Thursday, April 14, 2005

Films Seen on Video in 2005

Believe it or not, I don't see every film released in theaters. Some I just miss out on because there isn't time; others I just have no desire to see--Christmas with the Kranks, that means you. I will also include any older films that I have never seen until this year. Herewith are the films I caught up with on video in 2005. Keep an eye out for updates as the year progresses.

New to this Posting: Sword of Doom (**1/2), Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid (*)
Coming soon: Judgment at Nuremburg

  1. Blow Out (***1/2) A terrific thriller. Brilliantly directed by Brian DePalma, it's a stylish and often funny film, and it features one of the better performances in John Travolta's career. It's a shame I was so late to the party on this one. The title's a bit offputting, but the movie's pure joy for film lovers.
  2. 12 Angry Men (***1/2) Taut and terrific little character drama. While overly theatrical at times, the movie is so focused and well-acted, and it moves along at a great clip, that you can't really complain. Henry Fonda anchors the movie, and gives a finely tuned, subtle performance.
  3. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (***) A classic Western. Great performance by Clint Eastwood, superb direction by Sergio Leone, and one of the most memorable and evocative scores of all time.
  4. Dressed to Kill (***) Thrilling and exciting take off on Hitchcock's Psycho. The plot's a bit silly (especially by today's standards), but director De Palma carries things off stylishly and stages an amazing seduction scene in an art museum. Good, kinky fun.
  5. Irreversible (***) I don't know if I would recommend this movie to anyone. It is one of the most vile movies I've ever seen. Yet, the director certainly has a vision and he puts you through something truly visceral. The first 24 minutes are incredibly scary and unsettling.
  6. Maria Full of Grace (***) Throws you into situations that you've never seen on film before, and would never want to go through in real life. Intense and interesting. Worth renting.
  7. Leaving Las Vegas (***) Excellent performances by Nic Cage and Elisabeth Shue, but the story left me wanting more. I wanted a bit more backstory on Cage's drunk, and I found Shue to be a little too pretty for the role of a trashy hooker, but that's getting a little too nitpicky.
  8. The Motorcycle Diaries (***) Beautifully shot with great locations throughout. It's gorgeous to look at. And athough the events that shape young Che Guevara do not satisfyingly add up and foreshadow the violent revolutionary he would later become, I don't think that's what the filmmakers were after. A good story; just not the great one it could have been.
  9. The Magnificent Seven (***) Successful Western remake of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. The cast is wonderful: Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn are among the standouts. Bonus: Elmer Bernstein's fabulous score, one of the best of its kind.
  10. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (***) A great documentary that's not just for Metallica fans. Its themes are pretty universal to any musical group: how do you stay relevant and sane in a business full of up and comers, egos, booze, and drugs? Seeing Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield hash out their issues in group therapy makes for great cinema.
  11. Sword of Doom (**1/2) Exciting and explosively violent at times, and slow and uninvolving at others. Notable for its abrupt freeze frame ending, just when the movie is about to go into full "one man takes on a whole army" mode. Beautiful cinematography though.
  12. Veronica Guerin (**1/2) Tackles an important true story a little too easily. Makes everyone except Cate Blanchett into two-dimensional characters. Gives away her death at the very beginning thereby removing any of the suspense it works so hard to create the rest of the way through. Good story though--sad and inspiring.
  13. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (**1/2) Great visuals and interesting brothers-at-war with each other dynamic, but this is clearly just a Korean rehash-ripoff of Saving Private Ryan. If you like war movies, its worth checking out. Otherwise, skip it and see Private Ryan again and revel in Spielberg's technical and groundbreaking mastery.
  14. The Sound of Music (**1/2) Nice family musical. The movie is overly long, perhaps because none of the songs, though very hummable, further the story at all. A nazi chase subplot seems tacked on (and out of place) at the end. Julie Andrews is delightful though.
  15. Body Double (**1/2) The first half of this movie is an effective, if derivative, spin on Vertigo and Rear Window. As the film lurches towards solving its mystery though, it loses its focus and tries way too hard to throw a porn subplot into the mix. Not De Palma's finest.
  16. Swimming Pool (**1/2) More effective as a character piece than a thriller. It loses momentum and coherence as it builds towards a "suspensful" and "shocking" ending. Unfortunately, said ending is neither suspensful nor shocking. Its too bad I didn't like this more than I did...I was all excited to use the phrase "Dive In!"
  17. Raising Cain (**) One great tracking shot and a campy John Lithgow performance do not make a good film. This one is just a rehash of everything DePalma's done already.
  18. She Hate Me (**) Spike Lee clearly has a lot to say, but he doesn't know how to say it in a way that adds up to anything satisfying or coherent. The film works best as a commentary on the business world and Enron-type scandals.
  19. Candyman (**) I enjoyed this creepfest for a while, but then it did this whole "its all in her head" twist in the middle and went downhill from there. A pretty racist film if you ask me...
  20. The Verdict (**) Paul Newman is excellent, but the movie is chock full of legal absurdities and it moves at a snail's pace. David Mamet wrote the screenplay, but it seems to be watered-down Mamet. A surprising Best Picture nominee in 1982, this one doesn't really stand the test of time.
  21. New York, New York (**) Punishingly long at 2 hrs. and 43 mins. There's a decent film in here somewhere, but Scorsese desperately needed to edit about an hour out of the movie. Picks up steam in the last half hour because it actually becomes a full fledged musical at that point. An unfortunate misfire from a great director.
  22. Phantasm (**) I know this has a cult following, but aside from one cool sequence involving the sphere and lots of blood, and great use of the word, "Boy," I wasn't all that impressed. More surrealistic than scary, and the scary dwarves in hoods are a blatent rip off of the Jawas from Star Wars.
  23. p.s. (*1/2) A worthless exercise in dramedy. Laura Linney and Topher Grace are good, but the story is not engaging, and there are some truly stupid plot developments, especially those involving Gabriel Byrne's and Marcia Gay Harden's characters. A disappointing follow-up to director Dylan Kidd's Rodger Dodger.
  24. Last Tango in Paris (*1/2) Way overrated. Memorable if only for Brando's twisted, "what the hell is he on?", performance and for the way it brought sex to mainstream cinema. The movie never really had me, but it definitely lost me when Brando started dirty talking about f**king a pig. Say what?
  25. Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid (*) Here's a sequel that nobody really asked for. Not as campy as the original, and somehow less fun. The CGI snakes are preposterously bad though, and a monkey runs rampant throughout, seemingly commenting on the situation for no apparently good reason. Crap.


