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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 31, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 31, 2020

#1

Post by sol » August 2nd, 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

A Soldier's Plaything (1930). Harry Langdon's first sound film, this war-themed comedy may be proof of why the great silent film star never transitioned well to sound. Langdon tries his best with his verbal gags (e.g. unsuccessful flirting) but is always funniest in his dialogue-free bits, like dodging carnival game guns and walking in a stretched horse costume. Not a traditional-looking leading man either, Langdon furthermore plays second fiddle throughout to a handsome but dull Ben Lyon, who is a lot less engaging. The film's misuse of Langdon's talents aside, the production is problematic. There are at least half a dozen title cards (introducing characters and settings), which heavily date this is an early talkie. Some of camerawork and editing of conversations is well done for the time, but Langdon's intermittent charms are the best thing this has going for it. (first viewing, online) ★

The Walking Dead (1936). Resurrected from the dead after he is executed for a crime that he did not commit, a mild-mannered pianist seeks out those who conspired against him in this intriguing Boris Karloff film. Things progress slowly at first with over 25 minutes elapsing before the horror angle really ignites; too long is also spent on the doctor gawking at the fact that his resurrected patient has memory loss. The second half of the film though is very strong, with Karloff getting back at the conspirators by unsettling them and causing them to have accidents (rather than through grisly or gruesome actions on his behalf). Karloff is also fantastic throughout, perhaps even more so during the simple crime drama first section in which he wrestles with his own mortality and the knowledge that he is going to die. No zombies to be found here though. (first viewing, online) ★★★

The Cat and the Canary (1939). If not as visually arresting as Paul Leni's silent adaptation or as zany as Radley Metzger's take, this is a decent screen treatment of John Willard's oft filmed stage play about greedy relatives forced to spend the night in a spooky mansion with a possible killer. The biggest plus that this version has is the presence of Bob Hope who does an excellent job as a cocky film actor who keeps comparing everything happening to how things would play out in a movie; the film also gets much comedic mileage from Hope constantly being scared despite acting so brave. If more effective as a comedy than a horror film, this version has several spooky moments too. Both the interiors and exteriors look great with Charles Lang offering some of his finest work as DOP. The first relative's silent disappearance is brilliantly captured too. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Hollywood Story (1951). Intrigued by the unsolved murder of a silent film director, an ambitious filmmaker decides to make a movie about it, only to find that the killer is still out there and willing to kill again in this noir entry from William Castle. The film is based on an actual unsolved Hollywood murder, and while the meta aspect of Castle making a film himself about the case never crops up (Scream 3 this is not), it is curious stuff all the same with an intriguing studio back lot glimpse and questions about whether it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. For all its merits, the film is burdened by voiceover narration that is far too upbeat, plus a bland turn by Richard Conte as the protagonist turned amateur private investigator while assembling his film, but with a distinct air of Sunset Blvd., this has more of interest to it than the average pre-horror Castle film. (first viewing, online) ★★

The White Spider (1963). Her compulsive gambler husband burnt alive under mysterious circumstances, a young widow wonders whether he might still be alive in this crime thriller from Germany. The plot becomes increasingly twisted as it progresses and she finds herself the chief suspect in her husband's death, which might have been faked, might have been a suicide and might be linked to the exclusive casino where he spent his spare time. While the film tends to get lost in its plot complications and the myriad of disguises worn by one particular character, there is plenty of interest here to keep things chugging along. The antagonist's murder weapon - a wire rope that he uses as a lasso - needs to be seen to be believed. The police interrogation bits are very well done too with bright lights that seem to spin around, and Karin Dor shines in the lead role. (first viewing, online) ★★★

The Blood Demon (1967). Responding to an enticing invitation from a mysterious Count who was executed decades ago, a determined man travels to the count's castle in the middle of a forest, only to find that he is less than welcome in this German horror film inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. The first half-hour moves incredibly slowly with repetitive scenes of the protagonist searching for answers about the count and trying to find someone prepared to give him a ride. Once he arrives in the forest with his travelling companions though, the film becomes a blast. From the blue fog that illuminates the forest to grisly torture devices and traps inside the castle, there is a wealth of imagination and much spookiness in the second half of the film. The tonally inconsistent final few minutes leave a sour taste in the mouth, but this is generally good after the slow build-up. (first viewing, online) ★★

Mark of the Devil (1970). Opening with graphic depictions of a man being tarred and feathered and two women being burned alive at the stake, this German look at the witch hunt trials of centuries ago is captivating from the get-go and things only get more intriguing as the film progresses. Rather than focus on those who participated in the witch hunts out of ignorance and misguided beliefs, the chief antagonists here all abuse their power with the film providing a scathing look at absolute power corrupting absolutely. Reggie Nalder is particularly well cast one of the more vicious witch-finders, while it is hard not to wince at the catalogue of torture on display and depicted in grisly detail. The film drones on a little too much about morality towards the end and what exists in between the torture scenes is far less engaging, but this definitely leaves an impact. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970). And you thought your family was weird; this unusual British black comedy involves four eccentrics who role play being a family (and who may or may not be related) and the sadistic games they play, including psychologically tormenting any strangers they can find and invite over for a meal. Although nowhere as graphic and out-there as Singapore Sling, the Nikos Nikolaidis film might be the best comparison piece with its stranger sucked into a power play between two women who may or may not be mother and daughter. As for Girly (as the film is sometimes abbreviated), it is much more of a comedy and sometimes to the detriment of the outlandish premise as things get repetitive at times. The satire is potent throughout though as the 'daughter' keeps insisting "we're a happy family!" -- and maybe they are. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Numéro Deux (1975). Consisting almost entirely of filmed television sets on black backgrounds, this Jean-Luc Godard movie depicts a bickering, dysfunctional couple with two curious children. While the plot might not sound like a lot, the filming style is very dynamic, especially whenever two screens are present. Godard plays around with the size of the screens and the second set often amusingly contradicts the other. There are a host of fascinating editing techniques too, with wipes and so on adding in black and white reaction shots. Most effective of all though is a brief part in which both sets flicker and appear like eyes against the black. Deciphering the exact meaning and purpose of everything here may be tricky, but it is easy to appreciate how Godard uses the screen as a symbolic filter here to force us to evaluate his truth at 24 frames per second. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Spasms (1983). Bitten but not fatally wounded by a large exotic snake that killed his brother, an eccentric millionaire arranges for the serpent's capture, only to discover that he has a psychic connection with the reptile when it escapes and goes on a rampage in this Canadian horror film. Between the casting of Oliver Reed (who had recently done The Brood), the hiring of Scanners makeup artists Dick Smith and Stephen Dupuis, and the whole telepathic connection plot, this often feels like an attempt to cash in on what David Cronenberg was doing at the time, yet the limited budget means that neither the special effects or general mood is anywhere near as arresting. Also, nifty as the blue snake point-of-view shots are, the serpent actually looks so freaky when finally seen that it might have been better if featured more prominently throughout. (first viewing, online) ★★

Splatter: Architects of Fear (1986). Horror special effects are the subject of this documentary that purports to be shot on an actual horror set. Perhaps the most fascinating element here is indeed that the low budget horror film apparently being made was actually invented specifically for a film as something where tons of great special effects could be demonstrated. Whatever the case, this is captivating with much cleverness in how reversed footage is used and in the various gore and makeup effects. The painstaking detail is put into shots that might only amount to "a few short seconds" is curious too. Less successful are the documentary's attempts to be funny with a cannibalistic crew member called Fang, but this works overall. Now, if only the film with-in about Amazonian women raping men and making their heads explode Scanners style was real! (first viewing, online) ★★★

