Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Lost Weekend (1945)

Today's film is The Lost Weekend.  It's about the struggles of an alcoholic.  This film is one of the first to use such a serious subject, and it issued in a new era of drama.
Not a bad guy
Don Birnam is a "writer" who cannot go ten minutes without a drink.  Supposedly he has gone without since his last binge, although I doubt it based on his numerous clever hiding places for his bottles. Don and his brother, Wick, are packing up to go to the country for the weekend. Don's ladyfriend, Helen, comes to visit, and he convinces his brother to go with her to a concert while he packs. Wick finds a hidden bottle and is about 500% done with his shit.  Eventually Wick just goes to the country trip himself and leaves Don to his own devices.  Don proceeds to steal, beg, and pawn whatever to get the alcohol he needs.  
Don was superbly acted by Ray Milland.  Even though he was stealing things in order to get alcohol, I was always sympathetic to him.  Like Helen said, he isn't a bad person, he's a sick person.  He has no money for drinks, so he steals out of desperation.  Mitch Hedberg once said, "Alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only disease you can get yelled at for having".
Don needs to find a job.

Helen asks him since he can't find work as a writer, why not get a real job? 

 Don doesn't want a real job, he wants the prestige of being a writer.  There is something lofty and romantic about being a writer that other professions don't have.  But Don hasn't written anything good since college.  And have you ever read college student-run newspapers or magazines? They suck.  I'm sure Don isn't as good of a writer as he thinks.  Still, he hasn't contributed anything since college and is living off his brother's charity.  His brother was right to cut off all expenses, because addiction takes two people, the addict and the co-dependent.  By cutting off the flow of money, Don has no choice but to get help or wind up in jail or worse.
Alcohol Withdrawal is serious business.

This part is actually true.  For someone who is dependent on alcohol, quitting cold turkey will cause withdrawal symptoms and can be dangerous.  It is best if he detoxes under medical supervision, either in outpatient care or a rehab facility.  Don does wake up in a half drunk tank/half mental hospital for alcoholics but escapes because he is freaked out by the other patient's delusions. He doesn't want to end up like them, but can't quit drinking, either.  In the end, he uses his passion for writing to help keep away from drinking.  I don't know how long that will last, though.  What happens when he gets frustrated or has writer's block?  He still has a long way to go.  I will give this film an 8/10.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Today's film is Bad Day at Black Rock.  It is a western as well as a mystery.  One day, a train stops in town for the first time in four years.  A one-armed man gets off and everyone is cold to him and suspicious of his every move.  He says the purpose of his visit is to see Komoko, who lives at Abode Flats.

The silence of the town surrounds the disappearance of Komoko, the only Japanese person in town.  Smith, the unofficial town leader, has intimidated everyone into silence and lies to the one-armed man, Macreedy, that he was placed in an internment camp.  Macreedy knows that something is up because everyone is acting so distant and weird.  Soon, anyone that helps Macreedy is threatened.  The doctor, Doc Velie, offers a car for him to use, but Hector, one of Smith's baddies, comes up and rips the wires out of it.  Macreedy tries to send a telegraph to the state police, but it never gets sent, and is later ripped up by Hector.

Macreedy was a soldier before he came to visit Black Rock.  Komoko's son was also a soldier, and saved his life in combat.  After his son's death, Macreedy has come to give his medal to his father.  Unfortunately because of Pearl Harbor, there is a lot of anti-Japanese feelings in the area.  Smith had leased some farmland to him, certain there was no water there.  However, Komoko was clever and dug a well to get water.  After failing to get into the Marines and being very drunk, Smith and his baddies decided to go scare Komoko.  They set his house on fire and after he ran out, Smith shot him.  He then used his power over the town to scare them into silence.

Doc helps him escape, and they finally notify State Police.  I like how the first part of the movie spends time setting up the mystery, but the last half-hour feels really rushed.  I will give it a 6/10.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Monsters University (2013)

Today's animated feature is Monsters University.  It's the first prequel of a Pixar film, and it tells the story of Monsters, Inc. stars Mike Wazowski and James Sullivan in their first year of college. This is the first Disney/Pixar film that features characters living the college life.

