Archive for the ‘Essay’ Category

Ezra’s Six Days Of Christmas Movies

Posted 23 Dec 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

A Muppet Christmas Carol is a delightful and remarkably faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic. Yes, I know this should be “12 Days of Christmas Movies.” Listen, it’s the holidays, guys; cut me some slack. Anyway, Christmas is far from my favorite holiday, as evidenced by my much more thorough Halloween article (over four times as many movies in that one, folks!), but I wanted to take some time this year to look at some rather off-the-beaten-path movies, as well as a couple I had seen before, but felt it was time to revisit. Here they are, in the order in which I watched them. Happy birthday, Jeebus!

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL – a delightful and remarkably faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic, starring Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge (Ebenezer apparently went the way of Adolph as a first name choice), Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and the Great Gonzo as Dickens himself. The biggest deviation from the source material is the casting of not one but two Jacob Marleys, in the form of crusty old hecklers Statler and Waldorf. Michael Caine gives a typically excellent performance, with far more emotional depth than you’d expect from a Muppet movie, and the film ends on a positive, Sesame Street-esque educational note: “If you’d like to know more, read the book.” ****  Read More

Ezra’s Spooktober 2014

Posted 29 Oct 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Candyman is one of the all-time great horror films, partly because of its unique atmosphere. If I had to pick a favorite month, it would most likely be October. The weather is perfect and I have all the excuse I need to watch practically nothing but horror movies for a month. This year I watched or revisited 25 films of varying quality, and I’m passing along the recommendations to you. I’ve broken them down into three basic categories, with a fourth “Other” category for those that don’t fit any of the big three. The Undead includes zombies, vampires, Frankensteins, and of course the immortal curse of the Candyman; Mutants & Monsters covers genetic freaks, giant animals and other Things That Should Not Be; Werewolves is pretty self-explanatory. All films are ranked from highest recommendation to lowest, ***** being the highest rating and * being the lowest. Happy viewing!  Read More

No Country For Old Men – An Argument

By Jason A. Hill & Ezra Stead

No Country for Old Men, USA, 2007

Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Based on the Novel No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men is full of excitement, suspense, and action, but I got the feeling that there was something deeper going on under the surface and I was expecting some revelation at the end. [Note: “An Argument” is a new feature on Movies I Didn’t Get, in which the site’s founder and owner, Jason A. Hill, and head editor, Ezra Stead, debate the relative merits (or lack thereof) of various beloved movies on which they disagree. Please feel free to get in on the argument in the comments section below.]

No Country for Old Men - An ArgumentJASON’S ORIGINAL REVIEW: I didn’t get this movie. I wanted to, and I was fully engaged as I watched the film. However, by the “end” of this film, the only way I knew it was over was by lights in the cinema coming up, and for a film that wins Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor, I really expected a lot more. Of course, I saw the movie before all of that.

No Country for Old Men is full of excitement, suspense, and action, but I got the feeling that there was something deeper going on under the surface and I was expecting some revelation at the end. What I got instead was that feeling you get when you’re at a big concert and the headlining band comes out on stage two hours late then leaves the stage after one song as the lead singer throws the mic down and flips off the crowd. At first, everyone thinks it’s a great gesture, but after a while they start to feel conned.  Read More

7 Movies That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Book

Posted 08 Dec 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Maltese Falcon is a masterpiece of stylistic economy, so faithfully adapted by director John Huston that reading the novel is almost like reading an exceptionally detailed treatment for the film.This is one of the most persistent clichés of film criticism: that the book is always better than its film adaptation. More often than not, it’s true, as the novel is generally able to provide a richer, more nuanced character study, not limited to only two senses the way films are. However, in some cases, less is more. Here are seven films that I would argue are even better than the books on which they are based.

