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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 4, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 4, 2020

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Post by sol » January 26th, 2020, 12:00 pm

Which Films Did You See Last Week?

Please share with us which films you saw last week. It would be great if you could include some comments on each film. It would be awesome if you could also take some time to comment on everyone else's viewings. Unfortunately, it has reached the point where it is no longer viable for me as host to comment on everyone else's viewings every week (especially since some people like to use the weekly thread to log their viewings and nothing else). I am always keen to promote movie discussion though, so if you comment on my own viewings, I will comment on yours at my earliest convenience.

Please also note that this is intended as a movie discussion thread, not a large image posting thread. Having too many large images makes this thread difficult to navigate through. If you wish to include more than five images in a reply, please use spoiler tags - [spoiler][/spoiler] - to hide extra images.

This is what I saw:

★★★★ = loved it /// ★★★ = liked it a lot; ~7/10 /// ★★ = has interesting elements; ~6/10 /// ★ = did very little for me; ~5/10 and lower

Rawhide (1951). Held hostage at a mail route stopover, a young man and a stranded woman with a toddler try to escape while dealing with the unpredictability of their hot-tempered captors in this intense Wild West thriller. Hugh Marlowe is appropriately daunting as the smooth-talking, "never underestimate your enemy"-professing gang leader while Jack Elam is positively creepy as the underling who Marlowe has the hardest time reigning in. The presence of the toddler works really well as the gang unexpectedly bond with her, which makes it difficult for them to maintain their distance. The film is let down by a poor beginning and ending with jovial narration about the "jackass mail" route of the stopover, but the vast majority of the film is nail-bitingly intense, plus Susan Hayward brings more spunk than usual as the film's mandatory damsel in distress. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1952). Posing as a struggling painter, an eccentric millionaire boards in a working class home to determine if the family are worthy of inheriting his wealth in this bubbly comedy. The film's messages about money not buying happiness are formulaic and with Lynn Bari playing an obnoxiously money-grubbing matriarch, it is easy to predict what will happen when the millionaire cuts the family a modest cheque to test the waters if their wealth is increased. The whole thing works though thanks to Charles Coburn's commanding lead performance, keeping up the pretence of being a penniless painter and then coming to enjoy the double life. The rest of the cast are mostly bland, but Gigi Perreau is delightful as the youngest daughter, and whether it is teaching Coburn to paint or dance, every scene with the pair together is a joy to watch. (first viewing, online) ★★★

The Raid (1954). Not to be confused with the identically titled Indonesian action thriller, this civil war drama stars Van Heflin as the ranking officer among a group of Confederate prison escapees who plan to pillage a Vermont town. This is one of Heflin's finest performances, playing a heavily conflicted character as he finds himself welcomed and celebrated during a brief stay in the town for reconnaissance. A love interest and surrogate son develop rather predictability, but the resolution of Heflin's internal divisions is anything but. The ending is really quite haunting. Nobody other than Heflin has a chance to shine here, but it is interesting to see an almost unrecognisably young Anne Bancroft, and Tommy Rettig is fine as her doting son who is all too trusting and eager to find a surrogate father in anyone prepared to give him the time of day. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Home from the Hill (1960). Nurtured from infancy by his mother, a teenager is delighted when his father finally teaches him how to be a man, but excitement soon turns to disillusionment in this long but engrossing family saga. Clocking in at 2.5 hours with a melodramatic music score, the film occasionally feels like an overlong soap opera episode, however, the three main male actors all deliver fine turns with every emotion between them feeling real. Robert Mitchum is especially good as the deeply flawed patriarch who heartbreakingly rues that "all our children deserve better parents", but George Hamilton is pretty spot-on too as his son who comes to truly question his role in the world amidst his parents' constant bickering. It is a shame that Eleanor Parker does not have a stronger character as the wife/mother, but her role being sidelined is on-point. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Young Aphrodites (1963). Courtship between two prospective couples (one adolescent; the other in their twenties) is paralleled in this curious film set in Ancient Greece. The symbolism and contrasts are pretty obvious with one couple knowing what they are doing and the other couple discovering and toying with unfamiliar feelings - and how much the film gets out of cutting back and forth is debatable. The youths though are nevertheless fascinating to watch whenever on screen; their story comes with lots of elongated silences and longing looks and stares in which body language communicates all, and the film is well worth a look for their plot alone. The adult actors are okay, but their plot comes across as far more routine and familiar. That said, the part where the two plots converge is handled very well with a gentle but atmospheric piano score. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Euridice BA 2037 (1975). Wow. Right from the first scene in which the title character is attacked in her sleep through an open window, this is a living, breathing nightmare that never lets up as we go inside the mental headspace of a scared woman. From silhouettes of strangers peeking in her windows, to ominous messages passed under her front door, to her inability to get through to certain bureaucratic services on the phone, the film feel like pure and undiluted Kafkaesque paranoia. Mobile camerawork, footage played in reverse and lots of low lighting further help to establish mood. Inspired by Greek mythology, some of the symbolism comes off as a little murky here, but this is an amazing audiovisual assault on the senses either way that, much like Darren Aronofsky's mother!, examines what it is like to be scared inside the comfort of one's own home. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Flash Gordon (1980). Based on a 1930s comic strip, this big budget space opera involves the adventures of a football star who finds himself in an intergalactic battle to save Earth from destruction. Rocking along to excellent music from Queen, including the titular theme song, and blessed with imaginative sets and costumes, this is a pretty vibrant motion picture. There are also some very energetic supporting performances from the likes of Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton. The leads are unfortunately a whole less charismatic though and coupled against some noticeably fake matte effects, it is not always easy to become invested in the story. The protagonist's whip fight with Dalton certainly needs to be seen for itself though and some of the skimpy outfits may raise an eyebrow, but the film often feels too silly and campy to fully gel as a narrative. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★

Style Wars (1983). Shot in and around New York City, this brief documentary feature looks at the origins of graffiti and differing views on the art. As we are given both the perspectives of the artists themselves and those who have to clean it off and remove it, complaining about how the removal mixture fogs windows, the content is pretty interesting here. The film feels more than a little unfocused though, also often going off on tangents about break-dancing at random points. While the inclusion of more than just graffiti turns the proceedings into a curious zeitgeist time capsule, the war on graffiti is easily the most fascinating topic - especially given the way that attitudes have shifted and changed over the years with the widely celebrated likes of Banksy nowadays. Sam Schacht's voiceover narration is far from electric, but it is generally informative. (first viewing, online) ★★

Vice Versa (1988). Released soon after Like Father Like Son, this initially feels like a pale imitation of that father/son body swap comedy, yet Vice Versa quickly proves itself superior. The dialogue is funnier, there are amusing side gags (a booby-trap briefcase salesman) and an eccentric Swoosie Kurtz makes a delightful chief antagonist. Best of all though is Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold aping each other so well, and Reinhold actually acts like a kid his son's age (as opposed to Dudley Moore who never felt like a 17-year-old). Reinhold is in fact very fun to watch with his rubbery facial reactions. The film also dares to dabble in a "Freudian nightmare" with the boy's mother. Certainly, there much silliness here and this is not nearly as effective as Freaky Friday, but it is the energetic male variant that Like Father Like Son should have been. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

City of Hope (1991). Racial tensions flare up in a politically unstable US city in this large ensemble drama from John Sayles. With over a dozen main characters, some of the subplots and characters are inevitably more interesting than others and certain characters feel underdeveloped, but there are enough potent bits and pieces here for this ambitious project to essentially work. Most engaging here are two African American youths who, tired of being persecuted by cops for no good reason, decide to lash out at a late night jogger, only to falsely claim that the jogger - a prominent community member - asked for sexual favours before the assault. Performance-wise, Joe Morton (who was also excellent in The Brother from Another Planet by Sayles) comes off best as a politician whose idealism is challenged - though his utter naivety is a little hard-to-buy. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Judge Dredd (1995). Set in a future in which policemen are allowed to assume the role of judge and use deadly force on duty, this dystopian thriller looks at one such judge who is framed as part of an evil plot. While the future depicted here feels like a tired mishmash of Mad Max 2 and Blade Runner, the film has some decent satire to offer in its opening scenes with the excessive force used by the judges, blowing up rather than impounding cars. As the antagonist subplot develops though, the satire falls short. There are some over-the-top courtroom theatrics, but most of the film just has Sylvester Stallone getting into fights as he attempts to prove his innocence. Rob Schneider is never too likeable as a comical sidekick either, though none of the performances are particularly great. The film does, however, boast some good special effects and sets. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★