I actually liked this better than the first movie.  Mike has always wanted to be a scarer ever since a field trip in grade school.  He has studied and prepared his entire life to be part of the Scare School at Monsters University.  Sully is from a family scarers and is running on his family's reputation, not studying or taking any lessons seriously.  The Scare School is run by Dean Hardscrabble, who looks, acts, and sounds exactly like the Grand Councilwoman from Lilo and Stitch.  Both Mike and Sully get kicked out of the Scare School and want desperately to get back in.

Mike joins the loser nerd fraternity, Lambda Lambda Lambda, I mean Oozma Kappa, so he can be part of the Scare Games, and rejoin the Scare School.  Since his team is a member short, Sully joins him as he also sees this as his chance to be part of the school again.  They complete their first challenge without getting eliminated by sheer luck, but study and work hard to get better and better at each game.  This part of the movie, where Oozma Kappa beats the cool jock fraternity, is almost exactly like Revenge of the Nerds.

Unfortunately, Mike discovers that Sully cheated because he knew Mike wasn't scary enough to win.  Angered, Mike goes through a door into the human world to prove he can scare.  Sully chases after him and together they manage to produce a scare so magnificent, it allows them to escape to the Monster world.  Still, they are both expelled from school, but that doesn't stop them from applying to Monsters, Inc. anyway.  They work their way up from the bottom and eventually make it as scarers.  It shows that there can be multiple paths to get where you want to be, and sometimes college isn't for everyone.  The whole movie was funny, especially the games, and it was surprisingly well done for a sequel.  Well, prequel.  I will give it a 7/10.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Viy (1967)

Today's film is from Russia.  The film is Viy and it is exciting old school horror. It reminded me of Evil Dead II because it is funny and has fantasy and some horror. It takes place a long time ago. Three students from a seminary are enjoying their break.  They come across a farmhouse and demand shelter and food.  The only inhabitant they see is a creepy old lady.  The creepy old lady makes them all sleep in separate areas.  She approaches the one in the barn, Brother Khoma.  She approaches him half menancingly/half flirtatiously, and he is creeped out.  Then she hops on his shoulders, rides him like a horse, and they take off flying.

He does not like flying with the creepy lady at all, and screams to be let down.  When she does, he smacks her with his belt.  I don't blame him.  She collapses and transforms into a beautiful young woman.  This is way too shocking and Brother Khoma runs off.  When the students return to school, Brother Khoma is told by his teacher that the daughter of a rich lord has died and requested that he say the prayers for her.  He is scared because he knows this daughter is really the witch.  He travels, gets drunk a lot, then at night he goes to the church to pray for her.  He will do this for three nights to pray for her soul.  By order of her father, he is locked in.  By listening to what the townspeople say, it's obvious they know she was a witch.

Brother Khoma lights all the candles in the church, then begins chanting his prayer.  The girl bolts upright in the coffin and starts walking toward him.  He draws a magic circle in chalk and that keeps her away.  Each night the witch gets more and more powerful, and Khoma gets more frightened.  There are monsters, demons, and coffin surfing.  

When the camera is focused on Khoma, the picture wobbles as if to simulate drunkenness, so we can feel how Khoma feels, because he is constantly drinking.  He is forced to return each night even though he doesn't want to.  The last night, the witch summons more demons, including the most powerful Viy.  Can Brother Khoma overcome his fear or will he fall victim to Viy?  I will give this film a 7/10.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Hi! My co-film critic and I have had so much fun cheering during the Olympics.  Our favorite event is the women's bobsled.  It is so exciting.  However, it's already reaching 85 F here so watching people compete in snow feels odd.
We watched a musical together, so today's film will be Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  It is a strange mixture of disturbing and fun.  A mountain man named Adam has six brothers, and they all look alike.  He goes down from the mountain one day to pick up supplies and find a wife.  He finds Milly serving food to rough men in a bar.  She instantly falls in love with him for reasons unknown and they are married by the pastor a few minutes later. 
She rides with him up into the mountains.  There, she meets his brothers, whom she did not know existed before.  Shouldn't living with six grown men in a small cabin something he might want to mention to his wife beforehand?  He introduces them to her.  His brothers are: Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank, and Gideon.  Frank is short for Frankincense because according to them, there are no F names in the Bible.  Actually that's not true.  There are F names in the New Testament.  She is so mad at him that she won't allow him to sleep in the same room with her.  He goes out to sleep in a nearby tree, and later she does invite him in.

