01 February 2016

In Movie Lines (with Movie Theaters, 2015 Movies, and More Spielberg): January 23 - January 30

Movies I've Watched

January 23rd - 30th, 2016

A Visit to an "Old" Movie Theater

Not sure if any of you know this, but America's largest movie theater chain, Regal Entertainment Group, which manages Regal Cinemas, Edwards Theatres, and United Artists Theatres, is headquartered in a little community just north of my home city of Knoxville, Tennessee. In Knoxville, Regal is pretty much all there is, save a couple. One of the more interesting of the mulitplexes is housed inside Knoxville Center Mall. I remember when it opened, one of the first to open with "stadium seating" in the area. We used to catch movies there when I was in high school. I even got myself and my group of friends kicked out of a screening of Scream 2 there, once upon a time. 

In the years since high school, I don't think I visited the place once. In the past month, I've been there twice. It's a neat little place. All of the auditoriums are small, probably the smallest in Knoxville, and I like the bit of nostalgic warmth it provides. Plus, it's where I saw one of my favorite movies of 2015, just last Sunday...

Dir. Ryan Coogler

I love this movie. It has everything we love about the original Rocky...and more. Read my review, if you haven't already. 

2015 Movies

Right after seeing Creed, we headed across town to West Knoxville to the Regal Cinema Art theater, Downtown West for...

Dir. Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson 

What an odd little film this is. Not sure I should've expected anything less from Kaufman, pretty much missing in action since 2008's Synecdoche, New York, a mind-bender of pure realism that continues to elude any semblance of making sense in my own mind. I still loved it. 

Anomalisa introduces us to Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), a customer service guru on an overnight to Cincinnati, where he is to speak to a roomful of customer service reps. From the airport to the hotel and then through the night, we meet, alongside Michael, a barrage of people that all sound the same, are all the same. (All voiced by the actor Tom Noonan.) And how true that is. And how interesting that is pulled off here with the stop-motion animation. The only other bit of uniqueness whatsoever is Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The "anomaly" Michael is looking for. 

This is a film of such stark simplicity it pretty much blew right past me, leaving me with little emotion....until I sat with it for about 15 minutes (the car ride home) and felt this absolute wonder of what had just happened. I'm not in awe of this film like many others, and, as of now, find it one of Kaufman's weaker efforts as a writer (though that's not really possible for him). But I have this feeling that a re-watch might really be necessary and most likely change my mind. ★★★

Irrational Man
Dir. Woody Allen

I'm only seeing every other new Woody Allen film these days, it seems. I dug this one, not expecting much. It went to a place I never saw coming, a place Woody has gone to before, just not from this angle. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Abe, a philosophy professor in the midst of a life-crisis involving the fact that life sucks so much (not a new idea for Woody). Plus, he's bored. Enter Emma Stone as his most promising student, Jill. She seems to inspire something in him that he's been missing. What that is needs to remain a mystery. In fact, the less you know about this movie, the more effective it will be. ★★★

Dir. John Wells

Gag me with a sous vide bag. I love fine dining, though I've never done it. There's just something about super expensive fancy food that I can't get enough of. Let's just say I'm a huge Top Chef fan. Cooking is no doubt an art form. This movie does nothing for it. How can you take such a sexy thing as cooking great food and remove every bit of sexiness from it? This is the equivalent of the shitty gambling picture, The Gambler (2014). A deplorable character (Bradley Cooper) gets rewarded for being an asshole in a movie that doesn't even come close to respecting the alluring subject matter it promises. ★ 1/2 

Spielberg, continued...

The Sugarland Express, 1974

I'm pretty much meh on this one. It's got some nice touches of humor and some killer supporting parts, most notably Michael Sacks as a Texas patrolman held hostage and the great Ben Johnson as his superior. The plot is too familiar...a struggling woman named Lou Jean (Goldie Hawn) busts her husband, Clovis (William Atherton), out of jail, creates a hostage situation, starting a spiral that has an end so easy to see coming it's almost no fun. But it is at times, specifically in some of the simple humor of simple everyday people. It's a good looking film too, as expected from Spielberg. I find the casting of Goldie Hawn totally off. She's just too "cute" for it and can't really pull off Texas poor. 

Jaws, 1975

Lauded by my two best friends and I (when we're drunk) as "the best fucking movie ever made," Jaws may very well be one of them. For us, it's all about Robert Shaw's badassness and Richard Dreyfuss' smartassness. Seriously, this movie is so damn fun to watch. Perfectly structured, working as a horror, a thriller, a dark comedy, and a story of men and their deepest fears. "Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies...." 

Oh, and I got to see this projected on film in a movie theater on Fourth of July Weekend a couple years ago while visiting my little sister in Denver. Oh my! What an experience! One of the greatest of my life. 

