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
I never thought I would utter the phrase "3 Idiots is the best film that I saw last week", but in a week filled with disappointments and pure drivel (Straub and Huillet), this surprisingly charming and hardly idiotic Indian comedy was just what I needed.
History Lessons (1972). In between navigating traffic in modern Rome, a young historian listens to elderly scholars ramble on about Ancient Rome this experimental narrative. The contrasting of two views on Rome may sound fascinating, but the treatment here is incredibly uncinematic. The entire first ten minutes are just spent on the historian driving, and the next nine minutes are a scholar talking non-stop without looking at the camera nor the protagonist. What's more, the filmmakers quickly run out of cutaways and end up resorting to random cuts-to-black (!) until he suddenly pauses and sits still for over a minute around a third of the way in. The final two thirds of the movie do not improve on this initial clumsiness, and with all the ramblings coming off as articles read out loud, the film is never engaging enough to be really educational either. (first viewing, online) ★
Sleepwalk (1986). Told to not let an ancient Chinese manuscript that she translating out of her sight, a young woman is beset by increasingly bizarre occurrences when she leaves the text in her office in this strange and mysterious film. The film benefits from moody audio and visuals and there are some great bits that force us to question if what we are seeing is real or imagined (the title is Sleepwalk after all) with the best of these being a surreal elevator ride. The film never resolves what is going on though. Suzanne Fletcher constantly looks sleep-deprived throughout and she states very early on how she keeps seeing computer screen flashes while in bed, but her insomnia is present before the manuscript even arrives. The film is so daringly different though that it remains appealing if confusing, though the abrupt ending certainly leaves a bitter aftertaste. (first viewing, online) ★★
Turner & Hooch (1989). Believing that a murdered friend's aggressive dog is capable of identifying the killer, a well-groomed policeman with a spotless house finds his life turned upside down when he adopts the dog in this Tom Hanks comedy. The film has some solid moments towards the end as Hanks and the dog team up to take down the bad guys, but the entire first hour here is hit-and-miss humour with far more misses than hits. The dog predictably tearing up his entire home when he is away is especially lame and drawn out, and Hanks gradually bonding with the dog by chewing towels and dog treats with him is not half as endearing as it sounds. There is also a lifeless romance in the mix. As mentioned though, the cop/dog partnership stuff is really great (and the dog in question is certainly well trained) but it is never really the focus here. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★
Death Warrant (1990). Sent undercover to investigate a prison with an unusually high death count among inmates and staff, a kickboxing cop has to avoid being identified by criminals who he incarcerated while trying to solve the mystery in this very decent Jean-Claude Van Damme action film. The ins and outs of the conspiracy are very interesting and highly satirical when revealed; Patrick Kilpatrack is also excellent as a taunting serial killer with a grudge against JCVD. Alas, the film never really focuses on the conspiracy or Kilpatrick's character as elaborate fight scenes and lots and lots of kickboxing is at the forefront - plus a smidgen of poorly developed romance. Still, this is a generally gripping ride with lots of danger hanging in the air as to whether JCVD's cover will be blown and if he will become a stat in the suspiciously high mounting death count. (first viewing, online) ★★
Double Impact (1991). Separated at birth, two equally muscular identical twins team up to take down the men responsible for their parents' murder in this Jean-Claude Van Damme action film. While the film does not milk the premise for all that it is worth (there is little of them trying to confuse the baddies by appearing in two places at once etc), the film offers JCVD a meatier role than usual. While only a haircut distinguishes them physically, JCVD convincingly comes off as two entirely different persons. He also has amazing chemistry with himself - lots of witty banter and so on. The close combat action is pretty great too. The film often feels like a mere excuse for such action and stunts (plus of course the twins gimmick), but the whole thing is easy to warm to with JCVD clearly having a great time, plus the authentic Hong Kong locations are excellent. (first viewing, DVD) ★★
Home for the Holidays (1995). Too scared to admit that she lost her job, a single mother nervously travels to her parents' house for thanksgiving in this dysfunctional family drama starring Holly Hunter. The film boasts some solid acting but never seems entirely sure what it wants to be. At its most intriguing, the movie concentrates on Hunter's gay brother, her parents' refusal to accept that he is queer and his other sister's outward disgust about it. This ultimately amounts to little more than a subplot though as focus keeps returning to Hunter and a shoehorned romance. The film is also beset by some clunky chapter divides (likely inherited from the source material) and while the film tries to make some important points about how loving even the most dysfunctional families can be, the overall film feels oddly more about Hunter learning to love again. (first viewing, online) ★
