Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

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Takoma1
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Fri May 22, 2020 10:45 pm

kgaard. wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 10:37 pm
A film with a bird's name in its title (National Bird Day, May 4): Phoenix (2014)

In postwar Germany, a woman attempts to re-create herself and her life but is haunted by the past and her memories of it. There was a brief moment about two-thirds of the way through where I thought, "Is this movie actually just ridiculous?" But it passed. It is true that the premise might be considered implausible, but even if it were, it doesn't matter, because the film feels emotionally and psychologically true. This is due in great part to the work by the leads, Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld, which culminates in a beautiful and crushing finale, when reality asserts itself over desire and belief. It's a good lesson to take, kids: Reality always wins out in the end.
I love this film with a passion. And that final moment is so excellent.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by kgaard. » Sun May 24, 2020 5:03 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 10:45 pm
I love this film with a passion. And that final moment is so excellent.
It's an interesting film to discuss. I initially leaned toward the premise being implausible (especially following the scene
where Nelly "forges" her own handwriting with amazing accuracy
), but my wife made a convincing argument that the psychological needs of the characters (Johnny in this case) could overwhelm their own reason. Though again, I would also say that this is mostly beside the point. It's the tension created by the desires of the leads being in absolute conflict (
Nelly to re-create her old life and Johnny to be certain that his old life is dead and buried
) that makes it all so compelling. One thing that we were uncertain of:
there is a scene early on in the hospital where Nelly gets out of bed and follows a woman to an office where Nelly's picture has been pinned up. What we weren't sure of is who the other woman is meant to be--my assumption was just that this is Nelly herself in a dissociative state, as it would fit with the theme of identity and the uncertainty of self. But I'm not sure of this. It's not a big point but I haven't seen it discussed elsewhere.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by kgaard. » Sun May 24, 2020 9:57 pm

A fantasy film: Song of the Sea

Just a delightful, beautifully made film. We have been trying for years to make a trip to Ireland, as my wife is part Irish on her mother's side, and we could visit the house her great-grandmother grew up in. On one occasion we were just a few hours from departing when we got word that her grandmother had died (the Irish one, as it happens). Anyway, it looks like it'll be awhile before travel is a thing again, so this was a decent option for sharing a small piece of Irish culture with our son. I really enjoyed the languid pace of the opening third, describing the lore and background of the setting as well as the family dynamics. Ben's complicated relationship with his sister and father (and grandmother) feels authentic--loss pervades the story, but also hope. It's lovely stuff.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon May 25, 2020 12:38 am

Here are my quickies for my middle-of-the-month batch...

A film that won either the Palme d'Or or the Grand Prix at Cannes: TAXI DRIVER (rewatch)
One of my biggest film "hot takes" is that I generally don't care about Scorsese's films. I just don't connect with them. Despite that, I always held this one as one of my favorites of his, but it had been a while since I last saw it. Which is why I didn't hesitate at an opportunity to rewatch it. The film follows Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), a troubled loner that spends his days driving his cab around town. When he isn't working, he's visiting pornographic theatres or alone in his apartment. As he witnesses what he sees as the decay of the city and people in general, Bickle becomes more unhinged while planning to do something about it. Bickle is a man that thinks he knows what to do, but clearly doesn't. His actions waver between randomly supporting a political candidate just because he wants to date one of his campaign workers (Cybill Shepherd) to wanting to assassinate him when she rejects him, from criticizing and condemning the moral decay of the city while obliviously participating in it. From murderer to rescuer. Towards the last act, Bickle becomes obsessed with trying to "rescue" Iris (Jodie Foster), a teenage prostitute. He is looking for a path, a way to deal with his troubled mind and perhaps do something good? And maybe, in trying to rescue Iris, he rescued himself. Or did he? Who knows. Grade: A-

