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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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A film based on a book: Images

I really, really dug this movie.

Cathryn is a writer who takes a trip to a country house with her husband, Hugh. While there, Cathryn is plagued by visions of three people: a dead former lover (Rene), a still-living former lover (Marcel), and a doppelganger of herself.

As the film goes on, Cathryn has more and more difficulty distinguishing the real from what is only in her mind. This is especially complicated by the fact that the real Marcel has come to visit along with his daughter Suzanne, who bears a striking resemblance to Cathryn. Cathryn begins to wonder if, through violent means, she might rid herself of these visions forever.

The film does a terrific job of keeping the viewer in the dark as to what is real and what isn't. Sometimes visions are quickly revealed to be unreal, but other times a vision will linger so long that we wonder if it is real. Even more confusingly, the film sometimes jumps to the point of view of the doppelganger (or does it?), and so we can't even always be sure that we are with our protagonist.

This movie made me think a lot of Let's Scare Jessica To Death, another low-key horror/thriller that puts its protagonist's sanity at the center of the narrative. Cathryn is clearly mentally ill (so much so that the only thing that bugged me about the film was how comfortable her husband was just leaving her alone and not ever having conversations about getting her some serious help), and it's challenging to know what to think of the different characters (especially Marcel) when we don't know if their actions are really their own or just in Cathryn's head.

This one also had a really surprising and memorable ending.


Mon May 21, 2018 9:27 am
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I apologize for neglecting this thread, but I've tried not to neglect my duty of watching films. I now have 5 pending reviews. I'll see if I can write one or two later.

Good to see some of you sharing your reviews, though! :)

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Tue May 22, 2018 12:08 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film based on a book: Images

I really, really dug this movie.

Look at Tak's awesome gavel this weekend, ruling decisively for Dolls, Florida Project and now Images.

I've never really considered this film to be "horror", but I suppose it counts. I would call it psychological drama. It's a more experimental Altman film than others from this era (or at least this side of Brewster McCloud), and while there are scenes that I don't feel are as successful as they could have been, I still can only admire the high-wire guile to propel ahead into uncharted territory. Susannah York is terrific and Zsigmond's camera is engrossing as ever.


Tue May 22, 2018 4:21 am
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Thief wrote:
I apologize for neglecting this thread, but I've tried not to neglect my duty of watching films. I now have 5 pending reviews. I'll see if I can write one or two later.

Good to see some of you sharing your reviews, though! :)


We feel so alone and unsupervised!!

(Are you done moving into the new house?)

Jinnistan wrote:
Look at Tak's awesome gavel this weekend, ruling decisively for Dolls, Florida Project and now Images.

I've never really considered this film to be "horror", but I suppose it counts. I would call it psychological drama.


To me it tips into horror because of how deep the psychosis is that we are witnessing. For example, in the sequence after
she stabs Marcel to death with the scissors and his body is still there and then the daughter arrives looking for her dad and Cathryn suddenly realizes it might not have been in her head--that part ventures past drama for me.

Similarly the scene with Cathryn on the hill looking down at . . . Cathryn at the house.


Tue May 22, 2018 6:06 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
To me it tips into horror because of how deep the psychosis is that we are witnessing. For example, in the sequence after
she stabs Marcel to death with the scissors and his body is still there and then the daughter arrives looking for her dad and Cathryn suddenly realizes it might not have been in her head--that part ventures past drama for me.

Similarly the scene with Cathryn on the hill looking down at . . . Cathryn at the house.

I think it's more of the (lack of) atmosphere for me. The film still feels like an Altman movie, but Altman has never made another horror movie, so it feels more soporific than suspenseful. It's a deceptive film, to be sure.


Tue May 22, 2018 7:30 am
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A cult classic film
An NC-17-rated film
A film made for less than $5,000,000



Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

Quote:
"In a scene like this you get a contact-high!"


Whether we agree or not, the 70's are known to many as a decade of sexual liberation, freedom, and sometimes debauchery and excesses. With both the sexual revolution of the 60's and the rise on recreational drug use, writer and director Russ Meyer reveled in it. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is my first experience with Meyer, and one of the most known examples of this trend, perhaps because of his co-writer, Roger Ebert.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls follows a trio of women: Kelly, Casey, and Pet (Dolly Reed, Cynthia Myers, and Marcia McBroom) who perform as The Kelly Affair, under the management of Kelly's boyfriend, Harris (David Gurian). When they travel to Los Angeles to meet Kelly's rich aunt, they find themselves involved in all kind of situations, from fame, popularity, and drugs, to love affairs, betrayal, and lots of sex.

According to Ebert, Meyer's intention was to make a film that was "a satire, a serious melodrama, a rock musical, a comedy, a violent exploitation picture, a skin flick, and a moralistic expose" of show business. As might be expected from that premise, the end result is a mess. From a technical standpoint, the film has everything against it: the tone is all over the place, most of the performances range from mediocre to bad, the story is loaded with unnecessary subplots and absurd twists, the dialogue is silly and cringe-inducing, and Meyer's direction is too frenetic.

But in the midst of it all, there's something slightly alluring in watching all this mess unfold, and I'm not necessarily referring to the women. For all its excesses and claims of objectification, most of the women in the film are strong-willed and independent, and the ratio of male/female objectification is more equal than one might think. There is a poor handling of a certain character in the end, but the ending is so bonkers that you just can't get your eyes off of it. With the risk of sounding cliché, it's like watching a train wreck occur.

Maybe Meyer was high, maybe Ebert was high, or maybe I had to be high to enjoy it. But at least I could shake my head and laugh at the absurdity of everything.

