Category Archives: Other Media

Infinite TBW, 6/24/22

Welcome to Infinite To-Be-Watched (TBW)!

I recently set up a spreadsheet with a randomizer and all the movies I want to watch. I’ve made a pact with myself to watch whatever movie is chosen if I have the ability to do so. Plus, other films that I decide to watch.


Apollo 11

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 33m
Rated: G

Director: Todd Douglas Miller

Stars: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin

Double Feature Fodder:
The Right Stuff (1983)

Initial: I don’t remember adding Apollo 11 to my TBW, but I’m a sucker for space stuff, so it’s not that surprising.

Production Notes: This documentary uses only archival footage, uses only archival recordings for dialog, and features a score composed on instruments contemporary to 1969. Since some of the footage was shot by Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin, they earned honorary membership to the American Society of Cinematographers, which makes them just that much cooler in my book.

What Did I Think:
The footage is downright amazing—and not just the moon stuff. This is “history” on film being presented clearly and colorfully. I stopped the doc about twenty minutes in and wondered how much recreation was being used and was surprised that the answer is none. I was also impressed that Miller could keep the tension up even though I *know* how this bit of history ends. This would have been great to see in IMAX when it came out.


Dredd

Year: 2012
Runtime: 1h 35m
Rated: R

Director: Pete Travis

Writers: John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Alex Garland

Stars: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

Double Feature Fodder:
Annihilation (2018)

Initial: Ended up on my TBW because I’d heard many assurances that Dredd is actually pretty good.

Production Notes: While credited as screenwriter, Alex Garland and Pete Travis co-directed/collaborated on the film.

What Did I Think:
Enjoyment of Dredd depends on giving yourself over to the aesthetic of the movie. The setting is wonderfully grungy semi-cyber-punk. The music is spot-on. The Slo-Mo scenes are beautiful and remind me of Garland’s Annihilation (2018). Lena Headey knows how to command a balcony (though I occasionally found her teeth distracting). Karl Urban is almost too frowny, but Olivia Thirlby and Domhnall Gleeson give the plot some heart and eccentricity, respectively.

I’ve heard that the plot is very much like The Raid: Redeption (2011). I would have watched The Raid (an Indonesian film directed by Gareth Evens), but the only streaming version available is dubbed. I couldn’t do it, reader.


The Loveless

Year: 1981
Runtime: 1h 25m
Rated: R

Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Monty Montgomery

Writers: Kathryn Bigelow, Monty Montgomery

Stars: Willem Dafoe, J. Don Ferguson, Robert Gordon, Marin Kanter

Double Feature Fodder:
Wild at Heart (1990)

Initial: Inspired by previously watching Sam Raimi’s Crimewave, I decided to watch Kathryn Bigelow’s first film (and maybe the rest of her filmography as well).

Production Notes: The Loveless is the feature debut of Willem Dafoe.

What Did I Think:
The Loveless is a slow movie. There is a lot of set up of characters and situations, but very little action occurs until the last twenty-ish minutes of the film. Bigelow’s next film, Near Dark (1987), has this problem too, but the early part of the film has more hi-jinks. While the bikers in The Loveless are obviously not good people (early in the movie, Dafoe’s character robs and assaults a woman after changing a tire for her), their fairly rudimentary methods of wrong-doing are juxtaposed with the institutional corruption of the town. The dialogue is clunky, but Bigelow is going for the feel of 50’s biker films. In any case, I’m very much in favor of bring back the phrase, “everything’s jake.”

Infinite TBW, 6/17/22

Welcome to Infinite To-Be-Watched (TBW)!

I recently set up a spreadsheet with a randomizer and all the movies I want to watch. I’ve made a pact with myself to watch whatever movie is chosen (if I have the ability to do so).


The Card Counter

Year: 2021
Runtime: 1h 51m
Rated: R

Director: Paul Schrader

Writer: Paul Schrader

Stars: Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan

Initial: This movie actually came up as a random pick a couple weeks ago. Since I knew it was being added to HBOMax on the 10th, I “queued” it.

