Part of the movie weekend was lost- in the best way possible- to Mother’s Day, when I took my mother to a baseball game. She got a floppy red St. Louis Cardinals sun hat out of the deal. But the rest of the weekend featured at least a few films, including a few strangely (and inadvertently) Mother’s Day-themed titles, a Woody Allen film, more Satyajit Ray, and a trippy little counterculture relic starring Ringo Starr. This is the movie weekend that was.
The Mummy (1959)
It feels blasphemous to even say this in a world where there’s a Karloff Mummy film that’s considered one of the crowning achievements of the early years of horror. But I may actually prefer the Hammer take on The Mummy. In fact, I found myself saying “This may be my new favorite…” in a lot of categories. It may be my new favorite Peter Cushing role. It may be my new favorite Christopher Lee vs. Peter Cushing movie. It may be my new favorite Hammer horror. And, as I said, it’s my new favorite take on The Mummy. Mind you, Lee’s portrayal is nowhere near on par with Karloff’s. But I enjoyed every other aspect more than the Universal version. And for the record, I didn’t choose to watch this film or the next one because it was Mother’s Day weekend. It was just sort of a happy accident.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I really wanted to like the Guillermo Del Toro-produced Mama so much more. And frankly, the first 70% or so of the film works just fine. It’s admittedly riddled with clichés but the atmosphere works and the two parental leads- Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Waldof Astoria Salad Jamie Lannister (Coster-Waldau) make the film more respectable. However, the entire film falls completely apart in the final 20 to 30 minutes, with some shockingly bad CGI and laughable turns that approach groan-worthiness.
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
The Magic Christian (1969)
At its heart, The Magic Christian is a rollicking, revolutionary counterculture film that spoofs capitalism and materialism. It stars Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. And it’s precisely the kind of film that could only come out of that particular era of human existence. To be blunt, that kind of movie is right in my sweet spot. I love the 60s counterculture. Despite that, I couldn’t quite get myself into the right frame of mind for the first 70 minutes. What transpires from that point of the film until the end is breathtaking. There’s a cruise ship sequence that features Christopher Lee as a vampire, disguised as a waiter; a bar patron played by Roman Polanski, who’s propositioned by a transvestite singer played by Yul Brenner; a gorilla who carries away the ship’s captain; and Raquel Welch as “the Priestess of the Whip,” whipping a galley full of topless women, who are rowing the cruise ship. I’m not sure I’d put The Magic Christian above, say, something like Putney Swope, but that I’m even comparing the two should tell you everything you need to know.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Theater Bizarre (2011)
I wanted something dumb and quick and easy for a few hours, so I poked around on Epix OnDemand. What I found was The Theater Bizarre, a horror anthology inspired by Paris’ Grand Guignol theater. It starred Udo Kier as a mechanized master of ceremonies, introducing each story. Surprisingly, the anthology had some decent ideas, and a few of them aimed awfully high at some weighty subject matter. The execution was lacking, without a doubt, but the directors of a few of the individual vignettes swung for the fences. There’s something to be said for that. There was also a bit of a new French horror vibe to a few of the vignettes. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but it was a decent way to burn a few hours.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Broadway Danny Rose is lesser Woody Allen, to be sure, but it did have its charms. In fact, there was really nothing about it that I disliked. It represents quite a departure from the typical Woody Allen film, with Allen himself taking on a positive character for once (albeit still with his fabled neuroses). The humor was a little flat compared to a lot of other Woody Allen films, although the charming nature of the story carries it far enough without the quality of humor.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
This is the second film in Satyajit Ray’s critically-acclaimed Apu trilogy. Much like the first film- Pather Panchali- almost everything that Ray created here was perfect. It continues the saga of Apu, on through puberty and his college years. Meanwhile, poor Apu’s family simply can not catch a break. There’s symbolism galore, with monkeys and sundials and even a snake that hearkens back to the first film, and the camerawork and transitions are exemplary. That’s especially true given when it was made. And yet again, it seems as though Ray out-neo-realisted the Italian neo-realists.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars