[Stopped Buttons] Day 13 | March 4

Terence Hill discovers NOBODY'S THE GREATEST, directed by Damiano Damiani for Tobis Filmkunst.

Nobody’s the Greatest (1975, Damiano Damiani)
2008

I may have been hesitant to watch NOBODY’S THE GREATEST; I got it from Nicheflix. Lovely Paramount Italy DVD. At the time–and maybe still–both NOBODY films only had grey market, P&S R1 releases. The Paramount R2 was a big deal back then. It was an unpleasant film to sit through; I can’t remember anything I liked about it (which is probably being a tad too harsh). Over the years, the NOBODY’S THE GREATEST post has had a lot of readers. A shocking amount. The number’s dropping but still good.


Benicio Del Toro stars in CHE: PART TWO, directed by Steven Soderbergh for IFC Films.

Che: Part Two (2008, Steven Soderbergh)
2009

I liked one part of CHE more than the other part. I can’t remember why. Something about PART TWO’s pacing. I can’t remember when I wrote the CHE: PART TWO post; if I did it that night after the movie or the next day. Probably that night. Going and seeing the CHE roadshow was an event, a movie-going event, which I don’t really do anymore. Not intentionally. Too old. And, in an unexpected turn of events–the CHE: PART TWO post did gangbusters for a couple years. Ten times the readers for PART ONE.


David Naughton and Griffin Dunne star in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, directed by John Landis for Universal Pictures.

An American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis)
2011

I didn’t grow up with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON; I first heard about it in SUMMER SCHOOL (the movie). Matt and I watched it for a podcast episode (paired with the sequel)–http://wp.me/pxk79-76–but I didn’t write a response at that time. For this viewing, I think the wife and I watched it. She likes it more than I do; I can’t remember why. I prefer THE HOWLING. The AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON post doesn’t get a lot of readers. Fluctuates, but low. I wonder if people still discover it.


A scene from PLAY IT AGAIN, CHARLIE BROWN, directed by Bill Melendez for CBS.

Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971, Bill Melendez)
2012

Another thing Short Stop allowed was for me to watch the Peanuts specials. Like PLAY IT AGAIN, CHARLIE BROWN. PLAY IT AGAIN, CHARLIE BROWN’s plot has something to do with music. I don’t remember what it has to do with music, but something. It also didn’t occur to me the specials were made for children–the comic strip was more mature, appealing to all audiences. Weak numbers for the PLAY IT AGAIN, CHARLIE BROWN post. Not much Peanuts TV special interest? Maybe it’ll pick it up with the movie.


Fay Wray, Jack Holt, and Cora Sue Collins star in BLACK MOON, directed by Roy William Neill for Columbia Pictures.

Black Moon (1934, Roy William Neill)
2013

I almost bought BLACK MOON when Warner Archive released it. I’m glad I didn’t and waited to rent it first. Racism in old movies is always a problem area. How much do you forgive? Same question can go for certain Seth McFarlane jokes today. BLACK MOON goes way too far. It’s exceptionally mean-spirited, which means the film’s being lazy in addition to being bigoted. The readership numbers for BLACK MOON are rather paltry too. I expected more given it’s a previously hard to find Fay Wray, but no.

The Decalogue: One (1989, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

For the first episode of “The Decalogue,” director Kieslowski and co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz go straight for the jugular. Kieslowski fills the episode with foreshadowing until it spills over. And no symbolism is too obvious.

One is about a computer programming professor (Henryk Baranowski) and his similarly tech-enthusiastic son (Wojciech Klata). The tech is poorly visualized–in one scene, Baranowski runs a couple DIR commands and Kieslowski treats it like the second coming, which is the point. These fellows have abandoned God for their home computer.

Or maybe Baranowski is just a really bad dad. One’s full of symbolism, one’s full of story. Kieslowski goes with the former.

Both Klata and Baranowski are good in too obviously written roles. Great music from Zbigniew Preisner and lovely photography by Wieslaw Zdort.

What’s strange is how Kieslowski trusts the viewer to understand the little stuff, but not the big, obvious stuff.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz; director of photography, Wieslaw Zdort; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Henryk Baranowski (Krzysztof), Wojciech Klata (Pawel), Maja Komorowska (Irena), Maria Gladkowska (Girl) and Ewa Kania (Ewa Jezierska).

