Category Archives: movie thoughts

AFI Movie Club: The Wizard of Oz

wizardofoz1Like many people my age, I looked forward to watching The Wizard of Oz each year on CBS.   The movie would dominate discussion on the playground the next day and you felt like you were missing something if you hadn’t watched it and couldn’t participate in the conversation.

But before I watched the movie for the inauguration of the American Film Institute’s Movie Club, I’d say it’s been at least two decades since I watched the movie.  It’s not for lack of access — no longer must I wait for it to show up on CBS or one of the Turner movie channels since we long ago added it to our DVD collection.   But it’s a film that has become such a part of the tapestry of our popular culture that it’s easy to feel lately, even if “lately” is twenty or so years ago.

I won’t say that watching it this time felt like it was new. But, it felt like I was discovering an old friend again.*

* A friend that will probably get a lot of viewing once Shortcake discovers the film.  She wasn’t engaged with the film yet and I distracted her during some of the “scarier” moment with the Wicked Witch of the West pulling her shenanigans.  Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

expressWhy is every property a candidate for film franchise these days?

For all the strengths and weaknesses of this new adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express may have, the biggest takeaway I had was the feeling that since Sherlock Holmes didn’t spawn a new franchise of films , why not try with Hercules Poirot now?

And if we are to have a Poirot series of films, I guess Orient Express is a good starting point. It’s arguably one of Agatha Christie’s best known stories featuring the Belgian detective and his mustache (more on that later).  But, it’s still a story that’s had multiple adaptions on the large and small screen.

I’ve never seen any of the previous adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express.  However, I have read the original novel, so I knew the solution to the mystery before I sat down to view the new version that hit theaters last year. Continue reading

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Movie Thoughts: Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

jim&andyJim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton

For a couple of years in the late 90’s, actor Jim Carrey seemed to be moving beyond the screen persona he’d honed in the Ace Ventura movies and The Mask and was really challenging himself (and his audience) as an actor. This period led to some great movies by Carrey including The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the Andy Kaufman bio-picture Man on the Moon.

Carrey’s performance as Kaufman in Man on the Moon generated critical buzz and even had some speculating that he could get an Oscar nod for the year.  Carrey never got that Oscar nod (though he did joke about it on the Oscar broadcast that year) and, in many ways, those three films stand as some of the best work Carrey has done.

So, it’s interesting that twenty years after Man on the Moon hit theaters that a new documentary would reveal that maybe Carrey wasn’t so much acting in the film as channeling the spirit of Andy Kaufman.  Early in the documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, Carrey tells us that he spirit of Andy Kaufman came up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and told him that he’d be taking over for the duration of filming.

Behind-the-scenes footage seems to support this with Carrey not breaking character as Kaufman or his alter-ego, Tony Clifton.  That footage, originally banned by Universal because it made Carrey look like an asshole, forms much of the documentary along with a new interview from Carrey, looking at not only his time on the picture but also his career as a whole.   

In many ways, Jim & Andy feels like a lost extra from the DVD release of Man on the Moon.  The footage will also make you want to immediately seek out the original Man on the Moon and visit it again.

But the more the movie goes along, the more I couldn’t help but wonder if Carrey was pulling a Kauffman-like prank on that has gone on for these twenty years. The footage seems to indicate this could be the case, but it’s never entirely clear one way or the other. (Which, on some level, would make Andy Kauffman proud, I suppose).  

Focusing on only on Carrey, the film never allows us to see reactions or reflections from the rest of the cast and crew, except in the footage taken during production.  Part of me can’t help but wonder what certain participants made of Carrey’s dedication to the role and the craft and how they feel about it today. (It’d be interesting to see what Jerry Lawler thought of things, for example).

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t come up with any answers but instead leaves it to you to decide.  

 

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Movie Thoughts on The Dark Tower

darktowerpostre.jpgEarlier this week, news broke that Amazon will be adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels as a multi-season television series.  Hearing this news, I couldn’t help but wish that Stephen King’s epic Dark Tower series could get that epic treatment instead.

Lord of the Rings has a well-done, much-loved pop culture adaptation of the original source material*.  The Dark Tower novels don’t. Even with this year’s long-awaited big-screen adaptation.

*And yes, I know they left out some of the most beloved characters and combined some character arcs. But honestly, I think the movies are better off for it! Continue reading

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Monday’s Movies: Catching Up

mondays-movie-jpg1

Thanks to my local library, I’m catching up on some movies I missed while they were in theaters.  Here are some (hopefully) short thoughts on some of what I’ve seen lately.

Terminator: Genisys

tgOne of the hallmarks of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who was a heavy reliance on the implications and mechanics of time travel.   So it’s interesting to see Smith join the Terminator franchise in an entry that has a heavy reliance on the implications and mechanics of time travel.

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Short Movie Thoughts

All the President’s Men

Based on the true story of the journalist duo that pursued the truth behind what happened at the Watergate hotel, All the President’s Men is like catnip to aspiring journalists.

But this one feels more like a police procedural than that of crusading journalists relentlessly pursuing the truth along the lines of Walter and Hildy from His Girl Friday. This one shows Woodward and Bernstein pursuing leads, getting doors shut in their faces and going down blind alleys in the quest for a story. It also gives a hint of the frustration of waiting for things to come in, all while the ticking clock of deadline looms above.

And yet for all of that, the film is never dull. A lot of the credit goes to director Alan J. Pakula and the script by William Goldman. Even knowing how it all ends, it’s still compelling to watch how it all unfolds.

My high school journalism teacher showed this to us in class over the course of several days. Back then, we came away shocked that she’d be allowed to show us a movie that used the f-word this much. This time around, I’m impressed by the acting, writing and directing. Continue reading

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