A film about mothers: MOTHER (2009)
What best film to watch for this category than a film called... Mother?. Bong Joon-ho's fourth feature follows an unnamed mother (Kim Hye-ja) that lives alone with Yoon Do-joon, her mentally disabled son (Won Bin). When Yoon is accused of murdering a teenage girl, his mother sets out to prove his innocence no matter what. There is so much to praise here, from the way Bong builds the mystery and intrigue, to the way he moves the camera, and the excellent performances from everybody. But special praise goes to Kim who is phenomenal as the mother. Her portrayal of a distraught mother always keeps you wondering what she'll do next in a way that feels organic and believable. There is a reveal towards the middle of the film that pretty much upends everything you've thought of the two main characters up to that point, and I think it's the core of the film, showing that both mother and son are not very different. This one is strongly recommended. Grade: A

Any film that starts with the letters I or J: IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
The film follows Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a skilled homicide detective from Philadelphia, that ends up stuck in the rural town of Sparta, Mississippi after visiting his mother. There, he is forced to deal with the racism and bigotry of most people, including Police Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger), with whom he has to work as they try to solve a murder. This is one I've had on my radar for a while for several reasons. First, it's a Best Picture winner and second, it stars Poitier, who I really haven't seen much of. The film delivers in almost every aspect. Norman Jewison's direction is tight, the script is pretty good, there is some well executed intrigue and tension. But the standout is the performance of Poitier, who has a much needed confidence and swagger for the role. Like a man that is sure of himself, but still feels he has to prove himself to others. One can only imagine the waves this film must have sent, being released right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. I'm a bit on the fence about the resolution of the crime. In a way, it's nice that they didn't go the usual way with the "big bad villain", but in another way, it feels a bit anti-climatic and lacking a certain punch. Still a pretty good film and well worth a watch. Grade: A-

A film featuring the media prominently: SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
There are times when a film comes by where you feel like every piece falls perfectly in its place: direction, script, performances, everything. This film is an example of that. It follows Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), a sleazy and egocentric press agent that finds himself out of luck, until powerful columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) asks him to undermine the relationship of his sister with an aspiring musician. Why this film isn't mentioned more often? I don't know, but I thought it was fabulous. An extremely dark and cynical look at New York life that practically oozes sleaze. All the performances are great, but both Curtis and Lancaster are phenomenal. Paired with the snappy and witty dialogue, every interaction and moment with them just sizzles. Finally, Alexander Mackendrick's direction manages to highlight the apparent facade of glamour from the big city, while also putting the bleakness of the characters that inhabit it up front. From the scheming press to the corrupt police force. This is a film that has stuck in my mind since and one that I feel will stay there. Grade: A+

A film set in space: A TRIP TO THE MOON (rewatch)
I'm sure most of you know the "plot" of George Méliès iconic short. A group of scientists plan a trip to the moon. Upon landing, they are attacked by "moon creatures", forcing them to return to Earth, where they are received with a parade. I've seen this short film several times before, but this time it was special. My older kid has a space coloring book that featured a crude drawing of a cartoonish moon with a rocket in its eye. When he pointed it out to me laughing, I knew I would find a way to make them see the real thing. Sure, the quality of the one I found was cheap, but I was surprised by how much they enjoyed it. Both of them thought the moon "landing" was hilarious and asked me to "rewind it". They also laughed at the "moon creatures" and the "umbrellas" that sprang on the moon. As for me, there's not much else to say. I love it. I'm a huge fan of Méliès work and I think this is a magical short.

A film with a bird's name in its title: YELLOWBIRD
This one's more of a freebie since I already saw a film for this category, but the kids spotted it at Netflix and we ended up seeing it. It is a French/Belgian animated film about an orphaned bird (Seth Green) that ends up being raised by a ladybug (Yvette Nicole Brown). As a result, he's terrified of leaving the place where they live, until he has to reluctantly lead a flock of blue birds in their migration to Africa. This was a very sweet and cute film. The message of conquering your fears and gaining confidence might get a bit muddled with other subplots, but it still works. Also, the voice talent is pretty solid and the animation is beautiful. Grade: B
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Mon May 25, 2020 12:45 am

I'll have to revisit Sweet Smell of Success.

