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A few reviews

TM2YC

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Malthus said:
mnkykungfu said:
Hmm...this actually supports the point.  Pretty great TV series.  One pretty great movie followed by many horrible ones.

I know but that's not why I said it. I mentioned it because Gaith questioned whether immortals made for good drama.

Although the "Immortals" in 'Highlander' aren't really immortal, they can be beheaded by other immortals who are constantly hunting them, which effectively negates any alleged effect on the dramatic stakes. Also outside of the threat, or lack thereof to the life of our hero Connor, there is the threat that the evil Kurgan could win "the prize". So yeah, you can have "immortal" characters and still have tension if you tweak a couple of other plot elements.
 

Malthus

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TM2YC said:
Although the "Immortals" in 'Highlander' aren't really immortal, they can be beheaded by other immortals who are constantly hunting them, which effectively negates any alleged effect on the dramatic stakes. Also outside of the threat, or lack thereof to the life of our hero Connor, there is the threat that the evil Kurgan could win "the prize". So yeah, you can have "immortal" characters and still have tension if you tweak a couple of other plot elements.

That's fair. I have a thing for immortality. I'm currently working on a novel which features immortal consciousness. So characters live and die before being reborn with all prior knowledge intact. They still need to adhere to the standard human life cycle so every 50-80 years the needed to re-go through puberty etc.
 

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Bowling for Columbine (2002)
I watched this famous Michael Moore documentary quite a few times when it came out but haven't seen it since. As the title suggests, he's examining the 1999 Columbine High School massacre but I'd forgotten the wide ranging, holistic approach he takes to the causes. Obviously US gun culture is looked into but Moore also goes into controversial US foreign policy, 24-hr news fear mongering, the history of racial violence and the September 11 attacks. He makes his points with clarity and wit, in a way that is easily digestible and relatable to an audience.  The last scene in which Moore charms his way into the home of Charlton Heston (who was NRA President at the time) for an interview leaves a sour taste in the mouth. He precedes to berate and then chase the slightly confused, visibly frail old man and gives the impression he's trying to blame him for all the USA's problems and holding him personally responsible for the death of a little girl. Heston hadn't announced he had Alzheimer's until after the film was finished and premiered but Moore probably could've chosen a better way to end his film all the same. It feels like 'Bowling for Columbine' changed the landscape of documentary films by becoming a huge box-office success (making a $54 million profit) and proving docs could have wide popular appeal if made right. Some of the biggest hits and most buzz-worthy properties of recent years for companies like Netflix have been documentaries like 'Tiger King'. It's unfortunate that every single issue Moore highlights is still relevant because they've all undoubtedly got much, much worse in the 20-years since.



Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer (2019)
When owner Generoso Pope Jr. decided to make The National Enquirer into the biggest sensationalist tabloid in the US in the late 50s, he set his sights on acquiring a team of the most tenacious, morally bankrupt, muck raking hacks his (alleged mafia) money could buy, so naturally he hired men from Fleet Street. Makes you proud to be British!  :D This documentary mostly paints a pretty tawdry picture of the publication but even when the barrel is being scraped, journalism can still be pretty exciting when you're hot on a story. It's telling that the employees interviewed clearly give zero f**ks for the lives they've ruined and laugh about laws they've broken (by their own admission) but are disturbed by the effect the NE's "catch & kill" activities have had on helping hush the victims of the rich and powerful. So no matter how low they have sunk, they are still investigative journalists at their core.

 

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All About Steve (2009)   (US Amazon Prime with free Starz 7-day trial)

bullock-coo.jpg


I've been curious to see this movie since The AV Club's Nathan Rabin gave it a scathing "F" review upon its 2009 release, and nearly bought a used Blu-ray for $3 at my last trip to Amoeba Records in the Before Times based on said curiosity alone. Unlike enduring punch lines such as Battlefield Earth and The Room (neither of which I've seen, to be fair), All About Steve has been largely forgotten, which is kind of a shame, because this flick is bananas. B-a-n-a-n-a-s. As Rabin put it, "Steve had the potential to be a sly deconstruction of romantic comedies, which have long posited stalker-type behavior as adorable, but the film isn’t interested in clever meta-commentary. It’s ultimately neither romantic comedy nor anti-romantic comedy, wandering so far off course that it’s hard to tell exactly what it is."

