movies this week: happy holidays

It’s always fun to pick movies associated with an upcoming holiday, and find a few to watch as part of the celebration. And as you know, one of the more important holidays is taking place this week, so I have been thinking about appropriate movies.
(Oh, geez, now she’s going to talk about scary movies again, and probably gush over Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi.)
Of course not. That has nothing to do with the holiday I am talking about. If there’s some lesser holiday involving skeletons and witches and ghosts, it pales in comparison.
(I get it now. She’s going to talk about patriotism and voting and apple-pie American films, probably gushing over The Candidate and Bob Roberts and maybe even Blaze. Give me a break.)
I am not. That’s not really a holiday anyway. And it is not as important as the upcoming holiday of holidays.
I am talking, of course, about my birthday.

Continue reading movies this week: happy holidays

The Hot Rock (1972)

The Hot Rock: 1972, dir. Peter Yates. Seen on DVD (Oct. 27).
This was another fun movie in a week surprisingly full of fun films. The Hot Rock isn’t a well-known film, despite its having starred Robert Redford, adapted by William Goldman (from a Donald Westlake novel) and directed by Peter Yates, who also directed Bullitt and Breaking Away (one of my favorite movies). Somehow this movie has been forgotten, which is a shame.
A couple of years ago, I went through a phase where I watched a lot of caper movies, heist movies, and con movies, and I don’t know why I stopped. (I don’t know why I started, either—it might have been Ocean’s Eleven or maybe my finding a copy of The Thief Who Came to Dinner.)

Continue reading The Hot Rock (1972)

Galaxy Quest (1999)

Galaxy Quest: 1999, dir. Dean Perisot. Seen on DVD (Oct. 22).
After tiring of gruesome horror movies, this was just what we needed. Galaxy Quest is funny and cute and pretty smart too, smarter than I would have guessed.
Yeah, I know everyone else has seen this movie already, including my boyfriend, who promised I would like it. He mentioned something about Sigourney Weaver wearing a costume that gets more and more shredded as the movie continues, and that Tim Allen was pompous but that this fit his character perfectly and was actually enjoyable. That was about all I knew except that Star Trek jokes were somehow involved.

Continue reading Galaxy Quest (1999)

Control Room (2004)

Control Room: 2004, dir. Jehane Noujaim. Seen at Paramount (Oct. 10).
I said I was getting tired of political documentaries, but we had Paramount movie passes to burn and I had no desire to see Winged Migration. I thought it would be Good For Me to see this profile of Al Jazeera, the Arab news network, and its coverage of the war in Iraq in 2003.
I did not expect to find the movie as compelling as it was. No voiceover, which was a nice change of pace. No blatant propaganda pushed in my face. No grandstanding. No, well, no Michael Moore or even Errol Morris.

Continue reading Control Room (2004)

The Front (1976)

The Front: 1976, dir. Martin Ritt. Seen on DVD (Oct. 7).
I have been wanting to see this movie since I read about it in high school or college, and I finally rented the DVD. My boyfriend wasn’t planning to watch it with me—he thought it was a Woody Allen movie—until I told him it was about blacklisted writers in the 1950s and he realized this was a movie he’d heard about before and wanted to see. The writer (Walter Bernstein), director (Martin Ritt), and some of the actors in The Front were all blacklisted in the 1950s.
Woody Allen’s character, an apolitical restaurant cashier saddled with gambling debts, offers to be the front for a blacklisted screenwriter friend of his, so the guy can keep writing TV scripts. Next thing you know, he’s working as the front for four writers, impressing a female TV producer whom he starts dating, and becoming known as a well-known TV writer. Eventually he’s investigated as a potential Communist sympathizer, and he has to decide whether to play along or risk becoming blacklisted himself.

Continue reading The Front (1976)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 1974, dir. Tobe Hooper. Seen at Alamo downtown (Oct. 18).
I had wanted to see this movie ever since last year, when I went to an Alamo event where Joe Bob Briggs showed clips from the movies he highlighted in his book Profoundly Disturbing. Plus, it was shot near Austin, and seeing local landscapes and actors always adds an element of interest to a movie.
In retrospect, I wonder why I thought it would be fun to see a bunch of films that are considered disturbing, but at least I decided to skip the worst ones. (For example, I have absolutely no desire to see Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS. And I am still recuperating from seeing only the ear scene in Reservoir Dogs.)
I was so excited that I would get to see this movie in a theater that I forgot about the part where, well, I would get to watch a lot of blood and gore and hear a lot of screaming and tense up with suspense over who was going to die next and when and how.

Continue reading The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Holidailies brainstorming

It’s the time of year where I start thinking about Holidailies again. Holidailies is a project I started in 2000, in which I decided I would update my Web site every day in December. A few other people decided it would be fun to do the same thing, and the project grew from there. Last year, I had a portal for Holidailies and more than 100 people participated. You can currently see last year’s portal here.
Even though I don’t have a very personal Web page anymore, and tend to write about movies more than anything, I still like the idea of Holidailies. (Besides, posting movie reviews counts for the daily entry.)
I’m currently brainstorming ideas for this year’s portal and other aspects of the project. If you participated in previous years, or if you read entries from the portal, or if you’re just an opinionated person, I’d like to hear your ideas for improving Holidailies.

Continue reading Holidailies brainstorming

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead: 2004, dir. Edgar Wright. Seen at Alamo Village (Oct. 24).
Oh, my. Shaun of the Dead was delightful, better than I expected. It is strange to say that a movie with zombies was delightful, but then this movie is just that kind of strange.
Shaun of the Dead is the rare film that has extremely funny moments in it but also delivers an overall solid and entertaining storyline. It doesn’t let comedy get in the way of the action—there are intense, serious scenes as well as hilarious ones. I would say that Shaun of the Dead is a romantic comedy, but my boyfriend is not generally fond of romantic comedies and he liked it a lot.

Continue reading Shaun of the Dead (2004)

movies this week: bloodless feast

It was 9:00 on Monday night when my boyfriend and I declared that we would never watch another horror movie again. Or in my case, at least not for the foreseeable future.
I was grateful to Alamo Drafthouse Downtown for programming a lot of horror movies this month that I hadn’t seen before and wanted to see. Some were part of a tribute to the recently deceased art director Robert A. Burns. They also scheduled Suspiria. And when Shawn of the Dead was released in Austin, my boyfriend and I thought we should watch some George A. Romero movies first so we could get possible in-jokes.
However, after weeks of seeing Night of the Living Dead and not-quite-half of Dawn of the Dead and Re-Animator and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and various other gory or frightening movies (I was tempted to count Control Room because Donald Rumsfeld looked convincingly zombie-ish, but I will restrain myself), we have Had Enough, Already.
Seeing some of these movies at Alamo made it worse, because in order to get to the theater on time for a 7 pm movie during the week, we ate dinner at the theater. We tried to get there early enough to eat before the movie started, but inevitably I would have a mouthful of fries during some blood-drenched scene and ugh.
Seeing The Texas Chain Saw Massacre while attempting to eat a pizza was the last straw. I think I will wait for another opportunity to see Suspiria because in the past month, I have seen enough Karo-syrup blood to fill up Sam Raimi’s garage. I am making an exception for Shawn of the Dead this weekend (I hope) only because people have assured me that it isn’t a horror movie, it is a comedy.
To prevent anyone else from having such difficulties, I am evaluating the movies opening in Austin this week based on their horror and gore factor. As a further public service, i am including my estimate of dining possibilities for these movies—what would be safe to eat, or if it would be safe to eat at all. You want to be careful. You never can tell what unexpected horrors you might encounter at this time of the year.

Continue reading movies this week: bloodless feast