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A few reviews

TM2YC

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Passengers (2016)
Ship malfunctions lead to a few hibernating passengers on a colony spaceship waking up so early that they will die before they reach their destination. It's plagued with plot contrivances, questionable design choices and hazy logic but those devices are there to setup some pretty interesting existential and moral character studies. The corporate (mis)management of the ship's functions felt very Doctor Who. The "male gaze" of Director Morten Tyldum is constant in this thing as he ogles Jennifer Lawrence. I think what brings this to the forefront is him leaving the ogle-worthy Chris Pratt virtually un-ogled. Overall it's less offensive and stupid than his previous film 'The Imitation Game', so that's a bonus.

 

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^ But surely the male gaze is the point? The only reason Lawrence's character is part of the story is because Pratt's finds her ogle-worthy enough to awaken in the first place, and the film, like it or not, is very much told from his perspective. It's a story-appropriate use of the male gaze, unlike Zack Snyder's gratuitous ogling of Diana's rear end in Justice League, which served no narrative or thematic purpose.
 

TM2YC

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Gaith said:
^ But surely the male gaze is the point? The only reason Lawrence's character is part of the story is because Pratt's finds her ogle-worthy enough to awaken in the first place, and the film, like it or not, is very much told from his perspective. It's a story-appropriate use of the male gaze, unlike Zack Snyder's gratuitous ogling of Diana's rear end in Justice League, which served no narrative or thematic purpose.

That is sometimes true and perhaps sometimes the intention when the camera is positioned from Pratt's perspective (e.g. when he is watching her swimming) but often it's from the voyeuristic angle of nobody else but the Director and the audience. See this clip:


e.g the first bit. Lawrence is stripping? Well obviously we need to cover that in a wide from behind her. Now it's Pratt's turn to strip? Well, we can just move in for a tight closeup for that because nobody in the audience is gonna want to see his chest muscles :D . Or her climbing on the table in the other bit. Was positioning the camera so her bum fills 50% of the frame the best way to shoot that scene? ;)  That's just the vibe I got.
 

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TM2YC said:
That is sometimes true and perhaps sometimes the intention when the camera is positioned from Pratt's perspective (e.g. when he is watching her swimming) but often it's from the voyeuristic angle of nobody else but the Director and the audience.

The direction could definitely have chosen to view the whole story from a detached and clinical perspective - a "look what villainy madness drove this guy to do," instead of the subjective perspective it did go with, which was "empathize with the desperate act madness drove our hero to do!" Both approaches would have been entirely valid, but the director chose the one, and I respect that.

 
TM2YC said:
Or her climbing on the table in the other bit. Was positioning the camera so her bum fills 50% of the frame the best way to shoot that scene? ;)

I'd argue yes. The director/camera is looking to give us the same thrill Pratt's character is experiencing, to make us continue empathizing with him. (Same for the wide shot of her stripping.) Her climbing on the table is the character intending to be sexy - how else should it be filmed? From her POV? I don't think that'd make any sense, because in the moment, she's trying to give him a thrill, not herself. And to shoot it from his POV would necessitate her looking right into the camera, which would be distracting and off-putting. So, yeah, I say those shots were correct.

I think the controversy over the movie was silly and overblown, but it's not a feminist movie. And I sympathize with those who wish the whole story and direction had been told from Aurora's POV, and acknowledge that it's fair to critique a Hollywood system in which such a movie probably wouldn't be made in the first place, but I don't think it's an artistic failing of the movie for not being a fundamentally different version of itself. My two cents. ;)
 

TM2YC

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Gaith said:
The director/camera is looking to give us the same thrill Pratt's character is experiencing

Yes that's the point I was originally making.
 

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TM2YC said:
Overall it's less offensive and stupid than his previous film 'The Imitation Game', so that's a bonus.

Wow, really? I haven't seen either of his films but I've never heard anything that negative about The Imitation Game. Wasn't it universally praised by audiences and critics alike?
 

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Saw II (2005)
I was really impressed by the first Saw, but something about the sequels always warned me off.  Well, I finally got around to watching this and I’ve got to say it’s very skippable.  The first red flag was 10 minutes in when the detective realized the name of the metalworks manufacturer was right on the side of the first deathtrap… so they bust through that door with a SWAT team.  That’s how police respond to clues?  Now I know where our tax dollars are going.

