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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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A Bollywood film


Agnivarsha: The Fire and the Rain (2002)

Quote:
"Perhaps every sacrifice needs demons before it can be complete."


My experience with Bollywood films is pretty much null. Off the top of my head, the only Indian film I remember seeing is 2013's The Lunchbox (great film, BTW). Other than that, I got nothing. Sure, I've seen clips shared on social media from exaggerated action films with Indian action heroes jumping under cars and flying over the air, or Indian actors breaking into dance and song while in the middle of their work day, but I've never ventured that far. Maybe because of that, I was looking forward to tackling this one.

A few online recommendations aside, I had little guidance here. So I just started browsing my streaming services, and it was Tubi the one that came up with this 2002 fantasy film. Agnivarsha is set in a drought-stricken kingdom where Chief Priest Parvasu (Jackie Shroff) is leading a ceremony to try to please Indra, the god of rain. Meanwhile, his estranged wife Vishaka (Raveena Tandon) reunites with an old flame, which angers Parvasu's father, who happens to be a powerful priest as well. Finally, Parvasu's younger brother, Arvasu (Milind Soman) is seeking the approval of village elders to marry Nittilai (Sonali Kulkarni).

Sounds a bit complicated, but the plot is presented in a pretty effective way. There are a few unnecessary detours and sequences that drag a bit, but I still found the story to be compelling. There's a certain tragic element to how things unfold that I thought was well handled. Also, the performances were all decent and I found the few song/dance moments to be cute, for lack of a better word.

If I were to name the worst thing about the film, it would be the special effects. Ehhhh, not very good. There is one scene in particular when a demon is invoked and unleashed which ends up being quite laughable. And although it doesn't hinder the film's effect that much, I suppose it brings that stereotypical and exaggerated element I might have been looking for in a Bollywood film. Seriously, though, it was a decent film and I would recommend it for anyone that's looking to venture into Indian cinema, like I was.

Grade: B

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Sat Nov 24, 2018 10:25 am
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I have not seen that movie, but upon googling it, I see that Jackie Shroff is missing his mustache. Normally he looks like Indian Hitler.

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Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:45 pm
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Rock wrote:
I have not seen that movie, but upon googling it, I see that Jackie Shroff is missing his mustache. Normally he looks like Indian Hitler.


I think I read it was a big deal that he shaved his moustache for this film.

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Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:40 pm
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A film or mini-series over 240 minutes long: Middlemarch

Years ago I listened to the audiobook of Middlemarch and found myself completely smitten. The story is sprawling and yet intimate, and it presents a complex cast of characters and circumstances.

The story centers on a woman named Dorothea, a gentle but intellectual woman who wants to make herself useful. She marries an older man named Casaubon after she is intrigued by his intellectual pursuits. Once they are married, however, it is clear that he wants her to have zero part in his work, and he only grudgingly allows her to begin to learn some Greek so that she can copy over her work. Around this time, Dorothea meets Casaubon's nephew, Latislaw. The two are drawn to each other, but keep their distance.

Other major plots follow a man named Lydgate, a doctor who is determined to make his mark in the medical field. He marries a woman named Rosamond, but he is overly controlling and the pair soon fall into debt because of the amount of time Lydgate spends in unpaid research hours at the local hospital. A different man is dying and has two wills, intending to dispose of one immediately before his death. Still another plot follows a wealthy man in the community who is being blackmailed by a man from his past. All of this is set against a backdrop of political, medical, and social reform.

I thought that this was a good miniseries, though you would really need hours and hours more to fully capture the robust, intertwined narrative of the book. In condensing the events into a more compact runtime, the miniseries makes more of the events feel overly-convenient, and problems often seem to resolve too quickly. It is well-acted, though, and I enjoyed the way that it staged certain scenes.

I think that one of the most powerful elements of the book (and by extension the miniseries), is that there aren't really "bad guys". The characters all have dimension, and there is a push for empathy toward all of them. Yes, some characters act in ways that are cruel or deceptive, and there are certainly those who do wrong, but the film resists having one or two villains to be punished. Instead the narrative, like life, is a bit messy. Things end well for some and poorly for others.

In this same vein, the story is very interested in understanding the motivations and frustrations of people in all different stations. It's pretty horrible to watch Casaubon trying to bully Dorothea into agreeing to something without knowing what it is (he is dying and wants her to agree to his wishes without knowing the terms). Likewise, Lydgate tries to confine his wife to the house. But the story isn't just about the unfairness of the treatment of women. Lydgate too is unfairly regarded by people who do not understand his use of autopsy and who think of doctors with suspicion and disdain. While the focus is mostly on middle or upper-class characters, time is taken to address the way that the poor and the laborers are essentially at the mercy of the political decisions made almost entirely without their input.

I liked this miniseries, but the book is a must-read.


Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:55 am
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A non-Best Picture winner from the 1940s (nominated, but lost): Stagecoach

First of all: I cannot abide animal cruelty and the obvious mistreatment of horses in this film made it very hard for me to watch. I don't care about "But back then . . ." because anyone who would break an animal's legs or back for the sake of a great shot deserves no excuses made on their behalf.

