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A few reviews

mnkykungfu

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As far as QT8, maybe I'll have to give it a shot... I do find that most coverage of Tarantino tends to be very ...hmm, should I say "soft"?  Like people really want to give him the benefit of doubt, whereas lots of other Hollywood stars get crucified for less.  Like, they'll bring up that he was "inspired" by a film, or that he "asks a lot" of his female actresses, but only to say that they touched on the hard questions.  I'd like one that for example, sits down with Ringo Lam and shows him the scenes of Reservoir Dogs and the scenes from City on Fire side by side and then asks him what he thinks.  An interview with let's say, Denzel Washington (a prominent black actor he's never worked with) where they show footage of Tarantino in interviews talking about "all his black friends" and him saying "that's why it's okay and I can say n****r" and then they ask Denzel what he thinks.  I want an interview like The Act of Killing, where they ask Tarantino to re-enact his conversation where he convinced Dianne Kruger that it had to be him that strangled her to unconsciousness on film.  You know, not just filmmaker commentary, but actually digging in.  Give him a 'fair trial' so to speak, but an actual trial.

As far as Ponyo, you may be right.  I think it would be alone in the Ghibli catalogue though, as what I love about Miyazaki's other films (except possibly Kaze Tachinu) is that they're able to be enjoyed by all audiences.  Very Pixar.  Though I suppose maybe he just was thinking of his grandchildren and didn't manage to get the balance right for adults this time round.

The Quiet Earth!  I remember seeing that as a kid and being fascinated by it.  For some reason, I was stuck on how ugly I thought the main actor was.  haha  My little kid brain had only seen polished movie stars I guess.  I also remembered it as "The Last Man on Earth" and have struggled for years to figure out why I was misremembering that movie (because there is a film called that but it's different.)  Thanks for the post!
 

TM2YC

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mnkykungfu said:
I want an interview like The Act of Killing, where they ask Tarantino to re-enact his conversation where he convinced Dianne Kruger that it had to be him that strangled her to unconsciousness on film.

Kruger does talk about that herself and seemed to think it was all a laugh. The Director chose to not interview Tarantino about anything because she wanted to hear what people thought of him, not be influenced by what he thought of himself. Whether that was the right artistic choice I don't know because I'd have much rather sat there for 2-hours with just him rabbiting on about movies until somebody stopped him :D .

mnkykungfu said:
I remembered it as "The Last Man on Earth" and have struggled for years to figure out why I was misremembering that movie (because there is a film called that but it's different.)

Coincidentally, I plan of watching the 1971 version of that pretty soon. I'm having an apocalyptic binge, which brings me to...

Contagion (2011)
Now we are living it, I wonder how sensationalised a 10-year old Hollywood Coronavirus movie would look? Surprisingly, not much, it's almost prescient and pretty close to the nerve. The only false notes I detected were the cynical assumption that health workers would go on strike and refuse to treat patients in such a crisis (When the opposite has been true, they've gone into battle everyday, regardless of the danger, whether the government provided them with any PPE or not) and how slow the authorities are shown to react, not introducing any preemptive distancing measures and only going to "lock down" once mass panic, rioting and looting was in full swing, instead of well before. Mostly though, it's jaw dropping how close to reality writer Scott Z. Burns got it. With so many disparate plot threads going on, Director Steven Soderbergh wisely employs an all-star ensemble to help the audience remember the faces right from their first shot. Plus those casting choices remove the audience's usual "safety net" of feeling "well they can't possibly kill off that actor" because they are all stars and all expendable. It gets a little schmaltzy at the end, or rather comparatively more schmaltzy compared with the rest of this chillingly bleak and clinical movie. Cliff Martinez delivers another of his propulsive electronic scores.

 

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First Blood (1982)
I'd never got around to seeing this 'til the other day, although I knew most of it by cultural osmosis and I'd seen some of the sequels and numerous tributes and parodies. It was probably a perfect film for a post-Vietnam audience, uniting counter-culture folks and Veterans in dislike for Brian Dennehy's small town Sheriff character and love for Sylvester Stallone's Medal of Honor winner, turned "longhair" drifter. Dennehy brilliantly plays his character as the worst kind of bullying, bigoted, arrogant, power-mad police man. A lot of the credit must go to Stallone for his rewrites to the script to make Rambo the hero (anti-hero?) instead of the villain. The action is top drawer, with dangerous looking real stunts featuring Stallone running around in the woods covered in filth and scrambling through mine shafts in danger of setting himself on fire with a petrol dipped torch. Jerry Goldsmith's score is magnificent, now I can see how influential it was on Alan Silvestri's 'Predator' music.


 

mnkykungfu

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^Speaking of apocalyptic films.... You know, when COVID first started getting taken seriously in the US, it seemed like everybody watched Contagion.  They were all praising it for predicting that the government would delay any serious action until it was far past when they should've done something. 
I remember that film as being fairly typical, which was disappointing, given the cast.  I preferred the film Blindness a lot more, which had me rivetted!
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Toy Story 4 (2019)
Oh boy, here I go again being contrarian.  97% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, an "A" on Cinemascore, an 84/8.0 on Metacritic, and the Oscar for Best Animated Feature: clearly this is a phenomenal film, right?  I just can't justify it, though.  Maybe if I'd never watched a Toy Story film before, but I've been a fan since day 1, and this just seems like such diminishing returns.  The film had the maximum number of credited writers, plus lots more uncredited, and it shows: the story is a hodge-podge of ideas, many of them already done in previous installments.  While this series has always paid homage to itself and been referential, it was in service of building on the joke and expanding the world.  Here, it actually feels either redundant or actively deconstructive.  I actually like the short on the DVD (Lamp Life) much better, as it just dispenses with the window dressing and tells Bo Peep's story.  I know most people were totally on board with the film, but if anyone happens to find it problematic, as I do, here's a lengthy exploration: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/toy-story-4/

Meek's Cutoff (2010)
(Warning: the trailer gives you more info than you get in the first 90% of the film.)
Another film that's a critical darling, and I have to say that I just despised this one.  To me, it's exactly what I don't like about arthouse cinema: an "exploration".  Look, performance art has its place, and I can appreciate it live.  But in cinema, I come for the shamanistic element, that old tradition of relaying wisdom and truth down through the generations.  Sometimes it's cloaked in an extremely entertaining shell, sometimes it feels a bit dull until you figure out the parable at it's core.  But there's a narrative, there are real characters, there's a point.  I'm just not interested at all in directors who say things like "I don't know the answers, it's up to the audience to figure out".  I want the storyteller to know the story they're telling...it's okay if they don't give everything away, but they should know.  I didn't get anything from Meek's Cutoff, and I don't think there was anything deeper to get.  They say that nobody sets out to make a bad movie, but it honestly kind of feels like this director did!  More ranting here: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/meeks-cutoff/

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) (retroactively "Part I")
Ok, finally one I can recommend.  This doesn't really explore what's behind the scene very much, and there's not a lot of insight.  As purely a document though, it's quite good.  They've got early Fear and Circle Jerks, Black Flag before Henry Rollins joined... director Penelope Spheeris was really in the thick of it.  Reminds me of my high school days.  Full review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/the-decline-of-western-civilization/
 

Gaith

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TM2YC said:
[Contagion (2011)] The only false notes I detected were the cynical assumption that health workers would go on strike and refuse to treat patients in such a crisis (When the opposite has been true, they've gone into battle everyday, regardless of the danger, whether the government provided them with any PPE or not)

That line (and, to be fair, it's just a line) jumped out at me during my recent rewatch, too. In the movie's defense, its fictional virus appears to be at least twelve times as fatal, at around 25%, as coronavirus, and possibly up to 25 times as fatal, if COVID-19's infection fatality rate is as low as 1%. (However, the movie's virus also kills so quickly that containing it via lockdown measures would likely be far easier and quicker than is shown. Paltrow goes from smiling and active to dead in 2-3 days, whereas COVID-19 symptoms can take up to two weeks to even begin showing.)




Mindhorn (2016) (US Netflix)


Good heavens, this flick is hilarious - sometimes in a low-key way, but it's an even better time than Dr. Kermode, who also liked it, thought. Required viewing for anyone who loves MacGruber, Hot Rod, and British comedy in general.

Grade: B+
 
TM2YC said:
(btw... There is a little joke during the death scene of a particular character that is one of the darkest and funniest things I've seen all year. Worth the ticket price alone)

Oh, yes. I howled at that one. :D (Though the end credits montage seems to establish that said character survives.)




The Death of Stalin (2017) (US Netflix)

The_Death_of_Stalin.png

 
TM2YC said:
Blackhole-dark satire from comedy-legend Armando Iannucci, about the fevered scramble for power following Stalin's death. An all-star cast led by Simon Russell Beale, who plays the chief of the secret-police with a horrifying mixture of jovial charm and total evil. I loved it but one person who watched it with me found it too dark and disturbing to really laugh at. With the sound off, you might very well think you were watching something along the lines of 'Schindler's List' rather than a comedy.

Aye, a hoot. It reminded me most of Valkyrie, one of my favorite films, but played for laughs. Don't have much else to say about it, other than it's wickedly funny. Grade: A-
 

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Gaith said:
Mindhorn (2016) (US Netflix)


Good heavens, this flick is hilarious - sometimes in a low-key way, but it's an even better time than Dr. Kermode, who also liked it, thought. Required viewing for anyone who loves MacGruber, Hot Rod, and British comedy in general.

Grade: B+
 
TM2YC said:
(btw... There is a little joke during the death scene of a particular character that is one of the darkest and funniest things I've seen all year. Worth the ticket price alone)

Oh, yes. I howled at that one. :D (Though the end credits montage seems to establish that said character survives.)

I've been hankering for a re-watch of that one. Just noticed there is a full music video for a David Hasselhoff Richard Thorncroft single on youtube:


For once, the youtube comments are well worth reading on that one ^. A bunch of people discussing Mindhorn as if it was a real show from the 80s. Imagining Arthur C Clarke wrote one of the episodes, collecting Mindhorn action figures and the times they met Richard on a ferry and he signed autographs :D .

I think that one has the makings of a cult classic.
 

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Logan Lucky (2017)
A terrific comedic heist-movie from heist-king Steven Soderbergh (again serving as Director, Writer, Cinematographer and Editor). Watching him setup the premise, get the team of misfit losers together, plan the job, execute the plan and even throw in some plot twists is very pleasurable. Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough (Elvis' granddaughter) and Daniel Craig are perfectly cast as the robbers. Although Seth MacFarlane is distractingly irritating in a comedy wig and moustache, it was genuinely 1.5-hrs before I realised he had been attempting a British accent. The prison riot supposedly over the publication dates of the 'Game of Thrones' novels was a highlight. Great writing, great characters, great movie.

 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
I've been hankering for a re-watch of that one. Just noticed there is a full music video for a David Hasselhoff Richard Thorncroft single on youtube:


Maybe mocking the '80s is low-hanging fruit, but that video is awesome.  Thanks for that.  Better than anything from The Lonely Island in years.
 

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Mansfield 66/67 (2017)
The tagline of this thoroughly entertaining documentary about 50s/60s sex-bomb Jayne Mansfield announces it's intent "A true story based on rumour and hearsay". It's centered on her "relationship" with Anton LaVey (Head of the Church of Satan) leading up to her death in a car crash. To tell her story the doc uses a dizzying collage of salacious newspaper articles, Hanna-Barbera-style animation, musical sequences, footage from Mansfield's films, recreations employing toy cars and an experimental dance troupe. There are also interviews with Directors Kenneth Anger and John Waters and who knew Arnold Schwarzenegger's last role before hitting pay-dirt with 'Conan the Barbarian' was starring in a film about Mansfield's life. It's perhaps inevitable that a life this crazy and camp intersects in several places with the world of US private big cat ownership, including Tippi Hedren's infamous movie 'Roar'.


The Schwarzenegger film is on youtube in pretty decent quality, I might give it a go for a giggle:

 

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The Conversation (1974)
The film Francis Ford Coppola made in between the first two Godfathers. He is credited with writing, producing and directing but much of the credit has to go to genius Walter Murch who served as sound designer and supervising editor because this is a film that's all about the sound and editing. Gene Hackman plays top surveillance expert Harry Caul, a man who is intensely reserved, closed off and intolerant of people around him, yet has a job exposing the intimate private lives of other people. He is a tragic figure, preferring to lose the girlfriend he secretly loves passionately, rather than share any information about himself with her. Something he can only later confess to a floozy he has met at a surveillance conference, in the saddest scene when his work colleagues play a prank by secretly recording him, not realising he was baring his soul. The title of the film refers to a cryptic conversation he is commissioned to record in the elaborate opening sequence which drags him down into a paranoid obsession with finding out what they were talking about, who wants to know and why.


