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A few reviews
Bait (2019)
BBC critic Mark Kermode described 'Bait' as "one of the defining British films of the year, perhaps the decade" and talked of people queuing round the block to see the film (when they could find somewhere playing it). Director Mark Jenkin shot it with an old clockwork camera on grainy black & white 4:3 16mm stock (home-developed himself) with a unusual post-synced soundtrack. So curiosity led me to drive an hour to the nearest Cinema that was playing the film but it was worth the trip. Edward Rowe plays Martin, an angry Cornish fisherman, dispossessed due to the influx of rich tourists. They've bought up his family home and his estranged brother has been reduced to using their father's boat for pleasure cruises but Martin refuses to bend to change and stalks around the village venting his frustration. All the film damage, scratches and light-leaks remind the viewer of the medium of film. It's not just an affectation, a filmmaker stubbornly (or heroically) using the film-making methods of a century ago in an age that has long gone digital, perfectly mirrors the theme of the story.

I've often wondered if post-synced sound could be taken beyond the techniques of Sergio Leone, into the realm of total deliberate artificiality. Jenkin rejects the usual notion of movie sound being something you should never notice or think about. He shows Martin dropping down a crate but we don't hear a simple thud, we hear a huge bell like boom, conveying his anger, not the real sound of the object. Purposefully repetitive sound samples of engines and clocks put the listener on edge, like the characters. The visual editing is bold and draws attention to itself too. Two arguing couples are rapidly and rhythmically inter-cut, until one couple cannot stand the dissonance and shouts stop. A character is shamed in front of the village, so we cut to faces looking at him, then more faces and this goes on and on until the viewer is as uncomfortable as the subject. Throughout the film ominous shots from the past and future are mingled in with the otherwise linear narrative to increase tension. I don't know about film of "the decade" but 'Bait' is definitely refreshingly different to almost anything you'll see or hear and very good.



There is a dream-like 8mm making of film about 'Bait'. Also hand processed:



Belly (1998)
'Belly' is the only feature film from prolific hip-hop video Director Hype Williams, with Nas, DMX and Method Man starring. The characters and plot are thin and it's probably not far from an exaggeration to say that 50% of the dialogue is composed of the words "F**k", "Mutha****a", "N***a", "B*tch", "Man", "Yo" and "Know what I'm sayin'" (especially the last one, characters say it twice in the same sentence). It's like a gangster rap fan-film version of 'Goodfellas', which embarrassingly tries to introduce a serious message at the 11th hour. However, the visuals are incredible, it's one of those debut films where the Director was determined to make every shot unique, through the framing, editing, composition, art direction and cinematography. Despite the flaws, it's worth seeing for the style and attitude alone.



Amusingly the subtitle writer on Amazon Prime didn't know what to do with half the dialogue from Louie Rankin due to his very heavy Jamaican accent, simply writing "Speaks Patois" for most of it, although his lines were understandable to me.
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The Blue Max (1966)
I had never heard of this 60s WWI flying-ace epic (complete with intermission) until Peter Jackson mentioned it was one of his all-time favourites in a 'They Shall Not Grow Old' interview. I can see why, there are scenes of trench warfare that stretch as far as the eye can see and the aerial biplane stunt photography is astonishing. Douglas Slocombe's Cinematography (he did the Indiana Jones trilogy) is stunning and Jerry Goldsmith's score soars appropriately. It was a bold and interesting move to center the film on an unlikable anti-hero, driven by arrogance and bitterness, who most of the other characters in the movie also openly despise. Unfortunately star George Peppard's acting range is far too limited to play such a complex role. There are critical reaction shots where you are unable to tell if he is happy, sad, or indifferent. Plus I found it slightly distracting that he is the only one making no attempt at a German accent. It speaks to the overall quality of the production that he doesn't manage to ruin it. The ending is so damn good, all the narrative elements resolve in a fateful flourish of doomed glory. 'The Blue Max' is worth seeing for just the final flying sequence alone. The way the camera waltzes around between the crowd who are looking up at a plane swooping through the air above them captures the awe of flying like nothing I've seen before on film (The scene with Ursula Andress wearing nothing but two white hand-towels is pretty unforgettable too! Wink ). I noticed that a couple of the cast reunited two years later for 'Where Eagles Dare', again playing German officers.