In Service of Nothing (2015, Tyler Gibb)

In Service of Nothing doesn’t have a writer credit, which is unfortunate. Even though the narration is occasionally too heavy-handed, it still has its effect moments.

Nothing is an unlicensed James Bond “potential” short film. Director Gibb does it as a pre-visualization, which lets him get away with a lot. The unfinished format conditions the viewer’s expectations, all of it extremely gently. Likewise, the way Bond himself transitions–from Sean Connery to an older, balder Connery–is also gentle. There’s a lot less detail after the opening in the sixties, but it works.

The short runs about ten minutes, which is good. There’s only so much despondent old man Bond one can take. Christopher Gee voices old man Bond and does well. It’s a Connery impression mixed with an actual performance.

It’s a great mix of concept and constraint. Gibb and company tell a quintessential, impossible 007 story.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Tyler Gibb; based on a character created by Ian Fleming; produced by Adi Shankar.

Starring Christopher Gee (James Bond).

[Stopped Buttons] Day 12 | March 3

Greg Kinnear, Julia Ormond, and Harrison Ford star in SABRINA, directed by Sydney Pollack for Paramount Pictures.

Sabrina (1995, Sydney Pollack)
2008

By 1995, I was tracking upcoming releases–through Entertainment Weekly mostly–and was excited for SABRINA. My dad and I saw it at a sneak preview. I think a week early. My mom and sister didn’t go. Mom had no interest in a SABRINA remake. It was one of the first laserdiscs I purchased; 1996 was the year I really started buying laserdiscs. Mom probably saw it on that. The post doesn’t do bad at all. Here I thought the SABRINA remake had been forgotten. But it definitely has readers (sometimes lots).


Benicio Del Toro stars in CHE: PART ONE, directed by Steven Soderbergh for IFC Films.

Che: Part One (2008, Steven Soderbergh)
2009

I followed the CHE production with a lot of interest; I can’t remember all its pratfalls but they were many. My wife and I went to go see the roadshow–which had both parts going back to back–at the Mayan in Denver. They had brochures. I remember being worried about doing my response after both parts, worried I wouldn’t be able to talk about them separately. Not a lot of people reading the CHE: PART ONE post. A steady, weak number of them. Soderbergh doesn’t seem to create new fans.


A scene from THE LOST THING, directed by Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan for Passion Pictures.

The Lost Thing (2010, Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan)
2011

I think a friend recommended THE LOST THING, after it won the Oscar. He’d seen it at a qualifying screening. I had also heard of THE LOST THING because there was a comic creator connection so it popped up on my Twitter feed and so on. Even for an Oscar-winning short, the buzz is ephemeral. They’re like very special TV episodes from before TiVo. The hype goes away. THE LOST THING post had a whole bunch of readers when it first went up. And that number plummeted and bottomed real low. Unfortunate.


A scene from ALICE IN THE WOOLY WEST, directed by Walt Disney for Margaret J. Winkler.

Alice in the Wooly West (1926, Walt Disney)
2012

I don’t remember much about ALICE IN THE WOOLY WEST. I think the sidekick overshadows the kidnapped Alice. I also watched really bad copies of the ALICE cartoons–I think WOOLY WEST was one of the better ones–which might’ve hurt them. Maybe if I knew more of the Disney animation history, I would’ve stuck with the ALICE cartoons but I just happened across them. The post gets terrible numbers. If anyone cares about old Disney ALICE cartoons, they sure aren’t reading about them on the site.


He'll be bat! Get it, he'll be bat? Batman in BATMAN VERSUS THE TERMINATOR, animated by Mitchell Hammond.

Batman versus The Terminator (2014, Mitchell Hammond)
2014

Let’s thank the Internet for BATMAN VERSUS THE TERMINATOR, which merges the two franchises. Seriously. Without the Internet for distribution and discussion, it’s unlikely any fan would commit so much energy to a project like this one. I didn’t care for the short. I can’t remember why exactly. I think it seemed too slight with the concept or was paced all wrong. The BATMAN VERSUS TERMINATOR post got a bit of interest. It immediately died off; the Internet fan-movie zeitgeist changes real fast.


