Monday, March 30, 2009

A Change in Name and Direction

As the complete lack of posts in the last week indicates, I've decided to put aside The Great Unwatched in its current incarnation. The final clincher came when I tried watching Godzilla vs. Mothra last Tuesday and failed. I don't think I actually saw more than thirty seconds worth, although I heard the movie from start to finish. I was just too busy working on other projects.

This blog isn't going away, though. It's just not going to be focused on The Great Unwatched exclusively. Instead, I'll be posting general movie geekery at a more relaxed pace, while still doing occasional Great Unwatched reviews as a regular feature. Given the change, I've renamed the blog to "Cinema Geek" (which is easier to remember given the URL) and whipped up new header image. I'll be cleaning up the tags and the sidebar content over the course of the week to reflect the new direction.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

Director: Shusuke Kaneko

Runtime: 105 minutes

I really do have an excuse for the sudden barrage of Godzilla movies. is running a Godzilla week in May and I want to make sure I'm fully up to speed on kaiju flicks. Stop judging me!

Sporting what must be the longest English-language title in the entire Godzilla series, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (or GMK as it will appear in the rest of the review) takes a more mystical approach to kaiju, which makes a certain amount of sense, as Japan has always had a tradition of the supernatural. Here, Godzilla, while still a product of nuclear radiation, is also positioned as the living retribution of all the souls killed by the Japanese in World War II. Defending the Japanese homeland against his incursion are three Guardian Monsters: Baragon, Mothra, and making his first appearance as a full hero, King Ghidorah.

One interesting thematic thread introduced by director and co-writer Shusuke Kaneko is that Japan has largely forgotten Godzilla in the forty-seven years since the original attack (like the rest of the Millenium series, GMK is a direct sequel to 1954's Gojira that ignores the interceding films in the series). Some people believe him to be a myth, others fail to understand the destruction he brings (there's one scene where a local official becomes excited at the tourist trade that might come in if Godzilla attacked his village). Even when Godzilla does show up, the weight of the situation isn't immediately understood by all. For instance, a news helicopter team "reports" on the showdown between Godzilla and Baragon as if it were a wrestling match. However, they are repaid for their irreverence when Godzilla throws Baragon through their ride, killing them. Kaneko's message is that classic trope repeated in social studies classes the world over: those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Since Kaneko is using Godzilla and the other monsters as a means of social commentary, the human element is strong in GMK. The main human character, Yuri Tachibana, works for Digital Q, a low-rent video outfit that produces "docu-dramas" that sensationalize the supernatural for easy profit. Desperately to produce something of substance, Yuri gets her chance when the monster attacks begin. She dives furiously into the job of researching the monsters, then, as the final showdown begins, she risks her life to document it for future generations. Her drive to study the past and document the present gives the film a sense of hope that the cycle of history may yet be broken. Yuri also has the distinction of giving one of the few speeches in a Godzilla film that actually made me choke up a little.

The monster battles themselves are workable, but the suits seem a little cheaper than some of the others in the Millenium series. Godzilla's gone through a redesign to make him more "evil" -- he's the tallest that Godzilla has ever been, his eyes are fields of pure white and his gaping maw is brimming with razor sharp teeth. However, he also appears to have something of a pot belly, which somewhat negates his menace. Baragon's suit looks ridiculous and rubbery. King Ghidorah and Mothra come off the best here, looking classy and snazzy for the new millenium.

Worth the Purchase: It's a different sort of take on the Godzilla mythos. I kind of dug it.


Unrelated to this flick, I've been having some doubts about this project. While I am watching more films in my collection, it has been pointed out to me that I tend to overload myself with responsibilities. In addition to this blog and (which is, in itself, a full-time job), I also work 40-50 hours a week in the IT industry, I work on "fanvids", and I have a fairly active social life. In the midst of all of this, I have a tendency to forget important things like keeping my apartment tidy, taking out the garbage, and cleaning my poor cat's litter box. Thank goodness I don't have spawn.

On the one hand, if I cut some of the fat from my life, I could devote more time and effort to the things that are the most important to me -- my girlfriend, my niece, my not-being-an-utter-slob. I could also raise the stakes on the quality of writing at Classic-Horror, write more biographies for our Masters section, and come up with some more in-depth features.