The movie's absolutely bonkers and baffling elements are duly chronicled in a How Did This Get Made podcast episode available on YouTube, but if the notion of a quasi-rom-com featuring Sandra Bullock acting completely and genuinely insane piques your interest, it's best to watch this sucker cold. Are there cringey and regressive jokes about gay men and Black people, not to mention hints at neurological atypical-ness? Oh, yes, indeed. The movie is horrendously unfunny, but I laughed at it quite a bit in awed disbelief. Bullock is swinging for the fences here, with the bat slipping out of her hands, and smacking little children in the bleachers in the face, requiring stitches from the hospital. (Bullock accepted her Worst Actress Razzie in person.) It's a bona fide disaster that keeps its momentum up until the glorious, awful end. And, as such, it may be just the right medicine for our international pandemic nightmare.

Grade: D-
Enjoyment level: very high  :D

Concluding thoughts...

Once I started gluing the bits of my broken brain off the floor an hour or so after the credits rolled, I realized what Bullock was going for here. (Well, her and the movie's writer, who only had one previous credit, and hasn't had a single one since.) They really were intending on smuggling a female empowerment, feel-good self-actualization comedy in the guise of a rom-com, because, despite a first act that hits all that genre's beats, and even the introduction of a less glamorous but more appropriate potential love interest, this isn't a rom-com, because everyone winds up single. And it might even have worked - might - if Bullock hadn't had the hubris to think she could still pull off such a role in her mid-40s (despite looking great), and if actual comedy re-writers had taken the script to much darker places. Make no mistake, this movie is a very stupid, and not a little offensive, disaster. It is, to employ another Nathan Rabin reference, a "shitty miracle."


Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)  (US Amazon Prime with free Starz 7-day trial)

220px-Devil_in_a_blue_dress2.jpg


False advertising! There is indeed a lovely lady in a blue dress, but she's not a devil. Hell, though this is a noir - a Black noir, at that - she isn't even a femme fatale. That said, the movie is pretty solid. Don Cheadle steals every scene he's in, and Denzel is good as always.

Grade: B
 

TM2YC

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^ Yeah, great Denzel Neo-Noir! I had the audio cassette movie-tie-in read by Paul Winfield (from Terminator and Wrath of Khan) when I was 10, or 11. I didn't see the movie 'til later.

s-l1600.jpg
 

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TM2YC said:
Bowling for Columbine (2002)
I watched this famous Michael Moore documentary quite a few times when it came out but haven't seen it since. As the title suggests, he's examining the 1999 Columbine High School massacre but I'd forgotten the wide ranging, holistic approach he takes to the causes.
(People dead set against Michael Moore, please tune out...) ^ Yeah, I think this is probably still Moore's strongest film.  I know some Americans who don't like to hear the politics of it.  They're resistant to the film because they want simple solutions, and they don't like to hear that their failure to acknowledge something as a major issue makes them partially complicit in the consequences.  Hence, even those on "the left" don't always enjoy Moore's in-your-face approach to documentaries.  I just listened to an episode of The Next Picture Show podcast about Moore's most recent film, Fahrenheit 11/9, in which I think the critics essentially had these issues.  Like BFC, it attempted a far-ranging, holistic answer for why the US is in the situation it is today, but I think Moore pulled it all together less successfully than here.
 
The last scene in which Moore charms his way into the home of Charlton Heston (who was NRA President at the time) for an interview leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Maybe you can correct me, I don't remember if this was IN the film or just on the DVD: did you see Moore telling the camera guy to hold up and confirming with Heston that he wanted to continue on camera?  I saw him later talk about this segment, and he said that he never imagined he'd actually get Heston to give him the interview on record.  And then within five minutes, before he even got to press any issues, his jaw dropped at the statements Heston was making and how much he was hanging himself.  He said that Heston was someone he had grown up looking up to, so he had no desire to tear him down so viciously, and that's why he gave him the opportunity to save his own ass by confirming he wanted the interview to continue, and by repeating the last couple statements Heston made and giving him the chance to confirm them or modify them.  It was when Heston said to keep filming and confirmed the statements that Moore felt obliged to take him to task.  Because the fact is that it's with big public support and big monetary support from NRA leaders like Heston that the lobby has grown so powerful and influential.  (Knowing now about Heston's health, it seems a shame, but most of the US Congressmen who do the most evil are elderly white men...that can't be a free pass, right?)
 
