Thursday, August 15, 2019

Plain Clothes is the greatest movie of all time

Plain Clothes. You're supposed to be helping your brother Matt, not getting nippy with some cheerleaders! Really loved this flick in my youth. Still has it's moments though I wasn't in love with it like I was as a kid. One of those putting an adult in high school movies where in this case the adult is obviously in his mid 30s. How can you go wrong with that?

Basic gist is that a youngish cop, Nick Dunbar played by 32 year old Arliss Howard, goes undercover as a high school student, choosing the name Nick Springsteen, to prove his brother's innocence of murdering one of his teachers. During this time he goes from loser to most popular kid in school with both the captain of the cheerleading team, played by one Alexandra Powers (more on her later), and a teacher, played by James Camron's wife Suzy Amis, throwing themselves at him sexually after he reads the E.E. Cummings poem "she being Brand," a car poem really about "doinking". So, yeah, Amis's teacher character is totes DTF this dude she thinks is a student. This is obviously problematic but in the 1980s was funny, apparently.

Decent amount of semi well known actors in the movie. People like Peter Dobson whom I only recognize from The Frighteners, Diane Ladd who was the fake Mrs. Mulwray in Chinatown plays the school secretary, Larry Pine who is a total that guy actor I've seen all over the place in the last couple of weeks, Robert Stack of Unsolved Mysteries fame plays the principal, Abe Vigoda plays a teacher (I feel like they had him for a day, he didn't learn any lines, and they just let him say whatever weird shit popped into his head) whom I mostly think of now in the context of that website that lets you know if he is dead or not, and George Wendt who was Nom in Cheers.

Personal favorite random guy who wins the movie for me is Seymour Cassel whom I think of mostly as Esteban ("Esteban was eaten!") from The Life Aquatic. He plays Nick's partner who also acts like his dad when he goes back to school. He more or less uses this to embarrass the shit out of him whenever he comes to the school. Does things like embrace him on his first day, saying "let's not let the same thing that happened at the last school happen here... I love you, son" and telling Nick's little cheerleader crush that he was grounded before driving off like a wildman. 

Also of note is this Alexandra Powers chick. She is the high school girl that everyone treats like a goddess, the cheerleader one, but has what looks like a dead animal on her head. She was in a decent amount of things after this and was even the lead in an NBC miniseries Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan movie, Tonya and Nancy. I, Tonya it was not though Powers did indeed look a lot more like Tonya that the gorgeous Margot Robbie. She apparently married one of Scientology's biggest recruiters at which point she joined the cult. Hasn't been in any movies or anything since then. Eventually joined the Sea Org so that's she'll be doing for the next three billion years unless, you know, she walks away.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is the greatest movie of all time

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Let me go! I'm not fit to be a senator! I'm not fit to live! Expel me, not him! Willet Dam is a fraud! It's a crime against the people who sent me here - and I committed it! Ah, wouldn't it be great if real life were a Frank Capra movie and guilt got the better of the corrupted in power? Don't expect Mitch McConnell or Trump to give a movie like this any mind. No political party is ever mentioned... But we fucking know. No way Trump has seen it and McConnell sees Paine as a punk and Smith is a chump. Hell, he probably took the stuff about the dam they were using to get rich on stuff as inspiration for his whole funneling government grant money to his wife scheme. Lot of "I'm doing this on principle" bullshit from Claude Rains's character, Senator Joseph Harrison "Joe" Paine (who wears glasses that constantly flash when the light hits to the point of distraction which I can't remember happening in any other movie I've ever watched), that is more the style of a few other fucking pricks. Every senator claims to be Smith. Fucking Rand Paul or Ted Cruz, for example. Most of them are Paine. Definitely that fuck Paul (and most Republicans).

Anyway, great movie, though unrealistic. Fifth 1939 film from my Greatest Years in Cinema Project. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards though it was Gone with the Wind that cleaned up that year. Considered one of the greatest films of all time, ranked No. 26 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies: 10th Anniversary Edition.

With movies that are light(ish) and humble, I'm beginning to see how someone could be a Capra fan. The idealistic grandmothers among us, for example, that are shocked by whats going on in Washington today. I too feel this way though Capra is 50/50 so far for me, I strongly disliked Arsenic and Old Lace. Jimmy Stewart is perfect though in his bumpkin sort of way. As is the lovely Jean Arthur. If Stewart weren't so over the top, I'd say she won the movie. One could argue that she did but women like her didn't get to carry many political movies in 1939. The two of them are really super though and really what endeared me to the film.

Originally supposed to be a sequel in the Mr. Deeds Goes to Town universe but Gary Cooper was unavailable. Instead we get Mr. Smith going to Washington in this light political drama about a seemingly naive politician appointed to the United States Senate by a group of corrupt politicians/business leaders who want to game the system in what amounts to a get rich quick scheme. I've been told this is a plot hole but see my bit about McConnell above. Though I do concede that everything gets pretty murky when it comes to what these guys are doing/trying to get away with. It sort of like another Stewart movie from that year in Destry Rides Again where the corrupt politicians/business leaders appoint someone they think is an idiot to "represent the people" but whom they really want to just walk all over. That was actually my favorite Stewart movie of that year but this was the one that made him a star, apparently. Only other actor of note is Thomas Mitchell as "Diz" Moore. Mitchell actually wins the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor that year for the role of Doc Josiah Boone in Stagecoach, which is coming up on my list for 1939. That was a big year for Mitchell. Played significant roles in five movies, all considered classics--the other three were Gone with the Wind (he played Scarlet's father), Only Angels Have Wings, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Was the second actor to win the so called Triple Crown of Acting, winning an Emmy, an Oscar, and a Tony just a month after Helen Hayes became the first in 1953.

In the first half of the movie we are hammered with how idealist Smith is as he goes to DC and sees a bunch of DC shit. We watch as he gets inspired by the Lincoln Memorial, learns that he has Daniel Webster's old seat, calls the city "Worshington", and yucks it up for journalists. But this last bit gets him into trouble as papers take advantage of his good nature to make him look like an idiot. He then goes on a punching journalists tour, delivering hay makers to no less than four people in a deranged montage. He then goes and revisits all the same DC places, only this time he is sad.

But dude has a plan. For kids! Get them Boy Scouts some land. But Paine and the PA Governor, Smith's state, and some big business guy have a whole conspiracy against Smith. Fuck this guy, basically all of his buddies say after he doesn't play ball with their bullshit money making scheme that didn't really make a whole lot of sense to me. Like, if they were going to buy the land for the kids, they also would have bought it for the dam and they would have still made money, if I understand it right. So, in-ee-way, Smith, about to get kicked out of the Senate goes on a long ass filibuster session where he pleads his case. No one cares and the political machine, which controls the papers, fucks with public opinion. But the kids and Jean Arthur, his very knowledgeable aid, and who ever the fuck this Biz guy is have his back.  They go to the papers and print their own Boy Rangers paper that tells the truth though political goons take them from the kids. This shit is out of fucking control. These punch one kid in the face and later run him off the road, probably killing all the kids in the car. 

But it is a happy ending with Smith's speech and such winning Paine over to the point where he confesses. This is after Paine fucking wins by pushing Smith over the edge, bringing in all of the hate mail people in PA have sent to Washington since his whole rambling talk started. IRL, the political machine chews you up and spits you out. Those with power and the most corrupt always win. Look at Al Franken vs. Trump. Paine just freaks out and that is the end of the movie. Seemingly he has been doing this shit for years. He can't just tune out Smith's hoarse ramblings for a few hours without losing his mind? I'd bet he'd be there eating a doughnut when Smith passed out, stepping over him on his way to spin it to the press. Couldn't make that shit today. No fucking way anyone buys any of that shit.

Also, this movie is featured in one of my favorite The Simpsons episodes. In it Mel Gibson is making a remake of the flick. Somehow Homer gets in Gibson's ear as a sort of everyman and what the average man wants. Not a bunch of preachy talking, that is for fucking sure, and Gibson turns it into an action movie where he kills members of the press and the corrupt senators, stalking them on the floor of the Senate. Hilarious. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Rear Window is the greatest movie of all time

Rear Window. We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their house and look in for a change. Alfred Hitchcock. Jimmy Stewart. Grace Kelly. Doesn't get much better than that threesome. Among the legendary director's best. Got to see it on the big screen for the third time. This time at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington, IN. I love this film in an old historic theater. Also identify more with the character than my last watch as I spent that decade as a sports photographer and what have you.

Rotten Tomato Consensus: Hitchcock exerted full potential of suspense in this masterpiece.

For those who are unfamiliar, the gist is that a guy with a broken leg, too much time on his hands, and excellent photography equipment gets his nightly entertainment by spying on his neighbors in maybe the most interesting courtyard in all of New York. Eventually, the behavior he sees from one of the tenants causes to suspect him of murdering his wife. Against the advise of a policeman and with the help of his beautiful girlfriendish person whom he treats like shit (played by the lovely Grace Kelly) and his nurse Stella, he investigates, almost getting everyone killed in the process. Luckily he is a photographer with million watt flash bulbs that roughly have the effect of a punch to the face.

Some bullet points. Hate that the murdering fuck killed someone's dog. Someone can kill a person on screen and can be redeemed. But a dog killer can go fuck himself. Also, love the set of this movie. Was not a real courtyard. Was built on the backlot and filmed at Paramount Studios. Used to like the idea of looking out and seeing your neighbors do cool and sometimes shady shit but now that I am older see Stewart's character as sort of a sick fuck. This guy definitely has something going on. No wonder he can't commit to Grace fucking Kelly. One more thing, I dug how she ordered food from that fancy restaurant and they brought it to them in that crazy food case. This is at the beginningish of the movie. Shit was noticeably cool.

So many ripoffs of this movie it is insane. These are the ones I thought of in like one minute off the top of my head Disturbia (RW on house arrest), Fright Night (RW with vampires), Manhattan Murder Mystery (RW with Woody Allen and in a hallway), Men at Work (RW with the Estevez/Sheen bros), and The 'Burbs (RW on stay-cation plus Tom Hanks). Plus there was a really terrible remake from 1998 staring Christopher Reeve after his horse riding accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Bummer.

Stewart is pretty solid but yucks it up like he always does. Gotta give Kelly MVP status on this one. She so pretty and compelling in the part that she steals the show. Plus the actress that plays Stella, Thelma Ritter, is incredible. She really does a good job of jumping back and forth between being incredulous and extremely involved in the spying and what have you. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Chinatown is the greatest movie ever made

Chinatown. Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown. She's my sister AND my daughter! Fuu-uuuck this movie. I mean, solid hard-boiled detective movie. That little freak Roman Polanski did alright. His first movie after Charles Manson's crew killed his preggo wife, Sharon Tate. Couldn't really imagine a darker ending to a movie. Obvious that Polanski, who is a fucked up little man, will get into a bit, I'm sure, was going through some shit when making this, the movie with the most off topic title of all time.

Rotten Tomato Consensus: As bruised and cynical as the decade that produced it, this noir classic benefits from Robert Towne's brilliant screenplay, director Roman Polanski's steady hand, and wonderful performances from Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.

Gist of the movie. Classic neo-noir mystery where Jack Nicholson's character, J. J. "Jake" Gittes, is paid by one Evelyn Mulwray to spy on her husband, Hollis, whom she believes is cheating on her. Hollis, it turns out, is the chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and is publicly feuding with his former business partner and father in-law, Noah Cross, for Hollis's assertion that the creating a new reservoir would be unsafe. Gittes then photographs Hollis with a young woman who it is assumed he is having an affair with. After the pictures turn up on the front page of the paper, Hollis Mulwray ends up dead by apparent suicide. But all this turns out to be bullshit when the real Mrs. Mulwray, played by Faye Dunaway, shows up and Gittes starts investigating the whole thing as a murder.

Second Robert Evans/Paramount Pictures movie directed by Polanski. Written by Robert Towne, he based the screenplay on the California Water Wars which is some real interesting shit. Stars include Nicholson and Dunaway. Also John Hillerman who was Higgins in Magnum P.I., James Hong who was the standard Asian guy in movies for a while (you may remember him as Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China or the "so cold" guy in Blade Runner), Polanski as the guy who cuts Gittes's nose, and Burt Young who was Paulie in the Rocky movies.

Some bullet points... Burt Young's character is a wife beating asshole that really didn't age well coming from a director like Polanski who bragged about cheating on his beautiful, preggers wife before she was murdered by the Manson Family, said no woman was his intellectual equal, and had sex with multiple children which ultimately forced him to flee the country. In this we see Young getting pictures from Gittes of his wife boning some other guy. At the end, Gittes goes to Young's and the wife answers the door with black eyes. It is treated like a joke. Can just imagine Polanski being like, "ah, she'll have black eyes and be cooking dinner, it'll be funny!" But, yeah, that chick is a really shitty place with no way out. Instead of this guy she was at least physically into, maybe emotionally or whatever, now she just gets beat at home, forced to cook this prick's dinner and what not. Not hard to imagine why she went outside the marriage with him treating her as such. 

Nice little Seabiscuit Easter egg at the beginning of the movie. Gittes is reading the LA Times and on the cover of the newspaper it talks about the famed horse written about by Kenyon alum Laura Hillenbrand. 

Director John Huston is solid and creepy as shit as Cross. I may like him as much as an actor as I like him as a director. Currently reading his autobiography, An Open Book. Him and Brad Pitt are my current man crushes. Though his part in this is truly fucked and disturbing. Doesn't get any better than when Nicholson and him have their little talk when we first see the Cross character. There Cross and Gittes talk thus:
Cross: You've got a nasty reputation, Mr. Gits. I like that.
Gittes: Thanks.
Cross: If you were a bank president, that would be one thing. But in your business it's admirable and it's good advertising.
Gittes: It doesn't hurt.
Cross: It's, um, why you attracted a client like my daughter.
Gittes: Probably.
Cross: But I'm surprised you're still working for her - unless she's suddenly come up with another husband.
Gittes: No. She happens to think the last one was murdered.
Cross: Umm, how'd she get that idea?
Gittes: I think I gave it to her.
Cross: Gittes. You're dealing with a disturbed woman who's just lost her husband. I don't want her taken advantage of. Sit down.
Gittes: What for?
Cross: You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't
That is some player shit from Huston. Have to think he got some enjoyment out of saying all of this to Nicholson who was, at the time, dating his daughter, the lovely Angelica Huston. It's probably my favorite scene in the movie. Plus he is onto something there as Gittes, in my opinion, is sort of a shitty detective. Throughout the movie there are like five times where Gittes more or less proclaims he has figured it all out and was wrong as fuck. Dude thinks he knows everything. He doesn't know shit. Also, full of shit. Says some shit about him drawing the line at extortion. Bullshit. He bones a client for fuck's sake. And the weird I think racist joke he tells that is not funny and I'm not sure I really get, is fucking stupid and ill timed. But there is no universe where Nicholson's portrayal of the character doesn't win this movie.

Was inspired to watch this flick again after 20 years after watching Once Upon a Time In... Hollywood. Tried watching it imagining the Rick Dalton character in the Gittes role as I assume in that universe, Dalton is staring in Polanski flicks instead of Nicholson. Maybe with him instead, so like one of the other detectives or something. But I could totes see DiCaprio as Dalton as Gittes. Lot going on there mentally but I see it.

So, now, that ending, spoiler, is fucking dark. Fuck that shit. Female watching companion did not like. Dunaway gets shot in the eye by the cops when trying to flee her rapist father who is trying to take back his daughter/granddaughter. Once the car stops and the girl is screaming and Huston shields her eyes in about as creepy of a way as possible, it looks as though the girl is going to live with her rich daddy-granddaddy. This disgusting, gross murdering perv. I'm sure that is going to be fucking great. Must have blocked that shit. Left a horrible taste in my mouth. Had to start a Pixar movie as a pick me up.

