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A few reviews

TM2YC

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American Factory (2019)
The first project from Netflix and the Obama's production company is this Documentary about a Chinese company setting up a new Glass factory in a closed GM plant in Ohio. It's a clash of cultures in attitude and expectation, which gives both sides equal voice. It has unbelievable access to the company and frank testimony from it's new American employees, Chinese immigrant workers and executives from both countries. Co-Director's Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert use no externally imposed narrative voice-over, hardly any text and no after-the-fact interviews, they refreshingly let the footage and the people tell the story. Mostly inviting and trusting the viewer to draw their own conclusions, only using juxtaposition to make their points about the opposing philosophies of the two countries. Fascinating stuff.



The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (2009)
Co-Director's Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert's Oscar nominated 2009 Documentary short for HBO about the closure of the very same GM plant in Ohio that they show being re-opened in 2019's Doc 'American Factory'. Because they were granted no access to the plant, this is almost entirely made up from to-camera interviews with the workers (unlike the new film). Consequently it's not as interesting stylistically but the close-up emotional testimony from the people has it's own character.

[video=dailymotion]

The Edge of Democracy (2019)
Petra Costa's Netflix Documentary chronicles the removal of Brazil's two former Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff and events that lead up to the election of the current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. As Costa's parents were both political activists and her grandfather founded a major construction firm implicated in bribery, she knew many of the people involved personally, so she is able to take you right into the corridors of power. Widescreen shots of Brasilia's spectacular modernist government complex, a towering monument to democracy, are contrasted with the corruption and scheming within.

 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
I can't comment on his other films, somehow I've gone through life without seeing any of Almodovar's previous films.
The straw that finally broke the camel's back for me was "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown".  It's the very definition of what I talked about, featuring both types of Almodovar stories: wallowing film director + wacky, hyper-emotional group of women.  The "best" Almodovar films have really engaging Characters, but they become scary if you think of them as actual People you might interact with in the world.
Here's a selection of some good examples for Almodovar

Passengers and Fences (both 2016)
Mild Spoilers for each of the films I talk about:
A large part of Passengers is a loving homage to The Shining, and it has every right to win over even a skeptical film fan.  The movie is ostensibly about a man who dreams of a brighter future and earnestly wants to work towards it.  But an isolated and isolating setting gradually drains his willpower and starts making him make questionable decisions.  Both men sit at the same bar, asking questions to the same classic barman who mostly cannot give him the answers he wants.  Eventually his weakness leads him to directly endanger the life of a woman he supposedly cares about.  

At about this point, the perspective of both films switches to side with the woman, who had signed up for a very different experience.  Both women suddenly find that they've been endangered by the very man they most thought they could trust.  And now it's up to them how to reconcile that and what to do with it.  In a sense, all the main cast thought they were in control of the direction of their lives, but now find...yes, they've become "passengers" on a journey that they can't control.
(The trailer for Passengers leaves no surprises, so he's a great scene instead.)

I also just recently watched Fences (2016) and find myself comparing these two films.  Both feature a very small cast.  Both take place essentially in one set.  Both have men betraying women they think they are dedicated to.  Both have excellent scores.  And yet Fences was nominated up and down for awards while Passengers was vilified.  So what are the differences?

Well, judging Fences as a movie, and not the play it was based on, it seems to me that Passengers actually does many things much better than it.  There's a reason we only see a small cast in Passengers, whereas in Fences it seems that these people just have very few connections in their life, and none that are important for us to see.  The location is handled very well in Passengers, and actually features amazing design and a lot more variety than in the limited sets of Fences, set primarily in a patch of back yard.  And while both feature excellent casts (Viola Davis is amazing), Passengers allows us time to sit with Jim in moments of thoughtfulness and intuit his various feelings and moods without him walking us through it all verbally.  

It's great to see Chris Pratt in an uncharacteristic role, where he's not outgoing and constantly gabbing and joking.  Fences, on the other hand, is centered on Denzel Washington as Troy, who hardly shuts up the whole movie, belting out B.S. whether anyone is listening or not.  Troy's dialogue reeks of old-fashioned play-writing, where a character constantly talks "to himself" out to the audience, narrating soliloquies at the top of his lungs and chewing up scenery like a rabid Doberman.  I actually give Denzel credit as an actor, because the dialogue just leaves no room to play that part subtly.  On the other hand, Denzel the director could've tried to adapt it to internalize more of Troy's feelings.   It's essentially the weakness of the entire film: it's too dedicated to reproducing the stage play.  More should've been changed to make it work better on the screen, because it so obviously feels like a stage play from 1985, Pulitzer or not.

Some may argue that The Context is what sets these films apart.  Fences' Troy is a detestable and disagreeable miser, but he grew up in hard times and his character was formed by very real racist struggles.  Whereas the much more likable Jim of Passengers exists in a more idealized future.  Sure, he's a poor blue-collar guy, but he didn't face race struggles and his betrayal involves more technical know-how and supposedly more forethought.  However, I think that's pretty disingenuous, though I do agree that Context is key.  The context is this: dramas get respect but sci-fi rarely does.  A beloved and esteemed actor like Denzel gets credit for a capable adaptation of a classic play, despite the outdated style.  #Oscarssowhite was very recent.  On the other hand, #metoo was very recent, and the knee-jerk reaction to seeing beloved nuevo-feminist heroine J.Law "robbed of her agency" was an immediate wet blanket on Passengers.  Emotions trumped critical evaluation.  You can't tell someone they should/shouldn't feel the way they do.

I can tell you that Passengers was unfairly dumped on.  It's a very thoughtful and considerate film in which Jennifer Lawrence absolutely gets her due.  Her character has a full arc, and the questionable morality of how people deal with their emotions is at the heart of this film.  It's very much intended to spark debate, and the characters in the film have complex ways of dealing with it.  I think the resolution is very practical and believable, and anyone who's been in a relationship that experienced many ups and downs and backs and forths can tell you that things aren't always as simple as we'd like them to be on paper.

Fences deals with some of the same ground,
in terms of how women deal with betrayal and how people deal with realizing their lives are not going to be what they thought they would be.  However, Passengers' Jim gives everything to redeem himself and expresses great remorse.  Troy on the other hand, actually had an incredibly long, thought out, avoidable betrayal that is hardly sympathetic at all.  He seems remorseless and actually becomes an even greater villain over time.  He disregards and takes for granted everyone in his life, determined to wallow in bitterness rather than embracing possibility.
 
(Trailer for this is perfect actually... just the right amount of drama before you learn what the real situation is...)

Whatever charisma Denzel lent to the character evaporates early on, and yet we're stuck with 2 more hours of this character study of someone we can never be, can never understand, and wouldn't want to.  And the end result of the film feels like
an affirmation of the character, the abusers running right back to the abused, the triumph of Stockholm Syndrome.
 THIS should've been the movie that feminists hated, not Passengers.  I won't make the argument that it gets some kind of pass due to race, that's for others to decide.  But I will say that I can't get behind a film that seems to excuse abuse of many kinds by speaking in admiring tones of family ties and charisma.  This film just has bizarre messaging that might've fit in 1950, but we know better now.

Passengers ends with
restored agency, with 2 people making decisions together, and sacrificing for each other.  It's not about one person's needs trumping another's, it's about 2 people working together toward a mutual goal and healing.  
Aside from that, there's a whole lot of compelling sci-fi imagination and brilliant set-pieces.  I found it to succeed more on an emotional and dramatic level than many of the Oscar-baity films present that year.  AND it makes for an engaging theater view, too.  No slight to Fences, but I'll take that any day over a stilted, over-written story with an unsympathetic lead.  I'm sure it touched some people, but it's not fair to glorify Fences while angrily dismissing Passengers.
 

Masirimso17

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I just wrote some reviews for:

Iron Man 3:
https://letterboxd.com/masirimso/film/iron-man-3/

1917:
https://letterboxd.com/masirimso/film/1917/

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:
https://letterboxd.com/masirimso/film/harry-potter-and-the-philosophers-stone/

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:
https://letterboxd.com/masirimso/film/harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets/

There are more reviews I've written too, the most in depth ones being the Star Wars films, because of course  :rolleyes:

I did talk to a friend who watched 1917 and though the script was very classical/familiar, and I argued that the masterful way it executes the simple story was what mattered, with storytelling with visuals, performances, and subtlety.
 

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^ Agreed that Iron Man 3 is one of the best superhero flicks around - here's my modest review from long ago, should you be interested. :)
 

TM2YC

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Yeah 'Iron Man 3' is awesome. I can see why the Mandarin thing p*ssed off some hardcore fans but for somebody who had never heard of the character, it was the best bit.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
I'd heard the name "Mr. Rogers" before from general US pop-cultural osmosis but I had no idea who he was before this Documentary came out. I don't think Morgan Neville's film manages to explain why Fred Rogers was the way he was, or how he arrived at his philosophy. It's just 93-minutes of lovely clips showing what an incomprehensibly nice guy he was. In a world of strangers shouting abuse at each other online, a movie about a man who quietly and sincerely wanted to be everybody's friendly neighbour is like a warm hug.


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
I like this a lot more than I thought I would when I heard Mr. Rodgers wasn't the main character, it smacked of that lazy biopic thing of "We can't think how to tell his story, so let's make up a new story about somebody else and shoehorn him into it". However, they made a great choice with the premise, a bitter writer is forced to research an article on Fred Rodgers and by getting to know the man, he comes to know himself better. Fred is positioned in the role of Clarence the Angel, or the Ghost of Christmas Past. The film doesn't make any attempt to dig into why Mr. Rodgers was, instead they just show how his way of being with people could have a positive effect on them. There was some definite moistness in my eyes towards the end. Tom Hanks was the perfect choice for the role. I did think it was a shame that Director Marielle Heller choose to make the neighbourhood and the real world look completely different (with a different aspect-ratio and grade) but still play with the idea that they are fluid. It would've been so much more interesting to have had the whole film in the same brightly lit TV 4:3 look, with all the establishing shots done with miniatures. Like you were watching an extra-long big-budget version of an episode.

I'll have to read the article the film is based on and about (although heavily fictionalised): https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a27134/can-you-say-hero-esq1198/

 

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Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) - my final Christmas movie watch!
I'd always written this movie off as just complete girly rom-com pap, but I have to say that it is somehow more than the sum of its parts...

Renee Zellwegger is and has always been great, and she does fantastic, committed work in every role.  It's a large part of the success of this film, where Bridget is equal parts charming and pitiful, girly and empowered, petty and inspiring.  She's a much more believable and well-rounded character than we get in most other films like this.

She's surrounded by great supporting players, too, which all make valuable contributions to how we suspect Bridget's view on relationships and the World have been formed.  Hugh Grant is incredibly charming and a perfect cad here, although I remain skeptical of Colin Firth.  I'm convinced the entirety of his success lies in his height and that he doesn't have one eye slightly lower than the other like almost everyone else if you stare at pictures of them long enough.  So... I guess he qualifies as "handsome"?  Symmetrical, anyway.

Yes, the film has moments of cloying goofiness that we are supposed to find amusing, but like almost all rom-coms just made me want to get up and leave the screen and never look back.  Bridget's adeptly played support group, er, friends are responsible for much of this.  Though just as often they're actually quite amusing, and HOLY CRAP is that Moaning Myrtle one year before Harry Potter also playing someone who spends much of her time crying in the bathroom?!  Is that being typecast, or what?

Side-note: apparently the UK and US version are slightly different, and the UK has a better credit sequence.  Also, slightly more uses of the word c**t, which falls on American ears much more seriously, and I'd recommend THAT version as it makes for a fun juxtaposition in a rom-com.
 

TM2YC

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mnkykungfu said:
Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)
...Side-note: apparently the UK and US version are slightly different, and the UK has... slightly more uses of the word c**t, which falls on American ears much more seriously

Yeah it's almost a word of endearment :D .

The Lighthouse (2019)
Two isolated lighthouse keepers played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson get "cabin fever"... that's pretty much the whole story. I was predisposed to love this film because of the atmospheric high-contrast, black & white, 1.19:1, 35mm gorgeousness of the photography.... but I loved everything else too. The seamless combination of avant-garde music and the sounds of booming fog horns, howling wind and ticking clockwork keeps you constantly on edge. Subtitles prove helpful because the two characters mumble and growl in gravelly voices, thick with lyrical nautical phraseology (the dialogue was inspired by the real journals of lighthouse keepers). Things go far beyond mere irritability between the pair, into the realms of flailing lunacy, squeamish horror-fantasy, twisted eroticism and macabre humour. The mermaid-masturbation-montage was a definite highlight! ;)


Bombshell (2019)
Charlize Theron is amazing (as always) playing Megyn Kelly and John Lithgow manages to imbue Roger Ailes with complex levels of power, charisma and creepiness. The rest of the cast are a mixed bag, from good to serviceable. 'Bombshell' succeeds in conveying how easily workplace abuse is covered up, ignored and rationalised in a high-pressure environment. I'm not sure why Bill O'Reilly gets a virtual pass, although he is briefly featured and referenced. Despite a couple of horribly uncomfortable scenes involving Margot Robbie's character, it fails to really go for the jugular somehow. Perhaps a female Director/Writer would've felt more confidant in going deeper into the dark places the subject required. The subtle makeup is the best I've ever seen, totally invisible, yet totally transformative. Oddly it's by the same guy who did Churchill in 'Darkest Hour', which I thought looked a bit cartoony.


Honeyland (2019)
Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov's Documentary follows in intimate detail the life of Hatidze, a beekeeper in a remote abandoned Macedonian mountain village. She's like a "bee whisperer", wearing no gloves to scope them up and heard them around, singing/talking to them and knowing exactly how much honey to take without damaging their hives. Her peaceful co-existence with nature is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a large itinerant family next door. Hatidze enjoys their exuberant company but they begin to wreck the delicate local ecosystem with their greed and impatience. There is no voiceover, no interviews to camera, almost no text, dialogue is minimal and it's only occasionally translated in the subtitles when it is there. I found it captivating to experience a lifestyle so utterly removed from my own.

