Year 2, Day 264
Movie #314~1,030: The Trouble With Harry (1955)
You’re not supposed to bury bodies whenever you find them. It makes people suspicious.
Plot: The trouble with Harry is that he’s dead, and everyone seems to have a different idea of what needs to be done with his body.
Review: People expecting the typical ‘Hitchcock’ fare will probably be disappointed with this film. There isn’t the usual thrilling suspense but in its place there is some wonderful comedic writing and gorgeous ‘New England in the autumn’ cinematography. The Trouble With Harry doesn’t have much of a story - a man dies and a group of people each think they’re to blame and each think they know the best way to dispose of his body - but it is the smart dialogue and off handed manner in which death is treated that makes the film as entertaining as it is.
I don’t know how 1955 audiences viewed this movie given Hitchcock’s cinematic reputation but I’d say it was a couple of decades ahead of its time. If you don’t “get it”, it’s a rather dull movie but if you can appreciate the dry humor and satire, it will definitely live up to the Hitchcock standards we have come to expect. Overall, I thought it was a fun and surprising film that really showcases Hitchcock’s unique sense of humor.
Year 2, Day 262
Movie #313~1,029: Ordinary People (1980)
Don’t admire people too much. They might disappoint you.
Plot: The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son.
Review: Don’t watch this movie if you’re in the mood for an uplifting, feel good flick to kick off your weekend. Because while Ordinary People is spectacularly written and acted, it’s a bit of a downer. It is an inside look at how a dysfunctional family is coping after the death of one of the sons. (Spoiler alert: they are not coping well.)
The all-star cast does a great job with the meaningful script, from Mary Tyler Moore as the cold, distant mother to Donald Sutherland as the well-meaning father desperate for peace to Timothy Hutton as the suicidal surviving brother. None of them are particularly likeable (albeit sympathetic) so it takes a lot for the actors to effectively bring them to life and each actor does their character justice.
The movie is very talky with only hints of action via flashbacks and I could see why some people could be bored with the slow story development. But I found it to be an satisfyingly emotional movie that never seemed trite or predictable. It is a realistic look at how people grieve differently and how sometimes your family aren’t the ones that know you the best.
Because my favorite season is just around the corner, I decided to celebrate by watching Autumn Themed Movies. They may not all take place entirely during the fall but they have an autumnal atmosphere. All I need is some pumpkin bread, apple cider, and candy corn and I’m set!
Year 2, Day 253
Movie #312~1,028: The Suicide Shop (2013)
You can give death to yourself but death is not free.
Plot: A family-run shop that sells everything you need to take your own life finds it hard to focus on business after a new baby — one who makes everyone around him happy — is born into the family.
Review: This certainly is a unique film. An animated musical about a family who makes their living helping people kill themselves is definitely original. The humor is dry and politically incorrect, the imagery is dark and gloomy, and the overall tone (for the most part) is depressing. This is not everyone’s cup of tea but there is no denying that The Suicide Shop is a bold, daring movie.
From the gorgeous French dialogue to the unique animation style, this film is unlike I’ve ever seen and I think that’s a big part of why I enjoyed it so much. I could have done without the cliche ending that doesn’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the film but I was entertained for the entire runtime (which was the perfect length at a brief 75 minutes). More sensitive viewers (or people with past issues with suicidal ideations) might be offended by the graphic imagery and the seemingly callous way the topic is handled but if you can go in with an open mind and don’t take the tongue-in-cheek delivery so seriously, The Suicide Shop is a great choice if you’re looking for a different kind of movie.
Year 2, Day 251
Movie #311~1,027: Expecting (2013)
Seriously, I’m glad you don’t have AIDS.
Plot: When a free spirited woman gets pregnant, she decides to let her friend and husband adopt her baby.
Review: Despite this film’s sloppy storytelling, it is an easy watch and an enjoyable dramedy with enough genuine funny moments and sympathetic quirky characters to make the shaky premise tolerable. It has a heart, albeit an unrealistically simple one, and is much more than a fluffy chick flick. Expecting has numerous faults (an unsatisfying ending being the killer for me) but it is still a nice little movie that tries something a little different than the norm.
What made this movie really work for me was the undeniable chemistry between the lead actresses. Michelle Monaghan and Radha Mitchell were completely believable as zany best friends, complete with inside jokes and adoption promises. Joe Dore and Michael Weston delivered their roles convincingly but it was the female leads that stole the show, especially Monaghan (who bared a striking resemblance to Emma Stone more than once - must have been the bangs and hair color).
Overall, Expecting is a smart, funny movie that successfully combines comedy and drama in a way that doesn’t seem forced. But the director had a lot of subplots to juggle and I found the execution to be a little sloppy and the ending a little rushed. It’s a good film that could have been a great one if the directing and/or writing was tighter. I don’t have any complaints about the acting, which was certainly the saving grace for me.
Year 2, Day 249
Movie #310~1,026: Tiny Furniture (2010)
Do you have the same sense of entitlement as my daughter? ~ Oh, believe me, mine is much worse.
Plot: A college grad returns home to New York to figure out what to do next with her life.
Review: I really can’t decide if I’m a Lena Dunham fan or not. Sometimes I find her writing witty and insightful and refreshingly realistic. But there are other times when she comes off as pretentious, blindly privileged, and naive. I find myself going back and forth with these feelings as I watch Girls and that is precisely how I felt watching this film, Dunham’s directorial and writing debut.
