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A few reviews

TM2YC

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That nun film sounds great!

mnkykungfu said:
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 didn't hate it but the scant attention paid to logical problem solving (unlike with DotD) constantly irritated me to the point where I couldn't enjoy it in the way that I'm sure 99% of people did. My review and some further thoughts can be found on this forum page: https://forums.fanedit.org/showthread.php?tid=16680&page=5

I just watched one of those funny pitch meeting videos (posted over the weekend) on the film and it concisely covers the gist of my problems with AQP:

mnkykungfu said:
it was head and shoulders a better production than Dawn of the Dead, which I'd describe as "Good for what it was." 

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:D
 

TM2YC

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Atomic Blonde (2017)
Very much marketed as "from the makers of John Wick", so this was very disappointing. It's all style and no substance and something with no substance has no style. No time is devoted to setting up it's characters, it's all given over to explaining the convoluted triple-cross spy plot, which is made much more complicated than it needed to be by being told in flashback. Charlize Theron gives a commanding performance as usual and nails the action scenes but I couldn't tell you much of anything about her character (She's tough?). They even have James McAvoy deliver a speech at the end, straight to camera, which is basically about how pointless everything that happened in the movie was. If everybody is a triple-agent, then there is nothing to care about. It's set against the backdrop of the Berlin-wall coming down but looks totally at odds with that era. It's all saturated neon drenched clubs packed with haute couture fashionistas, not dull grey concrete, messy graffiti and depressed people with bad mullets and threadbare jumpers. The jukebox synth-pop soundtrack is top notch and the (surprisingly sparse) action is superbly choreographed but it's not enough.

 

mnkykungfu

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^Wow, usually I'm totally on board with your takes on films, TM2YC, but today is apparently the day we disagree!  Not only did I love A Quite Place, but I loved Atomic Blonde, too!  (lol, aware I'm in the minority on that one, but hey, that's what makes a counter-culture film cool, right?)

- I did read your AQP review and watched the video, but for the most part I found all those nitpicks defensible.  I pretty much agree with everything Digmodification said in his comments.  Basically, though, I found AQP to be a sci-fi parenting movie.  The idea is that you can't just put your life on hold, you have to keep raising your kids, and you WILL make mistakes.  It may be a broken condom or misjudgment when you're exhausted or thinking your kid knows better when they purposely do something they shouldn't... but every parent will make some big mistakes.  Much of the film is about how you learn to forgive yourself for those mistakes and to live with them and grow.  It's a movie about personal growth, and growth as a family.

-For Atomic Blonde, I hadn't paid attention to much of the advertising, I just knew it as a comic book adaptation... and it actually improved on the original material imho.  All this remaking of Ghostbusters or Ocean's 11 or trying to make female versions of famous male characters.... I keep saying I wish Hollywood just greenlit original properties that served the same audience.  So here comes Charlize Theron in a sexy action espionage thriller that's everything I could've wanted from a female James Bond.  Yay! 
I've heard all the criticism about people saying "it's too simple" while complaining about the "complicated plot".  Huh?  And the character development...well, I'm not sure how much of that you get in most single Bond movies, but I thought there was an interesting reveal where essentially by the end of the film, you've seen every character espouse a moral philosophy of how to deal with people.  From cynical to a managed optimism to anarchic to self-interested, etc.  By the end, Lorraine is the only one who seems to successfully adapt her philosophy, and she's the last woman standing.  It's actually got a lot more to say than John Wick, and the action is arguably just as good (that epic stairway fight alone!)
 

TM2YC

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mnkykungfu said:
TM2YC said:
Atomic Blonde (2017)
No time is devoted to setting up it's characters, it's all given over to explaining the convoluted triple-cross spy plot, which is made much more complicated than it needed to be by being told in flashback. Charlize Theron gives a commanding performance as usual and nails the action scenes but I couldn't tell you much of anything about her character (She's tough?).

 character development...well, I'm not sure how much of that you get in most single Bond movies

Not much character development no but Bond's character is setup (which is what I was talking about), he's sharply defined and consistent. I know who Bond is and who he will always be, I don't know who Lorraine is.

mnkykungfu said:
I thought there was an interesting reveal where essentially by the end of the film, you've seen every character espouse a moral philosophy of how to deal with people. From cynical to a managed optimism to anarchic to self-interested, etc. By the end, Lorraine is the only one who seems to successfully adapt her philosophy, and she's the last woman standing.