 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
The Lighthouse (2019)
Bombshell (2019)
Honeyland (2019)

Have noticed your massive catchup on awards season movies... I applaud your Pokemon-like dedication, sir.

I did the 'free trial' of Amazon Prime for a month, which is probably the #2 to Netflix for high-quality and interesting video content these days, especially for exclusives/originals.  That said, outside the US it's pretty worthless.  Only a very few titles are available to watch (the platform scans for an unmasked IP) and they're mostly the 1st season of Amazon's non-hit shows.  I had been really curious to watch their adaptation of Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle" though, and the 4th and final season just wrapped, so I just committed to spending my month binge-watching.

The Man in the High Castle (2015) - 4x10 episodes
Essentially, what you see is what you get with this series.  From the first episode, the strong points are clear.  The production team does a pretty great job at realizing a 1960's world where the Axis won, and the set design, cinematography, music, period costuming, etc are all continual points of amazement throughout the series.  Also, Alexa Davalos as basically the main heroine and Rufus Sewell as basically the main foil give continually refreshing performances throughout.  The supporting performances vary in quality, and their storylines are at times enriching but often annoying distractions from the throughline of the show. 
The series had a lot of behind-the-scenes trouble and switched showrunners after every season, which might be the reason why some plots are built to be very significant and then abruptly dispensed of.  Some characters, too.  Then new characters are introduced, but their significance to the story sometimes feels unearned.  This is a particular problem in the last season, which seems to try to make up for a lack of diversity.  The show in general is really focused on US whitey white people, Germans, and Japanese, and only edges towards expansion of those categories in later seasons.  Apparently nothing important happens in Italy?  Or South America?  Much less Africa, Australia, etc?  The show tries to lean into its strengths as it goes on, but it has a frustratingly meaningless and clueless ending which never explains or justifies the central premise, and may even misunderstand it.  This is a hard pass.  1 1/2 of 5 stars

Undone (2019) - eight 25 min episodes
I happened across this while resisting plowing through High Castle, and it made the whole Amazon Prime thing worthwhile.  A phenomenal series, the beautiful rotoscoped oil-painting animation is the perfect way to tell this story.  It's a young lady struggling with family issues and ennui who suddenly starts seeing her dead father talking to her.  In exploring this, she finds that her family has a history of schizophrenia, but also that her father had a mysterious life as an experimental physics researcher...and a mysterious death. 
The series is so smartly written with such amazing dialogue, the fact that the main character is 'mixed race' and hearing impaired is not some forced diversity, but an essential part of the story that's being told.  It informs who she is and how people deal with her, and is very relevant to the story.  This series examines what sanity truly means, and how society deals with those that think differently.  It's a rich and rewarding show that's the most bingeworthy since the first season of Stranger Things.  Thankfully, a 2nd season is coming (though this one could stand on its own for some.)  5 of 5 stars!

The Tick (2016)  22x30 min episodes (total)
I initially resisted this show, and the first couple episodes didn't change my mind.  I grew up with the amazing animated series, and became such a fan I even tracked down all the old assorted comic books.  This new Amazon show just had horrible costuming for The Tick, and I didn't like the casting.   ‎Peter Serafinowicz is just too old with too much of a dad bod...he's just tall.  He does really nail the voice though, and Ben Edlund's continued involvement with the show ensured that he had plenty of great mini-speeches to give, both new and old.  The writing is what really turned me around on the show, which continued to enrich the characters and adapt them in interesting ways.  I won't go into all the ways the characters have been subtly adapted, but most have been updated a bit to have a richer and more believable presence, and to intersect with each other in more complex and intriguing ways.  The first season is a fairly complete story, and very worthwhile watch.  Standout of the show is Alan Tudyk as Dangerboat, who is an AI-enhanced boat that self-identifies as a male boat that likes other males, boat or not.  He's brilliant.  3 1/2 of 5 stars

The Torture Report (2019)
One of the few movies I was able to watch on Amazon, and it was worth it.  As an American citizen, watching this for me is a bit like watching a film about slavery, or Schindler's List.  What I mean is, it's not an enjoyable watch.  But the subject matter is told well, and is important to know.  So often as Americans, the loudest stories, or the first ones, or the ones repeated the most, are the ones that sink in and people tend to believe.  About 33% of the population is totally manipulated into believing loud, convenient, half-truths this way.  Every time we see some war film with a tough-but-fair soldier using his US military training to overcome incredible odds against darker skinned villains in some far off land, it reinforces a certain viewpoint.  I'll avoid getting any more political than that, but this film is about politics, and about how the CIA covered its ass (for the 100th time) by painting a false narrative to the American people.  And that was backed up by the broader media, including Hollywood.  So here they are trying to set it straight by telling another story, Daniel Jones', which is basically not a very sexy story.  It's a guy in a room for 5+ years doing research and connecting dots.  But the film does their best to make it gripping and compelling, and is anchored by great performances.  It's a very worthwhile watch.  4 of 5 stars
 

TM2YC

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mnkykungfu said:
TM2YC said:
The Lighthouse (2019)
Bombshell (2019)
Honeyland (2019)

Have noticed your massive catchup on awards season movies... I applaud your Pokemon-like dedication, sir.

Yeah, I'm giving it a real good go this year. If only they wouldn't release all the awards movies at the same time in my country. It helps that many of them are on Netflix and Amazon though. On that subject, I watched two more Oscar/BAFTA contenders today...

Richard Jewel (2019)
Clint Eastwood's film about a real-life Security guard who saved people at a 1996 bombing, only to have his life destroyed when the FBI and media decides he's the prime suspect. 'Richard Jewel' is good solid story telling, unflashy direction and honest performances. It's not going to be hailed as a mould-breaking masterpiece but sometimes it's just nice to see a well crafted film. I thought star Paul Walter Hauser was in danger of being type-cast as "funny fat fantasist" but he brings real emotion to this one. Sam Rockwell is the standout as always, playing Jewel's provocative lawyer (if this was the 50s, he'd be played by Jimmy Stewart). There has been some justifiable controversy about the way the late journalist Kathy Scruggs is portrayed but from what I've read, the vast majority of the movie is accurate to the facts of a classic case of trial-by-media.


^ I just noticed now that they've digitally altered the first scene (and others) in this trailer to try to make it look like a dark interrogation room, when the actual scene is in a living room in the daytime.

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)
If you were looking forward to Director/Writer/Producer Armando Iannucci doing an acidic expletive-laden political-satire version of Dickens then I'm afraid this isn't that, it's strictly PG. His sense of mischief is instead diverted into a daring deconstruction of the work (although it looks visually traditional). He employs RSC-style colour-blind casting, scene transitions with scrim backdrops and the title character is writing the film we are watching. At one point somebody persuades him that they should be written out of the story and then they retreat out of the room and don't appear in the film again. It's the kind of eccentric comedy where the audience aren't all laughing together, instead they're hit with the giggles at their own pace. Dev Patel has such great comedy timing in the lead role but the befuddled Hugh Laurie and besozzled Benedict Wong were my highlights.

 

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TM2YC said:
If only they wouldn't release all the awards movies at the same time in my country.

Oh, that's the US, too.  'Tis the season.
 
Richard Jewel (2019)
There has been some justifiable controversy about the way the late journalist Kathy Scruggs is portrayed but from what I've read, the vast majority of the movie is accurate to the facts of a classic case of trial-by-media.

I'm just so turned off by Eastwood's politics directing his films nowadays.  If anyone doesn't know what his politics are, a quick google will turn up some nutty stuff.  Once you know, it sticks out like a sore thumb in his projects.

The problem here is that he's clearly on an agenda to discredit news outlets.  Yes, sometimes they get it wrong, and they definitely made some mistakes in this case.  But in a day and age when the Far Right shouts "fake news" at everything, it's dangerous to pick the Exception to make a film about rather than the Rule, which is journalists speaking truth to power.  It really shows in the way he de-fames a deceased woman while supposedly seeking to 'set the record straight' on the de-faming of a Southern good 'ol boy.  It's just such hypocrisy that I can't even watch it.  (Jewell btw, was such a "nice guy" that he was happy to cash in on his fame with tons of public appearances after the case.  Also sued the bejeesus out of anyone and everyone who even gave an interview about him.  Said it was about "setting the record straight", but he didn't take any cases to trial, he settled all of them privately for pay days.)

Anyways... I saw a film!
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
(I think watching this scene gives you a better idea of how Chow balances effects, script, music, and acting to achieve the right tone.)
I put off watching this for a long time because I was wary it would do all the things I was tired of in much of modern Asian cinema.  It IS super slapsticky and has tons of wirework and fantasy martial arts.  It does work in propaganda like “the common people are the ones who are the heart of the country” and makes sure to have a character note that a villain’s gun is a foreign gun before disassembling it and showing it’s useless.  The film is filled with stereotypes and tropes that we’ve seen in 100 better movies.  It is in all these ways just like most Chinese films coming out now.  But wait…

The real star here is auteur Stephen Chow.  He directs and helps produce, write, compose, and acts.  He’s not reeeeaaally the “star” of the film, as it’s more of an ensemble.  But where all these characters and their dialogue and actions would be non-stop groaners in other films, Chow executes the gags with a flair and sense of comic timing that sets them apart.  He doesn’t just have one seemingly-typical guy turn out to be a kung fu master…he COMMITS and does it again and again until it becomes funny.  He doesn’t just have non-athletes using wires to look like cool martial artists…he has a middle-aged Chinese dragon lady do it!  He doesn’t just re-use scenes and dialogue from better films…he pays homage to multiple films in the same scene, but has the characters take the homage to a comically absurd level.

The messaging of the film, particularly when it comes to gay characters and young women is …disappointing at best.  Some will likely be turned off by enough of the tone to have the jokes start falling flat.  It’s definitely also made for viewers who are pop culture fluent.  It’s not a Tarantino film, striking you with originality because you haven’t seen what it’s copying.  This film hopes you HAVE seen the originals, and the joke is funnier the more familiar you are.  For fans of Asian cinema, particularly martial arts movies, this one is a fun watch.  It definitely made me aware that I needed to check out more Stephen Chow, who I was unaware was nearly 40(!) when he made this and had already had a long career.  If you can get into the ridiculousness and just not take anything seriously, this could be a fun ride.
 

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mnkykungfu said:
TM2YC said:
If only they wouldn't release all the awards movies at the same time in my country.

Oh, that's the US, too.  'Tis the season.

I'm sure it's a little worse over here, movies are often released later at the cinema and often much later on DVD/streaming (at all times of the year) but they still want to have them out just before the awards, so you get a real glut of cinema and home video releases. There are nominations that are already out on DVD in the US but have only just been released here. e.g. The Lighthouse was out in cinemas in October in the US and was out on DVD in the US a month ago... it's only hit UK cinemas this week.
mnkykungfu said:
Richard Jewel (2019)
There has been some justifiable controversy about the way the late journalist Kathy Scruggs is portrayed but from what I've read, the vast majority of the movie is accurate to the facts of a classic case of trial-by-media.

The problem here is that he's clearly on an agenda to discredit news outlets. 

I'm sure he is but it's a true story and it's the fault of those outlets that it's true in this case. Clint has no more of an agenda than Spielberg had an agenda when he choose to make 'The Post' at this time, a story from the past about how good journalists can be (another fine film IMO). I have a problem with Clint twisting the truth in that one scene but not with him making a movie about a true thing, or his reasons for doing so.

Weathering with You (aka Tenki no Ko - "Child of Weather") (2019)
I bought a ticket to see this one just because no cinema where I live had ever played an Anime film before (not dubbed either) and this might be my only chance. Is it weird that I got goosebumps seeing the Toho studio logo for the first time on a big 4K screen?  :D If you loved 2006's 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time' then this should scratch the same itch. Instead of time-travel powers, the girl has been blessed/cursed with the power to control the weather. It's about the blossoming of first love between a couple of stray kids in big-city Tokyo and the surrogate family around them. The animation of everything is jaw dropping to look at and the characters are so funny and charmingly awkward. I thoroughly enjoyed the score by J-Pop band Radwimps, particularly their song 'Is There Still Anything Love Can Do?' which really heightens the emotion in a big emotional sequence.


 

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I haven't heard of Weathering With You, but now I really want to watch it.
 

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TM2YC said:
Knives Out (2019)
Definitely Rian Johnson's most creatively successful film, he aims to both celebrate and subvert the Agatha Christie style murder mystery and does so with skill and flair.

I also enjoyed it. The bits about morphine were largely contrived, and there was one instance in which a character should have definitely smelled something, with no explanation as to why they didn't, but all in all, a highly engaging and entertaining flick. If Rian Johnson is to make either another Benoit Blanc mystery or more Star Wars, count me as one hoping for the former. Grade: B+
 

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^ Yeah I'd see another Benoit caper in a heartbeat.

A Florence Pugh double-bill...

Fighting with My Family (2019)
'Fighting with My Family' is full of sports-movie cliches, believing in yourself, the washed up coach, the training montages but does them with a spark of joy, originality, intelligence and emotional depth. Florence Pugh plays real-life wrestler Saraya "Paige" Knight, the junior member of a small-time but hardcore wrestling family from Norwich, England who gets a chance to go all the way to the WWE. Lena Headey and Nick Frost are hilarious and so believable as her unconventional parents. The dialogue has many funny lines like "Wrestling's in your blood... like hepatitis", "What were you in prison for?... Mainly violence" and "Well f*ck me 'til I'm dead and bury me pregnant!". Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's flabbergasted reaction to the latter line is a hoot (he has a small cameo). It lets itself down right at the end by pretending the big final match outcome is unknown, purely for reasons of creating artificial drama. That bit aside Writer/Director Stephen Merchant has crafted a heart-warming delight with a great metal soundtrack.


Malevolent (2018)
Florence Pugh stars in this movie about a group of young ghost-hunter/medium/exorcist type fakers exploiting the bereaved in 1980s Scotland... and of course they pick the wrong haunted house to mess with. The trailer makes this look like generic jump-scare fare but it actually largely avoids them and goes for slow creepy chills instead. The third act abandons that more subtle approach in favour of full-on 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' level Horror but by then I'd bought into the interesting morally conflicted characters. Composer Al Hardiman succeeds in re-creating some 'Suspiria'-esque synth soundscapes.

 

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TM2YC said:
I'm sure it's a little worse over here, movies are often released later at the cinema and often much later on DVD/streaming (at all times of the year) but they still want to have them out just before the awards, so you get a real glut of cinema and home video releases. There are nominations that are already out on DVD in the US but have only just been released here. e.g. The Lighthouse was out in cinemas in October in the US and was out on DVD in the US a month ago... it's only hit UK cinemas this week.

I'll have to take your word for that.  Bear in mind though that if you're looking online at release dates, it's misleading.  I see for example that The Lighthouse initially opened in 8 theaters.  Then expanded to 586, then to 978.  That's a real success story for a film in limited release that got a lot of critical praise early on.  But 900 odd theaters still means that it didn't play in much of the US.  Definitely LA and NYC, then probably expanded into some major cities.  People in big sections of the US probably never even knew about it.  They'll catch it on DVD same as you, or maybe it'll get re-released after the Oscars.  Compare that to a major studio film like Black Panther, which I see opened in 4,020 theaters, and actually that was a world premiere that came to the US 2 days later.  And that's just theaters, not talking about screens.  In all likelihood, my local theater in my hometown would've had The Lighthouse on one small screen, and Zombieland Double Tap on 6 - 8 bigger ones.  Those small movies can get swallowed up if you're not dedicated to looking for them.
 
 Clint has no more of an agenda than Spielberg had an agenda when he choose to make 'The Post'

I'll just agree to disagree on this, as I don't want to get too political.  Admittedly, the more I've read about Clint, the more I'm predisposed to believe the worst about him.
 
Weathering with You (aka Tenki no Ko - "Child of Weather") (2019)
I thoroughly enjoyed the score by J-Pop band Radwimps, particularly their song 'Is There Still Anything Love Can Do?' which really heightens the emotion in a big emotional sequence 

Radwimps is my favorite Japanese band!  When I asked Japanese people to recommend J-rock bands to me, they're one of the only ones with songs I wouldn't mostly call Pop.  Check out:
 

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^ That's got a nice indie/punkfunk type vibe. The good thing about music in another language is you can't tell if the lyrics are bad :D .

An Accidental Studio (2019)
An irreverent "rise and fall" retrospective of George Harrison's 'HandMade Films' studio. Most of the Pythons and a lot of execs, crew, actors and Directors are interviewed, dishing out plenty of juicy anecdotes. The Documentary goes through the whole catalogue in order beginning with 'Life of Brian', unexpected hits like 'Time Bandits', stone-cold classics like 'The Long Good Friday' and 'Withnail and I', notorious bombs like the Madonna/Sean Penn vehicle 'Shanghai Surprise' and intriguing films I'd never heard of like the Native-American road-movie 'Powwow Highway'. Harrison's interview clips have no filter, he really just says what he feels.

 

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TM2YC said:
The good thing about music in another language is you can't tell if the lyrics are bad :D .

Ooooh...yeah, Japanese lyrics don't translate so well into English...they're either so context-based that you have no idea what they're talking about, or so incredibly specific that the translation sounds absurd!  You can look them up for this song for a good example lol (It's called O-shakashama).  Short version: it's the singer/lyricist looking at what humans are doing to the planet and wondering if this is part of god's plan or if we should just hit the reset button or if there's another way?  Funky!
TM2YC said:
notorious bombs like the Madonna/Sean Penn vehicle 'Shanghai Surprise' 
 
I just listened to an episode of How Did This Get Made? on that film...frickin bonkers!

I saw a film!
American Pie: The Wedding (2003)
Had a few too many adult beverages and came home to throw on some stupid fun... I spent the first half of this movie going back and forth on if I had seen it before...?  You know when you've watched several scenes from a movie, and seen a lot of trailers, sometimes you're like "Oh yeah, I watched that!" and then you start talking with someone about it and they're talking about major plot points and you suddenly realize "Nope...I definitely would've remembered THAT..."   Well, I was having that conversation with my own drunken self most of this movie.

The clincher was the Stifler dance-off in the gay club.  Undeniably the height of this movie, I was suddenly sure "Yes, I watched this IN the theater, back in the day, and probably blocked it all out of my mind except for this scene."  Like the rest of the movie, it is horrible, it is cliche'd, it does not age well,...but g-damn did I laugh.

Knowing what Sean William Scott can do now, seeing American Wedding's Stifler was such a letdown.  It was just so broad and annoying and dated.  The film just couldn't balance the sweetness and the crassness like I remembered the others doing.  Even though the 2nd American Pie was not as good as the first (of course), I sorely missed all those characters in this film, which just turned into The Stifler Show.  The 2nd one got the balance right of how much to feature him, but without the rest of the gang, he just takes over this film (along with Jim's dad).  It's too narrow and the characters wear thin the more we see them, even the great Eugene Levy.

