Movie A Day! 001- 010: “A New Beginning”

Decided to keep this going since I track what I watch (and read) anyway, but I’m having second thoughts and it’s all due to formatting. Depending on the browser I use, it adds spaces that I don’t want between the move number title thing and the mini-review. It’s ridiculous and drives me crazy. I have to go into the weird text editor and delete spaces added from the copying and pasting. Nice job, stupid website! So much for for finding an easier way to do this.

A weird hodge-podge of porn, cartoons, Shakespeare and special features to start the New Year.

001 01-01 I Am Always Ready (1978) 1.5/5
This is the second feature on Vinegar Syndrome’s PeekaRama disc with THE ULTIMATE PLEASURE, and boy, was it the lesser film. Another Carlos Tobalina title, this one is about a woman who comes into some cash and decides to make a porn film so she can meet John Holmes, and that’s just the opening 3 minutes! I thought I was watching the trailer! The rest of the film is scene after uninspired scene of the porn being shot. It’s dull with nothing to elevate it and will have you reaching for the fast forward button since the horrendous wigs and set dressing are more entertaining.

002 01-01 The “Scanners” Way (2014) 4/5
I watched all the special features on Criterion’s SCANNERS blu-ray that I watched last October. They’re all really good, the main doc going into all aspects of the filming, including the legendary head exploding scene (achieved via SHOTGUN BLAST!), and the rest featuring new and classic interviews with the key players. You typically can’t go wrong with Criterion, and this is no exception.

003 01-01 Frozen (2013) 3/5
This is the Disney film about the Ice Queen, not the horror film about a trio of skiers stuck on a ski lift. This one was good, there are some fun characters and even better, a kickass “Girl Power” vibe. These Princesses don’t need no Prince Charming to save them and who new Veronica Mars could sing like that? My problem with the film is my typical one with modern animation. The CGI characters look ugly and generic with zero personality and there are way too many songs in the first three quarters. Disney seems to think animated features are the same as Broadway musicals. As a result, the story pacing is completely killed. I liked the little snowman guy, and his little music video summer song thing was cute, but completely unnecessary to the narrative. Cut half the songs (not “Let It Go”, that one was actually placed perfectly) and I’d add another star. The ski lift FROZEN also got three stars from me, in case anyone was curious. Also, the new Mickey Mouse short on the blu-ray was pretty great. Man, I miss “Rubber Hose” animation.

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004 01-01 Stereo (1969) 2/5
This is the last of the bonus features on Criterion’s SCANNERS blu-ray. It’s David Cronenberg’s first film! It’s simply not very good! It’s more of an experimental art film about a Canadian testing on telepathy. So it sounds like a prequel to SCANNERS, but it’s not. A group of people silently (there is no soundtrack) wander around a testing facility, communicating only by telepathy. The only spoken words are chunks of narration throughout explaining the technical experiments that aren’t really being shown. So despite being incredibly well shot and looking fantastic in stark black and white, nothing really happens and my brain just kept buzzing away.

005 01-02 Joe (2013) 4/5
Thanks to the internet and some whack-o parts in the past, people forget just how great Nic Cage can be. Like in this movie, which is one of the darker, more bleak films you see in the “Southern Gothic” genre. I’m guessing that’s what you’d call it. Anyway, Nic is the title character who helps out a kid in town whose dad is a degenerate drunk. A hell of a film that goes all the way, like films of this type should. As a bonus, Cage does a bit where he teaches the kid how to make a “cool face”, which when demonstrated, is the face Cage makes ALL THE TIME. (Make your face like you’re in horrible pain, then smile. That’s the secret Cage Cool Face, I expect pictures.)

Macbeth Movie Poster

006 01-03 The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971) 4.5/5
I’m no Shakespeare expert, far from it. Macbeth would be my favourite of the plays though, and this one is one of my favourite movies based on his works. Roman Polanski shoots this one like a movie, not a play, and with the sets and exteriors you forget you’re watching one of the most famous plays every performed and instead get swept up in the story of the doomed Scottish king. There’s not a single bad performance, the wordplay is accessible and since everything is done realistically, everything seems dripping in fog, dirt and blood. It actually plays as much like a horror film than it does a typical tragedy, and I highly recommend the new Criterion blu-ray that looks breathtaking, especially since my only exposure to the film prior was via a VHS dupe since this one seems to be one of the more forgotten films of Polanski’s filmography.

