104 New To Me Movies: Infernal Affairs (2002)

Stats

Title: Infernal Affairs
Release Year: 2002
Directed By: Andre Lau, Alan Mak
Written By: Alan Mak, Felix Chong
Recommended By: Lora Olaes (Lora and I have been friends for years, through Comic Con. She’s a top 10 person for me. She’s an actress, singer and activist.) Also, one of my favorite favorite movies ever, The Departed is a remake of this one. We’ll get into that.
Star Rating: 4

Review

I avoided seeing Infernal Affairs for a long time. I absolutely love Martin Scorcese’s American remake of the film, The Departed and I didn’t want o be either let down by the ways it doesn’t live up to the original, or underwhelmed by the original. Is this stupid? Absolutely.

I’m going to try my best to not spend this whole review comparing these two films, but it is fascinating how they run parallell and where they diverge. The way that the Buddhism of Infernal Affairs and the Catholicism of The Departed contribute to those differences. The way Tony Leung’s easy cool is such a different wavelength from DiCaprio’s unhinged intensity. How Nicholson runs away with the story while Eric Tsang is a more boilerplate villain.

But mainly, I want to talk about how enthralled I was by the thriller aspects of this movie. It’s tightly made, fun to watch, well acted and all together great. It’s a tight police thriller with a great twist and some very fun stakeouts. And the acting adds a lot of depth that’s not quite there in the script. (There’s also not Denham analog character, and the film is poorer for not having that mother fucker around)

I’m really glad I swallowed my reservations and watched the movie. I don’t have time this week to watch The Departed again, but I’ll get to it.

What I Was Drinking

I watched this in the afternoon, I was drinking Pellegrino.

104 New To Me Movies: The Quick And The Dead (1995)

Stats

Title: The Quick And The Dead
Release Year: 1995
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: Simon Moore
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 4.5

Review

There are very few things in the world that I love more than still the kind of movie that I would have fallen head over heels for if I’d seen it on cable when I was a teenager. I never did stumble across Sam Raimi’s cool little western, and I’m the poorer for it.

But I’ve watched it now. The story of a gunslinger, played by Sharon Stone seeking revenge on the outlaws who killed her father. That leads her to the town of Redemption, where the leader of said gang is now Mayor (Gene Hackman) and hosts an annual “contest” for someone to unseat him.

The Lady tangles with the Mayor’s son, The Kid, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a former outlaw turned preacher who’s renounced violence (Russell Crowe), not to mention just the general ickiness of being a woman in the old west.

The movie is tight, and fun and sparky and full of great performances (I mean with that quartet of leads, how could it not be?) I always like a young DiCaprio performance and continue to mourn for the actor he was, before he become so obsessed with chasing awards he became someone else.

Russell Crowe is also ridiculously cute in this movie and Stone is awesome. Why don’t more people talk about it?

What I Was Drinking

More Rose. Tis The Damn Season.

104 New To Me Movies: Tootsie(1992)

Stats

Title: Tootsie
Release Year: 1992
Directed By: Sydney Pollack
Written By: Larry Gelbart & Murray Schisgal (Uncredited rewrites by Barry Levinson and Elaine May)
Recommended By: AFI 100
Star Rating: 4

Review

What happens when an actor who’s been branded difficult takes on the role of a lifetime? A WOMAN!

I had some expectations going into this movie, I expect madcap shenanigans, a lot of broad, drag type comedy, as it’s a comedy about Dustin Hoffman dressing up as a southern woman to get a job on a soap opera. But in reality, Tootsie is an oddly subdued film about misogyny, show business, femineity and sexuality.

It’s definitely a little retrograde in it’s sexual politics, and given what we’ve learned about it’s star in past few years that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, and it’s definitely a comedy, but it’s more witty than farcical. (Most of the zingers come from Bill Murray in what may be my new favorite performance of his? This movie hit me weird)

Tootsie is marvelously constructed, and Hoffman’s performance is pretty great. I was less gripped by Jessica Lange’s Oscar winning role, but she was doing her best with what was given for her. I was impressed by Teri Garr and Dabney Coleman, but I pretty much always love them in movies.

