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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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Thief wrote:

As usual, thanks for the recs, Tak!


It's hard finding any Criterions on Prime. But if you're willing to spend $2-3 I'd have some other recommendations.

But seriously, please check out Flexing with Monty. I feel like it deserves at least minor cult status and I never hear it mentioned.


Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:27 am
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I watched Annihilation last night and also loved it. Midway through I started to fear that they'd botch the ending but that was not the case. Loved the score as well.

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:37 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
I watched Annihilation last night and also loved it. Midway through I started to fear that they'd botch the ending but that was not the case. Loved the score as well.


I'm struggling right now to write something about it, and I'm also planning to rewatch it soon.

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:42 am
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Thief wrote:

I'm struggling right now to write something about it, and I'm also planning to rewatch it soon.

Yeah, I'm not sure I have anything clever to say about it at this point. I only know I enjoyed the ride.

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 10:06 am
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I watched My Fair Lady when I was young and absolutely loved it. Remember almost laughing myself sick at the "rain in Spain" bit.


Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:25 pm
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I came home one night baked and My Fair Lady was just starting and I thought, "Well, I'll watch a few minutes of this until something better or I go to bed." Ended up staying up and watching the whole thing, just mesmerized. Some Best Picture-winners totally deserve it and I think MFL is one of the best musicals ever made.


Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:19 pm
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For Thief (much like Takoma, I'm concentrating on Prime films)

A film with a female protagonist: The Fits (also fits the under $5 million category; I'm gonna keep pushing this until more are talking about it and unlike Flexing with Monty, it's actually good)
A sports film: If you're up for spending a little (The Best That Never Was and Jordan Rides the Bus is $2.99 while both Price of Gold and I Hate Christian Laettner are $4.99); if not, Across the Tracks and Gleason could work.
A film about parenthood: Mother of Mine, Voice of My Father
A film from Sweden: Mother of Mine (also fits the parenthood slot), The Best Intentions (also fits the over 170 minutes slot), Everlasting Moments
Ä French language film: Guy Martin: Portrait of a Grand Chef, The Grocer's Son, Her Name is Sabine, Queen of Hearts
An Italian language film: Come Undone, Shun Li and the Poet, Days and Clouds
A comedy made before 1970: College, His Girl Friday, Two Weeks to Live, Breakfast at Tiffany's
A film directed by a woman: If you have PBS, Whose Streets comes on this month and fits. Speaking of which, so does The Fits!
A drama film: All is Lost (may well also fit the sentence slot), Angela's Ashes, Gran Torino, Mulholland Drive
An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture: (Selma $3.99), Precious
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: The Fits (I think it's under $180,000), The Tribe ($1.5 million)
A film with a title that's a sentence or sentence fragment: All is Lost, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, Don't Wait, Django. Shoot!
A silent film from a foreign country: The Tribe (3.99) which also fits the Eastern Europe slot
A film that was released direct-to-DVD: I think you have a ton of options
A film with a color in the title: Desert Blue, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (also fits the Sentence/Fragment slot), Half of a Yellow Sun
A film set in Eastern Europe: The Tribe, Bitter Harvest, Tangerines
A film noir: Whistle Stop (which also covers the female protagonist slot), DOA, Detour
A film about an animal: Zeus and Roxanne, The Return of Rin Tin Tin
A film featured in the Criterion Collection: David Lynch: The Art Life, Mulholland Drive, Bull Durham
A Spanish language film: Fantastic World of Juan Orol, The Violin
A Bollywood film: Patiala House is highly recommended on my site and is good for beginners
A film over 170 minutes long: Hamlet (2000), Brothers Karamazov, Hum Aapke Hain Koun! (also fits Bollywood slot)


Wed Jul 04, 2018 5:22 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
For Thief (much like Takoma, I'm concentrating on Prime films)

A film with a female protagonist: The Fits (also fits the under $5 million category; I'm gonna keep pushing this until more are talking about it and unlike Flexing with Monty, it's actually good)
A sports film: If you're up for spending a little (The Best That Never Was and Jordan Rides the Bus is $2.99 while both Price of Gold and I Hate Christian Laettner are $4.99); if not, Across the Tracks and Gleason could work.
A film about parenthood: Mother of Mine, Voice of My Father
A film from Sweden: Mother of Mine (also fits the parenthood slot), The Best Intentions (also fits the over 170 minutes slot), Everlasting Moments
Ä French language film: Guy Martin: Portrait of a Grand Chef, The Grocer's Son, Her Name is Sabine, Queen of Hearts
An Italian language film: Come Undone, Shun Li and the Poet, Days and Clouds
A comedy made before 1970: College, His Girl Friday, Two Weeks to Live, Breakfast at Tiffany's
A film directed by a woman: If you have PBS, Whose Streets comes on this month and fits. Speaking of which, so does The Fits!
A drama film: All is Lost (may well also fit the sentence slot), Angela's Ashes, Gran Torino, Mulholland Drive
An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture: (Selma $3.99), Precious
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: The Fits (I think it's under $180,000), The Tribe ($1.5 million)
A film with a title that's a sentence or sentence fragment: All is Lost, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, Don't Wait, Django. Shoot!
A silent film from a foreign country: The Tribe (3.99) which also fits the Eastern Europe slot
A film that was released direct-to-DVD: I think you have a ton of options
A film with a color in the title: Desert Blue, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (also fits the Sentence/Fragment slot), Half of a Yellow Sun
A film set in Eastern Europe: The Tribe, Bitter Harvest, Tangerines
A film noir: Whistle Stop (which also covers the female protagonist slot), DOA, Detour
A film about an animal: Zeus and Roxanne, The Return of Rin Tin Tin
A film featured in the Criterion Collection: David Lynch: The Art Life, Mulholland Drive, Bull Durham
A Spanish language film: Fantastic World of Juan Orol, The Violin
A Bollywood film: Patiala House is highly recommended on my site and is good for beginners
A film over 170 minutes long: Hamlet (2000), Brothers Karamazov, Hum Aapke Hain Koun! (also fits Bollywood slot)


Thanks, AP! As usual, reds are the ones I've seen.

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Wed Jul 04, 2018 5:44 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

While Agnes might not have been morally singled out for being a woman, the way that
her body and the sexual violence against her were filmed DID feel different to me. So the film condemns both men and women for their character flaws, but only the female bodies are exploited in a certain way and that's the kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes at the obvious pervy male-ness of both the person directing and the apparent intended audience. The, um, enthusiastic response from many male posters on the IMDb message boards about the rape and, in the same breath, their assertion that Agnes was "proof" of the female desire to be dominated (and that she genuinely enjoyed being attacked) only added to my generally negative feelings about the film.

I know that you can't blame a film for the response of its fans, and there are always a few pervs/trolls out there who are going to say gross things about movies with sexual violence. But this was a lot of people over several years expressing similar opinions.


And even setting aside any of the gender politics or the question of its general misanthropy, I didn't find the movie all that interesting in its action scenes or in terms of the characters. I remember about 2/3 of the way in feelings like there was a real lull in the pace of it.

Sorry, I have a bad habit of abandoning conversations. I was sure I'd replied to this but evidently not. I totally see where you're coming from, only I found the event in question less porn-y than you. While it was in progress I felt like it was appropriately unpleasant. Since neither of us are going to rewatch it any time soon, I'll just take your word for it. And I agree that as a film it's got lots of problems beyond it's unpleasantness. I've seen 4 more Verhoevens since watching F+B and it's becoming more apparent that this wasn't one of his best.
And LOL at the IMDB guys. Those boards were always good for some hate-reading.

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Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:32 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
unlike Flexing with Monty, it's actually good


*GASP* How dare you?!?!

Quote:
Don't Wait, Django. Shoot!


This reminds me: Django, Kill! If you live, shoot! is really trippy and high on my list of favorite westerns.


Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:34 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
Sorry, I have a bad habit of abandoning conversations. I was sure I'd replied to this but evidently not. I totally see where you're coming from, only I found the event in question less porn-y than you. While it was in progress I felt like it was appropriately unpleasant.


To me it was a combination of elements that specifically evoke gross male fantasy:

1) The age difference--the man is about 20 years older than the woman.

2) The staging of the group lifting her up in the air.

3) Her wrapping her legs around him and pulling him into her. I get that she's emulating what she saw before, but . . . no. Just no.


Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:09 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

To me it was a combination of elements that specifically evoke gross male fantasy:

1) The age difference--the man is about 20 years older than the woman.

2) The staging of the group lifting her up in the air.

3) Her wrapping her legs around him and pulling him into her. I get that she's emulating what she saw before, but . . . no. Just no.


Number three happens to me all the time. Even when I'm just walking down the street.


Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:52 am
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I would say after reading the description that it just doesn't sound good. But then again, The Room and Miami Connection were so terrible that they were funny. Maybe the same thing applies?


Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:54 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
I would say after reading the description that it just doesn't sound good. But then again, The Room and Miami Connection were so terrible that they were funny. Maybe the same thing applies?


It's just . . . something else.

It kind of feels like a movie that wants to be a cult classic, which I usually find pretty off-putting, but it has enough moments of genuine weirdness that I enjoyed it. Did I enjoy it? Well, I certainly couldn't stop watching it.


Wed Jul 04, 2018 9:30 am
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What I'm leaning towards right now (suggestions are welcome):

A period drama film: Marie Antoinette (2006)
A film with a female protagonist: Girls Trip (2017)
A sports film: Mary Kom (2014)
A film about parenthood: Voice of My Father (2012)
A film from Sweden: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch (2014)
Ä French language film: Girlhood (2014)
An Italian language film: Bianca Come il latte, rossa come il sangue (2013)
The first film from a director you like: This could be tough...or I could luck into something on Youtube
A comedy made before 1970: Let's go with His Girl Friday (1940) for now, although it could be something something Thin Man
A film directed by a woman: Marie Antoinette (2006)
A drama film: Moonlight (2016)
An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture: Girls Trip (2017)
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: Moonlight (2016)
A film with a title that's a sentence or sentence fragment: All is Lost (2013)
A silent film from a foreign country: The Tribe (2014)
A film that was released direct-to-DVD: Dark (2015)
A film with a color in the title: Blue Caprice (2013)
A film set in Eastern Europe: The Tribe (2014)
A film noir: Murder My Sweet (1944) or Double Indemnity (1944)
A film about an animal: Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
A film featured in the Criterion Collection: David Lynch: The Art Life (2017)
A Spanish language film: Aqui Entre Nos (2011)
A Bollywood film: Mary Kom (2014)
A film over 170 minutes long: The Godfather Part 2 (1974) or Betty Blue: The Director's Cut (2009)
An experimental film: Not sure where to find one. Youtube?


Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:04 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
An experimental film: Not sure where to find one. Youtube?


There are quite a few on YouTube. Meshes of the Afternoon, the one I recommended above is really good.


Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:16 am
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I already have a couple of good ones in store for this week.

A French language film: The 400 Blows
The first film from a director you like: Blood Simple (Coen Brothers)
A silent film from a foreign country: L'Inferno, maybe
A film noir: The Killers
A film featured in the Criterion Collection: M (saw this one tonight)

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Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:54 am
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Thief wrote:
The first film from a director you like: Blood Simple (Coen Brothers)

A film noir: The Killers


Have you seen Blood Simple before? I really like it, and it wins the prize for best DVD extra for a "DVD Commentary" written by the Coens and performed by an actor. It is hilarious.

The Killers is a great example of a film that is pretty great and so is the remake. I'd highly recommend watching the 70s version.


Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:19 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Have you seen Blood Simple before? I really like it, and it wins the prize for best DVD extra for a "DVD Commentary" written by the Coens and performed by an actor. It is hilarious.

The Killers is a great example of a film that is pretty great and so is the remake. I'd highly recommend watching the 70s version.


They're all first-time watches.

Re: The Killers, I've been wanting to see it since that film noir course. I couldn't back then, but I finally have it with me, so we'll see.

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Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:57 pm
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Blood Simple is great.


Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:53 pm
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Thief wrote:

They're all first-time watches.

Re: The Killers, I've been wanting to see it since that film noir course. I couldn't back then, but I finally have it with me, so we'll see.


You are really in for a treat with both.


Thu Jul 05, 2018 9:32 pm
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A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: The Camden 28

This is a low-budget, but interesting documentary about the anti-war protesters who broke into an office to destroy draft folders. The film follows the planning, break-in, immediate aftermath, and trial of the protesters (many of whom were part of the "Catholic left").

The film has two interesting elements: first, the degree to which it is revealed that the FBI actually participated in and encouraged the break-in, and second the part where it talks about the family lives of the some of the protesters. There is one very moving part involving the mother of one of the protesters whose other son had died in Vietnam.

A decent primer, especially if you aren't familiar with the story.


Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:21 pm
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A drama film: Trade

Well, that was bleak viewing.

The film follows a boy, Jorge, who tries to rescue his sister who has been taken by drug traffickers. Along the way he crosses paths with a man named Ray (Kevin Kline) who also has a missing family member in his past.

Any film dealing with sexual trafficking (and specifically child sex trafficking) really runs the risk of getting into exploitation territory. I appreciated the way that the violence toward the women and children was handled, which is to say that it was very much like what was done in Lilya-4-Ever where the only nudity belongs to the traffickers/rapists and there are no extraneous shots of women showering or other similar scenes to add a sleazy voyeuristic vibe.

The film also shows the reality that most victims of international sex trafficking are not pretty blond girls (a la Taken-style films), but are vulnerable women, girls, and boys from more impoverished countries.

I actually have a friend who worked for an anti-trafficking organization (the Polaris Project). She would talk staking out motels in New Jersey (trafficking victims often come in through port cities, their passports are taken, and they are then "distributed" around the country). Seeing some of those things dramatized here was intense.

This is a brutal film with just enough glimmers of hope to not feel like a slog of despair. At times it seems almost too optimistic about the odds of saving someone from this type of situation--throughout the film we see (MODERATE SPOILERS)
both a young girl and a little boy rescued from the sex traffickers
.

It was well-acted and managed to stay on the right side of not being too cloying or overly-dramatic. I think you'd have to be in the right head space to view it, but it's an important issue and I hope that people check it out and think about the complicity that Americans (the citizens and the government) have in world sex trafficking.


Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:56 am
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Wooley wrote:
Blood Simple is great.
Dat main theme...



:heart:

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Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:19 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

You are really in for a treat with both.


I'm a huge Coen fan. Love everything I've seen from them, so I expect no less from this.

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Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:53 pm
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Thief wrote:
I already have a couple of good ones in store for this week.

A French language film: The 400 Blows
The first film from a director you like: Blood Simple (Coen Brothers)
A silent film from a foreign country: L'Inferno, maybe
A film noir: The Killers
A film featured in the Criterion Collection: M (saw this one tonight)


I think you got some good films to look forward to.


Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:23 am
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A film with a female protagonist: The Red Shoes

Can a talented woman have it all: a successful career and love?

No, no she can't.

This film was awesome, visually and as a drama. It follows a young woman, Vicky, who joins a ballet troupe. The head of the company, Lermontov, is convinced that she could become an all-time great ballerina. Things hit a snag when Vicky falls in love with a composer working for the company, Julian.

The colors and dance sequences in this film are simply stunning, in particular a 15-minute long sequence in the middle of a performance of the ballet The Red Shoes.

Maybe this is just my own reading of the film, but I appreciated that the movie did not hold back from showing just how much the two men in Vicky's life were petty man-babies. Something that immediately jumped out to me in the early sequences is that both men openly insult Vicky as she dances (saying she's unwomanly and clomping around like a horse). They both care more about what they can achieve through her rather than as genuine partners. The fact that it's even framed as her choosing between these two is almost a tragedy in and of itself. Something that is very annoying in romances/dramas (old as well as new) is the way that a choice involving men is framed as an either/or. How about neither?

But neither is never presented as a choice in these type of stories, and so Vicky finds herself torn between the man she loves and her own passion for dance. Moira Shearer, who plays Vicky, is an amazing dancer and a god actress with a really striking range of physical expression. Watching her perform is a real treat, and her awesomeness only serves to drive home the failure of Julian and Lermontov to appreciate her as both a dancer and a human being. When Julian whines that she should leave her performance to go and clap for him as he conducts speaks volumes.

(Actually, this made me think of how recently a co-worker's daughter broke up with her boyfriend because he insisted that she should miss her playoff game to come and watch him practice. Like, no.)

I have a very special case of movie title confusion, because I often get titles and summaries mixed up and think I've seen things that I haven't. For a long time I thought I'd seen this one, but I was thinking of Tales of Hoffman (which, in my defense, also stars Moira Shearer).

If you haven't seen this one yet, check it out.


Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:56 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film with a female protagonist: The Red Shoes

Can a talented woman have it all: a successful career and love?

No, no she can't.
This is why we need fewer female directors. Don't want women getting their hopes up or anything crazy like that.

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Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:27 am
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LEAVES wrote:
This is why we need fewer female directors. Don't want women getting their hopes up or anything crazy like that.


Oh, no. The Red Shoes made it pretty clear that any kind of pursuit of love and artistic expression just leads to
death by train.


I hear you loud and clear, The Red Shoes. *puts on apron, buries professional ambitions*

A film set in Eastern Europe: Demon

This film was billed as a horror, but I think it's more of a supernatural drama a la The Eclipse.

A man from England, Piotr, comes to Poland to marry his fiance, Zaneta. They are given a property by Zaneta's father, and their wedding is to be held in the barn on the property. Before the wedding, Piotr is digging in the yard and unearths human remains. That night, during a storm, Piotr falls into the hole. As the wedding and post-wedding celebration goes on, Piotr's behavior becomes more and more erratic. Desperate to preserve their reputation in the community, the family (and especially Zaneta's father) goes to great lengths to distract the guests with booze and jaunty music.

Demon is heavy on the symbolism (I mean, Piotr literally falls into the grave of the people from whom the land was taken), but it's striking enough in its visual sensibility and performances that it feels both very visceral and also highly allegorical.

In the lead role as Piotr, Italy Tiran does a lot of physical work that, for me, at times evoked Adjani's performance in Possession (I would be shocked if the subway sequence from that film was not a direct influence on some of the scenes from this one). The other performances are also strong, including the actress who plays Zaneta and the actor who plays "The Professor," the last Jewish man in the village.

I really enjoyed the way that many of the scenes were framed, so that key character reactions or characters entering the frame would happen at a distance, or in a reflection. There's a sense of unreality with what is happening to Piotr that merges with the drunken, dizzy celebration taking place in the barn. There's an uncomfortable closeness and unpredictability to even the "happy" sequences that had me on edge the entire time.

I was really sorry to read on the IMDb that the director of this film died of suicide, something related to depression but specifically maybe to the lack of awards received at festivals by this film. He was very young (42), and I think it's a horrible shame that he did not go on to direct more. His direction is very assured and he build suspense very well.

My one complaint would be in regards to the ending. I want to stay incredibly vague, but there was a level of ambiguity to the very end that just went a bit beyond what I normally enjoy. It's haunting, but just a bit too unsatisfying.

This one is on Amazon Prime and I'd highly recommend it.


Sat Jul 07, 2018 11:15 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
The colors and dance sequences in this film are simply stunning, in particular a 15-minute long sequence in the middle of a performance of the ballet The Red Shoes.
Even though it isn't part of a musical, I always thought this sequence was a crucial forebear to the Broadway Melody section of Singin' in the Rain. They're both expressionistic stagings of a story within a story about the arts, and they serve as a reflection of the overall narrative in miniature. Stanley Donen even made his Broadway directorial debut with a musical version of The Red Shoes in the early 1990s, though that was a flop.

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Sat Jul 07, 2018 11:36 am
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BL wrote:
Even though it isn't part of a musical, I always thought this sequence was a crucial forebear to the Broadway Melody section of Singin' in the Rain. They're both expressionistic stagings of a story within a story about the arts, and they serve as a reflection of the overall narrative in miniature.


Definitely--especially in the use of painting backgrounds and the way that the scenes transition. The unabashed use of special effects (such as when Vicky "hops" into the Red Shoes for the first time) is really refreshing and makes for a really neat intersection between live performance and movie magic.


Sat Jul 07, 2018 11:42 am
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A film that was released direct-to-DVD: Princess of Mars

Okay, look. This is an Asylum film, I knew what I was getting into. I was in the mood for a crappily-acted, poorly-written crapfest to laugh at (starring Antonio Sabato Jr and Traci Lords!). So I can't exactly complain about it being bad.

For the most part, this was one of those good-bad movies. It is super cheesy, and all of the actors deliver their lines like they are really trying to act. I mostly enjoyed it.

There were a few places where goofy sci-fi tropes did give way to a more frustrating sexism and racism (ie the lead punches his love interest in the face in a scene that is supposed to be cute; every woman wears a bikini; all of the "humans" on the planet are white, while the dark skinned alien race is repeatedly referred to as being "savages"; the main villain, despite this being set on another planet, is a Middle Eastern man; etc).

This is the John Carter story, and it almost makes me curious to see what the big budget version looks like.

Favorite moment: the Princess is being helped to escape and to disguise herself (remember, she's in a Leia bikini) she gently drapes a transparent veil around her face.


Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:56 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film that was released direct-to-DVD: Princess of Mars

Okay, look. This is an Asylum film, I knew what I was getting into. I was in the mood for a crappily-acted, poorly-written crapfest to laugh at (starring Antonio Sabato Jr and Traci Lords!). So I can't exactly complain about it being bad.

For the most part, this was one of those good-bad movies. It is super cheesy, and all of the actors deliver their lines like they are really trying to act. I mostly enjoyed it.

There were a few places where goofy sci-fi tropes did give way to a more frustrating sexism and racism (ie the lead punches his love interest in the face in a scene that is supposed to be cute; every woman wears a bikini; all of the "humans" on the planet are white, while the dark skinned alien race is repeatedly referred to as being "savages"; the main villain, despite this being set on another planet, is a Middle Eastern man; etc).

This is the John Carter story, and it almost makes me curious to see what the big budget version looks like.

Favorite moment: the Princess is being helped to escape and to disguise herself (remember, she's in a Leia bikini) she gently drapes a transparent veil around her face.


I've seen it, John Carter (of Mars). It's competent enough and you can tell where the money went.

But without any real effort to flesh out the story or characters, it's little more than a special effects extravaganza that disappears before your eyes.


Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:15 am
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I know I'm waaaay behind on my reviews, but I just wanted to say... earlier today I saw Precious, and boy, was that a tough watch :( Tak, if you haven't seen it, this is one I'm sure you would have trouble with.

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Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:32 pm
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Thief wrote:
I know I'm waaaay behind on my reviews, but I just wanted to say... earlier today I saw Precious, and boy, was that a tough watch :( Tak, if you haven't seen it, this is one I'm sure you would have trouble with.


It's been on my to-watch list since it's release, and I've never been able to do it.

At the video store where I worked the trailer for it played on our screener (a looping DVD of movie trailers and clips), and even that was kind of upsetting. I'm sure it's a movie I would think is really good, but at the same time it's been hard to psych myself up to actually sit down and watch it.

A film with a color in the title: The Woman in Green

This is a Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film. I thought that the first half was actually kind of weak, but the second half had some really solid and memorable moments.

The premise is that women all over London are being murdered and one of their fingers removed. The investigation soon reveals that the murders are just a part of a larger plot involving blackmail and hypnotism.

Generally speaking, I've always had a very mixed reaction to the Dr. Watson as total idiot way of telling these stories, and in this film I found it particularly irritating. Watson is BEYOND dumb and buffoonish here, and it was actively grating to me. Like, it just goes too far:

Holmes: I thought he was holding a friend of mine hostage.
Watson: Really? Who?
Holmes: Oh, a medical doctor, fat fellow.
Watson:Do I know him?
Holmes: Goes by the name of Watson.
Watson: I don't think that I know anyone who---- OH, I see!

Come on.

And my main problem with this broad comedy is that I think it does a disservice to some really creepy, unsettling implications in the story itself. There's a sequence where the men capture a sniper who has been hypnotized that's unnerving. A sequence where the power of hypnotism is demonstrated by pushing a long needle through a man's hand is also simple-but-effective. Even the reveal about the reason for the murders is pretty horrible.

Thankfully the comedy is put a bit to the side in the final act (aside from an eye-rolling sequence where Watson is hypnotized after declaring that no one of good moral character could ever be hypnotized) and some neat imagery is used as one of the main villains (the titular woman in green) attempts to hypnotize Holmes.

Overall this was a solid little mystery with a very satisfying final act. It's on Prime.


Sun Jul 08, 2018 9:37 pm
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Post Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018

Takoma1 wrote:

A film with a color in the title: The Woman in Green

This is a Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film. I thought that the first half was actually kind of weak, but the second half had some really solid and memorable moments.

Generally speaking, I've always had a very mixed reaction to the Dr. Watson as total idiot way of telling these stories, and in this film I found it particularly irritating. Watson is BEYOND dumb and buffoonish here, and it was actively grating to me. Like, it just goes too far:

Yeah, Universal and Nigel Bruce did no favors to that character. But, hey, you do get the sorely underrated Henry Daniell as Moriarty, so that's a win. Perfect role for him.
I recently watched Murder By Decree, with James Mason in the role, and he gave it much more dignity. While he was played for the fool at times, it was really more that he was always catching up with Holmes from behind rather than just being baffled and amazed. He also handles himself rather well for his age and has a sort of wry, dignified British humor.


Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:51 am
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I'm up to three films already this month. Too bad only one of them counts for this challenge.

Experimental film

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

This short deals with a young woman who chases after a man who drops a flower on the ground. When she can't reach him, she decides to come inside and investigate.

But because it's experimental, let's just say things quickly take a turn.

There's some interesting visuals at play. I'm not sure how she was able to do several shots the way it turned out using 1943 technology. At times, it manages an almost hypnotic quality as it reminded me of a thriller from a few years before.

But I guess I'm not into avant garde filmmaking or having to look things up afterwards to find out what happened.

I'm glad I saw it, but I fear I'm gonna have to give this a C.

Now to finish The Boy before Takoma loses it...


Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:57 am
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Wooley wrote:
Yeah, Universal and Nigel Bruce did no favors to that character. But, hey, you do get the sorely underrated Henry Daniell as Moriarty, so that's a win. Perfect role for him.


The portrayal of Moriarty was good--but it would have been nice to see him in a few more scenes. The film is already a short 70 minutes.

A period drama film: Love & Friendship

I love Jane Austen, but this movie is based on one of her books I haven't read yet, Lady Susan, so I can't say how it measures up to the book (or even if the book is that good).

Lady Susan is a widow who is having an affair with a married man. At the same time she flirts with her sister-in-law's brother (Reginald), and works to marry her daughter (Frederica) to the rich-but-dumb Sir James. Reginald's family low-key freaks out as they realize that Susan may actually intend to marry Reginald.

