Author Archives: Mike Bobbitt

57. Zardoz (365 Days of Movies)

I wanted to revisit this….well…that may be too strong.  I felt as though I should revisit this if I planned to write about it, but to be honest, I can’t.  So here it is by memory.

Zardoz is a weird maybe late 60s/early 70s science fiction type movie starring Sean Connery.  But it’s not good.  It’s like Star Trek original series beaming down to a planet level sci-fi.  Sean Connery runs around in an outfit that’s a cross between Borat’s swimsuit and Milla’s onesie from Fifth Element.  He has a pony tail and a lot of people get naked.  The big reveal at the end is that Zardoz is actually the wiZARD of OZ.  I think a future civilization worships the book as a bible or something too.  It sounds like something that should be a subplot of Idiocracy, but it isn’t.  It’s not supposed to be a comedy.  It’s insane.  I think Sean Connery turned down a James Bond movie to make this too.  It’s a disaster, but a disaster you should run out and see.  I’m frankly shocked this hasn’t become a midnight cult sensation like Rocky Horror.

Tomorrow…I have no idea.  I may be done with this.  I made the mistake of looking at how many people read these.

56. Your Highness (365 Days of Movies)

I love Your Highness.  I own it on Blu-Ray.  It parodies all the sword and sorcery movies I grew up with.  David Gordon Green was largely known for making small character pieces, but this was his follow up to Pineapple Express.  I kind of feel bad that he met with so much flack, particularly for this movie.  Since it, he’s gone back to smaller stories like Prince Avalanche.  Why can’t a film maker do different things?  I think it’s great.  Danny McBride wrote this with his partner Ben Best.  It’s a showcase for McBride to do what he does best.  It took my a little while to get into sync with McBride’s work, but once I did, I was totally on board.  He finds a way to make the audience root for the most unlikable characters.  Justin Theroux stands out too as the movie’s villain.  He’s another person, like Jennifer Lawrence yesterday, who has yet to swing and miss with me.  I feel like of all the critics, it’s only David Edelstein from NPR Fresh Air who got it right in recognizing that this movie really does weave between low and highbrow humor.  Granted…there’s a whole lot more of the lowbrow, but it works.  Sometimes movies look like the cast and crew were having all the fun and the audiences just had to be there.  But for me, Your Highness seemed like a lot of fun to make and it’s a lot of fun to watch too.  Like I said, I grew up on the movies that this is an homage to.

Tomorrow….finally the end of this alphabetical thing.  While it would be easiest for me to just write about another film I love like Zombieland…I’m going to do something more ambitious and revisit Sean Connery at his weirdest and worst!

55. X-Men: First Class (365 Days of Movies)

It’s kind of hard to find X movie titles.  You’ve got either the X-Men movies or the XXX franchise.  X-Men: First Class is my favorite of the X-Men movies.  It’s set in 1962 and it’s about the formation of the X-Men.  I’ve never read an X-Men comic in my life.  I have no idea how much the movie gets “wrong” when it comes to the comics, but I don’t care.  This is kind of sacrilege for me to say, but these movies may be more effective than the Star Wars prequels.  There aren’t the HUGE issues with continuity with this prequel as there are in the Star Wars prequels.  Sure, maybe the ages of the mutants don’t quite add up, but they’re mutants.  Maybe they age different.  I like the idea of Magneto and Xavier starting off as allies.  I feel like it makes the weight of their rivalry in the other X-Men movies feel weightier.

And my favorite thing about this movie…aside from Jennifer Lawrence, who I think we can all agree has a pretty solid track record for doing really good work in everything…is Hugh Jackman’s cameo and one line.

Tomorrow, in a perfect world I’d be able to continue the comic trend and cover the movie adaptation of Y: The Last Man…but since that’s not a thing yet, a movie that I may be alone in loving.

54. Watchmen (365 Days of Movies)

So the biggest criticism with V for Vendetta seemed to be that too much of the book was cut out of the movie and it would have worked better as a mini-series.  Watchmen is available in a complete edition on Blu-Ray.  It includes everything!  It even includes Tales of the Black Freighter as animated sequences.  I own it.  I’ve read Watchmen a few times.  I have not watched this ultimate edition yet.  I’ve tried.  It’s long.  Maybe too long.  I guess my point is that sometimes it’s best to cut down something to fit the art form.  I really like the theatrical release of Watchmen.  Granted there are some major differences.  The biggest probably being that the comic is really mostly about normal people becoming costumed heroes.  Not super heroes.  Just costumed heroes.  Dr. Manhattan is really the only super man.  The movie version…well…everyone seems to have some sort of super ability.  I didn’t feel the stakes that I felt in the comics.  All of the Watchmen seem indestructible in the movie.

Watchmen, like V For Vendetta, takes comic book tropes and puts them in a world where there are real consequences.  That’s what interests me about Alan Moore’s writing.  I’ve never had an strong interest in most superheroes because there aren’t any major stakes.  The biggest flaw of the most recent Superman movie is that Metropolis is basically destroyed in part by the hand of Superman, who never makes an effort to take the battle away from civilization.  Watchmen addresses stuff like that.  And that’s why it’s my favorite superhero comic book and movie.

Tomorrow, more superheroes.

53. V for Vendetta (365 Days of Movies)

Let’s do an Alan Moore double feature.  I bet you’ll never guess what tomorrow’s movie that will start with W will be.

Alan Moore is so curmudgeonly.  He made sure his name was no where to be found on V for Vendetta.  I don’t know why.  I didn’t read the entire book.  I wasn’t a big fan of the art.  Plus, as Alan Moore writing tends to be, it’s a very, very dense book.  I don’t know that I ever really saw the movie before today either.

It was good.  It’s basically Leon: The Professional only with a Guy Fawkes mask.  I can totally see how 9-11 inside job conspiracy theorists get their ideas.  This, for all intend and purposes is a superhero movie.  It’s a little bit Superman and a little bit Phantom of the Opera…with a dash of 1984 thrown in for good measure.

This may be my favorite thing the Wachowskis have made.  The story moves along at a good clip.  It’s coherent.  Most of the criticism I found online is that this was too much of an abbreviated version of the book.  Fine.  So what?  It’s a different art form than the book.  If you want to know more, read the book.

I will say that I’m curious how I would have felt about this movie if I had seen it in 2005.  Nowadays there are so many acts of terror in the world that it’s kind of hard for me to watch a movie that could arguably romanticize terrorism.  Still though, the movie version of the character V has noble intentions…ah….I don’t know…I’m guessing many terrorists have noble intentions in their minds.  I think that’s what I like about this movie.  It’s a thinker.  On final note, it was also kind of neat that John Hurt played the ruler of this dystopian future when in 1984 he played a victim of it.

Tomorrow…who watches the Watchmen?  Me.

52. Under the Skin (365 Days of Movies)

Everybody who has seen Under the Skin seems to have loved it except for me.  I’m not sure why.  I like artsy fartsy movies.  I like weird science fiction.  I like random nudity.  I like movies that are open to interpretation.  I just didn’t like this at all.

Basically, Scarlet Johansson is Natasha Henstridge from Species.  She’s an alien who seduces and exterminates men.  But you know how Species had a beginning and an end?  Under the Skin doesn’t.  It’s the second act of a three act story.  The viewer is left to figure out all that stuff…you know…the plot.

I’m fine with ambiguity.  I like that people have entirely different interpretations to the ending of Birdman.  Because there was an ending to Birdman!  Under the Skin doesn’t have an ending or a beginning.  It’s just a series of unfortunate events.

Scarjo has been praised for her performance, which is basically a blank slate with the exception of when she’s trying to get the non-actors in her van.  Maybe I’m jaded from having been in LA for too long, but a lot of actors are blank slates when not given anything to do.

A lot of reviewers who I usually agree with absolutely loved this movie.  I’ll be the first to admit that maybe I missed something.  I’d just like someone to maybe help me in finding out what that thing was that I missed.  I just feel that not writing a first or third act, but stretching a second act out into 90 minutes is lazy.

Tomorrow, it’s not a documentary, but it’s a movie that felt like it could have been one.  It’s a movie that completely ruined my comfort level when it came to working for some comedy bookers and the shit-holes they pass off for hotels.

