Now that I’ve seen some exciting, excellent/horrible Argento movies from his peak period (Suspiria, Inferno) and some depressing, horrible/horrible movies from his more recent period (Giallo, Pelts), it’s safe to say I never need to watch these three all the way through (although I’m still undecided on Mother of Tears), so here’s The Last Ten Minutes of them:

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005, Dario Argento)
First thing I see is a black-gloved hand. First thing I hear is an unconvincingly delivered line. It’s an Argento movie, all right. Looks like I’ve stumbled into a crap remake of Rear Window. Police chase the black-gloved girl onto the rooftop, where she falls, hanging Vertigo-style from the gutter while the crippled Giulio (Elio Germano of musical Nine) watches across the alley. But a minute later everyone is friends? So there was no killer? Down on the street a shopping cart lady puts on a wig. Huh? Anyway, months later, Giulio watches a hot nude girl across the alley and enters a confusing flashback montage. One of the girls was Elisabetta Rocchetti, who later appeared in something called Last House in the Woods (oh Italian movie industry, how you amuse me).

The Card Player (2004, Dario Argento)
“I’m sorry, I had to kill him,” says a dude with a cellphone (and disappointingly, no long mustache to twirl) who has tied a girl to the train tracks. He cranks up a CD of funky electro music and lies on the tracks with her playing cards on his laptop, while she taunts him instead of smashing the computer into his face like it seems like she should do. He gets run over by a train, and she shoots out his car stereo, mercifully stopping the electro music. Someone in the movie was Liam Cunningham of Wind That Shakes The Barley – hopefully not the card-playing killer, because that guy was terrible.

Phantom of the Opera (1998, Dario Argento)
Oh no, it’s a period piece. Asia Argento is pretty convincing as an opera star until a sewer troll interrupts the performance and handsome Julian Sands (Warlock himself – the description says he’d not physically disfigured in this one, but was “raised by telepathic rats”) sweeps Asia away. It is very dark, and a man with a funny mustache stumbles upon an enclave of dead bodies. Long-haired hero Andrea di Stefano (star of a Marco Bellocchio movie) shoots Julian and escapes the bloodthirsty search party (wasn’t he part of the search party), as Asia screams in horror (she’s good at that sort of thing). This looks a ton better than the last two movies, though it has the lowest rating. Maybe that’s from people thinking they were getting the Joel Schumacher version. The rat-squealing sound effects over the finale got my birds very excited.

First Snow (2006, Mark Fergus)
This dude Vince says he still considers Guy Pearce his best friend, but says that Guy has fucked up and pulls out a gun. Vince goes off with a long, tortured speech then tries to kill them both but only manages himself. Guy Pearce is sad, flashes back to a pretty girl in a cowboy hat as it starts to snow. The writers/director worked on Children of Men and Iron Man, so I suppose this should’ve been good. Didn’t look awful, but I’m not saying I wanna see 90 more minutes of it.

Noise (2007, Henry Bean)
Tim Robbins’ car is making a ton of noise and William Hurt is angry, then he makes it stop, then start again, then he has some kind of noise-epiphany as judge Chuck Cooper smashes his car with a golf club. A Baldwin tackles the judge, who is arrested under suspicious of being Tim Robbins’ anti-noise vigilante. A way unrealistic court scene follows, in which Tim helps Chuck win in order to set precedent that noise can be considered assault and battery. High on his success, Tim considers joining a pimply militant in blowing up city eyesores but chooses not to. He smashes cars Michael Jackson-style as the credits roll. Overall the movie looks pretty fun, if kinda silly. From the writer of Basic Instinct 2.

Lakeview Terrace (2008, Neil LaBute)
Controversially interracial couple Patrick “Little Children” Wilson and Kerry “Last King of Scotland” Washington come home to a mess of a house, then dude goes out back to thank Samuel L. Jackson for helping him for a break-in. But Jackson knows that Wilson knows that Jackson knew the guys who broke in, and now Jackson’s on the attack. Much punching and many gunshots ensue. I wish Samuel L. had the integrity I always imagine he had. Ugh, his character name is Abel. Cops shoot Sam a bunch, the couple turns out semi-okay and family values are protected. Besides rogue cop Abel, the rest of the LAPD force is portrayed as remarkably restrained and competent. Follow-up to The Wicker Man by Neil LaBute’s doppelganger – the one who killed the real Neil and replaced him in 2000, halfway through production of Nurse Betty.

