Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

I last watched this back in 2015, and even though this is by far the worst of the Star Wars films I decided to watch it again because I want to watch episodes 2 and 3 again too.

My two previous reviews for this film gave it 7.5 (2008) and 4 (2015) respectively. This time around I am somewhere in the middle. It is still the worst of the Star Wars films, but it does have it’s moments, usually when no one is talking.

If Jar-Jar was either toned down, or completely removed, and the silly Trade Federation politics parts of the story were replaced with a plot about blowing things up, it could have been a whole lot better. Darth Maul needed to be in it more. Anakin said “Yippee!” too many times.

Yoda didn’t look as good as he did in episodes 5 and 6. Here is the original Yoda in Phantom Menace compared to the CGI version put in for the Blu-ray release…much better.

Here is a video taken back in the day, interviewing people before and after they saw the film, with only the guy at the end hating it.

Date watched: January 13th
Score: 6/10
Film count 2019: 2

The Big Lebowski

My final film for 2018 turned out to be an easy choice, an old favourite that I last watched back in 2015.

This film never gets tired, it is just so good on all levels. I only wish I could see this at a cinema.

I am sure though that you have seen this, so I don’t feel there is much more I need to say, you know what I mean.

Happy New Year. May 2019 be full of film, music, books, and good stuff.

Date watched: December 31st
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 92

Starship Troopers

I had been wanting to re-watch this film for quite some time, so I finally did last night. It is a hoot of a film.

Like Robocop and Total Recall before it, Paul Verhoeven made a completely over-the-top action film with plenty of throw-away violence and gore and satire, while at the same time commenting on fascism, patriotism, and the military machine. I thought the cast did a great job, totally getting into the spirit of the story. They were all overacting either by design or because they are not A-grade actors…either way it worked.

The special effects too were very impressive for a twenty-one year old film. The bugs looked great, especially the “brain bug” which back then must have been quite a bit of work.

The “Brain Bug”, captured

There were a few actors who would have been relatively unknown at the time, such as Seth Gilliam (The Walking Dead), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), as well as the more familiar Neil Patrick Harris, Denise Richards, and Jake Busey.

This did not get good reviews when it came out, reviewers said it was too violent, had wooden acting, and just didn’t seem to get it is a satirical comedy/action/horror film. Each to his own.

An enjoyable film, well worth visiting again some day.

This website has a few interesting facts about the film.

Date watched: December 24th
Score: 8.5/10
Film count 2018: 86

Barton Fink

After Miller’s Crossing I just had to watch another Coen Brothers film, so I chose this one, a film I last saw probably over 20 years ago.

Re-imagined poster

The story, if you have forgotten, is about a successful and intense Broadway writer who reluctantly accepts an offer from a Hollywood studio to write for movies. So, he goes to Hollywood and for his first picture is asked to write a wrestling story, something far below his talents. He tries to give it a go, but knowing nothing about wrestling flicks he gets nowhere.

Barton Fink

He stays at a dodgy hotel which has very gooey wallpaper that peels off in the heat, and a neighbour (John Goodman) who talks a lot, but ends up being the only friend Barton has. Also in the story is a famous writer who gets extremely drunk when he has writer’s block, which is where we find him in the film. His assistant/lover tries to help Barton write the wrestling movie, and that is where the story turns very bad for Barton.

The rest of the story is a murder cover-up and serial killer story, that by the end is also quite surreal and confusing.

Reading about this film online reveals that the story is supposedly an allegory for the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany, which is the time period that this film was set in. Film forums have all kinds of theories about what the film is about, and one film review even hypothesised that Charlie (John Goodman) was in fact Barton’s alter ego. I just took most of it at face value…over-thinking does nothing more than killing precious brain cells.

The Coens actually wrote this film while they were taking a break from making Miller’s Crossing because they were having problems with it. This film was written in three weeks with the main role specifically written for John Turturro. The Wikipedia page on this is long and interesting. A lot of thought went into the writing and production of the film, and there were influences galore.

Everything in this was superb, as every Coen Brothers film is. John Turturro and John Goodman were perfect, as were the rest of the cast which included a few Miller’s Crossing actors. I was just thinking what it would have been like if The Cruiser played Barton instead…best not to.

