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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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Takoma1 wrote:
I think that for a "non-anime" person it is much more stylistically friendly than Princess Mononoke.

Yeah. I'm not that big on anime, but I loved Spirited Away. It's creative, and it has a ton of absurdity. I don't love it as much as some people do, but I'd be okay with revisiting it every now and then.

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Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:30 pm
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*I liked Shape of Water a lot, but GDT is my guy so I'm kind of biased. Would love to see him get a BD Oscar just because he's so lovable, but I predict that the subject matter is too weird to win BP.

*I tried like hell to think of a feature from the 1900s, but no luck. I wondered if anyone else knew of one, but I guess I'm not alone. I think 1911 was the oldest I could come up with. (L'Inferno)

*I watched Over the Garden Wall with a friend and her young son. They were already fans of the show and wanted me to see it. I loved it so much I bought myself a copy within a month. Utterly charming and great design/art direction.

*I liked Darling but if you're watching it based on my recommendation, I hasten to add that a large part of my enjoyment stems from my infatuation with the actress and her glorious eyeballs. I regret that she's too young to have worked with Tim Burton in his prime. She's like one of his drawings come to life.

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Sat Feb 10, 2018 1:38 pm
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Thief wrote:
I know this always gets rave reviews, but I'm not that big on anime, so I'm approaching this one with caution. I remember seeing Princess Mononoke back in the day, and wasn't that crazy about it either.


Your feelings about Mononoke shouldn't have anything to do with feelings about the possibilities of you liking anime. While I respect PM an awful lot, it's not at all my kind of thing. I'm really not a fan. But Miyazaki has more than enough other options that should fill that void for you. I actually think I prefer all of his other movies to it. And a couple of them are the best animated film I've ever seen. Spirited Away is one.


Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:32 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
*I liked Darling but if you're watching it based on my recommendation, I hasten to add that a large part of my enjoyment stems from my infatuation with the actress and her glorious eyeballs. I regret that she's too young to have worked with Tim Burton in his prime. She's like one of his drawings come to life.


I was starting to get excited that everyone was talking about the Julie Christie film "Darling", but now I am starting to realize that I should stop. Because that's not what anyone is talking about.


Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:35 pm
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crumbsroom wrote:

I was starting to get excited that everyone was talking about the Julie Christie film "Darling", but now I am starting to realize that I should stop. Because that's not what anyone is talking about.

Well they should be, because Julie Christie rules every frame, and her pale steel eyes are magnificent.


Sat Feb 10, 2018 3:21 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
*I tried like hell to think of a feature from the 1900s, but no luck. I wondered if anyone else knew of one, but I guess I'm not alone. I think 1911 was the oldest I could come up with. (L'Inferno)

That's because the concept of a feature film as we know it didn't exist before these Italian films.

Since Trip to the Moon is fairly standard viewing, I would recommend other Melies short films like The Impossible Voyage and Palace of the Arabian Nights and maybe even Merry Frolics of Satan to compensate (all about 20 minutes each).


Sat Feb 10, 2018 3:31 pm
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A drama film: ‘Night Mother

I am normally a big fan of movies that come right from stage plays. They tend to have small, self-contained worlds and a solid core cast.

Night Mother, in which a woman tells her mother that she is going to kill herself before the night is over, certainly has some really powerful moments. There's a part where the mother opens her daughter's closet and finds that the daughter has sorted all of her clothing to be given away in neatly labeled paper bags.

The most powerful thing about this film is the way that the mother oscillates between defeated acceptance, anger, and outright denial. There's a darkly funny sequence where the mother and daughter calmly discuss how the mother should behave when mourners and well-wishers come to the house with food. ("No, I shouldn't ask them about their children.").

Generally, though, the film didn't quite grab me for two different reasons. The first is that the quality of the direction is a bit flat. It feels like a filmed play and not like a movie. The camera is frequently static, cutting mostly between mid-distance shots of the actresses. And this direction calls a lot of attention to the fact that the dialogue often feels a bit "stagey".

The second reason is that I struggled a bit with why the daughter was going to kill herself in the first place. The movie pulls in disability (she is epileptic), her failed marriage (something she was pushed into by her mother), and a general sense of "I always mess things up". There's a powerful line where the daughter basically says "It's my life and I get to decide what to do with it!". But the writing never totally convinced me of her despair as being internal rather than situational. I know that people who are severely depressed can look like their lives are okay or that their problems aren't that bad. I get that. But it did worry me that the movie seemed at times to be on her side in what she was doing with her suicide as a form of being in control of her own life. Maybe I missed it in the dialogue, but it didn't seem that she'd ever really gotten quality help for her medical or her mental health issues. Depression has a very strong correlation with epilepsy, and it felt to me like there was a missing piece. Then again, it is revealed during the film that
the mother knew about the daughter's epilepsy since she was a child but kept it a secret until she was an adult because she didn't want to cause waves with the father who also had the illness
.


Sun Feb 11, 2018 12:26 am
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crumbsroom wrote:

Your feelings about Mononoke shouldn't have anything to do with feelings about the possibilities of you liking anime. While I respect PM an awful lot, it's not at all my kind of thing. I'm really not a fan. But Miyazaki has more than enough other options that should fill that void for you. I actually think I prefer all of his other movies to it. And a couple of them are the best animated film I've ever seen. Spirited Away is one.


Mononoke is the only Studio Ghibli film I've seen, but I know a lot of people are crazy about their films, so any kind of ranking you (or anyone else) could give me will be much appreciated.

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:20 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
*I tried like hell to think of a feature from the 1900s, but no luck. I wondered if anyone else knew of one, but I guess I'm not alone. I think 1911 was the oldest I could come up with. (L'Inferno)


I have L'Inferno on hold if (or when) the 1910's pop up in my little challenge. I hadn't heard of it, but I saw a gif of it a couple of months ago and I thought the visuals were so striking that I was sure I had to see it.

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:22 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
That's because the concept of a feature film as we know it didn't exist before these Italian films.

Since Trip to the Moon is fairly standard viewing, I would recommend other Melies short films like The Impossible Voyage and Palace of the Arabian Nights and maybe even Merry Frolics of Satan to compensate (all about 20 minutes each).


I've seen a good chunk of Méliès shorts. My wife bought me this DVD boxset a couple of years ago and I've been slowly going through it. I was trying to go through it chronologically, but I know I've seen probably 100 of them. There are so many that I get the names mixed up, but I'm pretty sure I saw The Impossible Voyage and maybe the Arabian Nights one. Don't think I've seen the Merry Frolics of Satan yet.

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:26 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A drama film: ‘Night Mother

I am normally a big fan of movies that come right from stage plays. They tend to have small, self-contained worlds and a solid core cast.

Night Mother, in which a woman tells her mother that she is going to kill herself before the night is over, certainly has some really powerful moments. There's a part where the mother opens her daughter's closet and finds that the daughter has sorted all of her clothing to be given away in neatly labeled paper bags.

The most powerful thing about this film is the way that the mother oscillates between defeated acceptance, anger, and outright denial. There's a darkly funny sequence where the mother and daughter calmly discuss how the mother should behave when mourners and well-wishers come to the house with food. ("No, I shouldn't ask them about their children.").

Generally, though, the film didn't quite grab me for two different reasons. The first is that the quality of the direction is a bit flat. It feels like a filmed play and not like a movie. The camera is frequently static, cutting mostly between mid-distance shots of the actresses. And this direction calls a lot of attention to the fact that the dialogue often feels a bit "stagey".

The second reason is that I struggled a bit with why the daughter was going to kill herself in the first place. The movie pulls in disability (she is epileptic), her failed marriage (something she was pushed into by her mother), and a general sense of "I always mess things up". There's a powerful line where the daughter basically says "It's my life and I get to decide what to do with it!". But the writing never totally convinced me of her despair as being internal rather than situational. I know that people who are severely depressed can look like their lives are okay or that their problems aren't that bad. I get that. But it did worry me that the movie seemed at times to be on her side in what she was doing with her suicide as a form of being in control of her own life. Maybe I missed it in the dialogue, but it didn't seem that she'd ever really gotten quality help for her medical or her mental health issues. Depression has a very strong correlation with epilepsy, and it felt to me like there was a missing piece. Then again, it is revealed during the film that
the mother knew about the daughter's epilepsy since she was a child but kept it a secret until she was an adult because she didn't want to cause waves with the father who also had the illness
.


So good to read this. It's a film you rarely see mentioned, and yet I think that despite its flaws, it's a good "conversation starter". I think it raises some solid issues about depression, life/death, and euthanasia. I haven't seen it in decades, but it's a film that has stuck with me since.

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:30 am
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Thief wrote:

So good to read this. It's a film you rarely see mentioned, and yet I think that despite its flaws, it's a good "conversation starter". I think it raises some solid issues about depression, life/death, and euthanasia. I haven't seen it in decades, but it's a film that has stuck with me since.


I guess I wanted more conversation in the film itself. The Jessie character isn't grappling with suicide--she's already solidly made up her mind to do it. I feel like a movie where someone is seriously considering it and struggling with it would have been more interesting to me.

As for Studio Ghibli Rankings:

Castle in the Sky--I like this one not only for the visuals, but for the bold, "Yeah, nature would be a lot better off without people. Even you, sympathetic protagonist." B+

Grave of the Fireflies--(not directed by Miyazaki) A brutal, semi-autobiographical drama about a brother and sister trying to survive in WW2-era Japan after their mother dies in a firebombing. A-

My Neighbor Totoro--Delightful and really captures the "little dramas" of being a child. Again, some excellent whimsical imagery (most famously the cat bus).

Kiki's Delivery Service--I honestly don't remember much about this one. It definitely feels more like a "for kids" movie. I was put off by the multiple unnecessary upskirt shots of the main character. B

Porco Rosso--Again, I don't remember a ton about this one, but I do know I enjoyed it. I mean, pigs in jet fighters. B

Whisper of the Heart--A sweet little romance/drama. You will hear "Country Roads" sung in Japanese like 80 billion times. B

Princess Mononoke--It's hard to rate this, because at the time I watched it it had a ridiculous amount of buzz as THE anime. I was inevitably a little let down. B

Spirited Away--Good on so many levels. I also really like it when movies emphasize friendship over romance. Some if the imagery is SO good and memorable. There are also themes of forgiveness and kindness that I quite appreciate. A-

The Cat Returns--Again, not super memorable, but I remember enjoying it. Very whimsical, fun fluff. B

Howl's Moving Castle--The one I saw after Spirited Away, so slightly let down that it wasn't quite up to par with that one. Still, solid. B+

Arrietty--An adaptation of a Borrowers type story with little people living in the walls. I liked it--it was sweet. B+

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya--Style wise, this is a knockout. But plotwise I was pretty bored at times. The protagonist is super passive. There are one or two innovative things done with the plot (MODERATE SPOILERS)
like when she sets an impossible quest for her suitors and things take a quick downward turn when one of them is killed
. I would have preferred a 20-30 minute short for this rather than a full feature. B-

If you have not explored the films of Satoshi Kon, I would HIGHLY recommend them. He makes much more adult, complicated films:

Memories--An anthology of shorts. Very bleak. B

Perfect Blue--A dark thriller about a pop singer who decides to become an actress. She is cast in a disturbing rape scene and, after filming the scene, her reality begins to distort and the line between fiction (ie the TV show) and reality begins to blur.

Millennium Actress--Two documentary filmmakers go to visit an aged, reclusive actress. As she recalls both her own life and her films, the line between her life, the present, and her movies blurs together. There is a backstory involving a man she fell in love with during the war and her long pursuit to find him. I cried at the end of this one. It's an emotional but beautiful movie. A

Tokyo Godfathers--A trio of homeless misfits find an abandoned baby. Simple premise, and a very sweet and humorous film. B+

Paranoia Agent--This is a miniseries/TV show, not a movie. It begins with a young woman who is an animator. One night she is attacked in a parking lot by a boy on skates with a baseball bat. The universe expands to include the detectives on the case, children at a local school, a local escort, etc. It is bonkers and reportedly just a dumping ground for some ideas Kon couldn't put in other movies. It is insane and it is wonderful. Highly recommended. A

Paprika--Investigating a murder eventually involves going inside a virtual reality type world and things get a little crazy. I didn't find this one as coherent as some of his other films, but he always delivers on imagery. B+


Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:38 am
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Thanks for the write-ups on the Studio Ghibli films! Will definitely put them to use when deciding which ones to watch...

Takoma1 wrote:

I guess I wanted more conversation in the film itself. The Jessie character isn't grappling with suicide--she's already solidly made up her mind to do it. I feel like a movie where someone is seriously considering it and struggling with it would have been more interesting to me.


I understand. I seem to remember that, at the time when I saw it, one of the things that hit me was precisely the resolve with which Jessie affronted her decision. It's pretty bleak when you see a young woman that has decided to end her life, and is just going through a checklist of things to do before she does so. But then again, I haven't seen it in, well, 15-20 years maybe, so I don't know how it would fare now.

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:02 am
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Thief wrote:
I understand. I seem to remember that, at the time when I saw it, one of the things that hit me was precisely the resolve with which Jessie affronted her decision. It's pretty bleak when you see a young woman that has decided to end her life, and is just going through a checklist of things to do before she does so. But then again, I haven't seen it in, well, 15-20 years maybe, so I don't know how it would fare now.


I thought that the strength of the film was the way that it captured the total helplessness that a lot of people feel when confronted with a suicidal loved one. The mom tries all the tricks: trying to convince her things are looking up, guilt tripping her, screaming, pleading.

So many of us are ill equipped to deal with someone who is suicidal, much less recognize the warning signs before it is too late.


Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:05 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I thought that the strength of the film was the way that it captured the total helplessness that a lot of people feel when confronted with a suicidal loved one. The mom tries all the tricks: trying to convince her things are looking up, guilt tripping her, screaming, pleading.

So many of us are ill equipped to deal with someone who is suicidal, much less recognize the warning signs before it is too late.


Yes. And this is a case when the other person is telling you what he/she's going to do. Just imagine how hard it would be to deal with it when you just don't know the person is going through suicidal feelings.

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:10 am
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Takoma, on Princess Mononoke:

I'd argue that it wasn't the most innovative plot. But it is clever how they were able to utilize

The plot to The Thief of Bagdad into the plot midway through.


Will agree that it was mildly disappointing. But I'd give it more about a B from where I sit.


Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:52 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I really like Spirited Away.

Have you seen the miniseries Over the Garden Wall? (HIGHLY recommended if you haven't!) It takes quite a few visual images from Spirited Away.


Another recommend for Over the Garden Wall. I wish the last few segments had gone a bit differently, but it has a mixture of sweetness and oddness that is compelling.

Considering I saw all this in one sitting on Hulu (back when I had it), I guess that'd be my first binge watch?

As far as anime, I'd recommend The Wind Rises which was Miyazaki's last film before what appears to be his return. Maybe it's politically shaky at times, but it does have some lovely scenes and shows how someone can overcome adversity to create beautiful things.


Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:55 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
*I liked Shape of Water a lot, but GDT is my guy so I'm kind of biased. Would love to see him get a BD Oscar just because he's so lovable, but I predict that the subject matter is too weird to win BP.

How does it compare to The Devil's Backbone (which I think is one of GDT's finest efforts ever, even though early in his career)?

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:25 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Takoma, on Princess Mononoke:

I'd argue that it wasn't the most innovative plot. But it is clever how they were able to utilize

The plot to The Thief of Bagdad into the plot midway through.


Will agree that it was mildly disappointing. But I'd give it more about a B from where I sit.


Fair enough--especially as I haven't watched it since I first saw it when I was like 20 or so. And I've honestly never been inclined to revisit it.


Sun Feb 11, 2018 9:11 am
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Gort wrote:
How does it compare to The Devil's Backbone (which I think is one of GDT's finest efforts ever, even though early in his career)?

Shape is more fairy tale than Backbone. So although Backbone is about a ghost, it's set in a more believable world. Shape is closer to Pan's Labyrinth in that everything is broader (like in fairy tales), the good guys are good and the bad guys are terrible. That's seen as a negative by some, so I guess it's just a matter of one's sensibilities. If forced to choose I guess I'd say I lean more to the Backbone side of things. Luckily I'm not forced to choose, so I like 'em both.

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 9:58 am
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An oft-quoted film
A comedy film



Blazing Saddles (1974)

Quote:
"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons."


The above quote is what drunk gunslinger Jim (Gene Wilder) tells newly appointed sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) when he's not received the way he expected by townsfolk. Bart, who approaches his new job with enthusiasm and diligence, is received with skepticism, insults, and rejection only because he's black. But still, he makes an effort to win the people of Rock Ridge and protect them from harm, even though they are, you know... morons.

