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June 24, 2021 at 11:17 pm #1204317114
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
I’ll be the first to admit that Frank Sinatra is a great singer, but not so much a great actor, although I suppose he is more than adequate in this movie, which is fine but prevents this movie from being the masterpiece it almost was. To its credit, there are more than just a few indelible and wonderfully hallucinatory scenes, including the surreal “garden club meeting,” but for me the biggest revelation is the performance by Angela Lansbury, which is pitch-perfect and iconic. (1962 was a fantastic year for the movies, not only in the acting categories.) At least the Academy recognized Lansbury’s talent with an honorary Oscar about 50 years after this movie. The Manchurian Candidate is once again (and probably always) will be topical and relevant because today the dirty-politics-playing Republicans are again attacking our military leaders and accusing them of disloyalty, or something that they make sound even worse: Wokeness. Some things never change.
Grade: A-June 27, 2021 at 3:15 am #1204320042
Donnie Darko (2001)
People who like M. Night Shyamalan and David Lynch movies will like this movie, which makes it sound derivative, but that is not quite accurate–Donnie Darko still feels fresh and original, albeit with a killer twist (like a Shyamalan movie) in a surreal suburban nightmare (like a Lynch movie). I’ll admit my tolerance for teenage angst like that on display here grows less and less over the years, so even masterpieces like Rebel Without a Cause now seem overwrought to me. However, good casting and performances, moody cinematography, lots of classic 80’s new wave songs. Sometimes bitingly satirical, even campy, in its depiction of upper-middle-class suburbia. Favorite quote: “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!”
Grade: A-June 27, 2021 at 9:47 am #1204320304
I just finished watching “How to get a murder”. It has been a long time since I saw such a good series that I literally could not tear myself away from. I decided to myself that when the series came to an end, I would not start anything new for a long time. The series tells the story of a group of law students who, perhaps, accidentally get caught up in a murder. It sounds simple enough, but the way the series is recorded is pure poetry. First, they show us what happened, and then they move us back in time and we learn what happened. In addition, over the course of 6 seasons, the heroes go through a lot of changes in themselves, at the beginning they make incomprehensible decisions, but when we watch further, then we see what drove them. What hadn’t let me down yet and I was worried that this might happen is the end of the series. Brilliant!July 2, 2021 at 1:06 am #1204326712
Both 8MM and Se7en (released four years earlier) were written by Andrew Kevin Walker, and despite the two films having different directors, they share similar styles and themes. The attention to detail in both films is exacting and marvelous; the acting is above-average, although 8MM lacks Morgan Freeman’s steadying influence, but this is also back when Nicolas Cage could deliver a good performance, perhaps inspired by a good script and direction. Supporting cast is also most commendable (Phoenix, Stormare, Gandolfini). The story is sleazy and gory, but like some Hitchcock movies induces discomfort by implicating the viewer as complicit to the mayhem, i.e., turns the viewer into a voyeur.
Grade: A-July 3, 2021 at 1:07 am #1204327806
Been watching Love, Death and Robots. Anyone who’s interested in SciFi and short episodes should definitely give it a try. I found the concept to be unique. Also, completed Schitts Creek and Invincible. Both were great shows, would definitely recommend both. Schitts for everyone and Invincible for people who are not uncomfortable watching gore violence.July 14, 2021 at 12:47 am #1204345527
The Abyss (1989)
This film seems influenced by James Cameron’s Aliens x Close Encounters of the Third Kind x 2001: A Space Odyssey
which makes James Cameron’s The Abyss sound better than it is, regrettably having “divorcing spouses save the world and get back together” as its main plot line. If you had to drink a shot every time the lead character played by Ed Harris says “son of a bitch” or calls his wife a “bitch,” you would be drunk by the end of the movie. As for the wife played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, it is a thankless role, in which she gets to admit that she really is a “cast-iron bitch” — DRINK! On the other hand, good special effects, and Michael Biehn in the role of the sexy psycho villain has a great porn-star mustache and gets his T-shirt torn off. I really can’t decide if I hate this movie or love it, but it’s worth seeing, and really deserves to be re-released for home theater in a 4K version.July 17, 2021 at 2:47 am #1204350103
The Devil’s Backbone by Del Toro
Ghosts are the least of your worries. In this haunting drama, a Mexican orphan is sent to an orphanage that is said to be haunted. He soon discovers the ghost but also learns that there’s a greater danger here. As the dark secrets of the orphanage come to light, the children must band together in order to survive. Guillermo del Toro is a master of filmmaking and this film shows why. A classic ghost story with a tragic twist is not only simple but very unique.July 17, 2021 at 12:01 pm #1204350712
Nightmare Alley (1947)
One of my favorite quotes from the old Roseanne show goes something like, “Wake up Grandma — it’s Tyrone Power in his underwear!” Capitalizing on Power’s image as a 1940s sex symbol, here he is often depicted in his undershirt or bare-chested in this memorable film noir about a circus performer who hits the big time as a mind-reader performing in luxe nightclubs, leading him to bigger and more lucrative grifts. Power’s talent for playing con artists and schemers is put to good use here, along with a fine supporting cast. Cinematography by Lee Garmes (who shot many classic films including Gone With The Wind, for which he was uncredited) evocatively captures the seedy traveling circus milieu and the aforementioned glamorous nightclubs. There is a satisfyingly ironic symmetry to Power’s character’s rise and fall.
Grade: B+July 18, 2021 at 10:37 am #1204351820
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
An enthralling jewelry heist movie that would make a great triple feature along with Rififi and Le Cercle Rouge, two other (later) classics of the genre where the caper goes horribly wrong. The cast and casting are marvelous, including Marilyn Monroe in a small supporting role, one of her earliest screen appearances (she looks amazing), as well as a memorably sweet performance by Jean Hagen. Excellent screenplay with a tragic, poetic ending.
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