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A few reviews
Dick Tracy (1990)
I remember loving this adventure when I saw it at the Cinema (and later rented the VHS) when I was a kid but I don't think I've seen it since. As an adult I can see it's a bit flat story/script wise but I can also appreciate the love, the ingenuity and technical skill that went into the Art-Direction. There are many incredible looking, magical matte paintings and tons of expertly executed split-diopter shots. Cinematographer Vittoria Storaro drenches the sets in primary coloured lights, recalling the look of his earlier 1982 film 'One from the Heart'. He somehow manages to make the actors look like they are walking through Edward Hopper paintings, even when you know it's a real set.

15-years later, advances in computer technology allowed Robert Rodriguez to execute a similar level of deliberate comic-book/film-noir artificiality for half the budget and with arguably more success in his 'Sin City' film. However, there is something hugely impressive in seeing it done the hard way, back in the pre-CGI days.

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Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

I didn't expect this movie to be any good, but I figured it couldn't possibly be worse than The Day After Tomorrow. I figured dead wrong. After watching 57 minutes of terrible characters and ginormous stupid explosions filling the screen and seeing I wasn't even halfway through, I shut it right off. I could do something more constructive with my time, like watching alt-right YouTube videos.

I don't rate movies I haven't completely watched, but if I were to rate this monstrous pile of fetid trash, I'd rate it 2/10.
"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be."

Bhagavad Gita 2:12
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A double-bill of the first two Burton Batman films in 4K on the big screen. Yay!

Batman (1989)
Until Christopher Nolan rebooted Batman and The Joker in studiously realistic fashion (films I also love), I don’t remember the 1989 original getting the kind of criticism it does now from some quarters. Re-watching it again at the cinema, I was reminded why I loved it in the first place. The character fits so snugly into the 80s/50s fusion fantasy Tim Burton created, where pinstripe gangsters and modern tech coexist. The Fritz Lang design aesthetic and the expertly lit shadowy Film-Noir visuals look spectacular in 4K. Danny Elfman's music is note perfect, threatening yet heroic, like the character. In the last shot as the score resolves in a triumphant motif while the camera swirls up into sky gave me goosebumps. A theater audience reminds you how damn funny Jack Nicholson is in the role, when he's not scaring the pants off you. As somebody who has only ever read a few of the more famous comic titles, I can't really comment on how accurate a rendering of the caped-crusader this is but this movie will always be the definition of Batman for me. This has gone way up in my estimation.



Batman Returns (1992)
This has gone way down in my estimation. Seeing it back-to-back with the '89 film, the deficiencies are all the clearer. It looks lack-luster in comparison because of a flatter, more TV lighting scheme. The Gothic designs are terrific but they aren't lit with anything like the same care. IIRC there is only one establishing matte-painting of Gotham (that's re-used from the first film I think?) combined with a tiny looking enclosed set where 75% of the film takes place. The 1989 film occasionally felt confined but at least it was filmed on the backlot with natural daylight and the impression of a few different locations. The scene where the Batmobile tries to drive around the cramped set looks embarrassing. It all takes place in cooky Burtonland, where logic and reality don't intrude. Yes the versions of Catwoman, the Penguin and Christopher Walken's Max Shreck are hugely entertaining and iconic but they add up to too many villains in a sloppy script that loses sight of Batman.

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A Taika Waititi double-bill...

Eagle vs Shark (2007)
Lily, an awkward, shy and quiet girl has a crush on Jarrod, a rather pathetic, self-obsessed geek who works at the video game store. Comparisons to 2004's 'Napoleon Dynamite' are inevitable in this film entirely populated by quirky damaged misfits. Taika Waititi's film (his first) goes beyond that by exploring the emotional hinterland that makes these people the way they are. So even when they act very badly, you can understand where the behaviour comes from. I laughed my head off constantly at all the visual jokes in the frame. My hardest laugh was at an incongruous painting of an Alsatian dog that isn't even the focus of the shot... I don't know why? My only quibble is that the fairly arbitrary ending didn't fully deliver on the potential of the material somehow.



What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
I finally got round to seeing this acclaimed Vampire "Mockumentary" co-Directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement (and starring them both). The premise involves a film crew which has been allowed into the flat-share of a group of New Zealand Vampires of different ages (or different genres of the film mythos). It's hilarious obviously but the meticulous attention to exploring the real-world and often mundane practicalities of being a Vampire are what make this riveting. You can't enjoy daytime TV, you can't eat chips and dressing for going out clubbing is a chore when you have no reflection. The loose improv feel disguises a very technically accomplished film with many clever practical FX and oldskool in-camera trickery. It doesn't have the emotional weight of other Taika films but the jokes keep you entertained.



I just need to see 2010's 'Boy' now and then I've seen 'em all.
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Frau im Mond aka Woman in the Moon (1929)
Fritz Lang's last silent film is a fairly earnest attempt to envision a mission to land on the moon. The launch sequence is remarkably close to the NASA launches that would happen decades later, including multi-stages and the zero-g simulation is also pretty decent for the time. Unfortunately those space sequences come more than 1.5 hours in, the opening half being dedicated to a convoluted espionage plot concerning the rocket plans and a love-triangle eating up more of the screen time. It's worth seeing once for Sci-Fi fans but I found it a slog to get through.