In other words, if you ever watched Girls and wished there was a movie version, you will love Tiny Furniture. Besides a number of the same actors, Dunham’s writing style is clearly evident and the characters are just as self-absorbed and borderline annoying. There is not much of a plot to speak of - the audience is simply invited into Aura’s (Dunham) life for a few weeks. It is a character study that explores the nature of relationships and growing up. Some may find it boring, others overrated, but for the most part, I thought Tiny Furniture was entertaining, despite the fact that I would never be friends with any of the people portrayed.
This was Lena Dunham’s big break, the movie that thrust her into indie stardom and you have to admit that it was impressive, making such an attention-getting film for $65,000, whether you’re a fan of her or not. Like the title suggests, it is a tiny film but it had a lasting impact on her career and for the few privileged college grads that can relate to Aura’s lazy plight.
Year , Day 247
Movie #309~1,025: 7500 (2014)
When you’re removed from your life too quickly, you have to let go of whatever is keeping you here before you can move on.
Plot: Flight 7500 departs Los Angeles International Airport bound for Tokyo. As the overnight flight makes its way over the Pacific Ocean during its ten-hour course, the passengers encounter what appears to be a supernatural force in the cabin.
Review: This is one of those movies that was made and just couldn’t secure a release date. In the case of 7500, it took two years from its original release date of August 2012 to finally come out. Now, this would normally serve as a warning. Obviously, if a film was good or if the production company had any hopes for it, there’s no way it would sit on a shelf for longer than it took to make. (Although, I suspect the Malyasian flight disappearance earlier this year had an affect on whether or not to release a ‘ghost plane’ movie.) But surprisingly, 7500 is a pretty decent thriller. I admit that I was beginning to lose hope around the 45 minute mark but I loved the twist ending so much that it really made up for the lackluster half hour that preceded it.
Once I read that this director was also responsible for the creepy horror The Grudge, my expectations went up a lot. But there are few similarities between the two movies. There are really no jump scares and while there is a somewhat eerie atmosphere, I never really felt anxious or uncomfortable like I felt during The Conjuring or even Paranormal Activity. But it is hard to do an airplane suspense movie and I think Takashi Shimizu did an admirable (if not all that great) job.
The cast is compromised mostly of faces that you recognize but whose names aren’t readily available in your mind. We have Leslie Bibb, Jamie Chung (who I remember from her Real World days, not to date myself or anything), Ryan Kwanten, Amy Smart, and Jerry Ferrera doing their best with average material and while this is definitely a slow burner of a film, none of them phoned in their performances.
I enjoyed the beginning and the ending of the film the most. I liked how all of the characters were introduced and the initial ‘scare’ that really starts the story and I really liked the ending that tied everything together. But it was the second act, the meat of the film where there should have been the most horror and scares, that brought the score down for me. There were just too many different elements thrown at the audience and even though the ending tied up some of the loose ends, it wasn’t enough to bring this film from mediocre to above average. It’s a decent movie but not one that I would see in the theater or spend money to watch on demand.
Year 2, Day 245
Movie 308~1,024: Sparkling Cyanide (1983)
Plot: After a socialite mysteriously dies during a dinner party, her husband and sister start to investigate her death.
Review: This may seem like a random movie to review (and it is) but I just read the Agatha Christie novel this film was adapted from and I wanted to see how the story translated onto screen (albeit the small one). The filmmakers certainly took liberties in terms of changing the setting and characters from British aristocrats in 1930’s England to yuppies in 1980’s California but I had more issues with the actual storytelling than the characters themselves.
At a skint 96 minutes, I thought the run time was far too short to successfully portray the tension or excitement that was so prevalent in the book. The acting is not award worthy by any means but the actors were hindered with the halting script, basically just delivering their lines and moving onto the next scene with no thought to the overall flow of the story. The screenplay really was a letdown considering the interesting material Agatha Christie gave the writers to work with.
I could have looked past the cheesy 80’s jazz score, questionable fashion and hairstyles, and overall TV movie feel if the actual movie delivered half the thrills and excitement of the novel. Unfortunately, the low budget shines through and isn’t the long-forgotten diamond in the rough of 80’s movies of the week that I had small hopes it would be.
Top 9 Movies of August 2014
(In alphabetical order, not including rewatches)
Year 2, Day 234
Movie #307~1,023: A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
Who taught you to shoot? ~ Your wife.
Plot: As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger, announces his arrival.
Review: I don’t understand how there are negative reviews condemning the type of humor utilized in this movie. I mean, I understand that this type of humor is not everyone’s cup of tea but at this point in Seth McFarlane’s career, don’t we all know what kind of jokes will be made? Watch a couple episodes of Family Guy or check out Ted and you’ll have a good idea at what kind of direction this comedy will go in.
Now, saying all that, is A Million Ways to Die in the West a great comedy? No. But I think fans of McFarlane’s will find the jokes funny enough and the over-the-top story entertaining. I laughed out loud enough times for me to call this a decent comedy but it ran a bit too long and relied too much on dick and poop jokes to be downright hilarious. Also, a lot of the best parts of the film were ruined by the trailers (although there are a couple of great cameos that were real bright spots and were the most memorable scenes for me).
While the humor is crude and lowbrow and borders on sexist and racist a few times, I actually found this movie refreshing. It is certainly different and I was never bored. It’s no Blazing Saddles but A Million Ways to Die in the West was a decent movie and McFarlane fans should check it out before judging it.