The film follows a collection of people who find themselves sharing a stagecoach that must ride through dangerous Apache territory in order to reach its destination. The passengers include a prostitute, Dallas, and a drunk doctor who are being kicked out of the town where they live; a pregnant woman trying to make it to her fiance who is in the army; a man who has embezzled money from his bank job and is making his escape; a Virginia gentleman; and the Ringo Kid (John Wayne), an escaped prisoner who is out for revenge on the man who killed his father and brother.

Much of the film involves the burgeoning romantic relationship between the Kid and Dallas. As the film progresses, the Kid is the only person to really treat Dallas like an equal. As the group goes through different trials (including the birth of the baby and an attack by the Apaches), they bond with each other and come to respect each other.

Setting aside for a moment the problem I had with the treatment of the animals in the production, this is a film that has a lot going for it. The performances are all very good (Thomas Mitchell won an Oscar for his portrayal of the drunk doctor), and there's a nice complexity to the different characters. In particular, Dallas is shown to be a kind woman who is well spoken and even maternal. The film feels more like a drama than a Western in terms of its focus on the character dynamics.

Worth watching, probably, though I couldn't watch it again because of the animal cruelty.


Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:00 am
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Not in love with the movie as a whole, but the shot that introduces Wayne is one of those star-making moments, like the one of Chow lighting his cigarette with a counterfeit bill in A Better Tomorrow, that sums up the appeal of an actor in a single image.

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Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:48 am
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Rock wrote:
Not in love with the movie as a whole, but the shot that introduces Wayne is one of those star-making moments, like the one of Chow lighting his cigarette with a counterfeit bill in A Better Tomorrow, that sums up the appeal of an actor in a single image.


The shot that stuck most with me was one of Dallas walking down a hallway toward an open door to the outside as the Kid watches her from behind. The way she's framed in the hallway and the way that the light halos her body makes it look like someone walking into heaven and it's such a beautiful way to show the fact that the Kid is falling in love with her.

I think that the movie has a really good first half hour, then it kind of drags in the middle. Adding insult to injury, the action scenes with the Apache attack were probably the least interesting to me. I was much more fond of the early scenes in the stagecoach that had that similar vibe to something like Lifeboat.


Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:31 pm
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Just lost a huge review thanks to accidentally closing the browser window. Fuckin' pissed.

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Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:02 am
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Just done with my ninth film for November. And yeah, this is only the second one for this challenge.

Will talk about the SNL reunion week film later. HINT: It's not the film I complained about on my thread.


Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:05 am
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Thief wrote:
Just lost a huge review thanks to accidentally closing the browser window. Fuckin' pissed.
Aw, what was it?

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Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:05 am
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Stu wrote:
Aw, what was it?


Geostorm. Don't laugh.

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Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:07 am
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Quick hitting reviews of two I've caught over this long weekend.

Ghostbusters (2016):
See a film with a SNL alum, past or present (Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon)

A female led reboot of the 1980s comedy film has physicist Erin (Wiig) in line for a tenure to Columbia until a book she has written with paranormal researcher Abby (Melissa McCarthy) threatens it. Along with technology driven engineer Jillian (McKinnon), they investigate a haunting at a museum where Erin realizes that ghosts are real. After a viral video costs all three of them their jobs, they decide to start researching an increase in the paranormal in New York City along with ticket seller Patty (Leslie Jones) who also knows her way around town. Oh, and they hire muscular, dumb Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) as a receptionist.

Feig sticks with his strengths of a strong female ensemble and a collection of jokes. It works more often than not. McKinnon makes the most of her character and feels like she's broken out here. Leslie Jones does more here than Ernie Hudson did in the original and runs with a character that lesser writers could have made one-note. Other SNL alumni show up including a decent role for Cecily Strong as the mayor's assistant. Rumors of him struggling with PG13 have been exaggerated.

BUT...

He does seem a bit lost in dealing with the action moments. The third act does get a bit CGI heavy with the actresses being almost lost in the action. Although it is frequently amusing, there isn't more than one memorable hilarious set piece involving a rock concert and ending with an amusing cameo. There were efforts to address some of the venom directed at it, but to be honest, it feels too respectful of the original to step out in its own direction. It seemed kind of odd to make a big deal out of the split between Abby and Erin early on only to drop it within the first half hour.

It's less hilarious than it should have been, but it's not bad.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)
See a British Film
See a Film about a Road Trip


Confession time. I saw part of this film before it left Netflix the first time and when it returned, I knew I had to finish it.

Good lord, why did I have to finish it?

Hector (Simon Pegg) is a psychiatrist who loves routines and is secretly very unhappy. So he decides to drop everything and set out on this trip around the world in search of what makes people happy, leaving behind the dutiful long time girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike).

Hector travels to Hong Kong, to Africa, and to Los Angeles where he meets with people old and new and learns what makes and doesn't make people happy.

Is it racist? No, I think there's enough characters to give a somewhat balanced look in both foreign locales. But is it poorly written? Absolutely. Everyone from Hector on down is so thin that you don't care what happens to him.

