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Sunday, January 26, 2014

January Week 4: The Post and the Furious (me)

I hate January. Every January I get sick, and not just, like, I get the flu once. I get sick OVER AND OVER AND OVER. So far this January, I've been sick 3 times. Getting over my 2nd cold right now. So I spent a lot of time resting this week, because I might be getting a job interview pretty soon (fingers crossed). I watched some good stuff though. I'm looking forward to next month already, where I'll be exploring some Criterion titles in the pursuit of film knowledge. It's good to be the king.

Movies Watched:
Silent Movie
Memoirs of a Geisha
Elmer Gantry

Rocky (1976):
What could I possibly say about Rocky that hasn’t been said before? Nothing. I will instead take this time to relay my experience this watching. I watched it with 3 other people (that’s Sarah, Aaron, and Kempo for those in the know), 2 of which had never seen the movie before. After we finished watching it, both remarked that the movie had not played out how they expected. Our society is inundated with certain spoilers, the famous “ADRIAN!” scene from the end of this movie and running up the stairs to “Gonna fly now!” being a couple of them. The fact of the matter is that even though this movie’s climax is a huge boxing match, Rocky can hardly be called a “sports” movie. Sylvester Stallone crafted an amazing character study filled with laughs and tension, wrapped around the premise of a simple man with low expectations for life suddenly being thrust into a limelight he had no reason to ever expect. It’s funny, Apollo Creed thought he was doing some shmoe a favor by giving him a “shot” at his title, never considering the possible upheaval to that man’s life. Rocky could at first be simply painted as the tough guy with a heart of gold, a cliché in today’s age, but as we follow him through the movie we see the depths of his character, and it is just an amazing feat of cinema. This movie is a masterpiece in my opinion and this time I felt slightly embarrassed by the stairs scene where he is jumping around in triumph, but that’s my hang up. It really is flawless film making.
 Kempo ( said that this movie is one of the best love stories brought to screen, and I totally agree. Can you guys just get over your preconceptions about the movie and watch it already if you haven’t?

Silent Movie (1976):
This was the last Mel Brooks movie unwatched in my collection, and I am sorry to say it was not a high note. The movie is fine, but I predicted almost every joke that was going to happen. That makes for a pretty boring watch. I enjoyed the celebrity cameos, but they pretty much spent the currency for that gag on their first celeb. I mean, Burt Reynolds, c’mon! There’s not really much to say about it unfortunately. I used to love Mel Brooks but after this personally assigned endeavor, I’m left feeling like my film education has corrupted a small piece of my sense of humor. Wow, that’s depressing.

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005):
How much did this movie cost to make? According to Wikipedia, 85 million smackaroos. Yeah, it’s all up there on the screen. Beautiful actors and actresses, fantastic costume and set designs, amazing score. It really was a delight to the senses to watch. Substance wise though? Not much there. The story was predictable through and through, which is the norm for crowd pleasers like this. I really can’t complain though, it was a very enjoyable watch. I really liked the geisha training montage, because how else are you going to become geisha #1 without a training montage? No chasing a chicken around though, minus points for that. And it’s kind of creepy that the Chairman had been pining for the little girl from the bridge all these years, but it’s not like they’re related. The moral of the movie is eventually life always turns out the way you want, as long as you endure long enough. Amen!

Elmer Gantry (1960):

Man, that Burt Lancaster. He was something alright. Watching him parade around in Elmer Gantry, grinning wide and sweating so much it practically falls off the screen is something to behold. Lancaster is what holds the movie together. The story of a scoundrel who becomes a revivalist preacher with unclear motives is an interesting subject, but everything surrounding that in the movie doesn’t hold up too well. Jeans Simmons as Sister Sharon Falconer starts off as an interesting character, but eventually gets side lined by Lancaster, which I can’t complain about. The Audrey Hepburn style of acting has never appealed to me, and Simmons spends the movie putting on an accent and saying things that are supposed to inappropriate for a preacher, therefore shocking. The act goes cold fast. Thank the Lord for Lancaster. The movie runs almost 2 and a half hours but manages to be entertaining almost all the way through. The ending is pretty whackaboo, and in my opinion is a pretty big left turn from the rest of the plot. I cannot praise Lancaster’s performance enough. This movie was part of a 2 film collection DVD that I own along with The Birdman of Alcatraz, which I very much enjoyed as well.

Next week I will finish off the project, very far away from my goal. I don't really mind, those movies aren't going anywhere. Look forward to some depressing movie reviews, as I'm pretty sure I'm going to watch Grave of the Fireflies and Brokeback Mountain next week. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January Week 3: Post Fiction

Still trucking through January, I continue on my January project ( in a vain attempt to complete a task that most men have said impossible. At this point guys... yeah, I don't see me finishing the task. But, you never know. Perhaps I will lock my self in a small room with a tv, dvd player and my remaining collection. Anyone have a small room for rent?

Movies Seen:
Jungle Book
The Last Time I Saw Paris
Fahrenheit 9/11
Call of the Wild
Of Human Bondage
Rumble in the Bronx
To Be or Not to Be
Nacho Libre
History of the World Part 1

Her (2013):
Fantastic movie. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
I could leave it at that but I guess I should expound a little on what I think. The depths of emotion portrayed in this movie are magnificent. I said in a previous review that in order to reach an audience with a relationship story, the characters must seem real and the relationship must have familiarity to it. The way Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johanssen develop romantically is absolutely touching and instantly familiar. I can only imagine the amount of takes each of their scenes must have taken because each bit of dialogue leaves the actor’s mouths  sounding completely authentic. It’s a cool movie on top of the gooey deliciousness of the characters, somehow being completely futuristic and unalienating at the same time. This movie touched me emotionally the same way that Blue is the Warmest Color did without any over the top scenes. It contained the joy and sorrow of a Charlie Kaufman script and I could not ask for more. I should say Charlie Kaufman was not involved in the script to my knowledge, it was all Spike Jones, but it had definite hints of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Jungle Book (1942):
Part of the January film project, this is another feature in my Great Cinema collection (I previously called it the great film collection. I was mistaken and too lazy to walk the 3 feet to the actual DVD case to verify the name). Practically a children’s movie compared to some of the other films I have watched in the collection, this movie was like a breath of fresh air for me. The rich Technicolor scenes were absolutely enchanting, and you could tell the tried very hard to keep the color meter set to 10 in every set piece. Jungles filled with wild animals, villages full of working people all wearing different colored turbans for some reason, treasure vaults glittering so enticingly that I reached toward the screen, opening myself to a vicious claw attack from our kitten Pascal. The story was simple and extremely familiar, not because of the animated Disney film but because of a movie I remember seeing a few times starring Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli ( I really enjoyed seeing all the different animals onscreen including many funny animal reaction shots. The studio had no problem putting actors next to live tigers and bears, but all of the reptiles were animatronic for some reason (animatronic is being generous, there was someone off screen pressing a button so a tongue would shoot out of the snake’s mouth).

The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954):
From the Great Cinema collection we have The Last Time I Saw Paris starring Elizabeth Taylor, Val Johnson, Donna Reed, Eva Gabor, and Roger Moore! That gets you fired up to watch this movie right? Well unfortunately, the whole thing was quite a slog to get through. I believe this is one of the “films” that was made to air on television, so they had to make sure there were at least 2 hours of story there. Val Johnson plays a failed writer/journalist with a goofy haircut that falls for Donna Reed. No wait, he falls for Elizabeth Taylor. But Donna Reed likes him. But Taylor decides she’d rather be with him. This sets up a weird non-conflict that occasionally bears its ugly head in the form of Donna Reed being extremely cold toward Johnson. I mean, they both get married, they both have long lives, but for reasons that are entirely Elizabeth Taylor’s fault (Reed and Taylor are sisters, and when Johnson attempts to woo Reed, Taylor fails to deliver a phone message and YOU KNOW WHAT ITS ALL A MESS) Reed can’t help but give our hero the stink eye every time she is forced to interact with him. See, relationship movies work when people can relate to the relationship presented on screen, and I cannot relate to old Hollywood dialogue and repartee presented here. It’s giving me a headache trying to go through the movie’s crazy dumb plot again just for the review. Too long, not very interesting.

