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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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Thief wrote:

The Avengers (2012)


Grade: B



That's my secret, Thief. I'm always angry.

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Mon Jan 29, 2018 3:44 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
The Killing is also great.


To this day, the only truly weak film I've seen from Kubrick was his debut Fear & Desire, and even that one has some things to look up to. The guy was a genius. I still need to see Killer's Kiss and Lolita, though.

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Mon Jan 29, 2018 4:01 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
The Killing is also great.
I enjoyed it a lot, but I feel it didn't quite distinguish itself enough quality-wise from other classic noir (like, say, The Asphalt Jungle) to quite reach that level. Still, really good heist flick, and not a bad hint at the later greatness that Kub would consistently achieve, if you ask me.

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Wed Jan 31, 2018 2:24 am
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A film made for children


Coco (2017)

"I have to sing! I have to play! The music, it's not just in me, it IS me!"

That's the line that popular Mexican singer Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) proclaims in one of his films. Music is the most important thing for him, and like he says later in the film, he's willing to "do what it takes" to seize his moment. 12-year old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) idolizes De la Cruz and wants to be a musician too; and like his idol, he is willing to do what it takes to fulfill his dreams, even if it means defying his strict family where music has been forbidden for years. What he will realize is that the road to one's dreams is not always easy, and that the people that we dream about are not always what we expect.

Coco follows Miguel's quest to become a musician, as he tries to land a spot on a Day of the Dead festival on his small hometown. Unfortunately for him, a wrong choice lands him in the Land of the Dead, where he meets several of his deceased relatives, including Mamá Imelda, whose musician husband allegedly abandoned her, forcing her to forbid music from her house and family, and Héctor (Gael García Bernal), a young musician who claims he can get her to meet De la Cruz. Miguel soon realizes he will remain trapped with the dead unless one of his family members breaks the curse with a blessing. Will he be able to accept the blessing, even if it comes with the condition to leave his dreams of music forever? or will he challenge that and try to get his blessing any other way?

To me, there's something inherently magical about someone who claims to have found his/her dream calling. In a world where most people end up trapped in jobs they don't want, doing stuff they don't like, it is refreshing to know that some people truly feel that satisfaction and fulfillment of doing something they feel they were born to do. Coco manages to portray that spark inside Miguel perfectly. The scene in the first act when he plays along with the TV while watching an old tape of Ernesto de la Cruz is a beautiful scene.

But there is a bit more to Coco than that. The film, although targeted to children, manages to raise important questions about who we are, where we go, and what our legacy might be. Even if the questions remain on the surface, they are there, and it's interesting to see how the script plays with the idea of what we leave for our family, and how we will be remembered after we die. Considering I'm going through a bit of an existential, mid-life crisis, I was really drawn to that.

Aside of the story, Coco is visually stunning with a mixture of pastels and bright colors. Also, the voice performances, mostly from actual Latino actors, are pretty solid. Overall, I was very satisfied with this. Even though the core of the story has hints of other Pixar films, the plot ends up being mostly predictable, and the ending wraps things a bit too nicely, the package that surrounds it was executed well enough to keep me engaged and entertained.

Grade: B+

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Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:43 am
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A television movie


Citizen X (1995)

Quote:
"The reason I said no to your demands... to ask for more men, or computers for that matter, is to admit to our superiors in Moscow that we're overwhelmed, which they'll never do. To ask the FBI for help is to admit to the West that we are behind them in both forensic technique and in managing information, which they would never do. And to publicize the case is to admit that such crimes exist in the Soviet Union, which is one thing they would rather die than do."


The Soviet Union existed for almost 70 years in many ways isolated from the rest of the world. Whether it was their choice or not, the truth is that they wanted, or needed to prove to others that they could be a sociopolitical power. That's more or less the context of the above quote, when a superior officer is obliged to deny the requests of a detective in the investigation of what ended up being one of the worst serial killers in history. And although the label with which the killer was identified is what gives this film a title, the truth of the matter is that this film is more about a man that has to learn to navigate the politics and the bureaucracy of the system, and how he evolves as the investigation progresses.

Citizen X follows Viktor Burakov (Stephen Rea), a newly appointed forensic specialist in the Rostov oblast. When a series of bodies are discovered, Burakov is reluctantly put in charge of the investigation due to the lack of manpower. Supervised by a regional committee led by Col. Mikhail Fetisov (Donald Sutherland), Burakov faces all kinds of obstacles to get somewhere in his investigation, from lack of resources to political roadblocks preventing him from investigating certain suspects, most notably by the committee's biggest hardliner, Bondarchuk (Joss Ackland). Because of this, the investigation stretches across 8 years, which pushes Burakov to the limit.

