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Date Viewed Movie Director Notes
10.13.19 El CaminoVince GilliganThe Breaking Bad movie. This basically ties up the loose end of what happens to Jesse, so kind of similar to the Deadwood movie in that it's more an extended coda or closing chapter than any sort of reinvigoration or addition to the show. That's probably for the best. I enjoyed this but it did feel like an extra long episode of the show... which is kind of weird because Better Call Saul is still going. I don't really have much nostalgia for these characters because they still might show up in new episodes, so it's kind of an odd little addendum that probably isn't necessary, but at the same time it was fun to watch and didn't upset or disappoint in any way. In that case, I guess more content is good? I dunno... but I liked the show a hell of a lot, I like Better Call Saul a lot, and this movie let me write a note about it.
09.28.19 Spider-Man: Far from HomeJon WattsCaught up on the MCU movies once again. I liked this a lot. I'm very happy to finally see Spider-Man done right on film. Both this and Homecoming really do right by the character and the comic I think. With this one, I liked the angle they took with Mysterio... being a hero jockeying for an Avengers spot. In many ways he fits with the MCU Vulture as less some evil villain and more a regular guy who's just unstable. Both of them are not necessarily out for world domination.

I also like the supporting cast here. Holland's scenes with Favreau are great. Good movie.
09.26.19 Knives OutRian JohnsonAnd that brings us to the final closing night film! Man, that was quick! It's a weird feeling where the first few days feel so long then the final week just flies by.

Rian Johnson mentioned in his Q&A that he loves the whodunit genre but agreed with Hitchcock that all whodunit movies have a problem where there's basically one surprise in the entire movie. So he tried to fix that by making the film more into a Hitchcock-ian thriller but still keeping the framing of a whodunit and, most importantly, keeping the final scene where the detective lays out the whole explanation of who did it. I think he was successful with this. The movie feels very aware of what it is but plays with the audience as it unfolds so you often feel ahead of the characters but sometimes you're behind them and each plot twist isn't completely telegraphed. Or at least it wasn't to me.

I liked this one a lot. It was really fun to follow along, but I never felt like anything was cheated or full of holes (ahem, Looper). Plus every single member of the cast is great. Some have more to do than others, but they all fill their roles perfectly. Johnson also mentioned taking inspiration for the house from the Michael Caine Sleuth which makes perfect sense. The movie feels like a celebration of the genre without subverting or changing any of its rules. Before watching, I was afraid he would "elevate" the movie by having some stupid shit happening like having everyone be guilty or no one or not having a murder or whatever. I was glad to see that not happen.

Afterward, I did not go to the party so this is the end of my fest. I got out of there without crashing my car, breaking my phone, or getting sick so I'd say it's a clear upgrade from last year. Really I have very few negative feelings about this year. I had a lot of fun, spent time with good friends, saw some good movies (none of them really blew me away but I only saw 2 i outright didn't like), so I count that as a success.

Top 3
-Dolemite is My Name
-The Vast of Night
-Knives Out

Bottom 3
-Random Acts of Violence
-Blood Machines
09.26.19 ParasiteJoon-ho BongThis year they kind of had two closing night films. Everyone wanted to see this because The Host played great at the fest and people love Bong Joon-ho and this won the Palm D'or at Cannes and there's only one showing at the fest which is on the last day.

It's very good. I liked it very much. There's humor and heart and light parts and heavy parts. It's a bit Coen-esque actually in how it can go from kind of broad quirky comedy to serious pathos and emotion. There's also some message-y class stuff going on but everyone's pretty three-dimensional and sympathetic.

Wish I had more to say about it but nothing's coming to mind. It was really good.
09.26.19 LyleStewart ThorndikeBrian Kelley's intro for this was "I'm queer and I LOVE horror movies." They did a LGBQT series this year, most notably with a doc about the guy who starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, but this is the only one I saw. I kind of wish I'd seen the other movies to understand why they chose to screen this. Maybe it fits in some weird thematic way (i mean, other than having gay people in it). Just as a random movie to see a few years after it was released, it didn't make any sense.

Furthermore, I didn't like the movie at all. It's not just that it's inspired by Rosemary's Baby or uses that material as a launch pad or presents a modern-day take on it... this movie IS Rosemary's Baby if John Cassavettes was a woman. Nothing new is brought to the table. Is it for people who've never seen the original? Is it like a blaxploitation thing? Like The Exorcist and Abby? Is there a small niche genre of gay versions of popular movies?

In any case, I largely felt like this was a waste of time. I guess it's a movie and I'm sure people worked hard on it but I don't understand why. It's just a not-as-good version of Rosemary's Baby.
09.26.19The PlatformGalder Gaztelu-UrrutiaDay Eight! Last Day!

This is a sci-fi film kind of a la Snowpiercer or Cube or a Richard Bachman book where the characters are in this bizarre environment where a platform full of food starts at level 1 and the two people on that level get a few minutes to eat as much as they want before the platform lowers to level 2, 3, etc., until the lowest levels have no food and have to resort to other means of sustenance. People sign up or get assigned to X amount of months in this complex in exchange for diminished sentences or accredited degrees and they get randomly assigned levels every month.

The heavy message is that supposedly if everyone only eats their share then there's enough but human nature is such that those on the top indulge leaving those on the bottom to starve. Really though it's a maybe a comment on the system in general because we learn that the levels go down way beyond even what rationed food could supply so the whole system is corrupt in addition to people being shitty.

it really did have Long Walk / Running Man vibes to me more than Snowpiercer. I appreciate the lack of context or explanation here. Things don't go particularly well, making it fit right in to the fest. My only complaint is that the second screening didn't get any novelty food pairing like the first screening is.

One criticism of the fest as a whole this year is a general lack of little touches that made previous years special. Things like bringing out a food item at a particular moment in the film (like a hunk of meat during Texas Chainsaw Massacre or something like that) supplies a nice surprise and is a sign of thoughtfulness that make you feel special. The only thing like that I got this year was the free beer from Netflix for their films and a peach gummy in front of Parasite (which was just sitting there and wasn't addressed during the intro at all). I know it's a minor nitpick considering the scope of things they have to deal with to pull the festival off, but I did miss it.

Anyway, I liked this.
09.25.19 Saint MaudRose GlassThis one was really good. It's about a home nurse who talks to god. She's paired with a woman dying of cancer then things go from there.

I think this is the only movie that had a jump scare that worked on me... really there were several moments that were either legitimately scary or deeply unsettling. In an escalating act of contrition or self-flagellation or whatever, there's a scene where Maud puts thumbtacks in her shoes that made me feel a visceral body reaction. That and the ending is really great. And there was a lot of ESG and post-punk music that I dig.

Really good.

Afterward I had more than an hour wait before the midnight movie then the next morning was extra early to be done in time for the closing night party. i didn't feel like sacrificing that much sleep to see this movie VFW so I skipped it and went home. It's the only slot I missed. Had I known that I tied my movie count on this site with last year because of it, I probably would've stayed... but oh well, I got plenty of sleep, didn't get sick (for the first year in recent memory), and don't regret it.
09.25.19 Dogs Don't Wear PantsJukka-Pekka ValkeapaaThis one's about a dad who loses his wife in a freak fish net drowning accident then eventually overcomes his grief with the help of a dominatrix willing to choke him into unconsciousness where he gets brief reunions with his dead wife. For being a latex-clad bondage-y type movie I actually found it less titillating and more melancholy and sweet. There were a few odd tonal moments, most involving the daughter character I guess showing the dad's complete neglect? or something? But the actress who played the Dominatrix character was compelling and I think multi-layered in an unconventional way.
09.25.19 LimboTina KrauseThe final AGFA screening for me.

This shot-on-video movie is from a woman who worked in what was referred to as "Wave cinema" (?) where people would basically send in a script and a check and these people would make the movie. As such, she said she was sick of all the boobs and blood 90s horror movies and wanted to make something more artistic and experimental. So... they kind of described it as a cross between a Nine Inch Nails video and David Lynch beforehand but I don't really agree with that. It's more like the random video footage I remember clubs like the 9:30 club running on their closed-circuit video screens in between bands: just random weird vaguely goth or underground stuff that I have no idea who made it or where it came from or what it was. Some of it is kind of abstract horror imagery based around the abandoned factory where the director was squatting at the time (she said she lived there for 10 years!), some of it is an almost-narrative of a woman who... doesn't know she's in hell? and a vampire has to tell her that she's in hell? or something? Then looooots of footage kind of set to music.

Also very experimental and challenging to watch. I didn't intentionally set my schedule this way but this morning ended up being pretty rough. I don't know how I stayed awake.

That said, I did find lots of artistic merit in this. I applaud the effort for sure, and probably consider watching this more valuable than Random Acts of Violence which was largely vapid, but it wasn't the easiest hour of movie-watching of the week.
09.25.19Die Kinder der TotenKelly Copper, Pavol LiskaDay Seven! Almost there!

I didn't really know much about this walking into it which is maybe for the best. If I realized it was a silent adaptation of an "unfilmable" Austrian novel I maybe would've slept in instead.

This is one of those movies where I didn't enjoy watching it at all but found some interesting things in it afterward. I'm glad I saw it even though I didn't like watching it. It feels pretty random and not particularly interesting or good.

The most interesting thing about the movie came from the Q&A afterward where I learned the following:

-the filmmakers were not Austrian
-the filmmakers had not read the book
-the filmmakers didn't know who would show up when they went to Austria to shoot, ready to make the movie with just the two of them(?) but using all the non-actors that showed up
-the filmmakers only followed a loose script then put together the movie based on the stuff they got

So... the movie isn't really an adaptation or even what the filmmakers had planned to make... which makes the act of making the film a sort of performance art in a way... so watching the movie is really just a byproduct of their art, not the art itself? That's kind of how I thought of it anyway after hearing them talk about their process.

Very challenging and experimental... kind of rough for the penultimate morning show.
09.24.19 Random Acts of ViolenceJay BaruchelThis midnight I probably should've skipped. I wanted to see it because Jay Baruchel directed it and is in it but I found the movie pretty muddled and not fun. The violence is not really a fun kind of gore and the story doesn't make total sense then the ending is bland and expected. This is the first movie of the fest that I didn't like. Even Blood Machines had some good things going for it, but this was a miss. It wasn't, like, hard to watch or anything... but I didn't like it.
09.24.19The Deeper You DigJohn Adams, Toby PoserThis is a good thriller made by a family in upstate NY. The mom, dad, and daughter star, they wrote, directed, acted, and edited it, they shot in a real house that they were actually renovating, and the music was done by various bands that the dad's a member of. They said they made the movie over the course of a year for like $9500 or something crazy like that. It looks and sounds professionally done and, quite honestly, puts most other indie movies to shame in terms of production quality. On top of that, the story is actually good, the performances are good, it gets a little freaky and funny and has a satisfying ending. It's really just a good solid movie that looks like it costs five times what it did. I really liked it.
09.24.19The Vast of NightAndrew PattersonOne of my favs of the fest. This is a black and white low budget sci-fi film fashioned after a Twilight Zone episode (they even have a fake tv show in the same vein as the intro to the film) where a radio DJ and phone operator in a 50s small town encounters strange signals and sightings of something in the night sky.

There are a lot of really long takes, some excellent steadicam or drone work and great performances by the two leads who have to say a lot of dialogue really quickly while using vintage technology like reel-to-reel players and operator switchboards.

My only two nitpicks are that it goes in and out of the "you're watching this on tv" thing once too often and something about the quality of the black and white felt flat or dull. I think it was an intentional choice, again going for the feel of watching it on an old B&W tv, but it was a tiny bit distracting. There were also periods (during another long monologue where the audience and the radio DJ are listening to a guy on the phone) where the picture cuts out completely. It had a kind of hypnotic effect where at first I wasn't sure if it was the movie or my eyes taking long blinks or what, but it's kind of an odd choice. Maybe it's to treat it almost as a radio play? i dunno.

Other than that, I really loved this one. I thought the characters were snappy and they handled an unsettling escalation really well with no CGI. Good stuff.
09.24.19 HomewreckerZach GayneThis is a nice little movie where Tommy Chong's daughter plays a mentally unstable fast friend to a woman in her yoga class. There's lots of uncomfortable humor as she clings to this woman and keeps her from leaving then transitions to more physical abduction revolving around deep-seated psychological issues and the woman's husband, I'd say it's a very solid low-budget festival type movie but the score really makes it feel cheaper than it is. It's just a dude strumming along on his guitar... like they recorded him jamming while watching the movie or something and just went with it. Even if they still used it in key scenes and cut out the other 80% it would've been much much better. As it is, it makes the movie feel like a student film or something which is a shame.
09.24.19The Peanut Butter SolutionMichael RubboDay six!

Another AGFA screening (there are so many this year! I didn't even see them all. I missed Tammy & The T-Rex). This is a "children's movie" made in canada about a boy who goes bald because he climbed into a burned out house and saw a ghost so then the ghost gives him this recipe for hair growth serum but the kid uses too much peanut butter so he grows hair like an inch an hour, attracting the attention of an evil art teacher who kidnaps 20 kids and puts them into child labor making expensive paintbrushes using the kid's hair that paint magical animated paintings.

There's a lot to like here but maybe my main thing was how... disdainful most adults are to the children in the film. Even the kid's dad, like, barely cares about any of it. It kind of reminded me of those old Mr. Wizard shows where he was barely tolerable of the idiot kids helping with his experiments.Maybe it's a Canadian thing? or an early 80s thing?

Also, the kid's friend puts some of the serum on his pubes and they grow all the way down his pant legs... but then the movie forgets all about it! Serious plot hole!!!
09.23.19 Bloody BirthdayEd HuntAnother AGFA screening for midnight. This one's an evil children movie about three kids born during an eclipse... so they're evil.

These kids are so goddamn brazen with their killing! I don't know how they made it through their first 10 birthdays with the rest of the town intact because they go after everyone... parents, teachers, friends, strangers... you name it, they try to kill them. You think there might be some plan or something... but no, they just love to kill. Evil!

This was a lot of fun. It made a great midnighter. I found no need for context or reason here... something about the simplicity of the premise and execution was just really really entertaining.
09.23.19 JallikattuLijo Jose PellisseryThis Indian film is about a village that hunts a water buffalo on the loose. There's some great photography here with the entire village, mostly non-actors, coming into frame to hunt this animal through the forest/jungle. In particular, scenes of like a hundred flashlights descending down this hill are particularly impressive. The story is mostly "we are looking for the buffalo" but there's a rhythmic music through most of the movie that's very propulsive and, combined with these amazing steadi-cam shots of many may people all shouting and running and yelling, the film feels visceral and kinetic through the entire running time.

It's not something I'd seen before, which is pretty cool. On one hand there could've maybe been a little more story but on the other I like that it's so pared down and focused.
09.23.19The LighthouseRobert EggersThe second secret screening.

Don't really know why this was a secret screening. Actually I don't really know why Dolemite was either, but whatever.

I'm on record for really liking The VVVVITCH. This I thought was just ok. The trailer is pretty great, Willem Dafoe is pretty great ("shouldn't a spilled yer BEANS"), Robert Pattinson has some memorable lines ("goddamn FARTS!"). It's suitably dreary and claustrophobic and goes to all the places the trailer makes you think it goes, but it doesn't quite live up to the promise of the trailer. I don't know if I wanted it to be not as weird or way weirder or what... but for some reason it felt flat to me. Not sure why, but the further I get from it the less memorable it is.

Maybe it's just typical sophomore slump type stuff? I dunno. Willem Dafoe was really great.
09.23.19 In the Shadow of the MoonJim MickleThis was the one I thought I was seeing two days ago. Still don't love Boyd Holbrook but I liked the premise... basically mixing any genre with noirish cop shit will get me interested. Like Predator 2. Anyway, this would up being pretty middle of the road. Again, not bad... but not blowing anyone away. I appreciate that Michael C. Hall tried a philly accent. Not sure it worked, but I appreciate that he tried. More than Boyd did...Ooh yeah let me wear this fake beard... great. Gah.

So... yeah... this was like on the precipice of being pretty good. Maybe it gets too big at the end? Maybe I was bugged too much by the cell phone use in 1997. Maybe there were just a few too many plot holes or questions that distracted me while watching...
09.23.19 VivariumLorcan FinneganDay Five! Second half!

This is a sci-fi where Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots look at a house in suburbia and get stuck in a weird alien dimension where they're forced to raise a child. It's pretty good! It works on the metaphorical level evident in the summary but also as a straight sci-fi where the alien kid is really creepy and the setting is pretty cool. I particularly liked the end where you get a brief glimpse behind the curtain at the larger alien world. Very well done, and good use of The Specials music too!
09.22.19 Trampa InfernalPedro Galindo IIIThis is another Morbido Crypt screening. This one is a slasher where the killer is like an amalgamation of Rambo, Michael Meyers, and Freddy Krueger all combined with a little Predator thrown in for good measure. That's kind of the only notable thing about it... otherwise it was pretty standard fare, if not five years later than what America was doing. Just a bunch of kids dying in the woods. Still, not bad...
09.22.19 Dolemite Is My NameCraig BrewerFirst secret screening!

Thanks to the free beer available, everyone knew it would be something from Netflix. Of all the options, I'm happy we got to see this because it's a movie I was actually looking forward to seeing and feel like it played great with an audience. I like Rudy Ray Moore, Dolemite, and movies about making movies so this is right up my alley. I thought of it as a more enjoyable version of Badaaaassss! (that movie about the making of Sweet Sweetback's Badaaass Song). Eddie Murphy's great, the script is great, Craig Brewer did a good job making it, the music's great, most of the matching shots look very close to my memory of the original film. It put me in a mood to revisit the first two Dolemite films for sure.

Really it was a highlight of the fest. The movie is so celebratory, it just makes you feel good. You feel like you're hanging out with friends watching them succeed. Good times.
09.22.19 She MobHarry WuestNext up was a lecture in conjunction with Kier-la Janisse's Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies which did the great Feminist Horror panel last year. This year it's The Morbido Crypt's guide to Mexican Fantasy and Horror Cinema by Abraham Castillo Flores, head programmer of Morbido Fest in Mexico City.

I really liked Castillo's intros for Ship of Monsters and Trampa Infernal. This lecture was also very good, full of info about Mexico's genre film history. If I had one critique it would be that it went a bit fast, with a bunch of names and titles organized by decade. Usually with these things I try to absorb everything but take away one or two films that seem especially worth tracking down. With this one, the films went by so quickly that I didn't feel any reach out and grab me and make me want to see them. Still, it was very interesting and the sort of thing that stands out in the fest as being a little different. Yes, it means one less entry in this journal, but whatever. I hope they continue with this tradition and keep bringing Kier-la back with different guests every year.

After that was another AGFA screening partnered with Something Weird video, this one being a sexploitation film about a lesbian gang that kidnaps a gigolo because he's bagged a sugar mama. The leader of the gang, Big Shim, also plays the sugar mama. Otherwise, it's one of those mystery films with fake credits because it was all semi-legal.

The movie was mostly fun. Sometimes the boob scenes go on a bit too long for those in the theater not fapping but that's par for the genre. What was more interesting is the Q&A afterward where different film anthropologists in the audience chimed in with nuggets of uncovered information about the film and those involved. I love that people out there care enough to try and track this stuff down. Something about this part of film history is very alluring to me.
09.22.19 Memory: The Origins of AlienAlexandre O PhilippeDay Four!

This is (another) making-of doc about Alien. It's from the guy who did the doc about the Psycho shower scene. I liked this a lot but a couple things about the Q&A bugged me so let me get them out of the way first. The first is that he kept saying stuff like "another behind-the-scenes making-of doc would be fine but it's not what we do" I guess to try and say that this movie looks at Alien with a focus on the inspirations and mythology that the creative forces behind the film drew from, but you know it's also a behind-the-scenes making-of doc so don't pretend "it's not what we do." And the second thing is the last time he was at the fest for the Psycho doc he said not only did he do a whole movie about one scene, he could do a sequel too! Well?????

Anyway, this was really good. You can tell that the movie was built around the chest-burster scene (not my own insight, he said as much during the Q&A) because that part of the film is built just like the psycho doc with different people watching the scene, pausing and breaking down shot by shot, photographing the subjects in a way that also shows the screen they're watching, etc. But the rest of the stuff draws from everything between mythology and Lovecraft. They pull in stuff that overlaps with the Jodorowsky's Dune doc, they pull in Giger's backstory, do a bunch of stuff on Dan O'Bannon (one of the coups of the film is that O'Bannon's widow agreed to be interviewed and open up the vault of Dan's records to be photographed).

Overall, this fits nicely with the bevy of material already available surrounding the making of Alien. If you're obsessed or already very familiar with that movie, I doubt you get much new here but at the same time it's very interesting and entertaining to watch.
09.21.19 We Summon the DarknessMarc MeyersEarlier in the day there were autograph hounds hanging out across the street trying to get Michael C. Hall to sign their Dexter posters. Since I hadn't read the program too closely, I thought all those actors were here for this movie. It wasn't until I got in the theater and the guy doing the intro was all like "You guys ready for some heavy metal!?" that I realized I had been mistaken literally all day. This was neither the movie with Michael C. Hall in it (In the Shadow of the Moon) or the movie with Martin Kove in it (VFW), but instead the movie with Alexandria Daddario that was kind of like a slasher version of Heavy Metal Parking Lot. All goddamn day I was thinking it was that Shadow of the Moon movie. Oh well. I guess that's what happens when all these movies have random-ass names and I don't look closely enough to get their meaning.

Over the years, it seems like there've been thirty films with similar titles... like "We Gotta Get Outta This Place" or "Why Don't You Go Play in Hell?" or "What's the Deal with Tuna?" They all run together after a while. I feel like you could make a horror movie set at a film festival and call it "What did you just see?" or "What are you seeing next?"

Anyways, this was ok. Spoiler alert.

This group of girls go to a concert and there are satanic panic-style murders going on and they meet a group of dudes in a van but the girls are the killers not the dudes. Except they kind of suck at killing people... and it's this church group doing it just to get more money and publicity... and the last half kind of gets by-the-numbers to me. It was ok, fun enough... but not great.

I kind of think that Alexandria Daddario exec produced this just so she could star in a movie she didn't have to show her tits in. Which I'm all for... she certainly gets to act here... but it's kind of standard fare.
09.21.19The McPherson TapeDean AliotoAnother AGFA screening, this one of a... I guess infamous shot-on-VHS alien encounter tape that was passed in bootleg form amongst the UFO community for years.

Several notable things about this. The first is that the whole thing was filmed in one take with just a few cuts for time. The next is the complicated tale of messed up distribution which led to it being bootlegged in the first place, and the last was that there was a guy who didn't believe it wasn't real during the Q&A. Like, Joe Ziemba was like "oh shit" when he started going on about disinformation campaigns and stuff. So then the director says he can prove that it's fake and asks the guy to come up on stage. He asks for his wallet and reads his ID and says "Hey I know you, you were the main actor in the movie" and I totally didn't recognize him. So that was really fun.

But yeah, he hired improv actors and they totally nailed it. It really felt like a real family to me. The aliens looked like kids in masks (which they were) but otherwise the film is really effective for such a minuscule budget! Plus it pre-dated Blair Witch by like a dozen years. Pretty crazy!
09.21.19The LodgeSeverin Fiala, Veronika FranzSpoiler alert.

The new one from the people who did Goodnight Mommy. I'm pretty sure I liked this one better than that, although I wouldn't say I loved this. I did appreciate how they basically presented three options for what's going on rather than two in Goodnight Mommy, but I also felt disappointed that they went with evil children yet again. Even before the reveal though, this felt like a remake or new-and-improved version of Goodnight Mommy for English audiences. I guess it's fine that this just replaces their other movie for me, but it would've been cool if they just told a different story.

That said, I did enjoy how the reveal happened earlier in this film and how the film develops a little past that to come to a nice and chilling conclusion, giving some come-comeuppance to those goddamn evil children.
09.21.19 Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and MonstersGilles Penso, Alexandre PoncetDoc about Phil Tippett. He worked on Star Wars and Jurassic Park and Dragonslayer and any other stop-motion film in the last generation. This was good in an expected way. Solid construction, telling me about his life (a little bit) and career (mostly). His work really is impressive. I liked the scene where he I guess explained how Go-Motion worked and I didn't understand a word he said. I guess that's why he's him and I'm me.
09.21.19The Ship of MonstersRogelio A GonzalezDay Three!

This is the first of this Morbido Crypt Mexican Genre series they programmed for the fest. This one is pure late 50s sci-fi with some humor and monsters and romance and musical thrown in for good measure. The Morbido Crypt guy introducing the film mentioned that many films of this era had so many genres packed into them in an effort to give something to each member of the family going to see it. This is something that I've heard to describe Bollywood cinema (and tend to agree with) so it's interesting to see another country take on the same strategy. Of course, this is like half as long as a Bollywood movie so maybe Mexicans aren't as patient as Indians I dunno.

Anyway, this was really fun and actually funny. The monster designs, while very cheap, are still endearing. This is a great Sunday Matinee type movie, or Saturday as the case might be.
09.20.19 DeerskinQuentin DupieuxDay two ends with a new one from Quentin Dupieux. I think he's another one that just gets better and better with each film. While I liked Wrong, I feel like his mix of reality and surrealism is getting closer to Bunuel's best work as he goes on. This one is about a guy who's so enamored with this fringe deerskin coat that he basically reinvents himself, first as a filmmaker then as a murderer as he embodies the deerskin that he wears. The jacket starts to talk to him, telling him that it must be the only jacket in the world.

It makes no sense, but it's funny! Maybe you could pull some social commentary out of it but mostly I think it's just fantasy juxtaposed with reality. I had a great time with it.
09.20.19 Color Out of SpaceRichard StanleyThis was my most highly-anticipated film of the fest. I love Hardware to death, I find Richard Stanley incredibly interesting; the Lost Souls doc and his Q&A at the fest a few years ago stands out as a highlight in recent fest memory for me. Add to that a lifelong love of Lovecraft (me getting back into the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG also contributes) and I the idea of taking Lovecraft, Stanley, and Nic Cage and putting them in a movie together is magic. Plus the poster is stellar.

So how's the movie? I'm happy to report that it's really good. It feels modern rather than like it's trying to capture the 1920s too hard, but the horror feels cosmic and strange rather than becoming a slasher halfway through. Nic Cage gets to be both understated and gonzo. Stanley has the budget to deliver a fully polished and gorgeous film that can play to mainstream audiences as well as Lovecraft-philes.

In particular, I love how the effect of the color manifests in the surrounding landscape and nature. The flowers and trees... and also, the thing in the attic toward the end is like, right out of From Beyond. It's so good!

Yay! I'm very happy! Also, the horse in this is named Comet. What are the chances that there are two movies in a row this fest with horses named Comet? Good thing no one fucked this one.
09.20.19The Death of Dick LongDaniel ScheinertSpoiler alert on this one. Fair warning.

This is ostensibly a dumb-people-trying-to-get-away-with-a-crime movie with the added layer of a mystery about what crime they did unfolding as the movie progresses. The dumb-people part is pretty funny in an Alabama version of Fargo sort of way but then about halfway through the movie you learn how Dick Long died. From having a horse fuck him.

So... my immediate thought was that they probably thought this was the right audience for this film. That doc Zoo screened at SXSW a dozen years ago about a real guy who really died by having a horse fuck him. But I kind of feel like it played the opposite... almost exploitative of that real guy by making a dumb comedy about it. Plus the reveal makes the title into a terrible pun.

So the reveal kind of deflated the movie for me. Not that I was offended by the horse fucking or anything, but I guess more that the movie had to go to such an outlandish place in order to justify itself. I guess you could say it left a bad taste in my ass. i mean mouth. I mean
09.20.19 Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of VampiroMichael PasztI don't watch wrestling but I do enjoy wrestling docs. There was that competition show on MTV back in the day too where people would train to be WWE stars. Basically anything behind the scenes about wrestling I enjoy way more than actual wrestling. As Noah said in his intro for this though, most wrestling docs are total bummers. This one has a bit of heart though, since it's not only about Candadian Luchadore superstar Vampiro but also his daughter and their relationship. It's mostly usual stuff: history, height of fame, drug use, career highlights, what's he doing now, etc.; but he's very charismatic and candid which makes for good viewing.

He was in the theater; this was his first time to see the film. His repsonse: I didn't do THAT many drugs. His Q&A was great... very positive attitude. He even called out Noah for missing a guy who had his hand up for a while. "That's Vampiro coming out." Good stuff.
09.20.19 Reflections of EvilDamon PackardDay Two!

First AGFA screening, this over-two-hours piece of "outsider cinema" is about a... homeless man? who... can't catch a bus? Honestly, I am not sure what this is about. The director stars in the film wearing crazy amounts of headphones and a pillow under his shirt to make himself look fatter. I guess the story is he used to be ok, just trying to sell watches on the street, but the evils of the world make him into a combustible ball of rage and over-eating? But there were protracted sequences of things like... dogs barking at him... and him running after buses as they drive away... and him vomiting on the street near an old nazi couple trying to watch television?

Toward the end, he goes to Universal Studios and films the whole ET ride. He also freely uses television clips, commercials, Spielberg movies... dubbing his own name over a clip of Tony Curtis talking about some classic film. There are enough touches in here to make me think the guy actually knew what he was doing, but the film is so rough and hard to take that it's kind of a mystery as to what's going on. It KIND OF feels like a crazy person made this movie.

So... that happened.
09.19.19 Blood MachinesRaphael Hernandez, Savitri Joly-GonfardThis is like a sequel to a Carpenter Brut music video that had a nice visual-effects-heavy vibe and halfway story. I would've liked it more if it was like a long music video that made as much sense as Turbo Killer (the original video). Instead, there's a bunch of bad acting to try and sell a story that still didn't make any sense. The effects were pretty cool and I'm all for naked women but I did find a kind of misogynistic vibe to it which was kind of a bummer. And really I think my main problem is that there isn't enough music. It never cuts loose like Turbo killer does. I did like the weird laser gun where the lasers stick around and the miniatures of the ships are pretty cool. Just wish it either succeeded on a story level or didn't worry about narrative and delivered more of a visceral music video experience.
09.19.19 First LoveTakashi MiikeThey gave Takashi Miike a lifetime achievement award and showed two of his movies. I saw this one, which is kind of standard Yakuza fare. I applaud him for being so versatile and prolific but have never been such a mega huge fan. This was good; no complaints. I'm trying to think of what sets this apart from Outrage or any other Yakuza film that I've seen though and I can't really... other than things getting a little bloodier at the end and there being a few good kills. I definitely liked it, but it didn't blow me away.
09.19.19 Jojo RabbitTaika WaititiAhoy Fantastic Fest! The fifteenth one, fourteenth for me! I didn't write any of these during the fest for the sake of sleep and having fun so unfortunately these will not be immediate reactions but oh well.

So... Opening night film with Waititi and Stephen Merchant as guest. This was really good. I feel like Waititi gets a little better with each film. Here he shows a great balance of humor, pathos, message, and entertainment. Everyone gives great performances (including Scarlett Johansson who was actually asked to act for this, and both the main kid actors). Waititi also gave a charming and funny Q&A, clearly too wild for Evrim Ersoy to handle.

I feel like Fantastic Fest has moved to a new era that more or less began when Tim League stopped being the person to introduce and close the festival. I really like Evrim's personality and his taste in film but it is a tiny bit less crazy, less unique, and i guess less edgy with Evrim and Annick at the helm. I like it a lot better than the years where these crazy Japanese Weird movies would play... certainly most of the logistics of the fest are now in a pretty good place (of course there are slip-ups here or there but for the most part it's been ironed out) and the tenor of the festival feels pretty assured. I like how few secret screenings there are, I like how much repertory programming was in this year, I like the scheduling and boarding process. The lobby still gets clogged and hard to move through - I feel like they should move to keep the back passage behind the press area as a dedicated entrance during boardings - but for the most part I feel like things have gotten into a pretty solid routine. Part of me misses the good old days but probably mostly due to nostalgia and a smaller attendance which afforded more spontaneity... but those days are gone and these are probably better.
09.13.19 It Chapter TwoAndy MuschiettiPlayed Hooky from work to see this in the theater. I figure with Fantastic Fest getting underway next week I need to get back into the habit of sitting in theaters... Although you know... the state of theaters these days. Both this Tinseltown (or whatever they call it nowadays) and the Galaxy Highland had comfy reclining seats with plenty of arm and leg room. I'm trying not to be pre-biased toward discomfort but something tells me that the stale beer smell of the Alamo won't be quite as nice and updated when I get down there. We'll see though... stay positive stay positive.

Anyway, My lasting memories of the first It film are that it was pretty good except the part where they repeat the same scene seven times in a row where each kid gets scared by It in its various forms. I also remember thinking they were shooting themselves in the foot because the stuff with the adults wasn't as good as the stuff with the kids so the second movie was going to have a hard time.

Well, imagine my surprise when a scene pops up where Mike says "hey everyone needs to go have a scene on their own where you get scared by It, then let's meet back here" and they proceed, once again, to have the same scene six times in a row. I guess it gives the films a nice symmetry?

At least they had some flashbacks to the kids though. That brought the nice inter-weaving that I remember fondly from the book that was missing in the first film. And for the most part they used available CG to do a bunch of scenes that you couldn't really do back in the 80s so it was pretty cool to see stuff like the old lady and Paul Bunyan and things like that. I also like most of the adult cast with the exception of Ben.

They changed the ending. Not only did they change the ending but they have a running joke about Bill writing terrible endings. I am definitely in the camp of agreeing that most pre-2000 Stephen King books had weak endings but it's a tiny bit self-referential for me here. Especially when you have James Ransone and Bill Hader being funny enough to supply the requisite comic relief. I think I remember from the book saying something like "you used the word 'fuck' 568 times in your last book' which is better. Actually, overall... not that much time is spent on the characters' success. It still comes through that they're all successful which I guess is all you need... but anyway, this new ending is probably better. Certainly more movie-ish (especially with Bev and Ben). I'm not 100% on my memory of the book but I feel like the Native American stuff wasn't in there? Of course - i think I mentioned this in my notes for the first movie - one of my strongest memories of the book is an anecdote I think Mike reads from the 1800s where the whole town shot down some bandit in the street. These little anecdotes to show that not only has It been there a very long time but It also has a seeping effect on the whole town, turning it Dark.

I'm pretty surprised they kept the opening scene in. It seemed a little more topical when the book first came out but I guess it still works now.

Ok, I've rambled on long enough. For the record, I liked it ok. I don't think it was as strong as the first movie but it's still one of my favorite books and I think they did a good job adapting it to screen. It felt a little long, especially at the end, but I guess that's fine. I'd rather that than have them rush stuff.
08.02.19 Avengers: EndgameAnthony Russo, Joe RussoSaw this. It was good. I like that it made some fun at Back to the Future then did exactly what Back to the Future Part 2 did for the whole second act. I also found the funny bits funny... the end battle was suitably epic seeing the whole ensemble of 98 heroes... The Internet didn't spoil the WHOLE thing, just most of it... so yeah... they didn't screw it up.
07.28.19 Deadwood: The MovieDaniel MinahanOver the past several months I re-watched The Sopranos. It was good, with the later seasons being better than I remembered. After that, I thought it would be nice to do something similar with Deadwood since the movie was coming out. Where I found Sopranos benefited from binge-y viewings of 2-3 episodes at a time, I found each episode of Deadwood so great and full of rich content that I limited myself to one episode at a time just to savor it. It's so... so... good. And the third season, which I remember watching week to week and thinking it was straining under the weight of its cast and ever-expanding scope, I found this time to be suitably concise and just as good as the others. Most notably, I remember not thinking much of the theater troop's addition to camp but Brian Cox's character is so great... he's just a joy to watch interact with the rest of the town.

The one faltered note in the series is how the third season ends. There's a over-quick reveal of Hearst's travel plans and a rushed deception that moral anchors Bullock and Utter seem to have no problem with. Maybe my favorite thing about this movie is its attention to resolve the weaknesses of that finale and supply a much more fitting goodbye to the show and its characters.

In that, I think the movie does quite well. I confess that I watched the finale and the movie on the same night since I was excited to finally consume new material all these years later (and after a pretty lengthy process of only watching 3-4 episodes a week leading up to this), but all of the cast and the town itself presented themselves as the same people and place that I loved being around since the beginning of season 1. Sure it's 10 years later, people have grown older, and the town looks more civilized with some actual brick construction, but it still felt absolutely the same.

And I guess that's why this movie finally exists: to step foot in the muddy thoroughfare once more and spare a few hours for a final and proper goodbye to this extraordinarily well-written show brought to life by a large and uniformly excellent cast. I didn't need or want any new revelations or some twist on the formula... It's a victory in that this felt like another episode and didn't disappoint. And I was very glad to spot Garret Dillahunt in there as well.
07.27.19 Once Upon a Time... in HollywoodQuentin TarantinoI saw a movie! In a theater! it's my birthday! I'm old!

I really liked this. For a movie lover, I feel like there's no working director out there who likes to show off his love of movies more than Tarantino. This one is just a buffet of cinematic delights. He got to make fake american western tv shows, euro-crime chase scenes, classic hollywood hullabaloo, a bevvy of amazing posters for fake films, and a bunch more. Plus he gets to make actual Hollywood into the nostalgia-soaked version of his dreams and drive around in it all day and night to 70 songs of the period... it all looks like it was the fantasy-fulfillment of a film geek lifetime.

Going in, i had zero clue of the story, and I was pleasantly surprised there. Leo was fantastic, you want to hang out with Brad Pitt every day, Margot Robbie got more screen time than I thought, and pretty much everyone else was in it less than I thought they'd be. I guess with that much room for very small roles, they got to pad out the cast list with all this crazy talent and still have a movie pretty much centered on two dudes hanging out.

The ending is pretty good too.

so yeah... another great one I think. And it's not so heavy that I'd be hesitant to watch it again. soon.
06.29.19 Captain MarvelAnna Boden, Ryan FleckWhoa, I watched a movie! Oh, a marvel movie... does this really count? I feel like these are basically one long tv series at this point which fits in nicely considering all I'm watching these days is tv and youtube.

Anyway, I thought this was gonna suck at first because I really didn't like all the Kree bullshit, but when it got to Earth I was worried because it was trying to be funny like the first Thor, but I think this did a better job at being somewhat light-hearted than Thor 1 (not Ragnarok) did and in the end I liked it well enough. I probably liked the end the most when she has that Neo moment and it's like the end of Skyrim when you have all your skills maxed.

I did spend a long time thinking about whether or not that grey-on-white NIN shirt actually existed in the 90s. I certainly don't remember it. I had a black-on-black and I remember a red-on-white Sin shirt and of course white-on-black but I don't think I ever saw grey-on-white. I think that's movie magic.
06.15.19 Rock OperaBob RayI stumbled upon this and wound up watching it... pretty much just to see some Austin circa 1999. I feel like it was sort of going for somewhere between Slacker and True Romance but it wound up just being a lot of scenes of dudes doing drugs.

Kind of funny, this director Bob Ray would go on to create these absolutely bizarre... ads? shorts? collaborations with a controversial lawyer here in town named Adam Reposa which are pretty great. I definitely feel like people like Bob Ray and Adam Reposa and maybe Alex Jones represent the fiercely independent strain of Austin culture... and by that I guess I mean they're fuckin' nuts.

This movie felt like an indie from the early 90s except it was made just a few years before I got here. Looking at imdb, it looks like this might not've premiered until 2005, just a month or two after I moved. It feels a lot older than that, with lots of key ignitions and pay phones and whatnot. Sort of as usual though, most of Austin's cinematic output hasn't been as good as it should be. This starts off slow and meandering then becomes low-grade psychedelia followed by amateurish thriller. But there seems to be a ton of local bands both on the soundtrack and acting in the movie, which I suppose has some value. Mostly it just felt like a super weird artifact of this city and I kinda liked it seen through that lens.
05.27.19 Game of Thrones: The Last WatchJeanie FinlayThis is a feature length doc documenting the production of Game of Thrones' final season. It's really well done, focusing on several crew to tell the story of this gargantuan production. Considering the current backlash against the ending, this goes a long way to humanize things... although it's a bit of a cheat because really every movie is very hard to make, every tv show is years of hard work and long hours... to know that something took a lot of effort shouldn't sway your opinions of the work. That's my belief anyway. But all that aside, the real star of this is the Stark extra guy. I liked the guy in charge of snow and the location manager who swore like a sailor but the Stark extra guy you just love immediately. So against the backdrop of this show, you get these human stories which are very endearing. To me, that elevates this above your average BTS doc.
05.11.19The PredatorShane BlackMeh. Even after hearing from... everyone... that this was bad i still for some reason had some hope that there was something good I could pull out of watching it. No such luck.
04.12.19 Bird BoxSusanne BierProbably unfair to call it a rip-off of A Quiet Place since it seems to be based on a book, but definitely severely coincidental to come out with the movie where monsters kill people who see them right after the massive success of the movie where monsters kill people who make noise. Still, i'd heard this was terrible and I didn't think it was. Maybe they're mad you never actually see the monsters? That it's just wind a la The Happening? But you know it was pretty terrible in Cloverfield when they added that shot at the end just to show more of the creature... Mostly i was interested in watching this because I'd heard it was very Lovecraftian. It was... more or less. More like Lovecraft-adjacent, but still many of the one guy's drawings were very familiar and I guess the whole concept of insanity recalls Lovecraft by default. Indeed the idea of just seeing something breaks one's mind is definitely right on the money, as is unfathomable beasts triggering the end of mankind. What I didn't quite get is what these monsters' deal was. By the end they seemed pretty malevolent and predatory toward humans but I guess they aren't really physical beings? I feel like if this were 100% Lovecraft then the monsters would've eaten everyone. I think the creatures here just exist to serve the conceit of the film... at least the creatures in A Quiet Place were explained to not have eyes or whatever. But still, not as bad as I'd heard.
04.06.19The HighwaymenJohn Lee HancockThe story of catching Bonnie & Clyde. This was decent. Probably my favorite thing about it was the portrayal of the fugitives and how outside of their story that we were. Costner and Harrelson gave good performances but this movie did a good job of showing the brutality of Barrow's crimes in context of life in 1930s south. I feel like the documentary will probably be more interesting though? I dunno... it just seems like this and lots of movies like it... i can look at the... whatever you call the picture they show on netflix since it's not even a poster... i can look at one still of the movie and know exactly what it is. I almost don't even need to see it. Is that me being a dick? or me being not as into movies at this moment in my life? or the movies being boring compared to good tv? I don't really know what's going on, but I wanted to at least try to voice what i'm feeling. Because there's nothing wrong with this movie. I think it was very competently made and based on a good story that i'm interested in with good production value and performances and all that... but still i had to watch it in two sittings for some reason.
03.15.19 Triple FrontierJC ChandorNetflix continues to attract top-tier talent to do what seems like expensive and indulgent movies that wind up being just ok. There's nothing technically wrong with this, but it also doesn't do anything amazing. I had decent hopes that this would be a really solid military heist movie and it was sort of solid with some pretty scenery and that's about it.

Have to say, I'm not really in a movie phase at the moment. I just finished re-watching The Sopranos which was better than I remember then to go to this... kind of boring!
01.12.19 Ocean's EightGary RossThis was alright. Not sure why they had to kill Danny off. Also, usually heist movies work by laying out a plan, having things go wrong and feeling that tension of the plan going awry, then learning that they had planned for the things to go wrong and it's all good. This one was more like they lay out the plan, execute the plan, then surprise! it went EXTRA well. Kind of a weird take on the genre that I'm not sure if I like or not.
12.30.18 AnnihilationAlex GarlandFinally getting around to this. I mostly liked it I guess... certainly I liked aspects of it:

Things I liked
-the music at the end. The instrumentation for the climax of the film was great and I found myself letting the credits play just for the music. Very good drone stuff that suits the vibe of the film

-The ideas behind it. I liked that it wasn't just an action movie

-the bear scene was pretty cool although it made no sense.

Things I didn't like:
-Something with the pacing felt very off to me. Maybe it was Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance but there was a lack of energy to the whole piece

-The tone comes off as too similar to Arrival, which I feel was executed much better.
12.22.18 They Shall Not Grow OldPeter JacksonFrom the get-go, the intent of this doc is not to give a history lesson of World War I but to present the experience of a British soldier as it was back then. For all the fact stuff like which battle was which, when the tanks came in, where they were stationed and whatnot I couldn't help but think back to listening to the hardcore history series Blueprint for Armageddon. The stuff that Dan Carlin's podcast series can't give you though is what's so special about this.

For the first half hour or so, it feels like a typical documentary constructed with audio interviews over old footage. A few shots are clearly enhanced or slowed down with computers which give the imagery a liquidy movement to it that I found both noticeable and offputting. When they start to talk about the trenches though, Jackson's crazy restoration footage kicks in and I'm watching colorized, framerate-corrected footage and it seems like the footage was captured ten years ago rather than a hundred. And what's crazier is that after a while I stopped marveling at how amazing the footage looks and just took it for granted.

For the footage alone, this film is remarkable. The stories that the interviewed veterans tell are quite powerful but intensify a thousand percent when you're watching actual examples of what they're talking about on the screen. Not recreations, not animation, but actual footage of dudes sleeping in flooded trenches and fields of corpses strewn amongst barren craters and lines of barbed wire.

And some amazingly bad teeth. Holy shit.
12.20.18 They'll Love Me When I'm DeadMorgan NevilleTHIS is the story of Orson Welles' last film. Not to spoil anything but the very end of this film summarizes my feelings exactly. This is a great doc that explores both the conception and details of shooting and trying to finish The Other Side of the Wind but also Welles' late career and life in general. While I bet a similar feature-length documentary could be made (and just as interesting) for each of Welles' projects, that doesn't diminish the quality of this one.

Unfortunately, I feel like I've written out all my thoughts on the film in the previous two entries, so I'm left with not much to say about this other than it was very good, I enjoyed it very much, and I'm glad I watched them in the order that I did. Had I seen this first, I'm not sure I would've sat through the film itself and even if I did, I'm sure my reception of the film would be skewed by all the stuff talked about in this doc.

There's a hell of a lot of Peter Bogdanovich in all three of these things, both as a young man acting and an old man giving interviews about the film. I'm not sure if I'd started this journal when I first explored Bogdanovich's oeuvre and was reading his excellent interview books but I feel like my opinion of the guy has been quite a roller coaster over the course of the last fifteen or so years. The quality of his early work and writing, counterbalanced by Easy Riders Raging Bulls and hearing other more personal stories from those who've had interactions with him, re-balanced again by his recent work and seeing him in stuff like this basically trading on his stories with more famous people but also humbled by life... I know he's just a guy who has good traits and bad like anyone else, but in some ways I feel like the maturation of my own tastes in film has been reflected in my feelings toward him. For a while I was a total fan, then rebelled, and now I take him on his own terms and limitations. I guess you could say the same of Orson Welles and his work. Can't argue with Citizen Kane, love F for Fake, but there's also stuff like The Other Side of the Wind.
12.20.18A Final Cut for OrsonRyan SuffernThis is a short (40 minute) doc telling the technical and logistical account of constructing The Other Side of the Wind and getting it finished in accordance with what Orson Welles had in mind. Watching it made me feel like my previous note (about the film itself) was pretty harsh. So much hard work went into restoring and completing this... but you know, every movie takes a lot of hard work from a lot of people to get made so my feelings on the film itself have to stand independently from how I feel about the making of it. I did find it interesting to see Frank Marshall and Peter Bogdanovich's reaction to watching the newly-restored work print. All of the interview footage here described the film as interesting and bizarre and unique but never "good." But still... I find it incredibly cool that such a talent pool came together in service of Welles' memory and influence to make his final work see the light of day. In general, for the half of his projects that were unfinished in some way, it seems like war more work has been done by people since his death to restore his vision than anyone offered while he was alive.

And it looks like a shit ton of work was done to finish this film. Crazy amounts. Even though this doc feels like it would be a bonus feature on a blu-ray, i still enjoyed watching it more than the film itself. Now, for the feature-length doc.
12.20.18The Other Side of the WindOrson WellesTo me, one of the major coups Netflix pulled this year is releasing this unfinished final Orson Welles film. Going into this, I felt like it should've maybe been left unfinished and stand only as a Jodorowsky's Dune type doc (which they also released and I'm looking forward to seeing sometime this week). But maybe the movie has some further glimpses of Welles' genius which would be worth experiencing.

Unfortunately, I found this incomprehensible.

At first I thought it was because I was tired so I saved the second half for when I was more awake. Nope. It's a complete mess. I think, if anything, it is worthy as a fitting end to Welles' career: one that started at the top and spent its duration fraying and dismantling itself; overcome by the burden of genius. I mean I could write all the same stuff I wrote about Mr. Arkadin a few months ago, but at least that film had a beginning, middle, and end. This one is just an editor's nightmare of random footage. Out of a hundred hours of footage, there must not have been a single master shot.

Yet every frame is visually interesting. Many of the techniques on display here (different film stocks, overlapping dialogue, an unbelievable meta-narrative about Bogdanovich, Huston, and Welles) would've been ahead of their time had this movie come out in 1975 (or even 85), but I honestly wouldn't know what the movie was about were it not for the blurb on Netflix's pause screen or the imdb summary. And, the constant (i mean CONSTANT) cutting is super exhausting after about five minutes.

But with such similarities between this and Mr. Arkadin and F for Fake and even The Trial, I feel like this is just how Welles' brain works. It's the level he thinks on. My guess is that, to him, this is cinema in its purest form. And it's true that there is just so. much. shit. going on here you could concievably pause it every few minutes and watch again until you absorb everything, but with this movie I think it would be a mostly academic exercise. There's so little story here that I can't be bothered to care about the shifting viewpoints and crazy mise en scene and gorgeous lighting on all the old guys' wrinkly faces.

So... at least I got through it. Now I'm free to get onto the good stuff: the docs about the making of this thing.
12.18.18The Ballad of Buster ScruggsJoel Coen, Ethan CoenA stellar anthology of all sorts of different tones and subgenres within the Western umbrella, all filtered through the Coens' sensibilities. I had to look up afterward if it was supposed to be a mini-series and they re-cut it into a single film and apparently that's not the case, but I couldn't help but wonder what it would've been like as one (perhaps it being released on Netflix where their algorithm apparently thinks all I want to do all day is watch tv shows and comedy specials), yet certain symmetries and thematic ties do exist between the disparate stories.

I have to say, I loved this. I do kind of wish I could've taken each story in on its own and not felt a push to get through them all in one sitting, I'm having a hard time picking a favorite. Because they're so different in tone, they scratch different itches for me. The first one is like a send-up of the old Roy Rogers hollywood Western, the second has a phenomenal (and criminally short) performance by Stephen Root, the third one... yeah this one's not my favorite, but the fourth one is like a tour de force Tom Waits performance with absolutely beautiful photography. The fifth one is like a whole movie unto itself, and the sixth contains some of the most Coen-esque bestest dialogue I've heard in a long time. Particularly the speech by the dude from Major League as the trapper. Man, those Coens can write.

But six is kind of a lot to sit through and anthology films have that fleetingness for me for whatever reason. I hope I can hold onto this one though... because there is a ton of good stuff here.
12.17.18 RomaAlfonso CuaronSo I'm on holiday break from work. One of the items on my list of stuff to work on while off work is to catch up on all these netflix movies that I want to see, starting with this.

To me, this feels as much a love letter to Fellini as it does to Cuaron's childhood maid. Granted, this has much more of a story than what I remember of most of the Fellini movies I've seen, but the languid almost anecdotal presentation of scenes, the slowly panning wide shots showing as much as possible of the city and surroundings, and rather bizarre scenes of new years parties and training grounds led by luchadores all feel very Fellni-esque to me. I mean it's called Roma. Yet Roma also refers to the neighborhood in Mexico City which Cuaron grew up, and the movie is also mixed with quintessential Cuaron touches like the very long shots, setting grand action as a background to intimate moments of peril, achingly autobiographical details (and of course a visit to the beach). Really wonderful filmmaking. My only... the only thing keeping me from loving it more than I do is that meandering Fellini pace. It's been a while since I've watched a Fellini movie but I definitely remember the experience of them and how it's folly to try and look for any sort of plot. You have to let them wash over you and see which scenes resonate with you afterward. Kind of a polar opposite of a movie like Gravity. So about half-way through I had to tell myself to relax and not rush anything and sure enough by about three quarters through I was a hundred percent into it. Gotta respect these masterful cinematic expressions, even if I don't feel the need to re-watch this right away.
12.09.18 American MadeDoug LimanTom Cruise is drug smuggler Barry Seal. Perhaps I'm just too fresh off Narcos' fourth season where everything felt 95% truthful and authentic, but this felt too "inspired" and hollywood-fake for me. I feel like Blow told this story better, although i am interested to know if George Jung and Barry Seal and Mickey Munday (from that doc Cocaine Cowboys) all knew each other. I mean there couldn't have been too many american pilots working for the medellin cartel right? although maybe there was... who knows. Anyway, this was ok, but not great.
12.01.18 Solo: A Star Wars StoryRon HowardPutting this on felt more like getting it over with just to be caught up, but it wasn't as bad as everyone said it was. It wasn't fantastic, but there was some good stuff here. In general, I like the idea of "side mission" movies in the Star Wars universe. I suspect if Favreau's Mandalorian TV series is any good then it will scratch this itch more than having to hang it off of origin stories of characters who weren't designed to carry movies by themselves. But Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover were pretty good and I imagine a Star Wars movie - even an origin movie - is like winning the lottery for production designers and art departments. All that stuff felt right and was cool to see.

And then there's one pretty big spoiler cameo, which I liked but am pretty sure it will never go anywhere right?

Anyway, I liked this more than I thought I would.
11.11.18 LifeforceTobe HooperWow. I have to say, most films that gain some reputation never live up to the hype when you sit down and watch them. I guess it's just the subjective nature of art and how easy it is to let any preconceived notions affect your enjoyment. Lifeforce lives up to the hype.

Mostly in its audacity of budget. I don't know that I've seen actual zombie movies with this many zombies, actual disaster movies with this much destruction, actual space movies with such complete and ornate spacecraft sets. Plus you have these puppeted shriveled dudes moving around and souls flying through the air and so much nudity and there's like a lazer gun? and a ritual sword dagger? and Patrick Stewart? It's like every 80s genre movie in one. Unbelievable that it exists.

Quite a movie to go out on too. Really the only thing I didn't like about it was Steve Railsback, but what're ya gonna do about that... Also a nice thematic connection to Autopsy of Jane Doe in that there's a beautiful woman lying naked on a table for most of it.

Gosh, not sure what else to say. I'll have to let that sit with me for a while I think.

So thus brings to an end another year of DVRfest, another solitary weekend of catching up on movies. I didn't fill my one slot of seeing something old this year but just ran out of time. Let's dump some stats and call it good.

16 movies in the past week (2.29/day), 18 in the past month (0.6/day), 95 in the past year (ouch) (0.26/day), and 3153 since the site started 14 years ago (0.62/day). Netflix still reigns supreme in terms of venue with 776 movies seen, but 'Internet' is fast growing with 355. Granted, sometimes i use that venue as a general catch all for various streaming services like HBOGO and whatnot so it's not all nefarious, but it mostly is. And I can't finish my notes for this fest without the obligatory mention of Peter Bogdanovich and his note cards. I forget how long he did his - 17 years? 18? - but I'm getting close. Of course, he finished because he had made Last Picture Show and Paper Moon and was probably too busy to keep a closet full of note cards updated and I work in a cubicle all day. So maybe since I'm not doing anything interesting with my real life, I'll keep these going till I die. Of course, with sites like letterboxd out there now allowing everyone to do this without the labor of printing note cards or writing a crappy php website, I'm not sure even a 30-year collection of thoughts on movies is interesting to anyone. It still remains interesting to me however so I will keep doing it. Plus, it's not such a burden when you only see 95 movies in a goddamn year. If you take out 30 for Fantastic Fest and 15 for this, that's like two movies a month. Jesus. I blame the Golden Age of Television that we're in... Anyway, see you next year.
11.11.18 Ghost StoriesJeremy Dyson, Andy NymanHonestly my draw to this film was based solely on the fantastic posters used to market it. Not knowing anything about it, I sort of thought or hoped it would be a throwback anthology similar to the old hammer or amicus films. I guess that's kind of what it was, with a little less throwback and more Martin Freeman. I liked it pretty well and thought the end was earned and not trash. I could've used a bit more development of each of the individual stories but I also like how it's a pretty lean 90 minutes so lengthening them probably wouldn't serve the movie as a whole. In any case, good stuff.

Ok. It's quarter to midnight and I have one last movie on the program. A movie I've had to nod and hide the fact I haven't seen it multiple times. Hopefully I've saved the best for last because it's time to enter
11.11.18The Autopsy of Jane DoeAndre OvredalIn the early days of DVRfest, a sizable contingent of what was in the backlog were horror movies taped for Halloween that I hadn't gotten around to yet. This year, there were a bunch of blog posts like 'best of the decade' or 'best of 2000s' and whatnot, typical clickbait crap. Of course I skimmed them, always on the lookout for hidden gems that I'd overlooked. This was on several of those lists and I procured it based on the cast alone. Mostly Brian Cox as a coroner was enough for me.

It's pretty good! Quite a change from the CG-fest of Trollhunter but a good script, creepy yet new setting, and ultimately an interesting take on a familiar trope. I liked that Cox and Emile Hirsch were always on the same side, that the film never went to unsaid resentments coming out in some argument or whatever. I also like that at the first overt sign of weirdness they were both like 'fuck this shit.' Pretty good.
11.11.18 GambitRonald NeameThis is another one of those classic Alamo trailers they'd show in front of any heist movie. It has a classic tagline which is something along the lines of "Go ahead and tell the ending but please don't ruin the beginning!" (spoiler alert: there ain't shit in the beginning, but I guess "we'd appreciate if you didn't spoil the first third of the movie" doesn't sound as good).

This was quite fun. Michael Caine in his prime, Shirley MacLaine at her most charming, and a bunch of lavish sets meant to be some exotic locale. And yes there is a bit of a turn which probably worked in 1966, but the second two-thirds is just as, if not more, fun. A nice little late afternoon jaunt of a movie.

Up next is... hmm, what's next?
11.11.18 24x36: A Movie About Movie PostersKevin BurkeThis played Fantastic Fest the year I was in Peru, and I've been meaning to see it ever since. I didn't kickstart this one even though it looks like everyone else at fantastic fest did. The movie is like one long ad for Mondo. I was really hoping for like 50% history and at least a mention of movie posters from around the world but instead, it's like 10% history which just serves as context to talk about Mondo and the niche industry it created. That and the production value of the movie is pretty lacking compared to Nye's film. Not that it's a comparison really, but it was noticeable.

So... yeah. This was pretty thin. Not much to hang a movie on. You might say it... i dunno, some other poster joke. It was nice to learn that the big guy I see at the Alamo every year is named Pineapple. I wonder how many docs exist because of the Alamo and how long it will take before every person I know from there is on screen. So odd to a) see Tim Doyle on my home TV, and b) disagree with what he's saying. Chris Popkoff and Daniel Kerr, if you sit for an interview on some Weird Wednesday doc, please let me know.

So this is where my programming breaks down a bit. I still have a pile of movies but no real plan as to which I'll watch and when. I think I'll go purely by format right now and pick something else off the shelf as it's probably the last movie I have the house to myself for.
11.11.18 Bill Nye: Science GuyDavid Alvarado, Jason SussbergDay three starts with this Bill Nye doc. A few things up front:

1) i backed this on kickstarter. I think it's the last movie I'm going to back on kickstarter. Even when it's successful and they finish the film, they shop it around all the festivals looking for a buyer before they let their backers see it (unless you happen to be in a town where they're already showing it, as was the case with this and sxsw I believe). So by the time I actually get the blu-ray that I pledged for, literally everyone else in the world has seen it. It's a flaw. and

2) I backed this before his latest netflix show, Bill Nye Saves the Universe, aired. I didn't love that show so much so I'm hoping this doc delivers a bit more of what I want: background on the guy and his history and some humor and maybe a little more dignity and less preaching that he does on his Netflix show.

Ok all of that out of the way, let's watch.

So maybe i was being too harsh. This was good and I'm glad my name is somewhere in those tiny credits as helping to make it possible. Plus I did get a cool shirt... so there's that.

Anyway, yeah I liked this. It's pretty much exactly what I wanted. Some background, a little history, a little family, a little pathos, a little humor. It brought some interesting perspective to the Ken Ham debate and maybe a little scope to why Nye seems so outspoken about climate change these days. I'm probably biased because I agree with him (although not always. I think somewhere in my notes for when I read Michael Crichton's State of Fear or when I saw An Inconvenient Truth I was pretty skeptical), but to me this was an honest portrait of the guy.

Of course he's no movie poster... if only there was a whole documentary about movie posters.
11.10.18 Che: Part TwoSteven SoderberghHuh. These/this was pretty good. It's harder than I thought to think of this as one singular movie. Not only are they separated by time and location but also the visual look and style of each film are different (not to mention getting two entries in imdb). I think maybe half of these notes belong on the other entry, but I watched them together so for this time my feelings about them are also together.

It's much harder to make a movie about losing that people will like. I'm not sure if the Bolivian movie can stand on its own without the Cuban movie to invest you. It's also interesting how much of a war movie both of these are. I was really expecting more biopic-ishness, but you don't really learn much about Che's childhood or anything like that. I guess his worldview and personal code are the things he's known for today and those manifest in his actions in war so in a certain sense this tells the tale without having to overexplain.

Benicio did great. I'm not sure what will serve as his best performance, but he killed it here. There are also other recognizable faces that pop up every once in a while, more in the second film than first, but mostly I was there with the revolucion. In the first film, I felt like Soderbergh couldn't help but look to Oliver Stone for inspiration, especially with the non-combat stuff like the interview and the UN, but maybe that's just because JFK and Nixon hold a monopoly on 60s-era politics films for me. That and the different film "stock" (I'm guessing they are just different filters that the video is run through these days?) but it's hard to credit Stone with that when Soderbergh also did it to great effect in Traffic.

What feels like long notes for a long movie. I liked this. It certainly held my attention for all 4-ish hours. I certainly had an easier time getting through it versus Tales of Hoffman, and now that it's over I'm glad the dice decided this because I probably wouldn't have ever sat down and watched it otherwise which would be a shame.

So that does it for the Criterion Random Roll and for Day Two of the fest. Day 3 will start with a double feature of documentaries that I have on the shelf.
11.10.18 Che: Part OneSteven SoderberghStack 2 position 2: spine 383.

Ok, confession time. I originally rolled Che. But there's no way I'm starting a 5-hour movie at 9pm! So... breaking my own rules... I get it... but come on. And to make matters worse? The second role also came up Che! The fates are shaming me! You know what... what am I afraid of? fuck it let's do it.

Stack 2 position 6: spine 496

(notes on the movie itself in the entry for Part Two)
11.10.18The Tales of HoffmanMichael Powell, Emeric PressburgerStack 1 position 7: spine 317.

Woof. This is what I was afraid The Red Shoes would be: a full two hours of 100% unapologetic opera. There was a point, maybe twenty minutes in when the "prelude" ended, that I seriously wondered how I was going to make it through the whole two hours. Really the only thing that did it was marveling at the various cinematic tricks they used to augment the opera for the screen. I mean if you're going to film an opera then this is the way you do it. It's just a shame that I'm so averse to it as a genre. I think I don't have enough appreciation for the music so I need more story and the story is nowhere near fast or intricate enough for me. I mean, This movie is about three women this dude Hoffman loved: a puppet who comes apart, a possessed courtesan who tries to steal his reflection, and an opera singer (original) who dies of consumption. The end. And to make matters worse, the movie explains each act in text in the beginning! So from a story perspective, I was bored senseless. Again, I have the utmost respect for this film... it's masterfully made... opera fans should see it and own it (probably on blu, the dvd had vibrant colors but some artifacting), but it's not for me. That's a hard lesson learned.

Ok. Dinner time. I'm hoping to fit two more movies in tonight, so I think I'll only roll the dice once more then switch to a horror movie for midnight. So let's see what's...

11.10.18 Ministry of FearFritz LangStack 3 position 1: spine 649.

There's another Fritz Lang movie in the stack and it's sort of my most dreaded roll. So I was happy to see this hit the player instead. As it turns out, Dr. Mabuse might have been more interesting even though it's a silent. This one plays out like a run of the mill wartime thriller with Ray Milland accidenting his way into a Nazi plot. It felt like Hitchcock lite to me, maybe most notable for precursors of much better noirs to come with Dan Duryea in a very small part.

11.10.18 Mr. ArkadinOrson WellesStack 2 position 1: spine 322.

This is one of the bigger DVD boxes in the collection because Criterion, doing what they're famous for, packaged three different cuts of this movie along with the 240-page book that Welles wrote and adapted to film. I probably didn't love this movie enough to go through the commentary tracks and watch all three versions and all that... I just trust the folks at Criterion that whatever led to this "comprehensive" version that I watched were all in an attempt to appease the late Mr. Welles' ideal execution of his project. Welles is such an interesting subject from a cinematic archeology point of view. The back of the book even suggests that it was not exactly Welles who wrote it but "an uncredited English translation of a French text adapted and translated from Welles's writing by a friend and a ghostwriter." If this hadn't come up randomly I might've programmed a double feature with Netflix's newly-finished Other Side of the Wind and its accompanying doc to fully dive into the Welles rabbit hole. For now, though, I finally get to move this off the top shelf.

The movie, much like the story of the making of the film, is nearly incomprehensibly complex. I feel like the most stand-out Welles films, much like Terry Gilliam's oeuvre, are the films where a certain elegance arises out of his baroque genius. While the frame and the narrative are still unbelievably staged with expert attention to detail, the film as a whole becomes understandable on a simple level (rosebud's his innocence of youth). The not-so-successful pictures wind up drowning in the maelstrom of thoughts and ideas that must be a constant state in his brain. Or at least that's what it feels like for me while I'm watching. This movie is like it's on fast forward. Every shot is so involved and jarring, but there's no time to take everything in before there's some new visual stimulus, some new idea presented. The dialogue and story are too complicated and delivered with overwhelming layers of noise and movement that nothing really makes sense, and even as the film goes on and I think I have an understanding of what's going on, I have to second-guess myself that it's really true because everything's so frenetic. But I don't feel like the freneticism is intentional. I think that's just Welles' brain and way of making a movie. Maybe it's just in how I read it... because I feel like every frame is interesting and probably has a deeper meaning but it's just so much that the dots never quite connect.

What I will say is that this has to hit like a billion locations around the world. I can understand why he always had such trouble completing his projects because there's no compromise here. Pre CG, London is really London and those Spanish castles are really there in the background. You have to applaud the effort.

So my reaction to this is pretty mixed. I don't think it's successful as a piece of entertainment, but I do think it's extraordinary in many ways. Sort of like getting glimpses of genius through a fever dream.

Incidentally, I get the same exact feeling from his film essay F for Fake, except there I feel like he nailed that style and tempo. I think F for Fake may end up being my favorite film of his just because I so strongly identify every aspect of that film with what I think of Welles himself.

11.10.18 General Idi Amin DadaBarbet SchroederStack 1, position 4: Spine 153.

I probably picked this up around the time that Last King of Scotland movie came out even though I never got around to seeing that either. It was probably a great surprise to see a leader of a country boast and posture like he does in this film back in the 70s. Watching it for the first time today, I just see shades of Hussein, North Korea, Putin, and Trump, which makes it less funny. Plus when he's on the jungle cruise boat pointing out all the crocodiles, you can't help but wonder how many of his enemies wound up in those waters. So there's a chilling aspect of it too. Wound and crossed together like that, Dada does make a great subject as he's easy to laugh and dance while you also know he's ordered numerous disappearances. Plus the rough narrative nature of a doc during the 70s just presents these random scenes, leaving it for you to stitch together the overall story. I found it a little long at times but ultimately pretty interesting.

11.10.18 Dead and BuriedGary ShermanI totally fell asleep for this so had to finish it in the morning. Not exactly great festival protocol but good thing it's my festival and I do what I want!

I'm glad I saw the second half of this with fresh eyes rather than half-asleep because it's pretty good! O Bannon and Shusett definitely took a page from Ira Levin and the lead is basically Roy Scheider in Jaws but the ending reveal is pretty awesome and Jack Albertson as Dobbs the funeral owner is really great. I do kind of wish the whole film wasn't smeared with fog but maybe it's just the transfer?

Anyway, I liked this quite a bit and am super glad to have seen it. Now the next time I see the trailer at the Alamo I can share the same smug grin as everyone else and nod along like "oh, yeah, this is a good one."

And now it's time for my favorite new tradition at DVRfest. This being Saturday, I've refreshed my stack of unwatched criterions and have my dice at the ready. I've got 3d8 movies ranging from spine number 17 to 888 and that's including Che and World on a Wire. How many will I get through? Which ones will I see? Let's roll the dice and find out...
11.09.18 Raw MeatGary ShermanAKA Death Line. I'm finishing tonight off with a Gary Sherman double feature starting with this thriller slasher hybrid thing about a trog type who eats people in an abandoned London underground. Aside from a great title theme (seriously, it's like Barry Adamson scored The Deuce), a snarky Donald Pleasance performance, and some decent gore... there's not a ton here. I thought I'd like it more than I did. It wasn't bad but did drag through the middle a bit.

I'm starting to feel it but I've got one left. I've seen the trailer for this next one a bunch, remember the poster from video stores of my youth, but never actually sat down and watched it. That ends tonight.
11.09.18 Southern ComfortWalter HillOK I picked a bunch of movies, for today at least. Next up is this Walter Hill movie that I've been meaning to see for at least a decade. No joke, I think I'm on tape somewhere circa 2007 wondering how to get my hands on this. Now, thanks to the Internet, everything's everywhere and all it took was me remembering that I wanted to see it.

This... is pretty great. A group of Louisiana national guard (played by a lineup of great early 80s actors) goes on a routine... test? mission? Ok so I don't really know what the hell they're doing out in the swamp but they go out there and things don't go well for them. At all. It's kind of like Deliverance meets Platoon meets... Predator? It's kind of hard to have sympathy for these guys because they're all idiots and it's totally their fault, but instead I felt a sort of dark comedic vibe as these guys get worse and worse off. Almost like an anxiety dream or something right down to the ending.

I've probably said this in my notes for all Walter Hill movies but he's made a career of solid dude movies with tough guys doing shit. I'm really happy to finally cross this one off my list.

Next up... as the sun is now down things start to turn a little dark. This should pair nicely with dinner.
11.09.18 Phantom ThreadPaul Thomas AndersonOh shit it's time for another weekend of catching up on movies in the most gluttonous way possible, all in celebration of another year keeping this journal! This is the 14th one of these, making me old, this site old, this site's code VERY old, and this tradition officially respectable! As with the last handful of years, I don't really tape movies onto the DVR anymore, but that doesn't mean there aren't more than enough on all the various formats available for me to catch up on films that I've been meaning to see or that have fallen through the cracks of my viewing habits. So I invite you to follow along, dear phantom reader, as we spend the weekend rolling around in cinema.

I figure there's no better way to set this year's one-person festival off than with PTA's latest, which I'd kind of been putting off because I'm afraid I wouldn't like it. I saw The Master at the Ritz in 70mm right before a Fantastic Fest and found a screener copy of Inherent Vice with bad color correction so I've been able to tell myself that certain circumstances hindered my enjoyment of those movies and that I'm really still a big PTA fan... but the subject matter of this one seemed like something in the alley on the other side of the city from the alleys that I usually hang out in (does this alley metaphor work? I don't think so I'm dropping it it's dropped). There's no getting away from it now. I have the house to myself, a pile of the most unhealthy snack foods they can legally sell, and the whole weekend of undivided attention ahead of me. Let's see how I like it.

Hey! Maybe it was my low expectations but I actually really liked this! There are a few levels here. From a filmmaking perspective, the movie is gorgeous and everything in the frame is wonderful and the music is so good that I sat in the dark watching the credits just to hear the piano. Then there's also this thinly veiled possibility that this movie could just be PTA writing himself as a genius craftsman entitled to act like a baby and his wife as the woman who gets to put up with all his shit. But finally, there's the tone of this movie in that I was never really sure where it was going to go. From starting out the first logo screens with this dissonant screech, I was constantly setting myself up for a very dark turn (as There Will Be Blood showed PTA is capable). Yet the story and setting also lend themselves close enough to that classic gothic romance template of Rebecca and Crimson Peak with the manchild guy and the overbearing sister and the house that becomes a prison... I was constantly expecting there to be a secret basement that the girl stumbles into. But then, a certain tea gets made which kind of subverts all those expectations and the movie turned again for me, now building toward the final moments when, in a not untwisted way, the film resolves as a sweet love story. It really helped not knowing anything about this movie walking into it. It made me quite a fan.

And while both lead actresses do a tremendous job, the most fun role was clearly Daniel Day-Lewis who gets to be amazingly cranky and dickish here. There are a few great eating scenes where you can read his annoyance so well. Just a wonderful job.

So yay! I'm super happy (and a little relieved) to like this movie so much. It's clear that PTA has matured into a master filmmaker. My fear was that his interests were floating toward the super niche world of, like, Visconti and shit, where modern audiences don't even have a chance of liking his movies. While this one certainly appears that way, I found it a really nuanced and developed movie in every way. Probably some Visconti but also plenty of Max Ophuls (I'm guessing), and maybe some Resnais? Or not, what do I know...

MOVING ON... Next up is... shit, what is next. Hold on let me make up a schedule real quick. We'll find out together!
11.04.18 Deadpool 2David LeitchThis was pretty good. Funny, not trying to be too much, nice potrayals of Cable and Juggernaut, and still with that 4th wall humor. About as good as you could hope for from a Deadpool sequel I think.
11.03.18 Sicario: Day of the SoldatoStafano SollimaI was with this movie for the first half or so, then things started getting stupid. By the end i was pretty done with it. I guess it's just very very hard for things to make sense in movies, so when they do (like the first film), it's a notable achievement. I do like the look and music of the film, and Benecio's always great, but I wish it didn't shit the bed during its second half.
10.06.18 Ant-Man and the WaspPeyton ReedMarvel had 3 movies this year. That's pretty crazy. I think this is probably the height of their popularity, right? Maybe next year when all the dead people come back?

Anyway, I liked this one ok. I enjoy that there are lighter notes in the canon and not everything has to be about the fate of the universe, but that lightness also brings an air of frivolity like this one will gone from people's memories pretty quick. Kind of a shame but I don't know what you do about it. I liked all the playing around with scale, thought the way they handled Ghost's character was interesting and enjoyed everyone's performances. It doesn't stand apart though.
09.27.18 Bad Times at the El RoyaleDrew GoddardClosing night film. The only guest was a producer and video intro by Goddard. The movie was alright. I didn't care for Chris Hemsworth's part and the movie hit a slump when he came on screen for me. Also, the soundtrack reminded me of the video game Mafia 3. I wish it was juuuuuust a little better, but there was enough there to like.

That's it. I had to get my car towed so I didn't go to the party. As always, the highlight was seeing all my movie friends again and stepping back into the life I led a dozen years ago. The lowlight was having to pay seven hundred bucks to do it. I'm not usually one to complain about prices (or maybe I am, who knows) but this year I felt it a little extra due to the price hike for this year's badges. The fantastic fest menu had a few good deals (the small popcorn, breakfast tacos) but also had a few duds (I ran out of chips for both the big and small queso. chips!). I was told several times that the price hike was because the festival lost sponsors after last years scandal-fest, but to me it did create an expectation that this year would be extra cool. While I can't complain about the programming (i didn't see anything terrible, I missed a few crowd faves like In Fabric, Chained for Life, Terrified, and One Cut of the Dead but that was due to my own choices), I do feel like there were fewer special little touches than I'd experienced in previous years. It felt very business-as-usual to me. Perhaps that's because many of the highball events were scheduled not to overlap with the breaks between movies so there was rarely anything going on over there, or maybe it's because i'm not really on twitter or facebook anymore so i just missed all the cool spontaneous whatevers that made the week special for people. I dunno.

So, here's a top 3
-The Night Comes for Us

I split out the rep stuff because I saw so much of it:
-Sudden Fury
-Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore
-Deadly Games

And a bottom 3
-Man Who Killed Don Quixote
-An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn
09.27.18 ManiacWilliam LustigWilliam Lustig was still here to show a second screening of his 4K restoration of Maniac. It was fun to see a real honest-to-goodness horror film with exploding heads and practical blood effects again.

Checking the notes, it looks like I saw this at my very first DVRfest back in 2005. It's funny how my tastes have changed. This time around the inner monologues and whiny moaning that Joe Spinell does were a highlight for me. I also felt like the more extreme Savini effects (the head blowing up and the partial dismemberment scene at the end) were very intense. For all the gore that we get today in films like The Night Comes for Us or Green Room, there's something about the way they did it back then... and also the way they shot it, really lingering on that coverage - even going slow-motion to revel in it - that feels effective to me.

And of course, a fantastic Q&A from Lustig himself. I wish someone would do an extended interview with him. Hmm, maybe they have. Let me look for podcasts. Oh, yeah there are a ton. cool.
09.27.18The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTerry GilliamAt least it's done and over with. This wasn't as bad as other recent Gilliam but still not good. It really didn't feel very "Gilliam-ish" at all to be honest. At least with Zero Theorem you had that wild production design and camerawork going for it. This didn't have the story or the visual flair to make it that interesting. But it's a movie that has a start, middle, and end, so there's that. It wasn't hard to watch but it wasn't fun either.
09.27.18 Slut in a Good WaySophie LorainDay Eight (Final Day)

The day started with a charming comedy about a teenaged girl who sleeps with all her co-workers. Very french (of course), but also funny and endearing while still following the typical rom-com structure.
09.26.18 OverlordJulius AveryI didn't love this one so much either. The beginning of the film was good but just made me want to watch Band of Brothers again. The middle of the film was long and slow, and the last third was by the numbers. I really expected a whole movie of Wolfenstein'esque supersoldier nonsense but you barely get any and that's right at the very end. I'm also not yet comfortable with Wyatt Russell's face on screen. It still looks like a wrong version of his dad to me.
09.26.18 Under the Silver LakeDavid Robert MitchellI think this is the only movie I saw where all my friends liked it more. It's given me more to think about as to what bugged me about it.

From the get-go, this one's aiming for a Big Lebowski / Inherent Vice / Kiss Kiss Bang Bang noirish LA-set mystery with Andrew Garfield as a slacker looking for missing hot neighbor Riley Keough.

I think most of my problems with the movie speak to a perceived ego of the director. Maybe I'm projecting all of this but it feels like an indulgent victory lap of a movie with extravagant luxuries that the movie doesn't need but are thrown in there because it's what the precious genius director if It Follows wants. You could say the same thing about Magnolia, which I like, so maybe it's just a personal taste issue or that I feel like PTA isn't as obnoxious as Robert David Mitchell in person or something like that. Either way, I felt like the movie fell into similar traps as Matrix 2 or Southland Tales: too long, too many frayed edges, too much going on and not enough justification. I feel like the movie doesn't earn its excess, which sounds pretty pompous as I write it so that might be bullshit once I sit with it for a while.

Anyway, all of this doesn't mean that I didn't have fun while watching it. I did feel like, with my first watch anyway following the plot, I enjoyed the moment to moment with an expectation or hope that the movie would end in a satisfying way. When the ending came, it made me take stock of everything else and I feel like much of it was unnecessary. Maybe that's the point? Maybe a second viewing would allow me to enjoy each scene and not worry about the story?

Before the film, the director told the audience to not try to make sense of everything for their first time and let it wash over you. This rubbed me the wrong way, since a) don't tell me how to watch your movie, and b) you have a movie that's framed around a mystery but you're telling me not to think about the mystery. I am certainly fine with not having every loose end tied up in a bow, but that's much harder to do with a genre that is all about confusing details that make sense at the end. The Big Lebowski is stylish and character-driven as fuck but the core mystery still has a resolution that explains all the weird stuff throughout.

Which gets to the heart of it I think. I think I just don't like the director's personality. Most of his answers to the Q&A afterward rubbed me the wrong way as well as his intro. Someone asked about why they added CG to obscure Andrew Garfield's penis when there was so much female nudity in the film and his answer was "to be fair, Andrew Garfield was naked for a lot of the film." I think there wasn't an actress in the movie that didn't show her breasts (not complaining about this. I repeat, I am not complaining about this), but you get like two quick glimpses of Garfield's ass. I don't want to be a nudity police or anything, but the gratuity felt a little pushed to me (and i'm all for gratuitous nudity). I just see the director saying to himself "and EVERYONE's naked!" as he wrote the treatment.

So in the end, who knows how this film will sit on me. My first impression was that it was fun enough while watching but I walked out with several issues with the movie. Again, not to say I hated it, just didn't love it.
09.26.18 DonnybrookTim SuttonLike Bloodsport except with methy rednecks and a total bummer and they don't get to the tournament until the last ten minutes. Too bleak.
09.26.18 GoliathPeter GronlundFamily drama except the family is criminals. It was ok. Not bad, just ok.
09.26.18 Mary Jane's Not a Virgin AnymoreSarah JacobsonDay Seven.

Today started with an AGFA presentation of Sarah Jacobson's work. First up was a short called I Was A Teenage Serial Killer which was rough but not without charm.

The feature though, Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore, was really good. It fits in perfectly well with that mid-90s wave of independent film in that it's largely dialogue-driven and stars a bunch of 20-somethings in a workplace. In this case it's a movie theater. Surprisingly moderate for an AGFA title but pleasantly so. I liked it a lot.
09.25.18 LuzTilman SingerA student thesis film shot on 16mm, this was pretty good for what it was. The atmosphere is nice, music is good if not too overbearing... the only problem is I have no clue what the fuck it was about. I didn't make any sense of the story at all. I mean I think I kind of do, but just barely. It wasn't bad, but I'm glad it was only 70 minutes long.
09.25.18The PerfectionRichard ShepardA late addition to the fest, I'm glad I got to see this as I think Shepard does interesting work and still remember seeing The Matador at AFF years ago and liking Shepard's candid and entertaining Q&A. Not knowing anything about this movie helped I think since I was trying to guess the genre even as the film played out. I had a lot of fun with it. I feel like the way the story develops is earned and every time I felt like something was off or someone gave a terrible line reading, the film quickly corrected itself. I do wish at the end we got to hear a little bit of the cello playing instead of music over the picture. That would have been a great final joke.

The next slot I chose to see Tenacious D present their new album in the form of an episodic animated show that will run on Youtube. I think if I dig bag far enough I'll find some glowing notes for Pick of Destiny so I'm officially on record as liking that film a lot. This one has that same unadulterated D spirit but instead of a real film with real production values it's a bunch of crude drawings (done by Jables himself) set to extended "skit" tracks between songs. It's still pretty funny and very entertaining, but you can definitely tell they basically did this themselves.

I liked it a lot though, don't get me wrong. After a good Q&A, they got on stage at the highball and performed three or four songs (Tribute, Pick of Destiny, Rize of the Fenix, Fuck Her Gently). Afterward they were like "that was a great rehearsal!" Not sure why the set was so limited.
09.25.18The Blood of WolvesKazuya ShiraishiDay Six.

This is a throwback yakuza movie I guess made to look like it's from the 80s a bit. Reminiscent of Training Day except if Denzel was not as dirty and was more of a Japanese version of Al Pacino in Heat. It was decent. Tiny bit heavy-handed at times but not terribly so. I liked it pretty good.

The next slot I opted for a class from Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies titled Ghouls to the Front: Rethinking Women's Horror Filmmaking. Basically, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas gave a presentation of some of the female filmmakers that she studied in writing her upcoming book, then played shot clips or trailers of their films. I'd heard of exactly one: Blood Diner (which has a hilarious trailer). Everything else was waay above my head which was cool. Basically, whatever Kier-la Janisse brings to the fest I will automatically attend. This was really cool.
09.24.18 ClimaxGaspar NoeThis was so good. Gaspar Noe, man. The only thing is that I kind of wish he would do a movie that didn't descend into hell. I should see Love, maybe Love doesn't end in a cacophonous journey down the river Styx. This one sure as fuck does. And those beginning dance sequences were so great. The music selection was so great. Noe's tendency to chop up the structure of the film is great. His titles: great. The theater applauded after the beginning titles ended. Then things got dark. But as usual, the technical facility needed to choreograph and pull off those insanely long takes... filled with visual or practical effects and impossible camera movements... just astounding. So goddamn good. Favorite of the fest.
09.24.18 Mid90sJonah HillThis one really surprised me at how good it was. The poster and trailer said 'pretentious meandering fake shit from an entitled actor' to me but I have to say I was completely wrong. The movie feels so authentic and nuanced; all the kids give superior performances. It's not afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve but also delivers something new. I'm almost upset that it's so good. And Jonah Hill's Q&A with the cast was also super polite and eloquent and funny. He even said bless you to someone who sneezed in the audience. So yeah, loved this one.
09.24.18The GuiltyGustav MollerI liked this as well. It's all told from the perspective of a 9-1-1 operator. I was a little ahead of the plot as it unfolded but that's just because i'm a genius so it shouldn't be held against the film. A nice concept that they succeeded at pulling off.
09.24.18 LadyworldAmanda KramerThis was a girl's version of Lord of the Flies. I liked it with a few qualifications. I didn't love how EXACTLY it followed Lord of the Flies in terms of story and I had to make a conscious decision to stop thinking about the myriad of ways they could easily escape and focus on the whole Lord of the Flies thing. Otherwise, an evocative soundtrack, interesting performances, bold choices. It was not, like, the easiest movie I've watched at the fest but it did give me something worthwhile which is great.
09.24.18 School's OutSebastien MarnierDay Five.

Not exactly an evil children movie but it's kind of sold as one. I liked this. The kids were suitably creepy, the tension built nicely, and the climax wasn't stupid and overblown like us dumb americans like to do. Plus the ending is nice and ambiguous which I quite liked.
09.23.18 Deadly GamesRene ManzorThis late 80s French film is like Home Alone meets Die-Hard. This crazy kid in this crazy mansion fends off a crazy santa claus trying to kill him. It's got a real... not sure how to put it... ephemeral style? Like I was never quite sure if the establishing shots were miniatures or to-scale sets and everything has a wide angle to it and there's lots of interesting POV work and the lighting in general has a kind of glaze to it. It really does a nice job in putting you in this fairy tale headspace in which this kid programs computers, has a prototype of an iphone strapped to his arm, and wakes up every morning to a weight training/Commando-esque gearing up montage. I had a lot of fun with it.
09.23.18The Night Comes for UsTimo TjahjantoThis one kicked some fucking ass. The same dudes and stunt team from The Raid accomplished some of the most brutal action I've seen since... well, The Raid. Lots of great sequences here but the climactic fight is holy shit. Similar to The Raid, you kind of get inured to the broken bones and slashed throats by the end, but they did a great job of varying the fights to keep that monotony relatively low. Basically, any movie ever where there's a knife fight or someone hits someone with a sword and you think "shouldn't there be more blood?" This movie answers with "fuck yeah there should be. HERE YOU GO." A Highlight of the fest so far. Awesome stuff.
09.23.18 SuspiriaLuca GuadagninoThe secret screening this year was Suspiria. I was actually looking forward to this and think I liked it more than my friends did. I liked Thom Yorke's music when it was in there and all the dance stuff I thought was really good and the climax was pretty sweet as well. Friends' criticisms after the movie were valid however. I'm not sure why it had to be two and a half hours, I'm not sure why it had to be called Suspiria (it's really like an opposite take on the story), and I'm not sure why Tilda Swinton had to play two roles. Eh.
09.23.18 Blood LakeTim BoggsThis is a shot-on-VHS slasher restored by Bleeding Skull. It was pretty fun. Way more water skiing than slashing, but still. It's fun to get these glimpses of what could have been a home movie of a vacation. I guess youtube is where the equivalents of this are today but they don't seem anywhere near as charming.
09.23.18 ShadowYimou ZhangDay Four.

