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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019 
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So I watched Beauty and the Beast and For Colored Girls, and one of them was good.

For Colored Girls, I realize I'm exactly not the target audience, but I'm not sure what the point was. It feels like a dentist appointment where the dentist fixes nothing in the end. It just piles up misery on top of itself in a way that isn't particularly interesting at all. From a bit of cursory reading, I understand that the play is very idiosyncratic, but the movie is just too standard to be interesting. It doesn't put an interesting twist on anything and it becomes unbearably overdramatic. I probably won't watch another Tyler Perry movie.

Beauty and the Beast, 1946 though was great. It's very French and I'm not sure how good it is after translation or with subtitles, but the snappy dialogue, half-established world and overall dreaminess combo super well. Though I wish there was more to the palace/castle itself. It's amazing when they get there, but very little is seen or done with it all in the end. Also I think they mixed Cinderella in there, I'm not sure Beauty and the Beast had Belle as a maid to her bitchy sisters.


Sun Feb 10, 2019 5:19 am
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Frankenstein (1910)
See a 1910s film

Very liberal translation of the Frankenstein legend.

Frankenstein, here a college student, decides to create life. But the end result is ugly and full of his worst instincts and jealous of his girlfriend too. So he decides to lock the creation up. But ultimately, he breaks out.

There's some clever moments here (instead of lightning during the creation sequence, we get a couple of magical poofs) and there. But the film just kind of ends and the restored version I saw on YouTube doesn't look discernibly better than the old one.

Unless you're a completest of the Frankenstein franchise, this is a pass.


Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:11 am
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A film from the current IMDb 250 whose ranking includes the #2 (i.e. 20, 32, 42): It’s a Wonderful Life

This was my first time seeing this film from beginning to end. I've seen 5-10 minute bits and pieces here and there, but my idea of the whole structure of the film was completely wrong. The part I'd always understood most about the film (George seeing what life would have been like without him) is actually a much smaller part of the film than what I'd imagined.

I'd bet that most of you have seen it, so I won't go into too much summary. The directing and Stewart's performance are pretty amazing. I was surprised at how dark the film was at times--such as a young George being assaulted by his boss until he is bleeding while his friend looks on in horror.

Generally speaking, I respond strongly to the central theme of the film in terms of realizing that just because you aren't a star or a "success" it doesn't mean that you haven't made the world a better place. One of my favorite quote is from Middlemarch, where the narrator remarks that "the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” (God, I love that quote.)

But for me what adds a lot of layers to the film is what I learned about it in the documentary Five Came Back (on Netflix and highly recommended, by the way). The documentary is about five directors (Capra, Wyler, Stevens, Ford, and Huston) who all went to war during WW2 (though some were working in the capacity of documenting events, not actually fighting) and how their experiences shaped the films they created thereafter. I was very taken by the way that the film explored the contrast of despair and optimism in It's a Wonderful Life through the lens of a filmmaker who had just seen such triumph and destruction/misery. The fact that this was Jimmy Stewart's first film after he returned from serving in the war just adds to the whole thing.

Obviously this is a film that many people have seen. But if you haven't read/watched anything about Capra's war experiences, doing so might change how you view this film on a rewatch.

EDIT: Also, that phone conversation kiss was really hot. Like, wow.

EDIT 2: This film was, in so many ways, way more physical and visceral than I'd expected. The aforementioned kiss being only one element of that.


Sun Feb 10, 2019 7:44 am
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Thank you, Takoma, for convincing me to read Middlemarch.


Sun Feb 10, 2019 7:45 pm
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ja I remember my first time seeing it being surprised at its levels of angst and desperation. I probably assumed it was fluffier given its Christmas Movie Classic For The Whole Family status. the ending is kinda fairy-tale, but that's not always a bad thing. we all need our feel-good stories after all.


Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:31 pm
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Slentert wrote:
Thank you, Takoma, for convincing me to read Middlemarch.


Middlemarch is an amazing novel, but it is very long. I listened to it as an audiobook. I've seen one miniseries adaptation of it which was okay, but it's hard to capture the brilliance of Eliot's narration and the way that she captures the inner lives of the characters. They are very complex and real people.

Oxnard Montalvo wrote:
ja I remember my first time seeing it being surprised at its levels of angst and desperation. I probably assumed it was fluffier given its Christmas Movie Classic For The Whole Family status. the ending is kinda fairy-tale, but that's not always a bad thing. we all need our feel-good stories after all.


That's what I was anticipating as well. It's a story of frustrated ambition and the "price" of decency.


Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:45 am
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A film with the word "Love" in its title: Love (2011)

I . . . did not understand this film.

And I mean that on both a literal level and a thematic level. Sure, everything is explained (sort of) in the end, but I feel like its ideas were pretty muddled.

The film begins with a Civil War soldier narrating about a battle and the general hardships. Then it's a hard jump to a man named Lee Miller, a lone astronaut maintaining a space station. After a while, Miller loses contact with Earth. Abandoned, he occupies himself by reading a journal from the Civil War soldier at the beginning of the film and fantasizing about a woman whose picture he keeps.

The entire film is really just watching Miller coping with his situation. Layered into his scenes are strange interviews with people musing on life in general. Eventually Miller has an encounter with a strange object that begins to explain what has happened to him.

Then the movie just . . . ends.

Gunner Wright does a fine job in the lead role, despite not having anyone else to play off of. But this is a movie that we've seen before. It was called Moon. (Please note, the plot progression in this film does not have the same ending, I'm referring to the "man alone in space" trope). This film has some pretty visuals (though so many of them are "borrowed" from other films), but there's a real lack of narrative momentum.

William Eubank, who made this film, would go on to make The Signal (the 2014 one), which is a much more coherent and original film than this one.

Love was funded and produced by the band Angels and Airwaves, a band founded by Blink-182 singer Tom DeLonge who is really, really into UFOs. This is the final, befuddling thing that I learned about the movie.


Mon Feb 11, 2019 1:57 am
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Apex Predator wrote:
Frankenstein (1910)
See a 1910s film

Very liberal translation of the Frankenstein legend.

Frankenstein, here a college student, decides to create life. But the end result is ugly and full of his worst instincts and jealous of his girlfriend too. So he decides to lock the creation up. But ultimately, he breaks out.

There's some clever moments here (instead of lightning during the creation sequence, we get a couple of magical poofs) and there. But the film just kind of ends and the restored version I saw on YouTube doesn't look discernibly better than the old one.

Unless you're a completest of the Frankenstein franchise, this is a pass.

I love this movie. Recommend it to people every October.


Mon Feb 11, 2019 2:41 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film from the current IMDb 250 whose ranking includes the #2 (i.e. 20, 32, 42): It’s a Wonderful Life

This was my first time seeing this film from beginning to end. I've seen 5-10 minute bits and pieces here and there, but my idea of the whole structure of the film was completely wrong. The part I'd always understood most about the film (George seeing what life would have been like without him) is actually a much smaller part of the film than what I'd imagined.

I'd bet that most of you have seen it, so I won't go into too much summary. The directing and Stewart's performance are pretty amazing. I was surprised at how dark the film was at times--such as a young George being assaulted by his boss until he is bleeding while his friend looks on in horror.

Generally speaking, I respond strongly to the central theme of the film in terms of realizing that just because you aren't a star or a "success" it doesn't mean that you haven't made the world a better place. One of my favorite quote is from Middlemarch, where the narrator remarks that "the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” (God, I love that quote.)

But for me what adds a lot of layers to the film is what I learned about it in the documentary Five Came Back (on Netflix and highly recommended, by the way). The documentary is about five directors (Capra, Wyler, Stevens, Ford, and Huston) who all went to war during WW2 (though some were working in the capacity of documenting events, not actually fighting) and how their experiences shaped the films they created thereafter. I was very taken by the way that the film explored the contrast of despair and optimism in It's a Wonderful Life through the lens of a filmmaker who had just seen such triumph and destruction/misery. The fact that this was Jimmy Stewart's first film after he returned from serving in the war just adds to the whole thing.

Obviously this is a film that many people have seen. But if you haven't read/watched anything about Capra's war experiences, doing so might change how you view this film on a rewatch.

EDIT: Also, that phone conversation kiss was really hot. Like, wow.

EDIT 2: This film was, in so many ways, way more physical and visceral than I'd expected. The aforementioned kiss being only one element of that.

It's a really good film that doesn't get its due sometimes because of its status as THE Christmas movie.
If I understand correctly, the film was not that well-received in its day and had become essentially forgotten until the 1970s when Ultra High Frequency channels were looking for films to show around Christmas. Because IaWL had fallen into the public domain, they didn't have to pay to show it so they showed it a lot and thus was it brought back into the public awareness and became the classic it is now.
At least that's what I've read.
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Mon Feb 11, 2019 2:53 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I was surprised at how dark the film was at times--such as a young George being assaulted by his boss until he is bleeding while his friend looks on in horror.

This is true about a lot of Capra's films, which is why I think it's unfair that he's mostly known as the "feel-good ending" guy by modern audiences.

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Mon Feb 11, 2019 3:14 am
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Wooley wrote:
Ilove the dance at the gym. With the pool.


I think that it has a lot of really memorable moments that aren't the ones you see played as clips when the film is referenced.

A sequel: Sleepaway Camp 2:Unhappy Campers

Well, it's been a lazy Sunday morning, that's for sure!

Since talking about any element of this film gives away the ending of the first movie, I'm just going to out the whole review in spoiler tags, but I won't be spoiling the film that I'm talking about (not that there's much to spoil!).

So at the end of the first Sleepaway Camp, we learn that Angela has been the killer all along and that she's mentally disturbed from the way that she was treated by her aunt after the death of her father and brother.

Where the sequel begins, Angela is out of the mental hospital and she's gotten herself a job at Camp Rolling Hills. There's no "is she the killer this time?" mystery. Within the first 5 minutes of running time she's dispatched a naughty camper who was *gasp* hanging out with boys and drinking. The film turns into Angela's increasingly wide net of who "deserves" to be killed, hacking, burning, and garroting her way through anyone that displays bad behavior.

I think that I'd have liked this film a bit more if it didn't have the spectre of the first film hanging over it. This isn't a bad film at all. In fact, I found it pretty funny and engaging. But frankly I did not care for what they did with the character of Angela. If this had been a stand-alone film, I would have actually really dug it. I just couldn't get over the completely different dynamic. This isn't a film where kills have meaning--it's a hack-and-slash, quippy slasher.

I did think that the film did a good job of having a relatable, likable character in camp attendee Molly. Everyone else is varying degrees of hateable. There's the queen bitch Ally, who constantly refers to Angela as "the dyke". There's TC, the counselor who looks at a picture of a topless teenager and remarks "Nice tits!". Valerie Hartman, who plays Ally, must have set a record for number of topless scenes. Her breasts are bared repeatedly, to the point where it's like "Why is this happening?". One of the things that I liked about the first film was that the kids actually looked like teens and pre-teens. The "teens" in this film are a weird mix of actual teens and then some 20-somethings who were hired to be the ones to take their shirts off. The need to keep showing the handful of 20-somethings topless kind of marred the film for me. The film isn't at all equitable with its nudity, and so it feels very director-pervy. In fact, Hartman had to film a sex scene with a stand-in because the person playing her hook-up was a minor at the time. I was delighted to find out that Valerie Hartman worked as a crew member on the third film, as a raccoon wrangler.

I wish this film wasn't part of the Sleepaway Camp universe. I would definitely have enjoyed it as a stand-alone. But with my fondness for the first film looming over it, this one couldn't quite compare. Still, Pamela's Springsteen's chipper slasher is a lot of fun.


Mon Feb 11, 2019 3:26 am
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A romantic film: Alex Strangelove

This was a sweet little teen romance/sex comedy deal with a dash of Better Off Dead surrealism thrown in for good measure.

Alex Truelove is a slightly nerdy but generally popular student: class President, good student, and he has a perfect match in his girlfriend Claire. What begins as a friendship creating a video webseries about their high school blossoms into a romance. But a ways into their relationship, Alex and Claire still haven't had sex. With Claire frustrated, Alex makes serious plans for them to be together (he is a virgin, she is not), but a chance encounter with a guy named Elliot sews confusion for Alex. As "the big night" approaches, Alex tries to sort out his feelings for Claire, Elliot, and his own sexuality in general.

On the whole I liked this film. Both Claire and Elliot are likable, sympathetic characters. I thought that the film was very realistic in showing the way that when Alex felt conflicted or frustrated he tended to take his frustrations out on them, accusing Elliot of pressuring him or accusing Claire of being too clingy. The acting from the people playing the teens is pretty good, and I was happy to see Kathryn Erbe pop up as Claire's mother. I thought that this was a genuinely sympathetic look at sexual confusion in the modern age. As the film shows, people are now familiar with many variations on sexuality and gender, but that doesn't mean that homophobia (from others or internalized) isn't still a very real thing.

I'd recommend this one. It was sweet.


Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:49 am
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A comedy: Hurricane Bianca: From Russia with Love

This is a film for pretty much a niche market, namely fans of RuPaul's Drag Race and specifically season 6 contestant Bianca del Rio.

In the first film, gay teacher Roy is fired from his Texas public school in a move driven by the homophobic Deborah. Roy returns as alter ego Bianca del Rio, and blah blah blah, Deborah ends up in jail. In this sequel, Deborah gets out of jail and tricks Roy into taking a trip to Russia where she hopes to have him thrown in jail for being gay.

This is a silly, jokey film with broad jokes like Russia running on a potato economy ("Potato is for closers!") and an absurd plan to use prostitutes to "convert" the gay prisoners into straight men. There are sizable roles for Katya and Shangela as Roy's love interest and close friend, respectively. (If you're a Drag Race fan, Lady Bunny and Mrs. Kasha Davis also show up). Rachel Dratch goes all in as the vengeful, "Christian" Deborah.

