Friday, May 29, 2009

Hidden Under Covers: The Bee Gees vs Nina Simone vs The Fastbacks

It's time for another new ongoing feature: Hidden Under the Covers. This is a process by which we'll examine covers that people may not know about or expect. First up, Nina Simone and The Fastbacks taking on a song from The Bee Gees' first album. Looking at these three artists, they have pretty much nothing in common other than the fact that they're musicians. The Bee Gees version is first:


Then the Fastbacks buzz it out:
video

Finally, Nina pours on the slow soul.
video

Wasn't that fun? Happy Friday y'alls...

One Word Review: Unforgiven



68: Assumed

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Unyielding Commissioning Apologizes for Being Away So Long

...though it may be a while for the next one, too.

I like your shirt, guy - Esquire magazine gives you the 75 movies a guy must see. Actually, it's a pretty strong list overall, despite some suspect inclusions (The Incredibles and The Big Kahuna?). But there are a lot of gems in here. I was of course happy to see The Terminator as well as The Warriors, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Paths of Glory. What's missing? You could name a lot, but to me the most obvious exclusions is Conan the Barbarian. Anyway, worth checking out to see if you're a real man. More on that concept very, horribly soon. Also, in case you're still looking for movies to watch, check out the Hidden Gems we dug up on the IMDb Top 250.

At least it's an ethos - The AV Club has been doing a regular "new cult films" feature, and it was only a matter of time before they got around to our favorite new cult film, The Big Lebowksi. The feature is definitely worth a read. It's a unique take and features some very worthwhile clips from the film. A really good point, and one that I hadn't thought of quite this way serves as my favorite line of the piece:

The Coens wrote The Big Lebowski with Jeff Bridges specifically in mind as The Dude, and it’s one of those roles so instantly iconic that it would be hard to imagine anyone else pulling it off. Bridges is, in my view, the greatest actor alive, and what’s striking about his work as The Dude is his utter lack of vanity and self-consciousness. Playing a long-in-the-tooth stoner burnout would seem to invite a cartoonish goofiness—and many of the supporting characters in the film exhibit just that—but Bridges slips Zen-like into his skin and doesn’t go mugging for effect.
Of course, if you want something a bit more in-depth that is also historical, check out how we applied The Big Lewboski to the 2008 primaries. Ah, the memories. that seems so long ago now...

If it bleeds we can kill it - Sorry, that's the best intro I can give because I haven't seen the film in years and years. But someone over at Scene Stealers has given us the Top Ten Reasons Predator 2 is the Best Predator Movie in the "Franchise". Again, it's been years, and after going over the first one in our initial Schwarzenegger Sunday, I find it hard to believe that the sequel tops it. But read for yourself.

Just like it sounds - Check out these 30 Awesomely Bad Unicorn Tattoos. Seriously, be a man and click the link. Here's just a taste of what awaits you:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

5-4-T: Smart Sci-Fi Pictures

Since Brad spent the two solid days last week excoriating me for not being a big enough nerd, even though I have spent far too much time with Mr. Schwarzenegger in this space, I'm taking the opportunity with this week's Five for Tuesday to give my love to the Science Fiction pictures that not only hold it all together, but manage to make you think about some shit, too. While these don't always show stuff blowed up real good, they're all movies I could watch again and again. So without further ado, on with the list:

5) Total Recall
I know. You think this movie has no business being on a list like this one. And to be sure, this is the one that is knocking out Metropolis and Gattaca, both of which are perhaps inherently "smarter." But I choose to have at least once crowd-pleaser in my list, and this one fits the criteria. I first saw this at age 16 and was blown away by the gleeful vulgarity of it. And while there are plenty of technicalities one can point to - would you really bloat to death so quickly if you were exposed to the martian atmosphere, and if you did, but were suddenly saved by an oxygen-laden blast, would you immediately go back to normal? - there's just enough nuance here to make it worth some rumination. The whole question of whether someone can trust himself - even if he inherently isn't himself, or rather isn't sure if he is. And of course, the final question - was it all a dream? - is fun to bandy about even if I think I got to the bottom of it.

4) Blade Runner
I always like the idea of Blade Runner more than the movie itself. Every time I watch it it's a bit more drawn out and slow. But there's some real magic in the future Ridley Scott created here. Between the Oriental scenery and decadent options for the citizenry, it feels like a real place. And while the film generally only flirts with its most interesting ideas (the most prominent one being the question of what makes us human in the first place), it still does a good job of bringing them up. And at least the director's cut doesn't beat you over the head with them.

3) Contact
There is one tremendous flaw in this movie. There's also a one minor one named Jake Busey. The tremendous flaw occurs at the very end when the film chooses to take sides, inherently making the viewer's mind up for him. While this movie is surely a science fiction piece, its overarching theme is about personal faith. One's faith can be a religious one, a scientific one, or just faith in the beliefs of certain characters in a movie. The fact that the filmmakers didn't choose to have enough faith in the audience to choose its own path is regrettable, but doesn't take away too much from an interesting piece that takes viewers along for the scientific ride. Rather than beat us over the head with already known facts, we're put in the position of Jodie Foster's character. Her desires, goals, and of course her doubts. The lofty ideas come along naturally and give us the opportunity for a bit of wonder.

