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Category Archives: reviews

The Florida Project: A Review and Discussion of its Disney Elements

Every year there are films that get past me on their trip through big screen release even though I’m aware they exist and identify them as something I’d like to see. This year Sean Baker’s The Florida Project was one such movie. Thankfully, this entrancing and heartbreaking slice of life focused on a six-year-old girl’s adventures in and around the low budget motel where she and her mother are living did grab an Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe and thus ended up a high priority once it became available for rental yesterday. Unlike some of the other films I’ve been main-lining over the past several weeks, The Florida Project is already taking up space in my brain for several reasons.

For those of you who haven’t seen the film yet, I’m going to begin this article with a spoiler-free review of The Florida Project and some information about it that shouldn’t interfere with your appreciation of it once you do sit down to take it in. Not that the movie contains any really unexpected twists, but I am sympathetic to some moviegoers who want to go into a viewing experience with only the information needed to understand its context and whether or not they want to see it. I’ll be providing that right up front, and then I’ll be going into a bit more detail after what I hope will be a prominent enough clue, and this will include an examination of the movie’s relationship with Walt Disney World and some elements of the film that might be considered spoilers to some.
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The Best Albums of 1988!

Because of the way the school year is split down the middle in December/January, the year of a person’s high school graduation can bring back contrasting memories. It’s a big transition time, and the confidence and security of a high school senior can give way to plenty of uncertainty for the following college freshman. This certainly was my experience in 1988, and most of the albums I’m about to recommend do reflect that surge of joy and tumult.

A quick glance at 1988’s singles charts leaves more of an impression of a pop culture world adrift in paper-thin sentimentality and low cartoonish sexuality. This general malaise was also evident as the nation responded to eight years of Reagan populism by shrugging and electing his Vice President, an eminently qualified man who somehow failed to inspire, or give off the impression that he actually wanted the job again after his initial four years were up. It was a world that was in dire need of something like Nirvana to shake itself out of its stupor, but was three years away from being ready. For the time being, individual spots of light on pop radio such as R.E.M., INXS, or U2 (“the Alphabet People” one of my friends used to say) had to suffice for those of us who hadn’t quite given up on top 40 yet. It’s instructive to note that one of the top hits of the year that has actually enjoyed a continued place in the spotlight, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” has done so mostly as a joke due to its own clean-shaven cheesiness.

Yeah I was probably on the way to being pretty insufferable by the time 1988 was over – – but I had some excellent albums in my collection to show for it.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: King Kong (1933)

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

There are some novels or albums or films that have a clearly underlined thesis. The writer, director, or musician is overtly telling you what the whole point of this specific work is. Sometimes, like in Fargo, you don’t get treated to the treatise until late in the story. In other movies, however, if you’re paying attention at all, you will be told what the point is of what you’re about to see right off the top. 1933’s King Kong is one such film, giving the audience unambiguous bookends that make the same statement about itself. And in case you’re really not sure, one of its characters repeats the same idea more than once during the body of the film. It’s an entirely stupid, old-fashioned, and poorly proven thesis, but there it is, hitting you over the head. I would argue though, that there is another main theme to Radio Pictures’ iconic giant monster movie that can at least be argued to be valid and meaningful.

Join me below and we’ll have a chat about it.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Dracula (1931)

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

When considering the history of any art, craft, or set of knowledge, there will invariably be works which are both hugely important, without which the entire subject may be wholly different, and undeniably flawed. I think it can be argued that Todd Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, fits that general description. The film is undoubtedly iconic in some of its imagery and resulted in an enormous pop culture footprint that still persists today. It also possesses some genuinely fine work in its 74 minute running time. Unfortunately, the movie contains flaws that are hard to ignore. Some of these flaws are a matter of approaches not aging well, while others are simply a matter of poorly executed storytelling, both from a writing and visual point of view.

Come along, and we’ll talk a bit about both the best and worst of Dracula.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Vertigo

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

As a puzzle focused on movie posters, some of the chosen films or versions of their posters featured on it are not necessarily top notch. None of this can be said about the amazing poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic psychological thriller, Vertigo. The great designer Saul Bass produced a wide array of promotional images for this Hitchcock masterpiece, but the above one sheet version has become one of the most famous and striking posters in film history.

However, Vertigo is much more than a great marketing campaign. The film was worked on by some of the legends of the art form, and it shows. Although the movie’s reputation had gained steadily over the years as film lovers continued to see it over and over, a dramatic million dollar restoration and re-release of Vertigo in 1996 allowed even larger numbers of people to fully appreciate the beauty of Hitchcock and company’s work on it. Despite mixed reviews on its initial release in 1958, it has become one of the standard members of any compiled list of the finest films ever made, and actually replaced the legendary Citizen Kane at the top of Sight & Sound’s 2012 critics list.