Started with this Wuxia from the guy who did Hero. I liked some of the monochromatic set design and the one major battle sequence was cool but otherwise it felt overlong and like it was actively trying to put us all to sleep. Seriously, constant rain, a soundtrack full of traditional Chinese... lute? stringed instrument? And I swore there was even a rhythmic inhale during some sequences. I thought it was someone snoring at first but it was coming from the speakers. Harsh trial for a morning show.
09.22.18 Between WorldsMaria PuleraThis one was pretty crazy in a fun way. It's dominated by Nicholas Cage's performance as a southern truck driver. Pretty much every line reading drew applause. The movie is definitely in on the joke though and it goes some places that make it a nice fit for the festival. I had fun with it.
09.22.18 Hold the DarkJeremy SaulnierJeremy Saulnier's latest. I liked it but not as much as his previous two. There's some great stuff in it (as always, the action and gore are well done), but afterward as I thought about the story... I really don't know why any of it happened. I suppose that's a feature of the source material and it's open to interpretation or whatever, but it kind of feels like just a bunch of random events.
09.22.18 SavageVincent MarietteNot as savage as the name suggests. This one... was ok. Not bad, but it didn't... there wasn't much to it. I guess that's underselling it a bit, but not... much... happens? I liked it ok? i dunno, NEXT!
09.22.18 After the Screaming StopsJoe Pearlman, David SoutarDay Three.

Today started with a doc about a british boy band reunion. I'm not familiar with the band Bros at all, but I think the entertainment of this film comes from the relationship between estranged twin brothers who are in the band. I thought it was interesting and funny that the directors confessed so easily in the Q&A that they antagonized and played the brothers against each other for the footage. Also, one of the brothers has a bunch of stupid observations right out of Spinal Tap. It's not a bad movie, but there also wasn't anything in here that I couldn't guess. or haven't seen before. Maybe it has more weight for Brits who know the band.
09.21.18 Sudden FuryBrian DamudeA lost gem Canadian suspense thriller along the same vein as Blood Simple or Dial M For Murder. This was really good really solid stuff. While the budget was low, you don't really feel it. The performances are surprisingly great and the film is put together with an expert eye toward pacing and editing. It's a shame Vinegar Syndrome didn't have any finished Blus there for sale because I think they would've sold. The best thing I've seen so far.
09.21.18 ApostleGareth EvansNot exactly like The Raid films and actually further from Evans' segment in V/H/S 2 than I thought it would be. I liked it pretty good. There were a few interesting things about it, but also some stuff I didn't love. It also kinda gave me a headache but I suppose I can't hold that against it. I dunno, It certainly kept my attention but it's already fading from memory. That sounds harsher than I mean it to.
09.21.18 BorderAli AbbasiThe write-up for this film included unfair amounts of hype. Comparisons to The Witch, It Follows, Hereditary, and Let The Right One In. I guess that's a way to get people to see the movie without telling you anything about it, but I don't think it does the film any favors unless it really is that great.

EH... I feel like this is a quintessential Fantastic Fest movie. It takes a genre topic and treats it with humanity and compassion. If anything, I got more of a Big Man Japan vibe than any of the movies mentioned. It was not a bad movie, but I do feel like there's a twist/gimmick/"thing" about it and once you know what it is then the whole experience is deflated.
09.21.18 Keep an Eye OutQuentin DupiexDay Two.

I liked one of Dupiex's previous movies Wrong at a previous fest and feel like I am a little more in tune with his sensibilities now. As such, I enjoyed this pretty well. If anything, I think the surreal stuff is a bit of an unneeded add-on here since the fun anxiety fever dream of the police interrogation (which dominates most of the film) is strong enough on its own. Still, I liked it, thought it was better than anything I saw yesterday.
09.20.18 White FireJean-Marie PallardyFor whatever reason, there's a bunch of rep screenings in this year's programming. I chose a strategy of sticking to these pretty hard. My thinking is that someone loved it or thought it was cool enough to fight for it and add it to the schedule. Now I kind of see that Vinegar Syndrome is a sponsor so they probably got a few slots for whatever, but I think my idea still holds true because Vinegar Syndrome as a company restores and releases films that it thinks are worth seeing. Anyway, that was a pretty chatty way of saying that if I saw an older movie on the schedule, I put it on my list.

On paper, this one sounds like it should be the best movie of the festival. There's, like, diamond smugglers? And they're in Turkey but it might be the future because they're wearing these weird onesies with helmets and the guns don't look right and then there's this whole Vertigo Face/Off angle to the main characters that is overtly incestuous... and Fred Williamson shows up. But truth be told, it's a little too random and disjointed to hold together as a movie at all. There are nice moments for sure, but there's way too much going on and none of it comes together like you want it to. And it takes like an hour for The Hammer to show up and I'm convinced there was never a script or anything because everything Fred Williamson says is... terrible. I think he was just making it up.

The theme song is good though. I think my favorite scene was this montage where the main dude is falling in love with this other girl but he's doing it by yelling at her trying to teach her how to drive a jeep through sand. That's real love.
09.20.18 An Evening with Beverly Luff LinnJim HoskingI didn't see The Greasy Strangler but heard it was bad. I wasn't going to see this but the cast is pretty good and... I dunno, man. I gave it a chance.

I didn't really like it much, although I will say that it reminded me of Eagle vs. Shark in some ways that I do think Jim Hosking has a good movie in him... he's just not there yet. I'm hoping he makes a What We Do in the Shadows or Hunt for the Wilderpeople but this wasn't it.

It comes off way too stilted and random, like just another guy trying to do what David Lynch does. Everything winds up feeling very forced. Although Jermaine Clement and Matt Berry still managed to be entertaining. Next!
09.20.18 HalloweenDavid Gordon GreenBoom it's time for another Fantastic Fest. I have to say, this year I haven't been 100% psyched for this. I think I need to work on improving my attitude a bit. Hopefully I'll see a good movie and my mood will lift but right now I'm kind of feeling like if the fest isn't amazing this year then it might be my last. I'm writing this down here now because I realize I kind of think this at the beginning of every fest and by the end of the week i've had enough fun to want to keep going as long as they have it. But we'll see!

Anyway, I felt like I had to see the Opener just like I feel like I have to see the Closing night film, even though I've never been a huge fan of the Halloween franchise so a new entry is pretty whatever on my psyched-meter. Really though, the opening night ritual of sweating my ass off in an overly-packed lobby while waiting for them to open the flood gates and let the first films seat is the real opener of the fest. I feel like it's happened every year. I don't know why I think it'll be cooler inside. It's just not. Thankfully, this was the only time that it was miserable inside or out. Rain is in the forecast so let's hope things don't go too poorly.

The movie... eh, I mean I guess it was ok? Again, I'm not a great judge. There were a few cool parts... a halloween night sequence in particular was really well done. I like that Jamie Lee Curtis showed up to work and didn't just phone it in like I kinda remember the last few that she was in feeling like. Certainly it wasn't terrible.

The Q&A afterward was good. Danny McBride saying he was just up there because he went to college with David Gordon Green was pretty funny. Jamie Lee Curtis was funny. ok!
08.04.18 Avengers: Infinity WarJoe Russo, Anthony RussoBunch of people died. I mean spoiler alert.

I dunno... This movie, which is supposed to be the culmination of ten years of Marvel movies, halfway didn't work for me because there were just so damn many people popping up... any time they had to do any sort of story or plot it felt super rushed and telegraphed because really that's all there is. new character new character, reference to past movie, new character, "thanos can snap his fingers," reference, character, cg explosion, "did you know thanos can snap his fingers?," character, character, reference, plot resolution, end.

I mean.. it's cool to see everyone come together, all the universes collide, and all that stuff. But... ok here's my real problem. They're trying pretty hard to raise the stakes but these movies are so comic-booky and nothing is ever permanent in comic books so raising the stakes is ultimately pointless. They could kill off the entire cast and I'd still expect all of them to come back in the next one. So then it becomes more about the meta: who's contract is up, which sequels have been announces, which actor is popping up in some other project. At that point I'm totally out of any sort of narrative involvement and just wondering what the master plan is. At least this one felt that way. Maybe the smaller movies like Ant-Man and the Wasp will have more story... or not. I dunno.

I see so few movies these days, these are starting to feel like a waste of time. The entire world watches them though. i dunno.
07.14.18A Quiet PlaceJohn KrasinskiPretty good. I appreciate how they stuck to their guns and had almost no dialogue through the entire thing. It's kind of like a much better version of Signs. A couple few minor nitpicks here and there, but overall pretty good.
07.05.18 HereditaryAri AsterToni Collette is a mom... with a dead mother and a daughter and a son... i dunno, it's a friggin witch movie, alright? It's not called THE WITCH but when the first thing everyone says about it is stuff like "yeah you know it was reminiscent of that movie The Witch?" or "it really reminded me of that movie Rosemary's Baby" then you can kind of put two and two together right?

But it's a GOOD witch movie. I thought it was really well done. If anything, the plot was maybe the most familiar or unsurprising thing about it. The whole motif of using small spaces and shooting the sets really wide to let you see the entire room was cool. I REALLY dug the soundtrack. they use this bed of relentless synthesizer loop but it's laid in pretty light - at first i thought it was bleed from another auditorium - so, like, any time anything remotely foreboding or creepy happens, this dzshdzshdzshdzshdzshdzsh kicks in. In other places, the score gets super in your face and kind of carries all of the horror just in the music which i thought got a little overbearing, but I also kind of think that's a trend. I definitely feel like the Insidious movies did that but I can't remember if The Witch did as well. I do kind of feel like the movie would've been more eerie if the music played it closer to the chest and really only opened up at the end (which it did beautifully), but for the most part I really loved the score.

The acting was also great. That kid from My Friend Dahmer really perfected keeping his eyes and mouth open... he did a good job but Collette absolutely killed it. I really loved the "crazy woman" outfit that they put her in.

All in all a good movie. Not a great movie to try to eat chips and queso in, but good.
05.19.18 Black PantherRyan Coogleri guess i just watch marvel movies now. that or tv. anyway, this was good. Coogler and Jordan are killing it. Interesting soundtrack as well, going full dramatic strings and almost lion king levels of theater to hearing those Kendrick beats whenever Jordan's on screen. It seems like this movie ticks a lot of topical checkboxes: strong female characters, cultural sensitivity, rhinoceros armor, etc. But I guess to do all that and still maintain an interesting story is a real feat. nice!
04.02.18 Ready Player OneSteven SpielbergSPOILERS

Gosh I was so apprehensive about this movie. I liked the book a lot but felt that Spielberg was really old and might not get what's good about it because the book trades on nostalgia for a time where Spielberg was producing what Ernest Cline and his characters are loving. How do you have that kind of perspective and really understand this fan thing if you've always been the subject of it rather than a participant?

So, I was wrong. I really like this movie. I thought it was a great adaptation, in many ways better than the book. I'm a little sad to not see the arcade planet visualized but other than that I thought they did a great job of bringing the Wonka-esque plot to screen and reveling in the references and callbacks to 80s and 90s stuff like the book did.

Furthermore, I felt like Spielberg's way into this movie was to also explore things that he himself is a fanboy for. One of the most solid and successful changes from the book is choosing the step inside The Shining rather than War Games or Monty Python and The Holy Grail. You can tell what fun it was for Spielberg to recreate some of those iconic sets and scenes from the film as well as have a lot of fun gamify-ing it and making it enjoyable to an audience.

So maybe you see less Star Wars and Indy stuff in there but there is still a shit ton to find. I'm sure I missed or didn't get the majority of references but the various OASIS scenes are chock full of stuff that we're all waiting for a blu-ray release to frame by frame and pick out everything. I know I saw TMNT, Battletoads, and Marvin the Martian, which are extraordinary.

That brings me to my favorite aspect of the movie. The book's critics call it nothing more than a nostalgia-fest or checklist of geek references. It's kind of true in the book, where, if you're not familiar with the reference, you have no mental imagery to paint the complete picture. But this movie does that whether you know the references or not, and the result is an overwhelming wave of celebration for a whole generation's worth of creativity and ideas. Seeing all of this Intellectual Property rubbing shoulders with one another puts a spotlight on how much cool stuff exists out in the world and how much the world enjoys it. To cheer for the particular character or item or whatever that you recognize evokes that whole universe and pulls it into this one. It's just so cool. It's every "who would win in a fight between X and Y" debate, every toy line or fan fiction or saturday morning cartoon... everything you like about enjoying entertainment on display in one big frame. For me, it was the promise of LEGO Movie and Wreck-It Ralph and the South Park Cartoon Wars and Who Framed Roger Rabbit delivered by perhaps the one guy who could get approvals from the entire world.

Although... the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the Michael Bay designs instead of the 90s live-action suits, which is not cool. But oh well.

So all of the Oasis stuff had a very overwhelming effect on me. The beginning race, where every fictional New York Movie Thing gets thrown at them, to the club where Harley Quinn dances with The Joker to Planet Doom (which needed just a tad of id software's Doom to be complete but again - oh well) where who knows what fights against each other. All of that, like, almost took my breath away.

The other stuff.. the real world stuff... i think I still have some minor problems with. I don't get people in VR goggles running down streets... I wish the actual actors weren't quite so pretty... I found all the characters living in the same city to be stretching the boundaries of my willing suspension of disbelief... but it's all ok because that CG stuff is so great. Also, I actually liked TJ Miller's character because he connects a few dots which the books just gloss over.

I am still sad to not get a glimpse of that arcade planet though. but oh well.
03.17.18 Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleJake KasdanIt's good to see Jake Kasdan's name on another movie. He, along with a solid cast, make this funner than it should've been. Better than Justice League. Nice moments for all the actors to play against type for a bit. I liked it well enough.
03.16.18 Justice LeagueZack SnyderA boring mess. I don't know anything about Steppenwolf in the comics but here he's a totally generic CG fest of blah blah blah and cartoony fighting. except it's not even cartoony because the animation in cartoons is exagerrated to accentuate emotion. This whole movie is like a kid with a bunch of action figures just mashing them together because they only have four points of articulation.

I think I'm done with these DC movies. I don't think I have enough room for any more of these in my diet. I should've watched Jumanji.
03.04.18 Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of National LampoonDouglas TirolaThe documentary companion film to Netflix's Futile and Stupid Gesture biopic about National Lampoon and Doug Kenney. This was great... in many ways more interesting than the biopic because you get actual footage with the real people. It also feels a little more exhaustive, especially in regard to the magazine after Animal House... although they really work well together and I'm glad Netflix got this on their service after their film aired. Pretty funny stuff... I was more of a MAD Magazine kid - probably too young for the boobs of National Lampoon - but.... hmm... I wonder if there's a MAD Magazine doc... anyway, this was really good.
03.04.18 BlackhatMichael MannMade it a Chris Hemsworth double feature weekend by watching this director's cut of Blackhat. It's a tiny bit hard to judge because this copy was off a television broadcast with fades to black for commercial breaks, but the overall pace and tone felt much more procedural to me. Really I attribute most of the problems I have with this movie to Hemsworth's casting. The physical apsects of this role just don't fit for me and unfortunately, Hemsworth's good looks and unfortunate chicago accent really don't belong either. I guess it's hard because you still need a name big enough to carry the movie, but why have a Holt McCallaney there if Hemsworth can shoot and stab just as well? Parts of this movie (like the new beginning with the soy futures and somewhat decent but still occasionally idiotic computer UIs and jargon throughout the first half) feel like an earnest attempt to explore the world of cyber-terrorism with accuracy and intelligence, but then the movie turns into Miami Vice part 2, which I'm conflicted about. I'm all for Miami Vice part 2... but if you're doing that then why bother with the slower first half stuff?

My (hazy) memory of the first viewing of this film was that it was just bad. Hemsworth was bad, the story was bad, everything was bad. With this viewing, I'm much more conflicted. Something about the quiet audio mix and procedural plot structure of this cut makes me like it more, but it also upsets me more because I see how this movie was almost good. There are certainly good parts... as always the shootout scenes feel real and tense and I don't know where they're going, I like how we don't hear the main antagonist speak for nearly 2 hours, all of the location photography is gorgeous in a now-hallmark gritty desaturated Michael Mann low-light way... it's just that... oh you know... i have it. if they're gonna play up Hemsworth's physicality, then let's spend more time with him in prison. I really liked how this cut brings him on almost as a secondary character... it feels like the Chinese guy and his sister and the main protagonists, but one shoddy speech about prison being a gladiator academy and doing your own time isn't enough to buy that this guy has combat skills. You need a good five minutes of him in the yard and showing that other people in there respect his strength. And not literal push-ups strength but actual prison-hard toughness. I don't know where that gets jammed in and if it makes the movie better or not, but whatever...
03.03.18 Thor: RagnarokTaika WaititiAnother Marvel movie down. Everyone's going on and on about how great Black Panther is... I'm getting to catch up with this Thor movie. You know... this is like the 17th Marvel MCU movie and there's been a lot of talk about how the connectivity is what's setting them apart and how DC can't catch a break and everything... but I think this movie proves a sub-point about how Marvel can dominate, and that is the movies are pretty good! They wouldn't be able to make 20 of these if they were all trash. This movie finds a comedic tone that feels like a breath of fresh air in the up-til-now stodgy Asgard Thor-movie setting. Chris Hemsworth has natural comedy chops, the script was great and most of the roles are populated with solid actors who can be funny and dramatic. Blanchett's great but so is Ruffalo, yet the movie still feels like it belongs to Thor (unlike Civil War). One weak note is Karl Urban's role... I like Urban as an actor but his part felt like one too many elements stuffed into the film. I get why he's there for the most part, but Blanchett could've talked to the dog instead. It was pretty rough seeing Thor's other buddies for such little screen time though.

So...yeah, by far the best Thor movie, up there for all the marvel movies... I wonder if I could even rank a top 5 at this point? hmm... ok. So I haven't seen Black Panther and Infinity War's not out yet.

1. Iron Man
2. Guardians 1
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
4. Thor: Ragnarok
5. Civil War

I don't know if Spider-Man counts... but notice how 3 of the 5 of those are in the past few years. They're making good movies... which i guess is good because it seems like 40% of all movies that are coming out these days are comic book films...
02.24.18 MuteDuncan JonesTechno-noir in the Moon universe. I guess I'm getting more and more disconnected with society because I thought this was a pretty solid movie and enjoyed myself throughout then i check the imdb rating and see 5.4. I do a search for Marion Skene, one of the people to whom the movie is dedicated, and see a bad review in Variety. I don't quite get it. I mean the story isn't like some complete new thing that nobody's ever seen before, but neither is fucking Black Panther and everyone's going apeshit for that. The visuals are great, the design is great, the music is great, the performances are good, the story fits the mold for a noir and is suitably hard to follow. It's an interesting world that he builds, fun little tie-ins to Moon, decent tension, and you get to see Paul Rudd try and be a heavy. Justin Theroux is much better at it but still, not bad! I don't know about the rest of the world, but I liked this.
02.07.18 A Futile and Stupid GestureDavid WainReally good biopic on National Lampoon founder Doug Kenney. David Wain has a light touch here but still brings in an onslaught of funny people to fill out the equally impressive cadre of real-life funny people that Kenney worked with. I particularly liked Joel McHale playing Chevy Chase. Will Forte's great, Domhnall Gleeson's great, everyone's pretty great in this. it's funny, informative, and super easy to watch. Really good stuff.
01.25.18 Darkest HourJoe WrightThis held my interest mainly due to Gary Oldman's performance behind all that make-up. Mostly this reminded me of The King's Speech, not just because the king appears but in that it's a not-horrible movie that really should be relegated to highschool history classes so everyone wants to give it awards for it being so not horrible. It's also is funny that it deals a decent amount with Dunkirk the same year that Christopher Nolan released his film. Another great double feature presents itself.

So I think that's it for screener season unless one final film shows up, and I'm not sure I want to see that in DVD quality anyway. I have to say that the Oscar movies were a lot better this year than last.
01.24.18The PostSteven SpielbergHanks and Streep and about 80 other great actors in this movie about The Washington Post publishing the leaked Pentagon papers. Really good except for the requisite schmaltzy over-the-top slow zooms on people espousing grand messages that seems to be a Spielberg trademark. Such a fantastic cast though. I guess when it's Spielberg everybody just stops what they're doing and calls their agent. I like how the ending perfectly sets this movie up to live forever onward as a double feature with All The President's Men.
01.23.18 I, TonyaCraig GillespieThis was also pretty good. Great performances from Robbie and Allison Janney. Also some nice fourth wall breaking which sets it apart from more typical biopic fare. It's maybe a bit too blatantly sympathetic toward Harding to pull off the whole he said/she said truth-is-subjective message that the movie tries to present at the end, but still good.
01.21.18 Lady BirdGreta GerwigI got a real Rushmore vibe to this except from the feminine perspective. Kind of like Rushmore meets Frances Ha. It's really good. Everybody's good in it, especially Tracy letts.
01.20.18 Molly's GameAaron SorkinJessica Chastain runs poker games and gets in trouble. I recently watched Sports Night due to constant mention on the West Wing Weekly podcast and I was kind of surprised how much of Sorkin's style was present right there in the beginning. A lot of what I thought was fresh and new in The West Wing was actually directly copied from a previous episode of Sports Night. So i feel acutely aware of Sorkin's tricks of the trade or tools in the chest or whatever you want to call it, and this movie has like 1000% Sorkin all over it. There is so much voice over in this movie... It's all interesting and well-written but it's just so SO much. It gives the movie a density that keeps it engaging but also sometimes gets in the way of any real emotion. Everything is just TOO much. I still liked it though.

Also, who knew Tobey Maquire was such an ass!
01.18.18The Disaster ArtistJames FrancoMy favorite time of year continues to pay off... This was pretty great. Franco manages to pull some compassion out of this bizarre story of Tommy Wiseau and the making of his movie The Room. That the film re-enactment scenes are done so well are an indicator that Franco has real love for the subject and I think that shines through for the whole movie. I hate to say this but, comparing to the other Franco-directed films that I've seen (The Ape and Child of God), having such a familiar structure with the script really helps. It's kind of like Franco's own version of a "real hollywood movie" in that it follows the standard making-of formula pretty closely. Maybe his more recent stuff is all more conventional like this but his earlier work was... not so much. So yeah, this was really good! It's an embarrassment of riches these days... my HD is on fire.
01.17.18The Shape of WaterGuillermo del ToroI really want to like Guillermo del Toro movies. I love him as a person and share most if not all of his interests and respect the hell out of him as an artist, but I just can't bring myself to love his films. This, along with Pan's Labyrinth and Pacific Rim and Hellboy and most of his others, falls just short of greatness for me. I love the design and idea and all of that, but there's a lack of nuance or subtlety that irks me in a minor yet meaningful way. I liked it, but didn't love it. Really I think I can say that for every one of his movies but Crimson Peak (which I have very fond memories of... I'll have to check my notes to see if I gushed over it at the time) and maybe Cronos which I saw a really long time ago. Man that Crimson Peak was good. This was good too; there was just a few things that bugged me. Like how very very similar the creature looked to Abe Sapien. Like it could BE Abe Sapien. I get that creatures from black lagoons are kind of a specific look and there's only so many ways your can make a fish-dude look, but i still couldn't get it out of my head. Or how the diner soda jerk guy went from all-the-way nice to all-the-way jerk in like 5 seconds, or how everything has to be so on the nose... but these are relatively minor foibles compared to the strength of design and performances and direction and make-up at work here. I just wish I connected with it a little more... liked it, didn't love it.
01.15.18 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriMartin McDonaghAnother interesting movie from Martin McDonagh. This one was really great. Great cast, surprisingly retrained direction, great story filled with guilt and anger and despair (perfect for awards season). I can get behind this one more than Manchester By The Sea just because there's a slight glimmer of hope at the end, and because of Sam Rockwell. Loved him way back in Box of Moonlight, love him now. Great performances all around though. I even liked that creepy guy from Twin Peaks and Get Out.
01.13.18The Trip to SpainMichael WinterbottomEh... I liked the first two of these but this one feels VERY similar. This one feels like they just got together and expected good stuff to happen and it didn't. When I found out these movies were re-edits of TV series' after watching the last film I was somewhat upset that I didn't get to see the whole story... this one I was glad to just watch the movie. I mean it was still occasionally fun hanging out with Rob and Steve again, but there was nothing new brought to the table.
01.07.18The Brothers GrimsbyLouis LeterrierThis is some really bizarre comedy... truly some weird shit. I kept this movie on my list for a single clip I saw when they were promoting this movie and that clip turned out to be the most outrageous (and i guess funny?) thing in the whole movie. I wish... I guess i wish? they had more of that? I don't really know. Honestly at this point I'm reminded of Freddy Got Fingered... I just, every joke was terrible but the sheer audacity I guess? to string them all into a movie? I dunno...
01.06.18 Wonder WomanPatty JenkinsFinally catching up with this... was PERHAPS over-hyped by the legion of people going on and on about how amazing this was. I guess I can agree that it's the best post-Nolan DC movie... I would say that the battle scenes are too CG-heavy but I couldn't even type the sentence without yelling at myself that every frame of every one of these goddamn movies is like 800% CG so wtf... Maybe the super speed or something? I don't know what bothered me but something bothered me for the first few battle scenes. Other than that... it was pretty good. i was REAL hesitant about this Amazon goddess whatnot, but there was no absolute barf-worthy dialogue really... which is nice. i dunno... I just feel more and more burned out with each one of these comic book movies.
01.02.18The Big SickMichael ShowalterReally good, strong stuff. Romano and Holly Hunter kill it, surprisingly soft touch from Showalter's direction. The family was funny. It's kiiiiiiiiiiinda sorta similar to Aziz Ansari's deal with Master of None? But still great. Also Zoe Kazan does a great job because her part is such that you have to fall for her then spend most of the movie not seeing her. It just works. Great movie.
12.31.17 CHIPSDax ShepardMy last movie of 2017 was this Dax Shepard TV remake. I think of it less as a TV remake though because I know Shepard loves bikes and stunts and whatnot and a lot of the driving felt a notch above standard comedy fare. It also seems like he and Michael Pena are good buddies because they share some great chemistry. I think maybe the best scenes in the movie involve them two just shooting the shit and talking to one another. Otherwise, meh.
12.30.17 SicarioDenis VilleneuveBetween Wind River, Blade Runner 2049, the Soldado trailer, and seeing a youtube video about neo-westerns and Taylor Sheridan's part in the resurgance, it put me in a mood to revisit this film. I think I liked it more this time around. It's so incredibly dark and Emily Blunt's arc is so harsh, Benicio's character so dangerous... the whole film feels dangerous. And the standout scenes like the border crossing and the opening raid and the tunnel scene are shot so incredibly well. It's a really chilling depiction of how brutal the war on drugs have become, but feels very authentic. Really talented people on all levels here.
12.29.17The Mountain Between UsHany Abu-AssadIf i'm totally honest, Even though I'd heard this was a romance, I was hoping it would secretly be more of a survival film. So I can't really blame it for treating the life-or-death situation of crash landing on the top of a mountain merely as a setting for blooming romance between attractive people, but it does feel like there are more romantic situations maybe? As a for-instance, there's a dog. And I just knew this dog would get it. I mean the dog was in the plane while it crashed. total dead dog right? Naw, I guess the dog felt the chemistry between Idris Elba and Kate Winslet because it was all like "i'm gonna fight this goddamn cougar and only get my ear hurt." so in a world where the dog doesn't die, everything else is just waiting until it happens.
12.29.17 Blade Runner 2049Denis VilleneuveGoddamn what a good movie. I think I like this more than the goddamn first!!! I guess the first will always deserve the credit for being first, but this one feels like a perfect execution of the Blade Runner experience: Visually and aurally stunning, a dark interesting world, wondrous yet worn-in technology, a hard-boiled cop story in a sprawling sci-fi dystopia. Gosling's great, Harrison Ford actually acts, not too much Jared Leto, and the beautiful Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks, who play integral and interesting parts almost opposite each other. They are all just part of the tapestry though... the image itself feels like the star of the movie (although the score came in a close second for me. I'm sitting here now listening to the end credits on headphones as I type this). It all fits so seamlessly together... I don't know how they make THIS movie better.
12.22.17 BrightDavid AyerThis is like the perfect movie on paper. A Max Landis nerdy/cool about LA cops in a world where fantasy races like Orcs and Elves exist alongside gangs and corruption starring Will Smith in the hands of post-Suicide Squad David Ayer.... That equation sums up to automatic watch for me. The genre clash concept for the world is so awesome, all it could do was go downhill from there. At best, I was hoping for a better version of the classic Lovecraftian noir Cast A Deadly Spell; at worst it would be like... I dunno, Suicide Squad.

I'm happy to say that I thought it was mostly great. I loved almost all of it. Really the only thing I had a problem with was one story beat involving a guy getting off the hook with a gang because he had coincidentally saved the gang leader's child from trouble earlier in the day. You already wrote that scene in Training Day, my dude... but aside from that I thought everything was damn solid. Although there's one landscape shot where they have a dragon flying over the LA skyline. What's up the that!? I wanted an another-wildfire-started-by-dragon headline on the news!

Anyway, really liked it.
12.21.17 Kingsman: The Golden CircleMatthew VaughnWell. I guess it makes sense that a sequel to an over-the-top spy movie that gets downright cartoonish at the end would be this thing that is basically a cartoon from the start. I can't really say that I'm disappointed, but it doesn't even approach reality. It reminds me a little bit of that Clive Owen Shoot Em Up movie except I think that's more realistic... and that's with him eating carrots and saying "What's up, Doc?."

Also, this is the second Channing Tatum movie I've watched this week that loves John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Home. Odd.

So... i dunno... what a weird thing.
12.19.17 Atomic BlondeDavid LeitchHuh, I thought this would be better. There was some stuff to like but the whole first like 80 minutes or so was very stilted and sludgy. Not lean at all. However, it's basically wall to wall good 80s music and a crazy muted neon aesthetic that made the era look cooler than it was and Charlize's outfits were worth price of admission alone and there is one fantastic fight sequence and the ending was good, so yeah... some good stuff. I think I just don't like James McAvoy. It felt like he was ripping off Tyler Durden for this whole movie but even in other stuff I just don't care for him.
12.19.17 DetroitKathryn BigelowCrazy tense documentary-shot historical drama set during the Detroit riots in 1967 and mostly a reminder of how long things were so bad for black people in this country. Great performances and wonderful direction on this... Another Kathryn Bigelow home run. It's pretty seamless integration between historical, news, and production footage. Not as showy as Oliver Stone's work but still some fantastic montage work going on. It's pretty late and I'm still unpacking it so I think that's all I got as far as first impressions go. I liked it a lot, although I doubt I'll be seeing it again any time soon.
12.18.17The Hitman's BodyguardPatrick HughesI'm trying to take full advantage of my time off this year and part of that is running through some of these random movies I have... uh... added to my queue. So I'm trying to watch one a night, sort of a midnight snack before bed. Tonight I was in the mood for something light and airy. This mostly worked. I could've used a bit more meat on the bones but whatever... I guess I wanted RED 1 and got RED 2.
12.16.17 Logan LuckySteven SoderberghThis was a lot of fun. It had that real Ocean's 11 vibe but without the weight of expectation. I'm really in love with Soderbergh's work these days. I think maybe his decision to "retire" led to shedding all pretense in his work and now he's just doing what interests him and working on his craft. It's resulted in a kind of tour de force across a wide range of genres leading up to his incredible work on The Knick and now this kind of return to the fun of his work from twenty years ago.

The one weak note is Hilary Swank's choice of voice. Bit odd.
12.16.17 Star Wars: The Last JediRian JohnsonI'll keep this spoiler-free since it's so new and to be honest i'm still processing what I think about the plot. I will say that I liked this... it felt like a natural progression from Episode 7 but where that one felt like its mission was to reboot an echo of the first trilogy, this one seems to play against most of the expectations set forth.

I thought everyone's characters progress and grow in interesting ways. The visuals are stunning, the Star Wars is strong... I have to say I felt like, an unconscious intake of breath when the star wars logo pops on screen and that fanfare starts. I don't know what it is, but it still works on me. It's still a franchise that holds tremendous power. I wonder how long that will last, but for now i still felt it.

My main criticism is the heavy-handed-ness of its "messages" and mostly how they shoulder all these messages on one character's shoulders. I feel like I would've liked that character were it not for some super on the nose social comment that every line of their dialogue holds.

Most everything else was pretty cool. Some characters don't get much screen time but there's a lot going on. The movie felt like a lot happened. All the new planets were also great... typical top-tier designs of Star Wars land. The same goes for the new creatures, who feel a tiny bit inserted just for some aww moments in an otherwise busy film. The moments of humor also felt like a signifier of this new trilogy. There were definitely a few jokes in the OT, but nothing felt so authored to be funny. Poe's character is like, a legit wise-cracker. Same goes for Finn.

So yeah... good stuff. Liked it. Glad I saw it in IMAX 2D, even though someone next to me smelled like pickles the whole time.
12.09.17 Wind RiverTaylor SheridanWhile I didn't think Taylor Sheridan's portrayal of Sheriff Whatshisname on Sons of Anarchy was very notable, I did like the stories of Sicario and Hell or High Water, which he wrote. This one he directs proficiently but mostly it's another solid, brutal script set in Wyoming. It's kind of like Hell or High Water meets The Grey. It's also the first movie that I've heard the Bureau of Indian Affairs name-checked. Ahh the good ol' BIA... blast from the previous workplace past.

I liked this for the most part. There's a concerning flash...back? kind of two thirds through the movie that really muddies the narrative waters. I get why it's there, but maybe it would've been better to show later? or not at all (despite a certain actor who's so hot right now's appearance)... i dunno. I was with it up till then, then I spent the rest of the movie doing plot-math to make sure everything lined up.

Everything else was good though...
11.16.17 Assassin's CreedJustin KurzelUgh. So, like the video game series, this movie spends too much time in the present and not enough in the past. I kind of admire the lengths that the first game in the series went to in order to justify the premise of itself, but all that clunky heavy lifting that sort of adds sugar to the game completely bogs down the movie. All this Abstergo Animus bullshit is not what people love about the series. It's running across rooftops in exotic historical time periods and killing dudes with hidden blades. this movie has MAYBE 10 minutes of that. That's 10% good, 90% boring unimportant nonsense. And there's so much filtering and visual effects haze that I could hardly tell what was going on, both in the present and the past. Really not a good movie.
11.12.17The Myerowitz Stories (New and Selected)Noah BaumbachI feel like Noah Baumbach's capability for falling into this New York fractal of pretentious introspection is best when balanced by some external force. The lightness of Frances Ha or the whimsy of his collaborations with Wes Anderson resonate with me much more than these awkward dramedies. I feel like This one is Royal Tennenbaums meets Squid and the Whale, but I like both those films more. Great cast, decent performances, but I didn't care for the structure and mostly... I think maybe this wasn't as funny as I was in the mood for. Maybe I should have watched Office Christmas Party instead. Oh well.

So that's it! Another year down. Time for the number dump: 16 in the past week (2.29/day), 18 in the past month (0.6/day), 125 in the past year (0.34/day), and 3064 since the site started (0.64/day). I guess the days of having a sustained 2/day average are gone for good, but that's alright. I started this just for me and, while it didn't go quite as I'd guessed it back then, it continues to be a source of pride and satisfaction for me. And thank you, invisible reader, for following along this weekend. I used to think sometime I would invite others into this tradition but these days I'm feeling not so much. It's pretty fun to hit pause on my life for a few days and fall into a movie hole. I'm already looking forward to next year.
11.12.17 Fruitvale StoryRyan CooglerSo... the first 90 seconds of this movie told me I was in for a good time. I mean I know it's not all rainbows and sunflowers out there but damn. Dogs dying in the street and shit!?

I know the movie is designed for maximum outrage and sorrow, and in that respect it's quite effective, but this is totally in territory where... who's excited to see a movie like this? "Oh it's great, it makes you want to jump off a bridge, totally great!" I guess you could take the stance of Molly's father, who commented on Hacksaw Ridge with "do not allow yourself the luxury of missing it" like it's a worthy truth to thrust into everyone's eyes... but still... damn.

OK!!! Well I can't end on that one... I don't even feel comfortable making a Wire joke (which I'm sure is in my notes for any other Michael B. Jordan movie), so let's see if I can dig something lighter up, like Schindler's List or perhaps that Jonestown doc.
11.12.17 Y Tu Mama TambienAlfonso CuaronI haven't seen a Cuaron movie that I didn't like, but for some reason this breakout film of his has always slipped through the cracks for me. I suspect that it's because it was lumped in with Inarritu's Amores Perros and the Mexican film explosion of the early 2000s. I wasn't really an Inarritu fan until The Revenant so I think this one was always back burnered. Watching it now, it feels very influenced by Francois Truffaut in its use of narration and novelistic scope. Maybe that had to do with the love triangle, Jules et Jim angle?

Anyway, I liked this... It didn't blow me away but I'd heard enough about it and have seen enough work by both male leads (whatever happened to that woman? You'd think she'd get a lot more work after this too) to pretty much know what I was walking into. Really the only thing that I hadn't heard about was the roving hand-held camera and the narration. I suppose all the stuff along the road that the camera glances at while the kids are talking about nonsense would make more of a statement or impact on me if I was more familiar with Mexico and its issues circa 2001 but compared to Narcos it seemed a little tame. A few scenes bordered on quite steamy though until the kids came too quick then it was just funny.

Moving on, let's see another one that critics loved from a director who's done other stuff that I liked.
11.12.17 One Crazy SummerSavage Steve HollandAs is tradition at DVRfest, I typically limit the schedule to just one film that I've seen before. This year, I revisited my childhood in a big way with Savage Steve Holland's One Crazy Summer. I'm not really sure why Better Off Dead has risen to cult status while this movie's been forgotten; in my head they are two peas in a pod. Equally as good, this one has great performances from Joel Murray and Curtis Armstrong as well as Bobcat Goldthwait (in full 80s persona) and a young Demi Moore. There's also a ton of Nantucket summer gags... this movie is basically a spiritual bridge between Better Off Dead and Summer Rental. It was on cable a bunch while I was growing up so I basically have it memorized, but it's still fun to go back and revisit the fond memories and see everybody again while they were so young and the world was so innocent (for me anyway).

I really do love it. Love that animation of the rhino looking for love against the cute fuzzy bunnies and I think these two performances gave John Cusack a good 20 years of cache with me. Very forming in my brain. It's a shame it doesn't have a solid blu release or anything...

Moving on, I think today will be potpourri in terms of theme. There's still a very long list of options but I'm not sure how many I can fit in so I'll have to play it by ear. I definitely wanted to include this next one though because it's been on the list a very very long time.
11.12.17The Fisher KingTerry GilliamStack 3, film 7: The Fisher King. I never saw this when it came out and it's fallen through the cracks since then. I find this to be about as fitting a final random Criterion film as can reasonably be expected.

Damn, While watching The Hit I thought maybe the 80s was the most tacky era, but the "high fashion" Jeff Bridges wardrobe and apartment furnishings were the most heinous early 90s chic that I can imagine. And there's some total Lethal Weapon score going on... but other than that, I found this to be perhaps Gilliam's most conventional film... which makes his trademark camera and occasional gonzo flights of fancy stand out all the more. Jeff Bridges is great as always, Robin Williams perfect, Michael Jeter amazing... 90s nyc a little rough. All the mental hospital stuff feels like trial run for 12 Monkeys.

Umm.. I liked this ok. Maybe I like it more than I think I do.. I can't think of anything bad to say... I dunno, I'm pretty tired. I'm going to sleep on it.
11.12.17 Fiend Without a FaceArthur CrabtreeStack 1, film 2 (same roll!) is now Fiend Without a Face. It's one of my oldest Criterion discs and I'm kind of not sure if I've seen this one or not, but it's only 74 minutes so let's watch and find out.

Science run amok!!! It's been a while since I've seen a good ol' 50s sci fi horror flick. This one was pretty decent. Not amazing or anything - particularly when the scientist gives a solid 6 minutes of exposition explaining exactly what's happening - but still fun. Also of note is how pretty much all the actors are British putting on American accents unless they have to shout. It's weird to hear so many accents bleeding through. I think my favorite actor was the dude working at the nuclear power plant. it's like something straight out of Fallout with the rubber suits and everything, except this guy is so casual about everything, including nuclear meltdown. Love it.

Ok, there's still time. I am now fueled by pizza rolls and coke zero. Let's keep going.
11.11.17The HitStephen FrearsStack 2, film 7: The Hit. Moving ahead 30 years but staying British, this early Stephen Frears movie is kind of like Midnight Run but dramatic instead of funny. I found it pretty decent, but surprisingly 80s. The Eric Clapton title song and all the cars... even though they're driving through Spain, something about the film stock or filters that they use give it a flat bland look. Terrence Stamp, John Hurt, and a very young Tim Roth are all good in it but I didn't find it terribly suspenseful or, dare I say it, Criterion Worthy? It seemed like just a movie to me... I guess the supplements would tell me why they love it so.

Ok, it's midnight... let's do one more. Let's see if this near-impossible streak of 5 Criterion discs in a row all in English will continue or not...
11.11.17The Red ShoesMichael Powell, Emeric PressburgerStack 1, film 2: The Red Shoes. This is turning into Powell & Pressburger day here at DVRfest, and another one over two hours... Here we go!

Wow. So, I know this is on a lot of lists and it's like one of Scorsese's favorite films and all that, but I kind of thought the reason why people freaked out about it was the early super-saturated technicolor and how the reds leapt off the screen. While that is true, the film also has amazing performances, crazy before-its-time technique, and an epic grandeur that made the movie feel timeless to me. I kept having to remind myself that this was made in the late 40s. Certainly the 15-minute ballet performance piece that sits right in the middle of the movie would inspire Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in An American in Paris, but there's also fanciful magical elements that elevate the ballet out of the theater into the imagination. I am a total sucker for this (part of why I love Busby Berkeley so much). There's one scene that shows a couple happily sleeping in separate beds that seems so utterly out of place. This movie would be fantastic if it came out this year; I can't even imagine how it was received 70s years ago.

I'm sure people have written books about this one so I'll stop going on, but I liked it a lot.

The day is really flying by. Let's do another one right away.
11.11.17 Ride the Pink HorseRobert MontgomeryNext up is stack 3, film 6: Ride the Pink Horse. Noir has long been one of my favorite genres but I kind of blanketed the usual suspect films in the early 2000s (I think juuust before starting this blog) and haven't really kept up with plumbing the lower depths looking for minor hits and forgotten gems like my buddy Micah has. Still, it's near and dear to my heart so anything remotely noir-ish that Criterion puts out gets an automatic purchase from me.

I'm always interested to see what actors do when they finally get the clout/opportunity to direct their own material. Many times it fizzles but in some cases, such as Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter or Ray Milland with Panic in Year Zero, you end up with something really unique and interesting. After looking up Montgomery's filmography I remember liking his Lady in the Lake although the whole first-person gimmick wore thin by the end. This is a more conventionally-shot revenge story of a guy down in fake-mexico to get revent for the death of his brother, or buddy, or someone I dunno. Surprisingly, the title isn't some euphemism for drugs or gay sex. Instead there's a literal pink horse (on a carousel) that the girl rides during a sort-of romantic scene. It's both quaint and painful to see all the fake-mexican stuff here, although the guy who plays Pancho is legit great. My favorite scenes are when Montgomery is drinking with Pancho and the tough guy act breaks down. When he's really playing it up, he seems kinda goofy and jowly. But still, there's some kind of bizarre stuff in here for a hard case crime movie, like when Momtgomery explains fruit salad to the female lead, who I guess is playing a Mexican by way of Mars. Still, there's plenty of bite in the Ben Hecht/Charles Lederer script and I found it very refreshing that Montgomery really goes down for the count after being stabbed in a fight. No tough guy act there.

So this was pretty good... Always up for Noir... Let's see what's next.
11.11.17The Small Back RoomMichael Powell, Emeric PressburgerFor Day Two of this year's DVRfest, I'm bringing back a programming technique I used to massive success last year: rolling Dice. I have three stacks of Criterion movies, all of which I've never seen (although I suspect maybe one or two of these, like Mr. Arkadin, I actually have seen under different titles). I'll roll a 6-sided die to determine which stack I pull from then an 8-sided die (D&D nerd alert!) to pick which film to watch. Watch and repeat. Full disclosure: in the interest of making the stacks equal, I've pulled out the Fritz Lang silent Testament of Dr. Mabuse and Fassbender's 4-hour World on a Wire. Those, along with with box sets, tv shows, and other long movies like Che, will likely have to wait until I get through a few more of these. I mean, still. There are some super easy to watch things in there like All That Jazz and some that have successfully evaded viewing for more than ten years (I'm looking at you, Wild Strawberries). Let's see what fate will dictate I watch this year!

The first roll was stack 2, movie 5: Powell and Pressburger's The Small Back Room AKA Hour of Glory. I have a bunch of P&P criterions although I think the only movie of theirs that I've actually seen (Peeping Tom) was a rental that I don't own. And now that I look that up, it seems that Pressburger wasn't even involved in that one! So how did I like this one? Let me watch it and find out!

Eh, not so much. What I would guess was powerful and edgy at the time - a character study about an alcoholic veteran working in a semi-spy-like military intelligence unit dealing with bomb defusal - today feels pretty slow and plodding. There's one sequence of him fighting against his urge to drink manifested by the scotch whiskey bottle taking on monumental proportions and terrorizing him that gets pretty surreal and the very last scenes feel like precursors to The Hurt Locker but for the most part it's just this guy kind of walking around places and talking to people. I mean I guess that could describe most dramas? Maybe i'm just failing at describing why I thought the movie was slow and boring... but I did.

But there you go. You win some, you lose some. On to the next one.
11.11.17 War for the Planet of the ApesMatt ReevesGoddamn these apes look real. Um, I liked this one more than the last... probably not more than the first. This one felt more like an episode in the further adventures of the apes... like they could make 18 of these now. I kind of thought this would be the last one, like they'd connect the dots more directly to the original or something, but I guess that would be foolish in today's harsh fiscal market. Why kill the series off when it's still making money right? Let's start a new trilogy with Cornelius!

So, part of why I decided to sit down and watch these was that I thought they were done. As much as I didn't really hate the last 7 hours of my life (why do they have to keep getting longer!?), I'm not sure I'm in a place now where I'd rush out to see another one. I think Planet of the Apes just isn't my thing...

Let's move on to something completely different. It's not quite midnight but let's start watching horror movies anyway. A nice double feature (unless I fall asleep) of films that I heard were actually pretty good...
11.10.17 OculusMike FlanaganThis was good. A nice take on the old haunted artifact thing. Really nice editing. Creepy at times but also really pulling off the distorted reality.

I kind of don't understand why she didn't just hang the mirror and leave the house for an hour until the weight fell on it though Maybe she thought she could beat it or something? Hubris. You'd think after the first go-round she would be more cautious? I guess it'd be a pretty short movie...

anyway, time for sleep. Hope the mirror doesn't get me! Haha oh, what's that? DEAD I'M DEAD NOW SO DEAD.
11.10.17The VoidJeremy Gillespie, Steven KostanskiI didn't know this was the Astron 6/Manborg/The Editor guys... I'm kind of glad that I didn't actually because I went in expecting a real movie. So from the Astrong-6 guys I'd say this is fantastic, but as a real movie I'd say it's ALMOST fantastic. The design is great, I love all the monster stuff, the practical effects, even most of the music. The movie suffers from a lack of budget and not great lead actors however, and there's still some of that amateurish shooting and editing that mires down the movie and keeps it from really clicking. The mosters seem like they have decent design but they either didn't have the money to really pull them off or didn't have the confidence to show them on screen. Either way, what comes out ends up looking fake because it's so obvious that they're trying to hide it. Also, the third act falls into typical horror movie walking down hallways that feels like filler. It's a shame though because the dudes with the black triangle masks and all the Lovecraftian influence is really great. The climax itself is pretty decent though and there are a ton of bad horror movies that don't make it this far. I'd say this shows the signs of real talent, on the verge of something great.

So let's see if i can make it through one more movie tonight...
11.10.17 Dawn of the Planet of the ApesMatt ReevesI didn't like this one too much. It's like a half an hour too long, doesn't go anywhere you don't think it will, and reeealllyyy goes deep with the whole ape thing. Sorry, even baby apes are creepy to me. And, like... apes have balls right? Because these perfectly rendered matted-hair photo-realistic apes are all well and good until they stand up then it's even more creepy. Not that I want to look at ape dong all night but the absence is notable, right? It's not just me?

Anyway, I'm invested now. Might as well power through till the end.
11.10.17 Rise of the Planet of the ApesRupert WyattSo... I was never a huge fan of the Planet of the Apes films. I remember liking the score and Charlton Heston's fuck-you attitude in the first film but never felt a need to see all of the original series and the less said about the Tim Burton remake the better. So I wasn't really in any hurry to see these new ones, but pretty much everyone says they're great so... I guess it's time.

To me though, the idea of prequel-ing Planet of the Apes with photo-realistic CG apes doesn't really appeal to me. In addition to the movies, I'm not a huge fan of apes and monkeys in real life. They're close to humans but super fast and strong and smart enough to know what they're doing. Throwing their poop and ripping out genitals and whatnot... Not at the top of my cute cuddly animals list. So maybe the idea of seeing apes taking over the world isn't exactly on the top of my list...

All that said, this first one was pretty good! Once I got over the whole Ape thing, the movie plays more like a prison break movie than what I was afraid of (Project X flashbacks). Similar to a zombie outbreak or disaster flick where you get to rooting for the ape overlord takeover (hail, bees!). I also appreciated the foreshadowing of the lost martian mission.

So I guess I'm in it now, might as well keep it going.
11.10.17The Bad BatchAna Lily Amirpouroh, hey. didn't see you there, November 9th! I guess your arrival means it's time to spend another weekend catching up on movies that have slipped through the cracks but I still want to see so they linger on various lists, queues, and hard drive directories where they sit there waiting, silently stewing and cursing my lack of time and all the stupid video games and tv shows that i watch instead of them; their only hope: the one weekend of the year that they get a chance at vindication and sweet release: DVRfest!!!!!

Since I missed Fantastic Fest last year, this weekend will make DVRfest (my personal film festival where I ignore life for a weekend and watch a bunch of movies that I've been meaning to see, usually pairing them with awful junk food) the longest-running and most populated item on my movie event list! It is also a commemoration of another year dedicated to this site, making notes of all the movies I see (which is usually not so many as when I started this venture, making this event perpetually bittersweet, but alas). Another year has come and gone so let's celebrate with two and a half, three days of movie debauchery. So come with me, invisible reader/confidant/only-friend, as We dive in with this crazy-looking movie that I missed last year! The Bad Batch!

Huh, not exactly what I thought, but very interesting and there was a lot to like. Great music selection, wonderful aesthetic, interesting world. I'm not sure why... i mean i guess i understand why, but there seems to be this trade-off that most filmmakers feel where, if you want to be "artistic" then you have to slow your movie down and cut out all dialogue. I guess that leaves more time for audiences just to stare at the screen and think about what they're seeing? I guess it has its place in cinema but I can't help but juxtapose this style with something like David Fincher's work where just as much is going on visually but you also have a gripping story that propels itself forward. Or i guess a more blatant comparison would be Mad Max: Fury Road since it shares a similar setting and color palette. I guess this movie didn't have near the budget or inclination to go toward action, but I was expecting a little more conflict and climax than I got.

As it stands, I still enjoyed it and found it interesting, but from what I got from the trailer I felt it could've delivered more.

OK, next up is a triple feature of films that I've successfully put off seeing for like five years. I've finally reached the tipping point where enough people have told me how good these are that I will sit down and watch them.
10.14.17 Spider-Man: HomecomingJon WattsHey this was good. I feel like it's the first spider-man movie to get Spider-Man right. The humor and youth and tricky tone with the cool villain that could come off really silly but totally doesn't when you're a Spider-Man fan I think giving it a context of being in an Avengers-populated world helps, thank goodness we didn't have to sit through another origin story, and all of the supporting cast was solid. Keaton was great, I bought his motivation, and it didn't get too BIG at the end. I think this is one of my favorite Marvel movies. Feels like one of my favorites from my comic-book-reading youth is finally adapted well for the screen.
10.13.17The Dark TowerNocilaj ArcelI get that The Dark Tower books are hard to adapt, but this seems like the worst way to go about it. There's no mystique to McConaughey's character at all. Idris is good but kind of wasted, too much Jake too little everything else. Kind of a bummer.
10.08.17 SpielbergSusan LacyA 150-minute documentary on Steven Spielberg and his films. They got an exhaustive list of interviews to pad out the love letter, went into his childhood and personal life enough to contextualize the themes in his work, but mostly it was like an overlong AFI tribute video to the guy. I mean, do we really need to know that his films are successful and popular? I dunno... the whole thing seemed pretty unnecessary to me, but it's weird because I like most of his movies and am typically a sucker for these docs. I think maybe it's the running time that got to me? But I should like that too, since it affords the time to talk about some of his films that don't usually get talked about like The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun. So I'm not sure why I didn't like this more...
10.06.17 Get OutJordan PeeleThis was really good. I was expecting the Ira Levin-esque suburban horror of conformity type deal, but I was pleasantly surprised by the third act and thought everybody involved did a great job and felt like they were having fun with their roles. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener especially. Really well done. I also just heard that Jordan Peele is developing Lovecraft Country for HBO. That could be amazing.

Also, a few actors are really popping up on my radar in here. For one, I just saw the Black Mirror episode starring Daniel Kalyuuya so it's cool to see him again so soon. And Lakeith Stanfield I used to know as the dude who played Snoop in Straight Outta Compton until he killed it as the friend in Atlanta and he killed it again in his small role here. I like that guy. Conversely, Caleb Jones was the weird creepy guy in Antiviral then the weird creepy snotty loser boyfriend in Twin Peaks this season and now he's the weird creepy brother in this. I hate that guy. I mean, I hope he's a nice person and all but I don't like looking at him or hearing him talk in movies or tv.
10.06.17 Kong: Skull IslandJordan Vogt-RobertsWell, I like the idea of doing a Kong movie set in Vietnam era military, and ILM did an admirable job with all of the CG. The mo-cap artist played Kong more like a half-dude than a full ape but I guess he was always kind of a step above being just a giant ape. Really the fault of the movie (aside from the last act which completely unravels, and the choice of writing Sam Jackson's character the way they did) was the... I don't know if "music video style" is even applicable anymore. It was like someone doing Michael Bay satire. I think I head every "Vietnam" song on the list. The photography was striking but was so stylized that the entire movie rang false (before giant creatures even showed up). I did enjoy all the monster stuff though...
09.28.17 DownsizingAlexander PayneThe closing night film this year was the new Alexander Payne where people can be shrunk in order to extend the Earth's resources and save us from catastrophic climate change.

The novelty of the conceit is cool. All the stuff they do that deals with scale was awesome and funny. There's also a surprisingly deep cast, with familiar faces popping up all throughout the film. Unfortunately, it pretty quickly leaves the scaling behind and gets pretty message-y... except then I feel like it delivers a pretty muddled ending. Overall it never really came together for me. It felt much more like About Schmidt than Sideways.

OK, the closing night party was in an AFS sound stage, which I think would've worked ok if it was a bit cooler and hadn't rained. Instead, the roof leaked from a dozen places making the inside a muggy sweatbox with wet floors. There was an "arcade" or like 3 games, a food truck with bread-heavy tortas, a single carnival ride, and a stage for the band Itchy-o to use when they felt like coming out. It was a strain to stand around sweating waiting for the band to start, but I toughed it out to see the crazy mayhem that really impressed me two years ago. I did feel a tiny bit of diminishing returns this time since I'd kind of seen it before, but it was still cool and loud and crazy. I left just before the end of their set though.

So that's the fest. Overall I felt it was a good-not-great year filled with good-not-great movies. The highlight was hanging out with Daniel and Chris and Grant and Justin and seeing old friends like Kayla, Eric and Aaron, and Austin again.

Now, I'll spend a few long paragraphs talking about all the shit that happened this week that sucked. When the program went up online and we could read the film synopses, Devin Faraci's name appeared on a couple of the write-ups. George started a facebook discussion about this which lead to Tim League making an announcement that he had hired Devin back on to write copy for (not Birth Movies Death). This news was picked up by The Hollywood Reporter which also used quotes from an unnamed ex-Alamo employee (we'll call this person "TS") saying that League's announcement was somewhat misleading because Devin had been on the payroll for months. Really it was more like instead of getting fired from Birth, Movies, Death, he was just transitioned to writing anonymous copy for drafthouse. This sparked more controversy which led League to first defend his actions by saying he believed in second chances but then quickly added that Faraci was now no longer employed at all. This (really it was the fact that Devin was re-hired without his knowledge) led Todd Brown to step down as a programmer for Fantastic Fest. This led Scott weinberg to say he won't be here. This also led to Fox pulling the opening night film (Three Billboards in... somewhere) and Grady Hendrix to cancel his planned 2 presentations. In some of the comments on George's facebook discussion, several people hinted that other people in the community had done far worse and it was time they were exposed as well. Coincidentally, the Alamo removed aint it cool news from the list of festival sponsors and it was rumored that they had asked Harry Knowles not to appear at the fest this year. Ex Alamo employee (who left in a contentious way I might add) Tim Doyle pounced on this and pushed it. A couple days into the fest, Jasmine Baker came forward and accused Harry Knowles of groping and other forms of sexual harassment in previous years. This led to Eric Vespe and the dude who went by Capone to leave aint it cool. A day or so later, another ex alamo employee posted on facebook a long history of having to put up with creeps in the audience, citing one person in particular as "creepy but harmless" and how Tim League had him sign some legal waiver saying he'd be banned from the theater if he did it again along with several other instances of her reporting issues and Alamo management doing nothing. Oh, also another person had saved a screenshot of an email they sent where they disclosed that Devin made some untoward advances and Tim League wrote back asking not to make it public knowledge. So also, several other women come forward and call Harry Knowles a predator. Jasmine also outs David Strong as the "creepy but harmless" guy and calls Eric Vespe a complicit creep for not quitting sooner. I heard David Strong, who had been at the fest while all this was happening, was asked to leave and escorted off the premises. Meanwhile, Todd Brown and Tim Doyle are harping on the fest playing movies like Bat Pussy and the Ed Wood film as bad form and bad optics. And Jasmine announces that she will start a non-profit to affect cultural change. Finally, the Alamo pulls a previously-scheduled screening of Blade 2 because one of Harry's old reviews (where he talks about Blade 2 by calling Guillermo del Toro good at eating pussy) is making the rounds and doesn't want to court any more scandal.

So I think that's everything news-wise that happened. As a festival-goer, the net effect was that I didn't get to see several things that I wanted to see and ended up feeling a little exploited by all these people who were not at the fest twisting events out of context to suit their purposes. Particularly with the AGFA stuff... Todd Brown has been a programmer at this festival for 10 years, he's programmed stuff waaay more offensive in previous years. Maybe there's some sort of temporary sensitivity that should come into effect because there's currently a spotlight on the Alamo but that's bullshit too. All the people who threatened to boycott the theater at the first sign of bad press are probably the same people who've completely forgotten about their United boycott for forcibly removing that guy off their plane. Cancelling the AGFA and Blade 2 screenings scream of weakness to me. I guess it's a lose/lose for them but in the long run I thought fantastic fest was a festival with balls and those have just been snipped because people are afraid of getting more bad press. There's also a mob mentality on facebook that I can't stand. No one talked about Revenge which was a rape/revenge movie playing the fest this year that contained a lot more violence toward women than either Bat pussy or the Ed Wood film had. Tim League definitely made a few mistakes by tolerating intolerable behavior from friends over the years which he is paying for now, but I felt a "blood in the water" atmosphere all week where it seemed like every day would bring some new tragedy in the austin film community. I think some of it must be transference because of our current president and how terrible a lot of global things out of our control seem these days, but it put a weird cloud over the week that I selfishly saw no reason why it couldn't wait a few weeks to address. I'm a white male so all of this doesn't amount to jack shit but whatever.

To conclude: my top 5:
-The Death of Stalin
-The Square
-Brimstone & Glory

and my bottom 4:
-Vampire Clay
-Brawl in Cell Block 99
09.28.17The EndlessJustin Benson, Aaron MoorheadSPOILERS

My Second to last movie of the fest was this low-budget kinda-thriller about two brothers who return to the cult they escaped ten years ago to discover weird things going on. Basically, some unseen antagonist has put these time-looping bubbles all over this stretch of land that the cult is trapped in so they are forced to live out the same loop forever, never aging. It gets more confusing than that, with different bubbles having different loop lengths and a weird time-variable law that allows people to leave the bubbles or get stuck within them. Honestly, this stuff slows down the last half more than it should. It almost becomes like a video game where the characters have to follow a map to retrieve a gun for a guy in order for him to supply another map on how to find their car so they can escape before the time loop ends and they get stuck forever.

I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I liked how the two dudes basically made the movie on their own. They wrote it, directed it, starred in it, and did their own effects.
09.28.17 Bad GeniusNattawut PoonpiriyaNext up was this story of Thai highschool students cheating on standardized exams. It was well made and easy to watch since it basically turned into a heist movie halfway through, but the ending seemed very mandated like American movies from the 50s where bad characters are not allowed to come out victorious. Also, presenter James Marsh's ability to pronounce the lead actress's name was really impressive (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, go on and give that a try).
09.28.17 HauntersJon SchnitzerMy last day at the fest starts with this documentary about haunted houses, particularly with McKamey Manor and the "extreme" haunts that basically torture you. I liked this doc but found that it covered a lot of stuff (maybe too much stuff) to remain focused. Compared to a previous fest entry called The American Scream, this seemed like less of a story being told and more of a shallow skip along several much larger topics. Justin called it right when he said it would make a better miniseries because the film basically focuses on two houses and all the other ones that are mentioned or appear very quickly kind of get left behind. I'd love to see an hour on McKamey Manor and Blackout and all the more extreme stuff then a separate hour on the high budget theme park events like Knott's Scary farm and Universal's Horror Nights, maybe an hour on the history and evangelical origins of the haunts themselves through Campus Life and Jaycees, then maybe a final hour on the homebrew stuff like The American Scream and Nightmare on Loganberry. Having everything stuffed into 90 minutes was a bit much.
09.27.17 Super Dark TimesKevin PhillipsDescribed as Stand By Me meets River's Edge, this is about highschool kids in 90s new england who accidentally kill an annoying kid and fall apart trying to hide it. It would be ok but the last act really falls apart.
09.27.17 Good MannersMarco Dutra, Juliana RojasSPOILERS

This starts off as maybe a lesbian romance movie but then one girl dies giving birth to a werewolf baby and the other girl tries to raise it. It kind of has a Place Beyond the Pines structure where the extended last act takes place several years after the first. The werewolf effects kind of come out of left field and are pretty well done, but they don't quite develop it enough to fully make things resonate. I would've shortened the last half into a second act and put in a third act where the boy werewolf grows up after his mom sacrificed herself to the unruly mob and showed him as an adult now completely in control of his powers. As it is, it feels like a story and an extended coda that doesn't really go anywhere.
09.27.17 ApplecartBrad BaruhI'd heard meh things about this but kind of wanted to see it anyway since AJ Bowen and Barbara Crampton were in it. It's a slasher that tries to be clever by intercutting a true crime tv show about the murders with the more typical slasher footage. It doesn't really work. You know all the deaths beforehand because the tv show tells you, so it's really all put on the shoulders of this reveal of WHY the murders happen, which i didn't find that interesting. Pretty bored with it, honestly.
09.27.17 Blue My MindLisa BruhlmannSPOILERS

This is kind of like that movie Thirteen except one of the girls turns into a fish.

Well, a mermaid really, but she does it in more of a vampire way like having urges to drink saltwater and eat goldfish.

It has a few great moments and, considering this was another student graduation film, is really impressive for a first effort.
09.27.17 JuvenileBradley BueckerDay Seven starts with my least favorite film of the festival. This is about some idiot teenagers who carjack for fun until one guy has enough and runs away, but then another one of the crew gets shot and so the runaway kid has to go back and really it's the other kid who's a real psycho bully or whatever. And there's also a cute girl. Whatever. The writing was very poor and it goes downhill from there. It's the only film I contemplated walking out of. My note was going to be one word long ("sucked") but I want to remind myself not to see this ever again.
09.26.17 Anna and the ApocalypseJohn McPhailI succumbed to public opinion and chose this for the midnight. It's a British zombie musical set during Christmas. Really, it's like High School Musical with zombies. The songs don't have anything to do with christmas or zombies, the antagonist is not developed at all, the post-modern zombie humor was done way better in Shaun of the Dead... but it looked good and wasn't terrible and the director seemed like a really nice guy. All I wanted was a song with a zombie chorus though... If you gave me that, I'd like this movie ten times better.
09.26.17 Brawl in Cell Block 99Craig ZahlerPrison, Baby, Prison! Vince Vaughn stars as a tough guy sent to jail then forced to fight his way into super max medieval dungeon prison in order to save his kidnapped pregnant wife. So... I liked Bone Tomahawk. But this was not good.

For one, it takes forever for him to get to prison, so you're just waiting like a long time for that to happen. Then this cell block 99 thing, is not even in the realm of Earth. Don Johnson's prison warden is like straight out of a Human Centipede or Women in Prison movie.

So really the only thing this movie has going for it is the gore. The violence is really brutal and explicit. They're quick cuts because i think it all looks kind of plastic and fake but the surprise of it works (just like it did in Bone Tomahawk, ahem).

Vince Vaughn is clearly trying to be a tough guy here - Shaved head, head tattoo, worked his belly off, etc. - but he comes off as something like Superman. He breaks a dude's back by bear hugging him? So i don't know... The fighting was really the only good stuff, buried pretty deep in two and a half hours of Vince Vaughn's blank face and bad southern accent. Miss.
09.26.17The MercilessSung-hyun ByunNext up was this Korean crime movie along the same lines as the Infernal Affairs series. I love me some Korean action movies and there were two playing the fest. I could only fit this one in (I heard the other was pretty slow) but i'm glad I did. It kept me guessing in terms of whether a certain character was a double, triple, or quadruple agent and the action was slick, the performances solid and story engaging. I liked it.
09.26.17 AnyabMohammed SheblAKA Fangs.

This is an Egyptian film that's basically a beat-for-beat remake of Rocky Horror Picture Show, except it trades the sexual dynamics of the original for vampires and social commentary on circa 1980-Egyptian society. I liked this.

-There's a great disco/funk tune that I guess is analogous to the timewarp in the original film? I dunno, it's this instrumental disco jam where these partygoers in masks are doing a dance and the main vampire (named Dracula) rises from his grave. Oh man I love that bass guitar part.

-What seems like the whole second act is the professor character going on a tangent to demonstrate how there are vampires in real life, giving example after example of real life situations where the Brad and Janet characters are price gouged or cheated in some way. Each scenario involves some unseen person that perpetrates the injustice such as a mechanic or real estate agent or doctor or merchant who revealed to be Dracula (with terrible fake vampire teeth, like the kind that come with kids' halloween costumes) and this crazy music cue (often completely stolen, like the Jaws theme, music from A Clockwork Orange, the James Bond theme, the Pink Panther theme, Ennio Morricone) then followed by the professor character laughing into camera. What makes this crazy is that it happens like 8 times in a row before the professor says "ok that's enough, back to the story")

So yeah, I really loved parts of this.
09.26.17 3 Foot Ball & SoulsYoshio KatoDay Six starts with this Japanese story of a group of people meeting to commit group suicide but caught in a Groundhog Day effect until they decide not to. It was ok. To be honest, by this part in the fest I'm down to second or third choices for each slot. While I wound up taking a lot of chances to see things I might not have seen otherwise, I do wish the schedule was a little more thoughtful to not bunch so many things in the same slots over and over. I feel like there were fewer adaptable "buzz screenings" this year, and I'm sure having several films drop out of the schedule at the last moment didn't help things.

Anyway, this was ok.
09.25.17The Death of StalinArmando IannucciThe fest's only non-AGFA secret screening. I didn't really know this movie even existed but could tell after about 15 minutes that this was a Iannucci joint. It's roughly the story of how Kruschev succeeded Stalin, but it's played in Iannucci political comedy style a la Veep or The Thick of It. All of the actors use their native accents which is a great choice. Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, Paddy Considine, Michael Palin, etc. It's very funny in a mostly dark dark way. Loved it.

Incidentally, the AGFA secret screening turned out to be a lost Ed Wood film, apparently his final one which was a nudie cutie starring himself in full drag. Unfortunately, it was programmed against Kier-la's Nude Vampire screening and the second showing was cancelled due to public outrage at being tricked into seeing boobs.

ANYWAY, I finished the night with the Fantastic Fued. This year, since Scott Weinberg stayed home in protest, Max took over hosting duties. He did a pretty good job; I felt like it was the most on-track that the feud's ever been. It was a bit too long though and I still contend that the survey questions are too hard to answer.
09.25.17 Under the TreeHafsteinn Gunnar SigurossonThis is an Icelandic movie about neighbors who engage in an escalating passive aggressive war because one neighbor's tree casts a shadow on the others' porch. It's pretty good but ultimately ends up where you'd think it would.
09.25.17 My Friend DahmerMarc Meyersnext up was this story of Jeffrey Dahmer in highschool. I guess it was based off a graphic novel from a guy who hung out with Dahmer back then. This was pretty good, if a bit minor in terms of importance. It doesn't really go anywhere surprising, but I did enjoy that they shot in the real town, the real house even that Dahmer lived in back then. There's a wooden shack in the woods that the director said they rebuilt in the exact spot of the original. So I feel like I got a pretty authentic glimpse of Dahmer's teenage years.
09.25.17 Tigers Are Not AfraidIssa LopezThe second half of the fest kicks off with this Mexican film about a group of orphans trying to survive amidst the cartel violence. It employs some Guillermo del Toro-esque magical realism mixed with more overt realistic horror as these kids try to survive. Kind of like Empire of the Sun meets Devil's Backbone.
09.24.17 Mom and DadBrian TaylorThis midnight movie was from the dude who did Crank. This stars Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair and it's about a mysterious signal or virus or whatever that makes parents want to kill their parents. Blair and Cage are great but the style was all over the place and I felt like it missed a few huge opportunities. There are some great Cage moments though.
09.24.17 GilbertNeil BerkeleyNext up was this doc about Gilbert Gottfried's life. Gilbert was in attendance, warming us up with 3 jokes before the film and providing a funny and candid Q&A wit his wife and the film's director afterward.

This movie's really good. It gives a glimpse behind the performances and his voice into his day to day life as a husband and father and cheapskate who takes the bus to his gigs.
09.24.17 BodiedJoseph KahnThis is about a white Berkeley student diving into the world of battle rapping. It was really good. I think that since it dealt with what's politically correct, what's racist, and the relationship between offensive language and censorship that the movie was perhaps received with more energy and applause than it would in other years. But it was still good, funny when it needed to be and uncomfortable when it should've been. The guy next to me was straight up talking to himself during the climax, saying stuff like "no, man, don't do it" or "oh fuck that's harsh" to himself and the screen.

During the Q&A, Evrim asked a real-life battle rapper who appeared in the film to perform a little bit and the guy said a few bars insulting Evrim's accent and mustache. I think he was holding back, but really admired Evrim's attitude about the whole thing. I think this is the year I really enjoyed and appreciated Evrim's presence and influence over the fest.
09.24.17The Nude VampireJean RollinKier-la Janisse came back to introduce this screening of an early Jean Rollin film and to sell her latest Spectacular Optical book which is a collection of essays on Rollin written by different female film critics. I can't remember how many/which Rollin films I've seen at Weird Wednesday but I hadn't seen this one.

I really liked it. It's true what people say how Rollin did these movies that were halfway between art film and exploitation sex film. In this, there's a bunch of hot European women dancing and walking around with their titties out, but there was also a lot of great surreal imagery and story. I was reminded of Lynch's latest Twin Peaks work a few times throughout.
09.24.17 Love and SaucersBrad AbrahamsDay Four started with this doc about a guy who claims to have lost his virginity to a female alien. He tells his story of all the different kinds of aliens that he's seen throughout his life and the different encounters he's had with this female alien harvesting his sperm and hatching hybrid babies. For as salacious as it sounds, the film presents this guy with an admirable lack of judgement, leaving it for the viewer to decide how we feel about this guy. It was good.

Also, before the film, a "new" Mark Borchardt short documentary played about some alien weekend up in Wisconsin where rednecks get lit and look for strange lights in the sky. It was great, and looked to be shot on VHS. I did not believe that it was made in 2017.
09.23.17 JailbreakJimmy HendersonI stayed for the midnight to see this Cambodian prison action movie which I wound up dozing through parts of. It was ok. I liked how some of the choreography heavily involved the camera operator, bringing a real up close and personal visceral take on the fighting. The story was forgettable though.
09.23.17The SquareRuben OstlundThe new one from the guy who did Force Majeur. It's about a museum director and attempts to comment on art, art criticism, social awareness, and class struggle. It takes on a lot and ultimately I think suffers from the strain. Although there are a good handful of great scenes, the ending doesn't really come together and there's a muddling of what the film is trying to say.

I thought Elizabeth Moss's scenes were good, I loved that Dominic West's character wears pajamas with blazers, and all the contemporary art stuff was funny and great.

One scene involves a performance artist pretending he's an ape at a formal dinner party full of artists and benefactors. The guy (who I later learned was a mo-cap actor on the Planet of the Apes films) takes things too far and suddenly the whole room is full of tense silence. Right after the film ended, they brought out a special guest but it was that actor with his arm extenders acting like an ape. I've never seen a theater go so quiet so quick. He didn't really do much - menacingly paced a few rows, slapped a cup out of someone's hand, then flipped over a server's prep tray on the way out of the theater, but the feeling of tension was palpable. I was sitting up toward the back of the theater and saw people around me quietly moving their water cups off the bar tables. Afterward there was a bunch of bullshit because some pregnant lady felt unsafe or whatever, but I felt like it was a perfect meta layer laid over the film. Here we were, a bunch of movie-goers clapping at the message packaged in a nice safe movie up on the scene when, just like the benefactors inside the film, we were confronted with something out of our control. It was great.
09.23.17 Ron Goossens, Low Budget StuntmanSteffen Haars, Flip Van der KuilThis is the new one from the New Kids guys about an alcoholic who's willing to hurt himself in order to get back with his cuckolding girl. It was ok but not as good as the first New Kids movie.
09.23.17 Bat PussyUnknownI followed up the Psycho doc with this satire porn that AGFA did a 2K scan of from Something Weird's 16mm print. I guess they have the world's only print of this film which is a total oddity. There are no credits, no title, nothing. It's a total regional amateur porn, made worth watching by a couple factors:

-the two main performers spend the whole movie bickering at each other. I suspect the dude is too drunk to get hard and they both seem like bad improv actors trying to make a scene up out of the blue. They periodically get off-screen direction that they don't bother to edit out so you see them look off camera while the sound mutes for a second.

-it cuts to this girl named Bat Pussy who's on a mission to... keep people from making fuck films in Gotham City i guess? She gets around with one of those inflatable rubber balls with handles that you sit and bounce on.

It's extremely un-sexy... the guy's all over the place and never really gets hard. i suspect that this would be harder-core if he could, but as it is there's no actual penetration.

It was a bit of an experience to watch with a crowd. Maybe it would've been more awkward if people actually got turned on, but it was still a little awkward.
09.23.17 78/52Alexandre O PhilippeDay three starts with this documentary on the shower scene from Psycho. yep, a whole movie just on one scene.

It's actually a lot better than it should be. I thought it would run pretty thin and have to stretch for time to fill out the 90 minutes, but it feels jam packed and well paced throughout. It tells a comprehensive story of the origin, planning, execution, and impact of the scene, using all the source material from various sources needed. They interview Janet Leigh's body double, use archival interview footage of Leigh and Hitch and everyone else, talk to the editor of the Gus Van Sant remake, show all the satires, etc... if you think it has anything to do with this scene, it's probably in the movie.

It also deep dives on a few tiny details. The one that sticks with me in particular is getting an art historian to talk about the painting that Norman Bates uses to hide his peephole. As it turns out, the painting itself is about voyeurism and is quite racy and the subject has been painted many times over, each painting bringing their own perspective and take on the subject and the version that Hitch used had particular meaning in itself.

The film also uses a great technique for most of its interview subjects. The director sits them down and lets them watch the movie (or at least the scene itself), getting reaction video-style feedback from everyone. Sometimes this feedback is funny, but more often it provides fantastic commentary because it's people like Guillermo del Toro or Walter Murch talking about it.

So yeah, this was fantastic. In the Q&A afterward, the director mentioned wanting to do a sequel which I thought was pretty funny.
09.22.17 Brimstone & GloryViktor JakovleskiFor the midnight slot, I saw this documentary about this town in Mexico that celebrates the patron saint of firework making with a 2-day orgy of fireworks. The theater's AC was broken so it was pretty warm in there but I still really liked this. It's shot and cut very similar to one of the old IMAX educational docs that you might see of the space station or rainforest butterflies or something, following around almost-random people as they prepare these ornate and gigantic firework structures for the festival then introduces some amazing slow motion photography of the fireworks going off. Really amazing photography all around. At one point they put a gopro on this one guy's head as he climbs this rickety tower to tie a string of fireworks to one of the wheels. It's insane.

And then the festival is even more insane. On one night, it's these huge towers that light up, sending fireworks everywhere in a glorious fountain of light. But the second night is even crazier with all these giant bull statues loaded up with explosives that teams of people push down the street, burning themselves while all the fireworks burn off. And it's right in the middle of the street with huge crowds all around it. So medics are on hand to handle all the burns that take place. Insane and beautiful. Really good.
09.22.17 Killing of a Sacred DeerYorgos LanthimosThen I saw the new Jorgos Yanthimos movie. I think I liked The Lobster a little more than this one (and I didn't really LOVE the Lobster), but this was pretty good as well. Everyone talks in the near-monotone way as The Lobster, but I think that style worked better in that film because the whole world was a bit off kilter. Here, these people are supposed to be actual humans living on Earth so the dialogue bothered me a bit.

They had the kid from Dunkirk here for a Q&A and he mentioned that the style of delivery really came from the way that the lines were written in the script. It wasn't explicit direction from Yorgos, he said he just saw that Colin Farrell was doing it that way and went along, but it's also hard to say the dialogue any other way.

Once the real crux of the film presents itself, I liked it more. It builds to a climactic scene at the end which was the highlight for me.
09.22.17 King CohenSteve MitchellNext up was this doc about filmmaker Larry Cohen. It's a well put-together doc that talks about all of Cohen's accomplishments and gives a good sense of his excitable personality. He seems like a true maverick idea factory similar to Sam Fully or maybe a less-exploitative H. G. Lewis. I liked this, but was happy to see Cohen in person because his intro and Q&A were really entertaining and candid.
09.22.17 HagazussaLukas FeigelfeldA film student's graduation film, this is about a maybe-witch in rural olde germany and how she is shunned by other townsfolk. It has some amazing photography and a good cello-driven score that's very drone-y and hypnotic, but the story is VERY close to The Witch and basically does the same thing as that movie, only slower and with less dramatic effect. However, I did like the Ben Wheatley-esque psychedelic scene late in the movie.

Also, the Alamo served an apple with the film since there's a scene where a character eats an apple. I generally like when they pair up a film with a food item for dramatic impact, but this movie had MUCH better opportunities than the apple. Like mushrooms or baby stew... just sayin.

Next I watched six episodes of a Canadian TV show called Letterkenny. It's much more precious about its language than Trailer Park Boys but still centers around a small hick town and the weirdos that live in it. I liked it a lot but found the repetitious meme-like structure of the scripts a bit much at times. I suspect watching one a week would help that a bit, since I think we saw the first, second, and last episodes of the first two seasons all in one sitting. I'll have to track down the rest of the show and give it a watch sometime.
09.21.17 Vampire ClaySoichi UmezawaThis is about some possessed clay that eats people once it's dug up out of the ground and used in sculpture class. It's kind of like Bucket of Blood mixed with Little Shop of Horrors. Aside from a small handful of cool shots and a decent ending, I didn't like this one much.
09.21.17 ThelmaJoachim TrierThis one's about a girl who is discovering her superpower ability to make things happen. It's also a lesbian love story (sort of). It looks great, has a good ending, but is also a bit too slow. I wish it went faster and farther with the premise.
09.21.17 Dan DreamJesper RofeltOh hey, I went to Fantastic Fest this year!

I didn't write any notes on the day though so this is all in hindsight, and I'll probably speed through them since I have 35 to get through. So these thoughts come with anywhere from a day to a week of reflection.

My first film of the fest was this one from the Klown guys. It's the based-on-a-true-story of how a group of Danish men attempted to make first electric car.

This was pretty funny. There were some fun moments and I like the two Klown guys a lot. I don't think it was as funny as their previous efforts, but there was still plenty to like.
09.08.17 ItAndy MuschiettiSo Stephen King's IT was the first "grown up" book I ever read. My mom described some of the story when she was reading it and something about the cover really hooked me so as soon as I felt I was able, I tackled the thousand-page monster. I was, like, 12. I think I first read It around the time that the TV mini-series aired. I thought that the show wasn't so great, but Tim Curry gave a great performance and the central story was still strong enough to bear a few repeat views through the years.

Now this movie, swapping the 80s for the original 50s stuff and the promise of a sequel for the original 80s stuff. I heard a vaguely positive buzz.

It was ok. Even chopping the book in half, it's hard to fit it all into one movie. The book has the luxury of making all 7 kids main protagonists (well, 6 and a half), but for this film they had to center on Bill. So all the other kids seem a little shallow in comparison. And the time push makes part of the film seem like you're watching the same scene 3 or 4 times as each kid gets creeped out by Pennywise. But they threw in more details about the town's history than the mini-series did and I'm very happy for that. They stayed relatively close in terms of plot and character... about as much as you can ask for, really. Maybe it's because i'm so familiar with the story already but it just didn't have that oomph for me.

Again: not bad, decent, ok, they didn't completely fuck it up like I hear The Dark Tower was... but putting a lego turtle in one scene does not mean you included the cosmic scale of the book and for all the late 80s movie titles on the marquee it would've been really cool to see some replacement for the Tennaged Werewolf scene from the book.

But still, for the most part I thought Pennywise was good. I really liked the travelling eye stuff they did. The mouth stuff was great. The voice... maybe a bit much? but whatever. It felt very "modern" horror... I did really like the final confrontation though. That was well done.

Also, i sat near a teenage boy and his mom for this. Kudos to the kid for wanting to see it, but tell your mom to shut the hell up.
09.02.17 Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2James GunnAnother Marvel movie. I appreciated the colors and comic-book-iness of this one... also that it was the opposite of Civil War in that it seemingly had nothing to do with the rest of the cinematic universe... not even another Thanos cameo... I enjoyed the humor... thought Bautista did well. But it's already fading from memory you know?
07.30.17 DunkirkChristopher NolanSo first let me say that this is like the third time I've noticed Nolan's scores and how he uses music in his films. This score is very loud and overbearing and feels constant but also super duper effective. Of course the ticking clock sound (this feels like some OP weapon introduced into a shooter that needs nerfing. it's like hitting an auto-tension button on your audience) and these long rising drones that are reminiscent of incoming planes. Then when the planes do come they are all but screaming at us. And when danger happens, these abrupt notes cutting off like a NIN song or something. It's really extraordinary and goes a long way in making this 106-minute movie feel like 318 minutes (in a good way).

Also, the rest of it. Great great filmmaking. I didn't know anyone's name, I didn't care. There were like 30 lines of dialogue in the whole film, I couldn't understand a third of them thanks to british accents and whisper-talking, I didn't care. It's a story of evacuation and losing that still felt triumphant in the end. There's no paragraph of text explaining the rest of the way, no picture credits telling us this guy went on to open a hardware store and that guy died in a barfight. All these things are really freaking hard to do.

The IMAX photography also stuns. Tom Hardy, face obscured, body un-moving, not saying anything, is still super fun to watch because 1) i can see his eyes through the goggles and 2) i can see the freaking ocean behind him outside of the plane! I mean not all the time but still, the dogfighting footage in this film is just incredible. I'm sure there's a ton of digital effects work going on here but it all feels authentic. The higher resolution of IMAX makes all the difference with that. And the framing... the freedom of having so much air above the actors even in medium shots because you've got this great big nearly 4:3 70mm box to fill up. The very first shot with a group of soldiers on a french street, and you can see every building and the street and the flyers floating down through the air and make out details of everything... is remarkable. And seeing the vast expanse of beach as you watch a couple guys running toward a grounded boat or through a line of troops or whatever. It's indicative of a complete grasp of what these images can do.

Really I just had one nitpick which deals with the very end... and a character... and a plane... that I didn't understand. The rest of it was pure tense cinematic bliss.
07.16.17The Diving Bell and the ButterflyJulian SchnabelSo. This month I finally faced the music and cancelled my Netflix disc subscription. It's been a long time coming and I'm probably one of the last to even still have one but my time management and movie-watching habits have changed to the point where I would forget I even had discs sitting here on my desk.

I thought it very fitting that the last Netflix disc I'd watch (for the time being anyway, you never know) was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I think I've had this disc in my hands two or three times, sending it back without watching it over and over then figuring I really should see it and re-adding it to my queue. Julian Schnabel is a pretty singular vision and his other films (Basquiat and Before Night Falls) got an amazing amount of critical praise. I liked but didn't love those films though, and the thought of spending two hours inside the head of someone completely paralyzed was just too much I guess. But - as usual with these films that I put off watching forever - it was so so good.

I think the bulk of the credit goes to Janusz Kaminksi. I mean I'm sure it was a team effort and everyone should take credit for bringing this together but this has some of the most claustrophobic interior photography I've seen in some time. It's also kind of a love letter to film, right? To do the same thing with digital I bet would be very difficult. How they achieved some of this

Also, as a quick aside, i really love Schnabel's confidence. I watched the special features to see how they did some of the shots and there's some footage of him wading out into the surf wearing nothing but a torn skirt with the actor on his shoulders. For a large man, he seems very comfortable in his body and his fashion choices, totally ridiculous in some cases, are surprising attractive. I think if I showed my belly wearing an unbuttoned plaid shirt with the sleeves cut off it would not look so great, but I guess put me in a loft with one of my million-dollar paintings behind me and all of a sudden my exposed flab is more like unbridled masculinity? I love it.
07.15.17 Live ForeverJohn DowerA documentary about the 90s britpop wave with bands like Oasis, Blur, and Pulp. I wasn't so into these bands back in the day but I was into the more dancey stuff coming out of England at the same time (Massive Attack, Portishead, Underworld, Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, etc.) which makes sort of a cameo appearance in this film. I also enjoy Damn Albarn's work via Gorillaz so it was interesting to learn about where he came from. The most interesting part of this movie for me was seeing this fad from the British point of view. My memories are from MTV and them being imports in our market so it was cool to see how popular they were over there. It was also interesting to view this film 15 years later. The interview subjects take a past look at it but really in 2003 they were barely past it. Liam Gallagher still looks stuck in it. A lot has happened since then... particularly when they talk about Blur vs. Oasis... Gorillaz has made such a huge impact since then... I wonder if Albarn would've had perspective had he not "lost" that battle in the 90s.

Anyway, interesting stuff.
07.15.17 Sing StreetJohn CarneyShowed this to Molly; she cried. Seeing this in a better atmosphere than on a plane was great. In my memory anyway, I think this is now my favorite John Carney movie. It feels so personal, but what really got me this time is that he dedicated the film to brothers everywhere. That makes me feel like he sees himself as the younger brother and made this movie to show appreciation for everything that his older brother gave him, which is so sweet. The older brother part is definitely the scene stealer here... it's so fitting. what the hell is all this dust doing in the air!?

anyway, great movie.
07.09.17 T2 TrainspottingDanny BoyleThese reunion movies are so fraught with danger. On paper it sounds like such a good idea to get the band back together but all too often it feels forced and tired and just doesn't work. This is a quite rare example of a sequel that feels fresh and familiar, nostalgic and new, looking back and forward. I think it's mostly due to Danny Boyle's direction and his editor. There's a constantly splintering narrative that keeps echoing the original, in one scene literally like ghosts running past us, while the characters today deal with the consequences of that first film. But it's shot beautifully, there's a vibrant thudding soundtrack, and all the actors are still really good. Ewan Bremner stole it for me this time around. But I still get the feelings from the first... maybe not that novelty and excitement but certainly the tragedy.