Richard Blake and Jesse Williams have amazing hair in SNAKE AND MONGOOSE , directed by Wayne Holloway for Anchor Bay Films.

Snake and Mongoose (2013, Wayne Holloway)
2014

SNAKE AND MONGOOSE could be considered “mockbuster” to RUSH, only RUSH was Oscar bait, not a blockbuster. I saw the film on a screener because the supporting cast has some familiar names–I feel like Noah Wyle is in it for a second. But no matter who they got to cameo in one scene filmed in someone’s garage or another, nothing could compensate for the lead acting. The post got a lot of readers, so some screeners do lead to good numbers. But at the great cost of watching something insufferable.

[Stopped Buttons] Day 11 | March 2

Walter Huston stars in MISSION TO MOSCOW, directed by Michael Curtiz for Warner Bros.

Mission to Moscow (1943, Michael Curtiz)
2006

Thanks to TCM’s frequent airings, MISSION TO MOSCOW was one of my first Eleanor Parker movies in the nineties. It was one of the first Warner Archive DVDs I remember getting and watching; it might have been one of their earliest releases. Going back and watching MISSION TO MOSCOW this time, I was less impressed than with the film than before. I still bought the DVD. And MISSION TO MOSCOW still gets TCM airings and occasionally those lead to a lot of readers for the post. It does all right.


Edward Clements and Carolyn Farina star in METROPOLITAN, directed by Whit Stillman for New Line Cinema.

Metropolitan (1990, Whit Stillman)
2009

I paged through the response to see if I could figure out if I’d seen METROPOLITAN before the post. I failed. It’s possible I saw METROPOLITAN on VHS back in college, but I don’t think I did. I feel like I’d have talked about it a lot. And if I did wait until the mid-aughts to see it, I was waiting for a DVD release–I got as a rental from Nicheflix. A R2 release. The METROPOLITAN post got a lot of readers for a couple years and barely any after those two, which makes me sad. I love this movie.


spies-like-us

Spies Like Us (1985, John Landis)
2011

I saw SPIES LIKE US in the theater, when I was seven, with my dad. I had thought the preview looked great. I was a Chevy Chase fan in the eighties. Oh, wow. What a thing to remember all of a sudden. Up until MEMOIRS too. So embarrassing. This time, I watched it with the family at Christmas–streamed it from Netflix, as I recall. Did not like it as much as before. The SPIES LIKE US post gets a steady, sturdy amount of readers. I love how I’ve got a private adjective system for these tweets.


Christopher Reeve, Burt Reynolds, and Kathleen Turner star in SWITCHING CHANNELS, directed by Ted Kotcheff for Tri-Star Pictures.

Switching Channels (1988, Ted Kotcheff)
2012

As a kid, I didn’t give up on Christopher Reeve post-SUPERMAN, even with blond hair in SWITCHING CHANNELS. We rented it–maybe even from Phar-Mor, who sometimes had a better new release selection than Video Adventure–and liked it. I might have watched the movie again freshman year, rented from DJ’s, but maybe not. This viewing might be the first in many years. The SWITCHING CHANNELS post doesn’t get many readers, which is no surprise. It wasn’t a high mark on its participants’ careers.

A Night at the Opera (1935, Sam Wood)

As good as the Marx Brothers are in A Night at the Opera–and George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind’s strong script is important too–director Wood really brings the whole thing together. The film has its obligatory musical subplot and romantic leads. Wood knows how to balance those elements with the comedy; during long music sequences, he brings in the Brothers for a quick gag. And Opera smartly establishes those romantic leads (played by Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones) in relation to their sympathies for Harpo and Chico.

Opera also benefits from having one wonderful heinous villain (Walter Woolf King as an obnoxious opera star) and two great doofus ones (Sig Ruman and Robert Emmett O’Connor). King has the biggest part in the film and the briefest comedic sequences. Ruman and O’Connor both have long, elaborate sequences.

But where Wood’s direction is most impressive is how he and Merritt B. Gerstad shoot the Marx Brothers. While there’s a great moment with Groucho admiring a long Harpo gag, my favorite is how Wood handles Chico and Harpo’s music scene. After a quick, finely staged song from Jones, Chico plays the piano, then Harpo plays the harp. Chico’s sequence is jovial and engaging. Harpo’s is jovial and emotive. It’s gorgeous and Wood gives it as much weight as any comedy sequence. It simultaneously breaks Opera’s reality and deepens the entire film.

