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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 19, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 19, 2020

#1

Post by sol » May 10th, 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

The Cocoanuts (1929). Assisted by two nonpaying guests, a broke hotel manager thwarts a brazen jewellery robbery in his establishment in this first big screen outing for the Marx Brothers. While Zeppo as usual is given little to do, Groucho, Harpo and Chico are in characteristically fine form with an especially funny open set door-knocking routine. The trio are more supporting players though in a rather dull crime story here. The film is also filled in song and dance routines that only distract from Groucho's zingers and so on. Groucho's rapport with Margaret Dumont shines less than usual too since she is not oblivious to Groucho's insults here and not charmed by him. Add in some early sound recording issues (music louder than spoken dialogue) and this feels like a film in which all concerned had a lot to learn - but as a stepping stone, it is not uninteresting. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Stagecoach (1939). Various stagecoach passengers with diverse agendas vote to continue to riding through dangerous Apache country despite news of a possible attack in this John Ford western. With unusually low camera angles as horses charge in the inevitable attack and exquisite nighttime shots near the end in low lighting, it is easy to see why Orson Welles was a big fan of the film. As a narrative though, this is less impressive. While the notion of having so many different characters with differing motivations is intriguing, the relatively short runtime leads to very few being fleshed out in depth; most are just defined through their eccentricities, while Louise Platt is completely flat. John Wayne and Claire Trevor really hit it off though, with great dynamics in Wayne's oblivion to her being a woman of ill repute and bafflement and the others shunning her. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Silver Lode (1954). Arrested by US marshals for theft and murder on his wedding day, an upstanding citizen of an outskirts town tries to prove his innocence as the his longtime friends question how well they really know him in this nifty little western. The film's politics are a little on-the-nose, but the basic story is highly dynamic, especially as the townsfolk gradually go from doubting the marshals to doubting their friend. At the same time, there is a constant overhanging uncertainty over how just how guilty he is (he admits to killing a man - but only in self-defense). The ending is a bit too pat, resolving the intriguing ambiguity regarding his guilt and burdened by some moralising speeches. For the most part though, this is an intense and involving look at swaying sympathies and the ease with which friendships can sour based on unreliable information. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Warlock (1959). Not to be confused with the 80s horror film of the same name, this western stars Henry Fonda as a mercenary hired to (unofficially) act as sheriff in a town terrorised by outlaws - something that leads to much tension when an officially deputised marshal arrives in the town that he has tried so hard to clean up himself. It is a story with definite potential with Fonda having to contend with the fact that he is not really a proper sheriff despite the fact he has put so much effort into the job. The film is never quite about this identity dilemma though with a truckload of scenes related to various subplots including a bland female romantic interest and an intriguing possible gay love interest that is never fully fleshed out. Indeed, the film feels overstuffed, clocking in at over two hours length, plus it is a dialogue-heavy affair; decent stuff but slightly lacking. (first viewing, online) ★★

Django (1966). Dragging his own coffin behind him, a mysterious stranger makes an impression in town when he kills a group of men to stop them torturing a prostitute, however, uncertainty lingers as to whether his intentions are entirely honorable in this influential spaghetti western. Supported by a terrific theme song, excellent dramatic music cues throughout and the sheer strangeness of seeing him drag the coffin around, Django gets off to an intriguing start. Things get even more interesting when it is revealed why he has the coffin with him. The eventual business purposes revelation of why he is in town is disappointing though, and the second half of the film is beset by less mysteriousness than the first half as well as suggestions of romance blooming. The ending is still brutal though; same goes for a gritty bit in which an ear is sliced off. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

'Doc' (1971). Played out chiefly from the perspective of Doc Holliday, this western takes a nontraditional approach to depicting the events leading up to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Mostly notably, Wyatt Earp seems less heroic than ever, depicted as more of a crooked politician interested in his own agendas than a man with the best interests of his town at heart. Harris Yulin makes for a curious casting choice as Earp and his scenes with Doc work very well with lots of emotion felt between the pair beyond what they have to say. With a less heroic spin also comes more languid pacing though, and outside of the Doc/Earp scenes, it is only the gunfight near the end that recaptures the tension mounted in a very early card game. The gunfight is very well filmed though with excellent attention to sound and action briefer and quicker than one might expect. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Bell from Hell (1973). Released from a mental asylum, a young man visits his aunt and female cousins where he plays increasingly wild and morbid practical jokes in this unusual thriller from Spain. While there is a revenge motive mentioned halfway in, much of the movie is unpredictable in the best possible way with so much uncertainty about what he is doing and why. The ghoulish practical jokes are highly memorable too; same goes for his stating that "there is no difference; there's only rules" on the subject of right and wrong. That said, the film feels fragmented and random throughout; even once revenge is suggested, there is never any sense that he has some sort of cunning masterplan, but perhaps that is the point: he is simply mad. Indeed, while the film seems to lose itself a bit towards the end, the thematic aptitude of this is inescapable. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Better Off Dead (1985). Depressed when his longtime girlfriend dumps him, a teenager repeatedly tries but fails to kill himself in this energetic comedy that manages to be vibrant and zany despite very dark subject matter. The plot is highly episodic and ultimately more focused on the anxieties in the protagonist's life than his suicide attempts. In fact, there is a non-sequitur vibe to much of the movie as eerie paperboys, local drag racers and high school bullies all come and go. While the lack of a solid plot is sometimes vexing, for the most part it makes everything feel nicely spontaneous. At its best, this is downright hilarious with a particular highlight being a thoughts-aloud nose signal confusion conversation. There are also several great animated scenes here and many subtle but funny background gags - especially in terms of what is being cooked for dinner. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

The Sure Thing (1985). Recovering from an awkward first date, two college students end up reluctantly hitchhiking together in this romantic comedy that put John Cusack on the map. While his character is in many ways creepy and obnoxious, Cusack has his charming moments too - most notably when pretending to be a psycho hitcher. He also has real chemistry with co-star Daphne Zuniga, who likewise has some very funny bits (asking Cusack if she hurt him) despite also not playing an especially warm or likeable character. There is also something to be said for them both frowning upon each other's reasons for crossing the country, each with validity, and the final scene tops things off well. It may be fairly easy to see where things are heading here, but this is quite a pleasant ride with lots of great small turns (including a young Tim Robbins) in the mix. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

In a Glass Cage (1986). Confined to an iron lung after a botched suicide attempt, a Nazi war criminal is visited by a young man claiming to be a trained nurse, but there is more to him than meets the eye in this dark and sometimes disturbing thriller from Spain. While the film taps into notions of revenge and retribution, it is even more intriguing as a tale of cyclic abuse, violence begetting violence and the power of key experiences to indelibly shape a person. It is not really until halfway through that things start to turn ghoulish, but once they do the film rarely lets up, frequently using the power of suggestion over more graphic possible depictions. The ending is absolutely haunting too. The film is sometimes hard to take in given that there are pretty much no sympathetic characters in sight, but it certainly takes guts to make something as a bleak as this. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Shakes the Clown (1991). Drinking to excess during his off-time, an energetic party clown is anything but behind the scenes in this comedy written by, directed by and starring Bobcat Goldthwait. Depicting the other side to being a clown long before Joker, this is a fairly original movie and much of the dark humour early on is amusing with Goldthwait bathing in the irony of his protagonist being far from the happy person that he has to pretend to be for money. Alas, considering that this is a billed as a crime comedy, the crime plot does not begin until almost a full hour in, with much of the build-up being merely random events in the clown's life, including a girlfriend whose over-the-top lisp is awkwardly played for laughs. Some of the random events are really entertaining though - including Robin Williams as an eccentric, overenthusiastic mime. (first viewing, online) ★★

The Longest Yard (2005). Arguably superior to the 70s original, this vibrant remake spends less time on the actual big game and more time on practice and training with the gradual bonding between the characters always feeling very real. This in turn renders the film compelling as a look at dissimilar persons united for a common cause. It is frequently funny too, and while a number of jokes misfire (especially those involving the girly prisoners), the decision to play the story as more of outright comedy than the original works for the better. The film still falls victim to tired sporting movie clichés such as a reliance on montages to move things along; the protagonist's ultimate decision is also very easy to predict, but this is enjoyable stuff all the same. Adam Sandler turns in a more serious than usual comedic performance while Burt Reynold's extended cameo is fun. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Hot Rod (2007). Hoping to earn the respect of his stepfather and impress the girl next door, an unemployed young man plans to complete a dangerous daredevil stunt in this comedy starring Andy Samberg. Thinking himself the next Evel Knievel with wild delusions of grandeur, Samberg's protagonist is not exactly likeable, but his unrelenting enthusiasm is easy to get behind and there are some fun moments as he and his friends train and plan for various stunts with varying success. Will Arnett is also characteristically solid as a romantic rival, though Chester Tam is the real scene-stealing here, breaking into dance at all sorts of random points. As for the story, it is no great shakes, with lots of very obvious developments and Isla Fisher's comic talents wasted in a one-note role. This is a reasonable time passer though - due to Samberg's energy if nothing else. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Bad Milo! (2013). A busy office worker discovers that his constant stomach cramps and pains are caused by a monster living inside his intestines and this horror-comedy starring Ken Marino. Even more intriguing, Marino soon finds out that the monster reacts to stress and is an id-like creation, acting on his most base urges and attacking those who cause him anxiety. While this is a nifty premise for a horror film with the whole thing very metaphorical for Marino learning to deal with stress in life, the comedy angle kind of works against this. The puppet monster effects are great, but they are mostly squandered on gross-out and juvenile gags, like Milo splattering excrement all over Marino and Marino being unable to control his flatulence. It is still a pretty interesting film overall though - especially in the scattered scenes of Milo and Marino bonding. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Bad Moms (2016). Pressure finally gets too much for a working mum after she kicks out her cheating husband in this comedy from the writers of The Hangover and 21 & Over. This is unfortunately nowhere near as funny or compelling, set over a number of days and only featuring a couple of brief heavy drinking nights. The film also takes quite a while to work out what it wants to be with infidelity and alternate love interest subplots thrown into the mix before the film settles down to a growing rivalry between Mila Kunis and Christina Applegate. It is actually kind of fun to see the pair squaring it off and trying to one-up each other, but it ends up being such a small part of this oddly sprawling affair. Even stranger though is that the end credits sequence works better than in anything in the narrative as we are shown some surprising candid interviews. (first viewing, DVD) ★

