Posts Tagged ‘Summer of 2014’

The 5th and final part of My 100 Movies of Summer

I had two goals going into this Summer.  Watch 100 movies and once a week write about the best thing I saw.

Well, clearly the latter was a raging failure.  I got lazy and just stopped writing.  It wasn’t because I didn’t see any good movies.  I hit 100 in the middle of this week and finished the summer off with about 105.  So that’s cool.  And in the period since my last entry, I watched three of the top ten flicks I’ve seen this year.

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Life Itself

Back in 1994, Roger Ebert gave a very enthusiastic ‘thumbs up’ to a fascinating documentary by Steve James called Hoop Dreams.  Almost 20 years later, James and Ebert decided to film a documentary loosely based on the critic’s autobiography. Shortly after they started filming, Ebert broke his hip and it was discovered that the cancer that had taken his voice had returned with a vengeance.  It was apparent to all involved that James would be filming the last few months of Roger Ebert’s life.  It’s a tough viewing experience. Ebert isn’t hiding anything here.  He’s completely vulnerable, his physical state deteriorating, the prosthetic he had used in public to give his face form now removed. I can only imagine the great difficulty Mr. James faced but ultimately he does an incredible job of chronicling his friend’s final fight.

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Boyhood

Richard Linklater had a crazy idea.  Put together a cast and film a movie for a few weeks at a time over the course of twelve years, chronicling the maturity of a young boy and the lives of those around him.  It is a most singular achievement in film-making. Consisting of a series of vignettes, it’s a simple coming of age drama clothed in the usual trappings of divorce, blended families and growing pains. Nothing truly exceptional happens but the viewer becomes invested in the lives of this young boy and his family as they (and the actors who portray them) age over time. The film is long but you don’t really feel it and I found myself almost disappointed as it ended. I dare say there’s probably something in this film that anyone who survived their childhood can relate to.  If Mr. Linklater decided to continue the project and film the next twelve years of this kid’s life, I’d be on board.

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Cold in July

This film starts off as something very familiar.  A man kills a home invader. In the eyes of the police, it’s a simple question of self-defense.  But then the father of the intruder is released from prison.  The grieving father stalks the man and his family. A tipping point is reached and a thrilling climax is reached.  But that’s just the first 20 minutes as what starts off as a simple reverse revenge flick begins smoothly transitioning into…something totally different and disturbing. Suffice it to say that truly terrible things are happening in the Lone Star State and uneasy bedfellows Sam Sheppard, Michael C Hall, and Don Johnson(!) aim to put an end to it. Fueled by a great Carpenteresque synth soundtrack by Jeff Grace, the film hits the gas and doesn’t let up until a lot of people are left dead in its wake.  This is a perfect piece of neo-noir.

 

If you’re curious to see what all I watched these last 3 months, feel free to check out my Letterboxd profile.

Part 3 of My 100 Movies of Summer 2014

Rewind This! (d. Josh Johnson)

For pretty much anyone over 20, VHS and the magical VCR were their entrée into the world of home video.

I finally convinced my grandfather to purchase a VCR in the mid-80s.  I quickly got him to get a membership at a neighborhood VHS rental store.  In those days very few movies were priced for ‘sell-through’ so rental was the only way to go.  I don’t remember the first movie I ever rented and honestly I didn’t get a chance to rent that often.  But when I did, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices available to me.  Movies I’d never heard of with box art that blew my mind.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I saw the box for I Spit on Your Grave.  If you’re a dude, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

As the years went on, I still refrained from buying very many movies.  I did always maintain a membership at any place I could wherever I was living at the time.  And of course, I racked up plenty of late fees along the way.  I started collecting heavily though once I bought my first DVD player and those habits have carried on through all the way to Blu-ray.  I love my collection.  I love having a movie available at a moment’s notice right there at my fingertips.

Let’s be honest though.  As awesome as DVD and Blu-ray’s are, the number of movies available in the formats is just a fraction of those that were available on VHS in its prime.  This is why for many folks VHS will always be the King of Home Video.  This documentary is a celebration of the format and its fans.