Grade: C

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Tue May 22, 2018 8:05 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
We feel so alone and unsupervised!!

(Are you done moving into the new house?)


You're all big boys and girls! :D


As for the house, we're all moved, but there are still things that need to be done. The room that we intend to use as entertainment/office room is definitely not set but it's in the process.

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Tue May 22, 2018 8:11 am
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A film made for less than $5,000,000: Rule of 3

This one ended up being a lot better than what I expected after the first scene.

The remise of the film is that it takes place in (or very close to) the same motel room in three different times: before, leading up to/during, and after the disappearance of a young woman named Lo.

In the present we watch Lo (Rhoda Jordan, who also gets a writing credit) and her boyfriend Jake having an indulgent night in a motel room. Jake is excited by the thought of a threesome, and Lo agrees to go along with his plan. Lo is clearly struggling with her emotions--she and Jake seem to have a playful and loving relationship, but there is a strain to her manner at certain points.

In the "after", we see Lo's father, Jon, who has been summoned to the motel room by a mysterious note left on his car promising him information. Jon has been pursuing the case of his missing daughter, and we meet him immediately after he has given a press conference about her disappearance.a

In the past we watch a man named Brian buying roofies from a drug dealer, Russ. The two negotiate about price, eventually agreeing that Brian will "share" the woman he intends to drug. These sequences are darkly comic (like, very dark) as Russ tutors Brian on how to properly drug someone as Brian professes his love for the woman who will be arriving soon and continues to insist that he just wants to help her "relax". "I do know her," Brian assures Russ. "Oh," answers Russ, nonchalantly, "so you're gonna rape somebody you know?".

I'm not going to pick at all on the look of the film, which is pretty standard low-budget. The decision to stay in the motel room is one of those money-saving gimmicks that works out just fine. The acting is fine, with the actors in the "present" sequence being the strongest, and the actor who plays Russ also acquitting himself just fine. The present sequence is also the best written (and there is a genuinely funny sequence as Jake makes a disastrous phone call to a female friend to invite her to a threesome), and I have to wonder if the actress who plays Lo had a strong hand there.

The title is also kind of clever when you consider the parallel between the three sequences (all of which involve the intersection of three characters), and especially the dark symmetry between the consensual threesome of the present and the appalling non-consensual "threesome" of the past.

The weakness of the film is the "future" segment, mostly because the character of the father isn't written very well. Basically he's in a holding pattern until the mysterious note-writer shows up, and that time is mostly spent with him yelling, talking to himself, or just being anxious. That yelling energy contrasts poorly with the more unsettling, low-key sense of foreboding and discomfort that characterizes the other two sequences.

I was intrigued to see where the plot would go and how the past and the present sequences would intersect. Without giving too much away, the ending was pretty depressing and also kind of a let-down. The specter of a planned, casual date-rape (with bonus stranger-danger rape) looms over the movie for more than 3/4 of the runtime and while the banter between Russ and Brian is comic at times, thematically that makes for a really uncomfortable type of suspense. The ending piles a lot of pain, abuse, and cruelty on two women (three if you count a third character whose life is probably destroyed by something that happens at the very end), and the way that the film ends (abruptly and with no sense of closure), there's no catharsis. Even if I give credit to the writers for this being intentional, there's a lack of emotional momentum so the ending just feels depressing instead of moving.

I will say that while there are some awful things that happen in the movie (and a lot of lascivious elements like a threesome between three college students), the movie never felt exploitative and the victims of violence were treated with respect. Quite a few low-budget movies that I've watched have desperately thrown explicit sex or rape or violence as a way to get a cheap emotional jolt, and this wasn't the case here, which was nice.

I guess I would tentatively recommend this one, especially if you enjoy checking out more low-budget films.


Wed May 23, 2018 9:12 am
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Pending reviews keep accumulating! :shock:

An NC-17-rated film: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
A film from the IMDb Top 250: Blade Runner (rewatch)
A Biblical film: Barabbas
A film featuring a non-human lead character: Fantastic Mr. Fox
A British film or British comedy: In The Loop
A film set in a place you've been to: Source Code (rewatch)
A Korean language film: Train to Busan


I have to say, I saw Train to Busan last night and that film was crazy! :shock:


I still have plans to see the following during the week/weekend...

A Russian film: Come and See
A film with a number in its title: Blade Runner 2049

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Thu May 24, 2018 5:16 am
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A film with a number in its title: Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake


I was excited by the premise of this one, but it ended up falling kind of flat after a pretty great beginning.

The start is awesome. A man is alone in his study when a man with his lips sewn shut enters the room and cuts his neck with a blade. The man falls dead and the intruder, holding a basket whose purpose becomes quickly apparent, begins to cut the man's head off. But on the approach of a servant the intruder runs away. Later, at the funeral, a man demands to look inside the coffin and it is discovered that the dead man's head is gone.

This part is fantastic. The initial shock of the man with his mouth sewn shut. The grisly prospect of the beheading.

But then it gets kind of bland. It's discovered that the Drake family is under a curse whereby the men have their heads removed and then their skulls are mysteriously returned to the family crypt. Jonathan Drake is seemingly the next victim, and his daughter Allison and a police detective rush to solve the mystery of the murders and the curse.

The problem is that the movie is mostly just talking. The indian man (who, of course, is clearly a white dude in brown face) skulks around a lot, but without any murders it just starts to feel silly. At a certain point I just tuned out and barely tuned back in for the finale.

There's a lot of upsetting colonialism stuff going on, but not in a self-aware way. Zutai's mouth is literally sewn shut and he acts as a servant. The villain is revealed to literally be a
white man's head grafted onto a "brown" man's body.
There's some mild tut-tutting about someone who massacred a group of indians, but there's never any question that the "evil" in the movie is the voodoo-ish stuff going on.

