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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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Last watches...

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009) A couple of years ago, I had seen Day of Reckoning and thought it was... an intense film in terms of action, and interesting (if not trippy) in terms of direction and story. Having read lots of good things about this one as well, I decided to check it out, and I have to agree with what some of you said earlier in this thread. This was a solid, straight-forward action film. I also like the fact that they hinted at some smarter subtexts than one might expect from a JCVD/Lundgren film, even if they don't fully dive in.

The Apartment (1960) A pleasant surprise. Sure, I had read/heard how good/great it is, but being labeled as "a comedy", I was expecting something more silly or slapstick-y. I was glad it was more dramatic and touching instead. Both leads were great, but Shirley MacLaine was excellent. A real treat.

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Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:21 pm
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Thief wrote:
Last watches...

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009) A couple of years ago, I had seen Day of Reckoning and thought it was... an intense film in terms of action, and interesting (if not trippy) in terms of direction and story. Having read lots of good things about this one as well, I decided to check it out, and I have to agree with what some of you said earlier in this thread. This was a solid, straight-forward action film. I also like the fact that they hinted at some smarter subtexts than one might expect from a JCVD/Lundgren film, even if they don't fully dive in.


After watching the original, I'm excited to watch both Day of Reckoning and Regeneration.


Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:36 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

After watching the original, I'm excited to watch both Day of Reckoning and Regeneration.


Just remember the order, although not extremely important, is supposed to be the other way around.

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Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:45 pm
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Ä French language film: The Killer Lives at Number 21

This was a very silly little French murder mystery/comedy. A killer is talking the street, leaving behind calling cards on his victims. A detective named Wens is tasked finding the killer once and for all. Acting on a tip from an informant who claims to know where the killer lives but not the killer's identity (hence the title), the detective goes undercover at the address (which happens to be a boarding house). Also in on the investigation is Wens' girlfriend, a wanna-be singer and stage performer.

There's a lot of cute rapport between Wens and his girlfriend, sort of reminiscent of the dynamic in the Thin Man films. The people staying at the boarding house make up a comic group of characters: the blind boxer, the sexy siren, the eccentric magician, the doctor, the professor, the . . . man who is really good at whistling.

This was a very light, but enjoyable bit of comic/mystery fluff.


Sat Jul 21, 2018 3:22 am
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A Palm D'Or winner: Gate of Hell

This one started out kind of slow, but it built to something really powerful.

While a lord is away, there is an uprising. A band of loyal soldiers try to keep the lord's father and sister safe. Morito is in charge of a band of soldiers, and during the attack he asks for a volunteer to pose as the lord's sister as a decoy to draw the attackers away. A servant named Lady Kesa steps up to be the decoy, and Morito leaves with her. In the short time that they spend together (and based on a chance meeting they have later), Morito decides he is in love with Kesa.

The uprising is quickly put down, and the lord asks Morito what he wants as a reward. He says he wants Lady Kesa. The lord agrees, but is soon informed that Kesa is already married to a commander named Wataru. In a complete deadpan, Morito says that he's been promised Kesa and he intends to have her.

What's really interesting about this film is that it isn't a story of forbidden love. There are plenty of movies out there where the woman in a loveless/arranged marriage falls in love with another man. But this movie is different. Kesa likes Morito well enough at first, but she's very clear that she does not love him back and she finds his attention incredibly uncomfortable. In one really interesting scene, the lord tricks Kesa into being alone with Morito so that Morito can have a chance to plead his case to her. The implication is that if Kesa actually does want to be with Morito instead of Wataru, the lord will find a way to make that happen.

But Kesa is not interested. She and her husband have a good relationship. Wataru is at first painted as being more passive than Morito, but it's not a lack of manliness--this is clearly a person who understands that things like duels shouldn't be undertaken lightly. He'd rather see a peaceful end to the disagreement. As Kesa grows more and more freaked out and as Morito escalates his "wooing" to frightening levels, it becomes clear that what Morito is calling love is something else entirely.

This is one of those movies where I knew the title but not the story. If you haven't seen it or heard of it, definitely check it out. It starts a bit slow, but gets really interesting especially in the third act. This is the rare film that explores a love triangle (or some variation on that theme, since the love only really goes one way with Morito) but tries to give a sympathetic portrait of all three people involved. This story goes a lot deeper than the typical one of the woman trying to choose between two different men. It's about a woman who has already made her choice and is fighting to keep herself and the husband she loves safe.

Aside from one character action late in the film that I don't totally understand (involving a character withholding information from someone else in a way that didn't make sense to me), I have no real quibbles about this film. Even the slow beginning ultimately serves the narrative, as it becomes clear that action and sword fights and love at first sight aren't actually what the movie is after.


Mon Jul 23, 2018 4:08 am
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Thanks to all of you who recommended Blue Ruin. That was one fine film.

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Mon Jul 23, 2018 9:52 pm
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Thief wrote:
Thanks to all of you who recommended Blue Ruin. That was one fine film.

*moves it up queue*


Tue Jul 24, 2018 1:22 am
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Thief wrote:
Thanks to all of you who recommended Blue Ruin. That was one fine film.


Yeah it is.

I've only ever heard one complaint about it that I sort of agree with (the plot convenience of the friend who
just happens to have a huge arsenal of weapons for the main character to use!
), but I don't find it an implausibility that in any way distracts me from the film, because everything that happens is so emotionally grounded.

And I think that when you think about the way that the film starts (with the scene in the bathroom) and where it ends, it is such a satisfying narrative/emotional arc.

Yes, I'm talking myself into rewatching Blue Ruin.


Tue Jul 24, 2018 7:05 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Yeah it is.

I've only ever heard one complaint about it that I sort of agree with (the plot convenience of the friend who
just happens to have a huge arsenal of weapons for the main character to use!
), but I don't find it an implausibility that in any way distracts me from the film, because everything that happens is so emotionally grounded.

And I think that when you think about the way that the film starts (with the scene in the bathroom) and where it ends, it is such a satisfying narrative/emotional arc.

Yes, I'm talking myself into rewatching Blue Ruin.


I don't consider what you mention as much of an "implausability" because
that's the specific reason Dwight looked him up. Right before going to his home, the guy in the trunk is banging and asking for him to let him go and Dwight yells "not until I have a gun!". Then he looks his friend up in the yearbook where it said he was a member of the JROTC. If they knew each other from high school, it's not that much of a stretch that he would remember if he was a gun enthusiast.

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Tue Jul 24, 2018 7:58 am
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Sorry, I've been running with various bouts of depression this month as I've been trying once again on landing that big job.

Non-month entries:

K9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend:

One thing I've been watching is the Dr. Who mega-marathon on Twitch. As part of the deal, there's a busted pilot that involves two companions for Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor. Arguably the best companion in the old Who Sarah Jane Smith and the all knowing robot dog K9.

Once you get past the VERY 1980s theme, it kinda plays more like The Sarah Jane Mysteries as she goes to visit her aunt (which makes perfect sense when you remember she pretended to be her aunt in order to get into the Tardis) and gains a precocious nephew who is into soil and is attending university. But while her auntie is doing some lectures in America, Sarah Jane, K9, and Brendan find themselves getting involved with a cult that likes chanting Hectate for no good reason.

For the most part, it's pretty sedate and family friendly. But then comes the bravura finale that involves K9, lasers, and a possible human sacrifice and that's when the crazy comes out. It's clear that despite some initial popularity during its first viewing, it doesn't hold up well enough to deserve a regular run.

Singing With Angry Bird

Uplifting documentary about a former Korean opera singer who decides to have the parents of his choir in India join their kids for a concert.

It does its job although one wishes to see why they call the choir leader Angry Bird and it kinda gives short shrift to the majority of the economic issues that the parents face in joining their kids in singing.

But seeing the bonding between the parents and their kids over music is definitely pleasing. Overall, modestly recommended.

The Boy

A woman coming off of an abusive relationship agrees to go over to England for a job as a nanny. Once she arrives, she finds out that things aren't what she thought they would be. And things take a few turns along the way.

Much like The Woman in Black, it works more on moody atmosphere and a few WTF shots than anything graphic. I'm OK with this. Also, I'm not sure why some critics were trying to laugh with/at the movie. I never found it ridiculous or particularly silly.

I'm less OK with the last third which takes some... ahem...liberties with what had happened earlier. Or in its use of abusive relationships in a horror movie and trying to shoehorn a situation, which had been for the most part been benign. I imagine Takoma might have something to say about this latter point.

Another marginal recommendation. Something tells me Wooley will like this more than I did.

Yes, I did see one film so far that fits into this month's challenge!

See an experimental film

Meshes of the Afternoon

Takoma recommended this short that has to do with a woman picking up a flower, chasing after a man to give it to him, giving up, and settling into a nearby house. But things are not as they seem and things start to happen.

I see why she liked it. It reminded me of this certain thriller featuring an actress who Janson thought was less good looking than Margot Kidder. See what I did there? I combined two things in a clever segueway.

Sadly, once you get past the cleverness of the first five to ten minutes, there's almost nothing there. You know there's nothing against having an experimental short with a good ending, right?

The film ended up being meh-ish to me. Maybe I'm not just into avant garde movies?


Tue Jul 24, 2018 8:04 am
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Thief wrote:
I don't consider what you mention as much of an "implausability" because
that's the specific reason Dwight looked him up. Right before going to his home, the guy in the trunk is banging and asking for him to let him go and Dwight yells "not until I have a gun!". Then he looks his friend up in the yearbook where it said he was a member of the JROTC. If they knew each other from high school, it's not that much of a stretch that he would remember if he was a gun enthusiast.


Oh, I agree for the most part. But I didn't totally buy the way that the friend
gives him the gun and agrees to be part of what's happening. I'd have to rewatch it to be more specific about just what didn't feel totally right there, but I remember it just being a minor blip.


Apex Predator wrote:
The Boy

A woman coming off of an abusive relationship agrees to go over to England for a job as a nanny. Once she arrives, she finds out that things aren't what she thought they would be. And things take a few turns along the way.

I'm less OK with the last third which takes some... ahem...liberties with what had happened earlier. Or in its use of abusive relationships in a horror movie and trying to shoehorn a situation, which had been for the most part been benign. I imagine Takoma might have something to say about this latter point.


What liberties did you think it took?

I didn't actually mind the way that the abusive relationship comes to the forefront in the last act, because I think that what the main character
had been through went a long way toward explaining why she was more able and willing to believe that the doll was alive. Here is a woman who is probably feeling a horrible mix of emotions about the death of her own child: guilt, anger, sadness. Who wouldn't want to believe that maybe it's possible he isn't completely gone? Her time in the house is an escape from reality on several different levels.

The arrival of Cole brings reality crashing back down, literally. It becomes a visceral, bloody fight for survival. Even the notion that Brahms might be a sort of "big, innocent child in a man's body" idea goes out the window when he tries to force himself on her in the bed.


Quote:
Meshes of the Afternoon

Takoma recommended this short that has to do with a woman picking up a flower, chasing after a man to give it to him, giving up, and settling into a nearby house. But things are not as they seem and things start to happen.

Sadly, once you get past the cleverness of the first five to ten minutes, there's almost nothing there. You know there's nothing against having an experimental short with a good ending, right?

The film ended up being meh-ish to me. Maybe I'm not just into avant garde movies?


