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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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Thief wrote:
I literally have no knowledge of Kobayashi Masaki, so I would appreciate more recs from him. So far I have...

The Fossil
Harakiri
Kwaidan
Youth of the Son


Youth of the Son is the one I watched, and I really liked it. Bonus points for you might be that it's a short film (~45 minutes) since you've been pressed for time.


Fri Sep 14, 2018 7:42 am
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A cult classic film: The Toxic Avenger

This is a film (and more specifically a VHS cover!) that's been in my peripherals since I was a youngster cruising around the Care Bears films while one eye checked out the horror section.

This Troma film follows a loser-ish gym janitor, Melvin, who attracts the attention of a nasty crowd that commits a series of cruel pranks against him, eventually resulting in a dousing with toxic waste. Transformed into a monster, Melvin roams the streets of Tromaville, taking out bullies, pimps, and drug dealers with various violent methods.

This was the kind of film that I found funny, but only in about 2-3 minute stretches. There were some great lines peppered in there ("Alright everybody--drop your tacos or I'll blow your brains out!"), and the acting (especially from Melvin's blind love interest Sara) is mostly joyfully over the top.

But I found a lot of the film kind of tiresome. A blatant jiggle-jiggle zoom in on a woman's chest is sort of funny in its obvious audacity, but then the same shot is repeated again. There are repeated shots of women being sexually harassed or assaulted, and always managing to involve some pervy shot of the victim's body. In certain sections the acting doesn't hit the right comedic note and the scenes end up being kind of upsetting. I particularly was not a fan of a scene involving a
dog that's been disemboweled by a shotgun, left panting and bleeding in a corner to die by its owner
. The film throws a lot at the audience (racial epithets, "hilarious" Asian accent, etc), and at several points there's a whiff of desperation to the whole thing. It's kind of like talking to some dude who fancies himself a shock humorist. It can be funny at points, but taken as a whole stretch of time it ends up being more tiring.


Fri Sep 14, 2018 9:31 am
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Thief wrote:
I literally have no knowledge of Kobayashi Masaki, so I would appreciate more recs from him. So far I have...

The Fossil
Harakiri
Kwaidan
Youth of the Son

If you can get a hold of the Eclipse box set, there's good stuff in there, particularly Black River and The Inheritance. I'm not in love with Samurai Rebellion but it's got a great Mifune performance so you probably should check that out too, and probably also the Human Condition trilogy (although I haven't seen it).

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Fri Sep 14, 2018 2:51 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
A British film: Murder Ahoy

This was a fun, funny Miss Marple mystery film, with Margaret Rutherford in the starring role.

Miss Marple becomes part of a board of trustees of a marine training ship. One of the trustees dies under suspicious circumstances, and Miss Marple takes up residence on the ship under the guise of her role as a trustee in order to find the killer. Of course there's an exasperated pair of detectives (one of them named Bacon!) who resent Miss Marple's interference.

This was more farce/comedy than mystery, but with enough twists and turns to stay engaging. The secondary cast is very enjoyable (especially Lionel Jeffries as the buffoonish captain of the ship, whose urgent whispered "What?! with each twist and turn never fails to be funny), and there are plenty of memorable and funny lines, such as Miss Marple on a wheeled ladder in a library declaring "Propel me, Jim!" or the captain reacting to news of an onboard romance with "Engaged! To a woman?!". The whole thing ends up with a rousing, improbable swordfight between Miss Marple and the guilty party.

This is of course a very silly film (it's called Murder Ahoy after all), but it knows it's silly. Everyone in the film is on point and seems to be having a good time. The background actors are constantly reacting to the absurdity, and the film maintains a buoyant energy through the whole running time.

I liked this movie.


Fri Sep 14, 2018 7:58 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
A cult classic film: The Toxic Avenger

This is a film (and more specifically a VHS cover!) that's been in my peripherals since I was a youngster cruising around the Care Bears films while one eye checked out the horror section.

This Troma film follows a loser-ish gym janitor, Melvin, who attracts the attention of a nasty crowd that commits a series of cruel pranks against him, eventually resulting in a dousing with toxic waste. Transformed into a monster, Melvin roams the streets of Tromaville, taking out bullies, pimps, and drug dealers with various violent methods.

This was the kind of film that I found funny, but only in about 2-3 minute stretches. There were some great lines peppered in there ("Alright everybody--drop your tacos or I'll blow your brains out!"), and the acting (especially from Melvin's blind love interest Sara) is mostly joyfully over the top.

