104 New To Me Movies: 61* (2001)

Stats

Title: 61*
Release Year: 2001
Directed By: Billy Crystal
Written By: Hank Steinberg
Recommended By: On Wednesday night, Aaron Judge hit his 61st homerun of the season. This is a supremely important thing for baseball fans in general and Yankee fans in particular. Seemed an opportune moment to watch a movie about why.
Star Rating: 4, for purely sentimental reasons.

Review

In the summer of 1961, a pair of legends got into a race, to beat another legend. Only one of them succeeded. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were chasing the ghost of Babe Ruth, maybe in the imagination of the world, and mythical legacy, Mantel’s the one who caught him, but in the realty of achievement, it was Maris, beating his season home run record. (61, though the expanded season required the record to have an asterix)

Billy Crystal made this movie and he might be the only person in the world more sentimental about The Yankees than my grandfather was, so I enjoyed myself. It’s not a great work, but it lives and dies in the relationship between Maris (Barry Pepper) and Mantle (Thomas Jane), two athletes of incredible skill, two men who couldn’t be more different, and friends none the less.

It’s a sepia toned love letter to the game, and to the men who made it special. It’s fall now, the time when baseball is at it’s most exciting, and another Yankee just hit this tremendous milestone. Life is good.

104 New To Me Movies: Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb(1964)

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Title: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
Release Year: 1964
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George from the Novel by Peter George
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 4

Review

You know how sometimes you can expierence a work of art, understand why it’s influential, important, and why people love it and also want to bang you head against the wall because you personally dislike it so much?

I’m getting to that point with Stanley Kubrick. I’m learning a lot about the structure of film by watching these movies. Anyway, Dr. Strangelove is a masterpiece. I even laughed at most of it. I just wasn’t in awe of it. This is a good movie.

Maybe the next few weeks will change my mind, but so far, I’m still thinking, “this guy should have kept making noirs, he was good at that.”

104 New To Me Movies: Soul Food (1997)

Stats

Title: Soul Food
Release Year: 1997
Directed By: George Tillman Jr.
Written By: George Tillman Jr.
Reccomended By: Popped up as a “You Might Like” after both Waiting To Exhale and Mystic Pizza, so I decided to give it a shot. It is in fact, probably smack dab in the middle of those movies, and not as good as either
Star Rating: 3

Review

Soul Food’s heart is in the right place, bless it. The story of a middle class black family dealing with a severe illness and then the eventual death of their matriarch is a solid skeleton to hang a shaggy emotional film on.

But Soul Food never quite comes together. Part of that is the conceit that the movie is told through the eyes of eleven year old Ahmad, except when it isn’t, (seriously, Ahmad’s POV is a bright point, but it pops in and out in ways that don’t make a lot of sense) the spectacular cast, (Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long, Mekhi Phifer! OH MY!) can’t really carry the nonsensical and less than earned twists in the road.

Marriages crumble, financial situations fluctuate, homes are lost and found, but it all feels muted, and small, and not in the good intimate way, more like the “why do I care about these people?” way.

It was a pleasant enough Saturday afternoon watch though.

104 New To Me Movies: Mystic Pizza (1988)

Stats

Title: Mystic Pizza
Release Year: 1988
Directed By: Donald Petrie
Written By: Amy Holden Jones, Perry Howzr, Randy Howze and Alfred Uhry
Recommended By: Still gearing up for Ticket To Paradise so went for a Julia I’m less familiar with this time. Also it’s on a lot “movies for fall” lists, probably because of all the sweaters
Star Rating: 4.5

Review

Mystic Pizza is another one of those, “I’ve seen most of this movie but not all at once or in order” choices. And I’m so glad to have checked in with it. Following a season of change for three waitresses at an iconic pizza joint in Mystic, Connecticut, Mystic Pizza is a really touching portrayal of being a young woman.

Big hearted and confused Jojo (Lili Taylor) deals with the fallout of leaving her long time boyfriend Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio) at the altar. Intellectual and quiet Kat (Annabeth Gish) saves for college by babysitting for a young father while his wife is away and their budding romance breaks her heart. The free spirited Daisy (Julia Roberts, unbearably stunning and good here. A Star Is Born performance) gets wrapped up with a rebellious rich kid before realizing she’s worth so much more than being someone’s phase.

