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A few reviews

Gaith

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Uncut Gems (2019)

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TM2YC said:
[...] 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.

Hm, I was much less fond of him; found him a thoroughly garbage person, all around, though the guys after him were of course no better. I found it particularly interesting how his older son looked, dressed, and acted like a kid straight out of The Sopranos apart from the Passover yarmulke, and how the Jewish antagonist's heavies had prominent Catholic necklaces - this NYC jewelry subculture being a place where many ethnicities and traditions come together, and intermingle in a gutter of moral rot and depravity.

Anyhow, a compelling film, and I hope the stunning and captivating first-time actress Julia Fox finds future acting work. Hell, a sequel picking up with her character would be most welcome.

Grade: B+

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mnkykungfu

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Gaith said:
Uncut Gems (2019)
TM2YC said:
[...] I ended up rooting for Howard, 

Hm, I was much less fond of him; found him a thoroughly garbage person, all around, though the guys after him were of course no better. 

This is actually my problem with pretty much all Safdie Brothers films.  I don't have to think a film's main character is a good person, or even find justification for their actions, but I have to want to watch them.  If I think they're a waste of space and I'm actually rooting against them, I can't enjoy the film.  Maybe this is just me...I have the same issue with lots of other works from well respected directors, too.
 

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^ I don't mind watching vile characters now and then so long as the conflicts are dramatically complex and the storytelling packs momentum, and Uncut Gems definitely meets those criteria. And, as dismayed as I was by many of Julia's choices, I was rooting for her, as well as Idina Menzel's character.
 

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I feel like we’ve had this conversation before. A main reason why I preferred Good Time to Uncut Gems is that Pattinson is a much better actor than Sandler and he is able to make a despicable character somewhat sympathetic. Sandler does okay, but I think a lot of the attention for Uncut Gems is due to the fact that Sandler surprisingly does okay. But he’s never flat out great in my opinion.
 

TM2YC

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^ Well that all segues nicely into my thoughts about another Safdie film...

Daddy Longlegs aka Go Get Some Rosemary (2009)
After their short experimental debut, 'Daddy Longlegs' feels like the Safdie Brothers' first "proper" film, although it's still shot in a rough documentary style. They loosely base the story on times with their own divorced father. Lenny, a New York hipster projectionist has his two sons over to stay for his court appointed 2-weeks of the year. He clearly adores them and takes them on all kinds of free-spirited fun activities and  unusual experiences. The problem is he's also selfish, impulsive, abrasive, disorganized, irresponsible, reckless and constantly surrounded by chaos. As the two weeks go on his life progressively falls apart, while all the friends he's burned and taken advantage of before refuse to help him again. By the end I was feeling genuinely afraid that he was going to accidentally get his two boys killed somehow and you could see in their eyes that they'd begun to recognize, this isn't how fathers are supposed to be. Sometimes love isn't enough, some people just shouldn't be parents. There's a great little moment that encapsulates Lenny where he's striding down the street struggling to hold three ice creams that are melting all over his hand. Surprising his kids with a treat to make them happy is as far as his thought process and planning went. I've still got one more Safdie Brothers film to watch but so far they all seem to confront the viewer with self-destructive, potentially unsympathetic people, although 'Daddy Longlegs' offers a more overt judgement on them.

 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
Sometimes love isn't enough, some people just shouldn't be parents. 

Describes Pattinson's character in Good Time perfectly.  I didn't find him sympathetic at all, he's a p.o.s.  These guys' work is just not for me.  And as far as Sandler goes, I literally made a list about this: https://boxd.it/4rwFQ
 

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Whale Rider (2002)
Director Niki Caro's 'Whale Rider' is a really beautiful film about New Zealand's Maori holding on to their cultural heritage in the present day, part gritty reality and part spiritual romance. Pai's twin brother (a first born male who was destined to be the new chief) dies in childbirth along with her mother, then we cut to her aged 13 and see her family and community still dealing with the trauma. Most of the focus is on Pai's relationship with her stern, staunchly traditional grandfather Koro (the current chief). Koro blames her for everything that has gone wrong with the tribe but also loves her deeply. Pai is selfless, strong willed, wise beyond her years and understands her grandfather better than he knows himself. I had a little cry during her school recital scene but the film is full of deadpan Kiwi humour too. The score by 'Gladiator' co-composer Lisa Gerrard is powerful and emotional. All the performances are deep and nuanced. I loved this film! I look forward to seeing what Caro can do with Disney's live-action 'Mulan'.

