Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up


Happy New Year’s Eve!

11 films vie for my top ten of 2012 (not a lot of suspense!), which I’ll announce tomorrow. I didn't think it was a particularly good movie year, especially disappointing were the year-enders. I had just 24 films on my must see/ recommended lists.

As always, I’ve viewed 60 films this year (plus two 3-D re-releases); below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must see [11]

1. Dark Knight Rises, The. The "Lawrence of Arabia" of comic book movies.

2. Django Unchained. Although it has serious themes, just a lark really, but its tapping of a generally avoided period of American history and Tarantino's knack for crowd-pleasing brings it to the winner's circle level.

3. Frankenweenie. Its self-consciousness actually works in its favor.

4. Moonrise Kingdom. Irresistibly cute, with nice summer outdoorsy flavor.

5. Prometheus. Yes, it's B-movieish plotwise, but it's an exciting ride (cool in 3-D), with strong performances by its leading ladies: Charlize Theron and especially Noomi Rapace.

6. Raid: Redemption, The. Worthy.

7. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Quietly original.

8. Sessions, The. Romantic, moving.

9. Silver Linings Playbook. Unusual, contemporary, a lot of screaming, great ensemble acting.

10. Twilight Saga, The: Breaking Dawn, Part 2. Surprisingly effective finale on several levels (including its own self-awareness/ potential camp nature) that leaves you with a high school graduation feeling.

11. Zero Dark Thirty. Solid docudrama with fine ensemble.

Recommended [13]

1. 2 Days in New York. An above-average quota of laughs puts this little bon-bon over the top.

2. Amour. Not enough coeur.

3. Argo. Good story and period detail.

4. Avengers, The. Iron Man/Stark and Hulk/Banner have the best moments in a movie that admittedly doesn't go beyond popcorn.

5. Flight. Well-executed morality piece, hampered by a sugary aftertaste.

6. Grey, The. An unsatisfying downer, but somewhere in there had something to say that stays with you.

7. Haywire. Great January genre piece with each member of the cast contributing.

8. Hitchcock. Smart, intimate.

9. Hunger Games, The. Close-up heavy and action light, still a worthy adaptation: a B+ movie of an A- book.

10. Lincoln. Well-produced history lesson with solid work by Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field.

11. Looper. Well-imagined time travel piece has a good message.

12. Skyfall. Literate Bond adventure is a truer series reboot, as well as delivering one of the more dramatic entries to the canon.

13. Snow White and the Huntsman. Creates a complete world but has an episodic narrative that holds it back.

Skippable [35]

1. 21 Jump Street. Third act was an absolute calamity.

2. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Simplistic.

3. Amazing Spider-Man, The. Garfield surprisingly effective, but this is a slow-moving, cornily-scored movie we've already seen.

4. American Reunion. R-rated "Return to Mayberry."

5. Battleship. Corny, but alright.

6. Beasts of the Southern Wild. The narrative is just far too obscure.

7. Bernie Took until the last third before you knew what it was all about; this needs documentary treatment.

8. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The. Lovely, pleasant.

9. Brave. Unusual story is handled well but has an also-ran quality alongside Pixar's greats.

10. Cabin in the Woods, The. Unfortunately another glorified "Twilight Zone" episode dragged out to feature length.

11. Campaign, The. Repetitious but amusing enough for fans of the stars.

12. Chronicle. Makes-no-sense silliness, with a big, splashy ending nonetheless.

13. Dark Shadows. Doesn't pull it off.

14. Dictator, The. Half-baked.

15. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Only gets going after its (heavy handed) message becomes clear; many corny songs.

16. End of Watch. Dramatically sound, but doesn't offer much "take-away."

17. Hope Springs. You saw the trailer, right?

18. Impossible, The. Straightforward but well-done.

19. Jeff Who Lives at Home. Pleasant enough, but a little too small, and has a muddled message.

20. Les Miserables. Technically fine musical epic translates emotion through close-ups and pronouncements that may turn off a viewer not imminently attuned to them.

21. Life of Pi. Ambitious, but light on dramatic highlights.

22. Master, The. Gets tiresome; Joaquin Phoenix is uncannily Montgomery Clift-like.

23. Men in Black III. Not bad.

24. ParaNorman. Great animation, but has a weak story and a drawn-out conclusion.

25. Perks of Being a Wallflower, The. Seemed forced.

26. Safety Not Guaranteed. Sweet little indie that has a goofy ending.

27. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Hallmark-y, but trio of stars— Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, and Kristin Scott Thomas— shine brightly.

