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 Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film! 
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Stu wrote:
The confrontation in the car was indeed, a great bit of acting from Keaton, though his menace is undercut just a bit when you wonder why Peter didn't just do this during it. :D But in all seriousness, the scene in the car, while wonderful, was an outlier as far as memorable Vulture moments go, and there's really nothing else in the film from him that compares; the rest of the film, he just didn't make that big of an impression. I feel Loki is automatically the better villain simply because of Hiddleston's natural charisma and how much scenery-chewing fun he's obviously relishing his role with, even if he may not have any one scene in any of his films that's as memorable as the face-off in the car. And his relative lack of menace didn't derail the more dramatic moments of the original Thor for me, but I've already talked about that some earlier in this thread, so I'll just leave it at that for now, heh.

Anyway, I agree with you that the Winter Soldier was a good, conflicted MCU villain (even though his film felt like more of an excuse to show off a bunch of cool action scenes rather than tell an actual story), and Zemo was good with what development they gave him (and his film is actually my favorite MCU to date), and, while I quit using Netflix before I finished the 2nd season of Daredevil, based off S1, D'Onofrio's awkward, tortured depiction of Kingpin may indeed, make him the greatest villain in the Marvel multiverse to date.



I think Vulture having an economic origin at the beginning, a defined ethos that isn't world destruction/domination and degrees of humanity already what pushes him above the majority of MCU villains. I think he had significantly more scenes than just the car scene that elevated him, such as his moment in which he asks how he's different than Tony, who made his millions selling arms and capitalized in the New York incident. It's that rather ingenious approach to why he does what he does that makes him such a captivating villain

There's also the general cleverness in his construction, making Vulture someone who picks up scraps and the "twist."

I just thought Keaton nailed it and I'm not even particularly fond of the comic character. They surpassed the original text in my eyes.


Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:45 am
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and speaking of Star Wars, perhaps in retrospect Carrie should have been instructing Adam - and not Daisy - about the pitfalls of being a sex symbol. yowza

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Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:23 am
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Look at that beautiful beefy boy.

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Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:36 am
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Oxnard Montalvo wrote:
and speaking of Star Wars, perhaps in retrospect Carrie should have been instructing Adam - and not Daisy - about the pitfalls of being a sex symbol. yowza


Have you seen her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking?


Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:48 am
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Post #6. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski)

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John Wick: Chapter 2 was a surprisingly good sequel to the original film, especially considering that I didn't think all that much of its predecessor; it wasn't bad or anything, and I appreciated its attempt at building a unique, heightened reality-world for its protagonist, but the film ultimately felt like a fairly generic Action movie, one that existed primarily to introduce us to its titular character and his world, rather than stand on its own as well-rounded film. Chapter 2, however, does mostly deliver on the series' potential, further showcasing and developing the unique, underground society that Wick inhabits in many colorful, stylish ways, while delivering more impressive action than the original's often over-choreographed shootouts, with more impressive stunts, bloodier er, bloodletting, and a much more palatable sense of danger. Concerns about the first half's occasionally sluggish pacing or the occasionally repetitive shootout aside, there's more than enough impressive material in John Wick: Chapter to keep me satisfied until the inevitable 3rd chapter hits sometime next year; bring it on!

Final Score: 8.25
Original Review:
For the most part, I felt that this was what you want to see in a sequel; a bigger, better experience than the (slightly) underwhelming original, John Wick 2 builds upon the base established by its predecessor and runs with it, upping the ante with a larger, more international globetrotting scale to the story, which does a good job of following up the fallout from the first while also planting the seeds for a sequel that the film itself pretty much admits is inevitable, as well as giving us more tantalizing glimpses of the colorful underworld created in the first film, and of course, more ACTION, not just in terms of the quantity of carnage, but the sheer brutality of it as well, as things get a lot down and dirtier here, with a bigger emphasis on gore, and more visceral and intimate hand-to-hand bloodletting.

The only real complaint I had with it was with the sometimes uneven pacing, which fluctuated between slightly repetitive scenes of action and somewhat overlong scenes of, er, non-action, as if the (now solo-directing) Chad Stahelski was trying to justify the gratituity of the carnage by unnecessarily stretching out the quieter moments of dialogue and plot setup inbetween. That being said, the movie is still more confidently executed than the original, with a stronger sense of personality, which goes a ways toward pulling us through the occasional lull, with more badass/eccentric supporting characters, such as Common as a vengeful fellow assassin gunning for Wick, Ruby Rose as an icy, deaf hitwoman who exclusively communicates through sign language (giving the film more excuses to squeeze in even more comic book-style subtitles), and fellow Matrix alumni Lawrence Fishburne reuniting with Keanu in the role of a homeless assassin king who has an entire network of "beggers" working for him throughout NYC.

And, while one could criticize the film's emphasis on faceless, disposable baddies that attack the title character in sometimes endless, predictable waves, or John's repeated usage of a couple of basic moves to dispatch most of them, which makes him seem like a live-action video game character, there's enough visual variety, gallows humor, and memorable, punctuating (and puncturing) moments throughout to keep the movie from becoming too tiresome at any point. Besides, the gratitiousness is kind of the whole point of the film; like the original, John Wick 2 is sheer action movie porn, with no greater purpose to exist but to serve as a pure love letter to the genre as a whole, which it succeeds in doing very enjoyably. At one point, John says "You wanted me back... I'm back!", and all I could think in response was "Yes we did, Mr. Wick, and yes, you most certainly are".

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Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:00 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

Have you seen her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking?


I have and loved it. although it may be a while before I can watch any videos where Carrie speaks drolly about her addiction/mental illness struggles without feeling low.

even reading The Princess Diarist touched enough on the loneliness of portraying "the only woman in a male-driven fantasy" to diminish (for me) some of the original Star Wars's romantic escapism (not that some of that romantic escapism wasn't always kinda bullshit, the way most fantasies can be). although I doubt Carrie and her devil-may-care attitude would want me feeling sorry for her. :/


Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:00 pm
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Laurence Fishburne's king hobo robe alone makes that one better than the original.