I don't think anything can touch the excitement and exuberance of the first Trainspotting, but I feel like with this Boyle isn't really trying to. He's just doing what he's doing now, not twenty years ago. It still works, but it feels more mature to me. I thought it was really really good.
07.08.17 GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of WrestlingBrett WhitcombWe watched and liked the Netflix series so thought this would be worthwhile. It mostly is. It's definitely in the vein of informative-rather-than-entertaining in that there's not much filmmaking technique on display here. Lots of talking heads intercut with old footage. Groan-worthy sad guitar when it's time to cry, etc. But it does what it needs to do... You catch up/learn about the real ladies, you learn how the show came together, how it was produced, why it died. You also see a nice reunion segment of all the oldies back together again. I got what I wanted out of it; i'm not sure what else there was for the movie to say so I'm glad it didn't stretch out or whatever. Good time.
06.23.17 ZodiacDavid FincherI think this is turning out to be my favorite David Fincher movie. While I've enjoyed almost all of his films, this one seems the most watchable and to hold up the best. The cast is stellar, all playing non-showy roles (perhaps with the exception of Robert Downey Jr). And I think it's a rare film that shows the passage of time. I think the time lapse of the transamerica pyramid is one of the best ever examples of this. And I love how constrained the murders are followed by how unraveled the invastigation gets. And that look at the end. John Carroll Lynch in the hardware store. Murderous eyes. Dead face. SO GOOD. gooooood byeee....
06.17.17 John Wick: Chapter 2Chad StahelskiI thought this was a solid sequel. It can't replicate the surprise of the first one and it sets up a third one so the ending is a bit of a minor note, but the action is super solid and the odd world of secret assassin etiquette is still super interesting. It manages to do that sequel thing where they go to Europe for some reason but not have it be too forced or lame. I still don't buy Ruby Rose as tough... but that's ok. There was also a moment about halfway through where I thought maybe this world of assassins extended to where all people in the world know about it or something because there were gunfights and killings in very public places and nobody seemed to mind, but then they kind of addressed it in a funny moment so movie logic dictates that all is forgiven. So yeah, solid sequel.
06.17.17 MastermindsJared HessI guess I can't fault netflix for recommending this one to me. I like pretty much everyone involved. Except the movie isn't any good. It reminds me of an equally bad movie called Drowning Mona in that it's kind of based on a true story but it's so bizarre that it should probably stay a wikipedia page or something. I dunno.. so much talent here but it's all squandered. It's a shame too... I want another Jared Hess movie that connects like Napoleon Dynamite but this is like strike 4?
06.15.17 SnowdenOliver StoneShowtime is running Stone's Putin Interviews docuseries and he's making multiple strange appearances on TV coming off as pro-russia (which isn't going over so well), and I realized that I had never gotten around to seeing this.

A couple things. One: I remember how Controversial Stone came off in the 80s and 90s when The Doors and JFK and Nixon were released. His reputation was such that he even made a (great) cameo in that movie Dave playing up that perception. Given his recent political stances and more reason interviews I think he isn't acting so different today, it's just that the subject matter and political climate has changed. What's weird is that he's seeming to hold his tongue more these days and not speak is entire position. It's weird to see him dodge "easy" questions like "Isn't Putin an evil guy" but then not go right out and say that he agrees with the things that Putin says and thinks that Russia is being made into an enemy by the American military, industrial, and political leaders. Maybe he's suffered enough defeats in his career just to be happy to keep working and doesn't want to stir that much shit? Or maybe i'm reading him wrong and he just really doesn't want to put his opinion out there... but this is like the fifth project that he's done now where he goes and talks to US-maligned political leaders to get their sides of the story (His Two Castro interviews, Persona Non Grata where he talks to Arafat, and South of the Border where he tours South America talking to leaders of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba,Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil) so it definitely seems like he has something on his mind.

A second thing. I watch these projects because I like Stone's steadfast point of view and willingness to go against the grain to do his own thing, but the movies/shows just aren't that good. His Other Showtime series, an Untold History of the US, I thought was really good, but this other stuff feels like he's trying to be Nick Broomfield but with a softer touch in the interviews. Say what you will about the stories but The Doors and JFK and Nixon was some FANTASTIC filmmaking.

Which leads me to Snowden. Let's just say for a minute that body snatchers are real and they've infiltrated Hollywood. I put Stone and Michael Mann at the top of the list suspected of being pod people instead of their former selves. I really don't know what happened to eye behind Any Given Sunday and U-Turn and Natural Born Killers. Did he stop doing coke? I thought that was his whole thing with Scarface in the 80s? Did he get bored (or too tired) to keep the whole mixed media collage style going? Wanted to point toward something more conventional? One too many projects killed by studios? For whatever reason, his last half dozen narrative features have been boring and run of the mill, which is something I never thought I'd say. Maybe he's too close to history with all these projects? I dunno... but it seems like he has more interest in the documentary work than the narrative stuff. Which is fine; look at Werner Herzog for proof of that. But it also makes me sad, because I really loved 80s and 90s Oliver Stone.

Here, I thought Gordon Levitt was great (much like Josh Brolin nailed W), and he had a great supporting cast and went to all the locations but it just fell flat. Citizenfour is SO MUCH more gripping. It's just a shame...
06.10.17 Why Him?John HamburgI thought this was pretty funny. I mean, it's a total disposable comedy in terms of story, but there's a good cast and the premise is decent enough to hang some good scenes on and I laughed quite a bit. Cranston and Mullally were highlights.
05.31.17 Lynch (One)blackANDwhiteI stumbled across this on this Internet. I MIGHT have watched it at work. It's a circa 2007 direct cinema-style doc following David Lynch around during his website/Inland Empire/Transcendental Meditation Book tour days... which is great because that's when I encountered him in Austin and those memories just came churning to the surface of my memory because of seeing Sonja last week... so it's all connected.

I've watched a lot of interviews with David Lynch but never really had a chance to see him working or in a candid moment when he's not on his guard. In some ways, These moments did a lot to humanize him for me. Seeing him cuss and deal with frustration, seeing him cutting wood with a cig sticking out of his mouth or physically putting paint on canvas, speaking freely with (presumably) his support staff or colleagues just like anyone else. But in other ways, it did more to build up the complete and utter freedom he has in life as an artist. Even though my memory of watching Inland Empire was pretty strained, I can't help but covet his confidence to do whatever the fuck he wants and construct this film in a completely experimental nature. And not only the movie but life in general. Painting, photography, wood... cutting... whatever it is he's doing here. He just does it. And that's what he gives off in interviews but I've never been certain if that's really how he lives life but it totally definitely is.

This might mean I have to watch Inland Empire again. Damn it.

As a film, this is kind of just a collection of footage. But i don't really need a story arc here... it's presented as raw intimate moments with Lynch and that's what you get. I mean, the footage they have in here of Lynch directing Laura Dern or the Polish actors is more intimate than I've seen of 98% of the behind-the-scenes stuff I've seen from other directors.

and... I have to say... there's a goddamn treasure trove of amazing David Lynch quotes:

"I'm in a hair of a funk."

"I'm reading the bible... to get ideas... to figure out what this film is about. That's what I did on Eraserhead."

"I want a one-legged sixteen year old girl. I want a Japanese girl who's Jap- who's Eurasian. I want a Eurasian. Like 23. beautiful. I want a pet monkey. A spider monkey. Pet."
05.29.17 LoganJames MangoldAfter the drabness of Apocalypse comes this which is totally great. A fresh take on tired characters, an interesting near-future world, good story pretty well told. It's at once such a good endpoint for these characters but also makes me wish we could have a little more (as long as they're of this caliber). This is really how everyone's wanted to see the wolverine behave this whole time, right?
05.29.17 X-Men: ApocalypseBryan SingerMeh. So I spent some time while watching wondering why I wasn't enjoying this as much as Doctor Strange... There are several reasons.

For one, when I was a kid going through my comic phase, Spider-Man and X-Men were my favorite books. So maybe it's disappointment that these X-Men movies are wasted potential... or perhaps those books are harder to adapt? I feel like that's probably not the case... Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy disprove that because those books seem like a much harder sell. Maybe there are too many characters? Certainly, about half the cast doesn't have anything to do here except stand around in their make up and costume.

I think the biggest reason though is the mindset. Bryan Singer is still making this movie like he made the first X-Men 20 years ago. There's a bunch of set-up scenes, some big bad tells us his plan, then a bunch of effects shots waiting for the good guys to win. The effects shots have gotten better but the stories haven't. It's always the origins. This is like the 4th time I've seen Hugh Jackman do Weapon X. There's something like 400 issues of the comic book but that's the one story they want to tell over and over?

To be honest, I wanted to watch Logan but figured I had to see this just to keep everything in order. I'm pretty hopeful that Logan will tell a new Wolverine story.

So... yeah... also... I feel like I have to mention that... the other night i watched a bunch of youtube clips about seedy Hollywood underbelly child predation and those videos called out Singer specifically. I have to say it's getting harder and harder to watch Bryan Singer's movies and not feel complicit somehow. Like, when there was controversy about Apt Pupil I was like "whatever" because I liked The Usual Suspects. But that movie was a long time ago, and it seems like in every movie since there's a lot of young twinkish dudes just hanging out in the cast not doing much on camera. Like how the kids cast as Iceman and Colossus in X2 look a lot like the guy cast here as Stryker... I dunno, I guess it's no different than any straight director putting a lot of hot blondes in their movies, but it's still a shame that this dark cloud has to be here now. It also seems like a new controversy pops up whenever a new Bryan Singer movie comes out. I'm usually one of the guys to fall on the side of the fence of not letting filmmakers' personal lives affect how I like their movies, but it still does enter into the equation and I have to say... Singer's movies are not as good as Woody Allen's or Roman Polanski's.

Anyway, all that aside... I thought this was pretty dull. I hope they don't make any more of these.
05.28.17 War MachineDavid MichodI didn't like this one too much. I think for me it was an issue where, usually in these types of things... like in Generation: Kill we have misguided commanders and either the reporter is more present so we're seeing through their eyes or we have some sympathetic low-ranking soldier knowing how messed up everything is. In Generation: Kill you have both of those things, here you have neither. Instead, Brad Pitt's propped up in an effort to follow him, but he's also the misguided commander so i never really want to follow him. Both the reporter and the sympathetic low-ranking soldier are not around enough to feel anything for. So it's kind of like watching a guy you don't like do things you don't agree with for two hours. Not super fun.

Although, this movie makes prominent use of a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion song too. Coincidence? Maybe Hollywood's finally catching on to the awesomeness of the Blues Explosion!?
05.27.17 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullSteven SpielbergSomeone at work mentioned that the Nazca lines were in this and I didn't remember that so I thought I'd watch this again now that I'm more familiar with the ancient astronaut theory to see if, somehow, I liked this better than I did ten years ago.


I mean, i still WANT to like it, but there's just too much... Shia swinging from vine to vine, the ants, knowledge being the treasure... it's just too much. And instead of the Nazca lines helping it kind of made things worse since, now that I've been there in person and seen them, the whole sequence feels ultra fake to me because i know that area doesn't look anything like that. They used the fakest most CG composition of the lines I could imagine, like when a sitcom goes to Mt. Rushmore and they're all just standing in front of green screen with a postcard from Mt. Rushmore behind them.

Anyway, still not good.
05.26.17 Alien: CovenantRidley ScottDue to several factors (it being slow at work on a friday before a three day weekend, the general revelry still resonating from last night, and me hearing that this was actually good), I decided to cut out of work early today and see this at the good ol' Tinseltown Pflugerville. Not only is this the venue where I saw my first movie in Austin, it also holds a special place in my heart because it's where I used to go to see matinees when i was new in town. Since I'm kind of looking back with nostalgia at the good old days when I watched more than one movie every day, I thought it would be fitting to sit in a non-packed theater, get sick from eating too much popcorn, and enjoy this movie in a most favored movie-going way.

That and Chris said he was working so I thought it'd be cool to catch up and chat with him more than I did last night.

So... let me just get this out of the way. I feel like this is the third Ridley Scoot movie where i've seen pretty extensive footage in the promotional material that did not fully appear in the finished film. I would say that's cool, except more often than not I've found the promo stuff more interesting than lots of stuff in the films.

-The one that stands out the most was those weird The Counselor short/ads, like where Fassbender goes lingerie shopping and Natalie Dormer's shopgirl helps him out. Natalie Dormer wasn't even in that movie!

-All that Martian stuff where it's supposedly Watney vlogging the journey so far, introducing the crew, etc. I feel like none of that made it in.

-The whole first trailer for this film shows the crew... I'm guessing before they enter hypersleep for the first time, which good bits of interpersonal stuff that sets up the characters and gives them all much more of a sense of actually being colonists. And the weird prologue that was put online right before the film released... it contained some pretty significant visual effects, not to mention a small cameo, that was partially cut for the film.

-and this is like a half point, but the amount of deleted scenes from Prometheus that should have been in the film were impressive. I feel like I could've stood a shot at liking that movie if all those scenes had made it in.

So I don't know, I just wanted to mention this trend. I don't know if it means Scott has the budget and freedom to shoot any and everything and kind of find the movie in editing or if it's some brilliant multi-platform plan that he has going into production or what... but while I find that I should be thinking it's cool that all his trailers aren't just giving away the best moments from the film, I'm almost finding it like a bait and switch (and news alert, the trailers still ALSO give up some of the film's best scenes so... great)

Anyway, all that aside. I thought this was pretty good. It was definitely that missing link between Prometheus and Alien that I wanted/needed. It kind of makes me like Prometheus more in retrospect knowing that it wasn't all just a pointless exercise. There's some nice connective tissue in there that I enjoyed... to the point where I'm not sure what story there is to tell if they were going to do another movie set in between the two films. I think at this point my ideal next Aliens movie would be a sequel to everything where certain planets are just forsaken as xenomorph infestations. Or maybe finally a good aliens vs. predator with no humans and just subtitled dialogue between the predators. sigh...

I liked the cast for the most part. I did feel like the story didn't develop much, but that's ok. With the amount of design on display and a handful of nice set pieces, you don't really need the plot to be that complex. Thinking back to Alien, it certainly wasn't a mind-bender. Wasn't most of the movie Ripley trying to get to one end of the ship then get back to the other end?

So yeah... liked this one pretty good. Really enjoyed playing hooky and seeing it in a theater. Twas a great afternoon.
05.25.17 Baby DriverEdgar WrightOk... it's been a long time since I've been to a really special Alamo Drafthouse event and it's been a long time since I've written a really long note on here so let's get into it and do both right now.

This night started with an email from Kayla forwarding an invite from Tim League to an Alamo 20th anniversary party. In the note, he said he was trying to track down as many old staff members and "OG409ers" as he could. I sent him an email asking to be included and got an invite in return. The seat selection also asked for a t-shirt size.

Oh, Austin traffic really sucks now. Like, people were complaining about it 12 years ago when I moved to town and I was like 'yeah uh huh i can still get downtown in like 20 minutes during rush hour' but I was trying to be downtown today at 6:15 and I think it took 45 minutes? that officially sucks. Sorry, back to good stuff.

So right off the bat, I park in a lot and Zack spots me on the street corner. All of the Alamo crew I always felt like I was friendly with but never quite friends. Especially Zack who feels to me like his life is running on fast forward compared to mine. But still, he's super nice, I think he's great, it was great to see him, made me realize I was about to probably see A LOT of familiar faces. He had this crazy horn in his hands. Not a horn like a trumpet but more like that of an ox or a goat hollowed out. "You aren't supposed to be seeing this," he says to me. I offer to hide it in my shirt or down my pants.

Stepping into the Ritz, Zack immediately disappears and I see Daniel and Chris: two best movie buds who I was sad I didn't get to see at this year's Fantastic Fest. Deeper in the lobby, Tim and Karrie League drink champagne and hold court greeting guests. Already I'm seeing a host of people I kinda sorta know. Old wait staff, old managers, old friends, old stalwarts of the Austin movie-going scene. But also many who I did not recognize. Folks hanging about, talking in clustered circles.

After a few minutes, the three of us decide to head into the auditorium to check out the seating situation. After a whiff of familiar scent from the stairway, we were inside where even more people hung out. I spotted David Strong down in front, Daniel and Chris were both sitting in the front row, right next to John Carpenter as it turns out. I spoke with him a bit, asked after that Kevin guy he used to hang out with: major bummer of the night #1. Kevin died suddenly just shy of two months ago.

My mini eulogy for Kevin: a guy I knew just shortly ten years ago but left a lasting memory for his open warmth and general excitement for all things cinematic. I don't remember when I first met him... maybe at the screening of The Descent out at Longhorn Caverns? Maybe before that at some random event. What I mostly remember him for is once Rodriguez and Tarantino started shooting Grindhouse. He was an extra on Planet Terror and regaled me with a few stories from his day or two on set. He played a zombie victim getting eaten in a toilet stall. The fake blood splashed into his eyes and I guess the sugar crystalized and scratched his cornea. He took it in good spirits - he was going to be eaten by a zombie in Grindhouse after all! - and had also somehow made friends with Josh Brolin during a smoke break. I saw him one night at South Lamar and he told me to show up downtown at midnight; that something cool was happening that he might be able to get me into. I'm sure I wrote all about this in a previous entry, but it ended up being the cast and crew screenings that Tarantino ran for a few weeks for those first few weeks of shooting. Sneaking into those are some of my most favorite 409 Colorado memories. So while I haven't been in touch with him for probably 10 years, it was a shock to hear of his passing and I'm sure I'm just a small pebble in the massive stone mountain of loved ones that have been grieving him.

Back to the good stuff. Pretty soon Micah appeared and came down to say hi. Kayla appeared and greeted us. Megan popped up, said Emily was somewhere in the building. I caught sight of Aaron, Kaela, and Eric from across the room but they were too far away to talk to. Along the side were a bunch of old crew... people that I knew their names for some reason even though I had barely if ever talked to. Andrew the old IT guy, manager John, manager Mike, Kristen, chef John, along with a BUNCH of old wait staff that I found their names hazy and original rolling roadshow crew. It was really amazing. Really there were only a couple notable absences: Jarrette and Kier-la.

I settled down in my seat to find that I was sitting next to Burnie. A moment of deja vu hit. The last (and maybe only?) time I met him was during the last Butt-Numb-A-Thon that I attended back when the Ritz was brand new. I sat next to him for that night, very close to where we were sitting now. To my other side, A fellow Brian (Brian Kelly) darted in to drop his stuff before disappearing to help with the introductory festivities. I didn't recognize him because he was so skinny.

In each seat was a sword. At first glance I thought it was some plastic toy wrapped in plastic, probably for some pirate-themed thing. Upon closer inspection however, I found a heavy steel sword sheathed in thick leather brandished with the Alamo logo. Why the fuck do we all have swords!? Oh yeah, we also got shirts with the original Pam Grier BADASS CINEMA design along with a little "20 years..." text underneath.

Also, on the table, are printed booklets for the night with a special menu made up of old throwback dishes of days past, gone but not forgotten, along with an anecdote from Tim about where they came from, why they went away, and why they're back tonight. Spanish Olives with Fino Sherry, potato skins, fresh-baked cocaccia with tapenade and red pepper dip, Enter the Dragon, Poultrygeist, original chocolate cake, La Dolce Vita, Black and Tan, and Veuve Clicquot were all back. Some of those dishes pre-dated me! I was unsure of what to get until Burnie ordered potato skins and the smell drove me to do the same. I know they're frozen but they're still pretty damn good theater food.

Finally the lights go down. A spotlight rises and David Strong is on stage in only a black speedo and a viking helmet labelled with a "Chaos Reigns" sticker holding the goat's horn. He mimes along to an audio track and blows the horn. Dance lights come up, smoke has filled the room, confetti cannons spray over the entire theater, people with rolls of toilet paper attached to air blowers drape entire rows with TP, a pyrotechnic bar blazes with fire stage center. It was crazy. In the span of what felt like 15 seconds, they had thrown every party favor at us and added forty minutes of cleanup time to the staff.

After everyone picked the confetti out of their drinks, Tim and Karrie took the stage wearing giant animal masks. Tim, in his trademark baby blue suit, had to manually move the jaw of his mask to match him speaking. Karrie said that she spent most of her time trying to avoid being up on stage but they both wanted to celebrate this occasion with a big thank you to everyone in the house for helping get to where they are today. Tim then admits that the bit might not be working and takes his mask off, revealing that he was dressed as Karrie! They both kind of laughed it off for a bit, Karrie mentioning that they had rehearsed for like three hours and Tim ruined the bit too early. It was funny and totally felt 10000% Tim League charm. Then the pyro bar sent another sheet of flame up and for a second we were all scared for his safety.

Then Tim invited the very first Alamo employee up on stage (he was wearing the original uniform which I had never seen before including a tie with the old Alamo marquee on it(!)) to participate in an ongoing Tradition that Tim had of christening any new venture by opening a bottle of champagne with a sword. I remember someone on the wait staff saying he did this in a not-quite-ready-to-open Ritz during Fantastic Fest one year and apparently glass went everywhere and cut people. This time I think it went a little more smoothly. Hector cut the bottle on his second try and it was by all accounts a clean opening. Thus begins another twenty years of prosper and success for the coolest theater in the world. After the screening, Tim had us all hold up the swords and swear to never open champagne by mortal means again.

Pretty soon Edgar Wright came up and, after a few jokes about watching Boss Baby, he introduced Baby Driver. Tim said he built up a nice trailer reel (later admitting that he had to cut it down three times since the original running length was fifty five minutes) from the AGFA archives... hmm.... I think that's not right since the A stands for archive. from the AGF archives? from AGFA? whatever... To the best of my memory (and Micah's) the trailers were Gumball Rally, Eat My Dust, Moving Violations, Grand Theft Auto, Death Race 2000, Watch Out We're Mad, and ending with Stunt Rock (along with the little interstitial bits like "coming attractions", "and now our feature presentation" and the like). The Stunt Rock trailer still gave me a few goosebumps.

Baby Driver the movie. I thought it was great. Write referred to it as a musical but it's perhaps better described as a mixtape movie because something like 98% of the film is set to diagetic music that the world quantizes to whatever song is in the main character's headphones. The example that comes to mind most recently was the Suicide Squad trailer with Bohemian Rhapsody. Except this was the WHOLE movie. Usually I feel like people get that idea, do it for one song and figure out how much of a huge pain in the ass it is, then let it slide as the movie goes on.

With this film, every scene had that musicality which is about as far up my alley as the alley goes. Couple that with a soundtrack that I could conceivably come up with myself because it so closely matched my tastes and you almost don't need a story or dialogue or anything else. I mean the movie starts with Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (off the album Orange which is in my car RIGHT NOW). Bongolia from Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Band, Hocus Pocus by Focus, Bear Witness 2 from Handsome Boy Modeling School, Easy by the Commodores (although in that case I'm more familiar with the cover done by Faith No More), and an Ennio Morricone track with some Italian title that I don't know, which I was just listening to three days ago! All of these feature pretty heavily (along with about 80 other songs along the same vein) and they are all sitting on my hard drive right now.

So I loved the music. The cast was great. The editing and photography great, really the only thing I didn't absolutely love was what they're unfortunately calling the most attention to in the marketing which is this gimmicky thing where the reason why the main character listens to music all the time is because he has tinnitus and the music helps drown out the constant buzzing in his ears. This convention is not needed in my opinion (just have him like music? There are enough other reasons why he has an emotional attachment to music that you don't need some superhero kryptonite device) and brings an already stylized movie toward the realm of fantasy and works against the gravity of danger and violence that the film also deals with.

But that's it. I loved it. Granted, there's about 5000 words of setup here which should firmly establish my bias. This was about the best possible situation to see ANY movie. I bet anything halfway decent would've gone over very well for me.

After the movie, Edgar Wright gave a great Q&A. He talked about the logistics of shooting and planning such complicated scenes set to music (short answer: very carefully), getting Kid Koala to help out with some new music used in the film, the origins of the idea itself (when he first heard Bellbottoms, he got this vision of an action scene to accompany it and through the years he'd find similar songs that conjured similar scenes in my mind, so he started with a collection of these and framed a movie around it, careful to find the song he wanted for each scene before writing it). The most interesting answer for me was when he talked about consulting with real ex-cons for research. He had one great anecdote of talking to two guys who didn't know each other before and asking them if they play any video games like Grand Theft Auto. One guy said no but then the other guy says "oh you really should. It's the closest thing to the buzz," at which point Wright wondered if he wasn't triggering some regression in these guys. At the end of the meeting, Wright said that they bid him adieu then added "we have some stuff to talk about so we're gonna go hang out." Oops!

The next step in the evening's agenda was to adjourn across the street to Parkside where the "after party" would continue on into the night. I went back to drop off my shirt and sword at my car. On my way back, I overheard one hobo yell over to another "Hey what's up with all these goddamn blades, man?" The other hobo looked back questioningly and the first continued "Haven't you seen all these assholes with the civil war confederate swords!? They're walking all around, they all got em! What the fuck is going on!?"

I met up with Micah and accompanied him to his room at the Driskill to do the same. It was my first glimpse anywhere other than the lobby of the Driskill and I have to say the room was pretty small and the hallways smelled kind of old. I guess the fanciness of that place is all about the lobby. On the walk we got into the new Twin Peaks and how great it was to have new David Lynch material.

Back at Parkside, we took in the lay of the land. A weird jungle/woods photo booth set up with "CHAOS REIGNS" painted in red on the backdrop. Upstairs, a fancy set piece of a fox eating itself that I didn't realize was a cake, and what I thought was a DJ booth playing loud music. For a while we tried hanging out there, yelling to each other over the music. With Twin Peaks on my brain I couldn't help but think of Fire Walk with Me and the scene at the bar in the pink room. Our conversation was considerably less unnerving. We ran into Lars and Sonja, talked with them for a regrettably short time before they meandered away and we went outside in an effort to cool off and hear each other.

Micah and I wound up around the corner on the balcony behind the dance floor where we caught up for a while. Kayla found us, Marcus found us, Joe found us among others. Pretty soon this dude named Silvero started performing. We looked through the window and saw Nacho let loose. Silvero's music was kind of like punk meets dance music but more in spirit than guitars. It sounded a lot like typical euro-dance stuff to me but he was very energetic, slowly shedding his silver suit until he was just a sweaty latin body in a red speedo. He also had all his gear wrapped in plastic so people could throw drinks at him. I admired the frenzy but I was also kind of glad to hang outside.

I meant to stay until midnight or so. Around 1:30 I started saying it was time for me to go. I finally got to my car at 2. There was a general buzz in the air for me of having this one night where everyone was back together like the old days. I remembered the one random night where the staff when to Beerland for karaoke after a music monday or whatever and Kier-la sang some country tune, or closing the theater down and moving to the old Ginger Man to talk movies for another few hours before heading home. Or just the countless times that we'd loiter in the lobby, form a conversation circle, and revel in what we'd just seen. Wednesday nights filtering out into empty streets, walking up to Ninth for my car, giving rides home.... how I lived to give Lars or Kier-la a ride home and get a little casual one-on-one time with them. The last night! With John Carpenter carrying out sections of the seating while the truck came by to take the marquee off the wall. Going backstage and Sonja stepping in a glue trap. Standing on the sidewalk across the street and palpably feeling the end of an era for myself at least. David Strong's gigantic digital camera from like 1998.

This is when the sadness started to creep in, because for as much fun as I was having, I also knew it was just one fleeting night. Some friendships, once raging fires, had gone out. I barely talked to Aaron and Eric at all... just a hi. There was a time I was pretty close to both of them. Kaela, Jarrette, Aaron, Eric... late night meals at Jim's. Now just a hi. I guess when you stop hanging out for ten years that stuff happens.

Other fires still had embers, just waiting for a little more oxygen to reignite. Micah, Kayla, Chris, Daniel... Sonja... I really feel bad for not talking to Sonja more. Old pre-terror-thursday coffees at Halcyon! Our David Lynch weekend where I passed out from low blood sugar while listening to him shill Transcendental Meditation at a Barnes & Noble. Sitting through the unique experience of Inland Empire, watching him interviewed in the old ACL Live studio. The third Fantastic Fest making an impromptu last minute change between the Moebius doc to see Mirageman instead... her idea of someone using a potato peeler to defend themselves with.

For part of me - the part that pays bills and gets the oil changed in his car and worries about 401ks - much has changed in the last ten years. But for another part of me, i'm kind of still back in 2007. In stasis, wondering if i'll ever re-activate or if things will ever be that way again. It's sad to realize that they won't, but it's also heartwarming to fall back into these memories every once in a while and roll around in them for a moment. I'm thankful for these notes and being able to go back and read my typo-riddled tired ramblings after those old screenings... stuff like Turkeython where almost no one showed up and Tim was the projectionist for Ultra-Man. The blaxploitation series where I really got to know David Strong and Thomas just because we were all super early and were the only ones in the theater for a while. Meeting Micah at QTfest 6 because he was sitting next to Blake and I was reading both of their accounts day by day as I wrote my own. I saw Thomas tonight from across the room but didn't say hi. That happened a lot.

I don't really know a great way to wrap this up. In reality I drove home, took out my contacts, and went to sleep. But the sentimental nature of this note seems to demand something a bit more romantic and grandiose. In my email to Tim asking to come to this, I went back and looked up my notes on my very first Alamo experience. It was Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3-D. It was a pretty rowdy crowd that night... I have several notes about how funny some of the stuff people were yelling out and about how I threw out an aflac joke when a duck appeared on screen (classic). I'm sure today-me (or even ten-years-ago-me) would cringe at how much talking there was. But Among that stuff there was also some terribly sappy proclamations about how amazing it was and how it felt like a new home and all that. I copied some of it out and included it to Tim because, while I have not by any means been the longest fan or the most hardcore fan or most omnipresent fan, for about two years there was in it 100%. Every day, every moment I was soaking up. One of the reasons why I wanted to move to Austin was for the Alamo. It has fulfilled all of the wishes I had growing up in smaller towns with only mall theaters and multiplexes where smaller movies never even opened. All the hopes I had in college of finding and falling in with movie fans who were as avid as I was. All of the dreams of a place where people congregate to enjoy and respect and discuss the medium and all that it gives us. I found all that and more with the Alamo, and it has forever changed my life. For that, I thank Tim, Karrie, Lars, Kier-la, Zack, Henri, and everybody in the room tonight.
05.20.17 Doctor StrangeScott DerricksonI liked this one pretty good. I liked that it was unabashedly magic that they were dealing with. not some science mumbo jumbo but all the way magic. It felt a little wilder, closer to the Thor movies than anything else, in the realism department but I thought they pulled it off better than the two Thors so far. There was kind of a weird tonal problem with the humor... it never hit just right with me. Actually, now that I think about it, Robert Downey Jr/Tony Stark. has been the only one to really get humor that works in the context of the action I think. The first Thor was much too goofy, the Captain America films much too serious. I guess there's hope with Spider-Man but I'd say fully integrating the levity has been a week point with Marvel films so far. Same goes for this... but other than that... I enjoyed the visual effect work, thought the cast was good, performances decent (even though some actors were given next to nothing to do (but I guess Rachel McAdams and Michael Stuhlbarg had to join the marvel club somehow along with every other living actor)... but whatever.. nitpicks. I liked it.
05.13.17 Green RoomJeremy SaulnierMan, so tense. I remember the gore in this being so surprising and realistic that the whole crowd at Fantastic Fest roared. Seeing it now here at home... some of those scenes play in silence! It makes for quite a different experience in that regard. The movie holds up though... (although I think I still like Blue Ruin more. I don't think i'm going to watch that tonight though so my Macon Blair triple feature ends here). A solid performance from Anton Yelchin too... although Imogen Poots' haircut... yeesh.
05.13.17 I Don't Feel at Home in This World AnymoreMacon BlairI liked this one more, although I think it's because I had the whole previous movie to attune to the tone. Turns out, Macon Blair's brain is just that way... about 85% dark, 15% funny. To my mind, neither are as good as Blue Ruin or Green Room, but that's ok. I also got a few hints of Bobcat Goldthwait in here too, specifically God Bless America. And I definitely liked Blair's cameo.
05.13.17 Small CrimesEvan KatzI misread the tone of this one. I thought it was a dark crime comedy a la Headhunters or A Somewhat Gentle Man. Even Cheap Thrills was more or less equal parts dark and humorous for me... but this veered much more toward dark. I was more or less into it until the end where it lost me. Nikolaj's character or performance never had enough heart to make me side with him. I think I'll give Macon Blair's other Netflix movie a shot though... just to see if this is how his brain works.
05.12.17 Jack Reacher: Never Go BackEdward ZwickHmm... I guess I liked this more than the first one. It still feels like they make better books than movies. And i have to give it to Tom Cruise for willing to go topless at age 80 or whatever... but I kept expecting him to hang out of the plane or rappel from some skyscraper, and this movie is more about riding coach and taking the elevator. I thought it might be interesting to see Zwick take on something more action-y but there really wasn't much here... lots of Cobie Smulders acting tough though... LOTS OF THAT.
05.11.17 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemDavid YatesI liked the scenery and the world but didn't care for any of the main characters. Colin Farrel's good but I never believe him for a second that he's not evil. The beasts were cool but not enough to carry a whole movie. So... it was ok I guess? I dunno...
04.08.17 Star Wars: Return of the JediRichard MarquandThus concludes our rewatch of the first two Star Wars trilogies. Like a broken record, I really appreciated these Despecialized editions and seeing the (closest available to) original theatrical cuts of the original trilogy. I still remember how bummed I was in the late 90s when they cut the ewok jub jub celebration song at the ending, not to mention messing up the Sarlacc and all the other nonsense that they put into those special editions.

I liked this one a lot too. I feel like ILM really had a handle on the space battles by now and the Tatooine stuff in this movie still stands as some of my favorite of all the films. I never loved the emporer but i have to say I like him less now that the prequels exist. Why they went with some obscene butthead make-up over this original white aging is beyond me. At least he looks interesting here... or at least not painful to look at.

But enough with the dead horse beating. It was good to see this again. I'll probably give Rogue One and Force Awakens another view before December but for the purposes of this journey... We finished the game today and our re-watch is complete.
04.01.17 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes BackIrvin KershnerAnother despecialized edition. This one not quite as impactful since I last saw this movie from a friend's original 35mm print at the Alamo. It wasn't quite as cool an experience sitting at home eating Torchy's in my underwear but I'm not complaining by any means. It's very cool to have a digital copy that's watchable and original. You can really tell the budget difference between the first and second film. I also noticed a lot of the Ralph McQuarrie matte work this time around. It's so fantastic... maybe not in a hyper-real way but in a 1980 fantasy way.

One of my big problems with this movie in previous viewings was the Yoda stuff. I never really loved the Dagobah setting and found Yoda's performance to be too comedic. This time around, I really liked the performance - his voice, the puppetry, all the physical emotions and gestures they got out of the wall-eyed puppet - but the dischord between his performance here and in the prequels bothered me a bit. Again, this is not a problem with this movie... if anything, they should've exposed more of Yoda's playful spirit in the prequels since they were trying to hard to retcon every little detail. So yeah, I liked Yoda this time... but the temporal shift in the intercutting kind of bothered me. I guess this is the first time that I noticed that either Han's escape from the Imperial Star Destroyers took like 2 months or Luke's training with Yoda took about a half an hour. I mean, I guess you could say that they spent a day or two in the asteroid creature (but not really, those Mynocks probably zeroed in pretty quickly after they landed, especially if the Start Destroyers were still hanging out when they took off), or that it would've taken the Falcon a while to get to Bespin without their hyperdrive (they did say it was pretty far), but you'd also think that it takes Luke some time to clean off his X-Wing and whatnot. Eh, I bet there's some plausible middle ground somewhere in there, like 2 weeks or something.

But I guess if I'm geeking out this hard about a tiny detail, it means I enjoyed the film. This is true, I really liked this. I think one of the good things about the prequels is making you realize how good the original trilogy was. Speaking of, I can't wait to see the last one!
03.17.17 Star WarsGeorge LucasThis was the "despecialized edition" found on the Internet. I figure that I own VHS, DVD, and Bluray copies of this film... no one will mind that I also now have a fan-made version that stitches the original cut back together through various source materials to let me see what was originally released in 1977... but in HD resolution. The results are frankly glorious. With the current state of Star Wars as a brand and Disney owning the rights and what's going on with CG these days... you forget that everything started with this one film full of optical effects and crazy costumes and wonderfully-designed sets and matte paintings. The editing is a little rough, some of the effects stutter and whatnot but by and large the film does more than hold up for its age: it validates the super hard work and innovation that went on 40 years ago to make this movie. And reading the end credits... practically every name on that reel went on to storied and accomplished careers.

And, seen in the context of this marathon re-watch, the ways in which the film is different from the "previous" three are all good. The script doesn't treat me like an idiot, the effects are grungy and feel worn in like they exist, the characters are vibrant and iconic, and the pacing is pretty tight. Yes, i couldn't help but wonder why Obi Wan didn't recognize R2D2 or why Darth Vader didn't feel any connection to Leia but you know, these problems are not THIS movie's fault. THIS movie is great.

And incidentally, I believe this will be the version that I watch for here on out. These nerds did a fantastic job of restoring and matching different materials to keep it presentable by today's technical standards. I can't wait to watch the next two.
03.04.17 MoonlightBarry JenkinsYep. About what I expected... Not to discredit the power of this movie or anything, but... not exactly a good time. And I prefer Mahershala Ali in stuff that he's actually in. I wonder how hard it is for him to literally spend more time accepting awards for this performance than actually shooting it. That sounds mean. I liked this ok, will never see it again, never realized that Janelle Monae had such a figure, and wish The Knick was still on.
03.03.17 Star Wars: Revenge of the SithGeorge LucasThis one sits in my memory the least. I feel like I've only seen this once, maybe twice? To be honest, I'm far more familiar with the Lego Star Wars video game levels that represent this movie than I am with the film itself.

So this one... it really feels like the most interesting and important part of all three of these sequels happens in between episodes 2 and 3. By the time this starts, Anakin is, like, already evil. He's already wearing black, already tough and ruthless, already there... Or at least that's how he comes off. It takes like absolutely nothing for him to lop off Christoper Lee's head. The whole thing... the mixture of bad acting, bad writing, and bad direction muddle everything and I can't even tell if there's some version of this that I would like or if it's complete crap. I just don't know. What I do know is that Anakin goes from selling out his mentor to killing every jedi (including kids) in like 10 seconds. wtf. And as much as I like Ewan Macgregor as Obi Wan... having the high ground and nearly all his other dialogue really irks me here. And I also don't like how the creators liked Yoda and Sam Jackson (not Mace Windu, Sam Jackson) too much so they somehow gave them kinda-winning-but-also-losing battles to keep their dignity intact but EVERY other jedi goes down in like 5 seconds under the same blaster fire that they effortlessly deflect in the first two films. It's just all so irksome... like this whole movie is just connecting dots that have to get connected. I bet this was the easiest script for Lucas to write. There's barely enough time to get it all in there... Where was this urgency in the first 2 movies?

So... as it stands for this viewing, I'm really torn which film i like the least. I think Episode 2's "romance" scenes are the worst, followed closely by the "heartbreak" scenes in episode 3. Compared to this one, Episode 1 is like this stupid little nothing that's just floating around not paying attention. Really this is the one that's the most disappointing because, while everything that needs to happen happens, it happens with rushed disinterest and occasional neglect.

And what is General Grevious' deal again? I remember learning somewhere that he's like a semi-cyborg type deal but in this movie he's about as mysterious as Syfo Dias.

Sigh. Anyway, I've made it through. Now I'm psyched for the next 3.
02.26.17 Star Wars: Attack of the ClonesGeorge LucasI feel like it's been a really long time since I've seen this...

The romantic scenes with Padme and Anakin are maybe the lowest lows of the whole series.

There was more Clone battle footage than I remembered. Those five minutes lay out what became multiple games and shows. It's an astounding amount of design, most of which is very cool.

Most of the movie seems to swap between Obi Wan doing somewhat interesting things and Anakin doing terribly painful to watch things.

The Jedi arena battle would've been ten times cooler if every shot wasn't intercut with C-3P0 making some corny joke.

Still cool to see Yoda fight.

I really could swear that they went in and did some effects polish on these Blus. I could've sworn that Christopher Lee's composited head during the fight scene was WAY more noticeable.

So much hate for Hayden Christensen. I don't really blame Jake Lloyd... i mean he was a kid. It's Lucas' fault for not pulling a better performance out of him. But Hayden is old enough to know better. He's still constrained by some really terrible dialogue though.

As much as I like Natalie Portman, she has more costume changes than most movies have with all of their characters. It's like every shot is a different ornate Naboo-ian garb.

I still hate that all of a sudden Boba Fett shares DNA with EVERY clone trooper. Take some cool tertiary character that fans love and ruin it by making him the center of the universe. I hate that.

A lot of the sets look like straight up paintings. I think maybe Lucas just went too digital too fast. I really felt it.

Who the fuck was Jedi Master Sifo Dyas?
02.25.17 Star Wars: The Phantom MenaceGeorge LucasMolly and I are playing through the early Lego Star Wars games and it has us in a mood to watch the series again. It's been long enough and I've been looking for an excuse to watch these Despecialized Editions that I got. The only downside is that we figured it'd be better to go through the prequels first (lest we may give up halfway through otherwise). So what'd I think of episode 1 with ~17 years of added perspective?

Whoa. Has it been longer now since Episode 1 came out than the time between Return of the Jedi and Phantom Menace? I don't really want to think about that...

So, I actually liked this a bit more than expected. Maybe it's just knowing what to expect, maybe it's having the distance to see the good and separate it from the bad... who knows. Here's a list of things that I liked:

-John Williams killed it with that Duel of the Fates. To take a score as already beloved as Star Wars and add something that feels like it fits while simultaneously bringing in something fresh and new must've been quite a task, and I think he really nailed it. The Darth Maul fight scene has about 30 seconds of actual cool fight footage, but the music makes it feel like an actual good scene with tension and everything.

-All the Naboo and early-republic design; both costume and art or whatever you call the ships and weapons and stuff. Maybe it's the mastering on this Blu-Ray but the CG feels less fuzzy than I remember it being and straight up... the amount of interesting design on display here is super impressive. I think if I have to pick the absolute best trait of all of the Star Wars universe, it'd be the ship design. I mean it's no wonder that it spawned a whole generation of boys raised on playing with the toys of these great things like X-Wing fighters and Millenium Falcons and Star Destroyers. While nothing in this movie is quite so nameable and toy-worthy as in the original trilogy, it still displays a new yet fitting part of this galaxy full of different culture and design.

-And in more of a general note, I feel like George Lucas deserves massive credit for coming up with all this stuff. I'm sure on this one he had an army of geeks raised on Star Wars grateful for the chance to add their hard work to the world but it still all starts with Lucas' imagination and a lot of this stuff is pretty cool.

So that's the good. I'm not really going to list out everything that I didn't like this time around. That's a long list. The performances suffer, the dialogue's poor, the editing is uneven and stilted, we watch pod racing for like 20 minutes even though it baaarely has anything to do with anything, Jar Jar feels like he's trying to appeal to 6 year olds but then we get treated to a lot of boring scenes talking about trade blockades and senate bureaucracy, etc. etc. etc. Instead I'll just mention a few things that stood out for me this time:

-Those accents. The Trade Federation dudes and the Gungans. Why are they not speaking some completely different gibberish of a language. It's not like anyone ever complained that Chewbacca's grunts aren't linguistically sound. I think the Gungan language bothers me the most because you could say that the Trade Federation dudes have their own language but they prefer to speak in English (or "common") with their accent (which pretty much everyone else does through all 6 movies) but this weird half-jamaican patois Gungan weirdness is really stupid and bothersome and sounds irritating and is like half the reason why Jar Jar is so grating.

-the randomness still really really bothers me. Anakin hits a button and wins the battle. Ugh. I feel like I read somewhere - it either came from Pixar or... I think it was Pixar - where you could get someone into trouble through luck but not out of it. It makes total sense to me. 85% of Hitchcock's movies involved some innocent guy getting into trouble through no fault of his own... but 0% of Hitchcock's movies have him get out of it just as unwittingly. It feels cheap when that happens. Case in point right here.

So that's that. We'll see how the next five goes.
02.18.17 AlliedRobert ZemeckisPretty mediocre. This could have been a real Hitchcock throwback thriller but instead it's just a stale drama... mostly due to the script I think, but Also Brad Pitt's lack of emotion. pretty blaaaaaah
02.11.17 Live by NightBen AffleckThis one was a total snoozefest. It reminded me a bit of all the slow episodes of Boardwalk Empire. And Ben Affleck's suits were like a size too big. He looked like Pacino in Dick Tracy. Kind of a shame but I guess they can't all be winners.
02.05.17 Nocturnal AnimalsTom FordThis movie was very pretty and reminded me of Lost Highway in some ways. I liked Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon's performance quite a bit, love that they used Isla Fisher as an Amy Adams stand-in, and really liked the idea of following a story (in this case a book) and simultaneously seeing how the reader is interpreting it and affected by it. Amy Adams was also good but harder to like because her character's not so sympathetic. Lots of people are in here for one scene... Something felt a bit off about Amy Adams's "current" life stuff... but that might be where all this pretty style comes in and the beauty makes things cold and disconnected. I was with it for the most part but the endings - both of the "book" and of the movie itself - left me a tiny bit wanting. I wanted more closure in both, and to get them right after each other kind of compounded the feeling. Mostly though, I thought it was good.
02.04.17The FounderJohn Lee HancockThe story of how Ray Kroc got the rights to McDonald's from the original owners. This was decent. Maybe the most interesting thing about it, other than the details of the story, was liking Kroc less and less. Michael Keaton's charisma makes you like him in the beginning, but by the end I was pretty repulsed by him, so that's a well-done job. Also, I wish Nick Offerman and John Carol Lynch make four more films together... they are great as brothers. All in all, pretty decent.
02.03.17 InfernoRon HowardSo I think I sat through this because Tom Hanks and I want to believe that Ron Howard still has more good movies in him. I really didn't care for the book, and all these Dan Brown movies have been boring and lame. Why I'm still watching this... is a mystery. And just to add insult to injury... the ONE thing about the book that I liked - the ending - is like the one thing they changed for the movie. wtf. I don't understand why this movie exists.
02.02.17 Jason BournePaul GreengrassThis movie lost me about 45 seconds in when someone said "use SQL to corrupt their database" immediately followed by a CIA supermodel/genius hacker Alicia Vikander typing "run predictive algorithm" into her computer with its nondescript futuristic UI. After that, I made a conscious decision to not treat this as realistic at all and just hope that it's better than the Jeremy Renner movie. It was hard though. I mean, the CIA lady literally says "enhance" while some faceless techie makes a jumble of pixels into Julia Stiles.

Compared to Jeremy Renner getting dumber by the second as his super soldier pills wear off, I suppose this was better. But is boring really any better than ridiculous? I'm noticing that the film is co-written by the director and the editor. I wonder if that means there was no script and the film was put together in post or if the two guys actually sat down together and wrote. I'm sure there's a joke or two somewhere in there, like the script has 3000 shot descriptions in typical Greengrass "kinetic" style.

Anyway... pretty blah
01.29.17 ArrivalDenis VilleneuveI liked this one quite a bit. Loved the sound design on the aliens, loved all the process and realistic reaction to this scenario... Some of the flashback stuff got a liiiiitle much but I understand why it's in there. So yeah, Villeneuve can really make a movie. This was great.
01.28.17 Hidden FiguresTheodore MelfiThis fits firmly in Oscar territory, checking off a good half dozen things that the academy seems to love... but, unlike many of these types movies, I actually liked this one. Aside from a kind of ridiculous climax ("are the landing coordinates correct!? I mean he lived through re-entry but WHERE'S HE GONNA LAND!?") the story was interesting and all the historical accoutrements were fun. 2 for 2 for old Theo Melfi...
01.26.17 Manchester by the SeaKenneth LonerganWhew. It's not like I was expecting some big laugh fest with a Kenneth Lonergan movie (although I do contend that Rocky & Bullwinkle is not as bad as everyone says it is), but man this one was a bummer. I mean it's a really good movie full of good performances, but not exactly a feel-good romp. I did like this, in the same way that I liked You Can Count on me, but won't be in any rush to see it agian.
01.21.17 La La LandDamien ChazelleI didn't love this, but a few things kept me from hating it. Mostly the ending. great ending. And I'm not a super musical guy, especially of this modern type, so this is not some huge upset or anything. I'm actually kind of surprised that I liked it as much as I did... which still wasn't much. Definitely the presentation of LA was pretty interesting... and Gosling's character was pretty funny... some impressive long takes and cinematic execution... but, you know, it's still a musical. Maybe the reason why I don't like musicals is because i'm expected to listen and make sense of the lyrics, which is typically something i don't do when listening to normal songs or whatnot. Just a thought.
01.21.17 Hacksaw RidgeMel GibsonI really love this time of year for movies... God bless old Academy members who can't be bothered to go to the theater to see the movies they have to vote on.

ANYWAY, I thought this was really good. Really the only problem I had with it was, once the heavy-handed religious stuff started in I couldn't help but remember this was Mel Gibson directing and all his public shenanigans. I guess that's really on me more than him but it still took me out of the movie.

But other than that, I thought it was great. Like, better than HBO's The Pacific, gaining ground on Band of Brothers type great. All the australians did great general-south accents (Hugo Weaving was legit amazing, the rest I'm kind of kidding about), all the soldiers were great, the war stuff was great, the love interest was smokin hot, and the real footage at the end was exactly what I wanted. whew.
01.14.17 What We Do in the ShadowsJemaine Clement, Taika WaititiPicked this up for myself in a recent wave of purchases; showed it to Molly tonight. I still thought it was great. It almost has me in a mood to revisit Eagle vs. Shark, but probably not. I am definitely intrigued by the next Thor though. This is up there with the other great mockumentaries.
01.08.17The AccountantGavin O'ConnorI liked this one pretty good. The end gets pretty action-y but it feels deserved and not too barfy. I did like the first half more, but that's alright. I think that's because i'm still not 100% on Jon Bernthal. At this point I feel like I should like him, but I still don't. I can't really put my finger on it either... But other than that, I liked this. I was happily surprised to see John Lithgow and Anna Kendrick in this. I feel like they give the film a level of respect that might elevate it from a Jason Statham movie or whatever.
01.07.17 Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of BeliefAlex GibneyMolly and I have been watching Leah Remini's series which intersects with this pretty heavily. In some ways, Remini's show takes a deeper dive in specific areas of the cult but in others I feel like this film presents the information and tells the story of Scientology in a more effective and succinct way. I guess the next step is to actually read the book, but I'm never sure when this fascination with cults becomes obsessive. Perhaps it's this subject matter specifically that I'm wary about spending too much time with, since being obsessed with video games or Lego doesn't have any sort of potentially harmful connotations, but either way I'm wary of getting to know TOO MUCH about Jonestown or Manson or whatever. Scientology is extra fascinating/scary though because it's still active. One of these days, Miscaviage is going to get indicted or die and the whole thing will deflate in this crazy real estate auction and it will start to take on nostalgic mythical tones like the pre-RICO mob bosses and silver nitrate film prints. Looking into it now is kind of like seeing The Talking Heads at CBGB's in a weird sort of indirect way. Maybe I'll pick up the book on amazon... hmmm...
01.06.17The ShallowsJaume Collet-SerraBlake Lively('s bikini) vs. an insanely begrudging shark. This sounds pretty petty considering what this movie is, but dang that was one mean shark. I don't know why the seagull gets to be nice and the shark has to be an asshole... With a whole dead whale all to himself shouldn't he be gorged for weeks? Wouldn't he lose interest? I guess the movie is positing the idea that he's defending his whale... which I guess I buy for the purposes of terrorizing Blake Lively, if not in real life.

On the other hand, I thought this was pretty decently handled. It's not quite as stark as All is Lost (and it's certainly no Jaws) but it's not terrible either. It could've been a lot worse.
01.04.17The Magnificent SevenAntoine FuquaI was mostly with this movie until the last act. The pacing and shooting of the last fight scene, along with several choices (most notably the damn gatling gun's insane effectiveness) really deflated the balloon. How Denzel can emerge both without a scratch and with full ammo belts didn't help. Overall, extremely meh.

Great art department coordination though.
12.30.16 Don't BreatheFede Alvarezsome punk kids break into the wrong blind guy's house and have a bad time. Stephen Lang (the bad guy from Avatar) was pretty good as the blind guy. I feel like this was pretty decent. A few times the evil Rottweiler did some next-level stuff and the blind guy has a bit of Michael Meyers in him that gives him the ability to travel so fast and withstand some punishment but it's not too unbelievable to ruin the fun of the movie. There was a bit of an sympathy problem... same goes for Panic Room and for People Under the Stairs where it's kind of up to the actors whether you root for them or not. I guess the idea with this (and moreso with People Under the Stairs) is that the homeowner is even more evil than the robbers so... I guess you root for the robbers? to steal from the blind guy? Eh, I guess who cares. This movie is a tension factory and we don't really care about any of the players anyway...
12.30.16 Suicide SquadDavid AyerI guess this was the extended cut... it's was 135 minutes. I don't know if they added 40 minutes of the gang walking down deserted streets or what but it felt like 80% of the movie to me. For real, so much walking. So... I didn't really like this. The overall tone was not pleasurable for me. It's kind of like each character got different notes on what kind of comic book movie this was gonna be, so sometimes it's super camp talking to uber gritty. Like the flashback where Diablo's wife was somehow surprised that he was up to no good WHEN HIS ENTIRE FACE IS TATTOOED TO LOOK LIKE A SKULL... didn't really work for me. And I really didn't love Leto's take on the joker. I really didn't like his "laughing" affectation. The whole design felt skeevy and meth-y to me. All these on-the-nose tattoos and set decorations too. And I liked a lot of Ayer's previous work... it just seems like he didn't survive the big budget machine. It was all over the place and fell apart.
12.28.16 SullyClint EastwoodI wanted to see this mainly for Tom Hanks. I really respect how Clint Eastwood has been steadily working behind the camera with a no-nonsense professionalism for the past 20 years or so, but many of his movies I feel like I don't actually need to see. It's not just him... really any of these AAA Oscar contenders.

Before even the trailer is out, I hear Sully and picture the dramatic events trickled out throughout probably an overlong film, finally laid bare at the end with a climactic moment of success. Then the trailer hits and it looks like the movie's about the NTSB trying to find fault with his actions, so that fills out the other 80% in my head and before you know if I've seen the movie already.

In some cases, like when there's no Tom Hanks to get me in the seat, I don't actually bother watching them. Here, though, I'm glad I did. While it's true that there were zero surprises, Eastwood told the story much better than I did in my own head, and with all the attention to detail that gives me the sense that this was as authentic a recreation as possible. And Tom Hanks, man. So I liked this. It's deserving of its accolades.
12.27.16 Hell or High WaterDavid MackenzieGreat Texas crime movie. This is the first film that I've enjoyed Ben Foster and Chris Pine in... I feel like that's saying something because normally they both really bug me. Jeff Bridges kills it as usual, but really everyone does. Lots of nonprofessional actors like the old waitress and presumably the old-timers and locals. I just love a smart and lean crime thriller like this... I wish they could all be as good.
12.26.16 LegendBrian HelgelandTom Hardy plays real world twin brothers that became bigtime gangsters in 60s east end of London. I had high hopes for this being a nice slice of exposure as to what organized crime was like in swinging 60s London but unfortunately the movie felt pretty flat from the get-go and plodded along for way too long. I mean, 130 minutes is about a half hour too long. It more or less ended up as another Goodfella's knock-off. I was also hoping for a powerhouse Tom Hardy tour de force but didn't quite get that either. Aside from bearing an uncanny resemblance to one of the twins, he's pretty garble-mouthed in one role and doesn't have much to do in the other... aside from one pretty brutal stabbing. Kind of a disappointment; it took me forever to come back to the last half hour.
12.26.16 Popstar: Never Stop Never StoppingAkiva Schaffer, Jorma TacconeIt's a shame that this bombed at the box office. I would've thought if this were a new Lonely Island album and they released 8 videos to YouTube on the same day then the internet would've blown up, but somehow this just didn't click. I thought it was mostly hilarious. Certainly the limo window scene and the incognito make-up were instant classic scenes. The songs were funny, really the whole thing is a tried-and-true Lonely Island movie... way more than Hot Rod. I like Hot Rod more, but that doesn't mean this isn't great. Kind of like Method Man, where he can be great, but Wu Tang Clan is also great. Or GZA, how he can be great, but Wu Tang Clan is also great... or RZA... how he can be great, but Wu Tang Clan is also great.
12.17.16 Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryGareth EdwardsIs this maybe the only movie I saw in a theater this year? ugh...

Relatedly: Why does the Bullock only screen this in 3D? It was a pretty ideal theater-going experience except I had to wear dumb glasses that forced me to move my head to pick and choose where to focus.

Also: The extended trailer for Dunkirk was great. I feel like anytime your musical score is made up of different clocks and timers, you could show a kettle on a stove and people would subconsciously start to feel anxious, but the actual footage shown was also great and gave a great sense of the dread and tension that the film will probably deal in. And the dogfighting footage scaled up to 70mm was downright amazing. You could see the ripple of the ocean and the glare of the sun and a tiny plane right in the middle as the horizon tilts and a little sparkly line appears with a BRRRAP of machine gun fire. Nolan is bringing it. I hope the movie follows suit, this footage was excellent.

Now on to Rogue One: I really really liked it. It was pretty much everything I was hoping it would be. Yes, I could sometimes tell when the reshoots kicked in and I did miss a few notable shots from the various trailers, but for the most part I feel like the story never faltered or disappointed me, the ragtag group of soldiers on a mission were suitably ragtag and great, everyone got some good moments... once again Alan Tudyk kind of steals the movie, the battle sequences were stellar - at once fresh because of the scenery and totally calling back to the feeling of episode 4 - and the connective tissue that puts it between episodes 3 and 4 were mostly well done.

I was surprised to see a few characters show up. Molly didn't notice the first CG character until I mentioned it at the end, so I guess that means it was well done. I couldn't help but notice it, but feel they did a good job. It was a little video-game-y at times, but that's also the writing a little bit.

This is maybe the best space battle that we've had in a long time. Super thrilling. and man oh man that last scene was satisfying, like you finally get a taste of why that character has his reputation. I thought it was great.

I feel like half the fun of making these movies would be coming up with new worlds based on where you want to shoot. I feel like we got to see quite a bit of the universe here. I think they did a wonderful job of matching the level of technology. All those old school 70s-era vector displays and cheap holograms fit seamlessly. gush gush gush.

So I guess you could argue that this fits the men-on-a-mission genre pretty closely - to which I wouldn't argue - but watching a genre picture set in the Star Wars universe is EXACTLY what I wanted. It really opens the doors to tell any kind of story in the universe, even some side mission type stuff that doesn't have the weight or pressure of an "official" episode. I did feel like the changes in formula were very deliberate (especially the way the film opens), to which I'm a bit conflicted about, but if dilution of some of the formatting of the series like the score and the opening crawl is what I have to give up in order to see more facets of the universe then so be it. That said, I AM excited for Episode 8. Bring it on!
12.10.16 Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70sMike MalloyFinally saw this because it popped up on Amazon Prime. This could not be more up my alley, and it joins a great collection of docs that feel inspired or at least influenced by the Alamo and its taste-making original staff.

So I loved it, but the production is kinda cheap, they really over-use a few final cut filters, the quality of interviews is a little variable, and it probably goes on too long for normal people who aren't fanatic about movies... but then again I'm not sure a normal person who isn't fanatic about movies would ever see this, so I guess the length is alright. Also, I could've maybe used a little bit more editorial concentration. There are clips of like a thousand movies in here but you see most of them for less than a second. I get that the sheer amount of these films produced is part of the point being made, but some people (ahem) may have been keeping a text file open and running a list to track down and see later, and in that regard this movie runs too damn fast to absorb everything. And why not have Tarantino on here? I was missing a voice from an admirer. The last chapter of the film, dealing with revival, is much too short. I feel like everyone involved was ready for the movie to be over, but in that case just cut the whole thing, you know?

But enough of my nitpicking. I really did love it. I loved learning more about the cultural context of early 70s Italy, seeing the dots connected between American successes like The Godfather and The French Connection with the Italian hits that took inspiration from those films, to the fad-based scene that sprouted up and flooded theaters with the genre.

Italian cinema of the 60s, 70s, and 80s was pretty funny because you could point out those fads pretty easily. I'm sure to go to a theater in Rome during that time it was not so cut and dry but these days, looking back, there certainly was a progression. You also see how the genres lead into one another, which is something this film doesn't get into but a lasting memory I have of Tarantino's introduction to Tony Arzenta AKA No Way Out AKA Big Guns (which is mentioned in passing here). That film is like a police revenge film with giallo murders, and as you watch it you totally see the influences melding. I friggin love that stuff.

...sorry, got distracted with an image search of Rosalba Neri. Where was i? Oh yeah, I loved this.
12.03.16 Whiskey Tango FoxtrotGlenn Ficara, John RequaTina Fey goes to war. Not as funny as I thought it'd be, and I'm not even sure if it was supposed to be funnier or maybe just had a bad trailer. Either way, I wound up with funny people not being terribly funny in a war movie that didn't add much to the genre. Oh well.
11.20.16 Hunt for the WilderpeopleTaika WaititiA charming funny melancholy tale of a guy and a boy running away from like into the New Zealand bush. I liked this quite a bit. Always a fan of Sam Neill, the kid is pretty great, and it's lovely to see the NZ wilderness as through a sort of magical realism storybook, almost a not-quite-as-ocd-Wes Anderson vibe. Maybe a sister film to Moonrise Kingdom? Anyways, I thought it was pretty great.
11.13.16 Into the InfernoWerner HerzogYou know... some things just never get old. Staring at lava and magma is one of these things. In between the mesmerizing footage of roiling turbulent heat, Herzog and his Volcanist buddy go around the world to explore the science and the magic of some of the largest, and talk to the people about how their culture has reacted to this raw natural force.

Some of it wanders a bit too far I think (all the North Korea stuff is interesting but kind of gets away from the volcanoes) but for the most part I was taken with what Herzog was showing me. I think I enjoy that he's taken on this non-fiction interest as he grows older, not just because I find his narration lovely but also because he mostly chooses interesting subject matter to explore. This wasn't as popcorn-entertaining as Grizzly Man but also wasn't as dry for me as Cave of Forgotten Dreams. I liked it.

And that puts another DVRfest to bed. I'm pretty surprised and proud to have met my schedule this year, although it's definitely time to return to the real world or work and bills (as all film festivals must do). Looking back, I quite enjoyed my random Criterion marathon and feel like I will do that again, either for next year's fest or some random nights as we go along.

Now let's dump some stats. These are gonna suck I know it, but I guess I have to do it. I'm at 18 in the past week (including this one) for a 2.57/day average, 22 in the past month for a 0.73/day average, 81 in the past year for a 0.22/day average, and 2949 since the site started for a 0.67/day average. Ouch.

I mean, there's nothing stopping me from watching more movies. It's not like I'm the only one with a job and a girlfriend and other interests vying for my time, but part of me does get sad when I think about how few films I'm watching these days. I've been loving movies since I was a kid though, so I guess I have to take a long term view on things. Perhaps I'll trend heavier in the year to come and perhaps I won't, but I know I will always maintain my love for this medium and the joy and excitement that it brings me.

Ok enough sappiness, time to watch the next episode of Westworld.
11.13.16 Into the AbyssWerner HerzogWell that was fun. I guess it's my fault for not realizing that a documentary about a kid on death row for murder would be depressing as fuck. Jesus. So this had some of the same rough mixture of thoughts and emotions as any true crime doc, especially as you watch the kid smile in the interview, complete convinced that he's innocent even though the evidence is pretty definitive. But here we also have the weight of the death penalty argument added on top. I mean I guess this was good but now I want to eat ice cream in a bath tub.

All in all a good time.

Ok, last shot. Let's hope that volcanoes are a little more uplifting than death row.
11.13.16 Real LifeAlbert BrooksThis satire of the American Family documentary is also Albert Brooks' first film and sorta kinda the first mockumentary. I laughed quite a bit with this. A lot of the little jokes that Brooks is constantly throwing away were great but really also a few stand-out scenes in my opinion show the great strength of both Brooks' style and Charles Grodin's genius. The horse operation, the depression sequence, and the awesomely terrible zoo montage - all with the constant presence of these absurd head-mounted cameras looming around and movie studio / social scientist dissection and analysis - are all amazing. All of it seems like a prescient precursor to all the reality-based stuff that we're going through now.

So yeah, This was great. I liked it more than Modern Romance, maybe more than Lost in America.

And now I we come to the last double feature of the fest. I've had sort of mixed reaction to this director's documentary work in the past but I just could not pass up the opportunity for such a specific double feature. So now let's watch two Werner Herzog documentaries whose titles start with "Into the"!
11.13.16 Inside OutPete DocterThe third and final day of this year's DVRfest starts with a Sunday matinee that I can watch with Molly. I feel like I've taken a few years off from Pixar films. After Cars 2 (which I did not like), it feels like they've been churning out sequels mostly, but this one got a bunch of acclaim and it sounded like a good premise.

I liked it a lot. It reminded me of how good Pixar films can be. It's so smart and attentive to detail and the animation is top notch and the voice acting is on point. Really good stuff. I particularly liked all the other heads we got to glimpse inside of. It makes me wonder if cat lovers like the same things about cats that I don't like, because to me it seemed like Pixar is full of dog lovers, but maybe cat people feel the exact opposite? Like look at that stupid dog just wanting food, meanwhile the cat is so crazy and messed up that it freaks out for no reason which is lovable and hilarious? I dunno...

Anyway, onto the next movie.
11.12.16 Pan's LabyrinthGuillermo del ToroYeah... I guess now I have to revisit Chronos and The Devil's Backbone as well. I mean I can't argue that the design of the fantasy creatures are bar none. If this whole movie was just the crazy dining room scene with that floppy old thing with eyeball hands then that would be enough to secure a place for this movie in history. The problem for me is that the rest of the movie is like a kind-of-good war story with a few good moments of gore and not much else. And I mean it doesn't have to be anything different... but I'd like it more if it were.

So I've always said I liked Devil's Backbone more. Now it's time to watch that again and see if it holds up to my memory. Not tonight though; I'm beat.
11.12.16 Investigation of a Citizen Above SuspicionElio PetriI'm not ashamed to admit that this purchase was based solely upon the strength of the film's title. I just thought it sounded cool. I didn't know anything else about it. What I got was a Kafka-esque spiral of a police chief who commits a murder just to see if his colleagues would possibly suspect him. It's nice to get an Italian vibe in the fest, although in some ways this reminded me of how I felt watching my first Fellini movie (Juliet of the Spirits). Everybody constantly talking very loudly, I'm not quite following what's going on, and a disorienting roaming camera with never ending pans and zooms. On one level it's quite a spectacle, but on another I'm not really sure if I should be laughing or intrigued or what. This main dude with his tiny suit to match his tiny body really gives a tour de force... I feel like he even looks directly in the camera right at the beginning, as if to say "ready?" before starting the whole ride off. I thought I was ready, but by the end it was clear that I was not. My takeaway is that I enjoyed it as an experience, but I won't be in any hurry to revisit.

So it comes time for the last Criterion film of the fest, and the only not left up to chance. As is tradition, I get to watch one movie that I've seen before at some point in the weekend. This year, I'm choosing a film that I haven't seen since it came out a decade ago. I feel like everyone else loved it more than me when it was released, so let's give it a re-watch and see if my feelings change, shall we?
11.12.16Le TrouJaqcues BeckerFinally caught a long one. I think this is the first film over two hour all weekend, but in some ways it also felt like one of the shortest. I mean I'm a sucker for a prison escape movie anyway but this film unfolds like a procedural wet dream. There's one shot where one of the inmates, one of the men involved in the real-life incident which inspired the novel and the film, lifts up the parquet floorboards(!) of their cell and turns a smooth plane of cement into a foot-deep hole. And it's riveting! There's like two full hours of watching these guys dig and explore and smuggle and solve problems all in executing their escape, and like 10 minutes of talking and whatnot. It's awesome.

The whole cast is great too. Something about a good prison movie is all about that borderline-gay brotherhood of honor and friendship. Watching these dudes share their amazing-looking French prison food is really enjoyable for some reason. Also, why they have full suits and leather jackets in prison is a bit of a mystery for me, but I guess that was just the way. But mostly the one guy, the real guy who at the beginning of the movie walks up to the camera and says "My friend Jacques Becker made this movie and it's about me" is totally amazing. He's missing the tips of his thumb and forefinger on one hand, but still handles prison-tools like a champ. I got the same feeling from watching Danny Trejo in an Eddie Bunker movie like Animal Factory. I can totally tell that he has been there and done that. I totally believe that this guy has no problem pounding through rock walls, filing door hinges off, and fashioning makeshift hour glasses. I mean i believe that because they literally showed me in the movie, but still.. i totally believed.

So yeah, this movie was great. I loved it. Le Trou, The Hold.

So... it's 9:30. It looks like I might only have time for one more random choice before the pre-ordained midnight movie, but let's see.
11.12.16 Blast of SIlenceAllen BaronBoom. This late-era low budget noir has everything that I love about the best in the genre. Amazingly hard-boiled narration, cool diegetic music, an insane amount of location shooting (in this case all over 1960/61 NYC), crazy subversive subject matter, and a pitch black ending. I mean it's really something, and judging from the credits it's a completely homebrew movie from producer/writer/director/star Allen Baron. I guess crime flicks like these were the horror movies of their day. A genre bankable enough to yield breakouts like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity (floating in a sea of crap). To me, this really feels like Baron went out and tried to make a film, then got in the editing room and realized it BARELY made sense, so this layer of narration was poured on top, seeping down between the bricks like sensational grizzled mortar. You can see the stuff that Baron is taking from, the same stuff that the french new wave and Melville are taking, but still thoroughly american. Really great stuff.

Wow. It's so exciting to see a "new" noir that's on par with the greats that made me fall in love with the genre so many years ago.

Ok... so what's next?
11.12.16Le Silence de la MerJean-Pierre MelvilleWhew. So... the dice did a great job in pairing subject matter. This one is about a French family giving the silent treatment to an occupying Nazi official. The tone however was drastically different than the previous film. I should've known going into it with such a title that there wouldn't be much dialogue, but really there was.. like... next to none. I suppose it made for a very "novelistic" approach to have a narrator and the nazi guy give monologue after monologue to these two people who refuse to talk to him, but in watching the film it feels like I was listening to the clock tick for an hour and a half. I mean it was pretty rough. Melville's always had a very deliberate pace, but usually there's some sort of amazing climax or release to the build up. Here it just feels slow. Thank goodness it's not as long as the other films of his which I've seen.

So... time to shake this off a bit and hopefully roll something which is a bit more lively.
11.12.16 Night Train to MunichCarol ReedWelcome to Day 2 of DVRfest 2016! Even though I don't actually use the DVR to store movies on anymore, this fest is still in the spirit of going back and catching up on films I've been meaning to see. There is no more megalithic monument to that motivation than the top row of my DVD/Blu collection, which houses all of the blind buys that I have yet to get around to actually watching even though, in some cases, I've owned them for over a decade. Some would take that as a sign of me not really wanting to watch the movies. In a few cases, I'd say you're right (I mean, how much Bergman is enough Bergman?). In other cases, like the netflix rental from last night, there is still a reason why I want to watch the movie, even if I happened to have forgotten it.

Of the monumental top row of my collection (which stretches across the whole back wall of my home office/game den here), the most monumental section is that of Criterion. I love the Criterion Collection; used to joke that if I ever got stupid rich I'd want to own the whole thing (a statement less logistically complicated back when there were only 200 releases, not the ~750 of today). I love their design, usually find their releases at least interesting, and owe my love/admiration of several favorite filmmakers (Jean-Pierre Melville, Sam Fuller, Akira Kurosawa) to their library. So what's become a recent development since the dawn of the streaming age is that I pretty much only buy Criterion titles still, and even then only once or twice a year during their 50% sale. So I have a ton of Criterion blind buys, so much so that it was hard to pick just a handful for today's programming.

Therefore, like any good gamer, I am turning control over to chance. I have my trusty d6 and d10 here, ready to program today's festivities. There's only one movie locked in for midnight, otherwise I am going to try and fit in as many of these gems as I can. I won't lie, some of them are pretty scary choices (I left out the box sets and anything with a running length over 4 hours, but there are still some Bergman in there, some french nonsense, and at least one silent), but that's what makes randomness fun.

So, without further ado, I am literally rolling the dice to see what's first on today's agenda. See you in a few hours!


The dice could not have chosen a better Saturday matinee! This early war thriller from Carol Reed has that 40s British breeziness mixed with wartime patriotism and tension typical of Reed's thrillers. I mostly knew Carol Reed only by The Third Man until a screening of The Fallen Idol at the Paramount completely blew me away. Since then, I've been keen to explore more of Reed's work. This one reminded me a ton of Hitchcock's early stuff. Foreign Correspondent but also 39 Steps (I guess it makes sense considering the script was from the same guys who wrote The Lady Vanishes). A lot of the stuff here gives me the best feeling of old studio productions. Heavy use of sets, miniatures, rear projection, stock footage, British guys playing Czechs, Germans, and Poles... it's all so wonderfully cinematic in an historic sense. Plus a young Paul Henreid and even younger Rex Harrison... but to me the real stars of this movie are the two British chaps caught up in the middle Hidden Fortress / R2-D2 & C-3P0 style as they happen upon Harrison on the titular rail car. Those guys were amazing, chucking off old Brit slang left and right like Denholm Elliot in Raiders.

Great stuff.

Ok, so one down. what's next? Only the dice knows...
11.11.16The HuntThomas VinterbergSo, this is what's great about DVRfest. I'd heard this movie was really good, but the subject matter seemed so dark and depressing that I've always put off seeing it. Now, I'm more or less forcing myself to watch a good movie, and it's for the best. It was great. But it was also depressing as fuck... although to be fair I thought the ending would be even darker than it is... because although this is my first Vinterberg movie I've seen enough of his compatriots' work to know that nothing ends on a high note in his country.

But still, the filmmaking is undeniably great. This is what everyone's talking about with Mads Mikkelsen. As a guy, you are so with his character every step of the way. So full of rage... and all it takes is one jackass with an ipad. I'm glad I finally saw it. Can't say I'll be watching it again any time soon.

And that brings me to the end of Day One. This might be a non-marathon daily best for me, eight films in one day. Sunday me will be thankful for the extra four hours though. And for tomorrow, I have something pretty fun planned, but first: some sleep.
11.11.16 Swiss Army ManDan Kwan, Daniel ScheinertSo... this movie exists. I'm honestly a little befuddled as to what I thought of it. I feel like... I was certainly entertained. I haven't really seen many movies like it before. But I also didn't love it. I liked parts of it, like all the built replications of real life things and the many quick jokes and things like that, but the overall tone was just a tad off center for me.

So these notes are getting shorter and shorter. It might be me getting tired, or maybe it's just the run of really weird movies. It's midnight but I've already watched my midnight movie, so instead I'll poach another one from Sunday's line-up and hopefully stay awake for this one which has been on my netflix queue for years.
11.11.16 Murder PartyJeremy SaulnierI'm maybe the last paying netflix disc customer, and I've totally become the guy I could never understand 10 years ago. I've had these three discs collecting dust on my desk for probably 10 months. So long that I forgot why I added this to my queue in the first place. As it turns out, Murder Party was Jeremy Saulnier's first feature length film! I loved both Blue Ruin and Green Room so I was curious to give this one a watch.

Several things right up front: Definitely a tiny budget, definitely made with friends/family (AKA mostly amateurs), definitely the sort of script you'd write as a college student. It's more a comment on art school and the art scene. But amongst all that, you can see a sensibility which carries through in his next two films. A love of humor, tension, and gore.

So yeah, this was pretty fun. It reminded me a bit of Bad Taste, the first Evil Dead, and a tiny bit of the shit I used to do with my friends when I was in high school.

So... up next... It's only 10pm so I'm gonna try to fit in two more movies tonight. so... let's go!
11.11.16The Neon DemonNicolas Winding RefnOK well... I guess maybe I have to come to the understanding that I am more of a fan of Refn as a person than I am of Refn's work. Again: very pretty, interesting music. And I was into it but then there was like a half hour there toward the middle that just completely zoned out in weird meandering whatever. Then it got super dark all of a sudden and probably made the movie worth seeing just in two or three scenes. So I guess that was cool but again, for the most part, just not quite enough substance there to sustain me.

So, I'm already to my last scheduled movie of the evening, but I think it's still early enough that I can sneak one or two more in after that. We'll play it by ear, but for now it's time for a completely random netflix disc choice.
11.11.16 Only God ForgivesNicolas Winding RefnI didn't have much interest in seeing this when it came out, especially after everyone who loved Drive more than I did (I feel like I liked it, didn't love it more than life itself) suddenly went silent after they watched this. But then a year or two ago, Refn was at Fantastic Fest and they played his wife's documentary on the making of this film and I liked that so I felt I might as well see this just to say I did.

As I could've guessed, this felt like too much style, too little story. It was pretty and the music was interesting but it felt too distant and static and was way too sparse to be interesting to me. It kind of felt like if someone took a DVD and watched it on fast forward, but then slowed what they saw down to a normal running time. Like, a lot of people just standing there. scenes float by i guess, but at any given moment it's just some people standing still not saying anything.

So, whatever, I've now seen this. Really I threw this on the schedule just to set up the next film, which I do really want to see. Let's hope it's a little more lively than this one.
11.11.16 Winning: The Racing Life of Paul NewmanAdam Carolla, Nate AdamsI listened to the first couple years of Adam Carolla's podcast and just as I was losing interest he started mentioning putting interviews together for this documentary about Newman's racing career. Paul Newman seemed like an awesome dude. From all accounts of people who knew and worked with him, it seemed like he was just a great guy. Certainly, many of his movies are great. So learning more about this other side of him mostly just reinforced that. Since Carolla's a racing guy, I feel like he gave it more interest than if anyone else did this. Really my only complaint is the music, which is generic and pretty heavy-handed with its emotional direction. Oh, and they had this weird thing where each person got a little sad moment whenever they died. At first it was kind of jarring because it was about some other dude not terribly connected to the story, but it made sense as more people started dying off.

Otherwise, they got interviews with everyone but Tom Cruise (probably for the best), and found a lot of footage to tell an engaging story. Still kinda niche-y though. I was ready for it to end since I don't really care about the cars so much. But mostly pretty solid.

OK enough nonfiction for a while. Let's change gears (eh? eh? get it? cars?) to a double feature from a director who doesn't drive at all but somehow got famous for a movie centered around the activity: Nicolas Winding Refn.
11.11.16 Flyin' Cut SleevesHenry Chalfant, Rita FecherWell... I THOUGHT I was going to watch a doc about Frank Dux, famously portrayed by Jean Claude Van Damme in the movie Bloodsport, but I guess that video was removed from youtube since last night, so instead I watched another doc I've had saved for quite some time.

Flyin' Cut Sleeves is about 1970s gangs from The Bronx... basically the source material for the movie The Warriors. The production is pretty rough/amateur but the subjects are real and the subject matter strikes that nerve for me so I liked it. I still find that era fascinating in a hard to believe way... like remember that time that the biggest city in America almost went bankrupt and whole parts of the city were neglected to the point where kids roamed the streets like wild dogs? haha yeah, good times.

Up next is one more doc (this year is pretty documentary-heavy... A triple feature today and a planned double feature on Sunday), this one presumably flyin' long sleeves (man, i love that title) but also sporting a helmet.
11.11.16 WeinerJosh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg12 Years ago, I was about 8 month in Austin and had just gone to my first QTFest, followed by the first Fantastic Fest, followed by my first Austin Film Fest. November hit and I was having festival withdrawal. I turned to my DVR, full of stuff I'd recorded off TCM and IFC, and realized that this site had been around a full year. Thus began DVRfest: a weekend of personal cinematic abandon meant to memorialize this journal and sitting in a dark room watching movies alone (which, as bad as it sounds to admit, is probably how I saw the bulk majority of films in my life). Throughout the years, my reliance on clearing out my DVR shifted more toward general catching up on anything and now stands as a throwback to those glorious years 2006 and 2007 when I had no job and just watched movies all day. Especially this year since I went to Peru rather than Fantastic Fest, it will be my only movie-related event of the year.

So with all of that in mind, I've made a very aggressive schedule to try and get through this weekend, filled with mainstream stuff, stuff I missed in theaters, and even a few which I will possibly let fate decide. But it all starts with this political documentary about a guy's dick. Let's watch!


Huh. So... huh. Well right off the bat I'd say this was a fantastic documentary. Toward the end, one of the directors asks Weiner "WHY are you letting us film this?" To which he shrugs without answer. The root cause, perhaps connected to some interview footage a few minutes before where Weiner ponders whether his need for fame forms an inability to connect deeply with anyone or vice versa seems to be the heart of this movie, and you can't help but wonder how many other politicians this doc COULD'VE been about if only they were the ones who got exposed. But it's also about the whole political system and how popularity and scandal intertwine with "issues" and what even matters in that world and the nature of media and how it feeds the whole thing and whether it's good or bad but feels like human nature regardless. And then there's the wife: Huma. A sphinx. Mostly Unreadable.

This might be a spectacularly male take on things, but I kept feeling like this is a portrait of a good well-meaning guy who's just guilty of having a cock. I mean, the amount of stupid shit that guys have down throughout history just because they're horny... I can't help but feel for this guy. I'm sure a part of him felt like Mugatu, like Marion Berry gets to be caught smoking crack on camera, Bill Clinton gets to have oval office BJs, George W Bush gets to manufacture a war, but I get killed over a few dick pics!? Donald Trump gets to call me a pervert for THAT!?

So yeah, a complicated swirl of thoughts and feelings about this, which again, tell me that this is a great film.

I still haven't fully digested this but it's DVRfest so it's time to move on. Next up is another doc... this one I'm pretty sure won't generate such a mix of emotions.
11.05.16 Captain America: Civil WarAnthony Russo, Joe RussoFinally catching up on this just as Dr. Strange is hitting theaters. Oh well.

So I liked a lot about this one, but also there were a few things that kind of bugged me. Mostly, it felt the most assumptuous to date. Like, If i skipped Avengers 2, i'd have no clue who many of the characters are. On the other hand, I really love all the crossovers, how all these guys are interacting outside of their own films. My favorite bits involved Ant Man and Spider-Man, either because they were involved for the coolest (by far) scene in the film or because their tone were welcome reprieves from the gravitas of whatever else was happening. So it's really cool that, contractually, the type of stuff you often see in comics is happening in these films, but also it's kind of getting to the point where I'm starting to forget details that I guess I should just know when going into this.

Also, I get that nobody's perfect and the movies can't inter-relate completely, but everyone seems much more somber and grieved this time around. Pretty sure that Iron Man was feeling pretty quippy as he was killing all the people he is now immediately ready to hang up his suit for. The turn seemed pretty abrupt to me.

So... whatever. It's maybe the best avengers movie yet? It certainly looked good and the action was fun, but nothing surprising either.
11.04.16 TrainspottingDanny BoyleWith the trailer for Trainspotting 2 hitting and actually looking pretty good, I found myself in a mood to revisit the first one. It's still good although this time around I really noticed how there was not much narrative to speak of. The scenes kind of float on their own for the most part rather than being led by any strong plot. Perhaps that's due to the adaptation? I've never read the book but if it was more of a memoir style then I guess that explains things.

But yeah, also each scene - boom boom boom boom - really kills. There's not terribly much filler here at all. Some stuff seems a bit tame now whereas twenty years ago it was extreme... also I think this time I picked up more dialogue than ever before (who knows why, the accents are still crazy strong). I also never realized/connected the dots that Kevin McKidd was Tommy. I guess I'm used to seeing him older and with shorter hair.

All in all I still enjoyed it although the whole film is so familiar that it felt more like revisiting a favorite album than rediscovering a faded gem, which is weird because it feels like I haven't seen this in quite some time... and I just looked it up on here and see that it's been 10 years.


See, this is where this site really starts to pay off. What surprises me here isn't that it's been 10 years but how much I remember it despite the time. I mean it's not like I could've recited the thing from start to end but there were no parts of the film that I had forgotten about... I wonder if the movies I saw in my teens are just as heavily imprinted in my brain as the music i listened to. I wonder if the 90s are just going to be "my thing" for the rest of my life because nothing else sticks quite as well in the memory banks.

makes you think.
10.22.16 Zoolander 2Ben StillerSo, yeah it's not as good as the first but, honestly, I'm not sure where all the hate came from. I found this to be a fine, occasionally funny sequel, that scratches the itch without being too boring or retread-y. Ferrell's great as always, I thought the story was appropriate, and, maybe this is just my low expectations talking but, it could have been a lot worse. The sexy fighting was pretty hilarious.
10.16.16 MascotsChristopher GuestI think maybe Best in Show will always be the best Christopher Guest movie, but that doesn't make watching this unenjoyable. It's nice to see many of the old crew back again, along with some new additions picked up from Guest's HBO show, having fun and riffing off each other. Still kind of forgettable, but pleasant nonetheless.
10.06.16 Now You See Me 2Jon ChuAfter getting home, I fought it off for a few days but now I'm sick again. It's done wonders for my work productivity but what can you do... just watch movies and try to feel better!

Well, in this case I should say "just watch TV shows and try to feel better," but one movie slipped in for some reason. This was pretty bad. I didn't like it. It's kind of like Ocean's Twelve but if Brad Pitt and George Clooney don't always have to adhere to laws of reality. Like sometimes explaining magic via incomprehensible technology is ok, and sometimes not bothering to explain it at all is ok... like I would have enjoyed this movie more if they just told me that these guys were actual magicians as in using real magic like D&D magic missle type magic. The whole thing was one big mess.
10.02.16 Sing StreetJohn CarneyTwo weeks of Peruvian and Bolivian touring later and I'm back on a plane shuffling through the menus looking for a non-R-rated movie that I'm interested in watching. I came upon this, which I figured wouldn't be too ruined thanks to my nice earbuds.

This is the third John Carney movie that I've seen, so I'm not sure if all the others aren't as musically-minded or what... I'm actually wondering if Zonad and The Rafters and his pre-Once stuff isn't good or just not musical so someone thinks they're too Irish for American audiences, or maybe they're not as good because they aren't musically-oriented and that's really Carney's sweet spot so maybe he should stick to it? I don't know. For whatever reason, Once, Begin Again, and Sing Street are the only movies of his that have popped up on my radar. I've liked all three of them. This one feels particually personal since it's period and features kids in main roles, but who knows. I liked how the pop music of the 80s has such a clear influence on the main kid to form his style and music. I love the older brother, who's like an Irish Chris Pratt, there for him like Zooey Deschanel set the kid in Untitled off on his journey. Lots of good stuff here.
09.16.16 All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower RecordsColin Hanksi'm skipping Fantastic Fest this year in order to go to Peru and Bolivia on an Ancient Aliens guided tour with Giorgio Tsoukalos. Yes, it's kind of unexpected, but whatevs... it was awesome. So because of this, two things are happening: 1) my movie total this year will probably be an all-time low, and 2) i had the opportunity to watch movies on an airplane for the first time in many many years.

Things have changed. On my United flight, each seatback had a touch screen where i could choose from a flight of films, tv shows, and even casual games like Bejeweled to play while enduring the coach seating. The problem is that the system is wired to pause anything anytime a flight attendant or pilot gets on the mic, and, because it's on a plane, anything R-rated gets chopped to hell. So although there were an actually decent roster of films to choose from, I didn't want to spoil my experience of actually watching something like Captain America: Civil War by seeing it on a damn airplane. So that led me to this doc, directed by Colin Hanks, telling the story of Tower Records.

A little personal history: My local Tower was not local at all. When I was "discovering" music in middle and high school, I lived in a redneck city in Maryland. About once every 8-12 months someone's parents (most usually my mom) would OK a trip into the city for some serious music buying. These trips consisted of a stop at Phantasmagoria, which at the time was a CD store somewhere in a basement in Wheaton, MD (and would later move to become a music venue but I was off to college by that time) specializing in rare industrial, techno, and other bizarre genres, then on to the Tower Records in Rockville, MD. Tower was like the ultimate music store. Not only did it have all the stuff that any Sam Goody or other mall music store had, it was also the place to look for the japanese import singles, the rare EPs that you had only heard existed third-hand, and I swear they even stocked a couple bootlegs. I had no illusions that the Rockville location, which I remember being in a strip mall or something, was the original (there were other far larger and more extravagant locations around the DC area even), but it still held the crown for me and my own personal realm of exposure.

I spent a lot of damn money in that place.

So, anyway, fast forward 20 years and now i have an interest in this doc. As a movie it's ok... kind of a by-the-numbers doc that you could probably guess the plot synopsis of... but the interview subjects are interesting and there's a few nice tidbits thrown in like the Elton John stuff and just in general it's a nice puzzle piece which fits in the overall picture of American rock and roll. I found it to be worth watching.
09.12.16 De PalmaNoah Baumbach, Jake PaltrowAn extended interview with director Brian De Palma intercut pretty well with the films that he's talking about. He goes through each one of his films, making this a pretty complete account of his career.

So... I've been pretty vocal about not being such a huge De Palma fan. As a fan of hitchcock, it bothers me how his "homages" are just, like, actual re-tellings of Hitchcock movies. I mean, I respect that he's upfront about following in Hitch's footsteps, but I think maybe taking techniques, style choices, and even casting make much better sense than actual plot points or storylines. Like, Dressed to Kill is not a bad movie until it literally BECOMES Psycho. So that's really my problem with the guy's work. Well, that and how certain of his films I think are extremely overrated.

But you know, hearing his side of the story... listening to him talk candidly about what worked and what didn't work with each picture, what he was going for, what he ended up with... I can respect the career. For a guy who's certainly had some really amazing flops, like on a consistent basis, he's always managed to bounce back. And there are aspects or moments of some of his films that I do appreciate... and I like how upfront he is about liking women in his movies. I definitely feel like his connection to Vertigo is telling in this regard. His films always have a slightly exploitative feel toward his leading ladies in a way that I feel Hitch was, for the most part, too repressed or polite to actually express.

So I don't know. I thought this doc was interesting. I kinda sort of want to revisit maybe Blow Up, maybe Femme Fatale. It is remarkable that his group of peers became such luminaries in Hollywood. I really wonder what a Sidney Lumet Scarface would be though. damn.
09.11.16A Lego BrickumentaryKief Davidson, Daniel JungeA well-produced telling of Lego's history and breadth of fandom. Some fun stop-motion and interesting exposure to some applications which the average person may not be aware of (like its use with autistic kids and the batshit crazy convention scene), but really I feel like I've seen hourlong episodes on TV which cover mostly the same ground. I mean that doesn't stop this from being interesting I guess, it just felt pretty familiar to me.
09.10.16 SistersJason MooreI like everyone involved with this so I guess it's no surprise that I liked the movie. True it's not at a Hot Rod or Step Brothers level but I didn't think it was unfunny either. There's always a conflict with me where sometimes I feel like I wish these comedies just had no story at all because i always think the "plotty" scenes are the worst... like the romance thread or the being-a-better-mom thread... but then again, if the movie isn't super funny AND it doesn't have any story then there's not really any reason to watch it... I'm sure there have been plenty of movies where I've said that I wished it had more character and story so... who knows. I liked this except the moments where it had to be a real movie which I didn't think were as funny.
09.09.16The Conjuring 2James WanJames Wan has made a nice place for himself in the horror landscape. Sure, there have been misses (i'm looking at you, Death Sentence and Dead Silence), but with Insidious and The Conjuring I feel like he's exploring a modern take on the classical gothic horror and he's doing a pretty good job with it. These Conjuring movies work especially well mixing in authentic elements with fictional storytelling. I feel like both movies motivated me to take a jaunt down the wikipedia and google path afterward to seek out source material. That's probably helped a great deal by solid scripts and Patrick Wilson/Vera Farmiga's performances, but still. These are pretty solid horror movies. I liked this one pretty good.
09.08.16 XOXOChristopher LouieSo... back when I was in college, a movie called Groove came out. In some ways it cashed in on the rave scene but in a lot of other ways, whether it was where I was in life or if the movie was actually good (I can't really tell), it stood as a document of the dance music scene and what it was all about.

Almost 20 years later, we have this... which I'm presuming aspires to the same goal as Groove but updated for this generation. Seen as such, in some ways it's very telling but mostly it's kind of depressing. Things are much more stylized, sexualized, narcotized, and fragmented. Things are prettier but carry less meaning, shinier and shallower. Headliners are not to be idolized, stakes must be higher, but the true intent of music is to be enjoyed.

All that lofty crap aside, that's how I read this film. As a movie, it's really not great. It feels like it could have been great (if it was a little more like Groove), but misses the mark on many levels. Which is a shame. Or maybe it's great and I'm just too old to get it.
09.04.16 Straight Outta ComptonF. Gary GrayWatched this again with Molly. Still like it a great deal. I kind of want a three hour documentary companion to this a la Team Foxcatcher or that Whitey Bulger doc, just to see the real stuff and hear the real guys talk. But you know, not taking anything away from this movie which is really good. I could've done with more. And why was Suge Knight on the set of this? He really does not come off well at all. I'd think they wouldn't want anything to do with him these days. Maybe my fantasy doc will also cover the making of this movie. Get on that, filmmakers!
08.25.16 All the WayJay RoachThe flip side of the Trumbo coin: Jay Roach and Bryan Cranston telling the story of LBJ's first year in office, with a little MLK thrown in for good measure. The main difference here is the script. Since it's based on a play, I definitely felt moments where the scenes stretched out, the cinematic momentum slowed, and we were just watching Cranston work. It didn't feel 100% like a filmed play, but the pacing and structural issues I had with the film were definitely rooted in my aversion to that type of movie.

Cranston did well though, even under a considerable amount of makeup. Anthony mackie less so. I think he didn't want to fall too out of his Marvel physique to match MLK's physicality. This is definitely an HBO movie kind of movie though. It's probably a bit too long, more focused on performance than rhythm. Watching this and Trumbo back to back has been an interesting study in what makes an Oscar type movie and what makes an HBO movie.
08.24.16 TrumboJay RoachAside from Good Night and Good Luck, the only other black list movie that I remember is De Niro in Guilt by Suspicion, which dealt with largely fictitious characters and stayed pretty vague about the whole thing. So it was nice to see real people in what was probably close to true events going through this moment in hollywood history. It's still mostly for movie fans I would imagine. I can't see joe schmo getting excited about seeing Otto Preminger show up, but since i am one, i liked this pretty good. Good cast.
08.23.16 Club ParadiseHarold RamisIt's been a long while since I've seen this, but I just read an interview with Harold Ramis where he mentioned this movie and how Jimmy Cliff was in it. Since all I could remember about this was Robin Williams making jokes and Rick Moranis looking for weed with Eugene Levy, I figured I'd give it another watch. Really I think Andrea Martin outperforms both Moranis and Levy here, although they're both great and it was fun to see Joe Flaherty as the pilot. Jimmy Cliff was indeed in it, performing several songs. And I had no memory of the whole, you know, plot of the film (which includes the requisite gunfight in the third act). All in all, I'd say it wasn't a full on success, but there were a few moments which I'm glad I saw again. Peter O'Toole was one of them.
08.23.16 DC CabJoel SchumacherI've never seen this so I'm filling a gap. I get a lot of Car Wash in here, a lot of early 80s goodness. I love how six grand is the difference between the worst cab company in the city and mink coats, gold bumpers, and everything else. I feel like, for whatever else I might think about Schumacher's later career, he has definitely always had an eye for casting. Nearly everyone in here is interesting in some way. It definitely deflated in the third act when it got all action-y all of a sudden but whatever... i think in the 80s there had to be actual gunfire in every movie even if it was a comedy.
08.23.16The Late ShiftBetty ThomasIt's been forever since I've seen this and thought it might be fun to revisit. I was kind of surprised to realize that letterman and leno were played by John Michael Higgins and Daniel Roebuck, who I guess I've come to recognize more since I was in highschool (although I always liked Roebuck in Disorganized Crime alongside Ed O'Neil). The movie still plays very well, and it's fun to have an added 20 years of history to follow through with, especially with everything that went on with Leno and Conan. It's kind of surprising how well this holds up actually. Usually HBO movies just kind of come and go.
08.21.16The Nice GuysShane BlackI liked this quite a bit. It feels very much like a spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Maybe a prequel? LA in the late 70s, buddy buddy friendship, interesting tough guy characters caught up in a decent and suitably-complicated mystery. It's all there in the same way as KKBB was. Good times, for sure.
08.06.16 Star Wars: The Force AwakensJ.J. AbramsWe're playing through LEGO Force Awakens now and it put me in the mood to see the movie again. Watching it with the benefit of knowing the plot, this feels 1000% designed and planned to feel like a star wars movie. It's hard for me to say if the original trilogy felt that way since I was so young when they were implanted in my head... and i don't think it's a bad thing really, but I will say that the prequels didn't have that feeling to me. I feel like the prequels were just more stuff that Lucas felt like doing... adherence to the brand or canon or fans or anything like that took a far back seat to whatever it was that he felt like saying. Here, it almost feels like an amusement park ride in that it's SO calculated... but it works. There's new stuff too, mostly with the humor, and the new generation of characters feel just as cool and vibrant as the old ones did in the first few movies. I think they knocked it out of the park with Kylo Ren... he's powerful and menacing but also brash and impatient in a way that the prequels never pulled off with Anakin.

And I enjoyed Han Solo a lot more this time around. He's like the third lead in this film which is great for many reasons.
07.09.16 Hitchcock/TruffautKent JonesHitchcock/Truffaut was one of the very first books I ever read about film. I feel like it was late highschool, maybe 11th grade. I had seen a few Hitchcock movies, had no clue who Francois Truffaut was, and really just heard it was a good book. Afterward, I embarked on a VCR & TV Guide journey to watch all the Hitchcock movies; a journey in which I am still a few shy. It also led to reading a bunch of other interview books, a couple amazing ones by Peter Bogdanovich, and indirectly created my love for the oral history genre. So they made a documentary about the making of the book: a guaranteed love fest from me, right?

Right. I loved this. I mean, as a film premise it's a bit thin so half the movie feels like it just becomes a Hitchcock documentary... but it's not like hearing directors such as Scorsese and David Fincher and Richard Linklater talk about Vertigo and Psycho is bad. Still, looking at stills and listening to the audio recordings isn't terribly much, but I'll take it, damnit. It makes me want to re-read the book (and re-watch all the movies).
07.09.16 DeadpoolTim MillerI liked this, although I do feel like I saw it way too late. It's actually surprising how many movies I can avoid finding too much out about until it hits DVD, but this one pretty much everyone talked about. A lot. I do appreciate how the leaked test footage and most of the trailers showed stuff from the first reel of the film, but I'd heard pretty much every joke from one person or another. I don't say this to whine about spoilers for a movie I didn't go see in theaters, but to say that my impression of the movie, while good overall, was somewhat dampened by already being familiar with most of it.

There were a few nice touches that were new for me though, and the familiar stuff was still good. I love that Colossus (maybe my fav x-man) finally made a decent cinematic appearance, and it's nice to see R-rated swordplay in all its gory details. Working with a director so experienced with visual effects really helped I think.

So yeah, good. funny.
07.05.16 Everybody Wants Some!!Richard LinklaterDefinitely a "spiritual sequel" to Dazed & Confused. As such, it's hard not to compare, which is unfortunate because D&C has had 20 years to marinate in its own awesomeness. I'm trying to think back to my first impressions of it and have no clue what I thought back then. So I'm trying to give this a fair shot.

I definitely think it's a bit of a sausage fest. It took me about half the movie to settle in to what I was watching and actually start to like some of these guys. And I still didn't like some of them by the end.

There were a few classic Linklater feels though, like when they're all sitting around smoking weed. That stuff feels 10000% authentic. But you know... also... I think maybe 1980 just wasn't as cool as 1976. Some of the music is great (like the new wave stuff, punk stuff, etc.), but that mix of early rap, disco, and rock is pretty jarring. I did like seeing Zack Carlson as a Sound Machine bouncer though.

So I dunno. It definitely grew on me as I watched it. I liked the last half pretty good. I'll have to see how it sits with me going forward.

I really... really could have done without that rap at the end though.
07.04.16 Hail, Caesar!Joel Coen, Ethan CoenCoens' latest, an ode to classic hollywood... I feel like it was a better script than movie. I dunno... it's just one of those things where all the individual elements are fine and good but the finished product is less than the sum of its parts for me. Maybe it's the way that the story resolves, maybe it's the thing where there are so many parts that no one other than Josh Brolin really gets to dig in. Maybe it's that they are playing with such well-known characters... Barton Fink's version of 30s Hollywood was much more mundane and interesting to me than this one. And what was up with Frances mcDormand getting choked? Anyway, in some ways this was warm and comfortable and scratched that fantasy Hollywood itch, but in others it left me wanting and didn't quite add up.
07.04.16 Midnight SpecialJeff NicholsAnother great movie from Jeff Nichols. Man, this guy is 3 for 3 in my book. I should check out his first movie.

So... I don't really have much to say about this other than I liked it. Well done in all respects. Great cast, performances, direction, cinematography, effects, etc. Good times all around.
07.03.16 EverestBaltasar KormakurI didn't know this was the same events that the IMAX documentary captured, but I guess it makes sense. It's been many years since I saw that doc but I remember it being riveting. Since I was kind of assuming this was a more typical hollywood mountain climbing story I got an unexpected downer of a tragedy. But it was good. I felt cold most of the way through it, and really felt for the guys along the way. And man, it's so chilling the way a few people go. Oops, no pun intended. So yeah, I'm reading wikipedia now and pretty bummed out, but also scenes from the movie are sticking with me. I liked the film more than I thought I would.
07.02.16 10 Cloverfield LaneDan TrachtenbergThis was pretty good. Very much helped along by John Goodman's performance, but the end was pretty satisfying as well. I also liked how it was loosely associated with the first Cloverfield without being a sequel or, really, even definitively in the same universe. Just kind of establishing a Twilight Zone-esque pseudo-genre of its own. Pretty cool.
07.02.16 Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeZack SnyderI saw the Ultimate version or whatever... the three hour one. I'd heard this was pretty bad so, much like The Counselor, I was hoping the full crazy indulgent version might provide more context or something that could make it better. As such, I'm not really sure what was cut out... it seemed about as long and flabby as Man of Steel to me.

I do think a lot of the criticism being leveled at this might be unfair. To me, the Marvel movies are just as indulgent and presumptuous as this was... the only difference is that Marvel has a tighter rein on their directors. Snyder seems lost in Michael Bay beer commercial land here. Pretty much every shot is either a filtered photoshopped magazine cover still or a motion-blur frenzy of CGI clutter. It felt a ton like the trailer for Pearl Harbor to me, except three hours of it. I didn't feel like a single line of dialogue would make any sense if a real person in the real world said it aloud to me.

But I guess you either reject the whole movie or try to appreciate it for what it is. There was certainly some cool imagery. I particularly liked whatever the post-apocalyptic dream sequence was with Batman wearing a duster over his suit. I'm sure it was chock full of references that i don't understand but whatever.

I don't see how the Wonder Woman and Aqua Man movies can not be laughably terrible but who knows. I guess we'll find out. I guess. I mean... 13 year old me would be in such heaven with all these comic book movies but... fatigue is definitely starting to set in.
06.05.16The Do-OverSteve BrillSurprisingly ok for an Adam Sandler, still not a good movie. Luis Guzman as a shooter boy is pretty funny though. That's about it.
05.28.16 Pee Wee's Big HolidayJohn LeeI was really ready to love this. Aside from a few moments I didn't. I don't know... it's weird. To be honest, I'm not even sure what a perfect Pee Wee movie would be for me these days. I have so much love for the first movie... but I didn't religiously watch the tv show and the second movie, while I thought was funny and generally under-appreciated, was not perfect. I guess I'm happy that this exists, but a lot of scenes felt odd to me, and not in a good way.
05.04.16 Team FoxcatcherJohn GreenhalghThis was pretty interesting as a counterpart to the Steve Carrell Foxcatcher. It's a bit odd that Channing Tatum's role isn't even mentioned here but otherwise pretty good. Carrell's performance was so out there that I liked having an opportunity to see video of the real John Du Pont and see his behavior. Makes me like Carrell's performance more.
05.01.16 Special CorrespondentsRicky GervaisDidn't much care for this.
03.13.16 Bridge of SpiesSteven SpielbergNot taking anything away from Spielberg's prowess in his craft, I think he's officially an old man making movies for other old men now. I mean, this was a huge snoozer. A few aspects like seeing cold war-era East Berlin and Tom Hanks' performance made it worth watching but for the most part this was pretty slow and forgettable. Night and day difference from the Spielberg of 30 years ago... but then again how does someone NOT change in 30 years? It's remarkable that he's still making movies that anyone cares about. I still haven't seen Linoln or War Horse (or Tintin).
03.12.16 TrainwreckJudd ApatowI liked this one alright. There were a few funny moments. I liked LeBron and John Cena, but mostly it felt like Amy Schumer's stand up set grafted onto a by-the-numbers romantic comedy. When I compare this to something like Forgetting Sarah Marshall it definitely feels flat. Which is a shame, I like pretty much everyone involved. And like I said, there was some funny stuff.
02.28.16The LadykillersJoel Coen, Ethan CoenIt's been a while since I've seen this and, since I consider this to be the Coen's worst movie, I figured I'd revisit on the off chance that my opinion had changed.

Certainly there's some good stuff in here. Tom Hanks' performance is great. Roger Deakins, the gospel music. But the story still bothers me, Maroln Wayans' performance takes me out of the movie, and J.K. Simmons' IBS is dumb. But all that said, the first half of the film isn't too bad. I guess now I'll have to see Intolerable Cruelty again to see how that holds up.
02.27.16 Get HardEtan CohenI laughed quite a bit in this. I liked the concept, still think Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart are funny, and there were a few bits which really struck me as funny. like Sad Dog and all the Boyz n the Hood stuff. It's not breaking any new ground or anything but whatever... does it have to? It made me laugh.
02.20.16The Big ShortAdam McKayInteresting movie about some dudes who saw the 2008 financial crisis coming. Good big cast, pretty good script making this pretty complicated subject matter understandable and not boring. Some of McKay's choices seemed a bit much to me like the freeze frames and weird little inserts to I guess give a context of the year 2007? Aside from a few foibles though like the use of music and whatnot I enjoyed it pretty good.
02.12.16 DopeRick FamuyiwaFreaking loved this. So great. Great music, great script, great performances, great direction. There's a feeling of lightness and positivity throughout even when it's dealing with pretty serious subject matter, the film constantly defies expectations and perfectly mixes modern day atmosphere with really great 90s nostalgia and music. Man, what a soundtrack. This kind of reminded me of Scott Pilgrim in some indirect ways. And I have to say... a master class on 90s dance moves during the end credits. Amazing stuff.

loved it loved it loved it.
01.23.16 SpyPaul FiegPretty funny. For me, the movie is made by Jude Law and Jason Statham even though they aren't particularly funny. Their personas lend a nice counterpoint to McCarthy though... which is nice. A couple funny moments.
01.22.16 What We Do in the ShadowsJemaine Clement, Taika WaititiFinally got this watched. I liked it a lot. I thought of it at a B-side to Jarmusch's vampire film... just as baroque in its design but a comedy rather than drama. It's really great. I loved seeing Rhys Darby.
01.18.16 CreedRyan CooglerI liked this one pretty good. Maybe I should go back and watch the first five Rockys sometime to refresh my memory. I wonder how Sly felt having someone else write a Rocky movie. I'm glad he got behind it because this was a fitting epilogue for the character. Michael B Jordan was good. I wonder if I'll ever stop recognizing actors from The Wire as "ooh, a Wire alumn!" Like, will Wood Harris ever NOT be Avon Barksdale for me? Who knows... but WHERE'S WALLACE AT!?
01.17.16 Straight Outta ComptonF. Gary GrayGreat movie. This is one of those perfect storm movies where the real life subject matter is interesting, the producers have the creative and legal access to use all the assets that are needed to tell the story, the script is knowledgeable and informed by first parties, the director is very close to the subject matter and knows that world well, and the actors are capable (and in one case related) enough to portray their real-life counterparts well without ten pounds of make-up or coming off like a pale imitation. The result is really why I love movies.

I love that the movie is long enough to really tell the whole story in regards to solo careers and different record labels. This movie was probably dangerously easy to just focus on the early years or take a snapshot in time or something like that, but to me the real interesting stuff happened after the group split. You'd miss all that stuff... The Chronic, America's Most Wanted, Snoop, Suge, Tupac, Bone Thugz, Warren G, Boyz n the Hood, Friday, the feuds, the reconciliation... I'm so glad they extended the timeline out enough to include all of that stuff. And I love the soundtrack. First you hear the sample sources, the inspirations, but then later on you hear the musical landscape change. Wu Tang's on at the club all of a sudden... And I really REALLY love how they show the real music video. Ice Cube's son is missing his father's hard edge but it's still uncanny to see his performance. Really everybody (except Snoop but then again where the hell are they gonna find another guy who looks like Snoop?). And everybody comes off looking intelligent. Ice Cube's interview was hilarious.

I guess I'm gushing at this point. I loved it.
01.17.16 Black MassScott CooperI liked this one ok. I'm thinking it's generally a bad idea to watch the documentary before the film version because this felt oddly fatigued to, probably because I already knew all the details from seeing that Whitey Bulger doc on netflix. I liked the cast and Depp did a fine job, but the plot felt meandering and sluggish and I never really got a sense of who Bulger was other than a criminal. Furthermore, I never got a sense of him changing or prospering after the Italian boss got locked up... All in all I felt like it was a pale imitation of Nicholson in The Departed (ironic). But you know, I liked Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace and I wouldn't call this one bad... just a bit lethargic for a crime story.
01.12.16The RevenantAlejandro Gonzalez InarrituJesus. This movie is intense as all hell. I really loved this. Jesus... I mean... just fantastic filmmaking. Granted, it's right up my alley but... just amazing. Holy Shit.
01.10.16 Magic Mike XXLGregory JacobsI thought Soderbergh brought some interesting stuff to the first movie so I was curious to see where they would take it without him at the helm. I was pretty surprised to see Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard's names in the credits... I guess Soderbergh didn't want to come out of "retirement" for this but still wanted to shoot and edit it? In either case, I think it's a nice move to let his producer/1st AD take the helm... hopefully it was a supportive collaboration and not like what I've been reading about Poltergeist.

A little aside here: I'd always given Tobe Hooper the benefit of the doubt regarding Poltergeist but I read a bunch of stuff the other day by a bunch of strangers on the Internet that made a lot of sense and it really seems like a lot of that praise probably belongs to Spielberg. I'm sure Hooper has an influence as well but it really feels much more like a Spielberg film rather than a Tobe Hooper film. Man, Spielberg was on fire back then. Jaws was on the damn Syfy channel the other day and I wound up watching half of it. 40 years old and it's still a damn near perfect film. I haven't seen the last four Spielberg films... I'm interested in Bridge of Spies but Lincoln, Tintin, and damn Warhorse feel like chores to me. I should probably watch them though just in case.

Oh right, Magic Mike. This was fun to sort of see the flip side of the coin, where the first film shows the dark side of male strippering, this is a pretty light-hearted road trip fun male stripper movie. Except Donald Glover shows up for some reason!?

Anyway, I didn't find it as good as the first film, but this one is definitely not aimed at me since there was more stripping and random sexy dancing in places like garages and tiger marts.
01.08.16The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Guy RitchieThis one was pretty odd. There was a lot of style to some of the sequences but also some really weird tonal choices that, to me, undercuts the film. Particularly the music... I like all the songs used but they were sometimes not appropriate I think. Like especially the beginning. The visuals flashing by quickly in a very kinetic manner but the music is completely muted and mellow. Made me feel weird.

Especially after the inevitable comparison to Kingsman which is much more action than intrigue, this one feels like it's missing a critical spark to bring the thing to life. But I like that they did it period, it looked great and all that... just missing some ingredient to make the cake rise.

I wonder what Guy Ritchie's life is like now that Matthew Vaughn is making better Guy Ritchie movies than he is. Maybe Madonna is a vampire? Damn Madonna stole his life essence!!!
12.31.15 SpotlightTom McCarthyTis the season for mirth and merriment, kith and kin, and ripped Academy screeners allowing me to see Oscar contenders easily online. I liked this one quite a bit, certainly a modern-day All The President's Men. Great cast, well-presented, clear and informative... I think it accomplished what it wanted to accomplish. That said, this is exactly the movie I expected. Granted, I expected a good watchable movie about interesting subject matter so how can that be a bad thing, but still there is a certain loose formula for "good movie" that this follows pretty closely. There's not much to say about it other than it's good and that you should watch it.
12.31.15The Ridiculous 6Frank CoraciMorbid curiosity draws me to Adam Sandler movies more than anything else these days. Yet I have to say, the scene with John Turturro making up baseball was pretty funny to me. I guess it's left as an exercise for the reader to decide if one funny scene is worth two hours' time.
12.30.15 Furious 7James WanThis was... a little boring for being a crazy action movie. But I guess I'm invested at this point... Although I feel like 5 will stand up as the best of the series for me, but what the hell. hopefully Vin finishes this series with "one more trilogy" and they make it to an even 10. I'd love for there to be a supercut of all 10 films cut together chronologically some day
12.29.15 Kill ListBen WheatleyI got a little tired of having to qualify that I hadn't seen Kill List when discussing Wheatley's films this past fantastic fest so I thought I would fill in the hole. I didn't love it. In theory I guess it's a nice blend of a hitman movie and horror but I just didn't enjoy the style. I can definitely now see where A Field in England and High Rise come from, but I think Sightseers is going to be the movie I like most from this guy.
12.29.15The Hateful EightQuentin TarantinoIn the theater again! This time going downtown to the Ritz to see this in the 70mm roadshow presentation. I have somewhat complicated thoughts that I'll get into below but the short version is that I liked the movie quite a bit.

About the film, I really only have one complaint and that's the narrator. Why'd it have to be HIM? I mean, I know why, but still... Just imagine for a second that it's Jody's voice. How cool would that have been? Instead, a complete ego move that took me right out of the immersion.

Otherwise, I thought it was great. It's fun to see everybody playing together. The script was great. The music was great (thanks to the Universal DVD of John Carpenter's The Thing, I immediately noticed when Morricone's unused score for that film came in). Fun fun movie.

Now, about the technical specifications which seemed to have taken center spotlight for the film's marketing. First of all, why pick a movie that's like 75% shot in a one-room set to shoot in ultra panavision? Secondly, why not put that film in IMAX rather than force normal theaters to show it on screens too small to see any of the added benefit? And thirdly... was it really SO long ago that Avatar forced everyone to switch the DCP that everyone forgot how to run film through a projector? My screening didn't have any problems (a big reason why I went to the Alamo versus the Tinseltown), but I've read from numerous sources online that some screenings have had to default to digital by the end because of technical issues. Ouch.

My personal theory is that Tarantino fell in love with the idea of making a movie in ultra panavision and showing it Ben Hur style with an overture and an intermission and program book and all that... but then just thrust it into his next project more out of opportunity than thematic fit. Django would have been an excellent film to shoot with those lenses. This one... is for the most part wasted. Now don't get me wrong, what little location photography present is absolutely beautiful and Bob Richardson shoots the hell out of that set and it's fun to be able to see the other actors on the edges of the frame, but it's still just mostly actors talking to each other.

During one scene, Bruce Dern has a reaction to a character entering the scene. He's in a long shot and I think it was designed that we notice him because of the format, but the Ritz's screen is not big enough to suitably take advantage of the format so I could still barely see Dern's face. I couldn't help but wish that I was watching this at the Paramount where it really SHOULD have been shown.

The program book is a nice touch however, and I'm still glad I got to see this format of the film. I definitely live in a fortunate city for film fans. I don't want to come off whiny or ungrateful... but I really don't think 90% of audiences will notice a difference between this and DCP.

So, now I'm curious to pick up the blu and give it another viewing to see what 5 minutes was only in this cut. I'm guessing it's mostly scenery, which is a shame because the film needs as much of that as it can get.
12.28.15 SicarioDenis VilleneuveI really wanted to see this because I think the Mexican drug wars are really fertile ground. Everyone's good in it, the music is really haunting and good (more like a horror movie than an action movie), excellent photography... but I think I overhyped it for myself because I had a sense of "that's it?" when it was over. I'm not sure what I was expecting... but I had a bit of wanting left over afterward, which is weird because I think everything about it was good solid filmmaking.
12.28.15 Moonrise KingdomWes AndersonGot the Criterion of this for Christmas and my aunt hadn't seen it. I think I liked it more this time. I mean you can either love all the intricate details in the meticulously-constructed frames or you find it too precious and irksome. I love it. The photography is certainly stunning here though and the story is very innocent and charming. I'll probably end up owning all of Wes Anderson's stuff eventually just like the Coens.
12.21.15 Star Wars: The Force AwakensJ.J. AbramsSaw the new Star Wars. It kind of sucks that I feel my old man crabbiness coming on, but the truth of the matter is that I had no interest in opening night crowds. Furthermore, I probably should have seen this at an Alamo but didn't want to camp on the refresh button trying to get decent seats before they sold out in three seconds. So I thought maybe a weekday matinee at the Bullock IMAX would be reasonably civil while still allowing me a good chance at a positive screening. I didn't really see that IMAX was showing in 3D which was not ideal but oh well.

So, all that crap about how i hate leaving my house aside, I liked the movie a lot. I feel like every moviegoer shared a sigh of relief at it not sucking as we left the theater, although I did see two dudes high five each other which was pretty funny. I also sat next to a little boy which gave me a nice reminder of myself seeing Jedi. He was well behaved but started fidgeting when the old people on the screen talked for too long.

And you know... I think that's the most mixed-emotion-y part for me as well. On the one hand, you kind of HAVE to have Han Solo and Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker back if you're doing another Star Wars sequel, but on the other hand... they are all old and probably don't really care about acting anymore. That might be too harsh, but the general vibe I get from Harrison Ford is that he wants his money and for everyone to leave him alone these days, and I think Carrie Fisher had much more fun on the press tour for the film than actually making the movie. So I thought everything with the new cast was great, but aside from a few nostalgia uppercuts when you first see familiar faces, the original characters offered the most strained dialogue and acting. I kind of want to watch the original trilogy again to remind myself why Harrison Ford was so amazing to begin with. Granted, I feel like he actually worked for this movie which is more than can be said for anything in the last 15 years, but it's just not the same. His stuff felt off to me. Like... really? Han still has to deal with these trader dudes or whatever? And when I think about it I guess he would be... the script makes logical sense, but it's just weird to see the characters alive again.

That said, everything else felt excruciatingly designed to feel 100% Star Wars. It feels like JJ came in with a list of 80 things that he wanted to see in the movie and a list of 100 things that he wanted to NOT put in the movie and went from there. Also, the film feels like it's trying really really hard to fit into the mold, sometimes to the point of telegraphing plot. I don't really think this is a bad thing. I feel like the ancillary movies that are not "core" episodes will have license to play around with the formula a bit and present different viewpoints so there's nothing wrong with this being a most crystalline Star Wars structure, but still when a couple scenes started I immediately knew how they would end which was kind of a bummer because... they were bummer scenes and feel like they maybe didn't have to happen even though why am I even upset about it but still I am so whatever...

Anyway, All of this deconstruction aside, I really enjoyed myself. A few times I got major dopamine rushes as I felt The Force of a good Star Wars movie just like when I was a kid. And although the 3D mostly just meant an uncomfortable set of glasses pressing against my brow, the hint of depth during the air battles gave an extra little bit of excitement (mostly I look forward to seeing the 2D Blu at home though). And did I mention that I really liked all the new characters? Pretty much everyone was great. wtf is up with Oscar Isaac killing everything out of nowhere? Jesus.

So yeah. Major sigh of relief. It was really good. I really liked it. All is right with the world.
12.17.15 Mission: Impossible - Rogue NationChristopher McQuarrieThe one where Tom Cruise hangs off a plane as it takes off. This was mostly ok. Really my only thought is how cool it must be to be Simon Pegg these days. To go from the dude from Spaced being a Star Wars and Star Trek geek to all of a sudden being IN Star Wars, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible! Gotta be pretty sweet.
12.13.15 SouthpawAntoine FuquaI still don't really care for Fuqua as a director but I like Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker. For me the movie kind of evened out. I thought Gyllenhaal's performance was really great but Kurt Sutter's script had me rolling my eyes a few times and Fuqua's ultra dramatic everyshot was a bit much. Luckily there was some humor in watching 50 Cent try to act.
12.10.15 Terminator GenisysAlan TaylorThe Terminator is entering Die Hard territory where there are now more bad movies than good yet something about the world is still interesting enough for me to keep watching. I thought this one had some promise. Byung-hun Lee makes a great T-1000 and the young Arnold was kind of a cool idea... but the rest of the movie was pretty crap. Making John Connor the bad guy was a total mistake. Hopefully they don't make any more of these and let the first two (and I guess maybe the third) live on with dignity.
12.06.15 San AndreasBrad PeytonI'm playing lots of Fallout 4 these days so I'm in a disaster kind of mood. This was barely ok. To be honest, I found Alexandria Daddario's breasts to be distracting. I buy that she could come from Carla Gugino's DNA but damn... how is The Rock not struggling with awkward thoughts!?

Anyway, like I said, barely ok. I get that they were showing the strongest earthquakes ever recorded but jesus you'd think that California builders didn't know earthquakes were a thing. The "newest, strongest" building ever somehow collapses after it's half-way submerged? Maybe there's some heady physics that I don't understand that explains this but for the most part it feels pretty false. Like how a helicopter has enough fuel to fly halfway up the third biggest state in the country. shrug. I mean I know i'm not supposed to be thinking during this CG fest but... you know... maybe a tiny bit of logistics wouldn't hurt?
11.23.15 AlohaCameron Crowewell...

so here's the thing. I still feel like Cameron Crowe has a great movie in him. Maybe it'll be Roadies... who knows... I don't really know anything about his personal life but I feel like, just from watching his movies, he's had a pretty rough couple of years. I hope he gets his mojo back, because i'm still a fan.

but yeah, this was a mess.
11.20.15 Murder Rap: Inside the Biggie and Tupac MurdersMichael DorseyThis caught my eye because it purported to have lots of police recordings of people involved and the reddit comments said the book that this is based on pretty much answered the question of who killed both these guys. I was never a huge Tupac or Biggie fan musically but I did enjoy Nick Broomfield's doc enough to be interested in finding out further developments.

As a film this one is pretty rough. It's almost all audio recordings and talking heads along with a few CG and bad-acting re-enactments. The actualy information though is pretty interesting. I believe it. Suge Knight's interview in the Broomfield doc easily paints him as a gangster and I'd always heard some shady shit about Sean Combs so I don't really have much of a problem believing that they were both responsible.

So... I dunno. interesting to watch once.
11.16.15 ChappieNeill BlomkampNobody does CG machinery better than Neal Blomkamp. Unfortunately I had some problems with the story and the movie mostly feels like a commercial for Die Antwoord for some reason. Like, how was it ok that Ninja wears a shirt with his face on it and his name and band name on the back and it gets a closeup? And why are there like a dozen Die Antwoord songs in the movie? It's a bit odd to hear Yo-landi speaking dialogue while her voice is rapping on the song that's playing under the dialogue. I'm all for using them in the film but this was a bit much. It kind of took away from the rest of the movie for me.
11.16.15The GamblerRupert WyattIt's always interesting to see which movies Mark Wahlberg feels like showing up for and which he completely phones in. This would've been an odd choice to see "actor Mark" had he not produced it. Something must have clicked with this character for him. I'm not sure I get it, but whatever. It had a good cast (even if some were only on screen for like a minute, George Kennedy). Man it was nice to see George Kennedy again.

Otherwise... I didn't think it was bad, but i did roll my eyes a few times at Wahlberg's ennui. I suppose that's the point of the film maybe? i don't know. whatever.
11.16.15 Kingsman: The Secret ServiceMatthew Vaughngood fun solid comic book action. It seems like Sam Jackson had fun. Certainly the church scene was crazy. Light popcorn stuff. I do like how they went all the way with the evil lair and henchmen and stuff, which seemed impossible after Austin Powers.
11.09.15 PixelsChris Columbusnot unspeakably terrible (at least compared to other Adam Sandler movies), but certainly a missed opportunity. Man that original short was cool, and the effects in this were too (although technically they were voxels not pixels, yuck yuck). But yeah... with Sandler's apathetic mits on it this was bound to be a snoozer. As always, I'm sure it was fun to shoot.
11.09.15 EntourageDoug EllinAhh the Entourage movie. Remember when people liked watching this show? bout rich people with ridiculously ridiculously miniscule problems? Well now they're back! What a shocker that I forgot this existed until I saw it available to watch.

And you know... to give it some credit, it delivers just like the show did. When it's there in front of your face, it's a nice enough diversion. And then it's over and you forget about it and move on. I'm sure E will get over his mopeyness and get back with Sloan next time too.

At least their portrayal of texas is as inaccurate as their portrayal of los angeles.
11.08.15 It FollowsDavid Robert MitchellFinally saw this! I really liked it! It had an original premise, subdued and effective execution, and great atmosphere. The main girl's performance bugged me a tiny bit but I suspect her vacancy is a tonal choice since everything about the movie was trying to be muted and creeping rather than quick and actiony. The abundance of circling pans showing the surroundings and making you think anyone walking in the background could be "it" following, the really great soundtrack with its pads and synths washing over you and building up deep bassy drones that release in uneasy silence, they both fit with the lead's vacant stares.

I get that Cliff Martinez's synth stuff is kind of driving a trend right now and I was originally kind of put off by the soundtrack choice but as the film went on I really came to like it. I looked him up afterward and found out that he didn the soundtrack to a video game called Fez, which completely makes sense because both soundtracks are great in an elevated chiptune sort of way.

And also shooting in Detroit. That's like free atmosphere these days.

So yeah, this was really effective. I loved the actor choices for the actual followers. The tall guy was probably the creepiest? or maybe the peeing pross? Dunno. Good job though. Yay I wasn't disappointed! I'm so glad!

So this is a great movie to end the fest on. Gotta say, for a year that kind of whipped together impromptu style I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. It's always fun to set aside the weekend like this and fall down the movie hole for a while. I wish it could keep going but alas tomorrow is Monday and it's almost time to make the donuts.

So let's run down some stats for the year. 10 in the past week (1.43 daily average), 17 in the past month (0.57 daily average), 176 in the past year (0.48 daily average), and 2866 since this site started (0.71 daily average). It's best not to think about what those numbers were like 7, 8 years ago... but they are what they are.
11.08.15 Ex MachinaAlex GarlandA sexy robot tests a few nerds who drink beer and talk about AI. So when this came out I was a bit hesitant because of the whole "sexy robot" thing but I then heard from pretty much everyone how good it was and am finally seeing it now. Surprise! It's really fucking good! Even though the robot is sexy, they address it in the film and it's actually a plot point which is nice.

The film looks spectacular. The sets and location photography are unbelievable. The fact that this is technically an indie movie... and it looks this good with that many effects shots in it... there are really no excuses you know? I mean I know Alex Garland is a high profile screenwriter so this isn't like completely out of the blue but come on... Stuff like this, Blue Ruin, hell... Monsters. Having no money is no longer an excuse for a movie not to look spectacular.

And Geoff Barrow on the soundtrack! 2015 is turning out to be quite a lucky year for Portishead fans between this and High Rise. I mean I'm still waiting for a new album but I won't complain about getting an interesting and characteristic score out of the man any day. It reminded me a lot of when Underworld used to score films like Breaking and Entering and Sunshine.

So yeah... loved this. Liked it way more than I thought I would. But yeah, that robot was sexy. I only had one little problem with the plot and that's at the very ending. I thought he changed the security protocols to open the doors when the power failed, so... shouldn't the doors be open at the end? whatever, still a good movie.

Up next is the last film of DVRfest 2015. It is a movie that I wanted to watch for last year's fest because I missed it at Fantastic Fest but it wasn't available yet, so now I feel like i've missed it two or three times and everyone seems to gush about it so I hope I like it too and don't have to be that guy. I'll find out in a few hours!
11.08.15 TomorrowlandBrad BirdI've picked out three more movies that I feel fit the general DVRfest theme of movies that I've been wanting to see but haven't gotten around to yet, starting with this Brad Bird hopeful sci-fi love letter to the imagination and innovation of Walt Disney. I feel like, in terms of box office and this movie's public reception, the optimistic and inspirational nature wasn't very well received and the cynical toxicity of places like Twitter melted it down with acid, not helped at all by its defenders basically trying to guilt trip the world into having better taste in movies. It's true that this isn't a comic book movie, sequel, or remake and yes, in a perfect world, everybody would be open to something like this. But it's also a super hard sell of a movie that's half retro-futuristic nostalgia, half environmental proselytization, and half sci-fi thriller. This movie seems destined to become a cult favorite liked by people who already like Brad Bird in a not-as-good-as-iron-giant type way.

I liked it more than Iron Giant (aren't I special!?). I love meta Disney stuff, love anything having to do with Disneyland, and love that some movies aren't afraid to have a message (even though they still do make me groan when i see all that on-the-nose nihilism). It's very easy to tear this movie down for daring to be about something, anything more than CGI, but I have to give it kudos for trying. Except I also see the marketing department drooling over collectible pins and pre-worn NASA hats and George Clooney toy jetpacks... but since the movie kind of bombed then we didn't get to see any of that stuff. YET.

I thought it was good though. I thought the actors, including the children, did a great job for such an effects-heavy movie and the tomorrowland design was fantastic. I like that George Clooney can be in a movie and not have to be on every page of the script, I like that Brad Bird wasn't afraid to dive into live action and try something new. And, a few global warming commentaries aside, I didn't groan at any stupid turns or glaring holes which seems to be less and less common these days.

Up next is another sci-fi, followed by the final film of the fest! I hope I can fit them both in and still make it to work in the morning.
11.08.15The Decline of Western Civilization Part IIIPenelope SpheerisI saw the first Decline as a vhs rental in high school. The second Decline was a DVRfest movie from several years ago. I didn't know there even was a third Decline until this past Fantastic Fest when Daniel Kerr mentioned that Penelope Spheeris was just here for an AFS event (which I really should have known about and been there for, I bet seeing Suburbia on the big screen was a treat, not to mention all three of these docs). So shame on me for not knowing she was in town and shame on me for not knowing this existed. Time to fix that!

So my memory of the first Decline movie was that it was interviews and footage of just the bands? Maybe there were some fans thrown in there too. Certainly for the second film she stretched out a bit and talked to some fans/groupies as well as local hair bands, but this one seems very focused on the gutterpunks: homeless punk rockers who hang out on Hollywood Boulevard and go to shows in between their drinking binges. The focus on these particular kids gives the music itself a secondary role, which I guess could also be said about the second one.

I really loved this. It's a sad movie and pretty depressing but it's also authentic as hell and shows a new and unique part of life that most people don't get to see. I thought of Zack Carlson often while watching this. His Destroy All Movies book about punks on film talks a lot about how punks were portrayed - mostly inaccurately - in the media and how few movies carry the "real" punk spirit. I feel like Penelope Spheeris is the queen of that spirit. Certainly as far as the movies I've seen, I can only think of Alex Cox's Repo Man that even comes close to Suburbia and Dudes. In some ways I feel like this movie represents punk even more than the first (which is ridiculous but still). But who am i... I sat on my couch eating pizza rolls while watching this...

So that was great, and also the only movie I had on the DVR this year. I'm kind of through my planned schedule of films so for the rest of the evening I think it's going to be random films off the internet! Yay for that!
11.08.15 Road HardAdam Carolla, Kevin HenchSo what happens with these kickstarter movies is that by the time I actually do get my DVD or Blu-ray or whatever then I've already moved on because everyone else has seen it and the disc just sits on the piles for months and months. That's what DVRfest is for though so that's why I'm watching these.

For a time I listened to Adam Carolla's podcast pretty regularly. I didn't buy his books but I did back his film. Since then, I've stopped listening to his podcast because it's kind of the same thing over and over again, but I'm on record for liking his first film The Hammer and hoped this would be as good.

It mostly is. Again, Carolla recognizes his limitations as an actor and writes a role that's 99% himself. The scenes where he has to emote things other than cynicism and depression feel a bit strained but they're minimal (just like The Hammer). This movie is well shot and there's a bunch of familiar faces in small roles that fill the film with smirk-worthy appearances and the script doesn't have any huge problems and it doesn't drag... so in that regard this is a pretty good movie.

My issue is the familiarity. It's probably a bit unfair to expect something completely different from a guy who more or less says the same stuff every day on his podcast, but I was surprised by how much material was taken directly from the show. So when David Alan Grier does his phramaceutical bit or his Teddy Pendergrass bit, it feels like a not-as-funny version of the hilarious moments on the podcast. Similarly, the stand up bits and the rants and anecdotes that Carolla's character recounts to his friends in the movie are pretty much taken directly from stuff that felt organic and natural when I heard it the first time but now feel regurgitated and shaped to fit a different mold. Again, this is probably unfair to the film itself, and as time goes on if I'm in the mood to revisit Adam Carolla's comedy I might be more inclined to watch this film again rather than listen to his podcast, or if his podcast ever changes then this will be a more palatable historical record of the stuff he was doing at the time that I was a listener rather than reading his books.

All that is to say that I liked the movie ok but didn't really hear any new jokes. However, there were a few meta things that I found amusing while watching. For one, they used Carolla's house as Larry "Babydoll" Miller's house in the film, so there's a huge thing where Carolla is complaining about how much money his agent has, using his own toys as examples... which is kind of odd and funny. But also, it let me see inside Carolla's house (which I've heard A LOT about on his podcast) so that was pretty sweet. Also, i'm guessing they used Nick Offerman's woodshop as Diane Farr's late husband's garage, and cameos from Carolla's dog and ex co-worker Alison Rosen and some of that stuff peppered throughout.

But, on a positive note, the movie did have a bit of the same heart that The Hammer had and presents all the things that I like about Carolla: his everyone-is-crazy-but-me observations, his refusal to play the game, and his love-me-or-hate-me induvidualism. So for that I liked this movie. It was pretty good.
11.07.15 Friday the 13th Part 2Steve MinerSo I remember thinking I had seen the first Friday the 13th but it felt like I was seeing it for the first time as I was watching. This one I was always on record as never having seen but there are a few scenes which felt oddly familiar. I wonder if a few teenage wires got crossed in my brain and I had it wrong all these years.

Anyway, now I've definitely seen them both. Cross that shit off the list. So this one... the birth of baghead Jason. It was ok. More of a straight sequel than I would've thought although I remember part 5 doing a very similar thing of showing the ending to the previous film. I'd like for me to have a ton of thoughts and notes on this now that i've finally seen all the films in the series, but really both of these films are very formulaic. As they should be... after all they are almost templates of the genre.

and thus ends day one of DVRfest. I'm going to sleep, then getting up and watching more movies!!!
11.07.15 Friday the 13thSean S. CunninghamBeing a child of the 80s I grew up with the ridiculous sequels of all the slasher films. I feel like my first Nightmare on Elm Street was part 2 or 3 and my first Friday the 13th was part 4. I've gone back on most long series like these and caught up but for whatever reason I never saw Friday the 13th part 2. Well I figure it's finally time to fill in that gap and I threw the first film on the queue because I can't actually remember watching it.

Usually when people watch this one I think they go on and watch the next 10. In my case i'm just seeing the first two tonight. I found a few interesting things with this. One is how much it owes to Psycho. Not just the mom thing but also the score. In addition to the ki-ki-ki ha-ha-ha thing but there are stabby strings through most of the horror here. It's pretty crazy to think that this was just 20 years after Psycho! 20 years after this we had...what, The Ring?

This one is also way more atmospheric than I remember. Lots of shots of the woods just hanging out being woods. It's actually surprisingly effective. I feel like the final shock scene and Kevin Bacon with the arrow through the throat is all that anyone ever sees or remembers from this movie these days but actually the first half is pretty quiet and understated.

Otherwise, yeah this pretty closely matches Bava's Bay of Blood. It's just kids dying in the woods. Still, it was pretty good and, like all films with too many sequels, a far cry from where the franchise wound up.
11.07.15 That Guy Dick MillerElijah DrennerI don't know if I went into this on my Wrecking Crew notes but this is another movie that I backed on Kickstarter and wound up being the last person on Earth to actually see. In the movie's defense, I think there was an Austin screening of this at South by Southwest but again but I was sitting at home waiting for my DVD or whatever.

All of that aside, I really enjoyed this one. I feel like the film clips and interviews were exhaustively complete and the whole thing was put together proficiently. Plus Dick Miller's personality is as fun as you want it to be so it's a joy to step into his life a bit and see things from his perspective.

And you know... this film also kind of doubles as an informal doc on Roger Corman and his New World generation. Joe Dante, Alan Arkush, John Davidson, Jonathan Kaplan, et al. I think that's some very fertile ground as well. It's fun to hear from all of those guys as well. I guess a snippet of Jack Nicholson would've been a really nice surprise but whatever... I didn't pledge at that level.

So yay. This one flew by compared to The Connection. Next up is a bit of a throwback double feature to take me deep into the night.
11.07.15The ConnectionCedric JimenezAlways a sucker for a gangster movie, I was pretty excited to see this French movie that tells the story of The French Connection from the other side of the Atlantic. So 70s, true crime, gangsters, police procedural... these are all words that I look for in a movie. So why didn't I love this movie? I really expected to love this but I didn't. It's too long, mostly. And I hate that I'm saying this but I had a real problem telling the main good guy apart from the main bad guy. I guess all Frenchmen look the same to me.

Anyway, I'm a bit surprised by this... time to watch something that will hold my interest a little better before delving into a horror double feature to end the night.
11.07.15The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)Tom SixIt's noon on a Saturday and I just watched a movie. What's that mean? It's DVRfest, muthahumpers!

This year I have a feeling the fest is going to be pretty minimal. I fell asleep last night trying to watch this first film, Molly's around the house doing stuff, and I'm working again so I only have the weekend. Plus I only have one movie on my actual DVR. Nevertheless, the spirit of DVRfest is alive and well as there are always movies that I need to catch up on and if I get through those I have the Internet at my disposal.

So let's get started! With this... terrible terrible movie. What a crazy arc, this series has had for me. The first film, a surprise hit at Fantastic Fest, really caught on and got a huge release. The follow-up, I believe an Opening Night film at Fantastic Fest, pretty much sucked. This one, silently released onto Netflix with absolutely no fanfare, has the stars of the first two films play prison management who are affected by the first two films and decide to subject the entire prison population to the human centipede process. They even bring in director Tom Six to prove his claims that it's 100% medically accurate.

So if Human Centipede 2 sucked, it was still kind of a real movie. This one doesn't even feel like that. I feels like they had a warden's office set for a week and decided to make a movie around it. The german guy, so awesome in the first film, is fully unleashed here in the worst possible way. He literally screams every line of dialogue and it's all but unintelligible. The super gross guy from the second film plays a mild-mannered account and not gross at all (not really anyway). There's also porn star Bree Olson and Eric Roberts for some reason.

So this was really really bad. Tiny Lister plays an inmate of the prison. A serious step down from playing the inmate in The Dark Knight. Here all that happens is he gets his arm broken and he beats up Bree Olson.

Gah. no fun. no fun at all.

Next up... hmm... i'll have to make up a schedule real quick, so I have no clue what's up next! Either way, we'll both find out in a couple hours.
10.27.15 Back in TimeJason AronA kickstarter doc about Back to the Future. At first I thought this would be just another retelling of how the film got made... and I was fine with that even though I think I got that story on the 25th anniversary DVD. But what I think sets this one apart is how roughly half the film is about various fans of the film and how they connect to it and were effected by it. That stuff was interesting and reflected a true cultural resonance that the film has. And man Leah Thompson still has it. Damn.
10.24.15 Avengers: Age of UltronJoss WhedonNot much to say about this one other than it was a solid B/B+ spectacle movie. It had a bunch of cool stuff in it... didn't make me groan or anything... yet I'm still not fully engaged with any of these movies. Popcorn stuff for sure...
10.23.15 Prophet's PreyAmy BergA doc about the Fundamentalist church of Latterday Saints AKA the crazy polygamist extreme Mormons as portrayed on the HBO show Big Love. I was surprised to see just how closely Big Love mirrored what was going on with this cult. Not the Bill Paxton character but Harry Dean Stanton and his whole family/compound. I knew they must be basing it on some fact but damn...

So... I can't help but compare this to Going Clear, the scientology doc. In terms of pure filmmaking, Going Clear is much better. This move feels cobbled together from one or two key interviews and a bunch of footage taken out the passenger window of a moving car. Still, the story itself is pretty incredible and I never felt like I was getting a limited view of what they were talking about. Playing the tape where the prophet guy creepytalks to his teen bride while pushing into her was arresting.

And again, I'm left with thoughts similar to my Going Clear experience. What's to stop these people from having a mass suicide or attack or something? Pretty chilling stuff.
10.17.15 EnemyDenis VilleneuveWell I finally got this watched. Kind of the only thing that got me through the first half hour was Denis Villeneuve's name. For the most part I found this pretty plodding and slow. It's kind of not until the last scene that I was really engaged. The whole thing begs for a second viewing to try and figure out what the end means, but I don't think I'm that invested. Whether it was literal or figurative, I don't really care. I can see how Villeneuve got from here to Prisoners, but I liked Prisoners much more.
10.17.15 UnknownJaume Collet-SerraAnyone with a longtime netflix disc subscription will know that sometimes you wind up having a run of the mill Liam Neeson thriller sitting on your blu-ray player for 4 months. Such is the case with this. At first I thought this was like Frantic but then it became very apparent that this was a Bourne knock-off. I kind of like how Liam Neeson has somehow become an action movie star. Wasn't he in Schindler's List?? whatever...
10.13.15 Blank CityCeline DanhierSo... if I could travel through time... And I'm not saying I believe that one day I will be able to do this but I'm saying if I COULD... I'd take a tour of places in times that seem especially interesting. Right at the top of my list of these times/places is NYC in the late 70s/early 80s. I'd leave before AIDS comes in, but right up until then you have this incredible confluence of neglect and energy and creativity and freedom. I feel like a decent percentage of the docs on this site have been circling this era and this doc has managed to land right in the middle. Watching this felt like finding a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that's right in the middle but it hasn't been placed because it accidentally fell on the floor or it was stuck in the box or something. TV Party, Klaus Nomi, early Hip Hop and films like Wild Style, Jim Jarmusch, CBGBs and bands like The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and Richard Hell, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Times Square, The 77 Blackout, and the post-apocalyptic destruction of the Bronx and the lower east side. I feel like I've seen films focused on all of these topics yet this one film also touches on them all. Furthermore, it fills in a huge blank spot in my cinematic knowledge: NYC Underground films.

I had a vague notion of this stuff... like I knew Andy Warhol was doing stuff with Paul Morrissey and making really obtuse art films and whatnot... and I'd also heard the names Richard Kern and Lydia Lunch in various industrial music circles like I think Marilyn Manson hired Kern to direct his first music video and Trent Reznor did something with Lunch back when I was into all that stuff... but I never really knew the story of who they were and what they did and I certainly didn't know (although I should have) that they tied into Jarmusch and John Lurie and Tom DiCillo and Steve Buscemi or anything like that.

So this doc was like crack for me. I lapped up every frame. It was one of those things where I didn't even know that I was looking for this knowledge until I found it, but as soon as I learned of this movie's existence I watched it and loved the shit out of it. I mean I was staring at pics of a young Debbie Harry on /r/oldschoolcool TODAY and marvelling at how amazing she looked when she was young. So... I have to give props to MUBI. I totally signed up for that site just to watch Junun (i cancelled my subscription before I got the activation email), but they sent me an email about this and pretty much fulfilled their exact mission of presenting curated content that I didn't even know I wanted until they showed it to me. So good job, MUBI. Do this a few more times and I'll re-up my sub!

Anyway... This has so much which is right up my alley by way of interviews, film clips, and source music... but what's interesting is that I didn't find myself really wanting to track down any of the films they discuss. And there were a ton of them. Really there's only one: Downtown 81, which I might try and see. The rest seem too rough for me to actually get much out of actually watching, which makes this movie even better because now I don't have to!

This also makes me wonder even more about John Waters. I think I saw or read or... somehow ingested a chunk of his biographical data back when I watched a bunch of his movies (perhaps it was DVD commentaries), but it sort of astounds me that... ok so this film really details how there was a vibrant community of artists living in the lower east side and incubating this incredible surge of culture which included these personal amateur films that aimed to shock and provoke reaction. But then there's John Waters more or less doing the exact same thing, except he's all alone down in Baltimore. I don't think he had any sort of community to draw inspiration and competition and support from... he's just making these crazy movies all alone (with Divine). Maybe there was a similar yet much lesser known scene in DC and Baltimore at the time? Or maybe Waters visited NYC a lot? Who knows... His early work perfectly falls in with all the other films shown here though... they were certainly aiming for the same target.

So anyway, now I feel like I know what Kern's and Lunch's "deal" is, and I got to see a super young Steve Buscemi acting with a super young Mark Boone Jr. (skinnier but still with the crazy hair and beard!) and roughly a half dozen jigsaw pieces clicked together thanks to this. I loved it.
10.10.15 JununPaul Thomas AndersonPTA Followed Johnny Greenwood to India to make a record. This is very much a performance/fly on the wall doc and less any sort of narrative. The music is good - I recommend wearing headphones - but it's less than an hour long and really, aside from the performances, there's not much here. Not that there has to be, but I don't know... I feel like we could've used at least a few minutes between Greenwood and Shye Ben Tzur talking about their collaboration and how the project came about. The film doesn't really explain anything. But the performances are good and the music's good so I wasn't bored or anything. I found it to be worth watching.
10.04.15 Blue RuinJeremy SaulnierMan this is good. I watched this again to try and see if it turns out better than Green Room and all that happened is now I want to watch Green Room again.

I went to kickstarter and watched the original pitch video for this. It's funny seeing the storyboards and test footage several years after the final product is complete. It only had something like 200 backers, 36 grand. I don't know how Saulnier achieved a movie that looks this good with that kind of money (in the pitch video he said he had 200 grand which is still unbelievably cheap), but this is a real gem of a movie. So well written, well performed, well shot and put together... Such constraint and intelligence behind the lens. I was afraid that my second viewing would be disappointing since the first was during Fantastic Fest but this really holds up incredibly well.

Macon Blair is so good in this. You completely believe him as an everyman. Whenever anyone describes a movie as "he's just a regular guy, not a superman" I compare it to this. Gush gush gush, love love love. ahhh.
10.02.15 RushRon HowardI started this movie before Fantastic Fest. I'm not really sure why I watched it. It was exactly what I thought it would be. Long, reasonably well shot, kind of boring. Blah. Not my kind of movie I guess.
10.01.15 Bone TomahawkS. Craig ZahlerWhich brings me to the closing night film which is a horror western starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, and Matthew Fox as a posse looking for troglodytes that stole Wilson's wife. Unfortunately, Russell couldn't be here due to some injury (he's still cool in my book), but the other three were along with the director and some producers and whatnot.

The movie was a lot better than I expected it to be (in that it was good and not crap). It looks and feels like a viable western except it has crazy cave-dwelling savages with self-mutilation make-up and lots and lots of practical gore and violence. One scene in particular (alluded to in the horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent but seen in full here (wherein the person is held up by their feet and split down the middle)) is great fun. Also lots of lopped off bits and pieces.

I don't know why, but I didn't expect the title to refer to an actual tomahawk made from bone. I thought it was some euphemism or metaphor or just two cool-sounding words put together, not a literal item featured in the film.

Richard Jenkins is great. He's just as funny during the Q&A as he was in the film. And actually Patrick Wilson was also very personable.

My one regret is that I saved a seat for Kier-la who never showed up so in the end some random dude ended up bugging me about the seat until we let him sit down. Oh well.

Anyway, afterward, Daniel offered to drive Grant and I out to the closing night party which was held in Star Hill Ranch out off of 71. The ranch has a kind of western-themed street with maybe a dozen olden-looking buildings in a row. The Alamo, who did a screening of Serenity there the other night, set up camp, converting most of the buildings to a party atmosphere. The church played demonic DVDs on a projector, several larger buildings housed bars (along with the saloon of course), there was a mechanical bull and bb gun shooting range set up, along with a tattoo parlor for those that won the tattoo lottery and some brisket bbq in a long-ass line. The food went pretty quick.

We hung around a bit. I don't think any of us are really much for parties. We did see Tim League get up and announce the audience awards while they passed around cascarones (confetti-filled eggs). He said that when he announced the winner everyone should slam the eggs on each other's heads. Since mine was already leaking flour all over my hand and shirt I elected to distance myself from the fray and discard my egg, but several poor dressed-to-party ladies wound up with flour-white hairdos thanks to Tim's prank. He said he thought it would be a good idea and make everyone look like the trogs from Bone Tomahawk. He got pelted.

After that we drove back to the South Lamar garage where we split up and headed home. Thus endeth my Eleventh Fantastic Fest.

Recapping a bit, I wound up hanging out almost exclusively with Daniel Kerr, Chris Popkoff, Grant Peterson, George Hickman, and Justin Lincoln which made it a lot of fun The facebook group chat that we were all in let us comment and share schedules which made getting decent seats at most screenings a breeze. Victor and Mark didn't make it, Jarrette was out of town, I saw Eric and Aaron briefly but never really hung out, and of course got my annual dose of Kayla.

My top 5 (in no order because honestly they're all tied for first):

-The Witch
-Green Room
-Man vs. Snake
-Dangerous Men
-Itchy-O (I know it's not a movie. shut up they were great)

My bottom 5:

1. Darling (intolerable)
2. Ruined Heart (at least there was music)
3. Zoom (saved by its last five minutes)
4. Camino (meh)
5. River (he MURDERED a guy!)
10.01.15 Love & PeaceSion SonoNext up was the new Sono, which by now I expect to be weird and unique and charming. I got all those things. Perhaps this is unfair, but I was kind of hoping for a bit more. This sounds incredibly jaded and douchy, but a Sono film where a turtle gets flushed down the toilet and winds up in a puppeted world where an alcoholic homeless guy brews up speech and wish candy that lets discarded toys and stuffed animals talk and transforms the turtle into a giant turtle that gives hit songs to its former owner is not weird and unique enough for me!

So... the sewer stuff with the old toys and the turtle didn't really do it for me. I think that's my problem with this movie. If I accepted that a bit more and had more fun with that then I think I would've liked this more. The other stuff, with the introvert guy who becomes a super huge star (based on 2 songs!?) and winds up in a shiny silver suit performing for millions was also a bit tame. However, the ending, where the beginning of the film comes back on a larger scale, was really great and connected beautifully. There is certainly a lot to love here.
10.01.15 DarlingMickey KeatingThis is a nice-looking black and white film where a female care-taker goes insane, kills someone, then jumps off the roof. It's very clear that the director was looking at Polanski movies like Repulsion and The Tenant for this. The problem is that both of those movies are much, much, much, much better than this.

So... I got the feeling that the main actress couldn't really deliver dialogue or something because most of the movie is silent and when she does talk to people, the language is stilted and poorly delivered. Even Sean Young's cameo was pretty cringe-worthy. Mostly, this movie relies on inserted frames accompanied by really shrill and loud music cues. When the gore does start (which looks great in black and white), the music ruined it for me. And by that time I was completely disconnected, counting the speakers mounted to the auditorium walls and studying the film reels used in the lighting fixtures because that was more interesting to me than what was on screen.

This was bad. I really didn't like it. It was a long goddamn 78 minutes.
10.01.15 Daniel's WorldVeronika LiskovaDay 8 (final day) started with this documentary about a pedophile trying to deal with his sexual identity and find acceptance in the world. The doc is very sympathetic and tries pretty hard to portray him as a victim of his own brain... which is fine.

Honestly, I'm pretty sympathetic toward pedos. If the internet has taught me anything, it's that there are people turned on by everything out there. We very often have little to no control over what turns us on, you just hope that whatever floats your boat is legal and consensual. For those that aren't that lucky, they are in for a pretty tough life.

Now, that's separate from abusers and rapists. A line at the end of the doc proclaims that something like 80 or 90 percent of child abuse is perpetrated by people who do not fit the medical diagnosis of pedophile. This film's whole deal is that Daniel loves this boy so he'd never do anything to hurt him, including indulging in his own fantasies. That makes a certain level of sense, right? I mean when a guy hangs out with a woman he likes, she shouldn't be afraid that he's going to rape him at a moment's notice, right?

Yet there's still that shock value when you see his wall of photos of little boys. And the pornography involved is a whole other can of worms that the film doesn't touch on at all. So I don't know.. the doc itself is just ok... nothing spectacular. But the subject matter is interesting along the same lines as Doglegs and Little Kingdom and other Fantastic Fest docs.

Brian Kelley intro'd the screening and said we should talk about it afterward. I guess he meant that we should talk amongst ourselves afterward because the film ended and most of the theater just sat there waiting in the dark. I got up and left and heard more than one person ask "Aren't we going to talk about it!?" It's the last day, people. Talk in the lobby.
09.30.15 Green RoomJeremy SaulnierMy day ended with an encore screening of Green Room, the festival's audience favorite film. This was getting dangerously close to overhype for me, enough so that I had started to actively avoid or dissuade talking about it until I could see it. I really liked Blue Ruin and pretty much knew I'd like this too, but I didn't want to go into it gauging it against unrealistic expectations.

I think that worked for the most part. I couldn't help but immediately feel that I still like Blue Ruin more (I'll have to give that another viewing to see) because of a few very minor details at the very end of the film, but for the most part this is a tight, constrained film that does what it intends to very well and never drags for a moment. All the performances are great, the script assumes we aren't idiots, and the action/gore is superbly realized.

This is my favorite gore of the festival. It's what I like to call "realistic gore," in that there's no rivers of blood or anything but when violence does occur it feels like we get every ounce of horror out of that violence. Nothing's dumbed down for the camera. When speaking with Grant I was trying to come up with another director who was really good at this but all I could think of was David Lynch. I think the Coens also do this very well.

So yeah, this one is incredibly solid. Like I said, other than a few very minor details at the end (with Macon Blair's character), I liked everything about it.
09.30.15 EvilspeakEric WestonKier-la Janisse came back into town to promote her new Spectacular Optical book: Satanic Panic. For the screening, they did a half hour presentation explaining the time in the 80s and 90s where America bacame obsessed with devil worshipers. They even showed clips from 20/20 and the Geraldo Rivera special during the height of the panic. That part was really great.

The movie they showed was this early 80s Carrie rip-off starring Clint Howard. Like a lot of exploitation films, it's more extreme than Carrie in almost every way. The world's hatred toward Coopersmith is more extreme, the religious furor is more extreme, and the climactic gore is also more extreme. In this movie, Howard sort of resurrects an ancient demonic priest with the help of his Apple IIe, then pledges allegiance to the devil in order to kill all the bullies who spent the last 70 minutes making fun of him.

It's a really fun movie in that Terror Tuesday vein. It was pretty clear that the print was edited as most of the gore money shots were quickly snipped and replaced with reaction shots - that stole a lot of the thunder I think - but it was still fun to watch with a crowd.
09.30.15 Men & ChickenAnders Thomas JensenI didn't see Adam's Apples, but thought I might still like this. If nothing else, it gave me a chance to catch up with Kayla a bit before the movie. It's about... a family of weirdos with harelips trying to sort themselves out.

This is an exceedingly weird movie, perfectly at home in Fantastic Fest. I'm not sure if I liked it or not... I mean... ugh, I don't really know what to say about it. It's just really odd and vaguely funny. MGTB.
09.30.15 RiverJaime DaggA doctor without borders goes down a river in Laos and winds up wanted for murder and goes on the run. Ultimately, he crosses another river (can't tell which is the titular one) into Thailand.

This movie had a pretty huge empathy problem for me. I feel like it was very much taking from Hitchcock in a "wrong man" situation but... accidental or not, the dude KILLS another dude. So am I supposed to be rooting for him to escape from authorities and get away with MURDER? Because I'm not. I'm kind of hoping he gets caught.

So that kind of ruined the movie for me.
09.30.15 Liza the Fox-FairyKaroly Ujj MeszarosDay 7 started with a swap. I had originally planned to see L'Affaire SK1 which was a procedural about a French serial killer, but was instead persuaded to see this Jeunet-esque Hungarian film about... trying to explain the plot kind of hurts my brain.

There's a bunch of stuff in this movie but, at its heart, it's a romantic comedy. Not in the Hollywood sense of that term, but still. There's a ghost of a Japanese pop star who kills people in interesting ways, an odd duck police detective, plenty of colorful characters and a semi-surreal world in a faintly Amelie way. In some ways, it's like Amelie meets Delicatessen.

Anyway, I liked this one. Of all the films I feel like the still for this in the program book was the most misleading. It's taken from a goddamn dream sequence in the film and doesn't look anything like the rest of the movie. I'm glad people said it's good but if I had seen a trailer or spent more time studying the films on the schedule I might have given this more interest from the beginning.
09.29.15The WitchRobert EggersOr should I call it "The VVitch" as it's written in the title card. This is like colony-era America where a family goes off to live on their own and gets tormented by a witch.

So... Some movies in the fest I found that I liked less than most. High-Rise might be a good example where I recognize that it's unique and good but I didn't really enjoy myself in it. This movie is the opposite. From what I heard from my friends and those around me, most everyone thought it was good not great. Some of them were coming out of Green Room (the audience favorite of the fest) so that might be a factor. I really liked this. I mean I REALLY liked it.

There's a limited cast of fantastic actors (including a few Game of Thrones vets), absolutely stellar production design and black and white photography, and a straight-forward story that was really effective in communicating the isolation and fear that came with living out in the wilderness back then. If I had one complaint it was that the music was mixed a bit loud but it was used well and thoughtfully and not too heavy-handed.

I LOVE that there's actually a witch in this. It's not some bullshit twist or turn, not some fog-like abstract presence represented by stupid satanic whispering or jump cuts of women blinking.

And those twins. Ugh. The whole film unfolds beautifully. I didn't find it slow or dragging at all (I don't know why, it is deliberately paced but for some reason I was into this unlike most of the other films at the fest). The main girl gives a great performance, and the end is FANTASTIC. Man, I really loved this.

I also now get all the Black Phillip jokes made at the feud.

Jump to the fence post
Running in the stall
Black Phillip, Black Phillip
King of all.

Toward the end of the fest, someone posted a poll: Black Pepper vs. Black Phillip. Hard choice!

Today was probably the highlight of the fest since I really liked all four movies I saw. That's a great day.
09.29.15The MartianRidley ScottIt was a hard choice to miss seeing something else in order to watch this 2 or 3 days before it's release, but I remember the Gravity screening from two years ago and how great it was and wanted to see this with the best possible audience. I kind of rushed to finish the book last week so I was really excited to watch this.

So I do a lot of criticizing on here when it comes to Ridley Scott. It's true that I think he's overrated and has been for some time. I still think he's overrated but I will say that he's competant and, given good source material, a pretty safe bet. I think he did a good job with this. I couldn't help but think that the script was pretty dumbed down compared to the book but I asked Daniel, who hadn't read the book, and he said it still felt pretty science-y and intellectual. They changed the ending, but whatever. They also took out the storm, which I understand would've taken a lot of valuable screen time and heavy lifting to explain what the fuck is happening but still... Had this been an HBO mini-series it would've been cool to see.

So I liked it. Hopefully it does well.
09.29.15 Dangerous MenJohn S. RadSo... both secret screenings kind of got out pretty early. Knowing that Crimson Peak was playing allowed some people to see other films since they didn't care to see Guillermo present it. On the other hand, when I caught wind that Drafthouse had finally gotten the rights and would be showing Dangerous Men as the second secret screening, it became my most anticipated time slot of the whole festival.

I'll have to go back and read my earlier notes but I didn't think I'd ever get to see this again. This is one of those movies that you shouldn't even get to own. It belongs in the realm of boastful tales and treasured memories. However it's probably selfish to keep the rest of the world from knowing about this movie so I'm glad that Drafthouse Films will put it out there because it's really the perfect Alamo film.

In preparation for the screening, I dug up the promotional rap that John Rad made ten years ago and sent the mp3 to my friends. We were quoting from it all week leading up to this. As we left the screening, they handed out cassette singles with the main theme on one side and the rap on the B side. Unbelievable. If I remember correctly, neither of the screenings I attended ten years ago were well attended. This screening filled the two biggest auditoriums at South Lamar. That's like 400 people seeing this movie at once. Probably 390 of them had never seen it.

Anyway, the movie's still great. I really wish I was in the main theater and not the simulcast because I feel like we had a more muted reaction. It still got laughs and applause but not nearly as much as what I heard theater 5 got. I'd often catch myself laughing early because the beginning of a scene would trigger my memory of what was coming up.

Black Pepper. What exactly did he do wrong?

It was impressive how compassionate Zack's intro was to this movie. He has an incredible gift of describing what to most is an awful mess in terms that are loving and positive and technically not untrue. I kind of worry that that outlook (which is very much the Alamo way of looking at things), doesn't carry outside this town. Like, the Miami Connection screening here was a lot of loving fun, but in other cities do people gather just to make fun of it like The Room? I don't know. The Alamo's rejection of "so-bad-it's-good" works well here when Zack or Lars can explain it before the show, but I worry that Drafthouse Films ends up profiting in a somehow meta-exploitative way. I dunno, I guess the intent in which someone buys something is out of the distributor's hands, but still I wonder if other audiences are so kind-hearted as Austin's.

Anyway, this was incredible. I loved getting the chance to see it in a theater again, and it will be an automatic buy when it hits blu.
09.29.15 Remix, Remake, RipoffCem KayaDay 6 started with this doc; full title: Remake, Remix, Rip-off: About Copy Culture and Turkish Pop Cinema. If this year's fest had a theme it was Turkish Cinema. They had a bunch of Turkish movie posters on display in the hall, the artword for the official poster and branding was a pastiche of elements taken from those posters, and they threw a "grand bizarre" one night at the highball where Elijah Wood spun Turkish 45s. They also had a handful of Turkish films as repetory screenings that I didn't see, but after watching this doc I wish I had.

Along the same lines as Not Quite Hollywood, this movie basically attempts to explain the history of Turkish cinema and what factors led to them churning out crazy knock-offs and IP-thefts throughout the 70s and 80s. I.e. a lot of those movies that are kind of branded as the Turkish Superman or the Turkish Rambo.

I liked the doc. I'm always up for learning about a different culture's cinematic history. Toward the end, the film mentions a violent coup and some other historic events which effected Turkey on whole. I get that the film has to limit its scope somewhere but that and just the minor mention of when sex came into the movies and everyone started doing softcore or hardcore porn (it was hard to tell how explicity they were talking about) were areas I wished it went into a little more. But still, on whole it was entertaining and interesting.
09.28.15The WaveRoar UthaugThis was a by-the-number disaster movie from Finland (or Denmark. I really am sorry that all three of the Scandanavian countries are more or less interchangeable for me). People at the fest gave it some shit, called it Dante's Peak, but you know... I think that other countries are entitled to make popcorn movies too.

Although this did follow the Hollywood disaster formula pretty closely, it was interesting for me to see it in a Scandinavian setting. The mountains and Fjords and peaks are beautiful. And every disaster movie has that great scene where the shit hits the fan, so this film is no exception.

Honestly, for day 5 this came as a welcome breath of mainstream accessibility.

For the midnight slot I went to the Fantastic Feud and watched a bunch of movie nerds act tough on stage while simultaneously failing to name any fucking Christopher Lee movies at all. That aside, it was pretty fun. Tim League was relatively calm, really the whole show went pretty smoothly... I'm not sure if I liked that or not. I did like Scott Weinberg's open hostility toward Max and his sentence construction. The crowd seemed rowdier than the contestants though and, sorry ladies, but for most of the game every point on the women's team came from some dude in the audience.

I guess I understand wanting to change up the teams, keep them current and somehow relevant to this year's fest (it was cool that Karyn Kusama was willing to get up there and test her knowledge), but honestly with folks like Matt Kiernan and Zack Carlson in the audience I found the knowledge base on both teams kind of lacking. I think only one or two questions were answered individually? I mean I didn't really know any of the answers either, but some years the feud was an impressive showcase of movie geekery. This year it seemed like an excuse for the audience to get drunk.

At one point someone threw ice chips at James Shapiro and he started drunkenly winging them back. In the fray, some guy with an expensive camera got hit in the head and he got PISSED. He stared down the dudes in the back until they saw him then proceeded to agg out, saying unique stuff like "what!?" and "fuck off!" The drunk guy in the back was all like "everyone here is having fun but you." Sigh.
09.28.15 High-RiseBen WheatleyThe new Ben Wheatley, who's a total Alamo fav. This one is like a vaguely sci-fi lord of the rings where Tom Hiddleston moves into a new skyscraper and the power goes out and a class struggle between the top floor residents and those below ensue.

It's pretty crazy. There's more than a little of Cronenberg's Shivers in there, without the weird under-the-skin monsters. Everyone kind of goes insane, but it's hard to tell if it's just a weird world or a normal world with weird people in it.

There's a new Portishead song in this. They cover Abba's "SOS." I really appreciated how the film new how awesome and rare it was for a new Portishead song to exist so the movie basically stops and have a 5-minute montage to let the audience listen to the song. It was great.

All in all, Wheatley definitely has a unique voice. I don't really know if I like it or not, but I respect that it's there.
09.28.15 ZoomPedro MorelliThis... is several stories intertwined in a feedback loop. There's a girl who wants bigger boobs that's writing a comic about a guy who's directing a movie about a writer who's writing a book about a girl who wants bigger boobs... or something like that.

Anyway, in the last five minutes all the worlds become aware of one another and it's animated/live action/written in a way that I found interesting and satisfying. However, the movie leading up to that point had a lot of problems. This feels better suited as a short maybe, or perhaps if each thread had more going on... I don't know.

Kid Koala did the soundtrack. I was expecting that to be a highlight but actually it was one of the things that bothered me most. There were a bunch of songs that were so completely goofy and on the nose that it completely took me out of the movie and made me groan. I think one song the lyrics were "b-o-o-b-s" and another one was like "got my mojo back," during a sex scene. Ugh.
09.28.15 Stand By for Tape Back-upRoss SutherlandDay 5 started with this... which is really more of a performance art/poem piece set to a spare visual than a documentary. The director examines the loss of his grandfather using scenes from a VHS tape with shared sentimental value, using the tape to form metaphors and milestones with his life and emotions and relationship to his granddad. For example, he plays the intro to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air like 4 or 5 times, rewinding after each time, and uses words that literally describe what's on screen but in sentences that talk about his grief and loss.

Sometimes, you just stare at a paused frame of Bill Murray from Ghostbusters for five minutes. Other times you're watching a blue screen as the tape rewinds.

So... I don't really know if I'd call this a film. I mean i guess "documentary" is certainly open enough to fit this in its criteria, but it's really, like I said, more of a recorded performance art piece or extended multimedia poem. As such, it's deep and effecting, but it didn't really connect with me that deeply.

Sutherland performed live for the first screening of this, which I'm sure made it more commanding since he's there in person speaking.
09.27.15 Klovn ForeverMikkel NorgaardThe last movie of the day was the new Klown. In the South Lamar lobby, they had a giant banner showing the two main actors in a 69 position on red satin sheets. Both of their balls were on full display. Before the movie, David Strong took a picture in front of the banner with his balls out. So that happened.

The FF screening of the first Klovn movie now lives as a hallowed memory in my brain. I remember crying from laughing so much. It's hard to live up to that, so much so that I haven't gone back to watch the first movie again in fear that I will be disappointed.

This one was good. I didn't laugh as much as I did in the first but that doesn't make this one bad. It's renewed my interest in watching the tv show. These guys are funny.
09.27.15The Devil's CandySean ByrneSo... I didn't see The Loved Ones, but in the Q&A the producer said that Sean Byrne's rewrite process is to swap out large themes or settings rather than just polish existing material. I think that process is what led to my problems with this movie because it feels like there are a lot of half- ideas here that never really resolve or connect.

Mostly this was still MGTB, but it's pretty hard to genre-ize. It's kind of a haunted house, kind of a demon posession, kind of a serial killer, kind of whatever... but I'd have a hard time it's all the way any of those. As I write that, it sounds interesting but while watching it was kind of bothersome.

The real star of this movie is Pruitt Taylor Vince, whose imposing physical presence and crazy eyes coupled with his vulnerable child-like performance create a truly dangerous character. Ethan Embry was ripped and tattooed and all but felt kind of silly next to Vince.
09.27.15 Schneider vs. BaxAlex van WarmerdamThis was about a couple hitmen playing cat and mouse with each other. It was kind of billed as a quirky dark comedy but I thought it had several plot and tonal problems that kept me from really loving it. Still, it wasn't bad and there were a few moments of good stuff.

There were a lot of movies that wound up being more good than bad but somewhere in that realm of mediocrity. I'll take that over painfully horrible movies any day, but they are kind of hard to talk about it. This is one of them. From now on I'll tag these movies as MGTB because I can't be bothered to actually type out "more good than bad" every time.
09.27.15 Man vs. SnakeTim Kinzy, Andrew SeklirFull title: Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler.

This is like a sister film or spiritual successor to King of Kong. It shares several interview subjects (most notably american tie-wearing Billy Mitchel and Twin Galaxies referee Walter Day), but is about the high score of another game. Nibbler is like a cross between Pac-Man and that game Snake where the more he eats the longer he gets and the more cumbersome he is to control without eating his own tail.

This was great. Really great. Just as good as King of Kong in my opinion, but distinct enough to stand on its own. For one, i really love how there is no clear villain. Billy Mitchell comes off much more sympathetically here, as does Dwayne the crazy canadian competitor to our protagonist Tim McVey (not the terrorist). They also use some animation to really great effect. A highlight is during a telling of McVey setting the original high score where they use the talking head audio to drive the animation.

It's just as well-produced and structured as King of Kong, just as impactful (it got a little dusty in the audience when a certain meal of mac & cheese was mentioned, I wish the Alamo would have brought some out just then for everyone), and just as invigorating. Great movie
09.27.15 EvolutionLucile HadzihalilovicNOTE: I got too tired and stopped writing these notes day by day. The remainder is coming from the weekend after the fest ended.

Day 4 started with this odd film directed by a collaborator of Gaspar Noe. It's very pretty with lots of underwater photography and gross-looking food and little boys who look alike and french women who look alike, but it's one of those movies with very little dialog so I kind of fought sleep a bit toward the end.

This is a common theme for me this year. I had long blinks and head nods for practically every film. I credit this to me being a pussy when it comes to film festivals these days. I really have no excuse since I had off work and got a decent amount of sleep every night. However, I could easily tell when I really liked a movie because I would stay awake through the whole thing.

Anyway, this was ok. It never really gets as intense that it maybe should, but whatever...
09.26.15 FollowOwen EgertonLocal favorite Owen's movie about a crazy girl and her unfortunate boyfriend. For a movie of this type (which I feel like I've seen several although none are coming to mind), I thought this was really solid. Unfortunately, it's also not my favorite genre so it kind of evened out to being pretty good for me. I do think it was very well made and it certainly kept me engaged, but the whole hide-the-body thing is not my favorite.

So, I had intended to see Baskin for the midnight, but they moved up the starting time and my brain was too busy being exploded by the band Itchy-O to care about seeing anything.

For real. The Itchy-O marching band from hell/Denver... was amazing. I feel like there might have been just as many band members in the crowd as festival-goers, but having half the band walking among the crowd is a stroke of genius. It was creepy and bizarre and surprising and fun in oscillating intervals. The tiny women in black sheets writhing on the ground were the creepiest, although there were so many absurd moments in that 90 minutes of performance:

-seeing Noah get locked in a head trance with one of the dudes,
-when both the tiny women curled up against each of this one guy's legs and everyone was taking pics of him but he was just standing there scratching his chin
-the random guy trying to follow behind the dude with the gigantic bullhorn speaker strapped to his back, flinching and leaning back every time the speaker shrieked out noise (which was often)
-A similar dude standing right in front of Micah then blasting a sample of an elephant roar right in his face
-the crazy ass chinese dragon getting so close that i could see the eyelashes on the blinking lids as it tried to munch on a girl's chest
-watching this big guy jump back in terror as one of the tiny women in the black shrouds sprung forward at him and started coo-ing into his ear while rubbing on his belly
-Randomly looking behind me and seeing both tiny women writhing on the floor together, one of them going into a headstand for like a minute and a half.
-watching the crazy speaker dudes sneak up behind people and invade their personal space
-Watching a space blanket get torn to shreds above the seething mass of bodies in front of the stage.
-seeing one of the band members get propped up and crowd surf. This was in THE HIGHBALL!
-The demonic procession of flags and eerie drones that starting the whole thing off
-the Mad Max-esque dude on the giant tricycle riding through the crowd with speakers rigged up behind him.

Seriously, it was insane. I've never been to a Skinny Puppy show but this is kind of how I picture one of those going back in their heyday. I was seriously impressed.

Of course now I have to figure out how to go to sleep...
09.26.15 Too LateDennis HauckJohn Hawkes stars in this LA neo-noir constructed from five 20-minute takes. They're out of order kind of like Pulp Fiction so we have to figure out where we are and what happened between takes.

So, I like film as much as the next movie geek, but this movie seemed to really go out of it's way to call attention to the fact that it was shot and presented in 35. That length of each take matches that of a full mag, each scene cuts to black as if to accentuate the cigarette burns, and there's a lot of technical wizardry going on with cranes and steadicams and long lenses. Furthermore, the guy who intro'd this said that the producers refused to make a digital screener of the film and insisted that buyers watch it on 35. And also that they've had offers but are holding back because they want a long theatrical release like Magnolia. It seems a bit extreme to me.

So the first scene almost lost me. The dialogue was really stilted and the acting wasn't great and the camera moves were so deliberate that I felt like I was watching some student film trying to prove how savvy he is. Luckily, John Hawks plays a more prevalent role in the other scenes and I thought carried the dialogue much better. Plus there's a scene inspired by Julianne Moore in Short Cuts where a woman answers the door and spends 20 minutes with no pants or underwear on. That didn't win any points with the women in the audience (as I was walking out I heard someone talking with her friends saying, "I've never forgotten to wear pants when opening the door, have you?") but you know... pubes.

All in all I thought this was pretty good. It had problems, but it also had a couple moments. I still have a problem with these long-take movies in that you limit yourself from perhaps the most fundamental tool of cinema which is editing. It often felt like I was watching a play, although this movie did not suffer from other problems shared by filmed plays like limited setting and lack of movement.

So yeah, pretty good.
09.26.15 CaminoJosh C. WallerZoe Bell plays a photojournalist following Columbian missionaries led by Nacho Vigalondo until stuff happens and thrills ensue. I was pretty blah on this. It didn't help that the writer said he whipped up the script in two days. A lot of threads don't really connect with much cohesion, the photography is pretty flat, and the score, while I liked the intent, was pretty grating and mixed too high in the theater. I still like Zoe Bell but I thought she'd be in a better movie. Oh, and don't get me started with the ending. Laughable. She swears to never take another photo again, then gets in an El Camino and drives off into the sunset!? blarf
09.26.15 DoglegsHeath CozensDay 3. This is a doc about a Japanese event where disabled people get to box or fight in a ring. Like most Fantastic Fest docs, this was really interesting and strives contextualize what could be seen at a glance as exploitation. It's a little reminiscent of last year's Little Kingdom but there's no hint of coercion or exploitation in what Doglegs seems to be about. While it looks shocking at first - an enabled person beating up on a disabled person - you quickly learn that the "bad" guys really care for the people that they're fighting and use the event as a way to empower the disabled guys and make them feel equal rather than coddled and pitied.

The scariest guy I thought was the depressed guy. Everyone else that the film follows has some sort of physical condition but this one guy is pretty severely depressed and a hoarder. The film doesn't go too far with specific medical details but he seemed to have self-inflicted scars as well. I really felt for that guy.

A pretty huge turn in the film for me was when I realized that the announcer, who's been responsible for some of the most un-PC humor in the film, is actually the main enabled guy's wife. So it was really his wife calling him the Hitler of the disabled who will take all disabled people to gas chambers. That's some unconventional love right there.

This was really solid.
09.25.15 In Search of the Ultra-SexNicolas Charlet, Bruno LavaineThis was a French movie made up of old porn clips that were re-dubbed to make a silly story about how everyone on earth is taken by some sex craze that makes everybody fuck. In full candor, I was fighting sleep for the whole thing. So what I suspect was a pretty loose story to begin with loosened up even more with me dozing off a nodding out every few minutes.

The stuff I liked about it was that they made some references which clearly make it a contemporary movie like Dancing with the Stars and Daft Punk, but you're still watching gross 70s and 80s porn actors with their hair and high-waisted underwear and natural bushes. (there were a lot of dongs but nothing erect which I guess makes this art instead of porn (or would this be considered X? (what constitutes XX anyway?))).

The other thing that I liked about this was when the guy over-dubbing everything would comment or make fun of the actual clip and incorporate that into the story, saying stuff like "then the matrix numbers effect but not as good," or "invaders from planet Wig" when there were a bunch of dudes with poofy blonde wigs on.

For the most part though, it was silly nonsense and it felt like it went on too much (which is rough since it was only an hour). There were two shorts that preceded it. One, Fuck Buddies, was ok but the girl in it was hot enough to make it like... halfway effective. The other one was directed by Bryan Poyser and it was pretty funny... about a teacher who mistakes his xanax bottle with viagara.

Man, I'm beat. Bed now.
09.25.15 Crimson PeakGuillermo del ToroSo Tim League said in his intro that we were allowed to talk about this movie in generalities but there was a review embargo until October 13th. So hopefully I remember to do that. Until then, it was good; I liked it.

Fuck it. If anyone thinks this is a legit review, I'll point them to my traffic reports.

The sets and costume design were really accomplished, as usual Del Toro's ghost design is great (if not a bit familiar compared to Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labrynth). The performances were great, but mostly what surprised me was that this is a full on grandiose "gothic romance" as Del Toro kept stating and I actually liked it. I definitely got notes of Rebecca here, but also stuff like Giant and Douglas Sirk. But there's also some trademark Del Toro moments that are really effective.

It was another slow burn but I had no trouble staying awake for this one. I liked it much more than I thought I would. It was really good.
09.25.15 Tale of TalesMatteo GarroneThis is more or less a collection of fairy tales intercut with one another. It had an interesting cast (For the second time, John C. Reilly makes an appearance in an interesting role that should've stuck around longer). The scenery and costumes were really nice and pretty, but once again it had a deliberate, almost plodding pace that made staying awake an activity for me rather than a passive state. I feel like it's ok to fall asleep in the midnight movie, but I shouldn't be doing it at six pm. I am out of movie-watching shape.

Anyway, this one was ok.
09.25.15 AnomalisaDuke Johnson, Charlie KaufmanDon Hertzfeldt's new one played before this. I feel like there's quite a trend in science fiction these days for the future to be devoid of life and filled with clones or robuts. Anyway, I liked the short ok. It seemed to fit Hertzfeldt's blend of humor and oddity.

The movie was that kickstarter animated thing with a script by Charlie Kaufman. I was a little surprised by how not-weird it was. The central theme of the story is well executed. I like it, but it was deliberately paced and further sapped my energy. I do get the feeling that if this were live action instead of animated then it would probably be a bit slow. Still, I liked it.
09.25.15 Ruined HeartKhavnDay 2 started with this Phillipino movie mostly set to music with very little dialog. This was everything I was afraid Coz ov Moni would be. There was no discernible story for the most part and on the rare occasion that something would happen, it was really confusing as to what was going on. The one thing that I liked about it was that the first scene of the movie was kind of a roll call where each character steps forward and looks into the camera and gets a title card explaining who they are (Criminal, friend, piano player, whore, etc.). However, they couldn't even do that right because a central character (Godfather) gets his introduction 5 minutes later. This one really killed my energy for the whole day. Didn't like it at all.
09.24.15 Coz ov moni 2: Fokn RevengeFokn BoisMy first midnight was this crazy musical from Ghana. The two main characters rap and sing through the whole thing in pidgeon dialect that's half english and half whatever. It looked like there was very little crew involved, real Ghana locations and people, and I didn't really understand... let's say half of it. But the music was pretty good, and I followed enough to understand the broad strokes of what was going on, and it's always interesting to get a glimpse at a completely foreign point of view. I liked this one the most of the whole night. I should look up these guys on bandcamp.
09.24.15 Lazer TeamMatt HullumThe Rooster Teeth movie. I kind of new what to expect of this going in, but I wanted to give the local guys the benefit of the doubt. It kind of sucked. I mean, I guess it's admirable that they made a feature or whatever and there are plenty of visual effects for a relatively small budget, but you know... For as much pride that Austin has in its film culture, you'd think we could make better movies. We SHOULD be making better movies, so if anything, films like this should be scrutinized to a higher degree rather than being praised just for existing.

09.24.15The LobsterYorgos LanthimosAnother year of Fantastic Fest kicked off with this new film from the Dogtooth guy. I haven't seen Dogtooth but I've heard enough about it to get the gist... enough that I knew what I was in for with this anyway. A surprisingly well-known cast fills out this weird world where people must be in couples and if you don't then you get sent to this hotel where you have so long to find a match before you're turned into an animal.

A large part of this movie for me was about figuring out what the world's deal was. In that, I didn't really succeed. The tone of this movie is somewhere near a very dark comedy. I usually like dark humor, but some parts of this verged into territory that I don't think was supposed to be funny, so then it was just dark.

In the end, I didn't mind this, but I don't think I'd see it again. Colin Farrell has a gut in it. I guess so his identifying feature couldn't be that he's really handsome.

A note about the fest in general: Holy shit they have some TVs up in the lobby showing what's seating. I won't presume to take any credit for this (since I can't have been the only person to make this suggestion in the feedback survey... every year for the past 6 years), but dear lord and I happy it exists. Still not perfect, mind you, but a serious step in the right direction.

And what's up with the construction not being done? It's been like 3 years!
09.21.15The Wrecking CrewDenny TedescoI've been on a bit of a movie hiatus in order to get a big personal project done, but now that it's complete and Fantastic Fest is right around the corner, I figured I'd better get into movie-watching shape again.

This one... it played the first sxsw that I didn't go to way back in 2008, then showed up on Kickstarter a few years ago asking for money to clear rights for all the music they wanted to use. One thing that I've learned about backing films on kickstarter: it takes forever to see the movie. Yes my money helped (in very small part) to get this movie finished, but before they can fulfill my DVD reward they have to try and sell it to distributors. Then, if they DO get a distributor, they have to wait until whatever super limited release is done before they want to let anyone get a copy. Then, they have to wait for the distributor to get around to making the DVD. And after all is said and done, this movie popped up on Netflix instant like a month after my DVD finally got here. So I'm still happy to help the project and everything but... they could've thrown a digital link or something out there. I dunno.

Anyway, this was a pretty good doc about a really interesting subject: the band of studio musicians that dominated the Los Angeles recording industry in the 60s. All those bands that look like they just stand there and sing? These were the guys making the music behind them. This was very much in the same vein as In the Shadows of Motown except with early rock n roll rather than rhythm and blues.

The sheer amount of hit songs that these guys worked on is insane. And the movie's worth watching just for that. It's obvious that this took a hell of a long time to complete (some of the interview subjects are almost unrecognizable between the earlier footage shot on film and more recent stuff shot on video), and it's a shame that so many have passed away before this movie saw the light of day. There didn't seem to be any notable absences in the interviews though and it told a pretty complete story.

So this was pretty good. Not life changing or anything but well worth a watch.
08.01.15 Wet Hot American SummerDavid WainWith the prequel series out I wanted to revisit this. My lasting memory from previous viewings is that it's a great idea and wonderful cast but the comedy is just a little TOO crazy to hit the sweet spot. I think the main danger of stereotype-based comedy is that you play up the trope too much and that's certainly the case with some of the jokes here, but other, more random or bizarre jokes are pretty funny and a few performances (Paul Rudd, Chris Meloni) are really great. And for the most part I find the movie funny... certainly I like everyone in the cast, but sometimes it's just too much. Not enough real emotion perhaps. And I think that's just David Wain's humor. The more mainstream stuff that he's done. Stuff like They Came Together and The Ten are also prone to going too bizarre, too surreal. Certainly Wainy Days and Children's Hospital lives in that space. But the more restrained stuff he's done like Role Models (and to a lesser extent Wanderlust) ends up resonating more with me just because of that basis in reality. I'm a fan of all of it though... ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE STATE BECAUSE I WAS A COOL TEENAGER WHO KNEW WHAT WAS GOOD.
07.11.15 Hector and the Search for HappinessPeter ChelsomStrong vibe of Ben Stiller's Secret Life of Walter Mitty here except it's Simon Pegg and it's China, Tibet, Africa, and Los Angeles instead of Iceland. And it's a bit more heavy I guess... and there's lots of philosophical thoughts on happiness... and writing on the screen like it's a notebook or something. OK so it's probably not that similar to Ben Stiller's movie at all other than that a mild-mannered guy goes on a journey and finds himself.

I liked it well enough. I feel like if I were in a different mood, perhaps one or two shades more cynical, i wouldn't have bought in and i'd find the movie pretty smug, but whatever... I wasn't in that mood so I did buy in and enjoyed tagging along on the journey
07.11.15 Jurassic WorldColin TrevorrowWell... What do I think about this one. I think this is the first JP movie not to lift anything from the first book. Parts of it I really like... basically seeing the fantasy of the original idea - a working tourist attraction with living dinosaurs - was a joy. The actual action of it... That was kind of meh. And... ok spoilers now. Spoilers!

So... Indomitus Rex (or however you spell it), the trained raptors, the chaos and whatnot... It kind of makes you wonder why, after the events of the first three movies, they'd choose to make more carnivores. I guess people want to see the dangerous ones, but I got the sense that the raptors were only there for whatever weird intelligence study was going on. Mostly I really didn't like that they somehow turned the raptors and t-rex into "good guys" like they are heroes or something. Just like how I got the sense that the Spinosaurus from the third movie killing the T-Rex right off the bat was a message to the audience that this guy is even worse, now I get the sense that having the familiar species from the old movies turn on the new one is like oooh this new one is SO BAD that even the bad guys from previous films are good comparatively! Didn't sit right with me... felt hokey.

But like I said... all the park stuff I liked. The spheres and water show and different enclosures that we get to see were all great design-wise. Man... wouldn't it be awesome once VR gets in consumer hands to be able to create a virtual theme park and be able to go walk around in it? I'd love to "go" to a completed Jurassic Park... although I guess I could just play that Carnivores game in VR and get a similar vibe. anyway...
07.11.15 Jurassic Park IIIJoe JohnstonMaybe it's just because I think this one's better than the second one, but I have sort of a soft spot for this movie. I think it's lean, well-paced, and relatively devoid of stupid shit. It does feel like "just another movie" compared to the grandeur of the first and the sequel-ness of the second, but the kid isn't annoying, I like Sam Neill, and they finally get around to pterodactyls or pteranodons or whatever the hell they are. And I'm not sure who did the effects but the line between practical and digital is harder to see here than in the previous two.
07.10.15The Lost World: Jurassic ParkSteven SpielbergContinuing my Jurassic Park revisit... this one is still kind of weak. I think the effects are a little better but Malcom's daughter kills it for me along with a slew of other crap. It is fun to see a young Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, and Richard Shiff though. God that ending... Is this maybe Spielberg's weakest movie? It's gotta be on the list... feels kind of like a cash in by all involved.
07.10.15 They Came TogetherDavid WainI really like that a lot of The State has stayed relevant for all these years. I also like most of David Wain's movies although some are a tad too absurd for me after a while (like The Ten and Wainy Days). This one... i really like that it exists but at the same time I was kind of over it by the end. There's only so many tropes you can throw at me in an ironic way about a genre before I get the joke and it gets kind of old. However, there is lots to like here and I liked it for the most part. Great cast too. It is kind of like The Baxter in that it sort of tries to have its cake and eat it too. It's kind of hard to make fun of romantic comedies when at the same time it IS a romantic comedy... but whatever. Funny people doing funny things.
07.04.15 Jurassic ParkSteven SpielbergMolly and I are played LEGO Jurassic Park which is having its intended effect in that I feel like both revisiting the first three and seeing the new one. It's kind of funny to me how this movie is generally regarded these days as very good. My own initial impression was colored by how awesome the book was and how much awesome stuff from the book got left out of the movie (i think this is maybe the first time I had that reaction which is why it's so memorable), but on further viewings I've come to accept it for what it is. But I feel like maybe for people just a few years younger than me that were still "kids" when it came out this stands as a childhood classic.

Which is funny because there's some really dumb shit in here. I'm thinking of Sam Jackson's arm and the unix system and the sudden cliff in the Tyrannosaur paddock and Laura Dern's running and the dinosaur snot and the electric fence climb and a handful of other things. On the other hand, what's done well is done really well so I can understand how the relatively minor offenses are dismissed. But still, every second of Jeff Goldblum's performance keeps it from being completely serious for me (Molly's words while watching him on screen: "It must be fun to be Jeff Goldblum").

But you know... landmark CGI, top notch practical effects, the park design is amazing, Sam Jackson and Wayne Knight are great, Sam Neill, John William's theme, and above all else the freakin dinosaurs really do make this movie stand out. I still don't understand why they'd even breed the velociraptors if they're just going to keep them in that crazy pen with all that vegetation but whatever.
06.28.15A Nightmare on Elm StreetSamuel BayerFor those looking for signs that movies today mostly suck, I offer this: The beginning credits sequence of this film is your typical montage of Elm Street signs and newspaper headlines and hazy obtuse imagery but it also has the credits written in chalk with a child's hand. Kind of cool, right? I mean considering that school children are Freddy's targets and the whole counting rhyme from the original series. Here's the problem. There's are neatly-typed overlays of the same credits printed over the shots of the chalk writing. Why have two copies of every credit? My mind immediately guessed that some exec, lawyer, or union deemed the chalk writing too hard to read or not on screen for long enough and, following the path of least resistance, the studio had them print "normal" credits over top. I may be wrong, but this small thing put me in a negative mood toward this film 90 seconds into it. Not a great place to start.

Otherwise, maybe Friday the 13th was the same way and I didn't notice because the plot of the original was so spare but this remake is really a REMAKE. There are a few minor changes but I think they're mostly terrible. The ending of the original was always pretty weak so I didn't mind that this changed it to a post-pulp fiction ending but mostly... you know... just watch the goddamn original. Mostly this was a waste of time.
06.25.15 American SniperClint EastwoodI have to say I liked this more than I thought I would. I kind of thought that Clint Eastwood is too old these days to make a movie with any real excitement. I mean I love his earlier stuff and think he's a great movie star and all that, but I feel like he makes old person movies these days. While the subject matter and politics of this movie might still fit that bill, the filmmaking doesn't. This is a solid war movie and Bradley Cooper earns all the acclaim he got last awards season. It's a nice surprise to like a movie you assumed was boring oscar bait. yay for that.
06.20.15 BlackhatMichael MannSo it's been 6 years since a Michael Mann movie, more than 10 years since Collateral (the last movie he made that I can call good without any qualifiers), and we get this. It's been 20 years since Sandra Bullock ordered a pizza through the internet... you'd think people have realized that the art of hacking is not shootouts and car chases but dudes sitting alone in rooms for long periods of time not saying anything. So there's an automatic groan factor when you see Thor thunking on a keyboard... running around... shooting people... getting laid.

But if I try to ignore all that stuff and treat this like an international thriller, there are aspects to this that I like. Mann's trademark composition skills, insane depth of field where you can tell he's like a foot away from the actor's face. The action is expertly presented for the most part. I love seeing Holt McCallany show up... it's just a shame that the script is so dumb.

I still hold out hope that some day the stars will align and we'll get another Mann masterpiece. For the most part digital has caught up with him to where the photography didn't look like garbage (although there were a few scenes toward the end that got pretty rough), he's still interested in stuff enough to make another movie... I'm hoping he finds some property that really clicks some day... like Heat Part 2!!!
06.19.15 Friday the 13thMarcus NispelWell that was terrible.
06.07.15 For No Good ReasonCharlie PaulDocumentary about artist Ralph Steadman, perhaps best known for his work with Hunter S. Thompson. I really like Steadman's work so this was great for no other reason than to see his stuff on the screen, some of it animated to nice effect, and to see him actually at work. The rest of the stuff - Johnny Depp hangs around the house and asks him some stuff, various forms of archival and interview footage with acquaintances like Thompson, Jann Wenner from Rolling Stone, Richard E. Grant (Withnail & I), etc - is also pretty good and I feel like I got a good sense of who Steadman is as a person and an artist (which I'm guessing is the film's goal), but really... I wish there was a 90 minute extra with a static shot of Steadman working. It's great to lift the veil a bit and see his technique but also realize that the "how" of his work is a very small part of what makes it great.
06.06.15 Million Dollar ArmCraig GillespieI wasn't really interested in this until I realized that Tom McCarthy wrote the script and Bill Paxton had a role in it. I kind of get the sense that this was a paycheck script for McCarthy because it's so tonally different than his directed films, but it definitely fits the genre well and isn't terrible. Very much in the vein of every other sports movie but you know... there's room for these in the landscape along with all the other genres.
06.05.15 Square GrouperBilly CorbenAnother movie by the Cocaine Cowboys guy, this one concentrating on the marijuana smuggling going on in South Florida in the 70s and early 80s. It's split into three separate stories, each interesting in their own right, and not overlapping with Cocaine Cowboys at all in terms of interviews or news footage. It's a bit less of a sensational story (probably because there's no violence) but still really worth watching. Well put-together doc. I liked it.

My favorite story is probably the last one, telling the story of Everyglade City and all the local redneck fishermen who became smugglers until 80% of the male population was busted one morning and spent 1 to 7 years in federal prison. Crazy crazy stuff.
06.03.15 Cocaine Cowboys: ReloadedBilly CorbenSo if the 70s belonged to the mob and started to implode in the early 80s, that made me want to revisit this great doc about Miami in the 80s. This was a "reloaded" edition of the film with more than a half hour more stuff, certainly flashier motion graphics and titles (almost too flashy. they use a technique of having pictures of people shift their eyes which is incredibly creepy), and I feel like more stuff from the law enforcement side?

The issue is that, even at two hours, I thought the original film was a bit long. Not that it was stretching for time or anything but just the format of it made it feel more like it would work better as a miniseries like The Jinx rather than a single film. Here it's even moreso because when Rivi comes in you don't see Mickey Munday or Jon whatshisname for like more than an hour. It's still interesting to be sure, but it's also kind of exhausting. After a while I felt myself getting distracted. And then for some reason the ending seems very rushed.

So... were I to watch this again, I might give the original another go to see how they compare. I'm not 100% convinced that this one's better. But whichever version it is, the story and interviews captured here are really great. And I love when a doc goes back to catch us up about the impact that the first release of itself had on the subjects which is usually reserved for special features on the DVD or whatever... Certainly some people's outcomes have changed in the last 8 years.

good doc for sure though... i don't want to make it sound negative at all. They should show this in high school history classes.
06.03.15 Donnie BrascoMike NewellStill a good movie. Pacino is so great as this mid-level mobster, which I guess also speaks to his performance in movies like The Godfather and Scarface where he's at the top. This and Carlito's Way (kind of) shows a surprising new angle to a familiar role for him. It's interesting to watch this after seeing the documentary that had Pistone recounting his actions and photos/news clips of the real guys. And this is a real Depp performance. Makes me even more excited for Black Mass. Now, what else can I inhale before I have to go back to working?
06.03.15The IcemanAriel VromenThis one's been on my instant queue for about 3 years. Finally saw it. Just as I had heard, they managed to take a sensational story about a chilling dude played by a great actor and make a boring movie out of it. The 90s HBO specials interviewing the real guy are soooo much better than this movie. And I really have to blame the director here. It's just not very engaging. I wanted to fill in another patch of my newfound nyc mafia fascination but I really should have re-watched Donnie Brasco instead. Hmm...
06.02.15The Adjustment BureauGeorge NolfiThis has been on my netflix dvd queue for like 4 years. I guess it eventually made it to the top of the queue. It was ok... lots of opening doors. I like John Slattery though so it's always a nice surprise when I see him appear. Mostly this one is just pretty meh and unremarkable.
06.02.15 Conan O'Brien Can't StopRodman FlenderDocumania continues. Maybe it's an urge to have one more indulgent blow-out before I have to go back to work on monday... I watched a whole season of some show about the American mob that was pretty interesting... and now this doc about Conan's post-tonight show tour. It's decent, very similar to Harmontown and delivers the same glimpse of Conan's personality and process. I have to give him some credit for allowing some things to remain in the cut that I would think most doc subjects would want taken out, like how he's rail thin but refusing to eat a piece of fish because it has butter on it or how he's complaining about schmoozing with people who are probably capable of giving him money. I liked it ok.
06.01.15 Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street LegacyDaniel Farrands, Andrew KaschA 4-hour retrospective on the entire Nightmare on Elm Street cycle. I feel like this might be a special feature on some DVD set or something because it feels like 7 behind the scenes featurettes put into one... but they are 7 GOOD behind the scenes featurettes so I liked it. Certainly you get some candid accounts of each film and what led to how they turned out. I think of the main 80s horror franchises I always liked Nightmare the most (my favorite Halloween is part 3 (sacrilege, I know), but I don't think I've seen all of them nor have I seen Friday the 13th part 2). I think maybe it's because you could legitimately claim that more than one of them were good. Plus the idea is so universal and classic. The super natural nature of Jason and Michael Myers always bugged me because they existed in the real world, but dreams are fair game. Anyway, I enjoyed watching pretty much everyone (except Johnny Depp and Frank Darabont and Ron Moore and Mike DeLuca) talk about their experiences. They really got a surprising amount of cast and crew as well as New Line execs to weigh in. I am sad to not see New Line pop up before movies anymore. They were really on fire in the late 90s and put out great DVDs when the medium was new.

...I should probably see the second Friday the 13th just so I can say that I've seen the whole series. I guess that means I should watch the remakes too. sigh...
05.31.15 Mad Max: Fury RoadGeorge MillerThis is the first movie in a while where I felt the need to see it theatriclaly. I think ultimately I am happy to have seen this while it's still in the zetigeist, the actual theatergoing part of my experience was disappointing. I think I'm just of an older generation or something but having to select assigned seating at the box office, having a loud bro-ish waiter try and push overpriced hors d'voeuvres, and most importantly a dim sub-standard projector all got in my way. The picture quality felt flat and grayed out and, while for the majority of the movie the spectacle and story captivated me enough to forget about this stuff, I did find myself periodically lamenting that the image was so poor. I now look forward to when I have a blu of this and can watch it at home. My list of theaters that I am willing to go to is dwindling, sorry to say :(

But anyway, about the movie itself: I thought it was great. I feel like action movies - or really any movie with a serious budget - have all slowly amalgamated into one glop of "pretty good." Not terrible... certainly adequate... but also not surprising. Not thrilling. Not exceptional. Chris Popkoff shared this theory with me the last time I saw him and I am finding that I agree more and more as time goes on. Every Marvel movie is pretty good. You can count on it not to be too boring or too ridiculous or too cheesy, but you can also count on it not to do anything you aren't fully expecting it to do. So when something like this shows up and reminds people what good action looks like and what's so great about the post-apocalyptic genre it really opens people's eyes.

And this is the work of a 70-year old man. That's so fantastic. So often these directors seem to lose their vivre as they get older and gravitate toward quiet romantic comedies in Provence or heavy dramas that they can shoot within ten minutes of their home. This is a bright vibrant example of someone who still has a love and respect for imagination and thrill. The fact that every character name in the end credits could be the title of their own post-apocalyptic epic yet more than half of them are never mentioned in the movie shows how much thought and planning went into this. The collection of ideas... just marvelous.

So yeah... great movie. Certainly better than Thunderdome and Mad Max... Ehhhh I think I still like Road Warrior more but this one's pretty close. Can't wait to own it.
05.29.15 Whitey: United States of America V. James J. BulgerJoe BerlingerDocumentary fever continues with this look at Whitey Bulger's criminal career framed by his well-publicized and long-awaited trial. I watched this because Black Mass looks interesting and I wanted to know more about what actually happened. This is less a biography however and more of a court case where Bulger's agenda, the department of justice's agenda, and the FBI's agenda are all examined. I know they used Whitey as inspiration for the Jack Nicholson character when they adapted Infernal Affairs into The Departed and that's really apt since it seems most of Bulger's crew ended up flipping and informing before or after they were caught. The questions of widespread corruption within the justice department are also really interesting but, much like the West Memphis films, this movie is so close to the subject that we are left to draw our own conclusions based on information presented. The movie could've used an on-camera interview with Whitey but what are you gonna do... all in all a decent doc that was more interesting than I thought it would be.
05.28.15The Seven FiveTiller RussellRounding out a great double feature, this doc focuses on a group of cops from one precinct in Brooklyn during the worst part of the 80s. People saying there's a lot of Scorsese here but I kept thinking of The Shield as I watched this. It's like Shawn Ryan studied this story and used it as a blueprint for Chiklis and his actors. Almost everything they did on that show was recounted as reality here. It might be a familiar story these days to hear about corrupt cops taking bribes but for me to hear about it from the cops themselves is really interesting. And holy shit the interview these guys got with Dominican drug lord Adam Diaz... wow.

Maybe it's because I just watched that other doc but I do feel like this doesn't do enough to contextualize the time and place that these cops were in. Just how bad conditions were. I also feel like the widespread nature of the corruption was skimmed over in favor of focusing on these core two to four guys. I'm pretty interested to learn about what the Captain of the 75 was up to along with everyone else. I guess the film can't be four hours long but still... As a whole I thought this was really good.
05.28.15 Streets of New YorkAlan BradleyThis no-budget doc made by youtuber Al Profit is surprisingly good. It's pretty well documented on here that I have an obsession with NYC in the 70s and 80s and how low down it got. This presents a story as a rise and fall of crime itself, starting with the heroin trade of mid 20th century, the rise of gangs in the 70s, hip hop, how crack changed everything, the prison gangs, the street violence, the drug violence, school violence, how prevalent it was for so long, and follows through Guliani's clean-up and ensuing gentrification. It ties in the summer of sam, the subway vigilante, the bensonhurst murder, and a bunch of other stuff.

I feel like when I was growing up I heard about kids getting shot over Air Jordans. I never really understood that but get a good insight from some of these interviews of people who were there. The movie constantly displays statistics and newspaper headlines while you're listening to interviews so it's pretty dense and created this rich chain reaction in my brain that explains so much of New York-set films of that era. Kind of like how Cocaine Cowboys contextualizes Miami Vice and Scarface, this doc contextualized a ton of NYC movies from the 70s and 80s for me.

So yeah, I really liked this. And something about the amateur nature of it - I watched this on YouTube - also worked for me. It felt raw and truthful, stripped of pomp. Right up my alley.
05.27.15The CobblerThomas McCarthyThis is not exactly what I thought it would be and at first I thought it was worse than what I thought it would be but as the movie went on I came to like it more and more. I still think it's a little odd tonally speaking - not funny enough to be a comedy, too goofy to really work as a drama - but it's definitely interesting. And I think that could be said for all of Tom McCarthy's movies... some resonate more than others (i'd put this on the level of The Visitor, I liked Win Win and Station Agent more) but they are all interesting and go to places you don't really see in other movies which demands respect. This one really skirts some odd lines that, were it in the hands of other writers would have gone in dramatically different directions, the choices, some of which I didn't agree with (I didn't care for the dinner scene at all for example, found the whole thing cruel rather than sentimental which was probably what was intended), were nonetheless interesting.

Have I said "interesting" enough?
05.26.15The Private EyesLang ElliottI remember laughing my ass off when this came on cable as a kid. I have a memory of my mom telling me that this was what was known as "slapstick" and making a mental note that I love slapstick.

Unsurprisingly, my tastes have changed a bit. I found most of this pretty tepid although I can clearly see that it's aimed at a younger audience and some of Tim Conway's and Don Knott's performances still worked for me.

I hesitate to go back and watch Dorf on Golf. That's another one that I really loved.
05.26.15 Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects TitanGilles PensoA By-the-numbers doc cataloging Ray Harryhausen's work and impact to cinema history. This grabs interviews from everyone who should be interviewed but something about the production quality of this makes me feel like it's a DVD special feature or something. It feels like some interviews are scrounged from different sources or something and the chronological nature where the movie moves from film to film gives the doc an unpolished note. On the other hand, you might watch this movie because you want to know more about his work and this is exactly what this gives you so my complaints are really minor nitpicks for a serviceable and decent doc.
05.21.15The Art of the StealDon ArgottThank netflix for recommending a movie with the same name. This is a documentary about the Barnes collection of art and how the city of Philadelphia tried for like 50 years to break the late Dr. Barnes' will and move the art from a tightly controlled educational environment into a big museum where it can make a lot of tourism money.

This movie is... ok. It's maybe 20 minutes too long. But the interesting parts are interesting and I found it a nice subject to think about as I heard the story of what happened. On one hand, there are a whole cadre of people fighting for the collection to stay where it's always been and the movie spends a lot of time laying out an argument that certain wealthy businesspeople conspired for years and years to extract all that art (we're talking about billions of dollars worth) no matter what the guy's damn will says, but on the other hand... after the guy's been dead for half a century... I mean what's the statute of limitations on a dead man's wish? It's hard to really cheer these guys on when so much time has passed. I feel like the barnes foundation got a good 20 or 30 years or whatever of Dr. Barnes' upheld wishes... sooner or later someone's going to want to crack the vault right?

But still... it's amazing how all the stuff outlined in the doc is legal. Not in like an "oh my god you have to see this movie" amazing... but more of a mildly infuriating level of distate for philadelphia politicians. I guess one could take this story on a thematic level of art versus commerce - and it certainly covers that ground - but it's pretty hard to keep you excited when you start showing tax forms and highlighted legal documents.
05.19.15The Art of the StealJonathan SobolPretty much an Ocean's Eleven knock-off but that's alright. It still has Kurt Russell and Terence Stamp and Jay Baruchel and the plot is engaging and it easily held my interest. Pretty fun movie.
05.19.15The Slammin' SalmonKevin HeffernanI don't understand why Broken Lizard has a hard time making movies. True I think Super Troopers is their funniest movie, but the other one's aren't terrible and certainly deserve more love than most of the crap that gets studio backing. That said, I thought this was ok. I was kind of expecting it to be a little funnier considering the always-rich setting of a restaurant and the amount of small supporting roles. Still wasn't bad though. Hopefully Super Troopers 2 will be really great.
05.18.15 Supermensch: The Legend of Shep GordonMike MyersFun by-the-numbers doc about this successful manager of Alice Cooper and Emeril (among others of course). I watched it because Mike Myers directed it and it was short and it's fun to hear crazy stories about 70s rock and roll. It's basically a love letter so there's no drama or deep emotion or whatever, but you know... sometimes a pleasant doc about a rich guy with a lot of stories is just what you need.
05.16.15 St. VincentTheodore MelfiI was prepared for this to be a pretty mediocre film treading familiar water. I feel like I've seen this premise done several times before. But the performances really carried some real emotion and subsequently I ended up enjoying this quite a bit.
05.13.15The DropMichael R RoskamDecent crime thriller starring Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini. It's very slow and "character"y but I appreciated that the Dennis Lehane script was not completely familiar. It's not terribly notable however... just a decent movie to watch when you're in the mood.
04.29.15 Dead ManJim JarmuschStill like this quite a bit. I think this was my entree into Jim Jarmusch and still probably one of my favorites of his. I love Robbie Muller's photography paired with Neil Young's spare score and just think the surreal dreamlike nature of the film is perfectly presented. I think there are more fades to black in this movie than any other movie. Each scene is like a vignette disassociated from time. And it's such an odd western. The band of Billy Bob Thornton, Jared Harris and Iggy Pop are so peculiar. And the bald lawmen. And Lance Henrikson stomping the head!? So bizarre and great and unique and interesting. I love the entire cast... really every scene has something to like about it. Johnny Depp's at his most Deppish... and the last twenty minutes or so just unravel in the most beautiful way. Man, so good.
04.28.15 Tales of the Grim SleeperNick BroomfieldNick Broomfield docs have always been a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand they always feel a bit sensational and skeezy like I'm watching the cinematic equivalent of an ambulance chaser, but on the other hand I admire his courage to go into situations that could be dangerous and the way he presents his films as his experiences rather than some message-y statement. Plus I think his interview style (I'm convinced he acts like a much slower, less intelligent version of himself to get people to open up to him) is really effective and I always find his movies very watchable.

So with all that said, HBO aired this doc last night dealing with South LA's Grim Sleeper serial killer. I lived in the valley from 1978 to 1986, spending my early childhood there, and I have a lot of vague memories of serial killers being all over the news the whole time. I think maybe the late 70s and early 80s were the golden age of serial killers in the media. Even light comedies like Ruthless People had serial killers thrown in because they were so topical. The Night Stalker The Hillside Strangler(s) were the big ones locally but John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Son of Sam and even Charlie Manson were all very much in the news.

So I guess crack cocaine came in just as I moved out because I don't remember any news about any of this stuff in South LA while I was there, but I feel like it was definitely in the air back then for whatever reason. So watching an aging Nick Broomfield rolling around the hood talking to crackheads and neighborhood folk about this guy who was arrested (still no trial) for murdering 10 women is familiar to me in some very strange way.

So... I really liked this. It gives you the chills and gut-churning feeling of exploring humanity's evil side and everything you'd expect from watching a true crime doc, but I also got - and please don't judge - a surprising amount of humor from a lot of the interviews. Broomfield talks to neighborhood friends of the murder suspect as well as ex-crackhead prostitutes that had close calls with the man before he was caught. That means we get to see a lot of really characteristic faces telling us things in interesting ways.

An overshadowing theme of the film is that, due to societal and cultural divides, the LAPD never spoke with victims and witnesses that had crucial information and didn't do anything with the clues that they were given back in the 80s. One particularly infuriating moment comes from the one confirmed survivor (Broomfield speaks with several others who never came forward and spoke with the police) where she describes leading the police to a house two doors down from where the suspect would be arrested twenty years later. It took them TWENTY YEARS to check two houses down the street.

But anyway, back to the humor. I couldn't help but laugh at these guys who first appear as adamant supporters of the suspect but soon start to share little tidbits like how the suspect showed them the gun he used to kill 10 women, or showed them polaroids and pictures of missing women, or paid dudes to clean blood out of cars or burn blood-soaked cars for insurance money. Or that it might make sense that he did it because they got his DNA from saliva left on the breasts of the dead girls and the suspect did in fact "like the titties." I mean, that's like Homer Simpson territory right? When he goes to work for Hank Scorpio and fails to realize that he's an evil genius?

And one lady in particular was super fun to watch. An ex-prostitute now four years sober, she leads Broomfield around town looking for many of the women that appeared in pictures taken from the suspect's house. This involves a lot of them pulling the car to a stop so she can shout out at prostitutes on the corner. One young woman walks down the street with no pants on and this ghetto guide describes her as "asshole naked." Asshole naked is a phrase I dearly hope that I remember for life and if I forget everything else about this doc it will be worthwhile just because it taught me about being asshole naked.

So... those are a few gems. HBO Has really been killing it with their docs this season. This was no exception. I'm not mentioning all the pathos and heart-wrenching sadness involved, or the implications of what impact must have been brought to bear on the suspect's son, or all the really heavy stuff that goes on here. Really good doc.
04.27.15 West of MemphisAmy BergI many ways this was an encapsulation of Berlinger/Sinofsky's trio of docs but I was surprised to find a couple tidbits here and there that weren't presented in the other series like the extent of Peter Jackson's involvement and a few other entertainers like Henry Rollins and Johnny Depp. While I never got bored while watching this and feel like ultimately it's a worthwhile addition to the case as a whole, I did feel like this was an outside view of the whole thing. I don't know that I would recommend it over the other docs to newcomers of the case. Another perspective is always refreshing though and it's certainly more succinct at 150 minutes rather than the five to seven hours of the HBO docs (less Metallica music as well), but really this, because it was edited and released after the West Memphis Three were released, is ultimately a story told from some distance. It can't compete with the immersion and mix of emotion that the HBO trilogy brings.

So... I dunno. I liked it ok as a summation of the other films, but definitely liked the other ones more. I was happy to get a little more follow-up with the kids once they are released though. I could use a fourth installment from Berlinger and Sinofsky once a real killer is caught. Not that anyone's looking.
04.27.15The Imitation GameMorten TyldumVery reminiscent of The King's Speech, this was a decent awards movie with some good performances. I liked it for the computer and crypto angles but the war stuff was also interesting. I'm also surprised to see that the Headhunters guy directed this. Good for him! I liked that movie a lot so it's good to see him do something of this caliber with that period budget and award buzz. The only thing that kind of bugged me was the occasional switch to stock war footage. I could've done with a simple on-screen title telling us the date. Super minor nitpitck though. I liked this.
04.25.15A Most Violent YearJ.C. ChandorI really liked JC Chandor's first two films and heard this was good. I think it's a weird and bold take to name the movie A Most Violent Year and make it about a business deal. Of course it's about more than that, but it did take me the whole movie to realize that this story was also a kind of treatise on violence itself. I respect that, but I also kind of think that NYC 1981 has tons of stories to offer and this is not the best from that particular well.

But, judging the film for what it was instead of what it could have been, it's well-made and rich in character. I couldn't help but compare it to Killing Them Softly because I got the same feeling from it: An understated moment in an otherwise showy career. Certainly not bad, well executed, period in a nuanced way, but also not the showcase that All is Lost was.
04.24.15 Dumb and Dumber ToBobby Farrelly, Peter FarrellySo the short answer is I thought it would be better. I didn't think it would be as good as the first one, which I still think is funny today thanks to a mixture of nostalgia (it came out when I was in high school) and it actually being a good movie, but I did think it would still be funny. I laughed a couple times toward the end - I'm not sure if my resistance to the dumb jokes was tearing down to the point where it overwhelmed me and I started laughing or if the jokes got better - but for the most part it felt disjointed and awkward between them. Carrey and Daniels got on SO well in the first one but this one it seemed a little like... they were tolerating each other.

It's a bit of a shame. 20 years is a long time and pretty much everybody involved are at very different points in their careers now and I was really hoping for the best. Who knows maybe this will grow on me... like I said a few parts toward the end did crack me up. Jeff Daniels' little finger move when he holds his beer up for the lady to smell really got me with its subtle brilliance and some of Jim Carrey's expressions were like classic Lloyd Christmas, but there was also a bunch of stuff that didn't work at all. And the good stuff was outweighed. I did like the Chinese Mexican place with the daughter dipping a chip in guac with chopsticks though.

Oh well. It's probably still better than that prequel they made with the Dell dude.

also, weird note: Early in the movie they visit a funeral home and Jim Carrey throws a banana peel on some dead guy's face. At first glance I totally thought it was a Bill Murray cameo but when I rewound it and freeze framed I decided it wasn't him. Now that I'm looking at imdb it seems that there WAS a Bill Murray cameo, just not the dead guy. So I missed the real one but thought I saw a fake one. odd. Maybe I just assume most comedies have a Bill Murray cameo these days!?
04.22.15The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1Francis LawrenceSo, to recap my feelings thus far with this franchise, I really liked the first two books - couldn't put them down - and mostly liked the third book, thought the first movie was too long and boring but found things to like in the second. Now this one, which I was in no hurry to see but wanted to watch it when it hit rental markets. I thought it was ok, a bit long and boring for most of it but it picked up a little toward the end.

It's kind of weird... I feel like Jennifer Lawrence is a good actress and I've liked her in other stuff but she feels flat to me as a lead in this series. All she did this time around was walk around with her hair in her face looking sad. It doesn't help that they put her in these high-waisted bore-suits that soaked all interest from the screen. I mean I get that District 13 is supposed to be Spartan and dour but it was also only for like a hundred book pages. Since they are stretching out the last book we end up spending A LOT of time there and I can't quite care about any of it.

I wound up checking my email and thinking about other things for parts of this. The sequels and series of the 80s were pretty box-office driven... There was Back to the Future where the two sequels were planned and shot at the same time but I'm thinking maybe Lord of the Rings was the first all0in commitment from a studio to make a planned trilogy. Of course Harry Potter is the big one, but if most people are like me they burned out on the series after the books ended (somewhere around film 5 or 6). Twilight, which I never saw any of. The Hobbit which was unfortunate all around. And of course Star Wars, which I don't know the details of but I suspect the first two sequels were rough-sketched out before Empire ended since they had those cliffhangers with Han and Luke. I'm just pondering the nature of this series and how it fits with the others... I feel like maybe these mega-franchises are not really a great idea. So much of this one felt like ramp-up to the next one and so much is presupposed from the last one that it doesn't really stand on its own at all. It's kind of like a really big budget episode of television.

How's something like this going to live on in historical context? I'm a big fan of LotR but it's been years and years since I last saw them and I'm not likely to anytime soon because it's like a 12-hour commitment. If in 5 years I get an itch to experience Hunger Games again, am I going to sit down and watch all 4 of these movies? And further on down the line... it's not like these movies reflect much historical or social context because they were all planned out roughly at the same time. When I went back and went through the Texas Chainsaw Massacres I had a great time reading the different eras that each film represented. Or if I go back and watch some Police Academy movies, I'll be able to see the evolution pattern that that series took. And I think that comes from someone doing one movie then sitting down and asking "where can we take this? what next?"

Certainly there are some positives to knowing how things will end before you start them, but I think that the form of the trilogy has cemented for a reason. Any more than 3 and you start to meander. I definitely felt that with this movie.

wow long and rambling. I should've written this while watching!
04.21.15 InterstellarChristopher NolanSince I'm in a downswing with seeing movies in theaters, I'm finding it really rewarding to sit down and experience these big hype movies after the world has moved on. I definitely remember the anticipation of this, the mixed reviews, and the blowback. I'd also heard that a few people still liked it. Mostly I'm astounded that I didn't get spoiled by pop culture in the time it took to hit the rental market.

So... let me start off by saying that I liked this movie a lot. I think a lot of sci-fi these days is just set dressing thrown on action movies and the world needs more movies like this that really swing for the fences. I also loved how McConaughey and Hathaway were big enough names that the marketing people didn't have to dip any deeper to sell the film. Like I said, I'm astounded that I got to come to this movie in such a pure way after so long.

I should go back and read negative reviews of this. I have to think that maybe the hype and perhaps expectation of a Gravity Part 2 biased a lot of peoples' experiences watching. I did have a few minor issues (Using the Dylan Thomas poem once would've been fine. 4 times got a little grating. Also the music was a bit too heavy-handed for me and the pacing with the "climactic" scene where Murph "rescues" her niece and nephew(?) felt very weak compared with what it was cross-cut with), but I thought the performances were great, the effects amazing, it looked gorgeous, and went somewhere admirable. I definitely felt shades of Clarke there at the end (Rendezvous with Rama, 3001). I also thought the world-building of the first act was really great and understated, the beat about the textbook being a great example.

so... yeah. I liked this. Thought it was really well done.
04.11.15The Wild LifeArt LinsonThe fourth and last movie that I watched at George's house was The Wild Life, which I've been wanting to see for a real long time. I knew of it as Cameron Crowe's first produced script but had no idea who starred or what it was about. The gist I got from it was that it's a blueprint for Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It's a little looser in scope, the character threads don't quite connect like they do in Fast Times, but the slice of life format and the voice is very similar. It's kind of like if Fast Times was a single, this would be the B-side. I also got a strong Boogie Nights vibe from it just because of the time and place and Robert Ridgely in a small role.

So the cast is chock full of young stars. Eric Stolz, Leah Thompson (oh man...) Chris Penn (not fat, bleach blonde hair), Rick Moranis, the other kid from Weird Science, the other cop from Jackie Brown, small appearances by Ben Stein, Lee Ving, Sherilyn Fenn, Randy Quaid, Dean Devlin, Ron Wood, and Nancy Wilson (Crowe also has a cameo but I didn't spot him). Score by Edward Van Halen. Again some serious firepower in this.

It was pretty fun. I started to get tired about halfway through which is unfortunate. Like The Wanderers, the plot might have been too loose for anyone to pay serious attention to it but as a slice of life movie, hanging out with these wacky kids and listening to music, it was pretty good. I'm really glad I finally got a chance to see this and in a great venue to boot.

After that I excused myself and came home to my bed. Those other dudes had seen 4 movies before I got there and had 4 more lined up when I left (I really wanted to see the next movie on the schedule - Yeti: The 20th Century Giant - but that would've put me home at 6am and I probably would've slept through most of it. Still, I had a great time for the third that I sat in for and appreciated everyone being so friendly. Good times.
04.11.15 War PartyFranc RoddamI didn't think I knew anything about this movie until I saw the synopsis that said Kevin Dillon and a native American battle re-enactment gone wrong. That sparked a memory from 25 years ago when I watched this on my neighbor buddy's recommendation. In his description, the native americans get pissed and start scalping dudes FOR REAL. It doesn't really play out that way in the film but I still remember my neighbor Cameron describing it to me and seeing Kevin Dillon running on horseback up into some mountains.

So this became more about revisitation for me as I watched it again. It's... not a very good movie at all, but there is a scalping scene and Kevin Dillon does run from the law on horseback up into some mountains. I wonder where Cameron is and if he remembers liking this movie.
04.11.15 Death GameSondra LockeThe next movie I watched at George's house was Death Game starring Sondra Locke, Colleen Camp, and Seymour Cassel. I didn't know anything about this one either but afterward people mentioned that it is now being remade by Eli Roth with Keanu Reeves in the Seymour Cassel role. Ugh.

So... watching this made me realize that it's been a long time since I've been to a Weird Wednesday or Terror Thursday (I know that it's Terror Tuesday now, it's still Terror Thursday in my head). My exploitation endurance is out of practice. Long time-filling scenes where the actors don't really have any lines so they just repeat things over and over again and eat food for way too long and laugh for no reason don't bounce off my attention span like they did when I was an Alamo regular. So watching this was kind of a chore for me because this movie had A LOT of that.

The plot of the movie is: these two young girls show up on a married man's doorstep. it's raining and they say they broke down or something and need to use his phone. His wife and kid are out of town so he says sure. They use the bathroom and wind up naked together in the tub, coaxing the guy in for a threeway. He says yes. Bad move. The girls go crazy, put him through psychological and mental torture, almost kill him, then leave. THE END. 90 minutes is a LONG TIME to tell that story.

However, Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp are each beautiful in their own right and they spend much of the movie nearly naked so... you know... it's not all bad. Especially if you're name is George. They say "George" about once every five seconds through the whole picture. And you know... even though I got a bit bored by the moment to moment of the movie, I also recognized when certain things happen that give the movie value. At one point Sondra Lock paints up her face, adding these crazy question marks to her eyebrows making her look kind of demonic. It's a very impactful image and someone could make a hell of a poster out of that. And also... the ending. the last thirty seconds... is great. As happens so often with these exploitation movies you spend so long at such a slow tedious pace that when something finally happens it's really jarring and effective.

So I really enjoyed having seen it. Watching it was just ok. I'm glad I saw it though and it's been growing on me.
04.11.15The WanderersPhilip KaufmanSo... my buddies George and Daniel and Chris have been doing their own 24-hour movie marathons for a long time now and I've never gone. Part of that is because of my experiences with Butt-numb-a-thon where, spectacle aside, it's really an endurance challenge to remain coherent through the whole night. While there is a certain pleasure that comes from falling asleep in a theater, drifting in and out of consciousness while a movie plays, I often wind up with little to no memory of the movies themselves and it wrecks my next day or two afterward. However, George and co. have always been friendly and inviting to their events so I've felt bad for not going and this time, since I have no job to keep me down, I decided to go and watch some movies then come home when I got tired.

I got there just as Martin was ending. Just a quick note about how great George's setup is: A lot of people have home theater setups... George has like... a theater in his home. I mean he didn't have a projectionist with 35mm reel to reels back there or anything but he did have a nice projector, huge screen, 7.1 sound, a couple couches, chairs, and two rows of theater seats in a little stadium setup. Couple that with plex and you couldn't have a better setting for a marathon. There were maybe a dozen people there.

The first movie I saw is Philip Kaufman's The Wanderers. I had no idea what this movie was. Really I had no idea that this movie existed. It's a snapshot of The Bronx in 1963 and the world of neighborhood street gangs populated by high school guys. This film has some amazing bona fides. Based on a book by Richard Price, written and directed by Philip Kaufman (falling in between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Right Stuff), featuring a huge cast of young actors (including a pre-Raiders Karen Allen and a bunch of familiar faces like Omar from HBO's OZ and Angie Bonpensiero from The Sopranos), shot by Michael Chapman, casted by Scott Rudin, with an amazing soundtrack of like every early 60s rock hit ever.

It feels kind of like a mix between The Warriors and The Outsiders but this was 79, same year as Warriors and 4 years before Outsiders. The tone and pacing are a little confused which I think is why this movie fell through the cracks but there's still just a ton of charm and emotion that makes it worth watching. I was really surprised and impressed with this.

It also drew a startling thought. A 79 movie set in 63 would be like making a movie today and setting it in 2000. It might be because I'm getting older and more disconnected from pop culture but it seems like the difference between 15 years ago today and 15 years ago in 1979 is really huge. I'm not sure if I'd still think that if I had lived through it... but I certainly feel like the 80s and the 90s had style definitions of what was popular at the time that fit in tune with the 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s, and 30s. The 00s seem especially blah to me... but who knows... maybe 5 years from now it will seem different.

That was a long and rambling paragraph just to say that it struck me how it must not have been such a huge deal to get the soundtrack for this movie back when they did. I feel like if you used all these songs in a movie today you couldn't afford to pay any of the actors. But making a movie set in 2000 doesn't seem like a big deal at all. Time is weird. anyway...
04.09.15 Before MidnightRichard LinklaterThis one was a bit closer to the first for me. As soon as I saw that they started the movie together I knew what the whole movie would be. I recognize that I'm judging the movie on its story when all three of these are really not about story at all but emotion and reality, but you know... if I'm going to be engaged for a hundred minutes I kind of need story AND emotion. So this didn't work as well for me... the whole movie kind of boils down to the last two minutes: whether there will be change or not. And... I mean like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf... is it a great play? are there great performances in the Nichols movie? All that stuff is Yes but at the same time I don't care to watch it again. Watching people argue gets pretty tedious for me. And while the notion of long-term relationship love might be worth exploring as part of this series, it doesn't hold a candle to the first two films in terms of vibrancy and romance. That might fit the characters' lives but it doesn't make the movie more entertaining.
04.08.15 Before SunsetRichard LinklaterI liked this one a lot more than the first. The lean 76 minute running time might have something to do with it but also I found the story more intriguing since I didn't know how it would turn out. I mean, listening to two attractive people flirt with each other is fine but, like most of Linklater's "talky" films it kind of grows old on me. But it felt very authentic and conversational and I liked seeing Paris and hearing how each character has grown and reacted to the events of the first film and I certainly felt a palpable yearning for them to be together. I also like that it languishes in a similar yet distinctly different specific emotion as the first. To be more specific, I feel like the first film captures that electric catching instant connection with someone where time melts away and you are together with that person in a bubble floating through time and space and this one is one big awkward conversation where you each share feelings together but you both also know that logic and life are keeping you apart.

I have no idea what the third film will explore.
04.08.15 Before SunriseRichard LinklaterI have all three "Before" movies sitting here waiting for me to watch them. I haven't seen any of these before, and really had very little interest when the first two came out. But now, in the wake of Boyhood and a third installation, I figured I best go back and see them.

In many ways, I was least excited about watching the first one. To me, the aging and evolving relationships that are probably explored in the two sequels interests me more than listening to Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply talk for a hundred minutes. What's more is that I feel like I've seen the whole movie just from understanding the premise. It's very plot-light and really when they tell you that it's about two people who meet on a train and spend one night walking around Vienna falling in love, they're really describing the entire movie. Not much happens that you can't imagine as you listen to that sentence.

So this was kind of a slog to get through for me. The Viennese scenery was the highlight. However, as a snapshot of a very specific moment in time and life - young combustible love - it is effective.
04.01.15 Ride AlongTim StoryMan. This was like watching masters at work. I remember when Kevin Hart was like 14 on Undeclared and now he's the biggest thing ever. And at this point in his career it's amazing that Ice Cube still exudes danger and menace. So when you put them together under an auteur like Tim Story you get something truly wonderful.

Now that it's past midnight, the curse is lifted and I can be serious. This was ok. I laughed a couple times. I'm not sick of Hart's shtick yet but I suspect that's because I haven't seen many of his movies. As always though the first half is better before the plot kicks in and drains most of the humor out. Other than that... I dunno... mostly mediocre but I laughed a couple times and that can't be discounted.
03.29.15 Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of BeliefAlex GibneyHBO has been killing it with the docs recently. Citizenfour, The Jinx (which was a miniseries so it didn't get a note on here but holy shit is it great), and now this. I don't think I've seen more hype and promotion surrounding a documentary on HBO before. Hopefully there won't be any disappointing backlash because of it because, while I did get a sense that this doc would blow the lid off of the whole thing and dish all the dirt and blow my mind, it is still just a movie. I think it presents the story and controversy around the cult in a really cohesive and comprehensive way but we don't get Travolta taking off his wig and sucking cock on camera.

To me the most important aspect of this film is that it WAS hyped and promoted by HBO to such a huge degree. I get the sense that this film is a dare to David Miscavige and scientology as an organization. It seems to be saying "PLEASE fuck with us." On reddit a lot of hubbub was made about HBO hiring some huge number of lawyers to vette the film and everything presented here comes straight from first-hand accounts of ex-scientologists. The bizarre anti-propaganda campaign put on by scientology is pretty minor compared to some of the stuff that's talked about in the film but there have still been multiple news stories reporting their actions.

Social context aside, the film is really good. Learning about L Ron Hubbard's life gave me a ton of context for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and makes me want to revisit it. Seeing interviews from the senior members that have left the church and now speak to raise awareness was really fascinating. Especially when it plugs into other news stories that I remember from a few years ago like that BBC special and Paul Haggis' letter and the Tom Cruise video leak that was parodied to death. The terms and lore of scientology are explained, some surprisingly draconian inner practices are brought to surface... The film doesn't deal as much with how badly some ex-members have been fucked or a few other facets (really Travolta and Cruise are the only celebrities mentioned in any detail) but for a 2-hour doc they still presented a ton of information.

So... it would be so great if this movie was the tipping point and we see others come forward to bring the curtain down. Certainly Cruise and Travolta should hopefully catch some shit from us Suppressive People in their life. While watching I was thinking about what the allure of scientology is to me... like celebrity gossip is one thing but there's so much weirdness and oddity surrounding the subject that like... why do I even care? And I had a thought as I was mentally comparing how similar these interviews were to the interviews in that amazing Jonestown doc from several years ago. Scientology is the only cult I know about BEFORE all their members commit ritual suicide or kill a bunch of innocent people. Everything else always bubbles to the surface after the carnage... Jonestown, Waco, those comet dudes... I heard about those because everyone died. With Scientology, they're still walking around!

This movie shows pretty clearly how crazy David Miscavige is. I feel like it's only a matter of time (granted it's probably later rather than sooner) before he turns into David Koresh or Charlie Manson.
03.21.15 Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman StoryRob Bralver, David FerinoThis is a doc about the 90s rock band Morphine and its lead singer/bass player Mark Sandman. I really fucking loved Morphine when I was in highschool and college and remember being pretty bummed out when I heard the news of Sandman's death. I think they put out 5 or 6 albums and although each album had some pretty far out free jazz sort of stuff that was a bit too much for me, each album also had several amazing tunes that really stuck with me till today. So it was good to learn the story of the band (I never knew it came out of another band, Treat Her Right) as well as hear recollections... I will say though that the movie kind of drags. It doesn't help that I watched it in 480p on youtube but... there's a lot of 16mm footage and stills that are just inserted out of nowhere. Unfortunately the story of the band probably makes a good 60 minutes so stretching it out even to 85 made it lag for me. It did put me in the mood to revisit all those albums though...
03.21.15 Our Vinyl Weighs A TonJeff BroadwayThis is a doc about Peanut Butter Wolf and his independent record label Stones Throw Records. It's a label in which I was a little familiar but didn't really know the story so this was right up my alley. Lots of good music here especially after talking up this kind of production-rich hip hop that really suits my taste. There's several albums I want to track down after watching this, which is really the best you can ask for. Very interesting, well produced, great music... Really liked it.
03.19.15The Frozen GroundScott WalkerSometimes when you see Nicholas Cage and John Cusack on a box cover you watch it even though it sounds lame and all the reviews say it's lame and it's actually lame. This isn't terrible enough to stand out but it's just like a super familiar retread of Insomnia and every other movie where a cop tries to catch a serial killer. Boring procedural stuff, "intense" shakycam interrogations... random strippers... pretty forgettable stuff. Which is terrible because it's based on a true story or whatever so I'm sure the families of the victims's feathers would ruffle at the statement that the story of their disappearance is forgettable... the "true" (or at least what I'm guess is true) parts of the movie were the most interesting. That and 50 Cent's wig.
03.18.15 Paradise Lost 3: PurgatoryJoe Berlinger, Bruce SinofskyThis is an emotional and satisfying conclusion to the story of three innocent kids convicted of murder. This is also a frustrating look at the state of small-town justice and a woefully incomplete story of the deaths of three eight year old boys. I guess whoever actually killed them just gets away with it. Thanks, Obama.

But really there's a lot to like. Berlinger and Sinofsky's style has really changed in the decade between this and the last one. I feel like the second one was half black and white recap from the first one where this integrates footage from 93, 99, and 2010 smoothly and succinctly. I also think we see a fair bit of 93 footage which wasn't used in the first movie.

Some notable tonal shifts have happened. The Byers guy stands out the most. His bizarre behavior during the second film is entirely forgotten once he changes his mind and thinks that the kids are innocent. A new suspect emerges for a few minutes. Familiar faces come back older and balder, probably because 18 years gives a lot of distance that 7 years doesn't. This is also a time capsule film for everyone involved. It's interesting that Byers is the only person who really does re-evaluate his stance and change his mind. Everyone else, call it stubbornness or faith, holds on to what they thought in 93.

So... I'm really glad I went back and gave this series another shot. I'm not quite sure what happened when I watched the first one for the first time. Part of me thinks that maybe the disc version has all of the explicit crime scene footage cut out of it because that stuff was new and shocking to me. You could also imagine how having that stuff omitted might effect the power of the movie, but who knows... for whatever reason I didn't like it the first time and I did the second, and now I'm a fan of all three of these. Really great documentary work.
03.18.15 Paradise Lost 2: RevelationsJoe Berlinger, Bruce SinofskyIn some respects I wish every great doc had a sequel like this: Going back after a couple years to show not only any follow-up with the subject matter but also how the first film impacted the subjects' lives. However, other aspects of this movie suffer because of inevitable reactions from the first film. The biggest change is the loss of the absolutely insane access that the directors had in the original trial. Not only did they get to film the proceedings but it also seems like they got extended interviews with the whole damn town. We heard from the kids while they were in custody AFTER the verdict! This time around it seems like everyone has wised up and shut their traps which is probably smart for them but unfortunate for us viewers.

So instead the focus shifts to equal weight between the appeal hearings and the one dad with the brain tumor. That's fine because he is an unbelievable character so now we spend the whole movie wondering if he did it. I can see it but only through movie-logic goggles where his tumor sends him into fugue states where his religious fury collides with an abusive upbringing that creates a Killer Bob-esque alter ego that murdered his son and drowned the other two just because they were there. This is a documentary however and not Twin Peaks so... that's a pretty thin scenario.

I don't see how you can get engaged by the first movie and not watch this one though... even though it's not as good it certainly sheds more light on the case and people involved. On to part 3.
03.17.15 Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood HillsJoe Berlinger, Bruce SinofskySo... I remember watching half of this but to be completely honest I didn't think I had gotten through the whole thing before. In any case, HBOGO has all three of these docs so I figured I'd start with this before moving on to the others (which I know I haven't seen). The raw emotion of the bereaved people hit me much more this time. I feel like my initial opinion of this was that it was overrated and too long. I liked it much more this time. The Bojangles dude, the brain tumor, the flagrant holes in the prosecution's case... they all rang out this time. But you know, I also don't buy 100% that the kids are innocent. It's a great doc that gets this rich in humanity. On to the second one...
03.11.15 CitizenfourLaura PoitrasA doc following Ed Snowden's whistle-blowing. I really liked this and have some thoughts about both the movie and the subject matter. I'm not sure I can put them all down coherently but whatever.

The movie: The best thing about this movie is how in-the-moment it is. You really get a glimpse of what it's like to be living in Ed Snowden's world at the exact moment in which he becomes world news. Right when I started to ponder what it must be like to leave your house knowing that you would probably not ever coming back. Leaving a note for your girlfriend or wife knowing that there's a good chance you may not ever get to see her again. Giving up ties to your parents, your home, your friends... trading it all in for a hotel room in Hong Kong and one bag full of clothes. A huge part of me is so glad to have an "uninteresting" life so I don't need to worry about any of that, so much so that you feel the full gravity of what Snowden's convictions must be in order for him to go through with it. He's totally smart enough to understand what it means... he didn't just fall into this like it was some movie or something... Then all of a sudden his face is on every channel on the tv, random fire alarms start going off as soon as he unplugs the phone, and just like that he has to go in hiding, knowing better than the rest of us how easily he can be found and fucked. And the cameras were rolling. That's what's so great about this doc... you feel and see it.

Subject-wise: I still don't understand why people aren't more upset. For the last 20 or 30 years or whatever there have been people in tinfoil hats being mocked for thinking big brother is watching us and now that it's come out: not a rumor or an allegation or some matter in dispute but hard cold undeniable FACT... all people want to do is say "duh! Of course I knew that, only an idiot wouldn't assume that. geez! Like me on facebook subscribe to my youtube channel #imsosmart"

This is not a hopeful picture of my country and its people. Where are the marches? The protests? the boycotts? Where's the fucking impeachment hearings? Clinton gets roasted for lying about fucking an intern but the "democratic" governments around the world, in concert, systematically collecting any and all information about all of its people regardless of motive or cause for a dozen years and we all are just happy to shrug our shoulders and say "what are ya gonna do?"

*he fervently types into his keyboard as he sits comfortably at home in his boxer shorts not doing shit either*

So I'm mad at myself as well. What's left but to consider this reaction another sign of America's decline, right? Or maybe even humanity's decline? They need to start showing this doc in schools... The testimony from that lavabit guy as he tearfully recounts how the U.S. government went after him, forcing him to shut down rather than knowingly betray every one of his customers, is enough for a high school or college course alone.

So much impotent rage right now! Goddamn it! Holy shit where's the Tylenol...
03.07.15 HarmontownNeil BekeleyI've been familiar with Dan Harmon's stuff since the channel 101 days and have been a fan of his work since then. I haven't heard his podcast though so I never really had a sense of his personality. I guess I should go start since it seems interesting and fun. The doc wound up being pretty entertaining for me... It's a good character portrait of a complicated dude. I'm pretty tired though so... that's my notes!
03.07.15The Invention of LyingRickey Gervais, Matthew RobinsonGood cast but it wasn't funny. I never fully bought the core conceit of the film which was the whole world didn't know what lying is. It made for a few chuckly gags like Pepsi's slogan "For when they don't have Coke" but I don't think people would act that way even if they couldn't tell lies. This was more like unnecessarily-brutal-honesty world rather than no-lying world, so everyone's behavior kind of bugged me, then it was pretty one-note after that. There's also a bit of... so this is basically a superhero movie since he has a power that nobody else has, but just like that Adam Sandler movie Click I think I personally would use the power of lying WAY better than he did here, so for the whole movie I couldn't help but think about all the other cool stuff he could be doing with this power.
03.06.15 AdmissionPaul WeitzFor some reason I thought this would be funny. It's mostly not, just a standard middle-of-the-road "dramedy." Not much to say about it.
03.04.15 Black Hawk DownRidley ScottI'm on record as being a pretty ardent Ridley Scott critic. I think he's one of the more overrated directors working today and that basically he made two good movies 30 years ago and has been riding on that reputation since then. When I tell this to Ridley Scott fans one of the more recent movies that they bring up is Black Hawk Down. I mean it's more than a dozen years old at this point but still... it's more recent than Blade Runner. I'm about to write a big battle sequence and was in the mood for a war film so I thought now would be a good time to revisit this (I think I've only seen it once before in the theater back when it was released) and see if I'm wrong.

Eh, I mean I'm not WRONG but I am a bit of an asshole about it. This is a fine movie. It's perfectly competent... It's not boring (although it is a bit exhausting since it feels like 110 of the 130 minutes is one big firefight), it's, you know, decent. Plus you get the added benefit of so many of the cast having gone on to bigger things. And so few of them are American. I never realized the dude who plays Jaime Lannister was in this! As like a sniper with a weird southern accent. There are actually a ton of weird southern accents in this. Eric Bana has the worst.

And ok it's competent but this is a few years after Saving Private Ryan. I mean Band of Brothers also came out this year. How does this movie stand up to that miniseries in any way?

And also the incident itself. I get a general heroism vibe from the movie but if you think about it... 19 Americans were killed, over 1,000 Somalis!? 50 to 1 sound like pretty decent k/d ratios to me. Maybe that just adds to the patriotic machismo of the movie? "Oh it was such an unfortunate incident... war truly is hell! Of course we still killed over a thousand of the fuckers in one day, but you know those poor families won't have empty caskets to bury!" Sorry if I'm being insensitive.

So as you might tell I still didn't love it. I didn't hate it either though and you know it's strange but I still watch Ridley Scott's movies. I think I mostly hate-watch them these days (because they are terrible), but I must not hate them as much as other shit like Brett Ratner movies.
03.04.15 FoxcatcherBennet MillerHuh. I really expected to like this, but it left me pretty flat. It was slow and seemed to meander a bit and I never felt like Carell played past his nose. Tatum and Ruffalo were good but again the story felt too loose and meandering to me. I also didn't full understand when the rift between Tatum and Carell formed. I guess that rift was supposed to motivate the end but it didn't for me so the end seemed exceedingly random and distanced. I never really felt like I understood any of the characters, although I applaud the wrestling training that both actors underwent and Carell's physical comedy made me chuckle (like when he jogs around the gym).

Disappointment considering all the good stuff everybody had to say about it, but then again I had similar feelings about Capote (although I think I ended up liking that one more than this). And whatever that type of score is... the music in this seemed like every other Best Picture nominee ever. I feel like everything about this was trying pretty hard to win awards. It left me kind of bored.
03.03.15The DaytrippersGreg MottolaI figured since I'm a fan of Mottola's recent work that I should go back and watch his first movie. Wow what a wave of 90s indie-ness. Parker Posey, grainy film stock, lots of hand-held. It feels like the birth of Miramax all over again.

As for the movie: the cast is good, the story is alright... it's just SO indie. Low budget... some of the ADR doesn't match well at all, even the titles... everything screams new York film school student to me. I guess the raw feeling of the rough edges are an artifact of a time and place in the story of film: that 90s explosion of indie films after Sex, Lies & Videotape when being a hit at Sundance all of a sudden meant something.
03.02.15The Lone RangerGore VerbinskiThis was about an hour too long. I think if it was 90 minutes a lot of the problems I had with it would feel minimized but since it's two and a half hours long and refuses to end then all the generic tired story and CG action sequences in the world can't make it any better. Yawn.
02.26.15 Begin AgainJohn CarneyI liked Once more than I thought I would when I finally watched it and I heard this was good. It has a bit more budget, a good cast and a similar musical vibe. I didn't like it as much as Once though. Kiera Knightley bugs me a tiny bit and although I usually really like Mark Ruffalo he's kind of all over the place in this. The music didn't engage me because I felt like the performances were clearly pre-taped and maybe not by Knightley. I mean it's not a bad movie but... oh I also wish Adam Levine wasn't in this. I really don't like that guy and his character's not very sympathetic which makes it even worse. Meh.
02.25.15The InterviewEvan Goldberg, Seth RogenThis was ok. I liked This is the End a lot more, probably due to the cast. Franco goes a bit full-retard, but Randall Park is really great here. Good music.
02.24.15 WhiplashDamien ChazelleA few qualifiers here: I've been a fan of J.K. Simmons since he burned a swastika into Beecher's ass on Oz, and the drums are my favorite instrument. I don't claim to know how to play them but I do love their sound and find that they are the most natural element to any song for me.

With that in mind, I really liked this movie. Yes I don't really buy it as realistic and I can't tell if the jazz is legit or whatever... but J.K. Simmons playing a hard-ass prick and a movie filled with drum beats? Shit... The whole last 20 minutes of the film (end credits included) I was in heaven. Now that I'm thinking back on the plot... it seems pretty thin. But whatever, it doesn't matter. Simmons yelling "That's not my tempo!" is great in any reality.
02.19.15 Men, Women & ChildrenJason ReitmanUgh. This is a movie about how cellphones and the Internet are ruining the world and how parents just don't understand their children. I guess Jason Reitman is 75 all of a sudden? This movie seems so old and curmudgeonly to me... I feel like it's maybe trying to be this generation's Fast Times at Ridgemont High or something but Reitman's distaste for humor and joy taint the whole movie in lame melancholia. I don't need to see another movie about depressed people making poor choices even if there are a bunch of floating screens showing me how they write out texts and facebook posts. I feel like it checks more boxes on the indie trope list than the Skeleton Twins did. There was a moment when I was like "Well this must be almost over" and I checked the time and I had 45 minutes left. That's half the movie. And you know what makes things worse? I fundamentally agree with a lot of what this movie has to say and it's STILL unbearable.
02.17.15 PaulGreg MottolaI remember this movie getting pretty mediocre reviews and not making any money when it came out. Was that due to unrealistically high expectations or something? I found this to be a perfectly decent and pleasant experience. It's a great cast, it's pretty funny, there's a little bit of heart in there... what's not to like? The only thing that felt odd to me was that the movie was a bit too comedic to give real weight to the action beats. I completely buy Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio as inept government agents but I don't really buy them as killers. And if it wasn't Kristen Wiig I might have a problem with the new-to-cursing gag but since she's so dreamy I accepted it with open arms. Fun solid movie here!
02.14.15 Sin City: A Dame to Kill ForRobert Rodriguez, Frank MillerSo... I think the first Sin City movie is Robert Rodriguez's best work. I also really really love the Sin City books. So why is this movie so boring? Now I'm afraid to watch the first movie again because maybe it was just like this but it doesn't hold up? I don't know... it feels like the first movie presented this careful and faithful vision of an original take on noir tropes where this one feels like a tired lazy recitation of those same tropes but with no excitement or originality. And I don't really know what made one good and one bad, but I had a hard time getting through this one whereas I couldn't get enough of the first one.

Maybe the source stories weren't as strong? There were certainly some books that were better than others I remember. Another thing I think is that for all his grandstanding about moving fast and getting his actors in and out quickly, Robert Rodriguez is not that great of a director so these performances all seem flat and disinterested. This stands in stark comparison with Chef. You know Robert Downey Jr. worked on that movie for a half of a day but he still manages to make a mark on the film with an eccentric character and a funny scene. So why are Chris Meloni and Jermey Piven even in this movie? They are so totally forgettable that they might as well not take up the time.

And how can you have Rosario Dawson in bondage gear and not make her look hot? And Jessica Alba is all but fucking the stage but she's wearing more clothes than a lawyer, yet Eva Green is naked in every scene but using such a terrible accent that her boobs don't even matter. I also attribute this to Rodriguez. I think he's kind of incapable of filming a scene with any sort of sex appeal.

So anyway, pretty disappointed with this one. This along with Machete Kills kind of seals Rodriguez's fate for me.
02.14.15 ChefJon FavreauShowed this to Molly. She liked it, I liked it. This is definitely a feel good movie for me. Great food, great music, everyone looks like they're having fun. Favreau, Leguizamo and Cannavale seem like dudes that are fun to hang out with... Again the supporting cast is incredible. Really good time.
02.13.15 BirdmanAlejandro Gonzalex InarrituI think this is a movie that I admire more than enjoy. So many things about it are undeniably great: the meta casting, the technical execution of these long carefully-choreographed scenes, the super meta story, Everyone's but most notably Michael Keaton's performance, the interesting jazz drum score, the ambiguous ending... I like it all, yet a lot of the actual watching of the movie kind of bugged me. Sure there were some moments like Ed Norton's look after giving a good line reading where I was into it, but mostly it was a lot of claustrophic camerawork and interior mopiness that I was kind of distanced from. But you know... the layers of meaning in the script and the performances and make-up and carefully-constructed final scene are really remarkable... again it just didn't hit me in a visceral way.
02.10.15 BoyhoodRichard LinklaterIt took me a while to finally sit down and watch this. Along with the critical praise I'd heard stuff like how long it was, how slow it was, and how nothing really happens. Not exactly a lite affair.

So I really liked this a lot. Yes it's quite long (somewhere around when the kid hit a growth spurt I thought the movie was almost over only to check the time and find another 90 minutes ahead of me) and at first the unique method in which the movie was made (basically they shot a week every year for twelve years) felt like a gimmick to me but soon it became clear that the movie was just as much about time as it is about this family. Most of the scenes in this movie would be cut out of "normal" movies for being too plain or ordinary but in this movie these plain ordinary moments are given greater significance by their placement in time.

Patricia Arquette is good but it's really Ethan Hawke's performance that stands out to me. Granted, his part is a little more showy, getting to be the "cool" dad with his car and girlfriends but it's really his growth, both literal and figural, that's something unique and special. He also gets these really meaty "this is fatherhood" scenes with the kids whereas I think Arquette's role is more of a constant presence. You see her grow too but her story is kind of overshadowed by her surroundings. Which husband she's with, who her friends are, where she's living.

I do think that if the same movie were done with make-up then it wouldn't really work. Seeing the kids grow and the returning cast age is critical to making these mundane things work but shit, man. they WORK. So who cares.

Timely cues like music and fashion and world events also do a clear but subtle job of presenting the flow of time but it's on such a gradual scale that somehow makes it more interesting. We've seen movies flash ahead 20, 30 years to completely different eras but to slide into the next year then the next then the next and realize that there were still singular events that defined that year is really cool. And the plot succumbs to time as well. You'll see a scene like with the bullies in the bathroom or the high schoolers in the unfinished house... normally those scenes would have some expository or plot-related purpose and I did catch myself feeling like "oh this is where the disaster's gonna strike" but then they are gone just like childhood friends in a city you moved away from or a husband you want nothing more to do with.

I DO wish they had somehow found their way back to the tunnel at the very beginning of the movie and showed the graffiti from the first scene at the end of the movie. That would've been cool. Maybe they'll do that the next time someone spends a dozen years making a movie.

Anyway, I've gone on about this one enough. I was pretty surprised by how much I liked it.

notes tomorrow
same liquor store clerk as Dazed
02.09.15The VisitorTom McCarthyAnother filling in the blanks movie. I really like Richard Jenkins and this is an interesting movie where he loosens up by listening to Fela Kuti and playing the drum. I would've loved this movie if the whole last half didn't get a little message-y with the American deportation policy... but I guess the movie can't be ALL good times. So it kind of lost me at the end but there were still some good parts. Worth Watching I'd say.
02.07.15 River's EdgeTim HUnterit's been a long time since I've last seen this and I think I added it to my queue when looking up Keanu's imdb and remembered that he was in this along with Crispin Glover and Daniel Roebuck. It's weird to see this after Bully. I think Bully was more closely adapted from real life events (wiki says this screenplayed was inspired by a real life crime where the killer bragged about it to his friends and showed a bunch of people but it still took the cops 2 days to find the body) but the movies are damn similar both in subject matter and in theme. I guess to a certain extent you could throw Alpha Dog in this same niche. I wonder if every generation will now get a movie like this. It is fun to see a bunch of young actors and be able to go back once their careers have all taken off and watch them like this.

The movie still works for me. Especially any of the scenes with the body itself. Seeing her white and naked and super realistically dead for the whole movie then seeing her made up for the funeral is really creepy and effective for me. And Dennis Hopper... Blue Velvet is certainly the movie that comes to mind when I think about Dennis Hopper acting crazy but people might forget that he was also choosing roles like this one and Texas Chainsaw 2 to really cement that perception.

Still creepy almost 30 years later. I'm old.
02.06.15 OldboySpike LeeSometimes you just get sick of staring at your Netflix instant queue and pick something without subtitles.

Eh... I wanted to see this out of morbid curiosity. It's not very good but I can't really tell why. For me it's so close to the Korean film (never read the manga so who knows how it was adapted) that any scenes worth a damn just reminded me of the original. Maybe for someone who's never seen the original this might not be as bad, but then again why watch this when the original's right there?

There's really nothing here worth watching that wasn't in the original... except the subtitles I guess.
02.04.15 Green LanternMartin CampbellFinally catching up on this one just because the latest Lego Batman game had a ton to do with the green lantern stuff and I know 0% of that lore. Yes there are some pretty huge logic holes and leaps but I have to say - maybe this is because my expectations were so low due to several years' worth of hate - this wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I wish they would've used a practical neckpiece for the suit but really... I don't think this was any worse than either of the Thor movies. I mean it's still not GOOD, but you know... not completely terrible either.
02.03.15 Batman: The MovieLeslie H. MartinsonI bought the blu ray set of the series because I really loved the show as a kid. I remember one summer in the late 80s where it was in syndication and they showed two episodes twice a nice so I got fairly obsessed and watched every episode (save one, which I fell asleep through!). I even had a running list of "Holy"s that I added to every episode until my mom got me the official bat-book which had a printed list in the back. So it's been quite fun to go back and watch the series again now and I'm showing Molly since she's never seen them. Anyway we just finished the first season so we watched this before starting the second season to stay true to chronology. As such, this note will kind of be equal parts show and movie.

I will say there are some notable differences with the movie. The intro for one with these super-saturated spotlights for each actor rather than the animated credits sequence of the show. They also never play the main riff from the show... My dvd is from Fox and my show blus are Warners so if those were the rights holders back then then that might explain it although they used the same sets and all the same cast and same producer so who knows. There's also less on-screen fight graphics (you know, the ZZZAM! and BIFF!) and when the movie does use them they don't take up the whole screen. My hunch is that they thought the movie would be on the big screen so viewers could read the words easier... although not having the words take up the whole screen kind of shows how sloppy the choreography is.

But whatever, you certainly don't watch this movie for the amazing fight choreography. It's still a ton of fun. I think Adam West is my favorite Bruce Wayne. The scene where he's on a date sipping milk from a brandy snifter is hilarious to me. You'd never see George Clooney pulling that off.

You'd think Cesar Romero would shave his mustache for the movie though. I mean I can see if you're working 3 or 4 days a month on the show and nobody's gonna notice anyhow who cares... but for the movie!?

So this was great fun. I'm having a blast re-watching this stuff.
02.01.15The Skeleton TwinsCraig JohnsonBill Hader and Kristen Wiig are good in this... but the best parts are when they are hanging out and having fun together. I get that they wanted to do some "serious" acting and I guess now everybody knows they can (although Wiig's shown some depth before in stuff like Whip It) but... I still just want a movie where they hang out and have fun the whole time.

This was a tad too indie for me, and by that I mean too much dreariness, acoustic guitar, and suicide talk. I think there's some checklist for Sundance screeners where they have to have at least two of like 20 indie tropes in order to be selected. This one has a good half dozen but I'm too tired to list them. It wasn't bad, just a total bummer.
01.28.15A Most Wanted ManAnton CorbijnAnother understated John Le Carre adaptation sort of along the lines of Tinker Tailor but without the period stuff and just an actual spy story rather than a mole hunt. This made me miss Philip Seymour Hoffman. He's excellent in this. Everyone else is ok but he's excellent. This also has an ending with a very specific tone that just a few other films have and it's really good.

Anton Corbijn's narrative career is shaping up to be very surprising to me. Both this and The American are severely understated and I feel show a confidence with the script that many other directors (especially music video directors) don't have.
01.26.15 Only Lovers Left AliveJim JarmuschSo a weird thing has happened. I was in no rush to see this and still haven't seen The Limits of Control. I think the reason why is twofold: 1) I like knowing there are Jim Jarmush movies out there that I haven't seen; and 2) I'm afraid they won't be good.

Jarmusch is one of if not the only director who has never made a bad movie (in my opinion of course, as is every other word in this journal). Even movies like Ghost Dog and Broken Flowers that are not what I expected going in have sit with me and grown and yielded some fruit (like all that amazing Ethiopian music in Broken Flowers that I ended up listening to for a year after seeing it and Henry Silva and all those hilarious old mob guys in Ghost Dog). So I don't want to sit down and watch Eyes Wide Shut, you know? I don't want to watch Intolerable Cruelty or Ladykillers. I don't want to watch Punch Drunk Love.

And who knows maybe Limits of Control is bad but not this. This movie takes a bunch of stuff I'm not into (dirge-y noise rock, lack of plot, vampires at this point, Tom Hiddleston) and gives me a movie that's great. I mean yes it still has all those things but served up in a way that I found interesting and engaging. And that last shot is so fantastic.

To me the coolest thing about vampires is having time. Not having to worry about growing old means you can do whatever the fuck you want. This movie fully explores that(on a low budget of course, I'd like to see an HBO series where we follow the same guy through different eras and each episode is a different time and place like Vienna with Mozart, Paris with Lautrec, new York with the Ramones and Bambaataa), constantly fixating on the age of things, how quickly technology becomes outdated, and holding onto some sort of timeless style. And the notion of these vamps being artists, expressing through the ages under the guise of more historically renowned figures like Chopin or Shakespeare is wildly romantic.

This is like THE goth movie of this generation right? This is the Hunger or Crow for whatever era this is. Hiddleston is basically straight out of Sandman comics (from what I've seen of covers, I never read that series).

So yeah. I liked this one. Not sure I'll be watching it every week but I loved watching it once.
01.24.15 Win WinTom McCarthyFilling in another one that slipped through the cracks. I still need to see The Visitor but I thought The Station Agent was quite charming and this was pretty solid too. Of course Tom McCarthy has to get over my hatred of the Scott Templeton character from The Wire so that's kind of like this movie is extra good for me to like it just a little bit.

I'm mostly joking. Aside from the ending where all troubles seem solved just by taking a job I didn't know paid that well, I thought this was a really endearing drama with a super solid cast. I also think that McCarthy gets some of the best performances out of Bobby Cannavale who otherwise can fall kind of flat for me. It's kind of like Mark Wahlberg and David O. Russell in that regard.

Good movie.
01.23.15The EqualizerAntoine FuquaThis wasn't half bad. I'll be honest: I was surprised when I saw Fuqua's name on this. There's a lot to like about this. A couple stylistic choices irked me and a few song choices kind of bugged me but those are pretty minor nitpicks. Denzel's still badass when he wants to be, a home depot is the perfect setting for an action sequence, and poor Marton Csokas probably has an honorary degree from the Russian mafia for as much as he's played one.

It's a little bit of a shame that this will be COMPLETELY overshadowed by John Wick for me. It's kind of cool to think that Equalizin' Denzel is out there trolling craigslist but that's nothing compared to knowing John muthafuckin' Wick is out and about hanging out at assassin bars and looking for pound puppies.
01.21.15A Million Ways to Die in the WestSeth MacFarlaneWell... I think maybe that a Western is so fun to make... out there in Monument Valley riding horses and building a huge set to play around in... that it's not so bad that the movie doesn't turn out well? I mean I'm sure MacFarlane would've preferred another Ted-level hit but... it sure looks like everyone's having fun in those costumes on those sets. It's just a shame that it's not funny or thrilling or epic or any of the things that a Western comedy could or should be. I did chuckle a few times but mostly I just sat there acknowledging the flat jokes as they ambled past and waiting for the next one. Get along, little dogie.
01.20.15 FallenGregory HoblitI always considered movies like Ricochet, Virtuosity, and this to be "early Denzel" but really Philadelphia (which I consider the dividing line between "early Denzel" and "prime Denzel") was 93 so really this is deep in the heart of "prime Denzel" territory (Training Day was only 3 years after this, bringing in "modern Denzel"). This astounds me. I could've sworn seeing this within a year or two of Ricochet (which was 91) but 98 means I was in college. 98 means right after (or before) shooting this John Goodman cut his hair for The Big Lebowski. That just doesn't computer for me...

Anyhow, I remembered this being a solid thriller. For whatever reason this and The Hidden stuck in my mind as being good but really I think I just like the idea that a killer can move between host bodies. Hey what do you know, I also like The Thing!

So even though there's Beck music on the soundtrack and it seems 6 years too late in my memory, I still enjoyed this rewatch. James Gandolfini (in a terrible mustache) and Aida Turturro have supporting roles (which I would say it was cool to see them before they became notable to me but holy shit The Sopranos starts the next year so whatever) and I didn't realize the killer at the beginning was Elias Koteas and there are plenty of really 90s things going on with the typography and wardrobe and whatnot.
01.19.15The Hangover: Part IIITodd PhillipsTodd Phillips catch-up complete. This one was different I'll give it that although it was basically the Ken Jeong show much like how American Pie became the Seann William Scott show. It was also basically like an action movie or something? I don't know how much intentional humor was in there. I chuckled once and remember it ("I love cocaine!"). These really petered out huh... didn't hurt any careers none.
01.18.15The Hangover: Part IITodd PhillipsMore Todd Phillips catchup. This, as expected, was pretty bland. The same jokes in a new setting pretty much. I think I chuckled once but can't remember when.
01.15.15 This Is Where I Leave YouShawn LevyThe huge-ensemble-family-reunion genre is another one that for some reason I like even though I can't think of a single specific example of a good one. I wasn't a huge Big Chill fan, only liked half of that Jodie Foster one with Robert Downey Jr., The Family Stone sucked... I guess Royal Tenenbaums was a good one... so there you go I like a genre because of one movie. Anyway, the cast here is incredible and I really thought that even with Shawn Levy directing it would have something to like in it... and you know it does have occasional moments where you see the potential but mostly it's tired expected stuff. Boo hoo I guess I'll have to settle for Rose fucking Byrne. Boo Hoo Timothy fucking Olyphant's still in love with me. Boo Hoo Kathryn fucking Hahn wants to have sex with me. Life is so complicated!!

Maybe with a better soundtrack or in the hands of a more emotional director this could've gone somewhere but it didn't. Oh well, maybe the next one will.
01.15.15 Inherent VicePaul Thomas AndersonHuh. So this is definitely a movie where my thoughts and opinions need time to settle. There is SO much plot going on that I didn't completely follow it and will probably need to see it again at some point to pick up more nuance and detail. That said, one of the major reasons I had in starting this site was to record initial impressions and see if/how they change across multiple viewings, so here are my fragmented thoughts as of now:

-LOTS of plot. Too much plot? Only time will tell I guess. I'm trying to think back to the first time I saw Big Lebowski and L.A. Confidential and wondering if I was as lost then as I am now.
-Very Lebowski but without the Coen-esque humor. I can't help but compare Phoenix with Bridges which is unfair but still inevitable.
-The humor is very subtle and buried pretty deep. Doc looking at baby Amethyst's picture was really the only indication to me that the movie was supposed to be funny at all instead of just a weird historical glimpse at a time/place of doping hippies and wolfman developers and bigfoot cops. I'm suspecting much of the humor is novelistic in that it's hard to come through on screen. The cast.
-The cast is STACKED including some "glad they're in this" moments like Michael K. Williams and Benicio Del Toro. Really there are so many parts that I was seeing new familiar faces pop up throughout the whole movie. I did notice Belladonna in a small role where she shared the frame with Maya Rudolph and I wonder what she thinks of PTA hiring porn actresses... GOSSIP
-Vitamin C by Can has been in my head since the title card. For no other reason I can thank this film for that.
-Why is this two and a half hours? and where were they in the last scene. Driving somewhere? Am I supposed to know? What happened with the boat? How did DOJ get it? And what was up with the dentists, looney bin, and boat anyway? Were they all connected? Did drug cartels give all their businesses the same name back then or was it a coincidence or was it a joke? And... oh never mind.
01.14.15 FuryDavid AyerI saw the poster for this at Jarrette's house and it made me want to see it. The poster might be the best part of the movie. I don't think this was bad... it just wasn't as good as it should've been. I like the idea of focusing on a tank crew and the tank-to-tank action was the stuff I liked best but all of the other stuff seemed much too familiar for me. I didn't feel a unique voice at work but rather it seemed like everyone had seen a bunch of war movies and acted like their supposed to act. A lot of the dialogue was pretty arch again seemed bordering on mimicry to me. The production and effects and everything were great - I don't think I'd call this a bad movie - but again I was hoping for more. Oh, and I'm pretty sick of Walking Dead and True Blood actors showing up in everything. They annoyed me on their shows and now they're annoying me in movies. Gah!
01.14.15 WildJean-Marc ValleeIt was good to hang out with Jarrette again like it was 6 years ago. I also had mild interest in this movie... I don't really know why. For some reason I think I like movies where people go out into nature and be alone but I'm not sure I've ever liked any. The nearest I can get is All is Lost which I think was excellent. Anyway, this had too many flashbacks for my taste. I guess it might be what differentiates it from a movie like Into the Wild (which was more what I was expecting) and... I mean I can see academy members voting for all the dramatic shit that we see in glimpses and whatnot... and they used one of my favorite Portishead songs... but still I was left pretty disinterested by it all. Yes, even with the nudity.
01.12.15 Night ShiftRon HowardAn early Ron Howard that's always slipped through the cracks for me. I guess this one stands out as Michael Keaton's break-out role as well as maybe Henry Winkler playing against type (he was still actively playing the Fonzie role in 82 right?) but for me it's mostly cool because of more location photography around Times Square in the heyday of its sleaze era. That and pre-Cheers Shelley Long as a prostitute. She doesn't do nudity or anything (ok she's in panties for one scene) but stands out to me as a real actress along with Winkler and Keaton. This is maybe one of those movies that was probably funny when it came out. It didn't hold much humor for me but I did enjoy the story, the scenery, and the performances. It kind of makes me want to work at the city morgue... except without all that pimping.
01.12.15The Trip to ItalyMichael WinterbottomSo... I guess this is a show over in the UK? I don't really know anything about that... all I know is that this pseudo-real life thing between Steve Coogan, Rob Bryden, and Michael Winterbottom is fantastically entertaining for me. It was funny in Tristram Shandy, loose and conversational in the first Trip, and continues on here. I feel like I'm hanging out with movie nerds as they get on each other's nerves. It's insanely watchable. I could do with 6 more of these. Although I'm not sure tracking down the show would do much for me since I guess I've now seen all the episodes edited into a movie? That's a weird way to do things...
01.09.15 Due DateTodd Phillipsplaying catch up here with some Todd Phillips comedies. I'm not a huge fan but sometimes he does catch some lightning. This was not one of those times. I feel like since Steve Martin pulled off playing a mean guy in a few comedies that it's been a viable character archetype for some reason and I am not a fan. Unless they are expertly toned (like Martin in Planes, Trains, & Automobiles) or really over the top I don't think it works. This plays like a not-as-good version of PT&A and doesn't bring much to the table
01.09.15 Men in Black 3Barry SonnenfeldSo... I remember liking the first MIB quite a bit. I remember nothing about the second one except it was called MIIB and Biz Markie played an alien working for the post office. Obviously I was in no hurry to see the third one but now that I have I'm glad I did. It hit the spot for a fun popcorn movie that didn't insult me... and what's Barry Sonnenfeld been up to? his imdb lists a bunch of tv movies... did he piss someone off or something? Or was this a huge flop? I could do with more of his wide-angle symmetrical style in the cinematic landscape.

Anyway, I enjoyed this well enough. Nothing bad to say about it... didn't love it but it was a quick 100 minutes that kept my attention and that can't be discounted. Good time.
01.06.15The WireVariousHBO remastered The Wire into widescreen HD and put it up just after Christmas. David Simon wrote a solid blog article about the history and process of the remaster and ultimately gave the newly-framed version of the show his blessing. I don't know why they didn't just do an HD remaster of the original 4:3 framing but whatever... this gave me the perfect excuse to watch the show again.

Of course, the extra stuff on the edges of the screen and the high definition quickly became forgotten as I got absorbed with the characters and story so it didn't really matter, but I will say that the shot compositions never looked clunky or messy and watching in 16:9 gave me the same experience as watching in 4:3 did a few years ago.

I don't think there's a way I can match the length or detail of what I wrote the last time I watched this show, but I do want to say a couple things and reiterate how much I love this series and consider it my favorite TV show of all time.

New things I hadn't noticed before:
-Savino pops up in Season 5. I obviously saw that it was him when Omar pays him a visit but he's out and about with Marlo's crew in the episodes previous as well
-While I still didn't see the reporter from season 3 (who Bunny talks out of writing a story about Hamsterdam), I did notice that one of the Baltimore Sun characters in season 5 had a tiny scene earlier in season 3 so there was a recurrence there which I find awesome.
-I think they might have gotten some sponsorship money from Pepsi in later seasons. There's an inordinate amount of diet pepsi on screen for a while. It's a shame... that and the flashback in the pilot are the only things that break the illusion of reality for me. It's still way better than any other tv show out there and it's just my personal hunch but still... why so much pepsi!?
-I know from the commentaries that they were originally going to make it more explicit that Randy was Cheese's son but this time through I caught Cheese's given name on the board once. It may be visible a few more times but it's cool that astute viewers could still pick up the connection from the last names.

this time around my favorite theme song was season 1 and least favorite was season 4. I think season 3 is my favorite, with the penultimate episode there probably being my favorite single hour of the show. So many things culminate in that one hour that encapsulate the previous three seasons... Stringer and Avon's last scene together is amazing. Bub's last meeting in season 5 might be the best acting in the show. I felt sad as it was coming to an end but you know... it's still out there and looking better than ever... it's not going anywhere and I bet I watch it again in another few years.
01.03.15 22 Jump StreetPhil Lord, Christopher MillerThis was funny. It did indulge perhaps too much with the meta humor but that really paid off at the end I thought with a string of funny jokes. Channing Tatum is surprisingly likable in these movies and his scenes with Zook were pretty hilarious I thought. Also there was a classic joke in here involving Creed that really got me. Ice Cube also got to be funny... just an all-around solid comedy. Can't argue with that.
01.01.15 X-Men: Days of Future PastBryan SingerFinally saw this too. I heard it was good but thought it had some problems... I think the casting was the best part. Days of Future Past was released in the time that I was reading comics so I remember reading them when they came out... so there's really no reason for me not to love this movie but I found some things really odd and clunky. All of the original cast were more or less cameos... the future sentinels were typical CG crap design. The prototype sentinels looked better but they still looked like futuristic 90s designs rather than 70s. Really all of the 70s stuff was kind of hackneyed fake movie-70s stuff... Maybe I'm being too harsh on the design because I'm not completely sure why this fell flat for me. Another problem I had was Bryan Singer's style. I really loved The Usual Suspects but I don't know that he can really direct action that well and his taste in casting is a little biased? And why the fuck has Colossus still not had one freakin line in an x-men movie?

Anyway... the plot kind of got long in the tooth for me except for the one part that I wanted to go longer (the epilogue). What a wasted opportunity to not go into the alternate history that they just created a little more AND... spoiler alert... they changed Apocalypse into a wimpy looking girl/boy. That dude is HUGE in the comics! And why are there already 4 horsemen? How can they do Apocalypse and not do the awesome angel/death/archangel storyline! Bah!

OK fanboyism over. I liked parts of this, like quicksilver's one goddamn scene, but really fox's x-men universe seems to be collapsing rather than expanding, and Hugh Jackman needs to lay off the gym a tiny bit. his topless shots were so veiny and bulgy he looked like a giant penis.
12.29.14The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesPeter JacksonWell at least this is now done. I don't know... the whole trilogy has been missing the spark that the Lord of the Rings had for me. Again, this was lots of action between characters I don't really know that well and have a hard time telling apart. There were a few cool parts like getting to see characters who are supposed to be really powerful and badass actually be powerful and badass but it still felt really light on story. I guess I shouldn't say that the movie is light on story because things do happen, I maybe mean that the story is light. Mostly it's the titular battle which is fun enough to watch but pales in comparison to Helm's Deep or Pelenor Fields. And for a movie called The Hobbit I think Martin Freeman had like 20 minutes of screen time.

But like I said, at least this is now done. It's not a bad movie I guess... and I'm sure someone will do a fan edit condensing all three movies down to one really badass 4-hour film.
12.28.14 Alan PartridgeDeclan LowneyAKA Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. I haven't really seen much if any of Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge stuff but I'm aware that it's a long and career-making character that has been through a lot. I figured this might be a good taste without having to commit to a long british tv series and I wasn't disappointed. It has the production values of a movie, a tight script with tons of mostly funny jokes, Colm Meaney plays a great straight man and it was a compact 90 minute trip. I'm glad I finally got around to watching it.
12.27.14 Guardians of the GalaxyJames GunnFinally got to see this and really enjoyed it (like everyone else). The humor helped but also... Gunn really pulled off a vibe a smidge closer to Star Wars than Fifth Element. Lots of cool art and world design (I have no clue how much of that stuff came from the comics) and the script moves fast and is packed with detail. I liked the tone of this way more than the Thor movies and, as always, am anxious to find out how everything will eventually connect.
12.23.14 Drive HardBrian Trenchard-SmithJohn Cusack and Thomas Jane in a Brian Trenchard-Smith movie... Weird roles for both but I bet they had fun. The movie has a real awkward tone (for me anyway) where it's kind of trying to be funny but also action-y although it's clear that the budget keeps all that stunt driving from being covered to the point of being exciting. I don't think I could call this a good movie but it wasn't a bad thing to watch in the middle of the night.
12.19.14 Hell BabyThomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garantthe Reno 911! guys (AKA A couple of dudes from The State) made this horror comedy. It's pretty funny. not great but not bad either. Rob Cordry is surprisingly good as the straight man and there's like the longest nude scene in non-porn history with Riki Lindhome which is pretty cool.
12.18.14 Escape PlanMikael HafstromWho doesn't like a good prison movie? It might be a tiny stretch to call this "good" but it's probably better than Lock-Up which I think is Stallone's last prison movie. You know... I think I have a weird curiosity about Schwarzeneggar's post-gubernatorial career. I wouldn't call any of these movies good but he's working with interesting directors and they all attract pretty solid supporting casts and... I don't know... something about them I find comforting even if I don't like them. weird.

anyway, After binging on Homeland I found the shadow complex design kind of laughable but whatever... I'm a sucker for a prison escape even if it is filled with guards in weird black masks and crazy designs that put Oz to shame.
12.17.14 Grudge MatchPeter SegalThis is the Raging Bull vs. Rocky movie. It's about a half hour too long and pretty tepid dramatically but whatever... I feel like DeNiro either put on or took off weight which must be really hard at his age. Um... not much else to say!
12.06.14 TammyBen FalconeI saw this right before getting hit with the flu so it's been more than a week. Not what I'd call good really... at all... way too much on the unlikeable side. I get that difficult people can be funny but it's unrelenting here and they never got the tone right. It's a nice story that McCarthy's husband wrote and directed this but it just doesn't work. No laughs were had.

And then the ipad was my savior for flu week. I watched Bojack Horseman (kind of funny), three seasons of Scandal (I thought House of Cards was pessimistic!), and 4 seasons of Homeland (better call Saul!)
12.03.14The Purge: AnarchyJames DeMonacoEh... I like how they obviously had more of a budget and went outside during the Purge but the story and most of the characters were much weaker than the first film and really... being outside makes it seem even less believable. who in their right mind would be out there just to kill someone at the risk of EASILY being killed yourself? whatever...
11.22.14 SabotageDavid AyerOuch this was rough. What happened to Olivia Williams? Maybe it was just her accent and haircut but... whew. And there's a crazy cast of macho men but they're not cool-macho like Predator but more dumb macho. and I'm glad I never watched The Killing because I find that actress incredibly hard to look at and she's all over the place here. I don't know man... in many ways this felt like not a real movie to me... It's a good reminder of how easy it is for movies to completely fall apart.
11.16.14 NoahDarren AronofskyWell that was a little different than I expected it to be. Especially the third act. And the first act. And part of the second act. Umm... let's see... what do I think of this... Since I'm pretty far from any sort of organized religion these days I spent most of the movie half-remembering learning the story of Noah in like 1st grade and trying to think if these names were important or something like that. Like is Na'El where we get nihilism from? And was that seed pod the same prop that they used at the end of The Fountain?

These are probably not the questions Aronofsky wanted me to have but whatever... They could've been worse... like "what the fuck is a rock monster doing here?" I don't THINK I hated it... but I certainly won't be seeing this again or really thinking about it much after finishing these notes. It's interesting to watch careers develop over the years. Even movies I really respect and admire like Pi And Requiem for a Dream I don't want to watch over and over again. This is really... really really weird but I feel like The Fountain might be my fave Aronofsky movie. That surprises me... but if someone came in here and forced me to watch one of his movies RIGHT NOW it would be The Fountain. I know Requiem is better but it's such a hard movie to watch... Huh... I'm realizing right now that Aronofsky is not one of my favorite directors... I mean I like him and respect his work and all that and I certainly don't think he sucks but... I'm just in no hurry to see his movies anymore. How strange.
11.15.14 47 RoninCarl RinschKeanu plays a half-breed in this mythical take of a real part of Japanese history. I liked the fantastical bits of it the best but also felt the movie was too lethargic for its own good. I felt like it was trying to be a samurai Pirates of the Caribbean movie but missed out on a few critical ingredients. Plus... SPOILERS... having the victorious climax of the movie immediately precede "honorable" ritual suicide kind of gives the brain mixed messages. Kind of a clunker.
11.14.14 StretchJoe CarnahanThis is a fun comedy/action-ish movie about a limo driver. It's very Carnahan-esque if you will... with an intricate plot, lots of speaking roles, and pretty smart plotting for the most part. I had a lot of fun with this and wonder why it wound up going straight to Netflix. It's a shame because this is a really good movie by all accounts.
11.10.14A Serbian FilmSrdjan SpasojevicWell that was fun...

Uhh... well...

I'm certainly glad I finally saw this. I had already heard about most of the shocking bits but it's still good to sit down and see the stuff in context. While there's some films I'll never do that with (The Brown Bunny, Nymphomaniac probably), this one I am. It reminds me a bit of a Breillat movie mixed with a Miike movie. The outrageousness is definitely there to draw a response but there's also a humor to it that I think, once I get over the shock, is very funny. I still don't understand exactly what the social commentary is, but I get that the producer guy is calling this art.

But still... oh and also I know this is wrong but hot damn the wife was hot. I'm not saying the brother was justified or whatever but... I'd take a bathroom trip as well if you know what I mean.

So there we have it. Somehow I managed to start the fest with Antichrist and end it with A Serbian Film. I feel like I should somehow thank Tim League for that. I didn't get to The Girl Next Door or whatever else ultra-disturbing movie I've managed not to see yet but oh well, there's always next year.

So another year down. I think what I learned from this is that I'm too old for excess. I had a grand plan to just binge all weekend both literally and figuratively but the junk food made me sick and I had a few other things on my plate which kept me from rolling from movie to movie like I hoped. In the end I threw in an extra day but still didn't top DVRfest 2, and poor Kwaidan got sacrificed to the aspect ratio gods until some future date. Next year, no matter how much time I have, I think I'll cap it to 15 movies and enjoy myself rather than feel this pressure to outdo myself. I just wound up falling asleep.

So here are the rough stats for this tenth year of my site. I've seen 18 movies in the past week, 33 in the past month, 221 in the past year, and 2701 total. That equals out to a weekly average of 2.57, a monthly average of 1.1, yearly avg of 0.61, and a total average of 0.74 movies a day. Remember when it was above 2? Those were the days. Let's see... some other notable stats: I've seen 15 Oliver Stone movies, 13 Werner Herzog films and 10 Coen brother movies (in 17 screenings). 643 Netflix movies, 337 at Alamo South Lamar, 262 from the DVR. 250 comedies, 246 dramas, and 229 docs.

And thus ends another DVRfest. I'm getting pretty close to ol' Petey Bogdanovich... although I have yet to make a Last Picture Show.
11.10.14 InsideAlexandre Bustillo, Julien MaurySo this French horror movie is about a pregnant lady being terrorized by this other lady who wants that baby. For most of this movie I was hoping against some psychological twist toward the end. With stuff like Martyrs and Haute Tension I guess I've come to think of French horror movies as having to have something weird about them. While the realism in this movie did break down in the end I was happy that she wasn't fighting herself or some bullshit like that.

But still... the one cop with the nightstick really ruined it for me. Everything else I bought with movie-logic but that was too much.

Aside from that though, I liked this one a lot. The make-up effects were great, the performances were nice, and they almost used enough blood.

And... now for the final film of the fest. This next one played a South By I didn't attend but heard about the minute it was over and felt bad for missing the screening immediately. I heard enough about it to download as soon as it was available but it's been sitting on my hard drive unwatched for several years now. I can think of no better way to end the fest. So for my International Thriller night I started off in Australia then went to France and now I will end the evening in Serbia.
11.10.14 RazorbackRussell MulcahyAnd so we come to the last leg of the fest: International Thriller Night. A few years ago Fantastic Fest featured several Ozploitation movies in support of Mark Hartley's great doc Not Quite Hollywood. While I feel like I could do a whole weekend of Brian Trencard Smith movies that I haven't gotten around to seeing, I wanted to pick one from this country and I was shamed at this year's Fantastic Fest for having still not seen this. Thanks, Chris.

Anyway, this movie is fantastic. Yes it's basically Jaws with a pig and yes the movie goes into full on slasher mode at the ending with the crazy pet food factory set lit entirely in blue but other than that this is a beautifully-shot tightly-paced horror movie with good make-up, wonderful scenery and decent performances. Really great work and it's no surprise that the director came out of music videos. It's not exactly realistic lighting but beautiful nonetheless and nobody gave Tony Scott shit for filtering the bejesus out of his movies so who cares.

Really good. I'm shamed all over again that it's been on my shelf for so long without me seeing it.

Next up we're going from Australia to France for another festival screening that I skipped because I'd just seen There Will Be Blood and didn't feel like fitting in one more movie.
11.10.14 HardwareRichard StanleyYep, still love the fuck out of this movie.

I don't think there was a movie that had more for the highschool version of me to like: post apocalypse, cybernetic hands, evil robuts, industrial music, blood and gore, hot redheads... Iggy Pop as the radio DJ... come on. Man...

It still works I think although sometimes you can see the budget... but still. The depth of the world, the unique quality of the style and design... the creativity of the whole thing is really impressive both for it's time and for today. If you look at a movie like Riddick which I think is pretty comparative, you get the CG stuff but where are the extreme close-ups of hurped-up sweaty lips and robut-vision nudity? And wipperly wopperly songs? Man... the love affair continues. What a great movie.

I can't wait to devour the special features on this as well. Richard Stanley's appearance at the fest proved to me that he is a fascinating storyteller and I'm sure there's a lot of stories on this disc. That will have to wait though... because tonight I'm going to try and end this fest with a bang.
11.10.14 Duck, You SuckerSergio LeoneFinally finally finally get to cross this off the list. Somehow I'd heard this was an overt comedy like almost slapstick. It really wasn't but it did kind of bridge the opera of Once Upon A Time in the West with the excess of Once Upon A Time in America for me. It's just a bit too long, too many explosions, too much face. Or maybe it's that faces like Eastwood and Van Cleef and Wallach and Fonda and Bronson are more interesting to look at than Rod Steiger's. In any case, this was good... probably really good compared with a lot of Italian westerns, but not as good as Leone's other stuff.

Lots of explosions. lots and lots and lots of explosions. But also lots of revolution talk. For whatever reason... the sly trickery between Steiger and James Coburn didn't play for me like that between Eastwood and Wallach. I can't really say why... maybe if Good, Bad, Ugly didn't exist then I would find this great...

ok... let me see if I can fit one more in before tonight's International Thrills triple feature to end the fest. I've seen this next movie before but got a Blu of it during Fantastic Fest and have been looking for an excuse to revisit it ever since.
11.10.14 HeadBob RafelsonThere was no hope of making it through this last night. I was expecting something drugged-out and psychedelic but there is... NO plot. It's full on unadulterated from the first frame to the last hippie freakout shit. Not that that's a bad thing... just too much for 4AM.

The Alamo used to show this every Christmas for their High for the Holidays series and I always wished I could go but was at home with my parents for the holiday. Furthermore I have this amazing criterion set about the BBS that I barely know anything about and have yet to crack the box on so it's fitting to include here.

This is a total 60s trip of a movie that I won't even pretend to understand. What I will say is that the tone and apparent message are pretty are surprisingly complex. I think that was the point... to take something as light-hearted and manufactured for fun like The Monkees and deliver a surreal exploration of America and popular culture. It's at once playful and angry, nonsensical and message-y, a commentary on fame and a celebration of it.

Of course, I also think this is the type of movie that's more fun to write and talk about than actually watch. I found it pretty hard to get through - mostly because of the whole "no plot" thing - but am really glad to have finally seen it. A great example of this is this note that you're reading right now. I'm writing it with 20 minutes left in the movie. Well Before Victor Mature comes to the party to explain everything about the black box and nothingness. Frodis?

Well then. Next!
11.09.14 Let It BeMichael Lindsay-HoggI'm being a bit dramatic in my lead in but seriously... I thought this was the doc where it basically showed The Beatles break up. Snippy arguments and passive aggression and outright blow-ups and all that. Maybe there's a different cut or something because what I saw was a bunch of rehearsal and studio time followed by a few semi-music videos and the famous rooftop concert. I guess the stories from that period are so famous that they've melded with the film itself? Or maybe the subtle looks and silences between cuts tell a different story and I didn't see it because I watched a bootleg copy that wasn't the best quality? Who knows. I was surprised. It's like 96% performance anyway...

It was really good to finally watch this. I got into the Beatles very late and I think I've had this on my computer since the discs were re-released and the Rock Band game came out a few years ago. Even though this is the end of their professional relationship they can still play, man. The rooftop footage is just great.

It's already 3:30 so there's no way I'm making it through the next one but I want to start it just to make the triple feature official. The Alamo used to play this every year around Christmas time and I've never seen it even though I loved their show as a kid. Time to hit the DVD shelf and pull down...
11.09.14 OnceJohn CarneyI think this played South By the first year I went and I missed it and heard it was great but the singer/songwriter-ness of it always kept it pretty low in the queue. Now that it's been made into a musical and a tv show I thought it would be a nice fit with a few other music movies I have on deck. It's pretty much what I expected although I have to say the music is really good. Considering it's really not my type of music I wasn't annoyed or bored by any of it and found a few songs genuinely enjoyable. So for someone who normally likes this type of music I can see them being blown away.

I did quite like the ending. Not to spoil it or anything (although it is getting close to 10 years old) but it's not what I expected and that made the emotion that much more resonant and complex. It reminded me a bit of Lost in Translation's ending where you don't really know what you want from the two characters but you know you want SOMETHING and sometimes all life affords is one more whisper in the ear. This movie is really quite lovely... and I'm such a sucker for unlikely bands making a success. The Commitments is one of the best movies about that I think. A Fish Story. Hell, Eddie and the Cruisers a little bit... The whole sequence with the band in the studio in this movie is also quite great.

sniffles... ok on to the next. With this movie I've just seen love blossom. Now I'm going to watch it die.
11.09.14The Italian ConnectionFernando Di LeoEver since QT6 I've tracked down a decent number of Di Leo gangster movies and liked most of them. I have a couple box sets on my shelf even but since they are now readily available to me I haven't gotten around to seeing them. This is the last of the first box set that I haven't seen and it's been sitting on my shelf for years now. Time to fix that!

So... I've come to expect certain things from a Di Leo movie and this does not disappoint. Beautiful women scantily clad? Check. Funky score? Check. J&B Scotch? Check. Sleazy low-level gangsters back stabbing each other? Double Check. I'd say what this one has that others don't is headbutts. Lots of headbutts.

Actually I like whoever this main Italian actor is. He's a total gorilla guy (kind of reminds me a tiny bit of the Milano Calibro 9 guy) but really gives off sympathy as a low level pimp sacrificed to the gangster gods and running for his life. Henry Silva and Woody Strode play hitmen from America being escorted around by a smoking hot lady in a sheer shirt. In the end there's a chase/shootout that feels an hour and a half long and it doesn't really end well for anyone. It fits the oevre perfectly.

I really don't think I can pick a favorite between the four movies in this box set. This, The Boss, Mr. Scarface, and Milano Calibro 9 are all amazing. Once again I have no good idea why I didn't watch this earlier... but that's what this fest is all about!

I'll have to crack the other boxset soon. I'm sure those are good as well although they are lesser known to me.

Anyway, looking at what I have left I think tonight will be a triple feature of music films from radically places, but first it's time to put some time in with the girlfriend and not act like I've been holing myself up all weekend watching movies and eating junk food.
11.09.14A Town Called PanicStephane Aubier, Vincent PatarI was sorry to miss this when it played Fantastic Fest a few years ago and seeing the Christmas special at this year's fest reminded me that I should track it down and give it a watch. I'm glad I did.

This is a Belgian stop-motion movie about a cowboy, and Indian and a Horse and the various adventures that they get into. It's all very creative and surreal and cute and you can't help but love every second of it.

There is so much to love in here... from the horse pianos to the fish-mom's obsession with waffles to the robut penguin scientists to the weird horse ballet interlude. So great.

Next up is a little break followed by a night of extremes.
11.09.14 Night NurseWilliam A. WellmanKwaidan! Well, two minutes into Kwaidan I discovered that TCM's broadcast of the movie was in both letterbox and pillarbox... and that it was almost three hours long. So I swapped it out for this which was another movie that AFS played that I felt bad for missing. It was half as long as Kwaidan and I still fell asleep. I'm old!

Finishing it up this morning, I really liked this one. Some of the plot resolution is hurried and painfully convenient but it's also oddly brutal which I liked. This is a great example of a pre-Hayes code movie in that it contains some surprisingly risqu? moments like Stanwyck in her unmentionables and a pre-mustache Clark Gable beating up women. Plus casual mention of bootleggers and hospital practices date the film in a wonderfully nostalgic way. I guess back then bootleggers were a viable archetype because they were around and everybody saw them in their dapper suits!

And there's this unabashed hatred of ethics that goes on... I don't know if maybe the medical industry was pretty unreliable before the A.M.A. was formed (whenever it was formed) or what but these goddamned ethics really get Barbara down! She's unbelievably beautiful and sexy in this by the way. Ouch.

So this was great. I do with it were about fifteen minutes longer and had a real ending but whatever... not bad for an early talkie. Not bad at all!

Next up... I'm on the fence about watching Kwaidan like that or renting the criterion disc and that's the last movie on the DVR so I think I'll change formats and watch a movie that should make for an absolutely perfect Sunday matinee.
11.08.14The House That Dripped BloodPeter DuffellThis anthology revolves around a single house that, according to the real estate agent who talks directly to the audience at the very end (spoiler alert), reflects those that live in it. Actually the only thing that all four stories have in common are that they take place in A house so it might as well be the same one right? Because then you get an awesome title like The House That Dripped Blood.

I ended up liking this one the most out of all 4 british horror films this weekend. All four stories have something to like (Denholm Elliot, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and a great performance by Jon Pertwee who plays an old pro horror actor). Yes Christopher Lee's story got a little slow for me but it ended strong as did all the rest.

So that ends the Amicus double feature although for the midnight movie (ok 2AM movie) I have one more anthology to watch. This one recently played at the Marchesa and it's been on my list for a while so I felt especially guilty for missing a 35mm screening of it. Let's hope I don't fall completely asleep for...
11.08.14 Torture GardenFreddie FrancisI'm a tad more versed in Amicus than I am in Hammer but I'm still not exactly an expert. When I saw these coming on TCM before Halloween I thought they'd be a fun addition to this fest and I was right. This one is structured around a carnival attraction where Burgess Meredith plays a character named Dr. Diablo who, for five pounds, exposes patrons to a figure of Atropos and her shears of fate. As each person gazes at the shears they see some dark glimpse of what lay ahead. Some of these were more effective than others for me. Ok the only one I really liked was the last where Jack Palance plays a Poe fantatic visiting Peter Cushing's private collection of Poe memorabilia. The rest of them waver from familiar (a witch in the form of an evil cat forces a man to kill) to ridiculous (an evil piano gets jealous of some girl and ends up pushing her out a window). In the middle is a vaguely Ira Levin-esque tale of the secret behind Hollywood's biggest stars. The whole thing is written by Robert Bloch.

This was fun but also serves as a good example of what I like and hate about anthologies. At least one is always a pain to get through but they're all short and keep it moving.

Let's keep it going with one more shall we?
11.08.14 Send Me No FlowersNorman JewisonThis is another one that's been on the DVR forever. It's a Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedy where Hudson plays a hypochondriac convinced he's dying so he tries to find a suitable replacement to take care of his wife. Tony Randall is the only part that I found still funny (he plays drunk for most of it and one bit where he repeats Hudson's speech about appreciating life to a bartender had me chuckling... "Have you ever felt a table? It's so smooth!"). Mostly I got a real wave of Idealized 60s life from this. The sets and locations they use for the house are pretty insanely Wealthy White America. I mean they have a phone in the backyard? And like 3 cars and the house has 4 stories and all they seem to do all day is hang out at the club and play white people sports. I know that was part of the effect of these movies... a little innuendo with a lot of wholesome innocence and happy faces.

Have you ever looked at a tree?

Anyway... this was supposed to be the matinee but I'm kind of running behind so I think a little juggling is in order and I'm going to dive back into the world of British horror with another double feature, this time with Hammer's anthology-friendly rival studio!
11.08.14The Curse of FrankensteinTerence FisherI completely fell asleep halfway through this last night so I picked it up today. I liked this one more than Dracula I think. That's probably because I've seen fewer Frankenstein adaptations. Cushing is great as the mad scientist. At one point he even uses teaching someone science as a threat. Be careful or I'll introduce Elizabeth to science!!! I still don't think I'm in any rush to watch the whole canon but at least now I can say I've seen a couple.

Next up is... shit what's next. Something random!?
11.07.14 Horror of DraculaTerence FisherSo at this point I think I can comfortably say that I've seen a lot of horror movies. And in the past ten years I've really covered a lot of bases in terms of subgenres that I wasn't really familiar with before moving to town. One subgenre that I still haven't touched however is the Hammer horror films.

That changes tonight with a double feature starting with this classic Christopher Lee Dracula movie! So... the thing I had always heard about the Hammer films was that they traded a lot of the literary source material for the blood and gore. That Christopher Lee's Dracula was brutal and animalistic and perhaps the scariest portrayal of the character. On the other hand, this movie came out in 1958 which is like a year after I Was A Teenage Werewolf and shit.

So I tried to keep that in mind while watching and yeah, compared to stuff like the Vincent Price Poe movies and stuff like that this did show more blood... but I think for me personally I am so familiar with the core Dracula story that I was bored by it. I kind of put it on par with the Vincent Price stuff... but really just a few years later we get Psycho and Peeping Tom, Black Sunday and Village of the Damned. Next to those this seems psychologically tame regardless of how much Technicolor red blood you have dribbling down your chin.
11.07.14The Mouse That RoaredJack ArnoldAccording to my man Robert Osbourne The Mouse That Roared was Peter Sellers' breakout role in the states. He plays multiple roles representing a tiny European nation that declared war on the U.S. in order to surrender and get reparations... Jean Seberg is also in it just before she got really cool in Breathless.

This was a frivolous goofy comedy from the late 50s for the most part... very light-hearted and fun if not so so funny these days. I did like how they had the Columbia woman get scared of a mouse at the beginning and run off her pedestal. It reminded me of how the MGM lion didn't feel like roaring at the front of Strange Brew. I love it when movies are allowed to manipulate the studio logo.

Also... there's like a thematic cameo by a fox in this. He's looking and kind of laughing as Peter Sellars gets his foot caught in a trap. I thought that was a nice coincidence following the fox from the last film.

Unfortunately, the end of the movie turns into a total disarmament message complete with a "we hope" after "THE END." I guess stuff like that firmly places it in context but I also couldn't help but groan a tiny bit. I think that makes me terrible.

Anyway, this was definitely a fun change of pace and I'm ready for more! Next up is a double feature of horror movies!
11.07.14 AntichristLars Von TrierHello, future me. Remember way back in 2004 when you started keeping notes on all the movies you saw? Well that was TEN FREAKING YEARS AGO!!!!! I can think of no better way to commemorate that then sitting down, cracking a coke zero, and watching as many movies as I possibly can over the next three or four days. Yes, my friend... you read that right. It's time to start DVR FEST X!!! WITH X MEANING 10!!!!!!

Yes, ten short years ago I built this site because I was sick of forgetting whether I actually saw all of the Friday the 13ths or wondering how often I actually watched The Big Lebowski or watching a movie for the second time and hating it and thinking "what was I thinking liking this the first time i saw it!?" Now I still do all those things (see my notes for Fast & Furious 4) but I have a permanent record to display my shame.

Nine and a half short years ago I moved to Austin and between September and October I went to QTfest 6, the first Fantastic Fest, and Austin Film Fest. I loved them all so much that, come early November, I was going through festival withdrawal. I noticed that I had a bunch of movies on my DVR that I'd been meaning to watch so I decided to recognize the anniversary of this site by clearing them all out. Thus DVRfest was born. Like every festival, it has since evolved to include a slightly wider criteria (namely netflix, my DVD rack, and movies off the internet) but I believe I am the only film festival to successfully keep the attendees list at one. Getting a badge is a real bitch.

Since this is the tenth year and I happen to be laid off and have some time on my hands I decided to put some thought into the programming this year and truly make it an occasion (for myself). The whole spirit of this fest has been to catch up on things I've been meaning to see so this year I've selected a ton of films from the following bins: movies on my DVR that I haven't gotten around to seeing (classic DVRfest staying true to my roots), movies that I've missed at the various festivals across the years that I've always meant to go back and watch but never have, and some movies that have been sitting on my DVD shelf for years and years that I have never seen. Also, following custom I'll pick one movie that I've seen before and throw it into the mix.

So... without further ado, I am kicking off the fest with one of my most egregious omissions. Can you imagine someone who has been to every Fantastic Fest never having seen ANTICHRIST!? It's time to let chaos reign up in this bitch!!! I'll be back in a few hours.

Well that was fun.

The one thing that surprised me about this film is how beautiful a lot of the photography was. When he wants to, Von Trier can certainly compose a shot. Mostly though it was what I thought it would be: 90% morose depression and 10% cringe-worthy violence. I have to say it's not my thing. I respect Lars Von Trier as a creative force and like the idea of his films but rarely actually enjoy watching them (hence why I don't do it often). I must say this was no different. Still, I saw it... check it off the list... moving on.

Next up is decidedly lighter fare starring a youngish Peter Sellers
11.02.14 Knights of BadassdomJoe LynchA surprisingly decent cast goes to a LARP and unwittingly unleashes a succubus. So... I enqueued this because of Joe Lynch's name on it... even though it looked pretty terrible. But when it started... it was good enough to where I really hoped this wouldn't be terrible. But by the last act there was no hope left for this terrible movie.

The tone is all over the place from comedy to gore but it's very low budget gore and at one point a suit is used that's pretty embarrassing.

So what happened? I did a quick google search and learned that Lynch has disowned this cut since apparently his distributor hacked it apart trying to make it lighter. I have no doubt that the director's cut is much better, but I still wonder if it's actually good. I hope so. The cast is great.
10.31.14 Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James BrownAlex GibneyThis is a really good doc. For a long time I've been waiting for a doc or biopic on James Brown since I really like his music but only knew the tiniest bit about his life. Thanks to the Alamo I'd seen the T.A.M.I. show and his live concert in Boston just after MLK's assassination but that was really about it (other than Weird Al's "Living with a Hernia"). This really got into the nitty gritty of his upbringing, personality, and outlook on life. As one can probably guess from the subtitle it skimmed over most of his last 40 years of life and concentrated really hard on the 60s and his connection to the civil rights movement. And it feels like they got interviews from pretty much everyone notable from his early career which is great. Also, so many great voices... I don't know for horn players if it's just a lifetime of using your lungs and throat professionally or what but there were a lot of awesome barely-understandable voices in this doc.

It couldn't have been more up my alley so this is no surprise but I loved this. So great.
10.26.14 Transformers: Age of ExtinctionMichael BsyMichael Bay has been making Transformers movies for about as long as he worked for Jerry Bruckheimer. WHAT HAPPENED?

I guess my generation just has too much money and free time? Why did I even see this? I guess I'm to blame?

Anyway... this was... alright, I couldn't tell what was going on in the first one, thought the second was terrible and the third was boring... this one was... just pretty bad. The dinobots at the end were worth seeing realized. I guess I'll have to see the next one to see the constructicons assemble?

But really... what's up with this transformium where the robots can basically just break down to little cubes? That's not transforming that's morphing. I know this argument is like 8 years old now but why don't they show the robots transform? It wasn't too hard to manufacture metal toys that did it, they can't do it with CG models?

I feel like I've gone on five paragraphs too long on this. Next.
10.26.14 Bad WordsJason BatemanNot a bad comedy. People being horrible to children is always funny, but it's not completely nonsensical and the little Indian kid is charming. Not bad.
10.25.14 Fright NightTom HollandContinuing my recent sort-of trend of visiting old 80s horror movies I haven't seen since I was a kid, I wanted to revisit this to see if it was as cool as my memories believe it to be. It sort of was! Roddy McDowall, some awesome gross practical effects... Amanda Bearse... and Evil Ed the guy who was kind of annoying then did 976-EVIL then did a shitload of gay porn...

Yes it was mostly crazy 80s bullshit... but it was fun bullshit! I know this is the worst but I feel sorry for today's youth with shit like Oculus and Annabelle... We had awesome stuff like Ghoulies and Child's Play.

10.25.14The Other WomanNick CassavetesMolly wanted to see this. I like Leslie Mann and Cameron Diaz but this wasn't that great. There were some pretty core plot holes (AKA "Silly man logic") like why the guy would give his mistress his home address or where the guy was for the whole weekend in the Hamptons while the three women became friends that really stuck in my craw and went beyond my willing suspension of disbelief. Just another bad comedy really... moving on.
10.24.14 Frances HaNoah BaumbachFinally saw this. I can already tell that my feelings on this movie will probably evolve over the next few days so let me get my immediate reaction down here. I get the new wave homage thing, but I think Baumbach's work already verges on being too pretentious before the black and white photography and long shots of his girlfriend running through the streets so it's just too much.

By the end though I had softened on this and was along for the ride. Gerwig's great at being simultaneously uncomfortable and adorable. Her performance really reminds me of this girl I used to know... the same exact vibe of being energetic and fully embracing her own awkwardness. It's really endearing.

The parts of the film that I liked the most were the montage bits filled with random snippets of life. Liked those much more than the longer scenes.

So I suspect that I'll wind up liking this movie, but I definitely want to get that initial sour taste on my record... The first twenty or so minutes of this had me cringing.
10.23.14The PurgeJames DeMonacoI liked this more than I thought I would. The actual story was kind of expected (for the most part) but the news bits and world-building that went on at the beginning and end impressed me. I'm not sure what it's a statement on, but it's pretty fucked up.
10.21.14 GreenbergNoah BaumbachI am finally getting around to watching this mostly for the James Murphy score. I didn't really expect to like it (since I pretty much hated Margot at the Wedding)... and yeah I got pretty bored with it by the end but I guess the big thing here is that you can see Baumbach fall in love with Greta Gerwig which is always fun. Of course to have the movie produced by his then-wife (who also has a small role as an ex) is pretty awkward. It reminded me a lot of The Last Picture show in that regard (just the gossip not the filmmaking).

anyways... now I can watch Frances Ha and hopefully enjoy it.
10.20.14 3 Days to KillMcGIt's weird to see a kooky Luc Besson script not directed by Besson. I guess I kind of liked some of it?
10.18.14The Amazing Spider-Man 2Marc WebbThis sucked right? Too long, too boring, too much retread with the whole parents thing (although Campbell Scott should act more), too much Gwen Stacy... the whole movie is an exercise in "too much." The only thing that they didn't have enough of was the one thing I wanted: Rhino.

A couple things here. When I was a kid going through my comic phase, Amazing Spider-Man was probably my favorite title to read. It was Todd McFarlane's height at Marvel (I think the first issue I bought was #301) and I remember it being that perfect "comic book" vibe of outstanding action, snarky humor, light vs. dark tone. For whatever reason this seems to be either impossible to adapt to film or as yet unachieved. Rhino makes much more sense to me as a muscle-bound dude in gray spandex. If Rhino's a Nolan-esque tank-on-feet then why is Spidey still in spandex? Why does Green Goblin look so gross?

Also... There are so many colorful villains in Spidey's world, why do we have to see Oscorp in every damn movie? I am so over origin stories... I want Mysterio with the swirling fishbowl and the green cape goddamn it.

And finally... I don't know if the Fox contract grabbed way more IP than the Sony one did or if it's just the setting but for whatever reason I don't mind the X-Men being an insular franchise but I really miss all the other NYC Marvel superheroes in this... or really I should say that I really miss Spidey in the Avengers and other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. It's kind of off-putting to watch the stuff about how New Yorkers aren't used to a masked man swinging around New York when we all saw Loki destroy half the city a couple years ago. I know this is fanboy fantasy but I wish Disney and Sony could come to some deal to be a bit more inclusive rather than this feeling I have that Sony churns out these Spidey movies just to keep the rights.
10.17.14 Jack Ryan: Shadow RecruitKenneth BranaghI don't really get why the country is still not in deep shit but otherwise I liked this ok. Just another spy/action movie... but it wasn't terrible.
10.15.14 Dom HemingwayRichard ShepardIt's always fun to see a movie that seems designed to let a great actor gnaw on any piece of scenery in sight. Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, Tom Hardy in Bronson, Jack Nicholson in every movie since 1989... the parts that I liked the most about Shepard's The Matador were Pierce Brosnan's character so it's really fun to see a movie that's basically ALL that. It's almost like a play (was this a play?) where Jude Law goes off on occasional soliloquies... just gushing character. It must have been fun to write, fun to perform, and it was fun to watch. The problem with these types of movies though is that the plot has to be very light to leave enough room for this excessive character to live... so I had a few problems along the way but mostly this was a joy to watch. Richard E. Grant is also great in this... you'd never watch Withnail & I and imagine him being the straight man some day...
10.14.14 RoboCopJose PadilhaI wanted to see this mainly because of the cast. It's a lot better than it has any right to be. I guess they were paying well? This wasn't as bad as it could have been, but really it also didn't cover any new territory or say anything new over the original and I thought this version skipped over a lot of what made the first cool. I guess you could say there was a bit more comment about US foreign policy and media, maybe a bit more cynical in worldview... but the original had so much more to love. Meh.
10.13.14 Edge of TomorrowDoug LimanStarship Troopers meets Groundhog Day.

I liked this. the ending kind of bugged me and didn't make much sense, but other than that I thought it was smart and well presented and executed. Bill Paxton is also great as the Ned Ryserson. It's also pretty awesome how CG has changed the cinematic landscape so much that all the crazy exoskeleton stuff and aliens and future army dropship whatever is just a given in my mind. It's a far cry from the awe of the power loaders in Aliens.
10.11.14 Captain America: The Winter SoldierJoe Russo, Anthony RussoI thought this progressed the Marvel universe quite nicely. It still sort of becomes a video game cinematic by the end of it but I was entertained without much complaint. This definitely has the most business to take care of with regards to connecting the Avengers movie... which I guess I like because otherwise Captain can get to be a bit much for me (like Thor). It definitely got me excited to see the next Marvel movie...
10.11.14 RED 2Dean ParisotI remember liking the first RED as a bit of slick popcorn fun and this is by all means more of the same but for some reason I have no excitement or enthusiasm for this one. It's kind of weird. good cast, fun action, funny... Malkovich is kooky and funny... but overall it's kind of meh. Weird.
10.08.14 GodzillaGareth EdwardsThis was great. Edwards took his realistic approach from Monsters and played on a grander scale. This is kind of what Monsters wanted to be I think... Great execution of ideas. Very happy with this one. Well done.
10.06.14 R.I.P.D.Robert SchwentkeEh... Jeff Bridges was fun in this. Other than that, it's kind of a low-rent knock-off of MiB. Pretty hollow.
10.06.14 Trailer Park Boys: Live in Fuckin' DublinJeremy ChipperTidying up loose ends after watching season 8... still have one more movie to go (assuming it shows up on Netflix sometime) but we watched this kind of just to be complete.

It's better than I thought it would be. There's an hour long concert film here but they shot a good half hour of context and wrap-around footage which was a nice surprise. Otherwise I assume Dublin got the same show that everybody else did on their tour.

It was fun. I wish they hadn't cannibalized so much of it for an episode in season 8 but some jokes (like the piss jug) worked better on the show anyway. That reminded me a bit of the Marx brothers and how they used to tour their bits before putting them in movies.

It's also pretty clear that Mike Smith is an entertainer whereas Robb and JP are more writer/actors. They just kind of stood around a lot of the time while Bubbles drove the whole show.

Glad I saw it, probably won't see it again but glad I saw it.
10.06.14The New BarbariansEnzo G. CastellariThis is a low budget post-apocalyptic Italian picture heavily influenced by Mad Max. It's pretty typical euro fun... lots weird "driving machines" (as Fred Williamson says in his interview) modded out with weaponry and a nonsensical plot just there enough to make a convenient excuse to blow shit up. Still, there's some good stuff here (the cause of the apocalypse? books! who knew!?) like this weird blonde kid who's somehow a master mechanic and stunt driver and The Hammer blowing up like 50 people in a row with a bow and explosive arrows.
10.02.14 Gone GirlDavid FincherI quite liked this. I was expecting something much more conventional and that was definitely reinforced by the first half of the movie but the second half really changed my opinion and I really loved a few sequences.

I do wonder... since Fincher used Reznor and Ross again... if Fincher's style is getting more detached and ambient or if the score drives that. I'm fine with either way, but I wonder if Fincher has another film as kinetic and energetic as Fight Club or Zodiac in him. His films have really slowed down into different beasts.

So yeah... liked this one a lot, which is a relief after Dragon Tattoo. Can't wait for the supplemental materials on the blu!!!
10.01.14 Life ItselfSteve JamesThe Roger Ebert doc. It was good... but for some reason I was thinking it would be FANTASTIC... and it's just good. It was at times frustrating because Ebert was so limited in direct communication during the time which he could have absolute candor about his life. I would've loved to hear his thoughts on Valley of the Dolls and Ultravixens in more detail, hear more about the breadth of his writing and activity and stuff like that. I guess this was kind of long as is and certainly the Siskel stuff needed to be there... but I don't know something about it seemed kind of by the numbers... maybe it's me.
09.30.14 ChefJon FavreauI am going through a bit of Fantastic Fest withdrawal so I got an impulse to see this right away. I'll probably pick up the blu at some point because I liked it. I love that Favreau made this small movie again after his VFX-heavy recent history. It's a throwback of sorts to Swingers and Made but with a shitload of accrued favors at his disposal. Sure there's not exactly a ton of conflict but you know... sometimes you want a movie that will make you feel good and want to eat good food. This is kind of like Big Night without all that fuss about the critic never showing up and the restaurant closing.

Stellar cast, wonderful location photography, everybody seems like they're having a good time... It will undoubtedly be dated in a few years after twitter and vine have gone away and the food truck craze dies down, but cie la vie (or however you spell it). This was lots of fun.
09.25.14 NightcrawlerDan GilroyBefore this I watched a few episodes of an Australian comedy TV show called Danger 5 which was pretty damn funny in a gonzo over-the-top way.

Then it was time for the closing night film: Nightcrawler.

This was really good. I expected the story to go more in a desperate/creating-crime-scene direction but was happy with the angle that it took. Gyllenhaal's character is really great. The director also did a great Q&A which I've already forgot all the details of.

The party was kind of lame though. They moved it from the Ghost Town at the last minute so it was in the courtyard outside, the lobby, the highball, and one of the theaters instead. I'd just spent all week feeling claustrophobic and pressed in like sardines in that damn space so the party felt like more of the same to me and I was over it immediately. Victor, Grant and I walked around back to look at the surviving You're Next mural then left pretty quickly. Plus I was getting a cold.

A big lesson learned this year is that even when I CAN stay for the midnight, it's often better if I don't. The one slot I missed this year (Wednesday midnight) was for a movie I've heard was good (It Follows) and if I didn't have family coming in the very next day I probably would've pushed it and just been really sick through the weekend, but a lot of the midnights I did stay for weren't strong movies and getting more sleep would probably have done more good.

Overall I thought the film programming was great this year, the organization took a few steps closer to great, and I loved seeing all the familiar faces again. However, I don't feel it was "special" in any way for the 10th anniversary, had some real nagging questions and problems with the theater renovation, and the Alamo menu is in real poor shape. I usually make it most of the way through the week before repeating favorite items but this year I was sick of the whole menu by day 3 and by the end it was just chicken strips (assuming they brought the sauce I had to ask for0 and pizzas. Everything else is way overpriced and just doesn't taste that good. It's a shame.

So... my Top 5 this year:

1-Tokyo tribe
2-the astrologer
3-force majeur
4-john wick

My bottom five:

1-The stranger
3-VHS Viral
5-Darkness by Day

I'd say I liked 26 of the 34 things I saw though which is a pretty good ratio.
09.25.14 Let Us PreyBrian O'MalleyLiam Cunningham plays some sort of weird demon fallen angel type thing who brings out everyone's past sins or something. I thought this was alright except for the absolute dumb parts (which were many).
09.25.14 Future Shock: The Story of 2000ADPaul GoodwinA well-produced doc on the 2000AD comic and it's relevance in comics history. I knew next to nothing about 2000AD other than Dredd so it was cool to learn a bunch of stuff including how it served as inspiration for movies like Hardware and Timecrimes. Good doc.
09.24.14 NorwayYannis VeslemesVery stylized, some interesting imagery, a funny Nazi joke toward the end, but that was about it for me. It's admirable that this guy wrote, directed, scored, and did the production design (and I bet I'm forgetting a few other roles) and there is definitely some interesting visuals in here... but the story is very minimal and I didn't quite follow what was going on most of the time. Perhaps it was lost in translation.

Then I had to skip my first slot in the whole fest because my throat is sore and I don't want to be sick for a family visit this weekend. I'm really wishing they picked the weekend BEFORE the fest at this point but oh well...
09.24.14 Open WindowsNacho VigalondoTechnically audacious, this movie takes place entirely on a computer monitor. My expectations of this were drastically reduced based on feedback from SXSW so I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. It's true that the ending unravels but for the most part I was engaged by it completely. And it's cool to see Austin and the Alamo and even Fantastic Fest in the movie. There are plenty of familiar faces there in the crowd and Scott Weinberg even gets a line! Yeah, I liked this one... I think the problem is Timecrimes was really good and we all know that Nacho's grasp on the craft and technology of filmmaking is there so we want everything he does to be absolutely amazing... which is not realistic. I do wish he would make more movies though.
09.24.14The Duke of BurgundyPeter StricklandLiked this one a lot. It's just as hypnotic and astral as Berberian Sound Studio but with a subject matter much more fitting in my opinion. Since I didn't expect much of a plot (and certainly nothing as complex or intricate as a Giallo) and perhaps because I was already familiar of Strickland's style I was happy to let the trippier parts of this movie wash over me. I love that they give a "Perfume by" credit along with a "Dresses and Lingerie" and all the insects and field recordings at the end. It's a truly peculiar movie but quite lovely and strikingly beautiful. And some damn fine lingerie as well.
09.24.14 Kung Fu ElliotMatthew Bauckman, Jaret BelliveauA really awkward and fascinating doc about this guy who believes that he's Canada's Jackie Chan. It's got some American Movie in there as well but it's also some self-delusion and craziness. Although the director insisted that it was real a part of me still thinks this is made up because the ending gets SO crazy.
09.23.14 HouseboundGerard JohnstoneI really liked this one as well. They managed a great excuse to keep people in the haunted house (house arrest) and developed the scares with a healthy mix of hunmor that reminded me of The Frighteners a bit. This was really a lot of fun. I liked it quite a bit.
09.23.14The GuestAdam WingardI think this is the first Adam Wingard movie that I can unequivocally say that I liked. They really nailed the tone and brought out just the right amount of humor which helped it fantastically. Plus some great performances, good music, and fun set pieces. I really had a lot of fun with this.

Simon Barrett was also really funny in the Q&A. I still wish they would go even further and commit to a straight-up dark comedy rather than stick to horror. I think they could really nail a comedy.
09.23.14 Goodnight MommySeverin Fiala, Veronika FranzThis was the secret screening, Tim said it was his fav at TIFF. I thought it was good for the most part but some aspects bothered me which kept me from liking it much more. It's definitely well-crafted... I suppose I'd have to see it again to see if my problems were real or not... but whatever. We all stood around discussing it afterward which is always great.

But yeah... that krazy glue scene was very memorable. Good stuff.
09.23.14 EverlyJoe LynchThis was pretty good. all around decent. Plus I love how Joe Lynch knows the fest so well and seems genuinely excited to be out there making movies. Another dog death, which I think makes 5 that I've seen this year? And goddamn Salma Hayek might be an alien or robot or something. How she can still look that good is beyond me.

Good movie.
09.23.14The StrangerGuillermo Amoedothis sucked.
09.22.14 CubJonas GovaertsPack of cub scouts goes out camping and bad stuff happens. I mostly really liked this but the last act kind of unraveled everything for me to the point where I was pretty meh walking out of the theater. After discussing possible franchise opportunities with Micah however I began to see a bit more of the quality of this film. I still have some pretty big issues with it but I must admit that it looks great, has an interesting premise, and was mostly pretty good. I'd count it in the "liked" column.
09.22.14 Free FallGyorgy PalfiI really admired Hukkle and downright loved Taxidermia so I was really looking forward to this... and was pretty disappointed. Moments here and there were cool but for the most part it felt aimless and random. A real shame.
09.22.14The BabadookJennifer KentSolid horror movie with an ending that I didn't like. Could've been a lot worse, but it also never really escalated so something I was completely absorbed by. Good performances though.
09.22.14 Force MajeureRuben OstlundThis was really good. The dude who plays Tormund Giantsbane on game of thrones is great in a supporting role. It's a very awkward tension but it's really well done and the scenery is beautiful and interesting and the movie adeptly plays with this feeling of impending doom that I thought was really great.
09.21.14 RedeemerErnesto Diaz EspinozaWay better than Mandrill but I think I still like Mirageman more just because of the context of that memory. If I watched it again I'm not sure... The serious parts of this one could get a little old on rewatching but the action is intense and brutal and real and Marko Zaror's talents get showcased in the best possible way. Plus there's a really good cover of "Run On" on the soundtrack.

Good soundtracks this year...

Liked it.
09.21.14 Tokyo TribeSion SonoHoly shit this was awesome. I want the soundtrack and I want to watch it again. Maybe my fav of the fest? It's just so goddamn good. The music is rockin, the design of the world and tribes is kickass and unique, there's enough panty shots and nudity to check that box for me... the fighting is good... it just has everything you could ask for out of this festival.

At this point, looking back, I wish I wasn't so hesitant to enjoy Sono's films in previous years. I really liked the one from last year but didn't see Cold Fish for whatever reason and actively avoided the hair extensions one.
09.21.14 HornsAlexandre AjaThis was also good. I kinda thought it would be good and it was good. Went to some interesting places... the end got to be a bit much but whatever. most of it was great. I just wish the mystery wasn't telegraphed so clearly by casting and the script.

Mostly good though. I liked it.
09.21.14 Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. MoreauDavid GregoryHalf Jodorowsky's Dune, half Lost in La Mancha, this doc follows the inception and eventual production of the 90s Dr. Moreau film with Brando and Kilmer. Also just like both those other docs, it's like crack to a film geek like me. Richard Stanley is a really interesting character and his stories of production are just insane... but then the stories of after Frankenheimer took over are even more insane... then the stories told during the Q&A were the most insane of all. The story of Stanley's witch buddy in London named Skip who suffered from radiation weakening his bones and necrotizing fasciitis then developed an addiction to pain medication but then got clean and became a drug counselor then started recruiting addicts that he counseled into his coven (skip was from Ft. Lauderdale originally)... insane. He also excellently fielded a question of whether he had ever met Jodorowsky or seen the doc ("A close examination of that film will reveal that I am in it")... AND I got a free blu of HARDWARE!!! This screening was the best.

Loved this one.
09.21.14The SoultanglerPat BishowA VHS discovery from Zack that he's releasing in the US for the first time. It's a home-made horror movie kind of similar to Re-Animator. Although a lot of it is pretty rough, there's a definite charm in these homebrew one-offs that I absolutely love. All the non-actors and bad sound mixing and amateur craftsmanship is really endearing to me because it's most clear in these types of movies that the people who made them just LOVED movies and wanted to make their own. There's no studio politics or anything... and nearly every one of these that I've seen has an interesting release or business deal behind it. Parts of this reminded me of Black Devil Doll, others of Equinox... the gore at the end is surprisingly good.
09.20.14The EditorAdam Brooks, Matthew KennedyNot knowing much about the movie, it took me about 10 minutes to readjust my reaction once I learned it was supposed to be a comedy rather than just a really really bad horror movie. It reminded me in some ways of the old slasher spoofs like Saturday the 14th and Student Bodies in that it was spoofing a really specific kind of film. The big difference here though is that a lot of the humor comes from aspects of Giallo like bad dubbing and translated dialogue so the irony meter was off the charts and that kind of thing rarely works for me. There were still one or two funny moments for me but mostly I didn't go for the tone and felt that it was about a half hour too long.
09.20.14 Bros Before HosSteffen Haars, Flip Van der Kuilfrom the makers of New Kids Turbo. This was a much more conventional story with a love triangle and typical romantic comedy structure but still with off-color humor and language to make it really damn funny.

Spoiler alert but it's amazing that they accomplish what everyone wanted from Be Kind Rewind just during the end credits.

Funny stuff. Loved it.
09.20.14 In Order of DisappearanceHans Peter MolandA Somewhat Gentle Man was a real surprise hit for me so I think that clouded my expectations of this a little bit. It's certainly a solid revenge picture with a great setting and beautiful photography and interesting characters, but I was somehow still expecting something more. I think that's my fault. It's a good solid film. I particularly loved the villain's taste in interior design. He had all these modeling hands on a wall showing sign language (with some in the corner made into middle fingers) and these awesome chairs where the backs were sculpted faces with holes for eyes so you could look through them. Amazing stuff.

Good movie.
09.20.14The AstrologerCraig DenneyThis was an AGFA screening presented by Tim League and Refn. Holy shit it's great. Craig Denney made a movie starring himself about how the world should be. It's filled with adventures and the highs and lows of success and fame. For real, the same movie has cobra and quicksand deaths, the US Navy paying an astrologer for advice, a meta-mind explosion of a movie called The Astrologer making 145 million dollars, and a Kenyan prison.

I wish I could go on and on for two hours writing about this but I'm too tired and have already forgotten a bunch of quality details. You're not an astrologer, you're an asshole!

Loved it. definitely in my top five.
09.20.14 My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding RefnLiv CorfixenA doc by Refn's life following the making of Only God Forgives, which I haven't seen. This is more of a personal intimate portrait of the man rather than a making-of thing. Some keen insights I guess but I think they are nothing not shared amongst most artists. insecurity, constant search for meaning, mixed feelings about the work, regret at not being able to change anything. It was decent.
09.19.14 V/H/S ViralVariousdidn't like this. Nacho's was interesting but once you get the joke there's really only a few sight gags going for it. The wrapper is not QUITE as annoying as the previous two but still sucks and makes no sense. The other two shorts were pretty lame. If it weren't for Nacho I don't think I would've seen this and I wasn't surprised at all with what I got. And the transitiony VHS-esque noise and jumble was loud as fuck. If I ever had a tape that played that poorly... I would return it and take my VCR in for repair. sucks.
09.19.14 John WickChad StahelskiKeanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe, and anyone who's ever appeard on an HBO show star in this fucking kickass action movie. They do a great job of setting up how badass Keanu is without having a guy in uniform list off his accomplishments. It does a lot of action-y stuff real well actually. Liked this a lot. Keanu's dreamy. Too bad even he isn't immune to the complete clusterfuck that is the south lamar lobby.

So far this is my fav.
09.19.14 Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon FilmsMark HartleyGreat doc about Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and all the shit they put out during the 80s. I love now that I'm an adult or whatever when these docs go into detail and behind the scenes on things that I remember experiencing in childhood. When I was a kid, all I knew was that all these ninja films started showing up on the rental shelves and all of a sudden me and my friends wanted throwing stars and nunchucks. It's really cool to see the business end of that equation recounted in typical energy and vivre that Harltey brings to his docs. He had a real gift as an editor. Every clip of the movies he shows is a perfect choice, distilling the absurdity and extremity of that movie in like 2 lines or 3 seconds. A lot of the time he splits the screen to show two things happening at once both illustrating whatever point the interviewee was making. The sheer amount of footage is amazing and the fact that it's organized and presented with such clarity is a real feat. Of course, anyone who saw his Ozploitation or Filipino actress docs knows what I'm talking about.

Really great doc.
09.19.14 Dwarves KingdomMatthew SaltonA documentary about a theme part in China filled with little people. I saw this on An Idiot Abroad when they sent Karl Pilkington there so I knew a little about it but this goes more in depth and interviews several of the people who work/live there. It was a little boring, but presented interesting ideas about the gray space between genuine benevolence and exploitation. Not the most riveting doc in the world though.
09.18.14 Darkness by DayMartin De SalvoWay too slow for a midnight show. It's all atmosphere like something from Spain (this one is Argentinian) but it's too vague and not enough happens. I ended up thinking it wasn't terrible but I was bored through most of it.
09.18.14 ABCs of Death 2VariousWay better than the first... but still mostly forgettable. It was really wise or lucky though to have the last short be by far the best. It was the first moment of the night where I felt that amazing fantastic fest feeling of seeing something new and extreme and being surrounded by people that were receptive to it. A really great final bit. A few of the other ones were good too, most of them were kind of random and forgettable.
09.18.14 TuskKevin SmithFantastic Fest 2014. FFX.

For the past 6 years I've had to juggle the fest with work, skipping the midnights in order to get some sleep before making it in to the office for the morning then skipping out at around noon to watch movies. Well enough of that shit! They laid me off two weeks ago so this year I am doing this fucker UP. Of course I haven't undergone some dramatic personality shift or anything so you won't see me drunk off my ass trying to sing karaoke or anything like that, but I do plan to see as much as I damn well please and enjoy myself this year.

As such, I've included these notes in the deal. They will be really minimal this year. Like two or three words minimal. Basically I don't want to have to worry about anything other than finding a parking spot in the garage and hearing my boarding number in the lobby. I wish I had the energy or time to go into greater detail - and I might still for a few - but mostly I don't want the burden. So, future me, sorry these aren't as complete as the other years... but fuck it. It's the tenth one, let's have some fun.

First thoughts on the new South Lamar: the garage wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but it's still too damn small. Really everything is too damn small. The highball, the karaoke rooms, the indoor lobby, the outdoor plaza... this will be the most cramped year of the fest I think, especially if it keeps raining and making everything humid as fuck.

The original theaters/hallway feel really weird stuck inside the ultra-modern rebuild, but they are like greeting old friends.

13 dollar pizza.

the intercom still fucking sucks. Unless you're in the lobby you can't hear shit. And still no goddamn TV showing what's boarding WHAT THE FUCK.

EVERYTHING ELSE about the theater is great. I don't mean to come off too negative. I knew I would have certain gripes but really for an opening night it went very smoothly and I'm excited about something in every day of my schedule.

Fantastic Arcade is stuck into the nooks and crannies as usual, but I got to meet Tim Schafer which was awesome even though I got super nervous and felt like a dork afterward. I recognized a few other Double Fine dudes... Super awesome that they're here.

Tusk sucked. Didn't like it. Over the end credits they play the snippet of the podcast where they came up with this idea and that's about right. It feels like a movie a couple stoners dreamt up on a podcast. That said, I enjoyed Harley Morenstein's cameo (hope I'm spelling that somewhere near right) and Johnny Depp has an exceedingly weird part. I kind of respect how Kevin Smith made this movie to show other people that they can make movies... but still. it's crap. Just watch the first Human Centipede instead. This never finds a consistent tone and gets really uneven with super long scenes. Michael Parks is good, Justin Long is good, Depp is good... but most of the script is terrible. OK I laughed in one scene where Michael Parks tries to convince Justin Long that a spider bit him, but that's it. That and Harley.
09.18.14 HouseSteve MinerYou know... I had very fond memories of this movie from my childhood but now that I've seen it again I think I my memories are more from the trailer in front of other VHS rentals than the movie itself. Maybe it's House 2 that I'm thinking about but I remember this being much crazier than it is... primeval jungles and whatnot... this is kind of a standard haunted house movie.

Yeah, after watching the trailers for both House and House 2 my memories are definitely of the goofy comedic sequel. This one is kind of a real horror movie whereas the next one is just gonzo.

Still, it's been fun to revisit these formative movies. I think I might look up Fright Night next, after Fantastic Fest that is...
09.16.14The BelieversJohn SchlesingerThis is the movie I saw on cable that I misremembered as Serpent and the Rainbow. While that might end up being a more authentic view of religious magic than this one, I think this one is a better horror movie. The scene were spiders crawl out of the lady's face has been burned into my brain since age 11 or whenever it was that I first saw this. I'm kind of surprised to see that it's not a completely terrible movie! Martin Sheen yells a bunch.
09.15.14 Bones Brigade: An AutobiographyStacy PeraltaCredit Netflix with this entry because I had no idea this movie existed until it popped up as a recommendation after Dogtown and Z-Boys. It's pretty cool to see Peralta return to familiar territory 11 years after his previous skating doc. Still just as personal and informative but set a decade after Dogtown, this catalogs the rise and evolution of skating in the 80s. The half-pipes, the skate videos, street skating... and how it's pretty much directly attributable to this team that Peralta put together.

I liked this as much as the first one. For me it's almost a sequel because it covers another decade of the same history. I was never a skater but I was a kid during this time so I was aware of it in the periphery of my life and for whatever reason I loved surf and skate movies growing up like North Shore and Gleaming the Cube, so it's nice to see these connections get made here.

I'm not sure why this wasn't talked about like Dogtown was... maybe it was but I just wasn't around to hear it?
09.15.14 Dogton and Z-BoysStacy PeraltaIt's hard to believe that this came out in 2001. Whew. It still holds up. Really good doc.
09.12.14The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell StoryJason LapeyreI never watched Saved by the Bell. I don't know what happened but I don't remember even knowing it existed until Showgirls came out. I really can't explain it. I was all into 90210 and everyone my age knows all about it... but I somehow missed it. So I had a mild curiosity about this but I should've realized this was still a Lifetime movie. Pretty terrible in all respects.
09.10.14 Dead SnowTommy WirkolaThe sequel's playing Fantastic Fest and I didn't want to miss out by not seeing the original. As it turns out, I didn't like this very much so I'll probably skip part 2, but at least now I know. Zombies, Nazis... I'm just so burned out on all of this. The heavy snow and the climate could've made this one interesting but then the stupid fast Nazi zombies showed up. The overall tone is also kind of tongue-in-cheek and goofy... it's all a recipe for a dish that I don't care for.
09.10.14 BloodsportNewt ArnoldSo a documentary on Cannon Films is playing at this year's Fantastic Fest and one of the questions on the Fantastic Feud survey is What's your Favorite Cannon film. I had to look up a list because I'm not as hardcore as I guess I should be and as soon as I realized/remembered that Bloodsport was a Cannon release I had my answer. I, as I would imagine 98$ of the other 10 year old boys in 1988, absolutely loved this movie. It's really shameful to say but THIS is my Enter the Dragon. When I finally saw Enter the Dragon I was kind of disappointed by it, yet THIS movie for whatever reason sits in the pantheon of my childhood loves.

Well, I haven't seen it in perhaps two decades so I thought it was time to give it a revisit.

Holy shit. It all makes so much sense now. I kind of had this thought that a lot of the schlocky exploitation stuff that I've enjoyed so much since moving here was because Austin itself celebrates it so fervently. Tastemakers like Lars and Zack and Tim league embrace and champion the obscure, goofy, and bizarre and freely take all willing viewers with them... I mean I know I haven't seen as many 70s movies as Lars or 80s movies as Zack so I stay open to new things and have enjoyed a lot of what they've shown me over the years... but when I watch this movie for the first time in so many years I realize it wasn't all them. it was ME too.

Bloodsport has every ridiculous over the top 80s barf-fest of ninja sweat and flying jumpkicks as anything I've seen at the Alamo. It is such a prototypical exhibit of nonsensical martial arts... you couldn't make a funnier joke of the times if you tried. The fifteen minute flashback that's also a training montage that OPENS the film, the arbitrary romance between two people who can't even begin to act, the sweeping slow motion shots of punches and kicks that don't really connect, the pulsing synth-rock soundtrack... everything! The only thing is... when I was a kid... I didn't realize it was so ridiculous! It's not until now that I see... these sensibilities that make up my taste in film come not from Lars and Zack but from my own formative hours spent perusing the VHS racks of the mom-and-pop video store and repeat viewings of shit like this.

Can you believe that JVCD made a career out of this movie? A whole career out of doing the splits.

Yet... a not unsubstantial part of me still thinks this movie is really fucking cool. The whole concept of a secret underground fighting tournament... years before Mortal Kombat and UFC and everything else... Each competitor had his different style... the Muay Thai guy going up against the sumo dude against the monkey dude from Africa and the sheer brutality of Chong Li... Plus there's Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds! And Forest Whitaker..? holding an ancient stun gun???

Did I mention how terrible JCVD is in this? I mean he can he barely speak.

Whatever. It worked then, it sort of works now in a different way. I'm really glad I gave this another watch. It makes me feel good about what kind of shit I loved as a kid.
08.30.14 Veronica MarsRob ThomasThe movie where all the kids from the show look weird and you can't remember who was in the show, who's a cameo from one of Rob Thomas' other shows, and who's new just for the movie.

it was ok. I wasn't a huge fan of the show so I guess it follows suit that I wouldn't be a huge fan of this. Not terrible, not great. blah
08.23.14 Pet SemataryMary LambertI thought I hadn't seen this in a long long time but as I started watching it I realized that it hasn't been so long after all... so it was really kind of a waste because I really don't like this movie very much. I like Fred Gwynne though... it's time to track down Disorganized Crime again. I used to love that movie when it was first out on vhs.

Anyway yeah... I hate the lead in this. he's a terrible actor. Really everyone but Fred Gwynne is terrible. But having an evil kid this young just didn't work. They have to cut the performance together and it comes off looking like an animal performance.

...Wish I would've checked this site before watching.
08.19.14The WarriorsWalter HillThis was available on HBOGO and I feel like it's been a long time since I last saw it. I was also in the mood to spend some time in late 70s NYC again.

The tone of this movie really is something. I feel like I've read or heard in interviews how the theming of the gang outfits and make-up weren't intended to be humorous or exaggerated so maybe that's why, but something about the straight 100% seriousness of everybody coupled with a total fantasyland look... it's almost like this is a post-apocalypse movie without the apocalypse. All these nomadic tribes... everyone's performances are really stiff... I don't know it's just a really weird tone that I think totally works and makes the movie unique.

And I can't watch the first scene without thinking about this old rave album I have by a band named Messiah. Pretty much every line out of Cyrus' mouth was sampled in that album. They even had a song called 20,000 Hardcore Members.

08.16.14 2 GunsBaltasar KormakurThis feels like such a 90s movie to me. Everyone's got like 2 secret identities, everybody's like super powerful and whatever... it's all such a web of intrigue and backstabbing!

It kept me away but... ugh. And how that actress keeps getting gigs... I mean I understand that she has breasts but... it takes quite a lot to be the worst actor in the room when you're working with Mark Wahlberg and James Marsden.

And Denzel's in full on fun mode now right? He's gone Bobby DeNiro on us?

ok sorry. I always like a Bill Paxton performance, Mark Wahlberg's been choosing roles that play to his strengths more lately, Denzel's never bad... like I said, I didn't fall asleep watching it.
08.16.14 IdiocracyMike JudgeMolly hadn't seen this and I think I haven't either since it came out. It's funny how much of the plot that I'd forgotten but how many of the little details that I remember. People are saying that more and more of this movie is true. I have to agree. About the little things, not the plot. The plot kind of makes this not a great movie but the details are so great. Poor us, right?
08.13.14The Internet's Own BoyBrian KnappenbergerDoc about reddit and internet evangelist Aaro Swartz who commited suicide amidst a lengthy legal battle... basically the internet and this doc makes it out that the government drove him to death.

Lots of interesting things here assuming you care about the internet or copyright law. To me this fulfills one core reason for documentaries to exist and that is to raise awareness about something. if copyright laws change as a result of his suicide or this doc, then that's great.

As a movie, it's ok. nothing spectacular. Worthwhile subject matter though.
08.09.14 Chasing MavericksCurtis Hanson, Michael AptedI watched this to see what Curtis Hanson has been up to. He had a run of 3 or 4 really good movies there for a while... now it seems like he's fallen out of vogue for one reason or another.

Anyway, this was a decent movie. So much of a surfing movie is up to the photography and Bill Pope shot the hell out of it.. The bits that are not surfing were... ok. I mean I bet if this came out instead of North Shore when I was younger, I'd've loved it just as much... but being older some of it is pretty cheeseball. Then because it's based on a true story they have to have this really weird tonally out of the blue ending that nobody ever would have written if it didn't actually happen.

But whatev... surfing movie...
08.08.14 Lone SurvivorPeter BergNot too bad although I did have to vomit from all the macho testosterone slow-mo bullshit twice. But you know... other than that, not too bad.
08.03.14 V/H/S 2VariousI guess I liked this one a little better. I liked how the stories ALMOST existed in the same universe... with a little more direction they could have and that would've been cool... but instead it's about the same I think.

I liked that Eduardo Sanchez shot his in Frederick. Fredneck represent!!! It was also a novel take on the zombie genre... Gareth Evans' one felt too similar to every other cult movie to me (most recently The Sacrament or whatever that Ti West movie was called). I guess the overall quality of this one was higher than the first (I was thinking today of how I forgot to mention how godawful that killer in the woods piece was in the last one... jesus), but I still felt pretty meh on it. I feel like horror is fun to make so they pull the trigger on the thinnest premise then use the same old tricks to hope for scares. I think there's maybe a version of these anthologies that are really good... that the music doesn't change whenever it's time to get scared and the tracking doesn't slip (???) whenever the bad guys are on screen and these found footage movies are not deftly edited together from 48 sources by some unseen hand... but so many of these little details are off that it doesn't accomplish its main goal which I believe is to feel authentic. It's like Rodriguez using his grindhouse filters...

anyway. these are finally off my instant queue, so that's good.
08.02.14 V/H/SVariousFinally watching this, mostly so I can watch V/H/S 2, mostly to see Gareth Evans' bit. Anthologies are kind of hit or miss for me. They feel like watching shorts, in that whether I hate them or love them I still forget them pretty quickly. These were OK except for the fact that all these people live in a world where VHS tapes are in everyday use but everyone also uses the internet. I guess something like "MiniDV" isn't as catchy of a title.

Anyway, my least favorite was Ti West's short (huge shocker), mostly because it was really boring then made no sense at the end. ha ha. I almost liked Joe Swanberg's until the end. I guess the one I liked most was the last one just for the slickness of effects, but to be honest I'll probably remember this one most for how lame the interstitial story was. Hopefully the next one is better (as I've heard).
08.02.14The Raid 2Gareth EvansSo... I remember the first Raid being good but pretty much all I remember now is that the first half was like Dredd with guns and the second half was a fatiguing series of fight scenes one right after the other since everybody's ammo ran out.

At the beginning of this one, I thought the movie was in trouble. Now instead of a tight controlled setting we were getting into a broad deep-cover situation like White Heat or something... and all the generic gangster stereotypes start to show up... and I never really got bored or disliked it but at the same time I thought more than once how maybe an Asian crime movie has to involve gangsters machinating against one another and all cops must be undercover so maybe if the first one had more budget it would've included this stuff too or something...

But the fight scenes are undeniably fantastic. I mean they are crazy. Every once in a while when a movie does a fight scene really well and you're involved enough you see a move and the film works so well that you physically feel it in your body. It's like a visceral reflex action that takes place. Like a guy gets hit in the nuts SO HARD and SO WELL that you feel it in YOUR nuts. Well, that happened for me pretty consistently at least once per fight here. I mean not always in the nuts, but you know... different places.

And the CG is seamless enough to where the violence comes off as real. Well ok several of the weird blood inserts still seem overlaid and took me out of it a bit but for the most part... like if someone gets shot in the head they aren't afraid to show what a real headshot would be. There's a car crash in particular that has a body flying through the windshield and it happens so fast you think it has to be CG but it doesn't matter because that's actually what would happen.

So... I feel like I'm rambling. The story was ok, not bad by any means. You can feel the budget and it's used wisely. But really it's the fight scenes. And I didn't feel fatigued like I did in the first. The enemies are a nice bit of Rogue's Gallery where people have special skills and have other fights to show off how badass they are before coming up against our hero. Man, these fight scenes. the prison scene, the car scene, and the end scene are all three classic unbelievable fights. This movie can stand on those alone (which combined is probably still like an hour running time).

visceral body reaction
07.30.14The Grand Budapest HotelWes AndersonSo this may not be my favorite Wes Anderson movie, but I feel like it's the most perfect distilled essence of Wes Anderson to date. Pretty much every shot is fetishistic with its symmetry and attention to composition and detail and color and design. The story is adrift in generations of nostalgia for never-was perfection and he even goes so far as to use different aspect ratios to mark the time periods, the net effect of which for me is just enough widescreen to make the full frame seem jarring. I'm sure he loved every bit of it though.

And this isn't to say that I didn't like it. I found it quite pleasant and enjoyable. It's just no longer reality. For me this is a fairy tale, whereas his first three films were still stylized reality. I'd definitely still buy the criterion release though...
07.27.14The InternshipShawn LevyI couldn't get to sleep so I put this on thinking I'd fall asleep halfway through. I didn't but not because this was so great... I guess I just wanted to be awake at 4:30 on a Sunday night. Anyway, this is half an unfunny comedy and half google propaganda. Pretty crap.
07.26.14 BullyLarry ClarkI finally saw Bully. It was better than I thought it would be. Great cast, lots of sweat. Kind of like a much better Alpha Dog. Ummm...
07.19.14 Zero CharismaKate Graham, Andrew Matthewsspoilers ahead. If you haven't seen it, stop now. The gist is I didn't like it.

I feel like I'm supposed to like this by default because it's shot in Austin and they used Great Hall Games and I recognized Neil and David as extras and John Gholson has a part in it and it's co-produced by Zack Carlson... but I didn't. It looks like another shitty indie movie, the script is a mess, and I feel like it doesn't really develop or go anywhere. I wasn't rooting for anyone... which I guess is ok because nobody won or lost anything. I don't know... it's hard not to want to make this movie more formulaic, but there's a reason why so many characters hit bottom and learn humility and come out the other side as better people. There's a reason why despicable deadbeat moms get comeuppance in movies. There's a reason why we have protagonists and antagonists... I felt like this movie tread water in the middle of all of that but didn't want to be so unoriginal as to commit to any of it. I wish the main dude apologized to his friends at the end, I wish his friends saw how douchebag the hipster guy was, and I really wish they didn't all move to Flagstaff!? wtf. How about he gets his own damn place and hosts his game night more on a level playing field with John Gholson playing!? Maybe that would be too much... too wrapped-in-ribbon perfect, but was this movie trying to be at least partially a comedy? I couldn't tell.

anyways... wish it was better.

And oh.. note to self. if I ever take the leap and make a movie, either learn how to photograph and light or hire someone who does. Especially after watching Monsters, there is NO reason for this movie to look as crappy as it does. jesus.
07.19.14 MonstersGareth EdwardsI put off watching this for so long because I heard how low the budget was and thought it would look like crap. Actually, I think how good it looks is maybe the best thing about it. I really liked the world and premise of the movie, thought the romance was a bit strained and the lead actress was... meh. It's also hard to have a movie called Monsters and never really... deliver some monster scares. On one hand I like how passive and anthropological it was, but on the other... I could've used a little more action. I know... but still.

still, not a bad movie at all.
07.19.14 Tim's VermeerTellerPenn & Teller's friend invents/discovers a technique using lenses and mirrors to replicate Vermeer's photo-realistic painting style. In large part, the fun of this movie is seeing a very intelligent and rich guy follow his hobby. Wouldn't it be awesome to have the capability to follow this curiosity to the point of international travel, learning a new language, learning the technique to: fabricate custom furniture, grind optical lenses, make paint from pigment, and construct an entire replica room then spend 200 days making one painting just to satisfy that curiosity? But along the way we get an insight into Vermeer and a lot of those other Golden Age realistic painters' process might have been, and the dedication and attention that makes their art stand out, and question a greater concept of how technogoly compromises or enhances art. All this and it's not so long that it wears out its welcome. Good movie.
07.18.14 FixDoug FreelA doc about Ministry's Al Jourgensen, mostly about Ministry's Al Jourgensen's drug addiction. I watched this in hopes of a nostalgia trip and perhaps learning more about early-to-mid-90s Ministry. What I got was a mess of a film about "the backstage experience" which is basically Al yelling and spouting babble a lot interjected with some interviews from people who don't really know him. No history, no timeline, no context, no performances, no story really... just random clips of Al walking around on stage taken from 3 or 4 shows and used over and over again. I didn't really get anything out of this... just a boring mess. Oh well.
07.18.14 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2David YatesFor whatever reason, I burned out on this film series and never saw the last one. I really loved the first handful and ate the books up... but I guess after reading the final book that was that. I feel like with this movie they just assumed that everyone had read the books because there was no exposition and a lot of things weren't really explained at all. Maybe the effects got away from Yates the director or maybe everyone involved was just kind of tired and wanted to see the series done... It definitely felt like the second half of a 4-hour movie to me, and since it's been a while since I watched the last one I couldn't really remember where things left off. I remember the book being a home run but this felt like it was missing some critical elements to me. Oh well at least now I've seen it.
07.13.14 Now You See MeLouis LeterrierA bunch of magicians rob a bank: great premise. The execution didn't really live up to it. at all. And then the end was terrible. It was flashy and slick and held my interest but I'm already forgetting it. So much needless CGI... meh.
07.12.14 Muscle ShoalsGreg CamalierI didn't like this one as much as Sound City. The history is there but this is also mostly a profile of the one producer/engineer there that pioneered things and I didn't care for the way they shot and presented his story (let's put him in a field! let's oddly reenact things!). it was also like 25 minutes too long. I mean it wasn't terrible, but it didn't really grab me and I wouldn't watch it again. Here, I'll save everyone some time: the only thing I got out of this was that lots of the soul R&B music back in the day like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin had white guys in the rhythm section. Saved you two hours.
07.11.14 Sound CityDavid GrohlDave Grohl's tribute to the historic recording studio in the San Fernando Valley. The first two acts follow that of a typical well-made biopic... humble beginnings, surprise success, cavalcade of stars, falling on hard times, resurgence, etc. Lots of famous people saying the same thing over and over (I guess it was dirty! and the drums sound great!). If the movie had ended at 80 minutes I would've thought this was a competent and loving tribute film with the star power that only a musician director can muster. But then a turn takes place and it becomes more of a behind the scenes music production doc and all the animated still photos and grainy vintage 16mm clips fall away and we see the people who've been just talking heads for an hour pick up their instruments and start playing and, for me anyway, the whole movie wakes up and energizes and ends on a really great celebratory past-into-future hopeful explosion that I really loved.
07.10.14 Free to PlayValveI listen to a gaming podcast called Idle Thumbs and one of those guys plays Dota 2 so he talks about it. often. Also, I'm continually interested in Valve and whatever the hell they do so I watched this movie a) to learn a tiny bit about what Dota is actually about because playing the tutorial did nothing for me, and b) see how Valve can make a movie. It's interesting that they never really claim any credit for any role (they list off all 300 or whatever employees in the credits) but for the most part it felt like a competent movie. There were a few tiny little things that rang sloppy (Most notably its 75-minute running time) to me but for the most part it's a pretty solid film. I liked how they interspersed Source Filmmaker animation to make the game action more immersive. Due to my specific wants mentioned above, I could have used like 3 more minutes explaining the game itself (like what the fuck is Mid and is it good or bad?) but whatever... I found this worth watching.
07.07.14 GomorrahMatteo GarroneA modern depiction of Italian organized crime in Naples. This feels a thousand percent authentic which makes the dire brutality all the more chilling. I mean it feels like all Italian gangster movies involve nothing but back-stabbing and murder, enough to where I wonder how the mob has even survived since all they seem to do is kill each other, but this also shows the tendrils into other areas like waste disposal and clothing manufacture to hint at the diverse interests that keep these guys going and really controls everything from the drug traffic on the street to the haute coutre fashion on red carpets. Never mind the fact that everything along the way gets defiled and corrupted.

This was really great. I loved the photography, always hand-held but never sloppy. Although there were five stories going on I never felt lost and although they all ended in varying degrees of tragedy I never got bored with where each one was going. This feels akin to Fernando Di Leo's stuff actually, how all the gangsters are complete immoral bastards and nothing is romanticised at all. City of God, Traffic, some of the recent Yakuza movies... This one sits on the same shelf.

Loved it.
07.06.14 NadineRobert BentonSo Time Warner's fancy new cable modem is a total piece of shit and it's taking them 6 days to send someone out to service it so as a result my internet is spotty at best, non-existant at worst. Because of that, all my normal Internet-reliant forms of entertainment are unavailable (steam, netflix instant, etc.). What this means is that I've been staring at my dvd collection for about 45 minutes trying to pick a movie to watch. I settled on this because Molly's dad gave it to me years ago and it takes place in austin and stars Jeff Bridges.

It's not a bad movie. I didn't realize it was written and directed by Robert Benton, who did one of my favorite low-key movies Nobody's Fool. Kim Basinger is really the star of this though which helps and hinders. Her Texas accent and screwball mannerisms kind of grate on me but it's counterbalanced by her mid-80s youthfull hotness. And Jeff Bridges is great as expected. I don't know why they don't make more action comedies... I guess we had Pineapple Express but compared to stuff like Romancing the Stone and Outrageous Fortune and 48 Hours it seems like a lost genre.

Anyway... scratch this one off the list. Not a bad movie at all
07.05.14 1990: The Bonx WarriorsEnzo G. CastellariFinally got around to seeing this. I remember having to miss it during the first Fantastic Fest due to scheduling or sleeping in or whatever. I always liked the fact that they shot in the Bronx in the early 80s and called it post-apocalypse... and didn't have to change anything. They thought audiences would just believe it because The Bronx was such a shithole back then. Now I've learned they shot maybe most of the interior stuff in the ruins and rubble of Rome, but still. Damn the Bronx was in rough shape back then. There's a quick shot where the actors are running through the streets in their futuristic wardrobe and in the background you can see a bunch of black kids playing basketball in some decrepit court. I wonder what they thought if they noticed the weird Italian white dudes running around with cameras, security provided by the Hell's Angels MC.

There's another shot that Castellari kept in of an actor completely biffing on his bike. I mean he goes down HARD. The script never really addressed it, but that fall had to result in a few broken bones or something.

But other than the retro shots of the Bronx, this movie isn't much. It's kind of like Escape from New York meets The Warriors, if Michael Beck was a gay Italian body builder who couldn't speak English. It's not QUITE as post-apocalyptic as I'd hoped - Manhattan still seems functional and no Road Warrior body armor - and everything about all the performances are pretty terrible, but this type of movie is also kind of hard not to have at least a little fun with. Certainly compared to Grown Ups 2, I had more fun with the camp and weird Italian style of this. The beginning credits are kind of cool, paying fetishistic close-ups to the futuristic brutality of the spiked elbow-guards and metal finger-claw weapons of the not-so-distant future (the title refers to like 8-9 years in the future, that's pretty dire but who knows if Guliani hadn't gotten into office). There's lots of weird unafraid-to-come-off-feminine gangs... like the ballet face-paint gang and the roller-skate street hockey gang and Fred Williamson is a really odd kingpin named "The Ogre" who benevolently doles out gasoline and electronics to his neighborhoods. Then Vic Morrow is named "Hammer" and wants to kill everyone for some reason... and at the end I can tell a bunch of the crew were burned by real flame throwers hitting panes of glass in front of the camera.

So you know... worth watching.
07.04.14 Grown Ups 2Dennis DuganWell... was that even a movie? Wow. Sandler's made like 20 of these movies now... I guess people just like him no matter what? this felt like... I can't even...

ok, someone should do a marathon or series of movies where it's clear the actors are more interested in having a good time than making a movie. The Cannonball Runs, maybe throw Hatari in there, Monuments Men... and then 15 Adam Sandler movies... There would be a trio of awards given: Best Actual Movie, Most Fun on Screen, and Biggest Joke on Audience. I think this would be a strong contender for the third award. I feel like the reason why there were no jokes on the screen was because they were all being played on me during production.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I recalled a tweet by Jarrette which went something like this: "Worst movie I saw this week: Grown Ups. Best movie I saw this week: Grown Ups 2." Well kudos, man. You got me on this one. I spent a good 20 minutes waiting for it to get good before realizing what was going on. Afterward, Molly asked me "All those people are funny in real life right? They were all there anyway, why didn't they make some jokes?" Yep. I mean they didn't even give Nick Swardson's character a name? And where was Rob Schneider? Did he demand too much like a story arc or something?

But you know... the handshake between the twilight kid and Milo Ventaglamigliano at least approached the theoretical concept of humor. I could at least tell that they were trying.

And what the fuck was up with that deer?

meh I give up.
07.02.14 Twenty Feet from StardomMorgan NevilleA doc about background singers, specifically a handful of influential ones from the 50 - 80s. Most of this was good... probably the highlight is hearing the emotional second take of Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter, but then the movie gets into why they don't do their own records, why they never became stars, why they don't get any work anymore, etc. and the movie drags through its last act. It was still mostly good, but reminded me a lot of the Shadows of Motown doc about the session musicians... except that movie seemed to have a bit more dignity to it.
06.29.14The Story of Film: An OdysseyMark CousinsI'm not quite sure if this is a film of a TV series. As far as I can figure, it's a one-shot long-form film along the lines of a Ken Burns film, although I guess those are TV mini-series. In any case, I'm writing these notes not because I think this is a TV show that transcends the medium (like The Wire, which is the only TV show I've written notes about on this site), but because I've finally gotten to the end of this 15-hour saga and feel like I have some thoughts on it.

At first I was real taken with the different perspective. I've seen several very long documentaries about the history of film and have generally liked them all. Film history is a subject I'm very taken with so I'm always up for learning more and with this film Mark Cousins presents a much more global take on the story of the medium. My American-centric tastes and upbringing made my exposure to Dreyer and Gance much later than Chaplin and Griffith, so it's refreshing to see a script that pays equal weight and importance to other countries simultaneously rather than an afterthought single chapter or a shortened summary in each era. So I thought "wow, this series is really casting a wide net!" Quite ambitious.

Except for Cousin's Irish lilting narration. Never before has there been such an internal struggle of entertainment inside my brain. The first half of this series was spent weighing the interesting perspectives and insights of the films that are being discussed with the sheer annoyance of this guy's voice. I know it's shallow and petty and I should be above such things but really... damn... it's annoying. Or should I say "It's annoying?" because ever sentence uttered from his mouth ends on a questioning rise in pitch. I mean... there's a reason why most documentarians get an actor to narrate their movies. Michael Moore and Nick Broomfield don't because they tell such personal stories, but I feel like they aren't immune to criticism about this either.

So an interesting thing started to happen while I made my way through this. Probably with the New Wave episode... where he spends maybe five minutes in France then goes to other countries and movies I've never heard of. I guess I don't really want to spend 15 hours watching something that only tells me what I already know, but on the other hand I feel like in the story of film, what was going on in post-war France is probably worth more than five minutes time. So from there, my interpretation of this epic doc shifted from an objective pedagogical presentation to a subjective personal perspective. Instead of a film like Visions of Light that illustrate the milestones and accomplishments of cinematography that cannot be argued, we get a doc more akin to Martin Scorsese's Personal Journey through American Movies where he recounts his formative years through the movies that influenced him. It's now clearer and clearer to me that this isn't THE STORY OF FILM as it's written in stone but really "The Movies Mark Cousins Loves" in 15 short hours. Now the narration makes sense, the vague anger at Hollywood, the predilection toward art and experimental film over mass entertainment all make much more sense. Viewed through this lens, the series works better for me, although every time Cousins proclaims something the best movie of the decade or this director's best work or this country's most important piece of art it makes me wince. I know it's one of the first rules in writing to take ownership and use a strong active voice... to know things instead of think them, assert them instead of believe them, but it's hard when some of Cousins' themes stretch thin or facts don't 100% fit his story.

Mostly it makes me wonder what the better types of this kind of film would do if they had as much time as Cousins does. Scorsese has made two of these docs, one limited to his American autobiographical influences and one about his cinematic Italian biography. I wonder what he could do with 15 hours and TCM's catalog of clips. I don't know if there's one true authoritorial voice out there that could stand head and shoulders as the one true story of film, but I do bet other better produced voices are out there. Ones that wouldn't make watching such a series such a slog to get through.

Overall, I found several areas very valuable to watch, but more often than not I saw the viewing of this mega-doc as a chore, which is unfortunate.
06.29.14 Man on WireJames MarshPretty much everyone says this movie is good but something about it made me avoid it until now. It was ok. I guess instead of it being the story of how this event happened I should look at it more as a profile of the guy who would think to do it... but for whatever reason I was never really engaged or interested 100$. Toward the end there are some good interview bits where his personality leads him to say some awesomely French things, and I guess there's some iconographic importance imbued with the World Trade Center towers that gives the whole movie another level of emotion or whatever... but mostly I was meh on the whole thing. At least now I've seen it and don't have to see it on my queue anymore.
06.27.14 HerSpike JonzeOK a few things... this first is that I'm starting to formulate a theory that directors who came up in music videos had to manufacture so much fun and exuberance for other bands that when it comes time for them to make movies of their own, all they have left to interest them is sadness and melancholy. Seriously, what the fuck. Mark Romanek, Michel Gondry, and Spike Jonze. You couldn't find music video directors with more innovation and experimentation and visual finesse in their work, yet all three of these motherfuckers can't make a movie with any kind of happiness to save their lives. What gives??

But aside from the inevitable bummer that this movie's story delivers, I really really liked all the other things about it. The worldbuilding of future LA is at the top of the list. Trains and skyscrapers everywhere, subtle touches in fashion and design and technology... all these things are so awesome and so well implemented. The fact that everyone has different kinds of phones and computers that represent different brands, the clothes are some new perspective of past trend, technology is a practical step ahead without going over the top... I just can't go on enough about how well this world is constructed.

I also love how Jonze made this movie like a contemporary romantic comedy. He uses the same second unit shots that we usually see... helicopter skyline stuff, straight-down satellite type stuff... sunsets and vistas... the only difference is that they city these shots capture is fabricated. Yet there's no crazy muted color palette or sweeping impossible CG camera moves or anything like that to tell us to expect explosions or fly-bys from spaceships. So well done.

And the story's not as bad as I thought it would be. The premise still kind of makes me gag but Phoenix's performance is so good (and like it's hard not to feel for Johansen's voice) that I didn't really mind it. It's still the weakest part of the movie for me, but that's ok because it wasn't terrible.

So yeah, I liked this a loot more than I thought I would. It's a really really good movie.
06.25.14The DebtJohn MaddenNot sure why this was on the queue; probably added it years ago. It's an interesting premise: Israeli Moussad agents infiltrate easter berlin to hunt down the Nazi Surgeon of Birchenau and come back heroes for 30 years until he pops up again. I was with the movie until the end. I wanted Helen Mirren to be a bit more kickass. Unfortunately because the rest of the movie was pretty decent.
06.23.14 Side by SideChristopher KenneallyKeanu talks to a bunch of directors and cinematographers about digital vs. film. I'm always a sucker for watching movies about movies so I liked this and found it to include a nice explanation of the technologies in question as well as give me lots of examples of the evolving levels of digital photography. But it's also kind of a one-question film: is film dead? mostly. Done. This probably could've been a 15-minute thing... but whatever...
06.22.14 MiliusJoey Figueroa, Zak KnutsonI've always liked John Milius. This is a solid doc that tells his story well with a bunch of after-effects'd moving still photos and all the A-list interviews you'd expect from his buddies. I hadn't heard about his health issues and it's sad to see time catch up with him. It really makes me thankful for getting the opportunity to hear him speak and watch Big Wednesday with him at AFF that one time. I also didn't know he did so much uncredited rewrite work. I feel like there needs to be some resource to track when that kind of thing happens. Like William Goldman's career. He hasn't been credited on a screenplay for 13 years but I bet he's still working. Anyway... good doc on an interesting filmmaker.
06.21.14 HungerSteve McQueenPretty hard to watch but very beautiful and artistic and unique. I have to say, until the last half hour started I was kind of bored. Fassbinder's transformation though was crazy. I'll have to look up if that was CG or not. it looked unhealthy. This is definitely one of those movies that I liked having seen more than like seeing. Thinking back, the moments and details presented of the food and shit on the walls and the forced cleanings and the soul flying around the room all stick out as really great filmmaking, but I also can't lie and say I loved every minute of it. It's pretty clear that McQueen is a strong voice in cinema and makes great pieces, buuuuut not the funnest films ever made.
06.08.14 Jackass Presents: Bad GrandpaJeff TremaineThis one was weird. I like the Jackass stuff but it's all 100% predicated upon everything being real. When it mixes in narrative and actors the lines get real hazy... Borat and Bruno mostly worked and this does too but... the scripted connective tissue between bits is never as funny as the bits themselves so the more of that stuff they have the worse it drags. In this one though, it feels like they thought up Jackass bits and tried to connect them with a story afterward rather than the other way around. And then there's one real world bit where some poor actor has to act like an asshole in front of a bunch of bikers... I think they were going for drama rather than comedy... the whole thing felt weird to me.

That said, the funny stuff was damn funny. The whole stripper scene was my fav... and when he's destroying the penguin... funny stuff. but every location looks faked because they have to set up fa?ade walls with two-way mirrors and shit... it just makes me question where the setup ends and the real people begin. I noticed they were careful to include pretty much everyone during the end credits reacting to finding out they were in a movie...

I didn't hate it and enjoyed watching it... but I could also tell that this whole Jackass formula is about at an end.
06.07.14The Monuments MenGeorge ClooneyGeorge Clooney made a war movie with no violence. It was ok, but as you could probably imagine a little boring. I think this is one of those stories that you hear the premise and don't really need to see the movie:

Dude: Hey did you know that there was a group of art historians that went around during WWII trying to save all the classic art?

other dude: Huh that's cool. What happened? I mean I guess they saved it or most of it because it still exists...

Dude: ...yeah...

So there's not exactly much tension... the cast is great but it feels like they're hanging out more than working. Most of those guys, Bill Murray and John Goodman especially, kind of just have to smirk or blink and people find them funny so that's mostly what they do. I bet it was real fun to make... kind of boring to watch. Not bad, but maybe tied with leatherheads for Clooney's least interesting directorial effort.
05.31.14The Friends of Eddie CoylePeter Yates70s. Bleak. Naturalistic. Understated. Details. Loved everything about this.
05.30.14 Fair GameDoug LimanI didn't know anything about this movie other than Doug Liman directed it and I hadn't heard of it before. Turns out it's a based-on-a-true-story political thriller about a CIA operative who the W. administration outed because her husband was against the war. It was pretty good although shackled at the end by trying to stick to accuracy so instead of some satisfying act of payback or whatever, Naomi Watts testifies to some Congressional committee or something. That's something that's so cool about Inglorious Basterds... I mean why not, right? I would've loved an alternate ending to this movie where some car-bomb blows up Karl Rove or Cheney's chief of staff gets shanked in prison or something like that. Instead all we're left with is a clip from C-SPAN and impotent rage. But that aside, not a terrible movie.
05.26.14The King's SpeechTom HooperSo here's the deal: my Netflix streaming queue is full of indies, documentaries, indie documentaries, and low budget horror movies. Although rewarding, those movies can also be a pain to watch. So when I want to sit back and put a movie on and eat some ice cream without having to worry about subtitles or focus issues my only options are these stupid action movies or whatever. This has led me to finally watch this movie... which I had little interest in other than knowing it wouldn't be terrible.

Well, it wasn't terrible.

That's about it really.
05.24.14The WolverineJames MangoldUmm... kind of... well I wouldn't call it boring, but there was definitely something missing. I guess I liked it better than the last Wolverine movie... OK Here's the thing. Wolverine's an awesome character. He has one of the movie kickass mutant powers and his character and personality are surprisingly well thought out explorations of that power. So much so that he can carry more than most comic book heroes. Add to that the fact that I like Hugh Jackman (he's a good actor and he comes off as a really nice guy) and you get a certain level of... I hestitate to call it expectation because I didn't expect this movie to be great... let's call it potential. I get a certain level of potential with Wolverine that I don't get with any other comic character. Most Marvel characters come with differing levels of goofiness built into them, most DC characters are either too simple or too incomprehensible... so it's really just Batman and Wolverine with the potential to deliver a truly great film that transcends comic book action to deliver on all cylinders. Now... we have The Dark Knight. Where's Logan's Dark Knight?

I think that's why people were so excited when Darren Aronofsky was attached to this. But this movie's problems can't be 100% attributed to James Mangold. The whole attitude of this movie felt kind of like they wanted feet in both Nolan and Bryan Singer worlds where the setting is unique and realistic but the action is exaggerated and comic. I think that without the Viper and Silver Samurai this movie would've been a ton better.

So it's disappointing. Another lost opportunity, another failure to realize the potential of Wolverine.

Incidentatlly I watched this on the weekend that Days of Future Past was released. Early reviews have been very positive.
05.24.14 Saving Mr. BanksJohn Lee HancockAs opposed to Jobs, this one has some top-tier talent delivering its decent script and you get some award nominations. I hated all the flashback stuff but that's really on me because that's what this movie is. I still liked it more than Finding Neverland, although I don't buy T.Hanks as Walt at all. I wouldn't call this the pinnacle of all cinema or anything but it's fine... polite... comfortable... I feel like that's John Lee Hancock's career right there. fine, polite, comfortable.
05.23.14 JobsJoshua Michael SternI really don't know why I watched this. I heard it was bad, I wasn't particularly interested, but still... I guess maybe because it was streaming and I was in the mood to watch something easy.

The whole thing felt a lot like a TV movie to me or something akin to Bottle Shock or CBGB. The make-up and costumes are there, but it's mimicry rather than impression and the script is rushed and nothing really connects. Meh.
05.22.14 ShameSteve McQueenIt's kind of coincidental that I watched this right after Don Jon. Maybe not I don't know. This was really heavy. I respect McQueen's skill at eliciting performances especially during these long takes, but it's hard not to slow the pacing of the movie down once you throw more than one or two of those in your movie. I can also respect how all the naked people are exceedingly good looking in this movie although I suspect it kind of works against the intent since maybe the whole first half of the film ends up being kind of titillating rather than concerning or dramatic. Plus there's still the large part of my brain that insists that sex addiction is just for women and good looking men and that this movie would've been really different had it starred Paul Giamatti rather than Michael Fassbender. But still, this was an obviously high quality movie that I'll be in no hurry to see again. At this point I feel like I have Hunger on my queue for homework... but even though I am not singing to the hills on this one, I definitely recognize the personality and depth of performance in both this and 12 Years a Slave. It's a really good movie. Just left me cold is all.
05.21.14The Secret Life of Walter MittyBen StillerSo...

Yes it's schmaltzy and the music hits you on the head with every emotion you're supposed to feel and the few moments of Stiller-esque humor (like the Benjamin Button scene which I thought was hilarious) don't fit the tone of the rest of the movie at all and the message is a bit mixed and muddled (he's rewarded for getting out there and doing things, but he's also rewarded for the years of drudging hard work he put in?)... but here's the thing:

I've been having a tough year. I've had to face a few things that I wasn't ready to face and see a few more things coming that I'm also not ready for. I find myself really questioning major things about myself and how my life has been going up to now. The idea that I have traded financial and physical comfort over adventure and experience is very close to me, so this movie really resonated.

I just loved all of it. This movie felt like a movie full of the running sequence in Forrest Gump except, for whatever reason, I'm not too cynical to receive this. Things that should've bugged me didn't and things that shouldn't have worked on me did. I didn't want it to end.

I'd love to say that I had an acutely resonant moment with some well-regarded classic like Rules of the Game or Killer of Sheep or something... but I didn't. I had it with this, even with all its flaws that probably distracted most other people. For me it worked and I must not only respect that but celebrate it. I love movies.
05.19.14 Don JonJoseph Gordon-LevittThis was ok. I was hoping it would be better, but i didn't think it's terrible. Julianne Moore and Tony Danza were my favorite parts. I mean I liked the premise and find some of the points (like how RomCom's are just as divorced from real life as porn is) but most of it was a bit too on the nose to seem authentic.
05.17.14 Fast FiveJustin LinEh... I still wouldn't call this a "good" movie, but I liked the heist aspect of it so it's probably the one I like the most? maybe? Who knows... it just felt wrong to have not seen all of them once. Now I don't have to worry about remembering which ones I've seen and which ones I haven't. And why did The Rock spit at the camera while fighting Vin Diesel? And why was he so sweaty all the time? and who was that Vince guy? and all the skinny white girls are starting to blend together. Wasn't there a different skinny white girl in the fourth one who tried to give it up to Vin but he totally shut her down? And now he's with her doppelganger... probably because she's Brazilian... anyway...
05.12.14 Fast & FuriousJustin Linit's funny. While watching this I had momentary feelings of familiarity... but I wrote them off thinking they were flashbacks in Fast 6 or something... especially because I had no memory of most of the movie. Except I watched this 4 years ago. ha ha. I really don't remember watching this at all.

So I guess Fast Five is the only one I haven't seen in this series... unless maybe I saw that too?
05.10.14The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugPeter JacksonWell... I don't know. Something about these movies feels like if I tried to go back to college. They're trying really hard but it's just not the same. I actually don't mind all the new material with Gandalf and whatnot... and the story of The Hobbit is fun... so I don't really hate these movies, but they do feel long and stretched out to me. I was kind of debating whether or not to get the extended edition of the first Hobbit (because I prefer the extended editions of the LotR films) but... it kind of already feels extended. I'm not sure what else they could put in?

Nowhere near as bad as the Star Wars prequels... but still just not quite the same. I wish it was. I feel bad that Jackon's returned to his legacy and it's not going as well as it did the first time round...
05.05.14 We're the MillersRawson Marshall ThurgerI heard this was decent. Jen Anniston in that first stripper getup was pretty hot but damn does she make a horrible stripper. A few of the jokes landed with me (mostly dealing with Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman) but for the most part it was really meh. Didn't like Sudeikis. And I know how perv this makes me sound but why have an R-rated comedy where one of the main characters is a stripper and not show some titty. It doesn't have to be Anniston titty. How about Boner Garage titty? I don't understand. That's all.
05.04.14 Me and Orson WellesRichard LinklaterI think it's really great that Rick Linklater is doing that AFS series of 80s movies. I have a little guilt that I bought a season pass to them and have been too busy or tired or not in the mood to make it out to them. It also made me realize that I have some considerable holes in Linklater's filmography, mostly starring Ethan Hawke. I enqueued this in an effort to catch up.

So what do you do when you like a movie's subject matter but don't care for its star? The guy who played Orson was great but Efron was distracting and the script wasn't perfect. I think my favorite part was Joe Cotton.
05.03.14 Thor: The Dark WorldAlan TaylorMeh. Thor was never my favorite because it wasn't grounded in reality enough. The same goes for the movies. Dark elves? Huh? Whatever... I guess I'll keep watching these Marvel movies but they are getting a little tedious for me.
04.28.14 Insidious: Chapter 2James WanThis one didn't work for me. There were a few moments that were effective but they were complete rehashes of the first Insidious and any tension or fear that those moments may have built were completely deflated when the script would trip my idiot breaker. "So that explains THAT!" barf... there are a handful of really groan-worthy lines not to mention the whole movie dealing with this "Further" nonsense that lost me in the first one. The one thing I did like is how they layered the first film back into this one. Not the first scene that was stupid but the later scene with them banging on the door. I imagine the loose ends from this film like how the forensics on whatshername's throat didn't match Patrick Wilson and where the hell the bride went when whatshername hit the mom in the back and everything else might get written into chapter 3.

Didn't connect with this at all.
04.26.14The ConjuringJames WanSo James Wan is a competent filmmaker again. I don't think I ever saw Dead Silence but I have to say that I hated Death Sentence so much that I sort of condemned him. Although this could've been called Insidious 2 (until a real Insidious 2 came out), it's still a very effective and solid horror movie with thrills and chills, both cheap scares and rich. I must admit that watching it in the middle of the night with the house completely dark and headphones cranked with my back to an open doorway put me on edge to the point where did stuff like slide one ear off to be able to hear house sounds, periodically look behind me, and turn extra lights on when I went into the kitchen for a drink. As much as I want to be saying this in a note for some classic movie like The Haunting or Poltergeist, I must admit that James Wan got me there with The Conjuring. I daresay this scared me more than the original Exorcist (which I don't hold much stock in).

The plot gets pretty extreme and kind of falls apart for me at the end (like most horror movies do) but not as much as Insidious did and it really could've been a lot worse. The quality of the cast certainly deserves a ton of credit, but again I must give Wan credit. The whole movie is so unabashedly horror. The score, the title roll, the setting and family and overall mood announces what kind of movie that it is and isn't afraid to admit its intentions. I'm so glad we've moved past the music video era of horror movies because now the lens filters are toned down, people care about performance again, and real stories backbone these movies.

This scared me and you can't argue with that.
04.17.14 Sin NombreCary FukunagaA long time ago I watched this show on IFC called "Film School" and it was about a group of NYU students making their senior films. It was a pretty great show and at times seemed staged or fake because the students fit certain archetypes so well. When it came time to start shooting, one guy got really upset because his whole first day of shooting was wasted by the DP trying to get one single perfect shot.

I'd heard Sin Nombre was great but for whatever reason had never gotten around to watching it. OK I know the reason; it's the same reason why I haven't watched Gomorrah yet: It takes more effort to watch a critically-acclaimed subtitled film which may be hard to follow and pretty long than a stupid English-language comic book movie or whatever. But when I saw that the guy who directed season one of True Detective also made this movie: I re-added it to my queue.

I could've sworn this was made by a native Mexican. It has the feel of a Cuaron or Innaritu or someone like that. Lots of hand-held, entirely Spanish-speaking, all on various beautiful locations that seem to span the countryside. Pretty ambitious stuff for a first feature from a dude born in Oakland who spent 8 hours trying to film a guy exiting a revolving door. He did it though. It's really good. I liked it quite a bit.
04.16.14 Inside Llewyn DavisJoel CoenHuh. You know while I was watching this I had two levels of thought going: one was that in the moment I was interested in seeing what happened next, but the other was that I sure hoped it went somewhere because I was unsure that I'd end up liking it as a hole. I rode most the movie that way, but the last few minutes really decided it for me.

spoiler alert.

So it's not immediately clear whether we've glimpsed some purgatorial revolution in an undending cycle or if most of the movie was discreetly a flashback that we've returned to (I suspect the latter), but either way I like it. The ending gives the movie a purpose.

I was a bit conflicted though. I'm not a huge folk guy and not a huge Dylan fan although I have some intellectual idea of his impact on the genre. As such though, whenever Llewyn performs I'm not sure if I'm supposed to like it or not, perceive it as good or bad. I can't tell if I'm supposed to be sympathizing with a misunderstood talent or feeling sorry for the proficient yet uninspired performance. I feel like studios want to sell soundtracks right? so the music's probably supposed to be good? But then it's just a bigger bummer at the end when Dylan shows up to completely obliterate his rendition of Farewell. The one song that I know is supposed to be bad - Please, Mr. Kennedy - I actually liked the most. So who knows... I'm confused about the whole thing.

Other than that... my first impressions are that I liked it but not loved it. I'd certainly rate this higher than The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty and maybe also Burn After Reading, but it's also not in the pantheon of their top dozen films (each of which I would say I unabashedly love and could watch any time). We'll see if this opinion changes with time and thought.
04.15.14The Last StandKim Jee-woonWanted to watch an action movie and was curious because I like Good/Bad/Weird ok and really liked I Saw the Devil. I feel like this would've been ok if the script wasn't completely and utterly terrible. I mean the plot is ok and most of the action was ok, but every line out of every character's mouth grated on me. Oh and the whole corvette thing and fbi thing and Peter Stormare as a... I guess Texan? All that should go too. I guess maybe it's more like if this was the first draft of a script that was then handed off to someone who knew anything about the law who then handed it off to someone who knew how people talked... then it would work. You also have to wonder if there's director translation issues too, right? Or maybe it's me? Maybe the dialogue all the performances in I Saw the Devil were as hamfisted and terrible as they are here and I just wouldn't know because I'm too busy reading subtitles? Who knows. Either way. Not a good movie.

I'm curious about Sabotage though. I'll watch that when it hits Netflix. Hopefully Arnie can use this as a lesson that his old career is dead and open up to more interesting - if less headlining - roles.
04.12.14 NebraskaAlexander PayneAnother award movie down. It was ok. I didn't have a problem with the languid pace and meandering plot, but I do kind of feel like Alexander Payne makes the most un-funniest comedies out there. It's clear there's a vision here and I do feel like it captured a feeling of the Midwest really well, but... I don't know... there's not much else here. I did like when Will Forte asked Bob Odenkirk how long it took him to drive... but that's it. It will sit alongside "Dear Ndugu" and George Clooney running in flip flops on my shelf of single-things-I-remember-from-Alexander-Payne-movies. I guess he's still getting a pass from me because Election was so good.
04.12.14 Out of the FurnaceScott CooperYeah this is a great movie. It's weird that it came and went especially since Crazy Heart got so much attention. Christian Bale plays a Pennsylvania steel worker and stuff happens. Great cast, believable story, wonderfully evocative setting... The plot felt very Pelecosian to me in that it took its time and never got outlandish and a lot of it was about the journey rather than waiting for some twist or turn yet the climax still felt satisfactory to me. Just a wonderfully subdued tense movie. And between True Detective and this, Woody Harrelson is on fire. I feel like this is in the same vein as Place Beyond the Pines, but I liked this way better (and not just because of that douche teen). Great movie.
04.07.14A Good Day to Die HardJohn Mooretired and boring.
04.07.14 In the LoopArmando IannucciIt's kind of funny just how similar this is to Veep. I guess I should track down and watch In the Thick of It too... although I'm not sure if I'm ready for it. I liked this though... we can always do with more intelligent comedies that don't play stupid.
04.06.14 Man of SteelZack SnyderI put this on to fall asleep to and finished it up today. I am not a Superman fan. I'm getting really tired of seeing the same origin stories told again and again. It's really boring and I was bored whenever it wasn't an action film. However, a solid cast pads everything out and I feel like the action was constructed better than average (i.e. I could tell what was going on... most of the time). it's weird, I doubt these big action scenes are even shot anymore. Maybe it's just weeks and weeks of close-ups of guys gritting and yelling but for the most part it's an animated film at that point.

I will say poor Metropolis. It's pretty funny when some random humans, standing in the middle of an impact crater the size of half of Manhattan, looks at Supes and says "he saved us!" But on the other hand, it's cool to see shit explode so... better that than a bunch of space fighting or whatever.

I still question this movie's existence though... but what's funny is I hope they make a sequel because we might actually get a new story out of it.
04.05.14 Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesAdam McKayLet's see. Funny. I definitely liked the first half more than the second. Felt a bit too long... got a bit out there. I liked the central idea though that Ron Burgundy is responsible for turning the news into a ratings circus. I wish they didn't repeat jokes from the first film although I guess they only did it twice that I'm thinking of (with the condoms and the end). Still, I was really laughing hard for that first half hour. All the stuff with getting the band back together really worked on me. Especially when Brick was reminiscing. that shit was funny. All in all I laughed and you can't argue with that, but it's not the wall-to-wall classic that I think the first one is.
04.05.14 12 Years a SlaveSteve McQueenPretty good. Probably won't be watching it again any time soon but good award movie. Let's see it feels like I should write more... I don't know... slavery's bad?
04.04.14 How to Be a ManChadd HarboldI'm a relatively new fan of Gavin McInnes. I think I first saw him in what is still my favorite thing that he's done: a youtube video called How to Piss in Public. So... large parts of this movie feel very similar to that which I love. Just Gavin's outlook on life and his missives of confident advice are really charismatic and funny and true.

The parts of the movie where it tries to be a movie... like with plot and drama and acting... those don't play quite as well. Whatever though, it's still a funny movie and the good parts are well worth watching. It's certainly funnier than Tadpole. Remember when everyone was raving about Tadpole? What the fuck was that about!?
04.04.14The Wolf of Wall StreetMartin ScorseseIt seems to be a pretty common feeling to finally see these ultra-hyped awards movies and feel let down. In truth I'm not sure what to think of this. There's a lot there, but I've seen most of it before. Sometimes it feels like Scorsese doing Scorsese (which I hate typing because that means nothing but I can't figure out a better way to say it), sometimes it feels like nothing more than an exercise in excess. Just like with The Counselor I'd like to see the 6 hour cut or whatever to see a lot of those supporting characters probably have lines of dialogue.

I don't know, man. I guess I'll leave it to time to see where this lands. Right now I'm guessing it won't stick, but who knows.

And as someone born in 1978 at least now I know what the deal was with Quaaludes.
03.31.14 No Country for Old MenJoel CoenWe went to Marfa, TX last weekend to get away for a few days. It's rugged desolate country out there but not without beauty. That and The Counselor put me in a mood to watch this again. What a great movie. Smart people clashing. And a really restrained hand by the Coens. The whole thing screams competence. Fantastic.
03.30.14The CounselorRidley ScottI will admit that my reasoning in seeing this was mostly spite. I think Ridley Scott hasn't made a movie worth talking about for 30 years and he's one of if not the absolute most overrated director working today. However, in this case I really think it's the script to blame. Even though Cameron Diaz' performance was terrible, I can't imagine that character and those lines ever being good. And it's not like anyone wants to see Meryl Streep fucking a car.

I watched the extended cut... because... hmmm why did I do that. I guess I thought if I was going to watch this then I wanted to see the best effort and not something that could be claimed as compromised. And I feel like what happens in a lot of these movies where tone and detail kind of outweigh plot(I'm thinking stuff like Miami Vice and JFK) then I like the extended versions much better because they give room for the characters to breathe.

This was still pretty terrible though. I liked everything that had to do with the transport of drugs. Everything else (i.e. all the stuff with the movie stars) sucked. It does have me in a mood to watch No Country again though... which I'll probably do soon.
03.29.14The Road WarriorGeorge MillerMolly had never seen this so I thought that should be fixed. Great movie, still love the shit out of it. So bizarre and so well edited. Lord Humongous... man. What a movie.
03.29.14 Texas Chainsaw 3DJohn LuessenhopWell I guess I wrote too soon. All I could think about while watching this is that I had JUST wrote that these are not typical slasher movies and they're all closer to remakes than sequels and here we go with a movie that starts AT the end of the original and follows the slasher template very closely (since the crazy family has become just Leatherface alone and killing teens for no reason). Well at least it's something different from the previous four films.

The beginning scene went a long way with me. Because of it I found myself willing to forgive all the cheap looking digital gore and the shots where you can see the chain not moving on the saw while he weilds it and the inexplicable reason why the girl refuses to button her shirt up. In fact, I quite liked the twist on the story and making Leatherface more sympathetic. I kind of feel like if the girl was a different type and could pull it off, there's a great ending here where she not only accepts her heritage but also embraces it and starts a new family there. I guess that's sort of what happened with the scene after the credits but you never see her not skittish around her cousin and I just don't buy her doing much other than acting hot and showing off her skinny waist.

Also... a lot of it is not great. Not terrible I guess? but not great. For as non-bloody the original was, this was awash in Karo. It did feel a lot like someone's take on putting Leatherface into a Friday the 13th or something. It's funny that didn't happen until now...

So it's an interesting - if not entirely successful - ending to this marathon for me. I did like this one a whole lot more than the previous two, even though I kind of wish they hadn't flash forwarded and set the whole movie in 74 and dealt with the direct aftermath more. I was really taken with that intro. Anyway, I have one more epilogue to this celebration in store: an hour-long Blue Underground special feature checking in with everyone circa 2000 or so. Since I don't think I'm counting what's probably a DVD special feature as an entry here, I'm going to watch that (and perhaps listen to the commentary on the original disc) and update this note with some final... notes.


The Blue Underground doc was interesting. A lot of the stories and even some quotes show up in Hansen's book, but it's always nice to see the faces as they speak. It also gave a glimpse of how compromised all the sequels were. It's worth watching.

So... final thoughts. The original really does deserve all the credit it gets. The sequels are all kind of rough. But you know... compared to the Nightmare or Friday sequels I'm not sure they're THAT rough. And what I found to be interesting is that, for the most part, the sequels are far enough apart that each one reflects the changing landscape of horror, from indie 70s to excess 80s to tucked pant-legs early 90s to cyborg-fixated mid-90s to music video early 2000s all the way to a post-Avatar 3D.

In the end after all is said and done, this is how I'd rank em:
-Part 1
-Part 3
-Part 2
-Part 4
-2003 Remake
-The Beginning

Wow they are almost in order! I wonder if that means anything...

And now just for fun, let's throw some awards out:

Best Leatherface: Gunnar Hansen. No contest. Everyone else seems to be either imitating Gunnar or acting like a professional wrestler trying to sprint.

Best Gag: The working chainsaw through Leatherface's belly in Part 2. Sure it was kind of obvious that there were two saws, but both chains were moving and his prostetic belly was gross and huge. It was awesome.

Best dig during the opening narration: Next Generation. "Regrettably not one of the family members was ever apprehended and for more than ten years nothing further was heard. Then, over the next several years at least two minor, yet apparently related incidents, were reported." Ouch! Sick burn...

Gooiest bodies: Part 3. The adipoosal or whatever that word is... KNB did some awesome work in that intro with the level 5 biohazard suits pulling up fake heads out of snot and semen. Completely gross.

Best throwback crew connection: It's a tie between Daniel Pearl shooting the 2003 remake and Wayne Bell doing the music for Next Generation. It's a shame that awesome beginning camera flash sound effect was never used as effectively as in the first film. The last four all brought it back in some fashion but they repeated the same sound over and over again like it was sampled from the original. What made the first one so cool was that the sound changed each time you heard it. Sometimes it crunched closed and sometimes it tapered off and the flashbulb glances at the gooey corpses were cut together to match those awesome eerie sounds.

Biggest Dick: Barry from Next Generation. Thinking back I think he's my favorite part of the movie.

Biggest Douche: Ryan from Part 3. Ugh just shut up and stop shining your glasses at me.

Biggest Badass: Benny from Part 3. Not even Leatherface can take out Ken Foree. The only male to survive any of the films... thanks to his weekend warrior training and... all that practice killing zombies I guess.

Biggest Trooper: Marilyn Burns from the original. All the other actresses had to get dirty and cry for a few hours. Marilyn was actually bludgeoned and cut and put through hours or physical and emotional torture, and she STILL came back for two cameos later in the series. Most of the other girls got bras too.

Craziest family member: Tough one. I would say McConaughey but I think he just liked to throw around his girlfriend. Instead I think I'm going with Ed Neal for his hitchhiker in the original. His performance in the van set the bar for everyone else in the entire series. Sorry Viggo, painted fingernails ain't gonna cut it.

Cyber-est Leg: McConaughey in Next Generation. Seriously what the fuck?

This was really fun. If anyone read this, thanks for making it to the end!
03.29.14The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The BeginningJonathan LiebesmanThe less said about this one the better. It's like a remake of a remake following the formula of the first Platinum Dunes film with a few prequelly bits like "oh look that's where R. Lee Ermey lost his front teeth" and "oh look that's when that old slaughterhouse closed." Really the only differences (spoiler alert) are that the girl doesn't get away in the end and leatherface starts off with a face of real leather and we get a full monologue on how the family started eating people.

It seems like the first movie happened a long time ago in a place far away. This was all handheld shakiness and weird artificial grain and close-ups and dried fake blood. It's a chore to get through. Hopefully the next one isn't as bad, although at this point I don't think I can imagine a new take on this movie. It's weird... I don't feel particularly like these fit the slasher genre perfectly. Even though teens get killed, I feel like most slasher films really flourish their kills where the first TCM threw them away very quickly. That was what was so great about them. They're kind of like the kills in the Godfather films where each one has an interesting detail and then they're gone. Even with these remakes the teens never die in progression and it's really quite a mess. So maybe because of this different formula, each movie feels more like a half-remake than a sequel to me. The second one is really the only film that feels like it progresses from the original. All the others are more variations on a theme, and watching them all together so close is kind of getting exhausting.
03.28.14The Texas Chainsaw MassacreMarcus NispelI must've seen this right before making this site because I'm surprised it's not in here already.

So... Isn't it funny that I got more of a kick out of The Next Generation than I did this... It's just so... boring. I mean all of the Michael Baby/music video setups and filters and sprayed on sweat and where the fuck is all this dripping water coming from and who are they kidding like Jessica Biel has to kill the blonde dude just because he can't do a pull up?

From a misogynist point of view, Kudos to Marilyn Burns for going braless in the original. Staring at Jessica Biel's navel is ok but they go out of their way to give her a soaking wet white tank several times and some mysterious maternity bra shows up. Ugh.

Um... so things I liked. R. Lee Ermey of course... his sheriff is nicely nutso and is easily the best part of the family. Oh yeah, so Leatherface has no nose now? Huh? Sorry... things that I liked... hmmm.

Well I'm pretty sure I'll still like this more than the next. To be honest I'm kind of looking forward to seeing the latest one, but the prequel I still kind of remember sitting through at a Fantastic Fest and thinking it was stupid and boring so... hopefully I'm wrong!
03.28.14 Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next GenerationKim HenkelAKA The Return of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

You know, all through watching Dallas Buyers Club I suspected something was up but now after revisiting this I'm convinced that McConaughey's Oscar was payback for this performance going unnoticed.


McConaughey won the Oscar when Dallas Buyers Club producers included this movie on the screener with an engraved note saying "Most Improved" in frilly fancy script.


When William Friedkin met with mcConaughey to talk about his role in Killer Joe, Friedkin was worried that McConaughey didn't have the chops to carry such a heavy performance. "I can do it, Billy," he said. "I understand this character completely. Hell, I AM this character." Friedkin looked at McConaughey with concern in his eyes. "It's not that," Friedkin said, "I know you understand the character and his motivations. It's the fact that you don't have a remote-controlled cyber leg to hold you up in this one. The part's too HEAVY!"



Ok ok enough awesome McConaughey humor. Let's talk about this movie.

So... ok the obvious point is that most of this movie is really really terrible. The characters are distilled to the point of satiric jokes (although the dick guy is hilarious and the bitch girl is almost as funny), the performances are terrible, the whole Illuminati angle is a complete mystery and I guess tries to answer a question that nobody ever asked, much of the action feels sloppy and low low budget (although thankfully this is pre-digital video so it still looks better than half the shit today), and Leatherface now just screams like every moment he's in a scene he's more Screamface than Leatherface. And of course... McConaughey has a fucking CYBER LEG that's receptive to any REMOTE CONTROL that... I don't know... gives him super stomping powers or something.

So if you take all of that and disregard it, there's some pretty good stuff here. I like that it's shot in Austin (which I don't think the third one was even shot in Texas... I saw an awful lot of Joshua trees), I like how turn-it-to-11 insane McConaughey is right from the get go. I like a woman crazy thrown into the mix, although the first actual boob in the series gets inserted out of nowhere and - if I can type this without dying of irony - kind of cheapens the film. I like the throwback cast at the end and sometimes (SOMETIMES) the script feels sharp. And even though I hate the Illuminati thing, I like that they tried to take it somewhere instead of just telling the same exact story again. Now, whether I prefer an underground carnival or 20 year-old McConaughey working for Mr. suit-and-flesh-rings, I don't know. I'd probably put the third one above both other sequels. But it could have been worse. For a movie like this that maybe never would have been released were it not for Jerry Maguire and A Time to Kill, it SHOULD have been worse.

So there you have it. the "original" series is done. It's a super fragmentary and relapsing series really. By this time Jason had "died" and Freddy fought dream warriors and... who knows what Michael Meyers did I don't really like most of the Halloween movies. But now I'll probably take a little break before dipping into the "reboot" series... It's funny what 10 years does... music videos and 9/11 changed a lot.
03.28.14 Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre IIIJeff BurrI remember liking this entry in the series quite a bit when it hit my local video shelves. I feel like maybe it was better than a lot of the other horror movies I was renting at the time. In fact I feel like maybe I saw this before the original, although I have some fragmented memories of the second, maybe seen on cable at some point when I was younger than I should have been.

Watching it now, I do find it drags less than the second film. It's kind of a half reboot, half sequel that makes no canonical sense but whatever... at this point TCM means two and only two things: Leatherface, and crazy cannibal family. The trailer for this one had "Junior" having his chainsaw delivered unto him Lady-of-the-lake style. The chainsaw dominates the poster. The beginning titles involve an Elm Street-esque montage of Leatherface stitching together his mask. I also remember this being the time that they started offering "professional" Leatherface masks in the pages of Fangoria for some unbelievably rich (to a middle schooler) sum. At this point he's in the rogue's gallery right next to Michael Meyers and Jason Vorhees and Fred Krueger. I guess Pinhead too, right? Oh and don't forget whatshisname from Hatchet! LOL.

Anyway, Viggo didn't eat the blood from the fender like I remembered. It's interesting that Savini did the second one and KNB did the third. Those guys have dominated the horror make-up for decades now.

I'm all over the place with these notes. I guess I liked this ok. The family seems crazy for no reason and they seem more focused on hunting humans than anything else... actively predatory rather than tucked away on their own although I guess that's a natural progression from the last one.

Bring on the fourth... which I think it going to be the hardest to get through although again I have fond memories of seeing it when it first came out, thinking it was better than it should've been. We'll see!
03.28.14The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2Tobe HooperThis reminded me a bit of Rambo: First Blood Part 2 in that the first film felt definitively seventies and the sequel couldn't be more eighties. Where the original was an indie production of a dozen people out on their own in the Round Rock summer heat, this is a full on Cannon Golan/Globus buy-the-soundtrack popcorn fest. Half of it takes place in some underground carnival of dust and bad props, Leatherface is all of a sudden sexualized and the Cook monologues hard-core while the girl is strapped in to the dinner table. The daringly subtle comedy of the first is on full display here (one look at the classic poster tells you that). Basically everything that felt casual and implied in the first is now made completely explicit and exploited.

That said, it's hard to blame an 80s horror movie for being an 80s horror movie. It's a product of it's time no less than the original so I don't see that as necessarily bad. And moments are still effective like the scene on the bridge where the UT fans get it (remembered) and the scene where hot-top intimidates the girl in the radio station (remembered) and the scene where Leatherface puts L.G.'s face on the girl (forgotten).

I remember when I watched all the Nightmares on Elm Street that it was interesting to see how quickly the character of Freddy became caricature and the same thing happened here. Leatherface is referred to by name a bunch and does his signature saw raised/head shimmy in every scene that he's in. Again, maybe that's the time period...

In the end, it's a pale disappointing shadow of the original, but really the original can't be sequelled. It's an artifact almost like it was found in some creepy attic half-melted from the heat. To spend any more time with that family is just a bad idea.

However, creating a new family that acts just like them? With Viggo Mortensen eating blood off your bumper? Let's see about that...
03.27.14The Texas Chainsaw MassacreTobe HooperI just finished reading Gunnar Hansen's Chain Saw Confidential about the making of this movie. It inspired me to revisit this one... and fuck it all of them. So, over the course of the next few days or whenever I can fit them in, I will re-watch all the Texas chainsaws... even though it's kind of a bum proposition because I'm starting with the best. I would say I would marathon it but... we're talking about 7 movies plus a DVD documentary that I snagged and it's already 3am... so this will be an exercise in moderation as well as nostalgia.

This first film is magic. It still works. It's such a brutal experience. Watching it again after many years, the pacing had completely stretched in my mind. The chase through the woods was like 15 minutes in my memory as was the dinner scene and the van stuff. Really I thought the movie was those 3 scenes... They're really not that long... they had just stuck so firmly in my brain that they dominated over everything else.

Reading Hansen's book, you kind of get the sense that this happened by accident. I'll have to re-listen to the commentary to hear Hooper talk directly about it, but mostly it feels like an accident too. It's a wonder that the movie came together at all, much less as effectively as it did. And Christ you feel the heat.

So we're off to a good start. Somehow I think my memory has been pretty kind to the next three in the series, but we'll see. I'm looking forward to them.

Side Note: I absolutely love and cherish my DVD copy of this movie. I think it's a Pioneer release of an Elite laserdisc because there's lots of mentions in the credits. It's a fantastic disc full of comprehensive extra footage with contextual introductions and trailers for the next three films and a great group commentary in addition to some fancy digital transfer and new stereo mix of the soundtrack (although the original mono is also available). It really reminds me of what was so great about DVDs (and by extension laserdiscs) back in the early days before the studios figured out how to ruin them. Love it.
03.27.14 Dallas Buyers ClubJean-Marc ValeeIn a huge shocker, movie everyone says is good is liked by one more person.

McConaughey should get an award for losing all that weight.

All jokes aside, I guess I liked it. It's one of those movies that you watch and like and then never feel a need to see again and then years from now you go "oh yeah, that movie exists.". I mean probably... who knows. we'll see. I don't have much to say about this.
03.27.14The Ides of MarchGeorge ClooneyJust as Aaron Sorkin had The American President as a blueprint for The West Wing, Beau Willimon's play Farragut North turns into this film as a precursor to House of Cards. That was my primary reason for going back and watching this... well that and I kept hearing that it was good.

I liked it. I think Clooney is a competent/talented director with enough clout to bring interesting projects to the screen. Some are better than others but none of them are terrible (even Leatherheads which has a few moments that make it worth watching I think). Of course I say that not having seen Monuments Men yet. hah.

Anyway, this is another solid political drama. Great deep cast. Great script. And notably it doesn't feel like a filmed play to me. There are enough locations and scene changes where I didn't get too bogged down in monologues and soliloquies.

It's kind of hard not to be infuriated that all politics in all movies equals unbridled cynicism though. Like shouldn't we be outraged that our appointed leaders and the whole process is so dirty and wrong and all we can do is revel in the decrepitude of it all? Like "haha the president is a murderer! I love it!" Is that a good thing? "of course! who wouldn't fuck Evan Rachel Wood! I mean even after Marilyn Manson, she's still hot!" I don't know... it all feels a bit negative. Sorkin gets a lot of flak for having some romantic notions and veering into sappiness but at least it's hopeful. This is really dark.

Still liked it though.

Also... the score for the end credits is great. All movie it's this brooding horns and bassline then when the cast list starts this funky guitar comes in with these drum rolls and all of a sudden the horns take on a funk flair and it's pretty awesome. I hope the last episode of House of Cards turns that famous bassline into a similar funky groove to let everyone breathe again.
03.21.14 American HustleDavid O. RussellI was too wrapped up in plot to really know what I think about this the first time around. I liked Bale and Cooper's performances, thought Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were a bit overrated. The narration and musical montages felt like low-rent Scorsese but I didn't feel it in most of the rest of the movie and I liked that stuff. I don't know... right now I'm pretty lukewarm on it. Perhaps on a second viewing i'll have stronger opinions.
03.21.14 Ruthless PeopleDavid ZuckerMicrosoft wanted 20 bucks to let me stream Anchorman 2 so I looked through my library for a comedy that Molly hadn't seen and came up with this. For whatever reason, this movie was on HBO a bunch when I hit my formative sweet spot as a kid. Now I basically have the movie memorized and still enjoy it immensely. I consider this movie to contain classic roles from Judge Reinhold, Danny DeVito, and Bill Pullman. I even tolerate Bette Midler here. It's completely rooted in the 80s with spandex miniskirts and Beetle Juice-esque (except not ironic) interior design and serial killer fever (I remember for a time all of LA was pretty terrorized by Richard Ramirez and the hillside strangler and the freeway killer and everybody else. Of course today it's kind of like "...and why is there a serial killer in this movie all of a sudden?" Made perfect sense to me back then. Perfect fodder for comedy right?
03.15.14The Hunger Games: Catching FireFrancis LawrenceI liked it better than the first which I found drab and boring. When I read the books, I liked the first the most and the third the least; it would be quite interesting if I wound up flipped on the films. I liked the attention paid to the new contestants this time around and thought the scenery of the other districts was nice and subtle. And this one didn't feel an hour too long.
03.15.14The Great GatsbyBaz LuhrmanUm... it was ok. The bizarre theatricality of it was kind of hard to grasp for me through the first act, but by the end I was with it. Still not sure I by Tobey Maguire as an adult... and it's pretty damn long, but as I think back on this I like it more and more. I'll probably never love it, but I certainly didn't hate it either.
03.10.14The World's EndEdgar WrightTruth be told I watched the first half of this during Christmas but never got around to finishing it until now. I like the people involved, like the idea for the most part, like the way it looks, all of that... but the pieces don't quite connect for me. It's kind of boring...? Maybe because the Invasion of the Body Snatchers genre isn't as ubiquitous as zombie horror or cop action? I don't know. It just doesn't go where I wish it would. I really hate to say this but I kind of wish it was just the same but with no robots... just old friends airing their grievances as they get proressively more and more drunk. I dunno... I don't know what would make me like this more..

However, I can say that I didn't see the ending coming. Bold move. Again I think it's something I like more as an idea than the execution here (why is he hanging out with THAT group of people? Why is he looking for a fight? I don't get it), but kudos for going there.
03.02.14 Wreck-It RalphRich MooreFor a movie about classic video games, it could have used some more video games. Why get the liscence to use Street Fighter and Pac-Man and Sonic and not actually USE them? Lego Movie did kind of the same thing with Gandalf and Millhouse and the ninja turtle but at least Batman was a major player and at least the rest of the movie was interesting. This felt plodding and familiar and generic. Wasted opportunity.
02.28.14 Ender's GameGavin HoodIt's hard for me to separate my experience with this versus my memory of the book which I thought was great when I read it years and years ago. Maybe people who never read the book would like this. I didn't. The tone is bizarre, Ender's not enough of a kid, the whole family dynamic between Peter, Val, and Ender is rushed and feels off, I feel like the ending is so heavily telegraphed that it's no surprise at all because it's never quite clear that Mazer is supposed to be running the tests and the very very end gets so philosophical in like the last 90 seconds. I feel like it's a pretty big mess. Oh well.
02.22.14 RiddickDavid TwohyThe further adventures of Riddick... I guess? I mean, not to sound harsh or anything but did anyone really WANT another Riddick movie? Is there some niched fanbase somewhere clamoring to find out what happened after the conclusion of the last one? 9 years ago? I like David Twohy's work and all but... a whole movie about Riddick trying to escape some random planet? It seems like a single issue of a comic book to me, not a movie. I feel like The Arrival and Pitch Black both stand up as solid sci-fi movies that don't need sequels or trilogies to follow up on. But you know... I didn't turn this off half way through... I don't think it's a terrible movie or anything and I shouldn't complain about a big budget sci fi movie that's not based on a comic or cartoon. It just feels very minor to me Is all.
02.21.14 Enough SaidNicole HolofcenerAnother solid engagingly authentic drama from the female perspective from Nicole Holofcener. I really love her work more and more as I get older because I can feel her getting older with me. The twenty-something confusion of Walking and Talking gave way to maturing insecurities in Lovely and Amazing to burgeoning marriages and peer jealousy in Friends with Money to dealing with a teenage daughter and guilt of success in Please Give and now to second marriages and empty nests in Enough Said. I think she's a few years ahead of me on the track of life, but it's comforting to see stories of this age and maturity level still resonate with some audiences. It seems like every movie these days is a reboot of some vapid thing with younger and younger stars. Why do we need to see a teen Fantastic Four movie? Fuck all that noise, this movie is about a divorcee dating an overweight guy and dealing with her daughter leaving for college. That it can be ten times more fulfilling and enjoyable than anything by Marvel Studios is a testament both to Holofcener's voice and the power of cinema. I feel like I'm being grandiose... it's a bit late. FUCK IT THOUGH IT'S HOW I FEEL!
02.19.14 White DogSamuel FullerSeeing Fuller's film in a theater with a receptive crowd and listening to Lars and Rick Linklater talk about it really elevated this movie for me from a late Fuller oddity to something I really enjoyed. In bullet format:
-Still loved that dinner scene. "Sour cream, love it - fattening" is one of the oddest most bizarre pieces of dialogue ever and I cherish it.
-The dog really acted well. I assume most of this was creative shooting and editing but the damn thing gets a death scene at the end where it gets its tongue all dirty and looks at the camera and gives a death sigh. What the fuck, dog!? That was better than every line reading out of Kristy McNichols' mouth! Well, except the part where she calls the old racist a "son of a bitch" eight times in a row.
-Love all the extreme close-ups. Especially Paul Winfield's sweaty eyes.
-Loved the Corman crew creeping in a bit. Paul Bartel complaining about flicker due to the rear projection playing in an incorrect framerate something like 60 seconds before Fully starts using slow motion and puts the flickering RP screen behind McNichols was a master touch.
-Spotting Hitchcock/Truffaut and the Hitch poster and the Truffaut mention was cool.

-The dog attacks still felt pretty movie-ish. I had no real clear indication of the severity of any of them.

All in all I had a great time revisiting this film and this series is proving to be an essential part of my week. They just announced the next wave which includes some movies I'm really really excited to see theatrically so I guess this will be my Wednesday for the forseeable future. Can Not Wait For Star 80. Jesus.
02.17.14 All is LostJ.C. ChandorImpressively minimalist movie about an old man and the sea. Redford easily carries a role which requires unbelievable amounts of heavy lifting. I guess it was time he reminded everybody that he was a great actor before his directing career. There were a few times where I wondered how much time was left but that was mostly due to me having no clue where the movie was going rather than boredom. Really riveting movie. Liked it a lot.
02.15.14The Lego MoviePhil Lord, Christopher MillerReally loved this. It's everything a Lego movie should be: imagination, elegant design, attention to detail, fun design, and appropriate for all ages. I really liked how the instructions played a part as well since I have a particular fondness for their manuals.

The story sends a hell of a lot of mixed messages, but I thought it would be much worse so I didn't really mind. I do wish there was a tiny bit more cross-IP interaction but it's cool...

Look forward to owning this.
02.12.14 Valley GirlMartha CoolidgeThe next in Rick Linklater's Jewels in the Waste series of his early-80s favs even though Rick wasn't here tonight because he's in Berline premiering Boyhood. Instead, Lars gave an extra long intro and afterward he chatted with Louis Black which I found to be just as interesting.

This is a bit of a confession but I've never seen this before. It hit while I was still too young to see boobs and I never got around to it when I watching stuff like Last American Virgin and Joysticks. I should really also see Vampire's Kiss.

Anyway, I was really taken with this. It didn't feel as scandalous as Fast Times and I loved how... ok I loved a lot of things. For one, I love how the Valley was where all the rich preppy people lived. Having spent 1978-86 being a small kid in the valley, I thought this was hilarious. I guess this is right before everyone figured out all the porn in the world was being produced next door and all the rich white people moved into the hills. I also loved how the movie embraced location and montaged the fuck out of early-80s Hollyweird and the Sunset Strip and some seminal punk and new wave bands in contrast with the color blocked collar-up "techno pop with no soul" that was playing all over the radio. It goes further than that though and, I feel, really sees Los Angeles - all of Los Angeles - with a loving eye. Even the "scariest" Hollywood Blvd. stuff isn't nearly as rough as Suburbia or Repo Man or even Thrashin' but instead a more innocent and romantic view of the seedy side much like the story as a whole.

And of course Nic Cage is great.

And you know... I'm not some huge fan of 80s music and certainly not the super poppy stuff like Modern English but, as Louis and Lars pointed out in their conversation, this movie uses the radio and music and that Modern English song I Melt with You so goddamn well that you totally feel it work. The music and scenery and fashion and everything comes together to make a pristine artifact of the American 80s. Well worth including in a series such as this
02.09.14The Incredible Burt WonderstoneDon ScardinoDefinitely one of those movies where the pitch is better than the actual film. It's not very good.
02.09.14 Movie 43VariousShorts akin to Amazon Women on the Moon or Kentucky Fried Movie. In my opinion the movie is worth it for and never lives up to its first segment with Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman. That shit was funny. Everything else? Not so much. Oh Well. It's still cool to see a movie like this exist with just a bunch of short-form sketches executed by movie talent. Haven't seen one of these in a long time... I guess since Comedy Central came on the air? It would be cool to triple feature Kentucky, Amazon, and Groove Tube.
02.07.14 In a World...Lake BellReally good comedy set in the competitive world of voice over acters, particularly the fetching Lake Bell vs. the skeevy Ken Marino. A great example of a comedy with romance and heart and character that isn't completely idiotic or full of random stupid things to shock laughs out of you. Everyone's great in this. I really liked it.
02.07.14 Captain PhillipsPaul GreengrassSolid telling of the whole Somali pirates story I remember from a few years ago. To me the most incredible part was always the sniper shots so I kind of spent the whole movie waiting for that one scene to see how in the hell they pulled that off, but along the way the movie grew on me. I didn't think Tom Hanks was stretching his muscles much - I mean he's always good but he spent most of this movie just sitting there - but now I think he deserves some recognition for just the final scene. His portrayal of shock is unbelievable. I've never been in shock but if I am I'm sure I'll spend the whole time comparing myself to Tom Hanks in this movie. Really amazing stellar scene to cap off an otherwise by the book procedural action thriller thingy... whatever you call a movie like this.
02.05.14 Veronika VossRainer Werner FassbinderThe second in AFS' "Jewels in the Wasteland" series of films from the early 80s picked by Rick Linklater. Not only had I not seen this before but I had no clue about anything about it and I haven't seen any Fassbinder movies before so I'm about as virginal as one can get for this screening.

So... honest reactions are as follows: I can tell that it's not a bad movie, but it also lost me about half way through and I wound up waiting for it to end. Keeping up with the subtitles I think made me lose a few threads and relationships so I wound up not really enjoying it. However, I can appreciate how dense and multi-layered it was and I think if I was a bigger fan of melodrama in general I'd be up for revisiting this to catch more, however I doubt I will do that.

Aside from the film itself though, I thought Linklater and Lars' conversation afterward was very interesting (they moved it out of the lobby into the theater and while it was not nearly as personal and intimate everybody could clearly hear everything and the people who felt like engaging didn't seem to have any problem doing so) and felt again like both an expert rumination on the film and a glimpse into Linklater's values as a filmmaker. Really at this point I've signed on for the whole series just for these conversations; the films are icing on the cake.

As a post script, I watched Wings of Desire maybe 10 years ago now. I remember not really liking it much, thinking it was a bit too artsy and loose. However for some reason my brain regularly revisits the scene where Peter Falk tries on hats for his character in the movie that they're making for the movie in the movie. I still have only watched that scene once, but for whatever reason it's been burned into memory for me and keeps popping up. There's no way for me to know if this film will do the same, or if it does which scene it will be, but I guess I'm trying to say that time will tell how I treat this film. There may be another entry above this one in a few years time with drastically different thoughts.
02.04.14 Silver Linings PlaybookDavid O. RussellFor some reason this fell through my admittedly wide cracks after it hit DVD and Netflix. Remedied. I liked it a bunch. Thought everybody was great, including DeNiro who kind of proves he can still act when he feels like it. Russell's newfound inquisitive and wandering eye as a director is interesting to me for the most part although I feel like he gets a taaad too into it here. I also feel like... I mean yeah it's great and all that we're seeing a realistic and empathetic look at mental illness and all that other PC stuff... but is it really so believable that crazy meeting crazy fixes everything? Aren't they just a few more fights away from a Sid & Nancy situation? It's a bit Hollywood for such a "bold" look.

But it was fun to see Chris Tucker again. It'd be great if he would show up in more movies.

So yeah I wound up liking this a bunch. Especially the move where Jennifer Lawrence jumped and thrust her crotch into Bradley Cooper's face.
02.02.14 HesherSpencer SusserKind of a downer indie version of Mary Poppins... I wasn't in the mood for this movie and kind of forced myself to watch so I could send the disc back. I guess I'm just not in the mood for this type of movie but I was bored and turned off by it for most of the running time. Not a fan.
02.01.14 Pain & GainMichael BayMichael Bay attempting a Coen-esque tale of idiot kidnappers in over their heads. It was a little interesting to see what a Michael Bay movie was like without the CG or action sequences for him to hide behind. Not really successful. Lots of sweat going on. An absolute shit ton of needless narration. Needless slow-mo. And the overall tone is kind of confusing to me... I immediately looked up what was true and what was invented since the movie kept re-iterating that it was a true story blah blah blah. So people really died and were really dismembered and stuff. It seems like the families or whatever would be pretty peeved that their tragedy was turned into this weird macho jokey trying-to-be-quirk thing with the bloody Kiss the Cook apron and Marky Mark in his Calvin Kleins. I don't know... I mean I can see why some producer thought it was ripe territory... maybe Bay just didn't have the finesse to pull it off tactfully? Who knows. Didn't love it.
01.30.14 CBGBRandall MillerThe story of the legendary NYC club and all the bands that came out of it. For whatever reason I get a sizable kick out of seeing actors play these bands in their infancy. I guess because 24 Hour Party People was so good? For whatever reason, I liked seeing The Ramones and Talking Heads and Dead Boys and Blondie (Malin Ackerman in Debbie Harry's wardrobe... just sayin)... that part was fun.

But unfortunately the movie is also host to a ton of bad accents and had trouble staying compelling for me. Why is Alan Rickman acting in slow motion? Was that the way Hilly acted? I suspect he just can't speak quickly with his American accent. And where is Donal Logue supposed to be from? Just a bunch of weird stuff like that; it really brought the movie down for me. But you know... what IS the story really? I guess all I should ask for is seeing the bands and listening to the music (which was great)... And again this feeds into my late-70s NYC sleaze fetish a little bit. Must have been an exciting time, as long as you weren't stabbed to death.
01.29.14The King of ComedyMartin ScorseseThis starts Rock Linklater's series of favorite 80s movies for the AFS at the Marchesa. The Marchesa calendar lately has been extremely guilt-inducing as they are showing great stuff that i'd be attending multiple nights a week if i had the amount of free time I had in 2006 or 2007. As it is, I just remember what's playing and grimace that i'm not going for one reason or another. This series however was something I couldn't in any good conscience pass up... so I think my Wednesdays are planned for the next few months.

This was the first time I'd seen the Marchesa sold out. I'm really glad for AFS and Lars that it sold this well... and it would be nice to see all of these sold out... but (close your eyes, anyone from AFS who's reading this) i have this secret wish that one of these weeks would be kind of empty and the conversation-in-the-round actually works where the 20 or 30 people left afterward talked and shared in Rick's love. But anyway... selling out the theater is great too :)

I saw King of Comedy at some point in or just after college and I remember liking it but moving on. It was very refreshing to see it in a theater with a nice tactile 35mm print and interested crowd. Rick's inro was great, talking about his first experience with the film, some historical context for all involved, and some really specific oberservations on the performances that gave some insight on his director-ness... to me at least. I think a movie would be hard to not like in that atmosphere, but I think the movie's actually good on its own even if you watched it alone in your living room. Certainly DeNiro is in top form, just as intense as a Taxi Driver or whatever but in a completely different mode. And Jerry Lewis gives a wonderful peek behind the curtain as both his persona and celebrity in general. Sandra Bernhardt is hilarious... probably the only time I've thought that. It was great to see again.

Afterward Rick and Lars tried a new thing where they invited everyone out to the lobby where they had a few chairs and mics set up and everyone gathered around to talk to them. I feel like I completely understood the intent which was to make it less a Q&A with Linklater or even an on-stage discussion between Rick and Lars and more of an inviting conversation with them and anyone from the audience that felt like participating. Certainly a circle discussion in the lobby after the film is commonplace after most screenings amongst friends so it's a pretty noble hope to involve Rick and Lars in something akin to that rather than anything that could be perceived as a lecture or dissertation. However I think a few things went wrong.

1) They started too early. People still had those personal conversations after the film, they just had to have it over the muffled speech of amplified voices from the other side of the lobby. Then for the people interested in listening or participating in that public discussion they had a hard time hearing because of everyone else in the lobby who were talking to each other. If they maybe gave people enough time to use the restroom and filter out into the parking lot before staying, people like me who chatted with friends and then listened in to Rick and Lars would've had more luck hearing clearly.

2) It seemed like there was still a mad dash to get front and center for the conversation, so people wound up pressed together or straining to see and hear just to be a part of it. The crowd made for a great photo, but if you look closely everyone is trying very hard to hear what's going on.

3) It was right next to the restrooms. People who had to pee had to press through people listening or talking who didn't necessarily want to give up their good spot.

It certainly wasn't a huge clusterfuck or anything... and I really really applaud the idea of welcoming discussion after the film and think it's really cool of Rick to give his time talking to fellow film fans. I just had several occasions to think that if they just turned the house lights on in the theater then all of these problems would've been avoided. Of course then they couldn't clean the theater... so who knows. Plus this was the first attempt so there's bound to be some streamlining as people get used to the idea and AFS gets used to conducting things like this.

I will say that the lobby of the marchesa has been transformed into a beautiful art-house space. I have no idea where that gigantic Kiss Me Deadly poster came from but it's amazing. As is Rick's collection of Polish posters. The Conformist and Naked in particular are striking and fit the space perfectly. And the wall of soundtracks is great. And the founder's wall is elegant and nice. It's just turned out to be a fantastic space. I love it there.
01.27.14 OblivionJoseph KosinskiI liked this one. The plot is decent (even if I was ahead of it a bit) but really it's the music and the color palette I enjoyed the most. A lot of the world design is really striking and M83's score was reminiscent of 80s sci-fi without being too derivative. Very pretty movie both visually and aurally.
01.26.14The FamilyLuc BessonI remember a time when a new Luc Besson film would be pretty highly anticipated. Not sure what happened. At least Michelle Pfeiffer got some work? The Goodfellas "cameo" was kind of the first (or last?) nail in DeNiro's acting coffin right? I mean he's basically a sitcom dad actor now right? Do you think he watches Wolf of Wall Street and gets pissed? Probably not because he definitely chose this path... Maybe on the Copland shoot he thought "I'm so tired of yelling. Maybe I'll start doing comedies" or something... now here we are. With this. It should've been a double feature with Goodfellas and La Femme Nikita to seal up both coffins. sigh...
01.20.14The JerkCarl ReinerI'd always thought I had seen this long long ago when I was a kid - and I may still have - but I added this to my Netflix queue because it's been forever and now that I watch it I think maybe I never actually saw this movie but instead saw so many clips from the movie that my brain filled in the rest. Certainly things like the scene where Emmett Walsh is shooting out the oil cans or the scene where Steve Martin doesn't need anything... except this ______, and the scene where he was born a poor black child without rhythm dancing on the porch... all of these things I've seen many many times. The stuff at the carnival (special purpose aside), the stuff once he's rich with the little umbrellas in his wine and Chateau Lafit in a water cooler and the lawsuit with "Carl Reiner, the Celebrity" seemed new to me however, so I'm going to chalk this up as a first viewing.

Pretty late to the party on this one. I thought it was funny, but mostly in a very dated its-as-old-as-I-am kind of way. It's funny... looking through Steve Martin's imdb page... movies like this and The Man with Two Brains, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid... these are all lost in a hazy fog of my early childhood memory, but All of Me sits there in frustrating detail. I guess 1984 is the year that I became sentient or something because I remember that dumb movie like it was yesterday (heavy play on HBO probably helped) and certainly Three Amigos... I remember seeing that in the front row of the theater with friends and loving every second. Funny what a few years does for you.

Anyway, liked this one ok. Glad I saw it anyway...
01.20.14 Please GiveNicole Holofcener3 for 3 in my opinion (I haven't seen Enough Said yet). I think the only bad thing about Nicole Holofcener movies are their titles. I can't really tell them apart. Not that I have any sort of deep knowledge on the female condition or what women think, but I do get an overwhelmingly warm and human and authentic vibe from every one of her movies. They are so good. I don't know very many other writers or directors working with everyday emotional stuff like this and just killing it. Loved this.
01.19.14 PrisonersDenis VilleneuveSome little girls are taken and families are upset while Jake Gyllenhaal tries to be a tough cop. I thought this was a very solid thriller and really loved how it took its time and reveled in the dreary east coast-ness of the weather and the palette. Roger Deakins hard at work. Paul Dano gets the shit kicked out of him which is nice because I find something about his face makes me want to do that. Satisfying conclusion... nothing to complain about here.

Except... why does every DVD now have an ad for Blu-ray on it? They just show scenes from random movies and tell you how awesome Blu-ray is... but it's still 480p so it doesn't sell Blu at all. I don't get it and it seems like from now on any DVD produced will have this ad. DVD is my favorite medium and it's undergoing a slow and degrading death.
01.18.14 Margin CallJ.C. ChandorInvestment bankers have a really bad night when one of them figures out the entire economy is about to shit the bed. For a movie about a lot of rich dudes talking in rooms, this was really good. Great cast, dialogue that doesn't pander, and an interesting layering of character introductions and dynamics help a lot. Not exactly a feel-good movie, but still very good.
01.12.14 G.I. Joe: RetaliationJon ChuJust like the first movie, my favorite part was seeing the vehicles and remembering how I used to have some of the toys. The rest of it is ridiculous and terrible for the most part. I think I liked the first one more? I can't really remember it. I just really really hate these doppelganger plot devices where someone has this absolute power just because they are masters of disguise. I feel like the whole X-Men movie franchise also relies too heavily upon Mystique. So the whole Zartan-as-president thing grated on me... AND the fact that they went out of their way to exclude Destro. Isn't that the whole thing!? The power struggle between Cobra Commander and Destro!? Whatever...
01.06.14 FargoJoel CoenAfter seeing John Carroll Lynch in Zodiac - and seeing this was available on Netflix streaming without me having to get off the couch - I figured I'd watch this again. Still love it. Everybody's so great in this. Can you believe it's almost 20 years old!
01.05.14 ZodiacDavid FincherI really love this movie. watched it on impulse. still love it. It may end up being my favorite Fincher movie, or at least the one I come back to the most regularly.
01.04.14 Deceptive Praces: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky JayMolly BernsteinRicky Jay is a really interesting guy with a great act and to me feels like one of the best legit sleight of hand artists working today. Of course I say that as someone not at all in the magic world - I just like him in Mamet and PTA movies, but still. He strikes me as a guy very much into the history and code of magicians and I don't see him releasing street magic DVDs or viral youtube vids just to get hits.

This doc details his upbringing and shows lots of early clips as well as talking about the momentous figures in the field that mentored him. Very interesting stuff. Part of me wanted to just watch Jay's act whenever they showed clips of him but this movie had a different scope which is fine. Interesting watch.
01.03.14 Cave of Forgotten DreamsWerner HerzogIt was ok. Seemed a little bit like he got to go in the cave and needed a movie to justify it. Could've been worse but I find Herzog's docs really hit or miss. Kind of bored by this one.
01.03.14 Not Fade AwayDavid ChaseI'm choosing to see this as meticulously autobiographical or something because there's no other reason for this movie to exist. It's kind of a perfect example of a free pass movie, meaning someone has a huge success and Hollywood studios basically give that person one free movie that they can do whatever they want with. Usually they cost a lot of money and end up not being very good. The music alone in this movie must have cost a small fortune, and all the period stuff and movie and tv clips and everything like that just adds to it. But the story here - a kid starts a band that's not very successful - doesn't really deliver anything worth watching. Just a bunch of weird details from somebody's life... Odd movie.
01.03.14 Computer ChessAndrew BujalskiNerds congregate for a tournament in the early days of computer chess programming. I liked this one a lot. Lots of authentic early 80s computer nerd stuff, good use of period video equipment (or stellar visual effects. it's too good not to be vintage though), juuust the right amount of weird to make it interesting. I don't really understand the ending but I also don't feel the need to. Plus it's cool to see Wiley on screen. Great role for him.
01.01.14 GoonMichael DowseLaying on the couch all day I'm really combing my Netflix instant list. This has been on there for like 2 years... it wasn't bad... even though the climax of the movie is two guys standing still hitting each other in the face. Still... not a bad movie.
12.31.13 Side EffectsSteven SoderberghAnother excellent genre movie to prove that Soderbergh went out on a high. In the last two years he's given us a virus movie, an action movie, a biopic, a stripper drama and now a medical thriller and none of them have been bad. Some better than others but all not bad. That's really incredible. I really hope his retirement is short-lived. I really admired the script for this movie; had some nice turns.
12.31.13 ParkerTaylor HackfordThis one wasn't too bad. Hackford is a competent director, Statham is comfortable in his persona, the script wasn't idiotic, and the outcome was satisfying. The only false note to me was Jennifer Lopez. She has too much baggage and not enough acting ability to play the role of some desperate realtor with questionable morals. Otherwise I liked it quite a lot although I do wish the whole movie was in that splinter universe where Parker agreed to the next job and it was a heist movie instead of revenge.
12.31.13 Olympus Has FallenAntoine FuquaWell I caught a cold so that sucks. Time to lay on the couch and watch a stupid action movie. This is Die Hard in the white house. It's formulaic in every way. I guess people need these movies for steady paychecks though so that's nice... I kept wondering if that was still the West Wing set that they were blowing up. I wonder if that set just exists somewhere now so whenever anyone needs to shoot the white house they just go over to Sorkin's garage or something. Seems a shame to have to keep building white houses every 2 or 3 years. anyway...
12.30.13 Bottle ShockRandall MillerThe story of how... Napa valley became known for wine? Great cast led by Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman. Kind of a weird movie. Chris Pine and the love triangle with Freddie Rodriguez bothered me. I liked the wine bits though.
12.28.13 Velvet GoldmineTodd HaynesBack home. Watched this on instant because I'd never seen it before. It's really intense and if I'm completely honest with myself I didn't love it and probably won't see it again BUT it's a really great fantastic movie. I mean, to borrow from Citizen Kane in a movie about glam rock? And this constant shifting of time and place and realism and musical-style presentation all wound and woven together with great actors playing fictionalized versions of people while great music plays every second. It's quite a masterful feat.
12.26.13The OutfitJohn FlynnIt was pretty late but time for one more movie. I suggested The Outfit thinking it was tough guys and action sequences. I kind of forgot that there are no action sequences in the movie. Subsequently, my dad thought it was pretty boring (especially after the explosion-fest that is Fast & Furious 6). I still liked little touches but he was right... this was not the right movie for that moment. We should've watched Freebie & The Bean instead.
12.26.13 Fast & Furious 6Justin LinThis was my dad's pick. I got it for him for Christmas. I didn't say no even though I haven't seen a Fast & Furious movie since Tokyo Drift. Apparently a lot has happened since then: Brian's an international thief now instead of an undercover cop, Letty is dead or something, and everyone who was ever in one of these movies is now in the same gang like an Ocean's Eleven with cars. I actually think that's a pretty cool turn for this series to take. Oh yeah, I don't remember the Asian guy but I'm guessing he was in Tokyo Drift... but I thought I heard Tokyo Drift wasn't canon or something? It's all very confusing and makes me want to go back and watch parts 4 and 5 (whatever they're called).

The movie itself is pretty ridiculous but I guess that's the charm. I forget the particulars but it was during some macho montage or action scene or something and it was like they all sat around thinking "ok how can I make this as extremely masculine testosterone sausage party as possible" and Vin Diesel was like "how about I spit?" Perfect.

Anyway, dumb fun. Made no sense but whatever.
12.25.13 ElysiumNeill BlomkampMerry Christmas!

I bought this for my dad with the secret ulterior motive to watch it myself. I liked District 9. I think Blomkamp really excels at making his worlds and effects look used and lived in. His design eye for firearms and machinery are great. The idea of an exoskeleton is awesome. The hell of automated bureaucracy is chilling. The concept of a space station for the rich is pretty cool. Unfortunately the story Is way too on the nose and there are several weird plot points including an end that in my opinion completely falls apart. I mean what the fuck... the idea that these rich people have machines that can cure any disease but they aren't shared with the rest of the earth is ridiculous in itself but to have fleets of medi-ships just hanging out in case someone one day decides to heal the world? And are kickass exoskeletons really so common in this dystopia that NO ONE gives a shit about Matt Damon having one? And there exists a weapon that shoots homing rockets out into space at a rate faster than transport ships but the richest guy in the world doesn't have any sort of automated defenses on his personal transport?

Anyway, I can keep nitpicking because the plot doesn't hold true to the world that they created, but I'll stop there. I found plenty to like in this but also a lot to groan about.
12.25.13 Dredd 3DPete TravisI got this for my dad and put it on because I thought I'd be in and out of the room and didn't want to miss anything of a movie I hadn't seen. Turns out I didn't have to step away so I watched all of this while everyone else slept. It's a little different seeing it in 2D. I guess I thought it was just a 3D artifact at the time but this weird blue/red effect most of the slow-motion footage has is kind of distracting to me. Also I feel like the beginning is pretty heavy with amazing slow-motion stuff then it just stops for the most part and that's a shame because those are the best parts of the movie. Still, I think it's a solid action movie and holds up without the 3D. Avon and Cersei are still pretty terrible in it though. oh well.
12.25.13 New in TownJonas ElmerMerry Christmas!

This was my mom's choice. She billed it as a Christmas comedy. It contains VERY little of either. We all sat through it to be nice, but ouch what a terrible boring movie. Sorry, mom!
12.24.13The Place Beyond the PinesDerek CianfranceI brought my Netflix along with me to my parents and watched this after they went to bed. Very long. I liked the structure, having not known much of anything about it beforehand. However I wished for a little stronger payoff and I absolutely hated Bradley Cooper's son. Gah. It's one of those things that's probably 100% intentional but still makes me like the movie less so who cares.
12.24.13National Lampoon's Christmas VacationJeremiah S. ChechikWatched this surrounded by sleeping relatives for New Years Eve this year. Still a classic.
12.23.13 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of ShadowsGuy RitchieWell I've waited too long to put these in so... the next 9 or so will be pretty brief.

This was a random Netflix next-in-queue that I added forever ago. It was ok. For as much money and press that the first one made I remember this one just kind of fading away. Part of that must be the choice to go straight to Moriarty and the finality that led to. Still, I enjoyed it fair enough... I probably maybe even liked it more than the first? Who knows. I probably won't remember either one in a few years. Huzzah!
12.21.13 Double DareAmanda MicheliI rented this again because I thought Molly would like stunt women and wasn't wrong. I'm glad it's short though because it's really not... I mean it's not like some grand portrait of the industry... it's more like we just follow along a bit and find out 22 year old Zoe Bell is a darling and watch her get a good role then it ends. Still, there's her in that rubber dress which is pretty sweet.
12.14.13 Jack ReacherChristopher McQuarrieThis movie had a really weird tone. I feel like it was probably a decent book where details like being good in a fight and having a weird confidence that attracts women and being an expert sniper and having a keen eye for details all make sense because it's a genre novel and you know... Sherlock Holmes solves the mysteries not Dr. Watson. But in a movie - especially a movie starring Tom Cruise - all of these details weird strange and kind of false. I liked Way of the Gun and think Cruise is a good actor but this one felt a lot like Knight and Day for me where the weird tone just didn't work at all.
12.14.13The HeatPaul FeigPretty funny... Nothing classic I don't think but you know... pretty funny.
12.11.13 World War ZMarc ForsterNot 100% terrible but I still have a problem with it being perceived as an adaptation of the book. The book is sprawling and global and evocative and imaginative and would've made a really amazing HBO miniseries but now we'll never get that because this movie exists.

If it wasn't called World War Z I probably would've liked it ok. The CG zombies are still terrible and Brad Pitt has this strange power of immortality like if the movie went on another thirty minutes he could've somehow witnessed the epicenter of a nuclear bomb explosion as well as everything else he'd seen. Still, the global aspect of the film is somewhat interesting even if it does hinge on a knife's edge of typical Hollywood nonsense and manufactured tension.

Also, I think I finally figured out my personal stance on zombie vs. virus. I choose to separate the beings themselves from what kind of movie that they're in. For the beings themselves I still feel like if they have a pulse then they're just infected with a virus. If they die and come back then they're zombies. How do I reconcile the pre-Romero voodoo movies and things like Serpent and the Rainbow? I don't. These days, It's Romero-style or nothing. Now, as far as the movies themselves are concerned, I feel like the core difference is this: If people are searching for a cure, it's a virus movie. If they're just trying to survive then it's a zombie movie. To my mind this adequately satisfies any gray areas. 28 Days Later is a zombie movie with virus infected people in it. World War Z is a virus movie with zombies in it. DONE.
12.08.13 MatewanJohn SaylesFor this thing that I've been writing on and off a fictional John Sayles plays a part in it. The idea was spawned from a 20-second clip I saw on a cheap CD-ROM in the early 2000s purporting to contain film school on a disc. Amidst all the usual bland and expected advice from Hollywood screenwriters and film school professors, Sayles appeared outside somewhere telling me to quit school and go live for a few decades then come back to film with something to say. For whatever reason that clip stuck with me and, even though I can't really call myself an expert on Sayles (hell, I haven't even seen half his movies), I've sort of created a mental portrait of the man as a paragon of authenticity and personal and worthwhile storytelling. So when this screening popped up I felt like it was some cosmic message for me to keep writing and to get my ass out on a cold Sunday night to see a movie.

I'm glad I did. The Marchesa really filled up and several AFS luminaries (like Lewis Black and Rick Linklater) showed up to see Sayles. He didn't disappoint... less than a minute after taking stage he mentioned how the story of Matewan came to him while he was hitch-hiking across West Virginia and Kentucky in the 70s. Of course. He also proved to be quite succinct and knowledgeable and open during the Q&A although the best answer of the evening came from his producing partner Maggie Renzi who said that too many filmmakers today are chickenshit and just make movies about themselves in their back yard. Pretty great.

So is the movie. It's kind of an American classic from the late 80s. Packed to the gills with character actors and starring Chris Cooper in his first film role, the movie tells the story of coal miners in West Virginia struggling to start a union and whatnot. It's probably not a movie I would've searched out... like it doesn't sound super exciting, but It's really great the same way that Lone Star and Eight Men Out are really great. It just feels real.
12.07.13 Iron Man 3Shane BlackI liked this more than the last one (which I can barely remember). These movies basically are comics now because I'd be kind of lost if I had skipped the Avengers movie and it feels like there a progression and kind of soapy quality to it, On one hand I think that's pretty cool since they are representative of their own comics and whatnot, but on the other hand each one of these things cost over a hundred million dollars and it's insane to think that much money is riding on characters with named like Pepper Potts and Rusty Rhodes. But whatever... Downey makes this franchise and he brings it again here so all is fine in the house of Stark. I'm not quite sure why he had to blow up all his suits at the end but whatever...
12.07.13 SkyfallSam Mendes007... it's ok.
12.06.13 FlightRobert ZemeckisI'm happy that Robert Zemeckis is directing live action again because I think he's one of the best action directors out there... but most of this movie isn't really good. It's super heavy handed and familiar and, aside from the crash sequence, felt plodding and slow and hackneyed. I feel like there've been plenty of really authentic portrayals of alcoholism and AA and adiction and all that kind of thing that this movie doesn't really prove worthy against. Shame because I wanted to like it... but it just didn't happen for me. At least I finally got the see Nadine Velazquez from My Name is Earl naked. So that's nice.
12.02.13The To Do ListMaggie CareyA sex comedy from the woman's perspective... I don't think Aubrey Plaza can carry a movie by herself as she falls pretty flat for me, but the supporting cast is strong and the 110% 90s saturation made for a pretty nice nostalgia trip. These kids are class of '93 and I was '96 so... it's pretty much the same. I didn't have that Eddie Vedder poster or anything but Ten was the first CD I ever heard (the fidelity of that opening instrumental blew my mind) and my first concert was Lollapalooza 92 so... I'd seen that poster before. I'm also a fan of movies that shoot (or CG) their beginning titles on real world objects so that's a check in the "like" column. Overall a fine but probably forgettable film with a few funny moments.
11.23.13The Way Way BackNat Faxon, Jim RashSweet coming of age movie where a teenage boy finds solace against the wicked alcohol and weed fueled debauchery of a hamptons summer in the cool bikini-populated environs of a water park. Great performances throughout but a real spotlight role for Sam Rockwell as the carefree water park manager and moral center. I can't help but compare this movie to Adventureland which might be a bit unfair but since I really liked both films whatever... I feel like Adventureland is maybe a tad less dark with the parents stuff and more concentrating on coming of age but this isn't out of balance or anything like that. I just wish it were longer, more scenes at the water park. Great movie.
11.17.13 Pacific RimGuillermo del Toronotes later
11.10.13 DragnetTom MankiewiczSo... Lars programmed a night of the original Dragnet television series. I think that's tonight actually and I doubt I'll make it out for that, but the old show was on my mind so when I saw this pop up on HBO I taped it. I feel like I watched most if not all the episodes when Nick at Night replayed them in my youth.

This movie is pure 80s wackiness. Tom Hanks in full on funny sidekick mode, Dan Ackroyd trying his best Jack Webb, People Against Goodness And Normalcy, the absurdly strong henchman with bad teeth, high waisted bikinis, Dabney Coleman, explosions and machine gun fights, police commissioners, and the actors rapping over the end credits. I loved it at a kid, lapped it up. The City of Crime rap and the sample-heavy Art of Noise track were on heavy rotation in my Walkman at the time.

Now it's more of an artifact. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

I fell asleep pretty hard during this last night so I finished it up Monday, which makes this the longest and fullest DVRfest since 2006. Pretty happy about that. I will have to put some time and planning toward next year since ten years is a pretty big deal. Even though a good half of those haven't been movie-heavy years, I'm still keeping up with this and logging every movie I see. I can honestly say that it's lasted longer than I ever thought it would and now I feel like I can do another 8 no problem to beat Bogdanovich's 17. Did he even say 17 years? I can't even remember anymore. All I know is that if I ever get famous, this is the shit that they will publish. Sorry I can't draw as well as Guillermo del Toro, futurefans!

So a few stats to wind this fest up. in the past week I've seen 14 movies for a 2/day average, past month is 16 for a 0.53/day average, past year is 118 for a 0.32/day avg, and finally the site lifetime is at 2480 which works out to 0.75/day. Thanks for reading!
11.10.13 PrimerShane CarruthYeah... I can finally cross this off my list. It's kind of pretty much exactly what I thought it would be based on hearing everything about it: lots of dialogue, hard to understand, interesting take on time travel. Check, check and check. I feel like the obtuse dialogue is a tad cryptic most of the time... like there's authentic shorthand and then there's alien language... but the jargon replaces the budget so I can't fault it for doing its thing.

I think I understood 75% of it which isn't bad for the first time. I don't know if there will be a second, but I didn't hate it by any means.

So. We come to the end. it's 12:30, time for the last film of DVRfest 2013. This has gone on a day longer than usual and I threw in a few last minute bonus films to make this the biggest fest since the second one which was epic. For the last film I may very well fall asleep so expect final notes tomorrow. All I'll say is that I've seen it before and really like its 80s wackiness and the Art of Noise song at the end was really formative to my love of samples in songs. I listened to the cassette of the soundtrack a ton when it came out. Let's do it one more time.
11.10.13 Synecdoche, New YorkCharlie Kaufmanwhew. This was an incredibly complex and intricate work, lofty and grandiose and also intimate and clumsy. I feel like Charlie Kaufman is some spiritual kin to Michel Gondry and this movie is the most unadulterated that he's ever been. And like Gondry movies I feel that the amount of imagination and creativity at play is amazing if not exhausting and, like Gondry, I feel Kaufman's melancholy saturate everything. This is terrible but I feel like I'd like this movie a lot more with a happier ending. I know I know. Something about this movie keeps me on the outside though. Perhaps it's just because this is a first viewing so I was working to keep up with the plot and my bearings throughout the film, but I can't say I love this. I admire and respect it, but not love.

Whew again. Ok. I'm thinking... two more movies. I only have one left on the DVR but it's not midnight just yet and there's always Netflix streaming. This next one is a SERIOUS oversight on my part so this is a great example to finally get this movie watched. And it's short. And ordinarily I'd say I'm in for a mindfuck but after this it may seem like a walk in the park! We'll see. Luckily the last movie of the night (and fest) requires zero mental activity.
11.10.13The Green RoomFrancois TruffautAKA The Vanishing Fiancee. A while back I got pretty fixated on Truffaut. I read his biography, some of his reviews, had already read his interview book with Hitchcock, and tried to track down all of his films. I really liked most of them and managed to track down all but two. Years later, again thanks to TCM, I can cross one of those elusive films off the list.