Skins (2017). Plagued by how society treats them, the lives of various Spaniards with unusual deformities intertwine in this weird but compelling film. The movie at times feels like it is set in an alternative universe with strange adoption processes, funerals and so on, but all of the emotions feel very tangible, whether it be a woman upset over father buying a mask (to hide her face) for her birthday, another feeling betrayed when her even more deformed boyfriend wants plastic surgery and so on. The film also looks amazing, filmed with pronounced pastel purples and pinks throughout, with lots of small bits of set decoration carrying the colour scheme and giving the project an otherworldly yet beautiful aura. It is sometimes hard to see what the filmmakers are going for here, especially as it jumps between story threads, but this is nicely unique and different. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Good Boys (2019). Three unpopular sixth graders go from one crazy experience to the next as they skip school to prepare for a "kissing party" in this lively comedy that has been accurately compared to South Park. While some of the gags are a little obvious as they mistake sex toys for actual toys etc., the film gets much mileage out of playing off what they know and are unsure of. The word confusion humour works really well too ("sensual harassment", "social piranha"), highlighting how arguably age inappropriate some of the stuff that they are learning about in school is. Best of all though is how they really interact and talk like kids their age. The film loses its way towards the end, becoming extremely sentimental in the final 20 minutes, but this is a generally entertaining look at three youngsters unaware of just how out of their depth they are getting. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

The Platform (2019). It feels a lot like Cube crossed with Snowpiercer as a Spaniard wakes up inside a multi-level building here where those on higher levels eat well and those below only receive their leftovers, but there is more to this thriller. A key difference is that the protagonist and his roommate are volunteers, albeit ones who signed up for different reasons, unaware of what to expect. It is a difference that the film does not exploit enough (what would drive someone to volunteer) though much about the movie, including the specific point of what seems to be a cruel sociological experiment, goes unexplained with an underwhelming abrupt ending. Still, this is a gripping watch throughout. It is loaded with atmosphere, benefits from moody sets, plus the ideas (human greed; difficulty of getting others to cooperate and share) certainly resonate. (first viewing, online) ★★★

OtherShow
Man from Del Rio (1956). Offered the job of sheriff in a lawless American town after killing three gunslingers from his past, a Mexican gunman embraces the role but comes to gradually question whether he is just being used as a puppet in this western drama. Shot in stark black and white by the formidable Stanley Cortez, the film looks gorgeous and Anthony Quinn does well playing the increasingly conflicted protagonist. Not quite enough of the film though is dedicated to his identity dilemma and the possible ulterior motives of the townsfolk who want him as their sheriff. Instead, we get an abundance of scenes of Quinn clashing with Katy Jurado as a rather dull love interest. None of the characters are especially engaging outside of Quinn though, and even so, we never quite get the lowdown on why Quinn wanted the gunslingers dead in the first place. (first viewing, online) ★★

Twisted Obsession (1989). Also known as The Mad Monkey and The Mad Monkey's Dream, this Spanish thriller features no monkeys but has some distinctive dream/nightmare aesthetics as it places us inside the mind of a depressed screenwriter. Upset over his wife leaving him, he is easily seduced by a young woman (an aptly alluring Liza Walker) who may or may not be the younger sister of his latest director. Long before Rocketman, Dexter Fletcher is interesting as the young director here who insanely wants the screenwriter to write a movie minus a script; even more weird is his sister's role in everything with a sudden disappearance providing an Eyes Wide Shut vibe. It is hard to say whether everything here adds up, but this is a daringly different look at writer's block and a man whose entire thinking is affected by an impossible task. (first viewing, online) ★★

Fun Size (2012). For a movie produced by Nickelodeon, this is a surprisingly raunchy comedy about the mischief that a young mute boy gets up to when separated from his older sister on Halloween. At its funniest and most adult, we get to see a fallen mechanical chicken hump a car; there is also the always hilarious Thomas Middleditch's nervousness about being seen to lure an eight-year-old into his car, and then his later having to admit it to a muscular man who can only comment "that's messed up". In fact, the film might have done better to have Middleditch in the lead role rather than Victoria Justice as the older sister who has to predictably discover that true love is closer than it seems during the evening. Some of the humour is still pretty juvenile and the film never really hits an After Hours vibe, but as a teen film aiming for that, it is not half-bad. (first viewing, tv broadcast) ★★

Paradise Hills (2019). Waking up after falling unconscious to discover that her parents have enrolled her in a high class finishing school, a rebellious girl plots a daring escape in this thriller co-written by Nacho Vigalondo of Timecrimes fame. The premise is almost as fascinating as Timecrimes, but the execution from first-time director Alice Waddington is lacking. The school setting is certainly perfectly unsettling, looking a bit too perfect with its opulent sets and ostentatious outfits, but the film suggests that something is amiss from too early on with its protagonist suspicious from the get-go. The film is also never as eerie as Cube or Saw (despite a similar awakening somewhere strange idea) since she knows from the start that her parents placed her there. There are still a few twists and turns, but nothing especially new or thought-provoking. (first viewing, online) ★
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prodigalgodson
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#2

Post by prodigalgodson » May 10th, 2020, 12:05 pm

Out 1, noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette, 1971) 10/10
The true fin de cinema. It's hard to know how to assess something that, within a narrative format, totally disregards conventional aesthetic values and cinematic meaning. It took 3 episodes and about 5 hours for me to get over my annoyance with the interminable purposeful inanity and start actively looking forward to what was coming next -- but by the end I was completely bowled over, in one of the strangest and most sensitive moods I can remember, and for the first time since quarantine started, didn't watch any film the following day. It demonstrates both a more innocent and more paranoid experience of the world, giving regular dingy spaces a fantastical, otherworldly feel, appealing to both naivety and analysis, offering both catharsis and disillusionment as our brains scramble to make sense of everything. That all sounds vague, but this defies conventional criticism, and highlights my shortcomings as a reviewer and just as a fan in elucidating such an experience. Projects like this show how limited we've been in the exploration of the art form, and of life in general. Definitely feels like a turning point in my cinematic journey.

Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992) 5/10
My first Sally Potter film -- the richness of the soundscape denotes a musician's approach to filmmaking off the bat, and a sensory priority continues throughout visually and sonically. The hurried clip of the rhythm initially grated on my sensibilities -- I was wondering how the story planned to condense 500 years of history into 90 minutes -- but much of the film avoids feeling too rushed with a Siddhartha-like episodic story portraying various phases of life spent prioritizing various interests. Potter seems to have immense potential as a director; there's something Wellesian in her classical but offbeat compositions, gallivanting rhythm, roguish spirit, and variance of setting, though her quirks (some of which work better than others) are unique. Swinton doesn't have the commanding presence she'd come to embody later in her career, but compensates with youthful androgynous charisma, and the actors in general inject just the right amount of irony into their lines to perfectly land the humor. I was recently reading something Tarkovsky wrote about the difficulty of adapting fully realized literary works into another medium, and without having read Woolf's acclaimed source material, I was thinking this was the exception that proved the rule.

And then! In proto-Game of Thrones fashion, it completely bungles its final act and sabotages everything it had built for the prior hour. I began feeling uneasy when Billy Zane's horribly miscast love interest appeared, and then it fast-forwards through a few centuries like the filmmakers got bored and just wanted to wrap things up, rushing towards an unearned left-field conclusion where Orlando finds themselves suddenly and inexplicably at peace with themselves despite not resolving any of their problems, because they have a kid I guess? And apparently all along the story was about letting go of the past? What a disaster. Still, there's so much quality filmmaking throughout most of the runtime it's hard to be too mad.

Still (Nietzchka Keene, 1978) 6/10
Nothing groundbreaking in and off itself in these 4 minutes, but demonstrates a lot of potential. That high-contrast black-and-white looks great, look forward to seeing more from Keene.

Aves (Nietchka Keene, 1998) 8/10
Like a synthesis of La jetee and Janie Geisier, groovy evocative stuff.

Opening Night (John Cassavettes, 1977) 4/10
For the first few minutes, I was thinking, wow it's nice to see Rowlands play a capable, grounded character for once; whelp, that didn't last long. This kind of study of an actor's process seems like a natural choice of subject matter for Cassavettes, and the focus on aging and mortality, kicked off with a fan's death at the beginning and reinforced by the play-within-a-film, seems likewise a propos to this point in his career. Unfortunately, I'm not that interested in the former, and the latter gets a half-baked treatment, with halting glimpses of different approaches to the theme, even devolving into hallucinatory pseudo-horror, before the film resolves itself with an everything's-fine-for-now-type paean to improvisation (and slight thumbing of the nose to writers). It's an oddly upbeat ending, though it's clear nothing's really resolved, and certainly as a viewer I found it unsatisfying. This has some good moments (Joan Blondell and Zohra Lampert steal all their scenes), but overall feels like a haphazard mess, one of his experiments that tends toward failure for my money.

Hinterland (Nietzchka Keene, 1981) 7/10
Eerie short tale of guilt and isolation with a vaguely mythical or metaphorical feel. Much of its appeal derives from its adept student film vibe: the location filming that looks like it was based somewhere in the Santa Monica Mountains (Keene was going to UCLA); a cool washed-out, weathered aesthetic (probably courtesy of whatever cheap 16 stock was available to students); and an odd, dreamlike mix of amateurism and assurance reminiscent of avant garde projects of the 20s and 30s. There's also some low-light photography that makes The Long Night look like, uh, Gerry.

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012) (rewatch) 5/10
Stuff Tarantino excels at: making time pass quickly, casting, ambiguous catharsis, twilight photography, music selection, entrances, conceptualizing.

Stuff Tarantino fails at: twee shit, interpolating influences, subversion, character development, music selection, satisfying conclusions, actualizing.

I have literally no idea what Peter Bradshaw means when he says Tarantino’s strength is “something to do with the manipulation of surfaces.”
Last edited by prodigalgodson on May 12th, 2020, 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#3

Post by Onderhond » May 10th, 2020, 12:28 pm

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A lot of mediocre to bad stuff. Had a few positive experience with Chinese classics last week, not so much this week. Some decent horror, but very little stand-outs and one of the worst US animation films I've ever seen. At least Chung delivered, even so I think it's one of his weakest films yet. 37 Seconds was a positive surprise though, Gutenberg also very nice (but no surprise, HK can make films like this with their eyes closed).