If Blazing Saddles were to be made today, I'm sure it would be a much different film, if it ever got released. Even though we're living in times of great racial tension, apparently sensibilities are way higher than they were back in 1974. Mel Brooks' script and directing seems to be continuously testing the waters to see how far it can go with race jokes, the constant use of the N-word, sexually tilted jokes, heavy sexual innuendo, you name it. The fact that he got away with it it's evidence of how times are a-changing.

The script, written by Brooks, Richard Pryor, Andrew Bergman, Norman Steinberg, and Al Uger, features Brooks' trademark of non-stop jokes and gags. However, I found them to be not as constant or knee-slap funny as, say, Spaceballs or History of the World. Still, the film managed to keep me smiling most of the time. Things really go overboard in the last act when Brooks really goes balls-out with the absurdity, but it pays off.

But on top of all the jokes, what holds the film together for me is the excellent chemistry between Wilder and Little. Both actors play off each other effortlessly and with ease, creating a bond that feels genuine without losing the funny. The two are rounded out by a charmingly sexy Madeline Kahn, and a bunch of bad guys led by Harvey Korman and Slim Pickens. Most, if not all the performances are effective.

To sum it all, Blazing Saddles wasn't as hilarious as I expected it to be, but it still manages to find a balance between its edgy, boundary-pushing content, the amount of visual gags, and the charm of its main cast. My hats off to Cleavon Little, who creates a character that you can't help but love; unlike, you know, morons out there.

Grade: B+

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 11:57 am
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Image

:D

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Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:50 pm
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Stu wrote:
Image

:D



Image

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Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:34 am
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A Film Directed by a Woman
A Political Film


Whose Streets?

Documentary takes a "You are There" ground level approach to the protests at Ferguson, Missouri. It also shows how politicians and mainstream media dropped the ball on the story and how social media kept things going through the foundation of Black Lives Matter.

People interviewed include a range of people (some who do this for a living as well as a parent who films cops arresting people to make sure things don't go wrong and a nursing student). Unfortunately, no cops are among those interviewed.

Some powerful images, some powerful words. Highlights include a confrontation with a line of officers, including an African American woman cop who's trying to avoid cracking, and descriptions of various things being fired by cops by one man involved.

Film does not excuse the bad behavior that's committed by a handful of protesters. It does feel a bit one-sided ultimately.

But as capturing the frustrations and emotions felt throughout the roller coaster year in Ferguson go, this documentary does fine.

A Comedy Film

Canadian Bacon

I may have cooled some on Michael Moore and his politically charged documentaries. But I felt like at least he could craft a solid narrative.

Stumbled across this one on ThisTV today and well...I was underwhelmed.

The president of the US (Alan Alda) is struggling with popular support due to defense plant closings and overall softness. One of his aides (Kevin Pollak) decides that a cold war would provide just the solution to their woes.

After Russia repeats its lack of interest in reviving their quiet hostilities, they decide to go up north to Canada to start things.

Meanwhile, back in Niagara Falls, a quartet of concerned citizens decide to stir up their own troubles with the neighbors to the north after a fight breaks out in a hockey game. Swept up in the media led xenophobia, three of them (led by John Candy and Bill Nunn) go on a crusade to rescue their female friend Honey (Rhea Perlman) when she ends up captured after one of their efforts goes wrong.

There's occasional laughter to be found here and a point about how mass media can interpret news and stir up trouble among those watching it. But most of it felt like a bad sitcom crossed with Dr. Strangelove (so I guess that Moore saw that one before concocting this scenario here?). Also, the rage against Canadians replete with Anne Murray jokes worked better in the South Park movie.

This Bacon is better off skipping.


Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:30 am
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A film about a heist


Now You See Me (2013)

Quote:
"What is magic? Magic is deception, but deception designed to... delight, to entertain, to inspire."


Magic, as in street or stage magic, has usually been used to entertain audiences, for spectacle. But at the bottom of it all, it is all about deceit, about tricking people into seeing, or not seeing, the things you want. This is done through a variety of methods, most notably the sleight of the magician and distraction. In the end, people end up being entertained, even if the essence of the trick is simple or silly. That's the case with Now You See Me, a heist thriller that manages to entertain, but not much more.

Now You See Me follows four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco) that by some ulterior motive, end up working together and become famous. Dubbed as The Four Horsemen, they start performing a series of elaborate shows that end up being apparent heists to rob banks and companies. Hot on thier trails are a duo of law enforcement agents (Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent), one of their victims (Michael Caine), and a former magician (Morgan Freeman) that now works exposing other magicians.

Like a cool magic trick, this is the kind of film that manages to thrill and entertain while it's on, but you know it won't hold to close scrutiny. The thing is that the script seems to be more focused on having "A-ha!" moments than it is in creating a credible story. The motivations of the characters are never clear, and when they are explained in the end, it's not that interesting. In addition, none of the characters is worth rooting for. Most, if not all four magicians behave like assholes (most notably Eisenberg) and none of them are particularly fleshed out for us to care, Ruffalo feels like too much of a dupe and his relationship with Laurent feels forced. Freeman might be the one who I enjoyed the most watching.

That said, I admire the energetic and fast-paced direction of Louis Leterrier, because it keeps things moving; and while the hands are moving, you're not able to focus on the cracks. Like a magic trick, sleight and distraction. Now You See Me might be a fun ride, even if some of the twists are predictable, and others make no sense, and the film is not worth remembering afterwards. A film designed to delight and entertain, as long as you don't look too closely.

