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A few reviews

TM2YC

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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
I love Sergio Leone's last film and was excited when a new reconstructed 251-minute cut (22-minutes longer) premiered at Cannes in 2012 but Martin Scorsese (his 'Film Foundation' was behind it) said it was being withdrawn so they could have more time to fix the additional footage and secure the rights to further material. I resolved to wait for this promised better version but it's been 7-years, there's been no mention of it and it's now pretty cheap to buy on blu-ray (in a region-free 2-disc blu-ray, including both cuts)... so I caved ;) .

The extra scenes stand out a mile but it's not so much the resolution, or condition, it's the grading. I'm sure with time and skill they could be digitally re-colourised. If you can colour black & white, you can fix the muted colours in these scenes with the same techniques. I can see why they pulled it from wide release. The most significant improvement comes with a new sequence just after the rape scene, it's as horrific as it always was but with the added 6-minutes showing the heavy impact it has on the characters, it mitigates that feeling that the movie used to have of just moving onto the next scene like it was almost nothing. Although the sharpness and detail of the new blu-ray is miles ahead of the old one, I'm not totally convinced by the new greenish-yellow tint to the footage. However, when they give you both cuts in the same set to choose from, you can't really complain too much about minor revisionist changes.

'Once Upon a Time in America' is as much about the themes of memory, regret, time, guilt, loyalty, love, hate, loss of innocence and childhood friendship, as it is about charting the rise of New York Jewish Prohibition Gangsters. Robert De Niro and James Woods give career best performances but they are actually out-shined by the young actors who play them so convincingly as teenagers, growing up in the rough tenements of Manhattan's Lower East Side in the 20s. How a 4-hour film can be this pleasurable to repeatedly re-watch is beyond explanation. Ennio Morricone's wistful score plays a big part in making it feel like a sepia dream. It's been interpreted as being the opium induced hallucination of the main character and Leone himself has confirmed the optional validity of this explanation. It's down to the individual viewer to decide.


A comparison of the same frame from both blu-rays:

http://www.framecompare.com/image-compare/screenshotcomparison/DLGD7NNX
 

ChainsawAsh

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Would you recommend the 251-minute version for a first-time viewer, or would I be okay to stick with the 229-minute version that's on Netflix? I was thinking of watching this soon since I saw it listed on there the other night, but if it's worth tracking down the 251-minute version instead, I'll do that.
 

TM2YC

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ChainsawAsh said:
Would you recommend the 251-minute version for a first-time viewer, or would I be okay to stick with the 229-minute version that's on Netflix? I was thinking of watching this soon since I saw it listed on there the other night, but if it's worth tracking down the 251-minute version instead, I'll do that.

I would totally recommend the shorter cut, I thought it was a masterpiece already. If you can watch it for "free" on Netflix, I'd go with that. None of the new scenes significantly alter the narrative, characters, or add radical new bits of info, plus because they look so bad they arguably interrupt the flow of the film, especially for a new viewer. IIRC the cut is otherwise identical, no scenes re-arranged or changed. It's just that one addition I mentioned in my review which I felt added more of a context cushion after a harrowing event. Now that I think about it, there is an additional scene at the end that adds quite a bit more explanation about one of the two main characters but it doesn't really alter what the ending is about thematically and doesn't give you any info you hadn't already inferred. Anyway, I'll stop rambling.

Oh and here is a video of the great man conducting his theme music:

 

TM2YC

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Blinded by the Light (2019)
A fictionalized adaptation of the memoir of Bruce Springsteen superfan and BBC and Guardian journalist Sarfraz Manzoor. A British-Pakistani teen growing up in Luton in 1987, who has his life changed by the music of The Boss. If you are of a certain age it’ll bring back memories of the worst haircuts, decor and clothes in the history of human existence and a surprisingly recent time when racism was this out in the open. When it’s working it really stirs the soul and warms the heart but it overplayed it’s hand in a few places and got too close to those coming-of-age movie cliches. Hearing the music of Springsteen busting out of big cinema speakers is a treat and he generously gave this modestly budgeted film access to all his biggest hits (for presumably next to nothing). A feel-good time at the movies in the 'Billy Elliot' mold.