Obsessed (2009, Steve Shill)
Beyonce catches Ali Lartner (Resident Evil 3) in bed surrounded by rose petals, presumable waiting for Idris “Stringer Bell” Elba. Girlfight ensues! So which one of these girls is “obsessed”? I think it’s Lartner, who plays it weirdly affectless. Generic thriller music, fight scene, camerawork and everything. Lartner is killed by a falling chandelier and family values are protected. Idris Elba comes home just in time for the credits, dammit, the only reason I watched this was to see him.

It’s Alive (2008, Josef Rusnak)
Thought I’d peep tha remake since I recently saw the original and more recently saw Splice. Oh it’s the ol’ flashlight-into-the-camera trick from X-Files. This is taking place in a very dark house, not a sewer – the movie probably couldn’t afford a sewer. Father Frank (TV’s James Murray) catches the baby (how? we don’t know) in a trash can and creeps off to a very dark outdoor area, then unwisely opens the can and gets savaged by the baby (played by an out-of-context CG effect). Motherly Bijou Phillips (of Hostel II, here with the horror-in-joke character name Lenore Harker) catches up with them and takes the baby into a burning house where they both perish… or DO they?? Hmmm, no cops – the movie probably couldn’t afford cops. That seemed longer than ten minutes.

Simon Says (2006, William Dear)
Key phrase from the description: “Simon and Stanley (both played by Crispin Glover), backwoods twin brothers with a fondness for booby traps.” That’s all you needed to tell me! Helpless Stanley is being groped by some girl – but he’s got a knife!! She’s got a bigger knife! Did he just headbutt a corpse? Now he’s screaming with a fake southern accent in the woods, wounded and toting a scythe. Could this be the end of Crispin Glover? Yep, got a knife in the skull by a girl who I assume is Margo Harshman (good name). Where’s the twin brother? Maybe there never was one. Oh Crispy is still alive and gets the girl, twist ending. They said “you forgot to say simon says” about four times. I missed the epilogue bit since someone knocked on the door, but I saw a bunch of mirrors and I’m guessing there was never a twin brother, which is disappointing. William Dear, also the writer, once made Harry and the Hendersons.

“The class of people who comes here seems to get worse every year… and this year we seem to have next year’s crowd already.” Lubitsch movies always have such great dialogue, but he didn’t write ’em and English wasn’t his first language, so why is it?

It was a bad week for staying awake all the way through movies. Shout out to Gold Diggers of 1933 (I hardly remember anything) and Ninotchka (some awful Russian spies who reminded me of the encyclopedaeists in Ball of Fire were cashing in when I checked out), both of which Katy finished after I’d fallen asleep, and Hollywood Canteen which she didn’t feel like finishing after it got repetitive (army man and buddies are fawned over by actors, including huge star Joan Leslie (who? the girl from Yankee Doodle Dandy?)). I liked this one the most, at least its first half, so I came back the next day to watch the ending.

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Opens with a racy scene about sleeping in and out of pajamas. Bank owner, cheapskate and stickler for everything Gary Cooper meets Claudette Colbert whose father the marquis is trying to hold onto his status despite being flat broke. CC falls for Gary and they’re to be married when he confesses he’s had seven ex-wives. Angry as hell, she signs a lucrative pre-nup agreement, marries Gary then spends his money while trying her best to provoke a divorce. Hilarity ensues.

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Gary Cooper’s gruff phonetic pronunciation of French words adds to the humor. He’s actually not bad as a comic actor. Apparently a remake of a Gloria Swanson silent film. That’s David Niven on the beach above as Colbert’s friend (and a bank employee) whom Colbert sets up as a fall guy in her divorce plot. And the great E. Everett Horton as the marquis. Great looking movie with a perfect cast.

