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The Wonder of the Cinema

Fall Films #65-87!

I’ve fallen behind in a major way with blogging my challenge of reviewing every film I watch this year.  So here’s the fall in review!

#65 Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim is a big, loud, noisy Michael Bay type film.  Don’t think too deeply and you might enjoy this one.  Fun for the 6-14 year old boy inside… a monster movie in the tradition of Godzilla.  A film that doesn’t really give the outstanding Idris Elba a chance to really show off his acting chops, for that look up the UK series Luther.

#66 The Lone Ranger

Neither as bad as the reviews suggested or as good as the budget demanded The Lone Ranger is  a miss-mash of action, drama, social commentary and it does none of them true justice.  The budget of this monstrosity was an estimated $225 million with a further $150 million for marketing.  A colossal flop that grossed only $260 million worldwide.

#67 Gladiator

Despite the praise this is not the best film.   The silly historical connections (an Emperor would never be killed in the Colosseum), but fun nevertheless.  Everything is leading up to that singular conflict Maximus versus the (new) Emperor.  Which makes it all the more predictable and trite.  Not the best film by Ridley Scott… but it pays the bills.

#68 Dredd

I’ve watched it twice now.  The first time I watched it I thought it was very forgettable, another blah action film.  And oddly my appreciation has grown on a second viewing.  It’s simple, yet the visuals are solid.  The plot holds up.  The idea of putting its star in a helmet which covers fully 3/4 of his face and maintain that visual throughout(and not cave to the “but we’re paying to see the star, so let’s see him” mentality) is fairly unique.  It’s a film easily demanding a sequel(despite earning only $41 million on a $45 million budget).  Now considered something of a cult film if you’ll believe that…

#69 The Wizard of Oz

A classic to be sure.  We watched it in my Film Studies class.  The students composed essays linking a single characteristic seen in the film(say, fear) to a single characteristic also seen in the time period in which is was made.  Some confusion did arise when some students’ research was linked to the original series of books by L. Frank Baum starting with The Wizard of Oz published in 1899.

#70 Cry, the Beloved Country

This is a slow (at times tedious and predicable) moralization of the post-apartheid era.  This one is good because of the quality acting by James Earl Jones and Richard Harris.  Something of a remake of a 1951 Palm d’ Or nominated Sydney Poitier film of the same name.  I’d suggest giving it a pass.

#71, 72 Olympus Has Fallen & White House Down

Expensive over hyped tripe!  They were never destined to be “great” films.  Loud, shallow, with major plot issues… but they were moderately fun.  Olympus Has Fallen is the better of the two and helped by solid acting by Gerard Butler.  White House Down was advertised as something of a buddy film, but is a ridiculous plotted crapfest that only did well at the box office thanks to the charisma of stars Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum.  At times the lovely and very talented Maggie Gyllenhaal looks like she’s holding back laughter as she delivers some truly clunkers of lines.  Both films made money so expect some crappy sequels in the future…

#73 Leviathan

An 80’s deep sea adventure film.  Fair at best.  Peter Weller helps hold together this clunker of a B-movie.  Give it a pass unless you’re feeling nostalgic.

#74 Stargate

The film that started the Stargate TV franchise.  Solid if predictable science fiction…  With a budget of $55 million and decent chemistry and acting from leads James Spader and Kurt Russell, Stargate became something of a cult hit and scored nearly $200 million at the box office.

#75 Phantom

1960’s era Russian submarine disaster that nearly resulted in a nuclear missile launch against the US.  Solid, but nothing special. Solid acting(especially from Ed Harris), but lacks the dramatic punch of better submarine movies like The Hunt for Red October or Das Boot.  Still worth a look…

#76 Malta Story

1950’s WWII story.  Minimal addition of Alec Guinness (clearly a grab for time with a bankable star by film producers with no money), but fair. An important moment in history, but a very mediocre film(which is on YouTube in its entirety if you are interested).

#77 The Red Machine

Starts of rather weak, but this indie film is decent.  About the breaking of the Japanese Naval/Diplomatic codes at the start of WWII.  Worth a look, but a slow film.