Milly soon figures out that she was brought home only to cook and clean and look after the men.  Now, since this musical isn't Snow White and the Seven Uncouth Redheads, she convinces them to look for wives as well.  She sings a song about going courtin' (all the songs sound alike by the way).  However, Adam reads a story about the Romans kidnapping the Sabine women and thinks this is a great idea.  So, all the men go into town and kidnap the women.  In sacks.  And carry them off in their wagon.  The men of the village chase after them, but are stopped by a massive avalanche which also cuts off the cabin from civilization.  Through the long months of winter, Stockholm Syndrome sets in, and by spring, each woman has fallen in love with one of the brothers.  Then more singing and dancing. Gag.

After the spring thaw, the men of the village come for the stolen women, but the women won't leave.  On top of this, Milly has had a baby girl, whom all the women claim as their own so the fathers will force the six brothers to marry them.  So we get six more weddings.  They're going to need to build a bigger cabin.  So if you like musicals and movies about committing felonies, then you will love this one because it's both.  Other than that I can't see any reason to watch this.  I will give it a 5/10.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Le notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) 1957

Today's film is Nights of Cabiria.  It's from Italy and it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture in 1957.  I enjoyed watching it.  I'm not saying it reminded me of The Jerry Springer Show, but it was scripted, very dramatic yet humorous, and featured hookers fighting.

Before I watched this, I thought, "What is a Cabiria? Is it a place?"  Then I found out that Cabiria is a person, but is she a good person?  We first see her running and laughing with her boyfriend, then he pushes her in the river and runs off with her purse.  She is rescued by some well meaning people, but when she comes to, she snaps at them and is very rude.  She goes home to see if her boyfriend is there, but it's obvious he's gone.  She is even rude to her friend, Wanda.  She has no right to be so nasty to people who are trying to help her.

Cabiria works the streets as a prostitute and we find out that she's rude because she's guarded.  When she lets her guard down, she's a decent person.  By chance, she goes home with the famous actor Alfredo, but has to leave when his whiny dramatic girlfriend returns.  Later, she sees a man giving food to poor homeless people in caves.  Inspired by him, she prays for a better life.

Cabiria goes to a hypnotist show, but doesn't want to volunteer because she doesn't want to make a fool of herself.  She is egged on by the crowd and goes on stage.  Under the hypnosis spell, she pretends to go on a date with an imaginary man named Oscar.  She says she is rich and wants to be married.  She is furious when she finds out what happened and leaves.  Outside, a man who says his name is Oscar asks to go out with her.  She is suspicious but does go out with him.  She falls in love with him and sells her house in the bad  neighborhood to a family full of kids, who need a big house more than she does.  She is ashamed of her profession and doesn't want him to find out.

Oscar (I'm not sure that's his real name) and Cabiria go for a walk, and when they reach a cliff overlooking the water, Oscar acts nervous.  Cabiria realizes what he's going to do, he's going to push her and steal her purse like her last boyfriend.  She runs away heartbroken.  As she walks towards the town, a parade of happy people walk with her.  She smiles, and I hope she gets swimming lessons before she dates again.

I liked this movie.  Giulietta Masina and Franca Marzi did a great job as Cabiria and Wanda.  Even though Cabiria was rude in the beginning, by the end we cheer for her.  I will give this film a 9/10.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cool Runnings (1993)

We're excited about the Olympics this year!  This year is the first in a long time that the Jamaican bobsled team has qualified.  The Winter Olympics feels so strange to us, since we're watching others compete in snow and ice, and we never get that here.  In fact, my co-film critic has never seen snow in her entire life.

In the 1980s, the Jamaican bobsled team qualified for the Winter Olympics in Calgary.  This was a huge surprise, especially since no one expected a snowless country to even consider joining.  The film Cool Runnings was inspired by these events.  There are many differences between the film and real life, because the filmmakers wanted to play it up for drama.  The main difference is how the other teams treated the Jamaicans.  In real life, they welcomed them, but in the film they did not like them at all and didn't expect them to do well.