 

mnkykungfu

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^That Mansfield doc looks wonderfully entertaining.  Added to my list.

Death Race 2000 (1975)
I had always assumed this was too schlocky to be worth the time, but as I quit Netflix recently, I've been checking out what's on Tubi.  At least in my region, it's a lot of older films, lots of straight-to-video stuff, but also a lot of cult classics like this.  What a pleasant surprise it was!  The trailer focuses on the action, but like Robocop, it actually shines with its black humor and cynical insights about our "future".  Review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/death-race-2000/

Hercules Unchained (1959)
The video quality in that trailer is much worse than the real film, but it's actually hard to find trailers for this online.  The movie on the other hand, is everywhere, both the original and MST3K versions.  I saw the latter, which is probably better for getting into the spirit of the whole thing.  (Note: I hadn't seen the film this is a sequel to since I was a kid, but it didn't really matter.)  Review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/hercules-unchained/

Watchmen (HBO mini-series 2019)
Man, where to start with Watchmen?  As much as I love a good action movie or comedy, there's really so much more to say about something like this, so many ways to evaluate and unpack it.  Do you talk about connections to the graphic novel series?  To the original film adaptation?  How about it being built around actual little known actual historic events/people?  Or its place in the current TV landscape of premium TV and its lineage from LOST?  HBO is offering free trials of the first episode in Latin America, and that premiere is so compelling that it's impossible not to watch more...but when you get to the end of the story, you have to ask if they really did justice to the themes of the first few episodes?  Review: https://letterboxd.com/nottheacademy/film/watchmen-2019/
 

Moe_Syzlak

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mnkykungfu said:
HBO is offering free trials of the first episode in Latin America

Where are you? The little flag, at least on my phone, looks like the flag of Indonesia.
 

TM2YC

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mnkykungfu said:
Death Race 2000 (1975)

^ What it lacks in budget it makes up for in crazy, transgressive, satirical fun. I bet a lot of people like me sought this one out after playing 'Carmageddon' in the 90s :D .

5cabf144154dfc099053a563_Carmageddon%20B.jpg


Andrei Rublev (1969)
Although more or less released in 1969 as 'Andrei Rublev', Andrei Tarkovsky's "The Passion According to Andrei" was completed in 1966 but not allowed to be released by Soviet censors until a few years later. It's an extraordinary biographical depiction of the Russian Medieval religious icon painter, although it's structure is experimental and conforms to few of the conventions of the biopic genre. The film is structured into eight separate episodes in which Rublev features (not always in the foreground), plus a symbolic prologue and an epilogue showing Rublev's paintings in closeup. The epilogue is the only sequence in colour, the rest is in stunningly composed and lit high-contrast black & white scope. It's also the only part that really focuses on his paintings and Rublev isn't shown painting at any point in the film. The drama isn't about how he paints, it's about why he creates, what inspires his talent and what makes him turn away from it. It's about the choice to create beautiful art in and for a world of cruelty and chaos. The episodes also mirror aspects of the life of Christ, several characters are depicted being tortured or misused in cruciform poses. We are shown events that have a profound effect on Rublev, like a vision of a snowy Russian passion play, a naked pagan forest ritual, the ravaging of a town caught in a feud between Princes (who Rublev is employed by) and finally the forging of an immense bronze church bell. It's an epic sequence about the will to create against all opposition, that feels like you are really back in the mud drenched, smoke filled 15th-century. The massive crowd scenes and medieval vistas are something to see in this masterpiece.


 

mnkykungfu

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Moe_Syzlak said:
Where are you? The little flag, at least on my phone, looks like the flag of Indonesia.

That's the Singaporean flag.  I lived there when I signed up.  I'm located in Costa Rica currently.
 