A promotional wheeze had UFA-Studios spend the marketing budget on funding actual rocket experiments by the scientific advisor to the film. One of the people on that project was a young Wernher von Braun, who would of course go on to be instrumental in the Apollo space program. So life, really imitating art. 'Frau im Mond' was considered too close to the secret V2 program, leading to it being banned by the Nazis a few years afterwards. By the way, a kid in the film reads science adventure magazines that mention "Nick Carter" on the covers, which sounds pretty close to John Carter Big Grin .

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Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
The original Spanish title 'El Laberinto del Fauno' translates as 'The Labyrinth of the Faun', so the titular character isn't Pan but he isn't kind Mr. Tumnus either Big Grin . It's taken me far too long to get around to this Guillermo del Toro film (I saved one of the best for last) and for some reason I was expecting a children's fantasy film. Most of the film is actually set in the brutal reality of 1944 Spain under the Fascist rule of General Franco. A young girl has encounters with supernatural creatures, mirroring that reality, or perhaps it's the other way around? The Faun/underworld sequences are creepy, magical and beautiful to look at, centered on a typically brilliant physical performance from Doug Jones, aided by a seamless blend of practical and CGI FX to make him appear to walk on hind legs. The main theme from Javier Navarrete's score really works it's way into your brain.

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Ishtar (1987)
I've been curious about this notorious Warren Beatty/Dustin Hoffman box-office bomb (estimated to have lost $40-55 million) since I laughed at the above Gary Larson "Hell's Video Store" joke as a teen. I tracked down the old theatrical cut DVD, rather than the new Director's Cut blu-ray, because I wanted to see the version that took all the flack. I've read about the hilarious production mishaps but even so, how did they manage to spend $51 million on a film this relatively small-scale and lowkey... ESB and RoTJ cost that combined! Were they using $100 bills as napkins in craft service or something? 'Ishtar' has been talked about as one of the worst films of all time, which is ridiculous, it's fine. Hoffman and Beatty as two pathetic and untalented Simon & Garfunkel wannabees are pretty funny. Whenever they are together I was chuckling but the plot involving the CIA, left wing guerillas and middle eastern politics gets in the way. The film is clearly aiming for frenetic farce but just ends up with an over complicated plot that needs to be explained all the time (and I still got confused). The intentionally bad songs by Paul Williams get the best laughs.

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Rocketman (2019)
As this is by Dexter Fletcher, the same co-Director (after Bryan Singer left) as the Queen biopic, I was expecting something similarly straight forward and fun from this Elton John film. This is a much more risk-taking kaleidoscope of dream sequences, framing devices, fantasy dance numbers and trippy visuals. The highlights include kid Elton shining a torch in his bedroom upon an imaginary orchestra, a musical pub punch-up and a strangely beautiful balletic dance by doctors and nurses as overdosed Elton is being wheeled into hospital. Countless songs are seamlessly intermingled to tell his life story through music and lyrics.



Film Critic Mark Kermode mentioned the heavy influence of Ken Russell's style (in his ecstatic review above) and that's a great guide for understanding what Fletcher is going for. Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton's mum has one of the most convincing London-area accents I've heard from a Hollywood actor and the whole physical performance is spot on (It's like she's channeling Adele). Taron Egerton and Jamie Bell have great chemistry as Elton and Bernie Taupin. I read on Wikipedia that "It is the first major Hollywood production to show a gay male sex scene on-screen". Really? in 2019? That's kinda pathetic Hollywood. I wasn't expecting this film to be as good, as daring, or as creative as it is. Plus I can't stop humming the music.

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Very mild spoilers ahead...

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)
Chapter 3 ramps up the precisely choreographed 'The Raid 2' style action even further than the previous two installments. Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman from 'The Raid 2' have superb cameos, basically reprising their characters to have a franchise vs franchise grudge-match. JW3 takes the violence to new, knowingly-extreme levels, which the audience I watched with gleefully appreciated, laughing along at every OTT kill. I can't believe this got away with a 15-Cert in the UK. There must be more shots of evil henchmen having their nuts savaged by angry dogs in JW3, than in the whole history of cinema combined. That dog sequence, the military-museum fight, the horse scene and the shotgun assault are all unforgettable set-pieces.

However, when things occasionally slow down you get bombarded with voluminous nonsense about the increasingly preposterous world of John Wick, when you just want to get to the next fight. JW1 felt like it portrayed a secret criminal subculture, in the real world, where as JW3 takes place in a fantasy land where everybody is a super assassin. It's starting feel like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' in that regard but with PotC, the endgame is nonsense, where as here, it's at least in service of giving Wick endless excuses for brilliant action to take place. Mark Dacascos steals the show as an assassin who is hilariously a giddy fanboy of Wick's work. This might be the best of three films so far, even if it lacks the characterisation of the first film and I'm looking forward to the next Chapter.

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I've no doubt the Wick sequels' choreography is all it's cracked up to be, but, as one who was underwhelmed by the narrative of the first entry (it all builds to... a pier-side fistfight between a super-assassin and an old dude who never particularly disliked him the first place?), the notion of this caper extending indefinitely baffles, and frankly kinda depresses, me.

(05-28-2019, 11:01 AM)TM2YC Wrote: JW1 felt like it portrayed a secret criminal subculture, in the real world, where as JW3 takes place in a fantasy land where everybody is a super assassin. It's starting feel like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' in that regard but with PotC, the endgame is nonsense, where as here, it's at least in service of giving Wick endless excuses for brilliant action to take place.

Thing is, though, no one really dislikes Wick in this world, do they? It's all about following orders and/or collecting a bounty? For a hero who was never particularly likable to begin with?

Eh, maybe I'm just grumpy today. Tongue
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