Grade: C+

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Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:55 am
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Thief wrote:
A film about a heist


Now You See Me (2013)

.

Grade: C+


You liked this one a lot more than I did. I thought that the main characters were the kind of magicians that make people hate magicians: smarmy, smug, egotistical. Woody Harrelson couldn't give his charisma away even if he wanted to, so I liked him in the movie. Everyone else could have been flattened by a tractor-trailer by the end and I wouldn't have cared.

My biggest problem in movies like this is that when you know that there are going to be twists on twists on twists, no characters are real. You can't trust anyone: what they say, their seeming motivations, any of it. You're just waiting for the movie to pull a series of "But wait!" moments. It's so pushed into artifice that there's no heart to it.


Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:51 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
You liked this one a lot more than I did. I thought that the main characters were the kind of magicians that make people hate magicians: smarmy, smug, egotistical. Woody Harrelson couldn't give his charisma away even if he wanted to, so I liked him in the movie. Everyone else could have been flattened by a tractor-trailer by the end and I wouldn't have cared.

My biggest problem in movies like this is that when you know that there are going to be twists on twists on twists, no characters are real. You can't trust anyone: what they say, their seeming motivations, any of it. You're just waiting for the movie to pull a series of "But wait!" moments. It's so pushed into artifice that there's no heart to it.


I agree in both counts, but I guess I derived some level of enjoyment in trying to figure out what would be the twists. Meh. Anyway, I probably won't remember this by the end of the month.

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Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:14 am
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Hey, guys? Only Yesterday is a fantastic film from Ghibli that you need to see.


Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:14 pm
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Thief wrote:
I've seen a good chunk of Méliès shorts. My wife bought me this DVD boxset a couple of years ago and I've been slowly going through it. I was trying to go through it chronologically, but I know I've seen probably 100 of them. There are so many that I get the names mixed up, but I'm pretty sure I saw The Impossible Voyage and maybe the Arabian Nights one. Don't think I've seen the Merry Frolics of Satan yet.

Alright. The point being that there were no "feature films" from the 1900s, which is why L'Inferno is frequently considered the first feature film of all time.

I'll suggest an Alice Guy collection then. Unfortunately, I don't know of a good one off-hand, but you may find a number of them in the Internet Archives, like La Glu.

(Urgh, it looks like the only collection is a French only release - her entire catalog is a mess, such an urgent opportunity for a proper commemoration.)


Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:27 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
Alright. The point being that there were no "feature films" from the 1900s, which is why L'Inferno is frequently considered the first feature film of all time.

I'll suggest an Alice Guy collection then. Unfortunately, I don't know of a good one off-hand, but you may find a number of them in the Internet Archives, like La Glu.

(Urgh, it looks like the only collection is a French only release - her entire catalog is a mess, such an urgent opportunity for a proper commemoration.)


I had never heard of her, so thanks for bringing her up! I'll see if I can check some of her work. Thanks for the links too.

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Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:01 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

You liked this one a lot more than I did. I thought that the main characters were the kind of magicians that make people hate magicians: smarmy, smug, egotistical. Woody Harrelson couldn't give his charisma away even if he wanted to, so I liked him in the movie. Everyone else could have been flattened by a tractor-trailer by the end and I wouldn't have cared.

My biggest problem in movies like this is that when you know that there are going to be twists on twists on twists, no characters are real. You can't trust anyone: what they say, their seeming motivations, any of it. You're just waiting for the movie to pull a series of "But wait!" moments. It's so pushed into artifice that there's no heart to it.



Meh. I love that movie. You're just the devil.

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Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:28 am
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A James Bond movie


You Only Live Twice (1967)

Quote:
"Do you have any commandos here?"
"I have much, much better. Ninjas. Top-secret, Bond-san. This is my ninja training school."


For me, the success of a James Bond film lies on how well it can balance the inherent silliness of its premise, with the action and thrills of a spy film, while also being fun. Some of them succeed, others don't. Sean Connery's fifth outing as the suave British spy falls probably somewhere in the middle. You Only Live Twice follows Bond as he travels to Japan to uncover a plot from SPECTRE to create tension between the US and the Soviet Union. Led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance), SPECTRE is using a spacecraft to hijack American and Soviet spacecrafts in order to have them blame each other.

For most of its duration, the film manages to keep that balance I mentioned above. Bond is cool as ever, and has a solid, strong-willed companion in Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), an SIS agent that helps him. As for the bad guys, Osato and Brandt are okay villains and each have their moments. At the top, we have Blofeld, and although it's hard nowadays to look at him and take him seriously, taken in the context of the times, it's one of those things that work despite its apparent silliness. In addition, direction is solid. There are quite a few wide shots and long takes that are pretty good, and a couple of good action and fight sequences in the first half.

You Only Live Twice steps into troublesome territory towards its half-point. In an effort to find his way into SPECTRE's lair, Bond must inflitrate a local Japanese village, pose as a Japanese fisherman, marry a Japanese girl, and train with Japanese ninjas. Almost every single of these pushes the boundaries of unnecessary silliness and ultimately serves little to no purpose in the plot. The film consumes about half an hour as we see Bond getting haircuts, skin implants on his eyes, hair removal, etc. to pose as a Japanese fisherman, and for what? There really is no need. Plus, there is the rather unceremonious dispatch of Aki, as she is replaced with Kissy Suzuki, the woman Bond is supposed to marry; and for what? Again, there really is no need for any of this, other than putting Bond in bed with another woman. I would've preferred if the director/writer would've stuck with Aki, cut all that half hour of unnecessary crap, and just take Bond straight into SPECTRE's lair.

But that's how many Bond films unfold, full of silliness and absurdity. The very last act, as Bond infiltrate's SPECTRE's famous volcano lair sorta redeems the film and puts things back on track, but the bad taste of the start of the second half is enough to bring this down several notches. But, at least we have ninjas, right?

Grade: C+

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Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:28 am
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Death Proof wrote:


Meh. I love that movie. You're just the devil.


Did you like the characters? For me that's a hurdle I just can't get over.


Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:15 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
I liked Darling but if you're watching it based on my recommendation, I hasten to add that a large part of my enjoyment stems from my infatuation with the actress and her glorious eyeballs. I regret that she's too young to have worked with Tim Burton in his prime. She's like one of his drawings come to life.


I finished Darling (my film with a face on the poster).

Overall it was like a 3/5 for me. Visually it was stunning. Lauren Ashley Carter's face is like a work of art, and she is a strong lead for the film.

Ultimately, though, it left me with a similar feeling to what I felt after The Blackcoat's Daughter. Style and atmosphere carries it a ways, but there's ultimately a lack of substance that left me feeling empty at the end.

Sometimes when movies withhold information it feels masterful and deliberate. But other times it feels like the writer just didn't know what to do, so they went for ambiguity. This movie felt like the latter. It actually made me a bit annoyed, as I kept thinking "Wait--should I know that name? Was I not paying close enough attention?".

The movie has several effective sequences, but it doesn't feel quite like a satisfying whole. There are some really nice moments with framing and the camera's point of view. Again, visually it's very satisfying. And with a short runtime, it's perfectly pleasant. But I do feel like it could have done more with its premise and fantastic lead actress.


Fri Feb 16, 2018 9:53 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Did you like the characters? For me that's a hurdle I just can't get over.



Honestly, yes. Even Eisenberg's arrogance was somehow endearing to me.

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Fri Feb 16, 2018 10:30 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I finished Darling (my film with a face on the poster).

Overall it was like a 3/5 for me. Visually it was stunning. Lauren Ashley Carter's face is like a work of art, and she is a strong lead for the film.

Ultimately, though, it left me with a similar feeling to what I felt after The Blackcoat's Daughter. Style and atmosphere carries it a ways, but there's ultimately a lack of substance that left me feeling empty at the end.

Sometimes when movies withhold information it feels masterful and deliberate. But other times it feels like the writer just didn't know what to do, so they went for ambiguity. This movie felt like the latter. It actually made me a bit annoyed, as I kept thinking "Wait--should I know that name? Was I not paying close enough attention?".

The movie has several effective sequences, but it doesn't feel quite like a satisfying whole. There are some really nice moments with framing and the camera's point of view. Again, visually it's very satisfying. And with a short runtime, it's perfectly pleasant. But I do feel like it could have done more with its premise and fantastic lead actress.


That's about how I felt, with the exception that I'm more forgiving of the style-over-substance factor. I'm willing to just sit there and look. It's why I made the joke about Carter's eyes; replace her with a less interesting face and the movie would probably come apart for me, as there's not much there. But I just checked my Letterboxd rating and I gave it 3-1/2 out of 5, so we're mostly on the same page.

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Fri Feb 16, 2018 10:35 am
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Death Proof wrote:


Honestly, yes. Even Eisenberg's arrogance was somehow endearing to me.


Fair enough. I was pretty excited for the movie (and paid for a rental when it came out on DVD) and I was surprised at how little I enjoyed it. I say with no sarcasm that I'm glad others enjoyed it. I wish I'd vibed with it more.

Captain Terror wrote:
That's about how I felt, with the exception that I'm more forgiving of the style-over-substance factor. I'm willing to just sit there and look. It's why I made the joke about Carter's eyes; replace her with a less interesting face and the movie would probably come apart for me, as there's not much there. But I just checked my Letterboxd rating and I gave it 3-1/2 out of 5, so we're mostly on the same page.


Everything great about the movie at the same time made me wish they'd done more with it.

I will grant that the
murder sequence was very disturbing and eerie. Though the bar scene that immediately came before it was a little absurd. I mean, I guess some people will overlook a lot of things for a chance at sex, but she was so obviously depressed/disturbed in that whole sequence, that for him to leave with her--much less to a MURDER HOUSE--was hard to take. She's also so overtly hostile once they are in the house. It was like "Dude." Not to victim blame, but the degree to which he ignored all of these blatant signals bordered on the ridiculous.


Also, a little part of me was hoping that when she
opened the door to the "Devil's room" it was going to turn out to be the family's collection of sex toys or something else just mundanely embarrassing that you wouldn't want a housesitter to see
.


Fri Feb 16, 2018 10:53 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I will grant that the
murder sequence was very disturbing and eerie. Though the bar scene that immediately came before it was a little absurd. I mean, I guess some people will overlook a lot of things for a chance at sex, but she was so obviously depressed/disturbed in that whole sequence, that for him to leave with her--much less to a MURDER HOUSE--was hard to take. She's also so overtly hostile once they are in the house. It was like "Dude." Not to victim blame, but the degree to which he ignored all of these blatant signals bordered on the ridiculous.


I think you're giving the men of the world too much credit. As the owner of a male brain, I found that scene completely plausible. ;)
But yeah,
the murder
was a nice jolt. It's clear that she's missing a few marbles, but you're not quite prepared for that at that moment.

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Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:06 pm
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A film with a one word title


Life (2017)

Quote:
"Here's what's fascinating... unlike most multi-cellular organisms every cell of Calvin's can perform every somatic function on its own. Every single cell is simultaneously a muscle cell and a nerve cell, and a photo-receptive cell. So the creature as a whole is, in a very real sense, all muscle, all brain, all eye."