See, I don't think that this one loses its oomph after the first bit. I actually think that it build beautifully, and you start to question the nature of the "dream". Is the character foreseeing events? Is she planning something sinister?

I liked it even more on the second viewing.


Tue Jul 24, 2018 8:49 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Oh, I agree for the most part. But I didn't totally buy the way that the friend
gives him the gun and agrees to be part of what's happening. I'd have to rewatch it to be more specific about just what didn't feel totally right there, but I remember it just being a minor blip.


Well, there you go :D

Takoma1 wrote:
Yes, I'm talking myself into rewatching Blue Ruin.


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Tue Jul 24, 2018 9:14 am
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A film directed by a woman: The Love Witch

I thought that this movie was really funny.

The story follows Elaine, a woman searching for love by unabashedly using magic spells to make men fall for her. Elaine sincerely believes that she has cracked the code and figured men out (the gist is to use sex to "unlock" their love), but her various affairs tend to end poorly for the men involved.

There were two elements that I really enjoyed in this film.

The first was the way that Elaine goes about trying to find love. Both men and women are often fed advice (think women's magazines, or pick-up artist types) that purport to understand how the other sex works and offer shortcuts to the desired love/sex. Elaine's understanding is that a woman should be a man's fantasy, and as he gets the sex and uncritical adoration that he desires, it will unlock his love. This simplistic view of men is actually pretty clever in the context of the film. Even as the film is full of men who objectify women, Elaine's insistence on seeing men as all the same (basically as overgrown children) forms an unhealthy foundation for all of her doomed relationships.

The second is the implicit criticism of pseudo-feminist rhetoric. In one of the best scenes, a male witch describes matter of factly the fact that a woman's power lies in her sexuality, and thus she must harness her sexuality to be powerful by wearing make-up and sexy clothes and showing off a lot of skin and . . . hmm. As he describes this route to power, the film intercuts to a woman doing a sexy striptease on the stage at the club where they are drinking. Conveniently, this version of feminism also involves the male witch (a very average-looking middle aged man) greeting women by kissing their legs, stomachs, breasts, and mouths, and a "worship" ritual in which the woman's body is the altar and her power is worshiped by the male witch--oh, go on--see if you can guess how the male witch worships the woman's body.

While the film is mostly intentionally very silly, there are a few cutting undertones. In the beginning voiceover, Elaine cheerily recounts her therapist telling her that she's normal, and that lots of people suffer abuse and go on to live decent lives. We hear horrible verbal abuse from Elaine's father. In another voiceover flashback, we hear Elaine's ex-husband criticizing her for cooking dinner too late and not keeping the house clean enough. Elaine wants love, but the power dynamics of a romantic relationship lead her either to a feeling of helplessness or to a feeling of disgust.

I haven't gone anywhere to read reviews of this one yet. There are several style elements (stilted dialogue, "bad" acting, strange zooms/angles, intentional anachronisms, etc) that I could see annoying or putting people off. But I liked it. I loved the vivid colors and the costuming. The director, Anna Biller, had an insanely heavy hand in the making of this film. Her credits include: writing, directing, editing, producing, music, production design, art direction, set decoration, and costume design. Like it or not, this is Biller's film from top to bottom.

I can totally see this being a love-it-or-hate-it, and I'm in the former camp.


Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:59 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
The director, Anna Biller, had an insanely heavy hand in the making of this film. Her credits include: writing, directing, editing, producing, music, production design, art direction, set decoration, and costume design. Like it or not, this is Biller's film from top to bottom.

Yes Yes Yes this movie is a feast for the eyeballs. I recommend her previous film Viva if you can find it. Equally eye-popping, and she adds "lead actress" to her list of duties. Agree about the "not for everyone" part. Some familiarity with (and affection for) the late 60s / early 70s films she's mimicking is probably required.

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Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:26 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
Some familiarity with (and affection for) the late 60s / early 70s films she's mimicking is probably required.


Agreed, but I appreciated that she calls attention to the dynamics of those witch cult films and their 90% naked ladies writhing "ceremonies". It goes beyond simply mimicking/reproducing those scenes and films and actually has something to say about them.

And, again, I thought that it was really funny in parts. "You're feeling a lot of feelings right now."


Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:57 am
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A film about a musician: You’re Not You

Just finished this film because it's my summer vacation, so why not spend it crying on the couch at 1am?

Kate is a concert pianist who is diagnosed with ALS. She and her husband, Evan, hire an irresponsible college student, Bec, as a caretaker.

This movie starts out hitting many of the familiar beats of the "unqualified caretaker" genre. We've all seen this story before: the straight-laced sick/disabled person gets a wildly unqualified caretaker and it turns out, GASP, they're actually perfect for each other.

But very quickly into this story, You're Not You reveals itself to be something deeper. To begin with, Kate isn't just sick or disabled, she is a young woman who is dying on a very short timeline. Her disease is degenerative, and so as the movie progresses she goes from being able to move around in a walker to being completely bedridden.

Additionally, the film manages to stay focused on Kate and Bec and their emotional journeys, but still offer a bit extra and a nice dose of empathy towards its sprawling secondary cast of characters. There's Will, the guy who has a crush on Bec. The friends of Kate's who don't know how to handle the fact that their friend is dying, and offer unintentionally hurtful "silver lining" remarks. Kate's controlling mother. Marilyn, a fellow ALS sufferer, and Marilyn's husband John. As Marilyn, Loretta Devine makes a hell of an impression, but this is a cast that all does a great job. Even a third act appearance by Ed Begley Jr as Kate's uncle, one of the only people who actually listens to Kate and what she wants for herself, is a moving, memorable performance.

