January's more than half over, but here's the December recap, better late than never -- right? Right? Right?
Awful, unfunny "comedy" "drama" about a struggling performer (Berle, of course) and his rise to fame. Berle is completely unlikeable, proving he was best seen on the small screen (and in small doses). The would-be serious parts are painfully maudlin, and it's stomach turning watching Berle romance his hot-cha-cha co-stars, Virginia Mayo and Ruth Roman.
I like the Bowery Boys as much as the next guy -- heck, more than the next guy, considering we're living in the 21st century and the next guy hasn't even heard of 'em -- but these early efforts are a little dry. Nice shots of giant Mike Mazurski manhandling comparatively tiny Leo Gorcey, but not much to write home about otherwise. Still, I've got a whole set of them from Warner Archives, so there's plenty of potential for improvement.
Barely laughed once. So far, December is a distinctly unfunny month, at least when it comes to comedies. That "Anchorman" sequel had better be much, much better than this lackluster effort, Mr. Ferrell.
Best movie of the month so far. I like the Bowery Boys, but if this so-so vehicle is taking the top title, you know it's tough going for this movie fan. Bonus points, though, for Jane Randolph ("Cat People" and "Curse of the Cat People") in a supporting role.
Now this is more like it. Fascinating documentary about a rich family suddenly hit by hard times. (Don't kid yourself though -- this doesn't mean they lose their home, like you or I would -- it just means they can't build (literally) the biggest house in America.) My favorite scene is when the wife rents a car from Hertz and asks who the driver will be. The expression on the clerk's face is worth the price of admission.
My first-ever concert was to see this Canadian trio during their early 1980s "Grace Under Pressure" tour at the since-demolished Richfield Coliseum, and though my tastes soon shifted the more stripped-down sounds of punk, I never lost my love for Geddy, Alex and Neal. This good-natured doc charts virtually their whole career, revealing them to be down-to-Earth, seemingly genuinely nice guys (though, admittedly, Neal can be a bit prickly). I just wish they'd had something about Geddy's performance on the McKenzie Brother's novelty hit, "Take Off."
Great, great, simply great. One of my favorite movies, and, depending on my mood, my all-time favorite. Lemmon, MacLaine and MacMurray are note-perfect, and they're give stellar support by the rest of the cast. Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's script clicks like a fine Swiss watch, every part perfectly placed but never feeling mechanical or forced. And, as a bonus, it's a Christmas movie -- though a pretty grim one, with infidelity, betrayal and attempted suicide. The shot of Shirley MacLaine's face when MacMurray gives her a $100 bill as a Christmas present is one of the greatest moments in movie history. If you haven't seen this one, stop reading this blog and watch it. Now.
Finally caught up with this highly praised alien invasion movie, and I wasn't a bit disappointed. Simple but insidiously effective, it has just enough twists and turns and some nicely offbeat characters on the front lines of defense. Great eerie alien designs, too.
Like the Avengers? Like the holidays? You'll probably like this epic adventure about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and a reluctant Jack Frost teaming up to stop the Boogie Man. Lots of nice little jokes sprinkled throughout, and I thought the story was genuinely exciting. Didn't light the box office on fire, but I could see it becoming a perennial favorite on video.
What a wonderfully strange little movie this was, managing to tell a story of a tough (to say the least) young girl, her tough (in a different way) dad and the sometimes magical, sometimes terrible world they live in. A movie like this could've gone so wrong in so many ways, but it managed to avoid being mawkish or too cute and instead hit moments that just about take your breath away -- the kids dancing in the brothel, the dad yelling at the storm and, of course, those beasts ... maybe the best special effect of the entire year. (Yes, I coped this text from that post about the best movies of 2012. Sue me. It's my blog.)
Years before they betrayed and murdered each other in "Double Indemnity," Barbara and Fred fell in love in this Christmas-themed comedy/drama. She's a jewel thief, he's the D.A. assigned to convict her, and somehow they wind up at his family's farmhouse for Christmas, complete with perennial movie mom Buelah Bondi playing (who else?) his mother. And the script by the great Preston Sturges delivers both solid jokes and memorable characters. Catch it next Christmas, when TCM is bound to run it a few times.
Glad to see the art of stop-motion animation isn't quite dead yet. I thought this one was a tad overrated, not quite deserving some of the raves I read, but it's a solid, beautiful looking movie with some surprising twists and turns -- and the willingness to actually get scary at the end. Check it out if you haven't already -- and be sure to show your kids.
Ended this year with this 2008 Canadian film that I've had sitting on the (still formidable) unwatched free DVD pile for a few years. It looked like a bit of cheesy horror fun, with a plot that involved an average guy entering the world of Live Action Role Playing to win back his girlfriend (with something going very, very wrong), but turns out it's actually a solid little suspense drama with believable character, nicely realistic interplay between the reality and fantasy of the games and, of course, something going very, very wrong. Should've popped it into the player much sooner.