Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 27: Switchblade Sisters

Date: July 27
Film: Switchblade Sisters [usa, 1975]
Where: Tulsa/at home/streamer
Who with: Loner style
Rating: ****

I took a few days off without a movie as I was too busy doing other stuff. A movie every day is tough! I really enjoyed the 1975 exploitation classic Switchblade Sisters. Great title and it has the perfect story for the drive-ins and grindhouse theatres of the day: a teenage gang of girls who are running wild in the streets as they battle rival gangs. This film is directed by Jack Hill, who is known for some of "blaxploitations" best known films in Coffee and Foxy Brown. Hill turns his attention to the exploits of teenage girls to full effect in Switchblade Sisters. There's knife fights, shootouts in urban wastelands AND in a roller rink, juvenile detention fist fights with guards, sex, bad acting and all kinds of 1970s wonderful. What makes this so good is its played with 100% seriousness. There's no wink-wink to the audience, it's gritty and offers no hope of escape for these girls all the way up to the terrific ending.

PS: Check out that poster!

Switchblade Sisters trailer

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 24: Page One

Date: July 24
Film: Page One [usa, 2011]
Where: Tulsa/Circle Cinema
Who with: Larry T.
Rating: Joshua ***1/2; Larry ***1/2

I'm a day behind because I totally forgot to get a post in yesterday. Not professional I know, but this is pretty cheap to read, so don't hold it against me. Page One is a documentary that looks into the world of newspapers via the venerable institution that is the New York Times. It follows reporters and talks to other people about the rapidly changing landscape of media in this age where the daily newspaper is quickly becoming a dinosaur. I'm not sure if you've heard this or not, but with the computer, the smart phone and now the tablet--newspapers are a dead technology. Everyone is saying it, so it must be true.

As someone who loves to read the paper, this is kind of sad. I enjoy the tangible act of holding it in my hands as I scan the pages, read articles that are cut-off and show up on the next page in the bottom corner, linger over sports statistics and standings. All this is going away, murdered by the so-called progress that new technology affords the masses. Call me old fashioned, but I just think reading a paper is a more pleasurable experience when it is not done via a computer screen or on your phone. Don't even get me started on the abomination that is e-readers when it comes to books--that invention is a crime against humanity! Back to Page One...

Page One promotes itself as a story about how the New York Times is changing to stay in the new media rat race, but I found it more about the special skills good reporters have that will be lost if journalists disappear. If you think you'll get investigative stories from your aggregate generating iPhone app like Huffington Post, you need to rethink that. Quality reporting is the real endangered species from the disappearance of papers because the bulk of online writing is based around short bursts of attention getting headlines and less on content. Yes, in the future it may be easier to get our news via the machine, but does that necessarily make it better, more informed news? I'm one who doesn't think the trade-off is worth it, but I'm still hanging onto a few luddite notions when I can and this is one of them.

Page One trailer

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 23: Heartlands

Date: July 23
Film: Heartlands [2002, england]
Where: Tulsa/at home/streamer
Who with: Loner style
Rating: ***
Michael Sheen's hair: ****1/2

You may have noticed there was no day 22, that's because I didn't see a movie on the 22nd. No good excuse other than I was not in the mood. Seeing a movie every single day is kind of taxing if you have to work a real job as well. I got back on track with Heartlands, a sweet-natured English film about a dart loving guy [Michael Sheen] who is sort of walking through life without noticing anything around him. He loves his darts, his pub, his routine with his wife and little else. Wife seems to be just as humdrum as him. Then he catches her having an affair with a dart playing buddy and his whole world turns upside down. Soon, he's on a road trip, heading to Blackpool on his tiny scooter, getting a haircut [no! Check out Sheen's wild mop of hair he has for Heartlands] and meeting a lot of interesting people. When he gets to Blackpool will he try to get his wife back or realize he's better off without the adulterous drip? Heartlands is a slow-moving road movie with enough quirky English charm to satisfy your Anglophile lust. Plus, like seeing something from Sheen in his early days.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 21: Duck Season

Date: July 21
Film: Duck Season [mexico, 2006]
Where: Tulsa/at home/streamer
Who with: Loner style
Rating: ***

Duck Season is a lovingly crafted and very simple story from Mexico about two teenage friends who want to spend Sunday alone in an apartment, playing video games, drinking Coke, eating pizza and chips. Then the power goes out. To relieve their boredom there are a couple of unwanted guests as the trailer below explains. Shot in silvery black and white--it's always such a shock to see a modern film in non-color--Duck Season has a real sweet edge to it as the two friends are nearing an age when friendship is both deadly important yet dangerously malleable. Confined to the apartment setting the entire film, there's little action but their afternoon stasis is part of the charm of it. What's worse for a 14 year old boy to be cooped up in an apartment with no power to play video games all day long? Produced by Alfonso Cuaron [Children of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambien].

