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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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I love Source Code. I just hope Duncan Jones still has some creativity left in him as he showed so much promise with that film and Moon.

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Mon Jun 04, 2018 12:09 pm
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Popcorn Reviews wrote:
I love Source Code. I just hope Duncan Jones still has some creativity left in him as he showed so much promise with that film and Moon.


I was really sad to see Mute getting totally trashed. He is very creative and hopefully he gets back to stories with more heart.

Thief wrote:

I was joking, dude :D


What is this?! There are no JOKES in this thread. This is a serious thread with rules! What is the point if we aren't going to play by the rules?!?!?!


Mon Jun 04, 2018 12:18 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

I was really sad to see Mute getting totally trashed. He is very creative and hopefully he gets back to stories with more heart.

I was really anticipating that film. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm probably not going to anytime soon considering how much hate it received.

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Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:02 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

What is this?! There are no JOKES in this thread. This is a serious thread with rules! What is the point if we aren't going to play by the rules?!?!?!


"This is not 'Nam. There are rules!"

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Mon Jun 04, 2018 9:51 pm
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A thriller or suspenseful film
A Korean language film
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%



Train to Busan (2016) - Some SPOILERS in the last paragraph

Quote:
"Whatever you do, you must finish what you start"


Train to Busan follows Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), a workaholic and absentee father, who is accompanying his young daughter (Kim Su-an) on the titular train to be with her mother. Unfortunately, a zombie outbreak occurs as they are traveling forcing them to fight for their lives, along with other survivors, which include a tough man and his pregnant wife, a high school baseball team, two elderly sisters, a businessman, and a homeless man.

I had heard good things about this film, but still, I was surprised at how good it was. Director Yeon Sang-ho creates a perfect level of dread and tension early on, and when the outbreak starts, he handles the scenes with a frenetic pace that's chillingly effective. The way the "fast zombies" behaved had me cringing and wincing most of the time. But aside of that, there is genuine care put on the main characters despite the fast pace of the action. That falls mostly on the solid performances from Gong Yoo and Kim Su-an. Most of the supporting actors are quite good also.

Unfortunately, the film loses some momentum towards the middle. There's a conflict between the passengers that's poorly handled, and the character of the rich businessman, although well acted by Kim Eui-sung, is a bit of a cliché. Some people might also be bothered by some incongruencies in the way the infection takes over, especially in the last act, but it serves a purpose. The final act manages to move from tension to poignancy in a smooth way, so I believe the liberties they took with the way the infection behaves were earned.

Early in this film, Seok-woo chastises Su-an for not finishing a song she was supposed to perform at school, a performance he was supposed to attend to but couldn't. Ironically, his character, who is mostly absent from her life, took the advice for himself and set to finish what he started, regardless of the consequences.

Grade: A-

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:22 am
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A film from the IMDb Top 250
A Russian film
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%



Come and See (1985)

Quote:
"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."


The above quote comes from the Book of Revelation, in the Bible. In it, the Apostle John tells of a vision of hunger, murder, and death. Some people say the writings are historical, referring to the persecution of Christians, or maybe the fall of Rome, while others see it as prophetical, speaking of things to come. The quote is never mentioned in the film, but after seeing it, it's pretty obvious why writer/director Elem Klimov chose it as the title of this film. Set in 1943, Come and See follows Flyora (Aleksey Kravchenko), a poor, young kid from Belarus who joins his country's Resistance despite his mother's reluctance. As a result, he finds himself in the middle of the Nazi occupation of the country witnessing and suffering all sorts of atrocities.

For the first half, the film moves at a deliberate, slow pace as Flyora tries to blend in with the members of the Resistance, and befriends a young girl called Glasha (Olga Mironova) while guarding the camp. This first half is not without its tough parts, as we get to see Flyora dealing with feelings of alienation, an air strike, hunger, and the death of loved ones. However, when the second half kicks in, the film takes a turn for the truly horrible. As Flyora seeks refuge in a small village, an SS unit occupies it and starts torturing, raping, and killing people. The visceral way in which all this unfolds truly feels like hell. The whole barn thing is easily one of the toughest scenes I've had to watch on a film.

There is something numbing about the fact that, not only this really happened, but probably happened in 600+ villages in Belarus alone. What can one do about such a staggering fact? So much death, murder, and horror could lead anyone in the middle of it to think they were in hell. Ales Adamovich, the Belarusian writer in whose story the film is based, maintained an anti-war stance through all his life, and how could he not? I felt uncomfortable and troubled, just watching it from the comfort of my house. There's no way I can imagine how it felt to live this in real life.

Grade: A-

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:47 am
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A thriller or suspenseful film
A film based on a book



Marathon Man (1976)

Quote:
"Life can be that simple: Relief... Discomfort. Now which of these I next apply?"


Merriam Webster defines a "thriller" as "a work of fiction or drama designed to hold the interest by the use of a high degree of intrigue, adventure, or suspense". Marathon Man does exactly that. No wonder the promotional poster boasts the words "A thriller!" below the title. John Schlesinger's 1976 film follows Thomas "Babe" Levy (Dustin Hoffman), a history PhD student that finds himself unwittingly involved in a web of espionage between a government secret agency where his brother (Roy Scheider) works and a former Nazi war criminal (Laurence Olivier).

Levy, who is studying to get his doctorate in history, is haunted by memories of his father, who ended up taking his life after being investigated during the McCarthy era. One of the ways in which he blows off steam is by running around New York and Central Park. His new girlfriend, and the visit of his older brother, all seem to put Babe in the crosshairs of Christian Szell (Olivier), a former Nazi officer that's looking for ways to extract a fortune in diamonds from a bank, even if he has to drill a hole in your teeth to get it.

Marathon Man is, as the title and its promotion implies, a fast-paced thriller. It isn't flawless, but it does succeed in keeping the audience in its toes. It is helped by an earnest performance from Hoffman and a chilling turn by Olivier, while the rest of the cast is solid. The script does have some holes in it, but Schlesinger does his best to keep things moving, and as far as the thrill goes, it's effective from scene to scene. A climatic face-off at a cabin could've been a good tension-filled closure, but Schlesinger takes the thrill to the streets of New York and Central Park, never stopping to look back.

At one point towards the middle of the film, Babe is kidnapped but manages to escape thanks to his running ability. He just keeps running. That's more or less what Schlesinger does with the story. He doesn't let the audience stop; he just keeps running with it, not letting us stop to wonder the "why's" and the "how's". It is THAT simple.

Grade: B+

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:50 am
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A science-fiction film
A film based on a book
A film nominated for Best Picture that didn't win



The Martian (2015)

Quote:
"In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option, I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this."


