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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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Apex Predator wrote:
Oof at that part of We're No Angels. Not sure I can watch it now, even with the recommendation. If this was taken seriously, I don't know. But for laughs? Uh, nope.


It wasn't enough to spoil the film. Like I said, it was almost more confusing than anything and primarily happens in about a 5 minutes stretch of the first third. Later, it's almost as if that subplot didn't exist. Aldo Ray's character even gives Isabelle advice when she's trying to woo the guy she likes. The film has a whole set of dialogue toward the end where they again assert that he's in prison because he attacked his uncle. At the end, the men are trying to find a nice guy for Isabelle, and Ray's character is grumpy about it. It's like the writers could never decide the nature of Ray's character or how to frame his relationship with Isabelle.

I would liken it to the racism in Casablanca--it's one of those dated elements that puts a stain on the film but doesn't totally derail it.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:27 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Made it through Honors Lit, but the only 100+ year-old English fuddy-duddy books I had to read were by Edith Wharton and Charles Dickens. I mean, other than Shakespeare, obv.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:12 am
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A film about an animal: Piranha

From one of the very first shots of the main character playing a Jaws video game, this film never even pretends that it isn't just a knockoff of that movie.

Maggie is a private investigator who (for reasons that make zero sense) is sent to investigate the disappearance of a young couple (who we see eaten in the opening scene). She quickly takes up with backwoods drunk Paul and the two find the secret army facility where a deadly strain of piranhas have been bred. Because Maggie is an idiot with no respect for private property or the environment, she drains a pool of liquid without knowing what it is or what is in it. Because she is dumb. This releases the piranhas into the local river and it becomes a race against time as the school of razortoothed fish make their way down river heading for a summer camp, a lake-side resort, and the ocean.

This is a movie that is graced with some fun actors in secondary roles (Keenan Wynn as a fisherman, Barbara Steele as the obligatory evil British scientist). There's a subplot involving Paul's daughter who is at the summer camp, and the relationship she develops with one of the counselors--enough to add some emotional heft to the ensuing slaughter.

For the most part, this movie is dumb fun. For me one of the only real drawbacks was the way that the nudity was shot. There are lots of shots that are just women's breasts centrally framed. Incidental nudity can be really sexy, but there are just countless boob shots and it got really old for me (funnily enough the male swimming shorts seemed to prove well-nigh invincible!). This piece of trivia from IMDb is completely unsurprising: A waitress from the Holiday Inn where the director and crew were staying stood in for Heather Menzies during the topless shots because Menzies was concerned that her husband might not approve of the nude scene. The topless scene in question also doesn't make sense. Whatever, movie.

The film also struggles with how to film the attacks. For the most part, watching actors clearly pulling fish puppets at their own faces adds to the low-rent charm of the film, but unlike Jaws the film doesn't really find a way to build that sense of suspense. There are lots of underwater shots of swimmers splashing, and a few meh shots of some fish puppets or drawings (couldn't tell which) moving through the water without moving their bodies at all. The piranhas just don't have much presence and imitating the Jaws strategy of menacing music only works medium.

There are some good one-liners ("It's the piranhas sir" "What about the piranhas?!" "They're eating the guests, sir." OR "Terror. Horror. Death. Film at eleven."), and for the most part the movie moves along pretty well. I can't see myself watching it again, but it was 90 minutes of dumb fun.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:21 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film about an animal: Piranha

From one of the very first shots of the main character playing a Jaws video game, this film never even pretends that it isn't just a knockoff of that movie.

Maggie is a private investigator who (for reasons that make zero sense) is sent to investigate the disappearance of a young couple (who we see eaten in the opening scene). She quickly takes up with backwoods drunk Paul and the two find the secret army facility where a deadly strain of piranhas have been bred. Because Maggie is an idiot with no respect for private property or the environment, she drains a pool of liquid without knowing what it is or what is in it. Because she is dumb. This releases the piranhas into the local river and it becomes a race against time as the school of razortoothed fish make their way down river heading for a summer camp, a lake-side resort, and the ocean.

This is a movie that is graced with some fun actors in secondary roles (Keenan Wynn as a fisherman, Barbara Steele as the obligatory evil British scientist). There's a subplot involving Paul's daughter who is at the summer camp, and the relationship she develops with one of the counselors--enough to add some emotional heft to the ensuing slaughter.

For the most part, this movie is dumb fun. For me one of the only real drawbacks was the way that the nudity was shot. There are lots of shots that are just women's breasts centrally framed. Incidental nudity can be really sexy, but there are just countless boob shots and it got really old for me (funnily enough the male swimming shorts seemed to prove well-nigh invincible!). This piece of trivia from IMDb is completely unsurprising: A waitress from the Holiday Inn where the director and crew were staying stood in for Heather Menzies during the topless shots because Menzies was concerned that her husband might not approve of the nude scene. The topless scene in question also doesn't make sense. Whatever, movie.

The film also struggles with how to film the attacks. For the most part, watching actors clearly pulling fish puppets at their own faces adds to the low-rent charm of the film, but unlike Jaws the film doesn't really find a way to build that sense of suspense. There are lots of underwater shots of swimmers splashing, and a few meh shots of some fish puppets or drawings (couldn't tell which) moving through the water without moving their bodies at all. The piranhas just don't have much presence and imitating the Jaws strategy of menacing music only works medium.

There are some good one-liners ("It's the piranhas sir" "What about the piranhas?!" "They're eating the guests, sir." OR "Terror. Horror. Death. Film at eleven."), and for the most part the movie moves along pretty well. I can't see myself watching it again, but it was 90 minutes of dumb fun.