The question of Kate's death hangs over the whole film. As the movie progresses, the inevitability of her dying adds an urgency to the emotional conflicts. Kate hates that her illness is "ruining" her husbands life; at the same time she is mourning all of the things (career, travel, a baby) that she will never have. As Kate becomes more and more dependent (and Bec becomes more confident and assertive), there's also the question of whether Bec is pushing her own desires onto Kate. The title, "you're not you", refers to the moments in the film when Bec has to speak for Kate, and Kate is pleading with her to accurately represent what she is saying.

Emotionally, this film was a total rollercoaster. Hilary Swank and Emmy Rossum have great chemistry as Kate and Bec. They are funny and dynamic together. By the same token, I was off and on in tears from about the second half on, and straight up sobbing the last 15 minutes or so. I was a personal assistant for a young woman (not terminally ill, but severely physically disabled) who was a wheelchair user and struggled to communicate, and seeing parts in the movie where characters talked over Kate or treated her like a prop really hit me hard. Last summer I went with a fellow LMT to volunteer for a weekend at a camp for children with MD. Seeing children who would not live past their 20s was an intense experience. ALS and MD are different, but there are some similarities in terms of symptoms. Hilary Swank gives a very physical performance, and as Kate loses control of her hands and struggles to breathe it is incredibly painful to watch.

I would really recommend this film, but it's very intense.


Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:24 pm
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A Bollywood film: Mardaani

I picked this one because I wasn't in the mood for the Bollywood style romantic comedy.

This was a pretty different side of Bollywood. No songs, very little broad comedy.

The film follows a police detective named Shivani. A girl who is like a daughter to Shivani is kidnapped by a child sex trafficking ring by a young man, Karan, who is trying to build a prostitution and drug empire. Shivani sets out to find the girl and bring Karan to justice, but Karan is connected to both the criminal and legal worlds, and so finding him proves very difficult.

In terms of big-budget Indian cinema, this is probably the most serious/grim that I've seen. The scenes of the kidnapped girls (aged 8 to 18) being manhandled by the men who have taken them, groomed, raped, and even murdered are all pretty intense.

While the film has a relatively happy ending, it ends with the lead character's voiceover that there are many more children still in captivity who must be helped. The end titles begin with several grim statistics about the number of children worldwide and in India specifically who are trafficked for sex every year. The characters don't sing, but there are several songs that play over the action and the lyrics are also very blunt. In one part, the singer talks about how, in a country where daughters and sisters are a "curse and not a blessing" you will always see the abuse of women.

It was definitely a difficult and upsetting subject matter, but this was a good thriller and a different type of film than what I'm used to seeing from big-budget Indian films.


Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:03 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A Bollywood film: Mardaani

Takoma1 wrote:
A film about a musician: You’re Not You


Worst staycation ever

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:14 am
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Captain Terror wrote:


Worst staycation ever


Everything I've watched in the last day has been pretty intense. Heaven help me, the saving grace has been Deathstalker 2.

I was going to spend the day hiking in the state park (which I can literally walk to in 5 minutes from my front door), but it's been raining all day.


Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:22 am
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The Boy:

When I refer to taking liberties, I mean

the part of the film where we find out the boy has been very real this whole time and has gone into hiding. I think you know already I wasn't a huge fan of House on Sorority Row which did things pretty similarly. It's one thing to play it close to the vest and reveal the twist, but it's something else to deliberately mislead viewers that some character has died only to find out much later that nah, he's/she's alive and well. I like to call this the "Striking Distance ploy"

BTW, it leads to the question. What was the ashes inside the doll if it wasn't Brahms?


As for the things involving Cole,

Yeah, I get why she ran away to England is due to both a) the abusive relationship with Cole and b) losing the pregnancy. What you read as her being in a fragile emotional state and her willingness to buy that Brahms was alive, I read more as her realizing that Brahms offered a second chance to get right what went wrong when she was with her boyfriend. Although they didn't get off to the best of starts, she was willing to try a different tack and follow the rules more closely. Maybe it exposed a more fragile emotional state, but I think it also played into a moment from Poltergeist that saw JoBeth Williams get excited as the kids all slid on the floor thanks to spirits. I think it was less feeling he was alive and more that "someone" was in the house watching what she did.

What bothered me more is less what happened to Cole and more what happened once we find out that Brahms is indeed alive. She is well aware of an abusive relationship due to her dealings with Cole and one would assume the time away would allow her to recognize this and build more healthy relationships such as with the delivery boy. The return of Cole kinda messed with that a little bit. But I'm disappointed that she didn't catch on that the relationship between her and the adult Brahms was also abusive in nature. More than the moment in the bed, there was also the chasing, threatening her friend, and attacks that made me wonder if she had learned from the experience.

On the plus side, I do think the time with Cole in the house did do a fairly good job of setting up the way things were in that relationship. The moments where he appears to be kind, the quiet manner she takes to soothe things over when things appear to not go his way, the walking on eggshells that she balances throughout, the bouts of violent temper that follows when he erupts.


As for Meshes of the Afternoon, I think my problems occur more in the final third where after all the things blend and mix together and we find things out more on his side of things.


Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:56 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
The Boy:

When I refer to taking liberties, I mean

the part of the film where we find out the boy has been very real this whole time and has gone into hiding. I think you know already I wasn't a huge fan of House on Sorority Row which did things pretty similarly. It's one thing to play it close to the vest and reveal the twist, but it's something else to deliberately mislead viewers that some character has died only to find out much later that nah, he's/she's alive and well. I like to call this the "Striking Distance ploy"

BTW, it leads to the question. What was the ashes inside the doll if it wasn't Brahms?


As I watched it I picked up on several
hints that Brahms wasn't actually dead. In fact, from almost the very beginning when the mother repeatedly tells her to speak more loudly and play the music at a high volume, I was like "Oh, he's in the walls/basement." But as the film went on they eased up on those hints and I started to wonder if it was a double-bluff and he was actually dead.

