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A few reviews

Moe_Syzlak

Well-known member
Mank. This is a good movie. It's also, for me, flawed. I'm not generally a fan of biopics. They all-too-often take liberties with the truth in order to tell a more compelling story because, frankly, often the stories aren't interesting or neat enough without the changes. That may or may not be the case here.

It's beautiful to look at and I saw more than a few direct visual quotes of Kane. The acting is superb throughout. Though the ages of the actors does sometimes undermine the storyline. You get the impression that drunken, washed up Mank is in his 60s as Oldman is. And that doesn't feel nearly as tragic as a washed up 30 something as Mank actually was. Also the actor playing Welles comes across as far older than the 24 years of the Kane era Welles, undermining a bit of the wunderkind aspect of who he was. We never really feel the way Welles was perceived as a threat to the Hollywood status quo.

But this is really Mank's story. Kane is more a framing device than anything. Mank's fight for credit on Kane is an afterthought. And that makes it all the more disappointing that the Finchers chose to seemingly base their account on the Pauline Kael account, which is--to be kind--hotly disputed. I found it ironic that the film--clearly due to its mirror on modern political media--spends so much time on the "fake news" reels made to defeat Upton Sinclair, yet the film itself relies on its own manipulation of the truth to reach its own desired goals. If that's the story you want to tell, have the decency to change the names as Mank and Welles did. But again, I really don't think this was needed. It was a good, maybe even great, movie without the 11th hour credit dispute tacked on. The story of Mank to that point was sufficient. Maybe the Finchers felt they needed their own room trashing climax as Mank implies in a way-too-on-the-nose scene. It didn't ruin the movie for me, but it is disappointing.
 

Racerx1969

Well-known member
mnkykungfu said:
^Quick examples: the rules for using magic, for constructing magical objects, for exploring quest areas, etc. All plays on common D&D or Magic: The Gathering rules. And surely you got the gelatinous cube?? I actually guffawed. 

@"Racerx1969" re: Hidden Fortress, you might like the other thread I started about Homage/Influence/Theft then...

Indeed I do. I've posted a couple of times in there.  ;)

I did enjoy Onward--largely because of the D&D references & jokes. I wouldn't say I loved it though. I've seen it twice now (paying half attention the second time while the kids wanted to watch). I'm good for a while.
 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
Faneditor
Tales from Earthsea (2006)
I'm surprised the first film written and directed by Goro Miyazaki (son of Hayao) got such a polarised reception back in 2006, attracting awards and nominations for best film and worst film.  I thought it was wonderful, the vast sword & sorcery world, teeming with life and strange places, journeyed by noble heroes touched by tragedy, brought back memories of playing the Baldur's Gate RPG games.  I'm not familiar with the source novels by Ursula K. Le Guin, so perhaps the changes made in the adaptation were the reason for some of the dissatisfaction with people who were.  Tamiya Terashima's romantic score evoked Dvorak's 'New World Symphony' Studio Ghibli's animation is typically gorgeous but I thought the painted backgrounds were particularly lovely.  It was a bit odd that the villain looked like a woman and was voiced by a woman in the original Japanese audio that I listened too but was referred to (accurately) as a man in the subtitles (plus is voiced by Willem Dafoe in the dub).

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From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
Hayao Miyazaki co-wrote this and his son Goro Miyazaki directed but it's still got all the beautiful detail and visual charm you'd associate with Miyazaki-senior's real-world/historical films.  It's set in Yokohama, against the backdrop of preparations for the 1964 Olympics. Selfless, organised teenager Umi becomes involved in the restoration of her school's dilapidated but well loved "clubhouse", which is threatened by demolition.  She makes friends, falls for a boy called Shun and learns to make a little time for herself but the wartime deaths of Umi and Shun's parents complicate things.  I was initially a bit confused as to exactly what a Japanese school "clubhouse" was, I think it's an official but separate and autonomous building in which a school's students meet to engage in extra curricular clubs, science club, poetry club etc.  Compared to other Studio Ghibli films, 'From Up on Poppy Hill' is more low-key, lower stakes, gentle and grounded in reality but it's no less enjoyable for it.  It's just about thoroughly nice characters, who you want to be happy by the end.

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TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
Faneditor
Let's do the complete Coppola/Murray set...

