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A few reviews
[b]Moe_Syzlak[/b] yeah, this has been on my watch list a while now.  I didn't know it was a ghost story!  Huh.
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(12-12-2019, 02:52 PM)mnkykungfu Wrote: [b]Moe_Syzlak[/b] yeah, this has been on my watch list a while now.  I didn't know it was a ghost story!  Huh.

It’s central conceit is a ghost story but I wouldn’t characterize the movie as a typical ghost story movie. BTW, I didn’t put that in spoiler tags because it is revealed in the very first scene. But there’s much more to the story.
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The Irishman (2019)
Yes the CGI de-aging is distracting but not because it looked bad, for the most part I forgot about it (De Niro's eyes looked odd mostly). The main problem was that it only succeeded in making the three actors look less old and not actually young. Usually in this kind of multi-decade epic, like 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp', or 'Once Upon a Time in America' makeup (and sometime a younger actor) is artfully used to take the viewer on a journey from youth, to old age and to anchor each period in the audience's mind. 'The Irishman's CGI de-aging makes it feel like we are seeing a much shorter time period than the titles and events describe, plus it leaves you confused when there is a shift around in time and that's just bad storytelling. The problem is made weirder by the decision to switch from the 13 year old Lucy Gallina, to the 37-year Anna Paquin playing De Niro's daughter (a difference of 24-years), while he only appears to age a few months across the same scene change. The use of noticeable CGI blood also lacked any of the shock and memorable impact normally associated with Scorsese films.

With that out of the way, 'The Irishman' (or 'I Heard You Paint Houses' as it's called onscreen, twice) is a fine film, not quite up there with similar Scorsese works like 'Goodfellas' and 'Casino' but well worth the watch. The 3.5 hour runtime wasn't long enough for me, as I could watch Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci playing these dubious characters all day. God I've missed Pesci (who has been semi-retired for the last two decades), his crumpled walnut face is a masterclass of nuanced acting. The whole film has a subtle understatement to it and maybe that's gonna be a problem for some people because I can't think of any truly standout scenes/moments akin to "Do I amuse you?!" or the infamous eyeball/vice moment. The seemingly random onscreen text info that occasionally showed up to tell you when, where and how the various real-life gangsters would violently die was an interesting touch that kept the threat of death present in the mind.

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A Private War (2018)
The 2018 documentary 'Under the Wire' about war reporter Marie Colvin only partially worked because it didn't have sufficient real footage to tell her story properly. Unfortunately this drama film doesn't quite manage it either. Rosamund Pike is good as Colvin but there is a bit too much "smoking acting", or waving a bottle of booze around to convey her inner turmoil in simplistic terms. Jamie Dornan's attempt at the strong Scouse accent of her photographer Paul Conroy ranges all over the British isles. I doubt Colvin herself would have been satisfied with 99% of the film being about how hard she had it and 1% about the innocent victims of war who she sought to give voice to. Worth a watch overall.



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My project over the past month!:
I'd already seen most of the old "Timm-verse" classic DC animation, but I decided to catch up with a lot of the newer DCAU films that I mostly hadn't seen.  I thought I had narrowed it down to the best 10 or so...but honestly most of them were mediocre.  Now, some people may just be judging these on "fun factor" or something, but I don't have different standards for sci-fi or drama or animation or comedy, etc... I'm looking for all of them to not have plot holes, to have characters that you want to follow, to develop some themes, have cool set-pieces, and so on.  Since most of these DC films fall short on many of those levels, I'll just give them a few sentences each (though I give full reviews if you want to look at my Letterboxd account.)

