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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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Same here...

Takoma1 wrote:
My picks would be:

A Best Screenplay winner made before 1990: Dog Day Afternoon
An action film: The Man from Nowhere (this is currently my favorite action movie, period)
A horror film in a foreign language: The Devil's Backbone OR Baskin
A B-movie: Crush the Skull
A British film or British comedy: Shallow Grave (a VERY dark comedy)
A film over 170 minutes long: Lagaan (224 minutes)
A film with a color in the title: Blue Ruin
An adventure/fantasy film: The Eagle (2011) OR Ink (2009)
A film from the 1960s: For a Few Dollars More (Good one, since it's the only one I haven't seen from the Dollars Trilogy)
A film that won Best Cinematography award (pre-1990): Thief of Bagdad
An animated film: Song of the Sea OR The Boy and the World
A film by Akira Kurosawa: High and Low--a gritty thriller/police procedural
A G-rated film: The Emperor's New Groove (My nephew used to love this back in the day, so I've seen bits and pieces but never whole)
A film from the IMDb Top 250: Seven Samurai (Going from top to bottom on the list, this is the first one I haven't seen)
An exploitation film: Foxy Brown
A generic romantic comedy: The Proposal (Reynolds and Bullock do amazing things to elevate this one)
A film based on a play: Noises Off!
A film based on a Shakespeare play: 10 Things I Hate About You
A German language film: I'll second Wings of Desire or Anatomy
A Palm D'Or winner: Black Orpheus
A western film: Destry Rides Again or Seraphim Falls
A film recommended by a reliable person: *shifty eyes* The Zero Effect ;) :D
A film with a primarily minority cast: I Will Follow (an early Ava DuVernay film, really good)
A film with a season in the title: Winter Light
A film about food: Big Night

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Sat Mar 03, 2018 8:41 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
An action film: The Man from Nowhere (this is currently my favorite action movie, period)


Damn, girl! Thanks for recommending this. Just saw it and it was damn fine. It's on Hulu for anyone interested.

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Sat Mar 03, 2018 11:56 am
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This month is gonna be tough:

A Best Screenplay winner made before 1990:
An action film:
A horror film in a foreign language: Hide and Seek (Hindu)
A B-movie: Nasty Rabbit
A British film or British comedy: Derren Brown's The Push
A film over 170 minutes long:
A film with a color in the title: Adjust Your Color: The Truth of Petey Greene
An adventure/fantasy film:
A film from the 1960s: Nasty Rabbit
A film that won Best Cinematography award (pre-1990):
An animated film:
A film by Akira Kurosawa: Those are notoriously hard to find/stream without Filmstruck.
A G-rated film: National Parks Adventure
A film from the IMDb Top 250:
An exploitation film:
A generic romantic comedy: Wedding Unplanned
A film based on a play: The Hungry
A film based on a Shakespeare play: The Hungry (Titus Andronicus)
A German language film:
A Palm D'Or winner: The Conversation
A western film:
A film recommended by a reliable person: The Conversation (Takoma)
A film with a primarily minority cast: Hide and Seek
A film with a season in the title:
A film about food:


Sat Mar 03, 2018 12:02 pm
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Thief wrote:

Damn, girl! Thanks for recommending this. Just saw it and it was damn fine. It's on Hulu for anyone interested.


The part where he
jumps out of the window and the camera jumps after him?! The first time I watched the movie I was like "What?!?!?!" and had to rewatch that sequence two or three times.


I also really like the "henchman with a conscience" character. I find it really interesting that he
saves the little girl but then essentially has the main character execute him.


Maybe my favorite part is the showdown in the
drug factory. The speech about how using the organs means that all of the children are walking the earth forever but not in their own bodies was really chilling and intense.


I also feel like the actress who plays the little girl does a good job and that she and the main character had good chemistry that goes beyond the usual dynamics of the tough guy grudgingly caring for a cute kid trope.


Sat Mar 03, 2018 12:04 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
A film by Akira Kurosawa: Those are notoriously hard to find/stream. Would like to tackle Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke


I think you're thinking of Miyazaki.

Quote:
A film recommended by a reliable person: The Conversation (Takoma)


The Conversation is a movie that constantly asks you to reevaluate what you've heard and seen, to the point where you are picking apart the slightest nuance in someone's tone as they say a single word. Between the amazing performances and the excellent plotting, it's the kind of movie that if you somehow don't end up loving it, you're at least going to end up respecting it on multiple levels.

Fun trivia: The Conversation was the first DVD my family ever owned, because my parents are friends with a guy who worked on the sound design of the movie and when it was released on DVD he sent it to them. And so my family was like "Welp! Better buy a DVD player!".


Sat Mar 03, 2018 12:10 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

I think you're thinking of Miyazaki.


Crap.

My track record on Kurosawa isn't nowhere near as bad. I've seen Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Throne of Blood.

But his films are notoriously difficult to stream if you don't subscribe to Filmstruck.

NOTE: Those who choose to see Throne of Blood can mark off two titles. Not only is it Kurosawa, but it's based on Shakespeare's Macbeth!


Sun Mar 04, 2018 9:22 am
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Thief wrote:

Damn, girl! Thanks for recommending this. Just saw it and it was damn fine. It's on Hulu for anyone interested.
In that case, while I haven't seen TMFN yet, I still remember reading an excellent article from Tom Breihan about it, for the 2010 entry in his epic action movie retrospective series on The AV Club, "A History Of Violence", if you're interested.

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Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:01 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
This month is gonna be tough:

A Best Screenplay winner made before 1990: The Godfather Part 2? (get that question mark outta there and just see this. Supreme filmmaking. Even if you don't like it, it's essential for any cinephile)
An action film: Valerian and a City of 1,000 Planets (I think that's the title?)
A horror film in a foreign language: Perhaps Veronica?
A B-movie: Sharknado 2? (I've seen the first three and I have to admit I enjoyed them all to varying degrees)
A British film or British comedy: Overdue to see Love Actually (found the "sequel" a few months back).
A film over 170 minutes long: Blue is the Warmest Color (It is over 3 hours)
A film with a color in the title: Blue is the Warmest Color?
An adventure/fantasy film: Seems like I have some choices at least.
A film from the 1960s: Nasty Rabbit or Wild Guitar!
A film that won Best Cinematography award (pre-1990):
An animated film: Captain Underpants (from what I saw, it had spirit at least).
A film by Akira Kurosawa: Those are notoriously hard to find/stream without Filmstruck.
A G-rated film: Born in China
A film from the IMDb Top 250: The Kid (Saw this one on TCM a year or two ago and really loved it)
An exploitation film: Coffy or Foxy Brown
A generic romantic comedy: Odds are that Netflix might have something like 10 Days to Lose a Guy or something similar. (It is a generic romantic comedy, but How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days has some really good moments)
A film based on a play: Might have to think about this.
A film based on a Shakespeare play: Get Over It! (Midsummer Night's Dream). Either that or Ethan Hawke's Hamlet.
A German language film: M
A Palm D'Or winner: Looks like The Conversation (Saw this last year and it was really good)
A western film: Angel and the Badman
A film recommended by a reliable person: The Conversation (Takoma)
A film with a primarily minority cast: I keep listing Moonlight and I will get to it.
A film with a season in the title: Night Will Fall
A film about food: Bugs (Yep, it's about them in an edible way)

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Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:27 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
The part where he
jumps out of the window and the camera jumps after him?! The first time I watched the movie I was like "What?!?!?!" and had to rewatch that sequence two or three times.


:D I did the same thing. And I liked how after he falls, the camera didn't lose him. It stayed with him for a while as he started running again.

Takoma1 wrote:
I also really like the "henchman with a conscience" character. I find it really interesting that he
saves the little girl but then essentially has the main character execute him.