This movie is a warm hug. A cup of hot chocolate and fuzzy blanket, and a good cry. Just wonderful. Welcome fall!

Game Of Thrones: House Of the Dragon Winner: Episode 6

TIME JUMP. Aside from wondering if with a time jump Daemon was going to now be played by Tobias Menzies, I was excited to see what Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cook brought to Rhaenrya and Alicent as adults.

But who won?

The Winner

Larys Strong is definitely this week’s winner. Alicent’s only ally, he sold out his brother, who’s been fathering Rhaenyra’s children. (Granted Harwin wasn’t making it easy to not be sold out.) And became proxy Hand of The King when his father wants to step away from his responsibilties because of Harwin and Rhaenyra’s whole…deal.

Do I Ship It?

Man, I wish we’d gotten more time with Daemon and Laena, they seemed great. Nanna Blondell was amazing as Laena and she’ll be missed.

Dragons Are Great

Last week…no dragons. This week, so many dragons! Aegon, Jacaerys and Lucerys hang out in the dragon pits to train their young ones, while Aemond approaches Syrax, because his dragon egg never hatched.

Over in Pentos, Laena chooses the death by her Vhagar’s fire over childbirth, while her daughters, Rhaena and Baela have their own issues. Baela is also Dragonless, her egg didn’t hatch, but Laena assures her she too can become a rider.

Queen Alicent Hightower Is Kinda Over All This Bullshit

Alicent is dangling. Her son is an idiot, her husband is dying, her rival is openly courting scandal and her only ally is Ser Criston Cole who’s still hung up on that one time he had sex a zillion years ago. It’s a real recipe for a “NOT GREAT BOB!” moment.

But In The Book

Laena’s death is different, but I liked the change, she knew she would die, and chose a dragon riders death.

104 New To Me Movies: As Good As It Gets (1997)

Stats:

Title: As Good As It Gets
Release Year: 1997
Directed By: James L. Brooks
Written by: Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks
Recommended By: More grown up 90s movies that I never saw because I was a literal child. Also, I went to my library’s sidewalk sale this weekend and picked up this movie for less than $1.
Star Rating: 4.5

Review

I really do like watching Jack Nicholson. I like movie stars and he is one of the greatest ever. And As Good As It Gets is probably the purest distillation of that special chemistry he has.

James L. Brooks and Nicholson takes that aggressive and somewhat abbrassive energy and channels it into Obsessive Compulsive author Melvin, and the way that energy (and his illness) efffects how he connects to those around him. Mainly, waitress Carol (Helen Hunt, wonderful) and his neighbor Simon, (an absolutely transcendent Greg Kinnear.)

There’s a road trip, a sick kid, a cute dog, plenty of jokes and pathos and a sexy nude drawing scene that’s not actually sexual at all. Seriously, this movie is great. It’s sharply written, masterfully performed and really made me feel good.

104 New To Me Movies: Fletch(1985)

Stats

Title: Fletch
Release Year: 1985
Directed By: Michael Ritchie
Written By: Andrew Bergman, from the novel by Gregory Maguire
Recommended By: There’s a new Fletch movie out (I haven’t watched it yet) and as a result my friends John (@trumbullcomic on twitter) and Darin (@darincredible) watched this movie for their podcast SNL Nerds. (A few months ago I was on the podcast talking about Studio 60! You should listen!) Anyway, as the guys chatted I realized I’d never watched this whole movie…so now I have.
Star Rating: 3.5

Review

I enjoyed watching Fletch, it is kind of confusing to make the decision to turn a mystery novel, a reasonably tight genre by nature into the kind of bit heavy, loose comedies Chevy Chase made in the 80s. But it just sort of works here.

Some of the bits work better than others. Chase is charming in the way that he was at that point in his career. Young Geena Davis is around. So is Tim Mattheson, it’s fun!

It’s also short, just over 90 minutes, which, the more of this project I do, the more I appreciate short movies. Getting in and out quickly is a real serious gift. As are a few giggles. Fletch delivered on both.

Game Of Thrones: House Of The Dragon Winner: Episode 5

It’s a Wedding In Westeros! We all know what that means. (GRISLY DEATH! USUALLY) Our winner, is complicated…but here we go.

