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A few reviews
(07-13-2019, 11:50 AM)Gaith Wrote: Sadly, the 4K cultists at bluray.com seem to have wholeheartedly bought in to all this:

It is astonishing that it could get 5/5 for the video with those screenshots. Screenshots 10 (Neo in boss' office) and 16 (girl in red dress) are fully blue, shouldn't scenes in the Matrix be green? bluray.com reviewers never do judge a transfer for being faithful, or not faithful but it just looks plain bad never mind accurate.

Come Drink with Me (1966)
The English title 'Come Drink with Me' did not lead me to expect this full-on Genre-defining Kung Fu action film from Director King Hu. From what I can work out, the three word Mandarin title 'Da Zui Xia' is more accurately translated as something like 'Big Drunken Hero'. A girl known as "Golden Swallow" (Cheng Pei-pei) is an impetuous but deadly martial artist who sets out to rescue her helpless brother from an evil bandit gang. Along the way she is aided by an amiable drunken beggar, who actually turns out to be a secret Kung Fu master (It's got a Yoda/Luke vibe). A much older Cheng will be familiar to most people as 'Jade Fox' from 'Crouching Tiger, Hiden Dragon'. 'Come Drink with Me' is an influence on that film stylistically but it also shares one or two basic plot elements. I watched with the excellent original Mandarin audio, despite the temptation of the hilariously bad English dub.



A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Director Richard Lester takes what could have been a cheap promo exercise for a pop group and makes it into real art. From the very first shot it announces it's intent. Without any preceding titles, it hard cuts to The Beatles already running towards camera, timed with the opening clang of the 'A Hard Day's Night' song. George trips over, the rest of the group laugh but the film keeps going. We're watching what would usually be an outtake, so we know we are in for anarchic Documentary-style fun. The simple story rotates around The Beatles' management trying to keep them on schedule for a TV appearance. The fab-four rebel against them and cause as much mayhem as possible but of course they are showbiz professionals at heart, so they turn up at the last possible second to do the gig. The constant banter and antics from the lads rewards repeat viewings.



One of the best elements is John Jympson's inventive editing (he was the guy who later cut the workprint of Star Wars), ending a scene unexpectedly, or extending another by a couple of surprising shots. After seeing the film many times, my one gripe would be the somewhat anti-climactic ending. A safe, rehearsed and mimed TV performance doesn't cut it after all the fun and chaos, we should have been shown a raucous live performance from the boys. Having seen the recent 4K Restoration of the Shea Stadium concert, I can testify to The Beatles being a great live band.

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Mo' Better Blues (1990)
Denzel Washington stars as a trumpet player and band leader juggling loyalty to his friends, his career, money, band tensions and relationships with two women. Why oh why, when he's got access to acting talent of the caliber of Denzel, plus Wesley Snipes, Giancarlo Esposito and Samuel L. Jackson does Director Spike Lee still insist on casting himself in a central role, when he is a terrible, terrible actor. His character is vital to this story and his inability to convey any emotion drags the film down from the heights it should have reached. Ernest Dickerson's colour drenched Cinematography is gorgeous, the scene where an angry Denzel is playing the trumpet lit with a hellish red glow is so powerful. Terence Blanchard and Bill Lee's Jazz music is note perfect. Ending with a fast-forward montage through the rest of the main character's life was a nice touch that I've never seen done before in that way. A frustratingly imperfect film.



I found the stereotypical performances by Italian-American John Turturro and his brother as the Jazz club's two money grabbing Jewish owners to be uncomfortable. I was not at all surprised to read that the Anti Defamation League (ADL) had criticized Spike Lee at the time.

The Gang Starr song about the history of Jazz over the credits is so good (I'll have to check out the Soundtrack):

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Crimes of Passion (1984)
This was one of Director Ken Russell's later films, it only has 36% on RT and some poor reviews, so I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. Kathleen Turner bares all to play a respectable fashion designer by day and prostitute by night, specializing in theatrical fantasy. Anthony Perkins is once again terrifying as the perverted and insane 'Reverend' intent on "saving" Turner's character (there are hints of Travis Bickle, turned up to 11). John Laughlin also stars as decent family man in a sexless marriage who is attracted to Turner. The spectacular Argento-esque neon visuals by Cinematographer Dick Bush are great to look at (no really, that's his name Big Grin ). Apparently Russell had a hell of a fight getting any cut past the censors, it's easy to see why because 'Crimes of Passion' is not a film for the easily offended... or even the hard to offend but underneath the shock and awe it's a solid and serious examination of the psyches of the three main characters.

