400 And Counting: Week One (The Bright Side)

October 17, 2014

It’s Day Four as I write this and I’m already feeling it. I came home from work and watched TV. SVU was on and it was a cliffhanger, so I had to watch the next episode. It’s currently 11:17pm and I start work at 7:30am tomorrow. I don’t want to watch a movie, I just want to sleep. But I can’t quit now — I haven’t earned a free day yet, so onwards it is!

My quest to watch 400 movies on the SBS On Demand service continues with the shortest movie I can find.

Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
0:46:23 (Completed)

This Japanese animated film was chosen because of it’s short run time and because it’s an anime. I wanted to kick the week off with a film I normally won’t bother with, something outside my normal movie tastes. Blood is about a girl called Saya who hunts monsters. For reasons, she must go undercover in a high school where everyone has terrible english voice acting — to the point where I just wanted the film to go back to Japanese and I could read the subtitles in peace.

The story isn’t much better. There’s shadowy agents, a mystery and the whole last vampire thing. At the 15 minute mark, a bug flew onto my computer screen. It crawled around for a while and at that stage of the movie, I was more interested in the bug.

What the film did well was action, and there was a great set piece later on. It didn’t save the film for me, but those moments, and the visually pleasing animation, were very watchable. If you’re an anime fan, you might enjoy this, otherwise this isn’t going to kick off a love affair with the medium.

Monty Python’s Life Of Brian (1979)
Director: Terry Jones
1:29:42 (Completed)

To me, Life of Brian ranks up there as one of the greatest comedy films of all time. The Monty Python gang (John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman and Terry Jones) deliver us a film about Brian, a man who unwittingly finds himself on a similar path to Jesus Christ: “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.”

The film aims to mock religion more than the actual story of Jesus Christ. An early scene sets the tone. Jesus is delivering his famous serum on the mount (at around tea time), when the camera pulls back further and further away until he’s a figure in the distance you can’t quite hear. “Speak up”. That’s Brian’s mother. Welcome to the Life of Brian!

If you haven’t seen a Monty Python film, you’re in for a treat. Expect to see increasingly absurd characters, scenes that are both great stand alone skits and key scenes within the story, and, of course, lots of laughs. Life of Brian is a truly great film and a must see.

The Wackness (2008)
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
1:34:58 (Completed)

I’m a sucker for coming of age stories, and The Wackness is a good one. Set in 1994, Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) is on the eve of graduating high school. He’s a loser drug dealer that’s on the outside looking in. Shapiro has a strange relationship with his psychiatrist Dr Squires (played by the wonderful Ben Kingsley), who treats Luke and takes payment in dime bags. Squires has a stepdaughter Stephanie (played by the Dredd-ful Olivia Thirlby, she’s not a bad actor, I just like bad puns and she was Anderson in Dredd (…you’re fired -ed.)). Naturally, Luke likes her.

The Wackness hits a lot of the beats that you’d expect from a coming of age story, but it’s still an enjoyable ride. There are enough unique characters and moments that make this film stand out. The film uses a hip hop soundtrack, and despite not being a fan, it was still cool.

This is a classic (and now defunct) style of film. You’d be happy to hire this film from a Blockbuster, watch it, enjoy it, return it and never see it again. All in all, it was a solid hour-and-a-half.

Beginners (2010)
Director: Mike Mills
1:39:38 (Completed)

Beginners is an interesting and heartfelt film about relationships; those between a father and son, a mother and son and those between two lovers.

Oliver (Ewan McGregor) learns that his father has terminal cancer and gay. What follows is a film that jumps forwards and backwards in time, in both years and between the various relationships in Oliver’s life.

I’m struggling to think of a better word to use than ‘nice.’ It sums up the film for me, but offers almost nothing to you and does a disservice to the film. There were many moments that I found touching. While I think Ewan McGregor is a good actor, he was far outclassed by both Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent.

This film makes me think about my parents. Like Ewan McGregor’s character, I wonder how much I really know about them and how their lives differ from how I see them. For a film to have that impact, to cause this reflection, is a good thing. You want to be moved, you want to think and you want the film to linger.

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
2:05:18 (Failed – 0:37:21)

This, the 28th Godzilla film, coincided with the franchise’s 50th anniversary. It is very much a B-movie. The story and the world are strange. In the 37 minutes I saw, the story and the dialog was forgettable. The acting was all over the place — so much overacting. The effects were a mixed bag. Following tradition, all the monsters, including Godzilla, were guys in suits. And of course, lots of bad quick stock effects and some cool miniature work.

What made the film interesting to me was the director, Ryûhei Kitamura. I found out afterwards that I’d seen one of his previous films, Versus. He’s a very stylistic director who likes to move the camera around and keep the film visually interesting. It made the film stand out from other lesser B-movies.
However, this is the sort of film you want to see with friends while having a few beers, not by yourself on a computer. I just couldn’t get through it. I will be revisiting Godzilla: Final Wars at some stage during the year.

3-Iron (2004)
Director: Ki-duk Kim
1:27:50 (Completed)

I wanted a completely different film after my failure to complete Godzilla. So I followed a friend’s recommendation and watched 3-Iron, a Korean film with very little dialog. Sounds fun!

The film follows a young drifter (Jae Hee) as he squats in empty houses. He does laundry or repairs items in return. At one such house he finds an abused wife. What follows is a very sweet, and mostly silent film.

3-Iron evokes a particular mood; if you get on it’s wavelength you can’t help but enjoy the experience. This isn’t necessarily a film for everyone, but it’s worth a shot. It’s a pity that I’ve watched 3-Iron in a week that includes The Life of Brian, otherwise this would be pick of the week.

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)
Director: Alex Stapleton
1:26:18 (Completed)

A good documentary makes you care about something you didn’t care about before. The best example I have of this is The September Issue, about the making of an issue of Vogue magazine. I don’t care about Vogue and I don’t care about fashion. However, over the course of that 90 minutes, I was invested in these people, their lives and in this stupid magazine, and that’s pretty amazing.

I knew about Roger Corman. I’d heard of him as the ‘King of the B Movie’, a more mainstream Lloyd Kaufman, but I don’t think I’ve actually seen any of his movies. He was a film director that made hundreds of B-movies and was a key player and mentor in the careers of some of Hollywood’s biggest names. After watching Corman’s World, I want to see some of them.

I was worried the doco was going to be all talking heads, and sure they have some interesting people (Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard and Eli Roth, to name a few), but luckily for me the film used plenty of scenes from his movies and archive footage to keep it interesting. Corman had, and continues to have, a extremely interesting life and a remarkable attitude towards film.

This movie made me want to see a Roger Corman film, I think it’ll do the same for you.

(Note: This is of the regular on-demand service and expires on 26 October)

I work in a cinema. Since starting working full time work there, I’ve watched far fewer movies than I used to; I had years where I’d watch 150+ movies. Full time work makes you want to spend exactly zero extra minutes at your place of work, so that means less cinema time for me.

But I enjoy watching movies at the cinema. It’s a far more engaging experience than watching TV or something on a computer. The big screen makes it easier for me to be engaged, to be sucked into the story, the character’s lives. I bring you this profession of absolute joy of the cinema experience (popcorn & choc tops being a big part of it) because of Gone Girl.

Gone Girl (2014)
Directed by: David Fincher
2:25:00 (Completed)

I’m a big David Fincher fan. He’s directed some amazing films including Seven, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and now Gone Girl. This movie reminds me of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo the most. It’s a hard watch. It’s not a pleasant film, you might not enjoy your time spent in the cinema. But oh boy, is it a gripping experience.

I can’t say too much about Gone Girl without spoiling the plot, so I won’t. I will say it’s a murder mystery that won’t let up. The cast is fantastic, the script is tight, with plenty of twists and turns that kept a hold on me throughout the entire (rather long) film. This film is not for the faint of heart, it’s dark, gruesome and there are some very unpleasant scenes.

It’s a film I want to watch again to see what I missed, particularly the camerawork and editing, stuff I tend to miss when I’m engrossed in a story. On the other hand, this might be a film you see once and just let linger. Calling it a masterpiece is slightly too high a praise, but I’m struggling to think of a better film I’ve seen this year.

That concludes the first full week of 400 and Counting. I’m still annoyed about Godzilla, but I guess that just goes onto the list of films to watch down the track. Fitting in at least a movie every day has been challenging and I can already see myself falling behind (PAX, Armageddon, or even something as simple as work and filming the TV show).

But even just this week, I’ve seen the newest blockbuster, re-watched a classic, finally saw two films I missed in cinemas and watched films I’d never heard of and wouldn’t have seen without this blog. To me, the huge variety of films is more important than just grinding out a movie or two at day. For that reason I will continue to see films at the cinema but will only count one film a week towards the total films seen count. So I guess everything is coming up Milhouse!

Film of the Week: Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Gone Girl a close second)
Movies Watched This Week: 7
Did Not Finish (DNF) This Week: 1
Time Spent This Week: 11:27:10
Total Movies Watched: 10/400
Total DNF: 1
Total Time: 16:24:07


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