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The Racing Scene (1969)
Great Film Footage
This is the kind of documentary best saved for a rainy day when there is literally nothing else to watch. It can be slow moving at times. There's also a raw grittyness to it that distracts from the story. Many shots, especially at the beginning, are hand-held and very shaky. The film literally follows James Garners interactions with the cars. There is almost no mention of what else Garner had going on in his life. There's no sense of how Garner balanced racing with the rest of his life. There's no sense of how Garner interacted with the team off the track. It may well be that Garner simply wrote checks and showed up on race day. That's not a very compelling story.
If you're not into cars there might not be much for you here. If you are into cars then the race track footage from the drivers perspective and the track side footage of one hell of a crash make it worth seeing.
Chernobyl Diaries (2012)
I can't tell if I hated this movie or not.
Loved it when it was called the Hills Have Eyes. Passable acting. I really wanted to see it because since Call of Duty Modern Warfare I've been fascinated with Pripyat. I'm sure the setting will attract much attention. But there were so many hokey animals jumping out at you scares that they started to fall flat. I found myself wondering when the movie would end which is never a good sign. Like I said in the summary, I couldn't tell if I liked this movie or not. My wife felt the same way walking out of the film. Some might compare this to Blair Witch in it's low budget reliance on people talking about what is happening without actually showing it. Also, there is no stinger after the credits.
Can the undead commit suicide?
It's hard to blend comedy and horror and pull them both off. Twenty years before Shawn of the Dead made a zombie invasion chilling and funny Return of the Living Dead set the blueprint. This film plays back and forth between comedy and horror as if watching a tennis match but without losing the audience or feeling formulaic. That there are already 20 pages of user comments for a low budget film which the studio almost aborted shows how beloved this film is. However it's more then just entertainment it's a character study of what it's like to be undead. Although the film paints the cast in fairly one dimensional terms it treats the zombies with care and respect. These zombies are high functioning, alert and amazingly spry. Yes, there's the famous scene where one zombie orders up more policemen on the radio. There's also a scene where the living hold a conversation with the upper torso of one of the zombies and we discover why they want brains. This scene is more then just slightly reminiscent of the one in Independence Day where the president talks with a dead alien. The most poignant scene comes when we find out if it's possible for a zombie to commit suicide. At every step of the way the characters have a chance to fix things but only end up making it worse. Only Frank with his trip to the oven truly redeems himself. His sacrifice coming after he's pronounced dead by the EMT's again underscores how much more enlightened the dead can be.
Is this film art? You bet. It has foreshadowing, drama, genuine pathos and follows the Greek tragedy formula of taking place within one revolution of the sun. Is this film great? Again, yes. It really injected life into the horror genre with faster more cerebral zombies. Will this film change the world? No not really. Just sit back and enjoy.
Awful movie. Great sailing photography.
How can you make a great movie about sailing and then shoot half of the film in the desert? The short answer is you can't. If you love sailing and love watching sailboats this movie offers you all the sights and sounds of racing however marred by the occasional bit of inane prattling dialog. If you prefer your movies to not have a patronizing plot you've come to the wrong place. Maybe I just hate when Hollywood gets their hands on an action film but has to add in backstory that includes a bad love story. Thinking they need a love story to get the female audience to see it. It's a formula that seems to suck all the life out of the script and distill it down to pretty photography and vapid characters. Mathew Modine turns in a decent performance despite the garbage they have him saying. Jennifer Grey on the other hand plays it like she's still Baby stuck in that corner. She really should have approached her character as if she was playing Ferris Beullers sister. Clift Robertson turns in a performance so dull and un-inspiring one would hope the Academy would take back that Oscar for "Charly" as a warning for future actors to not phone it in. My advice is to watch it for the sailing with one finger on the FF button for every other scene.
Gregory's Girl (1980)
This film is one of a series of romantic comedies filmed by Bill Forsyth in and around Scotland featuring young Scottish actors (and the occasional American). Gregory's Girl is a poignant coming of age film about a boys first falling in love and how surreal and unexpected that moment can be. Although the film is full of directors in jokes one doesn't need to be fully versed in the directors full catalog to appreciate the humor. I love the two boys who convince themselves that they'll find dates if they move to South America. I love Gregory's answer to the question about being able to drive "No but it runs in the family". That Gregory doesn't end up dating the girl he thinks but ends up with the girl he least expects happens to us all. That makes this movie timeless. Yet despite all the romance, the film is by no means a chick flick. There's plenty of honest humor and compelling story telling to keep even the most restless guy interested in the film.
