Sunday, November 22, 2015

In Movie Lines: November 1 - November 21


Movies I've Watched

(OR, How I watched a bunch of huge franchise movies and nearly nothing else)

November 1st - November 21st, 2015

On Television

Fargo 
(FX Series - Season 2)
Created by Noah Hawley, 2014-Present


In case you haven't been watching the best show on television, here are some notes of encouragement for you: 

1. Hawley and Co. (with Joel and Ethan Coen on as Executive Producers) have not only continued paying tribute the original 1996 film, its tone and everyman characters but have also transcended it into, quite simply, its own thing altogether. The late-1970s setting is quite refreshing, much like the late-1980s setting of the original film. 

2. Bokeem Woodbine as Kansas City mob hitman Mike Milligan is continually the best actor I see on screen in a given week. His work here is so perfect, oddly self-aware and humorously menacing. If you don't mind a clip that is not a spoiler but is featured in a mid-season episode of the show, click here

3. The rest of the cast, including Ted Danson, Patrick Wislon, Nick Offerman, Brad Garrett, Jeffrey Donavan, Jean Smart, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, is unbelievable. 

Re-Watched

Star Wars
Dir. George Lucas, 1977



Finally, the original Star Wars...Episode IV...A New Hope. This movie is where it's at. It is just so spectacular and looks even better than the CGI-laden prequel crapfests. And Harrison Ford is money. 

The Empire Strikes Back
Dir. Irvin Kershner, 1980


"I know." - Han Solo

The Return of the Jedi
Dir. Richard Marquand, 1983


So, I finally did it. I saw the original holy trinity all the way through. I am now a Star Wars completist. I'm right proud. I have to say, though, this one still just doesn't work as well as the original or Empire. I seem to zone it out and the alien creature concert number goes on for way too long. 

The Hunger Games
Dir. Gary Ross, 2012


Solid adaptation of an excellent book, except for its stupid Twilight-love triangle ending. I remember being so stoked for this movie that year, and it proved to be a lasting memory for my wife and I. We re-watch it on Blu-Ray regularly. 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Dir. Francis Lawrence, 2013


Now, Catching Fire is a science fiction fantasy masterpiece. Just like the source material, it amps up everything on many levels, including the special effects sequences. Incredible casting of the major players, including the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new Head Game Maker, Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer as two former Games Victors with an aptitude for science and technology, and Jena Malone as the District 7 Victor with a wild streak. Plus, it didn't feel the need to keep every single detail and line of dialogue from the novel. 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I
Dir. Francis Lawrence, 2014


An excellent follow-up in tone to what was the end of Catching Fire, but it, ultimately, fell a bit flat in that it is barely one-half of a full story, made that way by a system that requires the last novel in a series be overblown and faithful to the point of boring obviousness. 

First-Timers

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Dir. F.W. Murnau, 1927


Listen: I quit doing Blind Spot this year. I just can't take the time it takes me, personally, to really dig into a serious, well-respected film and do it the right justice. I have just been too busy and, quite frankly, STRESSED lately. 

Having said that, I am still watching classic films I should've seen by now. Murnau's Sunrise, for example, is one that rose from the bottom of my Netflix queue after reading Fisti's 100 Favorite Films post. It's quite a lovely and engaging silent film, of which I have seen very few. I need to hone my silent film watching skills. My modern American tastes have shortened my attention span, so I had to rewind back a few times, but I truly admire this as the graceful, groundbreaking film it is lauded as. Gorgeously composed shots and superb performances from the two leads. Let's call this my November Blind Spot. I'll try again next year. 

Killing Them Softly
Dir. Andrew Dominik, 2012


I one day hope that Andrew Dominik makes a film as emotionally affecting and just downright awe-inducing as his 2007 film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Alas, he didn't do it in his follow-up, which came five years later, in the organized crime drama, Killing Them Softly. Brad Pitt does great work as usual. Ray Liotta has a small part that is just painful, quite literally at times, to watch...in a fucking GREAT way. There is some really great dialogue at times, though the structure of the script is a trifle heavy-handed. It doesn't work, though, mostly because it has so many things going on. This movie is too full of characters that never go anywhere. I have the feeling that Dominik made another three-hour movie here and the studio said, "Hell no!" And the result is a messy movie that could've been great. 