Multiplicity (1996). Short on time, a busy construction worker has himself cloned, but stopping at just one clone proves difficult in this Michael Keaton comedy. The film has an intriguing premise and Keaton's time constrictions are easy to relate to; Keaton provides a pretty terrific performance too, interacting with himself very well, dismayed about being "too busy to talk to myself" and so on. The film does not, however, explore well why each clone gains a different personality (as a result of the roles they end up assuming perhaps). Ramis also does not milk the premise for all its comedic potential with all the silliness involving the stupidity of #4 falling flat and dragging out the runtime. When the comedy works though, it is absolutely gold, with some terrific moments as Keaton has to avoid running into himself in public - or his wife on one very stormy night. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Stuff and Dough (2001). Mostly shot from inside a moving van, this is a remarkably intense motion picture focused on a small town youth who is hired to drive a mysterious package into the city. The film is admittedly slow to warm up with nothing especially remarkable happening during the first 30 minutes as him and two friends set out on the drive. This is only a false sense of security though; an unexpected event around a third of the way in gives an entirely new edge to the friends' journey, making it more of a paranoia-ridden thriller than the amiable road movie that it initially seems to be. Even the title is deceptively playful for a movie that is anything but. The performances are not especially remarkable, but Razvan Vasilescu absolutely steals each of the few scenes he is in, playing a man with a dark seriousness beneath his friendly exterior. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

The Tracker (2002). Guided by an Indigenous Australian, three lawmen track an accused murderer through the outback in this drama set in 1922. As the titular tracker, David Gulpilil provides an excellent turn, reciting racist slurs that he has been told over the years ("blackfella been born for that noose") with a tone of agreement in his voice yet noticeable discomfort. It is only in the final twenty minutes or so that the film really takes off. While the movie consequently concludes on a powerful note, the first hour is pretty uneven. The outback landscapes look great, but with three or four songs played in their entirety as the men wander the bush, the film sometimes feels more like a music video than a meditative drama. That said, the tunes themselves feel thematically appropriate, and the film also incorporates Aboriginal paintings well into the narrative too. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

The Island (2005). Convinced that something sinister is afoot, an apparent survivor of a mass contamination event uncovers a conspiracy at the underground facility where he resides in this science fiction thriller. The film deals with a fascinating topic and while the ethical complications are often overlooked in favour of explosive action scenes, the film nevertheless paints a curious outlook on society with criticism of those who will pay for anything no matter the actual cost. The newfangled facility is a pretty magnificent feat of art direction too, and the film could have been quite amazing had the script drawn out the mystery for longer and spent more time underground. As it is though, this is not half-bad. Steve Buscemi provides some excellent comic relief and the less action-based outside scenes are fun. The potential for more though is striking. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★

Constantine (2005). Blessed (or perhaps cursed?) with the ability to see demons and angels on Earth, a maverick exorcist teams up with a female detective to investigate a series of demon killings in this big budget action film. The film is loosely based on a charismatic comic book character; as played by Keanu Reeves though, he is just another jaded hero, if one with a crucifix-shaped gun. The film has some notable special effects laden scenes; the initial mirror-demon exorcism is gripping, while an attack by a bug/crab monster is startling. Much of the film though is just Reeves waving around his gun, waxing poetic about Catholic ideas of Heaven and Hell and moaning about not being allowed into Heaven as a suicide attempter. All the region stuff falls pretty flat, while a better film could have been carved from Reeves performing all sorts of kooky exorcisms. (first viewing, online) ★

Cloverfield (2008). Clearly inspired by Japan's Godzilla films, this found footage horror movie depicts similar chaos and destruction on the streets of New York. The film benefits from some excellent special effects and creepy creatures; the deliberately shaky camerawork does, however, make it difficult to truly admire them. The project is also beset by an excruciating initial eighteen minutes before the horror begins in which we are introduced to irritating characters who mostly feel interchangeable by the end. Things do not exactly get a whole lot better once the horror ignites with silly conversations about Superman and the like, but there are several well crafted scenes in the mix that rely more on things unexpectedly falling apart than the monsters themselves. In fact, this may have been even scarier if we were never given a glimpse of the creatures. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

S. Darko (2009). Now the same age as her older brother in the original, Samantha finds herself experiencing similar visions and eerie sleepwalks in this follow-up to Donnie Darko. This is perhaps best considered as a spin-off rather than a direct sequel and may have indeed worked better with all explicit references to the original cut. Many of the references are awkwardly shoehorned in (especially the rabbit mask) and distract from what is otherwise a fairly creepy tale of vanishing kids, mystery bleeding rashes, hallucinations and Videodrome-ish reaching into television sets in an outskirts town. The film concludes with some loose ends, and the denouement pales against the "Mad World" ending of the original, but the derision that the film has received is not entirely deserved. A melancholic Daveigh Chase at the very least nails her every scene. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★

The Jacket (2015). Discovering that his psychiatrist's sensory deprivation treatments send him into the future, a mentally scarred war veteran attempts to solve his murder in this intriguing thriller. The film initially feels cut from the same cloth as Jacob's Ladder and may have been more interesting had it stuck to that route it; as it is though, the tale is reasonably engaging despite no explanation of how he is transported into the future and a thematically jarringly ending. Adrien Brody is fine as the protagonist, trying to comprehend his existence in two different time periods. Some intriguing ethical questions arise too as he meets a grown-up version of a little girl from his past (though the film does not really capitalise on this). The mental institution is fascinating though and the sensory deprivation process comes off as appropriately scary and dehumanising. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

A Dark Song (2016). Grieving over the death of a young son, a depressed Irishwoman seeks the services of an occultist who may not have entirely pure intentions in this moody little film. While there are elements of horror, fantasy and mystery here, this is always first and foremost a human tale of grief and desperation, primarily powered by the interplay between the two protagonists. Is he a genuine occultist or just out to exploit her misery and financial freedom? Does she become subservient because she believes that is necessary to the ritual? It is a fascinating power dynamic whatever the case and the film loses its way a bit towards the end as it begins to favour overt horror over character interplay. The final line really resonates though, as does the whole final couple of minutes, and Ray Harman's music score adds oodles of atmosphere throughout. (first viewing, online) ★★★

I Am Mother (2019). Raised by an artificially intelligent robot since infancy in a locked-down facility, a teenager begins to question whether her robot mother really is correct about the apparent high toxicity levels and danger outside in this sci-fi drama. The film plays out much like 10 Cloverfield Lane with some tension as it pivots back and forth between whether or not the robot seems to be correct; all is ultimately revealed a little too soon though with the final thirty minutes nowhere near as tense as the build-up. The best moments also occur early on as we see the robot nurturing and truly bonding with the little girl as she grows up, and it is hard not to wonder whether this alone may have made for a more interesting film. The sets, robot design and so on here are great, but the film only really treads familiar territory as it winds towards its close. (first viewing, online) ★★

Underwater (2020). Their underwater station wrecked under mysterious circumstances, employees of a deep sea drilling company come to suspect something horrific in this action thriller starring Kirsten Stewart. The film begins well with Stewart waxing poetic about losing time without daylight and there are several thrills as the station caves in. Things only get more interesting with the suggestion that humans were never meant to be this deep; maybe they have brought their fate upon themselves? This pro-ecological agenda is not carried through though and rather than go the way of Long Weekend - nature taking revenge on uncaring humans - the film soon turns into a standard survival thriller. It is all well crafted throughout, making good use of claustrophobic spaces, but this ultimately feels anti rather than pro-ecological by the over-the-top conclusion. (first viewing, cinema) ★★

And a couple of revisions to commemorate Australia Day / Invasion Day:

Long Weekend (1978). Marital tensions simmer between a couple on a camping trip in this unusual horror film. From the moment he arrives, the husband abuses nature, randomly lopping a tree, throwing rubbish into the ocean and so on, only for nature to appear to take revenge. There is some interesting irony in that the husband loves the ocean and scenery but still acts irresponsibility, and the sound design is excellent with heightened, unfamiliar noises, as if warning the couple away. The marital drama is unfortunately less interesting than nature taking revenge, while things soon become repetitive and even somewhat predictable as nature continues to turn against them. If less fresh and exciting the second time round, this is still a powerful little film, and downright eerie at times - e.g. driving around in circles no matter which direction he goes. (second viewing, DVD) ★★★★

The Interview (1998). Along similar lines to The Trial, this Australian drama opens with a lonely man dragged away by detectives without telling him his supposed crime. At the station, the film starts to feels even more Kafkaesque with extreme high and low camera angles that capture the persecution paranoia of The Trial. The Kafka flavour dissipates halfway in as we find out what the crime is, but what then develops is an even more fascinating power play between detective and suspect with the protagonist gaining the confidence to challenge the detectives. Hugo Weaving is excellent in the lead role, especially as he gradually evolves from scared and paranoid to confident and eloquent. The ending is not quite as ambiguous it could have been, but this is still thought-provoking, even on second viewing, knowing the plot turns and conclusion to come. (second viewing, DVD) ★★★★

