The Movie Weekend That Was


My movie weekend included a lot of heavy lifting with the New Year’s resolutions, a long sought-after classic of world cinema, a clever Norwegian thriller, Cuban zombies, and some monsters sprinkled on top of a hangover. This is the movie weekend that was.


“They call me MISTER Pibb!”

In the Heat of the Night (1967)
It’s always important to watch films within the context that they were made. Having said that, it’s sometimes difficult to do. And that was ultimately my problem with In the Heat of the Night. So much of what the film accomplishes has been done time and again ever since. As such, I could’ve told you from the first five minutes how the entire film would play out. Similarly, the film’s shining moment- “They call me MISTER TIBBS”- is so well-known that it saps the moment of a little bit of gravitas. None of this is the fault of the film. Rather, it’s my problem that it didn’t quite strike a chord with me. Regardless of what I thought, the performances turned in by Rod Steiger and especially Sidney Poitier were very impressive.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Headhunters (2011)
I first heard about this Norwegian film way back in December 2011 when it made an appearance on Peter Hall’s wrap-up of the best horror and horror-y films of 2011. Several commenters here have recommended it since then, as well. As the article points out, it’s not horror, per se, but it’s a damn fine film. Foreign comedy doesn’t always resonates for a variety of reasons, but the comedy in Headhunters managed to hit home. And the story itself is tense, full of action, and the characters are fleshed out enough to hold everything together. I can’t say enough good things about this film. There’s a special treat in the film for fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones- it stars Jamie Lannister (Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

pather_panchaliPather Panchali (1955)
It’s easy to throw around superlatives when describing a film. I’m as guilty as anyone of using words like great, amazing, excellent, and tremendous (and they’re the enemy of film critics since they’re non-descript, but I’m no critic… and I digress). Seeing a movie like Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali renders so many uses of superlatives moot. I went to bed on Friday thinking “Headhunters is a great movie.” By noon on Saturday, after I had watched Pather Panchali, I realized how meaningless that word was in reference to Headhunters.

Put simply, Pather Panchali is one of the best movies ever made. All the way in India, Ray employed Italian neo-realist techniques possibly to greater effect than any other ACTUAL Italian neo-realist filmmaker that I’ve seen. The juxtaposition of childlike innocence with crushing poverty and raw human drama makes the film transcendent. Despite a tiny budget ($3,000), Ray’s film is visually poetic and packs quite an emotional wallop. It’s also impossible to avoid the influence that this film had on future filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and pretty much anyone who has made a coming-of-age drama since 1960 (and yes, The Simpsons).

I’ve wanted to see Ray’s “Apu Trilogy” for quite some time, but it’s not easy to find. Thanks to Facets, I’ve finally seen the first in the trilogy- Pather Panchali. Now I’m champing at the bit to see the second and third films in the trilogy, Aparajito and The World of Apu.
Rating: 11,219,103 stars out of 5

Swing Time (1936)
This was my first- and probably last- foray into the world of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. There was just enough solid humor and impressive dance* that I didn’t completely hate it. The sequence with the shadows behind Fred Astaire was especially impressive. I didn’t really care for the rest of it, but it had just enough positives to keep me from hating it. So, that’s something, right?
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
*how weird is it that I’ve reached a point with a lot of these AFI musicals that I actually PREFER the dance sequences to the plot?

From this point forward, the rest of my movie-watching weekend was shrouded by a nasty little hangover. Ergo the shift in tone.

Hotel-Transylvania-2Hotel Transylvania (2012)
In many ways, Hotel Transylvania is aimed directly at my generation (I’m 36). Or at least, it’s aimed at getting people my age to take their kids to see it. If you were raised in the 70s and 80s, then cartoon monsters are second-nature to you thanks to cartoons like Scooby Doo and Ghostbusters, and fun pop culture items like Count Chocula cereal. Nick at Nite even showed us re-runs of all The Munsters episodes when we were growing up. And now that people my age have kids, I imagine a lot of us want those kids to have the same childhood fun that we did. Enter the monsters, give them the voices of SNL cast members from our childhood, and you’ve got yourself a movie. What ultimately comes out is a film that was clearly made with a lot of love, and has just the right pinch of humor. That it revolves around the classic Universal monsters is just icing on the cake for horror nerds like me. It wasn’t particularly a special film, but it did more than enough to elevate itself over middling kids fare (I’m looking at you, Rise of the Guardians).
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Superman III (1983)
I am admittedly not a Superman fan. So I went in fully expecting to grade on a curve. After all, a movie shouldn’t be subject to the viewer’s whims. But there’s no need here. It’s just a flat-out bad movie with hokey dialogue and effects that haven’t held up well at all. I question whether they were ever good.
Rating 1.5 stars out of 5


A baseball to the brain is a new way to kill zombies.

