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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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I decided to create a new thread for my new monthly challenge, so I hope it's not too much of an issue.

Last year, I decided to take up a monthly topic to challenge me to watch more films: I did "Director Debuts" in January, Hitchcock in June, "Blockbusters" in July, etc. and for the most part, it worked pretty well (until Hurricane Maria hit us in September, that is). This year, I'll settle on a list of 20-something, random criteria and I'll try to watch as many films as I can to fill the criteria.

The current list I'm working on is...

A period drama film:
A film with a female protagonist: Friday the 13th, Part III
A sports film: I, Tonya
A film about parenthood: Mr. Mom
A film from Sweden:
A French language film: Les Quatre Cents Coups
An Italian language film:
The first film from a director you like: Blood Simple
A comedy made before 1970: The Apartment
A film directed by a woman:
A drama film:
An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture: Precious
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990:
A film with a title that's a sentence or sentence fragment: What We Do in the Shadows
A silent film from a foreign country: L'Inferno
A film that was released direct-to-DVD: Universal Soldier: Regeneration
A film with a color in the title: Green Room
A film set in Eastern Europe:
A film noir: The Killers
A film about an animal:
A film featured in the Criterion Collection: M
A Spanish language film:
A Bollywood film:
A film over 170 minutes long:
An experimental film:

Now, I know I won't fill them all, but at least it serves as a challenge and something to look forward to. I'll be posting my film reviews here, so anyone feel free to comment or suggest films that might fit any criteria.

Past months shortcuts:
January
February
March
April
May
June

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Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:23 am
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A film about man versus nature: Walkabout

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Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:39 am
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A film about man versus nature: Into the Wild
A Palm D'Or winner: The Class
A film with a female protagonist: Contact
A film about food: Babette's Feast
A film from the 1980s: Fast Times At Ridgemont High
A documentary: Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of 'Smile'
A film considered one of the worst ever made: Manos: Hand of Fate
A German language film: Strozek
A film from the 2010s: Logan Lucky
An adventure/fantasy film: Time Bandits
A war film: Lebanon
A film about a musician: The Jazz Singer
A film made for children: The Neverending Story
A classic you've never seen: Gone With the Wind
A film from a Canadian filmmaker: Exotica

I suggest trying to watch the documentary Beautiful Dreamer or the movie Babette's Feast. They're both excellent.


Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:00 am
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A film with a female protagonist
A film from the 2010s
A film from a Canadian filmmaker


Arrival (2016)

Quote:
"Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict."


This quote is one of Louise Banks (Amy Adams) cards of presentation. A gifted, but somewhat meek, linguist, Banks is approached to come up with a way to communicate with aliens that have recently arrived to Earth. Paired with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Banks make her best effort to understand and be understood, regardless of the pressures of the military or how much time it might take her. To her, it is imperative that the communication between humans and aliens is clear and mutual.

Through most of the film we witness different forms of communication and the results they have on every character. Ian takes the time to know and listen to his new partner. He reads her book, he talks and listens. Banks' superior, Colonel G.T. Weber (Forest Whitaker) listens; he is open to ideas, and gives Louise and Ian enough leeway; but is also pressured by his superiors in what is probably a one-way communication ("priority one: What do they want and where are they from"). The other soldiers don't receive as much inside communication as they would want or need, and are forced to listen to sensationalized radio programs which might lead to disastrous results. One way or the other, communication is key to every character here.

I've been a fan of director Denis Villeneuve since I saw the tragically beautiful Prisoners and the enigmatic Enemy. I've found every film of his I've seen to be impeccably crafted and hypnotizing. Villeneuve takes his time to build up the tension and suspense of what's happening here, and even though we know, he chooses not to show... until the moment is right. You can feel the adrenaline and anxiety of Louise as she is getting ready to board the alien ship and meet the aliens. I can tell you that during this first act of the film, I was so captured by it, so into it, that I literally felt my heart jumping. For some reason I can't explain, I was so connected with the film that I felt emotionally overwhelmed as our characters went deeper and deeper. It is something I've rarely felt while watching a film. Villeneuve, like Louis, takes his time to lead us to connect.

Unfortunately, the risk of a communication breakdown is always present. When communication isn't clear for one reason or another, doubts grow, mistrust arises. At one point, the CIA decides to cut communication with all their collaborating countries, leaving everyone - USA included - in the dark. Nothing is clear anymore. Soldiers are scared, fear is mounting, and people stop listening to who they should listen. It was as the film approached its final act that I disconnected as well. Power went out at home, and I had to wait 30 minutes or so for it to come back. When it came, it wasn't the same. I don't know if it was the narrative of the film, or that somehow, the interruption had "disconnected" me emotionally from the film.

There IS a twist. And although I don't think the film is entirely reliant on it, it is important. And figuring it ahead of time might hinder the overall effect. As I figured what was going on, I felt the film deflate a bit. The final revelation that their language and the way they perceive time is "non-linear" and understanding their language will lead you to "perceive time the way they do" in a non-linear way, is very vague and there really isn't much of an explanation. Instead, we are expected to buy it on behalf of the emotional connection we have with the characters and with the revelation. But at that point, I didn't feel connected. Was it an issue of the story and the narrative? was it the timely power outage? Maybe I'll never find out, but the story makes a point of being happy with what we get, even if things don't end up the way we want them to. As it is, I'm satisfied with having experienced what I had during the first two acts, despite the way things ended.

Grade: B

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Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:11 am
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One thing I can say is that Arrival holds up well on repeated viewings. I've seen it three times already. Amy Adams should have gotten that Oscar although I admit she was also quite good in Nocturnal Animals, another film you should watch.


Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:14 am
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A documentary

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years (2016)

Quote:
"You must be kidding me with that question. Culture? It's not culture... [It's] a good laugh"


When The Beatles started touring, most of their members were in their late teens and just having fun. Little did they know that their path would lead them to become the most popular music group on Earth, and indeed an icon of culture and change. But in the start? It was all "a good laugh".

In this documentary, Ron Howard takes a look at the Beatles rise to fame, international stardom, and the overall mass hysteria surrounding their touring years. It surely was a fun and interesting watch, particularly for someone who loves the Beatles but isn't as immersed into them as much as I wish, or as some hardcore fans might be.

The documentary manages to capture how the essence of their live shows and music changes from just pure fun and energy in the early years to a desire and need to experiment and go beyond. This I've said before and I still stand by it; there isn't a single musician/band that exemplifies what is musical evolution and growth paired with success as The Beatles, and that you can witness here.

If anything, one is left wanting to see more of them, but since Howard decided to focus on that rough period of 1962 to 1966, what could be considered their most experimental and maybe conflicting period is left out. It kinda feels abrupt the way the documentary ends. But anyway, a very fun and insightful documentary.

Grade: A-

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Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:32 am
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ski petrol wrote:
One thing I can say is that Arrival holds up well on repeated viewings. I've seen it three times already. Amy Adams should have gotten that Oscar although I admit she was also quite good in Nocturnal Animals, another film you should watch.


I saw Nocturnal Animals early in December. I agree she was pretty good in both.

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Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:33 am
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I liked Arrival much better than a B. The final act is my favorite part of the film, because after you pick up on what the ending means, the ending feels more emotionally powerful once you realize what the protagonist must do. I didn't think too much of this movie on my first viewing, but I enjoyed it much more after a couple re-watches. Now, it's probably in my top 5 films of the 2010's.

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Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:33 am
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This sounds like a fun challenge, and I like the variety of the categories.

A film that won a Best Picture MTV Award: Menace 2 Society
A film about man versus nature: Touching the Void (bonus: also a documentary)
A Palm D'Or winner: Black Orpheus
A film with a female protagonist: (I know you already watched one) Candyman (also, it makes me sad that this is even a category, if you know what I mean)
A television movie: Citizen X (Really amazing thriller, in my opinion. I was shocked to learn it was made for TV).
A film shot on digital video: Upstream Color (this is one of my favorite movies, ever. Also female protagonist. Also from the 2010s. Also made for $50,000.)
A film about food: Big Night
A film from the 1920s: The Passion of Joan of Arc if you have somehow not seen it yet.
A film from the 1980s: They Live
A documentary: I know you already watched one, but I have to give a shout out to Girl Rising (female protagonist triple bonus) and Simon Schama's Power of Art
A film considered one of the worst ever made: Plan 9 from Outer Space as a double bill with Ed Wood
A German language film: Pina (also a documentary) or Lore
An adventure/fantasy film: Thief of Bagdad (either version--they are both great!)
A drama film: Philomena
A war film: All Quiet on the Western Front (30s version)
A film from the 1940s: Cat People
A film about a musician: We Are the Best (cheating a little . . . but from the 2010s and female protagonists!)
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: Again, Upstream Color. Also Fruitvale Station
A film made for children: Moana (think you might have seen this?) or Kubo and the Two Strings
A film based on a myth or legend: I'll repeat Black Orpheus
A film from a Canadian filmmaker: Blood and Donuts
A film from the 1930s: Passion of Joan of Arc or The Thin Man
A road trip film: Take Me Home (the rare romance I enjoyed) or Chef


Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:22 am
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Thanks for the recs. I've seen the ones in red, and comments in blue...

Takoma1 wrote:
This sounds like a fun challenge, and I like the variety of the categories.