Gaith said:
All About Steve (2009)   (US Amazon Prime with free Starz 7-day trial)

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)  (US Amazon Prime with free Starz 7-day trial)

^Devil... is such an under-rated gem!  And thanks for putting AAS on my radar.
 

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Bat*21 (1988)
Vietnam drama 'Bat*21' was one of my favourite movies when I was in my teens but it's rarely been on TV (or streaming) since and only got a limited Region-A blu-ray release 2-years ago (on the Kino Lorber label). I finally managed to order a copy for a reasonable price and excitedly watched it as soon as I had it in my hands. It's based on the real story of Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton (Gene Hackman), a 53 year old intelligence officer/navigator who found himself alone, deep behind Vietnamese enemy lines, when the reconnaissance aircraft (Bat*21) he was in was shot down. Danny Glover plays "Birddog" a spotter pilot assigned to keep in contact with Hambleton, while a rescue is planned. The aerial photography is exhilarating, normally the stunt footage would be peppered with phony back projection shots of the actors. Here the stars are placed right in the front seats of the stunt aircraft as they fly fast and low.  Director Peter Markle shoots over their shoulders down on to the action in the jungle below, plus mounts cameras on the aircraft. The technique makes everything feel thrillingly real, dangerous and immersive. I think the more recent 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' was done in a similar way. The drama centers on Hambleton being confronted up close with a chaotic, bloody and costly war he'd previously observed from a safe distance. Hackman and Glover's relationship always reminded me a little of John McClane and Sgt. Al Powell in 'Die Hard', a trapped man going through hell, with only the friendly voice of a guy he's never met on the radio to keep him sane. David Marshall Grant perhaps over plays his dare-devil rescue chopper pilot role but it does make him very memorable and likeable with only a few crucial scenes. 'Bat*21' is almost up there with the best 80s Vietnam films.


Velvet Goldmine (1998)
This strange quasi David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust biopic didn't totally work for me when it came out and re-watching it two decades later, it still doesn't. However, there is still much to enjoy, especially if you've got a bit of knowledge about the mid 70s Glam-Rock scene. The three main characters are Jonathan Rhys Meyers' "Brian Slade" (based on Bowie, Jobriath and a little pinch of Marc Bolan), Ewan McGregor's "Curt Wild" (inspired mostly by Iggy Pop and Lou Reed also) and Christian Bale as a Journalist in the present day researching what happened to Slade (in a homage to 'Citizen Kane'). From the grim grey 80s (with Aids and a new  puritanism in the air) he looks back at the colourful, flamboyant, bi-sexual musicians who inspired him and helped him come out. Bowie wanted nothing to do with the film, threatened to sue and refused the use of his music on the soundtrack. To be fair to him, the "Brian Slade" character is the worst possible interpretation of Bowie, vain, vacuous and leeching off braver, lesser known and more creative people, in his hell bent quest for stardom. Where as the "Curt Wild" and "Jack Fairy" (a loose amalgam of Brian Eno, Bryan Ferry and Little Richard) characters are treated much more sympathetically, as true maverick artists who never sold out. Top 90s musicians from bands like Radiohead, Pulp, Placebo and Suede were brought in to create new music in the Bowie style and they're pretty good songs but pale next to the genuine classics on the soundtrack by T. Rex, The Stooges, the New York Dolls and Cockney Rebel. 'Velvet Goldmine' is such a mad, glorious cocktail of ideas and exotic visuals that it's well worth the watch, despite some flaws.