Duck Season trailer

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 20: Lynch

Date: July 20
Film: Lynch [usa, 2007]
Where: Tulsa/at home/streamer
Who with: Loner style after Sarah bolted the room 37 minutes in
Rating: ***1/2
David Lynch's combination of strangeness and sweetness rating: *****!
Movie poster rating: *

Abstract, artsy documentary about filmmaker and artist David Lynch as he prepares for and then shoots Inland Empire. This documentary is not really about Lynch the person, but about Lynch the artist. Therefore, if you watch Lynch, you'll get lots of ruminations that may or may not make sense, a look into Lynch's many creative projects [ranging from photography to painting to woodwork to even, yes, directing a movie] and hear him tell a variety of bizarre stories. I eat up everything connected to David Lynch, so this is my kind of documentary. I don't really care about tracing out his life story from childhood to where he is at now. I want to see behind the curtain and Lynch gives access to that world. People not really familiar with him might not like it as much as I did. As I was looking up the details of this on IMDB I noticed that in the forums a lot of people hated this, including self-claimed Lynch fans. Not sure what they'd expect from someone as enigmatic as David Lynch. I like the trailer below, but the poster is terrible.

The best scene in the film has Lynch is telling an assistant what he needs that day for filming: a one-legged 16 year old girl, an attractive 23 year old Eurasian woman and a pet spider monkey. You know that made for some good filming!

LYNCH trailer

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Scene from The Van

Thought you might want to watch the very pivotal scene in The Van
when Bobby goes to pick up "Straight Arrow." You will get to witness
not only the sweet [genuine '70s slang that I still say every now and
then!] interior with mirrored ceiling above a waterbed, you'll
get to see some of Goetz's fine acting that includes lots and lots of grinning.
Believe it or not, you'd see vans like this cruising all over town in the 1970s.

Day 19: The Van

Date: July 19
Film: The Van [usa, 1977]
Where: Tulsa/at home/streamer
Who with: Loner style
Rating: *1/2

Not sure why I watched this really bad one from 1977. It was less than 90 minutes for one thing. I also thought it would tap into the nostalgia of my youth when I watched a bunch of films with wall-to-wall T & A as immature guys would try to find girls to bed [or, in the case of The Van, it means a waterbed covered in shag carpet!]. It didn't really do that and it was surprisingly free of both "T" and "A," so to speak. Only thing that makes The Van remotely interesting is a very young Danny DeVito is among the cast, but the film is mostly this nitwit named Bobby driving around in his van, dubbed "Straight Arrow" looking for easy girls. Stuart Goetz plays Bobby and he's truly an awful actor who spends about 15 minutes of the movie just grinning like an idiot while he's driving around town. I should have timed it as even more screen time might have been devoted to that. There is a definite '70s vibe going on here with the vehicles, car wash, clothes, slang, hair, etc, too bad it's all happening is such a hollow exercise of crappiness. I'm always saying the 1970s did little wrong in the world of film--The Van proves that statement false.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 18: secret movie

For the record, I saw a movie last night with David, but it can not be revealed to the masses due to the fact that it will be the third movie playing at Slumber Party 3: Payback. That is the all-night movie marathon that David and I program at Circle Cinema. It takes place on July 30th and starts at 10pm with Rolling Thunder on film print. We'll also screen Savage Streets [another print], Death Wish 3 and two others which will remain secret until the night of the event. The theme this year is revenge movies and there are single digit tickets left as of this posting. The film we watched last night will play third and it will be on VHS! Both our secret films this year are on the VHS format. Check out the screen printed poster by Denny Schmickle that we'll be selling for a very reasonable $20. Anyone interested in getting one [or a t-shirt], let me know and I'll mail it to you. I promise you, this poster looks killer [uhm, literally].

