90 Movies in 90 Days: Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Release Date: 17 August 1979
Director: Terry Jones
Production Company: HandMade Films | Python (Monty) Pictures

Of the four Monty Python movies, this is the only one that is most thoroughly a story rather than a series of sketches.  It’s also the one that’s always rubbed me the wrong way. The movie is about Brian (Graham Chapman) who is born at the same place and time as Jesus Christ and is mistaken for the Messiah but crowds of eager followers.  Jesus comes off pretty good in this movie but the satire of religious people runs deep. The Pythons also skewer intellectual revolutionary movements who waste time on committee meetings and in-fighting.

There are definitely some brilliant parts such as the “blessed are the cheesemakers” scene, Latin instruction from the Roman centurion, “Biggus Dickus,” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”  For some reason I always forget the scene where Brian ends up in a space battle. On the downside, a lot of the  crowds chasing Brian scenes and the crowds laughing at Pilate scenes are one note and just go on and on.  And then some parts have aged poorly, especially a scene where Reg (John Cleese) basically goes on a transphobic rant against Loretta (Eric Idle), which is sadly not too far removed from how an older, reactionary Cleese acts today.

I guess I can see why many people consider this the Pythons best movie, but while there are some great parts it’s still hit or miss for me.  I am happy to have learned a great story about Welsh actor Sue Jones-Davies who plays Judith in this movie.  Her hometown of Aberystwyth banned showing the movie, but in 2008 she became mayor, and oversaw the first screening of the movie the next year.

Rating: ***1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: El Mariachi (1992)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: El Mariachi
Release Date:September 15, 1992
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Los Hooligans Productions

Robert Rodriguez’s debut movie is a crime/action/thriller set in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Acuña. An aspiring mariachi musician (Carlos Gallardo) arrives hoping to find work playing for tips at one of the city’s bars.  At the same time, a gangster Azul (Reinol Martíne) comes to town with a plan to extract a very violent revenge on the drug kingpin Moco (Peter Marquardt). Both wear all black and a guitar case, and like an Alfred Hitchcock film, there are mistaken identities.

I didn’t expect to like this movie as much as I did with it’s reputation for graphic violence.  Rodriguez famously made this movie on a shoestring budget of $7000 and seemingly spent most of that money on squibs.  But the mariachi is a resourceful and likable character and gets support (and a  love interest) from the bartender Domino (Consuelo Gómez). Their chemistry is strong and their relationship feels real which lends credence to all the unreality around them.

Rating: ***1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: Boy and the World (2013)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Boy and the World
Release Date: September 20, 2013
Director: Alê Abreu
Production Company: Filme de Papel

In this vividly-animated film from Brazil that sometimes resembles the artwork of Eric Carle, a small boy named Cuca discovers the harsh realities of the world. Life is idyllic for Cuca in his rural home until his father has to leave home to work in the city.  Cuca decides to look for his father and ends up on an adventure that takes him from farms to futuristic cities to industrial hellscapes.  The movie carries a strong message about the exploitation of labor, repressive government, and environmental degradation wrapped in visually-stunning animation. It wows you with awe and it makes you cry.

Rating: ****1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: For All Mankind (1989)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: For All Mankind
Release Date: November 1, 1989
Director: Al Reinert
Production Company: Apollo Associates

I’ve watched a lot of documentaries about the Apollo missions to the moon, including Earthrise, Apollo 11, and Apollo: Missions to the Moon, and always learn something new. This documentary was made in 1989 for the anniversary of the first moon landing included a lot of footage never before released to the public (and footage I haven’t seen reused in other documentaries). It also features a sharp soundtrack from Brian Eno.

There are some artistic decisions made that make it a fascinating film but less likely to be informative to people who don’t know a lot about the Apollo program.The film is edited to follow the timeline of a mission to the moon but uses footage from all of the missions.  Similarly, the movie is narrated by the voices of astronauts and mission control but with no indication of who is speaking (unless you’re like me and watch with closed captions on).  The feeling it gives is that it’s one big mission to the moon and we’re all on it.

Rating: ****

90 Movies in 90 Days: The Go-Go’s (2020)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less. It’s a goal increasingly unlikely to be met, but I persevere.