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01. 4.0* - A Sun [Yang Guang Pu Zhao] by Mong-Hong Chung (2019)
Another mighty fine film by Chung, though probably his most commercial outing since his debut. More focus on conventional drama and a tad long, but there are plenty of gripping moments and the visual splendor of his earlier films is still very much present. A perfect entry point for those not yet familiar with Chung's oeuvre.

02. 3.5* - Project Gutenberg [Mou Seung] by Felix Chong (2018)
Classic HK police thriller about a gang of counterfeiters. There are some explosive action scenes, some twists and turns and a lot of criminal appeal. The cast does a good job, the film looks stylish and though somewhat long, the pacing is fine. Nothing spectacular, but rock solid genre cinema.

03. 3.5* - 37 Seconds [37 Sekanzu] by Hikari (2019)
A surprisingly nice drama about a girl with cerebral palsy. While her condition dictates the direction of the plot, the film isn't all that focused on the disease and gives the characters room to breathe. Well acted, nicely directed and sporting some nice dramatic moments, without ever becoming overly sentimental.

04. 3.0* - Urusei Yatsura 5: The Final Chapter [Urusei Yatsura 5: Kanketsuhen] by Satoshi Dezaki (1988)
One of the better films in the franchise. It's nonsensical, silly and random, but that's exactly when Urusei Yatsura is at its best. The animation is decent, the tone is light-hearted (regardless of the impending apocalypse) and there are some memorable scenes. Nothing exceptional, but pretty fun nonetheless.

05. 3.0* - Darken by Audrey Cummings (2017)
Urban fantasy is a tough genre to do on a budget, so props to Cummings for giving it a fair shot. If I get nitpicky I can find quite a few things wrong with Darken, but the fact that this type of film is so rare and that Cummings shows plenty of promise makes it that I don't find it too hard to overlook many of its shortcomings. One for the fans.

06. 3.0* - The Lodge by Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz (2019)
Psychological horror that takes the drama side just a little too serious and doesn't fully deliver as a horror film. Performances are good and there are some memorable scenes, but overall the plot was a little too obvious and the styling a bit too derivative. It's not a bad film and perfect filler is you love a slow burner, but I expected more from these directors.

07. 3.0* - The Unborn by Tal Lazar (2019)
It's a shame about the somewhat muddy lore and the cheap look, because Lazar clearly has the talent to make a great horror flick. There are some cool designs here, performances are decent and the build-up is pretty effective, but the overall execution is a little lacking. Lazar shows potential though, hope he'll get a bigger budget to work with next time.

08. 3.0* - Inheritance by Vaughn Stein (2020)
A decent mystery/thriller. It just a shame the first hour is the most effective, while the finale is a bit of a letdown. Some twists and turns, but nothing too unexpected and the ending lacks punch. The acting is solid, so is the direction, but apart from Pegg's part there's nothing very memorable about this film.

09. 3.0* - Z by Brandon Christensen (2019)
A decent psychological horror film. Not the best actors and some of the special effects were a little iffy, but the scares were pretty effective and Christensen does well when building up tension. A good mix of drama and horror, with some memorable scenes, though it lacks the finish to be truly special.

10. 3.0* - The Daredevils [Za Ji Wang Ming Dui] by Cheh Chang (1979)
One of Chang's lighter martial arts films. Quite a lot of acrobatics and demonstrations in this film, with much of the actual fighting being saved for the lengthy finale. A true Shaw Bros production and a typical film for Chang, which makes it a perfect entry-level film for people not yet familiar with his work. Good fun.

11. 2.0* - 2012 by Takashi Makino (2013)
Experimental short that didn't quite do it for me. I love abstract pieces in which visuals and sound reinforce each other, but that synergy is mostly absent here. Lots of organic drones combine with abstract hyper editing to create a decent mood piece, but not one that kept me engaged for 30 minutes straight.

12. 2.0* - Bodyguard Kiba: Combat Apocalypse 2 [Bodigaado Kiba: Shura no Mokushiroku 2] by Takashi Miike (1995)
A lot of incomprehensible English dialogue makes this film much harder to appreciate than necessary. Far from Miike's best work and there is quite a bit of pointless filler, on the other hand the film does feature pretty decent action scenes and some small hints of the craziness that would make him famous. For fans only.

13. 2.0* - Elephant by Alan Clarke (1989)
The inspiration for Van Sant's Elephant, though I was exponentially more impressed with the latter. Clarke's version is pretty repetitive and while it does drive its point home, it only needs half the time for that, the rest is just unnecessary filler. A nice idea/concept that would've been better if the execution was on the same level.

14. 1.5* - The Square by Ruben Östlund (2017)
Pretty bland and pointless. It felt like a film that had many things to say, but none one single thing hit home. The direction was mediocre, the critique or the art world tired, the social critique obligatory and the comical tone felt quite out of place. No clue what other people saw in this film, but this was just a waste of time.

15. 1.5* - Jason Bourne by Paul Greengrass (2016)
A sequel that feels utterly pointless. It's as if the sole reason this reboot existed was to test the waters for people's interest in more Bourne. The actors are static, action scenes are dull (except the car chase in Vegas) and the plot is generic. For a film that no doubt cost a lot of money to make, it's subpar on almost every level.

16. 1.5* - The Howling by Joe Dante (1981)
The start of the film is not so bad, somewhat mysterious and creepy. But once it becomes a full-on werewolf flick things get iffier by the minute. The special effects are poor, the acting is mediocre and the werewolf scenes look incredibly silly. Not my favorite genre to begin with, Dante couldn't do anything to change that.

17. 1.5* - The Big Road [Dalu] by Yu Sun (1935)
Not my cup of tea. The film starts with a lengthy segment of a baby crying, which made me realize I might just prefer Chinese silents when it comes to their classic cinema. Too noisy, the acting isn't very convincing, the songs are terrible and the drama/comedy rarely works. One of the lesser Chinese classics.

18. 1.0* - Street Angel [Ma Lu Tian Shi] by Muzhi Yuan (1937)
The kind of Chinese classic I was dreading. Very noisy, with plenty of annoying musical bits, poor drama and meager comedy elements. It's extremely unsubtle, the drama isn't engaging at all and the music constantly interrupts the film. I'm sure there's an audience for this, but I'll take the more subtle Chinese classics over this any day.

19. 0.5* - Bee Movie by Simon J. Smith, Steve Hickner (2007)
Absolutely dreadful. The animation is poor, the dubbing horrendous, the plot is beyond stupid and even the life lessons feel muddled and confused. I have no idea what I've been watching, except that it was irritating from start to finish. In a niche that is hardly competitive, Dreamworks fails to be competitive.

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#4

Post by Onderhond » May 10th, 2020, 12:36 pm

@sol:
From yours, didn't like Stagecoach (1.0*) at all, but no surprise as I'm not big on classic cinema, not a fan of Ford and hate Westerns :D The Longest Yard (2.5*) was a passable Sandler flick, Hot Rod (1.5*) a disappointing Samberg. Usually like him a lot, but not in this film.

Glad to see you liked The Platform (3.5*), though I'm not really surprised. As much as our taste in films seems to differ, this is a niche (let's call it off-kilter contemporary genre cinema?) where we often seem to agree.
Oh, and Skins (4.5*) .. :cheers: one of my all-time favorites (#48), glad to see it has another fan here!

@prodigalgodson :
Only seen Django Unchained (4.0*) from yours. Not a Tarantino fan myself, you definitely forget to include "acting" in that list of fails.

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#5

Post by joachimt » May 10th, 2020, 1:04 pm

Not in the mood for comments this time.

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu AKA Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019, 6 official lists, 1470 checks) 9/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Safar (1972, 1 official list, 19 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's an official short.
Ashug-Karibi AKA Ashik Kerib (1988, 1 official list, 234 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Deux hommes dans Manhattan AKA Two Men in Manhattan (1959, 1 official list, 256 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Le silence de la mer AKA Le Silence de la Mer (1949, 5 official lists, 841 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Incident (1948, 1 official list, 27 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's an official check shorter than 70 min.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014, 1 official list, 4433 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Disney+.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009, 2 official lists, 27984 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Disney+.
A Comédia de Deus AKA God's Comedy (1995, 4 official lists, 208 checks) 4/10
Watched because it was FotW.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978, 2 official lists, 2004 checks) 4/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Plex.
Bijitâ Q AKA Visitor Q (2001, 2 official lists, 1268 checks) 3/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
The Last House on the Left (1972, 4 official lists, 5625 checks) 3/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Plex.
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#6

Post by peeptoad » May 10th, 2020, 1:40 pm

I'm also not in the mood to comment on anything except to say that The Glass Ceiling was one of the best psychological thrillers I've seen in awhile...

Pastel de Sangre (1971) Blood Pie 4
Nick (2016) 3
...ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren... (1970) 6
Underworld: Evolution (2006) 6
El aullido del diablo (1988) Howl of the Devil 6
el techo de cristal (1971) The Glass Ceiling 9
El espanto surge de la tumba(1973) Horror Rises from the Tomb 6
We Are What We Are (2013) 6
The Skull (1965) 6
À Flor do Mar (1986) Hovering Over the Water 8+

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sol
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#7

Post by sol » May 10th, 2020, 2:31 pm

Onderhond wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 12:36 pm
@sol:
From yours, didn't like Stagecoach (1.0*) at all, but no surprise as I'm not big on classic cinema, not a fan of Ford and hate Westerns :D The Longest Yard (2.5*) was a passable Sandler flick, Hot Rod (1.5*) a disappointing Samberg. Usually like him a lot, but not in this film.

Glad to see you liked The Platform (3.5*), though I'm not really surprised. As much as our taste in films seems to differ, this is a niche (let's call it off-kilter contemporary genre cinema?) where we often seem to agree.
Oh, and Skins (4.5*) .. :cheers: one of my all-time favorites (#48), glad to see it has another fan here!

@prodigalgodson :
Only seen Django Unchained (4.0*) from yours. Not a Tarantino fan myself, you definitely forget to include "acting" in that list of fails.
While I wouldn't rate it as low as you, Stagecoach certainly isn't John Ford's finest western, not by a long shot. I wonder if the film would have the same reputation without Orson Welles hyping it up.

Yeah, The Longest Yard was surprisingly decent - all the more so since I'm not a fan of the original. Without looking it up, I'm actually not sure what else I have seen with Samberg in it, but his energy and commitment to a not-so-great part was one of the most attractive things about Hot Rod.

The Platform fits in well with what I call Cubeseque cinema. I love films about locked rooms, strange goings-on and creative solutions - especially when they are loaded with as much atmosphere as this film was. Really liked the structure too and the seeming bottomless pit of levels below.

Skins was yeah, pretty amazing. I was glued to the screen the whole time. Whoever designed/decorated the sets must have been exhausted by the end of filming. Amazing all those small touches of pastel purple and pink throughout - whether it be the papers on a desk, random books on shelves or the flowers on a ledge. And of course the whole deformity / body image thing is very Cronenbergish.

Yours:

Recall Elephant being repetitive, but I think I liked it more than you, though agreed on Van Sant doing it better.

I liked The Square quite a bit. The whole film is about responsibility - what we accept and what we deny. He refuses to take responsibility for what he does to his neighbour yet has to apologise for that ridiculous museum ad even though he had nothing to do with it. Really liked this dilemma (and I'm guessing the Cannes voters did too). And that terrible ad made me laugh-out-loud. Sounds ghoulish but true; it's like on the show-within in The Producers with how poorly judged and misguided it is.

Yeah, Jason Bourne wasn't much good. I think I prefered the non-Damon previous entry? The Howling didn't do a lot for me either. On the other hand, I enjoyed Bee Movie a fair bit way back in 2007. No idea how much I would like it if I rewatched it today. At the time though, I hadn't seen a full 'Seinfeld' episode and in the time since I have watched the entire series...
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#8

Post by Onderhond » May 10th, 2020, 3:41 pm

sol wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 2:31 pm
I'm actually not sure what else I have seen with Samberg in it, but his energy and commitment to a not-so-great part was one of the most attractive things about Hot Rod.
A rare instance where I like one's work outside of cinema more I guess. He's pretty fun in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but his work is with The Lonely Island, though that includes the film Never Stop Never Stopping. If you're still looking for a fun comedy for this one, I liked that one a lot.
sol wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 2:31 pm
The Platform fits in well with what I call Cubeseque cinema. I love films about locked rooms, strange goings-on and creative solutions - especially when they are loaded with as much atmosphere as this film was. Really liked the structure too and the seeming bottomless pit of levels below.
Yeah. I'd like to add The Circle to that list, but I think remembering you've seen that already :) I like these kind of films too, not too many around though.
sol wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 2:31 pm
Skins was yeah, pretty amazing. I was glued to the screen the whole time. Whoever designed/decorated the sets must have been exhausted by the end of filming. Amazing all those small touches of pastel purple and pink throughout - whether it be the papers on a desk, random books on shelves or the flowers on a ledge.
You should look up an image of the director, then suddenly it all makes sense :D
sol wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 2:31 pm
I liked The Square quite a bit. The whole film is about responsibility - what we accept and what we deny. He refuses to take responsibility for what he does to his neighbour yet has to apologise for that ridiculous museum ad even though he had nothing to do with it. Really liked this dilemma (and I'm guessing the Cannes voters did too). And that terrible ad made me laugh-out-loud.
I still don't see the dilemma I'm afraid. Regarding his job, that's just 200% what a job like that entails. I have just no clue what I should take away from this film, or what I should be thinking about afterwards.
sol wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 2:31 pm
On the other hand, I enjoyed Bee Movie a fair bit way back in 2007. No idea how much I would like it if I rewatched it today. At the time though, I hadn't seen a full 'Seinfeld' episode and in the time since I have watched the entire series...
Haven't seen any Seinfeld either, but based on Bee Movie I won't be watching anything anytime soon!

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#9

Post by We Are One » May 10th, 2020, 11:43 pm

lol. I don't think you can use Bee Movie to gauge how much you'd like Seinfeld. That'd be like using The Ellen Show to gauge Finding Nemo.

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#10

Post by kongs_speech » May 11th, 2020, 1:24 am

It was such a brief week for me. I slept a lot and listened to many albums, so I only saw a few films. I'll do better this week. Since there are so few, I guess I'll do write-ups.

The Strange Little Cat (2013, Ramon Zurcher) Recommended by a friend, this is a lovely little foreign film that isn't very long but made an impression on me. Those looking for a plot will be turned off, but as a work of authentic character interaction, I found it to be pretty damn good. 4/5

Parting Glances (1986, Bill Sherwood) Also recommended by that friend, the very low budget indie Parting Glances is a somewhat under the radar milestone in queer cinema. As with The Strange Little Cat, it's a film where the character interactions are what you want to focus on. In his first film role, Steve Buscemi delivers a wonderful turn as a snarky, bitter young gay man wrestling with his inevitable death from the AIDS he has contracted. It's a film that is both powerful and funny, despite the grim material. Too bad Sherwood never made anything else. 4/5

Mortal Thoughts (1991, Alan Rudolph) Told through flashbacks, this suspenseful thriller stars a very good Demi Moore as a woman recounting to police the story of the mysterious murder of her friend's abusive husband (Bruce Willis) and the ensuing chaos. This is a pulpy little flick that has slipped way under the radar over time, and until my friend wanted to watch it online together on his birthday, I had never heard of it. Willis, taking the rare opportunity to play a villain, has perhaps never been better. If he didn't insist on being an action hero, he could have led a much more interesting career. 4/5

Ghost (1990, Jerry Zucker) I may get laughed off the forum for this one, but I didn't expect much and it blew me away. Such an original film that seamlessly bounces between many genres would have little chance of getting made in today's studio system. Patrick Swayze, perhaps not the world's most gifted thespian, does his part well enough, and the cast around him is outstanding, especially Whoopi, who earned her Oscar. I found it very moving and a thrill from start to finish. 5/5

Midwinter Sacrifice (1946, Gosta Werner) There isn't much to say about this short. The cinematography is pretty, but it's just a pagan sacrificial ceremony and nothing else. Even at 12 minutes, I got a bit bored of it. I find it hard to believe this is one of the best obscurities to come out of Sweden. 2.5/5

Hustlers (2019, Lorene Scafaria) Hustlers surprised me even more than Ghost, because I did not expect it to be good. The film tells a compelling true crime story that makes its characters three-dimensional while not trying to justify their behavior at all. When it came out last year, I was annoyed by all the comparisons to Goodfellas, but it really did remind me a bit of Goodfellas. Jennifer Lopez should have easily received an Oscar nod. Cardi B and Lizzo are clearly not professional actors, but fortunately, they aren't in the movie much. 4/5
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#11

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » May 11th, 2020, 2:41 am

Arcanum (Sanjay F. Sharma, 2009) 8-/10
game onShow
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If you wanted to be by the beach right now, create the thought.
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The closer you get to the source,
the more powerful your mind will become,
tempting you not to leave it.
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Will you reach the ultimate?

Schatten der Engel (Daniel Schmid; written by RWF, 1976) 8/10

Call for Dreams (Ran Slavin, 2018) 6/10

Sur Faces (Ed Emshwiller, 1977) 6/10

The Song of Ceylon (Basil Wright, 1934) 7/10

Disappearing World: The Tuareg (Charlie Nairn, 1972) 6/10

Cloud Atlas (the Wachowski Starship, 2012) (3rd viewing) 7-/10 (from 6)

Sátántangó / Satantango (Béla Tarr, 1994) (2nd viewing) 9/10


shorts

Wolkenschatten (Anja Dornieden & Juan David Gonzalez Monroy, 2014) (2 viewings) 9-/10
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Les berceaux (Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1935) (2 viewings) 3+/10

Dancing on the Moon (Dave Fleischer, 1935) 4/10

The Lady in Red (Friz Freleng, 1935) 5/10

Polychrome Fantasy (Norman McLaren, 1935) (2 viewings) 4/10

Kaleidoscope (Len Lye, 1935) (2 viewings) 6+/10


music videos

Ludacris ft. Sleepy Brown: Saturday (Oooh! Ooooh!) (possible rewatch)

Ludacris: Rollout (My Business) (rewatch)


series

The Joe Rogan Experience - #1284 - Graham Hancock (2019) 8/10
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The Joe Rogan Experience - #872 - Graham Hancock & Randall Carlson (2016) 8-/10

Magical Egypt - Ep1 - "The Invisible Science" (Chance Gardner, 2001) 6/10

Rick & Morty - S04E06 - "Never Ricking Morty" (2020) (2 viewings) 7+/10


other

Joe Rogan: Triggered (2016) 6/10

Joe Rogan: Strange Times (2018) 5+/10

Joe Rogan Live from the Tabernacle (2012) 6/10

Joe Rogan: Talking Monkeys in Space (2009) 6+/10

Joe Rogan: Rocky Mountain High (2014) 5+/10


didn't finish

Circle in the Sand (Michael Robinson, 2012) [9 min]
Ulysses (Joseph Strick, 1967) [9 min]
Brief History of Disbelief / Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief - Ep1 - "Shadows of Doubt" (2004) [5 min]


notable online media

top:
Graham Hancock - The War on Consciousness BANNED TED TALK
Why The Hell Are People Suddenly Googling "Prayer"? | Russell Brand
Randall Carlson's Cosmic Patterns and Cycles of Catastrophe - First 2 hours of 4 total [started]
[various Joe Rogan Experience clips (Uncontacted Tribes, Baby-Stealing Monkey on Bike, Best of the Week]
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors | Cosmos: Possible Worlds
IT'S ALWAYS YOU [supercut]
The Universe App | Kevin James Short Film
Where Are the Stars? See How Light Pollution Affects Night Skies | Short Film Showcase
rest:
The 3 Types Of Meditation Explained! | Russell Brand Podcast
Joe Rogan Experience #1353 - Rob Zombie [partly]
Curb your vegetarian dog
This Game Is $200 On Steam