The film doesn't hang on the identity of the killer. It's revealed pretty early that the killer, played by Jeffrey DeMunn, is a repressed man struggling with an unhappy marriage, sexual impotence, and a dead end job. And although there is focus on him and the murders (there is a particularly graphic murder towards the middle of the film that still sends chills down my spine), the real focus like I said above, is how Burakov grows and evolves throughout the investigation. From a meek pawn to a skilled investigator. But there is also an interesting evolution in the relationship between Burakov and Fetisov, the strict but honest superior that ends up becoming Burakov's closest ally. In the backdrop, we have the evolution of the Soviet Union, which we can experiment as we see the investigation evolve.

Citizen X is a very good thriller that manages to thrill with no pursuits, explosions, or gunshots. Instead, director/screenwriter Chris Gerolmo puts all his chips in the psychology of the characters. Whether it's the frustration of the literal impotence of the killer or the overwhelming metaphorical impotence of Burakov against the political forces of the times. Both DeMunn and Rea excel in their respective roles, particularly the latter. Sutherland is also pretty good as the superior who we're not sure at first where he stands. Ackland is the only one that feels a bit too cartoonish, but his scenery chewing is so good that you can't help but enjoy it. Max Von Sydow also has a brief but important role in the last act. Gerolmo's direction is not flashy, but it's solid as he manages to keep your attention without the usual tropes of the genre.

I remember seeing this film in video stores as far back as the 90's, but for some reason, I never saw it. Like the murderer, it remained hidden for too long. I'm glad it finally came to the surface.

Grade: A-

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Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:43 am
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Thief wrote:
A television movie


Citizen X (1995)

Citizen X is a very good thriller that manages to thrill with no pursuits, explosions, or gunshots. Instead, director/screenwriter Chris Gerolmo puts all his chips in the psychology of the characters. Whether it's the frustration of the literal impotence of the killer or the overwhelming metaphorical impotence of Burakov against the political forces of the times. Both DeMunn and Rea excel in their respective roles, particularly the latter. Sutherland is also pretty good as the superior who we're not sure at first where he stands.

Grade: A-


Again, YAY!

This movie took me completely by surprise when I rented it from the video store where I worked. I think that the way that it blends politics and crime is really excellent--it gives you an understanding of how politically/socially such horrible crimes could be allowed to continue. Also, I love Stephen Rea, so anything starring him is a huge bonus. To the film's credit, it really doesn't feel anything like what I think of when I think "made for television".


Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:47 am
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I agree. I think that maybe the very, very ending...

when they all walk out of court and the crowd outside applauds, and Burakov walks to his family and hugs them...


...maybe that's the only part that really felt like what I think of when I hear "straight-to-TV" film. But it's a small bit and I think it's earned after all that preceded it.

As for Rea, it seems that I saw a handful of films of his back in the 90's (Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game, The End of the Affair, In Dreams, Michael Collins) but I don't remember anything from him post-2000. I had to look up his filmography and the only "recent" film of his I remember seeing was V for Vendetta.

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Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:56 am
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Thief wrote:
As for Rea, it seems that I saw a handful of films of his back in the 90's (Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game, The End of the Affair, In Dreams, Michael Collins) but I don't remember anything from him post-2000. I had to look up his filmography and the only "recent" film of his I remember seeing was V for Vendetta.


He was in Stuck and while I had mixed feelings about the series as a whole, he was really good in The Honorable Woman. He's definitely been in more supporting roles in the last 15 years, but I find him such a comforting presence that it always cheers me up to see him in a film, even in a smaller role.

Seems like you made pretty good work of your January challenge! I faltered a bit (I should have taken more sick days!), but it was fun to think outside of my usual mode of selecting movies.

Are you going to try to finish your January challenge (or are you maybe finished?) or start a new idea this week for February?


Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:02 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
Seems like you made pretty good work of your January challenge! I faltered a bit (I should have taken more sick days!), but it was fun to think outside of my usual mode of selecting movies.

Are you going to try to finish your January challenge (or are you maybe finished?) or start a new idea this week for February?


I did better than I expected. I doubt I'll get to see anything else today, but I'm happy with what I saw. Coming after three months where I wasn't able to see much because of Hurricane Maria, lack of power, etc. it was good to get back on the saddle, so to speak.

You bring up something interesting and it's the "fun" of "thinking outside of [your] usual mode of selecting movies" and that's sorta what I was looking for. Maybe it's my subtle OCD-side, but that kind of structure really made it easier for me to look for something that fit a specific criteria, instead of just endlessly browsing Hulu/Amazon/etc. for anything to see. Plus, I can always see categories where I can stick films I'm looking forward to.

