Deliberately let this lay a while. Starting back in with the easy post.
- 3 Dev Adam, Death Warrior, The Eliminators, and Hands of Steel - 4 of the fine feature films, at least half of which are Turkish, presented to me via Doc Mock's Movie Mausoleum, an internet show that combines a big of the ol' Ghoulardi and a bit of the MST3K via a bunch of UCB-LA guests.
- Hearts of Darkness and Coda - two documentaries about Francis Ford Coppola, shooting Apocalypse Now and Youth Without Youth, as shot by his wife, Eleanor. It's understandable that FFC would feel like some of the footage might make him look bad, but there was nothing particularly damning or shocking in-context, and having read Eleanor's book Notes, not too many surprises. Strongly recommended to fans of the series Firefly, for Brando's read on the line "I swallowed a bug."
- Mr. Majestyk and The Mechanic - a Bronson double feature at the New Beverly. The Mechanic is almost completely great. Bronson badassing around as a professional hitman, and an ending that made the whole theater cheer. Mr. Majestyk features Bronson as a melon farmer with a disinterest in taking any guff from the local hoods. Contains graphic scenes of violence done to watermelons.
- Sunset Blvd. and Queen Kelly - amazing that I hadn't seen Sunset Blvd yet, since I have it on DVD, and may have even been assigned to watch it at some point. A cool double feature, Queen Kelly is the film Norma makes Joe watch in her living room. It was an actual film Gloria Swanson had made (but not completed) as her own career was in decline, and was actually directed by Erich von Stroheim. The restoration was kind of boring, actually, but still neat.
- Animal Crackers and Duck Soup - another New Beverly double feature! I'd wanted to see how the Marx Bros played with an audience, since they worked out a lot of their material on stage in advance of filming, and left the same pauses for laughter on the screen. If anything, the pauses weren't long enough and there were lines I couldn't hear. There was a lot of great stuff in both, but I'm especially curious about the things that looked like mistakes and improvisations, and whether they were or not. Groucho's occasional asides not to the camera, but to someone just off camera, the bit where at the end of a long take he gets his character's name wrong and they work it in, and Margaret Dumont just laughing away during Harpo's closeups in the card game, to name 3 examples.
- Life with the Dice Bag - a largely uninteresting and unflattering homemade doc about tabletop RPG fans.
- Hoop Dreams - an exciting and surprising doc about two young would-be NBA stars, via Hulu.
- Last Tango in Paris - at least watching this helped me to get a reference made in a recent issue of The Bugle. Also via Hulu.
- Hellboy II - I didn't really like the first one, but I think I like this one better. I haven't read the comics, but maybe it's more true to the source material than the original, which was more or less Men in Black 3. Even more surprising, how good Seth McFarlane's character was.
- The Man with Two Brains - the earlier flavor of Steve Martin comedy, this had at least 4 or 5 really stand out gags that I really really liked. Murmuring, and a bit about retiring, and the 19th century Indian rubber vase. Steve Martin has made a lot more comedies (and more of them were actually good) than most (all?) of the actors coming up in that era that we remember as comedians, I think. Your Robin Williams? Your Eddie Murphy?
- The Horribly Slow Murderer With the Incredibly Inefficient Weapon - I thought I'd heard of this somewhere before, but I couldn't say where. It seemed like it just had to go on my list, a title like that.
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Even though the previous three X-Men movies were mostly about Wolverine, this one adds in some additional contrary backstory. It's pretty much bound to be a wash though, since we know he a) lives and b) won't remember anything that happens. I guess I kind of appreciate making Sabretooth less of a caveman. Curious waste of deadpool though.
- Terminator Salvation - this movie isn't anything. It's not even bad, it's just a big empty naught sign. Nothing happens, no story is added to the existing mythos, and there is no reason why the audience might care about anyone on screen, nor are they challenged to at any point. Supposedly the title meant something before folks started meddling, and while the 'real ending' that was removed after someone told the internet last year might have been intriguing, that would have ended up seeming pretty out of place in the final product.
- Le Voyage dans la Lune - always good to learn about the hard sci-fi and special effects masterpieces that have gone before, to better understand those coming soon, to a theater near you!
- Star Trek - is one such example. This movie was way better than it deserved to be. I hadn't previously thought of Abrams as a good director (nor a bad one, his notoriety simply isn't based in directing) but this was so well made that I barely noticed it was written by some guys that write things I don't like at all. I found myself agreeing quite a bit with this article about the movie.
- Up - oh boy did I ever like this movie! I missed a free screening due to foolishness beyond my control, but I got out on opening day (but not on the first attempt - lots of sold out screenings near me) for a 3D screening. I can't remember the last movie I enjoyed so much in a theater. I went in knowing almost nothing about the plot except what the teaser trailer revealed (a house and some balloons) and got the most adventurey, violent, sad, delightful, funny Pixar feature to date. Even the short that preceded it (Partly Cloudy) was simultaneously touching and laugh out loud funny. Also perhaps the best use of 3D for storytelling purposes I've seen so far (some scenes in the 3D cut are just in 2D, because that's what serves the story). Can't say enough nice things about it. With the expanded 10 nominees, even with the animated feature category, this deserves a best picture nod. The only downside is that 3 of the next 5 announced Pixar releases are sequels. They'll probably even be good, but when a director can do such great work with original IP, it seems like a waste to go back to wells already tapped.
- Moonwalker - I think I'd seen this before, but it wasn't on the list. I've been a Michael Jackson fan almost literally all my life, and with his scheduled return to performing in two weeks, I sure thought I was going to get to see him live in a big crazy world tour next year. Alas.
- Moon - This is terrific, but not getting a very wide release, I think. You should keep an eye out to see if it's going to turn up near you. Very solid, interesting, and fun all by itself, but even more so to someone who happens to be writing stories about a guy stuck in space alone lately. Bonus points for the robot, for including some of my own inside jokes by chance, and for making the 'answer' a reasonable extrapolation of events, not a mind-bending twist. The movie is not about it's "twist," which is why it's given out fairly clearly fairly early.
This was a good batch, and I think it's turning out to be a good year for movies, and there's still like 15 movies slated for '09 that I think I might like to go see. No real summer blockbusters though, except maybe Up. I guess that's the strike for you.