2) Solyaris
This is probably the most unsettling movie I've ever seen. The über-short summary: bizarre things happen on a space station near a planet. I still don't really understand what it's ostensibly all about, but so far I've only given it one viewing. It's probably the most tedious film I've ever liked. And while I don't totally get it, it's because the movie something so transcendent that I just let it unfold and tried to figure out the individual moments. The big picture is elusive. But it invokes a power greater than man, something we should be afraid of and fascinated by. I look forward to future chances to dig into this one.

1) 2001: A Space Odyssey
Not just an example of accurate physics, it's a mind-blowing concept that somehow works. From the opening scenes, I realized I was watching something more ambitious than any other film I'd experienced before. And when I walked out of the theater, I was impressed but puzzled. Impressed by all the detail and proper physics involved. I think there's only one scientific flaw in the whole thing. But beyond that, even though this film is clearly a fantasy, it forces us to think about the nature of our existence. Why we're here, and how we came to be. It's one idea, but it opens your mind to the fact that there are countless options. Maybe the best-made movie ever.

So what's your favorite "smart" Sci-Fi that I didn't mention?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Daily Show Ten Years Ago

I'm starting to see the value in this new feature. First, it's interesting to see how far along Stewart has come as a host. He's kind of a rookie here. Second, you really understand how much the younger set has changed in the way they pay attention to the news. In the long run, we may look back and say that George Bush's greatest accomplishment was to get people involved again. Third, man was that Star Wars movie a huge letdown.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Star Wars - The Obligatory Coverage - Premiere
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A to B Back and Forth Review: Star Trek, Part II

Yesterday, Kozy and I started with our analysis of Star Trek, posting Part I of our back and forth conversation. So yeah, read that first. Today we conclude with Part II.

ANDREW

My good man,
It appears your research was a bit lacking. You seem to imply that One Word Reviews encompass all the movies I've seen. This blog ain't that old, and we only do three a week. Yet there are plenty of sci-fi films contained herein including: Hulk, I Am Legend, Repo Man, Transformers, The Thing, The Iron Giant, The Fountain, Children of Men, and The Aristocrats. I'm kidding about The Aristocrats. Furthermore, you seem to forget that I'm the nutbar who's reviewed every Arnold Schwarzenegger film in agonizing detail. These include: Total Recall, Two Terminators, The Running Man, Predator, and Pumping Iron. I'm kidding about Pumping Iron, though I would hardly be surprised if one day we learned that Lou Ferigno's dad is from outer space. And have you forgotten about the time I dragged you to the Music Box to see 2001: A Space Odyssey, even though I'd already seen it ten times and owned the DVD? You think I don't have enough cred to claim I dig the genre? Puh-leaze.

But let's take on this notion of the thrill ride. Like I said before, I was pretty bored. I'll give you that the scene where Kirk and Harold Sulu land on that giant drill thing was great. Can you point to another? I really can't. Maybe when Kid Kirk jams out to a 1994 Beastie Boys song (what's the star date equivalent?) and drives a car into that gigantic trench in the middle of the Iowa desert. That's all I can think of. But hey, if people like space ships randomly crashing into shit and fight scenes where it looks like they got all the actors drunk and then placed the camera atop a Sit N Spin and just let 'er rip, I guess that's a matter of taste.
Nope, not that Enterprise either.

As I said, I like my sci-fi when there's some more creativity involved. This movie delivered exactly on what people expected. Cool looking ships, and a whole lot of phasers that go "pew-pew-zhang." The core of the movie is ostensibly about the relationship between Kirk and Spock. As I said, I really liked a lot of aspects of the Spock character. But Kirk, well, he might as well have been played by Dane Cook or Steve Stifler. I'm tempted to summarize the thing as style over substance, but that would imply that they even contemplated substance in the first place. But there's no remotely interesting scientific approach to any of this, little character development, and few action sequences with any clarity. When I said it was like a TV show, I meant that there was nothing to connect to. It just didn't matter. It didn't explore any topics at all. Where exactly am I confused?

But worse than my personal boredom, there were a multitude of things that were complete logical failures. One looms far above all of them. As you said, the Romulans made pretty piss-poor villains. But beyond that, their role in the movie makes no sense, which pretty much means the movie makes no sense. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. If your home planet was blown up by a supernova, and the dude who tried to save it nearly did, but failed, and you were then sent back in time 100 years, would you (A) Exact vengeance on the guy who failed by destroying his home planet and making him watch, but first hanging around for 25 years to make sure that his younger self could also watch or (B) Set about using that 100 years of notice to prepare to save your home planet? Maybe even use the help of the dude who failed so you can figure out why and how he failed and then make arrangements so that your home planet is saved, or, at the very least ensure you can evacuate all of its citizens? It's a bit like if if you were up one point at the end of a Game 7 and a referee called a bad foul against your team. Luckily, your opponent split the free throws, sending the game to overtime. But you are so upset about the bad call that you take out a gun and shoot everyone in the arena. Did anyone making this movie even think about this? Or do they all think we're as dumb as Romulans? There were plenty of illogical other things, including the green chick telling Kirk she loves him and then immediately saying that she has random men sleeping over every night and the Enterprise first offering to help and then shooting the Romulan ship when they were doomed anyway and there was no reason to linger near an impending black hole. But hey, give the people what they want. END OF SPOILERS
Nero - pretending to think about stuff.

