Sunday, November 03, 2013

October 2013

This will probably be a slightly abbreviated entry, as I haven't been feeling great lately and it's uncomfortable to sit in front of a computer. Briefly, I have continued on my Alfred Hitchcock Presents journey; I have now made it almost all the way through Season 3, which comprises well over 100 episodes. I am continuing to enjoy the series very much. In addition, I've been working my way through Series 4 of Downton Abbey, currently airing only in the UK (fortunately, I know how to bootleg), as well as first-run episodes of Homeland, SVU, Simpsons and Modern Family. And yet, even with all of the TV viewing, I saw a respectable amount of movies this month:


GRAVITY (2013)—An exciting marooned-in-space adventure with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney grappling to survive after debris crashes into their space shuttle. Amazing direction and special effects enhance this edge-of-your seat thriller. (9)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)—Real-life story of the 2009 Maersk Alabama cargo ship hijacking by Somali pirates. Tom Hanks plays ship captain Richard Phillips. The movie is divided into two sections: the ship part, and the lifeboat part. Both are very interesting, but the second half does drag on a bit. Still, this is an informative and often terrifying drama. I was somewhat saddened to read several accounts by actual sailors who objected to the virtual canonization of the real-life Phillips on the basis that he dropped the ball and made several mistakes that might have prevented the attack. (9)

ALL IS LOST (2013)—Second terror-at-sea thriller gives Robert Redford a chance to showcase his acting talents with almost no dialogue. Stranded on a sinking sailboat in the middle of the ocean, he must use his wits to stay afloat—and alive. Very enjoyable, except for the ambiguous ending, which I despised. (8)

JACKASS PRESENTS BAD GRANDPA (2013)—Taking a cue from Borat, this is a series of Candid Camera type pranks with several scripted linking scenes to glue it all together. Some of it is very funny, some of it is just stupid, and a lot of it is a combination of both. Sophomoric but undeniably amusing. (7)

12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)—Despite the avalanche of accolades, I found this movie excruciating to watch, as it's torture porn of the worst sort—far worse than Saw, Hostel or Human Centipede. And yet people are applauding this unbelievably violent, ultra-sadistic movie as if it were The Godfather. Ugh! Nobody hates slavery more than I do, but this was so brutal I wanted to vomit. Some marvelous acting saves it. (7)

THE DIRTIES (2013)—"Found footage" comedy-drama about a pair of bullied high-school kids who decide to make a movie about their dilemma...and then one of them starts to imagine them as the new Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. A little too self-indulgent for my tastes, but it does have a jolt of an ending. (6)


THE ATTIC (1980)—I always enjoy Ray Milland, especially when he went slumming on TV shows and in horror movies like Frogs. This is from that second phase of his career, a lurid thriller about a woman (Diary of a Mad Housewife's Carrie Snodgress) and her grouchy, wheelchair-bound father (Milland). It's sort of a latter day grand guignol story along the lines of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Sort of trashy, but very watchable and the two leads are great, especially Snodgress. (8)

DARK PASSAGE (1947)—Jay Steele and I caught this mystery at Palo Alto's beloved Stanford Theatre revival house. Humphrey Bogart stars as a prison escapee who sets out to prove he didn't commit the murder he was sent up for; Lauren Bacall tries to help him. The gimmick of this movie is that you don't see Bogie's face for the first 40 minutes or so. I never realized how gorgeous the young Bacall was. The movie is entertaining but more than a little farfetched. Co-starring Agnes "Endora" Moorehead. (8)

WISH YOU WERE HERE (2012)—I continue to chip away at my "2012 Movies I'm Sorry I Missed" list with this mystery involving two Aussie couples who vacation in Cambodia...and only three of them come back. What happened to the one missing man is the secret that isn't revealed until the violent ending. It's a movie that plays around with a non-linear format (i.e., lots of flashbacks), but it's fairly well done. It definitely kept me guessing. (8)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (2012)—Second of three that I missed last year. "Unique" is the first word that comes to mind about this drama about a couple (Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly) whose newborn son grows up to be a dangerous sociopath (Ezra Miller). Lionel Shriver's novel makes a compelling and sometimes frightening drama that explores the "nurture vs. nature" aspect of the sociopath and how his total lack of empathy for others breaks the family apart. It's a flashback-laden affair that grows in tension, leading up to a nail-biting finale. This movie kept me thinking for a couple of days after I screened it, and I consider that quite an achievement for a movie—few others get under my skin in that way. Only debit: how did homely Swinton and Reilly have such great-looking kids? (9)

BIG MIRACLE (2012)—This is the true story (from 1988) of the effort to rescue three Alaskan whales trapped in ice. Former TV actors John Krasinski (The Office), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Ted Danson (Cheers), Kathy Baker (Picket Fences) and Stephen Root (NewsRadio) join Drew Barrymore as some of the folks who try to save the whales. There's no real villain in this movie except for the very bad weather; the proliferation of TV actors—and the G-rated "family" type feel—make this feel a lot like a TV movie. And of course, since many of the scenes are obviously filmed in a studio, none of the actors walking around in 50-below freezing cold have any fog on their breath, which continues to be one of my all-time movie pet peeves.'s a hard movie to really hate. (7)


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