Movie Reviews

Mini Mini-Reviews #2

omega man

 

“The Omega Man” (1971) – More or less, it’s a lame version of “The Last Man on Earth,” that exchanges all of its subtlety and tension for over the top goofiness and really poor effects. Grade: D+

 

“Moonstruck” (1987) – A very heartwarming romance with one of the more honest performances out of Nicholas Cage, while also proving how multi-talented Cher can be. Grade: B

 

“Cleopatra” (1963) – This should be the dictionary definition of extravagant and box office failure. The history behind “Cleopatra” is far more interesting than the movie itself, though that might be due to the four-and-a-half hour runtime. I wouldn’t have nearly as much problems with the film if it wasn’t the longest film I’ve ever watched and nothing about the film justifies that runtime. Grade: C

 

“The Death of Stalin” (2017) – A nice palette cleanser after “Cleopatra,” “The Death of Stalin” feels like the Russian equivalent of “Dr. Strangelove” focusing on incompetent idiots having to deal with problems they were never prepared for. Great dialogue, wonderful performances, and a hilarious pace that never lets up. Grade: B+

 

“Cornered” (1945) – A man travels to Argentina to find the Nazi who killed his wife, and the film utlimately becomes more about stopping that same Nazi from controlling some crime syndicate or something. It started out great and Dick Powell’s performance really captures the grief and pain he’s going through, but somewhere along the way the film loses its focus. Grade: C+

 

scoob

 

“Scoob!” (2020) – One of the best children’s movies in the last year, “Scoob!” is colorful, funny, loyal to the source material, and most importantly, fun. It takes Scooby-Doo to a more personal level than he’s ever been while still having a great sense of humor about it all. The opening is touching and the ensuing sequence where they remake one of the classic Scooby-Doo moments is great to see. Even though it’s aimed for little kids, there’s enough here for older fans of Scooby to enjoy this movie. Grade: B

 

“A Ghost Story” (2017) – Is it cliche to call this film haunting? One benefit I’ll give “A Ghost Story” is that, in the case of other thought-provoking indie films like “Under the Skin” I’d normally be bored out of my mind with so little happening in the film and even less pontificating. And while there are some annoyingly slow or nonsensical moments in “A Ghost Story,” the film really does drive home how distant, cold and worrisome death can be. It certainly has some bizarre artistic choices, but those choices do lead to a point that makes the whole piece worth it. Grade: C+

 

“Candyman” (1992) – This is a supernatural horror film way ahead of its time. Much like “The Twilight Zone,” “Candyman” uses myths and legends to talk about issues that plague society, and especially societies that often get unheard, especially in the 1990s. Wonderful writing, spectacular performances, some impressive cinematography, and horrifying effects, this one shows why the myth of Candyman has stuck with us for so long. Grade: A-

 

“I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” (1932) – For 1932, this film is as politically charged and controversial as Hollywood could be, taking a long, hard look at the dehumanization of the criminal justice system and how it defines those who have been in it. This film is brutally honest and horrifying for its time, but surprisingly thrilling, especially due to Paul Muni’s gripping performance as a man caught up in the mechanisms of a corrupt and petty form of justice, and how that changes him from the inside out. Grade: A+

 

“Horse Feathers” (1932) – Not the best Marx brothers comedy, but this one is certainly worth watching if only for the climatic football game where the brothers go all out. At times, it feels like a cartoon in how energetic and absurd they get. Grade: C+

 

gattaca

 

“Gattaca” (1997) – A thought-provoking piece of speculative fiction, “Gattaca” explores every aspect of how humanity would change if we went all in on the genetic manipulation, both the good and the bad, especially how that would make the best of us possible but also create a new form of descrimination against those who didn’t have their genetics changed. It’s an effective triumphant story, sold by Ethan Hawke’s emotional performance, with some eye-opening world building. Grade: B+

 

“The Yearling” (1946) – This is your standard, run-of-the-mill boy and his dog story, except that it’s a baby deer instead of a dog, complete with a coming-of-age story about the boy fighting for his home and growing up a little faster than expected. The best part is certainly the boy’s father, played by Gregory Peck, who has the same likable charm we’ve come to admire from him in works like “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Roman Holiday.” Grade: C

 

“Murder by Contract” (1958) – This is a barebones film noir about a hitman with a strict code that he adheres to, with a strange sense of superiority that gives him a rather cool edge. Aside from a memorable soundtrack and the coolness of the main character, this is your basic film noir. Grade: C+

 