Must See TV
There's an old saying that a boy doesn't become a man until he does three things, share a beer with his dad, spend a night in jail and make love to a woman. Well now there are three things a boy must do in order to become a Nerd, build their own computer, watch William Shatner sing Rocket Man and watch The Star Wars Holiday Special. Until then he's just a geek.
I know "Must See TV" was an NBC slogan and the SWHS was originally on CBS but the sentiment is still the same. This absolute train wreck truly is "Required Viewing for all members of the Imperial Forces". Nothing I can say about this hasn't already been said before but I do add my voice to the choir when I say you can't call yourself a Star Wars fan if you haven't hunted down even a tiny Realmedia file and watched this farce at least once.
Star Wait (2005)
Nothing like Trekkies.
OK so I saw this DVD at Target for three bucks and thought well you couldn't even rent it at that price so I'd be a fool not to buy it. What is it? It's a bare bones look at the lives some people lived out while waiting in line for a movie. Now OK some folks will think Fanboy or Geek or Nerd and dismiss these people as fools for sleeping on the sidewalk along Hollywood Blvd. Not me, I find them fascinating. Fascinating in the same way I find Phish Phans or Baby Boomers living in converted school buses following the Grateful Dead around North America fascinating. I like people who are into their own thing and don't care who knows.
These are raw nerds in their native habitat doing the nerd things they'd be doing whether the camera was there or not. The film captures this. That the film doesn't go into the whole Star Wars fan scene all over the country might disappoint people who think the documentary "Trekkies" is high culture. The film is not about Star Wars it's about people who want to see Star Wars in a particular theater on opening day. And that's what the film delivers.
Ghost Ship (2002)
Shining on the water
Despite the fact that it seems every bit of this movie was cribbed from other great horror films I liked this film a lot. This is a great horror film despite the fact that it's chock full of standard horror film boilerplate. Clocks that suddenly stop ticking when you look at them, little girls in party dresses, ghosts rising up out of the misty waters aren't anything you haven't seen before. Possessed people are locked up and meet their supernatural doom when no one is looking. Ghosts are visible in the mirror but not in the room. But it all fits together nicely to give the audience a generally creepy feeling. Wheat and chaff separate nicely and we're left with the scariest bits of horror in a paella of terror. OK I stretched that one. If you've seen enough horror to know what bits of Carnival of Souls Kubrick ripped off to make The Shining this movie won't offer anything new. But it's a fun hour and a half if you haven't.
Mon oncle (1958)
Some of the funniest scenes ever (possible spoilers)
What can you say about a genius? That Tati was so funny his material was still funny after Benny Hill ripped it off. That Tati was so funny that his material was still funny after Jerry Lewis ripped it off. Mon Oncle often takes on the look of old home movies with static shot after static shot. It's the action in the frame that takes the film beyond cinema and into genius. Watch the wife complete her husbands outfit in the morning, just a camera on a tripod but hilarious. I think the funniest scene in the whole movie comes early on when a small dog growls at Hulot's grocery purchase. I also love the secretary whose dress is so tight she can't walk.
Tati as everyman trying to find his way in the modern world plays it straight as he bumbles everything up at his brothers factory. Make no mistake this film is about technology and mankind's inability to control it. But it's also a film about life in Paris after the war and how the new generation is leaving the old behind. Shiny new American cars outnumber the horse drawn wagon but haven't quite replaced it yet. Shiny new houses and office towers replace the city tenement blocks with their ramshackle floors built on top of each other. The old Paris is beginning to disappear and the new is just sliding in. That it's a comedy is obvious but strip away the laughter and you get a documentary about change.
Funny Ha Ha (2002)
Boston... Land of the angry brunettes
Sitting through this movie is just like the tedium of actually trying to find a date in Boston. This movie, much like most of the city of Boston is populated by men who can't find a date and the women who don't want to date them. So OK, the director basically held a mirror up to my early 20's when I was that underemployed guy sleeping on the floor on a foam pad with my girlfriend in that little Queensbury Street studio apartment. So OK it really is not a very forgiving city when you're single and lonely. Unfortunately in this film there is no real story worth caring about. Some shallow people do shallow things hoping no one notices how shallow they are by punctuating every movement with witty pseudo-intellectualism. Again, just like living in Boston. So for that I applaud the director. He really captured the Hub at its grittiest. That and the film is so refreshingly free of production values. It's like looking at old home movies of people you once cared about but have since outgrown.