Lost in Translation (2003)
I think when I watched this back in 2003, it didn't fully connect with me but it sure did today.  Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson play two American's, Bob and Charlotte holed up in a Tokyo hotel while he shoots a Suntory-Whisky advert on a break from his wife and she waits on her busy Rock photographer boyfriend.  They're both feeling depressed and disconnected from life, accentuated by being unable to speak the language, being overwhelmed by people and Tokyo's blinking lights and a very different culture which they don't have the space in their schedules to fully appreciate.  Despite him being double her age, they find they have a shared sense of humour, can enjoy each other's silences and generally have a good time hanging out together.  A romance isn't really a possibility but it's also not completely impossible, so there's this little threat of tension in their friendship.  Murray and Johansson play it so beautifully, I loved their characters.  Sofia Coppola wrote, produced and directed a real subtle masterpiece.

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A Very Murray Christmas (2015)
Sofia Coppola's oddball Netflix Christmas special features Bill Murray playing himself, failing to perform a fictional live Christmas special when a blizzard cuts off the hotel where it's being filmed.  I didn't think it was working at first, appearing to operate on the level of "put celebrities in front of camera with no script and hit record = comedy gold, hopefully?".  But as the characters gather closer for warmth, friendship and alcohol, the melancholy Christmas vibe began to charm me.  Damn can SNL comedian Maya Rudolph sing! (She must've inherited that from mother Minnie Ripperton).  She performs 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' and there are lovely versions of 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' and 'Fairytale of New York' as well.

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On the Rocks (2020)
Finally something that could start to justify Apple TV+'s existence.  New York novelist Laura (Rashida Jones) is suffering from writer's block and suspects her busy, successful husband of having an affair with a co-worker, so she confides in her father Felix (Bill Murray).  He was (and still is) a womanising, playboy art-dealer, a loveable rogue, so he's an expert on cheating men.  Felix loves his daughter and granddaughter enormously but is almost too excited at the prospect of catching Laura's husband being as bad as him, so the two of them play detective.  Scenes like the one where they stake out a club which the husband is going to with the other woman, inconspicuously sitting in Felix's red ports car, with a packed lunch of Champagne and Caviar is hilarious.  Director Sofia Coppola (also writer) gets the best performance out of Murray in at least a decade and Jones is terrific too.  Marlon Wayans is merely adequate but he's not in the film enough for that to be a massive problem.  I could see where the plot was going from some early misdirection clues but I didn't care when the relationship between father and daughter was such a total delight.  This might be one of my favourite films of the year. (You can have an extra bit of fun if you squint and imagine this is about a retired James Bond (under a code name :D ) and his relationship with the daughter from one of his many affairs.)

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TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
Faneditor
Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (2018)
Making adult oriented animation (outside of Japan) is relatively unusual but using the form to do a belated making-of film about a 1933 Spanish pseudo-documentary has got to be unique.  Director Luis Bunuel made 'Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan' aka 'Land Without Bread' with lottery money from his friend Ramon Acin, intending to portray the extreme depravation and isolation of the people of La Alberca, Las Hurdes.  Composer Arturo Cardelus' music is beautiful and director Salvador Simo's visuals are also beautiful, the movie is almost too beautiful because it's supposed to be about a barren, poverty stricken land of misery.  Bunuel is portrayed as a wild artist but the film doesn't shy away from showing him being an ar**hole too, recreating several instances where he killed and tortured animals to get the shots he wanted for 'Land Without Bread'.  If nothing else, this animation brings artist/producer/financier Ramon Acin back to life.  As revealed in the closing credits, he was murdered by the fascists soon after the events depicted.  Looking at his black and white Wikipedia portrait, it's almost like you've seen something of what he was like and how he felt.

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The Front Runner (2018)
I love US political campaign movies like 'Primary Colors' and 'The Ides of March', which are often about an idealistic campaign team for a game-changing politician, having to question their consciences and compromise their principals when the candidate is revealed to have feet of clay.  'The Front Runner' has this same pattern, except this time its a true story following Gary Hart's unsuccessful bid to be the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.  It looks a bit "wiggy" and the handheld camera work got distracting at times but the performances are uniformly excellent from Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga and J. K. Simmons.  The script raises a lot of interesting questions about the ethics of politics and journalism but doesn't satisfactory answer them.  It's somehow less than the sum of it's many excellent parts but I'm a politics junkie so I lapped it up.