Try Killer Fish.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnqKrZNd9K0

Lee Majors!


Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:49 am
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I've never read an Austen book. Heck, I've never read any Shakespeare. But then again, that's not common nor required here.

Any recommendation other than Persuasion and Pride & Prejudice, which Takoma mentioned?

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Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:52 am
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Wooley wrote:


Better? Worse? Cheesier? Funnier? Fishier?


Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:53 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Better? Worse? Cheesier? Funnier? Fishier?

I can't remember, it's been like 30 years, but I actually saw Killer Fish first and since they're both pretty low-rent, I actually thought Killer Fish was the real thing and Piranha was the knock-off. Of the knock-off.

Of course, I also thought Barracuda was good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKcJtI-bu_Y

It is not.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:28 am
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I have not only read Jane Austen, but I've also seen all of Whit Stillman's films so that I can say with some authority that Love & Friendship's strength is in how Stillman's dry satire of status-obsesssed society translates her own skewering of the same. Stillman's Metropolitan and Last Days of Disco may as well be modern day (relatively) versions of Austen's "study of manners" among the vapid elite, and the fact that Beckinsale's Lady Susan is a mirror image of her Charlotte from Disco helps this bridge.

But then again, speaking of Disco, I think that Love & Friendship could have used a more prominent Chloe Sevigny, but that's a personal choice unaccommodated by Austen.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:56 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
could have used a more prominent Chloe Sevigny.


Probably true of most things she's in.

A film about parenthood: A Simple Curve

This was a gentle Canadian drama about a 20-something young man living with his widowed father and the increasing tension between them as they cannot agree on how to pursue their joint woodworking business.

The theme of parenthood in this film comes from the way that it reflects on how parents build the history of their children, and how children must choose which elements of that identity to reject as they become more independent. Caleb, the young man (played by Kris Lemche who maybe you all remember as the guy from Ginger Snape), enjoys woodworking and understands his father's aesthetic and passion for the craft. At the same time, he cannot take his father's casual attitude toward living on the financial edge, lacking even a functioning toilet.

Things really come to a head as an old friend of his father's visits their small town and tries to lure Caleb toward more of a commerce mindset. Also arriving at this time are a hippie couple, Erika and Buck, who are "escaping" a city life and idealize the life that Caleb isn't sure he wants anymore.

Generally I liked this one. It's certainly low-key, but it also examines some painful elements of parent-child relationships and the necessity of pushing parents away in order to truly find an independent identity.

I also really enjoyed watching the (far too few!) sequence of wood working. Some of my favorite memories are of helping out in the wood shop, building shelves and trunks--and while I am not a super-skilled woodworker myself, it's a craft that I really appreciate. A recurring element of the film is that people do not want to have to pay much for the work the men do, and I really appreciated that it showed how much time and effort goes into something as simple as a chair.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:13 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film about an animal: Piranha
Never seen this or any other entry in the Piranha series, but I do know that Piranha II: TheSpawning gave a young James Cameron his first ever directorial gig, so there's that at least.
Takoma1 wrote:
I would liken it to the racism in Casablanca--it's one of those dated elements that puts a stain on the film but doesn't totally derail it.

I've only seen it once, and that was a good 5 & 1/2 years ago, but I don't remember any part of Casablanca that struck me as being racist in any way, shape, or form, so... could you elaborate on this point for me, please?

:oops:

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Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:01 pm
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Death Proof wrote:
Great casting all around, but Frank Morgan really stole the movie in the four or five roles he plays, especially Professor Marvel.

Great write-up. I've been watching this movie probably since I was 5 years old. It's refreshing to see that someone who has seen it only recently can still be entranced by the magic and filmmaking.


I got an actual jaw-drop from my kid the other day when we went to the cemetery down the street from our place the other day, showed him a grave and told him that this is where the Wizard of Oz is buried. Trivially, I learned that Frank Morgan's real last name was Wupperman.

Anyway, I wholly endorse that Morgan was terrific in this. I hesitated to show it to my kid because it gave me nightmares when I was 5, but he's a hard-edged Brooklyn kid so he was fine.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:34 pm
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Stu wrote:
I've only seen it once, and that was a good 5 & 1/2 years ago, but I don't remember any part of Casablanca that struck me as being racist in any way, shape, or form, so... could you elaborate on this point for me, please?


The only "explicit" form of racism in the film is when Ingrid Bergman refers to the 50-something black man as "boy."

The more implicit issues are with the only black character being a singing, happy man who is subservient to the main white characters.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 11:12 pm
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A Spanish language film: Deep Crimson

This is a Mexican film that takes the story of the Lonely Hearts killers and sets it in 1940s Mexico. I actually quite liked the 2006 version (with Salma Hayek and Jared Leto as the killer couple), and this one is pretty good as well.

The story follows a couple (Coral and Nicolas) who meet via a Lonely Hearts column. Coral quickly figures out that Nicolas is a con man who murders women for their money, and she enthusiastically becomes his partner in crime. Posing as his sister (after dropping her own children off at an orphanage), the pair cons women into a romance with Nicolas, though Coral's jealousy often threatens to thwart their plans.

The film portrays the pair as ruthless and brutal, but is especially vicious in its portrayal of Coral. She is overweight and the film repeatedly brings up her strong, sour body odor (something she says comes from her exposure to formaldehyde in her work at a morgue) and shows her as being cruel and unsympathetic toward children. The real Nicolas also had children he abandoned (four of them, in fact), but that doesn't make it into the film version. The film often leans toward showing Coral as a monster and Nicolas as being sort of hapless in the face of her anger and neediness.