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery is the worst sports movie of all time

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery. Fourth movie I've watched for the Greatest Years in Cinema Project from 1939. First of the obligatory movies about sports from those great Hollywood years. This one, decidedly B, is not good. This is before they made sports movies worth a shit. The first one that is palatable is Pride of the Yankees in 1942 about Lou Gehrig starring Gary Cooper. This is like the crappy, lighter, British precursor that stars the real players from the club. Need I say more? For this reason, I was not expecting any sports movie from this year to be any good. So I figured I'd go with this movie over a couple of others because it had this whole murder mystery aspect to it. Fuck it. Why not.

An Arsenal Football Club movie, it is second English soccer talkie. Still figuring this whole thing out, I guess. Have to REALLY appreciate Arsenal to be a fan of the movie at this point. Like a historian or something. It basically follows the lead up to this big... game? Match? I'm sort of a fan of the Premier League going back to 2015 (mostly for pub trivia purposes) and was a fucking sportswriter and had to look that shit up every time I cover the damn thing that has been the sport of the future for my entire life, probably going back to win this movie was made. Again, huge fan. ANYway, the big MATCH is between Arsenal and this fictitious amateur team called the Trojans. Arsenal has absolutely nothing to gain from this and may indeed be playing against murderers as the best player on the Trojans suddenly dies during the MATCH. It's a brutal sport, after all. They stop the match and this Sherlock Holmes esque dude, more on him later, comes in to investigate. Suspension mostly falls on a couple of his sons of bitches teammates (one of which brings a fucking female ventriloquist dummy [which I assume is a crude sex toy] that is creepy as shit but brings the team luck or something), his Swedish GF, and side bitch (these relationships were all a bit hard to follow so I may be mistaken).

Ok. We'll start with this. The soccer is bad. I assumed this is what happened when you put old timey actors in sports roles but the Arsenal team was indeed made up of mostly real Arsenal players. Lionel Messi these guys are not. Move at different speed than players in the game today. Nor do they have the ball handling skills.

Something random of note I will point out. One of the chicks whose role was unintelligible but was most definitely a  suspect in the murder is being questioned all friendly like by the police and to be funny, I guess, she goes and puts Epsom salts in the sugar bowl. Hilarious and weird. What the hell is going on here? I have no idea. Ruins the tea which is equivalent to killing everyone in the room, apparently.

Fast forward to the end of the movie and it is pretty interesting and sort of insane. Wasn't really a fan until those last couple of minutes. When they find out who the murderer is, which they do through an elaborate setup that turns his hands black (don't ask), there is a really effective scene where the guy knows he's fucked and looks at all the tunnel exits. Like five or six cops stand in each one, looking at him with disgust. He then plays hero ball, taking it from coast-to-coast and scoring the winning goal to beat a historically great team the English Premier League. Everyone has had enough of this shit and the cops come out and arrest the guy. They call the detective on the phone asking how he knew who the killer was or whatever. He says, "it's elementary my dear Watson," puts on a Sherlock Holmes coat and hat, and grabs a giant magnifying glass and dances his way with these ladies on a stage off screen. Surprise Sherlock, I guess, but they'd been alluding to him being like Sherlock the whole time. It is weird as shit though and comes so far out of left field that is sort of funny.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is the greatest movie of all time

Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Classic. Wouldn't watch it as a child. Was fucking scared out of my mind from the little bits I had seen flipping through the channels or from the five second clip from the second movie in the series in The 'Burbs. Didn't see it until like junior year of high school at which point I thought it was a comedy in the way that The Evil Dead is sort of comedy albeit way more brutal. Also dark. The second flick in the series just goes completely camp, by the by. This is totes director Tobe Hooper's masterpiece. Completely changed the direction of horror and invented the concept of the final girl with original final girl Marilyn Burns. Greatest movie of all time. Probably legitimately.

Rotten Tomato Consensus: Thanks to a smart script and documentary-style camerawork, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre achieves start-to-finish suspense, making it a classic in low-budget exploitation cinema.

Group of five college aged kids, a brother, Franklin, and sister, Sally, and their friends, the other ones, are going to stay at their dead grandfather's place when they are attacked by a family of cannibals. The group's most memorable member, Leatherface, wears the flayed faces of people he kills like a grotesque Halloween mask and kills with both a sledgehammer and a chainsaw. After easily killing the other four, Leatherface chases Sally who puts up an impressive fight before she eventually gets captured and is forced to sit through an insane dinner where her friends are the entree that culminates in her attempted murder. When the group of cannibals--consisting of Leatherface, The Hitchhiker that we meet early in the film whom the college kids give a lift to before he attacks them, and The Cook who doesn't like killing but sure loves cooking and eating long pig--decide to let grandpa, who is 120 years old, perform the kill, Sally manages to wriggle free and get to the high where she makes her escape.

Directed by the ever misrepresented Hooper, who wins the movie for producing such an influential masterpiece of horror, this marks the early apex of the director who never earned the respect of Hollywood. He would later direct The Funhouse and Lifeforce which I have since grown to appreciate. All of these movies are out there. Surprising amount of humor in this one about a family of murdering cannibals that include one among them wearing human faces and what not. Not completely sure if this is intentional or not. The humor.

But here is some stuff I compiled that supports this being a comedy. At the beginning, just after an insane and terrifying voice over, Franklin, the character in the wheelchair, starts out the movie pissing in his pee can and then rolls down a hill, falling out of his chair screaming. It is close to Mac and Me bad. Then there is the Hitchhiker with the scar or birthmark on his face who they pick up. He jokes about working in a slaughterhouse and shows them pictures and stuff. Hilarious, right? He then starts talking about how the new, more humane method of killing livestock eliminates "good jobs" for people. This guy would freak out if he saw all the automation or walked into a Kroger with the whole self-checkout shit. This is all before he takes Franklin's pocketknife and starts cutting himself. Everyone freaks and Franklin takes the knife back. The Hitchhiker then pulls out a straight razor while everyone is screaming and slices Franklin's arm. All hell breaks loose and they boot him out of the car. It all goes south so fast that it ends up being like WTF funny. Then, once they stop and stumble upon the house where Leatherface and the rest of the killers reside but before anyone has died, Franklin spazzes out, saying stuff like "come on Franklin, it'll be a great time," and repeatedly blows raspberries and makes fart noises for an uncomfortable amount of time.

Plus, there is the scene where couple Kirk and Pam keep ignoring insane warning signs that they are in danger whilst dicking around out in front of the murder house where both of them will die. This includes finding human remains. Kirk finds a tooth, obviously human with a filling in it and shit, and like touches her with it to gross her out and is like "I got something for you" which is fucking insane. A minute later he goes inside and dies within 10 seconds as Leatherface busts out and smacks him in the head with sledgehammer. That shit ain't funny.

Then we get the stuff with Sally, played by actress Marilyn Burns, towards the end. First she is chased by Leatherface who is a first-time stoned Gunner Hanson. That is the reason for all the Keystone Cops swerving and shit. She eventually gets to this gas station that doesn't sell gas that they stopped at earlier. The old guy inside, whom we only get referred to as "The Cook", ends up being in on the killing and eating folks and attacks Sally, screaming hysterically, with a fucking broom and a burlap sack. Once they have Sally in the home, the group brings out grandpa to kill her with a hammer like he used to use on animals (not cool with that shit) but he is so old he can barely hold it. This allows her to break loose and hit the highway where we get the iconic Leatherface raging and twirling like a dervish.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Piranha 3DD is the worst movie of all time

Piranha 3DD. Jesus. This ins bad in a charmless, fuck-man-I-just-watched-this way. Piranha 3D was fine for what it was. Just a dumb B-movie that was fun and over-the-top but was taken seriously. I enjoyed it. 3DD feels like a cash grab that no one took seriously. Genuinely one of the worst, least enjoyable movies I've ever seen. Did definitely learn to spell piranha though. Piranha. Look at that shit.

Rotten Tomato Consensus: It strains to up the gore and self-awareness of it predecessor, and -- despite some game celebrity cameos -- the result is a dispiriting echo of 2010's horror-comedy.

And away we go... Gist of the movie is that an ancient school of man-eating piranhas hyper-evolve in weird ways for no apparent reason and go from the lake in the first one to a new waterpark in the second. There is a whole subplot about the ownership of the waterpark with characters played by Danielle Panabaker who is apparently in Grey's Anatomy and The Flash among other things I've never watched and David Koechner who will always be Champ from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy to me. The Koechner character turns the place into an all nude place, more or less, though they still allow in children and shit like that. Others in the movie that I recognize are
crazy hot Katrina Bowden who was the intern chick on 30 Rock and was stellar in the flick Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Gary Busey with whom I share a birthday, the Clu Gulager who every time he shows up I remind everyone that he is awesome (his son, John Gulager who also did the movie Feast, is the director) has an extended cameo at the start of the movie (when reality goes out the window), David Hasselhoff who is leathery as fuck who is maybe the only thing I sort of like about the movie, Christopher Lloyd of Back to the Future, Doc Brown fame, Ving Rhames who was known for his role as Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction but now is just the Arby's guy, and Paul Scheer from Hell Baby and all the podcasts that I listen to.

Sigh. Where to begin. I'm not what you would call a stickler for movie logic but holy shit. I mean, I was fine with the piranhas living isolated in a cave below a lake for millions of years, feeding off of each other. That is insane. Did I complain. No. But for this movie that features piranhas that that inhabit and grow inside a woman's vagina after she inhaled fertilized piranha eggs (yeah, I have no idea) which bites a guy's dick off, of course, and are able to walk on land by the end of the movie, I have issues.

I was surprised when Rhames and Sheer show up, reprising their roles from the original. This was unnecessary and sad. Rhames completely phones it in. Sheer is pro though and seems like he at least wants to be there. In the first one, he falls off a boat into a piranha infested lake but other shit is going on and we don't see what happens to him though it is assumed he is dead. But then here he is, none worse for wear. Rhames, however, now has metal legs, which come in handy when pulling people out of shallow water. But, yeah, by the time they show up, at the waterpark for some sort of therapy session, I am way checked out. There are some unanswered questions here. Like how are these two hanging out in this universe? Sure, Rhames may have lived there since he was a cop there before his disability. But Sheer was a sleazy PA for a Girls Gone Wild type outfit. Why would he stick around? Also, why would they try to break their fear of water at an adult themed waterpark? Seems like an appropriate place for this to happen, I guess. Baby steps into the kiddie pool filled with naked women.

This movie was originally released in theaters, that part is crazy enough, in 3D, which is just insane. Might be the crappiest 3D movie in terms of everything. It's worse than Jaws 3D by a landslide. Mostly, this is just crappy looking fish and girls with giant 3D boobs running around. No one wins with a movie like this.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

North by Northwest is the great movie of all time

North by Northwest. Fantastic. Depending on the day, fave Alfred Hitchcock movie. Watch it every year. Cary Grant in this movie is the fucking coolest. 99% Fresh on Rotten Tomato, some fucking dipshit didn't like this movie. Again, what more do you fucking expect. If you haven't seen this flick, it is fucking awesome. It is what would happen if some hilarious guy was mistaken for James Bond and keeps idioting his way out of almost getting killed.

Rotten Tomato Consensus: Gripping, suspenseful, and visually iconic, this late-period Hitchcock classic laid the groundwork for countless action thrillers to follow.

Gist of this movie is that Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill is out to lunch at a fancy restaurant. A waiter goes around with a phone calling for George Kaplan. Thornhill calls the guy over to order or something. Some goons are the lookout for the guy who answers the calls for Kaplan. Seeing this exchange, they decide that fucking guy is Kaplan and make his life hell for the next two and a half hours of run time. Trying to kill him and what not by filling up with booze and putting him behind the wheel and trying to buzz him with an aeroplane. You know, normal stuff.

In addition to Grant, cast includes Martin Landau who actually won an Academy Award for Best Supporting for 1994's Ed Wood plays the right hand man to Phillip Vandamm whose the guy trying to have Kaplan killed (basically his henchman), James Mason who starred in all kinds of shit (A Star Is Born [the 1954 encarnation], 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Lolita, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, so forth) plays Phillip Vandamm, and Eva Marie Saint as love interest and bad ass spy Eve Kendall. Les Tremayne of Creature of Destruction which I did a video on couple of years ago makes an appearance as the auctioneer. Bernard Herrmann notably does the musical score. This one of his most recognizable.

If nothing else, it is definitely the funnest Hitchcock movie. First, Grant's character is hilarious, sort of a dumb guy but means well. He also has a habit of thanking people when they insult him. No universe where he doesn't win the movie. Love the scene where after he gets pegged as Kaplan and they take him to Mason's home and force all the booze down his throat and he wakes up whilst they are trying to drive him off a cliff. He manages to steady the car and then drive until finally getting pulled over for being all over the road. When he tells everyone what happened, everyone, including his mother, laughs at him hysterically. He is also asked how much he drank and responds with drunken hand gestures. You would think this would be a sobering experience for the guy but he drinks his fucking ass off for the entirety of the movie. At one point he orders a Gibson on a train. I was going to make one of these, read what it was (gin, dry vermouth, and a pickled onion), and started to dry heave. Then there is a the scene when the bad guys have him cornered in an auction house. To get out of the situation, he acts like an asshole. When the bidding for a painting is in the thousands, he starts putting in bids dollar and goes down when Les Tremayne rebukes him.  A woman then calls him a "genuine idiot." "Thank you," he says. Again, he is rebuked. Bidding is started at $800. "Eight," Thornhill says. He is thanked for getting into the spirit of things. "Eleven," he says later. "Thirteen," and when he is about to win, "thirteen dollars." Everyone laughs. He then says that is more than the painting is worth. Then he jumps up to $2000. "Excuse me?" "$2100... $2500." They ignore him and he keeps upping the bid. Finally they go to kick him out and the cops show up. At this point he punches a guy in the face. He is an all out wild man by this point. THe cops then let him go even though he is an international fugitive, long story. He finds out the chick he was into, Eva Marie Saint, whom I adore in pretty much everything, is the real Kaplan and her cover was blown, he takes off to go save her then we go have a brawl in a fictional Frank Lloyd Wright on top of Mount Rushmore. It is insane and fantastical and amazing. Best movie of all time, indeed.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Cat and the Canary is the greatest movie of all time

The Cat and the Canary. Third film in the Greatest Years in Cinema Project. Fourth film from 1939 in total. Fulfilling the obligatory horror portion of the project, it is a fun little comedy horror flick. No Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein but it is solid enough. Probably shan't be watching it again any time ever, but it was fine.

Was based on a 1922 stage play by John Willard. This was the third of  six versions based on the play. Others included a 1927 silent version, The Cat Creeps from 1930 which was the first Universal horror film with sound and dialogue (it is considered a lost film), 1941's The Black Cat which has a different ending, and 1979 British version with people you've never heard of.

The look of someone who's had enough of this shit
Stars Paulette Goddard, a pretty lady known for her work with then husband Charlie fucking Chaplin (they divorced in 1942), she was the lead lady in both Modern Times and The Great Dictator, which came out in 1940, the no introduction needed Bob Hope who yucks it up throughout the whole flick, and Gale Sondergaard (she plays the mistress of the estate, Miss Lu) who was originally cast in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's classic The Wizard of Oz, which you may have heard of, in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West. At that point in the production, the character was conceived as a more glamorous type witch, like the Snow Queen of Narnia or something, but when they decided on the green skin and prosthetics, she called bullshit on that. Honestly, even with how beloved the film is now, probably a good call on her part, which I will get into in more detail when I write about that movie. But Sondergaard didn't hurt for work. In her early 40s when this movie was released, the lady cranked out 39 roles in 10 years but most of the movies were of the B-horror variety.