A film that won a Best Picture MTV Award: Menace 2 Society
A film about man versus nature: Touching the Void (bonus: also a documentary)
A Palm D'Or winner: Black Orpheus (I was looking for this one last night, but it isn't on Hulu or Amazon Prime)
A film with a female protagonist: (I know you already watched one) Candyman (also, it makes me sad that this is even a category, if you know what I mean) ...and that it's harder to find films that fit it, when compared to male protagonists.
A television movie: Citizen X (Really amazing thriller, in my opinion. I was shocked to learn it was made for TV).
A film shot on digital video: Upstream Color (this is one of my favorite movies, ever. Also female protagonist. Also from the 2010s. Also made for $50,000.)
A film about food: Big Night
A film from the 1920s: The Passion of Joan of Arc if you have somehow not seen it yet. I've had it on my radar for years. This might be the time
A film from the 1980s: They Live
A documentary: I know you already watched one, but I have to give a shout out to Girl Rising (female protagonist triple bonus) and Simon Schama's Power of Art
A film considered one of the worst ever made: Plan 9 from Outer Space as a double bill with Ed Wood
A German language film: Pina (also a documentary) or Lore
An adventure/fantasy film: Thief of Bagdad (either version--they are both great!)
A drama film: Philomena
A war film: All Quiet on the Western Front (30s version)
A film from the 1940s: Cat People
A film about a musician: We Are the Best (cheating a little . . . but from the 2010s and female protagonists!)
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: Again, Upstream Color. Also Fruitvale Station
A film made for children: Moana (think you might have seen this?) or Kubo and the Two Strings
A film based on a myth or legend: I'll repeat Black Orpheus See above
A film from a Canadian filmmaker: Blood and Donuts
A film from the 1930s: Passion of Joan of Arc or The Thin Man
A road trip film: Take Me Home (the rare romance I enjoyed) or Chef


You are the best!

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Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:10 pm
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Thanks for the recs. Like with Takoma, red for the ones I've seen, blue for comments...

ski petrol wrote:
A film about man versus nature: Into the Wild (this is the one I had in mind because I already have it with me)
A Palm D'Or winner: The Class
A film with a female protagonist: Contact
A film about food: Babette's Feast
A film from the 1980s: Fast Times At Ridgemont High
A documentary: Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of 'Smile'
A film considered one of the worst ever made: Manos: Hand of Fate
A German language film: Strozek
A film from the 2010s: Logan Lucky
An adventure/fantasy film: Time Bandits
A war film: Lebanon
A film about a musician: The Jazz Singer
A film made for children: The Neverending Story
A classic you've never seen: Gone With the Wind
A film from a Canadian filmmaker: Exotica

I suggest trying to watch the documentary Beautiful Dreamer or the movie Babette's Feast. They're both excellent.


Thank you so much!

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Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:15 pm
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Just for a little trivia, Manos: Hand of Fate is considered the *worst* film of all time. :) I saw it a while back and it certainly is pretty terrible. It never gets shown on TV though. I'm guessing no one wants the rights to it. I had to rent it.

PS - You might want to imbibe in a little alcohol before watching it. Helps it go down smoother. Just don't complain too much about the lost time in your life.


Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:43 pm
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ski petrol wrote:
Just for a little trivia, Manos: Hand of Fate is considered the *worst* film of all time. :) I saw it a while back and it certainly is pretty terrible. It never gets shown on TV though. I'm guessing no one wants the rights to it. I had to rent it.

PS - You might want to imbibe in a little alcohol before watching it. Helps it go down smoother. Just don't complain too much about the lost time in your life.


That's the one the guy made as a bet, right? I'm curious just because of that.

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Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:32 pm
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A road trip film: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)


Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:03 am
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A classic you've never seen
A film with a female protagonist


Les diaboliques (1955)

Quote:
"It's always the ones who know how that get drowned. The ones who can't, don't go near the pool."


This quote comes from concierge Plantiveau, as he warns leading lady Christina (Véra Clouzot) not to approach a pool that, unbeknownst to him, apparently holds a secret. But her desire for answers and her need for confirmation, combined with a sense of guilt, leads her to approach what is dangerous to her. More often than not, we approach things that we're not familiar with, that are outside of our "element", regardless of the dangers and the consequences when we shouldn't have gone near them.

The same can be said about the actions of the characters in our story. This French thriller follows Christina as she plans the murder of her abusive husband, Michel (Paul Meurisse), along with his mistress, Nicole (Simone Signoret). From the get go, we can see that Christina is clearly not made for this, but she approaches anyway. Nicole, on the other hand, is clearly more in control and seems to be the one calling the shots. But, obviously, planning a murder and successfully carrying it out, is more complicated than one might think.

For the first half, I was very impressed with both Meurisse and Signoret's performances. Meurisse excels in making us hate Michel, while Signoret conveys the necessary disdain and frustration with her situation and the people around her. I wasn't very impressed with Clouzot, until the second half. Here, she shines as we see her crumble under guilt of what she's done, and the pressure of knowing that she might not be up for it, and shouldn't have gone near. All in all, Les Diaboliques is well acted and cleverly directed, with a nice twist that I, surprisingly, didn't see coming. It is surprising as well that I hadn't approached this before.

Grade: A-

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Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:34 am
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We saw Les Diaboliques in film class but that was way back in my 20s and I practically forgot the movie. I need to see it again as I know I was quite impressed. I never saw the remake and don't plan on it.


Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:38 am
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Thief wrote:
A classic you've never seen

Les diaboliques (1955)

All in all, Les Diaboliques is well acted and cleverly directed, with a nice twist that I, surprisingly, didn't see coming. It is surprising as well that I hadn't approached this before.

Grade: A-


I love this movie. It's so good and so surprising, as you say. The remake is fine, but it just can't touch the brilliance of the original.

There's a slasher from the 70s or 80s (I'm totally forgetting the title) where some sorority girls accidentally kill their old lady house-mother and put her body in the swimming pool. It has a lot of echoes of this film.

I recently got a subscription to the service FilmStruck. One of the biggest selling points is that they have a bunch of the Criterion Collection. It's $100 for the year, and I'm really enjoying the access to movies (especially classics) that are so hard to find on Netflix/Amazon/Hulu.


Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:37 am
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I think I might want to participate in this as well. Great idea, Thief:

A film that won a Best Picture MTV Award:
A film about man versus nature: Flipper's New Adventure (most of the first hour, anyway)
A Palm D'Or winner:
A film with a female protagonist: Born Yesterday
A television movie:
A film shot on digital video: The Only Living Boy in New York
A film about food:
A film from the 1920s:
A film from the 1980s:
A documentary:
A film considered one of the worst ever made:
A German language film:
A film from the 2010s: The Accountant
An adventure/fantasy film:
A drama film: Sunset Boulevard
A war film: Edge of Tomorrow
A film from the 1940s: The Bank Dick
A film about a musician:
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990:
A film made for children: Flipper's New Adventure
A film based on a myth or legend:
A classic you've never seen: From Russia With Love
A film from a Canadian filmmaker:
A film from the 1930s:
A road trip film:


Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:56 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

I love this movie. It's so good and so surprising, as you say. The remake is fine, but it just can't touch the brilliance of the original.

There's a slasher from the 70s or 80s (I'm totally forgetting the title) where some sorority girls accidentally kill their old lady house-mother and put her body in the swimming pool. It has a lot of echoes of this film.

I recently got a subscription to the service FilmStruck. One of the biggest selling points is that they have a bunch of the Criterion Collection. It's $100 for the year, and I'm really enjoying the access to movies (especially classics) that are so hard to find on Netflix/Amazon/Hulu.


The film you're thinking of is House on Sorority Row


Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:58 pm
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Born Yesterday is a good one.


Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:17 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
I think I might want to participate in this as well. Great idea, Thief:

A film that won a Best Picture MTV Award:
A film about man versus nature:
A Palm D'Or winner:
A film with a female protagonist: Born Yesterday
A television movie:
A film shot on digital video:
A film about food:
A film from the 1920s:
A film from the 1980s:
A documentary:
A film considered one of the worst ever made:
A German language film:
A film from the 2010s:
An adventure/fantasy film:
A drama film:
A war film:
A film from the 1940s:
A film about a musician:
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990:
A film made for children:
A film based on a myth or legend:
A classic you've never seen:
A film from a Canadian filmmaker:
A film from the 1930s:
A road trip film:


Feel free to jump in! There's room for more.

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Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:40 am
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A film that won a Best Picture MTV Award: Scream
A film about man versus nature: Grizzly Man
A Palm D'Or winner: Kagemusha
A film with a female protagonist: Breakfast at Tiffany's
A television movie: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
A film shot on digital video: Birdman
A film about food: Ratatouille
A film from the 1920s: The Thief of Baghdad (1924)
A film from the 1980s: They Live
A documentary: Blackfish
A film considered one of the worst ever made: The Garbage Pail Kids Movie
A German language film: Wings of Desire
A film from the 2010s: The Witch
An adventure/fantasy film: Beastmaster
A drama film: All the President's Men (1976)
A war film: The Guns of Navarone
A film from the 1940s: Spellbound (1945)
A film about a musician: Inside Llewyn Davis
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: Clerks
A film made for children: Song of the South
A film based on a myth or legend: Clash of the Titans (1981)
A classic you've never seen: Les Diaboliques
A film from a Canadian filmmaker: Black Christmas (Bob Clarke)
A film from the 1930s: Lost Horizon (1937)
A road trip film: Little Miss Sunshine

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Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:57 am
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Seen the ones in red...

Death Proof wrote:
A film that won a Best Picture MTV Award: Scream
A film about man versus nature: Grizzly Man
A Palm D'Or winner: Kagemusha
A film with a female protagonist: Breakfast at Tiffany's
A television movie: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
A film shot on digital video: Birdman
A film about food: Ratatouille
A film from the 1920s: The Thief of Baghdad (1924)
A film from the 1980s: They Live
A documentary: Blackfish
A film considered one of the worst ever made: The Garbage Pail Kids Movie
A German language film: Wings of Desire
A film from the 2010s: The Witch
An adventure/fantasy film: Beastmaster
A drama film: All the President's Men (1976)
A war film: The Guns of Navarone
A film from the 1940s: Spellbound (1945) (I have this on me, so it's the one I had in mind for this category)
A film about a musician: Inside Llewyn Davis
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: Clerks
A film made for children: Song of the South
A film based on a myth or legend: Clash of the Titans (1981)
A classic you've never seen: Les Diaboliques (see above ;) )
A film from a Canadian filmmaker: Black Christmas (Bob Clarke)
A film from the 1930s: Lost Horizon (1937)
A road trip film: Little Miss Sunshine


Thanks!

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Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:30 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
The film you're thinking of is House on Sorority Row


Thanks! I was feeling too lazy for Googling.

Also, Spellbound isn't my favorite Hitchcock, but I'll watch Gregory Peck in anything and those dream sequences live up to their reputation.


Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:38 am
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I'd like to participate as well!
But I'll have to finish another challenge first.


Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:00 pm
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A film from the 2010s

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Quote:
"There are times when it is necessary to abandon our humanity to save humanity."


I'm not sure if this was planned from the beginning or if things changed as the years passed and the series progressed, but this new "reboot" of the popular franchise has never been about the humans. Although the first part started with what was a pretty emotional and touching relationship between a genetically-improved chimpanzee called Caesar and its owner, each subsequent installment has rejected its previous human stars, while increasing the focus on Caesar. If that wasn't evident from the first two, it is pretty clear here in the third one.

Set two years after Dawn, this film finds humans in a constant disadvantage against the more intelligent and more organized apes, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis). Accompanied by his family, plus a group of loyal soldiers and advisors, Caesar tries to fend off the constant attacks with as little violence as he can. On the other hand, the humans are led by a mysterious Colonel (Woody Harrelson) who heads a group of rogue soldiers set on finishing off the apes. Although we meet probably half a dozen of different apes, played by different actors, with different personalities and traits, there are roughly two humans with roles of importance (the Colonel, which he meet halfway through the film, and Preacher, one of his men). Again, the focus is Caesar, not humans.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. As has been established from the first one, the film is clearly a technical achievement in the way it has created a fully developed CGI character in Caesar. But as remarkable as that feat is, I don't think Serkis' performance is without a fault. His voice delivery is pretty much uniform with a perennial tired, growl-like pitch that has little emotion. I understand he is trying to portray a Caesar tired of the fight, but that still didn't let me connect fully with the character.

Towards the middle of the film, Caesar finds himself on the other side when most of the apes are captured, imprisoned, and forced to build a wall for the Colonel. "His wall is madness", says Caesar. That bit felt a bit on the nose given the current, umm, political landscape. Add to that the fact that there really isn't much of a war, but rather a skirmish, and I can say I was a bit underwhelmed by this. There are a couple of things I liked, but would've preferred to see more developed, like the way the virus has evolved to limit the humans capability for speech.

Kudos to Harrelson, who is always a treat to watch, but he doesn't have a lot of screen-time and although he tries to add depth to the character, like I said, there really isn't much to humans on this film. There's an avalanche near the end of the film which also felt a bit too convenient, a deus ex machina, for things to end. Don't get me wrong. The film was never boring, it is well crafted, and acted, but I think that with the reviews and the way the trilogy was set up, I was expecting a bit more... humanity?

Grade: B

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Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:30 am
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Pretty good points. Overall, I liked this one quite a bit, but I prefer Dawn over it. I did like it more than Rise though.

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Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:39 am
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Popcorn Reviews wrote:
Pretty good points. Overall, I liked this one quite a bit, but I prefer Dawn over it. I did like it more than Rise though.


I agree. To me, Rise was the weakest (probably a low B- for me), while Dawn was the strongest (B+). All in all, solid franchise, but none of them is great.

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Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:41 am
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Thief wrote:

I agree. To me, Rise was the weakest (probably a low B- for me), while Dawn was the strongest (B+). All in all, solid franchise, but none of them is great.

That sort of mimics my opinion. Here are my ratings for all 3 films:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - 6/10
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - 8/10
War for the Planet of the Apes - 7/10

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Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:09 am
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Thief, if I'm playing along are you okay with me posting reviews in here? I don't want to clutter your thread.


Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:13 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
Thief, if I'm playing along are you okay with me posting reviews in here? I don't want to clutter your thread.


Of course! Same goes to Slentert, Apex, and anyone else who wants to join.

My plan is to switch the categories every month, so if any of you want to go along with it, be ready for that.

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Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:21 am
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Thief wrote:

Of course! Same goes to Slentert, Apex, and anyone else who wants to join.


Cool--thanks!

I definitely won't make much of a dent in January, as I get so little time to just sit and watch a movie with full attention. My couch time is mostly grading while listening to an episode of Top Chef.

Here's what I've got so far:

A film with a female protagonist: Happy Birthday to Me

I read up on the movie after watching it and discovered that the whole movie was filmed basically with a place-holder ending, but then had a completely different ending put on at the end. And, ya'll, that makes SO MUCH SENSE. The first half of the movie is a so-so 80s slasher. Lots of "Oh, it's you!" spoken to an unseen person; lots of high school students being jerks. But around the halfway point the movie just gets weird, and it's weird in a good way. I began questioning if what I was seeing was real or somehow imagined. Things started happening that seemed like they were 20 minutes too early, narratively speaking. It was confusing but entertaining and it all ends with a final 7 minutes that are completely bonkers and maybe one of the most memorable finales. B+

A film from the 2010s: Blade of the Immortal

While this movie was not great, I really enjoyed it. An immortal swordsman becomes a bodyguard/hired killer for a little girl seeking revenge for her parents' murder. The movie has some fun action sequences and decent chemistry between the two main characters. In many ways it hits the familiar notes of "little girl with jaded male protector" stories. What I liked most about the movie was its repeated examinations of the way that revenge is nuanced. Everyone sees him or herself as the hero/protagonist of their own lives, and the movie has some interesting conversations in that regard. One character reveals a harrowing backstory, only to be told by the main character "Sorry, but you're not the only hero of a tragic story". Even the main bad guy is given some nuance and there is a compelling logic to his actions (even if those actions are horrific). My only real issue with the movie was that I didn't appreciate the way that the little girl character was at times shown in sexualized ways. It can be hard to sort out when a movie is being creepy and when characters in the movie are being creepy, but there were two different times that
male characters open the girl's mouth and put knives or swords in her mouth in a suggestive manner
and I found that kind of off-putting. B+

An adventure/fantasy film: The Mummy

Maybe I just wasn't in the mood, but this one didn't do much for me, despite its reputation as a stupid-fun flick. Things that were supposed to be funny or charming just grated on me (he kisses a woman without her consent--ha ha?), and "Is that Kevin O'Connor playing an Arabic man?". All of the Arab characters were caricatures--corrupt, scheming, or cowardly. The movie actually kind of depressed me. There were moments that had a certain charm to them (like the discussion by the fireside where Weisz declared her pride in her librarian status), but a lot of the movie felt reductive and blah. Rogue-ish man-child and woman who just wants the love of a man just aren't my kind of protagonists these days. C-

A film made for children: Winnie the Pooh

My siblings and I watched the old Winnie the Pooh a lot growing up, so when I read a few positive reviews of the 2011 version I decided to check it out. For the most part I enjoyed it. There were a lot of songs, some of which I thought were only so-so. But I really liked the conceit of the characters physically interacting with the text (as one point a character knocks a period away and the whole sentence pours out of the page) and the nods to the physical books. I loved the movie's version of Kanga as basically this woman who is so over it all. At one point they're like "LET'S CELEBRATE WITH A SONG" and she's like "Or let's not." My only complaint (aside from some unnecessary songs) is a petty one, namely that some of the voices in the original series were so imprinted in my mind that it was jarring to hear the new interpretations. Some of the characters sounded basically the same, but some (especially Piglet) threw me off. If you have kids, I thought this was a sweet, short (~65 minutes) film. B+


Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:44 am
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Nice! Now I'm curious about that Happy Birthday film! Will try to check it out.

Re: The Mummy, as I was reading your review, I wasn't sure if you were talking about the Brendan Fraser one or the Tom Cruise one. Mentioning Weisz was the give-away :D Anyway, I saw this for the first time back when it was released, when I was probably in my early 20's, so I guess I was pretty much in on it. I enjoy it a lot.

Re: Winnie the Pooh, I pretty much agree with most of your points on this one. I was also a fan of the old films and I thought this was pretty well done. Catchy songs and funny story. I wasn't that bothered about the voices because, coming from a Spanish-speaking country, what I have in my mind are the Spanish voices and Spanish songs.

Thanks for sharing!

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Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:40 pm
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Thief wrote:
Re: The Mummy, as I was reading your review, I wasn't sure if you were talking about the Brendan Fraser one or the Tom Cruise one. Mentioning Weisz was the give-away :D Anyway, I saw this for the first time back when it was released, when I was probably in my early 20's, so I guess I was pretty much in on it. I enjoy it a lot.


To be fair, I think that my younger self would have enjoyed it. But as I've gotten older, certain archetypes and plot arcs leave me either uninspired or irritated. Also, I'm probably a rarity in this, but I think that the plundering of other cultures' historical artifacts (and at times the literal bodies of their ancestors) is a horrible legacy of colonialism and it's something I have a hard time putting aside in terms of setting/context. There are other historical things I can sort of overlook in a breezy blockbuster, but this is one that I can't roll with, especially given the cartoonish way that the Arabic characters are portrayed (I recognize that the white characters are also cartoonish, but they are also portrayed as smart and heroic). It's one of those movies where I see why people like it and have fond feelings for it, but I would never watch it again.


Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:56 pm
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I just took all of the awful racial archetypes of The Mummy to be part of its throwback nods to old serials and Hollywood films. You know, kinda like what Raiders of the Lost Ark was doing, but if Raiders was a completely shitty garbage movie.


Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:02 pm
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Jesus Christ. Garbage Pail Kids movie? Have fun with that.

EDIT: Meant to quote Death Proof's list, but it didn't happen.


Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:03 pm
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crumbsroom wrote:
I just took all of the awful racial archetypes of The Mummy to be part of its throwback nods to old serials and Hollywood films. You know, kinda like what Raiders of the Lost Ark was doing, but if Raiders was a completely shitty garbage movie.


When a movie is repeatedly described to me as "fun", I always feel like a grump being like "But the stereotypes!! But the gender politics!"--so it makes me feel better that I'm not alone in disliking this film. I literally can't remember anyone talking about the movie as anything less than enjoyable fluff.


Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:23 pm
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crumbsroom wrote:
Jesus Christ. Garbage Pail Kids movie? Have fun with that.

EDIT: Meant to quote Death Proof's list, but it didn't happen.



The man said a movie considered the worst ever made. I CHALLENGE anyone to come up with something worse than Garbage Pail Kids.

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Sun Jan 14, 2018 7:57 am
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Death Proof wrote:
The man said a movie considered the worst ever made. I CHALLENGE anyone to come up with something worse than Garbage Pail Kids.

I haven't seen it before, but is it worse than Faces of Death?

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Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:45 am
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A film from the 1980s

Thief (1981)

Quote:
"I have run out of time. I have lost it all. So I can't work fast enough to catch up. I can't run fast enough to catch up. And the only thing that catches me up is doing my magic act."


The above quote seems to be the mantra, or perhaps justification, of Frank (James Caan), the titular character on Michael Mann's feature film debut. After spending a dozen years in prison, Frank finds himself out and alone, with no talent or skills other than stealing. Already in his 40's, Frank has his eyes set on a family, and to achieve that, he might have to do one last score.

The above synopsis might feel a bit cliché, and it's true; it has been done a thousand times. But Mann's script and direction paired with Caan's performance manage to keep the film feeling honest and fresh. Frank is not a nice guy; he is a bit of a jerk, but you can feel where he's coming from, and how he's gotten to the point where he is. His desire to settle down seems close when he is approached by Leo (Robert Prosky), a mobster that wants to hire Frank to do several jobs. One doesn't need a crystal ball to predict that things will go awry at some point.

Released in 1981, Thief oozes a style that became synonymous with Mann. The neon lights, the cool ambiance, the tough guys... it's all there. But as much as its style is upfront, Thief also manages to be a smart and mature thriller. I had to get over the racist slurs in the script ("chinks... Puerto Ricans... etc."), but I understand where it's coming from. Plus, most of the performances are pretty good, with Caan, and maybe Prosky stealing the show. And that's the beauty of it. Just two "old men" doing they're "magic trick" and delivering a damn, fine film in the process.

Grade: A-

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Sun Jan 14, 2018 9:06 am
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Popcorn Reviews wrote:
I haven't seen it before, but is it worse than Faces of Death?



Negro, please. Faces of Death is bad, but it's unremarkable. Just an old collection of accident footage combined with some bogus scenes filmed just for the movie. You'll see worse on Youtube these days.

The Nostalgia Critic did a fine job of tearing apart Garbage Pail Kids. I recommend giving it a look:




As far as other bad movies go, I would say Shewolf of the SS, I Spit on Your Grave, and pretty much any Rob Zombie or Herschel Gordon Lewis material.

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Sun Jan 14, 2018 9:27 am
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Death Proof wrote:


The man said a movie considered the worst ever made. I CHALLENGE anyone to come up with something worse than Garbage Pail Kids.


Clearly you haven't seen Manos: Hand of Fate. It's truly the worst movie ever made. It eats Garbage Pail Kids for dinner.


Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:46 am
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ski petrol wrote:

Clearly you haven't seen Manos: Hand of Fate. It's truly the worst movie ever made. It eats Garbage Pail Kids for dinner.


Just saw that one. It was... interesting :shifty:

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Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:53 am
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Death Proof wrote:


Negro, please. Faces of Death is bad, but it's unremarkable. Just an old collection of accident footage combined with some bogus scenes filmed just for the movie. You'll see worse on Youtube these days.

The Nostalgia Critic did a fine job of tearing apart Garbage Pail Kids. I recommend giving it a look:




As far as other bad movies go, I would say Shewolf of the SS, I Spit on Your Grave, and pretty much any Rob Zombie or Herschel Gordon Lewis material.

I just watched the Nostalgia Critic video on it, and that movie looks like complete shit. I might check it out someday.

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Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:11 am
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A film considered one of the worst ever made


Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Quote:
"I am permanent! Manos has made me permanent!"


When reading up lists of the "worst films ever made", it is almost sure this film will be on it. With a 7% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, it is indeed considered by many as one of the worst, if not *THE* worst film ever made. But sometimes, the story behind a film ends up being more interesting than the film itself and helps you put things in perspective. That is the case with this low-budget schlockfest.

The film is written, produced, directed, and acted by Harold P. Warren, an insurance salesman that was somewhat active in the theater scene in El Paso, Texas. The beauty of it is that the film was made as a result of a bet made by Warren upon meeting screenwriter Stirling Silliphant. Warren assured him that it would be easy to make a horror film, so he set out to make it and win his bet. Manos follows a family of tourists (Warren and Diane Mahree) who get lost on their way to a hotel in rural Texas. Somehow they end up at a house/lodge inhabited by a polygamous cult led by The Master (Tom Neyman) who might, or might not know what to do with them.

Manos: The Hands of Fate has all the cards stacked against it. Made by an inexperienced crew with a shoestring budget, featuring inexperienced actors, the result is - well - not the best. The acting is atrocious (Mahree, in particular, is awful), the script is a jumbled mess, full of scenes that are either inconsequential to the plot or just laughably executed (a lengthy "catfight" near the end comes to mind); the pace is clunky, the film is full of abrupt cuts, choppy editing, awkward pauses, and the music is obnoxious and intrusive. The truth is that I've seen community theater plays far more polished and with better acting than this. If anything, I'll give it that the ending was bold, for lack of a better word.