Join me below, and we’ll discuss this amazing poster and film. Oh, by the way, there will be enormous spoilers for the movie after the break, so if you haven’t seen Vertigo yet I’d recommend you go take care of that momentous lapse in judgement first and then come back and finish reading this article.
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Building My movie Posters Puzzle: A Night at the Opera

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Following last week’s inspection of the great transatlantic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, comes one of the most highly praised efforts of the even more famous American immigrant comedy team, the Marx Brothers. Although there were five different brothers who joined the act at different times, the three most well-known show off the true depth and versatility of their talents in A Night at the Opera, an expression of sheer unadulterated entertainment. As is often the case with comedy, it is difficult to write a lot about this movie specifically without risking taking the air out of it. I’ll cover some of the background for the production and the history of the brothers in general, but to get a real sense of the thing, you’ll want to search out A Night at the Opera for your own viewing pleasure. It is one of those movies that it is entirely possible to smile all the way through.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Batman (1966)

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

I want to start off this installment in the series by admitting up front that our host Lebeau probably has a stronger and more personally informed take on this particular piece of pop culture. I fully expect he will share some of that in the comments section. Although I did grow up with reruns of the Adam West Batman television show running repeatedly on a variety of stations, I ended up both a Marvel guy and someone who took superhero stories just a little more seriously than this version of the “Caped Crusader” ever did. At the same time, if you ever want to participate in a fully tiresome example of “old man yells at cloud,” you might consider engaging me in a discussion on the merits of the “edgy” tone comic books have taken on in the intervening years. The long term reaction of the art form to what it perceived as its undeserved goofy and childish reputation appears to have resulted in a swing way too far in the other direction. The 1960s television Batman is often cited by those who resent the dismissive attitudes many people held toward sequential art.
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Building my Movie Posters Puzzle: American Graffiti

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Funny how powerful nostalgia can be, even when it’s not for something that’s directly your own. In the case of George Lucas’ 1973 film American Graffiti, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the characters themselves are pretty darned sentimental to begin with. Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve (Ron Howard) are recent high school graduates on their last night at home before they’re supposed to fly away to college and the film as a whole serves as an inspection of transitions personally and societally. Set in 1962, this is a movie full of people who have not yet heard of The Beatles and are still playing out the routines and styles that had been established in the late 1950s. Enough so, that if you ask a bunch of people who haven’t seen the movie for a while, they probably think it’s set earlier than it is. Let’s investigate the unique sentimentality and nostalgia of a movie that was actually pretty revolutionary for its time.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: The Bride of Frankenstein

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Last year I covered the first installment in Universal’s Frankenstein series starring Boris Karloff and Colin Clive and now, with both represented on my puzzle, it’s time to take a look at the 1935 follow-up Bride of Frankenstein. The film has been, especially in later years, widely considered to be superior to the classic original and as director James Whale’s masterpiece. Critics Richard Schickel and Richard Corliss of Time Magazine made this declaration in 2005 as part of the publication’s “All Time 100 Movies” series. The same opinion has been expressed subsequently by high-profile sources such as Entertainment Weekly, The Boston Herald, and Playboy. But is this an easily affirmed estimation of its merits, or is there a more complicated answer to the question? Join me as I share some information about the film’s production and qualities along with my own experience in giving it a few viewings.

Warning- There will be spoilers for Bride of Frankenstein in this article
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Tarzan the Fearless

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

I guess when you decide to put together a product like this puzzle of old movie posters, there end up being some disappointing limitations to your ability to execute it as well as you’d like. Getting the rights to all of the most appropriate artwork is most likely difficult at times. In my last entry in this series I complained about the version of the poster the makers of the puzzle chose for Rear Window, but that’s nothing in comparison to the choice they made (or perhaps were forced to make) this time around.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Rear Window

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

I want to mention two things before we proceed beyond the break to a discussion of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 suspense film Rear Window. First of all, I should let you know that discussion will necessarily include some spoilers for the movie, so if you haven’t seen it I would recommend that you go rectify that situation (it’s available for rent through iTunes) and then come back to read the rest of this article. It’s an immensely engaging and electrifying movie that any film buff should have under his or her belt.

Secondly, I have to say that the version of the poster for Rear Window included in the puzzle which is the inspiration for this entire series is pretty far from my favorite.
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Spider-Man: Homecoming: A Review

Okay, first things first. I’m going to be blunt about this. 1) It’s not 1964 anymore. That should be obvious, considering that I wasn’t born yet in that year and I’m well into my forties now. 2) Peter Parker and his Aunt May live in an apartment in Queens in New York City. Why am I pointing these two very basic things out? Well, unfortunately it’s because I’m imagining some objections to the nature of the new Spider-Man reboot from people who want its supporting characters to adhere firmly to those presented in the comic book stories of the sixties through the nineties. Look, I get it. I grew up in the eighties firmly entrenched in that well-established classic Spider-Man world. If you read my ranking of the first five Spider-Man movies, you’ll know that Sam Raimi’s films were my favorites there in part due to their stylistic and character similarities with those books I read as a teenager. But if you’re going to present a teenaged webhead set in the current day, some changes are just going to have to be made. Are we on the same page with this? Great. Let’s talk about the new movie then.

It is in part due to these changes that this new Spider-Man film is easily one of the best we’ve seen yet. If you are hoping for no spoilers at all in a review I would recommend that you stop reading here and go ahead and see the movie. It has my unreserved recommendation even if it’s not absolutely perfect. If you’re okay with some very mild spoilers, then read on!
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Reviews: Wonder Woman, Baby Driver, and The Big Sick

Kevthewriter has reviews of three movies currently playing in theaters.

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