Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in February.
- Movies watched – 37
- Movies that were new to me – 31
- Silent Film Fest movies – 11
- Monthly Masterpieces – There Will Be Blood
- The Family Entrance (1925) – I’m not sure the exact title of this one but it is a pretty hilarious Charlie Chase short whatever it is called. As a comedian he doesn’t have quite the unique genius of Chaplin or Keaton, but he makes up for it here with great gags.
- Cobra (1925) – A “bromance” in the vein of Flesh and the Devil where poor Rudolf Valentino just can’t help but jump from woman to woman (who he likens to cobras they way they mesmerize and then strike him) including his best friend’s girl. Lays it on a bit thick in parts but it is overall pretty good, I’ll have to check out some more Valentino.
- Kiddin’ Katie (1923) – Lame and unfunny short about a dude who finds out his blind engagement is to a fat chick. Luckily (spoiler alert) he has a fat brother to pawn off on her and thus he manages to hook up with the hot skinny sister by the end.
- Her Sister from Paris (1925) – Cute romantic comedy from the implausible (yet popular) story of a wife tricking her husband into cheating on her with…herself. The husband is a bit of a scumball, but the leading lady is very good and the whole thing is a nice bit of entertaining fluff.
- A Flash of Light (1910) – Over dramatic as all hell, but Griffith still manages to show that the art of crosscutting scenes hasn’t progressed much at all in the past 100 years. He has better shorts but they are all worth watching for the thrill of seeing a new medium take shape in the hands of a true trailblazer.
- That’s my Wife (1929) – Laurel has to pretend to be Hardy’s wife and the hilarity ensues. Aside from the brilliant short where they built a house together, most of the Laurel and Hardy films I’ve seen have only been sporadically funny at best and this proves to be no exception.
- Bardelys the Magnificent (1926) – This swashbuckler (though light on the buckled swashes till the end) isn’t Vidor’s best work but it is still skillfully made entertainment. John Gilbert handles the romance far more adeptly than Fairbanks would have–though, this is offset by him handling the action scenes far more ineptly than Fairbanks would have.
- Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894) – A (spoiler alert) 5 second clip of a guy pretending to sneeze spiced up with a long sequence of Bambie vs Godzillaesque satirical title cards leading up to it. As sneezes go it isn’t even that spectacular, thus the whole thing is pretty much a letdown.
- Rowdy Ann (1919) – Above average short about a girl who just wants to be one of the guys. Nothing special but still pretty entertaining every time she pulls her guns out and starts blastin’.
- Go West (1925) – Supposedly one of Buster’s minor features (it’s not) this is just further evidence of the genius of Keaton. Perhaps a bit more low key than usual (aside from the great finale) but the creativity and wit of the jokes remains unmatched to this day.
- The Great K&A Train Robbery (1926) – As a B movie plot in an A list framework this is pretty enjoyable and moves at a good pace. Lots of cool stunts and Tom Mix really does have a certain charisma.
- Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957) – Fine Tombstone story that focuses on the relationship between the self righteous Wyatt Earp and the amoral Doc Holiday with a great performance from Kirk Douglas as Doc. It’s no My Darling Clementine (but then again, few things are), but I still thoroughly enjoyed it (though the rest of the Earp brothers look like pussies…Dr. McCoy…srsly?)
- The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) – Doris Day vehicle that is really just a little too silly for me (and the main guy is kind of skeevy). Some good moments though, and I have to admit Doris, as usual, is looking good in this one.
- Fear of Fear (1975) – Typical Fassbinder themes of alienation are at play in that typical artsy-fartsy European story of a descent into madness, however, the film is far from typical. This is Fassbinder working at the peak of his unmatched directing powers–it always astounds me that movies of this quality were made for TV in Germany in the 70’s.
- Rio das Muertes (1971) – Early Fassbinder ”komedy” about two friends obsessed with a plan that everyone but them knows is doomed to failure. Doesn’t seem to have quite the import of his best work, but even Fassbinder’s minor films are creative gems.
- The Curious Case of Benjamen Button (2008) – I didn’t hate this nearly as much as Forrest Gump, but it is still as by-the-numbers Hollywood as it gets. A cute idea is not a reason to make a movie if a cute idea is all you have.
- Darkon (2006) – Competently made documentary about LARPers–yet the whole thing seems to be trying too hard to give the subject matter some type of deeper import. They at least afforded the subjects the proper amount of slightly bemused respect and got at their motivations for doing something so ridiculous.
- Gran Torino (2008) – Yet another by the numbers Clint Eastwood drama that pushes all the usual buttons and shamelessly takes its gravitas from a central manufactured tragedy. He does this stuff well, but it’s not enjoyable for me to watch and I’ll be avoiding his next movie despite his amusing (yet scenery chewing) performance.
