Sun, Dec 31, 2000
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography More anecdotal than comprehensive. But it really does remind one how important the picture really is in "moving pictures." Very fun to watch. The central point that cinematographers are the unsung heroes of movies is somewhat undercut by all the examples where it was actually the director that decided on the final set-up. Good information on Gordon Willis, the man responsivle for the Godfather movies. I'll definitely be paying more attention to the DP credit.
Insomnia Really gripping detective film set North of the Arctic Circle. Not being able to sleep is one thing, but trying to solve a complex murder at the same time pushes the limits of sanity.
Six Short Films of W.C. Fields Some very funny bits here. These are the surviving short films of Fields prior to his full-length features. Interestingly, the earliest short (Pool Sharks in 1915) has the best picture of the bunch. It is also the only silent short.
Thu, Dec 27, 2000
The Long Good Friday A very nicely done gangster movie set in London. Not a single dead moment in the movie, which was a real plus. Bob Hoskins was great, as was Helen Mirren as his girlfriend.
Breaking the Waves Absolutely spellbinding. A very disturbing and moving film about an earthbound saint who sacrifices her life so her husband can live. It reminded me a lot of Dostoevsky's Idiot, because the heroine is so pure she appears a bit simple to the rest of the world. Emily Watson gives a prefectly harrowing performance as the woman who doesn't quite know what she is doing, but feels she has to do it anyway. The handheld style of the camera work was really interesting.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas/Horton Hears a Who Tough to say much about this classic, except that Elizabeth can't stop watching it and it's as good as ever. We have the Special Edition which has some computer enhanced colors, which is a little distracting.
Thu, Dec 21, 2000
The Lady from Shanghai Rita Hayworth can really act. I haven't seen too many movies with her and this was quite the revelation. Orson Welles is amazing, as usual, as are the supporting cast members. The music is atrocious and really detracts from the movie. Luckily the accompanying commentary by Peter Bogdanovich explains why things are so wrongit wasn't Welles' fault. A very interesting film with an amazing finale in a funhouse hall of mirrors.
Wed, Dec 20, 2000
Touch of Evil This is the new reedit based on Welles's memo. There are a few rough cuts and the way the plot comes to an end is a little weird. The movie is amazing to look at though: the camera work is just stunning. Welles himself is really evil. He did an incredible job of acting. Charlton Heston is really good too, as the "good cop" from Tijuana. Very odd to see Dennis Weaver nearly unrecognizable in a comic relief role as the night cleark in the motel.
Sat, Dec 16, 2000
His Girl Friday There's nothing like good writing and this one is great. Even now the pace is still very fast and lots of fun. I actually liked Rosalind Russell better than Cary Grant, who at a few choice moments seemed a little too studied. This is minor nitpicking, though, for a fantastic film.
Thu, Dec 14, 2000
Gladiator The script is really thin on this one. In fact, the deleted scenes on the DVD show that the original script was looking for much more. The more one thinks about it, the whole thing is pretty flimsy. And yet, the movie as a whole is quite affecting. Whether its the actingall four main roles are done very wellor the actual imagery, it all comes together as a great package.
Stop Making Sense Just loads of fun from start to finish. And the commentary track is really interesting about how they put the whole thing together.
Sat, Dec 2, 2000
Fantasia I've seen this movie at least twice previously in the theater. It only gets more amazing with (my) age. The extras on the Fantasia Legacy disk show how remarkable an achievement the movie was and still is even sixty years later. It is especially impressive that Disney didn't go for the easy story lines, for example in the Night on Bald Mountain sequence: it's flat out scary.
Fri, Dec 1, 2000
American Beauty I guess we're heading into a spate of aging baby boomer movies. I'm convinced whoever can produce the best version of King Lear over the next ten years is going to win a whole bunch of awards. Anyway, the script is quite amazing as is the acting of Kevin Spacey.A real surprise is Wes Bentley, who played the voyeur next door. He reminded me a lot of Joaquin Pheonix.
I can see why people were mixed on this film. The view of suburbia is way beyond reality. Nevertheless, if the movie is talking about what can go wrong if people aren't careful, why not push the point. On that score, it succeeds very, very well.