My intention for February (and each subsequent month) is to throw some new categories. I was debating whether to allow for repeated categories, but I think it's more fun not to. I'll fire up my Excel "randomizer" tomorrow and post my new categories later. Then see what I'll watch :D

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Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:22 am
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Thief wrote:
You bring up something interesting and it's the "fun" of "thinking outside of [your] usual mode of selecting movies" and that's sorta what I was looking for. Maybe it's my subtle OCD-side, but that kind of structure really made it easier for me to look for something that fit a specific criteria, instead of just endlessly browsing Hulu/Amazon/etc. for anything to see.


I'm the same way. And the parameters of the challenge made it easier for me to watch more movies (and watch them all the way through!) than I typically do in a month.

It was like "Well, here's the list of 20 MTV best picture winners--pick one you haven't seen yet!".

I feel you with the slight OCD. I thrive with structure. If I just go on to Netflix to browse I will spend 30 minutes browsing and then watch 10 minutes of a movie.


Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:30 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I'm the same way. And the parameters of the challenge made it easier for me to watch more movies (and watch them all the way through!) than I typically do in a month.

It was like "Well, here's the list of 20 MTV best picture winners--pick one you haven't seen yet!".

I feel you with the slight OCD. I thrive with structure. If I just go on to Netflix to browse I will spend 30 minutes browsing and then watch 10 minutes of a movie.


Another good thing is that the parameters might force me to watch films I won't watch otherwise. Manos is an extreme example, while Citizen X is a more modest one.

As for the OCD/structure, I've been known to browse Hulu/Amazon for one hour, but then again, I was one of those that walked the aisles of Blockbuster sometimes for 3 hours, trying to decide what to watch.

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Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:56 am
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Thief wrote:
As for the OCD/structure, I've been known to browse Hulu/Amazon for one hour, but then again, I was one of those that walked the aisles of Blockbuster sometimes for 3 hours, trying to decide what to watch.


When I worked at the video store I would sometimes spend my whole 8 hour shift trying to decide what movie to take home (we got free rentals as long as it wasn't a new release). I would literally browse as I did all of my little jobs (reshelving, facing the covers, vacuuming), and sometimes at the end of the day I would go home empty handed because I couldn't choose. There's actually a TED talk that I watched a while ago about how more choices actually make us less happy (partly because for every choice there is, there is more doubt/regret built in to the decision/choice that you do eventually make).


Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:35 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

When I worked at the video store I would sometimes spend my whole 8 hour shift trying to decide what movie to take home (we got free rentals as long as it wasn't a new release). I would literally browse as I did all of my little jobs (reshelving, facing the covers, vacuuming), and sometimes at the end of the day I would go home empty handed because I couldn't choose. There's actually a TED talk that I watched a while ago about how more choices actually make us less happy (partly because for every choice there is, there is more doubt/regret built in to the decision/choice that you do eventually make).


I think I've read about psychology studies that argue the same re: the abundance of choice. Heck, if I take a look at the Sight & See list of 1001 Films to See Before You Die, I might get depressed thinking "I will never get to see all of those". But then if you give me the IMDb Top 250, or Ebert's list of 10 Favorite Films, then that is more manageable and attainable.

The mind is a weird thing.

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Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:48 am
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Well, January is gone and here's the final tally.

A film that won a Best Picture MTV Award: The Avengers
A film about man versus nature: Into the Wild
A Palm D'Or winner:
A film with a female protagonist: Arrival
A television movie: Citizen X
A film shot on digital video: Upstream Color
A film about food:
A film from the 1920s:
A film from the 1980s: Thief
A documentary: The Beatles: Eight Days a Week
A film considered one of the worst ever made: Manos: The Hands of Fate
A German language film:
A film from the 2010s: War for the Planet of the Apes
An adventure/fantasy film:
A drama film:
A war film: Paths of Glory
A film from the 1940s: Spellbound
A film about a musician:
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: Upstream Color
A film made for children: Coco
A film based on a myth or legend: Clash of the Titans
A classic you've never seen: Les Diaboliques
A film from a Canadian filmmaker: Arrival
A film from the 1930s:
A road trip film: Into the Wild

Ended up watching 15 films total, filling up around 60% of what I intended. Still, considering I was coming from watching only 16 in the last 4 months of 2017, I think I did pretty good.

