Unfortunately, I feel the need to post this thread earlier than usual this week, since we are in the middle of a power outage over here, and it's so severe and widespread that there is no estimation for a time in which they expect the power to be restored. My laptop still has some charge in it; same goes for my internet dongle. I don't know how long it will take for the batteries to flatten in both, so I am just taking the opportunity to post this thread while I still can. I might not be able to by the usual time of 12:00pm GMT. On a related note, it is possible that I might not get around to replying to anyone this week; I am always so exhausted after work on a Monday and if I log in here to find tons of people to respond to because I wasn't able to get to them on Sunday night - well, that might just be too much for me.
If you've contributed here regularly, you know how much I try to promote film discussion, but with power to half my city wiped out for who-knows-how-long a period of time, that might just not happen this week. Don't hold it against me...
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
Hang 'Em High (1968). Far from the brutal revenge film one might expect after a graphic and grueling pre-credits bit in which Clint Eastwood almost dies when wrongfully hung by a lynch mob, this is a curious film that often defies expectations. At first, it seems about revenge with Eastwood later fatally shooting a lyncher seconds after stating "I need you alive", but as he becomes distracted from his own troubles with two harshly sentenced teenage cattle rustlers and argues with the local judge, the film becomes about the letter of the law in the Old West more than any other film of its vintage. The film tries a little bit to have its cake and eat it too with some of the developments near the end; there is also a listless romance that comes out of nowhere. For the most part though, this is a refreshingly different western - and nicely unpredictable. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★★
Lonesome Cowboys (1968). This indie western focuses on some cowboys who become intimate with prostitutes and each other while bored between jobs. If such a plot synopsis makes this sound aimless, that is because it is, and with poorly recorded/muffled sound, jump cuts and jarring scenes transitions, the project feels more of an attempt to subvert cowboy movies than make one. Alas, the poor filming soon becomes repetitive; only so much screeching is necessary to be subversive after all. The acting is pitiful too and the male characters feel interchangeable. The film almost reaches something interesting halfway in as they debate whether they gang raped a prostitute or not; there are philosophical discussions also on occasion about loneliness, but around half the dialogue is about trivialities such as dandruff, while the other half is impossible to make out. (first viewing, online) ★
Something Big (1971). Intent on doing "something big", an ageing bandit tries to obtain a Gatling gun in this western comedy starring Dean Martin. The film gets off to a quirky start with Martin carrying a small dog, riding a horse with gold false teeth and everybody constantly saying "something big". The dog and horse ultimately add little plot-wise though, and the repetition of the title soon tires. The plot is problematic too as Martin has to find a woman to trade for the gun. While there is some amusement in Martin stopping stagecoaches without robbing them as he searches for a woman (which baffles the authorities), the film's general treatment of women feels in very poor taste. The pacing is also a bit off for a comedy with the plot stretched thin at nearly two hours. Oddly enough, a character introducing himself as Emilio Estevez feels funniest here. (first viewing, online) ★
Tout Va Bien (1972). Opening with production cheques being signed and two voices arguing the basic elements needed for a film (girl, guy, setting...), this Jean-Luc Godard co-production is equally about its own inception as it is about its plot. The story has factory workers striking and locking their bosses inside their offices, yet with the insertion of a male and female protagonist who have little bearing on events, the film also questions the need for movies to follow such rules - including the hiring of big name actors. Amid all this, Tout Va Bien is incredibly playful too with borderline absurdist humour (boss forced to break open a window). The film loses its way a bit as the politics overtake the humour in the second half, but it ends well with divine Week End style elongated tracking shots, and the open dollhouse sets throughout are breathtaking. (first viewing, online) ★★★★
Gumby 1 (1995). Spun off from the classic claymation television show, this feature film maintains the delightfully surreal vibe of the source material with its clay characters sliding in and out of books, colliding and merging with one another, and distorting themselves into odd shapes. The plot has some very outlandish elements too, including robot clones and an extended sequence where Gumby has to battle himself among sets that feel straight out of The Empire Strikes Back. There are some very funny bits too; most notably, a running gag involving a robot waiter with loose circuits. The film carries on a bit too long after its climax though and ultimately ends on an unwarranted sentimental note with some very obvious messages about sharing and charity. The vast majority of the movie though is a pleasant reminder of how wonderfully crazy the series was. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★