From the first time we see him, they really set him apart (having him speaking English as opposed to the other henchmen) and the guy was really good in the performance with solid body language and nuanced looks.

I liked this delivery of the "suicide by cop" trope. He respected Cha, and went out in a good way


Takoma1 wrote:
Maybe my favorite part is the showdown in the
drug factory. The speech about how using the organs means that all of the children are walking the earth forever but not in their own bodies was really chilling and intense.


There were a lot of good moments, but I loved the choreography in the last showdown. Impressive.

Takoma1 wrote:
I also feel like the actress who plays the little girl does a good job and that she and the main character had good chemistry that goes beyond the usual dynamics of the tough guy grudgingly caring for a cute kid trope.


I agree.

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Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:34 am
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A Best Screenplay winner made before 1990:The Seventh Veil (1945)


Well, here's a movie that certainly made me feel things. Namely: anger!

The film follows a young woman named Francesca (Ann Todd) who is a gifted pianist. Her father dies when she is 16 and she is taken in by her second cousin, Nicholas (James Mason), who shows zero interest in her until he realizes her gift for music. When the movie begins, Francesca has thrown herself off of a bridge in a suicide attempt, and a doctor is using hypnosis to try to get to the reason why. The movie follows the history of Francesca and Nicolas's fraught relationship as he exerts more and more control over her life.

Okay, where to begin?

The problem that I had with this movie was sort of a low-key rumble for pretty much the whole running time, but then blossomed into outright dismay and disgust in literally the last two minutes and the way that the ending is presented.

Throughout the movie, it is very striking that this is a film about a woman and has everything to do with the men around her. There are literally only three other female characters, none of them with more than two minutes of screen time. The movie has a lot of low-key sexist and uncomfortable moments. For example, in almost the very first scene the doctor is comparing using hypnosis to undressing a woman. Only it's her mind he is undressing. And you know how women will take off most of their clothes but not all of their clothes for you? Well, that's when you get out the narcotics so that you can have total, nonconsensual access to their naked . . . brain! It's a perfectly healthy, untroubling analogy, right?

The film is actually a very well-acted and plotted melodrama as Francesca struggles with the control that her cousin has over her. She is incredibly talented, and she feels the strain of struggling to maintain her acclaim (and her hands) while wanting love and affection.

For literally all but the last minute, this is a movie about a woman who (since the age of 16) has been emotionally, physically, and verbally abused by her legal guardian and who is so turned around that she can no longer imagine herself as a functional person: either as a pianist or as a lover. In a classic example of abusive behavior, Nicolas alternates between kindness and threats; praise and physical violence; soft words and emotional blackmail.

So what happens in the last minute? (MAJOR SPOILERS, OBVIOUSLY)
The doctor finally succeeds in "curing" Francesca. Three men (two old lovers and Nicolas) wait downstairs to see the cured woman. The doctor tells them that Francesca is cured and will now want to be with the man she loves, trusts, and cares for the most. She comes downstairs and chooses . . . Nicolas. Okay, it's hard to break away from someone who is an abuser. I get it and this is a tragedy. But wait! The swelling music announces that, no, this is a happy ending. As one IMDb user says in a review, Nicolas is a man who "was hiding from the world but eventually found something to bring him back into it - a flawed but selfless love ".

Ha, WHAT?!?!?!?

This is a man who literally would walk right by the teenage Francesca and not even respond to her saying "Hello" until he found out she was good at the piano. (I'm sort of setting aside the implied age gap because the actors are actually the same age).

A man who won't let her play sports at all because she might damage her hands.

A man who, when she announced that she was in love, told her that he had to give permission for her to marry, that she legally can't even leave the house without his say so, and then forced her to travel with him abroad and not see her love interest for the next seven years.

A man who, on finding out that she (at like age 25) has met a man she loves, tells her that if he can't have her no one can, tries to BREAK HER HANDS with his cane.

I had been watching the movie thinking that it was aware of the disturbing dynamic of this woman literally going crazy from abuse and manipulation, and so it was a really upsetting surprise to find out that all along I was supposed to see Nicolas as some sort of flawed romantic partner.

If you put ominous music over the ending instead of romantic music, this would be a solid, bleak little drama. Instead it's a bitter reminder of how men used to (and still do) think about what women want and how they deserve to be treated. Gross.[

And all the more disappointing because Peter, her first love when she was 17, is such a better choice. Their romance is the least problematic of the film. Of all the men he is the most considerate of her personal space (warning her in advance that he wants to kiss her and actually looking at her response before he does it). She asks HIM to marry her and he is charmed by this gender-reversed proposal. He's talented and fun. He's married (in the middle of the movie), but by the end of the movie he's divorced and single again. Despite hardly having seen Francesca in the last 10 years he is more than willing to do anything to help her recover. And yet his previously married status is enough to knock him out of contention--as if he was supposed to have waited for seven years for Francesca to return from her European tour. When she walked by him at the end I was like "Girl--what are you doing?! No?!". He's also way more attractive than either of the other guys and (in the movie's universe), the only one who is actually around her age.


Anyway--I was also disappointed that the hypnosis angle was just an excuse for some voice-overed flashbacks. There was like zero psychology to explain how the hypnosis was helping (like, not even fake movie psychology).

Anyone else seen this one?


Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:33 am
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Thanks to Takoma for this rec!

An action film
A film recommended by a reliable person
(wink, wink)


The Man from Nowhere

Quote:
"You live only for tomorrow. The ones that live for tomorrow, get fucked by the ones living for today... I only live for today. I'll show you just how fucked up that can be."


The "revenge" sub-genre is very popular among studios and filmmakers. From Death Wish to Kill Bill, or Mad Max to John Wick, the search for payback for the death or harm of loved ones, highlighted by high doses of violence, is something that fuels the audience with a desire to see the bad guys get what's coming to them. But for every John Wick there's a Colombiana, or for every Death Wish, there's a Death Wish sequel, or remake. Fortunately, The Man from Nowhere is a breath of fresh air in what could be a tired sub-genre.

The Man from Nowhere follows Cha Tae-sik (Won Bin), a young man living a quiet live while running a pawnshop out of his apartment. His most frequent contact is with a So-mi (Kim Sae-ron), 10-year old neighbor who he reluctantly befriends because of her mother's addiction. But when the girl is kidnapped, Cha sets out to rescue her and finds himself caught up in the crossfire of two rival gangs fighting for the organ harvesting market against the police.

The premise might sound tired and cliché, but the execution is not. Director Lee Jeong-beom takes his time to build the story and establish the characters, while keeping things moving at a nice pace. Things pick up mostly in the second half, with some kick-ass action setpieces and great fight choreographies. There's a particular continuous shot that will probably make you blink twice and go back.

But not everything is action. The performances from Bin and Sae-ron are pretty good, with the chemistry between the characters feeling honest. Bin manages to convey the tragic nature of Cha, as we discover on the way, why he lives the way he lives, "only for today". The bad guys are well played, although there are so many that at some point, I got a little confused about who was who. Still, there are two or three standouts among the bad guys and henchmen, with one in particular stealing the show with a low-key, nuanced performance.

There is a bluff near the end that might feel like a bit of a cheat at first, but after the film ends, you understand where they came from, and how earned the moment is. The Man from Nowhere might not bring anything new to the table, but what it does, it does extremely well. I wouldn't mind rewatching this in the near future.

Grade: A-

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Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:55 am
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Some questions for DP and Tak...

Death Proof wrote:
A horror film in a foreign language: Ju-On (There are a thousand of these. Do you mean this one?)
A film based on a Shakespeare play: The Tempest (1982) (There are a lot of films called "Tempest" or "THE Tempest". Is it this one?)


Takoma1 wrote:
A British film or British comedy: Shallow Grave (a VERY dark comedy) (The Danny Boyle one?)
A film that won Best Cinematography award (pre-1990): Thief of Bagdad (You mentioned this one before and I think you said any version. Which one do you prefer?)
A western film: Destry Rides Again (1932 or 1939?)
A film with a season in the title: Winter Light (The Bergman one?)
A film about food: Big Night (1956, 1996, or 2009?)

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Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:27 am
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1. Shallow Grave is the Danny Boyle one.

2. I think that both versions of Thief of Bagdad are amazing. I'd maybe give the slightest edge to the 40s version, and if you want to watch the one that won the Best Cinematography award, the 40s one is what fits that category.

3. Destry Rides Again 1939 version with Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich

4. Yeah, the Bergman Winter Light.

5. Big Night the 1996 movie.


An action film: The Mission

This movie was the opposite of the one I just watched, namely in that it most comes alive in its third act.

The film follows a crew of men assembled to protect a crime boss from assassination. They fend off murder attempts on their client's life while trying to track down who is behind the planned murders. Action scenes alternate with deliberately mundane episodes as the men sit around and wait for someone to pull a gun.

Generally speaking my only real problem with this movie was that there were a lot of parts where I was like "And why is this happening?". I paid close attention to the movie (at least I thought I did!), and yet at one point the crew pulls up to a building and I was like "Why are they here?". The killers are pretty same-y, with no real standouts among the dozens of anonymous hired killers.

But in the end, that's actually okay. While the movie has several good action sequences (most notably defending the boss from an elaborate murder attempt at a sprawling mall) and does interesting things with how the action is shot, the movie is actually about the relationship that develops between the protectors. In one very long scene, the men create a soccer-like game out of a crumpled up piece of paper, making sure to hide their sport whenever a superior wanders through the hallway. Without saying too much, the bond between the men is threatened in the final act of the film and they all must question where their loyalties really lie.

This was definitely a movie that I liked more and more as it went on, especially once it moves into the third act. I completely understand its appeal and admire the way that it weaves bro-melodrama into a fairly common action plot.

Going back to the action sequences, I really appreciated the use of angles and point-of-view shots during the shootouts. In one sequence, the camera lingers on an escalator, but from an angle that is totally parallel to the ground. As the shot holds steady on the escalator, you are both anticipating who is about to appear on it, but at the same time in your peripherals you are becoming aware that there are pillars and shadows and many other places that could easily be hiding a threat. The film shoots its action in a way that really highlights the unpredictability and anxiety of a no-rules shootout. The bad guys could be hiding anywhere, and the camera isn't always going to give you a nice view of them. Often it puts you in the shoes of the bodyguards, wondering where you should be putting your focus.

The Mission felt like just an okay movie for the first 2/3, but it really sold me in the last 20 minutes or so.


Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:48 am
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Thief wrote:
Some questions for DP and Tak...



No, evidently the first two Japanese Grudge movies were straight-to-video. The 2002 version is the first theatrical release and a superior film to its predecessors, so I'm told:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ju-on:_The_Grudge


The specific version of the Tempest is from 1982, directed by Paul Mazursky and starring John Cassavetes, Susan Sarandon, Raul Julia and Molly Ringwald.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempest_(1982_film)

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Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:57 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
Anyone else seen this one?


Yes, about ten years ago, but I just had to text the ex I watched it with to remind me of what my feelings were on it. I remember one of us, if not both, having a strong reaction to it, but I can't remember if it was good or bad, or if we had issues similar to yours. I'm pretty sure that it was a movie that came up semi regularly in conversations after that though, so it made an impact, whether good or bad. It's possible that I was fascinated with its awful sexual politics, because I do have a tendency to forgive morally suspicious movies for their sins, but I'm really not sure. Maybe if I get a response from her soon, she'll jolt my memory on it.


Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:05 pm
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Death Proof wrote:
No, evidently the first two Japanese Grudge movies were straight-to-video. The 2002 version is the first theatrical release and a superior film to its predecessors, so I'm told:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ju-on:_The_Grudge
Yeah, the Ju-on films were crap but The Grudge was one of the best theater experiences I've had. That was ages ago but I went through a J-Horror thing and think it's up there with the best


Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:16 pm
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crumbsroom wrote:

Yes, about ten years ago, but I just had to text the ex I watched it with to remind me of what my feelings were on it. I remember one of us, if not both, having a strong reaction to it, but I can't remember if it was good or bad, or if we had issues similar to yours. I'm pretty sure that it was a movie that came up semi regularly in conversations after that though, so it made an impact, whether good or bad. It's possible that I was fascinated with its awful sexual politics, because I do have a tendency to forgive morally suspicious movies for their sins, but I'm really not sure. Maybe if I get a response from her soon, she'll jolt my memory on it.


I was just shocked that a movie that seemed to be self-aware about the awful treatment of the female lead actually saw what was happening to her as romantic and loving.

It would be like if at the end of Silence of the Lambs Clarice
picked up the phone and Lector was on the other end and instead of being freaked out she did a little coy smile, the music went all romantic, and she purred "I was wondering when you'd call."
. The realization of what the film was doing (or thought it was doing) was just so jarring.

The movie also really sets off my alarms in terms of the general ickiness of someone in a position of power imposing romantic/sexual intentions on a subordinate. There's even a casual mention in the film by the protagonist that Nicolas never knocks before coming into her dressing room--something he has been doing since she was a 17 year old girl.

But seriously, if they had just
slapped some thriller/tragic music over the final shot of her embracing him, I'd be praising this movie up and down.


Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:19 pm
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A film with a primarily minority cast


Detroit (2017)

Quote:
"When you're black, it's almost like having a gun pointing right at your face."


Racial tension has been an issue in America, and the world, for as long as we can remember. The idea that some people might be inferior because of their place of birth, or the color of their skin has sparked some of the biggest injustices in history, like slavery, genocides, discrimination, and segregation. One of the greatest victims of such injustices have been black people, and the extent of it has been so much that - even though "official" public discrimination ended in the 1960's - its waves are still felt nowadays. That is the basis of the above quote and the premise of Kathryn Bigelow's latest film, where a character states that his life basically feels in constant threat, just because he's black.

Set in 1967, Detroit follows events around the 12th Street Riot in the titular city, most notably the Algiers Motel incident, which ended with the deaths of three black teenagers at the hands of the police. Most of the focus of the film is on Larry (Algee Smith) and Fred (Jacob Latimore), two members of The Dramatics, an R&B group that find themselves stuck in the motel, and end up being terrorized by Phillip Krauss (Will Poulter), a racist police officer.

Bigelow starts with a quasi-documentary approach setting up the events surrounding the riot before diving into the night of the incident, and closes with an epilogue set a year after. Although I'm not that happy with both bookends, most of what happens at the motel is executed perfectly. Bigelow creates a lot of tension, direction is great, and most of the actors are solid. My main issue with the film is similar than some issues I had with Bigelow's Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Her detached style and cold approach to the plot doesn't allow for a proper connection with the characters.

This is made worse by the fact that Smith, who is the closest to a lead character we have, doesn't have a very strong performance. Poulter does a good job portraying the sadistic and racist officer, but his character doesn't have a lot of depth. John Boyega also has an understated performance as a security guard that finds himself in the middle of it all, but he is mostly on the sidelines. Anthony Mackie was probably my favorite performance of the bunch as one of the motel occupants, but his role was small, when compared to the others.

Once the incident is over, the third act brings up again some of the same issues. Bigelow decides to put the focus on characters that we haven't met, namely the family of one of the victims, which again, takes the audience out of the emotional involvement. If she had put more focus on the victim, then maybe, this bit would've had more baggage. The closing with Larry singing at the church also felt like an emtpy moment, for various reasons.

I will probably say there was a great film here, sandwiched between two mediocre acts. Bigelow could've cut a good portion of the film, and have something better. Plus, she needs to work on developing an emotional connection with her characters (I had similar issues with Renner and Chastain in her previous films). I'm sure she can achieve that, without being overly manipulative.

Grade: Torn between a B- and a C+

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Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:03 am
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A Best Screenplay winner made before 1990
A film from the IMDb Top 250
A western film



The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Quote:
"That's the gold. That's what it makes of us. Never knew a prospector yet that died rich. Make one fortune, you're sure to blow it in trying to find another. I'm no exception to the rule."


Merriam-Webster defines "greed" as a "selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed". Wikipedia describes it as an "inordinate or insatiable longing for unneeded excess". Both definitions state that those that fall victim to greed will always want more, they will never be happy with what they have. That is the background of the above quote said by an aging prospector, which sets the stage for this John Huston classic.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre follows two Americans: Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Holt), who are stuck penniless in Mexico. Tired of living from the street and being used by sleazy contractors and cheap employers, they decide to pair with Howard (Walter Huston), an aging prospector who tells them of the glories and laments of prospecting for gold. Lured by the possibility of wealth, they set out for the Mexican mountains where they will have to fight against the hardships of labor, the terrain, bandits, but more importantly, paranoia and mistrust.

I remember starting to see this film several years ago on TCM. Unfortunately, I had to go out or something, and ended up seeing only about half an hour. Still, what I saw stuck in my mind, and I was always looking forward for a chance to see it whole. Finally it came and what a treat it was. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a gorgeously shot, perfectly written, and neatly acted look inside the human psyche and how it can fall under the pressure of greed.

All three lead performances were excellent with Bogart perhaps having the meatier role as we see him devolve due to paranoia. But Walter Huston's supporting actor Oscar is rightfully deserved; I think his performance was the one I enjoyed the most as he manages to strike that balance between the lures of wealth and common sense. Holt rounds up the trio as the straight man who holds tighter to his sanity. His performance is the less showy, but he carries the role perfectly.

Finally, praises to Huston's nearly flawless direction, and Ted McCord's gorgeous cinematography. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre manages to be entertaining, intense, thrilling, and chilling, all at the same time.

Grade: A

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Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:51 am
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We don't need no badges. We don't need no stinking badges!

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Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:06 am
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Death Proof wrote:
We don't need no badges. We don't need no stinking badges!


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Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:08 am
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Thief wrote:
Detroit (2017)

Her detached style and cold approach to the plot doesn't allow for a proper connection with the characters.
For me, the experience of Detroit was a bit like Dunkirk (although Bigelow's film wasn't quite as good as Nolan's). But, anyway, like Dunkirk, I found that I came to care for the characters involved not because Bigelow took a more emotional approach to them, or had spent a lot of time developing them (which she couldn't really do with all the historical info she had to convey, anyway), but because the events they're involved in are portrayed in such an unbearably vivid, intense manner, that I find myself empathizing with them simply because of the immediate, fucked-up situation they're trapped in. I get why you'd be disappointed on the character front in Detroit, and I don't think it's as good as her last two efforts, but I still found it to be a worthwhile experience nonetheless.

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Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:30 am
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Stu wrote:
For me, the experience of Detroit was a bit like Dunkirk (although Bigelow's film wasn't quite as good as Nolan's). But, anyway, like Dunkirk, I found that I came to care for the characters involved not because Bigelow took a more emotional approach to them, or had spent a lot of time developing them (which she couldn't really do with all the historical info she had to convey, anyway), but because the events they're involved in are portrayed in such an unbearably vivid, intense manner, that I find myself empathizing with them simply because of the immediate, fucked-up situation they're trapped in. I get why you'd be disappointed on the character front in Detroit, and I don't think it's as good as her last two efforts, but I still found it to be a worthwhile experience nonetheless.


I pretty much agree with you, which is why I still thought the depiction of the event was pretty solid, tense, nerve-wracking, and enraging. But like I said, aside of how Bigelow directs the film, we have the fact that the lead actor wasn't that good. So, although I give Bigelow credit for her craft, the film had too many issues for me to get it over the hump.

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Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:49 am
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Having seen Treasure of the Sierra Madre, I'd like to comment that it was so cool to see how much Vince Gilligan took from that film for Breaking Bad. Not to mention that Simpsons classic episode, "Three Men and a Comic Book".

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Sat Mar 10, 2018 5:50 am
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A B-movie


Miami Connection (1987)

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"Bikers by day, ninjas by night, steal all your cocaine along with your life"


Those are the opening lyrics of the first song we hear in this cult favorite, and with that, you get the idea of what you're getting into when watching it. Self-financed by writer, producer, star, and taekwondo master Y.K. Kim, Miami Connection was only released to a dozen local theatres in 1987, and forgotten after. However, it has made a splash recently after being rediscovered by the Alamo Drafthouse team, and people have been gobbling up its cheesiness since, and with good reason.

Miami Connection follows a "rock" band called Dragon Sound, led by Mark (Kim), a taekwondo expert. The rest of the band is rounded up by Mark's best friends, all of which happen to be orphans and live together in Orlando (yeah, the film doesn't take place in Miami). For some unexplicable reason, Dragon Sound find themselves involved in a war with a rival band, a gang of bikers, and a gang of drug-dealing ninja/bikers. Yes, we have "rock", motorcycles, and ninjas. What else could be more 80's?

Watching this yesterday reminded me a bit of my experience watching Manos in January. Like that one, this is a film made almost entirely by an inexperienced crew. Kim, who had no experience with filmmaking, financed it with all his savings and by mortgaging his martial arts school. Most of the cast were Kim's own students. Like with Manos, that should give you an idea of what the result will be. By regular filmmaking standards, the film is awful. The premise is beyond silly (in case you hadn't noticed), the script and dialogues are cringe-inducing, and the performances are just bad. Kim himself barely spoke any English, which explains why despite being the "lead", gets almost no lines.

And the songs. Man, how can I write a review and not mention the songs? Dragon Sound is a wimpy, synth-pop/rock band, and a good dose of the first half is dedicated to showing them perform on stage. Seeing the audience head-banging and hollering at their stupid stage antics was one of the best parts of the film, and the lyrics are so hilariously silly that you can't help but laugh at it.

But the truth is that there's a certain earnestness in the goofiness of the film, and the way the friendship of the characters unfolds. There is also a "charm" in that essence of 80's uber-violence and its nods to exploitation films, and to be honest, the direction by Richard Park isn't without merits. Miami Connection was never meant to be a masterpiece, but intentionally or not, it is a fun film to experience.

Grade: F for Freaky Fun

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Sun Mar 11, 2018 2:45 am
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Thief wrote:
Having seen Treasure of the Sierra Madre, I'd like to comment that it was so cool to see how much Vince Gilligan took from that film for Breaking Bad. Not to mention that Simpsons classic episode, "Three Men and a Comic Book".


It's always interesting that as a child, your pop culture discovery tends to work backwards. You often see the parody before the original source. I knew "Mathnet" from the show Square One long before I knew there was such a show as Dragnet. I heard some variation of "I'm ready for my close up!" many times before I understood that this line came from a classic film.

A horror film in a foreign language: Cure

I watched this movie about 10 years ago on a pretty cruddy, gritty VHS copy and found it confusing and murky looking. Having over the years read praise for it, it seemed like a good opportunity to revisit the film.

Okay--this time I got it.

The premise of the film is that a string of murders have taken place, all with a similar MO but different killers. In each case, there is no apparent motive for the killings and the only connection between them is the presence of a mysterious young amnesiac named Mamiya. Takabe, the lead detective, works to stop the murders while at the same time dealing with the stress of having a wife who is mentally deteriorating.

Something I really connected with this time around was the way that the imagery overlapped and echoed what came before it. For example, in one sequence a distraught man who has committed a murder throws himself out of a window. The next time that we see Mamiya, he jumps from a building. Later, a murder victim lies in a slowly spreading pool of blood. Not long after we see a slowly spreading pool of water in much the same shape.

The movie holds many cards close to its chest. Does Mamiya actually have a memory problem, or is it all an act? Is he genuinely psychic (or some variation of that), or is he just a keen observer of other people? Is Mamiya's effect on others intentional, or something out of his control?

The movie does an excellent job of revealing information at a pace just slow enough to keep you guessing. With the first murder we see only the aftermath. With the second, we see the initial phases of Mamiya's influence. And as the film goes on we see more and more of this progression.

My only complaint (and one that I remember from my first viewing) is that the conclusion is far too abrupt and feels rushed. There is one shot that I frankly do not understand (and on my first viewing I chalked up to the poor copy of the VHS). For those who have seen the movie:

At the very end we see
Takabe's wife dead in a wheelchair. But the chair is moving on its own down the hallway? And the nurse who sees this has like no reaction? So how was the chair moving?
I do not understand--halp!!!

I would highly recommend this one for anyone who has not seen it yet.


Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:39 am
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A B-movie: Space Mutiny

I find Mystery Science Theater (and specifically Mike Nelson's voice) oddly soothing, and so I often put on episodes to fall asleep to. One episode that I've listened to (well, the first 10 minutes or so) several times is Space Mutiny. But tonight I ventured past the first 10 minutes and without the companionship of Mike and the bots.

The standouts of this movie are the jaw-dropping sexism and the bizarro, repetitive writing.

On the sexism front, this movie goes past offensive and just into absurdity. On this futuristic space station the men are all in pants and long sleeved uniforms that even a Mormon might label conservative, while many of the women walk around in either miniskirts or just straight-up bathing suits (with embellished silver shoulder flare because . . . . FUTURE!). The male lead twice addressed the female lead saying "Look, lady!". He later tells her "I respect your father, but I wish he could control you as well as he controls this ship!". A mysterious gaggle of female aliens are dressed in bathing suits with asymmetrical cutouts, and their magic powers mostly consist of inducing masturbatory fantasies (in which the women grind themselves sexily against pillars) in the male crew members.

On the writing front, there is a hilarious slew of one-liners ("Get that space bitch!!" Um, you are all in space.) But four or five times the male lead repeats the EXACT SAME LINE just seconds apart. "All right--let's move!" . . . "All right, let's move!". "Look lady, I don't need this!" . . . "Look lady, I don't need this!". The lines are spoken with the exact same inflection each time.

Good news if you love hula hoops! In the future, hula hoops are all the rage at the coolest bars. Only if you want to seduce someone, you simply hold the hoop and thrust your crotch suggestively against the hoop or use the hoop to lift your already-too-short miniskirt to reveal your butt. It is unreservedly the sexiest thing ever captured on film.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Enforcer Carts, vehicles that look like if a Dalek had a baby with a go-cart.

Also, to convey rage the male lead squawks like a surprised bird.

Was this a good movie? Of course not. Was I entertained? Heck yes. I'm excited to watch the whole MST3K episode.


Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:24 pm
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I don't think I had heard of that one, but Wikipedia says that the director had to be called away from set because of a death in the family, and most of the directing duties were delegated to his assistant director. He tried to get an Alan Smithee credit, but wasn't able to.

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Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:39 pm
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Thief wrote:
I don't think I had heard of that one, but Wikipedia says that the director had to be called away from set because of a death in the family, and most of the directing duties were delegated to his assistant director. He tried to get an Alan Smithee credit, but wasn't able to.


I'm not sure that even the best direction would have saved the scene of a man in a Dalek-golf cart chasing a woman down a hallway screaming "Get that big bitch!", or the "sex scene" where the main actor sort of gently sucks on the lead actress's clavicle for 30 seconds.


Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:01 am
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Shamelessly cross-posting from the horror thread:

A British film or British Comedy: The Haunted Strangler.

While the plot itself goes to some pretty far-fetched places, I really liked a lot about it.

To begin with, I like that the main character is crusading against the injustice of the court system. He is trying to effect a change whereby all people will have access to legal defense, no matter their station. Throughout the entire movie, there is a strong push on the idea of classism. When it is revealed late in the movie that
it is a wealthy person doing the killing, characters repeatedly say it couldn't be him because he is "a gentleman". The killer himself cannot get anyone to believe he committed such a crime because the people around him refuse to believe that a "gentleman" would do such a thing. It made me think of Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, where the whole system is so rigged to protect the wealthy that even if a rich person wants to confess they are not allowed to.


I also liked that the movie find a nice balance with the characters of the dancing girls (also strongly implied to be prostitutes) around whom the killings are centered. The women are shown to value money and shamelessly angle for expensive gifts from their male admirers. But they are also funny ("Come zip me up! I'm getting too fat!") and honest. In one scene, a male customer puts his hands on one of the girls and even when she physically pushes him away he grabs her by the neck (very evocative in a movie about a strangler) and pulls her in for a kiss. The women aren't shown as innocent saints, but the movie also makes it very clear just how dangerous and precarious their work is.

Boris Karloff is a strong lead for the film playing a man who is driven by strong moral imperative to seek out justice, even as his own emotional issues become intertwined in the case.

The plotting does get very far fetched in the last act, but it's a short film that moves along briskly. I enjoyed it quite a bit!


Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:18 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
He later tells her "I respect your father, but I wish he could control you as well as he controls this ship!".
"You mean have a mutiny on me...?" :D Sorry Tak, I know you haven't seen Space Mutiny on MST yet, but I couldn't help quoting it at least once, seeing as it's one of my favorite episodes (maybe even the favorite) of the entire show; you're in for a treat whenever you watch it, yo!
Thief wrote:
I don't think I had heard of that one, but Wikipedia says that the director had to be called away from set because of a death in the family, and most of the directing duties were delegated to his assistant director. He tried to get an Alan Smithee credit, but wasn't able to.
And all the outer space FX shots were just straight-up stolen from the original Battlestar Galactica, and despite a Mr. Tom Servo's insistence that the movie is rife with the smell of "Canadian bacon" on it, it was actually shot in apartheid-era South Africa, which makes it officially the 2nd worst thing to ever happen in that country...

But all bad-taste jokes aside, it's impossible for me to hate something as hilariously, (probably) intentionally 80's campy as Space Mutiny; if we were talking about some other MST movie like (shudder) Hobgoblins, I'd be all for it, but Space Mutiny is just too much damn fun with or without Mike & The Bots for me to possibly dislike at all, y'know?

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Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:09 pm
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I gotta say, Baskin is a weird movie. I don't know if I quite got what they were going for.


Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:55 pm
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An adventure/fantasy film


Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Quote:
"Really? You don't think this would be a good moment to make a call, or text somebody, or change your status to 'stuck in a video game'?!"


The above is the desperate plea for help of narcissistic, social media junkie Bethany (Madison Iseman) after she finds herself lost in a jungle inside a video game with the body of an overweight, middle-aged cartographer and paleontologist (Jack Black). Which is probably the last thing you expect to happen when you're sent for school detention, or at all.

Set several years after its predecessors, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle follows Bethany and three schoolmates: nerds and unpopular students Spencer and Martha, and football jock Fridge, as they try to navigate the world of Jumanji, which they've been sucked into. Lured by the appearance of a video game, they now find themselves stuck inside the bodies of the game avatars, which include the cartographer, a strong explorer (Dwayne Johnson), a kick-ass martial artist (Karen Gillan), and a loud-mouthed zoologist and weapon specialist (Kevin Hart).

Directed by Jake Kasdan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle does enough to keep some sort of tie to the original, while also giving us a totally different experience. Instead of doing a rehash, which would've meant spilling the Jumanji world out in the real world, we get to see the inside of it and how it operates in an entertaining and fun way. The "rules" of how things happen in the game (or outside) might be a little fuzzy, but I don't think many people would be worried by that.

The fun of what happens inside is anchored in the performances of all four avatars. Johnson manages to convincingly show the "smoldering" nature of his character while also conveying the insecurities of his inner persona, while Gillan manages to portray the awkwardness of her nerd-self, through her kick-ass exterior. But the best moments belong to Kevin Hart, who I don't always find tolerable, but has the perfect excuse here to let go his anger-filled rants; and Black, who is peeeerfect as the prissy female teenager. They both get the most laughs of the bunch. I also forgot to mention that Nick Jonas has a surprisingly solid turn as another kid that's stuck in the game.

Some purists (me?) might complain that the Van Pelt of today is totally different to the Van Pelt of the original; but that aside, I think the character was underdeveloped. I also would've liked to see some things better explained/explored. But still, the best part lies in the performance and chemistry of the four leads. This might not be the most memorable or groundbreaking film, but it still was a lot of fun.

Grade: B

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Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:19 am
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Thief wrote:
Directed by Jake Kasdan


I didn't realize Jumanji was a Jake Kasdan film--he directed The Zero Effect which I recommended above.

A film over 170 minutes long: Song of the Starslayer (188 min)

I used the IMDb to come up with a list of movies that were 3 hours long, and then narrowed that list to what was available on Amazon prime.

While my eye was caught by a 1964 production of Hamlet, I couldn't help but check out the details of a film called Song of the Starslayer. Three hours long? Budget of $20,000? How could I resist?

The movie is, to state what you may have already guessed, not good. At all. I have a soft spot for passion projects, and when a movie has a small budget I'll happily overlook lower quality visual effects, makeup, costuming, etc.

Unfortunately, this movie has several issues that just can't be overlooked. The acting is . . . bizarre. Characters all have different accents (some that come and go), including some very dodgy "British" accents. The actress who plays one of the main roles has an incredibly disconcerting half-smile on her face the whole time--no matter what is happening! She thinks she's going to be raped/murdered? Eerie half smile. She beats someone in a sword fight? Eerie half smile. She looks wildly uncomfortable, and there are some odd pauses in her line delivery that make me think she really struggled to memorize her lines. The lead actor has the reverse problem constantly hamming it up for the camera with a weird "Jersey-dude" squint. At one point he quotes Monty Python and I was like "Wait, is this movie a PARODY of sword and sandal films?". No, no it is not. I think he ad libbed that quote and the director decided to keep it in for some reason.

Also, did anyone proofread this script? Much of the dialogue makes literally no grammatical sense. "I must go and save her." "No you do not!".

This movie is over three hours long, and yet very little happens. There's a ruling class and some rebels. A knight from the ruling class goes to infiltrate the rebels. Also, there are dragons and magic. I honestly don't know how a movie with so much run time managed to have so little action. The extras look like they were culled from a Denny's parking lot.

Was I entertained? I guess. There was a certain absurd delight in watching a movie in which an extra holding a spear instead of stabbing her enemy drew the WOODEN PART of the spear across his throat like a sword and he just decided to play along and fall dead even though she just gently brushed a smooth handle over his neck. At another point a man slaps another man in the chest with the flat side of a sword and the man falls down dead. I'm sure that fight choreographers and training weren't in the budget, but c'mon!

Aside from the uncomfortable leading lady, the cast looks like they're enjoying themselves.

Again, this delightful piece of cinema is available on Amazon prime.


Tue Mar 13, 2018 7:26 am
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A film with a color in the title: White Vertigo

This film is a documentary about the 1956 winter Olympics held in Cortina, Italy.

I quite enjoyed this one--aside from the amount of run time given to the cross-country skiing, just not a sport I find very compelling. I really liked the way that the movie juxtaposed two different sports at the same time. For example, the very first section cuts between women downhill skiing and the bobsled races. There are neat cuts as a skier takes a curve and then the bobsled whips around a turn at a similar angle. Toward the end there are some gorgeous shots from the ski jump, as the framing of the shots against the backdrop of the mountain makes it look like the athletes are truly flying.

There are sections of "behind the scenes" such as the athletes having breakfast, men waxing their skis, an oddly beefake shot of some Finnish athletes naked in a sauna, scenes of the athletes writing letters home, fans climbing a mountain to spectate at a downhill skiing event, etc. My favorite line of narration is the voice-over as some female athletes are preparing to go out dancing: "The athletic uniform is a chrysalis from which emerges . . . a woman! She was prepared to risk breaking a leg in her event, but will not risk her evening look being spoiled!".

This film is much more montage-like and slice-of-life in its construction than other Olympic/sports documentaries I've seen. There is a lot of emphasis on the culture of the games, the work that goes into the management of them and the various people doing the "small" jobs like working the timers or giving soup to the cross-country skiers. And as if to prove that a certain type of highlight reel never goes out of fashion, there are some truly stomach-knotting shots of horrible crashes during the downhill skiing events.

I had never heard of this film before, and I think it was a good find.


Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:55 am
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A film based on a Shakespeare play


Coriolanus (2011)

Quote:
"My mother, I shall be loved when I am lack'd. I go alone. Like to a lonely dragon."


I'm not an expert on Shakespeare. As a native Puerto Rican, born and raised in the island, we are usually not exposed to his work. Most of my knowledge of the Bard came by proxy via the film adaptations I've seen. From The Lion King to Romeo + Juliet, from O to 10 Things I Hate About You, my experience with his plays is still limited. So, in choosing a film to fill this criteria, I knew I had many options. But this one stood out for me, apart from others, like a lonely dragon. Ralph Fiennes, in his directing debut, chooses to bring the story to modern times, while retaining the original dialogue, which brings out interesting results.

Coriolanus follows Caius Martius (Fiennes), a skilled military general trying to quench a rebellion led by Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). After a particularly important victory at the city of Corioles, Martius' pedigree elevates as he is recognized by the Roman leaders, given the name of Coriolanus, while also being considered for the position of consul. But political powers and rivals within the Senate manipulate the proceedings, resulting in Coriolanus being banished from Rome, and forcing him to join Tullus Aufidius to seek vengeance.

Most of the film is devoted to show Coriolanus "lonely dragon" attitude, as he is for the most part, an outcast. In Corioles, he charges the city almost on his own; as he is rising to power, he feels alone within the political game; after he is banished and joins Tullus Aufidius, he himself acknowledges that Coriolanus has never behaved as his "partner", but is rather on his own. Even in his scenes with his beloved mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and wife (Jessica Chastain), he looks uncomfortable, like an outsider. Coriolanus doesn't fit anywhere else, other than the field of war, and even there, he is alone. Fiennes shines in this role, portraying that loneliness, mixed with anger and frustration pretty well. His outburst in television, is probably one of the peaks of the film.

But aside of the performances, Coriolanus is certainly an interesting experiment. As a director, Fiennes handles the anachronism between setting and dialogue pretty well. However, there is still an inevitable awkwardness in the way some events unfold, particularly with the way his relationship with Tullus Aufidius develops, and the ways in which his mother and wife behaves. Redgrave has some great moments, particularly in the last act; but Chastain feels majorly underused. Despite this flaws, I would say the film is worth a watch, be it for Fiennes' performance, or for the novelty of seeing this mish-mash of old/modern storytelling.

Grade: B

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Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:05 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I used the IMDb to come up with a list of movies that were 3 hours long, and then narrowed that list to what was available on Amazon prime.


I did the IMDb search as well, and the ones that caught my attention were...

The Aviator
Ben-Hur
Doctor Zhivago
Farewell My Concubine (which would also work for the Palme D'Or category)
The Hateful Eight: Roadshow version (not sure how I can get ahold of that specific version)
Lagaan
Lawrence of Arabia
Red Beard (which would also work for the Kurosawa category)
Seven Samurai (also for the Kurosawa category)

Several of those would also work for the IMDb Top 250 category. I'm leaning towards Hateful Eight (because I still haven't seen it, and I love Tarantino) and/or Seven Samurai (because it's the highest-ranked film from the IMDb Top 250 that I haven't seen), but any advice or recommendation on the others or any other, is more than welcome.

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Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:17 am
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Thief wrote:

I did the IMDb search as well, and the ones that caught my attention were...

The Aviator
Ben-Hur
Doctor Zhivago
Farewell My Concubine (which would also work for the Palme D'Or category)
The Hateful Eight: Roadshow version (not sure how I can get ahold of that specific version)
Lagaan
Lawrence of Arabia
Red Beard (which would also work for the Kurosawa category)
Seven Samurai (also for the Kurosawa category)

Several of those would also work for the IMDb Top 250 category. I'm leaning towards Hateful Eight (because I still haven't seen it, and I love Tarantino) and/or Seven Samurai (because it's the highest-ranked film from the IMDb Top 250 that I haven't seen), but any advice or recommendation on the others or any other, is more than welcome.


Lawrence of Arabia and Samurai are easily the best of the bunch.

Even though it cracks 4 hours, A Brighter Summer Day would be my recommendation above all of them. It's not necessary better than either of those, but it should be mentioned along side of them.

You also can't go wrong with Das Boot.


Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:36 am
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crumbsroom wrote:
Lawrence of Arabia and Samurai are easily the best of the bunch.

Even though it cracks 4 hours, A Brighter Summer Day would be my recommendation above all of them. It's not necessary better than either of those, but it should be mentioned along side of them.

You also can't go wrong with Das Boot.


I've seen Das Boot, but it was such a long time ago that I wouldn't mind a rewatch. Still, I'd give priority to others.

As for A Bright Summer Day, I hadn't heard of it before, but it certainly seems interesting. Thanks!

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Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:07 am
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Thief wrote:

I did the IMDb search as well, and the ones that caught my attention were...

The Aviator
Ben-Hur
Doctor Zhivago
Farewell My Concubine (which would also work for the Palme D'Or category)
The Hateful Eight: Roadshow version (not sure how I can get ahold of that specific version)
Lagaan
Lawrence of Arabia
Red Beard (which would also work for the Kurosawa category)
Seven Samurai (also for the Kurosawa category)

Several of those would also work for the IMDb Top 250 category. I'm leaning towards Hateful Eight (because I still haven't seen it, and I love Tarantino) and/or Seven Samurai (because it's the highest-ranked film from the IMDb Top 250 that I haven't seen), but any advice or recommendation on the others or any other, is more than welcome.


My problem is that I've seen most of the ones on that list.

Lawrence of Arabia and Seven Samurai are probably my favorites on the list. I haven't seen Ben Hur . . . but I also never finding myself wishing that I'd seen Ben Hur, so.


Wed Mar 14, 2018 7:31 am
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Thief wrote:

I did the IMDb search as well, and the ones that caught my attention were...

The Aviator---It wasn't bad, but it's a bit on the longish side and I was ultimately underwhelmed by Leo's take on Howard Hughes.
Ben-Hur---I don't remember this outside of the chariot race.
Doctor Zhivago
Farewell My Concubine (which would also work for the Palme D'Or category)
The Hateful Eight: Roadshow version (not sure how I can get ahold of that specific version)
Lagaan
Lawrence of Arabia
Red Beard (which would also work for the Kurosawa category)
Seven Samurai (also for the Kurosawa category)---Recommended. Outside of a weakish beginning, the film picks up when Mifune shows up (he plays the crazy one).

Several of those would also work for the IMDb Top 250 category. I'm leaning towards Hateful Eight (because I still haven't seen it, and I love Tarantino) and/or Seven Samurai (because it's the highest-ranked film from the IMDb Top 250 that I haven't seen), but any advice or recommendation on the others or any other, is more than welcome.


So yeah, give me a vote for Seven Samurai among those I've seen. Among the others, more curious about Lawrence of Arabia and Hateful Eight than the others.


Wed Mar 14, 2018 9:40 am
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An adventure/fantasy film: Lone Wolf and Cub 6: White Heaven in Hell

I've seen three (maybe 4?) of the Lone Wolf and Cub series, and this one is by far my favorite. The story is bonkers, the imagery is striking and memorable, and the fake blood flows like, well, barely refrigerated pink jello.

If you're not familiar with the premise of the Lone Wolf and Cub series (the films are based on a manga), Itto Ogami is a samurai who holds a high position. A rival clan kills his wife, leaving Ogami with a very young son to care for. Ogami gives his son a choice between a ball and a sword, deciding that if the boy picks the ball, he is too soft and Ogami will kill him. But the boy chooses the sword and so throughout all of the movies Ogami carts his son around in a makeshift cart/wagon while seeking revenge for his wife's death. (The baby cart is like a Mary Poppins bag, only if Mary Poppins was a fiend for bloody murder. The cart hides guns, mines, swords, knives, and all other manner of weapon.)

Describing the different scenes in the film would make it sound corny. And on one hand, it kind of is (the final battle involves many samurai on skis. Yes, skis.) But the movie is also full of really striking images and sequences. For example, one clan has three men who have undergone a ritual where they have been buried in wooden pyramid/box things for 40 days, becoming otherworldly beings somewhere between living and dead. These samurai have the ability to burrow through the ground and watching them do so for the first time gave me the serious creeps. (The sequence where they are unearthed is also one of my favorite in the whole movie).

There's also a female assassin whose gimmick is juggling knives to distract her opponent before (always) stabbing him through the top of the head.

Aside from the corniness, there are one or two elements that are a bit dated or just plain odd. One scene involves a long close-up of the young boys naked butt because . . . . um? Another scene involving sexual assault strays into "but then she likes it!" territory, which is something that happened in an earlier Lone Wolf and Cub film. This film handles the scene a lot better than the earlier movie, but it's still icky and, given what we know of both characters involved, really feels like it comes out of nowhere.

If you guys haven't watched any films from this series, I highly recommend them. I've seen the first movie, Baby Cart in Peril, and (I think) Baby Cart to Hades. Watching this one really got me in the mood to re-watch the whole series.

One nice thing is that the general structure of the plots are very similar, so you don't have to watch them in order to understand what's happening.

Also, after Song of the Starslayer, some competent swordplay was very, very welcome!


Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:45 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I haven't seen Ben Hur . . . but I also never finding myself wishing that I'd seen Ben Hur, so.

I like Ben-Hur, but if you were to take away the chariot race from the film, I doubt I'd ever re-watch it again.

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Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:23 am
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Thief wrote:
I did the IMDb search as well, and the ones that caught my attention were...

The Aviator (really, really good, underrated recent Scorsese)
Ben-Hur (not perfect, but still a really good, old-school Hollywood swords 'n sandals epic)
The Hateful Eight: Roadshow version (another recent disappointment from Tarantino; had little tension, and too many obnoxiously caricatured "characters")
Lawrence of Arabia (one of the cinematic GOATs! I've been meaning to rewatch/review this for the first time in a long time soon, actually)

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Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:30 pm
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An animated film


Ninja Scroll (1993)

Quote:
"Do you feel the agony, Jubei?"


The above quote comes from one of the so-called Eight Devils of Kimon, as he tortures ninja mercenary and outcast Jubei Kibagami. Ever since he was betrayed by Himuro Gemma and forced to kill his comrades, Jubei walks the land alone selling his services as a mercenary. Be it because of guilt or anger, Jubei apparently has chosen to walk alone, in "agony", as perhaps he atones for what he considers his failure. That is how we find Jubei when this influential anime starts.

Ninja Scroll follows Jubei (Kōichi Yamadera) as he reluctantly joins Kagero (Emi Shinohara), the sole survivor of the Mochizuki clan, and Dakuan (Takeshi Aono), an old and shady government spy, as they try to find and defeat Jubei's former partner and now rival Himuro Gemma (Daisuke Gōri) and the Eight Devils of Kimon. Gemma's goal is to steal some secret gold and use it to overthrow the current government as he establishes a rule of terror in the land.

My first experience with this film was about 16-17 years ago. A former co-worker showed me this video, featuring a montage of clips from the film to the tune of "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (originally from Iron Maiden, covered here by Cradle of Filth). Even though I never gave in to my friend's attempts to like Cradle of Filth, I did like their cover here. But what I always remembered where the striking visuals from the clips; be it because of the gorgeous animation or the rampant violence in them. For some reason, I never managed to see the film until now, and boy! I was missing out. Ninja Scroll is thrilling, kick-ass, super-violent, and full of "agony". What does that say about me? I don't know.

Like it or not, one of the trademarks of the film is its uber-violent approach. People are stabbed, beheaded, and mutilated; limbs are ripped, sliced, and broken; women are raped, betrayed, and killed. There is little "happy" in the film, and a lot of "agony". From its two leads, both of which rebuke any emotional attachment, be it by choice (like the guilt-ridden Jubei) or by fate (like the ill-fated Kagero, who's own body is filled with toxins deadly to anyone that touches her) to the backstabbing demons who spend a good amount of time betraying each other, down to the tragic fates of the townspeople and villagers around them.

Ninja Scroll uses striking, top-notch animation to tell its "agonizing" story. The use of scattered light and abundant shadows by the animators suits the dark story perfectly, and most of the visuals are beautiful; or at least as beautiful as the visuals of people ripping each other's limbs apart can be. On top of that, the plot and the development of the characters works surprisingly well, given the simplicity of the story. Not that the plot is very deep, but for a typical good-versus-evil story, they do try to build a story and characters that are both intriguing and moving.

Perhaps "agonizing" is too harsh a word, but after my lukewarm reaction to Spirited Away last month, I was a bit disappointed in myself, wondering why I couldn't "get" it like so many others did. In all its thrilling brutality, Ninja Scroll brought me from "agony" to "happiness". If there's more anime like this, please let me know.

Grade: A-

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Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:05 am
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If you dig Ninja Scroll, check out Wrath of the Ninja: The Yotoden Movie. It's not great but it does serve as something of an inspiration for Ninja Scroll, plus the animation is strong and filled with an abundance of quality anime gore. If you are looking for agony and brutality, you need to watch Berserk. Berserk is essential anime, not the remakes/reboot movies on Netflix but the OG series


Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:37 am
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The Nameless One wrote:
If you dig Ninja Scroll, check out Wrath of the Ninja: The Yotoden Movie. It's not great but it does serve as something of an inspiration for Ninja Scroll, plus the animation is strong and filled with an abundance of quality anime gore. If you are looking for agony and brutality, you need to watch Berserk. Berserk is essential anime, not the remakes/reboot movies on Netflix but the OG series


Thanks for the recs!

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Fri Mar 16, 2018 4:39 am
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Here's what might be in store for the next week(s)...

A film from the 1960s: Lolita
A film that won Best Cinematography award (pre-1990): The Bridge on the River Kwai
A film by Akira Kurosawa: Rashomon (I really wanted to go with Seven Samurai, but couldn't find it)
A western film: Once Upon a Time in the West

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Fri Mar 16, 2018 4:43 am
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Thief wrote:
A film by Akira Kurosawa: Rashomon (I really wanted to go with Seven Samurai, but couldn't find it)
A western film: Once Upon a Time in the West


Once Upon a Time in the West is a movie I frequently return to for little 5-10 minute bites. I haven't watched it all the way through in a while, but I really enjoy all of the characters.


Fri Mar 16, 2018 7:36 am
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A film from the 1960s: Shock Corridor (1963)

This is one that has peripherally been on my radar for a while, but once I started watching it I quickly realized I had not idea of its actual plot.

A writer for a newspaper, Johnny, wants to do an expose on a murder that took place in a mental institution, convinced that the story will lead to massive praise and awards. His concept is to get himself committed, and so he trains with a psychiatrist so that he can pass for insane. His girlfriend, Cathy, is strongly opposed to the idea. But after being emotionally blackmailed by Johnny and his boss, she agrees and pretends to be Johnny's sister. The cover story is that Johnny is filled with incestuous lust for his sister, and the pair is convincing enough that Johnny is taken in.

While inside, Johnny struggles to hold onto his own sanity as he integrates with the other patients and tries to get past their delusions to the solution to the murder.

While there were a handful of things I didn't like about this one, overall my response was incredibly positive and I would highly recommend this movie.

To start with the good: the hospital is a wacky, surreal environment, and the other patients are interesting characters. Are they played a bit broadly, a bit stereotypical of "crazy" people? In my opinion, yes. You know that Dave Chapelle skit about the KKK leader who is a blind black man? That character is basically in this movie--a black man, Trent, who spews racist vitrol, rails against Freedom Riders, screams "Get him before he dates my daughter!" at another black inmate, and hand-makes KKK hoods out of pilfered pillowcases. But under the absurdity of the character is a very real pain--and in a long scene in which Trent and Johnny lay side by side in straightjackets, Trent gets an amazing monologue about his youth and the origins of his self-hatred (being the first black student at a university in the South) are laid bare.

From a style point of view, the movie is very engaging. One touch that I loved was (this spoiler is for a style choice that made me gasp, so I'm letting you decide if you want to read it or not--no plot spoilers here!) that the patients'
delusions are shown in color while the rest of the movie is in black and white. Not only is this shocking as a transition, but it also conveys that for these people, their delusions are more vibrant, more "real" than their actual lives.
. There is also a scene that borders on fantasy that is just amazing. For those who have seen the film, I'm talking about the
storm inside the hospital
.

On the negative side, my main issue was with the voiceover, which was irritating and overly expositional. The only time it paid off was when Johnny took a wrong turn, walked through the wrong door, and, confronted by a group of women, gets a pained look on his face as his inner monologue screams "NYMPHOS!!!!!!". That moment aside, the narration felt incredibly intrusive for the first half--not in a fun, campy way, either. In the second half it was better used.

This was one of those movies where at times I didn't know how seriously to take it. It definitely has camp or cheesy moments. Ultimately I decided to just soak in the movie and not worry to much about whether I was viewing it in the "correct" mindset.

I will also note that Cathy, Johnny's girlfriend, is a stripper and performs maybe the most depressing, least sexy striptease I have ever seen. To a slow, melancholy song she bemoans not having someone to love her, while lethargically removing her clothing. Please, someone tell me: was this meant to be sexy? Did anyone actually find it sexy? I thought it was funny (she begins the act with a feather boa wrapped entirely around her head), but am I misreading the intention here?

Anyway--highly recommended for anyone who hasn't seen it.


Fri Mar 16, 2018 8:35 am
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