Despite the silliness, the film does land a few pointed remarks. Not only addressing the ridiculousness of jailing people for their sexuality, but when Deborah says that it's not "safe" to have a gay teacher in the school, Roy points out that she has a history of seducing male students, pointing to the broader trend that abuse between teachers and students is almost always heterosexual in nature.

I'm pretty much right in the demographic for this film, so I enjoyed it ("Oh, no! It's those horny rats! And it's mating season!"). It's on Netflix.


Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:10 am
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Yeah, still catching up with the January reviews...


A film about the Vietnam War


Good Morning, Vietnam (1987, rewatch)

Quote:
"Sir, the man is a walking keg of dynamite."


In the 1970s, Robin Williams exploded into the world of comedy and entertainment. He quickly developed a following with his frenetic and wild style of stand-up comedy, which his biographer called "intense, utterly manic", "beyond energetic", and even "dangerous". Nonetheless, the Juilliard alum became a star, first in stand-up, then TV, and finally on film. Remembered mostly because of his comedic roles, Good Morning, Vietnam is probably the quintessential example of Williams' talents as both a comedian and a dramatic artist.

Good Morning, Vietnam is loosely based on the career of Adrian Cronauer, a radio DJ sent to Vietnam whose irreverent style clashes with the more conservative top brass at the station. Despite the name connection, little of Cronauer's story remained on the film, replaced instead by Williams' explosion of unstoppable improvisations and wild impersonations. While on his free time, Cronauer falls for Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana), a young Vietnamese woman, which leads him to also befriend her brother Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran), while also dealing with the cultural clash and the threat of the Viet Cong.

I remember seeing and loving this film since the 80's, the perfect mixture of comedy and drama, all in the hands of the explosive Williams. However, I hadn't seen it in a long time, and revisiting it last month exposed some of its flaws. The most glaring of them is the weak and unnecessary subplot of Cronauer courting Trinh. Not only do they lack chemistry, but the subplot adds little to the story and only feels like it was put there just for the sake of having a female character. As a result, Cronauer's relationship with Tuan, which is indeed relevant to the plot, ends up feeling diminished and half-baked. His interactions with the English students he befriends felt more honest and tender, though.

But the real reason to watch this film is not the subplots, but rather to watch Williams explode on screen. From the moment he arrives at the station for the first time, where you can see how he gets in the zone as he prepares, to the moment he screams his iconic "Gooooooooooood moooorning, Vietnaaaaam!", you just have to stand in awe of the man. Not only for his comedic delivery, but his improvised delivery of material appropriate to the historic era; and then the way he segues into more dramatic moments is impressive.

Robin Williams exploded into the world in the 1970s, bursting with energy and talent which was evident and undeniable in countless of films. Unfortunately, his flame died in 2014. Few celebrity deaths have struck me as hard as this one. Not only for the way it happened, but for how openly and honestly he faced his own demons through his career, as well as the countless actors and actresses that shared the screen with him that have testified how humble he was and how much he helped them.

I realize that I'm making this review more of a reflection of Williams than of the film itself, but I feel that if there's one film that best embodies the essence of its star, is this one. Good Morning, Vietnam is far from perfect, but when all is said and done, it's an encapsulation of Robin Williams. Flawed, and yet so full of talent. The man was a walking keg of dynamite, and we should be glad we had a chance to feel his impact.

Grade: B

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Tue Feb 12, 2019 6:35 am
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Thief wrote:
Yeah, still catching up with the January reviews...


A film about the Vietnam War


Good Morning, Vietnam (1987, rewatch)



In the 1970s, Robin Williams exploded into the world of comedy and entertainment. He quickly developed a following with his frenetic and wild style of stand-up comedy, which his biographer called "intense, utterly manic", "beyond energetic", and even "dangerous". Nonetheless, the Juilliard alum became a star, first in stand-up, then TV, and finally on film. Remembered mostly because of his comedic roles, Good Morning, Vietnam is probably the quintessential example of Williams' talents as both a comedian and a dramatic artist.

Good Morning, Vietnam is loosely based on the career of Adrian Cronauer, a radio DJ sent to Vietnam whose irreverent style clashes with the more conservative top brass at the station. Despite the name connection, little of Cronauer's story remained on the film, replaced instead by Williams' explosion of unstoppable improvisations and wild impersonations. While on his free time, Cronauer falls for Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana), a young Vietnamese woman, which leads him to also befriend her brother Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran), while also dealing with the cultural clash and the threat of the Viet Cong.

I remember seeing and loving this film since the 80's, the perfect mixture of comedy and drama, all in the hands of the explosive Williams. However, I hadn't seen it in a long time, and revisiting it last month exposed some of its flaws. The most glaring of them is the weak and unnecessary subplot of Cronauer courting Trinh. Not only do they lack chemistry, but the subplot adds little to the story and only feels like it was put there just for the sake of having a female character. As a result, Cronauer's relationship with Tuan, which is indeed relevant to the plot, ends up feeling diminished and half-baked. His interactions with the English students he befriends felt more honest and tender, though.