I take that back. When you consider that he puts Clara in the background for the most part while going on what appears to be a selfish journey, my feelings towards Hector quickly turned negative. Things would only get worse from there thanks to developments in the plot.

Also keep in mind that the director of this also did Town and Country as well as the Hannah Montana film. Film can't decide whether it wants to be a serious look at happiness or a kid's eye view of what constitutes happiness. There are some cameos in this, but I think for their sake I'd rather not reveal them.

When more time is spent on determining how this could connect to Gone Girl than on the film itself, then you know you're not happy watching this. Make yourself happy and skip this.


Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:23 am
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A film that was a box-office bomb


Geostorm (2017)

Quote:
"If Dutch Boy has a catastrophic failure, it can create something far worse than the very thing we're trying to prevent. What we call a geostorm."


Geostorm was conceived as writer and producer Dean Devlin tried to explain climate change to his young daughter. After taking some construction paper and some crayons to do so, it seems he segued into writing the script for this. At some point, he called on a friend for help because apparently he can't write good. After some studio "hot potato-ing", the project ended up on Warner Bros' lap, who threw $82 million to Devlin so he could buy more expensive crayons. 3 years, an additional $20 million, and a few poor test screenings later, WB decided to hire some older kids to color around the edges to try to fix this mess. But you know, how many of you have tried to fix one of your children's drawings? The result is what you would expect from a poorly conceived and written, disaster of a disaster film that's gone over-budget and over-schedule.

Geostorm is set in a not-so-distant future where climate change has already wreaked havoc around the world. To neutralize this, an international coalition designed a network of satellites dubbed "Dutch Boy" to stabilize the climate around the world. But when chief architect Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) uses "Dutch Boy" to stop a storm without following the proper procedures, the government gives him the boot and replaces him with his younger brother Max (Jim Sturgess). Keep in mind that all this happens in narration and mentions during the prologue and the first scene. No action yet. Fast forward a couple years, a series of climate disturbances start happening around the world, and the government decides to send *cue ominous music* ONE MAN *end cue* to check the satellites. So, of course, they send Jake into space for his needed redemption, while Max stays on Earth trying to uncover the conspiracy behind everything.

I admit I'm a sucker for disaster movies. It doesn't matter if it's storms, earthquakes, meteors, or tornadoes, there's something fascinatingly creepy about seeing cities leveled by the forces of nature. But disaster films need something beyond this to work. Whether it's compelling drama between the characters involved, or simply great action moments and thrilling setpieces. Deep Impact, which is a personal favorite, relied on the former by fabricating solid drama across a huge ensemble cast, while Twister relied on the latter with some decent moments of action and tension. Geostorm has nothing; not even the titular "geo storm", whatever that it. Heck, even The Day After Tomorrow has our lead characters chased by "cold air", but there is nothing here. There is a mildly thrilling moment where excessive heat causes underground gas mains to explode in Hong Kong while a (very) secondary character drives away from the wreckage, but that's about it. The mere threat of a made-up natural disaster on a highly improbable, futuristic situation doesn't cut it. As it is, the climax of the film is reduced to a clichéd race against time as a space station is set to self-destruct.

With no effective set pieces or action moments on its favor, the film could've focused on the drama and the character dynamics. But neither Jake and Max's rivalry, nor Jake's relationship with his estranged daughter are properly written or developed. Plus, even if the script were good enough, I don't think Butler and Sturgess have the acting chops to carry the drama either. In addition, there's a group of token international actors stationed in space, but most of them do nothing. That is, unless you count the moment where the Mexican character screams "Thank the Mexican!" after saving a certain character (Get it? He's Mexican!). Finally, Andy García and Ed Fucking Harris are wasted in thankless roles as the President and his Secretary of State, which proves that even the greatest actors can sink under the pressure of a mediocre script and a stupid story.

Geostorm was a mess from its conception, that turned into a bigger mess during production and devolved into a worst mess during and after filming. In the end, it ended up opening to much less than what was expected, finishing second behind one of Tyler Perry's Madea Halloween films, and grossed much less than what they thought it would. After the dust settled, the studio ended up losing $72 million dollars. Maybe not the catastrophic failure that other blockbusters have been, but I'm struggling to think of something far worse than your big budget film losing to a Freakin' Madea film.

Grade: D

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Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:09 pm
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A film written by an African-American: For Colored Girls

Adapted from the 1976 stage play For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, this film follows a cast of Black women whose intersecting stories involve a range of issues faced by women (and women of color in particular) such as rape, abortion, domestic abuse, HIV, infertility, and so on.

The film strongly embraces its theatrical roots, with characters delivering long, poetic monologues. It's for the best that the film doesn't hide these elements, because the events of the story would be borderline parody if played straight. In the space of two or three days, women who know each other one way or the other experience all of the issues listed above and more. By allowing the film to take on a heightened, unreal tone, these events don't seem as unreasonable.

