★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = 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 Big Short (2015) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars, Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling
director: Adam McKay
‘member when the banks were pullin‘ that shady shit with the mortgages? Trick question! They still are. This is the story about the guys who saw it coming the first time. (the next time: TBD)
The trailer made the movie look like it’s an Ocean’s 11 kind of gang heist. It’s really a story of three sets of people who either predicted the mortgage crisis and created short trading on the housing market or heard of it and took advantage of their good timing. There’s some interesting sound design in a few scenes where the horrible truths are fighting to be heard through crowd noise and music. It’s also playful with the idea of how “true story” movies dispense their facts.
double feature pairing: The Other Guys
The To Do List (2013) ★ ★
stars: Aubrey Plaza, Alia Shawkat, Bill Hader
writer/director: Maggie Carey
Brandy is anxious about going to college with no sexual experience, so she make a list of things to do.
eh, it’s fine. She blindly breaks a guy’s heart and strains a friendship, but no one takes her to task for being promiscuous. That seems unique. It shouldn’t but does.
watch The Diary of a Teenage Girl (movie #27) instead
Wild Card (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Jason Statham, Dominik García-Lorido, Michael Angarano
director: Simon West
writer: William Goldman
Jason Statham is Nick Wild, a security consultant in Las Vegas. What else do you need to know?
That’s about all I knew, which set me up for a little cinematic whiplash. The first third is what you’d expect. The middle swings around for a character piece about a guy with a gambling problem. The final third swings back for more punching. Oversimplified, of course, but the movie could have integrated the two halves better.
Remember Heat? No, not the good one. No, that’s The Heat. The one starring Burt Reynolds. Yep, this is the same story. I tried to watch it last year during my Burt Reynolds retrospective. Terrible. Stopped watching after 15 minutes. I never bought into the “hard boiled” Burt.
double feature pairing: Saint John of Las Vegas
Laura (1944) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Cifton Webb
director: Otto Preminger
Detective Lieutenant McPherson investigates the murder Laura, a swell gal by all accounts.
What a great movie. Even though it’s effect is lessened by the countless thrillers that have followed in the 72 years since its release, it holds up incredibly well. The finale is still very effective. I suspect McPherson is a relative of Columbo. He engages in questionable police procedures, like bringing one suspect along to question another.
double feature pairing: Murder by the Book
Busting (1974) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Elliott Gould, Robert Blake, Allen Garfield
writer/director: Peter Hyams
Vice detectives Keneely and Farrel do their best to fight corruption in New York City.
Some cop movies of the 70’s don’t look too fairly on anyone not straight, white and male. This one is something of an exception. While gay bars are raided and names are called, the movie takes time to run a parallel to the struggle Keneely and Farrell will soon face. During the arraignment of the gay men, where the judge openly mocks them, we meet the lowly defense attorney who shouts above the gallery’s hysterical laughter his objections to police harassment and the abuse of his client's civil rights.
There are some great action sequences, in particular a foot chase that leads to a marketplace shoot out. I'm still humming the score. It ends in the strangest way. Really, I've never seen a movie end like that.
You can read the highlights of the bluray’s commentary at Film School Rejects.
double feature pairing: Cutter’s Way
The Enemy Below (1957) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Robert Mitchum, Curd Jürgens
director: Dick Powell
It’s World War Two! Ship versus submarine! Place your bets!
It’s good. Some tense moments. The internet says this was the first movie to show a German soldier in a more complimentary light. The U-boat commander has no love for Hitler and there isn’t a swastika to be seen. Reminds me of Das Boot in that way.
double feature pairing: The Hunt for Red October
Hot Pursuit (2015) ★ ★
stars: Reece Witherspoon, Sophia Vergara
director: Anne Fletcher
Uh, there’s a by-the-book cop... and the wife of a drug lord... and they are on the run because corruption? And... the mob doesn’t want her to testify, I think. I don’t know. It’s been a couple weeks between watching it and writing about it. In one eye and out the other. I was hoping it'd be funnier. It wasn’t, even though Witherspoon had a moment or two. I also know it cost me a dollar to rent.
watch Smokey and the Bandit instead
Mississippi Grind (2015) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds
writers/directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Gerry meets Curtis at a casino. There’s a bond and soon a plan to earn enough money to enter a high-stakes game in New Orleans.
A really good movie that makes you as uneasy as you think it might, as well as providing a turn or two you might not expect. Boden and Fleck, makers of Half-Nelson and It’s Kind of a Funny Story, are proving to be names to follow.
At this time, I’d like to address my new pet peeve: the whistling tea pot. Used to represent tension, presentation of the whistling tea pot is rarely anything less than forced. The last two times I’ve seen it used, I saw no pot, just a sound added to the mix that was preceded by someone asking "do you want some tea?" If there is tension in a scene between two people, the actors should be able to do it themselves. In both recent cases, Mississippi Grind and Love & Mercy, they didn’t need the help.
double feature pairing: The Color of Money
Pay the Ghost (2015) ★ ★
stars: Nicholas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, a g-g-g-ghost!
director: Uli Edel
Mike and Kristen’s kid is abducted on Halloween. It might not have been a human that did it.