But the real reason to watch this film is not the subplots, but rather to watch Williams explode on screen. From the moment he arrives at the station for the first time, where you can see how he gets in the zone as he prepares, to the moment he screams his iconic "Gooooooooooood moooorning, Vietnaaaaam!", you just have to stand in awe of the man. Not only for his comedic delivery, but his improvised delivery of material appropriate to the historic era; and then the way he segues into more dramatic moments is impressive.

Robin Williams exploded into the world in the 1970s, bursting with energy and talent which was evident and undeniable in countless of films. Unfortunately, his flame died in 2014. Few celebrity deaths have struck me as hard as this one. Not only for the way it happened, but for how openly and honestly he faced his own demons through his career, as well as the countless actors and actresses that shared the screen with him that have testified how humble he was and how much he helped them.

I realize that I'm making this review more of a reflection of Williams than of the film itself, but I feel that if there's one film that best embodies the essence of its star, is this one. Good Morning, Vietnam is far from perfect, but when all is said and done, it's an encapsulation of Robin Williams. Flawed, and yet so full of talent. The man was a walking keg of dynamite, and we should be glad we had a chance to feel his impact.

Grade: B

Unfortunately, over time, Williams' gig became nails on a chalkboard to me. I've really enjoyed him as a dramatic actor (I thought he was absolutely deserving of BSA Oscar and I loved him in Garp) and stand-up comedian, and Mork was amusing, but when he brings that same endless thing to film, it wears me out really fast. Wouldn't watch Aladdin again if you put a gun to my head and, honestly, GMV was probably my second least-favorite of his "wind him up and watch him go" movies.
Don't mean to be a downer, just giving my honest feedback on it.


Tue Feb 12, 2019 6:58 am
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A film featuring the name of a couple in its title (any gender): Angel and the Bad Man

John Wayne is a bad man. We first meet Quirt Evans as he rides an exhausted horse, both man and horse collapsing in front of a Quaker man, Thomas, and his daughter, Penelope (Gail Russell). Seeing that Evans is wounded the Quakers take him to their home and take care of him. As Penelope cares for Evans she begins to fall in love with him. When Evans recovers enough to leave, Penelope confesses her love to Evans. At first reluctant to enter into a relationship with her, Evans is swayed and tries to find a way to stay with her and also accomplish what he's after.

So, just in general I tend to give the side eye to films about good women reforming bad dudes. Too often it feels like there a message there about the female responsibility to "civilize" uncivil men. And adding to that is the age gap between the two, with Wayne being almost twenty years older than Russell.

But this movie mostly manages to pull it off. There's something really sweet about the way that Russell realizes with a start "I didn't realize it wasn't always true for both!", meaning she didn't realize it was possible to love someone who doesn't love you back. The story isn't so much about Penelope reforming Evans as it is about Evans finding a purpose beyond revenge or selfishness. The film even goes as far as to color code the change in Evans, with his clothing going from black to a lighter color as he gives up his violent ways.

Wayne and Russell are both a bit understated in this film, and it serves the story well. She's not overly preachy. He's not overly "manly". The two characters balance each other nicely, as do the sweet supporting characters of Penelope's family and the local Marshall who periodically rides by to remind Evans that he's got a hanging rope waiting for him if he's ever caught.

I caught about 10 minutes once of a remake starring Lou Diamond Phillips. I'm not sure if that version is any good, but I think that this one is worth a watch. My main complaint with these old films, as always, is that there is some mistreatment of horses, though not quite as bad as most other 40s and 50s westerns.

(EDIT: Ugh--I'd forgotten about Gail Russell's story and how she died of alcoholism at age 36. What a shame.)


Tue Feb 12, 2019 8:29 am
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Wooley wrote:
Unfortunately, over time, Williams' gig became nails on a chalkboard to me. I've really enjoyed him as a dramatic actor (I thought he was absolutely deserving of BSA Oscar and I loved him in Garp) and stand-up comedian, and Mork was amusing, but when he brings that same endless thing to film, it wears me out really fast. Wouldn't watch Aladdin again if you put a gun to my head and, honestly, GMV was probably my second least-favorite of his "wind him up and watch him go" movies.
Don't mean to be a downer, just giving my honest feedback on it.


No worries! I love the feedback. I understand your point, but that's part of what I wanted to convey in my review about a flawed film. He was a flawed man, had a flawed career, made a lot of stinkers (What Dreams May Come? Bicentennial Man?), but when he was good, he was great (Good Will Hunting, One Hour Photo). Aladdin is also my favorite Disney film, so I will respectfully disagree there :D But anyway, Good Morning, Vietnam is a flawed film and not my favorite of his, but I think it's the best example to capture who he was on screen.