28. Seven Psychopaths. Nice L.A. atmosphere, but screenwritery.

29. Star Wars: Epsiode I 3-D: I really wanted to like it, but it was deja vu all over again.

30. Ted. A guilty-pleasure at best.

31. Three Stooges, The. Leads good, but the only real inspiration was Larry David as a nun.

32. Titanic 3-D. The 3-D adds nothing; the movie, however has aged well.

33. Total Recall. Passable Hollywood entertainment.

34. Wreck-It Ralph. Although above par, it has that contemporary animated movie sameness.

35. Your Sister's Sister. More appropriate for the stage, but good, particularly nice work by Mark Duplass.

Avoid [3]

1. Holy Motors. The emperor has no clothes.

2. Take This Waltz. Like living it, but who wants to?

3. To Rome with Love. None of the melange of stories can sustain its length.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Spook" in Film Registry: "You really want to mess with Whitey? I can show you how."


The newly listed film in the National Film Registry, The Spook Who Sat By the Door, can be watched in full on YouTube.  Given just * 1/2 stars by the Leonard Maltin Guide, this film has gradually gained a reputation so as to be considered one of the best of the blaxploitation genre.  Its quite interesting, particularly as a time capsule, and easily worth your time. The kind of film that needed the passage of 40 years' time to become a classic. The film is posted twice (in full), here's one of the links.

National Film Registry Announced 2012


The list is out (earlier than usual) and like last year, it's pretty good, but not particularly good. And, unlike last year, they didn't pick any Oscar Best Picture winners, which puts them behind again.  For bad or for worse, every American film that has won Best Picture needs to be on there. I mean, what's the holdup on, you know, TITANIC?

There were, however, several quite deserving "biggies" that made it: BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, DIRTY HARRY, and THE MATRIX among them.

Just one of my picks made it-- A CHRISTMAS STORY.  My #1 pick several years running, BLUE VELVET, has not made it again!

Link to Los Angeles Times article.

Link to Hollywood Reporter article.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Picks for the National Film Registry 2012


Happy Thanksgiving!

If it's Thanksgiving I'm contemplating my e-mail "voting" to the Nat'l Film Registry (for NEXT year), they close their polling in the fall; I vote right after the new year. But on Thanksgiving for this blog I reveal my picks for this year below. We'll see how many of mine they pick.

In one month, the Library of Congress will announce the next 25 films to be added to the National Film Registry. Last year's list spanned the years 1912-1994, and included: The Kid (1921), Bambi (1942), Faces (1968), Norma Rae (1979), and Forrest Gump (1994).   Also included were the usual selection of obscurer, but no-less-deserving picks such as the avant garde film Allures (1961) by Jordan Belson.  A link to the Hollywood Reporter article from last year can be found here; I was mixed on the selections last year (although I was happy they caught up on three Oscar-winning Best Pictures: in addition to Gump, were The Lost Weekend and The Silence of the Lambs)... I hope they chose better this year.

The National Film Registry started in 1989, and there are currently 575 films on the list.  Although the obscure films and historically important documentaries fulfill the mandate of the Registry, there does seem to be a movement to include those fictional feature films that are great films (more of a Sight and Sound approach) or cult films (such as new selection El Mariachi) and not just historically or culturally important ones (there are still many Oscar-winning Best Pictures not on the list, for example).

Below are my picks for what should be added to this year's list (I only do the narrative feature films: I'll let the Library of Congress decide on the obscure works).  To me, the film that most needs to be added above all (my choice for three years running!) is Blue Velvet.  Last year just one of my picks made the list: Bambi (1942), at long last. 

My choices for this go-round, by year:

1910s-20s-30s (3 titles)
A Tale of Two Cities (1917)
The Sheik (1921)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

1940s (5 titles)
The Little Foxes (1941)
Lifeboat (1944)
To Have and Have Not (1944)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

1950s (10 titles)
Harvey (1950)
The Red Badge Of Courage (1951)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Limelight (1952)
The Quiet Man (1952)
Stalag 17 (1953)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
The Killing (1956)
The King and I (1956)
Auntie Mame (1958)

1960s (10 titles)
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
101 Dalmatians (1961)
Lolita (1962)
The Birds (1963)
The Great Escape (1963)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
The Naked Kiss (1964)
Seconds (1966)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

1970s (10 titles)
Love Story (1970)
Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three (1974)
The Sunshine Boys (1975)
The Front (1976)
Grease (1978)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)

1980s (10 titles)
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
Arthur (1981)
The World According to Garp (1982)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Aliens (1986)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Wall Street (1987)
Die Hard (1988)

1990s (2 titles)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Titanic (1997)

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Top Ten Greatest Moments from the James Bond Films~ "Skyfall" Opens Today in the US

From the 250 greatest moments I've listed these past weeks, from Climax!: "Casino Royale" (1954) to Quantum of Solace (2008), here's my ranking of the top ten greatest moments from all of the James Bond films. What's your favorite James Bond movie moment?