Overall I liked the film, but at a certain point, around when a woman's
children are being dangled out of a five story window
literally moments after we've watched another woman
being raped by her date
, I started to feel a little emotionally numb. The actresses all do a good job in their roles (I love Loretta Divine so much!), but one "big moment" after another starts to get a little overwhelming.

I'd almost rather see this work and these stories done as a miniseries to give each part room to breathe.


Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:36 am
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Thief wrote:
A film that was a box-office bomb


Geostorm (2017)


Grade: D




I love weather/natural disaster porn, but even I didn't like this one.

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Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:42 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

Ghostbusters (2016):
See a film with a SNL alum, past or present (Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon)

A female led reboot of the 1980s comedy film has physicist Erin (Wiig) in line for a tenure to Columbia until a book she has written with paranormal researcher Abby (Melissa McCarthy) threatens it. Along with technology driven engineer Jillian (McKinnon), they investigate a haunting at a museum where Erin realizes that ghosts are real. After a viral video costs all three of them their jobs, they decide to start researching an increase in the paranormal in New York City along with ticket seller Patty (Leslie Jones) who also knows her way around town. Oh, and they hire muscular, dumb Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) as a receptionist.

Feig sticks with his strengths of a strong female ensemble and a collection of jokes. It works more often than not. McKinnon makes the most of her character and feels like she's broken out here. Leslie Jones does more here than Ernie Hudson did in the original and runs with a character that lesser writers could have made one-note. Other SNL alumni show up including a decent role for Cecily Strong as the mayor's assistant. Rumors of him struggling with PG13 have been exaggerated.

BUT...

He does seem a bit lost in dealing with the action moments. The third act does get a bit CGI heavy with the actresses being almost lost in the action. Although it is frequently amusing, there isn't more than one memorable hilarious set piece involving a rock concert and ending with an amusing cameo. There were efforts to address some of the venom directed at it, but to be honest, it feels too respectful of the original to step out in its own direction. It seemed kind of odd to make a big deal out of the split between Abby and Erin early on only to drop it within the first half hour.

It's less hilarious than it should have been, but it's not bad.

I think I mostly agree with this. I didn't think they had a very good third act and I also just didn't think the Hemsworth gag worked. Otherwise, I found it pretty amusing and McKinnon, who I had never seen before as I don't watch SNL, was a revelation to me.


Thu Nov 29, 2018 8:31 pm
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I enjoyed the new Ghostbusters well enough. I think it was as good as it had any right to be. The pairing and chemistry between the four leads was spot-on, and I did like the whole Hemsworth schtick. As a matter of fact, I think it was the best thing of the film. I do agree that the last act was the weakest part.

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Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:35 pm
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Wooley wrote:
I think I mostly agree with this. I didn't think they had a very good third act and I also just didn't think the Hemsworth gag worked. Otherwise, I found it pretty amusing and McKinnon, who I had never seen before as I don't watch SNL, was a revelation to me.



I swear it's like they realized 2/3 of the way through the movie that the villain was boring and unremarkable, so they decided to have Hemsworth's character get possessed. I'd be willing to bet cash money that wasn't in the original script.

They should have gotten Paul Reubens. He was the original choice to play Evo Shandor in the original, would have been a nice nod to it. They ended up getting some six foot tall Czech model as Gozer instead of having Reubens as a Shandor-inspired Gozer. (since Shandor was the last human to have contacted the ancient god, when the apartment building was constructed and they used the rooftop for rituals)

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By the time we got to Woodstock we were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes riding shotgun in the sky
Turning into butterflies above our nation


Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:51 am
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And November bites the dust. Here's my tally...

A Spanish language film: Abre los Ojos (rewatch)
A Bollywood film: Agnivarsha
A road trip film: Badlands
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Caddyshack
A film written by an African-American: BlacKkKlansman
A Palm D'Or winner: The Tree of Life
A Best Picture winner from the 1950s:
A film that was a box-office bomb: Geostorm
A British film: On Her Majesty's Secret Service
A film or mini-series over 240 minutes long: Generation Kill
A non-Best Picture winner from the 1940s (nominated, but lost): Twelve O'Clock High
A film about food:
A film with no CGI or special effects:
A period drama film: The Beguiled (2017)
A film directed by a woman: Lady Bird
A film by Kobayashi Masaki: Harakiri (1962)
A film based on a play:
A film from Sweden:

Just 13 films, but overall, I'm satisfied. There was a lot going on this month for me, with the adoption thing, so everything I got was me squeezing time to watch more films. I started to watch Delicatessen last night for the "food" category, but I was so tired that I kept dozing off. Went back and forth with it for about half-hour, but then I gave up, went to sleep.

I think my favorite was my last one: Harakiri. What a great film. Others that were close were Lady Bird, BlacKkKlansman, and Badlands. Not counting Abre los Ojos, cause that was a rewatch.

Least favorite was easy: Geostorm.

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Sun Dec 02, 2018 5:06 am
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I'm still trying to figure out what to do to close the year, but considering those were my last categories, I plan on finishing up with whatever's left. I had some leftover films that I didn't get to see (like the aforementioned Delicatessen, and From Here to Eternity, for the 50's Best Picture one).