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Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:10 am
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A film that features football prominently (Super Bowl, February 3): Season of a Lifetime

I am not into football.

Let's even set aside the fact that it, you know, destroys the brains of the children, teens, and adults who play it. Let's set aside the fact that many communities valorize football players to the point that they literally get away with crimes.

It's a fundamentally boring sport to me and aside from the occasional college game, I've never found much to be interested in.

This film is a documentary following Jeremy Williams, a man who is diagnosed with ALS (a horrible degenerative disease) and decides to continue on as the football coach of the team he previously led to an undefeated season the year before. The film looks at Jeremy's work as a coach, how his religious faith helps him through his trials, and his family. From the testimonials from his players, it's clear how much he has meant to them and that they want to make him proud.

In terms of creativity, this documentary is a bit simple. It kind of bip bops from one part of the story to another, then goes back into football mode to show the latest game and the team's ranking in the region. I did really like his family. His wife is very sweet, his son (who is confined to a wheelchair with Spina Bifida) is quirky and fun, and his daughter seems super cool. They are religious, but not oppressively so, and it's clear that their faith helps them to endure their various hardships.

I'm not sure I'd recommend this film, but I would recommend googling Jeremy Williams and learning more about his life. Watching his ALS progress, even during the filming of the season, was intense. It's a horrible disease and you can see how having a concrete goal like a football season would help someone stay mentally tough.


Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:21 am
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Ooh! Just an FYI: There's a John Ford film on Netflix that he produced for the War Department and it's all about how to be inconspicuous as an operative behind enemy lines!

Netflix also has Midway, but I think that the spy one is what I'll "officially" do for this month.


Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:59 am
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Thief wrote:
A film with a title that starts with the letters C or D:


CRAZY HEART (2009)

I remember the Oscar buzz around this one 10 years ago, but am only now getting around to it. Jeff Bridges definitely earns his Best Actor trophy as the country singer who's seen better days. A terrific performance, and he acquits himself well as a singer too. (As does Colin Farrell, in an upset) My one beef would be that the romance between Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal didn't feel very organic to me. He's an alcoholic curmudgeon, 30 years her senior, but her attraction to him is basically immediate. No sufficient explanation for that was really offered, so it felt forced to me. Regardless, the film is good enough to overcome that and I'm comfortable recommending it despite that misstep. (And the original songs aren't bad either)

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Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:30 am
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Thief wrote:

No worries! I love the feedback. I understand your point, but that's part of what I wanted to convey in my review about a flawed film. He was a flawed man, had a flawed career, made a lot of stinkers (What Dreams May Come? Bicentennial Man?), but when he was good, he was great (Good Will Hunting, One Hour Photo). Aladdin is also my favorite Disney film, so I will respectfully disagree there :D But anyway, Good Morning, Vietnam is a flawed film and not my favorite of his, but I think it's the best example to capture who he was on screen.

I think that's totally fair.


Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:39 am
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Post Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Captain Terror wrote:

CRAZY HEART (2009)

I remember the Oscar buzz around this one 10 years ago, but am only now getting around to it. Jeff Bridges definitely earns his Best Actor trophy as the country singer who's seen better days. A terrific performance, and he acquits himself well as a singer too. (As does Colin Farrell, in an upset) My one beef would be that the romance between Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal didn't feel very organic to me. He's an alcoholic curmudgeon, 30 years her senior, but her attraction to him is basically immediate. No sufficient explanation for that was really offered, so it felt forced to me. Regardless, the film is good enough to overcome that and I'm comfortable recommending it despite that misstep. (And the original songs aren't bad either)

Old men like to think they can still get hot, young, awesome women?


Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:40 am
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A film from China (Chinese New Year, February 5): Look Out, Officer!

I really like Stephen Chow (especially Kung Fu Hustle), and this one is an effort from 1990 (he stars but did not direct).

Eh.

Chow plays a rookie police officer who begins to see the ghost of another police officer who was killed by some evil gangsters in a way that was made to look like suicide. Chow agrees to help the officer find his killer in exchange for help with the ladies and looking better at his job. What follow are a lot of hijinks, often centering on the ghost's vaguely defined powers (such as blowing wind to make a girl's skirt lift up, or "possessing" Chow's gun so that he's a crack shot).

Chow is a really gifted physical comedian and he's really charismatic. But that only carries this film so far. Maybe it's a cultural gap, but a lot of the humor just didn't seem funny to me. In one scene, they terrify an old woman so that she pees herself while Chow crouches under her to collect her pee in a jar so that they can use it to cast a magic spell. Ha? The scenes that involve the romance/sex angle play even worse, to me. There's the part I mentioned where magic is used to blow up a young woman's skirt so that Chow can get a good look at her underwear. Then there's the part where they use a spell to turn an attractive female co-worker into a seductress. She "wakes up" halfway through the experience with a male co-worker on top of her and believes she's being assaulted, something that is just laughed off by all the other people in the office and the man who was on top of her. Then there are some gay panic jokes, like a doctor giving overly-enthusiastic prostate exams or a man accidentally getting hit with the seduction spell and hitting on his male co-worker.