It’s as thorough a history of the hallowed format as you’re ever likely to need.  It tracks its origin, the battle with Betamax, its rise to prominence, its expansion into the adult industry and the direct-to-video market, its peak and inevitable decline, and finally its death in the shadow of the rising DVD market.  Along the way, you get to meet the industry people who saw the value in a home market and pushed heavily to make movies easily available.  You meet the people who ran (and some who still run) the mom-and-pop stores, making money hand over fist as anxious people lined up for the latest releases.

And you meet the fans.  Those people with houses filled with those obnoxious, plastic clam-shells and those flimsy dusty slipcases.  Those people who hit up every Half Price Books, every flea market, every garage sale looking for unexpected treasure.  They each have their own reasons for having an extraordinary number of movies.  And if you’re a collector, you can only smile.  Because you have your reasons too.  You understand them.  You understand that totemic aspect of physical media.  It ties you to a specific time, a specific place, a specific memory.  Physical media is in its death throes, as the film ultimately acknowledges, but it may never ultimately die.  It can’t and won’t.

Not as long as crazy old dinosaurs like me and the people featured in this fine little film are still kicking.

Rewind This! is available via streaming on Amazon Instant.  But come on.  Do the dinosaurs a solid and buy the DVD.  Hell, buy the VHS.  Yeah.  There’s a VHS.  How cool is that?

 

If you are interested in seeing what other films I watched this week you can always check out my profile at Letterboxd.

 

Previous entries in My 100 Movies of Summer 2014 series

The best thing I saw 3 weeks ago

The best thing I saw the week before that

Part 2 of My 100 Movies of Summer 2014

The faces of two men wearing colorful sunglasses, and holding guns up beside their faces. Above them the number '22' in red.

22 Jump Street (d. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)

Laurel & Hardy.  Abbott & Costello.  Hope & Crosby.  Pryor & Wilder.  Hill & Tatum?

There’s a new comedic duo primed to join the greats.  And that duo is Magic Mike and the tubby kid from Superbad.

Whodathunkit?

I saw 21 Jump Street in the theater and rather liked it.  I thought it was funny and found it to be a good time.  I went on living my life.  Recently, I was visiting a friend who had never seen it.  He rented it VOD and I laughed my ass off.  I had forgotten just how funny it was.  I was primed and ready for the sequel.

If you’ve seen the first film, you understand just how genius the pairing of these two actors is.  Tatum, not known for being the best of actors, plays the ridiculously sculpted athlete who’s a bit of lunk.  Hill, who was previously known for his teen comedies, is the insecure, clumsy and book smart guy.  They put aside their differences to help each other get through the police academy and are partnered up.  Hilarity ensues.

The interplay between the two is perfect.  It’s not something that can be directed or coaxed out of an actor.  It’s the kind of chemistry that very few actors have together and it’s absolutely the best reason to see these movies.

You may have noticed that I haven’t really talked about the plot of the sequel.  Well honestly, that’s because it’s not really necessary.  The movie itself merely serves as a device to allow these two to do their thing (this time in a collegiate setting) with some great supporting turns from the likes of a dry Nick Offerman, an ever angry Ice Cube and others including character actress Jillian Bell who almost steals the movie in her few minutes of screen time.  The film is self-aware without being cute about it.  The filmmakers and actors knew they didn’t have to break new ground and yet manage to do so while serving up a story that is almost directly lifted from the first film.

But it doesn’t matter.  They even use that to great comedic effect.

The plot resolves, the greatest bromance in movie history survives another test and, as the end credits roll, the viewer is gifted with a tease of further potential sequels.  I’d probably watch every last one of them.

If you enjoyed 21 Jump Street, you will enjoy this one.  It’s that simple.  And if you didn’t enjoy 21 Jump Street, what the hell is wrong with you?

If you are interested in seeing what other films I watched this week you can always check out of my profile at Letterboxd.

Previous Entries in My 100 Movies of Summer 2014 series:

The best thing I saw LAST week!