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Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:24 pm
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Chapter Two does a pretty great job of threading the needle between duplicating the first film and finding a wholly new angle. I loved how it got crazy on the Greco-Roman business and took the world-building so far that this seems to be a city populated solely by hitmen.

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Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:41 pm
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I liked Chapter Two but still think the first one is the bees knees.


Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:49 pm
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Oxnard Montalvo wrote:
even reading The Princess Diarist touched enough on the loneliness of portraying "the only woman in a male-driven fantasy" to diminish (for me) some of the original Star Wars's romantic escapism (not that some of that romantic escapism wasn't always kinda bullshit, the way most fantasies can be). although I doubt Carrie and her devil-may-care attitude would want me feeling sorry for her. :/


The part about Lucas telling her that she couldn't wear a bra because "there's no underwear in space" was one of those things that was sort of like "ha!" and sort of like "Yeah, he can just go to hell."

It also really makes you think about what it means to not have control over your own image anymore. Like the idea of someone being able to make a sex doll with your face on it without your permission is just super gross.

DaMU wrote:
Chapter Two does a pretty great job of threading the needle between duplicating the first film and finding a wholly new angle. I loved how it got crazy on the Greco-Roman business and took the world-building so far that this seems to be a city populated solely by hitmen.


I think that in this alternate New York, the hitman network is just what Uber is to us. Like, "Do you have a gun or a bludgeoning instrument? Sign up with us and get notifications on your phone when you're needed! *Hitman Inc is an equal opportunity employer*".

I did like the sequel quite a bit, with my main complaint being what I saw as a mishandling of the Ruby Rose character. She was deaf . . . just because? And I get that it's sort of funny that when they ultimately have their showdown, he
just throws her into a wall and that's that. But given the build up and expectation for when a hero fights a "right hand man" character, it felt incredibly anti-climactic.
. I thought that the first movie did a much better job with the unconventional sidekick character with the Dean Winters character.


Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:22 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
The part about Lucas telling her that she couldn't wear a bra because "there's no underwear in space" was one of those things that was sort of like "ha!" and sort of like "Yeah, he can just go to hell."

It also really makes you think about what it means to not have control over your own image anymore. Like the idea of someone being able to make a sex doll with your face on it without your permission is just super gross.


aye. also, I'll throw out that the Carrie & Debbie documentary Bright Lights was very charming in spite of all the melancholy, unintended or otherwise. and maybe as good as we're gonna get for closure.


Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:09 pm
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Rock wrote:
Laurence Fishburne's king hobo robe alone makes that one better than the original.

Not repetitiously playing Marilyn Manson and the lamest rock soundtrack (the track "Think" by Kaleida is the anomalous perfect track) elevates it above the first.

The only thing holding John Wick films back is the lack of an equal final foe. In the first, he fights Nyqvuist, who never once seemed a physical threat to John, then in the last one he fights Ruby Rose. Ruby Rose looks like she weighs 90 lbs and he's picking her up and throwing her into walls the whole fight.

Common came close to filling that niche but he's spent much too early in the film.

I hope third time is the charm.


Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:22 am
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I liked John Wick 2, but not more than the first one. I found it a bit more muddled and messier. I felt it lacked the heart, for lack of a better word, of the first one.

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:39 am
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Thief wrote:
I liked John Wick 2, but not more than the first one. I found it a bit more muddled and messier. I felt it lacked the heart, for lack of a better word, of the first one.


Interesting. I liked the second one a lot more because I felt like the fight scenes were much more distinctive. The first one, to me, felt a bit redundant in the way that the shootouts were filmed. The second movie had more of a mix of fighting styles (gun fights, hand-to-hand combat, etc). It also felt more, I don't know, cartoonish, but in a good way. I hear you on the different level of emotion, but I still thought that it had some pretty impactful moments.


Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:02 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Interesting. I liked the second one a lot more because I felt like the fight scenes were much more distinctive. The first one, to me, felt a bit redundant in the way that the shootouts were filmed. The second movie had more of a mix of fighting styles (gun fights, hand-to-hand combat, etc). It also felt more, I don't know, cartoonish, but in a good way. I hear you on the different level of emotion, but I still thought that it had some pretty impactful moments.


I feel like we're on the exact same page with JW 2. Did you also feel like the first one fell off the rails after the first hour with mind numbing and inconsistent character choices?


Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:12 am
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Who would disagree that the film loses something after

John kills his target?


The third act is subversive in theory but just not as focused and convincing.

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:14 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Interesting. I liked the second one a lot more because I felt like the fight scenes were much more distinctive. The first one, to me, felt a bit redundant in the way that the shootouts were filmed. The second movie had more of a mix of fighting styles (gun fights, hand-to-hand combat, etc). It also felt more, I don't know, cartoonish, but in a good way. I hear you on the different level of emotion, but I still thought that it had some pretty impactful moments.


Fights were fine. What I found "a bit more muddled and messier" was the plot. In the first one, it was simple: thugs kill dog, Wick seeks revenge. In this one, you have Wick trying to get back his car, but in the meantime, he breaks a vow with a fellow hitman, so he asks him to kill his sister, only to double-cross him sending millions of goons to hunt him while he takes power, etc. I still liked it, but at times, I wished for the raw simplicity of the first one.

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:17 am
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DaMU wrote:
Who would disagree that the film loses something after

John kills his target?


The third act is subversive in theory but just not as focused and convincing.



My biggest issue was that...

he just SHOOTS Theon. After letting him get away at the club,
I figured he was wanting to make him suffer, maybe stomp him like the dog, then he shoots him in the face just like he shot everyone else.


Massive anticlimax, then the entire Boss motivation is built on that, despite being the cause and knowing the risks, and it just makes my eyes roll out of my head.


Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:18 am
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DaMU wrote:
Who would disagree that the film loses something after

John kills his target?


The third act is subversive in theory but just not as focused and convincing.


Agreed. Initially there was the thrill of
so where is it going to go NOW?!
.

Unfortunately, the answer is that it didn't have a great direction. I mean, it wasn't bad, just, as you say, a critical piece of tension is lost.


Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:37 am
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ThatDarnMKS wrote:


My biggest issue was that...

he just SHOOTS Theon. After letting him get away at the club,
I figured he was wanting to make him suffer, maybe stomp him like the dog, then he shoots him in the face just like he shot everyone else.
.


I don't think I would've liked to seen that degree of sadism from John.

Maybe there's even something to him having the mercy to "put down" a mutt like the villain, which is better than the villain gave his dog.

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:23 am
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Post #5. Wind River (Taylor Sheridan)

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Even as a pretty big fan of it, I can't deny that, at the end of the day, Taylor Sheridan's debut directorial effort, Wind River, is a fairly familiar Detective Thriller, one that hardly reinvents the wheel of its particular genre... so, why is it this high on my list, you may ask? Well, I would respond that, while River definitely doesn't break any new (frozen ground), originality isn't the reason why it worked so well; rather, it's one of those genre movies that leaves an impression by simply using its particular conventions well, and in a rather emotional, icily atmospheric, sometimes quite intense manner. The characters are quite well-developed (something that, whatever other flaws they may hold, Sheridan always does a good job with), and, while the central hunt for the killer of a Native American girl on the "Wind River" reservation is fairly straightforward, without any traditional "twists" (besides an excellent, completely unexpected flashback in the 3rd act), the overall experience here is still just so vivid that I can't help but give it a strong recommendation to any film fan out there. And, finally, while the end of the film doesn't pull any punches when it comes to being honest about the plight of reservation-bound Natives in this country, Wind River still finds a way to end with a refreshing, well-earned message of hope to it, one that managed to warm my heart just a little bit, even after all the ice-bound traumas I had just witnessed.

Final Score: 8.5
Original Review:
In Wind River, the tracks of predators and prey, both animal and human alike, constantly dot the endless, perpetually snowy landscape, inevitably leading to traumas that, while they may be past, are anything but forgotten. The "River" in question is a Native American reservation in Wyoming, where, somewhere in this desolate, lifeless landscape the size of Rhode Island, an 18 year-old Native American girl is found brutally raped, her body frozen to the ground so solid that a chainsaw has to clear her from the unforgiving frost. A young agent from the FBI gets called in, a local Wildlife Service agent gets involved, and together, the two of them must find out what happened to the girl on that bitterly cold, horrible night.

If all of that sounds like setup for a rather familiar detective thriller, that's because it is; Wind River doesn't break any new (frozen) ground when it comes to its particular genre, but then again, it doesn't pretend to. Rather, first-time director (but veteran screenwriter) Taylor Sheridan takes the suspenseful style he honed on the American frontiers of West Texas and the Mexican border in Hell Or High Water & Sicario, and applies it to the forgotten, neglected wasteland of Wind River, a place that's depressed in both the economic and spiritual sense of the word, a place where poverty is everywhere, drug addiction runs rampant, and, due to the bureaucratic nightmares that intersect between tribal, local, and Federal authorities when it comes to jurisdiction over crimes on reservations, many serious offences (including murders) are often never punished, or even solved.

Into this daunting situation steps Elizabeth Olsen's determined, but out-of-her-element FBI rookie Jane Banner, joined by Jeremy Renner's grieving, divorced, world-weary Wildlife agent Cory Lambert, a man who has a rather personal connection to this particular case, as, not only was he the one who discovered the young woman's body, but the girl in question used to be close friends with his daughter, who herself was murdered under similar, unsolved circumstances a couple of years ago, a loss that Lambert admits he still hasn't recovered from, nor ever will. But, like I said before, pretty much none of the base material here is particularly original, it's the personal touch in Sheridan's direction that makes all the difference, as he never hesitates from taking the time to slow down the pace drastically, and just let us get to know the characters ourselves through quiet scenes of his insightful, sharply-written dialogue, balancing the character to character heart-to-hearts inbetween the film's more visceral, intense thrills.

And, while the central mystery isn't much of a, well, mystery, as, except for an unexpected flashback that takes place late in the third act, the plot proceeds in a rather simple, straightforward manner, with next to no red herrings or "persons of interest" to speak of, it isn't the suspense of where the investigation may lead that makes Wind River so good, nor is it the thrills of its various armed standoffs/shootouts (although those are quite good in their own right), but it's the touches of personal, human drama that happen along the way, the way that Sheridan genuinely cares for his characters here, and the way that they're treated as much more than just hollow puppets to move the story along, that makes River as powerful, as memorable a cinematic experience as it is. Long after you leave the comfort of your air-conditioned theater, the physical & emotional atmosphere of the vast, frozen landscape presented here will chill your bones, the tracks dotting it leaving visible marks as undeniable as the spiritual ones staining the souls of the people who live there.[/

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Thu Jan 18, 2018 6:33 am
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And if I'm too busy to respond to all of the responses in here, just remember that I do appreciate all of your contributions to this thread here, guys.

:heart:

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Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:03 am
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DaMU wrote:

I don't think I would've liked to seen that degree of sadism from John.

Maybe there's even something to him having the mercy to "put down" a mutt like the villain, which is better than the villain gave his dog.


But if you're going that direction, you don't have the aforementioned club scene. You can't have both without compromising each other.

I'm a fan of Wind River. Very good stuff and occasionally great. I like how much the climax is comparable to the climax of
Hateful Eight.
I don't think that's really a spoiler but I'll be safe with it. The end was too neat though. Should have been off screen.


Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:20 am
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Post #4. War For The Planet Of The Apes (Matt Reeves)

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War For The Planet Of The Apes is a true modern epic in every sense of the word, whether it be the gigantic overall scope of its story, its incredible, larger-than-life visuals, or the inner emotional journey that its hero, the genetically-enhanced ape "Caeser", undertakes (and finally concludes) in this entry. Our heroic main ape has undergone quite the long quest since his humble beginnings as just a lab chimp, and War finishes his arc off in spectacular fashion, as he and his fellow hyper-intelligent simians get caught in the middle of a standoff between Woody Harrelson's fanatical (but still logical, in his own twisted way) "Colonel", and what remains of the rest of the Army, in one final conflict. It's a long-ish film, going from being a revenge Thriller to a desolate, post-apocalyptic travelogue, to an extended riff on The Great Escape (or should that be, The Ape Escape?), into a full-fledged War movie and back again, but it never loses sight of its characters in all the chaos, especially not, of course, Caeser. In the end, War For The Planet Of The apes more than stands on its own two (furry) feet, aside from any larger franchise baggage or entanglements, as a completely epic, satisfying character journey, as an excellent conclusion to the overall trilogy, and as one of my favorite films of 2017.

Final Score: 8.5
Original Review:
I admit it, I'm not particularly familiar with the Planet Of The Apes series; I maybe caught the last 5 minutes of the iconic 1968 original one Christmas morning back when it was still the 20th century (which, in my relatively short lifetime, feels like an eternity ago), and am mostly aware ot it through parodies and references in general pop culture. So yes, that means I've never seen so much as a single frame from any of the mostly-forgotten original series sequels, and while I saw 2001's Tim Burton "reimagining" of Apes twice in the theater for some reason (hey, I was a kid!), it's been prequel'd out of the timeline for a while, so it's no longer relevant (thankfully). Heck, the just-okay reviews for the initial Apes prequel, Rise Of, kept me from bothering to check it out, but thankfully, Matt Reeves' sequel, 2014's excellent Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, functioned as a callback-light, mostly-standalone entry that stood on its own two cinematic feet, and fortunately for us, Reeves has returned to finish out this trilogy strong with War For The Planet Of The Apes, a movie that more than made me care for these damn dirty apes, and then some.

If you're unfamiliar with the ongoing story of the Apes prequels, or if you just need a little refresher, films follow the story of "Caeser", the leader of a clan of ultra-intelligent apes (natch) who were the result of an experiment by some evil biotech company (also natch). Ironically, the viral-based drug that made the apes what they are today is also what paved the way for them to inherit the Earth, as the so-called "Simian Flu" wiped out approximately 99.8% of the planet's current rulers, namely, us. In Dawn, despite some initially strong tensions, Caeser attempted to lead his clan to coexist with a nearby colony of human survivors, but relations between the two factions naturally "devolved", so to speak, and what remains of the military was called in to try to wipe out the apes at the end of that film, leading to the "War" that's been waging for some time at the beginning of this one.

But the surprising thing about War is how it avoids just being an unnecessary prequel to a classic film that never needed it, but rather, simply uses the setup of that famous "apes rule the Earth" scenario as a vehicle for showing us Caeser's personal struggles to keep his clan alive and together in the face of a genocidal enemy species. As he grapples with an inner hatred, the memories of a tortorous past, and an overwhelming desire for vengeance against humans growing inside of his simian heart, it really is remarkable how much I came to care for the pain of a non-human, completely computer-generated character who often communicates in nothing more than a quick grunt, subtitled sign language, or merely a look in his ever more expressive eyes. Of course, a lot of credit has to go to the effects wizards at WETA, but they wouldn't have anything to work off in the first place if it weren't for the motion-captured work of Mr. Gollum himself, Andy Serkis, whose tortured, weary performance shines through strong here, even if the man himself is never physically glimpsed.

Matt Reeves & company refuse at any point to treat Caeser's character as some sort of dehumanized, CGI party trick, instead, rendering him more human than most of the actual humans here, who, for the most part, are either completely silent, militantly antagonistic, or almost literally faceless during the slightly deus ex machina-y climax. Not all of them are so blank, however, as Woody Harrelson makes for the perfect foe for Caeser as "The Colonel", a rogue military leader whose forces have turned into more of a cult under his leadership, almost looking up to him as God on Earth, the man who will surely lead what's left of their endangered species to salvation from becoming an extinct one, no matter the cost (and it turns out to be very high indeed).

The Colonel is absolutely a character who qualifies as the technical term of "crazy", but not in any shallow, one-dimensionally Hollywood way; not to spoil the best plot point of the film, but there's a fairly clever and unexpected development here that, when taken in concert with humanity's already desperate situation in the first place, renders The Colonel's motivations, if not quite sympathetic, at the very least, more than understandable. It is this overall level of depth, the rich characterizations, epic direction, and haunting, post-apocalyptic atmosphere that turns War For The Planet Of The Apes into something truly special, as a highly satisfying end to this trilogy, and one of the best movies of the year so far. Of course, Hollywood's already planning on making yet another unnecessary sequel to this, yet again not knowing when to just leave a good thing well enough alone already, but no matter what the future holds for this cinematic Planet, this War. at least will be one to remember.

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Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:00 pm
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Saw War last week and, even though I liked it, I was a bit underwhelmed by it. I think part of it has to do with that genre-switching you mentioned, but I also had other issues with it.

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Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:40 pm
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Thief wrote:
Saw War last week and, even though I liked it, I was a bit underwhelmed by it. I think part of it has to do with that genre-switching you mentioned, but I also had other issues with it.


I found it gorgeous but often very frustrating on a story/arc level.

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Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:14 am
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ThatDarnMKS wrote:

But if you're going that direction, you don't have the aforementioned club scene. You can't have both without compromising each other.

I'm a fan of Wind River. Very good stuff and occasionally great. I like how much the climax is comparable to the climax of
Hateful Eight.
I don't think that's really a spoiler but I'll be safe with it. The end was too neat though. Should have been off screen.
Yeah, I had my issues with the end of WR as well, which I went into detail recently on Kateland, if you're interested.

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Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:54 am
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I liked WOTPOTA a ton. Not quite as much as Dawn but sizably more than Rise. Definitely a top 4 Apes flick overall and I hold the franchise in high regard.


Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:19 am
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I've only seen the first ape movie and liked it a lot. Will get to the other two eventually.


Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:53 am
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Post #3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDona

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a unapologetically biting, unflinchingly caustic social drama, and, while that term may give you PTSD flashbacks to the obnoxious preaching of something like Crash, Billboards contains a story that actually stands on its own two feet, and legitimate, well-developed characters, not a series of walking social "statements" masquerading as people, a welcome sight in this kind of film. The tale of Mildred Hayes (wearily portrayed by an Oscar-worthy Frances McDormand), a borderline alcoholic divorcee with an abusive ex-husband, a depressed teenage son who wants nothing to do with her billboards, and a dead daughter whose murder she calls the local sheriff's department to task on after they fail to solve the case, is a rather exhausting one, even at less than two hours long, but I mean that in every best sense of that word; this is a complex multi-faceted drama that gives no easy answers to the difficult questions it presents to us, one of the best ambiguous endings to a film I've ever seen, and social commentary that arises naturally out of its storytelling, instead not the other way around (y'know... the bad way). It's definitely what you'd call "risky" material to tackle, material that's somewhat divided people, but sometimes, risks pay off, and they definitely do so in Three Billboards.

Final Score: 8.5
Original Review:
On a lonely, seldom-traveled road just outside of the quiet town of Ebbing, Missouri, three fresh, blood-red billboards read "Raped while dying/And still no arrests/How come, Chief Willoughby?". The victim the billboards in question are referring to is Angela Hayes, a teenage girl who was raped, murdered, and immolated seven months ago, a sadistic act that, in the ensuing half a year since, the local police have made virtually no progress in solving. Frustrated with the stagnation of Angela's case, her mother, Mildred, puts the signs up as a direct challenge to the local sheriff, igniting a controversy that will end up (literally) setting this small, Middle American town on fire in Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, one of the best films of this year.

It's a film that's driven primarily by the theme of the inherently ugly nature and underlying tensions that are often bubbling underneath the smiling, "neighborly" facades of small American towns, hardly an original idea to put in a cinematic context, but one that McDonagh delivers potently here, not through putting any sort of novel spin on it, but simply through telling a strong story with his rude, battery acid-corrosive sense of humor, balanced with surprisingly genuine, heartfelt drama, and an emphasis on consistently sharp, insightful character development, even for some of the the supposed "bad guys" of this particular story.

Frances McDormand adds another unforgettable performance to what is already a film fan-favorite career in the starring role of Mildred Hayes, a borderline alcoholic divorcee who's obviously been weighed down by a long, hard life, and even harder current circumstances, but who refuses to buckle under the pressure, instead, rising to the occasion and shaking an entire town to its very core, at the same time, providing the film its core. Despite almost the entirety of Ebbing (including her own son, even) being dead-set against Mildred's billboards, she at no point shows any sign of wavering in her quest for justice, an aspect you see constantly McDormand's steely, determined embodiment of the character. It's a 100%, honest, fantastic performance any way you cut it, and come early March, not only would I not be surprised if she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, but it wouldn't surprise if she ended up taking one of the little gold men home with her, as memorable as her starring performance is here.

As for the rest of the rich ensemble of characters that McDonagh has assembled here, some of them are, admittedly, a bit broad in their characterizations, often being defined by one primary trait or aspect, which is a minor flaw with Billboards, but certainly enough not to ruin the film. After all, somewhat broad or not, the characters here are still well-developed regardless, as the film often shifts away Mildred in taking their particular perspective in the story, refusing to keep them at arm's length, even if they initially seem like the film's designated "antagonists", which they actually often aren't, not all of the time, anyway.

This sense of moral ambiguity extends to the way the film deals with the subjects of racism, police negligence and brutality, and other particular injustices we face in the world today, as McDonagh finds a way to be blatantly topical here without becoming preachy, rather, using the recurring themes to better tell a strong, individual story. Three Billboards is a film that presents many difficult questions, and provides us with no easy, pat moral conclusions to them, but it's this difficult aspect of the film that makes it so good, and what will almost certainly keep it near the top of my best of 2017 list come the end of this year. And, while I know it still hasn't received the widest of releases to date, if you can find this one still playing in a theater anywhere remotely near you, then you owe it to yourself to look at these Billboards, as soon as you possibly can.

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Fri Jan 19, 2018 3:16 pm
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

Three Billboards would be in my top 3 this year if I created ine, along with Blade Runner 2049 and The Shape of Water.


Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:35 am
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

Three Billboards is my number 1.

I liked War for the Planet of the Apes, but I prefer Dawn.

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Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:56 am
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I haven't seen Three Billboards but it's on my list along with a bunch of other 2017 releases I haven't seen yet.


Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:11 am
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Post #2. Logan (James Mangold)

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Logan is, without a doubt, an absolute milestone of a film, not just for the X-Men's "cinematic universe", but for superhero films entirely; the tale of an aging, suicidal Wolverine struggling to come to grips both with his regret-filled, blood-soaked past, as well as the "daughter" he not only never knew he had, but never even asked for, is a hard, depressing, incredibly challenging watch, but that's exactly why it's such a good movie. It refuses to coddle us with just more disposable "popcorn" entertainment like certain other super-franchises tend to, or present yet another generic, world-threatening "crisis" for a plot, but rather, chooses to confront us face-on with the kind of gory, graphic Wolvie carnage that's brutally honest in how much more horrifying it is than exhilarating (something that the character's previous PG-13 outings never had the courage to do) but more importantly, it expresses some incredibly dark but unceasingly sincere emotions, as Logan confronts both the legacy he's left behind as a "hero", and the harsh reality he's actually living. Logan not only strips the iconic character all the way down to his adamantium-coated bones, it not only demythologizes the larger superhero genre as a whole, but it presents a harsh challenge to us as an audience, and I could've love it more for doing so; when the man comes around, indeed.