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#12

Post by kongs_speech » May 11th, 2020, 2:45 am

Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
May 11th, 2020, 2:41 am
Cloud Atlas (the Wachowski Starship, 2012) (3rd viewing) 7-/10 (from 6)
I was stunned by Cloud Atlas in theaters, but I haven't revisited it. I really ought to see how it holds up. At the time, it was a 4.5/5.
sol wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 12:00 pm
Shakes the Clown (1991). Drinking to excess during his off-time, an energetic party clown is anything but behind the scenes in this comedy written by, directed by and starring Bobcat Goldthwait. Depicting the other side to being a clown long before Joker, this is a fairly original movie and much of the dark humour early on is amusing with Goldthwait bathing in the irony of his protagonist being far from the happy person that he has to pretend to be for money. Alas, considering that this is a billed as a crime comedy, the crime plot does not begin until almost a full hour in, with much of the build-up being merely random events in the clown's life, including a girlfriend whose over-the-top lisp is awkwardly played for laughs. Some of the random events are really entertaining though - including Robin Williams as an eccentric, overenthusiastic mime. (first viewing, online) ★★

The Longest Yard (2005). Arguably superior to the 70s original, this vibrant remake spends less time on the actual big game and more time on practice and training with the gradual bonding between the characters always feeling very real. This in turn renders the film compelling as a look at dissimilar persons united for a common cause. It is frequently funny too, and while a number of jokes misfire (especially those involving the girly prisoners), the decision to play the story as more of outright comedy than the original works for the better. The film still falls victim to tired sporting movie clichés such as a reliance on montages to move things along; the protagonist's ultimate decision is also very easy to predict, but this is enjoyable stuff all the same. Adam Sandler turns in a more serious than usual comedic performance while Burt Reynold's extended cameo is fun. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Hot Rod (2007). Hoping to earn the respect of his stepfather and impress the girl next door, an unemployed young man plans to complete a dangerous daredevil stunt in this comedy starring Andy Samberg. Thinking himself the next Evel Knievel with wild delusions of grandeur, Samberg's protagonist is not exactly likeable, but his unrelenting enthusiasm is easy to get behind and there are some fun moments as he and his friends train and plan for various stunts with varying success. Will Arnett is also characteristically solid as a romantic rival, though Chester Tam is the real scene-stealing here, breaking into dance at all sorts of random points. As for the story, it is no great shakes, with lots of very obvious developments and Isla Fisher's comic talents wasted in a one-note role. This is a reasonable time passer though - due to Samberg's energy if nothing else. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Bad Milo! (2013). A busy office worker discovers that his constant stomach cramps and pains are caused by a monster living inside his intestines and this horror-comedy starring Ken Marino. Even more intriguing, Marino soon finds out that the monster reacts to stress and is an id-like creation, acting on his most base urges and attacking those who cause him anxiety. While this is a nifty premise for a horror film with the whole thing very metaphorical for Marino learning to deal with stress in life, the comedy angle kind of works against this. The puppet monster effects are great, but they are mostly squandered on gross-out and juvenile gags, like Milo splattering excrement all over Marino and Marino being unable to control his flatulence. It is still a pretty interesting film overall though - especially in the scattered scenes of Milo and Marino bonding. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Bad Moms (2016). Pressure finally gets too much for a working mum after she kicks out her cheating husband in this comedy from the writers of The Hangover and 21 & Over. This is unfortunately nowhere near as funny or compelling, set over a number of days and only featuring a couple of brief heavy drinking nights. The film also takes quite a while to work out what it wants to be with infidelity and alternate love interest subplots thrown into the mix before the film settles down to a growing rivalry between Mila Kunis and Christina Applegate. It is actually kind of fun to see the pair squaring it off and trying to one-up each other, but it ends up being such a small part of this oddly sprawling affair. Even stranger though is that the end credits sequence works better than in anything in the narrative as we are shown some surprising candid interviews. (first viewing, DVD) ★

Fun Size (2012). For a movie produced by Nickelodeon, this is a surprisingly raunchy comedy about the mischief that a young mute boy gets up to when separated from his older sister on Halloween. At its funniest and most adult, we get to see a fallen mechanical chicken hump a car; there is also the always hilarious Thomas Middleditch's nervousness about being seen to lure an eight-year-old into his car, and then his later having to admit it to a muscular man who can only comment "that's messed up". In fact, the film might have done better to have Middleditch in the lead role rather than Victoria Justice as the older sister who has to predictably discover that true love is closer than it seems during the evening. Some of the humour is still pretty juvenile and the film never really hits an After Hours vibe, but as a teen film aiming for that, it is not half-bad. (first viewing, tv broadcast) ★★
Lots of comedies this week for you. Nothing wrong with that!

I rather like Shakes the Clown. While I've enjoyed most of his films, I feel that it's the closest Bobcat has come to translating his bizarre sense of humor to the cinematic medium. Adam Sandler is quite funny in his small role, and overall, I definitely felt it was worth the $1 I paid for the DVD, which I will rewatch someday. 3.5/5

I haven't seen The Longest Yard, but your review makes me very interested. I enjoy nearly all of Sandler's comedies from that era, plus I'm a big football guy. I'm sort of surprised I've never gotten around to it, but it honestly didn't look that good. I'll grab it the next time I come across a cheap DVD.

Hot Rod is idiotic, but in a way that I find very charming and humorous. Samberg is perfectly cast, but it's Danny McBride who steals the show for me. "I've been drinking green tea all goddamn day" is one of my favorite movie lines to quote. It's by no means quality cinema, but I could watch it any time. 3.5/5

Unfortunately, Bad Milo! (picked up from the same Dollar Tree haul as Shakes last summer) didn't work for me at all. I did appreciate Marino's committed, energetic performance and the visual effects, but I found the ultra-crass and lowbrow humor off-putting. I love that kind of thing most of the time, but it just didn't work for me in a film where I wanted more actual horror and dramatic tension. Feces can be one of the funniest topics for comedy, but if you're going to do it, you either have to be smart about it or aggressively stupid. By that standard, Bad Milo! either goes too far or, perhaps, not far enough. Plus, how the hell are you going to cast Gillian Jacobs, one of the finest comedic actresses of today, and give her nothing fun to do? They Britta'd it. 2/5

I didn't see Bad Moms. I like the cast, but I've seen enough "Bad [insert usually mild-mannered type of person]" movies to last a lifetime. I do enjoy the first Hangover, and 21 & Over is better than it gets credit for. I just can't muster any interest in this one.

Fun Size was originally written as an R-rated script and it made the prestigious Black List. That version of the film, had it been made, could have resulted in a modern teen classic. The elements are there, but as with Milo!, the elements that work are buried under way too much sophomoric bullshit. The little brother is highly annoying. Victoria Justice is a wooden actress, but there are pretty good performances from the always likable Jane Levy and the rarely tolerable Chelsea Handler. I agree with you that Thomas Middleditch's character definitely should have been the star of the film. Also, it goes way too sentimental at the end, which feels unearned after the parade of juvenile hijinks. But I will say, that giant chicken scene is highly amusing. 2/5
prodigalgodson wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 12:05 pm
Out 1, noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette, 1971) 10/10
The true fin de cinema. It's hard to know how to assess something that, within a narrative format, totally disregards conventional aesthetic values and cinematic meaning. It took 3 episodes and about 5 hours for me to get over my annoyance with the interminable purposeful inanity and start actively looking forward to what was coming next -- but by the end I was completely bowled over, in one of the strangest and most sensitive moods I can remember, and for the first time since quarantine started, didn't watch any film the following day. It demonstrates both a more innocent and more paranoid experience of the world, giving regular dingy spaces a fantastical, otherworldly feel, appealing to both naivety and analysis, offering both catharsis and disillusionment as our brains scramble to make sense of everything. That all sounds vague, but this defies conventional criticism, and highlights my shortcomings as a reviewer and just as a fan in elucidating such an experience. Projects like this show how limited we've been in the exploration of the art form, and of life in general. Definitely feels like a turning point in my cinematic journey.

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012) (rewatch) 5/10
Stuff Tarantino excels at: making time pass quickly, casting, ambiguous catharsis, twilight photography, music selection, entrances, conceptualizing.

Stuff Tarantino fails at: twee shit, interpolating influences, subversion, character development, music selection, satisfying conclusions, actualizing.

I have literally no idea what Peter Bradshaw means when he says Tarantino’s strength is “something to do with the manipulation of surfaces.”
I want to see Out 1 (haven't seen any Rivette yet), but I'm scared. I may love it, or I may be completely befuddled. I feel like my reaction will be one extreme or the other. I want to watch it on Kanopy someday, but it takes eight damn credits. I have Celine and Julie Go Boating on my hard drive, so I'll watch that first.

I give Django a 3.5/5, but I think you're absolutely right about the lack of a satisfying conclusion. It drags on 30 minutes past the point that should have been the ending. Did we seriously need to see Tarantino stumble his way through what could generously be described as an Australian accent? I think not. I would have given the film a 4.5 if the third act wasn't so damned sloppy.
Onderhond wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 12:28 pm
19. 0.5* - Bee Movie by Simon J. Smith, Steve Hickner (2007)
Absolutely dreadful. The animation is poor, the dubbing horrendous, the plot is beyond stupid and even the life lessons feel muddled and confused. I have no idea what I've been watching, except that it was irritating from start to finish. In a niche that is hardly competitive, Dreamworks fails to be competitive.
I'm going to have to totally disagree here. Yes, the plot is preposterous and there isn't any real "message." It's pretty easily the most surreal children's animated film to come out of a major studio this century, and I applaud that. I find many of the gags funny. I'm not a huge Seinfeld fan, but I have a lot of love for Bee Movie. 3.5/5
joachimt wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 1:04 pm

Deux hommes dans Manhattan AKA Two Men in Manhattan (1959, 1 official list, 256 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.