As for Taxi Driver, my take on the ending is that
Bickle is still a ticking time bomb. Reconciling with Betsy would indicate that he'd escape from the paranoia he experiences on the streets. By ignoring her attempts to rekindle their relationship (or, at least, I think that's what she was trying to do), this was his way of saying goodbye to her for good. In addition to this, the mesmerizing cinematography at the end mimics the shots in the opening few minutes, further implying this. He may end up being involved in another shooting for all we know, and if so, he might not be hailed as a hero.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon May 25, 2020 1:03 am

I like the ambiguity of the ending because it echoes the ambiguity in Bickle's morals.

There's something there in the end that goes back to what Bickle's friend tells him. About how you become what you do and how we ultimately have no choice in life, a philosophy that is both espoused by Bickle and his friend in different moments of the film and in very different ways. I don't have much to add beyond that, but I like how it puts both nihilism (" you got no choice anyway. I mean we're all fucked, more or less you know") and determinism ("My whole life is pointed in one direction... There never has been any choice for me") up front.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Apex Predator » Mon May 25, 2020 1:28 am

Late breaking news: Due to trying to find a new job/hoping to get in on the online job hunt, I broke down and I got a Roku and online access.

Right now, tackling Shadow of the Thin Man.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Takoma1 » Mon May 25, 2020 3:17 am

kgaard. wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 5:03 pm
It's an interesting film to discuss. I initially leaned toward the premise being implausible
I think that it speaks a lot to the way that each character has their own "reality". From Johnny's point of view, his wife is dead. So what reason would he have to think that this woman (who looks something like his wife but not exactly like his wife) actually IS his wife?

What I saw, including from the scene you describe is
two characters, like you say, at different purposes. I think that she intentionally pushes the boundaries (for example by being so good at the handwriting) hoping that he will know it's her. He needs this stranger to be like his wife, so anything that points that way is a good sign and something he's eager to see.


One thing that we were uncertain of:
there is a scene early on in the hospital where Nelly gets out of bed and follows a woman to an office where Nelly's picture has been pinned up. What we weren't sure of is who the other woman is meant to be--my assumption was just that this is Nelly herself in a dissociative state, as it would fit with the theme of identity and the uncertainty of self. But I'm not sure of this. It's not a big point but I haven't seen it discussed elsewhere.
I just rewatched it. I don't think it's a fantasy. My interpretation was that this was where they had photos of all the people who were getting reconstructive surgery, and that it was a different woman who was looking at a picture of her old face. You can see the different groups of photos have different names above them. And on the table in front are books and sketches about reconstructive surgery. Then again, it could be a fantasy sequence. But I saw it as these being the photos that the friend brought in, including the one where she has folded Johnny out of the picture.
kgaard. wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 9:57 pm
A fantasy film: Song of the Sea

Just a delightful, beautifully made film. We have been trying for years to make a trip to Ireland, as my wife is part Irish on her mother's side, and we could visit the house her great-grandmother grew up in. On one occasion we were just a few hours from departing when we got word that her grandmother had died (the Irish one, as it happens). Anyway, it looks like it'll be awhile before travel is a thing again, so this was a decent option for sharing a small piece of Irish culture with our son. I really enjoyed the languid pace of the opening third, describing the lore and background of the setting as well as the family dynamics. Ben's complicated relationship with his sister and father (and grandmother) feels authentic--loss pervades the story, but also hope. It's lovely stuff.
Have you seen Secret of Kells from the same filmmaking crew?
Thief wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 12:38 am
A film about mothers: MOTHER (2009)
What best film to watch for this category than a film called... Mother?. Bong Joon-ho's fourth feature follows an unnamed mother (Kim Hye-ja) that lives alone with Yoon Do-joon, her mentally disabled son (Won Bin). When Yoon is accused of murdering a teenage girl, his mother sets out to prove his innocence no matter what.
Have you seen The Man from Nowhere? It's a great action flick staring Won Bin and thinking about him in both roles kind of blows my mind sometimes.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Apex Predator » Mon May 25, 2020 5:22 am

Three for the Price of Two (and one of these don't fit any categories, but it does allow for a second 2020 film already on LB)