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 17: Beginners

Date: July 17
Film: Beginners [2011, usa]
Where: Tulsa/in theatre
Who with: Loner style
Rating: ****
Melanie Laurent: *****!

Beginners is the new film from director Mike Mills and it's going to challenge Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris as the most charming film of the summer award for 2011. Consider it an art film with a lot of heart to it as Ewan McGregor plays an illustrator grieving for his father whilst also falling head over heels for a French actress. Beginners jumps all over the place with flashbacks, illustrations and images to tell the story and that takes some time getting used to. There's even a little bit of subtitled dog telepathy as will see in the well-done trailer below. At times, Beginners is a tad to self-conscious for me, but the film has so many wonderful small moments about "life" that I was swept into its loving arms.

It's been a long time since the whole Hollywoodian idea of the onscreen "meet-cute" [you know, when characters meet in that special, magical way] has had such a romantic, enchanting intermingling of two people the way McGregor and Melanie Laurent come together in Beginners. I loved Laurent as Shosanna in Inglourious Basterds, but she just shot into my 2011 "top five" with her role as Anna. I don't want to spoil it, but suffice to say it's hard not to fall in love a little bit with a couple who spend their first few hours together the way they do. It's sequences like this one that has given me kind of a warped sense of romance when I'm in real world versus the fantasy world of movies.

'Beginners' trailer

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 16: no movie

I broke my string, but I have a pretty good excuse. I left Tulsa at around 9am and drove over 700 miles in Oklahoma taking photographs for my "Dead Cinema" photo show that is coming up in September. I made stops in Anadarko, Snyder, Altus, Cheyenne, Hobart, Erick, Elk City, Clinton and probably a couple of other small towns that I can't recall. I got back to Tulsa after midnight, over 15 hours on the road or getting out of my car in the 106 degree southwestern Oklahoma heat to take a photo.

Speaking of "Dead Cinema," the opening is on September 27th from 6-8 if anyone is in the Tulsa area and interested in coming to it. Put it on your calendars! Image in post is from the series, although it will not be one of the 20"x20" prints in the show. Consider it bonus footage.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 15: Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye

Date: July 15
Film: Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye [france, 2003]
Where: Tulsa/at home/DVD
Who with: Sarah J.
Rating: Joshua ***; SJ **
Cartier-Bresson as a photographer: *****!

Shortish documentary on the legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson that largely consists of the simple premise of Cartier-Bresson and admirers looking at his black and white photographs while discussing them. That's it. You don't learn anything about his life at all or even his preferred camera to use--it's strictly a conversation about his life's work via image form. That's okay as the man is one of the great photographers of all-time, so I have approximately a million things I could learn from him. I'm okay with listening to him talk about the craft of photography, but it doesn't make for the most riveting of documentary.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 14: Bank Shot

Date: July 14
Film: Bank Shot [usa, 1974]
Where: Tulsa/at home/streamer
Who with: Loner style
Rating: ***1/2
Rating for films in the 1970s: *****!

It's no secret I like the films from the 1970s. That was THE decade for filmmaking for me! What makes that decade much better than say, the 1990s onward, is the fact even the smaller, lesser known films such as Bank Shot are still entertaining. They might not be great, but those that have slipped through the cracks appear better than the films that go unnoticed currently. In fact, many of these films are actually better than acclaimed or buzzed about movies that get wide releases in our lovely multiplexes. Bank Shot is just that sort of film.

Bank Shot is a lively farce with a big cast of quirky characters starring George C. Scott as a master bank robber wasting away in prison. He escapes to do a job on a mobile bank that is doubling as a trailer until the new structure can be built. His plan is to steal the entire bank. Bank Shot is a fun, quick paced, lively directed and acted film that has enough charm to it to warrant a viewing for heist or George C. Scott fans. This is especially true if you are like me and try to see everything that was released in the 1970s.

Bank Shot trailer

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 13: I'm Reed Fish

Date: July 13
Film: I'm Reed Fish [usa, 2007]
Where: Tulsa/at home/streamer
Who with: Sarah J.
Rating: Joshua *1/2; SJ *

This wasn't a very good one. It's a comedy that tries to blend in the quirky goings on of small-town inhabitants and people with pre-wedding jitters as they question whether or not they want to get betrothed. Worry gets ramped up for "Reed Fish" [Jay Baruchel] when his long-time crush moves back home for the summer. She's awesome! He's tormented on what to do--get married or ditch that and go for the woman he's crushed on.

