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A few reviews

DigModiFicaTion

MoDeraTificaTor
Faneditor
DigModiFicaTion said:
Tenet (2020)
some gibberish about how this wasn't Nolan's best film and a masterpiece...... and scored it 7/10

Yeah, I'm obsessed with this movie now. Such depth and rewatchability. I've watched it almost 4 times in a week. Nolan's seemingly lack of character development and vagueness throughout the movie allows for the character development to hit like an acme 23 ton weight to the forehead when it all comes together and we realize what we just witnessed in the final moments of this film. My goodness, this makes inception child's play. Fun child's play, but child's play. John David Washington and Robert Pattinson's acting shines more with each viewing. This is easily a 9/10. It just required a pincer movement for me to see it that way.
 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
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Soul (2020)
This didn't entirely work for me but it's good, one of the better Pixar movies.  I felt they were wanting to make their first adult-oriented, serious animation but didn't want to abandon the kiddie/mainstream demographics, so it sits awkwardly somewhere in-between.  That's the problem with spending $150-300m on rendering near photo-realistic visuals (when the best pieces of animation in the film are line drawn characters), you've got to go for mass appeal in order to recoup (at least in a normal year). It's wanting to deal with weighty themes and existentially troubling questions but feels the need to keep putting in gags and the standard Disney/Pixar zany, snarky, wise-cracking, fast-talking comedy characters, to pander to short attention spans.  Graham Norton's annoying whacky character was just a clunky plot-point-bypass and exposition-delivery system.  Having said that, some of the humour works, especially the interplay between Richard Ayoade and Rachel House's characters, from two different schools of celestial middle-management.  The depiction of "the great beyond" (because we can't mention "heaven", "death" or even a vague term like "the afterlife") looks influenced by Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' and Powell & Pressburger's 1946 film 'A Matter of Life and Death'.  Some of those visuals are beautiful, awe-inspiring and wildly imaginative.  It's really powerful when combined with a stunning Jean-Michel Jarre-style 70s synthesiser score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  2020 is really their year, I'd felt their previous scores for David Fincher had been like electronic wallpaper but their work on 'Mank' and 'Soul' is so different and effective.



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The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of the Dark Knight Trilogy (2013)
A superb and concise 76-minute overview of Christopher Nolan's celebrated trilogy.  Occasionally it veers toward an EPK style self-congratulating tone but mostly it's a fascinating look into the thinking that informed the series and the behind the scenes challenges.  In a rare act of generosity, Warner Bros. have put it up on youtube for free, despite it being formerly a limited edition exclusive.

 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
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Wolfwalkers (2020)
A refreshingly different animated film from Apple+.  Firstly it's 2D which is always nice, it's done in a beautiful medieval wood-cut/screen-printed style and it doesn't resort to goofy humour.  The story is also distinctive, set in 1650 Kilkenny, Ireland under the control of Oliver Cromwell.  Robyn is the daughter of the town's English hunter (voiced by the wonderful Sean Bean), tasked by Cromwell with eradicating the packs of wolves that roam the surrounding woods.  Like many a young animated heroine, the strong willed Robyn is a dreamer and resists the meek, subservient role her Puritan culture/religion puts on women.  Then she meets the wild girl Mebh, who is one of the "wolfwalkers" of the title, a sort of pagan shapeshifter and they get into all sorts of scrapes and adventures.  It's all quite charming and will delight kids and adults.  My one criticism would be the ending.  If you're going to include real historical characters and quite a bit of real history, then you can't just rewrite what everybody knows happened to make your conclusion work dramatically without it being distracting (hello Mr Tarantino).  Plus the song 'Running with the Wolves' on the soundtrack is only the second best song from a 2020 film with that title.


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The Blob (1988)
I hadn't seen this since the 90s and I didn't remember much of the the plot but I remembered the deaths.  The practical oozy, icky, gooey, gore effects are so imaginative and memorably gross.  When what you'd assume was a main character is suddenly killed off early on, you think it's to put you off guard but then the film keeps killing off important characters.  Sometimes taking characters they've made us love and killing them sometime off screen, to really f**k with the viewer.  I thought wow, this has shamelessly gone for a 'Twin Peaks' vibe, with a troubled and kooky small town and similar sheriff, diner and school but no, this was made 2-years before.  So just a coincidence I guess.  Oscar nominated writer Frank Darabont's script is tight and well structured and I enjoyed the amusing apocalyptic ending.


Thumbnail for RLM's recent re-view contains a spoiler:

 

jrWHAG42

Well-known member
Faneditor
I also happened to watch The Blob the other day, it was fantastic. I wasn't expecting to love it so much
 

mnkykungfu

Well-known member
TM2YC said:
 Plus the song 'Running with the Wolves' on the soundtrack is only the second best song from a 2020 film with that title.
 
I assume you're talking about the earlier release, sung by Aurora? If so, it's the same song. The one for Wolfwalkers was re-recorded with traditional instruments to better fit the film.
 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
Faneditor
mnkykungfu said:
TM2YC said:
 Plus the song 'Running with the Wolves' on the soundtrack is only the second best song from a 2020 film with that title.
 
I assume you're talking about the earlier release, sung by Aurora? If so, it's the same song. The one for Wolfwalkers was re-recorded with traditional instruments to better fit the film.

It's a decent song but it can't compare to the one from the Eurovision movie :D :


^ The lyrics totally work with the themes of Wolfwalkers.
 

skyled

Well-known member
I haven't seen Wolfwalkers, but the I have seen the Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, both by the same studio and both are excellent.
 

mnkykungfu

Well-known member
^Ohhhhh. I thought you meant like, a full song. I've not seen Eurovision, but as my enjoyment of the real thing is limited, I suspect it might be a miss from me. Eager to check out Wolfwalkers though, that studio's animation is tops.
 

Gaith

Well-known member
Faneditor
Air Force One (1997)   (US Amazon Prime Video w/ AMC+ trial)

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Now that the United States finally has its first female Vice President, I figured it'd be a good time to revisit this childhood favorite, in which Glenn Close plays a totally badass (presumably first) female VP. Said Close of the film"They had written a scene of her breaking down and crying. And I said, 'I will not do that.' Because I thought we'd be doing women a disfavor if we had that cliché moment where she breaks down.''  Well, good on ya, Ma'am. 

The movie itself, meanwhile, absolutely holds up. Indiana - er, Harrison Ford is awesome, Gary Oldman is equal parts brilliant, crazy, shrewd, and terrifying, and Wolfgang Peterson's direction is first-rate. (Only a lamentable CG shot at the end lets the production down.) Hail to the Chief, indeed.

Grade: B+




The Warriors (1979)   (US Amazon Prime Video w/ Cinemax trial)

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Finally gave this one a spin, and it didn't disappoint. I'd call it utterly unique, but then, director Walter Hill's later flick Streets of Fire is an obvious companion piece. Though it lacks any Jim Steinman songs, however, The Warriors is the clear winner. If anything, it feels like a direct prequel to Escape from New York.

The film is like a fever dream. At one point, one of the titular gang members is killed, and is never mentioned again. The group itself comprises wildly different personalities; it's pretty much impossible to imagine them ever cohering as a unit. Stylish and crass, The Warriors is a ton of fun, and a veritable time capsule of a bygone NYC. Only the steel beams and contours of the subway system are fully recognizable. In short: I can dig it:D

Grade: B+. (FWIW, the HD stream looked excellent to these novice eyes.)

Haven't yet watched, but will soon:

 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
Faneditor
^ Yeeaaahh, The Warriors is awesome. I'd never thought of it as a EFNY prequel, nice.
Gaith said:
At one point, one of the titular gang members is killed, and is never mentioned again.

IIRC the actor was all "You can't fire me. I'm in half the movie!" and the Director was all "Oh you reckon?". They stuck a wig on some guy and threw his character under a train. Problem solved :D .

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One Night in Miami... (2020)
I wasn't at all impressed with 'One Night in Miami...' at first. I found it simplistic, unsubtle and containing foolish errors. But when the four characters arrive at the hotel room setting it really sparks into life. Later, reading up on the film I could understand why. It's based on a 90-minute, one-act play but instead of just filming that, they've condensed the play into an hour and tacked on a new 1/2 hour at the start introducing the four characters. If you know a modest amount about contemporary American history, popular music and the civil rights struggle, there is nothing in that new portion you need to know. I'd honestly recommend skipping the first 30-minutes and enjoying the exciting back and forth debate inside the hotel room. It was probably only put in there to give some more varied footage to cut an exciting looking trailer from (less than 30-seconds of said trailer is not taken from the intro and short coda). The actors do a great job making you believe they are the real people but Kingsley Ben-Adir and Leslie Odom Jr. (as Malcolm X and Sam Cooke respectively) deliver most of the fireworks.


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Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020)
Another adaptation of an August Wilson play from Denzel Washington after 'Fences' (although this time he neither directs nor stars). It's a fictionalised account of a 1927 Chicago recording session for Blues singer Ma Rainey, focusing on the interpersonal conflicts between her band members, informed by the racial situation in America and the exploitation of black musicians. Although the overall thematic antagonist at the roots of the drama is racism, quick tempered, cocky Cornet player Levee is the instigator of much of the conflict. Levee is played by Chadwick Boseman, in his final role, with a fury, pride, passion and energy that belies his failing health. Viola Davis disappears into the title role but her lip-syncing isn't 100% convincing. It took a bit of searching to find the talented singer who had actually performed the songs, Maxayn Lewis, who is just credited as "featured vocalist". Director George C. Wolfe's work with the acting talent is faultless but I think he could have done more to make it feel less like a play and more like a film. It looks pretty set bound and mostly takes place in one room, so I don't know how the hell he managed to spend the same amount as David Fincher did on the relatively epic 'Mank' (another 2020 Netflix production).

 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
Faneditor
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Whisper of the Heart (1995)

The poster for this Studio Ghibli movie partly spoiled it, I kept waiting for the fantasy adventure about a flying witch and a talking cat in a magical kingdom in the clouds to begin but it never does.  The poster image is taken from one dream sequence but 'Whisper of the Heart' is actually set entirely in reality.  It's got a cat that the protagonist follows like the rabbit in 'Alice in Wonderland', leading her to a secret old curiosity shop which you think surely has a wardrobe in it leading to Narnia or some such place... but no.  Not that I didn't enjoy this charming coming of age drama, in fact I really liked it but I was distracted from enjoying it fully.  Director Yoshifumi Kondo (who sadly died soon after) minutely observes the life of schoolgirl Shizuku, filling the frame with background detail for your eyes to wonder through.  John Denver's lovely song 'Country Roads' features prominently, opening with a cover by Olivia Newton-John and weaving it into the score.  Shizuku spends the film writing translations for the lyrics (including a satirical version called "Concrete Roads") and the scene where she sings it with a folk quartet is pure joy.


The rendition of 'Country Roads' from the film:


The Cat Returns (2002)
Although this Studio Ghibli film features two characters from 'Whisper of the Heart', it's not really a sequel.  It's kind of a blend of 'The Wizard of Oz', 'Labyrinth', 'Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds' and 'Cats' and I loved it.  Haru is a shy schoolgirl who saves a cat from being run over.  When it turns out to be the Prince of the Cat Kingdom, she's soon abducted to a parallel dimension, ruled over by a senile despot feline.  Along the way she meets new friends who help her on the adventure.  It's got a quirky sense of humour, the bit where the cat King is having unsatisfactory cat court entertainers thrown from the castle walls had me really laughing.  The grumpy fat cat sidekick Muta (voiced by Tetsu Watanabe) was my favourite character.  I watched with the original Japanese soundtrack but the English dub cast sounds fantastic too, boasting Cary Elwes, Tim Curry and René Auberjonois.  I'll try that out next time.

 

skyled

Well-known member
A bit of trivia: the town in Whisper of the Heart is Tama New Town, the same town that the racoon dogs in Pom Poko are trying to prevent the construction of.

The director of Whisper of the Heart was being groomed to succeed Miyazaki and Takahata but he died from a brain aneurysm 3 years after the movie came out. Whisper of the Heart was his first and only movie but I think he was a natural fit to take over. I'm sure he would have proved it with a couple more movies under his belt.
 

Gaith

Well-known member
Faneditor
Back to the Future Part II (1989)

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Consider, if you will, a loathsome, self-aggrandizing casino owner and business tycoon turned rapist and murderer, who revels in glitzy surroundings, and has orange hair. Yes, the writers of this 1989 film consciously based the nightmare 1985A version of Biff on that person. Suffice to say that I would not have been ready to revisit this flick only weeks ago.

Anyhow, this was my trip to Hill Valley in over a decade, and my first time seeing it projected. Even more than I remembered, BttF II is a freight train of a movie, hardly letting up for a moment. (I'd be mildly surprised if its relentless pace and continual introduction of new perils hadn't been a significant influence on the writers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) I was struck by how exaggerated and intense Marty and Doc are; Doc is always making faces, and Marty is usually running back and forth. No wonder my kid self was delighted! The movie is packed with detail; my favorite is probably faintly hearing Old Biff's warning to Young Biff that we'd earlier heard 1985A Biff recount to Marty as they walk off. I'll have to revisit the original one of these days, but, though it's probably the better film overall, I suspect Part II will remain my personal favorite. It's a brilliantly conceived and executed thriller, made all too enduringly relevant by its unapologetically monstrous antagonist.

