Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

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Takoma1
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 4:01 am

Thief wrote:Ok, just saw First Reformed and WTF?!
Ha!

A film with the number 1 (One, First, etc.) in its title: First Reformed

I didn't know much about this film before I went in, and I'm really glad about that. As most of you probably know, the film is about a reverend who undergoes a crisis after meeting a troubled couple. Just in case you want to go in like me, without knowing much, I'm just going to spoiler the rest of this review. The first half of the review will talk about the first half, and the second half of the review will talk about the end of the film.

The film follows
a man who begins to spiral into despair after he counsels a despondent man who believes that it is morally wrong to bring a new life into the world. His pregnant wife wants the reverend to counsel her husband. After the husband harms himself, the reverend begins to get more and more obsessed with the destruction of the planet and the way that the church in cahoots with a company that does tremendous damage to the planet.

Generally speaking, I really liked the way that the film used a parallel between the destruction of the earth and the way that Reverend Toller neglects, harms, and destroys his own body. A shot of Pepto-Bismol being poured into a glass of wine is pretty amazing. The constant presence of Mary, the pregnant woman, provides a contrast to the reverend's darkening moods. As the reverend passively destroys his own body, she passively commits the optimistic act of carrying her child to term.
I imagine that a lot of people finished this film and then promptly Googled "First Reformed ending??".

My take on what happened is that
from the moment that Toller and Mary go on their levitational "trip", we're in a realm where there is the possibility of visions or unreality. What happens in that last moment? I really don't know. On one hand, maybe it's a moment in which hope finally pulls him out of his deep despair. On the other hand, maybe it's the delusion of a man who is dying or about to end his own life. I'm not sure. Sometimes ambiguous endings annoy me (especially when paired with the whole "surprise sudden cut to black"), but I didn't mind this one at all. I think that the film speaks pretty beautifully to the way that in our mind we can conflate personal and global crisis.
Long story short, I thought that this was a pretty amazing film. Ethan Hawke is really great in the lead role, and both Amanda Seyfried and Cedric the Entertainer give strong, memorable supporting performances (the fact that Seyfried was actually pregnant during filming this film kind of blows my mind). The visual style is great (I love the way that the camera lingers on rooms in which people have just left or are about to enter). The commentary on the corporatization of religion is spot on. Highly recommended.

EDIT: Also, if you've seen Bergman's Winter Light, it's an incredibly obvious influence--especially on the first third of the film.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Sun Jan 13, 2019 4:20 am

I'm still mulling it over, but overall, I think I agree with your take. And yeah, I was one of those that Googled "First Reformed ending" :D
Aside from the pollution of the Earth/body you mention, I thought the film made a point about subverting expectations within the characters and within the narrative and filmmaking decisions. What I mean is that numerous characters deal with life-altering events in different ways which aren't necessarily the ways people expect, thus derailing their path from a predetermined fate to some place unexpected. Same applies to the film, which you feel and expect will go some places, but usually ends up being derailed to another path you totally don't expect. Not sure if I'm making my point well enough, but well.
I'll probably post more later.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 4:29 am

Thief wrote:I'm still mulling it over, but overall, I think I agree with your take. And yeah, I was one of those that Googled "First Reformed ending" :D
Aside from the pollution of the Earth/body you mention, I thought the film made a point about subverting expectations within the characters and within the narrative and filmmaking decisions. What I mean is that numerous characters deal with life-altering events in different ways which aren't necessarily the ways people expect, thus derailing their path from a predetermined fate to some place unexpected. Same applies to the film, which you feel and expect will go some places, but usually ends up being derailed to another path you totally don't expect. Not sure if I'm making my point well enough, but well.
I'll probably post more later.
No, I get what you mean.

Obviously, on a grand scale there's the fact that the whole film seems to be (MAJOR spoilers)
working toward an ending involving that suicide vest. And considering the death of his son in Iraq, the suicide vest takes on an even heavier meaning.

So to never get that final explosion is a real shock, even further compounded by the kiss and that swirling camera that is so at odds with the squared-off framing that we've seen up to that point.

When you do eventually check out Winter Light (which I highly recommend), you'll find that it subverts that influence as well.

I also really appreciated that the film didn't go the obvious route of making Mary some sort of villain. The fact that she shows him the vest, the fact that she seems to be seducing him--all of that seems to be building to her as some sort of evil influence on him. I was worried that the idea was that she was tricking him into using the bomb--giving him the laptop, and so on. Or that somehow it would turn out that she was involved with the husband's suicide (because of him wanting her to abort the pregnancy).

I have some mixed feelings about the way that the character of Ester was used (the severe, needy brunette contrasted with Seyfried's beatific blonde, glowing Mary). But I need to think a little bit more on what I think he was trying to do with the two characters.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Sun Jan 13, 2019 2:11 pm

Takoma1 wrote: No, I get what you mean.

Obviously, on a grand scale there's the fact that the whole film seems to be (MAJOR spoilers)
working toward an ending involving that suicide vest. And considering the death of his son in Iraq, the suicide vest takes on an even heavier meaning.