Tootsie is very of it’s time, but it’s smarter and quieter than you’d expect for it’s premise. A nice surprise.

What I Was Drinking

Water! Watched this with my family on Easter, the day after we had my brother and sister in law’s wedding reception. None of us wanted to drink. Too much celebrating the night before. Congrats Mike and Meg! Love you lots!

104 New To Me Movies: Army Of Darkness(1992)

Stats

Title: Army Of Darkness
Release Year: 1992
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 5

Review

Oh, I loved this movie. I just adored it. I’m struggling to stay on Sam Raimi’s wavelength, partly because of the nature of this project being all about genre diversity, but I was ready to be underwhelmed by Army Of Darkness.

Basically making a movie that’s “Ash goes to the Ren Faire and HEY! There are Deadites!” allows for so much tonal discordancy and silliness, and the stop motion skeletons marching towards the castle are incredible! And Bruce Campbell is once again just knocking fast balls out of the park for 81 perfect minutes.

This movies short length is a big part of the appeal, BTW. It’s quick and dirty and funny and just gets in and out before it wears out it’s welcome. I was really very happy to watch it and might even watch it again soon.

What I was Drinking

Josh Cabernet. This is my mom’s wine, we’d been out to dinner and I had a bottle, so I popped it open and kept up the party going.

104 New To Me Movies: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Stats

Title: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Release Year: 2000
Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: Wang Hui-ling, James Schamus, Kuo Jung Tsai. From The Book By Wang Dulu
Recommended By: No one? Because everyone assumed that I had seen this movie. And I think I might have? But I was 13, and I definitely didn’t retain it. Anyway, I had it on DVD and I recently reorganized my DVDs, and I’m still in Bridgerton headspace, so I decided rather than just rewatch Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility for the zillionth time, I’d check out one of his great masterpieces. Also, I like Michelle Yeoh a lot and I’m probably two weeks from being able to see Everything, Everywhere, All At Once.
Star Rating: 5

Review

I am once again here to say it took me way too long to watch this masterpiece of a film that came out when I was a kid. This one is even more inexcusable than my skipping of The Piano. But skip it I did, because fuck me, I guess.

Anyway, this movie is flawless and wonderful. It’s slow and anchored by a pair of deep performances by two of the greatest actors in the history of cinema. (Chow Yun-Fat! Michelle Yeoh!) It tells the story of two warriors in their twilight, a magic sword, a chosen one, her journey to enlightenment, an old grudge, and it’s got people who fly.

I’ve seen less of Ang Lee’s work than I’m proud of. (As previously noted, I have watched his Sense And Sensibility a bajillion times.) I know he’s a master filmmaker, and I’ve seen that in the little bit of his work I have watched. And I really am glad I waited until I was an adult to watch this movie, which is perfect. I wish I had more to say about it. But I don’t think thirteen year old me would have liked it much. But grown up me, is all about these people and their regrets, and their spirit and love living on in two young people that they warn to not repeat their mistakes.

And also the cool Kung-Fu fighting. Which wouldn’t have appealed me as a teenage because I hadn’t learned to appreciate that outside of The Matrix yet.

But oh boy, I loved watching it now. If you haven’t seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, get around to it. If you haven’t seen it in a while, revisit it. You won’t be sorry.

What I Was Drinking

PALOMAS!

I had leftover taco stuff, and to go with it I made Palomas. I like a margarita, I love a Paloma.

2 oz Grapefruit Juice
2 oz Tequila
1/2 A Lime
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Shake over ice and top with club soda. So refreshing!

104 New to Me Movies: Darkman (1990)

Stats

Title: Darkman
Release Year: 1990
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: Sam Raimi, Chuck Pfarrer, Ivan Raimi, Daniel Goldin, Joshua Goldin
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 3

Review

I was really excited going into this Blank Check mini series. I love Spider-Man after all, and hey, I was getting to check off a bunch of canonical nerd movies that I’ve never gotten around to.