But I found a lot of the film kind of tiresome. A blatant jiggle-jiggle zoom in on a woman's chest is sort of funny in its obvious audacity, but then the same shot is repeated again. There are repeated shots of women being sexually harassed or assaulted, and always managing to involve some pervy shot of the victim's body. In certain sections the acting doesn't hit the right comedic note and the scenes end up being kind of upsetting. I particularly was not a fan of a scene involving a
dog that's been disemboweled by a shotgun, left panting and bleeding in a corner to die by its owner
. The film throws a lot at the audience (racial epithets, "hilarious" Asian accent, etc), and at several points there's a whiff of desperation to the whole thing. It's kind of like talking to some dude who fancies himself a shock humorist. It can be funny at points, but taken as a whole stretch of time it ends up being more tiring.


I think the scattershot delivery is part of the Troma way of throwing everything up in the wall and seeing what will stick.

I found Surf Nazis Must Die a better comedy overall. And if you're into the South Park/Team America sort of humor, then check out Cannibal the Musical.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 4:32 am
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Thief wrote:
I literally have no knowledge of Kobayashi Masaki, so I would appreciate more recs from him. So far I have...

The Fossil
Harakiri
Kwaidan
Youth of the Son

I've only seen a handful, so I'm no expert but I'd say Harakiri is a good one to start with.

Kwaidan is my favorite just because I'm a horror guy, but it's hardly representative of the rest of his stuff. And the Human Condition films are great, but you'd hardly want to start with a 9-hour trilogy, I'd guess. So...Harakiri.

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Sat Sep 15, 2018 5:45 am
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A film based on a book: The Dressmaker

While I generally liked this film, it felt like it had a whole extra act tacked onto the end. Literally at one point I was like "How does this still have 30 minutes?" then it was like "Oh . . . what?".

The film follows a woman, Tilly, who returns to her rural Australian hometown. Tilly was exiled at age 10 for the murder of a classmate, a crime that she does not remember. Tilly takes up residence with her ill, possibly crazy mother in their shack of a home and begins working as a dressmaker. Though the town is spiteful and unforgiving of Tilly's past, her sewing skills quickly win them over. Tilly even begins a gentle romance with a local man she's known since childhood.

The film started off great (the first line is literally Tilly stepping into the town, lighting a cigarette, and growling "I'm back, you bastards!" to the sleeping town), and for the first 3/4 it blends comedy and drama pretty well. But behind the comedy the film treads in some really dark elements, such as a man who drugs his wife and rapes her while she's unconscious. There was one sequence that seemed to imply that
10 year old Tilly was about to be raped by a classmate in an unsupervised schoolyard and with the knowledge of her peers, and the film lets that implication linger for a good while.
For the most part the townsfolk are well realized, as are the competing dynamics between them.

But at that 3/4 point the film takes a decidedly dark turn. An important character dies, and Tilly's revenge gets to its final stages. The problem is that the ultimate revenge is not actually that satisfying. The emotion of the earlier death lingers and the last 15 or so minutes feel pretty flat.

Liam Hemsworth deserves a mention as Tilly's romantic interest, including a scene where he attempts to seduce her by stripping for a suit fitting. Judy Davis is excellent as Tilly's eccentric mother. Hugo Weaving takes a character that could have been crude caricature (the local head of police who also loves cross dressing and drawing erotic sketches) and gives the character heart underneath the absurdity. A point that resonates especially with Weaving's character is that even the "fun" characters were all complicit in what happened to Tilly as a child.

I don't know. For the first 90 minutes I was pretty charmed with this one, and then the last 30 minutes knocked it down a few pegs. I still think it's worth checking out, but I think you'll all agree that it should have ended at the 90 minute mark.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 6:20 am
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A film famous for its twist/ending


Unbreakable (2000, rewatch)

I have a weird relationship with Shyamalan films, which I think I've discussed here many times, but I'll sum it up by saying that The Village is my favorite of his films and The Sixth Sense my least favorite. Unbreakable and Signs fell somewhere between those two, which is why I never looked back to this with any care. But the amount of good reviews it has gotten as time passes, plus its spoiled connection to a certain recent film led me to give it a second chance. Back when I first saw it, I thought it was decent, but somewhat ho-hum. My opinion now is a bit more favorable, but not as enthusiastic as others might want. I like the talent involved and I like how the plot unfolds, even if the pace is slow. I think Willis could've had more emotion to his character; it's one of Shyamalan's trademark to have characters behave as if they were in a perennial stupor (Willis, Joaquin Phoenix, Mel Gibson) and that can get be a bit irksome. I also remember thinking about it in terms of a "final twist", which is why I chose it for this category. But the truth of the matter is that there is not much of a twist. The revelation is pretty much put out there from the beginning, with the sole "twist" being...

...that Mr. Glass orchestrated the tragic events only to find his arch-nemesis.


All in all, a decent film. Well directed and with solid performances. I look forward to that other recent film now.

Grade: B-ish

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Sat Sep 15, 2018 6:35 am
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A Spanish language film: Perdida

I started this one a few days ago, but was feeling pretty burned out on films that revolve around sexual trafficking/abuse of teens/women.