 

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Shooting Fish (1997)
This Britpop romantic comedy/crime caper was huge back in the day (on the UK VHS rental market anyway), it's got the Oasis/Blur haircuts, brightly coloured clothes and stylistic ticks of the period, plus a vintage jukebox soundtrack featuring bands like Space, The Wannadies and The Divine Comedy. Two cheeky orphan con men and a girl they befriend (Kate Beckinsale) concoct various outlandish schemes to rob the rich and give to the poor (themselves), while getting mixed up in dodgy property deals, trouble with the law and an unfortunate change in currency. Dan Futterman is an utterly charming screen presence, it's surprising he hasn't been a bigger star. If they'd made the Han Solo prequel movie in the late 90s/early 00s, I couldn't think of anybody better. Happily he's now a multiple Academy Award nominated screen writer and producer. 'Shooting Fish' is essentially a 90s update of the Ealing Studios comedies such as 'The Lavender Hill Mob'. It's a little dated but still a lot of fun.  I watched an awful looking SD 4:3 pan & scan version (it was originally a 2.35:1 film) which was on Amazon Prime. An old DVD in the correct AR is available but this could really do with an HD upgrade.


 

bionicbob

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THE OLD GUARD (Netflix)
based on the comic by Greg Rucka


Highlander meets the A--Team. Except no where near as fun.

Charlize Theron leads a team of immortal mercenaries, who are dedicated trying to make the world a better place. Now they are being hunted by Big Pharm to discover their secret of eternal life.

This is essentially an origin/set-up movie. A very formulaic and predictable one. But there are enough fresh bits and pieces to hold your interest. While the cinematography is rather bland, there are some nice action pieces. And like most comic books, the movie ends on an obvious cliffhanger.

The cast is good and I was engaged enough that I would be interested in watching a sequel now that all the heavy story lifting is out of the way.

7 out of 10 for me.
 

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bionicbob said:
THE OLD GUARD (Netflix)
Highlander meets the A--Team. Except no where near as fun...
7 out of 10 for me.

I was planning on watching this this week, glad it is entertaining. I was getting Underworld vibes from the trailer but Highlander X A-Team is a much better description.
 

TM2YC

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^ After 'Fury Road' I'll watch any action film with Charlize Theron in it. I'll give that a spin some time.

Meek's Cutoff (2010)
'Meek's Cutoff' is very loosely based on real events, when frontier guide Stephen Meek unwisely led a group of settlers on an arduous (and for some, fatal) journey across an uncharted stretch of Oregon desert. The first 10-minutes spent observing a settler wagon train fording a deep, fast-moving river and then laboriously inching across the desert, with virtually no dialogue, or story, filmed in long takes with just the roar of the water, the creak of wagon wheels and the sounds of nature, will probably test the patience of many... if so, be prepared for another 90+ minutes in more-or-less the same style. This approach while lacking much narrative progression or resolution, does serve to take the viewer back in time, to experience the slow pace of life and isolation of the early settlers, crawling like ants across what may as well be an endless alien landscape. The beauty of Director Kelly Reichardt and Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt's 4:3 35mm compositions are jaw dropping (I'm going to look out for Blauvelt's name on other films), alone they were enough to hold my attention. Some subtle dry humour is there to be found, like the absurdity of the women being huddled away from the men "talking business" like they were still "in the parlor" and not lost in the wilderness, or the settlers finding gold and them all just shrugging and continuing to look for water instead.

 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC, have you seen Atomic Blonde?  Most underrated film of the past several years for me!
 