The film is at its best when it demonstrates the the gruesome co-dependence between the pair---such as a scene where Nicolas cowers in a closet with a migraine as Coral matter-of-factly figures out how to finish off a woman she has seriously wounded. Their warped sense of love and loyalty leads to horrible acts--it's a terrible intersection of cruelty, sociopathy, and neediness.

I felt like this film was a better examination of the relationship between the two, but I did like the procedural element from Lonely Hearts.


Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:55 am
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A dark/black comedy: The Sightseers (Make-up work from June)

Back-to-back films about serial killing couples!

Tina is a woman in her mid-30s who has never been anywhere or done anything. She meets Chris and agrees to go on a camping/RV holiday with him, despite her mother's strong disapproval. After a shocking (and accidental?) killing of a littering tourist, Chris and Tina go on a spree of murder and mayhem through the English countryside, in between visits to ancient ruins and the Pencil Museum.

Much like Deep Crimson, The Sightseers begins with the notion of the woman going along with the male murderer, only for her to be revealed as the truly sick one. Tina sees the murders as a way to bond with Chris, but when he starts to grow bored with her, her behavior becomes more and more unpredictable.

Chris is more of a "classic" murderer, in the sense that he directs his violence and anger at those who disrespect him or who see themselves as being better than him. Chris rants and raves about a man who drops a wrapper on a ground, but later when a man demands that they clean up after their dog, Chris gets just as belligerent.

Tina as a character is harder to get a handle on. She seems more deeply disturbed, and yet even quite far in to the film she still displays a naivete and lack of worldliness. She is careless and impulsive, and her character arc is pretty unhinged.

I've seen several films by Ben Wheatley: Kill List, High Rise, Free Fire. I started to watch A Field in England a few years back, but bailed after about 20 minutes because it just wasn't doing much for me. I'd actually put this one lower in terms of his films. It was funny, but it got a tad repetitive in the middle and Tina, the film's anti-hero, remains just enough out of reach emotionally that I didn't quite click with her. It's a movie that feels like it should have been about 20 minutes shorter.


Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:40 am
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A film with a title that's a sentence or sentence fragment: Don’t Look in the Basement!

The out-of-control mental hospital is a go-to horror trope. In Don't Look in the Basement a mental hospital in a rural area is run by a lead doctor, Dr. Stephens, who believes that by indulging their delusions, patients' minds will eventually naturally revolt against their own illness. In the very first few minutes, Dr Stephens is indulging one patient in some, like, axe therapy when the axe is accidentally redirected and Dr Stephens takes a direct hit. On the same day, the hospital's head nurse decides she's had enough, but she is also killed by an angry patient. The only remaining doctor, Dr. Masters, tries to take commend of the hospital. On this very same day (put a star on the calendar!) Charlotte Beale arrives as a new nurse at the hospital.

The hospital is chock-full of every "insanity" stereotype ever to grace the screen: the young female nymphomaniac, the guy who thinks he's a general in the army, a woman who thinks a doll is her baby, the doomsaying old lady, the child-like large black man, the young white guy who is just . . . . hyper and annoying.

As a series of worrisome events takes place, it seems that one or more of the patients has some serious homicidal inclinations.

I always have mixed reactions to movies that take place in mental hospitals or asylums. I get that they are a great setting for horror or thriller directors to show off outlandish and upsetting behavior. I get that the treatments of mentally ill people historically make for gruesome content. But it always bothers me that mentally ill people are treated as people to be afraid of and also people to laugh at.

This film has some genuinely horrific moments, specifically when a patient's tongue is removed in order to preserve a secret. There are a few moments of empathy for most of the characters, even the ones who are most frequently mocked like the nymphomaniac character.

In terms of using such a setting, I think that films like Shock Corridor and even Stonehearst Asylum do a much better job of showcasing shocking behavior but still treating the patients as human beings. Charlotte Beale, the main character, is kept too distant. She is purely a reaction machine. I'm not sure if this is weak writing, or if she is kept deliberately undeveloped so that the audience will (mild spoilers, sort of)
wonder if she herself is an escaped mental patient or something
.

This was fine for a one-time viewing, but it didn't particularly hold my attention.


Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:40 pm
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An experimental film: Begone Dull Care

So this is a short experimental film (it's on YouTube), with hand-painted cells accompanying music. While I have tremendous respect for the time and craft, I thought this was merely okay. There were a few dynamic moments of shapes dancing and jumping, but mostly the cells were more independent of each other and very abstract. It was okay for ~7 minutes.


Sun Jul 15, 2018 5:59 am
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A film featured in the Criterion Collection: The Lure

I'm just going to cross-post what I wrote in the Horrorcram.

So The Lure. Hm.

I knew going in that there was a musical element to this movie, but I did not realize it was a straight up musical. A very twisted take on the Little Mermaid story.

I liked that the movie was really weird and I liked the off-kilter fantasy world that it creates (this is a world that's very real but also no one is super shocked to see two mermaids in a nightclub).

The story follows two mermaid sisters, Silver and Golden, who come ashore and become a nightclub act with a set of three musicians. Silver falls in love with the bassist in the band and begins to consider giving up her tail (and her voice) to be with him.

Generally speaking I liked the songs, but the singing/dancing sequences themselves were a bit hit or miss for me. You can tell that in many sequences they used real props for the long mermaid tails and not CGI, and the weight and presence of those props is felt in the scenes. I enjoyed the way that the character of Golden was played, with her thinly-veiled predatory nature coming out in lots of little ways, like a shot of her hunched over naked on a dresser smoking a cigarette. As Silver becomes more entranced with the human world, the mannerisms of the sisters (which used to be almost twin-like) begins to deviate.