OtherShow
Variety (1925). Enchanted by a young trapeze artist, a variety show manager leaves his wife and runs away with the young woman, only for jealousy to get the better of him in this silent movie from Germany. Photographed by the amazing Karl Freund, the film looks great with daunting darkened corridors and unusual low camera angles throughout. There are also some great dissolve edit effects, mostly notably a shot of a man's listening ear cut against the female trapeze artist's footsteps, and lead Emil Jannings imaging a grisly airborne revenge. Jannings also does well here with some particularly powerful glares towards the end. The story though is average at best, and given the prison prologue, it is a little easy to see where everything is heading. None of the supporting characters are especially interesting either - not even the woman he deeply falls for. (first viewing, online) ★★

History is Made at Night (1937). Separated from the woman he loves by the interventions of her jealous husband, a French head waiter goes to absurd extremes to engineer another meeting in this Frank Borzage melodrama. Some of the plot twists and turns and tonal shifts (at times it is a murder mystery and disaster movie!) are so ridiculous that this may have worked better as a comedy. Played as a straight drama, Charles Boyer's earnest performance and some decent work from Jean Arthur keep things afloat. Some of their romantic scenes are admittedly charming (drawing puppets on wrists) but all of the plot contrivances and story complexity weighs against what is generally just a tale of true love. The comic relief from Leo Carrillo as Boyer's constant companion also only works half the time, though their first visit to an American restaurant is fun. (first viewing, online) ★★

Ramrod (1947). Unwilling to cave into the romantic advances of an intimidating landowner who has a habit of scaring off her potential suitors, a headstrong woman enlists the help of a recovering alcoholic while trying to run her ranch in this complex western. While the lack of a simplistic plot is nifty in a western of this vintage, the story turns are mostly melodramatic with the film often feeling like a soap opera with guns. In the lead role, an alluring Veronica Lake shines; she is absent from significant stretches of the film though as focus turns to the intimidating landowner and recovering alcoholic. Both Preston Foster and Joel McCrea do what they can in the respective roles, but a film actually focused on Lake's pursuits would have been divine. "I'm going to make a life of my own; and, being a woman, I won't have to use guns" is a pretty great line after all. (first viewing, online) ★★

Too Late Blues (1961). Struggling to make it on his own terms, a blues musician begins to review his life choices upon embarking on a whirlwind romance in this early career drama from John Cassavetes. As others have pointed out, it is interesting that this first (and penultimate) studio production for Cassavetes is about an artist reviewing his unwillingness to compromise his vision, but beyond this connection, there is not really a lot to like here. The black and white photography is often sumptuous but the characters vary between bland and odious (doing what they can to frustrate a Greek bartender) and the movie descends into melodrama well before the end. The project actually begins quite well with the protagonist's band playing at a school where their recital soon turns pear-shaped, but everything pretty much goes downhill from this high note. (first viewing, online) ★

Cherry 2000 (1987). As a young couple make out in their kitchen, water overflowing and bubbling as things get steamier, this future-set film gets off to a wonderfully satiric start. Things only get more interesting as it is soon revealed that she is a sex-bot who short-circuits due to the water. The rest of the film is unfortunately a lot less interesting than its opening as our bland protagonist goes on a dangerous quest to get a replacement bot across a post-apocalyptic landscape. Aesthetically, the film unfortunately has nothing to offer beyond what Mad Max 2 and other films of its ilk have elsewhere done. Accompanied by a female tracker, his journey is also far too heavily signposted as a learning curve for the value of human over robot relationships. Ben Johnson has a nice supporting turn here though and some of the newfangled sets are admittedly neat. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Moon 44 (1990). Desperate for pilots, a lunar resource mining company strikes up an unusual deal using hardened prisoners in this early career Roland Emmerich film. With spectacular exterior shots under starry skies and detailed interiors, the film looks great for a movie made on a budget. If borrowed from Outland, the outer space mining is quite interesting too and it is hard not to believe that there is a good film somewhere here. The focus is off though; Emmerich spends copious time on the tension that arises between the weakling nerds who navigate the lunar helicopters and the beefy convicts who have to fly them, however, this is the least remarkable aspect of film that goes all the way out to the very depths of space. Dean Devlin - who would go on to script many of Emmerich's latter films - is very decent though as the main navigator here. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★

Sundays on Leave (1993). Given leave from military training on Sundays, a young soldier romances a high school student who may also have designs on a stage actor in this Romanian comedy. This was the debut feature of Nae Caranfil, who would later go on to write and direct the amazing Philanthropy; by comparison, this is far less funny with less sharp satirical targets and less eccentric characters. The film is, however, written as something more serious than outright humorous, and there are some potent bits and pieces as the trio all look towards uncertain futures - but these solid bits are few and far between. Perhaps most interesting is the insight into military training, the comradeship (and sometimes lack thereof) between the soldiers-in-training and how they still act like high school kids when they are meant to be fit to defend their country. (first viewing, online) ★

Vampire Journals (1997). Turned into a vampire against his will, a determined man sets on a path of revenge, but is distracted by a female pianist who he tries to save from also being turned into a vampire in this horror-themed gothic melodrama. Shot on location in Romania with baroque sets and atmospheric lighting, the film certainly looks decent; as a narrative tough, it brings little new to the table and the protagonist's constant mournful narration quickly tires. The treatment here is also pretty close to soap opera, and while this is curious as a precursor to Twilight and the like, it is not the mode that vampire tales work best in. The action is very limited and the horror even more so with only occasional fights and moments of bloodshed. Kirsten Cerre is perfectly alluring as the young pianist, but none of the cast are in particularly strong form either here. (first viewing, online) ★

How to Die in Oregon (2011). Voluntary assisted dying is the subject of this documentary, focused on residents of Oregon - the first US state to legalise the practice. As one might expect, this is an at times depressing and distressing film to watch, though insightful too as we are told and shown in painstaking detail some of the suffering that those who cannot end their lives must endure. There is also an inspirational part in the middle of the film involving one woman's quest to have the laws in her home state changed after her husband died a painful death because he was too ill to move to Oregon to end it all. The film gets a bit repetitive towards the end, the sentimental music score is a little cloying and the over-reliance on title cards to fill in key information is regrettable, but this is generally well-made if incredibly difficult to view due to the topic itself. (first viewing, online) ★★

Chasing Rainbows (2012). Two tales of Romanians trying to get rich quick are paralleled in this comedy about greed and desperation among both the youth and middle aged residents of the country. The middle aged tale is pretty good with shades of I, Daniel Blake as two men fall victim to a scam when using a computer for the first time. The youth tale is pretty silly though, involving a teenager who buys a raffle ticket and inexplicably uses a false name, leading to him and someone who works for "the company" spending the whole film trying to track down a man with the right surname to pretend to be the teen's father. The movie ultimately culminates in a bitterly ironic ending that leaves food for thought, but it is uneven ride getting there with almost all of the youth tale scenes falling flat and tension dissipating whenever the film switches tales. (first viewing, online) ★

Bucharest Non Stop (2015). Employed at a 24-hour "non-stop" kiosk, a Romanian man finds himself at the centre of several disputes and incidents involving the residents of a nearby apartment block in this comedy/drama blend. This is a hard film to become emotionally invested in at first as it keeps chopping and changing between three or four seemingly unrelated tales. As the stories begin to converge though, things become increasingly more engaging with the various characters overcoming negative preconceptions that they have of others. Alas, while most of the tales connect up well, the most intriguing one - involving a bedridden man whose wife (and primary carer) unexpectedly dies - feels somewhat incongruent. Still, this is a reasonably interesting look at how surprisingly connected we are to those we only regard as acquaintances in life. (first viewing, online) ★★

HyperNormalisation (2016). Adam Curtis attempts to explain the rise of Putin, Trump and the like through a culture of oversimplification in this intriguing documentary. Clocking in at close to three hours and covering many topics, it is an inevitably uneven ride. The best parts certainly stick out though, with particular highlights being the possibility of the US government creating UFO conspiracies to mask their testing of weapons, a computer psychoanalyst that was able to console its users simply by repeating what they said back to them, and the history of how suicide bombings began in the late 70s and early 80s. There are also some fun film references to the likes of Stalker and Dr. Strangelove, though the Carrie prom clips are a bit on-the-nose. If a little too all-over-the-place to be entirely convincing, the project at least certainly never bores. (first viewing, online) ★★
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Onderhond
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#2

Post by Onderhond » January 26th, 2020, 6:45 pm

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A lot of decent films this week. Luckily Nakashima's newest is a true standout and Tale of Genji was a very nice surprise, so it wasn't just middle of the road stuff. On the lower end some crappy TSPDT work, bad Oscar filler and a few Cheh Chang filler flicks.


