Category Archives: Movies

The Set of 400: #377 – My Favorite Real Estate Ads

Today! Because I’m slappa da bass, mon!

I Love You, Man (2009)

Directed by John Hamburg

Starring Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Jaime Pressly, Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons, Jon Favreau, Andy Samberg, Rob Huebel, Aziz Ansari, Nick Kroll, Jay Chandrasekhar, Joe Lo Truglio, Thomas Lennon, Ping Wu, Matt Walsh, Lou Ferrigno, Melissa Rauch, David Wain

There was a stretch in the late ’00s that I in my infinite Epinions hubris referred to as The Golden Age of Comedy (Epinions.com, gone but not forgotten!). And while in retrospect this may be overselling the half dozen bro-centric chucklefests that were released between ’07 and ’10, some are proving to give the test of time a go. Thus, the eminently quotable I Love You, Man, featuring just a ton of TV comedians supporting the ageless Paul Rudd in his search to find a male friend as an adult. The random smattering of glorified cameos include cast members of SNL (Curtin, Samberg), The State (Lo Truglio, Lennon, Wain), Human Giant (Huebel, Ansari), Broken Lizard (Chandrasekhar), and UCB (Walsh, Kroll), and I’m certainly overlooking some folks who belong in those groups. Rudd and Segel make a terrific combo, finally sharing a lot of screen time in the third of five films they appeared in from ’07 to ’13 (and the only one on this list). Also, Lou Ferrigno! And Rush! The holy trinity! Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #378 – My Favorite Loopy Conspiracy Theories

Today! Because Ike said, “Hey look, give us your technology, we’ll give you all the cow lips you want” –

Sneakers (1992)

Directed by Phil Alden Robinson

Starring Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, David Strathairn, Timothy Busfield, Donal Logue, George Hearn, Stephen Tobolowsky, James Earl Jones

All the cast in the world came together for this relatively light heist flick in the early ’90s, with pretty fun results. It’s not a movie you hear bandied about much these days – but judging by its gross, it was fairly popular in the fall of ’92. Redford and Kingsley play friends-turned-rivals battling over this MacGuffin that will decode and hack into everything on the remedial early ’90s internet. Redford’s team of good guys includes very funny turns by Aykroyd, Phoenix, and particuarly Strathairn as the blind sound expert Whistler. To my knowledge, this is also the only big screen pairing of film legends Redford and Poitier, so that’s cool! Is it a bit dated, given that the high-tech wizardry on display in this movie looks like a cheap Nintendo game? Sure. But even at the time this seemed more an excuse to gather up a ton of great actors and go on a good, old fashioned caper than to try to wow the audience with gadgets. The movie doesn’t quite match up to the heavy hitters involved, but it is definitely enhanced by their collective presence. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #Whoops! The First in a Multi-Part Series

So what the hell is this now?

Here’s the rundown. During the course of writing this series, I’ve found myself reminded of films I wished I’d included originally, but couldn’t possibly go through the hassle of reworking and reediting what I’ve already done in order to jam them in. Figure, while I allotted about two months to rewatch films and order the initial list in the summer of ’18, I was bound to forget some things, and the subsequent writing process was bound to trigger memories of forgotten films. Hell, it’s not like I’ve got a list of all the films I’ve ever seen handy!

Okay, it’s not a list per se, but I do pay more attention to my IMDB ratings than I care to admit.

So, from time to time, I’m going to throw together a quick write-up for one of these overlooked favorites, and where basically it might have been included. First up! Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #379 – My Favorite Self Lobotomy

Today! Because you aren’t comprehending the position that you’re in –

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Directed by Henry Selick

Starring Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Ken Page, Edward Ivory, Greg Proops

As the years have gone by, The Nightmare Before Christmas has become more and more a vehicle to sell tie-in merchandise. Disney’s not one to let these sort of opportunities slide, so even though it was fairly successful in its initial release, it quickly morphed into something very different. And it’s nice that this movie found an audience – it is a terrific piece of ghoulish fun – but I do think the movie itself tends to get a bit lost in all the Halloween costumes, figurines, and whatnot. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #380 – My Favorite Milkshake

Today! Because I am the third revelation! I am who the Lord has chosen!