51. They Live (365 Days of Movies)

1988’s They Live started a huge art movement.  Even before moving to LA I was aware of the Shepard Fairey “Obey” street art.  It was only after revisiting They Live that I realized this movie inspired that.  If you haven’t seen They Live, then how are we possibly friends?  That’s insane.  Here’s a quick recap though.  Rowdy Roddy Piper finds magical sunglasses that let him see the aliens and their secret messages that are all around us.    This is also where the now infamous line “I came here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum” first came to be.  Oh yeah, and there’s an insane super long fist fight in the middle of the movie between Piper and the great Keith David.  This movie is fantastic fun and still holds up.  I’d love to see a double feature of this and Repo Man.  Both are great looks at 80’s Los Angeles with a bit of punk rock and science fiction.

Oh yeah…and one time Piper tweeted that this is a documentary.  So there’s that!

Tomorrow, a fictional movie shot partly documentary style…lots of nudity…but I seem to be one of the few people who didn’t like it.

50. Staircase (365 Days of Movies)

After yesterday’s completely horrifying and depressing Restrepo, I really wanted to watch something light.  I started watching Samsara as the antidote, but after too many shots of dead babies I had to tap out.  Two shots of dead babies.  One is more than enough.

So instead I’ll write about a documentary I watched a little while back.  The Staircase is a 2004 documentary (originally a mini-series) about the 2001 trial of author Michael Peterson who was accused of murdering his wife.  I think I heard about this when David Cross mentioned it in an interview saying that he kept going back and forth between thinking Peterson did or didn’t do it.  I didn’t have that same reaction.  Right from the get go I thought, “oh yeah, he totally did it.”  Then as the evidence piles on, it just kept cementing that thought in my head.  I never had any doubt.

Here’s a quick overview of the details.  Peterson and his wife were home alone by the pool.  He said she went inside and later when he went inside he found her laying at the bottom of the stairs in a pool of blood.  So he called 911.  The blood splatters on the wall appear to indicate she was hit with something like a fireplace tool…which is coincidentally missing.  Oh yeah, and Michael Peterson is secretly having affairs with men.  Oh yeah…and he was at the center of a strangely similar “accident” in Europe a few years prior.  Oh yeah…and he’s an author who writes about the joys of killing.  Oh yeah…and he fucking did it!

The sad thing is that they had children.  Okay, the sad thing is that a lady was killed.  The other sad thing is that they had children.  Their kids kind of stick with their dad and believe he’s innocent.  Um…do they not spend enough time with their parents?  I love my parents to death.  I know they love each other to death.  But I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if I got a call that one of them snapped and killed the other.  That’s what happens when you’re with someone forever.  My parents have been married for almost 43 years.  I’m amazed every day that they haven’t murdered one another.  Not because they don’t love each other, but because they do love each other!  So for the Peterson kids to not think their dad killed their mom is naive.

After listening to the Serial Podcast I wanted to find another crime podcast.  I can’t remember which one I found, but the first episode ended up being peripherally about this case.  One of the latest theories was that maybe an owl got into the house and killed the mom.  Sure.

Tomorrow, it’s not a documentary, but the former wrestler star thinks it might be.

49. Restrepo (365 Days of Movies)

I am hugely honored to have been picked to perform for the troops later this year.  I’m beyond thrilled.  Whatever your politics are, there’s no denying the bravery of our soldiers.  Restrepo is a year in the life of one of the bravest platoons stationed in the most dangerous valley in Afghanistan.

This documentary is brutal.  Many of the soldiers have cameras mounted to their helmets and you get a rare first hand look at the thick of battle.  The cameras don’t shy away from showing the brutality of war both with shots of our troops and civilians.

Just like people say you should watch Food Inc. if you eat meat.  I feel like everyone should watch Restrepo if they want to criticize our brave soldiers and the heroic job they do.

Tomorrow…I don’t know yet…but I’m really hoping I find something lighter.

48. Quick and the Dead (365 Days of Movies)

After Army of Darkness, Michigan native Sam Raimi got his chance at his first big studio picture.  Allegedly, The Quick and the Dead star Sharon Stone handpicked Sam Raimi to direct this pretty amazing western.  What’s cool about it is that it’s a genre movie, but still has a lot of that Raimi flavoring that lets you know it’s definitely his movie.

The other remarkable thing about The Quick and The Dead is its remarkable cast.  Sharon Stone basically plays Clint Eastwood.  Also reversing the gender role is Russell Crowe in his American debut.  Stone also picked Leonardo DiCaprio, who at this point only had What’s Eating Gilbert Grape as the high point of his resume.  Gene Hackman plays the villain.  The rest of the cast is rounded out by some great character actors like the Saw series’ Tobin Bell, Aliens’ Lance Henriksen, Platoon’s Keith David, and 30 Days of Nights’ Mark Boone Junior.  It’s a stellar cast of people really playing their colorful characters to the nines.

Another little bit of trivia is apparently no one knew how to end the movie.  The plot is that there’s a contest to find the quickest draw in the west.  Gunfighters face off against each other in the street.  Hackman’s character changes the rules so that the gunfights are to the death and of course the two heroes, Stone and Crowe have to face each other.  Joss Whedon got the script out of the corner it painted itself into.  Remember, this is 1995.  The only thing Whedon had really done at this point was write the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.  He was also a staff writer on Roseanne.

What makes The Quick and the Dead so special is that it’s the first time a lot of people who went on to great things got their first shot (no pun intended).  And right now while I’m eagerly anticipating my first shot, this one really spoke to me!

Tomorrow, another documentary.  This one, brutal.

47. Paul Williams Still Alive (365 Days of Movies)

There are a couple documentaries I’ve seen that kind of transcend what they are.  Two that come to mind off the top of my head are F is for Fake and Exit Through the Gift Shop.  Both play with the perceived reality of the art form.  Paul Williams Still Alive does that too, although I’m not sure if that’s intentional.

Filmmaker Stephen Kessler loves Paul Williams.  I get that.  While I’m probably about five years younger than Kessler, I loved Paul Williams for a lot of the same reasons.  I saw him on screen and related to how he looked physically.  Williams was a short, chubby guy with shaggy blonde hair.  So am I.  But Paul Williams was a God.  There was something about that confident smirk that made you realize he was totally cool with being Paul Williams.  I’m old enough to remember him on all the variety shows and loved that there was always something different about his songs.  They were catchy, but at the same time they were sometimes a little dark.

I love the movie A Star Is Born.  The version with Kris Kristoferson and Barbra Streisand.  Kristoferson’s John Norman Howard lead a pretty cool band that wore Halloween masks and sang about a devilish property called Hellacious Acres in a song written by Paul Williams.  Yeah, someone super cool like Kris Kristoferson, who stood in for Han Solo during the Osmond’s Star Wars nod in their variety show, was standing in for Paul Williams in a movie!  Paul Williams was Han Solo cool, to borrow a phrase from my buddy songwriter/comedian Mikey Mason.

I think what Kessler wanted to do with his documentary was show how his interest in Paul Williams saved him from obscurity and brought him back into the public consciousness where he belongs.  I get that.  I will champion the late Dave Brockie as an under appreciated artist until the day I die.   What Kessler didn’t count on was the fact that Paul Williams didn’t need saving or championing.  He’s fine.

The best moments of this film are when Williams confronts Kessler directly and calls him out for wanting to create cliche documentary moments.  And some of those moments are really insulting.  Instead of being a documentary about a man who drifted off into obscurity regretting losing the fame he once had, this film becomes something entirely different.  It’s a documentary about a filmmaker who decided in advance the story he wanted to tell and follows his attempts to get that story told even though that story isn’t real at all.

Paul Williams isn’t a man living with regret.  He’s a man living in the present.  And that’s a more riveting story.  Nothing is more depressing that trying to cross some intangible finish line.  True happiness is learning to enjoy the journey.  Paul Williams seems to be enjoying his journey.  And that’s pretty cool.  For a man who wrote so many melancholy songs in the 70s, today he seems to be a man who is truly at peace.

I loved this film, in spite of this film…if that makes any sense.  When forced at the end to literally face the past, Williams walks away because dwelling in the past and carrying the burden of regret is a heavy and pointless load.  I was glad to see that the outer swagger that Williams had in his 30s matches the inner peace he has in his 70s.

