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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 36, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 36, 2020

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Post by sol » September 6th, 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

Amazing movie-watching week! Can't remember the last time I had more than one ★★★★ first time viewing in a single week, let alone FOUR. :ph43r:

Be My Wife (1921). Intent on proposing to his girlfriend, a young man has to contend with a nosy aunt, a rival suitor and an intelligent dog in this lively Max Linder comedy. The film is funny right from the very first scene in which a plant silhouette is misinterpreted, and from scarecrow antics, to Linder fighting with himself (pretending to fend off an intruder) to raining mice, this is hilarious throughout. The middle section sags a little with attention diverted away from Linder as elaborate mistake and misinterpretation gags are set up, but everything comes together well in the final act, full of hair-rising moments as the heat is turned up. Nothing at hand is ever quite as funny as Linder doing the mirror gag in Seven Years Bad Luck, but this is a nice taste of what else he had to offer. The dog is especially wonderful and even gets his own title card. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

The Nut (1921). Winning the heart of the girl next door proves challenging for an inventor in this comedy starring Douglas Fairbanks prior to breaking out as an action star. Performing breathtaking acrobatic stunts, Fairbanks does well and often feels the equal of Keaton, Lloyd and Chaplin - and there is amusing Chaplin lookalike cameo in the mix! The plot is not much to write home about and the film relies too heavily on title cards for unnecessary details. When the focus is on the inventions though, the film rarely misses. The opening scene in which various machines get Fairbanks out of bed and dressed prefigures Wallace and Gromit, the film gets much mileage out of wax dummies being mistaken for cadavers and stern individuals, some poster cut-out cards are delightfully quirky - and the open dollhouse x-ray sets towards the end are just dazzling. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Fig Leaves (1926). Beginning with the Biblical Adam and Eve before cutting to the 1920s, this Howard Hawks comedy questions whether male-female relationships have really changed that much over time. The film has a bit of a mixed reputation due to some arguable misogyny (the 20s Adam is horrified at the prospect of his wife working) and the fact that the Biblical scenes are so much more dynamic than everything afterwards, but this is an entertaining ride. With automaton dinosaurs, prehistoric alarm clocks, combs and so on, the Biblical angle is amazing, and even the 20s stuff is fun with much amusement as Adam and his colleague role play being their wives and Eve uses her charms to manipulate him. The film also boasts several glitzy and revealing costumes that only the pre-Code period would allow, plus it all ends on a funny note. (first viewing, online) ★★★

The Show Off (1926). Always trying to sound and appear more important than he is, a simple clerk has trouble maintaining the pretence when his longtime girlfriend marries him in this entertaining silent film. Ford Serling is charming if somewhat despicable in the lead role; the extreme effort he places into trying to look good -- from fake urgent phone calls to tearing up raffle tickets (only to later retrieve the shreds from the bin) -- is really fun to watch. The film loses its way a bit in the second half as the dramatic side of the story takes full swing; it even enters rather downbeat territory. Whenever in comedy mode though, the film works well. There are some especially interesting dynamics as his girlfriend's mother hates him and thinks he is a fraud, his girlfriend is too in-love to care, and her brother and father stay out of it to risk offending either woman. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Show People (1928). After making it big as in slapstick, a Hollywood actress transitions to dramatic roles and forgets who she is in this audience-winking comedy/drama from King Vidor. The film is full of star cameos, most notably Charles Chaplin minus makeup (who she of course does not recognise) and Vidor plays himself, though perhaps most amusing is star Marion Davies turning up her nose upon seeing an actress who she is told is "Marion Davies"! For all the self-referential fun, the film spins a fairly predictable character trajectory for Davies - though one that beats Sullivan's Travels to the punch more than a decade earlier. The slapstick at hand is not especially funny either, mostly limited to pie throwing rather than acrobatics and pratfalls. Still, this is entertaining while it lasts and well edited in terms of reaction shots and character interactions. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Watch Out for the Automobile (1966). Or Beware of the Car! as it is sometimes known, this Soviet comedy revolves a car thief who repeatedly tries to steal the same vehicles. While this seems strange, his targeting of the same cars is gradually revealed to have a purpose with a redistribution of wealth theme and the cars themselves feel symbolic of capitalist gains. Politics aside though, this is very funny and well shot. A slow police pursuit in a school zone is hilarious to watch and there are some intense bits as the thief's foot gets caught in a trap, with him stuck inside a car that he is trying to steal. The noir-like black and white photography is also divine and the jazzy music suits well craziness like lifting up an entire garage to steal a car. The film gets too talky in its second half and the messages come across too thick at the end, but this is a superb ride. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

The Commissar (1967). Pregnant with an unwanted child, a Russian Commissar boards with a Jewish family, hoping to give birth privately and carry on with her career, but her world views are challenged in this war-themed drama. While there is little fighting, war is pivotal to the film with gorgeous low camera angles that capture how daunting all the tanks are. The entire film though is incredibly well shot with great gradual tilts, and the intimate camerawork as the family's daughter is persecuted by other kids (in an unforgettable scene) is just stunning. The film blurs memories and fantasies well too as the Commissar's mind wanders when giving birth, and while the inconclusive ending - and perhaps entire final quarter hour - is weaker than everything before it, this is a pretty neat rumination on whether having children is really "not as easy" as fighting a war. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (1967). Duped into helping three hapless criminals kidnap the woman he loves, a bumbling young man attempts to rescue her in this comedy set in the Caucasus region of the USSR. The area's mountains shine in all their natural glory while the central story is engaging if often quite silly (it is built around characters doing the most foolish of things). The humour is perhaps best comparable to an episode of Scooby Doo with madcap chases, sped-up footage and villains who are a little too goofy to pose any real threat. At its best, the film is hilarious with some nifty reversed footage and all of the failed kidnapping attempts. Quite a bit of humour is lame though and some of what the kidnappers get up to (singing and dancing before their victim as she eats) just feels strange, but this is generally an energetic and well-paced affair. (first viewing, online) ★★

Courier (1986). Feeling aimless after his parents divorce, a lazy teenager gets a job as a courier for a newspaper, but he does not take the job seriously and instead sets out to seduce the daughter of an esteemed professor in order to marry well in this coming-of-age comedy from the USSR. This is one of those films that is unfortunately nowhere near as dynamic as the promotional artwork and basic plot make it out to be. Set in the years immediately before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the film has a fair bit to it thematically, however, the protagonist is such a smug and arrogant individual that it is very hard to care about his capitalist aspirations and lacking work ethic while growing up in a Communist nation. He seems pretty heartless and unemotional too, never visibly distraught by his parent's divorce, and none of the other characters are likeable either. (first viewing, online) ★

A Man from Boulevard des Capucines (1987). Resistance gradually turns to enthusiasm as a photographer introduces cinema to an Old West town in this Russian comedy set circa 1900. While it initially feels weird to have American cowboys and Native Americans conversing in Russian (with lame stereotypes too), the set-up is very decent. There are many good laughs at the expense as the cowboys reacting to the Lumière Brothers' Arrival of the Train with guns blazing as they try to shoot the screen to stop the train hitting them! Alas, the film derives most of its humour from brawling, messy fights and several racially insensitive caricatures. The movie has some witty anti-racism sentiments too though ("everyone's equal facing the screen") and the protagonist trying to explain the concept of montage/editing to his love interest is really rather romantic. (first viewing, online) ★★

Mio in the Land of Faraway (1987). Based on a novel by Astrid Lindgren but lacking a protagonist as lively or charming as Pippi Longstocking, this children's fantasy film feels generic as it focuses on a neglected orphan who is whisked away to a magical kingdom where his birth father is king. While his adventures smack of childish wish fulfillment with doubles of characters from his reality appearing in the magic land, the film never really explores this, instead going for a range of sword and sorcery clichés and a dull villain. Some invisibility humour sort of works and some of the images at hand are hard to shake, most notably a large, floating bearded head, but it is hard not to find something creepy in the overall tale of a boy accepting a ride from an old man, only to run up and hug the first stranger he meets at his destination who he assumes is his father. (first viewing, online) ★

Dead or Alive (1988). Also known as The Tracker, this western from John Guillermin focuses on a retired tracker asked to capture a murderer who has abducted a preteen girl who he wants to marry. While the plot might sound straightforward, the character dynamics are very juicy. Nicknamed 'Noble', Kris Kristofferson slowly reveals a more ruthless side to his tracker as he becomes more desperate in his pursuit while balancing a strained relationship with his son. Then there is Scott Wilson, almost sympathetic as the deluded murderer who so desperately wants his "princess" to love him, and the girl is multi-dimensional too, homesick but opposed to Wilson being killed. Add in a pulsating music score and some neat shots (wounded characters collapsing into the camera) and this is a pretty strong if sometimes predictable swan song for Guillermin. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Whisper of the Heart (1995). Far more interested in reading and writing stories than studying, a high school student reassess her priorities while trying to track down a mysterious fellow student who has read all of the same books as her in this Ghibli animated film. With much screen time dedicated to dealing with high school crushes, obsessive best friends and annoying boys, this quite often feels like a soap opera episode with all of the school life melodrama at hand. At the same time though, it is a rather sweet movie with all of the school stuff viewed through the prism of older characters (an antiques dealer; musicians) who laugh, remembering what their youth was like. The film also does well inserting borderline fantasy content into its down-to-earth story, from a magical following of a street cat to a statuette that twinkles and shines in the light. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Tales from Earthsea (2006). Often cited as one of Studio Ghibli's weakest efforts, this medieval fantasy film has some decent ideas about life and living know that you'll eventually die, but the whole thing is somewhat lacking in charm. The protagonists are never especially charismatic or interesting or developed in any real depth, and while the soft-spoken, slyly smiling chief antagonist looks and sounds refreshingly different from the average villain out there, his megalomaniacal motivations are pretty formulaic. The animation disappoints too. Set mainly in a couple of locations, it only ever feels like we see part of the world at play. There are also many shots with still and unmoving backgrounds with evidently most of the effort here placed into character design. The whole thing movies at an okay pace, but as a Ghibli film one does tend to expect more. (first viewing, online) ★

Michael (2011). Hit by a car and taken to hospital, an insurance worker begins to worry about the welfare of the child who he keeps locked in his basement in unusual drama from Austria. While much more happens, the accident is a pivotal point, highlighting just how much the child relies on the only person who knows that he is there in order to survive. The pair also share a curious, near symbiotic relationship, with the boy seemingly accepting of the situation and happy to go on outings with his captor without trying to flee. While all this begs for more detail, and the many unanswered questions are frustrating, the restraint in presenting so little is admirable. Almost everything in the film is conveyed through the power of suggestion with us, as viewers, left just as blind as all of the man's colleagues and relatives who assume that he is just a normal guy. (first viewing, online) ★★★

When Marnie Was There (2014). Sent to the countryside to convalesce with relatives, an adolescent girl befriends a mysterious girl who may or may not be a figment of her imagination in this Studio Ghibli drama. The ultimate mythology that the film spins feels way too complex, especially as the film progresses from a simple friendship, to more than just friends, to perhaps something slightly more twisted. Where the film comes alive is in its scenes of the two main characters bonding, playing and having fun together, all of which plays out against striking backdrops with lush colours. A strange mansion and foreboding silo also make for great locations, but it is not always easy to get onto the same wavelength as the characters due to the convoluted story. The film bears some similarities to Your Name, which handles a similarly complex plot more smoothly. (first viewing, online) ★★

OtherShow
Leap Year (1924). One of Fatty Arbuckle's attempts to transition from shorts to feature comedies, this silent was withdrawn from release during his murder trial, but even if it had been shown, it is doubtful if it would have propelled his career. Arbuckle is his usual funny self, but whereas his shorts with Buster Keaton have compact plots that rarely outstay their welcome, the jokes here tire at one hour long. The plot has Arbuckle falling in love with every girl he meets and due to stuttering and other odd contrivances, he inadvertently becomes engaged to three other women while trying to remain faithful to his fiancée. The other women all act and look similar, with makes it hard to keep track of who is who. The film is also beset by overly descriptive title cards that state things like "time lapse" and "close-up" - though the mention of "fade out" towards the end is cute. (first viewing, online) ★

Assassin of the Tsar (1991). Opening with a modern day Russian recounting how he assassinated a Tsar and how he himself subsequently died, this Soviet drama gets off to a nicely offbeat start. As it turns out, the raconteur is a mental patient, but as he develops stigmata-like wounds and scars identical to the men that he claims to be, could he be telling the truth? For a film with such a promisingly mysterious premise, this sadly does little with it. Rather than indulge in the "is he or isn't he?" dynamic, focus soon shifts to his narrated recollections of everything that transpired. On one hand, this gives a good historical insight with the grim Romanov assassinations handled particularly well as the protagonist and his comrades contend with killing children. On the other hand, nothing is ever as intriguing as the reincarnation possibilities that are barely explored. (first viewing, online) ★★

Zoology (2016). It sounds a lot like the Swedish film Border crossed with a body horror movie as this Russian drama focuses on a middle aged woman who inexplicably grows a tail, but the actual product is less interesting than its premise would seem to promise. Natalya Pavlenkova does well as the emotionally fragile protagonist, however, as the filmmakers avoid explaining how the tail formed as well as what it symbolically represents, the whole thing ends up feeling pointless and drawn out - like a short film unnecessarily expanded to feature length. There is certainly something going with social acceptance themes and ideas, however, her constantly bullying colleagues feel more like teenage pranksters than credible fellow middle aged administration workers. The inconclusive ending sort of works, but the emotional oomph is not really there. (first viewing, online) ★
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#2

Post by Onderhond » September 6th, 2020, 12:00 pm

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01. 4.0* - Laputa: Castle in the Sky [Tenkû no Shiro Rapyuta] by Hayao Miyazaki (1986)
A sprawling adventure from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki. Laputa hasn't lost much of its charm over the years. The flying islands, mystical robots and bickering pirates are still as fun to discover as the first time I watched Laputa. Combined with top-notch animation, a slightly darker edge and perfect pacing, it makes for a lovely film.

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02. 4.0* - Antiviral by Brandon Cronenberg (2012)
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral is a nasty, smart and eerie body horror, mixed with a strong underlying social critique. It's a very deliberate, somewhat slow but extremely atmospheric film that never slips into cheesy pulp territory and left me quite perplexed.

03. 3.5* - Get Duked! by Ninian Doff (2019)
Bonkers hip-hop comedy set in the Scottish Highlands. Ninian Doff is young director with a background in music videos, it's not all that surprising then that he tries to make inroads into the film business though the comedy/horror genre, a very welcome genre for ambitious youngster with something to prove. The film reminded me of a UK version of New Kids, with a bunch of degenerate teens setting off on a hiking trip. The comedy is daft and dry, often quite random and drawing from a myriad of influences. Doff isn't afraid to mix in other genres, with some horror, thriller and action elements adding to the fun, not the mention a veritable music video halfway through. At its best this was a small masterpiece, but there are a few too many moments where the comedy felt a bit forced with little else to fall back on. These moments never last long and there's enough craziness to get you swiftly through the film, so with a bit of extra polish I have no doubt Doff's could be a certified masterpiece. Great fun.

04. 3.5* - Marquis de Sade's Prosperities of Vice [Akutoku no Sakae] by Akio Jissoji (1988)
I guess I have no more excuses to ignore Akio Jissôji's oeuvre. Prosperities of Vice is the fifth Jissôji film I've seen and none of them have disappointed me so far. They've been mostly random watches (including two accidental anthology entries), but every single time I've been positively surprised. This film too went far above my expectations. I'd expected a pinku with some artistic intentions, but describing it like that is doing Prosperities of Vice a big disservice. While the Sade mythology leaves plenty of room for debauchery, Jissôji delivers a very stylish and relatively restrained film. For a film from the 80s it looks absolutely stunning, sporting superb camera work, neat and colorful styling and excellent use of lighting. The soundtrack too is distinctive and moody. The plot is a bit of a puzzle, but it was intriguing enough to keep me glued to the screen. A very interesting film, Jissôji deserves to be rediscovered.

05. 3.5* - Frank & Lola by Matthew Ross (2016)
A very pleasant discovery. I'd never heard of this film before, but Shannon and Poots have been building up impressive oeuvres and the combination of mystery and romance isn't exactly very common nowadays. So I figured it would be a worth a shot, turns out that was the right call. Shannon (Frank) plays a skilled but reclusive chef, Poots (Lola) plays a young and careless woman who knocks him off his boots. While they look like the perfect couple, things turn sour when Lola cheats on Frank and drags him into a web of lies and deceit. The more Frank tries to figure out what's going on, the deeper he falls. Performances are strong, but it's Matthew Ross' direction that gives the film the necessary polish. The cinematography is stylish, together with the soundtrack it creates a mysterious, sultry atmosphere that forms the basis of the film's success. And while the third act feels like it could slip into cheap thriller territory, Ross keeps the film on the rails and delivers a perfect finale. Very nice.

06. 3.5* - Grabbers by Jon Wright (2012)
A simple but jolly and amusing Irish horror comedy. Grabbers is a film with few pretensions, a film that sticks closely to formulas that are known to work. It's a smart entry-level film for a young director, someone who wants to be judged on execution rather than wits and originality. Some Irish fishermen pick up a creepy sea creature and bring it up to land. It attacks one of the men, but he's able to pry himself loose and knock it unconscious. He takes the thing to a marine ecologist, who is stumped when he examines the creature. Before he gets to contact the proper authorities though, a storm messes up his plans and a much bigger specimen holds the island hostage. The effects are decent but not spectacular, the cast is pretty hilarious and the remote Irish island provides a beautiful setting for a bit of horror and comedy fun. The pacing is solid, the runtime quite short and Grabbers is over before you know it. Not the most remarkable film, but perfect filler.

07. 3.5* - The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear by Adam Curtis (2004)
An interesting documentary on the politics of fear. Director Curtis explores the last 30 years of politics for signs of fearmongering and finds quite a number of disturbing examples that, put together, weave an interesting story on how politicians are trying to control and guide society with lies and fear. It's particularly nice to see the focus shift between the US, Russia and the Muslim countries, each applying very similar techniques to reach very similar goals. It opens up a broader perspective that doesn't pit these countries as very different from each other, which goes well with the actual message of the documentary. The form is a bit basic though and three hours is quite long, a bit of editing and some smart graphs and/or animations might have helped to make it a bit more attractive, not to mention a little easier to consume. But the core message is strong, the doc is informative and the point is clear. And kudos for ending on a positive note, again, quite in line with the core message.

08. 3.5* - A Whisker Away [Nakitai Watashi wa Neko wo Kaburu] by Jun'ichi Satô, Tomotaka Shibayama (2020)
Just a little too on the nose I guess. A Whisker Away feels like a calculated mix of Ghibli (The Cat Returns) and Shinkai (She and her Cat), trying to appease as many people as possible. And if that wasn't enough, they even made it about cats, because everybody loves cats, especially the Japanese (let's throw in some Miyazawa too). It wouldn't be so bad if the animation had been on the same level, but that's where they cut corners. Character designs are a tad bland and the animation itself isn't all that spectacular. At least the colors pop and the fantasy elements look interesting enough, but because it compares itself so explicitly to the big names in anime, it's difficult not to feel a little disappointed. That's not to say it's a terrible film though. The atmosphere is light and breezy, there's a beautiful fantasy world hiding in the second part and the pacing is pretty solid, making sure the film never drags. It's a solid anime, but it would've been nice if it had at least tried to set itself apart more.

09. 3.0* - The Congress by Ari Folman (2013)
A very peculiar film. It's not completely unique to see live action and animation combined, but most films prefer to mix both styles. The Congress is one half animation, one half live action and keeps the two neatly separated. The less you know about this film up front though, the neater the effect. Somewhat surprisingly, I liked the live action part best. Folman has the eye of an animator, which often makes for beautiful live action cinema. The cinematography is stylish, the sets are lush and even though I didn't quite care for the "film about the film business" motives, the dramatic weight was perfect. The animation tries to be a bit more psychedelic, but in a very 60s/70s kind of way, mixed with character designs that looked like they drew inspiration for the 20s/30s. The effect is a bit underwhelming, at the same time the plot starts to spiral out of control with no real interesting places to go. Still, there's plenty to unpack here, so I never got bored. I'd just hoped for a little more.

10. 3.0* - Lupin III: Dead or Alive [Rupan Sansei: Dead or Alive] by Monkey Punch, Jun Kawagoe (1996)
A decidedly darker Lupin III film. While the action is still pretty goofy and over-the-top, the setting is rather ominous. I never linked Lupin to post-apocalyptic, futuristic landscapes, but that's exactly what you're getting here. Apart from that, the formula is pretty much the same. It's nice to see Lupin in a different setting though, it's what keeps these films fresh, especially when watching a couple of them so closely together. Lupin is chasing some treasure again, this time it lands him on a remote island governed by biotech weaponry. Not quite the kind of enemy he is used to battling, though it doesn't really faze him. The whole crew is there of course, the stakes are high and the action is pretty hectic. While I quite like these films, the somewhat subpar animation quality and repetitive formula keep me from giving a higher rating. It's prime entertainment and Dead or Alive is another solid entry in the franchise, but I keep hoping for more.

11. 2.5* - The Great War of Archimedes [Archimedes no Taisen] by Takashi Yamazaki (2019)
Yamazaki's latest is quite the surprise. He leaves behind the big budget fantasy worlds and focuses a on a bit of Japanese War history. Don't expect a typical war film though, while there two or three action scenes, this film is really about math, budgets and political meetings. Not the most glamorous subjects. The film revolves around the production of a new battle ship. In order to get it made, a budget has to be approved, but the opponents suspect that the proposed budget is an incredible underestimation. They hire a young but skilled mathematician to help them figure out the actual cost of the ship, but he has no idea about ships, nor politics. It's a small miracle that Yamazaki actually manages a couple of tense scenes, because the subject matter is just incredibly dry. The film relies quite heavily on dialogues and the important meeting where everything is decided spans almost half the film. It's hardly Yamazaki's best film and I doubt there's a big market for this, but considering the circumstances, he still did a pretty decent job.

12. 2.5* - I, Frankenstein by Stuart Beattie (2014)
A complete mess of a movie, but ironically that's also its saving grace. It falls into the category of contemporary fantasy that digs up old horror legends and pits them in a more action-oriented setting. It's no surprise then that I, Frankenstein was developed by the same team that did Underworld. There's a lot of silly lore to go through, but with only 90 minutes on the clock director Beattie flies through it without much care for consistency or logic. The plot and characters are absolutely ridiculous (no doubt they'd hoped to expand on it in sequels that never materialized), but because of the intense pacing that's ever really an issue. The doubty CG doesn't do the film any favors and the overly serious tone was the wrong choice, but the stupendous set pieces, constant action and crazy ending made sure this was never boring. Don't expect to watch a decent film, but if you're looking for 90 minutes of silly entertainment, it's not a bad option.

13. 2.5* - Bio Hunter [Baio Hantâ] by Yûzô Satô (1995)
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Yoshiaki Kawajiri helped write the script of Bio Hunter. The characters, the monsters, even the lore is very reminiscent of Kawajiri's films. But directors matter more than writers, which is why Bio Hunter is still a minor disappointment, regardless its potential. Even though the film is only 60 minutes long, it tends to drag a little. There's too much dialogue, not enough horror, not enough action. This may very well be a budgetary problem, but that doesn't make it more entertaining to watch. No doubt Sato could've cut another 15 minutes for a better overall result. The animation quality is also relatively low, but at least the monster designs are fun and the few horror/action scenes that are present do manage to deliver. Bio Hunter isn't the greatest anime, but for people craving a late 80s/early 90s anime horror fix, it's not the worst option out there either.

14. 2.5* - Lupin III: Burning Memory - Tokyo Crisis [Rupan Sansei: Honô no Kioku Tokyo Crisis] by Toshiya Shinohara (1998)
Not the best Lupin film out there, even though on paper it's quite the typical Lupin project, with all the usual ingredients present. Lupin takes on some bad guys in search of an important item and ends up saving the day, with a slew of familiars either helping him or getting in his way, just like in every other film. It's a pretty successful setup, but it's also rather basic. Most Lupin films counter this by being extremely silly and over-the-top, that's exactly where Tokyo Crisis disappoints (though it's far from straight-faced). It's just a bit tamer compared to the other films in the franchise, which takes away part of the fun. The animation too looks cheaper, but that may just be due to the slightlier slower pacing (leaving fewer opportunities for hyperactive animation). It's not a terrible film mind, Lupin is a great lead and there's still plenty of silliness to go around, it's just not as lively and amusing as the other ones I've seen.

15. 2.5* - Harold and Maude by Hal Ashby (1971)
I'm not very familiar with the work of Hal Ashby. Apart from seeing Being There years ago, I never really bumped into his, work with most of his oeuvre being a complete blank. Harold and Maude is a film with quite a legacy though, so I figured it was time to give Ashby another go. Much like Being There, I found a decent film that left me relatively cold. At least Harold's character is pretty fun, with his gruesome fake suicide attempts lending the film a darker streak. This includes the deadpan reactions of his mother, who seems largely unfazed by Harold's cries for attention. The film takes a more dramatic turn when Harold meets Maude, an older lady where he finds the warmth and attention he's craving. I liked the dark comedy elements, but they are rather few and far between. The dramatic portion of the film is less interesting, with a somewhat tepid relationship directing the plot, let down by the rather dull and unattractive cinematography and a middling soundtrack. At least it was short and good for a couple of chuckles, but that's about it.

16. 2.5* - Capturing the Friedmans by Andrew Jarecki (2003)
I wouldn't be surprised if this documentary was used as a template for the current true crime hype. Though Capturing the Friedmans seems less interested in finding out the truth than looking at the different ways that truth gets distorted, the build-up, subjectivity and use of different perspectives feels very current. That some pretty shady things went on in the Friedman family seems obvious, but the trial by media, the mass hysteria and overall incompetence of justice and law make it impossible to uncover the factual truth. This distortion of reality only amplifies the misery, which is obvious from the testimonies of the Friedmans. The only problem is that the documentary's trial by media warning seems to have had little effect, not to mention that nowadays better illustrations can be found almost on a monthly basis. Because the message of the doc is too obvious and the impact turned out be so minimal, it kinda makes you wonder whether there's a real point to these films.

