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A few reviews

TM2YC

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Hoodlum (1997)

Director Bill Duke's biopic of 30s Harlem mob boss Bumpy Johnson isn't quite up there with 'The Godfather' but it's pretty damn good. The plot focuses on Bumpy fighting a gang war against Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) over control of the numbers racket in Harlem, with Andy Garcia's Lucky Luciano calmly picking sides. Elmer Bernstein's deliberately old-fashioned and romantic orchestral score is beautiful. Duke's filmmaking is classically styled too, long slow pans and crossfade scene transitions. The dialogue is full of flavour that feels authentic to the location and the time period.

Fun Facts: Laurence Fishburne was effectively reprising the same role from Francis Ford Coppola's 1984 film 'The Cotton Club' (the venue briefly appears in 'Hoodlum' too) and although Clarence Williams III plays a different gangster here, he would go on to play Bumpy in Ridley Scott's 2007 film 'American Gangster'. A prequel TV-series to Scott's film came out at the end of last year with Forest Whitaker in the Bumpy role and it's written by Chris Brancato, who was the writer on 'Hoodlum'.

The trailer makes it look like a violent action flick...


...but it's more of a historical character drama, like in this scene...

 

mnkykungfu

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Masirimso17 said:
I don’t think it’s worth overthinking how it works but they could have easily had him chase the missiles again.

To me, it didn't require much thought at all, it was just watching and saying "What the?!"  But if you can come up with a fanedit that fixes the continuity, I'd be on board!

Speaking of Superman films, I did my Round 2 of DC Animated Universe movies.  As there really weren't that many great ones in the batch I watched before, I decide to explore some more, and actually the overall quality of these was better!

Not So Great:
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
There was a great comic story years ago where Lex Luthor, a well-known villain, runs for US president as a "successful businessman".  He then uses that office to turn the public against Superman by highlighting that he's "not one of us" and is dangerous.  Hard to imagine, huh?  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/superman-batman-public-enemies/

Superman vs. The Elite (2012)
Like Public Enemies, the art style in this sucks and the film's ending kind of fails the premise.  These are the only two of this list that I'd advise everyone skip.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/superman-vs-the-elite/

Justice League Dark (2017)
Slightly better than the previous two films, but very much a mixed bag.  If you're into mystical stories and lesser-known characters, this might be worthwhile.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/justice-league-dark/

Superman: Unbound (2013)
Some great talent behind the scenes of this one, but personally the story just rubbed me the wrong way.  Others may find it refreshing.  A pretty cool portrayal of Braniac might be a reason to watch this.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/superman-unbound/

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
This is a direct sequel to Public Enemies, but it focuses more on introducing Supergirl.  It's got some good stuff in it that makes it a bit more worthwhile, but also some of the Supergirl material is problematic.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/superman-batman-apocalypse/

Pretty Good:
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011)
I probably like this a bit more than most people because I'm a big sci-fi geek.  Anything like Lensman, some intergalactic peacekeeping force?  I'm in.  There's a lot more to this film though, even if that setup doesn't appeal to you.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/green-lantern-emerald-knights/

Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015)
There was apparently a big lead-up to this film, and it looked like there might be a spinoff series from it.  That hasn't happened, but it would be pretty cool.  This wasn't the JL film I expected, but it was mostly a very pleasant surprise.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/justice-league-gods-and-monsters/

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)
Devotees of the original comic (essentially Batman as Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper) complained about this story, but I really liked it.  Some people complained about the art, but again, I really liked it.  A pretty mature and different Bat-venture.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/batman-gotham-by-gaslight/

Surprisingly Great:
Batman: Hush (2019)
Again, some comic fanboys got pretty wound up about this adaptation to the famous story, but I thought it really worked, even made improvements.  The art style is not as expensive as a theatrical release, but still faithful to the dynamism of the comic story.  Like Gotham by Gaslight, this portrays a more human, more vulnerable Batman, and that really appealed to me.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/batman-hush/

Justice League: Doom (2012)
This is a really engaging movie that brings together everything that made Superman, Batman, and the JL animated series great.  A bit of a throwback to that "Timm-verse", the film is packed with characters and details that comics fans will love.  Not that you have to know all those to appreciate this story, which is essentially the JL vs the Legion of Doom!  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/justice-league-doom/