I would say that the main down side for me was the romance between Silver and Mietek, the bassist. Look, I know that love is to a degree unknowable and people fall in love for superficial reasons and blah, blah, blah. But stories like these where people or creatures with awesome powers are willing to give those things up FOREVER out of love really need a solid romance for me to buy into them. Mietek is cute. Like, the first shot of the actor before I knew he was the romantic lead, I thought, "Oh, he's cute." But it never really progresses much beyond that. I mean, yes, he's nice. But there just wasn't anything about him that made me believe that someone would be in a sustained state of head-over-heels for him. At one point he point-blank tells Silver that because he can't have sex with her, she's nothing but an "animal" to him. I just wish that the film had done a bit more to make me believe that this is a guy she'd give everything up for.

The real horror, and where the film really kicks into a higher gear, is in the final act. There's a horrific sequence in which
Silver has her tail surgically amputated and replaced with the lower body of a female corpse as she sings and loses her voice as they cut into her. I loved the detail that when we do see her body naked, there is a skin tone difference between her original body and the grafted lower half. When Mietek rejects her (because the sex isn't good enough the first time--what a prince!), Silver must decide whether or not to kill him in order to save herself from dissolving. Much like the fairy tale on which this film is based, the ending left me angry and sad.


This is one of those films that's just different enough that I'm having to take some extra time to sort through my feelings about it. It was certainly something weird and different and I'm glad I watched it. As far as films that loosely adapt fairy tales into a contemporary setting, this is definitely one of my favorites.


Sun Jul 15, 2018 10:42 am
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The first film from a director you like: Bad Taste

I mean, this feels very much like a first film. It's goofy, but you can tell that everyone involved is having a great time. A rag-tag band of men fight an invasion of evil aliens with sinister plans for humankind.

The whole movie wallows in sight gags and gross-out humor and effects. For the most part they land, and the low-budget nature works more for the movie than against it.

I don't have much to say about this one. It's up on Prime if any of you haven't seen it before. In terms of early, Peter Jackson gross-out comedy-horror, I still prefer Dead Alive, but this was a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.


Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:55 am
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A silent film from a foreign country: Secrets of a Soul

Secrets of a Soul begins the way every movie should, with a man shaving his wife's neck.

The story follows Martin, a middle aged man who begins to experience strange dreams and paranoia. There is a murder of a woman next door, and Martin develops a phobia of knives. At the same time, Martin's best friend (and his wife's cousin) Hans returns from a long trip abroad. Martin eventually ends up in the care of a psychologist who tries to help Martin get to the root of the problem.

This film is really all about reveling in the psychology-as-detective work plot that is still pretty common today. Unlike most modern films, this isn't a murder mystery, though. It's never really implied that Martin is the person who killed the woman next door. Instead it's almost more like an ad for psychology.

While the plot is a bit eye-rolling (ie everything in his dreams and visions has a specific meaning), I quite liked this film. The dream sequences are well-staged and memorable. Things like ringing church bells morphing into swaying women's heads that laugh at Martin, or a village that grows out of the ground, including a spiraling tower. The violence of the next door murder and Martin's sexual jealousy of his wife's cousin are mixed in very powerful ways--especially in a part where it is implied that the cousin could give the wife the baby that Martin cannot.

The scenes with the psychiatrist are interesting in the way that elements of the dreams are isolated--shot again but against stark white or black backgrounds. The symbolism of EVERYTHING begins to feel a bit trite, but the images are weird and interesting enough that they aren't boring.

The most "WTF?!?!?!?!?" moment comes when Martin is recounting part of the dream to the doctor. He talks about a part of the dream where he violently stabs his wife. To demonstrate, he jumps off of the couch and grabs a real knife in the doctor's office and begins stabbing the air violently. I cannot emphasize how blatantly sexualized this motion is, and the camera even has a close-up that's just Martin's crotch with the hand driving the knife upward. But instead of being like "This is problematic!" the doctor is like "Yay!!!!! Did you notice that you're able to hold a knife again!?!?!?! You're cured!!!". Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

The film/script seems to hold that simply acknowledging anger and resentment is enough to cure it, and the fact that the doctor has no issue with Martin's obsession with killing his wife (for imagined betrayals and infidelities) is really annoying.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 12:07 am
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Takoma is rolling! So great to read your reviews.

I don't think I'll ever catch up as far as writing reviews :( I still have 6 pending reviews from June, and I've already seen 11 films in July :shock: I might resort to just posting quick takes for the time being, but we'll see.

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 12:23 am
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Thief wrote:
Takoma is rolling! So great to read your reviews.

I don't think I'll ever catch up as far as writing reviews :( I still have 6 pending reviews from June, and I've already seen 11 films in July :shock: I might resort to just posting quick takes for the time being, but we'll see.


Just post some quick takes, especially for ones that were just meh. I only write longer stuff when I really feel like I have something to say. Just some quick thoughts can let us get a conversation rolling.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 12:29 am
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Thief wrote:
Takoma is rolling! So great to read your reviews.

I don't think I'll ever catch up as far as writing reviews :( I still have 6 pending reviews from June, and I've already seen 11 films in July :shock: I might resort to just posting quick takes for the time being, but we'll see.

I'm waiting for your review of M. Thumbs up or down? (Correct answer is up. :) )

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 12:32 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
I'm waiting for your review of M. Thumbs up or down? (Correct answer is up. :) )


Thumbs up. I can write a bit about it. Obviously, the technical aspects of it are great, but I was more surprised by the story. I knew what it was about, so I was expecting more of a thriller, a whodunit, or a chase-like film. Imagine my surprise when the film turns out to be this thought-provoking and deep look into the psyche of a child murderer. Lorre was great in that climatic scene ("I can't help what I do! I can't help it, I can't...!!!")