Juan of the Dead (2011)
My initial reaction to finding out that there was a Cuban zombie movie with a title that tips its cap to Edgar Wright was a positive one. But as the months passed, my excitement was replaced with reticence. I was a little worried that it might be a bit too derivative. And the truth is, it’s very derivative in not-very-subtle ways. We see sharks and zombies together, much like Fulci’s Zombi 2; the entire plot is very similar to Shaun of the Dead; there’s a healthy dose of Ghostbusters in there; and one character even uses one of the most memorable lines from Dead Alive almost verbatim. But here’s what you really need to know about Juan of the Dead– it has heart, and it has humor. And that carries it to the finish line. In fact, it plays more as a comedy than it does a horror film. It made for a fine choice at the end of a hangover-filled day.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5


Filed under Movies

17 responses to “The Movie Weekend That Was

  1. Phil

    It annoys me to no end that I’ve wanted to watch Pather Panchali for years but can’t rent it any where. I’ve noticed that Amazon now streams some classics that even Netflix doesn’t carry, but no PP yet.

  2. The guy who met Kevin Meany

    I finally saw Life of Pi. I thought that the 3D would take an impossibly boring story and give it life. It turned out that with the exception of maybe two scenes, the 3D was completely unnecessary. I have now seen 8 out of 9 Best Picture nominees; I’m still debating going to see Amour. I’m sure the performances are outstanding; however I’m not sure I want to go watch an elderly couple losing their mental faculties in a Parisian apartment for two hours. Since it is a French film, you would typically expect random gratuitious nudity; but the main characters are 85. LaRue, I might stop at eight out of nine this year.

    • There’s a very real chance that they’re naked, too.

      So wait… you saw Les Mis but not Amour? If you’ve seen Funny Games, it’s the same director. I know Haneke fans will hate me selling it that way but that might be your most familiar shot at knowing the guy.

      You’re way ahead of me. I still haven’t seen Life of Pi, Amour, Les Mis, and Silver Linings Playbook.

  3. Dan

    Pather Panchali is just an interesting movie. I picked up a VHS copy from the library about five years ago and enjoyed it. I had a harder time staying as interested in the sequels, but I did watch them in a really short period of time. I’m glad to hear that you finally caught up with it. You’re so right about Headhunters too. Such a great thriller!

    • I don’t know if I’m an idiot or not but when he found out about the gel or whatever in his hair, I thought “OOOOH! So THAT’S why they named this movie Headhunters!”

  4. Yeah, Superman III isn’t what you technically call a good movie, but I’ve always had a soft spot for that one. Maybe it’s just because I grew up loving that movie.

    • You’ll appreciate this. When I saw him sitting in the bar getting wasted, the light bulb went off over my head because I realized it was where the KL5-Film banner came from. It was a pretty funny scene.

  5. SDG

    Love your rating to Pather Panchali. 🙂
    It was my favourite of the trilogy and though other two weren’t as good, I think they are definitely worthy films as well. What made Pather Panchali so dear to me was the nostalgia factor as it made me relive my childhood through this movie and the way it celebrates the small joys in life. It reminded me of so many things that I enjoyed as a child but are hard to see anymore in India. Hope you get to the other two soon.

    • Me too. I can’t wait to see the rest. I’m so anxious for it that I might have to use youtube or some other resource in the coming weeks. If they’re even half as good as Pather Panchali, it’ll be a very worthwhile viewing.

  6. Pather Panchali is everything you said and more. It’s quite literally, required viewing in film school. I love the way he shot the train. Even though it’s in b&w, I swear I can see colors.

  7. How have I managed to not hear of this Juan of the Dead previously? Going to have to try and check that one out. I do love me some zombies.

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