I watched the Arrow Video reconstruction of the Laserdisc 'Director's Cut'. The 5-minutes of Laserdisc material is the best upscaling job I could ever imagine seeing, cutting almost invisibly with the rest of the razor sharp 2K scanned 1080p Interpositive material. Prog-Rocker and semi-pro raconteur Rick Wakeman provides the score based on motifs from Dvorak's 'New World Symphony' and I very much enjoyed his interview on the bonus features.

Censored but still NSFW trailer:


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Bullet in the Head (1990)
Director John Woo originally wrote 'Bullet in the Head' as a Vietnam-set prequel to 'A Better Tomorrow' but he fell out with Producer Tsui Hark, so Woo's script was re-tooled and Hark went off and made his own prequel. Four Hong Kong gang members and childhood friends seek their fortunes in war ravaged Vietnam but the horrors they witness tear them apart.  Michael Cimino's 'The Deer Hunter' is unmistakably the inspiration for this film, except Woo uses the political turmoil of the 1960s to unpack his anger about the then very recent Tiananmen Square Massacre. I found the juxtaposition of intentionally shocking realistic violence, with the usual OTT brand of fun Hong Kong action violence to be an awkward one at times. Blood squibs explode everywhere and everything else just explodes in a never ending gun battle.



This fan on youtube recently edited together a killcount/supercut for just the four main characters (NSFW obviously):



(Spoilers, it's 177 total)
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The Weight of Water (2000)
'The Weight of Water' is by some distance the weakest entry in Kathryn Bigelow's otherwise excellent filmography, the saxophone score and lacklustre lighting reminiscent of a softcore TV movie. A dramatisation of a real-life 1873 murder case is almost randomly intercut with a modern magazine journalist investigating the same slayings. The device just doesn't work and it's not helped by the fact the 19th century half starring Sarah Polley (who is brilliant) is much more interesting than the four present-day pretentious rich characters on their luxury yacht who keep interrupting her, moaning on about their problems. Sean Penn's performance suggests he was under heavy sedation but to be fair, that's party down to the dreary character he's playing.

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She's Out of My League (2010)

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Yes, she (Alice Eve) is out of his (Man Seeking Woman's Jay Baruchel) league - not on looks, necessarily (people are people), but certainly on personality and accomplishment. Indeed, that's where much of the rom-com's humor lies; the guy is likable and amusing, but the woman clearly deserves better. Instead of acknowledging this and charting a daring ending, however, the standard rom-com formula is adhered to, and there's an unfortunate dash of misogyny in the third act, which is nonetheless a huge step up from the rancid flood of the same in the similarly themed Knocked Up. After watching this, I was surprised to learn it was a 2010 release; the humor and tone (not to mention flip phones, and only a passing mention of Facebook) felt much more 2005.

Overall, the film far exceeded Dr. Kermode's six-laugh test. A classic it ain't, but, if one's in the mood for a rom-com geared to unremarkable dudes, and doesn't mind a prominent role from T.J. Miller, it's a pleasant watch. B-
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^ Didn't 'Knocked Up' use your "A rancid flood of misogyny" quote on the poster? Big Grin

MidSommar (2019)
I have an aversion to modern Horror films but since 'MidSommar' stars Florence Pugh and she's one of the best actors around, I gave it a go. I'm glad I did because this was like Stanley Kubrick does 'The Wicker Man' and not a jump-scare to be found. Pugh plays an emotionally vulnerable woman who accompanies her unsupportive boyfriend and his obnoxious dude-bro friends on a trip to a Swedish pagan festival. Director Ari Aster distorts parts of the image, plays with focus, changes in contrast, uses Kubrickian symmetrical framing and subtle shifts in frame-rate (I think), all to keep you unsettled without always being able to explain why. I'm not sure the slow pace and reliance on disturbing, rather than spooky Horror will work for mainstream shock fans but it certainly worked for me.

