Category Archives: Movies

The Set of 400: #120 – My Favorite Pandemic Outbreak

Today! Because some things aren’t meant to be changed. You need to accept that –

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Starring Andy Serkis (x4), James Franco (x3), Freida Pinto, John Lithgow (x4), Brian Cox (x6), Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Tyler Labine, Jamie Harris

I’m not a huge fan of prequels (The Phantom Menace notwithstanding, chumps!) and I was never particularly into the ’70s Planet of the Apes movies, so I had very few expectations going into this movie. Sure, if you’ve convinced yourself you’ve gotta make a prequel to some story, you could do worse than this – how the hell the world devolved into an ape run hellscape sounds like a pretty great tale (even if it was explained somewhat in the final original films) – plus you’ve now got the technology to render realistic apes in the driver’s seat of this rebellion, not just Roddy McDowell in a rubber mask. But still, why would anyone think this would play out as anything but another cash-in on a long dead property? Tim Burton tried rebooting this nonsense only a decade early, with relatively disastrous results.

Make that “solidly disastrous”

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The Set of 400: #121 – My Favorite Ghost Bartender

Today! Because there ain’t nothing in Room 237. But you ain’t got no business going in there anyway –

The Shining (1980)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick (x3)

Starring Jack Nicholson (x5), Shelley Duvall (x3), Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers (x4), Barry Nelson, Joe Turkel (x2), Anne Jackson, Tony Burton (x4), Philip Stone, Barry Dennen (x2)

Poor Shelley Duvall.

My least favorite version of this story, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is nonetheless a triumphant masterpiece of cinematic horror – unnerving, upsetting, bizarre, and fucking gross as hell. It became such an iconic landmark in film history that it weirdly spawned countless interpretive and/or conspiracy-esque theories about its hidden messages – largely chronicled in the terrific documentary Room 237 – and functioned as a key level in the Spielberg adaptation of Ready Player One, wholly replacing the book’s trip through WarGames. It provides countless memorable quotes – “Heeeere’s Johnny!” “I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in!” “Redrum.” – and unforgettable visuals, like that elevator tidal wave of blood or that guy in the dog suit, whatever that is.

Is it a statement about the environment or something?

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The Set of 400: #122 – My Favorite Harry Belafonte Musical

Today! Because I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that –

Beetlejuice (1988)

Directed by Tim Burton (x4)

Starring Alec Baldwin (x2), Geena Davis (x2), Michael Keaton (x8), Winona Ryder (x2), Catherine O’Hara (x4), Jeffrey Jones (x3), Sylvia Sidney (x2), Glenn Shadix (x3), Robert Goulet (x3), Dick Cavett, Susan Kellerman, Adelle Lutz, Tony Cox (x3)

What I’m always surprised by when watching Beetlejuice nowadays is how long it takes to get to Beetlejuice himself. Like, it’s nearly an hour into things when he finally shows up, and how much of the movie is he even in? Like twenty minutes? Did the cartoon really warp memories of this movie so much that I think of the film as the Beetle-and-Lydia show, even though they share no happy times together?

One of the oldest ticket stubs I have (I’ve got basically every movie stub since ’87, fools!), Beetlejuice thrilled nine-year-old me to no end. I doubt I knew at the time that this was the director of another young Joe favorite, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and certainly wasn’t aware that this creative team was deep in pre-production making the transformative movie of my young life – Batman. Allegedly, it was Beetlejuice‘s box office success that got Burton’s Batman greenlit for definite, after years of it bouncing between screenwriters and directors. So thanks, Ghost with the Most!

Our hero!

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The Set of 400: #123 – My Favorite Nervous Jell-O

Today! Because you didn’t say the magic word –

Jurassic Park (1993)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x4)

Starring Sam Neill (x2), Laura Dern (x2), Jeff Goldblum (x5), Richard Attenborough (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x6), Wayne Knight (x3), BD Wong, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero (x2), Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Miguel Sandoval (x2), Richard Kiley (x2)

It’s no stretch to declare Jurassic Park the best dinosaur movie ever made, but I’ll go so far as to say it’s the only good dinosaur movie. It feels like it should be a more robust sub-genre of movies, right? Like, once the technology existed, why didn’t we get buried in stupid T-Rex films? But really, there isn’t much, and what there is isn’t great. They pop up as side characters in like King Kong, okay, but you wouldn’t classify that as a dinosaur movie, would you? You would?! Get the hell out of here!

