Monday, September 15, 2014

Overlooked Movie Marathon 3: Week 2

Once a year I devote a month to watching the great movies that I have missed over my many years of watching movies.  That would be the month of September.  I use September as a means to catch up on many of the movies I have overlooked while watching the movies that I typically watch.  If you know me, you know that is a big deal.  I spend a lot of time watching things like Battledogs and Baby Geniuses, while movies such as Drive and The Prestige go unwatched.  September is all about rectifying that.  Yes, I still watch some of the stuff I usually watch (out of necessity this year), but I also shift my focus to watching some of the greats that I haven’t seen yet.

This year, I began the month by flying out of the gate and watching a lot of movies in the first week or so.  Then I slowed down a little bit.  My schedule at work made it so.  The good thing is that I still managed to sneak in two of the movies from the Talk Film Society Top 100 that I hadn’t yet seen.  That means that I caught up on two of the movies I was going to spend September trying to catch up on.  I’ve already listed them in this post so I’m not going to go over them again until I get to my actual feelings about each of the movies.  Next week, I will hopefully be back up to three of them.  Who knows?  I could end up seeing more than that.

For those of you who didn’t see the first post for this year’s Overlooked Movie Marathon, I have been using the Talk Film Society Top 100 as a basis for the movies that I watch this month.  This top 100 list was a list created through the contribution of many Twitter users to the Talk Film Society account.  People sent in lists of the 25 best movies, in their opinion.  Marcelo J. Pico took all of these lists and calculated which movies were voted on the most times.  He then compiled the movies into a list ranking them based on how many votes they got.  The 100 movies with the most votes were the top 100 movies.

When I saw the list, I noticed that there were about eighteen or so movies that I had missed seeing.  Thus, I decided that I would use the list to catch up with the great movies I had overlooked.  It became the foundation of my September marathon schedule.  And I have been slowly but surely working my way through some of the movies this month.  The first week included Pan’s Labyrinth, Chinatown, and The Big Lebowski.  This week included two more movies that I hadn’t yet seen.  Let’s get to them, shall we?

The Prestige
This one was not completely unseen by me.  A few years ago, I had seen about half of the movie late into the morning of the new year with a few friends.  That was only half of the movie.  You can’t count half of a movie as a watch.  Now I have finally seen the rest of the movie and I can say this.  The twists and turns of the movie are interesting, but the movie as a whole left me cold.  I did not love this movie like so many people seem to.  It was good and I would watch it again.  But I won’t be going out of my way to watch it again.  Bale and Jackman are great, but it didn’t connect with me.  That’s a shame, really.  I thought I would love it.

Stylistically, this is a great film.  The driving scenes are reminiscent of Bullitt in the look, sound, and overall feel.  The physical violence is visually stunning.  The whole movie is visually stunning, really.  It is easy to get into the movie and easy to feel as though you are a part of everything going on.  That is thanks to Refn’s direction, and the writing of the characters.  So little is known about the driver that it is easy to fantasize that you are in the driver’s shoes throughout the movie.  Not that I want to fantasize about what goes on in the movie.  But you get what I’m saying right?  I hope so because I’m not going to elaborate on that point.  The movie was a feast for both the eyes and the brain.

That’s all that I watched for the Overlooked Movie Marathon 2014 this week.  It was a pretty lackluster week in terms of the number of movies I was able to see.  If you were expecting more of me, I’m sorry.  I couldn’t live up to your expectations.  I’m a failure.  Don’t disown me, daddy.  Nah.  I was a little busier this week than I expected and it took up some of the time that I would have devoted to these movies.  This week will probably be a little better.

You can look forward to another installment of this movie marathon next week as I continue my journey to catch up on some of the great movies that I have missed through my life of watching movies.  What will the movies be?  I don’t know yet, though I know where my selection of movies will come from.  I have thirteen or so movies left to choose from.  I want to see some of them more than others and will likely focus on those ones first.  Such as Annie Hall.  You are pretty much assured that I will watch that movie this week.

So that’s it for this post.  I’ll see you next week with another recap of the seemingly great movies that I catch up on in order to fill in my movie blindspots.  In case I don’t see you before then, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.
Here are the Twitter accounts of Marcelo J. Pico and the Talk Film Society.
The first week of the third annual Overlooked Movie Marathon can be found here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Overlooked Movie Marathon 3: Week 1

For the past two years, September has become the month where I spend much of my movie time catching up on some of the big blindspots I have when it comes to watching movies.  I would spend the month watching the classic movies that had somehow passed me by.  This way, I would no longer have to say I hadn’t seen these popular movies from decades past when people brought them up.