17. 2.5* - The Signalman by Lawrence Gordon Clark (1976)
A BBC short film that adapts one of Dickens' classic horror stories. Sadly it's a bit too obvious that we're dealing with a TV production here, as the film fares pretty well as a mystery/horror. That's more than I expected when I decided to watch this one, but not enough to make it a solid recommend. The story revolves around a signalman (someone who controls the train traffic) who is getting distressing warning signs only he can hear. Whenever such a signal arrives, it is followed by a grave disaster and the appearance of a specter. When one day a traveler passes by, the man is so on edge that he has to tell his story. Even for a short film the pacing is a little sluggish, especially the first 20 minutes. It gets a lot moodier in the second half, where Clark makes excellent use of the grim, foggy setting and the ominous tunnel. It's solid filler, though its status is a bit overrated, as it's little more than a decent TV mystery.

18. 2.0* - Heat-Haze Theatre [Kagero-za] by Seijun Suzuki (1981)
Much like Zigeunerweisen, this is a Suzuki film that holds a lot of potential, but is way too long and gets a bit sluggish after a while. If Suzuki had managed to cut this back to 90-100 minutes it would've been a much better film, now it took me quite a bit of effort and stamina to reach the end. That's not to say nothing interesting happens. Suzuki remains his old self and quirky, weird and goofy ideas are littered throughout the film. The biggest problem is the moments in between, the sometimes endless conversations and theater performances that seem to suck much of the energy out of Heat-haze Theatre. The cinematography is interesting, often very colorful and well-framed. The soundtrack is a bit too dependent on classic Japanese songs and the plot a bit too sparse to fill 140 minutes, but at least Suzuki kept it interesting until the end. It's just a shame that there are too many generic intermissions.

19. 2.0* - Great Expectations by Alfonso Cuaron (1998)
No doubt an interesting film to see back to back with David Lean's version. Cuarón's approach is very different, focusing more on the romance and mystery between Finn and Estella, the latter who has a much more prominent role here. While I liked it better than Lean's very rigid rendition, Cuarón's version isn't exactly perfect either. Dickens' story might be at fault too, as it relies on big emotions and silly twists, making it harder to take the film (and the romance) serious. But it's also Cuarón's cheesy direction, as he tries to fully commit to the romantic/Gothic setting but ends up looking a little lost. It can be beautiful to look at, but it can turn garish in the blink of an eye. The overstated performances of Hawke and Paltrow don't help, neither does the appearance of De Niro. Maybe if Cuarón had focused more on the relationship rather than the silly plot that drives the story of Finn and Estella, things might've turned out better. As it turned out though, it's a film with too many defects to work well.

20. 2.0* - Clouds of Sils Maria by Olivier Assayas (2014)
Another film that tries to blur the lines between reality and fiction. Only Assayas doesn't bet on atmosphere (and when he does, he fails horribly), instead he turns Sils Maria in a very dialogue-heavy drama that drags itself through the motions, as if Assayas himself got bored by his own idea halfway through. Stewart is pretty decent, but Moretz appears to be ill at ease and Binoche looks like she didn't even want to be there. With only one of three leads trying to have a little fun, the dialogues quickly turn sour and the film starts to drag itself along. It also doesn't help that I've grown a little tired of films about actors getting lost in their work, it's all a bit too self-indulgent. At least the setting (the Alps) is quite nice, with some decent landscape photography. Even there Assayas underperforms though, a shoddy nighttime ride being a painful reminder that scenes like these are crucial to ground a film like Sils Maria. When they don't end up working, a lot of the appeal is lost. It's all a bit underwhelming and expected, I'd hoped for more.

21. 2.0* - éX-Driver the Movie by Akira Nishimori (2002)
I wasn't familiar with the eX-Driver series, but that's not a prerequisite when watching this film. The concept is simple enough and you won't have much trouble catching on, though I'm pretty certain I missed out on some of the finer nuances. That said, the drama isn't really the film's strong point. eX-Driver is built around the action/race scenes. At times, it felt like a tech demo for the cel shaded racing sequences, which don't look that bad considering the film's age. It's not exactly seamless, but the effect is already there and the races themselves can be quite thrilling. The rest of the film is just filler. The art style is bland, the animation is simplistic and the plot is just dull. Luckily the film is short, meaning the time between races passes quickly and is easy enough to bridge. As a bit of mindless filler eX-Driver isn't the worst, but I wouldn't recommend it otherwise.

22. 1.5* - Kingdom Come by Greg A. Sager (2014)
A pretty derivative horror flick. I've already seen the exact same story countless times before, which is a problem when a film is presented as a mystery. Five minutes in and I had a pretty good idea of what was going on, even though the characters didn't find out until the very end. This is a pretty straight-forward genre flick though, so execution is key. Sadly Kingdom Come doesn't score any points there either. Performances are really drab, the film looks dead cheap and the kills are poor and unoriginal. Sager simply goes through the motions, seemingly content with delivering bottom shelf genre filler. The film's only redeeming element is the creature design. Maybe not 100% convincing, but at least the monsters looked pretty freaky. That's hardly enough to warrant a recommendation, so unless you're really starved for horror films there's not much reason to give this film a try. Pretty poor.

23. 1.5* - The Mask of Zorro by Martin Campbell (1998)
Though I watched a fair number of Zorro episodes as a kid, it was far from my favorite series. Safe to say that I didn't expect too much from this film, not in the least because director Campbell has a pretty poor resume. The film turned out to be pretty much what I thought it would be, but with a few silver linings. Zorro was never very serious and it seems Campbell understood that very well. Especially during the first half there's a certain cheesy mood that makes the film a lot easier to sit through. Not that it was particularly great, but at least the pacing was decent and it never felt like it tried to be too serious. The action sequences (apart from the explosive finale) are rather dull though and it's criminal to let a simple film like this cross the two-hour mark. The second half also loses some of its lightheartedness and the build-up toward the finale did drag, but I expected a lot worse. That said, I won't be seeing the sequel any time soon.

24. 1.5* - Golgo 13: Queen Bee by Osamu Dezaki (1998)
Slightly better than the original, but only by a small margin. The animation is a step up from the first one, then again there are 15 years between the two films, so it would've been really bad if that hadn't been the case. Apart from that, these films are pretty much on the same level. The plot is extremely basic and hardly worth bothering with. Golgo isn't a very interesting character, neither is Queen Bee. They're just simple stereotypes who lack personality. You'd expect the action to make up for that in a film like this, but even the action scenes are very static and lifeless. It just comes off as very cheap and derivative, with little to no redeeming qualities. At least the film is short and while it's clear corners were cut wherever possible, the animation shows at least a small glimpse of the talent hiding behind this film. That's not enough to make it an enjoyable experience though.

25. 1.5* - Scooby-Doo by Raja Gosnell (2002)
I never really bothered with Scooby-Doo when I was young, I knew just about enough to switch the channel whenever it was on. I remember it as a rather cheap and drab-looking cartoon, which means this film is quite the departure from the original. It's still pretty cheap mind, but it's also a loud and shameless explosion of color and zest. Director Raja Gosnell is known for his cheery renditions of kid-friendly, animal-driven material (especially when you consider the Smurfs to be animals), personally I can't stand the man's work. It's never funny, it's terribly garish and it seems hellbent on catering to only the youngest of audiences. Scooby-Doo fit perfectly into his body of work, but I will say that the film fully commits to its own silliness. It's daft from the very first moment until the very last frame, and everything from sets to costumes to gags is delivered with the same, excessive amount of cheese. It's a small silver lining in an otherwise horrible film.

26. 1.0* - Fritz the Cat by Ralph Bakshi (1972)
This is probably fun if you're a big fan of the (late) 60s, preferably the Jewish/NY scene. Fritz the Cat was my first Bakshi, so I didn't really know what to expect. What I know I didn't expect was a pretty explicit and adult-oriented film, but for once that wasn't a very pleasant surprise. There's a lot of political/activist/anti-establishment dialogue to wade through, already touching upon subjects like white guilt. I guess you could say the film still has relevance. But these instances seems rather incidental, as Bakshi races through most of the political issues of that time and does so with little care for subtlety. The animation is functional, the art style ugly, the music horrendous (but again, if you're a fan of the 60s, you'll probably love it), the voice acting grating and the comedy not that funny. And for a film that tries to be controversial, it has lost a lot, if not all of its impact. Fritz the Cat is a relic from a time period I don't really care for.