Grade: A
 

mnkykungfu

Well-known member
TM2YC said:
Whisper of the Heart (1995)
I kept waiting for the fantasy adventure 

I had exactly the same experience with WotH and Cat Returns as you. Except I actually watched the latter first. It's regarded as pretty minor Ghibli, but I found it amusing and was looking forward to finding where the cat was returning from. I was doubly disappointed then to find so little fantasy in the original. After adjusting my expectations, it has since grown a lot in my estimation, and I think WotH is one of Ghibli's most under-rated films. (But god, that friggin song is so popular in Japan, I just got sick of hearing it constantly in stores, on TV, in karaoke! You'd think it was a recent hit!)

Fun fact, The Cat Returns is a miracle of a movie. It started as a commissioned short for a Japanese theme park, and the scenes were only supposed to add up to about 20 minutes. The park canceled the project late in the game though, so Miyazaki decided to expand it and train new animators on it. He thought they could maybe use it as a TV movie or OVA. The director assembled about 45 minutes of work and they liked it so much that they decided to expand it even more to a full-blown theatrical release. I think when you watch it with this in mind, you can really see the seams of how the core idea grew and got connected to disparate bits. Gives it charm.
 

TM2YC

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^ Interesting Cat Returns facts. Thanks.

mnkykungfu said:
god, that friggin song is so popular in Japan, I just got sick of hearing it constantly in stores, on TV, in karaoke! You'd think it was a recent hit!)

I first became really familiar with the song because a euro-pop cover was played in every nightclub in 2001 and was a no.7 hit in the UK. It sounds awful now but it sounded amazing 20-years ago when you sang it drunk with friends.


I then got the original more respectable Denver version.

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DeLorean: Back from the Future (2021)
A new feature-length BBC documentary about John DeLorean, the rise and fall of DMC and the production of the iconic 'Back to the Future' car. Oscar winning directors Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker provided all of the footage they shot in 1981 for their own short doc (which was made with DeLorean's co-operation), so there is plenty of great vintage material. I knew bits and pieces of the story but some of the biggest revelations had passed me by. I thought DeLorean had just got into some shady areas in a last desperate bid to save his failing company but it's clear he was a life long "less than honest" person, shall we say. He's a contradictory figure, it seems he both genuinely wanted to create a special product and a successful business but also used his company as a personal piggy bank and embezzled millions from the British government. There is a certain "trumpiness" to the guy, except he had genuine charm, he actually created an iconic and enduring product that people love and he got caught. His factory located in the middle of Catholic vs Protestant "no man's land" in bomb torn Belfast looks like it was something beautiful and positive for the community for a brief time.


Color Out of Space (2019)
Welcome back Richard Stanley, after a surely record breaking 27-years away from the director's chair (docs and music videos not included). He adapts H. P. Lovecraft's 1927 short story 'The Colour Out of Space' to a modern setting. Usually horror films don't scare me, they occasionally creep me out and I can always appreciate the technical aspects, but this one did all three. Again and again Stanley surpasses the horrors you are expecting, with things much more unsettling and icky. It's the queasy site of chicken eggs with something weird inside them, itchy skin diseases, coffee with something oily floating in it, technology acting strangely, radiative mutation and unpleasant body horror. It got me several times with genuine jump scares, not just simple loud noises, he's suddenly confronting you with an image 200% more f**ked up than your nerves were prepared for.  The tentacled transparent goopy thing you briefly see in the shower scene got the biggest jump from me. By the end there are scenes where the characters point flash lights into the black of a foreboding room and I really didn't want to know what Stanley had hiding there in the dark. I was recalling John Carpenter's 'The Thing', long before JC's trademark white-on-black fonts were used at the end. The one issue I had was with Nicolas Cage, if you want to show a descent into madness, you're starting from a pretty oddball level.

 

mnkykungfu

Well-known member
TM2YC said:
I first became really familiar with the song because a euro-pop cover was played in every nightclub in 2001 and was a no.7 hit in the UK. It sounds awful now but it sounded amazing 20-years ago when you sang it drunk with friends.


Wow. That is... just wow. That very specific sound suddenly gave me Dance Dance Revolution flashbacks.
 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
Faneditor
It's difficult to discuss 'The Game' without SPOILERS...