Thur, Nov 30, 2000
Rosemary's Baby This movie scared me so much I took three days to watch it. Repulsion was an early favorite, and the same feeling of creepiness pervades this movie. Roman Polanski has often put too much humor into his distrubing movies, see Bitter Moon for instance, but this one has just enough that it is unsettling, but not over the top.
The cast is just incredible. John Cassavetes is really odd, and Ruth Gordon should have been named a national treasure. Of course it is Mia Farrow who owns this movie. She projects enough wispiness that one can barely imagine that she is normal in any way at all. The weirdest part of it all is that the setting for the film is the Dakota, the infamous condo in New York City.
Sun, Nov 26, 2000
The Prisoner I was a little worried that this high school favorite was going to be a bit dated after all these years. However, the first two sets, which comprise seven episodes plus one alternate episode, remain remarkably good. The second set is a bit better than the first, perhaps reflecting a little more confidence in the material and themes. Making the enemy the home government, rather than the "other side", probably played as sophisticated irony in the late '60s. Now, the theme seems almost more relevant and creepy, since control is essentially managed through technological advances. Movies like Enemy of the State don't do it nearly as cleverly as this show did thirty years earlier
Thur, Nov 23, 2000
Fantasia 2000 After quite a long break from DVDs, I sat down and watched this new version of a classic. While I now wish I could have seen it on IMAX when it was first released, the movie was still a bit of a revelation. The animation really is cutting edge. The flying whales opening number is so weird and goofy that it really works, and the Firebird Suite piece offers a really remarkable color palette.
Gimme Shelter A whole different kind of music movie. While there is a sense of foreboding that prevades the entire movie, the real star of the thing is Mick Jagger. In the concert scenes before Altamont, he is simply amazing. The sound on the disk is also fantastic. The one song where Tina Turner sings is also a revelation: what she can do to a microphone is incredible! Since much of the film is prologue to Altamont, we also see Melvin Belli working out the legal aspects of putting on a free concert. Given his later history as a high-profile divorce lawyer, this footage had an unintentionally funny aspect to it.
The movie itself is put together almost as a commentary on the documentary process. We see the Stones watching the film and their reaction to the murder at the end at the same time that we are seeing it for the first time ourselves. It is an interesting technique that helps bring out the fact that everyone was confused and horrified by what happened, and just as helpless to stop it once it all began.
Tue, Nov 7, 2000
Dead Ringers A very creepy, and extremely good, movie about a couple of twins gone bad. Jeremy Irons is incredible. Like The Passion of Joan of Arc it shows how thrilling a slow pace can be in the hands of a master. It made me want to see eXistenZ again.
Sun, Nov 5, 2000
The Mighty Peking Man A really cheesy Hong Kong ripoff of King Kong. Pretty amusing scenes of the jungle lady playing with her pet cheetah. This one was brought to DVD by Quentin Tarantino, who saw something in this flick that clearly evades a less, ahem, sophisticated viewer.
Sat, Nov 4, 2000
This is Spinal Tap In this latest reissue, the commentary track has the band speaking in their Tap roles, and it's very funny. Yet, I can see why people are still spending big bucks on eBay to get the Criterion disk which has the band and Rob Reiner talking seriously about the movie. It would be very interesting to hear exactly how the original movie was put together and if the participants knew how big an impact the movie would have on popular culture.
Fri, Nov 3, 2000
Two-Lane Blacktop I was worried throughout the movie that it would end with the death of one of the four main (and very engaging) characters. In the end it did not go for that cheap answer, and instead concludes with the much more ambiguous, and more interesting, idea that the roadtrip never ends.
For a movie with very little dialogue, there are some great lines, especially by Warren "If I don't get grounded soon, I'll go into orbit" Oates. Really interesting to see James Taylor and Dennis Wilson acting in this movie. Knowing their somewhat sad real lives only underlines the sadness of the movie; the same for Laurie Bird who committed suicide while living with Art Garfunkeltalk about your troubled waters!
I bought the movie for the clearly critical reason that it came in a tin box limited edition marketed by Anchor Bay. Lucky I did though, because it is probably the best of the three that I have (Evil Dead II and Repo Man being the other twono slouches there either).