“Da 5 Bloods” (2020) – Describing “Da 5 Bloods” as a strange mix of “Do the Right Thing,” “Apocalypse Now” and “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” would not do this film justice. Much like all of Spike Lee’s best work, this film captures a great pain that is timeless in its relevance, in this case the mistreatment of black soldiers during the Vietnam War and how situations have not improved much since then. Most of this is sold through the tortured performance of Delroy Lindo, a man teetering on the edge of clarity and insanity, and a brilliant fusion of Fred C. Dobbs and Colonel Kurtz. It is eye-opening, impactful, thrilling, visually stunning, and it is Spike Lee in his element. Grade: A

 

“Underworld U.S.A.” (1961) – If “Mildred Pierce” is the perfect Mother’s Day film noir, then “Underworld U.S.A.” is the perfect Father’s Day noir, about how far one man will go to avenge his old man. What really hits home is that, while we never get to see the father alive, we see just how much he impacts our protagonist (Cliff Robertson) in his day-to-day life, making this a tribute to how much a father influences his son’s life in invisible ways. Grade: B

 

san francisco

 

“San Francisco” (1936) – Aside from the spectacularly executed earthquake special effects and model use that followed that scene, nothing too extraordinary about “San Francisco.” Other than wanting to slap Clark Cable for being the most insensitive, smug, selfish prick on the planet, and that apparently D.W. Griffith co-directed it, which would probably explain why the film wants us to sympathize with the most unlikable man on the planet. Grade: C

 

“Tokyo Godfathers” (2003) – “San Francisco” could have learned a thing or two from this movie about taking characters that should be unlikable or despised and giving them dimensions, trauma and redemption. Everything about this movie flows together so perfectly, especially the broken homeless family healing each other through actions even they didn’t know they had in themselves. Grade: A-

 

“A Matter of Life and Death” (1946) – The best way I can describe “A Matter of Life and Death” is as a reverse “Wizard of Oz,” where real life is filled with bright technicolor and new opportunities to explore and love, and the fantastical is shot in black-and-white and is shown to be a dreary, monotonous bureaucracy. If you enjoy “Wizard of Oz,” you should definitely give this one a try. Grade: A-

 

“The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” (1962) – Certainly the most angsty, rebellious British film I’ve ever seen. It shows a darker, more honest look at the impoverished side of Britain and the hardships that those people carry. Grade: C+

 

“I was a Male War Bride” (1949) – One of the better examples of a love-hate relationship I’ve seen in Hollywood movies, where both partners (played by Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan) constantly try to one-up each other in the most showoff-y way possible, which gets on the other’s nerves, while always going out of their way to help the other whenever possible. It is odd that the titular plot of the film, about Cary Grant having to pose as a war bride, only comes in the last 40 minutes, but this light screwball comedy still works throughout. Grade: B

 

chariots of fire

 

“Chariots of Fire” (1981) – On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from “Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” this film is all about proper Englishmen and devotion to that prim and elegant lifestyle above all else. Still, the most interesting thing about “Chariots of Fire” was the soundtrack, mostly because the electronic 80s music feels so strange when used for a film set in the 1920s. Grade: B-

 

“Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” (1956) – What pushes this film above other 1950s sci-fi movies is a few things. Ray Harryhausen’s effects work on the flying saucers breathes new life into something we often take for granted now, the final battle on Washington D.C. still holds up surprisingly well, especially when combined with other effects that aren’t stop motion, and the romance between the two leads (Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor) is charming and never overbearing, making the two leads some of the more likable protagonists in any 1950s sci-fi movie. Grade: B

 

“The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958) – Going in, I thought the only thing of note was going to be Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion effects, but there are a few other stand out things about this epic fantasy. Namely, Bernard Herrmann’s score is as good as any of his music for Hitchcock’s films, atmospheric and adds a new sense of scope to the many monsters Sinbad must defeat. Still, the Harryhausen’s effects steal the show and take on a life of their own, especially with so many different monsters here, such as a two-headed bird, multiple cyclops, a swash-buckling skeleton, and a fire-breathing dragon. Grade: B
“OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies” (2006) – To be a truly great parody, you have to love what you’re parodying. “Cairo, Nest of Spies” might be the best parody since “Airplane!” because it doesn’t just nail the aesthetic, camera techniques, green screen effects and fight choreography of the James Bond movies, but the views and attitudes of the time period too, putting Bond’s gross misogynistic and insensitive views on full display to show just how out of date they are, without having the dimwitted, backwards spy who doesn’t know any better come across as unlikable. This spy parody blows all of the Austin Powers movies out of the water. Grade: A

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s