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:00 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Just post some quick takes, especially for ones that were just meh. I only write longer stuff when I really feel like I have something to say. Just some quick thoughts can let us get a conversation rolling.


One that I saw yesterday that was pretty "meh" was Mr. Mom, with Michael Keaton and Teri Garr. I'm pretty sure I had seen this when I was a kid, but anyway, I didn't remember it at all. The thing is that it really never grabbed me. It stood in that problematic middle-ground where a film is never too funny for a comedy, or never too deep/moving for a drama. Plus, I think you might have some issues with the gender politics of it. For the most part, the script tries to keep things even between Keaton and Garr as they "swap" places, but I don't think they were that successful.

On the other hand, last night I also saw Green Room (two films in one day, yay!!), and that film was something. This was another case of me expecting something more of a crime thriller, only to be surprised by it being pure horror. Really creepy and sick film, but very effective in what it did. It really stuck with me.

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:05 am
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M is really great. I'm looking forward to reading your review as well.

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:06 am
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Thief wrote:
On the other hand, last night I also saw Green Room (two films in one day, yay!!), and that film was something. This was another case of me expecting something more of a crime thriller, only to be surprised by it being pure horror. Really creepy and sick film, but very effective in what it did. It really stuck with me.


I loved Blue Ruin, but I've been oddly hesitant to watch Green Room. Part of it is that I was incredibly depressed when Anton Yelchin died and I have not quite gotten over it.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:13 am
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Thief wrote:

Thumbs up. I can write a bit about it. Obviously, the technical aspects of it are great, but I was more surprised by the story. I knew what it was about, so I was expecting more of a thriller, a whodunit, or a chase-like film. Imagine my surprise when the film turns out to be this thought-provoking and deep look into the psyche of a child murderer. Lorre was great in that climatic scene ("I can't help what I do! I can't help it, I can't...!!!")

Yes to all of that. And even after having seen it countless times, the series of shots with the voice-over of the mother calling the name of the daughter that's late home from school kills me every time.

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:18 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I loved Blue Ruin, but I've been oddly hesitant to watch Green Room. Part of it is that I was incredibly depressed when Anton Yelchin died and I have not quite gotten over it.


I didn't even know of Blue Ruin, or at least hadn't looked it up, until yesterday. There's a pretty cool background story of how the film came to be, also.

As for Green Room, it's really good. Consider it a worthy coda to his career. I don't think the role asked for much on paper, but he really throws himself into it and certainly elevates it.

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 2:32 am
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Thief wrote:

I didn't even know of Blue Ruin, or at least hadn't looked it up, until yesterday. There's a pretty cool background story of how the film came to be, also.


I would highly, highly recommend Blue Ruin.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:02 am
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Blue Ruin is indeed a good one and I'll even go so far as to recommend Murder Party. Not his best work, but funny nevertheless.

EDIT: that last sentence refers to Saulnier the director, not Yelchin.

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:05 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I would highly, highly recommend Blue Ruin.
Seconded. It deserves comparisons with Blood Simple and Shotgun Stories as acutely observed, small-scale thrillers that are ruthlessly logical about how they follow the cause and effect of violence as it twists in unexpected directions.

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:07 am
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I know everyone is now using boatloads of spoiler text to talk about Hereditary, but a while ago it felt like the whole Horrorcram was just:

Person A: The thing about it is that SPOILER

Person B: Right, but don't you think that SPOILER

Person C: Well, I appreciated that SPOILER, but I have to question the necessity of SPOILER.

And, alas, I am way too lazy to go back and find those old discussions.

A film everyone has seen but you: A Quiet Place

I liked it. It was totally different than what I was expecting (I was expecting more "origin" story horror--like a family going on vacation, not to jump right into this world where the threat is already long established).

And now I get to be that person using spoiler text! I totally don't understand why
no one had thought to use a high-pitched noise before. I mean, for heaven's sake! They use high pitched noises to deter teenagers from loitering. You can use high-pitched noises to deter animals with sharp hearing. It was literally the first thing I thought of when the creatures first revealed their ears.


That aside, I don't really have any complaints. I thought that the acting was good and it was suspenseful all the way through.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:26 am
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Thief wrote:

One that I saw yesterday that was pretty "meh" was Mr. Mom, with Michael Keaton and Teri Garr. I'm pretty sure I had seen this when I was a kid, but anyway, I didn't remember it at all. The thing is that it really never grabbed me. It stood in that problematic middle-ground where a film is never too funny for a comedy, or never too deep/moving for a drama. Plus, I think you might have some issues with the gender politics of it. For the most part, the script tries to keep things even between Keaton and Garr as they "swap" places, but I don't think they were that successful.


Aw shucks. That's a favorite of mine from my youth. I don't remember how many times I saw it but I was pretty obsessed with Michael Keaton at the time, between that and Night Shift.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:04 am
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ski petrol wrote:

Aw shucks. That's a favorite of mine from my youth. I don't remember how many times I saw it but I was pretty obsessed with Michael Keaton at the time, between that and Night Shift.


The film is mostly harmless, and Keaton is good enough in it, but there's not much to it to be honest. Sorry :(

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:07 am
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Thief wrote:

The film is mostly harmless, and Keaton is good enough in it, but there's not much to it to be honest. Sorry :(


Well it has been ages since I've seen it. Like I said it was a favorite of my youth. However you should try and see Night Shift. That was pretty good and even better than Mr. Mom at least.