Final Score: 8.75
Original Review:
Logan may seem like an oddly minimalist, unusual title for what is (supposedly) Hugh Jackman's final hurrah playing what has become the most iconic of onscreen X-Men, Wolverine, but when you actually see this, hopefully you'll understand why they simply titled it after the character's real name, and have no more qualms with it than I did. After all, this is a very unusual, minimalist X-Men film itself, drawing a mythic strength not only from Jackman's long-running portrayal of the character onscreen, but also from the more than 40-year legacy of Wolverine in the comics (in one particularly clever, self-aware twist), while also simultaneously humanizing him more than we've ever seen him before, stripping the Wolverine down to his bare, adamantium-bonded bones.

When we first see Logan in Logan, he's barely scraping together a living as an on-call limousine driver in Texas (driving a leased-out limo, to boot), fueled more by constant alcohol than rage, and noticeably older, his legendary regenerative healing working much slower than ever before, as he's barely able to fend off a group of thugs trying to steal his hubcaps. He chauffeurs around rich assholes, boorish fratboys, and drunken bachelorettes to and fro for a living, barely able to afford the black market meds he desperately needs to smuggle into Mexico, where he hopes to keep an increasingly senile and demented Charles Xavier from destroying mankind in a devastatingly final psychic wave, as he saves every penny he earns in the vain hope of purchasing a yacht someday so he and "Professor X" may live out the rest of their days in some ridiculous, idyllic existence on the sea.

So yeah, he is definitely not the beclawed badass we saw stylishly carve off a piece of the Statue Of Liberty's crown all those years ago; he is a broken "Wolverine" here, struggling to survive in a near future where mutants have mysteriously become nearly extinct. However, all of that changes when he runs across a young girl with powers strikingly similar to his own, a girl Logan is (extremely reluctantly) drawn into protecting from a ominous multinational corporation and its army of assassins, as the film takes us on a truly epic journey all the way from the unforgiving deserts of Mexico to the snowy mountains of Canada, giving Logan something real to live for for the first time in a very, very long time.

But, despite this epic scope and its over 2-hour runtime, Logan derives most of its strength from how down-to-Earth and just plain human it really is, despite being about mutants. Although it takes place over a decade into the future, there are no absurd, obscenely high-tech facilities or fancy pants "schools for the gifted" in sight here, rather, the settings of its multinational journey are gas stations, quaint farm houses, and the tiny, one horse towns of Middle America; in other words, this is X-Men in the real world, for real. But, more importantly than that, Logan always has a devastatingly intimate and personal focus on its characters, showing a sense of genuine pathos and emotional maturity that, is not only rare to see in a superhero film, but is just rare to see in film, period. The characters of Logan aren't the kind of living action figures you might have seen elsewhere, but are real, live, actual people, with very real pains and emotions, and, as they suffer and hope onscreen, so too did I, suffering and hoping right alongside them. This is probably the best X-Men movie to date, possibly ever, even, and for a eulogy for everyone's favorite Canadian rodent, I don't think you could've expected a better one than you get in Logan. Go see it, right fucking now.

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Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:34 pm
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

Logan is one of the best superhero movies I've seen in a long time.

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Sun Jan 21, 2018 7:43 am
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Popcorn Reviews wrote:
Logan is one of the best superhero movies I've seen in a long time.
Agreed; it was certainly the best one that came out in 2017, if not the past couple of years entirely, easy. Such a great note to send Jackman's version of the character out on.

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Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:46 pm
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

And my #1 film of 2017 is, drumroll please...

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Post #1. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan)

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Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is an absolutely monumental experience, the kind of CGI-light, larger-than-life, old school, Hollywood-style spectacle that Hollywood itself very rarely seems to make anymore, except without most of the cheap, syrupy sentimentality you'd often get with a classic War film, but with the kind of immediate, modern intensity that most older films in the genre can't hope to come close to (heck, most new War films can't come close to it in that regard). The story of almost half a million Allied troops struggling to evacuate from that godforsaken beach in the north of France as the German war machine blitzkrieged its way toward them is brilliantly told through three distinct story threads, following a young group of soldiers stuck on the beach for a full week, a British civilian sailing to aid in the evacuation for a day, and a Royal Air Force pilot for an hour-long dogfight with the Germans, but compressing all of them so that they run parallel to each another, a brilliant story device that allows the film to show the same characters and events from intriguing, illuminating new visual and emotional angles alike, but more importantly it lets the film keeps the narrative tension at an absolute fever pitch throughout, while never becoming tiresome, due to the incredibly deft storytelling skill that Nolan has become so famous for. Instead, the film just gets more and more powerful as it goes, always staying in the desperate moment and never stopping for any unnecessary character backstories, and often going light on the kind of traditional cinematic heroism you often see in movies on war, rather, simply displaying the honest, ugly nature of such conflict. While it certainly wouldn't surprise me, I don't currently know if this will get nominated for the Best Picture Oscar (much less win), but, regardless of any additional recognition Dunkirk may receive in awards form, all I know is that it was one of the most visceral, powerful theatrical experiences I've ever had, and my #1 favorite film of 2017, and for me, that's all that matters.

Final Score: 8.75
Original Review:
On May 26th, 1940, almost half a million Allied troops stood stranded on a grey, chilly beach in the north of France, as the German war machine furiously blitzkrieged its way toward them across the country, and indeed, the entire continent. Only about 20 miles of the English Channel lay between those stranded men and the salvation of their homeland, so close that on a clear day, you can see the white cliffs of Dover from the other side, but for the hundreds of thousands of men waiting on that beach, it might as well have been on another planet. That beach's name? Dunkirk.

Christopher Nolan's film of the same name is the story of the evacuation of those troops, shown from the viewpoints of the men who were on the ground, at sea, and in the air there, showing the event from almost every conceivable angle, both military and civillian alike. While such a cinematic undertaking would be more than ambitious enough as is, Nolan goes one step further with Dunkirk, and resharpens his fascination with non-linear storytelling and playing around with our cinematic concept of time, by interweaving together every single story thread and presenting them simultaneously here, meaning that the scenes of an hour-long dogfight with Tom Hardy's low-on-fuel RAF pilot, struggling to protect the troops on the beach below from the enemy planes above, are intercut with the story of the week-long escape of those troops from that beach.

With this unusual structure, Dunkirk compresses the already dramatic event down to its most dramatic moments, basically becoming one long, cinematic climax for 2 hours straight, an experience that could've (should've) became tedious and exhausting very, very quickly, but under Nolan's immersive, skillfully intense direction, it's what is instead what distinguishes and raises up Dunkirk as a war film, lifting it high, high above most of its peers in the often tired, overcrowded genre. For the most part, Nolan avoids the cliche of shoehorning in unnecessary backstory for the characters here, with no scenes of the frontline grunts sitting around and talking about how much they miss their family or their high school sweetheart or their sleepy little town back home, just so the film can act like it did something to make us care about these men just before they inevitably get blown away a minute later.

Instead, the primary method the film connects us with its characters is to simply place us in their boots, sometimes literally, with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema's up close and personal POV perspectives (which contrasts nicely with his epic, aerial MOVIE shots here), and make us feel what they felt waiting for rescue from that ugly, godforsaken beach, and what it must've been like to see the sight of an enemy plane rapidly diving towards your defenseless position, to hear the whir of an incoming shell that may be the last thing you ever hear, to feel the apocalyptic shudder of a ship that's just been torpedoed by an invisible enemy, just before the cold ocean rushes in and cuts every light onboard off, leaving you desperately flailing for a way out, literally drowning in darkness.

It is this intense, personal immersiveness that gives Dunkirk its great cinematic power, and left me constantly feeling as though I was on the verge of having a heart attack right there in the theater (but in a good way, at least, as good as a heart attack can feel). And, while one can criticize this for having certain historical & military inaccuracies, for mostly "Britwashing" the evacuation of the multi-national forces off the beach, or giving in somewhat to a more traditional sentimentality towards the end (a sentimentality that I would argue the film earns through its mostly unglamorous depiction of warfare), all of that pales far, far in comparison to what this gets right. All in all, Dunkirk is one of the purest, most memorable cinematic experiences I've ever had, and as far as I'm concerned, is THE film of the year to date. Thank you, Mr. Nolan, thank you so very much.

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Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:01 pm
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

I've warmed up to it a bit over time, but not enough for it to make my top 10. I'm glad that Nolan avoided exposition though. Hopefully, he keeps it that way in the future. Apparently, he's remaking Memento for his next film.

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Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:55 pm
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

I missed that one in theatres. Not sure how it will play on a computer screen :( Actually, I still haven't seen Interstellar for fear of a diminished experience due to not seeing it in theatres.

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Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:52 am
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

I think Logan has some terrible third act choices, just like the rest of the Wolverine trilogy. The handling of 2/3 villains, the lack of a tangible villainous plans, especially given that X2 showed how such a mutant wrangle should be done (don't just grab them), and a lazy, opaque super juice feels way too "from a silly comic" than the film seems like it would ever want. Jackman and Stewart carry that film.

As I said a few threads over, Dunkirk is Nolan's best film.


Mon Jan 22, 2018 2:59 am
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

Logan was good, but it is kind of a lesser Children of Men. That said it does stand on its own due to a different thematic focus and the performances, but it does make the film rather predictable.

Dunkirk is in my top five of the year. Nice picks for your top five.


Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:50 am
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

01. Dunkirk - B
02. Logan - B
04. War For the Planet of the Apes - C+
06. John Wick: Chapter Two - B+
07. Baby Driver - B
08. Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi - B+
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - B-
13. Blade Runner 2049 - B-
14. Coco - A-
15. IT - B
18. Get Out - A
19. Wonder Woman - B
20. Split - B+
21. Kong: Skull Island - B+
22. Justice League - C/C+ (I really really love that bit where Superman sees the Flash)

Good write-ups, fun to read a different perspective.

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Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:09 am
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

Popcorn Reviews wrote:
I've warmed up to it a bit over time, but not enough for it to make my top 10. I'm glad that Nolan avoided exposition though. Hopefully, he keeps it that way in the future. Apparently, he's remaking Memento for his next film.
Agreed on the lack of exposition, but doing an (assumedly) big(ger)-budget remake of Memento sounds like one of the most pointless ideas I've ever heard of. Whatever I guess, the man can certainly write his own ticket (and then some) in Hollywood by this point.
Thief wrote:
I missed that one in theatres. Not sure how it will play on a computer screen :( Actually, I still haven't seen Interstellar for fear of a diminished experience due to not seeing it in theatres.
I had similar concerns about finally rewatching The Two Towers, a movie that was one of my most memorable, vivid theatrical experiences ever, on my 10-inch tablet back in 2016, but my fears turned out to be unfounded, as the film was just as engrossing on the small screen as it was on the big... although, I can't help but wonder if that was because I had already seen it in theaters, as I didn't go see Gravity in theaters, and I didn't like that one 100% as much as I had hoped to (still a really good movie, though). At any rate, Dunkirk's still worth checking out eventually one way or another, so try to do so sometime, okay? :P And I haven't seen Interstellar yet either, but I wasn't going to the movies that much that year anyway, so I have to imagine I'll end up giving it chance at home... eventually.
ThatDarnMKS wrote:
I think Logan has some terrible third act choices, just like the rest of the Wolverine trilogy. The handling of 2/3 villains, the lack of a tangible villainous plans, especially given that X2 showed how such a mutant wrangle should be done (don't just grab them), and a lazy, opaque super juice feels way too "from a silly comic" than the film seems like it would ever want. Jackman and Stewart carry that film.