 

TM2YC

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The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
I think this might have been one of the first old black & white films I really got in to, back when I was getting interested in the work of designer Saul Bass. You don't expect something from 50s Hollywood to explore Heroin addiction on almost the same harrowing level as 'Trainspotting'. Frank Sinatra plays Frankie Machine, a top illegal Poker dealer, a Jazz drummer and a recovering addict... three things he can choose to use his arm for. Director Otto Preminger zooms the camera right in on Sinatra's face and eyes as he is shooting up, capturing ecstasy and agony.  Frankie returns to his old neighborhood and his bad old ways, driven down by others leeching off him. Kim Novak plays Molly, an old girlfriend and the only person that truly cares for him.


I love Barry Adamson's 1989 cover of Elmer Bernstein's theme music:

 

TM2YC

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Apocalypse Now (1979)
It's astonishing to witness the scale of this film, I counted 11 helicopters on screen at one time, 4 jets fighters, hundreds of extras and enough pyrotechnics to actually fight a war. Sadly nobody will ever be allowed to shoot something like this ever again, for real, with no Vis-FX, or CGI cheats. Even though at a cost of $100 million (when adjusted for 2019 inflation), it would probably be cheaper than doing it on the computer.

I've seen the original 2.5hr "roadshow" cut of 'Apocalypse Now' before at the cinema in 2011, on the huge NFT1 screen with crystal clear surround sound (an all time great cinema experience) but I've seen the 'Redux' and regular 'Theatrical Cut' many times on TV, VHS, DVD and blu-ray. Viewing at home with the benefit of the pause button and tea breaks, the 3.5hr 'Redux' version was just fine when you aren't concerned with pacing. Watching this new intermediate 40th Anniversary 3hr 'Final Cut' in a theater was not good. The French plantation dinner party sequence (first introduced in 'Redux') is retained, a scene that kills the momentum of the film dead and it never recovers. I can't understand why Coppola didn't cut it and add some other footage instead. I'm not familiar enough with the differences in the two previous cuts to spot the more subtle changes, but I did notice the 'Redux' scene with the Playmates was gone and some footage of Kurtz at the end. I don't think I'd watch this version again, if I want tight and disciplined pacing I'll go with the superior short cut, if I want to wallow in the film and the footage I'll go for the long cut, the 'Final Cut' satisfied neither craving. The night wasn't helped by it being shown on a tiny screen with weak sound.

 

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Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood

Although not my favorite Tarantino movie I really enjoyed it.

But I can totaly see how some people could not like this movie. If you don't know the story of the real Sharon Tate, if you don't really care about the behind the scene stuffs of cinema, if you prefer story driven movies rather than characters movies... then you will probably get bored.

This movie is basicaly Tarantino "masturbating" over a subject that is dear to him: how Hollywood was and the power of movies. It's not a movie about Charles Manson (like, at all. Even if his presence is felt all along the movie, for the audience who know who he was) it's a movie that shows the contrast between the reality of Hollywood and how that reality is about creating fiction. To me, in the end the whole movie is about the power of movie making, but when you're watching it you just follow the characters, some struggling, other living a perfect life, some elements are given here and there to buid up the ending. You really just have the feeling to BE in Hollywood in 1969. By the end of the movie you kind of know that place by heart. You know the roads, the houses, the people you'll probably meet along your way, etc. I really enjoyed that and you can't do that with a short movie. So yes, that movie is long.
Still, I kind of agree with people saying it could have been shorter but it's only because it's not a movie about a "story", so sure, you can cut things that don't matter "plot wise", but honestly I was not bored one second during those 2h45, so... I don't know if I'd cut anything cause, like I said, it's needed for the movie to take you where it wants to.
 