In two separate occasions, during the first act of Life, Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) comments on the similarities and differences the organism they've just found on the surface of Mars has with humans. It has a similar cell structure, but their functioning is more diverse and efficient. It looks like, but it isn't quite the same. Something similar can be said about this 2017 entry into the sci-fi genre. It can't help but tread on familiar territory, but it still manages to have some flair.

Life follows the six-member crew of the International Space Station as they deal with what turns out to be the first evidence of life on Mars. As the organism they've found grows bigger, they find themselves, as you might expect, on its path of destruction. The film has recklessly curious doctors, quarantine violations, heroic sacrifices, ships self-destructing, and so on. If all those traits sound familiar it's because, well, we've seen them before in better films.

Despite this similarities, Life still manages to thrill. Despite having a cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and Rebecca Ferguson, none of the performances shines; still they are all serviceable and competent. The real star here is Daniel Espinosa's direction, which manages to instill some, ahem, life into a tired genre. He handles tension and suspense well enough, and to a certain extent, keeps the audience guessing on what will happen next.

I don't think the creature design was particularly good or scary, but I suppose the writers and/or director wanted it to be more fluid, quicker, and able to sneak in nooks and crannies. The ending, although slightly predictable, still managed to be a pretty cool and bleak closing.

All in all, Life might be like most science-fiction/horror films on Earth, but unlike other similar films that have failed, its pieces help keep it together.

Grade: B

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Sat Feb 17, 2018 3:48 am
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A film from the 1900s


The Great Train Robbery (1903)

The history of film and cinema dates back as far as the late 19th Century (or earlier, depending on who you ask). The short films of George Méliès and the Lumière brothers were some of the earliest examples of film, as it started growing into what we know now. But another groundbreaking film of the times was Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery. There are many ways in which this film was groundbreaking, but it starts with its use of a structured, plot-driven narrative, its editing, and location shooting, among other things.

The Great Train Robbery follows a gang of bandits as they successfully rob a train, and the ensuing posse that goes after them. Up to this point, most films featured only one scene, one setting shots of mundane, everyday activities, but Porter took a thrilling and dangerous event, thrusting the audiences in the middle of it. Judging it from the context of the times, the film is exceptionally well made, entertaining, and why not? violent. With a duration of 12 minutes, the plot is pretty straightforward, but Porter knows how to use every minute well, with little to no filler.

With a film this short and without characters to describe or attach to, there's not much one can say. But more than 100 years later, what still stands the test of time is the ingenuity and innovation of filmmakers like Porter and Edison, who were bold enough to see beyond what was being done at the time, and took the risk with something new and different. Definitely a must see for any cinephile.

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Sat Feb 17, 2018 8:54 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
I think you're giving the men of the world too much credit. As the owner of a male brain, I found that scene completely plausible. ;)


I guess that what was weird to me was that at times it didn't feel like he was ignoring her mannerisms, it seemed like he didn't even notice them. And I guess you could say that's just an example of "Oh, men!" in that he's not really tuned in to what she's actually saying because his critical thinking turned off at the offer of sex. But I would have preferred it if we'd seen more of him being like "Well, she's kind of bonkers but . . . . still hot".

Thief wrote:
Life (2017)

All in all, Life might be like most science-fiction/horror films on Earth, but unlike other similar films that have failed, its pieces help keep it together.

Grade: B


Boo. I really disliked Life. For the first third I thought it was alright, but by the end I was like straight up angry at it. Especially that deliberately junky, misleading editing at the end. I think I already said this in the horror thread, but entire sequences in it kept reminding me of movies I like a lot and it just totally suffered in comparison.


Sat Feb 17, 2018 1:04 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
Boo. I really disliked Life. For the first third I thought it was alright, but by the end I was like straight up angry at it. Especially that deliberately junky, misleading editing at the end. I think I already said this in the horror thread, but entire sequences in it kept reminding me of movies I like a lot and it just totally suffered in comparison.


It's a film I probably won't remember much in a couple of months, so only time will tell if that grade goes down to a B- or a C+ down the road. But the bottom line for me is, was I bored or was I entertained? And for the most part, despite its lack of originality and predictability, I enjoyed it.

As for the ending...

Despite it being predictable, I think I liked it for two reasons... first, I have a somewhat irrational fear of being stranded or trapped alive in a place where I know I can't be rescued (buried alive, trapped in a car underwater, stranded in space), so whenever a film hits those notes for me, it automatically goes up on the creep-o-meter. Those scenes of astronauts stranded in space always stick with me (Armageddon is a piece of shit film, but the shot of that astronaut screaming while he gets blasted into space has always stuck in my mind) so seeing the astronaut screaming as her pod hurled into deep space was definitely creepy for me.

Second, I always appreciate bleak and apocalyptic ending, so when we realize that in fact, the creature has made it to Earth, it instantly clicks with me in some dark level of my mind. Even much weaker films that have such endings (I just can't remember any now) go up a notch or two just because of that.

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Sat Feb 17, 2018 1:21 pm
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Thief wrote:


I don't necessarily mind the ending itself. I do mind the fact that you have to sit through 2 minutes of editing that is so deliberately confusing that it, in fact, tips its hand that
she's the one being hurtled into outer space. It's that "Ha! It's actually HER who is going to die a horrible death!" just feels cheap and nasty so that it's not just bleak--it actually feels mean spirited because the manipulative editing reduces the two characters to game pieces being shuffled around by the editor for the sake of a final "twist".


At least there's the cold comfort of knowing that all those adorable, multi-cultural children from the beginning will be
savagely disemboweled by an alien they gave a cute pet name.