But when the delivery guy tells the backstory, I was right back to thinking he was still alive. I feel like "died in a mysterious fire" is a huge red flag that someone isn't actually dead--especially since he "died" right after killing someone.


Quote:
As for the things involving Cole,

She is well aware of an abusive relationship due to her dealings with Cole and one would assume the time away would allow her to recognize this and build more healthy relationships such as with the delivery boy.


The thing about an abusive relationship is that it's not as simple as "Last time I did ABC, so this time I'll do XYZ!". What I've seen from friends and acquaintances emerging from these types of relationships is that it makes you doubt your judgement and your emotions. After all, you fell for the last guy, and he turned out to be an abusive monster. So are the feelings for this new guy to be trusted? Cole might have started out just as mild-mannered and charming as the delivery guy. The "relationship" with Brahms is more "safe" in a way because it is built on really clear rules and routines--there's a predictability there that makes it simpler and easier to navigate.

[quote]
But I'm disappointed that she didn't catch on that the relationship between her and the adult Brahms was also abusive in nature. More than the moment in the bed, there was also the chasing, threatening her friend, and attacks that made me wonder if she had learned from the experience.


I think that she understands the
danger that Brahms poses. Even if Brahms was totally well-intentioned, he's very physically strong and clearly has mental/emotional/intellectual delays. That alone poses a risk to any caretaker. I saw her interactions with Brahms as being cautious and her being optimistic that the dangerous/scary moments came from misunderstandings. Once he emerges from the wall, she knows he's a threat. She tries to talk him down, but she knows that he's dangerous--she recognizes the abuse in what has happened as she realizes that he's been watching her and taking her things.

I'm not sure how she should have acted differently than she did.


Wed Jul 25, 2018 3:28 am
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Meshes of the Afternoon is definitely a more attractive motion picture than any Amityville movie.


Wed Jul 25, 2018 8:46 am
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Captain Terror wrote:


Worst staycation ever


Hey, my staycation has involved four viewings of Amityville Horror. I deserve some credit too.


Wed Jul 25, 2018 9:15 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
Meshes of the Afternoon is definitely a more attractive motion picture than any Amityville movie.


I've never seen Meshes of the Afternoon. Too busy with Amityville movies.


Wed Jul 25, 2018 9:19 am
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I find Meshes to be pretty accessible as far as avant garde goes. Obviously these things don't work for everyone, but I think the sense of atmosphere and the structure provide an easy entry point as you'll get with this sort of thing.

That being said, Apex, if you're still looking to get into avant garde cinema, I'll go ahead and recommend Scorpio Rising. There's probably less "plot" (a bunch of bikers get dressed up nice and rabble rouse, somebody's ass may or may not be slapped), but it's use of music is pretty influential and should make it an easy enough watch. Also, it realizes the badassery of "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris, so that's an added bonus.

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 9:26 am
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Enough excuses. This cannot stand.






Wed Jul 25, 2018 9:35 am
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As they say, it just might not be my jam.

Will give Scorpio Rising a shot, though.


Wed Jul 25, 2018 10:20 am
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An Italian language film: Human Voice

In this short film Sophia Loren plays a woman who is waiting for her lover to return home for dinner. As the day wears on, she has increasingly emotional conversations with him over the phone as her maid prepares dinner.

Well-acted (it's basically a one-woman show for Loren) and moving.


Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:45 am
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Ok, I've already seen 15 films in July, which is great cause that's the threshold I've set myself up for. Plus, I still have a whole week to watch some more.

Like I said before, I've been having a hard time writing reviews for everything I've seen, but since I'm a bitch for order and structure, I'm gonna add some placeholder posts for what I've seen already. Maybe I'll add full reviews, maybe I'll add just some thoughts. Should've done this as I went on but what can we do :D

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:31 pm
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A film featured in the Criterion Collection


M (1931)

Quote:
"I can't help myself! I have no control over this, this evil thing inside of me, the fire, the voices, the torment!"


Films about serial killers are probably some of the most prolific in Hollywood. From high-quality thrillers like Silence of the Lambs or Seven, to horror outings like Saw or Nightmare on Elm Street. Usually, the former tend to rely more on the thrill of the hunt, or the "whodunit", while the latter tend to rely more on the gore and the shock-value. From my recollection, few films have treated the subject in such a bold way as Fritz Lang did with his 1931 hit film.

Set in Berlin, M follows the hunt and capture of a murderer that preys on children. After the body of another girl is found, the police organizes a manhunt to capture him. This activity disrupts the businesses of the local crime lords, prompting them to also decide to look for the killer on their own. Unlike some films of the genre, M doesn't hold on to the mystery of the identity of the killer. He is identified pretty early as Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), a small and otherwise meek and seemingly nervous man. What the film brings to the table is a more profound statement on mental illness and morality.

If I were to think of other film that has dared to get into the mind of a killer, while trying to present his side, the only one that comes to mind is Peeping Tom. In that aspect, Lang's film is daring enough to challenge the audience into looking at Beckert with a different mindset. Considering the time it was released and the fact that modern psychology was barely beginning to surface, it was certainly a groundbreaking approach. In that regard, the "trial" of Beckert and the portrayal of his accusers might be a bit broad and in-your-face, but it works in light of the statement he wants to make.

M also features a wonderful performance from Lorre, who manages to convey the desperation in Beckert, without going over the top. I think it would've been more effective if the film had featured another solid character on the other side, but I understand Lang's intention to focus on Beckert and let the plot be the center of the film. Lang's direction is flawless and the cinematography is gorgeous. This is one of those that everyone should check out.

Grade: A

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:34 pm
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The first film from a director you like


Blood Simple (1984)

Quote:
"Trust you not to go simple on me and do something stupid. I mean, really stupid. Now, why should I trust you?"


