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A few reviews
Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night (1979)
Werner Herzog remade F. W. Murnau's 1922 film as a way to connect the pioneering birth of German silent film, to it's later (and then current) "New German Cinema" rebirth. Herzog eschews romantic lighting and Gothic artificiality, in favour of stark location filming, minimal music, no visFX, pale natural light and nary a smoke machine in sight. When it works, it works beautifully but the pace of the editing is often interminably slow. A youthful looking Bruno Ganz plays a rather grave Jonathan Harker, while Klaus Kinski's Count Dracula isn't a powerful, alluring Byronic figure like in some adaptations, he's an awkward lonely man. Another difference from other versions is Lucy being the one who sets out to defeat Dracula, not her incapacitated husband Jonathan, or a skeptical Dr Van Helsing. I thought the ironic surprise ending had a Python-esque quality to it.

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Medical Police (2020)  (US Netflix)

[Image: AAAABf-XBk-Z6dv-HOMqck-Iy-Ej-Eg-YX6-GFIY...-Zr-Xg.jpg]

Are you in the mood for a Bayhem/Bruckheimer Childrens Hospital spinoff series about a pair of wacky doctors racing to find a cure before a deadly virus wreaks havoc on the global population? No? Maybe? Kinda? If you're not a "hard pass" to that question, the international action thriller Medical Police might just be right up your alley!

Despite the outrageousness of its premise and the wacky antics of its heroes, much of the series' humor is pretty low-key, with the joke often being how nonchalantly the characters react to absurd situations and reality-defying non sequiturs. The breakneck plot speed, meanwhile, means that any setbacks for the heroes are strictly momentary, so it's impossible to feel any tension even within the context of their absurd scrapes. I don't think I had any belly laughs, but I did chuckle throughout, and stars Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel definitely grew on me over time. This isn't comedic gold, a la Macgruber, but it's comedic bronze in a similar vein. Well, comedic aluminum, at the very least... It's solid and it works, is what I'm saying. Parodying the self-serious, blandly international procedural is getting pretty musty itself these days, but the leads carry the program even when the scripts aren't hugely inspired. If the teased S2 comes to fruition, however, I want to see the series really go for broke, and give us freaky-ass mutants and monsters.

Grade: B+
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Gardens of Stone (1987)
Despite some really terrific performances and engaging characters, Francis Ford Coppola's 'Gardens of Stone' lacks impact somehow. It's about soldiers that carry out funerals at the Arlington National Cemetery during the Vietnam war and their feelings about their jobs and the war itself (both mostly negative). Like the services they officiate, the film feels muted, sombre and dignified. Unfortunately Coppola's son Gian-Carlo was killed in a speedboat incident caused by Ryan O'Neal's son Griffin (who was cast in the movie) soon after filming had began. Griffin was replaced and FFC continued with the project but maybe his heart just wasn't in making a story about funerals anymore. Of the 12 or so films I've seen by Coppola, this is probably the least but I couldn't say it was bad.

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(05-16-2020, 11:06 AM)TM2YC Wrote: Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night (1979)
Werner Herzog remade F. W. Murnau's 1922 film as a way to connect the pioneering birth of German silent film, to it's later (and then current) "New German Cinema" rebirth. Herzog eschews romantic lighting and Gothic artificiality, in favour of stark location filming, minimal music, no visFX, pale natural light and nary a smoke machine in sight. When it works, it works beautifully but the pace of the editing is often interminably slow. A youthful looking Bruno Ganz plays a rather grave Jonathan Harker, while Klaus Kinski's Count Dracula isn't a powerful, alluring Byronic figure like in some adaptations, he's an awkward lonely man. Another difference from other versions is Lucy being the one who sets out to defeat Dracula, not her incapacitated husband Jonathan, or a skeptical Dr Van Helsing. I thought the ironic surprise ending had a Python-esque quality to it.


I found the pace of this extremely slow, and the the character Renfield is very distracting. He basically has a case of the giggles the entire movie to show that he's insane.

One brief scene I thought was great was, during the plague, some townspeople are having a feast at a table outside before they die and then there's a smash cut and suddenly the people are gone and the table and food are covered in rats.
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Traffic (2000)
Steven Soderbergh remakes the 1989 British TV series 'Traffik' (which I've not seen) about the drugs trade, switching the locations from Britain/Pakistan, to USA/Mexico. An all-star ensemble cast plays characters involved at different levels in the "war on drugs". A US politician tasked with winning the war, his spoiled drug addicted daughter, a corrupt Mexican General, an honest Mexican cop, a US team protecting a witness, the rich wife of a drug lord, a Cartel assassin etc. All their plot threads start out separate but criss-cross at various points. Soderbergh (who acted as his own Cinematographer) choose to shoot the different story lines with heavy colour filters and different film stocks, to help the audience not get confused. I didn't care for the very ugly look this gave the whole film and I think he underestimated his own powers as a storyteller anyway, you could watch this b&w and you'd understand everything. The characters are mostly conflicted, cynical, corrupt and self-deluded and the social commentary sadly hasn't aged a day in 20-years. The dialogue scenes are broken up by many sequences where Soderbergh drops out all the soundFX and just lets us feel what is happening to the characters with music and montage. Michael Douglas has rarely been better, the fewer words that come out his character's mouth, the more his face seems to talk. It's surprising that a film like this, a 2.5-hr serious drama, did $200 million at the boxoffice. Steven Soderbergh got the Best Director Oscar for 'Traffic', narrowly beating Steven Soderbergh for 'Erin Brockovich' Big Grin .

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Phantasm (1979)
I was perplexed why this 70s Horror movie opens with a 'Bad Robot' logo but then I read J. J. Abrams is such a super-fan he volunteered his team and facilities for a 4K restoration, which does look fantastic. The cast are all dressed like Bay City Rollers fans, the acting is of a varied quality and some of the editing and story progression felt disconnected. It was a budget movie and it shows but there are some fascinating design choices with what money they did have, like the silver flying death balls, custard yellow blood of the creatures, stark white corridors, weird dimension portals and of course the creepy "Tall Man" undertaker. The constant unsettling soundscapes, the relationship between the two brothers and some interesting surreal dream sequences are all highlights. Overall I didn't like it enough to venture into the four sequels.

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I watched all of the Phantasm movies recently--twice--and I love them all (except for the second movie). I can safely say that if you didn't like the first one, you probably won't like the others.
Mega Man is best game.
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(05-21-2020, 05:40 PM)jrWHAG42 Wrote: I watched all of the Phantasm movies recently--twice--and I love them all (except for the second movie). I can safely say that if you didn't like the first one, you probably won't like the others.

I like the idea of the sequels. Coming back to the story years apart, same director and more or less the same cast.



Room at the Top (1959)
Number 32 on the BFI's 'Top 100 British films' is Jack Clayton's 'Room at the Top', which kicked off the "British New Wave"/"Kitchen sink drama" movement in the 1960s. Laurence Harvey is so intense as the main character Joe, an angry Yorkshire lad with a huge working class chip on his shoulder. He's got ideas "above his station", wants to marry the young daughter of the boss but is also pursuing an affair with an older married French woman (Simone Signoret). By the time he's worked out who he really loves, it's all too late for him. It took me a long time to warm to the abrasive Joe but I was really feeling the tragedy of the man by the end. Definitely worth seeing for the performances but felt long at 2-hours.

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Phantasm 2: Boring, retcons the first movie, has a couple good moments, not worth anyone's time.
Phantasm 3: A lot of fun, very funny, briefly recaps the second movie rendering it unnecessary. Also the kid is the same actor as in the first film, he was replaced in the second movie.
Phantasm 4: Brings up the weirdness, raises more questions than it answers, uses a bunch of deleted stuff from the first movie, it's awesome.
Phantasm 5: I personally love it, I think there could've been a better ending though. Once again raises a lot of questions and has you thinking. Some bad special effects at times. Not quite as good as the previous two.

There are some repetitive elements, Reggie has a new love interest in each one, each one introduces new characters that don't show up again. There's constant retcons, some less noticeable than others.
All in all, these movies are really unique, and they all feel like chapters of one larger story. Gross scares, mindless action, confusing plot points, unexplained mysteries, deep themes, great music, lovable main characters, these movies are special. The only thing I could possibly think of comparing them to is the Evil Dead series, with a hint of David Lynch. They're messy, but they work.
I'm a big fan.
Mega Man is best game.
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(05-20-2020, 05:30 PM)TM2YC Wrote: Traffic (2000)
Steven Soderbergh remakes the 1989 British TV series 'Traffik' 

I thought you were being snarky about this until I looked it up.  Had no awareness that this was an adaptation.  Probably explains why I liked it so much more than 98% of Soderbergh's other work.  I think he does best when there's already a successful story for him to follow.

For what it's worth, I haven't seen this since the theater, but I remember my girlfriend and I both thinking there were a lot of characters to keep track of and a lot of storylines being juggled at once.  We followed it, but remember this was 11 years before Game of Thrones.  I think audiences back then might've needed the visual cues more than you think.  We're all savants now, of course.
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