The Movie Weekend That Was


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.

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing- the Red Sox vs. Yankees of classic horror.

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing- the Red Sox vs. Yankees of classic horror.

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

Mama (2013)
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 Priestess of the Whip

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

aporajito-may-2Aparajito (1956)
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


Filed under Movies

8 responses to “The Movie Weekend That Was

  1. Mama was formulaic but enjoyable. On the way home from seeing it(yup, saw it in a theater)my wife and I agreed that it was definitely one of those, “put your critical eye in your back pocket” movies. Probably the notion that the haunted cabin was stumbled upon and then so hard to locate but in the last half hour of the movie, it seemed as easy to find as a 7/11.

  2. The guy who was babysat by the sister of the guy who played Nuclear Man in Superman IV

    If you have a chance, go see Mud. I’m not just saying its really good because it was filmed in Arkansas. The casting was actually really good. Michael Shannon and Paul Sparks (both from Boardwalk Empire) have small supporting roles. It also accurately described living in a small rural town in Arkansas. It made me a little homesick.

    • I came really close to seeing it last Monday. It’s definitely on my radar. Now that I know Michael Shannon’s in it, I’ll see it for sure in the theater.

      I wish it was the Cardinals’ Mike Shannon and not the actor.

      • The guy who was babysat by the sister of the guy who played Nuclear Man in Superman IV

        Typically when you hear about a movie starring Matthew Maconaughey and Reese Witherspoon you probably have a gag reflex. The guy who wrote and directed the film (Jeff Nichols) is a real up-and-coming indie director/writer. Mud was a great reminder of how good movies can be without a huge budget.

        I just realized I can hear Mike Shannon call the Cardinal games on Sirius/XM in my car when the Cards are playing home games. I have literally been listening to him on the radio for 30 years. When I die, I’ll know I made it to heaven if Jack Buck and Mike Shannon are on the radio calling a Cards game.

        • McConahawhoahwhateverey is having a pretty good little comeback. He was great in Killer Joe and Bernie, and I’ve heard Lincoln Lawyer’s not bad. He’s also going to be in the Scorsese movie due out later this year. Basically, his work in Killer Joe and Bernie, plus the trailer for Mud, are the reason I want to see Mud.

          Also, I didn’t realize that it was done by the same guy who did Take Shelter. Now I’m REALLY excited to see it this weekend.

  3. Nice that you loved Aparajito! One of my fav of Ray’s filmography. I’m very intrigued with The Magic Christian! That Welch picture was enough but the description made it a mandatory watch for me. Haven’t heard of it at all!! Not bad as a weekend!

    • I’m still sort of sifting through Ray- I’ve really only seen the first two Apu films, and then The Chess Player a long time ago. But I’ve been blown away by the Apu films. They’re amazing.

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