This year, the Jamaicans ended up last, but at least they tried.  The movie is very humorous, and I enjoyed how they practiced for the games.  They used a makeup sleigh and slid down a huge hill.  That must have been scary!  We laughed so much during this film.  I think it's great for the whole family.  Athletics are number one in my household, and film watching/blogging is second.  Then comes secondary things like school and work and eating food.  And this film is funny and has sports! You can't beat that.  It's hard to find a film that kids can enjoy and doesn't alienate adults.  And this one is inspired by true events.  We're going to give this film a 7/10.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Jazz Singer (1927)

Today's film is The Jazz Singer.  It is regarded as the first talking picture ever made.  Actually it's more like a half silent film/half musical.  Still it was amazing that they were able to transition from silent to talking films so quickly once they figured it out.

The story is predictable and easy to follow.  A Jewish cantor's son does not want to follow in his father footsteps, instead he wants to sing Jazz.  Jazz was like the rock and roll of its time when it comes to parents hating music and the father is royally pissed off that his son wants to sing this garbage.  So the son, Jakie, leaves, changes his name to the more acceptable and less Jewish-sounding Jack Robin, and sings jazz.  He is "discovered" by a beautiful dancer named Mary, and he has a crush on her.

As an adult, he gets a part on Broadway, which is an accomplishment that any parent should be proud of.  But oh no, not his dad.  Jack comes home and sings to his understanding and loving mother.  Then he sings the same song in jazz style.  His dad storms in and throws him out of the house.

This was the only picture I could find that
didn't show him in blackface.  I don't want
to end up on some government list.

His dad falls ill and cannot sing at the service for the Day of Atonement, one of the most important days of the year.  His mom and family friend go to give the guilt trip to Jack to force him to sing.  Unfortunately, this day falls on the opening of the Broadway musical he's in and singing at the service means giving up his beginning Broadway career.  His mom lays on the guilt trip hard, and Jack points out that his dad was the one who threw him out of the house.  Meanwhile, their friend cannot find anyone to sing for the service.  Really? They're having trouble finding a Jewish person in New York City?  The guilt trip works and Jack sings for the service.

His dad hears him singing from his room, and says, "We finally have our son back", and dies.  What a sorry excuse for a parent.  He never supported anything he did. Children are going to have different wants, and may go down a different path than we do.  Jack didn't do drugs, or steal, all he wanted was to sing.  And because he didn't sing exactly as his father wanted, he was hateful towards him until the moment he died.  He never got to see Jack open on Broadway like his mother did, and honestly he wouldn't have cared.  I felt bad for Jack.

The main reason to watch this film is not for story purposes, but for historical purposes.  What would it have been like to only see silent films, and then actually hear someone sing during it?  I think it would have be amazing.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

Today's film is Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters.  Who is Mishima?  That's what I was wondering when I picked up this movie.  Yukio Mishima is the pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka.  He was a famous writer, director, actor and bodybuilder.  He had a very full and active life.  I never read any novels he wrote, so I have no opinion of them.  This is my opinion of the film only.

The film is loosely split up into 4 chapters of his life.  It alternates between black and white and color.  The black and white parts are the most accurate and realistic parts, whereas the color parts are more fantasy and are parallel events with the stories in his novels.  The color parts have minimalist sets.  The movie shows nothing about his children and little of his wife, but it does show him visiting gay bars, which he did, but it upset his wife who disapproved of this part of the film.

Mishima didn't go into the army, but was obsessed with restoring power to the Emperor.  He, along with three assistants, held a general hostage while he gave a speech to a group of soldiers.  He had hoped to inspire them to join him on his mission, but instead he just annoyed them.  No one went along with his plan, so he committed seppuku, or ritual suicide.  Some people believed that he knew he would be unsuccessful and just wanted an excuse to do an honorable suicide.  I didn't know what to expect from this film, but it was well done.  I will give it a 7/10.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Today's film is Kiss Me Deadly.  It has some elements of film noir, but holds some surprises as well.  Our male private eye character is Mike Hammer.  Can a name get any manlier than Mike Hammer? He picks up a blonde hitchhiker,and they are attacked by the bad guys.  The hitchhiker dies and Mike wakes up in the hospital.  He tries to figure out the mystery surrounding her death and that mystery goes deeper than anyone expected.

