Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990, Joe Dante)

One of the very best movies of the eighties (forget that it missed the 80′s by six months). A slightly-too-slow buildup places the action in a state-of-the-art technological office building, brings back Billy and Kate, brings back the Futtermans, closes down the shop where the Gremlins came from and puts Gizmo in the hands of corporate scientist Christopher Lee. Then all fucking hell breaks loose and it’s a hilarious, gonzo 45 minutes of action and comedy and movie references. I love it.

Don & Dan Stanton from Terminator 2 with Christopher Lee:
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Zack and Phoebe Cates, who has gotten cuter since part 1:
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My favorite gag, again:
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Hulk out:
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The electric-gremlin death of Christopher Lee:
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“I guess they pushed him too far”:
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Gremlins (1984, Joe Dante)

A great movie that does not get enough credit. Completely successful as a comedy, a horror, an action/effects popcorn flick, even a kids movie. I’ve loved it since I was 7.

The dog (“mushroom”) is amazing. In the commentary, Joe Dante says he loved the dog and little Corey Feldman, ’cause they were the only two actors that believed the gremlins were real. Apparently the whole production was a puppeteering nightmare, compounded when Spielberg decided (correctly, you’d think) to NOT kill off Gizmo halfway through the movie… hence little cheats in the second half, like carrying him in Billy’s backpack, and having him ride the toy car.

The black man’s the first one to die, of course. Dante fave Dick Miller plays xenophobic Mr. Futterman, who coins the term gremlins for our beasties. Dante wanted to play the old warner WWII cartoon short about gremlins before the feature, but they wouldn’t let him… too bad. Judge Reinhold has a small part, Chuck Jones has a cameo, Spielberg & Goldsmith & Robbie the Robot get cameos, and Howie Mandel is the voice of Gizmo.

Zach, Corey Feldman, and a lotta mogwai:
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When mogwai go bad:
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My favorite gag:
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Mothra (1961, IshirĂ´ Honda)

So you’ve created Godzilla AND Rodan, directed The Mysterians and made almost thirty other movies. Now what?? Well, Mothra, obviously.

When a ship is in trouble (it’s always a ship in trouble with these japanese monster movies) some guys wash up on an island long thought to be empty and used by Japan for nuclear testing. They meet some natives and tiny girls who give them something to drink that makes ‘em impervious to the radiation. Neat. Back home in Tokyo, scientists want to know more and set up a team to check out the island.

Amer… I mean Rolisican jerky businessman Nelson leads the expedition and intrepid reporter Fukuda sneaks along without permission. They find the “tiny beauties” (just like in the 90′s Rebirth of Mothra) and Nelson kidnaps them to make money showing off their tinyness and their beauty and their singing to sold-out theater in his home of New Yor… I mean, New Kirk City.

But their song awakens Mothra, who is drawn towards the song like a moth to… well you know. Fukuda and photographer friend Michi and some damned kid team up to return the tiny beauties to Mothra… but not before many, many models are destroyed, usually by being blown down model streets by Mothra’s giant flapping wings.

This director would later make about fifteen more monster movies and end on a high note, co-directing two of Akira Kurosawa’s final three movies.

Last King of Scotland (2006, Kevin Macdonald)

The director is not to be confused with Kevin McDonald of Kids in the Hall, unfortunately. Maybe McDonald could’ve added some humor to the whole thing.

Not a laughing matter, the movie is an untrue story about a loser doctor (young scot James McAvoy) who moves to Uganda so that he won’t have to work at his dad’s practice. After unsuccessfully trying to seduce older doctor Gillian Anderson out in the country, James meets General Idi Amin Dada, new ruler of Uganda, aka a completely badass Forest Whitaker. James is offered a position as Idi Amin’s private physician, and accepts… gets to see how quirky and odd Amin can be, sometimes very likeable, sometimes killing lots of people in horrible ways. James falls for Amin’s third wife Kay (Kerry Washington of Fantastic Four) and has some sex with her before Amin has her killed. Our man barely barely escapes with his life, escaping on a plane when he’s supposed/about to be killed as well.

Story is pretty straightforward, told from James’s eyes with some drifting short-attention-span camera work. A pretty okay movie with a single towering performance, then, just as the Oscars would have you believe.

The Prestige (2006, Christopher Nolan)

The duel of the dueling-magician movies! Unexpectedly, The Illusionist won.

Prestige is pretty solid, though… a flashy angst-ridden story of magician one-up-manship. Huge Ackman and Christian Batman-Bale are magicians assistants when Bale ties the wrong knot and Huge’s wife drowns during the escape-from-water-tank routine. They go their own ways, but keep sabotaging each other. Huge messes with one of Bale’s trick causing Bale to lose a couple fingers. Bale messes with the guy Huge hires as his double for the teleport routine, gets Huge’s audience to go watch Bale’s own teleport routine which is even better, because Bale is using his secret identical twin brother as his double.

How’d Bale do that? Huge sees Nikola Tesla (a mustachioed David Bowie) to find out. Bowie makes him a crazy device… a Huge Ackman Duplication Machine!! Huge steps into the machine and wammo, one Huge falls through a trap door and dies in the water tank, and the other Huge gets zapped into the balcony where he takes a big bow. Christian Batman-Bale tries to get to the bottom of this and is discovered with one dead Ackman and sentenced to death. Oh and doesn’t his wife kill herself? I think maybe the surviving twin kills Huge at the end, too, but it doesn’t matter.

Stylish, cool looking movie, fun trickery and all that. Acting is all good, too. Both movies had a big trick ending, but this one seems to live for its tricks and torture its characters. Illusionist had a great happy ending, and nice slowly-developing story. That’s the one I’d want to see again, not this bizarre-world flash-fest.

The Illusionist (2006, Neil Burger)

Is there anybody who could watch both of the 2006 period-magician mystery movies and not compare the two? Of course not, so why pretend? I’ve rented ‘em both in one weekend.

Surprisingly, this is an understated little movie… a simple trick ending (though I don’t know how Norton could’ve planned the sword-fight between the girl and the prince), simple characters and staging. What’s the deal with police inspector Paul Giamatti being talked up as the best part of the movie, though? Just some post-Sideways holdover I guess. He and Norton and the girl are good, bad guy Rufus Sewell less so.

Ed Norton is a magician who likes the prince’s crush Jessica Biel, and taunts the prince at a party. Prince gets all upset and tries to kill Biel in a drunken rage, but nobody sees the fight so she’s just found dead and the prince isn’t blamed. Norton shuts down, opens a new theater and starts summoning ghosts, eventually bringing up her ghost who, through audience questioning, casts suspicion on the prince for her murder. Prince is brought down, shoots himself in front of Giamatti, and Norton and his not-dead girl live happily after an eerie Giamatti-chase through the streets that is every bit like the ending of The Usual Suspects.

Very likeable movie, subtle (even more so when compared to The Prestige).

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Oscar shorts (2006)

Lifted – came in late and missed it, but it’s supposed to screen in front of Ratatouille so I’ll get another chance.

The Danish Poet – saw the end, didn’t look impressive, but cute maybe.

Maestro – cool, the inner workings of a cuckoo clock (that being the twist ending) with the camera moving around the room in increments like a second hand. Landmark liked it so much they played it twice in a row (or that’s because their heads are up their asses as usual).

The Little Matchgirl – too smooth looking, too disney looking, and too many credited animators. Unfairly sad little thing.

No Time For Nuts – an Ice Age short, also unfair. More importantly, not especially good/funny, not half as good as the Madagascar penguin short. Prehistoric squirrel-thing finds a time machine and it teleports him and his sole acorn all over, ending in the future with a fake oak tree. Poor guy.