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Finding Vivian Maier (2013)
John Maloof, a Chicago estate agent (and local historian) bought a big random box of negatives at an auction and discovered the extraordinary amateur street photography of a nanny he later identified as Vivian Maier.  Even when you apply the "infinite monkey typewriter" theory to these twelvety million undeveloped negatives from an eccentric "cat lady", of which Maloof has selected only the very best, you still get the impression of an outstanding lost genius.  Maloof is also the co-director of the documentary (with Charlie Siskel) and the film's narrator/presenter. Considering he now owns these famous and lucrative works (there are some legal challenges I think?) and stands to profit from the self-promotion of this Oscar nominated documentary, I'd have preferred somebody else, with different editorial priorities to have told this story, it would have been cleaner.

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MusicEd921

Well-known member
Donor
Faneditor
[video=youtube]

TENET

Ok, so let me start by saying that I was already going into this movie with a tiny bit of Nolan hate only because of his gatekeeping comments that essentially trash the idea that people want to enjoy movies at home and his push to have this movie in theaters during a pandemic.  If I got to enjoy movies in a theater where there aren't obnoxious patrons and teenagers flooding the theater with their cell phone backlights as well as parents bringing their babies to 10pm horror showings, I'd feel the same way.

Here's a quick review.....a 7/10 (and that is being generous because at the end of the day it is the Nolan experience).  A super confusing and convoluted plot over 2.5 hours with one of the worst sound mixes I've ever dealt with.  I was adjusting my volume every 5 minutes which took me out of trying to have a cinematic experience at home.  LOUD booms and super soft dialogue.  I'm going to watch it again with subtitles, but again, super convoluted.  It was definitely a neat idea with an execution that wreaks of Nolan's inflated ego.  The fight scenes that were supposed to be in reverse while others were going forwards seemed cool in theory, but when watching it I just didn't feel like the choreography was making any sense based on their movements.  The physics behind it were completely wrong and no one seems to harp on that surprisingly.

Deja Vu and Primer kind of did it better honestly.

Side note.....some people are trashing on Washington's performance, but honestly, based on what he had to work with, him and Pattinson were awesome and I'd love to watch a movie just chronicling adventures with them.
 

mnkykungfu

Well-known member
TM2YC said:
Tales from Earthsea (2006)
I'm surprised the first film written and directed by Goro Miyazaki (son of Hayao) got such a polarised reception back in 2006

I was, too. Honestly, it's not enough of a statement to warrant strong opinions. A decidedly average/slightly-above-average film from a director who was/is still growing. I think it suffered from the story starting as if it were going to be grandiose, high fantasy, then falling into pretty low-key, mundane stuff. It misses many of the cool details that define LeGuinn's works as separate from other titans of fantasy, but no less worthy.
From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
Compared to other Studio Ghibli films, 'From Up on Poppy Hill' is more low-key, lower stakes, gentle and grounded in reality but it's no less enjoyable for it.

Honestly most of Ghibli's films are like this. People just think of the 6 or so Hayao Miyazaki films they know and call that "Ghibli", but almost all their other films (and a few of his) are much more grounded in subtle character relationships and cultural pressures. I like FUoPH more than most people, but I'm hard-pressed to say why. It does cover a lot of similar ground to both Whisper of the Heart and Only Yesterday, both of which are higher on my Studio Ghibli ranking.
 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
Faneditor
mnkykungfu said:
TM2YC said:
Tales from Earthsea (2006)
I'm surprised the first film written and directed by Goro Miyazaki (son of Hayao) got such a polarised reception back in 2006

It misses many of the cool details that define LeGuinn's works as separate from other titans of fantasy, but no less worthy.
So it does compare unfavourably with the books. I should check them out then.

mnkykungfu said:
From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
Compared to other Studio Ghibli films, 'From Up on Poppy Hill' is more low-key, lower stakes, gentle and grounded in reality but it's no less enjoyable for it.

Honestly most of Ghibli's films are like this.

Yes, I should've said "Compared to other Miyazaki films" which can be pretty bonkers flights of imagination. Even 'The Wind Rises' has these wild visions.
 