Celebrity Escape Room (2020)
It's all about Jack Black who serves the cheesy ham with such gusto playing a rich eccentric who invites friend Ben Stiller, Adam Scott, Lisa Kudrow and Courtney Cox to an escape room where they'll have to re-live their high school days in order to escape and win money for a charity. Yes, it's a Red Nose project (they have to wear a nose if they want a hint), but I'll take something like this over another reboot of a British comedy I haven't seen yet. B

See a film made in the 1940s (May)
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)

Nick and Nora try to solve a murder mystery involving blackmail, horse racing, and Donna Reed (not necessarily in that order). The mystery takes too much of a backseat to the humor and various set pieces (merry go-round, several brawls including a fancy restaurant). The chemistry and banter are still intact even though they have a four year old son (!) now and scene stealing dog Asta. The mystery feels a bit warmed over with its biggest revelations saved for the final few minutes leading to hmm instead of a-ha. Still moderately entertaining. B- or C+

See a film with Muslims or Islam (May)
London River (2011)

Brenda Bleythn plays Elizabeth, a woman desperately looking for her daughter after a bus and train bombing in London. While there, she meets a French Muslim named Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyate) who is looking for his son Ali. Both learn some interesting things about each other and their kids before finally getting the truth. Film doesn't shy away from Elizabeth's prejudices but even for a film that's under 90 minutes, it takes its own sweet time belaboring points that feel obvious and dragging its feet to its conclusion. Both actors have good performances, but they're wasted in a drama that feels too calculated for its own good. D
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon May 25, 2020 1:15 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 3:17 am
Have you seen The Man from Nowhere? It's a great action flick staring Won Bin and thinking about him in both roles kind of blows my mind sometimes.
I saw it a couple of years ago on your recommendation, and loved it. However, I hadn't placed that it was the same guy.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Captain Terror » Mon May 25, 2020 1:43 pm

A film from the 1940s:

One Night In The Tropics (1940)

For the past couple of months I've been choosing various B-Movie directors of the 30s-40s and trying to watch as many of their films as I can find. Most of these guys directed literally 100 films so I'm just scrolling Prime and Youtube and watching whatever's available. This has been fun because it's forcing me to watch things I'd never consider, which has resulted in some hidden gems here and there. There's also a nice variety. One night is a gangster film, the next might be pirates or a western.

So my current project is A. Edward Sutherland and last night's film was One Night in the Tropics, about which I knew nothing. The poster featured four smiling faces and a lovely lady in a sarong, so I was expecting a musical romance of some sort. It starts off as a mildly amusing rom-com. Robert Cummings and the guy from A Night at the Opera are in love with the same girl or something. Just as my attention was starting to drift Abbott & Costello show up around 20 minutes in. Turns out this was their film debut. (I did not know this.) So we've got this sort of lame screwball romance thing going on but it's periodically interrupted by an A&C skit which bears little to no connection to the actual plot of the film.

Now I'm not the biggest A&C fan, but they are the clear highlights of this one, and watching them do what amounts to their greatest hits (Who's on first; two tens for a five) it's clear why they became stars. Too bad the surrounding film isn't better.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Apex Predator » Mon May 25, 2020 3:44 pm

All aboard!

See a film set mostly in a train (May)
See a film made in the 1940s (May)

Terror by Night (1946)

After trying (and learning the title is Aussie for Big Rig) Road Train, I settled for a Holmes and Watson adventure aboard a train from London to Edinburgh. This mystery drama comes in a bit less than an hour and it's clear that Basil Rathbone makes for a solid Sherlock Holmes who knows the fine line between smart and arrogance and never crosses it (something that Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch could stand to learn). Nigel Watson plays well off him as a bumbling Watson.

The entry plays out as the detectives get hired on to protect a cursed diamond where death tends to follow. Although the current owner has had it for 25 years without an incident, her son gets offed fairly early and someone attempts to steal the diamond. A group of suspects aboard the train have various red flags screaming suspicion, but this entry makes the mistake of withholding key evidence until the final reel. And it didn't help that the climax felt a bit rushed either.