The film follows Pipa, a woman whose friend Cornelia disappeared when they were all teens at school together. No body was ever found, but Cornelia was presumed dead. On the anniversary of Cornelia's disappearance, Pipa is approached by Cornelia's mother, who asks Pipa to look into the case. Pipa is reluctant at first, but strange events and newly unearthed information lead Pipa down a dark path toward finding her friend.

This film was . . . fine. The acting is all okay, and the scenery is beautiful and atmospheric. The mystery is okay, but ultimately hinges on a few elements I found a bit unbelievable. The film isn't necessarily exploitative in addressing sexual violence, but it falls into some pretty cliched places. There's a really frustrating scene where a woman sees a man and, for no apparent reason, tries to run past him instead of retreating. The film tries to mine tension and weight from the horrible things experienced by the women in the film, but rarely goes deeper than having the women describe what happened to them in hushed, angry tones.

Not bad, but there are better mystery/thrillers out there.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 8:12 am
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Thief wrote:
A film famous for its twist/ending

Unbreakable (2000, rewatch)

I also remember thinking about it in terms of a "final twist", which is why I chose it for this category. But the truth of the matter is that there is not much of a twist. The revelation is pretty much put out there from the beginning, with the sole "twist" being...

...that Mr. Glass orchestrated the tragic events only to find his arch-nemesis.


All in all, a decent film. Well directed and with solid performances. I look forward to that other recent film now.

Grade: B-ish


I think it's actually a pretty big twist, as the main character
discovers that his mentor/ally is actually his enemy. Not only that, but Mr. Glass essentially "created" him out of the need for a nemesis. I also think that it delightfully upends the tradition of the "wise older black mentor" character (see Morpheus, for example) whose main plot function is to build confidence in the younger white male protagonist by making him the master of the plot and putting him on an equal level with the protagonist by having them be two sides of the same coin.


I thought you'd seen Split, but I guess not?


Sat Sep 15, 2018 8:18 am
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Thief wrote:
A film famous for its twist/ending

Unbreakable (2000, rewatch)

Grade: B-ish
Regardless of whatever flaws Unbreakable with its implausible, unnecessary ending, or taking its "gritty, real-world urban superhero" concept a bit too seriously, it was still one of the first "adult" films to make any serious impact on me with its incredible style when I saw it as a naive 12 year-old at the theater, and for that alone, I'll probably always look back on it forever fondly; glad your opinion of it went up (somewhat) this time, Thief!

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Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:53 am
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Thief wrote:
A film famous for its twist/ending


Unbreakable (2000, rewatch)
I also remember thinking about it in terms of a "final twist", which is why I chose it for this category. But the truth of the matter is that there is not much of a twist. The revelation is pretty much put out there from the beginning, with the sole "twist" being...

...that Mr. Glass orchestrated the tragic events only to find his arch-nemesis.



Well, but that IS the twist. It's not the SOLE twist, it's the WHOLE twist. Really good movie.
Also, try The Visit, that rocked.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:20 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

I think it's actually a pretty big twist, as the main character
discovers that his mentor/ally is actually his enemy. Not only that, but Mr. Glass essentially "created" him out of the need for a nemesis. I also think that it delightfully upends the tradition of the "wise older black mentor" character (see Morpheus, for example) whose main plot function is to build confidence in the younger white male protagonist by making him the master of the plot and putting him on an equal level with the protagonist by having them be two sides of the same coin.


I thought you'd seen Split, but I guess not?

Yeah, you got it.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:21 pm
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A road trip film: Sun Don’t Shine

Someone else just watched this one, but I don't remember who. It was on Amazon Prime years ago, I watched the first ten minutes or so, and then the next day you had to pay for it and I was too cheap.

The film opens in the middle of an explosive argument between Crystal and Leo, a couple on a desperate, unhinged road trip to deal with whatever is in their trunk. With a junker of a car and a half-baked plot, the two are trying to establish an alibi--but their frequent interpersonal conflicts threaten to undo the whole thing.

The film portrays a relationship that is unhealthy on the part of both people. Crystal talks nonstop, trying to use her words to connect to Leo, but then swerving into paranoia and anger. It is so important to her that he understand her and love her, that any sign of disloyalty or disregard sets her off. Leo, on the other hand, is controlling and deceptive. Crystal's capacity for violence is in her explosive temper, but Leo's menace is more measured and calculating. In one scene, Crystal threatens someone with a knife while Leo tries to defuse the situation. But once Leo has hold of the knife he tells the woman "I don't want to hurt you. I'm going to try not to hurt you." I'm going to try not to hurt you. These are both very dangerous people, pushed to their worst behavior out of destructive devotion to the other.