On the other hand, this has been a great place to stretch the writing muscles without having to run a full marathon. Plus, I'm seeing more movies than I would normally. I'm going to think about it over the next week or two. Until then, I'm not going anywhere.

PS: The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards have been announced. Check 'em out.

Stats: 30/401 movies watched in twenty-seven days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: February 19, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekend Viewing

Watched Suddenly, Policewomen, and Las Vegas Lady over the weekend.

No reviews on these, although I may have to go back and revisit Suddenly at some point.

Stats: 29/401 movies watched in twenty-six days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: February 18, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)

Director: Masaaki Tezuka

Runtime: 88 minutes

I must be in a kaiju state of mind. Actually, I was having a really craptacular day yesterday and I needed to clean the apartment (partly as therapy, but mostly because my place would embarrass a college freshman in its squalor), so giant monster fights were good for checking in and out as I worked. One of the nice things about the so-called "Millenium series" of Godzilla films is that they tend to be standalone stories, sequels to the original 1954 film but no other Godzilla films (although they are also occasionally connected a few of the non-Godzilla films from the 1950s and 60s). Without a lot of heavy continuity to worry about, you can jump right into the story, such as it is, something you can't really say about the Heisei series of the 1990s.

I picked Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, despite the fact that it wasn't on this month's list, because it has the second-highest rating of all Godzilla films on the IMDb, bested only by the original Gojira. It's easy to see why. I actually didn't get that much cleaning done, because I was really drawn into the story here. For one thing, they admit (as not every Godzilla movie has) that the original monster who trashed Tokyo in 1954 was definitively killed; the Big G here is an entirely different creature. In fact, the utter destruction of Original Flavor Godzilla is a plot point. The Japanese government has retrieved the skeleton and built a weaponized Godzilla robot to deal with the giant lizard threat. The mecha, named "Kiryu," is piloted by Akane (Yumiko Shaku), who is trying to prove herself after a moment of panic in an earlier battle with Godzilla caused the deaths of several of her fellow soldiers. Her second chance is made more difficult because Kiryu's bones seem have a memory -- a memory of rampage.

The effects, while cheesy, were still light years beyond the standard "suit-mation" antics of the 1960s. Godzilla's still a guy in a lizard costume, but it's a fairly intricate rig now, with extra work put in to make it look very very menacing. The monster battles are backed by CGI (kaiju movies are one area of film where CGI support is more than welcome) and although it's not completely dazzling in terms of technical prowess, it's used fairly effectively.

Action sequences are fairly kinetic for the most part, with a bare minimum of "monster standing still in order to accept attack" moments that have been hallmarks of past kaiju flicks. Tezuka doesn't let the film drown in the human element -- it spices up the non-Godzilla scenes, but he knows why we're here. We want to see giant monsters destroy things and there is plenty of that. As Godzilla movies go, this is one of the best.

Worth the Purchase: Yes.

Stats: 26/401 movies watched in twenty-three days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: February 13, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Gojira (1954)

Part of: The Godzilla Collection (Classic Media)

Director: Ishiro Honda

Runtime: 98 minutes

I'll be doing a full write-up for this for a special Godzilla event on in May, so I'm going to refrain from saying anything here. However, I am working on something related to the movie that I will post here a little later.

Anyway, I really enjoyed it, it's a classic of the giant monster genre, yadda yadda yadda.

Worth the Purchase: Yes.

Stats: 25/401 movies watched in twenty-two days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: February 11, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Great Unwatched: The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Directors: Ernest B. Schoedsack and Irving Pichel

Runtime: 63 minutes

For such a short film, this one packs a wallop. Filmed alongside King Kong (1933) and utilizing many of the same sets (and two of the same actors), The Most Dangerous Game is a pretty brutal little horror film for its time. Surviving a shipwreck, big game hunter Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) washes up on the private island of Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks). Zaroff is a hunter, too, but his quarry isn't lions or jaguars -- it's people. Soon Rainsford is put in the position of prey, protecting not only his own life but the virtue of fellow castaway Eve Towbridge (Fay Wray). The pair have four hours to evade Zaroff, his henchmen, and his vicious hunting dogs.