Racerx1969

Well-known member
TM2YC said:
Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (2018)
Making adult oriented animation (outside of Japan) is relatively unusual but using the form to do a belated making-of film about a 1933 Spanish pseudo-documentary has got to be unique.  Director Luis Bunuel made 'Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan' aka 'Land Without Bread' with lottery money from his friend Ramon Acin, intending to portray the extreme depravation and isolation of the people of La Alberca, Las Hurdes.  Composer Arturo Cardelus' music is beautiful and director Salvador Simo's visuals are also beautiful, the movie is almost too beautiful because it's supposed to be about a barren, poverty stricken land of misery.  Bunuel is portrayed as a wild artist but the film doesn't shy away from showing him being an ar**hole too, recreating several instances where he killed and tortured animals to get the shots he wanted for 'Land Without Bread'.  If nothing else, this animation brings artist/producer/financier Ramon Acin back to life.  As revealed in the closing credits, he was murdered by the fascists soon after the events depicted.  Looking at his black and white Wikipedia portrait, it's almost like you've seen something of what he was like and how he felt.

Thanks for posting this review. I hadn't heard of this one before, and it sounded interesting. Turns out Amazon Prime Video has is on sale for the low price of $0 at the moment, so why not? I'm glad I did. It was a very interesting film and well worth the watch.
 

mnkykungfu

Well-known member
TM2YC said:
So it does compare unfavourably with the books. I should check them out then.

It honestly doesn't even really compare. It has the same title as a short story collection, but instead picks various elements from the main Earthsea Saga and, I believe Le Guin said something like 're-purposes and re-contextualizes them without regard to character or content'. She was notoriously disappointed with the film, publicly saying that it was separate from her books but good, whereas on her blog she listed many reasons why it fell wide of the mark. 

Hayao Miyazaki had pursued Le Guin for years to develop a film from her work, but when she finally gave permission, Ghibli decided to give it to Goro while Hayao was working on Howl's Moving Castle. Le Guin was very concerned about this, but they assured her that Hayao would supervise production. He reportedly wanted his son to stand on his own and didn't contact him once during the making of the film. 

I just looked for a quote and found this great one from Le Guin that may help to understand what sets her stories apart from other fantasy novels (and this film): "Evil has been comfortably externalized in a villain, the wizard Kumo/Cob, who can simply be killed, thus solving all problems. In modern fantasy (literary or governmental), killing people is the usual solution to the so-called war between good and evil. My books are not conceived in terms of such a war, and offer no simple answers to simplistic questions."
 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
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^^ Glad to be of service.

Saint Maud (2020)
This UK psychological horror is the feature debut of writer/director Rose Glass but it's brimming with confidence and power.  Morfydd Clark (who will be Galadriel in the hush-hush 'Lord of the Rings' TV series) plays Maud, a young palliative care nurse, who arrives at the hill-top house of terminally-ill, renounced dancer and choreographer Amanda (Jennifer Ehle).  The problem is Maud believes herself to be a 'Joan of Arc' style messenger from God.  The level to which Maud is disturbed unfolds across the film, from awkward naivete, to terrifying self-delusion and self-destruction.  It's narrated by Maud and told entirely from her perspective, so she's an unreliable narrator but it also gives her a desperate, lonely sadness.  There are shades of 'Carrie', 'Taxi Driver', 'Psycho' and 'Sunset Boulevard' (the latter being referenced in the dialogue).  If you like your horror without cheap jump scares and with depth and intelligence instead, then 'Saint Maud' is well worth a watch.  It's one of the rare films that has been released in UK Cinemas this year, instead of going straight to streaming.  I'm looking forward to seeing what Rose Glass makes next.

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Panic Room (2002)
'Panic Room' is the kind of low-rent, high-concept, limited-setup, B-movie thriller that a first-time director would make, so it was an odd move from David Fincher, after 3 or 4 critically and commercially successful films, 10-years into his directorial career.  I did wonder how Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart being stuck in a safe-room could be stretched to 90-minutes but the script keeps the tension flowing with twist, after twist and the problem solving by the characters was fun.  The plotting sometimes feels contrived but more often than not it sounds logical.  The cast are top notch with Forest Whitaker bringing vulnerability and empathy to his antagonist. Sadly this is the last of the three films that Howard Shore composed for Fincher, he's so good at this ominous stuff.  I found Fincher's directing a little irritating, using CGI for no good reason when it's just a house, not a spaceship?!? (the FX have not aged well) and doing lots of dated, over stylised and distracting camera moves.  I didn't care for the rushed ending which leaves several character arcs unresolved.