Why in the world am I going on about the plot to I'm Reed Fish? Enough of that. I was only slightly remotely interested in this to see Baruchel [Undeclared, Knocked Up] in a leading role. He's okay and taps into the awkward, gawky, silly character, but the main culprit of this movie's failure is the script [by none other than a guy named Reed Fish!]. It's just way too cute for its own good with dialogue that tries way, way too hard to charm. I guess I prefer to see less effort and work when I'm watching a fluffy movie like this. I'm Reed Fish is so cute-overload that the gears are visible for the entire movie. And what was written wasn't even that good, interesting, romantic or funny. When two people give this 1 and 1 and a 1/2 stars, you know it has some serious, serious issues.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 12: Never Weaken

Date: July 12
Film: Never Weaken [usa, 1921]
Where: Tulsa/outdoors in a park/DVD
Who with: Greg + a bunch of strangers
Rating: ****
Harold Lloyd's skyscraper sequence: *****!

I kind of cheated a bit with my film as I didn't watch a feature, but I did watch a classic silent comedy from 1921 starring Harold Lloyd.  Five years running Greg and I have put a screen up and shown a silent film with live accompaniment from an organist. This year's short was Harold Lloyd's Never Weaken. I am quite partial to Lloyd and think he kind of gets forgotten as one silent comedies masters [Chaplin and Keaton always get the attention before him] and that's a shame. Watch the clip below to see Lloyd in all his glory as he gets caught up on a skyscraper being built and tries to make his way to safety. There were audible gasps [and laughter] from the crowd last night as they watched Lloyd's perilous adventure high above city streets. Silent comedy outdoors on a summer night with live organist? Magical.

Never Weaken sequence with skyscraper

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 11: Lemmy

Date: July 11
Film: Lemmy [usa, 2010]
Where: Tulsa/home/DVD
Who with: loner style
Rating: ***1/2
"Ace of Spades" rating: *****!

The documentary Lemmy has one of the greatest taglines in the history of cinema: 49% motherf**ker, 51% son of a bitch. All done up in proper heavy metal font as in the poster that's about as good as it gets! Lemmy Kilmister is a legendary English rock musician known for a lot of things: over thirty years leading the onslaught on human hearing that is Motorhead, his obsessional collecting of WW2 era military gear [preferably German], his unique facial features, his odd mic placement that causes him to crane his head upward, his vicious bass playing and that awesome friendly mutton chops beard he's held onto for decades. This documentary attempts to give Lemmy his due and the list of fawning musicians extolling his virtues is long. Not being a fan of "metal" music, but loving music history, this is an entertaining doc that lets you get a glimpse into Lemmy's life [who would have guessed he's a bit of a hoarder!], his interests [the drink, the women, the drugs and of course, the music] and lots and lots of clips of Motorhead performing in the studio or live on stage. I think you'll hear "Ace of Spades" about five or six times in Lemmy, but you know what? It's an awesome hard rock song. 

On a side note, in the the 2009 Brothers of the Brush beard growing competition, I channeled my "inner Lemmy" for my beard which I dubbed the "Friendly Lemmy" rather than the more commonly known friendly mutton chops. Check out my tribute to Lemmy on the right. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 10: Horrible Bosses

Date: July 10
Film: Horrible Bosses [usa, 2011]
Where: Tulsa/in multiplex
Who with: Sarah J.
Rating: Joshua ***; SJ ***1/2
Dirty-mouthed Jennifer Aniston: ****

We were thinking of seeing the documentary on Vidal Sassoon, but I realized I was a bit too doc-heavy for July [I've seen five of them already this month and we're only ten days in]. So, we saw Horrible Bosses instead. It's the latest R-rated comedy to hit theatres and it goes for its rating with foul-mouthed gusto. I'd rather see something that is funny, but seem to only get watered down PG-13 or the nasty R. As long as I laugh, doesn't really matter to me what the rating is.