I chose this picture to highlight his giant answering machine.  I had no idea there were answering machines back then.  Turns out that the first commercially successful answering machine, the Ansafone, wasn't made until 1960.  This particular model shown was the Tel-Magnet and cost $200.

Mike believes there is a big story connected to the hitchhiker, Christina's death.  He goes to her apartment and later finds her old roommate.  The plot twists a lot, but her roommate isn't actually her roommate at all, but another woman searching for a box that has a valuable secret inside.

When she does open the box, the entire scene becomes a seizure trigger.  It's not long, but it's very bright and flashing.  I'm not going to say what's in the box or why it explodes like that, because I don't know anything about chemistry or elements/fission/whatever.  But it does have something to say about the paranoid culture of the Atomic Age.  Here is a man, who is a complete asshole and has the latest in technology.  I mean the guy has a freakin answering machine in 1955.  All it takes is one nuclear mishap and he is forced into the sea - literally.  This film noir goes further than any other I've seen.  I will give it an 8/10.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

I have been trying for a long time to find a film to scare me.  So far I have been unsuccessful.  I am also searching for the weirdest and most depraved films I can.  Something that makes me feel like I have been stabbed in my soul.  I cannot tell you why; they just interest me.  I have found several that are good and a lot that are just terrible.  So I heard about the film Salo, or the 120 days of Sodom, and how it was so disturbing that the director was murdered (or killed by the government).

Salo is based on the incomplete novel, The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade.  It actually does follow the story well, but it transports the setting to the 1940s during the Fascist reign of Italy.  It starts off promising.  I see that not only was the directory inspired by the historical novel, he was critical of the power-hungry regime in his country.  I feel this film beckoning me, ready to disturb me.

Four power hungry and sadistic men kidnap several virgin teenagers, both male and female, with the intent to sexually assault them and later murder them.  To entertain and arouse them, each day a middle aged prostitute tells tales of their most interesting clients.

However, it quickly descends into coprophagia, or simply put, poop eating.  Somehow it can be a sexual fetish.  The storyteller went on and on about sexual poop-eating, and it seemed that the filmmakers were trying way too hard to gross me out.  It wasn't the sexual aspect of it, feces carries bacteria and can make you really sick.  Eating poop can give you hepatitis, flu, e. coli, and even parasites.  The poop in this film is actually a mixture of orange marmalade and chocolate.  Try as hard as they can, poop doesn't disgust me.  I was a camp counselor for ten years, I have seen poop like you wouldn't believe.  Also, my three year old doesn't fully understand toilets and poops where she pleases.  And she can't speak so it's like a puzzle to find out if she needs to go, has already gone, etc.  You think I'm going to spend three years playing poop puzzle and be disturbed by people going on and on about poop?  If this is going to be tagged as the most controversial film of all time then it should have tried harder.  I am most disappointed.

Next comes the murders of the victims which are laughably terrible.  First of all there is not enough blood coming from the injuries to be believable.  Second, it's filmed as if through binoculars so I can't see worth shit. There was a lot of build up to the murders, but in the end, it was anticlimatic.  I was so disappointed with this film.  The acting is terrible, the dialog as boring as a lecture, the makeup/effects laughable, and the story felt disjointed.  I will give this film a 4/10.

Monday, February 10, 2014

West Side Story (1961)

Today's film is West Side Story.  I don't care for live action musicals because they are so fakey.  Randomly bursting into song is really fake, even in animations, but I accept them because they are cartoons.  I have never liked musicals.  And here I am watching one.

Everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet.  This is the same story, but instead of rivaling families, they are replaced by ballet dancing gangsters, the white Jets and the Puerto Rican sharks.  Tony is a Jet who falls in love with Maria at a dance party.  Incidentally, Maria's older brother is Bernardo from the Sharks.  Their love is doomed from the start.

The songs weren't anything special.  Normally if I watch a musical I get the songs stuck in my head, and that didn't happen this time.  My daughter liked the dancing and danced along with them.  Both of the Romeo and Juliet characters didn't die, but one of them does. That didn't surprise me.  I would have liked this better if I would have seen it off-Broadway as a play, but it loses something on the screen.  This is true of most musicals.