Wed, Nov 1, 2000
Toy Story 2 A pretty good movie, awfully entertaining throughout. Yet it doesn't quite rise to the joy and wonder of the first one. The story is just a little too complex and perhaps the excitement of learning about the secret life of toys is not as great the second time around. I wish Pixar had re-rendered and re-framed the movie for TV size the way they did for A Bug's Life. That made the presentation really impressive. Nevertheless, the picture was directly dumped to disk and looks great.
Tues, Oct 31, 2000
The Filth and the Fury Made by the (surviving) Sex Pistols as a way to respond to what they saw as the inaccuracies of Sid and Nancy and other "histories" of the band. It's really well done and you get a good sense of the history of punk and the band. The real glue of the movie is the friendship that developed between Sid and John, and it ends sadly.
Mon, Oct 30, 2000
The Passion of Joan of Arc Close-ups can be really claustrophobic. Not in this movie. It is just gripping right from the start. Not to mention that it has more medieval freaks in it than The Name of the Rose, and the actress who plays Joan spills more tears than Meryl Streep. And all this in 1928. Wow!
Sat, Oct 28, 2000
Nashville The model for large, ensemble pieces like Magnolia and even director Robert Altman's own Short Cuts. It is also a prime example of the decline of movies over the past 30 years. As good as Magnolia is, it is concerned primarily with individual problems. Nashville works on a theme no less grand than what is Americasociology rather than the smaller canvas of psychology.
Nashville grabs you from the very first scene of the political van leaving the garage. Why is it that some images in movies are so powerful that they almost instantly acquire deep symbolic meaning, while other movies struggle far too hard and never come close? I saw a bit of Fight Club again, and for all its technical and acting wizardry nothing in that movie achieves the sublimity of even the simplest shot of Jeff Goldblum riding his giant motorcycle tricycle. All I can think is that's where the real spark of directorial genius lies.
Sat, Oct 7, 2000
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai Ever since Stranger than Paradise I've enjoyed Jim Jarmusch's movies. This one is no exception. It's slow-paced, but it works very well. Watching Forest Whitaker walk and move around is alone enough to keep one's interest. There are some strange off-notes: the offbeat humor of the Mafia characters is classic Jarmusch, but doesn't exactly work here, and using Japanese samurai as a model for honor feels about ten years too late (wouldn't Tibetan monks, or Yanomani warriors feel a little more au courant?). The images of pigeons are really good, as is the ice cream vendor who can't understand or speak English but communicates well with everybody.
Shakes the Clown A dark, subversive, very funny movie. I know people don't often defend Bobcat Goldthwaite as a comic genius, but this is one for the ages, at least in the category of really stupid humor. Includes a hilarious cameo by Robin Williams as a mime.
Wed, Oct 4, 2000
Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS The most appalling film I have ever seen. Now you may ask who am I to judge a film filmed in nine days on the set of Hogan's Heroes and featuring a pneumatic Nazi camp commandant? Nevertheless, it was utterly revolting. The commentary track provided an interesting history of exploitation films. I only wish I hadn't seen the movie that went along with it.
Tue, Oct 3, 2000
Evil Dead The first of the Evil Dead trilogy and the one with the highest horror/humor ratio. Bruce Campbell looks quite young, and his mannerisms and style aren't yet fully developed. Lots of fun, though, with goofy effects that turn out to work really well.
Sun, Oct 1, 2000
Brazil Terry Gilliam's films, particularly this one, remind me a bit of Tim Burton's. They are not as boring (heresy, I know) as Burton's, but they have the same over-indulgence of the image for its own sake, rather than for the story. Not that the images are bad, it is just that they feel a bit forced; they draw attention to themselves more than add to the story. I happened to see a bit of The Fisher King on cable while watching this movie and it had the same bit of obviousness, particularly in the camera moves. Compare this to the more subtle movement of Paul Thomas Anderson in Magnolia and Boogie Nights. Walkabout and Barry Lyndon are two other movies where almost every frame could serve as a still picture, but they all serve the movie rather than distract from it.