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ArtisDead

Well-known member
Jigsaw: A History of Desperation (A Fanedit by Maniac)

I never had any interest in watching any of the SAW franchise movies. My ex-girlfriend bought me the entire original set and the reboot because she knew that I liked several of the other horror franchises like Hellraiser and Halloween. I felt there was no comparison. I did, however, try to watch the first movie. I fell asleep a few minutes into it. The entire premise seemed contrived.

So…when I found out that Maniac was spending a ton of time editing the entire catalogue into a single movie…I thought he had lost his mind. Over time, and a with a few of his other edits under my belt, I have come to the conclusion that that reality may have already transpired. However, since this was an edit by Maniac, and his edits freaking rock, I decided to check it out.

Maniac certainly has an intuitive gift for knowing what is truly twisted and disturbing and fully implementing that skill into the art of making other people’s demented movies as dark as the absence of light allows.

Maniac is probably as off the chain as most of these protagonists and likely needs professional help. Editing these movies is likely therapy for him and his personal crazy.

Jigsaw was full throttle nightmare inducing excitement. The three of us, my brother, his wife and I watched it the other night. It doesn’t relent. We were almost breathless and always at the edge of our seat. There are so many of the “choose your fate or die” situations that you don’t really get a chance to come up for air which is awesome if that’s your thing.

We loved that maniac added a score that drove the tension exponentially. He probably had little choice since he was editing from at least seven movies. We also loved that he gave you the protagonist’s background and reason for his crazy right out the gate. You also get the reason for his accomplices and their backstories.

The entire affair hits you like a locomotive and speeds through you so fast that it’s over before you realize it.

Excellent! A master of his craft displaying his twisted psychologically disturbing masterpiece.
 

mnkykungfu

Well-known member
^I f'ing hated Panic Room. I found the Foster character insufferable and incompetent. They had to knock Stewart's character out because she made so much sense that the movie would've been over in 25 minutes. That left me watching the three incredibly over-stylized villains and rooting for them to win because the protagonist was such an idiot. My least favorite Fincher by far.  [end rant]

Side note... does anyone even make Horror films anymore except for A24 and Blumhouse?? ;)
 

TM2YC

Staff Member
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mnkykungfu said:
Side note... does anyone even make Horror films anymore except for A24 and Blumhouse?? ;)

I think A24 are a distributor as well as a producer.  That 'Saint Maud' film is made by the UK companies/film-funds The BFI and Film4. A24 are handling the USA distribution only.  It's a bit like when Netflix slap their logo on things that you know they just purchased from somebody else (because you already watched it somewhere else), making it seem like they make loads of stuff.  A24 do seem have their names on some great films, so the execs must have some taste.

It's pretty cheeky that the above trailer says "From the studio that made The Witch, Hereditary etc" when they had nothing to do with making it :D .
 

TM2YC

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Steve McQueen's five "Small Axe" films have been well worth the watch...

Mangrove (2020)
The late campaigner Darcus Howe was a household name (in the UK) but I'd never heard about the trial of "The Mangrove Nine", the true-life topic of the first film in director/writer Steve McQueen's new 'Small Axe' quintology.  'The Mangrove' was a Caribbean restaurant opened in 1968, in Notting Hill, London by Frank Crichlow, which became a focal point for the black community, a meeting place for political campaigners and office for the famous Notting Hill Carnival.  The police targetted 'The Mangrove' with monthly raids, arrests and general harassment, resulting in a street protest against their actions.  Nine of the protestors were put on trail and this is the story of their defiant defence case.  Crichlow, Howe and British Black Panther members/leaders Altheia Jones-LeCointe and Barbara Beese were among them and form a quartet of main characters, two choosing to defend themselves.  The cast are terrific, I always look forward to seeing Shaun Parkes, plus Malachi Kirby (from the excellent remake of 'Roots') and Letitia Wright (from Marvel's 'Black Panther') deliver their arguments with believable passion and fury.  Jack Lowden is great value as Ian Macdonald QC, taking visible delight at provoking the legal establishment.  I love a courtroom drama and the whole 2nd hour of 'Mangrove' is set at the Old Bailey, with all the fierce debating of the best of the genre.  The soundtrack is to die for, featuring Toots & The Maytals, Bob Marley and The Specials.  'Mangrove' would make a great double-bill with 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'.

