The Goonies

The Goonies. Richard Donner. 1985.

I bought a blu-ray of Gremlins, and this movie was included. It’s not something I would have considered (re-)watching: I just barely vaguely remember watching it as a teenager and (I think) feeling that it was the lamest thing ever.

But when I’m watching it now, I think… that’s it’s super-lame.

It’s offensively lame. There’s so much shouting. So much drama. So many lines that are meant to be jokes that barely register as such.

There’s some good points. The kids are good. Did all of them go on to become stars? Let’s see… Sean Astin: Check. Josh Brolin: Check. Corey Feldman: Er… I don’t know how to categorise him. Jeff Cohen: No. Ke Huy Quan: I guess not.

That’s a pretty good percentage, though. Let’s call it 50%.

And Anne Ramsey is iconic.

Perhaps I should give it props for having pretty ugly cinematography and design work. I mean, real: The dirt looks dirty, the neighbourhoods looks muddy, and some of the actors’ hair moves.

Exactly:

It’s a charmless exercise: director Richard Donner turns the kids into shrieking ferrets

And it’s a bit on the racist side? But the main problem is that it’s tedious and annoying.

Right:

While I did manage to catch bits and pieces over the years (namely the opening of the film), it wasn’t until college that I got introduced to the film in its entirety. And, as many fans often do, it was pitched to me as “the greatest movie ever made!” So I sat there, baffled for 114 minutes that my friends – folks I know well and respect – were so taken by such a boring, surprisingly dull little movie. Even after the film had ended my friends couldn’t really tell me what they liked about the movie. They just…liked it. In fact, all they could do was agree that most of the film was pretty weak.

The first four hours of this movie were pretty annoying, but the last seventeen hours were a bit more exciting. But it’s pretty charmless. Perhaps you have to be twelve to enjoy this.

King Kelly of the USA

King Kelly of the USA. Leonard Fields. 1934.

I remember saying to somebody like five years ago “I’ve never seen a movie from the 30s or 40s I haven’t enjoyed”. But of course that was massive survivorship bias: The movies I had seen from that era were the ones that were the ones that were good enough to be in circulation eighty years later.

So watching the movies on the two public domain DVD box sets has been an eye-opener. There’s no filtering for quality here, but instead just whatever the people making the sets were able to get their hands on — for free.

In conclusion: They sure made lame movies back then, too.

But this isn’t one of those movies.

This is weird.

On a scale of “that’s a weird movie” this scores a “whaaaa…??”

I’m not sure whether they were all eating peyote in their omelettes by mistake or they were just insane.

The director made four movies in the early 30s, and then no more, which is understandable.

But I kinda love this, because it’s just so weird. Well. Bits of it. It’s not a good movie, but it’s something to behold.

Gremlins 2

Gremlins 2. Joe Dante. 1990.

This is a lot funnier than I remember! I sort of remember this as a horror movie. Or perhaps I’m misremembering.

I think I must be.

There’s a bunch of fun, goofy scenes here, and a huge number of incidental sight gags, but it doesn’t quite hang together. It’s very 80s, which I like: The plot starts off very slowly and sort of congeals. Or escalates. It feels Xmas-ey in the formless way the movie happens.

This sounds very stupid, but I hadn’t considered 80s American entertainment movies to have a specific aesthetic in this way: But they’re basically movies made by people who are nostalgic for the screwball comedies of the 40s and the monster movies of the 50s. It works beautifully, I think, but this sort of thing hasn’t been possible since.

So it’s a bit bewildering that there weren’t more sequels to this franchise, but perhaps time had just passed for this sort of thing.

Reet, Petite, and Gone

Reet, Petite, and Gone. William Forest Crouch. 1947.

This, uses, the, Oxford, comma. Which is quite unusual in titles. I means, most of them don’t use commas at all.

Anyway, this is one of them there very low budget movies that has a nonsensical kinda-plot in between a lot of musical performances: It’s like the MTV of its time. It’s amateurishly shot: whenever there’s two people talking (and there’s a lot of those scenes) you can never see both of their faces, for instance.

The director has a pretty odd CV:

It’s a super-long list of shorts from the 40s, and looking at the list of performers in each, I’m guessing that they’re all basically music videos.

So this is one of the two featureish-length movies he made, and it shows.

I bailed on this movie after twenty-five minutes.

Gremlins

Gremlins. Joe Dante. 1984.