Worst of the "Best"-
  • Assault on Arkham- based on the video game apparently, and it feels like one.  Clearly influenced by the Suicide Squad film as well, it's trying too hard to be cool and edgy and ends up mostly being ridiculous with a series of set pieces that all think they're clever but really don't make much sense.
  • Justice League: War- were you bored with the old Justice League and thought there were no more stories to tell?  No?  Well, we're going to reboot them anyway!  Yes, everyone is in a stupider costume and you will sit through thinner introductions of each character's origins before getting a thinner re-telling of the Darkseid story.
  • Justice League vs Teen Titans- ditto, but for the Titans.  Also, you gotta have a montage!  Or 3.  (Because it's a shortcut to actually showing real character growth and writing dialogue, which we don't know how to do.)
  • Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox- a much-loved comic storyline wherein The Flash wakes up in an alternate timeline in which he never became The Flash.  The "It's a Wonderful Life" trope follows, as we see the very comic-booky invention of "time ripples" has changed familiar characters in a way that often makes no sense... for example, Batman grew up spending his entire life preparing to be who he is, but he's neatly swapped out for his grown father, a doctor, and his mother becomes the Joker (when Bruce is shot instead of his parents).  Concepts like these that have a lot of pathos but no logic fill this world, so if you're more about ideas than execution, dig in.
A Mixed Bag-
  • Green Lantern: First Flight- not a bad origin tale for Hal Jordan, except the first half was already done better in "The New Frontier".  As it focuses more on the GL Corps, you can see a cool Training Day vibe start to get set up with Hal and Sinestro, and that there was a lot of potential to go this direction in the live action film.  In the end, this has some plot contrivances and motivations that get a bit tropey, plus the mechanics of Hal learning to use his ring and being creative are just kind of scrapped.
  • Wonder Woman- the Greek mythology is really stressed here, and I think the later live action film could've benefited from more of it.  The supporting Amazon cast are real strengths in this.  On the other hand, we don't see much of a reason why WW should tolerate Steve Trevor, unlike Chris Pine's fantastic portrayal.  Ares is handled completely opposite to the later film here (except the very ending of that film) and it's still just kind of silly and overly-simplistic.  
  • Batman: Year One- as much as the original comic is more focused on the rise of Sgt. Jim Gordon, Batman really becomes a supporting character in this version.  Gordon's story is done really well, but I do miss seeing the foundation and progression of Batman's skills, which is mostly skipped here in favor of some over-the-top action scenes.  They also really awkwardly force Catwoman scenes into this, which are totally unnecessary and a poor use of the limited time.
  • DC Showcase Shorts Collection- There's a new story here which is essentially a Shazam (formerly Captain Marvel) origin with Superman guesting.  It's okaaaaay.  The other shorts were extras on the dvds of other DC films.  Green Arrow goes up against some assassins in a series of long fights with some goofy dialogue.  Catwoman stars in a really overly-sexualized story of her chasing down a stray cat for like, no reason, but has some great action scenes.  Jonah Hex has a suitably grim story that's also a little over-the-top in terms of forced sexiness and language, but does fit the character pretty well at least.  The Spectre story is really the standout here, as the voice work by Gary Cole is great, the police case is actually a decent mystery for most of the story, and it has well-directed animation which captures the creepiness and horror of the character.
  • Teen Titans: The Judas Contract- probably the most famous Titans comics' story is adapted here with significant changes.  A lot of it works quite well, though the sense of confusion and betrayal can't quite sink in here as all the team-building is rushed.  I also continue to find the new Robin's super power is being super-annoying.
  • The Death and Return of Superman*- oh man, I could write a lot about this double-length effort.  Basically, though, I think they focus too much on trying to hit main plot points and lose the theme of the whole story.  It's supposed to be about why Superman is still a valid hero and not old-timey or boring.  But instead of revitalizing him, it ends up being: big fight -> everyone's sad -> new characters -> surprises! -> everything's better now.  There's not really much growth of characters or development of themes, which is a real missed opportunity.
Best of the Best-
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns*- with animation faithful to the comic design and some artful voice casting and music, this double-length feature gets a lot right.  It's only re-visiting this story as an adult (and after seeing a lot of the more recent work of Frank Miller) that I've realized what a problematic political message is at the heart of the story.  I won't get into it here, but the more you take the arguments put forth here and extend them into the real world, the more troubling the implications can be.  It is a ripping yarn though, and high quality through and through.
  • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths- this film is one of the best because it actually possibly improves on the original story by making it more accessible to non-superfans.  There are a lot of ideas here taken from very old comics continuity and mixing classic stories, but the film gets to the meat of defining what these characters are really about and showing us compelling alternate versions of them in a way that later films like The Flashpoint Paradox and War would not do as well.  The action scenes are about a battle of philosophies as much as about "who would win in a fight", and it really sticks the landing.
  • Batman: Under the Red Hood- I saw that Uncanny Antman made an edit of this that basically makes it a near perfect film.  I watched the original however, which essentially is an adaptation of the comic story but starts with the prologue that most comic readers knew: the key events of the seminal story "A Death in the Family".  The UA edit moving this to later in the film makes it better for a general audience though.  Besides a few cheesy lines, being too short, and a sorely-lacking Joker performance, this is really a great story.
  • Justice League: The New Frontier- my 2nd favorite of the DC films, this is a fantastic alternate history of the Justice League.  The animation is faithful to the comic, the new casting for many voices works great, and it's full of very gratifying character beats.  They have to handle Superman a little carefully to give the other characters time to shine, but it's nearly a perfect story.
  • All-Star Superman - the only film that moved me more than New Frontier, I genuinely teared up a couple times in this.  A throwback to the wildest and wackiest Superman adventures of the Silver Age, they actually made me believe that all this craziness was possible and not overpowering our Man of Tomorrow.  It's a clever and heartfelt story with arguably the best Lois Lane performance ever and some moments of real beauty.  Not to be missed.
[Image: all-star-superman-movie-image.jpg]