For what it's worth, my favorite from this month was Paths of Glory (closely followed by Upstream Color, Thief, and a couple others). The worst of the month? Well, Manos is the obvious choice, which I consider a special case. Other than that, Iron Man 2 was probably the weakest, but to be honest, I don't regret watching any of them.

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Fri Feb 02, 2018 6:21 am
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I just edited the first post with the new categories for February. As usual, recommendations are welcome! :)

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Fri Feb 02, 2018 6:29 am
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An Italian language film:
A film from the 1950s:
A comedy film:
A film about a heist:

Big Deal on Madonna Street covers all these bases. And "A film with a face on the poster," if you count multiple faces:

Image

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Fri Feb 02, 2018 6:34 am
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A film directed by a woman: Ravenous (Antonia Bird)

An oft-quoted film: This is Spinal Tap

A silent film from a foreign country: Fall of the House of Usher (France)

A hand-drawn animated film: Belladonna of Sadness

I didn't participate in January so here's some quick ones while I'm at work.
PS---How's PR holding up these days? Everyone have power yet?

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Fri Feb 02, 2018 6:53 am
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BL wrote:
An Italian language film:
A film from the 1950s:
A comedy film:
A film about a heist:

Big Deal on Madonna Street covers all these bases. And "A film with a face on the poster," if you count multiple faces:

Image


Thanks! Sounds like a fun film. I'll see if I can find it.

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Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:05 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
A film directed by a woman: Ravenous (Antonia Bird)

An oft-quoted film: This is Spinal Tap

A silent film from a foreign country: Fall of the House of Usher (France)

A hand-drawn animated film: Belladonna of Sadness

I didn't participate in January so here's some quick ones while I'm at work.


I've seen the first two, although Ravenous is way overdue for a rewatch. I might consider it. Thanks!


Captain Terror wrote:
PS---How's PR holding up these days? Everyone have power yet?


Nah, not yet. Things have slowly been getting to normal, but there's still work to do. I think the "official" count has around 1 million people without power (we have roughly 3.5 million in the island), but there have been dubious statements made by the government, so who knows.

We got power around a month ago, but my in-laws that live in the same neighborhood still don't.

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Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:10 am
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Fall of the House of Usher can be found on Youtube but unfortunately it does not come with subtitles. I've tried searching many times for different copies but to no avail. Otherwise watch it anyways. It's really trippy surreal stuff.


Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:23 am
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Looks like I'll play again in February. My plans in parenthesis; seen films in red!

A film with a face on the poster: XXX: The Return of Xander Cage
An Italian language film: (Deep Red?)
A film directed by a woman: Whose Streets?
A film with a one word title: (Moonlight?)
An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture: (Maybe it's time to try Hidden Figures or Straight Outta Compton?)
A Best Picture nominee: (Moonlight would definitely count; so would Hidden Figures or Julia)
A film from the 1930s: (It Happened One Night)
A film from the 1950s: (?)
A Spanish language film: (?)
A James Bond movie: (I'm overdue for Spectre, maybe)
A political film: Whose Streets? (It should definitely qualify)
A romantic film: A Christmas Prince
An oft-quoted film: (This could be tough; I think I've seen most of these already)
A film with a character's name as the title: XXX: The Return of Xander Cage
A silent film from a foreign country: (Looking at Metropolis here)
A comedy film: Canadian Bacon
A film about a heist: (Dog Day Afternoon? The Heist?)
A feature-length anime: (Maybe it's time to break out Akira!)
A film made for less than $5,000,000: (Young Bodies Heal Quickly)
A drama film: (Lots of choices)
A film with a primarily minority cast: (Moonlight)
An NC-17-rated film: (Blue is the Warmest Color?)
A film from the 1900s: A Corner in Wheat
A film from the 1970s: (Dog Day Afternoon? The Conversation?)
A hand-drawn animated film: (Miss Hokusai)


Fri Feb 02, 2018 12:57 pm
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Apex Predator wrote:
Looks like I'll play again in February. My plans in parenthesis; seen films in red!

A film with a face on the poster:
An Italian language film:
A film directed by a woman:
A film with a one word title:
An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture: (Maybe it's time to try Hidden Figures or Straight Outta Compton?)
A Best Picture nominee: (Moonlight would definitely count; so would Hidden Figures or Julia)
A film from the 1930s:
A film from the 1950s:
A Spanish language film:
A James Bond movie: (I'm overdue for Spectre, maybe)
A political film:
A romantic film:
An oft-quoted film:
A film with a character's name as the title: (XXX: The Return of Xander Cage)
A silent film from a foreign country:
A comedy film:
A film about a heist:
A feature-length anime: (Maybe it's time to break out Akira!)
A film made for less than $5,000,000:
A drama film:
A film with a primarily minority cast: (Moonlight)
An NC-17-rated film:
A film from the 1900s:
A film from the 1970s: (Perhaps I should make time to see Julia which will be on Saturday?)
A hand-drawn animated film:


I saw Akira for the first time about a year or two ago, pretty good stuff; and I'm not huge on anime.

For the NAACP one, I had Precious in mind, but Straight Outta Compton might be a good choice as well.

Even though I had some reservations with Spectre, most notably towards its last act, I still think it was pretty solid. I liked it more than Skyfall, but then again, I'm one of the very few that wasn't that crazy about Skyfall.

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Fri Feb 02, 2018 10:34 pm
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A film directed by a woman: The Hitch-hiker (Ida Lupino)
A film from the 1950s: "
A film with a one word title: Deliverance
A film from the 1930s: The Adventures of Robin Hood
A Spanish language film: Amores Perros
An oft-quoted film: Blazing Saddles
A film from the 1970s: "
A film with a character's name as the title: Barton Fink
A silent film from a foreign country: Die Nibelung (or at least part 1: Siegfied)*
A comedy film: It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
A feature-length anime: Redline
An NC-17-rated film: Crash (Cronenberg)
A hand-drawn animated film: Belladonna of Sadness

*changed my answer because House of Usher will probably be tough to find

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:00 am
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Thief wrote:
We got power around a month ago

great news

Thief wrote:
I think the "official" count has around 1 million people without power

UGH. A tropical storm once left me without power for 3 days (in August) and I felt like one of the tortured Jesuits in Scorsese's Silence. I can't imagine half a year.

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:04 am
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[quote="Apex Predator"]Looks like I'll play again in February. My plans in parenthesis; seen films in red!

A film with a face on the poster: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
An Italian language film: 8 1/2
A film directed by a woman: Pet Semetary
A film with a one word title: Vertigo
A film from the 1930s: The Public Enemy
A film from the 1950s: North by Northwest
A Spanish language film: Abre los ojos
A political film: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
A romantic film: Before Sunrise
An oft-quoted film: Caddyshack
A silent film from a foreign country: M
A comedy film: Animal House
A film about a heist: Ocean's 11 (original)
A film made for less than $5,000,000: The Witch ($4 mil)
A drama film: The Misfits
An NC-17-rated film: Crash (1996)
A film from the 1900s: Joan of Arc (1900)
A hand-drawn animated film: Victory Through Air Power (1943)

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:24 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
A film directed by a woman: The Hitch-hiker (Ida Lupino)
A film from the 1950s: "
A film with a one word title: Deliverance
A film from the 1930s: The Adventures of Robin Hood
A Spanish language film: Amores Perros
An oft-quoted film: Blazing Saddles
A film from the 1970s: "
A film with a character's name as the title: Barton Fink
A silent film from a foreign country: Die Nibelung (or at least part 1: Siegfied)*
A comedy film: It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
A feature-length anime: Redline
An NC-17-rated film: Crash (Cronenberg)
A hand-drawn animated film: Belladonna of Sadness

*changed my answer because House of Usher will probably be tough to find


I saw The Hitch-hiker last year. Pretty good film.

I've seen Deliverance. I own the DVD and it's one of my faves.

I've seen Amores Perros, though it might be due for a rewatch. Haven't seen it since it came out.

Surprisingly, I haven't seen Blazing Saddles. Last night I saw it was on Hulu, so it will be on my list, either for "oft-quoted" or "comedy" film.

I saw Barton Fink a loooong time ago, and although I liked it, I can say I wasn't really ready for how surreal it was. I should see it again now.

Thanks!

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:22 am
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Death Proof wrote:
A film with a face on the poster: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
An Italian language film: 8 1/2
A film directed by a woman: Pet Semetary
A film with a one word title: Vertigo
A film from the 1930s: The Public Enemy
A film from the 1950s: North by Northwest
A Spanish language film: Abre los ojos
A political film: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
A romantic film: Before Sunrise
An oft-quoted film: Caddyshack
A silent film from a foreign country: M
A comedy film: Animal House
A film about a heist: Ocean's 11 (original)
A film made for less than $5,000,000: The Witch ($4 mil)
A drama film: The Misfits
An NC-17-rated film: Crash (1996)
A film from the 1900s: Joan of Arc (1900)
A hand-drawn animated film: Victory Through Air Power (1943)


I've seen a lot of those, and most of them I consider favorites. I'm pretty sure I saw Caddyshack when I was a kid, but I don't remember much of it. Thanks for the rest.

BTW, I've been meaning to see M for a looong time and haven't been able. Maybe this is the time.

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:26 am
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Thief wrote:

I've seen a lot of those, and most of them I consider favorites. I'm pretty sure I saw Caddyshack when I was a kid, but I don't remember much of it. Thanks for the rest.

BTW, I've been meaning to see M for a looong time and haven't been able. Maybe this is the time.



M is excellent. Lang was really ahead of his time with his shooting style.

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 5:43 am
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Thief wrote:
BTW, I've been meaning to see M for a looong time and haven't been able. Maybe this is the time.

It's a really great film.

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 5:46 am
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Thief wrote:
BTW, I've been meaning to see M for a looong time and haven't been able. Maybe this is the time.


M is sooooooo good. Highly recommended.


Sat Feb 03, 2018 6:50 am
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A film with a one word title: Stalingrad

A film about a group of Russian soldiers barricaded in a house in a German-occupied town. They are trapped in the house with a young woman named Katya who refuses to leave her home despite the danger posed by the Germans. Meanwhile, a slightly-unhinged German captain (under pressure to storm the barricaded house) carries on a love-hate affair with a Russian woman.

This movie was . . . okay. It was best in the small moments, such as conversations between the characters. I didn't care for the way that many of the battle or fighting scenes were shot, as they bordered on fetishizing violence. In one scene, a group of soldiers on fire run toward their enemies in slow motion. In another scene, a rape scene is shot (again in slow motion!) with zoomed focus on the woman's shirt being ripped off and then immediately after she is shown laying on the bed looking like a pinup calendar photo. Other scenes employ a highly-stylized fighting choreography that is highly at odds with the films gritty look. At times it felt like the drama scenes and the action scenes were created and shot by two people with very different directorial sensibilities.

I wrote a paper back in high school about the battle of Stalingrad (including the possibly apocryphal tale of the two snipers hunting each other through the city), and so I was hoping to see more of the real history that I'm familiar with regarding the events there.

If you really like war or drama movies, I guess I could give this one a tepid recommendation. At over 2 hours of running time, I just can't imagine most people digging it.


Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:48 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A film with a one word title: Stalingrad

A film about a group of Russian soldiers barricaded in a house in a German-occupied town. They are trapped in the house with a young woman named Katya who refuses to leave her home despite the danger posed by the Germans. Meanwhile, a slightly-unhinged German captain (under pressure to storm the barricaded house) carries on a love-hate affair with a Russian woman.

This movie was . . . okay. It was best in the small moments, such as conversations between the characters. I didn't care for the way that many of the battle or fighting scenes were shot, as they bordered on fetishizing violence. In one scene, a group of soldiers on fire run toward their enemies in slow motion. In another scene, a rape scene is shot (again in slow motion!) with zoomed focus on the woman's shirt being ripped off and then immediately after she is shown laying on the bed looking like a pinup calendar photo. Other scenes employ a highly-stylized fighting choreography that is highly at odds with the films gritty look. At times it felt like the drama scenes and the action scenes were created and shot by two people with very different directorial sensibilities.

I wrote a paper back in high school about the battle of Stalingrad (including the possibly apocryphal tale of the two snipers hunting each other through the city), and so I was hoping to see more of the real history that I'm familiar with regarding the events there.

If you really like war or drama movies, I guess I could give this one a tepid recommendation. At over 2 hours of running time, I just can't imagine most people digging it.
There are several movies titled Stalingrad about the WWII battle, and my memory is a bit fuzzy, so which one are you talking about? I remember the one from 1993 being pretty exemplary, but this doesn't read like a description of that film.

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:52 am
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A comedy film: Weirdsville

This movie is a comedy in name only. I am very fond (for reasons even I do not entirely understand) of Scott Speedman, which I imagine is why this movie was on my Netflix DVD queue. I don't remember ever hearing of it or actually adding it to my queue. According to the internet, the total box office for the film is about $8000. I believe it.

Scott Speedman and Wed Bentley are really charismatic and that is all that the movie has going for it. They play two stoner idiots who cross paths with a trio of Satanists. Also something with money they owe a drug dealer. Also something with stealing a safe? I think I actually tuned the movie out as I was watching it. There's also a hilarious subplot with a dwarf mall security guard who, get this!, has an inflated sense of confidence and authority.

According to the credits, the movie may have also tortured an animal for the sake of a sight gag. Fun!

This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen and only confirms my long-standing opinion that the worst movies are comedies that aren't funny.


Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:04 pm
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BL wrote:
There are several movies titled Stalingrad about the WWII battle, and my memory is a bit fuzzy, so which one are you talking about? I remember the one from 1993 being pretty exemplary, but this doesn't read like a description of that film.


This one was from 2013.


Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:08 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

This one was from 2013.
Ah, OK. In that case, I recommend the 1993 movie, which I recall doing a very good job of emphasizing the physical adversity faced by soldiers in battle.

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:10 pm
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BL wrote:
Ah, OK. In that case, I recommend the 1993 movie, which I recall doing a very good job of emphasizing the physical adversity faced by soldiers in battle.


I'll check it out. (Though maybe after a little while--I'm not a huge war film buff).


Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:30 pm
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Thief wrote:
Citizen X (1995)
Just read about this film, and while I haven't seen it, its plot was apparently inspired by the same Soviet serial killer who inspired the plot of Child 44, which was a really, really awesome serial killer novel (and the basis for an adaptation with Tom Hardy that was supposed to be less-than-stellar); you haven't happened to have read it, have you Thief?

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Sat Feb 03, 2018 1:56 pm
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Stu wrote:
Just read about this film, and while I haven't seen it, its plot was apparently inspired by the same Soviet serial killer who inspired the plot of Child 44, which was a really, really awesome serial killer novel (and the basis for an adaptation with Tom Hardy that was supposed to be less-than-stellar); you haven't happened to have read it, have you Thief?


Didn't know about it, but I'm reading the Wikipedia page. That's a damn fine cast they got there; too bad it didn't work out.

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Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:31 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

This one was from 2013.


I hovered over that one a couple of times on Hulu or Amazon. Guess I'll skip it then.

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Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:32 am
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Death Proof wrote:
A silent film from a foreign country: M

M is one of my favorite films (possibly my favorite), but I'll be the jerk to point out that it isn't silent. But watch it anyway. :P

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Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:42 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
M is one of my favorite films (possibly my favorite), but I'll be the jerk to point out that it isn't silent. But watch it anyway. :P


It works for "a film from the 1930s" :D

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Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:51 am
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A Best Picture nominee


The Shape of Water (2017)

Quote:
"When he looks at me, the way he looks at me... He does not know, what I lack... or how I am incomplete. He sees me, for what I am, as I am. He's happy to see me. Every time. Every day. Now, I can either save him... or let him die."


For some reason, I've been struggling like hell to write a review for this film. Which is weird, cause even though I don't feel very strongly about it one way or the other, I feel like my words convey a stronger effect than it ultimately had. So instead of trying to embellish my review, I'll try to be as straightforward as possible with it.

Set in the 1960s, The Shape of Water follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a custodian at a government high-security facility. Elisa, who was left mute after an assault during her infancy, only has two friends in her life: her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins). But their lives are all turned upside-down when a mysterious amphibian creature (Doug Jones) is brought to the facility for investigation and Elisa starts befriending him.

The premise isn't very complicated. Director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro presents a unique love story between two, umm, different people, surrounded by fantasy, scifi, and even a heist. The first half focuses on Elisa's attempt to break out the creature, while the second half focuses more on their relationship and the effects of the creature in the lives of everyone surrounding her. But behind all that, the film is about broken people striving for healing and completeness. Each of the characters carry burdens and insecurities in their lives; whether it's Colonel Strickland's (played by the always crazy Michael Shannon) constant reassurance in his ability to "deliver" in his job, or Giles struggles to regain his artistic inspiration as well as find love, or Elisa's efforts to find her own voice, so to speak. The arrival of the creature sparks new life into all the characters, particularly Elisa, whose relationship with the creature brings her a sense of completeness that helps her break out of her shell.

The acting from most of the cast was pretty good, particularly Hawkins. Shannon does what he does best, which is to play the crazy, aggresive type, but he's always good in it. Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg also happen to shine in their supporting roles. As a matter of fact, my kudos to Del Toro and Stuhlbarg, who portrays a Russian spy posing as an American scientist that seems to be trying to earn his place "here" or "there". It's not everyday that you see a film set in the Cold War where the American government agent is the "bad guy" and the Russian spy is the "good guy".

But that's about it. To be honest, I didn't think there was much to it. Del Toro manages to instill a certain magical and surreal aura to the story, and most of the shots look great, but the story isn't that surprising. Plus, I would've wished if he could've given more credit to his audience in some aspects. There are two particular moments that I thought were both completely unnecessary and felt like Del Toro's explaining too much (Elisa's explanation to Zelda about his *ahem* encounter with the creature, and the resolution to Giles' infatuation with a certain waiter). In the end, The Shape of Water is a neatly crafted film, that is both entertaining and well acted, with a cute story but not much to bite at.