I am not that into Sam Raimi, as it turns out. (I do still anticipate liking Spider-Man a lot.) I get what he’s doing, and it occasionally clicks. (I did really like The Evil Dead and Crimewave) But I just really, didn’t like Darkman, maybe it’s because it lives in this middle space, somewhere in between full throated parody and straight serious filmmaking. Maybe it’s because I’d rewatched The Phantom Menace the night before and was deep in my Liam Neeson feelings. I don’t know, but I just didn’t care for this movie.

I had trouble investing, even as I saw and enjoyed the Universal Monster movie stuff, and I like the cartoony action and obviously, hey Liam Neeson! Love that guy. But I just couldn’t invest. I don’t want to be held at arms length by irony and stilted storytelling and paper thin characters. Unless there’s great action in there.

I understand why people are into this. I totally get what’s going on here, I see the appeal, and it just didn’t click. But I gave it three stars because, you know whatever.

What Was I Drinking

Ally Bay Sauvingnon Blanc. The last bottle from my Spanish Tapas night party. Sauv Blanc isn’t really my thing, but I like this one. Nice and refreshing and not overly sweet.

104 New To Me Movies: Adam’s Rib(1949)

Stats

Title: Adam’s Rib
Release Year: 1949
Directed By: George Cukor
Written By: Ruth Gordon & Garrison Kanin
Recommended By: Caity Callons (I met Caity many years ago during a community production of Pippin, we’re still internet pals.)
Star Rating: 4

Review

What is it about movie stars? I spend a lot of time in movie discussion where people try to talk about the death of the movie star and why they don’t matter anymore.

And then I watch a real deal movie star movie and it just takes my breath away. Adam’s Rib is a movie star movie. It’s a double movie star movie, with both Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey doing the things they’re best at in almost perfect concert.

Hepburn and Tracey play a pair of married lawyers who wind up on opposite sides of an attempted murder case, where a scorned wife took shots at her husband and his mistress. Tracey is disgusted by the whole affair but believes the law is the law. Hepburn believes that the wife was justified due to societies hampering of women. Hijinks ensue. There are courtroom speeches.

But mostly it’s about her being a motormouth and him being a grump and that magical thing that the two of them do together. There’s just nothing like watching a true blue movie star do their thing.

What I Was Drinking

Jack’s Abbey Shipping Out Of Boston Amber Lager. I made BEER CHEESE, and I like Ambers best for beer cheese, so I opened up a pint of this. A little bit bitter but smooth and slow drinking, which frankly is perfect for watching Spencer Tracey.

104 New To Me Movies: Evil Dead II (1987)

Stats

Title: Evil Dead II
Release Year: 1987
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: Sam Raimi & Scott Spiegel
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 4

Review

So Evil Dead II is what I thought Evil Dead was. This was the tone that I can handle. With it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek, and so over the top that it’s kind of impossible to be scared by it.

Unless of course, you’re me, and then you can be scared by just about anything that even hints at horror. And scared I was, though not nearly as much by it’s predecessor.

Here’s what I didn’t expect though. I like the first one better. Even though it terrified me. Even though I was furious with the film world for not warning me that it’s genuinely scary. Even though I knew that the intensity was dialed down, that I was going into camp land.

I like the straight movie better. That’s not to say I’m made of stone. I like watching Bruce Campbell beat himself up masterfully, I like him strapping a chainsaw to his arm and say “Groovy.” It’s fun. It’s good stuff. It’s iconic stuff.

But even though I was watching through my fingers, trying not to burst into tears, as a piece of filmmaking, I like the first one better.

I’m as surprised as anyone.

Bruce Campbell still the best. My God, he’s wonderful.

What I Was Drinking

I’d been drinking Negronis the night before, so I took the night off. But let’s talk about Negronis!
1 part Campari, 1 Part Gin, 1 Part Sweet Vermouth. Absolutely delicious.