Nicolas Cage’s first good part since Lord of War and Val Kilmer’s first good movie since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Cage hurts his back rescuing a prisoner, starts taking lots and lots of drugs and racks up gambling debts. He robs kids outside clubs, gets a violent dude mad at Cage’s hooker girlfriend and loses a key witness. Surely he is a bad lieutenant, but he has a few principles, and Cage’s charismatic intensity keeps us on his side even as he’s waving guns at grammas (lovable Irma P. Hall of the Coens’ Ladykillers). Ultimately he takes down a drug baddie (Exhibit, fifth-billed in the second X-Files movie), saves his girl (Cage’s Ghost Rider costar Eva Mendes) and pays off his bookie (Awwww Brad Dourif is getting old. Life is too short).

Nic, Brad and red beans:
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The story (from a lead writer on Cop Rock) isn’t great, and the idea (remaking Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant) is awful, but Herzog pulls it off with flair. The occasional weirdness (extreme closeups of reptiles, including an iguana music video – what is it about drug movies and visions of reptiles? See also Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas), the sense that Cage is having too much fun to take anything seriously, and a lovely tacked-on ending where Cage meets the ex-con he saved and they get philosophical at an aquarium rescue this doomed movie and turn it into something I’d actually recommend. Can’t wait to see Werner’s other 2009 movie (star Michael Shannon, the contagiously crazy dude in Bug, shows up here as a police property guy).

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Cage pulls up at a building I think I saw in Wild At Heart. Maybe lots of buildings in New Orleans look like that. Jennifer Coolidge (Pootie Tang), Fairuza Balk and other names I know or faces I’ve seen pop up regularly. Surprising that so many actors wanted to be associated with a cheapie indie remake of a cult film, but I guess you can’t discount the Herzog factor.

Salon:

Your ending really defies expectations. I’m not quite sure what to think about it, in fact. We expect one of two possible endings — the bad lieutenant triumphs, or he is punished for his misdeeds. And you really don’t give us either one.

Herzog:

In my opinion, it’s a very beautiful and very mysterious ending. You see, according to the screenplay, it ended with a false happy ending that became a real abyss of darkness. And I thought, no, we should not dismiss the audience like that, out into the street. There should be something vague, something poetic, something mysterious.

I’m behind on the ol’ movie blog, but nobody ever notices. If I watch a John Ford movie on video and I write about it a few minutes later, or four months later, nobody will know the difference. But posting on the Star Trek Remake three weeks after it came out seems like such ancient history. There’ve already been five or six blockbusters in theaters since I watched this – I’d be surprised if Trek is still playing.

Decent movie, anyway. Already one of thee greatest films of all time according to IMDB users, but I preferred Mission Impossible III. A bit wearying in its length and intensity, with an exasperating number of dialogue references to the original shows and movies (“dammit Jim I’m a doctor” was especially forced).

Good to see John Cho looking badass with a sword (his actual action is shot from so far away, it’s doubtful Cho went through months of fencing training to prepare for the role), and I enjoyed comic relief actors Charlie Bartlett as Chekov and Simon Pegg as Scottie. Eric “Hulk” Bana played the sneering Romulan (not Klingon) bad guy, and neither of us realized that Winona Ryder was Spock’s human mom. L. Nimoy is still a commanding presence, but his role amounts to being young Kirk’s destiny tour guide.

Movie gets its Kirk origin story out of the way (angry young man because of dead father at hands of time-traveling rogue Romulan, joins starfleet on a dare from captain Bruce Greenwood, happens to team up with random group of the best and brightest young crew in fleet history) before making Spock the focus of the movie. Future-Spock failed to save planet Romulus from black-hole destruction, so evil Rom wants Spock to watch him destroy planet Vulcan. Rom gets a 3-for-1 bonus, since both Spocks witness planet destruction and Spock’s mom dies in front of him, prompting a Wrath of Khan-esque action-revenge climax.