PS - Glad you liked M. I saw the opening scene a few weeks back and it's still so effective.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:12 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
And, alas, I am way too lazy to go back and find those old discussions.

Come with me. Let me take you back.

My first response with Rock and Cap:

Jinnistan wrote:
I think the set ups are there from pretty much the beginning, where we see these strange necklaces, and that one woman who made a strange occultish sign over the corpse's lips. I didn't expect it to go full Rosemary's Baby or anything, but I think it was strongly implied that something sinister was afoot far beyond the family's history of mental illness.

But I definitely liked the way the film paired this history of mental illness, not just the genetically passed variety but the psychology that's behaviorally passed on within a dysfunctional, highly manipulative family caught in a vicious cycle of guilt and resentments.



I think there's definitely room for elaboration in Byrne's father and his (I imagine slow) descent into being emotionally numbed by dealing with the family's history of dysfunction. We have to assume as much given his weary exhaustion, but it's never really explained in detail what his perspective on this background is other than avoidance and shutdown.


And a minor note of quibble:

Jinnistan wrote:
The one that continues to bug me the most is how
he seemed to get off with absolutely no legal repercussions for the involuntary manslaughter of his sister
but maybe, I guess, this is covered in the longer cut.


Takoma1 wrote:
A film everyone has seen but you: A Quiet Place

I liked it. It was totally different than what I was expecting (I was expecting more "origin" story horror--like a family going on vacation, not to jump right into this world where the threat is already long established).

And now I get to be that person using spoiler text! I totally don't understand why
no one had thought to use a high-pitched noise before. I mean, for heaven's sake! They use high pitched noises to deter teenagers from loitering. You can use high-pitched noises to deter animals with sharp hearing. It was literally the first thing I thought of when the creatures first revealed their ears.

This one had its own thread, but my thoughts were very similar:

Jinnistan wrote:
I would think that a radio expert would have figured out that a high-frequency pitch would provide them a static-sonic cover (similar to the roar of the river) and could possibly be weaponized, but maybe this alternate reality had not invented sonic weapons, like, thirty years ago. And such an audio signal would be easy to maintain, considering how they apparently have an unlimited amount of electricity.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:15 am
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And I also liked Blue Ruin a lot more than Green Room, which was still good, but definitely a thriller, not horror.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:22 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I would highly, highly recommend Blue Ruin.


Will throw in my two cents to also recommend Blue Ruin. I hesitate to reveal what the film is about due to spoilers. But let's say it focuses on the high costs of revenge and leave it at that.

And don't hesitate to see Green Room, Takoma. There might be a couple of scenes where you wince a bit at Yelchin in pain. But as a farewell to the actor and his talents and as a strong thriller where you have two groups of ill-prepared people attempting to improvise plans. Pay close attention to some of the songs and their titles. ;)


Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:23 am
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Thief wrote:

The film is mostly harmless, and Keaton is good enough in it, but there's not much to it to be honest. Sorry :(


I remember way more about this film than I should. The Schooner Tuna, a three legged race, Keaton being transported into Young and the Restless for a moment, the vacuum cleaner from hell.

But will agree that it's OK, but nothing special. I definitely will agree with Ski Patrol that seeing Night Shift is a must.

And I'll also toss in Gung Ho as a testament to Michael Keaton, average guy. There are some Japanese stereotypes at times, but it also plays around with them at other times. Also, it's not afraid to showcase a few Ugly Americans along the way.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:27 am
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Thief wrote:

One that I saw yesterday that was pretty "meh" was Mr. Mom, with Michael Keaton and Teri Garr. I'm pretty sure I had seen this when I was a kid, but anyway, I didn't remember it at all. The thing is that it really never grabbed me. It stood in that problematic middle-ground where a film is never too funny for a comedy, or never too deep/moving for a drama. Plus, I think you might have some issues with the gender politics of it. For the most part, the script tries to keep things even between Keaton and Garr as they "swap" places, but I don't think they were that successful.

This will not stand. Pistols at dawn.
Also, I think part of the reason the gender politics of the movie does work is that it never tries to resolve to the notion that somehow they are in the wrong roles, it does the opposite. The initial conceit is that he sucks at being a house-husband (which automatically subverts the notion that the work women were doing in the home was somehow easier and lesser than the work men were doing at the office) and she initially sucks at being an executive (balancing that same scale without ever making it "because she's a woman"). And Keaton is belittled by other men for his status as now being unmanly and emasculated, while Garr is diminished and harassed as a woman in her role. However, as they gain self-confidence and hit their stride, each begins to find success in their new role but develop resentment for the way the other does theirs (even throwing in a potential affair on his end and the "you're never really here" problem on hers) thereby fully flipping the script on the gender politics of the time. Finally each comes to succeed in the opposite role to a degree that each is considered great in their role with the other "mommies" seeking advice and following Keaton while the executives beg Garr to return and help save their accounts. But they now have a greater appreciation for each other and they have become the yin and yang they were before Keaton was laid off and Garr went back to work but in the others' shoes.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:52 am
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Post Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018

Takoma1 wrote:
A film everyone has seen but you: A Quiet Place

I liked it. It was totally different than what I was expecting (I was expecting more "origin" story horror--like a family going on vacation, not to jump right into this world where the threat is already long established).

And now I get to be that person using spoiler text! I totally don't understand why
no one had thought to use a high-pitched noise before. I mean, for heaven's sake! They use high pitched noises to deter teenagers from loitering. You can use high-pitched noises to deter animals with sharp hearing. It was literally the first thing I thought of when the creatures first revealed their ears.