Still, it's a timefiller that has its charms. C+
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by kgaard. » Mon May 25, 2020 5:59 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 3:17 am
I think that it speaks a lot to the way that each character has their own "reality". From Johnny's point of view, his wife is dead. So what reason would he have to think that this woman (who looks something like his wife but not exactly like his wife) actually IS his wife?

What I saw, including from the scene you describe is
two characters, like you say, at different purposes. I think that she intentionally pushes the boundaries (for example by being so good at the handwriting) hoping that he will know it's her. He needs this stranger to be like his wife, so anything that points that way is a good sign and something he's eager to see.
Yes, and because we know that
Johnny had divorced Nelly
the tension is raised even further because we know it’s impossible for either of them to get what they really want.

I just rewatched it. I don't think it's a fantasy. My interpretation was that this was where they had photos of all the people who were getting reconstructive surgery, and that it was a different woman who was looking at a picture of her old face. You can see the different groups of photos have different names above them. And on the table in front are books and sketches about reconstructive surgery. Then again, it could be a fantasy sequence. But I saw it as these being the photos that the friend brought in, including the one where she has folded Johnny out of the picture.
In retrospect I think you are correct, mostly because the film is just generally played straight. I do think the scene would work either way so either reading is available.
Have you seen Secret of Kells from the same filmmaking crew?
I have! Also excellent, though SotS Is for me the more accessible film. But possibly that feeling is driven by the fact that my son was too young to watch Kells with me when I did. I’ll have to look for it again now that he’s seen SotS.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon May 25, 2020 10:33 pm

Thief wrote:
Fri May 15, 2020 4:10 pm
Episode 11 is out, for those paying attention :up:

Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - Episode 11 (May 14, 2020)
Recorded/edited/published Episode 12 today. Check it out!

Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - Episode 12 (May 25, 2020)
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by kgaard. » Mon Jun 01, 2020 6:17 pm

Any film that starts with the letters I or J: I Am Not Your Negro

I watched this a couple of weeks ago, after Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, but before George Floyd and the Amy Cooper/Christian Cooper incident. Of course, although the past few days have been particularly intense, this could be almost any time in American history. I am old enough to remember Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and Laquan McDonald, obviously. I am old enough to remember Sean Bell, Patrick Dorismond and Amadou Diallo. I'm old enough to remember Rodney King and the L.A. riots. I'm even old enough to remember Eleanor Bumpurs. And before me there were (and the following is by no means exhaustive) the Jackson State killings, Fred Hampton, Medger Evers, Emmett Till, the Tulsa massacre, and countless lynchings, to say nothing of the enslavement, rape, and murder of generations of black people in this country.

For all that, I find myself mostly thinking of Amy Cooper, because she is a person who is most like me: White, liberal, New Yorker. It's the shame of recognition: I have thought about doing what Amy Cooper did. I have never done it. I have always known that the thought itself is wrong and disgraceful. But it's there nonetheless, because I know the world I inhabit. I know that a person like me always has the police available to be used as a weapon against people like Christian Cooper. Or George Floyd. Perhaps I am unusual among white people in having these thoughts (if not the actions) but the evidence suggest otherwise. Years ago I decided I would never call the police on another person expect in the most dire, life-threatening circumstances. I also recognize that my ability to be able to make those kinds of distinctions--especially under stress--will be less than ideal.

When an Amy Cooper says that she "is not a racist" what she really means is she doesn't want to think of herself as a racist. But of course she is. And so am I, and so is just about any white person raised in the conditions of the United States. It's in the water. The truth is, it doesn't really matter so much if you are racist "in your heart". The question is, do you say racist things? Do you do racist things? Do you equivocate over racist structures and policies? Do you do the work of acting in an anti-racist way? Do you do the work on your self?