The bottom line - a Sci-fi movie with such little imagination deserves some scorn. There's not much worth remembering here, and even though everyone seems to adore this movie right now, in a few years it will end up looking more like The Last Starfighter than Alien. Frankly, I'm surprised you are such a staunch defender. I wonder if you are just opposing me for fear of angering your wife. Or if you're a closet Tyler Perry fan (what was he doing in this movie, by the way?). Either way, attacking this here blog won't make the movie any better. Don't shoot the messenger...

OK, that's quite a load of stuff I've dropped in your lap. Let's hear whatcha got!
A

BRAD

Yo la Reed 3.0,

The definition of Sci-Fi is like porn, you don’t know what it is, but you know it when you see it. So if your definition of Sci-Fi includes The Hulk then I guess he is your green jizz-lobber. By Sci-Fi’s very nature, it allows the storyteller to suspend rationality in order to tell a fantastic fiction based story. Its enjoyability lies in using technology and scientific principles that conflict with the known laws of nature. Your nits of the movie confirm that you are not really a Sci-Fi kinda guy; and that in fact you don’t really want to imagine a world that does not exist within the confines of what you believe to be fact or rational.

This unwillingness to leave behind the constructs of human nature is what also makes you unable to understand the Romulans and their desire to watch Spock's planet destroyed before his very eyes, rather than saving their own planet. I gave some thought to your argument about this Romulan irrationality. Rationality is a trait that you know and require as a homo sapient. One of Spock’s most entertaining traits is his Vulcan uber-rationality, which allows you to feel a mutual connection to him.
Uhura again. And why not?

Conversely, Romulans are an alien species. They do not subscribe to these constructs of rationality that you hold so sacred. Rather, they are the warrior off-shoot of Vulcans and will not behave in ways that you can easily digest.

Tot ziens,
Kozy

ANDREW

Hello my friend!

Rather than address my question about worthwhile memorable moments in the film, you choose to debate the nature of science fiction. I take your point that we should accept that the Romulans are rage-fueled fools. This didn't bother me during the movie - only after I walked away from it and gave the film some reflection. Without their idiocy, there's no movie, so I accept the premise. But when you talk about my confines of what I believe to be fact or rational, you're out over your skis. Plenty of my favorite movies make no rational sense in our reality. But a movie has to make sense in its reality, or it might as well be an episode of Teletubbies. Remember that this is coming from a guy who liked the movie Click.
Not that Enterprise, either.

If you have to be a Sci-fi guy to like this movie, why are you so into it? You're not a sci-fi fan (as you explained in your first e-mail). And why can't you name something you enjoyed about it?

From what you've written to me you liked this movie because you got to suspend disbelief for two hours. You live in Amsterdam. You can head to the nearest coffee shop and do that whenever you want. So I'm giving you another chance to sell me on this one. I don't want to overstate my quibbles of the finer points. My overarching problem with the movie was that I was just generally bored. I didn't hate it, but would have been happy if they had just made it about Uhura going underwear shopping instead.

Your turn, amigo!

BRAD

Hola Mr. Andrew,
As you know I may be the lone Amsterdam expat that does not one-hit the coffee shops. So I guess I do need to find an alternate disbelief suspension outlet.

So you want to know what I liked about this movie. I’ll tell you. I agree with you that the scene where Kirk and Harold Sulu land on that giant drill thing was great. I also agree with you that the scene when Kid Kirk jams out to a ‘94 Beastie Boys song and drives his car into that Grand Canyon of Iowa was fun as well. In addition, I liked the bar fight scene with Kirk, the ice cap/giant animals chasing Kirk scene, the sequence with Scotty being stuck in the water chamber and nearly all of the Spock scenes. I guess the divide between us is that I enjoyed these moments more than you did.

But take note. I am not inferring you are mirthless. This galactic thrill ride was brewed for mass consumption. This is a popcorn movie for the masses and the fact that you did not have fun and were bored is not exactly surprising to me. For one reason or another it hit me on the right day or at the right time and as you know, timing is everything. Without the Star Trek legacy, this is a fun movie that perhaps does modest box office and only maybe garners a sequel. But since it is a Star Trek movie, I guess we’ll never know what would have happened .... Unless Spock can create a black hole for us to travel backwards in time through to 1966 before the 1st episode aired.
Yeah, that one.

I wonder what a 1966 audience would have thought of this movie. For starters, that the future is a scary place because gravity has been altered to a shakier state. And also, that Uhura is a space babe ahead of her time.

So that sums up my take. Any last thoughts?

Your friend,
Kozy

ANDREW

Since I get the last salvo here, I won't be overly aggressive. But Scotty stuck in the water pipe? That's what made me think of Teletubbies in the first place.

I guess I'll just say that outside of the Romulans, there was little to hate about this movie. But also little that I found to like. I don't expect I'll watch it again, but I would be up for a sequel just to see if they put more into it now that the characters are established. I won't be overly hopeful for such a thing because this one got rave reviews and made pretty decent bank at the box office, so they'll probably make another movie with the phasers set to numb.
One last Uhura photo. Yes, I realize I've officially crossed the cheesecake line. I don't hear you complaining!