The Last House on the Left (1972, 4 official lists, 5625 checks) 3/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Plex.
Two Men in Manhattan hasn't stayed with me, but I enjoyed it at the time I was watching it. Not top shelf Melville, to be sure. 3.5/5

I despise Wes Craven's Last House on the Left (1/5), which is why I was shocked by how good the remake is. It removes his tasteless comedic impulses and the awful music, leaving behind a much gritter and more realistic story. The parents are better developed, and the rape scene is nearly as brutal and hard to watch as the one in Irreversible. I'm of the opinion that rape, being such an atrocious crime, should be depicted graphically and savagely, but not in an exploitative way. The original film certainly failed in that regard, being about as sleazy as the gang of crooks themselves. Anyway, the remake is good stuff. Plus, one of my close friends worked on it. (3.5/5)
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#13

Post by prodigalgodson » May 11th, 2020, 4:51 am

Everyone else's (a largely one-a-piece week):

sol
Stagecoach 7 - nice review, though seems like I liked it a bit more than you -- I remember this guy Eva Yojimbo going on about what a profound portrait of America in microcosm it is :rolleyes:
Silver Lode 7 - don't really remember it, but looks like I gave it a 7 and remember liking it more than High Noon
Warlock 7 - saw this when I was going through a phase of Widmark fandom, remember it being a bit unfocused but with a lot of great character dynamics; the novel's a favorite of Pynchon and Richard Fariña, eager to read it
Django 7 - pretty fun and gritty as I recall, though I far prefer The Great Silence
In a Glass Cage - thanks for the rec

hond
Street Angel 5 - I liked some of the aesthetic elements but I basically agree with your take
Django Unchained - I actually think Christoph Waltz is incredible in this, I think the shortcomings in performances have more to do with the writing, but in any case that falls into the "twee shit" category wkwkwk

jt
Portrait of a Lady on Fire 9 - one of my favorites from the last couple years, and one of the best looking digital films yet
Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian - pretty sure I saw this and preferred it slightly to the first one

toad
A flor do mar 5 - maybe I have to get more used to Monteiro's style, this sort of grated on my nerves despite some great visuals

ks
Hustlers 7 - solid stuff, and yeah it's crazy J-Lo wasn'ft nominated; I saw this with my gf who was a go-go dancer at the time this was set, she had a great time reminiscing about the styles of the day
Out 1 - it's definitely a daunting undertaking, I was completely wiped out by the end
Django Unchained - yeah, that Australian accent is such a Tarantino indulgence, and yeah, it seems like it's building to an even more epic finale, and then what, he shoots a few unarmed people and blows up a house?; I loved this at the time when I saw it in theaters, but watching it again it does not hold up, unliked Inglorious Basterds, which I also watched recently and think might indeed be his masterpiece
Bee Movie - intrigued by your endorsement, I'm a huge Seinfeld fan but never took the time to watch this

pda
Satantango 7 - wanna watch this again, some all-time great shots but it didn't blow me away overall

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#14

Post by joachimt » May 11th, 2020, 6:05 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
May 11th, 2020, 4:51 am
jt
Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian - pretty sure I saw this and preferred it slightly to the first one
I didn't even see the first one. Disney+ only has the second and third, so I just watched those. I preferred the third because the pace was better. Jokes didn't go on for too long like often in part 2.
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#15

Post by Onderhond » May 11th, 2020, 7:13 am

We Are One wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 11:43 pm
That'd be like using The Ellen Show to gauge Finding Nemo.
I'd say that's quite a good match though.

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#16

Post by sol » May 11th, 2020, 10:30 am

Onderhond wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 3:41 pm
sol wrote:
May 10th, 2020, 2:31 pm
I liked The Square quite a bit. The whole film is about responsibility - what we accept and what we deny. He refuses to take responsibility for what he does to his neighbour yet has to apologise for that ridiculous museum ad even though he had nothing to do with it. Really liked this dilemma (and I'm guessing the Cannes voters did too). And that terrible ad made me laugh-out-loud.
I still don't see the dilemma I'm afraid. Regarding his job, that's just 200% what a job like that entails. I have just no clue what I should take away from this film, or what I should be thinking about afterwards.
But should somebody really have the job of apologising for the mistakes of others? I thought it was really clever how the film used a mistake that he was actually responsible for as a contrast point to suggest that there is something amiss with the way that apologies work in society. But to each his own. I really liked the film and it stayed in my mind for weeks afterwards.

kongs_speech wrote:
May 11th, 2020, 2:45 am
Lots of comedies this week for you. Nothing wrong with that!
I don't think it is any secret why I have been watching a lot of comedies... and westerns... and Spanish films lately. tehe

Yeah, both Shakes the Clown and Hot Rod were decent films for me, but far off being anything special. Shakes was amusing though as a counterpoint to Joker, and sure, Danny McBride is always a lot of fun, but I found his part to be rather limited. Give me Pineapple Express or This is the End instead any day.

Well, I don't like football and yet I liked The Longest Yard, so as a fan it might be of even more interest to you. Or not. The film isn't really about the big football match - or at least not by comparison to the original. This was a plus for me (I loved getting to know the characters more) but for a footy fan it might be a minus.

I'm not familiar with Gillian Jacobs but would agree that the humour was not the strongest aspect of Bad Milo!; I am actually not a big fan of flatulence/poop-related gags at all, but I loved the wide-eyed monster design and its id-like nature. Reminded me a lot of Brain Damage by Frank Henenlotter in the best possible way.

Oh yeah, it was the Hangover trilogy, and yup, the surprisingly decent 21 & Over that made me decide to finally give Bad Moms a go. Not really worth it. Lucas and Moore seem really out of their depth given the narrative structure and subject matter.

And yep, I laughed out loud during the chicken scene in Fun Size. Thomas Middleditch is also hilarious in The Final Girls and Zombieland: Double Tap. Not sure if you have seen those already. Fun Size is a bit of an eh film, but I liked it okay overall. I'm not too familiar with Victoria Justice's show, but I really liked Miranda Cosgrove and did think throughout how much better the film might have been with a different Nickelodeon star instead. And yes, the younger brother was annoying, but those prank phone calls at the end were great. Wish there was more of that.

Yours:

I had the same reaction as you to Ghost the first time round. I have soften a bit on it over the years (it is no longer in my top 250) but it still holds quite a place in my heart; "what the hell is ditto?" and the reaction on Demi's face is such an emotionally charged moment.

The only other film of yours that I have seen is Hustlers. I did not get the hype. I understand the Goodfellas comparison, but I actually felt that the film was constantly swinging back and forth between being a Social Network type study of a decaying friendship and The Wolf of Wall Street - and not in a good way. I left with the impression that the filmmakers were unsure just what sort of film they wanted to make. The whole thing wasn't gradual enough for me either. It is pretty early on that their behaviour becomes more reprehensible than their clients'; I didn't really feel any sort of slow slipping slope.

prodigalgodson wrote:
May 11th, 2020, 4:51 am
Everyone else's (a largely one-a-piece week):

sol
Stagecoach 7 - nice review, though seems like I liked it a bit more than you -- I remember this guy Eva Yojimbo going on about what a profound portrait of America in microcosm it is :rolleyes:
Silver Lode 7 - don't really remember it, but looks like I gave it a 7 and remember liking it more than High Noon
Warlock 7 - saw this when I was going through a phase of Widmark fandom, remember it being a bit unfocused but with a lot of great character dynamics; the novel's a favorite of Pynchon and Richard Fariña, eager to read it
Django 7 - pretty fun and gritty as I recall, though I far prefer The Great Silence
In a Glass Cage - thanks for the rec
Gee, if Stagecoach was meant to be a microcosm of American society at the time, it does not say much about the diversity of American culture. I actually came close to awarding the film a 7 myself, it's so lusciously filmed towards the end, but one only need look at My Darling Clementine or The Searchers to realise just how unpolished Stagecoach is.

Been ages since I have seen High Noon, which I recall liking more than Silver Lode, but yeah, both are great films about a man going his own. Lode is probably more dynamic due to the gradual way everyone eventually turns against him, but the music, tension and general acting in High Noon stand up better in my vague recollections.

Yeah, "unfocused" describes Warlock in spades. Tries to be too much by being about too many key characters for a mere two-hour films. As for Django, I agree that The Great Silence is far superior with an amazing snowy setting, great Kinski and breathtaking ending, but I liked the whole weirdness of Django quite a bit. I must be incredibly naive because I had no idea what he had in his coffin before he took it out.

In a Glass Cage is "difficult", but man, what an ending. Chilling violence begets violence stuff.

Yours:

I don't remember much of Orlando outside of Swinton's performance. Agreed that it is not a great film, but I would take it over Yes, which I think is the only other Potter that I have seen.

Opening Night is the best film that Cassavetes ever made in my books, but I haven't seen it recently enough to recall specifics. I just remember being really invested in Gena Rowlands and what her character goes through. Pseudo-horror is my type of thing too. I can try to find my review from the time if you like.

Likewise, if you want I will dig up my Django Unchained review because that is another film that is not fresh in my memory but which I recall being pretty masterful. Least favourite stuff: Jonah Hill comic relief; the way everything towards the end spirals out of a simple refusal to handshake, if I recall correctly. Loved the music and characters (well, the main two) myself. QT's second best film for me.
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#17

Post by Onderhond » May 11th, 2020, 11:22 am

sol wrote:
May 11th, 2020, 10:30 am
But should somebody really have the job of apologising for the mistakes of others? I thought it was really clever how the film used a mistake that he was actually responsible for as a contrast point to suggest that there is something amiss with the way that apologies work in society. But to each his own. I really liked the film and it stayed in my mind for weeks afterwards.
I think it's a weird question. I mean, does someone really has to collect the trash of others? Or kill animals so others can eat them? Of think up spiffy ideas so someone can sell his junk?

That's what jobs are, no? And if you have a job in power, you carry the responsibility of actions of other people, that's pretty much your job description right there. You get paid good money for that too, so when things go wrong, it's only natural you take the blame (and make the apology). If things go right, you get the credit.

I can agree that corporate apologies are often some of the most insincere ever, and that is indeed a problem, but even then making that point feels ... pointless?

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#18

Post by prodigalgodson » May 12th, 2020, 2:18 am

sol wrote:
May 11th, 2020, 10:30 am
Opening Night is the best film that Cassavetes ever made in my books, but I haven't seen it recently enough to recall specifics. I just remember being really invested in Gena Rowlands and what her character goes through. Pseudo-horror is my type of thing too. I can try to find my review from the time if you like.

Likewise, if you want I will dig up my Django Unchained review because that is another film that is not fresh in my memory but which I recall being pretty masterful. Least favourite stuff: Jonah Hill comic relief; the way everything towards the end spirals out of a simple refusal to handshake, if I recall correctly. Loved the music and characters (well, the main two) myself. QT's second best film for me.
Yes, I'd love to read those if it's not too much trouble!

Opening Night does feel like the most Cassavettes film he made in some ways, though he's a director I've always had trouble with. I'm curious how much of my reaction was burnout after watching so many TSP films (for me) so quickly, especially Out 1.