Tomorrow, let’s go back to Detroit and see a big studio debut that features a cavalcade of great actors.

46. Once (365 Days of Movies)

Technically Once isn’t a documentary, but it feels like one.  It’s the sweetest movie about a platonic relationship I think I’ve ever seen.  A guitar playing busker meets a house cleaning pianist and together the write and record songs.  It sounds simple because it is.  It’s simple and simply delightful.  There aren’t any giant conflicts.  It’s just, like a good song, a thing that reflects a feeling or a moment in time.  Like Kinky Boots, this is another one where I really regret not seeing the stage version.  Cristin Milioti played the Girl on Broadway.  While I think she’s really great, part of why I like this original movie version is because the leads were unknown to me.  Maybe that’s why it feels almost like a documentary.  In a way, it kind of is.  Or at the very least, this is a case of art imitating life or life imitating art.  The two leads, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova did end up becoming a song writing and performing duo.

Tomorrow, another movie about music…and one that I’ve been waiting to write about for awhile now.  See you then.

45. Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (365 Days of Movies)

Coincidentally, I watched this four hour documentary about the making of all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies one night while I was trying to sleep.  I ended up staying awake for the entire thing because I got super invested.  If Freddy Krueger were a real guy, he would’ve been screwed trying to get me that night.

I grew up on horror movies.  One of my earliest memories is my parents taking the family to see The Omen at the Drive In in 1976.  As soon as the nanny hangs herself at Damian’s birthday, I started screaming like a banshee and the family had to go home.  Only years later did I realize that the nanny hangs herself like two minutes into the movie.  It must have sucked for my parents to try to go out with a 4 year old and a 2 year old.  Movies seemed to be a big thing for my parents.  Unless I got the story wrong, I think they went to see Airport the night before I was born.  Although, since that movie came out in 1970, maybe I have the movie wrong.  Oh no, what if they lied to me about my age?

Anyway, later on my aunt would watch me and my brother so my parents could have some peace and quiet.  My aunt loved scary movies.  She took us to see them all.  Sleepaway Camp, which I’m sure I’ll get to at some point in time this year, scarred me for a long time until I rewatched it as an adult.

My mom had a rule too during the era of VCRs.  I was allowed to rent Rated R movies from the local video store as long as they were rated R for violence and not for sex.  How very American of us!  In all fairness, I had a subscription to Fangoria at an early age so the big treat for me was seeing the effects I read about in action on the screen.  I loved the mechanics of horror movies.

I went through all of the Friday the 13th movies quickly, so next I moved onto Freddy and the Elm Street franchise.  I loved Robert Englund.  To me, he was the best part of the television mini-series V.  I couldn’t wait to see nerdy “Willie” playing a disfigured haunter of dreams.    I think the reason I got into the band S.O.D. was because they did a song about Freddy Krueger.

With that in mind, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Elm Street movies.  That’s why I popped it on to help me sleep.  This documentary is one of the best films about film.  It covers every aspect of the series.  New Line was the house that Elm Street built.  This film is thorough.  It goes through ever film showing behind the scenes stuff shot at the time as well as interviews with the filmmakers and cast in present day who maybe reflect a little more honestly.  My favorite parts were when the homoerotic undertones of Nightmare 2 were addressed and when the kid from New Nightmare talks about what it was like to be a child on set.

My favorite bit of trivia I didn’t know before was the Lin Shaye, the phenomenal character actor, who I first remember as Magda in There’s Something About Mary, played multiple roles in the franchise.  So there’s that!

Tomorrow, let’s get sweet…y’know, as a belated Valentine’s Day thing.

44. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (365 Days of Movies)

Sometimes…often times…it’s best not to know how the sausage is made.

I went to high school in the late 80s.  I’m old enough to remember the first time Metallica “jumped the shark”.  How dare a metal band make a music video?  Posers listened to And Justice For All.  “Real” Metallica fans stuck to Cliff Burton era Metallica.

Okay, those were the real thoughts of my teenager peers.  The fact is, when most of my diehard metalhead friends stopped liking bands, I started loving them.  And Justice For All is a great album.  Slayer’s South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss are also great albums.

