Weekly Update: This week I continued my Halloween movie watching until the 31st, and then watched some random other films to fill out the rest of the week.
Curious what else I’ve seen on my quest to watch 365 new-to-me movies in 2016? -Click here to read the full list of movies viewed year to date-
419. Truman (1995)
This HBO TV movie is a compelling study of the president whose unenviable position was to be the “one who came after Franklin Roosevelt”. Gary Sinise plays the part admirably, and the story takes shape following Harry S. Truman’s struggle for respect in the world of politics despite his inauspicious start. The film never really leaves you feeling closer to knowing Truman’s soul, but a host of solid supporting performances keep things interesting for history buffs.
420. Blood, Boobs & Beast (2007)
This Troma documentary is about Don Dohler, whose low-budget horror films are respected by many in the industry as early inspiration due to their homemade quality and simple presentation. It depicts Dohler as a man dedicated to the craft of moviemaking in spite of all the odds presented against him, including the disease that would eventually take his life.
421. Jodorowski’s Dune (2013)
In the late 1960s director Alejandro Jodorowsky became a independent sensation for his avante-garde films that challenged the way people thought about movies. In the 1970s Jodorowsky set out to adapt the novel Dune to film, and recruited an exciting team of free spirits all working towards the goal, and with a great deal of creative freedom behind it. The film was never made, but pre-production reached the very end stage, because in their pursuit of artistic brilliance, they failed to put the funds together necessary. The film is a brilliant meditation on the beauty of vision, and the dangers of flying too close to the sun.
422. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)
Jack Reacher goes back, and it gets him in a lot of trouble. Specifically, he strikes up a phone relationship with a lady Army Officer, and then decides to visit her back at his old stomping grounds in Washington D.C., only to find himself chased and wrapped up in a conspiracy involving corrupt military and evil contractors. Fans of the first Jack Reacher film will no doubt enjoy this, but the film lacks a villain as fascinating as Werner Herzog, which is a flaw that deprives the story of some of its gravity.
423. The Greasy Strangler (2016)
Um…. I don’t even…. I can’t begin to…. you know what, fuck it. There are no words to describe this mess. It’s John Waters meets Tim & Eric meets… a venereal disease… and it’s kind of awesome?
434. In a Valley of Violence (2016)
Ethan Hawke appears in his second Western in 2016, following The Magnificent Seven. Second time’s a charm though, as this film is one of the more original takes on a classic formula that I’ve seen. In a Valley of Violence has a dry sense of humor to it that is nearly as pointed as last year’s Slow West, but wraps itself up into a revenge story that is part John Wick and part The Big Country, but on a Blumhouse budget.
435. Doctor Strange (2016)
Marvel’s Doctor Strange is the series’s first foray into the world of Magic, which exists alongside the rest of the Marvel universe, but with a decidedly mystical bent. Boasting visuals that take a queue from Inception but move them into a whole new, profoundly dumbfounding dimension, the film is a strange trip. Still present is the Marvel sense of humor, this time embodied in Benedict Cumberbatch’s sarcastic Doctor, whose self-obsession is tested when he is badly injured and sees his burgeoning career as a brain surgeon vanish before his eyes. Desperate for a fix to his now crippled hands, and having exhausted all conventional curative attempts, he ventures to Nepal seeking an alternative cure, and gets more than he ever bargained for. He meets “The Ancient One” (Tilda Swinton) a Sorcerer who instructs Strange in the ways of Magic.
436. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
437. The Lighthorsemen (1987)
Alongside Breaker Morant & Gallipoli, The Lighthorsemen is an Australian-made war film that crossed over into international consciousness in the 1980s. This is the lesser of those movies, unfortunately, with a problematic script and some pretty weak performances on display. What makes The Lighthorsemen work at all is that it tells a truly compelling story, one long forgotten from conventional history. Not a recommendation for anyone other than serious war history fans.
438. Sometimes in April (2005)
Similar to Hotel Rwanda, this film reenacts events set during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, but this time with a more graphic eye, and telling more of the backstory behind the tragedy. Idris Elba delivers a powerful performance as a survivor whose experiences during the Genocide resulted in the deaths of his entire family. The film takes place in two timelines, one in 1994 where he and his family witness the genocide, and 2004, where he visits his brother in prison, his brother having taken part in the slaughter. Meanwhile the international (predominantly white) community watches and debates the issue, ultimately doing nothing.
439. Dear Mr. Watterson (2013)
The comic strip Calvin & Hobbes left a lasting impression on generations of people, despite running for only a bit longer than 10 years. Artist Bill Watterson created a masterpiece of imagination and creativity, and this documentary explores its impact on both everyday people and the artists within the comics community. Familiarity with the strip is necessary to get the most out of the documentary, but as a fan of the strip myself, it was quite an experience.
440. 13th (2016)
Filmmaker Ava Duvernay has created the ultimate exploration on the de facto criminalization of Being Black according to the American justice system. The film covers the post slavery era, the fights against the Civil Rights struggle, the War on Drugs, and how all of these were pathways to what we now see as the largest prison population in the world. It is a fascinating film that uses the words of those responsible against themselves, along with testimony from venerable experts. A must-see for all Americans.