Sunday, February 9, 2020

World Without End (1956)

Four astronauts are on a mission to Mars when they lose contact with Mission Control. They’re fine, it’s just that Martian magnetic field. But on their return trip they enter a time warp and return to Earth over five hundred years in the future, after a great nuclear war.

Boy, the science here is a mess. I don’t want to get into it but I pause when our hero says things like if Mars has grass, then there’s no reason why it can’t also have life. Really, people? And our heroes act absolutely stupid sometimes. They get excited when finding a cave (because, you know, caves!) and explore it. There they find a six foot spider web, so one of the men starts plucking at it. You’d think that’d be something they would cover in astronaut training. Wow, imagine the spider that created that! Don’t imagine too long because soon they are attacked. By spiders ABOUT THE SAME SIZE AS THE WEB!

The H.G. Wells estate sued the producers because they thought the story too closely resembled The Time Machine, and to be fair it has some superficial similarities. Our heroes travel in Time in a Machine to find a post-apocalyptic Earth where the surface is dominated by brutes, or “Mutates”, and there exists a society of timid normals. Here they are hiding in a high tech underground bunker. Oddly, four years later The Time Machine was made into a movie, also starring Rod Taylor.

The men in the underground are weak, unimpressive, middle aged men, while the women are vivacious beauties in their early to mid-20’s who are anxious to get some twentieth century manly-man action. Our heroes try to convince the leaders to go on adventures to retake the surface, but they are just frightfully fearful old men and refuse to help. How can a few womanizing, gun loving manly-men convince an entire population to risk everything to impose their version of right and wrong on them? Only time will tell. 80 minutes, to be precise.

World Without End is shallow, provincial, and low budget, but not without its charm. Their adventures, silly as they can be, do keep your attention. If you overlook the 50’s attitude, you can enjoy yourself. But there are better films of the genre from the era. AMRU 2.5.
“Our women seem to have lagged behind in their evolution into reasonable creatures. They actually admire these reckless and brutal men.”

Friday, January 31, 2020

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

A farmer is secretly cheating on his wife with a woman from the city, except everyone knows. The woman convinces the man to drown his wife, sell the farm, and move to the city with her. And everyone lives happily ever after.

F.W. Murnau is better known for Nosferatu and Faust, and was brought to America to recreate his magic touch. He was given complete creative control and a giant budget, and the result was arguably his best work, winning three Academy Awards. But it lost money, so budget and control disappeared for his next film. Welcome to Hollywood. He would die in a car accident before he could make his mark on sound cinema.

Twenty one year old Janet Gaynor played ‘The Wife’, looking more than a little bit like Tweety bird’s Granny, and won an Oscar for her performance. Remember her from ‘A Star is Born’. Her Oscar from here made a cameo there. Margaret Livingston played the woman so wicked as to tempt a married man. The Vamp! George O’Brien played ‘The Man’ victimized by her womanly wiles. He went on to appear in many westerns, apparently.

The visual storytelling in Sunrise is amazing. There are great overlay scenes done in-camera that are remarkable. Few title cards were needed to tell the story. Margaret’s ‘The Woman’ takes much of the moral blame for ‘The Man’s transgressions, and that storyline does not age well, but let’s consider the period. This was the Jazz age and women had the right to vote for only seven years at this point. And it’s a great film. We can let this slide.

I didn’t want to pay Amazon another four dollars so I found it on YouTube. The quality was excellent. I suggest you do the same. AMRU 4.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Animal House (1978)

We follow the shenanigans of a college fraternity through two freshmen pledges and two older students.

I watched Animal House (introducing it to a son) with no intention of writing it up. Didn’t seem to be in the wheelhouse of the blog. But it was released in 1978, I didn’t see it in theaters, so why the hell not.

The Mayor’s daughter was played by the totally not underage Sarah Holcomb. She also appeared in Caddyshack with a terrible Scottish accent, and two other forgettable films, then disappeared from Hollywood. I think of Amadeus when I see Tom Hulce, but he is arguably better known as Pinto. By the way, look up the IMDb trivia how he got that name.

