I silently killed the last Guardians of the last seductive Galaxy

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Naive freshman Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) enrolls at Columbia University where he meets Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Edie Parker (Elizabeth Olsen).

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Kinsey Spied on the sexy lives of Gremlins

Kinsey (2004)

Kinsey (2004)

After unassuming biology professor Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) falls in love and marries his student, Clara McCmillen (Laura Linney), he discovers an insatiable appetite for sex.

When the surprising results of a classroom survey in his sex education class demonstrate how little research has been done in the field, Kinsey dedicates his life to the new discipline of sexology.

Together with his research team including Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard), Wardell Pomeroy (Chris O’Donnell), and Paul Gebhard (Timothy Hutton), he interviews all types of people about their sexual preferences and peccadilloes, including his uptight minister father, Alfred Seguine Kinsey (John Lithgow).

He encourages sexual experimentation among his staff and has an affair with Martin.

I like Liam Neeson and love Laura Linney, but this is a career low for both. It’s always nice to see Tim Curry, but conservative bogeyman Thurman Rice is a stock role, a plot device to make us more sympathetic to Kinsey’s crusade.

Bill Condon’s film is not a biopic as much as rallying cry for a laissez-faire attitude about sexuality. The film paints Kinsey as a sexual pioneer and suggests every aspect of human sexuality can be understood with rigorous research, mitigating the need for any external morality or guiding principles of right and wrong.

Removing value judgments from sexual studies leads to disturbing inquiries, culminating in Kinsey’s interview of sexual deviant Kenneth Braun. As he graphically describes his bizarre and disgusting sex life including acts with children, Kinsey dispassionately documents his behavior, as if observing a new species. When Braun claims the ability to climax in under a minute, Kinsey nonchalantly pulls out a stop watch to time him, to the dismay of Martin.

Even if research shows some behaviors are more widely practiced than believed, this does not make them morally acceptable. In fact, by normalizing alternate sexual behavior, this research may increase the practice of the behavior in question.

I would have preferred a film which wasn’t as blindly sympathetic and wish it had been more willing to ask the tough questions, engaging Kinsey and his motivations.

Spies Like Us (1985)

Spies Like Us (1985)

Incompetent federal agents Austin Milibarge (Dan Ackroyd) and Emmett Fitz-Hume (Chevy Chase) are recruited by the Defense Intelligence Agency for a secret mission to the Soviet Union.

Despite their bumbling, they miraculously reach their target and, per their orders, unwittingly launch a Soviet missile at the United States. The mission was a front for a splinter group to demonstrates the effectiveness of an anti-ballistic missile system.

Luckily, Milibarge’s extensive knowledge of Soviet equipment enables him to reconfigure the weapon and narrowly avert a nuclear war.

This homage to the Road to… movies fails because Ackroyd and Chase are not as talented as Hope and Crosby.

Ackroyd is fine as a second banana, but he can’t carry a film. Chase was briefly funny in the 1980s, but with a few exceptions, his films don’t hold up well.

The only reason to watch are the cameos by Bob Hope, Frank Oz, Joel Coen, Terry Gilliam, Sam Raimi, and B.B. King.

Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins (1984)

For Christmas, quirky inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) brings his son Billy (Zach Galligan) a Mogwai he bought in a Chinatown store. As the store owner explained, there are three ironclad rules to owning a Mogwai, never expose it to sunlight, never let it get wet, and never feed it after midnight.

Unfortunately, Billy immediately gets Gizmo wet, causing five new Mogwai to spontaneously generate. More difficult and unruly than Gizmo, these new creatures trick Billy into feeding them after midnight, which tuns them into monstrous green creatures called Gremlins.

As the Gremlins take over the city, Billy must defend Kingston Falls.

Zach Galligan’s career peaked in his debut film. The first and last lines of his career biography will mention his pet Mogwai.

In her brief film career, Phoebe Cates ensured herself a place in pop culture history with her infamous scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and her work here as Kate Berringer, Billy’s girlfriend. The darkly comic scene where she relates her father’s death in a freak chimney incident is the one of the most memorable scenes from the film.