The film’s perfectly timed, has some great exasperation from Margaret Dumont, and some wonderful sketches. It’s a marvelous Night.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Wood; screenplay by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, based on a story by James Kevin McGuinness; director of photography, Merritt B. Gerstad; edited by William LeVanway; music by Herbert Stothart; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Groucho Marx (Otis B. Driftwood), Chico Marx (Fiorello), Harpo Marx (Tomasso), Kitty Carlisle (Rosa), Allan Jones (Ricardo), Walter Woolf King (Lassparri), Sig Ruman (Gottlieb), Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Claypool), Edward Keane (Captain) and Robert Emmett O’Connor (Henderson).

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003, John Singleton)

At some early point during 2 Fast 2 Furious–probably soon after the first car race, it becomes clear the film has two major influences for director Singleton. First, Star Wars. The car races often feel like Singleton is shooting an X-Wing sequence. Second, dumb white cop/black cop eighties movies. In this one, Paul Walker is serious white cop while Tyrese Gibson is funny black cop.

They’re not actually cops, they’re undercover ex-cons trying to clear their records. It doesn’t matter. For a movie about two childhood friends reconnecting in their adulthood, there’s no character development in 2 Fast. Singleton doesn’t just have superficial banter and car races, there’s Mr. Big too!

Cole Hauser, apparently in make-up as a Cuban-American but playing a German Miami villain (did they change their minds last minute and give him a new name?), is an evil Mr. Big. He tortures people and he menacingly cuts his cigars.

The torture scene is actually rather disturbing. Singleton manages not to take much seriously but even he apparently has limits.

Walker’s not any good, but he’s somewhat likable; his Keanu Reeves impression is improving. And while Gibson struts instead of acts, some of his lines work out well. As the girl, Eva Mendes is harmless. Hauser’s silly, James Remar’s atrocious, but otherwise, the supporting cast is fine.

Except Devon Aoki; she’s bad.

Good photography from Matthew F. Leonetti, bad editing from Bruce Cannon and Dallas Puett.

Decent car races.

Pretty dumb movie.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Singleton; screenplay by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, based on a story by Brandt, Haas and Gary Scott Thompson and characters created by Thompson; director of photography, Matthew F. Leonetti; edited by Bruce Cannon and Dallas Puett; music by David Arnold; production designer, Keith Brian Burns; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Tyrese Gibson (Roman Pearce), Eva Mendes (Monica Fuentes), Cole Hauser (Carter Verone), Ludacris (Tej), James Remar (Agent Markham), Thom Barry (Agent Bilkins), Devon Aoki (Suki), Roberto ‘Sanz’ Sanchez (Roberto), Mo Gallini (Enrique), Edward Finlay (Agent Dunn), Jin Auyeung (Jimmy), Michael Ealy (Slap Jack), Amaury Nolasco (Orange Julius), Eric Etebari (Darden) and Mark Boone Junior (Detective Whitworth).

[Stopped Buttons] Day 10 | March 1

A scene from Q, directed by Larry Cohen for United Film Distribution Company.

Q (1982, Larry Cohen)
2010

I first saw Q years ago–definitely on VHS, either in high school or college–because of Maltin’s write-up. Even though it has good stop motion, Q didn’t impress me as a teenager and I sort of forgot about it (and Larry Cohen) for years. I watched it this time because I was rediscovering Larry Cohen; both as films and time capsules, his films deserve another look. After a couple weak years–steady, but disinterested readership–the Q post has taken off. Not sure why but glad to see the interest.


Russ Kingston stars in GUILLOTINE GUYS (2010), directed by James Ricardo.

Guillotine Guys (2010, James Ricardo)
2010

So, Short Stop was hopefully going to lead to short filmmakers sending me links. GUILLOTINE GUYS was one. I was never comfortable posting negatively about submitted short films. Occasionally I’d just not publish the post on the short. As I recall, the guy who made GUILLOTINE GUYS was cool even after my negative post about the film, maybe submitting something else. There was a flurry of interest for a month on GUILLOTINE GUYS (maybe when the director did another short?). Since then, very little.