I might come up with something "holiday" oriented, like I did on October, so I'll let you all know.

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Sun Dec 02, 2018 5:08 am
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Films I saw in November:

A Spanish language film:
A Bollywood film:
A road trip film: Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Ghostbusters (2016)
A film written by an African-American:
A Palm D'Or winner:
A Best Picture winner from the 1950s:
A film that was a box-office bomb:
A British film: Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)
A film or mini-series over 240 minutes long:
A non-Best Picture winner from the 1940s (nominated, but lost): The Philadelphia Story (1940)
A film about food:
A film with no CGI or special effects: Take Me to the River (2016)
A period drama film:
A film directed by a woman:
A film by Kobayashi Masaki:
A film based on a play: The Philadelphia Story (1940)
A film from Sweden:

Others seen in November:
Coraline (2009)
The Vault (2017)
An American in Paris: The Musical (2018)
The Shape of Water (2017)
Wildland (2019, yeah, that's right)
Baby Driver (2017)
Loving Vincent (2017)

Favorites for the month? Gotta go with Shape of Water and Coraline, although I did also enjoy The Philadelphia Story, Baby Driver, and Loving Vincent as well. Worst films are Hector and the Search for Happiness followed by The Vault.

Will begin December finishing up what would have been my box office bomb...the loud, dumb teen action film Monster Trucks (2017). Have plans to see Moonlight (2016), Spotlight (2015), and Lady Bird (2017). As for the rest, we'll see. Maybe I seek recommendations from others?


Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:17 pm
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A film by Kobayashi Masaki


Harakiri (1962) - Some mild SPOILERS included

Quote:
"This house boasts of its red armor and martial valor, but it seems that even in the great House of Ii, samurai honor is nothing more than a facade."


In the first shot of this film, the camera zooms on a traditional samurai armor carefully and reverently stood up on a pedestal. More often than not, samurais - and Japanese culture in general - are portrayed in popular culture with that same utmost reverence and honor. Most of them feature people frequently honoring centuries-long rituals and traditions as sacred things, with warriors that live their lives by a code that allows no deviation. Where an enemy is seen as an opponent worthy of respect, and the defeated are treated with dignity. But what if it was all pretension? a facade? That's what Kobayashi Masaki questions in his 1962 film.

Set in Japan, during the Edo period (17th Century), Harakiri follows Hanshiro Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai), a disheveled samurai with no master ("ronin") that presents himself at the Ii clan estate asking for permission to commit harakiri in their courtyard. Before giving him permission, the clan's senior counselor (Rentaro Mikuni) shares the story of another ronin that came months before asking the same. Meanwhile, Tsugumo himself shares his story with the clan, forcing the counselor and the audience to wonder: are his intentions true? Will he perform the deed or does he have other motives?

This is my first Masaki film, but what a treat it was. One thing that immediately got my attention was how beautiful and precise was the direction. Masaki doesn't move the camera a lot, relying instead in some impeccable framing. But when he moves it, his use of great tracking shots and slow zooms is very deliberate and neatly used. There is a particularly powerful scene in the first act where a character is shown committing a very painful sepukku that was probably one of the toughest scenes I've seen on any film. But Masaki lets the camera linger well enough for us to absorb the tragedy and pain of what's happening, without it feeling gratuitious. In addition, the climax features two very different, but equally impressive sword fights.

But if the direction is impressive, more impressive is the depth of the story, which serves as a deconstruction of the whole "samurai" mystique I mentioned above. Masaki takes his time to slowly build the story, but he doesn't back down from showing how the mere adherence to rituals and ceremonies just because, can end up being more dishonorable than the alternative. How meaningless are those rituals, if they're done for emtpy purposes?

Most of that tragic turnover of the usual tropes of the genre are perfectly carried by Nakadai's performance, who manages to portray the erosion in the beliefs of an honorable man and how it slowly turns into the desperation of a man that has nothing to lose. Mikuni is also great as the cold and stoic leader of the Ii clan. The great performances are rounded up by Akira Ishihama, who plays Hanshiro's son-in-law, and Tetsuro Tamba, who plays one of the main swordsmen of the Ii clan.

In a climatic scene towards the end, a character is seen taking that revered samurai armor we saw on the first shot, and defiantly tosses it across the room. The armor and their rituals are just that; a facade. One can say that Masaki does just the same with the genre, tossing it aside, stripping it away of its usual tropes while presenting us with a story of tragedy and depth. In the end, he shows us that honor doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with traditions and rituals, and that usually, the latter is just that: a facade.

Grade: A

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Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:17 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
Maybe I seek recommendations from others?


What are you in the mood for?


Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:23 pm
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For the first time in a while, I didn't make it through the list and will have some make-ups to do in December. (Ironically, I don't get to watch as much during months with breaks).

Here's what I saw in November:

A film directed by a woman: There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present): Welcome to Me
A road trip film: Retake
A Spanish language film: La Leyenda de Llorona
A film that was a box-office bomb: Man Down
A film based on a play: His Girl Friday
A film about food: Forks Over Knives
A British film: Crooked House
A film from Sweden: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
A film with no CGI or special effects: The Happiest Place on Earth
A period drama film: The Proposition
A film or mini-series over 240 minutes long: Middlemarch
A non-Best Picture winner from the 1940s (nominated, but lost): Stagecoach
A film written by an African-American: For Colored Girls

The best ones were undoubtedly What's Wrong with Aunt Diane?, His Girl Friday, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the Middlemarch miniseries, but I didn't see anything this month that felt like a revelation (though I loved Noomi Rapace in Dragon Tattoo).


Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:01 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

What are you in the mood for?


Looking for something upbeat, either a hilarious comedy or a uplifting drama.


Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:41 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

Looking for something upbeat, either a hilarious comedy or a uplifting drama.


And you have Amazon Prime and Netflix, right? Do you also have Hulu? Anyway, here are some recs. A few (like Some Like It Hot) I'm almost sure you've seen, but I'm listing them just in case!

Amazon Prime:
Some Like It Hot
Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Charade
Pride
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
It's a Boy/Girl Thing
Breakfast on Pluto
Tokyo Godfathers
Take Me Home
Crush the Skull
Chicken People
Logan Lucky
The Handmaiden
Short Term 12
Frequency
The Man from Nowhere
Beyond the Lights
Dakota Skye


Hulu:
Four Lions
Moonrise Kingdom
Happy Accidents
Boy Meets Girl
Next Stop Wonderland


Netflix:
Captain Underpants
Bolt
Trevor Noah: Son of Patricia
Before We Go
Oh, Hello
Hurricane Bianca
Obvious Child
4th Man Out
Man Who Knew Too Little
Lion


Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:47 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

And you have Amazon Prime and Netflix, right? Do you also have Hulu? Anyway, here are some recs. A few (like Some Like It Hot) I'm almost sure you've seen, but I'm listing them just in case!

Amazon Prime:
Some Like It Hot
Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Charade
Pride
It's a Boy/Girl Thing
Breakfast on Pluto
Tokyo Godfathers
Take Me Home
Crush the Skull
Chicken People
Logan Lucky
The Handmaiden
Short Term 12
The Man from Nowhere
Dakota Skye


Netflix:
Captain Underpants
Bolt
Trevor Noah: Son of Patricia
Before We Go
Oh, Hello
Hurricane Bianca
Obvious Child
4th Man Out


Don't have Hulu so yeah, that's out. I've deleted the Prime/Netflix titles I've already seen. It still leaves some candidates.

Thanks, Takoma!


Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:00 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

Don't have Hulu so yeah, that's out. I've deleted the Prime/Netflix titles I've already seen. It still leaves some candidates.

Thanks, Takoma!


I haven't seen a lot of those, but you know I second Crush the Skull. Bolt was pretty fun too. I half-saw Captain Underpants with my nephews; didn't pay attention as much as I should, but what I saw, I liked.

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Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:27 am
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Thief wrote:

I haven't seen a lot of those, but you know I second Crush the Skull. Bolt was pretty fun too. I half-saw Captain Underpants with my nephews; didn't pay attention as much as I should, but what I saw, I liked.


Saw bits of Underpants at work (we have a kids room that plays various appropriate films). I dug the cleverness from what I've seen.

Crush the Skull. Will keep that in mind. A horror isn't quite what I'm looking for at the moment, but it may hit the spot later!


Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:18 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

Saw bits of Underpants at work (we have a kids room that plays various appropriate films). I dug the cleverness from what I've seen.

Crush the Skull. Will keep that in mind. A horror isn't quite what I'm looking for at the moment, but it may hit the spot later!


Crush the Skull is like 70% comedy/30% horror, in my opinion. The tone is pretty light and it's funny, which is why I included it. There are two shorts on YouTube (also called "Crush the Skull") that show the tone very well. If you're okay with the level of "horror" in the shorts, you'll be fine with the film.

From my lists I'd highlight Before We Go, a comedy-drama-romance starring and directed by Chris Evans. 4th Man Out is a sweet little comedy drama about a man who comes out as gay to his group of friends and how that affects the dynamics between them. Tokyo Godfathers is a must-see anime.


Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:34 am
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Ok, I'm trying to come up with something to do for December, similar to what I did in October. But considering that some of us (me included) are carrying "leftovers" from the past month (plus the fact that the holidays might not give us enough time to watch films? or is it the opposite?), I'm sticking to fifteen (15) Christmas/Holiday-themed categories. Here's what I've come up with:

A film that features Santa Claus as a character:
A film with the word "winter" in the title:
A film with the words "Christmas" or "Holiday" in the title:
A film set in the snow, or featuring snow prominently:
A foreign "Holiday" film:
A film about the Nativity, or featuring characters from it (Jesus, Mary, the Magi):
A "Christmas" or "Holiday" film released before 1930:
A "Christmas" or "Holiday" horror film:
A documentary about "Christmas", the holidays, or something related: (suggestions)
A "Christmas" or "Holiday" animated film:
A "Christmas" or "Holiday" film with a minority lead cast:
A "Christmas" or "Holiday" film based on a book or play:
A "Christmas" or "Holiday" film with a 90% or more RT score:
Any adaptation of A Christmas Carol (there are anywhere from 15 to 30):
A "Christmas" or "Holiday" film nominated for any Oscar:

I think we can be fairly loose with what makes a film a "Holiday" film, but I guess as long as the holidays are featured prominently at some point or scene, it's fair.