As I said a few threads over, Dukirk is Nolan's best film.
I never watched any of the other solo Wolverine films, but as for Logan individually, I agree that none of its villains were particularly great (except for Boyd Holbrook's delicious Southern-fried scenery-chewing, even though he basically just imitated Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday, and he never seemed like a physical threat, and for some reason, the film never showed him doing anything cool or useful with that metal hand in combat). That being said, that isn't a significant flaw in the film for me, as, like you (basically) said, it's all about Wolvie & Professor X's personal, emotional anguishes, and it feels to me like the film was never trying to make its baddies particularly great or memorable, so I'm not about to fault it too much for "failing" at something it wasn't really trying to do. It's a situation like the final two seasons of Breaking Bad; no, most of Uncle Jack's white supremacist prison gang weren't particularly compelling antagonists, but I don't try to pretend like that's a problem (unlike certain people here coughcoughEvilcough), as the focus was always on Walter, his family, and Jesse, so it doesn't matter if the bad guys don't get developed, because there's so much else good going on.

Anyway, the aforementioned Memento is still my fave Nolan (and possibly The Dark Knight, after I finally rewatch it someday), but Dunkirk's certainly one of his best movies, which is saying something, considering his career; the man really does seem like the closest thing we have to a successor to the old-school, mass appeal blockbuster magic of a young Spielberg, y'know?
Charles Longboat Jr. wrote:
Logan was good, but it is kind of a lesser Children of Men. That said it does stand on its own due to a different thematic focus and the performances, but it does make the film rather predictable.

Dunkirk is in my top five of the year. Nice picks for your top five.
Funny you should compare Logan to CoM, as I actually just watched this video recently comparing the personal journeys of each movie's protagonist that I think you might enjoy, if you're interested. Anyway, thank you for the kind words :oops:
DaMU wrote:
22. Justice League - C/C+ (I really really love that bit where Superman sees the Flash)

Good write-ups, fun to read a different perspective.
That moment was quite funny, but it still took place in a scene that I pretty much hated on the whole, so that still sours it for me, personal amusement aside. At any rate, thank you, DaMU :heart:

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Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:58 am
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

Anyway, looks like this is the end of my thread now, so I thank everyone who followed along with it, and... wait, what's this now?

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Yes, I went to see a movie today that came out last year, but didn't expand out to my area until just now, which means I'll have to add another new entry to my list, which is...

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Post My New #16. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

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I'll admit it, I didn't get into Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread quite as much as I hoped to, but with its particular pedigree, can you really blame me? After all, not only is it the new film from director Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who seems to have become the auteur's auteur of modern American film, not only is it his first collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis since they made 2007's absolutely epic, monolithic drama of American greed There Will Be Blood, but it's also (only supposedly, I hope) Lewis's final film role ever, capping off over three decades of being one of Hollywood's most venerated (and selective) thespians, with three (count 'em, three!) Best Actor Oscars to his name, a streak that remains an all-time record for the category.

So, taking all of this into consideration, I hope you'll forgive me if I found Phantom Thread to be just a bit too slow-moving at times, and overall somewhat demure and restrained dramatically, which prevented it from becoming as engrossing as I hoped it would be. Although, all of that being said, Thread is still a pretty intriguing relationship drama in its own right, with a couple of turns in the story I absolutely did not expect; its tale of the strange, Hitchcock-ian relationship that develops between Reynolds Woodcock, a controlling, exacting couture fashion designer living in 1950s London, and Alma Elson, a naive but willful waitress he discovers in the British countryside, and the way she upsets his meticulous, perfectly-ordered life when she becomes his go-to model, creative muse, and (sort of) love interest, is a fairly odd one, but in the best sense of that word, as the ways in which their relationship at first grows to be figuratively toxic, and then literally, is easily the film's most intriguing individual element by far (and no, I don't mean that in the way that you're guessing).

This is a relatively calm, quiet sort of drama, with a lot of the emotions being conveyed through various passive-aggressive comments, jealous, furtive looks, and uncomfortable body language, but that is part of the point here, as it's the way the film shows Alma upsetting Reynolds' orderly little life simply by refusing to let him control and alter her like he does his dresses. It's a rather placid film, made up of lovingly detailed, tactile close-ups, and fittingly sumptuous costume and production design, but more importantly, the journey of watching the central relationship grow and sour (and grow again) over the course of the 2+ hour running time, a journey that I didn't regret taking. So, while Phantom Thread wasn't not quite as good as I hoped it would be, it's still pretty memorable nonetheless, and a worthwhile effort from Mr. Anderson, in the end.

Final Score: 8

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Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:08 am
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Post Re: Stu Presents 2017: My Year In Film!

Looking forward to Three Billboards when/if it ever hits West Kentucky.


Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:23 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
Looking forward to Three Billboards when/if it ever hits West Kentucky.
I wish you luck with that; my area had it for just a week or two around December, then it left, but now it's actually back, I assume because of the fresh awards season buzz it's getting. Not complaining, it deserves it, it's just kind of a weird phenomenon. Anyway, speaking of limited releases expanding out to my city, there's still at least one more 2017 movie coming here on Friday, so I'm going to try to see it and write a new entry for it here then, and then I'll start finally wrapping up this thread up for good, (probably); promise!

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Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:56 am
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Stu wrote:
there's still at least one more 2017 movie coming here on Friday, so I'm going to try to see it and write a new entry for it here then, and then I'll start finally wrapping up this thread up for good, (probably); promise!

I assume you mean Hostiles, which I'm also looking forward to. If the reviews are any indication, it's baffling why this film, given limited release in December to qualify, has received so little award attention.


Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:05 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
I assume you mean Hostiles, which I'm also looking forward to. If the reviews are any indication, it's baffling why this film, given limited release in December to qualify, has received so little award attention.
That's not the one, and I'm not really interested in seeing it anyway...

:oops:

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