A lot of the enjoyment in the first film came from trying to figure out what was going on, and watching the protagonists try to work out the clues.  They basically seemed like good, normal people in a horrible conundrum.  But here, I didn’t like any of them at all except Jonas.  I didn’t really have any empathy for them, since they're just treated as meatbags, not real people with depth.  We do learn a little about Det. Mathews, but even so, none of these characters really show admirable qualities that make you root for them.  The most likable person in the story is Jigsaw!  At least he shows some style and cleverness.  Although, honestly, the house setting plays out pretty boringly, and the “traps” are pretty mundane.  

Now that The Walking Dead is out and there’s decent horror on TV every week, this kind of story just doesn’t hold up.  On TWD, you really see the limits pushed for what people have to go through to survive.  Their wills are tested, and their personal stories are compelling.  I got none of that from Saw II.  There are some good ideas in the script, but the execution of them just did nothing for me.

Took a break from scary movies to celebrate All Saint's Day (Nov. 1st) with
Joan of Arc (1948)
The above video actually is some pretty cool behind-the-scenes stuff.  Man, people burn this story again and again, but it just never dies.  Look how many of these things there are: https://www.imdb.com/search/keyword/?keywords=joan-of-arc
This was the last directorial effort of Victor Fleming, who had done Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.  I didn't realize but apparently it was a huge flop, which really disappointed him.  Audiences stayed away from the film when Ingrid Bergman's affair with director Roberto Rossellini was revealed while the movie was in release, because they considered it blasphemous for an adulterous woman to be playing a saint.  Bergman is very pretty, of course, but she looked far too old for the part!  What had worked on stage was more obvious on film, where it's clear she was 33 playing 19.  Well, okay, she could've passed for late 20s, but still.
This is one of those old movies that drives me crazy... everyone is French, but of course they're not going to cast all French-speaking actors.  But they make zero attempt to reduce the broad American accents of the French townspeople.  Then a lot of the royalty has these posh British accents.  I can only imagine how a French person at the time would've felt seeing one of their great national stories this way.   The film leans hard on the drama (too hard in the end) but does have one great battle scene....until the point when Joan realizes her army is retreating and (injured) charges forward to rally them again...it's so successful that Joan rallies an injured horse to get up and fight! :rolleyes:

Although the film was not really a commercial success upon release, it was partly due to RKO's poor publicity campaign (which producer Walter Wanger blamed on then-RKO president Howard Hughes).  It did get 7 Academy Award nominations, and was a pretty big spectacle of a film.  However due to its initial poor performance, Hughes' studio cut 45 minutes from the film and re-released it, to no avail, which was the default version until 1998.  I watched the full 2 1/2 hour version, in which the Christian proselytizing is quite strong, and the drama and debate over Joan's holiness really takes center stage ... it gets quite tiresome in the dragged-out final act.  It also leans rather heavily on apocryphal stories, but not in the most fun way.  It's a mixed bag, and I still greatly prefer The Messenger, but it was really unfairly maligned.  Worth a watch for fans of that period's films.
 

TM2YC

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Masirimso17 said:
TM2YC said:
Overall it's less offensive and stupid than his previous film 'The Imitation Game', so that's a bonus.

Wow, really? I haven't seen either of his films but I've never heard anything that negative about The Imitation Game. Wasn't it universally praised by audiences and critics alike?

Don't get me started :D . I posted my thoughts a few years ago, although on reflection I was far too kind ;) : https://forums.fanedit.org/showthread.php?tid=2851&pid=238764#pid238764

Also: https://www.theguardian.com/film/20...ew-slander-to-insult-alan-turing-reel-history
 

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Try watching Saw 3. If you don't like that, then don't bother with the rest. It's been a while since I've seen any of them, but I remember preferring 3 to 2, and in general remember it being one of the best.
 

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jrWHAG42 said:
Try watching Saw 3. If you don't like that, then don't bother with the rest. It's been a while since I've seen any of them, but I remember preferring 3 to 2, and in general remember it being one of the best.

I'll keep it in mind.  It'll definitely be awhile, as I've watched one horror film after another recently that audiences supposedly loved and I've just found incredibly poorly written.  Honestly, 90% of horror films don't capture me, I just really enjoy the few that do.
 

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McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
A revisionist Western from Director Robert Altman, with beautiful hazy Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond making it look like it really was shot in 1902. This isn't a Western about wide open sunlit vistas, the frontier mining town is cramped, hemmed in by nature, sinking in mud, beaten by rain, or smothered in snow. The deaths aren't noble and meaningful, they're random, callous and forgotten. The people huddle round for any warmth and companionship going, so the characters of the title (Warren Beatty and Julie Christie) setup a saloon, a bathhouse and a brothel. It's a story of small-time American entrepreneurs but like today, a more powerful company wants to muscle them out. Songs from Leonard Cohen's debut LP provide the soundtrack, giving everything the tone of a sad lament.

 

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Another break from Halloween movies to catch one in the theater, and one for the UK's Bonfire Night...

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
The trailers give away too much of the story, imho, so I just put a little teaser clip here.  I really have to thank everyone for lowering my expectations before seeing this movie... because I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Is it as classic as the first 2 Terminator films?  No, probably not.  But it's nearly as good, and leaps and bounds better than the 3 movies which followed.  One thing I loved, that you can see in that clip, is that the action in Terminator is not just about brutality or spectacle.  It's about how smart the scenes can be...about how they can always put a twist on your expectation.  It relates to one themes of the series, which is about how humanity creates machine AI, which adapts, which forces humanity to adapt, and so on.  If you remain static, you die.  This series teaches life lessons, yo.

The "twist" of how the new Terminator-type machine works didn't really do much for me.  I wasn't sure what the in-universe logic was for having it operate like that, and it wasn't that cool.  I did however, love the other ways in which the film seemed to try to play with all the elements of the previous 3 films but mix them together in the best possible way.  A new badass chick that can go toe-to-toe with Arnold, like in T3: Rise of the Machines.  Flashes forward to a machine war like in T4: Salvation.  The return of Sarah Conner like in T5: Genisys.  The idea that humanity is headed towards some type of Judgement Day eventually, like in T3.  The idea that the machines will become not so different than us and we might be dependent on each other, like in T4.  The idea that maybe all this is existing in different timelines, like in T5.  There are a lot of ideas here!  Mostly, they are melded together excellently, making for a pretty smart, compelling sci-fi action flick.  There are a couple points where the plot just seems determined to wedge something in rather than it happening organically, but the film earns enough goodwill beforehand to let those points slide.  I have to think that this film's under-performance has a lot more to do with people being tired of certain elements in films generally, rather than a statement of how good this film is on its own.

The Wicker Man (1973)
For me, this film became legendary due to the infamous remake.  I actually haven't seen that and knew almost nothing about this, so was surprised to find how very Scottish it was, and also how "on the cheap" it seemed.  The strength of the film is in its ideas, which are plentiful.  You can really see the cultural clash here that was broiling throughout the '60s and into the '70s.  The rejection of "traditional" values and search for alternate systems.  In the US at that time, there was a real embrace of different kinds of communal living, which had lots of potential and had some real successes, like the Kaliflower community.  But the bigger media stories were events like the Manson Family cult, Jonestown, and eventually Rajneeshpuram.  This film was ripely positioned to take advantage of that "fear of the other".

I think the movie poses some really legitimate criticisms though.  The police detective seems like a real tw*t through a modern lens, and I was really identifying with the townsfolk up to a certain point.  Who decides what's crazy and what's "faith" except for a majority?  If you up and moved to a place where you were now the majority, would you not be free to call someone else's faith "crazy"?  The US was founded in part on searching for freedom to practice religion, and yet religious prosecution is still so relevant today.  I think there are rich themes in this film about sex and belief and raising children... but they could be better explored with a tighter story.  I didn't really find the film scary at all, and there are a couple plot elements that kind of jump the shark at the end.  This was well worth a watch, but not something that really holds up in its current form for me.  Would be make a phenomenal book though!
 

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Watched 2 "scary movies" that I actually wouldn't classify as Horror...

Bone Tomahawk (2015)
I'd just call this a Western, though it is one with unmistakably brutal imagery.  Much like the film Unbreakable, this movie feels like it's about 2/3 or 4/5 exposition, with a sudden burst of 'things happening' at the end.  It works, don't get me wrong, but after hearing so much hype about this film, I was hoping for a bit more to it.  
Pluses: anyone who has been missing the language and rhythms of Deadwood will find some solace here.  The film sinks you into the hardship and willpower present in Western frontier life.  There is some great dialogue and performances... does Patrick Wilson even act in anything other than Horror stories anymore?
Minuses: A couple of plot elements feel very deliberate and the film only gets away with them because the environment sells it so well.  For example 
Props to writer/director Zahler for showing the ways women contribute to frontier life that often went unappreciated by men.  But at its core, this is still a story of 'Indians stole our white woman'.  Zahler is careful to have another Native American be part of the town, who's sole purpose is to come in and deliver some exposition about how the ignorant townspeople would just call the bad guys Indians, but they're actually just savages who are disavowed by the other tribes.  Thereby making it okay to now portray them as the 2-dimensional savages typical to old school Westerns.  They're also built up to be these horrifying force of nature killers, that "no amount of men" would stand a chance against.  And yet, just a couple men do pretty good against them in the end, and 1 crippled man takes them all out with relative ease.  There's no real consistent threat level there.  They are just used as generic boogeymen while the film focuses on how brave and strong and selfless the white men can be.  It's all a bit neat and, while not so obvious as to ruin the film, definitely raises some questions in the wake of these themes coming up repeatedly in Zahler's later work.
I enjoyed the film, but I'd definitely advise everyone to go in with lowered expectations.  It's a great indie surprise, but would be underwhelming as a widely-promoted mainstream film.

Under the Skin (2013)
You could maybe call this a Thriller, or maybe a kind of Sci-Fi.  Not my idea of Horror, though.  If you don't know what the film is about, don't read the description in the teaser I posted.  It contains spoilers.  I wish I hadn't known, as you could actually develop theories and wonder about the movie all the way up until the reveal at the end.  Knowing what Johansson's role is, I watched the whole film just trying to piece together a narrative, of which there really isn't one.  This film is more of a poem... it evokes arresting images and sometimes basic emotions, but without much real rhyme or reason.  Honestly, these kind of films aren't much for me... I'll watch a few minutes of something like that at a museum, but if you're going to hold me for 2 hours, I want you to have decided on a solid story that fully realizes something you want to say.
There is a lot of debate over what the director wanted to say here, as Jonathon Glazer famously doesn't explain his films much.  I'm not convinced he really was doing more than playing with ideas, and reading ABOUT the film is more entertaining than watching the film itself.  Just check out all the trivia here!  Fantastic performance by Johansson though, and I really appreciated that she didn't get 'in model shape' for her role in the film, despite knowing she would do her own nude scenes.  She's certainly been portrayed more gorgeously in lots of other movies, which lends to the sort of gritty surreality of this movie.  For me, though, that wasn't enough.
 

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'Frozen II' [2019]

My daughter was 4 years old when the original mega-hit 'Frozen' was released. We were one of 'those' families - I took her to see it twice that I remember, and I'm sure other family members took her to more showings too. We had the Deluxe soundtrack on CD; pre-ordered the blu-ray; she was Elsa for Halloween the following year (along with half the neighbourhood, it seems - we have a photo somewhere of her and, I think, 8 other Elsas we met whilst trick or treating); we traveled to Chicago just to see 'Frozen on Ice'; and when we went to DisneyWorld, I waited in line for 4 hours so that she could meet Anna & Elsa in person. 'Frozen' was a huge deal.

So, it's not surprising that she couldn't wait to revisit some of her favourite characters this year - and, I admit, I was looking forward to it too. I mean, this was 'Frozen' - they couldn't screw it up, right?

They screwed it up. My daughter is now 10 but I think even she was disappointed. Everything felt off. The songs - such an obvious integral part of the original - are mediocre and are not going to torture parents for months on end. They sounded more like something you'd find in musical theatre, not catchy sing-a-longs, with their off-putting time signatures and dissonance. The familiar characters are all present, with lots of call-backs to remind us why we liked them 6 years ago, but they aren't given nearly enough good, funny lines. The story is a mystery, literally. The plot involves them trying to find something, but it isn't clear most of the time what 'it' is, or why it matters. The semi-twist/reveal towards the end elicits more of a shrug than the audible gasp I heard both times at the cinema when Hans unmasked himself in the original.

The good reviews I've read (and shaken my head at) have mentioned the incredible visuals, and they are indeed well done. Of course, they should be. Maybe the style coupled with nostalgia misted some eyes, but 'good enough' isn't really good enough here, I'm afraid. It's not Star-Wars-prequel awful, but it can't help feeling like a missed opportunity and/or a blatant cash grab, that anything with 'Frozen' slapped onto it will be profitable anyway. Pixar manages to make worthy sequels, by and large, and inject them with feeling for the audience (more often than not the parents). The only adult-related sequence here was Kristoff's mock power ballad, crafted like a bad 80s music video, but even that wasn't 'spoof' enough to be funny.

Still, it'll make Disney a ton of money, and will sell some more blankets, pajamas and whatever else they can license. But you won't have kids screaming at their parents to take them to see it just "one more time", or singing the entire soundtrack nonstop from dawn to dusk. Maybe, after all, that's a good thing.
 

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Honest question (though I think I know the answer): has Disney ever re-visited a franchise and had a later film be as good as the earlier film?
 

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mnkykungfu said:
Honest question (though I think I know the answer): has Disney ever re-visited a franchise and had a later film be as good as the earlier film?

'Mary Poppins Returns' was pretty close, the script was a bit weak but the songs were definitely as good. The 2011 Pooh film is supposed to be great. 2011's 'The Muppets' isn't quite as good as some of the earlier films but it's a hell of lot better than the worst ones. A couple of the Toy Story sequels?
 

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TM2YC said:
mnkykungfu said:
Honest question (though I think I know the answer): has Disney ever re-visited a franchise and had a later film be as good as the earlier film?

'Mary Poppins Returns' was pretty close, the script was a bit weak but the songs were definitely as good. The 2011 Pooh film is supposed to be great. 2011's 'The Muppets' isn't quite as good as some of the earlier films but it's a hell of lot better than the worst ones. A couple of the Toy Story sequels?

I hated Mary Poppins Returns, not even close, though I did love the songs, but the script was awful. My mother who is a huge Mary Poppins fan even having read all the books was so disappointed by it.

The Toy Story sequels are all better than the first one in my opinion, the whole series is phenomenal. But it’s Pixar anyway so it doesn’t count (although their other sequels despite being pretty good aren’t as good as their originals, and Cars 2 is garbage)

Winnie the Pooh is always great. The Muppets was also great, loved it almost as much as the Muppet Movie (regrettably the only other Muppet movie I’ve seen)
 

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Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Surprisingly this was re-released at the Cinema for it's 20th Anniversary, the colour looked glorious in all it's fairy-tale artificiality on the big screen. I still think it's one of Stanley Kubrick's weaker films (or a masterpiece by the standards of other Directors) but I really appreciated it's unique charms. Jocelyn Pook's piano score is startlingly minimal and unsettling. Larry Smith's Cinematography makes every little fairy light look like it's radiating with the intensity of a star. Kubrick's usual gliding camera work is expertly in sympathy with the movements of his actors.

A thing I noticed this time is that it's a Christmas movie... no no, hear me out. The sex orgy, drug overdoses and constant nudity have probably distracted you from realizing it :D . Obviously it's set at Christmas, features a Christmas party, fancy dress, the wrapping of presents, toy shopping and of course the whole film is lit like a colourful Xmas tree but it’s also thematically a Christmas film. It's the spiritual journey of a father who has strayed from "the right path", who has begun to feel unhappy with his lot in life, who learns to appreciate his family, through being shown what his world would be like if he lost them. By the end the family is healed again. Charles Dickens expressed this sentiment at the end of his story with the line "God bless us, every one", Frank Capra with “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings”, with Kubrick the last line about redemption is “There is something very important that we need to do as soon as possible... f**k”.

 
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