Justice League vs. the Fatal Five (2019)
This was the big surprise winner of this round of films.  I can wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone, whether an animation fan or not, a superhero fan or not.  It's actually kind of a Legion of Super Heroes film, but you don't need to know or care who that is.  It surprisingly manages to balance all the characters, and give just enough great moments to both the new characters it introduces and the returning supporting cast.  A near perfect film, it does that great thing animation can do, where I think it would be gripping and suitable for kids, but doesn't talk down to them and would also be genuinely moving for adults.  Plus, it definitely benefits from being about 15 minutes longer than the typical DCAU movie.  Give it a watch!
Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/justice-league-vs-the-fatal-five/
 

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I watched The Hunt a few days ago, and I loved it. I went to see the theater to see The Invisible Man, but I got there too late, so I saw this instead. I'd never heard of it before then, somehow avoiding all of the controversy.
It is political, so mayhaps I shouldn't go into the plot.
It's heavily violent, but the circumstances and timing makes such scenes hilarious, and I found myself laughing a lot. The acting is very good as far as I could tell. There's an amazing fight scene at one point.
I don't have much to say. Watch if you're open to seeing your political party mocked, not that it's too extreme, or if you don't care about politics. If you'd take it personally, maybe skip this.
 

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I just watched Guns Akimbo. It was an amazing movie.
Stylistically it reminded me very much of Scott Pilgrim, so if you want that mixed with some ultra violence, look into this. The editing is similar at times, with comic esque graphics on the screen. In addition, it has the same video game esque action, although way more shoot-y. It's also hilarious.
Daniel Radcliffe was amazing in it, I haven't seen him in anything outside of Harry Potter. Samara Weaving was pretty cool too.
Really everything about this movie was super awesome and I loved it. One of my new favorite movies. Highly recommended.
 

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The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Now seemed like the ideal time to crack open the new Arrow 4K blu-ray transfer and re-watch Robert Wise's film. After a satellite containing an extra-terrestrial virus lands in a small town and wipes out all but two of the population, a team of scientists in a top-secret underground research bunker must find out why. The dialogue and visuals are packed with realistic sounding bio-hazard nomenclature, detailed documents, convincing lab equipment and computer graphic diagrams (faked by FX wiz Douglas Trumbull). It all feels pretty believable, or at least for a 1971 scientific and technical response. The unflinching scenes of dead bodies, men, women and children as the scientists explore the literal ghost-town still look shocking. It's credit to Wise and author Michael Crichton that a film this slow paced, dry, minimalist and cerebral can be this nail-biting and exciting. Kate Reid injects a big dose of fun in to proceedings as the sarcastic, irritable, anti-authoritarian Scientist Dr. Leavitt. As per usual, Wise is obsessed with his split-diopter shots, even shooting people sitting at the same table with the lens, at points it was distracting because you can see that the actors dare not move an inch. Gil Melle's unsettling avant-garde electronic Jazz score sounds very different. There are a couple of plot points around officials coping with an unnamed and unseen US President who is irrational and indecisive. I'm sure audiences in 1971 were well aware they were mocking Nixon.

FYI: Viewers might be concerned about the disturbing footage that seemingly shows a monkey being slowly gassed but apparently it was only knocked out for an instant before being speedily revived (if you watch closely you can see the shadow of somebody rushing in just before the shot in question cuts away). You wouldn't get way with it today but at least no animals were permanently harmed.


 

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Vultural said:
Vexed - S01 - 2010 - 7/10

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Three episodes of acid comedy, satirizing cop shows.
Toby Stephens jaw-dropping as clueless, no-check-switch, politically incorrect police inspector.
Lucy Punch as his sharp-tongued partner, prone to violent outbursts.
Truly funny in a mean, cruel, black-humored manner.
For those who appreciated Touch Of Cloth, only more wicked.

Have not viewed S02 yet. It aired two years later and supposedly
replaced one character and toned down Stephens’ cringe producing behaviour.
If true, too bad. Suits making creative decisions.