It is super short (like 70 minutes), so I can give it a slight recommendation.


Thu May 24, 2018 9:21 am
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TRAIN TO BUSAN. :)

I love that movie.


Thu May 24, 2018 9:30 am
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A film from the IMDb Top 250
A science-fiction film



Blade Runner (1982)

Quote:
"The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long - and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy."


Merriam-Webster defines life as "the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual". The value we attribute to this experiences is dependent on the individual, but those we cherish the most we tend to share and talk about in an effort to pass them on or "immortalize" them. Moreover, we have a desire to have more experiences like those. More often than not, people whose experiences have been few or not that good crave more time to either have them or "fix" them, make things differently. Those are some of the questions that linger within Ridley Scott's dystopian neo-noir.

Blade Runner follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former "blade runner" in charge of "retiring" androids called replicants, after they were deemed illegal. Deckard reluctantly agrees to return for another job after four replicants are spotted on Earth. The group is led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) who is determined to meet his creator in order to extend his 4-year lifespan. During his investigation, Deckard also befriends a replicant called Rachel (Sean Young).

I don't know how many times I've seen it (maybe 3 or 4?), but Blade Runner is the kind of film that you can always peel something away from; from being a solid sci-fi/crime film to its deeper existential and religious subtext. The juxtaposition of Deckard and Batty, or the latter's conflict with his "creator", they all raise important questions about what specifically defines our existence and our status as "human beings".

I won't get into the whole "is Deckard a replicant?" issue here, even though I think the presence of the unicorn origami settles it. What I love is how, regardless of his nature, Deckard's confrontation with Batty pushes him to question his own existence and make a decision that he probably wouldn't have made before. Despite whatever achievements or successes he might've had in his career as a "blade runner", his final look into Batty's eyes forces him to question "have my light burned as bright as his?" Sort of a "carpe diem" moment, because who knows when his (our) life will end; a year? 30 years? and who will he (we) share that time with? Who knows?

Grade: A

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Fri May 25, 2018 6:00 am
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A Film from the 1960s
A Thriller or Suspenseful Film


The Sadist

I look at this challenges two different ways. One is a motivational device to cause me to watch films on a more regular basis. Another is an opportunity to winnow films from my queue, particularly ones that have been there for a while.

Over on Amazon Prime, I've had the Arch Hall Jr. films on there for a while. But having knocked out Nasty Rabbit (aka Spies a Go Go) a few months back, it felt like the right time to tackle this story based loosely on a real life killer.

Either this was going to fall flat on its face or may be good for a few laughs. I wasn't expecting something...this competent.

Three teachers who are travelling to LA for a ballgame pull into a junkyard when they hear some trouble in their car. They determine that if they find a fuel pump among the junked cars that they'll replace it and pay the owners for the part. But their search for the owners turns up futile.

Instead, they stumble across Charles Tibbs (Hall Jr.) and his girl Judy (Marilyn Manning), two sadistic psychopaths with an interesting story to tell how they got there and more importantly, a trail of bodies along the way.

The next few hours will prove to be tense for the three teachers and the two interlopers.

Hall Jr.'s performance is surprisingly solid. His laugh, walk, and quick temper were all apparently learned from reading about Charles Starkweather and a series of murders in 1957-8. Marilyn Manning does what she can as Judy, Charles's girlfriend, but she doesn't have a lot to do but laugh and act menacingly while holding a weapon. The three actors playing the teachers do fine.

The last 30 minutes or so are very tense as things come to a head. Most of the time, the characters behave like they would in the situation they're in. There's some interesting shots by the camera as well.

The biggest fault is the overplaying of the "These kids have no souls, no conscience, no feelings" card. We get it, film. They are Sadists. You can make your point without underlining it in red ink.

A moderate recommend from me. I give this a B-

The next time the 1960s get included as a category, I have plans to see Judgement at Nuremberg. Ride a tape, save a VCR.


Sat May 26, 2018 5:23 am
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And we need to acknowledge Helen Hovey, the heart of the film's resistence.

Image


Sun May 27, 2018 2:19 am
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A period drama film: An Inspector Calls

I really like David Thewlis, and I also really like mysteries. I didn't begin watching this movie for the purpose of this thread, but it ended up being more of a drama than a mystery, so here we are.

This movie was . . . okay. It has a ton of glowing reviews on IMDb, and I think that part of the problem is that I was expecting something very different from what I got.

Have you ever been watching a movie and then like a third of the way into it you're like "OH NO! IT'S AN ALLEGORY!!".

The premise of the film (based on what is apparently a famous play, though not one I was familiar with) is that a family is together for a dinner to celebrate the engagement of the daughter to a man from a wealthy family. A police inspector arrives at the house and tells the family that a young woman has just committed suicide. He then proceeds to interview each family member about his/her interactions over the last few months, and it quickly becomes clear that several of the family members may have played a role in the woman's death.

I will straight up admit that I did not understand, AT ALL, the ending of the movie. Certain sequences are shot in a way that makes it challenging to know if they are flashbacks or things happening concurrent with the events of the film. Because the movie is an ALLEGORY, there's a real lack of logic to the story itself.

The message about the treatment of the poor by the upper class (and a slightly less emphasized message about the way that women are shamed for sexual activity while men face almost no consequences) is delivered with zero subtlety. The family members themselves (each representing one kind of interaction between the wealthy and the poor) don't have much depth, with the exception of the sister and the fiance.

The movie itself (and the acting therein) was also too muted for my taste.