Grade: B

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Thu Feb 08, 2018 2:39 am
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Quick thoughts on what I've seen in February:

A Title with the name of the Character on It:
A Poster with a face:


XXX: The Return of Xander Cage:

I remember seeing part 1 in a theater, but I've never seen part 2. Don't think it's all that necessary to do so before watching this.

Basically, Cage (Vin Diesel) is back to retrieve a stolen Pandora's Box that allows the user to weaponize satellites allowing them to kill off their enemies. It was stolen by Xiang (Donnie Yen). But when they finally meet, Cage and his cohorts will have to face some uncomfortable truths.

The James Bondian adventures of the first xXx is largely shelved (except for a goofy character that serves as Q played by Nina Dobrev) as it takes on a more Fast and Furious mode (a more multicultural cast, family is family, etc).

The film allows Yen and Tony Jaa to do their thing (I may check out more of their stuff with time). Some of the stunts are ridiculous fun and covers a more extreme gamut.

But the colorful cast of characters that Cage selects are mainly kind of dull and will remind you that he did things better in F&F. It's hard to tell the worse actor between Toni Collette (CIA head) and Deepika Padukone (voice of reason in Xiang's group). Logic isn't exactly a strength here.

For dumb fun, you could do worse. But you probably could do better as well.

Film in the 1900s:

A Corner of Grain

My first DW Griffith film. Avoids the pantomiming seen in later silents for more natural acting.

The plot as the 13 minute short stands is about an investor who decides to corner the market on grain and the consequences felt by consumers and farmers.

As a critique of capitalism, it's not bad. As a narrative piece, the ending felt a bit murky and it doesn't exactly move like Destiny.

But for 1909, it's not too bad. Pay attention to some of the techniques that is used here.


Thu Feb 08, 2018 1:51 pm
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Are there any films from the 1900's that are full-feature films, as in one hour or more? or are all just short films?

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Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:24 am
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Thief wrote:
Are there any films from the 1900's that are full-feature films, as in one hour or more? or are all just short films?


Here's a list from the IMDb: LIST

EDIT: The Story of the Kelly Gang looks like your best bet.

Not a ton of choices.

I was excited to have a snow day on Wednesday to watch some movies . . . until my internet and phone went out. (It only just came back on this afternoon).

Anyway--in the spirit of watching a movie with a face on the poster I'm about 30 minutes into Darling and liking, but not loving, it so far.


Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:34 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Here's a list from the IMDb: LIST

EDIT: The Story of the Kelly Gang looks like your best bet.

Not a ton of choices.

I was excited to have a snow day on Wednesday to watch some movies . . . until my internet and phone went out. (It only just came back on this afternoon).

Anyway--in the spirit of watching a movie with a face on the poster I'm about 30 minutes into Darling and liking, but not loving, it so far.


Thanks, Tak. I just read that that film was the first film to last that long. Unfortunately, it is lost. The only remaining part runs at 17 minutes.

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Sat Feb 10, 2018 10:53 am
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These are the ones I might have in store for the next days/week...

An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture: Precious
A romantic film: Before Sunrise
An oft-quoted film: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
A feature-length anime: Spirited Away
A film made for less than $5,000,000: Boyhood
A film from the 1900s: The Great Train Robbery

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Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:11 am
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Thief wrote:
A feature-length anime: Spirited Away


I really like Spirited Away.

Have you seen the miniseries Over the Garden Wall? (HIGHLY recommended if you haven't!) It takes quite a few visual images from Spirited Away.


Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:38 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I really like Spirited Away.


I know this always gets rave reviews, but I'm not that big on anime, so I'm approaching this one with caution. I remember seeing Princess Mononoke back in the day, and wasn't that crazy about it either.

Takoma1 wrote:
Have you seen the miniseries Over the Garden Wall? (HIGHLY recommended if you haven't!) It takes quite a few visual images from Spirited Away.


Up to this point, I'd never heard of it. I'll put it on my "to see" list.

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Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:58 am
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Thief wrote:

I know this always gets rave reviews, but I'm not that big on anime, so I'm approaching this one with caution. I remember seeing Princess Mononoke back in the day, and wasn't that crazy about it either.



Up to this point, I'd never heard of it. I'll put it on my "to see" list.


Spirited Away is just a good, interesting, weird movie. I think that for a "non-anime" person it is much more stylistically friendly than Princess Mononoke.

Over the Garden Wall is must-see, in my opinion. Plus it's like a handful of 20 minute episodes, so you can watch the whole series in like 3 hours.


Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:16 pm
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