What Did I Think:
One of the times when a voice over really does work, and is necessary to the story, is when the audience is meant to entirely experience the world through the main character. Honestly, other than William Tell (Oscar Isaac)’s voice over, every bit of dialog sounded wooden and hollow, as though being reported second hand. I see this as a choice on Paul Schader’s part and not deficiency by Tiffany Hadish and Tye Sheridan, the other two leads.

Indeed, there is a slightly fantastical aspect to The Card Counter. Tell’s hotel ritual, for example, would take a way longer than is reasonable, but offers an overly-illustrative example of the austerity that Tell craves. The movie verges on being an anti-revenge tale, but doesn’t quite buy into that level of happy ending.


There are some naught words in this trailer. Might want to put your earphones on.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Year: 2014
Runtime: 1h 59m
Rated: R

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Writers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, Raymond Carver

Stars: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Emma Stone

Double Feature Fodder:
The Matrix Resurrections (2021). No really.

Initial: At some point during my last horror film marathon, Birdman came up on Framed and I admitted that I hadn’t seen it yet. “You haven’t seen Birdman yet?!” exclaimed my husband in disbelief.

Production Notes: It’s not one long shot, but its hidden cuts are few and far between. Also, it’s a shame that the score by Antonio Sánchez was not eligible for on Oscar because it’s one of the more interesting uses of music in a film that I’ve heard in a while.

What Did I Think:
Birdman makes the in-the-protagonist’s-head style of The Card Counter look like child’s play. Actually, unlike The Card Counter, the POV in Birdman does slide away from Keaton’s character, giving a little more scope to the story.

My personal theory is that young adult narratives start with the question,”Who am I?” The equivalent question for a middle-aged narrative is “How did I get here?” That’s precisely where Birdman starts, mixing with some snarky meta criticism about the current state of art and cinema with the main character’s mid-life crisis.


Crimewave

Year: 1985
Runtime: 1h 26m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Sam Raimi

Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Sam Raimi

Stars: Louise Lasser, Brion James, Paul L. Smith

Double Feature Fodder:
Burn After Reading (2008)

Initial: I considered this movie during one of my horror movie marathons, but decided it wasn’t horror enough. Not a random movie pick: I started listening to Blank Check Podcast‘s series on Sam Raimi and decided to watch this one before listening.

Production Notes: Didn’t realize until after I watched it that Crimewave was co-written by the Coen brothers. The movie makes slightly more sense to me knowing that.

What Did I Think:
Crimewave is not a good movie. I know I’ve said it before about other movies, but I mean it this time. And, yet . . .

I’m not going to lie: there were a few moments in this film that I laughed out loud. This movie has more cheese than a Wisconsin dairy. It’s structurally a mess. I won’t say the performances are bad because I think they were exactly what was asked for. There are a couple well-choreographed action scenes amid a lot of the nonsense. And occasionally, a joke really landed. For me at least. Your mileage may vary.

Infinite TBW: Two by Refn

Welcome to Infinite To-Be-Watched (TBW)!

I recently set up a spreadsheet with a randomizer and all the movies I want to watch. I’ve made a pact with myself to watch whatever movie is chosen (if I have the ability to do so).

As coincidence would have it, two Nicolas Winding Refn movies were chosen in a row last week.


Pusher

Year: 1996
Runtime: 1h 50m
Rated: not rated

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writers: Jens Dahl, Nicolas Winding Refn

Stars: Kim Bodnia, Zlatko Buric, Laura Drasbæk, Mads Mikkelsen

Initial: Refn’s Drive (2011) is one of my favorite movies. I’ve been meaning to get around to his earlier films for a while now.

Production Notes: Refn is Dutch and Pusher, his film debut, is a Danish-language film. It was popular enough to spawn two sequels and Hindi- and English-language versions.

What Did I Think:
Having watched Drive and more recent Refn films, Pusher was not at all what I expected, at least not stylistically. I’ve joke that one of the things I like about Refn’s movie are the shots of hallways, usually long takes with a stationary camera. The camera work in Pusher is frenetic. The shots are still long, but the camera is always moving, often with a hand-held style.

Aspects in Pusher that do continue in his film-making are the nihilist stories and the abrupt, brutal violence. This movie is about a very bad week for a drug dealer in Copenhagen. There is no happy ending and no glorification of the lifestyle.