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A 'The Thing' type, semi-Hammer double-bill...

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
Hammer's first big Horror hit, a remake of the BBC Sci-Fi drama about an astronaut who arrives back on earth and starts to mutate into something else. John Carpenter has said it's one of his "all-time favourite science-fiction movies" and the influence on 1982's 'The Thing' is clear. The creature's ever shifting shape as it absorbs and samples other beings looks really gross in documentary-like black & white. The outdoor crashed rocket set looks impressive, the body-horror makeup is disturbing (it reminded me of 2009's 'District 9') and the many matte paintings are 1st class. A sequence where the characters watch the rocket's "black box" recorder was notable because it features similar rotating-set/fixed-camera/suspended-actors techniques to those that Stanley Kubrick would perfect 9-years later in '2001: A Space Odyssey'. Unfortunately Brian Donlevy is just awful as Prof. Quatermass, coming off more like an angry and simple-minded prohibition-era heavy, than a brilliant space scientist. You can really tell the top heavy HD 4:3 open-matte transfer streaming on Amazon Prime, was composed for 1.66:1 matte exhibition.



Thanks to musiced921 for the recommendation of this one:

Horror Express (1972)
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are a delight as two rival scientists/explorers trapped on the Trans-Siberian Express in 1906 with an alien creature dug up from the ice (much like 'The Thing') in this Spanish answer to Hammer. I enjoyed the way the creature attack scenes were handled, especially the dark carriage where he is zapping all the soldiers with his red glowing eyes. Telly Savalas turns up for 5-minutes doing his "I'm European" backwards cigarette holding shtick from 'OHMSS'. It was a missed opportunity for extra fun to not have made the mad-monk character Rasputin, he looks identical and the dates/locations lined up. Not a masterpiece but a great 90-minutes of 70s horror entertainment.

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Rambo Last Blood

65% Taken 35% Rambo
Not a terrible movie. Not a great one either.
Been there done that feeling all along.
If that movie was released before Taken it could be seen as something special, but in 2019 it's not.

Main problem being that the movie does not give you more than the trailer.
Second problem being some dialogue are too expository.
Example:
instead of saying "I want you to go to see your sister" (while it's obvious that both characters already talked about that since the woman is just about to leave with her car) why not say "Tell you sister I say hello". Simple changes like that can go a long way to improve the viewing experience . To be fair I saw the movie in french... (no original version available in my town that day... grrr). The guy doing Sly's voice is the same since the 80s and he's doing a fine job, but it's not the same as the real thing, really.

All in all I'm still pleased to have seen the movie. It's just that the end of part 4 was better as a final to the franchise (and it also was a better movie, period)
"Always in motion is the future"
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^ Last Blood was directed by the guy who made the pretty great Assault on Precinct 13 remake and the excellent Get the Gringo; I'm disappointed to hear he whiffed with this one.


The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

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Critics of Tony Scott's 2009 remake trashed that movie for being a pale reflection of a 1970s classic, but, after watching the newer flick first and the original second, I'm here to report that the older iteration is... fine? It's well made, and has some mildly interesting performances, but it's hardly a great film, IMO. Several reviews I just read have praised its leanness and efficiency, but it takes nearly 25 minutes for the hijacking plot to be put into motion, due to some rather leisurely editing and montage. 

So, which version wins? With Denzel, Travolta, Turturro and Gandolfini, the remake has the better cast and more character development, but also has some annoying MTV editing and a cliched, OTT action climax. The newer one is more engaging, but the original is perhaps more interesting as a glimpse into the past. I'm going to call it a tie.

Original Grade: B
Remake Grade: B
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'Inspector Clouseau' [1968]

After having watched 'The Pink Panther' and 'A shot in the dark' within the last two weeks, I decided to view this 1968 film, the next in the Pink Panther/Inspector Clouseau franchise. It is the first one not to feature Peter Sellers (a few more were made following his death in the 80s) and was not directed by Blake Edwards. No other recurring characters feature - Dreyfuss or Cato, for example - and no recognisable Mancini score. There is, however, a Depatie-Freleng cartoon title sequence to at least offer an air of authenticity.

Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprisingly, the film itself is a failure. Alan Arkin tries his best to recreate Sellers effortless bumbling as Clouseau, but it just doesn't work. Maybe the gags aren't strong enough or the delivery falls flat, but I laughed only once during its 96 minutes. There are many familiar British character actors on show, who are putting on a brave face throughout this fiasco, including Beryl Reid sporting an outrageous Scottish accent. (Side note, I was a wine waiter to her once, many years ago. Not much of a claim to fame, admittedly.)

Not content with riding Sellers coattails, this film also tries to spoof the gadget-laden Bond films, with equally dismal results. The original trailer featured on the blu-ray is actually well-done and might have got me to the cinema, were I alive in 1968, making it seem like a madcap laughfest. It isn't, though.
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The Old Dark House (1932)
A wonderful Universal Horror-Comedy made by James Whale between his two Frankenstein movies, featuring several of the same actors like Boris Karloff and Ernest Thesiger. Lost travelers (including Charles Laughton and Raymond Massey) take refuge from a wild storm in a mysterious Welsh house populated by an insane old family (who seem to consider their behavior normal). These young and sensible middle/working class people are prisoner to the whims of an ancient and degenerate upper class, an allegorical satire of post-WW1 British society. 'The Old Dark House' manages to be both very funny and scary at the same time. Apparently the film was almost lost until Director Curtis Harrington made it his mission to rescue it from oblivion in the Universal vaults in the late 60s. Thanks to his efforts I watched it in a beautiful 4K restored blu-ray transfer in 2019.

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Ghostbusters (1984)
I've seen 'Ghostbusters' many times on TV, VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray but this was the first time on the big screen in stunning 4K. The pacing is precise, not just of the story but in the seamless way the film takes the viewer on a journey from spooky chills and mundane reality in the beginning, to bonkers crowd-pleasing fantasy by the end. A few of the stop-motion shots aside, the FX still look fantastic. Nobody plays a hissable pr*ck like William Atherton, you want him to lose, almost more than you want the heroes to win. The subtlety of the soundmix really shines on a theater setup, there were lots of little creepy noises I'd never noticed before. Rick Moranis' character is probably too silly but he sure is damn funny. Some of the pop music on the soundtrack has dated but Elmer Bernstein's score and Ray Parker Jr.'s theme haven't. A few of those quibbles aside, it's a near perfect movie.

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(10-09-2019, 05:10 PM)TM2YC Wrote: Nobody plays a hissable pr*ck like William Atherton

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Videodrome (1983)
One of the best David Cronenberg films I've seen so far. James Woods plays Max Renn, a TV-exec who becomes obsessed by a disturbing pirate broadcast called "Videodrome" and the shadowy forces behind it but how much is he hallucinating? Even though it centers on forms of communication technology that were probably obsolete before the film left theaters in 1983, it still manages to feel like it's talking about modern concerns. It's rooted in an era that worried about illegal under-the-counter/carboot VHS tapes (or Beta in the film) and pirate violent/pornographic TV signals out there in the ether but translates perfectly well to 2019 fears of cyber-terrorism, the dark web and phone signal induced brain tumors. As usual for Cronenberg, the stomach churning practical FX look startlingly real.



The official BFI 48th best British film ever...

Performance (1970)
The legend has it that Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's 'Performance' caused a Warner exec's wife to vomit in shock at a test screening, resulting in it being shelved for 2 years. For the late 60s, the constant male and female nudity, unflinching violence, homoeroticism and drug taking, including a naked Anita Pallenberg shooting heroin into her right buttock (allegedly for real) must have pushed all the boundaries. James Fox is totally menacing as Chas a young London gangster hiding out from the police and his displeased boss (a thinly veiled Ronnie Kray clone) in fallen rockstar Turner's (Mick Jagger) Notting Hill house. Fox's need to pose for a new passport photo looking unrecognizable is a doorway for him explore his sexuality and personality in this new bohemian atmosphere. The editing and Cinematography is chaotically experimental in a good way.

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