In the end, we must agree to disagree on this one. And that's a good thing. If we aligned every time, people would get sick of us. But if we're finally pulling a Siskel and Ebert here, which one of us is the fat one? Since Ebert agreed with me on this review, I guess it's me. Also, I'm fatter than you. So I have no choice but to accept your judgment, even if I believe you will never have a desire to experience this movie again. Besides, I wouldn't want your wife to burden you with extra chores just because you didn't like her new favorite.

So, until next time mon ami, live long and prosper.
A

Previous A to Bs:
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler
Watchmen

Monday, May 18, 2009

A to B Back and Forth Review: Star Trek, Part I

I'm teaming up with longtime friend, Kozy of April 31st to review films. We're calling the segment "A to B" because I'm Andrew and he's Brad. And he lives in Amsterdam, and I live in Buenos Aires. We generally won't get the new releases when the States do, but hopefully we can either help you reminisce or offer advice before you head out to the video store. So let's get to our fourth review - Star Trek.

BRAD

Hey Reed,
Here we go again! It was cinema Sunday here in Amsterdam and I found myself boldly going to see Star Trek. The last time this occurred in our solar system was when my dad dragged the entire family to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The day ultimately will be remembered as the Wrath of Susan, as my mom’s displeasure turned into a near decade of my dad losing his turn as Sunday movie picker.

I have to say upfront that I am not particularly familiar with the Star Trek legacy. I never not watched a single episode of any of the numerous TV series, and apart from catching Wrath of Kahn in 1982 I have not seen any of the other films. But now there is another sci-fi nerd in the family, the wife. The nerds are gaining numbers and exerting their movie selection muscle, perhaps atoning for the lost decade.

With their newfound numbers, last week my dad and my wife selected another sci-fi movie (of sorts) X Men Origins: Wolverine and while this is not the film du jour I cannot help but compare it to Star Trek in at least one way. Wolverine was a movie that had the word “origins” in its title, meaning to me that at its very essence we would learn the heritage of the Wolverine, how it came to be and why he is the way he is. Unfortunately, none of this came to light during the film. When mentioning this criticism post screening to wife and dad they were both quick to defend the film. “Wolverine is a mutant. Mutants are born that way.” So that’s the answer? They are just born that way? Well then why did we need an entire movie to not tell us that?
No, not that Wolverine

On this “origins” front Star Trek succeeds massively. The movie provides the full back story of Kirk and Spock in a way that really got me involved in the film. I thought it was fantastic watching the two characters in childhood, evolving into the young men we eventually find leading the Starship Enterprise.
No, not that Starship Enterprise

Another thing that really worked for me in this film was the style. Everything was updated 60’s chic. The outfits managed to look retro and futuristic simultaneously. The soundtrack was over the top, but effective. Even Spock himself, the pillar of a bygone era looked classic yet perfectly updated.

So my man, what was your take on the film? What did you think of those Romulan bad guys?

Tot ziens,
Kozy

ANDREW

Hoooola Kozy,

What movie are we reviewing here? As much as I dig all things Wolverine, I didn't see that one because you wanted to review Star Trek. Though based on your comments, it sounds like you saved me some time. I imagine that I came in with a bit more Trek knowledge than you, but only a bit. I've seen a fair amount of the Shatner episodes and the first two movies, though it's been a loooong time for any of them. Anyway, I'm just going to come right out and say it. I felt like I was watching a TV show, not a movie. Yes, I realize Star Trek is originally a TV show, but hardly anything in this movie mattered. I was thoroughly bored until Scotty showed up. But let me first highlight the few things I liked.

As you said, they got the style pretty right, adhering to the original sets and costumes without making it seem at all dated. That's quite an accomplishment. There were some well-played moments of humor, especially from Simon Pegg as Scotty. Uhura is smoking hot, and they even got her mascara right. Finally, I found Spock to be an interesting character and well-acted. In fact, he was the only remotely interesting character in the entire movie. This includes Romulans, Humans, Vulcans, and that giant puke-monster that chases Kirk around on "Hoth" (seriously, I was waiting for someone to whisper, "Degobah System"). Anyway, there is a lot to be mined with Spock; he's not a cliche like everything else here. I think it was smart of them to center this film on him. This movie is really his story.
This Uhura? Oh my yes.

But they backed away from every opportunity to delve deeper.