Title: The Go-Go’s
Release Date: January 24, 2020
Director: Alison Ellwood
Production Company: Fine Point Films | PolyGram Entertainment

This is a bog standard rock documentary with lots of archival footage intercut with talking head interviews with the subjects in the present day.  That said, the archival footage is pretty good, the interviews feature candid thoughts, and this is the story of The Go-Go’s, an amazing band that I nevertheless didn’t know much about before. The Go-Go’s rose out of the late 70s Los Angeles punk scene to hit it big in the early 80s as groundbreakers in New Wave music and women in rock in general.

The band hit it big right at the point in my childhood when I was at the age that I started paying attention to popular music so I feel lucky that I never knew a time when a woman’s rock band didn’t exist. The Go-Go’s were the first all-woman rock band where they wrote their own songs, played their own instruments, and hit Number One on the Billboard album charts (an accomplishment that they still hold alone).  You will be reminded of this fact numerous times while watching this documentary.  But as great as this accomplishment it is, the weight of being a Go-Go was heavy on all the band’s members as they were forced into an endless cycle of touring and promotion.

The band’s problems are not an unusual story in rock and roll.  Drummer Gina Schock and bassist Kathy Valentine seemed to be hurt most in the process as they resented that the songwriters – guitarist Charlotte Caffey and rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin – made a lot more money from publishing rights, or that lead vocalist Belinda Carlisle got a lot more popular attention.  Original members of the Go-Go’s Margot Olavarria and Elissa Bello are also interviewed about the unfortunate manner in which they were dismissed for more talented musicians.  Substance abuse is also a problem. It took the arrival of Paula Jean Brown in 1985 as a substitute for Wiedlin for someone to recognize that Caffey had a serious heroin addiction.

Much like the Pixies, the members of the band are just not able to communicate with another which allows problems to exacerbate.  Even in the present day interviews it is clear that they haven’t worked out their problem even though the band has reunited several times.  The documentary says very little about anything after The Go-Go’s initial breakup in 1985 (and doesn’t even mention that they recorded an album in 2001).  Its a bummer that such a great band ended up having such a short initial run.  Imagine if they had been still been together as elder stateswomen for the alternative music boom in the 1990s?  Nevertheless, The Go-Go’s were a great band for the time they had and this documentary makes me appreciate them all the more.

Rating: ***1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: Little Fugitive (1953)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Little Fugitive
Release Date: October 6, 1953
Director:  Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin
Production Company: Little Fugitive Production Company


Joey (Richie Andrusco) is a 7-year-old growing up in a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn who likes Westerns and loves horses.  When his widowed mother has to go away to care for his grandmother, he’s left in the care of his older brother, Lennie (Richard Brewster).  Lennie’s friends don’t like having little Joey tagging along.  So the play a prank that makes Joey think he’s killed Lennie.  Then Joey runs away to Coney Island and pretty much has the best day of his life.

The plot is minimal, but this movie delights on it’s naturalistic, largely unscripted performances by non-professional child actors.  Morris Engel developed a special camera that could be strapped to the body allowing the directors to film on location amid crowds of daytripping New Yorkers. It’s also a great document of Coney Island in the 1950s, when the parachute jump still worked and before Fred Trump demolished many of the amusements for real estate development.

It’s a form of neorealism that feels lighter and funnier than the movements in Italy and France and makes me wish a larger American neorealist movement grew out of it.  But François Truffaut loved Little Fugitives and said it inspired The 400 Blows! But really the most mindblowing thing about this movie is that my father was a 7-year-old in a working class neighborhood in 1953.  I wish he were around so I could watch this movie with him and ask him if he recognizes anyone.

Rating: ****1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: Ghost in the Shell (1995)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Ghost in the Shell
Release Date: 18 November 1995
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Production Company: Production I.G | Bandai Visual | Manga Entertainment

In a cyberpunk future Japan, Major Motoko Kusanag (Mimi Woods) is an assault squadron leader for a public security agency with cybernetic enhancements.  She and her partner Batou (Richard Epcar)investigate an entity known as the Puppet Master (Tom Wyner) who is suspected of hacking into various cyborgs.  The more she learns of the Puppet Master the more Motoko questions her own identity.

This movie is brutally violent, but also has long periods that are almost meditative.  The animation is stunning and must’ve been mind-blowing in 1995.  The score is also magnificent.  Buuuut, there are also segments with characters providing lengthy exposition dumps and dry philosophical conversations.  For some reason Motoko has to be nude to fight and the animators are really into depicting her erect nipples, which is really sexist.  So, this is obviously an innovative and groundbreaking movie (and one that is part of a progression from Blade Runner to The Matrix), but I recommend it with reservations.