That's an interesting analysis, I can dig that. I'm curious to read the source sometime, I assume it's less action oriented and more a trad twisty-turny cold war thriller.

mnkykungfu said:
It's actually got a lot more to say than John Wick

AB does have more "to say" than John Wick but JW was never pretending to have anything to say philosophically. It does have much more emotional depth, clearly defined goals and the emotion is the driver for those goals, it understands the importance of that in giving us something to root for in the action scenes (The sequels don't bother and arguably don't need to). The first action in JW is 30.5 minutes in, only after all the characters are fully setup and given their plot motivations, the good guys and the bad guys. I did a fanmix of JW where I cut down that setup to the bare minimum (which "probably makes it worse" as I admitted in the IFDB notes :D ) but the action still doesn't begin until 20.5 minutes in. The first action scene in AB starts 16.5 minutes in. More material is devoted to advertising Jack Daniels and Stolichnaya vodka in that time than setting up who Lorraine is ;) .

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Despite my reservations I would watch the promised sequel because it's got potential.
 

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Aliens (1986)
I've saw this countless times in the Theatrical Cut when I was a kid and many more times when the Extended Cut came out on DVD, more times on blu-ray and once at the cinema in a double-bill with the 'Alien' Extended Cut. I went for the TC again, it definitely benefits from not having the Hadley's Hope scene pacing wise but I do miss the little extra moments about Ripley being a mother. Because beyond this being an action-packed thrill-ride, it's a film strongly about mothers (whatever species you are). This time I noticed how definitively the whole movie flips at the 1-hour mark. Up 'til then Ripley is often hunched over, catatonic, sweating, nervous, stammering, hyperventilating, or suffering from nightmares, while the Marines and Burke are calm, collected, cocky and full of wisecracks. It's in that moment when the Aliens attack the Marine squad in the atmosphere processor that everybody else begins panicking and Ripley suddenly takes charge, she knows what to do, the fear is gone. I'd call this scene when she is driving to the Marines' rescue in the APC tank backed by James Horner's thumping militarist music one of the greatest action sequences in movie history, if it wasn't for the fact that this film features at least three more actions scenes that are even better.

The final 25-minutes as Ripley heads back into the crumbling atmosphere processor to rescue her new surrogate daughter are a masterpiece. It's portrayed as a literal and metaphorical Orphic decent into hell. Even though I knew every second of it, I caught myself leaning forward in the seat, worried that maybe this time our heroes wouldn't make their last minute escape from the planet. The audacity that James Cameron had to write a scene where Ripley dons a giant robot suit to battle a 20ft tall monster, with the certainty he could pull it off, totally in-camera, with no CGI and absolute believability. I could quote every line from his script but Jenette Goldstein's Vasquez gets many of the best ones. Cameron's ability to put intensely memorable characters like her on the page and screen with just a few minutes and a few lines is genius.  The design of every nut and bolt of the world is gorgeous but it's that Colonial Marine tech that I love. I'm not a fan of real-world guns (to put it mildly) but I could not resist an "M41A pulse rifle. 10mm, with over-and-under 30mm pump action grenade launcher" if somebody offered me one. I can understand Sigourney Weaver's disquiet on seeing the finished film, when she'd signed on to be in a film about gun crazy Marines and their weapons being useless in the face of nature, to discover Cameron had turned it into weapon fetishist fantasy. The Power Loader, the Dropship, the APC, the Pulse Rifle, the Sulaco, the Smartgun and the amazing Marine armour (hammered into shape by Terry English) is the coolest Sci-Fi hardware ever designed (and yes I did have the Halycon model kits). 'Aliens' is probably in my top-5 favourite movies, writing this review makes me want to re-watch it again already!


 

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Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
I'm sure everyone was forced to see a trailer for this when they watched some big summer movie, so instead, here's a scene that gives a good sense of how the movie plays out.  It's largely what you'd expect: these films have been diminishing returns since the first one.  At this point, they don't even attempt to have a plot where all the convoluted history and travel makes sense or actually serves a purpose.  It's like the opposite of Occam's Razor.  Is there anything redeeming about the film?  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/transformers-the-last-knight/

Blade Runner (1982)
My first time watching the Final Cut, though I think I had seen parts of the Director's Cut before.  I think this is one of those things like Dune, where I grew up watching it in the theater and loved it from the start.  As much as later versions make alterations which I like, they inevitably also make changes I don't like.  So in the end I go back to the one I have emotional attachment to, all things being about equal.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/blade-runner/

What Happened to Monday? (2017)
I liked the production design of this near future sci-fi world... it had that attractive mix of reachable technology with a decayed, used living situation.  Looking at the resume of the director and writer would've set off warning bells for me though, as this ends up making about as much sense as their previous films.  But their previous films were more about fun/horror, whereas this one is meant to be a taut mystery/thriller.  More spoilery review here: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/what-happened-to-monday/
 

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mnkykungfu said:
Dune, where I grew up watching it in the theater and loved it from the start.

I knew there must be another person on planet earth that loved 'Dune'!
 

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TM2YC said:
Not much character development no but Bond's character is setup (which is what I was talking about), he's sharply defined and consistent. I know who Bond is and who he will always be, I don't know who Lorraine is.
Well, it's a bit of a cheat, isn't it?  You pretty much know exactly what to expect from Bond in all the sequels because of the groundwork laid.  But even in the first film, Bond is pretty much an archetype/stereotype... he's that era's idea of masculinity personified.  He's the "playboy" that Playboy magazine was trying to train everyone to be like.  Lorraine is much more of an unknown quantity...she's about playing with expectations, and busting them.  
 
TM2YC said:
AB does have more "to say" than John Wick but JW was never pretending to have anything to say philosophically. It does have much more emotional depth, clearly defined goals and the emotion is the driver for those goals 
Don't get me wrong, I love John Wick, I just used that as an example of how I feel audiences were unfair to Atomic Blonde.  You're right that the big divider is probably emotional.  Again, Wick kind of cheats by leaning in to this tried and true "dead wife" and "death of a pet" pathos.  If Spielberg had directed it (ha!) critics would once again bash him for employing cloying sentimentality to manipulate an audience.  Atomic Blonde doesn't have it so easy.  Americans in particular know nothing and at this point care almost nothing about a divided Berlin.  There's no emotion attached, so they have to get pulled in by the mystery and the action.  I think most audiences actually don't like their 'girl action' so visceral and brutal.  They want Lucy and Salt and Hunger Games and other BS "strong" women, but not one that actually gets the shit beat out of her to take down a bunch of big tough guys.
 
More material is devoted to advertising Jack Daniels and Stolichnaya vodka in that time than setting up who Lorraine is ;) .
Despite my reservations I would watch the promised sequel because it's got potential.

Ha!  I know some people get really bothered by product placement, but I honestly barely notice it.  I'm surprised the film is getting a sequel though, since it was a solid failure.  Maybe because David Leitch had such a big hit with Deadpool 2?
 
TM2YC said:
I knew there must be another person on planet earth that loved 'Dune'!

Dune is such an awesome creation myth.  I can enjoy it purely as a sci-fi take on Exodus and the Jewish myth.  Or an old-school Chosen One fantasy.  I do love some of the extra scenes, so I'm still looking for that perfect version that gets it all mixed right, but the quality difference is horrible.  Until then, I just keep evangelizing for the theatrical version...probably Lynch's most coherent film ever, lol.
 

TM2YC

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mnkykungfu said:
I think most audiences actually don't like their 'girl action' so visceral and brutal.  They want Lucy and Salt and Hunger Games and other BS "strong" women, but not one that actually gets the shit beat out of her to take down a bunch of big tough guys.

Now you mention it, that was an aspect of the film I was really impressed with. Lorraine actually takes all the damage you'd really get from doing the stuff she does. Her eyeball bulging out, cuts and bruising everywhere. Even in the "3-days later" epilogue they'd kept all the horrible looking bruises on her arms and hadn't Hollywood-ized it just because she's wearing a glamorous cocktail dress.

mnkykungfu said:
Dune is such an awesome creation myth.  I can enjoy it purely as a sci-fi take on Exodus and the Jewish myth.  Or an old-school Chosen One fantasy.  I do love some of the extra scenes, so I'm still looking for that perfect version that gets it all mixed right, but the quality difference is horrible.  Until then, I just keep evangelizing for the theatrical version...probably Lynch's most coherent film ever, lol.

I'd love to see 'Dune' on the big screen one day (unlikely), that music over the opening titles booming out of the cinema speakers. The BFI screened it in London in 2011 in a Lynch season but I missed it. Hopefully they'll do it again someday.