The first year I did this was 2012.  I chose one movie from each decade that motion pictures have existed.  I went from the first decade of the 20th century until the first decade of the 21st.  It was a marathon of movies that led me to see movies such as The Jazz Singer, The Usual Suspects, and 12 Angry Men.  I saw a lot of great movies and a lot of movies that changed the film industry.  It inspired me to do the same thing the next year.

In 2013, I repeated my marathon, albeit with different films in the lineup.  Once again, I wanted to go through the history of film and watch classic movies that I had not yet had the opportunity to see.  But I changed up how I made the lineup for the marathon.  Instead of going with one movie per decade, I asked the people on Twitter to give me some suggestions for the greatest movies of all time.  With those suggestions, I picked out a wide range of movies.  I chose different genres and different decades and came up with twelve movies to watch during the month.  I got to see movies such as Metropolis, Harold and Maude, and City of God.  And with that, I knew that the month of September would forever be a month in which I focused on seeing the must-see movies that I had yet to see.

This year, I was looking forward to September for a few months before it.  This was especially true considering the dire June and July I had for my first time watches.  They weren’t months that I was entirely happy with.  August turned that around a little bit, but September was where I knew things would be good.  It was a month where I was going to make sure I saw a lot of good movies for the first time.  But how would I make my choices this year?

In late 2013, Marcelo J. Pico created the Tweet Film Society.  It would be a collective of Twitter users who loved movies, coming together to discuss film.  In 2014, the name would be changed to the Talk Film Society, but the idea would be the same.  Film lovers talking about film on Twitter.  In early 2014, the society put out a survey asking people for their 25 favourite movies.  Marcelo was putting together a Talk Film Society top 100 list.  These would be the top 100 films of all time, as voted by the people of Twitter that were involved in the Talk Film Society.

When the results were revealed, it was shown to me that there was a good chunk of the list that I had not seen before.  In all, there were about seventeen movies that I had not seen that made the top 100 list.  I decided sometime in August that I was going to use my September to watch as many of these seventeen movies as possible.  And so I began working my way through the list.  Where would I find these movies?  Netflix Canada, my collection of films, and other means if necessary.  I began with Netflix Canada, which had two of the movies.


First up on Netflix Canada was the Roman Polanski classic, Chinatown.  It was a 1970s noir film.  I wasn’t that into it in the beginning.  However, by the end of the movie, it was kicking my ass.  That ending hit me so hard that I couldn’t believe what I had just watched.  I had at some point become so invested in what was going on that I was shocked and emotionally traumatized the way that Jack Nicholson’s character was.  And when I thought “What just happened!?!?!?” I heard the line “Forget it Jake.  It’s Chinatown.”  And then it ended.  I wanted to watch it again.  I didn’t.  But I really really wanted to.

After Chinatown, there was one more movie on Netflix Canada that had made the Talk Film Society Top 100.  That film was a drastic shift in tone and genre.  It was in another language.  It was decades newer.  It was another great addition to the list of movies that I have watched and another reason that I love my dedication to great movies in September.

Pan’s Labyrinth

I had only seen one Guillermo del Toro directed film prior to seeing this one.  It was Pacific Rim, a movie that I thought was great spectacle but not a lot of substance to it.  Pan’s Labyrinth was so much more than Pacific Rim.  It was visually stunning, just like the other movie, but it came with an emotionally heart-wrenching tale.  The childlike whimsy of Ofelia’s adventure and the violent reality of the child’s life made for a roller coaster of sadness, despair, and downright agony.  It was a brilliant feast for both my eyes and my feels.

With those two movies down, I had run out of movies on Netflix Canada.  I had to choose a movie based on another quality.  I decided to go with the one that I most wanted to watch.  That’s how I landed on the next movie.  It was one that I had to go through less respectable ways to watch.  I wanted to watch it though.  So I did.

The Big Lebowski

I said a while back that everyone’s favourite Coen Brothers movie is the most recent one they watched.  Although I wouldn’t consider The Big Lebowski my favourite right after watching it, I could see myself loving it more on a rewatch and holding it in as high a regard as some of their other movies that I love.  It’s a great movie.  The story plays out expertly well with very little flaw to it.  Jeff Bridges brings some of his best work to the character of The Dude and John Goodman brings what I feel is his best performance to Walter.  It’s an entertaining crime comedy that deserves almost the beloved status that it has.  I’m not sure it deserves a religion though.

And with that, the first week of my September of catching up on Talk Film Society Top 100 movies has come to a close.  I am three movies closer to the hundred percent status.  I have a little way to go in getting there.  Next week, I will return with some more movies that I caught up on, and more movies that I have loved seeing for a first time.  This is going to be a great month for me and movies.  I can feel it now.  I’ll see you next week.

The Talk Film Society can be found at @talkfilmsoc on Twitter.  Marcelo J. Pico can be found at @marcelojpico on Twitter.  I can be found @JurassicGriffin on Twitter.  And the Talk Film Society Top 100 can be found here.  Thank you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season 1, Episode 45: Crystal of Nightmares

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is based upon the Japanese series Super Sentai.  If you are reading this post, you should already know that.  I’ve mentioned it in previous posts as I have worked my way through the first season of the show.  If you want to get more specific, the first season is based upon the Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger season of the Super Sentai series.  Many of the fight scenes when the Power Rangers are in costume have been taken directly from that series and fitted with American dialogue and an American story to market it to American children.

The reason that I am bringing this up again is that I have now ventured into the tail end of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ first season.  I believe I said in the second Pudgy Pig episode that the show was reusing footage that it had used in the first Pudgy Pig episode.  There is a reason for that.  The first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is sixty episodes of television.  The season of Super Sentai that it takes clips from is only forty episodes long.  Since there are some major story differences between the two shows, a lot of footage is not used.  What is left is the fight footage.  That does not leave much to take from.

This all means that there are about twenty episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that must reuse footage from previous episodes.  From this point on in the first season, all of the fight footage is footage that has already appeared in various episodes.  Yet there are still sixteen episodes, including the one in this post.  That is sixteen episodes at the end of the season that use footage that has already been used in the series.  The first of those is right now.

Season 1, Episode 45: Crystal of Nightmares

Exams are coming up and Billy has a great idea.  He invites Jason, Kimberly, Trini, and Zack up to his uncle’s cabin for a study trip.  They will spend the whole weekend working together to learn everything that they can learn so that they can ace all of the exams.  Bulk and Skull follow them up to the cabin to try and steal their study notes.  If Bulk and Skull fail the test, they will have a lot of detention in their future.

This all leads to Bulk and Skull breaking into the guys’ room while dressed as maids to look for the study notes.  After a few minutes, they have to hide under one of the beds to not get caught as Zack, Jason, and Billy return.  Zack starts jumping on the bed and dancing.  It leads to a pillow fight between the guys.  Then they go to sleep.

Rita Repulsa takes the opportunity to send Goldar down to Earth to activate the titular Crystal of Nightmares.  The whole point of the Crystal is to take away any of the confidence that the Power Rangers have in themselves.  Much in the same way as the two part Island of Illusion episodes, the nightmares lead to flashbacks of each of the Power Rangers’ worst moments.  The moments that scared them the most or left some sort of emotional scar on them.  The nightmares bring this moment out and cause the Power Rangers to be much more worried about themselves than they were previously.  They lose their confidence.

The only way that the Power Rangers can regain their confidence is to destroy the Crystal of Nightmares.  It will be a tough thing to do though.  Since they have no confidence, the team cannot defeat a simple group of putties that has been sent down to guard the cave where the Crystal is.  Jason manages to flee, however, and gets into the cave.  It isn’t that easy though, since Goldar is guarding the Crystal.  Jason summons up enough courage to dodge the monster and shatter the crystal.  Then morph, Zord, fight, victory!

Back at school, Bulk and Skull fail the exam and get a lot of detention.  The gang passes with flying colours.  The end.

There wasn’t all that much actual fight footage in the episode that involved costumes or Zords.  That’s all the better really, as it does not bring too much attention to the reuse of previous footage.  What did bring attention to reused footage, however, was the fact that the story worked as a sort of clip show, bringing up some of the things that had happened in previous episodes.  It brought back Billy being eaten, Kimberly being trapped in a jar, and Zack falling down a hill.

The episode still had a new story, even with all of the old elements being reshown.  The Crystal of Nightmares was an interesting threat to the group as it turned them into fear-ridden cowards that didn’t have the skills that they were used to having.  It made for an entertaining experience as they tried to recapture their confidence and take out the threat of the episode.

Sometimes the threats in an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers can be too outlandish in that the monsters are goofy or the combination of every Zord is too overpowering for the side of good.  A threat that deals with the mental stability of the Power Rangers brings a grounded element to the conflict that is refreshing when so many battles come down to outmaneuvering the opponent in battle.  It was nice to have something that wasn’t a simple physical threat.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers might have to resort to reusing old footage at this point in its run, but the writers are still able to make a captivating half hour of television with the use of already shown Japanese footage.  I have faith in the other fifteen episodes because of how well done this episode was.  The faith does not mean that the next fifteen episodes will be good.  It means that I have hope that they will be.  Only will watching them let me know if they are good.  I hope you stick around for the rest of the episodes as I watch them.  I don’t know when I’ll watch them or when I’ll write about them, but I will.  At some point, I will.