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The Mangrove Nine (1973)
A short contemporary documentary by 'Babylon' director Franco Rosso about the trial of 'The Mangrove Nine'.  Altheia Jones-LeCointe and Darcus Howe speech with such passion, eloquence and righteous indignation. The film satirically intercuts the defendants discussing the operation of the court with a stuffy BBC public information film about lawyers that looks like it's from another century.  An excellent companion piece to watch after Steve McQueen's recent film 'Mangrove', the actual footage confirming that he got the details just right.  It's as on youtube in full and in very good quality but has now vanished.

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Lovers Rock (2020)
Steve McQueen's 'Lovers Rock' is about capturing a feeling as much as telling a story of people, a time and a place.  It's virtually all set within a West London "blues" house party, on a single night, with the DJs playing 'lovers rock' 7"s for the crowd of (mostly) singles.  McQueen shoots with shallow focus close-ups of bodies touching, hands caressing and sweat dripping from the walls.  There are amazing sequences like all the ladies singing 'Silly Games' acapella, with just the click of shoes on the wooden floor, it's almost gospel. Or the DJs playing the same record twice ('Kunta Kinte Dub' by The Revolutionaries) as the crowd goes wild, jostling around the camera, making you feel like you're in there with them, surfing the wave of euphoric music.  I think McQueen was slightly over-cranking the camera by a few fps to give a subtle dreamy slowness to the dancing.  Negative vibes occasionally appear which threaten to break the blissful spell and the cold grey world is shown outside the golden warmth of the party oasis.  I loved this film.

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I spent the whole week afterwards listening to the lovers rock genre. The film will make you want to do the same. Here's the two best tracks from the film:

[video=youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCVR5XR04Mo[/video]

[video=youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6XDIje4vJU[/video]

Red, White and Blue (2020)
After the first two Small Axe films which were their own self-contained, successful movies, this third one does feel like a feature-length episode in a TV anthology (which it is).  Not the kind of thing you'd release on it's own into the world.  It's notionally a biopic of Met policeman Leroy Logan (who is a recognisable commentator from TV news debates), a trailblazing black officer but it focuses on a very narrow part of his life, a few months maybe?  Deciding to join the force (prompted by witnessing his father's treatment by the legal system after a policeman beats him) and deciding to not let the institutional racism within the 1980s MET defeat him, nothing else.  Logan went on to be a founding member of the UK's 'National Black Police Association' and was awarded an MBE for his work in advancing policing.  In a proper stand-alone theatrical film you'd need to explore some of those areas to give a larger picture of the man.   "Look how racist the police used to be" is hardly a revelation (sadly) and not enough of a message to sustain a film all on it's own.  Having said all that, John Boyega and Steve Toussaint give great performances and although this is the weakest of the Small Axe films, it's still pretty good.

[video=youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHZBlM2q5HA[/video]

Alex Wheatle (2020)
The 4th film from director Steve McQueen's 'Small Axe' series is part of the real life story of novelist Alex Wheatle, focusing on his imprisonment after the 1981 Brixton riot and his discovery of his West Indian heritage upon arrival in Brixton, after growing up in the notorious Shirley Oaks Children's Home.  Wheatle's life reminded me of poet Lemn Sissay's 2019 autobiography 'My Name Is Why', as he went through some of the same traumas and personal discoveries (so this unfortunately isn't a unique story).  McQueen constructs the film in a non-linear way, shifting forward and back between Wheatle beginning to immerse himself in Brixton culture and music after leaving the "care" system, and him talking with a much older Rastafarian cellmate.  He acts as a father figure and a young man who befriends him in Brixton also acts as a surrogate brother, helping Alex discover himself.  This is only a small part of Wheatle's biography, not touching on his book writing career and 2008 MBE but unlike 'Red, White and Blue', it felt like a complete film on the theme of "knowledge of self".