Imagine getting lost, away from your family and friends, with limited resources and close to no food to survive with. Now imagine that where you're lost is a planet located 54.6 million kilometers from Earth. That is the terrifying premise in Ridley Scott's 2015 sci-fi film. The Martian follows astronaut/botanist Mark Watney, who is accidentally left for death by his crew during a mission in Mars. Awakening in the middle of the red planet, alone and with few resources, Watney is forced to use his knowledge and will to survive while NASA scrambles to find a way to rescue him.

As someone who gets the heebie-jeebies whenever films present astronauts being stranded in space (2001, You Only Live Twice, Life, Armageddon, etc.), the above premise was enough to keep me on my toes during most of the film. Scott manages to move the film at a steady pace as the action goes back and forth from Mars to NASA to keep us informed not only of what Watney is doing, but also of the efforts to rescue him. He is helped by a pretty solid cast that includes Damon, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, and Sean Bean, among many others. Considering that Damon spends most of the film alone, his performance, although far from excellent, is competent enough to hold the fort. Also, most of Scott's visuals from Mars are indeed impressive; from the overhead shots to the panoramic views.

My main issue with the film is that, despite an interesting premise that could've lent itself to more ambitious themes, Scott chooses the docu-drama/blockbuster route to present it. Instead of exploring the psyche of Watney and the effects of his long-term solitude, they choose to breeze over the subject in favor of predictable set-pieces and clichéd one-liners ("In your face, Neil Armstrong", "Disco sucks!", or "I get to fly like Iron Man"). The film still manages to be somewhat effective from that standpoint, but so many other things feel like they were already done before (the orbit slingshot thing is pretty much taken from Apollo 13, which pretty much took it from real life!). So the novelty of the film lies mostly in changing the setting to Mars and wondering if they will succeed in rescuing him. Personally, I would've preferred a more deeper, more thought-provoking angle to the story.

I have no idea how Andy Weir treats the plot in his novel, but despite being a moderately entertaining, I was left wanting more from this. Considering the talent involved, that's a real shame.

Grade: B-

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:53 am
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A film from the IMDb Top 250
A science-fiction film
A film based on a book



Jurassic Park (1993)

Quote:
"Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?"


This one was a freebie. Got home from work last Wednesday and my wife started watching it while I had dinner. The thing is that I wasn't planning to watch it, but it's so deliciously irresistible! Pretty much like Hammond expected the park to be. I was glued until the end.

For those that have been living under a rock, Jurassic Park follows Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) as they are taken on a trip to survey and endorse a new park designed by billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). Of course, the park is not a regular park, but one that features genetically engineered dinosaurs. Along in the ride is Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), as well as Hammond's grandchildren. As luck may have it, all hell breaks loose while they are inside the park, and our heroes have to resort to their knowledge and wits to survive.

I still remember seeing this in theaters back in 1993 and the experience was unforgettable. 25 years later, and the film still retains that magic, that ability of capturing you in its story and making you feel the tension and the adrenaline of being inside the park. Most of the performances range from solid to pretty great, with Goldblum stealing the show in the first half. But what really sells this film are the thrilling set pieces and the still breathtaking special effects. The scene at the T-Rex paddock still remains one of the most intense scenes I've seen.

The film is not without flaws; there is some clunky dialogue here and there, and some huge plot contrivances, but when you're having so much fun with it, I can forgive them for that. Unfortunately, much like the creators of the park, the studio has never known when to stop and none of the sequels has managed to rival the original. Probably because of the $3.7 billion it has grossed. With a new installment opening this month, how can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?

Grade: A

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:55 am
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A film you swore you'd never watch
A science-fiction film



X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Quote:
"When an individual acquires great power, the use or misuse of that power is everything. Will it be used for the greater good? Or will it be used for personal or for destructive ends?"


This is how I remember it unfolding back in the day. Bryan Singer, director of the two critically and commercially successful X-Men films, wanted to prioritize his pet project, Superman Returns, over a third X-Men film. Studio wanted the money, err, I mean, the third film to happen fast, so they booted Singer and started looking for a replacement. Singer, in turn, took with him most of the production team to work on Superman, while the studio was left scrambling for a director, finally settling on *sigh* Brett Ratner. As a longtime Singer fan, I was pissed that the studio wasn't willing to give him more room to work his project, and then return to X-Men, particularly when most people could see this was a franchise he was passionate about and had a clear vision of.

For all those reasons, I chose not to watch Ratner's film. It was a decision based on principle, but the mediocre/bad reviews helped ease the decision. When First Class and the Wolverine film came around, I didn't really feel drawn to them. But when Singer came back to the franchise, I started wondering if it was worth the time and effort to finally watch this. Even though most people I know consider it pretty bad, or at most, mediocre, my OCD/anal-retentive/completist side saw it as necessary. When this criteria popped up in May, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to jump back on this, and oooh-boy, how costly it was.

X-Men: The Last Stand follows closely the events of X2, with the titular team dealing with two situations: first, the development of a "cure" that suppresses the mutant gene, which forces Magneto and his mutants to come out of hiding to try to stop it; and second, the possibility that Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) survived the events at the end of the second film, but instead returning as the Phoenix, a previously suppressed personality that's more powerful and evil. The result, as one might expect from the troubled production, two ambitious plots, and a mediocre director, is a mess.

First, the script tries to tackle too many subplots in a short amount of time (the mutant "cure", Jean Grey's resurrection, the Logan/Jean/Scott triangle, the Bobby/Rogue/Kitty triangle, Xavier and Magneto's dynamics, the kidnapped kid from whom they get the cure, the conflict between Angel and his father, the political implications of the mutant cure, a bit of a rivalry between Storm and Logan, a crucial development between Magneto and Mystique, the introduction of several new mutants). It's just too much, and as a result all of those subplots feel rushed, half-baked, and poorly executed. I think that most of the actors try to do their best with the material, with probably McKellen and Stewart being the ones that get the most out of their characters. But even they are relegated to clunky dialogue and silly one-liners.

Plus, for all its pretensions of being a final war, "the last stand" as it is called, the climatic battle, and the film overall, feels really dull and boring all around. It's a real shame that a studio that had so much power in such a successful franchise decided to trust it to the hands of someone like Ratner. As Professor Xavier said, the use or misuse of that power is everything.

Grade: D+

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:57 am
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This is May's tally...