The Numbers

I've watched 31 movies this year, so far.

2016 Releases - 0

Re-Watched - 8

First-Timers - 23

What have you been watching?


  1. I saw both Anomalisa & Creed. Both were excellent, but Anomalisa ranks higher on my list of the best films of 2015.

    I bought 45 movies this weekend. Most notable among them are Inside Llewyn Davis, The Game, The Big Chill, The Crow, Vanilla Sky, Dr. Strangelove, & About Schmidt.

    Last week, I watched Bottle Rocket, Gone Girl, Adaptation, & Ex Machina. All were excellent. But I'm still asking questions about the end of Ex Machina.

    And I also re-watched the director's cut of Almost Famous. I think I'm addicted to it.

    And today, I watched Synecdoche, New York. Excellent, but it really screwed with my mind.

    And I will try to see the new Coen Brothers movie, Hail, Caesar, this weekend.

    1. And I also re-watched The Grand Budapest Hotel. Excellent. Purely excellent.

    2. I feel like Anomalisa needs another watch for me. Animation always throws me off.

      45 movies!!? Geez, man. Are you made of money? Lol. All of those you mentioned are great pickups.

      I love the end of Ex Machina. It leaves a lot to the imagination. I hear you on Synecdoche. I am seeing Hail, Caesar! on Saturday night. Can't wait.

      Please tell me you've seen Jaws. You didn't comment on that one.

    3. Animation never threw me off, but this was a weird, but excellent animation masterpiece.

      I sold a couple old video game systems & used that money to buy all those movies. And they all look great. Out of all of them, I've only watched The Big Chill, & that was excellent.

      There were a lot of questions at the end of Ex Machina. Will Caleb be stuck there forever? Does Ava feel emotions? Wow. What a film.

      Synecdoche, New York just really threw me around. Like, in one part of the movie, a newspaper says it's October 17, then a couple minutes later, it's the same day (at least it seems like that), but it's October 20. Wow.

      Seeing Hail, Caesar tomorrow morning. Can't wait. Looks awesome.

      I haven't seen Jaws. I know, I've missed out. There's a lot of great movies I need to watch. Thankfully, mid-winter break is coming up soon for me, & that will give me time to watch Jaws.

  2. I have not seen most of these films except for Jaws which I still think is a great movie and scary

  3. I’ve been wanting to catch Irrational Man but it hasn’t worked its way up in my queue yet. Woody’s a variable director for me but I often find that I like some of his films which are not highly thought of such as Cassandra’s Dream and Alice and absolutely hate venerated ones like Annie Hall and Manhattan so I’m curious to see where this will land.

    Burnt looked completely missable, it seemed like a retread of Bradley’s TV show Kitchen Confidential which I liked but this doesn’t sound like it even measures up to that since he was appealing there.

    I HATED Sugarland Express so much!!! After a while I tried to look at it analytically to see if I could at least walk away from it with some appreciation of Spielberg’s direction but nope it was just an annoyingly awful movie about a couple of idiots who I cared nothing about. Jaws on the other hand is a wonderfully constructed thriller which once I saw it, many years after its release, I was kicking myself retroactively for refusing to see in the theatre.

    No Something Evil? Did you decide to wait to see if you could find a better copy than the one on YouTube?

    1. Variable is a good word to describe Woody. At the rate he pops them out, they just aren't all good. I took a course on his films in college and really got into his work. I love seeing how he plays on his favorite themes with each new film. Annie Hall is a classic, man! Can't imagine why "hate" it. Manhattan is a bit overrated for me, but I still really like it.

      Burnt is just dead in the water. Stay away.

      Yeah. Idiots. You said it on Sugarland. It just doesn't work.

      I probably won't find a better version, so I will end up doing the YouTube version. I'm putting it off for the time being but will do it sooner or later.

  4. I saw a ton of films this week, I wish I could say that they were all wonderful but the majority weren’t and two are among the worst films I’ve ever seen!

    First of all I completed the filmography of one of actresses of my list, Joanne Woodward! I finally caught up with the overheated soap opera that she made just before winning the Oscar called No Down Payment. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t too bad either, a VERY 50’s look at the then new development of the suburbs and the mix of people it brought together. It had an eclectic cast, the most surprising being Tony Randall as a glad-handing lush.

    I also ended up seeing The Idol, the final film that I hadn’t seen of Jennifer Jones, an actress I don’t like. Why have I seen all her films then, you ask? Her second husband was David O. Selznick, she deserted her first husband, actor Robert Walker, for him which broke Walker’s spirit and sent him into a downward spiral leading to his death at 32, and Selznick was determined to make her a great star. The result…all but a few of her films are top flight productions which I’ve watched for the other better aspects they offer beside her wooden performances. This one wasn’t a Selznick film but I had heard it wasn’t bad, it’s also extremely rare so when I happened upon it I took a chance. It was okay, once was enough, and Jones was actually less mechanical than usual. I do love her in her last picture, The Towering Inferno, but then I love everything about that film.