In 1982, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen had an idea. Barely out of college and with almost no experience in filmmaking, they directed a teaser trailer for their idea: a man on his knees, another dragging a shovel menacingly towards him, a bullet-riddled wall. Simple. Then they went door to door, business to business, showing the film to whoever they could. As simple as an Avon salesman. I'm sure many must have thought "why should I trust you?" before giving them money. But eventually, they got $1.5 million, and that was the start of one of the most prolific film careers in Hollywood. And it all started with a simple idea and a simple approach to bring it home.

Blood Simple follows Ray (John Getz), a bartender at a local bar who is having an affair with Abby (Frances McDormand), the wife of his boss, Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya). When he suspects, he hires a private detective (M. Emmett Walsh) to follow the love birds and then kill them. The story is as simple as it's classic, a story of love, betrayal, and murder. But obviously, things don't go as planned, and the simple story ends up becoming a complicated mess of deceit, confusion, and revenge.

The film is damn good. The fact that it was made by two brothers with hardly any experience doing this, on a shoe-string budget is just motherfuckin' impressive. The film is full of what has made the Coen so popular now. Unique twists, clever dialogue, subtle - and not so subtle - references to other films, dark and deadpan humor; and it all works perfectly here. Seriously, looking at the direction, you wouldn't think this was made by a rookie director. The Coens are raw, but still have a unique eye to move the camera and a meticulous way to set a scene that more "seasoned" directors would dream for.

Plus, in the midst of it all, the film has a perfect cast that knows exactly how to carry this film. Getz and McDormand are not flashy, but the characters aren't supposed to be, and they deliver. However, it is Walsh the one who steals the film as Visser, the scheming private detective that tries to have his cake and eat it too. Every scene with him is a delight. The title of the film comes from a Dashiel Hammett novel in which a lead character is afraid that the escalating violence around him has affected him psychologically, which is what Visser warns his employer about. A simple act of violence will eventually lead to more violence, making it harder to go back.

The Coens had their simple start in 1984. 30+ years, seventeen films and four Academy Awards later, it is undeniable how their career has "escalated". They stand as one of my favorite directors, and I trust them to fully mess with my head any time they want.

Grade: A

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:35 pm
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A film with a female protagonist
A drama film
An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture



Precious (2009)

Will post review later...

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:36 pm
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A film with a female protagonist
A sports film



I, Tonya (2017)

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:38 pm
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A silent film from a foreign country


L'Inferno (1911)

Quote:
The path to paradise begins in hell."


L'Inferno is based on The Divine Comedy, the iconic poem written by Dante Alighieri. Alighieri wrote it early in the 14th Century as an allegory of the search of God. The poem is divided in three parts, taking Dante from Hell, through Purgatory, and into Paradise. This groundbreaking film chooses to focus on the first part of the journey.

Wishing to reach the "hill of salvation", Dante (Salvatore Papa) is guided through the various circles of Hell by the poet Virgil (Arturo Pirovano). Through their journey, Dante sees the suffering and the pain of the souls that are condemned, even facing Lucifer himself.

As it is expected in early silent films, the approach is very theatrical and the performances exaggerated. But what this film really succeeds in is creating multiple haunting visuals. The multiple depictions of sin and suffering are masterfully created, at least for the era, while keeping the film from feeling monotonous.

Considered the first full-length Italian feature film, there are enough reasons to watch L'Inferno; be it for its iconic status, for the perspective of a cinephile, and for its unique and groundbreaking visuals.

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:38 pm
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A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990
A film with a title that's a sentence or sentence fragment



What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Will post review later...

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:40 pm
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A film noir
A film featured in the Criterion Collection



The Killers (1946)

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Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:42 pm
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Thief wrote:
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990
A film with a title that's a sentence or sentence fragment



What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Will post review later...


Was this a first-time viewing? Such a great flick.


Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:06 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Was this a first-time viewing? Such a great flick.


Yeah. Hilarious film. One of the most enjoyable comedies I've seen recently.

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Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:45 am
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A film with a female protagonist


Friday the 13th, Part III (1982, rewatch)

Quote:
"Look upon this omen and go back from once you came! I have warned thee! I have warned... thee."


Near the beginning of this film, our group of doomed teenagers stumble upon a drunk, old man who emits this warning while holding an eyeball in his hand. As the teenagers run away from the old man scared, he holds out the eyeball towards the camera so the audience at the theater could see it pop out in all of its 3-D "glory". But other than the warning to the happy campers within the film, that single moment should serve as a warning of what to expect from Friday the 13th, Part III (or should I say, 3-D!): a lack of originality and cheap, forced 3-D gimmicks.

Friday the 13th, Part III, the third installment in this popular slasher franchise, follows yet another group of teenagers that visit Crystal Lake, only to be dispatched one by one. You all know the drill because, let's face it; it's not like the franchise has been a beacon of creativity. But even so, at least the writers and directors always found new, if not absurd, ways to kill teenagers, kill Jason, bring him back, rinse and repeat. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case this time. From the first 5 minutes, which is literally a TV-like recap of the climatic moments of Part 2, to the basic setup of the film which has Chris (Dana Kimmell) returning to Crystal Lake with some friends after several years of being attacked by Jason, something which we haven't seen.

Those two points are just an example of the lazy writing in this film and the lack of originality from the writers. First, why the recap if you're barely addressing the events from Part 2 anyway? Why not use those 5 minutes to show what happened to Chris instead of just mentioning it in passing? Or better yet, if they wanted to show a teenager that was previously traumatized/attacked by Jason, why not bring back Ginny, the survivor of Part 2, thus making sense of the recap as well? But no, it's obvious the writers are just slumbering by like the iconic character. The lack of originality extends also to the kills of the film, some of which feel like repetitions of previous kills in the franchise (stabbed from the back while in bed, throat slashed, impaled in stomach). At least, I will give them credit for the "slice" kill of the guy that liked walking on his hands.