King of New York (1990)
Christopher Walken stars as fictional New York crime lord Frank White, backed with a superb supporting cast featuring Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, David Caruso and Wesley Snipes. Director Abel Ferrara dresses everybody, the main cast and all the extras in the background (plus most of the cars) in jet black. It's like everybody is dressed for their own funerals. Walken shifts between catatonic introspection, brooding malevolence, nervous ticks and laughing at jokes only he can hear. He gazes mournfully straight down the camera once at the start and once at the end of the film, like he's acknowledging he is part of an unavoidable doomed tragedy. It's a very interesting performance. Far from the other lo-fi Ferrara films I've watched, this looks beautifully lit with cold natural grey light (plus some occasional deep blues) and noir shadows filling crumbling old New York interiors.

 

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Police Story (1985)
This Jackie Chan action-comedy has a pretty good plot about a young hotshot Hong Kong cop trying to prove himself against a drug gang and other corrupt police officers. He's ordered to protect a very uncooperative mob witness, so he stages a little kidnapping to make her take it seriously but of course they really come after her. Of course it's the insane stunts that really make the film worth watching, Chan hangs off the side of a speeding double-decker bus using only an umbrella, he puts his face through a pane of real looking glass, he leaps up onto the bonnet of a car a split-second before another car smashes into his legs, cars are driven down through (and I mean through!) a shanty town and Chan slides down a pole through exploding lights in a multi-story shopping center (a stunt so good they do two action replays). That chaotic mall showdown is the highlight, using escalators like gym equipment, wrecking every shop and throwing people through all the glass cabinets in sight.

 

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Tiger on the Beat (1988)
Right from the canto-pop title song (in the style of songs like 'Eye of the Tiger') you know this Chow Yun-fat action-comedy is going to be fun, in a 'Bad Boys' type of way. Unlike his other serious action-hero roles, Chow plays a fairly lackluster underachieving cop, who even p*sses his pants in an early scene when a baddie puts a gun to his head. He gets partnered with a muscle-bound overachieving cop in the Jackie Chan mold (I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to get Chan to play the part) and they get mixed up with the sister of a drug trafficker. After an hour of delightfully wacky action there is a bizarre scene where our two lighthearted comedy "heroes" decide to really violently beat her up because she won't stop crying about her dead brother. What the f*ck?! It's like we've cut to a different movie where the same two actors are playing evil b*stards and I think the scene is actually supposed to be funny?! The madcap stunt-filled car chase that happens right after is so good it almost erases what just happened from your memory. Except in the scene after that she is suddenly madly in love with Chow and cooking a celebratory double-date banquet for him, his sister and his new partner (with the scars from her beating still on her face). The last 20-minutes is a hurricane of choreographed Hong Kong action violence. It keeps ramping up the mayhem from Kung fu, guns, and guns as clubs, to shotguns, shotguns on ropes, knives, bayonets and climaxes with an insane chainsaw duel. One of the greatest things I've ever seen. If you edited out that offensive abuse scene in the middle, you'd have a real OTT comedy gem.


Lovin' this theme song:

 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
King of New York (1990)

Stone cold classic!  This is where my love of Fishburne began.  My friends and I used to watch this all the time when it first came out.
 
TM2YC said:
Police Story (1985)
 cars are driven down through (and I mean through!) a shanty town ]

This is the real height of the film for me, just insane.  The homage in Bad Boys II was such a sheit swipe from this, it just made me hate that movie even more for reminding me of what a true awesome action film can be.
 

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American Factory (2019)
Quote from the awesome Union Rep speech at the end of the trailer: 'People working hard hasn't changed...what changed in America was rich people deciding they wanted to rewrite the rules to take advantage of working people.'  Respectfully, I'd refer him to the robber barons of the 1800s... this IS the American Dream, and it's no different for Chinese entrepreneurs like Jimmy Wang, as the film shows.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/american-factory/

The Night Comes for Us (2018)
Honestly, watching that scene will probably give you a better idea of the film than the trailer.  It's visceral, incredibly violent, sometimes doesn't make much sense.  If you're watching this after either of the Raid movies, it's bound to be a disappointment, but some of these fights are a must-see for fans of the genre.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-night-comes-for-us/

Altered Carbon: Resleeved (2020)
This was horrible.  I didn't like the animation style, most of the acting, the relentless tropes, and really the story was garbage.  It even contradicts events of S1 of Altered Carbon.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/altered-carbon-resleeved/

I also watched a few fan-edits recently.  I wrote up reviews on their respective pages, but here are longer Letterboxd reviews:
Lifeforce (1985)https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/lifeforce/
Batman Forever (1995)https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/batman-forever/
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-dark-knight-rises/
 

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mnkykungfu said:
American Factory (2019)
Quote from the awesome Union Rep speech at the end of the trailer: 'People working hard hasn't changed...what changed in America was rich people deciding they wanted to rewrite the rules to take advantage of working people.'  Respectfully, I'd refer him to the robber barons of the 1800s... this IS the American Dream, and it's no different for Chinese entrepreneurs like Jimmy Wang, as the film shows.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/american-factory/

I’ve been thinking about doing an American Dream triple feature: Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and There Will Be Blood.
 