    As for the other films I saw let’s start with the best of the bunch: Ivy with Joan Fontaine, a Victorian crime drama with noir-ish overtones. The story and the acting were solid but what made it really stand out was the production design by William Cameron Menzies. Almost every shot was like a painting. It was really amazing. There was another excellent noir called Phantom Lady and an interesting low budget paranoid thriller with a Cold War twist called The Whip Hand. Also I was able to track down Clara Bow’s final film Hoop-La, a wild pre-code where she plays a hula dancer in a circus redeemed by love while wearing the skimpiest of costumes!

    Aside from Joanne Woodward I wasn’t able to knock anything else off my list but I did take advantage of a TCM showing of a series of films starring Jean Muir, a minor 30’s star even I wasn’t familiar with, but it turned out not to be a fruitful experiment. I watched six of her movies and turns out I’m not a fan, she’s pallid and unmemorable. The upside: one film had Ann Dvorak and another Warren William in the cast…performers I do like. I fit in three John Derek films too: The Outcast, Nightmare in the Sun (with a cameo by Sammy Davis Jr. as a truck driver!) and Ambush at Tomahawk Gap.

    The rest were a sorry lot:
    Pawn Sacrifice (Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fisher, I was looking forward to this and it was dreadfully dull)
    Gloria (Sharon Stone) A terrible, unnecessary remake of the great Gena Rowlands/John Cassavetes 80’s film of the same name, which if you haven’t seen is completely worth watching.
    The Ambassador (so good on paper-Robert Mitchum, Ellen Burstyn and Rock Hudson in a political thriller. It was flat and unfocused)
    Murieta (Jeffrey Hunter-who was also in No Down Payment)

    And finally the worst of the worst:
    Cat-Women of the Moon & Monster A-Go Go-I can’t even begin to describe how truly, jaw droppingly unbelievably atrocious these films were. Cat-Women was ludicrous low budget 50’s sci-fi but at least had professional actors and primitive effects but Monster was like an AV project that someone released as a joke. I may truly be the most amateurish thing I’ve ever seen.

    Good lord but I have gone on, sorry! But I’m all in for Hail Caesar this weekend.

    1. Glad you got to strike a few off your list. Woodward is a name I know, but I'm not sure I've seen any of her films. It's funny about Jennifer Jones. I haven't heard of her, but what some men will do for their women! Right? Ivy sounds great. Really need to look into that one.

      You dig so deep, man. I love statements like, "Jean Muir, a minor 30's star even I wasn't familiar with.." I haven't heard of John Derek. Need to look into him as well. Those titles sound enticing.

      I gave Pawn Sacrifice a second though but ended up skipping it after the lukewarm reception. I'm fascinated by Fisher's story though, so I may still go for it.

      I'm quite sure titles like Cat-Women of the Moon and Monster A-Go-Go have a certain appeal. Too bad they weren't even so bad they're good. That CAN happen.

      I'm seeing Hail Caesar Saturday night. My wife and I are going with another couple. Really excited for it.

    2. For someone who worked in Golden Age Hollywood Joanne Woodward is probably more contemporary than most, partially through her long marriage to Paul Newman, they made several films together and he directed her in a few, and the fact that she keep active, mostly in television, until about ten years ago. She's still living but sadly has been ravaged by Alzheimer's and last I've read isn't doing well. If you haven't seen any of her films I'd recommend The Long Hot Summer, Rachel, Rachel, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (the first co-starring Newman the second two directed by him), The Fugitive Kind (a bizarre drama with Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani) and her Oscar winning turn in The Three Faces of Eve.

      John Derek was a minor 50's star. His best known role is probably Joshua, Moses's right hand man in The Ten Commandments. He was also famous for his string of wives, Ursula Andress, Linda Evans and Bo Derek, whose careers he managed while he was married to them, to the detriment of the first two but he made a star out of Bo Derek after she made a splash in 10.

      That so bad they're good thing was what I was hoping for when I started Cat-Women and Monster A Go-Go but I was sorely disappointed on that front!

    3. Thanks for the Woodward suggestions.

  5. My theater got Anomolisa but the show times are awful. I don't think I'll get a chance to see it.

    I love Jaws, but I think I love Jaws 2 even more.

    1. Anomalisa will work on Blu-Ray. I plan on giving it another go when it comes out.

      I need to see Jaws 2. Still haven't seen it, but I can't imagine it's better what with the lack of Spielberg and Robert Shaw.