I kind of liked the KKK thing in theory, the grandiose Birth of a Nation-esque shots of night riders cresting a hill to Wagner or something, followed by the realization that they're all a bunch of incompetent idiots, but I didn't actually find it funny. The handshake as catalyst didn't bother me because I feel like big action in Tarantino movies often hinges on random stuff like that, but now that you mention it it does seem a bit out of character. I loved Dr. King Schultz, and think he's one of Tarantino's best characters, but I don't feel like I had any sense of anyone else, especially the title character, as three-dimensional human beings, even pastiche-y ones.

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#19

Post by sol » May 12th, 2020, 9:37 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
May 12th, 2020, 2:18 am
Yes, I'd love to read those if it's not too much trouble!

Opening Night does feel like the most Cassavettes film he made in some ways, though he's a director I've always had trouble with.
Same. I have never been as big a fan of Cassavetes as most others are, but Opening Night really clicked with me at the time. Going back 15 years (!), this is what I wrote about the film in 2005:

Full of interesting ideas and really rather chilling at times, this account of a mental breakdown is fascinating to watch, with Gena Rowlands a glorious choice for the lead. It is in the way that Rowlands is able to carry emotion on her face that makes her performance so stunning, and along with some well used music and effective close-up photography, it is an intriguing piece of cinema, even if awkwardly very melodramatic at times and a tad hard to digest. The on and off-stage action in the protagonist's life is mixed together, and it is sort of muddled in this sense, though only ever as muddled as her mind is. The film poses such interesting questions about how much one should or does care, it portrays mental illness, and, it also has some insight into theatre production. It is very good stuff and only really brought down by being fatally overlong, with the content stretched to its limits.

Clearly (or hopefully) I have become a better writer over the years. :$

Obviously, I have seen Django Unchained more recently than that. Agreed on the Schultz character. This is what I wrote at the time:

An unlikely friendship develops between a 1850s slave and a German-born bounty hunter who frees him to assist with tracking down three wanted men in this Quentin Tarantino western. The gradual bond between the pair always feels very real, though the plot is more complicated than just that as the partners plan an ambitious quest to rescue the slave's wife from a sadistic plantation owner, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Jumping between serious drama and quirky comedy (ambushers bantering about the bags on their head), it is easy to see why the film might not jive with everyone's sensibilities, but there is a lot to like about the complex characters as well as the way Tarantino generates laughs in a story about one of the ugliest parts of American history. Christoph Waltz is superb as the German bounty hunter, and not just due to delivering excellent comic relief. He is a true outsider in the racist America of the 1850s, and his character's growing disgust with the way slaves are treated really resonates; much like Oskar Schindler, he may have initially been into killing slave traders for the profits, but by the final hour of the film, there is much more passion to it. Some have been critical of the film's very violent third act, but if nothing else, it comes off well as a response to DiCaprio's questions about submissiveness and the film concludes on a surefire memorable note.
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#20

Post by sol » May 12th, 2020, 9:39 am

Onderhond wrote:
May 11th, 2020, 11:22 am
that point feels ... pointless?
Much like carrying on this conversation. ;) Yet another film we simply have to part ways on. :shrug:
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#21

Post by OldAle1 » May 23rd, 2020, 11:51 pm

Catch-up 2

This Film ROCKS
This Film SUCKS

Una nuvola di polvere... un grido di morte... arriva Sartana / Light the Fuse... Sartana Is Coming (Giuliano Carnimeo, 1970)

I saw one of the other Sartana films last year I think, or maybe the year before. Or maybe I've seen a couple. Don't ask me to look it up, or remember it much. This is a fun series even if they tend to run together in memory and are most notable for their body counts. Gianni Garko plays the title role as he does in all five of the original films, and Carnimeo directed four of them, but despite this consistency early on the series is overall much like other Italian character series of the time, with little or no narrative continuity between the films. On the other hand the Sartana character is always a near-superhuman gunslinger and he tends to pit the criminal forces of a town against each other a la Yojimbo or Leone's remake, and he dresses and acts similarly in each of the films, so in that sense they're a little more cohesive as a group than, say, the Django films. And there were later Sartana films which dispense with most everything except the name, no surprise. This one involves a half-million in gold, and a many on trial for murdering his partners over it, and a lot of false stories about what really happened being told. Very entertaining but not on the whole anything really memorable.

You Can't Buy Luck (Lew Landers, 1937)

TCM. I've seen a dozen Landers films now, half of them by chance. He was a low-budget hack, along the same lines as William Beaudine and W. Lee Wilder, and I have a growing affection for the kind of schlock these guys made I guess, though I don't really seek it out. Landers in particular, because he made several cheesy adventure films - magic carpet, Robin Hood, pirate type shit - and I love that stuff. Here he is in pre-noir crime mode and the results are pretty average. A superstitious gambler (Onslow Stevens) with a penchant for placing too-big bets on horses gets involved in a murder and has to extricate himself with the help of several friends --- after he's already been convicted. Very fast-paced and pretty fun but it doesn't leave much of a taste, good or bad, behind.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah, 1974)

The last major Peckinpah I had left to see, and while I enjoyed it overall, it's got many of the problems I tend to see in the director's work - a nihilistic and unpleasant worldview that often involves women as either agents of evil or victims, but rarely as fully realized characters, a narrative slackness that results in periods of boredom, and many secondary characters that are really just props for the plot to move along that Peckinpah just doesn't seem to care about. At least that's the way I see it, though to be fair I think The Wild Bunch manages to escape most of these traps or minimize them, and a couple of others like this one have enough pluses to generate a pretty positive experience in the end. Isela Vega is a better female lead than just about any I can think of in the director's ouevre, so while I might be unhappy with how she ends up, at least she has some ability to affect her own fate for a while, and I really like the way her relationship with main protagonist Warren Oates plays out. The plot - Oates retrieving the titular head to get some dough from a Mexican crime lord - is almost incidental, the flavor of the road trip through the border-area landscapes and the moments of violence are the reasons to watch. And nobody does slo-mo like Peckinpah, I have to admit.

Top Secret! (ZAZ, 1984) (re-watch)

Probably 3rd viewing. Prompted to watch this again by RedLetterMedia's Re:View of it a few months (or a year? I lose track), much of which I agree with. One thing I like about their review is their stressing of the "midwestern" kind of comedy - the Abrahams brothers and David Zucker are all from the Milwaukee area - as sort of low-brow yet not lacking in cleverness. And this film offers that in spades from the very large number of sight gags to the puns about everything and - perhaps their specialty - the jokes going on in the background while "plot" is going on in the foreground, like the scene on the train where our hero, spy/rocker Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) is discussing how he's supposed to act while in East Germany with his manager, while outside the window there are bits of scenery being moved around, etc. And the backwards-dialogue "Swedish" scene with Peter Cushing is one of the funniest in the whole ZAZ catalogue. I really love this film and I like all of their films, but it's not quite a "favorite" level for whatever reason; I think their films kind of get exhausting at the end, there's only so much of this kind of joke-every-20-seconds stuff I can take. Maybe that's why I remember their TV show Police Squad most fondly. Anyway, huge fun.

Hollywood Canteen (Delmer Daves, 1944)

TCM. I really love Daves in general, but never bothered to get around to this, one of those all-star musical-variety things that were the rage during the war; I've seen a few of them, and most are enjoyable to some extent, but they're just not my thing overall, and this one was over 2 hours. But hey, it was on TV, I didn't have to bother trying to find it, why not knock out another chunk in the filmography? Anyway, it's perhaps a little better than the average for these things, though the "plot" of the on-leave soldier (Robert Hutton), falling for real-life star Joan Leslie playing herself at the fabled eponymous canteen started up by Bette Davis and John Garfield among others (also on hand as themselves) is very hackneyed wish-fulfillment. So the reason to see this, besides the star cameos - the best are Joan Crawford, being mistaken for Joan Crawford, and Ida Lupino schooling a G.I.'s schoolboy French - are the musical numbers, and some of those are pretty good, especially a dynamite "Ballet in Jive" with Oklahoma Broadway star Joan McCracken.

Arizona Colt (Michele Lupo, 1966)

Very average bit of tortellini with Giuliano Gemma as another pasta superman - IMDb refugees may remember one drystyx who rated every Italian western a 1 or 2 and complained about them all being more superhero than western hero; in this case I tend to agree with him. This guy can shot a half-dozen guys with a half-dozen bullets from his revolver at 100 yards or more with barely a glance. Anyway he's a rare clean-cut example and a bit more heroic than most protagonists of the Italian western variety but on the whole this veers somewhat uncomfortably from near-slapstick comedy to rape and murder to music to... well anyway. It's rather a mess, but the action is decent and it's at least an ok time-waster and it give us Corinne Marchand of Cléo de 5 à 7, in her only western, as the principal love interest. So that's something.

Penelope (Arthur Hiller, 1966)

Really lame romantic-crime-comedy from late in the nadir-era for the rom-com, with Natalie Wood as yet another young woman bored with husband and life who will be convinced by the end of the film that being a conventional little wifey is better than anything that 60s society was offering. Of course this stacks the deck by showing that what she wants is to be a criminal - in this case a thief, and more specifically the robber of her husband's bank. She also has three men salivating over her - hubby Ian Bannen, psychiatrist Dick Shawn, and cop Peter Falk, but the film dispenses pretty quickly with the life she had as a Greenwich Village beatnik and musician before meeting boring husband - what about THAT life? Wouldn't that have been more interesting? It doesn't help that Bannen is so totally wooden and dull, or that Wood's role seems as tailored around, well, her tailoring - she must wear 50+ outfits here - as anything else. I like Wood a lot normally but other than being nice to look at she really doesn't get to show off her talents here, and only Falk, and Jonathan Winters in a small role, stand out in any positive way.