Horrible Bosses is partially a success as it tells the story of three guys who work for three people who are making their work lives hell. They decide to kill them to be rid of their 9-5 nightmares, but trouble ensues, obviously. The bosses are played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell [the latter playing against type, one a foul-mouthed sexual predator and the other an overweight guy with an nasty combover] and they are part funny, part cringe-worthy and part just too over-the-top to maintain for the entire duration of the film. Horrible Bosses has a funny premise that kind of stalls out by the end and I noticed in the credits that one of the writers was John Francis Daley [Sam from one of my all-time favorites Freaks and Geeks, still a lazy script though]. Jason Bateman is at the top of his game though and I loved getting to see him drop all kinds of curse words with his impeccable timing and deadpan ways.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 9: Meek's Cutoff + Double Dare

Date: July 9
Film: Meek's Cutoff [usa, 2011]
Where: Tulsa/Circle Cinema
Who with: Mary Beth + Jeff
Rating: Joshua ****; Mary Beth ***; Jeff ***1/2
Rating for shots of nothing but the isolation of the American West: *****!
Bruce Greenwood's beard [fake]: ****

I recently wrote about how much I loved the Meek's Cutoff poster and mentioned the alternate that I didn't like as much. The image posted is the alternate; you can compare for yourself. To me, there's no comparing the two. This was my second attempt to see this movie and this time, I made sure the time I thought it started was actually the time it started. Then I left my house early in case I encountered anything unexpected or a change in plans. I made it to Circle Cinema without delay and got to watch this look at a small group of settlers heading west via the Oregon trail in 1845. They are lost, rapidly running out of food and water and just trying to survive the harsh desert conditions.

Meek's Cutoff is right in my sweet-spot for cinema. It's a western with covered wagons, settlers, muskets, and it's tremendously slow, but I love slow films with long takes, little action and few words. Why would these characters be talkative? These people are in a harsh, isolated environment, fighting for their lives, so they wouldn't have a lot of energy for chit-chat. Plus, silence meant something to folks from this era. I'm a big fan of Kelly Reichardt [Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy] and this takes her aesthetic to an extreme by filming in the baron wilderness where there is almost nothing for the characters to do except walk in a direction they hope it will lead them to safety. Granted, her style isn't for everyone [people used to the cut-cut pace of mainstream, multiplex cinema should be warned], but she's rapidly becoming one of my favorite new directors working in film. Awesome.

Date: July 9
Film: Double Dare [usa, 2004]
Where: Tulsa/home/streamer
Who with: Sarah J. 
Rating: Joshua ***; SJ ****
Rating for Zoe Bell's bad-assness: *****!

Since I'd watched Meek's Cutoff early in the day, had plenty of time to get in a second film Saturday night after dinner with friends and a trip for a quick sno-cone [got "The Dark Knight" with cream]. I'm kind of a documentary binge in July as a bunch of these films seem to be documentaries. Blame Netflix and their streamers as they have a huge cache of docs that they offer as streamers. Double Dare looks into the world of female stuntwomen by following two women--the legendary Jeannie Epper and the upstart from New Zealand Zoe Bell. Epper, around 60 during filming and still looking for work, comes from a famous stunt family and has been in the business for decades. Bell's the newcomer trying to break into Hollywood. Double Dare looks into the short history of women in the man's world of stunt work, Epper's grappling with age and Bell looking for a big break. When she auditions for Kill Bill, she meets Quentin Tarantino and he casts her as Uma Thurman's stunt double for Kill Bill, but also writes a prominent role for Bell in Death Proof. That amazing, lengthy car chase with Bell planted on the hood of a car was pretty much the only thing that saved Death Proof for me.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Day 8: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

Date: July 8
Film: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop [usa, 2011]
Where: Tulsa/Circle Cinema
Who with: David, Aaron, Peter
Rating: Joshua ****; David  ***1/2

I was lucky enough to get to see Conan O'Brien on his comedic tour this documentary was filmed around as it played at the Brady Theatre in Tulsa. The show was funny, had some good music and was filled with Conan's manic energy and comic style to make the crowded theatre forget he'd been booted from the airwaves a few months earlier. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop is the chronicle of O'Brien's 40+ city tour since he was legally prohibited from appearing on TV. This was Conan's workaholic idea of taking his act to the people of North America.

I'm a Conan watcher from way back, so I'm an easy mark to enjoy this. The film is more than snippets of the performances [although there are a fare share of those, almost too many actually] as we get to see a lot of behind the scenes moments as O'Brien interacts with writers, producers, friends, family and yes, fans. If it is one thing that came to light in his much publicized removal from NBC it's that his fans are loyal and vocal. We see a lot of that in this documentary. I wish there's been less songs from the stage and more of the backstage, personal interactions as O'Brien soaks up the adulation and then recoils from it.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop trailer

Friday, July 08, 2011

Day 7: Couples Retreat

Date: July 7
Film: Couples Retreat [usa, 2009]
Where: Tulsa/at home/blu-ray
Who with: Sarah J. 
Rating: Joshua **; SJ  **
How good it should have been with this cast: ****

I've mentioned the problem of blu-rays before on CineRobot, they look and sound so good it is tempting to watch pretty much anything on them due to the look/sound. Hence, Couples Retreat. Went from the recommended greatness of Buck, to the scraping the bottom of the barrel Couples Retreat. When you are watching movies every single day, you must be prepared to ride that roller coaster of good or bad. Couples Retreat is definitely in the awful category.

It should have been much better than that based on the cast alone. Check the poster out and tell me there aren't at least four funny people in Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau and Kristen Bell [maybe a slight stretch]. Bateman is comic gold in no matter what crappy film he's playing support in. Plus, John Michael Higgins and Ken Jeong have small roles and they are a couple of funny guys as well. Let's blame Favreau and Vaughn as they co-wrote a bland, cliche ridden script that is so watered down and unfunny the only thing that remotely saves this is when characters seem to be improvising. SJ turned to me about 30 minutes in and asked incredulously how in the world could the pair have written this extremely lame bit of mainstream hugging dialogue? I didn't really have an answer. Beautiful island scenery, I guess, is the best thing Couples Retreat as going for it during its 100 minutes of flat jokes and unoriginal comedic set-ups.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Day 6: Buck

Date: July 6
Film: Buck [usa, 2011]
Where: Tulsa/Circle Cinema
Who with: Sarah J. 
Ratings: Joshua ****1/2; SJ *****!

After some technical difficulties with the projector, the documentary about renowned horse-trainer Buck Brannaman began and to put it simply--this is a contender for favorite doc of the year for me. I love watching horses, although they kind of terrify me after some bad experiences on them as a kid, and this film is nothing but horse scenes and talk as "Buck" dispels his philosophy on training. It's much different than the traditional style where the horse gets "broken." His technique is more gentle and the horses seem to respond tremendously to that sort of mutual respect between rider and horse. Beautiful western locations for most of the film too--think Montana, Wyoming, you know, the wonderful western states that I really love. What makes "Buck" an even more fascinating and remarkable character is the troubled life he lived while growing up. Near the end of Buck there is one of the more suspenseful showdowns between "Buck" and a truly wild colt that was as tense as any scene you'll see in a fictional thriller. Check out the trailer below if you don't know about Buck. Highly, highly recommended.

Buck trailer

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Day 5: Behind the Burly Q

Date: July 5
Film: Behind the Burly Q [usa, 2010]
Where: home/streamer
Who with: alone
Movie rating: **1/2
Eroticism rating of movie about strippers: **

I didn't plan on seeing Behind the Burly Q, but I got my start times for Meek's Cutoff wrong and showed up at Circle Cinema after it started. If there's one code I live by, it is that I shall never darken a theatre's doorstep after the film has begun, so I didn't see Meek's Cutoff as I'd planned. I made my way home in the 100+ temperature [we are suffering a brutal heatwave in Tulsa the past month; it's going to be a hellish summer if this keeps up] and secluded myself in the air conditioned comfort of the couch with Mozi, where I watched this surprisingly dull documentary on the history of burlesque in America. A subject as rich and interesting as burlesque deserves a feisty film, but this is not as it is rather tame and so removed of sex-appeal that it's shocking that these women actually took their clothes off for a living. It has nudity and barely clothed women aplenty, but it's so completely sanitized and serious that the fun, dangerous and naughty elements that made burlesque popular is nowhere to be found in Behind the Burly Q. Too bad.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Day 4: Larry Crowne

Date: July 4
Film: Larry Crowne [usa, 2011]
Where: Tulsa/theatre
Who with: Lillian
Movie rating: Joshua **1/2; Lillian ****
Julia Roberts annoyance level: ***

A July 4th holiday screening and the first with my mom in 2011. Larry Crowne is Tom Hanks' second directorial effort [That Thing You Do! in 1996 was his first; I really loved that movie about a one-hit wonder band in the 1960s] and co-stars Hanks and Julia Roberts. Larry Crowne is a surprisingly underwhelming film that never quite hits its mark in either the comedy or the romance in the film. It feels forced too much of the time and desperation doesn't translate to laughter when it comes to comedies. Hanks' character, a recently fired man with mounting debt that goes to college and has his life transformed, seems almost like a simpleton too much of the time. He's played too naive I think. Some of the scooter stuff was fun, sure makes me wish I had a scooter to ride around Tulsa on. Bryan Cranston shows up in another supporting role and like The Lincoln Lawyer a few days ago, he was strictly support. Weird to see him with hair and not in Breaking Bad [new season starts in less than two weeks!].  Crowd seemed to like this more than I did and Mom commented that it was awesome to see a film with two people who aren't 15 years old in the lead roles. I happen to agree with her on that point.

$116 million for Transformers 3?

Every American should be ashamed of themselves by giving their money to Michael Bay's empty vision of endlessly fighting robots. If that's what the masses want, I must be living in an alternative world where things like "story" are preferred over headache inducing action scenes with Bay's usual lust for blowing stuff up. There's evidently not many of us living in that universe based on the box-office take his latest opus raked in over the weekend.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Day 3: Prizzi's Honor

Date: July 3
Film: Prizzi's Honor [usa, 1985]
Where: Tulsa/at home/DVD
Who with: alone
Movie rating:***1/2 [out of five]
Okie street-cred attending noodling event: *****!

I've been on a real John Huston kick in 2011. I've watched The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The African Queen, The MacKintosh Man, Wise Blood and Victory all in the past six months or so. Directed at 79 years old, Prizzi's Honor is the second to last film he made before passing away in 1987. Prizzi's Honor is an entertaining, sophisticated romantic comedy farce about two killers [Jack Nicholson works for the mob, Kathleen Turner is a contract "hitter"] who meet, fall in love and then must grapple with the complications that ensue by being together. This was nominated for seven Oscars in 1985 including best film and Anjelica Huston [daughter of John] won for best supporting actress. Not sure I agree with her winning, but looking at the other nominees that year [Oprah Winfrey for The Color Purple? Thankfully she didn't win.], Huston winning was just as good as the others nominated. 1985 wasn't a good year for movies based on the nominations of a lot of forgettable movies.

I wondered how soon in this "31 days, 31 films" thing I'd get home late, tired and not really in the mood to watch a movie. On the third day and it already occurred, but I sucked it up and watched Prizzi's Honor. I'd spent the previous four hours in Mannford, Oklahoma with my friend Mary Beth watching a noodling fishing event. Noodling, for those of you who aren't familiar with this word, is a form of fishing in Oklahoma where you use only your hands and feet to catch huge catfish. It's kind of dangerous with people getting all bloodied from the catfish literally using the human body as the bait. The men [maybe women do it too, but I've never heard of any] wrestle the catfish to the surface before they can claim victory over the fish [and then later eat it!]. Oklahoma is one of the few states where this style of fishing is legal and it has a deep tradition from Native Americans to rural, small town Oklahomans who do it now. This event was part of a new show that is going to appear on TV in the fall called "Mudcats." Check out the monster a couple of noodlers brought in to be weighed as part of the competition! Keep in mind, they caught this with their hands...which were all scraped, cut-up and bleeding.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Day 2: The Lincoln Lawyer

Date: July 2
Film: The Lincoln Lawyer [usa, 2011]
Where: Tulsa/at $$ movie
Who with: Alone [Tim flaked out on me!]
Movie rating: *** [out of five]
Tim as a dependable movie-watcher rating: **
Sno-cone rating: ****

It's no secret I absolutely loathe Matthew McConaughey. Not only is he a flat-out awful actor who is known for his penchant for taking off his shirt, grinning during performances when no grinning is called for--the man is the worst sort of arrogant texan that rubs this Okie the wrong way. But, The Lincoln Lawyer got decent reviews, was playing at the dollar movie [actually cost $2 due to it being Saturday night], Marisa Tomei was among the cast and the ability to get a sno-cone near the theatre. There's nothing like sno-cones in the summer and this place takes them over the top by adding real cream to whatever flavor you'd like. My two favorites: peaches and cream or tigers blood and cream. I'm a sucker for the cream on top! Wonderful. 