007 01-03 SexWorld (1977) 4/5
First there was WestWorld, then FutureWorld, of course there should have been a SexWorld since really, all those movies are about are fucking robots. This one is directed by legendary Anthony Spinelli, and he gets a higher budget than the porno chic films typically gets and it shows. Featuring many stars, including cult favourites Annette Haven and Kay Parker (her film debut), this one surprisingly hedges on the Sci-Fi elements (so after three films of robot sex, we never learn who has to clean the cum out of them) and instead deals more with the emotional aspects of being able to live your sexual fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nearly wall to wall sex scenes, but they’re presented in a way that it feels like a “proper” film instead of a loop carrier. So this is a good one, and the Vinegar Syndrome blu-ray puts to shame many legit releases from the major companies from the same period.

008 01-04 Toil & Trouble: Making “Macbeth” (2014) 4/5
009 01-04 Polanski Meets Macbeth (1971) 4/5
These are the main two documentaries on the Criterion blu-ray reviewed above, and both are exactly what you want to see. The first one from 2014 features recent interviews on the history of the film, while the other is a shot on set look at Polanski actually making the movie. They perfectly complement each other without being repetitive and are well worth watching on their own. The other extras, a couple of TV clips, one with the writer of the film on Dick Cavett and the other has Polanski debating Macbeth adaptations with a theatrical director are great as well. So in typical Criterion Collection fashion, this is about as thorough a set as anyone will need for this film.

010 01-04 Throne of Blood (1957) 4/5
Figured I go all out and watch Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Macbeth as well. They do a fantastic job adapting the play to feudal Japan, with some neat substitutions like evil spirits in the forest instead of witches. Otherwise, it’s “Macbeth” in plot and Toshiro Mifune is as god as ever in the title role.

Boy, just look at that Criterion cover art for MACBETH. Pretty great eh?

Well, there it is, a new year, an old blog, and more movies no one else is watching. Ten films in 4 days, though most were just around the hour mark so it’s a bit of a cheat. Fun? I hope so. Maybe this year I’ll make it out to the theaters a bit so there are actual current, helpful reviews. (Don’t hold your breath though….)

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Movie A Day!: 355-363 – “Bring Me Down I’m Scared!”

Right! Another week, another list! I didn’t get in a full ten titles this week. On Wednesday night I actually left the house and saw the wonderful Sadies perform. This is my third time seeing the band, and they are easily one of the the top five live acts I’ve seen. You have to be dead inside to not get swept up by them. Anyway, on with the films!

355 11-09 The Dollop – Live at Podfest (2014) 3/5
I’m kind of sneaking this one on here. This is one of my favourite podcasts, and they put this one up on YouTube to watch. If you like weird history, this is the podcast for you. While this episode isn’t as bonkers funny as some of their other ones, it’s still pretty fun.

356 11-09 Marvel 75 Years – From Pulp To Pop (2014) 2.5/5
Typical, back slapping PR kit style profile about how great Marvel Comics is, with none of the real story in it. So if you want to hear the official, super happy fun-guy version of where the characters came from, and how they were exploited into a movie franchise, then this is the one for you. Those of us wanting a more truthful look at Marvel will have to keep waiting. My favourite bit: Stan Lee being celebrated for challenging the Comic Code despite Marvel being one of the founders of said code, which was created to put EC Comics and other publishers out of business since Lee and his shitty monster books couldn’t compete. They didn’t mention that later bit…

357 11-09 Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970) 4/5
This one was ridiculously good. The plot is basically what the title says, the blind swordsman meets Yojimbo, the classic character from the film YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa that inspired A FIST FULL OF DOLLARS which kick started the “Spaghetti Western” genre. Got all that? You did realize that Samurai and western films are all connected right? Now go watch KILL BILL again. Anyway, Zatoichi and Yojimbo are both in town and after a score of gold being hidden from Yakuza bosses. It’s an incredibly complex, twisty plot, and it works like gangbusters. There’s only a few of these films left in the boxset, and I’m going to miss them when I’m done.

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358 11-10 Red River (Theatrical Version) (1948) 4/5
This one is Howard Hawks other classic western that isn’t called RIO BRAVO. This one also stars John Wayne, and it’s the first time that Wayne played an anti-hero. His character here is an embittered rancher that is obsessed with driving his massive herd of cattle up the Chisholm trail to market. Walter Brennan plays his old partner, and Montgomery Clift plays the younger partner that Wayne took in as a child. So really, it’s a generational story of three men, their roles and how their relationships change with age. It’s a great film, the cattle scenes are amazing, and the character interplay is even better. I plan on watching the preview version sooner than later since I think this is one where you get more out of it each time you see it. This was one of my dads favourite films, so it was a shame a decent version took so long to come out not that he’s not here to see it.

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359 11-11 Wreck-It Ralph (2012) 4/5
Finally got around to the Disney film that couldn’t have been more made for me. It’s flat out “TOY STORY” but with video games, and it couldn’t be any better. John C. Reilly is great in the title role as the bad guy wanting to be a good guy, and Sarah Silverman is equally great, maybe surprisingly great in a role that doesn’t allow her to say “Cunt” repeatedly. Anyway, they nail the world that had to create for the story to make sense, and all the cameos of classic game characters was a fun trip down geek memory lane.

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360 11-13 The Black Cat (1941) 3/5
This is another Universal Horror that is named THE BLACK CAT and it has nothing to do with the previous film of that title, despite Bela Lugosi being in it in a small role. This one is basically a “Old House” type mystery. An old woman is reading her will, and now people are getting knocked off. It’s notable for it’s ridiculously strong cast of Basil Rathbone (Known for the Sherlock Holmes series), Broderick Crawford (ALL THE KINGS MEN) and Alan Ladd (SHANE) in an early role. Sadly, a lot of this one is played for laughs, mostly at the hands of comedian Hugh Herbert whose schtick doesn’t hold up very well today. It’s still a fun watch though.

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361 11-14 Tropic of Desire (1979) 3/5
This is one from the later “Porno Chic” era by Bob Chinn. It’s a pretty ambitious piece, set during the later part of WW2, about the goings on of a whore house in Hawaii. It’s all played surprisingly serious, and while sex is obviously at the forefront, it’s not really at the expense of characterization. It’s hurt a bit from typical porn budget production values, but not enough to kill it’s ambitions. Plus it has a recreation of a classic smoker that has some startling acts that’s more than worth the time to watch as the sort of freak show you don’t usually see in movies anymore.

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362 11-15 Rolling Stones From The Vault – Hampton Coliseum 1981 (2014) 4/5
The Stones are opening up their archives and seem to be pumping out releases faster than ever. I think this is the first one “From the Vault”, and thankfully it’s pretty great. This was the first concert sold as a closed circuit pay-per view, and the Stones are in fine form supporting their most recent album TATTOO YOU. The highlight is Keith Richards clobbering a fan across the head with his guitar when the fan rushed on stage at Jagger. Richards doesn’t miss a beat and they finish the encore “Satisfaction” as if nothing happened. So yeah, greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world, right there.

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363 11-15 Fantasy World (1979) 2.5/5
This one is the back-up feature on the same disc that TROPIC OF DESIRE was on, and also directed by Bob Chinn. It’s good, but it’s basically a loop carrier. The skimp plot is some Navy sailors are on leave (using the same boat sets and costumes found in TROPIC, so I’m guessing these were filmed back to back) in San Francisco who are looking for a live sex show. They enter Fantasy World, and proceed to watch and participate in the stage show/fantasies. The porn is fine, but there’s not much to note since none of them get all that weird despite Chinn’s artistic ambitions. The most notable thing ends up being legend Paul Thomas going back to his pre-porn JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR days (he played Judas in the film), writing and performing the theme song “If Wishes Were Horses”. All said in the end, this is yet another PeekARama disc from Vinegar Syndrome that offers some good value for the price.

So there it is. Even the dog films were pretty good this past week. Red River really was great, I might bump it to 4.5 on a second viewing. The theatrical is the directors preferred version, but he had to trim the ending. That ending is on the longer preview version. So the actual directors cut would be the theatrical with the preview ending. Oof! It’s kind of weird watching though since I know dad would of loved seeing it looking so good on blu.

Anyway, that’s enough until next week. Going to try to finish up the season of Doctor Who this week, on top of the usual movie watching.

The End