A Biblical film: Barabbas
A thriller or suspenseful film: Marathon Man
A film from the 1960s: Barabbas
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present):
A cult classic film:
A comedy made before 1970:
A film you swore you'd never watch: X-Men: The Last Stand
A Korean language film: Train to Busan
A film from the IMDb Top 250: Blade Runner
A science-fiction film: Escape from New York
A Russian film: Come and See
A film set in a place you've been to: Source Code
A PG-rated film: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
A film about food:
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: Come and See
A British film or British comedy: In The Loop
A film based on a book: Fantastic Mr. Fox
A film nominated for Best Picture that didn't win: The Martian
An NC-17-rated film: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
A drama film:
A film featuring a non-human lead character: Fantastic Mr. Fox
A film made for less than $5,000,000: In The Loop
A film that's in B&W: The Elephant Man
A film with a number in its title:
A period drama film:

Glad to see I was up to 15 films again!

My favorites were rewatches (Source Code, Blade Runner, Jurassic Park) but other than those, probably Train to Busan, Come and See, or Fantastic Mr. Fox. Least favorite is probably X-Men: The Last Stand.

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 1:06 am
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New category list is up. Have fun with it!

I don't know if I mentioned it, but I'm repeating categories that I haven't filled yet. I know that some of you are filling them all, so I hope that's not an issue :)

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 1:11 am
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Thief wrote:

"This is not 'Nam. There are rules!"


Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules!


Tue Jun 05, 2018 2:18 am
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A film with a child protagonist: The Good Son
A film noir: Night and the City
A film in a country you've never visited: Kin-dza-dza! (Russian/Georgian)
A film with no CGI or special effects: Clerks.
A film about parenthood: Jersey Girl
A film written by a novelist or playwright: Maximum Overdrive (Stephen King)
A film that takes place in Britain: Attack the Block
A Bollywood film: Lagaan (Once Upon a Time in India)
A film from Sweden: Fucking Amal
A film written by an African-American: Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
A Palm D'Or winner: Barton Fink
A musical: The Music Man
A film about a musician: La Bamba
A film with less than five major characters: Enemy Mine
A dark/black comedy: Heathers
A horror film: Alligator
A film everyone has seen but you: Saving Private Ryan
A film from the 1920s: The Golem: How He Came into the World
An Italian language film: Cinema Paradiso
A film based on a play: Barefoot in the Park
A film made for less than $5,000,000: The Legend of Boggy Creek
A film from the current year: Upgrade
A film famous for its twist/ending: The Usual Suspects
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: The Babadook (98%)
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Meatballs (Bill Murray)

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:48 am
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Someone really needs to watch Kin-dza-dza! already. Greatest Russian science fiction movie besides Stalker. It's also nothing like you will expect and very funny. I need someone to watch this and report back.


Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:25 am
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As a suggestion that may shorten the month for many, may I offer: A film... In A Country You Never Visited (Denmark, guessing), With No CGI/Special Effects, Written By A Novelist Or Playwright, With Less Than Five Major Characters, Dark/Black Comedy, Based On A Play, Made For Less Than $5M, could all be covered by one film: Rosencrantz And Gildenstern Are Dead.


Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:49 pm
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ski petrol wrote:
Someone really needs to watch Kin-dza-dza! already. Greatest Russian science fiction movie besides Stalker. It's also nothing like you will expect and very funny. I need someone to watch this and report back.



I saw it a few years ago but a fresh viewing would make for a better review.

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Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:59 pm
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Death Proof wrote:
A film with a child protagonist: The Good Son
A film noir: Night and the City
A film in a country you've never visited: Kin-dza-dza! (Russian/Georgian)
A film with no CGI or special effects: Clerks.
A film about parenthood: Jersey Girl
A film written by a novelist or playwright: Maximum Overdrive (Stephen King)
A film that takes place in Britain: Attack the Block
A Bollywood film: Lagaan (Once Upon a Time in India)
A film from Sweden: Fucking Amal
A film written by an African-American: Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
A Palm D'Or winner: Barton Fink
A musical: The Music Man
A film about a musician: La Bamba
A film with less than five major characters: Enemy Mine
A dark/black comedy: Heathers
A horror film: Alligator
A film everyone has seen but you: Saving Private Ryan
A film from the 1920s: The Golem: How He Came into the World
An Italian language film: Cinema Paradiso
A film based on a play: Barefoot in the Park
A film made for less than $5,000,000: The Legend of Boggy Creek
A film from the current year: Upgrade
A film famous for its twist/ending: The Usual Suspects
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: The Babadook (98%)
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Meatballs (Bill Murray)


These are the ones I've seen. I probably saw Enemy Mine back in the day, but I don't remember much of it.

Thanks! I know you've mentioned some of these several times, so I'll try to check some of them.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:12 am
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Some recommendations

A film with a child protagonist: Kes
A film noir: Ride The Pink Horse
A film in a country you've never visited: The Scent of Green Papaya (Vietnam)
A film with no CGI or special effects: Wendy and Lucy
A film about parenthood: 20th Century Women
A film that takes place in Britain: Naked
A film from Sweden: Fucking Åmål
A Palm D'Or winner: Wages of Fear
A musical: All That Jazz
A film about a musician: Whiplash
A film with less than five major characters: Carnage
A dark/black comedy: Perdita Durango
A horror film: Cronos
A film from the 1920s: Sherlock, Jr.
An Italian language film: La Grande Bellezza
A film made for less than $5,000,000: Brick


Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:16 am
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Thief wrote:

These are the ones I've seen. I probably saw Enemy Mine back in the day, but I don't remember much of it.

Thanks! I know you've mentioned some of these several times, so I'll try to check some of them.



The Legend of Boggy Creek is pretty good - it was the 10th highest grossing movie of 1972

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 3:47 am
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I've updated my list:

A film with a child protagonist: Coco (2017, N)
A film noir: Postman Always Rings Twice (1945, V)
A film in a country you've never visited: Icaros: A Vision (2017, A) (Peru)
A film with no CGI or special effects: Moonlight (2016, A)
A film about parenthood: Voice of My Father (2012, A)
A film written by a novelist or playwright: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (1991, T)
A film that takes place in Britain: Us and Them (2018, A)
A Bollywood film: Dedh Ishqiya (2014, N)
A film from Sweden: We Will Part (2016)
A film written by an African-American: Moonlight (2016, A)
A Palm D'Or winner: Blue is the Warmest Color (2013, N)
A musical: Dedh Ishqiya (2014)
A film about a musician: Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015, A)
A film with less than five major characters: Room (2015, A)
A dark/black comedy: The King of Comedy (1983, A)
A horror film: The Boy (2016, N)
A film everyone has seen but you: Jurassic World (2015, TV)
A film from the 1920s: Battleship Potemkin (1925)
An Italian language film: Mia Madre (2016, A)
A film based on a play: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1991, T)
A film made for less than $5,000,000: Moonlight (2016, A) (1.5-4 million)
A film from the current year: ?
A film famous for its twist/ending: The Boy (2016, N)
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: Coco (2017, N) (97%)
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Ghostbusters (2016) (Kate McKinnon, Kristin Wiig, Leslie Jones)

In case you were wondering, A is Amazon Prime, N is Netflix, T is TubiTV, and V is videotape.


Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:40 am
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A film noir
Specter of the Rose (1946)
Ben Hecht's ballet film is predictably pretentious, distinctive and fucking mad: like The Red Shoes crossed with a grisly gothic thriller, though that makes it sound more tonally coherent than it really is. Yet, even though being this weird mismatch, it can also be very boring at times. The bad acting and swollen dialogue certainly doesn't help.

Worth a watch for the creepy yet ridiculous bedroom knife dance alone. It's on youtube, for those who are interested.

A film about parenthood
Buster's Mal Heart (2016)
Okay, this movie is technically not about parenthood, but being a parent is an important aspect of the lead character's life, so I guess it counts.

Rami Malek plays an eccentric mountain man who gets chased by the local sheriff. When facing imprisonment, he recalls the mysterious events that brought him to his present fugitive state, and why he wants to break free from reality.

Neither as smart nor as narratively twisty as it thinks it is. Malek's performance is what makes it watchable.

A film that takes place in Britain
Son of Rambow (2007)
Will (Bill Milner) is a shy, quiet young boy who lives in a strictly religious household with his single mother, his younger sister and his grandmother. He is sheltered from everything the Brotherhood doesn't aprove of, particularly television. But after he befriends the worst-behaved boy in school, Lee Carter (Will Poulter), he accidently watches a camrecording of Rambo: First Blood (1982).
Naturally, his mind explodes, and Will wants to make his own movies, together with Lee, where he plays Rambo's son. This is where the movie really shines. They both show the passion of being young filmmakers, and their avant-garde approach to the medium is filled with creativity and imagination. It will bring a smile to every movie fanatic.

I like how the movie doesn't shy away from the nastier parts of childhood, and shows how cruel and idiotic children that age can be. Yet, some aspects don't entirely work (the French exchange student, for example) and it doesn't entirely earns it's emotional ending.
At the end, Son of Rambow is a fun movie studded with admirable attributes, if not ultimately an entirely successful film.

A musical
Opening Night (2016)
So, I'm a big fan of the Pure Cinema Podcast. The hosts, Elric Kane and Brian Saur, talk very passionately about film and I always discover new and exciting movies by listening to their show. In one episode they were really into this Topher Grace comedy. So it was a pleasant surprise when I stumbled upon this movie on Netflix. I was having a bad day so I really needed something to cheer me up. I started watching, thinking I would be seeing this great comedy, and halfway through it, I said to myself "I really don't understand why they like this so much".

Turns out... for some stupid reason I mistook this for Take Me Home Tonight (2011), the movie they were actually praising. So I was watching this piece of shit for no other reason than me being an idiot and confusing titles.

Also, terrible soundtrack for a musical.

A film everyone has seen but you
First Blood (1982)
After watching Son of Rambow I thought "Why not watching the real stuff?!".

This is gonna sound ridiculous, but I was expecting something more... serious? People always hype it up as this dark and nuanced survival thriller, but at the end, I found it's portrayal of PTSD to be rather clumsy and the action sequences not as gut wrenching as I hoped.

But I also had giant expectations, so it's not fair to blame the movie for not living up to that.

A film famous for its twist/ending
Shutter Island (2010)
I know a lot of people felt betrayed by the ending, I had the same problem the first time. But while rewatching this, I realized how calculated Scorsese structured the movie. It's not a twist just because the fun of it, but it's actually supposed the hit you emotionally.
That said, I wasn't really into this. The first time, I had a thrill discovering how the story unraveled. Now, I was left with an unengaging story that happened to be directed by an overqualified artist.
Sorry, I wished I liked it more.


Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:57 am
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A film everyone has seen but you
First Blood (1982)
After watching Son of Rambow I thought "Why not watching the real stuff?!".

This is gonna sound ridiculous, but I was expecting something more... serious? People always hype it up as this dark and nuanced survival thriller, but at the end, I found it's portrayal of PTSD to be rather clumsy and the action sequences not as gut wrenching as I hoped.

But I also had giant expectations, so it's not fair to blame the movie for not living up to that.


I really, really like this film. Granted, I saw it first when I was a young teen, so there might be some nostalgia attached to it. I've always liked this sub-sub-genre of films with people alone in the woods and whatnot, so this was right my alley. I still think the scene at the cliff is pretty cool, and the way Rambo outsmarts the cops seems solid. But as I've grown older, I've really learned to appreciate the more subtler subtexts that the film has. I remember finding Sly's performance near the end to be laughable when I was a kid, but I've also come to appreciate that final moment. Ironically, I find Richard Crenna to be the weakest link in the film.

Slentert wrote:
A film famous for its twist/ending
Shutter Island (2010)
I know a lot of people felt betrayed by the ending, I had the same problem the first time. But while rewatching this, I realized how calculated Scorsese structured the movie. It's not a twist just because the fun of it, but it's actually supposed the hit you emotionally.
That said, I wasn't really into this. The first time, I had a thrill discovering how the story unraveled. Now, I was left with an unengaging story that happened to be directed by an overqualified artist.
Sorry, I wished I liked it more.


I need to give this another chance. Despite its technical and artistic traits, I'm one of those that felt the twist to be a bit of a cheat. It doesn't help that I've never been much of a Scorsese fan, but maybe one of these days I'll try it again.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 6:31 am
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Interesting, I thought Crenna was a strong link in First Blood as was Brian Dennehy as the sheriff with a thing against strangers in his hometown.

Outside of that final speech and a couple of moments that strained credibility, I thought this might be one of Sylvester Stallone's better films.

PS: Still waiting on my kewpie doll from Leonard Maltin.

The ending of Shutter Island was a cheat. But I thought the film before that point was good enough to recommend.

It didn't bug me as much as did High Tension's twist. That one still burns me.


Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:00 am
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A film nominated for Best Picture that didn't win: Lady Bird

Wrapping up the last month a little late, but this was a great way to finish off that list.

I really liked this movie. At times the comedy was a little too comedy for my taste (like the gym teacher being put in charge of the school play and trying to run it like a football game), but overall I felt like it was very funny and really nailed both high school and family dynamics.

The film follows a high school senior, Lady Bird (her birth name is Christine, but she's renamed herself Lady Bird), as she pines after the lives of her wealthier classmates, ponders losing her virginity, and struggles in her relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf).