Perhaps it is because the movie is 15 years old, but the script, with its Orwellian message, seems a bit obvious. The concrete monster, coming out of the sidewalk, grabbing the flying Jonathan Pryce, is anything but subtle, despite its beauty.
The version of the movie I have is the three-disc Criterion set, which has two versions of the movie as well as the whole history of Universal Studios trying to change the movie completely, an ironic underlining of the whole point of the movie. The movie will probably reward repeat viewings, where you overlook the weakness of the story just to watch the interplay of the images.
Sat, Sep 30, 2000
Magnolia Wow. Just an amazing movie, even if you don't count the rain of frogs. The direction is really amazing as are the acting and writing. Hard to summarize, but the three hours it took to watch seemed very, very short.
All About Eve A classic that I'd not seen before. Bette Davis can do pretty much anything. Really fun script. Not exactly realistic, but lots of great lines coming from really nasty people.
Sun, Sep 24, 2000
Carnival of Souls A really interesting film that manages to move beyond its bad acting and low budget by sheer force of good storytelling. If anything the movie reminded me of The Sixth Sense, except instead of having the relief of a love story it features creepy ghouls and a scary ending.
Sat, Sep 23, 2000
Repo Man A wonderful film from start to finish. It has lost almost nothing since its issue in 1984. It really reminded me of the sort of despair that was around when I was in college: cities falling apart, drugs and crime everywhere. Harry Dean Stanton should be in every movie made.
Fri, Sep 22, 2000
Diner Still very watchable and a great example of brilliant casting, writing, and ensemble acting. Amazing what Mickey Rourke and Steve Gutenberg can do with good material and direction.
Wed, Sep 20, 2000
Fishing with John Not really a movie, but a series of six television shows supposedly about fishing. John Lurie takes his friends to weird places, talks about all sorts of stuff, and catches very few fish. In this case, the shows grow on you and the commentary by Lurie is just wonderful. Lurie is such an interesting guy that he doesn't really need his friends around to make an interesting show.
Sun, Sep 17, 2000
The Cider House Rules It's not a good thing to read the book first if you really want to like the movie. Michael Caine was fine, not Oscar caliber I thought (unlike the majority of the Academy). The book was great, the movie was okay, but looked fantastic. It seems there are too many movies being shot that look warm and wonderful. It's all golden hour stuff. Performing abortions and living in an orphanage somehow doesn't evoke warm and wonderful feelings for me.
Sat, Sep 16, 2000
Evil Dead II Bruce Cambell has been robbed by the Academy! No one else can cut off his own hand with a chainsaw like Bruce and still ask the critical question "Who's laughing now?"
The Bank Dick The script is credited to one "Mahatma Kane Jeeves", a psuedonym for W.C. Fields and an indicator of how funny this movie is. While not laugh out loud funny, it has all sorts of scenes which are genuinely amusing, without cheap laughs that detract from the larger whole.
Mon, Sep 11, 2000
Terminator 2: Judgement Day This is the Ultimate Edition DVD and, like the two disk Abyss DVD, it has just about everything, includng a metal slip case (which Amazon managed to bend a bit in transit). The movie is very good, although after watching Topsy-Turvy, I felt a little let down. The effects drive the movie so much that in a vacuum it's great, but next to a real story with real characters, the thinness of Cameron's stuff is pretty obvious. There is also a problem with all the extras in that you lose sight of the fact that it is the movie itself that's important rather than the process of putting the movie together. To some extent, if the movie can stand on its own, the extras can distract from what should be a complete experience. There are three different versions of the movie, includingt the secret version which can only be accessed by typing in the secret code, 82997, which is the date of the "Judgement Day" in the movie.
Sun, Sep 10, 2000
Topsy-Turvy There are lots of superlatives out there, but it's tough to give this movie what it deserves. Pure viewing satisfaction. Great pacing, excellent acting, fascinating story (and true no less), this movie has it all. The colors and set design are equal to everything else. Just wonderful.
Thu, Sep 7, 2000
All About My Mother Not exactly a family movie, given the parade of transvestites, drug-users, and pregnant nuns that are featured as main characters. A really good film though with great acting and an interesting story line. It has all of the trademark Almodovar flourishes like a color scheme that hasn't been successful since 1974.