27. 1.0* - Ivan the Terrible, Part I [Ivan Groznyy] by Sergei M. Eisenstein (1944)
Eisenstein is best known for his early innovation, with a strong focus on the visual side of things. I had no idea what to expect from Ivan the Terrible, but I figured I would see back some of that experimentation here. Turns out this is a very classic, strict and unadventurous biography, a pretty big bummer. To be honest, I'm not particularly interested in Russian history, especially not when it is served as a pretty dry, political film that heavily relies on dialogue and comes with a hefty slice of propaganda. Even though it's relatively short, it dragged from the very start and never picked up steam. Performances are poor, though that could've also been due to the second-rate costumes. The sets at least are pretty nice, but the rigid camera work and basic framing didn't do them any justice. What remains is a sluggish, dull and drab black and white biography, not the kind of thing I'd expected Eisenstein to make.

28. 1.0* - The Polygamous Wazzou [Le Wazzou Polygame] by Oumarou Ganda (1971)
Africa is a pretty big blank for me when it comes to film (not counting South-Africa that is). I've tried one or two Nollywood films and a handful from North-African territories, but so far I can't say they've been able to win me over. The Polygamous Wazzou didn't do a lot to change that, on the contrary. It's a very basic relationship drama, about a man who returns from Mecca and claims a third wife. The problem is that she's already engaged, plus his second wife isn't too keen on being replaced by a younger woman either. There's a small amount of intrigue, but even this short summary makes it sound way more interesting than it really is. Performances are very weak and the direction is archaic. It's difficult to talk about cinematography when the camera work is so basic, there's no real score to speak of either. The main draw are the cultural elements, which are very different from ours, but that's hardly enough to turn this into an enjoyable film.

29. 0.5* - A Fistful of Dollars [Per un Pugno di Dollari] by Sergio Leone
Back when I first got serious about cinema, people practically forced me to give Leone's films a chance. I never really cared for westerns before, but that's probably the point where I started hating them. After four attempts (including his most famed westerns), I simply gave up and left it at that. I'm still not a fan of westerns, but I'm slowly playing catch up with some high profile films I've missed and there's no escaping the rest of Leone's oeuvre. A Fistful of Dollars was the first to cross my path and it didn't to anything to change my mind, it merely reminded me of why I don't like his films. Very poor performances, drab and colorless settings, long and uninteresting dialogues, bland action and a terrible score. At least the film stays well below the 120-minute mark, but that's a meager comfort when there's nothing to like. Leone and I simply don't match, this was another major letdown.

30. 0.5* - My Darling Clementine by John Ford (1946)
The most remarkable thing about My Darling Clementine is how unremarkable a film it is, especially considering its stellar reputation. It's little more than a simple genre flick, a western with all the usual ingredients (though a bit low on action and tilting more to the drama side) that simply goes through the motions. I'm not a fan of westerns, so I didn't get much out of it, not in the least because Ford takes it very slow and spends oodles of time on uninteresting characters and a tepid plot. That did give me some more time to look for other elements that might've set this one apart from its peers, but I found nothing. Performances are pretty over-the-top, the cinematography is drab (the framing in particular felt very cramped) and the music sounded horrible. At the very end we get a shoot-out, but even that felt basic. I'm sure it's a solid film for fans of the genre, but apart from the US' cultural dominance over the film business I can see no reason why people make such a big deal of this film.

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Perception de Ambiguity
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#3

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » September 6th, 2020, 12:19 pm

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David Blaine Ascension god 2020/09/02 (live). 666

Kowloon: The Walled City 1988 hugo portisch (allegedly). 6+

City of Imagination: Kowloon Walled City 2014 diana jou. 5

Cleópatra 2007 júlio bressane 8-
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En stad under huden 1982 johan donner. 6

Eggshells 1969 Tobe Hooper. 6

TeneT 2020 christopher nolan (2nd viewing). 7+ (from 4+)
jijimuge

Two for the Seesaw 1962 robert wise (2nd viewing). 9- (from 8)
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shorts

This Is It 1970 james broughton. 7

High Kukus 1973 james broughton. 6

Seasons 2002 stan brakhage & philip s. solomon/phil solomon. 7

Footprints 2014 bill plympton. 5+


music videos

StrangeZero: Lucid Dream


other

Nikki Glaser: Perfect 2016. 6-

The Joe Rogan Experience - #1179 - Nikki Glaser 2018. 7

The Joe Rogan Experience - #1428 - Brian Greene 2020. 7+

partly experienced Joe Rogans: #1390: Tim Dillon; #1233: Brian Cox; #1530: Duncan Trussell; #1298: Neal Brennan; #1297: Phil Demers; #1532: Mike Tyson


notable online media

toptoptop:
Randall Carlson's Cosmic Patterns and Cycles of Catastrophe
«This opens up a huge can of worms about what people knew and when they were supposed to have learned it.»
toptop:
Do we see reality as it is? | Donald Hoffman
«Evolution has shaped us with perceptual symbols that are designed to keep us alive, we better take them seriously. If you see a snake, don't pick it up. If you see a cliff, don't jump off. They are designed to keep us save and we should take them seriously, but that does not mean that we should take them literally.»
top:
[YT channel "PINGTR1P"]
Forest Terrarium with HUGE Beetle │ Closed Native Terrarium - 1 Month Update
[David Blaine stuff]
Randall Carlson: The Essence of The Great Work
Cosmic Patterns and Cycles of Catastrophe Blu-ray preview 8 of 8 presented by Randall Carlson
The secret history of dirt
Knight Rider for 8 cellos
rest:
[JRE Clips ("Religion and Psychedelics", "Something Alien", "Crystal Skulls", "Archaeological Finding", "Underwater UFO Sightings", "Theory About Time Travel", "Jeffrey Epstein, JFK, and 9/11", "Isolation Tank Hallucination", "Studying Dolphins Led to", "DMT 3 Times", "Mike Tyson Agreed to Comeback", "Rants About Stuff")]
Richard Gere & Stephen Colbert discuss Christianity, Buddhism & Philosophy (4/5)
Caravaggio: Master Of Light
Checking out the Marfa lights | Marfa, TX 2000
WHAT CODEC SHOULD I USE? | adult swim smalls
Paiste - 80" Symphonic Gong played by Paiste Gong Master Sven


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We do not have to understand new things, but by dint of patience, effort and method to come to understand with our whole self the truths which are evident.Image
LETTERBOXD | MUBI | IMDb | tumblr.

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peeptoad
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#4

Post by peeptoad » September 6th, 2020, 3:01 pm

Seen only Whisper of the Heart (1995) of yours, sol. 7/10. I preferred the spinoff The Cat Returns.
Quiet week this week since I was busy with other stuff (and also taking a breather before horror in October)-

Idi I smotri (1985) Come and See 9-10
Shôjo tsubaki: Chika gentô gekiga (1992) Midori 8
Alenkiy tsvetochek (1978)The Scarlet Flower 7
Nochnoy dozor (2004) Night Watch 6

Idi I smotri was easily best and I almost rated it a 10 right off the bat. It will probably migrate upwards gradually whether or not I rewatch it (which I will, at some point).
Shôjo tsubaki: Chika gentô gekiga was also very good, the visual style and the weirdness reminded me every much of some comic books I had back in the 1980s/ early 90s. Can't think of exactly which ones, but the style had a very familiar feel to it (both animation itself, content, and the color schemes, etc.).
I also rewatched Just Before Dawn since it's been a couple of years or so. Still one of my favorite slashers ever.

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Onderhond
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#5

Post by Onderhond » September 6th, 2020, 3:11 pm

peeptoad wrote:
September 6th, 2020, 3:01 pm
Shôjo tsubaki: Chika gentô gekiga (1992) Midori 8
Glad you liked this one! :thumbsup:

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viktor-vaudevillain
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#6

Post by viktor-vaudevillain » September 6th, 2020, 3:12 pm

Not as many films as last week (sadly):

Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands (Peter Mettler, 2009) - 8

Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020) - 7 theatrical 70mm

Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016) - 6
Harun Farocki's politics of images in conservative America.

Struktura krysztalu / The Structure of Crystals (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1969) - 8


shorts:

Autoficción (Laida Lertxundi, 2020) - 6+

1857 (Fool’s Gold) (R. Bruce Elder, 1981) - 7

Surf and Seaweed (Ralph Steiner, 1931) - 7+
not everything is fish, but fish are teeming everywhere

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peeptoad
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#7

Post by peeptoad » September 6th, 2020, 3:18 pm

onderhond-
I, Frankenstein 5
A Fistful of Dollars 8+
Scooby-Doo 2
Fritz the Cat 5-6
Grabbers 7
Harold & Maude 8+
The Signalman 7

Liked 'Dollars and 'Maude significantly more, Grabbers and Signalman approximately similar , Fritz slightly more... Scooby Doo was an abomination.

PdA-
Eggshells is a fav of mine and I have a weird affinity for it... can't fault anyone for giving it a rating in range of a 6 though really... thinking more objectively (if that's even possible when discussing film).