Back to The Lincoln Lawyer.  This is one of those classic novel-to-screen Hollywood lawyer tales about a barrister whose office is his Lincoln Continental who gets pulled into a case that might challenge his morals, threaten his life and put his family in danger. This is really over-written, but I admit it's a fun, summery film with a terrific supporting cast--Tomei, William H. Macy [great 'stache!], Bryan Cranston [who is way underutilized], Michael Pena, Laurence Mason and Shea Whigham all give professional support so the acting-challenged McConaughey can't ruin the film. Whigham, who has a prominent role on HBO's Boardwalk Empire, plays a sleazy convict and eats up his few minutes on screen with relish. The Lincoln Lawyer isn't all that surprising and has some plot-leaps that you'll have to take, but for summer fare, I've seen far worse.

Here's a photo of my sno-cone. I tried a very non-manly sounding flavor: pizzazz. That's okay, I'm comfortable in my masculinity. It was pineapple/peach/red raspberry topped with the always-makes-it-better cream. As you can see, I ate it in a lovely Tulsa location of one of our many, many, many, many parking lots in south Tulsa. It's worth some time standing in the concrete with the sun pummeling down just to get some of the sweet, sweet flavored ice. See what you missed Tim by flaking on me and the $2 movie?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Day 1: Aryan Brotherhood

Date: July 1
Film: Aryan Brotherhood [usa, 2007]
Where: Tulsa/at home/streamer
Who with: alone
Rating: *** stars [out of five]

My 31 movies in 31 days odyssey begins with a documentary on the brutal prison-based gang Aryan Brotherhood [sometimes referred to as "AB" or "The Brand"]. I like a good prison documentary or film, so this was a pretty interesting, albeit a bit sensationalist, look at the gang's criminal rise to power and penchant for violence. Evidently, according to this documentary, the AB excel in contract killings and any other bit of crime that requires extreme viciousness. Lots of prison fighting, shanking and yard action to keep the pace brisk. A few former members [pictured] talk about the life inside the AB and I'm guessing they have to live fairly paranoid lives while serving out their life sentences in whatever prison they are in.

Stay tuned, I will try to post my mini-review of every film I see in the month of July, so posts are going to be daily for the rest of the month. Check back often!

Friday, July 01, 2011

June movies

It was a busy month with twenty-four films, some of which will have to remain secret due to their possible inclusion in Slumber Party 3: Payback later this month. I took full advantage of the Netflix streamers and saw 8 of them plus a little television streaming here and there. Awesome technology that streaming is. Highlight of the month was Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen's most charming picture in a long, long time. Lately, he's been so hit and miss with only Vicky Christina Barcelona being worth much. This is old-school Woody Allen and it's a favorite of mine for 2011. I also recommend the documentary Bill Cunningham in New York as it is an inspiring and interesting look into the life and career of the fashion photographer. On the other end of the spectrum, avoid the woeful neo-western The Last Rites of Ransom Pride at all costs! I only watched it due to new crush Lizzy Caplan. Not worth it.

Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight---2008---usa   ***
The Beaver---2011---usa   ***
Rabid---1976---canada   ***1/2
A Player to be Named Later---2004---usa   **1/2
Bill Cunningham in New York---2010---usa   ****
Jews and Baseball--2010---usa   ***
X Men: First Class---2011---usa   ***1/2
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride---2009---usa   *!
Midnight in Paris---2011---usa   ****1/2
The Double Hour---2010---italy   ***
McEnroe/Borg: Fire and Ice---2011---usa   ****
The Trip---2011---england   ****
13 Assassins---2010---japan    ***1/2
Tree of Life---2011---usa   ***1/2
Stake Land---2011---usa   ***1/2
Busting---1974---usa   **1/2
Bobby Fischer Against the World---2011---usa   ***1/2
Protagonist---2007---usa   ***
I Like Killing Flies---2002---usa   ***1/2
The Sweetest Sound---2001---usa   ***