Screenwriter James Ashmore Creelman remains fairly faithful to Richard Connell's short story, even taking whole lines of dialogue verbatim. He does make some concessions to common Hollywood wisdom, adding a damsel in distress, which adds a sexual kink to the character of Zaroff that's not apparent in the female-free story. Creelman also strikes all references to Rainsford having fought in World War I (likely because McCrea turned thirteen just two weeks before Armistice Day), a change which removes some (although not all) ambiguity from the protagonist's moral high ground.

Banks makes for an intimidating villain, partially due to his "give it all" performance, but also because of a physical aspect of the actor's features. Half of his face was paralyzed in World War I, giving one of his eyes a perpetually crazed look. It serves the character of Zaroff well -- there's always a madman there, even when the other half of the face is being genial. And when both halves match... well, watch out.

A surprisingly brutal pre-Code trophy room scene, great pacing, and a phenomenal score by Max Steiner add to what is highly enjoyable flick. If you're in the market for thrills, be sure to pick up the Criterion Collection DVD, which boasts a very informative commentary track courtesy of Bruce Eder.

Fun trivia #1: co-director Ernest B. Schoedsack is a native of Iowa, just like your humble blogger.

Fun trivia #2: This is only the first adaptation of Connell's short story in the project. The other is Bloodlust! starring Robert Reed of The Brady Bunch.

Stats: 24/401 movies watched in twenty-one days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: February 9, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Monday, March 16, 2009

No Film Tonight

The best-laid plans, right? I usually stop by the Fair Trade Cafe on Monday nights because it's a quiet place to get some work done and the best damn barista in the Phoenix area is on shift at that time. Never mind that she's also my sister. I'd still swing by if we weren't related; her coffee is that good. Anyway. Tonight I cut my visit short by a couple hours so I could come home and watch not one but two movies (or watch two versions of one Godzilla film).

However, due to unforeseen circumstances, no movies happened. That's just how it goes sometimes. The project and this blog are secondary (or even tertiary) considerations and while I strive to watch a movie daily, sometimes I have to put that aside.

No progress report tonight, either. I'll just be sure to catch up tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Help! (1965)

Director: Richard Lester

Runtime: 90 minutes

I can safely blame Tim Lucas for this one. About six months ago, he pointed out a fire sale that was having on the deluxe box set of Help! -- something like an 80% savings. Not bad, especially considering that the box (which usually goes for $120) contains a reproduction of Richard Lester's annotated (read: scribbled on) shooting script, a hardbound commemorative book with production notes and exclusive photographs, a poster, and eight lobby cards. Oh yeah, and the movie and its special features disc. Those are kind of important. The same deal is going on, actually, to a slightly lesser degree -- just check Amazon's sellers page for the outfit "warehouse_deals." I can report that my own set arrived without any of the issues in their description.

As for the film itself, I can safely agree with many other critics who have pointed out that it's silly nonsense. I can agree even more with fans of the film that find the silly nonsense to be, at least, inspired nonsense. Richard Lester is a director I have a lot of respect for and his work with The Beatles in this and A Hard Day's Night shows a man who completely grasps the pop mystique of the Fab Four. Just look at the differences between AHDN and Help!, films made within a year of each other, which can be a whole era in the life of a pop band.

A Hard Day's Night had the boys chased around like mad, with screaming fans around every corner. Now, a year later, they've settled in; they're far more likely to have busybody housewives discuss them from afar than to be mobbed. AHDN is plotless -- a madcap day in the life of the most popular band in the world, before anybody's quite figured out what to do with these four moptopped lads from Liverpool. In Help!, a plot (although admittedly not much of one) asserts itself, and the boys have to play keepaway with a special sacrificial ring that's become stuck to Ringo's finger. Now there's structure, a way to align the band with standard conventions, even if they have a tendency to play fast and loose with said conventions. Actually, the elements of the plot actually reverse the first point of the paragraph -- The Beatles are still getting mobbed in Help!, but now it's from people who want something from them and/or who are against their music and what they stand for (the opening credits involve a religious cult throwing darts at a film of the band performing the title song). Still, there's nothing quite so sublime in Help! as the "Can we have our ball back?" bit from AHDN (which I've helpfully embedded below).