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Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Aubrey Plaza plays disturbed stalker Ingrid, just released from an institution and beginning a new obsession with L.A. "social media influencer" Taylor, played by Elizabeth Olsen. This pitch-black comedy explores the disturbingly thin line between a relationship with a stalker who believes you're a friend and all the other thousands of online strangers with whom you share every aspect of your life, as if they are your friends. Director and co-writer Matt Spicer approaches all the characters with sympathy. So Ingrid isn't just shown as being crazy, she's lonely and does have a conscious and some self-awareness of her problems. Taylor isn't just portrayed as vacuous and self-obsessed, she can be genuinely nice and has her own personal problems. However, the movie wisely begins by showing Ingrid attacking a previous stalking victim, so there is always a dark nervous tension over the rest of the performance, even when she appears to be normal and you are tempted to like her. O'Shea Jackson Jr. is a thoroughly likeable presence as Ingrid's landlord and love interest, a harmlessly self-deluded wannabe screenwriter. Billy Magnussen's over-egged turn as Taylor's drug-addict brother was the only character that rang false. The reveal of Taylor's husband's paintings was my highlight, I really laughed when we cut to them.

NSFW trailer:

 

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Moe_Syzlak said:
I’ve been thinking about doing an American Dream triple feature: Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and There Will Be Blood.

Wow, that would be a really heavy marathon lol  Good on ya.
 

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Project A (1983)
This farcical Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung/Yuen Biao film is pretty much "Carry On Hong Kong". The plot is some nonsense about pirates and inter-service rivalry between the Police and the Coast Guard, most of which goes nowhere. The script doesn't even bother to introduce the main antagonist until 5-minutes before the final big showdown, it's all about the jaw-dropping stunts and furious fight scenes and there are plenty of those. Chan jousts on a bicycle, re-creates Harold Lloyd's clock-hanging stunt and he gets lots of mileage out of jokes about grenades exploding. I think this is the first Sammo Hung movie I've watched and I can see why he is popular with audiences, he's such a charismatic physical comedian.

 

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^The Buster Keaton tributes are strong here.  You've gotta watch the sequel to this, which is arguably better!
 

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The Recovered

Ever wondered what if RedLetterMedia made a serious movie? Well The Recovered answers that question and it is not very good. It's slow, dull and the only good parts are the dream sequences. There's no humor and I just bored the whole time. And it's confusing, I had almost no idea what was going on the whole time and the ending doesn't help. Oh, and it might have inspired Slender Man. 
 

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Five Came Back (2017)
Documentaries can sometimes seem boring, especially ones that use a lot of really old film footage.  This one does a great job painting amazing yet identifiable portraits of these five famous directors.  What puts it over the top for me is the setup of having 5 modern directors give their insight covering each of the Golden Age directors.  For film fans, it's simply a must-see.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/five-came-back-2017/

The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)
^Slightly spoilery behind-the-scenes look at the real people the film was based on that works as a good companion to my full review.
I try to evaluate movies for what they are, not what I wished they were or imagine them to be.  Just what the director puts on screen.  It's hard not to wish for an alternate version of this story, though: one where CIA agents run a tourist resort and have to deal with cranky guests, German tourists looking for a fling, diving instructors who keep sleeping with the housewives.  The juxtaposition between having to keep up this frivolous cover in order to do the very serious work of smuggling out refugees would make a film with a lot of emotional ups and downs.  Sadly, that is not the film we get here.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-red-sea-diving-resort/

Life Overtakes Me (2019)
Soooo... I was unaware of any controversy about this one in the US, but in Sweden (where its story is) it is HIGHLY controversial.  Essentially, what the filmmakers are representing in the above presentation is a VERY one-sided point of view.  There is a ton of investigation and debate about this, but we see absolutely no hint of that in the film.  It honestly makes it kind of hard for me to even call this a "documentary"...it could potentially be more like "reality" TV.... full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/life-overtakes-me/
 
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