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peeptoad
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#8

Post by peeptoad » September 6th, 2020, 3:18 pm

Onderhond wrote:
September 6th, 2020, 3:11 pm
peeptoad wrote:
September 6th, 2020, 3:01 pm
Shôjo tsubaki: Chika gentô gekiga (1992) Midori 8
Glad you liked this one! :thumbsup:
Yep. Thanks for recommending it! :cheers:

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#9

Post by prodigalgodson » September 6th, 2020, 6:26 pm

Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003) (rewatch) 7/10 - this was the one I'd forgotten I watched last week; didn't make nearly the impression it did in highschool, but holds up surprisingly well knowing the twists

Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965) 5/10

It's the least poetic film about a poet I've seen, but under the dour artifice (nothing really pops with this Metrocolor process - based in Culver City, for shame) and camp emoting are pockets of vitality: lived-in portrayals of suffering and ascendence, winking editorial transitions, sophisticated camerawork and choreography. When Lean does attempt poetry it's a goofy facsimile, and the romance leaves a lot to be desired too. The salacious, Tsarist first half is consistently engaging; the second plods unevenly along through the course of the Revolution and its aftermath. I regret not reading the book before what plays as an intermittently-cinematic abbreviation.

La Cienaga (Lucrecia Martel, 2001) 8/10

A sensory phantasmagorie, applying a fragmentary aesthetic sensibility familiar to a vein of experimental film to a bourgeois domestic drama, with some casual commentary on race and class thrown in. This raw iteration of Martel's style is much more appealing to me than the subject to which it's applied, but maybe I was spoiled by seeing the more surreal Zama first. Still a fresh breed of narrative film -- can see why it made such a splash, and thrilled it gave Martel such a platform.

Decasia (Bill Morrison, 2002) 9/10

Finally saw this classic of decomposing film stock, and I regret not watching it 10 years or so ago when Nick Haley put me onto it -- I think I would've had my mind blown. It's primarily an aesthetic experience, but an invitation to intellectual engagement is suggested by the title: if the screen opens up new worlds to us, what world are we entering here? And in what sense are films the reflections of reality we instinctively take them to be? I liked the score, but personally I think its effect would be enhanced by silence. More than anything I've watched lately this demands to be seen on film, but whatever, changing times.

The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997) 9/10

Maybe the best thing to come of that late 90s "lifting the lid on gross suburbia" wave, and renews my faith a bit in traditional filmmaking. Every choice Egoyan makes as a director denotes a deep-felt sensitivity to the world he's portraying. I'm not usually a fan of the widescreen format, but it's put to particularly considerate use here. The kind of town tragedy epic that would undoubtedly be produced as a miniseries today, but despite feeling like there's a good deal elided it flows well as a film. Ian Holm gives an endlessly fascinating performance as an ambiguously well-meaning interloper, who assumes the half of the film's focus that's not on exposing town intrigue.

I Saw the Devil (Kim Jee-woon, 2010) 3/10

Hardcore mediocrity. Superficially (mostly) competent but thoroughly inane, one of those things that falls apart the second you think about any of it.

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#10

Post by morrison-dylan-fan » September 7th, 2020, 4:09 am

Hi all,I hope everyone had a good weekend,and I joined in on the online Frightfest 2020 event (it ended last Monday.) I watched 1 film a day at the fest,which were:

All spoiler free.

Day 1:I Am Lisa. 6
Only clip I can find for it:


I went for this after readng the summary calling it a take on I Am Legend. Oddly, after having pre-ordered it,I went to watch it,& the summary had been changed! This is a Werewolf Rape/Revenge. Whilst the wolf FX's are very iffy/sub-Buffy, it plays a nice line in small town hicks baddies get muched up by bookworm Lisa.

Day 2: They're Outside (2020) 7.
Trailer:

Wanting to go for one of the two exclusive first screenings taking place this day,I flipped a coin and landed on this. The film is a neat small-scale British Found Footage flick based on the real Jack in the Green event held each year in Hastings, Emily Booth is a hoot as the dead-pan Penny.

Day 3: A Ghost Waits (2020) 9

Only clip I can find is a interview with the debut writer/director,and FrightFes's Alan Jones.



The stand out of my viewings, (it got highly praised on the FB page for the fest) this is a excellent lo-fi Comedy Horror Drama, which moves between spooky gags and a surprising level of heart with real ease.

Day 4: The Swerve (2018)7
Trailer:

When watching the film, I kept thinking that this is a film I suspect would go down very well on this site. Whilst I had some issues with the pace in the first half feeling a bit muted, Azura Skye gives a star-making turn as Holly,a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
I believe the film is coming to various VOD's this month.

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Teproc
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#11

Post by Teproc » September 8th, 2020, 2:10 pm

A bunch of films I different films I liked about the same this week.

Cowboy Bebop: Tengoku no tobira / Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Shin'ichirô Watanabe & Yoshiyuki Takei, 2001)

As a big fan of the series, it made very little sense that I hadn't seen this, and I decided to rewatch it all first earlier this year... turns out I really wouldn't have needed to as this basically ignores the later plot developments in the series, probably for the best as Cowboy Bebop was always better at mood and style than it was at plot. It's the case again here, with the film casually shifting from western to film-noir to martial arts, all within a sci-fi setting, and Yoko Kanno's eclectic soundtrack accompanying it brilliantly (What Planet Is This? is a particularly great song from her and used very satisfyingly here), and though it all doesn't quite live up to the show's best because, well, it was always better-suited to its short running time, it was still a fun time.

62/100

OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus / OSS 117: Lost in Rio (Michel Hazanavicius, 2009)


The OSS 117 sequel is less of a focused pastiche of 60s spy films than the first one, this keeps the original's political edge but makes it more personal, focused on Dujardin being this reactionary person confronted to the changing world of the late 60s, ala Don Draper listening to "Tomorrow Never Knows" and reacting with befuddlement. It's a little blunter and a little more repetitive than the original's depiction of OSS117 as this avatar of France's obliviousness of its own geopolitical decline, but it does give the wacky comedic antics some ground to stand on, and Hazanavicius goes much further formally. He loses a bit of the focus of the previous film in doing that, as the film looks less like a spy film and more like a hodgepodge of late 60s/early 70s film tropes with some somewhat random Vertigo references thrown in for some reason, but it does work great at times, like that ridiculous split-screen phone conversation going further and further, probably the best visual gag in the film. Dujardin is still excellent in the role, and there are plenty of clever, funny bits (like the inverted Merchant of Venice/To Be or Not to Be speech) even though the whole isn't as slick as the first one was.

66/100

Ema (Pablo Larrain, 2019)


An excellent example of pretty unimaginative content made interesting and very engaging by its form. Larrain is a very talented filmmaker, and though this film commits the crime of wasting Gael Garcia Bernal in sloppily written melodrama, it makes up for it by giving a platform to Mariana di Girolamo (previously unknown to me), who gives a tour-de-force performance in the main role. Set in Valparaiso, which is generally younger and hipper than the country's capital Santiago, the film explores the generational and cultural dynamics that led to massive political unrest in the past year, highlighting the disconnect within the country through this community of young artists, but especially through di Girolamo as the protagonist. She's unlikable in many ways, but always captivating, and Larrain is also exploring feminine sexuality and how it interacts with all these themes, including the objectification of female bodies obviously. Not the most narratively satisfying film, but some impressive filmmaking going on here, more than enough to make this a rewarding if sometimes frustrating experience.

65/100

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)


Abortion agitprop, taking the case of a 17-year old from Pennsylvania having to travel to New York with her cousin to have an abortion without her parents knowledge to illustrate how traumatic and scary that experience is. With a very restrained style and strong performances - I was particularly impressed by Talia Ryder as the cousin, a role written a bit saintly for my tastes that nonetheless feels real thanks to her - I quite appreciated Hittman's commitment in terms of her directing, less so her writing, which tends to stack elements on top of everything else (the creep at the supermarket in particular), but her restraint leads to two standout scenes: the eponymous one and another one which was even harder to watch for me, involving a third character and absolutely terrible moral compromises having to be made by both main characters. Rough stuff, but effective.

64/100

Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020)


Impossible not to compare this to Inception, in that it's another exposition-heavy thriller which mostly uses interesting concepts of reality being altered (in this case through time-travel, sort of) through impressive visual storyteling and somewhat more conventional emotional storytelling. Quite confusing at first, yes, but I think the two key action sequences (one towards the middle, one at the very end) really pay off and use the inversion concept in very satisfying ways. Where this film isn't quite as effective though, is in the characters department. John David Washington is charismatic enough, but his character is written pretty shallowly and the relationship between him and Debicki never works as well as Nolan wants it to, and Branagh as a Russian baddie is... well, what you'd expect that to be like. Not bad necessarily, but not particularly interesting. Pattinson is excellent though, and his arc works very well and gives the ending an emotional punch it would otherwise lack.