So, a couple of things struck me particularly in this film. One was when Baldwin talked about white people live in fear, essentially, of self-knowledge, and the other was when he spoke of white people as lacking maturity. Amid our culture of Marvel movies and video games (both of which I enjoy) and our politics of malice and crudity, these critiques felt particularly chastening. I fancy myself an introspective person, but it was a reminder that life has made it easy for me to be so, and maybe I'm not as self-aware as I like to think. This is why I mention the work, because it's the work that matters, and the work that never ends. Watching this movie isn't the work, it's only another reminder that work needs doing.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Mon Jun 01, 2020 7:30 pm

I appreciate the honesty in your post. I can't speak much about the "American ways" cause I wasn't born/raised there. Being born/raised in a US colony brings a whole lot of different baggage. I only know what pisses me off and seeing the things I've seen during this week (i.e. George Floyd, Amy Cooper) and before, it pisses me off so I try to speak against it as much as I can, and do whatever it's in my reach to make things better. I think that moments like these have been bubbling under the surface for too long, often spilling to the surface, but like someone in 13th said, America has been unable to properly deal with the issues, brushing them under the rug instead. Be it because of the complexity of the issues, the ramifications, or whatever. One can only hope for this to be a moment of reckoning for many, but judging from what one can see/read around (whether it's on the street, social media, or the frickin' White House) it doesn't seem that will happen anytime soon.
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Apex Predator » Mon Jun 01, 2020 7:30 pm

Ran out of time to finish Some Like It Hot...will tackle this later this afternoon.

But I did end up with 10 for the month of May:

Thumbs Down:

London River (2011)
Both leads Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyate are fine in this film about parents of a young man and woman who have disappeared about the time of the London bombings in 2005. But the film heads down a predictable path very slowly for a film that's barely 90 minutes.

Toya (1956)
Norse saga of a girl orphaned by war who gets adopted and all's well until money goes missing and she's accused of stealing it (same type denomination in her coat). But the dialogue feels out of Dragnet and the plotting turns into a bad family sitcom obliterating moments of joy such as the Norwegian scenery and one boy's solid singing voice.

It was OK, I guess:

Minesweeper (1943)
In the middle of World War 2, man agrees to join the Navy along his new friend and proves to be talented. But there's a secret. Richard Arlen is fine, but the B-movie melodrama drowns out what proves to be a gripping story of a man trying to solve a deadly new type of Japanese mine. Robert Mitchum is in this somewhere, but the predictable ending keeps it purely in B-territory.

JD's Revenge (1976)
Solid turns by Lou Gossett Jr., Glynn Turman, and Joan Pringle upgrade this blacksploitation feature about a law student who finds himself hosting the spirit of a long-slain gangster. The ending is dumb and the misogyny leaves a sour taste in the mouth, but the film keeps moving and there's something to be said about Pringle's role feeling at least 2.5 dimensions instead of what could have been 1.

Terror by Night (1946)
Holmes and Watson get hired as watchmen to protect a very fancy, cursed diamond as it and its owner travels via train from London to Edinburgh, Scotland. When the owner's son turns up dead and it vanishes, there's a train full of suspects. Much like Revenge, Night keeps moving and the easy chemistry between Rathbone and Bruce pastes over some issues such as an abrupt climax and a mystery that waits until the end to reveal its pieces. But Rathbone IS able to keep his character on this side of likable which makes a difference.

Thumbs Up:

Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)
Nick and Nora are at it again, this time trying to determine who killed a reporter at a horse race track. Although watching them deal with fame proves to be a bit tiresome, the chemistry between the two still crackles and their dog and three year old boy have their moments. Leans a bit more heavily towards the comedy than the mystery, particularly with an aim towards big set pieces. Still had a good time and that counts for something.

The Cat and the Canary (1927)
Twenty years after a rich man dies (presumably of a broken heart from his greedy family), the heirs head over to the mansion to hear the reading of the will. A young lady wins out, but there's a catch: if she's proven to be insane by the morning, someone who's named in an envelope gets the fortune. Of course things take a deadly turn. Could it be an escapee from an insane asylum behind this? Or someone else? Some nice use of intertitles and some solid frights from 1927 lead to a nice re-discovery.

Celebrity Escape Room (2020)
Four celebrities (Ben Stiller, Adam Scott, Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox) end up participating in several challenges to win cash for Red Nose and escape the mansion of a delirious millionaire (Jack Black). Of course it's a charity thing (take a wild guess at what they have to use for a hint), but Black dives into the host thing with cheesy glee and it's a fun hour. Plus enough amusing cameos to hope this is a regular thing every year.