Even though this is an award-winning musical, it did nothing for me. I will give it a 6/10.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Babettes g├Žstebud (Babette's Feast) 1987

Food is love!  That's the theme for today's film from Denmark, Babette's Feast.  This is a great movie, especially if you're a foodie like me.  I only recently got cable, but if my tv ever broke and I could only watch one channel, I would want it to be Food Network.  I love cooking shows, cooking competitions, and eating! I will give this film an 8/10.
 A long time ago lived two sisters, Martine and Filippa, who live with their father, a pastor who has a loyal following.  They are very devoted to serve their little church and community.  One day, a handsome officer named Lorens comes to the church and falls in love with Martine.  But, after realizing that she will never leave her father, he sadly leaves. He ends up marrying a lady-in-waiting to the queen, but he always has a soft spot in his heart for Martine. 

The other sister, Filippa, also has her chance to leave.  She has a beautiful singing voice, and is heard by a visiting French opera singer while in the church.  He offers to give her singing lessons, and believes she will be successful in France.  She refuses his advances, and denies her chance to sing opera in order to stay with her father and the church.

Years later, there is terrible trouble in France, and a woman's husband and son are killed.  She is forced to flee the county for her safety.  Her friend, the French opera singer, suggests that she go to the sister's place.  She does, and begs for them to take her in.  She offers to work as a housekeeper and cook for free, and they agree to take her in.  This woman is Babette, and we can easily see that's she a natural around food.  I don't know what was going on in France back then, but it was so bad that she stayed with the sisters for 14 years.

On the anniversary of what would be the father/pastor's 100 birthday, the sisters decide to throw a dinner party for the congregation, which has dwindled down to a small but devoted family.  And, like any tight knit family, there is a lot of bickering and holding grudges.  Meanwhile, Babette has won the lottery and offers to make a decadent French feast for the party.  They are hesistant but agree.  What ensues is the most elaborate feast you will ever see.  Babette's love is shown through her food, and as the guests partake in the dinner, they stop fighting and forgive each other.  Lorens, who is now a general, also is at the dinner party and recognizes the food from a restaurant he went to in France.  Through Lorens's explanation of the dishes, the modest church-goers are more apt to try to unusual elaborate food.

At the end, everyone is happy and no one is bickering any more.  Babette actually spent her lottery winnings on the elaborate dinner, and all the alcoholic drinks to accompany it.  She did it because she had no reason to return to France, and that her true home was with the sisters.  And everyone lived happily ever after. The end.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941)

Throughout my studies of animation history, sometimes I come across terrible animations.  Like really bad.  What I'm talking about is the feature Mr. Bug Goes to Town, also known as Bugville, or Hoppity Goes to Town.  It is so terrible that the Fleischer Brothers were fired by Paramount and Famous Studios was born.  Fleischer Studios produced many quality shorts, but they always fell flat when trying to make a feature.  Why this is historically important is, even though it's terrible, this story is the basic inspiration for A Bug's Life (1998), one of the first fully computer animated films (after Toy Story).
The story is a village of various insects live together in a vacant lot.  A skyscraper is going to be built on their land, which will drive them out of their homes.  Hoppity, a grasshopper with the most annoying voice ever, loves Honey Bee and wants to take her family away to safer ground.  Oh no! But evil Mr. Beetle thwarts his plan and forces Mr. Bee to give his daughter away in marriage to him.
Meanwhile, two humans waiting for a royalty check are afraid they are going to lose their home.  They decide to buy the penthouse in the new skyscraper instead.  Oh yeah, sure, when we were broke and lost our first home we totally had enough to buy a fucking penthouse.  The only reason they didn't get their check is because the evil Mr. Beetle hid it.  However, Hoppity finds it and gives it to the humans.  In return, all the bugs go live in the rooftop garden.  Which, they climb up the skyscraper to get to!  Yes, the tiny insects climb up a skyscraper and don't get blown off.
The worst part about this film is the voice acting.  It is just terrible.  I can't recommend this film to anyone.  Only if you want to see the inspiration for A Bug's Life for comparison purposes should you ever see this film.  I will give it a 2/10.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Cat People (1942)

Today's film is Cat People.  There is a legend in Serbia of the Cat People, the descendants of the evil witches.  If one of these women falls in love with a man and kisses him, she will turn into a panther and eat him!
Irena has lived with the fear that she is a cat person all her life.  This stems from a childhood tragedy where her father was found dead and her mother was accused of being a cat person that killed him.  If her mother is a cat person, then she must be too, she is certain of it.