#78 Star Trek: Into Darkness

BIG BUDGET, a solid action focused entry into the Star Trek reboot. Not science fiction, but action based SF.  This film rubbed many old school Trek fans the wrong way.  It’s everything that is wrong with today’s science fiction… no science, all fiction.  The buddy charisma is there between the main cast and the addition of a serious foe(or two) is good… but it all feels strained.  Like every moment on screen is rushing toward the next action set piece and the next action set piece without a chance for the actors to really act or to explain much.  I saw it in 3D IMAX originally and the visuals were pretty overwhelming.

#79 Murder by Decree

A finely acted, but old fashioned Sherlock Holmes film starring Christopher Plummer as Holmes and James Mason as Watson.  The final act of the film was more like a stage play than a film…Good acting, but talk, talk, talk.  Worth a look for Holmes enthusiasts, but otherwise give it a miss.

#80 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

This one is an old Hollywood thriller starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw.  The film was well received earning nearly $17 million on a $5 million budget.

#81 Enemy at the Gates

A Hollywoodization of a historical figure which drain away much of the drama that could have been and turns it into a stilted mano a mano revenge picture.  Very loosely based on the real life Russian sniper Vasily Zaytsev(who killed over 400 Germans), Jude Law does a fair job propping up this lumbering film.  Additional quality work is done by Ed Harris as Jude Law’s German foe, Ron Perlman as Law’s sniper tutor, and Rachael Weis as his love.  Joseph Fiennes and Bob Hoskins feel badly out of place.  Still a fun film, but not especially good or accurate historically.

#82 Dances With Wolves

They say everyone has one great novel in them.  Perhaps the same is true of movies. This may be Costner’s one great movie(especially since the rest of his directoral output has been largely terrible).  Clocking in at 180 minutes(and 260 minutes for the director’s cut), Dances With Wolves is strives to capture a bit of that classic David Lean-esque epic filmmaking.  David Lean made Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.  In those films the visual scope of the mise en scene was massive!  Lean tried to show how tiny humanity was in the big picture of history in Zhivago and in the raw brutality of nature in Lawrence.  Dances With Wolves tries to mix both.  Costner’s John Dunbar is swept on by history(the US Civil War and the conquest of the plains by settlers and the US military) and dwarfed by nature in the Great Plains.  Worth revisiting if it has been a while…

#83 Munich

Steven Spielberg is looking at another dark part of humanity, well made, but not a crowd pleaser by any means…  This film raised more questions than it answered as it follows Eric Bana playing a Mossad (Israeli intelligence) agent as his small squad of men assassinate the men responsible for the 1972 attack on the Israeli athletes in the Olympic village in Munich, Germany.  I think of this film every time someone suggests we(the USA) should have hit squads that go out to kill those who have done the US harm in some way.  Definitely worth seeing…

#84 Captain Philips

Classic Oscar-bait, Tom Hanks does a great job, but he’s the only really recognizable actor as he spends most of the film surrounded by scary Somali pirates.  Interesting as it tries to show the pressures on the Somalis as well.  Worth finding…

#85 The Great Train Robbery

There is after all honor among thieves.  Sean Connery in a 1978 post-Bond role.  Decent fare with solid acting and a (mostly) decent plot.  Look for Donald Sutherland in a scene stealing role…

#86 Kick Ass 2

A solid start and a decent climactic fight scene, but much waiting in the middle.  Far more serious and less comic-book like than the first film, Kick-Ass 2.  The ending felt… tacked on and somehow unsatisfying.  Despite these failings this one is worth a viewing.

#87 V for Vendetta

I saw the film before I knew there was graphic novel.  The Alan Moore penned graphic novel (which began life as a black and white strip in a British anthology comic called Warrior) of the same name is far better.  Seek it out!


About Rob Sterner

English teacher, Film buff, Filmmaker, Writer, Musician, Photographer, Runner, Taoist, Thinker, List maker...


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