Blue Monkey (1987). Sometimes known by the less misleading title Insect!, there are no monkeys here as the plot rather revolves around a worm-like parasite that emerges from the mouth of a deceased hospital patient and which mutates into a giant insect. With an air of Shivers to it, the film is more intriguing in its pre-mutation stretch, but the project is so stylishly filmed that it works even when it devolves into a creature feature chase thriller. The web-covered catacombs beneath the hospital are perfectly creepy, frequently shot in eerie blue light. The creature looks great too. The film's attempts at comic relief unfortunately work far less well. There is a funny "it's coming!" line as one woman gives birth at the same time that the monster launches itself, but the drunk old ladies, an obsessed father to-be and so on are more irritating than amusing. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001). Blessed with such an out-there title, this irreverent comedy is initially just as quirky as one would expect, as Jesus returns to Earth to use his kung fu moves on lesbian vampires and heal the sick and frail during a song-and-dance number in the streets of Ottawa. After a solid start though, the film quickly runs out imagination, soon turning into a series of kung fu battles and vampire nonsense. Some of the battles are funny - including Jesus taking on a never-ending series of opponents who exit out of seeming clown cars to fight him in a park. Every fight is executed with tons of energy too. The characters (on both the good and bad sides) are never properly developed though and the whole thing feels a bit repetitive by the end - never reaching the heights of the cool latter Smash Cut from the same writer and director. (first viewing, online) ★

Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings (2007). As per the title, this documentary from Nova Scotia sets out to detail the ten most likely instances of actual UFO encounters as voted by a number of experts in a poll. While none of the cases are very convincing due to a lack of physical evidence, all of the anecdotal evidence from various sources makes a real case for something being out there, if maybe not extraterrestrial in origin. The film also brings up an intriguing point that most sightings are near military bases -- perhaps as an intergalactic warning against weaponry? Regardless of how convincing it is, the project is generally well done with retro 80s style computer graphics and down-to-earth expert and eyewitness interviews, none of whom seem like conspiracy nuts. Only the emotionless voiceover narration significantly weighs against the presentation. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Halloween: Resurgence (2012). Although not an official part of the Michael Myers canon, this indie thriller from a bunch of a dedicated fans is actually more tolerable than the dire fifth and sixth official entries. While the limited budget often shines through, the film has a handful of effective suspense and thrill moments since the filmmakers have to rely on atmosphere rather than blood and gore. There are some darkly comic moments too, such as one character killed only moments after stating that Michael Myers is still alive. The plot is less solid than its collection of shocks and scares though. It is unclear how or why he has escaped in this instance, and then he goes from killing everyday Haddonfield citizens to returning to his mental asylum simply because our protagonists plan to go there? The asylum is actually pretty spooky though, only seen at night. (first viewing, online) ★★

Home Sweet Home (2013). Spending twenty minutes on the antagonist methodically planning his evening before the action begins, this initially starts off as a very different sort of home invasion thriller. As the film progresses though, the uniqueness wears off; there are a far too many fake scare and boo-moments before the terror begins, and when it does begin, it is only ever of the standard cat-and-mouse variety. The film is also capped off with a ridiculous twist that makes less and less sense the more one thinks about it. That said, the vast majority of the film comes with no explanation at all; no motive for the home invader and only a wishy-washy back-story for his victims. There is something definitely intriguing in the home invasion genre being stripped down to such basics, but with so little driving it, this feels overlong even at less than 80 minutes in length. (first viewing, online) ★

OtherShow
The Vagabond King (1956). Based on an acclaimed operetta, this musical drama involves a pact that the King of France strikes up with a beggar whose anti-monarchy poetry amuses him. In the mix there is some fighting, a dull romance and lots and lots of singing. Given the source material, the number of songs is not surprising, but the how they interfere with narrative flow disappoints; there is next to no chance to know any of the characters in depth with so much singing. The film also looks remarkably shabby and bland considering that Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame was at the helm. The sets in fact look so fake that this often feels like a filmed stage production with the vivid colours only emphasising the fakeness. The music is certainly quite pleasant though, Vincent Price's narration is as classy as one would expect and some of the comic relief is decent. (first viewing, online) ★

Friends, Lovers, & Lunatics (1989). Driving across Toronto in pursuit of his wife who has run off with a lover, a would-be stalker considers reforming his ways after meeting another woman who is being stalked in this odd comedy. The film starts off quite quirky with a darkly comic vibe to the serious subject. Daniel Stern is fine as the would-be stalker too. As the film progresses though, Stern soon becomes a supporting character as attention diverts to the easily irate boyfriend of the other stalked woman. Page Fletcher is well cast in the role, and his chemistry with a young Elias Koteas as a dimwitted mechanic (and travelling companion) is great. There are few good mistaken identity comedic moments in the mix, but the film is never very smooth as it keeps switching protagonists. The project also comes pretty close to condoning stalking as something natural. (first viewing, online) ★★

Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter (1990). Pushed into a vat of nuclear waste after uncovering a conspiracy, a reporter miraculously survives and becomes bent on exacting revenge aided by radioactive superpowers in this comedy best thought of as Canada's answer to The Toxic Avenger. There are many quirky moments in the mix as the reporter melts as a police breathalyzer before maniacally driving off and as he burns others with his radioactive skin. His murder/revenge acts though sometimes feel generic if grisly; a death by lawnmowing equipment, for instance, is certainly zany but never really capitalises on the radioactive nature of the protagonist. The film never really looks at moral lines either or whether the new powers are getting to the reporter's head. If amusing, this mostly just seems like the filmmakers having fun with a weird title. (first viewing, online) ★★

Please Kill Mr. Know It All (2012). Needing a face for the fake male identity of her advice column, a writer runs into trouble when she uses the likeliness of a stranger who turns out to be a hitman in this romantic comedy. This is a fairly novel take on the classic romcom, addressing some dark issues as well as whether it is better to be inconspicuous or noticeable in life. The balance between black comedy and romance does not always click though, and while the couple's neurotic arguments over wanting to kill each other are fun, it is not until fairly late in the piece that she gets wise. The characters never feel in mortal danger either with the lighthearted tone, and the sentimental ending feels off. For the most part though, this is reasonably offbeat and quirky with some excellent moments in which we are unsure whether the hitman is going to kill her or kiss her. (first viewing, online) ★★

Heavy Metal Horror (2014). Fashioned as a documentary, this Canadian thriller interviews a woman who reportedly experienced a demonic encounter while partying with a Satan-worshipping heavy metal band. Featuring reenactments of the events leading up to the encounter, this is a little hard to get into at first with a lot scenes of the band just talking about (and playing) their music. Things get very interesting towards the end though, and some of the special effects on a budget during the final stretch are remarkably unsettling. With very little in the way of horror until this point though, the film never quite reaches the heights of something such as Deathgasm, to mention another movie that attempts to blend heavy metal and horror together. Daphnee Hanrahan is decent in the lead role though and the film certainly at least ends on a bit of a chilling note. (first viewing, online) ★

Hot Tub Party Massacre (2016). Titled after Slumber Party Massacre and released with a near-identical poster, this Canadian horror film likewise tries to do something different with the basic slasher premise. Whereas the 80s classic is often cited as very pro-feminist (which it actually isn't), this slasher toys with expectations by featuring only plus-sized actors and actresses throughout. On one hand, it is hard not to like the ambition and attempt to be more realistic by a having a cast of all shapes and sizes, but the narrative is quite shaky. There a couple of funny moments, most notably a satire of Pokémon Go addiction ("what's a killa-mon?"), but an eye-gouging aside, the vast majority of kills take place off-screen and the gore is limited. There is an excessive amount of slow motion too, which frequently interferes with the film's attempts to build suspense. (first viewing, online) ★
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Onderhond
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#2

Post by Onderhond » August 2nd, 2020, 12:43 pm

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Didn't have the best week in terms of quality, but finally got to do some catching up on ICM lists. Since there's been talk of a TSPDT Top 100 rankdown, I've focussed a little on the gaps there, as you can see in the bottom half of this list. Luckily there was Toyoda's newest film and man was it worth the wait Sadly it was a one-day exclusive, so hopefully it'll find its way to the West eventually.


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01. 4.5* - The Day of Destruction by Toshiaki Toyoda (2020)
Toshiaki Toyoda is back. The renegade director returns with a film that tackles the current epidemic, though not without some broader stabs at humankind's greed and egocentricity. While there is a rough narrative, The Day of Destruction is a mood piece first and foremost, hammering home its message. This is the Toyoda I love.