Bronson

Year: 2008
Runtime: 1h 32m
Rated: R

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writers: Brock Norman Brock, Nicolas Winding Refn

Stars: Tom Hardy, Kelly Adams, Luing Andrews

Double Feature Fodder:
Venom (2018) or The French Dispatch (2021). Maybe a triple feature.

Initial: I don’t know how many times I’d seen the poster for Bronson and not realized that was Tom Hardy.

What Did I Think:
Stylistically, Bronson is more like Drive, but with so many more artsy moments. An art movie about Britain’s most notorious prisoner? Well, yes. It works for me (ymmv) because of Refn, cinematographer Larry Smith, and Tom Hardy. It’s a grungily beautiful movie and the surreal bits aren’t as jarring as you’d expect. Tom Hardy is just fun to watch. Honestly, for a guy who has carried a number of movies as near solo projects (Locke (2013) also comes to mind), it’s amazing he doesn’t have a few more awards.

The real Charles Bronson is on record as liking the movie, and especially Hardy’s performance, but denies ever “liking” prison. Again, while there is a good deal of violence in Bronson, I wouldn’t say it’s a glorification. The prison system isn’t seen as “nice.” While the character seems to revel in his celebrity, Bronson isn’t portrayed as the most stable of people.

Cinema Saturday, 5/28/22

War on Everyone

Year: 2016
Runtime: 1h 38m
Rated: R

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Writer: John Michael McDonagh

Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña, Theo James, Tessa Thompson

Double Feature Fodder:
Snatch (2000)

Initial: Recommendation from my husband.

Production Notes: Irish writer/director, John Michael McDonagh, set and shot this film in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It features the music of Glen Campbell.

What Did I Think:
This movie is very much not politically correct. But, it is pretty funny; full of screwball characters, which is probably why my husband liked it enough to recommend it. Actually, I could describe the plot as screwball too. Not many films detour to Iceland, seemingly on a whim. War on Everyone is for that evening when you want a crime comedy where your protagonists are not good guys.


I Am Patrick Swayze

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 32m
Rated: not rated

Director: Adrian Buitenhuis

Writer: Adrian Buitenhuis

Stars: Jennifer Grey, Sam Elliott, Rob Lowe

Double Feature Fodder:
Point Break (1991)

Initial: Patrick Swayze was one of my grandmother’s favorite actors. Since I steer clear of tabloids, I really didn’t know much about him.

Production Notes: The Paramount network has a whole series of I Am documentaries. I Am Patrick Swayze is one of their highest-rated episodes.

What Did I Think:
I liked that this documentary was half biography, half tribute, with family and co-stars sharing a lot of stories. Maybe it’s overly rose-colored, (I can’t imagine a man being so driven that he isn’t at times impossible), but I don’t have a problem with wanting to especially remember the good.

To wit, this is my favorite Patrick Swayze-related memory: One night in 1991, my grandmother decided she wanted to go see the latest Patrick Swayze movie. We headed for a 10:00pm showing at the Park 4 in Ralston, NE. After, my grandma thought the movie was okay, though she wasn’t sure if she liked Swayze as a villain. The movie was, of course, Point Break, clearly the oddest selection of movies to see in a theater with your grandparents.


The Wretched

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 35m
Rated: not rated

Directors: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce

Writers: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce

Stars: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones

Double Feature Fodder:
The Lost Boys (1987)

Initial: Did my sister recommend this movie to me? If she didn’t, I need to recommend it to her. This is a better wendigo movie than most wendigo movies…

Production Notes: Due to being released at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Wretched topped the box office for five weeks.

What Did I Think:
This is one of my favorite kinds of films: The reported production budget was $66,000, yet it’s a good-looking, entertaining movie. It has a bit of a retro feel, being a teenager vs. creature story with a twist here and there. I do wish there was a tiny bit more clarity on the monster’s abilities. Not everything needs to be explained, but a few more details would have made the ending work a little better.

Cinema Saturday, 5/21/22

Death on the Nile

Year: 2022
Runtime: 2h 7m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writers: Michael Green, Agatha Christie

Stars: Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot

Double Feature Fodder:
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Initial: I’m not a fan of Agatha Christie, but I was in the mood for a big, lush, star-studded period piece.