Sun, Sep 3, 2000
The Sixth Sense Now I finally get all the references to this movie that I've been hearing for the past two years. Haley Joel Osmont would have made a great Harry Potter that's for sure. Anyway, the slow pacing was a real treat. No need for special effects and super fast cutting to make an impression. Quite an achievement. And Shyamalan was under thrity when he did it all. Wow.
Sat, Sep 2, 2000
Hurlyburly A riveting play with amazing acting by Sean Penn, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Spacey, and an almost unrecognizable Anna Paquin, among others. It has the standard problem of movies that were first written as plays in that it feels like a play--a little too unrealistic and stilted. While the language (by David Rabe) is the real star, the direction is very, very good. The staging really supports what is going on and the idea of the characters spending a lot of their time talking by cellphone is well done.
Fri,Sep 1, 2000
The Green Mile Well-told and well-acted. It even keeps your attention for the close to three hours running time. But none of that diminishes the fact that it's a manipulative, sappy movie. That said, one real treat was the photography which was just beautiful. Of course, it's a little hard to buy the fact that a depression-era prison was really just a heartwarming place filled with lovable people, but that's part of the fun of the movie. I guess.
Fri, Aug 25, 2000
Hard-Boiled While it doesn't have the weird beauty of the church scene and the tight story of "The Killer", I like this John Woo film a little better. The story is more complex and a little more realistic (if that's fair to say about any John Woo film). The opening scene in the teahouse is simply amazing.
Sid and Nancy Pretty incredible story, although one clearly suffers if one doesn't know a little of the history of the Sex Pistols and punk in general. In this case, the extras on the Criterion disk are almost mandatory. There are some great comments by all sorts of people about punk in general and Sid Vicious in particular. There is also some footage of the real Sid and Nancy (what kind of last name is Spungen, anyway?) in which you begin to see how perfectly the actors caught the mannerisms of the real people. A bonus treat is seeing Courtney Love appearing in several scenes long before she was Ms. Cobain.
Clerks Very fun. Unlike most movies, watching the extras on this disk actually reduced the effect of the main movie.
Chasing Amy The final plot twist was just a little too unbelievable for the movie to work--and it didn't really need the lesbian twist either. Some good lines, but overall, not as good as Clerks.
Star Trek: First Contact Easily one of the two best ST films. Good story, great acting from Picard, and a surprise appearance of Vulcans at the end. Of course, I've seen this before, but always worth watching again. I could listen to the opening theme from Jerry Goldsmith over and over again.
Army of Darkness (Special Director's Cut Edition) The third installment of the Evil Dead series. Very funny. Bruce Campbell is great. As good as the movie is the commentary with Sam and Ivan Raimi as well as Campbell. They shed a lot of light on the filmaking process as well as some of their complaints about how the movie turned out. Very interesting. The movie is just hilarious. Watched the final bit on the plane to Beijing.
Badlands Terence Malick's first film and absolutely gorgeous. In case one doesn't think Martin Sheen could ever act, one ought to see this film. Every single shot of the film could serve as a picture on its own. The colors, the framing, everything is just perfect. The disk transfer isn't the best--I have some nagging doubts about the aspect ratio (it is 16x9, but I'll bet the original was bigger) and there is a lot of film grain, grain that I could even see on my computer monitor. This is the story that was essentially retold by Oliver Stone in Natural Born Killers, and by Bruce Springsteen in his album "Nebraska". One of the nice things about the movie is that the pace is slow, slow but never boring. (This was a bit of a relief after Army of Darkness, which is nothing but fast pace). I need to watch the film again since I get the feeling I missed a lot. One interesting bit is that the end music is very similar to (if not exactly like) the music in "True Romance." I wonder if Quentin Tarantino and Tony Scott made the purposeful decision to copy the music to draw a link between the protagonists in their film and in "Badlands." One other link is that Quentin Tarantino did the first draft of "Natural Born Killers" (it was later drastically altered by Oliver Stone) so the story in Badlands was clearly well known to him.
