Saturday, May 28, 2016


The 1001 Movie Guide does have some action movies in its arsenal. Here are some takeaways from some of those films...
Project A
Ten takeaways from Project A I and II
1. It's really impossible not to be impressed with the whirling dervish know as Jackie Chan.
2. I'm not sure how Jackie Chan lived through all those bizarre stunts.
3. I really missed Fat Boy in Project A II
4. The plot sort of made sense, but don't ask me to recount it.
5. Okay, it involved pirates and policeman and I think they were looking for the Holy Grail or something.
6. The tower clock stunt was pretty cool.
7. Chan falling through the awning was so good they showed it twice!
8. Watched these two movies back to back. Memory fading as to what happened in what movie.
9. If the action scenes of this movie had taken place in the real world, the characters would be dead many times over.
10. Only Project A Part II is in the 1001 book. Not sure why it is considered superior.

Project A Part II
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Ten Takeaways from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
1. I can't believe I've never seen The Road Warrior before! (And thanks to my wife for putting it on my 1001 supplementary list).
2.  Interesting that the original Mad Max made the 1001 list, but The Road Warrior didn't-though many consider the latter film as superior.
3. It made me appreciate Mad Max: Fury Road more in that it was more of an update than a remake.
4. I did appreciate the stunts more in The Road Warrior than in Fury Road, though some in the latter film were admittedly spectactular.
5. The Road Warrior gets a star taken off because the dog dies.
6. If the action scenes of this movie had taken place in the real world, the characters would be dead many times over.
7. The Road Warrior (the movie) gets credit for inspiring the nickname for one of the scariest tag teams in wrestling history.  The character of Lord Humongous also inspired several wrestling incarnations with that name and image. What is it about this movie that was such an inspiration to professional wrestling? I don't think there ever was a professional wrestler that took on the character of the gyro captain that I know of.
8. And I also appreciate that it was original Mad Max/Road Warrior director George Miller that brought Mad Max:Fury Road back to the screen all those years later.
9. And budget isn't everything when it comes to making an action movie if you are creative and have some real fearless stuntmen.
10. "I thought Mel Gibson was so sexy and hot. Too bad he turned out to be such a wacko in real life!" (Last entry courtesy of my wife.)

The Killer

Ten takeaways from John Woo's The Killer
 1. John Woo knows how to direct action sequences.
2. He is definitely a fan of Western crime films past.
3. Chow Yun-Fat is a solid leading man...
4. . ..though probably more so in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
5. The plot of the two adversaries gaining mutual respect as the film progresses is interesting.
6. If the action scenes of this movie had taken place in the real world, the characters would be dead many times over.
7. The additional plot of the killer helping out the girl he blinded works pretty well.
8. Might be fun to watch this movie and just do a dead body count. It would keep you busy, anyway.
9. The Killer is at least more plausible than Face-Off.
10. The Killer made be want to see Die Hard.

Die Hard

Ten takeaways from  Die Hard
1. There's only one Die Hard
2. Actually there's several, but only one original classic Die Hard.
3. Die Hard established action cinema for a generation of films to come.
4. Die Hard ruined cinema in general for a generation to come.
5. Lots of little plot devices that make the film tick. Should we credit the screenplay or the original book?
6. If the action scenes of this movie had taken place in the real world, the characters would be dead many times over.
7. Few villains have ever been better than Alan Rickman.
8. Some action films are so far-fetched they lose me, but Die Hard didn't.
9. I think after viewing all these high octane films, I'm about ready for a little My Dinner With Andre action!
10. If you haven't seen the very funny You Tube clip where Bruce Willis fights Stephen Colbert and says, "Yippee Kay Yee, William Faulkner!," I recommend it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016



"It is a painful irony that silent movies were driven out of existence just as they were reaching a kind of glorious summit of creativity and imagination, so that some of the best silent movies were also some of the last ones."-Bill Bryson, One Summer: America, 1927

I was looking at some original film critiques from the  New York Times Film Reviews and thought I would share some of the original thoughts on some films from 1928 from that source.

The Passion of Joan of Arc

 "In The Passion of Joan of Arc, M. Carl Dreyer has produced a singularly arresting and original film, which will certainly be much discussed. He presents the heroine in the new realistic manner as an inspired peasant girl, without the gaudy trappings of legend, and the figure he makes of her is no unworthy companion to the stage picture drawn by Bernard Shaw."-W. L. Middleton, New York Times Film Reviews, August 12, 1928.

The Docks of New York
"Nine-tenths of the persons seeing the Paramount's offering this week will like it. Perhaps the most serious objections the other tenth will have are that The Docks of New York is a little too long and that it has an anti-climax. The picture as a whole is good, however, with able acting and occasional bits of exceptional directing."-Mordaunt Hall, New York Times Film Reviews, September 17, 1928.
Storm Over Asia
"Excellent photography and sterling work by the eminently suitable cast are the conspicuous assets of Vsevolod Pudovkin's silent cinematic contribution, Storm Over Asia...There is, however, much that is compelling in this production in the early scenes, but in the closing episodes it becomes hysterical and absurd events occur, including a man, who through injuries, is hardly able to move around, suddenly becoming a veritable Samson."-Mordaunt Hall, New York Times Film Reviews, September 28, 1930.

The Crowd
"The Crowd is on the whole, a powerful analysis of a young couple's struggle for existence in this city. Throughout this subject, Mr. Vidor shrewdly avoids the stereotyped conception of setting forth scenes and in more than one case he uses the camera in an inspired fashion."-Mordaunt Hall, New York Times Film Reviews, February 20, 1928.

 "The last full year of Hollywood's silent era, 1928, produced some of its greatest masterpieces,"-Martin Ruben, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

"I do wish silent films had endured as an art form alongside the "talkies." But let us enjoy the ones that still survive."-Chris Cox, 1001: A Film Odyssey

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Summer With Monika
Ah, Ingmar Bergman. The man who brought us a series of Nordic, nihilistic, philosophical films from the 50's to the 80's that many (me included) consider some of the greatest works of art that cinema has ever produced. I had finished watching all the 1001 listings when the earlier Bergman film Summer With Monika popped up one of the updated editions. This story of young love and how youthful adventures can so often be stymied by the realities of the real world is a worthwhile viewing experience for Bergman fans, but I wouldn't put it in the category of his best. I'd start with The Seventh Seal or Winter Light and work my way back. You may even want to start with his uncharacteristically upbeat Smiles of a Summer Night. You probably don't want to start with Persona, though that one wouldn't  isn't a bad place to finish.

I also decided to see Autumn Sonata, one of the later Bergman films and not one that made the 1001 book. It is an emotional masterpiece that has at its center the relationship between a complicated daughter and an even more complicated mother. This story gives no easy answers to who you should sympathize with and that is to the films credit.

From the DVD extras, it's interesting to listen to the director talk about how difficult it was for Bergman (Ingmar) to get the performance out of Bergman (Ingrid) that he wanted. But the end result is as good as you could hope for and I can hardly imagine her ever being better. But let us not forget Liv Ullman as the daughter. Liv and Ingrid are great in their scenes together and this film is highly recommended if you are a fan of complicated family dynamics in your drama.

Autumn Sonata

Saturday, May 7, 2016


The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Incredible Shrinking Man is the story of a man named Scott Carey who is exposed to an unknown force and begins to slowly get smaller.  This film could have easily  fallen into the category of one of those 50's science fiction movies that is remembered more as camp, such as Attack of the 50 foot Woman or The Amazing Colossal Man, but always manages to rise above that level.

I love the special effects for this film. I mean this in the fact that there really was not much of a budget for special effects and the filmmakers had to get creative in making oversize household items or shrinking clothes or a giant book of matches or putting Scott in his daughter's dollhouse to be terrorized by the family cat! And don't get me started on that spider! This movie also was clearly an inspiration for one of the favorite shows of my childhood, Land of the Giants.

The Incredible Shrinking Man is based on a story by Richard Matheson. Matheson is one of my favorite writers, not only of science fiction stories, but other genres as well. His story collection Steel and other Stories is a fine short story collection, and reminiscent of Stephen King, who credits Matheson as being a major influence. I also enjoyed one of Matheson's last books, The Legend of the Gun, which was a straight up Western!

I looked up Matheson's IMDB writing resume, and it was impressive in how wide ranging it was. His credits are two numerous to mention, but I did go back and look at his Twilight Zone episode of Steel. (His most famous TZ is probably Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.) An altered version of the Steel story was made into the big budget movie Real Steel with Hugh Jackman.

The Twilight Zone: Lee Marvin in Steel

I also wanted to see Matheson's Duel, a  1971 TV movie about a man driving home that is terrorized by a truck (and presumably a driver) that relentlessly chases him down. Duel may be best remembered as the feature length debut of Stephen Spielberg. Glad I finally got around to seeing it! It's got lots of drama and action and has the fine Matheson story that Spielberg uses as a blueprint for what I think should still be in the director's top ten.

Dennis Weaver in Duel

I Am Legend is another famous Matheson book about dealing with vampires, zombies, the Apocalypse and the last man on earth. Despite the way it sounds, it's a largely introspective piece that if followed doesn't seem to lend itself to cinematic interpretation. But it has been brought to the screen several times. I have a friend that I asked about it and said he said they've made movies based on this book five times, none of them any good! The version I saw was the relatively recent one with Will Smith. I liked the movie okay and Smith is good, but I found myself wondering if the filmmakers had even read the book at all!

Will Smith and friend in I Am Legend

I finished my Mathesonfest with another TV movie from the early 70's, Trilogy of Terror, something I hadn't seen if forty years! The three Matheson stories all starring Karen Black are of varying quality, with the most famous of the trio having Black terrorized by a Zuni warrior doll. Many who saw this segment had nightmare about it for years to come.

That scary Zuni doll from Trilogy of Terror