I thought that both performances were very good and Amy Seimetz uses a filming style that is very handheld. The sound design and editing also plays a strong role in understanding the mindset of the two characters.

This is a short (~90 minutes), compelling little film.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:26 pm
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A film with a number in its title: 3 Godfathers

This is a John Ford film, starring John Wayne as the leader of a trio of bank robbers who find themselves hunted through the desert by a posse. The three men happen upon a woman whose husband has been killed in an accident. In the throes of childbirth, the woman lives long enough to give birth to a baby boy and appoint the three robbers as the child's grandfathers before dying of complications from the birth.

As the men become more and more desperate for water, they go to extremes to ensure the survival of the newborn.

The film starts out as a comedy, but turns more and more serious as it progresses. Things heat up when the posse discovers the dead woman and come to believe that the trio killed her and her husband.

This isn't a movie I've ever really heard about, and I really enjoyed it.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:14 am
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Without spoiling, I feel like Unbreakable set things up almost perfectly from the first moments to the last shot. You may need to pay attention to what's happening on the screen, but it's arguably M. Night's best work.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:42 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Without spoiling, I feel like Unbreakable set things up almost perfectly from the first moments to the last shot. You may need to pay attention to what's happening on the screen, but it's arguably M. Night's best work.


A huge strength of both Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense is that they are equally (if not more) satisfying to rewatch once you understand the film's trajectory fully. When you look back at them, they are just so well structured, not just to build to the reveals in the final acts, but to actually show the effects of those reveals in earlier scenes.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 5:14 am
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Re: Unbreakable and its "twist"

I think it had more to do with how I remembered it. I hadn't seen the film since, well, 2000 and for some reason, I seemed to remember...

...the "twist" being that Dunn was, indeed, a "superhero" or had "superhuman" abilities, etc. Not that Mr. Glass was responsible for the events, so my mind was kinda playing with that being revealed pretty much since the beginning. I don't know how to explain it, LOL.


Anyway, the film is solid. Look forward to what comes next.

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Sun Sep 16, 2018 10:54 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Without spoiling, I feel like Unbreakable set things up almost perfectly from the first moments to the last shot. You may need to pay attention to what's happening on the screen, but it's arguably M. Night's best work.

I wouldn't argue.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 12:55 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

A huge strength of both Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense is that they are equally (if not more) satisfying to rewatch once you understand the film's trajectory fully. When you look back at them, they are just so well structured, not just to build to the reveals in the final acts, but to actually show the effects of those reveals in earlier scenes.

Preach.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 12:55 pm
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Thief wrote:
Re: Unbreakable and its "twist"

I think it had more to do with how I remembered it. I hadn't seen the film since, well, 2000 and for some reason, I seemed to remember...

...the "twist" being that Dunn was, indeed, a "superhero" or had "superhuman" abilities, etc. Not that Mr. Glass was responsible for the events, so my mind was kinda playing with that being revealed pretty much since the beginning. I don't know how to explain it, LOL.


Anyway, the film is solid. Look forward to what comes next.

Oh, no I really think that part is still part of the main arc.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 12:56 pm
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Thief wrote:
Re: Unbreakable and its "twist"

I think it had more to do with how I remembered it. I hadn't seen the film since, well, 2000 and for some reason, I seemed to remember...

...the "twist" being that Dunn was, indeed, a "superhero" or had "superhuman" abilities, etc. Not that Mr. Glass was responsible for the events, so my mind was kinda playing with that being revealed pretty much since the beginning. I don't know how to explain it, LOL.


Anyway, the film is solid. Look forward to what comes next.

It was the same for me. My reaction was
"Holy crap, I just watched a superhero movie and didn't know it!"
Felt really dumb when I rewatched it and realized the film opens with a quote about comic books.

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Sun Sep 16, 2018 1:01 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
It was the same for me. My reaction was
"Holy crap, I just watched a superhero movie and didn't know it!"
Felt really dumb when I rewatched it and realized the film opens with a quote about comic books.


Well, I think that the film does a good job of keeping you a bit uncertain about
the nature of what's happening with Dunn. For example, when we learn that he wasn't actually hurt in the car crash when he was young, but faked it to get out of football. Because I had thought that the train accident had caused his powers. Same thing with the psychic flashes he gets. It had the feeling more of something that was happening to him, even though you come to realize it's a classic "powers emerging" storyline.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 9:26 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

Well, I think that the film does a good job of keeping you a bit uncertain about
the nature of what's happening with Dunn. For example, when we learn that he wasn't actually hurt in the car crash when he was young, but faked it to get out of football. Because I had thought that the train accident had caused his powers. Same thing with the psychic flashes he gets. It had the feeling more of something that was happening to him, even though you come to realize it's a classic "powers emerging" storyline.