A Gentleman’s Duel – 3D short with people, never a good idea but this one looked quite good. Uptight brit and uptight frenchie duel in battletech suits over pretty girl who ends up getting nekked with her butler/servant/whatever. Has its moments.

Guide Dog – only crossover with The Animation Show and my favorite of this bunch. Too bad, the Oscars could learn a lot from Judge and Hertzfeldt.

One Rat Short – brown rat follows cheetos bag into rat lab run by red-eyed robot where he falls for white rat. Cheetos bag causes chaos and the gates are all opened, brown rat escapes but white rat is left behind. SAD MOVIE.

The Passenger – kid is scared of dog, sits on bus next to fish in plastic bag that turns into hideous huge creature when he turns on his walkman. Funny, cool little piece.

Wraith of Cobble Hill – ugh, brooklyn kid with drunk mom drinks cough syrup with his friends, gets key to shop while owner is “out of town”, finally “saves” owner’s dog from rat-infested store. Claymation whatever.

Amazing Grace (2006, Michael Apted)

Movie 2 of the Key Sunday Cinema Club. Hated it, skipped the post-movie discussion to sneak into the oscar shorts. Thanks anyway, Katy! Not your fault.

Opens right up with a big damned heavyhanded metaphor, where our boy Wilberforce (his real name, haha, and played by Mr. Fantastic!) stops some white brutes from kicking their black horse out in the rain. Some poignant shit right there. Then a whole movie about racism with only one black person in it follows.

The one black person is Youssou N’Dour in his English feature film debut. We’ve discussed Wilberforce (heh) being Mr. Fantastic (double-heh) and let’s see what else is going on. The young Prime Minister is played by Benedict Cumberbatch (pffffhahaha) who once played Stephen Hawking in a TV movie. Wilberforce eventually marries young Romola Garai (from Vanity Fair and Scoop). In the parliament we’ve got Michael Gambon as a good guy and a very familiar looking Ciaran Hinds and the dude from Infamous as bad guys, and off on his own is Wilberforce’s mentor, a cataract-ridden saintly monkly fella who used to own a slave ship, played by our Albert Finney. Oh wait, and Rufus Sewell plays a leftist with scarecrow-hair who pals around with N’Dour and tries to get Wilderforce to go abolish slavery, which he eventually does, the end.

A very bad script where everyone speaks only in cliches, from the writer of Dirty Pretty Things, which I’ll have to not see. I didn’t know much about Michael Apted before, and I’ll have to not find out more. I’d been trying to forget this, but Terrence Malick produced. There were seven producers, so it’s not a major blow.

Good performances and costume details ignored the silliness of the whole thing. It’s not the absence of black people that bugs me much, since after all, it’s a historical drama that takes place in british parliament. It’s just the extreme fakiness of it all, wilbur making himself physically sick and turning to god and admiring spiderwebs, the way-easy love affair, the bagpipe coda… but I mostly can’t get past the cornbread dialogue. It’s impossible to overstate this: every line is a cliche. IMDB shows that church groups have been getting prerelease screenings, and from the comments, they seem to be eating it up.

The Frighteners (1996, Peter Jackson)

SUCH a fun movie, I watched it twice in one day. Seen it a bunch of times before, too. Perfect balance of comedy, horror, mystery, romance, effects, live action, serious drama and loony overacting.

Commentary has fun/useless trivia, looking forward to the very long doc on disc 2. For the first time, I was seeing the extended “director’s cut”. Extra shots and scenes didn’t improve the movie necessarily, but they didn’t hurt it either. Sometimes more of a good thing is just more of a good thing. No real need for plot description since I don’t think I’ll forget it anytime soon. So here are screen shots instead.

Katy came in during the same scene twice, and didn’t seem thrilled about the whole thing.

fun deleted scene:
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still badass even in death:
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Michael J. dies a lot in this movie:
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danny elfman’s favorite scene:
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saturn award nominated Jeffrey Combs:
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no oscars, but won lots of emmys and golden globes:
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oscar-winning director Peter Jackson:
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