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004):
This DVD belongs to Sarah, so it became part of the January project. I have avoided watching it because frankly I don’t like Michael Moore. I like what he does to a certain extent, I like how he is not afraid to state his opinion, but sometimes his methods are too in your face rude for me. I can’t say I very much enjoyed Fahrenheit 9/11, although it has once and for all taught me how to spell Fahrenheit, which is nice. The first half of the movie is devoted to showing how the second term of Bush’s presidency was filled with a lot of WTF moments, followed by the attacks on September 11th. Then we see some WTF moments in the aftermath, all of which seem very odd but make perfect sense from a money-making standpoint and are pretty much what I expect now days from the rich. Once the 2nd half of the film moves on to the Iraq war, which everyone at this point knows was a bunch of terrible bullshit (right?), the movie gets slightly interesting. Scenes of tragedy and ignorance are presented in a shocking fashion at first, but after the 3rd or 4th shocking moment the film lost its impact for me. I think the key to this documentary’s success was the freshness of its content at the time, but at this point it’s all old news.

Call of the Wild (1972):
You know how you get my attention? Use a theremin in your soundtrack ( I didn’t know what that instrument was until a little while ago when Sarah blew my world apart by telling me it was not in fact a saw, but this thing called a theremin that uses an electronic wand to change the note’s frequency. And yes, that was the most impressive thing about the movie. I like me some Charlton Heston, especially when he is chewing the scenery, but it was a mistake to have him in this movie because everyone else was absolute shite by comparison. They picked up a bunch of “actors” at Home Depot, drove them to Canada and said, now it’s the gold rush! Go hog wild! I will note that the main dog Buck was also quite good, but I hear he got heavy into drugs with the money he got from appearing in the film. I enjoyed Buck’s soliloquy on the follies of man. Or perhaps that was a fever dream I was having. I’m pretty sure this was another movie made for TV, so it gets a pass for that because those things used to put me to sleep back in the day, and this lived up to that standard.

Of Human Bondage (1934): Pretty big spoiler at the end of this review, but the movie is from 1934 so sue me. You can watch it right now on Netflix Instant or YouTube for free.
Initial impression: this movie is sexist and despicable.
That is one of my notes about this movie, written in the first 10 minutes wherein we see several males talk about how they’d like to “get to know” some women and we see a waitress being sexually harassed and enjoying it. Hell of an introduction for Bette Davis. Her character is a ditzy, manipulative woman who is made into the villain because she is herself, manipulated by men. BUT NO, she is the bad guy here folks. She uses our hero who is a tragically handicapped young man with a bright future ahead of him! His handicap by the way is a club foot, which is a thing I guess? And his future only becomes bright after he fails as an artist! It’s not sexy Mildred’s (Bette Davis) fault that our goofus hero is a sucker. He’s a sucker surrounded by morons and other suckers and he keeps slipping in and out of a fantasy life where Mildred is exactly the woman he wants and he is exactly the man he wants to be. BUT HE IS OF NO FAULT. Oh, but don’t worry, she dies in the end so all is well. I will say this for the movie, I’ve been watching a bunch of pretty boring stuff recently and Of Human Bondage was never boring, just infuriatingly sexist.

Rumble in the Bronx (1995):
You know that dream of the 90’s? The one assumed to be alive in Portland? Well it’s also right here in my DVD copy of Rumble in the Bronx! Where else can you go to get fabulous fashion, multicultural gangs, poppy music, and guys with ponytails and mullets? This movie was pretty fun for 2 reasons. 1: It’s a Jackie Chan movie and any movie with Jackie Chan usually has him bouncing around and beating up dudes so you can’t help but love him. 2: Every other part of this movie is so bad it’s good. Not just the 90isms, but the overdubbed dialogue and convoluted plot make this movie amusing throughout its runtime.  Just thinking back to any part without Jackie Chan is making me cringe and smile simultaneously.