I was in the mood for a classic, Poirot-esque mystery and this was just about the opposite of what I was looking for. The acting isn't bad, it's decently shot. But it just didn't do much for me.


Sun May 27, 2018 5:04 am
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An NC-17-rated film: La Grande Bouffe

I don't have much to say about this one. Not a fan, not a movie for me.

I laughed a handful of times, but the movie was 130 minutes long and felt incredibly redundant. A group of well to do men decide to have a weekend of indulgence and ultimately decide to eat themselves to death (in between sex with a group of prostitutes they've hired).

Even when it's ironic, watching awful people be annoying and awful is not the kind of movie experience I enjoy.

This one didn't feel like it earned its NC-17. It wasn't sexy or outrageous. Meh.


Sun May 27, 2018 6:11 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
An NC-17-rated film: La Grande Bouffe

I don't have much to say about this one. Not a fan, not a movie for me.

I laughed a handful of times, but the movie was 130 minutes long and felt incredibly redundant. A group of well to do men decide to have a weekend of indulgence and ultimately decide to eat themselves to death (in between sex with a group of prostitutes they've hired).

Even when it's ironic, watching awful people be annoying and awful is not the kind of movie experience I enjoy.

This one didn't feel like it earned its NC-17. It wasn't sexy or outrageous. Meh.

Takoma the Just.


Sun May 27, 2018 6:32 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
And we need to acknowledge Helen Hovey, the heart of the film's resistence.

Image


How tall was she? There were a couple of moments where she stood side by side with her cousin Arch Hall Jr. and she seemed to be about as tall as he was.


Mon May 28, 2018 3:25 am
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Thief wrote:
Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner was always a movie I respected more on a technical level for its effects, sets, and overall ambience, as opposed to actually admiring it, due to a certain underdeveloped central relationship and its cold, overly cryptic overall tone, but I enjoyed your rock-solid, more positive review of it nonetheless, and, since I preferred 2049 to the original somewhat, hopefully you'll be able to get around to checking it out eventually, and see how it compares to Scott's film someday.
Apex Predator wrote:
The Sadist

The next time the 1960s get included as a category, I have plans to see Judgement at Nuremberg.
I've heard some good things about The Sadist, but I'd have a tough time taking Arch Hall Jr. as a scary onscreen psychopath, considering he's the same guy who inspired this into existence, heh. Maybe I'll check it out someday, I dunno, but enjoy Judgement At Nuremberg if you can (considering the horrific subject matter), as it's a great film, and pretty much the closest the 60's ever came to having its very own Schindler's List moment.

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Mon May 28, 2018 10:06 am
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A Biblical film
A film from the 1960s
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%
A drama film



Barabbas (1961)

Quote:
"I have no god"


Litte is said about Barabbas in the Bible. The Gospels refer to him as a "notorious prisoner", a revolutionary, a "murderer", and a "bandit", but not much is said, other than his life allegedly being spared by Pontius Pilate during Passover, choosing to torture and crucify Jesus instead. What happened to him afterwards? We don't know, but one has to think if at any point in his life, he looked back and thought about that moment. That's what Richard Fleischer's epic tries to explore.

Barabbas follows what happens to the titular character (Anthony Quinn) after he is released. Trying to get back to his life of debauchery, he finds himself hounded by guilt over the death of Jesus. This leads him to question his own life and beliefs, as he goes from Jerusalem to being a slave in Sicily, and a gladiator in Rome.

The first thing that surprises me about Barabbas is how little it is mentioned when conversations about huge period epics come up. Produced by Dino de Laurentiis, directed by Fleischer, and starring a prolific and critically acclaimed actor like Quinn, one would think the film would end up getting more praise. The thing is that the film is pretty good. Performances are pretty good, direction is solid, and the production values are top-notch.

So what are the issues with Barabbas, the film? There are very few moments where the dialogue might feel a little preachy, but they are few and apart. As a matter of fact, there are several moments that are quite bleak and dark. Also, the plot seems to be a bit all over the place, as it moves the character all through Europe while having him as witness of eclipses, stonings, crucifixions, slavery, explosions, and gladiator matches.

Despite this, the narrative structure manages to stay focused on the character and his guilt, and that's really what sells the film. Anthony Quinn conveys the struggle and conflict within Barabbas perfectly, and his arc doesn't feel forced. The epilogue might be a bit heavy-handed, but I think it's earned after everything that precedes it. Even though little is said about Barabbas in the Bible, let's hope that a bit more is said about this film.

Grade: B+

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Mon May 28, 2018 10:54 am
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Stu wrote:
Blade Runner was always a movie I respected more on a technical level for its effects, sets, and overall ambience, as opposed to actually admiring it, due to a certain underdeveloped central relationship and its cold, overly cryptic overall tone, but I enjoyed your rock-solid, more positive review of it nonetheless, and, since I preferred 2049 to the original somewhat, hopefully you'll be able to get around to checking it out eventually, and see how it compares to Scott's film someday.

2


Mon May 28, 2018 5:12 pm
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Thief wrote:
Blade Runner (1982)


This is one of those movies I haven't seen in its entirety since I was like 20 years old. I'll be interested to see what my older self thinks of it.

A film that's in B&W: Down by Law

90% of the impression this movie made on me was purely visual. The black and white is gorgeous, and the composition of the different shots is pretty stunning. Once the setting moves to the swamp, there are all these great shots of the men melting in and out of the landscape. My favorite was a shot of trees in tall grass, and then the men slowly enter the frame from the left.

The story is sort of a "nothing" story. Yes, there is a strong set up (three men end up in a jail cell together and eventually make an escape attempt through the swamp), but really the movie is about the men and their conversations.

My only issue with this movie was how much all the women and non-white characters in the movie were treated as just background or pivot points for the plot. We pan over what looks like dozens of black men in the prison before eventually landing with our two white leads. The opening scene spends a long time luxuriating over the nude body of a prostitute. I'll not unpack the part where she tells her pimp that if he were better at his job he'd hit her more. The only other female character is a deus ex machina woman at the end who
falls in love with a man who, just days earlier, murdered someone and the movie treats this like a happy ending.


The movie seems to oscillate between taking itself seriously and not taking itself seriously, and sometimes that contrast was jarring and uncomfortable. I'm supposed to laugh at Lurie and Waits having absurd fisticuffs in the jail cell, when minutes earlier a young girl had a grown man sit down on her bed with strong implications that she was either going to be assaulted or prostituted out by him. Jarmusch often does a great job at portraying a world that is unfair, funny, absurd, tragic, hilarious, and just plain weird. At times, though, the shifts in tone didn't really work for me and made me almost resentful toward the comedy.

Generally speaking, though, I really liked it, and especially the middle third.


Tue May 29, 2018 1:11 am
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Re: Blade Runner

The first time I saw it was maybe 20 years ago and it didn't do much for me. I liked things about it but overall, it left me cold. With every rewatch, I end up loving it more.

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Tue May 29, 2018 1:52 am
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A film with food
A film that cost less than $5,000,000 (its budget was $150,000)


Food on the Go (2017)

Towards the end, I look at perhaps finding films that are shorter and can fit in multiple categories. Thus, this documentary dealing with Italian food and how it was adapted into cuisine in New York and Buenos Aires.

Most of the people featured fit into one of two camps. The fusionists are OK with how the cuisine has adapted to the different environment and blended in with the tastes and foods of their new home. The traditionalists eschew change in favor of making Italian food the old fashioned way.

There's things here about how immigrants were able to fit into their new world using food and how it got adopted by their new culture. And there's even a bit dealing with how moving away from the Mediterranean diet to a meat heavy one has affected the health of its people. But the problem is that the film has too little time (66 minutes) to get much in depth on these topics instead spending most of its time dealing with various traditions in both Italy and in the Americas.

As a palate cleanser, it's fine. But don't expect more than a Food Network documentary and you'll be alright.

C+


Tue May 29, 2018 5:03 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Most of the people featured fit into one of two camps. The fusionists are OK with how the cuisine has adapted to the different environment and blended in with the tastes and foods of their new home. The traditionalists eschew change in favor of making Italian food the old fashioned way.


It's actually an interesting sub-genre of the discussion about cultural appropriation VS cultural appreciation VS cultural fusion. The difference between "original" cuisine and the Americanized version can sometimes be pretty shocking.


Tue May 29, 2018 7:30 am
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Slentert wrote:
2
I'm sorry Slent, were you trying to post "seconded" or something?

:oops:

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Tue May 29, 2018 11:42 am
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Stu wrote:
I'm sorry Slent, were you trying to post "seconded" or something?

:oops:

Uhm yes, sorry if that wasn't clear.


Tue May 29, 2018 4:57 pm
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A PG-rated film
A film based on a book
A film featuring a non-human lead character



Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Quote:
"Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you'll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?"


There's an anonymous saying that goes "the fox changes his fur but not his habits". The phrase, which was initially geared towards Roman Emperor Titus, serves as some sort of warning that despite outward appearances, people (or emm, foxes) won't change their nature and behavior; they will continue to be what they are. That is the premise of Wes Anderson's animated romp.

Based on Roald Dahl's children's novel, Fantastic Mr. Fox follows the titular character (voiced by George Clooney), who decides to change his thieving ways after learning of his wife's (Meryl Streep) pregnancy. Two years later, Mr. Fox finds himself struggling to keep himself straight and eventually decides to steal the facilities of three nearby farmers: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, with the help of his friend possum, Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky). Unfortunately, his heist ignites all sorts of trouble for him, his family, and friends.

I haven't seen a lot of Wes Anderson's films (only Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums), but despite liking those two, I've never been that drawn by his aesthetics. However, I thought this was a perfect vehicle for him. From the get-go, I found myself pleasantly surprised by everything in the film; from the neat visuals and the superb animation, to the simple story and the narrative structure. The voice acting, and the way those voices integrate with the animation, was also perfect, with Jason Schwartzman (as Mr. Fox' son, Ash) as probably my favorite character.

Despite its apparently simple and playful surface, Anderson manages to instill a slightly more serious subtext to it, as he leads us to maybe question our nature and how we adapt to situations. This can be seen also in his interactions with his son, with the farmer's security guard, Rat (Willem Dafoe), and his connection (or lack of) with wolves. In the end, Mr. Fox doesn't necessarily change his ways and his nature, but he learns how to use his nature to his benefit and that of his people and adapt to the outcomes, thus learning how to feel complete and happy with himself. Isn't that beautiful?

Grade: A-

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Wed May 30, 2018 1:04 am
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One of my favorite films. Glad you liked it.


Wed May 30, 2018 2:21 am
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Film with a SNL cast member, past or present: This one had the voices of Jason Sudekis, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon and Maya Rudolph

The Angry Birds Movie

Sorry for the change. But I found out this was gone from Netflix at the end of this month and I got Ghostbusters as part of a deal when I combined multiple streaming accounts in one.

But something tells me Ghostbusters would have been a better choice despite this being about 30-40 minutes shorter.

Red (Sudekis) has some major anger management issues due to being bullied as a child due to his thick eyebrows and due to being bothered by various irritants. He's sentenced to an anger management house ran by Matilda (Maya Rudolph).

