Iro's One Movie a Day Thread

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Even as a Clint Eastwood fan, I've found it nearly impossible to muster up any desire to watch Every Which Way But Loose or its sequel.

Stallone rips a dude's throat out with his bare hands in Rambo. That alone made it worth watching. It's my second favorite of the series, although none of them compare to First Blood, which is a top 50 favorite for me.

I've never watched a single Monty Python film, so I doubt Holy Flying Circus would appeal to me.

I've never watched a single Monty Python film, so I doubt Holy Flying Circus would appeal to me.
I think that'd help.
5-time MoFo Award winner.

Welcome to the human race...
Wow. You're just pissing your time away atm aren't you?
Relax, I'll get to some good movies sooner or later.
I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.
Iro's Top 100 Movies v3.0

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#28 - Evil Dead II
Sam Raimi, 1987

After accidentally summoning evil spirits to a cabin in the woods, Ash (Bruce Campbell) has to survive not one but two nights at the mercy of pure evil.

I was feeling tired and didn't want to watch another movie all the way through, but then this started playing on TV. "Just until the first ad break," I said to myself. But no, I watched the whole thing. As with just about every one of my all-time favourites, I've lost count of how many times I've watched Evil Dead II - for some reason, I'm thinking at least fifteen. It helps that, due to the film's low-budget aesthetic, every time I spot a new continuity error (Ash's chainsaw changes hands in one shot, you can see the camera crew's shadow in another, etc.) it just adds to the charm rather than become a distraction. It's also an extremely taut piece of work - even the slow, quiet bits feel like scaling a rollercoaster rather than filler. Campbell is of course a master at work here as he spends the bulk of this movie acting on his own and delivering one of the best B-grade horror performances of all-time - the other cast members may be archetypes but they work exceedingly well. Even the two hick characters are oddly charming in spite of them being extremely annoying. The photography is quick and intense without being needlessly disorienting, the effects work dances on the fine line between excellent and horrible but is always entertaining. Also, it does really well at balancing the humour with the horror - even after having seen it so many times before (and this time was with the lights on) I still got a little jump out of it. Then there's that absolutely brilliant ending. All in all, still a major favourite.

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#29 - Amores Perros
Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000

Three interlocking stories - one about a lovestruck young man getting involved in dogfighting, one about a model and her recovery from a brutal accident, and one about an impoverished hitman looking for redemption.

I haven't seen any of Iñárritu's other films, so I figured I should at least try to watch his acclaimed feature-length debut before I got around to watching Birdman. It takes the "multiple interconnected narratives" approach and, though it doesn't do anything especially novel with it - the film still focuses on one storyline at a time with infrequent overlaps or cut-aways - it helps that the stories are fascinating. The story about the dogfighter takes a familiar romantic premise - his plan is to win money on dogfights so as to run away with his brother's girlfriend - and sucks all the romance out of it and then some, playing it depressingly straight but still generating enough pathos that you still care about whether or not he will get away with it. That's without mentioning the foregone conclusion of the opening scene where he is frantically transporting his injured dog to hospital before getting into a car crash. The second story - about a supermodel who gets a broken leg from said car crash - is a decidedly less hectic story but still enough to engage as the model, has to contend with a variety of mundane but horrifying problems such as recovering from her injuries, losing her dog in her apartment's crawlspace and the tensions that this causes with her married boyfriend. It's far less violent than the dogfighter story but the idea of a pet howling for help it can't get will definitely rattle some people. The third story takes another familiar premise - a homeless contract killer wants to make things up with his estranged family and ends up taking one last job as a result - and manages to wring some new life out of it, ultimately making it the most fascinating story of the three.

Stylistically, the film tends towards gritty camerawork that alternates between frantic edits and smooth movements. The music covers a variety of genres appropriate to the story - there's a lot of hip-hop beats at work here, especially in the dogfight story, but also there's some nice atmospheric work (especially the last song in the film - I mean, damn). The acting is great and every story's lead gets at least one scene that's simply amazing to witness. As far as imitators of the violent multi-narrative formula laid down by Pulp Fiction go, it's definitely one of the best.

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#30 - Splendor in the Grass
Elia Kazan, 1961

A melodrama set in 1928 Kansas revolving around a young woman (Natalie Wood) and the issues that spring from her tumultuous relationship with a local tycoon's son (Warren Beatty).