The movie really does well at portraying the major/minor natures of events in the life of a teenager. Lady Bird at one point really tries to get in good with a rich classmate. The relationship is doomed, but like many such relationships it ends with a whimper.

The film also chooses key, powerful moments to switch its primary perspective from Lady Bird to her mother.

I would highly recommended this one, and it just became available on Amazon Prime.

So this month looked like this:

A science-fiction film: Gamer
A Biblical film: Samson (2014)
A thriller or suspenseful film: Allied
A film from the 1960s: Attack of the Mushroom People (Matango)
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Nasty Baby
A cult classic film: Fire & Ice
A comedy made before 1970: The Thin Man
A film you swore you'd never watch: The Number 23
A Korean language film: Hwayi: A Monster Boy
A film from the IMDb Top 250: Room
A PG-rated film: Ace Wonder
A Russian film: Adventures of a Dentist
A film set in a place you've been to: Hooked Up
A film about food: Unsupersize me
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: Florida Project
A British film or British comedy: The Redeeming
A film based on a book: Images
A film made for less than $5,000,000: Rule of 3
A film with a number in its title: Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake
A period drama film: An Inspector Calls
An NC-17-rated film: La Grande Bouffe
A film that's in B&W: Down by Law
A film featuring a non-human lead character: Blood Tea and Red String
A drama film: The Most Beautiful
A film nominated for Best Picture that didn't win: Lady Bird


My favorites were definitely The Thin Man, Room, Florida Project, Images, Down By Law, Blood Tea and Red String and Lady Bird. I had mixed feelings about Matango, but would still recommend it for some amazingly bizarre moments.


Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:40 am
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I guess this is my damage for May:

A Biblical film: David and Goliath (2015)
A thriller or suspenseful film: The Sadist (1963)
A film from the 1960s: The Sadist (1963)
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Angry Birds Movie (2016) (Hader, Sudekis, and Maya Rudolph)
A cult classic film:
A comedy made before 1970: Bringing Up Baby (1946)
A film you swore you'd never watch:
A Korean language film:
A film from the IMDb Top 250: Metropolis (1927)
A science-fiction film: Metropolis (1927)
A Russian film:
A film set in a place you've been to:
A PG-rated film: David and Goliath (2015)
A film about food: Food on the Go (2017)
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: Metropolis (1927)
A British film or British comedy: The Imitation Game (2014)
A film based on a book: The Imitation Game (2014)
A film nominated for Best Picture that didn't win: The Imitation Game (2014)
An NC-17-rated film:
A drama film:
A film featuring a non-human lead character: Born in China (2017)
A film made for less than $5,000,000: Food on the Go (2017)
A film that's in B&W: Bringing Up Baby (1946)
A film with a number in its title:
A period drama film: The Imitation Game

The clear winners are Metropolis and Bringing Up Baby. I guess I can mildly recommend The Imitation Game and The Sadist. Stinker of the month goes to David and Goliath which cost a ton, but it wasn't worth it despite moments of unintentional hilarity.


Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:04 am
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Thief wrote:

I really, really like this film. Granted, I saw it first when I was a young teen, so there might be some nostalgia attached to it. I've always liked this sub-sub-genre of films with people alone in the woods and whatnot, so this was right my alley. I still think the scene at the cliff is pretty cool, and the way Rambo outsmarts the cops seems solid. But as I've grown older, I've really learned to appreciate the more subtler subtexts that the film has. I remember finding Sly's performance near the end to be laughable when I was a kid, but I've also come to appreciate that final moment. Ironically, I find Richard Crenna to be the weakest link in the film.

I do like the movie. And Crenna is, he really overplays it.


Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:08 am
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Glad you liked Come and See, Thief. It's such a powerful, unforgettable film.

Some recommendations for this month's challenge (Available on Amazon Prime unless otherwise noted)

A film with a child protagonist: Florida Project, Let the Right One In, A Little Princess (LOVE THIS MOVIE)
A film noir: The Hitch-Hiker, He Walked by Night
A film in a country you've never visited: I will never stop recommending The Handmaiden
A film with no CGI or special effects: The Naked Kiss
A film about parenthood: About a Boy ($3 on Amazon), Patrik Age 1.5 ($3 on Amazon)
A film written by a novelist or playwright: Night of the Hunter ($3), Where the Wild Things Are ($3), Away We Go ($3), Lifeboat ($3), I'll second (or third?) Rosencrantz & Guildenstern ($3), Fences (free!)
A film that takes place in Britain: Pride, Nicholas Nickleby, The 39 Steps
A Bollywood film: Kidnap (a bit problematic in parts, but overall fun)
A film from Sweden:Let the Right One In
A film written by an African-American: Moonlight, Fences
A Palm D'Or winner: Black Orpheus ($4), The Lost Weekend ($3), If . . ., Winter Sleep ($4)
A musical: Sita Sings the Blues (on Prime and YouTube), The Singing Detective
A film about a musician:Inside Llewyn Davis
A film with less than five major characters: Tape ($2), Frozen, Buried
A dark/black comedy: Four Lions ($3 on Amazon but SO WORTH IT!)
A horror film: Society, Daybreakers, The Collection, Santa Sangre (REALLY GOOD!)
A film everyone has seen but you: Ugh. This is one of those personal ones. Do I actually have to watch Titanic?
A film from the 1920s: Have you seen The Kid? Or Steamboat Bill Jr?
An Italian language film: Django Kill If You Live Shoot! (Prime version is dubbed, boo!)
A film based on a play: Fences, Marjorie Prime
A film made for less than $5,000,000: Florida Project, Tangerine ($3)
A film from the current year:I might check out Mr. Cleaver, Beast of Burden, or The Honey Killer
A film famous for its twist/ending: You've probably seen these, but The Machinist, Frailty. Zathura. Dirty Rotten Scoundrals. I struggled with this category last time.
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: The Big Sick, I am Not Your Negro, The Florida Project, Paterson
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Clear History


Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:15 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
Some recommendations for this month's challenge (Available on Amazon Prime unless otherwise noted)