To Be or Not to Be (1983):
Wow. I was not expecting to love this movie, but there it is. In fact, I had no idea what to expect. I got this movie as a Christmas gift one year in the Mel Brooks collection. Among the parody movies were 2 other films I hadn’t heard of before. The Twelve Chairs was not very funny and not very memorable in my opinion. This movie is practically a masterpiece. It’s a dramedy (heavy on the comedy) movie about two stage performers and their company working in Poland in 1939. The combination of Jewish humor and the invasion of the Nazis made an amazingly touching and delightful tale. Yes, I can’t believe I just wrote that but it’s true. Mel Brooks and his late great wife Anne Bancroft take what should have been an extremely awkward premise and make a fantastic movie. When I’m really excited about a movie like this, I have a hard time reviewing it. All I can say is if you haven’t seen this movie, please give it a watch.

Nacho Libre (2006):
Nacho Libre is a Jack Black movie, therefore I was not excited to see it. I don’t mind Jack Black’s antics in general, but I cannot help but cringe when a comedian sings. This goes for any comedian with the exception of Flight of the Conchords, who I think of as musicians anyway. I ended up very much enjoying Nacho Libre and I think that might come down to Jared Hess’ directing more than anything. I like Napoleon Dynamite a lot and this proved to be more of the same. Some of the cinematography is pretty fantastic, not just in the wrestling matches but during the town scenes.  They went a long way toward making a back lot somewhere feel like a little Mexican village. The comedy comes down to fart jokes and animal sound effects, which unfortunately is right in my wheel house. One of my wheel houses that is, I seem to have many. I thought the story was well paced with just the right amount of wrestling thrown in.

History of the World Part 1 (1981):
Uh oh. I really wanted to love this movie. And I tried to love it, I did. Perhaps I am too mature for Mel Brooks straight comedies now. It makes me afraid to go back and watch Spaceballs or Blazing Saddles. Don’t get me wrong, the movie did make me laugh on occasion. The rest of the time it was only slightly amusing. I like watching Mel Brooks and his pals ham it up but it doesn’t seem to be as funny as it used to be. Sigh, I hate that. Ok, favorite parts:
-The cave man marriage part
-Most of the Gregory Hines bits, except the giant blunt part
-The part where Moses parted the river at the Universal studios back lot while being help up
-The 3rd time Brooks said “It’s good to be the king”
-Some of the Spanish Inquisition bit
Yeah, that about covers it. Compared to To Be or Not to Be this just wasn’t very good

Am I trying to break open my mind by filling it full of movies all in an expedited manner? No, I am just playing catch up for the first 25 years of my life. I have decided on what my February project will be, which can be found here if you're interested:
Give it a perusal and hey! Watch along why don't you? Thanks for reading doods.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January Week 2: The Post Dude Always Blogs Twice.

Sunday Sunday Sunday! Monster Truck weekend! Get your shoes autographed by Willie "The Snake Tamer" Smith! Big Foot will jump 3000 BUSES WHILE UNDER WATER!!!

Now that we've all had our fun, let's get to some reviews.

Movies Seen:
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Last Days
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Where the Buffalo Roam
The Ninth Gate
Beautiful Creatures

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013):
I went to see this movie for a second time in the theater, which for me is a very rare event. I can probably count the times that has happened in my adult life on one hand. Inside Llewyn Davis was something special the first time I watched it, but the second time felt positively transcendent. Complimenting a Coen brother’s movie is like spitting in the ocean and I don’t feel very comfortable writing about recent movies anyway, so I will just say that everything about the film is fantastic. The score, the cinematography, the costume design, the score, the dialogue, with cats, and the score, all amazing. Just go see it.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013):
As I said in my review of Inside Llewyn Davis, I don’t feel comfortable reviewing current movies. Right now, 2000 legitimate critics have reviews for The Wolf of Wall Street, and I cannot hold a candle to them, nor do I really want to. Here are my opinions on Wolf: The movie was fun for the most part, which made the 3 hours enjoyable, but I definitely think it could have been cut down some. After the 3rd or 4th time Leo DiCaprio gives a speech to rally his fellow traders I think we all got the picture; he’s good at firing people up, good at the sale. Charisma for days, yo. There is something to say about the way women are portrayed in the movie, but I’m not the one to say it. I’m pretty sure the intention of the film was to be extremely shallow, so technically it’s a success in that portrayal. I really preferred American Hustle to Wolf, and it seems like that is the typical divide amongst movie nerds.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993):
Part of the January film project, Lord I wish I had never bought this movie. Once again, this was purchased because of my love for the Film Sack podcast. At the time of purchase, I was not the kind of person who would watch a horror movie unless forced to. I have lightened up since then, and now appreciate them on a comedic level more than anything. Jason Goes to Hell is without a doubt, the BEST Friday the 13th movie I have ever seen. It is also the only one. There is a line in the movie that refers to a mango sized shit, and that works as an apt description of the film. The movie held my attention the entire time, but I think this is due to my being a horror movie novice. I kept expecting something interesting to happen, and I guess that makes it suspenseful? No no no. The movie was boring, plain and simple. The most interesting person in the movie was the foul mouth diner owner, and that is really about the best I can say about it. But hey, perhaps if I watch the unrated version I’ll have a different song to sing! Too bad I’m never going to find out.