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01. 4.5* - It Comes [Kuru] by Tetsuya Nakashima (2018)
Nakashima doing horror, it's a sight to behold. The man can't stick to a single genre it seems, then again everything he touches turns to cinematic gold, so who am I to complain. Intriguing, beautifully shot, smartly structured and with a long finale that dazzles for almost 30 minutes. This is another masterpiece.

02. 3.5* - The Tale of Genji [Murasaki Shikibu: Genji Monogatari] by Gisaburô Sugii (1987)
Extremely stylish and dignified. This old tale draws its inspiration from classic Japanese paintings and folklore, so don't expect a typical anime. Beautifully animated and sporting a superb score, this film is quite a sight to behold. The story is a little too rigid for my liking, but this film definitely deserves wider recognition, because this was quite unique.

03. 3.5* - Deadman Inferno [Z Airando] by Hiroshi Shinagawa (2015)
A wild mix of action, horror and comedy. Deadman Inferno is a zombie flick with flashy fight scenes and plenty of fourth wall breaking comedy. Shinagawa's direction is notable and the pacing is incredible, but it's not quite insane enough to be a real masterpiece. Still, if you're looking for some brutal entertainment, this film delivers in spades.

04. 3.5* - Yamagata Scream [Yamagata Sukurîmu] by Naoto Takenaka (2009)
Wacky, insane comedy, the kind only Japan is able to make. Naoto Takenaka directs and features in multiple parts, the plot is too silly to even bother with and the comedy is daft but infectious and funny. Add a cool cameo by Noboru Iguchi and Japanese comedy fans get a film that more caters to their needs.

05. 3.0* - Assassin's Creed by Justin Kurzel (2016)
A decent blockbuster. Some interesting lore and a fun plot that alternates between a historic and near-future sci-fi setting. The actors do a pretty decent job, the film looks nice enough and the fantasy elements feel creative and original. Not the greatest of films, but pretty entertaining and it doesn't overstay its welcome.

06. 3.0* - The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine [Kiku to Guillotine Onna Zumô to Anarchism] by Takahisa Zeze (2018)
A strange mix of politics and sumo wrestling. It's a solid drama and Zeze's maverick style vies the film some extra appeal, but it's not enough to fully support the 3+ hour running time. Properly acted though and there's plenty of intrigue, but the film starts to drag a little in the final hour. Not quite a Wakamatsu successor.

07. 3.0* - Hush! by Ryosuke Hashiguchi (2001)
Decent drama about a wayward woman who ends up with a gay couple and asks them to father her child. While the topic sounds quite heavy, the film is actually pretty light and comfortable. The acting is solid, cinematography a little basic and the drama somewhat predictable, but overall not a bad film.

08. 3.0* - Revenge of the Pontianak [Dendam Pontianak] by Glen Goei, Gavin Yap (2019)
Local folklore is always a great starting point for a horror film, sadly the Pontianak is little more than a vengeful spirit looking for redemption. That makes the film rather predictable, which quickly takes away most of the underlying tension. Still, the execution is pretty decent, just don't expect anything beyond a basic genre film.

09. 3.0* - Saga of the Phoenix [A Xiu-lo] by Ngai Choi Lam, Sze Yu Lau (1990)
A zany mix of Chinese Ghost Story and Gremlins. The production is seriously camp and most of it is played for laughs, but overall this was a pretty amusing film, featuring crazy monster designs, cheesy comedy and some decent action scenes, in equal amounts. Ultimately though it's the pleasant pacing that makes sure the film doesn't cave in on itself.

10. 3.0* - Kindred Spirits by Lucky McKee (2019)
Decently acted and directed, but not quite as edgy as McKee's better films. While the setup shows enough promise, the middle part is somewhat tepid and the ending feels rushed and conflicted. It's not a terrible film and it does have its moments, but it's definitely not part of the McKee essentials, so keep your expectations in check.

11. 2.5* - Ray by Taylor Hackford (2004)
Decent but somewhat inconspicuous biography about the life of Ray Charles. Foxx is pretty great here, but the focus of the film is quite predictable and the structure is borderline boring. The film is too long and it feels like I've seen this story countless times already. A shame because Foxx's performance deserved better. No real weak points, just overall a little dull.

12. 2.5* - Alice, Sweet Alice by Alfred Sole (1976)
Starts out pretty nifty, but runs out of steam halfway through. The twist is dull, the plot becomes sluggish and the creepiness quickly fades from the film. Sole takes some very odd decisions and doesn't seem to realize that he could've made something quite special from this material. Not terrible, but the potential was there to make a real classic.

13. 2.5* - Killing End [Sha Ke] by Herman Yau (2001)
A pretty basic Hong Kong crime flick. It's mostly a genre exercise for Herman Yau, a little filler to bridge the gap between bigger projects. It's not a terrible film and in places you see Yau's talent shining through, but you won't miss much if you skip this one, as there are a million films just like it.

14. 2.0* - Those Were the Days [Si Ge 32A He Yi Ge Xiang Jiao Shao Nian] by Eric Tsang (1996)
A rather plain coming of age drama that sticks to the script a little too closely. Some typical hurdles in the lives of a couple of young teens make up the meat of this film, but Eric Tsang probably wasn't the best guy to direct it. He is a better at comedy and clearer genre work, the drama here feels a little forced and overworked. Not a terrible film, but a little hard to recommend.

15. 2.0* - Shanghai 13 [Shang Hai Tan: Shi San Tai Bao] by Cheh Chang (1984)
A film in two parts. The first part is a little slow and dull, a sluggish spy story set in a modern day martial arts setting. The 30-minute finale on the other hand is one big fight sequence that shows what Chang is best at: martial arts action. I still feel it works better in a more historic setting, but the killer here is the slow first hour.

16. 1.5* - Duel of Fists [Quan Ji] by Cheh Chang (1971)
The one where Cheh Chang tries out kickboxing. Not really his strong point I'm afraid. It seems that he was desperately trying to branch out during the early 70s, luckily he changed his mind soon after. The plot is pretty dull, the acting quite poor and the action doesn't help to cover up any of that.

17. 1.0* - The Addams Family by Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon (2019)
Unsightly animated remake of the classic comedy series. Some of the characters are decently adapted (like Wednesday and Lurch), but the comedy is painfully unfunny and the art style looks incredibly cheap. The whole thing feels utterly pointless, some weird attempt at a cash grab that will hopefully be soon forgotten.

18. 0.5* - A Diary for Timothy by Humphrey Jennings (1945)
A very bland and lifeless doc on WWII, as seen from the British home front, linked to the birth of a young boy. It might have been more interesting in its time, but I've seen so many WWII now that there's hardly anything of interest here. Not only that, the structure of the documentary makes it unnecessarily cheesy.

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#3

Post by joachimt » January 26th, 2020, 6:51 pm

Przypadek AKA Blind Chance (1987, 4 official lists, 875 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Mubi.
Nice to watch a Kieslowski for the first time again. Been a while.
Tetro (2009, 1 official list, 997 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Mubi.
Started a bit slow, but got better and better and more emotional in the second half. Underseen (a Coppola with less than 1000 checks) and underrated if you ask me.
Domicile conjugal AKA Bed & Board (1970, 3 official lists, 1343 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Mubi.
I really liked the scenes in the courtyard with all the colorful characters.
Shazam! (2019, 2 official lists, 3069 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Amazon Prime.
Don't take this seriously, because the movie doesn't take itself seriously as well. It's just a lot of fun. Ever thought about it as a kid what it would be like to be a super hero? Well, this movie is about that idea and plays with in very nicely, which makes it stand out among other super hero movies.
They Shall Not Grow Old (2018, 1 official list, 988 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Amazon Prime.
Interesting way of telling the stories of WW1 soldiers with original footage and re-enactments only accompanied by voices of the veterans. Gets a bit tiresome and the lack of video of the veterans makes it lose a bit of emotion.
Englar alheimsins AKA Angels of the Universe (2000, 0 official lists, 169 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's in WC 1C.
Best movie from that group is just okay.
The Women (1939, 6 official lists, 1846 checks) 6/10
Watched because it used to be on TSPDT.
Two hours of gossipping women. Pfff… very tiresome. The dialogue is witty and fast though, so some scenes are fun. But the story and message is really awful. The men (no screen presence at all btw) can do anything they want and the women just have to accept that, because they are men and they need to have some other women now and then. The most important thing for a woman to do is to hold on to her man. Yeah, right......
Une vie AKA End of Desire (1958, 2 official lists, 81 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Mubi.
Dull story about a woman who loves an asshole for no apparent reason. When they marry she accepts her fate and he can be an even bigger asshole without losing her love.
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#4

Post by Onderhond » January 26th, 2020, 7:05 pm

@sol:

A Dark Song is really one of those films a lot of people ended up liking. Bit of a cult film, but I was very impressed with it. It's nice to see the film is keeping its (slow) momentum. Liked Cloverfield a lot more than you did, then again it was the film that "really" kick-started the found footage rage back then (there was BWP of course, but it took the rest of the world a couple of years to catch on). Also watched I Am Mother from years, expected quite a bit from that one but the result was pretty plain. Also liked The Jacket it seems, though I had to look it up to check if I had actually seen the film before, so obviously don't remember too much from it.

