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A few reviews

TM2YC

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Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
I didn't much 'Blade Runner 2049'. For me it failed on almost every level to recapture what I liked about the 82' original. It trotted out some superficial similarities, like "he's got a spinner but not the same spinner!", "he's got a raincoat but not the same raincoat!", "he's got a gun but not the same gun!" and "the new Tyrell also lives in a vast building but this time it's biggerer!" but that's not what 'Blade Runner' was about. It was the Neo-Noir atmosphere, the romance, the sound, the music, the beautiful visuals and the enigmatic quality of it all. 2049 is included on Amazon Prime in 4K at the moment, so I decided to give it another chance. This time I could see more of the positives, the overall drive of the mystery story is good (even if it has some dumb plot holes), the relationship between Joy and K is beautifully played and fascinating on an intellectual level, that Elvis fist fight looks/sounds cool and in the added detail of 4K, some of the visuals actually look half decent. However, the CGI still looks poor compared to the FX from 3-decades earlier, the film-making is still visually bland, the editing is ludicrously slow, Harrison Ford is phoning it in and Hans Zimmer's score has none of the soul of Vangelis. The dialogue sounded even worse than I remembered it. I thought it was just Jared Leto's character that talked in cod-philosophical tones but it's everyone in the film reading from books of teenage poetry. Roy Batty got poetic because he knew he was dying, it was for a narrative and emotional reason. Again it's recreating something from the original, without actually understanding it. This time I also noticed the way the camera moved, it's very static in the dialogue scenes but endlessly moving in the FX shots. This is the opposite of the way Ridley Scott shot 'Blade Runner', which to me seems like Denis Villeneuve didn't think further than "It's got rain and neon. Job done". So in conclusion, I'm still the only person in the world that doesn't like 'Blade Runner 2049' but I'll concede my first 1.5 out of 5 review score was a bit harsh.


 

TM2YC

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All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (2011)
BBC documentarian Adam Curtis ponders the changing relationship between man and machine and how different groups have tried to understand humanity by imposing computer logic on our actions. He discusses the work of Ayn Rand, Dian Fossey, Alan Greenspan and Buckminster Fuller, parallels between the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2007 sub-prime crisis in the US, geodesic domes and hippy communes, then the Rwandan genocide and the theory of the "selfish gene". It got me thinking up a couple of variations on Arthur C. Clarke's famous adage "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic": "Any sufficiently advanced machine is indistinguishable from life" and "Any sufficiently complicated system is indistinguishable from chaos". The soundtrack features Kraftwerk's 'Radioactivity', Bernard Herrman's 'Vertigo' and Ennio Morricone's 'Once Upon a Time in the West'... so basically all my favourite things! This series was a pleasure to rewatch and feels like highly nutritious brain food.

 

TM2YC

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I'm going to assume anybody reading this already knows the real-life 2000 story of the Kursk submarine, if not spoilers ahead...

Kursk: The Last Mission (2018)
Thomas Vinterberg's 'Kursk'
is a bit like a horribly tragic version of 'Apollo 13' (the stricken submarine might as well be orbiting the moon) except you know none of the determined efforts of the crew to stay alive are going to save them because everything has and will go wrong, the equipment is broken and/or missing and the post-Soviet bureaucracy is much less interested in rescuing them, than with saving face. That last element would make this an interesting double-bill with 2019's 'Chernobyl' miniseries. Matthias Schoenaerts gives a terrific performance as the main protagonist, the scene at the end where he sees a vision of his son swimming in the darkness is a heartbreaking touch. Max von Sydow's small role is the personification of cold self-serving evil. Vladimir Putin's role in the affair (who was newly the President at the time) was controversially written out of the film. His reaction to the incident is arguably a pivitol moment in recent Russian history, so it's a shame that aspect is not explored. Still, what is here is powerful and dramatic, one of the best in the submarine movie genre.

 

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My local library recently re-opened so I've been devouring their selection.

Love and Monsters (2020)
I discovered this one when I was browsing through the nominees for the 2021 Oscars and it was one of the only ones that didn't seem like garbage. Plot: all cold blooded animals have been horribly mutated into giant monsters. Guy with no survival skills decides to leave his bunker colony to trek 85 miles to find his old girlfriend's colony. I would say it's loosely following the Zombieland formula decently done. Guy makes too many goofy/comedic comments but not so much that it's overly annoying.

Sound of Metal (2020 - Amazon Prime)
This one also got nominated for a bunch of Oscars but I can't understand why. Broke metal drummer suddenly goes deaf and he struggles with accepting it. The only interesting thing I found with it was how they compare his need to hear again with his previous drug addiction but it's developed so little that it's almost like that was a throw away line. Also the movie was at least 30 minutes too long.