Metallica is a great band because they’ve managed to stay relevant and change with the times, while maintaining their sense of identity.

I was in bands in the early 90s and I can tell you it’s not easy.  Being in a band is like being married to a bunch of people.  It’s full of compromises.    It’s hard to think of our heroes as people.  In the early 90s I was lucky enough to get to go to Richmond a few times and help out the band Gwar with their props for their annual October tours.  The reality of those guys is that they had day jobs and sometimes slept in sleeping bags in their Slave Pit.  Being in a band isn’t easy on any level.  Metallica is no different.

Some Kind of Monster is a look at the process that went into recording their St. Anger album.  In it we see them as people.  They bicker.  They deal with insecurities.  They try to mend burned bridges.  They act like a bunch of babies at times.  A lot of times I felt like bassist Robert Trujillo, the newest member of Metallica, who, for the most part, sits there with a blank expression waiting for the drama to end so they can make music.  And it’s not that Robert is some newbie naive musician.  He’s a vet who’s been in the business as long as the guys in Metallica.  He was in Suicidal Tendencies and was part of Ozzy Osbourne’s band.   Many times while watching this documentary, I just wanted to jump into the TV, nudge Trujillo and give him a “what the fuck?” face.

Maybe it’s because there’s still a teenage headbanger in me, but after seeing Some Kind of Monster and seeing my metal Gods humanized…well…I kinda liked Metallica a little less.

Sympathy for the Devil is a neat documentary about the Rolling Stones recording that song.  Granted, we don’t learn anything about the Stones in it, but we do get to go through the process with them.  Maybe what didn’t work for me with Some Kind of Monster is that I felt like I got to know too much about Metallica.

For my P documentary on the 16th, I’ll take a look at a movie about another musical artist who maybe realized during the documentary that privacy isn’t such a bad thing.  Tomorrow, dissecting another big thing from my teen years.

43. Locke (365 Days of Movies)

Sometimes a film can get lost in stunt film making.  I didn’t love Birdman and I think it’s because I couldn’t get past the gimmick of it being shot to look like one long take.  I was hyper aware of the edits and was distracted from start to finish.  I also found myself nitpicking, possibly because of that.

Locke is kind of a stunt too, but for me it was a stunt that works.  99% of the movie happens in the car with Tom Hardy playing the titular Locke.  I need to write a piece for Arsenic Lullaby about how I think Tom Hardy may be the greatest actor working today.  Physically he just becomes a chameleon disappearing in every character he plays.  To think that the hulking monster in Bronson and Dark Knight Rises is the same debonair guy in Inception or the droopy bartender in The Drop blows my mind.  He’s such a physical actor that it’s incredibly cool to see how he plays a part like Locke, where he’s confined to the driver’s seat.

The movie is about Locke driving to handle an affair, but juggles both business and personal phone calls along the way.  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but trust me.  It’s a great movie.  I have a hard time focusing on movies and not playing games on my phone while watching or surfing the web.  Locke had me hooked.

There was a study done about how talking on the phone in the car with a hands free device isn’t significantly safer than holding the phone because the issue is that part of your brain imagines visually what’s happening on the other end of the call.  That’s the power of Locke.  Just like we didn’t need to see the shark in Jaws to imagine it, we don’t need to see the other end of the phone calls in Locke to imagine them.  He speaks with some amazing actors on his journey.  There’s Ruth Wilson, who was horribly underused in Lone Ranger, but is wonderful in Saving Mr. Banks.  Olivia Colman is an actress who just delights the shit out of me.  She’s one of those people who just does both comedy and drama so well.  She was in Broadchurch and plays Nick Frost’s sister in Cuban Fury.  Olivia Colman is amazing!  Andrew Scott is one of the phone voices too.  Last year he was also quite great in Pride…a movie much like yesterday’s Kinky Boots that I’m a sucker for.

Locke is great.  The reason the “stunt” works so well is because it puts you in Locke’s shoes.  The audience is trapped in his car, just like he is.  If only we could all get out we could fix everything in Locke’s world.  But we can’t.  So we’re just going to have to sit there with him and do the best that we can.

Tomorrow a documentary that worked maybe a little too well.

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