A film with a child protagonist: Florida Project, Let the Right One In, A Little Princess (LOVE THIS MOVIE)
A film noir: The Hitch-Hiker, He Walked by Night
A film in a country you've never visited: I will never stop recommending The Handmaiden
A film with no CGI or special effects: The Naked Kiss
A film about parenthood: About a Boy ($3 on Amazon), Patrik Age 1.5 ($3 on Amazon)
A film written by a novelist or playwright: Night of the Hunter ($3), Where the Wild Things Are ($3), Away We Go ($3), Lifeboat ($3), I'll second (or third?) Rosencrantz & Guildenstern ($3), Fences (free!)
A film that takes place in Britain: Pride, Nicholas Nickleby, The 39 Steps
A Bollywood film: Kidnap (a bit problematic in parts, but overall fun)
A film from Sweden:Let the Right One In
A film written by an African-American: Moonlight, Fences
A Palm D'Or winner: Black Orpheus ($4), The Lost Weekend ($3), If . . ., Winter Sleep ($4)
A musical: Sita Sings the Blues (on Prime and YouTube), The Singing Detective
A film about a musician:Inside Llewyn Davis
A film with less than five major characters: Tape ($2), Frozen, Buried
A dark/black comedy: Four Lions ($3 on Amazon but SO WORTH IT!)
A horror film: Society, Daybreakers, The Collection, Santa Sangre (REALLY GOOD!)
A film everyone has seen but you: Ugh. This is one of those personal ones. Do I actually have to watch Titanic?
A film from the 1920s: Have you seen The Kid? Or Steamboat Bill Jr?
An Italian language film: Django Kill If You Live Shoot! (Prime version is dubbed, boo!)
A film based on a play: Fences, Marjorie Prime
A film made for less than $5,000,000: Florida Project, Tangerine ($3)
A film from the current year:I might check out Mr. Cleaver, Beast of Burden, or The Honey Killer
A film famous for its twist/ending: You've probably seen these, but The Machinist, Frailty. Zathura. Dirty Rotten Scoundrals. I struggled with this category last time.
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: The Big Sick, I am Not Your Negro, The Florida Project, Paterson
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Clear History


As usual, thanks for the recs. Ones I've seen in bold and red.

I would recommend Titanic solely on the strength of its historical accuracy regarding the ship. I really didn't care about Jack and Rose, but Cameron's attention to details and specifics about the ship design, and the events surrounding the sinking? that was amazing. Then again, I've always been drawn to the history of the Titanic. Read A Night to Remember when I was a teen, read a lot of articles about it, visited an exhibition about Titanic memorabilia a couple of years ago... so there's that. And the story is fun, I guess. Even if it's formulaic, cliché, not that well written... Billy Zane's hammy performance really makes it worth your while.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:09 pm
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Ya know, with it now 3rded by Takoma, I think I'M gonna watch Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead, it's been a few years and I used to enjoy it so.


Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:28 pm
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Thief wrote:
I really didn't care about Jack and Rose


No one does. And the fact that it still manages to be amazing, regardless of the fact that it doesn't matter what happens to either of them, is pretty impressive.

And, yes, Billy Zane is great.


Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:55 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film nominated for Best Picture that didn't win: Lady Bird

A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: Florida Project

Florida Project should have received a BP nod, and it certainly wouldn't have broke my heart to see it win.

Both of these films need to not be forgotten in the post-award-season afterglow. I supported DaFoe and Metcalf as underdogs in their categories, but more than that, I felt that these two films were far more humane than the smug cynicism that infected Three Billboards and I, Tonya. They are more emotionally difficult than those films, more vulnerable and empathetic. Everyone should check them out.

Takoma1 wrote:
At times the comedy was a little too comedy for my taste (like the gym teacher being put in charge of the school play and trying to run it like a football game)

Oh? You don't think those drama students need to go in hot! hot!


Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:19 pm
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I walked out halfway through Titanic in the theater and I've still never finished it. Is it really worth it to go back and sit through all the dreck I saw just to watch the ship sink?


Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:04 pm
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Titanic is alright. I wasn't interested by the romance sub-plot, but everything after the ship strikes the iceberg is thrilling and captivating. The only problem is that the romance takes up a large portion of the film. Personally, I feel like A Night to Remember is a better film.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:30 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
Glad you liked Come and See, Thief. It's such a powerful, unforgettable film.


Indeed it is. All that whole second half was really... scarring, for lack of a better word.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:35 pm
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Wooley wrote:
I walked out halfway through Titanic in the theater and I've still never finished it. Is it really worth it to go back and sit through all the dreck I saw just to watch the ship sink?



I just liked the part where the band played on.

And the guy bouncing off the propeller as he fell off the ship.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:36 pm
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Come and See is my favorite war film of all time. Glad you liked it.

Also, what I love about the church scene is how the film doesn't try to gross out the viewer by showing the people burning to death from inside the church. It just showed their screaming from the outside, a great decision which sent chills down my spine. Much of the violent moments from the film were really powerful as it either showed them from far away or only showed the aftermath of a particular scenario. I feel like these decisions make the film truly horrifying, yet not to the point where the violence makes you want to look away from the film. I also liked the surreal touches to that scene such as how a female officer was eating lobster as the village was burned to the ground or how a group of officers opened fire at the church after it was already lit on fire. Many of these scenes feel almost obscene given how weird they are. This shows Klimov wants to show violence in a more impressionistic fashion than just general mayhem.

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Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:01 am
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Wooley wrote:
I walked out halfway through Titanic in the theater

Ha! That's awesome.
(I didn't get around to it until around 15 years later.)

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Thu Jun 07, 2018 5:40 am
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Thief wrote:

Indeed it is. All that whole second half was really... scarring, for lack of a better word.


I think that scarring is exactly the correct word.

The film is able to put violence front and center, but also show how during war it exists even in our peripherals. The scene I remember most vividly isn't the barn scene, it's the scene where they go to the house and no one is there and after they leave the girl
turns back and sees the pile of dead bodies behind the house, but doesn't mention it to the boy. (Am I remembering that right? It's been quite a few years since I watched it.)
.

It also captures confusion in a pretty unique way. Like when his ears are still ringing from the explosion and they are wading through the water and the man begins to pull the girl out and the boy kind of freaks out because he doesn't understand the man's intentions.

Ugh, so good.


Thu Jun 07, 2018 6:12 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I think that scarring is exactly the correct word.

The film is able to put violence front and center, but also show how during war it exists even in our peripherals. The scene I remember most vividly isn't the barn scene, it's the scene where they go to the house and no one is there and after they leave the girl
turns back and sees the pile of dead bodies behind the house, but doesn't mention it to the boy. (Am I remembering that right? It's been quite a few years since I watched it.)
.

It also captures confusion in a pretty unique way. Like when his ears are still ringing from the explosion and they are wading through the water and the man begins to pull the girl out and the boy kind of freaks out because he doesn't understand the man's intentions.

Ugh, so good.


Yeah, you're remembering it quite right.

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Thu Jun 07, 2018 6:15 am
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I just had a long post get swallowed up by a combination of a nap and a power outage.