Mild spoiler section:


The only problem is that it hits that Wicker Man "Oh Jesus Christ!" type crescendo about two thirds in when the story has run out steam and we, like the characters are just in for the ride. The Director described it as "a breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film" and when you look back on it, that makes a lot of sense thematically. I think 'MidSommar' will reward repeat viewings to pick up on more of the symbolism and foreshadowing.



Jaws (1975)
I got a chance to see a really nice looking 4K transfer on the big screen today. I've watched 'Jaws' so many times, it's so adsorbing and it's so ingrained into the culture that it's difficult to make any critical appraisal beyond "it's damned near perfect". The pacing is what really impressed me this time, I was surprised that the entire Amityville section was only half the film (the rest being the hunt for the shark) yet it never feels rushed. John Williams' main theme is of course famous but the hero theme has such a sense of adventure and freedom. Yes, that scene where the head pops out still has the power to make an audience shriek and jump out of their seats.

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The official 16th best British film of all time...

Get Carter (1971)
It's taken me far too long to get around to seeing this iconic British Gangster movie. Although the plotting is dense, the premise is simple. Michael Caine plays our eponymous anti-hero Jack Carter, a London mobster who travels back to his roots in North-East England to investigate the suspicious death of his brother, kicking down doors in the Newcastle underworld until he gets answers. The real violence doesn't start until way into the picture but Caine radiates the threat of it with every muscle, like he could explode at any second. When the mystery unravels and the killing begins, his acts of vengeance are so cold and brutal that it still shocks nearly 50 years later. The last act is increasingly bleak and nihilistic and the monochrome end credits feature just the howl of the wind in the void. Roy Budd's Jazz score is super stylish and you'll probably have heard it before.



Is this the greatest trailer ever or what!!! (some NSFW content)



By the way, I couldn't believe the scene that is shot around the Blackhall Colliery and it's massive concrete conveyor system for continuously dumping bins of coal waste by-products directly into the ocean. We don't do enough to protect the planet now but in 1971 we really did have an attitude of "f*ck the environment" Big Grin .

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Sleeping with Other People (2015) (currently on US Netflix)

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The heck? 64 is way too low of a Metacritic score for this hilarious gem of a modern rom-com - an especially tricky genre in these days without societal taboos, and with omnipresent communication/connectivity. If not for the fact that Sudeikis' character is improbably conveniently wealthy, and the slight demerit that the movie bows to genre formula in that each of the protagonists only seems to have one friend, I'd be tempted to call this a strong contender for rom-com of the decade. And maybe it is, though Obvious Child has a tad more bite, as I recall. Anyhow, definitely worth a watch with your significant other... or your friend-who-you-just-might-wish-were-more?  Tongue A-
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Jungle Fever (1991)
Again Director Spike Lee casts himself in his 5th film but thankfully it's just in a minor role this time. Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra are fantastic as the interracial couple at the center of the film but they are out-shined by John Turturro, as a meek, thoughtful Italian guy who works in a corner store but his subplot is annoying not properly resolved. The first half is on a par with 'Do the Right Thing' but then Lee seems to get bored and meanders of into a subplot about a crack addict (Samuel L. Jackson) that is only tangentially related to the main characters and has no bearing on the interracial theme of the piece. It's very powerfully acted by Jackson but I don't know why it's a part of this movie, it could be trimmed right out with no narrative effect. We randomly end with a fast zoom in on Snipes face shouting "No!" because I guess Lee didn't know how to end the story. Another frustratingly inconsistent Spike Lee film. As always, Ernest Dickerson's golden Cinematography and Terence Blanchard's Jazz score are gorgeous.



Idiocracy (2006)
I'd heard this was kinda ahead of it's time, pre-satirising the inanity of recent years by imagining an America 500 years into the future, where the people have devolved into idiots barely able to function. It's too surface level and the premise doesn't hold together, there are far too few really clever dystopian concepts and far, far too much of the idiots just snickering and saying "f*g" and "ret***ed". The premise doesn't stand up to any scrutiny, for example the people are shown plugged into mind-numbing hi-tech entertainment equipment but also shown to be so stupid that they could never have designed, maintained, or operated any of the same devices. The only idea that really gelled was them watering their dying crops with Gatorade because commercials have told them to. Still, I chuckled all the way through the tight 84-minute run time and the FX are a curious mix of CGI, traditional mattes and hand animation.

This military briefing scene from the prologue really had me laughing out loud:

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