Movie Review – My Dinner With Andre

My Dinner with Andre (1981)
Written by Andre Gregory & Wallace Shawn
Directed by Louis Malle

Growing up, I heard about My Dinner with Andre in the context of making fun of it. As a young person with limited knowledge of film & art, it did sound like a silly idea for a movie. Two people at dinner talking in real-time. My expectation of film was that you would have the standard five-act structure with conflicts and character arcs. These seemed like a super boring and dumb idea. It became a movie that kept coming up on lists and in internet discourse, so that I developed some respect for it from a distance, still having not watched it. Now I can say it’s one of the best films I’ve watched this year and is a challenging but also easily accessible watch. We’ve all had dinner with people we maybe weren’t elated to see and had to converse with them. In that way, My Dinner with Andre is about a universal experience.

Continue reading “Movie Review – My Dinner With Andre”

Movie Review – The Devil and Max Devlin

The Devil and Max Devlin (1981)
Written by Mary Rodgers
Directed by Steven Hilliard Stern

This Disney film began life in 1973 as a concept developed at Hammer Films. It was going to be called The Fairytale Prince and star Vincent Price as a dead actor who collects children’s souls for The Devil. Now that would have been a movie. Instead, we got this uneven, poorly written & directed embarrassment. By the 1980s, Disney was not in a good spot. Changes in leadership since the death of Walt led to a company that seemed to lack a clear identity. They produced live-action movies like Escape From Witch Mountain or Freaky Friday, which performed poorly at the box office. Their animated fare (The Rescuers, The Fox and The Hound) weren’t doing too well either. But even those look good compared to this one.

Continue reading “Movie Review – The Devil and Max Devlin”

Movie Review – The Great Muppet Caper

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
Written by Tom Patchett, Jay Tarses, Jerry Juhl, and Jack Rose
Directed by Jim Henson

By 1981, the Muppets were a scorchingly hot media franchise. Puppeteer Jim Henson had been growing a collective of fellow puppet enthusiasts since the 1950s. In the late 1960s, he was a major creative force in developing Sesame Street. Throughout the 1970s, Henson pitched the Muppets with a series of television specials. American networks weren’t interested in developing the concept into a television series; however, a British producer was. The Muppet Show debuted in 1978 on ITV and was later aired in first-run syndication on CBS. This led to the Muppet Movie in 1979, and it was clear a sequel would be in the works. Jim Henson had great ambition not just for these characters but the art form of puppetry.

Continue reading “Movie Review – The Great Muppet Caper”

Patron Pick – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Written by Lawrence Hauben & Bo Goldman
Directed by Milos Forman

The United States has had a profoundly complicated relationship with mental health for the entirety of its existence. Mired in the regressive repression of religion, it was seen as proper to punish those with mental illness for behaviors outside of their control and often their understanding. What existed even further beneath the veneer of tough Christian love was a focus on conformity and the expulsion of the aberrant. Those who would not conform to societal norms were verboten, sent off to die inside mental hospitals where they would be brutalized into complete psychological oblivion. This ideology inspired author Ken Kesey to write his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Late nights sitting up with patients at the Menlo Park Veterans’ Hospital led Kesey to believe these people were not insane. Instead, they did not behave within the conventions society had deemed proper, and so they had to be extricated from public existence. 

Continue reading “Patron Pick – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

Movie Review – Moonstruck

Moonstruck (1987)
Written by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Norman Jewison

Moonstruck was a continuation of what a strong journeyman director Norman Jewison was. This time he tackles a screwball romantic comedy that at once hearkens back to his days making movies with Doris Day yet a more modern feminist take on the genre. He works from a screenplay written by John Patrick Shanley, who would write and direct Joe Versus the Volcano and Doubt. This was Shanley’s first screenwriting gig, but he’d been writing for the theater since the early 1980s. Moonstruck is an enchanted picture, much like Joe Versus the Volcano; it’s a subtly heightened world where the moon can appear exaggeratedly large in the sky and have a magical effect on the people of New York City.