It's interesting how "melodramatic" has come to be something of a pejorative term used to dismiss anything that comes across as excessively emotional or passionate as if having overwhelming emotional outbursts was an inherently bad thing. I've watched other films in the melodrama genre - both original works like All That Heaven Allows or affectionate homages like Far From Heaven - and I reckon that, for all the negativity that can get associated with the term, there's some good quality to be found in this particular sub-genre. Splendor in the Grass promised its fair share of the same, but the end result left quite a bit to be desired.

The film does have its strengths. Natalie Wood turns in a good performance as a young woman whose various inner conflicts are reflected by her air of barely-maintained restraint that still gives way to the occasional piercing cry of the feelings she tries to control. Warren Beatty makes his cinematic debut as her primary love interest, who is also under pressure from a number of influences both personal and societal (his amiable yet demanding father, his high school football team, the high society that he's trapped in because of his father's wealth). There's an obvious theme of sexual repression running through this film from minute one and various characters' reactions to it, whether submitting to it non-violently like Wood does or loudly rejecting it as several supporting characters do (such as Barbara Loden as Beatty's flapper sister, whose arrival in town does serve as a catalyst for some serious tension).

In terms of narrative, however, the film does falter a bit. Sure, I did note with some amusement how the film is set in 1928 and the characters go on about how the stock market is at an all-time high, but the central plot...even understanding how the social mores of the time were damaging the lead characters' relationship and were subtly oppressing various characters, it still didn't make for especially engaging drama. It didn't help that, unlike Douglas Sirk, Elia Kazan doesn't demonstrate much visual flair to add emphasis to the characters' emotional states. The music is also pretty much par for the course in that regard. These aren't the worst actors and lines but they still feel underweight and the length of the film doesn't do it any favours.

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#31 - A Band Called Death
Jeff Howlett and Mark Christopher Covino, 2012

A documentary chronicling the peculiar journey of Death, an obscure proto-punk outfit consisting of three of the four Hackney brothers - David on guitar, Bobby on bass and vocals, and Dannis on drums. The film covers Death's history from the start of their short-lived career through their dissolution and David's death before their revival in the Internet age.

It's quite fitting that much of the mythology surrounding Death is rooted in its sole deceased member and creative driving force, guitarist David Hackney. Taking inspiration from a Baptist upbringing and the tragic death of his minister father, David's unconventionally positive attitude towards death causes all sorts of bizarre conflicts for the band, most notably with his refusal to change the band's controversial name for fear of compromising his artistic vision. Bobby and Dannis, along with a cavalcade of friends and relatives, serve to make it so it seems like the documentary is primarily about David and the various sides to him - they will crack jokes about how ridiculous they thought the name Death was at first but soon end up tearfully recounting the devastation of David's passing minutes later. The spiritual level gets played up a fair bit, especially when David's prediction that "the world will come looking for [Death's master tapes]" ultimately comes true. David is definitely a fascinating figure but given how much of the interviews consist of people talking about him and him alone, one can get a little tired of hearing about him, especially when people start to unknowingly repeat one another.

If anything, I'd say the biggest problem I have with A Band Called Death is the repetition. I do understand that the band's lack of recorded material justifies it (and on its own, it's some good music), but you should definitely be prepared to hear the same snippets of the same handful of songs played over and over again. The same goes for the limited amount of photographs from the era that the film covers. The directors can add whatever stylistic effects they want to the photos, but it doesn't change the fact that they use the same handful of photos repeatedly. Another interesting thing about going in blind is that they managed to cover the whole rise and fall of Death pretty quickly - after they talk about David's death, I wondered how they could possibly fill out the rest of the running time. Of course, the third part of the film goes into their rediscovery thanks to record collectors (most notably Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys, who is one of many celebrities who pop into the film to sing the praises of Death, including Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins and, for some reason, Elijah Wood and Kid Rock) prizing their records as amazing obscurities and increasing interest enough for Death to re-release their music and even reform (with a new guitarist and posters of David adoring the stage, no less). It's a fairly happy ending to the story of Death - even with David gone (and watching his surviving brothers choke up while trying to talk about his death is a bit hard to watch), the band lives on and will continue to do so.

A Band Called Death is a solid documentary and the subject matter is interesting, but I find the repetitive depiction of the subject matter a bit tiresome. The Hackney brothers make for likeable subjects and I understand why they and other interviewees would want to talk about David moreso than anything else, but it can wear a bit thin at times and leave you wondering just how much of this is necessary. Hearing the same handful of songs and seeing the same handful of photos used repeatedly is also another one of those filmmaking choices that makes sense in context but still has its problems. Aside from that, it's a warm and touching documentary about some brothers with a dream who were way ahead of their time and are at least getting their due recognition late rather than never.

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#32 - Troll 2
Claudio Fragasso, 1990

A family goes on holiday to a country town, but it's actually populated by vegetarian goblins and the family's son is the only one who is aware of the danger.

Troll 2 has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the best worst movies ever made. Part of what makes it work, in my opinion, is that it does have a legitimately unsettling premise but it's just really badly handled. The concept of vegetarian goblins who have to transform humans into plants before eating them has the potential for some seriously disturbing body horror - despite this film's woeful execution of this concept, a scene such as Joshua's feverish nightmare of turning into a plant still has at least some effect even though it does just look like someone's just glued tree branches to his fingers while pouring green food colouring on his face. The fact that the goblins' dietary habits are the screenwriter's attempt at mocking self-righteous vegetarians makes it so much better - what better way to guarantee an entry into the bad movie hall of fame than to act like your schlocky no-budget horror movie is trying to deliver a message? It definitely worked for Birdemic.

As far as the acting goes, the fact that it was American actors directed by Italians off a roughly translated script means there are plenty of off-kilter dialogue moments - fortunately the bulk of the actors are either stilted enough or over-the-top enough to suit those lines. To the film's credit, I don't find Joshua annoying. A freckle-faced kid with a high-pitched voice who always looks like he's in constant anguish should be irritating as hell, but here I really do feel bad for the kid. The most memorable character is easily the film's main antagonist, a scenery-chewing witch who seems like she's playing every single Helena Bonham Carter role at once (wait, why is the leader of the goblins not actually a goblin? It's like Labyrinth or something.) The drawling father, the constantly-dazed mother, the gang of horny teenage boys, the grandpa any cult classic worth its salt, there are a host of memorable characters (the movie's most memorable line does come from one of the teenage boys, after all).

On a technical level, the film is obviously awful. The effects are generally really bad and ruin some admittedly decent ideas in the process. I even watched this in the company of a friend who works in makeup and special effects - her running commentary on this was rather informative, to say the least. The music is heavily rooted in the '80s and is cheesy as hell, but at least it's the enjoyable kind of cheese. There are also plenty of ludicrous developments and gaps in the logic that it's probably better not to question, such as how the ghost of Joshua's grandpa can start manifesting physically and handing out Molotov cocktails or how "the power of goodness" can save the day. Even simple things such as asking why the goblins would expect humans to drink expired milk (especially when a goblin-in-disguise tries to sell it to a human despite it sitting out on a bench instead of in a fridge...and succeeds) are just baffling. If anything, the baffling nature of just about every aspect of this film is what makes it a true "classic". I don't even know how to rate it. It's a 0.5 in terms of quality, but a 5 in terms of enjoyment, so I guess I can just split the difference and give it 3. Normally that kind of rating goes to movies that I merely think are alright but nothing special. Troll 2 is definitely not alright, but it is most definitely special.

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#33 - Saturday Night Fever
John Badham, 1977

Chronicles the day-to-day misadventures of 19-year-old Tony Manero (John Travolta) who works in a dead-end job by day and goes clubbing by night.

It would have been interesting to go into this film with expectations based purely on its place in pop culture and thinking it was going to be a campy song-and-dance kind of film about how awesome disco was, but no, I was well aware that it was a lot darker than its reputation suggested (if nothing else, the MA rating on the case would've tipped me off). An interesting slice of social realism rooted in a working-class Italian Catholic background made for an interesting choice, as Tony Manero only really cares about dancing because it's the one thing about his life that he actually likes. Other than him, most of the cast don't get much definition - he's got a few friends but the only one with any real characterisation is the one who's nervous about a shotgun wedding, while the rest are shallow and unsympathetic. The film has a recognisable conflict in that Tony finds himself in the midst of a love triangle between a sad, doe-eyed young woman hanging off him all the time and the worldly, challenging upper-class woman who treats him coldly at first but soon warms up to him. That's pretty standard stuff even before he joins up with the latter as part of a dance contest (even though the former asked him to do the same thing), but even that plays out like a sub-plot that doesn't feel of major significance. The various plotlines are just interesting enough to keep one's attention as the film goes through developments that are somewhat predictable now, and thinking of this film as character-driven is a shame because a lot of them aren't that good. Travolta's got some decent chops and he gets a chance to show them off here - I can definitely understand why he got nominated for a Best Actor Oscar here, though that could just as easily be because of his dance moves. Other performers vary in terms of ability or interesting characterisation, but not by much.

While the film does end up being more of a gritty drama than expected, it still finds plenty (and I do mean plenty) of time to actually show off all the dancing that Tony and his friends do night after night. At least half the value of the film is seeing Travolta and co. pull some impressive moves to some very catchy hit songs. It's not hard to see why that became the part that people celebrated and not the actual plot. The lurid cinematography also makes these sequences stand out. I'm not sure if they're good enough to guarantee the film's place as a classic but it's definitely got some quality, even though some scenes do come across as a little off-putting, such as

WARNING: "Saturday Night Fever" spoilers below
the scene where the sad-eyed woman I mentioned earlier, in an ill-advised attempt to make Tony jealous, ends up attempting to hook up with one of Tony's friends but ends up being sexually assaulted by more than one of Tony's friends for her trouble while Tony...does nothing about it? What? At least he seems to have bailed on them by the end of the film, but even so...I don't know, that bit just came out of nowhere and seemed to distract from one character's possibly-deliberate fall to his death at the end of the film happening shortly afterwards.

I was never interested in Saturday Night Fever before, but you've peeked my curiosity. Good write ups. Troll 2 sounds hilarious.

Welcome to the human race...
It is. I highly recommend seeing it with an appreciative audience.

Actually Amores Perros and A Band Called Death look even more interesting. It is crazy how the internet has brought so many obscure things out of the woodworks. I love it so much. Damn, I think I was born at exactly the right time.

Welcome to the human race...
I already knew about Death before I saw the film and ...For the Whole World to See is definitely a good album. That album is only about 26 minutes long - it's lean and mean, unlike the film which struggles to fill out 90 minutes.

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#34 - The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Steven Spielberg, 2011

Based on the acclaimed comic book series about the titular journalist, this time as he finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy involving a long-lost ship.

This had been on my to-see list ever since I first heard about it but I've only just gotten around to watching it. Between the books and the short-lived animated series based on said books, Tintin was a fondly remembered part of my childhood and that was enough to get me to watch the film. It definitely appeals to that childlike yearning for adventure that's tinged with just enough danger to be thrilling but not enough to be truly discomforting. The semi-realistic animation style is leaps and bounds ahead of the pen-and-ink style from the TV series and, though it might look a little ridiculous at times, I do have to marvel at the technical accomplishment. I did wonder multiple times how the film would've gone over as a proper live-action film, but I guess finding a live-action Snowy that does half the stuff this one does would be difficult.

The plot is a pretty basic adventure romp complete with a great odd couple in the intrepid yet chipper Tintin and his companion, the perpetually intoxicated Captain Haddock. There's no ancillary romance sub-plot to weigh down the proceedings and the comic relief (exemplified by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson) plays into the main plot in interesting ways. It's interesting how, with the exception of Andy Serkis as Haddock, the recurring characters sound almost identical to the voices from the animated series (that isn't a complaint, by the way, just an interesting observation). I guess if there's one thing about this that's a bit too goofy even within the context of a family-friendly cartoon adventure, it's

WARNING: "The Adventures of Tintin" spoilers below
the scenes where Haddock is gradually able to recall his ancestor's experiences

but it's still somewhat acceptable. I also have to give credit to one action sequence towards the end of the film that covers an entire downhill chase in what is supposed to be one continuous shot, and damn if that part isn't worth watching on its own. It's certainly a fun enough film that I hope it follows up on its sequel hook at some point.