*sigh* Of the recent Nicolas Cage VOD dumps, this isn’t the worst. It’s a decent ghost story. Sadly, the opportunities for a spooky tone are ruined by cheap jump scares. I was eventually bored and found myself rooting for the ghost. She had a pretty good case to be upset. Sure, she took it too far, but still...
watch The Ghost and Mr. Chicken instead
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig
screen writer/director: Marielle Heller
MInnie, a teenager and aspiring artist, starts an affair with her mother’s boyfriend.
Sounds like a pretty creepy movie to watch, right? It isn’t. All because of Minnie’s narration. Her struggle to understand relationships as well as her artistic and sexual growth are presented in an honest way. A great cast. Nice use of illustrations.
double feature pairing: Memoirs of an Invisible Man
Anomalisa (2015) ★ ★ ★.5
stars; David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
directors: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman
writer: Charlie Kaufman
Michael is bored. He sees nothing that inspires him. Until he meets Lisa.
Charlie Kaufman’s play is presented in stop motion animation. It is a story of minimal plot and an expansive exploration of human behavior. And a puppet penis.
double feature pairing: Up in the Air
A New Leaf (1971) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Walter Matthau, Elaine May, Jask Weston
screenwriter/director: Elaine May
Trust fund baby Henry Graham has no more money. He resolves to fix this to marry a rich woman then kill her.
It took me a bit to get used to Walter Matthau as a rich snob. Doesn’t really fit, but he made me laugh. I read afterwards that the studio took the movie away from May and cut it down considerably, excising an entire hitman subplot. While what we were left with is dark, the original cut sounded much darker. No sense in crying about it. It doesn’t make me like it any less. There’s one visual that will make me laugh forever.
double feature pairing: I Love You to Death
Infinitely Polar Bear (2015) ★ ★.5
stars: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana
writer/director: Maya Forbes
A portrait of growing up with a bi-polar father.
Can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to watch Ruffalo break off some acting. Sadly, this movie doesn’t have much else going for it.
watch It’s Kind of a Funny Story instead
The Late Show (1977) ★.5
stars: Art Carney, Lily Tomlin, Bill “Damn These Glasses!” Macy
writer/director: Robert Benton
Ex-gumshoe Ira Wells is drawn back into the P.I. racket when his old partner is murdered.
Was Art Carney a bad actor? I only know him from The Honeymooners. Or was he miscast? That guy was very unconvincing with film-noir speak. The story is pat and not very interesting. After a while I was just watching for Lily Tomlin. I was amused that she was served a Pepsi after she asked for a Coke, and she could tell the difference. Because you can! Pepsi is gross.
watch Brick instead
The Third Man (1949) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Wells
director: Carol Reed
writer: Graham Green
At the request of his friend Harry Lime, novelist Holly Martins arrives in post-WWII Vienna to learn Harry has died. Martins thinks something is rotten in Vienna, so he looks into it.
Holt shit, this is great. They were right. Orson Wells has one of the greatest entrances in movie history here. They were right again!
double feature pairing: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Klute (1971) ★.5
stars: Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Roy Scheider
director: Alan J. Pakula
John Klute goes to the big city to investigate his friend’s disappearance. First stop, the prostitute he frequented.
Why is a movie called Klute not about a character called Kulte? This is a Jane Fonda vehicle. It's her movie. She monologues more than engaging in conversation, while Sutherland, aka: John Klute, aka: the title role, says very little and isn’t a very good detective that I could tell.
This was a struggle to watch, and it gave me a lot to think about. It’s a decent character study of Bree, aka: the true focus of the movie, and could be better if remade today.
watch the remake of Klute whenever they make it instead
Deadpool (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller
director: Tim Miller
Wade Wilson is a mercenary. Wade Wilson has cancer. Wade Wilson undergoes an experimental procedure. Wade Wilson is now virtually indestructible. Wade Wilson is Deadpool, the Merc with the Mouth.
I can’t remember the last time I went into a movie not knowing how I was going feel about it. The preview showed a go-for-broke attitude (good) and a sense of humor that relied on quantity over quality (concerning). Well, context is everything. There are a lot of jokes, and they work for an overall tone. Some times you can’t capture a movie in two and a half minutes. There is charm and terror, and it’s just fucking fun.
double feature pairing: Super
The Accursed (1957) ★ ★
stars: Donald Wolfit, Robert Bray, Christopher Lee
writer/director: Michael McCarthy
It’s the evening of the annual dinner for a group of former resistance fighters during WWII. They honor the passing of their former leader and learn it was one of them who did him in.
Nothing to get too excited about, and yet it’s a decently made who-done-did-it confined to the mansion’s grounds.
watch Clue instead
Hail, Caesar! (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich
writers/directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
It’s the old trailer bait and switch. The trailer thinks this is about a star’s kidnapping and the studio head who pulls together a group of actors and directors to find him. Nope. It’s a movie about an overworked studio head who tries to manage fires during a 27 hour period. There are music numbers, gossip cover-ups, an actor’s remaking. Sometimes funny, sometimes not, generally interesting.
double feature pairing: The Big Picture
7/52 movies directed by women
THE TOP THREE