63/100

Beasts That Cling the Straw (Kim Yong-hoon, 2020)


A fun, cynical thriller, one of those were everyone is pretty despicable and most of the fun is to watch them get punished for their greed. Not much to say about it really, it goes about its business without making much of an impression, but it's pretty entertaining.

57/100

The Perfect Candidate (Haifaa Al-Mansour, 2019)


I'm a sucker for this kind of thing: a relatively simple, humanistic drama about a country we don't get to see much of from an internal perspective. This is particularly true for Saudi Arabia, a country which only allowed cinemas to open two years ago after them being outlawed for over 30 years. That didn't prevent Al-Mansour from making a film before, but I haven't seen that one yet, so there is a inherent freshness to this just because of that context for me, which makes this, again, simple but quite compassionate drama much more poignant than it might otherwise have been. I appreciate that it is such a hopeful feminist story which uses the current evolution of the Saudi regime (which is terrible in some ways, but positive in this particular area) as a gateway for this kind of story: the film never makes too fine a point of it, but the protagonist's whole struggle is ostensibly about building a road to her hospital, and she's often shown driving from one place to another, something that is anything but incidental given that Saudi women have only gotten the right to drive a few years ago. There is an argument to be made that the film is soft on the regime, but I think there is a place for these kind of stories more hopeful and allowing dignity to all of its characters, including the father who gets a lovely arc, because Al-Mansour doesn't let any of these characters be flawless either. The father is nice to his daughters and pretty progressive, but he also abandons them to their own devices, the main daughter is in some ways selfish and forces her sisters into something they may not wants etc. Anyway, quiet humanism in cinema is my jam, and this is a good entry in that genre, such as it is.

67/100

@sol

Agreed re: Whisper of the Heart, love that "following the cat" scene, though I think I don't mind the melodrama particularly, I like the low-key nature of the story here. Minor Ghibli for sure, but still lovely.

@Onderhond

Yeah, Castle in the Sky is a wonderfully paced adventure.

I agree Stewart is the standout in Clouds of Sils Maria, but I found Binoche to be excellent as well, and got a lot more of the tension between the two than you evidently did. I think Assayas does a great job utilizing those remarkable landscapes you mention to enhance the mood he's going for, and I love the ending in particular.

I saw both parts of Ivan the Terrible in one screening (with an intermission), and I remember the second part being much more adventurous and interesting, both visually and thematically, as the comparison between Stalin and Ivan (which Stalin very much wanted) gets a lot more pointed in the "fall" part of the rise and fall narrative. I did still like the first part quite a it though, so I don't know if I'd recommend it to you.

I love both of the westerns you saw. I certainly get not going for Leone at all, I can see how his style can be obnoxious, but I will defend My Darling Clementine a bit as it is my favourite classic western (though I admittedly haven't seen that many). I think Ford is doing a lot here with the essence of the Western story, that of the hero who comes from the lawless world of the West but is necessary to usher in the transition towards civilization (here represented by the eponymous Clementine). Fonda plays him as conflicted, as both wanting to see civilization prevail but also mournful, realizing that he wouldn't truly belong in such a world and craving the adventure and the attention that being the sheriff brings. Other westerns explored this dynamic, certainly, but I believe Ford did it the best here, at least as far as classic western go. And I disagree about the cinematography, I love those shots of Fonda hanging out on the... wooden street? not sure how you call that, but he seems both relaxed and out of place, which is what the whole film is about for me.

@prodigalgodson

I mostly agree re: Zhivago, though I would say there is some poetry found in the imagery Lean uses, particularly in the second part, even though the first part is overall more interesting. I think part of it stems from the book (though I have also not read it), as Pasternak is constantly casting himself as politically perfect: understanding of the revolutionaries exactly up to the point where most of his audience would want him to be, and in the second part the political context is conveniently thrown aside, mostly, for a decidedly less interesting romance. I still like the film overall, in part because of how gorgeous it looks, but it was a bit of a disappointment compared to some of Lean's other works.

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#12

Post by Lonewolf2003 » September 8th, 2020, 3:05 pm

My viewings last week:

Die Ehe der Maria Braun [The Marriage of Maria Braun] (1979, Rainer Werner Fassbinder): 7.0 -It started off very well, making me think that this might be the best movie by RWF I've seen (so far). It begins immediately very energetic with a bang, and holds that energy going for a long time. But it started to lull a bit in the last third after her meeting of the textile tycoon Oswald. Before ending with a bang again. RWF does still known how to frame his cast in great shots.

J'ai perdu mon corps [ I Lost My Body] (2019, Jérémy Clapin): 7.2 - This movie is best known for its original premise; a severed hand that goes looking for its body. While it does feel a bit gimmick at times, the creativeness of the execution can't be denied. Those sequence work well firstly because the camera view is on level with the hand itself, secondly cause the movie sticks to realistic rules of the hand only being able to do what a real hand can do. Meanwhile the movie is intersected with flashbacks about the life of Naoufel, the owner of the hand. This essentially bolds down to a clichéd, although likeable story about a traumatized awkward boy meeting a quirky girl. Disappointingly the two storylines don't come together as well in the end as they could have. Making the whole premise feel even more as a gimmicky framing device for a quite standard plot. That the movie did leave me with a big emotional impact is for a large part thanks to the amazing melancholic score by Dan Levy.

Incredibles 2 (2018, Brad Bird): 7.5 - Worthy sequel

Ich möchte kein Mann sein [I Don't Want to Be a Man] (1918, Ernst Lubitsch) rewatch: 6.5 > 7.2 - Enjoyable and surprisingly subversive with a man kissing a (girl dressed up as) young man.

Die Puppe [The Doll] (1919, Ernst Lubitsch): 7.5 - A charming and amusing movie with great creative set and costume designs. The male lead is a bit dull, but that's also cause his character supposed to be. It's also very funny.

Finding Dory (2016, Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane): 6.5 - The rehashed plot feels stretched out with a multitude of obstacles to overcome, but overal it's funny and amusing enough to make up for this.

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018,Rich Moore & Phil Johnston): 7.8 - Good sequel, that's on par with the original. I liked the whole depiction of the internet and all the little reference. The plot is a nice metaphorical depiction of overcoming your own weakness

Die Austernprinzessin (1919, Ernst Lubitsch): 6.8 - Standard in plot, but still quite enjoyable and funny.

Cars 2 (2011, John Lasseter & Brad Lewis): 4.5 - Pixar always excelled in having good clear plots about characters wants vs needs, which are inline with the characteristics of their inherent nature (f.e. a a toy wanting his owner to be happy). A small part of this still does, which focuses purely on racing on a story about racing and friendship. But most of the movie is taken up by an uninspired Bondesque plot in it that just happens to have cars in it. Mater was tolerable in the previous movie as comic relief in small doses, as a lead he becomes irritating.

Cars 3 (2017, Brian Fee): 6.0 - A step up from 2, because this is a simple story about what a race car want, discovering what he needs. Still it's a lesser Pixar, because the whole cars franchise is clearly aimed at kids and misses the smarter gags, references and smarter characterization which make the better ones more enjoyable for adults too.

Saludos Amigos (1942, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts): 5.5 - A passable mix of documentary with animation. None of the 4 sequences are very memorable, either in a good or bad way.

Fun & Fancy Free (1947,Hamilton Luske, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, William Morgan): 5.5 - Another package movie from Disney featuring two stories this time. The Bongo story is a bit standard, but passes the time okay. The Jack and the Beanstalk take featuring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy on itself would have been also okay, if it wasn't unnecessary framed as being told by by a dull ventriloquist (really what is the point of a ventriloquist in a movie in which you can make a animated cricket talk?) with an annoying puppets delivering dumb wisecracks.

Melody Time (1948, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney): 5.2 - Yet another musical package movie, this one is highly unmemorable.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949, James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney
): 5.8 - The best Disney package movie that isn't Fantasia, but still a very mediocre Disney. Firstly half is a middling adaptation of The Wind in the Willows. The second half based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has a likable animation style, but it takes way too long to get to good stuff, the headless horseman

Cinderella (1950, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson): 6.0 - Based on the famous fairy tale, problem is that the story of the fairy tale is very thin. So this uses a lot of filler containing the adventures of the talking mice to fill its short running time of only 74 minutes. But that filler actually is the most enjoyable part. The animation is very inconsistent in quality.

The Black Cauldron (1985, Richard Rich & Ted Berman): 6.8 - This enjoyable fantasy adventure is much darker and scarier than usual for Disney.

Hercules (1997, Ron Clements & John Musker): 6.8 - I liked the animation style. While the story detours much from Greek mythology, it's still entertaining.

Mulan (1998, Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook): 6.8 - On par with Hercules, another Disney that's entertaining and enjoyable enough while it lasts. Mushu is a very funny sidekick and steals the show.