Gist of the movie is that 10 years after old rich guy Cyrus Norman his family and a random actor, one wisecracking actor Wally Campbell (Hope), gather for the reading of Norman's estate which he has left to distant relative Joyce Norman (Goddard) who gets everything so long as she can stay sane for like a night and a day, which proves difficult as a bunch of shit goes down. If she can't keep it together, it all goes to someone else whose name is sealed in an envelope, supposedly unknown. Yeah, this doesn't make a lot of sense. The point, it seems, was to make her look crazy but it's hard to be like, "she is cray, give me the money!" when the executor of the will gets murdered within an hour proving that someone is out to get her.

Goddard is solid enough in this though she wasn't really asked to carry the movie. A bit more on Goddard's 1939, she was originally considered for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind and even did some Technicolor screen tests. Producer David O. Selznick and original director George Cukor liked her enough that they were willing to set her up with an acting coach. That was until Vivien Leigh auditioned for the part. There are, however, rumors that her relationship, both personal and professional, with Chaplin played into the decision to go with Leigh over Goddard. As it goes, Selznick was worried about the scandal of Chaplin and Goddard's relationship status, living in sin, supposedly, there are questions about the legality of their marriage, but that seems like bullshit because everyone involved here knew that Leigh and Lawrence Olivier had the same shit going on. There was also Goddard's pre-existing contract with Chaplin's studio which may have had legal implications with casting her. That too seems like horse shit. It's more likely that Leigh was just too perfect for the role and Goddard was considered slightly too old. You can read more about all this in The Atlantic article "The Making of Gone With The Wind (Part I)" which is a hell of a read.

Overall, a pretty enjoyable watch with some pretty solid suspense, especially at the end. The set design is what I walked away most impressed with. Dark passageways and a foggy estate in the Bayou where a mysterious monster lurks. Supposedly this and the 1940 film The Ghost Breakers which also starred Hope and Goddard and sounds like more or less the same movie were what inspired the design of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.

Believe there are shades of this movie in Murder Mystery, a Jenifer Aniston Adam Sandler Netflix movie, also maybe the New Orleans haunted house/demon baby movie Hell Baby. At the end it is hard to say who is against her and who has her best interest in mind. Not super surprising who the killer is but you are kept guessing until the reveal at the end. Hope was sort of funny in a dad joke kind of way and probably won the movie. He is solid, I guess, but way over the top.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is seriously the greatest movie of all time

Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood. Oh my fucking gawd ya'll. Two lines from the movie sum up my reactions to the movie, "That was the best acting I've ever seen in my whole life" and "You're real, right?" Or something like that. Sort of Tarantino's way of telling you what he thinks about the film. Like when Aldo at the end of Inglourious Bastards says, "I think this just might be my masterpiece." At least the first one, any way. Lot of chicken mole, amigos. Rotten Tomato score is 85% Fresh. This is a travesty. In no frame of mind to definitively say this, but after one viewing, it is my favorite Taratino movie. At least on this night.

Rotten Tomato Consensus: Thrillingly unrestrained yet solidly crafted, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tempers Tarantino's provocative impulses with the clarity of a mature filmmaker's vision.

Gist of the movie is that a "has been" actor (who lives next door to Sharon Tate), one Rick Dalton played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his stunt double, Cliff Booth played by Brad Pitt, who is more than a brother and not quite a wife go about and hang around, doing their things in L.A. in 1969, building up to the violence that you know is coming at the hands of the Manson Family. The trailer makes it look like a Manson flick mostly dealing with the murder of Sharon Tate, played wonderfully by Margot Robbie, but it is really a buddy hangout movie. Great one at that. Minimal violence for a Tarantino movie and then we get what we were waiting for.

The Tate family, notably sister Debra, was originally pissed that Tarantino and company were making this movie that they planned on being released on the 50th anniversary of Sharon and company's murder. Then the director met with her and she gave the film her blessing. Now she come down firmly in Tarantino's defense, saying that the movie made her cry and how touched she was by Robbie's performance. She has even gone as far to say that she wished he would make a movie completely dedicated to her and what not. So really came around on that one. After seeing, you can totally see why.

Some of the bullet points. Leo and Pitt. These two together are the perfect duo and their performances are amazing. They should both be nominated for Best Actor.

First, Pitt. Cliff is one of the great Tarantino characters. Little bit of Aldo in him from GB. Also some shades of Rusty Ryan and Tyler Durden. He and Tarantino both independently saw the character as a Billy Jack type which he totes is. If you haven't seen that, it is basically about an extremely masculine but cool dude who can kick some fucking ass. We find out maybe halfway through the movie that he has done some shit that makes him a bastard. But he is such a great dude otherwise and is so fucking cool, you don't care. A personal fave scene with him is the one where he ends up at the Spahn Ranch, taking one Pussycat back to her people. It is tense as fuck as Manson Family members come out of the woodwork and ominously stare him down. You feel that he is in real danger and there are red flags popping up everywhere but he is a coffin nail, this guy. When he kicks the shit out of Steve "Clem" Grogan for slashing his tire, this is the guy who in real life was recommended to die after the Manson Family trial but then sentenced to life (he would get out on parole in 1985, incredibly) because as Judge James Kolts said during the sentencing, "Grogan was too stupid and too hopped on drugs to decide anything on his own," for slashing his tires when one of the hippy chicks runs off to get Tex Watson (the kid that plays Tex is one Austin Butler who was also in The Dead Don't Die whom I had never seen before a month ago and is now everywhere) who hauls ass back to the scene. The way he moves and the crazed look he has about him, you know shit was really about to go down. Plus, all this echos what happened to the real life stuntman Donald Shea at the hands of the MF. Shea was checking on George Spahn just as Cliff does in the film and calls the police on them. After the cops raided the ranch, Manson and company murdered the guy, burying his body near the property. Anyway, yeah, if you know about this shit it is even more ominous and you are even more freaked out. Also, him being a guy who never was in shit sort of follows an alternative path for the actor. Like if he was just a guy who played little roles like the one he had in True Romance.