And looking forward to Underwater. I'm not expecting a masterpiece, but I do like myself a bit of underwater thriller/horror stuff.

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#5

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » January 26th, 2020, 10:07 pm

Das Auge des Taifun (Paulus Manker, 1993) 8/10

Instabile Materie (Jürgen Reble, 1995) 8-/10
i must be dreaming #116

The Ister (David Barison & Daniel Ross, 2004) 6/10

Vase de noces / The Pig Fucking Movie / Wedding Trough / Svinet / One Man and His Pig (Thierry Zéno, 1974) 7/10

Black Sun (Gary Tarn, 2005) 8-/10

Amok (Fyodor Otsep, 1934) 3/10

ناصرالدين شاه آكتور سينما / Once Upon a Time, Cinema (محسن مخملباف/Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1992) 8+/10

The Juniper Tree (Nietzchka Keene, 1990) 6/10

Begotten (E. Elias Merhige, 1989 A.D.) (3rd+ viewing) 7-/10 (from 6)

La donna del lago / The Possessed (Luigi Bazzoni & Franco Rossellini, 1965) (2nd viewing) 9/10


shorts

Les quatre saisons (Philippe Collette, 19??) (sans subs) 6/10

Les Souvenirs du vieil hiver (Philippe Collette, 19??) (sans subs) 5/10

Sir Bailey (Matthew Ripplinger, 2018) 5/10

The Pigpen (Felix Colgrave, 2009) 6+/10

Double King (Felix Colgrave, 2017) 6+/10

تصاویری از سلسله قاجار / Images from the Qajar Dynasty (محسن مخملباف/Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1993) 6+/10

1) Secret Life (Reynold Reynolds, 2008) 4/10

2) Secret Machine (Reynold Reynolds, 2009) 4/10

El doctor (Suzan Pitt, 2006) 6+/10

Sara (Téo Hernandez, 1981) 6/10

Dcera / Daughter (Daria Kashcheeva, 2019) 3/10

Mémorable / Memorable (Bruno Collet, 2019) 7+/10

A Linguagem da Persuasão / The Language of Persuasion (Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, 1970) 4/10

Goldman v Silverman (Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, 2020) 2+/10

Vincent Gallo as Flying Christ (Michael Holman, 1981) 5/10

1923: Go West (Len Powers)
2020, 2016, 2017: What Did Jack Do? (David Lynch)
The human soul of the monkey. Look deep into those eyes...
7/10

Un chant d'amour (Jean Genet, 1950) (2003 soundtrack, probably) (2nd viewing) 7/10

Din of Celestial Birds (E. Elias Merhige, 2006) (2nd+ viewing) 7+/10


RiffTrax & MST3k

Superargo and the Faceless Giants (Paolo Bianchini, 1968) 1/10


music videos

Igorrr: My Chicken's Symphony (2014) +=

Code Orange: Underneath (2020) --

Billie Eilish: You Should See Me in a Crown (Animation Version) (Takashi Murakami, 2019) 4+/10

Billie Eilish: Ocean Eyes (2016) 3/10

[a bunch of rewatches: Rammstein, Marilyn Manson (the two E. Elias Merhige videos included, of course), Kontra K (also included ftv's)]


series

Alltagsgeschichten: "Treffpunkt: U-Bahn" (1993) 6-/10

Curb Your Enthusiasm - S10E01 - "Happy New Year" (Jeff Schaffer, 2020) 7-/10


didn't finish

Map of the Human Heart (Vincent Ward, 1992) [56 min]
Blast (Albert Pyun, 1997) [29 min]
India Song (Marguerite Duras, 1975) [23 min]
Dikaya okhota korolya Stakha / Savage Hunt of King Stakh (Valeri Rubinchik, 1980) [20 min]
Requiem for a Village (David Gladwell, 1976) [18 min]
White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Steven Okazaki, 2007) [13 min]
Sukhodol / The Dry Valley (Aleksandra Strelyanaya, 2011) [10 min]
It! (Herbert J. Leder, 1967) [7 min]
Salomé (Téo Hernandez, 1976) [3 min]


notable online media

top:
-
rest:
Stateless: E. Elias Merhige
Meltdown dinner with Khris Kaneff [by Damon Packard]
Al Pacino is: Ace Ventura [deepfake]
AUDREY AND KATE × Yoyoka ”Bulls on Parade” Rage Against the Machine Cover / Session With Yoyoka
Nardwuar vs. Marilyn Manson - The Extended Version
[more QT and Brad Pitt shit]
vincent gallo performs at fondazione alda fendi esperimenti

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#6

Post by sol » January 27th, 2020, 2:22 am

Onderhond:

A Dark Song was a nice surprise. I thought that I knew where it was heading from the moment where makes her undress as part of the ritual, but the film continued to take twists and turns even after this, while constantly looking at the power of grief to make one do and believe in incredible things.

I hate found footage films in general, so the fact that I gave Cloverfield two stars on my scale is actually pretty good. In terms of the Cloverfield universe, 10 Cloverfield Lane impressed me a lot more, though I did not realise until the end of that one that the two films were meant to be related. Have not seen Paradox yet based on the poor reviews.

Ha, I actually expected I Am Mother to be pretty plain myself as a Netflix Original, so it surpassed my (lowish) expectations. The human/robot bonding stuff was great; the rest of the film though was far more generic.

Underwater is very acceptable for what it is. Somewhat generic for a horror movie (even the creature design is overly familiar) but with enough spectacular thrills and chills along the way to ensure that it is never boring.

Yours:

Liked Foxx's performance and the sound design of Ray at the time, but haven't seen it since around Oscar Season 2004. I have seen Alice Sweet Alice more recently, but all that I recall off-hand is thinking that the filmmakers made quite a bit out of what seemed like a slim did-she-or-didn't-she premise.

I am pretty sure that I watched A Diary for Timothy for one of the Challenges last year, but I can't even remember which. Clearly the film has not stuck with me in the months since. :unsure:
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#7

Post by funkybusiness » January 27th, 2020, 3:30 am

@sol: Has Anybody Seen My Gal: Starting out like any number of 1951-2 films set in the late '20s, such as Singin' in the Rain, starring Piper Laurie, obviously styled as a knockoff Debbie Reynolds, with a mother who looked like a knockoff Ava Gardner! I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Coburn is definitely the highlight, and despite my constant dislike of the typical "child actor" performance, Roberta was charming, especially, as you mentioned, when paired with Coburn.

back to Piper Laurie, did you get the impression, as I did, that they were trying not to focus on her? I don't mean on her character or storyline, I mean physically avoiding pointing the camera directly at her? Like, we mostly see her from the side, or three-quarter, usually mid-shots or even wides. If she's ever near the center of the frame, she's paired with someone, to distract us from her image. I can't remember seeing a single straight-on head-shot close-up of her the whole film, at least, not for very long, and she's supposed to be the leading lady! There should be a bunch of close-ups! There are more close-ups of the older brother...(Howard?) than of Piper Laurie. Something was up.

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#8

Post by mightysparks » January 27th, 2020, 3:59 am

@sol - Thought Flash Gordon was a lot of good, campy fun (normally don't like campy stuff, though). Rewatched The Island last week so my thoughts are there, but yeah there was so much more potential and they just went for generic action flick. Constantine is on my rewatch list as I felt I might not hate it as much as I did back in 2005 (I gave it a 2/10).. but maybe not lol. Love Cloverfield, top 20 and easy 10/10 for me. Almost didn't see it at the cinema because it looked so dumb but was on the edge of my seat the whole time, even the opening 20 minutes which I love. But I loooove found footage. Don't remember The Jacket much but I hated it. A Dark Song is great, amazing tension and idea, just hated the ending. Felt about the same about I Am Mother. Underwater sounds like possible fun, watchlisted.