At 8:31 AM, Blogger Jeff said...


I didn't know you rented "Irreversible." As you will remember, Brett and I walked out of that movie at its Chicago premiere at the European Union Film Festival for two reasons (1) Brett was complaining that the beginning sequence with the shaky camera was upsetting his stomach (2) there was some tall European youth sitting right in front of me and he was sitting up as straight as he could. This completely blocked my view of about 40% of the image, including the much needed information provided by the subtitles. Later, I saw it again at the Landmark sans Brett. It was ok. The beginning is a bit over the top. The part where the guys face gets smashed in is absolutely disgusting and stomach turning. It made the explicit rape sequence seem tame by comparison. After the beginning, its a decent Foreign film. Worth seeing. I give it **1/2.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Disagree somewhat on "New York, New York." I liked the beginning of the film the best. When it became a full fleged musical at the end of the film, I was bored and no longer cared.

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've got your head stuck up your ass from trying to lick your own scrotum.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

There's nothing wrong with trying to keep that area clean. Some people prefer washing, others lick their scrotums.

The sabotage enacted by this "anonymous" character on our blogs in the last few days is trememdous.

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Man, I wish had spell-check.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Fuck yeah! Blow Out Rules! It was DePalma's answer to Antonioni's "Blow Up" (1966)- Both involve the change in perspective when one looks closer (as in the photograph "Blow Up") or listens closer (as in the recording "Blow Out"). Hey, that almost sounded like a movie review. Here's another movie review line for Blow Out: "sometimes frightening, sometimes hilarious, sometimes frighteningly hilarious."

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

By the way, I'll lend you the "Dressed to Kill" DVD on Monday when we see "Ring 2."

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Don't agree with you on Phantasm, although I can understand why you weren't blown away. Maybe I just have sentimental memories of watching Phantasm as a youngster.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Body Double (**1/2). Before the words "sexist" or "gratuitous" were invented, there was Body Double. Thank you Brian De Palma for the nudity. Thank you Brian De Palma for the memories. Thank you also for Femme Fatalle. Did you notice that the lead actor looked just like Bill Maher (probably stopped his career dead in its tracks when Maher hit it big, but then again, his acting wasn't very good).

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Jules said...

Sahara his called "Sahara" for goodness sakes. Even the title is dull. I never held out any hope for this one.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

I'd give Sword of Doom ***. It was a bit slow at time but it has enough classic moments for me.


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