(Oh and yes, like all 90s Ewan McGregor films (except TPM) he does get his d**k out :D )


Gary Oldman is a fan:

 

mnkykungfu

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I knew next to nothing about 'the scene' VG was referencing when it came out, but I was entranced.  It put the three lead actors on my radar and I've been a fan of all of them ever since.  As I found out more about what the film was an homage to, it's only become richer to me.  You're right about it being a less-flattering portrayal of Bowie, but it's subjective, and it fits his POV, so I give it a pass.  Maybe that I'm not British and that it wasn't my scene contributed to the film working so much more for me?  I haven't given it a rewatch in years, it's about time!
 

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mnkykungfu said:
I knew next to nothing about 'the scene' VG was referencing when it came out, but I was entranced.  It put the three lead actors on my radar and I've been a fan of all of them ever since.  As I found out more about what the film was an homage to, it's only become richer to me.  You're right about it being a less-flattering portrayal of Bowie, but it's subjective, and it fits his POV, so I give it a pass.  Maybe that I'm not British and that it wasn't my scene contributed to the film working so much more for me?  I haven't given it a rewatch in years, it's about time!

Any excuse to watch some classic old BBC 'Top of the Pops' and 'Old Grey Whistle Test' clips... so here are some famous Glam Rock TV appearances from the era (famous in the UK anyway)...

T.Rex - Get it On - 1971 (with Elton John on piano):


David Bowie - Starman - 1972:


Roxy Music - Virginia Plain - 1972:


New York Dolls - Jet Boy - 1973:


Mott the Hoople - Roll Away The Stone - 1973:


Suzi Quatro - Can The Can - 1973

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPTsl3GQffc[/video]

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - 1973:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ3Bb4UsXhU[/video]

Slade - Cum On Feel The Noize - 1973:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKYYPh8rvQU[/video]

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - Make Me Smile - 1975:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ2K4qRABCM[/video]

Sweet - Fox On The Run - 1975:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jNt7ZGCW-o[/video]

Also, this iconic bit of suggestive showmanship from Mick Ronson and David Bowie was recreated in the film (photo from 72/73??):

david-bowie-blowjob.jpg


and Brian Slade's LP cover is a reference to Jobriath and little bit of Bowie:

1*tiMcgb0ogWQyahCThrF9yQ.jpeg


718coMCsbUL._AC_SL1200_.jpg


^ Brain Slade wears outfits like that early in the film too.
 

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Heaven Knows What (2014)
In retrospect 'Heaven Knows What' looks like the last step before the Safdie Brothers crystallised their style with 'Good Time' and 'Uncut Gems'. It's still got the looser, documentary style of their earlier films, with a grim grey reality to the visuals but the script has more structure and it introduces their distinctive trippy 70s-style Synthesiser scoring. It stars Arielle Holmes as a version of herself, based on an unpublished memoir she wrote about her experiences of being a homeless heroin addict in New York. Her performance is raw, real and mesmerising, her eyes are so expressive, going all the way from soporific delirium, to wide eyed intensity. The woozy mental hospital opening credits scene done in one shot, in close-up but shot from a distance, slightly in slowmo, with no sound or dialogue, just synth music is disturbing and disorientating. Holmes' character Harley claims to be madly in love with Ilya, a fellow addict but he's only occasionally sweet and mostly nasty and cruel, even egging her on to commit suicide, so you are left to wonder if this is genuinely helpless love in the bleakest and most harrowing of situations, or just another form of self destruction, along with the needle and the razor blade. A lot of the cast are real people, shot without permits, or are playing versions of themselves, some of the actors and the people they portray are sadly now dead, or in prison... hopefully at least Holmes found a way out through making this movie.

NSFW Red band trailer:


 

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TM2YC said:
Any excuse to watch some classic old BBC 'Top of the Pops' and 'Old Grey Whistle Test' clips... so here are some famous Glam Rock TV appearances from the era (famous in the UK anyway)...

Wow, that is a virtual semester course on UK glam!  I had no idea you were such a fan.  I know many of the shot references from the film, but I haven't seen most of these performances.  Just old Bowie mainly.  Will put them on my watch list.
 

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mnkykungfu said:
TM2YC said:
Any excuse to watch some classic old BBC 'Top of the Pops' and 'Old Grey Whistle Test' clips... so here are some famous Glam Rock TV appearances from the era (famous in the UK anyway)...

Wow, that is a virtual semester course on UK glam!  I had no idea you were such a fan.  I know many of the shot references from the film, but I haven't seen most of these performances.  Just old Bowie mainly.  Will put them on my watch list.

Glam was mega popular in mid-70s UK and is still all over the radio today, it never occurred to me that it wasn't popular everywhere else.  I found a 90s BBC doc on the Glam scene on youtube (uploaded in 5-parts, part 2 is blocked for me at least):






...but less of me dragging this thread off topic and back to movies :D ...

<hr style="border: 1px solid white;" />

A double-bill by the late, great Tony Scott and that means action!

Days of Thunder (1990)
Hans Zimmer's soundtrack to 'Days of Thunder' is probably one of my most played albums (especially while driving!). Propulsive drum beats, rumbling bass synths, heroic guitar riffs and humable tunes. It looks like Director Tony Scott shot all the exterior footage at magic hour and all the interiors with smoke and rays of sunlight. It's impossibly glossy. He shoots the cars close to the surface of the track, bumper-to-bumper and with an expert amount of speed-up, so it's never noticeable but looks like the cars are shooting round the track on rockets. Scott captures the best racing footage ever on film in my opinion. I've noticed the phrase "really gets your blood pumping" popping up in many reviews and comments.

Like 'Mad Max', this is another movie I used to quote when playing driving PC games with friends (especially 1994's 'NASCAR Racing' by Papyrus), "I'm droppin' the hammer" (when hitting the accelerator on a straight), "This guy's going down" (when attempting a slingshot) and "Rubbin's racin'" (after having deliberately crashed into my fellow player's car). Okay it's just a remake of 'Top Gun' with cars, the dialogue is route-one cheesy and the characters are caricatures but that kinda adds to the sense of a heightened dramatic fantasy. Plus the movie knows it's over the top, when Tom Cruise in Ray-ban shades makes his entrance through a cloud of smoke on a Harley Davidson timed with the guitars in the score, the other characters in the scene look at each other and laugh at what an improbably cool intro it is. On the downside, I'd quite forgotten how long the stretch in the middle is with no racing scenes. It really drags, you could lose 15-20 minutes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhUhuDW_jOw[/video]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByHuAUwdbe8[/video]

The Last Boy Scout (1991)
A 90s action movie which I'd unaccountably never seen before today. As you might expect from the team of Shane Black, Tony Scott and Joel Silver, 'The Last Boy Scout' is retrograde, outrageous, hyper-stylized, sexist, energetic and action packed. I was reminded of how fantastic Bruce Willis used to be at playing deadpan schlubs that "don't give a f**k", before he himself stopped giving a f**k about acting. Black's script is crammed with funny one-liners and convoluted plotting but it all pays off in the end. Black is flaunting his abilities as a writer, making his characters do unbelievable things, totally believably, so he has Damon Wayans remark "I figure you gotta be the dumbest guy in the world, Joe (Willis' character). You're trying the save the life of the man who ruined your career, and avenge the death of the guy that f***ed your wife!". There is an awful scene of a woman being sexually assaulted which is played for laughs and only there as a device for our side-kick character to "prove he's a good guy" because he walks right past it happening and expresses a mild opinion that maybe it shouldn't be happening, before bopping the guy on the nose with a football. The kind of movie that they really don't make anymore... in good and bad ways.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VGT2fs3myE[/video]
 

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^Two underrated classics!  I've always been a big proponent of Days of Thunder, and I continue to hold that it's not a "bad" movie.  Like Army of Darkness, for example, I think it was made knowing that it was cheese, and leaned into it for the fun.

The Last Boy Scout bombed when it came out, and I remember everyone looking forward to it so much.  Then over the years it took on almost mythical cult status in the US, with people saying it was their favorite action movie over films like I dunno, Predator or Die Hard, like they were picking something avante garde and smart.  Basically, it got overhyped as a cult hit.  Now is probably a good time to bring it back as exactly what it was: an uneven film that wasn't as appreciated as it should have been.

Btw: glam rock was of course huge in the US from about '84-'88.  But I think it was different than in the UK, and for sure a lot of the UK acts didn't cross over very well.  The US scene was influenced by the UK scene, but it seems to me that all the guys doing it felt a need to overcompensate for all the makeup and peacockery by being toxicly masculine.  The documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II covers this fairly well I think.
 

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mnkykungfu said:
The documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II covers this fairly well I think.

I've got those documentaries on blu-ray. I just need to find the right time to watch them.
 

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Tomboy (2011)
Céline Sciamma's 2nd film is about a 10-year old "tomboy" girl whose family moves to a new block of flats in Paris, where she takes the opportunity to introduce herself as a boy to the neighbourhood kids. Zoé Héran is incredible as Laure/Mickäel, an all-time great child performance and it needed to be because the camera rarely leaves Héran's side. The way Sciamma follows people around had a similar sensibility to Alan Clarke (who I've also been getting into), quietly spending time with them and their thoughts in moments of solitude. It's a beautiful and charming coming-of-age film, told from a kid's perspective, Sciamma approaches the story and her characters with tenderness, innocence, openness and positivity.



Blood and Black Lace (1964)
Mario Bava's 'Blood and Black Lace' (aka 'Sei donne per l'assassino'/'Six Women for the Murderer') is considered the prototype Giallo Horror/Thriller. The mysterious Rorschach-esque blank faced killer is complete with the black gloves and raincoat. An unrecognisably young Cameron Mitchell stars as one of the potential suspects at a fashion house whose beautiful models are being bumped off. The use of intense coloured lighting is gorgeous and red herrings keep you guessing.

 

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Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars. I watched a double feature of Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars. Both are fine, but don’t rank among the best by either director in my opinion. I actually break with the critics and found Dollars a bit better if only because I found Yojimbo a bit tonally inconsistent. It just strays a little far into comedy for me. Now, that’s not to say that Leone’s Man With No Name doesn’t owe a debt a of gratitude to Yojimbo, along with oh so many anti-hero stories which have followed. And obviously the courts found that Dollars was a little more than simple homage. But still, Dollars plays the story more or less straight and, for me, that was more effective than a story that strayed into absurdist comedy and even slapstick. It just felt out of place. Hmm, maybe a fan edit?
 

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Prevenge (2016)
Comedian/actor Alice Lowe was pregnant and nobody was hiring her for any roles, so she wrote, directed and starred in this unique comedy-slasher across just a couple of weeks, while still heavily pregnant. Lowe plays Ruth, a pregnant woman who embarks on a killing spree (seemingly at the direction of her unborn child) against the people she holds responsible for her partner's death in a climbing accident. It's side-splittingly funny and head-splittingly violent. I knew I was going to love this from the weird first scene, using extreme shallow-focus photography to convey Ruth's intense feelings and the synth soundtrack is a awesome. The murders are episodic and the victims are noticeably played by fellow British comedians, which probably helped Lowe to shoot 'Prevenge' so efficiently. They mainly play the most awful people imaginable, just begging to be dispatched by Ruth. The funniest scenes are between the misanthropic, unhinged and world-weary Ruth and her relentlessly chirpy and upbeat nurse, too excited by the "miracle of birth" to notice Ruth's deadpan sarcasm.


^ I notice the trailer has toned down the swearing and violence quite a bit.

 

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Two semi-related Agnes Varda films about murals today:

Mur Murs (1981)
Agnes Varda documents the large colourful street murals of Los Angeles, the artists that paint them and the culture that informs and surrounds the works. It's a joyful snapshot of the city at the start of the 80s, a lost world, presumably many of these spectacular works of public art have now vanished to redevelopment, neglect and decay and hopefully been replaced by new ones. Varda has such an inquisitive eye, alive to random beauty, eccentric behaviours and people's unique stories and experiences. The title is a pun derived from the French "Wall Walls".


Faces Places / Visages Villages (2017)
A film following director Agnes Varda and street-artist/photographer JR on a journey around France, talking to people, creating large public pieces of art for them and then seeing their reactions to it. It's exactly the kind of modern art I love, art that makes people's faces light up with delight and wonder. Varda blurs the line between documentary and fiction in her relationship with JR and explores themes around her own aging. I can't imagine anybody young or old not being totally captivated by this movie, it's so accessible. If this was still 2017, I'd probably be calling it "film of the year". Do yourself a favour and watch 'Faces Places'.