Well, I further thought
that he had them all along but was suppressing them because he wanted a normal life, the same reason he quit football (that was just a parallel to illustrate the point), but unfortunately this made his normal life a failure. When he finally started to accept the truth, he really "discovered" his powers and as he became true to himself, the rest of his life got better. This is why his failing marriage (the best part of the movie in my opinion, largely thanks to Robin Wright, but also Shyamalan's direction) is so important to the film.
And then Glass drops the bomb.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 9:41 pm
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A film or mini-series over 240 minutes long: 10th Kingdom

Well, this was quite the marathon!

This 10-episode mini-series follows a young woman named Virginia and her father Tony who live in New York. A transformed prince escapes to New York from a fairy-tale land (where Snow White, Cinderella, etc are all historical figures), and before long Virginia and Tony are transported to the fairy realm.

They are accompanied by a man named Wolf, originally hired by the evil queen to capture and/or kill Virginia, Tony, and the transformed prince. Wolf quickly has a change of heart, falling in love with Virginia and trying to help the pair find a way home.

I found this series to be a mixed bag. To begin with, the cast is pretty good. Kimberly Williams-Paisley plays Virginia, and really shines in her big emotional scenes. Scott Cohen as the wolf is also pretty good, oscillating between goofball antics and genuinely threatening menace. John Larroquette is alright as Tony, a man whose greed is constantly getting the better of him. Other fun roles include Diane Wiest as the evil queen, Rutger Hauer as an evil huntsman, and Warwick Davis as a swindler.

My main issue with this series was its tonal inconsistancy. It really ranges from things that are totally goofy (like Virginia leading a village of farmers in a sheep-modified version of "We Will Rock You"), to moments that are pretty dark, like rape threats or a woman trying to drown a child while in the throes of a mental breakdown. It feels like a series that wasn't sure if it was pitching itself at an adult audience or an audience of twelve year olds.

Another problem is the character of Virginia. She is the series protagonist, and yet she is totally, utterly useless. The series makes a point of her having "strong" moments, and yet she is always wrong. I mean, literally always wrong. She literally picks the wrong path to follow twice. When she tries to argue a court case she accuses the wrong person. Every time she tries to accomplish something she ends up being rescued by either her father or Wolf. It goes beyond her character feeling flawed and borders on her being flat out stupid. It's frustrating because the actress is really good, and at many points her decisions make no sense. And when other characters do destructive or foolish things (like shattering a magic mirror that they needed or spending all of their money on a lavish dinner), she is portrayed as a cruel harpy and inevitably ends up apologizing to her father or Wolf for criticizing them.

I also had mixed feelings about the romance between Virginia and Wolf. I will say that the chemistry between Williams-Paisley and Cohen is really good--sexy sparks right from the start. But the approach to their romance is really creepy. I think that the writers, in trying to show the arc from "animal" to man overshot the mark a bit. Wolf constantly refers to her as being "creamy". He talks about what he wants to "do to her". He repeatedly refers to her as "teasing" him or "provoking" him. He (and other characters, including her father!) openly discusses her virginity. Cohen does his best to mitigate the creep factor (again, the writing is the real issue), but the constant double entendres about his "appetites" and wanting to "eat" her get kind of old. Despite the ick factor, though, the relationship between Virginia and Wolf is the best thing the series has going for it. There's a long stretch in the middle of the series where Wolf simply isn't in it for like two or three episodes and the series really drags without the Virginia/Wolf dynamic.

Overall this was a good enough miniseries. The actors have a good time with their roles, and the overall plot arc is generally satisfying. It's on Amazon Prime as five 90-minute episodes.


Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:08 am
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Also, watching all the feast scenes in 10th Kingdom was making me want to bake, so I made a loaf of bread but forgot about the timing of it all and now it's too late at night to eat any. Sad face. The whole house smells like freshly-baked honey-wheat.


Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:57 am
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An Alfred Hitchcock film: Young and Innocent

The more I've learned about Hitchcock and the way he treated certain people, the harder it's been for me to watch his films.

This was one that, generally speaking, was pretty bland. Echoes of the elements of The 39 Steps, but with half the charm, half the suspense, and half the sparkle.

A young man, Robert, is accused of murder when a wealthy woman of his acquaintance shows up strangled on a beach. Desperate, he goes on the run and ends up in the company of Erica, the daughter of the local head of police. Together the two race across the countryside, dodging the police and trying to find evidence that will exonerate the innocent man.

Everything that worked so well in The 39 Steps (the dashing falsely accused man, the at-first unwilling female accomplice) falls pretty flat here. Robert felt more smarmy than charming to me. Erica is an okay, but dull protagonist. There simply aren't many dimensions to the plot--a huge amount of time is spent hunting down a piece of evidence and then . . . they find it.