The film is full of outlandish comedy touches, like arms and legs being stretched to cartoonish lengths. Despite this, though, I never really felt a lot of joy coming from it. It's more like unfocused, slightly juvenile mania. A few bits of Chow's physical comedy are pretty funny, and he's an engaging lead, but his character is kind of a creep and I found it hard to care what happened to any of the characters.


Wed Feb 13, 2019 3:53 am
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A film from John Ford (born February 1): How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines

This is a film created for the purpose of training those intending to work as undercover operatives.

This is a fascinating historical artifact, and also one that makes you realize the degree of detail that had to go into creating and maintaining an undercover identity.

The film begins with the recruits memorizing the details of their personas. They meticulously go over the labels in clothing. There are considerations of details such as whether or not a coat would have been confiscated by troops and should be replaced with a thinner one.

Then it's on to showing how the agents actually maintain their identities. The best, most surreal aspect of the film is the way that it refers to the place being infiltrated as "Enemy Land." So the narrator will say things like "On his way to work at the factory, Al takes a stroll through the park, just like any other productive, happy citizen of Enemy Land."

The number of things that must be kept track of is head-spinning: what knot to use when tying up a boat, making sure to use current slang, not stubbing out a half-smoked cigarette in a place where cigarettes are considered a valuable commodity.

At just about an hour long, this is a fascinating time capsule.


Wed Feb 13, 2019 4:43 am
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A film from the 1910s: M’Liss

So this movie was hilarious.

Mary Pickford plays a wild child named M'Liss (short for Melissa) who has been raised by her alcoholic father (and their chicken Hildegard) When a hot new school teacher comes to town, M'Liss falls for him. Unbeknownst to any of them, M'Liss's father's brother is dying and plans to leave all of his money to him. The brother's servants don't much care for this and come to town to murder M'Liss's father. The school teacher ends up in the middle of the crime and M'Liss must save him from hanging. (Though the actor is 13 years her senior, they look close enough in age that this doesn't come across as super creepy. M'Liss is childish in her own way, but doesn't really feel like a teenager.)

Pickford was totally charming in this film. She isn't the naughty, crinkle-nosed girl/woman character that you sometimes get. Instead she's opinionated and hilarious. During a schoo lsession a black snake slithers into the room, she just scoops it up and asks "Teacher: what do you do with these fellers?". When the teacher and the other students panic, M'Liss just casually takes the snake outside. Later when another character tells her he has bad news, M'Liss replies, "Oh, no! Did your wife come back?".

A lot of the humor comes at the expense of the townspeople and their uneducated ways (during an assessment M'Liss is asked by a town leader "What am grammar?", to which she replies, "It's something you don't know nothing about!").

My only real issues with the film were that the school teacher is a bit underdeveloped as a character, and also that there's some lazy racism in terms of a character called Mexican Joe, played by a very white actor in a dark wig and possibly darkening make-up, though it was hard to tell.

On the whole, though, this was a pretty charming and funny film. Definitely one of my favorite silents that I've seen.


Wed Feb 13, 2019 10:39 am
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A film from the 1910s: J'accuse

An anti-war film from Abel Gance. The plot centers around two men who are in love with the same woman and how their relationships evolve before, during and after WW1.

It's probably better than the rating I'd give it, which is about a B, and I think that's entirely because I don't know how to watch silent movies, really. There's a lot of things I don't know how to interpret, like a lot of stuff here that only got clearer as it went along, like whether one of the main characters was the father or husband of the woman.

The two main male characters end up in the army in the same trench at the same time and events relating to the woman and the war will lead their entire lives from that point on. It's hard to do a synopsis without spoilers, but the movie improves as it goes along with the last 30 or so minutes being absolutely phenomenal, reminding me in tone of Angel's Egg.

There's dancing skeletons, who appear probably a funnier than they did back then, right after the war and a lot of title drop throughout in a way that at least knocks on the fourth wall.

Good movie overall. I'll probably watch Napoleon one day, because this was quite well made in the parts that I could recognize as such. It's in three colors, and I don't know what green meant.


Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:48 am
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While I'm catching up with January reviews, here are some tidbits on the last ones I've seen...

Mars Attacks! (1996) A lot of fun! Not sure why this got panned.

Dressed to Kill (1980) Lurid and awkward at times, but that's DePalma. Overall, fairly well done.