The filmmaking is super stylish but it’s not my favorite style… constant handicam motion, fast cutting, lens flare in every shot. Nice to watch planets implode and the torpedo fights and transporter effects. Pleasant enough diversion but I wouldn’t have felt bad to miss it entirely. Katy is annoyed that she had to watch this as a loyal Abrams fan and hopes he doesn’t make part 2.

JUDGE PRIEST (1934)

Something like John Ford’s 80th film, if IMDB can be trusted. Contemporary with L’Atalante and the silent Story of Floating Weeds. Set in 1890’s Kentucky – a couple decades past Civil War, which was still on everyone’s mind. And after all, the war wasn’t all that long ago… older audience members watching this film would’ve had parents who participated in it. Strange to think about now, a few more generations removed – my dad wasn’t born yet when this came out.

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Humorist cowboy and populist philosopher Will Rogers plays the titular good-ol’-boy judge, and controversial sleepy-eyed black actor Stepin Fetchit is his sidekick. Priest is a former confederate soldier (“I kinda calmed down”) who is endlessly proud of Dixie, but respects the law and modern reality, or seems resigned to them anyway.

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The judge’s nephew Jerome (Tom Brown) comes back to town and you can tell he’s supposed to end up with the neighbor girl Ellie May (Anita Louise) but he keeps ending up on dates with a dark-haired temptress instead (Rochelle Hudson, who voiced MGM cartoons and later appeared in Strait-Jacket and Dr. Terror’s Gallery of Horrors). Of course they do end up together after wasting plenty of screen time we’d rather be spending with Will Rogers, but first there’s some problem about Ellie May not having a father.

Our generic romantic leads… everything else in the film is more interesting than these two:
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Trouble starts in town when the mysterious new guy in town, a blacksmith (the Walter Matthau-looking David Landau of Horse Feathers) punches out Flem the barber for making a crack about Ellie May. He is to be tried in court before Judge Priest, but meddling, villainous-looking senator Horace Maydew points out that Priest was present at the incident and took the blacksmith’s side, so Priest agrees to step down and let someone else (Henry Walthall, in the movies since 1908, costarred in Birth of a Nation and London After Midnight) preside. Priest stays involved by offering to defend the blacksmith, finally, triumphantly revealing him to be an ex-con, a confederate war hero, AND Ellie May’s father.

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I found less stirring emotion in the overlong “dixie”-soundtracked heartfelt courtroom ending than in a scene early on with the judge talking to a photo of his dead wife. He’s supposed to be a lonely man, but with the young lovers and the big trial, and with Priest’s jovial nature, Ford doesn’t dwell on that aspect too much… just gives us that one lovely scene providing Priest with a deep enough soul to last the rest of the film.

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Otherwise things stay pretty light, and there’s plenty of worthwhile diversions like the outrageous performance of Stepin Fetchit, and Hattie McDaniel (as Priest’s maid) singing “the sun shines bright in my old kentucky home.”

Look far-left for Hattie:
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Screenplay written by Atlantan Lamar Trotti (American Guerrilla in the Philippines) and Dudley Nichols (Man Hunt, Scarlet Street). Based on a series of books by Irvin Cobb, author of McTeague (Greed), who hosted the Oscars the following year (1935 – this wasn’t nominated). Will Rogers had hosted in ’33. Time was unkind to the lead actors… Rogers, Walthall, and Landau all died within two years of the film’s release.

Sneering villain Horace Maydew:
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THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT (1953)

I’d thought this would be a remake of Judge Priest, but not exactly. Sure, at the beginning a young man comes home and starts romancing a young girl with a conspicuously missing parent, and sure Judge Priest (now played by Charles Winninger, the captain in Show Boat) is our central character and Stepin Fetchit (the same actor!) is his slow, slurred-voiced sidekick/servant, but things take a turn from there.

