Archive | monday movie RSS feed for this section

Monday Movie: The Tin Drum, by David Bax

19 Dec

Because the first Volker Schlondörff film I ever saw was 2000’s The Legend of Rita, he maintains a reputation in my subconscious as a chiefly political, formalistically straightforward filmmaker. Even though I’ve seen more of his work since, it remains a surprise when I see something at outré as 1979’s The Tin Drum. Yet despite the film’s compelling and sometimes unsettling outlandishness, one part of my first impression holds true. It is without a doubt a political film.


Monday Movie: Thirteen Days, by David Bax

12 Dec


With Jackie in theaters, there’s cause to reflect on the legacy of John F. Kennedy. How much, really, did he accomplish in his brief stay in the White House? If there’s one thing on the résumé that anyone can point to, it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the United States and the Soviet Union shoved one another right up to the cliff’s edge of nuclear war and then Kennedy’s administration carefully and incrementally eased us back from it while the world sweated. Thirteen Days, made in 2000, dramatizes (and lightly fictionalizes) those proceedings. It’s not perfect but, in a way, it may be the ultimate Cold War movie. Battles herein are fought not between armies but in offices and over phone lines, by men in shirtsleeves and horn-rimmed glasses. But that doesn’t make it any less tense or thrilling.


Monday Movie: Haywire, by Craig Schroeder

18 Jul


Haywire is one of the best action films of the decade. Overlooked when it was released wide in 2012—possibly due to a January release date, the typical garbage depot for studio lepers and Oscar bait run-off—Haywire is a taut action-thriller, forgoing the bombast and histrionics of typical action films for tight choreography and bold, resourceful filmmaking.


Monday Movie: Spartan, by Tyler Smith

4 Jul


In recent years, I’ve been very critical of writer-director David Mamet. Once a revolutionary playwright whose ability to write realistic dialogue was unmatched, Mamet quickly fell in love with is own linguistic tricks and dense plotting. After a while, his characters no longer sounded like real people; everything was too stylized. The addition of Redbelt to his filmography didn’t do him any favors with me, either. However, once we accept that Mamet’s style has changed- and he no longer has any interest in showing us real people in real situations- we allow ourselves to enjoy the work for what it is. Probably his most notable and exciting film since The Spanish Prisoner, Spartan tells the story of a lone government agent trying to find the truth behind the recent disappearance of the President’s daughter. At first, it seems simple, just the way the agent likes it. Then, in the usual Mametian style, the plot folds back on itself and we realize that what we accepted as truth was really just a manipulation. It is a film of political paranoia and suspicion made to look like a typical action/suspense story. It may not be on the same level of Glengarry Glen Ross but it’s entertaining and stimulating.

Monday Movie: The Little Shop of Horrors, by David Bax

27 Jun


Roger Corman’s The Little Shop of Horrors is, in retrospect, kind of an important film in my personal development as a cinephile. As a young boy, I was more than a little taken with Frank Oz’s uneven but definitely watchable film adaptation of the musical version. This is why one day, my father brought home for me a bargain bin VHS copy of the 1960 original, which I had no idea even existed. The box exuberantly touted the appearance of a young Jack Nicholson. It was to be the first Roger Corman film that I would ever see, an important enough milestone on its own. Yet it was also a first in other, more abstract ways. It was in black and white but it wasn’t like the stately, old-seeming black and white movies I would have seen up to that point. It was loose, irreverent and fun, assembled in a charmingly slapdash but nonetheless competent manner. I realize now that it was my first exposure to the independent spirit and it has remained with me, in ways both conscious and subconscious, ever since.


Monday Movie: ¡Three Amigos!, by Sarah Brinks

20 Jun


¡¡Three Amigos! is a classic 1980’s comedy starring some of the best comedians of our time: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short. This is one of those films that defined my childhood and my sense of humor. The premise of the film is that three silent film stars of a series of films about three wealthy Spanish land owners called the “Three Amigos” are mistaken for real heroes and hired by a small Mexican village to stop an evil crime lord from terrorizing them. The Amigos think it is a real acting gig, when in fact it is a real cry for help. Hilarity, of course, ensues.


Monday Movie: Viy, by Scott Nye

6 Jun


Viy is officially noted as the first horror film released in the USSR, and it is the debut film from two filmmakers who would never direct together again. But where these two factors could easily lead to something derivative, stealing from decades of genre work done in the U.S., Italy, and Germany, Viy (pronounced simply “vee”) is entirely its own beast. Adapted from an 1835 story by Nikolai Gogol, it deals with a priest who, after accidentally killing a witch, is forced to say prayers over her for three nights before she is buried. There are a lot of mechanics to get there, but that’s the gist. Naturally, the witch is not about to let him get away unscathed, and those three nights are anything but pleasant. Directors Konstantin Yershov and Georgi Kropachyov realize this story with astounding special effects – utilizing rear projections, rotating sets, and false surfaces at all sides of the room, ensuring no piece of the small environment in which the priest is shut away can keep him safe. The priest himself is something of a fool, easily taken advantage of and boundlessly prideful as he tries to wriggle out. This lends an element of comedy to the film, as though the priest is using every distancing technique the audience might try themselves in the face of the clearly-artificial effects work and sometimes-silly character designs – make all the jokes you want, they’re still going to steal your soul.

Monday Movie: Lucky Number Slevin, by Sarah Brinks

30 May


Lucky Number Slevin is a difficult movie to describe. It is a long-con/con artist film but it is also a comedy, an action film, and a gangster film. It is also one of those films where it better if you go in knowing as little as possible. So let’s see how this goes.


Monday Movie: The Cheap Detective, by David Bax

23 May


While it’s not at all unusual for teenage weirdoes to become obsessive fans of things, it probably was a bit odd for a Midwestern teen in the late 90s to be a Neil Simon completist. Yet, by the time I finished high school, I had read every play Simon ever wrote, most of them twice. (Have you read the script for I Oughta Be in Pictures? I have!) Somehow, though, it had never occurred to me that the man ever wrote anything that wasn’t intended for the stage. Of course, I’d seen film adaptations of his plays, like Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college, when I shared an apartment with Battleship Pretension cofounder Tyler Smith and his massive, idiosyncratic VHS collection, that I found out about Simon’s career as a screenwriter. I started with 1976’s murder mystery spoof Murder by Death and, like Simon himself, followed it up with the subject of this week’s Monday Movie, 1978’s The Cheap Detective, a parody of gumshoe noir movies.


Monday Movie: The Slog Movie, by David Bax

16 May

Slog Movie_websize

This week’s Monday Movie comes from a list I did for the Rupert Pupkin Speaks blog, detailing the best older movies I discovered in the year 2015. You can find the rest of the list here.

Director David Markey is probably best known for his Sonic Youth tour documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke. Ten years earlier, though, he was a 19-year-old punk rocker in Los Angeles editing a fanzine, playing drums in a band, and filming things with his Super 8 camera. The latter resulted in The Slog Movie, an hour-long, breakneck account of the early 80s L.A. hardcore scene. It features interviews with and performance footage of legendary bands like Circle Jerks, TSOL, Fear and Black Flag as well as lesser known groups like Circle One and Red Cross. It also features some shots of a swarm of young punks hanging out at the original Oki-Dog, a treat for fans of the scene and its lore like myself.