Rushmore There is this amazing scene when Max Fischer returns to Rushmore Academy after he has been expelled and is going to public school. He tells someone "I like Rushmore, I like the seasons." Just an incredible line about what a private school can give to someone, what an atmosphere like that can provide. I'm convinced that only someone who had been to a private school could write something like that. A really interesting and fun movie. It got the Criterion treatment, although I can't say exactly whyis it really that good? But it sure passed the Sam Cohn testI didn't think about my ass once during the whole thing. One interesting tidbit: Owen Wilson (star of Armageddon and Shanghai Noon, as well as co-screenwriter of Rushmore) revealed in the commentary that he had gone to St. Mark's (my alma mater) and had been expelled for cheating on a geometry exam. Director Wes Andersen had gone to St. John's in Houston, a big rival of St. Mark's
The Abyss: Special Edition The "seamless branching" turned out not to be so seamless on the Apex player. For some reason all the added scenes were played exactly twice. The scene would play, repeat, and then move on to the next part of the movie. Very weird. Some strange artifacts in the picture at the beginning and then one frame of garbled info right near the end. Unclear if this is also there in the "theatrical"version on the disk. A fun and pretty amazing film. The scene where M.E. Mastrantonio is pulled back from death is still the best shot in the movie despite lacking any effects at all. The incredible stuff is on the extras disk. Two scripts, nearly 800 storyboards, effects reels, two documentaries, multi-angle shots of the psuedopod, and much, much more. An unbelievable collection of stuff.
Thursday, Jul 27, 2000
The Player A pretty near perfect movie. Just as interesting is hearing Robert Altman explain that most of the dialogue--including most of the best lines--was improvised by the actors. Hearing the writer explain his thoughts about the movie makes one think that he is as socially adept as the writer in the movie. One very odd guy.
We also watched "Man on the Moon". Coincidentally I recently read an article about autism. I have to say that many of Kaufman's antics reminded me of autism symptoms. At least the movie portrayed him as a guy who really couldn't connect with others. The deleted scenes are especially interesting. Can't say the movie made Kaufman seem all that sympathetic. Except for one scene, where he realizes that the Filipino "no knife" tumor removal is all a hoax and he just starts smiling wildly--a really neat scene.
Fri, Jul 21, 2000
The Wages of Fear A French movie from the 50's issued by Criterion. A fairly gripping story about moving nitroglycerine across the Andes. A bleak story, but very well-done.
Wed, Jul 19, 2000
Eegah An unbelievably bad movie starring Richard Kiel as a prehistoric caveman who happens to live in the desert outside of LA. Luckily this one was covered as a movie by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys and that makes it a lot more watchable. Very enjoyable in fact.
Tue, Jul 18, 2000
Stuart Little is the latest kids movie we watched. It's not bad, but nowhere near as entertaining as The Iron Giant and any of the Disney movies. The technical achievement of the CGI mouse is the real treat of the movie. The disk has a lot of extras on it, but I have not yet seen those.
Mon, Jul 17, 2000
Walkabout an absolutely stunning film by Nicholas Roeg. It stars Jenny Agutter, who was the main female lead in "Logan's Run", if you can imagine. "Walkabout" is absolutely gorgeous. The commentary track, although I haven't listened to all of it, is not as great as some, but the film itself is the real gem here.
Sun, Jul 16, 2000
Kind of a big day DVD-wise in the Neureiter household. First off, Elizabeth and her cousins watched Pinocchio, which is just like you remember it. The movie has great colors and the DVD transfer is very crisp and clear (even on the crummy TV we watched it on).
Next, I finished watching Three Kings. This has taken a long time to get through, mostly because it isn't really a family movie. It is quite good, although the ending doesn't quite fulfill the promise of the beginning. the commentary track from director David O. Russell is really good.
Finally, we watched The Grand Illusion, the Criterion disk I've actually purchased. A phenomenal transfer and a very interesting movie. Interestingly, the pace is about the equal of many movies nowadays, which is pretty astonishing given that it was made in 1938. I need to watch this one again.
Fri, Jul 14, 2000
Before Castle of Cagliostro, we watched Tarzan. Elizabeth and I saw it theatrically, and the DVD is a good reminder of what an amazing visual achievement the movie is. I couldn't tell on the TV we were using, but apparently the Dolby Digital mix of the regular edition of the DVD mixes the left front and left surround channels (the special edition fixes the problem). Nevertheless, Disney's Deep Canvas software, which allowed the swirling ride through the jungle is pretty incredible.
The Castle of Cagliostro is an anime movie from 1980 or thereabouts. One webzine described it as one of the top ten or so must-own anime DVDs out there. Apparently it was the first movie by the guy who did Princess Mononoke. The pictures were good, but nothing as impressive as "Ghost in the Shell." The real standout was the story which is quite good. It is interesting and often funny. The quality of the animation is okay, but it still has a of jerkiness in places. The people often look like Speed Racer extras. That said, not a bad experience at all.
Sun, Jul 9, 2000
"Galaxy Quest" is a fairly amusing spoof of Star Trek. While the script is not bad, the acting is quite good, and it makes for a pretty enjoyable movie. This is the first film watched on our home theater system. I was unimpressed with the bass response until I realized that the subwoofer was turned off. It sound much better turned on.
Wed, Jul 5, 2000
Watched "Ronin", the John Frankenhemier movie supposedly about unemployed Cold War warriors. The plot has a few holes and the whole movie is undercut when the star reveals at the end that he is still working for the CIA. Great car chases though. The real standout is the director's commentary on the disk. Frankenheimer is a very experienced guy and he uses his time to talk about his ideas of how stories are told in movies as well as why all sorts of filming decisions were made. Wonderful stuff and much more interesting than the movie itself.
Tue, Jul 4, 2000
"The Brain That Wouldn't Die" is such a bad movie that the producers couldn't figure out what the name really was. The closing credits call it "The Head That Wouldn't Die". If it weren't for the fact that I was watching the movie on a DVD of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, it could have been a real disaster. The comments are hilarious and the movie is spectacularly awful.
We also watched the actual MST3K movie featuring "This Island Earth." Not as good as the first movie mostly since "This Island Earth" is a much better movie.
Finally, I watched "Bound", with Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly. Not too shabby looking, and a few interesting little tricks, but nothing that really showed the talent the Wachowski brothers showed with their next movie "The Matrix." Joe Pantoliano is also a pleasure to see though. Perhaps my reaction was influenced by the fact that I watched the movie on the computer and it is a little tough to get the full effect on the small screen.
Fri, Jun 30, 2000
"Blade": a comic book thing given the Hong Kong-kungfu treatment. Great techno score and a pretty good movie. Wesley Snipes was not too bad either.
Wed, Jun 28, 2000
The first rule of "Fight Club" should have been to make a better movie. The direction and acting are pretty good. David Fincher likes his dark, dark scenes, and Ed Norton is pretty convincing. That said, the script is confused and the movie can't seem to decide if it wants to be a psychological thriller or a satire of yuppie life. The DVD, which comes with two disks and all sorts of goodies and commentaries, is really good though. I haven't watched all the commentaries yet, but what I've seen so far is pretty interesting. Ed Norton is a real person, as opposed to Brad Pitt who seems barely connected to reality.
Tue, Jun 13, 2000
In the intro to "The Wild Bunch" it says that the movie was the first to introduce the use of slo motion and regular motion in the same sequence. If any film recently has perfected that technique it's got to be "The Matrix" which we watched over the past few days. As everyone says, the disk is really good with lots of extra goodies.
Sun, Jun 11, 2000
Watched "eXistenZ". A really cool looking film with great acting and goofy David Cronenberg tricks, like a gun that shoots human teeth. Nevertheless, the finale wasn't quite as satisfying as I'd hoped. It was a little too obvious. Nevertheless, a very neat film.
Fri, Jun 9, 2000
Picked up two movies in the last week: "Ghost in the Shell" and "The Wild Bunch - The Director's Cut". "Ghost in the Shell" is quite the cool anime film. Strange science fiction that is pretty incomprehensible without repeat viewings. As expected, the visuals are pretty amazing. "The Wild Bunch" is a great film, and the remastered DVD is really gorgeous to look at. Once again, the pacing of a late '60s film is significantly different than a '90s film. Really worthwhile viewing. The gore is pretty shocking even now.
Fri, Jun 2, 2000
A week or so ago, I watched "From Darkness 'till Dawn", the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez splatter spectacular. George Clooney was really good, as was Quentin himself. A really silly movie which is actually two movies in one: a "thieves on the run" movie in the first half, and a "trapped with vampires" movie in the second half. Not a family movie, I must say.
Sat, May 20, 2000
Watched "Lost in Space". Didn't use the DVD player this time, but rather the new Powerbook--and watched it lying in bed. What luxury!. The movie looks great. They did an awesome job of doing the special effects. The plot, writing, and acting are just atrocious. Still worth watching for the effects.
Thu, May 18, 2000
Watched "Gods and Monsters", the story about James Whale, the director of "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein." What a really good movie. Awesome writing and great acting. It had some overtones of King Lear in it--very impressive.
Mon, May 15, 2000
Watched "Babe: A Pig in the City". Not the same magic as the first movie, but still pretty well done. An incredible amount of animal acting that must have been really tough to film. Worth watching for the chase scene if nothing else. Did feel a little bit as though it didn't all quite come together as one might have wished, and the final big scene is a little forced. But still quite nice overall.
Sat, May 6, 2000
Watched "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". The commentary by Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe was just great. It added a huge amount of info on the film and the mood of the thing. I got the feeling that the movie was very much a period piece, not as impressive now many years after it was made, but still really representative of a time. Somewhere I read that the pacing of movies had sped up a lot recently--the person blamed MTV for shortening attention spans, or increasing the ability of audiences to process information, depending on how you look at it. This really seemed true of this movie. The most interesting thing was the mix of humor and sadness. All very well done. I just can't imagine a movie like that being made now, but then I guess it was pretty original back then as well.
Wed, May 3, 2000
Bowfinger and A Bug's Life. I hadn't seen Bowfinger before--not too bad, although not exactly uproariously funny. Very much the same kind of pacing (relatively slow) as in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels--both were directed by Frank Oz. A Bug's Life was interesting because it is so much better than on VHS. Interesting though that at one point we lost a bit of sound in the DVD, unclear if it was a machine or a DVD problem. Also when watching Bowfinger and a couple of other films there are occasional sound synch problems. Not too serious, but a little distracting. They don't seem to last too long though, and it is unclear if it is only on the locally-procured DVDs. I'll have to look out for that One interesting note: the house of Eddie Murphy the movie star in "Bowfinger" is the same house that was the Chinese Consul General's house in "Rush Hour". No way I would have noticed this if I hadn't watched the movies so close together. It also makes me wonder if the two movies used the same location scout, or if it was simply a coincidence.
Tue, Apr 25, 2000
Last night I watched "Waterboy", the Adam Sandler epic with Kathy Bates and Henry Winkler. What a silly, silly movie. Nevertheless, I was thinking about it all day and laughing to myself. The disk wasn't bad (for a locally procured item, that is).
Fri, Apr 21, 2000
Two more flicks watched: Desperado and Twelve Monkeys. I mentioned Desperado earlier because the disk has both it and El Mariachi on it. The Twelve Monkeys disk has a neat documentary on it about how the movie was made as well as director's commentary. The info is great since it explains that the ending of the movie was much more optimistic than I had previously thought.
Tue, Apr 18, 2000
Added two more flicks: Saving Private Ryan and Caligula. Saving Private Ryan was not bad and sending the sound through my stereo system made a big difference. However, the Caligula disk is just horrible. Not only is it a really bad movie, but it has clearly been edited to remove much of the more salacious stuff. The print quality and sound are also quite bad. I wonder where they got the print to make this copy. Incredible people in the movie though--Helen Mirren for example. What in the world were these people thinking? I guess the cash must have been good.
Sun, Apr 9, 2000
After getting the DVD player I have watched Tarzan, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Antz, Starship Troopers, The Iron Giant, El Mariachi and Austin Powers:the Spy Who Shagged Me, and Blade Runner: The Director's Cut. Clearly the benefit of getting genuine DVDs from the States is the quality of the extra features on the disks. So far the best stuff has been on the Desperado/El Mariachi disk which has a lot of commentary form Robert Rodriguez on how he made the movies and what he did to cut costs.