The original series explored interesting issues such as racism, sexuality, and human nature. This film had none of that, despite having many opportunities to ask those questions. As soon as a more complicated issue would arise, someone would choke Kirk and they would completely forget what they were talking about. The fight scenes were impossible to see, let alone follow. The scenes in space weren't much better. Just a bunch of ships and debris flying around willy nilly. They could have called this Bourne Identity 4: Jason In Space. I couldn't tell how seriously this movie was trying to take itself. I felt like it tried to stand on all sides, alternately campy, serious, and an action thrill-ride. But they half-assed all three of those sides. I realize the proper homage must be paid to satisfy the Trekkies, but not in place of a story. I found myself often reminded of Galaxy Quest. That's not a good thing.
No, not that Jason

My inner sci-fi geek is perhaps a bit of a snob because he only digs a movie when it's smart. Sci-fi movies rarely are, and this movie is no exception. There is an incredible pile of illogical things in this film (zing!). I've been pretty light in my criticism so far, but will really tear this movie a new one on my next e-mail. Get ready. I'll save what I thought of the Romulans for my biggest complaint simply because I can't discuss it without dropping a spoiler. But believe me, it's coming, and completely ruins the entire movie. In sum, they're imbeciles. But first, I'll give you the chance to defend yourself for making me sit through this. However I will leave you with one question: What the hell was Winona Ryder wearing, and from which fancy Vulcan boutique she steal the outfit?

May the force be with you. Um, I mean. Un abrazo!
Reed

BRAD

Hey Reed,

“The original series explored interesting issues such as racism, sexuality, and human nature.” You’re hilarious! News flash, the original series was sexist, somewhat racist and Shatner portrayed Kirk as a raging hornball worthy of a seat at a sex-anonomous meeting.

For someone who proclaims to have an inner sci-fi geek you really don't have the resume to prove it. I checked your fightingtheyouth regular feature One Word Reviews for sci-fi films. Guess what? I did not find a single non-earth based movie. Sure there were a few aliens in Signs, and a fantasy film in Pans Labyrinth. But sci-fi? No way. So then let’s agree that you are not exactly an expert on the genre.
Brad's preferred uniform for a Sci-fi movie reviewer. Also, is that a Norelco shaver?

Did you really think this was meant to be a serious film? And did you really think in 2 hours it would explore “interesting” topics like racism, sexuality and human nature? In one breath you complain that you felt like you were watching a TV show and in the next you complain that it explores its topics like a feature film. Clearly you are confused.

At its core, this Star Trek is a pure adventure movie. A space based thrill ride. Accept it for what it is. The campy comedy is part of the formula so the fact that it was done well and made me chortle is a feather in their galactic cap. But as a fan of the series you already knew this, as campy comedy has been Trek’s bread and butter since the Shatner days. Hell, Shatner’s entire career is based on schlock, he’s the freaking Priceline Negotiator after all!
No caption can do the comedic value of this photo justice. But I think he might need to use the bathroom.

What you will not read here is a defense of the Romulans. Their future legacy will be mastering face-based tattooing. There is a line out there that a pulpy movie like Star Trek is only as good as its bad guys. To that I say bally-hoo! Can you name the bad guy in Batman Begins? I can’t. And yet the movie was impactful because it was fun and interesting, keeping my tension piqued.

So what’s next? You going to rip on Winona more? The woman has served her debt to society. Or can you present a solid Spock-worthy logic to your criticisms?

- Kozy

Kozy doesn't get the last word in this debate, but he gets the last word for today. Click here for the conclusion of this heated exchange, and see if we can rise above personal attacks (here's a spoiler: no we cannot).

Previous A to Bs:
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler
Watchmen

One Word Review: Rear Window




75: Indiscreet

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday Youtube

I think this kid is a secret Argentine child...


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Top Hidden Gem Movies - Part II

As begun the other day, we are counting down the top 20 IMDb hidden gems that not enough people have seen. Remember that these films were chosen based on a mathematical formula, not picked out of my brain or anything. Criteria and methodology can be found in Part I.

#10: Modern Times
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 75
Number of Voters: 28,935
Why more haven't seen it: It's a silent film. And to be honest, all Chaplin movies I've not seen tend to blur together for me. He plays the tramp, like he usually does. While it is surely a comedy, I can only imagine that there is an allegorical statement about industry and how we make our doodads and what it does to the average worker. Who wants any of that in their comedy??? Well now that I think about it, I do. I suppose I should rent this guy tonight.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "On a personal level, the aspect of the film that resonates strongest with me is its appeal to the idealistic misfit in all of us. In our hearts, many of us long for the simplicity and exuberance with which The Tramp and The Gamin live life (with attention to the bare essentials and an absence of need for materialism and modern trappings). As Chaplin so skillfully shows, however, our modern times make this lifestyle a faded dream, lost among the sheep-like herds of men and women scurrying through a modern metropolis that only Fritz Lang could make seem darker and more devoid of true humanity. Still, the final image of Modern Times refuses to let the film end on an exclusively tragic note and demonstrates that the individual is still alive and may yet find his way in an ever-changing world." - razwee

#9: Wages of Fear
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.3, 140
Number of Voters: 11,177
Why more haven't seen it: I think this is the only movie in the list I'd never heard of. Two dudes have nitroglycerin in a South American jungle and they might blow each other the hell up. Does that sound exciting or what? The only thing I can think is that if this film wasn't in French, it would be really popular.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "This movie is well made in every detail. It puts a lot of detail-work in the creation of the characters, and once you think that is over and the "regular action-part" starts, it becomes even better and the story takes a 90 degree turn! After I had finished watching the entire movie, I needed at least 5 minutes just to "digest" it and rethink this fantastic film. If you got a chance to watch it, don't miss it! It is entertaining from the first to the last minute!" - Robert Grill