[video=youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssrLdCwVQ88[/video]

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

Education (2020)
I've rarely seen a modern film look as authentically 1970s as 'Education', the final film in Steve McQueen's 'Small Axe' series.  It was filmed on 16mm and framed in the old European standard 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  It would make a great triple-bill with Ken Loach's 'Kes' (1969) and Alan Clarke's 'Scum' (1979).  I believe the 'Play for Today' style of Loach and others was what McQueen was after.  Like 'Lovers Rock', the characters are fictional but the story is based on reality.  Kenyah Sandy plays Kingsley, a 1970s London school kid who is having difficulty reading and exhibits some bad behaviour, so the council and school categorise him as "educationally subnormal" and ship him off to a "special school", which is pretty much a dumping ground.  The scene where his mum bursts into his room to berate him for something she assumes is his fault (rather than the deliberate negligence of the school system) and he curls up with his back to the camera and cries was hard to watch.

[video=youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jN3HGdtFEM[/video]

I hope the BBC commission more strands like 'Small Axe' in the future.  I'd like to see another British film-maker given this kind of big canvas.
 

TM2YC

Staff Member
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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
I've owned the blu-ray of 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' for about 10-years but I've only now got round to watching it.  Due to this apathy and it's runtime being nearly 3-hours, I was planning on watching it across a couple of nights but the story totally sucked me and I stayed up to watch it all.  It's a sort of fairytale where Brad Pitt's Benjamin Button is born old, abandoned by a horrified father, adopted by a kind woman (who coincidentally runs a retirement home) and then grows younger all his life.  It has a style that'll be familiar to viewers of 'Forest Gump' and 'Little Big Man', where an unusual life unfolds against the backdrop of American history, WWI, WWII and the Great Depression.  Considering the de-aging FX employed by many newer films look ropey, it's remarkable that the CGI in this 12-year old film has stood up at all.  They do augment them with excellent practical makeup and I noticed they cut to other actors when Button was talking as much as possible.  Plus it helps that the character is written as an attentive listener and observer of life, which lends itself to subtle face movement from Pitt.

Considering "curious" is in the title, there is an obvious lack of curiosity about the true implications of a person ageing backwards.  David Fincher wants to begin and end with the sentimental image of a helpless baby needing love and doesn't really want to deal with any of the real body-horror implications and potential existential terror of the premise.  The last 1-second look Button gives Daisy as he's dying could've prompted a whole different movie of psychologically nightmarish proportions.  However, the whimsical, nostalgic tone means it gets away with those lapses in logic by ascribing it all to magic.  Jared Harris is terrific value as an drunken Irish sea-dog.  He looks the spitting image of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, if anybody wanted to make a movie of that director's later life.

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Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Compared to his later films, this first Hayao Miyazaki feature is rough.  The animation looks cheaper, the music is cheesy and the tone is a bit all over the place.  However some sequences like the car chase and the escape through a giant clock are pretty creative and the band of heroes are endearing.  The plot is about 'Lupin the Third' (grandson of fictional French master thief Arsene Lupin) breaking into and out of a castle to rescue a princess from an evil Baron.  There's this one brief, weird, arguably anti-Semitic moment (I'm sure it was unintentional) but the rest is mildly entertaining.  This is only one for people like me who are wanting to watch ALL of Miyazaki's filmography.

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TM2YC

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Marie Antoinette (2006)