Comparisons aside, though, it's clear that everyone involved is having a lot of fun. Richard Lester maintains enough control on the shenanigans that they do not become tedious, but not so much control that he takes the fun out. He leaves in plenty of room to riff on things like the James Bond series, British labor unions, and even basic cinematic conventions like intertitles (there are many, many intertitles in this film and nearly all of them funnier than they have any right to be). If there's a major complaint here, it's that we don't get a strong notion of each band member's individual style and personality. Oh, it comes through in pieces here and there, but at points they seem more like a hive mind of jocularity than four independent minds.

I really dug this film a lot, so I should probably thank Tim Lucas instead of assigning blame. Except blame is more fun.

Worth the Purchase: If you don't know my answer, then Ringo isn't the only one who needs help.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've just started Scott Allen Nolan's book on Boris Karloff and I'm looking forward to a fascinating read.

Stats: 23/401 movies watched in nineteen days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 21, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010


Check out what I just posted on the wall of my bedroom:

When there's no more room on the walls, the posters shall walk the Earth

The Great Unwatched: The Dark (1979) and Carry On Emmannuelle (1978)

Part of: Shriek Show's Mutant Monsters Triple Feature (The Dark), Grindhouse Experience Box Set (Carry On Emmannuelle)

Directors: John "Bud" Cardos (The Dark) and Gerald Thomas (Carry On Emmannuelle)

Runtime: Roughly 90 minutes each

Two pieces of crap. The Dark is at least amusingly produced; its failings stem largely from post-production tampering and a lack of a coherent plot. Then again, what do you really expect from a movie about a homeless alien space monster with laser beam eyes that's produced by Dick Clark (yes, that Dick Clark)?

Carry On Emmannuelle, on the other hand, squanders an opportunity to give a proper send-up of the whole sexplotation genre. Instead, we get a bunch of entirely too tame sex jokes presented as if their mere sexuality was the funny bit. In short, it's a movie made by adolescent minds with no appreciation of the sheer subversiveness of which the true adolescent is capable.

The Great Unwatched: Mean Frank and Crazy Tony (1973)

(I'll just be blogging as I go today and do the stats after the last movie. )

Part of: Grindhouse Experience Box

Director: Michele Lupo

Runtime: 85 minutes

Mean Frank and Crazy Tony is a nutty little crime-comedy from Italy, one I probably would not have watched without this project. It'd be a shame, too, because I had a lot of fun with it.

Tony (Tony LoBianco) is a small-time Italian crook who wants to make it big. Frank (Lee Van Cleef) is a big-time mafioso in town to sniff out whoever's been selling him out to his rival, Louis Annunziata (Jean Rochefort). Circumstances land them in jail together, where the earnest Tony earns the hard-bitten Frank's trust by saving his life. Tony hatches an audacious escape plan so that Frank can exact revenge. Soon this mismatched pair are in France, headed to Annunziata's frozen fish processing plant, with half of the French police force in pursuit.

What makes this film entertaining is that's equal parts Tony being crazy (that is, highly excitable but also incredibly clever) and Frank being mean (no-bullshit and violent as hell). For as goofy as the parts about Tony are, there are some surprisingly nasty bits of violence where Frank and the mob are concerned. That dichotomy just adds to the film's overall charm, however.

Worth the Purchase: Yes, especially for the new take on the phrase "sleeping with the fishes" at the end.

Movie Marathon!

As my girlfriend and I had very limited time together this weekend, we chose to spend it out and about. When we did end up in front of the boob tube, we watched some Dark Angel Season 2, mostly because we're both big fans of Jensen Ackles. Go figure that we end up watching the two episodes he's not in that season.

The result is that I didn't get to anything on the list yesterday, which is a bit of a problem since I usually do at least two a day on the weekends. So today it's time to do the only sane thing. I will become the Marathon Man.

Is it watched? Is it watched?

Er... maybe not the Marathon Man. Maybe just a guy doing a movie marathon. I've stacked up the remaining titles on this month's list and I'm just going to pull one out as the last one ends.

Which will get watched? Depends on my mood. Expect a full report tonight or tomorrow.

Stats: 19/401 movies watched in eighteen days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: March 10, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1971)

Director: Joël Séria

Runtime: 103 minutes

First of all, I love Mondo Macabro. They release some of the most bats**t, oddball foreign horror out there and they do it with a full complement of special features and damn fine transfers. Plus I just love their clip reels. Pure concentrated WTF.

Moving on. I was surprised to discover that this movie was inspired by the same murder case that informed Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures. Don't Deliver Us... is definitely a looser adaptation, though. There's the same obsessive relationship between the girls, but they're more drawn to acts of mischief and "evil" than anything. Also, interestingly, the narrative focus is on the more forceful of the personalities (in Heavenly Creatures, the opposite was true), which does leave the other half of the friendship rather underdeveloped. Otherwise, though, this is an excellent film made by a strong, deliberate director who utilizes the beauty of the French countryside and the general ugliness of his male actors (most of whom play would-be rapists) to great advantage.

I was watching this to review it for's 666th review, but I don't feel it really fits. I'll probably skip down the list for something a bit more demonic.

Worth the Purchase: Yes.

Stats: 19/401 movies watched in seventeen days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: February 17, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

No Review Today

Unfortunately, extreme tired took hold of me before I was able to finish Don't Deliver Us from Evil (something, I should note, that was no fault of the film, which I'm quite enjoying). I'll try to finish that up tonight before my girlfriend comes over and we go out dancing.

"Boogie shoes, motherf**ker! Do you WEAR THEM?"

In other news, my long-gestating Vampire Circus review has just been posted over at I'm not entirely happy with it -- it wasn't so much finished as given up on. I'll probably pull a George Lucas later and add in some paragraphs that should've been in there initially.

Stats: 18.6/401 movies watched in sixteen days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: February 3, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Nail Gun Massacre (1985)

Directors: Bill Leslie and Terry Lofton

Runtime: 90 minutes

I bought this one soon after I read Adam Rockoff's Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (an excellent book that I highly recommend). Rockoff's dedicated analysis made me realize that perhaps I'd given the slasher genre short shrift. For whatever reason, I didn't actually watch Nail Gun Massacre at the time I bought it, which is probably a good thing. It would have simply reaffirmed my earlier position that slashers are dross.

This is the kind of movie where you can hear the camera in the background, where the shooting script likely said, "push in on naked boobies," where somebody's grandma has to fill in as the shop clerk and read her lines off a script on the counter. This is the kind of movie where a random red herring is mentioned but never actually explained, where the killer's lame wisecracks are drowned out by the even lamer musical score, where the crime-solving authorities couldn't deduce their way out of an empty parking lot.

In short, this is the kind of movie where the vast majority of people involved never worked on another movie again, so at least there's something to be grateful for.

Worth the Purchase: It hurt more than a little.

Stats: 18/401 movies watched in fifteen days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 24, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Trancers (1985)

Part of: The Full Moon Archive Collection

Director: Charles Band

Runtime: 76 minutes

After Dollman, my girlfriend won't watch any more Full Moon action movies with me. I don't really blame her, all things told, since it was a pretty rotten film. Trancers, made some six years before, has the same concept (cop from a futuristic society comes to present-day Los Angeles to defeat sworn nemesis) and even the same star (Tim Thomerson). However, it's a vastly better movie. Why? There's almost no padding. It's just 76 minutes of action with some humor tossed in the mix for good measure. Plus, there's zombies. You really can't go wrong with zombies. Especially Santa Claus zombies. Thomerson is in his element here -- playing the tough guy for laughs, much as he did nine years earlier on the short-lived sci-fi comedy series Quark. It's weird seeing future Oscar-winner Helen Hunt as an 1980s rocker girl facing down low-budget sci-fi menaces. Mind you, this isn't remotely a good film. It's just a pretty decent way to kill 76 minutes without a lot of thought.

One note about the presentation on the DVD. Shamefully, Full Moon has chosen to present Trancers in the worst way possible. It's clearly transfered from a video master instead of the original film elements. Shame shame.

Worth the Purchase: It'd be worth more if this received a proper transfer.

Stats: 17/401 movies watched in fourteen days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 20, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)

Director: Brian Yuzna

Runtime: 93 minutes

Admittedly, I should've watched something much shorter. I have to wake up for work an hour earlier these days and I'm still adjusting. Ah well. This was a typical Brian Yuzna film -- aka a lot of dopey, over-the-top fun from a guy who has clearly hung out with Stuart Gordon a lot but has a bizarre comic book sensibility running underneath everything. I don't know if I'd qualify his films as good from an objective standpoint, but they sure as hell entertain (if not always for the right reasons). Return of the Living Dead 3 actually makes a good attempt at injecting some pathos into the 245-Trioxin saga, by giving us a zombie who maintains her personality and memories after revival. Overall, an enjoyable flick.

Worth the Purchase: Yes.

Stats: 16/401 movies watched in thirteen days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 15, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Great Unwatched: The Twelve Chairs (1970) and Point Break (1991)

Two films I enjoyed for very different reasons.

The Twelve Chairs (1970)

Director: Mel Brooks

Runtime: 94 minutes

This a highly enjoyable comedy from Brooks (who has does a scene-stealing turn as an insanely devoted servant early in the movie) adapted from a classic piece of Soviet satire. On her deathbed, an old woman reveals that, years before, she had sewn her jewels into one of the twelve dining room chairs to prevent them from being confiscated by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. This sets in motion a race between her son-in-law (and former aristocrat) Vorobyaninov (Ron Moody), con man Ostap Bender (Frank Langella, brilliant), and a conniving Russian Orthodox priest, Father Fyodor (Dom DeLuise). Vorobyaninov and Bender eventually team up, but they don't fare well -- every time they come upon the chairs, a few of them are sent somewhere else with farcical precision. And of course, the jewels are never in the chairs that are left behind.

This is not a typical Brooks film; although much of the same temperament of humor (read: over-the-top, slapsticky, and occasionally juvenile) appears in his later spoof movies like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, here he largely avoids knowing nods to the audience and self-reference. He instead chooses to tell the story "straight", wacky though it is. Since we're dealing with some disreputable characters, it's much more satisfying to watch them fail on their own terms, something that Brooks grasps quite well.

Of all the films that I've watched thus far as part of this little experiment, this is the one I regret not having seen much sooner.

Worth the Purchase: Absolutely yes.

Point Break (1991)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Runtime: 120 minutes

I bought this one because it was referenced in Hot Fuzz. I'm really glad I did because now there's whole sections of that movie that are way funnier now. Also, it's kind of funny to see Swayze as a surfer guru.

Worth the Purchase: Woah.

Stats: 15/401 movies watched in twelve days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 10, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Wanted (2008) and Dollman (1991)

There's lessons to be learned in getting too cocky. I promised my girlfriend we'd go out last night, so I didn't get a chance to watch anything. I figure hey, I'm ahead of the game, one night won't be so bad. Today I get a call from Mom that proves me wrong; she'd just found a DVD mailed to me a few months ago that she'd forgotten about. Apparently, I'd neglected to say no to a Columbia House Director's Selection a couple months ago and so now I was the proud(?) owner of Timur Bekmambetov's Wanted. So not only did I miss a day of movie viewing, but the list just moved up a tick. Brilliant.

Anyway. On to our feature presentations for this evening.

Wanted (2008)

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Runtime: 110 minutes

Well, that was... action-y. Wanted is a kinetic, highly visual experience largely undercut by main character Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) and his sarcastic narration. I get that his life sucks, really I do. It just seems like a director as visually oriented as Bekmambetov clearly is could have more clearly conveyed Gibson's dilemma without leaning on the crutch of a descriptive voice-over. Gibson's snide self-loathing doesn't endear him to us and when he's picked out to be an assassin because his panic attacks are, in fact, superpowers (among other reasons), he reacts by freaking out. A lot. And it's really annoying. Of course, there's no movie if he doesn't get over it and start busting heads, but by the time he does, he has a long way to go to regaining the audience's trust.