Drawbacks: essentially, besides the * films, all of these are about 1h 15m long, and it's just not enough to do justice to the stories.  I'm sure there's some kind of budget math which makes them the most profitable this way, but another 30 minutes of letting the stories breath and giving time for moments to develop between characters and to gradually build instead of racing from plot point to plot point would make these real "films" instead of straight-to-video cartoons aimed at Tweens.  They also all have sexual innuendo and swearing and brutal violence that often feels forced and not there to serve the story or characters.  It comes off as trying too hard...just because it's not on TV doesn't mean it's a better film if it has those things.  It's often not. 

The elephant in the room too is the fact that a lot of the new voices for characters have not been as good as the old ones.  There is simply no replacing Kevin Conroy as Batman and Tim Daly as Superman, and Clancy Brown is the definitive Lex Luthor while Mark Hamill set a new standard for how the Joker should be.  All films that don't feature these performances immediately jump out to me as lesser for it.  Not to mention the loss of Voice/Casting Director Andrea Romano over the past 5 years.  While actors' priorities changed, she did often manage to find even better new actors for certain roles, like Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern, Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane, Bryan Cranston as Jim Gordon, and Jason Isaac as like every awesome villain.  Increasingly as other people have taken over more of her role at DC, the voice acting of these films has suffered for it.

In the end, unless you just watch all things superhero, most of these are disposable.  I'd recommend the old DC TV series from '92 to 2001 over almost any of these.  Most of the original comics stories are also done better than the adaptations.  But the top few are well worth a watch, if not a place on your dvd shelf.
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The death and return of Superman movies were so disappointing. I haven't read the comic, but I've played the super Nintendo game, and I own the novelization which I have yet to read. Obviously I'm not an expert on the original story, but even then, these two movies weren't good.

Of the ones you mentioned, I've only seen a couple. Dark Knight Returns, Under the Red Hood, and Crisis on Two Earths, it's been years since I watched them, but I remember them all being fantastic.
And yes, Justice League vs Teen Titans wasn't great.

I look forward to reading your full reviews on Letterboxd.
Mega Man is best game.
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6 UNDERGROUND (Netflix)


It's a Michael Bay movie.  

The action sequences are exceptional and unrelenting.
It is typical Bay gorgeous, ever moving camera, cinematography.
The editing ranges from brilliant to chaotic.
The male characters are juvenile and superficial.
The female characters are sexy, badass and completely undeveloped.

The extraordinary high body count of innocent bystanders, and police officers just doing their job, is treated as comedy.

As I said, it is a Michael Bay movie.
My wife and I were completely, mindlessly, entertained for the two hours.
No where near as good as THE ROCK or THE ISLAND, but better than all the BAYFORMERS movies combined.