TM2YC said:
mnkykungfu said:
Death Race 2000 (1975)

^ What it lacks in budget it makes up for in crazy, transgressive, satirical fun. I bet a lot of people like me sought this one out after playing 'Carmageddon' in the 90s :D .

Holy crap, Carmageddon!  That's a blast from the past.  Actually Twisted Metal was my jam.
Andrei Rublev (1969)

Wow, they made a really gorgeous transfer of that print!
 

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Dracula (2020)  (US Netflix)

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Dracula is a three-part miniseries by British writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, but each installment is both long (~90 minutes) and distinct enough to make it almost feel like a film trilogy. 6'4 Danish actor Claes Bang entirely lives up to his totally metal name with a simply magnificent performance as the Count, and Dolly Wells is just as good playing a no-effs-given atheistic nun determined to put him down.

The third installment has proven highly divisive, and is bonkers as heck, but I loved every wacky, completely unpredictable moment of it. (There's a certain song montage that has to be seen to be believed.) I'm no Moffat-Gatiss fan - I tried and didn't care for Sherlock, and have no interest in Doctor Who - but in this case, they hit it out of the park. I've always had a soft spot for big swings that end up somewhere completely wild, but the key is to start off on solid ground. I thought Sherlock failed because the notion of bringing those characters to the modern day was nonsensical on its face, and I probably wouldn't care at all for the lunacy of the Fast & Furious saga if it hadn't started out as a relatively grounded LA gang/subculture thriller. (Indeed, one of the reasons Hobbs and Shaw fails is its disconnection from that enduring "FAMBLY" spirit.) Dracula, on the other hand, succeeds by starting out as a relatively faithful adaptation of Stoker's novel, with just enough anachronistic dialogue to tease the lunacy ahead.

Grade: A+. Excessive, yes, but I don't care. It's just so much fun.
 

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^ Maybe I'll give that Dracula a chance then, the strongly negative reaction to the 2nd half had put me off investing hours in it.

The Wind Rises (2013)
This biopic of aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi (designer of the Zero) is easily my favourite Hayao Miyazaki so far. 'The Wind Rises' is full of longing, wonder and romance for the age of aviation pioneers, framed by Miyazaki's trademark azure skies. The gorgeous transitions in and out of Jiro's dreams and reality is something that could only be accomplished in hand-drawn animation. Watching the film you become so conscious of the invisible medium in which we exist. Miyazaki continually draws attention to birds wings, ash falling from the sky, an umbrella being caught by a gust of wind, cigarette smoke drifting, hair waving in the breeze, or a paper plane arcing between two people. At several points it's the invisible force that brings his characters together. Jiro is a peaceful, kind, gentle dreamer but he has to come to terms with the reality that his genius for plane building will be misused. At one point he makes a quip to his engineering team about removing the guns from the fighter plane to save on weight and you aren't entirely sure if he's joking or not. The love Jiro has for his sickly wife and Joe Hisaishi's score on Mandolin and brass is so beautiful you wanna cry.

 

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TM2YC said:
^ Maybe I'll give that Dracula a chance then, the strongly negative reaction to the 2nd half had put me off investing hours in it.

I didn't want to be spoilery, but, as you likely know by now, the last episode is a big departure from the first two. Even if one hates it, however, the first two parts pretty much work as a self-contained story, and, unlike (say) Picard episodes, each part has a dramatic arc and sense of conclusion on its own. So, if the anachronistic quips of the first part's opening minutes don't drive you away, I'd recommend giving at least the first two installments a try. :)
 

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71settNFhPL._AC_SY679_.jpg


That Guy Dick Miller (2014)

This enjoyably fast paced career overview of "b-movie" character actor extraordinaire Dick Miller (who passed away in January) has one of the funniest, most memorable and undeniably accurate taglines ever "After this movie, you'll know Dick". Going in, you're aware he'd been in a lot of great movies but goddamn has he been in a lot of great movies! You have to admire his work ethic, which seemed to be saying yes to pretty much every job offer but giving the same 100% no matter how small the part, or low rent the film was. It's a nice reminder of all the fun Dick Miller films you've watched and a neat to-do-list of all the ones you've missed. There is quite a bit of input from Star Trek people like Ira Steven Behr and Robert Picardo, plus clips of Miller in DS9.

 
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