So to never get that final explosion is a real shock, even further compounded by the kiss and that swirling camera that is so at odds with the squared-off framing that we've seen up to that point.

When you do eventually check out Winter Light (which I highly recommend), you'll find that it subverts that influence as well.

I also really appreciated that the film didn't go the obvious route of making Mary some sort of villain. The fact that she shows him the vest, the fact that she seems to be seducing him--all of that seems to be building to her as some sort of evil influence on him. I was worried that the idea was that she was tricking him into using the bomb--giving him the laptop, and so on. Or that somehow it would turn out that she was involved with the husband's suicide (because of him wanting her to abort the pregnancy).

I have some mixed feelings about the way that the character of Ester was used (the severe, needy brunette contrasted with Seyfried's beatific blonde, glowing Mary). But I need to think a little bit more on what I think he was trying to do with the two characters.
I've read the connection to Winter Light a couple of times since I started reading about the film, so I might have to put that in my agenda.

As for Mary...
...I never really got a "villain" vibe from her, but more of an innocence and naivete, which probably led to those situations you mentioned. Plus, I really felt her trust and confidence in Toller to be honest. In that respect, one thing I appreciated about it was at the other end of the spectrum, in that they didn't push that relationship too hard or too fast. Early on, I felt that if they ended up kissing or being together, it might be the predictable and cliché route, so I'm glad Schrader took his time to build this friendship/relationship, and when that ending came, it really felt earned.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:50 pm

Thief wrote: As for Mary...
...I never really got a "villain" vibe from her, but more of an innocence and naivete, which probably led to those situations you mentioned. Plus, I really felt her trust and confidence in Toller to be honest. In that respect, one thing I appreciated about it was at the other end of the spectrum, in that they didn't push that relationship too hard or too fast. Early on, I felt that if they ended up kissing or being together, it might be the predictable and cliché route, so I'm glad Schrader took his time to build this friendship/relationship, and when that ending came, it really felt earned.
Well, it makes sense that the
relationship needs time to develop, because as the film goes on, we see that Toller is becoming more and more like Michael, Mary's husband. Early on, Toller says that removing a child from the world is more of a crime than bringing one into it, but he has no way of knowing whether or not there would be a child or children present in the moment he chose to detonate the vest. By the end of the film, Mary is kissing a man who is a lot like her husband (especially when you consider that she explicitly asks him to replicate an intimate ritual that the two of them used to do together.

When I say "villain," I mean more that she would be seen as the driving force behind the violence, even if it was not her intention. "Men do crazy things for love" is a common trope in which women can be seen as the problem and the reason for a man to do stupid and/or violent things. So I appreciated that the film didn't ultimately want to connect the events that way.

I mean, I was kind of surprised that the film didn't ever address how it is that they got pregnant in the first place, if Michael was so opposed to the idea.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:58 pm

The first film from any director you like: Solo Con Tu Pareja

This is a great example of a film where I admired the craft on all levels, but didn't much care for the story itself.

In a time-worn plot, Tomas is one of these guys with a magic penis who every woman in about a 10 foot radius wants to sleep with. As the number of women wanting to have sex with him builds in to a surplus, farcical goings-on ensue as Tomas tries to keep all of the women happy. When one woman realizes she's been double-timed, she impulsively commits an act of revenge that turns Tomas's life upside down.

I know that I'm a more sensitive viewer, and it's not as easy for me to enjoy bad behavior. As such, this film didn't click with me from a character point of view. The actors are all funny and play their roles really well, but aside from some fun word-play and line delivery, I didn't like any of the characters enough to feel connected to the story. I didn't find their bad behavior cute or fun: not using condoms, sleeping with an employee, physically injuring someone, etc.

There's one likable character, Clarisa, an airline stewardess who Tomas creepily watches from outside her window. But she is very thinly drawn, and as the film begins to push Tomas and Clarisa together, I was rolling my eyes big time.

In a way, this was an interesting film for me, because the story was like a D+ and the style was like an A-. I loved, for example, that a character crumples up a paper with bad news, and the camera cuts to the paper slowly uncrumpling on the floor almost as if it's a living, breathing thing. The camera angles are fun. The editing is crisp and adds a bouncy fun to the farce structure.

As a first effort from a director I really like, I'm glad that I watched it, but I can't ever see myself wanting to see it again.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Slentert » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:17 pm

I have not seen the movie myself but I've heard someone describe it as Cuaron's Almodovar picture. Is that a correct description?
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:42 pm