And as if the blandness of the proceedings wasn't enough, the climax of the film includes key characters who are dressed in blackface. Yes, ten quality minutes of unnecessary blackface.

Unless you're a Hitchcock completist, I can't say I'd recommend this one.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 7:24 am
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A Drama Film/A Film with No CGI or Special Effects:

Schonefeld Boulevard (2014)

An overweight high school girl is really not having a good life as we see in the beginning of this film. Her two best friends barely tolerate her and have no qualms taking a picture of her in her underwear. Her neighbor is kind of a weirdo who has no problems speaking the truth, but he also kind of has a dark sense of humor. Her family is struggling to get by and is trying to get her a job in a store. She struggles with public speaking and English. Her dog is probably the most understanding of her companions. She fears that she'll be the last to do it.

Yeah, her life is kind of the pits.

While on a trip with her mother, Cindy befriends a Finnish engineer who they nearly hit with their car. She goes to the airport to drop off some sunglasses he dropped and a friendship starts to emerge. Meeting him starts to open a new world for her, as does a later friendship with a computer expert from Korea. She starts to gain confidence and transform.

For a coming of age movie, this was OK. Sadly, I was sold on this being a tragicomedy. But there's not much here that proved to be funny. Film moves kind of slow at times.

But there are some compensations, particularly as the film moves into its second half. Whether playing table tennis with Park (the Korean guy) or when she finally starts to waltz towards the end, the lead actress Julia Jendrobek manages to charm. And as we start to piece together what happened to neighbor Danny and his ill-fated stint in Afghanistan, an intriguing story starts to emerge.

BUT...

There were various issues I had such as:

The short lived sexual relationship between Cindy and the Finnish engineer who lies at one point about being married so he can get away. Turns out that was a lie, but um, did we need another An Education? Oh, and Danny does try to sexually assault Cindy at one point which made little sense in relation to everything else that happened in the film


Overall, it was alright. But I cannot recommend this one.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:19 am
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A film that was a box-office bomb: Supernova

(Note: I picked this one off of the Wikipedia list of biggest all time box office bombs)

I mean . . . okay.

This was a very late-90s/early-2000s sci-fi thriller. I didn't think it was awful, but I can understand why it didn't do well at the box office.

To begin with, the film has an R-rating, something that mostly seems due to the numerous sex scenes and scenes involving nudity. It's full of boob shots (including a scene where everyone is nude, but hte women are all filmed from the waist up while the men are all filmed from the shoulders up . . . . hmmm), a handful of those weird low-angle male rear nudity shots, and three different "floating in space whilst boning" sex scenes.

But the nudity/sex isn't itself that awful, it's just that the film around it isn't at all adult or well-written enough that it feels like a "grown up" sci-fi film. This seems like a movie that would be aimed at teens, but I can't imagine many parents taking their kids to it. There's nothing particularly innovative about it (thought the film is in love with those zero gravity sex shots) that would generate good buzz.

The film's not all bad, though. The plot follows the crew of a medical rescue vessel. Following an accident that kills their captain (Robert Forster, who is maybe in the film for 5 minutes and has like three lines of dialogue), newcomer Nick (James Spader) takes over the ship. The crew is rounded out by chief medical officer Kaela (Angela Bassett), tow other technicians (Lou Diamond Phillips and Robin Tunney), and the ship's engineer (Wilson Cruz). When the ship takes on board a distressed shuttle they find a man (the son of Kaela's old flame) and a . . . 9th-dimensional alien sex donut.

The alien sex donut is really . . . something. And lest the imagery be lost on us, we get to watch as the thing does sexy moaning while Phillips puts his hand in it. And then out of it. And then in it again. Okay, movie! We get it!

The man brought aboard the ship, Karl, is such a smarmy creep that there's no question he's up to no good. The only real question remains what the alien artifact is and what it will ultimately do.

This is where the film really gets hand-wavey. At one point, the ship computer tells Kaela that the artifact contains 9th dimensional matter. When Kaela asks what that is, the computer responds that it can't be explained in human terms, so just know it's . . . weird stuff. Later we are warned that the 9th dimensional matter could either "destroy life on Earth . . . or enable humankind to achieve a new level of existence." Ha! Oh, okay! Are those the only two choices?!

The shame is that the cast is actually pretty solid. Spader and Bassett make for solid protagonists (even if a romantic subplot between them feels pretty rushed--but any excuse for more zero-G nookie!*******), and their if their performances aren't exactly the most enthusiastic, they are a long way from phoning it in. I mean, I don't even know if Bassett is capable of not being totally compelling on screen.

But like many action/sci-fi films from this era (and, honestly, from that point on), the final act is largely reduced to screaming and shattering glass. There's a sequence just stolen from Aliens.