7 Movies That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Book1. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) – Dashiell Hammet’s original 1930 detective novel is a masterpiece of stylistic economy, so faithfully adapted by director John Huston that reading the novel is almost like reading an exceptionally detailed treatment for the film. However, eight simple words improvised by Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade make all the difference. When asked what the titular bird sculpture is at the end of the film, Spade says, “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.” This classic, oft-quoted line of dialogue has become the most memorable moment of the film, a subtle commentary on filmmaking itself, especially of the Hollywood “Dream Factory” variety, of which The Maltese Falcon was itself a part. The line is nowhere to be found in the book, and that alone is enough to warrant the film’s inclusion on this list. Read More

5 Remakes That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Original

Posted 03 Dec 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a truly frightening film, the rare remake that lives up to its source material.Remakes of classic films have an even worse track record than sequels when it comes to relative quality. Whether they change everything and ruin the whole idea (Frank Oz’s 2004 Stepford Wives remake) or remain slavishly faithful to the original (Gus Van Sant’s 1998 Psycho remake), most remakes have great difficulty in justifying their own existence, let alone surpassing the original. Here are five that achieve this rare feat.

10 Remakes That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Original1. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) – this is the only one on the list that I wouldn’t argue is definitely better than the original, but it’s pretty damn close. Transposing the McCarthy-era paranoia of Don Siegel’s 1956 classic to the pre-Reagan era, Philip Kaufman’s remake presents an even darker vision, complete with a chilling ending in the spirit of the one Siegel had originally envisioned for his film, before the studio interfered to happy it up a little. Featuring great performances by Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy, and state of the art special effects for the time, this is a truly frightening film, the rare remake that lives up to its source material.  Read More

10 Sequels That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Original

Posted 27 Nov 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Bride of Frankenstein is not only better than the original Frankenstein, but also the best of all Universal monster movies.We’re used to movie franchises being victim to diminishing returns, with the sequels to classic films generally lackluster at best (Ghostbusters II, Halloween II), and at worst, utter travesties that threaten to tarnish the legacy of the original (the Matrix sequels, The Godfather: Part III). On rare occasions, though, the second film in a trilogy or franchise (which I consider to be any series with more than three movies) actually surpasses the original in some way. Here are ten sequels that are, in some circles at least, considered better than the films that spawned them, and my thoughts on each.

10 Sequels That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Original1. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) – this is the one that got me thinking about the topic in the first place, and it’s also the oldest of the films discussed herein. James Whale’s follow-up to his 1931 hit, Frankenstein, ties up the loose end of Victor Frankenstein (Colin Clive) promising his monster (Boris Karloff) a bride to quell his loneliness. It also features most of the iconic images and dialogue associated with Universal Studios’ most famous monster, including Frank learning to smoke in the hut of the blind man he befriends (which was cemented in the public consciousness by Mel Brooks’ spoof of it in 1974’s Young Frankenstein). Bride’s expert blend of humor and pathos, as well as truly chilling moments such as Frank’s hollow, soulless intonation of the classic line, “I love dead,” make it not only better than the original Frankenstein, but also the best of all Universal monster movies. Read More

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Films of 2012

Posted 15 Feb 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Grey is nothing but desolate Alaskan wilderness and people being brutally murdered by wolves for two hours. What's not to love?I’ve been making these lists, in one form or another, for a dozen years now, and every year I’ve done my best to balance my own personal preferences with an objective and educated view of cinema in order to recommend not only my personal favorite films of any given year, but also those I believe to be the best. Well, no more! This year, and forever onward, I strive to give you only my own subjective favorites, the films that I have watched and am likely to watch over and over again throughout the years. When I look back over the last five years, for example, I have to admit that these have proven to be my actual favorite films, despite what I may have written at the time in an effort to recognize other worthy cinematic achievements to which I may or may not have returned even once in the years since: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007); The Dark Knight (2008); Inglourious Basterds (2009); Dogtooth (2010); and Drive (2011).

Of those five, only Dogtooth actually topped my list at the time. So, with this in mind, I present my favorite films of 2012, in all their highly subjective glory. Since ranking films in order of preference is often at least somewhat arbitrary, I should admit that some of these may have made it into the top 10, rather than the runner-up category, solely because they were more fun to write about. However, my top 5 is solidly made up of films I have already seen at least twice, and feel strongly that I would be more than happy to watch again at absolutely any time. Read More