Movies, First Quarter 2022
BIG STUPID ACTION / CRAIGATHON / CRUISEATHON / LINKS
artwork by Molly Colleen O'Connell
List of movies watched January/February/March 2022. I know I just posted one of these lists, which encompassed the entire year of 2021, but I felt like the list was a tad long, better to break it up by quarter. This quarter it's mostly big stupid action movies.
These notes are pulled direct from my little computer diary. I do not put a numeric score on each movie because that's not helpful to me, and besides it's not like these are "reviews", this is just my notes.
If you hated any of the movies I enjoyed, that's completely no problem for me.
Stage-Struck Tora-San (1978) We're moving in order through Tora-San movies for the moment, although that's not set in stone-- I may jump around. This is the 21st movie in the series. Opens with a UFO dream sequence and has an oddly funky soundtrack.
Cowboys and Aliens (2011) I remembered this as being fun, and it really fit the night's requirement of a good but not intense movie. James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) star in this "just what it says on the tin" sci-fi western. And of course Walt Goggins is in this, this is primo Walt Goggins territory. It's cool but also nuts that the aliens in this just want gold-- that's humbling. You almost wish they were more evil, that they wanted to eat people or something, but they just want gold and they have no respect for human life. Sounds familiar.
A Night At The Opera (1935) I love all the Marx Brothers movies but this is my favorite. Great performances, great bits, great songs, Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones are great as the lovebirds, and the whole thing flows beautifully. It isn't funnier than the other ones but it just pops. This one is the saddle point between the more anarchic movies they made for Paramount, but before the MGM ones got too much like other people's movies. I've watched this one... a hundred times??? Every line and nuance is inscribed in my mind. At this point my favorite parts are the very little things, like Chico saying "sure..." or "Do you mind if I, uh...". I hung out with ML a few months ago and he got me with a perfectly apropos Margaret Dumont quote from this-- "one of those is a day bed". That's not even a funny line but for some reason I love it.
Spectre (2015) After watching "Cowboys and Aliens" the other day on a whim, we went back and rewatched all the Daniel Craig Bond movies. He's great, in a way that didn't come into focus until we watched a little bit of a Roger Moore Bond later-- with Bond, as with any spy movie spy, you want to see a high level of confidence, but you also want to feel like what they're doing is actually difficult. Roger Moore just kind of walks around and everything seems too easy, but Daniel Craig is really working out there. Spectre is the one about building a global surveillance network, and it's also the "daddy issues" one, with Bond's adoptive brother seeking to destroy him for usurping his father's attention and affection when they were children. According to wikipedia there's a copyright issue with the character of Blofeld, who appeared, as part of the SPECTRE organization, as the main baddie in 8 movies from 1963 to 1971. Then he pretty much disappeared, until this particular picture. As I understand it, there was a plagiarism lawsuit about his appearance in the books, and the settlement gave the other guys the movie rights to the character. Bond author Fleming had a heart attack during the trial, followed by a second heart attack nine months later. So in some way you could say that Blofeld is a bad guy who killed his own author, as Blofeld in this movie is said to have killed his own father. The studios finally got the character back in 2015, through circumstances unclear. Maybe they just paid up?
Casino Royale (2006) The first Bond movie of the current epoch. Watching it this time I kept thinking about how the young Daniel Craig looks like Weird Mike (aka Mike From The Future). Has anyone seen Weird Mike lately? How's he doing? The bad guy in this is Mads Mikkelsen, who we love, and he cries blood for completely no reason, it rocks. There's a love interest who (spoiler) kills herself at the end for apparently no reason, and this is a plot point for the rest of the Craig Bonds-- not that she died for completely no discernable reason, but that she like "betrayed him". I think I'm sensitive to preposterous accusations of betrayal because I started going to shows during the rise of Emo, but it's fitting for the character I guess. I mean I can really see a character like Bond transmuting his grief into anger via misremembered betrayal, and then making that like 50% of his personality. You have to remember that Bond is messed up emotionally and also sort of a bad person, and this is what makes him valuable as a state-controlled tool of mayhem.
Quantum of Solace (2008) Great bad guy in this, a greenwashing developer who seeks to privatize all the water in Bolivia. All the bad guys in this era of Bond are just doing stuff that governments and corporations are already doing, it's bleak. Of course in Bond world this guy gets abandoned in the desert where he gets so thirsty he drinks motor oil. Meanwhile in our world the Nestle dudes are watching pre-release screeners of this and laughing from their impregnable superyachts. The producers wish to thank Coca Cola. For more on the Bolivian water crisis, see this wikipedia entry for the Cochabamba War: [wikipedia]
Skyfall (2012) if Spectre was the Bond movie about daddy issues, this is the mommy issues one. There's a final battle at Bond's ancestral home in Scotland, which has a secret tunnel in it for what seems like a valid historical reason. Scotland rocks.
No Time To Die (2021) Finally they made one where Bond realizes "OK, our side does bad stuff too". And then his boss is like "we have to!" but doesn't make a very convincing case, because power corrupts. In the end they destroy the diabolocal invention, but like, can you really destroy an invention? No one has a copy of the plans? The bad guy in this is great, played by Rami Malick. Malick was Freddie in the Queen biopic, a role that was at one point offered to the guy who plays Q in this. The two of them don't have any onscreen time together in this movie, I wonder if they spoke at all on set. Anyway I spent the first half like "wow, that's Freddie Mercury" and then once the unrequited love angle showed up I tried to convince myself that actually it was the guy who played Ducky in Pretty In Pink. Something funny that happens in this one is that Bond makes a simple breakfast for his (spoiler) young daughter, but it's just an apple that he peels and cuts into thin slices. Then while she's eating it (with a fork) he goes "is it good?" and she's like "uhhhh yeah, it's great" and he's all proud. This made me realize that Bond probably hasn't prepared his own food since he was like, 6 years old-- he probably eats in restaurants and hotels for 3 meals a day and doesn't really know how food works. His "cool hack" is peeling an apple.