A few quick recommendations for Thief (these should all be on Prime):

A child protagonist: If you haven't seen The Fits, get on that. It's great (one of my favorites from 2015)!
Film Noir: DOA or Detour should both work
Film in a country you've never visited: Memories of Murder (Korea), Icaros: A Vision (Peru), Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
Parenthood: Voice of My Father sounds promising.
Novelist/Playwright: Fences, Marathon Man
Bollywood: Hichki (also fits 2018 category), Aakrosh, Bachna Ae Haseeno
Sweden: We Will Part
African American: Pass Over (also 2018, I think), Fences
Less than 5 characters: Open Windows, Two Night Stand, The Frozen Ground, Pass Over, Room
Musical: Sweeney Todd, Frankie and johnny, Peter Pan (1955), majority of Bollywood are musicals
Musician: Janis: Little Girl Blue, Past is a Grotesque Animal, An Ox's Tale
Dark/Black Comedy: The King of Comedy (Prime De Niro plus Martin Scorsese = win?)
Horror: Wish Upon, It Comes at Night (Best of 2017 imo), Talon Falls, The Eve
1920s: College, Robin Hood, there's a Metropolis, but it's truncated and a different score
Italian: Mia Madre
Based on a Play: Pass Over, Fences, Paint Your Wagon (also qualifies as Musical)
Current Year: Hichki, Pass Over, Vanishing of Sidney Hall, Last Movie Star
SNL Alum: Superstar, Whiskey tango foxtrot, Click, Daddy's Home, The Benchwarmers


Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:58 am
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I thought Titanic was overblown and its romance is too often a trifle, but the destruction of the ship and the humanity that shines through to the bitter end does make it worth a watch.


Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:00 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
A few quick recommendations for Thief (these should all be on Prime):

A child protagonist: If you haven't seen The Fits, get on that. It's great (one of my favorites from 2015)!
Film Noir: DOA or Detour should both work
Film in a country you've never visited: Memories of Murder (Korea), Icaros: A Vision (Peru), Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
Parenthood: Voice of My Father sounds promising.
Novelist/Playwright: Fences, Marathon Man (saw it last month)
Bollywood: Hichki (also fits 2018 category), Aakrosh, Bachna Ae Haseeno
Sweden: We Will Part
African American: Pass Over (also 2018, I think), Fences
Less than 5 characters: Open Windows, Two Night Stand, The Frozen Ground, Pass Over, Room
Musical: Sweeney Todd, Frankie and johnny, Peter Pan (1955), majority of Bollywood are musicals
Musician: Janis: Little Girl Blue, Past is a Grotesque Animal, An Ox's Tale
Dark/Black Comedy: The King of Comedy (Prime De Niro plus Martin Scorsese = win?)
Horror: Wish Upon, It Comes at Night (Best of 2017 imo), Talon Falls, The Eve
1920s: College, Robin Hood, there's a Metropolis, but it's truncated and a different score
Italian: Mia Madre
Based on a Play: Pass Over, Fences, Paint Your Wagon (also qualifies as Musical)
Current Year: Hichki, Pass Over, Vanishing of Sidney Hall, Last Movie Star
SNL Alum: Superstar, Whiskey tango foxtrot, Click, Daddy's Home, The Benchwarmers


Thanks for the recs! Seen some, but I'll see if I can check some of the others.

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Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:05 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Paint Your Wagon (also qualifies as Musical)


I've seen Paint Your Wagon TWICE (TWICE!!) because in college our volleyball coach loved it so on our long bus rides to tournaments he'd put it on the bus TVs. Twice is two times too many to see that film.


Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:20 am
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That musical has the catchiest songs.
"Gonna use oil-based paint, 'cause the wood is pine..."

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Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:47 pm
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A film with less than five major characters: Bad Idea Gone Wrong

I really love watching the random low-budget films that pop up on Amazon Prime. Most are junk, but every now and then you find a gem.

For the first thirty or so minutes I was like "This is actually really good!". Two men plan to rob a home in a gated community while the owners are away.

Things become complicated when the house is not abandoned as planned, and even more complicated when a relationship between one of the thieves and the homeowner is revealed.

This one started strong and finished . . . okay. The unexpected occupant of the house is a dog sitter, and a quasi-romantic relationship springs up between her and one of the thieves. The romance between the two is, I don't know, it's weird. And not weird in a good way. The guy is pretty unkind in his treatment of her at points (he's struggling to get over a breakup), and the movie does some manipulative things to make her seem more annoying so that we'll side with the men against her.

There is some good comedy in the film, and on a purely superficial level one of the actors sounds EXACTLY like Jake Johnson, which adds a totally unearned sense of funny to everything he says. The two main actors have a good rapport with each other. The woman playing the dog sitter is also funny, but whether it's the writing of her character or just the chemistry between the actors, the dynamic with her and the thieves just isn't as funny.


Fri Jun 08, 2018 6:35 am
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A film with a child protagonist: Cub

You know how sometimes you're partway through a movie and you think you don't know anything about it, and then there's a scene and you're like, "Oh, that's right! This is the movie where XYZ!".

So, for me, "Oh, that's right! This is the movie where
a man runs over a pack of boy scouts in a tent with a truck!"


Anyway--this was a dark, depressing little film. It was very disturbing and a total downer, but I cannot deny that it was well-made and kept me guessing up until the end.

A boy with a traumatic past, Sam, goes on a cub scout (or whatever the Belgian equivalent is) weekend with his troop. The two scout leaders (the jerk Peter and the more empathetic Kris) tell the boys a horror story about a boy named Kai who roams the woods and turns into a werewolf at night. The scouts are joined by Peter's girlfriend. Soon Sam believes that he has seen the feral child, and strange, violent events begin to happen.

This movie contained a lot of violence, much of it upsetting. There was one scene of animal torture that really didn't sit well with me. But I do have to give the film credit that almost everything that happens serves a narrative purpose and fits with the plot arc that the film sees through to completion. Nasty though it is, this movie sees its premise through to the bloody end.

There were some plot/logistic elements that didn't work for me. The film is pretty realistic in many ways, but there are some
incredibly elaborate traps
that hurt that realism. This is also one of those movies where it is hard to believe that the things that are happening could actually continue to happen without major intervention from police/authorities.

I guess I'd recommend this one, but it's really heavy. For those of you wanting to do multiple categories, this movie is a horror and it is also from Belgium.


Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:26 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film with a child protagonist: Cub

This is the first horror movie I ever saw. I remember really hating it. :D
I rewatched it two years ago and liked it a lot better. I've met the director once, at a screening for Cronos, nice dude. He also co-directed the television series Tabula Rasa, which is on Netflix, I believe. I'm interested in what he will do next.