Slentert wrote:I have not seen the movie myself but I've heard someone describe it as Cuaron's Almodovar picture. Is that a correct description?
Yes. If you had shown me the film and told me that it was the first film from a well-known Spanish-language director (Note: I'm very aware Cuaron is Mexican and Almodovar is Spanish, but to non-speakers I'm not sure that the difference is as apparent), I would have guessed Almodovar. The quirky sex-based plot, the central treatment of a controversial topic (in this case HIV/AIDS), the portrayal of the female characters, etc.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Captain Terror » Sun Jan 13, 2019 9:27 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
There's one likable character, Clarisa, an airline stewardess who Tomas creepily watches from outside her window. But she is very thinly drawn, and as the film begins to push Tomas and Clarisa together, I was rolling my eyes big time.
This was my main complaint, as there didn't seem to be any reason for Clarisa to be drawn to him, other than the fact that he's our main character so of course she is.
I enjoyed the comedy of the first 2/3 of the film but like you started to drift when the romance started to become apparent.
Here's my full "review" from a couple of weeks ago:
Captain Terror wrote: I found the first 2/3 very funny. The main character is a terrible person, but manages to be charming as he navigates his complicated situation that is entirely his own doing. My interest started to lag during the last third, as I wasn't exactly on board with where it was heading--mild spoiler:
I wasn't convinced that he'd done anything to interest the girl, much less win her affections. Her motivation seemed to be no more than "that other guy cheated on me". Still, the preceding hour or so was funny enough for me to recommend.

One negative I'll point out is the unfortunate inclusion of two Japanese characters who stand around nodding and smiling and taking pictures of everything. Not the most harmful stereotype, I guess, but one that would seem to have been passe even in '91 but evidently not.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 10:05 pm

Captain Terror wrote: This was my main complaint, as there didn't seem to be any reason for Clarisa to be drawn to him, other than the fact that he's our main character so of course she is.
I enjoyed the comedy of the first 2/3 of the film but like you started to drift when the romance started to become apparent.
Here's my full "review" from a couple of weeks ago:
I went back and reread your review before writing my own because I remembered that you wrote about it and I pretty much agreed with what you wrote. But maybe I didn't find the comedy as engaging as you did. Mostly I found the characters annoying and so it was hard to connect with the film.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:33 am

The one thing about Shallow Ground that kinda impressed me was
The slow turn of David's character from mild-mannered accountant to psycho. It felt like it was well done and didn't feel rushed.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Captain Terror » Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:09 pm

Takoma1 wrote: maybe I didn't find the comedy as engaging as you did. Mostly I found the characters annoying and so it was hard to connect with the film.
Yeah I found it genuinely funny. I can handle terrible people so long as the movie acknowledges that they're terrible.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Thu Jan 17, 2019 3:27 pm

I'm still undecided of which way to go for the debut film category. I've already seen the first films of most of my favorite directors (Fincher, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Tarantino, Lynch), so these are the ones that I'm considering...

Bad Taste - Peter Jackson
Cronos - Guillermo del Toro
Dementia 13 - Francis Ford Coppola
The Duellists - Ridley Scott
Following - Christopher Nolan
Piranha II: The Spawning - James Cameron
Play Misty for Me - Clint Eastwood
She's Gotta Have It - Spike Lee

Any thoughts?
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Torgo » Thu Jan 17, 2019 3:28 pm

Cronos is my favorite on that list, so it gets my vote.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Captain Terror » Thu Jan 17, 2019 3:35 pm

Thief wrote:I'm still undecided of which way to go for the debut film category. I've already seen the first films of most of my favorite directors (Fincher, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Tarantino, Lynch), so these are the ones that I'm considering...

Bad Taste - Peter Jackson
Cronos - Guillermo del Toro
Dementia 13 - Francis Ford Coppola
The Duellists - Ridley Scott
Following - Christopher Nolan
Piranha II: The Spawning - James Cameron
Play Misty for Me - Clint Eastwood
She's Gotta Have It - Spike Lee

Any thoughts?
I saw Cronos back when it was new and fell in love with it and although I consider myself a GDT fan I still consider it my favorite of his.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Slentert » Thu Jan 17, 2019 3:50 pm

I saw Cronos last year at some cult movie festival and it was one of my favorite moviegoing experiences ever. Probably my favorite Del Toro film too.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Thu Jan 17, 2019 5:54 pm

Apocalypse Now (1979)
See a film focusing on the Vietnam War
See a film starting with A or B


For Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), eager to get back to action after some time in R&R (rest and recreation), the assignment is pretty simple: assassinate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has gone rogue and perhaps insane.

But as he and the other members of the boat crew Chief, Chef, Lance, and Mr. Clean (Albert Hall, Frederic Forrest, Sam Bottoms, and Laurence Fishburne) learn pretty quickly, just getting to where he's at is going to be a tall challenge. And Willard starts to question why he was given the assignment.

The film is full of scenes that have to be seen to be believed. Watching several soldiers surfing before leading an air strike against the Viet Cong, the scene that features bartering and Playboy Playmates dancing outta nowhere, the scene where Lance joins Captain Willard in a battle while high, a surreal nature surrounds this film like fog.

The acting which also features Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper (as a photojournalist) and Harrison Ford is rock solid and aids this anti-war effort. Also helping is a riveting script that mostly keeps moving forward, which makes sense because it's loosely based on the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness.
I did think that any wobbles might have happened towards the end. Why did Kurtz not worry about Willard considering he pretty much knew what he was here for. Was it a symptom of his "madness" or was he lulled by a false sense of security?
A classic film that holds up to that name, for the most part. :up:
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Thu Jan 17, 2019 7:45 pm

Apocalypse Now is really great. It's been a while since I've seen it though. Should probably rewatch it someday.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:09 pm

Popcorn Reviews wrote:Apocalypse Now is really great. It's been a while since I've seen it though. Should probably rewatch it someday.
Same here. I really thought about watching it this month, but Good Morning, Vietnam was farther in my memory, so I went that way.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Jinnistan » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:42 pm

Apex Predator wrote:
I did think that any wobbles might have happened towards the end. Why did Kurtz not worry about Willard considering he pretty much knew what he was here for. Was it a symptom of his "madness" or was he lulled by a false sense of security?
We see in one shot that Kurtz has a bedside copy of the book The Golden Bough, an anthropological work which dissects religious traditions involving sacrificed and reborn dieties. The book is framed around a particular example of a Roman priest who is ritually murdered by the new priest who takes his place. This clue, itself, is obscure, but there's other references that point towards Kurtz's desire to be "relieved of his duty" and that the only worthy successor is the kind of soldier who could assassinate him in cold blood ("without judgment"). Kurtz wanted to die, was waiting to die, and probably asssumed that Willard would continue the mission in his stead.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Fri Jan 18, 2019 9:34 pm

For those following, I still haven't posted any 2019 review, but I have a bunch of them almost ready. I'm already 10 films in, which is pretty good.

This is what I've seen so far...

A film with the number 1 (One, First, etc.) in its title: First Reformed
The first Best Picture winner you haven't seen: Wings
A film with a title that starts with the letters A or B: Bird Box
A film from the current IMDb 250 whose ranking includes the #1: Persona (#195, rewatch)
A film from the 1900s: The Red Spectre
An action or adventure film: Guardians of the Galaxy (rewatch)
A film set in Alaska: The Gold Rush
A film featuring a prominent blind character: Don't Breathe
A film about boxing: Glass Chin
A film about the Vietnam War: Good Morning, Vietnam (rewatch)

Nothing bad, so far.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Sat Jan 19, 2019 12:03 am

Jinnistan wrote:
We see in one shot that Kurtz has a bedside copy of the book The Golden Bough, an anthropological work which dissects religious traditions involving sacrificed and reborn deities. The book is framed around a particular example of a Roman priest who is ritually murdered by the new priest who takes his place. This clue, itself, is obscure, but there's other references that point towards Kurtz's desire to be "relieved of his duty" and that the only worthy successor is the kind of soldier who could assassinate him in cold blood ("without judgment"). Kurtz wanted to die, was waiting to die, and probably assumed that Willard would continue the mission in his stead.
There may also have been some dialogue by Willard towards the end that may have hinted about this. I do appreciate your help with this. It is helpful.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Wooley » Sun Jan 20, 2019 4:34 am

Jinnistan wrote:
We see in one shot that Kurtz has a bedside copy of the book The Golden Bough, an anthropological work which dissects religious traditions involving sacrificed and reborn dieties. The book is framed around a particular example of a Roman priest who is ritually murdered by the new priest who takes his place. This clue, itself, is obscure, but there's other references that point towards Kurtz's desire to be "relieved of his duty" and that the only worthy successor is the kind of soldier who could assassinate him in cold blood ("without judgment"). Kurtz wanted to die, was waiting to die, and probably asssumed that Willard would continue the mission in his stead.
Exactly. :up:
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Mon Jan 21, 2019 12:42 am

Probably doesn't count for anything, but I've seen it.

Gilda (1946)

Johnny (Glenn Ford) is a small time gambler who befriends Buenos Aires casino owner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) after he saves his life from some gamblers. Eventually, Johnny becomes his right hand man and all is well.

Until his ex Gilda (Rita Hayworth) shows up as Ballin's new wife.

Tasked with keeping her out of trouble, Johnny has his hands full (also not helping is the animosity between the two exes). But things take a turn when some Germans come in demanding ownership of some business venture that Ballin controls.

Rita not only gives good face (thanks, Vogue), but proves to be interesting as the film perks up in her presence and sags when she's not there. The back and forth between Gilda and Johnny is fine for the most part. Also helping is the humor of bathroom attendant Uncle Pio (Steven Gerea) who keeps referring to Johnny as peasant.

Film seems caught trying to be both a film noir and a star vehicle and might have been better served sticking with one lane. Also, some interesting information happens in the final third but somehow is only revealed in literally the final minutes which takes away from the drama potential.

Certainly decent, but not much more.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:26 pm

Blind Detective (2013)
See a film featuring a main character who is blind

It's kind of hard to describe Blind Detective. Not because it's spoiler heavy, but because it almost feels like 3-4 films are happening at once.

Johnston (Andy Lau) was once a fine detective known for solving crimes, but due to retinal detachment he's now down to solving cold cases for police rewards. Perhaps to save enough money to get an eye operation so he can see again in part due to a pretty dance instructor he wants to woo.

But while solving the case involving a rooftop acid thrower, he is noticed by Goldie Ho Ka-Tung (Sammi Cheng), a police detective who wishes to solve crimes like him. So he takes her under his wing while she tasks him with finding out what happened to a former friend of hers named Minnie. All this time spent in close quarters leads to an unexpected turn.

I felt like I was watching a busted pilot (At 9 PM, Blind Detective; but first NCIS: DC) for TV. At various times, this film tries to be:

A detective thriller
A romantic comedy
The Ghost Whisperer (Johnston finds himself talking to various ghosts)
A foodie porn (I'm thinking Lau agreed to do this because of the food)

The film struggles to fill all of these categories. It's best as a detective film as Johnston proves to be quite adept at being able to handle the twists and turns of the mystery. The rom-com elements might have worked better had Johnston been nicer at times; it was kind of hard to forget some of the things that were happening. The ghosts tie into things well enough. The film struggles like hell to come up with a consistent tone; one minute trying for hilarity, while dealing with some gruesome subject matter the next.

This schizophrenic nature also applies to how they deal with Johnston's blindness. At times, they take things very seriously showing how vulnerable he is when trying to subdue an attacker or chase after a subject. At times, they play the classic blind guy bumps into things for laughs.

I admit to laughing a decent amount, the detective elements were intriguing. Too bad this Johnnie To film was all over the map.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:01 pm

Strangerland (2015)
See a film set in Australia

To paraphrase the great critic Roger Ebert, "I hated, hated, hated this movie".

Supposedly a mystery about what happened to the kids of a couple (Nicole Kidman/Joseph Fiennes) who suddenly disappear just before a dust storm, it quickly turns into a domestic drama involving an oversexed mother, a father struggling to keep everything under control, and a cop (Guy Pearce) who is trying anything to keep his current girlfriend's younger brain damaged brother from getting locked up.

The scenery is nice, but the script is 50 shades of stupid and the direction isn't much better. It tries for a classy veneer at times, but like the poetry uttered one too many times, there's just no there...there.

Avoid! I'd rather give Kangaroo Jack a go than try this one again.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Wed Jan 23, 2019 10:30 pm

Quick one, part 1

So's Your Aunt Emma (1942)
See a film involving gangsters (would have included it in the boxing category, but it doesn't make up enough of the film)

Aunt Emma (Zasu Pitts) is a spinster that lives in a big house with her two spinster sisters. She once had a thing for a prize fighter, but her family sent her abroad and by the time she got back, he was married to a burlesque girl.

She notices that his son Mickey O'Banion (Malcolm McTaggert) is fighting and decides to travel a train to attend, while her sisters are presumably going tsk-tsk at a meeting they are attending later..

At the arena, Emma learns the bout has been sold out but thankfully reporter Terry (Roger Pryor) has a spare ticket. Terry has had a horrible day, having been demoted for missing a kidnapping of a gangster's lawyer and being dumped by his long time girlfriend for missing a date to pick up a wedding license.

But thanks to some mistaken identity, Emma gets confused for a famous gangster by the name of Ma Parker by mobster and Mickey's boxing manager Gus Hammond (Douglas Fowley) and his two goons. But his rival Flower Henderson (Tristam Coffin) isn't too keen on losing his lawyer, see, and he has a plan to get revenge.

This is supposedly a crime comedy, but outside of a little bit at the spare end, I didn't find it very funny. Pitts does show some talent as she is able to enjoy a night on the town that ends up longer than she anticipated. The scene where she finds she enjoys turkey neck is a highlight. The crime mystery aspect is interesting and keeps you on your toes even as a few shots show their age.

The boxing match may be the weak portion of the film. It's clear that not much thought was put into it.

Overall, it's passable. But not recommendable.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:35 pm

Let's see if I can cram 15 reviews in a few days :D

A film with a title that starts with the letters A or B
A film featuring a prominent blind character



Bird Box (2018)
"Every contact we have had with the outside has brought us death!"
Some time ago, a powerful entity released a mysterious force into the world. Some people were compelled to see, while others decided not to watch, instead fleeing for their lives. Those that ended up seeing, either ended up dying or forcing others to see what they had seen. The entity, of course, is Netflix, and the "mysterious force" is their latest original film titled Bird Box, and if you saw it, you probably hated it or tried to convince others they had to see it. Released in mid-December, the film turned into some sort of viral phenomenon, sparking online discussion, heated arguments, as well as an endless barrage of memes related to its plot.

For those that haven't seen it, Bird Box follows Malorie (Sandra Bullock), a woman that finds herself in the middle of a mysterious catastrophic event that causes people to commit suicide or hurt others, only if they *see* whatever's causing this to happen. In the middle of the chaos, she ends up seeking shelter in a house along with a group of fellow survivors. Unable to go outside safely, Malorie and the others have to figure out how to live together and how to survive. The most notable members of the group are Tom (Trevante Rhodes), a young man that develops feelings for Malorie, and Douglas (John Malkovich), an man that is reluctant to help others and becomes some sort of antagonist to Malorie. It is him the one who delivers the above quote as he warns everyone that they should avoid contact with the outside and avoid helping any stranger that stumbles upon the house.

I can probably say that Bird Box succeeds in more ways than it fails. The premise is intriguing enough, and the first act does a great job of reeling you in, as you see the world go to hell. As the plot continues to unfold, it starts to unravel a bit. Fortunately, director Susanne Bier does enough things well to keep you interested. Her direction is tight and assured, always putting you in the shoes of the characters. Also, most of the success of the film lies on Bullock, who elevates the material with her performance. The rest of the cast is pretty solid, but somewhat underused. Rhodes has a solid performance, but not much to bite, and Malkovich hams it up enough to be entertaining, without being overly exaggerated.

Unfortunately, the way the plot develops makes you think that the writers either weren't so sure how to keep things going, or were second-guessing themselves. In a film that strives to keep most of its inner-workings a mystery, there are some notable stumbles that hinder the overall effect. First, there's a character played by comedian Lil Rel Howery that tries to explain what is happening, based on some research he was doing for a book. Unfortunately, his explanation - although not necessarily true - rings too much to writers attempting a lame exposition. In addition, Howery's performance felt a bit off when compared to the others. I kinda felt the same way about him in Get Out, so I might just have issues with his acting. The other problem is that the film feels a bit heavy handed in its use of symbolism and metaphors, even if it doesn't fully succeed in transmitting what they want. Kinda like the filmmakers waving things in front of you for you to notice them. The resolution also felt a bit clunky, melodramatic, and in-your-face.

But taking those things aside, my visceral reaction to the film as I was watching it, was positive. I was thrilled, intrigued, and never bored by it, and that's enough for me to recommend it. That said, I think that some of the passionate reaction it has gotten from audiences in such a short time is exaggerated. The film doesn't deserve neither the mockery, nor the praise it has been getting on social media. To me, Bird Box is a flawed, yet perfectly serviceable and intriguing thriller with some solid performances and good directing, but I suppose it's up for you to see for yourself.

Grade: B, but part of me is tempted to go as high as a B+
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Tue Jan 29, 2019 12:52 am

I'm a little burned out on post-apocalyptic-ish stuff, but I do plan on checking out Bird Box in the near future. I haven't heard anything less than "It's pretty good".

Wings is finally on the way from Netflix! Woo!
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Tue Jan 29, 2019 1:35 am

Takoma1 wrote:I'm a little burned out on post-apocalyptic-ish stuff, but I do plan on checking out Bird Box in the near future. I haven't heard anything less than "It's pretty good".

Wings is finally on the way from Netflix! Woo!
Just keep your expectations in check, and enjoy the ride. It's solid.

Re: Wings, I was surprised by it. Putting aside the limitations and clichés of the time, I thought it was pretty good. It made me wonder why you don't hear it mentioned more often aside from the "1st Oscar winner" talk.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Tue Jan 29, 2019 1:37 am

Apex Predator wrote:Probably doesn't count for anything, but I've seen it.

Gilda (1946)

Johnny (Glenn Ford) is a small time gambler who befriends Buenos Aires casino owner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) after he saves his life from some gamblers. Eventually, Johnny becomes his right hand man and all is well.

Until his ex Gilda (Rita Hayworth) shows up as Ballin's new wife.

Tasked with keeping her out of trouble, Johnny has his hands full (also not helping is the animosity between the two exes). But things take a turn when some Germans come in demanding ownership of some business venture that Ballin controls.

Rita not only gives good face (thanks, Vogue), but proves to be interesting as the film perks up in her presence and sags when she's not there. The back and forth between Gilda and Johnny is fine for the most part. Also helping is the humor of bathroom attendant Uncle Pio (Steven Gerea) who keeps referring to Johnny as peasant.

Film seems caught trying to be both a film noir and a star vehicle and might have been better served sticking with one lane. Also, some interesting information happens in the final third but somehow is only revealed in literally the final minutes which takes away from the drama potential.

Certainly decent, but not much more.
"Gilda, are you decent?"

:D Ever since I first saw Shawshank Redemption 20+ years ago, I've been curious to check this one, even though most of what I've read seems to agree with your take. Maybe later.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Wooley » Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:54 am

It is worth mentioning that, show-stoppingly glamorous and gorgeous as she was, Rita Hayworth was actually really talented. She was a helluva dancer on top of the glamour, the looks, and the acting.

I you don't wanna watch Fred set up the duet dance (which he does well, he's Fred A-Fuckin'-staire), she jumps in at 1:40.

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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:41 pm

To be honest, I gave Gilda a B-. I may have had my qualms with it, but it does do a good job of keeping things going with both its setting (a tony casino in Buenos Aires) and acting (Glenn Ford is fine too as the gambler turned casino right hand man).

She might not have a great singing voice (or at least during Gilda which was covered by someone else), but she did look like she could dance.

Oh, and I has another review:

The Boxing Girls of Kabul (2012)
See a film about boxing

Modestly uplifting documentary dealing with several Afghan women who train to compete in international competitions under the guidance of one-time Olympian Sabir Sharifi (unfortunately, his run was ended when Russia decided to boycott the 1984 Olympic games; Afghanistan had to join in because Russia ran the government).

After an opening that showed that the stadium where they are training at was the site for executions in 2000(!), we get to meet three women who face various obstacles as they train for competitions in Vietnam and Kazakhstan. Not only are they facing issues due to the lack of support from the government, but they also deal with issues based on gender and religion as well.