Last Days (2005):
What was this movie about? I know what it was about, because everyone knows it is supposed to resemble Kurt Cobain’s last days on Earth. But seriously, what was this movie about? All the characters meander around for an hour and a half, mumbling and not making much sense. Is it about loneliness? Is it about sexuality? Is it about how life never gives anyone a moment of real peace? Is it about the yellow pages or Mormonism? The movie has some cool sound design, and some excellent nature shots, but is otherwise an exercise in blahhhhhh. Which might be the point, I guess? When music becomes mainstream, there is nothing left but blah right? Deep, man.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988):
Another movie I expected to hate, this comes from my spending spree on Film Sack related DVDs. Like all other red-blooded American adults around my age, I already have a fear of clowns thanks to Stephen King and John Wayne Gacy, so how was I supposed to know I was missing out on this smart little indie horror comedy? I don’t want to sell the movie too hard because I think, once again, my lowered expectations played a factor in my enjoyment. All the practical effects hold up, the acting is goofy but not over the top, and it is a short 90 minutes in length. It fits in perfectly with movies like Gremlins or Critters, horror that’s not too scary and is entertaining as all hell. I was going to put up the trailer so you could see some of the fantastic effects, but it gives WAY too much of the movie away. I advise you to take a break and watch the movie; you’ll either love it or hate me for telling you to watch it, so win-win right?

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952):
This movie is part of a compilation of films I got for Christmas one year called Great Movies. 15 public domain movies ranging from big studio productions to TV movies, all on 2 DVDs! I have not watched a single one until now, so they are all a part of the January film project. The Snows of Kilimanjaro is based on an Ernest Hemmingway short story, and you can tell straight away by how the characters talk. They speak of life with a poetry that is unrealistic but wonderful to hear out loud. Other than the dialogue and some stock Africa footage, there is almost nothing remarkable about this movie. I like me some Gregory Peck, and while watching this I was running a fever so I began imitating him for myself and the cats enjoyment. Unfortunately my Gregory Peck is pretty close to my Sean Connery so it sometimes slipped out in a strange amalgamation where I was telling Catherine Zeta Jones that it was a sin to kill a mocking bird while stealing valuable works of art. Anywho, Peck does his thing, standing and looking pretty while the ladies of the film swoon around him. The movie was 2 hours long, and you could tell the studio tried very hard to flesh out more story just to get their money’s worth. The ending is the worst part, because even though I have never read the story I could tell that someone in Hollywood that the audience would revolt if the main character died. I’m glad I watched it because it serves as some more padding on my movie experience card (no, that’s not a real thing I’m just a crazy person), but I cannot recommend the movie.