Chernobyl (2019 HBO miniseries)
Pretty well done except for the typical Hollywood treatment of KGB behavior. The inaccuracy of how they treated the supposed danger of being around people with radiation sickness was also annoying, as was the general lack of any scientific explanations that might confuse people with above a 3rd grade education. Too much time was spent with the guys hunting dogs.

Lost in Translation (2003)
Yes, I know but I had never seen it. Bill Murray is great and actually seems to be having fun in the role, for a change. Scarlett Johansson is also great and easy on the eyes. Soundtrack is great and got Kevin Shields to make some new music. However, the movie meanders along and while certain scenes are entertaining, overall I didn't much enjoy it.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990)
Tom Stoppard directs this adaptation of his play of the same name. The two leads attempt to understand the plot they've been thrust into (Hamlet) with little success. As this was a play, the dialogue heavy bits are frequently hilarious, but it's too heavily interspersed with segments of characters going from place to place to get to more witty dialogue. It does make me want to see it on stage though.

Only the Brave (2017)
Biopic about the Granite Mountain Hotshots as they grow from a backline wildfire support crew to frontline hotshots and then tragedy strikes. It's a well done and serviceable biopic but not mindblowing either. The painful political aftermath of the widows trying to secure benefits is entirely left out.

Rick and Morty - Season 1 (2013)
What if the Doc from Back to the Future was a crazed alcoholic who dragged his timid nephew along on his adventures across different dimensions? To me, this show is what you get when you take Futurama, Phineas and Ferb, and Superjail! and throw them in a blender. It's bizarre, frequently amusing, and sometimes very funny. I thought the character Rick would get annoying, but the show has enough manic energy and insane plotting that everything turned out fine.

My Life as a Courgette/ My Life as a Zucchini (2016)
A lovely stop motion animated movie about a young boy who is sent to an orphanage after his single mother dies. It's sweet and touching and sometimes very funny, like when the kids talk about sex. A wonderful way to spend 65 minutes.

A Silent Voice (2016)
Anime movie about a boy that bullied a deaf girl in his elementary school class. He becomes an outcast because of his bullying and tries to make amends with the girl now that they're both in high school. I thought it was very good and quite emotional, but I kept hoping it would go for more of a romance angle while it mostly sticks to the guy trying not to screw things up and kind of meanders. This came out the same year as, and was compared to, the excellent anime Your Name and the two were both very successful and well received critically. I enjoyed Your Name more but I think this one is worth seeing also for the feels.
 

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Rocks (2019)
I was unimpressed by Sarah Gavron's last movie 'Suffragette' but her latest 'Rocks' is deserving of all the Bafta nominations. The cast of teenage first-time actors is incredible, the highlights being the main two Bukky Bakray and Kosar Ali, playing schoolgirls "Rocks" and her best friend Sumaya. Apparently the cast were encouraged to come up with their own dialogue so it really sounds authentic. It looks fantastic and the film-making style had the feel of Céline Sciamma, mixed with the Safdie brothers. The empathetic intimacy of the former and that feeling of a person struggling so hard to keep their head above water of the latter.

 

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Wild Search (1989)
I first watched Ringo Lam's 'Wild Search' a year ago and thought it was a great action/drama/comedy, despite a very poor DVD transfer. I recently saw an import blu-ray on eBay for a low price and was pleased to discover a beautiful HD transfer on the disc (with 5.1 Cantonese and Mandarin mixes). However, the English subtitles are clearly auto-translated. I could always combine the good DVD subtitles with the HD video. The relationship between Chow Yun-fat's tough cop and the adorable little girl Ka-ka who he is protecting is the best part, although there are enough gun battles and explosions to keep 80s Hong Kong action fans satisfied.

I did some frame comparisons of the video quality and the subtitles: http://www.framecompare.com/screenshotcomparison/FEC1MNNU

Dammit, while looking for the trailer I notice Eureka just announced a blu-ray release:

 

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Deadly Class - Season 1 (2019)
Rick Remender adapts his ongoing comic of the same name for this Syfy channel series. Teenage homeless orphan is enrolled in an exclusive high school where elite criminals send their kids to learn the skills necessary to succeed in the underworld. Classes include martial arts, poisons, psychopathy, and dark arts. It's mainly focused on the typical high school clique conflicts but with an added dose of extremely dangerous classmates. The show is pretty good but it has a lot of pacing issues. It seemed like nearly every episode reached it's natural conclusion, but then there was still 10-15 minutes of extra plot to cover. For my tastes, it spent too much time focusing on interpersonal conflicts between the students, and not enough time on exploring how crazy the classes would be in this type of school. Also, the show kept things very dark and serious: there wasn't nearly enough humor. The soundtrack rights must have been very expensive to acquire and off the top of my head had songs by The Cure, The Smiths, The Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, and a ton of punk songs. The show was cancelled after this single season (in typical Syfy fashion).
 