 

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Chernobyl (2019)
Is HBO/SkyUK's 'Chernobyl' as good as everybody has been saying? No... it's better!  Writer Craig Mazin and director Johan Renck approach the 1986 Chernobyl disaster with forensic detail, shocking, unflinching and utterly fascinating.  I was only a child at the time when it happened but I've vivid memories of us discussing it in school. Obviously I knew it was bad and learned more about it as I grew up but I'd never realised how dangerous it was and how close we came to it being so much worse. The characters talk about the exposed reactor in the same kind of way they might refer to a portal to hell being opened up in a horror movie. The large and very strong cast is mostly made up of well known British TV character actors (they might not be known to international audiences) who aren't on screen for long but make such an impact. For example, Scottish actor Alex Ferns is from UK soap-opera 'Eastenders' but is a force of nature as the taciturn leader of the coal miners.  No offense meant to the actors but they've really cast people with faces that look like they're from the era of hard drinking, heavy smoking, radiation and grim Soviet hardship. Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgard are sensational as the two lead characters, Nuclear scientist Valery Legasov and Minister Boris Shcherbina respectively. You 100% believe the journey they go on from disliking and distrusting each other (to the point of threatening execution), to being like brothers. With a friendship forged in the shared struggle of containing the nightmare around Chernobyl. The main theme is how a political culture built on denial, lies, corruption and fear is a time bomb with something this potentially dangerous.  Despite the horrors, there is a certain black comedy to the way the characters view the absurd "Orwellian" society in which they must operate. I saw definite comparisons to the recent 2017 London 'Grenfell Tower' fire, another entirely preventable disaster, years in the making, caused by arrogance, incompetence and negligence. 'Joker' composer Hildur Guonadottir's brooding electronic score looms ominously over everything.



On a side note, this is one of an increasing number of prominent productions to utilise Vittorio Storaro's proposed "Univisium" 2:1 aspect ratio. It gives film-like home media some increased vertical space to show faces but also provides much of the "cinematic" look of wider scope ratios, without wasting as much of the screen area of standard 16:9 TVs, on which all this media will be seen. Ari Aster's 'Hereditary' and 'Midsommar', 'Green Book', 'House of Cards', 'Doctor Who' (in recent years), 'Jurassic World' and 'Stranger Things' have used Univisium. I hope more directors use the format because I'm starting to really like it. (FYI: Univisium is 1920x960 in pixels)


Radioactive (2019)
Jack Thorne's cliche ridden script for this Marie Curie biopic is elevated by Marjane Satrapi's creative direction. She uses silent era vignettes, shallow focus, minimal reds (giving it a 2-strip effect), lots of appropriate greens and diffuse lighting to make you ever aware of light radiation and particles in the air. Her decision to sprinkle in apocalyptic visions of a nuclear future (including coincidentally recreating some of the same events as the 'Chernobyl' miniseries) feels off because it's a daring and inspired device, which clashes with the uninspired dialogue scenes. I'd have liked to have had more focus on the lab work, the thrill of discovery and scenes of Curie being a great scientist, and less directly focused on her struggles in a male world. The latter would've been conveyed by showing more of her mastery of the former. All the political intrigue in France and Poland was interesting. Rosamund Pike was fine in the lead role but not exceptional. The electronic score is terrific but one demerit for not using Kraftwerk's 'Radioactivity' for the end-titles... "Discovered by Madame Curie".


 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
they've really cast people with faces that look like they're from the era of hard drinking, heavy smoking, radiation and grim Soviet hardship.....Stellan Skarsgard

Generally what I think of when I see Stellan Skarsgard.  I was shocked to see him as a fairly handsome young man in The Unbearable Lightness of Being!
'Joker' composer Hildur Guonadottir's brooding electronic score looms ominously over everything.

The music in Joker was fantastic.  This has been on my watchlist for awhile...will need to move it up the queue.
 
Radioactive (2019)
Rosamund Pike was fine in the lead role but not exceptional. 

That said, we should all be so lucky as to get someone so exponentially more attractive to play us in a film of our lives.  Maybe they thought they could slack on her science if they just made it gorgeous to look at?
 
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