The Game (1997)
Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton a callous wealthy man who engages in a mysterious and elaborate game of danger that takes place in across his real life.  It's sort of a mix of 'The Trial', 'Total Recall', 'A Wonderful Life' and 'A Christmas Carol'.  Logically there can really only be one character who is behind the game and the conclusion and intended moral lesson are obvious from the way Nicholas is portrayed at the start.  Director David Fincher does a thing that annoys me in mystery movies, by assuming he's smarter than the viewer, so he can't help himself dropping lots of hints and foreshadowing because he's sure you won't spot them.  So I was always one step ahead of the protagonist and wondering why he was being slow to spot the clues.  There are several plot elements that stretch credibility to near breaking point in order to make the premise work.  I never believed that Nicholas was the type of guy to put up with a whole day of tests to play a game he seems barely interested in and the finale gets silly.  The end also arguably doesn't work dramatically either, Scrooge learned to value other people, Nicholas just learns to appreciate what he has, which is just another level of more humble selfishness.  I've participated in a few interactive theatre performances myself which had some similarities to 'The Game', blending reality and fiction but I'd never have put up with the sh*t Nicholas does and I knew what I was signing up for, knew it was just for fun and I'm not an impatient pr*ck like Nicholas (at least I hope not).  With all that being said, it's still an exciting thriller and the idea that a film crew could use the tricks of the trade to force you to essentially be the star of a movie you didn't have the script for, is pretty cool.  You can have extra fun if you squint and pretend Douglas is reprising his role as Gordon Gekko from 'Wall Street'.


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Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
I think this was the first Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli I watched and I started with one of the very best.  Like the somewhat Mary Poppins-like heroine Sophie, the movie is "practically perfect in every way".  Most characters in the story (including Sophie) bear a magical curse in some way, or have negative aspects to their personalities and Sophie arrives like a new broom (literally) and cleans them up, makes them better, sets them free, finds the best in them and brings them together as a family like Poppins.  She's also like Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz', there's even a scarecrow and a wicked witch.  Sophie herself is magically turned into an old woman, so sets off an adventure to undo the spell, encountering the wizard howl and his fantastical walking castle.  It's set in the kind of Steampunk fantasy world that Miyazaki has often explored, in a kingdom something like 19th century England/Wales, with hints of Arthurian legend.  The subtle way Sophie is drawn, shifting between crook-backed old woman, to free-spirited youth almost imperceptibly is so clever, you can tell it's the same person through the eyes somehow.  Apart from the glorious animation, Joe Hisaishi out does himself on the score, the main theme is stunning.


 

TM2YC

Staff Member
Donor
Faneditor
I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
An impressively weird psychological horror from writer/director Charlie Kaufman.  I cherish a new movie in 4:3 and this one looks beautifully shot by the Polish cinematographer of 'Ida' and 'Cold War' Lukasz Zal.  The plot is essentially about a woman driving with her boyfriend (who she is considering leaving) to meet his parents but there are a lot more layers going on.  Kaufman creates a boiling tension with awkward silences, unsettling looks, unexpressed sentiments and quizzical details.  There are deliberate continuity changes, some of which I noticed right away but there are probably far more that I didn't.  He's playing with time, reality, imagination and memory.  You can take it literally, metaphorically, or both.  It's best to avoid spoilers and just make up your own mind on what it's all about and what you take away from it.  'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' reinforces my belief that anything with Jessie Buckley starring in it is going to be terrific.


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Ocean Waves (1993)
This is probably my least favourite Studio Ghibli film.  It's about a delicate and then tempestuous love-triangle between two friends and a new girl at their school.  The animation is occasionally beautifully and minutely observed (but it's often unremarkable) and the music is passable but there was nothing to really get my heart beating.  It's pretty short at 72-minutes, so I didn't get bored.

 

mnkykungfu

Well-known member
^I have said somewhere on here before that I think Ocean Waves is likely the most inaccessible Ghibli film for a non-Japanese audience. Its strengths are not really any show-stopping animation or engaging set-pieces or even the narrative. Instead, it's a nuanced dissection of the pressures and traumas of a specific generation (the end of the Showa era) and how they came-of-age. Like many coming-of-age tales, it will resonate not because of its originality but because of how hard you identify with it (or don't, in this case). Many Japanese viewers of Ocean Waves might be saying to the screen そうですね! "Man, that's how it is!" and えーー しょうがない... "Aww...what can you do..." The "types" of students and their seemingly-complicated relationships are actually incredibly typical and identifiable. It's a less surprising and philosophical film than Ghibli's other slice-of-life dramas (Whisper of the Heart, Only Yesterday, even From Up On Poppy Hill), but I love it all the same.
 

mnkykungfu

Well-known member
^Also, I should note that I quite like the score by Shigeru Nagata. He cut his teeth earlier on a short-lived TV series I loved called Here Is Greenwood, which is about the start of university. It's very much in the vein of Ocean Waves, both the narrative and his score. I think I low key love shoujo anime stories...
 
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