Sat Feb 17, 2018 8:30 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
I don't necessarily mind the ending itself. I do mind the fact that you have to sit through 2 minutes of editing that is so deliberately confusing that it, in fact, tips its hand that

she's the one being hurtled into outer space. It's that "Ha! It's actually HER who is going to die a horrible death!" just feels cheap and nasty so that it's not just bleak--it actually feels mean spirited because the manipulative editing reduces the two characters to game pieces being shuffled around by the editor for the sake of a final "twist".



Fair enough, but I don't think there were a lot of options for Espinosa, considering that he was precisely going for that "HA!" moment. But then again, I'm not a director.

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Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:54 am
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Thief wrote:

Fair enough, but I don't think there were a lot of options for Espinosa, considering that he was precisely going for that "HA!" moment. But then again, I'm not a director.


Why not just play the moment as it is? Instead of creating a muddied, confusing series of close ups and CGI shots, just let the sequence play out. It's a completely
wasted stretch of confusion because as soon as you realize the movie is deliberately being unclear, it's obvious what the "twist" is.


In my opinion it was a lame way to end a movie that was already pretty sub par.


Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:40 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Why not just play the moment as it is? Instead of creating a muddied, confusing series of close ups and CGI shots, just let the sequence play out. It's a completely
wasted stretch of confusion because as soon as you realize the movie is deliberately being unclear, it's obvious what the "twist" is.


In my opinion it was a lame way to end a movie that was already pretty sub par.


It kinda worked for me, but I do understand your point...

During that last scene, the focus is mostly on Gyllenhaal, as we see him struggling with the creature inside the spacepod, as we see shots of the spacepod that's hurled into deep space. There is only one or two cuts to Ferguson, who appears to be more calm as she appears to be steering her spacepod, as we see the spacepod that's entering the atmosphere, which is obviously intentionally deceiving. I suppose Espinosa could've shown them both struggling at the same time with their respective spacepods, and avoid collating Gyllenhaal and Ferguson with the spacepods they aren't in, without giving away the ending.

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Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:24 am
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Thief wrote:

It kinda worked for me, but I do understand your point...

During that last scene, the focus is mostly on Gyllenhaal, as we see him struggling with the creature inside the spacepod, as we see shots of the spacepod that's hurled into deep space. There is only one or two cuts to Ferguson, who appears to be more calm as she appears to be steering her spacepod, as we see the spacepod that's entering the atmosphere, which is obviously intentionally deceiving. I suppose Espinosa could've shown them both struggling at the same time with their respective spacepods, and avoid collating Gyllenhaal and Ferguson with the spacepods they aren't in, without giving away the ending.


I was extra salty about this one because my family paid to rent it over the holiday break and watching movies together as a family isn't something we get to do very often these days. They were more okay with it than I was, but we'd also watched Get Out the night before (which everyone liked) so the bar had been set pretty high.

And to address one other thing that bothered me: I didn't like that the alien was
basically invincible. Like: the cold of space? No big deal! Lack of oxygen? Well, it turns out it can hold its breath in space for a crazy long amount of time! When a monster is totally indestructible, there is a real loss of suspense. And just biologically, I don't understand how/why this creature could have lived on Mars and not left any traces of advanced society behind. It basically evolves past human beings in like a week and a half, and yet this species didn't build? Didn't generate their own technology? Didn't have an effect on the planet that would be detectible from viewing the planet's surface?


Here is one thing I did like: that shot of the creature floating as it was wrapped around the oxygen stick. But pretty much everything else I found totally annoying. Don't even get me started on the science.


Sun Feb 18, 2018 9:03 am
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I think "extra salty" is putting it mildly :D Love the discussion, though.

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Sun Feb 18, 2018 9:34 am
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Thief wrote:
I think "extra salty" is putting it mildly :D Love the discussion, though.


The most entertaining thing about the movie to the rest of the family was how much they got to laugh at me for hating it so much.

I think that most of my anger is due to the fact that there was so much potential in the story, the actors, even the effects.

I was going to make a comment just now about its long running time, but I looked it up on IMDb and it was only 105 minutes long. So I guess it only felt like forever.


Sun Feb 18, 2018 9:57 am
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A romantic film


Before Sunrise (1995)

Quote:
"If there's any kind of magic in this world... it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know it's almost impossible to succeed... but who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt."


Human relationships are complicated; whether you're rebuking your parents, dealing with your siblings, or trying to understand your partner. A lot of people go through their lives never understanding their loved ones, or what's worse, never making the effort to listen, to understand, to try to connect with the other person. That's the focus of this romantic drama from Richard Linklater where two strangers try to make the best of the little time they have together, and try to share their secrets, and understand the other.

Before Sunrise follows Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), two complete strangers that meet on a train in Europe. After a brief conversation where they develop a connection, Jesse convinces Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna, and they spend the night walking around the streets getting to know each other, talking about a variety of topics, while also sharing stories about their lives.

This is only the third Linklater film I've seen (the others being Dazed and Confused and School of Rock), but like with those two, he excels in creating a casual and organic environment where actors feel like real persons. Kudos also to Hawke and Delpy, who completely inhabit their characters, pretty much improvising most of the dialogue. It is on their shoulders that the strength of the film lies. If you can't connect with Jesse and Celine, the film would probably be worthless.

Through their conversations, you see Jesse and Celine's longing for understanding. As they open up to each other, they end up revealing many secrets and emotions, and you end up believing that relationships shouldn't be that complicated, if we are open with each other. By the end, even if they don't end up together, you believe this "adventure" was worth the "attempt". Just like them, Linklater took a bold step with a film that consists mostly of two people talking with each other. It's up to you to decide if it was worth the "attempt". It was for me.

Grade: A-

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