30 Movies That Aren’t As Bad As You Remember…

…at least according to the folks at totalfilm.com:


Of the films listed, I’ve seen a whopping 19 of them and bits and pieces of another five or so (but not the whole film).

Given this is an opinion piece, and opinions are just that, I would agree with them on some of the films I’ve seen -ie the listed films weren’t that awful- while disagreeing with them on others.

For example, Spawn, Hudson Hawk, Spider Man 3, Tron Legacy, Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace, The Last Action Hero, Superman Returns, and Superman III I still consider pretty bad films.  It’s interesting to note that going into each and every one of those films I felt a sense of optimism, that the film would be enjoyable, but was ultimately disappointed in big ways and small.

Tron Legacy, for example, looked absolutely spectacular in the theatrical trailers.  But when I finally saw the film I realized that apart from those spectacular visuals the viewer was saddled with a story that, frankly, meandered and never caught fire.  Hudson Hawk, which I admittedly haven’t seen since it was first released (who knows, my opinion of it might change) I found to be an incomprehensible mess…a film that tried to be cheeky in its humor and simply bored the hell out of me, despite the megawatt charisma of Bruce WIllis.  Similarly, I eagerly anticipated seeing Superman Returns, but my first attempt to see the film was aborted after only watching about twenty minutes.  I was so bored I just had to shut the film off.  Brandon Routh was good in the title role, a tough act to follow from Christopher Reeve, but later, on my second (and final) attempt to see the whole film my worst fears were confirmed:  Superman Returns was a much, much duller remake of the original -and vastly superior- Superman.  Worse, they added elements into the film that never amounted to much (Lois Lane having a boyfriend, Superman leaving Earth for a number of years, Superman’s son).

As for Superman III, that’s one of those terrible films that nonetheless has at least one thing worth watching, and that’s the “evil” Superman versus the “good” Superman/Clark Kent.  If only the rest of the film was even a fraction as good as the parts leading up to this:

Which brings us to the films I agree with them about.  I won’t list them all, but deserving mention as films that I felt weren’t quite as horrid as others made them out to be are Cutthroat Island, John Carter, Miami Vice, Terminator: Salvation, Waterworld (yes, Waterworld), and Exorcist III.  I don’t think any of these films will ever be viewed as “lost classics”, but none of them, again in my opinion, were as terrible as the general public seemed to view them.

It’s an interesting list nonetheless, and provide me with some food for thought…

Holy Motors (2012) a (mildly) belated review

When I first heard of Holy Motors it was via some seriously positive reviews that noted the film was surreal yet thought provoking, bizarre yet beautiful.

My spider senses were definitely tingling.

Mind you, I’m not a huge fan of surreal cinema, but when its good (Mulholland Drive, for example) it can be really, really good.  Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that when its bad, it can certainly be very, very bad.

It’s been only a day since I finally got to see Holy Motors, and my opinion of it is still evolving even as I write this sentence.  As a very surreal film, it defies easy explanation regarding its plot.  The best I can offer is the following:  A man named Oscar (Denis Lavant) is being driven through Paris for a day.  His driver (Edith Scob) is his only constant company and she takes him from one “assignment” to another, wherein the man dresses and/or disguises himself for a series of different “scenes” he is playing out.  Oscar, you see, is an actor and during the course of the day he will participate in nine different sequences which vary wildly from place to place.

A comment on acting and cinema?  A comment on how individuals “appear” differently from scenario to scenario throughout life?

It’s open to your interpretation.  There are hints and allusions to other works of art, from film to novels (I apparently wasn’t the only one to catch a wiff of Moby Dick in the film’s DNA).

Early in the movie we have the two most show stopping segments.  The first involves our actor participating in a “motion capture” film.  He is dressed in black with motion detection silver spheres spread throughout his body.  His movements during this sequence, which eventually becomes highly sexual, are beautiful to behold, and toward the end of the sequence when we finally see what our actors’ motions are being animated as, I suspect the message delivered is that the human form is so much more beautiful in motion than whatever the computer animators come up with afterwards.

The next sequence, certainly the most off-the-wall of the bunch, involves our actor becoming a “beast” and kidnapping a “beauty” (Eva Mendes).  One of the more interesting things about that segment, other than its sheer, unambiguous bizarreness, is that early on in the skit when the “beast” is walking through a graveyard the tombstones, rather than announcing who lies beneath, announce websites they would like people to go to.  Not sure what the meaning of that is, other than that the internet is full of dead sites.  Anyway, unlike the motion capture segment, this one had me scratching my head and wondering just what the hell all that was about.  For those who are averse to male nudity, the conclusion of that particular segment might be a (ahem) turn off.

From there, the movie becomes a little more sedate, featuring interactions between Oscar and what appear to be a series of family relations.  A daughter, a niece, an old lover.  There’s also segments involving assassination and murder, both equally strange.

As I said before, I’m still digesting this film.  Immediately after watching it, I was bewildered and overwhelmed by the strange sights and sounds but after a day of sorting things out, I’m far more enthusiastic over what I saw.  Having said that, I find it difficult to recommend this film to the casual theater goer.

The fact is that Holy Motors demands your attention and patience as well as a desire to follow its strange cinematic paths.  If you give it a try, you may well find yourself well rewarded in the end.

10 People You Didn’t Know Were Spies

Fascinating list from Mandatory.com regarding the above.  I knew of a few of them, didn’t about others, but found the list interesting nonetheless:


The inclusion of Walt Disney is interesting.  I knew about his right wing/anti-union philosophy but didn’t realize it extended to being an informant against supposed communists.  Different times!

St. Vincent

Bought the album Actor by St. Vincent a while back while it was on sale on Amazon, have listened to it more and more frequently of late and absolutely love the song Laughing With A Mouth Full of Blood…which became part of a very humorous skit on Portlandia.

Portlandia is usually hit and miss for me, but I have to admit the skits involving musical guests have usually been gold.  Loved the Aimee Mann featured episode in particular and, as a bonus, here’s her extended appearance in it:

The future of energy…?

Absolutely fascinating article by Farhad Manjoo for Slate magazine regarding what could be the breakthrough necessary to finally transition us into what may well be the next phase of energy usage, one that is significantly less expensive and easier to use than our current batteries.  The process involves Graphene Supercapacitors, and the article follows:


I think we’re on the verge of exciting times, though the article does end with a note of caution.  Hopefully, this new technology will indeed be the answer to humanity’s energy needs.

I do find it curious how we tend to find solutions to problems as they rear their heads.  Gas/energy prices are on the rise and we use a whole lot of energy in our daily lives, not just for transport but for the very many gadgets we operate, from computers to tablets to cell phones.  Given the lucrative market, it was only a matter of time before a “better mousetrap” would be created.

Learning something new every day…

Fascinating article by Kieth Kloor at Slate magazine concerning the so-called “Wind Turbine Syndrome”, and whether it is real or not:


What is most fascinating to me is the concept of a “nocebo” effect.  Just about everyone should be at the very least familiar with the term “placebo effect”.  If you aren’t, check out this link.  If you’re too lazy to click the link, a placebo effect occurs when a doctor and/or researcher gives a person with a certain problem/affliction a completely ineffective treatment yet this treatment seems to have some effect on the affliction.

If you are testing a new cold formula you have developed, you may have a group of subjects with colds come to your office.  You would split this group into threes:  One would receive your new cold formula, another would receive no treatment at all, and the third would receive the ineffective placebo “medicine” (this can take the form of sugar pills or flavored water).  The point of doing such an experimentation is to see if your new medicine works better than those either receiving no treatment or an ineffective treatment.

Why test ineffective treatments?  Because the human mind may at times perceive the act of taking a medicine, even one that has no effectiveness, as “helping” their situation.

In the case of the nocebo effect, we have people who claim physical maladies when confronted with negative information about certain situations.  In the more specific case of the article above, it appears as more information about “wind turbine syndromes” appears, the more people claim to be suffering from said maladies.

As I said before, a fascinating article and an intriguing read, for those interested.

Hit and Run (2012) a (mildly) belated review

Dying is easy, comedy is hard.

And how.

I can’t tell you the number of “comedy” films I’ve seen which may have elicited, at best, a chuckle or two rather than the hilarity promised.  Thus, I’m often weary when thinking of putting on a comedy.  However, when I first heard of the 2012 film Hit and Run, I was intrigued.  The movie seemed to come out of nowhere and the critics were relatively kind to it.  But what interested me the most was their description of what the film was:  A romantic comedy that was also a throwback to 1970’s car chase films.

Man, its been a while since those type of films were released, having buried themselves in mediocrity or worse in the 1980’s.  So, when the film made it to home video, I had to give it a shot.  The result proved a pleasant diversion and certainly a decent enough time killer.

Hit and Run’s plot isn’t all that original and I got more than a little wiff of Ron Howard’s directorial debut, 1977’s Grand Theft Auto (no relation to the popular video game series) in its Romeo & Juliet-like plot.  Grand Theft Auto featured two young lovers on the run from assorted crazy people, including the female lead’s ex-lover.  In Hit and Run, we have Kristen Bell playing Annie Bean, a teacher who has been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to leave her small town and become the department head at a school in Los Angeles.  The only complication is that her boyfriend, Charles Bronson (yes, you read that name right and there’s a definite joke involved in this), played by Dax Shepard, is in the witness protection program and venturing outside of that small town could be hazardous to his health.

Nonetheless, the two do venture outside their small town with a very tight deadline to reach L.A.  Along the way, they quickly are pursued by Annie’s ex-boyfriend, the Marshall assigned to protect Charles, a pair of cops, and, finally, member’s of Bronson’s ex-gang.

There are plenty of amusing cameos (and one larger cameo by Bradley Cooper) that liven things up.  Unlike the car chase movies of the 1970’s, there is precious little actual vehicular mayhem in this film.  There are a few chases and they’re reasonably well done, but unlike Grand Theft Auto, there’s very little actual wreckage to be seen.

As a comedy, the movie works for the most part, drawing laughs from dialogue and situations.  Having said that, there are occasions where a joke was pushed along a little too much.  Without giving too much away, one of the movie’s funniest jokes involves one of the character’s “adventures” while in prison.  The joke builds to a hilarious punchline, but once it is reached the characters talk on for another couple of minutes and effectively dampen what should have been a hilarious bit.

In other words, some judicious trimming might have helped.

Still, Hit and Run is a decent if not spectacular film to spend a couple of hours with.  Afterwards, you may want to dust off your copy of Smokey and the Bandit and give it a whirl.

I’ve provided the trailer below but if you’re planning to see the film I suggest you don’t play it. Like too many trailers, it gives away the biggest joke (but stops where it should have!)

And now, a blast from the past…the trailer to Grand Theft Auto!

New York, 1960’s and 1970’s

Fascinating (albeit far too brief!) article about photographs of New York City from the 1960’s and 70’s.  Photography by its nature captures the past.  The beauty of this medium (and film as well) is that you get to actually see the past for yourself.

In this case, these images of New York are, to me, fascinating.  Somewhere among my (far too many) books is one that focused on New York in the 1930’s and 40’s.  Though I’ve only been to New York once, the place is a source of fascination to me.

If it is for you too, then enjoy these pictures!


The Natural inspiration dies…

Didn’t realize that the character who (SPOILERS!) nearly kills the character of Roy Hobbs in both the book and the subsequent movie version of The Natural was based on one Ruth Steinhagen, who it was reported passed away last year:


After reading this, the sequence in the movie (I haven’t read the book) takes on a more startling atmosphere.  One of the more troublesome aspects of fame is that one can become a target of a stalker, just as Chicago Cubs baseball player Eddie Waitkus was and, afterwards, others have been.  Luckily for Mr. Waitkus he survived the assault by Ms. Steinhagen and, in reading the article, one finds that the baseball player decided not to press charges against her following her psychiatric treatment.

Still, others, perhaps none as famous as John Lennon, weren’t so lucky.