Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Spike, Spelunkers and Serpentine

I have, in the past, been a decent human being. I have tried not to be a charlatan, a scalawag, or an outright crumb-bum. That ends today, because I am about to commit an act of straight-up thievery.  Stewart Smith is the entertainment editor for a Texas paper (you can find his columns and reviews and such at, and recently he's begun a project that intrigues me. He's writing a very informative and entertaining blog called The Shelf ( in which he's writing about every single movie in his 500+ DVD collection, and he's doing so in alphabetical order. I don't have the patience for alphabetical order (I like the element of surprise), so while thieving his idea (told you!) I've numbered every title in my so-far 1766-movie collection, and plugged those numbers into a random number generator app on my phone. Like Stewart's "Shelf", these will be written pretty much however I feel like it. Some movies will inspire essays, others possibly only a single word. That being said, I'm a talkative fellow so let's get started! Over the past week I've watched the first three movies that came up. They were:  #7. 25th Hour Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing is one of my all-time favorite movies, a blistering portrait of New York that in over 25 years hasn't lost any of its power. It's a true masterpiece, and for quite some time, it also felt like a promise left unfulfilled. I like Spike Lee a great deal, and I've seen everything he's done. While there's much that's good and even great in his filmography, there was nothing as bold, original, and purely effective as Do The Right Thing. After missteps like Girl 6 and She Hate Me, I was afraid that maybe his heart just wasn't in it anymore. I needn't have worried, because 25th Hour finds a masterful filmmaker back at the top of his game.  The movie, released in 2002, is haunted by the specter of 9/11. It opens on footage of Ground Zero, accompanied by Terence Blanchard's mournful score. While the film isn't about 9/11 directly, it doesn't shy away from showing NYC as it was in the aftermath, nor does it shy away from the fear and rage that many New Yorkers were feeling at the time. Edward Norton is Monty Brogan, a low-level drug dealer who is one day away from beginning a seven-year prison sentence. He spends his final night of freedom with his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson), his friends (Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper) and his father (Brian Cox). Every performance is outstanding, and Norton is unforgettable in the lead. The movie is melancholy through and through, but it never feels oppressive. The most famous scene (and rightly so) features Norton ranting into a bathroom mirror, his profane tirade leaving no ethnic stone unturned. It's reminiscent of a similar scene in Do The Right Thing, but it is entirely its own thing and works beautifully on several levels.  #396. The Descent Part 2 I hadn't seen this one before, and was pleasantly surprised. At first I was torn. One of the greatest strengths of the first movie was its all-female cast, and this movie doesn't have that. In exchange, it does offer Gavan O'Herlihy, a favorite character actor of mine since his days as a threequel superstar (he was the reverse-mohawked gang leader in Death Wish 3 and a drunken bully in Superman III...he's also the son of Dan O'Herlihy, the man who gave us Halloween III's Conal Cochran, proving superior threequelicity is in the genes).  The Descent was a smart, scary monster mash and while the sequel takes a bit of time to get going, once it does it proves itself a worthy follow up. Again, there are caves, there are creatures, and there's a borderline cartoonish amount of gore, but there are also solid scares and some real tension. There are moments that feel like a retread of the first, but not as many as you'd expect in a direct-to-video sequel (though there's an annoyingly cash-grabby setup for a third movie that leaves a bit of a bad taste after an otherwise decent flick). All things considered, it's a surprisingly fresh & scary creature feature. #754. The In-Laws I love this movie. Peter Falk and Alan Arkin play off of each other effortlessly, and no matter how many times I see it, it's always laugh-out-loud funny.  If you've seen the ill-advised, painfully unfunny remake with Michael Douglas & Albert Brooks (seriously, what the hell drew Brooks to such a boring and bland movie?) please don't let it dissuade you from giving the original a try. It's manic without being unbearable, and unabashedly, gleefully silly. It's also exactly what I needed after the downbeat double-bill that preceded it. I'm looking forward to whatever this movie roulette system brings next...only 1763 to go!

No comments: