even though I have a prejudice against post-Golden Era attempts at Looney Tunes), out of pure curiosity. And it’s a curiosity, all right. Aliens steal all-star basketball players’ skill, leaving only Michael Jordan (who had defected to baseball at this point) and the Looney Tunes crew to stop them from taking over the world…by…winning a basketball game. Yeah. It’s ridiculous. But it’s enjoyable.
1996 USA. Director: Joe Pytka. Starring: Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Billy West, Danny DeVito.
Seen March 20 on HBO.
No Man of Her Own
I’ll watch anything with Barbara Stanwyck in it, we know that, and I was hoping for good stuff from this noir-esque drama, but it turned out to be more family melodrama than noir, though there is some noir toward the end. Stanwyck is a pregnant working class girl who meets up with a newlywed couple traveling to meet his wealthy family for the first time. When the train crashes and the couple dies, Stanwyck seizes the opportunity to pretend to be the young widow. Eventually her ex-boyfriend hears about the situation and blackmails her, leading to the noir parts. There are some good parts to this, and some daring ones (Stanwyck’s unwed pregnancy would’ve been highly unusual in a 1950 movie), but it’s just a bit overwrought for my tastes, and a bit of a slog.
1950 USA. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, John Lund, Jane Cowl, Phyllis Thaxter.
Seen March 9 on Netflix Instant.
What I Thought Was Okay
Snow White and the Huntsman
Elephant in the room: Kristen Stewart is NOT fairer than Charlize Theron. On the other hand, I’m not a Stewart hater, and I don’t actually think she did that bad a job here. It’s just that pretty much every scene that doesn’t involve Theron is kind of boring and lifeless.
2012 USA. Director: Rupert Sanders. Starring: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth.
Seen April 4 on HBO.
One of two short propaganda films Hitchcock directed during WWII, this one uses French actors who had escaped to England in a story about collaborators and resistance fighters in Madagascar. It’s an area of the war that could be really interesting, since it’s so far-flung from the main centers of the fighting, but as a whole, the film just kind of sits there with hardly any of Hitchcock’s trademark vigor or panache.
1944 UK. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Paul Bonifas, Paul Clarus, Jean Dattas, Andre Frere.
Seen April 19 on TCM.
What I Didn’t Like
This is possibly the most digital fake-looking film I’ve ever seen. Granted, I was watching this on cable and wasn’t really paying that much attention – the story has its good parts, but I hated every second of how it looked, so I feel justified in saying I didn’t like it.
2004 USA. Director: Alex Proyas. Starring: Will Smith, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell.
Seen April 15 on HBO.