Something I always love about Austen's work is that she does a great job of showing how (for better or worse) women navigate a society that consistently works to take away their autonomy and their identities. Lady Susan doesn't have the power of something like Persuasion or Pride & Prejudice, but it has a share of nice touches: Lady Susan courts a man years younger and while she's not a nice person, she's more than his equal; Lady Susan almost never uses her husband's name; in a situation where women are forced to marry for financial security (Frederica wants to work to earn a living and is repeatedly laughed at for it), marrying someone really old and then hoping for his death is basically one "reasonable" approach. By contrast, one of Lady Susan's friends has a husband who controls her behavior by threatening to send her back to their other home in the state of Connecticut (this threat might seem silly, but the wife takes it seriously enough); one of the male characters asserts that it is "natural" for a man to have an affair, but ridiculous for a woman to do do.

I think that one misstep that the film makes is in the moments where it tries to be cute about Lady Susan's behavior. She's manipulative and scheming and entirely self-interested. She is not a very good or nice person. But she's become that way because she lives in a world where marrying for love is a luxury. Lady Susan carries on an affair with a married man, not being at all subtle about it. When the man's wife is upset, other characters repeatedly mock her for her distress. It just doesn't feel right to lament the treatment of women and at the same time laugh at a different woman who has been betrayed and has little recourse. (In the film they allude to lawyers and a separation, but that doesn't quite seem right for the period).

Overall this was a passable film. It had a few funny moments, and the actors are all fine (Kate Beckinsale captures Susan's cold-blooded flippancy perfectly), but it doesn't compare to some of the other adaptations of Austen's works.


Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:22 am
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A sports film: When Billie Beat Bobby

This was a nice bit of background on an event which is well known for its outcome, but maybe not as much for what led up to it (at least for someone like me who was not alive when it took place).

In the midst of fighting for more equal pay in their tournaments (the example given is that the female champion got less than half the prize money of the male champion), former tennis champ Bobby Riggs decides to challenge a female tennis player to a match. Riggs is mainly interested in the novelty (and the marketing opportunities!) but it quickly turns into a symbolic representation of the worth of female athletes. When Bobby beats his first female opponent, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King takes Bobby up on his offer for a match.

The film is very light, but at the same time it really drives home the "small" but numerous examples of everyday sexism encountered by women (and specifically women in the sports field). Everything from the way that the men frequently put their hands on the shoulders or waists of the women to the way that most of the women at some point have their looks remarked upon when it has zero relevance to what is happening.

Something I found very interesting is the way that the film shows Bobby's hubris. He doesn't train particularly hard. He puts most of his energy into promotion and sponsorship deals. You realize that it's not that he doesn't want to win--it's that it simply hasn't occurred to him that he might lose.

Holly Hunter and Ron Silver do a great job in their respective roles. Hunter is fierce and fabulous as someone who quickly realizes that most of what is happening is a mental game and rises to the challenge. She refuses to be rattled and she manages to be quirky and serious all at the same time. Silver's Bobby isn't a bad guy--he mostly wants attention and shamelessly pursues it. But the film does give us a few glimpses of the ingrained nastiness that can hide under even the most "harmless" sexism--in particular a scene where King wins a coin flip to choose the brand of ball to be used and Riggs hounds her about it for so long that she finally leaves the room in disgust. "What? I thought we were having fun" Riggs says as King storms out of the room. That whole "It was all a joke--c'mon!" thing is always a point of retreat and puts the negativity on the person offended.

Something else that the film brings home is that King in particular was in a tough situation. If she loses, it "proves" female athletic inferiority. But if she wins, it's against a total goofball. So while it's not exactly lose-lose, King has a lot more on the line than Riggs.

Another strength of the film is Matt Letscher's quiet, amused performance as King's husband (and manager?) Larry. In a film of men behaving badly, Larry's character stands out in a positive light as a man who is completely unthreatened by having a spouse who is more successful (and far more headstrong) than he is. I do not know much about the real-life relationship between the Kings, but Larry's character in the film shows that strong women are nothing to be afraid of and the two have a trusting, rewarding partnership.

I don't know enough about the real story to say how faithful it is to history. But this was a fun, funny film ("Riggs is still wearing his warm up jacket. Is this just part of the head game?" "Um, I think that he just forgot he is wearing it.") and I really enjoyed it.


Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:15 am
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I'm way behind, and that kinda blocks me when I'm writing, but here's a new one.

Thief wrote:
A film with less than five major characters
A film made for less than $5,000,000



It Comes at Night (2017)



Widespread chaos, a deadly outbreak, society has collapsed... Most of that is not actually seen, but rather inferred in Trey Edward Shults' sophomore effort, It Comes at Night. Set in the aftermath of an unspecified crisis, the film follows a family that has decided to protect themselves by hiding inside their boarded-up rural home, while avoiding contact with anyone. Our only door to the outside world is through this family, and in times of chaos, you can't trust anyone but family. But although their secluded existence might protect them from the harms outside, their sense of security is shaken when they stumble upon another family of survivors and decide to give them shelter.

The film starts by showing Paul (Joel Edgerton) executing the heavily-ill father of his wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and burying him with the help of their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) Judging by the decay in the health of the old man, the threat of a mysterious outbreak is real. But Shults never shows us the extent of the crisis. Instead, he chooses to focus on this family and how they are reacting to it. Fear and mistrust permeates their lives as they find Will and Kim (Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough), along with their young son. But time and routine seems to open up the door and close the gap between them as we see them playing games, sharing the daily chores, and having drinks.

There's a quote attributed to Buddha that says "your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts." That is particularly true in this film, as the apparent camaraderie between the two families crumbles under the weight of mistrust. Who harmed the family dog? Why is Will apparently lying? Is their son ok? Who opened the door to the evil outside? Is it inside already? The film never answers any of those questions, but rather lets them enter our mind and our thoughts, just like with Paul. Sometimes, our own thoughts are worst than anything concrete, and what we let in is more harmful than what is outside.

It Comes at Night is an effective thriller, with a creepy atmosphere, solid performances, and great direction. The kind of film that if you let it in, stays in; which in this case, is a good thing. Trust me.

Grade: A-

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Wed Jul 11, 2018 12:55 am
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Yeah I think it really helped to stay focused on the family in It Comes At Night. I don't know if you've seen A Quiet Place but it's similar in that it keeps the proceedings minimal. Makes it that much more effective and immediate.


Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:50 am
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A comedy made before 1970: We’re No Angels

This was a snarky little comedy about three convicts (Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov) who escape and land in a small town. They plan to rob a family that owns a small store, but they soon become invested in the success of the family and seek to protect them from the evil uncle (Basil Rathbone).

This is a film that totally thrives on the excellent line delivery of the entire cast, but specifically the three stars. Their banter is excellent, with Bogart offering sharp one-liners, Ustinov delivering gentle-but-dark asides, and Ray standing in contrast as the one who always wants to take direct action. The three alternate between their "criminal impulses" and empathy for the family, so that one minute Bogart's character is scheming to rob the store owner and the next minute helping to put his accounts in order. The three also take an interest in the romantic life of the daughter, Isabelle, who is in love with a man who is undeserving of her affections.

It's a bit of movie fluff that a family would so quickly accept the presence in their lives of three strangers who are also convicts, but the chemistry between the entire cast is good enough that (with one exception) the family doesn't seem like total idiots for taking them in. Criminals helping out innocents is a well-worn trope, but it's pulled off in rather charming fashion in this film.

I really had only two complaints about the film. The first is simply that it is a bit too long. The actors playing the family are fine, but the screen crackles when the main three characters are into their banter and by contrast the scenes without them feel kind of flat. The family are a bit bland and so while they seem very nice, they don't make much of an impression.

My second complaint is just about one of the running jokes that I simply didn't find that funny, namely that the Aldo Ray character is a sexual predator and may try to assault the daughter of the family. This is actually something that confused me as the film went on, because it seems like they wanted to have those jokes but didn't want to "formally" address it. It's just strange. For example, the tagline is "A strangler, a safecracker, a swindler . . . .Yet you'll love them!". Ustinov is the safecracker, Bogart is the swindler . . . but the film at one point says that Ray's character is in prison for attacking an uncle who wouldn't loan him money. Why, then, does the film make repeated references to Ray being in jail for a sexual assault? Bogart's character tells the wife that Ray's character was "chasing" a girl. The wife replies it isn't a crime to chase after a girl and Bogart replies "The problem is that he caught her." (This is the one part that really passes into totally unbelievable--I just don't see a woman who is as sensitive and cautious as the wife allowing her daughter to be alone with a rapist, much less letting him stay in their house. Bogart admits to having committed fraud, while Ustinov's character killed his wife in a crime of passion. So why would they pretend that Ray is a rapist when that's the kind of crime that would totally disincline the wife from being sympathetic and/or comfortable around them?)

When the daughter of the family faints, Ray says that they need to loosen her clothing, and Bogart quips that that sort of thing is what got him sent to jail in the first place. Ray then carries the girl into a bedroom, and when Bogart realizes they are alone after a minute he says to Ustinov "You better get in there!" and moments later an angry Ustinov pushes Ray out of the room as Ray protests that he was just doing it because she'd fainted, implying that he'd been undressing her while she was passed out. As the film goes on, this line of "comedy" is dropped and the whole thing is very odd. I almost have to wonder if in an original draft he was a sexual predator and then they wanted to "soften" the character, but someone thought that the perv jokes were just too funny to get rid of? That whole element, mostly present in the first third of the film, was off-putting and trying to make a sexual predator a lovable goofball is a bridge too far.

Aside from the ill-conceived humor in the first third and a few scenes that dragged a bit, I really enjoyed this film. It's full of great quips ("We came here to rob them and that's what we're gonna do - beat their heads in, gouge their eyes out, slash their throats. Soon as we wash the dishes") delivered with different but excellent timing by all three leads. Rathbone doesn't have quite as much screentime as the evil cousin, but his line deliveries are also hilarious, in particular when he tells Isabelle, "Your opinion of me has no cash value!".

I got this one on DVD from Netflix, and it's not free on any streaming services that I have. But I really enjoyed it and I think it's worth a few bucks for a rental.


Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:09 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A period drama film: Love & Friendship


I was probably not the right audience for this (I've never read any Austen), but everything with Tom Bennett was gold.

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Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:49 am
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Rock wrote:
(I've never read any Austen)


Whaaaaaaa????????? How does a person make it through a full educational program without reading a single work by Jane Austen?

She is hilarious. And not just "Oh, for her time and as a woman, blah blah blah". I genuinely think she's really funny and crafts memorable characters. She even throws in an awesome penis joke every now and then just to keep you on your toes. I would highly recommend checking out Persuasion (keep an eye out for the conversation about "curtains") or Pride & Prejudice. They are also both pretty quick reads.

Quote:
but everything with Tom Bennett was gold.


Agreed. It makes me interested to know just how the character was written in the novel.