02. 3.5* - Romance Doll [Romansu Dôru] by Yuki Tanada (2020)
A fine Japanese drama with some quirky elements, but also one that feels a little too comfortable to really rise above its peers. I've seen my share of these film and while they're generally intriguing, effective and well-made, they sometimes lack a little boldness and vision to stand out. Director Tanada attempts to stir things up by having the main character work as a love doll sculptor. A fact he tries to keep hidden from his wife, who served as an unbeknownst model for one of his designs. But in the end that doesn't really change the dynamics, nor the tone of the film. Apart from a handful of stand-alone scenes, Romance Doll will feel very familiar. Performances are excellent, which isn't a big surprise with Yu Aoi and Issey Takahashi in the lead roles. The cinematography is good, but nothing out of the ordinary, the same goes for the soundtrack. All in all it's a fine film, I really haven't anything bad to say about it, it's just nothing I hadn't seen before.

03. 3.5* - Double World by Teddy Chan (2019)
Another milestone for Netflix. This is the first time they're dropping a big budget Chinese epic right onto their platform. Covid-19 is definitely offering them an advantage when directors like Teddy Chan are skipping theatrical releases and going directly to streaming. It's a brave new world indeed. Double World is a pretty standard blockbuster fantasy. That means you should except a hefty dose of CG, some slightly confusing lore and a plot that is more focused on action set pieces and broad spectacle than on character development and smart plotting. It would be weird to except anything else. My main gripe is that the creature designs felt a little lazy, a fantasy film like this could've more inspiring creatures rather than giant scorpions and a basic dragon. But the action scenes are solid and the ending was pretty impressive. Not enough to make this a true classic, but if you want some fun filler then Double Word delivers.

04. 3.5* - The Matsugane Potshot Affair [Matsugane Ransha Jiken] by Nobuhiro Yamashita (2006)
Yamashita likes it dry and just a little absurd, which isn't always the easiest sell. The Matsugane Potshot Affair is a film that illustrates his style very well. Essentially a comedy, mixed with some crime elements, but I wouldn't be surprised if some people mistake it for a drama (or are simply too confused to stick a genre to it). The film follows the affairs of the people in a remote mountain town, where everyday life is just a little cruder and rudimentary compared to the city. When one morning the police are faced with a hit-and-run victim, the ball gets rolling and the townspeople's lives are set to get a bit more interesting, even though they seem mostly unfazed by the events. Think of this as A Simple Plan in Japan and you might get a decent idea of where the film is headed. Performances are solid, the cinematography is decent, the score a little underwhelming. All in all it's a pretty good time, if you like dry/dark comedy and you don't mind some slight absurdities, though don't expect anything too weird or out there.

05. 3.0* - Invasion [Vtorzhenie] by Fedor Bondarchuk (2020)
A rather straight-forward sequel to Bondarchuk's Attraction. There are some reveals and twists in the first half that cast a different light on the ending of the first film, but that's little more than an excuse to redo the whole invasion thing with the same cast all over again. Plus a handful of novelties to keep things interesting. Where the first film started with a bang, Invasion keeps its most impressive scenes for the finale. This may be a bit more traditional, but it also makes more sense this way. The only downside is that the middle part feels a little lost, as it's mostly just a plot transition between the reveals at the beginning and the big finale at the end. The hefty budget is definitely a plus, the visual effects looked pretty impressive and it's always nice to have the proper level of destruction when an alien race invades Earth. The soundtrack is decent, though a little too poppy, performances are solid but nothing remarkable. Overall a fun and entertaining blockbuster, looking forward to the third (and possibly final?) part.

06. 3.0* - Cute Devil [Kawaii Akuma] by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi (1982)
I didn't expect too much from this Obayashi, TV films are rarely a showcase for a director's talents, but I'm quite impressed with the result. Cute Devil's TV roots are noticeable, at the same time this is unmistakably an Obayashi film. Bold, expressive and overwhelmingly cheesy, but also very effective. Most "demon child" films opt for boys, Obayashi takes a cute, little Japanese girl and has her murder all who get in her way. It's a neat twist that pays off surprisingly well. It's almost impossible to guide child actors into becoming mean, evil beings (which is where most of these films fail), it's much easier to have them be charming little nuggets that do some killing on the side. While not as outright crazy as House, Obayashi makes excellent use of the soundtrack and cinematography to create a vibrant yet disturbing atmosphere. The film could definitely benefit from a thorough restoration, but for a made-for-TV production this looked very solid. A fun and amusing horror film, which was more than I expected to find.

07. 3.0* - Bad Boys for Life by Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah (2020)
El Arbi and Fallah made it big. The gap between directing local crime films and a big Hollywood action blockbuster is considerable, but they handled themselves remarkably well. While not as extravagant or lively as Bay's second film, Bad Boys for Life is a decent continuation of an entertaining franchise. What's lacking is a personal signature, but I guess that's not too surprising considering this is their first big budget feature. This felt like a pretty basic action/comedy, with some expensive chase sequences, a little playful banter between the leads and a flashy set piece where the finale takes place. Without anything to really call their own though, it's hard not to compare this to Bay's superior second film. Smith and Lawrence are solid, though they're basically just revisiting their earlier performances (with some ages jokes thrown in for good measure). The cinematography is decent, the soundtrack fitting and the action sequences adequate, but apart from the finale there isn't really a scene that is going to stick. A decent and entertaining sequel, but nothing more.

08. 3.0* - Don't Let Them In by Mike Dunkin (2020)
An amusing little horror film, thanks to Aidan O'Neill. He brightens up an otherwise simple story about pagan/satanic rituals. It's not that director Dunkin did a bad job, but if this had been a straight-up horror film I don't think it would've been good enough to leave a positive impression. Luckily there's a little more to it. Karl and Jenna are two social service workers. Jenna takes her job quite seriously, Karl is there for the decent hours and solid pension. He decides to join Jenna on an out-of-town assignment right before he kicks off the weekend, just to show her he's not a total moron. It's a trip he's going to remember for the rest of his life. Take a secluded rural town, a nutter who believes people are out to kill him and some masked assailers hiding in the shadows, and you pretty much know where this is going. O'Neill's snarky comments and increasingly crude reactions make the trip worthwhile. Not the most original of horror films, but pretty funny nonetheless.

09. 3.0* - The Doll by Rocky Soraya (2016)
When you've decided to see a horror film titled The Doll, you really shouldn't be expecting anything original. And honestly, there aren't any big surprises here, even the twist ending is by the numbers. There's a haunted doll, a bunch of classic horror scares and a little girl that turns out to be pretty creepy. There's a little Conjuring and Annabelle in here, but it's really just a basic Asian horror film, steeped in drama and delivering plenty of chills and creepy moments along the way. The good thing is that Rocky Soraya does a commendable job, no matter how predictable the film is and how many times you've seen this exact same thing before. Performances are decent but a little overdone during the creepier moments. The cinematography is nice and moody, the CG a bit flaky but functional. The soundtrack is above par though, quite loud but effective and atmospheric. The Doll isn't a true must-see, but if you're looking for some tasty horror filler, it's a surprisingly well-made film that is sure to please genre fans.

10. 3.0* - Summer Vacation 1999 [1999 - Nen no Natsu Yasumi] by Shûsuke Kaneko (1988)
An interesting early feature by Shûsuke Kaneko. He's a bit of a cult director who often takes on cheesy franchise projects, but Summer Vacation 1999 isn't as shlocky as most of his other films. It's a pretty moody and intriguing drama/mystery that proves he has more to offer than you'd wager at first glance. The story begins with the suicide of Yu, a young boy attending a boarding school. Three classmates who bullied Yu remain at the school for the holidays and freak out when they meet the new kid: a boy who is the spitting image of Yu. The three believe Yu has come back to take revenge, but the boy has no idea what they're talking about. The beginning is very atmospheric, with nice camera work, moody lighting and a solid soundtrack. Performances are pretty good too. The film loses some steam halfway through as it gets a bit too repetitive and the ending isn't as powerful as it could've been. Still, a worthy film from Kaneko that makes me curious about his older work.

11. 3.0* - Mars and April [Mars et Avril] by Martin Villeneuve (2012)
Interesting and unique little film. It's rare to find smaller films that try to blend sci-fi and fantasy. They require hefty budgets to do well, plus they require the necessary creativity to craft a world that is both futuristic and fantastical. Mars and April is based on a graphic novel, so luckily the source material was already there. Martin Villeneuve does his best to make it a very visual experience, and succeeds surprisingly well. The world looks interesting, designs translate well to the big screen and even though the CG isn't always top-notch, the illusion of a fully fledged fantasy world is there. That's quite the accomplishment. Sadly the rest of the film can't match the visuals. The music is disappointing, performances are rather weak and the dialogue feels forced and uncomfortable. Not sure how much of this is taken from the novels, but even though the fantasy world looks great it's just not a very fun and inviting place to spend time in. Worth a watch, but lacks the finesse to be truly great.

12. 3.0* - Eye for an Eye [Quien a Hierro Mata] by Paco Plaza (2019)
Quite a change of pace for Paco Plaza. Best known as a full-blown horror director, Plaza slow things down and deliver a crime thriller with strong dramatic undertones. Not really the film I was expecting from him, it's equally clear he struggled with the genre switch in places, but overall this was a pretty solid film. The story revolves around Mario, a nurse who works in a retirement home. Things go sour for him when he is paired with a senior drug lord responsible for the death of his brother. Mario struggles with his conscience, but decides he can't pass up this opportunity and start to slowly poison his patient. Performances are decent but nothing out of the ordinary. The cinematography isn't all that either, looking a bit drab and lifeless. Luckily the soundtrack is on par and delivers oodles of atmosphere, while the story is interesting enough to hold the attention. I think Plaza is better suited for the horror genre, but this wasn't all that bad.

13. 2.5* - Aniara by Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja (2018)
Aniara is the kind of sci-fi film that isn't too occupied with the future, instead it uses futuristic elements to have a good old moan about the present/society. It's been done countless times before, so it all comes down to execution and that's where directors Lilja and Kagerman could've done better. The film follows a colonization ship on its way to Mars, when it is knocked out of its course with no means to get back on the right track. As this mini-society travels aimlessly through space, the structures that keep their commune together slowly starts to crumble and chaos inevitably ensues. The budget is low, which is always a challenge for sci-fi, but I don't feel Lilja and Kagerman did enough to get the dread and hopelessness of the ship's situation across. The cinematography is decent but unadventurous, the soundtrack fell a little flat. And the performances couldn't save this either. It's not a terrible film, just a little underwhelming.

14. 2.5* - Amulet by Romola Garai (2020)
A brave attempt to marry social drama with religious body horror. It's a pretty unique combination, but not an easy one to pull off and Garai really struggles to find the right balance. The first half of the film is a little too slow and dreary, whereas the second half suddenly jumps into the horror head-on. Tomaz is an immigrant in London who roams the streets. A friendly nun looks after him and knows a place where he can crash. She takes him to Magda, a woman who lives alone with her sick mother. Tomaz isn't to keen on moving in with her, but his situation doesn't leave him much choice, and so he accepts the offer. Garai has trouble with setting the right tone. The music is quite special and leading, but it's not exactly thrilling. The effects are nothing less than impressive, but the cinematography leans too heavily on social drama aesthetics (like watching a Dardennes film), which again takes away from the atmosphere. In the end it feels like an intriguing film, but the potential remains unfulfilled.

15. 2.5* - Tears of No Regret by Frankie Chung (2020)
Another Monkey King/Journey to the West adaptation, but of the B-grade fantasy kind that is currently flooding the Chinese market. Demand is bigger than what the big studios can offer, so smaller production houses are cranking out these films at breakneck speed. It's a bit of a minefield, quality-wise, but from time to time you can find a gem in the rough. Tears of no Regret has so much CG it's practically an animated film. The actors are real humans, but they spend most of the time in CG-generated backgrounds, performing CG-assisted tricks. At least the art design is pretty interesting, very colorful, rather lush and well over the top. The CG isn't perfect, but aesthetically it's pretty cool. The rest of the film isn't up to par though. Performances are flaky, the story feels incredibly rushed (then again, the film is only 70 minutes long) and there are some musical interludes that are completely out of place. Not a great film, but it was interesting enough to keep me entertained for as long as it lasted.

16. 2.5* - Diving Into the Unknown [Takaisin Pintaan] by Juan Reina (2016)
I didn't know anything about the story of this film going in, but it quickly became clear this wasn't just a fun trekking/diving documentary, where the audience is allowed to ogle the scenery. The dive of this Finnish company quickly turns sour (read deadly) and the first half hour is spent recounting this fateful event.
What follows is a bit more surprising. The survivors of the team organize an illegal rescue attempt, after local authorities sealed off the cave with no intentions of getting the bodies out. It's a pretty thrilling setup where the danger is glaringly obvious, further fuelled by the secretive nature of the operation. The problem is that the footage isn't terribly exciting and no matter how thrilling the subject is, after an hour of very samey diving scenes my interest had waned a little. While I generally prefer documentaries to be as realistic as possible, the tough circumstances this was made were difficult to mask. Some subtle cinematic touch-ups might've helped to better get that across. Definitely worth a watch though.

17. 2.5* - Late Spring [Banshun] by Yasujirô Ozu (1949)
One of the better Ozu films I've seen so far. I admit I'm not very far in the man's oeuvre yet, but his more famous films haven't been big hits with me so far. Late Spring gives me some hope for the rest of his work. It's not the ultimate classic I've been looking for, but at least I had a decent time with this one. The drama is a bit outdated though, the titular Late Spring referring to the looming expiration date of Noriko, a young girl who is in the prime of her life, but doesn't have any tangible marriage prospects just yet. In between the lines there are some nice reflections on marriage, family and the need to break out of comfort zones, so at least there were some relatable elements there. Chishû Ryû's performance is strong, Setsuko Hara is charming but her facial expressions feel a little contorted, which makes for some awkward moments. Ozu's visual style is stark, precise and calming, the soundtrack on the other hand feels a little bland and random, with some rather poor choices early on. While slow and quite uneventful, it never felt like the film dragged or lost my interest. But it didn't feel all that relevant anymore either. Even so, a decent watch.

18. 2.5* - The Big Score [Jue Qiao Zhi Duo Xing] by Jing Wong (1990)
A pretty basic but amusing Jing Wong vehicle. A combination of action, comedy and of course, a handful of gambling scenes. It's not a big surprise I only caught this film so late in my quest to finish his oeuvre, as it's unremarkable in just about every way possible, at the same time it did end up being pretty entertaining. Jing Wong teams up with Danny Lee and joins him in front of the camera. Not the best acting duo every put on screen, but the two have enough chemistry to guide you through the film. Because there are quite a few genre switches and because Wong had plenty of prior experience with all of them, the pacing is solid and there isn't really a dull moment in sight. Visually it doesn't look too bad, but if you've seen a couple of these early 90s Hong Kong action/comedy flicks you'll know what to expect. The soundtrack is incredibly cheesy though, cheap and distracting. Though a little hard to recommend, people who can stand Wong's film and have seen the bigger projects in his oeuvre are sure to have a bit of fun with this one.

19. 2.0* - The Hateful Beast [Nippon Boko Ankokushi: Onju] by Koji Wakamatsu (1970)
Another entry in Wakamatsu's series on Japanese rapists. It's not the jolliest subject to make films about, but people familiar with Wakamatsu's work know it's a theme that suits him. What doesn't suit him is the classic/historic setting of the story, which takes a lot of vitality away from his films. The Hateful Beast revolves around two criminals who lived during the Edo era. They both arrive at a same village, but one proves to be more successful than the other. While he enjoys the spoils of his criminal career, the other one rots away in prison, planning his revenge. It's hardly the most imaginative story, though that matters less, as it's rooted in reality. The black and white cinematography is nice, but not all that remarkable. The editing and camera work feel a little plain and unimaginative though, especially for a Wakamatsu film. The presentation (including the soundtrack) is just too tame and safe. It's in line with other classic Japanese films, but it takes away from Wakamatsu's unique flavor. Not his best work.

20. 2.0* - The Spiderwick Chronicles by Mark Waters (2008)
A US fantasy film aimed at a younger audience. Not really my thing, even so there were some rather promising elements here. I tend to dislike fantasy that stick too closely to comfort and familiarity, and while The Spiderwick Chronicles isn't a true feast of creativity, at least some extra work had gone into the designs and styling of the fantasy elements. The monster design was rather interesting, still familiar but not overtly lazy or derivative, which really helped to ground the fantasy atmosphere. The story was rather crude though, with a couple of kids going on a quest where they are meant to save the fantasy realm from a mean-looking ogre. The problem with these American films is that there is very little room to revel in the fantasy world. Rather that enjoy the beauty and creativity on display, silence needs to be avoided at all cost, either by stupid comic relief, overbearing music, pointless dialogue and whatnot. This would've been so much better if they'd slowed it down a gear or two, now it's squarely aimed at kids who prefer things that appear busy.

21. 1.5* - Rio by Carlos Saldanha (2011)
Don't ever wonder how many animal-based CG animations there are, unless you're dedicated enough to find out the answer. Rio is another franchise that I missed simply because there's so many of them, and they all look, sound and appear so similar. Rio isn't the worst of the bunch at least. The whole selling point of the film is Brazil. That's pretty much it. A Brazilian bird gets poached, is raised in the US and returns to his homeland when it turns out he's the last male species of his race. If that sounds random, it's because these stories are rarely more than a hook for a little comedy, some songs and a bit of adventuring. The jokes are terrible though and many of the secondary characters are absolutely annoying, but at least the film is not quite as loud and obnoxious as most of its peers. It's a minor perk and it doesn't really save the film, but at least it makes it easier to sit through than many of its contemporaries.

22. 1.5* - Au Hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson (1966)
A typical Bresson. His cold, dry and wooden minimalism isn't really my cup of tea, the most amusing thing about Au Hasard Balthazar is watching Bresson struggle with his animal, a donkey who isn't susceptible to his directing tactics and is hell-bent on becoming the most natural and humane character in his entire oeuvre. Spoiler alert: I think he succeeded. The donkey is the focus of the film, as he is passed around and ends up in all kinds of different predicaments. Most people mistreat the animal, but at least they're consistent in mistreating other people too. Bresson's vision of the French countryside is grim and misanthropic, which explains the stark black and white cinematography, stripping the film from whatever summery vibe the outside scenes offered him. There's a lot of symbolism, referencing Christianity and society, but I didn't get the impression Bresson had anything valuable to say with it. The style of acting in his film is absolutely atrocious, the stuttery editing didn't really help either. Still, this is one of the better Bresson's I've seen so far, even though that doesn't say much.

23. 1.5* - The Speed Cubers by Sue Kim (2020)
A short documentary on speed cubing, at least that's the premise of this film. 40 minutes isn't a lot to do justice to a subject, the problem is that only half of the time is spent on the actual speed cubing. Maybe because it's a pretty simple sport and there's really not that much to tell, but that's the reason I decided to watch this documentary. Instead, Sue Kim finds a story about two rivals (Max and Feliks) who share a solid friendship, with Max being diagnosed as autistic. About half the doc is spent on Max' condition and how the speed cubing contests allowed him to better deal with the world around him. Instead of speed cubing, you get stuck with human interest material. Autism is definitely a worthy subject for a documentary, but there are already so many documentaries out there that do a much better job detailing the ins and outs of this condition, that it just felt superfluous and distracting here. The two protagonists are pretty lovable characters, but that doesn't necessarily make for a good documentary.

24. 1.5* - Borinage [Misère au Borinage] by Joris Ivens, Henri Storck (1934)
Old, silent and pro-socialist documentary about the plight of the miners in the Borinage, following their protests against the wasteful actions of the proletariat. They were willing to ruin their own stock, simply to drive up the price of the goods they wanted to sell. It's a classic rich vs poor story that shows some things haven't changed in the past century. The stark black and white cinematography is nice, but also pretty convenient in making the miners' situation look extra dire and depressing. Not that they were to be envied, far from it, but it does give the documentary a certain hellish feel that doesn't really correspond with reality. The documentary has no narration, no music either. It's an interesting window into Belgian history, but mostly for people who are naturally interested in that sort of thing. The story itself really isn't all that special and even though the film is only 30 minutes long, it struggled to hold my attention.

25. 1.5* - Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni (1966)
Only my second feature-length Antonioni, this time in color and in English. Sadly it didn't make that much of a difference, while I understand the film's historic significance I found the actual result to be quite underwhelming. I do believe it did explain a thing or two about Antonioni's segment in Eros, which I felt was by far the weakest in that anthology. It's always a bit of a gamble when directors make a film in a language that isn't their own. It's no surprise then that the performances felt very stiff and unnatural. Redgrave and Hemmings looked incredibly uncomfortable and uncertain of what they were supposed to be doing, which is not a good start for a film that spends so much time circling its main character. Blow-Up is very much a mood piece though, a true relic of the 60s. That's pretty cool for people who like the 60s, personally I couldn't care less. The music was atrocious, the cinematography looked rather grim and the fashion and styling were ugly as can be. And even though there are a handful intruiging scenes, they are few and far between, and they get completely overshadowed by the ones that miss their target. Not impressed.

26. 1.5* - Alexander by Oliver Stone (2004)
Oliver Stone's Alexander is an ambitious film. It tackles the life of Alexander the Great, who took his army around the world to conquer kingdoms from Egypt to India. These historic epics are by nature quite cheesy and dramatic, but Oliver Stone really takes it the next level here. I'm not sure the rest of crew had any idea of what he was trying to accomplish though. Not sure what the directions were for the actors, but even though the film is stocked with veterean A-listers, the performances are weak and over-the-top. Not just that, most of them are dressed as if they were participating in a local theater play. I don't think someone like Colin Farrell has ever looked so silly on camera. The film as a whole doesn't look very realistic, almost fantasy-like in places. Especially the foreign kingdoms feel like they'd fit right in with the upcoming Avatar sequels. There are a handful of decent moments, in particularly the pink-colored fight at the end, but overall it's a disappointing mess that comes off surprisingly amateurish for a film this expensive.

27. 1.0* - The Leopard [Il Gattopardo] by Luchino Visconti (1963)
My second Visconti wasn't really a success either. After seeing Rocco and His Brothers ages ago, it was time to give the man another chance. It might not have been the best idea to go for a 3-hour film, on the other hand The Leopard is one of Visconti's most respected films, so what the heck. I will admit that his films look much nicer in full color. I don't remember much of Rocco, but I do remember the dreary black and white cinematography. To see Italy in all its colorful glory is a relief. That goes for both the scenes inside and the ones outdoors, with the latter being the most impressive (thanks to Sicily, at least in part). The story was less interesting, mixing Italian history with cheesy drama while having a go at the aging aristocrats. Though I have to say that the clumsy dialogues and overdone performances didn't help the story one bit. The soundtrack too is annoying, scraping away the atmosphere built up by the cinematography. The incredibly lengthy and pompous ball scene at the end was the final nail in The Leopard's coffin. I don't think I'm a big Visconti fan.

28. 1.0* - Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles by Chantal Akerman (1975)
My first Akerman, which is pretty unforgivable since I'm a Belgian myself. Then again, Akerman is hardcore cinephile material and not really that known over here. Not too surprising either because her work doesn't seem very accessible. Jeanne Dielman is by far her most prestigious film, though I'm not sure it was the best place to start. The mix of an extremely dry and down-to-earth presentation with a more conceptual structure didn't sit very well with me. On the one hand Akerman seems to chase realism and mundanity, but the film runs very much on rails, and isn't really subtle about it either. It's the worst of both worlds and with a 200+ minute runtime, that's not pleasant at all. The success of minimalism lives in the details, but the contrast between Dielman's machine-like routines in the first half and the way she slowly falls apart in the second is too on the nose, not to say incredibly repetitive. I even tried to read up on the intentions of Akerman afterwards, but that only seemed to make it worse. Bland cinematography, no soundtrack to speak of and mediocre to terrible performances. Very disappointing.

