I am attempting to watch 366 movies this leap year. The behind-the-scenes particulars are in the Q&A introduction. The documentation of my progress begins below. You will see my top three suggestions of this particular batch at the bottom.
★★★★★ = I can’t see giving anything that I’ve seen once five stars
★★★★ = get to the theater / move it up in your queue
★★★ = “three stars is a recommendation” - The Empire [magazine] Podcast
★★ = if the remote is too far away, you could do worse
★ = if the remote is too far away, get someone to move it closer then throw it at the TV
The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015) ★★★
stars: Tim Burton, John Peters, Kevin Smith
writer/director: Jon Schnepp
Tim Burton directs Nicolas Cage as Superman. It almost happened. It could have been great. Insane, but great. Maybe. The doc is strengthened by Burton’s involvement. If only Cage said yes, too. His costume test footage is a nice consolation.
double feature pairing: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
The Hateful Eight (2015) ★★★★
stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
writer/director: Quinten Tarantino
A blizzard interferes with a bounty hunter’s transport of his prisoner, forcing them to take shelter in a surprisingly overcrowded way station.
I love movies that take place in one location, largely or in total. Despite some questionable story elements, I still enjoyed it a lot. It is worth seeing a second time to watch the characters react in ways unnoticeable before.
double feature pairing: Wind Chill
The Winding Stream (2014) ★★★
stars: Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash
director: Beth Harrington
The story of The Carter Family.
Turns out what I thought was The Carter Family was actually The Carter Sisters. Ol‘ A.P. Carter swiped hisself a whole bucket full o‘ songs from dem dar hills. I’m guessing he never went back to pass out royalties. A good documentary. (Never mind the animation of the old photos that turned the Carter’s into the Chuck E. Cheese house band.) I only wish the commentary track of the two old men behind me could be heard by all. I pictured them sitting on a porch, sharing whatever came to their minds...
“Would you look at those clodhoppers he’s got on.”
“I’ve been to that grave.”
“Johnny Cash [gave that interview] before he died.”
double feature pairing: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
The Revenant (2015) ★★★
stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleason
director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Bear attacks dude. Other dude kills dude’s kid. Dude left for dead. Dude crawls back for Revenge!
That’s fucking it. Very little else happens in in two hours and forty minutes. It looks amazing and should be seen in the theater. But, man, what a grind to sit through. Tom Hardy is great as Other Dude. He's doing more than crawling on the snow and grimacing.
double feature pairing: The Edge
Capricorn One (1978) ★★★★
stars: Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Hal Holbrook
writer/director: Peter Hyams
So your mission to Mars isn’t feasible, and your funding is in jeopardy. What do you do? If you’re NASA, you fake it and hope everyone plays along.
1970‘s conspiracy in full effect. Holds up pretty well after nearly 40 years. Some great car chase POV shots and a dogfight finale that’s a sight for tired CGEyes.
double feature pairing: Wag the Dog
13 Sins (2014) ★★
stars: Mark Webber, Ron Perlman, Pruitt Taylor Vince
director: Daniel Stamm
Elliot receives a phone call telling him if he completes 13 tasks, he will receive six million dollars. If the tasks didn’t escalate, then we wouldn’t have a story. Horrible things are in store for Elliot.
This movie’s fault lies with it expanding the game into a larger conspiracy. It’s better to keep the circle small. That’s what Cheap Thrills did right, in addition to being funnier and better.
watch Cheap Thrills instead
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) ★★★
writer/director: Kurt Kuenne
Judging by the interviews Kuenne collected of friends and family members about his friend Andrew, we all should have instinctively felt the moment he died. He was murdered by his girlfriend, pregnant with his child. Then it got worse.
double feature pairing: something to remind yourself there is still good in the world
The Americanization of Emily (1964) ★★★
stars: James Garner, Julia Andrews, Melvyn Douglas.
director: Arthur Hiller
writer: Paddy Chayefsky (screenplay, based on William Bradford Huie’s novel)
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison is a coward. He says so himself. It’s why he got a job as a gofer to Adm. Jessup to get through WWII. It's because of this position that he meets Emily and the focus of Jessup‘s desire for battlefield glory.