- The Reader (2008) – Pretty good “love” story that goes against the usual grain and even has a bit to say but ultimately I didn’t find myself all that invested. Bonus points for being about the holocaust without being too overbearing with the pathos.
- The Man from Laramie (1955) – One of the better Anthony Mann westerns–all of which are highly thought of “revisionist” westerns. Some of the dramatic family stuff seems a bit overblown, but this is still a finely crafted movie that is worth watching.
- The Last Frontier (1955) – Strange take on the Fort Apache theme that is helped by Victor Mature being a bizarrely interesting performer. Nothing really remarkable about the movie but it is oddly compelling anyway.
- Van Wilder (2002) – Not so good, unfortunately this one had a bit more dumb than fun. Still kudos on somehow making the main character (who would be a huge douche in real life) reasonably likeable.
- Wag the Dog (1997) – I suppose there is nothing majorly wrong with this one, but its smarmy attitude really rubbed me the wrong way. Also, I was having trouble maintaining suspension of disbelief: fake a war…sure (look at Iraq), get that many people involved in the plot and keep it a secret…no way.
- Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008) – Still pretty funny but lacking the freshness of the first with many of the jokes and scenes being simply callbacks to the first movie or less subtle versions of the already not so subtle racial commentary. I enjoyed it anyway, it just doesn’t have quite the magic of the first one.
- Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) – A stoner comedy up there with Pineapple Express and Up in Smoke (ie, one of the good ones), this movie definitely surprised me with how much I enjoyed it despite the “plot” just being a bunch of random scenes strung together. I think the key is that Harold and Kumar are unique, likeable characters that play it straight…that and the fact that the director manages to make the Cheetah scene actually seem nearly brilliant.
- Revenge of the Nerds (1984) – Not a great movie but it is helped by the nerds having a bit of actual humanity in addition to being the usual caricatures. Worth checking out, but its no Animal House.
- The Thrill of It All (1963) – Another solid Doris Day romantic comedy marred only by the patriarchal ending that ruins a potentially forward-thinking feminist message. Still, this is full of many great scenes, the truckloads of foam scene alone is almost Herzogian with its imagery.
- There Will Be Blood (2007) – Daniel Day Lewis lives up to his formidable reputation in this character study of a very “driven” misanthrope. This is definitely the best movie of 2007 (and indeed in a long time) and I still agree with everything I said in the post I wrote about it last year.
- The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) – Better than all the Pierce Brosnan Bonds put together, the Bourne series is solid spy entertainment. That said, this one basically boils down to just three extended chase scenes filmed in a camera style that makes my Senior Float of doom footage look like it was shot by Ozu.
- Sleeping Beauty (1959) – I haven’t seen these old Disney movies forever, and they really do seem to have a special something the newer films lack. Not perfect, but still great entertainment–also, Maleficent is pretty hot.
- Peter and the Wolf (2006) – Great stop motion animation, this movie looks amazing. But the addition of the political elements seems tacked on in an attempt to give it “a message” (though I suppose I didn’t try all that hard to figure out the message).
- G-Men (1935) – Cagney is a real powerhouse in every movie he’s in, and this is one of the better ones–despite being about the good guys instead of the gangsters. Violent, full of machismo and cut to move, this one doesn’t let up until the dust from the final shootout has cleared.
- Loan Shark (1952) – An aging George Raft, proving a bit wooden to carry a picture by himself, goes undercover to take out a gang of…LOAN SHARKS. Not horrible, but the premise is pretty full of holes and not terribly compelling.
- Taken (2008) – On the one hand, I kind of want to give Taken props because it does do the “here’s what happens when you fuck with someone who should not be fucked with” thing rather well. On the other hand, behind the seams it feels rather shallow, contrived, and in the end, forgettable.
- Man on a Wire (2008) – I have to give this movie major props for managing to suck me in despite initially having no interest in watching it. I don’t know that I really buy into the conceptual art stuff, but that’s ok because, at its heart, this is really a heist movie with a charismatic lead–and it actually happened!
- Ratatouille (2007) – A pleasant enough diversion though the storyline was quite ludicrous (yes, I know, but still, hair doesn’t work that way). To be fair to this review I only got halfway through before the kid I was babysitting lost interest, but I also am not really worrying about finishing it either.
- 24 Hour Party People (2002) – As a chronicle of a music scene I don’t know much about (except that Joy Division is awesome) a lot of the details from this one are lost on me. Still, this is a fresh take on the biopic/”rise and fall of a scene” type of movie that is pretty enjoyable despite also being a bit of a mess in parts.