This film launched Corey Feldman’s film career, but his work as Pete Fountaine is pedestrian. Polly Holliday is delightful as Mrs. Ruby Deale, a Mr. Potter inspired villainess, and Jonathan Banks, now well-known for his work in Breaking Bad has a small role as a deputy.

It was controversial on release because its marketing emphasized the cute and adorable Gizmo, leading many parents of young children to incorrectly assume it was a family film. This controversy eventually led to the creation of the PG-13 rating.

Alongside Ghostbusters (1984), this wickedly funny film blended traditional horror elements with comedy to create a new genre.

I love this movie, but my feelings are so tied up in fond childhood memories, I cannot be subjective.

The Shadow Man Fell to Earth

Val LewtonVal Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007)

Tasked with producing profitable low-budget films for RKO studios in the early 1940s, Val Lewton delivered such well-regarded films as Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), The Seventh Victim (1943), and The Curse of the Cat People (1944).

Relying on innuendo and intimation, his films were minimalist productions focused on atmosphere and mood over elaborate effects.

He brought directors Jacques Tourneur and Robert Wise to prominence and resurrected the career of Boris Karloff post-Frankenstein (1931).

Narrator Martin Scorsese shepherded this documentary to fruition. His passion for film history and appreciation for its unheralded stars is admirable.

Sadly, Lewton died a poor man following a heart attack at age forty-six. Thankfully, he’s finally receiving some much deserved recognition.

The Man Wh Fell to Earth (1976)The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Extraterrestrial Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) came to earth seeking water to take back to his planet.

With the help of patent attorney Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry), he used his advanced technology to build a major company as a front for his activities.

When one of his employees, Dr. Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn), realizes the truth, he exposes Newton to the government who capture and experiment on him. After several years confinement, Newton’s now middle-aged human girlfriend, Mary Lou, visits him in prison, but discovers he hasn’t aged.

After many years in prison, Newton escapes and builds a lonely life on earth, haunted by his failure to save his home planet.

In the 1970s, Nicholas Roeg directed a series of unconventional and offbeat films including Performance (1970), Walkabout (1971), and Don’t Look Now (1973), but as tastes changed his films have become less boundary pushing and more mainstream, like the children’s film The Witches (1990).

This weird and ambiguous film is the perfect debut for David Bowie; Buck Henry is good, but it’s stunt casting; and watching this, it’s difficult to believe Rip Torn would later become Patches O’Houlihan.

I applaud the film’s willingness to stretch the limits of the medium, but it never finds a dramatic rhythm, and becomes a series of impressions rather than a narrative. It is a sort of hypnotic visual feast, but there are long stretches of boredom, which approximate the long stretches of boredom in Newton’s life, but doesn’t make an enjoyable film.

Starsky & Hercules

Hercules (1997)Hercules (1997)

Jealous Hades (James Woods) plots to overthrow his brother Zeus (Rip Torn) and rule Mount Olympus by killing Hercules (Tate Donovan), Zeus’s infant son. He sends his minions, Pain and Panic, to give the child a formula designed to make him mortal, but they fail to give him all of it. Deprived of immortality, but maintaining superhuman strength, he’s found by human farmers and raised as their son.

As a teenager, Hercules discovers his true heritage, and learns he can regain his place among the gods by becoming a “true hero.” He convinces famed trainer Philoctetes (Danny Devito) to come out of retirement and aid him in his quest. During their training he meets, and falls in love with, Megara.

Hades takes Megara hostage and promises to spare her if Hercules will give up his strength. Faced with the death of his beloved, Hercules agrees, but afterward learns Megara was working with Hades to undermine him.

With Hercules powerless, Hades launches his attack on Mount Olympus. At the last-minute, Phil inspires a despondent Hercules to join the fight. After a contrite Megara pushes Hercules out-of-the-way of a falling pillar, she dies; her death invalidates the bargain with Hades and Hercules regains his strength in time to thwart the attack.

After saving Olympus, he rescues Megara from the underworld by offering his life in exchange for hers. This selfless act  transforms him into a “true hero” and he quickly regains his immortality before Hades can kill him.