With each viewing I pick up on small details that I either missed for forgot about. But that’s not the key to Animal House’s endurance. It’s the sheer creativeness and hilarity of the performances. This is John Belushi at his absolute best. This coming from a life-long Blues Brothers fan. His status as a non-principle character allowed him to channel his inner animal. Brilliant.

There are few great jokes in Animal House. It is mostly a series of great scenes stitched together. There is little story or character arc. Just craziness. The end result is a cultural touchstone for a generation. Everyone should watch it. Unless you are a terrible person, then you shouldn’t, and be sad. Karen Allen was hot. AMRU 4.5.
“Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Last Picture Show (1971)

Horny teens deal with life in a depressingly small 1950’s Texas town. Think American Graffiti if it were completely different.

First off, wow the cast is amazing. Our three principal characters are played by Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, and some other guy. Supporting actors include Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Randy Quaid, Ben Johnson, and Cloris Leachman. Each hint at interesting back stories we don’t fully explore. I can imagine a TV series that slowly explores each character over many seasons. There’s also a movie house but it serves only as a metaphor.

Everyone has secrets but secrets are not kept long in a small town. Our protagonist Sonny finds this out. In the end people grow up, move on, and occasionally die. The Last Picture Show is a fascinating film. It has a different look and feel than films that came before. It wouldn’t be right to say that nothing ‘happens’, but there is no big story arc. Just stuff and its consequences. Nothing happens but in fact, everything happens. Think American Graffiti if it were completely different.

The Last Picture Show is a remarkable film and I’ve done a poor job selling it. So if my description doesn’t convince you, at least watch it for Cybill’s pool scene. AMRU 4.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 Retrospective

A little bit closer to form, I pressed the pedal towards the end of the year to get north of 40 posts. More specifically to beat 2017’s 41 posts. Ya gotta have goals. I still have three movies to be posted but I broke a personal rule and posted out of order. I did this to get the Christmas movie in by year’s end. Also because I found the next film in line hard to write about. You’ll see that soon. It’s a good one. The movie, not the post.

I hit quite a few greats this past year. Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Rio Bravo, Chinatown, and The Exorcist being the tops, with The Killers, Dial M for Murder, Being There, and The Omen as honorable mentions. I also picked off a few experimental, avant garde films like Eraserhead, House, and Suspiria. Weird ass films, all. The film that stuck with me the most is Chinatown. I didn't forget about it, Jake. I’ve been doing this blog for over ten years yet I seem to be tip-toeing around great films. Now I find myself worrying that I am running out of Greats to watch. More on that thought later.

I did watch two Christmas films but should have skipped them both. One boring and forgettable, the other a pale copy of the original made only nine years earlier. For next year maybe I’ll target Meet Me in St. Louis, 3 Godfathers, or I’ll be Seeing You. Here is a case where the Greats are in short supply. I saw two more Sherlock Holmes films. Without my mom, my heart’s not in them. I think I have three left. I’ll try to finish them off this year.

Of the thirteen horror or horror-like films, The Exorcist was the best. I had long looked forward to seeing The Love Wanga, the second zombie film ever made. I owned it for more than a year before watching it. I expected little and received it in spades. Rosemary’s Baby is probably the best horror film I have yet to watch. At least in my arbitrary pre-1980 ‘old’ category.

I watched quite a few disappointing movies, especially towards the end of the year, but I must give the title of worst film of the year to The Terror. Such a wasted opportunity. More confounding than terrible, it’s a film that should not exist.

I’ve seen almost all of the better movies by the Hollywood legends. Almost all of the greatest films. Just about all of the better Christmas movies. But I will not let that worry me. I will continue to pick off the top films. When I started this, I figured there were only a couple hundred films worth reviewing, and after almost eleven years and over five hundred films later, there is still so much more to watch. Not to mention newer movies I don’t blog about. So, onward and upward. Let’s see if I can hit fifty posts again. And I should watch more silent films. Oh, and I will not fear long movies. I will not fear long movies ...