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What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi write, direct, and star in this mockumentary about 4 vampire roommates in Wellington, NZ. It's brilliantly silly and moves along at a good pace, clocking in at a brisk 85 minutes. One part towards the end had me crying with laughter. Highly recommended.

What We Do in the Shadows - Season 1 (2019)
Jermaine Clement adapts the movie into a TV series for FX. The setting has been shifted to Staten Island, NY and more focus has been put on the vampire's human slaves, called familiars. The cast is great and includes Matt Berry from Garth Marenghi's Dark Place which is always a plus. Season 1 is pretty good and has a few great gags, notably the episode with the werewolves.

What We Do in the Shadows - Season 2 (2020)
Season 2 is a strong improvement over Season 1. The pace is quicker and the jokes are funnier. It almost feels like the show would be the kind that you would see on Adult Swim (in a good way) but with a higher budget. I loved it.
 

asterixsmeagol

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Check out Wellington Paranormal while you're at it! (Assuming you can actually get it in your region.)
 

skyled

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Check out Wellington Paranormal while you're at it! (Assuming you can actually get it in your region.)
Wikipedia says it's coming to the States this summer :)

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
Greg is familiar with everyone without being friends with anyone, except for Earl, but denies that too. His mom finds out a girl he knew has cancer and forces him to spend time with her. I really liked it. It's emotional without feeling sappy or manipulative and sometimes pretty funny. It came out a year after The Fault in Our Stars which seems like the exact opposite, being crafted specifically to be a tear-jerker. This one probably lost money while Fault made a killing ;). There's also a really good deleted scene where Greg and Earl show their movie to the whole school. It doesn't really belong in the movie but it's still worth watching.

1917 (2019)
WWI movie. Two soldiers need to go from Point A to Point B to stop some soldiers from charging into a trap. I did not like this movie. Sure, it was well made and was probably a pain in the ass to make with the "single shot" (actually 2 shots) but who cares. You don't know who the two soldiers are and you don't learn much of anything about them. It's more like watching somebody else play a video game. Not to mention that it's trying to make a big deal out of saving 1600 soldiers when that many and more were routinely thrown away.

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Peter Jackson's documentary about WWI. The restoration work was great and you tend to not even realize all the work that was done which is quite amazing. It was good yet somehow it felt lacking. The use of drawings and propaganda art when talking about actual combat felt distracting. I would like to see the extended cut though.

From the Earth to the Moon - HBO miniseries (1998)
Tom Hanks and Ron Howard produce this docudrama miniseries which mainly focuses on the Apollo program. It's interesting and well made if not exactly edge of your seat entertaining. It's made to be kind of a companion piece to The Right Stuff and Apollo 13, so if you liked those ones you might check this out.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015)
Spanish animated movie. I don't really have much to say about this. I thought it was slow and somewhat tedious. It seemed like the kind of movie you're supposed to watch while on drugs. The Bluray includes the original short film of the movie which I liked better because it was much shorter and the soundtrack was good.

1984 (1984)
Adaptation of the book starring John Hurt. It's probably about as good of an adaptation as you could ask for. John Hurt is great and the girl is gorgeous. My problem with it is the same as I have with the book. I just don't think the central story is very interesting. The world building and the appendix of the book are fantastic and endlessly relevant to just about any time period, but I don't find Winston Smith's story particularly interesting. I did ask myself who else they could have had to star instead of John Hurt though. If it had been made in America, Harry Dean Stanton would have been great. Or if the casting was bad, imagine Sean Connery or Michael Caine. I watched the version without the Eurythmics soundtrack, by the way.
 

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Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)
Walter Hill's
Western bombed at the time but thanks to it's recent HD blu-ray remaster and addition to Netflix, it's ripe for rediscovery. The poor reception might be down to several things...
I watched this last Thanksgiving and was shocked afterwards when I remembered it was a Walter Hill film... it showed no signs of it. You named a lot of reasons it might've faired poorly, but I'd add that it's just not a very good film. Very muddled. Mis-titling aside, there's no one to really root for, and no great dialogue to get wrapped up in. The action is muddled and confusing many times, and the story arc is weird. There's a good film waiting to be made from these events, but this ain't it.
 

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La Grande Illusion (1937)
French WWI film about a few French POW's and their various escape attempts. It's regarded as kind of a proto-The Great Escape but it's certainly not as fun. More of a meditation on how pointless WWI was. My favorite part is when the German POW camp chief is explaining that many of his injuries were mended with silver plates and he sarcastically thanks the war for this new wealth.