Hope you guys like it.

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Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:20 am
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Been looking through and working with the categories. Struggling with finding anything before 1930 dealing with Christmas. Suggestions would be helpful. :up:


Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:47 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Been looking through and working with the categories. Struggling with finding anything before 1930 dealing with Christmas. Suggestions would be helpful. :up:


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Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:55 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Been looking through and working with the categories. Struggling with finding anything before 1930 dealing with Christmas. Suggestions would be helpful. :up:


Here's a few.


EDIT: Here are a few more.

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Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:05 am
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The Parish Priest's Christmas (1906)
See a Christmas/Holiday film made before 1930
See a film with a female director


Killed two birds with one stone as Thief's efforts proved to be useful.

I wish this short directed by Alice Guy could have been better.

Essentially, a priest realizes that time is short to complete a nativity scene and they're missing a baby for the display. After searching his pockets and church coffers without luck, he decides to visit several parishioners who can't help either. But things take a turn for the better at the Christmas Eve service.

It's really hard to review a six minute short or avoid spoilers, so I'll leave things there. I think the film could have made things clearer at times (perhaps by showcasing a list with amounts). But the ending was nicely done and it didn't overstay its welcome so there's that.

I guess December is off to an OK start?


Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:30 am
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Captain Terror wrote:

This wuz kool.


Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:50 am
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Wooley wrote:
This wuz kool.


That's the one I saw (thanks, Cap). The effects were impressive, considering the time.

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Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:56 am
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My plans for December 2018 get revealed:

Santa as a Character: The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
Film with Winter in the title/Film Set in the Snow: Dead of Winter (2014)
Film with Christmas/Holiday in Title: A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)
Foreign Holiday Film/Christmas or Holiday Horror: Grandmother's House (2001)
Film About the Nativity: The Star (2017)
Documentary about Christmas or Holidays: Santa Quest (2014)
Christmas or Holiday animated film/90% or higher RT score: Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Minority led Christmas/Holiday film: Miss Me This Christmas (2017)
Christmas/Holiday film based on a book/play: Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical (2017)
An adaption of the Christmas Carol: A Christmas Carol (2015)
Christmas/Holiday film nominated for an Oscar: It's a Wonderful Life (1946) re-watch


Fri Dec 07, 2018 11:36 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Christmas or Holiday animated film/90% or higher RT score: Tokyo Godfathers (2003)


Woo! This is such a great film.


Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:36 pm
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Thief wrote:

That's the one I saw (thanks, Cap). The effects were impressive, considering the time.

I didn't have time to elaborate when I first posted the film but yes the animation is great, especially when you remember the film is 105 years old. I love that he chose to animate the shattering ornament, when he could've just gotten away with filming a falling ornament in real time.

Beyond the technique though, I like it just for its bizarre yet charming attitude. Father Christmas doesn't live at the North Pole but rather on a little girl's tree. He's the size of a frog (who walks erect, incidentally) and hangs out with ice-skating beetles.

There's another Starewicz film from the 50s (can't find it online) called Winter Carousel that I also watch every year. It's not great but it looks like a vintage Christmas card come to life.

Image

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Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:12 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
I didn't have time to elaborate when I first posted the film but yes the animation is great, especially when you remember the film is 105 years old. I love that he chose to animate the shattering ornament, when he could've just gotten away with filming a falling ornament in real time.

Beyond the technique though, I like it just for its bizarre yet charming attitude. Father Christmas doesn't live at the North Pole but rather on a little girl's tree. He's the size of a frog (who walks erect, incidentally) and hangs out with ice-skating beetles.

There's another Starewicz film from the 50s (can't find it online) called Winter Carousel that I also watch every year. It's not great but it looks like a vintage Christmas card come to life.

Image


Yeah, it was very unique and creative.

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Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:32 am
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Quick question, does Revenge of the Nerds have any CGI or "special effect" that I might not have noticed? :D I caught it on TV the other night and I'm trying to chalk it up to one of my November leftovers

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Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:34 am
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Thief wrote:
Quick question, does Revenge of the Nerds have any CGI or "special effect" that I might not have noticed? :D I caught it on TV the other night and I'm trying to chalk it up to one of my November leftovers


Feel pretty confident in saying that it does not.


Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:47 am
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Thief wrote:
Quick question, does Revenge of the Nerds have any CGI or "special effect" that I might not have noticed? :D I caught it on TV the other night and I'm trying to chalk it up to one of my November leftovers

Well, they did pull off the effect of having an out and out rape played as a joyous, inspirational experience for the young woman who was raped, so that has to be one of the better special effects I've seen..


