Movies Watched in January 2015

January kicked off the new viewing year with one television show, items for my David Lynch project, a few films noir, a couple of Criterion releases, one theatrical release, some Oscar nominees, and more. Let’s get started:


Twin Peaks, Season One (1990) David Lynch, Mark Frost
Netflix Streaming
Previously discussed here



Dune (1984) David Lynch
Universal Studios Blu-ray

Previously discussed here



Under the Skin (2013) Jonathan Glazer
Amazon Prime Instant Video

Glazer’s Under the Skin is certainly a visually intoxicating film, but also one I haven’t completely wrapped my head around yet. You probably already know the premise: Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who drives around Scotland in a van, luring men to their doom. But there’s much more to it than that. Among other things, the film explores (at least this is what I believe) gender, sexuality, manipulation, and – dare I say it? – alienation. Perhaps too art-house for some, I found the film both disturbing and fascinating.



The Lusty Men (1952) Nicholas Ray
Warner DVD

I never found the time to adequately review this excellent film, a (then) modern-day western that seemed practically buried until Warner Archive released a nice DVD edition of the film in 2014. However, I highly recommend this excellent review from Out of the Past: A Classic Film Blog.



Ida (2013) Pawel Pawlikowski
Netflix Streaming

Previously discussed here



Desperate (1947) Anthony Mann
Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 5 Warner DVD

Alas, another film noir I never found the time to discuss fully… Steve Randall (Steve Brodie) is an independent trucker who gets roped into doing a job for a mobster named Walt Radak (Raymond Burr). Randall wants nothing to do with the job, but once it starts, things get complicated and Randall and his wife (Audrey Long) find themselves on the run.



Il Sorpasso (1962) Dino Risi
Hulu Plus streaming

Previously discussed here



Wild (2014) Jean-Marc Valée
The Charles Theater, Baltimore, MD

Previously discussed here



Union Station (1950) Rudolph Mate
Olive Films Blu-ray

Previously discussed here



The Driver (1978) Walter Hill
Studio Canal Blu-ray (Region B)

Previously discussed here



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) Chris Columbus

Although the world-building in the film takes quite a long time to develop, it’s necessary for people who haven’t read the novels. As a first film, it’s probably everything you could want, except it’s just too long for an introductory venture into what would become an eight-film franchise.

The supporting cast is, of course, excellent. Just look at all the names! Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, etc. The child actors do a reasonably good job, although Rupert Grint seems to have the best natural acting ability and the best camera presence, at least in this first film.



Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) Chris Columbus

I enjoyed this second installment more than the first, probably because we don’t have to go through all the tedious world-building that was necessary in the first film. Still, at nearly three hours, there are some pacing problems, but not enough to ruin a good time.



The Lego Movie (2014) Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Warner Brothers DVD (library)

I’m probably the last person on the planet to finally see The Lego Movie, so every time I sing it’s praises, people always look at me like I’ve been on Jupiter for the past year. The film is far better than I’d expected, much more than just a fun kids’ movie. I probably won’t buy it, but I’d definitely see it again.



The Big Combo (1955) Joseph H. Lewis
Olive Films DVD (library)

Blistering film noir about a police lieutenant (Cornel Wilde) obsessed with bringing down a local crime boss called Mr. Brown (Richard Conte, in one of his best performances). The supporting cast is superb, featuring Jean Wallace, Brian Donlevy, John Hoyt, Ted de Corsia, Whit Bissell, and two young guys – Earl Holliman and a pre-moustache Lee Van Cleef. Superb Cinematography by John Alton and a great score by David Raksin. The Big Combo also contains what many consider the most famous single frame in all of film noir. (You can Google it or just wait until the last few minutes of the film. I recommend the latter.) I wish the Olive Films Blu-ray came with some supplements to this excellent film noir, but I plan to pick it up anyway.



My Winnipeg (2007) Guy Maddin
Criterion Collection DVD (library)

Is My Winnipeg a documentary? A fantasy? Comedy? Drama? Yes, no, maybe… it really doesn’t matter. If you’re watching late at night, or if you’ve had a few drinks, or both, Guy Maddin’s odd little film is nothing short of engrossing, even if you’re not quite sure what to make of it. Maddin narrates some of the history of his hometown mixed with personal reflections and reenactments, stock footage and just plain weirdness. It either works for you or it doesn’t. It worked for me – I plan on buying the Criterion Blu-ray soon.



Three Strangers (1946) Jean Negulesco (rewatch 2x)
Warner Archive Collection DVD

According to a legend connected with the Chinese New Year, if three strangers make their collective wish known before the idol of Kwan Yin, their wish will be granted. These three complete strangers – played by Geraldine Fitzgerald, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre – assemble in a cloud of mystical secrecy and make a pact. Unfortunately, this is the best part of the film, although we do see the stories of each of these individuals and why they need the money they’re sure to win when their wish – a shared winning sweepstakes ticket – comes true. Three Strangers is something of a poor man’s The Maltese Falcon, rescued by some good performances.


(Photo credits in order: Twin Peaks Wiki, The Atlantic, Flavorwire, BFI, Vimooz, Bright Lights Film Journal, Criterion Collection, Film School Rejects, DVD Beaver (2), Fanpop, Ramblings of a Minnesota Geek, Michael Minneboo, Film Noir Board, Criterion Collection, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings)

One thought on “Movies Watched in January 2015

  1. Pingback: Best Movies of 2015: Film Noir | Journeys in Darkness and Light

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