Truffaut stars as a World War I vet who's kind of obsessed with death and refuses to forget those in the past but instead lives with them always. He meets a younger woman similarly affected and... I don't know... talk about it for a while. Then he renovates a chapel and puts pictures of all his dead friends in it. At the end he dies.

So... I guess this is what I could expect from a French film about death. It's really plodding and pretty heavy and there's no joy or fun at all. I'm sure these conversations on the nature of death and the human experience hold deep symbolism and if I remember correctly this was a deeply personal movie for Truffaut to make... but you know as a consumer experience there was not that much fun to be had. This is definitely a film I'm happier to have seen it than to see.

I still love Truffaut though and seeing him on screen and reading his frequent collaborators' names in the credits makes me want to revisit the films of his I really love. Maybe someday.

Next up is a movie with a confusing title.
11.10.13 Nora PrentissVincent ShermanA very minor noir that I'd never heard of from the Warner archives (thanks again, TCM!). A straight-laced doctor guy meets vivacious Ann Sheridan and throws his life away in a series of bad decisions. I liked this ok, would've liked it more if it were a half hour shorter. There's a very nice turn halfway through but you immediately see where it's going and it takes like 45 minutes to get there. I feel like plenty of other movies cover the same territory much better, but at this point I don't think there are top-shelf noirs that I haven't seen so this is where I'm at. The nuance and some of the James Wong Howe San Francisco photography along with that nice story turn make this worth watching. There's a great shot of the Cliff House that would've been really spectacular except it's at night so literally all you see is two headlight spots and a neon sign reading "Cliff House." You kind of have to put the structure and coastline in using your imagination. It really reminded me where the term "film noir" came from.

So that's my Sunday matinee. Just a handful of films left in full potpourri fashion. I may take a few hours off to do real life stuff but will return when the sun goes down!
11.09.13 Spring BreakersHarmony KorineSpring Break... Spring Break Forever...

I think part of the reason why I've been so hesitant to actually sit down and watch this is because it was so insanely overhyped. When it played South By people freaked out... when it hit theaters people freaked out... and even when it came out on DVD I read tweets about people watching it on repeat and stuff. I've seen enough of his movies to know I'm not a huge Harmony Korine fan so I was kind of afraid I wouldn't like it as much as all my friends do.

So now I've seen it. I get that people like bikinis and guns and James Franco does give a crazy ass performance and the "look at my shit" scene is pretty hilarious... but it's still barely a movie right? Korine's indifference toward narrative is still pretty hard for me to take. The constant montage and repeating dialogue and languid pace really bugged me. I will say that anything involving the rival drug kingpin was hilarious. The scene where he's holding his baby and describing how it's starving because of the money being taken out of its mouth while sitting in a formal line-up of henchmen before a table literally heaping with marijuana was great, as was his commentary during intercourse. And you know... who doesn't like jiggling titties in slow motion set to dance music... the rest was a bit of an expected letdown. oh well.

So that's day two of DVRfest 9. Tomorrow I'll probably do stuff during the day but return for three or four to finish the fest out. Now it's 3:15 and I'm hittin the sack. bitchez.
11.09.13 MudJeff NicholsComing of age set in Alabama by the guy who made the excellent Take Shelter. Loved this. Everyone was great in it. Michael Shannon had a great small role. McConaughey was great. Great southern fried movie. Man, both kids were great. Also I should go back and check out Shotgun Stories since Jeff Nichols seems to love making really good dramas with Michael Shannon in them.

I'm kind of out of words at this point - I guess it's been too long since I've had to write this many notes - and it's well 1am but I'm not falling asleep yet so I'm putting on a movie that screams midnight. A movie I've had on my desk for at least a month waiting for the perfect time to watch. That time seems to have come.
11.09.13 Urgh! A Music WarDerek BurbidgeThanks to Warner Archive, I have a DVD of this 1981 concert film that's basically a two hour timewarp back to the wave of American punk and birth of new wave. I really love this film. Half the bands I haven't heard of, I don't understand a single lyric, but the music and crowds feel so completely authentic to me that every frame feels fascinating.

Plus you have Klaus Nomi and The Cramps and that incredible performance by Gary Numan in his little future car looking like a petulant child right after a temper tantrum. It's sooo so great I can't even believe it. I've never really thought about a favorite concert film but I'm sure this is at least in my top five. Shout out to Kier-la Janisse for programming it for Music Monday oh so long ago or else I would never have even heard of this.

Next up is.... I'm not sure! It's 11 o'clock now so I'm thinking one maaaaybe two more movies, but the stuff on my DVR seems destined for tomorrow's "Potpouri" day so...
11.09.13 Made in AmericaRon HowardJay-Z put on a concert in Philly and Ron Howard made a film covering it. You know, as far as concert films go this one was pretty good. Howard really plumbed the whole "Made in America" theme of it to the point where it felt a bit more akin to something like Wattstax than Through the Never. It was interlaced and diverse enough to keep it interesting to me although I'm sure Jay-Z fans are upset that it's not his entire setlist.

This was pretty good.

After Sunset Strip though, I found myself coming back to memories of a certain film throughout my viewing of this... so much so that I think I'm making a last-minute change to the line-up and I'm throwing in a DVD to make this double feature a triple. I haven't seen this next movie in a long time and the only time I did I was in the original Alamo with some drunk teens standing up and dancing in the row ahead of me. I'm excited to watch it again.
11.09.13 Sunset StripHans Fjellestad...Sunset Strip! This is a great doc about the history of this... historic street and all the buildings and clubs and peoples and trends that inhabit it. It goes from the undeveloped land to modern day and covers pretty much everything I wanted it to. The Marmont, the nightclubs, the rock clubs, and the comedy clubs; the punk shows, the hair shows, the strip shows, the freak shows. Everybody that lives in LA is either on camera or listed as a producer, shit tons of period stills and location footage from films and concert footage and a stellar ending animation. Really exhaustive. It's great.

I've seen 4 really good docs now pretty much in a row. One more to go then I think it's all fictional narrative from here on out. This next one... I really had no interest in until I learned Ron Howard directed it. What the hell is Ron Howard doing making this movie? I guess i'll see right now!
11.08.13 Spider BabyJack HillWell I fell asleep about half an hour into this so I finished it up as a matinee which is good because... well, it was pretty damn slow. This is one of those movies that's been in my blind spot, probably because it wasn't available on Netflix and I don't go to video stores anymore(feeling guilt from Rewind This).

I know Jack Hill from the Pam Grier stuff from the seventies so when I kept hearing how great Spider Baby was I kind of assumed it was some weird seventies oddity with no narrative. Instead I sat down to a Bava-esque baroque horror film about a family who's... nuts or something. There was still enough cleavage to connect this to films to come so it made some sense, but it was a completely different movie than what I had invented in my mind.

Pacing aside, I liked this. Lon Chaney Jr. was kind of terrible but everyone else was good. I especially liked the narrator for his happy go lucky attitude and goofy grin.

And now onto day 2 of the fest. I've now realized that I have a ton of documentaries on the list. Today brings a double feature of music docs then some other stuff whatever I have time for. First up though I'm trading HBO for Showtime and a doc about a certain street in Los Angeles. Join me as we take a ride down the...
11.08.13 Rewind This!Josh JohnsonA doc about VHS, VHS culture, VHS obsession, and VHS nostalgia. I have to claim bias on this one. Alamo regulars made it, Alamo regulars appear in it, Austin is all over this thing so I can't really be 100% objective. I can say that this movie really exemplifies what seems to be a prevalent thought here in town shared by most cineasts and filmgoers that is a holy appreciation for the diamonds in the rough. You see it in the Alamo programming, the mondo posters, the continued survival of I Luv and Vulcan videos, and in every film geek conversation circle that takes place before and after most screenings. People here love movies and have no class distinction between high and low and perhaps the bestest thing ever is to root through the oceans of pap to come up with that one special film to bring to the rest of the group and share. I don't know if that made any sense. It's getting late. And who knows if that's in any way unique to Austin. Maybe all film lovers feel the same.

Anyway, I liked this movie a lot. I feel like anyone reading this (read: me) has their own fond and formative memories associated with VHS or video stores. I certainly do. In fact from time to time I still look up to see how Wonder Book & Video is doing in Frederick, MD because they were the most special store I had access to in middle and high schools. This movie is an avid celebration of all that stuff along with some history and pontification on the future of media consumption thrown in. I feel like they covered all the bases and presented an enjoyable and complete experience here. Definitely some good stuff.

And now... I think I'm going to try and fit in a midnight movie even though it's after midnight and i'm pretty tired. We'll see!
11.08.13 Seduced and AbandonedJames TobackAlec Baldwin and Tames Toback travel to Cannes in order to raise money for a film and in the process they make this... quasi-documentary non-fiction film for perhaps a fictional scenario that doesn't really matter because really it's about the state of the industry and the perils of money. It's messy and meandering and all over the place and the heavy heavy use of split screen made me feel like I was sometimes watching two or three movies at once (the beginning montage of Cannes footage was particularly effective for me because it showcased both the history and extreme range of films that get shown there. There's young Warren Beatty juxtaposed with Godard and Polanski juxtaposed with Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator).

I like this in-between take on non fiction. It reminded me a tiny bit of F for Fake (god I love that movie), and especially compared to the very familiar talking head construction of Casting By I'd say I responded to this more.

Up next I finish off my triple feature with a doc about a much different aspect of the industry although probably no less nostalgic for the good old days.
11.08.13 Casting ByTom DonahueA chill wind blows through Austin. Night falls earlier, owls hoot their foreboding warning to varmints and trespassers alike. Is it the beginning to a spooky movie? Nah it's just MOTHERFUCKING NINTH ANNUAL DVRFEST 2013!!!!

Hopefully your mind added some explosions and fireworks to that, and since at this point my readership is now just me 8 years from now bored at work thinking back on good times I can bet that you did!

But seriously, I've just gotten home from work. I stopped off and bought enough junk food to make me sick. Molly says she'll busy herself with her own stuff. That means I have a date with my empty couch, a Pringles can, and a DVR full up with movies.

This year, I think I have lots of movies in the DVR, a backup of three Netflix discs and an Internet's worth of streaming possibilities if i'm still hungry for more. for those of you who are new to this private ritual of mine (me 30 years from now when i'm senile and don't even know what i'm reading), this weekend is a celebration of another year maintaining this site. It's also an opportunity to clear out all the movies I saved on my DVR thinking "Oh I want to see that" but then never sit down to watch. It's also lately been a singular event to force myself to stop doing anything else I usually do for fun on a weekend (I'm looking at you, GTA5) and binge on some movies like I used to do. Basically every weekend for my friend Jarrette. The unwritten rules of programming the fest state that I only get one slot for a movie I've seen before; everything else must be new to me. This means sometimes the movies suck, but I'm the only one in the audience so who cares.

Pleasantries aside, let's dive in!

For tonight I'm watching a triple feature of documentaries about the movie business. I've heard all three of these are good so I'm excited, although I still don't know which one I'm watching first...

...and it's Casting By! An HBO doc about the unsung art of casting directors and a more thorough examination of notable pioneer Marion Dougherty who basically found every good actor from 1954 to 1989.

It's well constructed and has the suitably impressive amount of talent interviews needed to make the case for the profession, but also kind of feels like two shorts shoved together. The grudging stuff about how the position gets no respect in Hollywood's (or evil Taylor Hackford's) eyes is one thing, but the Dougherty biopic stuff is almost separately another. I mean I get that they are making an example of her career to prove their point, but considering she raised up a whole generation of talented casting directors who have spread Dougherty's method of casting across the industry, I could've used one or two stories about how they were awesome as well. If the cool casting anecdotes that drive this movie (seeing stars while they're super young or hearing about the other people who were up for now-famous roles or learning how particular roles were adapted through casting such as making Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon black are definitely the meat and potatoes of this movie) came from a multitude of casting directors rather than just one - like how Visions of Light showcased handfuls of great cinematographers - it might make the argumentative case stronger albeit at the loss of honoring Dougherty quite so much.

In any case, I'm a sucker for movies about movies so this still worked for me. Nice opener!

Coming up next: another HBO doc, this one much more recent!
10.25.13 Tales from the Quadead ZoneChester N. TurnerAfter a pretty great Q&A (highlights: learning that during production of Devil Doll one location burned down and one actor was murdered; they made up names for most of the credits to make it seem like it wasn't all just Chester, his brother Keefe, and Shirly; Devil Doll was originally going to be one of the Tales from the Quadead zone but in his frenzied three-day writing binge he realized it would be too long, but they had already shot the 'Brothers' segment from Quadead before Devil Doll) everybody settled in to watch a midnight screening of this movie.

Also pretty rough on second viewing. the white hillbillies "living high on the hog in the witness protection program" was still funny but both the Brothers segment and the last part dragged for me. I noticed people bailing though which gave me a weird nice feeling of some of the rougher Weird Wednesdays back in the day.

I also made the mistake of not eating before the show so by the end I was preoccupied wondering if anywhere was still open for me to eat. Because of that I kind of hurried out which was surreal because I swear I saw Steve Little (improve comedian best known as Stevie in Eastbound and Down) outside as I left and if I was hanging out more I maybe could've told him I liked his performance in Wrong.

Anyway, it was a fun night. The reality of the movies themselves hit me a little more than I thought they would, but I definitely enjoyed the experience.
10.25.13 Black Devil Doll from HellChester N. TurnerSomehow Chester Turner figured out that people love the movies he made 30 years ago so now he's doing appearances promoting his new merch and an upcoming sequel. This means that every Weird Wednesday aficionado in town had to choose between AFF, Goblin playing live, or showing up at the Marchesa to see a double feature of Black Devil Doll from Hell and Tales from the Quadead Zone with live Q&A from Turner and star Shirley Jones!

Lars, Bryan Connolly and everybody else was pretty excited for this. I guess the rumor was that Chester Turner was long dead so these weird VHS tapes floated in a perfect mythical oasis for tapeheads and obscure exploitation cineasts. I guess it might be like figuring out J.D. Salinger was your neighbor? In any case, it was real cool to see a lot of the old regulars from back when I was going to the Alamo a lot, and equally great to see these movies again in a pretty crowded theater.

Turner had a copy of his master tape that didn't include Ichikawa's heavy metal intro and the sound mix was several generations above the first copy I saw which replaced what sounded like a crucial monologue with the casio soundtrack. The song was still here in this version but the dialogue was indeed understandable and I kind of feel like it changes the arc of the movie a hell of a lot! I think it was also a little bit longer cut because...

...goddamn did this feel long. 70 minutes my ass. it felt a full 90 to me. It kind of made me miss the kitchen schedule of the Alamo where when you saw the checks drop you knew you had 40ish minutes left. I mean I liked seeing it again, but it was also pretty rough. The great moment where the doll speaks for the first time is still pretty special and the bizarre climax is still just as rushed and random but there's a lot of treading water as well.

No shit right? It's not like the first cut I saw was some master class in editing. I think just the novelty and surprise of first exposure helped out a lot whereas this time I was sort of awash in it wishing it could hurry on with things.
09.26.13The Zero TheoremTerry GilliamAnd here it is... the last movie of the fest. And I'm writing these notes ON THE DAY! I think this may be a first for me... I will wake up tomorrow with none of this hanging over me! Yay!

So this takes place in a near future where ad saturation, consumerism, idiocratic dumbatization, and NSA surveillance have all run rampant. It's a very interesting world that yells GILLIAM in every corner of the frame. Christoph Waltz plays a weird bald guy who probably has Asberger's who works for some huge Big Brother type figure played by Matt Damon. The movie deals with all sorts of topical themes that... funny enough we had a video intro where Gilliam kind of rambled on funny tangents but as I watched the movie I suspected those tangents weren't so random after all. If that was intentional then... that's a pretty crazy intro!

Also, Gilliam's taste in beautiful actresses is exquisite. Jesus Christ is Melanie Thierry hot in this just like Lily Cole was hot in Parnassus. Whew.

Let's see what else. In thought it was OK. Certainly better than Parnassus and Tideland and probably Brothers Grimm. Still, it was missing a certain something for me to really connect with it. But you know... fuck me. I'm so glad we're in a world where Gilliam still gets to make movies that he wants to make, movies that are challenging and say something and ask questions. This week has really bolstered my faith in creative storytelling through cinema. Either I'm getting damn good at avoiding the bad movies or this year's programming was pretty damn good.

After I got out I watched a guy get lit on fire then jump from the roof of the Alamo into a inflated cushion, then I saw the explosion of a car blowing up, a glimpse of a guy on fire, and a tiny bit of a car jumping off a ramp into the burning carcass of the previous car. Yeah stunts!

I did my best at the party. I guess because of the stunt thing (or maybe other reasons) the party was held in the parking lot outside the theater. They had pork and potato salad as well as corn dogs and a bucking bulldog thing set up along with a big slide and a mini version of the death-defying leap where you fall into a bouncy castle type thing. They also had a dunking booth where I saw Tim League get dropped and - most curiously - an impromptu game of slapfighting or whatever it may be called. People just started gathering around in a circle Fight Club style and slapping each other silly. It was pretty odd.

It was also muggy which made me sweaty and uncomfortable, but I did get to hang out with all my movie friends one more time which made me want to see them more often. Maybe this year I will!?

Once again I need to remind myself that this week is tons of fun and not a burden and to look forward to it next year rather than stress over it like I seem to do every year. If I get a VIP that is. Dear lord please let me get a VIP.

Anyway, recap time: I think I saw 30 movies, least favorites were:

1. Machete Kills
2. Goldberg & Eisenberg
3. The Green Inferno
4. Patrick
5. Mirage Men

And those were really the only five I didn't like, which is great. Top five were:

1. Gravity
2. Grand Piano
3. Jodorowsky's Dune
4. Why Don't You Go Play in Hell
5. Maruyama The Middle Schooler

And now I guess I return to real life! Bummer...
09.26.13 Goldberg & EisenbergOren CarmiThis was a whole in my schedule where I'd seen everything else. In hindsight I should've watched Timecrimes again. Oh well.

This one's about a guy who... doesn't say hello back to another guy or something so the other guy torments the shit out of him and things escalate. I guess it's notable for being Israeli.

I didn't like this much. Sounds lame but I never felt the motivation for the crazy guy and the straight guy was too weird to be sympathetic. I also didn't like the weird steps in plot progression and... I don't know I just wasn't a fan.
09.26.13 Blue RuinJeremy SaulnierA hobo learns that the dude who killed his parents is getting out of jail and things go from there. I feel like most of the tone and pacing of this movie is due to the lead actor who gives a great performance as a shy hesitant man indelibly crippled by the loss of his parents. Of course the writer-director probably had something to do with it as well but this lead actor is not someone you'd immediately think perfect for a revenge movie and that's most of why I liked it. I also really liked the methodical approach the director takes in showing what's happening through silent details that create a larger picture. I got the sense that he doesn't take his audience for idiots which is always nice and sadly refreshing.

A great little revenge thriller with a unique tone shot in Virginia. I liked this one a lot.
09.25.13 Metallica: Through the NeverNimrod AntalMy last movie of the night was this concert film which most non-Metallica fans hoped had a lot of narrative in it. It didn't. it was basically a music video's worth of story in between performances. I mean it's a bit more than that... but mostly it's concert footage and what little narrative present is pretty hilarious.

Let's see. Well I sat next to a big Metallica fan so that helped, and they had it loud as shit to where you could feel the bass rumble the floor so that helped. And the movie wasn't terrible. I got the sense that Metallica fans liked it.

One dude started headbanging and freaking out when they played his favorite song. It was hilarious to see him sitting next to a completely still Nacho...

I feel like I would've rather had another Metallica documentary but this wasn't terrible. I mean if it was a band I liked I would've loved it.

The Q&A was great though. Kirk Hammett talked horror movies, Robert Trujilo made some jokes, and Tim was a great moderator. The last question of the night was classic:
Q: What's Lars doing tonight?
A (Kirk): Probably as much as he can, man.
09.25.13A Field in EnglandBen WheatleyBen Wheatley's latest about some british soldiers in like the 1400s or whatever. There's a bit of magic and hallucinations but mostly it's dirty guys walking around in a field. It was ok.
09.25.13 We Gotta Get Out of this PlaceSimon Hawkins, Zeke HawkinsThis movie wins my award for shortest running time. I'm not sure what the actual running time was but it seemed the shortest to me. A handful of texas teens get in trouble with their crazy employer and stuff happens. It's a taut little noirish thing with good performances (especially from Mark Pellegrino (perhaps best known as Jackie Treehorn's thug in Big Lebowski who shoves The Dude's head in a toilet then looks at his bowling ball) and a few cameos from John Gries and William Devane) that does what it's here to do then gets the hell out. Not a lot of fat on this one, which I respect. Nice little film.
09.25.13The CongressAri FolmanPretty heady sci-fi starring Robin Wright as herself in a world where actors are signing their likeness away to a digital scan of themselves that studios can use to make whatever movie they want. THEN it gets weird.

Like I said this was pretty heady. There's a hefty animated sequence in the middle that made me think this is what Roger Rabbit would've been directed by Tarkovsky rather than Bob Zemeckis.

I liked it but probably wouldn't watch it again. There's some good ideas in here though about what the future may hold.
09.24.13 GravityAlfonso CuaronGoddamn amazing film. Here we are watching a week's worth of festival films then this behemoth comes and reminds me what an actual GREAT film is like. It absolutely floored me. It's playing in a different league. Jesus Christ.

I don't even know what to write. Every frame is beautiful, it's a great inventive use of 3D (especially the POV shots), it's claustrophobic on a grand scale, the tension never lets up, I caught myself holding my breath and flinching at the screen, gush gush gush, holy shit, where's the tylenol?

Favorite movie of the fest for me. I know it's not fair but whatever. The heart wants what it wants.
09.24.13 Cheap ThrillsE.L. KatzA couple of old highschool friends are engaged by a rich couple in a series of escalating bets and dares that wind up suitably dark. Pat Healy, Ethan Embry (who's pretty scary now), and Dave Koechner carry the movie. Well them and a strong script. It's fun and funny and gruesome and makes you feel kind of dirty just like any dark comedy should. Really a lot of nasty fun and good bad times. I liked this one a lot.
09.24.13 Confession of MurderJeong Byeong-gilAnother Korean revenge movie that's good. It kind of sucks but the fact that there are so many Korean revenge movies in the last few years and that all of them have been pretty decent means that this having some good action scenes and a nice twisty turny plot and fine performances doesn't really set it apart. I don't know if this will stick in my mind over something like I Saw the Devil, but it's certainly good and worth watching.
09.23.13 Why Don't You Play in Hell?Shion SonoThe only Sono movie I've seen is Love Exposure which Jarrette more or less dragged me to and I ended up begrudgingly liking it which has since softened into very fond memories. Now he presents a movie that's just as crazy to describe... totally different... but really amazing and crazy and hilarious. I really liked this movie a ton.

It's about a group of kids who want to be filmmakers, and a Yakuza daughter... and some events that tie them all together to wind up with battling Yakuza agreeing to film their fight for a movie. It's the craziest bloodiest movie about making a movie that I've ever seen. And the ending is great. I took it to mean "Never mind about any rules or reality, just have fun and go with it!" FUCK BOMBERS!!!

Really great great amazing movie. I guess I need to see more Sono movies.
09.23.13 Child of GodJames FrancoThe second secret screening is James Franco's new film. Tim league said not to tweet or social media about this movie until it screens at New York next Sunday but I figure at this point I don't have any readers left so this is safe. If anyone does read this and it's before 10/06/2013 at 11:30 EST, please do not spread this around. I'd hate to get the Alamo in trouble. Thanks. Also, I'll change the title at that time so it makes sense. or I'll forget and look at this years later and say "I don't remember watching This is the End at Fantastic Fest. Huh!"

So... apparently people hated this at Toronto, but Tim said he loved it and thought it would do a lot better here. I agree that this is a Fantastic Fest type of movie. It's based on a Cormac McCarthy book and deals with a crazy guy in the woods of Tennessee in the 40s or 50s who lives off the land and talks to himself and wipes shit from his ass with sticks and eventually falls in love. Things progress from there.

I don't want to spoil anything, but I'd be remiss not to note that for all of Eli's comments about how he wants to introduce the cannibal genre to mainstream American audiences, James Franco's got you beat, buddy! I don't think this will ever play in a Tinseltown but god help us if it ever does. And Franco doesn't list out movies like Nekromantik in the end credits either.

I thought I'd hate this movie and I didn't. I liked it more than didn't like it. It's pretty damn slow, but the parts that are interesting are pretty damn interesting and that's enough for me. Definitely liked it more than Green Inferno, not to even mention Machete Kills.
09.23.13The Unknown KnownErrol MorrisErrol Morris' new doc interviewing Donald Rumsfeld. I would say that Morris' recent predilection toward politics is maybe wearing thin but my experience with Tabloid (which could be seen as a return to form for him) felt kind of shallow compared to interviewing high-profile public officials like McNamara and Rumsfeld so... who knows.

I think it is pretty clear that he didn't exactly crack Rumsfeld like he did McNamara in Fog of War so instead the movie had to become more about Rumsfeld's perception of himself (similar to Oliver Stone's interviews with Fidel Castro). I still found this to be an engaging and captivating film and some of Rumsfeld's answers, arranged to most clearly show his... shifting viewpoints really hit home. "We don't assassinate people" / "That wasn't an assassination attempt, it was an act of war."

Mostly I just wonder what it's like to be Morris' subject. To sit there for hours, staring into his interrotron , looking into his slightly-crossed eyes, all those long silences between questions to let me keep talking if I feel like it. It's got to be a unique, and I'd guess unsettling, experience. Makes great movies though.
09.23.13 Tales of the Organ TradeRic Esther BienstockA HBO documentary about the organ transplant black market, most significantly dealing with kidneys. I'd never call this movie objective since it presents a clearly biased point of view in that poor people from third world countries are willing to sell their organs and rich people from first world countries don't have enough healthy kidneys to go around so what's the problem why are these doctors being prosecuted for saving lives... but the doc is still harrowing and eye-opening and presents its case well enough to be taken seriously. Plus I'm not really sure a doc HAS to be objective. Why go to the trouble to make a movie about something just to get criticized for not representing the side you don't agree with? It's not like non-fiction movies took some Journalistic oath or anything.

Anyway, I'm sure there is exploitation and organized crime to some of this (that regulation would help (parable to the drug trade? blaaah too political)) that the movie doesn't get into, but it's intense enough as it is. My takeaway from watching this is DON'T GET KIDNEY FAILURE.
09.22.13 Maruyama the Middle SchoolerKankuro KudoThis is a movie about a 14 year old kid trying to suck is own dick. This, like Detective Downs, was on my schedule out of sheer curiosity that someone would make a movie about this. And, like Detective Downs, it wound up be wonderfully endearing and charming and enjoyable.

Not only is Maruyama obsessed with licking his own dick, he's also got an overactive imagination that invents superhero personas for his parents and the people who live in his apartment complex. These fantasy sequences are sweet and funny and his burgeoning romance with a neighbor combined with the mystery of a serial killer make the whole movie just a lovely little package. This is what I imagine The Lady in the Water was trying to be. I am comparing it a bit to A Boy and his Samurai from several years ago at the festival. It's just a great fun movie that I liked very much.
09.22.13The Green InfernoEli RothThe first secret screening is Eli Roth's new movie about college students who get into trouble. This time, rather than the woods or eastern European torture houses, it's the jungle of Peru where Eli can make his own cannibal movie just like his friend Ruggero Deodato.

So... i have mixed feelings on this. Some of the gore and stuff in the native camp was good I thought. However, a lot of it's kind of not good at all, like he script and performances and structure of the movie and ending and a handful of nonsensical scenes sprinkled throughout. And this is going to come off making me sound terrible but the film so clearly sets up this threat of female circumcision in like the first scene of the movie to where I was like "well at least I'll get to see some female genital mutilation." The threat of that very specific act carries through the entire movie but - SPOILER ALERT - it never happens. What kind of Eli Roth movie is it where the ticking timebomb doesn't go off? I don't get it, why he'd pull back on that and show us fake limbs getting hacked off instead. I feel like it's a dire mistake that kills the movie because everything else has been done better 35 years ago.

he also does this thing where he lists the standout cannibal titles and their information in the end credits. Part of me likes that because it's probably useful to some people and his intention was to give those interested a way to explore the genre but another part of me hates it like how pretentious is he to be the savior of all cannibal movies and give the world a lecture of film history. So I dunno.

Overall I didn't really like it but I also didn't fall asleep or walk out or anything so it wasn't like... completely terrible. I liked it more than Machete Kills.
09.22.13 Mood IndigoMichel GondryMichel Gondry's latest and I'm very glad I got a chance to see this. I really love Gondry and think he's one of the most original and creative people working today. Unfortunately, none of his movies have really 100% connected with me the way I feel they should. I'm forever waiting for that one perfect movie from him that I'll probably never get. In the meantime, I get movies like this.

The first half hour or so of this movie is pure cinematic bliss. It's filled with surrealistic whimsy and fantastic absurdity and everything I love about Gondry. Everything from the piancocktail to the Biglemoi dance is superb and lovely and makes me uncontrollably smile. Audrey Tatou is the perfect Gondry actress, The lead and Gad Emelah are perfect Gondry leading men, I love seeing Paris through Gondry's eyes. Everything's just perfect perfect perfect.

Then things get sad.

And I don't mean like someone stubs their toe. I mean like things get so sad that the movie winds up in black and white with the iris hiding the corners of the frame, like the film itself is so depressed it can barely capture light anymore. It is such a huge depressio bummer of a second half with no silver lining that it really hurts my enjoyment of the movie. Why is every Gondry movie so sad!?

Anyway, that's Mood Indigo. Overall I liked it, but man...
09.22.13 Mirage MenRoland DenningThis doc is about the disinformation campaign that the government instituted regarding UFO stuff going on in their air force bases. It's largely an examination of one guy named Richard Doty who worked in manipulating and disseminating a lot of the false information that UFO nuts have grabbed onto.

Doty is an interesting interview, but most of this movie feels like something I'd see on the syfy network and the film doesn't even attempt to answer anything but rather convolute itself and give the impression that the truth is unobtainable. While the bare fact that various government agencies have active disinformation departments is interesting, by the end of the doc I was kind of questioning whether this whole movie is a waste of time or not. I guess that's how some people felt about Room 237 last year, but that had the film and Kubrick to anchor my interest whereas this is kind of just some kooky interviews in hotel rooms.
09.21.13 MoebiusKim Ki-dukA movie without any dialog. True story: For the first ten or so minutes the sound was out of synch but because it all sounded like post sound and there was no dialogue to ground it, the entire audience had no clue that anything was wrong. I know I just though "wow this movie is fucking experimental".

After they got the sound issue sorted, the movie began again in earnest. I have to say... for a movie with no dialogue to play at midnight is pretty ballsy. I didn't doze off once though and I also didn't see anyone leave.

It could be described as a castration comedy, but there's also some pretty heavy drama going on. Lots of castration though. My favorite part was anything involving this researched technique about how, in lieu of a penis to rub, you could get off by rubbin a rough stone against your skin until it's completely raw. Several characters try it and that orgasm-pleasure-followed-by-incapacitating-pain was always funny to me. Later in the film this idea progressed to getting stabbed and working the knife handle kind of like a cock. Great twisted Fantastic Fest moment...

I liked it.
09.21.13 Jodorowsky's DuneFrank PavichA doc about the movie that never was. I wasn't really familiar with all the details of this unmade film so it was a pretty fun ride for me to watch this. Unlike The Man from La Mancha where I got the feeling that if Gilliam had succeeded in finishing the movie it probably would've been terrible, I cannot imagine how amazing Jodorowsky's Dune would've been. Salvador Dali and Orson Welles in a movie together!? Pink Floyd soundtrack!? Dan O'Bannon and H.R. Giger doing a space movie before Star Wars!? It's really inconceivable to run the "what if..." permutations on this.

The movie itself is great and really well done. They got fantastic interviews with Jodorowsky (who I will want to call Hodor from now on) and did a great job of visualizing everything. One of the my faves from the festival.
09.21.13 Man of Tai ChiKeanu ReevesKeanu Reeves' directorial effort is a solid liget Hong Kong action movie. Yuen Wo Ping did the fight scenes which are amazing and tell a story. I'm kind of blanking on what to say other than it was good, nothing was terrible, and it kicked some ass.

I guess I should take this as a sign to take a break from note-writing. No! I must get through these! Forgetting what I thought about all these movies is the worst part of fantastic fest.
09.21.13 NightbreedClive BarkerThis was a real disappointment for me. I loved Nightbreed as a kid so watching an extra 45 minutes of it should've been something amazing. A few things held me back though.

This new cut was basically constructed using two VHS work prints and the DVD of the theatrical cut and there's been no image resoration at all so it constantly flips between finished-quality DVD scenes and fuzzy duped VHS scenes of varying quality. It looks like one workprint had copyright text in the top corner that they blacked out while the other had gone through a few more generations and had lost most of its audio and visual information.

Furthermore, the new editor used a lot of alternate takes of scenes that ended up in the movie so it was kind of like watching a shittier version of the same movie with only small nuances to set it apart.

Thirdly, a lot of the new matieral is kind of lame and was cut for a reason. They'd be fine as deleted scenes on a special edition but don't make the movie any better for me.

And lastly, this promised "completely different movie" is not actually that different. There are no gigantic plot differences or huge tonal shifts or even added plot lines. It's just a flabbier more muddled version of Nightbreed.

So oh well.
09.21.13 Journey to the West: Conquering the DemonsStephen ChowGod damn the notes keep coming.

This is Stephen Chow's latest and the first of his that I've seen since Kung Fu Hustle (which at the time I thought "too much kung fu, not enough hustle" because I was an idiot who didn't know anything about movies). This one deals a bit more with fantasy or history (however China sees this stuff) by following a demon hunter trying to achieve enlightenment. It's mostly funny but there's fighting and the end goes to 10 when all the demon hunters have to take on the Monkey King and Space Buddha makes an appearance. Overall I liked the movie. I'd put it in the same drawer as that one that played a few years ago starring Chow Yun Fat in that it was light and fun and a spectacle but not something I will hold next to my heart forever.
09.20.13 Witching and BitchingAlex de la IglesiaMy first Alex de la Iglesia movie. Batshit crazy. Starts off as a crime comedy then goes unapologetically supernatural with all sorts of witch shit. The title, although weak, is very apt. I think every scene is either people complaining or witches doing stuff (and sometimes both).

I have to say though, I dozed through the end when things got even more wacky and CG but I don't know if it hurt my enjoyment any. Like I'm not sure knowing what was going on was any better than hazing in and out of the craziness that I saw. It does probably mean that this won't stick in my mind but oh well, I liked it at the time.
09.20.13The SacrementTi WestWhen Ti West came out and said "whatever perceptions you have in your head about what a Ti West movie is or what an Eli Roth movie is, put those on pause while you watch this" I had a hope that I might like this.

AJ Bowen plays a VICE journalist who goes into a cult compound and they film what goes on there.

Several years ago there was a stellar doc on Jonestown that played the video footage of the news crew get shot upon trying to leave in their helicoptor and the audio recording of the Kool-Aid being administered. Very chilling stuff.

This movie is basically a re-enactment of that. It's a good re-enactment, and the performances (especially that of Gene Jones) are great and the tone hits and nobody cheapens the experience with jump scares or ironic music queues. It's pretty dark but so was the real thing.

So... at this point I might have to rescind my Ti West ban and start seeing his movies again. I really like that he's growing as a filmmaker and hope he continues to do so. I liked this.
09.20.13 Grand PianoEugenio MiraElijah Wood plays a master pianist who gives a comeback performance and realized that there's a gun pointed at him demanding he not miss one note. It's a very Hitchcockian suspense story masterfully told. This might be my favorite of the fest this year. It's such a swiss clock of a movie made up of individually remarkable pieces that consolidate into a great viewing experience.

Incidentally, I heard more people say it was DePalma-ian than Hitchcockian. Why? There's one split screen shot in the movie, is that it? Gah.

My DePalma pecodillo aside, that one shot is obscenely great. It's a flashy technocrane deep focus shot that match cuts to matching static/zoom shots in split screen. Oh man...

Gush gush gush. I'm shocked that was really Elijah playing and not some digital hand transplant. It's a great movie. loved it.
09.20.13 Detective DownsBard BreienI signed up for this one out of morbid curiosity because ususally the fest has a handful of these that they pick specifically because they're better than you think they'd be. That holds true in this case as well.

The story is a son of a police detective wants to be a private investigator but he has Down syndrome so nobody takes him seriously, until one day someone hires him for real. The movie manages to have its cake and eat it too in that it's funny and plays on the disability without coming off as exploitative or mean and it delivers a decent noir mystery and emotional character arcs to boot. Plus its shot well and all that technical whatnot. Really the only problem I had was their use of a Living La Vida Loca cover over the end credits. I hate having that song stuck in my head.

Liked it a lot.
09.20.13 Escape from TomorrowRandy MooreHoly shit I have a lot of notes to write. Let's get into it.

Escape from Tomorrow is a sort-of thriller that got a lot of publicity at Sundance because it was largely shot at Disney World in Orlando. Because of that, the film makes use of a lot of the iconography and people at the park to make a statement about human nature (at least that's what I took from it although I may be wrong). The story follows a family through a day at the park and mostly focuses on the dad who ends up following around a couple of skinny french teenage girls and leching out. There's also strands of plot following the son's oedipal complex, this mysterious cat flu that's going around, and a bizarre third act that propels it into some sci-fi territory.

This was really good. It's kind of amazing that the movie looks as good as it does considering it was all covert guerilla style, and the script and performances are good enough to make it a movie more than some anarchist experiment that I was afraid it might be. I still don't completely understand the ending (which I take as a good sign) so the overall theme is a bit muddled for me, but I got an overall impression that at least it was saying Something which is nice. Liked it a lot.
09.19.13 PatrickMark HartleyNext up is this remake of an old Aussie thriller which I haven't seen. Charles Dance plays a creepy doctor (awesome) and Rachel Griffiths plays a creepy nurse (awesome) and Sharni whatshernamefromYou'reNext plays a nurse who's skinny and pretty hot but not as hot as her slutty co-worker. I liked the director's previous documentary efforts so I kind of want to pad my blows in case through some cruel twist of fate he actually reads this. I really applaud that he made a movie and tried for something a bit out of the ordinary (a throwback Gothic Thriller), but it didn't really work for me.

I didn't hate this (liked it more than Machete Kills) but it wasn't great either. To me, if you're setting your movie in a creepy hospital place with gothic architecture and stuff, you have to wallow in atmosphere. That means more than color correction and high camera angles. I wish they would've watched Robert Wise' The Haunting a few more times to study the deliberate pace of that film and realize you have to let everything breathe. 2 or 3 jump scares can be fun, 48 is overkill and desensitized the audience.

So I think it was a good choice to go for that tone, but I wish it was executed with a bit more wisdom. Sorry, Mark! Make another one!
09.19.13 Machete KillsRobert RodriguezAnother Fantastic Fest! I can't believe this is the 9th one... Seems not so long ago that I rolled up on South Lamar to watch Zathura and Hostel and Strings and the extended Sin City cut. I made several really good friends that year sitting in the non-existant lines and watching post-apocalyptic awesomeness like Miracle Mile and Last Wave.

Cut forward to a brand new theater covered in promo materials, red carpets with press (some actual!) and the opening night film spilling into three theaters to fit everyone. Pretty crazy stuff.

So this is my first visit to Lakeline. I feel like it's in no way an indicative experience but for the sake of record I'll summarize my feelings on it: tables are weird, not a lot of seats but decent auditorium size, smallish lobby, menu isn't as bad as I'd heard but they're definitely following trend now rather than sticking to their own stuff and everything's pretty crazy expensive, parking is confusing and somewhat nightmarish.

Machete Kills: Didn't like it. They played a trailer for the third one as the beginning of the movie. Kind of like spoiling your own movie, not that there's anything anyone would care about spoilin. I envision the writer in a room divining his craft:

writer: (writer writes a line) What do you think?

writer's roomate: I don't feel like vomitting yet, better re-write.

writer: (forms machete's line in third person) how about now?

writer's roomate: (vomits) nailed it.

Lots of fake heads and cheap visual effects and Rodriguez's pg-13 brand of sex appeal. I bet it was fun to make, which I guess is great for them.

Rodriguez reminds me of a guy i knew in college. His enthusiasm far outreached his talent. On one hand I have to respect that he keeps making movies and involves local crew and all of that, but on the other hand I sure wish his movies were better.
09.06.13 Indie Game: The MovieLisanne Pajot, James SwirskyFinally watched this too. I can't help but compare it to the Minecraft doc because of subject matter and timing. I feel like this might be more entertaining to non-gamers because it focuses more on interviews with the people but the Minecraft doc is a more effective movie. Here, you basically have three and a half people going through the same exact experience. I don't know if they just got really lucky with their subject selection or they chose all those guys knowing their games were pretty heavily anticipated... It would have been nice to throw in a guy that didn't become a millionaire... I guess Phil Fish was a still a question mark and it's a hard argument to say "make the movie more boring in the sake of realism" but I still got the sense that people might watch this and say "all I have to do is whine for a few years then I get a million dollars. Easy!"
09.06.13 Killing Them SoftlyAndrew DominickI heard this was a bit disappointing. It's true, I was a bit disappointed. But that's just because... I don't really know why. The movie's really well made and the characters seem authentic and nuanced and I love all the actors and all of that... maybe it's the election coverage overkill or the anticlimax of the final scene or what but I just wanted this movie to be... MORE. Who knows.
08.31.13 Minecraft: The Story of MojangPaul OwensI finally sat down and watched the Minecraft doc! It was great, but I'm probably biased because I'm a fan of the game, the company/guy who made it, and the people who made this movie. The stuff 2 Player Productions have gone on to do with Double Fine Productions is stellar in my view. They're really driving hard to capture the creativity and fun around video games while also portraying the long hours of hard work and constant compromise that goes along with it. Plus the films are photographed well, put together concisely and really look like more than 3-5 people are responsible for the whole thing.

This movie was very much like that. Lots of good interviews intercut with follow-alongs for Mojang's coming out party and a year of their incredible growth and core interviews with the team that make up a portrait of the company and creator Notch. Really the only thing missing is an interview with C418 who did the music. I'm not sure if he wasn't included because he did the score for the doc as well as the game or what but I missed seeing him here since he's also very much an independent artist and fits the Mojang mold well.

I liked that Junk Boy maintained his anonymity throughout even though he immediately drew my eye whenever he was in frame. I also like that so many people have screwed up teeth. I feel like these days at a glance you can immediately tell if a movie is a doc or fiction narrative just by the teeth. Perfect and whiter than the sun = Hollywood movie, fucked up = doc.

So yeah... just a solid doc that really portrays the wonder and magic and incredible success of Minecraft really well.
08.30.13 HardcorePaul SchraderGeorge C. Scott's innocent daughter goes missing during a church trip to California and shows up in a stag film so he has to leave Grand Rapids and tour the sleaze of LA in search of her.

Man oh man... so for whatever reason I find the sordid grime of 70s NYC and 42nd Street and all that very captivating. I doubt I'd actually like to be there but as seen through the lens of a camera I really love it. In that vein this movie really hit a home run for me which kind of made me feel dirty and question my tastes a little bit. Schrader has no problem at all with not only visiting but straight up wallowing in all of it. Seedy hotels, peep booths, adult book stores, massage joints, pimp bars, porno sets, etc. etc. It's a total descent into depravity for George C. Scott and I have to say he's a trooper. His wardrobe shifts throughout the film as he more or less goes undercover so we get to see him wearing these "swinger" clothes and for one scene he has a wig and fake mustache that makes him look too much like Tom Savini.

The plot is pretty loose and the ending is kind of expected and anti-climactic but something about the tone and certainly the level of (I guess) authenticity with the locations was really great and has stuck with me.

As I self-evaluate a bit, I hope the charm of this sleaze is not a buried perv streak in me like I was a peeper or prowler in a previous life but instead more of an anthropological artifact of pre-AIDS American subculture. I feel like there was a relatively short window where sex and sleaze really thrust forward before morality and risk of death whipped it back to what I grew up with. For me in high school and after, every town had a XXX bookstore and a strip club and every mom & pop store had a porno section which it probably thrived on but that was it. Everything was very repressed and to an underage kid access to any of those places was some sort of taboo xanadu. I feel like once everyone got Internet all that changed because it's hard to NOT find porn these days and pre-70s I feel like it was National Geogrpahics and Betty Page pinups and occasional 8mm reels and stuff like that. But from - I dunno - 75 to 85 it was open season. I remember as a small kid riding in the backseat of my parents car in the valley seeing the Pussycat theater and my eye being attracted to the glitz of neon and the caricature above the marquee. I don't think I could read any of the titles so I just thought it was another theater like Mann's Chinese or whatever. Similarly when I see movies like this or shots from Times Square at that time... all the little marquee bulbs and black lettering on yellow backdrops, peep booths, all nude revues and all that... it's right out there. Fascinating. I mean, they all probably had the same stigma as I felt with the discreetly-titled bookstores of my puberty but surely they had to be harder to ignore. In any case, I feel like that's pretty much gone today. Now it's Hooters for business lunches or The Yellow Rose for strip bars or the occasional bookstore if you're gay and horny enough to play STD roulette. A different time to be sure.

But you know... all that's from my perspective. I'm sure I'm wrong about most of it. In any case though, I find it interesting to see George C. Scott flipping through an erotic novel at a book store filled with print material rather than video tapes, dvds, or blu-rays. Very seedy still, but in a fuzzy nostalgic way.
08.24.13 Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor DayMike ClattenburgFinally catching up with this. It wasn't as funny as the rest of the series... maybe the novelty of who these characters are has worn off so when relying on plot for humor it falls short? Not sure but it seemed more sad than funny this time around. I did chuckle a few times though and loved Randy's "fat wound" and mostly I like all the characters and the world so more hanging out with them isn't bad... it just feels pretty familiar. Also it's an absolute marvel that the wardrobe and cars are still around. That black and white shark-tooth shirt of Ricky's must feel abhorrent to wear.
08.23.13The DictatorLarry CharlesNot 100% terrible because I laughed a few times. Not great but for a movie with the same joke over and over again I guess it could've been worse. I laughed a few times. My favorite was probably the birth scene. Kind of fell asleep at the end. oh well.
08.14.13The SapphiresWayne BlairGroup of Aboriginal women become soul sisters and tour Viet Nam. It wasn't bad really but was pretty much exactly what I thought it would be. There wasn't really a conflict per se, but a nice pleasant story. meh.
08.13.13 Clear HistoryGreg MottolaLarry David's HBO movie that's basically like a 100 minute season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I don't mean that in a bad way. I thought this was pretty pretty funny and it's nice to see some bigger actors play around with Larry rather than the tried and true cast. Michael Keaton in particular was great. And I like how he wore a Larry Charles-esque hairstyle in the beginning.

Pretty pretty good.
08.10.13 Midnight in ParisWoody AllenFor anyone taken with romantic notions of nostalgia, a group in which I very much include myself, this movie finds that nerve and grabs it and indulges it with every pleasant sensation for 90 minutes. It's unbelievable how fantastic the scenes of fantasy fulfillment are, even if the message at the end is that such things are pointless. Still it's a pleasure I'm sure Woody Allen is guilty of wallowing in just as I am but he has the skill to present his Paris in the 20s stocked with artists and parties and boulevards in the most perfect way.

This is a really great movie. I love pretty much everything about it. I love where attention is paid and where Allen averts his gaze and chooses not to spend any time dwelling on logic. Really the only thing that doesn't ring perfect for me is Rachel McAdams' character; she seems a bit one-note to me and I could've used just a moment of sympathy... but really this movie's not about their relationship it's about Paris so it's really fine I guess.

And you know... generally... I love that Woody Allen is still working, still pushing out pictures. And every 5 or 10 years he makes one that really resonates and gets a lot of attention and then the next few will go unnoticed but it's really remarkable that he's had that much output in such a consistent manner. This was really great. I loved it.

A special note about the Surrealist conversation. How perfect was that. Sometimes Adrian Brody grates against me but I loved him here.
08.10.13 That's My BoySean AndersWell shit. I laughed at this and when I say that I don't mean once or twice in some ironic way at a particularly horrendous scene or lazy acting but as in consistent and audible laughter. I know, right? I mean yes Sandler has this terrible Boston accent and an older plus-size black stripper drinks orange juice upside down while hanging on a pole and delivering exposition, but there's also that bizarre not-quite-real world from Sandler's first handful of movies and some funny ensemble work going on that worked on me. Not all of it but enough to admit that I liked this. Plus jesus it went to some weird places. Oh and it was a really nice touch to use Susan Sarandon's daughter as the hot teacher. I'm as surprised as anyone that I liked this but... the laughter doesn't lie.
08.06.13 SavagesOliver StoneHate to say it but I feel like Oliver Stone is phasing himself out. Aside from a nice juicy role for Benicio del Toro and a decent performance from Salma Hayek this movie was very pedestrian. I know it's unfair to expect another JFK or NBK but... meh! I was still hoping for more than this. The narration alone is enough to kill this movie for me. Oh well, maybe his next one will work.
08.03.13The MuppetsJames BobinThe new Muppets movie. I like how they treat the universe as if the Muppets Show really existed but also where the Muppets are real instead of puppets. I feel like that gave the movie a basis to get as goofy as it wants to be (which is pretty damn goofy) and still tap into some emotion when need be. For a Muppets movie I thought this was pretty great. I mean that like there's nothing here I wouldn't want in a Muppets movie and can't think of anything not here that I missed. The goofy humor worked on me. I liked it.
07.29.13 HitchcockSacha GervasiThe bigger budget Hitchcock movie this year. The Armageddon to The Girl's Deep Impact. The Volcano to The Girl's Dante's Peak. The Capote to The Girl's Infamous (both starring Toby Jones!). You get my point.

I wound up liking this one a lot more. For one I much prefer Psycho to The Birds and the story of how it got made is much more interesting. For another I thought Anthony Hopkins' Hitch, while still occasionally dead-eyed and still doughy under all that make-up, was a more interesting and authentic portrayal of what I found the man to be via interviews and on-air footage. And thirdly, while this film still delves into Hitch's obsession with his leading ladies and paranoia surrounding his relationship with Alma, it ultimately resolves in a positive way. I feel like the story presented in The Girl is a little blip in Hitch's career and is less indicative of his whole life and career as the story told in this movie.

Plus it has some great casting. Ralph Macchio as Joseph Stefano, Michael Wincott as Ed Gein, James D'Arcy fucking knocks it out of the park with his Anthony Perkins. Scarlett Johansson is a tiny bit too recognizable as Janet Leigh although her performance is still solid and I see Leigh's mannerisms come through. Helen Mirren probably dips too far opposite Imelda Staunton in that she's really hot and fiery and although from what I've read Alma had the fire, she looked more like Staunton. But the sad truth is I'd rather watch Helen Mirren in a swimsuit than Imelda Staunton so... she wins. Both good actors though... ahem.

Anyway, I really loved seeing Psycho come together. I feel like these movies are only for movie lovers and pretty niche but I'm still glad they make them because stuff like this and that Citizen Kane movie with Live Schreiber and even that mediocre Nosferatu film with the great Willem Dafoe performance are all very watchable to me.

My favorite scene was right at the end as Hitch stood in the lobby listening to the crowd react to his shower scene. I really wanted a POV shot of the usher standing behind him getting to see this Hollywood luminary's private moment as he conducts the screams. How great would it have been to be that kid!?

Anyway, I'm not sure if it was that great to anyone who isn't a fan of Hitch (or doesn't even know who he is) but I really liked it.
07.24.13 J. EdgarClint EaswoodAnother boring biopic about someone famous where the most interesting and sensational thing about that person is downplayed. Lots of make-up. I guess it's technically proficient but it's all just so damn distracting. blaaaaaah
07.21.13The Big YearDavid FrankelSteve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson all compete to... see... the most birds... in one year? Not what I would consider a funny movie but it wasn't terrible either. I guess pleasant is the right term. The supporting cast is really solid and mostly goes unused but it's still nice to see recognizable faces in all the nooks and crannies. It's just weird that this movie was obviously expensive with all its actors and locations... but not very man... you know.. jokes.
07.20.13The GirlJulian JarroldHBO Movie about the Making of Hitchcock's The Birds and the director's obsession with Tippi Hedron. I forgot to log this so the date viewed is a rough approximation from memory. I liked it ok. When I was going through my Hitch phase and reading a bunch and watching all his movies, everybody was pretty apologetic and sympathetic toward Hitch as if to say "well, he's been married like 40 years, who wouldn't get turned on by a hot young blonde starlet?" but this movie was much more on Hedron's side, showcasing the mental and physical anguish that Hitch put her through during production and the ensuing career crush he did all because she didn't reciprocate his advances.

I don't know to what degree all of this happened but I feel like Toby Jones' performance is extra villainous. Part of it comes from his voice, which I guess he went gravelly because his normal speaking voice is much higher than Hitch's, but also it's just kind of a heavy take on the guy where every movie contains malice. Also, Imelda Staunton's portrayal of Alma maybe isn't quite as strong as she needs to be. Maybe a tiny bit too mousey. Sienna Miller's Tippi was good though.

I liked all the production stuff, the scenes where they're actually making the movie, but overall I didn't love this because it's just too negative. Even if all this stuff is true, Hitch's persona and body of work also contained a lot of lightness and humor. I guess I'm an apologist as well!
07.20.13 This is 40Judd ApatowJudd Apatow's career arc continues toward the dramatic. Maybe his next movie will be about death and funerals and involve people in comas or staring at children with cancer.

I guess that's a bit harsh for a movie I liked. Apatow's universe is still compelling to me even though it seems like Knocked Up will prove to be his sweet spot in the history books. I like these characters and how authentic they feel, love the kids and the smart writing of puberty, and really love how I get the feeling that source music was picked before they shoot the scenes. And all the people in this movie are funny... they just most aren't funny in this movie.

Which is ok because I feel like this one doesn't even pretend to be a comedy like Funny People did. It's a straight up drama with bits of humor like any other good drama could (should?) have, and I'm cool with that.
07.19.13 Viva Maria!Louis Malle2 Consecutive nights out at the movies. No joke but outside of a festival I think this is the first time that's happened in 5 years.

So this is the next in Lars' series of circus films that he programmed for AFS at the Marchesa. It stars Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau and Louis Malle directed it. It's funny because in his intro Lars mentioned how when he went through his French cinema phase (as I'm guessing we all did at some point) Truffaut and Godard really stood out for him but he didn't really "get" Malle. My own French period was pretty similar. I watched every Truffaut I could get my hands on and loved almost everything he did, watched a ton of Godard and never really got into him, but others like Chabrol and Malle I never really dived into as deeply, partly because of their availability to me at that point but also because I didn't really "get" them like I loved Truffaut and disagreed with Godard.

Anyway, rambling aside... this movie!

First of, I'll probably talk a lot about how amazing Bardot is in this but I don't want to undersell Moreau who is unbelievably beautiful and talented. I can't think of a better way of spending two hours than watching both of these ladies dance around in corsets. But Bardot... with this movie I finally understand her draw. I always sort of attributed her and movies like And God Created Woman as aging kind of badly that is to say having more impact in historical context than today. But in this movie, Bardot is playful and young and innocent and goddamn sexy and coy and blessed and beloved. Her performance and role really bring out everything I've ever heard about her and I'm happy to finally be able to appreciate her with zero qualification.

Lars said afterward that this is a big hit and I'm so glad because as I watched I kept feeling pangs of sadness because the epic scale of this movie paired with the goofy tone of its humor made me think there's NO WAY anyone liked this when it was made. If ever there was an Ishtar or Waterworld or Heaven's Gate category then this movie MUST be included. The humor is so slapstick and stupid and gaggy that the tremendous budget with the laundry list of locations and armies of extras and beautiful photography and ornate costumes would surely consign this movie to failure BUT IT WORKS! I wonder if this was like the Titanic or Avatar of the day where people were just sure it would bomb but then everybody in the world loved it. The impressive scale of the movie almost demands some controversy...


That's just my feelings based on the current state of the industry, knowing that they would never ever every make this today. I can't even imagine it really: a period epic about circus performers, slapstick comedy, and bloody revolution!? Like... imagine if Braveheart had Benny Hill comedy bits in it. No way critics would like that shit.

Either way, I couldn't help but feel a little sadness for the inevitable fate of this movie and I was really pleasantly surprised to hear it was a hit afterward. Huzzah!

So... I really enjoyed this. I think the prologue of Bardot's childhood really helped to set the tone so I was in the right groove for humour and like I said both leads were stunningly beautiful. Really great movie. I should track down more Malle stuff now it's all probably a search or two away.
07.18.13The Sex CycleJoe SarnoHuh! I spent the whole movie wondering if I'd seen this before and it turns out I had!

Anyway, Lars programmed this as the second in his Auteur Obscure series for AFS. It's a mid-60s sex film but with an arty psychological bent involving empowering earrings and topless ladies in masks. It's pretty rough construction, loose editing, amateur performances, and a really strange habit of buttoning scenes with a drum hit, but it also had plenty of weird charm to offer. I thought most of the women were beautiful in a natural way. This movie seemed to land post-nose job, pre-boob job so all the skinny girls had suitable busts which is kind of refreshing considering what passes for nudie movies today.

But really, I wish Sarno had a little more confidence in his writing so he didn't have to put so many drum hits in. That said, it's a vital lesson I will keep in my toolbox: if your people don't realize the scene is ending, throw a drum hit in there.

The screening itself was cool because I got to catch up with Sonja a little bit who I haven't seen in a while and Lars was kind of nervous in his lecture and someone farted in the middle of the movie. I mean I was sitting pretty far off to one side and I think it came somewhere from the center so the whole theater probably heard it. I don't know if the guy was betting on the seat having more padding or maybe he got the angle wrong or something but it was loud during a quiet part of the movie and we all heard it, guy.
07.15.13 Searching for Sugar ManMalik BendjelloulGood doc about this dude from Detroit whose music never took off in the states but was absolutely huge in South Africa without him ever knowing about it. Some South African dudes go on a search to track him down and eventually connect with him and he gets to learn how many people love his music. Couldn't ask for a better doc, right? I don't think there's many scenes as emotional as a poor old man standing in front of thousands of people who are cheering and screaming and yelling out appreciation for him after 30 years of working construction. I have to say it got a little dusty in the room for that scene. Sadness has never really gotten to me in movies but for some reason when people are tributing someone or showing appreciation or stuff like that it gets to me. I think It's A Wonderful Life is still really the only movie I've had to choke back tears from but it gets me every goddamn time. Anyway... digression.

The music is kind of Dylan-esque with a touch of Donovan psych thrown in. I'm not much for "poet" songs where the lyrics are the main focal point but I liked this guy's music well enough and it kind of grew on me as the movie went on. I don't think I'll be tracking it down like I did the Kashmere band after seeing Thunder Soul but this is probably a better doc cinematically speaking.
07.13.13The Five-Year EngagementNicholas StollerNot quite as charming as Forgetting Sarah Marshall but also not without its fair share of nice moments. Still, some inherent flaws here, like how the whole movie is people being unhappy. Oops. I still like all involved though, and the super quick shot of the fake deer sliding off the wet car roof made me really laugh for some reason. those floppy hoofs tangled up in the ropes really got to me. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if "It kind of feels like a bunny day" sticks into my personal lexicon of references-just-for-me that I sometimes say. Worth it.
07.13.13 Safe HouseDaniel Espinozaanother mediocre action movie about corrupt and rogue CIA agents. Basically a Bourne knock-off except in this one Ryan Reynolds plays a junior agent who's in charge of keeping a safe house in Capetown and Denzel is a rogue agent who turns himself in because assassinos are after him. Not terrible. Not great. Just another movie.
07.12.13 Lola MontesMax OphulsLola Montes! Lola Montes! This is one of those titles that sounds good yelled over and over again. I picture Billy Wilder yelling Avanti! Avanti! Lola Montes! I don't really know why.

Anyway, I watched this movie a long time ago when I read in an interview that Paul Thomas Anderson counted Ophuls amongst his most favorite directors. I like to think I don't remember much about that first viewing except some crazy camera moves and Peter Ustinov yelling her name. Lars and AFS gave me a convenient excuse to revisit this and soak in more of the story and structure now that I've (hopefully) matured a little bit as a filmgoer. As always, Lars provided solid context for the film which made me appreciate certain aspects such as who Martine Carol was and the heavy cloud of financial failure that the film carried upon release.

Well Ustinov does not yell her name over and over again. Weird.

Otherwise, there was a lot in this movie to like. The sets, particularly the circus stage and the Bavarian locations, are amazing. You can see money thrown at every nook and cranny of the screen. The lighting and camerawork in the interior soundstages, the circus set in particular, is nothing short of amazing. The costumes and set dressing and pretty much every aspect of physical production is lush and grande and opulent. Also the intricate flashback structure, moving from the garishly loud circus tale to much more intimate and quiet realities in flashback is pretty cool. Certainly for 1955 it's an achievement.

It does feel pretty long however, and for the time it takes, it doesn't tell a huge amount of story. I was only carried along by the story a few short scenes at a time. The bright side is that I had plenty of time to notice all the technical stuff I listed above.

I don't think it's ever going to be a favorite of mine, but I certainly enjoyed it and found it worth watching.
07.06.13 Student BodiesMickey RoseSlasher movie spoof from the early 80s. This is a movie that I remember seeing on Cinemax late one night in like the summer of 92 and could never remember the title or anything, just that it involved a heavy breather in the girls locker room and that the movie interrupted with a guy saying that R rated movies made more money so he'd like to take this opportunity to say FUCK YOU. Well, Now I've seen it again and it's kind of surprisingly funny! I mean that in the stupidest possible way. Maybe it was just my mood but a lot of the clearly ADR dialog with these weird quick jokes really caught my fancy. Horse head bookends. So yeah I liked this one. Kind of like an Airplane for slasher movies. "I'd like to kill the kid with the GUM!"
07.05.13 Hit & RunDax Shepard, David PalmerFucking Dax Shepard. Sigh. Anyway. I liked this movie. I thought the car chases were competent, I liked that he was really driving with Kristen and even used his own cars, I thought the script had moments of humor and the supporting cast filled out the movie really well. In fact really the only bad thing I have to say about this is that I have to watch him make out with Kristen Bell the whole movie and know it's not acting. Dax Shepard is goddamn lucky and I want to hate him but I really just can't.

You don't really see straight up car chase movies anymore (now that the Fast franchise is more about heists than cars) so this is a nice throwback.
07.05.13 Trailer Park BoysMike ClattenburgI re-watched the show with Molly and now we are seeing this before Liquor Day. Not as funny as my initial sxsw exposure but that's to be expected since I've now seen the whole show twice over and that first midnight show was a complete virgin experience. Still though, I like hanging out with these guys so it was a pleasurable experience to be sure. Now all that's left is Liquor Day!!!
07.04.13 Cars 2John Lassetter, Brad LewisI've been watching parts of this as I fall asleep on the couch late nights for a while now and just finished it last night. I really didn't like it at all. Easily my least favorite Pixar movie that I've seen (so that doesn't include Brave or Monsters University). It's all Mater acting dumb. The rivalry between McQueen and the F1 racer was like a bad callback to Talladega Nights. These spy cars do things that no car can possibly ever ever do making the whole premise pretty thin for me, then the script is complete 6 year old stuff with no layered humor or character complexity that usually makes Pixar movies enjoyable for people like me. I guess now that Lassetter's busy heading up Disney, Pixar has become less of a distinction. They had a great run, but now they're just typical animated movies in my mind. Shame.
07.04.13 Behind the CandelabraSteven SoderberghGreat performances, amazing make-up (really lots of that has to be digital at this point right?), suitably twisted story... Let's hope Soderbergh's "retirement" is either short-lived or doesn't include more tv shows or made-for-tv movies. Good stuff.
07.03.13 Zero Dark ThirtyKathryn BigelowLiked this a lot. Felt a little long but mostly just authentic and gripping. I liked this way more than Hurt Locker. I didn't really follow the Oscars this year but I feel like this didn't get as much love as it should have, perhaps because the actors were not really in the forefront. Jessica Chastain was good and all but it was not the kind of role that wins awards. The supporting cast was just as good too. Really good movie.
07.03.13The Amazing Spider-ManMarc WebbI didn't care for this very much. It's weird because when I went through my comic phase I was a huge fan of Spider-Man, but none of the movies are that great. I liked Spider-Man 2 when it was in theaters but don't think it's aged well at all and the other 4 have been not that good in my opinion. This one falls into the same trap as the first Raimi one in that it spends too long telling the ubiquitous origin story to where the film-specific plot is really minimal. Rhys Ifans in this movie has like the exact same part as Willen Dafoe in the first one or Alfred Molina in the second except they're different villains. I mean I get that it's a reboot but I don't understand why it has to be EXACTLY the same. Even the CG shots of Spidey zipping through Manhattan are exactly the same. The body posturing is a little more exaggerated and closer to the comic which was nice but still they're the same shots. I don't really get it. Like Molly said it's like seeing a new production of the same play or something. I was bored.
06.29.13 Forced to FightYang SunAnd finally we reach the last movie of the weekend and the only midnight screening. This also happens to be the only movie Lars programmed. He gave it a buzzed intro saying that there's no way this weekend can be complete without representation of the many many shitty Kung Fu movies out there. Up until now they've shown some really spectacular stand-outs in the genre but he thought it would be fun to screen a completely lousy entry as well. He also mentioned having kids or something and even referred to a son named Nils. This caught me as particularly funny. Nils Nilsen is a great name. Maybe the best name.

So the movie is Forced to Fight AKA Invincible Super-Chan. We saw a trailer for it last night (How will such a man react when his baby is iced?). Lars said it was 70 minutes long and the only other things I have written down are "The Playboy", "South Asia 8 Warriors", and "Much love for dummies."

I got pretty delirious with this one. Really my only memory is that this dude who can jump incredibly high fought like a thousand guys right at the beginning of the movie and it went on for so long that I thought the movie would end when the fight finally ended but then it tried to start some kind of plot with characters and whatnot and my brain wasn't having any of it.

Eventually it ended and Lars thanked everybody for coming as we ambled out. I had a thought that I should hang back and thanks Dan and his buddy from Chicago who I already forgot his name for coming, but I also had a thought that I was pretty out of it and should probably just head home so I did.

So that's that. I can't really say that this experience has converted me into a Kung Fu superfan, but I can say that I've covered a few more bases and have a good idea of what these movies offer. More So than that I got to hang out at the Marchesa for a few nights, catch up with a few old friends, and enjoy some movies.
06.29.13 Invincible ArmourNg See-YuenNext up was Invincible Armour and the first dubbed film of the weekend. Dan said the print came from a guy in the UK and that the soundtrack lifted some cues from various Italian westerns which gives it an unusual energy you don't often see in Kung Fu movies. I'm not sure if the trailer reel had a theme this time out (perhaps just dubbing), but they showed FISTS OF VENGEANCE and DRAGON DE FUEGO.

So, at this point my notes kind of break down. Despite the dubbing I don't remember much about the plot of this one at all. I feel like there's some guy who never got laid so he has this armor Kung Fu that only has one weak pressure point and... it could be his balls. The beginning credits played like an educational video for learning the Eagle Claw, then there's a whole bunch of Eagle Claw fighting and this one guy is invincible and it turns out he spent ten years repositioning his one vulnerable pressure point and I don't remember where it ended up being but it could be his balls.

Here's an itemized list of the notes I took:

-spikeyballs on nuts

-40 year old monkey holding a knife??

-broken eggs


-the hero has a most amazing way of exiting scenes (jumping through windows, backflip diving with double gainer and half twist)

-"Well I suppose that I am"

-Armour enhanced by celibacy

-Iron Finger!!!
06.29.13 Eight Diagram Pole FighterLau Kar-leungSaturday night brought a slightly different crowd. I think for the most part everyone who came Friday also showed up tonight but there were also a few extra people it seems like. Lars and Dan started the night with Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, which they both cited as their personal favorite Kung Fu movie. I feel like that's saying quite a bit. They also talked a lot about director and choreographer Lau Kar-leung who just recently died. They said this first film was always at the center of their weekend programming but became even more prescient when they heard the news. Dan said that if you asked him a month ago who the greatest living director was he'd say Lau Kar-leung. Basically they hyped the shit out of this movie.

They also told the story of how Fu Sheng was supposed to be the star of the movie but got killed in a car accident so Gordon Liu stepped in at the last minute to take over and how the movie's kind of seen as cursed (in the Rosemary's Baby/Poltergeist vein) because of it.

Trailers beforehand were themed to Lau Kar-leung and included MAD MONKEY KUNG FU and another that I don't think ever presented its title. It starred Gordon Liu and Lau Kar-leung didn't direct the movie but he did do fight choreography on it. I'm guessing it was SHAOLIN AND WU TANG but that's just a guess.

So this movie is very I guess you'd call it traditional in that almost all of it is shot on sets with kind of cheap historic costumes and high key lighting. At first glance I was kind of taken aback by it because it looked so cheap, but as the movie went on it took on more of a live theater stage play feel to me. Probably because the print was goddamn pristine. Seriously, it was like they were acting it out for me up on the screen it was so clear.

I liked this one a lot. This sounds terrible but I think a major factor in my enjoyment was the fact that during the epic last fight things actually got gory. I hadn't realized it but until now the whole weekend has just been sweaty grimaces and some bruise make-up. This is the first film of the weekend to show dudes get all the way killed. In awesome ways to boot. The monks in this movie have a fetish for de-fanging these badass wooden wolf practice dolls so when they fight humans they end up taking lots and lots of teeth out with their poles. Seriously, teeth go flying everywhere. Teeth even get stuck in a guy's head at one point. So many teeth. There's a lot of pole action too. Really some great pole and spear fighting through the entire movie but the end fight is pretty amazing. I think I saw a pole go through some guys chest. The stick knows no friends.

So yeah, this was my favorite of the weekend. Despite the cheap sets and costumes, the clarity of the print and the creativity and prowess of those fights really sets it apart.

And just one more note on the print quality. I dug out my old notebooks that I used to take to film events when I first moved to town because I didn't trust my memory to recall enough details to write these notes well. I have “pristine print” written three times for this entry. It was really remarkable.
06.28.13The VictimSammo HungThe second half of Friday's double feature was revealed to be Sammo Hung's The Victim. Lars introduced this film as being a step up from the previous since Hung had a bit more aptitude and perhaps budget to shoot the fight scenes in a more dynamic way. He also mentioned being able to see technical shifts in the film in how it starts with a very old school execution but by the end you start to see a tiny bit of wire work and more new school of kung fu which we are saturated with now. Indeed the fight choreography here was really top notch, and I like how Sammo Hung was unabashedly fat. Not like today standards morbidly obese but for the 70s? that dude was fat. He could still move pretty damn fast though and brought a lot of silliness to his role as a guy desperately searching for a master to teach him better kung fu. He finds it in Leung Ka-Yan AKA “Beardy” as Lars called him. Lars actually went on quite a while about the quality of this guy's beard. I saw it. It was a good one. I guess by Chinese standards it could be described as amazing. Dan also told the story of the print for this movie which he warned was pretty crappy. He bought it from some guy in the UK who in turn had acquired it years ago from a guy in Taiwan then stored in his basement for years and years. Apparently when Dan got his hands on it the print was in small separate piles and he had to construct the film piece by piece.

For this trailer reel, Dan picked a few showcasing targeted marketing toward urban markets. The first trailer was for a film called BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE and a hilarious trailer for a movie called FORCED TO FIGHT where the narrator asks “How will a man react when his baby is iced?” and the word “KUNG FU-R-R-ROCIOUS” is printed on the screen. Both trailers had the Aquarius Releasing logo on it. I feel like I've heard a tiny bit about Terry Levene and Aquarius but I'd really love a doc or book or something going into more depth. There's probably not actually much of a story there - just a businessman who owned a 42nd St. theater who played to his audience - but still.

My experience of this movie was another reason why I wanted to attend. I guess I'm a lightweight these days when it comes to movie watching, or maybe it's the hypnotic effect of the fighting with it's rhythmic pauses between attacks and repeating sound effects for each blow but I found my eyelids getting heavy about half way through this. That meant that I really have no clear perception of how long the end fight lasted. I'd kind of drift off, then come back and the guys would be in a new place still fighting, then I'd drift off again and come back to the guys sweatier with more bruise make-up on but still fighting. Always fighting. That's a really cool experience I think. Falling asleep during a movie in the theater, coming in and out, having time and space kind of fold in on itself until it's just the images on the screen and sounds in the air all synched in time and rhythm. So I'm not really sure how the movie ended but I don't mind.
06.28.13The Mystery of Chess BoxingJoseph KuoLars and AFS brought out Dan Halstead from Portland to show a selection of Kung Fu movies this weekend. I decided to go for a couple reasons. 1: Kung Fu is kind of a hole in my movie knowledge. I feel like I've seen a small handful thanks to QTFests and whatnot but I've never really had a good introduction or education in them. 2: I felt like going to a movie event. The few Kung Fu movies that I have seen were not instant favorites but what the hell, the feeling of spending a few nights fidgeting in a theater seat appealed to me, and I thought it would be a fun few evenings to hang out at the Marchesa.

I think the fundraiser for the theater is wrapping up any day now and last time I checked they had reached 99% of their goal which is great, but I have to say I love how bare bones the theater is right now. The red velvet curtains along the walls are kind of grubby and I can see the dark shiny snakes of hot glue and repair amongst the folds. The lighting rig seems to be attached to a bright orange extension cord which hangs down from the ceiling in a knotted rope like gym class. The bare screen shows the edges of the frame in all their ragged fuzzy glory. Again I know it's not the popular opinion but all that stuff fits into my romantic notion of an arthouse theater perfectly.

The crowd was comfortable but respectable at around a hundred people I think. A good turnout in my mind. Lars got up and introduced Dan and the general trend of the night was that they tag-teamed the intros although I think there was maybe a correlation between how many beers Lars had and how much he talked. At the beginning of each night Dan sort of took the lead but by the end of the night Lars was taking over with some rather choice humor sprinkled in with the intro. But anyway, Dan introduced himself and the context for the weekend with a slideshow that explained a bit about the history of Kung Fu cinema and how he came to acquire his notable print collection (If Lars is to be believed - and I think he is - Dan is the guy to talk to if you want a print of a Kung Fu movie. it doesn't matter if you're Tim League or Quentin Tarantino or RZA, you talk to Dan) which he owns but stores down here in the AGFA vault. This slideshow included shots of the derelict movie-house once owned by the Shaw brothers in Vancouver's chinatown district where he found a mother lode of 200 or so prints. At roughly 6 reels per film, that made for 8000 pounds of Kung Fu! The crowd started applauding at this snapshot of a low-ceilinged room full of dusty prints. I mean people clapped. At a picture of a bunch of film prints. I feel like if I ever get famous or whatever and Elvis Mitchell asks me what makes Austin so special to a film lover, this is the anecdote I will tell.

I might also add in that we could all hear David Strong in the back following along the presentation as if Dan was talking directly to him. You'd hear his trademark David Strong voice saying “...yeah...” or “...uh huh...” every so often. So great.

A personal aside: Dan's slideshow was short and really just showed a few pictures but I thought it was fantastic. I really wish this would become a trend. Like when Lars does his Auteur Obscure or even Chale with his Essential Cinema films might dig up some photos of the director or something and include a slideshow with their intros. I know... I'm weird and that's a lot of extra work, but I think it would be awesome. Make it a little mini-class even, what the hell.

Anyway, the first film screened was Mystery of Chess Boxing, which Dan described as basically a remake of... goddamn it I forgot, 7 Grandmasters? Well he described it as more or less a remake of some previous hit but with a stronger villain, which should resonate with any hip hop fans because the villain's name is Ghost Face Killer. I found Mystery of Chess Boxing to be a strong archetype of what I think makes up a Kung Fu movie. There's a young kid who's eager to learn Kung Fu, there's either humorous dubbing or in this case poorly-translated subtitles leading to a nearly incomprehensible plot, there's a fetishistic bordering on educational preoccupation with different Kung Fu styles, there's clearly young guys in stark white wigs and fake beards, and there's many many very very long fights with monotonous foley work and hypnotically impressive choreography. This movie had all of that. Ghost Face laughs whenever he kills anyone. At one point the eager young guy serves bowls of rice better than Ralph Macchio painted Master Myagi's house. The end fight lasts the entire last reel (something shared with every movie screened this weekend I think) and features some rock/paper/scissors logic of shifting styles to defeat Ghost Face in the last 3 seconds of the movie.

I like how these movies don't hang out any longer than they have to, although it's weird that they all still feel very long to me. When introducing the next movie Lars sort of faulted this for having a static camera for much of the fighting. I agree, but also thought that, considering the current state of fight choreography in Hollywood films, it was really refreshing to see a fight play out in medium and long shots so you can actually see what the hell is going on. While the other films this weekend may have had more advanced technique applied to the photography, I didn't dislike this film for its simplicity.

I also want to make a note about the print quality. It was fantastic. I think Dan mentioned that this may be the only known print of this movie so it's even crazier that it should be so lush. With only one or two exceptions, all the prints shown this weekend were really remarkably clean.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the trailers. Lars and Dan showed a couple trailers before each film. Nothing crazy like some of the Alamo trailer reels, but still nice little duets of themed coming attractions. In front of this one was Five Element Ninjas and The Hammer of God.
06.27.13 ArgoBen AffleckPretty good movie. Great beard. The hair wasn't as amazing as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but still pretty good. Arkin didn't deserve any Oscar talk but I still love him. He's in that phase now where he just has to be in movies and he'll get awards. Like Oh he's working this year! Shit yeah! It's cool though. Pretty good movie.
06.25.13 End of WatchDavid AyerWell... it was refreshing to watch an LA cop movie and not have it involve corruption or evil cops... I definitely spent the whole movie waiting for someone to take the money or the bureaucracy to come crushing down or something like that. Instead it was a straight good guys vs. bad guys type movie and that was ocol...

...except it was kind of threadbare as far as actual story goes and really obfuscated through this concept of found footage. I feel like I don't hate found footage films nearly as much as most people do and I'm not sick of them yet, but this really stretched the concept too far. Half the movie doesn't even come from "found footage." I feel like Ayer used the idea as an excuse to not hide the dashboard cameras and shoot the whole movie "in the style of" kind of like how Rodriguez exploits the idea of exploitation cinema in his Machete movies. I guess it's like maybe some sort of statement about how everyone has cameras these days maybe? but really no. The fact that the latino gangsters ALSO carry a camera around everywhere they go is ridiculous and the short cartel surveillance footage would've been cool if the rest of the movie paid as much attention (I feel like Chronicle did this well) but seems out of place here. I wish Ayer shot this like a Colors Part 2 or something instead. I could do without the first-person-shooter crap.

So I feel like everything kind of evened out to a little more good than bad, but still pretty forgettable. It really sucks but does a cop movie NEED dirty cops to be good in this day and age? I hope not.
06.22.13The RoadJohn HillcoatFrom my dusty pile of Netflix discs... I guess I realize now that the power of the book comes from the prose more than the story. Maybe it's because I had read the book and therefore knew where the road would take the boy and his dad, but I found this to be mostly boring as shit. I liked both The Proposition and Lawless so I was hoping to be taken by this as well but nah... One seen with Viggo and the crying boy kind of got to me but it was like the easiest scene to get to anyone ever. Other than that, a lot of gray, occasional less-than-a-minute glimpses of good actors, and a whole lotta nothing.
06.22.13 This Is the EndEvan Goldberg, Seth RogenPretending it's hot outside when it's cold... sitting on a beach saying stuff like surf's up...

As exemplified above, one could make the argument that being a popular actor is a pretty easy life. Extending that sentiment, it might be pretty easy to think Seth Rogen just got a bunch of his buddies together and had fun for a few months under the guise of making a movie. That could very well be true, but it doesn't mean the movie sucks!

I really loved this. Thought it was hilarious, loved how everyone made fun of themselves a bit ("That's why you're number one!"), loved how there was still an actual plot that developed and conflict that resolved along with all the hanging out. It was all really great.

Loved it.
06.15.13 Magic MikeSteven SoderberghAbs and butts and butts and abs, I saw a movie with butts and abs.

This was ok. Generally I'm in love with the genre-centric turn that Soderbergh has taken lately and I applaud him for being open to what is probably the closest to a modern-day song-and-dance as he feels comfortable getting, but the major lack of story really hurt this for me. Channing Tatum's physicality is impressive and I love how greasy McConaughy plays his part. I didn't 100% buy Tatum's non-dancing performance though, probably not helped at all by how flat the sister role was. The last scene was groan-worthy in how neatly is tried to tie things up even though I was still all WTF about The Kid's future as a doucher and what the hell Tatum would do that didn't involve fucking the floor and really nothing resolves at all. In story terms there's not much there, but it's shot well and I was never bored and I got to see Munn's boobs even though I really don't like like her much.

To me the best performance was Joe Manganiello's face while pumping. It was only about 2 seconds long but it was fantastic.
06.15.13 Moonrise KingdomWes AndersonFor whatever reason Wes Anderson seems played out in my mind these days, which is weird because the last two movies I saw of his... ok really everything of his but Darjeeling and half of Steve Zissou I like a great deal. I thought Fantastic Mr. Fox was great and I liked this a great deal as well. Perhaps on par with Steve Zissou in that I probably won't feel any great need to revisit with any regularity but still I have nothing majorly bad to say about it other than Movies like Rushmore and Tannenbaums capture Anderson's obsession with centering the frame and ornate living spaces better. This is like a love story for children or something. It almost should've been animated like Mr. Fox.

This is all a jumble. I mean to say that I don't know why I'm not more excited for Wes Anderson movies because I like them, but they are more of the same if by "the same" I mean unique Wes Anderson vision.
05.25.13The Comedians of ComedyMichael BliedenIt's fun to revisit this now that Zack Galifinakis is a huge star, especially the scene where he's complaining about not being proud of any of the movies he's been in and that he's glad the show he's on was just cancelled. Basically everyone looks 10 years younger and skinnier in this. Still funny though.

There really was a lot of anti-Bush humor going on in 2004 wasn't there!?
05.17.13 Star Trek Into DarknessJ.J. AbramsI saw this because it was an opportunity to skip out of work early. I've always been a middle-of-the-road type guy with Star Trek. I saw the movies but never watched the shows. The last one I thought they did well with the casting but the story was kind of a generic sci-fi action movie and it had too many lens flares. With this one... I like the last one more because at least the plot was new. I guess you can just remake a movie now and not have to call it a remake?

I mean, ok. it's not a complete remake, but it borrows so heavily from the original second movie that it feels like a dubstep remix or something. And then to add on top of it there's a whole mess of logic problems and plot holes that I wouldn't expect from a franchise that prides itself on its intelligence. I didn't really have any expectations and still wound up disappointed. oh well!
05.16.13 Rulers of the CityFernando Di LeoAKA Mister Scarface.

Sooooo.... I don't know if you know this about me but i used to watch a lot of movies.

No, wait. that's a terrible way to start this.

Back when I was watching a lot of movies, I obtained a few via the internet. It was a major phase of discovery for me and, with the help of the Alamo and its staff, new friends like Jarrette and Micah, and a lot of free time, i tore through a lot of them. Some of my newfound favorite genres were blaxploitation and italian crime so I watched pretty much anything I could find of either of those. The thing with a lot of the IItalian crime movies of the 70s was that they were often pretty slow and tedious. I mean not just the Italian stuff but the American stuff as well. For instance, I remember watching Across 110th Street (which by all accounts should've been a grand slam since Bobby Womack did the score and Yaphet Koto's a badass as is Anthony Quinn so it's kind of a blaxploitation crime film) and thinking the song was waaaaay better than the movie. Anyway, this long rambling paragraph is supposed to say that I first watched this movie on my computer with not exactly stellar expectations and it really impressed me.

Now, thanks to Lars and the AFS I get to see it again, this time in glorious 35mm and in a new space (to me) called the Marchesa.

Since I'm inspired to write a decent amount about this, let me spend a minute with my first impressions of the theater.

So, Apparently a long while back it used to be the Lincoln Village Cinema or something along those lines. I believe it was closed by the time I moved to town. Now it's back on its feet as a venue space (I guess for wedding ceremonies and stuff) and it has a 278-seat auditorium. It's in a strip mall butting up against an Italian restaurant that used to be a Carabba's so there's absolutely no pomp or circumstance. The marquee was stark and simple when I drove up: AFS. It almost seemed like a secret. It's also maybe 2 miles from my house. It took me about ten minutes to get there at 7:00 and five minutes to get home at 9:40. The lobby is large and open but also not fancy at all. Snacks and drinks are available but a step below the Paramount. I saw a few random closed doors that I didn't try peeking in, have no clue where the restrooms are, but the theater is big and outfitted with a simple stage.

I really hope none of that comes off as negative because the space immediately clicked with me as something special. In Rochester they have the Little theater as their primary arthouse. It's small and barely finished and the Dobie reminded me a lot of it. For all my problems with the Dobie the thing I liked most about both of those theaters is their sense that the money went on the screen not the lobby. They, and really I mean the Marchesa here if you're not picking up on my inference, convey a sense that the people who run it really want to be there. It's a labor of love. There may not be a budget there but there's definitely love.

The Marchesa is bare and sloppy and feels like everyone there belongs to a club that's just started. Not in an elitist way at all, but more like... passion. Muchlike how the scratches and splices in the reels contribute to a movie's charm, the theater made me feel like I was where I belonged. It gave me a few major vibes of my first visit to the Alamo on Colorado, which I very much appreciated.

Tonight was sparsely attended with about 30 people there. This sounds terrible a lot of my favorite Alamo memories are not the nights when it was crazy sold out and exciting (although I hold a few of those in my deck) but the nights when it was pretty slow and I got the feeling that everyone else who didn't show up really missed something because I had just seen something special and the fact that I saw it with so few others bonded those of us who were there. Turkeython is an excellent example as is their Blaxploitation programming in February of... 2006? 2007?. Anyway, tonight felt like that. I caught up with a handful of familiar faces and there were a handful of unfamiliar as well, but we were all pretty cool for being there.


So I watched a movie there didn't I? well almost. Let me take ANOTHER minute talking about Lars and his goddamned intros.

Going back to Rochester, the first time I went to the Little it was to see In the Company of Men with a girl and her film class. He was either the manager or the professor (I wasn't in the class) but either way someone got up beforehand to introduce the film and afterward a couple people got up in front and actually talked ABOUT what we had just seen. Again, I'm kind of sure it was just because a film class was in attendance but the students were not the only people to stay after and contribute to the conversation. That experience then became my gold standard for cinematic exhibition. Tonight Lars got up and introduced himself and the film society and referred to his mini dissertation as a lecture. In essence it was what I remember of his Weird Wednesday intros extended to fit more about di Leo, his work, and the cast. Lars is so knowledgeable and articulate that I feel like he could have gone on for another twenty minutes without complaint. I really hope his decision to present his thoughts a bit more formally continues. If he had the time or inclination I would welcome any kind of written notes he felt like putting down as well. I found it to be really great.

Finally the movie!

It was great!

OK More than that. This movie fell a bit more on the comedy side than I remembered. The Napoli character really serves that purpose. I feel like I remember the surprisingly decent fight scenes and end shootout being longer and the peppy wry humor a little less. I also remember the score (excellent Brazilian-inspired rythm-heavy score provided by Luis Bacalov) being more present. I absolutely love the bassline in the beginning titles as Tony tools around in his dune buggy making collections and staring at women, and the clicking of whatever that latin instrument is came in a few times making me salivate for it to return, but it ended up coming in sparingly and never enough, leaving me wanting more forever.

A few key scenes stuck out as much this time as in my memory. The scene where Beppy meets Luigi really turns the movie for me from some run-of-the-mill flick to something where gears are turning and the plot is actually well thought-out. The scene where Palance throws down a check, in essence daring his small-time adversary to cash it in, was a great gangster thing to do. Palance is actually a lot better than he has to be in this movie. I have to imagine that if you're an American actor over in Italy making these movies that you figure will never get seen by anyone you know, with some Italian dude yelling incomprehensible direction at you while they roll film and the whole schedule is only two weeks or whatever, it would be awfully easy to tune out and just go through the motions. Not Jack Palance though. There's one scene in particular where he's rolling into a slaughteryard where, on one level he could be surveying