Now Leo. Dude wins the film. Pitt was fucking sick. It is almost unbelievable, these two together, acting the shit out of this movie. A cool ass actor doing good ass work. That's Leo and his character, Rick fucking Dalton, in the film. Best when is sort of losing his shit. His is career is basically over with the arrival of New Hollywood (also called the "American New Wave") ushered in in 1967 with Bonnie and Clyde. No more Rick Dalton as a leading man, he is now relegated to television, playing a big that gets his ass kicked by the next big thing that comes along. The show that his character is acting in with the movie, Lancer, was a real show that ran from 1968-70. In the movie Lancer looks amazing.  I tried to watch an episode, "Blue Skies for Willie Sharpe," and it was fucking terrible. Production wise it was like watching someones home movie or something. I was expecting Howard Hawks. I think it was Tarantino joke. Having Dalton telling himself in the mirror that if he doesn't get his lines right, he was going to go home and blow his brains out, taking this shit so goddamned seriously for a show that was meh. That's his best scene in the movie. Might be saying it is a job and this guy fucking takes it seriously. In any case, love all the acting stuff with character. This is where he really shines, Leo that is. So many layers there. Pretending to be a good actor doing a shitty job and then freaking out. Then acting as this guy acting and fucking killing it. It was mind blowing how good that stuff was. So much so that they address it in the film.

Finally, there is Robbie as Tate. Her portrayal is so bubbly and likable, you feel protective of her. She is almost larger than life at first. Hanging out with Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips at the Playboy Mansion. Driving around LA with Roman Polanski. She is New Hollywood and very cool. But then were see her out and about. Stopping at a theater to watch a movie that she is in. No one knows her. It is sort of humbling but she is just excited to be there and hear people's reactions to her work. She isn't famous at this point, but this isn't something she seems to really care about. More just happy to be a part of it. She doesn't say a lot but she does such a good job and it is all done so delicately, you really get a sense of who she is and what she was like. You want her to live and you think of what she could have become. It feels like this is a woman picked for stardom for a new era, she just hasn't gotten there yet. Plus, Robbie is so pretty and that 1969 look is good for her. I don't mean to objectify her because she is so talented. But she is like painfully beautiful in this movie. Some critics have made a big deal of her character's lack of lines and shit. This is bullshit and sort of demeans her performance. She doesn't need to say a lot to knock it out of the park, which she does.

Some other things that really stand out include the cool as shit 1960s world that Tarantino builds, (getting into spoilerish territory here) the crazy ass ending, and the fucking insane cast. Not sure there has ever been a cast like this. There are three above. Fucking sick, right? Then there are the other people that kill in the couple of minutes where they are on screen. Folks that play historical figures like Bruce Dern as George Spahn, Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring, and Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen. Random industry people some of which are real and others not like Zoë Bell and Kurt Russell play a stunt coordinating couple, Nicholas Hammond as Sam Wanamaker, Timothy Olyphant of the TV western Lancer James Stacy, and Al Pacino as a film producer. Various recognizable faces in the Manson clan, like Butler as Tex, Lena Dunham, Dakota Fanning as the notorious Squeaky Fromme, Danielle Harris from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, and Margaret Qualley was sort of the biggest standout from the Family as Pussycat. A few kids of famous people like Kevin Smith's daughter Harley Quinn Smith (still sour on him after he was an asshole at a comedy club appearance in town) who was a random Manson Girl--whom I found out is a vegan, so totally in my cool book--and Rumer Willis, the spawn of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, who played Joanna Pettet. A couple of 1990s people that were tapped for stardom that never came, in this camp were Rebecca Gayheart (Urban Legends star/Noxzema Girl from the 1990s) as the wife Cliff kills and Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder who shows up as an actor on Lancer. Then there are a lot of people that would maybe get second billing in a lesser movie, guys like Clifton Collins Jr. and Michael Madsen and James Remar, for example, that are basically just extras in this flick. Hell, even Clu Gulager makes a cameo as the bookstore owner.

Also, Tarantino doesn't seem to like Bruce Lee (portrayed in the film by one  Mike Moh). The character is sort of a prick and overall looks ridiculous. Plus, Pitt's character makes him look like a loudmouth who can't really even fight. That is a fantastic scene by the way. Everyone in the theater I watched it with was losing their minds when Lee challenges Cliff to a fight and has a random guy hold his jacket and the guy tells him that Cliff has a rep for being crazy. "What did he do?" "Killed his wife and got away with it." Lee looks at him like WTF. Fucking great. Apparently, Lee's surviving family is pissed.

A personal aside I think is relevant on how good I felt the movie was. So I am definitively an ex smoker. However, I allow myself one a year which I've not partaken in for some time. So, yeah, great Tarantino movie, second to last, supposedly. So I had my first cigarette since 2013 to commemorate it. I smoked about half of it and tried to really enjoy it which I sort of did. Could go for one of those acid dipped ones though. That I'll tell you.