Also, another Belgian horror movie I'd recommend is Calvaire (2004). A disturbing, slightly surreal piece of hicksploitation.


Fri Jun 08, 2018 5:04 pm
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Slentert wrote:
This is the first horror movie I ever saw. I remember really hating it. :D
I rewatched it two years ago and liked it a lot better.


It's certainly violent, upsetting, and involves violence perpetrated by and toward children and animals, which is usually totally not something I'm interested in.

But while I found the movie really upsetting, I also felt like it was honest in its brutality and didn't try to have things both ways. For example, as soon as the main character
helped to attack the dog that was trapped in the bag, I was like "This kid can go die in a fire". I was worried that at the end the kid would be portrayed as a hero by defeating the evil guy. But torturing and killing animals is NOT a normal outlet for a child. It's total psycho/disturbed behavior. So while I was really upset by that part of the movie, it fits with what we ultimately see, which is that the boy IS a lost cause.


This is not the kind of horror movie I like to watch very much these days. Violence against kids is something I run into in real life from time to time in my work, and so it's not what I want from my entertainment. But I do give the film credit for not just being purely exploitative and having a logical character arc.

A film noir: The Hitch-Hiker

"You guys are gonna die. That's all. It's just a question of when."

This movie was highlighted in a Film Noir that I (and Thief!) took a few years ago on the TCM website.

Long story short, I thought this one was great! It does really different things with a very common hostage-scenario plot and also has some interesting things to say about masculinity.

As the film opens, a car pulls off to the side of the road. We hear gunshots and see feet leaving the scene, only to then pan over to a woman and a man who have been murdered. Soon after, a similar montage shows us another pair meeting a similar fate.

We then cut to Roy and Gilbert, a pair of friends off on a weekend together down to Mexico. The two stop to pick up a hitch-hiker who very quickly pulls a gun the men and takes them hostage. The hitch-hiker, Myers, wants the men to help him make his escape, and as they realize that they will only stay alive as long as they are needed, the men go along with Myers.

This film is very simple in its construct, but it does some things that are atypical of hostage films that, to me, really set it apart.

To begin with, the portrayal of Mexican people in this film is much better than what I associate with portrayals of minorities in older films (and especially older B-films). I didn't spot any white actors playing mexicans, and all of the Mexican characters (from a police captain, to the police patrols, to the ordinary citizens) are portrayed as intelligent, well-spoken, and kind. One of the men speaks Spanish, and it's neat watching several scenes where he interacts with different Mexican characters. (Myers himself repeatedly tells the men not to "speak Mexican" because he himself doesn't speak the language).

What was incredibly interesting to me in this film was the way that it portrays manliness. Many hostage films involve men taking women hostage, and the central tension comes with the dual threat of violence and sexual violence. While it's true that men can be victims of sexual violence too, this film never has that energy or suggests that as a possibility, and so it is only the threat of death that sits between the hostages and Myers. This power dynamic is really different. When women are hostages, there is a possibility of sexual assault without murder, and so that lingers as a possibility. Because this movie is "all or nothing", and you know that the main characters aren't going to be killed 20 minutes in, the tension is in watching the power dynamic between the men. Two unarmed men against one man with a gun.

I felt like the movie had interesting things to say about what makes someone an "alpha" male. Myers is in control the entire time, but only because he has a gun. (At one point one of the characters tells him "You haven't got a thing except that gun! You'd better hang onto it because without it, you're finished!"). Despite his dominance, the hostages have a lot more "manly" cred. We learn that at least one of them is a veteran of WW2. When Myers initiates a dangerous game in which he and Gilbert take turns shooting a can (culminating in Gilbert being forced to shoot a can that Roy is holding close to his face), Gilbert is the one who has more prowess with the weapon. The men are also loyal to each other, but Myers sees this virtue as a flaw, telling the men that they are trapped because they carry so many "IOUs".

There are also moments, though, where we see a softer side of Roy and Gilbert. The one that stood out most to me is when a little girl goes up to Myers and speaks to him in Spanish. Sensing that the girl (and by extension her father and a baby in the store) is in danger, Gilbert rushes over and picks up the little girl, cuddling her close for a moment and moving her to safety before speaking to her in Spanish. The move of picking up a child that way (not purely functional, but comforting) is something I more associate with women in movies. We know that Gilbert has a family and a child, and this is an unapologetically paternal moment that is as much about Gilbert's emotions as it is about the child being taken out of harm's way.

In any event--I really liked what this movie had to say about power and the kind of people who try to be powerful and dominant through force and cruelty. I also liked what I saw as a portrayal of positive masculinity that isn't about being cold and emotionless--you can be a crack shot with a rifle and also someone who can comfort a child.

This film gets a bit of extra attention because it was the first film noir directed by a woman (Ida Lupino, who also helped write the screenplay). It has some neat style elements, from the menacing opening sequences to a shot from Gilbert's point of view during the shooting "competition" that shows just how easily a misfire might kill his friend. There's also a plot point of Myers having a paralyzed eyelid so that one of his eyes never closes, even when he sleeps. This leads to a few creepy scenes of the men at night staring at Myers and wondering if he's awake or not. It's a simple but really effective way to generate tension.

This one is on Prime right now and I highly, highly recommend it.


Sat Jun 09, 2018 10:09 am
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Post Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018

A film in a country you've never visited: Hitchhike

So I thought I'd be cute because when I was looking for The Hitch-Hiker on Amazon, this popped up in the search results and I was like "Fun! Two movies with similar titles that fulfill back-to-back categories!"

Okay, this movie was horrible, offensive, exploitative hot garbage.

The basic plot is that an awful, abusive man and his meek wife are on some sort of a road trip. They pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a psychopath who just robbed an armored car. Thus ensues a fight for survival.

I mean, this movie is just a series of violent acts and rapes (yes, plural) strung together by a barely-there plot. It's so gross it's hardly worth talking about. There isn't any action to speak about, just some awkwardly staged scenes of people being shot in the head. The angles and framing of the rapes of the wife are borderline pornographic. The movie's cover and plot summary portray it as a "meek woman finds the will to fight back", but that is horribly inaccurate.

The nicest thing I can say about it is that it is really short (~70 minutes). By the time yet another rape scene was happening I just started half watching while putting most of my attention on a YouTube video called "10+ best cat tweets!". If it weren't for my stupid compulsive need to finish movies I start, I would have bailed on this about 10 minutes in.

Awful, awful movie. Like something a misogynistic 14 year old would write. Not even good for an ironic laugh.


Sat Jun 09, 2018 10:35 am
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