Rating: ***

90 Movies in 90 Days: The Kid Brother (1927)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: The Kid Brother
Release Date: January 22, 1927
Director: Ted Wilde, J.A. Howe (co-director), Harold Lloyd (uncredited), and Lewis Milestone (uncredited)
Production Company: Paramount Pictures

Harold Hickory (Harold Lloyd) is the youngest son of Sheriff Jim Hickory (Walter James) of Hickoryville, who also runs a farm with his two strong, older sons.  Harold doesn’t fit in with his father and brothers and has to rely on his wits rather than strength.  When he meets Mary Powers (Jobyna Ralston), a dancer in a traveling medicine show, it is love at first sight.  Mary inspires Harold to greater confidence especially when he’s needed to save the day when the other members of the medicine show conspire to steal the town’s contributions for a new dam from the sheriff!

This is a funny and charming movie with pretty much nonstop gags.  I like this even more than Lloyd’s more famous film Safety Last.

Rating: ***1/2

I don’t know why the only trailer I can find is narrated dramatically in German!?!?

90 Movies in 90 Days: Arracht (2019)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Arracht (English title: Monster)
Release Date: 29 November 2019
Director: Tomás Ó Súilleabháin
Production Company: Macalla Teoranta

After enjoying The Quiet Girl, I wanted to find another film in the Irish language for St. Patrick’s Day.  This one fit the bill, and as an added bonus the director/writer has the same name as my father.

Set in Connemara, on the west coast of Ireland, the film begins in 1845 as the potato blight is spreading across the land.  Colmán Sharkey (Dónall Ó Héalaí) is a fisherman and farmer as well as a community leader.  When the English landlord raises rents, he believes he can appeal to his charity to reduce the rents.  He’s accompanied by his newly-hired farmhand, a Navy deserter named Patsy (Dara Devaney), who sabotages everything.

Two years later, the Great Hunger has decimated Ireland.  Colmán has lost everything including his will to live.  But when he finds a sick orphan girl in his farmhouse named Kitty (Saise Ní Chuinn), he nurses her to health and begins acting as a surrogate parent.  Unfortunately, incidents in the past that tie them together come back to haunt them.

This a tense drama that really seems to capture the horrors of the Great Hunger.  But more than a survival movie it is also a story of how kindness and love can persevere in the hardest of times.

Rating: ****

Note: The movie is currently streaming on Prime Video, but I had to search for it by the English title Monster to find it.

90 Movies in 90 Days: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Release Date: December 21, 2022
Director: Joel Crawford
Production Company: DreamWorks Animation

I was surprised by the popular acclaim of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish since it came out, because sequels of spinoffs of animated franchises generally aren’t all that good. I only became aware of the character Puss in Boots recently when I watched Shrek 2 for the first time.  My linear mind felt I would need to watch the rest of the Shrek sequels and the original Puss in Boots first, but I overcame that inclination.

And I was just fine, because Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is an excellent standalone feature and if referenced anything in earlier movies I didn’t feel like I was missing out.  Oh, and the hype is real.  This is a funny, creative, visually-imaginative, and heartfelt film which has something for the whole family (except maybe the youngest children).

The adventurer Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has lost 8 of his 9 lives and begins to fear his mortality with Death, in the form of a Wolf (Wagner Moura), literally tailing him.  He learns of a map that leads to a magical wishing star and determines to steal the map and use the wish to gain more lives.  His companions on the journey are fellow adventurer (and on-again/off-again romantic interest) Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) and Perrito (Harvey Guillén), a kindhearted but dim Chihuahua.  They are chased by the crime family of Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Olivia Coleman, Ray Winstone, and Samson Kayo) who are in turn pursued by the psychotic pastry chef “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney).

A simple summary of the movies plot would be “the real treasure is the friends we made along the way” but that would undervalue the high quality of the characterization and storytelling.  The movie is very funny and I particularly like how Puss can code switch between being a Spanish adventurer and the behavior of real life cats.  Similarly, all of the characters have moments that reference their fairy tale/nursery rhyme origins in clever ways. The animation style is stunning and changes to enhance action and fantasy sequences.  It feels like a bold choice for the filmmakers to break from just using the same style they’ve used throughout the Shrek franchise.

So, this movie probably has no right to be as good as it is.  But it is good, and I tip my hat to everyone involved for putting their best into it.

Rating: ****