• International House

    International House

    ★★★

    I think we can all agree that that six-day bicycle race was amazing.

    There's an incredibly flimsy plot about people competing to buy the rights to a new invention, plus a bunch of random junk thrown in, including a couple of radio acts. It was actually funnier than I was expecting, though, mostly thanks to W.C. Fields. Who would have guessed that this creaky old movie from 1933 would have cannabis references and a pussy joke?

  • Love Affair

    Love Affair

    ★★★★½

    My third time seeing; this was the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray.

    I guess it's understandable that this movie isn't better known. It was impossible to find a decent copy of it—luckily TCM aired an okay-looking print which I kept on my DVR for years—and from watching the short documentary on the Criterion disc I learned that the original film elements had been lost sometime in the 1950s. It also came out in a famously great year for movies, from which people…

  • The Sign of the Cross

    The Sign of the Cross

    ★★★½

    I actually blind-bought this movie on Blu-Ray (on sale from Kino Lorber) because I had read that there was some off-the-wall pre-code stuff in it and TCM never seemed to air it. Sure enough, it's wild. It features possibly the two most violent images I've seen in a pre-code movie (off the top of my head I think only The Public Enemy comes close)* and also one of the most erotic. You would have to be made of gelatin not…

  • I'm No Angel

    I'm No Angel

    ★★★

    There were chuckles throughout—especially the mugging for the jury—but West’s schtick was too repetitive for my taste.

  • Prisoners

    Prisoners

    ★★★★½

    I watched this the first time not knowing anything about the director, but just because of the Roger Deakins cinematography. Watched it now a second time as a Denis Villeneuve fan.

    One thing that struck me this time through is the way the film embraces clouds, snow and rain, not to make things seem gloomy, but to make everything feel close, intimate and real. Even shots of ordinary suburban neighborhoods under gray skies are gorgeous, and you can almost feel…

  • The Scar of Shame

    The Scar of Shame

    ★★★

    It's a movie with a message, and it tells you that message straight out at the beginning and then walks you through the steps. It feels a little old-fashioned for that reason, even for 1929, but it probably wasn't the only movie to still be doing that sort of thing at the time. Anyway, the production is good, with some really nice moments here and there, but the melodramatic story doesn't get interesting until the end. I must admit I struggled to stay awake.

  • The Hindenburg

    The Hindenburg

    ★★½

    Kind of a weird idea for a film: it's a dramatization of the sabotage theory of the Hindenburg crash, presumably intended to appeal to ‘70s audiences ready for the next big disaster movie. I'm not sure it really works as a disaster movie, though, because the destruction of the historical airship is estimated to have lasted no more than a minute from beginning to end, and the film is 125 minutes long.

    In typical disaster-movie fashion, we get to know…

  • Murders in the Zoo

    Murders in the Zoo

    ★★★

    Pros:
    • Lionel Atwill doing his villain thing like nobody else
    • A truly horrifying opening scene
    • Randolph Scott wrangling live snakes
    • “He didn’t say anything.”

    Cons:
    • Too much Charlie Ruggles
    • The cat fight (not the fun kind) which did not look very safe for the animals involved

  • Blue Summer

    Blue Summer

    ★½

    A softcore porn movie, which I only watched because it's kinda sorta vansploitation.* The V.I.Q. (van in question) is a Dodge A100 or A108 with no sweet custom features such as shag carpeting or an airbrushed wizard.** However, there are some homemade modifications, including a pointless loudspeaker mounted to the roof, some butterfly and flower decals (actually poster paper stuck on with tape), and some adhesive lettering that spells out "THE MEAT WAGON". There also are no van-related gatherings in…

  • The Batman

    The Batman

    ★★★½

    Relatively (heavy emphasis on relatively) down-to-earth and uncomicbooky, which is probably most appropriate to Batman versus any other superhero. That kind of makes it an odd movie, though, because without any mythical quality or evocation of childhood fantasy, we’re left with a crime investigation featuring a man who is inexplicably dressed up in an animal costume.

    Also, because it’s Batman—sorry, The Batman—it’s all very negative and fatalistic. There’s something emotionally stagnant about the whole thing; I mean, does Bruce even like Gotham? Why doesn’t he just move somewhere else? He’s gone all Travis Bickle in this one, but even Travis Bickle went on a date once.

  • The Man with the Golden Arm

    The Man with the Golden Arm

    ★★★

    I'd wanted to see this for a long time, and Amazon Prime was streaming it, but the recording was pretty awful. I held out to see if Turner Classic Movies had access to a better copy, and it turns out they do.

    I appreciate that this movie was way ahead of its time in how it depicts drug addiction, and it's certainly competently made, but I found it a slog. Too much of it was heavy-handed and predictable; you can…

  • Earthquake

    Earthquake

    ★★★

    An attempt to repeat the success of 1970's Airport, which in turn was was made in the tradition of 1932's Grand Hotel—a star-studded drama in which many different characters, together a cross-section of society, have individual stories that all interweave at a single location. Earthquake takes a different tack: what if instead of everyone being in one place, they're scattered across a city? And what if, instead of being a cross-section of society, they're just a bunch of randos, like…