In the Mood for Love (2000) Very poignant and powerful. Really good film.

Before Sunset (2004) Probably as good as the first one; maybe more.

Rudy (1993) Never seen this. It was good. Nothing spectacular, but an uplifting story.

Second Best (1994) Very touching story and fairly accurate, as far as the adoption process goes. William Hurt is always a plus.

Widows (2018) Pretty good film. Very intense and thrilling. Daniel Kaluuya is a gem.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) This was... ehhh, not good. Meh.


Possible upcoming films: The Favourite, Roma, Birth of a Nation, maybe rewatch Once.

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Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:40 am
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Thief wrote:
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) This was... ehhh, not good. Meh.





Aw, I liked it.

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Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:12 am
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A film that features the President of the USA as a prominent character (President's Day, February 18): FDR: American Badass

This is an alternative-history comedy about the life of FDR, with the zany premise that he (and everyone else) was a foul-mouthed sex fiend, stricken with polio induced from a werewolf bite and forced to prevent the werewolf Hitler, werewolf Mussolini, and werewold Hirohito from taking over the world.

As with many intentionally so-bad-it's-good films, there are about 5 minutes of funny stuff spread out across a 90 minute runtime. Yeah, it's funny the first time Eleanor Roosevelt exclaims, "What the sh*t, Franklin?!". And Ross Paterson's boozy southern aristocrat entertained me more than maybe he should have. Eleanor knitting absurdly long scarves made me giggle. The straight-faced exclamation from a doctor that "We all know that where you're bitten by the werewolf, that's where the polio sets in!" was funny.

But like a lot of films that are basically sketch ideas that were stretched to feature length, there are many repetitive stretches and jokes that just aren't very funny.

There's also the expected, but no less eye-rolling, casual misogyny of these types of films. Eleanor is a frigid and neglectful wife, while every other female character in the film is under the age of 30 and can't wait to have sex with all of the male lead characters who are well into their 50s or older. Most of said characters (and a handful of extras) are shown topless . . . because. Mary Todd Lincoln is blamed for Lincoln's death. The female characters can't stop talking about the male characters' amazing penises. They offer the use of their "holes" (yeah, their words), they simulate oral sex, and they have literally no other motivation than their desire to nail the male characters. If this sounds like it's intentionally over the top, I think yes and no. I think that it's the kind of sexist writing that hides behind the veneer of being parody. The male characters get action scenes, they investigate mysterious werewolves, they go on trippy drug dreams. But the female characters are literally only in the film for sex/nudity and it gets old really fast.

Barry Bostwick does his best in the lead role (gamely performing a number of absurd scenes and line readings), but I was done by about 15 minutes in and the rest was a slog.

Also, I don't have the energy to decide if the film (with its strongly accented Hirohito and its basketball playing ex-slave) was actually racist or just incredibly lazy.

I will very specifically recommend the first 8 minutes of this film and advise you to skip the rest.


Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:30 pm
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Thief wrote:

Mars Attacks! (1996) A lot of fun! Not sure why this got panned.


I'm no great fan of Tim Burton, but the push back on this film was always stupid. I probably like it more than most of his movies.

Ed Wood (Great)
Edward Scissorhands (Great)
Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Pretty Great)
Sweeny Todd (Good)
Mars Attacks (Not so bad)

Who cares about the rest.


Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:40 pm
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crumbsroom wrote:

I'm no great fan of Tim Burton, but the push back on this film was always stupid. I probably like it more than most of his movies.

Ed Wood (Great)
Edward Scissorhands (Great)
Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Pretty Great)
Sweeny Todd (Good)
Mars Attacks (Not so bad)

Who cares about the rest.


While I didn't really care enough about Mars Attacks to speak out against it, I thought it was grating and mostly unfunny. And I came at it from a point of view where most of the word of mouth I'd heard was "Yeah, it's pretty funny." I was kind of shocked at how little I enjoyed it. And I had that weird experience of watching it with people who liked it a good deal more than I did, so they're laughing and I'm thinking "When is this going to end?!". I really can't speak to specifics because it was almost 20 years ago, but I don't find myself inclined to give it a rewatch anytime soon.


Sat Feb 16, 2019 1:31 pm
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crumbsroom wrote:

I'm no great fan of Tim Burton, but the push back on this film was always stupid. I probably like it more than most of his movies.

Ed Wood (Great)
Edward Scissorhands (Great)
Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Pretty Great)
Sweeny Todd (Good)
Mars Attacks (Not so bad)

Who cares about the rest.

Well, Beetlejuice is one of my favorite movies ever and the more time I see it, the better it gets.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a fucking gem.
I also like the original Frankenweenie.
But I'll kill him for making a sequel to Beetlejuice. I mean, when I see the man, it's curtains.


Sat Feb 16, 2019 1:53 pm
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