And I’ll contend that none of the other Jurassic Park movies are anything compared to the original. Jurassic World is fun, but it’s a pretty straight rehash of the first film, not unlike The Force Awakens and A New Hope, really. Hollywood has us figured out, folks! We like the same things packaged in slightly different ways! Superhero movies, all these “live action” Disney remakes (that are really just animated in a different way), reboots, endless Fast and Furious sequels – we like comfortable, predictable, stakes-less excitement!

(Also, is everyone aware that there have been fourteen Land Before Time movies? That seems a touch excessive, no? I think I might have seen the first movie once, but I’m clearly way behind!)

Who’s up for marathoning this shit this weekend?

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The Set of 400: #124 – My Favorite Can of Nickels

Today! Because one of these days, somebody’s gonna get pushed too far. And who knows what they’re capable of?

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Directed by Wes Anderson (x3)

Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis (x4), Edward Norton (x2), Frances McDormand (x3), Bill Murray (x7), Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman (x4), Harvey Keitel (x3), Lucas Hedges, Charlie Kilgore

As how none of Wes Anderson’s movies feel like they’re coming at us from the modern day, so gloriously does Moonrise Kingdom transport me back to the ’80s, even though the movie is set in the ’60s and was released in 2012. And while all the standard Anderson touches are there – the excruciating attention to detail, the almost unbearable preciousness of every prop and costume, the left field dialogue that somehow fits together comically and neatly – Moonrise finally put it all in a setting that worked perfectly. He gave the leads to children.

The greatest film couple in history?

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The Set of 400: #125 – My Favorite Astrodome Circus

Today! Because he may posture, so as to reveal his gaudiest nuptial plumage, spread his tail and erect his crest or inflate brilliantly colored pouches or parade, dance, fly with dizzying acrobatics, sing his most fetching love song –

Brewster McCloud (1970)

Directed by Robert Altman (x4)

Starring Bud Cort (x4), Sally Kellerman (x3), Shelley Duvall (x2), Michael Murphy (x5), Rene Auberjonois (x3), John Schuck (x3), Stacy Keach, William Windom, Margaret Hamilton (x2), Jennifer Salt, Bert Remsen (x3), G. Wood, Corey Fischer

In going through a big tear of Robert Altman movies a few years ago – upon realizing that while I’d seen his most acclaimed movies, he made a ton of other films ranging from well regarded to strongly recommended curiosities – I finally tracked down a copy of what I remembered vividly from video stores when I was a kid. I always confused the title with a western – I’m guessing John Wayne’s McLintock or the Dennis Weaver TV show McCloud – but the tape cover was as above – this kid flying inside a dome, and it always stuck with me. And so began my love affair with the wholly original – even inside the Altman canon – Brewster McCloud.

Cort and Duvall are typically wonderful

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The Set of 400: #126 – My Favorite Set of Steak Knives

Today! Because I can go out there tonight with the materials you’ve got and make myself $15,000. Tonight! In two hours! Can you?

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Directed by James Foley

Starring Jack Lemmon (x4), Al Pacino (x3), Ed Harris (x2), Alan Arkin (x4), Kevin Spacey (x2), Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce (x3), Bruce Altman

Hey, surprise back-to-back Jonathan Pryce movies! Now in the past I’ve mentioned some stage-y films (say, Noises Off) and really stage-y films (Rhinoceros), but then we’ve got Glengarry Glen Ross, which is one of the stagiest goddamn motion pictures ever made. Seriously, it’s what, 80% in the office? Maybe more than that? Sure, they broke some moments out into the rain or that bar, but it’s almost a unit set film, and that set isn’t anything all that striking or cinematic. So how do they counteract this? Towering, screaming performances, that’s how!

Enjoy this one room, suckers!

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