Almost Heroes (1998). Set on beating Lewis and Clark, two incompetent explorers set out on an ambitious cross-country expedition in this comedy starring Matthew Perry and Chris Farley. The film begins decently with a lot of humour coming from a straight-faced Perry unsure of how to react to the kookiness of Farley and others who they have brought along, with an amusingly unfunny sheep dung anecdote standing out in particular. The comedy soon becomes rather lame and repetitive though, a pewter polish exchange aside. Energetic as Farley is, his character is never particularly likeable and an ogling Perry barely registers as more sympathetic, while everyone else seems either unintelligent or pathetic. Lisa Barbuscia is probably the most interesting character as an Amerindian bride forced along on the journey, but the romance angle is similarly bland. (first viewing, online) ★
Rottweiler (2004). Fleeing prison, a young man is pursued by a killer cyborg dog in this future-set thriller from Spain. The film has acquired a negative reputation and the first third is certainly a mess, jumping between timelines with limited exposition. The middle third is very well crafted though as the protagonist takes shelter at an isolated farmhouse. There is lots of tension as the dog tracks him there and terrorises both a single mother and her superstitious daughter, played by a pre-Pan's Labyrinth Ivana Baquero, who of course shines in the role - and there are some solid surrogate father/daughter stuff before she is sadly left behind. The final third of the film is not as strong as the middle section and leaves a lot unresolved (his amnesia; why they were refugees; his crime) but there are great special effects sequences at least and moody final shots. (first viewing, online) ★★
Volver (2006). Hearing rumours that their mother's ghost has been seen, two sisters discover that there is unexpected truth to this claim in this genre-hopping venture from Pedro Almodóvar. The film gets off to a terrific start, playing out as a dark thriller with Penélope Cruz covering up an accident for her daughter's sake, and from a paper towel ever-so-slowly absorbing blood to dragging stuff at night, this initial stretch is excellent. As the film progresses though, the thriller elements go on the backburner with the fantasy themes emerging, all of which are played out with a weird mix of bubbly comedy and miserable melodrama. Certainly some of the things that we discover along the way resonate, but it is hard not to wonder what may have been had Almodóvar instead gone full comedy, full drama, full fantasy or returned to the movie's thriller roots. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★★
Spy Time (2015). Described by some as Spain's answer to Kingsman, this spy spoof may lack the inventive gadgets of its British counterpart, but it is entertaining all the same with an estranged father/son angle in the mix. Our protagonist here is the son of a secret agent; growing up unaware of this and now in his thirties, he discovers that his father has secretly trained him his whole life to be an agile spy like him, and Quim Gutiérrez and Imanol Arias have great chemistry together. It is a very funny film too, with unexpectedly outlandish gags at times (Arias sticking his hand up a cow's rectum; Gutiérrez causing an assailant to choke on his girlfriend's vibrator) and great banter between the protagonist's girlfriend and her brother who really 'wants' her. The actual espionage story and antagonist are a little second rate, but as a comedy this really works. (first viewing, online) ★★★
Toc Toc (2017). Scheduled for conflicting appointments at the same time due to a booking error, six Spaniards with diverse obsessive compulsive disorders hold their own group therapy session while they wait for their running-late psychiatrist to arrive in this quirky comedy. Not all of humour works as it sometimes feels like the filmmakers are mocking their characters and cracking jokes at the expense of their conditions. All of the characters are extremely relatable and down-to-earth though and the growing camaraderie between them always feels very real with all concerned turning in fine performances. The film is based on a successful stage play and while the big screen treatment does little to disguise its roots, the filmmakers make great use of the limited environment, even successfully playing off the inherent claustrophobia of the setting at times. (first viewing, online) ★★★
Verónica (2017). Plagued by visions and nightmares after using an Ouija board during an eclipse, a teenager becomes increasingly unhinged and paranoid in this Spanish horror film. Sandra Escacena is effective in the lead role, the music is atmospheric and there are some nifty scenes that rely on flashes of neon and Nosferatu-like shadows. Based (apparently quite loosely) on an actual case of paranormal activity that was documented by the police, the film sadly loses some of its impact by constantly inserting day and time stamps. These provide a quasi-documentary feel for what otherwise could be read as a metaphorical tale about puberty and coping with the stress of looking after three younger siblings. There are several indelible images here, but the wildness of the tale also feels cut short by the filmmakers also trying their best to keep things 'real'. (first viewing, online) ★★
Errementari (2017). Discovering that the local blacksmith has caught a demon, a young girl hurt over her mother's suicide considers a pact with the demon to visit her mother's damned soul in this messy but intriguing mix of horror, fantasy and religion. Uma Bracaglia is excellent as the sullen girl in question and there is lots of interest in how she is pushed towards Satanism because of her strict religious upbringing, with all her teachers insisting that suicide is a mortal sin and that all who have gone this way will burn in hell. There are also some zany comedy moments as Bracaglia is shown all different ways of torturing the demon. Alas, the film is pretty dull whenever Bracaglia is off-screen; the blacksmith is never especially interesting and all of the early scenes dedicated to the townsfolk discussing him fall flat. The Bracaglia/demon discuss scenes rock though. (first viewing, online) ★★