I don't think it deserves the low 4.8 rating it currently has on the IMDb. I thought it was a solid 6. If you're highly incentivized by sexy bodies, it might even be a 6.5.


*****EDIT: I just read the most what?! trivia. After they filmed the movie, they wanted to "deepen" the relationship between Kaela and Nick. So they took a sequence of Tunney's character sleeping with the villain and they used CGI to make Tunney's skin dark so that viewers would think it was Angela Bassett's body. I would LOVE to know what Tunney and Bassett thought of that!


Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:31 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film that was a box-office bomb: Supernova

(Note: I picked this one off of the Wikipedia list of biggest all time box office bombs)

I mean . . . okay.

This was a very late-90s/early-2000s sci-fi thriller. I didn't think it was awful, but I can understand why it didn't do well at the box office.

To begin with, the film has an R-rating, something that mostly seems due to the numerous sex scenes and scenes involving nudity. It's full of boob shots (including a scene where everyone is nude, but hte women are all filmed from the waist up while the men are all filmed from the shoulders up . . . . hmmm), a handful of those weird low-angle male rear nudity shots, and three different "floating in space whilst boning" sex scenes.

But the nudity/sex isn't itself that awful, it's just that the film around it isn't at all adult or well-written enough that it feels like a "grown up" sci-fi film. This seems like a movie that would be aimed at teens, but I can't imagine many parents taking their kids to it. There's nothing particularly innovative about it (thought the film is in love with those zero gravity sex shots) that would generate good buzz.

The film's not all bad, though. The plot follows the crew of a medical rescue vessel. Following an accident that kills their captain (Robert Forster, who is maybe in the film for 5 minutes and has like three lines of dialogue), newcomer Nick (James Spader) takes over the ship. The crew is rounded out by chief medical officer Kaela (Angela Bassett), tow other technicians (Lou Diamond Phillips and Robin Tunney), and the ship's engineer (Wilson Cruz). When the ship takes on board a distressed shuttle they find a man (the son of Kaela's old flame) and a . . . 9th-dimensional alien sex donut.

The alien sex donut is really . . . something. And lest the imagery be lost on us, we get to watch as the thing does sexy moaning while Phillips puts his hand in it. And then out of it. And then in it again. Okay, movie! We get it!

The man brought aboard the ship, Karl, is such a smarmy creep that there's no question he's up to no good. The only real question remains what the alien artifact is and what it will ultimately do.

This is where the film really gets hand-wavey. At one point, the ship computer tells Kaela that the artifact contains 9th dimensional matter. When Kaela asks what that is, the computer responds that it can't be explained in human terms, so just know it's . . . weird stuff. Later we are warned that the 9th dimensional matter could either "destroy life on Earth . . . or enable humankind to achieve a new level of existence." Ha! Oh, okay! Are those the only two choices?!

The shame is that the cast is actually pretty solid. Spader and Bassett make for solid protagonists (even if a romantic subplot between them feels pretty rushed--but any excuse for more zero-G nookie!), and their if their performances aren't exactly the most enthusiastic, they are a long way from phoning it in. I mean, I don't even know if Bassett is capable of not being totally compelling on screen.

But like many action/sci-fi films from this era (and, honestly, from that point on), the final act is largely reduced to screaming and shattering glass. There's a sequence just stolen from Aliens.

I don't think it deserves the low 4.8 rating it currently has on the IMDb. I thought it was a solid 6. If you're highly incentivized by sexy bodies, it might even be a 6.5.


This sounds amazing.

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Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:40 am
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Captain Terror wrote:

This sounds amazing.


Please read the edit I just added. "Amazing" doesn't quite do this film justice.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:42 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Please read the edit I just added. "Amazing" doesn't quite do this film justice.

And you would have us believe this film was a box office flop? I'm not buying it.

I looked up the trailer to see if I have any memory of this film's existence (I don't). But I would like to point out that the first half of the trailer features the song "Fly" by Sugar Ray. I repeat: AMAZING

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Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:23 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
And you would have us believe this film was a box office flop? I'm not buying it.

I looked up the trailer to see if I have any memory of this film's existence (I don't). But I would like to point out that the first half of the trailer features the song "Fly" by Sugar Ray. I repeat: AMAZING


Just FYI: the trivia section on IMDb refers to that as the "infamous theatrical trailer".

EDIT: And I just watched that trailer and . . . yikes! Like I said before: to whom was that supposed to appeal? "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the universe!". Oof. Also, I like how the trailer is a manic blend of sexual remarks, scenes/shots that were not actually in the movie, and spoilerific content from the last 20 minutes of the film.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:50 am
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Directed by Walter Hill, Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Sholder.

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Tue Sep 18, 2018 11:38 am
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Glad you had fun with Supernova.

I think I saw it and kinda didn't like it? Will agree on the Spader/Bassett dynamic. But maybe if the villany was better?

