RECENTLY RATED MOVIES #19

It's amazing the expectations that we carry into films when we watch them for the first time. A couple months of build-up for Nacho Libre, including downloading the wonderful preproduction podcasts, and an unfettered affection for the D. and J.B. and K.G. left me hanging a little bit when I watched the actual film. I still enjoyed it, and my laughter became unchained and wild in a few scenes, but I couldn't help feeling some disappointment over the final result. Still, thinking about getting some corn on a stick...

It's amazing how an old favorite like The Uninvited can show up on TV at the exact moment when you a) have some downtime, b) really need a relaxing plunge into familiarity, and c) have already watched three Ray Milland movies in the previous couple of weeks. Why not? And why is this seemingly dated ghostly creaker from 1944 still scarier than most of the films made since? I should actually make this one part of my Slipped Discs series of neglected films not on DVD (next one up on Wednesday, by the way), but the last one was Milland's It Happens Every Spring, so I want a little variety. Do keep your eyes peeled for this one as you navigate the ol' TiVo in the future. Bitter ghosts and warped family secrets...

It's amazing when even I can flit about the channels and run into a film that I have sincerely never heard of before. And it is a satire on the television advertising business and the marketing of old singing cowboy films in the early 50's. And it stars no less than Fred MacMurray as the scheming copywriter and Howard Keel as the "fake" version of an old cowboy star who has gone missing once his career's second act has come alive. Callaway Went Thataway isn't great, it's merely good, but with inventive direction and a snappy screenplay from The Court Jester masterminds Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, I am sore that I didn't change the "Keep Until" command on my Moxi so that I could give it a second go. Now I have to wait for it to air again.

It's amazing how you can watch a film, like The Weather Man, just before you go to bed and think "Well, that was OK", and then you zip through your nightly cavalcade of dreamland weirdness, some of which involves elements from the films you've watched recently, and when you wake up the next morning, you have a greater appreciation for what the film was trying to say. I still think, "Well, that was OK", but I must admit I have more respect for it than when I shut off the DVD last night.

It's amazing how you can watch a film like Scream 2 just a few years after its release, have the same exact problems with the film that you had when you first saw it, like the same things about it as that first time, and come out liking it even less than you once did. And not just for the gratuitously bad Jerry O'Connell segments (and not just for his Top Gun-referencing singing scene, which is supposed to be bad but which has the added emphasis of being poorly shot, and which is crime enough on its own for referencing that Cruise piece of crap in the first place). It all used to seem so much more clever, but even the first Scream left me a little colder than most people found it. Perhaps because I remembered when Wes Craven used to be truly shocking...

It's amazing how even after years of proof that Woody Allen is far more than a mere "comedy" writer and director, that I can get sucked into a film like Match Point and be shocked by the fact that there is hardly a provoked laugh in the entire piece. Seemingly reinvigorated by a change of location to London (for this and his next couple of films), Allen laces this with numerous neo-noir touches, and the film swerves emotionally at several sharp junctures. I was about an hour and a half into it before I reminded myself that this was a Woody Allen film, because while I found some of the things that the characters archly amusing, it's played almost as a straight semi-Hitchcockian thriller (though I hate the term, there is really no surer way to describe it but as such). As Allen dramas go, I find it light-years more interesting than something like September, but then, that film didn't have Scarlet Johannson. Perhaps some Zelig-like editing with her in place of Mia Farrow would change my mind?

And Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? It's simply amazing...

The List:
Nacho Libre (2006) - 6; The Uninvited (1944) (TCM) - 8; Callaway Went Thataway (1951) (TCM) - 6; The Weather Man (2005) (DVD) - 6; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) (DVD) - 7; Match Point (2005) (DVD) - 7; Scream 2 (1999) (IFC) - 5.

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