@Onderhond - Felt the same about Ray. I liked Alice, Sweet Alice a little bit more than you but mostly agree with those points.
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#9

Post by sol » January 27th, 2020, 4:41 am

funky:

Huh... now that you mention it, I think you might be right about the camera not focusing on Piper Laurie. Then again, I was surprised by how relatively unimportant her character is to the overall film. Given how she is meant to be the splitting image of the girl who Charles Coburn once fell in love with, I had expected her to factor a lot more into the narrative. I guess the filmmakers realised that they really had something in the actress cast as the younger sister and played that angle up instead, but for a top-billed cast member, I'd say that Laurie has only the 4th or 5th most screen time behind Coburn, Hudson, the sister and the mother.

mighty:

Yeah, anything found footage style is generally going to grind my gears, so I was never going to love Cloverfield, but I had hoped for something more. Oh, well. On the contrary, I am happy that I rightly avoided seeing it in the cinema. :P

Constantine is pretty dire. The intended audience escapes me too since the film is heavily invested in the notion of a deity, heaven and hell and requires a belief in all three to work, yet I can't imagine any devout religious people sitting through the movie. :shrug:

Regarding A Dark Song, I disliked the ending too with...
SpoilerShow
...that ridiculous-looking spirit (or whatever) appearing; her final line, telling the spirit that her one wish is to have the power to forgive....
...gee, that really resonated with me. The build-up until then makes us think that she's only interested in making contact for the darkest of reasons, and yet the not-so-dark thing she is asks for is indeed one of the hardest things to ever have in life.

I don't know if I would call Underwater a "fun" film. It's harmless enough, but it's not especially good or anything.
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#10

Post by viktor-vaudevillain » January 27th, 2020, 12:42 pm

Yella (Christian Petzold, 2007) - 9+

Lothringen! (Straub & Huillet, 1994) - 6

There's Always Tomorrow (Douglas Sirk, 1955/56?) - 8

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017) - 7+

Baby Face (Alfred E. Green, 1933) - 8

The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967) - 9

The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019) - 6

In My Room (Ulrich Köhler, 2018) - 8++

Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013) - 5
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#11

Post by Cinepolis » January 27th, 2020, 1:06 pm

@sol
I like found footage movies, but Cloverfield didn't do much for me too.
Constantine is a really bland movie. Watched it on TV once and found the humor to be very distracting.
The Vampire Journals is an okay b-movie in my opinion. I'm a sucker for Full Moon productions.

@Perception
Begotten is a weird one, but it's also oddly fascinating.

My watches:

Madagascar (Fernando Perez, 1995) - 6/10
Kompozim (Stefan Taci, 1992) - 6/10
Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995) - 7/10
The Magician (Scott Ryan, 2005) - 7/10
Mortal Remains (Mark Ricche, 2013) - 7/10

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#12

Post by peeptoad » January 27th, 2020, 2:00 pm

Hi sol, I'll post my films later on or maybe next week... not at home right now.

Of yours I love Style Wars. That's an easy 9/10 for me. It totally resonated with me, especially since I used to know people (mainly when I lived in Philly) that created street art/ graffiti that was tremendous. I even used the theme for a class assignment once back in art school. Loved the hip hop sequences as well... those two go hand in hand.
I also have somewhat fond memories of Flash Gordon, but I saw it in grade school so don't recall much other than the villain bleeding blue blood.

I disliked both The Island and S. Darko. The former is consummate Bay, and I am just not a fan (even though Ewan is eye candy for me). The latter I rated 2/10 and I recall more or less loathing it as I watched, hence no recall of anything else.

The Jacket, Cloverfield (saw this in the cinema on release), and A Dark Song all have interesting qualities. Probably have those rated in the 6-7 range for the most part. I do recall not liking the ending of Dark Song (and also not liking shakycam re: Cloverfield, but that's not specific to that film).

Long Weekend is great... 8/10.

Cheers, hope you have a good work week.

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#13

Post by sol » January 27th, 2020, 3:52 pm

Cinepolis:

Nice to know that I am not alone on Cloverfield, though interesting to hear that you're a found footage fan like mighty is. I don't know if I recall much humour in Constantine beyond Keanu's lame assistant, but yeah it is a little bland and generic for a film of its sorts.

I actually have Vampire Journals down as the worst film that I have seen in 2020 (so far). I'm a big horror fan, but I have never really been into vampire movies, and vampire melodramas even less so. The only vampire films that I really like are those that push the boundaries; Martin and Vampire's Kiss would probably top a personal favourite vampire films list were I to try to compile one.

Yours:

Only seen Ghost in the Shell, which I recall as a really interesting precursor to the likes of The Matrix, but it has been ten years since I have seen it.

peeps:

Hi, peeps - I was wondering about you since you usually post within 24 hours of the thread being opened. Good to know you're still around and okay.

Yeah, I can see how with that background a film like Style Wars was always bound to be up your alleyway. Unfortunately, I have never been too taken aback by graffiti or break-dancing (though Exit Through the Gift Shop was really good) so I was a little more on the side of the authorities while watching the film. Sounds like a nuisance job having to constant scrub it off etc.

S. Darko is actually in the IMDb Bottom 100, so you're certainly not alone in disliking it, but it sort of worked for me. Obviously, it is a big step down from the chilling and atmospheric original, but I love time paradoxes, the child kidnapping subplot intrigued me and gee, she reaches right into her television set just like James Woods in my favourite film. Can't not love that.

Yeah, shaky camerawork - I'm not generally a fan either - especially in horror films where it seems to be used to force an extra effect. Some non-horror films have made great use of shaky camerawork though - most notably Captain Phillips.

Long Weekend was a perfect film to watch for the Australia Day long weekend. :D Also, something interesting to revisit after the mild disappointment of Underwater, which could have really benefited from more of a Long Weekend route...
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#14

Post by mightysparks » January 28th, 2020, 12:41 am

Finally finished writing up the last couple.

Hud (1963) 5/10 IMDb Western Top 50, bronze
This is pretty unremarkable but has a handful of memorable moments. It feels too much like a play at times, with those monologues and stagey talky scenes. Paul Newman is pretty bland and seems miscast, he doesn't have the charisma to make the character charming enough nor is he a strong enough actor to be despicable at the same time. Patricia Neal is the most enjoyable actor, though her performance is still too theatrical and she doesn't have a lot to do. The dad and the nephew characters were kind of a waste; the teenage character was just silly and Hud and his father's relationship could've been developed further. The sheep scene was pretty sad, though.

Little Women (2019) 5/10
Having finished reading the book for the first time a few days before seeing the film, it was still pretty fresh in my mind. The film is about on par with the book and does a good job at capturing the essence of it, though has a little more life. The actors do a good job at bringing more personality to their respective characters, but Beth is still completely pointless. They also have great chemistry together and feel like a genuine family. I didn't appreciate some of the changes to the book, such as Gerwig's decision for it to partly follow Alcott's life rather than be a straight adaptation of a book, so all the 'make sure the woman is married at the end' and the 'fantasy' ending fell flat and rang false. The film treated its women considerably better than the book, but also gives too many excuses for the sexist crap in the book.

The jumping back and forth between their younger selves and older selves also didn't really work and skipped a lot of development. It spoils so many things and makes it clear this is only made for the fangirls. It seemed one timeline would give us some information, then we'd jump to the other and it would immediately resolve. This affected things like Beth's plot, Laurie and Jo's relationship (barely existent in the film), Laurie in general (skipped his 'nice guy' phase, also he cries that he changed all these aspects of his personality and behaviour that we never witness). The one thing it improved upon was making it less sexist by having the women more or less still exist after they get married, whereas in the book they are just referred to as "Mrs. Husband" and become shells of their former selves. Also, none of the actors were convincing as their younger selves which was a major failure of the film. Florence Pugh at 19/20 in a classroom of 12 year olds is laughable and her crying tantrum afterwards just looks like a 20 year old idiot crying like a baby.

The romances are handled poorly. John Brooke is turned into a pathetic, but amazingly loving husband instead of an abusive asshole. Gerwig's decision to make Bhaer a backdrop was apparently due to her wanting Jo's first love to be her writing (which is done effectively) but Bhaer is even worse in the film than in the book. He's old and creepy in the book, and they have no chemistry in either the book or the film, but the film turns him into a total joke particularly by making him ugly instead of old. Laurie and Amy are even less convincing in the film than the book.