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Priest is still a likable soul, but now he’s an alcoholic on the verge of losing his seat to slick Horace Maydew. Priest doesn’t seem like he runs this hick town anymore – he’s an increasingly irrelevant member of a rapidly growing city. He’s a wise and engaging character, but he’s no Will Rogers. And while the first movie showed us the judge’s loneliness at the start then cheered us up for the next hour, this one gives the judge a rocky start (waking up and yelling for his negro servant to bring him whiskey!), builds him up more and more, then fires off a devastating visual ending, the judge silently retreating into his house alone.

Horace Maydew isn’t as cartoonish a bad guy in this movie:
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The twist this time: young Lucy Lee’s mom, a prostitute who left town so her daughter wouldn’t grow up in shame, returns home to die. Lucy Lee finds out about this, and about her grandfather, the solitary wealthy General Fairfield (James Kirkwood, a director in the silent era, and the farmer in A Corner In Wheat), a former confederate who has distanced himself from his past and won’t talk before the veterans group which Priest leads each week.

The judge and the general share a tender moment:
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Before LL’s mom died she asked brothel madam Mallie Cramp (Eve March: the little girl’s teacher in Curse of the Cat People, Hepburn’s secretary in Adam’s Rib) to give her a proper funeral and burial and strong-willed Mallie would like to, but she’s met with resistance by the townsfolk, who of course support the brothel but bristle at the idea of those women having public lives or even deaths.

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The rest of the plot is more complex than in Judge Priest. No big climactic court case, but a few overlapping issues. First, Priest is up for re-election and it’s a close race with Maydew (Milburn Stone, a detective in Pickup On South Street the same year), who paints Priest as old-fashioned and out-of-touch. Young lover Ashby (stiff, cliff-faced John Russell, the main bad dude in Rio Bravo) wins a whip-fight (!) with slimy rabble-rouser Buck Ramsey (Grant Withers, who killed himself a few years later) over Lucy Lee (Arleen Whelan of Young Mr. Lincoln), and Ramsey returns leading an angry mob hoping to lynch young black harmonica player U.S. Grant Woodford suspected of raping a girl out of town. Priest is already politicking around town, leading his confederate group, and dealing with the Lucy Lee situation when he decides to risk his life by blocking the lynch mob and risk his reputation by being the first to follow the prostitute funeral procession through the streets. Priest closes those matters out (U.S. Grant is proven innocent and released, actual rapist Buck is shot trying to escape, Lucy Lee reconnects with her grandfather) just in time to cast the decisive vote re-electing himself. In the end he’s a hero of the town, and everyone stops by his house to wave and sing praises… but he still goes home alone.

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There were 30+ John Ford films between Judge Priest and this (including Rio Grande and The Quiet Man) and he had nearly 20 more left in him. This one, unlike the original, can definitely not be called a comedy. It has some comic relief though, in the form of drunken hick sharpshooter duo Francis Ford (his 32nd and final appearance in one of his brother’s films) and Slim Pickens (a decade before Dr. Strangelove and Major Dundee). I wanted to like the 30’s movie more, with its lighter tone and a Judge Priest character who is affable without having to humbly heal the whole town’s social wounds while saving a boy’s life, but I think the latter movie impressed me more deeply. No doubt they’re both excellent and make for a lovely double feature though.

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Jonathan Rosenbaum:

Today The Sun Shines Bright is my favourite Ford film, and I suspect that part of what makes me love it as much as I do is that it’s the opposite of Gone with the Wind in almost every way, especially in relation to the power associated with stars and money. Although I’m also extremely fond of Judge Priest, a 1934 Ford film derived from some of the same Irvin S. Cobb stories, the fact that it has a big-time Hollywood star of the period, Will Rogers, is probably the greatest single difference, and even though I love both Rogers and his performance in Judge Priest, I love The Sun Shines Bright even more because of the greater intimacy and modesty of its own scale.