Garner and Andrews are charming in this military satire that fights the idea that dying in battle is a glorious death.
double feature pairing: Birdy
Monte Walsh (1970) ★★★★
stars: Lee Marvin, Leanne Moreau, Jack Palance.
director: William A. Fraker
The Old West is disappearing. Time for cowboys to decide how to live the rest of their lives.
An interesting examination of a changing landscape and some people's inability to change with it. Lee Marvin is great in this. Didn’t know he was anything more than action-tough.
double feature pairing: Unforgiven
Child’s Play (1972) ★★★.5
stars: James Mason, Robert Preston, Beau Bridges
director: Sidney Lumet
A former student returns to his alma mater as a teacher to find his former instructors still at each other’s throats and the student body in a violent state.
To me, Sidney Lumet means solid acting and meaty characters. This one doesn’t change that.
double feature pairing: Heaven Help Us
The Station Agent (2003) ★★★★
stars: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale
writer/director: Tom McCarthy
A friendship is formed among three people living in isolation, two by choice, the other by circumstance. Can’t pepper the story up more than that. Sometimes a sweet story told calmly is just that simple.
double feature pairing: Trees Lounge
Mean Streets (1973) ★★
stars: Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro
director: Martin Scorsese
Charlie is in line for more responsibility within the “organization.” Johnny Boy, his cousin and best friend, is the anchor that could keep him from rising through the ranks.
I’m guessing in ’73 this was a movie that demanded you remember Martin Scorsese’s name. Had I seen it then I probably would feel differently about it. Now, it’s like watching a first draft of a great filmmaker.
watch Goodfellas instead
Spotlight (2015) ★★★.5
stars: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo
director: Tom McCarthy
“I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling reporters!”
- many Catholic priests.
To witness the acting chops of a great cast is the reason to watch this horrific example of institutionalized religion run amok.
double feature pairing: Shattered Glass
Ride Along 2 (2016) ★★
stars: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Oliva Munn
director: Tim Story
guh, the movies I see for friends. It’s like the first one but in Miami, and Olivia Munn is in it. I liked the first one OK. There was nothing funny in this one, except for a line reading or two. Well, the gag with the bulletproof vest was funny when I saw it in the trailer. The way the audience howled at it they must not have seen the trailer. Hard to believe. The other big laugh from the crowd was the ceiling fan gag. Again, in the trailer.
watch Another 48 Hrs. instead
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) ★★★★
stars: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn
director: David Lean
Yes, I’d never seen the story of T. E. Lawrence banding together the Arabic tribes to fight the Turks during WWI. Since I didn’t watch it in the theater, some say I still haven’t. Still, I could appreciate it’s beauty. The mirage at the watering hole is mesmerizing. The attack on Aqaba is breathtaking. We watch from a hill as horses and camels race into the city, filling the streets and pouring onto the shore. If made today, it would have been a computer composition, filling me with nothing more than “that looks OK, I guess.” The Gateway Film Center will be showing this in 70MM later this year. Maybe I will see it after all.
double feature pairing: Sahara Hare
Urban Cowboy (1980) ★
stars: John Travolta, Debra Winger, Scott Glenn
director: James Bridges
Bud moves from the ranch to the big city. He quickly marries Sissy, who he met at the biggest shit-kickin’ bar you’ve ever seen. She has an opinion and wants to ride the mechanical bull too, so he fucks off with another woman, and she shacks up with an ex-con cowboy.
You know Bud is the good guy because when he smacks his woman he doesn’t leave a mark. Bud eventually misses his wife and says his jealous days are over, so he enters the mechanical rodeo to win her back. A movie of its time, for sure.
“Looking for Love” came from this movie's soundtrack. I’ve only known the Buckwheat version, “Wookin‘ Pa Nub.”
watch The Cowboy Way instead
017 -- Sisters (2015) ★★★
stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler
director: Jason Moore
Maura and Kate’s parents are selling their childhood home. There’s a house party.
Funny things happen. Formulaic things happen, too, but it’s funny so who cares. People walked out during the end credit gag reel. Who does that?! People who spit on comedy tradition, that’s who!
double feature pairing: House Party
1/52 movies directed by women
THE TOP THREE