Kid Blue (James Frawley, 1973)

Jonathan Rosenbaum in his review of Dead Man in 1996 wrote a bit of the "acid western", the hippie-countercultural sub-genre (if it's even large enough to count as such) of films that took a radical, often drug-fueled look at the west, it's history, and it's place in American culture, which he saw as culminating in Jarmusch's film. I've never forgotten that article and I often think about tracking down more of the idiosyncratic examples from the 60s and 70s that he was referring to. I don't think he listed this one, but he sure could have, and it turned out to be a lot more interesting than just a druggie oater. Dennis Hopper - almost 40 at the time but regularly referred to as a young man or boy - is an outlaw leader who decides to give it up and lead the straight life working a real job, but when he arrives in Dime Box, Texas (the name should be the first clue as to some of what this is going to be about), he finds it very difficult going. This is ultimately a satire on capitalism and civilization, and few if any of the other misfits Kid Blue runs into (including Warren Oates as the nice guy who gets him his job, Lee Purcell as Oates' horny wife, and Peter Boyle as a crazy preacher and inventor) seem to have a better handle on how to live in it than he does. It's a bit muddled at times and the ending doesn't quite have the resonance the film seems to be wanting, but this is a fascinating and deeply under-valued and under-seen film. I guess there's still more gold - or at least silver - in them thar hills even if it is getting harder for me to find it.

Bandidos / You Die... But I Live (Massimo Dallamano, 1967)

Gotta love the English language titles on some of these things; this might be the lamest one yet. Thankfully the film is a bit better, though in the originality department it's pretty lacking. Basic story is top gunslinger Richard Martin (Enrico Maria Salerno) is betrayed by a former student and shot in both hands, destroying his ability for revenge... except, of course, if he can teach some young up-and-coming punk the tricks of the trade to do it for him. I'm not sure I've seen this plot done exactly the same way before, but it all seemed very familiar. Thankfully the execution was pretty solid and there's a good balance of humor - as Martin goes from town to town arranging shooting matches with his heir apparent - and violence. Still not one of the great ones or anything but fun,

Robin Hood of El Dorado (William A. Wellman, 1936)

TCM. Cinco de Mayo - of course they couldn't have any real Mexican films on during the day, could they? But this was fun anyway. Don't know if this has any basis in reality at all, but in any case it's the story of a Mexican farmer-turned-bandit in California, just after the Mexican war and just as the California Gold Rush is beginning (1940s) who goes on a long quest for revenge against the white settlers who killed his wife. Warner Baxter is our lead as Joaquin Murrieta - as usual the lead roles aren't played by Hispanic actors, except for the Mexican-American Margo who plays the wife that gets killed off early; but what it lacks in authenticity it makes up for in some pretty solid location photography (especially for the era) and decent enough performances and a generally progressive racial attitude for the era.

The Fugitive (John Ford, 1947)

TCM, also part of their Cinco de Mayo celebration. While this is in English, it was filmed in Mexico with a largely Mexican cast apart from star Henry Fonda. Can there be a John Ford film that's actually underrated? Yes there can and this is it. Even those who don't fall for the pessimistic Grahame Greene anti-communist story (it's never stated as being about communism per se, but the anti-religious pro-state populism of the leaders of this fictional country leave little doubt) won't I think be able to help falling for the absolutely sublime Gabriel Figuero photography, if they have any feel for classic-era b/w cinematography at all.

Image

It's a remarkably beautiful but also remarkably tense thriller about a priest (Fonda) trying to escape from the authorities who want to stamp out all religion and shoot all the clergymen, aided by Dolores del Rio (as "an Indian Woman" - there are no names given to the characters), aided or hindered at various times by J. Carroll Naish and Ward Bond, and pursued by True Believer cop Pedro Armendáriz. It's not particularly nuanced as politics, and I'm guessing that the Greene novel The Power and the Glory on which it's based is a bit less melodramatic, but it's a terribly powerful and poetically beautiful film about the terrors of a state gone wild and the repression of liberty nonetheless. And while it certainly has a bit of typical Fordian sentimentality, it doesn't feel overdone to me at all.

Al este del oeste (Mariano Ozores, 1984)

I'm afraid I can't share the enthusiasm of whoever recommended this one - was it maxwelldeux? - but this silly Spanish comedy-western isn't really bad either. Basically you have a town beset by bandits, and waiting on a gunman-for-hire who is supposed to help them out, but nobody knows what he looks like, and so when two different - very unlikely - candidates show up at the appointed time, all kinds of comedy breaks loose. Well, it's supposed to anyway - I found it mostly tiresome though the "surprise" ending was rather amusing if not exactly that shocking. M...ok.

Summer Job (Paul Madden, 1989)

Really absymal teen-sex flick from the period - well, late in the period - when these things were showing up every week from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Though this is a decidedly second-tier example even in this lowbrow genre so I doubt it played much on the big screen except for the even-then rare drive-ins. I absolutely remember the VHS box cover from the video store I was working in at the time though

Image

and I will tell you that for once the cover doesn't lie. The film is in fact filled with boobies and sun and sand, as it recounts a summer job serving mostly rich older people at some resort, and the 6-8 hot young college coeds who are trying mostly to get laid. Which, y'know, COULD be enough if there was just the minimal attempt at any kind of real comedy, at any kind of relationships, even at any kind of real eroticism - even in the latter department this just doesn't do much, and the sexiest parts by far are when the characters' clothes are on and there are a few moments of not-incompetent voyeurism. But that's only enough to keep this from the absolute bottom of the barrel, floating a few inches above the muck.

U.S.S. VD: Ship of Shame (Daniele Amfitheatrof, 1942 (uncredited))
Red Nightmare (George Waggner, 1962)

Propaganda short double-feature! These are both hysterical, bad films - or hysterically bad, take your pick - but they certainly offer some cinematic educational value. The first film is I would imagine one of the very rare "educational" films of this period to show male genitalia close-up - be warned! And not exactly attractive specimens but as you might guess, diseased ones. It's not necessarily horrible from an information perspective but it does come off as pretty damn misogynistic at times - it's all those dirty sluts' faults, y'see.

Red Nightmare starts out with Jack Webb narrating so you know it's going to be special. And ordinary Joe wakes up in his ordinary bucolic small-town or suburban house to find that the Commie Red Russkies have taken over, and everybody is now a God- and market-hating red rat bastard, including his own family. When he tries to set things right he soon finds himself on trial for being a Patriotic He-Man Red-Blooded Real American. Much hilarity all around.

Dio perdona... Io no! / God Forgives...I Don't! (Giuseppe Colizzi, 1967)

This one actually does have a cool title, and in this case is an actual translation of the Italian one. In fact it's one I've looked forward to for a long time just because it's so blunt. Be careful what you wish for...nah, this is actually pretty good. It's the first pairing of Bud Spencer & Terence Hill, apart from small roles they had in a peplum several years earlier, and while it's not the best the pair would deliver, and it's more serious than most of their work together, it's certainly important in the history of the spaghetti western. A very memorable beginning - a massacre on a train, railway cars pulling into the station filled with nothing but dead and bloody bodies - sets up a flashback-heavy story about partners Cat and Hutch (Hill and Spencer) investigating whether the massacre might be the work of a former acquaintance who is thought to be dead. Pretty bloody and brutal overall.

Le colt cantarono la morte e fu... tempo di massacro / Massacre Time (Lucio Fulci, 1966)

The sketchy YT copy I watched probably contributed to a general lack of enthusiasm, but I doubt this would ascend all that much were I to see a better copy. Really silly story of a guy coming back to the town he's from because of a warning and pleading letter, and finding that his family home and ranch and indeed the whole town are now in the hands of a single rich and tyrannical rancher and his psychopathic, Caligula-like son who likes to shoot people for no reason at all, when he's not whipping them. The action scenes here are pretty good on the whole, and it's got Franco Nero as the hero, but the way the plot plays out is just ludicrous and it's one of those films where the hero can never get a straight answer from anybody - either they won't tell him just because, or they get killed just at the moment they're about to reveal the truth. I can take it when this happens once or twice but it's ridiculous here and is all just to set up the silly and still, at the end, very poorly explained reason why our hero and the bad guy and his son are linked the way they are. Blah.

Tango & Cash (Andrey Konchalovskiy/Albert Magnolia, 1989) (re-watch)

Barely remembered this EXTREMELY stupid but fairly enjoyable (with a few beers in me*) buddy-cop flick. As you may be able to tell from most of this month's viewings I've been on a heavy 80s kick and it shows no signs of stopping soon. Why? I suppose it's nostalgia, obviously, but in this case not so much for the film itself, it's stars (Sylvester Stallone, who I don't much like, and Kurt Russell, who I like more but not so much that "fan" is the right word), or the admittedly fun action - I guess it's for the ambiance, the music (Harold Faltermeyer of Beverly Hills Cop fame, what could be more 80s), the mood. The late 80s may have been my happiest time in life, all downhill since...

Enough of this mawkishness. Stallone and Russell are two hotshot LA detectives, totally different from and despising each other (one's neat and shiny and movie-star preening, the other is gritty and working-class in style, and that's as deep as the film gets), who are set up by the biggest drug kingpin in town (Jack Palance) to go to jail, and who spend the movie trying to clear themselves and slaughter lots of henchmen along the way. You don't expect believable plots in films like this but here we take all plausibility and throw it away - good luck if realism is even remotely important to you. I can tolerate the silliness but it definitely impacts my overall opinion, especially given that I don't find the supposedly funny aspects of the film very humorous and some of the violence seems needlessly cruel and the film often gives off the whiff of fascism. But hey, it's also got James Hong, Michael Pollard and Robert Z'dar as henchmen or helpers, and Teri Hatcher is hot. That's enough for "watchability" anyway.

*if I ever give up drinking altogether, one thing that will suffer is my ability to enjoy films like this. Something to think about.

California (Michele Lupo, 1977)

The title in this case has nothing to do with the story, which mostly takes place in Georgia (not that it was shot there or looks remotely like Georgia or most place in the American south) and concerns a character named California, who travels with a younger man after the end of the Civil War, to return to the young man's farm. A series of events place California as the savior more or less of the farm and the boy's parents and beautiful sister from marauding carpetbagger-mercenaries, yadda, yadda, yadda. Some nice ghost town settings, decent violence, but it doesn't add up to much.

TEE VEE:

Frasier Season 3

In which Daphne and Niles dance together for the first time, Frasier meets his intellectual match in the form of the both awful and perfect station owner Kate (Mercedes Ruehl) and Niles begins his long drawn-out separation/reconciliation/separation from the never-seen Maris. Also Diane returns, and Frasier burns down a newstand because somebody doesn't like him. This show, like seemingly every show I love that hit several seasons, really hits it's stride in it's third year, and it just keeps getting better for a few years yet. It is starting to get just a little too familiar at this point I suppose - this is at least my 4th time, probably 5th, through the whole series - but there is little else that cheers me up more in times of hardship and loneliness.

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