Atomic Blonde (2017)

Atomic Blonde (2017) movie poster

director David Leitch
viewed: 04/11/2018

Atomic Blonde fetishizes neon more successfully than it fetishizes the Eighties. Though the soundtrack is heavily retro, the aesthetic is much more a 21st century one.

Charlize Theron kicks a lot of ass and looks great doing it, which is really what this movie is about more than anything.

The end of the Cold War Berlin setting is an interesting choice for a throwback spy flick. But the story doesn’t have much intrigue. I mean, how could the turncoat be anyone other than James McAvoy? He’s not just the only other actor of note but the only character given any development. It’s also kind of funny how Theron towers over him in bare feet or heels.

The highlight is the drawn out stairwell fight scene.

I dug the music and all but by the only tracks truly from the period setting of 1989 were Public Enemy and Ministry. Is that just me being nitpicky?

The Strangler (1964)

The Strangler (1964) movie poster

director  Burt Topper
viewed: 04/09/2018

The Strangler is low-rent Hitchcock with Victor Buono as a serial killer. Director Burt Topper ekes out some nicely shot sequences, and the editing is sharp.

Buono, would’ve made a good John Wayne Gacy, is here a man seething with barely repressed rage at his mouthy and harsh invalid mother (Ellen Corby). He obsesses over dolls, nurses, and young girls at an amusement park. One of which, Diane Sayer, is great as the sassy ring toss girl.

It’s a passable B-picture, relying on some more by the book police procedural and paperback psychology.


The Book of Henry (2017)

The Book of Henry (2017) movie poster

director Colin Trevorrow
viewed: 04/07/2018

How did anybody think this was a good idea for a movie?

The Book of Henry features an 11 year old boy (Jaeden Lieberher) who has more intellect, acuity and emotional intelligence than anyone else in the movie.

He knows more than his mom (Naomi Watts), a nice but shallow single mom waitress who crushes on video games and wine. Henry does all the family paperwork and trades on the stock market having built a serious next egg…but she still works in a diner because…?

He also knows that his cute neighbor, Christina (Maddie Ziegler), is getting molested by her step-dad (Dean Norris), and while his calls to child protective services aren’t going anywhere, he’s devised up a plan that can be executed from beyond the grave, to set things right.

Henry is the envy of his younger brother, who has none of Henry’s mad skills at making Rube Goldberg-style contraptions.

Henry spends the whole movie boysplaining to everyone.

The Book of Henry is a deeply, profoundly bad movie. Not any fly by night bad movie no flash in the pan this is a bad movie for the ages. I’m not calling Colin Trevorrow a great director but he’s not the problem . It’s funny that they thought anyone could direct this crap. It’s the script, stupid.

But of course it’s also unintentionally hilarious. The absurdity levels on this movie are impressive, as Henry (from beyond the grave) directs his mother to murder. Boysplaining it FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE!

Because on top of all this maudlin and soppy familial love and goodness, Henry gets brain cancer and dies. And what does he say, “I should have thought of that.” The one thing he didn’t foresee.

I may have to add this to the Wikipedia page of “films considered the worst” because, I think it belongs there.

The Fly II (1989)

The Fly II (1989) movie poster

director Chris Walas
viewed: 04/07/2018

“I’m a human fly
and I don’t know why”
– Interior/Rorschach

Graduating from special effects and creature design to director, Chris Walas birthed The Fly II three years after David Cronenberg’s well-noted re-make. And yeah, it’s no Cronenberg. And Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga are no Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. But it’s still a pretty entertaining sequel.

Martin Brundle (Stoltz) is already part fly (on his father’s side), so he grows up super fast and super smart and when he hits sexual maturity, he starts metastasizing into human fly.

Of course, where the film excels is in the gruesome effects.  There is a reason that Google tries to complete your web search “fly 2 dog”. I’m sure Martin wasn’t the only one scarred by that. I actually found it kind of funny.

But there is a lot more: a head squish for the ages, an acid bath full head and torso melt (also for the ages), and then the surprising happy ending, in which the villain gets Cronenberged and left as a thing like a mutant zoo creature.

The Babe Ruth Story (1948)

The Babe Ruth Story (1948) movie poster

director Roy Del Ruth
viewed: 04/05/2018

“He cured a crippled child by simply saying ‘Hiya, kid.’”

The Babe Ruth Story is an old school bad movie. In fact, it’s the second oldest on the ever-evolving Wikipedia page of “films considered the worst”, a list that I feel compelled to work through, though hewing much more to the earlier than the more recent.

But really, it’s not nearly as bad as you might think. Mostly.

It’s a chipper sports legend life story, adapted from Ruth’s own ghost written autobiography, released as the Babe was dying from cancer (he died three weeks after release). It’s goofy and good-natured, if hardly trying to portray reality. And starring William Bendix, Claire Trevor, and William Frawley, it’s not light on talent.

That said, its most hilariously ridiculous moments are legendary for good reason. The Babe didn’t die for our sins, but does have a Christ-like ability to cure others by just saying hi to an invalid, or rescuing a dog he hit with a foul ball (“Please don’t let Peewee die, Babe. You said you wouldn’t.” ), or hitting a home run for a kid too weak to open his eyes (“Babe, don’t forget Johnny!”).

Even as he is dying from cancer, the Babe also risks his life to try the newfound treatment of chemotherapy to save the lives of other sick kids for all times.

I kinda liked the big lug. The movie, I mean.


One Million B.C. (1940)

One Million B.C. (1940) movie poster

directors  Hal Roach, Hal Roach, Jr.
viewed: 02/11/2018

One Million B.C. is the very first Caveman feature film, a subgenre depicting prehistoric peoples and their adventures. It’s as corny as all-get-out and clearly absurd in ways as well.

It earned an Oscar for its special effects, which include such things as fur covered elephants as Woolly Mammoths, pigs dressed as Triceratops, alligators with fins glued to them and an armadillo with glued on horns. All of which is amazingly ridiculous. There is also a guy in a T. Rex outfit. But to be honest, the visual effects such as forced perspective and other techniques that make little things look big compared with the cavefolks, well, they are pretty impressive.

Less impressive is what can only be guessed at as animal abuse. One monitor lizard fights to the death with a finned gator, lays dying as blood pulses from its neck wound. I didn’t overly scrutinize the film, but I’d be willing to guess that more reptiles were endangered, harmed, or even killed for dramatic effects of fire and volcanoes and earthquakes.

Victor Mature is the lead caveman (TCM’s brief description of the film: “An exiled caveman finds love when he joins another tribe.”) who winds up exiled by Lon Chaney, Jr., the head of the rock clan and falls in with the lovely Carole Landis and the shell clan. What’s interesting here is that the shell clan seem vaguely more evolved than the rock clan in their more communistic sharing of food and materials. The rock clan is more grabby-grabby and the strong take from the weak in a (social?) Darwinism of sorts. I know some writers did actually try to leak in Communist themes in some films. Is this the case here?

One Million B.C. was directed by Hal Roach and his son, Hal Roach, Jr. and it seems as well with the dialogue limited to gestures and few “words” that the old Silent Film aesthetics and acting paid off for this picture.

On the Bowery (1956)

On the Bowery (1956) poster

director Lionel Rogosin
viewed: 02/07/2018

On the Bowery is a remarkable document. “Documentary” it is not, though its documentary elements are what make it so compelling and fascinating.

Even as it was being made, New York City’s Bowery was changing. The Third Avenue El looms above the Bowery in the film, but was actually torn down not long after the film was shot. The faces of the men in the film, too, are glimpses in time. Skid Row is Skid Row in any city and on any street at any place and time, but this is NYC 1950’s, and these haggard drunks are largely of European descent.

Alcohol was the primary vice. Today it’s probably a proliferated array of vices.

Director Lionel Rogosin spent time with these men before deciding to hire some of them to craft into a narrative. The drama gives shape to the work, but it’s the the men and the milieu that are so affecting.

I swear I’ve seen some shorter subject documentaries that were filmed perhaps around the same time. But it’s quite fascinating to peer into a world that is lost to time, at men who would otherwise be lost as well.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) movie poster

director Wes Anderson
viewed: 01/20/2018

I think you either like Wes Anderson movies or you don’t. No judgment either way. I fall into the former boat, and interestingly The Royal Tenenbaums was one of the first movies I logged on my movie site in 2002, when I started tracking all the movies I watch.

Thousands of movies later, I come back to it, to watch it with my teenage children, the first who was born the year it came out, the second who was yet to be a sparkle in her father’s eye, so to speak.

For all that, I think I feel much the same as I did sixteen years ago when I first saw this. I’ve come to have seen all of Anderson’s movies since and have much more of a spectrum upon which to measure it.

That said: Gene Hackman. All day. Every day. Especially in scenes with Pagoda
(Kumar Pallana, RIP). Other Anderson alums like Angelica Huston and Bill Murray, always appreciated as well.

The kids both liked it.

M (1951)

M (1951) movie poster

director Joseph Losey
viewed: 01/14/2018

A re-make of Fritz Lang’s M (1931) may have been a daunting task, even a misguided one.  Joseph Losey not only makes it work, he makes it worthwhile. In fact, he makes an excellent film noir.

Some serious credit has to go to cinematographer Ernest Laszlo and the amazing locations utilized around Los Angeles, most notably the since demolished Bunker Hill neighborhood and the still standing Bradbury Building. And the amazing cast of character actors jammed into this thing. There are a couple of notable names, but all those faces and personalities that make up the City of Angels’ mobs.

In a sense, it doesn’t seem to deserve to be as good as it is, derivative from one of cinema’s classics. But seen on its own terms, an LA film noir, tight and vivid, it’s a seriously fine film.

Stir of Echoes (1999)

Stir of Echoes (1999) movie poster

director  David Koepp
viewed: 01/14/2018

I didn’t have the fondest recall of 1999’s Stir of Echoes, but having just read the book, I thought it might be worth a re-visit.

Richard Matheson might not have been a great novelist, but he was certainly one of the cool horror-sci-fi idea men of his generation  and lots of great stuff emanated from his work. I became keened in on him through TV’s The Twilight Zone, and I still hold him in esteem.

Unsurprisingly, the book is better than the film. Not that the film is bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. The book develops the main character as having developed all kinds of psychic ability as a result of hypnotism, but writer-director David Koepp, probably to try to hone in, focuses the story on the ghost that starts haunting him. That, and adding the psychic powers of his kid, winds up giving Stir of Echoes a poor man’s The Sixth Sense, though that also came out the same year.

Koepp employs some visual effects that I liked: the Hitchcockian flares of red when Kevin Bacon senses something amiss with the babysitter. But the film suffers a bit from some computer-developed effects, like the ghost movement, an effect that hasn’t aged well.