Once there, he slowly befriends Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride). Chuck is a speedy yellow bird while Bomb will literally explode if triggered.

But then comes a small contingent of green pigs led by Leonard (Bill Hader) promising friendship and offering innovations. Red is skeptical particularly since they partly wrecked his house on the outskirts of town. But it takes a trip to noted legend Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) for Red and his friends to learn the truth.

At its best, this film comes across as a poor man's Looney Tunes with its mix of physical humor and verbal wit. The characters are colorful if a bit thin and the last half hour will come as a treat to those who heard the title and immediately thought of the video game.

But I'm not sure of the appeal to the kids outside of the birds bouncing into things and occasional bouts of bodily fluids (particularly snot). The music wasn't bad, but somehow felt the need to throw in Limp Bizkit's Behind Blue Eyes for no really good reason. Also, the story feels a bit short for its run time.

But fans of the game and the main names will rank it higher. I thought it was just good enough for a C.


Wed May 30, 2018 5:10 am
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I rewatched Fantastic Mr. Fox recently and loved it. It seemed like it greatly improved upon a second (or third?) viewing.

A film featuring a non-human lead character: Blood Tea and Red String


Ya'll, this movie was messed up.

A group of wealthy mice hires a group of . . . . bat . . . . bird . . . .things to make them a life-size--well, scaled to the mice-- (human) doll. The creatures make the doll but quickly fall in love with it and don't want to give it up. When a mysterious egg appears, they cut the doll's stomach open, put the egg inside, and sew her shut again, then HANG HER FROM A TREE CRUCIFIED-STYLE. Ah, love.

And that's just the first 8 minutes!

The movie's main theme seems to be obsession and the degree to which pursuing someone/something can destroy it. The interactions with the doll are explicitly sexualized (especially once the mice get hold of her). There's an evil spider who cradles some of her victims like babies, even as she consumes them.

Also, there's a magical frog wizard.

The entire film is presented without a single line of dialogue. At 70 minutes long it avoids going on too long and manages to tell a complete story. The imagery is frequently disorienting and disturbing. Due to the strange nature of the creatures in the film, the question of whether or not the doll is "alive" hangs uncertain over the whole movie. In certain scenes I got Eraserhead vibes. If you have Amazon Prime I would highly recommend this one.


Wed May 30, 2018 11:58 am
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A British film or British comedy
A film made for less than $5,000,000



In the Loop (2009)

Quote:
"Where do you think you are, in some fucking regency costume drama?! This is a government department! Not a fucking Jane fucking Austen novel! ... Allow me to pop a jaunty little bonnet on your 'purview' and ram it up the shitter with a lubricated horse-cock!"


The above quote encapsulates the two focal points of Armando Iannucci's British political comedy: first, the sharp and funny way it portrays the relentless and cut-throat nature of politics, and the hilariously flawless performance of Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, the profane and ruthless Director of Communications for the UK. And what a beautiful combination that is!

In the Loop follows Tucker as he tries to mitigate the repercussions from some comments made by Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), one of his dim-witted Cabinet members, during a TV interview. While Foster's aide (Chris Addison) scrambles to help him recover, an American government official (Mimi Kennedy) and her aide (Anna Chlumsky) try to use Foster's comments as ammunition for their own agenda.

I had no idea this film was a spin-off of a British show, but as a stand-alone film, it works really well and I enjoyed it a lot. This is also my first significant experience with Peter Capaldi and I have to say I laughed my ass off at his performance. Overall, most of the performances were great, with James Gandolfini being another highlight. The witty dialogue and the quick direction were also "pluses" that kept the film moving at a good pace. If I were to complain about something, it would be that the inner-workings of the political subplot might feel a bit convoluted. But at the end of it all, it might be as relevant as the kidnapping in The Big Lebowski.

The beauty of a film like this is in the dialogue, and seeing all the interactions between the characters, and how the political mess unfolds regardless of how much you understand its inner-workings. As a Latin American, some things might not be within my "purview", but having Capaldi as the lead of it all sure puts a "jaunty little bonnet" on it.

Grade: B+

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Thu May 31, 2018 12:36 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

A film featuring a non-human lead character: Blood Tea and Red String


Ya'll, this movie was messed up.

One of my first Netflix rentals way back when. Glad to hear I can stream it because I haven't seen it since. I second this recommendation.

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Thu May 31, 2018 12:50 am
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Thief wrote:
I had no idea this film was a spin-off of a British show, but as a stand-alone film, it works really well and I enjoyed it a lot.
If you have Hulu, The Thick of It is there, and I highly recommend it. Malcolm Tucker is possibly the best comedic character of the last 20 years.

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Thu May 31, 2018 4:45 am
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BL wrote:
If you have Hulu, The Thick of It is there, and I highly recommend it. Malcolm Tucker is possibly the best comedic character of the last 20 years.


I didn't know it was on Hulu, but was reading about the show. I'm watching a lot of stuff right now and I'm behind on most of them, but I'm willing to put this on queue just on the strength of Capaldi's performance.

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Thu May 31, 2018 5:23 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
One of my first Netflix rentals way back when. Glad to hear I can stream it because I haven't seen it since. I second this recommendation.


I feel like I need this movie explained to me. Why only female characters with human faces (and boobs!)? Why a magical frog?

Why, Captain, WHY?!


Thu May 31, 2018 10:09 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I feel like I need this movie explained to me. Why only female characters with human faces (and boobs!)? Why a magical frog?

Why, Captain, WHY?!

