Films I've Watched
One of my favorite films of all time. A masterwork of tension, paranoia, and descent into evil. Better on every viewing.
A Room with a View
This kind of chamber romance really isn’t my bag. I can appreciate the phenomenal cast though, and there is some enjoyable dry humor.
This movie is such a classic that I can quote nearly every line. It’s so iconic and it’s just so apt. And now that I’m a working stiff as an adult, it hits all the harder. Mike Judge just has a talent for making characters and situations that ring so very true in their absurdity.
Killers of the Flower Moon
There are three themes that dominate Scorsese’s filmography: the experience of under classes and minoritized groups, the psychology of people who do evil things, and a love for cinema and its history.
Killers of the Flower Moon sees his exploration of the first theme extended beyond European immigrant groups to native people, which is fantastic. As he does so well for subjects closer to his own experience, he portrays the Osage people with depth and contradictions and humanity.
When it comes to the theme of the minds of evildoers, that same complexity works here in a way that is in many ways more horrifying than the madness of Travis Bickle. And because it is a true story (made very real by the book), that horror lingers. How could anyone do such things, you find yourself asking again and again.
There’s not so much in the way of cinema history in this film, save for perhaps just a nod at the end.
Sean of the Dead
One of the tightest screenplays ever written. I’ve watched this movie perhaps a dozen times, and every single time I discover new setups and new callbacks. Hilarious and a very solid zombie film to boot.
The plot trope of the assassin betrayed by his employer is so well worn as to have become a furrow. But Fincher makes it work. Like the eponymous (anti) protagonist, Fincher is methodical, detailed, subtle in all his films, and the effect is mesmeric. You find yourself leaning in toward the screen, the slow tension crawling through your muscles, begging to be released.
Thrillers can be rather rote affairs, but the genre is once again elevated in this filmmaker’s hands. The thematic content is all underneath the surface, rippling in the lush cinematographic shadows, just out of sight, but felt in every meticulous frame.
The Big Sleep
Having just finally gotten around to reading the novel, I thought it was time to revisit this noir classic. The mood conjured by the film is legendary, and of course Bogart is Philip Marlow. But the main thing that stands out when comparing the film to the book is the rare instances where they deviate from the otherwise verbatim plot.
Many of the changes are clear salves for the censors, and some are to give Bacall more screentime, and the final act is for a more Hollywood ending. But when you add them all up, it definitely takes the film down a few pegs in comparison to the source material.
Still a fantastic movie, but, as the so often are, many of the best things about the book are lost in adaptation.
A Haunting in Venice
Kenneth Brannagh is kind of the Michael Bay of literary films: he has some great filmic techniques he likes to use, but he has no sense of how to use them appropriately or with subtlety. There are plenty of moody and evocative shots, with wide angle lenses, dutch angles, and stark lighting aplenty. And all of those wonderful things are use as hamfistedly as you can imagine.
Speaking of hams, he’s also really good at producing hammy dialogue and getting hammy performances from the cast. Not to mention always shoehorning in hammy, melodramatic inner turmoil for the hero.
And yet, for some reason I keep watching these Poirot movies. I think I’ve just always loved the character, and his charm still shines through all of Brannagh’s awkward choices.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
It’s probably been twenty years since I last watched this movie, and it is even more delightful than it was then. I don’t know that I previously appreciated just how great the direction is, how perfectly Tim Curry chews the scenery, or how much it influenced the development of my own deviant mind.
A cute little comedy about death with some witty banter, but nothing compared to the heights David Lean would achieve just a few films later. I appreciate that it prefigured some of my favorite gallows-humor movies of subsequent decades, but the characters don’t entirely draw you in and the end isn’t really earned.
Die Hard 2
No amount of hanging a lampshade on the premise could disguise the fact that this will always be just a sequel. Still, it’s a solid action flick with a likeable protagonist and some creative reasons for things to explode.