But when you put things in context, I can say that I have more respect for this than I have for, say, Transformers. One has to admire the sheer will of someone like Warren who just set out to do something, and did it (he won the bet). Despite the poor reception, the critical panning, the mocking from his own crew, the paltry earnings, and its falling into obscurity, Manos resurfaced during a 1993 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Ever since, it has been featured in dozens of "worst films" lists, helping it to achieve cult status.

I'm sure that Warren (who died in 1985) never expected his film to transcend to the point that it has today. Even he called it "the worst film ever made". The thing is that, even if it is for the wrong reasons, we know about it, we talk about it. In recent years, the film has been referenced in numerous popular TV shows, a few documentaries about its making have been released, and there are even talks about a new film being made. After all, Manos is permanent!

Grade: Nah!

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Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:39 am
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I sort of like Manos. And not only to laugh at. The back story certainly helps give its complete cinematic flatness personality, but it is also uniquely bad in a fascinating way. Torgo, for one, is a top tier bad movie performance. Completely compelling (again, learning the history of the actor who played him only adds to his tragic allure). There are definitely some painfully dull stretches in it, but I've definitely seen much worse in my life. Garbage Pail Kids, for one.

Grade: C-


Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:48 am
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ski petrol wrote:

Clearly you haven't seen Manos: Hand of Fate. It's truly the worst movie ever made. It eats Garbage Pail Kids for dinner.



I actually like Manos: Hands of Fate. Try again.

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Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:50 am
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crumbsroom wrote:
I sort of like Manos. And not only to laugh at. The back story certainly helps give its complete cinematic flatness personality, but it is also uniquely bad in a fascinating way. Torgo, for one, is a top tier bad movie performance. Completely compelling (again, learning the history of the actor who played him only adds to his tragic allure). There are definitely some painfully dull stretches in it, but I've definitely seen much worse in my life. Garbage Pail Kids, for one.


I wholeheartedly agree, about how "fascinating" it is, about the compelling and tragic nature of John Reynolds' performance as Torgo, and about there being much worse films out there.

I refused to rate it because, well, I don't know how to juxtapose this level of craft, or lack of, with something like Thief or Les diaboliques, which are other films I've seen during this week (and besides, what is a rating after all?). But it reminded me of another amateur film I saw last year, Who Killed Captain Alex? (recommended by Apex): a bad film by all means, and yet when you read the story of its Ugandan filmmaker, and the struggles he went through while filming, it just gives you a fascinating perspective of it all.

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Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:56 am
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Thief wrote:

I wholeheartedly agree, about how "fascinating" it is, about the compelling and tragic nature of John Reynolds' performance as Torgo, and about there being much worse films out there.

I refused to rate it because, well, I don't know how to juxtapose this level of craft, or lack of, with something like Thief or Les diaboliques, which are other films I've seen during this week (and besides, what is a rating after all?). But it reminded me of another amateur film I saw last year, Who Killed Captain Alex? (recommended by Apex): a bad film by all means, and yet when you read the story of its Ugandan filmmaker, and the struggles he went through while filming, it just gives you a fascinating perspective of it all.


I think that most of us can extend some kindness toward films that are truly labors of love. It's one thing when someone has $100 million to burn and they come up with something flat and unoriginal. But when someone is making their own props, calling in friends and family to act, and working on a budget that wouldn't buy you a used Pontiac Sundance, much less a full and talented cast and crew--you just can't take them to task quite the same way.

I just don't think that I could watch Manos at this point on its own because of how often I watched the MST3K episode. The whole time I'd just be thinking "Um, I don't want to see Torgo in anything sheer."

To me the most surprising thing reading some of the background of the film is how young Reynolds was in that film. I would have said mid-30s, not mid-20s.


Sun Jan 14, 2018 12:28 pm
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Thief wrote:
A film from the 1980s

Thief (1981)
Big, big fan of Thief, both the poster and the movie! Haha? But seriously, it's a great movie (you hear that, Scurezles?), despite its various cliches; I actually feel it did a good job of not making Leo's eventual character turn be too obvious early on, even though I always knew in the back of my head that he wasn't just going to let Frank go, and I loved how unapologetically proud Frank was of being a thief, since he, as Hans Gruber would later say, "is an exceptional thief":

"What the hell do you think that I do? Come on. Come on, every morning I walk in for five months, say hi - what the hell do you think that I do?
-You sell little fucking cars, that's what you do!
-I wear $150 slacks, I wear silk shirts, I wear $800 suits, I wear a gold watch, I wear a perfect, D-flawless three carat ring. I change cars like other guys change their fucking shoes. I'm a thief."

Just pure awesome.
ski petrol wrote:
Clearly you haven't seen Manos: Hand of Fate. It's truly the worst movie ever made. It eats Garbage Pail Kids for dinner.
Psssh, Manos has become the lazy go-to answer when it comes the question of "what's the worst movie ever made"; connoisseurs of MST know that its horrors pale in comparison to... the movie:


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