Logan Lucky (2017) Fun Soderbergh heist movie with Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig (continuing our Craigathon). Daniel Craig knows that he has to do a weird accent in every non-Bond movie he's in, or the audience will say "there's James Bond". Some people can't operate with a burden like that but some people seem to really luxuriate in its horrible gravity. Needless to say Craig is on team Burden Luxuriate In Gravity Of, and in this movie his accent is as unconvincing as his joy is evident. Director Soderbergh describes Logan Lucky as being like Ocean's Eleven but it's all "rubber band technology", which is apt, and as with Ocean's Eleven et al, we get to watch a plan that we think we understand play out perfectly, and then at the end there's a reveal that there's an even more diabolical plan underneath that, and it also goes perfectly. Checkers to chess. I liked it. Adam Driver has the best accent of everyone in this, I really liked him (and I didn't really like him in Star Wars).
Knives Out (2019) Zany whodunnit that upends the format in a novel way, where you know who did it at the beginning (ala Columbo) and then you hope they don't get caught (because it was just a mistake), and then only at the very end do you learn that (spoiler) it actually was a murder, and (spoiler) they didn't do it, it was (spoiler) someone else. Daniel Craig does his craziest accent yet, a sort of Foghorn Leghorn. Don Johnston, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Toni Collette make the most of the opportunity to play annoying low-level bad people. I watched this initially at the beginning of the pandemic, and rewatching it now felt weird-- I've been inside long enough to rewatch a movie I saw already and didn't totally love.
Goldfinger (1964) Searching around trying to find another Bond movie that we like. Tried to watch Moonraker but Roger Moore was just too much of a dud. This one (with Sean Connery) was good. One thing that really struck me is that the initial bad thing that the bad guy does, which is the reason that the Bank of England (!) tells Bond to go after him, is that he's buying gold in one location and selling it at another location where it's worth more money. That may be against the best interest of the Bank of England but come on, that's not morally wrong by any stretch of the imagination. Also Goldfinger's ultimate plan is to 10x his investment, which honestly seems kind of paltry by today's standards. I mean if you're kind of evil and you already have 10 million dollars, I imagine you'd be able to get to 100 mil in a fairly short period of time, without ever personally pulling a trigger or vivisecting a rival by laser. Not to say that this guy's a dummy, but rather, that times sure have changed. Maybe I'm wrong but I feel like today's financial crimes are enshrouded in law.
Pollyanna (1960) I had this idea of "a Pollyanna" as a sort of goody-goody character, so I wasn't really that interested in seeing this for a while. Finally I did and I really liked it. There's a bit of a Moomin feeling, where there's a likeable character in a griping and grousing Hell world, constantly beset by miserable operatives hung up on their own hooks. This made me anxious for the first half, and I was thinking "if only Pollyanna was with other Pollyannas, then she could start really lifting some serious weight". But then wouldn't you know it, she transforms the hell world into a glad land. This movie rekindled my interest in what I call "the ice cream bullshit 1910s". It's a weird mood to pin down but architecturally it's like the Addams Family but everything's brand new.
Bringing Up Father (1947) I went looking for more movies set in the ice cream bullshit 1910s and someone suggested this so I looked it up. Usually I watch a movie all the way through but this one I had to stop, it was an unrelenting cavalcade of displeasure. I watched this on YouTube and the comments let me know exactly who's digging this in the 21st century-- bitter old dicks. "What a wonderful movie, it was a time when everyone knew their place and stayed there". Yuck! Wikipedia says "The more he rails against his staff, his cook, his wife, his horse, salesmen, holidays, his children and the inability of the world to live up to his impossible standards, the more comical and lovable he becomes to his own family who love him despite it all." I didn't find this loveable at all, I found it tiresome and unbearable. William Powell stars and a young Liz Taylor fails to charm in this vile and contemptable stinkeroo.
Project A 2 (1987) rewatch of this extremely enjoyable Jackie Chan movie, the sequel to 1983's Project A (which is similarly superb). Set in Hong Kong of the late 1800s, which is suuuuuuch a great time period for an action movie, mostly because very few people are in cars and there are only a few guns - just enough to add a level of high danger when present. Also the costumes are great! And setting it in Hong Kong at this time is also great because you have Hong Kong police, Navy guys, Chinese secret agents, imperial British dudes, revolution guys, corrupt cops, regular bad guys, AND pirates, all working with and against each other at different times, with lots of new construction to climb on and through. I watched an interview with Jackie and he said that after Project A, western reviewers kept comparing him to old film comedians, even though he had never seen these movies. It's crazy to think of making a movie where you hang from a huge clock without being aware of Harold Lloyd, but watching old movies was a non-trivial feat in the age before the VCR. Anyway in between Projects A and A 2 he made a point of schooling himself on old Hollywood comedies, if only to figure out what everyone was talking about. This one has a tense and wonderful scene based on the famous stateroom scene from Night At The Opera. Strong recommendation.