29. 0.5* - The Pacifier by Adam Shankman (2005)
No idea who talked Vin Diesel into doing this film, probably (and hopefully) Disney offered him a bucket load of money for this part because this was absolute trash. While I realize I'm not at all the target audience for this kind of film, I do hope general standards for kids films are a bit higher than this. It seems all brawny men must at least make one of these, The Pacifier fits right in with Johnson's Tooth Fairy or Schwarzenegger's Kindergarten Cop. Diesel is a Seal who needs to babysit a bunch of kids for an undercover assignment. He's not babysitter material and the kids aren't really taking to him either. Supposed hilarity ensues. This is meant to be a comedy with some action/adventure bits thrown in for good measure, the problem is that the film is never funny, while the action is really childish and subpar. Somehow it made a lot of money at the box office, so I'm sure there's an audience for this, but it sure it ain't me. Ugh.

30. 0.5* - Blow Job by Andy Warhol (1963)
Andy Warhol may be a famous artist, not that many people know he also directed several films. Then again, watch a couple of them and it will all start to make sense. His work is rather experimental, the kind that tries to stretch the limits of cinema as far as possible, to the point where it's bordering on/crossing over into art installation territory. Blow Job is definitely one of those projects. It's a 30-minute film comprised of a single shot (and some repeats) of a man's face who is supposedly receiving the titular treatment. I say supposedly because the camera never moves an inch, and we never get to see anything more than his facial expressions. That's it, just 30 minutes of that. While I don't mind experimental cinema, I'm not a big fan of conceptual films. The kind that explore the medium itself, or the viewers' reaction to the medium. The length of this film is supposed to allow people to deep dive into these things, but I really don't need a film for that, especially not one as lazy and repetitive as this one. A lot of expensive words (and even books) have been written about Warhol's Blow Job, so it definitely got some people thinking, personally I think it's trash and a waste of time.

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Onderhond
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#3

Post by Onderhond » August 2nd, 2020, 5:48 pm

sol:
I saw The Cat and the Canary (1.5*), mostly for Bob Hope (back when me girlfriend and I were going through the "Road To" series I think), but Goddard wasn't too bad either. There was some charm there, but I found it pretty childish and there wasn't a lot that really worked for me. Home Sweet Home (3.5*) I liked a lot, though I thought Morlet's Mutants was better. Very cold, clinical and creepy home invasion film, seems I prefer it when there is no back story or obvious reason given (as demonstrated by a very recent film in the same genre - naming it could be a spoiler I guess).

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prodigalgodson
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#4

Post by prodigalgodson » August 2nd, 2020, 7:11 pm

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Elio Petri, 1970) 4/10

This expose/procedural plays out like an Ellroy adaptation without the scope and urgency, using a borderline-caricature case to comment on the cognitive dissonance inherent in power structures. Too on the nose for me, with capable but somewhat shoddy direction, redeemed by a fiery Volante performance and a catchy Morricone theme.

La Chinoise (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967) 9/10

"Shows should be free. Those who want to make war should pay to do so."

The kind of movie that would’ve been an instant favorite if I’d chanced on in it my teenage retrospective phase. Equally captivating from an aesthetic and political standpoint, like a more intellectual Wakamatsu with its take on ostensible revolutionaries. A demanding watch -- I had to rewind a number of times to follow the train of thought and probably need to give it a second go to assess it fairly.

Hail Mary (Jean-Luc Godard, 1985) 4/10

I admire Godard’s constant experimentation, but he’s not really a versatile enough storyteller to pull off this lyrical, spiritual style. He’s so unequipped to capture basic human experiences like love and suffering in anything but the most aloof, intellectual terms that his attempt to make a film centered around those concepts falls far short of the achievement of other truth-through-artifice filmmakers like Bresson or Mizoguchi. And despite being one of his most conventionally attractive films, there’s a real sense of ugliness and despondency lurking throughout. That said, there are too many intriguing ideas (or suggestions of ideas) and striking imagery and editing to write it off as a failure, and I got more out of it than a few of Godard's more acclaimed films.

Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, 2010) 9/10

Something about the Mediterranean brings out the best in Godard; this is for me his most aesthetically appealing film after Contempt, and a fresh experience otherwise, breaking new ground for digital filmmaking and personalized political storytelling. I watched it with the shorthand subtitles, which contributed to the sense of fragmentation and mystery, but I'd love to watch the fully translated version, if only to see what effect being able to follow the dialogue a bit more would have on the experience.

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prodigalgodson
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#5

Post by prodigalgodson » August 2nd, 2020, 7:17 pm

Ooof onderhond, keeping us humble as always... :P

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Perception de Ambiguity
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#6

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » August 2nd, 2020, 9:25 pm

These things happened...
North of Hollywood, West of Hell

映画は生きものの記録である 土本典昭の仕事 / Cinema Is about Documenting Lives: The Works and Times of Noriaki Tsuchimoto 2007 toshi fujiwara. 5
i feel nothingShow
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The Scream 2019 philippe grandrieu. 5+

Blonde Barbarei 1972 dore o.. 3+

Gwen, le livre de sable / Gwen et le livre de sable / Gwen, the Book of Sand 1985 jean-françois laguionie. 6

Fallen Angels: Tomorrow I Die 1995 john dahl. 6


shorts

色即是空 / Everything Visible Is Empty / Siki soku ze ku 1975 toshio matsumoto. 5

cosmic alchemy 2010 larry jordan. 6

The Velvet Underground in Boston 1967 andy warhol. 7

1857 (Fool's Gold) 1981 r. bruce elder. 7
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The Garden 2019 patrick müller. 5+

Mirror Road 1976 gary hill. 6

Rick and Morty vs. Genocider 2020 takashi sano. 5+

i thot i wuz free 2016 petra cortright. 4

How Was Your Day Honey (director's cut) 2020(?) david lynch. 4+

The Spider and the Bee 2020 david lynch. 4+

Death Day / Día de muerte 1934 sergei m. eisenstein. 7

Still Here 還在 2020 sean wang. 6-


series

Supersense 1988 john downer. 7
ep6: "Making Sense" 7

Dave - S01E01 - "The Gander" 2020. 6

TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG / Duck Face: The Limited Series 2019 nic.win.ref. 7
Volume 1: The Devil. 7
Volume 2: The Lovers. 6
Volume 3: The Hermit. 6
Volume 4: The Tower. 6
Volume 5: The Fool. 7
there are two ways to go about itShow
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Volume 6: The High Priestess. 6
Volume 7: The Magician. 6
Volume 8: The Hanged Man. 7
Volume 9: The Empress. 7
Volume 10: The World. 7


music videos

Marilyn Manson: We Are Chaos 2020


other

Supersense - Making of... +=


didn't finish

Sonnensystem 2011 thomas heise [ca. 35 min]]


notable online media

top:
Megalithic Aspects Of Uxmal In Mexico Built Before The Maya Arrived
rest:
FIRST LOOK: Rick and Morty Season 5 | adult swim


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LETTERBOXD | MUBI | IMDb | tumblr.