I don't remember much outside of maybe the final shot.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:07 pm
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Rock wrote:
Directed by Walter Hill, Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Sholder.

I thought that Coppola only did a last-minute rescue edit as a favor to the studio. Anyway, it was clearly unsalvageable.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:30 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
An Alfred Hitchcock film: Young and Innocent

The more I've learned about Hitchcock and the way he treated certain people, the harder it's been for me to watch his films.

This was one that, generally speaking, was pretty bland. Echoes of the elements of The 39 Steps, but with half the charm, half the suspense, and half the sparkle.

A young man, Robert, is accused of murder when a wealthy woman of his acquaintance shows up strangled on a beach. Desperate, he goes on the run and ends up in the company of Erica, the daughter of the local head of police. Together the two race across the countryside, dodging the police and trying to find evidence that will exonerate the innocent man.

Everything that worked so well in The 39 Steps (the dashing falsely accused man, the at-first unwilling female accomplice) falls pretty flat here. Robert felt more smarmy than charming to me. Erica is an okay, but dull protagonist. There simply aren't many dimensions to the plot--a huge amount of time is spent hunting down a piece of evidence and then . . . they find it.

And as if the blandness of the proceedings wasn't enough, the climax of the film includes key characters who are dressed in blackface. Yes, ten quality minutes of unnecessary blackface.

Unless you're a Hitchcock completist, I can't say I'd recommend this one.


I remember liking this one quite a bit, but mostly for its technical aspects. There are a couple of interesting angles and well handled long shots, plus that impressive crane shot in the last act. But I also thought the two leads had good chemistry and the film was breezy. I can understand why the blackface scene might be bothersome, but I always take this things as a sign of the times.

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Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:31 pm
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Also, would mother! qualify as a box office bomb? Asking for a friend.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:44 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
Also, would mother! qualify as a box office bomb? Asking for a friend.

It devastated the veils of millions. Rendered asunder the self-deceptive fantasies of the masses. Obliterated the senses of heathens.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:48 pm
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But that didn't answer the question... :P


Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:20 pm
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It is the only answer.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:22 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
It is the only answer.


Remind me never to ask you for directions.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:32 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
Remind me never to ask you for directions.

Only the lost can ever be found.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 2:46 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
Also, would mother! qualify as a box office bomb? Asking for a friend.

https://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=mother2017.htm

Made half of its budget back in the US, slightly better elswhere.

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Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:27 pm
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I have a morbid desire to watch Battlefield Earth for that "box office bomb" category :D

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Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:55 pm
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Speaking of Hitchcock...

An Alfred Hitchcock film


Saboteur (1942)

Last night I watched what I think is my #35 Hitchcock film. In Saboteur, Hitchcock goes back to the "spy thriller" formula that proved to be successful for him in the 1930s. Even though it does feel like a formula in how by-the-numbers things flow, the plot and the characters are engaging. As its common in some of these early films, the relationship between Kane and Pat feels somewhat forced. I really liked most of the bad guys, and how they were played, and there's a good dose of cool and nifty shots from The Master. This won't rank very high in my Hitchcock list, but it's good fun.

Grade: B

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Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:14 pm
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Thief wrote:
I have a morbid desire to watch Battlefield Earth for that "box office bomb" category :D


There's a certain amount of campy, I can't believe I'm watching this, fun that can be had here.

Imagine a goofier Postman.


Wed Sep 19, 2018 1:17 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
Only the lost can ever be found.


Janson as Illuminati confirmed. :D


Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:01 am
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Rock wrote:
Directed by Walter Hill, Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Sholder.


I wish it had been a more FUN hot mess. Instead it was just kind of forgettable, except for some stupid moments of dialogue and thinking that James Spader and Angela Bassett were way too good for the film around them.

A film about food: That Sugar Film


Very much in the vein of Super Size Me, a man sets out to document the effects of a high sugar diet on his health.

Aside from some cheesy parts (when you clearly stage moments--even cut shots--in a documentary, you do some damage to your credibility, friends), I quite liked it. It really looked at the sugar problem from multiple angles--communities with no farming options, the way that sugar is marketed to children, the saturation of sugar ("the bliss point") in non-dessert items, the effects of sugar consumption on poor, rural communities.

The film is colorful, the explanations are clear, and I will never forget the image of a 17 year old boy's entirely rotted out mouthful of teeth, even as he describes how his infant nephew is given Mountain Dew in a baby bottle.

As someone who once counted the grams of sugar in one of my student's school-provided breakfasts and found that she was consuming 70 GRAMS (more than her entire day's worth), I think that this is a film especially worth seeing for parents and community leaders.


Wed Sep 19, 2018 7:18 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

Janson as Illuminati confirmed. :D

Eyes have they, but they see not


Wed Sep 19, 2018 10:39 am
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