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#13

Post by sol » September 8th, 2020, 3:23 pm

peeptoad wrote:
September 6th, 2020, 3:01 pm
Seen only Whisper of the Heart (1995) of yours, sol. 7/10. I preferred the spinoff The Cat Returns.
Quiet week this week since I was busy with other stuff (and also taking a breather before horror in October)-

Idi I smotri (1985) Come and See 9-10
Shôjo tsubaki: Chika gentô gekiga (1992) Midori 8
Alenkiy tsvetochek (1978)The Scarlet Flower 7
Nochnoy dozor (2004) Night Watch 6
Oh, I entirely agreed with that. I loved The Cat Returns, which for some reason I didn't realise was a spin-off/sequel before I started watching Whisper of the Heart.

Of yours, I'm hoping to revisit Come and See this month. Devastating and draining film, but excellent. Great attention to sound; amazing firing-weapon ending. And I thought Night Watch was a pretty lousy film myself. If you want, I'll try to dig up my review, but this is one is a 4/10 in my books.
Teproc wrote:
September 8th, 2020, 2:10 pm
@sol

Agreed re: Whisper of the Heart, love that "following the cat" scene, though I think I don't mind the melodrama particularly, I like the low-key nature of the story here. Minor Ghibli for sure, but still lovely.
Yeah, I found the melodrama more tolerable than I expected. I also liked the overall film slightly more than I expected too. Back in the day, it kept getting comparisons to Miyazaki's weakest film, though I'm too hazy on it now to try to compare/contrast.

Yours:

Didn't think much of either OSS 117 film. Not my sort of humour. Agreed about the characters (in general) in Tenet and Pattinson's performance. He just continues to shine with each new role it seems. Really did the accent convincingly too.
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#14

Post by peeptoad » September 8th, 2020, 8:00 pm

sol wrote:
September 8th, 2020, 3:23 pm
And I thought Night Watch was a pretty lousy film myself. If you want, I'll try to dig up my review, but this is one is a 4/10 in my books.
Nah, don't bother digging up the review. I can understand any rating between 4-6 for this one. It was most similar to Underworld , which I gave a similar rating to. I was less entertained by Night Watch though, so maybe that should be a 5. IDK. The numbers are tough to assign sometimes.

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#15

Post by prodigalgodson » September 12th, 2020, 7:37 am

sol
Fig Leaves - sounds fun, I love the only silent Hawks I've seen, A Girl in Every Port
Dead or Alive - boy, Guillerman's been getting a lot of attention lately; I'll have to check out some of his stuff

hond
Castle in the Sky 4 - saw the first half when I was young and loved it, then saw the whole thing when I was in high school and wasn't feeling it, but it's been over a decade now, so who knows; I do usually like Miyazaki though
Harold and Maude 9 - saw it earlier this year in my TSP quest, then my gf (who's 10 years older) wanted to watch it with me; I loved it both times and it's one that's really stuck with me, maybe cuz of its Bay location or morals; it does look very 70s, but I thought there were some very groovy shots
The Mask of Zorro - pretty sure I saw this when I was a kid and enjoyed it reasonably
Scooby Doo 7 - aww haha the cartoon was my favorite as a kid, but I dig this movie too (first seen for my 9th birthday party) and its, as you suggested, thorough goofiness
Ivan the Terrible 8 - I thought it was pretty promising, but Part II's funkiness is where it payed off for me; I remember some pretty striking shots myself
A Fistful of Dollars 9 - maybe my favorite from Leone, but I love the Red Harvest story template and that sun-bleached desert town aesthetic; every time I see it I'm surprised how tight and smoothly executed it is compared to Leone's subsequent work
My Darling Clementine 9 - I think this has such wide appeal because it hits all the notes for both the western/Americana fans and the formalist/aesthete crowd; I think I know what you mean by Ford's cramped framing, but I love it, formally his stuff feels like looking into a miniature world and his composition is just immaculate; I'm a big Henry Fonda fan too, and I love his chill gangster vibes here, square dancing and leaning back in his chair with his leg propped up (so simple but so fucking good)

pda
Cleopatra - those screenshots are persuasive
Tenet - oh good; if I wasn't spending so much gas money filming I'd be tempted to take a daytrip to Nevada to see it, I've been cold turkey on theatergoing for too long

toad
Come and See 6 - rewatched this for my last theatrical experience before lockdown, didn't get as much out of it as I did back in the day

vv
Petropolis 9 - the second film in my Mettler honeymoon, great stuff
Tenet - ooh 70mm :woot:

proc
Haven't seen any of yours, but I enjoyed your take on Clementine. I agree Lean attempts a more poetic direction in the second half of Zhivago, I just don't think it's in his bag. I like Lean -- Lawrence is incredible and River Kwai was my favorite film for about a year in middle school -- but this made me wonder what I'd think of something like Brief Encounter at this point.

wolf
The Marriage of Maria Braun 8 - don't remember it too well, unusual for me with Fassbinder, but thought it was in the upper portion of his catalogue, and do recall loving the ending
Incredibles 2 3 - naaah
Finding Dory 3 - naaah
Ralph Breaks the Internet 3 - naaah
Cars 2 - pretty sure I saw this and it was bad but better than the first
Cinderella - never liked this one as a kid
Mulan 8 - whaaat, you're trippin, this is the high water mark for Disney animation

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#16

Post by sol » September 12th, 2020, 9:03 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 7:37 am
sol
Fig Leaves - sounds fun, I love the only silent Hawks I've seen, A Girl in Every Port
Dead or Alive - boy, Guillerman's been getting a lot of attention lately; I'll have to check out some of his stuff
Yes - Guillermin has been getting a lot of attention lately, and deserved so. One of the greatest unsung directors of his generation. Dead or Alive is very decent final film, by the way, and kind of interest as a compare/contrast piece to Rapture - Guillermin's own favourite of his work - with its very different take on an older man/younger girl relationship. Great Kris Kristofferson performance too, as one would tend to expect.

I actually didn't think too much of A Girl in Every Port; certainly Fig Leaves is far funnier to my mind. It also sits rather nicely against some of the comedies that Hawks would do with Cary Grant, featuring female/male relationships with strong-willed, independent women.

Yours:

Agreed about Ian Holm's performance in The Sweet Hereafter; the overall film I liked slightly more upon revision, but I actually rate it fairly low down in the Egoyan canon and it feels kind of weird to me that he is best known for this film rather than something like Exotica or Remember - the latter of which is my single favourite film from him. Can't remember anything too special about the widescreen photography though. Generally, I like widescreen myself, though sometimes it is hard to see certain details if you have a 2.35:1 (or greater) film on your TV set or iPad rather than projected on screen.

Doctor Zhivago features probably my favourite Omar Sharif performance. Not my favourite David Lean epic by any stretch, but I really thought that Sharif knocked it out of the park with his performance. That said, I wasn't too warm on the film on my first viewing either.

I actually somehow managed to avoid seeing Oldboy until recently myself (November last year). That ending certainly packs quite a punch. Haven't seen the Spike Lee version but I am morbidly curious about it. And I Saw the Devil was another one that I somehow put off seeing until last year's Korean challenge. Really liked this one. A lot. Yes, bits and pieces of the film strain credibility (the killer constantly operating so well after many injuries), but I loved the black comedy as the agent kept interrupting the killer's plans at just the right time.
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#17

Post by prodigalgodson » September 13th, 2020, 8:09 pm

sol wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 9:03 am
Yes - Guillermin has been getting a lot of attention lately, and deserved so. One of the greatest unsung directors of his generation. Dead or Alive is very decent final film, by the way, and kind of interest as a compare/contrast piece to Rapture - Guillermin's own favourite of his work - with its very different take on an older man/younger girl relationship. Great Kris Kristofferson performance too, as one would tend to expect.

Agreed about Ian Holm's performance in The Sweet Hereafter; the overall film I liked slightly more upon revision, but I actually rate it fairly low down in the Egoyan canon and it feels kind of weird to me that he is best known for this film rather than something like Exotica or Remember - the latter of which is my single favourite film from him. Can't remember anything too special about the widescreen photography though. Generally, I like widescreen myself, though sometimes it is hard to see certain details if you have a 2.35:1 (or greater) film on your TV set or iPad rather than projected on screen.

And I Saw the Devil was another one that I somehow put off seeing until last year's Korean challenge. Really liked this one. A lot. Yes, bits and pieces of the film strain credibility (the killer constantly operating so well after many injuries), but I loved the black comedy as the agent kept interrupting the killer's plans at just the right time.
Nice, I'll have to check out some of this Guillerman guy, I love unsung visionaries!

Thanks for the Egoyan recs, I'm eager to check out more now.

Glad you enjoyed I Saw the Devil. I saw The Good, the Bad, and the Weird years ago and that wasn't working for me either, something about the director's style and pacing really grates me.

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