Seems dead-on, amigo. Vexed's first three-episode season (all nine eps are currently on US Netflix) are hilarious, laugh-out-loud screams, with a clear inspiration from the '80s Dirty Harry TV riff Sledge Hammer!. And then the first episode of the second season is... almost totally neutered. Toby Stephens' hero still mugs about and acts oddly, and the hour-long episode still contains a few hearty chuckles, but the ribald, proudly un-PC edge is all but gone. Anyone who enjoys comedy of men behaving badly (with his woman partner equally formidable in many respects) should give the first season a watch. Beyond that... meh.
 

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TM2YC said:
Hoodlum (1997)

I haven't seen this since the '90s, but my friends and I were big fans!  We loved Laurence Fishburne, and I remember him being magnetic in this.  Good pull.
 
jrWHAG42 said:
I just watched Guns Akimbo. It was an amazing movie.
Stylistically it reminded me very much of Scott Pilgrim

Interesting!  I do love me some Scott Pilgrim.  I always want to see Dan do well, as he seems like such a great guy in interviews, and he's always taking risks.  I figured this was one that didn't pay off, since initial reviews of the movie were just savage.  It looks like it's starting to accumulate a few fans though.

Continuing my streak of Netflix Originals!
High-Flying Bird (2019)
This is one of those trailers that pretty much shows the whole movie, but honestly I think it can only be understood once you've seen the movie... which is not nearly as coherent or compelling as the trailer.  Wonder if Soderbergh cut it?  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/high-flying-bird/

The Titan (2018)
I actually like trailers that focus on small parts of a movie and kind of mislead you a bit instead of showing you the whole arc.  This one however, I think did that in a way that everyone was disappointed when they saw what the movie actually was.  Also, it kind of goes off the rails in the final 3rd.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-titan/

I Lost My Body (2019)
I avoided watching this for a long time because I tend not to love French animation.  The music and animation style in the trailer didn't grab me, and it looked pretentious AF.  I think Amelie is one of the most over-rated films of all time, and the director seemed to have made this Hand story (which was just as derivative as I feared.)  But what I didn't expect was the real human story at its core, which was surprisingly engaging.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/i-lost-my-body/
 

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Trump: An American Dream (2017)
Despite the font of the title, this short docu-series isn't really a hit-piece, and is about as balanced as you could be.  Mostly archival photos and videos, but with new interviews with many of the people who interacted closely with him back in the 80s and 90s.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/trump-an-american-dream/

The Two Popes (2019)
Key point to take away here: this is not some boring conversation between two old guys!  It's made by Fernando Meirelles, who directed the amazing City of God, and Blindness, which is one of the best pandemic movies to come out in these recent years of generic, rehashed global virus films.  The Two Popes really moves along, and is a vibrant film.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-two-popes/

The Highwaymen (2019)
This is not a typical flashy Hollywood action movie.  That may have let down some people.  A better comparison would be Costner's Western films like Open Range or even Dances With Wolves.  The main character(s) are often strong, silent types.  The focus is on atmosphere and scenery.  The violence is brief, brutal, comes suddenly, and is over nearly as quickly.  This film follows two real life Texas Rangers, honest to goodness badasses, in the very early age of modern law enforcement.  They're kind of fish-out-of-water, kind of men-out-of-time, but that quiet, determined cowboy severity persists throughout the film.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-highwaymen/
 

TM2YC

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^ I've had that Costner one sitting on my watchlist for some time now. I'm moving it to the front of the queue. Thanks.
 

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By the way, Superman: The Movie fans, I just happened to run into this and you may get a kick.  :)
 

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Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (2015)
Fascinating behind-the-scenes Documentary about Steve McQueen's out-of-control 1971 "passion project" 'Le Mans'. He insisted that nothing be faked in pursuit of capturing the essence of speed and racing on film. If a car was supposed to be going 200mph in a scene, then the stundrivers had to be doing 200mph for real (one of them got maimed). McQueen wanted to do all his own driving and they filmed the actual 1970 race to use in the movie (they entered a camera mounted car in Le Mans). Unfortunately there was never a script McQueen could agree on, so the director quit, the studio took over, something compromised was eventually released and it bombed. From the amazing footage shown in this doc, I'd still love to see the movie when I can get to a copy.