I saw Every Which Way but Loose at the movies as a boy, and for a short time, it was my favorite movie. I still love it. Any Which Way You Can isn't as good, but I love that too.

I also saw Saturday Night Fever at the movies when it was out. I just recently took it out of my top 10, but it could find it's way back there. I love it.

I loved Evil Dead II when I saw it at the movies. Now, I just like it.

Adventures of Tintin was the very last cut from my animation list.

I saw Splendor in the Grass recently and thought it was a pretty good movie, but I thought it could've and should've been so much more.

28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
The animation in TinTin is stunning and it's a fun adventure for sure...but I couldn't help but feel "meh" about it all.
"A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Suspect's Reviews

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#35 - The Secret in their Eyes
Juan Jose Campanella, 2009

When a young woman is raped and murdered in 1970s Buenos Aires, it falls to one investigator to try to bring the perpetrator to justice but his quest for justice hits a number of devastating complications that still plague him decades after the case goes cold.

All in all, a pretty deserving recipient of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The "cold case" premise has become something of a staple in modern crime fiction, but here it's put to interesting use. The alternating between the present day and the 1970s is handled well thanks to the interaction between Ben (Ricardo Darin) and Irene (Soledad Villamil), whose relationship is complicated by a variety of factors both in the past and present. That relationship is a major part of the film and of course the characterisation is what becomes more important than the mystery at the core of the narrative, especially when

WARNING: "The Secret in their Eyes" spoilers below
the case involving the murdered woman is actually solved about halfway through the film but that doesn't actually mean justice has been done
I think it's a testament to the film's quality that any attempt to explain its story beyond the familiar premise would spoil it severely and really, the less you know about this film when going in, the better. It's a shame, because there are some great moments - a worthy highlight for cinema fans would be the lengthy one-shot that starts with a helicopter shot into a football stadium before following the lead detectives into the bowels of the stadium as they chase down a perp. Even without that there's some slick photography with a great emphasis on strong colours that makes virtually every shot in this film a strong one. Though I do have some minor misgivings about the film, for the most part it's a lot stronger than my rating might suggest and it is definitely worth at least one viewing for anyone who likes crime investigation stories, but it goes beyond a regular whodunit without a problem.

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#36 - The Song Remains the Same
Joe Massot and Peter Clifton, 1976

A film about legendary rock band Led Zeppelin that intersperses footage of their performances at Madison Square Garden with various "fantasy" sequences and behind-the-scenes incidents.

Led Zeppelin used to be one of my favourite bands but my opinion of the band has dropped considerably over the years. It's gotten to the point where watching their live DVDs feels like less of an appreciation of their physical presence and more an act of bitter completionism (but then again, what else would you call watching at least one movie a day?) Between this film and their 2003 career-spanning DVD, I figure this is the last I need to deal with their work. Let's see where bitter completionism gets me.

For starters, it's too damn long. Two hours and twenty minutes? I get that Zep is very fond of doing extended live performances of their music but I think the fact that they had to insert "fantasy" sequences into the film during said live performances can easily be interpreted as a sign of how little faith the band had in their musical material alone holding an audience's interest. It doesn't help that the fantasy material isn't especially interesting either. John Bonham pretends to be both a gangster and a racecar driver, while John Paul Jones pretends to be an old-fashioned organist who encounters vicious horsemen (but wait, one of them is him), and then there's Robert Plant trying to be some sort of valiant knight. I don't even remember Jimmy Page doing anything on the same level as the others, and I guess it's probably better that I don't. Otherwise, this film is intercut with fairly simple recordings of their live performances and the occasional interjection of a behind-the-scenes quarrel, whether it's manager Peter Grant chewing out stadium staff over bootleg merchandise or even newspaper stories about the band getting robbed. Anything that doesn't directly involve the band performing (or even giving interviews, and even then there aren't any interviews save for a brief clip of Plant backstage) just feels like a blatant attempt to pad the film out.

It probably doesn't help that I managed to hear the soundtrack of the film before watching it and ultimately thought little of it. The visuals on offer are occasionally impressive, but good luck getting me to think that watching this band for the same length of time as the running time for Goodfellas will be remotely satisfactory. They can include as many fantasy sequences as they want, but it won't distract from the lukewarm music on offer here.