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds, Kevin J. O’Connor, Dillon Freasier, Paul F. Tompkins, Jim Downey, Jim Meskimen

There are a handful of directors that to this day I run out and see whatever they make, no questions asked, no matter the subject matter, cast, reviews, or anything. Basically since 1997, Paul Thomas Anderson has been at or near the top of that list. And There Will Be Blood, while not my favorite, might be his best film. That glorious opening half hour! Daniel Day-Lewis commanding his way to a second Oscar! Paul Dano, coming off Little Miss Sunshine, but with so much dialogue! The titanic struggle for the town’s soul! The backstabbing! The milkshake! It’s not a particularly fun movie, but goddamn is it compelling.

Anderson’s later films have gotten tougher on audiences, and it started right around here. The plots became less and less important, as the atmosphere and tone took center stage. Movies like Inherent Vice, The Master, and The Phantom Thread became harder to follow, motivations got weirder, and the level of interpretation required grew exponentially. I enjoy these movies from the perspective of cinematic study, but they don’t make for easygoing afternoons at the cineplex. That’s not their intention, and I’m not saying it should be, but I worry that Anderson’s deserved wide acclaim will elude him so long as his films continue down this path. He is easily in the discussion of being the world’s greatest living director, but would your average moviegoer be able to acknowledge this? He’s an American Jean-Luc Godard living in an age of J.J. Abrams. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #381 – My Favorite “Macho Man” Randy Savage Cameo

Today! Because the story of my life is not for the faint of heart –

Spider-Man (2002)

Directed by Sam Raimi

Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco, J.K. Simmons, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, Joe Manganiello, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Bruce Campbell, Macho Man Randy Savage, Octavia Spencer, Macy Gray, Lucy Lawless, Jim Norton, Stan Lee

And we’ve arrived at the first comic book superhero film to make the list! And this was really the patient zero for the film world we live in today. Sure, there were the ’70s/’80s Superman movies, and the ’80s/’90s Batman movies, and 2000’s X-Men, but in reality it wasn’t until Spidey came on the scene in ’02 that the modern era began. After this point, superhero movies would become omnipresent gigantic moneymaking super franchises, released at all times of the year. Do you remember the days when the top five grossing films of a year weren’t dominated by masked avengers and caped crusaders? Well you’re probably thinking of 2001 and before. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #382 – My Favorite Pile of Lies

Today! Because Helen Bartlett is not Helen Bartlett alone. Helen Bartlett is womankind –

True Confession (1937)

Directed by Wesley Ruggles

Starring Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, John Barrymore, Edgar Kennedy, Porter Hall, Una Merkel, Lynne Overman, Hattie McDaniel, Byron Foulger, Irving Bacon

Just as a quick preface – herein is the first list appearance of the great Carole Lombard, maker of many a screwball romantic comedy of the 1930s and early ’40s, many of which are basically the same film over and over, the only difference being sometimes Carole was a socialite romantically involved below her, or she was a struggling working girl (no, not a prostitute, except in that one movie) romantically involved above her. I know this, as I watched every single one of her movies in 2018, mainly because they’re interchangeably nice and inoffensive and it was something to do. Some of these are still pretty good movies, but a handful manage to break away and really do something different.

Which brings us to True Confession, her second pairing with the fantastic John Barrymore and her fourth, final, and best film co-starring Fred MacMurray, this time as her lawyer husband trying to get her out of a murder rap. The grim set up is compounded by Carole’s character Helen being a chronic liar, mostly in the cause of doing good, but vastly complicated when on trial for her life. Naturally, hijinks ensue, including much complication brought about by Barrymore’s shady trial attendee and pub frequenter Charley, whose motives aren’t clear until well into the picture. Continue reading

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