Otherwise, the action sequences are appropriately awe-inspiring, if on the far side of ridiculous. Angelina Jolie looks like she needs a sandwich. The twist midway through is fairly easy to pick out, but if we're going to really quibble about something, let's talk about the finale. In the final showdown, one character does something monumentally idiotic, based on evidence that they've just discovered has been forged in the past. Furthermore, these forgeries have all come from the same person whose giving them said evidence now. And yet, they take this irritatingly, mind-blowingly stupid action. And the movie wants us to think that they are not only noble, but awesome. I don't buy it. No thank you.

Worth the Purchase: Well, it was kind of pretty?

Dollman (1991)

Part of: The Full Moon Archive Collection

Director: Albert Pyun

Runtime: 79 minutes

I think the best part of this movie was seeing Jackie Earle Haley, some eighteen years before he essayed the part of Rorschach in Watchmen, dropping the f-bomb every other word and squishing a tiny alien head with his hand.

I think the worst part of this movie was the rest of it.

Worth the Purchase: Nah.

Stats: 13/401 movies watched in eleven days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 29, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Great Unwatched: The Stuff (1985)

Director: Larry Cohen

Runtime: 93 minutes

Didn't think I'd have time to catch one of the unwatched today, seeing as I was going to a midnight showing of Watchmen (a pretty good film, all things told, which I might review in full tomorrow). However, I tossed The Stuff in my laptop bag just in case. It turns out that when you're stuck in a movie theater for a few hours before the show even starts, it's the perfect time to watch a movie.

Larry Cohen's The Stuff is a weird little satire of consumerism by way of The Blob. Cohen clearly has a lot he wants to say, but the message gets lost in a melange of technical effects and convoluted plot movements. When the paramilitary force is introduced in the final act, you know Cohen's lost control of his movie entirely. Still, it's funny and more than a little strange and it's definitely a Cohen film, which means...

Worth the Purchase: Yes!

Stats: 11/400 movies watched in nine days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 17, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Pumpkinhead (1988)

Director: Stan Winston

Runtime: 86 minutes

Nothing to say really. Fairly atrocious dialogue and paper-thin characters. Lance Henriksen, however, rocks. A lot.

Worth the Purchase: Given that I've bought this twice now (the first time I failed to notice that it was full-frame), no, not really.

Stats: 10/400 movies watched in eight days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 10, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Part of: Friday the 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan Box Set

Director: Tom McLoughlin

Runtime: 86 minutes

I'll admit, I had fully intended to get some work done while this played. However, I couldn't ever seem to find a decent time to stop watching and pick up my laptop. McLoughlin seems to get the appeal behind Jason Voorhees. Not the appeal behind the Friday the 13th films, mind you, which have a very generic sort of draw in that, up to this point, they'd been fairly rote killfests.

No, McLoughlin gets Jason as an urban mythological figure, a modern antihero. He's the beefy guy that the action hero goes up against in the film's longest fight scene, the one that seems to shrug off all direct physical assaults, often with a look of "oh please stop annoying me with your fists." The kind of guy who's usually only be defeated through ingenuity and sneakiness, except now he's in a movie where those two traits are in short supply and there's no Chuck Norris to send him back where he came from. McLoughlin essentially took what Jason had come to represent within the pop cultural zeitgeist and made it canon -- what was once a seemingly unstoppable killer became an utterly unstoppable killer, thanks to a borrowed plot element from Ghost of Frankenstein and a helpful dose of inexplicable zombiedom. Then he stirred in a winking self-knowledge of both Jason's new icon status (the James Bond pastiche right before the title) and the horror genre in general (the "Karloff's" store).

It's a surprisingly entertaining film -- more entertaining than it has any right to be, given that its the sixth film in a generally mediocre series. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks -- or at least give the old tricks a little more shine and sparkle.

Worth the Purchase: Yup.

Stats: 9/400 movies watched in seven days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 1, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010


I made a few discoveries while checking on runtimes and whatnot:

1. The list was actually 398 titles, not 403.
2. I'd forgotten to add the six titles I hadn't seen in The Best of Abbott and Costello Vol. 3.
3. I'd forgotten (possibly consciously) to add Waterworld.
4. I'd accidentally added a number of direct-to-video releases to the list.
5. I had enough Hitchcock movies on the list to comprise an entire month's viewing.

With all of that in mind, I shifted all of the Hitchcock films into August (The Master's month of birth), added the Abbott and Costello and the Costner, and removed the direct-to-video movies.