Irena falls in love with a man, Oliver (Ollie), and marries him despite believing that she will kill him.  So every night after that, she avoids him and sleeps in her own room.  Naturally, Ollie is bothered by this, since newlyweds should never sleep in different bedrooms.  Meanwhile, Ollie's beautiful coworker tells him that she's in love with him.
Ollie tells Irena that she needs to go see a psychiatrist.  She does, and after some time, she is no longer afraid of being intimate with her husband.  But, it's too late!  Her husband has fallen in love with the woman from work and wants to leave Irena.
Ollie wins the King Douchebag of the Year Award.  I can just hear his thought process: "I'm certain my wife has a mental illness, I'm going to divorce her sorry ass and go out with the hot chick from work."
That's his own bride he's thinking about!  What happened to his wedding vows, that he pledged "to love and honor... in sickness and in health"?  Did he just ignore this?  Mental illness can be just as devastating as physical illness.  It's her husband who should care most about her well-being.

Now the question is: Does she really turn into a panther?  Probably, I don't know.  It never actually shows her transforming.  I actually found this movie to be more depressing than scary.  I will give it a 6/10.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lost in Translation (2003)

Today's film is Lost in Translation.  It's an realistic, honest look at two lonely people in a crowded, strange city.  Bill Murray is Bob Harris, a faded movie star reduced to making whisky commercials.  The impossibly beautiful Scarlett Johannson is Charlotte, a young woman accompanying her photographer husband to Japan on business.  She is a recent graduate who majored in philosophy, which explains why she doesn't have a job.

Bob is bored in his 25-year-old marriage.  Instead of love notes, his wife sends him passive aggressive notes and carpet samples.  Charlotte is bored in her new marriage.  Her husband, John, would rather work than spend any time with her.  Through their loneliness, combined with being in a strange city, Bob and Charlotte form an unlikely bond.  They tour the city, party, do karaoke, and generally have a good time.

Yes, they do kiss, but it never goes any further than that.  Their connection is a spiritual one, not a physical one.  At the end, Bob has to leave, and he is sad to go.  When he whispers to Charlotte, I turned my computer Way up, and this is what he says: "The next time you see John, you tell him the truth, okay?"

I like this movie because it feels realistic and yet engages me at all times.  Also, there's no reason why men and women can't just be friends.  It could have easily fallen into the trap of romantic comedies and it didn't.  I will give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ninotchka (1939)

Yesterday was our first blog anniversary. Since last February 4th, I have reviewed 289 films.  Today's film is Ninotchka, which is a comedy/commentary on Communism/romance.  I like finding movies that I can quote, and there are a ton of quotable lines from this film.  This is almost like The Big Lebowski of the 1930's in how much I can quote in everyday situations.

Three men from Russia are in Paris to hawk confiscated (stolen) royal jewels for the sake of the government.  When the Countess Swana, rightful owner of the jewels finds out, she takes legal action, which leaves them stranded for the time being.  The Russian government sends an envoy to see what's up.  To everyone's surprise, it's woman; Ninotchka.  She is stern, make-up free, plain, and has absolutely no sense of humor.

By some magical coincidence, she meets Count Leon, Countess Swana's retainer, while she's out and about studying Paris.  He says, "Russians! I love Russians! I've been interested in your 5 year plan for the last 15 years."  I do like how she tries to compliment him.  She says, "Your general appearance is not distasteful", and also she likes his corneas, which is an odd thing to like.  Count Leon falls head over heels for her.  The next day he tries over and over to make her laugh.  When he stands up and promptly falls down, she is caught off guard and finally laughs.