Where the Buffalo Roam (1980):
Part of the January project, this DVD was acquired recently on one of my very rare trips to Los Angeles with Sarah and Jose in tow. We ventured to an insane mystical place called Records, where I found myself surround by music lovers, of which I have very little to offer. On the bright side, the back of the place had a large amount of discount DVDs, and amongst the dregs I found a copy of a movie I had only recently discovered the existence of. Where the Buffalo Roam  starring Bill Murray, where he plays Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. I remember hearing about the movie originally and feeling like a little part of the universe made a little more sense. Of course Bill Murray played Hunter S Thompson at some point! I love Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas so natural I was excited to get my hands on this movie. And that is when I placed it on a shelf and thought guiltily about it on occasion. I had built up an idea about the movie in my head and I knew there was no way the film could live up to my expectations. Well, because of the project that I chose for this month my excuse had become spent. I watched it, and you know what? It was pretty good! It is like a much tamer version of Fear and Loathing, which I understand is a much exaggerated version of Thompson life anyway. In the beginning I had trouble separating Bill Murray from the character, but eventual I saw past the imitation, or rather he eventual stop only imitating, and from there it was smooth sailing. I recommend the movie if you already love Thompson. As for Bill Murray lovers, this might be a pass. Murray has much funnier fair where he is allowed to be himself.

The Ninth Gate (1999):
I don’t know what it was about this movie, but I really liked it. This was a rewatch for me. I don’t remember who I saw it in the theater with, but I think we both originally left underwhelmed, especially by the ambiguous ending. This time I came in with the knowledge that most of Roman Polanski’s more popular movies must be watched with a sense of humor at the ready. Call me crazy, but the movie reminded me of an adventure game. For those not familiar, the kind of adventure game I mean is usually referred to as a point-and-click game, wherein the player instructs the game character to do different actions by clicking an action (look, use, talk, etc) then clicking an item to do said action to the item (use lamp, talk to stranger, look at painting, etc). This takes you through a story with a lot of character development, puzzles, and many locations. It is my favorite type of game. The movie consisted of Johnny Depp being charming and smarmy (a la Gabriel Knight), talking to this person, which leads to that person, which leads to traveling here to find that, all while playing it rather amusingly. I had a lot of fun with the movie, my only complaint being that it felt a little too long, but that is also a complaint I have with some adventure games. I really enjoyed watching Frank Langella chew up some scenery too. Great rewatch, I intend to watch it again many more times.

Beautiful Creatures (2013):
A teen romance fantasy affair with almost no originality. It makes up for that somewhat with good actors like Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson and some very cool scenes where magic is thrown about (SPOILER: They’re a bunch of witches, or casters). It has some very bad pop music, which I guess is to be expected for these kind of movie, otherwise it is harmless. I don’t have much to say about it. After the family dinner scene, it all went down hill.

Interesting coincident this watching session, both Last Days and Where the Buffalo Roam briefly feature the song Home on the Range. One was sung by Michael Pitt, the other by Neil Young, I'll let you guys which was better. I hope this entry was as funtastic to read as it was to write! Probably not. I'm off to see Her now. Have a good week everybody!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Slight update

I attempted today to watch my copy of Jaws 3, only to discover that the disc was extremely scratched and warped, making it unwatchable in a completely different way than I thought was likely to be the case. So, now it is in the garbage where it might have winded up anyway. Gonna have to move on to Jason Goes to Hell and Last Days. Am I better off? Only time will tell.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January Week 1: Il Posterino

For the first week of January, you can see by my reviews that my film project has taken over for the moment. The number went from 42 to 45 after finding a couple DVDs and realizing I had a movie on Amazon Instant that I had not watched yet, and had bought while it was on sale. So far, the journey into the unwatched has been pleasant, and I hope it remains that way. I know for a fact I could fit more movies in, if I could just put down my copy of Pokemon X. Yeah, that ain't gonna happen.

Movies seen:
Captain America: The First Avenger
What the Bleep Do We Know?!
The Wedding Date
Mona Lisa Smile

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011):
I have often seen this movie listed as the best of the “first wave” of Marvel movies, up against Thor and Iron Man 2. While I don’t think this is a bad movie, it is not my favorite of those, and subsequent rewatching has only cemented that. Captain America has a very strong 1st and 2nd act. Steve Rogers the man is established early in the movie as someone to respect, admire, and feel a little sorry for. The naivety of his goodness is something we want all our heroes to have, and I think is a vision most people associate with Superman. Doing good because bad is bad, no matter what the stakes (schtakes). Once Rogers becomes Captain America, we get treated to a sample of what one man could do for his country during WW2 (dubya dubya deuce, or the triple D), as he is sidelined as a circus attraction like I’m sure  many celebrity soldiers were during the time. It all falls apart for me after the big rescue scene and Red Skull’s reveal. Then it is action point, quip, action point, tragedy, quip, action point. As fun and inspiring as the first two acts were, the third is just another action movie for me. I do like what is set up at the end with the “teseract”. Not that it survives the crash landing, but what it does to Red Skull, appearing to launch him into space one atom at a time. I hope that particular plot point is picked up in a different movie *cough* Guardians of the Galaxy *cough*. I guess I’ll have to wait and see, but I think it will probably just be a point to start my Red Skull in space fan fiction.