Wed Jul 11, 2018 12:00 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
A comedy made before 1970: We’re No Angels

My second complaint is just about one of the running jokes that I simply didn't find that funny, namely that the Aldo Ray character is a sexual predator and may try to assault the daughter of the family. This is actually something that confused me as the film went on, because it seems like they wanted to have those jokes but didn't want to "formally" address it. It's just strange. For example, the tagline is "A strangler, a safecracker, a swindler . . . .Yet you'll love them!". Ustinov is the safecracker, Bogart is the swindler . . . but the film at one point says that Ray's character is in prison for attacking an uncle who wouldn't loan him money. Why, then, does the film make repeated references to Ray being in jail for a sexual assault? Bogart's character tells the wife that Ray's character was "chasing" a girl. The wife replies it isn't a crime to chase after a girl and Bogart replies "The problem is that he caught her." (This is the one part that really passes into totally unbelievable--I just don't see a woman who is as sensitive and cautious as the wife allowing her daughter to be alone with a rapist, much less letting him stay in their house. Bogart admits to having committed fraud, while Ustinov's character killed his wife in a crime of passion. So why would they pretend that Ray is a rapist when that's the kind of crime that would totally disincline the wife from being sympathetic and/or comfortable around them?)

When the daughter of the family faints, Ray says that they need to loosen her clothing, and Bogart quips that that sort of thing is what got him sent to jail in the first place. Ray then carries the girl into a bedroom, and when Bogart realizes they are alone after a minute he says to Ustinov "You better get in there!" and moments later an angry Ustinov pushes Ray out of the room as Ray protests that he was just doing it because she'd fainted, implying that he'd been undressing her while she was passed out. As the film goes on, this line of "comedy" is dropped and the whole thing is very odd. I almost have to wonder if in an original draft he was a sexual predator and then they wanted to "soften" the character, but someone thought that the perv jokes were just too funny to get rid of? That whole element, mostly present in the first third of the film, was off-putting and trying to make a sexual predator a lovable goofball is a bridge too far.

What the actual fuck?! :shock:


Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:53 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

Whaaaaaaa????????? How does a person make it through a full educational program without reading a single work by Jane Austen?

She is hilarious. And not just "Oh, for her time and as a woman, blah blah blah". I genuinely think she's really funny and crafts memorable characters. She even throws in an awesome penis joke every now and then just to keep you on your toes. I would highly recommend checking out Persuasion (keep an eye out for the conversation about "curtains") or Pride & Prejudice. They are also both pretty quick reads.

I never read her either, and I was an Honors Lit student in high school and a Liberal Arts major in college.


Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:55 pm
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Wooley wrote:
What the actual fuck?! :shock:


It's a weird tonal misstep. I mean, this movie is a bit like something like Arsenic and Old Lace where you are walking this line where people are doing horrible things but there is a goofiness to it and you can still enjoy the characters.

But what I think crosses the line for me is that for the first third it actually feels like a real threat (as evidenced by him actually starting to take her clothes off). You never actually believe they are going to kill the family, so the jokes about murder don't have the same heft. The rape/molestation jokes don't get the same pass, because the character actually does it and it remains in the air as a possibility. Just . . . poor judgement from someone.

Wooley wrote:
I never read her either, and I was an Honors Lit student in high school and a Liberal Arts major in college.


You guys are blowing my mind right now. I feel like it's unbelievable that anyone could get through even high school without Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and/or Middlemarch being things they read.


Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:49 pm
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A film noir: Fear in the Night

DeForest Kelley (yes, Dr. Bones!) has such unhealthy posture. This has nothing to do with the film, but the whole movie I was like "Please, get your head over your shoulder line!!". Anyway.

This is one of those movies with a good concept and a few powerful sequences, but just lacking that special something to make it one you'd heartily recommend.

The plot (and opening sequence) are fantastic. A man, Vince, dreams that he is in a mirrored room. He fights another man as a woman panics. In the fight the woman tries to give the other man a weapon, but Vince gets hold of it instead and stabs the man to death, then shoves him in a closet and locks it with a key. When Vince wakes from his dream he discovers a button and a key that he's never seen before. Stumbling into the bathroom he finds blood on his arm and bruises on his neck. Freaked out, Vince tries to figure out what happened the night before.

There's a bit of dawdling in the plot as we are introduced to the secondary characters: the female co-worker Vince likes, Vince's sister, Vince's brother in law who also happens to be a police detective. But then there's an excellent sequence in which the four main characters are caught in a rain storm and Vince directs them to a house that is very familiar . . .

Something that I really hate about old movies is that when people write plot summaries of them, they don't hesitate to just flat out say the ending or "twist". I would have been surprised by the ending of this one (despite it being kind of dumb and far-fetched) if the plot summary hadn't given it away, and there is a nicely creepy sequence in the end as everything is revealed.

I'd say that this is a mid-tier noir. There are some memorable sequences and decent performances. There is some good tension with the character of Cliff (the detective BIL), who thinks that Vince has killed someone but is faking the whole dream thing just so he won't have to face what he's done.

I'd say this is worth checking out if you have Prime.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:05 am
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Adding to the chorus of those for whom Austen was never required reading in grade school, though with an English degree that was obviously corrected in college. I think the only actual Regency era novel we read in high school was Ivanhoe. But dear lord, did we read a lot of Victorian literature.

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Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:12 am
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I think the only Austen book I read was Pride and Prejudice back in high school. But then again, I was kind of a nerd in high school that read classic novels. Part of a AP class in English in high school, but I think we focused on An American Tragedy. A Place in the Sun is a fine film if any one gets the chance to see it.

Oof at that part of We're No Angels. Not sure I can watch it now, even with the recommendation. If this was taken seriously, I don't know. But for laughs? Uh, nope.


Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:59 am
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