#8: Kind Hearts and Coronets
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 131
Number of Voters: 10,601
Why more haven't seen it: This film has the lowest number of votes in our list which means it's the hiddenest gem of them all. It's black and white, but it is in English. Apparently it's a comedy about a guy who's murdering people so he can become some kind of Duke. A bit like Getting In with Andrew McCarthy and Dave Chappelle (a film decidedly not in the IMDb Top 250). It also features Sir Alec Guinness in about 11 roles. Nobody ever talks about this movie, but I'm curious, aren't you?
Gushing IMDb user comment: "So ultra-smooth and urbane, polished to a sheen, this film is best enjoyed by persons of refinement and education, but anyone with even half a brain and an ounce of creativity will appreciate it for the work of genius it is." - TexMan

#7: Once Upon a Time in the West
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.8, 19
Number of Voters: 59,045
Why more haven't seen it: It's a bit shocking. Sergio Leone's film from just two years earlier, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, has more than double the votes. Are the combined acting forces of Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson that far behind Clint Eastwood in renown? Despite one alarmingly misplayed love scene, this is the better film. Do see it.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "It is films like these that redefine genres and that honorable of all words, a 'classic'. Prove me wrong. For those who experienced it, I hope it has impacted you in much the same way it has me. Upon its release, this film was unsuccessful, because the world wanted another Clint Eastwood picture. But they couldn't see for a mile what was coming. Sergio Leone is platinum. May the force be with him...........always!" - Freddy Levit

#6: Paths of Glory
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.6, 43
Number of Voters: 37,022
Why more haven't seen it: I have no idea. Starring Kirk Douglas, this isn't the film that put Stanley Kubrick on the map, but it's the one that had people calling him a young genius. The film is funny, interesting, and tragic, bringing to mind the folly of war and the men who call the shots. Of all the films in the list that I have seen, this one has stuck with me the most.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "It is FAR AND AWAY the most realistic, most emotionally draining, and most beautifully photographed movie ever made about trench warfare in WW I, which has to be considered to be one of the significant episodes in all of human history. The story is fiction, but the events are patterned after some actual mutinies in the French army that took place in 1917. You could probably change a few things in most of Kubrick's other masterpieces to slightly improve them, but I DEFY anyone to single out anything in "Paths of Glory" that could be improved upon. I could go on and on raving about the beauty and pathos of this film, but I think I will stop here." - hptaylor

#5: M
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.6, 45
Number of Voters: 33,005
Why more haven't seen it: In german, black and white, and really freaking old (1931), it's understandable. Also, the main character is a murderous child molester. But the point of the movie is the hysteria involved when a society feels threatened. Though the topic is different, it could be considered an allegory to the current debate on torture. Plus, a chunky Peter Lorre, in one of his first films, gives a riveting performance.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "This film proves that not every monster needs long fangs or a glove with blades. Monsters can and do look human until their deeds are revealed. It also shows that you don't need buckets of blood and gore for a murder to be grisly, and you don't really have to see it on screen. I sat motionless during most of the film, hardly breathing, and my heart pounding; I was practically in tears at the end. This is one of the most terrifying films I have ever seen." - TedEBear

#4: Double Indemnity
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.6, 46
Number of Voters: 30,436
Why more haven't seen it: What most can agree on about Double Indemnity is that it is the quintessential film noir movie. It has all the key elements: grave crimes, romance, manipulation, guilt, and the walls closing in. It features an impressive cast that carries what is essentially a basic story. I can only think that people are turned off by the black and white cinematography or perhaps the cumbersome name. I highly recommend this movie.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "Double Indemnity is nearly flawless. From the shocking and unexpected beginning to the already known but still surprising end, the audience is held rapt by the excellent performances, the brilliant and imaginative direction, and the flawlessly created atmosphere. This is excellent, excellent filmmaking, and is a classic film that should not be missed." - Michael DeZubiria

#3: Sunset Blvd.
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.7, 25
Number of Voters: 44,556
Why more haven't seen it: I'm surprised that this movie made the list, let alone at #3. Clearly, this is in part due to the high rating, but I would have imagined it was more popular than this. It is on TV often, frequently shown at art-house theaters and was even featured briefly in the TV version of Trading Places. Also, the female protagonist recently notched #2 on my Top Ten Movie Cougars list. It's a classic that should not be missed. Also, they are currently remaking it as a musical which will sure as hell suck. So see the old version before you are corrupted by whatever they release next year. Also of note, this is the third Billy Wilder movie to make this list.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "One of the rare few films that kept me glued to the screen from beginning to end. Gloria Swanson's performance as Norma Desmond made me see her as sexy yet insane. That's not strange now, is it? Who cares? The movie is still a wonder and pure enjoyment. I particularly love the cinematography and the shot selections. I admired that most about the film... I give the film an "A+" and a 10 out of 10..." - TheQuietStorm