I could totally explain it to you but then you'd miss out on the fun of figuring it out for yourself. Like I did. 'Cause I totally figured it out.
(Check out her other films for more weirdness. I really love Blood and Sunflowers. The Doll Maker is...also a film. She seems to have a strange fixation on doll stuffing.)


Both films combined are like 7 minutes long.

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Thu May 31, 2018 12:53 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

I feel like I need this movie explained to me. Why only female characters with human faces (and boobs!)? Why a magical frog?

Why, Captain, WHY?!

OK, so I watched it last night for the first time in 10 years or so. There's definitely a fairly simple story there, but with enough extra flourishes to keep it interesting/befuddling. For example, I won't pretend to understand the Blue-Breasted Booby-bird's role, or the live-action wraparound featuring Cake Girl (which might be the part that disturbed me most). As unsettling as some of it is, I find it to be an oddly pleasant world (is that weird?). I was especially impressed with the sound design: the constant buzz of insects during the outdoor scenes, the melancholy flute melody, the sound of the clockworks during the Mice's card game, the squawking of the Wingless Raven-Bat thingies and that weird mumbling sound the flowers made. Good stuff. I think the gender stuff is definitely there, even if I don't fully understand that either. The mouse with his hands bound to the doll's is probably what you referred to as explicit sexualization of the doll, and it's hard to think of another interpretation for that. (Assuming the mice are all male, which they appear to be). I have a lot more to say about this film but most of it would just consist of "Hey what was up with _____?"
Anyway, thanks again for the heads-up, I forgot how great this is. I probably should've bought the dvd years ago.

Some interesting reading I found:
http://366weirdmovies.com/blood-tea-and-red-string-2006/
https://beautifulbizarre.net/2016/06/16/blood-tea-and-red-string-stop-motion-christiane-cegavske-interview/

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Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:49 pm
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Thief wrote:
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Never saw this one, but I did see another stop-motion release from Anderson, this year's Isle Of Dogs, and thought it was really good, and would highly recommend it to you, seeing as you enjoyed Fox so much; have you seen it yet, Thief?

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Sat Jun 02, 2018 2:11 am
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I've been working all day and also have work tomorrow, but I'll try to catch up on my reviews tomorrow night and post my new list of criterias probably on Sunday-ish.

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Sat Jun 02, 2018 12:33 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
I could totally explain it to you but then you'd miss out on the fun of figuring it out for yourself. Like I did. 'Cause I totally figured it out.
(Check out her other films for more weirdness. I really love Blood and Sunflowers. The Doll Maker is...also a film. She seems to have a strange fixation on doll stuffing.)


Both films combined are like 7 minutes long.


Oh, good. That clears everything up. ;)

I feel like she's working out some themes but it's not totally coming across for me quite yet. Like to do with women's bodies and how they are defined by their utility or what they can give. I don't know. There's that repeated imagery of women being "made real" by male construction, and also the image of women/dolls containing jewels.

A drama film: The Most Beautiful

Kurosawa meets war propoganda and the results are . . . interesting.

The film follows a large group of women who work in a munitions factory during WW2. In the very beginning of the film the factory's quota is increased (one of the first scenes involves the women complaining about the increase, only for us to realize that they want a LARGER increase so that they can do more), and we watch as the women work to meet their quota week to week.

The film is certainly skillfully made, and Kurosawa does a really wonderful job humanizing the women even as it's clear that this project would not allow for any negative portrayals of anyone in the factory. Everyone is a good person here. Everyone just wants to do what they can for the war effort. The conflict, therefore, is largely external: women get sick or hurt or they get letters from home that family members are sick. The only "negative" character trait is, darn it, she just loves her work too much.

The film does a nice job of showing the whole lives of these women, from tending a vegetable garden made from soil they each brought from their villages, to games of volleyball on their down time. It's of historical interest, I suppose, as a film made from the losing side of a conflict, and also of interest if you're a Kurosawa fan. Frankly, though, the film was too slow for me and subplots like "Will her ankle heal in time for her to get back to work?" just weren't compelling enough to me.

There are a few moments of emotional power, such as when a woman realizes she put a flawed lens into the finished pile and then spends hours searching through the 2000 completed units to find it, with images of a pilot dying because of her mistake flitting through her head every time she closes her eyes.


Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:50 am
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Next to last film for May's list (yeah, I know it's June but if Thief's not done, neither am I)

A British Film
A Film Based on a Book
Best Picture Nominee that Didn't Win
Period Drama


The Imitation Game

It was a mixed bag.

I thought they did a good job of capturing the drama of codebreaking (very mental task) and making it work as a thriller. Both leads Benedict Cumberbatch (as Alan Turing) and Keira Knightley (as Joan Clarke, a female cryptographer that Turing has to fight for) did a good job with the roles/material that was given. And they got some able assistance from Mark Strong (as Menzies).

The story itself is fine as well. As Turing basically gets hired as part of a crew to solve messages provided by an Enigma machine operated by German forces during World War 2. Although they manage successes here and there before the clock strikes midnight, Turing is convinced that a giant machine can crack Enigma and help the British win the war.

But despite his work and efforts, his homosexuality would leave him ostracized and forcing him to choose between chemical castration and prison.


But this film appears to be too afraid to reveal anything about that side of Turing. What's left is shadows and connect the dots that does the latter half hour a disservice. If you want to show the rise and fall of someone, wouldn't it make sense to show why they fell? I mean, I do get how Brits were supposedly keeping a stiff upper lip on things, but if an Oscar nominee from almost a decade ago can be more open and honest, then what's the excuse for this one, really? For another thing, some of the writing does come across as a bit on the nose.

