|DVRfest 2017 (11.10.17 - 11.12.17, 16 movies)|
|11.10.17||The Bad Batch||Ana Lily Amirpour||oh, 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.
|11.10.17||Rise of the Planet of the Apes||Rupert Wyatt||So... 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.
|11.10.17||Dawn of the Planet of the Apes||Matt Reeves||I 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||The Void||Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski||I 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||Oculus||Mike Flanagan||This 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.
|11.11.17||War for the Planet of the Apes||Matt Reeves||Goddamn 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...
|11.11.17||The Small Back Room||Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger||For 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||Ride the Pink Horse||Robert Montgomery||Next 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.
|11.11.17||The Red Shoes||Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger||Stack 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||The Hit||Stephen Frears||Stack 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...
|11.12.17||Fiend Without a Face||Arthur Crabtree||Stack 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.
|11.12.17||The Fisher King||Terry Gilliam||Stack 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||One Crazy Summer||Savage Steve Holland||As 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.
|11.12.17||Y Tu Mama Tambien||Alfonso Cuaron||I 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||Fruitvale Story||Ryan Coogler||So... 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||The Myerowitz Stories (New and Selected)||Noah Baumbach||I 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.