#2: The Treasure of Sierra Madre
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.5, 50
Number of Voters: 27,461
Why more haven't seen it: Perhaps fitting that near the top of our hidden gem list, we have a movie about treasure. It has been years since I've seen this film, and I must admit that I found it to be overrated, yet enjoyable. Bogart's not at the top of his game on this one, but Walter Huston turns in a great performance, and it may be the cinema's best examination of greed and mistrust. It is one of the two most often incorrectly quoted movies in history, the other being Bogart's Casablanca. Perhaps I should give it another go.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "This film is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. It is the finest work of John Huston's career. It is the story of greed in its ugliest form. Walter Huston is the whole show giving a stunning performance as an old prospector who has seen it all. Bogart's character Fred C. Dobbs is the best performance he ever did." - alan bryant

#1: City Lights
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.5, 62
Number of Voters: 21,748
Why more haven't seen it: It makes sense that the list is topped by a silent comedy. Also, that it is a film I've yet to see. Charlie Chaplin plays the same character from #10 above, and tries to woo a blind girl who sells flowers.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "When the final scene is shown, you'll understand why many people (including myself) have called this one of the greatest films ever made. Pure magic. A true masterpiece." - Captain_Couth

We'll leave you with a scene (that doesn't give away the ending) from the least watched/best gem in our list, City Lights. Be patient here, folks. Remember, it's a movie, not a viral video.


If anyone has any comments about these - which ones to see first, for instance - let us know!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Unyielding Commissioning has little to say

Bow Down - Go here for the best Onion Article regarding the movies in recent memory. It's freaking hilarious. Just go.

Mothership Connection - The AV Club turns their flashlight onto P-Funk. Check it out.

One Word Review: How's Moving Castle




66: Formulaic

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Top Hidden Gem Movies - Part I

Surely at this point you've seen the IMDb Top 250. There are definitely some films in the list that are overrated (The Usual Suspects at #22!), or just don't belong at all (Planet of the Apes, Big Fish). And as evidenced by the internet fanboys who parlayed their budding crushes on a recently deceased Heath Ledger to mess with the numbers, it's an imperfect system. But it is also an extremely useful tool for any movie fan looking to (A) find something new and interesting to watch or (2)see how many of the "classics" they've taken in. I'd love to see that I've seen all 250, but as yet, there are more to go.

But today, using an extremely complex mathematical algorithm (uhhh... the average between the rank of the movie and the # of votes it has received), we're going to look at the top 20 movies that have been overlooked - or at least don't have as many votes as they should. If you have any thoughts on these, let us know!

Note - movies released in the last year are not counted because (A) newer movies always have inflated ratings and (B) obviously many people may not have had the opportunity to watch them yet. But we still recommend getting out there to see The Wrestler (actually the clear #1 in our formula), Slumdog Millionaire, and Gran Torino.

#20: Witness for the Prosecution
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.2, 128
Number of Voters: 14,416
Why more haven't seen it:It's a bit old, from 1957, but considering that it is a Billy Wilder directed adaptation originally penned by Agatha Christie, it's surprising that this classic mystery/thriller doesn't get more attention. In all honesty, I haven't seen it, and even though the name rings a bell, until I did some research I didn't know much about it. But I'm adding it to my list today.
Gushing IMDb user comment:"At the end of the day the films you give top marks are those films that become constant companions. You can see them again at the drop of a hat, you show them to people who have never see them and it's always a triumph. 'Witness For The Prosecution' is one of those wonders. Suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours and enjoy this banquet of a romp." - M.J.Arocena

#19: 12 Angry Men
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.8, 9
Number of Voters: 89,961
Why more haven't seen it: I was honestly surprised that this made the cut, but is largely here due to its distinction as the 9th highest rated film of all time. We covered it a bit in the Top Ten Underdog Movies feature from last year. Completely taking place in one room, it signaled the arrival of Sidney Lumet as a master filmmaker. It is alternately melodramatic and realistic. Anyone who hasn't seen this movie needs to set aside a couple hours to do so.
Gushing IMDb user comment:"This film deserves to be on anyone's list of top films. My problem is that it is so perfect, so seamlessly polished, it is hard to appreciate the individual excellences." - tedg

#18: The Seven Samurai
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.8, 13
Number of Voters: 82,241
Why more haven't seen it:Well, it's in Japanese and in black and white, but much like 12 Angry Men above, it's that the film has such a high rating. There have been a lot of voters, far more than its also beloved American, color counterpart, The Magnificent Seven. It's a very long movie that takes its time to develop, but even passive viewers find themselves drawn into the story, feeling pity and empathy for all the characters involved.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "Words cannot sum up the experience you have while watching Seven Samurai. It makes you laugh at the antics the samurai bring, cheer when the village accomplish a goal, bit your fingernails in suspense when bandits appear, and cry at the tragedies that occur in life. If you have yet to see this movie, find it and watch what is without a doubt in my mind, the greatest movie ever made." - Obvlivous93

#17: Rashômon
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 72
Number of Voters: 32,215
Why more haven't seen it: Akira Kurosawa, the same director as above, created a film that was groundbreaking and risky. The story is told three times by three different characters, one of whom is already dead. Kurosawa implemented various techniques which had never been performed previously. It's also black and white and in Japanese, and depicts a rape. So it's understandable that this isn't shown on TBS after "House of Payne". This is probably my favorite foreign film of all time, and I recommend it highly.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "Rashomon is one of the most powerful and emotional movies that I have ever seen. The way the story is told has become a arch type that has been incorporated into countless American films and just for that this movie deserves a 10." - ninerjayd

