Back In The Day

Way back in the day, when things were simple, and there was far less to bitch about.

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Hopscotch

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on May 29, 2010

Before I start, just going to say RIP Dennis Hopper. All of you people should see Blue Velvet immediately to honor his memory (or Easy Rider, but I still haven’t seen that and it’s on my list).

HOPSCOTCH (1980)

A lesser-known Walter Matthau film! Walter Matthau is probably best known to you whippersnappers as one of the ‘Grumpy Old Men’, along with Jack Lemmon. That pairing was actually made famous in the film adaptation of the Neil Simon play “The Odd Couple”.  Both had extensive movie careers and were widely respected and adored by filmgoers everywhere. I just want to hug Walter Matthau when I see him onscreen. Oh, and he was quite a lot of fun in Charade (recommended).

Hopscotch is a comedy about a rogue CIA agent who essentially engages in a worldwide game of cat and mouse with his former employer and colleagues. Matthau stars as Miles Kendig, an extremely smart and seasoned CIA field agent whose new boss, Myerson (Ned Beatty of Deliverance), decides to punish his latest antics by relegating him to a desk job in the filing room. Kendig, a man of superior wit and whimsy, immediately goes to work on a scheme to deliver the biggest, most embarrassing, and costly “Screw you” to the CIA, and specifically Kendig himself. How does he go about doing this? By leading the CIA on a wild goose chase all over the world in an attempt to find him and stop him from writing a tell-all memoir about his experiences at the CIA– a memoir he is sending out, chapter by chapter, to all major national intelligence agencies worldwide… including the Soviets. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Runaways

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on May 23, 2010

THE RUNAWAYS (2010)

Dakota Fanning as a sex symbol, oh my!

I realize that with my addition of pictures within my reviews, I have gotten a bit more tongue-in-cheek for the last bunch. Part of that is because the pictures lend themselves to a comedic slant, and another part is because the films don’t play into a more serious sort of review. I don’t intend to have that attitude in all of my reviews, but I will try to work with pictures, regardless. People seem to enjoy how the visuals break up my long-winded reviews. Additionally, I am playing with themes to get the pictures to format properly, so bear with me and let me know what you think when you see a new theme pop up!

The Runaways is a film about the 1970s all-girl teen rock band of the same name, specifically about the inception of the band and its beginning years with its original members. It specifically focuses on the two leads of the band, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. While the film gives us a good understanding of Currie’s background, it leaves Jett’s story mostly in the dark, which I found somewhat odd as Jett was really the brains of the whole operation and the most musically successful member of the band. I knew who Joan Jett was before I walked into the theatre; I couldn’t tell you anything about Cherie Currie except that someone in the band was named “something like Cherry”. I really don’t want to get into specifics about the band history and all, because not only will I just be rewriting this biopic, but I’ll be constantly checking my information and this is not why I write film reviews! So, allow me to get into a little more of the nitty-gritty of the film, and please forgive me for not nitpicking some of the inaccuracies that it included (though I believe those were kept to a minimum since both Jett and Currie were involved in the making of the film). Read the rest of this entry »

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Iron Man 2

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on May 17, 2010

IRON MAN 2 (2010)

I’ve had AC/DC on the brain for days, so seeing this film only helped keep that going. If you don’t know, the film could essentially be considered a giant music video for the AC/DC “album” ‘Iron Man 2’, which is really just a soundtrack compiled of a lot of their “greatest hits” that were used in the film. Oh, there are a few other songs in the movie that are not by AC/DC, but they don’t really matter :P. But I guess I should talk about the second installment of the superfranchise instead of the soundtrack, so here goes.

Unless you live under a rock, you know about Iron Man and you know the general storyline of the main character, Tony Stark/Iron Man. At the end of the last film the world had just been informed that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) really is Iron Man, so now both Stark is even more of a celebrity. And everyone loves him. So now the question is, who could possibly be his adversary, and how? I mean, the guy’s suit is at least 17 different kinds of awesome and powerful. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Nightmare On Elm Street

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on May 10, 2010

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

Sob!

Full disclosure here: I am a huge fan of the original film, written and directed by one of the masters of horror, Wes Craven. I highly recommend it to anyone who has not seen it (P.S. it has a young Johnny Depp in his first film role), and even though it’s kinda dated because it feels so damn 80s in some ways, it’s still really effective and it’s far creepier than people seem to remember. The reason why I decided to watch this remake is because all accounts were indicating that the filmmakers were taking it a bit more ‘seriously’ than I feel the other horror classic remakes were handled (such as The Amityville Horror,  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween–which I refuse to see because Rob Zombie is almost as bad a director as Eli Roth). Alas, the film was not good, as I expected it to be, but there was an odd twist to what made it sub-par: the similarities to the original. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kick-Ass

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on May 7, 2010

KICK-ASS (2010)

I’m writing this one piecemeal, so please bear with me if it’s a little disjointed–I’ve been working at a conference and I’m exhausted.

Kick-Ass explores similar territory as the film Mystery Men– there are “normal” people who dress up as superheroes to fight the criminals of the world (or the city in which they live); however, Mystery Men gave the indication that the heroes had some “lesser” superpowers, whereas Kick-Ass does not include the superpower aspect. Rather, it’s literally just people who want to throw on costumes and rid the world (or city) of “evildoers”. It’s a concept that the main character ponders about in the beginning of the film, posing the question, “Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this?” The thing is, I’ve read about people who have actually donned costumes and tried to “fight crime”, mostly within the boundaries of the law. So it’s not an entirely new concept, at least for me. However, the idea is a fun one, which is why I decided to see this particular film. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Box

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on April 30, 2010

THE  BOX (2009)

I hate that I keep doing this to you guys, but I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the past week and a half or so, which is why I have been holding out on you with my reviews. But have no fear, dear minions–I fully intend to get my ass back in the theatre and my DVDs back in my player in order to bring you snazzy little reviews for your reading pleasure!!

I watched The Box recently, not knowing that I was walking into another Richard Kelly film. For those of you who do not know, Richard Kelly was the indie wonder-child who delivered hipster-favourite Donnie Darko to an unsuspecting world. I’m not trying to dismiss Darko or Kelly’s work on that film, as I really did enjoy it and I think it was an interesting and well-made film, but if I had known that The Box was Kelly’s film I would have been better prepared and, probably, a little more wary. The concept of The Box reminds me much of the classic horror story “The Monkey’s Paw”. The Box is ‘based’ on the short story “Button, Button”, by Richard Matheson, but the screenplay is Kelly’s (which, again, would have been good to know–shame on me!). I have not read Matheson’s story, but what little I have read about it leads me to believe that it is infinitely better than what Kelly offered. I should note that Matheson’s story was also used on the Twilight Zone series, and Kelly’s film almost feels like a far too long and overworked episode. Read the rest of this entry »

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2012

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on April 16, 2010

2012 (2009)

From a classic to a… trashic? Can I do that? This is a review of the “disaster-porn” film made by one Roland Emmerich of Independence Day fame and The Day After Tomorrow notoriety. Yes, I have seen both of those movies, and while Independence Day was at least campy enough to be a fun action film, the last two “the world is out to get us” movies were, well, not. I never thought this would be an excellent movie, but I was hoping to get a bit more silly entertainment from the roughly 2.5 hour-long dractionbeast (drama+action+beast). I almost feel silly writing any sort of review for this movie, but I DID sit through it all, and I DID shout at my TV (I don’t do that in theatres, mind you), so I figured I might as well share my thoughts with all of you. You’re welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Philadelphia Story

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on April 14, 2010

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)

Holy crap, everyone! I started using my Netflix account again, and I watched an old movie to review like I set out to when I originally made this blog. Amazing, right? I promise, I’m going to be more diligent with this again. Besides, I want to feel like I’m not wasting all this money on my Netflix account and just letting these DVDs sit. Now let’s get on with the classicy goodness!

First, some background! It was adapted from the 1939 Broadway play of the same name, written by Phillip Barry, and the screenplay was expertly written by Donald Ogden Stewart, with the help of the uncredited–and later blacklisted–Waldo Salt (After the blacklist was lifted, Salt won an Oscar for both Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home, and was nominated for Serpico). It was directed by George Cukor, director of such films as Adam’s Rib (which I actually have seen a long time ago, so it probably won’t be reviewed anytime soon), Gaslight (which is on my list) and My Fair Lady (a classic musical that you all should at least recognize). And this is where I shall veer off into another ramble, of sorts: I would wager that if I were to ask the majority of the people reading to name five classic Hollywood directors, they would come up short. This is a travesty, and I will not tolerate it! When picking out my films, I didn’t look at the name “George Cukor” with a cocked head and a knotted brow; rather, I exclaimed, “Oh yeah, George Cukor!” and happily added films to my list. This is because I was fortunate enough to have a film studies department at my university, and I took the opportunity to get a film major while there. Yes, plenty of people know a ton about classic films, including their stars, directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, etc., without the help of a film studies background; however, too many people, especially amongst today’s youth, know tragically little about this golden age of cinema. And when Alfred Hitchcock, whom I adore, is the only classic director that someone can name… well, a special kind of rage starts to boil within my blood. This plays into why I created this blog: just because a film is “old” and in black and white, doesn’t mean the film isn’t spectacular! You simply cannot appreciate the films of today without appreciate the films of yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Ghost Writer

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on April 4, 2010

THE GHOST WRITER (2010)

