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 Apex Predator's Film Thread Volume 2.0 
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Apex Predator wrote:

Best: The Caves of Androzani. Yeah, it's his last but thanks to the return of Robert Holmes as writer, a memorable villain in Sharaz Jek, and perhaps the most touching ending, it's among the series's best.

Worst: Paradise Towers. Despite being built on the same story that led to Tom Hiddleston's High Rise, this bizarro combination of the Hitler-esque Chief Caretaker, Kangs, robot cleaners, evil old ladies, and Pex, a self-styled Arnold/Stallone clone who looks like he could barely beat Turlough in a brawl, just doesn't gel. Also, Red Kangs are the Best.


There's a moment in Caves of Androzani where Sharaz Jek is perving on/threatening Peri and the Doctor just . . . steps between them. It's a really neat moment of someone very quietly asserting power and it's not what we usually think of when we think of heroic actions.

I used to have a VHS copy of Paradise Towers--I thought it was hilarious with the cannibalistic grannies, the deadly pool cleaner robot, all of it.


Sun Jul 29, 2018 12:14 pm
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Yeah, a major plot point of Caves is how Sherak wanted Peri for himself. It might not have stood out among his most heroic moments (they made it clear that to overcome a disease that both acquire that finding the cure would literally be an ordeal that could lead to his death), but I think it showcases how the Doctor would fight for and support his companions.

As for Towers, I remember some bad puns, the Doctor dancing around with Red Kangs, and Mel being covered with the shawl of death. I'm not opposed to some humor in a Doctor Who serial, but that episode veered too much in the wrong direction for my tastes.

I enjoyed watching it all on Twitch as well as inadvertantly finding out what random words were part of the Mod bot's list to block messages. Very eclectic to say the least.


Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:38 am
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I covered all these in Thief's thread, so some rapid catch-up here on all of these:

Meshes of the Afternoon:

What begins as a woman finding a flower dropped by a man who can't find him before settling into a house quickly turns...complicated.

I enjoyed the twists as, um, I can't really talk about it, but considering the age of the short, the director made some interesting choices that are impressive.

Having said it, the story kinda runs out of course in the final third and I suspect avant garde films aren't my thing (also remembering my thoughts on Syndoche, NY and Goodbye to Language, although Mulholland Drive did pretty well).

Singing with Angry Bird:

Uplifting, if familiar, take on a Korean opera singer turned choir director in India who finds that some parents questioning the worth of music when their families are struggling. So he decides to get them to join their children in a concert where getting them to practice proves to be a struggle at times.

You never really get to see why some of his students call him Angry Bird. Perhaps age has mellowed things or maybe the film is not wanting to show this side of him, but I need more than a child or two talking about him losing his temper.

You do get a good understanding on both why some parents have their kids work and the various forms of poverty they have to overcome. One story about how a young woman having to overcome a baby's birth defects without any help from her boyfriend or his family is heartbreaking.

But you also get the necessary smiles in this as well. Watching parents bond with their kids over singing and watching as the makeshift choir starts to gel in practices does lift the spirits.

You do feel like better films are available, but if you're in need of an emotional boost, Singing with Angry Bird will do the job.

The Boy

A woman (Lauren Cohen) who is escaping an abusive relationship travels over to England to accept a position as a nanny for a child named Brahms. Once she arrives, she learns that Brahms is a doll whom both their parents take very seriously.

They hand her a list of rules to follow so that he'll behave like a good boy, but things take a few turns from there.

This one mainly eschews blood and gore and aims for a more sedate horror like The Woman in Black and it succeeds for the most part. There's a couple of disturbing moments in the film's first two thirds and it largely avoids some of the cliches.

But it starts to sputter in the final third as the writing starts to run out of juice and a character pops up out of nowhere. We're supposed to buy that he can all of a sudden out of the blue be able to afford three tickets to and from England. Even though you can start to see old patterns start to emerge which was a nice touch, it does lead to the moment that kinda kills this one.

Oh, and the final shots sort of infuriated me. But on the plus side, I was more under the spell of this movie about a doll than I was with Dead Silence. So there is that.

Next: Is it all in her head or is he really considering trying to kill her?


Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:28 am
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Will review Suspicion and Following tomorrow.

But tonight, if you haven't seen it, PBS is showing a good documentary called Whose Streets. It is focusing on what happened in the year following the death of Michael Brown by several officers.

If you wonder why football players are kneeling down or where #BlackLivesMatter came from, it's a must watch.

Check your local listings on TitanTV. :up:


Tue Jul 31, 2018 7:48 am
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Suspicion:

Basically, Joan Fontaine plays a woman named Lina, who's book smart and fairly good looking.

She's on the path to spinsterhood though until she meets with Johnnie (Cary Grant), a charming fella on a train. After overhearing a conversation with her folks, she decides to dive into the relationship.

It eventually leads to marriage where Lina learns the truth about Johnnie. Namely, he's a gambler heavily into debt, broke as a joke, but he does love her. Even though he spends beyond his means and calls her Monkeyface (!) as a term of endearment. She learns more details from his friend Beaky (Nigel Bruce).

But things take a turn once her general father (Cedric Hardwicke) dies and leaves her some chairs and a small stipend. Although this is alright, Johnnie realizes this won't be enough to cover his debts considering his lack of job skills. So he decides to sell the chairs. After an uproar, he decides to buy them back. But things quickly go from bad to worse and in a last ditch effort to save things, he decides to get Beaky involved in a real estate venture.

But soon Lina suspects something else is going on, once she learns he's into crime novels.

It may not be top tier Hitchcock, but for 90 percent of it, it's rather solid Hitchcock. The chemistry between the two leads may not be sterling, but considering how both characters feel like they're settling for the best they can get, it's excusable. Some memorable performances from both the two leads and several side characters keep things moving and the director manages to coax danger around the way from a dinner conversation late in the film to some hairpin turns around a cliff.

But the film botches the ending. In something that appears to have been dictated by either the Film Code, the Studio, or possibly even Grant, Suspicion manages to let down what was shaping to be a fine film noir in the form of a cop out.

Shame, really.


Wed Aug 01, 2018 10:56 am
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Following:

Christopher Nolan's debut is about a Young Man who travels around following people as an aspiring writer in the hopes that creativity will ensue. But he gets confronted by a thief named Cobb who agrees to let him participate. But the Young Man starts to find himself excited by the process.

You have three fairly well written characters in a story that takes on several nasty turns and recalls a film noir at times. It's nice to see what can be done on a budget of $6,000 with amateur actors and black and white, proving Nolan doesn't need the big budgets to pull off an interesting story.

But alas, some problems pop up. There appears to be one or twists too many in the story and the flipping back and forth in time doesn't seem to add a purpose to what's a lean runtime. And those arguing he struggles to write for female characters might have an argument to make here as she's a bit less developed than the men.

Otherwise, it was a decent film. But between this and the Tribe, I may be starting August up with some way lighter fare.


Wed Aug 01, 2018 11:03 am
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The Tribe:

It's usually tough for new students to fit in. But how does it go when you're a deaf student in the Ukraine?

His roomie sizes him up and quickly determines that he has potential in a peer group that's into robbery, violence, and pimping out two young women.

After a breaking in period, he makes the cut and finds himself becoming an increasingly valuable member of the team. But he risks it all when he starts to fall for one of the women.

I liked how they throw you in the middle of things without much in the way of lifelines. It forces you to pay attention to a corner of the world you hadn't seen before.

But I think I started to turn on this about an hour in when director Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi.turned about 4-5 minutes into an amateur porno. I am totally not kidding about this. At least it wasn't entirely male-centric, but still.

Then things continue to get ugly culminating in a finale that has to be seen to be disbelieved. It's one thing to dive into another world, but it's something else when you're tempted to shut things down because you can't find a sympathetic character around. The closest thing might be his "girlfriend" and I'm still shaking my head about some of the things that happened to her character.

Sadly, this provocation proves to not have a point. Maybe the director will one day find his version of Spring Breakers. But until that happens, I don't see myself rushing out to see his other stuff.

I feel like going full Tyra on this, so I'll stop now. The Tribe is probably the worst film I've seen in July, but I'd give it maybe a C- or D+ depending on how generous I feel.

Next: Something way the flippin' uplifting.


Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:38 am
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Apex's Dirty Baker's Dozens for August:

If Thief does his list, consider this a supplement. If not, consider this an alternative for those who desire structure.

Either way, I give you 13 general categories to help inspire your film watching in the dog days of summer. Try to make most of these first time views, okay?

1. Watch a film where a dog is either a main character or a secondary one.
2. Watch a film set in a school of some sort (high school/college/private school).
3. Watch a film where characters travel from one place to another
4. Watch a film featuring a group of female lead characters. (National Girlfriends Day is August 1)
5. Watch a film where money is the focus or major plot point. (National Dollar Day is August 8)
6. Watch a film based on a book. (Book Lover's Day is August 9)
7. Watch a 2018 film.
8. Watch an action film.
9. Watch a film with a lead actor celebrating their birthday in August.
10. Watch a film that lost Best Picture at the Oscars.
11. Watch a documentary.
12. Watch a romantic film.
13. Watch a film that came out sometime between the first of May and Labor Day. It doesn't matter what year.

And if you want to combine one film into multiple categories, go for it! It's all about fun!


Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:04 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
If not, consider this an alternative for those who desire structure.


:shifty:


Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:11 am
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Also, any recs on a seriously happy/uplifting film? Could use it after the last few I've seen...


Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:40 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Also, any recs on a seriously happy/uplifting film? Could use it after the last few I've seen...


Remind me: what streaming services do you have access to? Netflix? I think you have Prime, right?


Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:55 am
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I have Netflix and Prime. I can also download movies from both, if that helps.


Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:02 am
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If you have Amazon Prime (I'm listing some I know you've seen, just everything I think is happy/light/put a smile on your face films):

What We Do in the Shadows
Spaceballs
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey
Deathstalker 2
It's a Boy Girl Thing
The 39 Steps
A Town Called Panic
Chicken People
In & Out


Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:17 am
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Seen most of these, but I'll go with Shadows again. :up:

Thanks.


Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:21 am
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From Netflix:

Hot Fuzz
Moana
Amelie
Paddington
Chicken Run
Stardust
Adventures of Tintin
Bolt
13 Going on 30


Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:28 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Also, any recs on a seriously happy/uplifting film? Could use it after the last few I've seen...

Pleasantville.


Thu Aug 02, 2018 1:31 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
Also, any recs on a seriously happy/uplifting film? Could use it after the last few I've seen...


Both Paddington movies and Shaun the Sheep Movie. Oh and Isle of Dogs.


Thu Aug 02, 2018 2:33 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
From Netflix:

Hot Fuzz
Moana
Amelie
Paddington
Chicken Run
Stardust
Adventures of Tintin
Bolt
13 Going on 30


Seen most of these. Stardust and Tintin would be first time watches.

Thoughts on Larry Crowne? I saw that in the feel good section.


Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:50 am
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Wooley wrote:
Pleasantville.


Yeah, I enjoyed that one.


Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:50 am
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ski petrol wrote:

Both Paddington movies and Shaun the Sheep Movie. Oh and Isle of Dogs.


Will agree on Paddington 1 and Shaun the Sheep, they're great. The others, I've not seen yet.


Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:51 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

Seen most of these. Stardust and Tintin would be first time watches.

Thoughts on Larry Crowne? I saw that in the feel good section.


I haven't seen Larry Crowne, sorry.

I really, really love Stardust. Fantastic cast, funny, action-y, romantic-y. It's winky fantasy, but it strikes just the right note between serious and meta. It's one of my go-tos when I need a pick-me-up.

Tintin is just good fun. I might be slightly biased because I read the comics when I was younger. It's a property I'm strangely invested in, and I liked the way they brought it to the big screen.


Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:34 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I haven't seen Larry Crowne, sorry.

I really, really love Stardust. Fantastic cast, funny, action-y, romantic-y. It's winky fantasy, but it strikes just the right note between serious and meta. It's one of my go-tos when I need a pick-me-up.

Tintin is just good fun. I might be slightly biased because I read the comics when I was younger. It's a property I'm strangely invested in, and I liked the way they brought it to the big screen.


I agree about Stardust. Haven't seen the others.

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Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:48 am
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Larry Crowne is one of the blandest bits of nothing I've ever seen.


Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:53 am
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Watch a film that came out sometime between the first of May and Labor Day. It doesn't matter what year: Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (Released August 10th, 1984)

This was a sci-fi/comedy romp about a rock-star scientist who discovers a way to cross over into a different dimension, which attracts the attention of an untoward group of aliens who want to use the technology to return to their home.

I am still recovering from surgery, and it took me a few views to watch this one all the way through, so my impression of it is a bit disjoint. But from what I saw I feel like the film itself is a bit disjoint. It's clearly going for an intentionally wacky, silly vibe, with characters named things like "Perfect Tommy" and "John Bigboote".

My favorite thing about this film was just seeing so many actors at a much younger age than I associate with them: John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown, Dan Hedaya, etc. It is a film where almost everyone seems like they are having a good time, and that suits the overall tone of the film.


Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:19 am
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And of course, I start August with a freebie.

Murder My Sweet (1944):

Struggling detective Phillip Marlowe (Dick Powell) gets hired by hulking ex-con Moose (Mike Mazurki) to find Velma, a girl he was sweet on before he went in the slammer for 8 years. While doing so, he gets hired by a playboy to play bodyguard during a ransom exchange for some jewels. When his charge ends up dead, Phillip decides to investigate and finds himself in the machinations of a family and a psychic healer. Along the way, he finds that he's slowly starting to fall for daughter Ann (Anne Shirley).

Dense, but well written with some good moments of humor and solid visual scenes (particularly one sequence where it appears he's going through a drug withdrawal with spiderwebs, smoke, and plenty of closed doors). Things feel a bit too conveniently wrapped up in the climax, though.

August is up to a pretty good start.


Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:27 am
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Watch a film based on a book. (Book Lover's Day is August 9): The Program

This was a competent, straight-forward docu-drama about the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. Ben Foster plays Armstrong, and does a great job portraying both a man who is driven and needs something to work at in order to be happy and an athlete who is able to justify to himself cheating in order to win. Chris O'Dowd plays the sports journalist, David Walsh, who pursues the doping story and on whose book this film is based.

As someone who only tangentially followed the story when it broke, this was a good primer on the timeline and players in the scandal. The film neither villainizes nor valorizes the different characters--and in fact I really liked that we are allowed to see the side of all of the characters that helps us to understand why they do what they do (aside from those sweet, sweet million dollar bonuses). I love the moment when the doctor running the doping program asks at a professional conference about using a medical treatment on healthy athletes. When the slightly taken aback presenter says that there has been no study on that and offers her opinion that such treatment would be unethical, the doctor asks, with genuine interest, "Would it?". I also was interested by the section of the film that addresses Armstrong's cancer--I had not realized the seriousness of his diagnosis nor the extent of his treatment (brain surgery and extensive chemo). While the movie isn't afraid to show a nasty, manipulative side of Armstrong, it also makes it pretty clear that his interest in helping cancer survivors and especially children with cancer is deep and genuine.

For me, the most fascinating portion of the film comes when the doping allegations first surface and Armstrong goes into spin mode. His team exerts pressure on one man to get his "bitch" wife to stop telling about how she first heard that the team was doping. A woman who worked as a general massage therapist/assistant who also speaks to the paper is derided as a "alcoholic whore". Armstrong manages to turn a question about doping back on the reporters who ask it, somehow winding his answer around to implying that people who ask him about doping are distracting from helping children with cancer.

While I enjoyed the film, there's not much to make it pop. Foster is really good as Armstrong, but the whole movie is attempting to cover years and years of events. It often feels like it's skimming the surface--giving us a look at events but not much depth. There are some fun secondary characters (like the doping doctor or Dustin Hoffman as a risk analysis specialist who works for a company that has to pay Armstrong $1 million every time he wins the Tour de France), but they don't get as much screentime as I would have liked. I imagine that a lot of footage ended up on the editor's floor in an attempt to keep this one feature length.

This was a good overview of the scandal with a few memorable details (like the team manager selling the team's bikes to afford the doping drugs), but it's not much more than that.


Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:35 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
Watch a film based on a book. (Book Lover's Day is August 9): The Program

This was a competent, straight-forward docu-drama about the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. Ben Foster plays Armstrong, and does a great job portraying both a man who is driven and needs something to work at in order to be happy and an athlete who is able to justify to himself cheating in order to win. Chris O'Dowd plays the sports journalist, David Walsh, who pursues the doping story and on whose book this film is based.

As someone who only tangentially followed the story when it broke, this was a good primer on the timeline and players in the scandal. The film neither villainizes nor valorizes the different characters--and in fact I really liked that we are allowed to see the side of all of the characters that helps us to understand why they do what they do (aside from those sweet, sweet million dollar bonuses). I love the moment when the doctor running the doping program asks at a professional conference about using a medical treatment on healthy athletes. When the slightly taken aback presenter says that there has been no study on that and offers her opinion that such treatment would be unethical, the doctor asks, with genuine interest, "Would it?". I also was interested by the section of the film that addresses Armstrong's cancer--I had not realized the seriousness of his diagnosis nor the extent of his treatment (brain surgery and extensive chemo). While the movie isn't afraid to show a nasty, manipulative side of Armstrong, it also makes it pretty clear that his interest in helping cancer survivors and especially children with cancer is deep and genuine.

For me, the most fascinating portion of the film comes when the doping allegations first surface and Armstrong goes into spin mode. His team exerts pressure on one man to get his "bitch" wife to stop telling about how she first heard that the team was doping. A woman who worked as a general massage therapist/assistant who also speaks to the paper is derided as a "alcoholic whore". Armstrong manages to turn a question about doping back on the reporters who ask it, somehow winding his answer around to implying that people who ask him about doping are distracting from helping children with cancer.

While I enjoyed the film, there's not much to make it pop. Foster is really good as Armstrong, but the whole movie is attempting to cover years and years of events. It often feels like it's skimming the surface--giving us a look at events but not much depth. There are some fun secondary characters (like the doping doctor or Dustin Hoffman as a risk analysis specialist who works for a company that has to pay Armstrong $1 million every time he wins the Tour de France), but they don't get as much screentime as I would have liked. I imagine that a lot of footage ended up on the editor's floor in an attempt to keep this one feature length.

This was a good overview of the scandal with a few memorable details (like the team manager selling the team's bikes to afford the doping drugs), but it's not much more than that.


I think he also attacked people who accused him of doping. He accused a paper of engaging in tabloid behavior when reporting about a failed drug test in 2005. He attacked several former bikers turned journalists as far back as 1999.

I wonder if they showed footage of the Oprah interview. I had a feeling he thought coming forward would lead to a redemption, but the results were anything but.


Sun Aug 12, 2018 9:11 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

I think he also attacked people who accused him of doping. He accused a paper of engaging in tabloid behavior when reporting about a failed drug test in 2005. He attacked several former bikers turned journalists as far back as 1999.

I wonder if they showed footage of the Oprah interview. I had a feeling he thought coming forward would lead to a redemption, but the results were anything but.


Yes--the film shows him suing (and winning!) the paper that reported on his doping.

They integrated the interview into the film. They used Oprah's voice and then Foster playing Armstrong answering the questions.

The film does certainly address that doping was prevalent among many of the athletes. Watching the film you can see how Armstrong felt that he was doing what everyone else was doing, and was it his fault he was really great at it?

What the film really shows is that for Armstrong, the doping was juts a piece of what he did. To him there's also the training, the mental focus, the strategy. He really doesn't seem to realize how much cheating completely poisons the well. I mean, doping is not going to turn a bad athlete into a good one. But the line between who Armstrong is without drugs and who he is with drugs gets totally blurred. The film did offer one startling statistic (delivered by Walsh as he's first starting to suspect something is amiss): until he started doping, Armstrong's best finish on the uphill climb portion of the race was 39th.


Sun Aug 12, 2018 9:19 am
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Whoa! I didn't know that.

Alright, it's close to mid-month, but I've finally came up with a plan to tackle all the categories.

Dog as a main/supporting character: Hachi (2009)
Film set in School: The Bad Kids (2016)
Traveling key part of film: Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Female Lead Characters: Mad Money (2008)
Money focus or major plot point: Mad Money
Movie based on book: Tulip Fever (2017)
2018 Movie: Set It Up (2018)
Action Film: Valerian (2017)
Film with lead celebrating August Birthday: Valerian (co-star Cara Delevingne)
Best Picture Loser: Lady Bird (2017)
Documentary: The Bad Kids
Romantic Film: Set It Up
Film that Came Out during Summer: Valerian


Sun Aug 12, 2018 10:00 am
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Valerian is OK if you want to see Luc Besson revert back to over the top Fifth Element territory but it's instantly forgettable and overly long.


Sun Aug 12, 2018 10:47 am
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Considering I liked The Fifth Element for the most part, I think that shouldn't be a problem.

Overlength might be more of an issue, though.


Sun Aug 12, 2018 10:49 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Considering I liked The Fifth Element for the most part, I think that shouldn't be a problem.

Overlength might be more of an issue, though.


2 and 1/2 hours of ridiculousness. No wonder it bombed.


Sun Aug 12, 2018 10:52 am
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ski petrol wrote:

2 and 1/2 hours of ridiculousness. No wonder it bombed.


25 minutes so far and I see where most of the money went. The visuals are superb.

But between the tone shifts and lack of chemistry and even a miscasting, yeah, I see why it sunk.


Sun Aug 19, 2018 5:34 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

25 minutes so far and I see where most of the money went. The visuals are superb.

But between the tone shifts and lack of chemistry and even a miscasting, yeah, I see why it sunk.


Who do you think is miscast?

I liked Valerian well enough. I really like Dane DeHaan and all of the supporting cast. I'd read several reviews that noted the weakness in writing, so I just embraced it as a visual journey and enjoyed it on those terms. It is about 40 minutes too long, though.


Sun Aug 19, 2018 5:54 am
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Watch a documentary: Searching for Sugar Man

In the late 60s/early 70s, a singer-songwriter named Rodriguez comes on the scene. He releases back-to-back albums (Cold Feet and Coming From Reality), both with strong anti-establishment themes. Neither record does well, the label closes down, and Rodriguez disappears. "Everyone knows" that, miserable over his commercial failure, Rodriguez sang the last song in a concert and then killed himself on stage.

But unbeknownst to anyone, Rodriguez's music lands in South Africa (still under apartheid), where it gains strong traction. The government goes as far as to deliberately damage every distributed copy of the record (scratching out the outer track) so that it cannot be played over the radio.

Fast forward to the 90s, when Rodriguez's music is being released on CD. A South African music fan is asked to write the liner notes for the CD, and in the notes he puts out a plea for anyone who has more information about Rodriguez and his life. Thus starts an investigation that at one point leads to a fateful conversation that changes everything.

I enjoyed this documentary. In today's world of globalism and internet connection, it's fascinating to look at a situation where someone could be famous in a corner of the world and yet know nothing about it. It's also a great look at how someone can be perfectly talented and yet simply not gain a foothold. Rodriguez's music is sort of Bob Dylan-esque, but it has its own quality that makes me surprised that it didn't get more traction at the time.

I'd recommend this one. While the style of the documentary didn't do much for me, it's got a lot of interesting elements to it.


Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:32 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
Watch a documentary: Searching for Sugar Man

In the late 60s/early 70s, a singer-songwriter named Rodriguez comes on the scene. He releases back-to-back albums (Cold Feet and Coming From Reality), both with strong anti-establishment themes. Neither record does well, the label closes down, and Rodriguez disappears. "Everyone knows" that, miserable over his commercial failure, Rodriguez sang the last song in a concert and then killed himself on stage.

But unbeknownst to anyone, Rodriguez's music lands in South Africa (still under apartheid), where it gains strong traction. The government goes as far as to deliberately damage every distributed copy of the record (scratching out the outer track) so that it cannot be played over the radio.

Fast forward to the 90s, when Rodriguez's music is being released on CD. A South African music fan is asked to write the liner notes for the CD, and in the notes he puts out a plea for anyone who has more information about Rodriguez and his life. Thus starts an investigation that at one point leads to a fateful conversation that changes everything.

I enjoyed this documentary. In today's world of globalism and internet connection, it's fascinating to look at a situation where someone could be famous in a corner of the world and yet know nothing about it. It's also a great look at how someone can be perfectly talented and yet simply not gain a foothold. Rodriguez's music is sort of Bob Dylan-esque, but it has its own quality that makes me surprised that it didn't get more traction at the time.

I'd recommend this one. While the style of the documentary didn't do much for me, it's got a lot of interesting elements to it.

Been meanin' to watch this for ever.


Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:49 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Who do you think is miscast?

I liked Valerian well enough. I really like Dane DeHaan and all of the supporting cast. I'd read several reviews that noted the weakness in writing, so I just embraced it as a visual journey and enjoyed it on those terms. It is about 40 minutes too long, though.


DeHaan. I can buy him doing drama. But a tough guy? I'm still struggling over an hour in.

Although I do like how this thing that happened in the first ten minutes didn't get brushed over like I feared it would when it took place before the "snappy" banter between the two leads.

Will agree with the visuals. It looks good enough to buy as a demo disc for a TV set.


Wed Aug 22, 2018 2:40 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
DeHaan. I can buy him doing drama. But a tough guy? I'm still struggling over an hour in.


I don't buy him as a tough guy so much as I buy him as a smart guy who is also a bit reckless.

Wooley wrote:
Been meanin' to watch this for ever.


I say go for it. It's a quick watch.


Watch a film set in a school of some sort (high school/college/private school): Valentine Road


Back in 2008, a 14 year old boy, Brandon, shot his classmate, Larry, twice in the head in the middle of a computer class. The film takes a deep look at the lives of both boys, their fatal intersection, and the complicated legal trial that followed.

The supposed trigger for the killing was that Larry, a flamboyant child getting into cross-dressing, had flirted with Brandon in front of other boys in the grade. This element of the case reveals a deep homophobia and transphobia in the community.

The film is incredibly effective at contrasting the reactions of different characters to information about the case. When the film explores the question of whether Brandon might have been partially motivated by racism (and we learn that he was close friends with a white separatist), we get one story from a girl who claims that Brandon had a "thing" for calling people "n*****" and that he used the slur repeatedly against her. But then later, in reference to Brandon's notebook being full of doodles of swastikas and other Nazi imagery, a handful of middle-aged women declare "Boys just love doodling!". The film clearly takes the position that is on Larry's side, but it does a very good job of understanding the point of view of those who sympathize with Brandon. One teacher borders on caricature as she all but says that Larry invited what happened to him, but even she does genuinely seem to believe that forcing Larry to give up his effeminate ways was needed to protect him.

The film also mines some remarkable small details, such as one of the girls who witnessed the shooting reporting that all of the witnesses were shuttled into a room and shown Jaws. "Not a cartoon or something for kids . . . Jaws," she reports, in laughing disbelief. From Brandon's life we also get harsh details, such as the fact that Brandon's father once shot Brandon's mother in an argument. Both boys suffered tremendous abuse and hardship in their young lives, but the film never loses sight of the fact that one of the boys is gone forever.

It's startling to realize that Larry lived in a world of stark contrasts. Some of the adults around him loved him for who he was--showed him how to put on makeup correctly, gave him a dress, honored his kindness. While others considered "drawing attention" to be a behavior issue worthy of legal intervention and muse that in Brandon's place they might have done something similar. One adult talks of a lesbian student, saying that she was told not to hold her girlfriend's hand in school. "She got the message," the woman says approvingly, just totally oblivious to the culture of oppression in the school for LGBT students, as if just hiding their true selves is clearly the best thing for everyone.

This was a hard film to watch, but I think it's critical in terms of understanding that many communities have a long way to go before all of their children can lead happy, healthy lives.


Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:04 am
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Watch a film where characters travel from one place to another: Japanese Story

In this romance/drama/comedy, geologist Sandy is ordered by her boss to show a Japanese businessman, Hiromitsu, around in hopes that he will by the company's software. The relationship between the two gets off to a rocky start, but as the two continue their travels through the Australian desert, they begin to form a closer bond that turns to romance. Sandy finds herself struggling to figure out what this new relationship means, while Hiromitsu is clearly experiencing some personal revelations of his own in the foreign landscape of the desert.

This was a really interesting film. While I wouldn't call the plot groundbreaking, it went places that I've never seen before and had some truly unexpected moments. I think that its third act is wonderfully full of nuance that the more broad, culture-clash first act would never have you anticipating. The desert landscape is a beautiful background for the drama, and the two lead performances are very complementary.


Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:08 am
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Action Film
Film with Lead Celebrating an August Birthday: Cara Delevigne
Film that Came Out During Summer


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

The first dozen minutes are so aren't great, but they're fine. A sequence set in a space station to David Bowie's Space Oddity where it increasingly showcases the diversity of astronauts sent there is nice and we get snippets of a world full of peaceful aliens before it gets threatened by storm clouds and something crashing. We see an alien girl get wiped out.

Then we switch over to a bickering couple trying to banter. Thanks, film for that abrupt transition!

The couple turns out to be Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevigne), operatives in a space outfit that deal with major crimes. They're hired with the retrieval of a major weapon which leads to a kidnapping and a possible conspiracy.

I struggle to debate why I couldn't quite buy DeHaan as a action star. Perhaps his tough guy voice seems forced, like it's trying too hard to be Keanu Reeves in John Wick? He has some fairly good moments here (one involving a sword and a bunch of different aliens) and he can act. So there's that. Perhaps I can buy the reckless part (I got a feeling that a young Han Solo was what they were going for here), but I think the smartness is debateable.

I think any criticisms on Delevigne acting are mostly wiped away by the fact that The Fifth Element didn't test Milla Jovovich's acting abilities any. She's decent, for what it's worth. Although the chemistry is a bit on the shaky side between her and DeHaan.

It's nice to see some decent actors in this one, some hidden away under plenty of latex. Perhaps the best of them is Rihanna, mainly known as a singer, but she definitely deserves to take a bow for that bravura performance as a shape shifting alien. Her sequence led to a nice rollercoaster of emotions.

The visuals are definitely cool (I could see this film being used as a demo tape for big screen TVs) but the story can't keep up. Comparisons with The Fifth Element don't help, but I found this very reminiscent of another big budget film involving aliens that was a major success. That doesn't help, either.

Eh, as a turn your brain off and enjoy it sort of flick, it's decent. But it definitely doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

C

Next:
Tackling 2018 with another romcom, but I heard good things about it?


Sat Aug 25, 2018 10:53 am
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The thing I admired about Valerian was the awesomely trippy visuals. Otherwise the dialogue was laughable and there was no chemistry between the two leads. I really like Luc Besson but I think he was trying to go for another Fifth Element kind of thing and just ended up with a tripped out mess.


Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:11 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
It's nice to see some decent actors in this one, some hidden away under plenty of latex. Perhaps the best of them is Rihanna, mainly known as a singer, but she definitely deserves to take a bow for that bravura performance as a shape shifting alien. Her sequence led to a nice rollercoaster of emotions.


I loved Rihanna's performance, and her character led to the only part that really made me dislike DeHaan's character, namely the way that he consistently shames her when she looks like her real self, insisting that she adopt her "sexy human" form. It's just gross. She's literally just been liberated from sex work where she has to look a certain way, and when she wants to look like herself she's criticized for it. It's a shame, because her burlesque act is a definite highlight of the film.


Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:11 am
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ski petrol wrote:
The thing I admired about Valerian was the awesomely trippy visuals. Otherwise the dialogue was laughable and there was no chemistry between the two leads. I really like Luc Besson but I think he was trying to go for another Fifth Element kind of thing and just ended up with a tripped out mess.

Agreed.

Valerian is in no way a good film, but I still had fun with it and I was never bored.

But it's nowhere near the greatness of The Fifth Element.


Sat Aug 25, 2018 7:01 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

I loved Rihanna's performance, and her character led to the only part that really made me dislike DeHaan's character, namely the way that he consistently shames her when she looks like her real self, insisting that she adopt her "sexy human" form. It's just gross. She's literally just been liberated from sex work where she has to look a certain way, and when she wants to look like herself she's criticized for it. It's a shame, because her burlesque act is a definite highlight of the film.

Yeah, DeHaan's character was a real dick. And I'm not sure Besson intended that...


Sat Aug 25, 2018 7:08 pm
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Slentert wrote:
Yeah, DeHaan's character was a real dick. And I'm not sure Besson intended that...


I don't think that it was intended at all--especially given the lengths we see him go to in order to protect people who are innocent and see justice done for an oppressed people. I think that the film sometimes tried to get in some mean jokes and used his character as the delivery system for them and it creates an inconsistent characterization.


Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:11 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

I don't think that it was intended at all--especially given the lengths we see him go to in order to protect people who are innocent and see justice done for an oppressed people. I think that the film sometimes tried to get in some mean jokes and used his character as the delivery system for them and it creates an inconsistent characterization.


I don't think his character was jerkish for the most part, Takoma may have come across a good exception. I found him more to be rakish and fly by the seat of his pants type. More or less, he was supposed to be a Han Solo type, or at least Mal Reynolds in Serenity.

And there is some effort in the second half to showcase his character's humanity in relations to the aliens. The speeches might have come across too much like afterschool special dialogues, but outside of the part about the converter and the government, he was more or less on board with them.


Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:02 am
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BTW, about a third of the way through The Set Up, the romcom featuring two relative unknowns and Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs as two uptight bosses. It's mostly going according to form outside of one scene in a elevator which I don't want to get into.


Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:04 am
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Watch an action film. 24 Hours to Live

It's hard to discuss this film without giving away a huge part of the plot (it's probably given away in the plot summary/trailer, but I would have loved to go in not knowing).

But the gist is that Ethan Hawke plays a mercenary-type who is called in for one last job. Things go sideways and he ends up protecting the woman he was originally sent to kill. As the film progresses, he learns more and more about the nature of the company for whom he's worked for years.

This is above average B-grade action. The supporting cast is much stronger than you typically get. The action is all pretty well-staged, and the film moves along at a fast clip.


Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:30 am
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Watch a film where traveling is a key part of the film
Film based on a book (a short story from a collection)


Far From Men (2015)

Daru (Viggo Mortensen) is a teacher who helps young people to read French. He's very dedicated to his task, even willing to play soccer with the kids during a recess.

But his life changes when a Frenchman brings a prisoner to Daru. His name is Mohamed (Reda Kateb) and he's accused of killing a cousin over stealing some grain.

Daru tries to avoid becoming part of it. He tries to get the guy to take back the prisoner. He tries to get Mohamed to leave and go off on his own. But things quickly prove problematic when it's revealed that his cousins want him back to presumably murder him.

Daru is forced to escort him. Although they believe different things, they bond during the journey of being outsiders in Algeria (Daru is a Spanish immigrant who helped farm as a youth, meanwhile Mohamed as a Muslim is sort of a second class citizen in French run Algeria). As they go, they get caught up in both sides of a conflict between French forces and Algerian rebels, the latter of which reveals that several soldiers fought alongside Daru during World War 2.

Ultimately though as the road winds down, Mohamed will have to decide between freedom and trying to protect his young family while Daru will have to decide between staying out of harm's way and getting involved in this conflict.

A lot of this film plays as a Western with both the Afghan scenery and the plot of a reluctant escort who has to take a prisoner to his destination while protecting each other out of harm's way. There's other reflections of the genre in this story as well, such as a saloon complete with hens.

There's also at play the religious identity of both lead characters as one character starts to find God while the other gradually steps away from his. This is done subtly, about as much so as Viggo's performance. Reda plays against him well as his character is more stoic in nature even as they head towards the climax.

It's a bit on the slow side at times. But this combination of Western and thoughtful examination of the duties applied to us and the choices we make is a pretty good film that's recommendable.

Next: Hopefully done with 2018's second film tonight.


Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:59 am
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Watch a 2018 film. Prodigy

This was a Netflix thing, and it was decidedly okay.

A psychiatrist is approached by an old colleague to come and evaluate a girl, Ellie, who is abnormal in both her psychology and her abilities. Dr. Fonda, the psychiatrist, tries to find a sense of humanity in the girl before the obligatory evil general pushes through his plan to have the girl dissected in the name of science and national security.

The film walks a steady path, covering familiar ground and covering it well. The actor playing the doctor and the actress playing the little girl have a decent rapport and chemistry. The little girl is given some pretty clunky "evil child genius" dialogue, but as the relationship between the two deepens, the dialogue gets a more natural feel.

The emotional center of the story revolves around the mystery of how Ellie's mother died and also the doctor's own tragic past.

There's nothing really unexpected in this film, but by the same token I enjoyed watching it. Overall it takes a positive view of people. Also, the timing was a bit prescient for me, as this morning we did our annual three hour training on recognizing child abuse, trauma-driven behaviors, and just generally compassion for children in challenging situations. So as the characters in the film talked about the child's aggression and anger and sociopathy, it was nice to hear the doctor character framing her actions as a result of stress.

Also, the film is only about 80 minutes long, so it's a pretty quick watch. It doesn't do anything particularly new, but I enjoyed it.


Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:37 am
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