Spectre
Dir. Sam Mendes, 2015


I came to realize one thing after seeing the new James Bond film and reading some of the reviews out there:  People who don't like James Bond films should not review them. I am so sick of all the "Daniel Craig looks bored" crap. He is a great Bond, dark and intense, totally original yet comfortable in all aspects of the role. Spectre is a classic Bond. Click here for my full review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2
Dir. Francis Lawrence, 2015


Go back up, read my comments on Mockingjay, Part 1, then click here for my full review

The Numbers

I have seen 198 movies this year so far. 

Re-Watched - 71

First-Timers - 127

What have you been watching? 

10 comments:

  1. Great reviews! I know the 3 original Star Wars and so all 3 in the cinemas when they first came out. Personally I wanted to baste and saute some of the ewoks-can't picture their sticks and stones taking out the Empire...but they did. Haven't seen any of the Hunger Games. For some reason I just haven't felt the want to see them. LOVE Sunrise-Brilliant film although the lady from the city, when she dances made me giggle. The atmosphere of this film is spell binding. I just re-watched The Big Parade-another must see plus I watched the commentary which I always love. The Crowd is another excellent silent film. I am a James Bond nut and I do agree with you that if you do not care for James Bond then don;t see the film because the bias is already in place

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    1. Thanks. Hunger Games is a niche thing. I only got into it because the books are so huge among the kids I teach (middle school age). Really solid sci-fi action movies with a strong female lead. Sunrise was quite lovely. I will put those other two titles on my list. Thanks. Agreed on Bond.

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  2. Fargo is awesome, Offerman should be on every shot on TV :)

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  3. Sunrise is such an individual moviegoing experience. Murnau really had a unique eye for visuals and storytelling, if you haven't seen his The Last Laugh it's beautifully made if heartbreaking. Then of course there's Nosferatu which was his breakthrough, it's a real pity he was killed in that car accident just as sound was coming in he surely would have found new ways of applying his sensibilities to the new techniques.

    I've been working on my silent film knowledge this year which was terribly thin, its still not vast but better than it was. They can be a challenge, I started with some Douglas Fairbanks adventures which were more reliant on action than dialogue cards so I was able to get use to the silent rhythm more easily, The Thief of Bagdad was particularly good, and then moved on to more plotty films.

    A few I'd recommend-The Last Command, The Wind, the two Birgit mentioned The Big Parade and The Crowd, and the only silent I've watched more than once "The Unknown" a totally trippy flick about an armless knife thrower in the circus and the young girl with a fear of hands that he loves from afar starring Lon Chaney and a very young Joan Crawford. Actually any of the Lon Chaney films, except Mr. Wu, are worthy checking out. Also I'm a Garbo fan so I've seen all her films both sound and silent but your mileage may vary depending on your fondness for her.

    There were some that were duty watches that I felt I just had to see to be versed but OY they were a struggle...Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms and all but the last sequence of Way Down East all took some patience and a couple attempts to make it though.

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    1. I definitely want to check out more from Murnau. Thanks so much for all the recommendations. I have been trying to find a good way into silent cinema and this will help a lot.

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  4. Great post! Catching Fire is by far my favorite film of the franchise!

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    1. Thanks! So glad to hear someone agrees with me on that one.

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  5. I've watched probably over a dozen films since November 1.

    A couple weeks ago, I watched Blue Velvet, A History of Violence, The Squid & The Whale, & Shine. All excellent films.

    Last weekend, I went to the theater 3 times. I saw Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, & The Night Before. Spotlight & Bridge of Spies were both excellent. The Night Before was funny, although it was a little too melodramatic at some parts.

    This week, I've watched Capote (an excellent film), Eastern Promises (one of the best films I've seen in a long time), & Art School Confidential (a really good film).

    I plan on seeing The Martian this weekend (I know, I should've seen it a while ago), & I may also see Creed & Brooklyn.

    And also, Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. Nice. A History of Violence is great. Love The Squid and the Whale as well. Need to get to Spotlight. That's next up for me. Happy Thanksgiving...a little late!

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