TM2YC

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mnkykungfu said:
TM2YC, have you seen Atomic Blonde?  Most underrated film of the past several years for me!

I have but I think it's rated more or less right. e.g. average/above-average
 

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rita-sue-and-bob-too-cinema-quad-movie-poster-(1).jpg


Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1987)

'Rita, Sue and Bob Too' is set in that pre-90s sweet spot with the worst clothes, makeup, hair, cars, music and decor ever devised. The movie absolutely revels in it! Pink leather sofas, pastel mini skirts, white shell-suit jackets and dayglo leopard print dresses. That one of the characters has an olive green bathroom suite was inevitable. I suppose I was a lower middle class kid but I had friends who lived in places exactly like this. I'd seen that wallpaper, breathed that nicotine and watched their dad's dismantle a motorbike engine on the front room carpet. The scene where all the characters are having a massive shouting match in the middle of the estate being cheered on by an old guy from his balcony is glorious... "Better than match o' the day is this!". All the cutaways to the scandalised neighbour (from Bob's posher part of town) in his milk bottle glasses watering his lawn were a scream. It's great the way writer Andrea Dunbar and director Alan Clarke offer no judgement and moralising, the characters are having a wild time and who cares what others think. It's semi-autobiographical, Dunbar grew up and still lived on the Buttershaw estate in Bradford where this was filmed and features places and faces she knew. The opening shot is of 'The Beacon pub', which is where she died 3-years after 'Rita, Sue and Bob Too' was released, at only 29. This wasn't just revisiting a film I hadn't seen for ages, it was like revisiting a past I'd almost forgotten.


 

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Paprika
Watched with the wife, both of us disliked this quite a lot.

I found several characters annoying, found the fat jokes distasteful (man they really seem to love fat jokes in Japan), found the parade to be too repetitive and also annoying, and the plot a little too shallow, maybe the English translation or dub is just bad?

Specifics:
There is a device in the film called the DC Mini that allows shared dreams but also allows the user to mind-control people. After this is revealed, one of the main characters starts shouting nonsense while running down an office hallway and dives out a window, clearly under mind control. He survives and in the hospital when he wakes up he says something like "do you think it had something to do with the DC Mini?" Like, dude, what even is that question?

Everyone talks about how the DC Mini that was stolen is extremely dangerous, then the inventor keeps responding to them that he'll make more for them, which they didn't ask for and wasn't even close to the point of what they were talking about. It's like there are no natural conversations, just people talking at each other without any understanding of what's happening or what was just said to them. It is maddening.

Obvious plot points for a story like this are skipped entirely. Nobody ever actually tries to find out who stole the tech by tracking it or looking at security footage or entry/exit logs. They literally happen to see the face of the badguy in a dream.

And the love proclamation fell so flat. She barely tolerated him and they barely interacted but turns out love saves the day?

I can handle the bizarre visuals and the surreal dream logic parts. But the story and especially dialogue came across like there been butchered by the translator, I have no way to know but I assume it's better in its original language.

The animation was beautifully rendered and some story moments were very effective, but ultimately that didn't swing me far enough to consider the experience a good one.

Note for context: I do not see myself as an anime fan, and have been dabbling to see what many consider to be the best anime films, testing whether I've been unfair ignoring a whole genre. I quite like many Studio Ghibli films, and have enjoyed Ghost in the Shell and Akira in the past, and have seen some anime tv shows, most of which I didn't or don't like with a few exceptions. I had high hopes for this one. I think my reaction to this movie confirms that when it comes to anime, I'm pretty much only into Studio Ghibli.
 

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The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)    (US Netflix)

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I'm not a big McConaughey fan, but this is the ideal role for him - right on the balance between sleazy and heroic, and the hook of a thriller starring a lawyer who spends much of his day on the road and on the move rather than in his office is a first-rate one. The high-contrast photography and LA legal noir vibe heavily reminded me of 2007's (even better) Fracture, starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. (Also, the song "Nightcall," heavily featured in Drive, also from 2011 and starring Gosling, makes a brief appearance here.) The cast is great all around, although, sadly, the actor playing the villain has since allegedly behaved all too much like his character here.