Davos Hanich and Hélène Chatelain star in LA JETÉE, directed by Chris Marker.

La jetée (1962, Chris Marker)
2012

Like many a mainstream film enthusiast, I first heard about LA JETÉE around the time of TWELVE MONKEYS. For Short Stop, I used the Recommended ratings (stolen from Maltin’s TV movie rating system). With LA JETÉE, it sort of backfires. LA JETÉE is fantastically made, but doesn’t work out. Any rating is going to backfire for it. Well, maybe a qualified rating system. The post doesn’t get many readers at all. LA JETÉE’s peak of mainstream interest was twenty years ago, Criterion release or not.


A scene from THE SAMURAI OF AYOTHAYA, directed by Nopporn Watin for Mahagaap.

The Samurai of Ayothaya (2010, Nopporn Watin)
2013

I got THE SAMURAI OF AYOTHAYA as a screener, back when I watched (or tried to watch) all the screeners. It’s hard to ascertain anything about a country’s film industry from just genre films and I’ve seen nothing else from Thailand. But nothing in THE SAMUARI OF AYOTHAYA made me interested in seeing any more. Budget period martial arts films are about all equal. There was some interest in the SAMURAI OF AYOTHAYA post–seemingly proving screeners do lead to readers–but it died off immediately.


Paul Henreid takes a look in the mirror in HOLLOW TRIUMPH, directed by Steve Sekely for Eagle-Lion Films.

Hollow Triumph (1948, Steve Sekely)
2014

I saw HOLLOW TRIUMPH on a screener; getting classic movie screeners tends to be better than the modern stuff. HOLLOW TRIUMPH is a strange film, with Paul Henreid in dual roles; there’s a film-noir vibe to the story, not so much the filmmaking. The twists people love at the end of most film-noirs are where I throw up my hands. I’m not a fan of reductive pigeonholing. Not a lot of readers for the HOLLOW TRIUMPH post. Paul Henreid is an under-recognized Golden Age star, sadly (at least his leads).

Turbo Charged (2003, Philip G. Atwell)

With the exception of being a Hollywood production (even if it’s a Hollywood production for video), Turbo Charged plays like an amateurish short movie make on an iMac. The kind of thing iMovie was great for back in the late nineties–lots of imaginative transitions, the omnipresent music so there doesn’t need to be any dialogue or even sound recording.

And at the center of Turbo Charged is movie star Paul Walker. He doesn’t have any lines, he just has to walk around, just has to run from the cops (he’s on the run, a rogue undercover cop, or so all the national news coverage says). Right, national. Because Turbo Charged is cross country, with flashier Indiana Jones map travel lines.

Only all the locations are in Southern California.

Those unreal moments are nothing compared to Walker. He can’t even successfully essay his part when he’s silent. He’s visibly lost.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Philip G. Atwell; written by Keith Dinielli; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Home Entertainment.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner).

[Stopped Buttons] Day 9½ | February 29

A scene from STALINGRAD, directed by Joseph Vilsmaier for Senator Film.

Stalingrad (1993, Joseph Vilsmaier)
2008

I remember seeing the STALINGRAD VHS at Video Adventure for years and years, both as a customer and employee. When I did see it, it was because Nicheflix had it as a rental. I remember it being long and boring and not particularly good. I wish I had made a list of all the things I wanted to see in my teens because I independently thought they were supposed to be good. Strangely enough, the STALINGRAD post gets a lot of readers. The year-to-year is descending and unstable, but still rather good.


Kathleen Turner, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, and Sam Waterston star in SERIAL MOM, directed by John Waters for Savoy Pictures.

Serial Mom (1994, John Waters)
2012

I didn’t see SERIAL MOM in the theater, but soon after it came out on video. We were a Kathleen Turner family. My mom and my sister also liked the more mainstream John Waters movies (HAIRSPRAY, CRY-BABY) so it was a good combination picture. I never had a John Waters period. I have friends who love his older stuff and I’ve always been aware of him, just never seeing much. Not a lot of readers for the SERIAL MOM post. Not a lot at all. Less, actually, than I was expecting to see. Really bad numbers.

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