Continue reading “Movie Review – Moonstruck”

Movie Review – …And Justice For All

…And Justice For All (1979)
Written by Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson
Directed by Norman Jewison

By the late 1970s, Norman Jewison had returned to his home country of Canada. He was getting reliable work and was known for being a director who would get the job done. Jewison would never become someone lumped into the auteur camp; he would be known more as journeyman director. This term refers to filmmakers who lack a distinct style and can take jobs in a multitude of genres delivering movies that range from adequate to fantastic. While directors like Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg are known for trademarks images or tones, Jewison was comfortable maneuvering into a much more varied territory. Just before …And Justice For All, he has directed FIST, a union drama loosely based on Jimmy Hoffa. The film was well-received by critics as a decent movie but nothing spectacular. This courtroom drama would be seen as an improvement, delivering an emotionally powerful story.

Continue reading “Movie Review – …And Justice For All”

Patron Pick – Chef

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Chef (2014)
Written & Directed by Jon Favreau

I can’t say I have ever loved the work of Jon Favreau. I watched and moderately enjoyed his early career. I am one of those people who was confounded by the adverse reaction to Made. I think it was one of the few times I laughed at Vince Vaughn. His cringy dumb guy who thinks he is smart schtick made me laugh. I never found his studio pictures like Elf, Zathura, or Iron Man very remarkable. It could undoubtedly be an age thing when it comes to those pictures. So when Chef originally came out, it zoomed past my radar with zero interest in watching it. The world would keep spinning. However, my brother and patron Matt chose this for his April pick, so I sat down and watched the thing.

Continue reading “Patron Pick – Chef”

Movie Review – Shiva Baby

Shiva Baby (2021)
Written & Directed by Emma Seligman

As I get older, my personal definition of what makes a horror film both expands and retracts. The funhouse jumpscare-a-thons that have been accepted as what horror is in major theatrical releases misses the whole point of the genre for me. I think Ari Aster’s pictures are as close to popular horror that I enjoy. I think what’s missing from most of these movies is the building of atmosphere. There are tense strings on the soundtrack, and then a loud burst with something that might be related to the horror or not popping onto the screen. Shiva Baby feels like a personal horror movie to me, the story of a person whose decisions in life have caught up to her and play out almost in real-time. It has those same strings playing on the soundtrack, but they rarely give us the climax we’re expecting and just keep needling at the sanity of our protagonist. It’s one of the tensest movie-watching experiences I’ve had in 2021 so far.

Continue reading “Movie Review – Shiva Baby”

Movie Review – Bad Trip

Bad Trip (2020)
Written by Dan Curry, Eric Andre, and Kitao Sakurai
Directed by Kitao Sakurai

When you are watching a film like Bad Trip, a fictional narrative where unaware participants are being pranked and filmed, a certain balance has to be maintained. People have come to see the movie based on the pranks’ outrageousness and in anticipation of seeing how the bystanders react. This means, if you lean too far into the narrative, people are disappointed. But you certainly don’t want to just put a prank compilation in theaters because that doesn’t justify the ticket price. This balance is crucial for a movie like Bad Trip to work, and I am happy to say it’s probably one of the best in this subgenre I’ve ever seen. I had a clear understanding of every character and their motivation, and the pranks were fantastic.

Continue reading “Movie Review – Bad Trip”

Movie Review – The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966)
Written by William Rose
Directed by Norman Jewison

In the 1960s, the Cold War was at a wild peak. Just three years before this film, the United States & Cuba went through a terrifying week of possible nuclear war. In the 1940s & 50s, dozens of Hollywood screenwriters, actors, and other people in the industry were labeled as communists or sympathizers to the Soviet Union. Jewison never really hid his left-leaning political views but knew to reveal them slowly as he became a more prominent director in Hollywood. For The Cincinnati Kid, he worked with blacklist screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. on the script. Going even further was this film, a comedy that reveals Americans’ twisted ideology during this manic period. Jewison still finds empathy for these people and seeks to find a place of mutual understanding. 

Continue reading “Movie Review – The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”