Given there are other novels featuring the protagonist, it's a shame there weren't sequels to this, though a CBS series was due to start filming this summer before the... uh, Crisis on Solitary Earth. Anyhow, if you have any enthusiasm for snappy and stylish crime/legal dramas, definitely give this a spin.

Grade: B+
 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
mnkykungfu said:
TM2YC, have you seen Atomic Blonde?  Most underrated film of the past several years for me!
I have but I think it's rated more or less right. e.g. average/above-average

What.  Man, the action scenes alone are as good/better than anything in the John Wick sequels.  Not to mention the recreation of Berlin.  The plot is not for everyone, I guess.
 
addiesin said:
Paprika
Watched with the wife, both of us disliked this quite a lot.  I found several characters annoying, found the fat jokes distasteful (man they really seem to love fat jokes in Japan), found the parade to be too repetitive and also annoying, and the plot a little too shallow, maybe the English translation or dub is just bad?

You're right, the actual mystery plot is fairly shallow...it's not really the point of the film as much as the journey into people's psyches is.  Now with all these films like Inception or Shutter Island or Synecdoche, New York, I think the theme has become perhaps a bit played out or pedestrian, but it still seemed very much like Satoshi Kon's personal passion when he made the film back in 2005.  The film also probably plays much better with an strong understanding of Japanese culture.  Certain character types are recognizable tropes that allow the writers play with a Japanese audience's expectations or built-in attachments.  Many of those might seem annoying to a Western viewer.  A lot of this is very hard to translate, as many Japanese words/phrases have no direct English translation that would capture the connotations.  

That said, Paprika for me is not as tight of a film as several of Kon's other works.  His masterpiece is Perfect Blue, which Roger Corman described as  “If Alfred Hitchcock partnered with Walt Disney they'd make a picture like this”.  It's a layman's description that gives a lot of credit to both creators... this film would've been among either of their best works.  It is deeply related to the Japanese "idol" industry, which it doesn't hold an audience's hand to explain.  That said, part of the point of the film is a bit of disorientation, so I don't think you really need to know anything going in.  It just gives more value upon a rewatch.  And you will want to rewatch.  For anyone who thinks anime is limited to Miyazaki or Dragonball or Pokemon, I highly recommend Perfect Blue, a really tremendous psychological thriller that just happens to be animated.
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addiesin

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mnkykungfu said:
That said, Paprika for me is not as tight of a film as several of Kon's other works.  His masterpiece is Perfect Blue

You make some good points. Even if it doesn't make be like the film more, at least I think I understand why it is how it is and why others rank it so high, better than I did. I guess it makes sense, visual shorthand is used a ton in English speaking films too (and the whole point of said shorthand is to not have to explain it or make the viewer think about it). Someone using those tropes and subverting them would probably be pretty confusing to someone with no familiarity with the culture. Thanks for the added perspective!

I'll have to take some time "off" from Kon for now. But if/when I try another one, it'll be Perfect Blue.

I want to try out one more director I've read good things about. I don't know his name offhand but some of his films are Mirai (which I noticed is on US Netflix right now) and Wolf Children. Not sure when but I'll probably try to watch Mirai before it's removed. Any opinions on that one?
 

mnkykungfu

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addiesin said:
I want to try out one more director I've read good things about. I don't know his name offhand but some of his films are Mirai (which I noticed is on US Netflix right now) and Wolf Children. Not sure when but I'll probably try to watch Mirai before it's removed. Any opinions on that one?

Mamoru Hosoda.  Cut his teeth on Digimon but got his first real cred helping with Samurai Champloo.  Critical darling ever since The Girl Who Leapt Thru Time.  Personally I think he's overrated, so I didn't watch Mirai.  He tends to explore themes I thought were better done in the limited series Serial Experiments: Lain.

Then again, my website and whole point of view is in opposition to what Western critics typically recommend.  So that's where my sensibilities are coming from.  Take my opinion for what you will.
 
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