Behold King Child Molester of Pedophilia! Sorry for the bad humour there, folks, but I had to get that out of the way– this is Roman Polanski’s new film. He was in the news not so long ago because the US Government finally decided that they wanted to extradite him in order to try him for these old rape charges lodged by a 13 year-old girl from 1977. I’m not weighing in on what I think of his actions or of the charges. I honestly don’t know much about either, but I will say that rape and pedophilia are very, very wrong and icky on so many levels. So, there’s that. Oh, some other Polanski police-related background info: he had been the initial suspect in his wife’s death in 1969. And by “death”, I mean the brutal murder of his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, along with those of Steve Parent, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Jay Sebring. Tate’s belly was stabbed several times, as well, ensuring that the baby would not survive. In case you were not aware, I’m referring to the most famous victims of The Manson Family, led by one Charles Manson. Just a bit of trivia for you; Polanksi’s been through some shit in his life. Oh, and did I mention he escaped from the Kraków Ghetto in 1943, his father survived the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Austria and his mother died at Auschwitz? Yeah… not exactly a trouble-free man, one might say.

But that’s neither here nor there! Despite my love for spewing film-related trivia at you, we’re here to talk about a movie! Shocking, right? I will come clean right away and admit that a large selling point for me was the fact that Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan in the latest Star Wars Trilogy, Moulin Rouge, Trainspotting, etc. and so forth) stars in this film. I adore him more than any sane person who doesn’t actually know the object of their affection should, but what can I say? He’s not only incredibly sexy, but by all accounts he’s funny, charming, sweet, humble, and laid-back. Oh, and he’s talented AND is happy to strip for the camera. If I had a “swoon” emoticon, I would use it. But I’ll address actors and performances later. The other reason why I was interested in seeing this movie is that it does hit a bit of a genre sweet-spot for me: political thriller. I’m actually more picky about them than one might think, but since I didn’t get the feeling of this one being overly-preachy, and I didn’t really know the details of the story to see the parallels being drawn that I will also discuss later. What I got from the trailer really the gist of the film: Ewan McGregor is brought on to be the new “ghost writer” for a former British Prime Minister’s memoirs after the last ghost writer is found dead. The trailer indicates that there’s more to the death of the former ghost writer than meets the eye (authorities assumed he either threw himself off the ferry he was on or he fell in and drowned due to his high blood alcohol content), and that Ewan might be in danger due to his work on this project, as well. It also indicates that the deeds of the former Prime Minster are more sinister than expected… Read the rest of this entry »

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Alice In Wonderland

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on March 29, 2010

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010)

My relationship with Tim Burton has turned into a love/hate one. I am sad about that. The thing is, I always loved Tim Burton. His classic films are pretty, well, classic. No one will ever convince me that the first two Batman movies (Batman and Batman Returns) were anything short of awesome–and for those of you who hate Batman Returns, I have four words for you: Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. Check and mate. Beetlejuice is one of my favourite films, one that I even wrote a research paper about in college (the paper was about the film’s score, and there was very little research to be found on Danny Elfman’s work, so I had to figure a lot of it out myself).  Edward Scissorhands is considered by many to be Burton’s best work. And I even enjoyed his bizarre comedic romp of a film, Mars Attacks! There are many films of his that I have enjoyed.  Sadly, Tim’s recent films have not really made it onto my list of “Tim Burton Classics”. I enjoyed Big Fish for what it was, but I haven’t been itching to watch it again. Sweeney Todd was fine, as well, and his handling of the material was absolutely fitting for the subject matter, but it’s also not a film I wish to see again. I don’t quite know where Alice falls on my list.

I want to first say that I did not see this film in 3-D. I think 3-D is pretty much a waste. It’s not only bad for your vision, but it’s also a distraction from the film. It’s a gimmick, and it’s unnecessary. It also seems to really detract from the director’s vision, for the most part. What I mean by that is that when a director is thinking in terms of making this a 3-D movie, you can almost see the thought process behind a number of the sweeping shots and the extra images that make their way across the screen. It ruins the staging of the shot, and it makes the direction appear sloppy. So, I did not see this in 3-D. I suspect that I would have been just as annoyed if I had seen it in 3-D as I was watching it in 2-D, as everything that was clearly meant to be for the benefit 3-D was made blatantly obvious in a distracting and detracting manner. I have never had a problem with Burton’s direction before; this was the first time I as distinctly bothered by his decisions. The moment I saw the rocking-horsefly and whatever other magical insect flutter across the screen and hover in the center-left of the shot, I knew that there were some terrible mistakes that Burton made with this film. That was clearly done in a way that screamed “THIS IS FOR A 3-D MOVIE” and it immediately upset me. OK, now that I have taken care of the non-3-D disclaimer, we can continue…

Read the rest of this entry »

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