Tate Donovan is fine, but nothing special; Danny Devito is great as a mythological Mickey Goldmill; and Bobcat Goldthwait is perfectly cast as Pain, but the reason to watch is James Woods. His performance as the sarcastic, fast-talking ruler of the underworld is delightful.

Go the Distance,” by Michael Bolton is forgettable. I need my Disney songs to be upbeat, Broadway showstoppers, not slow, pseudo inspirational pop ballads.

A Disney take on Greek mythology could have been awesome, but by narrowly focusing on the Hercules story and adding an unnecessary romance, this film dilutes the mythological complexities into a motivational movie about the hero within all of us.

The Killers (1946)The Killers (1946)

Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) investigates the murder of Ole “The Swede” Anderson (Burt Lancaster).

After an injury ended his boxing career, The Swede reluctantly turned to a life of petty crime. When his girlfriend, Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner), was arrested for stealing jewelry, he took the fall and spent three years in prison.

When he was released, he learned Kitty was dating a gangster, Big Jim who recruited The Swede in a robbery scheme. The robbery is successful, but after the rendezvous house burned to the ground,The Swede took the money and fled. Later, Kitty met him in Atlantic City, convinced him to give her the money, and disappeared.

Through Reardon’s investigation, we learn Kitty never loved The Swede but conspired with Big Jim to con him into helping them. When Big Jim is mortally wounded in a shootout, Kitty begs him to take full responsibility for the murder, but he refuses.

Even in his debut film, it’s obvious Burt Lancaster is destined for greatness, although the character’s name makes me think of a professional wrestler.

Ava Gardner is best remembered for her marriages to Mickey Rooney and Frank Sinatra, but this film transformed her from a supporting player to major star.

With its inventive use of flashback and a perfect femme fatale,this film  embellishes Hemingway’s short story into one of the definitive noirs.

Starsky and Hutch (2004)Starsky & Hutch (2004)

David Starsky (Ben Stiller), a macho cop in love with his Ford Torino, and Ken Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) a laconic, easy-going detective, are forced to work together to solve a murder.

With the help of their contact Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) and prisoner Big Earl (Will Ferrell), they trace the murder to Jewish mobster Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), who’s developed a new type of  undetectable cocaine with no taste or smell.

Despite numerous professional and personal setbacks, the two are ultimately successful in thwarting Reese’s attempt to build a drug empire.

If you like to laugh, you’ll enjoy Todd Phillip’s adaptation of the 1970s TV show. It’s a perfect vehicle for the frivolity of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, an excuse to pal around with the rest of the Frat Pack, much like Zoolander (2001) or Dodgeball (2004).

My Prince of Dogtown

The Prince and the Pauper (1990)

Longing for freedom from his royal responsibilities, a prince switches places with a peasant doppelgänger.

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You can Count on Porgy, Dillinger, and the Unbearable Bess

The Unbearable Lightnesss of Being (1988)

When waitress Tereza (Juliette Bincohe) moves in with her lover, brain surgeon Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis), she’s confused by his Bohemian lifestyle.

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Heaven Knows When You’ve Been Unfaithful, Mr. X

Malcolm X (1992)

Minor criminal Malcolm Little (Denzel Washington) is arrested for robbing the home of a wealthy white couple and sentenced to eight to ten years in prison because of his association with white women.  In prison, he joins the Nation of Islam led by Elijah Muhammad and changes his name to Malcolm X. After he delivers a controversial speech following the assassination of President Kennedy, Muhammad ostracizes his charismatic protegé.

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Your Hairspray, My High Five, and Our Shadowlands

Hairspray (1988)

In 1963, overweight Tracy Turnblad (Rikki Lake) becomes a popular mainstay on a Baltimore dance show, infuriating the reigning queen, Amber Von Tussle (Debbie Harry).  In addition to their dance floor rivalry, Tracy and her mother Edna (Divine) advocate integration while the Von Tussles fight for segregation.

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Byzanitum is a contender for the best place to slay badgers in the past

The Past (2013)

Iranian Ahmad travels to Paris to complete his divorce from Marie (Berenice Bejo) who’s already in a new relationship with the married Samir, whose wife is comatose after a failed suicide attempt.

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