That said, it turned me around by the end.  Unlike the litany of crappy spinoffs, there are JUST enough good gags/scenes here to validate the film.  If you just want incredibly dumb, gross, goofy fun.  Best watched in an inebriated state with friends providing running commentary.

I also finished watching
Fargo Season 2
I would normally wait to review an entire series, but this is an anthology show where each season is its own story.  If you know the movie, you know the tone and type of characters to expect here, and Season 1 was actually a direct prequel.  I initially liked this season better though, as it got more into the criminal aspect and away from the “mild-mannered Midwesterner bumbles through horrible deed” that has become a staple of this.  Martin Freeman (S1) annoys the piss out of me, and eventually his counterpart in S2, Kirsten Dunst (as well as hubby Jesse Plemmons) annoyed the crap out of me, too.  Their performances were great, but their characters were just grat-ing.  Yup, I did it.  Patrick Wilson and Ted Danson are the heart of this series, and keep you watching while waiting for Zahn McClarnon to pop up again as the chilling “Hanzee”.  This season had a lot going for it.

Unfortunately, like seemingly everything by Noah Hawley, it has to take an abrupt turn 3/4s of the way through.  In this case,
a freaking UFO hovers over the big showdown, clear as day, just long enough for each good guy to escape their respective impending deaths.  Then it flies away.  Yes, seriously.  People’s attempts to justify this have been ridiculous, usually quoting a real incident in the ‘70s where a sheriff reported seeing a UFO, as if that has any bearing on this story.  
Whereas the big turn in S1 of Fargo fit the story and had a pay-off, here it’s awkwardly jammed in with no rhyme or reason, and with story consequences that reveal it to be a literal deus ex machina.  Like in S2 of Hawley’s other show, Legion, the completely irrational twist is not written into the story smoothly.  It’s clearly a writer’s room saying “We need a way to get the characters from where they are now to X…how can we get there in 1 big event?”  Just ruins the series, so I’d have to recommend skipping it.
 

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Radwimps did the music for Your Name, so naturally I love them.
 

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mnkykungfu said:
TM2YC said:
notorious bombs like the Madonna/Sean Penn vehicle 'Shanghai Surprise' 

I just listened to an episode of How Did This Get Made? on that film...frickin bonkers!

I looked them up on soundcloud but I'm just seeing lots of episode numbers. Can you remember which one is was please?
jrWHAG42 said:
Radwimps did the music for Your Name, so naturally I love them.

I keep hearing that previous film is also very good. I've got it on my watchlist for sure.

Uncut Gems (2019)
The buzz has been off the charts on this one, so now that it's finally out this week via Netflix, is it worth the hype? Hell yes! Opening the film with stark white-on-black titles in the famous John Carpenter font (Albertus) and having a synth score by Daniel Lopatin that recalls 'Akira' and Kraftwerk pretty much guaranteed I'd love this. I kinda don't want to praise Adam Sandler when he seems to only feel like putting effort into a film once a decade but I've got to admit he is outstanding as Howard Ratner, a New York diamond-dealer and gambling addict. I ended up rooting for Howard, you can understand why some people have come to despise him because of the chaos he generates and the hurt his addiction has caused them but you can also see that others care for him deeply and he has a sweet nature under the mania and verbal abuse. Directors Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie use the speed of the cuts and camera movement, the overlapping of cacophonous dialogue and the volume of background noise and music to control the energy of the story. It all builds to a shocking, unexpected but yet completely believable (happy?) ending which makes you want to watch it all over again. The one criticism I had was that Basketball and betting on it plays an import role in the plot but the film makes no attempt to explain the rules, the nomenclature, or who the figures we meet from the sport are to non-US viewers. I found it a little difficult to tell if the game at the end was being won, or lost, until it was over, so I didn't get to participate in the tension of that scene in the way I assume I was meant to.


The Breadwinner (2017)
An animated film by Nora Twomey about an 11-year old girl in Afghanistan who rinks her life to masquerade as a boy so she can go out and get food for her starving all-female family (the father has been arrested). The animation looked gorgeous so I was expecting to love this unreservedly but I found the constant interruptions by dream/fantasy sequences to be an irritant (Mostly that's because the real-world scenes are so good). I suspect they are there because for entirely logical reasons the heroine cannot take part in the heroic deed at the end, so they have to have her imagine a heroic story, which can then be inter-cut with reality. I'd be interested to see a version with all those bits taken out.

 

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^ The Shanghai Surprise HDTGM is Ep #213, but it looks as though all of their shows older than six months are only available through the Stitcher mobile app, which allegedly has a free subscription level as well as paid ones. Annoying. It's not as though they live up to their title by doing substantive research or using industry connections to dish juicy gossip! They just banter about flicks like any old assemblage of hack frauds. :p
 
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