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Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Patriot (2000): Braveheart vs. Redcoat, with Expected Results

The Patriot (Roland Emmerich, 2000)

[originally posted 4Apr2001]

Mel Gibson is so dominant in this poster it might as well be called "Mel Gibson and... well, a few other people."

At least he didn’t call it The Last Temptation of Washington.
photo credit: Wikipedia

I’m not sure why I’m mildly surprised this movie wasn’t nearly as good as Braveheart. After all, Roland Emmerich was the brain behind such wondrous projects as Godzilla (1998) and Universal Soldier. Hoo boy. That said, it’s quite amazing that the thing manages to come off as well as it does. The main reason it does is Jason Isaacs, who plays William Tavington, the sleazy British colonel who serves as Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson)’s nemesis. (Did Isaacs look familiar to you? He delivered the immortal “C minus” line in Armageddon—one of the few lines in that movie that made it worth watching.)
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Spiders (2000): Eight Legs of Dumb

Spiders (Gary Jones, 2000)

[originally posted 4Apr2001]

A number of generic bodies cocooned adorn the film's poster.

You just kind of expect Don Ameche to pop up, don’t you?
photo credit: horror101withdrac.blogspot.com

Gary Jones, the man who gave us the inimitably bad Mosquitoes and various episodes of Hercules and Xena, is back with yet another movie about big bugs with bad special effects. My local vidshack had this as a two-day rental, something usually reserved for popular films (to keep them on the shelves, natch), which led me to the illusion that it might actually be a worthwhile movie. More fool me.
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Bereavement (2010): Challenge Rejected

Bereavement (Stevan Mena, 2010)

 

Alexandra Daddario is menaced by something down the hall on the movie poster.

Don’t Look in the…Wait, What Part of the Country Am I in Again?
photo credit: Wikipedia

Bereavement is a prequel to Mena’s 2004 Malevolence. In my review of that one, which I saw about four years ago, I hypothesized that it was the middle film in a projected trilogy, though I no longer remember what led me to that belief. I also, despite the film’s many shortcomings (upon reflection, the two stars I gave it seem overly generous), posited that maybe it would make more sense once Bereavement came out. I have now seen Bereavement—very unusually for me, I am typing these opening sentences while the end credits of the movie are rolling, rather than letting it sit for a few days to see if my feelings about it change—and I can confidently say that the answer to the question I posted four years ago is “no”. While it is obvious that Mena learned from a number of the mistakes made with Malevolence, he’s still got a long, long way to go.

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Mona Lisa (1986): Driver’s Remorse

[bloody hell, things got a little crazy at Goat Central last night, so there’s some catch-up to be played. Apologies!]

Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan, 1986)

 

Cathy Tyson's image dominates one of Bob Hoskins in the lower left-hand corner on the movie poster.

The sisters are doin’ it for themselves.
photo credit: Wikipedia

I watched Mona Lisa towards the end of December, after I had set the first draft of my Best I Saw list for 2013. When I was finished, I immediately went to that list and had to rearrange it. Neil Jordan took the British gangster film (and he was serious about making sure people knew it was a British gangster film, to the point of casting the British gangster film stalwart, Bob Hoskins, the Ray Winstone of the eighties), added some of that Neil Jordan magic that few people recognized that early in his career (Mona Lisa was Jordan’s third feature), and came up with something that simultaneously revelled in being a British gangster film and something that was also totally new. I’m not sure there is such a thing as the definitive British gangster film, and if it does exist, I’m certain it happened well before 1986. Besides, Mona Lisa breaks far too many molds to be a definitive anything… and yet, somehow, it is, a quick, genre-bending, exceptionally intelligent piece of work.

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The Way of the Gun (2000): Don’t Rely on No One Else

The Way of the Gun (Christopher McQuarrie, 2000)

[originally posted 5Apr2001]

Ryan Phillippe and Benicio del Toro dominate the film's poster.

A fine cast, utterly wasted.
photo credit: imfdb.com

The Way of the Gun gets my vote for “most boring action film of 2000” by a pretty wide margin. McQuarrie, who wrote one of the finest mysteries ever filmed (The Usual Suspects), takes his own turn at the directorial helm here, and let’s hope he learned from the many mistakes he made in his debut.
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Blithe Spirit (1945): Shriek Encounter

Blithe Spirit (David Lean, 1945)

Kay Hammond reclines on the poster with a come-hither look surrounded by stills from the film on the poster.

Blithe, lithe, it all works.
photo credit: moviepostershop.com

David Lean is one of those “all the pros are really in love with this guy” directors whose films I rarely seem to get round to watching. This confuses me somewhat, because when I do watch a Lean film, I find it immensely enjoyable; I’ve only seen two so far, but Lawrence of Arabia, as of this writing, is sitting at #121 on my all-time top 1000 list, and Blithe Spirit entered the list at #541. Both are phenomenal pictures. A stage performance of Blithe Spirit had just closed its run right across the street from where I work a couple of weeks before I sat down to watch the movie; by the time it was over, I was kicking myself for not having gone to see the play. That strikes me as the best recommendation I can give the silly, wonderful thing.

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The Flounder (1977): Truth in Advertising

Günter Grass, The Flounder (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977)

[originally posted 5Apr2001]

A flounder whispers into a man's ear on the book's cover.

“You wanna see the fillets? That’ll cost you extra…”
photo credit: sexualfables.com

I just couldn’t get through it. I can’t really put my finger on why, but there it is. The Flounder contains all the things I revere about Grass—a strong sense of history, scurrilous sense of humor, strong characters put into wonderfully unrealistic situations. But this novel, Grass’ weightiest (literally), never seems to come together in all the little ways that made similarly large tomes like The Tin Drum and Dog Years such wonderful reads.
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