Also, inaccuracies. So many inaccuracies. Not like "Well, that song came out 2-3 years later" sort of goof, but "Hey, wait, that wasn't what really happened" sort of mistake. Guess I can blame director Morton Tyldum for this sloppiness.

Overall, it's a nice take on a story that deserves to be better known. But I think the best take on Alan Turing hasn't been told yet.

I give Imitation Game a B-.


Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:39 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Next to last film for May's list (yeah, I know it's June but if Thief's not done, neither am I)

The Imitation Game

It was a mixed bag.

I thought they did a good job of capturing the drama of codebreaking (very mental task) and making it work as a thriller.


I've always loved to study code-making/breaking. It delights the math nerd that I am.

But I skipped this one because the trailers just looked too polished. Turing's story is amazing. Like you, I hope someone does it justice someday.

Have you ever watched the TV series Bletchley Circle? I'd recommend it.


Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:58 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I've always loved to study code-making/breaking. It delights the math nerd that I am.

But I skipped this one because the trailers just looked too polished. Turing's story is amazing. Like you, I hope someone does it justice someday.

Have you ever watched the TV series Bletchley Circle? I'd recommend it.


I have not, but I'll keep an eye on it.

It's not that the story is too polished as much as it's made as a "Oscar Prestige Picture" where they sand down the edges in the hopes of appealing to the generally older crowd that votes for Best Picture.

This also reminded me of another issue I had with TIG that occurs midway through:

There's a scene where Turing is more or less blackmailed into becoming a spy. Then it gets dropped shortly after it happens, never to be brought up again.


It was an interesting turn and I would have liked to have seen where that would have gone.


Sun Jun 03, 2018 11:57 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
Next to last film for May's list (yeah, I know it's June but if Thief's not done, neither am I)



No, no, no, I'm done. Last film I watched was May 31. I'm not done writing my reviews :D

Nah, but seriously, good to write your review. I was curious about Imitation Game myself.


Anyway, last couple of days have been kinda hectic. Haven't been able to get online properly, but I hope to check in later this afternoon/tonight.

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Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:39 am
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Thief wrote:

No, no, no, I'm done. Last film I watched was May 31. I'm not done writing my reviews :D

Nah, but seriously, good to write your review. I was curious about Imitation Game myself.

Anyway, last couple of days have been kinda hectic. Haven't been able to get online properly, but I hope to check in later this afternoon/tonight.


Fair enough. Imitation Game would be my final film for May, then.

Can't wait to see your list for June.


Mon Jun 04, 2018 5:10 am
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A thriller or suspenseful film
A science-fiction film
A film set in a place you've been to



Source Code (2011)

Quote:
"Any soldier I've ever served with would say that one death is service enough."


Being a soldier requires multiple sacrifices; physical, mental and emotional. For those that serve and manage to return home, they will never be the same. For those that don't return, the sacrifice is transposed to their families as they have to deal with the harsh truth that their loved one will never return. Why would a soldier ever choose to go through that again? For most of them, that their sense of duty and protection of their fellow citizens overpowers their physical and mental suffering. That premise sits at the background in Duncan Jones' mind-bending sci-fi thriller.

Source Code follows Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), a US Army pilot that finds himself in the middle of a groundbreaking and classified test experiment to stop a terrorist attack in the city of Chicago. The experiment consists on his conscience being transferred to the body of a passenger on board on a train to relive the passenger's last 8 minutes of life before it explodes as the first of a series of attacks. The confused Stevens is led through the process by Capt. Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and her boss, Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright).

The thing is that Stevens is not supposed (or allegedly isn't capable of) altering or interfering with past events. His objective is simply to gather information which he can relay to Goodwin, in order to stop another attack. However, during his "trips" at the doomed train, Stevens interactions with the many passengers (most notably with Christina, a young woman played by Michelle Monaghan) drive him to try to do something, anything to stop this first attack.

If it sounds complicated, it's because it kinda is. But Duncan Jones succeeds in presenting the action in an accesible, easy to follow way while also moving things along at a nice pace. Gyllenhaal has done better jobs recently, but he is still pretty solid, conveying Stevens' confusion effectively, while also transitioning into determination to stop this attack and save the people in the train despite the toll it takes on his "body" and mind. Also, the conflict with his father manages to add some needed gravitas to the film.

The ending, which apparently polarizes some people, is where the film really goes all in with its premise. Ever since I first saw this several years ago, I've been one of those that really likes where the film goes in the end and the existentialist questions that raises. After so much sacrifice, what better reward to Stevens than a second chance? I believe they earned it.

Grade: A

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Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:42 am
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Thief wrote:
A thriller or suspenseful film
A science-fiction film
A film set in a place you've been to



Source Code (2011)

Grade: A


I'm not sure I'd go with an A, but I also liked this one.

Relatedly, please enjoy this short film (~5 min) and think of Source Code. I happened to watch both in a short period of time and enjoyed the contrast/similarities.


Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:27 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

Fair enough. Imitation Game would be my final film for May, then.

Can't wait to see your list for June.


I was joking, dude :D

Anyway, I don't have the document/spreadsheet I use to get the random categories. I have it on my work computer, but I'll post the list first thing in the morning.

For what it's worth, this month I'll also be juggling with the TCM course on Musicals, so I will kinda give priority to that. I'll still try to see as much films as I can, so we'll see how it ends up!

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Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:48 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I'm not sure I'd go with an A, but I also liked this one.

Relatedly, please enjoy this short film (~5 min) and think of Source Code. I happened to watch both in a short period of time and enjoyed the contrast/similarities.


Thanks for sharing it! I love Brian Dietzen from NCIS, and I loved the short.

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Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:56 am
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