Freejack (1992):
The first movie in my January project, Freejack was one of the movies I bought in an unwise purchasing spree whilst being addicted to the Film Sack podcast. There are a couple of those movies in the January project, and hopefully they will be at least as acceptable to view as this one was. Freejack establishes a dystopian Los Angeles (I assume it’s Los Angeles, I don’t think they actually say in the film) where millionaires can pay to have their minds uploaded to the “spiritual switchboard” after death, and then transferred into a new body, usual consisting of a young person from the past who has been whisked away by a time device moments before their own death. Phew! That is a synopsis. Although that sounds complicated, the movie itself doesn’t deal with the science behind such ideas (thank God) and is mostly a chase movie. Young, sexy race car driver Emilio Estevez must run for his life through the drudges of the future so as not to end up as Anthony Hopkins’ new vessel. The movie isn’t that bad. Not that good, but I have seen MANY worse sci-fi movies. Mick Jagger as one of the villains is pretty goofy. He walks around most of the time in a weird helmet, and is in my opinion the highlight of the film. What makes the movie special? The 90’s effects probably. The goofy(there is no other word for it so I’ll use it again) cars and people are kind of a car-accident-can’t-look-away type that I personally treasure, mostly as a snap shot of late 80’s early 90’s future envisioning. There are also a couple fantastic visual effects moments that use early CGI green screening, a la Lawnmower Man. I don’t know. I guess I’m just a sucker for this kind of crap.

What the #$*! (K)now!? (2004):
January project film #2. This is one of Sarah’s movies. She was sure I would hate it. I was sure I would hate it. Perhaps setting my expectations so low was the key to me not hating it. The “documentary” has quite a few flaws, but I don’t think the underlying message is one of them. Let me just get what is bad about it out of the way. Almost all of the non-talking head scenes are bad. Nothing wrong with Marlee Matlin’s performance at all, but everything else? Everyone else? Yuck. The computer animated bits were mostly non-sense cartoon crap, with a creepy emphasis on sexuality. And finally, trying to base the opinions of the film behind science was a HUGE mistake. They keep throwing out the term “quantum physics” the way food companies throw out “natural”, except quantum physics is a thing that can be scrutinized by members of the scientific community. You can’t just declare something science and hope no one checks up on you. The movie emphasizes the pursuit of knowledge, and I am 100 percent behind that, especially when it comes to the stories this movie parades. My spirituality is very personal, as it should be in my opinion, but I am willing to admit that some of the ideas of the movie are not outside of my own beliefs. I believe everything is connected on an atomic level, unperceivable to human kind. I don’t believe that time is constant and that it is possible to revisit the past. I believe the power of thought can change a person for the better. I do not believe it can PHYSICALLY change the world, because that is bullshit. I believe in something bigger than myself and everyone else. I believe that science is the tool we need to understand anything, and should not be ignored, used for misinformation, or taken lightly. In the end, I can recommend this movie if you are willing to watch it like any other documentary should be watched, with your eyes open and your skepticism set to 10.