Analyze This (1999). Focusing on a notorious gangster who starts seeing a timid psychiatrist and refuses to leave him alone, Analyze This always feels like it should be a lot funnier than it actually is. Spoofing his Goodfellas and Godfather personae, Robert De Niro is expectedly great in the lead role, but the film often goes for easy laughs (De Niro's disgust over shrink Billy Crystal explaining the Oedipal complex) rather than milking the more elaborate comedic scenes for all they are worth. A running of gag of De Niro interrupting Crystal at all the most inopportune points grows tiresome too, especially Lisa Kudrow's increasing annoyance in a highly underwritten role. Things admittedly get quite funny in the final twenty minutes as Crystal is allowed to go all gangster, but this is an uneven film at best and only hilarious on the odd occasion. (first viewing, DVD) ★★
Saroja (2000). Her mother killed by soldiers and her father incapacitated, a young girl traverses the jungles of Sri Lanka and befriends another girl of a different ethnic background, but whether the other girl's family will accept her hangs in the air in this captivating drama. As a message movie, this hardly very subtle with one adult even ruing the fact that in war "children must suffer for the stupidity of adults", but the bond that develops between the two girls across cultural divides always feels authentic and genuine. Both young actresses deliver well too in their scenes apart as they question why each other is meant to be 'the enemy'. It is interesting seeing all round the island country too, and while bits and pieces of the film feel melodramatic (loud music cues as the fathers both fire into the air), the film feels very human and down-to-earth overall. (first viewing, online) ★★★
3 Idiots (2009). Hoping to track down a college buddy who vanished without a trace after graduation, two best friends reminisce about the great times they shared together in this lively comedy from India. The film has gained a mixed reputation from its questionable inclusion in the IMDb Top 250, but it is actually a pretty terrific film viewed on its own terms. Some of the humour is a little juvenile (lots of flatulence gags) and the life messages about being who you want to be are a little obvious, however, the film also offers a great satire on education, teaching and studying versus real life skills. Aamir Khan is excellent too as the missing friend - constantly cool and collected and wise beyond his years. The film is also frequently funny (a "screwed" speech is particularly amusing) and the "all izz well" stuff grows increasingly endearing as the film progresses. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★
Third Star (2010). Dying from cancer and without long left, a young man convinces his friends to take him to a serene, isolated beach in this Welsh drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch. The film goes through the expected motions for a movie about such a subject with all of his friends expressing their regrets and fears along the way. Always a classy actor, Cumberbatch levels the film up a notch, especially as he does his best to convince his friends that he is not feeling as unwell as he clearly is. The film also benefits from the four main players all interacting well like the close friends that they are, joking about helping Cumberbatch urinate, etc. The script does, however, often dip into sentimentality, whereas a movie actually focused on the friends joking, carrying on and maintaining a stiff upper lip to mask their sorrow may have been more interesting. (first viewing, online) ★★
The Bookshop (2017). Unfazed by staunch opposition, a young widow persists in opening a book store in a small English town in this drama starring Emily Mortimer. Set near the seaside, the film boasts great natural vistas, but it is a struggle finding much about else positive to say. The storybook-style voice-over narration has a very distancing effect, the film is heavy on elongated pauses and silences while light on dialogue, and the magic that Mortimer finds in reading does not really translate to screen. Add in strange techniques, such as Bill Nighy reciting letters aloud on screen, plus Patricia Clarkson as a one-dimensional antagonist whose motivation seems to be pure evil, and the whole thing feels misguided. Honor Kneafsey has some very decent moments as a lonely child who Mortimer befriends, but she alone is certainly not a reason to give this a spin. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★
Logan Lucky (2017). Described by some as a redneck Ocean's film, this heist comedy from Steven Soderbergh follows a similar formula to his trilogy but with a NASCAR track rather than a casino targeted. The characters (and inevitably the cast) are quite different too, and while some of their interactions are solid, the chemistry of Brad Pitt and George Clooney is never present. There also is no charismatic antagonist, and while one of the protagonists has some resentment stored up, it is nothing compared to the Ocean's films, especially Thirteen, which were all about revenge. The movie is certainly slickly filmed as one would expect from Soderbergh and bits and pieces of the scheme are quite clever, but a character in the film even referring to the job as Ocean's 7-Eleven only serves as a reminder of the trilogy's superiority. (first viewing, DVD) ★★