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The Player (1992)
I was expecting this to be a satire of Hollywood but wasn't expecting it to also have elements of a Dario Argento style thriller. Thomas Newman's score and the dramatic red/blue coloured lighting gently recalls 'Suspiria'. The opening 7-8 minutes shot is designed to top Orson Welles' shot in 'Touch of Evil' but that had a narrative purpose and a natural feel, the shot here doesn't enhance the story, it's often awkwardly composed and it's basically about showing off. Director Robert Altman is constantly at pains to misdirect you from who the stalker is and keep you guessing (like Argento would) but then just goes surprise! it doesn't matter because we're doing a satirical ending commenting on a Hollywood ending instead of a proper resolution. Having said all that, the quantity of fun cameos and fine performances kept me thoroughly entertained.

 

TM2YC

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
If you're into the history of movies and the behind-the-scenes details of movies you are going to dig Quentin Tarantino's love-letter to 1969 Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt have rarely been as good as they are as the co-leads. Scenes like the one at the ranch crackle with dangerous tension. Every shot looks fabulous. I think like many, I was worried about the subject matter being in poor taste but as usual never fear, QT knows exactly what he is doing. I appreciated him dropping many of his perhaps overused stylistic ticks, for his most conventional (in a good way) film since the superior 'Jackie Brown'. 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' is close enough to perfect that it's not worth mentioning a few minor blemishes.

(FYI: Be sure to stick around for a wonderful mid-credits bonus scene).

An excellent review from Robbie Collin:


TMBTM said:
But I can totally see how some people could not like this movie. If you don't know the story of the real Sharon Tate, if you don't really care about the behind the scene stuffs of cinema, if you prefer story driven movies rather than characters movies... then you will probably get bored.

Yeah, I did wonder that too. A subversion of one's exceptions, doesn't work if you don't have any expectations. Several of the scenes could feel like characters just hanging out but when I think about it, I can't remember any that weren't essential character scenes, or essential building blocks to the story.
 

bionicbob

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I too completely LOVED Once Upon A Time in Hollywood!

I was riveted from beginning to end.

Many critics I read complained the second act was boring or slow.  I was spellbound.  Especially the tv pilot filming.  I want to see that pilot!  I want to see the rest of that story!

Hopefully the rumoured 4 hour plus cut will materialize.

Absolutely a brilliant love letter to a bygone age.  Thumbs way up for me. :D
 

TM2YC

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bionicbob said:
the tv pilot filming.  I want to see that pilot!  I want to see the rest of that story!

Those were beautiful scenes for DiCaprio, when he's describing the book to the girl and struggling to get his performance right.

Fox and His Friends (1975)
'Fox and His Friends' (aka 'Fist-Right of Freedom' aka 'The Right of the Strongest') is written by and starring West-German Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. "Fox" is a sweet, coarse and naive lower-class gay man who wins big on the lottery. He soon becomes acquainted with a circle of middle-class "friends" and starts a relationship with Eugen, the imperious son of a factory owner. Eugen spends Fox's money like there is no tomorrow, constantly derides him for his lack of sophistication and ultimate swindles the trusting Fox, who only wants to please Eugen. Although it's about this central relationship, it's an inherently political story, attacking the bourgeoisie for their lack of morals hidden behind polite manners. Unlike other Directors I could mention, Fassbinder is actually a very fine actor and really makes you feel sympathy for poor Fox. By the way, it was great to see Karlheinz Böhm, star of Michael Powell's 'Peeping Tom' in something else.

 

TM2YC

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A Nicolas Roeg double-bill, both starring Rock musicians...

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
I've watched parts of this film before but never made it all the way through until today. Nicolas Roeg's 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' is a Sci-Fi vision that's too quirky, visually interesting and intriguing to dislike but I didn't really like it either. Roeg has no time for frivolities like exposition, logic and story development. Each new scene could take place in a different place, in the next hour, day, year, or decade but you are left to work that out for yourself as the scene progresses. David Bowie is of course a perfect casting choice for a strange alien. Every time he is on screen it's fascinating but 50% of the film seemed to be composed of people rolling naked on beds, drinking Gin. I'm sure when the film was made Bowie's 'Thomas Jerome Newton' character was modeled after Howard Hughes but watching it in 2019, it seems to predict the modern tech/media entrepreneurs.

The 40th Anniversary 4K-scanned blu-ray looks spectacular, apart from the last shot that plays under the credits, which drops down to DVD upscale quality for some reason.


Fanedit wise, I'd love to see a more Bowie focused edit that replaced the soundtrack with instrumentals from 'Low' and similar period albums (which may or may not have featured outtakes from Bowie's abandoned score). This guy on youtube re-scored the opening and added foley. It works wonderfully:


Bad Timing (1980)
Despite Nicolas Roeg's 'Bad Timing' often being acclaimed by critics now, I'd read that one Rank Film exec (the studio distributing the film) at the time denounced it as "A sick film, made by sick people, for sick people". I assume they were referring to one of the final scenes, which is extreme and (deliberately) unpleasant. The preceding 2-hours is high-art filmmaking, skillfully weaving a nonlinear flashback/flashforward structure across multiple times/places, that never gets confusing. Fortunately Art Garfunkel's vacant (lack of) acting is ideally suited to his cold borderline-sociopathic psychiatrist character. Theresa Russell plays a chaotic younger woman who becomes the object of his fascination because she must live entirely in the moment, while he desires control of everything. Harvey Keitel is creepily intense as a Cop investigating the couple.

 

TM2YC

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The Terminator (1984)
I re-watched this as part of a T1+T2 double-bill, the first opportunity I've had to see either at the cinema. It's a virtually perfect film, with not a frame, or a word more than is needed. It's the intensity and depth of Michael Biehn's performance that sells the premise, I swear if you'd polygraphed him while the cameras were rolling it would have come back positive that he was actually a soldier from the future. The scale and realism of the FX and action is amazing considering the tiny $6.4 budget, a half, third, or quarter of the money spent on similar Sci-Fi/Action films from 1984. Whatever you think about the cooler blue-ish grade of the 2012 4K transfer, the detail, richness and clarity of the scan is beautiful to look at on a huge screen. I know some have complained about some of the soundFX being changed for the surround mix and I did notice one obvious instance when Kyle wakes from a nightmare and instinctively racks his shotgun, a prominently loud SoundFX from memory, which was quite muted here.


Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The older I've got and the more I've watched T1 & T2, the more dissatisfied I've become with this sequel in comparison to the first film. That's not to say I don't love it, it's an action-packed thrill-ride Classic but watching it back-to-back in a Cinema double-bill with T1, the cracks show. The pacing is comparatively loose and undisciplined, the humour is slightly cringey and misjudged in parts and Brad Fiedel's score lacks the flare and aggression of his T1 work. Also this is where the franchise rot set in, with the timeline and plot details of the first film needing to be subtlety twisted to make the sequel work. You forgive it these flaws but it's so damned entertaining. Despite this being a 2D showing we were unsurprisingly screened the latest 2016 3D transfer which looks offensively bad. It's not just that everyone's skin looks smoothed to a distracting degree, it has this strange fibre-glass texture to it, an artifact of the 2d to 3D to 2D process no doubt. Everybody involved with this transfer should be hunted by a cyborg from the future ;) .


Far from wetting my appetite for the forthcoming 'Dark Fate', as I'm sure it's intended, this double-bill re-release has instead entirely slaked my thirst for time-traveling robots. Unless certain online reviewers I trust give it a glowing write up, I'm not going to bother seeing it and will just pretended this franchise died in the foundry.
 

