Movie A Day! Snowden Beach-Fu

A full week for this post. Got in some newer films. Caught up on Beach pictures and took in most of Bruce Lee’s catalogue. Very satisfying despite being busy at work and catching another cold that wants to destroy my sinus cavities. Just read that North Korea is taking Trumps tweets as a declaration of war. Here’s hoping I get to have a horror movie challenge in October instead of Fallout 4: The Reality Show.

Here’s everything I watched.


277 09/17 Snowden (2016) 3.5/5   A bio-pic on epic whistle-blower Edward Snowden by Oliver Stone could have been a complete disaster. Stone plays it pretty straight considering the politics and it ends up being really good. On par with the Stone classics at any rate. I am a mark for Stone, jumping on and following his work since Platoon so I could be a little biased. Superb performances make this one a winner (Nicolas Cage in a character role!) It also helps that Stone presents the technical stuff in such a way that simpleton’s like me can understand it. I don’t know enough about the Snowden story to recognize if he’s as much of a perfect hero that Stone seems to be depicting, but the only real issue with this film is that there is simply no way to make computer stuff look exciting. You can juice up the soundtrack and use CGI all you want, but some twat typing on a PC is always going to look like a twat.


278 09/18 The Big Boss (1971) 3/5   Bruce Lee makes his starring debut in this one as a bumpkin that arrives at a slightly better town to work with some relatives. Seems he’s been getting into fighting trouble. Ends up the ice factory he works at is a front for heroin dealings. It’s almost frustrating how long they tease out Lee, I don’t think he throws a punch until nearly halfway through. When he does leap into action, he’s truly amazing. The difference between his style and those of the other actors, it’s apparent he’s the real deal. Which isn’t a knock on the other players. Golden Harvest mainstay James Tien does most of the heavy lifting in the first half, and he’s great. That said, the films a little rough around the edges. Directed by Wei Lo, he also did a few of the Jimmy Wang Yu films I reviewed the last couple of blogs, it’s pretty standard Golden Harvest stuff plotwise and the fights on the whole are no great shakes choreography wise. Lee makes everyone look better, including the direction, and the ample blood doesn’t hurt either to keep you interested. Ends up the minor Lee film is still well worth your time.


279 09/19 Muscle Beach Party (1964) 2.5/5   The second Frankie and Annette surf picture is plain terrible, and better than the first one. It’s terrible because Frankie and Annette are annoying. Frankie is a total douche-bag trying to play it cool and Annette is the most high maintenance girl friend I’ve ever see. It all smacks of Jersey Shore instead of California fun in the sun. It’s better than the last one because of the supporting cast. Don Rickles as a muscle man handler and Buddy Hackett as a countess’s business handler completely steal the movie from the main cast. Throw in a number from Little Stevie Wonder, and you forget how shit Frankie, Annette and their moronic friends are. Dick Dale deserved better.


280 09/20 Surf Party (1964) 2/5   Fox decided to get in on the Frankie and Annette craze by getting Bobby Vinton on a surfboard. The result is even worse than the other pictures. This is despite having actual surf instrumental music, better surfing scenes and an evil surf gang to contend with.


281 09/21 The Unfaithful (1947) 3/5   This one is a well done noir-ish tale about a woman who kills an attacker in self defense… or was it something more? Ann Sheridan stars and shows a quiet dignity in the type of role were actresses usually try to chew the scenery. Add in Lew Ayres as his typically high moral self as the lawyer/friends helping her and it’s a pretty casual film. It makes for a tight thriller and serviceable thriller.


282 09/22 Fist of Fury (The Chinese Connection) (1972) 4/5   The first great Bruce Lee picture finds the star returning to China to attend his Master’s funeral only to get mixed up in a feud with the Japanese government and systematic racism. Lee is simply fantastic in this one, starting with an epic fight at a rival Dojo to ever escalating fights throughout. Watch it.


283 09/23 Way Of The Dragon (Return of the Dragon) (1972) 4.5/5   For my money, this is the best picture Bruce Lee did, and one of the best Kung Fu films ever made. Lee steps in to write and direct as well as choreograph the fights and it all shows. Surprisingly, the first 20 minutes are played as a comedy, with Lee himself being the brunt of a series of what are essentially fart jokes. It all helps to add to the fights, and not a single scene is wasted. The climax against Chuck Norris is a classic and it all holds up perfectly.


284 09/24 X-Men Apocalypse (2016) 2.5/5   My rating feels low since when this is good, it’s really good. I just found it hard to connect to. Too much CGI spectacle distracted from this one. Which is a shame since the entire cast in this are great in every way. The constant need to up the ante in every superhero film is starting to kill the genre.


285 09/24 Enter The Dragon (1973) 4/5   Lee made all his movies in a two year period, which is insane. This one was his one Hollywood co-production, and it shows in its slickness. It gives Bruce a chance to be a bit more James Bond than he has been, and the fights for the most part are pretty good depending on who’s fighting. It reaches too high and is saddled with some non-martial artists that while they are made to look mostly good, just can’t compete against Lee and it shows. Despite that, still a fine action picture.

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Movie A Day!: Imitation of Jacks

Another mixed bag of a week. Sort of. I decided to watch some un-watched Criterion Collection discs this month, which lead me to watching all my David Lynch titles that are not in boxes in prep for re-watching Twin Peeks before the new series. Despite only two of those Lynch titles where from Criterion. Mix that up with some oldies and a cheeky Vinegar Syndrome title and it’s not a bad week at all.