The costumes and set design were beautiful and were the highlight of the film.

The China Syndrome (1979) 6/10 AFI's 100 years... 100 thrills, platinum 1/2
This starts off slow and takes a while to get going, and it's never really that exciting but it's a mildly interesting thriller that avoids going too over the top. There is pretty much no score and there are no pointless romance subplots, which are two major pluses. Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon are both enjoyable enough; though nothing breathtaking, they are convincing as regular people trying to make a difference. Some of the concerns over the 'nuclear' stuff (and the cheeky microwave ad) make it feel a bit dated at times. It lacked a special something and as mentioned, though it does get more interesting as it starts to explain stuff and go into more detail it's never a thrill-ride. It felt like it was trying to be like The Andromeda Strain, but was not nearly as enthralling.

Judex (1916) 6/10 IMDb's 1910s Top 50, silver 1/2
I've been watching an episode or two every day for the last week or so. I couldn't help but think if this was made today it would be dismissed as silly, generic fluff and though it is somewhat likable and genuine in its lightness, most of its charm comes only from its age. Some episodes are entertaining, and others feel like filler. While it's not exactly a thrill-ride, it's still entertaining enough to want to watch it play out and for everything to be resolved. Strangely enough, the two kids were my favourite parts; Jean was a pretty cute kid and had good chemistry with the Licorice Kid. Diana Monti and Morales are pretty interesting bad guys, Judex and all the other 'good' guys are pretty dull, though Cocantin is sort of amusing.

The Tall Man (2012) 4/10 TSZDT nomination rec
The plot isn't at all what it appears to be, so if you're expecting some kind of creeper going around snatching kids full of jump scares are creepy moments, this isn't the film you're looking for. The actual idea is really interesting, but overly convoluted and done poorly; when the plot twist/shift occurs, one character just gives the most awkward exposition dump to the other character, followed by some flashbacks which just feel like lazy film making. Jessica Biel's performance is terrible and gets worse as the film goes on. It's impossible to care about the characters, or their plight, and the ending doesn't really work. It's poorly paced, lacks tension and is quite dull.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) 6/10 Dad rec
Taking place after T2 and skipping the previous three films, this is a decent entry as a standalone film and as a sequel. It's better than Genisys, and maybe slightly better than 3, but nothing will ever come close to capturing the magic of the first two. The opening scene is pretty cool, but after that it mostly feels like a remake of T2 with less interesting people and moments; there's a metal man, a big car chase truck scene, etc. Mackenzie Davis is an ok hero/Kyle Reese role, she's convincing enough as a badass but none of the characters are particularly memorable. The new John Connor, whose name I've already forgotten, is a total dullard and her transformation is never convincing thanks to a poor performance by the actor playing her. Linda Hamilton sounds bored and too old, though it's interesting seeing older woman playing tough guys. Also, the three leads were all women and there weren't any romances which was pretty cool, even if the characters weren't that great. Arnie's 'cameo' was pointless, and there were the usual call-backs to the original films from various characters, which didn't really work. The new villain lacked charisma, intensity and intimidation. I liked the relentlessness of the Terminator, but overall it was one of the worst. It was a decently entertaining way to kill 2 hours, but most of it will be forgotten soon.
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#15

Post by Onderhond » January 28th, 2020, 8:24 am

sol wrote:
January 27th, 2020, 3:52 pm
Only seen Ghost in the Shell, which I recall as a really interesting precursor to the likes of The Matrix, but it has been ten years since I have seen it.
GitS being one of my formative films (from before I got fully info film even), I feel I have to intervene here :sweat:
The Matrix did indeed borrow from the anime aesthetic, with some very direct references to GitS (the market scene and parking garage shoot-out for example), but both films couldn't be more different. GitS is very slow, moody and atmospheric, the Matrix is loud Hollywood trite. The most talked about scene in GitS is the midway montage, with the Matrix it's probably the bullettime effect.

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#16

Post by sol » January 28th, 2020, 8:34 am

mighty:

Hud twice in two weeks; you're a real sucker for pain, aren't you? ;)

Absolutely loved The China Syndrome at the time, especially Fonda and Lemmon's performances - and what an intense final scene for Lemmon. It has been a while since I have seen both, but I would definitely give The China Syndrome preference over The Andromeda Strain.

You have piqued my interest in Dark Fate by citing it as better than Genisys, which I liked a lot with its Back to the Future Part II edge in the way it revisited the original. But yeah, the first two films are untouchable.

Onderhond:

I'm sure I will rewatch Ghost in the Shell at some point so that I can better judge things. Anyway, I have long said that Dark City is preferable to The Matrix and it beat it by a year, but I have always had a liking for the high octane Keanu Reeves film too. :unsure:
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#17

Post by Onderhond » January 28th, 2020, 8:55 am

To each his own of course :) Just saying that both films are often compared, but in reality they don't really have that much to do with each other, except a couple of direct references.

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#18

Post by mightysparks » January 28th, 2020, 9:31 am

I usually leave my last film in my notepad so I can copy the bb codes, guess I forgot to delete Hud :whistling: I found Genisys pretty dull, though I don’t remember it too well now. I wouldn’t really say Dark Fate is a huge improvement, but I didn’t find it as boring. I really liked Terminator Salvation, and Gensisys was a bigger disappointment after that.
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#19

Post by viktor-vaudevillain » January 28th, 2020, 12:25 pm

@Sol:

Only seen Cloverfield of yours, but not since it came out... But I suppose I pretty much agree on your assessment.

Other than that, I'm interested in Judge Dredd. I really enjoyed the comic books, and I like the universe.

@joachimt:

Looking forward to seeing Blind Chance and Tetro at some point!

@PdA:

The Ister - really looking forward to this! It seems like something up your alley, what made it "only" a 6? And can you put a few words on the experience?

You're really on a Mohsen Makhmalbaf crawl at the moment. Only seen A Moment of Innocence, which I remember really liking, and The Cyclist, which i didn't care as much for. Should probably dig further into his stuff soon. Especially as I don't have many more Kiarostami's left to watch. You're not much of a Kiarostami Man are you?

Vincent Gallo as Flying Christ - Haven't heard of this before, sounds stupid, but I must watch it soon, also just to have seen Vincent Gallo's first acting job.

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Are you gonna watch more? Or have you already seen much of it? - I'm on a Curb roll at the moment myself, in season 7 now.
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#20

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » January 29th, 2020, 2:26 am

viktor-vaudevillain wrote:
January 28th, 2020, 12:25 pm
@PdA:

The Ister - really looking forward to this! It seems like something up your alley, what made it "only" a 6? And can you put a few words on the experience?

You're really on a Mohsen Makhmalbaf crawl at the moment. Only seen A Moment of Innocence, which I remember really liking, and The Cyclist, which i didn't care as much for. Should probably dig further into his stuff soon. Especially as I don't have many more Kiarostami's left to watch. You're not much of a Kiarostami Man are you?

Vincent Gallo as Flying Christ - Haven't heard of this before, sounds stupid, but I must watch it soon, also just to have seen Vincent Gallo's first acting job.

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Are you gonna watch more? Or have you already seen much of it? - I'm on a Curb roll at the moment myself, in season 7 now.
The Ister - Much of the treatises presented in the film by the various professors/philosophers I found to be highly disagreeable on the whole, though on the way they do at least provide food for thought here and there. On a visual level I felt in an unspecifiable way that the film did more than just support the words, without subverting them the images seemed to do their own thing, which opened up the contemplation on the subjects beyond the often far-fetched deductive reasoning.

Loving the shit out of Makhmalbaf, feeling quite connected to his outlook on life in his films, each new film is a winner, always surprising, always different, but unmistakably linked by the great wisdom he brings to all of them, not to speak of his sense for composing shots and the intuitive logic with which he approaches storytelling that often make them a surreal delight. Haven't seen 'A Moment of Innocence' and 'The Cyclist' yet, the contrarian in me makes me watch his most acclaimed/popular films last, also because I got into his cinema with 'Scream of the Ants', the quality of which I didn't expect to carry over into the director's other work, attributing my admiration for it more to my personal special interest in Hindu philosophy that the film so heavily deals with, plus the film felt about as Iranian to me as a Christopher Nolan film (trying to trigger OldAle here...) and I assumed it was a very untypical film in his œuvre also because it seemed little seen and little liked, so I didn't pursue Makhmalbaf any further for almost a year until watching 'Gabbeh' pretty much on a whim, which might be a good place to start with Makhmalbaf, by the way, or, you know, to continue, in your case, it has something of a likeness to Parajanov's film, I don't know if you have seen or like his films.
Yeah, no, Kiarostami hasn't done much for me so far.