But some of the kills also reek of gimmickry, which leads me to my second main complaint: the use of the 3-D. 3-D films have been a marketing tool used by studios to lure people to the theater as opposed to staying home and watching TV. But although some filmmakers are known to implement the concept in creative and organic ways, most of them ended up feeling forced. That is the case in this film where the use of 3-D ranges from a woman fixing a TV antenna or his husband adjusting a clothesline pole towards the camera, to a teenager dangling a yo-yo, or the aforementioned man holding the eyeball. There are two deaths in particular that take advantage of the 3-D effect, one with a speargun and the other one is the eye-popping head crush. But although both are relatively creative ways to kill the characters, the 3-D and the makeup is so distracting that you can't help but see it for what it is: a gimmick.

Even the ending seems like a repetition of the previous two parts. Jason is apparently dead, and yet another survivor pushes a boat into the lake with a dream-like sequence that lets the audience wondering if Jason is dead or alive, yada yada yada. I've been a fan of sorts of this series since I was a kid/teen, and I know that the goals aren't "high", so I'm willing to let some things slide. But aside from the awful use of the 3-D, this part suffers from something that is unforgivable in a slasher: it is dull and boring. I have warned thee.

Grade: D

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Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:46 am
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A film about parenthood
A French language film
A drama film
A film featured in the Criterion Collection



Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)

Will post review later...

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Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:48 am
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A film with a female protagonist
A film about parenthood



Mr. Mom (1983)

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Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:49 am
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A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990
A film with a color in the title



Green Room (2015)

Quote:
"We can't play real war."
"Let's pretend"


Survival is a unique force that drives human beings. We strive for life, even when, or particularly when the circumstances are not in our favor. At a climatic point in this film, Pat (Anton Yelchin) shares a story of insurmountable odds, the craving of victory, and this primal instinct for survival... in a game of paintball. But what if it wasn't a game? Will you find that will to survive despite the odds? Will you find a way to walk out despite the other's advantages? Those are some of the questions that Jeremy Saulnier puts forward in this raw thriller.

Green Room follows the members of a punk band called The Ain't Rights, which include Pat, Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole), and Tiger (Callum Turner). As they travel around the US looking for gigs, an acquaintance books them for a performance in a seedy, remote night club led by a group of neo-Nazi skinheads. But after finishing their set, the group finds themselves in the middle of a crime scene, and eventually fighting for their lives.

Before watching this, I didn't know much about Saulnier or this film, other than it starred Patrick Stewart. I read that the film came to fruition merely because writer/director Saulnier was obsessed with the idea of a thriller set in a "green room" (that is, the waiting room a band uses before and after performing). Imagine my surprise when I found myself absolutely thrilled by the claustrophobic feel and the visceral punch of this film. The film puts our group in a corner against a horde of violent supremacists led by the club's ruthlessly meticulous owner Darcy Banker (Stewart). As an audience, we can't help but root for the underdogs and their struggle to live.

Saulnier shows a unique ability to build up the tension as the film progresses; from the shady way their gig is booked, to the creepy crowd they have to deal with, all bubbling up until it explodes into a bloodfest. The film doesn't shy away from raw, unflinching violence, but it's more effective when it pushes the characters, and hence the audience, into that room; that corner where they have to gather their strengths and courage, and dig deep to stay alive. All of the actors manage to portray the dread and the fear in a convincing way, with Yelchin easily getting the best moments (like the above monologue). Stewart is pretty effective in a role that, much like the character, is cold and subtle. His presence in the film instantly elevates it a couple of notches.

Like the "obsession" from which it was born, Green Room is a fairly simple and straightforward film: characters are trapped, characters have to get out. But the relentlessness with which Saulnier directs it makes us feel as if we were trapped in that room with the band, struggling to survive. It certainly packed a punch, and it has stuck with me ever since.

Grade: A-

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Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:50 am
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A film that was released direct-to-DVD
A film set in Eastern Europe



Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)

Quote:
"You often contemplate... the complexity of life?"


The original Universal Soldier was released in 1992, taking advantage of an interest in cyborg-oriented films and a peaking (as in popularity, not cocaine) Van Damme. The film followed Luc Devereaux and Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) as two KIA Vietnam soldiers that are reanimated as part of a secret government project to create "super" soldiers. Despite its popularity, I never warmed up to it and never cared to followed through with the television films that followed (without Van Damme) or Universal Soldier: The Return, which featured Van Damme's return while also ignoring anything from the television films. All of those being financial failures, Van Damme decided to go direct-to-video for the next installment which, again, ignored or retconned all of the previous sequels.

Universal Soldier: Regeneration has Van Damme undergoing rehabilitation after the events of the original film, with the intention of being reintegrated into society. But when a group of terrorists kidnap the children of the Ukrainian Prime Minister, with the help of an advanced "Next Generation" Universal Soldier, or NGU (Andrei Arlovski), the government decides to reactivate Devereaux to send him on a rescue mission. Meanwhile, the scientist in control of the NGU also unleashes a cloned and upgraded version of Andrew Scott (Lundgren) for protection. Despite how complex all these plot twists and turns might seem, it really isn't that relevant. The point of the film is just to feature soldiers and cyborgs engage in multiple gunfights and fistfights, bashing each other brains. In that aspect, this film succeeds.

For the most part, the film is pretty straightforward and the action sequences are well choreographed. Director John Hyams understands how to handle his action sequences and delivers some raw and intense fights. The performances, although far from great, are competent for the genre. The introduction of Lundgren's character might seem too forced and just like an excuse to put Van Damme and Lundgren up against each other again. However, it does bring up one of the most interesting subtexts of the film, as Scott breaks away from his programmed agenda while questioning "the complexity of life". The film does seem to address the individuality of these two characters, as each of them refuse to fully adhere to the "Universal Soldier" program. Even if it's only to stick to their Vietnam War vendetta, and even though the film never goes deep in the topic, it still makes up for a nice touch.