Sun Dec 09, 2018 1:35 am
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Wooley wrote:
Well, they did pull off the effect of having an out and out rape played as a joyous, inspirational experience for the young woman who was raped, so that has to be one of the better special effects I've seen..


Yeah, that certainly didn't "age" well, to put it mildly.

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Sun Dec 09, 2018 2:21 am
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Thief wrote:

Yeah, that certainly didn't "age" well, to put it mildly.


True. The only thing that aged worse was that scene involving Anthony Michael Hall and an unconscious woman in Sixteen Candles.


Sun Dec 09, 2018 6:18 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

True. The only thing that aged worse was that scene involving Anthony Michael Hall and an unconscious woman in Sixteen Candles.

Oh, I think the RotN scene is far worse. At least in SC it is implied that they both became very intoxicated, the details are really fuzzy, and neither remembers what happened other than that she knows they had sex (not excusing it, just pointing out that the movie makes it grayer). Lewis commits straight-up rape in the Fun House. He would spend 10 years in prison, even in today's faulty legal-system when it comes to rape, in the real world. Or maybe, sadly, he wouldn't.


Sun Dec 09, 2018 7:56 am
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A film that features Santa Claus as a character: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

This is exactly the kind of film you mean when you say "So bad it's good". Like, WOW.

The film, famously lampooned by MST3K, follows the comic exploits of a group of Martians who kidnap Santa (and two small children) in order to use the "joy of toys to cure their adult-like children of Martian ennui. An evil Martian decides to put an end to the "joy" that Santa brings to Mars.

I have almost nothing to say about this film. It is so ridiculous, from the dialogue, to the costumes (like a "bear" that is so clearly a man in a suit that at first I thought the idea was that it was a man in a suit), to the odd line deliveries.

I will give the film credit that, unlike a lot of bad films, there does seem to be effort and the film is not at all mean spirited. The comedy is broad, but oddly enough I could imagine kids appreciating some of the slapstick humor. Dropo the irritating Martian is . . . a lot to handle. Of the "classical bad" films that I've watched (Manos, Track of the Moonbeast, etc), this was by far one of the most watchable.


Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:19 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film that features Santa Claus as a character: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

This is exactly the kind of film you mean when you say "So bad it's good". Like, WOW.


Definitely.

It's not a good movie by any means, but I'd rather take bad and watchable over bad and dull (like Robot Monster).


Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:05 am
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A film with the word "winter" in the title: Winter of Love (aka A Snow-Capped Christmas, aka Falling for Christmas

This is exactly the kind of mildly charming, largely inoffensive film that you can put on to half-listen to while you cook or decorate or whatever.

A comedy-romance, the film follows a figure skater, Claire, who is making one final run at a national gold medal after placing second the year before. Sent to a mountain-top rehab facility to work on a tendon injury, Claire soon connects with the local handyman, Luke, and his daughter, Chamonix. As she recovers, Claire begins to question what she will do if her career is truly over.

Overall, this film was pretty enjoyable. It manages to avoid a lot of the pitfalls of this type of film. Instead of spending a lot of time building contempt between city-slicker Claire and mountain-dude Luke, the two strike up a friendship relatively quickly. Claire is not a prissy, spoiled city-dweller; Luke is not a hard-headed "charming" sexist. Luke has a history of being a star hockey player who suffered a career-ending injury, so he and Claire are able to connect on that level.

In a lot of ways, it was refreshing to see the way that this film framed Claire's choice. In most other films, Claire would be choosing between two things. And, frankly, for a while I was worried that the film was going to come down to Claire choosing between pursuing her skating or being with Luke. Instead, the film is more about Claire coming to a place mentally and emotionally where she can envision a life without professional skating. She can tell that the way she's been pushing through her injuries (cortisone shots, etc) is not sustainable, and she needs a way to move forward. As he tries to help Claire, Luke has to face his own unresolved feelings about the way his career ended.

Again, this film is fine.

There are only two criticisms that I have. One is that the budget sometimes shows in unintentionally hilarious ways. In one scene, two sports broadcasters look like they're sitting behind an airport kiosk. The audience at the "national championship" looks like about ten extras. Claire's stunt double is a decent skater, but all of Claire's big moves (aside from a few spins) are kept conspicuously off-camera.

My second issue with the film is the way that one of the characters is played. Julian is Claire's skating coach, and the main push behind her training so hard. He is controlling and cares only about winning, even if it means shooting Claire up with cortisol and putting her into rigorous practice against doctor's advice. I think that the intention was to play Julian as a city priss, but instead his character hews a little too close to a shrill gay stereotype. There are several scenes intended to be humorous by contrasting Julian with Luke. These work okay when Luke is encouraging fun and Julian is pushing practice. It seems a little off when the humor is about how Luke can split wood with an axe and Julian can't (apparently this town has a tradition where men split wood in front of a crowd, and that crowd then shames them if they can't do it??).

Overall I feel like the improvement on romance tropes makes this one a cut above its "holiday TV movie" peers. (Note: the woman who directed this film also has like six other Christmas movies to her name).


Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:37 am
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