That aside, I don't really have any complaints. I thought that the acting was good and it was suspenseful all the way through.

Well, yeah Tak, that's almost the whole problem with the movie. We learn two things at the end:
1.
High-pitched sound stuns and them and freezes them in their tracks.

2.
They can be killed with a single report from a shotgun.

Yet somehow all the combined militaries and think-tanks of the world LOST to these critters and almost the entire human race was left for dead. For wont of a
dog-whistle and a rifle
.
The fact that the answer is written on the dry-erase board the whole movie also does not help.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:58 am
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Wooley wrote:
Yet somehow all the combined militaries and think-tanks of the world LOST to these critters and almost the entire human race was left for dead. For wont of a
dog-whistle and a rifle
.
The fact that the answer is written on the dry-erase board the whole movie also does not help.


This is why the film would have made more sense as a "beginning of" type story. Or even some hand-wavey stuff to explain why this one family was isolated. The "fall of civilization" element is just too far-fetched.

I will say, though, that most of the film functions as an incredibly close-quarters thriller/horror and doesn't need the broader context. I think that having the newspaper clippings is a big mistake--they raise more questions than they answer (like the origin of the creatures). But for like 95% of the film it's really easy to ignore that broader context, so it only really bothered me when they would show the news clippings. That was the one element of insecurity I felt in the film: the way it was stuck between not enough exposition and too much exposition.


Tue Jul 17, 2018 12:40 pm
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Wooley wrote:
This will not stand. Pistols at dawn.
Also, I think part of the reason the gender politics of the movie does work is that it never tries to resolve to the notion that somehow they are in the wrong roles, it does the opposite. The initial conceit is that he sucks at being a house-husband (which automatically subverts the notion that the work women were doing in the home was somehow easier and lesser than the work men were doing at the office) and she initially sucks at being an executive (balancing that same scale without ever making it "because she's a woman"). And Keaton is belittled by other men for his status as now being unmanly and emasculated, while Garr is diminished and harassed as a woman in her role. However, as they gain self-confidence and hit their stride, each begins to find success in their new role but develop resentment for the way the other does theirs (even throwing in a potential affair on his end and the "you're never really here" problem on hers) thereby fully flipping the script on the gender politics of the time. Finally each comes to succeed in the opposite role to a degree that each is considered great in their role with the other "mommies" seeking advice and following Keaton while the executives beg Garr to return and help save their accounts. But they now have a greater appreciation for each other and they have become the yin and yang they were before Keaton was laid off and Garr went back to work but in the others' shoes.


I agree, to some extent, which is why I said that the film tries to keep things even. However, I think they were quicker to put Keaton at ease in his homeworker role, while never showing Garr comfortable in her role as an executive. Plus, in the end, they hinted that Garr was quitting her job, while Keaton had possibilities of getting his back. So, even though they were a bit ambiguous about their decisions, it seemed that the film tried to drive the point that things were getting "back to normal", i.e. man at work, woman at home.

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Tue Jul 17, 2018 10:22 pm
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A film based on a play: Marjorie Prime (June make-ups)

This was a low-key, sci-fi drama that explored the way that we relate to our own memories and the intersection with technology in terms of how we leave legacies.

The film begins with Marjorie (an awesome Lois Smith), an older woman who is suffering from dementia. She is living with a "prime"--an artificial being who has been designed to look like her dead husband, Walter. As Marjorie tells Walter about himself and their life, it helps her to hold on to her own memories.

As the film goes on, Walter is not the only prime who appears, and as characters "teach" the primes, it is interesting to see how they frame (or entirely omit) different events and memories. In a harmless (or is it?) example, Marjorie tells Walter prime about how he proposed to her after they saw My Best Friend's Wedding in the theater--but then she decides it would be more romantic if they'd seen Casablanca instead, and so Walter prime faithfully makes this the new "memory" of his proposal.

One of the events at the center of the narrative is Marjorie and Walter's son, Damien, who killed himself and the family dog when he was young. This painful, life-altering event is treated very differently by each character--some of whom would clearly simply prefer to forget.

Aside from Marjorie and Walter, the main characters are Tess (Marjorie's daughter) and Jon (Tess's husband). Both are skeptical, in their own ways, about the technology and how to interact with it.

I only have one complaint about this film, and that is that there were several times that it either showed a flashback or jumped ahead in time and it was very confusing. I think that this was partly intentional (because you go into one scene not knowing if you are seeing Walter-prime or a real memory of the actual Walter), but sometimes I found myself a bit annoyed waiting for the clue that would tell me what was happening.

The acting in this one is really good (Jon Hamm, Lois Smith, Geena Davis, Tim Robbins). Hamm and Smith in particular have amazing presence, and I found myself wishing that they had more screentime together.

This movie asks a lot of good questions. How do we want to be remembered? How do we want to remember others? If we had the choice to not remember something painful, would we give that memory up? Can memories ever really be "true"?


Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:57 pm
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A film from Sweden: The Burden and Incident By A Bank

I was taken by the premise of both films, and discovered that they are both shorts so I watched them both.

Incident by a Bank is about 10 minutes long and it's a single take as a far-off camera tracks different groups of people during an unorganized bank robbery. The film starts with two friends, then the focus shifts to the robbers, and then the camera roams around to capture the reactions of different bystanders. The sequence of events is supposedly based on a real incident that took place in 2006.

This was fun. The director does a good job of making the flow of the scene and the shift in focus work. For example, the two friends notice the robbers and have a short discussion about them, but they are kept off-camera for a good while. As we finally do cut to them, the film sets the tone for the characters because the first thing we see is that they have gotten a plastic bag tangled in the wheel of their motorbike. Despite the camera being far away, when the film wants us to focus on characters it allows us to hear their dialogue.