Production Notes: I was wondering about the music in the film and, according to IMDB’s trivia, the songs performed by Salome Otterbourn are period accurate-ish, originally performed in the late 1930s by Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

What Did I Think:
And I can count on Kenneth Branagh to deliver a big, lush, star-studded period piece. Death on the Nile is almost ridiculously polished. The colors are super-saturated. The performances are big. Everyone is beautiful. The movie was funnier than I expected; I chuckled numerous times. The mystery, when there finally is a mystery, was interesting enough, but something was missing. I never really became invested in any of the characters. There are so many of them with so many relationships that none of them get much time, especially when there is a lot of pretty scenery to look at as well. When bad things started happening to characters, I was just glad *something* was happening.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Year: 1990
Runtime: 1h 33m
Rated: PG

Director: Steve Barron

Writers: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Bobby Herbeck, Todd W. Langen

Stars: Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, Josh Pais

Initial: Rewatch from my teen years.

Production Notes: Notably, Steve Barron also directed the music videos to A-ha’s “Take Me On” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

What Did I Think:
Is the 1990 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a good movie? No, not really. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a certain charm. Made during the animated series’ run, it’s goofy and young-audience friendly. As an adult, I found it amusing that the Pleasure Island-esque hideout for the delinquent followers of the Foot Clan has “everything”: arcade games, built-in skate park, and *gasp* cigarettes.

Splinter and the turtle costumes were developed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The turtles aren’t super expressive, but it’s amazing what the in-suit performers can do in them. Splinter is as good as you’d expect from Henson and Co. I watched a little of the third film (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)); the production had parted ways with the Henson’s company and Splinter especially looks much more like he should be in a Chuck E. Cheese band. (Arguably, motion capture is the way to go, but the turtles in Jonathan Liebesman’s 2014 reboot are more realistic and therefore also kind of disturbing.)

For me, a fun bit of nostalgia.

Cinema Saturday, 5/14/22

Old

Year: 2021
Runtime: 1h 48m
Rated: PG-13

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Writers: M. Night Shyamalan, Pierre-Oscar Lévy, Frederik Peeters

Stars: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell

Double Feature Fodder:
Unbreakable (2000)

Initial: I’ve not heard good things about this movie, but I want to give M. Night Shyamalan a fair shake. And it’s available on a streaming service I’m already paying for.

Production Notes: Though shot in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, none of the cast or crew tested positive during filming.

What Did I Think:
You know, I kinda liked this film.

There are things that I generally like about Shyamalan’s movies. He’s a visually interesting film-maker, choosing to work with very talented cinematographers. Old is full on weird angles, close-ups, and panoramic wide shots. The composition of shots does as much story-telling as the dialog in this movie, maybe more considering some of the clunky lines.

He also makes ambitious movies, using ambitious stories. More or less, Old deals with epic themes of aging and death, but is also a “bottle episode,” using mostly one locale and the same handful of characters. Does he pull it all off? Not really, but it’s not a bad effort.

Is the “science” good? No. Will you get tired of the psychologist character saying that everyone should stop and talk about it? Yes. Will you wonder why one character doesn’t just die of tetanus or why a couple characters swim through a tunnel of choral and aren’t totally cut up? Maybe.

But the movie is beautiful and there are a few moments of squicky body horror. I’ve seen better and worse; Shyamalan’s made better and worse.

Cinema Saturday, 5/7/22

Since my Horror A–Z, I’ve been taking a break from movies. I kept up with Winning Time during April, and added Tokyo Vice (a recommendation from my husband) and Under the Banner of Heaven this week.

I did try to watch The Batman (2022). I got maybe halfway through its nearly three hour runtime. Aside from a nearly unrecognizable Colin Farrell as the Penguin, there wasn’t much about this movie that I liked. Matt Reeves’ Gotham felt like a copy of a copy of Blade Runner‘s Los Angeles. Voice-overs are always a hard sell to me, but it felt like all the exposition could have easily been shown. The Riddler’s puzzles felt like low-rent Saw set pieces. The whole movie just felt like other movies to me. This is a Batman who is more of a detective, which is nice, but that made me wish it were a gritty noir movie without Batman. Pattinson’s Batman is painfully emo. The dirge-like score does not help.