The Equalizer 2 (2018). Now working as a humble taxi driver, the vigilante from The Equalizer spends his time helping various folks in trouble until his own life is threatened in this follow-up film. Denzel Washington once again does well remaining calm and collected throughout and there are also some nifty bits once again in which his impeccable timing helps him to outwit his foes. The sequel is, however, weighed down by a formulaic surrogate son character and a rather ridiculous climax set during an over-the-top storm with obvious metaphorical significance. The film has some really good small, quiet bits and pieces though; Washington trying to reenact a reported murder/suicide, even sticking his finger in his mouth as a gun, is a real highlight - and on the action front, an attack from the backseat of his moving vehicle is very well filmed. (first viewing, DVD) ★★
Too Late to Die Young (2018). Set in rural Chile circa 1990, this coming-of-age drama looks at various adults, teenagers and children who live at some sort of commune. The tale apparently has metaphorical significance for the political situation in the country at the time, but entering the film unaware of such context, it is difficult to digest. There seems to be a few issues with some of the teenagers wanting to leave the commune and a spate of robberies in the area, but the adult characters are too dull and interchangeable to care about and the teenagers are not much better developed. Where the film really comes alive is when it focuses on the kids - one dog-loving girl in particular. She is rarely in focus though and while the interactions between the preteen kids feel very authentic, the movie only ever places them at the periphery of the events around them. (first viewing, online) ★
Uncut Gems (2019). Controlling his chronic gambling grows increasingly difficult for a debt-ridden New York jeweler in this anxiety fueled drama starring a cast-against-type Adam Sandler. While the visuals are not as strong as in Good Time from the same directing team, the film once again has a dynamite score from Daniel Lopatin that perfectly captures every heightened emotion, with chimes even used to excellent effect. This is not an easy film to warm to though since Sandler's protagonist is such a dislikeable and selfish human being; Sandler is solid during his more vulnerable moments, but it always feels like he brings all his misery upon himself. The film also follows an 'everything that can go wrong does go wrong' formula that tires before long, but this does admittedly have its potent moments as a tale of debilitating debt and addiction. (first viewing, online) ★★
Honey Boy (2019). Based closely on his own abusive childhood, this drama written by Shia LaBeouf tells of an alcoholic actor reflecting on his relationship with his father in rehab. There are several potent bits at first, but things quickly turn into a repetitive catalogue of emotional, verbal and physical abuse. The point that the film ultimately reaches (his final lines with his father) is great, but it is numbing to sit through 90 minutes of repeated abuse in the lead-up. The random memory structure of the narrative is also a bit unhelpful, offering limited chances to show character growth (there is no progression; his father is equally as abusive throughout). LaBeouf is really solid though, effectively playing his own father here, and Noah Jupe as his 12-year-old self is great, but the film's genesis as self-therapy is more intriguing than the father/son relationship. (first viewing, cinema) ★★
Terminal Island (1973). Curious as a precursor to Escape from New York, this film benefits from an intriguing notion of murderers permanently relocated to an island when the death penalty is outlawed in the US. The movie does not really capitalise on the satirical potential of the premise though, with the film quickly descending into a female empowerment tale with a new arrival encouraging the other women to rebel against the men who keep them subjugated for sexual gratification. This leads to some strong moments in which they seduce men to lure them into traps, but then again, the movie is not really about this. There is also a lot of mindless action, especially towards the end, and with a number of men ultimately banding with, supporting and fighting for the women, this is hardly a tale of women standing up and fending for themselves either. (first viewing, online) ★
The Dion Brothers (1974). Also known as The Gravy Train, this crime caper focuses on the aftermath of an armored car robbery planned by two brothers with too much trust in their colleagues. The robbery is exciting and well executed and there is much tension to the brothers sneaking out of their apartment disguised as cops after they are betrayed. The duo going on the lam while trying to track down their treacherous colleagues is far less interesting though. Margot Kidder tries to add some spunk, but her gradually complicit hostage-like character is poorly developed. There is some kooky comedy (threatening one man with a crayfish) but it is very limited as the aftermath stretch of the film falls into a series of messy action sequences as opposed to the endearing buddy-buddy comedy stuff between the two brothers in the lead-up to their felony. (first viewing, online) ★★