TOP TEN GREATEST 007 MOVIE MOMENTS

10. From On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969): Bond reacts to the loss of Tracy.


9. From Licence to Kill (1989): Cornered and deprived of his oxygen, 007 harpoons the departing plane and escapes the enemy frogmen.


8. From A View to a Kill (1985): Max Zorin meets his fate.


7. From Moonraker (1979): Bond is pushed out of a plane without a parachute.


6. From For Your Eyes Only (1981): Bond sends Locque over the edge.


5. From GoldenEye (1995): Brosnan's best line: "No, no, no— No more foreplay."


4. From Casino Royale (2006): "Now the whole world's gonna know that you died scratching my balls."


3. From Goldfinger (1964): Bond discovers Jill Masterson's body.


2. From The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): The climax of the pre-title sequence.


1. From Dr. No (1962): Sean Connery inaugurates the self-introduction: "Bond, James Bond."


Thursday, November 8, 2012

The 10 Best Moments from Quantum of Solace (2008): Countdown to Skyfall— Nov. 9th!


Spoilers, of course. Although at times I've been purposefully oblique: if you're a fan, you'll get the references.

Here's my list of the top ten best moments from Quantum of Solace. I've tried to pick actual individual moments rather than sequences. What are your favorite moments?

10. The henchman's car is sent spinning off the road and down the cliff in the pre-title sequence.

9. "Florists use that expression. It doesn't mean that they've got somebody working for them inside the bloody room."

8. Bond and Camille escape the inferno.

7. Bond holds down would-be-Camille-assassin Slate and administers the coup de grace, looking around to see if they've caused a commotion.

6. Dominic Greene puts General Medrano in his place, forcing him to sign the contract.

5. Bond tells the syndicate they should find a better place to meet.

4. Bond barely gets to Camille in time to open the parachute.

TOP THREE

3. Bond smacks down the agents taking him in.


2. Dominic Greene accidentally wields the axe into his own foot.


1. Bond is shown Fields' oil-covered corpse.


Quantum of Solace was one of the most poorly received of the Bond films, mainly, it seems, because it strayed too far from the formula.  I accepted it as a one-time deal.  It's time now to get back to basics with Skyfall: gun barrel logo at the front, gadgets, stunts, a larger-than-life villain, and what about a vodka martini shaken not stirred after that chaser of Heineken?

For good measure, what I think is the worst moment from Quantum of Solace: Bond leaving Dominic Greene to be taken care of by his own people: it's never satisfying to have the main villain not killed by Bond himself.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The 10 Best Moments from Casino Royale (2006): Countdown to Skyfall— Nov. 9th!


Spoilers, of course. Although at times I've been purposefully oblique: if you're a fan, you'll get the references.

Here's my list of the top ten best moments from Casino Royale. I've tried to pick actual individual moments rather than sequences. What are your favorite moments?

10. Bond crashes through the drywall chasing the parkour-employing bomb maker.

9. "You've got a bloody cheek."

8. "James Bond. You'll find the reservation under Beech."

7. Bond asks Dimitrios for his valet ticket.

6. Vesper dashes out of the way of the henchman's machete on the stairwell, when Bond knocks it from his hand.

5. Bond shoots the bombmaker and blows up the embassy.

4. On the runway, Bond jumps from the truck and only just clears the oncoming service vehicle.

TOP THREE

3. The bomber realizes his mistake.


2. Bond sees Vesper laid across the road and reacts (a brilliant switch-up from the novel).


1. "Now the whole world's gonna know that you died scratching my balls."


For good measure, what I think is the worst moment from Casino Royale: Vesper, appearing several seconds later, miraculously knows that the lead has fallen from Bond's Q-branch heart device, and reinserts it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The 10 Best Moments from Die Another Day (2002): Countdown to Skyfall— Nov. 9th!


Spoilers, of course. Although at times I've been purposefully oblique: if you're a fan, you'll get the references.

Here's my list of the top ten best moments from Die Another Day. I've tried to pick actual individual moments rather than sequences. What are your favorite moments?

10. 007 uses the Thunderball-like minibreather.

9. To arouse Zao, Bond squeezes his IV bag.

8. Bond uses the ultra-high frequency agitator ring.

7. 007 is "saved by the bell," in the pre-title sequence.