#16: The General
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.3, 126
Number of Voters: 16,446
Why more haven't seen it: Let's start with the fact that it's a silent, black and white comedy. But it is also Buster Keaton's most renowned effort. Count me among the throng that have missed it. Can it really be funny if it's black and white and silent? I imagine it must be.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "There aren't too many words to describe this film other than 'amazing.' I am embarrassed to admit that I am 23 and this is the first time I've seen this film, however now that I have I will be certain to go out and purchase any Buster Keaton film I can get my hands on. I was lucky enough to find this film packaged along with Steamboat Bill Jr. and two Charlie Chaplin films (The Kid and Tillie's Punctured Romance) at my local Wal-Mart for a measly $5.50 and decided to give it a try. Heck, a dollar can't even buy a popsicle now-a-days, but can purchase one of the greatest comedies I've ever seen. Go figure." - hoserhound

#15: All About Eve
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 74
Number of Voters: 29,842
Why more haven't seen it: From 1950 and black and white, but beyond that I haven't the faintest idea. It features big stars, a famous director in Joseph L Mankiewicz, and the screen debut of Marylin Monroe. Not only that, it's a superb story about fame, jealousy and morality. What's lacking is a clear love story, but there's no reason why more people haven't seen this one.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "What a genius Joseph L Manckiewicz was. A literary script that is totally accessible. A melodrama for the thinking man. A film that is as engrossing and entertaining every time you see it. Bette Davis touches all the raw nerves of her mythological career. Anne Baxter never went this far. Thelma Ritter became a sort of icon. Marilyn Monroe gives us a preview of forthcoming attractions as a graduated from the "Copacabana" academy of dramatic arts. Celeste Holm represents us, all of us and George Sanders creates a prototype for a cultured monster that is immediately recognizable. I don't recall another film in which the nature of selfishness is so wittily dissected. A total triumph." - marcosaguado

#14: Rebecca
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 78
Number of Voters: 29,531
Why more haven't seen it: I honestly have no clue. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Laurence Olivier, it is Hitch's only film to have won Best Picture. You'd think this would be a renowned, smash hit movie. It's the kind of movie that should be on TCM and late-night cable all the damn time.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "I spent the majority of this film thinking about how lucky M. Olivier really was. To be able to wrap his arms around Joan Fontaine and kiss her. Oh my. She's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen (almost, but not quite as beautiful as Veronica Lake). She's also absolutely perfect in the role of the second Mrs. DeWinter, taking a character that could have become a cloying bore in less capable hands and transforming her into a sympathetic and interesting figure." - Jason Forenstein

#13: The Third Man
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.5, 54
Number of Voters: 43,113
Why more haven't seen it: There are a few goofy things about this suspense mystery, the most prominent being the soundtrack which features only a zither. At the time, the soundtrack was actually a huge hit, but it's very distracting as the movie plays along.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "Unrelenting fascination is what I have every time I watch this movie. It never seems old. It's in my mind, haunting me, with its unearthly music and its dark, oblique photography. And that great Orson Welles' speech, and also the best entrance in movie history to go along with the best exit in movie history. It couldn't be better. I can't even express how I feel in words. Watch it again and again, and you'll be dazed!" - Matt Hintze

#12: The Bicycle Thief
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 97
Number of Voters: 21,633
Why more haven't seen it: First, it's very old, black and white, and in Italian. Second, the movie is a major, major downer. It's basically all about life beating the piss out of you and not apologizing for it, leaving you with no way of fighting back. At the risk of pissing off the film snobs, I have to say that I liked this movie, but didn't understand what the big deal about it is. Yet, the IMDb has spoken. The people who watch and rate have scored it very highly. I'm just saying I can see why more haven't sat back to have their nuts kicked by this one.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "Neither reductivist outlook adequately deals with the many subtleties and nuances this great film portrays, and the fact that The Bicycle Thief is shorn of Freudian psychobabble and preaching is one of its strengths. Yet, it is not pure cinema, either, as many European critics have labeled it. Although the visuals convey the milieu well, they do not get inside the characters. This is where the writing and acting ability of Maggiorani and Staiola works magic. Great art is simply not so easily reducible as political panderers want it to be, and one can be thankful for that, lest The Bicycle Thief would not be what it is, nor would we still be watching it with such easy appreciation for its simple virtues." - Cosmoeticadotcom

#11: Nights of Cabiria
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 143
Number of Voters: 8,655
Why more haven't seen it: Federico Fellini's fifth-most voted upon movie, it's the only one that makes our list. The story of course takes place in Rome and is about a prostitute that wanders the streets looking for love. To be honest, I don't know a damn thing about this film beyond the fact that Fellini directed it. But that's reason enough to go and see it.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "I've never seen the face so alive, changing its expression every moment. If the face is the soul's mirror, Cabiria's (Masina's) face reflects her every single emotion and how effortlessly she goes from bitter cynicism to wistful yearning, from despair to hope, from tears to smile. While there's life there's hope. As long as Cabiria smiles in the end of this tragicomic masterpiece, there is hope for all of us." - Galina

If you're not pumped up enough to head to your local Netflix and get your hands on some of these, come back for Part II next week!