136 05/07 The Incredibly Strange Film Show: Russ Meyer (1988) 3/5   A very well done biography on Meyer hosted by Jonathan Ross that manages to hit all points of his career included his start as a combat photographer in WWII. It also shows a clip of a possibly 8 hour documentary that Meyer was working on his own life that would of been amazing but was apparently never finished. A real shame. I would love to see a proper feature length doc on this man.


137 05/07 Imitation of Life (1959) 4/5   Lana Turner stars in this soapy melodrama from Douglas Sirk about a struggling, mature actress in New York who befriends a black housekeeper, Alice (played by Juanita Moore, and she is fantastic) and together they find success. Well, sort of, they stay in their roles based on race and that’s really what this movie is about. Alice has a real struggle with her rebellious, white passing daughter that is far more interesting than the trials that Turner has that leave her in a near constant state of helpless hysteria. You can clearly see a through-line from these style of Sirk pictures to John Waters since his characters are always in the same state hysteria. Anyway, this was pretty great since you don’t think of these sort of topics in 50’s films. Also, Sirk really is great at this stuff. He has a workmanlike sense of direction, but it’s pretty perfect.


138 05/07 Blue Velvet (1986) 4/5   After Dune floundered, David Lynch somehow got the chance to make a film closer to his sensibilities first explored in Eraserhead. It was interesting watching this one on the back of Imitation of Life since they have a pretty similar world of 1950’s like innocence, only Lynch’s small midwest town is a perverted nightmare. Jeffrey, played by Kyle MacLachlan, finds and ear in a field and becomes obsessed with solving it’s mysteries that leads him to a world of pain. Dennis Hopper is absolutely brilliant as the force of nature Frank, Isabella Rossellini is fantastic as the damage nightclub singer Dorothy and Laura Dern manages to hold her own as the symbol of everything good, the girl next door. It’s aged very well, and still holds all it’s power to remain one of Lynch’s best films.


139 05/09 Wild At Heart (1990) 4/5   David Lynch does the Wizard of Oz as a bonkers Elvis inspired road movie with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern starring as Sailor and Lula who spend most of the film either ruminating or fucking. It has no business being as good as it is. Lynch went genuinely weird with this one and it completely works. Willem Dafoe is unforgettable in his small role and it’s fun to see legends Harry Dean Stanton and Diane Ladd go a bit bonkers. Crispen Glover, man, priceless. I’m too much of a Lynch fanboy to call this one my favourite, but it just might be.


140 05/11 Champion (1949) 4/5   Kirk Douglas takes the lead in this boxing noir about a guy and his handicap brother who is on the skids so Kirk gets into the fight game for the money. It starts off pretty standard, but soon Douglas’s mercilous ambition creeps through and the emotional bloodletting eclipses what’s in the ring. I don’t think I have seen Douglas more unlikable in a movie. This one was a real treat, and recommended.


141 05/11 Mulholland Dr. (2001) 3.5/5   David Lynch’s Neo-Noir about an actress caught up in a mystery is considered a classic, but I just can’t get into it. It’s gorgeous, everyone is on point, it’s delightfully “Lynch-ian” and I can’t knock a thing about it. I have just never warmed to it. Maybe I’ll “get it” the next time I watch it.


142 05/12 Funny Face (1957) 4/5   I really enjoyed this one. Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire star in this musical about a frumpy beatnik girl that gets whipped up into the world of high fashion. Hepburn is far too adorable to be frumpy, but she’s surprisingly good in this musical and manages to steal the film with her avant-garde beatnik ballet sequence in a cafe that’s supposed to be played for laughs. Astaire more than holds his own and it’s all looking spectacular under the direction of the legendary Stanley Donen, who also directed one of my all time favourite films, Singing in the Rain. It’s crazy that it’s taken me this long to watch this one.


143 05/12 Her Wicked Ways (1983) 3/5 Jesie St. James stars as a gold digging heiress who has just inherited a billion dollars and Joanna Storm is the daughter trying to get the money back in this adult romp directed by The Lewis Brothers. It’s not the greatest adult film you’ll ever see but it’s just so well done compared to the regular fare in the period that it it ends up being pretty fun. Storm is a real scene-stealer and definitely helps to keep the film moving. The Peekarama DVD from Vinegar Syndrome is a real winner.


144 05/13 One-Eyed Jacks (1961) 4/5   The only film that Marlon Brando directed is this western. I think it’s just me but I think it’s weird that his only directed film is a western. Seems weird, right? Anyway, this is a typical vengeance tale with Brando’s Rio seeking out old partner Karl Malden’s “Dad” Longworth who ditched him during a bank robbery. It’s a gorgeous film and done with the naturalistic acting style Brando was known for and just completely works. There’s a feeling of distance and brooding that is tricky for films to nail, and the support cast featuring Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens and Katy Jurado are all perfect as well. Recommended.

One-Eyed Jacks also ended up being the last film shot in VistaVision so I managed to watch two VistaVision films over the weekend. You just never know what’s going to happen when you blindly watch stuff.  Isn’t the world marvellous?

Hold your loved ones tight.