It's good bad movie.  
Tongue
"... let's go exploring!" -- CALVIN.
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Alice's Restaurant (1969)
Man, I struggled for forever to find a decent copy of this thing, but apparently the whole film is up on Youtube right now!

I don't usually dig a lot of films this old, but this is a rich one, with solid performances by Patricia Quinn and James Broderick (Matthew's dad!) giving a lot of layers to the relationship at the heart of the film.  Apparently some of these portrayals are viewed differently by the different people involved (notably Alice), so I'm not sure how problematic people will find that.  But I think regardless of how true the film is, the message is very insightful and relevant to people even 50 years later.

The vignettes in the film mostly work together to form a cohesive narrative as Arlo Guthrie (playing himself) drifts in and out of the lives of his hippie friends.  He's a decent enough actor, and they don't lean too heavily on his musical talent.  There are some risky and indulgent shots here, and I don't like everything that Penn does (I also thought his previous film, Bonnie & Clyde, was over-rated), not to mention the abruptness of some of his edits.  But in the end, this film succeeds where many other films covering similar ground (most notably "Easy Rider") fall a bit flat.  Those sometimes capture a mood or some characters, but they never really answer the big question about the '60s: 'Where did it all go wrong?'
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(05-25-2019, 04:48 PM)TM2YC Wrote: Rocketman (2019)



[snip] This is a much more risk-taking kaleidoscope of dream sequences, framing devices, fantasy dance numbers and trippy visuals.

While it's certainly true that Rocketman is more abstract and inventive than Bohemian Rhapsody, the latter was a story of a band that followed several characters, whereas Rocketman is laser-focused on a single star who composes wonderful music to Taupin's words with no apparent effort. I really enjoyed the studio workshopping scenes in BR, which have no equivalent in Rocketman - after his first scene , we indeed never really get a sense of Taupin's artistic thoughts or method at all. As a result, while I loved Rocketman's first hour, I found that the second half dragged a bit, with scene after scene of John moping around. And Queen's triumphant Live Aid performance, along with Freddie Mercury's tragic death, give BR a much more compelling third act than John heading surviving into the 80s... which was probably his lowest creative period.

Ergo, I would love to see a Rocketman sequel at some point, maybe even 15-20 years down the road, when Taron Egerton has grown into the age Rocketman leaves off at, whereas a BR sequel would most likely be pointless. IMO, Rocketman is a good film with a few great sequences (nearly all in the first half), but BR is the better film overall.

Rocketman: B+
Bohemian Rhapsody: A-

... And yeah, I am bummed Rami Malek's Freddie Mercury didn't pop up in Rocketman, as was apparently considered! Tongue
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The Abyss (1989)

[Image: 3-1.jpg]

Well, at least that month's HBO subscription bought for the His Dark Materials fail wasn't a total loss, as, along with 127 Hours (pretty good; B+) it allowed me to project The Abyss in glorious HD, a rarity for this uniquely notable film not available on blu-ray. I'd seen it once in a small theater as a kid - the extended version, I believe - but only had vague memories of the sets and the rat breathing liquid, so this was basically my first viewing.

And, for the first two-thirds, I thought I was watching James Cameron's secret masterpiece and best film. Alas, the third act, while solid, isn't as great as what came before. Granted, the theatrical version is a big improvement over the woo-woo extended version, which features downright silly shots of beachgoers and civilians running from sky-high waves that would have utterly broken the movie's tone. Still, even more should have been trimmed: some of the hokey descent dialogue is superfluous, and I'd have preferred a smash-cut to black and credits just after Bud and the NTIs first make eye contact.

That said, the movie looks incredible, especially in gob-smacking HD, the cast is excellent, and, though the resuscitation scene is typical Hollywood malarkey*, most of the narrative is riveting. If you haven't taken this dive, or it's been so long you no longer remember it clearly, sign yourself up for a 7-day HBO trial if necessary, and find a projector with a large screen!

A-

* Defibrillation can only fix irregular heartbeats by stopping cardiac electrical signals in hopes that the next wave of signals will be properly spaced out for healthy contractions; only chest compressions can coax a stopped heart back to action. Ergo, if your patient has no palpable pulse, defibrillation can only waste time, and CPR is their only hope.
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