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Lilarcor
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#7

Post by Lilarcor » August 2nd, 2020, 9:50 pm

sol: I also watched Numéro deux last week (thanks Mubi!) and it gave me a lot to think about. Not sure what to make of it but I did appreciate it a lot, so playful! At the same time extremely emotionally distant, and quite provoking in that way by treating "recordings" of a family as formal playthings that can be reduced to frank, almost zoo-like television landscapes in the editing room. A central part of the film for me is the constipated woman, it does feel like Godard is not only saying that this woman is literally full of shit, but that through screens the filmmaker can reduce the human landscape to shit-producing factories mainly concerned with basal sexual drives - regardless of age or gender. The tired Godard resting at the table almost becomes a commentary on the difficulty for him (and possibly society at large) post-May 1968 to use screens to go beyond, to get closer to people while at the same time approaching the new reality. The superimposition of the girl in the anal sex scene certainly must be one of the most radical scenes of 1970s cinema, and it's crazy how well Numero deux works as a commentary on reality television.

prodigalgodson: While I haven't seen Hail Mary yet I think you are pretty spot on in your read of Godard, and it's tempting to read Numéro deux as a confirmation of his lacking ability to capture human experiences. In Numéro deux I think this distanced view is a strength and kind of fascinating, in a film like Pierrot le fou this "lack" makes for a very funny film. I am curious how Hail Mary will work or not for me. Vivre sa vie did for some reason, but I think perhaps the performances there captured something very human despite itseld as a Godard film.

My (other) watches:

Hope (Maria Sødahl, 2019)
One of three nominees for the best Norwegian film of last year for the Amanda Awards. 2019 was a unusually strong year for Norwegian feature films, with Hope and Beware of Children both being films that will make lists of the best Norwegian films of all time in the future. Beware of Children will likely win the Amanda Award, but I personally liked Hope more. Hope tells the story of a woman who finds out before Christmas that her cancer has returned and spread to the brain, based on the director's own experience and memories of going through this herself. Strong performances and the film is not afraid to create friction between characters and audiences, showing that families or couples are not necessarily brought closer together by such devastating news. Really deep and fascinating portrayal of upper middle class family dynamics to boot. 8/10

The Simple-Minded Murderer (Hans Alfredson, 1982)
A mentally challenged man (played by the completely unrecognizable Stellan Skarsgård, who also plays in Hope) is treated bad by a industry-owning rich guy in 1930s Sweden and finds a new home in a poor farming family. Simplistic class commentary with no bite, but has some quite inventive visual motifs. 6/10

Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982)
The b/w and lack of grey tones here is stunning and used for maximum effect to tell through showing. The white-colored doctor's office is something else and one for the ages. 8/10

The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010) (rewatch)
It might have been more complex as a study of Zuckerberg if Zuckerberg's girlfriend had been part of the film throughout (as she was in real life). But I can't fault the film too much, it is such an interesting take on a business / university / internet culture that was and is reckless and unemphatic in the way it treats people, reducing the data it provides or leaves behind as a fuel for personal motivations. 8/10

Like Father, Like Son (Hirokazu Koreeda, 2013) (rewatch)
Less emotionally devastating on a second watch, but I really appreciate the portrayal of the career-focused and distant/introvert father-type. 8/10

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#8

Post by Onderhond » August 3rd, 2020, 8:16 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
August 2nd, 2020, 7:17 pm
Ooof onderhond, keeping us humble as always... :P
Myeah, the next couple of weeks might be a little rough, as I seem to have some room in my schedule to do a little ICM catch-up.

From yours I've only seen Godard's Film Socialisme. I kinda like some of his older films (one of the best 60s directors around imo), but his newer works feels a bit out of touch. It's nice that he tries to be a bit more experimental, but the result is a bit too crude for my liking.

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#9

Post by sol » August 3rd, 2020, 9:48 am

Onderhond wrote:
August 2nd, 2020, 5:48 pm
sol:
I saw The Cat and the Canary (1.5*), mostly for Bob Hope (back when me girlfriend and I were going through the "Road To" series I think), but Goddard wasn't too bad either. There was some charm there, but I found it pretty childish and there wasn't a lot that really worked for me. Home Sweet Home (3.5*) I liked a lot, though I thought Morlet's Mutants was better. Very cold, clinical and creepy home invasion film, seems I prefer it when there is no back story or obvious reason given (as demonstrated by a very recent film in the same genre - naming it could be a spoiler I guess).
I have actually never seen any of the "Road To" movies but I agree about Bob Hope's charms. He's also pretty good in Caught in the Draft and the two Paleface movies, though I don't expect any of them to be up your alleyway.

The Paul Leni silent version of The Cat and the Canary is the best for mood and atmosphere. The Bob Hope version probably has the most pronounced comedy angle (apparently the source material was not intended as a comedy at all!) but the 70s version by Radley Metzger is pretty funny at times too. These are the only three versions that I have seen, and I have liked them all to varying degrees, though the silent version is certainly my favourite.

I found Home Sweet Home to be an interesting experiment, and I appreciated it more as an experiment than a filmic experience. The idea of spending so much time on the killer planning and preparing the home invasion definitely appeals to me (can't remember that much of The Collector, but that's what springs to mind) and it certainly puts a different spin on things. Same with taking the motive out of the picture too. I did sadly start to lose interest though once the actual invasion started.

Yours:

I don't remember much of Late Spring outside of Chishû Ryû's and Setsuko Hara performances, but like most cinephiles, I have it down as Ozu's second best.

I love Blowup so I am so pleased to see that you liked it more than Alvin and the Chipmunks. Shame about Il Gattopardo, but I know that you generally don't like long films. I wouldn't say that I love the film, but I do love Burt Lancaster's performance in it.

Lilarcor wrote:
August 2nd, 2020, 9:50 pm
sol: I also watched Numéro deux last week (thanks Mubi!) and it gave me a lot to think about. Not sure what to make of it but I did appreciate it a lot, so playful! At the same time extremely emotionally distant, and quite provoking in that way by treating "recordings" of a family as formal playthings that can be reduced to frank, almost zoo-like television landscapes in the editing room. A central part of the film for me is the constipated woman, it does feel like Godard is not only saying that this woman is literally full of shit, but that through screens the filmmaker can reduce the human landscape to shit-producing factories mainly concerned with basal sexual drives - regardless of age or gender. The tired Godard resting at the table almost becomes a commentary on the difficulty for him (and possibly society at large) post-May 1968 to use screens to go beyond, to get closer to people while at the same time approaching the new reality. The superimposition of the girl in the anal sex scene certainly must be one of the most radical scenes of 1970s cinema, and it's crazy how well Numero deux works as a commentary on reality television.

prodigalgodson: While I haven't seen Hail Mary yet I think you are pretty spot on in your read of Godard, and it's tempting to read Numéro deux as a confirmation of his lacking ability to capture human experiences.
I agree about Numéro Deux being very playful, and surprisingly so given some of the grim subject matter. No surprise that you appreciated it since I actually think it is the closest Godard has come to Michael Snow - though of course it would be 27 years later before Snow himself would experiment with video effects, superimposition edits and the power of showing us two different images at once.

Regarding the constipated woman, I couldn't help but note that the film's very title is a euphemism for a bowel movement. Godard having his own personal joke as he so often did throughout his career. Wordplay is also a big part of Godard's more experimental features, so I think this was intentional. Then there is also the #2 as the second television set. Something interesting: in the scenes with only one television set, I kept wondering what we were not being shown on the second screen.

Above all else though, I just totally dig the whole screens-within-screens dynamic. Prof. Brian O'Blivion would have approved. :)

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And Hail Mary is a very good film. Not quite as radical as Numéro Deux but I would still recommend it. Approach it this way: the film is about the faith that we as viewers have and can hold when we sit down to watch a film.

Yours:

Agreed about Veronika Voss being very visually striking. I can actually barely remember the plot, but some of the images are still ingrained in my mind from over a decade ago.

The Social Network is a film that I have liked more and more with each rewatch. It was really hard getting on the film's wavelength during its theatrical run with all the hype surrounding it, but it is a pretty good human tale, if one that does stray a little from the truth.

Like Father, Like Son made me wonder what I would do in that sort of scenario myself. I think I know, but it's impossible to tell...
Former IMDb message boards user // iCM | IMDb | Letterboxd | My top 750 films // Long live the new flesh!
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Lonewolf2003
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#10

Post by Lonewolf2003 » August 3rd, 2020, 4:58 pm

My viewings last week. And actually a few from the weekend before that, but I haven't been posting regurlary in these threads lately and this way my De Palma run is complete, so I hope you can forgive me bending the rules a little.