But, I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as Miller’s Crossing, I can’t quite pinpoint why. Maybe it was the effort of trying to figure out the deeper meanings of the story. Barton stared at a painting on the wall of his hotel wall of a woman sitting on a beach several times, a scene that would play out in real life at the end of the film…brain hurts.

Still, this is superbness.

Date watched: December 8th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 81

Miller’s Crossing

After the recent low-grade film viewings I decided I needed to see a quality film again, so I chose this Coen brothers masterpiece. I have seen this before, but this is the first post for this film on MBMS, so I must have last watched this a long time ago. Still, I remembered a lot of it.

There is not much to say about this one really, except that it is a perfect gangster film, not even Scorcese could do any better. The casting, cinematography, sets, writing, and of course directing were all top-notch. There is no use writing more, no need to. So to fill in some space, here are some images…

Gabriel Byrne as “Tommy”.
Albert Finney as “Leo”.
Albert Finney (on right) as a maid.
John Turturro as “Bernie Bernbaum”.
Sam Raimi in a cameo.
J.E. Freeman and Marcia Gay Harden

It is amazing that this film is now 28 years old, it hasn’t aged a day. I would love to see it at the theatre.

And the Coen Brothers are now in the MBMS Page of Fame.

Date watched: December 1st
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 80

Hana-bi

After watching Takeshi Kitano’s disappointing Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen a few weeks ago I decided last night to watch this film which I knew is considered one of his best films.

And it turned out to be but everything, a most enjoyable and often funny film.

Actually, it was a strange mix of quite graphic violence mixed with touching drama, kind of a cross between Pulp Fiction and Terms of Endearment, but all in Japanese of course. Like Pulp Fiction the timeline jumped around a bit.

The story was very simple, basically about a police detective who had to retire after a shooting which killed one of his partners and injured two others, and he had to take care of his wife who had leukemia. Dialogue was at a minimum with Takeshi hardly speaking at all, instead relying on his deadpan face (Kitano lost all movement on the right side of his face in a scooter accident in 1994) except for a facial tick which was either intentional or not, but which was most effective. The story was ambiguous at times, leaving small details out so that the viewer had to figure them out. There were no close-up shots inserted of someone secretly picking something up or whatever, put there to spell things out for the audience…something I hate seeing in films.

There were many long takes of random things which did not have any meaning except to give the film a very calming effect. One shot had two guys discussing something, then they walked out of view and the camera was just looking at a wall for a few seconds.

One of the characters in the film, a cop who lost the use of his legs in the aforementioned shooting, started up painting abstract pictures such as the following…

There were several of them in the film, and as it turns out they were all painted by Kitano himself. Quite a guy.

Kitano had made several films before this one, but after this film won critical acclaim in Europe it was only then that he was taken seriously in Japan as a film-maker. From Wikipedia:

Kitano himself said it was not until he won the Golden Lion that he was accepted as a serious director in his native Japan; prior his films were looked at as just the hobby of a famous comedian.

An excellent film, well worth a watch, and it was interesting to see 1997 Japan (I arrived in Japan the next year).

Date watched: July 28th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 48

The Player

I last watched this 1992 film way back in 2008, having watched it one time before that.

Even though this is now the third time I have seen this I had forgotten most of the story and even who was in it apart from Tim Robbins. Along with Tim, the main cast included Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg, Brion James, Dean Stockwell, and a very funny Lyle Lovett.

There was also quite a cast of cameos, which unsurprisingly holds the record for the most in one film. It included people like Cher, Malcolm McDowell, Burt Reynolds, Leeza Gibbons, Jeff Goldblum, Jack Lemmon, Bruce Willis, Lily Tomlin, Harry Belafonte, and James Coburn. There were 40 in all, so it was fun spotting them all, with many were just in the background for a few seconds.

The story was pretty good, it never slowed down and there were no dull moments. Tim was most excellent in his role, and he was pretty much in every scene. There were plenty of references and in-jokes throughout the film, this website lists some of them.

So this is well worth a watch, especially for films buffs, although it would help if you are familiar with eighties and nineties actors, and films in general.

I may just watch it again some day.

Date watched: May 26th
Score: 8.5/10
Film count 2018: 35