As often seems to happen with Coen Brothers movies, I didn’t quite appreciate this film fully in my first viewing or two–it was fun, but maybe not quite fulfilling. I didn’t get how everything fit together and all the film vignettes seemed disconnected.
But this time around, it really hit how wonderfully it works as a whole, and that helped the jokes to land even better. It’s a wonderful love letter and sendup of golden age Hollywood all in one, with classic Coen delight in the absurdity of life and people.
The movie is strange, quirky, visually imaginative, and creepy, but it can’t hold a candle (a darkness?) to the perfect child’s-eyes horror of the novel.
Little Shop of Horrors
I’d give this five stars for the amazing puppet work alone. But in top of that, it’s dark, hilarious, campy, has great music and performancs, and is super well directed. Fun in every way.
A charming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, bolstered by an excellent cast. I miss some of the more traditional faery elements from the original, but the added humor and exuberance make for a fun watch.
A lesser carbon copy of the original, without the clear vision of Paul Verhoven’s razor satire and beset by the studio polishing off all the corners. Still, there’s some over the top humor and Phil Tippet’s stop motion work is phenomenal.
School of Rock
Jack Black at his most Jack Blackest—in a good way. This is a silly little film, but it is very well executed by Linklater and has an appreciation for rock music that falls very close to my heart. And I think all the kids really do rick at their instruments. Just a joy to watch.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
I enjoyed this return to the Guardians franchise more than I expected I would. Lately, most of the new Marvel movies have felt very rote and the characters very shallow. So I was surprised to find one with some real heart and a story with the smaller stakes of saving a friend.
Not every joke lands and the CGI bustup in the climax is predictably overlong and over the top, but it works, all in all. Plus CGI young Rocket is super cute.
I’ve seen this film several times, and enjoyed it on each viewing, but this time it hit me on a whole different level. As never before, it hit me how perfectly Phil’s story explores the existential dilemma of extrinsic meaninglessness and proposes it’s own solution about how to live the good life.
In past viewings, the setting in Punxsutawney and the on Groundhog Day had always seemed fairly incidental, and I could never quite grasp why it should be the title of the whole movie. But now, considering that the protagonist shares a name with Punxsutawney Phil, it seems obvious that the very arbitrariness and even absurdity of the holiday’s ritual is exactly the point.
Hadn’t watched this since it first came out, and on the second viewing I think my opinion is the same but a bit clearer. As ever, Wright’s directing is vibrant, kinetic, and super fun. The setup and the characters grab you, and the music pops.
The downside is that the plot doesn’t quite develop to a satisfying conclusion, and it’s mostly an issue of which characters turn out to be the final antagonists Baby must defeat, and of the way it ends overall. It just doesn’t seem to live up to the promises the story makes in the beginning.
It’s too bad because it’s so close to having the makings of a classic.
It’s hard to know how to rate this movie because there is so much good and so much bad and just so, so much of all of it. It’s not Nolan at his most self indulgent, but it has many of his trademarks, for better and worse: nonlinear storytelling, bombastic score (that’s nearly wall-to-wall through the whole film), melodrama aplenty, and quick jumps between scenes. In fact, the way it’s edited makes it feel like the whole movie is one long montage.
There’s a lot to admire here, but it’s exhausting and not a little bit bloated.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
A very, very silly movie. I loved it as a kid, in the era just after Robinhood: Prince of Thieves, and I still enjoy it now. A bit of the humor seems a bit insensitive by today’s standards, but it has that Booksian spirit of poking fun at bigots, so it still mostly goes down smooth.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Much better than Crystal Skull, but no candle to the original trilogy. Long and ultimately dull action scenes. A climax so over the top that I loved it in spite of its silliness.
Veronica Mars The Movie
It’s weird watching this movie right after finishing the original series run. You can tell the whole thing is aimed at pleasing fans who’ve been waiting a very long time to see their favorite characters back. Without the wait, what I want out of it is very different. Not to say it’s bad. Not at all. It just doesn’t shine.