Vincent Gallo as Flying Christ - Not a terrible viewing if you ever got about 15 seconds to spare (the 21 min listing on IMDb is incorrect and probably based on the YouTube video where somebody made a 21-minute loop out of it).

Curb Your Enthusiasm - I've seen the whole series years and years ago, mostly on my laptop during three summers or so, sitting on the balcony worshiping the sun. Except that I stopped watching season 9 halfway through because at the time I felt that the writing has gotten too contrived, I figured the show has run its course for me. So I also had no hope for season 10 and didn't even intend to watch it when I heard about another season coming. Clearly those two episodes worked for me, maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it at the time and I might catch up on the rest of season 9 on some future summer days.
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#21

Post by sol » January 29th, 2020, 9:36 am

vik:

Fans of the comic seem to prefer the 2012 film Dredd over the Sylvester Stallone film, or at least judging by the reviews that I read of the Stallone film. Sounds like a lot was altered to create a Sly action blockbuster, and while not terrible of its sort of anything, the 1995 film has done nothing to make me interested in seeing the later version.

Cloverfield was, mm, a case of "could have been interesting" to me. While it frustrated me a little, I thought it was initially kind of neat how the camera refused to focus on the monsters and only gave us fleeting glimpses, letting our imaginations fill in the gaps - but then, towards the end we see a lot, lot more.

Yours:

Agreed about The Farwell not being particularly remarkable. I did have a much higher opinion of Behind the Candelabra though. Great reverse-aging make-up, and I thought that both Damon and Douglas were terrific, though Liberace does remain a bit of an enigma by the end.

Yeah, Lady Bird is a solid film, but it does annoy me a bit that it gained so much awards attention and rave reviews when the same sort of coming-of-age territory has been handled equally as dynamically by the less popular likes of The Edge of Seventeen and Eighth Grade in recent years.
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#22

Post by viktor-vaudevillain » January 31st, 2020, 12:08 pm

Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
January 29th, 2020, 2:26 am
viktor-vaudevillain wrote:
January 28th, 2020, 12:25 pm
@PdA:

The Ister - really looking forward to this! It seems like something up your alley, what made it "only" a 6? And can you put a few words on the experience?

You're really on a Mohsen Makhmalbaf crawl at the moment. Only seen A Moment of Innocence, which I remember really liking, and The Cyclist, which i didn't care as much for. Should probably dig further into his stuff soon. Especially as I don't have many more Kiarostami's left to watch. You're not much of a Kiarostami Man are you?

Vincent Gallo as Flying Christ - Haven't heard of this before, sounds stupid, but I must watch it soon, also just to have seen Vincent Gallo's first acting job.

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Are you gonna watch more? Or have you already seen much of it? - I'm on a Curb roll at the moment myself, in season 7 now.
The Ister - Much of the treatises presented in the film by the various professors/philosophers I found to be highly disagreeable on the whole, though on the way they do at least provide food for thought here and there. On a visual level I felt in an unspecifiable way that the film did more than just support the words, without subverting them the images seemed to do their own thing, which opened up the contemplation on the subjects beyond the often far-fetched deductive reasoning.

Loving the shit out of Makhmalbaf, feeling quite connected to his outlook on life in his films, each new film is a winner, always surprising, always different, but unmistakably linked by the great wisdom he brings to all of them, not to speak of his sense for composing shots and the intuitive logic with which he approaches storytelling that often make them a surreal delight. Haven't seen 'A Moment of Innocence' and 'The Cyclist' yet, the contrarian in me makes me watch his most acclaimed/popular films last, also because I got into his cinema with 'Scream of the Ants', the quality of which I didn't expect to carry over into the director's other work, attributing my admiration for it more to my personal special interest in Hindu philosophy that the film so heavily deals with, plus the film felt about as Iranian to me as a Christopher Nolan film (trying to trigger OldAle here...) and I assumed it was a very untypical film in his œuvre also because it seemed little seen and little liked, so I didn't pursue Makhmalbaf any further for almost a year until watching 'Gabbeh' pretty much on a whim, which might be a good place to start with Makhmalbaf, by the way, or, you know, to continue, in your case, it has something of a likeness to Parajanov's film, I don't know if you have seen or like his films.
Yeah, no, Kiarostami hasn't done much for me so far.

Vincent Gallo as Flying Christ - Not a terrible viewing if you ever got about 15 seconds to spare (the 21 min listing on IMDb is incorrect and probably based on the YouTube video where somebody made a 21-minute loop out of it).

Curb Your Enthusiasm - I've seen the whole series years and years ago, mostly on my laptop during three summers or so, sitting on the balcony worshiping the sun. Except that I stopped watching season 9 halfway through because at the time I felt that the writing has gotten too contrived, I figured the show has run its course for me. So I also had no hope for season 10 and didn't even intend to watch it when I heard about another season coming. Clearly those two episodes worked for me, maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it at the time and I might catch up on the rest of season 9 on some future summer days.
The Ister - I've read my fair share of both Jean-Luc Nancy and Bernard Stiegler and find their thinking interesting, so I'd probably - more so than you - find some stuff to like in there on a theoretical level, though it could be that their thinking don't carry the weight into the cinematic medium! I'll just have to see for myself. I like the way Claire Denis utilizes Nancy's thinking in her L'intrus - which, as you may know, is a favorite of mine, so a less fictionalized and more direct cinematic representation of his thinking is of course of interest to me.

Thank you for your unfiltered thoughts on Makhmalbaf's cinema. I'm getting Gabbeh and a bunch of the others asap. Parajanov went in two different directions - I didn't find much to like in the case Pommegranates, but really liked Ancestors, but he sure posits a singular vision of cinema, which would be interesting to see reminiscences of in another director's films. "Something of a likeness to Parajanov" is not something you hear that often.

Vincent Gallo as Flying Christ - I liked the blue tint and the flying and it sure is Gallo's most memorable role, right?

Curb - I imagine it's good summer viewing on the balcony!
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#23

Post by viktor-vaudevillain » January 31st, 2020, 12:19 pm

sol wrote:
January 29th, 2020, 9:36 am
vik:

Fans of the comic seem to prefer the 2012 film Dredd over the Sylvester Stallone film, or at least judging by the reviews that I read of the Stallone film. Sounds like a lot was altered to create a Sly action blockbuster, and while not terrible of its sort of anything, the 1995 film has done nothing to make me interested in seeing the later version.

Cloverfield was, mm, a case of "could have been interesting" to me. While it frustrated me a little, I thought it was initially kind of neat how the camera refused to focus on the monsters and only gave us fleeting glimpses, letting our imaginations fill in the gaps - but then, towards the end we see a lot, lot more.

Yours:

Agreed about The Farwell not being particularly remarkable. I did have a much higher opinion of Behind the Candelabra though. Great reverse-aging make-up, and I thought that both Damon and Douglas were terrific, though Liberace does remain a bit of an enigma by the end.

Yeah, Lady Bird is a solid film, but it does annoy me a bit that it gained so much awards attention and rave reviews when the same sort of coming-of-age territory has been handled equally as dynamically by the less popular likes of The Edge of Seventeen and Eighth Grade in recent years.
Candelabra had such a bleak view of life in my opinion... hence the low score. And too didactic (in a very non-didactic way) in how it handles the materialism and superficiality of the the Liberace character. The drama took up too much of the duration of the film as well. Though I did like much of it, and sure the reverse-aging make-up and acting and stuff, but it didn't come together at all for me. 5 isn't that bad a score though.

Lady Bird - what I loved about it is the spirituality and that she actually ends up learning something from a catholic school, if not catholicism in any strict sense. I like the films thematic reliance on neighborhood, compassion, attention (to detail, to the Other) and love's many languages. I didn't expect much of it, but actually went away with a lot of food for thought.
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#24

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » January 31st, 2020, 1:53 pm

viktor-vaudevillain wrote:
January 31st, 2020, 12:08 pm
Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
January 29th, 2020, 2:26 am
viktor-vaudevillain wrote:
January 28th, 2020, 12:25 pm

Thank you for your unfiltered thoughts on Makhmalbaf's cinema. I'm getting Gabbeh and a bunch of the others asap. Parajanov went in two different directions - I didn't find much to like in the case Pommegranates, but really liked Ancestors, but he sure posits a singular vision of cinema, which would be interesting to see reminiscences of in another director's films. "Something of a likeness to Parajanov" is not something you hear that often.
In that case 'Gabbeh' maybe isn't a good choice, because it's very much the "Pomegranates" type, not the "Ancestors" type. My appreciation for those two Parajanovs also is the other way around.
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