Superlópez (2018). Spain's answer to Superman, this comic book adaptation similarly involves a humanoid alien with superpowers who holds a boring office job while trying to avoid others from catching onto his powers. The movie is a little slow to warm up with tons of exposition, but once the film settles into him speeding around his workplace, making ice cubes from tap water and so on, a nice comedy angle takes off. There are also lots of laughs later to come involving his boss battling a robot vacuum cleaner, a robot version of his girlfriend and a hilarious first sarcastic comment that his girlfriend makes upon seeing his suit. Not all of the comedy works, and there are arguably more misses than hits, but there is fair bit to like here and some very decent action scenes, most notably the protagonist inadvertently fighting off a circle of attackers. (first viewing, online) ★★
Mirage (2018). Miraculously communicating with a boy from the past via an old television set, a nurse saves the boy's life but alters her present day life in this intriguing if disappointing borderline sci-fi film. There are some interesting dynamics with the nurse set on 'fixing' the present so that her daughter can exist again, even if it means sacrificing the boy, though this moral dilemma gets lost amid a murder that she tries to solve using information from her alternate timeline. The film feels poorly paced too. It takes an incredibly long time for her to realise that she has changed the present, with much tiresome hysterics as she has trouble convincing everyone that she has really a daughter. It then takes even longer for her to convince others of the alternate reality once she finally catches onto things. Decent idea but this is at least an hour too long. (first viewing, online) ★
Cría Cuervos (1976). Still upset over her mother's recent death, a young girl loses her grip on reality when her father also passes away in this Spanish drama that seamlessly blends dreams, nightmares and fantasies with reality. From imagining herself flying off buildings, to continual visions of her mother, the film becomes so thoroughly invested in the girl's point-of-view that it is delightfully impossible to take anything that we see on face value. Ana Torrent shines in the lead, and while the film is sometimes creepy (her mother defying physics by repeatedly walking from left to right past her bedroom door), this is not totally downbeat. In fact, while the ending stacks up less well upon revision as it all seems to fizzle out rather than conclude on a bang, this seems very appropriate for a film about a child learning how to deal with grief and not get overwhelmed. (second viewing, VHS) ★★★★
Talk to Her (2002). Viewed for the first time in 18 years, Talk to Her remains an incredibly interesting film and one that perhaps has more currency now than back then with some of its morally ambiguous ground. If not quite as effective and stylish as his latter The Skin I Live In, this earlier Pedro Almodóvar film makes for a good companion piece with the way it causes our sympathies to sway and feel something for someone who does something questionable. It is not a perfect film, and upon second glance, the first 35 minutes before the protagonists meet move slowly, but the unusual friendship that gradually develops between them after meeting is very dynamic. The film also benefits from a genuine-looking semi-surreal silent movie within that takes Richard Matheson's The Incredible Shrinking Man in a very different direction. (second viewing, DVD) ★★★★
Ride 'em, Cowgirl (1939). Her father framed for stealing the prize money for the local rodeo, an ambitious cowgirl sets out to prove his innocence in this B-western. While she is not exactly bursting with charisma, Dorothy Page makes for a decent protagonist and it is refreshing to come across an American western from this era that circles around an assertive female protagonist who uses her wits to outsmart the bad guys. Many of the plot elements are nevertheless quite familiar, and gender reversal aside, the film plays to many of the clichés of the westerns of the time, including a couple of pleasant but hardly thematically relevant songs and villains with simple motivations. Still, this is an undeniable curio as one of only three westerns that Page ever starred in; oddly so considering that she is no more or less charismatic than other western stars of her period. (first viewing, online) ★★
Cattle Stampede (1943). Two cowboys try to stop an unscrupulous rustler who is causing herds to stampede in order to get more work for his business (rounding up lost cows) in this aptly titled western. Buster Crabbe is never too engaging in the lead role, but Al St. John has plenty of fun moments as his travelling companion, stealthily dodging and befuddling his opponents in fights - plus a pretty good shot too. Frances Gladwin also makes for a feistier than usual love interest for a film of this sort, highly suspicious of Crabbe's motives throughout and always prepared to speak her mind. The film does not quite give St. John and Gladwin as much screen time as they deserve, with a lot of chaotic Crabbe-only shoot-outs and brawls in the mix, but the stampede scenes are at least well filmed, and St. John and Gladwin are enjoyable whenever present. (first viewing, online) ★★
Harmony Trail (1944). Trailing where some stolen money is being spent, four marshals join a travelling show run by a quack selling magic elixir in this western comedy. The plot frequently comes to a standstill four the marshals to perform rope tricks, ventriloquism acts and occasionally sing, but it is all fairly entertaining, especially the lasso work, and Robert McKenzie is delightful as the eccentric salesman running the show, addicted to his own so-called medicine. The ventriloquist dummy has some snappy lines too. As for the whole stolen money angle, it leads to a couple of good shootout scenes towards the end, but it mostly feels tacked-on. In fact, had the film forgotten this and concentrated entirely on the "magic medicine show", this could have really been something. A pre-Strangers on a Train Ruth Roman is also fine as McKenzie's daughter. (first viewing, online) ★★
Prairie Rustlers (1945). Framed by a lookalike cousin who begrudges him time spent in jail, a cowboy teams up with owner of the local eatery, recently promoted to sheriff, to clear his name in this western starring Buster Crabbe in a dual role. The film mounts a decent fistfight scene in which Crabbe brawls with himself thanks to clever framing and choice reaction shots that hide the use of a stunt double. This angle is not quite played up for all that its worth though with very little comedy at the expense of confused identities, Al St. John first seeing Crabbe aside. The filmmakers smartly realise though that St. John is the most electric member of their cast and he is nicely given lots to do here, from bicycle stunts to pratfalls to even managing to trick Crabbe towards the end. The rest of the cast though are quite forgettable and the love interest is very so-so.(first viewing, online) ★★
The Gay Amigo (1949). Discovering that a group of American bandits have been dressing as Mexicans to trick the authorities, two Mexican cowboys set out to expose the imposters when suspicion falls on themselves in this amiable western. The basic story is no great shakes, and more than a little hard to buy with the authorities making snap judgments based on clothing and horses that they can only see from a distance. It is curious though to see a western from the 1940s that offers such a positive portrayal of Mexicans as brave and honorable and Americans as sneaky and deceptive. The chemistry between leads Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo feels very real too. Nobody else makes much an impression though; all of the antagonists lack charisma while a prostitute/romantic interest obsessed with getting golden sandals is more irksome than cute or quirky. (first viewing, online) ★★
Colorado Serenade (1946). Amid a series of brazen stagecoach robberies, a singing cowboy and his travelling companion try to restore law and order in a small town in this B-western. Eddie Dean has a pretty decent singing voice in the lead role and the stagecoach chases with pistols blaring are well filmed. What really distinguishes this from the average budget western of its era though is the fact that it is shot in colour. The filmmakers do not quite take advantage of this, frequently shooting indoors rather than taking the opportunity to bask in lush exterior landscapes. The nighttime scenes are also hard to make out due to a mix of dark colours and limited contrast. The plot is also decidedly average. There are a few twists and turns regarding who characters are, but all of the infiltrating gangs and stopping outlaws stuff has been done better elsewhere. (first viewing, online) ★
Colorado Sundown (1952). Above average as far as singing cowboy westerns go, this benefits from a more complex plot than usual involving multiple heirs to a vast estate, a plot to deceive the heirs into selling the land at less than what it is worth, and a plot to murder and impersonate a tree expert. Such an intricate story though makes the comedy and musical aspects of the movie feel a little off. A goofy Slim Pickens is a lot of fun though, talking to his watch/locket and with his head stuck in a door after being kicked by a goat. The tunes are also decent, but they do not really feel necessary in this crime and deception themed tale. Whatever the case, this is a refreshingly different sort of low budget western without rustlers or stolen money driving things but rather a plot to convince unsuspecting folks that their land has soil erosion issues and dying trees! (first viewing, online) ★★
Take Me to Town (1953). Disliking their father's current girlfriend, three young boys search for an alternative stepmother and are impressed by a showgirl who happens to be on the run from the law and in need of a place to hide in this Douglas Sirk comedy. Daringly escaping custody on a moving train in the opening scene, Ann Sheridan is perfectly feisty as the female protagonist and her bonding with the boys always feels real despite her ulterior motives. Alas, the film dials up its cutesiness way too high with far too many jokes at the expense of what the kids do. It actually reaches the point that Sterling Hayden feels completely wooden as their father by contrast, and thus the gradually developing romance between Hayden and Sheridan lacks sparks. Still, it is difficult to dismiss a movie that gives Ann Sheridan such great opportunity to strut her stuff. (first viewing, online) ★
Yucatán (2018). Rival con artists on a cruise ship try to swindle an ageing lottery winner out of his millions, but they might not be the only ones targeting him in this Spanish comedy. The film begins decently with a distinct Dirty Rotten Scoundrels vibe, but quickly loses its way as it goes on. The film crucially lacks the one-upmanship of something like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with the two rivals enacting their individual schemes while seldom interacting with one another. All of their plans take quite a bit of time to develop too, which limits the film's ability to be constantly zany and surprising. Things take a fairly interesting (if silly) detour in the final half-hour, but it is a very long time getting there, and no amount of good acting or madcap bus driving from Luis Tosar is able to prevent the film from feeling long and drawn out at over two hours in length. (first viewing, online) ★