Gymkata (1985):
Jeez, I don’t even know what to write about this movie. This is film #3 in the January film project, one that I picked up because one of my favorite critics, Matt Singer, had waxed the merits of the film many times. Plus, it was like 7 bucks on Amazon. What I’m saying is, Matt, Mr. Singer, if you read this, you owe me so freaking bad. Let me lay it to you straight here. I listen to 3 separate movie podcast whose entire purpose is to talk solely about bad movies. If you’re interested, those are Film Sack, How Did this Get Made, and The Flophouse. All are excellent for different reasons. I have a keen interest in bad movies, but usually I resist the urge to watch them myself because I don’t like dealing with the inevitable headache that follows. I would much rather live vicariously through funny people and my friends than sit through the mega-ton of bad movies that are out there. Life’s too short right? Gymkata is without a doubt a bad movie. The movie runs about 90 minutes, but I swear to all that is Holy I watched it for a week. The story is so convoluted that it is beyond description or explanation. Really! I tried to explain the plot to Sarah, and I had to stop because I was laughing too hysterically. Not the kind of laughter associated with a joyous occasion but rather the kind heard from an insane asylum.  I compare it unfavorable to Krull, where in that movie a universe must be built to explain the bat-shit crazy things that happen, while Gymkata is bat-shit in our world, and there IS NO REASON. Now, one might assume I am over thinking the movie. After all, it is supposed to be an action movie, and the average action movie doesn’t require much thinking. While it is true that skimming over the revolution subplot of Commando is an easy task due mostly to the action and fun filled dialogue, the action of Gymkata is subpar at best, and whenever you think you can safely detach from the film’s goofball plot, another detail is thrown in by adding another character with motivations and WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HELP ME!!!! Ok. I'm alright. Deep breaths. There is one action sequence that is worth seeing out of the entirety of the movie, and that is the city of the mad (village of the crazies, whatever) section. Go to YouTube and look it up. At least you will get a few laughs out of the insanity.

The Wedding Date (2005):
#4 on the January film project list, The Wedding Date is one of Sarah’s movies. I am not very kind to rom-coms in general, as I find most of their plots derivative and their characters uninteresting. Say the words comic relief to me out loud and I just might slap you. The Wedding Date clicked for me. The plot is simple, not leaning on a quirk to reel the watcher in (well, I guess the escort is the quirk, but I expect my quirks quirkier). The characters are pretty darn real, not being boisterous and over the top for the sake of entertainment. My only problem scene is the cricket game where a little camp is thrown in, I assume to remind the viewer that yes, it is THAT kind of movie. But every other part seems so low key and fun I can’t really hold one bad scene against the whole movie. What I am trying to say is, The Wedding Date was a perfectly enjoyable 90 minute snack. I’d watch it again.

Mona Lisa Smile (2003):
And now we have #5 on the January film project list, another of Sarah’s movies. Looking at the reviews for this film, it seems that most people don’t think much of it. Perhaps because the subject matter of a teacher, inspiring her students in a new way much to the chagrin of the rest of the faculty, is a well-worn movie subject and has been done in much more dramatic movies. I can see that point of view, but I still think that this movie is different enough to merit a chance. The snap shot of a women’s college in the 50’s was a nice choice of setting, and the art classes were right at my personal interest points. So, I guess this, movie catered to me specifically, and therefore cannot be reviewed unbiased! It’s a fine movie, and not something I intend to rewatch with any frequency, but I wouldn't turn down a screening every once in a while.

Next week, barring interruptions like, you know, finally getting a damn job, I shall continue the January project. Some black and white fair coming up, so I am excited. Drop me a line on twitter @jdtmovies, or email at Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

January Project: Oh God, I have to watch what?

Welcome back. I have had a crazy couple of years filled with movies and education. Heartbreak and nausea. 3D, HD, 4K, NC-17, OPP. And I am feeling good about where I am, not necessarily in my writing though. So, dear reader, we is gonna work a few tings out. Each month, along with my regular film watching, I am going to assign myself a project. This may be a solo project or in conjunction with Sarah Roberts of Sarah Roberts Designs(etsy page soon to come). Either way, I will be updating once a week with my reviews and insights as I journey through film, and I look forward to interacting with friends and strangers alike.

This month's project is: Films I own but have not watched. Not very interesting to an outsider I'm sure, but I have quite a few movies in my collection that I have just not bothered to see for one reason or another. A few collections I received as gifts, movies Sarah owned that I have yet to watch, and some inherited items. That is 42 films that I know of. Who knows what may appear out of the woodwork later!?

Here is the list on

That link will take you to my profile on the website. Last year was busy, and I wrote a couple of reviews on Letterboxd.

I hope to have my first post up on Sunday. Today I am going to watch Freejack, because that is the only movie I have at my current location. Wish me luck.