A particularly well-preserved mummy.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching a bunch of mummy movies. It was not time well spent, as mummies make dull movie monsters and few of these movies are any good. The 1999 Brendan Fraser vehicle is still a bit of fun though, and Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep is worth checking out. Aside from that there’s the classic 1932 film that started it all and the 1959 Hammer version. They’re OK. The rest you can pass on.

The Mummy (1932)
The Mummy’s Hand (1942)
The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)
The Mummy’s Ghost (1944)
The Mummy’s Curse (1944)
Pharaoh’s Curse (1957)
Curse of the Aztec Mummy (1957)
The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (1958)
The Mummy (1959)
Orgy of the Dead (1965)
Death Curse of Tartu (1966)
The Mummy’s Shroud (1967)
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
Dawn of the Mummy (1981)
Bram Stoker’s Legend of the Mummy (1998)
The Mummy (1999)
The Mummy Returns (2001)
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
The Mummy (2017)


Bird watching

The stuff that dreams are made of.

Over at Alex on Film I just finished watching three versions of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon: The Maltese Falcon (1931), Satan Met a Lady (1936), and The Maltese Falcon (1941). The last is the classic directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. It’s one of my favourite movies of all time.

Thomas Crown’s affairs

Free at last.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve posted my notes on the two film versions of The Thomas Crown Affair: 1968 and 1999. Both are slick, but thin on substance, which I think is their point. They offer impressions of the good life, which is all about expensive toys and being free. And this isn’t just the freedom to jet off to wherever you want, and do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it, but freedom to be a total scofflaw.  Thomas is, after all, a criminal who gets away with it. In fact, he probably gets away with more than just the heists he likes to pull on the side. I can’t imagine Crown’s business, whatever it is it does, being squeaky clean.

In the 1968 version Thomas was a rebel, and thirty years later a libertarian. Is there some hypocrisy in the political right criticizing the Woodstock generation for its “freedom, baby!” attitude while presenting itself as the upholder of law and order? I think so. From Steve McQueen to Bill Clinton to Pierce Brosnan to Donald Trump: hasn’t Thomas Crown just got older, without changing party?


Game, set, and . . .

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some film versions of Anthony Shaffer’s play Sleuth. Or at least the 1972 Laurence Olivier-Michael Caine Sleuth and the 2007 Michael Caine-Jude Law Sleuth, with 1982’s Deathtrap (Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve) sandwiched in-between. Deathtrap is actually based on Ira Levin’s play, but it also clearly derives from Sleuth, and may even be closer to Shaffer’s play than the 2007 movie, which was written by Harold Pinter.

Happy 1,000th

Party time.

Over at Alex on Film I just put up my 1,000th post: some comments on Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room.

I wasn’t sure when I started my movie blog that I’d get to 1,000 posts. Then for a while I imagined I might try to do a special film to mark the occasion. Citizen Kane. Casablanca. Vertigo. Something like that.

One thing I’ve found as I’ve gone on, however, is that doing commentaries on those movies is nearly impossible. This is, in part, because so much (really, everything) has already been said about them. Just in jotting down some personal impressions and reflections, which is all I do at Alex on Film, would require too much work. I do listen to commentaries when available. I do try to read up on some of the basic background and criticism that’s out there. But the field has become so overgrown in many cases that the volume of it is self-defeating.

Who can hope to read everything that’s been written on Psycho? Who would want to tackle Blade Runner? These movies have millions of words dissecting their every frame in print, with millions more online. Nobody can read all of it. And what do you do when the DVDs for not-quite-great films like Fight Club or Hostel come with four full-length audio commentaries each?

I think this is the reason you find so many movie blogs talking about really obscure titles that almost nobody has seen. Critics want to feel like they have some elbow room, or aren’t just reinventing the wheel. What’s interesting is that the same attitude doesn’t seem to apply to fiction. A book that doesn’t find an audience, critical or otherwise, is just ignored. Nobody wants to go near it. Even if it’s a great book that somehow got overlooked. But even the dreariest exploitation flick from the 1960s seems to be able to find an audience today online. I’m not sure why that is.

Beowulf on the big screen

Mr. Ray Winstone. No, not really.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some movies loosely (very loosely) based on the Old English poem Beowulf. I’m not sure what the attraction for filmmakers is, since despite having lots of classic fantasy elements (a powerful hero, a witch, a monster), the story is kind of bare bones. As a result, these movies indulge in a lot of freestyle reinterpretation. Some of it works, some doesn’t.

Despite its reputation as a box office bomb, which may not be wholly deserved, The 13th Warrior (1999) is actually pretty good. Beowulf & Grendel (2005) only has a few moments set amidst some nice scenery. Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf (2007) has dated so badly in only ten years that it’s unwatchable.