After laughing,  Ninotchka transforms into something resembling a human being.  She tries on lipstick, buys the ugliest hat, and laughs at jokes now.  Unfortunately she is forced to go back to Russia.  What's worse, Count Leon is denied a visa to go see her.  How will he see Ninotchka again?  Don't worry, it's a romantic comedy, he'll figure it out.  I will give this movie an 8/10.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Skin I live in (La piel que habito) (2011)

Today's film is The Skin I live in, and it's from Spain.  How this movie is not on the list I will never know.  Critics don't appreciate true art.  Let's start by asking a few questions about the film.  Does this film...

...have elements of a medical drama?

...have elements of a psychological thriller?

...involve illegal human and/or animal experimentation?

...have disturbing scenes?

...have a twist no one sees coming? Antonio Banderas?

Yes it does! It has all of these elements and more.  It's a psychological thriller with disturbing scenes starring Antonio Banderas as an incredibly smart surgeon.

Christ on a bicycle this is a great movie.

The story starts out innocently enough.  A noted plastic surgeon, Dr. Robert Ledgard, is obsessed with creating a burn-proof skin, to help burn victims recuperate properly.  He does this because his wife was badly burned in a fiery car wreck.  She was holding onto a thread of life, but her husband brought her around.  He took out all the mirrors from the house, and began working on his skin project.  He worked day and night.  One day, his wife was finally strong enough to get out and open a window.  She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the windowpane, and upon seeing her grotesque features, panicked and leapt out of the window, landing right near her young daughter.

Her daughter is understandably traumatized, and has spent time in a mental hospital.  She is later sexually assaulted by a young man at a party.  I'm not giving him the benefit of the doubt, but he was on a lot of pills and probably didn't fully know what he was doing.  The daughter is so traumatized that she herself leaps out of a window in the mental hospital.  Which I'm calling bullshit because those windows are wired shut and have a thick metal sheet guarding it.  You could run full force at one and it will not budge.  Don't ask me how I know this.

Dr. Ledgard kidnaps the young man and subjects him to his horrible experiments. How far will he go?  You will have to find out.  Dr. Ledgard discovers the key to make his skin.  The key to a tougher, burn-proof skin is to mix pig-skin cells into our human-skin cells.  Pig skin is naturally tougher than ours, after all we play football with it.  This however breaks all established moral laws of the scientific community and the doctor's action are frowned upon.

No one in this film is exactly evil, like I would call a villain.  Even though their actions are not the right ones, they do them for their own ends.  So no one can be considered a "hero", and it's deeper than a traditional film of good vs. evil. I'm giving this film a 9/10.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The War Game (1965)

It's Groundhog Day today, and what is his prediction for the winter weather this year?  Oh, wait, I live in Florida, I don't care.  It's also the Super Bowl today which I am watching right now.

Speaking of the Big Game, I watched The War Game to review here.  It's not about a game at all, but about the devastation and panic that comes from nuclear war.  Sorry, but no matter hard hard you try, a bunch of sand bags piled up against your house, it is not going to help against a nuclear bomb.

The main concern is all the deaths, injuries, and illnesses that arise from these weapons. Also, there would be a lack of food and resources, and most of the land would be rendered useless by the radiation.  Soon, the land will collapse into anarchy. The film is presented as if it's a real-life documentary, as if everything is really happening.  Most of the film is all scare tactics, which makes me wonder, what is the purpose of this film?  Simply to scare citizens?  I don't know.  It's fairly graphic for a film from the 1960's.  What makes this film scary is the stark realism of everything that happens, there's no dramatization of anything.  I will give this film a 6/10.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Croods (2013)

Today's animated feature is The Croods, nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.  It is a lot better than I expected it to be.  Dreamworks has really stepped up its game in the animation department, especially in the portrayal of humans.

Eep is a cavegirl (a Neanderthal) living with her family, the last one in the area.  They're the last ones because they spend all their time in the safety of the cave.  Due to the constant earthquakes and changing of the Earth's landscape, their cave is destroyed and they have to leave for the first time to find higher ground.  Meanwhile, Eep meets a boy, who looks like a more modern human.  He is full of ideas, like shoes and fire! He impresses her family, except the jealous dad, who up until now has protected the family.

All of the animals in this movie are animals that either never have existed, or could never exist, like giant flying turtles.  One such animal is the big cute tiger with colors reminiscent of a macaw.

This is an animation the whole family can enjoy.  It's funny and full of heart.  I will give it a 7/10.