Thursday, March 17, 2011

Film Fan #476-500 (conclusion!)

#476. National Treasure (2004)
So, obviously, I like the sequel better, but the first one is pretty entertaining, too.

#477. Serenity (2005)
I have this huge problem that I assume most other people have, too, and that I just don’t entirely understand the appeal of Joss Whedon. Now, obviously, he’s got a fairly rabid, if small, following, that believes just about everything he does is genius, but what I see, when I periodically sample his material, is something that a really good collaborator could improve on easily (much the way I’ve viewed J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5). Bottom line is, Joss has too many people fawning over him to reach a higher level. Serenity, and the short-lived TV show that preceded it, Firefly, was cast almost perfectly (hence the reason why many of the actors keep popping up in fairly prominent ways), and that remains the highlight and draw for me. It’s how everyone and -thing seems so darned stilted…I just don’t understand how much apparent passion can lead so much wasted potential. Then again, maybe Joss simply isn’t as talented as he has been successful…

#478. The Road Warrior (1981)
The sequel to Mad Max remains true to the established formula, and is in many ways exactly like For a Few Dollars More, another second act in a famous trilogy that would give way to a little more inspiration in the third.

#479. Alien (1979)
I don’t know at this point how many low budget rip-offs eventually dimmed the impact of this movie, or if it’s simply that I’ve been trying to play catch-up with the whole franchise for years, since it was Star Wars and Superman that amounted to the big new series begun at the end of that decade. The fact that only one other entry in this particular series seems to have actually been well-received also helps to dull the impact. Still, Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver create a unique experience that truly does deserve the franchise treatment. But it kind of makes you wonder how things would be if that franchise were a little more deliberately created…

#480. The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
Herbert Lom truly has a chance to shine when bumbling Clouseau finally drives Dreyfuss crazy in this entry.

#481. The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)
This is basically a fairly flimsy Beatles parody, but I liked it all the same. Eric Idle is the Rutles version of Paul McCartney.

#482. Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
Peter Sellers’ last actual turn as Clouseau (three other films technically follow in this original phase of the franchise, with the second beginning the process of trying to replace Sellers) is a strangely appropriate romp where the French inspector is apparently murdered.

#483. Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Absolutely sensational…until you get the sense that the filmmakers got a little ahead of themselves and forgot to continue developing the story, and instead started resting less on inspiration and more on obvious developments that don’t ring true.

#484. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
Who am I kidding? This was the second movie that year to feature Gemma Arterton, and this time in a far more prominent role. I was powerless to resist. Otherwise, fairly clever, though not the second coming of the Pirates of the Caribbean films that Disney obviously expected.

#485. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
I should maybe note for the record that I haven’t gotten swept up in any of the periodic waves of zombie mania, and that this was a fairly random experience that happened to resonate. Great cast, including Ving Rhames, Sarah Polley, Mekhi Phifer, and Ty Burrell (yes, the Modern Family dad, years before anyone else noticed him). Great twist ending, too! But, mostly I’m a zombie spoof kind of guy, Shawn of the Dead, Zombieland.

#486. Rat Race (2002)
This was like a modern remake of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, just a film packed with funny people in a nonsensical race. Stars include Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Lovitz, Rowan Atkinson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., John Cleese, Breckin Meyer, Amy Smart, Seth Green, Wayne Knight, Kathy Bates, Dean Cain…Basically a whole cast of actors who could barely star in their own movies, but together are magic.

#487. Ned Kelly (2003)
Orlando Bloom was in an incredible hotstreak when he made this. It turns out, making a story about an infamous Australian outlaw doesn’t really compete with Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. Anyway, it was one of his first chances to demonstrate some real versatility. There’s also Heath Ledger, playing a variation of his solemn heroes from other films, and Geoffrey Rush, who was busy being Geoffrey Rush, as always.

#488. Ladder 49 (2004)
John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix explore what it’s like to be a firefighter. Apparently it’s pretty tough.

#489. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
I’m mostly going to talk about Nic Cage here, so let’s mention Eva Mendes, one of the most luminescent stars to have ever graced the big screen. So, Nicholas Cage. I’ve talked him up before, so let’s just state for the record that this may be his consummate role, where he’s almost completely out of control, but struggling for the small percent that isn’t, the fa├žade that keeps the whole thing going. Surprisingly or not, one of the few times critics seem to get what he’s doing.

#490. Wide Awake (1998)
This would be the first M. Night Shyamalan flick, which possibly you weren’t aware of because it doesn’t fit the pattern that seemed to be established with The Sixth Sense. But if you watched this one, you might see a completely different pattern, one that sees Night explore genuine human experience in extraordinary circumstances. Wide Awake could literally change the whole perception of this filmmaker, if it were better known (if, in fact, known at all).

#491. A River Runs Through It (1992)
Mostly, I remember this film for Robert Redford’s narration. Redford’s peak was probably right around just before I was born, and so during the first ten years or so of my life, he was busy growing into a quiet authority, the rare actor who could rest on his voice alone, which is funny, since it was probably anything but that originally got him Hollywood roles.

#492. For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Ah! So we meet The Road Warrior again!

#493. The Champ (1979)
Critics really hate when a movie appears too manipulative. Well, sometimes, that manipulation is earned, by good old filmmaking. I only really remember and care about the ending, in which tearful Ricky Schroder is trying to rouse his fallen dad, Jon Voight. Hollywood loves boxing movies (this was actually a remake of a film many decades older). Sometimes someone really does make them distinguishable.

#494. Unforgiven (1992)
Clint Eastwood attempts his Shootist. Not only is he a little early in his career (though he subsequently made a career of exactly this role), but he’s better. Still, if it weren’t for the sensationalism, there wouldn’t really be much here. Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman co-star. I know this is one of my many heresies, but Hackman was better in The Quick and the Dead.

#495. Jonah Hex (2010)
I seem to have been the only one to have enjoyed this one (welcome to the club, big guy!). Josh Brolin has a rare, unabashed (well, except for that ugly scar) starring role, Megan Fox is better than people admit (as always), and there’s some really fantastic editing toward the end that alone would make it memorable for me.

#496. Last Tango in Paris (1973)
This was how Brando chose to follow up The Godfather, with a creepy guy who’s looking for sex in a foreign country. It’s the only way he could have made it, on the good graces of Vito Corleone.

#497. The Men (1950)
From creepy Brando to freaky Brando, proving he doesn’t even need the use of his legs to electrify, in another movie that his presence alone makes.

#498. The Man Without a Face (1993)
Remember when Kevin Spacey does this exact role in Pay it Forward? Well, as it turns out, Mel Gibson does it better.

#499. The Shootist (1976)
I’m more interested in Jimmy Stewart. I guess John Wayne owed it to him, after Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

#500. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Henry Fonda and cinematography help make this one a classic.

That’s it. Let me repeat, that’s it! We’ve finally reached the end of the 500, which I started posting back in October. I should perhaps remind you that this list, the latest version of a project I’ve been working on for most of the last decade, consists of movies and opinions I’ve had dating back to 6/20/2010. This may be important, because next week I will be putting one last entry into the Film Fan, the top fifty films from 2010. Some of my rankings of films from this very list may seem to be contradicted, if you think too much about it. But mostly, (and because I’m crazy enough to loosely consider a second post-list entry that consists of fifty films seen and reconsidered since last June that don’t necessary come from last year’s releases), my love of movies continues unabated, even if that love seems downright reckless at times…

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