The Wedding Party (1969, Brian De Palma): 5.8 - While De Palma is widely known as being heavenly influenced by Hitchcock, his first few movies are more directly inspired by Godard. Which is evident in the sudden jump cuts, slow-motions and fast-forwarding in this. Those do give this clichéd movie some must needed playfulness. Best moments are the lighter moments like a scene in which the groom tries to seduce a bridesmaid and a fun opening sequence reminiscent of silent slapstick. It are in the numerous dialogues about the (dis)advantages of marriage the frequent use of jump cuts feel forcedly artistic and therefor distract. While released after the success of Greetings, this was already filmed in '63, being the first feature De Palma directed. It was also the debut feature of a certain Robert Denero.

Greetings (1968, Brian De Palma): 4.2 -Greetings is how the letter started young men got when being drafted for the Vietnam; it's this target audience this satire was meant for. While some of those might have connected with the movie at the time, the heavy political satire now feels outdated and irrelevant, especially all the ramblings about the JFK conspiracy. Focusing on three different characters the movie is completely incohesive, and only one of those characters (Robert De Niro's peeping Tom) is slightly interesting. In De Niro’s character De Palma thematic fixation on voyeurism is already starting to show. To be fair it does have a few moments that show De Palma directing talents like a great upwards-looking fourth wall break.

Hi, Mom! (1970, Brian De Palma): 5.5 - A sequel to Greetings, this was originally be called Son of Greetings, this focusses purely on De Niro's peepig tom character John Rubin, returning home after the Vietnam War. It is divided in three parts. In the first part he tries to make a career as a filmmaker of voyeuristic adult movies, which lead him to date a girl he's been peeping at. In the second part he's involved in an experimental theater production named "Be Black Baby" in which the white liberal middle-class audience is forced to undergo the black experience. The "performance" itself is highly disturbing and the highlight of the movie. In the final part Rubin is radicalized in a Weathermen like fashion. While the first two parts have a few good moments, the movie as a whole is incoherent, highly uneven and tonally inconsequent. The radicalizing of Rubin is underdeveloped. The last part is so uninspired it drags the whole movie down.

Sisters (1973, Brian De Palma): 7.0 - This movie about a woman who witnesses a murder in an apartment next doors, is often referred to the movie in which De Palma transferred to Hichcockian thrillers. While their certainly plenty of truth in that, it also still have such dark comedic undertones it also feels like a continuation of the satire from his previous movies. The well-done suspense, the dark comic relief mixed with a heavy dose of camp, makes this a bit step forward in his career. A Bernard Hermann reminiscent of his Hitchcock work makes it complete. The dream sequence at the ending is this movie moment of De Palma's brilliance. The predictable plot and slow-paced exposition scenes what drags this down.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974, Brian De Palma): 7.2 - An over the top campy fun sidestep in De Palma's career. The songs are extremely catchy. De Palma's moment of cinematic brilliance: the ending.

Obsession (1976, Brian De Palma): 6.8 - Now this De Palma doing pure Hitchcockian thriller. The plot is clearly inspired by Vertigo, but De Palma and scriptwriter Paul Schrader take their own modern spin on it. The cheesy romance in the second act drags at parts and the characters one-dimensional. But the mystery of it is intriguing enough to keep the movie engaging. The slomo ending is De Palma at his best. The reveal of the twist works surprisingly well.
SpoilerShow
Using Geneviève Bujold as her younger self in the flashbacks and reverting to childlike state shouldn't, but weirdly does work thanks to the camera positioning
. It's painful how much better John Lithgow is than everybody else.

Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma) rewatch: 6.0 > 7.5 - This is extremely well-paced and tightly scripted, the movie was already at the final prom while I felt like it just started. Which is always a major plus in my book. Moments of cinematic delight: the opening shower sequence, the twisting slow-dance at the prom and the built up to and the moment when the bucket falls. Unfortunately De Palma fucks up the moment supreme when Carrie goes berserk by using split-screens which take all the drama out of the action. (Something De Palma in hindsight luckily confesses didn't work.) The needed identification shift at that moment for the viewer from Carrie to her innocent victims doesn't work. The famous ending still gave me a huge shock even knowing what's coming. Pino Donaggio’s score is fantastic in setting the mood in the quiet moments and building tensions in the suspenseful ones. It's a bit distracting that the gym teacher is clearly about as old as her students.

The Fury (1978, Brian De Palma): 6.8 - It started of very promising as a spy thriller, than goes into an interesting tale about teenagers with psychic abilities, loses a lot of momentum in the second act, cause almost every other scene is exposition plus it fails to intertwine the two plotlines successfully and ends well with an absolute insane ending. The script of this is an absolute mess, it's De Palma's directing and John Cassavetes menacing villain that safe this. Kirk Douglas tries to walk by on his old school charm, but is miscast.

Scarface (1983, Brian De Palma) rewatch: 8.0(?)* > 7.2 - Directed by De Palma and written by Oliver Stone, people looking for subtlety should go look elsewhere. In fact its the over topness that's one of the biggest draws of this take on the classic morality tale of rise-to-and-fall-of-riches. Pacino's performance is also so over the top that it borders between great and ridiculous. This clearly feels like the least personal film for De Palma from all of these reviewed here.
*I rated this in hindsight after joining IMDb in 2002, don't think I have seen it since.

Body Double (1984, Brian De Palma): 7.0 - If Scarface was his least personal film, this is as quintessential De Palma as they come. Part of are great; De Palma knows how to build suspense, f.e. in an infamous killing scene with a drill. But the script has major flaws, being full of holes and clichéd. Plus the second act falters. And than there are the wtf?!-moments like the Frankie Goes to Hollywood music video (which in itself is greatly directed) and sudden ending. Great score by Pino Donaggio again.

Raising Cain (1992, Brian De Palma): 6.5 - I found it's best to approach a De Palma film the way I do with gialli (a genre he has a lot in common with); don't think to hard about the plot, don't be bothered with the lack of character development, but just sit back and enjoy the film style, sweeping music and execution of tropes. And this goes especially for Raising Cain. A film that is so completely over the top with De Palma pushing tropes to their breaking points, it walks the fine line between ridiculous bad and insanely amusing. Lithgow's holds-no-barred acting fits right into this style. (Apparently there is a director's approved fan-cut based on the original script available, which sounds better cause it fixes many of the plot and pacing issues)

Domino (2019, Brian De Palma): 5.2 - So it's best not to think to much about the plot; the plot in this is extremely unoriginal and dumb, but unfortunately there is also very little else to enjoy in this very uninspired and lackluster thriller about Danish cops hunting some terrorists. It's only in the final set piece with a potential terrorist bombing in a bullfighting arena that De Palma shows his (old) skills of building tension. The movie meanwhile is full of his thematic interest about the depiction of violence in media. De Palma really hammers home with the constant showing of videos of a beheading the fact that the real world depiction of violence in home-videos of execution by terrorist are worst than anything he ever done in his movies.

Numéro deux (1975, Jean-Luc Godard): 7.0 - I also saw this, not very coincidentally for those having a Mubi account. I honestly still don't have a real clue what Godard was trying to say with this all. But all the discussion and monologues were engaging nonetheless. And the screens inside the screen worked very well. Some of the effects in video are very impressive still. Or at least I wasn't put off by it in anyway as I can be by others of Godard's (political) avant-garde work.

Head (1968, Bob Rafelson): 4.0 - The Monkees try to deconstruct their image of teenage heartthrobs in a surreal disjointed unfunny movie, tha't has nothing to say beside some platitudes. Debuting director Bob Rafelson uses the variety of segments as an excuse to film in every style he ever wanted (cause it might be his first and last change to do so). To be fair some of these segments in themselves are well directed. Only of interest for those who want a great time capsule of the "60s".

Easy Rider (1969, Dennis Hopper) rewatch: 9.5 > 8.5 - This film about the death of the spirit of the 60s still holds up. Great soundtrack (tho I was surprised how short most songs were played (maybe they didn't have enough money to play them in full).
Side-note: This was the first time in the last few decades that I've seen it, that I sadly could imagine the beating and ending happening for real in contemporary USA again, cause the culture clash is so extremely high again. :(

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