 

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Quarantine-athon!  Only 1 week left before my Netflix membership is up.  Watched these three originals, and I can recommend two out of the three...

The Two Killings of Sam Cooke (2019)
Despite the trailer, this isn't really a heavy investigation into Sam's death.  But if, like me, you only knew about his amazing singing, this is a great examination of why his killing was significant.  It shows what a cultural force he became, and how tragic his loss was.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/remastered-the-two-killings-of-sam-cooke/

The Rachel Divide (2018)
That's not so much a trailer as a really enlightening teaser.  If you don't know the story about Rachel Dolezal, it's fine, this documentary will walk you through her audacious claims.  It's a provocative film that may make you ask "How much should we try to understand people who are hurting VS. how much should we prevent them from hurting others?"  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-rachel-divide/

The Discovery (2017)
Is it just me, or did Robert Redford get much more lax about the projects he signed on to before he supposedly retired from acting?  Most of my review is a very spoilery breakdown of all the problems with this film, which you can totally read because I don't recommend watching it.  Full review here: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-discovery/
But if you must go spoiler-free: Jason Segel goes back home to confront his dad about his research, which involves proving that there is an afterlife.  The science in the film is horrible gobbledygook, and there are at least 10 alternative explanations for everything, but all this setup is actually an excuse to tell a very different kind of story, which you don't find out until near the end of the film.  Not recommended.
 

TM2YC

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^ That Sam Cooke doc looks good.

That Thing You Do! (1996)
I always meant to watch this one but never did 'til today, wow have I been missing out! Tom Hanks writes and directs, as well as playing a supporting role and even co-writing a few of the tunes. He plays the manager (loosely inspired by Brian Epstein) of a new band called The Wonders heading for "the toppermost of the poppermost" in British-Invasion era USA. Even if I wasn't loving the characters, story, humour and gleeful vibes, I'd still be enjoying just soaking up the precisely observed 1960s atmosphere, the graphic design, the fashion and all the objects and appliances. The increasing stature of the band is subtly reflected in these design choices. The scene where the band first hear themselves on the radio and run screaming through their hometown is pure joy captured on film. Steve Zahn in particular is a scream, while Charlize Theron and Liv Tyler really standout in early roles. The blu-ray had the option of watching either the Theatrical Cut, or Hanks' 2007 Extended Cut (40-minutes longer). I'm glad I went for the latter because from what I've read, the TC ripped out a lot of important material. Plus when a film is this much fun, 2.5-hours zoom by.

 

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^Woah!  Didn't realize there was an extended cut!  That is good news, since the theatrical cut was decidedly 'meh'.  It had all the high points you mentioned (plus I just love Steve Zahn since always), but the story just didn't have teeth.  Too bad, since the behind-the-scenes was so compelling.  For example, Hanks said he didn't want them to play a band, he wanted them to be a band.  So he made them learn their instruments and do song rehearsal every day, just like a real band, basically living together.  They said it was weird by the time they actually recorded the songs in the movie, because they had to fake playing like on BBC shows for the real sound to be added in post.  They were so used to actually playing that it was hard to fake it!  (Oh, and none of them were musicians!)
 

TM2YC

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mnkykungfu said:
^Woah! Didn't realize there was an extended cut! That is good news, since the theatrical cut was decidedly 'meh'.

I got the Region-A blu-ray off eBay which has both cuts on the same disc and quite a few bonus features (plus a nice retro cover): https://www.amazon.com/That-Thing-You-Do-Blu-ray/dp/B00BATGBR6/

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mnkykungfu said:
the story just didn't have teeth.

I was expecting all the usual rock movie cliches like one of them getting into hard drugs, or mental illness, or their managers being evil crooks... so I was pleasantly surprised when all those were avoided and it was just all-round nice. So you could definitely say it didn't have teeth dramatically but I kinda enjoyed that about it.

mnkykungfu said:
the behind-the-scenes was so compelling.

Yes they are. It looks like they all had a great time making the film.