The Winner

Lord Corlys Velaryon, come on down

Pretty much the only person who got what they wanted this week was Lord Corlys. He married his son, Laeno to Rhaenyra, thus restoring the honor stolen when Viserys didn’t marry Laena. (Laena’s got her own stuff about to happen.)

Of course this all ends badly, but for now, way to go!

Do I Ship It?

Rhaenyra and Alicent are fully broken up, you guys, I miss them. And the tragedy of Criston and Rhaenyra has been laid out. I was sitting on my couch, hugging my knees while he begged her to run away with him and get married.

I do not ship Rhaenyra and Daemon. I’m psyched to see what happens with her and her later paramour Harran Strong though.

Dragons Are Great

WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS????????

Queen Alicent Hightower Is Forming Her Own Political Party

It’s the birth of The Greens! Alicent shows up to Rhaenyra and Laeno’s betrothment (which becomes their wedding) dressed in clear Hightower Battle Green, shades her step daughter, and looks right at Viserys and lets him know what’s up. This is over. Aegon will be king.

But In The Book

This all happens at a tournament instead of a feast. It’s fine though.

A Now Their Watch Is Ended

I want to say a few words of appreciation for Milly Alcock and Emily Carey, who played teenage Rhaenrya and Alicent and who’s last episode this was. Next week we jump ahead and meet their adult selves, but they were both spectacular and I hope they go on to wonderful things.

104 New To Me Movies: One Fine Day (1996)

Stats

Title: One Fine Day
Directed By: Michael Hoffman
Written By: Terrel Seltzer and Ellen Simon
Recommended By: Just kind of in a headspace for 90s romance films right now. I’d heard good things about this one, and Clooney’s about to hit another Rom Com with Ticket To Paradise
Star Rating: 4

Review

This is going to become a comfort movie.

It was rainy and gross on Sunday and I’d had a long couple of weeks, so I curled up on my couch and caught up on a bunch of stuff and then decided to watch One Fine Day.

There are several actresses who I feel like we as a culture just do not deserve. Michelle Pfeiffer is one such person. She’s so beautiful, comes across as deeply intelligent and she’s so funny. She’s always good. This isn’t an exception, as uptight single mom Mel, Pfeiffer shines in overwhelmed competence.

Her counterpart here is George Clooney, as slacker single dad Jack. Their kids are played by two of the best child actors of the 90s, Alex D. Linz as Sammy and Mae Whitman and Maggie, and over the course of a rainy day in New York City, the four of them get into misunderstandings, have work triumphs, and end up buying a couple of goldfish.

It’s a delightful romantic comedy, anchored by two really fun performances and a lovely tour of the city I love. I really couldn’t be happier with having decided to watch it.

104 New To Me Movies: The Bodyguard (1992)

Stats

Title: The Bodyguard
Release Year: 1992
Directed By: Mick Jackson
Written By: Lawrence Kasdan
Recommended By: I’m just in this mood right now, you guys, I want to watch a bunch middle budget movies from the 90s that I didn’t watch then because my parents weren’t super into them
Star Rating: 4

Review

You know those movies that are so integrated into culture that you think you know the whole movie even though you’ve never seen it. That’s what I thought when I switched The Bodyguard on. But you know what? I was wrong. This movie is so odd, and individual, and clearly build around it’s two stars. (Kevin Costner as Frank Farmer, the titular body guard, and Whitney Houston as Rachel Marron, a pop star and actress who needs guarding) Also, he doesn’t die at the end, and I’d always thought that he did. Why did I think that? I have no idea.

Anyway, The Bodyguard is sweepingly romantic, genuinely thrilling, and full of great Whitney Houston songs, plus Costner being unbelievably sexy. (Great Whitney Houston songs such as her truly iconic cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” which is you are a person who was alive in the 1990s you probably know quite well)

The twists and turns of the actual plot of The Bodyguard were wildly fun, so I won’t talk much about that. Some of them feel a little bit much, but Costner sells the thriller aspects with his full JFK style integrity, while Houston’s lighter touch and bubbly presence ground the budding romance between the characters.

It’s just really really stinking good. In a lot of film talk circles people talk about the loss of movies like this. And it is a huge loss. These kinds of movies are so much fun to watch. Also, sometimes things are culturally ubiquitous because they’re really very good.