Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in December.
- Movies watched – 11
- Movies that were new to me – 7
- Great Katherine Hepburn performances – 2
- Monthly Masterpieces – Red River
- Holiday Affair (1949) – Great holiday romance with a sparkling script and excellent performances all around. Of course it is another movie about a wise man who fixes a crazy woman right up by telling her how silly she is, but if you can overlook that, there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
- Red River (1948) – As pure an example of the classic American western (and the classic American west) as they come, to watch Red River is to watch mythology being made. Perhaps slightly flawed in that John Wayne’s tyrant is so convincing that the happy ending seems a bit out of nowhere, but I’m not sure I’d want a darker ending anyway.
- Shack Out On 101 (1955) – Pretty minor anti-commie curiosity from McCarthy era Hollywood with Lee Marvin delightfully chewing the scenery as a commie agent disguised as a lecherous burger flipper. The “hero” is as lame as they come, but this movie is worth it for the shirtless weightlifting scene alone.
- Spring Breakers (2013) – It would be easy to laugh this off as exploitative trash, and easier still to laugh it off as pretentious trash, but I think it manages to walk a fine line between both and actually live up to its ambitions. And James Franco practically steals the neon colored show as soon as his ridiculous rapper Alien shows up.
- Christmas Vacation (1989) – Great episodic Christmas film with more gags and quotable lines crammed into its runtime than any 10 other films. What more can I say other than that this is one of those rare movies that is good enough to watch year after year without ever overstaying its welcome.
- Alice Adams (1935) – A bit over-dramatic and not quite up to its ambitions in parts, but Hepburn’s performance carries the film anyway. The big party/dance scene alone is one of the most achingly realistic things I’ve seen in an early 30s movie.
- David Blaine – Real or Magic (2013) – David Blaine mostly seems to just know two tricks: the ability to stick things through his body without bleeding, and the ability to guess cards that people pick in their heads. Still, his obvious expertise with card manipulation, and the fact that I have no idea (though plenty of guesses) how he does those two tricks, both make this a lot of fun to watch.
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) – There might have been scattered good bits, but overall this is just as cartoonishly stupid as I feared it would be. Suspension of disbelief (and the maintenance thereof) is a concept that Peter Jackson does not seem to be able to understand.
- Suddenly Last Summer (1959) – If anyone could manage to capture the screenwriting hat trick of (spoiler alert) incest, lobotomies and cannibalism, it would have to be Tennessee Williams. Not that it is a successful film, but it certainly is audacious (and Hepburn puts in a great performance–I can’t say as much for the rest of the cast).
- Tall in the Saddle (1944) – Like Angel and the Badman, this is another A-list Western playing in the B-movie waters of Wayne’s early career. The plot roars right along, Gabby Hayes makes a great sidekick, and there are more great scenes crammed in here than you could shake a sixshooter at.
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – These Hunger Games films are really quite good, with excellent acting and film-making all around. Of course by the second movie, some of the weaknesses in the overall narrative of the books are starting to make themselves known, not that that should keep you from checking these movies out anyway.