Gaith

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TM2YC said:
Apocalypse Now (1979)
[...] Watching this new intermediate 40th Anniversary 3hr 'Final Cut' in a theater was not good. The French plantation dinner party sequence (first introduced in 'Redux') is retained, a scene that kills the momentum of the film dead and it never recovers.

Truly puzzling to hear the plantation sequence is in this "Final Cut." So, how is it different from "Redux"?!

 
TM2YC said:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Despite this being a 2D showing we were unsurprisingly screened the latest 2016 3D transfer which looks offensively bad. It's not just that everyone's skin looks smoothed to a distracting degree, it has this strange fibre-glass texture to it, an artifact of the 2d to 3D to 2D process no doubt.

Arr, that's annoying, indeed. I'm far from the biggest transfer stickler, but that could well have driven me crazy. Thank goodness for home projectors and our good ol' blu-rays. :p
 

TM2YC

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Gaith said:
TM2YC said:
Apocalypse Now (1979)
[...] Watching this new intermediate 40th Anniversary 3hr 'Final Cut' in a theater was not good. The French plantation dinner party sequence (first introduced in 'Redux') is retained, a scene that kills the momentum of the film dead and it never recovers.

So, how is it different from "Redux"?!

The scene where the boat crew meet the playmates and the only daytime scene of Kurtz is removed from Redux. I think a few small additions of Brando at the end maybe? I'm not really sure.

Gaith said:
TM2YC said:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Despite this being a 2D showing we were unsurprisingly screened the latest 2016 3D transfer which looks offensively bad. It's not just that everyone's skin looks smoothed to a distracting degree, it has this strange fibre-glass texture to it, an artifact of the 2d to 3D to 2D process no doubt.

Thank goodness for... our good ol' blu-rays. :p

Except the old blu-ray transfer of T2 looks poor as well.
 

Gaith

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^ I assume you mean the second, 2009 transfer? Because I have both that and the initial 2006 one, though I haven't actually watched either. I also have a digital copy of the 2009 one, but wonder if they'll replace it with the 3D version transfer. Anyhow, so long as the colors aren't egregiously effed with, as with the Matrix and FotR blus, I'm fairly easily pleased... P
 

TM2YC

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Gaith said:
^ I assume you mean the second, 2009 transfer? Because I have both that and the initial 2006 one, though I haven't actually watched either. I also have a digital copy of the 2009 one, but wonder if they'll replace it with the 3D version transfer. Anyhow, so long as the colors aren't egregiously effed with, as with the Matrix and FotR blus, I'm fairly easily pleased... P

Those both look near identical colour wise to me, which I assume is the same one I have, the "Skynet Edition" with three branched cuts. The colours are okay-ish but it's showing it's age and looking very soft. The latest "remastered" blu-ray (which I also own) is the same 3D copy I watched. They both have their downsides but you should stick with your copy.

While I was looking for a comparison I found this: https://caps-a-holic.com/c_list.php?d1=11116&c=4415

It shows the soft Skynet transfer and the latest 3D transfer but it also shows a US 2015 Lionsgate blu-ray that looks substantially better than both (especially screenshot 14). Think I'll go looking for a copy of that right now :) .
 

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TM2YC said:
a US 2015 Lionsgate blu-ray that looks substantially better than both

That's actually the one I've got (along with the initial 2006 release), which I assumed was the same transfer as the 2009 Skynet Edition, as blu-ray.com didn't review it. So, I've got the best one, then! Sweet! :p
 

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Dead Ringers (1988)
Jeremy Irons brilliantly plays two disturbed identical-twin gynecologists, with almost imperceptible differences in their character, so you are somehow never in any doubt which he is playing (except when you are supposed to be confused). The split screen FX involving moving cameras is very clever in a pre-CGI age. David Cronenberg's obsession with body-horror and medical fetishism is in full effect and gets really disturbing and icky. I think the film expects you to feel sympathy for the brother's emotional torment but their dreadful behaviour right from the start made that quite difficult.

 
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