The end result is that the list is now at an even 400 movies. MUCH better for mathy purposes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Great Unwatched: The Undying Monster (1942)

Part of: The Fox Horror Classics Collection Vol. 1

Director: John Brahm

Runtime: 63 minutes.

A fuller review will likely appear at in the near future, but here's my summary in brief: this is one misguided horror film. It takes the "suggestion rather than spectacle" approach to horror entirely wrong -- "suggestion" does not mean "talk about it endlessly." The first five minutes are entirely given over to banal expository dialogue. And the acting... there is some terrible, terrible acting in this movie. I'm talking, like, community theater reject acting. Everyone is just so broad and unsubtle. *shakes head* It almost hurts.

Still, the restoration is amazing and the supplements are fascinating (I love promotional art galleries). Once I've had a chance to digest The Lodger and Hangover Square (the other two films in the set), I'll come back and watch the Brahm documentary featured here.

Worth the Purchase: Well, the included booklet is very helpful and I hear the other two movies are better by a couple orders of magnitude.

Stats: 8/403 movies watched in six days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: December 23, 2009
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Part of: Mission: Impossible - Ultimate Missions Collection (HD-DVD)

Director: JJ Abrams

Runtime: 126 minutes

I mainly own this one out of loyalty to Greg Grunberg and Simon Pegg. Both were excellent. The rest I couldn't care less about.

Worth Owning: Yes. See above, re: Grunberg and Pegg.

Stats: 7/403 movies watched in five days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: December 8, 2009
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

The Great Unwatched: Three with Sonny Chiba (1974 - 76) and Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Too many projects to finish up to really get into too many details, but I've managed to get caught up to where I need to be. I had to pick and choose a few films from the other months to appease my girlfriend (whose lack of horror love nullifies about half the list), but we watched FOUR movies yesterday, including a Sonny Chiba triple-header.

Dragon Princess (1976)
Karate Warriors (1976)
Sister Street Fighter (1974)

Part of:
The Exploitation Cinema Collection (20 Films)

Directors: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (all three), Yutaka Kohira (co-director on Dragon Princess)

Runtimes: Roughly 90 minutes each

Three martial arts movies featuring Japanese action star Sonny Chiba, although only one has him in a starring role. In Dragon Princess, he appears only in the first act, as Etsuko Shihomi's father. The crippling of his character by a dishonorable karate rival leads Shihomi to seek revenge in this fun, well-choreographed flick. Chiba actually stars in Karate Warriors, which has him take on the Toshiro Mifune role in a modern take on Kurosawa's Yojimbo. The direction here is much more frenetic than in Dragon Princess and too many action scenes rely on a precocious little boy being endangered. Still, an enjoyable romp. Finally, in Sister Street Fighter, Shihomi searches for her brother, who was captured while trying take down a drug ring. Chiba is shoehorned in as Shihomi's able back-up. The plot here makes about as much sense as necessary. There's a weird obsession with dressing up the various kung fu clans in bizarre costumes (one gang wears large lead cage helmets).

One thing that struck me about all of these films was how goddamn gory they were. I don't have a problem with gore as such, but when I watch martial arts films, I certainly don't expect random intestines or heads twisted all the way around. Well, unless I'm watching The Story of Ricky or something.

Worth the Purchase: Heck yes. Cheesy martial arts films are awesome.

Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Part of: James Bond Ultimate Edition Volume 1

Director: Guy Hamilton

Runtime: 120 minutes

Sean Connery is back in the tuxedo as James Bond for his final film in the official Eon Bond series. It's a fun romp, but the series is clearly still trying to figure out the transition into the 1970s (it's about as bumpy as the one Doctor Who made into the 1980s). Jill St. John is feisty as Bond girl Tiffany Case and Charles Gray (in a huge smock) makes an appropriately campy Blofield. The hitmen Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are deliriously over-the-top with their fey-ness (and my girlfriend informs me that they are the direct inspiration for characters on the children's cartoon Codename: Kids Next Door).

Worth the Purchase: It's Bond, so... yeah.

Stats: 6/403 movies watched in four days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: November 19, 2009
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010