6. Announcing: "I'm checking out... thanks for the kiss of life," Bond goes rogue.

5. Bond pulls Graves' parachute cord (ultimately) sending him into the plane's engine.

4. Bond and Jinx escape in the helicopter, mid-air.

TOP THREE

3. Bond uses the ejector seat to right his Aston Martin.


2. Soaked from head to toe, Bond casually checks into the hotel in Hong Kong.


1. Jinx emerges from the sea.


For good measure, what I think is the worst moment from Die Another Day: Hands down the outrageous wave-riding that Bond does after his narrow escape from the Icarus laser.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The 10 Best Moments from The World Is Not Enough (1999): Countdown to Skyfall— Nov. 9th!


Spoilers, of course. Although at times I've been purposefully oblique: if you're a fan, you'll get the references.

Here's my list of the top ten best moments from The World Is Not Enough. I've tried to pick actual individual moments rather than sequences. What are your favorite moments?

10. Can't you just say 'hello' like a normal person?

9. Bond pulls the henchman's knife out (that he's seen through his x-ray glasses) and pins him to the bar.

8. Renard points to the bomb.

7. Bond, in a rare moment, is injured, and dangles from the ropes as the titles begin.

6. Bond tells Renard that Elektra's dead.

5. Bond adjusts his tie under water.

4. 007 uses his watch gadget to soar upward, jumps through the closing door in the mine, somersaults, and picks off one of Renard's men.

TOP THREE

3. Elektra tightens the screws on the torture chair ("one last screw").


2. Bond jumps from the Swiss banker's office in the pre-title sequence.


1. Bond shoots Elektra ("I never miss").


The World Is Not Enough has gotten slightly better with age, mostly due to Sophie Marceau's contribution and a slam-bang pre-title sequence (smartly lengthened by the filmmakers to go through the boat chase), if it's still one of the weakest Bond entries overall.

For good measure, what I think is the worst moment from The World Is Not Enough: I never liked how foolish M looks at various points of this movie and Q's lowering himself out of frame rather than rising up, but my vote for the worst moment is the naming of a Bond girl "Christmas" for the sake of a lame 12-year-old level double entendre.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The 10 Best Moments from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): Countdown to Skyfall— Nov. 9th!


Spoilers, of course. Although at times I've been purposefully oblique: if you're a fan, you'll get the references.

Here's my list of the top ten best moments from Tomorrow Never Dies. I've tried to pick actual individual moments rather than sequences. What are your favorite moments?

10. In the pre-title sequence, Bond ejects his "back seat driver" from the jet.

9. Bond knocks the $300 million satellite over at the newspaper.

8. 007 sends the remote control car right toward himself and Q.

7. The guard in the soundproof booth doesn't become aware that a fight has broken out, until a henchman goes through the glass partition.

6. Gupta "outlives his contract."

5. Bond and Wai Lin ride Carver's banner.

4. Bond drops the missile on Stamper's foot, trapping him.

TOP THREE

3. Bond/ Wai Lin jump the motorcycle over the helicopter and into the house of ill repute.


2. Dr. Kaufman is embarrassed to ask Bond how to open his car.


1. Bond jumps in the back seat of the BMW and continues to drive it remotely.


Tomorrow Never Dies isn't bad, but one of the blandest entries in the series, it's the one of seen the fewest amount of times.

For good measure, what I think is the worst moment from Tomorrow Never Dies: Bond sends the security guard at the newspaper into the press and to his death, was this necessary after Bond had broken the man's arm and immobilized him?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The 10 Best Moments from GoldenEye (1995): Countdown to Skyfall— Nov. 9th!


Spoilers, of course. Although at times I've been purposefully oblique: if you're a fan, you'll get the references.

Here's my list of the top ten best moments from GoldenEye. I've tried to pick actual individual moments rather than sequences. What are your favorite moments?

10. The squeaky wheel on the cart Bond uses for protection punctuates the tension in the pre-title sequence.

9. The expression on the corpse of Onatopp's victim, Admiral Farrel.

8. 006 comes out of the shadows.

7. M asserts her authority on 007, calling him a "relic of the Cold War."

6. Boris, it turns out, is not invincible.

5. Onatopp thrills at the idea of the tank on the tracks: "He's going to derail us!"

4. "For England, James?" "No— for me."

TOP THREE

3. Bond smashes through the wall in the tank.


2. Bond rides the motorcycle off the edge of the cliff and freefalls toward the plane.


1. Brosnan's best line: "No, no, no— No more foreplay."


GoldenEye re-established the franchise brilliantly after its longest gap between films, and Pierce Brosnan emerged as a Bond to be reckoned with.

For good measure, what I think is the worst moment from GoldenEye: Bond escapes the helicopter by way of the ejector seat— an escape already done by John McClane in Die Hard 2 (1990): bugged me then, and bugs me now.