A Field in England (2014)
Four men decide to skip out of a no-win war situation, have a few drinks in a pub and go their separate ways. But one man's master (and the field) has things to say about this. Not entirely sure what happened at the end, but this trippy mix of Apocalypse Now (set in medieval England), a psychedelic movie, and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly has me finally getting why some of you are big on Ben Wheatley.

Thumbs Way Up:

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
How far will a small time press agent go to please a big columnist by breaking up his sister with a jazz musician? And what happens after that? Another cynical film noir special with plenty of snappy dialogue to spare. But all of that would be for naught without the presences of Tony Curtis as the press agent and Burt Lancaster as the columnist.
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Thief
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Thief » Tue Jun 02, 2020 12:45 am

Anyway, I finished late last night with a couple of films to spare through the month. Here are my quickies on the last 5 I saw...

A film from Norway: THE WAVE (2015)
Found this one while browsing the Internet for a Norwegian film and it ended up being quite a surprise. Set in the village of Geiranger, located within the mountains and fjords, the film follows Kristian (Kristoffer Joner), a geologist that is about to move with his family to a bigger city after a job promotion. However, when a landslide threatens to trigger the titular "wave", Kristian has to race against the clock to warn his former co-workers and then to protect his family. I know the description sounds like the template for most disaster films, but this one really *worked*. Director Roar Uthaug finds multiple ways to use the typical clichés to his advantage and build a film that's genuinely thrilling and gripping. For the first half of the film, he manages to build up the threat, anchored by solid performances from the cast that makes us care about them. But when the time comes, Uthaug also knows how to work around the "limited" budget to make the inevitable "wave" feel as tense and nerve-wracking as it can be. Seriously, the way he uses the camera to highlight the urgency of the situation with the dread of the approaching tsunami was masterful. The second half isn't as tense or impactful as the first, but thanks to the latter, I was invested in the characters enough to keep me engaged until the end. This one is on Hulu and it's worth a watch. Grade: A-

A film from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list whose ranking includes the #5: THE EAGLE (1925, #25)
This one wasn't my first choice but after my first pick failed on Prime, I shifted to this one. The film follows Vladimir Dubrovsky, a disgraced lieutenant of the Russian Army (Rudolph Valentino) that ends up being persecuted for rejecting the advances of a female superior. As a result, he becomes an outlaw by the name of "The Black Eagle". When his father ends up dead because of the actions of Kyrilla, a ruthless nobleman, Dubrovsky sets out to take revenge but falls for Macha (Vilma Banky), the daughter of Kyrilla instead. For the most part, this was an enjoyable and interesting film. Technically speaking there are some neat uses of the camera here and there by director Clarence Brown; there is a certain tracking shot that looks great. Unfortunately, the film leans more towards the romantic/comedic side, instead of focusing on the adventure side that one would expect from the film's title and plot description. Fortunately, the film is not that long, so whatever flaws it might have, end up feeling quite breezy. Grade: B-

A film about Muslims or Islam: LONDON RIVER
Set immediately after the 2005 London bombings, the film follows Protestant widow Elisabeth (Brenda Blethyn) as she tries to get in touch with her daughter. In her efforts, she constantly stumbles upon Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyaté), an African Muslim that is also trying to get in touch with his estranged son. Upon finding that their children were not only friends but lovers, both have to deal with underlying prejudices to cope with the events. The premise of two opposite strangers that are grieving is not new, but I still think there was a good premise here. Unfortunately, I have to agree with what Apex Predator said. The film moves at an extremely low pace while putting a lot of its chips on the reveal of the fate of the daughter when it's obvious from the get go what has happened. The obvious plus is that the performances from Blethyn and Kouyaté are commendable, but they can only carry the film for so long. Grade: C