I should add that in between Judge Priest’s stopping of a lynching and his triumphant re-election brought about in part by the potential lynchers is the act that the Ford regards as his key act of moral and civil virtue – arguably far more important in certain ways, at least in this film’s terms, than his prevention of the lynching. I’m speaking, of course, of his joining a funeral procession for a fallen woman on election day, thereby fulfilling her dying request that she be given a proper burial in her own home town. Once Billy Priest joins this procession, he is followed by almost every other sympathetic member of the community, starting with the local bordello madam and her fellow prostitutes, and continuing with the commander of the Union veterans of the Civil War, the local blacksmith, the German-American who owns the department store, Amora Ratchitt (Jane Darwell), Lucy Lee, Ashby, Dr. Lake, and finally – after the procession arrives at its destination, a black church – General Fairfield, Lucy’s grandfather, who has up until now refused to recognised his daughter under any circumstances.

There are actually two protracted and highly ceremonial processions in the film, occurring quite close to one another – the funeral procession for Lucy Lee’s mother and the parade of tribute to Judge Priest – and the fact that these two remarkable sequences are allowed by Ford to take over the film as a whole is part of what’s so extraordinary about them. Retroactively one might even say that they almost blend together in our memory as a single procession – despite the fact that the first is an act of mourning and the second is an act of celebration – and this undoubtedly contributes to the feeling of pathos in the film in spite of its overdetermined happy ending.

Ultimately, what the film may be expressing is neither celebration nor lament, perhaps just simply affection for cantankerous individuals who exude a certain sweet pathos because history has somehow passed them by – as someone says in the film, I believe in reference to the Confederate veterans, ‘the doddering relics of a lost cause’, which also suggests The Southerner as Everyman. This implicitly suggests a certain darkness as well as lightness – which is why the local blacks serenade the judge with ‘My Old Kentucky Home,’ the first line of which is, ‘The Sun Shines Bright’ – and yet this is a film bathed mainly in the melancholy of twilight. For to emphasise and focus on lost causes as opposed to causes that still might be won assumes a certain abstention from politics associated with defeatism – one reason among others, perhaps, why the Civil War plays such a central role in American history as well as in Ford’s work.

Someone can tell me if I’m out of line in quoting too heavily from this, but it’s so nice to see long, well-thought article devoted to an obscure classic film. If only EVERY film had as thorough a write-up on these internets. Maybe some day.

Our generic romantic leads. Once again, everything in the film is more interesting than these two, but this time Ford seems to realize it.
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Merian C. Cooper’s name is on the title card – first time I’ve seen him mentioned in a non-King Kong context. I guess he exec-produced a bunch of John Ford movies. Shot by Archie Stout, who won an oscar the previous year for Ford’s The Quiet Man.

My first mid-30’s silent film. Chaplin’s Modern Times doesn’t count, and the Russian Happiness was two years earlier. Japan still had union narrators in theaters, so their cinema stayed silent longer than most.

Traveling actor Kihachi brings his troupe to the town where his ex-girl and illegitimate son live. K. has made himself scarce, sending money whenever he can, so the boy (Shinkichi, now 20) could grow up without the burden of a no-good father, and whenever Kihachi’s in town he stays with the mother and sees the boy.

Kihachi’s current woman in the troupe suspects something is up, finds out the story through bribery and sets up younger girl Otoki to go after the boss’s son. The two fall in love, and Kihachi tries to break it up, leading to the revelation that he is Shinkichi’s father. Meanwhile, constant rain means the troupe can’t perform, and finally they’re out of work long enough to have to sell off their stuff and break up. After an emotional climax, the young lovers stay behind, and Kihachi and his girl make up at the train station, heading off to form a new troupe.

Great movie, slow-building, ends up as emotional and true-feeling as the other Ozus I’ve seen. I ought to watch at least one per year. They are refreshing. Kihachi somehow stays sympathetic even though he hits everyone in the movie at some point. That’s just how he communicates, I suppose. Definitely different kinds of families here than in Tokyo Story or Equinox Flower.

This was something like Ozu’s thirtieth movie, and it’s said to be the beginning of his mature style. It’s an uncredited remake of Hollywood’s oscar-winning part-talkie The Barker from 1928, which was also remade twice in Hollywood (with Clara Bow in ’33 and Betty Grable in ’45).