I remember the distinctive poster for Sofia Coppola's 'Marie Antoinette' being everywhere in 2006, with it's bright pink Sex Pistols text, but I've only caught up with the film today.  It's not been widely released on blu-ray (there was a print on demand disc) which is a real shame because the pin-sharp HD transfer available on Amazon Prime is stunning.  It's a movie that has to be seen in the highest possible quality, I'd buy a Criterion blu-ray in a heart beat.  Coppola was given total access to film in and around the Palace of Versailles, as well as numerous other grand French locations.  The absurd splendour of these places combined with the sumptuous costumes make this look like one of the most expensive and visually dazzling films ever shot.  After her surprise mega hit with 'Lost in Translation', Coppola was given 10-times that budget but the damp box-office only returned half as much as LiT.  I'd assume MA narrowly lost the studio money and Coppola has sadly gone back to lower budget, modestly successful films ever since.  It's such a shame because I'd rank this next to Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon', Milos Forman's 'Amadeus', Yorgos Lanthimos' 'The Favourite' and Bernardo Bertolucci's 'The Last Emperor'.  The first for it's precise, sedate camera work but daring jump-cut editing, the 2nd for it's use of British and American accents to subtly denote character status and attitude to a modern viewer, the 3rd for it's irreverent use of Punk and New Wave music on the soundtrack (Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Strokes, New Order etc) and the 4th for it's portrayal of a helplessly closeted monarch.  It's an intensely sympathetic portrayal of Marie Antoinette in her difficult roles as a daughter, wife, mother and monarch, not to mention acclimating to the pantomime existence of Versailles.  Coppola cuts you the viewer off from access to the outside world, so we share in MA's perspective.  Questions of money and politics only occasionally intrude on her idyll of idle.  When the French Revolution finally breaks down the walls of her gilded cage, it's genuinely terrifying and distressing.  How could somebody this infantilised and divorced from reality possibly be responsible for all the ills of the world?  I was completely swept up in Sofia Coppola's film, she needs to be given this kind of budget and resources again.

An editor on youtube has kindly remastered the trailer in HD and it looks glorious...

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Arthur Christmas (2011)
Re-watching 'Arthur Christmas' continues to be an annual tradition for me, it's got to be in the top-5 Xmas classics (and the most recent addition to the pantheon).  The pun stuffed comedy and delightful warm fuzzy feelings worked from the first viewing but it's the deep emotional resonance and witty satire that increases my respect for it every time.  Of course it's a globe-trotting adventure but it's also about a true family Christmas, the good and the bad.  Simmering petty familial resentments and arguing over board games, ultimately eclipsed by love and the spirit of the season.  This time I was particularly enjoying Imelda Staunton's Mrs Claus, a perpetually serene and organised mother, content to allow all the men in her life to run around squabbling and complaining, knowing they'll quite naturally come to their senses in the end.  I was also laughing at the Star Trek-style north pole super-computer (voiced by a Majel Barrett-channelling Laura Linney) making announcements like "Milk and cookies being converted to biofuel" and characters saying deadly serious things such as "Make a level-3 gift wrap incision".

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TM2YC

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Gone Girl (2014)
A wife goes missing and suspicion falls on the husband, as the police and media close in, his life and past begin to unravel.  I'd had some of the plot spoiled but fortunately I thought the twist that occurs only half way in was going to be the big one, after which there are many more exciting twists and turns to savour. Sadly the last revelation is one twist too many, it's preposterous and throws away so much potential for drama. The scene where the cop is cross-examining the guilty party and seeing through their lies, much to their obvious irritation, was one of the most dramatic scenes in the whole movie but then it's "oh well never mind".  It's one of Ben Affleck's best ever performances, leaning hard into being unsympathetic but eliciting sympathy anyway.  Rosamund Pike was too overblown and melodramatic for my tastes.  Some of the dialogue felt unnatural and overwritten, perhaps this was author Gillian Flynn failing to properly translate her own novel to a different medium?  The product placement was irritating, going so far as to have actors holding products up to the camera, walking around listing products and a plot point involving a room full of box-fresh products. I really liked Kim Dickens as the perceptive cop and the interplay with her sidekick was fun.  Unusually, David Fincher's direction didn't stand out, neither did Jeff Cronenweth's cinematography but I can't deny how entertaining this mystery thriller was.

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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Although a Toei Company film, made a year before the founding of Studio Ghibli, 'Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind' (pronounced something like "now-ish-car" or "nosh-ka" if you say it fast) is Hayao Miyazaki in full flow (after the less personal, less polished 'The Castle of Cagliostro').  Nausicaä is the fearless, empathetic Princess of a small peaceful valley kingdom, an oasis in a post-apocalyptic world poisoned long ago by mankind and now populated by dangerous mutated insects and toxic plant life.  The story concerns her efforts to protect her people after a war between two other kingdoms spills over in to her own.  The overall look reminded me of Moebius' designs for 'The Incal' (1980) and Roger Dean's Prog-Rock album covers (the score had a Prog flavour too).  The mix of medieval armour, WWII flying fortresses and elegant futuristic gliders is so cool.

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