It's pretty even-handed. Time is shown as they train, have fun, and try to live normal lives, even as increased interest in their performance makes that more difficult. We do get a glimpse as to what each of them is doing afterwards.

This was pretty good; I'd recommend this one currently streaming on Prime.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:42 pm

Takoma1 wrote:I'm a little burned out on post-apocalyptic-ish stuff, but I do plan on checking out Bird Box in the near future. I haven't heard anything less than "It's pretty good".

Wings is finally on the way from Netflix! Woo!
I now subscribe to Kanopy. Probably won't see Wings until Thursday at the earliest.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Wooley » Tue Jan 29, 2019 10:19 pm

Apex Predator wrote:To be honest, I gave Gilda a B-. I may have had my qualms with it, but it does do a good job of keeping things going with both its setting (a tony casino in Buenos Aires) and acting (Glenn Ford is fine too as the gambler turned casino right hand man).

She might not have a great singing voice (or at least during Gilda which was covered by someone else), but she did look like she could dance.
FWIW, here is her actually singing.

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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Wed Jan 30, 2019 12:52 am

Apex Predator wrote:
I now subscribe to Kanopy. Probably won't see Wings until Thursday at the earliest.
Got my library card and nope, they don't participate in Kanopy. :(

So I may be going after other ones instead. :up:
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Wed Jan 30, 2019 1:25 am

Apex Predator wrote:
Got my library card and nope, they don't participate in Kanopy. :(

So I may be going after other ones instead. :up:
Yeah, my library system doesn't subscribe either.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Wed Jan 30, 2019 9:34 pm

An action or adventure film


Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, rewatch)
"Well now I'm standing. Happy? We're all standing now. Bunch of jackasses, standing in a circle."
In 2010, Marvel Studios president touted the idea of a potential Guardians of the Galaxy film, a then-obscure superhero team which included a green-skinned alien human, a humanoid tree, and a talking raccoon; the "jackasses" in the above quote. At the time, it seemed more like a puzzling or baffling idea. Some have said that the decision to go that route was made in part because they still didn't have the rights to more popular teams like the X-Men or Fantastic Four, so they gambled on the Guardians.

The film follows Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who prefers to go by the name of Star-Lord. When he steals a mysterious orb from a deserted planet, he ends up being chased by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). This forces Quill to reluctantly join forces with four other criminals: Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) as they try to escape Ronan and his boss, Thanos.

I first saw this in 2015. At the time, I had only seen two films from the MCU (Iron Man and Thor) and had been underwhelmed by both. Not sure why I ended up seeing this one, but I think it had to do with the good reviews, and/or my wife choosing it. The first thing that jumps at you is how different this film is in terms of tone and setting to the other MCU films. As a stand-alone film, that's good, but when looking at them as a whole universe, it is a bit jarring. But regardless of that, Guardians of the Galaxy wins you up with its humor and charm. The film never takes itself too seriously, and ends up playing with and subverting many tropes of superhero films, which I found to be very clever.

Part of that lies on the script and dialogue, part on the direction, but a lot of it falls on the performances. All of the lead actors do a great job of owning their characters and creating a believable chemistry between them. The film also does a great job of introducing supporting characters like Yondu and Nebula, without overshadowing the five leads. Maybe a more fleshed out villain would've been better, but Ronan worked for what it was. Add to that a great directing job by James Gunn, who shows that he can handle great action sequences as well as good, fun sequences. Finally, his clever use of music is so crucial to the whole "feel" of the film, to the point that now you can't listen to songs like "Hooked on a Feeling" or "Come and Get Your Love", without thinking of Star-Lord dancing like a fool.

In the end, everybody knows the gamble paid off. The film became a huge hit and turned the Guardians into one of the most popular superhero teams. These "jackasses" made me reconsider the MCU, which I'm now halfway through, leading me to enjoy more of their films like The Avengers and the Captain America ones. Sure, this film is different and its heroes are different, but that's what makes these "jackasses" stand out.

Grade: A-
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:11 pm

I thought that the first Guardians was okay. I liked the second a lot more, and that was mainly due to Michael Rooker.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Apex Predator » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:24 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Yeah, my library system doesn't subscribe either.
Apparently we get something called Hoopla. 10 titles a month (videos, books, music, audiobooks) can be rented for free with it.

What it means is that I'm planning on seeing RBG sometime in the next week or two. And there may be other titles (such as a certain Nicolas Cage 2018 film) that intrigue me.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:36 pm

Takoma1 wrote:I thought that the first Guardians was okay. I liked the second a lot more, and that was mainly due to Michael Rooker.
I'm looking forward to rewatching that one. As for this one, I think it does a great job of establishing the characters and setting itself apart in a fun way.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Death Proof » Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:29 pm

Takoma1 wrote:I thought that the first Guardians was okay. I liked the second a lot more, and that was mainly due to Michael Rooker.

That's Mary Poppins, y'all.