This one is available on Prime.

The Burden was by far my favorite of the two. It's a stop-motion animated musical that travels to different mundane locations (long stay motel, telemarketing office, mall food court, supermarket) and the characters (different animals) sing about their lives.

So many ways in which I liked this short. First of all, the lyrics are pretty hilarious as the characters sing out their inner thoughts and emotions. One fish, a tenant at the motel, sings "No one wants to be with my and I don't know why./ Actually I do know why./ It's because I have bad skin./ It's not something anyone ever said to me./ I just read between the lines and figured it out." One of the telemarketing foxes sings about their great deals on bundled internet ("Interest free!"). A lonely creature restocking food in a supermarket sings about a nightmare that is . . . him doing his own job.

The movie is funny to be sure (as animated fish sing about their pathetic love lives), but it's also kind of dark. There is an isolation and loneliness to all of the characters, even the ones surrounded by others. And in a final song that pulls together all of the characters (the song is called "The Burden"), things get really dark and there's almost a
Dark City-type element
to the world in which they live.

I don't see this one for free anywhere. I watched it with Filmstruck. There is a trailer for it here.

This is one to put on your watchlist.


Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:08 am
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Thief wrote:

I agree, to some extent, which is why I said that the film tries to keep things even. However, I think they were quicker to put Keaton at ease in his homeworker role, while never showing Garr comfortable in her role as an executive. Plus, in the end, they hinted that Garr was quitting her job, while Keaton had possibilities of getting his back. So, even though they were a bit ambiguous about their decisions, it seemed that the film tried to drive the point that things were getting "back to normal", i.e. man at work, woman at home.

On the one hand, I thought they made the point that Garr was actually quite gifted at her job and was only slow to hit her stride because she was being discriminated against. I mean, I'm pretty sure that's EXACTLY the arc they built, and her boss comes BEGGING for her to come back in the end.
On the other hand, I will concede that the movie certainly implies at the end that she's going to quit and they will switch back, which is not necessarily the best statement, but that could also just be what the right choices for these people are. But I really do think they gave Garr's character a LOT of credit, with the only thing holding her back being the (incorrect) judgement of others, while Keaton was held back by his own sexist arrogance.


Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:54 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

This is why the film would have made more sense as a "beginning of" type story. Or even some hand-wavey stuff to explain why this one family was isolated. The "fall of civilization" element is just too far-fetched.

I will say, though, that most of the film functions as an incredibly close-quarters thriller/horror and doesn't need the broader context. I think that having the newspaper clippings is a big mistake--they raise more questions than they answer (like the origin of the creatures). But for like 95% of the film it's really easy to ignore that broader context, so it only really bothered me when they would show the news clippings. That was the one element of insecurity I felt in the film: the way it was stuck between not enough exposition and too much exposition.

I agree with you for sure. It felt to me like either the director or the studio was scared to let the film not explain enough to the audience and they ended up explaining too much, which backfired.


Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:55 am
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An Italian language film: Salvo

I had watched part of this movie months ago and not been too impressed, but reading about some awards it had received made me give it another shot.

The film follows Salvo, a bodyguard/hit-man, who hunts down the man responsible for an attempt on his boss's life. While in the man's home, Salvo discovers Rita, the man's blind sister. For reasons even he doesn't seem too clear on, Salvo saves Rita (after killing her brother), and keeps her in a remote warehouse that is also the site where the criminal gang buries their victims.

First of all: how much do directors LOVE a scene where a man (usually a killer or other form of creep) watches a blind woman in her home as she goes about her business unaware of his presence? Answer: THEY LOVE IT.

You would think that most of the film would be about the relationship between Salvo and Rita, but it really isn't. Saving Rita sets of a crisis in Salvo, and much of the film shows him interacting with his boss (a ruthless man) or other criminals, or the owners of the home where he rents a room.

Watching this one all the way through made me appreciate it more than I did the first time, but I still didn't love it. Rita is treated primarily as an object and a catalyst for Salvo to examine his own life. For reasons I didn't understand, Rita seems to regain some of her sight as the film goes on. I did not understand this plot point and found it kind of distracting. In their scenes together, Salvo frequently manhandles Rita and that element is also a bit confusing and uncomfortable to watch. There's an uncomfortable blend of sexuality and paternalism in the way that he touches her (like in a scene where he wraps his arms around her to "help" her eat), and it was hard for me to tell what the film intended in showing these scenes. It seems pretty clear from their interactions that rape is not something on Salvo's mind, and that helps to take some of the exploitative edge off of the scenes between them. Still, so much of the dynamic between the two involves Salvo being physically aggressive with Rita. Is he angry with her because of the way she's making him rethink his profession? Is he disturbed by his attraction to her? We get very little insight into exactly how Salvo is working through his crisis, and the film could have used a little more clarity on this point.

There are some interesting style elements. We see an action-y shootout in the beginning of the film, but as soon as Rita enters the narrative all of the violence occurs off-screen. We hear things, often explicitly from her point of view, but only the aftermath of the violence is shown. In the early stages of Rita's captivity we are shown several scenes from her point of view, and the panic she must feel is really well conveyed as we see through her eyes the blur of her hands running over unfamiliar surfaces looking for a means of escape.

Ultimately this one landed in like C+ range for me. The performances and flimmaking style are all good. It does some nice things to subvert the expected bang-bang action romance genre, but not enough to distance itself from the tropes of "killer redeemed by the love of a good woman" plotting.


Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:00 pm
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