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Wild Search (1989)
I know what these Hong Kong action films are like for their fatalistic doomed heroes, so I was afraid that any of the main characters in Ringo Lam's 'Wild Search' were going to die at every turn. What it lacks in action (compared to say John Woo) it makes up for in drama, emotion and characterisation. Chow Yun-fat's cop 'Mew Mew' becomes the protector of the sister of a dead arms dealer (her sister who is killed in a raid gone bad) and her impossibly cute little niece Ka-Ka. Ku Feng beautifully plays Ka-Ka's grandfather, who initially cruelly rejects the child of his disgraced daughter. There are some really nice moments of charming comedy too. I love the oldskool gory squibs, jaw-dropping stunts and real explosions in these films but holy sh*t, setting what is obviously your actual lead actor on fire is insane. I bet they filmed that bit last! One of my new favourite 80s Hong Kong flicks. Hopefully this gets a really nice blu-ray release someday (the DVD I watched looked poor).

 

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Watched another music doc and 2 for St. Patrick's Day:

Tricky Dick and the Man in Black (2018)
Good short doc that's less about the music and more using Cash as an example of America's soul being split in the '60s.  Loss of innocence and blind patriotism and conservatism combine with the U.S.' newfound sense of worldwide compassion and responsibility.  Nixon attempts to use Cash in his "Southern Strategy", which has been employed by Republicans ever since to divide and conquer in the U.S.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/remastered-tricky-dick-the-man-in-black/

The Boxer (1997)
I purposely looked for Irish movies that were not about The Troubles or politics, etc.  Wanted to let that rest on St. Patrick's Day.  Turns out I failed, because the boxer is not an action movie about boxing at all really, it's a drama about the IRA.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-boxer/

Ondine (2009)
This one seemed like a much lighter film, and I was hoping for something with all the feels of "Once".  Alas, it was not to be.  Neil Jordan seems to promise an Irish fairy tale, but Roan Innish this is not.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/ondine/
 

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Dawn of the Dead (1978)
It's about time for a re-watch of this classic film about a group of people isolating themselves indoors from all the infected people outside. One of the things I love most about George A. Romero's movie is the clever and systematic way the characters go about setting themselves up in the mall. They act like such real people, believable, fallible and endearing protagonists. I couldn't help comparing it to the very shallow treatment of a comparable situation in 'A Quiet Place'. On past viewings, I hadn't noticed how many little moments there are of Roger becoming paralyzed with terror in the first half. It really sets up when he finally does have his break down during the truck corral scene. Ken Foree is amazing as Peter, you'd really want him on your team in a zombie apocalypse.

I watched Dario Argento's shorter "Zombi" European Cut for the first time, via the unusual full-frame/open-mate unrestored transfer on the 4K Midnight Factory boxset (it's totally uncropped, showing the edges of the film cells). It's like watching some sort of early rough-cut version of the movie in a 35mm screening room. I absolutely adore Claudio Simonetti/Goblin's score so I liked that this cut uses more of it but sometimes it did drown out the dialogue and sound (not sure if this was the rough audio of the transfer though). Argento manages to tell the same story in 10-20 minutes less time than either of Romero's cuts but the satirical elements felt less biting, the introspective moments weren't as deep and there is much less kooky humour.

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The Little Hours (2017)   (currently on US Netflix)

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This is a 14th-century sex farce set in a convent, featuring Allison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Dave Franco, and Fred Armisen. That should be all you need to know to give it a spin. It is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and runs a trim 90 minutes. It is great. Grade: A-
 

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TM2YC said:
I couldn't help comparing it to the very shallow treatment of a comparable situation in 'A Quiet Place'
Are you saying you didn't like A Quiet Place?  I mean, I'm not really a horror fan per se, but to me it was head and shoulders a better production than Dawn of the Dead, which I'd describe as "Good for what it was." 
 
Gaith said:
The Little Hours (2017)  
This is a 14th-century sex farce set in a convent, featuring Aubrey Plaza

I'm a big Aubrey Plaza fan (if not her films) and she often states this film as one of her favorites.  When she has talked about it in interviews, she describes it in such a way that you know exactly why it didn't do very well, while acting surprised "I don't know why more people didn't watch it..."  She's a gem.
 
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