Mirai (2018)
Anime film from the director of the fantastic The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and the pretty good Summer Wars. Kun is ~4 years old and jealous of his new baby sister Mirai. During his tantrums he magically goes forward and back in time to see his relatives at various points in their lives which helps him mature. Unfortunately, I didn't find this any where near the same level as those 2 previous movies the director made.
 

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No Country for Old Men (2007)
Perhaps on a second viewing, when I know what to expect, I'll find the conclusion less of a let-down.
I had the same reaction, and it totally gets better on every rewatch.

Miller's Crossing (1990)
If the humorous tone and more eccentric characterisations and performances had been reduced, I wondered whether this could've been a truly great and weighty crime saga on the level of 'The Godfather', instead of just a darn good yarn
Different tastes I suppose. The touch of absurdity and humor in both this and No Country easily puts them above The Godfather, or even Goodfellas. Perhaps I also think glamorizing gangsters is so tiresome and passe'.
 

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Is The Godfather or Goodfellas glamorizing gangsters? I’d say the exact opposite. I like the Coen movies as well. But even with the Pacino Scarface (which I mostly don’t like), those that perceive glamorization of crime really miss the boat.
 

mnkykungfu

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It's not my argument, it's one that's been out there for quite awhile. This article dives into some of the issues a bit, but essentially there are a few problems that you could write whole film school essays examining:
1. When your protagonists are villains, you're inviting the audience to sympathize with them
2. When you film with style, you end up portraying the villains with style too, encouraging the audience to admire them
3. When your villains are all well-dressed, smooth, financially-successful (and mostly handsome actors), you're providing ample opportunity to admire them

I'm not suggesting that every crime film needs to follow the Hayes Code. But when you look at these films, particularly Scorsese's work, he really relishes the cool moments, the quirky, stylish moments with "the boys". The times when they're just human trash and/or reap the consequences of that take up comparatively little screen time. While smart adults with strong moral compasses who come from a position of privilege know better than to admire these gangsters, whole legions of teenage boys or less fortunate individuals just see guys doing what they have to do to succeed. It's the "sure, they're bad guys, but who isn't?" mentality.

Scorsese might not intend this, and I'm sure Coppola didn't, but you'd have to be blind not to see the pattern over time. There's a reason the characters from these films are on T-shirts and wall posters and dudes act out scenes from the film. They think it's cool. The gangsters are cool.
 

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Never mind. Suffice to say that while I don’t necessarily disagree with the premise, I find the example of The Godfather, at least, to be a poor one.
 
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Fortunately, the original ending to No Country for Old Men, originally thought lost in a botched film processing job, has been rediscovered:


:p
 

mnkykungfu

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Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)
It's edited together with the energy and pace of the films they are talking about, moving from film to film with only enough time to discuss the juiciest of anecdotes, reveal the wackiest ideas and show the biggest of explosions.

Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010)
The rapid editing of clips and anecdotes is just as fun
The brilliant interviews are with the crème de la crème of genre cinema

Glad to hear these are so good! I actually just watched Not Quite Hollywood, which is a doc very much in the same vein as both of these, by the same director. That one specializes in "Ozploitation" films, is also gleefully puerile and NSFW, and makes liberal use of Quentin Tarantino in interviews. I wrote it up on Letterboxd, but it sounds like if you've seen these, you know the deal.

Electric Boogaloo is next on my list!
 

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Not only is Electric Boogaloo a wonderfully entertaining doc in its tamer moments alone, it's got enough excerpted film clips of stunningly beautiful non-dressed ladies to fill a rather spectacular (albeit, sadly, hypothetical) coffee table book... 😀
 

mnkykungfu

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Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
I didn't much 'Blade Runner 2049'.
Wow, you didn't like it? I assumed because of your edit, you must have had some affection for it or you wouldn't have wanted to spend that much time with it....
Personally, I didn't absolutely love the film (so slooow) but I also have grown out of my worship for the original. I find it a very flawed film as well, as the plethora of edits attest to. I'm not saying 2049 is a better movie, but allow me to sing a couple praises:
-Gosling gives a better performance than Ford in the original.
-Deckard/Rachel: creepy. But I stan for K/Joi.
-No replicant debate.
-No ending debate.
-No Vangelis. Yup, I'm a hater. #sorrynotsorry

I like speaking like the kids do. Is 'on fleek' still in? 2049 is on fleek!

Imagine (1972)
the kind of thing you can only get away with when the music is this good and the two people are as fascinating as "Joko" (the combined name the film is credited to).
Wait, so were they the first celebrity portmanteau?!
 
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