Half these actors had been in Ozu’s Passing Fancy the year before. The kid had later roles in Kon Ichikawa and Seijun Suzuki movies, and his father appeared in Ozu’s own 1959 color remake Floating Weeds. Maybe Katy will watch that with me next year – Masters of Cinema’s N. Wrigley calls it the most beautiful Ozu film.

A Halloween remake (ugh: “re-imagining”) directed by Rob Zombie could not POSSIBLY be bad, could it? No, but it could be average/unnecessary, and that’s unfortunately what it turned out to be. Zombie doesn’t bring his super-gritty foul drive-in approach down here, just serves up a pretty straightforward horror/slasher with maybe a good cast and some good violence, but with no strong artistic stamp or reason to exist.

Malcolm McDowell is at least better than the awful Donald Pleasence as Myers’ psychiatrist, Tyler “Sabretooth” Mane is a fine Michael and regular TV guest-star Scout Taylor-Compton does no harm as Laurie Strode. All the fun is with the side characters: Danny Trejo as the asylum’s janitor, Sheri Moon Zombie as Mrs. Myers. I missed a ton of cameos (Ken Foree, Mickey Dolenz, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, Sid Haig – what was I looking at??) but at least I recognized Dee Wallace (of The Frighteners and The Howling) even if I didn’t know from where. I’ve gotta pay more attention to Sheriff Brad Dourif – he’s been in a buncha movies I’ve enjoyed.

Tons of added back-story about Michael as a troubled young man does not help. I’m sure Zombie has seen plenty of horror sequels along with the originals, and so he oughtta know that eventually every monster gets a humanizing back story (Hellraiser 3&4, Elm Street 6, Phantasm 4, etc) and it never helps – it’s just an excuse to make another movie, a lure to fans that dilutes the mystery of the original concept. Not that the back story segments here are bad exactly, or that the Halloween series could be hurt by them. I’ve considered it to be one of the very worst horror series from part 4 onward, so this movie only helps the series as a whole. It’s just a shame to see the filmmaker behind “The Devil’s Rejects” doing uninspired junk like this in the first place, throwing down with the ceaseless-remake crowd with a dull entry like this one, not even hitting as high or as hard as “The Hills Have Eyes”, or making the Halloween franchise fun and interesting and inventive again like “Bride of Chucky” and “Freddy vs. Jason” and “Alien Resurrection” did. I thought the best, most thrilling part of Halloween was the use of the original theme music written by John Carpenter. Let’s hope that “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto” fares better.

Arrrrgh, I should’ve known better than to trust this movie. A remake with insufficient imagination to justify its existence. A simple thriller with a lot of very good performances, that’s all. I’m probably wrong and it’s probably a Great Film, but I’m gonna go with my gut until proven wrong.

Let’s go: Martin Sheen is the police chief and Leo DiCaprio is his mole. Jack Nicholson is the ganglord and Matt Damon is his mole. Vera Farmiga is the psychiatrist girlfriend. Alec Baldwin is another police guy, and Marky Mark is Sheen’s assistant, one of Scorsese’s new characters.

So what’s different? The relationships with Vera are more developed – she’s marrying Matt and having an affair with Leo. Marky speaks for Sheen, spitting a stream of profanities at anyone in front of him. He kills Matt in the final scene as revenge for Sheen’s death. Most importantly, little things like taking the cellphone out of the evidence bag when Matt first calls Leo and having no recording gear in Leo’s arm cast when the gangsters bust it. Changes for the sake of changing things, removing memorable details that worked well in the original. I like the bit with the psychiatrist and the Marky Mark character – both help justify the longer running time of the remake – but they’ve stripped Leo’s close relationship with the cop boss, making the falling death from the building a lot less meaningful (except through Marky’s revenge bit). I especially don’t get that. I missed Chris Doyle’s cinematography and didn’t appreciate much of the music (especially the Comfortably Numb remake). The move to Boston worked well at least. A perfectly fine movie as long as I hadn’t loved the original. It’s my own fault that I did, I guess.