A fantasy film: HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (2000)
For some reason I had never seen this, but my wife picked it up for the kids the other day and I ended up watching it. You know the drill, the Grinch (Jim Carrey) wants to ruin Christmas to the residents of Whoville as payback for being bullied and mistreated as a kid. The two obvious plus here are 1) the overall set design and special effects are great and manage to evoke the essence of Dr. Seuss' book and 2) Carrey's performance is fun, moreover when you consider he's buried underneath a ton of makeup. Unfortunately, as fun as some things in it are, I didn't find enough laughs on the film overall to take it over the hump. Finally, the film can't help but feel manufactured, which is the case with many of Ron Howard's films, and the plot is stretched too thin for almost two hours. As for the kids, they more or less enjoyed it, but they weren't as into it as they've been with other films. Grade: C

A film from the 1940s: HIS GIRL FRIDAY
The film follows reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) who is about to quit the job to move and get married, but her editor and ex-husband Walter Burns (Cary Grant) is determined to keep her close by coaxing her into covering the execution of a murderer. I'll get my main thoughts off my chest quickly but, am I a bit of a sourpuss for having problems with the morals in this film. I mean, sure, it's meant to be a screwball comedy, but I've always had issues with films/TV shows where "handsome assholes" swoop in to take the woman from the "bumbling fella". What I mean is that I didn't find the extents to which Burns goes to humiliate Hildy's fiancée to be funny, particularly because he wasn't a bad guy. But we're meant to accept Hildy's blatant dismissal of him because, of course, it's Cary Grant, and they're meant for each other bla bla, but I just felt like watching two self-centered, self-absorbed assholes. The film does have its strengths; all the performances are pretty good, and Russell and Grant have great timing between them, and the fast dialogue is witty and entertaining. I still don't know what to think about the subplot of the prisoner, which felt more peripheral and not that integrated into the main plot, but like I said, my main gripe is that I just didn't connect with it the way it's supposed to. Grade: C

A film set in a country or place you'd like to visit: LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (rewatch)
Set in the wake of World War II, Guido (Roberto Benigni) moves to the city of Arezzo, in Tuscany, in order to make money as a waiter and maybe open his own bookshop later. There he is smitten by Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), and the two end up falling in love. When they end up taken into concentration camps, Guido has to make the effort to protect his young son from the horrors of the camp by trying to pretend everything's a game. I remember seeing this shortly after its release and not being a huge fan of it, but it's one of my wife's favorite films and when I rewatched it with her, I ended up warming to it more. It is also set in what is arguably one of our dream tourist destinations: Italy. Granted, the story is not something that should be revisited, but I abide by the film's message that, despite the horrors that might surround us, we can still find beauty in life; whether it's a song, the memory of a loved one, or the innocence of a child. Grade: B+
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Re: Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2020

Post by Captain Terror » Tue Jun 02, 2020 2:10 am

Thief wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 12:45 am
A film from Norway: THE WAVE (2015)
Found this one while browsing the Internet for a Norwegian film and it ended up being quite a surprise. Set in the village of Geiranger, located within the mountains and fjords, the film follows Kristian (Kristoffer Joner), a geologist that is about to move with his family to a bigger city after a job promotion. However, when a landslide threatens to trigger the titular "wave", Kristian has to race against the clock to warn his former co-workers and then to protect his family. I know the description sounds like the template for most disaster films, but this one really *worked*. Director Roar Uthaug finds multiple ways to use the typical clichés to his advantage and build a film that's genuinely thrilling and gripping. For the first half of the film, he manages to build up the threat, anchored by solid performances from the cast that makes us care about them. But when the time comes, Uthaug also knows how to work around the "limited" budget to make the inevitable "wave" feel as tense and nerve-wracking as it can be. Seriously, the way he uses the camera to highlight the urgency of the situation with the dread of the approaching tsunami was masterful. The second half isn't as tense or impactful as the first, but thanks to the latter, I was invested in the characters enough to keep me engaged until the end. This one is on Hulu and it's worth a watch. Grade: A-
I liked that one too, and recommend the sequel too (The Quake). I mean, it's kind of funny that this guy has to single-handedly save Norway AGAIN, but if you can get past that it's almost as good as The Wave, if not quite.

The Quake appears to be on Hulu also
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