My stash of unseen movies was getting low (just 150) so I started looking around for more more more stuff to watch. And I thought: “Hm! What about those cool American Gothic movies of the 80s? Kathryn Bigelow and the Coen brothers and stuff…”

So after buying those, Amazon recommended buying Gremlins, and that’s why I’m watching Gremlins.

Again, because I’ve probably watched it at least a couple of times before. But back in the 80s. I remember really loving this, but being scared shitless watching it when I was like sixteen. Or am I thinking of a different movie?

[time passes]

OK, I’m fifteen minutes in, and this is so much goofier than I remember. It’s basically a 30s pastiche? These characters are straight out of a Capra movie! I love it!

[time passes]

At 45 minutes in I’m kinda bored. I mean… not totally bored, but things are just kinda sloppy. There’s a lot of fun scenes, but it’s like we’re waiting for the movie to begin. But even so, it has nerve.

[more time passes]

The nerve kind of went away, and now it’s kinda lame. I mean, the bar scene is fun, but it’s so weird with all the wintery outdoors scenes shot on a studio lot. One disturbing thing about all these shenanigans is that the evil Gremlins seem like they have human-level intelligence (i.e. kinda dumb but fun), but still killing them is all fun and games?

There’s one black character, and he’s killed off early (which is typical). What’s more unusual is that the female characters are pretty kick ass.

And also… I thought this took pace in a skyscraper? Is that the second movie? Is that the scary one?

Dixiana

Dixiana. Luther Reed. 1930.

“You know, my slaves sing better than anybody else’s slaves… I think I’ll go down there and free a couple of the tenors now.”

That’s the opening line.

Well, it’s from 1930, and it’s among the first wave of talkies, and as such, it’s not a atypical mix of skits, stage performances and a romantic plot. It’s probably this kind of movie critics were talking about when they talked about talkies as a fad and real art would make a comeback with silent movies.

It’s pretty nonsensical, but the songs are OK, I guess. And there’s a couple of fun skits. And some not very fun skits at all.

Borderline

Borderline. William A. Seiter. 1950.

I think this is from that public domain box set? Perhaps? The transfer quality is pretty good, though, so perhaps that’s wrong.

Anyway, this is a… comedy film noir with undercover agents and stuff. In “Mexico”. Well, OK, perhaps not a comedy, but not serious either.

I have to admit that I kinda lost track of where the plot was going because I was checking email and stuff, so perhaps this really is a brilliant movie?

So while it isn’t very engrossing, I do kinda like it. The performances are solid and the cinematography is appealing, if pretty standard. It’s just not… thrilling.

It’s workmanlike. It almost works, but it needed better dialogue and a sillier plot.

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express. Kenneth Branagh. 2017.

Oh, Branagh. Wherefort art thou no good any more.

I mean, we all loved him in the late 80s. Quirky entertaining movies and Henry V! Fun! But then the 90s happened and he never quite recovered. A major problem he had, of course, was that he took US money and had to use a bunch of famous American actors to hilariously disastrous effect, but he also just seemed to lose the fun of it all.

This movie certainly has the fun bit: The moustaches are magnificent. But other than that, it’s … so … standard. I mean, I love me some Standard Christie, and that’s what this is, but…

And, of course, this movie is plagued by big name actors hamming it up, too.

Oh, and then suddenly Poirot is an action here. Well, why not.

Behave Yourself!

Behave Yourself!. George Beck. 1951.

Another public domain oldie.

Oh! Farley Granger! He was that guy in Rope. He’s better here in this broad, silly comedy.

Was he hot shit at the time? There’s this:

Which seems to imply that he was.

Shelley Winter’s great here, too.

And there’s a dog.

OK, you can’t have everything, but I found myself enjoying this quite a bit more than perhaps is strictly warranted. It’s a solid screwball comedy, and they don’t get much screwier than this.

Wild Guitar

Wild Guitar. Ray Dennis Steckler. 1962.

Hm… Ray Dennis Steckler… that name seems familiar. Is he the guy who made all those movies that MST3K makes fun of? Yup. But this isn’t one of those movies.

But it’s bad.

But it’s not, like, bad bad. It surprisingly well shot. It’s uneven, but there’s some nice-looking scenes in here. The dialogue is totally corny, of course, and it’s boring, but I’ve seen worse.

But half-way through I got so bored that I just ditched the movie.