Shepherds we shall be, for thee, my Lord, for thee.
Power hath descended forth from Thy hand, our feet may swiftly carry out Thy commands.
So we shall flow a river forth to Thee and teeming with souls shall it ever be.
In Nomeni Patri Et Fili Spiritus Sancti.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:11 pm

Death Proof wrote:

That's Mary Poppins, y'all.
I think that my fundamental problem with the Guardians films (and their subplots in Infinity War
) is that I find Starlord as a character to be pretty unlikable. And I think that this is actually more apparent in the second film, as the other characters (and actors) do such good work around him.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Thief » Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:45 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
I think that my fundamental problem with the Guardians films (and their subplots in Infinity War
) is that I find Starlord as a character to be pretty unlikable. And I think that this is actually more apparent in the second film, as the other characters (and actors) do such good work around him.
Speaking as someone who has NOT seen Infinity War, I can see how the cocky and over-confident attitude might rub some the wrong way. But I think it's necessary for the character, so that's a gamble the writers have to take. I still think there's a bit of boyish earnestness to his attitude, but I can understand you finding him unlikable.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:59 pm

Thief wrote:
Speaking as someone who has NOT seen Infinity War, I can see how the cocky and over-confident attitude might rub some the wrong way. But I think it's necessary for the character, so that's a gamble the writers have to take. I still think there's a bit of boyish earnestness to his attitude, but I can understand you finding him unlikable.
"I had sex with this girl, forgot about her, she could have died, but luckily I was super flippant about it and made sure to be clear about just how unimportant she was as a person. Ain't I a stinker?!"

For me it's just not an engaging character, but one that works well enough in the context of the two films.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Wooley » Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:22 am

Takoma1 wrote:I thought that the first Guardians was okay. I liked the second a lot more, and that was mainly due to Michael Rooker.
I also liked the second one more. Rooker helped, but it was a lot of things, including a villain that... well a villain. And the absence of all the muddled side-shit they tried to squeeze in like the Nova Corps, which flopped miserably, and even Nebula kinda shoe-horned in to set up later stories. Plus, I dig Mantis.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Wooley » Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:24 am

Takoma1 wrote:
I think that my fundamental problem with the Guardians films (and their subplots in Infinity War
) is that I find Starlord as a character to be pretty unlikable. And I think that this is actually more apparent in the second film, as the other characters (and actors) do such good work around him.
To be fair, Starlord is kinda supposed to be a bit of a douche, which is consistent with his actions in Infinity War.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:07 am

Wooley wrote: To be fair, Starlord is kinda supposed to be a bit of a douche, which is consistent with his actions in Infinity War.
The character, for the most part, isn't engagingly childish/arrogant/sarcastic. I just found myself annoyed with him (like also can we mention how his little
hissy fit when the had captured Thanos is maybe why half the planet is dead now?).
As I think on it further, a huge part of the problem is that the characters around him seem to grow and mature and become more complex. But he doesn't really seem to develop as a person, and the occasional moment of emotional vulnerability doesn't do it. I mean, in Infinity War his flip attitude about the death of his mother (and trying to use her death as some sort of bragging right) just felt off.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Wooley » Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:17 am

Takoma1 wrote:
The character, for the most part, isn't engagingly childish/arrogant/sarcastic. I just found myself annoyed with him (like also can we mention how his little
hissy fit when the had captured Thanos is maybe why half the planet is dead now?).
As I think on it further, a huge part of the problem is that the characters around him seem to grow and mature and become more complex. But he doesn't really seem to develop as a person, and the occasional moment of emotional vulnerability doesn't do it. I mean, in Infinity War his flip attitude about the death of his mother (and trying to use her death as some sort of bragging right) just felt off.
And that is exactly how his character has always been. If anything, the movies softened him a bit, he's actually often portrayed as more dislikable, many characters are sort of grudgingly friends with him because no matter what a childish douche he can be, his moral compass still ultimately points North. Not every "hero" is a good-guy is one of the many revolutionary things Marvel brought to audiences over the years since about 1962 when they introduced a "hero" who was a skinny, awkward, uncomfortable, bullied teenager with dead parents who got bit by a spider.


Spoilery Edit: And I would add that
his flip attitude about his mother was hardly his worst moment in that film. Which is also consistent with his character.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2019

Post by Takoma1 » Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:00 am

Wooley wrote: And that is exactly how his character has always been. If anything, the movies softened him a bit, he's actually often portrayed as more dislikable, many characters are sort of grudgingly friends with him because no matter what a childish douche he can be, his moral compass still ultimately points North. Not every "hero" is a good-guy is one of the many revolutionary things Marvel brought to audiences over the years since about 1962 when they introduced a "hero" who was a skinny, awkward, uncomfortable, bullied teenager with dead parents who got bit by a spider.


Spoilery Edit: And I would add that
his flip attitude about his mother was hardly his worst moment in that film. Which is also consistent with his character.
I wouldn't mind if I found him more entertaining, but I don't want to spend time with any character that's grating, hero or villain. Like, he's okay. But I also think that he's easily the least engaging (not likable, just interesting) character in his own movies. It was pretty striking to see how well the other characters carried their own subplots without him.
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