For some reason, I had seen the sequel to this one (Day of Reckoning) a couple of years ago and found it to be both bolder and "trippier" in its execution, with a far more twisted plot. But regardless of which ones you've seen and in what order, if you find yourself contemplating the complexity of the franchise, mind not and just enjoy a solid Van Damme/Lundgren smashfest.

Grade: B-

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Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:51 am
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A film with a female protagonist
A comedy made before 1970



The Apartment (1960)

Will post review later...

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Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:53 am
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A film with a female protagonist
A film about an animal



Piranha (1978)

Quote:
"What about the goddamn piranhas?"
"They're eating the guests, sir."


Steven Spielberg released Jaws in 1975 to much critical and commercial success. It wouldn't be long until many studios and directors tried to replicate the formula, be it with more sharks, killer whales, snakes, or any other creature. Some aimed for terror and a serious approach, while others aimed for something else. The above quote should give you an idea of where Joe Dante's Piranha fell.

The film opens with a young couple entering an abandoned military installation and skinny dipping in the facility pond. You don't have to be a genius to guess what happens next. Enter Maggie (Heather Menzies), an investigator of sorts sent to find the missing teenagers. To do so, she recruits Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman), a local man known by his skills, his surly behavior, and his drinking. They soon discover that the facility where the teenagers went missing was used to genetically engineer deadly piranhas, while also accidentally releasing them into the river flow. As a result, Maggie and Paul have to race down the river to try to stop the piranhas from reaching a summer camp and eventually, the ocean.

Piranha tries to navigate a thin line between horror and scares, and campiness and self-awareness. Dante mastered this technique later in Gremlins, but the result here isn't that successful. Although Piranha is never boring, it mostly falls on mediocrity by not fully committing to either side. The film is never that gory, scary, or witty. The two leads aren't that memorable either. Only supporting actors Barbara Steele and maybe Kevin McCarthy embrace the necessary tone as the scientists involved in the creation of the piranhas.

There are also inconsistencies within the logic of the film. These tend to be more notable and distracting when the other elements aren't that successful. For example, for the first attacks, the piranhas attack swiftly and ferociously, devouring whole adults to the bone in seconds. But for some reason, most of the later attacks only end up in skin cuts and gashes. Maybe it was because they were kids, maybe the piranhas were tired. The thing is that there is little tension and dread in how the attacks are executed, thus hampering the effectiveness of the climax.

Despite those issues, the film moves at a nice pace, and there are enough winks-winks to keep it from being boring. I don't regret watching it, but I doubt I would watch it again.

Grade: C+

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Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:55 am
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A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990
A film with a color in the title



Blue Ruin (2013)

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Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:56 am
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Thief wrote:
A film with a female protagonist
A film about an animal



Piranha (1978)

I don't regret watching it, but I doubt I would watch it again.

Grade: C+


Exactly how I felt about it.


Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:17 am
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Thief wrote:

Yeah. Hilarious film. One of the most enjoyable comedies I've seen recently.

This is the correct opinion.


Thu Jul 26, 2018 7:39 am
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A film written by a novelist or playwright: Moonlight

I don't have much to add to what has already been said about this movie. It is amazing.

I have a friend who is an actor (stage, not screen for the most part), and he's collaborated twice with McCraney*, so I've had multiple conversations about his work which often examines the struggles of gay people of color. While my heart will always belong to Wig Out!, this adaptation of In the Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue did an amazing job of bringing a play fully into the world of film. Often I feel as if movies adapted from plays feel like they are half-trapped in the world of the stage. Moonlight has a full cinematic vision and cadence and it's excellent.

*I got to meet McCraney (thanks, actor friend!!), shortly after his Oscar win, and it was awesome.


Thu Jul 26, 2018 10:28 am
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A film over 170 minutes long: Hamlet

This is a film that is actually footage from a 1964 Broadway production of the play. The play is performed for a live audience, but with the conceit that it is in the form of a dress rehearsal.

So, I really like Hamlet as a play and I have seen it in many, many forms. The play itself is full of memorable lines, but it is also full of themes and character dynamics that can be cast and recast in different lights. Change one inflection of a word and the play means a whole different thing.

I had mixed reactions to this way of presenting the play. It's too far away on the one hand, and we hear the audience react (mostly in laughter and applause) but don't feel enough a part of them so it's more of a distraction. But the staging is by necessity minimalist (because it is happening on a stage) and it's interesting to watch as a film.

Richard Burton is good as Hamlet (though a bit broad in a few scenes). Hume Cronyn is probably the standout as Polonius, a reliably engaging character because of the comedy in most of his scenes. The rest of the actors are good, but not being able to see their facial expressions more closely is disappointing. There are times when we do get a closer camera and they are a relief, but then it's often back to a far-away wide angle.

Maybe my favorite thing about this particular version of the play is the costuming, and specifically Claudius. You may remember that Claudius is Hamlet's uncle/step-father and the murderer of Hamlet's father. In this film (again, staged as a "rehearsal") Claudius wears this 50s dad cardigan ensemble. It's a wonderful contrast to his cruel, deceitful actions both off-screen and on. He looks like he should be reading a newspaper and telling someone to get a haircut, not poisoning the tips of swords to rig a duel.

My favorite take on Hamlet remains the season-long examination of the play in the TV show Slings and Arrows. For kicks, here is Paul Gross's character giving a great explanation of Ophelia's character and Sabrina Grdevich doing a great impersonation of how way too many people play her. ("Claire, Claire . . . Claire with the hair").


Fri Jul 27, 2018 1:32 pm
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